grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Friday, March 29, 2013

25-29MAR13 - Phoenix, AZ (mesa, az, & tolleson, az, really)

Monday, 25MAR, Dan went back to Musical Instrument Museum so he could finish viewing the exhibits he did not see on our visit back on 19MAR. Although this meant purchasing another entry ticket, he was glad to now have seen the entire collection on display at this time. Meanwhile Corrie stayed home & enjoyed the pool & R&R.

Tuesday morning we headed to the Heard Museum in Phoenix – “The Heard is nationally and internationally recognized for the quality of its exhibits, which provide insight into the cultures and histories of Native people, and for the sensitivity of its presentation and interpretation of American Indian art.” Once again it was a museum visit where we couldn’t take it in all in one day! In addition to one docent let tour, we took-in the “Chocolate, Chili & Cochineal: Changing Taste Around the World”, “Native Words, Native Warriors & Navajo Code Talkers”, “Home: Native People in the Southwest”, “Barry Goldwater Katsinas Collection”, “We Are! Arizona’s First People”, & “Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience”.     

Along with ancient artifacts & modern Native art, the museum also presents Native historical information, such as:

>Native Americans are three times as likely to serve during military conflicts as the rest of the population.

>The first Native “code talkers” were Choctaws during WWI.

>Sadly the Indian schools mission was to “assimilate, acculturate, & Americanize” the students by shaving their hair, burning their cloths, only allowing English to be spoken, & keeping the children from their families up to nine years!

>There are four principal crops in the world – wheat from the Middle East, rice from China, & potatoes & corn from Native Americas.

>Tomatoes were not used in Italian cooking until 1693, a hundred years after they were imported from the Americas.

>The Navajos during WWII spoke in a code they developed in the Pacific campaign. Many other Native Americans were used to speak in their tribal language but uuencoded in many theaters of war, because the enemy often still could not decipher the radio transmission.

Lunch was in the museum’s Courtyard Café where we shared bison meatloaf & hummus made with tepary beans; note - you can enjoy the café without paying to enter the museum. While touring the museum we even ran into a Miss Indian Princess who represented all the Native tribes in the USA & Canada. Another museum we highly recommend checking-out if you are in the Phoenix area!

Wednesday evening it was back to MIM for another concert; but first dinner at Aunt Chiladas (aka enchiladas). They claim they are oldest restaurant in Phoenix. But there have been many different restaurants and/or owners at this location, that it hasn’t been the “same” over its history. Probably more correct to say its Phoenix’s oldest building that has continually had a restaurant in it? Its most infamous incarnation was as The Peek (note spelling) Steak House. The Mexican food at Chiladas was very good, including the Tres Leches Cake we had for dessert.

The concert was “Uncommon Time - Taiko, Tabla, Timbal”:

“The drum takes center stage in this commingling of three rhythmically complex musical traditions. Each musician is a master of own his genre: Kenny Endo in taiko drumming, Abhijit Banerjee in tabla drumming, and John Santos in Latin percussion. Each one is an experienced composer. What they share is a passion for exploring musical collaborations across genres and cultural backgrounds.”

“With Uncommon Time, the improvised drum exchange has evolved into a witty and heartfelt musical dialogue in which the three artists create new compositions using the rich palette of percussion forms, rhythmic interchanges, and instrumentations of diverse global cultures.”

“One of the leading American exponents of contemporary percussion and rhythm, Kenny Endo is at the vanguard of the Japanese taiko genre. As a performer, composer, and teacher, he has received numerous awards and accolades. He was the first non-Japanese to be honored with a natori (stage name) in Japanese classical drumming. Endo is a consummate artist, blending Japanese taiko with rhythms influenced by his jazz background and global collaborations to create original melodies and improvisations.”

“Abhijit Banerjee is considered among the top-ranking Indian tabla players. He is one of the most sought-after artists in Indian classical music, renowned for his unique style and creative approach as well as for his sensitivity, skill, and deep sense of musicality. In addition to his contributions to Indian music, Banerjee has left his mark in a diverse field of crossover music both as a performer and composer.”

“Five-time GRAMMY-nominee and a US Artists Fellow, John Santos is one of the foremost interpreters of Afro-Latin music in the world today. He is known for his innovative use of traditional forms and instruments in combination with contemporary music, as well as for his groundbreaking work in bringing together styles, rhythms, concepts, and artists from different generations. With over thirty-five years of performing and teaching, he has earned much respect and recognition as an educator, composer, and record and event producer.”

We weren’t sure what to expect from three percussionists sharing the stage, but it was an outstanding concert & highly recommended!!!

Thursday morning, 28MAR, it was time to shift from Good Life RV in Mesa (on the east of Phoenix), to the Freightliner facility in Tolleson, AZ (on the west of Phoenix). As we have discussed several times in this BLOG getting maintenance & service done on an RV engine & chassis is often somewhat difficult because this often requires taking your RV to a truck facility. Back in April of 2010 we “discovered” the Freightliner facility in Tolleson, AZ, that has dedicated staff & facilities dedicated to RV’ers. Now their facility is even better because they have built dedicated RV parking spots with 50 Amp electric, city water, & sewage dump hook-ups at every spot!

Dinner that evening was at La Piazza al Forno in Glendale, where we ate back in April 2010. As we said back then - they make their pizzas in wood fired, brick oven, from Italy; & the food is still outstanding!

Friday morning at 0700 our RV was pulled into the service bay, leaving us (including Gumbo) to sit in the RV Owner’s Lounge for the day. Our RV was due for a major scheduled maintenance called “M3”; every other Freightliner service center we have had this done at, has needed two days to accomplish it. This facility not only finished everything in one day, but also completed all the required maintenance on our generator! End result we paid less here than at other Freightliner service centers because the number of labor hours was far less than elsewhere.

Tomorrow we hope to be back on the RV road to the Pacific NW!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

18-24MAR13 - Phoenix, AZ (mesa really)

Tuesday, 19MAR, we headed to the Musical Instrument Museum north of Phoenix. This is a relatively new, world class museum that contains over 15,000 instruments from around the world (supposedly the museum cost $250M!).

“The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) was founded by Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO and chairman emeritus of Target Corporation. An avid collector of African art and a world museum enthusiast, Ulrich and his friend Marc Felix originated the idea for MIM after a visit to the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels, Belgium. Their unique vision was to create a museum and collection that afford equal representation to the musical instruments and music of every country in the world. Using state-of-the-art audiovisual technology to show musical instruments being played in their original cultural context and delivering the sound of these instruments through high-quality headphones, MIM provides a one-of-kind experience to museum guests.”

The instruments are divided into five major global regions: Africa/Middle East; Asia/Oceania; Europe; Latin America/Caribbean; and the USA/Canada. In the Europe section we learned that Soviet Russia built electrical music instruments to withstand a nuclear attack! Also there are documentaries in different areas on the making of Zildjian cymbals, Martin guitars, Steinway pianos, & other USA musical instrument makers. While touring the Steinway section we learned that they built 2500 GI Field Pianos that were often parachuted to the troops during WWII! In addition, there are opportunities to play many types of instruments; & there is a mechanical music gallery featuring instruments designed to play on their own.

We only made it thru 60% of the global regions & didn’t even make it to the Target gallery, Artist gallery or the Founders Room. Dan found it funny that the rock & roll exhibits were surrounded by 60 & 70 year olds bopping there heads to hits from the 50/60/70s. We both highly recommend this museum to everyone (even those not musically inclined)! That evening was dinner at Miko’s Hawaiian Grill.

Thursday, 21MAR, we headed to the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa. The museum starts with a Dinosaur Hall & continues with a Walk Through Time to the point where the first animals fly. The Southwest Gallery has displays tracing the first Sonoran Desert people (Paleoindian hunter/gathers), to Southwest desert cultures (Zuni, Pima, etc), to ancient Mesoamerica, to Spanish Arizona. When we visited there was also a special exhibit devoted to the International Space Station. Our enjoyment of the museum was dampened by the numerous kids running around with no apparent parental supervision. Trivia – what are Arizona’s “Five Cs”?

Friday evening we headed back to MIM for a concert. But first we stopped at the Zinc Bistro for dinner. The Zinc Bistro has a French inspired menu, & is famous for their onion soup; an excellent restaurant but on the pricey side. The concert at MIM featured Al Stewart & David Nachmanoff. Older “rockers” will recognize Stewart as a major artist in the 1970s with his hits “Year of the Cat” & “Terminal Eyes”. Although being in his upper 60s, his voice is still the same & it was very enjoyable show!

Saturday, 23MAR13, Dan took off for the Falcon Field Airport Open House, followed by a tour of the Commemorative Air Force Aviation Museum; while Corrie stayed home & relaxed. The open house at Falcon Field Airport was a small scale community event that allows the locals to see the operations going on there & the economic benefits to the community. Along with the open house was a hot rod car show. Note – Falcon Field was created along with five other fields in the USA because of an agreement between Churchill & Roosevelt in 1940, to start covertly training RAF pilots in the USA; RAF training start in September 1941.  

After a short time at the open house, Dan headed to the neighboring Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Aviation Museum. There is a worldwide association of CAFs & they used to be known as the Confederate Air Force, but apparently to be politically correct they have changed their name to the Commemorative Air Force? This chapter of the CAF has a restored B17, B25, C45 & L16 planes from WWII that you can pay to fly in!

Dan is not sure but this chapter of the CAF seemed to have a limited number of planes on display, but it was still a worthwhile visit & informative. The hi-light was being able to walk (or crawl) thru a fully restored B17 (the Sentimental Journey)! While short on planes on display the museum had very informative displays on the WASPs, the Link Trainer, the Tuskegee Airmen, the 91st Bomb Group (home of the Memphis Belle), the Flying Tigers, & the Burma Road.   

Trivia – representatives from the USA, UK, Canada, China, USSR, Australia, France, & New Zealand witnessed & signed MacArthur’s conditions of unconditional surrender w/Japan on the Missouri; what other allied country also witnessed & signed (think East Indies)? What was “V” or Victory Mail? Why did Ford’s Willow Run B24 facility have to make a 90 degree turn in the middle of it (think taxes)? What is a “blood chit” (think rescue patch)?

Early Sunday morning it was off to Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Coolidge, AZ. By researching the park’s website, Dan discovered that March is archeology month with one tour a day on Saturday & Sunday for ten people only, to explore a restricted area known as “Compound B”. So naturally he signed us up! This unique tour was another example of the Ranger led activities that we have spoken about many times in our BLOG. Not only did we see several archeological features normally off-limits to the public; but we also saw the ground covered in broken Indian pottery unearthed by the constant digging & burrowing of badgers.   

After this Ranger led tour, we then we took the one hour Ranger led tour of “Compound A” & the Casa Grande that is offered throughout the day to the public. During this tour we learned the Native Americans along the Salt River (ie Phoenix area) had a community ten times bigger than London at the same time; & had a sophisticated canal/irrigation system that allowed them to flourish in a “desert” environment & trade their excess food for items not available to them with other tribes.   

Lastly we watched the park’s half hour film & checked-out the small museum. Kenneth Quanimptewa was in the courtyard carving & selling authentic Hopi Katsinas (note Kachinas is no longer the accepted spelling/pronunciation). Dan even bought some cactus marmalade & mesquite honey from the park store. A great & informative time!!!

Trivia – what was the first cultural & prehistoric site to be protected by the USA government? How could the ancient Sonoran Desert people raise more food per acre with sticks & stones than modern farmers with tractors & irrigation pumps (think monoculture vs the three sisters)?

The Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is also part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail/National Millennium Trail (millennium trails are 16 long-distance trails selected from 58 nominees as visionary trails that reflect defining aspects of America’s history & culture). In 1775, Juan Bautista de Anza shepherded 198 emigrants, their escorts, & 1000 head of livestock, over 1200 miles on the first overland colonizing expedition from Sonora, Mexico, into Alta (upper) California to what later became known as San Francisco. Casa Grande is part of the Trail because de Anza & Father Pedro Font visited the site & measured its dimensions & fixed its astronomical position.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

12-17MAR13 - Phoenix, AZ (mesa really-via balmorhea, tx, las cruces, nm, & benson, az)

Tuesday, 12MAR, we departed Kerrville enroute Phoenix, AZ, on I-10 West with our first stop at Saddleback Mountain RV in Balmorhea, TX; where we stayed last year when driving the RV & a rental Penske truck w/our furniture to Sultan, WA. This is a bare bones RV park with only water & electric hook-ups for $10, no showers or TV/cable. Eventually Dan was forced to setup our satellite dish to catch the evening news. We must make a note to stay elsewhere the next time we pass thru this area again.

Wednesday morning we continued down I-10 west, taking state road 375 around El Paso. For the night we stopped at Hacienda RV in Las Cruces, NM, where we have stayed before. We set out that evening to try a “roadfood” Mexican restaurant that Dan discovered on the internet; but it was closed for no apparent reason. So we headed into the town of Mesilla (which we have visited several times) & discovered the Double Eagle Restaurant & Peppers Café, two restaurants in the same building. We chose the Double Eagle home of the only dedicated beef ageing room in NM. A fantastic dinner, even if a little pricey:)!

Thursday we continued driving west on I-10 into Arizona; where we discovered Arizona does not observe daylight savings time & we were now on Pacific Coast time. We stopped in Benson, AZ, at a RV “resort” that advertises nightly star presentations using their own observatory, but the observatory was closed for repairs.

On 15MAR13, Friday morning, we completed our drive to Phoenix (Mesa really), AZ, where we set up camp at Good Life RV Resort where we have stayed before in NOV10 & APR11. An interesting thing we note in Arizona compared to Louisiana, Texas & New Mexico is that gas in AZ costs 20 cents more a gallon, but diesel is 20 cents cheaper than the other states? The reason we have come to the Phoenix area is to get our annual Freightliner preventive maintenance done at the Freightliner facility in Tolleson, AZ, that we have used several times in the past. We were hoping to have the maintenance done soon after our arrival; but soon learned that the first opening for an appointment was 29MAR! So we have decided to stay in the Phoenix area for two weeks, while waiting for our appointment.

As described in our NOV 2010 BLOG entry Good Life RV is an adult (55 plus) RV/Resort community, that is very common here in Mesa, AZ. As we also described in our BLOG entry there is a tremendous amount of activities throughout almost every day; including dances, concerts, plays, etc, at night. Both times we have been here before the park was pretty much empty either because the snowbirds hadn’t arrived or they had just left; this time it is almost full because all the snowbirds are still here. Eighty per cent of the lots are occupied by what are known as “park models” & the other lots are used by RV owners. Park models are a smaller version of mobile homes; that are towed to the lot for almost permanent installation similar to a trailer court. Unfortunately Good Life RV was recently purchased by Cal-Am Properties & many of the long time residents are unhappy with their management – there are over 120 units for sell!

Saturday around lunch we headed to “spark!” the Mesa Arts Center’s festival of creativity. It was primarily centered on children’s activities, but it kept us entertained for a couple of hours. Especially the Squonk Opera from Pittsburgh, PA, a musical spectacle on wheels!

On the way back to the RV, we stopped at Pete’s Fish & Chips for a late lunch. Pete’s was started by Peter McLane Grant Jr, in 1947 after his return from WWII. It turns out Mr Grant is another example of the American “success” story; which has made the USA the place for countless entrepreneurs achieve their dreams. Before WWII he was already a teacher & a coach, who had played collegiate basketball & went on to be an international golf champion British Pro-Am. During the war he was a PT Boat skipper, but unfortunately contracted malaria, dysentery, & rheumatic fever. He was advised to move to somewhere hot & dry like Egypt or Arizona; not speaking Egyptian he moved his family to Phoenix, AZ, after the war. Rather than returning to teaching & coaching he used all his money to open a fish & chip shack, making $12 his first day. Now there are eight Pete’s Fish & Chips in & around Phoenix; & it is still a family owned & operated business. Oh yeah, the fried fish & chips are very good!

Sunday, 17MAR, we headed to Scottsdale for the “Made in Arizona Festival” featuring the handicrafts of over 50 Arizona craftsmen/women (in our opinion we’ve seen better craft shows elsewhere). After touring the Festival we headed back to “old town” Scottsdale for lunch. Before sitting down for lunch, we walked about old town which was filled with boutiques selling Native American crafts, western/cowboy crafts, & south of the border imports. For lunch we discovered Davids Original Hamburger rated as one of Phoenix’s best. As an added bonus while eating lunch we were serenaded by a yodeling, cowgirl, country singer dressed as a Leprechaun for St Patties Day! After lunch we stumbled upon one of the last singing cowboys serenading tourists:)

Friday, March 15, 2013

06-11MAR13 - Kerrville, TX (via kinder, la, & livingston, tx)

Wednesday morning, 06MAR, we hit the road toward the Pacific Northwest, with our first stop at the Coushatta Casino in Kinder, LA. This casino has a very nice & very inexpensive RV facility that we have stayed at many times over the years (see below BLOG for our first visit to the casino). We had planned on their all you can eat crawfish buffet, but the line was ridiculously long & we skipped it.

Thursday we had planned on continue driving westward but an issue came up that required us to return to Houma, LA, as soon as possible. Rather then driving the RV all the way back to Houma; we jumped in the Toad & made a round trip drive, getting back to the RV in Kinder, LA, just in time for dinner.

Friday morning we made an early drive to Escapees Rainbows End RV Park in Livingston, TX. Readers of our BLOG will recognize Escapees as a RV club that we belong to that provides many services to fulltime RV’ers. Being members & making a yearly visit to Livingston allows us to maintain Texas driver’s licenses & have our vehicles registered in Texas. But this means we need to return every spring to get our vehicles safety inspected; which we did that afternoon after setting up camp.

Saturday, 09MAR, was a long drive to Kerrville, TX, to visit with Dan’s sister Sharon & husband Tim Tompkins. As we have traveled to the Pacific NW, or traveled back from there, we try to swing by Tim & Sharon’s to visit. As you can see from the below BLOG entry, our last visit was almost exactly five months ago. After we set up camp & we headed to their house for great a BBQ dinner & reminiscing.

Sunday we all met at Luckenbach, TX, (where everybody is somebody) to listen live, free music by Mike Stinson, followed by Sons of Fathers in the Luckenbach dance hall. It was a cold, sunny day, which cut down on the number of bikers attending. After a great time we all met again later that evening for another dinner at Sharon & Tim’s & more reminiscing.

Monday, 11MAR, was spent doing not much of anything in Kerrville, just recovering from the last week on the road. Our plan for the evening was to take Tim & Sharon to dinner in Kerrville. Unfortunately Tim became ill, & we treated just Sharon to dinner at Yeo-Bos Korean (very good). During one of our previous visits, Sharon was ill on the last day of our visit & we had dinner with Tim alone. Maybe next time everyone will remain healthy:)?

Monday, March 11, 2013

01-05MAR13 - Houma, LA (time to get back on the rv road)

We started the month of March with a family crawfish boil at our son Joe’s on Friday, 01MAR. It was the first time Joe had tried to boil crawfish & there was a definite “learning curve” for Joe. Joe had bought so many pounds, that he had to boil three separate batches. Each batch was delicious, but Joe definitely nailed the seasoning by the third batch!  

The next day, 02MAR, we headed into NOLA to visit with Dan’s best friend from the Coast Guard, RADM Jim Van Sice, & his son Wade. We haven’t seen Jim since 2009 (see below BLOG for our visit with Jim & wife Clarke), & probably haven’t seen Wade since 2000. Jim was in town to visit his son who has been hired by the Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine as an orthopedic surgeon & an instructor (another reminder of how old we are getting!).

It was a great time reminiscing, including a very cold walk around Audubon Park. Then we & Jim went to the Upperline Restaurant for dinner. The Upperline is one of New Orleans better known restaurants, & where we had our anniversary dinner back in 2010. We all chose different options of the fixed price three course meals on the menu; a great dinner especially since Jim picked up the tab!

Monday, 04MAR, we got up early & headed into Ochsner Hospital for one more CT Scan & a final talk to the back surgeon. The surgeon was very pleased with Dan’s recovery & feels there is no further need for any more follow-up visits. The next day, Tuesday, Dan saw our orthopedic doctor in the AM; & GP in afternoon. The orthopedic doctor thinks the left clavicle is healed about 80% & no problem getting back on the RV road. He would just like one last check-up at our next return to Houma. Lastly; the GP was also very pleased with Dan’s progress & recovery.

Since all the medical folks are happy, we will get back on the road in the RV tomorrow, Wednesday 06MAR, to the Pacific Northwest. At this time we are not sure of our route or the length of the drive; but that hasn’t stopped us or slowed us down in the past!