Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lighting the Luminarias in Tubac

Tubac, AZ is an artist colony 40 or so miles south of Tucson, and on Friday evening they had a shindig -- the traditional lighting of the luminarias. [For the uninitiated, a luminaria nowadays is a small lantern, usually created from a paper sack, some sand and a candle. In olden days, a luminaria was a bonfire used to light up the common area for a Christmas season
celebration, and a farolito was a small lantern -- but the terminology has been abused and misused for so many years that it has now become institutionalized.]

There were two things to see at Friday's celebration -- some of the art works of the residents of Tubac, and some of the decorative lighting of the area. The pictures below show some of each.
The one unusual find of the evening is the work done on the table and the bowls -- the natural cracks in the wood were lightly routed, then filled with a paste of ground turquoise and glue, then sanded off to a smooth surface and sealed.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Our Tucson Abode

We had made an agreement to rent this place sight unseen, simply relying on some info from Leah (our landlady) and our perception of her good heartedness. I knew we had found the right place when I saw the little sign on the front corner of the unit . . .

There are just shy of 1700 places such as ours in Tucson Estates filled with folks from all over the U.S. There are clubs of almost all types here -- Clara has already been to one session of "Stitch-and-Chatter" and will add to that next week by going to the Piece Makers Quilt club.

Note the Southwestern flora showing in the third picture -- the saguaro cactus to the right, the prickly pear cactus a little back from there, the palo verde tree on the back left.

Viewing Sandhill Cranes

On Friday (after Thanksgiving) we went over to Whitewater Draw to see the thousands of Sandhill Cranes that congregate there in the wintertime – a really spectacular show. As we stood there watching and listening, some idiot back behind us fired off a gunshot – what a scene, as the thousands took flight.

I'm having a little fun with this first picture – first there's the picture as it came from the camera, then I've cropped out a small section from the middle in order to get a better look at the cranes, then a still smaller section for an even better look.

Thanksgiving in Sierra Vista, AZ

We came to Sierra Vista, AZ at the invitation of our Las Vegas friends (Jerry and Linda) to spend Thanksgiving with them at Linda's Aunt Isabel's home (although the big T-day dinner was at another home.) And it was all very nice, although perhaps the best part was the show that late afternoon from the back patio. The really spectacular part of dinner was the artfully crafted pies – note the individual leaves on the crust on the rim; the show from the back patio was all natural. 'Nuff said . . . look at the pictures.

The New (Un-)bespectacled Me

After 67 years of reaching for my glasses first thing in the morning,
and wearing them non-stop all day long, I am struggling to adapt to
NOT wearing glasses, except to read.

When I recently went to my opthalmologist, I complained of having
increasing difficulty seeing clearly, especially at short to mid
range. His tech carefully checked for a possible new prescription
for glasses, and reported that the numbers that came up were EXACTLY
the same as my current prescription.

The opthalmologist opined that the only possible improvement MIGHT
come from getting so-called "RGP's," i.e., rigid gas permeable
contact lenses because my problem, so he said, was the surface
irregularities caused from my corneal transplant.

So I got them (well, only one -- for my good right eye) and a miracle
occurred! With that one lens in place, I now see better than I have
for fifteen years. But it's very difficult to walk out of the house,
get in the car and drive away -- without my glasses!

Leaving Seattle In The Rain

The official title of this chapter of the travels of Glenn and Clara is
"Leaving Seattle In The Rain, Passing Through Oregon (I think . . . )
In The Fog, Arriving In The Southwest In The Sunshine."
Beyond the title, we'll let the pictures speak for themselves! I am
including the last picture especially for the Seattleites who may by
now have forgotten what blue sky looks like . . .

We left on Sunday, the 22nd, and arrived at our Thanksgiving
rendezvous in Arizona yesterday late afternoon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Murals of Toppenish

Clara and I made our first visit to Toppenish, WA on Aug. 6, 1999 while on a trip from Las Vegas to Seattle (to visit Lesley and then one-year-old baby Leo) with major stops along the way in Montana to visit Clara's nephews and to spend time at Glacier Nat'l Park.

The small town of Toppenish, WA is well known to us for three reasons:
1) It is home to the Cultural Heritage Center of the Yakama Nation (yes, I've spelled it correctly according to the Native Americans), which includes among other things a nice RV park -- also a museum, restaurant, theater, and, a few blocks walk away, a casino.
2) It provides a nice home base for touring the Yakima Valley -- its wineries and fruit stands.
3) It has a marvelous group of murals, some 80 in all, created to depict the history and stories of the region between 1850 and 1950.

This first picture is Toppenish's first Mural-in-a-Day, painted on June 3, 1989, to launch the ambitious mural program. Designed by Phil Kooser of Yakima, the mural was painted under his direction by 15 noted western artists who collaborated on the 40-foot painting on the side of the Western Auto building at Washington Ave. and Toppenish Ave. It depicts the tremendous effort put forth by settlers in the area.

Each year, during the first week in June, another "Mural-in-a-Day" is added to the collection -- you're welcome to come and watch it being done. In addition, you can take a motorized, guided tour of the 80 murals all over town. Here are a few of them (the pictures don't really show the size of the murals -- they're painted on the sides of buildings, many feet high, even more feet long -- truly a sight to see.)

"Cushy" vs "Homey" or "What's an RV park supposed to be?"

Bend, Oregon had little to offer in the way of RV parks -- there was
"cushy" and "cushier." Noting that the off-season rate was only $34
a night, we settled for "cushy" at Crown Villa RV Park. Notice the
size of the paver covered pad, then look at the building housing the
registration desk . . .

At Peach Beach, just across the Columbia River in Washington, our
accomodations were a little more humble (in line with the $20 price)
but notice the setting. Which was the better value for the money?

A Mermaid and mermaids

On Sunday after brunch at the Paiute Reservation, we went over to the
Silverton Casino where Ed and Sheral's daughter Erin was working as a
mermaid entertainer in the "fish tank." Kids lined up to watch as
she swam around in the tank, stopping occasionally to play "patty-
cake" with one of them on the glass wall of the tank. After dinner
that evening, Clara and Sheral played mermaid in the outdoor hot-tub
in the back yard.

Brunch at Paiute and some new species of trees

One of our non-negotiable rituals when we visit Las Vegas is Sunday brunch (see picture #1) at the Paiute Indian Reservation (and Golf Courses) north of town. The food is good though not outstanding, but the setting is well beyond outstanding. If you've heard of us going there before, then you know that my favorite observation is the (opposing) views in the entry hall – to the East (see the second picture) there is Snow Mountain as a backdrop to the golf course, to the West (see the third picture) there are the Spring Mountains as a backdrop to the desert.

On the way back into town we observed some new species of trees being developed by the plant scientists at the local university – the first one is "Palmis Fakis Cellis Toweris" while the second is "Pinus Fakis Cellis Toweris." The university is certain that they will be widely accepted and regards these new species as a tremendous advance in plant science.

An Unexpected Detour

On Wednesday, we headed west from Sky City Casino, just on the edge of the Acoma Pueblo on I-40, where we had spent the previous night in their functional but unexceptional RV facility. Our plan was to get past Flagstaff, AZ to the point where the elevation was somewhat back down from the 7's, at least to the 5's, so that it would not be quite so cold at night. Also so that Clara's physical reaction to "extreme" altitude would subside somewhat.

Our goal – Seligman, AZ – elevation 5460 ft., approximately 1500 ft lower and 10 degrees warmer than Flagstaff, AZ. As we approached the town, I could feel in the steering wheel that there was something amiss in the left front wheel, although I was totally unprepared for what ultimately was found there. We stopped at KOA, the first RV park in town, to make inquiry, but as sadly expected, moved on to our second possibility – KOA is, for some reason, seriously overpriced, both in terms of what they have to offer and in light of other facilities. [KOA was $36 for the night, compared to the $20 we ultimately paid at Route 66 Campground.]

However, the KOA campground host was congenial enough to point us to the town tire shop, where the problem shown in the picture above was soon discovered. To me, the frustrating factor is that there were only some 32 or 33 thousand miles on this tire. Ah, well . . .

That is why we now find ourselves in Las Vegas, NV where we have gracious friends with a spare room, and where there are many resources for getting one or more new tires.

There are two complicating factors in getting a replacement tire or tires, and if you're not interested in the technicalities, you may stop reading here. Others may continue.

The engineers at Winnebago, in their awesome wisdom, decided to put larger tires on the rear of our MoHo than on the front. Besides that, the sizes of the tires on either are the same as on many passenger cars, BUT the load carrying requirement is radically different (passenger car, perhaps 1100 lbs per tire, our vehicle, approximately twice that). The conclusion is that there is essentially only one brand of tire that fits the bill, and it's made (surprise, surprise . . . ) in Germany. And those folks, bless their hearts, crank up the production line for these two sizes about once a year . . . and this year, the shipment is scheduled for two weeks from now!!

The process began late Thursday afternoon at Discount Tire, and on-line at, but didn't conclude until slightly more than 24 hours later (at Nevada Tire City), after visits to Nevada Pick-a-Part (imagine six football fields of junk vehicles waiting for you and your tools to help yourself), Nevada Truck Salvage, and a couple of tire repair facilities (verdict – negative). The word from Nevada Tire City is that they'll have a new tire, found in somebody's backroom, here in town next Wednesday!!! I hope it's not the same type of pipe dream that many folks in Las Vegas have when standing in front of one of those machines you can find everywhere here . . .

Ah, the adventures one can find while traveling . . .

A Trip to Acoma Pueblo (Sky City)

On Tuesday Clara and I took a tour of the Acoma Pueblo, located some
70 or so miles west of Albuquerque, high atop a mesa rising some 375
feet above the surrounding lands. The Puebloans, as they prefer to
be called, settled here around 1650 A.D., a date established by
Western archaeologists and anthropologists since the Puebloans had no
calendar or year system of their own, hence no way of saying how many
years ago they settled here.

Our tour guide was an earnest young man from the Pueblo (see first picture) who told us some about his people's religion. Their "migration stories" taught them that all living creatures emerged from the deep at an unknown
place variously known as "shepapu" or "shepau."

Their sacred home on the mesa was known as "Haaku' " and was "a place
prepared for them." Their ancestors had been told to search for
"Haaku'," and that they would know when they had found it when their
shouts of "Haaku' " were answered with an echo. (Looking around this
area and seeing the other mesas and hills in the area, it is apparent
that there would be echoes of shouts from the top of their mesa. (See second picture))

The pueblo was almost completely uninhabited today, since there were no utilities nor other amenities of today, but it is quite picturesque (see third picture.) I could not resist this fourth picture which, to me, shows the irony of a sleek modern auto in front of an ancient dwelling.

My question, which you can readily anticipate, is how it could be
that these people could have a similar creation story and a similar
"chosen people" myth as the Israelites and perhaps other Eastern
peoples. After all, they were quite separate in time and location
and could not conceivably had any communication . . .

While on that tour, I also ventured to ask a question of our tour
guide regarding his people's reaction to the priests (and soldiers)
bringing to them the Catholic religion. I said, approximately,
"Several years ago, I had a conversation with a young woman from
another pueblo who told me that her people did what the priests told
them, performed the rituals as instructed, etc., but in their hearts
they kept only their traditional beliefs. Was that also true of your

The young man's answer was quite interesting, but also puzzling to
me. He said that his people perceived that their religion and the
religion of the priests were really the same religion, differing only
in being expressed within the framework of two different cultures.
He went on to say that this was basically true of all religions.

Were these Puebloans truly the first Universalists? Could they
really have believed/perceived that the two religions were, in basic
terms, the same religion with only a different cultural realization?
Or is this just the first manifestation of "spirituality without

Lunch Out

After our very early session at the launch field Saturday, we decided we deserved a lunch out and headed for a spot we remembered from years ago. But we turned the wrong way on 4th and had to ask directions. The woman we asked recommended a place she claimed was better – and she was right! As you can see from the second picture – their Carne Adovada was heavenly. What is "Carne Adovada" I hear being asked from Seattle? [Marinated overnight and then slow cooked until falling apart tender, Carne Adovada melds the flavors of New Mexico Red Chiles, cumin, oregano and garlic in this traditional New Mexican pork dish.]

The place (Casa de Benavidez) was a typically Mexican setting – open courtyard with adobe wall – and the margaritas were good, according to Clara (see the third picture.) We enjoyed it so much we came back the next day with five more friends . . .

The last picture has to have as its headline "You know you're in New Mexico when . . . "