Saturday, March 21, 2009

Some Interesting Out-of-the-way Spots in Tucson

We started the morning by going over to a combination RV Park and Mfd Home Park just a short ways Southeast of Tucson Estates where Terry and Sharon are spending this month. Unbeknownst to any of us there is a delightful train operation set up there, operated by some of the residents of the Parks. We were fortunate to arrive at a time when it was running – never mind the other information we came to get . . . enjoy the trains.

After that we went out to the North-slightly-west side of town to Tohono Chul Tea Room for lunch and a look at their desert preserve. We had assumed, as most folks probably do, that this was somehow an enterprise of the Tohono o'Odham tribe (formerly known as Papagos) who live west of Tucson. However, as near as I can find out, it has nothing to do with them other than its name. Here is what one source had to say:

Tohono Chul -- meaning "desert corner" in the Tohono O'odham language -- is a 49-acre, non-profit desert preserve within the city of Tucson. The park was established in 1985 to enrich people's lives by providing them the opportunity to find peace and inspiration in a place of beauty, to experience the wonders of the Sonoran Desert and to gain knowledge of the natural and cultural heritage of this region.

The story, as near as I could determine, is that a couple named Richard and Jean Wilson, decided around 1968 to assemble some acreage and put it aside as a desert preserve, to be owned and operated by a non-profit foundation with both a preservationist and educational mission. Tohono Chul Park opened in 1985 as a park with the Johnson's elegant old Spanish Colonial residence remodeled as a Tea Room. Based on our experience in seeing the crowd of people there on a mid-week day and the fact that we waited half an hour to get a table, things are going quite well.

The Tourists Go To Tubac and Tumacacori

On Tuesday we set off to the south to visit Tubac, the oldest settlement in Arizona; and Tumacacori, site of the oldest mission in Arizona.

Here we are about to have lunch at the Old Tubac Inn, an occasion marked by a remarkable feat by our waitress who opened Terry's bottle of beer by holding it tightly under her left bicep while twisting . . . and presto . . . just try it yourself if you think it's easy!!

Tubac is a combination of historical site (now closed to the public due to lack of funds), tourist shops (open to the public for all sorts from junk to fine art), and artist colony (supplying some of the tourist shops), but not a particularly photogenic place.

This sign in the wall of one of the buildings is probably neither original nor profound, but you might smile slightly as you pass by . . .

In Tumacacori, we visited the partially restored old mission dating to around 1800. The pueblo of Tubac was established to provide a living space for those using and staffing the mission.

Touring Tucson with Friends

On our first day with our friends from Laramie, we set off to the number one tourist destination in Tucson – the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, jam packed with all the flora and fauna of the area in its own natural setting.

This first picture is, to me, the appropriate beginning point in that it shows "the march" of the Saguaro cactus up the hill in the background while showing the variety of the rest of the landscape. [For the uninitiated, it's pronounced "Sah – wah - ro"]

Also for the uninitiated that strange looking tree is a Palo Verde, which when literally translated is "green stick," an apt description in that what leaves there are are so miniscule as to be unnoticeable.

This second picture is one of Clara with our friends (you'll perhaps see their faces later) looking at one of those Saguaros which basically only grow in the Tucson area.

Then we go to the walk-in aviary where the birds flit around inside a totally enclosed cage that you can walk through. Here's a quick sample of them.

A few more
observations and interesting photos from the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. This first one shows some big horn sheep who stood immovable as if posing for a drawing class. Next is an unknown species of fish taken from an underground viewing post into a tank that also contained beaver and otter, neither of which photograph nicely.

Then we have the "flower" of a (mis-named) Century Plant – so called because it lives for several years (but not a century) before flowering; then it sends up this humongous "flower" which stands approximately eight to ten feet tall. The "flower" is prized as a decorative accessory in many Arizona homes, while the plant, as expected, dies immediately upon "flowering."

Lastly, we have a picture which I like just for the geometry of the shapes – it features a saguaro and an Arizona Yucca (Cactus.)

River Island – Vegas to Tucson

On the way, we spent the evening at a little State Park called River Island just above Parker, AZ. It's little more than a glorified parking lot, but it does have a view of the river, and looking across at the California side, you see how little the river is at this point – much less than the magnificent river that creates Lake Mead near Las Vegas, requiring the huge Boulder Dam to hold it in. Note the dead tree stump in this second picture – you'll see it again in a minute.

We still have not figured out why it's called River Island unless that's the name of the little piece of land in the second picture.

In the morning Clara sat near the river's edge with her breakfast, while some species of bird welcomed the day high above on the nearby tree stump.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Breakfast at the Paiute Golf Resort

One of my favorite places in Las Vegas, especially for a Sunday morning breakfast, was the Paiute Golf Resort out northwest of town. The Paiutes have a sense of location that is exceptional, at least to my taste.

If you stand at or near the front entrance to the clubhouse you have a great view of the Spring Mountains with Mt. Charleston as the highest at 11,918 ft. But if you turn around (without moving far at all) you then have a view of the Sheep Mountains – not so high but still picturesque.

We went there on Saturday morning, just before leaving LV and heading toward Tucson, with our Las Vegas friends for a quiet Saturday morning, broken only by the raucous singing (into the cell phone) for our grandson Leo on his 11th birthday.

Japanese Food – Tasty and Artistic

On Friday evening we went to Sen of Japan, a little, almost "hole-in-the-wall" place in the neighborhood shopping center nearby and had the most wonderful meal we've experienced in quite a long time – both the presentation and the food itself were exquisite.

Japanese are noted for great attention to the presentation of food, both as to arrangement and to color, to say nothing of the cooking (or not) of the food itself, and our experience truly showed that.

This first dish is a sashimi spinach salad and you can see the little bits of raw fish here and there – that's shredded radish on top.

Next is a seafood cucumber salad with octopus, crab and shrimp on a bed of cucumbers.

Then comes a squid salad,

followed by some tempura – very lightly breaded onion and sweet potato – accompanied by skewers of shrimp, chicken and beef.

A Sad Story of our Times

On Friday (2/27/09) Clara and I went out to Pahrump, NV with our friends Linda and Jerry, and, among other things, we went to the stables where Linda is learning horse care and taking riding lessons. I just couldn't resist writing up this little "story of our times." Glenn


It's difficult, I know, to believe how hard these times have come to
be. Here is photographic evidence of one truly sad story -- a good
friend of ours, Linda by name, formerly a psychiatric nurse and a
college teacher, now reduced to eking out a meager living by cleaning
horse stables . . . who would have believed it would come to this? I
overheard someone to say that she curls up next to the horse whose
enclosure she's cleaning in order to stay warm during Las Vegas'
bitterly cold winter nights. Glenn

Chinese New Year at the Bellagio -- A Garden in a Casino

On Wednesday, Clara and Sheral went to the Bellagio Casino/Hotel, long known for its gardens – an attraction for tourists. They were honoring the Chinese New Year, and here are some pictures – first, the "God of Wealth and Fortune," and second, the Ox. Clara noted that this is especially our year, in that both this year and the year in which we were born are "The Year of the Ox."
I couldn't begin to show all of the pictures Clara took, of all of the various flowers in the garden, but she was especially impressed with the thousands of orchids of many varieties -- in Las Vegas the "Botanical Garden" is in a casino, in order to draw you in.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Contrast – Wonders of Nature vs Flashes from the Strip

Clara has always had a special attachment to the desert, so the first excursion she and Sheral embarked upon was a trip out to Red Rock Conservation Area, out Southwest of Las Vegas. When it was first opened in the '70's as a combination scenic/hiking natural area, there were perhaps 20 thousand visitors in a year. Now that number is nearing a million . . .

This first picture shows why it's called "Red Rock" – it's just off the south end of the Spring Mountains and features a 13 mile driving tour through desert, across creeks coming from waterfalls, up to ridges where climbers practice -- while the next shows Clara and her friend Sheral in front of another display of "red rocks." The third is the waterfall at the end of the Lost Creek trail.

Later that day, they went to the Las Vegas Strip. At the brand new Palazzo, the feature was a trio of young women made up and dressed to look like statues, moving into various poses.

Of course, the Venetian has canals with boats and boatmen – all inside - naturally (or should it be "un-naturally."

The Venetian also has a lobby with a spectacular painting on the ceiling.