Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Tovrea Castle



Architectural Folly
"An often extravagant pictureseque building erected to suit a fanciful taste" 
           Merriam Webster

Update August 2014
With the City budget on the mend 2 hour tours of the castle are being scheduled for 2015. Castle tours will be conducted twice each morning on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from January 9- June 28. The ticket prices are $15 Adult, $10 Children 2-12 and $13 Seniors, Military and Students. To secure tickets call 800-838-3006. You may also access by the web:  2015 Tickets 

Accessibility is available to individuals with walkers or in wheelchairs, but not mobility scooters. For any further details you may leave a message at: 602-256-3221 or email: Tours@tovreaCastleTours.com 

Every big city has them; the orphans. They are the buildings that were built at the wrong time or were put in the wrong place. Some are just downright odd.

Frequently, they show up in extreme climates; the big heavy timber lodge high up in the mountains, or the house built by some hermit in a cave.

My home, the Sonoran desert, has always been a magnet for dreamers (sometimes even kooks) who came, spent time, money, and proceeded to build their dreams. 

After the dreamers move on, or die, the buildings (or fragments of buildings) they left whisper to everyone that passes that they have a story to tell.

In Phoenix we have a bunch of these architectural "folly's". There is the huge castle built by a rich dentist on south slope of Camelback Mountain. On South Mountain there is the "Mystery Castle" that Boyce Luther Gulley built in the 1930's as a giant "sand castle that you could live in" for his daughter (who lived in the house until her death in November 2010).


But two buildings I have seen almost every time I land at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix have always intrigued me. One is the lonely little decommissioned church sitting all by itself just west of the main runways. 


The other is the "Tovrea" Castle - the little wedding cake resting atop a hill just east of the main runways.

The Tovrea Castle

One place is sacred. The other is a folly.

To make way for airport expansions old portions of the neighborhood just west of the airport were torn down. Despite that, no one could bring themselves to tear down the little adobe church. The church, clearly an essential part of a neighborhood that is now long gone, is still loved. So much so that it is cleaned up by former neighbors and used once each year to celebrate Christmas.

The folly is the Tovrea Castle; the little plaster fantasy sitting atop a hill surrounded by seemingly zillions of saguaros.

I had always wondered about the castle. Well this week my questions were answered as the local architectural community was given a stem-to-stern tour of the castle. 

The tour was bittersweet. Although millions of dollars have been spent to rebuild the landmark and its amazing gardens, our current economic downturn prevents the City from finishing the project anytime soon. Further, City officials have had to announce that budget woes severely limit public tours of the renovated castle and gardens.

Cararro's Gardens Surrounding the Castle

So, for those like me, that have always wondered about it, here is the story of the "Tovrea" Castle. 


First off, it is misnamed. It should be named the "Carraro Castle" after its creator. It was built from 1928-1930 by an Italian immigrant named Alessio Carraro. Prior to his relocation to Phoenix, Carraro had made a small fortune selling sheet metal in San Francisco in the two decades following the great quake. 

Alessio, and his son Leo, came to Phoenix, purchased 277 acres, and took two years to build his dream resort in the desert. 

Carraro planned to welcome visitors to his hotel and then sell some of them homesites around the hotel. His timing could not have been worse. As the castle neared completion the adjacent land was developed by the Tovrea family into smelly feedlots and slaughterhouses. So the air quality on Cararro's property was awful. To make things worse the stock market crashed.

So instead of enjoying his dream hotel, Carraro wound up selling everything to a mystery buyer who came to San Francisco in 1931. Only after selling it did Carraro realize that the buyer was representing Della Tovrea (wife of the adjacent feedlot owner) who always fancied Carraro's castle.


Della (whose husband had recently died) moved into the castle, living in it seasonally for the next 38 years.

 Plans and Sections 

The Castle itself has three full stories above ground, a full walk-out basement below, and a domed lantern on top. It defies conventional structural design, with no continuous columns running through the building from floor to floor. Instead each floor was built independently (like a series of drums).

The building features wonderful light fixtures, a large ornamental fireplace (crowned with a medallion from Phoenix' treasured Orpheum Theater), gleaming hardwood floors, and a textured basement ceiling that can only be described as whipped cream.

 
The Whipped Cream Ceiling and Fireplace Medallion

Della's story (and life) came to a tragic end in 1969 when thieves put ladders on the side of the castle and entered through open windows upstairs. An aging Della who slept in the lower floors heard the intruders. She had a gun and shot a hole through the ceiling hoping to scare them off.

 
Main Level Wall Stencils

The Bullet Hole in the Ceiling

It was of no use, the burglars attacked and beat her so severely that she eventually died from her wounds. 

Blooming Reminders That Life Goes On

So as you pass the east end of the runway at Sky Harbor look a little to the north. A folly with a pretty amazing story awaits your discovery.   


Roadboy's Travels © 2010



Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Little Slice of Heaven Near Austin

Take Off Your Shoes and Sit A Spell

The Capital of Texas is known for rolling hills underlain with limestone, kids wearing "Keep Austin Weird" T-shirts, the sound of music from the airport all the way to Austin City Limits.

Austin is the University of Texas and its ubiquitous tower, LBJ's distinctive presidential library, and Ladybird's beloved bluebonnets blooming along every major highway. It is sunsets over Lake Travis, amazing steak dinners, and bar-b-que elevated to the status of a religion.

It is zillions of bats emerging at twilight from under the Congress Street Bridge, overpaid geeks, and (of course) the "Leg" (pronounced "ledge").

Austin works hard and it plays hard. Which leads to the need to slow down once in awhile.

Well, I have found the perfect place to do just that. A place to unwind, rewind, or recharge. It is just a little over 15 miles out of town and halfway to another world. It is the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort.

To get there, you point the old Chevy toward Bastrop Texas. When you reach the funny blinking lights drive a bit further and then turn left. From there you will need to drive another 2 miles through a beautiful nature preserve. Take care as you will cross a couple of horse trails and be rewarded with glimpses of the resort's golf course and the Colorado River.

Upon arrival you will see that the hotel is made up of a rambling series structures. It is clearly designed to be reminiscent of a comfortable old farm. Parking is not convenient. But a proper stay at a resort like this means you will have no further need for your car, so that part is forgivable. Plus a hotel staffer in a golf cart will likely greet you at your car to shuttle you to the lobby.



Welcome Home


Once you park the chevy, you are done with it.

Entering the lobby is a pleasure. It is big and beautiful, yet it somehow feels homey and understated at the same time. There are big stone fireplaces at each end, big comfy seating, and a chandelier overhead that is actually an old tree branch.


The Lobby

Check in is smooth, but then you must actually make the trek to your room. It may prove to be a real hike as the place is very spread out. Along the way, however, you will journey through an amazing photo and poster gallery of the who's who of the Texas music scene. I found myself wandering almost aimlessly through the whole place just to see all of the photos.


The Galleries

Outside the hotel is another story. You have horseback riding, views and trails along the river, a magnificent golf course, and a huge fitness complex. Then there is the swimming pool. The pool area is a complete party zone. There is a walk-in sandy beach, waterfalls, beach volleyball, waterslides, even a lazy river where you can jump into an innertube and just float.


The Swim Extravaganza

There is a big bike rack with cruiser bikes you can just grab and go. And everyone is taken care as there are bikes of very size and shape (even the tricycle and training wheel set is covered).


Nights Are Special Too

The rooms are big and comfy and quiet as can be. The beds are great.

The only drawbacks are miserable water pressure (water dribbled out of my shower and refilling the tank after a toilet flush is an all day affair), weak front desk / bell service staff, and that annoying "Resort" fee. Earth to Hyatt: The place is worth it, so just adjust the room rate.

Overall, I'd have to say, this is a place where you can step back to a better time. A place where it is totally viable to just sit on a porch and read a book.


One of the Dining Rooms

It is a place to play with the family, eat some great food, and just get human.

All found - deep in the very heart of Texas!

Roadboy's Travels © 2010


PS: Special Thanks to Paul for the Great Photos!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Traveling Well - For Less!

Roadboy's Travel Tips: Part 1 Airlines

Time to update my "Traveling Well" post.

I believe that travel should be something to remember. Never a chore. So I plan trips to experience unique places. I just like to do it in comfort at a fair price. The next three posts will cover how to select and get the best possible prices for airlines, rental cars, and hotels.


Airlines


Flying is a crapshoot. Mergers, hidden fees, and tarmac waits - oh my!

• Alaska
Nice people, an expanding route system, clean planes, and fair rates. Their first class on long flights is always nice. Check them out.

• Southwest
Smiling superbly trained staff (the best in the business - period). Clean almost new planes. Terrific refund / change policy. What's not to like? Lets start with "Just OK" fares and a new vein of special fees. Southwest's rabidly loyal customers drink the cool-aid and think they are always getting the best price.

Reality - After Southwest lost their fuel hedge pricing advantage, their prices began to mirror everyone else.

They also have some nasty quirks that annoy me.

Quirk one. When you go to cash in a free trip you find that they now limit award seats just like everybody else. Now you must surrender 2 awards to get high demand flights.

Quirk two. The free bag thing. Recently I needed to change plans and return home from Denver on short notice. On the way to the terminal my I-phone showed Southwest had the most convenient flight at a $20 more than a less convenient Frontier flight. When I get to the counter I am told the fare was actually two times the price on the web. I show the agent the price on my web-phone. Counter agent laughs and says "That's web only, we can't sell it at the counter"(!?!?) So I fumble through a time consuming smart phone web purchase (the fare saving went a long way to pay for that little I-phone). 

For giggles I asked how come Southwest's web fare was $25 more than Frontier's? The agent winks and says, "we don"t charge $25 for checked bags". Got to hand it to Southwest, instead of just charging the passengers that check their bags, they charge everybody!

In their zeal to perk up the bottom line, Southwest now charges (a lot) for the first 10 passengers (Business Select) and another $10 each to buy boarding passes numbered below A30.

• Continental
Clean planes, nice people, decent fares. They tell you what is going on and treat you well during delays. Their first class is very nice. But.... I hate having to fly through crappy hubs.....like Houston.

• Delta
Another "recovering" legacy airline. Their planes are old and their merger with NWA increases their inventory of antique planes along with another bad new hub in Minneapolis? Delta's main liability is Atlanta. Atlanta's airport is North America's worst hub airport. Everyone working there is incapable of a smile. 

While I find the state of Georgia to be filled with some of the nicest, most wonderful people in the US, none work at Hartsfield.

• American
American operates a fleet of old skinny MD 80's. This airline rivals United for having the most patronizing, godawful, staff. American staff exudes contempt for their passengers. Their upgrade policy (segments) is the worst in the industry. Throw in another wretched hub (Dallas) to boot. Avoid them.

• US Airways
Schizophrenic Airways! Odd hubs like Charlotte. Quick, name an international airport that shuts down at 10 pm!

Great pilots and cabin crews stuck flying dirty planes. Rude counter and gate staff. Tempe Management strives to perfect its "death by a thousand cuts" management style. Doug, quit trying to find a suitor and fix thyself. 

A great upgrade policy nets a sad first class. Breakfasts with eggs and a tossed green salad? crumb laden and broken first class seats with minimal pitch allows the person in front of you to lean back and crush your laptop.

To be fair they have a very nice "Envoy" business class on international runs and I love them being a part of the wonderful Star Alliance.

• United
Another "Legacy" carrier in and out of trouble. It is hard for me to ignore that so many of my worst travel experiences have been on United. But, like Delta, lately I see glimmers of hope! Planes getting cleaned up, fair prices, and improvements in service.

• Jet Blue / Virgin America
No service (VA) or limited service (JB) into PHX.

• Spirit
Lets all boycott Spirit. These bozo's deserve to fail. It is bad enough airlines charge to check bags, these idiots plan to charge for carry-ons! 


Getting the Best Airfare

Normally it is best to buy a month or so in advance. That said, fares can fluctuate wildly. All it takes is one company starting a 48 hour fare sale and all bets are off.  99% of the time, however, waiting to buy tickets just before you go is nuts. 

1. Always buy more than 14 days in advance. Usually the time frame between 14-45 days is when savings can be secured.

2. Test fares using Fly.com, Sidestep. and Kayak. They will search everything but Southwest.

3. If you are more than 14 days out check Southwest. After that don't bother.

4. Check Hotwire.

5. Check your favorite airlines website and search their last minute deals. Once in awhile they are great. 

The Best For Last!
I've saved the best tip for last.  Register for Travel Zoo's weekly "Top 20".  In the past two years every week they have unearthed truly exceptional deals.

Thats how Roadboy does it.


Roadboy's Travels © 2010

Traveling Well - For Less!

Roadboy's Travel Tips: Part 2 Rental Cars

Time to update my "Traveling Well" post.

I believe that travel should be something to remember. Never a chore. So I plan trips to experience unique places. I just like to do it in comfort at a fair price. The next three posts will cover how to select and get the best possible prices for Airlines, Rental Cars, and Hotels.


Rental Cars

In the word of rental cars size is relative. I consider a full sized car something like a Taurus. To a rental car company a corolla might be a full sized car. 

• Enterprise
Enterprise takes forever to rent you a car. First you "meet and become best friends" with a smiley rental agent. They all look like they spend belong to some religious cult. Then you fill out endless manual paperwork and endure the up-sell. After that they take out a clipboard walk around the car.

To their credit when you return they always ask how their "service" was. I am honest and tell them I feel that it wasted 15-20 minutes of my valuable trip time. They routinely offer 10-15% off my rental. 

They frequently have GREAT weekend rates (not uncommon to find $9.95 /day cars).

• Budget
Uneven company. Their Fast Break program is pretty darned good. Pricing is typically a little above Thrifty, but well below Avis / Hertz. 

• Dollar / Thrifty
Frequently the best rates and always the longest wait for an airport shuttle. The wait usually nets pretty decent cars at good rates. Thrifty has a great frequent renter plan delivering a free day for every sixteen days you rent.

• National / Alamo
I hate Alamo and National. Slow service, relentless up-sells, and lazy / surly staff. The cars are increasingly old and frequently dirty. National, which used to be great, is now owned by Alamo and has descended to Alamo's level of poor quality.

• Avis
Frequent shuttles deliver you to surly staff, delivering dirty, overpriced cars. Avoid.

• Hertz
Too Frequent shuttles (sometime one comes before the previous one leaves). If on an expense account, Hertz is for you. Translation: Hertz rents fine, clean, cars at prices that are routinely two to three times what the others cost. This company is experiencing financial death rattles and may disappear in the next year.


Getting The Best Rental Car Rates

1. Travelocity has hands down the best comparison page for rental cars. I always start here. Then I go to the specific rental car website website to finalize the rental.

2. Reserve a car well in advance. Rental cars rates almost never decline as your travel dates approaches. If you wait, you usually lose. Since you don't have guarantee the rental with a credit card, there is nothing to lose with an early reservation. As the date approaches, check for "Last Minute" or "Hot Deals".  These deals are frequently sorted by airport. If you stop at the first page of the car company website the deals don't show up. You gotta dig.

3. While Priceline has never really delivered hotel deals for me, it has with rental cars. I have twice bid $9.00 a day and gotten Hertz full sized cars at LAX.

4. Roadboy's main tip for renting a car. Learn to emphatically say NO! When they ask if you want them to fill the tank with cheap gas. Say no (you have to buy the whole tank). When they try to sell supplemental insurance by telling you they won't deal with your insurance company, look indignant and say no! If you are unsure check with your insurance agent before you go, they will tell you the rental car company supplemental insurance is a scam. When they tell you they can "put you in a more comfortable  car for only $20" say no! They mean $20 a day (which with taxes and fees is like $32 a day). If they get pushy about upgrades it means they are out of the car class you ordered. Just smile and say "I'd like the car I ordered or a free upgrade to the next car class". How about a GPS? "No thanks I brought my own".

Rental car companies cream the novice traveller. I see it all the time. I'll be at the counter reciting my string of "No's" and next to me is some young couple buying everything without clue one that their weekly rate just quadrupled.

Thats how Roadboy does it. 


Roadboy's Travels © 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Traveling Well - for Less!

Roadboy's Travel Tips: Part 3 Hotels

Time to update my "Traveling Well" post.

I believe that travel should be something to remember. Never a chore. So I plan trips to experience unique places. I just like to do it in comfort at a fair price. The next three posts will cover how to select and get the best possible prices for Airlines, Rental Cars, and Hotels.


Hotels

Great hotels offer one-of-a-kind experiences. They are close to where you want to be. They are tomb quiet, have great beds, shower drains that flow freely, they have immaculate rooms and public spaces, and cultivate caring staff. They discourage "Spring Breakers".

Great hotels are never "Cheap", but all too often they are overpriced or conceal a raft of hidden fees. The key is simply to get a price where their benefits equal their value.

The Good Stuff:
1. Concierge Lounges
If you travel a lot you may well be have access the Concierge Lounge. The free continental breakfast can save a family mucho dinero. Regrettably, many hotels are cutting back and phasing out these rooms. I contend a first class hotel MUST have a concierge lounge. If it doesn't then the hotel should immediately be penalized a full star.

2. Free Shuttles
Check to see if your hotel offers free transportation to/from the airport and/or train station. I find that many hotels offer free shuttle service to nearby businesses or monuments but do not advertise it. Of course you should be generous with a tip to the driver.

The Bad Stuff:
1. Daily Resort Fees. 
This is the hotel industry version of checked baggage charges. In essence it allows them to charge extra for something that should, of course, be included in daily room rates. Before you arrive call to see if you can have this charge removed if you do not plan to use the services these fees are supposed to provide.

2. Parking
Most hotels love this one. They now typically charge $12 to $75 / night for parking. I recently checked into a hotel in Seattle (the delightful Hotel Max) simply because it offered a special with free parking and internet.

3. Internet
Why do mid-priced hotels offer this essential service for free while prestige hotels try to outdo each other to see how ridiculous a price they can command for their daily internet service (which in most hotels is painfully slow). The worst offender I've encountered so far was the Hilton Diagonal Mar in Barcelona ($45USD / day for internet). Ok, you cans top laughing now. Of course Roadboy just enjoyed a caramel sundae each each day across the street at the McDonalds where internet was free.

Star Rating:
There are two ratings. The one issued by rating agencies like Michelin or Mobil. The other is visitor ratings listed on sites like Trip Advisor.

I start my searches with 3.5 star or above rooms.  If there has been recent rating by visitors, I tend to assume they are the best indicators of what t expect.   

Here is how I stack up the chains

• Marriott 
The Marriott brand is huge. JW Marriott, Marriott, Renaissance, Autograph, Residence Inn, Courtyard, Towne Place Suites, Springhill Suites, and Fairfield Inns. I find that something in the Marriott chain usually works for me depending on the duration of my trip and budget. I avoid Fairfield Inns, as they are frequently icky. 

Marriott is clinging to its pre-depression (vastly overpriced) rate structure. 

As such, in 2009 Roadboy experimented and tryed some darned good non-Marriott hotels. Marriott's strategy to engender loyalty should reward frequent guests with a platinum grade price break, not just a small welcome gift.

Note that although Marriott manages Ritz Carlton's it exempts them from Marriott Rewards points.  I'll wager that will change in 2010.

Marriott Rewards:
If you achieve Marriott's 75 night a year platinum status they treat you well. Personally, I resent the 75 night requirement to reach platinum. Hilton offers comparable benefits at Diamond status after just 28 stays!

Redeeming Marriott Rewards points at their premium properties is frustrating. The points get you the room, but if you want an "oceanview" room, well that is extra! Try this fun exercise! Attempt to redeem your points at a premium property in Rome or Paris. Website assures there are "no blackout dates". First search Marriott's website for a paid reservation, you will find lots of rooms available. Now, switch to "Redeem Points" and try again. Rooms are no longer available. I have well over a million Marriott Rewards points, I know this happens all the time. Shame on you Bill!

• Hilton
Hilton's new luxury flagship is their Waldorf Astoria Collection. This new marque includes wonderful historic properties and premium resort classic's. Of course they also offer chic Conrad hotels, flagship Hiltons, Doubletrees, Hilton Garden Inns (a favorite of mine), Homewood Suites, and Hampton Inn and Suites. I avoid old style Hampton Inns (with tiny windows in the corner). Hampton Suites are typically very nice.

Hilton HHonors:
The Hilton frequent stay program HHonors is near perfect. You reach their top tier of elite status fast. If you combine their credit card with their double dip program, you will rack up points even faster. Their rewards let you stay at many of the best hotels in the world. I know, I have.

• Starwood
The Starwood chain includes the hip "W hotels, tragically dysfunctional Sheraton's, elegant Westins, cheerful Aloft's, and mostly shabby 4-Points.

In a bizarre move Starwood let many of its flagship Sheraton's become intolerably shabby. Albeit late, Starwood has finally started to correct the situation. They waited almost too long.

I avoid any renovated 4-Points hotel. The new 4-Points like the one in Savannah\'s Historic DistrictAre nice.  

Starwood's Preferred Guest program is very good giving access to some really beautiful properties worldwide.

• Hyatt
Hyatt Hotels run from stylish to mediocre. They tend to be pricey for what you get. This uneven chain needs to quit believing its own hype and start fixing things.

Just last week I stayed at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort near Austin. It has lovely grounds, great restaurants, an amazing pool, and free cruiser bikes. Despite all that it was hard to overlook broken lamps, non-existant water pressure, and some pretty mediocre customer service. At check-out they added that annoying "resort" fee (allowing me to pay for all those facilities I did not have time to use).

Hyatt is expanding its product line with the purchase and conversion of Amerisuites now rebranded as "Hyatt Place". They have also acquired the Summerfield Suites chain.  

Hyatt Gold Passport is a decent frequent frequent stay program.

• Fairmont, St. Regis, Four Seasons, Leows 
These are the Uber luxe properties. I avoid these "full of themselves" hotels like the plague. They are priced far far above what they deliver. I don't want to buy real estate, I just want to rent a lovely and quiet room.

To be fair Fairmont includes a number of well located, historic, properties (like the Banff Springs Hotel) that can be a very nice option when rented at off-season pricing.

• Holiday Inns or Intercontinental
Old legacy Holiday Inns suck. For highway travel, Holiday Inn Select's and Holiday Inn Express' are great.

• Country Inn and Suites, Comfort Inn's, and Wingates.  
Nice roadside motels, I just don't do road trips very often. The new Cambria Suites has great promise.

• Best Western
If the best hotel in town is a Best Western, then the "town" is probably not one Roadboy has on his "To See Before I Die" list. Best Western's in Europe are frequently great!

• Druggies and Bikers
If you want to live among addicts then Ramada's, Red Roof's, Super 8's, and Motel 6's are for you! Smelly rooms, bad beds, and mildew Yippee! My visits to Motel 6 ended after finding a used syringe under my pillow.

• Little Treasures
Kimpton Hotel's (unique, well priced, and spotlessly clean hotels)
Hotel Monaco (nice, just not many of them)
Rockresorts (lovely, OK in the off-season)
Historic Hotels and Inns of America
Preferred Hotels
Bed and Breakfast's


Get the Best Hotel Rates

1. Shop, Shop, Shop. Start checking early and don't hesitate to replace a reservation if something better comes along. Sometimes the best rates are offered early. Sometimes they show up at the last minute. Watch out for the pre-pay, no refund rates. They mean it. Change your plans and you lose it all.

2. Get a Triple AAA Card. I compare rates and find that once in a while the AAA rates are well below other rates.  I more than pay for my annual membership from the savings from one multi-night trip.  

Also, if you ever lock your keys in a rental car, no one will help. Locksmiths refuse. The rental car companies ignore you. After everyone else says no, AAA unlocks the car for free.

3. Always check for promo rates. 

4. Check "Farechase" by Yahoo , Sidestep, and Kayak.com. These sites scan all of the other sites! 

5. Check Expedia and the hotel section of airline websites. They frequently negotiate great hotel rates.

6. If the trip is a for sure thing, consider Hotwire. You buy blind, so always buy based on stars and location. I frequently come up with rooms at less than 1/2 the "Best Price" shown on the hotel's website.

7. Check Quikbook.com. Once in a while this website has some great deals.

8. Personally I find Priceline "bid thing" too time consuming and rarely find great hotel deals. 

9. If you are booking a block of rooms call hotels direct. They frequently horse trade in the off season.

10. If you are a government employee, check the government rate. Sometimes you have to search for it.
On the Ritz Carlton website you type in "GOV" in the box that says "promo" to get the rate. These used to always be the best rates, now government rates frequently exceed promo rates. 

Thats how Roadboy does it. 


Roadboy's Travels © 2010

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Perfect Place On a Perfect Day

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum


Pretty much every year my daughter suggests we make a road trip to Tucson to see the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. It takes very little cajoling as it is one of my favorite places in our beautiful state.


Most years we wait and go in summer (as it it the only time of the year when it is open evenings to see the nocturnal animals).


Our earlier than usual April visit rewarded us with perfect temperatures, sunny blue skies, and a clear view all the way to Kitt Peak.


Founded in 1952 the ASDM is a 26 acre desert paradise. It is one of the first "living museums" anywhere. It is part botanical garden, part zoological garden, and part research center.


I also like the drive to get there. Once you get to Tucson you travel west on Speedway Avenue until it dissolves into a narrow two lane highway over Gates Pass. Along the way it meanders through an incrediby dense forest of saguaro's. The road hearkens to an earlier day and reminds me of all those old desert highways my dad used to find that were mile after mile of little roller coster hills. Along the way there are campgrounds an archery range, and picnic grounds. This is also the road you use to go see the Old Tucson movie studios.


When we arrived we went counter to the normal trail direction. This allowed me to go get something to eat at the Ironwood Terrace for lunch. It also allowed us to start (where we normally finish) at the hummingbird aviary. The hummers and their tiny babies were everywhere.


We skipped the Javelinas this year and watched the mountain goats, owls, wolves, beavers and cats. The nice thing about visiting before the temperatures soar is that so many of the animals are out enjoying the weather too.


New this year is the "Life on the Rocks" display which highlights a variety of animals and insects both in their above and below ground habitats.                                                                        


  
The Old Museum "Ark" Was on Display This Year


The museum is privately owned and (aside from their annual memberships and their military discounts) there are limited discounts on the entrance fee. But at $13 / Adult it is actually a screaming deal. This is a place that the whole family will enjoy and remember for years  to come.
                                                                                                                        



The Desert Scene 
(Along the 2 Miles of Trails)


The Sonora Desert in Full Bloom!

If you visit our magnificent state, this is one of our "Don't Miss" places to visit (especially if you are traveling with children).


Roadboy's Travels © 2010