Sunday, October 28, 2012

Phoenix, Arizona

October 28, 2012:

We had an inspirational moment on Wednesday during a visit to the museum in old downtown Peoria, Arizona.  Peoria was originally an early farm settlement, just a small town surrounded by farms and ranches.  This museum preserves some of the early history of the town.  The year 2012 also is the 100th anniversary of Arizona's statehood.  As a part of the anniversary, this program was developed for young school children to teach them how school was in the early 1900's and give them some appreciation for the history of the area.  School classes are held at the museum, which is the old Peoria school house, in the original old classroom.  As we walked in the children were all singing loudly and enthusiasticly "The Battle hymn of the Republic".  A museum volunteer "Mr, Pancho" who has lived in the area his whole life, walked around with us and explained some of the museum exhibits.  During the children's lunch break , we talked to the teacher, who explained how the program worked.

Then we had an equally inspirational lunch stop at Carolina's mexican restaurant for more local flavor.  It is basically a fast food kind of place but the food is like "great" and it was packed with all kinds of people.  A man at a table across from us went to the counter to place an order and left his phone on the table.  The latino guy at the next table, thinking he had walked out and left it, picked it up and was taking it up to the counter to turn it in.  The two guys met half way and the phone was given back.  On the way out of the restaurant, we just happened to leave with the guy with the phone and he made a point of telling us all about it and how the latino guys said grace before they ate their lunch.  

You need these kinds of moments once in a while to restore your faith in humankind, especially around election time. 

I went on a solo photo adventure on Friday to downtown Phoenix which usually has a vague destination, I like to just park, then wander around looking for anything interesting, sometimes for hours. I am also drawn to the desperate downtown fringes, for graffiti, derelict buildings, rotted wood, rusty metal, trash, smut, etc.  Twinkles does her best to avoid these expeditions ?

We took my grand niece, Tatum, to the Phoenix Botanical Gardens on Saturday. It was pumpkin day, a fun event, hay wagon ride to a hay bale maze and then the pumpkin field, then decorating the pumpkin followed by temporary tattoos. We did see a few Cacti also.

We went to a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the dead) festival in downtown Phoenix today.  It was actually a very joyous, colorful, musical, upbeat event. There will be more events throughout the week with the actual "Day of the Dead" on November 2nd.

Day of the Dead festival

Phoenix Botanical Garden

Fairy Duster flower

Road Runner at Botanical Gardens

Tatum decorating her pumpkin

Orpheum Theater with new City Hall in background

Orpheum Theater

Old Phoenix city street scene

St. Marys Basilica in Phoenix

Famous San Carlos Hotel in Phoenix

1st Presbyterian Church in Phoenix

Peoria School museum classroom

Old farm equipment at Peoria Museum

Day of the Dead masks

Twinkles and Tatum at Botanical Garden

Mural in Phoenix

Monday, October 22, 2012

Goodyear, Arizona

October 22, 2012:

We are enjoying our month long stay in Goodyear, Arizona.  It's a nice change of pace and kind of relaxing to sit still for a while, but we won't let the wheels get too rusty.

We started our stay here with a day at the Arizona State Fair with the family and celebrated my Mom's 94th birthday on October 15th.

There is lots to do here, no way we will get bored.  We are also deciding where to go next from here.  The Tucson area is the plan, exactly where is still unknown. 

I did a search for Phoenix blues music and discovered the Phoenix Blues Society. I then went to their final competition to determine the blues band that would represent them at the 2013 International Blues Chalenge in Memphis, TN. It was a very good event, at a great venue, (The Rhythm Room), great crowd turnout and great bands. 

I learned that one of my favorite New Jersey shore musicians, the legendary, Pat Guardagno, was playing nearby at Harvey's American Road House in Gilbert, Arizona.  I went to see him and it was a fun night, he was pretty surprised to see me there.

Twinkles and I also did a half day hike on the Coldwater Trail at nearby Estrella Mountain Park. It has some great terrain, with a fantastic view of the Phoenix valley from a higher elevation, showing all the smog over the city.  Unfortunitely, I am now on injured reserve with a bum foot that is tender to walk on, but I am toughing it out.  The RV park has a beautiful pool and hot tub that is seem to be helping.  Hopefully I will be back on the trails in a few days.

This campground allows you to wash your RV and truck, most places do not. As our rig is now pretty dusty and dirty and has never been thoroughly washed, I decided this was the time to do it.  I'm even applying paste wax and it is looking better that new. 

Congratulations to my son Jeremy, now a true "Tough Mudder" for successfully completing the brutal 12 mile obstacle course last Saturday held at Raceway Park in Old Bridge, NJ.  

We met an ex NJ Transit co-worker of mine, Mark Hooley, his wife Patty and friends of Patty from upstate New York, now living in Phoenix, for dinner last Saturday night.  Mark originally put the RV bug in my ear which resulted in us going to a RV Dreams seminar where we were hooked.  Mark and Patty are now also full time RV'ers and it was great to get together and compare travel experiences.  

On Sunday at my sisters house, we watched with great amusement the classic movie "RV" with Robin Williams.  It should be required viewing for any RV'er.

great niece Tatum eating 

Tatum and her mom Angie on ride

Mom, Twinkles and my sister Marie

Lots of fair food !

Muppets at the fair

Big Mike and the Gila Monstera

The birthday cake

Mom and cake

View from the hiking trail

Dinner with Mark and Patty Hooley and friends

Lots of Cotton in Goodyear area

Palm tree fronds can be deadly !

Tiles in Peoria park

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 12, 2012:

A few rambling observations;

A few days ago at the Flagstaff "Museum Club", the people we met from New Jersey were telling us that we were living "The American Dream" !!!

It is so true !, but it's not all a bed of roses out here in the great wide open, there are all sorts of perils along the way!

Like losing your debit card, when you are for the most part, paying for everything with it.  My day was going very well until I went to the gas station to refuel the truck, opened my wallet and my debit card was not there. Not a good feeling when you have a debit card from a New Jersey credit union in New Jersey and you are in Arizona and you know from past experience it could take a couple of weeks minimum to get a replacement card. I tore apart the truck looking for it, then the RV, went through all my clothes with no luck.  I knew I had used it the previous night to pay for dinner, so we called the restaurant, they said they didn't have it, which really escalated my anxiety.  We decided to drive back to the restaurant to actually look where we sat, when we got there they were happy to see us as they had just found it.   A huge relief ! 

And then the perils of the highway are always present.

The drive from Flagstaff to Phoenix on Route 17 south is an exciting road to drive and has some breath taking views, if you can take your eyes off the road that is !  The road goes from 7,000 foot elevation in Flagstaff to about 2,000 foot elevation in Phoenix with lots of long steep, curvy 7 % grades up and down along the way.  I am still a bit nervous about the braking going down those long steep 7% grades.  GMC truck and various web blogs tell you to just engage the engine brake, put the transmission in tow/haul mode and sort of let it rip, don't worry, be happy !  

Bottom line, I was able to get downhill with only a couple of short brake applications and the engine only rev'd to about 3,500 RPM and my fuel mileage was excellent, 11.4 MPG for the trip.  

We are now in the outskirts of Phoenix, the city of Goodyear, where the Goodyear cotton fields used to be and they actually still have small fields of cotton, between large housing and shopping developments.  We are staying at the "Destiny RV Resort" where are staying for a full month to rest from this stressful life style !  We are off today with family to the Arizona State Fair, it's sunny and high 80's, perfect!  

Ah, yes, the American Dream is still alive !

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Flagstaff, Arizona

October 11, 2012:

On October 8th we drove west on route 40 to Flagstaff, Arizona with a short diversion to downtown Holbrook, Arizona to stand on the famous corner (as in the classic Eagles song).  We arrived at Greer's Pine Shadows (campground) just at the Flagstaff city limits around noon.  It is adjoining Coconino national forest with hiking trails accessible from the campground.  The sites are sort of tight, but they are in a woodsy pine tree setting with a wonderful pine fragrance in the air. I was surprised to learn that the Flagstaff area has the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the world.  

A few miles away is Walnut Canyon National Monument, we went there and hiked the Island loop trail to see the Indian cliff dwelling ruins.  The Sinagua Indians occupied these cliff dwellings from 1100 - 1250 and these ruins were declared a National Monument in 1915.  It is a beautiful canyon and there are cliff dwellings all over the sides of the canyon.  The trail to the cliff dwellings had 240 steps down, not so bad, but then 240 steps back up to the top, that was our workout for the day.  

We then stopped at another National historic landmark, The Museum Club,  for a cold beer (just for the historical value).  We met other New Jersey people at the bar, part timers with a 5th wheel RV, had a lively political debate, learned much of their life history and ended up having way too many beers, but lots of fun !  A legendary country songwriter, Billy Joe Shaver, was there for a show starting at 9 PM, we heard him do a song as the sound check, but that's all as we were in no condition to stay for the show. 

I've been to Flagstaff a number of times and love the town and I'm happy to say it is as vibrant as ever, maybe even more so.  I toured around downtown, took many photos, many repeaters from previous visits, but there is always a new angle or better light.  Once again, the BNSF railroad runs through town, also Amtrak and it is an extremely busy freight line.  

I went for a solo ride (as Twinkles was laying a little low after her big party night) up to the Arizona Snow Bowl area and hiked a short trail.  The Aspen Tree leaves are now at their peak fall color.  The bright yellow Aspens intermingled with the dark green Ponderosa Pines in the San Francisco Peaks is incredible. I can't decide which tree, the Aspen or the Ponderosa Pine is my favorite, both are equally great.

Our last exploit was to Sunset Crater National Monument a short distance from Flagstaff.  It is one of the most recent volcanic eruptions in the west occurring 900 years ago.  The amazing thing is that it appears so much more recent than that.  The lava flow is still dark with little erosion and almost no vegetation growing in it.  You are not allowed to hike up the crater anymore, but there is a trail, the Lenox Crater Trail to a good view point and another trail, the Lava Flow Trail, that goes out into the lava flow area with spectacular views.  

We topped this off with a great meal at a mexican restaurant, Salsa Brava, that was featured on the food network show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  I don't know why it was on that show as it didn't fit any of those categories.  The food was worthy of a TV show however, it really, really good. We have now exceeded our eat out food budget, will be eating in for the next week.  

Happy birthday wishes to my granddaughter, Sierra, who turns two years old today !!!; and looking forward to our next stop, Phoenix, Arizona in time for my mothers 94th birthday on October 15th. 

The corner in Winslow Arizona

Winslow, another railroad town

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Cliff dwellings built into canyon wall ledges

Twinkles posing inside one of the dwellings

Mural in downtown Flagstaff

Another downtown mural

I loved the artistic element of this old doorway

Mural in downtown Flagstaff with a great woodcutter scene, Northern Arizona University mascot

No visit to Flagstaff is complete without a photo of the historic Hotel Monte Vista

The Aspen trees from a meadow near the Snowbowl

View form the Aspen loop trail

View of the Aspen trees along the way to the Snowbowl

View at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Sunset Crater view

Grasses trying to take root after 900 years

Ponderosa Pine trees at Sunset Crater

Rabbitbush flowers with volcanic flow in the background

Mountains of volcanic cinders

Ancient weathered tree at Sunset Crater

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Holbrook, Arizona

October 6, 2012:

We arrived at the OK RV Resort in Holbrook, Arizona on October 4th. Easy pull through site with full hookup and excellent WiFi, it is OK !  

We seem to be following the BNSF railroad line, from Raton Pass to Santa Fe to Albuquerque to Gallup and now Holbrook.  We have been able to hear the train from all of these campgrounds and it hasn't bothered us at all.  Interestingly, when reading campground reviews there is always someone complaining about the train noise.  

This is my 3rd time in Holbrook and sorry to say the downtown area seems to be more depressed than ever.  Holbrook was a wild west cowboy town in the past, one of the historic streets is named "bucket of blood street" after the "Bucket of Blood Saloon", which still stands.  Holbrook has a great museum in the old Court House and you are able to go into the old jail cell that is really spooky.  Holbrook is another classic Route 66 town famous for it's Wigwam Motel and has several rock and petrified wood shops and dinosaur statues.  Petrified wood is common here, it's buried under ground and they actually mine for it. The campground office yard is covered with it. 

The famous Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Park is about 25 miles away and is spectacular.  The Blue Mesa Trail is not to be missed, it is a 1 mile loop trail that winds through, out of this world, rock formations and lots of petrified wood. The crystal Forest trail is also special, huge logs of petrified wood all laying all over. 
The Painted Desert Inn was also very cool, built in the early 1900's, then renovated by the CCC during the 1930's after which it became a famous Harvey's Restaurant.

Stay tuned, next update from Flagstaff, Arizona 

Painted Desert view

The Painted Desert Inn

Mural inside the Painted Desert Inn

Heading down the road in the Painted Desert

Painted Desert view

View from the top of the Blue Mesa Trail

The Blue Mesa Trail

The Blue Mesa Trail

The Crystal Forest Trail

Petrified Wood Log

Holbrook Dinosaurs 

Old building wall constructed with Petrified Wood

Rock and Petrified Wood shop in Holbrook

Classic Mexican restaurant in Holbrook

We had a good lunch at Joe and Aggie's in Holbrook

Mural showing the Bucket of Blood Saloon

Don't think I can handle it !

The famous Wigwam Motel in Holbrook
Godzilla is back ?

The old Holbrook jail would scare you straight