Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Desert Trails Days

December 1 - 15, 2016:

One of the serious perils of spending so much time in the sunny southwest is sun damaged, dry, wrinkling old skin.  That’s a worry for a pale white man like me so I’m off to the Dermatologist for an annual checkup and to treat a few minor scabies on my expanding forehead.  The exam this time was an absolute joke, they basically asked me to show them what I was concerned about and they then agree to zap them with a freezing spray.  I could have done this myself, can’t wait to see how much they bill my insurance for it.

Always apply sunscreen and wear a big hat

There is a new Thursday hiking group starting this year with a new leader.  This is a tough job as there are two basic types of hikers, the people who want a a easy to moderate hike to appreciate the desert plants and sights and those who want a moderate to difficult hike mostly for cardio fitness and strength.  It’s a dilemma as there is no way to please everyone.  I kind of like to alternate between both types, but usually prefer to hike alone stopping often to explore, wander, take photos or views, then charging ahead extra fast to catch up.  I went on the first Thursday hike with five other people and the new leader who appears to be a serious hiker who will try to elevate the hiking level. 

Several hikes are taken during this period.  As I am struggling to regain my status in hiking with the Canadians, I go on an 8 1/2 mile hike with the Bill, Linda and Laurel on the Wild Mustang Trail at Dove Mountain.  Dove Mountain is in the Tortolita Mountains in Marana, Arizona just northeast of Tucson. It was a great hike, beautiful terrain and just the right amount of a workout for me.

The remains of an old stone house on the trail

The next hike is a 9 mile hike with Bill, Linda and Hughes on the Juan Bautista de Anza Historic Trail from Tumacacori to Tubac.  It is a flat trail along the riparian area of the free flowing Santa Cruz River. It is wet in places with several stream crossings, trees and grasses, much different than our normal Tucson desert hiking landscape.  This was another great hike with a nice lunch in the art district of Tubac.

This trail was a historic travel Spanish travel path

Alice has been adjusting very well to her new surroundings.  She was super skinny when we brought her home, but has been eating like crazy and has gained enough weight that we may soon have to cut back on the food. She is acting like a normal cat at this time.

One of our favorite Tucson events, especially for the food, is the Tamal Festival held at the Casino del Sol Resort.  A group of people from the campground went and everyone seemed to be quite into trying the Tamales.  The Tamales are good but my favorite is still the Indian fry bread with beans and red chili.  They also have several musical, mariachi and folkloric dance groups performing all afternoon but that didn’t seem to be of much interest to anyone.

Twinkles with Hughes and Linda chowing down

A roving group of musicians in the food area

I have several RV maintenance items to work on with the roof being the top priority.  The TV antenna and the front roof vent which had been damaged earlier in the year by the falling tree limb were both replaced. Most importantly, I also plan to improve the roof patches, then install a 3rd solar panel and apply a UV protective coating to the roof. 

Another busy live music schedule for me here, famous local Pascua Yaqui Indian classical guitarist Gabriel Ayala and local blues legends Steve Grams and Danny Krieger play at the campground.  Gabriel commented on his personal involvement and participation in the Standing Rock pipeline protest in North Dakota.

I also visited LaCocina as I am a top fan of Lana Rebel and Kevin Michael Mayfield.   These guys always play songs by creative songwriters who I greatly enjoy and Lana has a natural classic country singing voice.   

The Rondstadt Generation Band played a tribute concert for Michael “Papa Mike” Rondstadt at Monterey Court.  Michael Rondstadt who died in late summer, had played with his sons and others including other family members in the Rondstart Generations Band.  The band and several special guests and family members  played many original songs and favorites of Michael Rondstadt during this concert.  It is nice to see that the band is continuing however there is a huge void left by the demise of its star performer.  It was a very touching finale when many Rondstadt family members joined in to sing a traditional Spanish song.

Rondstadt sons Michael G and Petie joined by Alex Flores
on Saxophone

View from stage rear


At Borderlands Brewery every Sunday afternoon is Kevin Pakulis doing his “Summer Sessions” with an ever changing cast of good local players.  This has become my favorite regular music event in town.

I go to the Tucson songwriters showcase & concert at Monterey Court on December 14th featuring Sabka Faulk.  I love this music series as it usually has people I’ve never heard or seen before and a couple of them are usually really interesting.  Also it is all original songs by diverse musicians young and old. 

One of the best fairs in Tucson is the 4th Avenue Street Fair where 6 blocks of 4th Avenue are closed off for crafts booths and food vendors. I go to shop but mainly I wanted to see my favorite vagabond, swing, blues, folk, dixieland jazz band, St. Cinder play.  I follow them on Facebook and these guys are the best.  I couldn’t find them on Saturday so I had to return on Sunday.  I finally caught them and bought their new CD, great as expected.  Dancing Man, Mr Kit Estes, was also on the scene and getting almost as much attention as the band.  If you google St Cinder Band or Dancing Man Tucson you are in for a treat.

4th Avenue Winter Street Fair poster

This street magician was great, could really work a crowd

Lots of fair food !

Big Bill, Twinkles, Linda, Laurel, Heidi and Bill getting refreshment

This fair draws a huge crowd

Merry Christmas everyone !!!

Time to put up the Christmas lights,
Twinkles, Slick and Alice

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Back to Tucson

November 16 - 30, 2016:

It was a smooth ride from Bisbee on route 80 to Benson and then on route 10 west to Tucson.  We arrive at noon time, get settled in and then it’s numerous people coming around to welcome us back.  In the off season the campground has cleared much of the overgrown brush between campground lanes and our site is much roomier looking than we remembered it. Hopefully this will help the problem last year with packrats building nests in RV’s and engine compartments. 

It’s good to be back here in Tucson, back in the borderlands where the border situation is fine, public relations are good with the hispanic population, everything is under control and the politicos will stay out of it. The local Borderlands Brewery even has a special beer called “Beer without borders”.   I have managed to find a few new murals and other sights around town to photograph in the past days.

Agave Goddess mural on Benjamin Supply building in Tucson

Artist Fin dad from Cork, Ireland painted this mural
"Vergiss".  This mural was originally painted in Berlin
was destroyed and this is the second iteration

The sacred heart of Tucson mural

An old favorite mural across street from new Hotel
construction site and "Shot in the dark" coffee shop

Great design and vibrant colors

I am attempting to minimize this blog as it’s becoming too time consuming and disruptive to my RV lifestyle.  I’ve been checking other peoples blogs for ideas which tend to be very social media oriented, very professional, with how to RV topics, advertisements, etc.  They are all focused on getting many hits, likes, comments and referrals similar to Facebook.  I don’t know how these people do it, they must spend most of their time inside the RV working on their blog, almost like it’s a “heaven forbid” job, I don't want to go there !

Back here in Tucson, I am finding many live music events to attend.  Twinkles and I go downtown to the “Screening Room” which is a small alternative theater.  I was there mainly to see Carlos Arzate, a very creative local singer-songwriter musician.  He has a great band, the Kind Souls” and recently did a “tiny desk concert” video at the "Stone House" out in the desert which made it to their final competition.  He was playing his solo acoustic original songs which were interesting but not as entertaining as his band stuff.  Another band followed playing extremely loud electric rock to an old Sci-Fi movie background, it was just too weird.  Twinkles was holding her hands over her ears until moving to the lobby and will probably never attend another show with me.

Next I went to the Hotel Congress for the Casa Maria Thanksgiving Benefit concert.  I was somewhat disappointed in the event as attendance was light considering a few of the most interesting Tucson musicians, Rich Hopkins and the Luminaries, Gabriel Sullivan and Billy Sedlmayr were performing.  Also distressing was the fact that they the benefit concert had to end at 10:30 PM as some DJ music thing was scheduled.  A very catchy and touching song was written for the soup Kitchen main man, Brian Flagg who has run the Food Bank for many years.

Gabriel Sullivan in blue lights and smoke was eerie

Billy Sedlmayr has a tragic dark past but somehow the
man still has a beautiful smile and a twinkle in his eye

We go to the Tucson Museum of Art with friends from the campground for their Annual Holiday Artisans Market.  This is an incredible market, with about 100 great craft and art vendors.  We didn’t help them much as we came back with only a cheap pair of earrings and a delicious desert aptly named a “Chocolate Bomb”. 

I returned to the museum later to see their new exhibits on “The new Westward, Trains, Planes and Automobiles that move the modern west, Native American portraits by Henry C Balink and an amazing collection of Latin American Folk Art collected and donated by Peter C. Cecere.

This painting was not flat as you walked past it, you felt  the
illusion of movement and perspective.  I'm sure there is a 

better art term to better describe ?

A painting of a typical western railroad town.  I think
I have been there.

This was done with colored pieces of wood

Wood Guthrie, Bound for Glory painting.
I love the curved irregular format of this,
like the man himself

Love these weathered mid 40's pickup trucks

The portraits were so colorful and detailed to
accentuate the strong features of the subjects

Everything was perfect including the frames

A nice artistic panel on the museum exterior

The eating and drinking have been excessive for the past month or so and with the holidays approaching will only only get worse, so I’m back to LA Fitness this week. I wish there was another way, I hate the muscle bound mentality of the gym crowd, but no pain, no gain is the rule ?  Also have taken a few hikes in the desert.

A macro of a decaying Saguaro

The typical desert landscape 

In regard to over eating, the annual Thanksgiving feast is put on by the campground with much assistance from campground volunteers. I can’t image a campground with more community involvement and activities than this place, it’s very special.

Then it’s to Monterey Court to hear a good blues band, Quarter Royale, who have a very dynamic lead guitar player.  I love a band who launches into a Jimi Hendrix song without hesitation and does it well.

Quarter Royale on stage

Twinkles and I have a “date night” going downtown for a light dinner followed by a concert by local musicians at the Fox Theater.  The concert is a reenactment of the legendary “Last Waltz” concert by “The Band” on Thanksgiving day in 1976.  It is the first time we have been to the Fox Theater and it is beautifully restored inside, a real treasure !  I have to admit, I never really liked the music of “The Band”, but I admired their personality, their vibe and musicianship.  The concert had many of the best Tucson musicians performing many of the songs from the Last Waltz.

Outside the Fox after the show

The playbill

My new favorite Sunday afternoon activity is the Sunday Sessions at Borderlands Brewery.  Kevin Pakulis puts on a great show, with a couple of veteran musicians and special guests, a sort of a Sunday afternoon jam.  The Brewery is in an old brick industrial building decorated with southwest art work and has a lively crowd.

A few youngsters enjoyed the music as well

Most interesting beers on tap

There were also a couple of Campground concerts in the mix by Jay Haircloth, “Bat” and Arizona Blues Hall of Fame members “Grams and Krieger”, all good shows.  There are usually two concerts per week, of various music genres for approximately 2 hours duration with an expected $5 donation per person.

We have a new feline member to our family with “Alice” from the Pima Animal Care Center.  I am hoping Alice is a “cool cat” who is calm and travels well, time will tell ?  This campground is basically a dog park, more cat people are needed here.

Alice relaxing

I seem to be constantly on the run between the campground and the local library, various music venues, the gym, shopping, local attractions, etc.  There are people here who hardly ever leave the campground, or go downtown, especially at night, they must wonder about me ?

Children's art project on display at Library with theme
of water conservation.  This painting was by a 10 year old.

Beautiful poems accompany the art works

That's all for now,
Twinkles, Slick and Alice

Monday, November 21, 2016

Back to Bisbee

November 9 - 15, 2106:

I didn’t sleep well last night, I’m feeling crappy and as I drive I’m thinking that I’ve never felt this disillusioned with the election process, the news media, the presidential candidates, the most hateful president elect of all time and the prospect for the future of the “Divided” States of America. I had far more optimism for our country during the darkest days of the Viet Nam War than I do today.  I hope I am wrong, but when things start going badly I will derive great pleasure in blaming Trump and the people who voted him into power.  I'll be bitching about everything that goes wrong, real or imagined, just like Fox News.  OK, that’s my one allowed political rant, no more to be said.

About to go down over the brink into the dark side for a while ?

Geronimo must have felt the same way on the day
he surrendered here

The ride from Silver City, New Mexico to Bisbee, Arizona on routes 90 to route 10 to route 80 is a pretty ride that eventually improves my funky mood.  We arrive at the Queen Mine RV Park overlooking downtown Bisbee about 1 PM.  We last stayed here in May of 2015 and it’s another favorite campground and town of ours.  The campground sits right on the edge of the huge Lavender Pit Mine which is quite a unique view.

Always a special view

After setting up, we take a walk downtown to see what has changed.  I'm relieved to find that everything is about the same and I hope it stays that way.  It’s the same weird town, my kind of place, nestled in a beautiful mountain setting.   Actually, I would normally not see it that way as it’s adjacent to a huge open pit mine and riddled with mine shafts but somehow amidst all this destruction, beauty prevails. 
We’ve now been here several times and I’ve taken multiple photos of everything, so I’m looking for new subjects or at least new views of the old subjects.  It's a nice concept, but ultimately I know I will be taking the same photos again, I just can’t walk past without doing so and I'll never tire of it.  If you want to revisit my older blog posts they were back in January 2013 and in March 2015.

The Copper Queen Hotel with Chihuahua Hill in the background

Downtown Bisbee view

They believe in love here

Bisbee 1000 stair climb mural

Do it (the stairs) for your Heart

Beautiful City Park that doesn't seem to be utilized much

A favorite mural of mine

Over the Miners and Merchants Bank door

Men Beware !

The beautiful Cochise County Courthouse 

I kind of feel like I belong here, people wave to me on the street like they “think” they know me.  I'm thinking that Bisbee may have the highest per Capita concentration of old gray haired guys with ponytails and beards in the country.

The Side Pony Express Music Festival comes to Bisbee from Friday evening through Sunday evening.  We had no idea this was happening as there was almost no promotion although it’s a huge event with 102 bands coming to town for three days.  It’s an emerging artist, alternative music kind of thing with genres such as indie, folk, hip hop fusion, island jam funk, lo-fi garage jazz, western psychedelic soul, reset noir and much more that I don't understand.  The bands are predominantly from the Phoenix area and performed simultaneously at different venues around town.  The bands changed about every hour and then rotated to another venue.  I kept looking for a schedule for show where and when bands were playing, obviously the bands knew, but it wasn’t posted for the public.

So I was roamed the streets all weekend and if I liked what I could hear outside, I went in for a while, then moved down the street to the next place.  I caught many interesting bands although I only caught the name of a few of them as they didn’t promote themselves much either.  A favorite band was the Rudy Boy Experiment from Albuquerque, NM who were fantastic.  The music was fun and the accompanying weirdest in the streets of Bisbee was equally entertaining.

Enjoyed this singer- songwriter Ceekay Jones

These guys played on the street between scheduled sets

These guys were dynamic on stage

The Stock Exchange is a great bar, has all elements that I love

Terry Wolf, a Bisbee legend

John Cordes, a favorite Bisbee fiddle player and character

Very weird looking, but I liked them

The St Elmo bar truly is a "real" dive

Carol Pacey and the Honeyshakers were dynamic

The Rudy Boy Experiment Band with amazing guitarist Rudy on the left and incredible
drummer who tossed and flipped the sticks without missing a beat with precision

A Jug band of note

A very accurate sign for the clientele of the St Elmo Bar

The very classic look of Sarah Chapman of Ghost Cat Attack

Great moves and head shakes but were mostly just loud noise

I returned to a favorite hike up the Youngblood Hill to the hilltop shrine with 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and Bisbee in the valley below.  I always have to do this hike as it’s such a fantastic view and the shrine itself, tattered and unkempt as it is, is inspirational.

The Shrine

Joey's friends left several tributes

View from the top

View down into Bisbee

I follow the trail down the opposite side of the hill

And up to the top of Chihuahua Hill where you can look
down into the Sacramento Mine Pit

We went for breakfast at the Breakfast Club in Lowell which a nostalgic suburb of Bisbee.  Lowell is separated from Bisbee by the Lavender Mine pit which originally was the Lavender Hill. 

Looking down into the Lavender Mine Pit

I would guess about a 36 chevy sedan in front
of the old Lowell Gym and Pool Hall

Classic Indian motorcycle in storefront window

Much of Lowell is preserved like a time machine journey

Broken Spoke Saloon money has saved much of this town

We then took a ride a few miles further to the town of Warren which is the location of the Bisbee City Hall and considered to be the Warren district of Bisbee.  In the early 1900’s when the mines were still going strong, the housing situation in Bisbee was both inadequate and deplorable.  It consisted mostly of shacks built on the hillsides with inadequate water and sewer facilities amid much smoke, noise and crime.  As a result, the Calumet and Arizona Mine Company developed the new town site of Warren, the first planned community in Arizona with lots of amenities for the workers.  They even constructed a Trolley line, the first in Arizona, that ran from the Bisbee and mines to Warren. 
 The Warren Ballpark built in 1909 is very historic and some claim it to be the oldest baseball field in the United States. That’s debatable, but it is certainly one of the oldest fields and has not changed much since the 1930’s when the WPA did some renovation.  Warren remained a vibrant town until the mines closed in 1975 and has since undergone a period of decline.  

On the other hand, Old Bisbee which nearly became a ghost town when the mines closed is probably doing better than ever.  It was resurrected by an influx of artistic free spirit and perhaps somewhat capitalistic hippie types in the 1970’s.  As a result Bisbee is now a National Historic site, a tourist attraction and those old hillside mining shacks are today selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

View through the fence

View looking down a Warren street shows how close
the mines eventually came to town

Thousands attended the opening of the Trolley in Bisbee

The town of Tombstone about 30 miles north of Bisbee is another major tourist attraction.  Many of the town buildings are original but virtually all have been repurposed into tourist shops and restaurants.  You can see a reenactment of the shootout in the OK Corral, take a stagecoach ride and see people dressed in period cowboy attire doing shootouts in the street.  Much of it is the phony stuff of legend, tacky as hell, but the town itself is mostly authentic, historic and fun. 

The Bird Cage Theater has excellent exhibits

Very realistic ride

Mexican Italian, not so realistic ?

Next time you get stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, tell
the officer this ?

This the the big attraction

Big Nose Kates Saloon has always been a favorite

I return to the border town of Douglas for another look, Douglass was very vibrant town in past days, but has fallen on poor days since the 1940’s.  I checked out the small museum at the historic Gadsen Hotel which has some great old photos.  The Gadsen has one of the most beautiful lobbies with a grand Marble staircase and Tiffany stained glass skylights.  Poncho Villa supposedly rode his horse up the stairway leaving chips in the steps from the horses hooves.  There is another questionable legend about Poncho Villa’s head being buried under the Gadsen Hotel and various reports of ghost activity. 

The Gadsen Hotel doesn't impress that much from the outside

The Saddle and Spur Tavern sign inside does

The Grand Staircase is just incredible

As is the stained glass

The Grand Hotel was a great one, but is now basically an empty shell

Beautiful figures in the facade

I took a ride on the Old Divide Road that climbs over the continental divide and up into the mountain above where a cluster of communcation antennas are installed.  There were great views and some really interesting houses way back in the hills.  People live in these remote areas on primitive roads far from Bisbee, escaping civilization I suppose, might be smart these days.

Continental Divide marker, the road was
built by prison labor

I expect you can see Mexico on a clear day

That's Bisbee far down in the valley

There is a house in there with a scenic view gazebo

I went to the Bisbee Grand Hotel on Tuesday evening to hear Becky Reyes perform.  She is a favorite local musician who is a regular on Tuesday nights with quite a local following.  She was great and did something really special for us Anglo listeners.  She would give the English translation for the lyrics before doing a Spanish song which made the music so much more meaningful. 

I happened to sit next to a man who I had seen pull into the RV Park with an old beat up class C RV earlier in the day.  I thought he looked familiar from previous visits to BIsbee.  We struck up a conversation in which I heard much of his life story.  He is a retired heavy equipment operator who has come from Minnesota to winter in Bisbee for the last 15 years.  He is heavily into the music scene, loves the town and all the locals seem to know him.  He was a most personable man, who said that  people used to take photos with him as he resembled the “World’s most interesting man” from the Dos Equis beer advertisements. He was definitely one of the most interesting men I've met in a while.

We are finally ready for our final move and campground of the year to Desert Trails RV Park in Tucson, Arizona,

Twinkles and Slick