Saturday, December 29, 2012

Congress, AZ - Campground Views

OK, it’s been two days without much food. I weighed myself and Gary weighed himself. Gary’s lost 5 lbs. Me - I’m the same. How can that be? This is obviously one of those items that fits into the ‘life is not fair’ category.

Breakfast? Well, I had a bowl of fruit and yogurt and 1/2 of a small bowl of steel cut oats. The other 1/2, I put in the refrigerator for later. I’m still not very hungry. Gary can eat but he’s come down with a full blown cold and now his back hurts. We’re not used to being sick - we must be getting older. Oh, not us.
We took a walk about the campground in the morning. Here we are in our campsite. Isn’t that a great lookin’ rig?

Pretty plain where we are in the ‘transient’ section but the view is awesome. Mountains ringing us. However, as plain as our section is, the housing section on the owned lots is pretty elaborate. Because the campground borders on BLM land, there is a large contingent of ATV’ers who camp here and line up at the gate to the BLM land for their fun for the day.

EscapeesNorthRanchPark-9-2012-12-29-15-53.jpgThis park also has Methuselah, a 400-year old saguaro and the oldest one in the state. Needless to say, the residents of the park take extraordinarily good care of this cactus. However, because of its age, there were lots of holes in it where birds have been making nests for years. Here’s one peeking out to see what’s going on in its neighborhood.

EscapeesNorthRanchPark-19-2012-12-29-15-53.jpgThere was a beautiful desert garden with not only Methuselah but hundreds of other cactus and other desert plants. They had also put in rocked pathways and benches to sit on. The view from the garden was absolutely smashing with the mountains in the backgrounds.

EscapeesNorthRanchPark-7-2012-12-29-15-53.jpgEscapeesNorthRanchPark-12-2012-12-29-15-53.jpgUsually the campgrounds we stay at are filled with RV’s and what are called ‘park models’ which I’ve spotlighted in my blog for 12/22. This campground had a variety of housing. Most of the lots are 1/2 acre: some have RV’s on them, some have homes with an RV parked beside them, many had loads of regular homes, mostly ranch style and some with 3 garages. Many of them are second homes for Phoenicians who are coming up here for the ATV trails or to escape the heat in the valley. Above is one designed for RV’ers.

And this guy’s and gal’s toys cover all the bases. 4-wheel drive truck, sailboat and ATV and RV. What more could anyone want?
Just thought of an incident from a few days ago. We were at the grocery store and noticed a bunch of ravens hovering over and perched on the bed of a white truck 2 spaces down form us. We took a closer look and saw a box from Costco with a bag of tortilla chips and a container of sour cream and some other food. Those birds had pecked a 1/2” diameter hole in the tortilla chip bag. Wow, they were determined. When we got back to the truck after shopping, we scared the birds away and peered into the truck bed. Hey, that hole was about 2” in diameter now. We saw a guy heading for the truck and hung around to tell him, if he was the owner, what had happened to his bag. Nope, not the owner. We just hope the owner notices the hole in the bag and tosses the chips.

Nah, he’ll probably take it back to Costco and complain about the hole in the bag of chips he bought.

The Desert Caballeros Museum in Wickenburg, 8 miles away, opens at 12:00 today and, since we’ve heard great things about it, we thought we’d head on over.

Congress, AZ - Museuming

DesertCaballerosMuseum%252526Scenesaroundtown-35-2012-12-29-08-50.jpgIn the afternoon, we toured the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, which is the other reason, besides weighing, that we are in this area. The main floor was filled with art by such artists as Remington, Beeler (whose are we also saw in the Basha’s Museum earlier), Bierstadt, Russell, all in all a marvelous collection of oils, pastels and statuary. There was a large collection of cowboy artifacts from rodeo posters to prison-made horse-hair gear to movie artifacts to Wild West Shows gear.

Of course, I couldn’t take pictures of any of the art on the first floor since it was all loaned to the museum. However, I could take pictures of the permanent collection down stairs. Here is where they tell the history of Wickenburg with some early street scenes from Wickenburg, several scenes from homes including a parlor, a bedroom, a laundry, etc. and several dioramas showing its growth from mining to ranching to modern day.

A large, very complete museum and we enjoyed our time there.

DesertCaballerosMuseum%252526Scenesaroundtown-29-2012-12-29-08-50.jpgAfterwards we found a local sandwich shop which had a delicious bowl of clam chowder for Gary and a small pizza for me. There was also live music which almost drove us out of the restaurant. A local gentleman who played the guitar and sang Western songs - and he actually hit a few right notes also.

DesertCaballerosMuseum%252526Scenesaroundtown-14-2012-12-29-08-50.jpgWe met and spoke with two women: one had moved 2 years ago from the Seattle area when her husband died to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren. She was not happy and regretted her move since there was so little to do in town although she had found enjoyment being a volunteer at the museum. The second woman, the owner of the restaurant, loved the town with its helpful, friendly community-oriented people. Two women, one town and very divergent opinions. But, then, Gary and I have different opinions too.

DesertCaballerosMuseum%252526Scenesaroundtown-23-2012-12-29-08-50.jpgAfter that delicious lunch, we walked around the main area of town to view all the bronze sculptures they had placed throughout. Most of the statures were people and told the story of town’s history. Here’s a felon chained to the Jail Tree. Seems that early Wickenburg citizens were plenty busy and too busy to build a jail. So, they just chained prisoners to this large mesquite tree in the center of town until they could be transported to the nearest jail in Prescott, about 42 miles away.

Below is a dance hall girl outside a local saloon. Gary wanted to challenge the cowboy for her favors but I was standing over his shoulder.
Meanwhile I was being serenaded by a local singer.

Here’s a fascinating woman who opened a hotel in town in the late 1880’s, Elizabeth Smith. who was born in Alabama in 1869, the daughter of a freed slave. Her father encouraged her to get an education which she did becoming fluent in French and studying business. In 1897 she and her husband, Bill, who worked as a porter for the Santa Fe railroad, rode into town on the local train and became the first black citizens of town, blending in with the Mexicans, the Asians, the Indians and all others who had arrived in this frontier town to make a living in the local mines.

DesertCaballerosMuseum%252526Scenesaroundtown-2-2012-12-29-08-50.jpgThey were immediately hired to work in the local hotel as maid/cook and bartender. They saved enough money and his mother sold her home so they could buy the old hotel which they made into a rousing success, drawing people from as far away as Phoenix. Soon, the railroad convinced her to open a hotel in 1906 across the street from the train depot to serve dinner to riders since trains did not yet contain dining cars. In some towns the railroad built the Harvey Houses, here in Wickenburg, they contracted with Mrs. Smith to provide lodging and food. This hotel, called the Vernetta after Bill’s mother, also became a rousing success and the railroad built a walkway from the depot to the hotel so passengers wouldn’t get their feet muddy. She ran the hotel while Bill ran the Black and Tan, the bar in the corner.

However, he seemed to drift in and out of her life with a bottle in hand and she finally divorced him in 1912. She was quite an entrepreneur and expanded her business interests to include a barbershop, several rental homes and a cattle ranch. She helped found the Presbyterian Church and the opera house. She even taught French to local citizens and several who journeyed up from Phoenix.

DesertCaballerosMuseum%252526Scenesaroundtown-11-2012-12-29-08-50.jpgHowever, it all came to an end in the 30’s during the Great Depression. Competition for jobs increased prejudice and soon people refused to eat in her hotel. She was even ousted from local bridge games and the the Presbyterian Church. When she died in 1935, the citizens of Wickenburg would not bury her in the white cemetery but in the Mexican, Indian and Asian cemetery on the outskirts of town. Now, they’ve erected a statue to her at the front of her Vernetta hotel.

There’s your bit of history for the day. But, what an amazing woman.

As we were heading back to our car through a laned alley, we found this cat monitoring our every move from its perch in this cactus.
Nice day in Wickenburg but it’s time to head on back to the campground.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Mesa, AZ to Congress, AZ - And, T-t-t-that's All Folks

We had planned to go to Congress, AZ, about 100 miles off to get our RV weighed. We needed to get our RV weighed to make that we were not overweight for the chassis and tires that we have. We also wanted to ensure that we were not overweight on any single tire, that we were even side to side. We could get weighed at a Pilot Gas Station but that would weigh the whole RV, not each tire. This RV is new to us and we want to ensure that we are properly ‘balanced.’ And, I don’t need any comments here.

Since it’s such a short drive to Congress, and the guy who runs the scales does this only on Fridays, we decided to make the journey, no matter how we felt. Even though I hadn’t eaten since breakfast yesterday, I decided to forego today’s breakfast (my body still wasn’t receptive), we readied the RV for the trip and we were off. Our only hitch was getting gas. To be weighed properly, we had to gas up and, because the gas is more expensive in Congress than in the Phoenix area, we tried to get gas on the outskirts of Phoenix before we headed up the road. Now, if there’s one time when Gary and I spit at each other, even after 40 years of marriage, it’s when we try to gas up at some location other than on an interstate.

Here’s the scene: Gary’s driving down the road in a 57’ long RV/Jeep combination. I have the I Phone looking at Gas Buddy trying to get the best price. Does Gas Buddy tell me if the gas station with the best price can handle a 57’ rig? Nope. That means I’ve got to go to a mapping program to see the size of the station. Meanwhile, we’re moving on down the highway and by the time I’ve found a station with a good price that we can get into, we’re 10 miles on down the road. Why not stop, you ask? Well, it’s a 57’ rig - you want me to pull into a Starbucks to turn around? So, sometimes we spit a bit. Actually, we do stop sometimes to get a reading on gas stations but this road had no convenient LARGE spots for us to pull into, turn around safely and stop. So, we continued on.

But we finally found a gas station and here we are, all fueled up and ready to go. But - what’s that in front of us?

Some yahoo snuck in to get some gas at the same pillar and - his car won’t start. He’s on our front bumper, his starter won’t start and we can’t back up with the Jeep in tow. Neato. His girl friend is on the phone for help but we need to get him out of there if we are to get on our way. How about the old ‘put it in neutral and push?’ Worked for us. He and Gary got it into a parking space so they weren’t blocking traffic and we were out of there.

Stuckatthefuelpumpsforawhile-2-2012-12-28-15-13.jpgYes, we did get our gas, made it to Congress in one piece and got weighed. We are very evenly distributed so we feel good about that. We asked the guy if he ever had RV’s that were really off balance. Yes, he says. His favorite line when that happens is: ’This might be the time that you should rethink that large collection of rocks you’re carrying.’ O-o-o-h. He gets some sheepish grins - maybe not such a bad guess.

We got into dry camping (which means we had no hook-ups.) before we realized that generator use was not allowed. Now, dry camping only works if we can use our generator to recharge our batteries. We then checked our I Phone and saw that freezing temps were predicted. When it got dark, and only after it was really dark, Gary, who knows about these things, decided that the combination of cold temps and lack of generator use meant that our batteries might die before we awoke. So, we readied the RV to move and, in the dark, we moved the RV, backing it into a campsite near where we were. When we got done, and only after Gary had hooked up the electricity, the moon, the full moon, came out and lit the whole area as if it were day.

And, we’re off to bed. None too soon the way we feel.

And, what have I had to eat today? A fiber bar, a small bowl of hash, a glass of milk, a piece of fudge and 3 crackers. Seems that fudge and crackers go down pretty smoothly - wonder why. Anything else, I get horrible cramps and am terribly uncomfortable.

Gary and I are thinking that we got some food poisoning somewhere but have no idea where. But we’re both not feeling well

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mesa, AZ - Down for the Count

40 years of marriage and Gary and I have mastered the art of getting sick together. Not sick in the same way but both sick at the same time. Much more efficient that way. Of course, if we were really smart, we wouldn’t get sick.

I don’t usually get sick so, when I do, I do a great job of it. It began during last night when I woke up with both arms and both legs feeling very tired. No position I rotated to made them feel less tired. Kept me awake trying to make myself less tired. Make sense? Not to me.

When I awoke I was not much better. If we had not scheduled a breakfast with some friends I would have stayed in bed. These are some friends that we met in our travels last year. They got to Mesa a few days ago and we leave in tomorrow so, if we want to see them, today is the day. I firgured I’d get to crash when we got back. I got dressed just dragging. I’d dress then sit down on the sofa. I’d rise to brush my teeth and then sit back down. I’d rise to put my make-up on and then retire to the sofa again. Whew. Oh, now, I’ve got to put my shoes on, too?

At breakfast the conversation kept me going. Wendy and Barry are a lot of fun and we shared stories about RV’s and their foibles. They also have had awning problems this past year. We also talked about different places we’ve been and neat places to explore. Did I eat any of my breakfast? Not much: 1/2 of my English muffin and a few bites of potatoes. Firstly, I just didn’t feel like eating. Food held no interest for me. Secondly, someone should have told the cook that cold, dry potatoes do not add to the dining experience. Their menu made a point about their quality ingredients: kosher sea salt, Rothschild jam, real butter, farm-fresh eggs, local produce. They should have told the cook to make the food hot.

But, I made it through breakfast. When we got back to the RV, my battery died and I barely fell into bed. Slept all afternoon while Gary filled our water tank, emptied our other tanks and readied us for travel. Then he joined me in bed for a while until he made a violent run for the bathroom. At least I wasn’t that sick. But, whatever it was, had hit us both. We then slept all the way to the 7:00 alarm.

Let’s see: today I’ve eated 1/2 an English muffin and a few bites of potatoe and scrambled egg.

I have no pictures for this day. Fancy that.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mesa, AZ - Victory

Right now, I am heating something in the microwave and our little heater is on. A while ago, I used my blow drier while our little electric grill was on. Big deal, you say - but to us it really is a big deal. Because our Inverter-charger has been broken for the last month or so, we have not been able to use 2 heating appliances at once without blowing a fuse. Now it’s fixed and are we ever excited. I don’t have to watch what I’m cooking at a particular time and Gary doesn’t have to rush out to reset the fuse. We’re both happy.

1286916109l100_4264.JPG-2012-12-22-20-24.jpgI have a friend who says we are living in a Lilliputian village or, less kindly, a Canadian ghetto. I’ve also heard that this kind of village can be called a ’Tinominium.’ You’ve heard of condominiums, well villages of RV’s are called tinominiums. Hmmm. There are a variety of homes here. There are quite a few RV’s like us. We think that there will continue to be sites for RV’s since that is how they draw new people in to see the village. Since Val Vista has been here since the 1980’s, there are some fairly old buildings. Here’s one that is selling for $3500. Yep, that’s right, $3500.

1354551774l100_7579.JPG-2012-12-22-20-24.jpgBut, the resort is continually upgrading their housing stock and on the right is a picture of a newer home which is for sale for $18,000. Of course, 90% or better of these homes are second homes. The owners have homes in the cold north country where they live in the summer. Many also keep a car down here with their 'winter' home. 

1342110299l100_7416.JPG-2012-12-22-20-24.jpgBut there are still some newer ones and this one is selling for $69.900. I liked this style which has the kitchen in front so you can look out on the street while you’re cooking. This one still has an Arizona room on the left which functions as a great room or a living room or as a guest room for company.

ScenesaroundValVistaResort-9-2012-12-22-20-24.jpgThey actually have a while new style of home which is almost a craftsman style home with a great room. Nice great room about 24’ x 12’ which has the kitchen, dining area and the living room. 2 large bedrooms with 2 bathrooms. Pretty nice. Are we interested? Nope, we’re still traveling. We have lots of the US to see and, though we look at each place as a potential final location, we still haven’t chosen any over any other. But, it is a nice home and we can see why so many people choose this lifestyle.

We were taking a walk the other day and saw this in one of the sites. Gary is all excited and wants to move our RV to be next door.

ScenesaroundValVistaResort-5-2012-12-22-20-24.jpgOne of the buildings here has a woodworking shop with any saw or lathe or tool you could need. Gary wanted to fix a cupboard door, paid his membership fee and here he is. Voila!! The door is all fixed.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mesa, AZ - RV Service Center Adventure - Part 2

A bad day in the RV beats a good day at the office any time.

So, you probably wonder why Gary and I aren’t doing much these days? Well, so are we. And, as you can tell by the title of this blog - it ain’t a pretty story. Oh, no, in reality it’s just annoying rather than any problem. As you all know, we bought a new RV in October, hoping to leave all of our Simba problems behind us. And we did. But, little did we know that we picked up the Journey problems.

But, you’ve got to know that any time you buy a used vehicle, there are some issues that will need to be worked out. Hopefully, they will be small ones. Gary switched two wires and the bathroom exhaust fan now exhausts out rather than blowing in. He connected a loose wire and we now have bass in our speaker system. He turned around two defrost fans in front of the windshield so that they now actually blow onto the windshield rather than into the RV. Little things, and there have been a few others. The previous owners were an older couple who probably didn’t notice these problems. Gary notices EVERYTHING.

But there was one nagging problem. We noticed that any time we had 2 heating elements (microwave, electric heater, hair dryer, electric grill, toaster oven, Vitamix) going at once, we popped a circuit. Never did that before in any RV we’ve had. Hmmm. Of course, I was the one who was cooking and popped them and Gary was the one who went outside to reset it. Love these gender roles.

Obviously, the problem was in what is called the inverter-charger. Gary, of course, began testing it and trying to see what the problem was. He found a wire that was not even hooked up to anything so that’s a good clue. Soon the I-C failed completely and we could not charge the batteries in our RV. No lights, no front steps, no electricity. We got a new I-C on order from Winnebago. Luckily, our friends, Jerry and Shirley had a heavy duty charger which we borrowed and hooked up to our RV and used for a week.

Finally, Monday rolled around and we were due at the service center at 8:00 for the installation. At 7:30, we began pulling in our 3 slides. The 2 small ones - great. But, not the large one. 3” is as far as it would come. We tried everything in the manual. No matter what we did, it wouldn’t come in. Gary called Winnebago. Gary called the service center. Interestingly, he got wrong information from both of them. Even the Winnebago Service Rep gave him some wrong information. What irony: we couldn’t even get to the service center to get fixed. Finally, on Wednesday, a tech came out to our RV, noticed that there was a loose connection to the slide motor, hooked it up, pulled the slide in and we were on our way to the service center to get the I-C installed. 10 minutes.

They solidified the slide connections, installed the I-C and let us stay there over night so we could test everything. Isn’t this a nice campground?
Now that we are on a first-name basis with everyone at the service center - maybe we’ll get invited to their Christmas party.

Now, here’s the funny part: while we were waiting for the installation, we looked out the door to where RV’s are prepped for new customers. Guess what we saw out there? Sure enough our old RV, the Simba. Looks like someone had bought it. What are the chances that we would see that?
And, that’s why we haven’t been doing anything exciting - we’ve been doing RV.

Luckily the I-C failed completely while we were here in Mesa and we could get it all fixed by the dealer who sold us the RV.

Luckily this dealer was only 2 miles away.

Luckily we had extended care insurance which paid most of the cost except that which the dealer absorbed.

Luckily Gary is clever enough to do most of the trouble shooting himself. And I thought he was just a sex god.

Luckily we had friends with a charger. Thanks Jerry and Shirley.

Annoying, yes. Time consuming, yes. But not a major problem.

And, we remember:

A bad day in the RV beats a good day at the office any time

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mesa, AZ - Friends and Lights

It’s Christmas and time for friends and Christmas lights. We have two ‘old’ HS classmates living in Arizona who are coming into the Phoenix area. And, what better place to have breakfast than at the Iowa Cafe? Here we are with our coffee cups. Unfortunately, the Iowa Cafe stresses Iowa Hawkeyes rather than the Ames Cyclones which is where 3 of us went to school. The colors of the restaurant are black and gold not cardinal and gold and the cups are black and gold too. Ah, well, the food was good and the conversation was great.

In the evening, I met Mary and Sherron at the Phoenix Zoo for its Zoo Lights.

Since it was dark out, the lights, strewn throughout the zoo, were the show rather than the animals. There was a large crowd strolling the trails through the park with lots of families and music. There were lights dancing over the small lake to Mannheim Steamroller.
I liked the looming evil of the preying mantis.

I also like this maned lion.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mesa, AZ - On Cloud 9

Worrying works: 90% of the things I worry about never happen. Anon.

Was there a hike today? Need you ask? Else how could we have gotten up to Cloud 9? What’s Cloud 9, you ask. I’ll get to that but first I’d like to tell you about Lori Piestewa.

Our goal today was a two-fer: Piestewa Peak and Shaw Butte, both in the Phoenix Mountain Parks. Thus it was up a ‘0 dark thirty’ in the Macek/Ferguson household. What sounds like a great idea at 9:00 pm doesn’t always resonate well at 6:00 am, especially when it is 44 degrees outside and we’re putting on our ‘winter’ hiking clothing. But we know we’ll be glad we got up and started early. I’ve switched to hot cereal in the morning while Gary is still eating cold cereal and wondering why he’s a bit chilly at the end of breakfast. But, cereal is fast and we were well on our way by 7:45. Our first peak is Piestewa originally named Squaw Mt (and many still use this name which is really pretty derogatory) but which was officially named for Lori Piestewa in 2008. It is one of the iconic Phoenix hikes and we expected to find many others on the trail, even on a Wednesday morning.

We were not wrong. There were more than we usually see on a hike. Many, who had started before sunrise, were coming down already. However, we still found a place in the parking lot. We changed to lighter clothes but still wore more than we have so far this fall. And, up we went. Huff, huff, puff, puff. We had lots of chances to practice our trail etiquette: descending yields to ascending, slower yields to faster, and those with dogs yield to all. On the other hand, even when I am ascending, I might want to yield to anyone. Especially when I am ascending. It was more a climb than a hike with many sections with stones placed as steps, lots of switchbacks (in one place there were 13 in a row) and built with the goal of getting there fast.

PiestewaPeak-SummitTrail-1-2012-12-12-16-57.jpgActually, many in the area time their ascent, trying to best their previous time with each new attempt. I could hear them breathing down my neck and I stepped aside. Sometimes, unless I step aside, I never see the surrounding views because I am watching my footing so carefully and this is one of those trails. Thus, I welcomed those climbing faster than I so I could step aside to look around me at the surrounding mountains and the Phoenix skylines.

Some hikes gain elevation but over a much greater distance. This hike gained 1100’ in about 1 mile. That makes it almost a stair stepper hike. Some of the steps were mighty high and more difficult to clamber over. A real thigh burner of a hike. 

File-Lori_Piestewa-2012-12-12-16-57.jpgNow, while I’m climbing, I’ll tell you about Lori Piestewa. That will be much more interesting than listening to me huff and puff. A mother of two children, she was a member of the Hopi tribe in Arizona and came from a military family. She was the first Native American woman to die in combat in the US and also the first woman to die in combat during the first Iraqi War. Do you remember Jennifer Lynch from the Iraqi War who was wounded, captured and then freed? Well, Lori Piestewa was the driver of the Humvee in which Lynch was riding. She was in a maintenance and repair unit driving a Humvee in a convoy which was supposed to pass Nasiriya but got lost and ran into an ambush. She quickly sped up and evaded the first fire but an RPG hit her vehicle, disabled it and slammed it into a tractor-trailer. 3 died but Lynch, Piestewa and another were injured but captured by the Iraqis. Unfortunately her head injuries were so delicate that Iraqi civilian hospitals could not care for her and she died soon after capture.

Then the controversy began. Governor Napolitano wanted to change the name of Squaw Mt. to Piestewa Peak. However, the Arizona rules state that you cannot name something after someone until that person has been dead 5 years. However, after a little arm twisting, the Arizona name was changed. BUT - not the US name. The US Board on Geographic Names policy has the same 5 year policy and stuck to that policy so it was not until 2008 that it was officially named Piestewa Peak.

PiestewaPeak-SummitTrail-11-2012-12-12-16-57.jpgOK, that’s the story and we’re now at the top. There, wasn’t that much more pleasant than listening to me huff and puff? What a gorgeous view of the Phoenix area. I remember flying into Phoenix once on a business trip and noticing all the mountains around this extremely flat city in the middle. Even then, I never really thought of Phoenix as a hiking mecca until I talked with a Canadian couple in 2010 who snowbird in Phoenix to hike. And, that was the lure for us last year and this. And, have we ever enjoyed finding new trails to hike on.

In these two pictures you can see the smog over the city but we can still see the South Mountain range in the background.

This is the kind of hike I really like: challenging but with a terrific reward at the top - and I’m not talking about chocolate. The view is stupendous. Here’s Gary at the top talking to a guy with a knee replacement who is a volunteer in Zion National Park and lives in St. George, Utah. He’s only visiting here like we are.

Look what we found at the top? Now, who in the world would have brought these Christmas decorations up here? But, you know, you’ve got to touch the Christmas Tree at the top or the hike never happened.

Hiking down was a bit easier than hiking up but the steps were still pretty steep. At the bottom, we took off some clothing as the day was getting warmer and drove over to our next hike, Shaw Butte. Now, Shaw Butte is no less a stair-stepper hike. It started as a road for service work on the forest of antennas at the top. Most of the road is gone now and replaced by rocks but it is still steep. On Piestewa we were climbing on rocks, here we were walking up a very rocky bumpy road. But, steep is steep. But, there’s a story for this hike too and I’ll tell you that story as Gary and I plod up this hill. Again, much more pleasant than the plodding.

High up on the south side of shaw Butte overlooking the city are the charred ruins of a swank restaurant where the elite used to meet to eat. Add a mysterious fire, hints of illegal gambling and powerful patrons such as Barry Goldwater and you’ve got a real aura of mystery which survives to this day. It began back in the 1960’s when Richard Barker and his wife, Barbara, purchased land on Phoenix side of Shaw Butte with the intention of building a house overlooking the city. Driving his Harley up the steep winding roads which he built with dynamite he began leveling a piece of land just a short ways down from the 2149’ summit.

“When the first cement truck filled with concrete showed up for construction of the house, Dad had to buy the concrete – and the truck – with a cashier’s check on the spot and drive it himself to the building site,” says his son. After Barker proved the road was navigable, company drivers handled future deliveries. Above you can see part of his road.

phm0709pfhis_2_lg-2012-12-12-16-57.jpgBarker built a spectacular home up on the mountain side and the local newspaper did a feature story on it. Then, on a whim, he decided to turn the house into a restaurant featuring steak, seafood and a BYOB policy. Customers flocked to the restaurant high in the clouds. The food and the view were the draw but there were some problems. Firstly there was a problem with pesky rattlesnakes which would appear in the dining room from time to time. Barker would grab a stick, scoop the rattler up and fling it down the hillside.

Then there was that formidable steep rocky drive up and down the hill. Barker’s sons would wait at the bottom of the hill, notify Barker and he would drive his car down to pick them up. He also drove them back down when they were finished. One time the fuel hose broke and he couldn’t stop until he got to the bottom when he jumped out of the car and put the fire out with a fire extinguisher.

On November 8, 1964, however, a fire destroyed the restaurant. Cloud Nine was never rebuilt and made its journey into Phoenix legends, and Barker moved on to other projects.

ShawButteTrail-13-2012-12-12-16-57.jpgOK, we’re at the top now and looking out over the city of Phoenix. We’ve been able to climb several peaks in the region and have gotten superb 360-degree views from all of them. Makes it all worthwhile. Chugging up the trail and gasping for air are small prices to pay for the feeling of accomplishment and the fine views at the top. We can also look down upon the ruins of Cloud 9 and that is our next destination.

All that remain of the former restaurant’s glory are some steps, the curved floor of the restaurant and some dement walls. Close you eyes and you can smell steak cooking over the grill, hear wine glasses clinking and see the elite hobnobbing high above the city.

Then we were on our way to the bottom and our car. There is a race in Phoenix called the Seven Summit Challenge and the goal is to climb all 7 in 23 hours. Now the total hiking distance is 23 miles and the total elevation gain is 6000’. 23 hours? 23 miles? 6000’ in one day? Nuts. But, we’re working on our own Challenge.

Summit 1 South Mountain #1                                DONE

Summit 2 South Mountain #2                                DONE

Summit 3 Piestewa Peak                                        DONE

Summit 4 Phoenix Mountain Preserve

Summit 5 Lookout Mountain

Summit 6 North Mountain

Summit 7 Shaw Butte                                           DONE

OneWaytodrawchurchgoers-1-2012-12-12-16-57.jpgLooks good doesn’t it? Well, as you know, we took three days and we’re not done yet. No sense rushing through these things - we’re retired, you know.

On our way home we spotted this sign. Changes the meaning of the old phrase, 'Church clothes’, doesn’t it?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mesa, AZ - Misc Adventures

Well, it’s been one of those days - just because we don’t have exciting adventures doesn’t mean that we haven’t been having adventures. recently, we’ve had the:


OldTownBronzeCowboy-2012-12-10-19-46.jpgI wrote about the Old Town Bronze Cowboy that we met at the Tempe Art Festival on December 1. I thought he was a magician then when he fooled both Gary and me with his costume. Well, today, I think he’s even more of a magician. I got an e-mail through the blog saying he had left a comment on the blog itself. He commented on our meeting him and admiring his performance art. No big deal, you say. Yes - but - I have no idea how he ever found my blog or how he ever knew that he was mentioned in it. I was amazed when I saw him in costume and was asking ‘How does he do that?’ Now, I’m really asking ‘How does he do that?’

I also looked him up on Youtube where you can type in ‘Old Town Bronze Cowboy’ and find several videos of him. Mostly he sits on a bench or leans against a wall, looking like a bronze statue. Then, when someone sits down next to him for a picture, he moves. WOW. How surprised would you be? He’d scare the bejeebers out of me. The people in the videos were sure taken by surprise.

I’ll have to go to Scottsdale on a Friday or Saturday night to find out.

Here’s the sad part: I don’t have his e-mail address so I cannot reply to him personally. I can write a comment to him on my blog, and I have, but he’s going to have to return to the blog page to find it.


I'll bet you didn't know that sewing could be a contact sport. Well, neither did I. But, yep, it was contentious. But let me recap for a moment. Our previous RV had a ‘short’ queen sized bed which means that it was shorter than a normal queen sized bed and needed shorter sheets. We’ve been using some regular queen sheets for the time we had that RV but I’ve always liked ‘tight’ sheets, sheets that don’t roll with you like a cocoon when you turn, ones you can drop a quarter on to bounce. So, several weeks ago, I bought some ‘short’ queen sized sheets. Loved the fit. Well, you know the history, we traded that RV in and now have a ‘short’ king sized bed. Shucks.

This ‘short’ king sized bed is 72” x 75’. We have a king sized bed at home and I’ve got 2 completely unused sets of king sheets which I got at a closing sale sitting in our linen closet. I asked the guy taking care of our home in our absence to send a set to us. Well, they were 78” x 80” a little too long, a little too wide. Shucks again. So, after a few weeks of these and after looking for ‘short’ king sheets on line and seeing the cost, I had an inspiration: I can re-size these sheets with a few well-placed seams. I can sew each of the corner seams to where they should be to fit this bed.

Thus, this afternoon, after I had washed the sheets, I turned them upside down so the seams were out, put them on the bed and pinned the corner seams up to fit. Hey, this might work. I then hied over to the sewing room to sew up my sheets. Now I have owned a sewing machine and have done lots of sewing in my time but my machine broke about 20 years ago and I haven’t used it since. I am not only rusty but the machines are much more user friendly than my old one was. However, I caught on fast and was merrily sewing my seams while listening and joining in the chatter.

Then one lady started in on politics and began to dis President Obama. I gritted my teeth but she continued. Come on. This is a sewing room, not a political debate. Finally, after she had taken the stage for about 5 minutes without a counter since everyone else in the room was Canadian, and I decided to speak up. I can only grit my teeth so long. I mentioned how great America was that we could all have different opinions and live in harmony. Then I told her that I was elated to vote for President Obama and listed all the good things from the last 4 years: I mentioned the stock market, the 2 wars, the unemployment picture and health care. But, I said, I really didn’t come here to discuss politics - I came to sew. The Canadians weren't going to be left out and they chimed in on their government. 

When I got done, I took my ‘creation’ back, put it onto our mattress and, voila, IT FITS. Oh, boy.

But, who would have thought a sewing adventure could turn contentious? Well, actually, it was not contentious, that’s hyperbole. It was itself an example of democracy in action.


Gary and I owned 2 video stores for about 11 years and during that time not only had a movie running all hours the store was open but also previewed lots of movies so we could speak intelligently about them to our customers. Thus, 2 people who had never been big movie goers got movied-out. Very movied-out. In the last 16 years since we’ve sold the video stores, we’ve seen Billy Elliot (the original movie, not the musical), Whale Rider, Life is Beautiful, The Tree of Life, Titanic and maybe a 1 or 2 others. Hmmm. Interesting set of movies. And, note that there were so few movies that I can name them. 

But, today we went to Lincoln. First, let me say, it was an excellent movie and I expect several Academy Award nominations if not awards will come from this. Secondly, I’m glad that I’m reading the book Lincoln and have been am American History teacher in my past - otherwise I might have been a bit lost. The movie is about the passage of the 13th Amendment banning slavery in the United States and how Lincoln maneuvered to get this passed in a House that was split between Democrats, Radical Republicans and Republicans.

What shenanigans, what bribery and finally, what compromises were made. Several voted because they had been promised a government job, several because they had been paid, and several voted, not because this was the amendment they wanted but because it was what they could get - half a loaf is better than none.

I don’t want to spoil the movie and its plot for you and all I’ve said here is that House was voting on the 13th Amendment which you can read about in history books but it is a very interesting movie and I’d recommend it - but read about Lincoln and the 13th Amendment on Wikipedia before you see it.

Boy, was this movie, which was 90% interior shots, dark. I kept waiting for a bit of light. But then, there was no electricity in the 19th century and rooms were lit by fireplaces and kerosene lamps. Victorian rooms featured furniture made of walnut and upholstered with dark satins, deep red tapestries and rugs and draperies of the same materials which were not opened much in the winter to conserve heat. And, yes, the men smoked pipes, cigars and cigarettes with smoke which swirled around and fogged the rooms. It was a dark movie but, of course, the subject matter was dark also.

Excellent movie and we can see why there are several Golden Globe nominations, probably quite a few Oscar nominations to follow.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mesa, AZ - LIghts, Lights, Lights

‘Entering the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes every year is not considered a well-thought out retirement plan.’
Our day was pretty typical but in late afternoon, we went with Jerry and Shirley to the Tempe Festival of Lights and fireworks. It was supposed to begin at 5: with activities but the boat parade didn’t begin until 7:00 when it was dark enough for the lights on the boats to gleam in the water. Actually, the ‘lake’ is really a river which has been dammed up to make it about 2 blocks wide so that people can boat in it. We and tens of thousands of our new best friends lined up on the cement wall waiting for the parade to begin. Note that we are all dressed warmly since this is actually winter here in Arizona.
The parade was about 50 decorated boats that floated by us. It was difficult to get a good picture of them since they were moving - in fact, here is a good one that I got. Yep, I sure do know how to handle my camera.
FantasyofLightsBoatParade-29-2012-12-9-19-39.jpgBut here are a few of the better ones. Some were quite elaborately decorated like this one with palm trees.

And this one with lights shaped like a Christmas tree.

FantasyofLightsBoatParade-22-2012-12-9-19-39.jpgWould you believe that there were even canoes paddling along the river/lake behind 50' power boats?

But my best picture was of the boats returning to the start across the river from where they paraded.

Then we craned our necks up for the fireworks.
On our way back to the resort, we stopped at the Mormon Temple which is spectacularly lit up for the Christmas season. We have never seen so many lights. Every tree, every bush, even the grounds are decorated with different lights, reflected in the pool.

NativityScenesattheMormonTemple-6-2012-12-9-19-39.jpgThen, inside they had a marvelous display of nativity scenes from around the world. Here are two: the first from Peru and the second a Navajo nativity on a woven Navajo rug.

The last one was my favorite - for sheer creativity: book pages that have been folded back and cut out to form the nativity scene.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mesa, AZ - Our Kind of Rattlesnake

The old saying that familiarity breeds contempt does not apply with rattlesnakes and black widows.

HikeinSanTanRegionalPark-19-2012-12-5-14-03.jpgToday was just a hike - nothing special and not one I’d repeat. Gary agreed with me, and it was about 1/2 hour away from here too so it took a bit of a drive. However, the day was bright and sunny, we met some nice people along the way and I saw the kind of rattlesnake I can take - in a cage. We also saw the graves of two old characters that almost seem like stereotypes of the old west.

HikeinSanTanRegionalPark-28-2012-12-5-14-03.jpgThe hike did have some nice views from the south part of the Phoenix suburbs.

And, look at this guy - the king of the mountain.

We met a mountain biker with long flowing white hair but who was probably about 45 or so. He lived in Los Angeles for a long while and now misses the ocean. But he has discovered the desert and mountain biking all over the trails and has immersed himself in his new love. It didn't hurt that he sold his LA home for $600,000 and bought a bigger hime here with more land for only $100,000. 

HikeinSanTanRegionalPark-11-2012-12-5-14-03.jpgMeanwhile, back at the gravesite for Carter Mansel and Marion Kennedy. Carter was born in Ohio and while he was growing up he had many occupations including an airplane shuttle service, managing a photography business and a logger on the Zuni Indian Reservation. Finally he came to the Phoenix area and began mining for gold with a man who delivered ice, a Cherokee Indian from Oklahoma, Marion Kennedy. In 1948, they moved to the San Tan region to escape the ‘crowds’ in town and lived here for many years. 

They worked their claim until Kennedy died in 1960 after which Carter began to make small cactus and wood carvings he called Cactus Curios. He became quite famous and visitors from all over the world came to see him. The Phoenix Magazine in 1987 named him an ‘Arizona Legend.’ It’s not easy to get to this gravesite since it is 1/2 mile in on the trail. But it’s the unexpected things that make hiking fun.

When we mention that we hike a lot our here in the west, everyone always asks, fearfully, if we’ve ever run across any rattlesnakes. My father-in-law has told us innumerable times to be sure to watch our for them. We always have to answer that we’ve never seen any rattlers although we’ve seen some snakes, all harmless and quickly slithering away from us. Actually, since we’re hiking out here in the winter, we’re unlikely to ever see any since most snakes hibernate in the winter. We don’t quite sound like a brass band when we’re hiking but we do tend to make noise to scare off what ever beasties might be lurking around. We’ve seen a snake or two that looked like a rattler but that’s only because we really aren’t sure what a rattler looks like.

But the Visitor Center at the San Tan Regional Park where we hiked did nature classes for kids and had some of the native wildlife in the classroom. Anyone could wander around though and I took advantage of this to check out the wildlife myself. Here are two of the snakes I saw but there were also some lizards and some other snakes.

The rattler is on the right and on the left is a shy king snake. Both are in cages and thus are my favorite kinds of snakes.