Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Tucson... Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

When we last left your intrepid travellers, the weather had put a stop to a planned a trek up into the Superstition Mountains.  Well after publishing that post the weather decided to break and it turned into a great day for a hike. Detra sat this one out, and I headed up the Siphon Draw Trail, 2 miles uphill to the "Basin" to see the water coming off the high ground.   Then with the help of gravity the much easier and quicker return trip back down to camp.  A three hour hike with views and interesting terrain that is well worth the effort.  The trail actually ends a mile further past the Basin on the top of the Flatiron Rock but I think you would need to be a mountain goat to do it, with a rise of 2000' in that last mile over rock and boulders.

Flatiron Rock trying to hide in the clouds.
The view halfway up the mountain.
Lost Dutchman S. P. and this view of the Superstition Mountains are worth the trip.

Well, we've staked our claim in Tucson for a month through the Holidays and into the New Year.  We are staying at Rincon Country West, a park about 5 miles from downtown.  This is a big place with a very active group of people.  There are many clubs and a great selection of shops and classrooms in the main buildings that cover just about any interest you might have.

An added bonus for us are our friends Jeff and Nancy, who are the reason we chose this particular park.  I worked with Jeff from way back in 1985 up until he retired a few years before me.  They have been spending winters here at Rincon for a half dozen years, at first in a fifth wheel and now in a park model.

Detra and I with Jeff and Nancy.
This month will be a little slower pace than the last few weeks but we will still get around to seeing the sites in this area and spend time hanging out with Jeff and Nancy.
Old Tucson is the first of many western themed things we will be doing here in the southwest.  It's no surprise they are proud of their heritage around here and that was what Detra and I were thinking when we decided to go to Old Tucson.  We normally do a little research before we head out to these things but we didn't this time, we had heard it was something to see, so we just went. When we pulled into the parking lot of a gift shop and what looked like a theme park ticket booth and gate, we didn't know what to think.  We had thought we were going to see some historic western town and it is, just not an authentic old west style.  It has more of a old Hollywood type of history.
Detra and I looked at each other and had to decide if we still wanted to go in as we had a totally different mindset when we started out that morning.  We figured, "Oh well we are already here, so why not?"  What followed was a surprisingly enjoyable and entertaining day with live shows by some of the hardest working actors we've ever seen, little rides and plenty of film history throughout. 
This town got it's start in 1939 built as a set for the movie "Arizona".  Since then has gone on to be the set for hundreds of movies and TV shows starring the likes of  John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and many others.  "Little House on the Prairie" filmed some of the episodes here and that was a thrill for Detra who was a big fan when she was younger.  You have no doubt watched something that was filmed here over the years, from "Rio Bravo" to "Bonanza"right up to "The Three Amigo's " comedy starring Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Martin Short. 
These actors were doing everything from comedy to stunts to a pretty intense and dramatic shootout.

Winmar training( a contractor I worked for)...How not to use a ladder.
  We ended up spending the whole day taking in all the shows, riding in a stage coach, jumping on the little train, driving the kiddie cars and thoroughly enjoying ourselves.
 Tucson's 4th Ave. Merchant Assoc. closes the street for a huge vendor sale twice a year.  This was quite an array of mostly artists with the odd soap or clothing seller mixed in.  There are also plenty of great smelling foods to indulge in.  The four of us spent hours walking 400+ booths and enjoying the nice sunny day.  Abby received a new harness and leash, Detra bought some delicious Prickly Pear Cactus jelly and Grandson Logan is making out like a bandit. 
Booths for as far as the eye can see!...and then turn around come back on the backside of these!

This was another fine day of avoiding snow. :)
Tombstone, AZ, a short drive and over a hundred years removed from us here in Tucson.  This was the site of the O.K. Corral shootout with Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holiday against a group of cattle rustlers looking for trouble.  This was real life hero and villain stuff made famous in countless movies and books.  The town here is making the most of the fame, but to stand here where it actually happened along with plenty of other old west history in this town, that the people here love to share, is fantastic.  We were inside buildings that these men spent time in, streets they walked and fought on, doors they pushed open to face men looking to kill them.  There are plenty of other stories and buildings here and they all let you see what life was like in the 1880's Arizona Territories.  It really was the Wild West.
Plenty of original buildings here.

Doc Holiday, The Earp's and some desperate outlaws.

The Girl and the Bad Guys.

Tucson is full of Old history, New art, Borrowed Spanish and Blue skies and is a fine place to explore it all while running from the law... umm...I mean winter.
"It's a dry heat."

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Full Views and Full Stomachs... Empty Wallets

 Phoenix is our next stop on the "Blue Skies and Shorts Tour".  The days with very little exception, since we've been here, in Arizona have been very boring weather wise.  Same ol' same ol' everyday temps in the 70's and the sky this boring blue without the whisper of a cloud.  No weather change kind of takes away a Canadian's most common topic of conversation when you meet strangers.

A Canadian meets an American in Arizona,

"Hi, Nice to meet you, Eh"


"How 'bout that weather, Eh?"

"Huh?... What are you talkin' about? It's the same forecast for the next three weeks!"

"umm.......How 'bout dem Leafs, Eh?"

"Who the hell are the Leafs?...and shouldn't it be Leaves?... See ya ...Weirdo"

We came to the Phoenix area with very little planned for our stay, so we picked a resort that was nice to spend time at.  Pueblo El Mirage is just that kind of place, with a golf course and all the other retiree amenities... pickle ball, library, spa, hairstylists, weight room and the most beautiful pool area of any park we've stayed at.  If you go on their website, the pool looks just like the pictures shown.  The park is northwest of Phoenix in the suburbs close to Glendale and Sun City, the planned retirement community.   This park offers up to 5 days at 50% off for Passport America members, which is a great deal for this well kept place. 

The one thing we did plan to do here was visit Taliesin West in Scottsdale.  I have always wanted to see Frank Lloyd Wright's work in person and haven't had the opportunity until now.  He was, as many of you know, an architect who created timeless buildings and furniture to go with them.  He was responsible for the Guggenheim Museum, a building built in 1959 that still looks as modern and currant as any building out there today.

This place was built without machinery, by hand and at the time, 20 miles from anything.

It is a beautiful building with many interesting features.

Apprentices would carry these huge rocks and place them in forms to make the walls. 

 Mr. Wright had a number system for what size rock he wanted, 1,2...6 or a 7, it was based on the amount of people it would take to carry it and get it in place.

Designed in the late '30's and still has a contemporary feel.

Taliesin West was where he spent winters with his family and apprentice architects and still serves as a school today.  There are tours given everyday that are a great insight to how he lived and the reasons he designed things certain ways at Taliesin West.  If you have any interest at all you would find this a very informative and enjoyable day.

We took a little tour of Old Town Scottsdale, a tourist area with most shops selling art and souvenirs with a few bars thrown in.  It also has a ice cream palour called Sugar Bowl that hasn't changed much since it opened in '58.  We can report that the ice cream is good and you'll want to go to a sock hop or drive-in afterwards.

Phoenix, Arizona's largest city, has lots of people and thus restaurants which means a "Diner's, Drive in's and Dives" smorgasbord.  We'll spend 10 days around here so we had planned on get to a few of these while we are here.  The first one we hit was La Piazza Al Forno which hand makes most menu items in house from scratch, including the mozzarella and dough.  The pizza was delicious and so was the homemade cheese cake for dessert.  This place had the feel of a neighborhood pizza joint selling upscale food and the prices where good too. Sorry no pics.

A few days later "Triple D" stop #2 was Thee Pitts Again a BBQ joint owned by a guy who has won hundreds of awards at cook-offs around North America.  Serving great food out of my favourite type of restaurant, an old style stainless steel building with vinyl booths right out of the '50's. 

I always love to walk through doors like these!
I feel like all my reviews for food are the same, but that's what you get at "Triple D" restaurants good food and at usually fair prices and Thee Pitts Again was no different.  They are all delicious or they wouldn't have made on the show to begin with.

We jumped right in with the masses and went shopping after the U.S. Thanksgiving.  Black Friday I received my very early Christmas present, a new camera. I've been wanting a mirrorless DSLR for a while but didn't want to spend the money, but we saw a Sony a6000 package at a good price and jumped at it.  It is a very nice camera and I'll have fun learning how to take a good picture.

Detra has always had an issue with laundromats so we've been looking at washer combo's to put in the fifth wheel.  We were at Camping World and they would honor the Cyber Monday online, one day price on a Splendide 7100xc.  It might be cheaper to fly home for next year's Black Friday than be tempted again by the sales down here.

What's behind door #2, Detra?  A NEW WASHER/DRYER COMBO!!!!
After 5 days we moved to Lost Dutchman State Park on the other side of Phoenix.  Located at the foot of the Superstition Mountains in Apache Junction it is again a very nice place to spend some time.  Our site #99 faces the mountains and has a 25ft Saguaro cactus standing guard over it.  You can hear the coyotes howl at night and we even had one walk by, not more 30ft from us, one night while we sitting around the fire.  Us bein' city folk, we sat with a flashlight for the rest of the night looking for lurking black shadows with chills down our spines, our plan was to sick Abby on them and run for our lives, screaming like little girls. 

Our campsite view.

Dinner with a view.
The park is on the famous and historic Apache Trail Hwy that takes you through the mountains and Tonto National Forest.  It is a great winding road well worth time to see the dramatic scenery, I just wish I still had the Miata to make it a thrill ride too.


  Goldfield Ghost Town is less than a mile from the  park it is a reconstructed mining town that once was a bustling goldrush city.  The vein of gold here dried up and the town died with it.  It is a tourist spot now with shops and tours and some of the original buildings. There are much more authentic ghost towns to see, but this one is still fun to visit.  There are still people working the land next to it looking for a vein of gold that was missed.
Plenty of things to look at in town.
Most is rebuilt, but it still feels old.
Superstition Mountains watch over the town.
"Come up and see me sometime" 

Inside the saloon, an interesting place to have a beer and you can hitch your horse to the rail outside.
We went to check out downtown Phoenix one morning and had breakfast at Matt's Big Breakfast yet another DDD stop.  On weekends they can have waits of up to 1 1/2 hrs., but we were here on Wed. so we walked right in.  I had the special,  three egg scramble with smoked pork loin, jalapenos and white cheddar and it was very good.  Detra ordered the waffle and said it was the best she had ever had, so good you wouldn't want any fruit on it because it would take away from the flavor and fluffiness of the batter.
Who knew the weather can actually change here in Arizona? We have had two cloudy days but the temps were still in the 70f 's so we can live with that.  Now, we are sitting here today in the rain that has been going since last night.  This put a stop to my plan of hiking up the mountain today, but at least I'll have something to talk about to whoever I meet.
Our mountain view this morning.
Lovin' livin'