Holidays, Retirement, Travel, Uncategorized

Arizona Week #2 Highlights – February 21 – 27

  • We started the week hiking on the National/Mormon Loop Trail at South Mountain (literally on the South edge of Phoenix).  Our leader, Jim, is a big fan of the guide: Hiking Phoenix: favorite day hikes, originally No Jive pocket guide by Cosmic Ray. Not knowing that he liked this guide I had picked up a copy at REI the day before while shopping for shoes (serendipity). I also bought some very sexy-techno-comfy-safe hiking shoes: Salomon gortex XA Comp 5 in a yuppy red called, Rubis. I can’t tell you how much I love these shoes. They’re the first ones I’ve had in a long time that really fit well all around my foot AND give me room to wiggle my toes. Plus, I definitely felt sure-footed on the trail which was a blessing since the trail was most assuredly challenging.  
    Of note: first time hiking 5 miles in a desert environment – sun protection and water were my best friends, first time at higher elevations (1300 ft to 2100)  – I especially felt it when we were making a rugged climb, first time in Arizona – it’s really strange how you can see flat land for miles and then a mountain pops up out of nowhere.   
    Oh, and of course, Jim added a little side trip to include Thin Man’s Pass and the Hidden Valley. I had to decide if I wanted to be pulled through a crevice by both feet or face a daunting, rocky climb around. I chose the feet-pull-through option.
  • On Tuesday, we visited Taliesin West. I grew up admiring Frank Lloyd Wright and had visited many of the homes he designed in and around Chicago including Taliesin North (in Wisconsin). I was not disappointed. The attention to detail, sense of cohesion in design and use, and ability to amaze and wow the spectator were more than evident. I knew that FLW was centrally influenced by nature. However, I was not aware that ancient hieroglyphic designs painted on rocks around Taliesin were also a source of inspiration.See additional photos in my Flickr account for the hieroglyphics.
  • Later in the week there was a quilt show at the RV resort next to us, Tower Point (recently purchased by Cal-Am who owns the one we are in). We were very impressed. They had a lot of variety: some beautiful jackets they had made in a class together (I was jealous and lusted after several of them). 
  • Saturday some friends from Tucson drove up for a visit and we all piled into our cars and headed for the Musical Instrument Museum at the northern tip of Phoenix. Now you would think that such a museum would put together some nice collections and have some music playing and some info on the genre. Well, yes, and then some, and then some more! This place was amazing! When you enter, after paying a healthy-well-worth-it fee (senior discount, of course), they give you a device with earphones. As you walk around the displays, it senses where you are and where the nearest source is. Once it finds the source, it plays the sound bites associated with the source video, very cool. So, when at a regional African display, you see the music played on a screen and at the same time hear the music played, as well as see some examples of the instruments used.
    And, by the way, they don’t have just one African display, they have lots, not to mention every continent. When you leave the museum, if you’ve had time to see it all, you know you’ve gotten the full treatment from cultures primarily interested in rhythm, or dance, or melodies, to a full symphonic orchestra. But I do have to say that my favorite was seeing some of the instruments my daughter, Ellie has collected over the years actually used appropriately, including a huge gourd encompassed with beads woven together, hmmm – always wondered about that one.
    And, finally, as we were getting ready to head back to the park, I could hear some acoustic music in the hall. So, of course, I peeked. Another great treat, Tim Eriksen was giving an impromptu concert. I can’t repeat everything he relayed, but suffice it to say, he grew up with music and extensively explored music in rural and urban environments. Tim used indigenous instruments to convey a sense of different styles including New England murder ballads, “shape-note” gospel, Southern Appalachian, and Irish songs.
  • To wrap up this busy, busy week, we attended “Canada Day”. So you understand, I have to tell you that there is a very large contingent of Canadians in our park. From Saskatchewan to British Colombia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and even the territories. There are so many, that the park flies a Canadian flag next to the flag of the good ol’ USA. The Canadians are a fun loving group, they are always smiling, they’re active in dancing, hiking, biking, music, organizing, everything. So, to celebrate how happy they are, they have a celebration. Yes, there was lots of food and a band and dancing, but what made it different was the opening ceremony. They paraded their flags in order as they entered the confederation. As they paraded through the hall the master of ceremony gave a little history on each one while the bag pipes played (amazing ability). And to top if off, we even have two retired Canadian Mounties who put on their full dress uniform for the occasion. WOW!
Retirement, Travel, Uncategorized

First Week Highlights: Feb 14 – 20

Well it took the whole first week to figure out where the multiple calendars of activities/ events were, how to get them, what to do with them, where everything happens, and who’s in charge.

Favorite side trips organized by us: a visit to Tortilla Flats, a Gold Mine, Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Tortilla Flats is a privately owned oddity. It started as a stage stop in 1904. Today besides a ‘museum;, their restaurant serves yummy burgers and HOT chili while serenaded by some very accomplished country musicians. The Gold Mine is also a remnant of the old west complete with saloon, multiple little shops, a mine and the accompanying rail, and even a bordello. The Arboretum was really close, basically straight east through the Tonto National Forrest. It was amazing! They have a fantastic variety of indigenous plants. The initial motivation for the park was to provide a lab to research desert plants and their environment. The result is a great place to spend an hour or a day or two exploring the trails. I highly recommend adding this to your bucket list if you’re near Phoenix.

Resort activities: bicycle ride, swimming pool, coffee and donuts each week, pancake breakfast, the quilting room, Tai Chi, music on the patio for happy hour and an ice cream social, and Texas Hold’em.

What we didn’t do is a much longer list. Obviously, if you visit or live in a senior RV active resort, you need to focus on a couple of sports or classes for the first year, then look to expand in the future. Everyone I talk to says the first year or two is to absorb and learn the ropes. From then on, it’s as much fun as you can manage. We also have found that some RV resorts have better facilities in certain activities. For instance, one might have woodworkers, another jewelry including casting silver and lapidary, another might have gardening, stained glass, or sponsored trips. The trick is to talk with other seniors and explore other parks while you’re there.

Retirement, Travel

Arizona Escape – enroute: enjoying the drive

(February 9th – 12th): We drove from Minneapolis straight south to Oklahoma City which was still colder than you know what. Finally on day 4 of our escape from the chilly North, Albuquerque promised highs in the 50’s. So we planned on spending a day seeing some of the town. Our hotel, Best Western Rio Grande, promised they were very close to museums and the Old Town. Perfect!

Saturday the 11th of February. After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel (20% off, not free), we headed out to see Albuquerque’s Old Town. It’s a mish-mash of little quirky shops and some upscale in very vintage buildings. Two things stood out from our visit: the H. Joe Waldrum show at the The Albuquerque Museum of Fine Art and Rolling in Dough, a local bakery:

  • The museum is a good size museum, not Chicago big, but definitely a lot there to see, something for everyone. As we went through the (A Passionate Light: Polaroids by H. Joe Waldrum) we were not only impressed but also inspired. This artist is a successful painter living in New York with a natural affinity for the southwest. Initially Waldrum wanted to use polaroids to bring a fresh new perspective to his paintings. One of his patrons was so excited about this approach that he offered to buy whatever camera he wanted. His ulterior motive was to ensure Waldrum didn’t become too abstract (slipping down the slippery slope to obscure). So he went shopping. At first he worked with a salesman picking out a new Hasselblad with some fancy lenses, etc. But when the guy said he needed a light meter, he balked. The result: an inexpensive standard Polaroid camera with exposure controls, SX-70. What he discovered, and what I believe, was that by keeping the equipment simple he could focus on the image and lighting, putting his creativity where it was best. The result: 900 amazing prints with a lot of subtle and not so subtle variety. Waldrum was so taken with this approach that his Polaroid obsession would run him over $100 a day in film.
    Other exhibits not to miss: an extensive sculpture garden and an amazing collection of Colcha Embroidery. Practiced by Spanish colonials and handed down through generations, Colcha became a lost art until a renewed interest in the mid 19th century when they began to collect, catalog, and create anew these colorful bed, altar and table covers. Colcha means a bed covering, but the colorful images were so popular, they were used for many other purposes as well.  
  • Rolling in Dough is a teeny tiny bakery with big results: there are amazing cookies (we tried the Italian Wedding Cookies), sweet rolls, and breads. To top it off, they have homemade soup so you can make a whole meal of it and take home breakfast, which we did! As Rachel would say, yumm-o.


As much as I wasn’t happy about loooong driving days, I wanted to see more along the way. So we did. Taking our GPS, “Myrtle’s” suggestion (since I had programmed it for the shortest route, not the fastest), we headed south off US 40 on to New Mexico 117. This led us through the El Malpais National Monument and Apache Reservation before getting on US 60 for our final approach. What we encountered was some of the most spectacular scenery yet. It wasn’t quite a gravel road, but it was remote, isolated, and amazing. The highlight of this leg of the trip was the La Ventana (the window) Natural Arch in the Cebolla Wilderness. This area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, El Malpais National Conservation Area.
Finishing off the day of driving, we approached Mesa, AZ via the White Pine Mountains and Tonto National Forest. The first hour of driving was amazing, the second a bit more tiring but enjoyable. Finally arriving at Sun Life Resort, Mesa, AZ.