The Tao of tomorrow is not knowing what it brings…

stairway to upper street
Stairs like these take you up to the next street level in America’s most vertical city

Jerome, Arizona has a complicated past. Each tomorrow brought a random incarnation. And it ain’t over yet.

Depending on where your head is at, Jerome is either a Historic Copper Mining town, the Largest Ghost Town in America, a Hippie-Squatter commune, an Outlaw Biker Hideout, a Destination Wedding, or a gentrifying community of artists, fine dining, and indescribable noire. But no matter what, it’s “America’s most vertical city.” After our harrowing experience in Grand Canyon, verticality was the exact opposite of what we had in mind, yet here we are. Planning ahead as always.

Gray-haired lady on street below
Local artist on her way to the Artist Co-op…artists used to set-up shop down in Cottonwood or Sedona but you can feel that Jerome is the next big thing
Knapp Gallery
Jerome may always have a ghost-town motif…they wear it well here
haunted hamburger
Yup, even the burgers are haunted…the food in Jerome is good, not at all what you expect from a ghost town and better than the tourista comida down in Sedona
The Flatiron Restaurant a loyal customer
Every great town has a Flat Iron building…this one is still searching for success in Jerome’s escalating foodie culture though it has a loyal clientele of seasoned locals
Grapes restaurant and bar
The only level section of street in Jerome…buildings at peak age for gentrification…Jerome has been discovered…a place to enjoy before it becomes what it’s destined to be
Madame Mel's
Like every mining town, Jerome had a checkered past with colorful characters

When a cool spot becomes hot, people cast-about for its persona. Miners? Ghosts? Artists? Ladies of the night?! Everyone is trying something on in Jerome. It’s an open source free-for-all. There’s even a gallery called “Winery.” Wineries are indeed springing up around Jerome so the name isn’t totally absurd. In the meantime, it’s interesting watching people use the past to capitalize on tomorrow.

Winery gallery
Specializing in local fine art with a glass of wine to wash it down

We rolled up to Jerome right after our adventure hiking to Phantom Ranch in The Grand Canyon. Accommodations were foremost on our minds after the tortuous trudge around endless switchbacks through a billion year old time tunnel made of solid rock. But to our horror, Jerome greeted us with a treacherous cluster of sharp switchbacks guarding the highest point in the most vertical city in America where rooms awaited us atop the Grand Hotel, formerly known as a sanitarium, currently housing a restaurant-bar called, “The Asylum.”

If Vlad The Impaler wanted to plan a diabolical end to our adventure he couldn’t have topped this. Strangely enough, the Grand Hotel bears a faint resemblance to Vlad The Lad’s infamous fortress. This was going to be…interesting.

Jerome Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel…a great hotel, great restaurant, great bar in historic-mining-town motif

Jerome, The Grand, The Asylum, and the first self-serve elevator West of the Mississippi had plans for us which made our 3-days in Jerome magical…although we could be seen most often in The Asylum. This place felt like home and we needed home after our terrible brushes with death in Grand Canyon. We were lucky to be alive and we drank to that con mucho gusto.

The Asylum Bar
The Asylum was a perfect place to relax and reflect on the strange journey of the past week
restaurant
The restaurant at the Grand Hotel serves noire with fine-dining…no need to go out for dinner

For breakfast and lunch you need to venture down to the town-level which involves switchbacks…of course. But it’s well-worth it. There’s a huge foodie scene just taking-off in town and it’s fun trying all the different spots. There’s great local art and pottery at several shops along with dozens of old dilapidated architectural wonders to explore. And like art communities everywhere people can get creative.

wishing well
Few have succeeded where many have failed…obsession is always costly

Our last night in The Asylum Bar and Restaurant treated us to a large and in-charge Brit dressed hilariously in ill-fitting riding clothes accompanied by a small entourage of joviality. The man was fall-down funny and we couldn’t help wondering what bike he rolled-in on as we looked across our sedate dinner to the elbow-crashing feast of friends, wine, and food at his table. What a treat. In the morning we snuck outside early to get a view of the only bike a Brit should be allowed to ride—a Norton. The site of Her Majesty’s Largeness racing away that cold morning on his small scoot, wife clinging for dear life made us laugh so hard we couldn’t get the shot. It was theater on two wheels.

Norton
Norton 850 Commando – a work of art. The Brit from California and his wife…? True grit

Jerome is not a place you come across on your way to somewhere. It’s hidden in a verticality above Cottonwood which is above Sedona. You have to know about it and now you do. You should go. But one day is not enough. 2-3 is about right. Stay at the Grand Hotel, hang out at The Asylum and recover your mojo. But remember this—Jerome doesn’t know what tomorrow will bring and neither do you. And that’s probably a good thing.

manhattan in the asylum
The Manhattan – after 3 tries the bartender became passable with this classic cocktail

Jerome, Arizona – January 30th – February 1st 2014

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