Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden

At The Voyager RV Resort, Tucson, Arizona...

We waited a little too late in the day to visit this attraction when we were in Phoenix, so we lost the optimum afternoon sunlight for photos before we were able to see all of the park. If we had realized the size of the gardens, we would have begun our visit a little earlier. 

Let's just say this about the garden: It is beautiful, but you have to like cacti, of which hundreds of varieties are viewable here. It is completely different from the non-desert gardens we've seen like Butchart in Canada or Bellingrath, near Mobile.

It was also a bit too early for the cacti to be blooming, so we missed that. However, the following photos will give you an idea of what to expect, and these are just a sample:

Near the entrance, yuccas made from glass mingle with the real ones and colorful creatures placed about.
Directly across from the glass sculpture was this tasteful arrangement of cacti and rocks.
Rushing as we were to capture as much afternoon light as we could, we failed to record varieties of cacti like this strange one.
Following are photos of other potted plants that were everywhere:

At the risk of seeming unappreciative of the plethora of unusual cacti, the one growing in the copper-colored pot below appeared to have warts. (If that comment isn't evidence of rednecks somewhere in my family tree, I don't know what more proof is needed.)

There are benches in many areas of the park that would definitely be needed to rest if you were to try to see everything in the garden.
Proceeding down the 1.5-miles of paths, I came upon this view of a small mountain just outside the park.

Walking closer, I was able to capture the last golden rays of the sun reflected off the whisker-like needles of these cacti. This is one of my favorite photos of the day.
Turning back to the east, I was able to snap these photos before sunset:

Wonder what strange variety this is?

Who knew there were so many strange varieties of cacti? 

I took the next photos just at sunset, but I still think they're beautiful:

Finally!  A shot of a placard showing the species:  A Black-Spined Prickly Pear (Love the color!)

How about the reflecting pool above with water running through it?

There are a number of sculptures in the garden, mostly quite modern in design. I'm thinking this is a woman who has just gathered some eggs from the chicken coop and is about to cook a great breakfast for the guy. (Yes, I know this is a tasteless redneck remark, but I warned you earlier about that.)

Remember, this is just a fraction of the offerings of this garden; it  is beautifully designed and maintained, and Phoenix has every reason to be proud of it. The last photo is one of many beautiful sunsets we've seen here in Arizona. It is the east end of Camelback Mountain (forming the nose of the camel caricature), near where this garden is located. As the sun slips slowly behind the ancient red rock, we say goodbye to Phoenix and Mesa, but we'll be back, for sure!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Friends, Family and So Much to See in the Phoenix Area

At Monte Vista RV Resort, Mesa, Arizona...

We had planned another stopover in Mesa on the way back from California to visit family and friends, and we were delighted to be able to spend time with both and see some really enjoyable sights. 

We first met up with John and Bobbie Jo, RVers whom we met years ago in the Rio Grande Valley. Since then, they had made a few trips to the Mesa area and became so enamored with the winter weather that they bought a new winter home in the Viewpoint, a large RV and manufactured home village that is a sister park to ours here at Monte Vista. Viewpoint has two golf courses, so John is able to play to his heart's content. Here are a couple of photos of their beautiful new digs:

We took a scenic drive from Mesa out to Tortilla Flat on route 88, through the hills east of town that wind around Superstition Mountain and Canyon lake. The rock hills and curving road made for a new "must view" pullover every few minutes. Here is a great view of Canyon Lake. It seems incongruous that the saguaro cacti, icons of the dry desert that they are, can be seen everywhere around the lake.   

A major irritation--something I suppose couldn't be helped--was that there are electrical power lines and their supports that appear in many places along Arizona 88 that ruin the most desirable views for picture-taking. These lines originally appeared in the photo above, but I made them disappear in the editing. Is that cheating? I don't know, but why not? This is the way it would have looked before they put up those infernal power lines! By the way, the many little pole-like things in the distance are not power poles but many more saguaro cacti like the one in the foreground.

Just beyond Canyon Lake, the little collection of buildings named Tortilla Flat is a mecca for tourists and, undoubtedly, a gold mine for the owners:

The influx of cash from the hordes of tourists seem to be exemplified by the papering of virtually every interior surface with real dollar bills upon which visitors have inscribed their names or other things:

There's a restaurant, an open-air bar with a live band and a mercantile store, all of which were crowded when we were there.
Here are some more photos:

Below are John and Bobbie Jo with Sandy, enjoying some ice cream, seemingly oblivious to the poor soul hanging in the background who, I suppose, must have failed to pay for his ice cream:

The road extended well beyond Tortilla Flat to an area, according to John, that had a magnificent view of Canyon Lake. Unfortunately, it was closed due to landslides.

Heading back to Mesa in the late afternoon, I took a photo of Superstition Mountain:

This was the best I could do, but Bobbie Jo gave me permission to use a photo of the mountain that she took a couple of years ago that put mine to shame. (This would be a good time to remind everyone that everything in this blog is copyrighted.):

I would love to have taken credit for this photo, taken from just beyond the Goldfield Ghost Town complex on Arizona 88. The clouds above the mountain added menacingly to the haunting folklore about the mountain that goes to back to Native American times. They believed the mountain was haunted and even that it was the entrance to hell itself, due to the unexplained disappearance of tribesmen within. It is also the site of the never-located Lost Dutchman mine--a treasure trove of folklore in itself. The Lost Dutchman State Park is nearby.

There are so many interesting things on highway 88 near Superstition Mountain. Here's another one connected with Elvis that, much like his home in Palm Springs that we showed in an earlier post, we didn't know existed until now. It is called the Elvis Memorial Chapel:

It's connection with Elvis is that it appeared in the 1969 western movie, "Charro," in which Elvis starred in a dramatic role. Out of 31 movies he made, "Charro" was the only one in which he did not sing, except out of frame in the opening trailer. He had scenes inside and outside the church, which was part of a western movie town set that was not far away, in Gold Canyon. Many western movies and series were filmed there but, in 2004, a fire devastated the set, leaving only the church and one other building undamaged. The church was disassembled and painstakingly reassembled in its current location near the Superstition Mountain Museum. 

We also had a great time visiting with family, having a nice dinner with nephew Aaron and nieces Staci and Miranda, along with Aaron's wife, Kristy and grand nephews and nieces:

On another evening, we made a visit to the busy Organ Stop Pizza restaurant in Mesa. Having been a church organist, of sorts, for many years, I have always enjoyed organ music and, especially, theater organs. The fabulous instrument at Organ Stop is the largest Wurlitzer theater organ ever built, consisting of 5,500 pipes in 78 ranks. The original organ was built in 1927 and played for years in the Denver Theater. Few of these magnificent instruments remain in playable condition nowadays, and I can't think of any other means by which a single organist can play what is essentially an entire orchestra, including drums, cymbals, xylophones and the like. If you're ever in Mesa, it is a wonder to watch and listen while you eat your pizza:

Even though Sandy was still suffering with foot problems, she bravely accompanied me on a tour of the beautiful Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. I'll reserve the next post for photos from that visit.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood

Friday, February 21, 2020


At Monte Vista RV Resort, Mesa, Arizona...

Visiting Quartzsite, Arizona is almost a rite of passage, I suppose, for RVers. In January each year, hundreds of thousands of RVers descend upon the little town of 3,000, filling the 50 or so RV parks and the rest boondocking in the desert, as far as the eye can see. It is sort of like Woodstock for RVers, except that it is mostly a giant flea market offering everything imaginable related to an RV for sale (including RVs themselves) in uncountable buildings, ramshackle huts, tents, open air booths and one gigantic white tent full of vendors. That structure is called, appropriately, the "Big Tent," erected for the event each year and then disassembled afterward. This is what the selling area looks like from the air:

Aside from browsing for RV-related items, you can also get repairs and installations done from techie types who offer them.

Sandy and I had never before been to Quartzsite, much less during the incredible explosion of RVers in mid-January. We have had previous opportunities to go, but these didn't work out for one reason or another.  I have to admit, though, that our lack of enthusiasm may have been a factor, due to our rather low tolerance for huge crowds of people. If you haven't seen Quartzsite either, here is a photo from one of the three overpasses above I-10:

Okay, so it's not all that impressive from this wide shot, but there's really not much more that's visible. The town bills itself as the 'rock and mineral capital of the world,' owing to its many vendors of beautiful and varied pieces that would be of interest to rock hounds. Since this was a Sunday, most of these were closed, and I regret missing this part of the town's attractions. 

Since our route back from California would take us fairly close to Quartzsite, we got the idea that we would go and take a look in February after the swarms of RVs had mostly dispersed. In that way, we could indeed claim to have been to Quartzsite, although this is probably considered by the faithful to be cheating. It was sort of like showing up at a rock concert after the band and crowd had left. For us, this would be a plus, because we would have no problem finding a spot in an RV park, and we wouldn't have to brave long lines at the few eating joints in town. That's not to say that they had rolled up the sidewalks, though. There are lesser events going on all winter, so there were plenty of visitors in town; it's just that the huge RV show mob had left.

It was essential that we could find an RV site with full hookups, something that is not negotiable for 'glampers' like us. We do not boondock--ever; furthermore, we don't apologize for it. In fact, the mere idea of having to restrict utilities or anything else that could affect our comfort, climate, water use, waste, technology or the like would probably give Sandy some kind of seizure. We didn't work as hard as we did for as long as we did to do the roughing-it thing.

I can just sense the collective eye-rolling going on out there, and that's fine. We admire the spunk of those whose fulfillment is achieved by bonding with trees, animals and insects, but we are just not wilderness types. If it had been up to us to be the pioneers discovering the West 150 years ago, then Butte, Montana would still be nothing but a butte. We appreciate the beauty of nature as much as anyone, but we're okay with seeing it from one of our recliners.

There was another reason we wanted to visit Quartzsite. As sometimes happens, we were contacted by a longtime reader of Phannie and Mae named Doug, who, along with his wife, Michelle, had learned of our itinerary from our blog and contacted me through a post comment, proposing a meetup. Well, this is something we couldn't miss; we always enjoy meeting our cyber friends and expressing our appreciation for 'traveling' with us in this way. A bonus was that they had made several previous trips to Quartzsite and knew all about the place while we knew nearly nothing.

We greeted Doug and Michelle at an RV park upon which we had mutually agreed and began to learn more about them:

We are always at a slight disadvantage in instances like this where our readers have been following us in the blog, perhaps for years. In such cases, they can't help knowing a lot more about us than we know about them. Fortunately, they were as patient as they were friendly as we asked many questions while learning about their lives and their families. They are part-timers who live in Arizona, Doug's having spent many years operating heavy construction equipment, and Michelle's having retired from a nursing career. 

As a radio-controlled model airplane enthusiast, Doug and I had a flying connection, and we have great respect for Michelle, her profession's being the same as that of our daughter, Mindy. We've never met friendlier people, and they volunteered to show us Quartzsite, an undertaking that Doug laughingly assured us would not take long.  

Our first stop was the welcome sign at the outskirts of each approach to the city:

We had spotted the sign on the way into town, and it was hard to miss the depiction thereon of three camels in front of a pyramid, a scene that was one of the more puzzling ones that I have encountered in my oh-so-many decades of life. This would have to be high on the list of things Doug needed to explain. But first, we took a look around us at the open desert, seeing a legion of RV boondockers still camped there, probably for weeks to come:

As we rode back into town, Doug told the story of the camels. Keep in mind the name, "Hi Jolly" during my recounting of it. I will try to be brief:

In 1857, U. S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (yes, who later became President of the Confederacy) approved a plan to experiment with camels to transport military supplies and other goods, opening a wagon road across the arid New Mexico and Arizona deserts to California. Thirty-three camels were acquired (41 more were added later), and the first group was placed under the care of a Syrian named Haiji Ali, who had experience herding the animals. Unable to pronounce his name correctly, the accompanying soldiers promptly simplified it to "Hi Jolly," which he accepted as his name until he eventually became a U. S. citizen and changed it. Although the experiment was considered by those closely associated with it to be a success, it was eventually classified as a failure and abandoned by the military at the start of the Civil War. 

The camels, along with Hi Jolly, were set loose near the Colorado River. Hi Jolly made his way back to Quartzsite, where he involved himself in various ventures to make a living until his death in 1902. The camels? Left to fend for themselves, they lived for many years in the area, becoming somewhat of an attraction--enough so that they became enshrined on the city's welcome signs.  In 1935, the Arizona Highway Department erected a monument at the site of Hi Jolly's grave, recognizing his contribution to the area and to the U. S. government:

We knew nothing of this interesting tale, of course, so here was yet another pearl of wisdom that we picked up through our good fortune in meeting Doug and Michelle. Perhaps thinking we weren't all that impressed, Doug shrugged and said, almost apologetically, "It's a thing here in Quartzsite."  What he didn't realize is that we treasure the discovery of little nuggets like this that not only add to our knowledge but provide great color to this record of some of the best years of our lives.  Thank you, Doug and Michelle, for introducing us to Hi Jolly!

It was almost sundown at Hi Jolly's grave, so I felt obligated to record another of Arizona's wonderful sunsets, as another perfect day turned into a perfect night:

There was one more thing that we insisted on visiting at Quartzsite, and that was Silly Al's. Having read in various blogs about this iconic pizza place for many years, we were not about to leave town without patronizing it. It would be like going to Rome and failing to see the Coliseum. (Okay, maybe that's a bit over the top as a comparison, but work with me here.)

Ever agreeable, our guides took us there at once. (Nothing is far away in Quartzsite.):

The building itself is somewhat nondescript, but the parking lot was packed. This was a surprise, given that the main January gaggle had been over for weeks. After a wait of about 15 minutes, we were seated and placed our orders that consisted of one small pizza for each couple that arrived in about a half hour. During that time, we chatted and then took photos when the pizzas arrived:

We were a bit surprised that the pizza was quite good--good enough that we ate every bite. It wasn't long, though, until the evening's live entertainment arrived. It seems I hadn't noticed the "Music and Dancing" that also appeared on Silly Al's sign. The band consisted of two singers, one of whom played the guitar and the other the drums. Oh yes, and they had an amplifier that, when turned on, caused the lights to dim for miles around. The "music" was so loud that the dishes in front of us began to vibrate and move around the table. Conversation, at that point, became impossible. The waitress came around to ask about our meal. She screamed, "How were your pizzas?" which I interpreted as something like, "Howitzer Pieces?" (I never was very good at lip reading.) We left, wondering if the band's volume was due to a severe hearing loss; we weren't even sure if ours would ever be the same.

The next morning, we had no need to depart early, as our destinations were not far away. With this in mind, we agreed to meet for breakfast at the Bad Boys Cafe which, hopefully, did not employ a morning band.  I was curious about the name of the establishment, wondering if Doug and I would fit in as bad boys, since we didn't remember being any worse than usual while we were here. The girls, however, didn't have any hesitation at all and trotted right inside, perhaps taking the sign seriously. This was a little troubling, I have to admit.

Once we ordered and seated ourselves, we found the food to be quite good and inexpensive, to boot. It was also plenty quiet enough to chat normally, which we did for a while after the food was consumed. We then said our goodbyes and went on our separate ways. Fortunately, it looks like we'll meet up again soon, in Tucson. That'll be fun.

Now we can say to all our friends who have been to Quartzsite that we have, too; we don't have to tell them everything, do we?

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood



Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Goodbye, San Diego

At Monte Vista RV Resort, Mesa, Arizona...

Following our successful but exhausting trip back from L. A., we took it easy the following day, which happened to be Valentine's Day. I made an early reservation at Tom Ham's Lighthouse Restaurant overlooking San Diego and the bay, and Sandy and I celebrated with an enjoyable dinner at a table by the window, watching the sailboats:

From our table, we saw this view of an antique wooden inboard runabout boat, which I'm guessing may have been a Chris-Craft of mid-1950s vintage. What a sight!

After a fine meal, we drove around the harbor to do a little sightseeing, to view how things had changed since our last visit long ago. 

One of our stops was the famed Hotel Del Coronado, across the bay bridge. To our horror, the hotel was no longer positioned regally alone on the beach as we remembered, but now squeezed in among a lot of other residential high-rise development. I suppose it had to happen, but it was painful to see that it was no longer viewable as the lone landmark masterpiece that it used to be. We had to do some serious twisting and turning among the new buildings surrounding it to find a place where we could even take a photo. The view below was all we could muster without checking in as guests. Since room prices begin here at $609 per night, we decided this photo would have to do: 

Thankfully, a similar fate had not befallen the aircraft carrier U. S. S. Midway, still docked in San Diego Bay as a museum in all her majesty:

At 69,000 tons, she was the largest ship in the world until 1955.  Built in 1945, she served the U. S. Navy for 47 years and saw service in the Vietnam war and as the Persian Gulf flagship in Desert Storm. She was a fast carrier, capable of a top speed of 30 knots, at which speed her oil consumption was 900 gallons to the mile. If she were to fuel up in California, it would probably bankrupt the Navy.

Alongside the Midway was a 25-foot bronze statue of a sailor kissing a nurse, a replica of the famous photo taken in Times Square at the end of World War II. It is named "Unconditional Surrender." Commissioned in 2007, the statue was hated by snooty art critics but loved by the public, so it stayed put, even though some local board members overseeing artistic designs resigned in protest. Good riddance, would be my thought:

It might interest you to know that the photo above was taken by me but edited to remove unwanted objects. For example, just to the left of the sailor's right leg in the original photo, a cabin cruiser appeared, moored to the dock. Behind the heel of the nurse's shoe, I removed an onlooker but forgot to remove his shadow, which is still visible in the photo. I use an inexpensive program called Movavi Photo Editor to do this, although I'm sure there are other ones that are equally good and simple to use, giving alternatives to the expensive and complicated Adobe Photoshop, the choice of most professionals.

With this, we end our three-week stay in California, where we've had a great time in the beautiful weather, having plenty of fun adventures all the while. I hope you've enjoyed this time with us, although we've gone at a fairly leisurely pace, which is our norm now at our age. There is so much more to see and experience here, and we hope you will take advantage of all you enjoy that our beautiful country has to offer. 

One parting shot at the high cost of most everything in California was this photo of a fuel price sign at our last lunch stop leaving the state on I-8:

We didn't buy any diesel for Phannie here or anywhere else while in California, having planned to tanker an adequate supply for her trip through the state. The plan worked fine, and she still had about 1/4 of a tankful when we arrived back in Arizona, where we filled up for almost two dollars less per gallon. 

The subject of the next post will be our first short visit to Quartzsite, Arizona and a meetup with a couple of our blog readers who have now become friends. I can't wait for you to meet them!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood