Monday, November 30, 2009

Copper Spike Railroad

Sunday we took another train ride, this one on the Copper Spike Railroad from the old town of Globe to the new (at least relatively) Apache Gold Casino in San Carlos. Globe is a historic mining town east of Mesa. First they mined silver there and the story goes they found a large ball or globe or glob of silver, so they named the town Globe. The vein of silver soon played out, but they found a lot of copper and the town grew. As a matter of fact, they are still mining copper there, as well as in several other places in Arizona. This is a view of one of the mines.

We arrived in Globe just before 11 a.m. and found that the next train left at 11:30. We bought our tickets, then a volunteer offered to open the Globe museum next door for us and another couple. Globe has been refurbishing its historic sites and the museum is nicely done, if small. The historic train depot has been restored and opened in January. This is the second winter season for the tourist train.

The folks who own the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, which has a train from Alamosa to La Veta in Colorado, also own the Copper Spike. In 2006 we rode the San Luis Express in Colorado a week after it began operation. You can read about that trip in my blog:
We rode it again in July 2007. This summer we watched the train pull into La Veta and saw a young man being trained to be a conductor. To our surprise, he was the conductor on our Sunday ride. Here you see the photo John took of him in La Veta and my photo of him and the car attendant on Sunday.

The Copper Spike makes four round trips a day between Globe and Apache Gold. Sunday was cool and rainy, with some hail mixed in at times. As we drove into Globe, we saw this wonderful rainbow.

By the time we boarded the train, the sun came out, but maybe the weather was the reason there were only four other passengers on our trip out of Globe. We were the only passengers returning from the casino. We could have gotten off there, stayed a while, and returned on a later train, but we didn't. Our interest was in the train, not the casino.

The Copper Spike has some neat old cars. First we visited the vista dome car.

We walked through the dining car.

Then we settled in the club car, where we later bought some popcorn. This is the view out the window of the back door in the club car.

It was a fun way to spend our Sunday outing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Life in a 55+ Resort

What’s it like to live in a community like Valle del Oro? There are 1761 spaces at VDO for RVs and park models--a community of up to 3600 people, plus those who come in to work. And everyone who lives here has come to play. We’re all in our second childhood.

The tennis courts are busy during all the daylight hours and sometimes at night. The softball field has games on Mondays and practice several times a week, with both a men’s team and a women’s. The streets are busy, and getting busier every day, with cars, bikes, golf carts and walkers. Almost everyone has either a bike of a golf cart. Most are very ordinary, but this is my favorite golf cart.

It is safe to go out for a walk or bike ride after dark because those driving cars look out for others. Everyone says hi when they pass you. Often people on their porch or patio say hi as you pass by. Any evening you go out you see people having company for dinner or cocktails.

We just received an “Itinerary to Fun,” which has nine pages in 8 or 9 point type listing classes, clinics, workshop, games, cards, clubs, groups, health and fitness and recreation activities. There are 12 rooms set aside for games and crafts, a woodworking room and a tool shed housing saw horses, shovels, wheel barrows, ladders and other items the people in RVs and park models might need to use once in a while but not travel with. There are two swimming pools, a large shuffleboard court, horseshoe pits, croquet/bocce ball area, golf driving cage, and a garden scale railroad.

The daily schedule for Mondays lists aquacise, aerobics/dance, ballroom dance, Bible study, bicycle rides, bike club, billiard lessons, bingo, book club, bridge, ceramics, Church Family Home Event, coffee on the Patio, computer groups, croquet, dancercise, family home evening, flex/stretch, Friends of Bill W, garden railroad, hardanger class, hiking club, jam session, lallygabbers, lapidary, leathercraft, line dance, lost wax, Mah Jongg, massage therapy, Mexican Train dominoes, painting, poker, pottery, prophet makers, sewing, shuffleboard, silversmith shop, singles group, snack bar, softball practice, stained glass, sunshine committee, tool shed, VDO artist guild, walk aerobics, water exercise, water volleyball, woodshop, woodworking and yoga. Whew!

One concern we had when we came here was that our neighbors would have expectations that we participate in community events. There are so many things to do here, no one knows if you are doing something or not. There is everything you might possibly want to do and no need to do anything you aren’t interested in. We walk, run and bike here at VDO. We hike by ourselves and take in sites in the greater Phoenix area. And we have all the privacy we want.

We have seen cottontail rabbits and Gambel Quail in our yard and one morning I saw a coyote walking through the park just after dawn. And yet we are in the middle of Arizona's third largest city. What else could you ask for--unless it would be dark skies and a little less activity. As much as we enjoy dark, it is the street lights that make it possible to bike and walk after dark. There are always compromises.

We are really enjoying our stay here as Snow Birds.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Botanic Gardens

Sunday we visited the Phoenix Botanic Gardens. We looked at cactus and other succulent plants till our brains were full and overflowing with images. Unfortunately, that didn't leave much room for facts about what we were seeing.

At the entrance, these three glass sculptures are in amongst the live cactus (cacti--but I don't like that word). They are called Desert Towers.

The Gardens are full of many kinds of cactus. We focused mainly on the plants of the Sonoran Desert that surrounds us here. This view shows one of the Papago Buttes near the gardens, as well as a beautiful Saguaro and Organ Pipe.

They even provide facilities to help visitors take their own group photo as the tour. Here you see a platform to hold your camera that is turned to a time-delay exposure. There is even a sign so tourists will remember where they were.

Both Apache and O'odham Native Americans lived in this desert. Below you see an Apache Wickiup (with the canvas cover at the top) and an Akimel O'odham Roundhouse. These houses show how local vegetation was used for housing. Other displays show how they used local plants for food and household items.

Before modern settlers diverted much of the Salt and Gila Rivers for irrigation and drinking water, the desert had a lot more flowing water. These wetlands were full of useful plants and wildlife. This stream and willows or bamboo-like reeds made for a pretty picture.

God has made his creation in such marvelous ways that plants provide their own protection. Some cactus plants are covered with hair to provide their own shade.
This is an Old Man Cactus.

This one was only labeled with its Latin name, so I won't bore you with it.

The spines on cactus protect the plants from animals that might want to eat them for water or food. I think they do a pretty good job of that on this Golden Barrel Cactus, don't you?

Some of the cactus reminded us of snakes, often snakes in heaps.

This one looks like a telephone pole that has sprouted leaves. Really it is from the Ocotillo family and is called a Boojum tree.

If I didn't know better, I would say there were green pine cones covered in snow.

Here John is admiring a Fence Post Cactus. You wouldn't want to push through that fence, would you?

This is one last pretty picture. But I don't know what plant it is.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fremont Saddle

Yesterday we went on another great hike--exhausting, but great. We hiked the Peralta Trail west of Mesa to Fremont Saddle. This is a very popular trail, with a huge parking lot.

We were hiking in the Superstition Wilderness in the Tonto National Forest.

Whoops! The hike got off to a bad start. I pulled my hat out of the back seat and put it on backwards.

There is a 1500 foot elevation gain over about 2 1/2 miles and the trail is full of large rocks. So we had to work. But the area is beautiful. We saw this hole in one rock.

A local hiker told us some people think this cave was used by Geronimo.

Balanced rock is another formation we saw along the way.

We have never seen so many century plants and sotol in one place. The century plant is on the left here. It only blooms once in its lifetime, although it doesn't live 100 years before that happens. The tall plant on the right is the sotol. Both tall flowering stems grow out of a plant that is a variety of yucca.

When we reached Fremont Saddle, we could look over the ridge into another valley. Center stage was this large rock formation called Weaver's Needle. It is really impressive. We wondered if it is the core of an old volcano.

The area around Weaver's Needle is full of multiple spires. This gives you a little idea of what we saw.

As we hike back to the trail head, the view was magnificent. But going down wasn't any easier than climbing up. Downhill is hard on the knees and pushes my toes into the front of the boot. But we will try to this hike again sometime this winter.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

We Weren't Lost

Friday we hiked six or six and a half miles in the Superstition Mountains east of Mesa. From a distance these mountains look like barren dark-red rock.

We hiked the Lost Mine Trail off Peralta Road. The trailhead was hard to miss.

Up close, the hillsides are covered with green Palo Verde, Saguaro, Mesquite and other cactus and shrubs.

A miner named Jacob Walz brought gold out of these mountains so pure that when he died in 1891 without revealing its source, a legend was born. For a century miners have hunted for the "Dutchman's" mine, without success. A nearby Arizona State Park is named Lost Dutchman and this trail is named for the lost mine.

We had the trail to ourselves yesterday under a cloudy sky. It was good to hike in the cooler air.

I just love the Saguaro and like to imagine what their various shapes look like. Is this one saying, go to the left?

This fellow seems to be motioning, come here.

When I read about the hike online, they described a Saguaro near the beginning of the trail that reportedly has 40 arms and you can't see daylight through it. I believe it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For Pet Lovers Only

If you have never loved a pet for many years, you might not be interested in reading this post. In fact, you will probably think we are crazy when you read it--even if you do love your pet.

We have two wonderful old cats, PC, age 17, and Partner, 16. PC is the gray tabby, Partner is black and white.

For six years, diabetic PC has been receiving a daily insulin shot. He is an old man, with arthritis in his back and dementia. Partner has numerous allergies and serious digestive tract problems, leading to frequent vomiting. For the past 16 months he has received medicine with his meals, three times a day.

All of this information explains why we cover the carpet in our trailer and our chairs with plastic--to protect them from Partner. We also have Plexiglas fences to keep PC from using the corners instead of the litter box.

We got so tired of the plastic on the floor, we went shopping for new flooring. We chose an Armstrong vinyl that looks like wood laminate and it was installed yesterday. First we had to confine the cats to our bedroom, after covering the bed and the floor with plastic, of course.

Then Tony and George from Mesa Sales removed the old carpet and vinyl, prepared the floor, and spread out the new flooring.

A week ago we had purchased two new leather chairs. They were crowded onto the living room slide while the work was being done.

Here is our new living space. As you can see, we still have the Plexiglas fences and plastic covering the carpet on the slide. But the area where we walk looks great, and its not covered with plastic. We're not in danger of tripping on it and falling.

This is one of the new chairs.

This is one of the new chairs, covered with plastic to protect it from Partner when we are not in the trailer to provide adult supervision. We love those cats so much, but they sure do complicate our lives.