Joan Larsen’s Travel: For the Love of Books

Posted on March 6, 2013


By Joan Larsen


2-saguaros“Hidden gems”…  such an irresistible phrase to me.  When the “gems” are bookstores and I am on the road, going off the beaten path for a few miles is going to be a given.  They are safe haven from inclement weather, a respite from a long drive, and the independent bookstore owners are so welcoming that a short stay never seems long enough.  Sinking into a cozy chair, taking in the scene, talking to strangers that with me often become like friends – well, it always seems “a home away from home.”

Two bookstores – just two – stand out from all the rest in our country and you will understand why in a minute… as their unusual settings alone will blow you away.  Each deserves a story all its own… so I will have the other surprise set for next time.  Singing Wind Bookshop lies an hour east of Tucson, Arizona off Interstate 10 – and I will  promise you that the challenge of getting there has the potential to be just as much fun as the books  you take home.  It’s outside of the town of Benson, a town I apologize for saying is “in nowhere.”  It is the truth.

3-signIt’s easy to overshoot Singing Wind Road outside the town as it looks to be a private dirt road in cattle ranch country.   Be adventurous and turn onto it and you will eventually come up to this gate.  Stop the car.  Get out, unlock the gate, ring the big bell above you to alert the owner, get back in and pass through. Oh, you are not through with this adventure yet.  But you will realize you are city folk no more.  Get out again and lock the gate so the cattle can’t get out.  Even though Singing Wind Bookshop is known throughout the world, it is so tucked away you feel like you have stumbled into a secret.  And who of us can resist finding the unknown?
4-Singing Winds-01-31-2010The true measure of a bookstore’s worth is its merchandise, and ranch owner Winn Bundy has spent over 30 years finding books – heavily on the southwest – but otherwise eclectic… poetry, children’s literature, music, history, and so many kinds of fiction. They are scattered everywhere on bookshelves on every wall of every room.


6-WinnWinn will be glad to give you a guided tour.  Take it!  You will be missing something wonderful if you don’t!!!  This woman herself – as well as the tour – are the kind you will never forget, telling your friends about.  I promise you that.  As you begin to gather some of the best finds in books – books that you hadn’t planned to get but now can’t resist, remember that Winn’s one rule is that she takes cash, she takes checks… but she doesn’t take credit cards.  Be prepared as she makes no exceptions!  (From the looks of the happy faces and arms full of books, her rules are no big problem).


For me though, my forever memories go far beyond the shop itself.  My first time there – as I was gazing out a window overlooking a field of horses, one of her horses fell over, looking to have passed away suddenly.  I had to find her, tell her.  It was not easy to do.  Going out with her to the corral was even harder.  To say it was an emotional time when she had to get the vet there – and quickly… well, that was an understatement.  Did I mind taking over the shop while she was gone?  I was crying over her horse – a horse I hadn’t known five minutes before—and we must have bonded.  She was going to have to leave with the vet.  Could I, the stranger turned best friend for the moment, take over the bookstore for a short bit?  Wiping tears from my own eyes, I said “Of course I would be happy to.”    How could one ever forget that?????
These are the memories that stay with you.  Singing Wind itself  proved a magnet, definitely proven to be “a must” for her visitors to return and enjoy on each visit to the southwest… a rare gem that cannot be resisted.  GO!
You will thank me forever.


Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth.  But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again.  She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”