B y K e v i n F r a n k l i n
KEN SCHULTZ AND Margaret Armstrong, two experienced backcountry travelers and history addicts, spent three years assembling information for an auto tour that loops around the Santa Rita Mountains and Patagonia.
Their eventual product, The Patagonia Adventure, is one part road-map, one part historical account, one part ecology tour and one part traveling minstrel tale.
The "adventure packet" contains a 64-page guide book complete with pictures, two 90-minute cassette tapes, a map, a worksheet and some brochures.
The general principle is fairly simple. You pop the tapes in your vehicle's tape deck, follow the map and listen to the ensuing narrative about the places you drive. Along the way there are 32 trip "options" or locations you can explore. For each option there's additional information beyond the audio tape in the written guide and possibly a brochure on the place.
The detail and thoroughness of the project make The Patagonia Adventure intriguing. All the important elements of using the packet are planned out to minute detail.
For instance, at the beginning of the tape Schultz implores you to drive the speed limit. The reason for these instructions, aside from law and order, stems from the fact the tape narrative refers to surrounding landmarks at exactly the time you're passing them. If you go too fast, as we quickly learned, Schultz's voice is still talking about landmarks long past and you're wondering about the sights in front of you.
But more important than the technical coordination of their work is the content, and here the adventure excels. Obviously, Armstrong and Schultz spent a lot of time ferreting out historical anecdotes. On the first leg of our journey, we decide to stop at the first suggested option, the Santa Rita Shrine. The shrine is a small, active Catholic Church. From reading our adventure guide, we learn strange details--like how the crucifix is from Oberammergau, Germany, and that the baptistery found its way here from Italy.
We press on with our Patagonia adventure. While full of information, at times the book can be confusing. But by using the supplemental information provided--or plain common sense--we're able to muddle through. Besides, it wouldn't be much of an adventure if everything were laid out perfectly.
What does get to us after a while is the sing-songy tone on a lot of the tape, some strangely mismatched background music and some overly specific instructions. At one point Schultz explains how to eject a tape from your car stereo--"if you can't pause your player, rapidly depress and release the eject button to turn the tape off." It's important for people to set their own limits, but we must point out: If you're incapable of operating the car stereo, the multi-faceted task of driving is bound to be even more perplexing.
At one point the tape verges on the sadistic when Schultz describes the murder of Corporal Joe Black in 1872 by Apaches in Davidson Canyon. Black was riddled with arrows and burned alive and, as you hear a recreation of Black screaming and sizzling in the background, Schultz's narrative sounds almost gleeful.
Peculiarities and a few inaccuracies aside, The Patagonia Adventure serves its purpose well as a source of ideas and information. The tale of Corporal Black may sound disjointed, but it was an engaging story. Hidden within the text and tape of the packet are dozens of other equally remarkable stories. Even the briefest of stops at each point of interest would take at least 20 hours and more than 300 miles. Obviously, the possibilities cannot be explored in a single day, nor even an entire weekend. The Patagonia Adventure packet can serve as a wellspring for ideas and details for multiple adventures to fill as much time as you have zest for inquiry.
Because of the vast scope involved, Armstrong and Schultz strongly recommend planning your trip in advance. They've even created a worksheet on which to calculate your exact distances and times.
While a fine and noble idea, most people I know get nauseous merely at the sight of a worksheet. We simply winged our trip, attempting to stay conservative in planning our day. But even with just nine stops, we wound up underbudgeting our time and dropping the last three.
Which is fine by us. Dozens of already-researched and mapped-out adventures just waiting to be undertaken in our backyard is about as fine a Christmas present as one could hope for. Next time we'll take the camping gear and make a weekend of it.
GETTING ONEThe Patagonia Adventure packet ($19.95), by Ken Schultz and Margaret Armstrong, is available at most Tucson bookstores. Order directly by calling M&K Associates at 745-1820, or (800) 988-0611 for out-of-towners.
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