Find fantastic food, some Arizona history, and high-flying fun in Camp Verde
CAMP VERDE, AZ (Arizona Highways TV) -- Every restaurant has a story. Sometimes you can read a condensed version on the menu, but much of the story of this ma-and-pop shop here in Camp Verde is told on the walls. Albert “Beto” Ruiz says they are “beautiful memories of beautiful people.” He brings those vibrant memories to life inside Beto’s Corner.
Beto and Wanda, the patrona, are both fourth-generation Arizonans who grew up in the copper mining towns of Ray and Sonora, about 80 miles southeast of Phoenix. Beto worked in the smelters and, like generations before him, eventually went underground to work inside the mine. The work was dangerous, potentially deadly.
“I sure learned, sure learned a lot and worked down there as far as 4,700 feet,” he recalled.
Those memories are on the walls of Beto’s Corner, too, but in darker, less vibrant colors. Beto was eventually hurt in an explosion. His eyes were damaged, but he was luckier than others. “We lost a brother, too, in the mines, so we paid our dues,” he said.
After the accident, he and Wanda decided they’d do something different, together this time. They moved to Camp Verde in 2001.
“We had a small hot dog cart,” Wanda said. “We couldn’t find any place to park it, so I met a gentleman that owned this property, which was a canyon with a nice tree in front. And then we fed road crews to come and put dirt and fill in this canyon.”
They were a hit! But not for their hot dogs. The lines were for Wanda’s burritos. She would sell out in 90 minutes or less. When she added tamales, she and Beto knew they had to expand.
They started with a little kitchen with a fridge.
“People would come up to the window -- that became our drive-thru window later -- and then they wanted to eat there.”
Now, they have two dining rooms along with that drive-thru window.
And while Wanda keeps the operation going, her husband continues to paint and tell his stories.
“The mines ate up our town and we don’t have a hometown, and Camp Verde embraced us and took us in as one of their own,” Beto said.
The ‘62 red Chevy Nova convertible
Out in front of Beto’s Corner is a special car – a red 1962 Chevy Nova convertible. He saw it drive by one and said, “Wow! That’s the car of my dreams.” It was all Wanda needed to hear. She flagged down the driver.
“She just came back and brought the keys and says, ‘”Happy birthday! You got you the car of your dreams,’” he said. “So, now I got the car of my dreams and the wife of my dreams.”
Beto is not the only one who loves that little red convertible. It’s drawn car lovers and a few celebrities to their corner of the world, including the cast of “American Graffiti” making a pitstop on their way to Sedona.
Wanda and Beto have welcomed their share of celebrities, but it’s their loyal customers who make them most proud, people like Kathy and Denny Waybright. They moved back to Texas from Camp Verde 10 years ago, but still craved Beto’s Corner.
“We used to eat here all the time, and we just crave it, so [we] had to make a trip,” Kathy said. “We begged them, ‘Please, please come to Texas,’ but they won’t do it. We even offered to find a little place for them but they wouldn’t do it.”
“We’re very much part of the community, and i think the community feels that this is their place, this is their special place to come.”
Africa in the middle of the Verde Valley?
About 15 minutes northwest of Beto’s Corner along Highway 260 is a little slice of Africa. Camp Verde is home to Arizona’s one-of-a-kind wildlife park – Out of Africa. One of the main attractions there is the Predator Zipline.
We believe we are the only zipline in the world that ziplines over lions, tigers, bears, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, and that makes us so different than anyone else,” a spokesman explained.
“If I can do it, anybody can do it,” said “Arizona Highways TV” host Robin Sewell.
The zipline is 75 feet off the ground and about 500 feet long, taking zippers over a lioness, a tiger, and two black panthers.
“It was an adrenaline rush!” Robin said at the other end. “Now next time, when I open my eyes, I think it will be better, but you know what? I let go. I actually was not as scared [as I thought]. It’s that first initial step off the platform that is frightening.”
She liked it so much, she did it again – flying backwards. And she said she’d go again.
The park’s mission is more than providing a wild adventure.
“It’s just not a zipline experience,” the spokesman said. It’s an educational and entertaining experience of learning about all these great animals here at Out of Africa Wildlife Park.”
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