Monday, November 30, 2015

Mesa, AZ - Concert t-shirt

It’s the local Arizona PBS fund drive. And, yep, we’ve contributed. We watch the local and national news on one of the local stations and then turn over at 6:00 for the News Hour on PBS. But, it’s their fund drive and they have lots of really good programming - especially for those in the Baby Boomer Generation. Tonight we watched an Eric Clapton special. Now, one of my favorite genres of music is blues and Eric Clapton is one of the Kings of the Blues. Oh, yeah, I know about BB King and have actually been to one of his concerts. Absolutely fabulous. He had Buddy Guy with him and they both were fabulous.

But, it’s Eric tonight and I’m drifting back to the concert we attended in Portland, ME June 17, 1982. Oh, so long ago. Fun concert and he sang lots of his big hits. I’ve actually got the play list below - the Internet is an amazing tool. I found this set there. Now, what I really remember about the concert is that I bought a concert t-shirt. Of course, that’s what you do at a concert - you buy the concert t-shirt.
Well, then you’ve got to wear it. Somewhere distinctive so that everyone knows how cool you are. Aha, I was a teacher of 9th graders in the local Plaistow, NH high school. Teachers are so stuffy, so old, so staid. Well, I’ll wear my t-shirt and they will all see how cool I really am. Ha, ha. As if.

So, I put my t-shirt on along with my skirt suit with my little stack heels and headed off to school. I started each class the same way: I began with whatever we were studying that day (that late in the school year, we’re just about closing up - a bit looser than we are in September.) I turned toward the board with a piece of chalk in my hand, took off my jacket and nonchalantly laid it on my chair and then turned towards the class talking as I turned.

Here's what my t-shirt looked like. What happened to it? I don't have a clue.
What a laugh I got. What fun. Whoever would suspect that strict Ms. Ferguson would do that. Lots of laughs. But, then the biggest laugh I got was when I walked into the teachers’ lunch room and did the same thing there. End of the school year and we’re all a bit loose. Now - I did not walk into the front office to do it. Nope, I know my limits. Nah, if I had thought of that, I would have done it.

Do we have a picture of me dressed in my teacherly suit, teacherly shoes and my concert t-shirt? Nope, nary a one. Just didn’t take too many pictures back then. No picture of the concert either. Probably didn’t have a camera that could take any kind of picture in a concert setting. But I do have this picture from one of my classes in Plaistow. I like to mix it up a bit and here I am, masquerading as a guest lecturer giving a first-person account of events in the past - and dressed the part.
I have no idea who took the picture - probably the principal for evidence as to why I should be let go.
And, here’s the set list - all my favorites, except ‘Wonderful Tonight’ a sappy song if ever I heard one.
                Tulsa Time
                Lay Down Sally
                I Shot the Sheriff
                Blow Wind Blow
                Wonderful Tonight
                Pink Bedroom
                Ramblin' on My Mind
                Have You Ever Loved a Woman
                After Midnight
                A Whiter Shade of Pale
                Key to the Highway
                Double Trouble
                Blues Power
                Further on Up the Road

I obviously have all these songs in my computer and play them still.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mesa, AZ - PG-13

This is a clean blog. Oh, I might say ‘heck’ or ‘holy schmoley’ or something like that but it’s something that I could read and that most people could read. I don’t want to offend anyone nor do I want to offend myself. However, today, I’m breaking the mold - I’ve got something that I just had to put in here that might be just a bit off color. Something so surprising that I couldn’t leave it out, even though I thought about it long and hard. So - if you think you might be offended, please skip this blog and go on to the next.

But, first, I’ve got to set the scene. Hey, it’s just another hike. Up at 6:00, out the door at 7:30, on the trail head by 8:45 and up into the Superstition Mountains. But this time, it’s not just a hike - we actually have a goal: hike to the top of Black Top Mesa and see the Spanish Hieroglyphics that we’ve heard are there.

It was only 46 degrees out so we got out our gloves and donned our warm hiking shirts before we left. We knew we would take them of later on but for now - let’s put them on. The most difficult part of the hike was driving past several convenience stores and several grocery stores and not stopping for donuts. Something new - a hike not fueled by donuts. We got to the trail head, left our gloves in the car and took off our warm shirts. We won’t need them: it’s 50+ now and, with the sun out, it will only get warmer. Could we have a more beautiful day for hiking? Nope:

        sun - check,

        good trail - check,

        great scenery - check,

        mysterious hieroglyphics at the end - no check yet.

        360 degree view from the top of Black Top Mesa - in a bit

        What more could we have asked for? Hey, what about that donut?

We’ve done this trail several times before - in fact, about 3 weeks ago. BUT this time we went counter-clockwise. Oh, Oh, no donuts, going counter clockwise. I just can’t keep up.

One of the most well-known sights and almost an icon for the Superstition Mountains is Weaver’s Needle, named for Pauline Weaver, an old mountain man who lived in this area. It’s a 1000’ tall column of rock that was left when the rest of the rock around it eroded, sluffed off and fell at its base. Surrounded by seas of saguaros and mesquite bush, it is actually 4555’ taller than sea level and it is framed against the sky no matter where you stand in the Superstitions. I look for it whenever we’re hiking in the area. Interestingly enough, in the legend of the Lost Dutchman and his mine, Weaver’s Needle is supposed to be the setting for the mine and thousands have combed old maps, writings, journals and have used these to mount their searches for the Dutchman’s gold.

As we rounded a cliff in the trail and I caught my first glimpse of the Needle, I snapped a picture it - to match the many other pictures I have of it. (Hey, is it possible to have too many pictures of Weaver’s Needle? I don’t think so.) And, here is where the PG-13 rating comes in. Check out this picture, besides Weaver’s Needle, what do you see? What stands out? Precisely. And, that is why this column is a PG-13. Looks like Mother Nature has an attitude today.
Funny, I didn’t even notice this until we downloaded the pictures and I was looking at them on the screen of my laptop. But, when I got to this picture, I didn’t even see Weaver’s Needle in the background, all I saw was the cactus in the foreground and I belly laughed.

Now, on with the hike. We got to the place where the trail splits and, this time, took the trail to Bull Pass. At the top of the pass, we found the ‘social’ trail and headed up to the top of Black Top Mesa. Now, we usually don’t take ‘social’ trails since they are not the authorized trails and taking them only weakens the hillside. But, this time we made an exception, rationalizing that so few hiked up here that it might not be so bad. It is almost straight up though there were some switchbacks, though sometimes switchbacks can be the steepest sections of all. Lots of scree in the trail, lots of cactus and other pokey things since this is not an official trail. Here’s a picture of one of my favorite trail buddies. Got to look out for this one.
In some cases we had to weave in and out of the spikey things. Were they out to get us? Should we have not taken that social trail? Ah, we did the Hippy Hippy Shake, wove in and out and escaped their clutches.
We got to the top and what a view! 360 degrees. WOW. But it’s not just the view that is intriguing about this mountain. There are supposed to be some Spanish hieroglyphics somewhere on the peak. In the black rocks. Well, the black rocks cover the whole peak - that’s why it’s called Black Top Mesa.

It’s always nice to know where the end of the trail is. Yeah, any further and I’d be over the side and down the cliff. But I don’t think these are the Spanish writings we're looking for.
Lunch while we sat and relaxed and enjoyed the view. Nothing better. We could almost reach out and touch Weaver’s Needle. But now, it’s time to look for the Hieroglyphics. Lots of black rocks around here. Where do we go? Which one? Which side? And, by the way, what do they really look like? How big are they? Sure hope these writings aren’t on the other side of the rocks - it’s a long way down from here.
But, really, who made these? Are they authentic? Are they really Spanish? Or were they made by the producer who financed the movie about the Dutchman in 1947? Is he the one who wrote ‘ORO’ on one of the rocks? Or were they here in 1910 as one old prospector said? Are they authentic? Ah, who knows? It’s all about the search.

We looked and looked. All around where thought they might be. Ah, maybe these are what people are talking about. Don’t look Spanish to me.
wsuperstition2013-black-top-8-2015-11-24-19-48.jpg wsuperstition2013-black-top-9-2015-11-24-19-48.jpg
Well, it’s time to head on back down the cliff. Watch those cactus. Watch that scree. But, take your eyes off the trail enough to watch all this marvelous scenery around us. At the bottom of the cliff Gary took a picture of me at the trail sign with Black Top Mesa behind me. Oops, this is the picture he took 2 years ago.
Hey, here we go - this is the 2015 version of me standing at the trail head sign. Not much difference is there? I’m thinking a few more wrinkles.
We took a different way back - we like a look hike not an out and back. So dull. In the picture below, Black Top Mesa is on the left and Weaver’s Needle is on the right with the jagged spires of Palomino Mountain in front of it.
We had expected to see lots of others out on the trail since it was a Saturday and Thanksgiving weekend. We thought lots of people would be home for the long weekend and wanting to hike. Nope. After we were 2 miles from the trail head, we saw no one until we got back to within 2 miles of the trail head on our way back to the car. Interestingly we saw people still heading out on the trail. But it’s close to 3:30 and, by the way, everyone, the sun goes down early in the mountains. I’m glad that I’m only 2 miles from the car and heading in rather than 2 miles and heading out. Then we saw a young woman in short shorts and a small top - no problem but the temperature when we got back to our car was 60 degrees. Wasn’t she a bit cold? Cold - maybe but stylish - without a doubt. Her boyfriend had on a flannel shirt and jeans. He might not have been stylish but he was warm.

Fun hike and I can now check off the last two items on the list.

12 miles, 2147’

Mesa, AZ - Eddie & The Cowboys Redux

Why do I think that Bashas is such an exquisite collection? Why have I gone back several times? I’m not an art aficionado, I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your attention and probably you’ve noticed that we haven’t gone to many art museums in our travels. We’ve hit history museums, firefighter museums, police museums, Wells Fargo museums, historic homes and buildings, Federal buildings but seldom an art museum. Hmmm.

Well, then, why we are visiting the Basha’s Western Art museum for the second time in about a month? Yeah, why do I think this museum is so special? What does it have that other art museums don’t have? Why does it deserve a second visit?

Firstly the size of collection: the walls are covered with paintings, the shelving lined with sculpture, the basket room is filled to the brim with baskets and ollas and trays. The jewelry cases are filled with sterling silver, jade, beadwork and other pieces. There’s not much room for more in this collection. In fact, lots of the art is lining the walls of the corporate offices behind the museum. We were told that the Basha family still has lots of pieces of the collection at their homes and brings some pieces in for special shows. Other museums borrow from this one when they have shows on Western art.
Secondly, there is a variety of genres. You can see paintings in all mediums: oil acrylic, pen and ink, pencil etc. Pottery is represented, sculpture in bronze, wood, ivory, jade and other stones. Kachinas in many forms are here. The basket room is filled with baskets of different designs and materials. There are lots of decorated guns. There are several sections devoted to letters and cards sent by artists to Eddie Basha with small paintings, sketches, etc on them. There are several cases with jewelry.
One of my favorite reasons for liking this museum is that it is so intimate. There are no guards and only a few locked cases. You can actually put your nose and eyes right up to each piece to see each twist of each blade of grass in the baskets,
every stroke and daub in the paintings,
each knife stroke in the wood sculptures, every line in the painted pottery.
It’s so intimate: just you and the art. No guards, very few locked cases and no motion detectors. I remember once when I was walking through the skywalk in Des Moines and wanted to walk around a particular work of sculpture to see the back. Oh crap. The alarms went off. I’ve learned my lesson. I keep my distance now. But here, you can get as close as you want - just don’t touch.

I appreciate that this is a private collection built painstakingly piece by piece by a discriminating individual who was buying what she or he liked and wanted to have around them. Cool.
Hey, it’s free. But, you know, I’d pay for this one. In fact, we do pay: we’ve left donations each time we’ve visited since the money is used to support trips to the museum for local school kids.

Finally this museum is such a surprise. Who would have thought that in the middle of Chandler, AZ in a grocery store corporate office would be such a spectacular collection of art. I remember another museum, another private collection on the OR coast. Out front were shows featuring trained bears and a mammoth statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. What most people see is that Babe’s privates are not only huge but very public and there must be thousands of pictures online with people obviously using them as a prop in their pictures. However, leaving the bears and the privates way behind, there is another amazing museum in the building behind them. Another private collection just overflowing in a small museum at the back of a gift shop. Can’t wait to see it again this trip.

But breakfast too. Paradise Cafe with bagels and coffee. Good way to start.

OK, let’s see what we saw at Bashas this time. Here’s a cool one - a Native American tracking the wagons across the prairie spots something on the ground, reaches down to pick it up and its’s a doll that some little girl lost on the journey.
We’ve all heard of Sacajawea and the son that she had on the journey with Lewis and Clark but not everyone knows about how her son turned out. Well, he was quite successful. Named Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, he was educated in St Louis under the guardianship of William Clark and at the age of 18 or 19 was taken to Europe by Prince Paul of Wurttemberg where he remained for 5 or 6 years during which he traveled throughout Europe and Africa, meeting with royalty and commoners both. He became fluent in several languages and was quite a hit in Europe before he returned to the US. In this picture he is on the right leading employees of Fort St. Vrain in 1842, carrying furs and robes from the fort to St. Louis. The water was quite low in the river this trip and many times they had to portage or get out of the canoes and drag them through the river mud. A grueling, tiresome trip.
Here’s another picture of men starting out in very early spring heading to St Louis with some furs. They are making their own path and have only their memories and experiences to guide them - no GPS needed.
Here’s a basket with a maze.
And, here’s another one with 3 colors not the usual 2.
I liked the small wooden sculptures.
Marvelous museum.

After we left Bashas we headed onto Costco - for Combat Costco. Were we cut off by a cart? Did someone reach in and take the pineapple I was going for? And, what about the lady who picked up her pace to beat us to the checkout line. Ooh, I didn’t know that shopping at Costco was a competitive activity. But that must be part of the adventure.

Ah, time to head home.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mesa, AZ - Short Stuff

This is a blog for those of you who think I am too wordy. Look only 104 words.

We’ve spent several days at home this week.

Gary’s been working on some projects.
On Thanksgiving day, we got the newspaper and I found the largest crossword I’ve ever seen. It took the whole page, it will take the whole desk to work it and might take a whole year to finish it.
But first, I cooked the turkey, made the mashed potatoes and dressing and gravy. Ah, now it’s time to relax.
Oh, yeah, we put some lights up in the front of our RV.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mesa, AZ - Traveling Through Brussels

No, we haven't made a detour nor a right turn. We're still here in Mesa, AZ but we've got some friends in Brussels and I've included some words from them about life there right now.

But first: our resort has a Patio Sale every fall and every spring. Our neighbor across the street loves to buy ‘treasures’ at yard sales that he brings over here to sell to others in his patio sale. He must have a pretty sharp eye if he can make money this way. Two years ago we added a few things to his yard sale like the lounge chair from our RV that we no longer needed. It was snapped right up and we had a very happy buyer. This year, I decided to sell my old iPad and an older camera in the Patio Sale but wanted to spotlight our items so set up 2 small tables in front of our RV, one for the camera and one for the iPad. I designed some signs, brought out a chair and there I was with my own Patio Sale - er - Sidewalk Sale.
Was I successful? Well, I sold the iPad to a woman who took money out of her husband’s wallet while he was in the bathroom putting his hearing aids in. Bought it for him she told me. Last time he’ll ever put his hearing aids in without his wallet padlocked and safely in his hip pocket. The camera - well, most of the people here already have a camera and/or are not as interested in taking pictures at their age. OR - they have an iPhone and take them that way. Well, I’ll try when we get back to Altoona, IA when we will be able to use Craig’s List more easily.

We got 1 free G of data from Verizon for Thanksgiving. We thought that pretty nice until we read that some other company is giving 3 free months of unlimited data. Oh, my. Let the data wars begin.

On another note. I usually don’t include world or national events in my blog but I’d like to wish Paris all the best. They’ve had a terrible blow, in fact, they’ve had several blows this year with the current carnage and the Charlie Hebdo carnage at the beginning of the year. Daesh (what ISIL hates to be called because both the terms ISIL and ISIS imply that they own and rule Syria and Iraq while Daesh implies that they are merely trampling something underfoot) is filled with evil cowardly killers. They will eventually be wiped out but it will take time. Meanwhile the Parisians are being strong and are not giving into fear.

We have some friends who live outside of Brussels, Belgium. We met them a few years ago when we were hiking in Arches NP in Utah. We had all signed up for a ranger led tour, called the ‘Fiery Furnace’ hike because of the colors of the rocks in the area. The hike involved several special clambering techniques which he taught us and that we used to get around boulders, through steep canyons, along narrow ledges and over crevasses. Pretty cool hike, designed for almost anyone with simple techniques that we all had a great time with.

Here are some pictures from that day. Looks like Gary is going to disappear into the rocks here.
And here he is balancing himself over a crevasse caused by two boulders which eons ago crashed together.
And the surefooted mountain goat easily masters another move.
Yep, another butt shot.
Our ranger hovered over us - in his own unique way - to ensure we all got through safely.
Here are Marlene and Danny: yep, Marlene is in front while Danny is looking to help another hiker behind him.
But, here’s a picture of them after the hike is mostly over while we’re all catching our breath.
However the reason that she came up - well, I’m sure you can guess - it’s that word ‘Brussels’ and the word ‘Belgium’ both of which are in the news a lot lately. As we all know, there are some terrorists in Belgium and the city is under lockdown for the foreseeable future and has been for the last few days. What do you say to someone who is living with all the fear that this implies? She travels through Brussels on 3 different trains to get to work every day. I had assumed that she might be working from home because of the lockdown but, no, she still goes into work.

Here is some of her e-mail back to me.

Yes, there is a strange atmosphere these days in our country.   Everybody is very vigilant/alert.

I was at work yesterday & today.    The Brussels schools remain closed also today and here in the building where I work I saw that “Estee Lauder” (French company)  on the floor below us put a couple of security guards at their entry.   The Brussels metro/subway does not run but since our offices moved to the Brussels airport area, I do not need to take the subway in the city center anymore.

I am travelling through the Brussels city center by train (partly underground) but have to get off in one of the Brussels stations to change train.   For my 3rd train from Brussels city center towards the airport, we were only 3 waiting on the platform!    Brussels has 3 train stations:  Brussels South, Central and North.    Normally these stations are very crowded but not yesterday nor today as most companies asked their employees to stay home and/or work from home.

On Wednesday schools and metro will open again although the danger is not gone.  The highest alarm phase (4) will be maintained till next Monday.
As long as they did not catch the most important terrorist the danger will remain and even worse, probably never stop. 

I am not afraid, however, when taking the train in Brussels I try to find a seating place next to the exit (and/or where I can hide in a toilet if necessary). This morning, my 3rd train to the airport area was one to Amsterdam. All of a sudden there was a discussion in the compartment next doors and in less than seconds two security agents jumped from the platform on the train!  They are very alert!   This morning when coming to work, I saw 2 “revolvers” and 2 guns. In Belgium we are not used to this.  I remember, when visiting the US and looking for binoculars to buy for my son, we were shocked to see that this kind of stores also sell guns.

Obviously there is a lot of fear in Belgium these days. Stay strong and safe, guys. We’re thinking about you.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Mesa, AZ - Apache Trail

It’s a road trip day. It’s a breakfast out day. It’s a sightseeing day. In short, it’s a ‘let’s get out of Mesa day.’ And, that’s what we got up at 6:30 for.

Now, Arizona has lots of marvelous drives. Oak Creek Canyon comes to mind, as does the Beeline Hwy, or the road from Globe to Show Low. Most of these all have wicked curves, downhill plummets, uphill switchbacks and absolutely drop dead gorgeous views in common. But, one of the roads I like the best is the Apache Trail which winds its way from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake. It is paved for a short way then becomes a dirt road with indeterminate lanes - mostly no lanes at all since it's so narrow. It twists and winds its way through country as wild as it was many, many years ago with gardens of cactus and grasses to craggy cliffs and deep canyons to sapphire blue lakes and a famous dam. On the other side of our loop is rte 60 south west from Miami, AZ to Superior. This is another road that winds its way south back to the cities through canyons carved both by rushing mountain streams and men as they attempt to build a highway through the canyons. The whole circle is spectacular.

We begin heading east from Mesa and looming ahead are the mysterious Superstition Mountains, rising steeply from the desert floor.
Further up the road is an old ghost town which has now become a tourist attraction followed by a museum on the right with its recreation of the old West.
Then the road begins weaving through the mountains, curving ever upward but finally breaking out with vistas of Canyon Lake with its marina. Guess where Phoenix comes to escape the heat of summer.
A bit further and we came to Tortilla Flat, a small ‘town’ with a restaurant, gift shop, museum and lots of character and panache. It used to be a stagecoach stop on the Apache Trail where coaches with passengers and freight wagons carrying goods for the building of Roosevelt Dam stopped for a meal, a drink, a horse change and a rest.There were actually 125 people who lived here at one time with a school, a church, a small zoo, a saloon (natch), cabins and a cafe. Today the population is 6 but tourists have found it and many use it as a rest stop on their journey along the Apache Trail.

I got this picture from Hike Arizona web site (a fabulous website for hiking in Arizona). This picture is a bit old since there are white coverings where there is a gift shop now. But you get the picture that this is a small town build around a restaurant. But, note all the cars. Small but bustling.
We got here before the restaurant opened and had some chances to get some pictures. We were the only car for a while but business picked up a lot by the time we left. Sometimes tour buses stop here and disgorge all their passengers.
Oh, shucks, the bathroom is closed.
Actually, there is one inside the restaurant and I fit right in. (And, you thought I was just a hiker. Boy do I get a lot of attention on the trail dressed like this but I keep getting snags in my nylons from all the cacti.)
And, then there are the saddles for bar stools.
The interior decor is covered with $1.00 bills.
The breakfast was good and plentiful. But, it’s time to head out for the rest of our drive. The paved road continues for 5 miles and then it becomes sand. Oops, our GPS makes it look as if the road ends. But, not all is lost, there is a dotted line continuing on.
EndofthePavedTrail-1-2015-11-20-21-08.jpg ApacheTrailtoRooseveltDam%252526Lake-117-2015-11-20-21-08.jpg
Called the Apache Trail because it was an old Apache Trail and because Apache laborers helped to construct it using primitive equipment. Here is a picture showing a shovel used to remove and scrape the dirt.
Here are some of the pictures of the road and the country we’re traveling through as we wind our way along the Apache Trail.
Here’s where the road plummets down to the Fish River. And, here’s a car coming up. Nothing like blind hairpin curves.

Here’s a picture looking up at the road as it plummets down the cliff side. They beefed up the road with these rock walls. Am I really driving on piled rocks? Uh, what holds them together? And, what keeps them from falling like all the other rocks below them? But, we came from the east and are on the inside of the cliff plummet. You're not going to catch me going the other way, by golly.
Curvy dirt road with blind corners, indeterminate lanes, plummeting down cliff sides, hairpin turns - hmmm. I think we might have gotten up to 25 mph but maybe not. But, what a fun road to take: great views, wonderful countryside and an interesting drive.

Then we came to the Roosevelt Dam built to control the water flow. The Salt River flows through the Phoenix area and the farmers in this area were frustrated by the erratic flow. In the spring, there was a tendency to flood while in the summer and fall, it became a dry wash. The Roosevelt Dam was built in 1911 to control this flow so that the farmers could have a steady flow of water and build irrigation ditches to water their crops.
Constructed by Italian masons and Apache laborers in the early 1900’s, it was the largest masonry dam in the world and was officially designated as a National Historical Landmark. Roosevelt Lake was also for a time the world’s largest artificial reservoir. However, because they needed to expand the dam, the original masonry was cemented over and the dam was made 77’ taller. (The original masonry section is in the bottom 1/3 of the dam in the picture above.) Unfortunately, with all the masonry covered in cement and 77’ of cement added to the top, it was no longer the largest masonry dam and the National Historical Landmark designation was withdrawn in 1999.

It was constructed by Italian masons and Apache workers. Originally the road went over the dam but, when they expanded it in the 50’s and made it 77’ taller, they build a bridge to take the cars across the river. This bridge is the longest 2-lane single-span steel-arch bridge in North America. Looks like an RV crossing it here.
On the other side of the dam is the Tonto National Monument. But, that’s the topic of another blog on another day. This one has enough words and pictures already and it’s getting late.

You know you’re in Arizona when: you see more irrigation water on the street than there is in the Salt River.