Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A Very Busy Great Day

Colorful pieces like this one are scattered all over the garden, all by Rotraut Klein-Moquay, the exhibit is called "Playing With Stars"

Well, I rather overdid the schedule for our one day in Phoenix. We had reservations for 9:30 AM at the Desert Botanical Gardens, at 1:30 PM for the Musical Instruments Museum and then dinner reservations for 5 PM at Los Dos Molinos. It was almost an hour from our RV park to the city each direction so it was a long day, but a really great one! And we had perfect weather with bright sunshine and highs in the mid 70's. 

Paths like this wind their way through the Garden. One central circle with several loops featuring  ecosystems, the plants and people of the Sonoran Desert, and wildflowers and pollinators. 

The Desert Botanical Garden was founded by the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society in 1937 and opened in 1939. It has more than 50,000 plants, one-third of which are native to the area, including 379 species, which are rare, threatened or endangered. Paths wind through the property and feature several ecosystems: a mesquite bosque, semi-desert grassland and upland chaparral. Sculptures are displayed throughout the garden. Right now the exhibit is by Arizona-based Rotraut Klein-Moquay. Also glass pieces by famous artist Dale Chihuly greet the visitor as you enter. 

These three Chihuly pierces glowed in the sun. They looked like small versions of the one in the courtyard of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. 

We walked everywhere and read every sign. Including a short break for a drink, it took about 3 hours. We were very grateful for the benches provided, many with shade - and water coolers, even out in the desert! Our cameras (one a phone) were pretty busy. 

These flowers are only a few of the many types
we saw both here and on the road.

Purple was a common color, with many varieties

buds on the cactus are such fun

Some were flowering

We saw and heard a lot of birds but managed only
a few good photos.

A rare cristate Saguaro cactus.

A close up of the intricate design on the top

These yellow flowers line the roads

These creamy blossoms were on trees and 
smelled wonderful

Carpets of these purple blue tiny flowers were

An oasis of water allows larger trees.

Our next stop was the Museum of Musical Instruments about a half hour away.  But we had a little extra time before our ticket entry so we stopped through downtown Scottsdale and walked around for a while. A fun street performer was glad for our prompted "Yee Haws" to liven up the crowd. There is a pedestrian street with some nice sculpture and the usual galleries, gift shops and restaurants. 

The street performer's specialties were the lariat,
bull whip and twirling guns.

Some of the architecture was lovely

Interspersed with western sculpture

I'm not much for gift shops but these beautiful
glass pieces stopped me cold.

The Musical Instrument Museum is a stunning place with so much to see that we were reminded of our experience at the WWII Museum in New Orleans. You need several days to really get through here. Unfortunately we only had 3 hours, but we'll come back next year for another go. Basically we saw the section on Mechanical Instruments and all of the Europe Collection. Each country in Europe had a section with instruments and commentary through history along with a big screen showing performers using the instruments and in many cases, dancing. Everyone wears ear phones which turn on as you enter the country so you can hear and watch the videos. Often there is a section on individual types of instruments and their history, like horns, bagpipes, strings etc. 

After this we were exhausted and happily drove on to our planned dinner restaurant. Los Dos Molinos (the Two Grinders) is a family owned and run chain (now) of 3 restaurants in Phoenix. They were recently featured on PBS and it was packed. They warn you that most dishes are "HOT", that's their fame. We opted for the few that were not. There wasn't a medium choice. But everything was wonderful, including the "fresh" margaritas. 

The Mechanical Instrument section was fascinating with hundreds of such varied types.

The music boxes were so intricate with videos showing them working and of course,  we could hear the music.

Here's on example of a country with instruments, costume, videos and history.

And last, one of the sections on a particular instrument family - here Bagpipes. Who knew that they were played in Europe, Northern Africa, Western Asia and around the Persian Gulf? 

Monday, March 20, 2023

Casa Grande, AZ


The Hohokam people understood the significance
of the sun's passage and arranged the building so
that the sun shone in through openings to signal
the spring and fall equinoxes. 

That small hole in the center shows the spring
equinox with a beam of sun.  

This distinctive roof covering was built in 1932. The CCC were here and built the administrative buildings and visitor center

As we drove north from Tucson a sign caught our eye, next exit Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. This couple welcomes detours! We did hesitate when we saw it was 20+ miles away, but we had time and a hike would be welcome, so we continued on. Casa Grande means "Big House" in Spanish and it refers to the largest structure at the site, a 4 story building that was abandoned around 1450. This area was inhabited by the Hohokam people, or the Ancestral Sonoran Desert People. for centuries. but this particular place was probably active from 1150 to 1450. Overcrowding, drought, floods all may be part of the reason it was abandoned but the ruins have fascinated people since then. In November 1694 the first European viewed the site and gave it it's name. It's been a tourist attraction since then and many have carved their names on it - until 1891 when repairs and conservation started. It was declared a National Monument in 1918. 

I wish the low growing blue flowers showed
up better here. They carpet areas of the desert.
You'll see a close up on my next post.

When we activated our Google Directions we had a nice surprise. We hadn't realized that our next stop, Foothills West RV Resort was in Casa Grande! We hadn't gone out of our way at all. It was still 20 miles away in the city but it was a beautiful drive over a mountain pass. We got to admire the "Super Bloom" ongoing as a result of the recent rains. The road was lined with yellow, orange and bright blue flowers. 

And our RV park was also a nice surprise. Our site was spacious and the swimming pool, hot tub and big recreation room inviting. We sat outside having our drinks and neighbors joined us. From Minnesota, they spend their winters down here. I had thought I wouldn't be celebrating St. Patrick's Day but I was wrong. The next day was non stop party. The parade was at 3 PM, the cocktail hour started afterward, followed by a big Irish Stew dinner and capped off with a dance that night! We met a lot of people, all very nice and welcoming. But all 70 and above and country music/western fans (the bookshelf had a lot of Zane Grey etc.). It was slow dancing to Willie Nelson (and that was my favorite). 

But it was a wonderful day, lots of fun. For example, at the dance everyone passed around tiny glasses and then homemade liquors! The parade consisted of wildly decorated golf carts and bicycles. Everyone threw candy at the bystanders. But most people were in the parade! We got a lot of candy. That morning we drove into the "Historic Center" of Casa Grande and walked around. Two of the highlights (TripAdvisor) are the Neon Sign Park and the Paramount Theater (still with a good schedule of live concerts). Photos are at the bottom below.  The next day was a big one and will be covered on my next post.

Yes, I know I'm not wearing much green (there was some in the pattern). Scott and I, it turns out, don't buy green clothing. Next year, we'll bring 2 very St. Patrick's Day shirts.

The parade getting organized.

Even the golf cart is green!

I'm sorry you can't see all of the decorations.

Our very nice site

You are only seeing part of the dinner crowd in this picture. There were at least 140 people at the dinner. 

On of the chefs dishes up the main course, Irish
stew, Cole slaw, and soda bread with butter. The
desert was a layered cake (green of course).

The very pretty and green central park.
Casa Grande's Paramount Theater

The quite unusual neon sign park - must be pretty at night!

Saturday, March 18, 2023

More Time in Tucson


A view from the Romero Ruin Trail

We made reservations way in advance for Catalina State Park and it was totally full both days we were there. Two years ago we stayed here with our cruiser friends Dave & Ellen Bett and loved it. We enjoyed it again this time. Our first morning we hiked the Romero Ruin Trail which had two stream crossings. This time we took our shoes and socks off and waded through. The ruins there are first those of the Hohokam people (Ancestral Sonoma Desert People) who lived in this area between 300 and 1500 AD and built a pueblo and a Mesoamerican ball court here. It was a culture that existed from Arizona down to Northern Mexico and were known for their large-scale irrigation networks.  Later Francisco Romero built his ranch in the mid 1800's and used some of the stones to built his home. 

Heather mid stream. As you can see it wasn't
very deep. There was another crossing just

Scott and I with our bikes at Catalina
State Park with Baby

That afternoon we hiked the Nature Trail with signs explaining the local wildlife and vegetation. We had to wait until late in the day as the parking lot was packed until then. It was a Sunday and everyone in Tucson was out hiking and picnicking. The weather was lovely and we enjoyed sitting out in our chairs for lunch and drinks in the evening. 

Looking from the Nature trail across at the mountains.

The next morning we pulled our bikes out of the truck and rode up through the park. We intended to continue down and out of the park to the bicycle path beyond. But a stream crossed the road (new since we arrived) and it was too deep for our bicycles. Later it went down enough to cross in the truck and trailer. Our next stop was a Harvest Host location, Little Anthony's Diner and Gaslight Theater. We had tried to get tickets to the show, but they were sold out. But our host, Jenny, took us for a tour and wangled a table to us! It's a dinner theater and very nice. The show, a tribute to Tina Turner, was excellent. Our site was in the parking lot near the highway but no problem for us and it was quiet overnight. We enjoyed lunch there our first day and requested and got a second night. We were hoping to get tickets to another show that evening, but no luck.

A look at the stage from our table

A closer look at the band. They were great, 
especially the lead singer.

After we received our cruiser friends Xmas letter we'd been in contact and they came over for lunch our second day there. We met Jack and Susan "Fred" Webb at a Nauticat rally back in 2003 and saw them occasionally after that. They sold their Nauticat years ago and now live between Tucson and Maryland. It was fun to connect up with them again. Sadly, we didn't take a photo! Usually I'm good but not this time. 

Here's a view of the road leading up to Mt. Lemmon from one of the viewpoint parking lots.

That morning before our lunch we drove up to Mount Lemmon ski area. Mount Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalina mountains and the peak is at 9,159 feet. The road winds through the Coronado National Forest for 26 scenic miles. It's an engineering marvel with lots of turnouts for viewing or letting other cars pass. Given it was a weekday morning there weren't many cars, but there were lots of bicyclists!  The narrow road didn't allow for easy passage of two cars, one going up and one down, along with cyclists. 

It didn't look like a difficult slope but hey, it's
skiing in southern Arizona!

And in the summer this must be a wonderful
change from the hot desert.

Our next stop was the winter home of our neighbors, Donna and Dick Swartz, in Marana. They aren't going to make it here this year but wanted us to at least park there and plug in. But first we had to resolve a problem with the trailer's brakes. We'd tried many places around Green Valley but they were all busy. Jack Webb suggested a place in Tucson and we dropped the trailer off there Wednesday morning. We frittered away the waiting time doing some shopping and having lunch until they were finished. Then we drove off to Marana. Unfortunately the brakes weren't fixed. In fact they seemed worse. So we called and had to go back the next morning. 

The view in the morning from Donna & Dick's house in Marana, AZ

They took another whole morning, and then declared that was the best they could do. Three out of the four brakes on the RV are now working. Better than before, but not perfect. Then it was late in the day and the weather was overcast (unusual for here) so we decided to continue north rather than go back to Marana. Our next destination, Foothills West RV Resort was able to take us a day early. On the way there we saw a sign on the highway for the Casa Grande National Monument and made a quick decision to leave the highway and explore. The results will be in my next post. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Green Valley and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum


Baby and Junior parked in the driveway at Lesa and Bob's in Green Valley

Since we visited Bob and Lesa two years ago they have moved to a larger house, still in Green Valley. It is quite lovely and has outstanding views of the mountains. They are all settled in but have a lot of work ahead on their landscaping. The previous owner had just let everything die, so it's a big project. They took us out for dinner both nights, the first to a local Mexican restaurant, Manuel's, which was quite good. But the second night they treated us to a wonderful evening at Elvira's in Tubac, a lovely town south of Green Valley. Established in 1927, the d├ęcor is beautiful and unique with hanging crystals and mirrors everywhere and the food, southwestern, was delicious. 

Hanging crystals throughout Elvira's

Scott, Heather, Bob and Lesa

During our first day there we split up. Lesa and I went shopping at several thrift shops, a bakery and the supermarket. Scott and Bob accomplished a few projects around the RV and his house. But the second day we all went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum south of Tucson. It's a huge combination of Botanical Gardens, Zoo and Museum. We took a long walk through the desert and then enjoyed lunch in their restaurant. But too soon it was time to say good-bye and head off to our next destination, Catalina State Park, covered in my next post. 

A Coyote enjoying the sunshine.

The desert landscape with saguaros

I'm enjoying the park benches which
are located on many of the trails
in the Southwest! My shirt is from
Sabaku, a Tucson company. I
have a bunch of them.

These tiny flowers were captured with Scott's 
camera. Most of the photos I've taken with a 

There aren't many flowers open yet but they
stand out all the more.

As do the occasional color on the cactus

the Barrel Cactus in just cute!

A mountain lion sleeps comfortably (he was in 
a separated enclosure.

But this fawn chose a shaded spot.