Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mesa, AZ - Not a Walk in the Park

Well, the rain has finally stopped out here in Arizona but is heading east to play havoc with everyone’s travel plans for the Thanksgiving weekend. We‘ve waited 2 days for the trails to dry out and we’re off today for a trail we’ve done twice before: the Boulder Canyon Trail, though we’ve made different loops each time and come at the trail from different directions. It’s called ‘Boulder’ Canyon for a reason and these ‘reasons’ range in size from fist-sized to 7’ tall. They make for a tricky hike especially after a heavy rain storm which we’ve just had. In 2011 we had some water in the canyon, in 2012 it was bone dry but this time we had running streams, short waterfalls as the stream tumbled over the larger boulders and small lakes. Now, walking beside a bubbling brook is no problem but this trail crosses this running stream cum waterfalls 20, count them, 20 times. And, indeed I did count them. And, it goes without saying that the more water there is, the harder it is to find boulders to step on to get over the water to the other side. Often all we could find was tippy small boulders. Whee-e-e! That’s what those ‘sticks’ are for.
This has always been one of my favorite hikes: the stream crossing makes it challenging, the trail is not well-used and thus is narrow, overgrown and sometimes difficult to find. Cairns have been placed along the trail especially on each side of the bank where the stream goes down to and across the boulders to the other side.
Can you see a problem here: who can see a small cairn when there are huge boulders all through the creek? And - here’s a big problem - many years when the monsoon rains hit this area, the water rises so much that it overturns the cairns. This year was a GOOD year for monsoons and we had to guess where the trail crossed the creek. Luckily there were two of us and thus 4 eyes to spot the cairns. When we didn’t see any cairns, which was often, all we could do was look across the boulders, scan the opposite bank and guess where we thought the trail might be. Sometimes we were right and crossed over to find the trail. Sometimes, we crossed and found no trail there but maybe further in. It was often a crap shoot.
The trail is a ways from our resort so we didn’t begin our hike until 9:15. The beginning is fairly easy, at one point so many people use the trail that it looks like a super highway. Then the trail heads down a rocky slope through a canyon to the Boulder Trail. Here most people enjoy the view, eat a snack and head on back up the trail returning to the trailhead. Sounds like a good plan, and why do Gary and I turn right and onto the Boulder Canyon trail, where we had our first stream crossing not more than 50’ down the trail? That was a clue - which we ignored.

Actually, the bubbling stream, the boulder crossings, the small lakes, the greenery and the solitude all combined to make for a neat hike. In fact we saw only one other hiker until we were about 1 mile from the trailhead. For 9 miles we were alone in the wilderness. Here are some pictures of the area through which we hiked:

I always have a song in my head, usually based upon something we’ve seen or done. Today we hiked through some pretty overgrown brush, obviously the monsoon rains in the fall created a lush riparian vegetation in the winter and we were hiking through it. Sometimes it obscured the trail and only after struggling through this brush could we finally see the trail. There there were all those pokey things: cholla cactus, mesquite with its thorns hiding behind every little leaf, prickly pear cactus, and the stately saguaro cactus. Sometimes the trail weaved through these and all I could think of was:

                ‘Mesquite to the left of me
                Cholla to the right
                Here I am

                ‘Stuck’ in the middle with you.’
Gary's actually on the trail here.

Then there’s:

                'Oh, by gosh, by golly,

                It’s time for mistletoe and holly'

as we wiggled though the holly bush - that’s pokey too.
This 3.2 miles of the Boulder Canyon trail took us about 3 hours and it was 1:00 before we reached the junction with the Lost Dutchman Trail which we would follow back to the trailhead. What with missing cairns, having to carefully cross the stream 20 times and the brush, we were not hiking as fast as we usually do. At the junction, it was time for lunch. We took off our packs, I took off my shoes, we found 2 ‘comfy’ rocks and we relaxed for a bit as we ate.

The rest of the trail was much easier and we got back to the car at 4:00, a bit later than we had planned - we had planned to get back early enough to stop for ice cream on the way back home. That will have to wait until another time.

Is it still one of my favorite trails? Sure although by the 12th stream crossing, I was getting a bit weary - and there were still 8 to go.

11.67 2,094’

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mesa - Technology, Great or Eerie?

Isn’t technology wonderful? Well, sometimes. It isn’t always wonderful. However, we saw a marvelous example of just how wonderful technology can be and how it can be life-altering. On Friday, a rainy day here in sunny Arizona, we were in Paradise Cafe having a bagel and coffee. Gary looked up at me and then beyond me where a couple were looking at their IPad and signing. They must have been on Skype, signing with someone else who was deaf and also on Skype. I can’t imagine how thrilling it must be for a deaf person to be able to make a face to face call on Skype.

Here’s another example though this might be an example of how eerie technology can be. 2 years ago we traveled north through California to visit my Aunt Betty. As we made the turn towards her home we noticed a Google car breezing down the street, with cameras on its roof pointing every direction. Obviously they were making the satellite and street views for their online Google maps. Knowing that we might be on the pictures, I checked Google every now and then for about a month. I saw nothing and gave up the search. Last month, after I chatted with Betty on the phone, I checked Google again, and, sure enough, there’s our RV on the street beside her home. And, that’s her RV in back of the house. Here’s the screen I saw on Google. Eerie.
Several days ago, I got an e-mail out of the blue from someone I’ve never met who was asking if I was the daughter of John Ferguson and the wife of Gary Macek. Whoo, who is this and how did she get my name and my heritage? The explanation is simple in these days: she knew my name and Gary’s so she just looked us up online and came up with my blog where I’ve got our e-mail address. Simple, right? Look up ‘Gary Macek’ online and you’ll see a picture of my sweet stud muffin. His name is fairly uncommon but just try to find ‘Nancy Ferguson’ - too common name and I can’t be found.

As we were driving through Scottsdale a few days ago to get to a trailhead, we noticed these signs. Someone must be unhappy.
DiscontentinScottsdale-3-2013-11-24-15-11.jpg DiscontentinScottsdale-4-2013-11-24-15-11.jpg
And, these signs are on Happy Valley Road.

Meanwhile, we’ve been inside most of this weekend since we’ve had rain from Friday thru Sunday. Friday, it was a steady rain, Saturday, we had on and off steady rain, Sunday, we had on and off short showers. We’ve had rivers running through the streets here, an unusual occurrence. But, it gave us forced inside time to work on what ever projects we needed to get done. I’ve been working on 2014 travel plans. We plan to travel through the Northwestern states but we need to be back in Iowa in September for our 50th reunion. Heavens, are we really that old? Did we really graduate from High School in 1964? It hardly seems possible. But, I’ve got to believe the calendar, it’s all true. As Jimmy Buffet says in his song A Pirate Looks at 40, we’ve put 40 well astern, and 50 and 60, now. This pirate looks at 67.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mesa, AZ - It Looked Flat on the Map

The forecast for the Phoenix area is rain for the next 4 days, beginning at 4:00 this afternoon. Looks like we’d better get our hike in before the deluge. We have been mixing it up between old and new hikes and today was the day for a new hike: Tom’s Thumb in the McDowell Sonoran Peserve on the north side of Scottsdale. This is a beautiful area that has been scalloped out for everyone to enjoy before suburban sprawl took all of the space. Homes line the edges of the Preserve but, once you face the mountains and venture inside, you can feel as it you are in a wilderness.

We awoke at 6:30 since we had a long drive, a long hike and we wanted to get off the mountain before the rain began, though we do carry ponchos with us in our packs. Donuts and coffee along the way and we were able to start at 9:45. Here’s a map of the trail.
WE had what is called a lollipop loop planned: we began at the Tom’s Thumb trailhead at the top of the picture, followed the black line south all the way to its end at the lower left of the picture where we turned east onto the blue line, the Windgate Pass trail, followed it to the white line which is the East End trail heading northwest, met the Tom’s Thumb trail and headed back to our car at the trailhead. Looks pretty flat to me, at least here. Of course, there is that shading stuff, that must mean something. The Tom's Thumb trail to its crest is a hike that the locals use as an aerobic workout and we were not the first ones in the park, there were people already coming down the hill as we were hiking up. They were sweaty and puffing, ‘I’m still wet from my hike up’, one woman told us as she was running back to the trailhead.

It was a huffer, I’ll give the trail that. interminably upwards, steeply upward, with an emphasis on the ‘steeply’. We crested the saddle, looking every which way for Tom’s Thumb. Oops, there’s another saddle ahead of us. Natch. Over that, shucks, another saddle ahead of us. Isn’t that the way of mountains? Finally, over the third crest, we looked to the right and saw what we knew had to be the Thumb. Gotta touch it for good luck. I just wished I was lucky enough to finish the trail. 

And, then we continued on the Tom’s Thumb trail. This part of the trail was as steep a descent as the preceding part was a steep ascent. When we reached the bottom we actually came upon a desert oasis with a bubbling steam, cottonwood trees, reeds and singing birds. Who’d a thought?
A younger woman then overtook us, telling us that she had been following us for a while. We talked with her a while as we walked the trail further where we met 2 guys hiking the same loop in the opposite direction we were walking. We compared mileages and all headed our ways. A short while later, we said good-bye to the young woman who then speeded on her way, leaving us in the dust.

Lunch at the last junction where we turned to begin the steep ascent to the Tom’s Thumb saddle from the east where we could begin the descent back to the trailhead. This was as much a huffer as the first ascent, when were fresh. How many switchbacks were there? How many times did I stop to catch my breath? How many false crests were there? All too many to count: I’m especially not going to tell you how many times I had to stop along the ascent, where we finally saw this: a sign pointing back to the trailhead. Whew. And, it's all downhill.
We reached the crest, turned right and began to head back down to the trailhead. ‘Hey’, said the young woman as she began caught up with us, ‘we meet again.’ She had stopped for lunch at Tom’s Thumb and was now heading back to the trailhead also. ‘Wasn’t that last ascent a bear?’ And, wasn’t I glad to hear that she also had thought it a real huffer, too.

She then told us that she had met the two guys again as they circled the loop. ‘Where are your parents?’ they asked her. Parents? They thought we were her parents? Well, you be the judge: Here Marci is with Gary. No, maybe you shouldn’t be the judge - I know what you’ll say. Yep, we sure could be old enough to have a child her age.
Good trail, a real thigh burner but a nice loop with challenges, great views, interesting rocks on all sides (look at that cute little mushroom taking a bow),
an oasis and a landmark to shoot for. But, we certainly gained more elevation than we usually do. Strangely, the trail looked so flat on the map we used. Of course, they all do. Here’s an elevation chart for this trail: up to the Tom Thumb crest, down to the valley, up to Windgate Pass, down to the valley, up the East End Trail to the Tom’s Thumb crest and then back down to the car. Up and down.
We reached the trailhead by 3:15, headed on home, had dinner and the rain started at 7:15. I don’t remember the RV salesman telling us that raindrops on an RV roof would sound like someone was dropping marbles from 50’, do you? Nope, that’s one of the little secrets they don’t let you in on. But, my word, we had those marbles falling for about 2 hours and off and on throughout the night. Various predictions of rain vary from 1.75” to 4”, depending upon location and who is making the predictions. But all agree, 2” is a lot for this area and will cause flooding and filled washes. The weathermen are already quoting the lines: ‘Turn around, don’t drown’ when you come to a patch of running water more than 2” deep.

10.1 3102’

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mesa, AZ - Mystery Castle

We started early today since we had two goals: hike a loop trail in the South Mountain area then drive about 3 miles and visit the Mystery Castle before it closed at 4:00. We’ve done the hike before, liked it and thought it a good hike to combine with a museum visit. We like loop hikes and this hike combines 4 trails to make a square in the South Mountains. The first trail takes us to the ridgeline of the mountain chair but also has a turnoff to take us up to Dobbins Point with some marvelous views over the Valley of the sun with Phoenix in the foreground, Camelback Mountain to the right and Mount Piestawa behind us in the background - when you can see them through the ever present smog.
It seems as if everyone else takes the Dobbins turnoff since, once we had returned to the original trail and continued on our loop, we were alone. And, that was fine with us. We finished about 1:00, ate lunch and headed on over to the Mystery Castle.
And, what, you may ask, is the Mystery Castle? A very interesting home made out of ‘found’ materials located in the foothills of South Mountain Park. Simple answer but, as is often the case, the background is more intriguing and goes back to the 1930’s when a Seattle husband and father, Boyce Gully, found out that he had tuberculosis and only 6 months to live. Rather than sharing this knowledge with his wife, Frances, and daughter, Mary Lou, he secretly moved to the Phoenix area without them, surprisingly lived for another 15 years, built a life without them and never contacted them again. After he had died, his lawyer contacted them and told them that he had left them something in Phoenix and, rather than describing it, told them to come down to see for themselves.
When they arrived they found out that he had left them a home that he had built from materials that he had scavenged from a local dump, from the desert lands that surrounded his lot, from a local brickyard which gave him their irregulars,
from the car he had driven down to Arizona, and from anywhere he could find them. Because he built so far out of town, the 18-room castle had 13 fireplaces but no electricty and plumbing, fascinating nooks and crannies, marvelous views (here’s Phoenix in the distance from the kitchen window),
a ceiling made of scavenged boards and telephone poles and, an interesting experience. But, to keep the house, they had to stay there, and stay they did. In fact, Mary Lou just died in 2010, still living in the house and giving tours.
It was such an interesting story that it attracted national attention and soon a Life Magazine reporter and photographer were there to spotlight them in a 1948 article in the magazine. The headline was: ‘Life Visits a Mystery Castle: A Young Girl Rules Over the Strange Secrets of a Fairy Tale Dream House in the Arizona Desert.’ That same year, Mary Lou and her mother began to offer tours of the house. I especially like the rolling guest bed. Built on rollers, during the day it could be rolled back under the loft in the guest room.
The housing boom in Phoenix brought development closer to the home and electricity and plumbing were added to the home in 1992. Tours are given regularly these days to bring in money to keep the house as it is. Our tour had about 15 people in it.

8 mi, 1560’

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mesa, AZ - Musical Instrument Museum

Where can you see a bougarabou, a kosika, a cimbalom, a shofar, a dulcimer, a theremin, aTaonga pūoroa and a balalaika in action?

Where can you see a bell from Taylor Swift’s concerts, George Harrison’s first Rickenbacker guitar, the first Steinway piano, a cello from Pablo Casals, Elvis Presley’s gold lame suit, Eric Clapton’s guitar and John Lennon’s piano?

Where can you hear a zither, a calliope, an apollonia, player piano and a nickelodeon?

Where can you travel around the world in music?

What group sold the most records?

What individual sold the most records?

Who wore a dress of raw meat for a concert?

Why, it must be the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. With 200,000 square feet on 2 floors, 25,000 instruments from almost every country in the world, this is the place to learn about and hear just about any instrument you’d like to hear. In 2010 we combined a visit to Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright with a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. Big Mistake. Way too much to cover. We didn’t get to the MIM until 1:00, it closes at 5:00 and we lost ourselves in the first gallery which showcases musical instruments from just about every country in the world. At 4:30 we found ourselves finally in the US gallery. Since it wasn’t quite complete and we had run out of time, we decided that we needed to make a follow-up trip to the Museum.

Today, we headed over to the MIM in the morning intending to be there at the opening. Caught in traffic, we didn’t make it until 9:45. This time we started on the first floor where they had a special exhibit from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Women Who Rock. It was a history of women in Rock and Roll. It covered everyone from Bessie Smith and Billie Holliday to - well I didn’t even recognize their names, I’m so out of current pop music. The had some sheet music, a costume, an instrument, an album and a musical clip from most of the artists spotlighted here.

We next headed to the Artist’s gallery where they spotlighted artists and their instruments. Here we could see instruments, performance outfits, photos, video concert footage and other artifacts from the artists spotlighted. Here’s a guitar from Eric Clapton, one of my favorite blues guitarists. And they have a piano of John Lennon’s.
MusicalInstrumentMuseum-4-2013-11-15-19-38.jpg MusicalInstrumentMuseum-24-2013-11-15-19-38.jpg

When I was a teacher in New Hampshire, Gary and I drove up to Portland, Maine where he was playing a concert on a Thursday night. I, of course, bought a concert t-shirt. The next day I wore one of my teacher suits into school but in the first 5 minutes of each class that day, I took off the jacket and there was my concert t-shirt. Boy, did the kids laugh. A teacher with a concert t-shirt? They had a great time with that one.

Here are the lyrics to Pretty Woman by Roy Orbinson in his own handwriting.

Also on the ground floor was a room devoted to electronic music, and here were calliopes, player pianos and a large instrument called an apollonia, pictured below. But, seeing the instrument is nothing compared to hearing it played which we were able to hear when at 2:00 they had an apollonia concert. We all gathered around, the docent turned on the computer and the instrument started up. First the lights came on, the music started, we all started grinning and tapping our toes. What a treat.
Also in this room we saw what is called a Theramin, an instrument pictured below being played by Clara Rockmore whose story is as interesting as the instrument itself. She began as a violin virtuouso but, because bone problems due to childhood malnutrition caused her to abandon the violin, she took up the theramin. The instrument consists of two ‘antennas’ one vertical and one horizontal. Interestingly, the artist never actually touches these antennas but waves her or his hands next to them to cause variations in pitch and frequency. Now, if you understand this, then you probably did better than I in physics. I saw a video of her playing this instrument which sounded somewhat like a vibrating saw, though I’m sure that a concert Theraminist would take exception to this description. Extremely interesting instrument and there are instructions online even today for building your own Theramin. It is also being played today as an electronic instrument and maybe you saw it being played in a recent episode of the TV comedy ‘The Big Bang Theory.’
We also made it up to the USA exhibit where we finally finished off what we had missed the first time there. Here is an example of a typical exhibit in the museum: you can see the costumes, the instruments, a video and, because you’re wearing a headset, as you near an exhibit the music from that exhibit begins to play.
What an excellent museum. It is interesting, comprehensive, informative and just plain fun to hear all the ways that we humans can make music. There’s an introductory display on the ground floor showing all the different types of guitars that have been developed around the world. Just about every country has a stringed instrument like the guitar, a flute and a type of drum.

Obviously, the answer to the first 3 questions is the Musical Instrument Museum, the next 3 answers are: the Beatles, Elvis and Lady Gaga. We even saw this raw meat dress - yecch.

We then saw this car in a sales lot. I’ve never seen an Arabic license plate. And, on a Chevy.
Nor have I ever seen a $120,000 convertible next to a $360,000 sedan.
But, in this car lot you can find Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Aston Martins, Ferrraris, etc.
We weren’t sure where to park our Jeep.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mesa, AZ - St. Mary's Basillica and the Rosson Home

We’ve been in the Phoenix area for 2 years now and really have not toured the downtown of Phoenix yet. Phoenix seems like such a new city and, though it has been growing all along, it’s modern history really began during WWII when many soldiers and airmen were brought out here for training. Liking the climate, after the war they moved here with their families. But the town site itself traces its roots back to a group called the Ho Ho Kam, meaning the ‘people who have gone’. They established a civilization here between 700 AD and 1400 AD when they mysteriously disappeared leaving behind a fabulous canal system which they used to water their crops.

And then in 1867 along came Jack Swilling who looked at the flat, rockless dusty plains that this valley was and saw farm land - all it needed was water. Well, yeah, that’s what crops need. Being an entrepreneur, he formed the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company and began digging a canal to divert some of the water from the Salt River into the lands of the valley. Others moved to this area and formed a town first called Swilling’s Mill, then Helling Mill, then Mill City, and finally the city fathers settled on Phoenix, since the town would spring from the ruins of a previous civilization. And, use a lot of their old canals.

This city doesn’t have quite the history that many other towns have but there are some older buildings that can tell a lot about life in early Phoenix. One of these is the Rosson Home which has an interesting history itself. But all in good order. The first order of the day is where to go for breakfast and how to get there. Getting there is easy - by the light rail. We wouldn’t have to drive in traffic (oh, yes. Phoenix has traffic), use gas, find parking, pay for parking - a real deal for $2.00 for a whole day pass. And we could relax and see the sights as we rode along.

As for breakfast - that’s easy too. In Phoenix, I’ve been reading for years about Matt’s Big Breakfast, right north of downtown.

        4.5 stars on Urbanspoon.com

        4.5 stars on Foursquare.com

        4 stars on Yelp.com

        4.5 stars on Tripadvisor.com

Hey, how could we go wrong? Not only that, it’s convenient to where we’re going to be touring today. What an excellent breakfast we both had. 1” slabs of whole wheat bread, a large order of home fries with onions and spices and a serving of scrambled eggs. Very good breakfast - worthy of all the good reviews I’ve read about this place. And, then I had one of my ‘Welcome to the Big City’ moments - when I saw the bill: $25.00. Holy Cow, we have never even spent that much on dinner, much less breakfast. Maybe, I’ll have to send Gary out to get a job. But, in the end there had been a mistake in computing the totals and I had actually expected about this much for our bill.

Sated, we strolled out heading for St. Mary’s Basilica which gets 5 stars from Yelp. Who in the world reviews and rates Basilicas online? You can review and rate MacDonald's, Target or the local car company, How do you review a Basilica? Who’s going to give a Basilica a 1? OK - I live in America so I an imagine this happening. Actually it did get several 4’s and here’s one.

        St. Mary's is conveniently located in downtown Phoenix and warmly welcomes everyone who enters. My only complaint is the heavy smell of incense before we even entered the church (it wasn't a bad scent, just REALLY heavy).

        We stepped inside en route to the convention center one day and it was beautiful and inviting inside. Not sure what services they offer, but stop by and check 'em out!

I’m not making this up. It’s really online in Yelp as a review. I’d venture a guess and tell her that the services were probably Catholic. Must have been the Clueless Convention.
The church was founded in 1881 but the current building was completed on 1914 and dedicated in 1915. It sits over the site of the original adobe church. It is the oldest Roman Catholic parish in the greater Phoenix area and has the largest stained glass collection in Arizona. Here is the window in the choir loft in the back of the church.
Pope John Paul II elevated it to a Basilica and visited it in 1987. Here is the bench where the Pope knelt while he was worshipping in the Basilica.
Here’s a plaque on the front of the church erected to honor one of the priests. Note how everyone rubs his nose as they walk by as a blessing.
3 blocks further was the Rosson home built by Dr. Roland Lee Rosson and his wife Flora Murray, with her money in 1895 on one of the original lots in Phoenix. Their lot is circled in red in the map below.
Because he was a local doctor and later a mayor of Phoenix, he built quite a showcase of a home. It was 2800 square feet and filled with such modern accommodations as electric lights, hot and cold running water, small sinks in each bedroom, downstairs and upstairs toilets and a telephone. It had Gib doors on all entries to the porches both downstairs and upstairs. A Gib door is very like a double-hung window, meaning that it slid up in its track so that one could walk under it out to the porch. High ceilings are required. The ceilings were all tin and the downstairs floors were wood with inlaid parquet borders around each room. Interestingly, each room had its own border pattern except one room which had 4 different patterns, one on each side. (That must have been the ‘practice’ room.) There were deep red transoms in each downstairs room. Red is a sign of wealth since to make the red color, gold must be worked into the glass. There were plain glass transoms and plain wood floors upstairs since no visitors ever made it up there.

You’ll notice that the house is wood and brick rather than the popular adobe which is the usual material for homes in this area. Interestingly they lived in the house for only 2 years when they moved to California.
When the home was purchased by the city of Phoenix for restoration in preparation to be a museum, it had been owned by several families and it had then been a rental house, a boarding house and a ‘flop house’. Doors had been boarded over, rooms had been converted to single rooms, carpeting had been laid, lights had been removed, all the woodwork had been painted - many times and a room had been built on the rear to be the kitchen and store room. Someone had even painted over the beautiful bricks on the outside The docent we had for our tour told us that the house was a mess. Below is a picture of the house in the 1950’s. The restorers had to look into history to see how the house had looked when the Rossons had lived there.
They had quite a few surprises: they pulled up the carpeting and found the parquet bordered wood floors, they took off some paneling and found pocket doors hidden in the walls which told them the coloring of the woodwork. The removed many layers of wallpaper and found the original. Great surprises but it took a long time.

The best record of what the house had looked like came from the letters of Whitelaw Reid, a publisher of the New York Tribune and an Ambassador to France. He wanted to live in Arizona for the winter to help with his respiratory problems and Rosson saw this as a real opportunity. However, for the 2 years that the Rossons lived in the house, they rented it out to Reid for 6 months of each of these years. During this time, they picked up and moved to another home for the winter, all their kids, all their furniture, all their clothes, all their kitchen, everything. No wonder she wanted to move to CA - she wanted a home she could live in for more than 6 months a year. Actually, Reid really did not like the house much, especially because it did not have enough room for his servants. The second year he came, he rented a second home for his servants.

Here’s a cute story about the second owner of the home, a family named Goldberg which had a daughter named Hazel. She and her fiancé, Joe Melzer, had made elaborate plans to be the first couple to be married in the new state of Arizona. On February , they were in the church, dressed in their wedding finest, with their wedding party around them when Arizona was declared a state by President Howard Taft who signed the bill at 8:00 Arizona time. The word was telegraphed to Arizona but it took 55 minutes for the word to reach the main telegraph station at the railroad depot. Among the crowd awaiting the word was a young man who rushed through the crowd, probably jumped on a bike and rushed to the church to announce the signing. Thus the couple was the first to be married in the new state of Arizona with their 3-yr old ring-bearer, Barry Goldwater, in attendance.

Next it’s off to the Wells Fargo Museum.

Mesa, AZ - Only 4 leaves of Basil?

I’m sure that most of us remember this song. Well, certainly we Iowans remember it.

                        O-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin' down the street,
                        Oh please let it be for me!
                        O-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin' down the street,
                        I wish, I wish I knew what it could be!

                        I got a box of maple sugar on my birthday.

                        In March I got a gray mackinaw.

                        And once I got some grapefruit from Tampa.

                        Montgom'ry Ward sent me a bathtub and a cross-cut saw.

Guess where we went next? Yep, the Wells Fargo Museum. It’s a small museum in the 1st floor of the Wells Fargo bank in downtown Phoenix. It might be small but it’s pretty comprehensive. It has a stage coach, natch, some strong boxes, a large collection of guns, some coach schedules, lots of quotations form those who traveled by coach, a replica office with office furniture and supplies from he 1880’s, and other artifacts which bring home the stage coach experience for all visitors. There is also quite a collection of western art especially by NC Wyeth and Remington.
Here’s a stagecoach from Wells Fargo. It is one of the Concord stages that were done up in yellow and deep red especially for WF. Note the ‘shocks’, the strands of leather stretched to try to give the coach some ‘give’ over the rocks and trail.

Each of these coaches was designed to hold 18 people, 3 on each side, 3 on a bench in the middle and the other 9 sitting somewhere else. Oh, yeah, don’t forget the luggage. Each person was allowed 25 lbs. but the trunk itself weighed 15 lbs. What to take cross country that weighs only 10 lbs? And, remember that clothing made of wool was much heavier and bulkier than clothing today. Here’s a display of an old trunk with articles that people might have taken on their journey across the country. Gotta have that top hat.
One of my favorite displays was a small stagecoach with 18 rag dolls. the object is to get the 18 rag dolls into the stagecoach in somewhat comfortable order. Not an easy task.
Stops were not as comfortable as they are today. Food was not plentiful, consisting mostly of beans and coffee. One passenger, Francis Brocklehurst, who rode the coach in 1859 described a meal this way: ‘We are now reduced to a diet of boiled black beans, washed down with a strong hot concoction called coffee without milk or sugar and drunk out of dirty tin cans.’

All these tell the story of how Wells Fargo started grew and became the bank that it is today. When gold was discovered in California, two men, Mr. Henry Wells and Mr. William Fargo, from New York realized that an express delivery and banking business could be a real hit. They opened for business in 1852 and established their reputation for speed, reliability, honesty and fairness to all. When trains eclipsed coaches, they adapted their business model to fit this new phenomenon. But - when WWI came the government nationalized the express delivery business as a wartime measure and 10,000 signs came down from Wells Fargo Express stores. Wells was left with a single bank in San Francisco. But it rebuilt its business, weathered the Great Depression and continued to grow.

Here’s the disclaimer: I worked for Wells for 10 years, long enough to retire.

By this time it was 3:30 and time for lunch. We had not had anything but a protein bar to eat since breakfast at 7:30. We were getting hungry. For our second restaurant of the day we chose the renown Pizzeria Bianco which was in another historic building right across a plaza from the Rosson Home. It has been rated as the best pizza in the US by Bon Appetit, Vogue and Rachel Ray. It has been recognized by Martha Stewart, Oprah, Gourmet and the James Beard Foundation. There have been other awards for this iconic pizzeria and its founder and chef, Chris Bianco, throughout the years. With this opportunity, how could we not eat here? From Matt’s to Chris’ a real gastronomic journey through downtown Phoenix.

We ordered the Margarita pizza for $15.00. It was cooked in a wood oven, came out and was put on the ledge where it waited for our waiter to notice it for close to 5 minutes. Finally the chef had to remind the waiter who finally brought it to our table. Now, there were only 3 other tables of customers there. Not overly busy. A 12” $15 pizza and it had 4, count them, 4 basil leaves. I’ll admit that the pizza tasted very good. Well, the sauce and crust tasted good, I had so few bits of basil that I can’t judge that. I don’t know if I would go there again, I might try another spot.
As we were leaving, I held the door open for a woman who was carrying 4 pizza boxes and 3 drinks. She looked at me and strode out the door. I then said, ‘You’re welcome.’ She turned and said, ‘Oh, I forgot. You took the words right out of my mouth.’

We then walked back through town to the light rail station. A good day, we enjoyed it a lot and it was time to head home.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mesa, AZ - Goblin Valley

I’m sure that most of you have heard about the Boy Scout leader who was in Goblin State Park in Utah and knocked over a rock formation because he thought it might tumble and hurt someone. Yeah, right. He was guffawing, high-five-ing and dancing a jig as he as pushing it over. And, he filmed it. I don’t think someone would film an act of safety but they often film acts of destruction. We haven’t heard much else about what the consequences of this act might be. We did read that before a judge can impose any punishment, he needs to know what the approximate cost of the damage was. Now the State Park system of Utah must decide how much one of the rocks in Goblin Valley SP costs. As if someone could place a value on a rock a million years old.

Now, Gary and I have some ideas about the consequences: how about a year of service in the state parks. 1/2 of that time could be spent at the entry to the park wearing a sign that reads: ‘I pushed over a rock formation. Tell me what you think of me.’ The rest of the time he could spend cleaning out the bathrooms.

I do know that he is not a Boy Scout leader any more. The Boy Scouts were terribly embarassed and they have every right to be.

On another topic, it seems to me that everyone in the Phoenix area eats out every night - except Gary and I. We noticed last night while driving around that on one street: there were 4 restaurants on one side: Red Robin, In-N-Out, Chick-Fil-A, and Mad Dog something or other, and 6 or so resautrants on the other side of the street: Country Buffet, Macaroni Grill, Applebees, Chiles, Texas Steakhouse and one other. I’m sure that it we had driven further into the surrounding malls and down the road a smidge, we might have found others. And - ALL of the parking lots were jampcked. And, this is a Wednesday night. Luckily, most of it is fast food with high turnover or they’d need to build bigger parking lots.

Let’s face it, every now and then one runs into problems in an RV. Okay, okay, maybe more often than every now and then. Some problems are intermittent and hard to solve but here’s a picture of a problem that is easy to solve. It is a very obvious crack. So, just buy a new part. Easy to say but, holy cow - this part cost $400+. Luckily, Gary can install it.