Saturday, December 29, 2018

Central Avenue Comes Alive

The 2018 Edition of Arizona's Fiesta Bowl Parade

Batons, Horses, Balloons, Steel Drums and Cloudless Blue Skies!

 Spirit - The Fiesta Bowl Parades Official Mascot

Participants Even Take to the Sky

Twice each December my North Central Phoenix neighborhood becomes sequestered with streets closures to allow for the staging of the Electric Light and Fiesta Bowl Parades.

Horse are staged at the parking lot of one church. Floats are staged on a portion of Central or Bethany Home that is closed for the event. Marching bands practice and set up in the parking lots of another big church.

The events take place with military precision. Bleachers, portable barricades and porta johns appear a few days before hand. And as soon as the parades end, an army of street sweepers fill the street overlapping each other in a "V" formation to immediately start the clean up process.       

The participants change each year and seem each reflecting the spirit of the community.  One year there was a phalanx of marching businessmen all wearing he same suit and matching briefcases. Other years we have had astronauts, sports heros, buffalo soldiers and Navajo code talkers. Convertibles carry Mayors, Governors and Miss Arizona's all waving to the crowds. The crowds cheer for the teacher's of the year and jump to catch the trinkets thrown.

Marching bands from all over the nation come to serenade Phoenicians and enjoy some of Arizona's December sunshine.

This year's Grand Marshall was Cindy McCain. There were more balloons than ever and there were lots of stagecoaches. Missing this year were the Wild Women of the West, the Caribbean Dancers, the beloved Shriner's and Ex-Sheriff Joe glaring at us from atop some giant piece of military hardware.

 Elegant Arabian Horses

 The Grand Marshal 2018 - Cindy McCain
 Donors and Recipients Celebrating Life
"Who Ya Gonna Call?" 

 Sheriff Paul Penzone 
Walking Central Ave Greeting Wellwishers

 Education Was a Major Theme

The Joyous Corona Del Sol Steel Drums 

The Bigeest VW Bus Ever

The air was chilly, the skies blue, a perfect day for a wonderful annual celebration of what it means to live in Arizona!

See you in 2019! 

Roadboy's Travel © 2018

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Merry Chrstmas From Roadboy!

Just chillin

Every year I get the same question "where are you going for the holidays?" 

It finally occured to me there is nowhere I'd rather be this time of year than right here in Phoenix!

So here's wishing you all wonderful holidays. If you are traveling, be safe. Hug all of your loved ones. We never know how many years we'll be able to do that.

As for me, I'll happily resume travels in January. But for now.......

Christmas in Arizona
I'll just enjoy it right here!

Roadboy's Travels © 2018

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Never Forget

Thank You Veterans

When my Uncle John passed away some years back I became recipient of an old cigar box. It was a box my Uncle John had kept in the loft where he slept in my Aunt Waundia's log farmhouse in Wetmore, Colorado.

John was my fathers oldest brother. He was the first in his family to enlist during WWII. He joined the army and was assigned to General Patton. Although he enlisted at the very beginning of the war he remained in all the way to the end.

My dad told me when John returned from the war he was forever changed. He was no longer the gentle, happy-go-lucky farm boy dad had grown up with. 

He was quiet and withdrawn. 

He remained that way for the rest of his life. 

One summer when I was about 10 I rode into town with Uncle John in his old Ford pick-up. As he drove I asked him about the war. The result was a painfully silent ride down miles of road.

The topic never came up again.

Now, in a humble little box, I found my answers.

There were medals that documented John's distinction as a marksman and decorations for heroism. 

John's discharge papers noted that he was part of the Normandy invasion and the notorious  Battle_of_the_Bulge.

We suspected John had served with valor. What we didn't know was that he had survived in the battle that claimed the highest number of American lives in the European front. 

The Spirit of American Youth Rising From The Waves
Donald De Lue
The American Cemetery Normandy

Today I send a heartfelt thanks to all of America's Uncle John's.

Never Forget.

Roadboy's Travels © 2018

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Thanksgiving in Phoenix 2018

Home Sweet Home

Frequently my holiday posts describe a visit to some warm or scenic destination. But once again this year we are lucky enough to just be staying home to enjoy the Valley of the Sun!

So here is a holiday blog for those lucky enough to be visiting Phoenix over Thanksgiving 2018!


November is arguably the loveliest month of the year to visit Phoenix. Believe it or not, there are leaves falling (from all the big deciduous trees that fill North Central Phoenix). And our nights are getting cold"ish" (this year the evening low for Thanksgiving will likely plunge to a bone chilling 55° F.) And, it gets dark early now, car headlights start popping on around 5:30 pm.

So what is there to do?

Well here are just a few ideas from Roadboy. My focus is Phoenix. I'm not into the snooty Scottsdale scene. Roadboy prefers "real".

1. A visit to Desert Botanical Garden (or as we call it the DBG) is always amazing.
Nothing is more refreshing than a walk in "the garden". And this year the gardens are dazzlingly illuminated in a special night show by the Klip Collective called Electric Desert. Click here to visit the DBG website. 


The Desert Botanical Garden

The garden's holiday festival, Los Nochas de las Luminarias begins Dec 1. It typically sells out, so reserve tickets well in advance for that.  

2. The MIM!
Arizona's new Musical Instrument Museum is a treasure. This is a high-tech and very wonderful addition to Arizona's cultural scene. The MIM displays musical instruments from around the world and with your GPS headset you hear most instruments being played as you walk near them! The MIM has a special "Electric Guitar" Exhibition on now. 

Also, if you plan to visit any time in November or December the amazingly intimate MIM theater (with its awesome acoustics) will host to the likes of Stringshot, Karla Bonoff, Bettye LaVette, Heart Society and the Manhattan Transfer is once again returning to spread joy with their Holiday Show (Yeah it is always awesome!) Click Here to visit the MIM's website.

3. EAT!
A proliferation of spectacular new restaurants have joined my list of tried and true favorites. For scenery (and old Arizona charm) the best spot hands down is a lunch or romantic sunset dinner on the patio at Lon's at the Hermosa Inn. Adventurous? Try Pa'La for wood fired delights (limited dinner hours - check) or check out the Taco Guild. For Mexican food with a smoky goodness Cafe Otro. For some zing try Ladera Mexican. For meet market Postino's wine bar on Central should work. For more wood fired yumminess it's Timo's in Sunnyslope. For neighborliness try Windsor. Want Chicken and waffles, its Lolo's. How about a chicken fried turkey dinner? TexAz has got you covered. Or there's brunch at Elly's Kitchen and coffee at Lux. These day's it is hard not to eat well in Phoenix!

4. Culture!
The Phoenix Art Museum is a true gem. After two major expansions by the husband and wife team of Tod Williams / Billie Tsien it has wonderful space to display an extensive permanent collection as well as mount special expositions.

The Entry Courtyard of the Phoenix Art Museum

This Thanksgiving they have the special exhibitions: Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire and an exhibition from contemporary artist Ragnar Kjartansson entitled Scandinavian Pain and Other Myths. Click here to visit the Phoenix Art Museum website.

5. Get Smart!
Antoine Predock's stark concrete Arizona Science Center is a perfect place to go with kids (of all ages). It has great interactive displays and a cool planetarium. Alas it will be closed on Thanksgiving.
Click here to visit the Arizona Science Center website.

6. For the Jocks
For the "get out and do it' set November is the perfect time to go mountain or road biking in Phoenix. Sip a Latte while getting fitted for a excellent rental bike at the Trailhead Cafe / Bike Shop at 16th Street and Glendale. From there you can pedal away on the nearby AZ canal or go single track at the North Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Visit the Trailhead's website here. For the "sit and watch" set the Suns play Oklahoma City on November 17th. The Cardinals will play the Raiders at Peter Eisenman's State Farm Stadium on Nov. 18th and the Coyotes play the Vegas Golden Knights Nov. 21st.

7. Shop!
All the museums above have great gift shops. But there are also great little boutiques like Frances near Camelback and Central. For Black Friday there is The Biltmore Fashion Park - a perfectly sized outdoor mall featuring some one-of-a-kind shops. It also features great restaurants plus an Apple Store, Saks, and a cute little 1960's vintage Macy's thrown in for good measure. All of the Biltmore's parking facing Camelback is strictly valet. The free parking is located in the big garage behind the mall. Visit the Biltmore Fashion Park website here. On November 23rd there will be an Alternative  Black Friday Vintage along with the tree lighting and opening up of the skating rink at CityScape downtown.

8. Ogle!
Walk the Grounds of the Arizona Biltmore Resort. The only Frank Lloyd Wright inspired hotel left standing in the world. Since it opened nearly every sitting president has checked in at the Biltmore. Irving Berlin wrote White Christmas while sitting by the Catalina Pool (the same pool Marilyn Monroe said was her favorite). The Biltmore offers a variety of Thanksgiving buffets and dinners, as do most of the big resorts.

9. The Heard
In the tradition of saving the best for last, I recommend the Heard Museum. In my opinion the Heard ties with the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum (near Tucson) as my favorite museums in Arizona. The Heard is the premier showcase of Native American art and culture. It has grown from "a little museum in a little western town" to what it is today - peerless.

Come for Thanksgiving. Enjoy our weather, our culture, our food and everything else Arizona does well!

Roadboy's Travel © 2018

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Cycling Croatia's Hvar Island

Days 6-9: Hvar! Ancient Greek Ports and Lavender Fields

I am now officially and deeply in love with Croatia. The fall climate is lovely. The villages are immaculate, the water is radiant blue and the locals are sincerely friendly (with many speaking perfect English).

Day Six began on the Island of Brac and ended on the Island of Hvar. The ride was a beautiful downhill ride to the seaside town of Bol and arguably Croatia's best swimming beach Zlatni Rat (the Golden Horn). 
 Zlatni Rat - The Golden Horseshoe

While awaiting our water taxi to Hvar we enjoyed a great alfresco lunch in one of Bol's waterfront cafes.

The boat then shuttled us to the village of Jelsa on the scenic island of Hvar. Conde Nast proclaimed Hvar (along with Zanzibar, Capri, Mykonos and Bali) as one of the most beautiful Islands in the world. And, with only 12.000 residents, it is very quiet and peaceful.
Hvar's Fortress at Night
Venetian Influenced Architecture in Hvar

Hvar Town

Upon arrval in Jelsa we boarded buses for transfer to Hvar Town and our hotel overlooking St. Stephen's Plaza. Dinner was hosted by a local chef who gave us a cooking class on how to grill perfect tuna steaks.
Tuna Steaks and Fleur de Sel

Day Seven began with a hearty and (very lovely breakfast with great homemade pastries). Sated, we walked to our bicycles for a ride to the top of of the island to enjoy views and the chance to buy local lavender products. Then it was all downhill to the port city of Stari Grad. This port dates back over 2400 years when it was built by the Greeks. Our 34 mile ride came with a chance to swim in the crystal clear Adriatic.

 Morning Route Review With Mario

Hvar's Elaborately Terraced Farmlands

Stari Grad
An Inquisitive Donkey

Fields Near Stari Grad
Day Eight, the last cycling day of the trip began and ended in Stari Grad. We had a bunch of chances to swim and enjoyed a picnic l,unch created by our host Neven followed by rides through lavender fields. We finished the evening at the hotel's terrace with a farewell dinner.

Neven's Picnic at Jelsa

Hotel Terrace

Day Nine began with a round of good-byes, a ferry transfer to Split and an Uber ride to the airport for my flight on to Rome. 

Roadboy's Travels © 2018

Monday, October 15, 2018

Cycling Croatia's Brac Island

Days 4-5: Spectacular Vista's, Some Rain & The Stonecutter's School

Day Four began by giving my electric assist "e-bike" its first workout with a ride that went straight uphill to the village of Skrip. In Skrip we admired the views and visited an olive mill for a tasting. Although some of our routing took us on some of the islands main roads we found the riding easy. Other than near the ferry terminous in Supertar the number of vehicles traveling throughout Brac was very and pretty courteous to cyclists.

Olive Oil Tasting in Skrip

From Skrip we rode through the rolling hills of Brac Island along its coastline to the stunning village of Pucisca for lunch and a visit to its Stonecutter's School.  The town of Pucisca was also one of the most immaculate little cities I have ever seen.

After lunch we visited Pucisca's Stonecutter's School. Here 60-100 high school age students enroll to learn the traditional art of Roman stonecutting. The school's students are trained to do all work by hand with chisels. There are no power tools. Students live at the school and may choose one of two training tracks: a three year track that prepares them for traditional masonry jobs, and the other track is four years and prepares students destined for university arts programs in sculpture and/or historic preservation work. Works from the school are never sold.

The strategic location of the school is based on its proximity to Brac's extensive limestone quarry's that date back to the Romans plus access to deep water ports.

 Students Were Off During Our Saturday Visit

Touring The Studio

In-Process Work

Stonecutter Tools

All Work Uses Traditional Measuring Devices

The Island Offers Views From Every Turn

Day Five began with grey skies and hard driving rain. The original intent was to shuttle us to the top of the highest hill on the island of Brac, enjoy the view and then ride down to the seaside town of Milne.  With the hilltop in fog we instead began the ride lower down the hill.  

A Little Tree Growing From Roof of This Church in Nerezisca 
(Considered a Miracle to Locals)

We began the day with our route review looking out the hotel dining room windows to sheets of rain. Reports told us the mountaintop was in deep fog.  So it was decided to begin our riding lower down the mountain where episodes of rain were starting to be mixed with hints of sun. The roads were slippery though so the riding was a bit slower than usual. 

But as the day progressed and the sun came out, we all concluded it was actually a great day to ride.

Milna's Sunny Harborfront Square
A Cat Lady in Milna

Milna Harbor

Some information about the Adriatic Sea. It is the bluest body of water I have ever seen.  It is very clear and was comfortable to swim in even in early October. Since it has limited connection to the Mediterranean and lots of fresh water tributaries flowing into it, there is a noticable lack of salt in the water. Locals informed us that it allows for perfect conditions to harvest the fleur de sel that chefs prize in cooking.

Notice how close the boats are to the stone harbor edge? It is the result of the unique configuration of the Adriatic Sea that results in very little tidal activity, so city waterfronts nearly touch the boats.

Milna Breaktime
(Mario Sporting His Lavender Man T-Shirt)

A local celebrity Lavender Man creates t-shirts, art works even a mockumentary. His shop on Hvar is open during the summer months. A nudist himself, customers are awarded an immediate 30% discount by entering the shop and purchasing Lavender Man products in the nude. 

Tomorrow we transfer by motor launch from Brac to the Island of Hvar. The weather is supposed to clear up and be sunny for the rest of the cycling week!

Roadboy's Travels © 2018

Friday, October 12, 2018

Cycling the Dalmation Islands

Roadboy in Croatia - Days 1-3

Croatia was pretty much unknown to me prior to this trip. But every time I mentioned my intention to travel there friends all volunteered how much they or friends had loved traveling there.

Sort of like Portugal, Croatia has become a hot spot for travel. And it is easy to see why with its pristine beaches, great food and spectacular examples of legacy architecture. It is also pretty easy on a traveler's budget.

I was also warned though that it is very hot in the summer and that its top destinations (such as Dubrovnik) are overrun with tourists June, July and August. 
So scheduling a bicycling trip for late September / early October on the Islands of Brac and Hvar seemed like a perfect introduction to the country.

Day one began with a visit to Croatia's second largest city Split. Split is a thriving modern city with a picturesque Old City located at waters edge. It has lots of energy. Seemingly everywhere you go there is an urban soundtrack complete with young hipsters and pulsing music.

Waterfront Old Town Split

 The Waterfront Farmers Market

The first stop for most visitors is the palace that Roman Emperor Diocletion built in the fourth century for his retirement. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the building is the centerpiece of the waterfront. And, like seemingly every historic site in Eastern Europe, the palace was used as filming site for Season 4 of Game of Thrones.

Music is Performed in Diocletion's Palace at Night

Diocletion's Palace 

In th morning before leaving for Trogir (pronounced trogeer)I hiked up the stairs of Marjan HIll to enjoy the spectacular views of the Split waterfront.

The Views From Marjan Hill

Day Two I took a water ferry from Split Harbor to nearby Trogir to rendezvous with the bicycle touring company.

Looking Back at Split From the Ferry to Trogir

Approaching Trogir

Day Three we began the tour with a ferry to the island of Brac (pronounced "Bratch"). We got fitted for our bikes, took a short warm up ride to get the bugs ironed out, unpacked in our lovely modern hotel and then convened for the trip briefing and finished the day in the mountain village of Dol with a hearty Peka welcome dinner.

 Making Traditional Peka
("cooking under a bell")
Peka may be focused on one meat (a lamb peka is common), a combination of meats (a meat peka with lamb, veal and chicken) or seafood (octopus, etc.). In with the meat goes vegetable and some seasoning and then it is overed with a metal dome that is loaded with hot coals. When it is done everything is moist and fall-off-the-bone tender.

 Finished Meat Peka

The welcome is complete. Tomorrow the serious rides are to begin.

Roadboy's Travels © 2018