Friday, October 29, 2010


Scottsdale is where the rich and famous, and also the outdoorsy types, go in Arizona. This is our third trip to Phoenix and we had never been there. So Thursday we decided to remedy that. We are staying in the eastern part of the Valley of the Sun and Scottsdale is to the north. It was an easy drive.

We parked in Old Town Scottsdale, a part of the city that keeps alive the western history of this area. The city's official seal depicts a mounted cowboy and numerous bronze statues on street corners keep that image alive. At least most of them do. With the exception of the last statue in the slide show.

Here we are welcomed to the city.

Many old westerns were filmed in the Southwest. Here John Wayne is honored.

I couldn't pass up a visit with this old fellow.

I think this woman was waiting to take my place on that bench.

According to a plaque on the side of this building, it was constructed in 1929 as the first permanent post office in Scottsdale. In the 1950s the post office moved and Porter's Western Store took over the space.

We didn't shop in the western store or many other establishments. We used to spend lots of time shopping--which for us usually meant looking, not buying. But since we began seriously "de-stuffing," we find we usually don't even want to look. We did enjoy Gabriel Ortega's store, filled with really fine Indian jewelry and art. One tiny basket cost $600. We looked a t-shirts, of course, and bought a few post cards for our grandchildren. That was all. But the sights on the streets of Old Town were worth the trip.

In the area called the Scottsdale Mall, we saw this attractive window.

We wanted to learn more about this Old Adobe Mission, but it was closed for restoration.

As we were leaving Old Town, we saw this beautiful building, the Camel View Condominiums. If I was going to live in Scottsdale, wouldn't this be a good place? There are units for sale.

We couldn't pass up the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park (of course) before leaving town. Isn't this a neat old engine?

The park is mainly oriented to children, with a small diesel train that runs around the area, an old dining car set up for birthday parties, and a carousel. But the most interesting exhibit was this 40 and 8 box car, the Arizona car on the 1949 Merci Train. You can learn more by clicking on that link, but basically, after our country helped free France during the war, then provided 700 box cars of relief supplies for its starving citizens, the people of that country decided to say thanks. They filled 49 train cars with gifts--one for each state. A 40 and 8 was a box car designed to carry 40 men or 8 horses.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Baby, it's cold....up north

But not here. As a matter of fact, they just put out bedding plants here at Valle del Oro.

It's snowing and freezing in Colorado and other points north of Arizona, but it reached 81 in Phoenix today and we sat outside in shorts for cocktail hour. We don't miss the cold and snow one bit!

For all of my readers who are looking out the window at snow and rain, here are some of the flowers blooming around us.

Aren't they beautiful? OK, maybe not if you are a skier. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

First Hike of the Season

Friday we went on our first hike this fall in the Arizona desert. We chose the Wind Cave trail at Usery Mountain Regional Park; a hike we had done last year, as well. It is three miles, round trip, which isn't very long, but it is a pretty steep hike. The cave is above the light-colored layer of rock you see in this photo.

Since Usery Mountain is near Mesa, this short hike is very popular. We passed hikers and runners going in both directions all during the hike.

I don't know what this plant is, but there certainly is something growing on the leaves.

John was a little ahead of me on the trail, so he made it to the cave before I did. To me, the "cave" looks more like a shelf or overhang. Oh well.

My snack when we reached the top was a granola bar. The view of the city below is pretty nice, even if a little hazy.

From the trail and from other locations near Mesa, this sign pointing to Phoenix is visible. I have really wondered what the story of it was, so we stopped at the Usery Mountain Nature Center on our way out, to see if they could tell us. They are obviously asked that question often. They pulled out a photocopied sheet from August 13, 1956, The members of Boy Scout Air Explorer Squadron #13 spent five and one-half years putting up this huge marker. They carried cement, lime and dynamite up the mountain and dug mounds of rocks to create the sign. As long as the Empire State Building, the sign was described as the world's largest air marker.

It has been some time since we last hiked in the desert. In Colorado, I got used to using rocks and trees to stabilize myself during a hike. Friday I several times found myself reaching out to this plant. I quickly resisted leaning on it!

Somehow, one of the barrel cacti still had a flower on the top. It's a little late in the season for that.

The large arms of the saguaro cactus start out very small.

I wish I knew what kind of a flower this is.

I believe this dove was either very young or confused. It didn't try to fly away when we stopped to watch it.

This view of cholla and saguaro is one of the things we really enjoy about coming to the Arizona desert for the winter.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A New Mattress

As everyone who owns an RV already knows, the mattress that comes with the unit is not all that good. For two years, we put up with (I won't say suffered with, it wasn't that bad) the original mattress in our Montana 5th-wheel. For the past few months we have been planning to buy a new one as soon as we arrived in Mesa. Here we have lots of dealers to choose from and the mattress could be delivered with no problem. During our time in Denver, we were in state parks and they would have charged the delivery truck an entrance fee.

The original mattress was characterized as king size. But that didn't mean regular king size sheets fit it. Also, it was really wider than was convenient in the bedroom. To make the bed I had to push the mattress from side to side. And to get into bed on the closet side, I had to turn sideways, the aisle was so narrow. What really fits the room is a short queen. A regular queen mattress would be about three inches too long for the slide to close. But not everyone stocks a short queen mattress and they can be much more expensive than other sizes.

I had Googled "custom mattresses, Phoenix" and found several dealers. We found a small, family-owned shop, AZ Mattress Outlet, that has all their mattresses custom-manufactured here in town. For only $379 we were able to purchase what we wanted.

It was delivered Saturday evening--the company is so small that one of the owners operated the store all day, then started making deliveries. I had measured the board under the mattress and thought it would be just the right size. Oh Oh, look at this!

And it was the same on the other side, as well. Needless to say, we were veeerrry careful getting in and out of bed that night.

Sunday, we took the mattress off.

Then we saw what we had to deal with.

I imagine I had measured the board near the headboard after I pushed the mattress toward the foot. Since we don't have a power saw and the Tool Shed here in the park, where we can borrow tools, isn't open for the season, we had to figure something else out.

John removed the screws that attached the hydraulic lifts to this board, as well as those attaching hinges between the two boards.

We loaded the board into the back of our pickup truck.

And drove it across the street to Lowe's.

It took a little while to convince the staff to cut the board--after all, we didn't buy it there. Once they were convinced, it took maybe five to seven minutes to cut off three sides of the board. They charged us the whopping sum of 79 cents--that is 25 cents per cut plus tax. Then we were headed back to the RV.

John re-installed all the screws.

Now, this is what it is supposed to look like.

And here is how our bedroom looks now. We didn't think the old mattress was all that bad. But we sure are sleeping better now. And the bed is much easier to make. However, the new mattress is much thicker and when I sit on the bed, my feet don't touch the floor.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Real BBQ

For regular Food Network viewers, the notice of a BBQ cook-off Saturday in Queen Creek, south of Mesa, said that is where we would go that day. We have watched various BBQ and chili cook-offs on TV and were anxious to attend one in person. John had been to one in Houston in the mid-80s. I had never attended one before.

The first thing we noticed were the signs with names of the teams.

Then there was the BBQ equipment. These folks even had a computer attached to the smokers. We asked what it was for. Apparently, the smokers had gauges inside to check the temperature. At some point, the computer would tell the fans or heat to come on. That way, the cooks could get some sleep overnight!

But there were other set-ups, as well.

And some were rather simple.

These were called green onions, I believe.

As we started wandering between the booths, we watched this guy prepare his ribs for presentation to the judges.

This is a box of barbecued chicken.

The way the meat looks in the box is very important, from all we have seen on TV. These people were too busy getting their entries ready to spend time talking to us.

And here are the judges, sampling some of the entries.

These lucky volunteers were able to sample the leftovers as they cleaned up after the judges had tasted the entries. That's were I would like to help out.

Of course, we went to the cook-off to taste the food, not just look at the signs and equipment. Our entry fee included two tasting tickets each and we bought an addition three each, at a cost of $2 a ticket. Here you see two of the booths where we tasted their food.

We enjoyed samples of chicken, brisket, pulled pork and ribs. In the past, our favorite has always been brisket. But we discovered we also enjoy ribs when they are moist, falling off the bone. And I am really partial to sweet tomato-based BBQ sauce.

Many of the contestants put a lot of effort into decorating their booths. They seemed especially partial to pigs.

It was a fun day. And we learned a few things. First of all, it would be good to wear dark brown or black shirts to eat BBQ. And more of the food is ready to eat if you come a little later in the day, after all the entries have been submitted. Now we are looking for a chili cook-off.