10-13-08 Return to Tucson, AZ

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Back in Arizona -- seeing the pink in rocks

Back in Arizona -- seeing the pink in rocks

October 14, 2008 – We are back in Tucson, AZ.  We arrived yesterday and took a room at the In Town Suites for a week. We need the rest but more so, we need to be some place long enough to have out mail sent, fill a prescription, order an “how to buy RVs” book from Amazon, balance the checkbook and have my new eyeglasses sent  (they weren’t ready when we left). And we needed to save a bit of money on lodging. Besides it is good for us to slum a bit. 

 

 

Tucson road sign

Tucson road sign

So here we are.  Nothing fancy is an understatement.  But we do have a kitchenette (stove, sink, full fridge), a boxy sofa, a small kitchen table, and a double bed.  There are no lamps (just overhead lighting), no full length mirror, no shelf area in the bathroom, no dishes in the cupboards, towels are the size of postage stamps and about as soft as cactii (the hotel throws the towels out after we leave the room — it is not even worth their while to wash them!), and no housekeeping. Nevertheless, everything is in its place and thus the room already feels comfortable and like its our own.  Sort of like camping. 

 

Sunset as viewed from motel

Sunset as viewed from motel

Looking out the window, it reminds me of the people we docked with in the Keys.  The license plates confirm that the residents are from many different states, even Canada and Mexico. I’m sure there are lots of people who are living here on new jobs or temporary jobs — the parking lot was empty until some time after 4pm. Also, there is another set of people here. Judging by the age of some of the vehicles and looking at the people, I’d say there are some that are just down on their luck.

Anyway, it’s working out to be perfect for us right now.  I assume we will leave on Monday, but who knows?

Comments (0) Oct 13 2008

10-08-08 Tombstone, AZ

Posted: under Arizona, Copper Mine, New Mexico, Tombstone, AZ.
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Tombstone, AZ

Tombstone, AZ

October 8, 2008 — After plugging in “coffee shops” in the Prius GPS and finding a Starbucks, we headed south on I-10 until we arrived in Benson (seems like a nice town, we stopped at a Safeway to pick up water here), at which point we turned south onto scenic route 80, which goes through the infamous Tombstone, and the mining town of Bisbee and then down to the Mexican border at Douglas.  We continued to follow it up through the San Simeon Valley until it meets up with I-10 again in New Mexico. 

Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone -- original structure

Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone -- original structure

So, Tombstone. Of course, as expected — there are some original buildings and lots of reproduction to make the town look somewhat authentic complete with gunfights, lots of people walking around in cowboy hats & boots, and lots and lots of shops and museums.  Everything seems to cost $10 per adult.

Carl enjoyed the day by reading all the historical plaques on the buildings, and sitting and watching the world go by. I couldn’t resist going into the 1880s Bird Cage museum (click on the link for the interesting history).  In its day, it was a saloon, gambling hall and whore house.

Cribs inside the Bird Cage Opera House Saloon

Cribs inside the Bird Cage Opera House Saloon

It is not a very organized museum — there are some things set up — and have been for a long time since everything has a layer of dirt — and then there are many odds and ends, and lots of wall displays/photos with captions.  I would be easy to spend twice as much time as I did in there. I was surprised to see how small everything is — like the cribs that the women worked from and even the stairs up to the crib. It is fascinating to see the old things, though this was an odd collection ranging from the card tables to the town’s hearse.

We walked around town some more, sat an had some ice cream, contemplated taking a stage coach ride and then decided not to.  In our estimation, everyone is to rote in their “speeches” and not enough heart is put into it.  You try to ask a question and the person just goes into the prepared speech.  You could hear the drivers narrating the stage coach tours with same tone.  They should learn from other places and get an interesting person to “guide” via a preset recording.  Or take acting lessons.  I don’t mind hokey if everyone who is hosting the event is in to it! But in this town, they all act too cool be doing their jobs.

Backroom gambling.

Backroom gambling.

So, we left Tombstone proper, and drove over to Boothill. We didn’t pay to walk through the cemetery — we decided that there had to be a website on the whole thing and from what we could see from the fence, there wasn’t enough to entice us.  When I was around 13, my grandparents took me to Boothill in Dodge City. It was more hokey than this, and left an impression of feeling ripped off. So, call me jaded.

Graves in Tombstone's Boothill Cemetary

Graves in Tombstone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obama for President, outside Bisbee, AZ

Obama for President, outside Bisbee, AZ

As we approached Bisbee, we saw an Obama sign on a tree at the end of someone’s driveway.  In NH, outside of being happy to see another Obama supporter it would not be of note since the “first in the nation” state has so many presidential political signs.  Interesing to note that since we have been on this trip, it has been astonishing to see the lack of national election signs.  This is not to say that people aren’t passionate about their politics. There are lots and lots of posters for local politicians but rarely is there any for either Obama or McCain.  (I like to think, though that we have seen more Obama than McCain.)

 

The sign on this out of the way tree/driveway was just the start though. When we drove into Bisbee, we could see that this town had a definite opinion, with lots of Obama signs.  Hey, we could live here!  

 

Bisbee, AZ

Bisbee, AZ

Bisbee was a fun surprise.  This town was came into existence about the same time as Tombstone as a copper, gold and silver mining town.  When the mining stopped around 1975, the town turned into an artist community.  Our brief drive through the town showed us lots of authentic buildings, many renovated. Outside of town you could take tour of the mine, which we did not do. But we took lots of photos.  

 

 

 

Open Pit mine at Bisbee

Open Pit mine at Bisbee (click on photo and look for truck to see just how big this hole is)

At Douglas, we stopped to get gas outside of the Border Crossing. Carl decided to get an Ice Tea in the store.  He said it stank like a centuries worth of grease and I must say, he smelled like he went through the fryolater.  Fortunately the smell did dissipate a few miles down the rode. 

 

 

 

Scene looking out from Geronomo's Monument

Apache, AZ: Scene looking out from Geronimo's surrender monument

After 80 turns North and heads toward 10 again, about half way up we found the monument in honor of Geronimo’s surrender.  The monument itself isn’t much, but the weather was so nice, we just hung out there for a little while.

 

There are a lot of things we want to do see in New Mexico, so we stopped in Lordsburg and took the room for 2 nights.  (Actually this hotel is so new and nice, I hope we find a reason to stay a third night.)

Lordsburg, New Mexico from RR tracks
Lordsburg, New Mexico from RR tracks

Lordsburg is a funny little town.  It’s basically dead — like many of the towns on route 66 (which this is not) there are lots of empty buildings and many, many empty motels.  But there is one small strip this that is alive — which means we did find the only place to eat dinner.

Comments (1) Oct 08 2008

10-7-08 Errands and Afternoon in the Tucson Desert

Posted: under Arizona, Tucson.
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Cute Laundromat in Catalina, AZ (outside of Tucson)

Cute Laundromat in Catalina, AZ (outside of Tucson)

October 7, 2008 outside Tucson, AZ — We HAD to do laundry today.  Or else, I was going to have start handwashing.  We found a cute and mostly empty laundromat in Catalina, just a little up the road from the hotel.  It was painted with an underwater them, including little duck legs sticking out of the ceiling.  During the wash cycle we went over the car wash.  Whereas we never had any bugs stick to the car while driving around New England, here the car the is covered after a day of driving around. So we find ourselves washing the car far more frequently than filling her with gas.

This place makes doing laundry fun!

This place makes doing laundry fun!

I haven’t mentioned the weather here enough. We LOVE it.  Temperature has been high 80s, low 90s but dry.  It is so comfortable. But we do need to drink a lot of water.

So, after we finished the laundry — and repacking the car — we decided to seek out a Toyota dealer to get the oil changed.  We had tried to do this in Phoenix, but since we were there over the weekend the timing was wrong, not to mention that the first two dealers that we looked for, weren’t in business.

 

Old Tucson Studios

Old Tucson Studios -- we didn't visit the movie studio but I would like to go back some time. Maybe when someone comes and visits us?

Anyway, we had another super experience like the one in Albuquerque.  These new Toyota service shops are run very efficiently and there is a record of everything we’ve done with the car no matter which state the work is done — so we are accumulating quite the service history.  Still, we had to wait 2 hours for the car, so I took advantage of the high speed internet and the “quiet room” to work on MostlyFiction.com and got most of an update done.

 

 

Prairie Dog at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Prairie Dog at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

By the time we were done with our errands, it was around 1 pm.  We headed to the west side of the city, to the Tucson Mountains/Saguaro National Park. It is right outside of Tucson but feels like you are in the desert. There are several things to do in this area, including visiting the Old Tucson Studios where many westerns have been filmed and, the thing we chose to do: visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  The goal of the museum is to teach about what lives in the Sonora Desert — including the animals. Because it basically off season (even though it feels like summer to us), many of the displays were not available.

Rattlesnake at Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Rattlesnake at Arizona Sonora Desert Museum -- o.k. they creep me out, but it is beautiful.

But, there was enough to keep us there for several hours.  For me it is, seeing the real animal is always interesting because I’ve looking at photos for years while developing plush toys for Wishpets.  So it is fun to see the real thing — though they don’t sit as still for their photos.  Also, for the record, there ARE black bears in Arizona. They live in the Arizona White Mountains.

I hate to admit, but I got lost walking around the Museum.  Carl decided to save his foot and wait for me at the snack bar while I walked some more of the trails.  I had a bit of a panic when I couldn’t find him, but at least I saw a bit more of the museum as I was looking for him! I finally decided to head to the park exit and assumed that Carl would eventually give up waiting for me and find me at the car.  Turned out he had started to wonder where I was and was heading to the car to get his cell phone to call me.  So we found each other!

 

Tucson Mountain Park

Tucson Mountain Park

By the time we left the museum and the Tucson Mountain Park, I was starved and we still didn’t have a room for the night.  First things first, means we had to find a room.  Not knowing a thing about Tucson, we turned on the “hotel” finder on the GPS.  We found a newly built Best Western right downtown for only $99 a night. But, alas, it had no vacancy.  So we headed out to the highway — which usually works out for us. But we didn’t know that South Tucson was all industrial.  Being tired and over hungry makes it hard to have patience to find the best hotel.  Instead, we stopped at a regular Holiday Inn, which was a good 25 years past its hey day. At least it had a new bed, though bad Internet.

 

View of Desert Museum

View from Desert Museum building portal

So, is Tucson our town?  Yes, we will consider this city further. Though we will go onto to explore more and then come back and finish visiting this city in a few weeks.

Comments (1) Oct 07 2008

From Phoenix to Catalina

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"Miss Pris" at the car spa

"Miss Pris" at the Car Spa (Notice how nice the street signs are in Phoenix)

 

October 6, 2008– We left Phoenix this morning and headed, very indirectly, to Tucson.  In fact we headed north up 87 to Payson and then 260 over to Show Low and then south down route 60 to Globe and then through Florence, finally taking 79 into Catalina which is north of Tucson. All these roads were marked “scenic” on the map and of course, they were.

But before we left, we stopped to at a car spa to get the Prius (or, as we call her, “Miss Pris”) cleaned.  We had looked for a normal car wash all day Sunday and never found one so this morning we decided to try one of the spas.  I’m sure Miss Priss appreciated the fine treatment.

Saguaro Cacti on mountains -- look close, there are thousands!

Saguaro Cacti on mountains -- look close, there are thousands! (Double click for larger picture.)

As we become more familiar with geography, we are learning to tell altitude by the rocks and plant growth around us.  As we drove out of the Phoenix area, the Saguaro Cactus were everywhere — each so unique in its cartoonish-like stance that it puts snowflakes to shame!  I could look at these cacti all day! But suddently they were gone!  Instead we started to see a cactus (or succulent, who knows) that has a tall seed pod growing out of its base. I need a cacti plant book to figure out what it’s name is — but I have a photo for you to see. 

 

Cactus with Shoot at rest top

Cactus with Shoot at rest top

When we were driving along 87 we could see a Mesa top in the distance; little did we know that we would end up driving at the top of that when we were on route 260!  Turns out it is called the Magollon Rim and it has the most contiguous growth of Ponderosas Pines in the country.  We have learned that the Ponderosas grow at around 6000 feet above sea level.  (At 7500, the Douglas Fir takes over.)

Cacti with Shoots on highway

Cacti with Shoots on highway

When we were on the Magollon Rim, the temperature dropped to 57 degrees.  A thirty degree difference with the Phoenix valley area!

 

We thought Show Low would be more interesting than it was — I guess we expected some kind of Western town. But there was nothing special about this town, which had its start as a winning poker hand.

 

Looking down the canyon on route 60

Looking down the canyon on route 60

The drive on 60 was a very interesting ride down from the rim into the canyon — though far less dramatic then some of previous drives (like 550).  Take a look at the photos for some of the sites that we saw today.  While we were on the switchback going down 60 we could see where we were going to be in the future but couldn’t see how to get there. Carl finally concluded that there must be a bridge.  And there was one!  We had a nice break exploring this rest area for a bit — where the old bridge still stands.

 

 

Carl on old bridge

Carl on old bridge

When we arrived in Globe, we drove around a bit and found it to be an interesting old town.  One of the conversations that Carl and I have as we are driving and seeing new towns and speculating on just “why” the town exists.  Some are obvious, and Globe/Miami area is one of these.  They still have an active copper mining and smeltering.  Interesting because it is a “working” town the downtown area still has all the old buildings for the late 1800s, early 1900s but they have not been “yuppified” like areas like Telluride which once existed for mining and now exists for the skiers and tourists.  In other words, the downtown had a run down look — though more real.  It was 3:30 or maybe closer to 4:00 and we hadn’t had anything to eat since our muffin with our Starbucks coffee.  So, when I saw a Mexican restaurant with homemade Mexican in a recently repainted stucco building, I said “stop.”  We ended up having the best huevos rancheros, ever. Ymmm!  We recommend Chacos Casa Reynoso if you find yourself in Globe, Arizona.

 

Another view of Canyon road and view

Another view of Canyon road and view

It turns out that the main business in Florence, Arizona is the state prison, but apparently it has a good historic district, which we only saw briefly. It looked to us that the housing, hotels, everything was geared to the very large state prison.  

After that the highway turned into a live botanical garden with a large variety of cacti everywhere. It was beautiful.  

Since the sun was setting, we decided to stop for the night in Catalina.  This is another nice Best Western and at a good price.

Back to Sonoran Desert level and Saguaro Cacti again!

Back to Sonoran Desert level and Saguaro Cacti again!

Comments (1) Oct 06 2008

Phoenix, Arizona

Posted: under Arizona, Phoenix.
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October 3-5, 2008 — Phoenix, Arizona  

First saguaro cactus seen on highway!

First saguaro cactus seen on highway!

We left Page, Arizona Friday morning because the hotel was booked for Friday night. (We had hoped for a cancellation but it didn’t happen.) Because it promised to be another hazy overcast day, we decided to head south to Phoenix rather than look for another room in Page.

 

 

This city is so pretty, look at these barriers along the highway!

This city is so pretty, look at these barriers along the highway -- they are everywhere and with many designs!

We took 89 down out of Page and when we reached Flagstaff, we took 17 down to Phoenix.  Comfortable ride, but overcast skies.  We listened to music much of the trip, which is very unusual for us since we normally talk about everything we are seeing.  Anyway, a quick ride, we were in Phoenix by 2 pm. Phoenix is so large it is hard to know where to begin.  Since we carry a Best Western guide in the car, I looked at it for possible hotels. I use it to get a feel for rates in an area — and sometimes we do stay in the Best Western.  We are mostly staying in 3 different hotels: Holiday Inn Express (usually $10-15 higher than the others but beds, bedding and breakfast are worth it), Comfort Inn (new ones are the best) or Best Western (we

Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro Cactus

have had some pleasant surprises — overall the less expensive ones have been the best). So, looking at the Best Western guide, we found that the older one in Scottsdale was actually one of the better priced hotels in the area — so we set the GPS for this address.  As it turned out, the hotel was booked and they sent us down the road into Tempe.  This Best Western has been great.  Very quiet — a high school hockey team stayed here Friday night and we didn’t hear a thing! So anyway, we decided to stay 3 nights; tonight (Sunday) is our last.

 

 

Palo Verde Tree - notice the green trunk

Palo Verde Tree - notice the green trunk - this helps with photosynthesis when there is not enough water to keep leaves on the tree

For once, we were in early enough that I had time to call home. There is three hours difference (no daylight savings time in AZ) so often by the time I’m able to call home it is just too late. I had three great conversations — with my sister Lori, my mom and my sister Wendy. Everyone sounds so good — oh I miss you all! And then I finally updated MostlyFiction.com with a review of Ben Bova’s latest book and an interview with author.

 

View of Camelback Mountain (right) from Botanical Garden

View of Camelback Mountain (right) from Botanical Garden

Carl and I decided to get to know Phoenix better. So we spent Saturday putting addresses in the GPS and driving to different places in the Phoenix area.  We first looked for a Toyota Dealer – hoping to change oil but the list in the Prius wasn’t up to date. Then we sought out a car wash, Barnes & Noble, a Mac store, a Border’s store and a Trader’s Joe.  I chose a wide range of addresses and thus we traveled around Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe and Chandler, all to the east of Phoenix.  

View of Phoenix from South Mountain. Notice Camelback Mountain in distance.

View of Phoenix from South Mountain. Notice Camelback Mountain in distance.

When we first arrived in Phoenix area, it was felt so large and overwhelming — for the past few couple of weeks we have been staying in small towns with practically no traffic; the fast traffic on the 101 loop was a bit exhilarating and worrisome (at least for me, the passenger). After driving around Saturday, we felt that we had the hang of the grid and started to get a feel for each of the different areas. Anyway, yesterday was a  cloudy, overcast day again so I didn’t take a lot of photos.

 

Last night (still Saturday) — we took it easy.  I decided to just read and not work on this travelbog or on MostlyFiction.com. Carl actually got a chance to use the computer for a change! It was great just to read for an evening.  (I’m reading THE 19TH WIFE by David Ebershoff and it turns out that we drove right by the fictional town of Mesadale when we did our drive on I-89 in Utah on October 2nd!)

 

Another switchback drive up the side of a mountain!

Another switchback drive up the side of a mountain!

The sky is blue and sunny today, although there is a bit of haze.  We spent the morning walking through the Phoenix Botanical Gardens, then we drove out to Gilbert to see if we could find a field where they fly model airplanes (we did find the field but no one was there),  and then we drove up South Mountain to the lookout.  After that we headed to Sun City & Surprise on the West side of the city, which really wasn’t much to see. More interesting was coming back in which we took “60” through the older more industrial Glendale.  Huge contrast with what we saw the previous day with all its new buildings, thousands of apartments and condos and new shopping plazas. The nonresidential area of Glendale has a working railroad running through it and has a bit of a chemical smell. We then took a tour through the center section of Phoenix, where all the tall buildings are, and then found ourselves quickly back in the run down section (quick cash, pawn shops, strip joints, etc).  And then just as suddenly we were back to “our” section of town, Tempe.  

Phoenix Botanical Gardens

Phoenix Botanical Gardens

So is the city we will end up in? The rent is definitely affordable and the whole area is easy to get around.  Certainly not lacking for stores, restaurants, etc.  But it is a city, 5th largest in the U.S. according to Wikipedia.  Not ruling it out, though. If we do come back to live here (maybe just for the winter months) I think I’d consider the Tempe area. One thing in its favor is all the furnished apartments that are available according to a rental guide.

Comments (0) Oct 05 2008

Monument Valley & Page, AZ

Posted: under Arizona, Monument Valley.
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"Straight Eight" Buick -- circa 1948?

"Straight Eight" Buick -- 1948?

October 1, 2008 — We decided to head to Monument Valley and then onto to Page, AZ where we will spend the night. We saw this old Buick as we were leaving Cortez.  Carl is probably as old, or nearly as old, as Carl.

Navajo Twin Rocks in Utah

Navajo Twin Rocks in Utah

To get to Monument Valley, which is on Navajo land, we retraced our route past Four Corners and then followed 160 into Utah. As we continually find, the drive is as rewarding as the ultimate destination. Nature offers such great sculptures.

More highway scenery

More highway scenery

We left Colorado, crossed into Utah and then just as quickly came into Arizona.

Mexican Hat, Arizona

Mexican Hat, Arizona

So, we finally get to Monument Valley — this is one of the more frequently filmed places so our guide book prepared us for recognizing many of the “monuments.”  What the guide book does not prepare you for is the dust.  

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

And the fact that normal cars can not easily drive the 17 mile loop.  We tried, anyway.  We got maybe a quarter mile and decided that we like our car too much to trash it.  We also decided that one of the tour vehicles was not for us.  So we snapped a few quick pics and left.  We then head for Page, Arizona and lunch and early check in to this hotel.  Such a relief that the Internet works!  

 

Here’s some more pics:

 

More Arizona Scenery

More Arizona Scenery

 

 

More driving scenery (taken from car)

More driving scenery (taken from car)

This looks like a Lord of the Rings tower

This looks like a Lord of the Rings tower

Arizona colors!

Arizona colors!

2005 Toyota Prius at Monument Valley -- our own ad!

2005 Toyota Prius at Monument Valley -- our own ad!

Comments (0) Oct 01 2008