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19 May 2017 Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Island, SC

    With this blog, I’m the bearer of good news. Instead of sending a notice to your inbox every time we post, if you would like to follow our blog, when you open it, there’s an obvious option to “subscribe”. If you chose that, you’ll receive a notification. If not, then you’re spared the boredom of these missives. We hope you elect to follow us. Never now where we may show up.

     Yesterday, Thursday, was our last day on Hilton Head. We had 1 more restaurant to check off our list so we cycled to Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks on Skull Creek. We lunched on their deck and the food was totally outstanding. As we were about to leave a very long sea creature swam up near the shore so all the diners sprang to their feet with cameras poised. It looked like a gator but they aren’t in salt water so must’ve been a croc…? Wonder what the interaction would be between it and dolphins?



                             What is it? Looks quite at home in salt water.

                                A close up look at Neptune’s Trident

     Loved our bicycle trip on these safe and dedicated trails. For the most part, they’re shaded making for a comfy ride. HHI’s got to rank among the top best and safest bicycling towns. As much as we enjoy HHI, the ONLY way I could live there is if we had a heliport. Traffic is horrendous and we inquired about proposals to remedy the issue and there are none. Many times we’d pass motorists on our bikes and quite a distance later, they’d catch up with us but they never progressed faster than we did.
     A perfect ending to a magnificent month was to relax on our fly bridge last night sipping adult beverages and listening to The Headliners entertain for 3 hours. Lots of shagging happening. People-watching during this event is very engaging and most interesting.
     This morning we bid adieu to our slip neighbors, Darah and Mike. They were delightful folks to live next to, in fact the entire dock was very enjoyable.
     We’d hoped to get a picture of us, Neptune, and Kindred Spirit III in the background but it never pays to tarry. Had we not put it off…. Can barely see more than our enclosure and even though the tide is rising, it won’t be high tide till 3 PM and we’ve gotta make tracks so that we don’t hit (not literally) the low spots. 

   
     We included a few shots of the wake we left as we departed. Love Shelter Cove but sure feels and sounds good to feel the water moving beneath our hull again as we are Charleston/Mt.  bound. When I think of HHI, only Shelter Cove comes to mind. Why go any place else—shopping, dining…it’s all right there.

Dock office and marina store

We included a few shots of the wake we left as we departed. Love Shelter Cove but sure feels and sounds good to feel the water moving beneath our hull again as we are Charleston/Mt.  bound. When I think of HHI, only Shelter Cove comes to mind.Why go any place else—shopping, dining…it’s all right there.


        Love the wind in my face and tousled hair. Feels blissful.
Bill and Laura
At anchor somewhere south of Charleston, SC

12 May 2017 St. Mary’s and Jekyll Island, GA – Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Island, SC

 6 April – And the wheels keep turning as the road stretches out before us. 

    After enjoying Tallahassee’s museums, galleries, and bike trails, we moved on this morning with St. Mary’s, GA, and our beloved trawler, in our cross hairs. Excited! Our 6 months of RV-ing has lengthened to 11 months because of wanting to reposition our boat but now we can resume our 6 months here and 6 months there!


                         Kindred Spirit III poised and ready to be splashed!    


     Today we arrived St. Mary’s, GA, and reunited with our trawler temporarily. We’re going to take a few days vacation before storing our coach and boarding our boat.

     16 April – Easter Sunday was a serendipity because we were able to spend it with our first cousin, Diane, and her husband, Bill, in their new home in Ocala. We haven’t seen them in several years and then it was very brief—we attended a graduation in NC.



     18 April – Our vacation was very restful and informative as we combined a fact-finding tour with being “away from home”.

     All aboard!!!! Oh, how good it feels and sounds to have water moving beneath our hull once more.


                                         Jekyll Island Marina



 Brunch in the island’s hotel that used to be called The Millionaire’s Club. Guess they’re so common now that they had to come up with Jekyll Island Club Hotel.

                                                The KIC Hotel

 Love these majestic oaks and the moss trailing from their branches

     The hotel’s veranda where we savored a cocktail and the sunset

     20 April – Today is day 3 aboard and on the water. I bet I’ve bent, twisted, stooped, walked, cycled, squatted, hefted, hoisted, lifted, thrown…more in these 3 days than in the 11 months on the coach. I’ve lost more than a pound a day. Land cruising made me fat, lazy, and not a poster child of a fit 76 year old. Cruising is very physical and definitely a workout. I’m loving it. Was beginning to feel like a marshmallow with feet. Tonight’s our first night at anchor and oh,  how I look forward to the rocking, swinging, no TV, no traffic, not a sound except the water lapping against our hull—just us and the wide open water. Sleeping’s gonna be GOOD tonight!

St. Simons Lighthouse

     21 April – Last night, night # 3, we anchored and t’was the best night’s sleep I think I’ve EVER had. Didn’t move a muscle all night long. I was born to be in and on the water—my element! How could I EVER consider trading this life for living on dirt! We’ve been on board for 10 years and I’ve always loved it but now I have a greater love and deeper appreciation for this life style than I’ve ever had before because its status of “temporary” seems ever more real.


    22 April – Was going to wait till later today to chronicle in case anything interesting happened but it probably won’t. Bill’s out and I’m in trying to scrub off 11 months of being on the hard in a boat yard. There’s a coating of grim EVERYWHERE inside and out—just of a different kind.

     My rant for the day—you may recall my posts about how different RV-ers are compared to boaters…. From about 20 months of RV-ing, we haven’t met a soul we’ll ever connect with again. When we pulled into our slip yesterday, the lady, next to our slip, came out, welcomed us, and ironically, she’s a mutual friend of our friends, Mary and Larry, who said be sure and look them up when we arrived. Then a guy from a motor sailor down the dock came down to welcome us and he and Bill talked forever. His wife offered to teach us how to do a paddle board. Something I’ve aways wanted to do–looks so fun. May be a fiasco–my core went away while on the coach. Another boat owner from down the dock that we’d met long ago, came down to welcome us. May never want to leave this place!! So the moral of the story is–boaters are the best and friendliest folks on the face of our blue marble world.



     23 April – If the huge bronze stature of King Neptune could look over his right shoulder, this would be his view of Kindred Spirit III. Bill cycled 35 miles today but I wimped out at 18.5. It’ll take a while to get enough saddle time to be able to match him. That’s my goal! This is an incredible place to cycle.

                                       Iconic bronze statue of King Neptune 

     26 April – Thought this day would never come. This is day #5 in Shelter Cove Marina and every day something has prevented me from getting in the pool. Today was a euphoric reunion with the water. My brain, heart, soul, and spirit are now in ecstasy. The pool doesn’t equal St. Petersburg’s nor Wild Dunes but it is a swimmable rectangle and I am delighted. 
     May 3   What a glorious day we had and also the worst day of wolfing down foods not on our eating plan. Bill’s rationalization was that we’d “cycle it off.” I think we’d need to ride across the state and back to even come close to burning the calories that we consumed. We had breakfast at a bakery but our pastry was most definitely not worth the calories. We cycled to check out Hudson’s and then to Skull Creek Boat House for lunch. A pleasant respite but again, far off the course of what we consider a healthy diet—but fabulous and a treat for our taste receptors.






































     That wasn’t the only of our senses that were loving our outing. The Confederate Jasmine are blooming everywhere and their blossoms permeated the air with my favorite fragrance. Deep inhalations were a treat for the sense of smell.

                                                 On our bike ride to Coligny

                                 My very own pool that I’ve not had to share

                                  Spied this relic from the past on our bike ride 

             A shrimp boat anchored in front of Hudson’s Seafood Restaurant



                                Rusty nautical finds at Hudson’s.

                                     Lunch at The Boathouse on Skull Creek


     There’s a plethora of shopping of all varieties just walking distance from our marina. This caught my eye so I went home, got Bill, ordered a beer and pizza for him and he seemed quite content as I strolled away.

   

     The song birds were in abundance and saturated the atmosphere with a cacophony of exquisite harmonics.

     
     We parted ways. I wanted to swim and Bill wanted to log more distance. He cycled 35 miles—the man’s an animal— but I wimped out at 22 miles. I did get in a good swim and once again, had the pool all to myself. I don’t have to share a lane and not even the pool.


     Two mini-rants: It disturbs me to see people riding bikes without helmets. I wouldn’t ride around the block without one. Both of us have experienced two incidences each where our helmets saved our craniums. You never PLAN to have an awning try and take you out or a canvas sign hanging from a fence that billows out as you’re passing throwing you into a line of traffic—so that’s why they call them ACCIDENTS. I wanted to preach to each of them but there were too many and I’d have been left far behind. Did see a little punk about 7 with his helmet in his basket. Told him it needed to be on his head and he flipped me off. Probably said, “mind your own business, old woman.” Don’t recall 7 year olds being acquainted with the social digit back in the day.

     Another bothersome thing today was a large overweight redneck gringo strolling the sidewalk while a hispanic man was gathering up all the cones and their bases along the roadway which was amounting to a significant stack and weight. I wanted to have a word with, what I assumed, was the Latino’s supervisor. “Why don’t you help him out and carry some. Might help you shed a pound or two.” The scene really angered me because I felt he was taking advantage of the worker.

     May 7 – We retired from Greenville, SC, and last night we were entertained in the home of a couple who also lived in Greenville but relocated to Prichardville, about 21 miles NE of Hilton Head Island.  Our host, Charles and Bill knew each other from their Michelin employment. 

     May 8 – Today we needed to get in some cycling to avenge our gastronomic misdeeds last night. We’ve always enjoyed riding around the plantations but no more! That’s pretty disappointing but there are threats of prosecution if you enter. There are plenty of miles to ride on the paths but looking at homes and their landscaping was always a treat. 

     We rode the beach today with a fierce head wind. You know, there are just some things you can’t un-see and this afternoon was one of them. What a mass of humanity and school’s not even out yet. Can’t imagine what it will be like in the summer. The beach was not a place that I enjoyed. Enough was enough so decided to alter my route.

     May 9 – Lunch with friends, Suzy and Michael, who loved us enough to drive all the way from St. Mary’s, GA, to spend the day with us and have lunch at The Big Bamboo Cafe. Great day and we love these sweet people. How’d we meet? That’s another story for another time.


     May 9 – was a YOYO day. (You’re On Your Own.) I did a short bike ride then swam. Again—the pool to myself and it was the best swimming workout I’ve had since we’ve been here. The water was 74 degrees and felt absolutely blissful.
    
     May 10 – This is long and I offer no apologies. It’s the narrative of our day’s activity, is memorable, and I merely wish to share. We took “an unplugged exploration of Daufuskie Island. The 4 ½ hour historic tour began at Shelter Cove and we were whisked to the island by boat and under the guidance and narration of our guide, Charlie Thorn. He has done intense and in-depth research about the island, culminating in a book, Children of Shadows . (Available in print and also for Kindle.) He is so knowledgeable about all the history leading up to today. We learned about the rich Gullah, Indian, and Civil War history that makes this bridge-less island so unique.


               

           This is all that’s left of Palmetto Bay Marina. Not a dock in sight

        
     Daufuskie Island, tucked between Savannah , GA, and Hilton Head Island, SC, was inhabited by numerous native tribes until the early 1700’s when they were driven away from their land by explorers, traders, and settlers. While under British rule, plantations were developed, growing indigo and later Sea Island cotton. We learned that slaves were slaves of black families while they were still living in Africa. Slaves tilled the fields while plantation owners and their families spent much of the year away. The slaves’ isolation provided the setting for the retention of their African culture.

                            An iconic symbol for Daufuskie Island 
     
     At the beginning of the Civil War, slaves and their plantation owners fled the island and Union troops took it over. Post-war freed slaves, the Gullah people, returned to the island and purchased small plots of land or worked for pay for landowners.

     In the early 1900’s the boll weevil decimated the cotton fields and logging and oyster canning stepped in to provide jobs for the predominately Gullah populated island at the turn of the 20th century.

     In the 1950’s, pollution in the Savannah River closed the oyster beds resulting in a decline in the island’s economy. The Gullah people  began to leave the island for the mainland and better opportunities. By the 1980’s, the population decreased from 2,000 to less than 60. So here come the developers and Haig Point, Melrose, Oakridge, and Bloody Point were built. Since there’s no island access except by boat, that has enabled the Historic District to retain its spectacular and untainted beauty.The entire island is on the National Register of Historic Places.

     In golf carts, Charlie took us to studios of Daufuskie’s two internationally renowned island artisans who handcraft unique works found on this island. The Silver Dew Pottery shop is owned by Lance and Emily Burn. Her grandfather first came to Daufuskie in 1898. In 1913, he was light house keeper for Bloody Point Light. In the mid 1950’s, he owned and operated the Silver Dew Winery and that’s where the Burns got the name for their pottery business, which opened in 1997,

     They’ve found Indian pottery shards on the island and have copied the raised buttons, beads, and incisions in their new creations. Their potters wheel is solar powered and on the bottom of each piece is “STP” for Sun Thrown Pottery. Their glazes are lead-free and no two are alike. Each piece is numbered, dated, carries both their names, and has a motif on the bottom. 1,000 pieces are made under that motif and then it’s changed for the next 1,000. Each has a bit of Daufuskie in it. They sprinkle a small amount of their black beach sand over the clay prior to working it. It’s Magic Sand and will surely bring the purchaser back to their very special and magical “Out-Back Island.”

     Charlie took us to meet Chase Allen, a college graduate from North Carolina, who decided what he really wanted to do was to be a blacksmith and metal artist so he and his wife moved to the island and he’s doing magnificent metal work there. Someone asked if there was anything that swims in the ocean that he couldn’t use as a model and he said, “I don’t think so.” His friend asked, “How about a mermaid?”—he did—it’s his most popular piece. He has photos of the application of these pieces in his customer’s homes.  


    Charlie explained how these islanders exist on a bridge-less remote island without even a single grocery store and has fueled my interest in learning more.   I’ve read all the Conway works but long ago. Now I want to resurrect those from my library to read again,  as well as his book. This was a day well spent and we highly recommend Charlie’s tour through Outside Hilton Head.

     This is the only church on the island and is well attended every
                                    Sunday morning at 10:00 AM

     As we walked home, the Mexican restaurant San Miguel’s just reached out and snatched us in beneath their cool porch and plopped our favorite dish right before us. We dragged our full tummies home and fell into the bed for a wonderful nap.

     May 11 – Can you believe my pool is closed without warning nor explanation!!!  Tonight we thrilled to the music of one of our favorites, Target, the Band, composed of 3 musicians—a married couple and another man. They played for 3 hours without a break and they aren’t spring chickens either. They’ve been playing together 42 years and commented that many marriages don’t last that long. Their music was wonderful coupled with superb people watching. So many were out there shaking a leg to music we grew up with——if you grew up. That hasn’t happened to me yet.

We’ve only another week here before continuing north. Stay tuned.

Bill and Laura Bender
Kindred Spirit III
Grand Banks 42 Cl
Shelter Cove Marina
Hilton Head Island, SC

    

11 April 2017 Little Rock, AR; Memphis, TN; Gulf Shores, AL; Pensacola, FL; Tallahassee, FL; St. Mary’s, GA; Wildwood, FL; Ocala, FL.

     There is an enormous Bass Pro Shop in Memphis housed in an equally enormous and iconic 32 story mirrored pyramid. Not only is Bass Pro located in there but there are restaurants and even a hotel!!! This expansive 535,000 square foot pyramid houses so much more with features and experiences for everyone.
     Their wilderness hotel is called the Big Cypress Lodge and overlooks nearly 600,000 gallons of water with a cypress swamp with 100 foot tall trees. There’s an 84,000 gallon alligator habitat and aquariums teeming with more than 1800 fish and Ducks Unlimited Waterfowl Heritage Center’s interactive ducks.  There’s a 13 lane ocean-themed bowling alley and the nations tallest 28 story freestanding glass elevator. 



      The riverfront is delightful and beautifully landscaped with paved walking, running, cycling paths. We enjoyed getting a little saddle time there and were pleased to see so many of the Memphis residents enjoying the spring time outdoors.



     This is the stained glass ceiling over the Peabody’s lobby bar where we savored Friday evening cocktails. The bartender put a tiny little yellow rubber ducky in my drink.

The Duckmeister of the Peabody Ducks

      A long time legend of The Peabody Hotel and the ducks were one of the reasons we wanted to visit Memphis. As we gathered with hundreds of others to enjoy the duck march from the fountain, down the red carpet, to the elevator, many asked the Duckmeister how the tradition began. Back in the 1930’s, the General Manager of The Peabody, and a friend, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had a little too much Tennessee sippin’ whiskey and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys in the beautiful Peabody fountain.  Three small English call ducks were selected as “guinea pigs” and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. So began the Peabody tradition which was to become internationally famous.



The ducks condo is on the Peabody’s roof and this is a view of the river from their vantage point.

     While in Memphis, we toured the National Civil Rights Museum located in the Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King’s assassination. In the motel’s courtyard, there were video/audio “listening posts” that gave an overview of the museum’s history and why Dr. King came to Memphis. We spent quite a bit of time in the museum which was a very somber tour.  We were then directed across the street to tour other educational displays in the rooming house where James Earl Ray fired the fatal shot. 







 The exhibits chronicle key episodes of the American Civil Rights Movement and also addresses some of today’s civil and human rights issues. For me, it provoked a million thoughts and questions as I’m certain it did for others. Hopefully, it’ll serve as a catalyst for positive change. The displays and history re-telling was very poignant and sort of made me feel ashamed to being a Caucasian Southerner.  If you’re ever in the area, hopefully this’ll be on your bucket list. We had to choose this museum or Graceland and am so glad we made the right choice for us. Far more than most of us probably realize, the blacks have made a huge sacrifice for the progress they’ve made. I feel so proud of what they’ve become from what they were when I grew up in the ’40’s and ’50’s.


     We were hoping to enjoy some Memphis blues but even at BB King’s bar there was none. Plenty of the famed BBQ, though so we were singing the blues because there were no blues.

Beale Street Revelers
A strange facade just propped and standing on Beale Street

Beale Street, Memphis, TN

     On March 28, 14 very happy years ago, I said, “I do” for the rest of my life as Bill Bender’s bride! He is, without a doubt, My Soul Mate/Kindred Spirit, and the most long-suffering and patient man on the face of the earth.



     Continuing easterly, we were entertained by our oldest, Chad, his son/our grandson, Zac, and their friends’ beach house in Gulf Shores. Chad had loaded the table town with gigantic shrimp and crawfish. For Bill, crawfish was a new taste and experience. We gorged ourselves on the frustrations then on fresh grouper that our host prepared. We appreciated a very relaxing and laid back evening. What could be better than seafood in view of the Gulf.

Bill, Laura, and Chad
    
     No trip to the Panhandle would be complete without a stop in Pensacola. Our 
peerless friend, Tony, of Custom Canvas of Pensacola, let us stay in his parking lot—Ft. Pickens is sold out till August and other RV parks were way out of town in the boonies.  He also re-did our strata glass on the new total enclosure he did for us last year—chemicals in the air in Brunswick ruined them–they were as cloudy as the old ones were. His work is total perfection so he and Bill got along famously. We had a pleasant dinner with he and his wife, Annette. At the last minute we had dinner with friends, Andi and her husband, Tony. (Lots of Tonys!) Cousin Debby and her 93 year old mom took us to their favorite BBQ cafe for lunch.



 
                         93 year old Aunt Ruth and Cousin Debby
                                         (Aren’t they cute!)
     About 10 years ago, we were wandering around Pensacola’s downtown and Bill spied a barber shop displaying a sign, “Sorry, we’re open.” In the display window are products that are so thick with dust, there’s no telling how long they’ve been there. We walked in and Bill sat in the chair of an elderly barber, Mr. Joe Brown who said he was 91 years old. Each time we’re in Pensacola, Bill visits Mr. Brown for him to ply his trade. This trip, I was so afraid he would be no more but in we walked and there he sat dozing in his chair. He’s as sharp as a tack and has a memory like a steel trip. In March he celebrated his 101st birthday. He’s the oldest barber in FL but says there’s one who’s 105 in another state.  Cutest little man.

                                         93 year old Aunt Ruth and Cousin Debby
                                               (Aren’t they cute!)

      And the wheels keep turning as the road stretches out before us. Continuing south, we wanted to spend some time in Tallahassee since I’m an original Floridian and Bill’s an immigrant. Hope Trumpy doesn’t ship him back to NY. Tallahassee, with its rolling hills and canopied roads lined with moss-draped oaks, it doesn’t look like the rest of FL. This area is often referred to as the Real Florida. It’s missing a multitude of condos and parking lots. Instead, large swaths of unspoiled forests and bear-crossing signs are seen, with a few grand old Southern mansions for flair.  Regardless of where we go, we always wind up in the hoods—and most especially when we’re on our bikes—but we never saw a poor or neglected area in Tallahassee. Folks in the southern part of the state rarely find their way up here. That’s too bad for them but not for us, as the Big Bend region is rich with history, culture, wildlife, geological features and miles of rivers and forests begging to be explored by foot, bike, or canoe. If  you’re patient you can spot 372 of the 497 species of birds residing in or visiting FL.  We took a bike tour from Tally to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and that was an exquisite treat.





                      Westcott Building/Epps Hall

    Tally is a town steeped in tradition and it bears a Muskogean Indian name meaning “old fields” or “old town.”  It’s main claim to fame is that it’s the home of FSU whose has the most picturesque campus in our nation. We strolled past the red-brick architecture, sculptures, and green spaces.  We stopped at the Westcott Building, the oldest site of higher education in FL. Prior to the university becoming co-ed in 1945, it was Florida State College for Women. My mother graduated from there in 1931 and I went into Westcott believing that perhaps she took some classes there and I wanted to walk where she walked.



                                    Sue Evelyn Hanshaw Lane
                                                 Class of 1931

     Her sorority house and the sorority are nonexistent today at FSU. It was founded in 1898 and is active in other universities. Throughout the campus are stone benches on which to relax and contemplate the universe under giant oaks draped in swaying Spanish moss. 44.3% of Tally’s population holds a Bachelor’s degree or higher, making it the most educated city in FL.




    Stained glass window in the capitol’s dome

       Entrance to the Capitol


                       
  The Capitol with its candy striped awnings


   The year-round mild temps, rolling hills dominated by massive live oaks, vast tracts of protected forest, more than 600 mi of trails, five rivers, 20 lakes and miles of uncluttered coastlines attract those yearning for a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, paddling, birding or viewing other wildlife. What if you didn’t have to distinguish between what was work and what was play? What if there was a place that allowed labor and leisure to coexist.  That place, most likely, is Downtown Tallahassee. 
     We began our tour at the Capitol Complex, which included the original historic capitol and the new 22 story capitol. The old capitol has been restored to its 1902 grandeur with a stained glass dome and candy-striped awnings and stands as an icon at the front of the new  capitol.

    If Tallahassee attracts you like a magnet, it’s with good reason. The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, located there, is home to the After world’s most powerful magnet, capable of producing a magnetic field one million times more powerful than Earth’s field.  The spot from which all land surveys in the state are based is located in Tallahassee’s Cascades Park.    


     After poking around Tallahassee’s museums, galleries, and bike trails, for a few days, we moved on with St. Mary’s, GA, and our beloved trawler, in our cross hairs.  Excited!  Our 6 months of RV-ing has lengthened to 11 months because we’re repositioning our boat northward but now we can resume our 6 months here and 6 months there.

     Last time we switched modes of transportation, we said we’d purchase duplicates of things and not do a total move everytime. There are just certain things that you HAVE to move back and forth and with the boat on the hard, we were scrambling up and down a step ladder off the transom till we felt like gerbils on their exercise wheel.

     Better nate than lever–while in St. Mary’s, we had a REAL celebration of our 14th anniversary 11 days late but it was worth the wait. Really wanted an April wedding date but couldn’t wait another week. Told Bill we should just claim April 8—like the sound of that but, the engineer that he is, said, “No. That wouldn’t be accurate.”  What a straight shooter and what difference would less than 2 weeks make anyway. He’s my BFF.





   

   

     We’re closing out our land cruising season tonight. We’re in Wildwood, FL, at Alliance Coach to have a few things attended to and we’ll also store her here for the next six months. It’s been a lovely cruise. Our two land cruising season have netting about 21,000 miles. I’m planning next years’ and it’s going to be a stop-and-smell-the-roses land cruising. I’m the boss!!!  I want to dawdle and relax. Bill’s a hit-the-ground running kinda guy.

     You’ll hear from us next from upon the water!

Bill and Laura


     


23 March 2017 Little Rock, AR – Memphis, TN

     The Clintons may have put Little Rock on the map, but this charming and historic capital city offers plenty of reasons to keep it there. The Central High Museum tells the painful, powerful story of the city’s racial struggles. For those who love to shop, hours can be spent at the River Market wherein lies a collection of tasty eateries and eclectic stores.
     Arkansas’s capitol city provided us with a lovely visit and our RV park was right on the AR river making all of our destinations very accessible by bike, public transportation, or on foot. We were close enough to the river bank to throw a rock and hit it. There were bass tournaments, barge traffic, and practicing rowing teams for our entertainment. There is a pedestrian bridge beside the park that once was a train trestle lift bridge. The evolution to a pedestrian bridge was quite cleaver and beautified by planters filled with blooming annuals. We made many trips across that bridge both on foot and on our bikes. 
     The pedestrian bridge ends/begins at the Clinton Library and Museum. Our docent kept us thoroughly entertained for 90 minutes. We weren’t ready for her to go home. She’s a retired history professor from the University of Arkansas and was a colorful delight. She was cute, spunky, and full of interesting AR history.

                               The Clinton Presidential Library

     Next door is the Heifer International Museum. We didn’t know a thing about it and only heard about it last week from boating/RV-ing friends who have volunteered with the organization for several summers. Their mission is to work with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the earth. 

     A farmer from the midwest, Dan West, went to the front lines of the Spanish Civil War as an aid worker. His mission was to provide relief but he soon discovered the meager single cup of milk rationed to the weary refugees once a day, wasn’t sufficient. He had a brain storm—“What if they had not a cup but a cow?”  That “teach a man to fish” philosophy is what inspired Mr. West to found Heifer International and now, 70 years later, that philosophy still inspires their work to end world hunger and poverty throughout the world once and for all.

     Families are empowered to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity by linking communities and helping bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty. Their animals provide the families with both food and a reliable income from products such as milk, eggs, and honey that can be traded or sold at market.

     The core of their model is Passing on the Gift which means that families share the training they received and pass on the first female offspring of their livestock to another family. This extends the impact of the original gift allowing a once impoverished family to become donors and full participants in improving their communities and achieving self-reliance. This is definitely a “must see” when you visit Little Rock.

     The River Trail is paved and perfect for cyclists, skaters, and walkers. It runs 28 miles along the river and was fairly flat which was a great relief after those AZ and NM hills. Needless to say, we throughly enjoyed our visit there.

     Now we’ve moved farther east on I-40 and are parked on the banks of the Mississippi River in Memphis.

Till later—
Bill and Laura

14 March 2017 Williams – Gallup – Albuquerque – Tucumcari, NM – Amarillo, TX

   
         We had quite a picturesque drive as we drove from Williams to Gallup.      






       It is a little complex to attempt to paint a picture of Albuquerque because it’s both time-worn and also cutting-edge with equal parts quaint and cool. We enjoyed strolling Old Town then went ‘downtown’ and were somewhat underwhelmed. Quite a few homeless and too many empty store fronts. Very limited pedestrian activity—other than the homeless who were in the sleeping mode as opposed to looking like pedestrians. We were about the only two out roaming around. We had to step over several sidewalk slumberers which was pretty unsettling. The university campus is quite attractive with adobe pueblos surrounded by the desert landscape. Of the two, Old Town was our fave and we found it quite charming.


     We took the Nine Mile Hill drive along Route 66 as it developed from the 1920’s through the 1960’s. The architecture and signs of several decades showcase the change and innovation that took place during that evolution. Historic buildings of particular interest were indicated on the Nine Mill Hill map by a designation telling the date and purpose of each building’s construction. 
    
   The architectural styles were interesting. Buildings from the heyday of Route 66 reveal some popular styles of the period in the Southwest. The style and their time spans help identify the building’s approximate age.

     The Pueblo Revival began in 1905 and is still a popular design. They are finished with stucco walls, a flat roof and rounded parapets, wood beams that project around the top of the house and porches with rounded posts.

     Another style dates from 1920 to 1950 and is known as the Southwest Vernacular. They’re very similar in that the walls are also stuccoed, flat roofs and often with an irregular parapet. Some own a slight Spanish or California Mission element such as a tiled porch, grouped windows, rounded doors, and iron railings 

     The Moderne style dates from 1930 to 1950, featuring rounded corners and windows, flow lines and zigzags, glass block, cantilevered awnings and pylons, and decorative towers rising from flat roofs. As we drove past these we could almost envision the time capsule that these buildings demonstrated.


Our first night in Albuquerque
ABQ’s Kimo Theatre

               
                          A pretty little church adjacent to the town square in Old Town

                                                            From days of yore!




                                                                     And again!


     Today we arrived in Amarillo just for the evening. Bill’s out on an old car museum excursion leaving me behind to relax and paint.  Oh, happy day.


     From here we’ll cross OK, AR, TN as we point our noses to GA to pick up the boat. Sight seeing is just about over but if something earth-shattering occurs, I’ll be sure and let you know but for now, enjoy a well-deserved break for our blog.


Bill and Laura Bender
Amarillo, TX

9 March 2017 Route 66 Williams, AZ

     This morning we departed Grand Canyon National Park after 5 phenomenal days en route to Williams, AZ, on Route 66. We arrived here noonish and after a quick lunch, I asked Bill if he’d like to go to dinner at Wild West Junctio…

8 March 2017 Our Grand Canyon Adventures

     
     Vast, magnificent, and inarguably beautiful, is the Grand Canyon, and a natural wonder that you simply have to see to believe. Stretching 277 miles from end to end, steep, rocky walls descend more than a mile to the canyon’s floor, where the wild Colorado River traces a swift course southwest.  The expanse brought to the fore, how insignificant we really are.

     
     It’s as if a paintbrush, dipped in golds and pinks and oranges and purples, swept over narrows and craggys in an area that’s an average of 10 miles wide (18 miles at its widest) and a mile deep with  layered bands of red rock revealing millions of years of geological history. The unique combinations of color are the result of the earth’s physical structure and forms that have been caused by one of the most spectacular examples of erosion anywhere in the world.. All of these factors to decorate this work of art. 




      We stepped to the edge and still couldn’t take it all in. The immense size of the Grand Canyon is overwhelming our senses.  Snow remains in the park and as the direction of the sun alters the canyons appearance, so are the canyon formations highlighted by snow.


This guy had taken over someone’s car roof and was squawking away.

      

     Pictures and paintings just can’t do it justice—it’s one of those things you have to see to believe. As with all sides of the Canyon, the South Rim features astounding views of what took Mother Nature millions and millions of years to create. That why it has earned the distinction as one of the world’s Seven Wonders

     The Tuscan Pueblo Ruin was interesting to walk the area and try to visualize what life for those people might’ve been like 800 years ago. This ruin is just one of more than 4000 archaeological sites found within the Grand Canyon National Park. The site consists of a small, u-shaped pueblo featuring a living area, storage rooms, and a kiva, which is a room used by Puebloans for religious rituals and political meetings. Kivas are square-walled and underground and used for spiritual ceremonies. 


     Fortunately, the day we visited was a clear day and we were able to see the distant San Francisco Peaks. The Hopi Indians considered these mountains as sacred, believing that the spirits who lived there would bring rain and other blessings in the spring.

                                                San Francisco Peaks
     
     The Desert View Watchtower is a 70 foot tall circular stone building located on the eastern edge of the South Rim where the Colorado River begins to turn north and the Painted Desert is visible as it stretches toward the Navajo and Hopi Reservations. 
                The ceiling of the Watch Tower, 5th floor, looking up from first floor. 






    Each story of the Watchtower has several windows enabling us to gain different views of the Canyon and the surrounding area. The first floor displays a Hopi snake altar right in the center of the room.




      Walls and ceilings are covered in Native American symbols and pictographs. There’s a mural of the Hopi Snake Legend describing their cultural connection to the Grand Canyon. 



     The painting tells the story of a Hopi man who floated down the Colorado River through the canyon in a hollow log. We saw the film of the canyon and river at the IMAX and the river is ferocious. Difficult to fathom what his journey in his USS Hollow Log must’ve been been like after seeing the rambunctious and turbulent current in the river.


      On our final day we hiked the South Rim Trail. We so much wanted to hike the Bright Angel Trail but it was steep and still iced over. We did go part of the way to the 2 holes in the rock but didn’t dare venture any farther. Not a good time in our lives for a broken hip.


                                                         Trails

     We saw so much more on the hike than we could’ve seen from the shuttle buses. Words fail me. Please forgive the endless photos but just can’t bring myself to delete any.

Believe it or not, we’ve beat the spring and summer onslaught of tourists.

                                  This volcano hasn’t erupted in 200,000 years.



                                                              An artist’s palette

                                                                            Trails

A cleft in the rock

                                       Holes in the rock on the Bright Angel Trail

“When mules pass….”

                    Hole in the rock that’s passable on Bright Angel Trail
     
      One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the canyon changes by the hour and by the season. Sunset and sunrise are experiences of a lifetime and the South Rim is the best place to experience the many moods of the canyon.There are museums that feature history, heritage, and geology, the IMAX movie and the National Park Service movie in the Park Visitor Center are very educational before visiting the park. There is so much to do in and around the South Rim. Our 5 day visit was truly memorable and something we’ll always remember and cherish.

Bill and Laura
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

5 March 2017 Sedona – Jerome – Clarkdale – Tuzigott – Cottondale – Sedona, AZ

      Situated in a stunning setting, surrounded by red rock mountains and buttes lies the little village of Sedona where there are fabulous views from the main highway running through the town and almost every street corner. Sedona is known for its energy vortexes and many people consider it to be a highly spiritual place.

     Our first morning in Sedona we took two narrated trolly tours that were immensely educational and provided a great overview of the Sedona area. We became acquainted with our tour guide, Mark, who also gave us some tips of places to go and things to do during our visit there.

      Built into a Sedona Butte is the Chapel of the Holy Cross in a breath-taking location providing an exemplary view of the town by standing by the altar.   Built into a Sedona Butte is the Chapel of the Holy Cross in a breath-taking location providing an exemplary view of the town through the windows behind the altar. 



     Mr. Schnebly, one of the early settlers, petitioned for a post office and that was granted. His wife was named Sedona. Go figure! Schnebly Hill Road is the route from downtown to our campground and it winds above Sedona, rocky and unpaved, to some great hiking trails. We accidentally explored two of those because we got separated but nobody got lost.  


 How could anyone ever become wearied by these magnificent creations!

                                               The Chimney of West Sedona

     This huge formation rises from the top of the low mesa on which it sits. Depending on your vantage point, Chimney Rock looks like a single spire but from a different view, the three spires of the emergance are clearly visible.


The downtown streets are lined with cute shops and interesting restaurants.





     One of the many traffic circles in Sedona. The locals make it flow smoothly but tourists hover, blocking traffic, wondering if they should “go” or continue sitting there.


     Mark suggested that we drive north on a highway with numerous switchbacks of sharp bends and curves that climbed quickly from Sedona up the side of the Mongolian Rim to the top of Highway 89A and the vista of the overlook for Oak Creek Canyon.

 A snow covered mountain side of Oak Creek Canyon
     From the canyon rim, we had a dazzling panoramic view stretching 5-8 miles toward Sedona. Snow remained from a recent snowfall and we found a snowman on one of the walls.

    Four of the circuitous paths that Highway 89A carves into the mountainside to get us to the rim can be seen in the above photo.


             
                              Never did we think we’d ever see snow again in our lives!


                                              At the top of Oak Creek Canyon


    



      Mark strongly recommended adding Jerome, AZ, to our itinerary. When we arrived in that unusual village, we couldn’t believe our eyes! It was founded in the late 19th century, is more than 5,000 feet above sea level and sits on Cleopatra Hill, overlooking the Verde Valley. It’s known by two descriptive names—American’s Most Vertical City and the Largest Ghost Town in America.

     This tiny old mining town, turned ghost town, is located along a mountainside high above the desert floor, and has become a tourist attraction. A steep hill with switchbacks is the main street through town. Views from the streets and through some of the shop windows, are amazing. Many of the old buildings have been renovated but some still stand as ruins, creating a very interesting dynamic.

     This town is unique to say the least, and has many interesting and quirky sites.





     Jerome is a historic copper mining town and was once known as the most wicked town in the west with a population of 15,000 in the 1920’s. Today it is a thriving tourist and artist community boasting a population of 450. It sits above what was the largest copper mine in AZ and produced an astonishing 3 million pounds of copper a month. Today the mines are silent and Jerome has become the largest ghost town in America. 







It is an enchanting town and a photographer’s paradise making it well worth your time to visit. Externally, it hasn’t changed much in nearly 100 years. Most of the buildings in use today were built after the fires of 1894 and 1899. You’ve just got to see it to believe it. 


        This is what’s left of one of Jerome’s finest hotel but today stands in ruins. 








     The town’s built on a 30 degree incline of the mountainside so gravity has pulled a number of buildings down the slope. To the delight of the inmates, one of those buildings was the town’s jail.    





     One area not to miss is the “Cribs District” which is across the street from the English Kitchen, in a back alley where all the buildings were part of Jerome’s ill-famed “prostitution row”.


     

     Mark recommended a visit to the Jerome Grand Hotel, a historic landmark, once a hospital and now a hotel. It is a historic Spanish Mission style building that served as a hospital from 1927 until 1950. Then it sat unused for 44 years until it was purchased in 1994 to start its life as the Jerome Grand Hotel.  Steam heat is still used in many areas and the 1926 Otis Elevator services all 5 floors.  In the windowed garage, we saw their 1928 Springfield Phantom 1 Rolls-Royce. We were intrigued by numerous historic pictures and antiques also displayed throughout the building.

    

          Another little town between Sedona and Jerome is Clarkdale, located at the base of Cleopatra Hill, the location where Jerome is King of the Hill.  William Clark was owner of one of Jerome’s largest copper mines, thus the town’s name. The Verde Canyon Railroad is based there and still takes tourists on a 4 hour train ride with dinner served.

      Tuzigoot National Monument was conveniently on our route that day, historic Highway 89A, and is an old Indian dwelling.  There are two hiking trails that give visitors an up close look at the culture from long ago. The Sinagua people were agriculturalists and they built and lived in the pueblo that consisted of 110 rooms including second and third story structures. They left the area around 1400. The first buildings were built around A.D. 1000. The ruins still exist on this small mound. The site is currently comprised of 42 acres. 




     Tuzigoot is near yet another tiny town on historic 89A wherein all our explorations took us that day, namely Cottonwood. Back in the days of mining, Cottonwood had a reputation for lawlessness. Heavy bootlegging abounded, therefore attracting other non-law abiding citizens. This burg was known to have the best bootlegging booze within hundreds of miles, attracting people from LA, Phoenix, and other closer-to-home folks.

     “The times they are a-changin'” because today, Cottonwood’s the place to go if you’re looking for something different. It’s complete with a vast array of wine tasting rooms, restaurants, a picturesque historic old town complete with high sidewalks and false fronted buildings that lend to the old west atmosphere. It’s surrounded by jagged mountains on the south, east, and west. To the north are mesas and buttes. How did this town come by its name? There are beautiful Cottonwood trees that grow along the beautiful Verde River which flows through this town.


     Before returning home to Sedona, Cottonwood was our last scheduled stop. Mark confessed that he’s a musician and would be entertaining at one of the wine bars that night. We passed up First Friday in Sedona when all the galleries are open late to be able to hear Mark play guitar and sing accompanied by his friend on bass. Mark’s been playing since he was in the 4th grade and it shows. He is extremely talented, writes many of his own lyrics, composes his own music, and has a marvelous voice. Our last night in the Sedona area ended on a sweet sounding note.


Bill and Laura
Sedona, AZ

    

4 March 2017 Mesa – Sedona, Arizona

          Our last evening in Phoenix/Scottsdale/Mesa/Tempe, we spent with our beloved boating friends, Jim and Julie. Now, it’s off to Sedona.

     Sedona, “Red Rock City”, is an Arizona desert town surrounded by red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls and pine forests. It’s noted for its mild climate and vibrant arts community. Uptown Sedona is dense with shops, spas, and art galleries. On the outskirts of town are numerous trailheads with access to Red Rock State Park and numerous trail heads for bird-watching, hiking, and picnicking spots.
     Spectacular sights along our drive from Scottsdale to Sedona. Such a gorgeous area. 

      
                                               I want to stay here forever!

                                                 Snow on the mountaintop.

     Sedona, renowned for its stunning red buttes and monoliths, is located at the base of Oak Creek Canyon and is completely surrounded by the Coconino National Forest. 


     In 1876, Sedona, yet unnamed, began as a small farming and ranching settlement. By 1902, 20 families had settled there. Arizona didn’t become a state until 1912. One of the settlers, Theodore Schnelbly, petitioned for and was granted a postal station that he named in honor of his wife, Sedona. The last name is familiar to us because our campground on Bear Wallow Road, is a spur off Schnelbly Road.




     Sedona is an artsy town  The red rocks are magnificent but it could be more than those vistas that stimulate the creativity of the artists. Many believe that the Sedona region contains a concentration of vortexes which are spots that release psychic energy or power from the earth. We visited the areas pointed out to us as vortexes but try as we might, we never felt the anticipated tingle.

    

      Our campground, Rancho Sedona RV Park on Bear Wallow Lane (love the name) right in the heart of downtown. As we entered initially, there was a steep descent into the park and I thought we were entering into a magical fairyland. The tree branches had been festooned with iridescent silver ribbons pirouetting in the breeze as they reflected the sun. It took my breath and was a magnificent welcome. Our stay there was just that grand. Our site was on Oak Creek with a manicured lawn between our coach and the creek’s berm. 


     There is so much more to see and do so must be out the door. Nature’s splendor is magnetically beckoning. 


Bill and Laura
Sedona, AZ

28 February 2017 Odessa, TX, – Carlsbad, NM, – Tucson, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Mesa, AZ

     Seeing Odessa in our rear view mirror was not a sad sight, although we were pleased with the Cummins mechanic who made headway on our engine issue. We rank Odessa right up there with Carrabelle, FL, and not one of our favorite towns.


     The Guadalupe Mountains National Park in New Mexico protects one of the world’s best examples of a fossil reef and is home to Carlsbad Caverns. Both of these are found in the Chihauhauan Desert.



     Carlsbad was better than our memory served us from our visits there as children.  It has no equal that we’ve experienced and is a domain of gigantic subterranean chambers with fantastic cave formations.  Every step we took elicited gasps of wonder and amazement at these exquisite formations that God has given us to enjoy.  


   We were over 750 feet below the desert’s surface where the year-round temp is 56 so our jackets felt comfy.

     Rangers and exhibits were available to provide in-depth information about the ecology, history, and cave formation. The cave is a complex maze of limestone rock reminding us of Swiss cheese.
  

     There’s a 200,000 ton boulder that fell from the cave ceiling thousands of years ago and is called the Iceberg Rock. Some that we walked beneath didn’t appear to be hanging on too tightly making us want to scurry.

     
     The story of Carlsbad Caverns began 250 million years ago with the creation of a 400 mile long reef in a sea that covered this region. The reef formed from the remains of sponges, algae, seashells, and calcite that precipitated directly from the water. As the reef rose, cracks developed in it. Eventually the sea evaporated and the reef was buried under deposits of salts and gypsum.

                                                          Rock of Ages

     The stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations began over 500,000 years ago after much of the cavern had been carved out.  It happened slowly—drop by drop—at a time when a wetter, cooler climate prevailed.  Creation of each formation depended on water that dripped or seeped down into the limestone bedrock and into the cave. As a raindrop fell to the ground and percolated downward, it absorbed carbon dioxide gas from the air and soil, and a weak acid was formed. As it continued to move down, the drop dissolved a little limestone, absorbing some of the basic ingredients needed to build most cave formations—the mineral, calcite. Once the drop finally emerged in the cave, the carbon dioxide escaped into the cave air. No longer able to hold the dissolved calcite, the drop deposited its tiny mineral load as a crystal of calcite. Billions and billions of drops later, thousands of cave formations had taken shape.

      Then a few million years ago, uplift and erosion began to uncover the buried rock reef. During this uplift that would become the Guadalupe Mountains, rainwater seeped downward through the cracks and faults in the limestone. Simultaneously, hydrogen sulfide-rich water migrated upward from expansive oil and gas fields. When these two waters mixed, that formed sulfuric acid which dissolved the limestone and opened up the fractures and faults into the large chambers that we saw on our tour. As the mountains were pushed up, the level where the rooms and passages in the cave were being formed, moved lower into the ancient reef rock. This process created nearly horizontal levels connected by steep passages in Carlsbad Caverns.

     In the summer, the Mexican or Brazilian free-tailed bats put on a spectacular show at night as they fly from the cave by the thousands to feast on insects. They winter in Mexico so we missed them.  Did you know that they are the only mammal that flies.  They have fur instead of feathers, and they also give birth and nurse their young.

     Bisbee, AZ, once known as “Queen of the Copper Camps,” offers a blend of history, architecture, romance, and adventure all wrapped up in the rugged splendor of a charming Old West mining town. 

                                             Lavender Pit Mine
                                               Abandoned open copper pit mine

     Bisbee had a reputation of sophisticated élan but it was also a rough and tumble mining camp. Their famed red-light district in Brewery Gulch, boasted nearly 50 saloons and almost as many brothels.  During its hey day it was considered the wildest street in North America. Well-know wild women offered their charms to miners, gamblers, and a string of millionaire investors. This tiny village, once a copper mining town, has the first rural Smithsonian Affiliate museum in the nation that showcases the historical influence of mining. The building that houses the museum is a National Historic Landmark and is the cornerstone of Bisbee’s Historic District.






Paintings on risers of steps near old brothel area



     In 1877, a reconnaissance detail of scouts and cavalrymen were sent to the Mule Mountains, a north-south range running through southern Arizona, in search of renegade Apaches. Instead, they found signs of copper. The first mining claim was staked in what would later become the City of Bisbee. This claim sent prospectors scurrying to the Mule Mountains in hopes of striking it rich.  Today, Bisbee has transformed itself into a quirky, artsy town that offers historic lodging, fine dining, museums, art galleries, and antique shops. There’s nearby hiking, biking, and birding opportunities.




       I found the town’s architecture to be quite interesting. The Sheriff’s Office and Justice Court is a Classical Revival-style building with lovely large columns topped with ionic capitals and dented cornice. In Brewery Gulch, there is a building built by a Serbian immigrant in 1906, with Romanesque Revival with Neo-Classical influence. It makes for an impressive entrance to the Brewery Saloon. Strolling down Brewery Ave you can see an ever-changing assortment of architectural styles once home to residences and businesses. The old city Hall has a cut stone facade and Italiante bell tower. Across from the Brewery is a building with rusticated Italianate influences. Although a “Tiny Town”, everywhere I looked, I saw something to grab my interest. Did you know that St. Elmo is the patron saint of mining?

     Our intentions were to stop in Tombstone but it has kind of become ‘nothing’ and after our experience in Deadwood last year, Tombstone would’ve paled in comparison so we drove right through and on to Tucson.




     Tucson’s Pima Air and Space Museum was also a stop recommended by friends.  In recent years, a conservatory group recognized that the historic World War II and 1950s era aircraft stored on the base were rapidly disappearing into smelters and that the flames were consuming not just metal, but the aviation heritage of our country.




     They began to set aside examples of the many types of aircraft stored in yards. These planes were placed along the base’s fence line so that the public could see them through the fence. The display quickly became very popular with the local community, but viewing the aircraft through the fence was somewhat unsatisfying.







     The first acquisition was a B-24 (not the one above) which is housed in a hanger all by itself aside.   


    


     A swimming friend from decades ago, Ted,  lives in Tucson. We met ever so long ago when we were both active in US Masters Swimming and would participate in Masters Short Course Nationals. Had hoped to get together with them–he’s never met Bill and we’ve never met his wife, Lee, but they were side-lined with a bug. Ted and I were able to enjoy a long phone conversation to re-hash ‘old times’.


     We really liked Tucson and most especially its top attraction, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, with is counted in TripAdvisors Top Ten Museums in the country.  Unlike most museums, about 85% of the experience is outdoors. Its 98 acres is a melding of zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium. 

      The walking paths are laid out through various desert habitats exhibiting 230 animal species, 1200 types of plants, and one of the world’s most comprehensive local mineral collections.

     Our docent was remarkable and fortunately, we were the only 2 in his group. His knowledge was exceptional and there wasn’t a question we asked him (which were legion) that he didn’t know the answer. By the way, their docent program is an intense 15 week training period and is one of the top curriculum in the country.

     This museum is beyond belief and flawlessly choreographed with plantings, paths, aviaries, and sectors for rescued wildlife to live in their natural habitat. It would be easy to spend an entire day there. There is a coffee shop and restaurant for a bite and respite.


     Our Valentine’s Day Dinner was enjoyed atop an eclectic and funky little boutique hotel.


                  Cocktails were memorable over-seen by two glowing pink love birds


                                       Views were spectacular 360 degrees

                                View from the top into the square courtyard

     State capitols and their museums fascinate us and Arizona’s was no exception.


     The AZ Capitol museum serves as a symbol of Arizona’s rich and colorful history, featuring four floors with more than 20 exhibition areas.


                                          The dome of the museum.
                        
               Mosaic state seal on the first floor as viewed from the fourth floor.

     From these stainless sculptures, hangs a plaque of each name of lives lost on the USS Arizona and USS Missouri.


     

     There are many memorials in the park and some that we visited were of the Korean War, 9/11, and Desert Storm.  Each plaque describes Arizona’s contributions and were either dedicated to the participating units or the individuals who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.


     One of our favorite boating couple friends live in Scottsdale, just outside of Phoenix. Luckily, we were able to spend 2 evenings with them for dinner-one in their lovely new home and the other aboard our rolling home. Time spent with them just never seems long enough.


     We took a side trip to Indio, CA, to spend time with Geoff, our son, who was last on the visit-the-son-tour, but not least. Isn’t it considerate of the 5 of them to live along Interstate 10 from AL, to CA?  They sure made it easier for us than if there were spread out—NY, WA, OK, HI, etc. Just a straight shot and we were able to spend time with each of them although it took 2 ½ months. We’re retired and in no hurry and we relish every moment and every single mile to have had those opportunities. 

     
     Geoff was our chauffeur and the 3 of us went to Joshua Tree National Park in CA which lies along the San Andreas Fault, one of the world’s most active tectonic boundaries.  The park’s premier attractions are forests of giant branching yuccas known as Joshua trees, massive rock formations, and numerous desert fauna and flora.  The tree has spiky, succulent leaves and although it could be mistaken for a cactus, instead, it’s a member of the agave family.

     The park covers 794,000 acres with a plethora of hiking trails for all fitness and skill levels.  There are two desert systems there—the Mojave and the Colorado, both abutted to Joshua Tree National Park on the east and west sides.  The Colorado is the western reach of the  Sonoran Desert that we visited a couple weeks prior and is considered “low desert”  compared to the taller, wetter, and more vegetated Mojave “high desert”.  The Colorado seems sparse and forbidding. This is helpful in understanding that the key to their differences is their elevation.




     We were more ‘taken’ with the geologic landscape of the park than with its namesake trees.  How did the rocks take on such sensational shapes and what forces sculpted them? “They say” that the landscape was born more than 100 million years ago. Molten liquid, heated by the continuous movement of Earth’s crust, oozed upward and cooled while still below the surface. These plutonic intrusions are a granitic rock called monzogranite.  Geology is one of the several things I’d like to’ve pursued if I had more than one life but we didn’t need to know anything about geology to enjoy the views here. After taking some time to learn about the forces that sculpted the landscape, I was able to see the park with a fresh set of eyes.



     As ground water trickled down through the monzogranite’s joint fractures, it began to transform some hard mineral grains along its path into soft clay, while it loosened and freed grains that were resistant to the solution. Rectangular stones slowly weathered to orbs of hard rock surrounded by soft clay containing loose mineral grains. Imagine holding an ice cube under the faucet. The cube rounds away at the corners first, because that is the part most exposed to the force of the water. A similar thing happened here but over millions of years, on a much larger scale, and during a much wetter climate.

     

     At depths where the temps are extremely hot, water helped melt the rock into granite magma. It was hot, liquid, and lightweight so that it could ooze upward along deep-seated cracks in the crust that had been fractured by the fierce crunching of the charging plates. The liquid granite could’t force itself all the way up to the surface, so the granite stalled and formed huge, ball-shaped masses with the ancient rock.Over a long period of time, the mammoth blobs of granite cooled and hardened.

     The boulder shapes are so strange and we’ve never seen the likes before.  They look like blocks stacked by a child. Some boulders appear to have carved faces, animals shapes, and other forms. Reminded me of lying in the grass as a child and seeing shapes the clouds formed. There are sets of parallel and vertical fractures within the rock from horizontal stresses from the tectonic plates colliding. Later, the mountain building pushed the rocks upward to form sets of X-shaped cracks in the granite. All cracks provide avenues for rain to seep downward through the rocks to etch and shape and round the originally angular blocks into the array of forms seen today.


     As the huge eroded boulders were exposed, they began to settle one on top of another, creating those imposing rock piles that caused our jaws to drop. The scenery is unequivically mythical, hallucinatory and paranormal all at once.   Add a couple of melting watches and Salvador Dali would feel right at home here.

    
                                                     Bill and Geoff

    
     
                                                          Bill and Laura
     Keys View “look out”, in the park at 5185 feet was breath-taking. We were able to overlook a sweeping panorama of an arid desert basin, Coachella Valley and Signal Mountain in Mexico. This was such a visual treat!!! 



 To say that Bill’s a car aficionado would indubitably be an understatement. He had a “Bill Day” and bet you can already guess where he headed! When Barrett-Jackson has televised auctions, he’s glued to the goings-on. B-J has entertained enthusiasts from all over the world for 46 years and are widely regarded as a barometer of the collector car industry. There wasn’t an auction in progress but they have a show room of collectables or eye candy for Bill.
                                                            Barrett-Jackson
                                                            Scottsdale, AZ




                                         Martin’s Auto Museum
                                                 Phoenix, AZ



     We’re back in Phoenix/Tempe/Scottsdale for a week, giving us time to relax and enjoy the city. We’ve had a blast riding the Light Rail here and talk about a “cultural experience”. Bike/Hike trails are plentiful so we rode our bikes for miles exploring the cities and enjoying the Salt River activities.   

                   



    
  
     Superstition Mountain, 50 miles east of Phoenix, was calling us. As we drove east the massive and stunningly beautiful Superstition Mountain range was in full view during our entire drive. We needed to go there to the museum to dig up the dirt on a couple of tales surrounding the area.We were curious as to how it got its name and why it’s rumored that more hikers disappear there than anywhere else. I asked one of the docents and he had no idea and said no one had ever asked him that before. Strange, thought I, that he’d never even wondered that himself.


     I digress…next to the Grand Canyon, the Superstition Mountain range is the most photographed and painted landmark in AZ.


     So where does the “superstition” portion of its name come from?? There are several different versions of that answer. in the late 1860’s, local farmers gave the mountain it’s final name.


     Through the Pima Indians, the farmers of the Salt River Vally had heard stories about strange sounds, people who vanished, mysterious deaths, and a inclusive fear of the mountain.


     This influenced the farmers to believe the Pimas were superstitious about this particular mountain so thus the name Superstition Mountain was born.


     On the grounds of the museum is Apacheland Movie Ranch dating back to 1959. The founders envisioned it as becoming the Western Movie Capital of the World but the dream was never realized. It did have a long history of being a shooting site for many Western TV series, movies, and commercials. Many famous celebrities and move stars did grace the grounds of Apacheland Movie Ranch.


    Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel, an iconic landmark on the museum grounds, is so named because it played a prominent role in the Elvis Presley movie, Charro!  in 1968.





    

     Boot Hill is the museum’s own version of an Old West cemetery where gunfighters who died with their boots on would be laid to rest. This plot is funny with epitaphs written for the likes of gunfighter, Lester Moore and Sheriff Jack.



     Please pardon the many photos which don’t do justice to these beautiful mountains and breath taking landscape. I just couldn’t omit any of them.








     Almost time to head east and swap modes of transportation. Stay tuned.


Bill and Laura Bender
Mesa, AZ