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McCain's Real Summer Home

Rene Gutel

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Cornville, Arizona. Population 3,300.
(Rene Gutel)
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The names of presidential hometowns have a special ring to them, a sort of geographical charisma or gravitas. There was Hope, Arkansas. Plains, Georgia. Crawford, Texas and Kennebunkport, Maine. Well if John McCain is elected, the world will get to know a tiny town tucked in Arizona's Verde Valley. It's where McCain goes for weekend getaways. And it's not where you think.

Sedona Surprises


Let's get a few matters clear. The Washington Post calls McCain's Arizona property his "rustic cabin." It may be a cabin, but from what you can see on YouTube, it's hardly rustic. It's more like a small resort with all the 21st century amenities you could want. But the road in is kind of rustic.

"We're coming up on the road that turns into Senator McCain's property," says local resident Deanna King, who is serving as my tour guide.

I'm riding in her gold Chevy Impala and we are bouncing along a hilly access road, on the hunt for John McCain's cabin.

"I'm not sure how far we'll get on this bumpy dirt road," King says. I am starting to get worried that we're getting in over our heads.

"Is your car OK for this?" I ask King.

"Oh yeah," King replies, laughing. "Now I was just thinking I should have borrowed a four-wheel drive."

King drives me past chaparral and other desert brush. There are prickly pears and barrel cactus, but so far, no signs of the cabin. It's called the Hidden Valley Ranch, and McCain has owned the property for 24 years. We keep waiting for Secret Service agents to appear over the next hill and tell us to turn around. Eventually King stops the car and it's clear she's driven about as far as she feels comfortable going.

"I think we will make a turn here because I'm not quite sure where we're headed," she says, as she makes a three point U-turn and drives us back toward the main road.

So much for my big Geraldo moment. We drive back to town. The other media myth about McCain's cabin is that it's in Sedona, a New Agey, crystal-reading capitol known for its healing vortexes. But the McCain property is actually 12 miles outside of Sedona in a town called Cornville. King is president of the Cornville Community Association, and she bristles every time a national reporter says McCain's cabin is in Sedona.

"It used to upset us, because we're very proud of Cornville," King says. "The hair on the back of our neck stands up when somebody calls it something other than [Cornville]."

Cornville doesn't have any crystals or aura readers. There's no corn here either. Cornville got its name by accident. It was supposed to be Cohnville, but there was some monumental spelling error. Today the population's about 3,300. They have two main roads and a smattering of shops where they intersect: a gas station, a post office and a restaurant called the Grasshopper Grill, famous for its baby-back ribs.

On the wall over the cash register, there's a framed sign that asks: "Where the hell is Cornville?" Waitress Twiggy LeMieux has lived here 40 years. I ask if she's worried about what could happen to Cornville if McCain is elected president.

"No!" she says. "Cornville? Cornville is Cornville! Rednecks and whatever else live here. And it ain't gonna change. Not for anybody. Ask Bill."

LeMieux points across the restaurant to one of her regular customers, a guy she calls Cowboy Bill. He is sitting at a table and wearing a t-shirt that says, "We do it in the dirt." Cowboy Bill's real name is Bill Mitchell and he moved to Cornville in 1971 to do excavation work. He's having lunch with his wife.

"I'm having the chili-size and she's having a fish special," he tells me, after I walk over and introduce myself.

A "chili-size" is an open-faced hamburger topped with chili, cheese and onions. Mitchell says if McCain is elected, Cornville will probably get bigger and it may become more expensive to live here. But he's not worried.

"Whatever is going to be is going to be," Mitchell says. "I mean, I hate to see the town change, but if he makes president, it will change. I'm sure."

The big question here these days is, what happens if John McCain is elected and the press figures out he doesn't really vacation in Sedona but in little old Cornville? Cornville resident Mike Anderson already has plans.

"If he becomes president though, I'm going to have John McCain beer," Anderson boasts.

"What'll it be?" I ask.

"Pale Ale," Anderson says.

Anderson is the owner of Casey's Corner. It's the town's catch-all gas station, convenience store and market. Just yesterday, Anderson says he was talking to a reporter from Japan.

After our interview ends, he comes back to me looking very serious. He wants to retract his comment about selling John McCain beer. It seems that Anderson and others here are starting to realize that they'll be talking to the media on a regular basis. And the world may start listening to Cornville.

  • Music Bridge:
    Artist: Pluxus
    CD: Solid State (Kompakt)


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Thom Stanley

    From Cornville, AZ, 09/07/2008

    As a residetn of Cornville for more than 17 years, I must say that this Cornvillian is not as enamored with John McCain as some may be. I am concerned that his compound is located aling Oak Creek, a tributary to the Verde River - a river facing extinction because of overdevelopment in a water-sensitive area. You'd think a senator a ston'es throw from the presidency could have managedto influence his fellow republicans (the majority in the state legislature) to be conservative guardians of their environment. Rahter, they have chosen growth over stewardship and responsibility for future generations. I believe this is also the way he would lead the nation - by surrendering to the fat cats, whether it be oil, nuclear, developers, bankers, insurers, pharmaceutical companies - the people funding his campaign. Beware of the evangelical Clark Kent and his modern, gun-toting, moose-eating Lois Lane. For the first time, I am experiencing the Not-In-My-Backyard syndrome, but for very different reasons. By the waym they are vortices, not vortexes and they don't read crystals, they appreciate their properties, and finally, the New Age has been gone for years and replaced by metaphysical. Perhaps a visit here for a week or two would reveal even more, like where Page Springs lies. You would also have learned the slogan for Cornville is: Cornville: It Ain't Much!But make sure you leave after that.

    By Rene Gutel

    From AZ, 09/06/2008

    I looked into the Page Springs vs. Cornville debate. Although his cabin is not far from Page Springs Road, the property falls in the 86325 ZIP code, which the U.S. Postal Service considers to be Cornville. In addition, the USPS does not recognize any Page Springs in Arizona as a location to which to deliver mail. I believe Page Springs is more of a community or neighborhood.

    I hope this clears things up. Thanks so much for writing in, and for listening! 
    All the best,

    By jim bishop

    From sedona, AZ, 09/06/2008

    ooops, as long time journalist in the verde valley, the GOP nominee lives in Page Springs. everyone has been wrong so far.. sail on

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