Check out our new Interactive Route Map (button in menu above). After a month in the Smokies, three months chasing the sun and birds in Florida, we’re embarking on a more ambitious trip. This time we plan to cross the US, Canada via a Northerly route, picking up a headboard from our van manufacturer, Read More
We took the advice of friends and approached Sedona from Prescott traveling East over the pass by Mingus Mountain then down through Jerome into the Verde Valley. We stayed for a few days at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood and made day trips to Sedona.
The Route 89A Pass over the mountains and down to Jerome (altitude over 5,000 feet) was one of the most beautiful rides we have taken, ending up with great views over the Verde Valley towards Sedona. Jerome is an old mining town, ghost town, now turned into a tourist trap nestled half way up the mountain. It’s not the most beautiful of towns but the location is amazing and the town has a lot of history to learn about. Copper was discovered and the first claim made in 1876. Copper was mined from 1883 until 1953. Jerome’s population rose to boom-town numbers of over 15,000 but dropped with copper prices to a low of 50 in the 1920s. It has made a come-back as an artists and tourist town with many of the buildings preserved.
We visited a ‘Ghost Town’ which turned out to be more of a junkyard but provided some fun photo opportunities of some classic rusting vehicles. We particularly liked the ‘Arizona Power Company’ motor generator (see movie below).
We picked Dead Horse Ranch State Park at Cottonwood as a good base to tour the area surrounding Sedona. The park has a number of small lakes which have attracted waterfowl, very noisy in the evening (hear audio below). We visited the ‘Blazin M Ranch’ for a chuckwagon dinner and western show (music was very well done) and happened on a street fair in Cottonwood with some classic cars. Cheryl enjoyed looking around the extensive collection of ‘recycled garden art’ at the store pictured above.
And now for the rocks . . . Sedona is famous for the many pink and red rock formations surrounding it. It is an area of great natural beauty and there are records of human habitation back to 10,000 BC. The area was inhabited by the Yavapai and Apache tribes from 1400 AD until they were forcibly removed in 1876 to the San Carlos Reservation by Anglo-American settlers. Many of the 1500 tribe members lost their lives during the mid-winter forced march. The area was considered to have great spiritual significance by these early dwellers.
The development of modern Sedona as a tourist and recreation center didn’t begin until the 1950s. The town of Sedona adds little to the natural beauty to the area, no identifiable town center, many tourist shops selling crystals and incense, little character. However the overwhelming scenery of the area dominates and we loved driving around the surrounding area, taking many pictures. We couldn’t help wondering what the area would be like if it had been turned into a National Park.
We couldn’t discuss Sedona without mentioning Sedona’s Vortex. ‘New Age’ proponents believe that a Vortex is “A special spot on the earth where energy is either entering into the earth or projecting out of the earth’s plane.” Sedona boasts many vortices (or vortexes as the tourist industry calls them). We visited a few around the area and, while moved by the natural beauty, didn’t feel any “energy surging into or out of our bodies”. We have failed to discover when and where this concept arose but there is no doubt that the tourist industry leapt upon the concept, developed it, and is making a lot of money out of it. Glastonbury in England is another area benefiting from this idea. Here are a couple of interesting articles about the phenomenon.
Arizona Power Company ‘Music’
We met Paul and Catherine Pickering by chance on Vancouver Island back in September, when we discovered surreal coincidences between our lives. They invited us to visit them in Mesa, AZ when we passed by on our way East and fortuitously, this coincided with an annual party they host, the ‘Mexican Day of the Dead’ (with a twist). We were supposed to dress as our favorite musicians, but sometimes, the simplicity of an outfit wins over how Beethoven or Berlioz would have dressed; Colin as Willie Nelson and Cheryl as Dolly Parton. Neither of us got the message that we were suppose to dress as our favorite DEAD musicians. So sorry Willie and Dolly – not to hurry your demise. Paul is an accomplished musician, plays a wicked guitar, and plays with many bands around the area. Consequently, most of the 50+ crowd were performers and we were treated to all-evening performances of jazz, blues, rock, country, and . . . bagpipes. Yes, Colin played for the crowd too. Colin had a different kind of appearance as Willie played the Northumbrian Smallpipes (NSPs). Thank you Pickerings for letting us drive on your grass to park our van, the great hospitality, and the great music and food. Fun, fun, fun.
We can’t say enough good things about this amazing museum. Since we are both musicians, we loved seeing the history, the development, the variety, and the different countries in which these musical instruments were ‘born’. Even if you aren’t a musician, go! We are all connected by music, and the MIM proves this by the sheer magnitude of its inspiring 10,000+ instruments and exhibits. It wasn’t just the instruments that made this museum so unique. Almost every exhibit had video of either the instrument, a musician playing the instrument, or histories of those well known musicians who created magic on those instruments. Note: At the time of our visit, there was a special exhibit which highlighted intricate inlays on guitars called, “Dragons and Vines.” This collection of guitars was created by Pearl Works of Maryland, Larry Sifel, founder (1948-2006).
Colin: I was interested to see the large variety of bagpipes on display at the museum. There were about 30 examples, mainly from Europe and the Middle East. Because of the popularity of the Greater Highland Pipes, there’s a common misconception that bagpipes originated in Scotland. However they have been played for over 1,000 years and likely originated in the Middle East. The pictures below show two different methods of providing air: mouth-blown and bellows-blown. My instrument, the Northumbrian Smallpipes (NSPs, bellows-blown), was not in evidence, the most similar being the Uillean pipes from Ireland. Naturally I encouraged the MIM staff to expand their display to include the NSPs!
Calliope from Antwerp, Holland
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Mesa Arizona and Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix Arizona
We had a couple of friends we wanted to visit and in searching for a place to stay, we happened upon a wonderful desert park in the foothills west of Phoenix, White Tank Mountain Regional Park. The park was maintained immaculately, the graveled sites were ‘Zen-raked’ and roomy, and the desert scenery magnificent. We stayed here for almost two weeks, catching up with our friends and enjoying some R&R, a vacation from our vacation. The park extends over 30,000 acres and has many trails for hikers, horses and mountain bikers. There’s even a ‘racetrack’ used by bikers and / or horses. We took advantage of the trails, Colin hiked the Ford Canyon trail up into the mountains where a ‘tour guide’ adopted him, and Cheryl and Colin hiked the Waterfall Canyon trail after a day of rain but found only a dry waterfall by the time we arrived. There was a pool, however, used by the Native Americans for many years as a water source, and many petroglyphs to see. Colin enjoyed searching out birdlife in the early morning, surprised to see that woodpeckers are at home on Cactus (doesn’t it hurt their feet?) There’s a McNaught family story from the Joshua Tree NP, a Cholla Cactus attacking son Jon, who was 6 at the time; Jon remembers it too. Now in 2016, Colin was so concerned about getting a good photo that he let one of the baby cactus attack his foot; we’re sure this was his reward for being amused at Jon’s predicament, years ago. During our two week stay, we were entertained by the many unusual shapes of the cacti and took way too many photos. The inspirational desert surroundings brought back Colin’s childhood when, like many, he read comics and books about ‘Cowboys and Indians’.
From CherylDee: It had been years and years since I had last seen Bill McMullen. We used to catch up with each other from time to time, while traveling to different cities for medical conventions. In 1975, ‘BillyBoy’ was head of cardiac ultrasound when I was a nuclear medicine tech at West Hills Hospital, CA (San Fernando Valley). BillyBoy and I were friends and even played Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus for the children’s wards. BillyBoy will be remembered forever by me and my family when in 1979 he moved into my parents home to help with my dying father. And then, without being in touch for years, in December 1991 he appeared at the Chicago Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), to tell me of my mother’s passing. He is a special kind of friend, and at my brother Michael and Maggie’s wedding, Bill again proved his good heart when, without prompting, he picked up Maggie’s father, who had trouble walking, to carry him to the ceremony – a sandy beach 250 steps away from the Chart House party location. Selfless, and filled with humor, it was finally great to go to Bill’s home, meet Kris, after so many years of their marriage, and to see what a remarkable pair these two are. Bill has some heavy duty medical issues, but his smiling face and twinkling eyes continue to sparkle. I love you BillyBoy and Kris. You are forever in my heart.
From Cheryl: I was impressed with freeway artwork in and around Phoenix. I was told by a friend that 1% of the revenue goes to the beautification of the city. I just wanted to show you what can happen in a town when art becomes part of structure.
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White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Arizona
We couldn’t continue our journey to Arizona without stopping for a day or two in ‘Sin City’. We picked Lake Mead National Recreation area as our home for a couple of days and found a site with a wonderful view over the lake and mountains at Las Vegas Bay. Our site was on the rim of Las Vegas creek which feeds the lake from the West. The lake is a shadow of its former self, unable to keep up with demand for water and power for California, Nevada and Arizona’s growing need in the face of climate change. The main source of water for the lake is the Colorado River with controlled output from Lake Powell via the Glen Canyon Dam. The Lake Mead water level fell from its high of 1225 feet in 1983 to a record low of 1072 feet on July 1, 2016 and the Hoover dam, which created Lake Mead, is being fitted with new low velocity turbines to cope with the reduced flow. If current conditions continue, there is a high likelihood that lakes Powell and Meade will cease to be viable sources of power and water by 2040. Despite this, we enjoyed our stay there, giving us a chance to relax before planning a night on the town.
Neither of us wanted to drive the 24 miles back to our campsite after a night on Las Vegas so we booked ourselves into Circus Circus, the only RV park with walking access to the ‘Strip’. It was a parking lot but we didn’t plan to stay in the van for long. We found ourselves next to a pink converted school-bus which turned out to be the mobile home of the band ‘Let’s Be Leonard!‘ They seemed a friendly bunch and, fortunately for us, didn’t have a band practice that night.
From Cheryl: The Tauber family had been to Vegas quite a bit back in the 70s, and that was the last time I was there. As he had no other hobbies, my father liked to gamble (it was his adult Disneyland, he always said) and so very often was the resident doctor on call at the Rivera Hotel (hotel was imploded in 2016). I remember days by the pool and the amazing night time entertainment. I remember my father speaking to the ‘pit bosses’, then walking us Tauber kids to the front tables of the show room, complimentary tickets for such top acts as: Elvis, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Don Rickles, Debby Reynolds, Tony Orlando & Dawn, Diana Ross & the Supremes, Cher, and Barbra Streisand. We experienced so much of Vegas, at the Rivera as well as other hotels, where anatomy lessons were included, for example: The Folies Bergère. So I wanted Colin to experience the general craziness, a topless show, and the massive scale of gambling that is Las Vegas. Neither one of us put money in the slots or on the tables, but we were amazed at the number of people betting on getting something back from their hours of ‘toil’. So we walked the Strip and I decided to ‘treat’ Colin to a risqué dinner spot and show. Our waitress was beautiful, a fun lady even if the outfit was a bit drafty in the behind. I admit I loved her tush as much as Colin did so I told her how exquisite she was; no other motives, really! We also took in a topless show which had music, dancing and a comedy act. Well past our usual bedtime, we headed back to our Circus Circus RV bed for the night. The next morning, leaving the crowds of people behind, both of us breathed a sigh of relief as we headed into the desert for more touring.
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Downtown Las Vegas