As the birds called us from sleep in Tucson, we both sensed we had stayed long ENOUGH enjoying Homer's great hospitality and generosity.....He'd barely finished taking care of his Mom for the entire winter just before we got there. We got up fed the birds, packed up and decided to have a night of our own in the big city Phoenix.......so headed north. We didn't feel the need to be anywhere, but finally got very hungry around Casa Grande where there was a "ruin" one could see.... in the small town near, it was pretty barren, nothing visible except ONE breakfast joint that was packed. We first stopped at a Dollar Store for a pair of sunglasses where we got only some sort of grunting noise from the clerk when asked where we could eat breakfast. So we went into "Tag's"......got seated and the harried serving person again was NOT to be bothered by us...when I said, "May I ask a question about the menu?", she said, "I'll be right back." Minutes. When she did come back and say, "Are you ready yet?" I said, what about....and she says, "I'll be right back." Minutes. Third time, when she says, "Are you ready YET?" I knew what she wanted and ordered. The food was straight off the delivery truck.....and the crowd plenty leery of what, I don't know. .....we were happy to leave and immediately went on to Phoenix! THERE, we ran into a delightful surprise....one of Phoenix' most fun boutique hotels possible. We booked a room at: THE CLARENDON ......... Here we took a most welcome break, refreshed, probably should have taken a swim...... but waited for happy hour in the adjoining Old Mexico Restaurant: The GALLO BLANCO CAFE & BAR . . . .we really enjoyed some fabulous unique food here and were ready for an evening of exploration. The evening was spent enjoying an evening out on our own seeing the gay side of Phoenix. Was a fun night. The next morning, we DID what was recommended: Go to wait in the long line to eat at a tiny joint "because" it had been featured by Guy Fieri on his "Diners and Dives" show on the Food Network. Matt's Big Breakfast IS a tiny joint, and although we went at 11:00, there was still a crowd. We FINALLY got in, served, and came out.....thinking the same thing we always think of Guy Fieri. We're NOT a fan of his, he's one of the MOST over-played guys ON that channel.... and this food could have been trucked in..... so there. BUT, the rest of this day was pretty great. Following Michael & David's advice, we went to the Heard Museum: American Indian History . . . . SO well done, and one of the current exhibits showing how Indian Children were taken from families for so long and placed in Boarding Schools to "turn them from 'savages' into model "Christian" Children... Another sad chapter in our treatment of the original inhabitants here. Michael and David were superstar hosts once again, and I'll never forget how kind they were to people they'd just met. We are honored to call them "friends" now........and hope they'll be coming to Portland soon. SO. Next morning, we went to something both of us are fans of: Frank Lloyd Wright and his architecture. TALIESEN WEST is in Scottsdale and open to public hours. **THE LINK here has several pictures of the place on that page...cool stuff. Yea, sure, he's been known to build some places with some leaky roofs, but he changed modern architecture completely..... and some geniuses ARE a bit odd......it shows at this place. That was a GREAT 3 hours. The afternoon was clear........we HAD been told to see the "MUSIC INSTRUMENT MUSEUM" . . . . and I just couldn't imagine why something worthwhile on that subject matter would be in Phoenix....I could only imagine some little old lady eccentric with an old clarinet sitting in her house.... WRONG again! This MASSIVE NEW Museum, still in development even though it's been open a bit, can NOT be seen in one day. With admission you're given a set of headphones that are GPS driven....just moving in front of any exhibit and the sets begin the video/audio of the instruments shown there. Almost 5 hours there, and we left without seeing everything. I DID get to play the Steinway in the lobby .....anyone who can play is encouraged to do that. Fun. I can't describe this WELL enough...everything you could ever imagine that could EVER be built to create music (including "voice")....is here from everywhere in the world. This place is NOT TO BE MISSED............. What a GRAND WAY to end our Arizona tour. We spent that Friday evening by Michael & David taking us out to "Happy Hour" at KOBALT.....a small bar but always packed with people on Friday after work. From there we had yet ONE MORE fabulous meal at a rather spectacular place: LUX . I have wished more than once that LUX would move to Portland. Great service, food and company. We chatted into the night with the boys, and all went to bed fairly as Michael himself was flying out early next morning to get home for his Mom's birthday. WE were returned, however, to a chilly, wet Portland, OR.....and reality. BUT...lastly, the weather broke as soon as we arrived and we began 2 weeks of warm dry weather. We WORKED as soon as that happened on the yard / garden.........and things are off to a good start there. Good way to end the vacation. Evening with Michael & David.
We're moving into Phase 2 of enjoying Arizona. A few more tour highlights and then maybe more quiet enjoyment with the friends here. But not today. Homer insisted we see the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum . . . . . . .and by afternoon, we were SURE glad we did. It's an Arizona highlight. EVERYBODY's been to Balboa Park in San Diego, and almost any other zoo anywhere is nothing like this animal sanctuary. This place was designed/built around desert wildlife, so it's unique from anything you've seen. We WERE glad we were there before summer heat set in.....almost all the animals were out and active......in wild settings. VERY COOL. ***AGAIN, to see FULL SIZE SHOTS, CLICK..........on the pictures***** Right off the bat....we first saw this guy staring right at us close-up thru heavy glass....soon he was down in the enclosure: This is not a brown bear. I learned that Black Bears can/will be brown in color when they're desert bears: First thinking coyote, I learned this is a Mexican Gray Wolf.....WOLVES in the desert! The bobcats were fun, and SO camouflaged: We spent more time at this little town than anywhere. It was MORNING, they were very active, playful, family groups together......made me sorry they're almost gone in the wild: The Gila Woodpecker reminded me of our Northern Flickers (same family): Finally. The Cutest fox you could hope to see: And finally, those skeery wild pigs, the desert Javalinas.....not very attractive, but we had to seriously "LOOK" for these guys coloured just as the desert floor: I SAW the very FIRST RED CARDINAL I have EVER SEEN here, then learned of THIS new cardinal-like beauty, the Pyrrhuloxia: Just as our migrating Black Headed Grosbeaks have been arriving at home, I was surprised to learn some stay here year round, the lazy guy, but they are one of my favorites in the north summers, they're males calling one of the longest prettiest smoothest fluid calls you'll hear: a CLICK on this shows the full picture of evolution...it needs to be full size: One of the MOST exciting things in the whole place for me was the Hummingbird Aviary...at home we feed about 50 gals of sugar/water per summer to our migrant rufous and local annas.....but have NEVER seen a nest. HERE, they were right in front of you with Momma resting: Again....... A beautiful male feeding right in front of the camera: And one more: Another male resting: A CLICK HERE needed....to see the full scale of the Cactus "Forest" . . . . .they're everywhere....not unlike the old-growth rain forest trees....just very "different" in beauty: It was 1:00 . . . . getting HOT by OUR standards, but Homer HAD recommended we see a certain old Spanish Mission.... So, this AFTERNOON, we got our Catholic on and toured the MISSION SAN XAVIER DEL BAC . . . . Yep, surrounded by Catholic tourists, catholic guides, but the history was fascinating and the place quite gorgeous there in the desert..... A WHOLE way of life occurred here from birth to deaths..... **Yes, the whole history of Spanish Colonization and FORCED Catholicism on the indigenous people flashed through my mind once again....... and now the guide re-telling of the "miracles" that occurred here..... certainly reminded me WHY I'm a non-believer! It never occurs to them that these same "unexplained" miracles happen to atheists too....it's NOT just a Catholic God picking and choosing people he likes. BUT, the love given in donations to keep this part of history alive is nice. **Remember....The colonizers forced many natives to haul GOLD for this sanctuary....... and it shows in the chapel: I loved the artwork on the ceiling...........it fit in with the desert location: We don't know the story of this little piece, but both loved it: We missed the cemetery on the way out, but dropped in to the funeral chapel where about 1000 candles were lit for loved ones IN the desert heat of 95.....it must have been about 250 degrees inside here: . WHEW! We returned to see Homer who'd planned a nite on the town with his friend, and someone newly our friend, Patrick. Patrick taught me NEW things about gardening here... you CAN grow tomatoes, they must be in containers OFF the hot ground....he had some fascinating gardening going on, lush plants.....all in those big WINE BARRELS cut in half...he gave me a collection of poppy seeds to plant at home. He's a wonderful man..... Yep, it was a night of fun and billiards at a local "bear" bar......we had a grand time seeing Patrick and Homer here.....our time in Tucson was drawing to a close. .
Day 4 began saying "bye" to Homer, who, unfortunately, is not a trust fund baby like M. Romney and had to return to work. We enjoyed watching his wildlife menagerie in the yard early....the sound of these hundreds of birds was wild! I wondered what his neighbors thought, but I guess they're enjoying it too.... Homer's given us a to-do- list of things to see. Doesn't look like much of a scenic trip.......yet....... We're heading south nearly to the border today. On the way Karchner Caverns and then Bisbee, AZ, the old open pit mining town. We were destined to see a result of Gov. Jan Brewer's new immigration laws (chase the brown out)....along I-10 heading south....at a point a sharp/narrow hillside flanked I-10 northbound so much NO car could possibly escape or turn around, Border Patrol trucks lined the freeway, stopping everything on I-10 for MILES. I suppose the cost of possibly finding ONE illegal for this scale of operation must be way beyond any reasonable justification for staging the production. Oh well, on to Karchner Caverns. **A short video on that park link has some nice views** PICS were NOT allowed, the caverns were discovered barely in 1967 by pair of cavers who slipped through a tiny sinkhole....to find these extraordinary caverns on privately owned ranch land. They left, kept it quiet 7 years, approached the family who wanted them saved, and NOW: it's a state park with a beautiful tour inside: **KARCHNER IMAGES.............. And on to BISBEE, AZ (all images).....an old pit mine town that enjoyed all an old mine town ALWAYS offered .....lawlessness, prostitution, ministers, booze, hard work, probably a shorter life span, but high livin' is you had the energy for it after days in the mines. Today, Bisbee's ALL GALLERY's, restaurants, and bars.....made for the tourist. But there's PLENTY of artists who have been using up the old rusty memorabilia to make fun stuff: **AND ONCE AGAIN, to get a BETTER PIC, CLICK..........on ANY of them, ESPECIALLY the OPEN PIT MINES***** Flying Saucers, eh? Well, they're not far from NM...... There were a few scenic street scenes like this one...........it's a pretty place: The sadness of a mountain GONE and a contaminated pit left behind: Part of OLD Bisbee is on the far side of this pic: After taking a deep mine tour into the hillside for another 60 minutes, and it WAS fun with the 90 yr old retired miner from that early time, we returned to Tuscon.......where Homer took us up on the hill behind his house where we enjoyed a beautiful view of Tucson at night......if you appreciate R's lyrical shot: And by next morning, day 5, we're enroute to another thrilling desert spot: The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum.
Well, yes, day 2 was pretty an absolutely spectacular human experience at the Grand Canyon. Today was SO much more a quiet day after that, and a 5 hour drive to Tucson. But today's adventure with our Archealogy Scientist and History expert by our side was simply a moving adventure. No, we skipped the B&B breakfast to join Homer & Evan....We drove out to the farm country Evan lives in, saw his garden just getting started....loved that, and some of his work. Just beyond his place, a turn on a rough dirt road, and soon we're parked for beginning today's hike: **Remember, almost any of these are bigger to show scale: a CLICK may surprise you** WHAT? THAT's the DESERT? That was one astounding fact to learn on this trip: AZ wasn't NEAR the desert 100 yrs ago it has already become after NEW Americans arrived and have sucked out enough water to drop local water tables 100 ft.... (can that EVER be saved?). THE PIC ABOVE shows a wetland being restored using "reclaimed" water from Tucson....it is a beautiful, calm, place. We hiked up this little waterway for a while to arrive at a waterfall area that was gorgeous among the big rocks: Here's where Homer & Evan begin pointing up on those rocks to the right.....and we began a little adventure studying petroglyphs that Homer dates about 1000 yrs ago..... (I HATE it when I hear New Americans say we arrived in America where NOTHING was happening.......Whew! We destroyed an entire civilization). The petroglyphs gave me many feelings inside about these people who lived here: So we began climbing up next to those rocks.....to see these closer..... These faint carvings ran all along this cliff face: At one point Homer showed us why site exploration isn't always advertised......see the star? WHY do people do this: Aways down these cliffs this enormous deep smokey cave opened up....up from the stream, and I can only imagine the meetings Indian people had here with locals and travelers they would trade with: **YOU MUST CLICK on this picture*** On the hike out, we saw remains of another kind of home: On a different scale, other life is thriving here......hundreds and hundreds of little treasures cover the entrance to this pack rat's nest: What a morning! Finally, we drove out, continued out to I-10....drove a few miles, and only couple miles off this freeway (which must cover thousands of relics over its mass distance), Homer & Evan showed us "pit" home sites, i.e., homes that had been dug halfway into the ground obviously to be cooler.... Pottery was made here from the orange cinder cones... They're "pit" homes as the center of the site caves in over time and pottery shards are everywhere: In a few seconds, I had these all in my hand. They show the local orange plain shard, and painted, etched shards showing pottery brought from other places to do trading: And stern Homer would not let me keep ONE tiny piece of these beautiful relics. This was a fascinating place.......dozens of pit homes, knowing this was a community at one time.......heartfelt quiet. But time was moving on, we returned to part with Evan, and Homer began guiding to his home in Tucson where new adventures awaited...................FIRST I MUST SAY: We arrive after Homer a few minutes. He IS a wildlife magnet....with feeders up, his yard was FULL of doves, thrashers, sparrows, finches and hummers. I gained new respect for our host.
DAY 2. (NOTE: WHEN ANY of the PICS look "distorted".....click directly on them, I've tried to save them ORIGINAL SIZE to get the feeling of grandeur we saw looking over the EDGE.......)....... We woke up rested wonderfully at Richard & Michael's Starlight Pines B&B....our hosts invited Homer & Evan over for the brunch, so we all ate a great intro bowl of fresh fruit salad topped with a wonderful custard followed by a baked egg dish I wish I knew how to make. The Starlight's Living Room is warm and inviting: That gave us a great early start for the hour drive to see Homer & Evans favorite viewpoint stops for the Grand Canyon, the last one being the big Visitor's Center. The only point I've seen the canyon from 40 years ago was the north side at Lake Havasu. NONE of that memory came close to ANYTHING these fabulous host showed us today. THEY KNOW this country. Even enroute, we stop at a mere tiny split, fraction, an ancient tributary of the Colorado River and begin our adventure: and another deeper view: How this was all under water at some time's hard to believe, but you can't argue with the sedimentary layering: This trip would not have been the same without friends Homer and Evan as our guides, they should have charged us a big fee: So on to the next viewpoint, the grandeur jumped out from mile deep canyons (CLICK on the picture): Yes, we began to feel small ((MUST CLICK on pic to get perspective to see correctly): Soon we came to the Grand Watchtower, a museum / viewing tower built to replicate some ancient structures in ways...it was gorgeous outside AND inside: The interiors were remarkably well done: Evan and Mark from inside, top floor window points: Nice Indian paintings had been done inside as well: There ARE grand vistas from this place...some reflecting the layering, some the old age of this canyon as shale collapses on a grand scale (Please CLICK on THIS pic to see full scale): And MORE grand vistas at everywhere: ****AND BELIEVE IT OR NOT...........what a friend! HOMER packed a home-made gourmet picnic lunch he presented at a rest area as we neared the visitor center....THIS was good, stuff, gourmet sandwiches on craft bread, THANKS HOMER: I will NEVER forget the one stop where a TRAIL leaves from the cliff tops and in 7 miles, reaches the canyon floor. Again, click on this pic, and you will see, faintly, in the distance a trail right on the SIDE of that steep canyon wall....it made me dizzy just looking at it: When we finally reach the visitors center, the main view point is right here (click): IT Was at THIS point on this day trip, an experience of a lifetime occurred....at that visitors point...the edge of the cliffs, 12 rare California Condors were flying all around that very point...they were there the whole time we were: One was only about 40' down resting on a rock edge...his banding tags clearly showing: This bird at times, would unfold his wings, spread them out grandly, and pose for a while: One of the great things at the moment of our visit were the wind uplifts...occasionally the birds would be brought up almost in front of the fencing keeping us from falling into the canyon...it was spectacular, I tell you: AND we finally return to Flagstaff....a grand meal at the Himalayan Grill. . . tiny family run, excellent food. We rested well that night awaiting our hike tomorrow where? A WETLAND being restored there in the desert? Yes....another grand day out coming.
Well....2012....VERY different. DRY MAY!! We have a healthy start. **CLICK on Pics below to see the whole garden** Garden mid-April before we leave for AZ: Garden mid-MAY after week's work: STARTS PLANTED: Tomatoes: Stupice, Sungold, San Marzano, japanese new experiment. Hot Peppers: Serranos, Fatali, Habanero, Cayennes. Squash: Crooked Neck. Potatoes: Finnish Fingerlings, Yukon Golds, ONIONS: sweet, yellow, red, Bunching. Leeks: a few held over. Lettuce: Leaf, some romaine, Tomatillos: only 2 so far, HERBS: Chives, basil, oregano, thyme, celery, rosemary, french fennel, RHUBARB! SEEDS Planted: Corn (Golden Bantam...an exeriment), carrots, cilantro. Whew!
April ended with a bang! A trip to a state I have NEVER visited because of something I don't tolerate well at all: HEAT. And NOW, the religious right has a stranglehold on its government, so I was leery of visiting our friends there.... Knowing I was pasty white, I thought I'd give it a shot hoping the Border Patrol guards wouldn't arrest me as an illegal. Yup, we two departed April 27 for a 10 day stay in AZ.....and experience yet another modern life miracle: After becoming on-line friends with bloggers, getting to meet them personally.....and SEE IF the friendship magic really IS in the mix. We already knew HOMER in Tucson. Homer's been to Portland twice and each time we had a grand time with him..... He's recently become partnered, so we were anxious to meet Evan. Michael and David are in Phoenix.....we have mutual friends of theirs we DO know who've all been to Portland a FEW times and in each case has another grand time becoming friends, so we really looked forward to actually getting to know these two. Not only did they host us like royalty, they arranged our lodging for Flagstaff the next 3 days.... since they knew the owners, they arranged a "2 for 1" deal for us at one fine gay-owned victorian lodging B&B........more on that later. We arrived ready to meet Michael & David. We were told to report to: "THE MISSION " . . .a wonderful welcoming "Old Mexico" feel restaurant where your Guacamole is made tableside...is chunky as it should be. We hadn't sat long when Michael walked in, and within a couple minutes, felt like this was NOT a NEW meeting, but a reunion of old friends. David followed shortly, and we spent a delicious fascinating evening with wonderfully warm friends. The next day, we departed for the " DESERT BOTANICAL GARDENS "....and what a way to begin a stay in the Sonoran Desert....LEARNING about an ecology neither of us were very familiar with but would be in for 10 days. A GREAT TIME: Simply desert beauty as soon as you walk in (click to get a better feel of this grand plant collection): The harmony between the birds that live off these huge saguaro's is amazing...they both EAT from the flower, and nest lower on the plant: We've forgotten the names of these beautiful trees.... they not only brighten the surroundings when they bloom, but when the blossoms drop, the ground becomes very brightly buried in gold: . It was SO wonderful to see the desert when SO many of the cacti were in full bloom..... . I don't think a pic captures the rugged beauty of this winged creature .....elegant statuary: JUST to get the size of these giants in perspective, to you see the little midget in the lower middle of this picture? . This cactus sends out growth arms....until it settles on other plants, and slowly chokes them out....wish I'd remembered the name: . What an extraordinary plant....again, huge....see that same midget in the background? An exotic beautiful plant going to seed: ALL round us, this late spring in the desert was full of blooms everywhere.....best time of year to see desert life: Even a better one (this one SHOULD be seen original size: please click): . Remember the bird above eating from the cactus flower? Here's the nest....fascinating: . ALL through this tour, the density of plant life taught me that life isn't rich and full in a rain forest, it's rich and full here too: LUNCH... Scottsdale, AZ We left the gardens early enough for lunch...........and at the airport we'd seen signs for: * GRIMALDI's PIZZERIA * What? Our favorite Pizza experience in both of our lives was found at Grimaldi's in Brooklyn....right under the bridge. THEN, it was a one-shop only place....they've now expanded. Yes, we ate there, and enjoyed the SAME fabulous NY thin crust pizza! WE KNEW we'd be back at least once more before we went home. From there, we had to get back to M & D's to meet Homer....our good friend from Tucson, a real archeologist, who was taking us north to Flagstaff where he and his partner Evan were to show us the BEST of that gorgeous area. We got to Flagstaff, checked in the *STARLIGHT PINES BED & BREAKFAST* ....and our Flagstaff Weekend will be chapter two of our vacation diary. What a way to begin a desert adventure! Thanks, Michael & David.
*I am NOT waiting to get this complete....so busy I may not get that done...here's the garden start diary I must get done.....so far. I try to keep some record of garden events every year......it's easy to check on WHY last years garden started a month or two earlier/later....and WHY rain in May/June rotted my corn! Here we go: ** TRAVELED to Millenium Farms, visited Michael & Missy for a while and brought home the starts we always get from them (THURSDAY, MAY 10): TOMATOES: Stupice: 9. Sungold: 1. San Marzano: 1. **Some Japanese hybrid he insisted I try for our elevation...**get the name Mark.... Peppers: 4 Serranos, 1 Fatali, 1 Habanero, 1 _______ and 1 _______, also that Michael insisted I try. (Arnica: experiment).... Lemon Thyme and Another Thyme full of flavor, Celery, Lettuce, Italian Parsley. TILLING GARDEN: First time was April 25...before Arizona vacation, and 2nd time is today, Friday May 11. ***The WEATHER has been startingly different than the last TWO years....those were cold/wet and prevented garden getting started. THIS YEAR, April/May (so far), broke records on warmth, and sunny days. Things are looking perfect. PLANTING the starts: OVER this weekend, and installing Water walls, fertilizing, starting corn seeds, sunflower seeds, and..... OTHER: The St Johns Parade/Bizarre are ALL day saturday.....just over this bridge: not sure yet what Mac's gonna do....early swimming in Columbia and then rest at home, or.....CLUB K9? ***ARIZONA trip entries w/pics MUST follow as SOON as caught up in the yard...it's this damn fine weather!