Just two weeks before we finished our time at Petrified Forest NP we took a long weekend to see some sights in the Phoenix area. Once again we opted to use a pet friendly motel rather than move the trailer. For Opal it meant several long days in the truck. I don’t know why they call it sightseeing. When you’re a dog all you get to see is the back door, the front seat and a hotel room. If I heard ‘be good, we’ll be right back’ or ‘you’re on duty, guard the truck’ once I heard it twenty times!
On the way down to Phoenix we drove a scenic route through the Salt River Canyon. A wonderful alternative to Interstate travel. Naturally we had to stop at several overlooks for photo ops and to stretch our legs. The 3000 foot elevation change brought us from the 40s to the 70s. Mmmmm…sun, warmth, ahhhhhh!
After checking into the hotel we chose a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives restaurant for dinner only to find it was closed on Sunday when we arrived. So we headed to another Triple D selection called Chino Bandito. This is a walkup counter place that combines Asian and Mexican food. Want your stir fry on a flour tortilla or to eat your carne asada with chop sticks, no problem. It is inexpensive and filled with students and young families with a few snowbirds mixed in. The food was tasty but the atmosphere was definitely in the Dives category. Don’t be surprised if you have to bus your own table and if children were there earlier food may decorate the floor. Next time we’d probably do take out.
Day 1 we headed for the Museum of Musical Instruments. Had we known how large this place was we’d have gotten there earlier. As it was we spent five hours and had to run through the last few galleries to see it all before closing time. At $20 per person you might think it expensive until you experience all the museum offers. You are given a headset and as you walk into the galleries with TV screens a white box near the floor connects to your headphones. Music begins to play and/or a video starts. Soon you are foot tapping, head bobbing, hip wiggling and maybe even singing along as if you’re the only one there. Funny thing is, no one cares because they are in their own small world. Downstairs galleries are devoted to the history of instruments where some instruments date to the 1500s. In the special exhibits hall was a drums of the world exhibit. As we entered the drum circle was just starting. There was only one seat left so I told Steve to take it while I took pictures. Lights under the drum let you know when and what rhythm to do. Later we went to the gallery with a calliope demo and on to the gallery featuring instruments from stars such as John Denver, Carlos Santana and John Lennon. Upstairs the galleries are set up by geographical location: Africa, Asia, Middle East, South Pacific, South American, European or by instrument type (ex. violin). We later learned that only half of the museum’s collection is on display! You can also watch conservators work on restoring new additions to the collection or items from other museums or collectors. The collection runs from a Stradivarius violin to instruments made from a garbage dump in Paraguay. It’s hard to describe the total experience. One of the best museums we’ve ever visited. But wait…there’s more. Several evenings a week the MIM hosts performances of professional musicians. We missed seeing Carlos Nakai by one day! This is a must see (hear) museum!
Day 2 took us to Talesin West, the Arizona home of Frank Lloyd Wright and his school of architecture. Access is by tour only and we chose the 90 minute version. Our tour guide was excellent and gave us a lot of information about FLW, his personal life, his work and the architectural program. For a mere $40,000/year you can send your child here too where for the first six months they will have to live in a primitive shelter they designed. I have been fond of Wright’s designs for many years and have now toured three of his buildings. Steve is less impressed with Wright as he feels the designs are not comfortable. This should be a must see attraction for anyone visiting the area.
In the afternoon we stopped at the Fire Fighters Hall of Flame. Our favorite display was the hand and horse drawn fire engines. Some were used to fight fires while others were only seen in parades. Other displays of firefighting equipment, fallen heroes and walls covered with fire company patches. Steve located a patch from the small town of Altus, Oklahoma where I was stationed in the Air Force in 1971-72. The restored trucks are all the work of volunteers especially a retired fire chief who has worked almost full time for the past 25 years.
By then we were hungry so off to DeFalco’s Deli, a Triple D spot, for some more of their great sausage and dinner. We’d been there last October. If we were in the Phoenix area for an extended time we’d be regulars. We had lasagna, salad, bread and a glass of wine for under $20 each.
Day 3 we drove about an hour south to visit Casa Grande National Monument. A volunteer gave a wonderfully informative talk and tour about the Hohokam people and how they adapted to the arid land, not only surviving but thriving. They built irrigation canals and were known for their pottery which went beyond utilitarian needs. The 2 story ruin protected by the monument is the best example of their work still standing. We were fortunate to be there on a Wednesday when they had a guest speaker, an archeologist specializing in ancestral puebloan cultures. For once we just visited and didn’t take photos!
It was late but we really wanted to stop by the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. We only had a bit more than an hour which allowed us to see just a fraction of the garden. Fortunately we were given passes good for two years so as we are fond of saying…”when we come back…”
Dinner was at yet another Triple D restaurant (he really likes Phoenix) called Barrio Cafe. Yes it is Mexican but done with a very different style. Not a nacho, taco or burrito to be found here. A bit on the pricey side but the food was out of this world. We’d definitely recommend you try it. The art work on the building is worth coming by even if you don’t go in.
Our bellies were bursting with all the restaurant meals and our heads were full from sightseeing. On the way home to PEFO we stopped by some campgrounds at Roosevelt Lake in Tonto National Forest to evaluate them for future use. We also stopped at the USFS Visitor Center to see a film about the Salt River dam project and the Apache Trail. While there we spoke with some volunteers about work camp jobs there. The area is beautiful and we have applied for next winter. Just a bit down the road is Tonto National Monument which protects some of the few ruins associated with the Salado people. We took an hour or so to tour one of the ruins then spoke to the head of Interpretation about possible volunteer positions. We’d love to spend some extended time in the Phoenix area.
We’d hoped to be home earlier in the afternoon but by the time we got to Show Low it was dinner time. We decided to stop at a Thai restaurant we’d enjoyed a few weeks earlier. Tired and full we returned to the trailer. Now our attention turns to finishing up at the park and getting ready to hit the road.