Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Valley of the Sun

Tom Mix Monument
Jim, Linda Rocks & Nanc
Sharon & Allan Frey
Entrance to the grounds at Taliesin West.
The low profile of Taliesin West against the mountains.
Pool and Lawn
The Walkway
The Studio
Cacti and trees at Boyce Thompson Arboretum.
Reflection on Ayer Lake.
Desert plants and a "skeleton" of a dead saguaro.
Among the eucalyptus trees.
Collage of arboretum flowers

We have travelled to Apache Junction near Phoenix and are staying at the Carefree Manor RV Park. On the drive here we passed through more saguaro forest and continue to be fascinated by these large desert plants. Along the way we also stopped at a monument to Tom Mix. When I saw the sign I said we have to stop and Nanc said, "Who is Tom Mix?" Obviously, she never watched the Saturday morning westerns when she was growing up. I was a bit surprised myself to see that the plaque marked the spot where Tom, who was born in PA, had died in 1940. Oh well, I still remember him as a great cowboy even before The Duke and Roy Rogers. In Apache Junction we got together with Allan and Sharon Frey who have become fulltimers since we met them in Rockport in December. They are pursuing their passion for art by taking classes and painting. From these classes, Sharon had two pieces chosen to be put on display in a gallery in Sedona that we hope to see when we visit there. Included in the things we did together was to go to an Indian restaurant. It was our introduction to Indian cuisine and we are so glad they suggested it. We really enjoyed the food and look forward to trying it again soon. We also dropped in on Linda Rocks who I taught with in Washington. Linda moved to Mesa 22 years ago but has often visited family and friends in PA. We reminisced about the old school and our "old" friends back in Wash, PA.

On another day, we toured Taliesin West ,the winter home and studio of Frank Lloyd Wright and his school of architecture. The school is one of only four accredited non-university schools in the country that offer bachelor and master degrees in architecture. The students study here for six months and during the summer they attend Wright's school in Wisconsin. We have toured several buildings he designed and love his work so for us it was like going to Mecca to see where the master worked. The tour included his office, the grounds, the theater and the family living quarters. His students built the buildings here in the 1930's when he was looking for a winter home away from the cold of Taliesin in Wisconsin. They were supposed to be camping in the desert so, originally, there was no glass and the roofs were made of canvas that was removed each spring when they returned to Wisconsin. The first students lived in tents and today students design modern living quarters that must fit on the same small tent footprint to help preserve the desert. Wright originally purchased over 600 acres 30 miles from Phoenix in the middle of the desert and designed the buildings using mostly local natural materials that blended into the side of the mountain. The Wright Foundation still owes 500+ acres and it is now a natural island in the urban sprawl that is Scottsdale and Phoenix. Wright would be appalled if he could see the area today that included only six distant lights the first winter he lived here.

On Earth Day we went with Allan and Sharon to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in nearby Superior. It was created in the 1920's by mine owner Boyce Thompson to be a museum of living plants to allow "experiment, research, study, and investigation of plant and animal life." There are plants from around the world that can survive arid conditions. A trail follows Queen Creek where plants requiring more water grow, like the giant eucalyptus trees, then continues to the top of the hill where desert plants thrive. There are herb, legume, cactus, succulent and butterfly gardens and exhibits with plants from Australia, South American, and the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts. The creek trail offered a respite from the high temperatures that have hit the area this week. The plants attract a large variety of animals including many birds and reptiles. This is a great site to see plants from around the world growing in one place. It is a surprising, beautiful oasis tucked in the canyon of the Picket Post Mountains in the middle of this arid land. After our hike, Sharon and Allan took us to another wonderful restaurant in nearby Superior. The Toast Bistro boasts fresh baked items and everything made with fresh ingredients. They were making homemade pizza on the day we were there and we all enjoyed a terrific meal and left feeling fat and happy. This is a must if you are visiting the area.

1 comment:

MarkandRenita said...

Who is Tom Mix? Anyway, good posts! I can see we have to go back to Arizona as we missed a lot!