Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Giving Thanks & Apache Trail

We celebrated all of the many things we have to be thankful for at Alan's and Sharon's with a great traditional holiday feast. True to form, I ate too much because it was all wonderful.

After Alan took the bird out of the oven I went to work with the knife carving this beast. We had all the traditional food with both mashed and sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, green bean casserole, two kinds of stuffing, butternut squash soup, and all topped off with both cherry and pumpkin pie. Way too much food, but it was great having a couple of days of leftovers.

Here we are in the studio with a first course of butternut squash soup. After dinner we relaxed and watched some football. We have been in five different places for our five Thanksgivings on the road and they have all been different and great. Each one has been with different friends or family.

One day the four of us decided to take the big loop drive on the Apache Trail. We had been as far as Tortilla Flats before, but this time we did the whole trip including the 22 miles of dirt road. The first sight that caused us to stop was this big tarantula that had attracted a crowd (four people) along the road. They are neat critters that are really helpful and harmless to humans.

The road was originally built to get supplies to the site of the construction of the Roosevelt Dam. It is a real up, down, over and around trip with steep narrow spots where we needed to wait for oncoming traffic to pass.

We were rewarded with a beautiful up close look at the high Arizona desert.

Here Sharon is taking a picture of a scene she or Alan will turn into a beautiful pastel painting.

It was unusual, but beautiful, seeing the fall colors on the trees along dry creeks in the middle of the desert.

This is Apache Lake, one of three we passed along the road. It is a little strange seeing so much water in the desert.

Roosevelt Dam was originally built in 1901 when it was the highest masonry dam in the world. At that time, Roosevelt Lake was the largest man made lake in the country. In the 90's the dam was raised 77 feet and the exterior was covered with concrete. It took 13 years, until 2009, to raise the lake to the new level because of the Western drought.

Sharon and Alan in front of Roosevelt Lake and the bridge that had to be built when the dam was raised. Even with all the miles of dirt road the Apache Trail is a worthwhile drive to get into the back country of Arizona.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Music, Music, Music

First off, anyone who knows me knows I love music, but have NO musical ability beyond the radio and CDs. Even with that background, the Musical Instrument Museum is a great stop to learn the history of instruments from around the world. The museum is also a great teacher of geography as its displays are arranged by areas of the world starting in Africa, then moving to Asia, Oceania, Latin America, Europe and ending in Canada and the United States.

So true!!
Each visitor is given headphones that play the music that accompanies the videos that often show the actual instruments that are on display. Here is Alan listening to the music of Africa.

This was an excellent display of oil can guitars. The music that came out of these cans was amazing.

On almost every continent early cultures had drums, flutes and stringed instruments in some form. The one that surprised me was how many places had bagpipes. There was even one made from an entire calf hide.

Other displays showed how instruments were made. Here they show how early gongs were produced.

This was a exhibit on the building of Martin guitars.

This one showed how Steinway pianos are made. One of the things I learned was how much of a hands on job making instruments is, even today.

The Artist Gallery has displays of videos of a variety of contemporary artists. These show John Lennon, Toby Keith, Carlos Santana and Elvis. There are many new displays being added to this wonderful museum every week so it is a place we will have to return to in the future.

Here we are at the museum cafe that is licensed by Bon Appetit. Meals are planned using local suppliers and the menus change according to what is available each week. Nanc had a great vegetarian sandwich and lentil soup and I had a wonderful Moroccan lamb stew. The MIM is a great stop for anyone who loves music even if you have a tin ear.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Friends & Trains

We continue to stay busy here in Mesa. There are many activities going on in the park including happy hours with live music on Monday and Friday and dances every Thursday featuring live bands. The weather has warmed up and we have been enjoying the pool and spa. Alan and Sharon have invited us for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and it will be nice to enjoy the holiday with friends. We picked up our travel documents for the trip to Hawaii, but I am having some second thoughts. We watched Hawaii 50 thinking we could get a feel for the place but there seems to be a lot of crime on the islands. Maybe we should stop watching?? :-) While at AAA I picked up maps for all the states and provinces we will be traveling though on the way to Alaska and have been doing a lot of research on what to see and do next summer. It is great fun planning for all our travels whether it is visiting a local attraction or getting ready to visit the 49th and 50th states.

We had a wonderful home cooked Italian dinner at the home of Linda Rocks and Mike. I worked with Linda many years ago before she moved to Mesa about 25 years ago. We had a great evening sharing stories of old friends and getting caught up with Linda and Mike. If you are in Mesa and need anything related to your bicycle make sure you visit Mike's Bike Chalet on the corner of Brown and Higley.
In nearby Scottsdale we visited McCormick Stillman Railroad Park a unique must see for anyone who loves trains. The park has displays of trains from tiny Z gauge to a full size locomotive and cars with many different sizes between. The center piece of the park is the 5/12 scale Paradise and Pacific Railroad, a replica of the Century Narrow Gauge Railway. We took a ride on the neat little steam train pictured above.

There is a "cattle" car but they would not let us inside because we were to tall. The kids seem to love it. The detail of the replicas are correct down to the smallest parts.

All aboard!! This is a fun ride for all ages.

The engineer fills the water tank for the steam engine.

Another group of trains are part of the Scottsdale Live Steamers. They include this electric train and, of course, tiny steam engines all built at either 3/4 or 1 1/2 inch to one foot scale.

This steam engine, that was built in 1907, was used by mining railroads until 1961. It has been in the park since 1977. The attached Santa Fe baggage car and the Pullman Car are part of the museum.

The Roald Amundsen Pullman Car was one of six the company built to rent to the wealthy for private use. They were all named for famous explorers. This one was used by Presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower. You can see on the log that it was also used for Roosevelt's funeral. The dining room was served by a full kitchen. The picture shows Mamie Eisenhower and friends in that room. Nanc is standing in the lounge at the back of the car which also had an open porch. This is not the car used by Truman for his whistle stop tour. He used the one named Magellan that was armor plated for the protection of the President after the start of WWII.

There is also a neat little carousel in the park.

The 10,000 square foot model train building just opened in July 2010 and is a work in progress. There are going to be displays of O, N, and HO gauge trains. Nanc is looking at the prairie dog town where they pop up out of there holes just like we saw in the Dakotas this summer. The bridge is an award winner. The roller coaster will be the center piece of this display. One layout is going to be models of towns in Arizona.

We liked the Clark sign because that candy was made in Pittsburgh and there was a similar sign there for years. The sculpture shows the many different scales of model trains. You can see the display is a work in progress. The parts that are complete were brought from the old small model train building located elsewhere in the park. If you are in the area a stop at McCormick Stillman should be on your list of things to do.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Enjoying Arizona

We continue to have a great time here in Mesa getting things crossed off the to do list and making plans for future travel. We had the carpet cleaned and I polished the rig only to have a huge dust storm followed by rain two days later. Oh well, I know keeping Opus clean and shiny is a never ending task. We bought an iPhone so we have better access to the Internet while traveling and have been spending a lot of time just figuring out how the darn thing works. We are hoping that it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks because it can be real convenient. The first change in our travel plans is to not stay in the Southwest for the entire winter. We learned that in February Betty will be inducted into the Acadian Museum as a Living Legend for her contribution to promoting the Cajun culture. We did not want to miss this much deserved honor so we contacted her and made a reservation for February and March. That means we will also get to celebrate Mardi Gras in Louisiana for the second year in a row. Tough to take be we will give it a try. The other BIG travel plan we made was to book a two week vacation in Hawaii. We are staying in Waikiki for a week and then going to the big island. Once again a tough decision, but we have quite a few air miles and we want to do our part in getting the economy going.

Here are Marcia and Nanc doing the zip line at the Salt River Balloon Glow Spooktacular. We had told Mike we would crew for the glow and Marcia came along one day to also help. She and Nanc talked their way into a free ride from the guys who were setting up the line for the weekend. They both loved it. Marcia missed Saturday because she and Joe where going out to celebrate their anniversary. CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!
Crewing turned in to a bigger deal than planned as we ended up helping all four of these balloons. Left to right are Daniel's Morning Wood, a clown, a haunted house and Mike's Morning Star. We had a fun time, but decided that working with the shapes is a pain in the butt.

The glow was a Halloween event and all the balloonists had candy to pass out to the trick or treaters. I won't tell you who the monkey is but his initials are Daniel Liberti. Bottom is the clown envelope before it was inflated and right is Mike firing up the burners. We did work hard but we had a great time helping and tailgating.

For our anniversary we had a great dinner at d-vine, a very good local restaurant. It has been a great 42 years. Life is good!!!!!

After I cleaned Opus we put this decal on the back. We have had it since we were in Louisiana last spring and finally got up enough nerve to put it on the paint. It sure sums things up, "Let the Good Times Roll". Two days later it was streaked with mud from the dust storm and rain.

Here are Sharon and Alan with some of their work that was accepted for the Arizona Pastel Artist Association exhibit in Cottonwood. Their work has progressed a great deal since we were last here in 2009. They have turned their place into a neat studio and taken many workshops and the effort shows. They did not get any of the awards, but just getting paintings into the show is a big deal. We made a day of it exploring the shops and having a great lunch in the Old Town section of Cottonwood.

We got a call from Dan and Merlene Goan, whom we met at Betty's. They were passing through Arizona and we got together for lunch and to share travel tales. They had a great travel year visiting eleven major league ballparks around the country. We hope to see them at Betty's this winter. We have also been meeting many people in the park at happy hour and the dance they had last week. So far we have been busy enough that staying in one place for an extended time has been just fine even though the weather has cooled a great deal. Phoenix had a record low high temperature over the weekend and today the high is to be lower then WashPA. We even saw s**w in the mountains when we went to Cottonwood. We hope this is just a passing event and not the trend for the next two months.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Here we are, 42 years ago today. We have come a long way baby and like fine wine it just keeps getting better with time. Neither of us could have imagined the life that was ahead of us on that wonderful day long ago. Being married to our best friend who has so many of the same interests just makes it all that much better. We look forward to continuing our fulltiming lifestyle as we explore and discover new and exciting places and things while making new friends together.

This year November 1st is another major milestone as I am now on Medicare. Wow, who ever thought I would live long enough to enjoy that great benefit. LIFE IS GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!