Chino Valley. It is the place I called home for many years. I was born in Prescott, but when I think of my hometown, I think of Chino Valley.
When my family first staked a claim in Chino Valley (no, we weren’t miners, but the metaphor works), there were only 1,000 or so people. Many places had their closest number a quarter-mile or so away. By the time I graduated high school in 1995, that number grew to 8,000.
Yavapai County was a happening place to come and live and start a business, as you could probably tell from my previous posts about Prescott, and Chino Valley wasn’t immune from growth, despite not having the same level of amenities that Prescott and Prescott Valley had. Getting our first chain grocery store, fast-food restaurant and traffic signal were all events that caused oohs and ahs for some while others bemoaned the fact that Chino Valley’s country feel was fading away and could turn into a suburb of Prescott.
If you judge that latter viewpoint by the Highway 89 corridor, it would appear to be valid. I mentioned the rarity of a traffic signal. Now, in additional to the signals, certain intersections now have roundabouts, something fairly common in Wisconsin but now becoming a traffic control option of choice in Arizona.
The intersection with Road 4 South has a roundabout, decorated with sculptures that caused a dustup among some residents in the town. The joke about Chino Valley many years ago is that, if you blink you’ll miss it. That’s not the case anymore.
The highway has also been widened and divided. I had to laugh as I drove along it, because I remember walking home from high school and being able to cross the highway anywhere (no crosswalks back then) and not be at much risk for being flattened by passing motorists. I wasn’t about to find out if that was still true.
Chino Valley got itself a hotel, Days Inn. The biggest criticism when there were town festivals like Territorial Days was that no one could stay in town because the nearest place to rest your head was in Prescott 15 miles away.
Chino Valley also got itself a piece of Wisconsin. Shopko is a common department store in the dairy state, but not so common in Arizona. After losing Aldi’s a few years ago, there needed to be a place to buy clothes, electronics and other items without making the drive to Prescott. I walked around inside, looking for a car charger for my camera battery, and it’s small but seems to suit the town.
There have also been some changes in other areas of Chino Valley. I lived on Road 4 North, and when I was young, the road was divided because part of the road went through a rancher’s property, and that portion was not only a dirt road but riddled with so many potholes that few vehicles dared to cross it. It has since been paved, and there is even a supper club (another unusual concept for Arizona) called the Windmill House.
One more note on Road 4 North, specifically where I used to live. My house also underwent some changes. Where my childhood bedroom was now sits a garage. Maybe you can’t go home again.
There are more homes and fewer farms, but there are still plenty of places where you can find wide open spaces to reclaim your soul. East of Chino Valley on Perkinsville Road, there are miles of roads with barbed wire fences and the occasional herd of cows. It was nice to just sit for a few minutes, feel the gentle breeze and observe an area where the great hand of progress had not touched yet.
There was just one more thing I had to do while I was in Chino Valley. Many of you who have regularly read my blog know that I have a good friend from high school, Kris Mazy, who tends to be a force of nature when it comes to doing the right thing. I had to pay her a visit.
Kris and her husband, Larry Fullmer, hadn’t planned on having kids. Now they have eight—five by blood, two by adoption and one little girl they’re in the process of adopting. They also have plenty of pigs, chickens, goats, quail, ducks, turkeys and rabbits, while the eldest son is raising tilapia. They even make their own soaps. They rarely have to go to the grocery store for food, living off what they raise.
We should all be so skilled, but the funny thing is that most families had to raise their own food to survive. Farming is becoming a lost art, but it’s heartening to know there are some, including my friends, who are able to possess the skills to carry on once life goes south.
Chino Valley has changed a lot, and although there’s less “country” to it today, it will still remain my hometown.