Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Walk In The Desert Botanical Garden

A Perfect Father's Day

I had the day all planned; church, brunch, then go off to the office and get caught up while it is quiet. I, like many business owners, frequently view Saturday and Sunday as just two working days before Monday.

Well Miss M had a different idea. Sort of a garden intervention. It worked. 

Instead of more office time, We took a walk in Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden. It was about 5 PM when we arrived, (which was fine as it was open till 8 PM.) There were maybe 10 cars in the lot.

The entrance pavilion and and visitor services facilities have all been relocated and upgraded since the last time I was there. And all the new facilities have been very sensitively designed and are just beautiful.

As you approach the entry plaza you cannot help but notice the tall sparkling glass pieces by Dale Chihuly from the 2009 blockbuster "Glass In The Garden" show.

For a blog post that showcases the Chihuly show see: 2009 Chihuly Show

The Chihuly art remains thanks to a thoughtful group of corporate and individual sponsors who are raising funds to buy these pieces to keep them permanently in Phoenix.

The temperatures were not all that bad. Yet, while walking we encountered maybe 15 people in the whole garden.

And since the sun was starting to wane, the critters were all busy. Cactus Wrens, quail, lizards, jackrabbits and regular rabbits were everywhere. But what I loved were the dazzling butterflies and darting hummingbirds. It was wonderful.

Chihuly Sculptures 
At The Entry To The Garden

The Queen Butterflies Are Back

Saguaro's The Desert Sentinals

Miss M Inspecting A Birds Nest

Terrific Use of Water

Beautiful Landscaped Planter beds

Some Of The Succulents

This is one place where if you leave anything but refreshed, well then I advise sitting down to check your pulse!

If I had worked my day would have just been another forgotten Father's Day. Going to the garden made it a day I won't ever forget.

Roadboy's Travels © 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Riding The Canals in Phoenix

Roadboy's Favorite Bicycle Ride

Friends of Roadboy are well aware that I am challenged in nearly all athletic endeavors. It defies logic, but there you go. I'm tall so I should be able to play basketball right? Nope. I have long arms, baseball? Nope. Long legs, tennis? Are you kidding, that requires grace! Swimming? I sink like a big chunk of concrete.

The exception? I love riding bicycles. Some days, I ride my skinny wheel road bike, others seem best suited my big fat tire mountain bike. It all depends upon the weather and how adventurous I feel. Whatever bike I select bicycling always puts me in "the zone". Sometimes too much so (who else do you know that has actually fallen asleep while riding?) A severe case of mangled wheel and some heavy road rash confirm that sleeping and riding a bike are incompatible. Go Figure!

So when life is too much, I simply strap on my helmet, slip on my gel pad gloves and go.

And Phoenix is sort of "the" perfect place for any cyclist. With our sinful oversupply of sunshine and miles and miles of bike lanes and bike trails, Metro Phoenix is truly a cyclists dream. Just be careful, with our wide roads, drivers tend to really speed, and bikes are no match when up against grandma's big Buick or junior's rice rocket.

So if you come to the valley your riding options are amazing. You can ride all day in either the North or South Mountain Preserve's. If you visit the NE valley there are the McDowell Mountains. The West valley has the White Tanks. The beginner has the Hayden green belt, any canal, or the gentle trails that lace Papago Park. The adrenaline junkie has the sphincter testing double diamond National trail (that runs the ridge top of South Mountain Park.) For my money the best list of trails (along with his accurate sphincter pucker ratings - I am not making that up!) can be found in Cosmic Ray's Arizona Bike Trails book. Ray covers the whole state and has provided me with awesome rides from Flagstaff to Mexico. 

I suppose every cyclist has their favorite "regular ride", and I am no exception. So I thought I'd describe my favorite in Metro Phoenix.

I live in North Central so I start by heading north along Central Avenue's 100+ year old Murphy Bridle Path. I ride that all the way to where it intersects the SRP canal in Sunnyslope. There I turn east and start riding the canal. A little digression: Central Avenue is Phoenix's Avenue / Street Zero. What I mean by that is all NS streets west of Central Ave are numbered avenues; first avenue, second avenue etc. Similarly all NS streets east of Central Ave are numbered streets; first street, second street etc.

Along this stretch of canal there are tunnels under all the numbered streets till you get to 40th Street. So for those keeping track that is 40 solid blocks of zero automobile interface! Nice!

Biking the Canals (Looking Toward Camelback)

Now here's why the architect in me loves this ride. In this stretch there are wonderful buildings lining the canal. Not to mention great views of Piestawa Peak. Which I've been told holds the most popular urban trail in the nation.

Off in The Distance Piestewa Peak

The Arizona Biltmore Hotel and Resort

The Sprites 
(From Frank Lloyd Wright's Midway Gardens)

My ride then passes the regal Arizona Biltmore. Built and owned originally by William Wrigley Jr. The Biltmore opened in 1929. It was designed by Albert Chase McArthur who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright from 1907 - 1909. That makes the Biltmore the last intact Wright inspired hotel remaining in the world.

Its has welcomed nearly every sitting president since it was built and is surrounded by lovely golf courses and zillion dollar homes. Celebrity guests have always loved its grounds and pools. Irving Berlin composed White Christmas here by the pool. And Marilyn Monroe frequently told people that the pool at the Biltmore was her favorite.  

On the hill overlooking the Biltmore Mr. Wrigley built what for many decades was the largest home in Arizona. Built from 1929 - 1930 "La Colina Solana" The Sunny Hill was Mr. Wrigley's 50th wedding anniversary gift to his wife Ada. And at almost 17,000 SF (and equipped with 12 bathrooms), it was Mr. Wrigley's smallest residence.

From the Biltmore we cross into Paradise Valley (which we simply call "PV"). This is perhaps Arizona's toniest neighborhood and has always been home to celebrities, Doctors, Lawyers, an occasional weapons merchant, sports stars, and politicians.

My favorite spot in PV is The Hermosa. Former home to Cowboy artist Lon Megargee, it is now a fine Inn and one of Arizona's most beautiful restaurants.

The Courtyard at Lon's


Lon's artwork includes the Cowboy on the Bucking Bronco found inside every Stetson hat!

From here I head north up Tatum past the PV Country Club. From Tatum I turn off at the (very easy to miss) east entry to the North Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Having truly saved the best for last I pedal the singletrack Trail 100. Here, despite being completely surrounded by the 6th largest city in America, you can find stretches where absolutely no development may be seen in any direction. I have encountered roadrunners, millipedes, javalinas and rattlesnakes (only once) along this trail.

Trail 100 
Singletrack Bliss

But of course the most dangerous predators here are the out-of-control fellow cyclists trying to set some new personal best riding time.

Me, I ride west to Dreamy Draw Park where I can refill my long empty water bottle.

At that point it is time to ride home and put my feet up.

Roadboy's Travels © 2011  

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Tuna Boat Turns 50

My 1961 Bullet Bird

This is a repost. I felt compelled to put it out there again now that my old Thunderbird can officially celebrate its 50th birthday.

Update June 2013
My T-Bird just returned from a major rebuild of steering and suspension (including new leaf springs). The car once again glides just like when I got her in 1972!

When I first saw it I knew it was something special. It was low to the ground. It was uber curvy. It was the color of desert sand. I had to look to find the door handles (they were sculpted right into the door). It was just plain bodacious.

To a 16 year old boy, in an era of boxy 70's era mustangs, it was love at first sight.

The Thunderbird was already 11 years old and had a little over 34,000 miles on it. It was in darned good shape except for missing a back seat. 

When I asked about the seat the little old lady who was selling it told me she raised show dogs and had the back seat removed (and filled with plywood to better accommodate the cages she used for transporting them). I had visions of the back seat resting in perfect shape covered up in her garage. 

Nope, she had thrown it out.

My 1961 Thunderbird
(Cars from the Era of Sputnik)

When I asked about the missing jack she wistfully said "Oh, I have triple AAA, I don't need a jack!"

There's some logic in there somewhere.

When I asked where I might find a back seat to replace the one she threw away, she rolled her eyes to let me know I was really starting to annoy her. She just said "these are sports cars, they get wrecked every day, go to a junk yard!"

It also needed tires. I also knew full well that (powered by Ford's legendary 390 V8 with a 4 barrel carb) it would pass anything on the road except a gas station. But, back then gas was 34¢ a gallon, came with a free box of dishwasher detergent, and a complimentary car wash.

I took it.

Ahhhh! Fins and Chrome

First stop was a junk yard and I'll be damned if the first T-Bird I came to had a back seat in the right color and the jack. It was pure joss.

The Famous Back Seat

While most of my travels today are by plane, in those days Roadboy's ticket to freedom was this very car. I drove it to high school every day. I drove it to Lake Tahoe about once a month. I drove it camping in the Redwoods. I drove it to Death Valley.

This is the car that moved me to Coeur d'Alene Idaho and then saw me through all of my college years. In fact it was at college in Moscow Idaho where my friend Darryl christened it the "Tuna Boat". A title that stuck.

I spent the stupidest night of my life in it, driving drunk. That was the same night I rolled it right over a couple of those fold-up signs with flashers. Never saw em. But I dragged them for blocks and only decided something was wrong when my car sounded like a North Idaho logging truck. Yep those signs had ripped off both mufflers.

We made quite an impression on all the diners at Moscow's Country Kitchen that night.

I was lucky. No one got hurt and the noise my car now made affirmed one of the most important lessons of my life. Never mix alcohol with driving. Period.

The Very First Swing-A-Way Steering Wheel

When I graduated from college, it drove me to Seattle (right through the fallout from the eruption of Mount Saint Helens - there is still that grey ash under every panel).

The Invisible Door Handles

But when I moved to Alaska the Thunderbird went off to live with mom and dad back in Idaho. Dad took good care of the Tuna Boat for me. After my five years in Alaska she was waiting for me in Seattle.

Amazingly, after a few minor fixes it drove like a champ all the way back to where it started - California. Over the next decade I finally had to have it painted and was only able to drove it once in awhile.

Sixteen years ago when we moved to Arizona, the tuna boat carried me, my then 4 year old son, and our huge golden retriever Charlie. My son sat in the passenger seat with Charlie carefully straddling the space between our seats looking out the big windshield and panting the whole way. Charlie was a big gentle soul with an epic case of doggie halitosis.

In Arizona the car had a proverbial melt down one day losing all of its ability to cool itself and, me being cash strapped, I had to leave it parked for about three years. Then I met the god of Big Birds and old Falcons, Jim Dottling. Jim took my car for about a month into his Thunderbird Connection shop in Sunnyslope. There in his old car spa he methodically brought her back to life. Over the years he rebuilt the transmission, replaced all of the rubber parts, added an AC, new upholstery, new dash, and a modern sound system. While Jim has since retired, his son Darren now runs the T-Bird Connection and provides the same thoughtful TLC.  

In many ways she looks better now than when I was in high school. The engine has never needed to be rebuilt and (at the present rate of usage) probably never will.

Except for one night when I played jackass, it has safely carried me and my loved ones, friends, and canine buddies for 39 of its 50 years.

Now when I drive it I get lots of honks, big smiles, and a whole bunch of thumbs up. Mostly from old guys without teeth driving old beaters.

My son ducks down and tries to hide.

Best $700 I ever spent.

Roadboy's Travels © 2011