Monday, April 26, 2010

Our Neighborhood

We are getting better at balance – the art of relaxing vs. being on the go, or working on the Castle every day.  There is always something that needs to get done around the homestead, places to go, things to see.   Yesterday was declared to be one of our balance days – in other words – we took the day off.  In the morning, we gathered our cameras and took off around the park to do some leisurely exploring.

Just up the road from our loop stands this old cabin, a fun and interesting photographic opportunity:

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This little flower was spotted nestled in a desert bush near the cabin:

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A typical desert flower arrangement:

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Jim’s good eyes spied Mr. Jack Rabbit, who obligingly posed for me long enough to get a photo – usually  all we get is a blurry streak as they bound away:

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We drove down to the ponds and marshes located within the park and took a short walk along the pathway:

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And watched a river otter enjoying a Sunday swim:

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During the afternoon we caught up on some lawn chair reading time outside.  Later on, we grilled salmon, roasted asparagus and enjoyed the evening stillness.

This morning we got ourselves out and about to explore the nearby National Monument, Tuzigoot (an Apache word meaning crooked water).  The Sinagua Indians settled this ridge around 1000 AD. The pueblo structure probably started as just a few rooms, but as the population increased, more rooms were added. Eventually, more than 250 people inhabited the pueblo. They were an agricultural people and farmed the Verde Valley for around 400 years.  No one knows what happened to them.  The National Monument was established as part of Roosevelt’s WPA in the 1930’s.  We can see Tuzigoot from the hill where the old cabin is:

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I’m going to interrupt the sightseeing narrative at this point for a short rant.  When we got to the visitor’s center this morning, we went inside to pay.  Now, maybe the staff was just having a hard time getting a good start on this beautiful Monday morning, but whatever the reason, we were pretty astounded at the dismal attitude shown by the people we encountered “working” in and around the visitor center.  As we walked in, we saw two men behind the counter where we were to pay.  They were having a clearly personal conversation and completely ignored us while they chatted away.  Finally, one turned to us, glanced at our parks pass and turned back to the other guy and continued their conversation.  I interrupted to ask about getting a stamp for my National Parks Passport.  He pointed to the stamp’s location and went on with his conversation.  I noticed as I stamped my book that they have stickers to purchase.  Just as I held out the $1.99 sticker to purchase, the men turned and started walking to the back room.  I nearly had to shout to get his attention to make this purchase.

Then we went outside to begin our tour of the ruins.  There appeared to be pathways going both directions around the visitor’s center, so we asked a ranger working in the front of the building which way we should go.  With barely a word to us, she pointed to the correct path.

Ok, so let’s just leave it at they were having a hard start to the week and move on…

This is a view up several levels of the pueblo to the top, which unfortunately is currently closed off:

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Looking down hill to more of the rooms:

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One of the rooms:Jim 033

Inside the visitor center is this display of how an individual room might have looked when occupied:

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What an interesting place!  We’ve visited several different ruins in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado and we always find them so fascinating.  I envision what their daily life might have been like, but it is hard to imagine living in such close quarters.

After we finished our tour, we poked around Cottonwood a little, found the laundromat, my Weight Watchers meeting location and a place to have lunch.  Ah, such a busy life!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sedona and Beyond

When we first started traveling “for real” back in May of 2006, our first trip was to Williams, Arizona, where we explored the Grand Canyon, among other destinations.  On one of our day trips then, we traveled to Sedona for the day.  Actually it was more like a couple of hours, just about the amount of time we spent there yesterday.  The weather was still cloudy, windy, and chilly here yesterday.  We decided to postpone some of our planned explorations for this area in favor of a drive to Sedona, about 20 miles north of here.  I have to say that, in spite of the incredible beauty of the location, it’s not one of my favorite places.  Yes, I know, there are all those vortexes and spiritual places, etc., but all of that is totally overshadowed by the gruesome traffic and tourist traps, expensive, (actually outrageously so) galleries, boutiques and “head” shops.  Since I lived in a tourist town most of my life, I’ve “been there, done that” and it doesn’t especially appeal to me.  However, those rocks are worth a visit now and then!

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Can the flowers on this bush truly be that blue?

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We had lunch and did a little walk/shopping excursion through the main streets before making a stop at a natural foods store on our way back home for a quiet evening at home.

A few days before we left Phoenix, I noticed on Facebook that Mary and Paul  (The Great RV Escape) are staying in an RV park in Camp Verde, just a few miles from here.  We started the e-mail thing to see if we could find a time to get together here.  As it turned out, today was the day for us to ride with them up to Jerome for lunch.  They came by to pick us up and we rode with them to the quirky town on the mountainside.  Jerome is a historic mining town, incorporated in 1898, with a wild west history and stories to go along with it’s reputation.  Some of it’s history relate to the multi-billion dollar copper mining industry, some to the bordellos, gambling, drug abuse, gun fights and so forth.  During the boom years of the 1920’s, the population grew to over 15,000 and the mines were operating 24 hours a day, with businesses scrambling to keep up with the demands of the miners.  The crash of 1929 spelled the end of the boom, however, and the mines closed in 1930.  During World War II, the town experienced a mini-resurgence when the price of copper rose, but again, the mines closed in the early fifties, and never reopened.  Today, the town is a mecca for the tourist trade, with many galleries, shops and restaurants.

A mountain view from Jerome:

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This restaurant, Mile High Grill and Spirits, had been recommended to Mary and Paul, and it is a good one!  As we had our drinks and waited for lunch, we swapped “How we got started fulltiming” stories with Mary and Paul, and discovered many similarities.  It is always so fun to hear about the journey we’ve shared in so many different ways.

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After our delicious lunch, we made sure we checked out all the stores we were interested in along the streets:

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And even found a winery for Mary and Ellie to do a little tasting:

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Jim got to carry the two bottles of wine I purchased:

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I enjoyed our exploration, and especially was fascinated by the photo opportunities, like this doorway/window:


After we’d stopped at several stores, tasted wine, and backtracked (uphill, of course) to the one place in town for ice cream, we declared the day a great success and headed back down the mountain.  We made one important last stop – at a quilt shop where Mary purchased Arizona material for a quilt she is making.  Paul and Jim were very gracious about hanging around for the time Mary and I perused the shop.  It’s probably a good thing we arrived at the store right at their closing time!

What a great day it’s been, and how fun to meet Mary and Paul:

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ahhhh….. Much Better!

You’d think, after more than 3 years on the road that travel days would not elicit that sleepless night syndrome, the one where we each wake up several times wondering if it’s time to go yet.  But, no, we both had it last night.  Do you think we were just ready to get outa Phoenix?

Bright and early this morning we were up, drinking our coffee and were pulling out of Desert Shadows RV Resort by 8:00 this morning – for a travel day of less than 100 miles!  We knew that this is a busy weekend at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, with a Birding Festival, so we wanted to make sure we got here early enough to get a site.

There are some beautiful flowers blooming along I-17:

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We had an easy drive with some beautiful scenery as we left the Valley of the Sun and climbed up and then started our descent into the Verde Valley:

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And soon, we found our destination just outside Cottonwood, Arizona:

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We were successful in arriving early enough to get a site, and a good one at that.  We’re on the end of a row, so we only have a neighbor on one side, and we’re on the highest level of the campground, so we have a view, too. 

From my spot on the living room sofa, I can look out the window and watch the endless changing of the scenery with the movement of the clouds across the valley towards the little town of Jerome, perched on the side of the mountain:

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On the park’s web page is a quote about how the park was named: “The story of the park's name begins with the Ireys family, who came to Arizona from Minnesota looking for a ranch to buy in the late 1940s. At one of the ranches they discovered a large dead horse lying by the road. After two days of viewing ranches, Dad Ireys asked the kids which ranch they liked the best. The kids said, “the one with the dead horse, Dad!” The Ireys family chose the name Dead Horse Ranch and later, in 1973, when Arizona State Parks acquired the park, the Ireys made retaining the name a condition of sale.”  Dead horse or not, this is a beautiful spot!

Even though the weather today is cloudy, chilly and blustery, we’re enjoying the peace and quiet – no planes, helicopters, or freeway noises, just the wind.  I think the Castle looks much nicer in this setting:

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Flowers are just starting to bloom here, we’re a bit higher in elevation than Phoenix:

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Home From Mississippi – Just in Time to Leave

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Late yesterday afternoon I returned from getting together with my Weight Watchers online group of friends who gather a couple of times a year near Columbus, Mississippi to compare notes and reenergize our Weight Watchers commitment.  This time there were 8 of us, and we had a great time eating healthy, exercising and generally having fun.  We kayaked almost every morning, took many walks, and even did a little shopping.  The picture above is a swampy area along one of the trails in the Plymouth Bluff, an environmental center that is part of the Mississippi University for Women.  

It was wonderful to get together with these women, but it was also wonderful to get back home, just in time to prepare for our departure from Phoenix.  We have enjoyed our re-entry to the RV-Park-in-the-city adventure, but it’s time to move on to new and different adventures.

The Castle has been cleaned, waxed, buffed, puffed and shined inside and out.  We’ve visited and had a good time with family. 

We’ve been here long enough to see the beginning of the Saguaro blooms:

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Tomorrow morning we’ll pull up the jacks and roll along the highway towards Cottonwood, Arizona, where we will hopefully be early enough to get a space in Dead Horse Ranch State Park.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More Exploring

If you’ve spent time in Phoenix, you know that it’s big and spread out.  To get anywhere, you travel for miles on highways or major roads to get anywhere.   If you’ve not yet visited this jewel of the Southwest, get ready to do a lot of driving to reach your destination around town.  Luckily, the highways and major streets are fairly easy to navigate (except at rush hour of course!) and traveling them is not too bad.  Our destination today was first, to take a look at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, especially the campground, and second, to have lunch at Greasewood Flat, a hamburger place that came very highly recommended by Janna and Mike.

We got started a little before 10, heading out of our park and up the street to the 101 East loop for about 25 miles to the exit at Shea Road, another 10 miles across that section of town to the turn-off to the road leading up to McDowell Mountain Park.  After driving several more miles through some very exclusive neighborhoods, we arrived at the entrance to the park.  Not far from the entrance, we stopped to admire the view back towards Four Peaks:

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We continued on to the campground area after a brief stop at the visitor’s center.

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The campground features two loops with water and electric sites and a dump station.  It has an entirely different feel than Lake Pleasant, but both are good possibilities for us in the future.  We’ve driven through Usery Mountain park on a previous visit, but still want to check out that campground before we leave this time.  There’s a good possibility we could be doing some park hopping in our future travels to this area.

The flowers are still glorious in all their color:

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After exploring the park, it was time to find our way to Greasewood Flat, incongruously located in North Scottsdale, nestled among million-dollar (or more) homes.  The location of this bar and restaurant is an old stage stop along the way from Phoenix to Ft. McDowell.  Their main attraction is their huge, juicy burgers, which were very, very good!


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After lunch we made our way back home and relaxed a little while before going over to the pool for a swim.  It’s been a great day!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fine in Phoenix

Our days continue to be a mix of routine and adventure. Some days, just driving in Phoenix is an adventure, especially during those famous rush hours. We’ve made the rounds to Trader Joe’s, Penzey’s Spices, Total Wine and More. We found a Dillards store in a mall that only carries close-out specials, everything is at least 70% off. There were some good bargains!

Yesterday, we had a family gathering here. My niece Tammy and her husband Alan, along with her 4 children and their significant others, my other niece Annette and her 2 children, plus their mom and her husband, Rob, all came over for a cook-out. I borrowed Tammy’s pictures from Facebook to share.

Most of the family:


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We had a fun time getting caught up with everyone, especially since we haven’t seen Tammy’s kids since they were little.

Today we took a break from the routine and went to explore Lake Pleasant Regional Park. I wanted to see the campgrounds for future reference. From our location near I-17 and the 101 Loop, it is about 28 miles Northwest to Lake Pleasant. The flowers are really starting to bloom here:

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Yes, this is the desert!

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And, there is a beautiful lake!

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Can you see the covered RV Sites? Nice campground!

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After a lunch at the Scorpion Marina, we drove around a little more, taking in all the views, before returning to our Castle.

We’re doing fine here in Phoenix!