Out And About In Arkansas

During our stay in Hot Springs, Arkansas we needed service work done on the RV several times. This meant leaving the trailer at the repair shop. Since we had to find temporary housing it was a great opportunity for some short “vacations”.

Our first trip was to Fort Smith, AR on the Arkansas/Oklahoma border. We visited the Fort Smith National Historic site. Originally built as an Army fort on the far western frontier to protect settlers from Indian attacks and outlaws in 1817, it later became a federal courthouse and prison until it closed in 1896. There are exhibits on the U.S. Marshals, outlaws,  Judge Parker and the Trail of Tears. We’d hoped to return to participate in one of the trial re-enactments they hold there but didn’t make it. Fort Smith has one of the most unique Visitor Centers we’ve seen. It is in a former brothel. We thought we’d just stop in for a moment and look around. This is a slow time of year and the docent asked if we’d like a tour. So for the next 45 minutes we were entertained by the story of  “Miss Laura”, her girls and their gentlemen callers as well as the details of the house and how it became the Visitor Center.  Last on our list of places to visit was the home and museum of General William O. Darby who formed the special WWII unit eventually called the Army Rangers. This is privately run and hours very. When we were there the docent was one of the founders. Sensing an interested audience talked for almost two hours and displayed items in their collection not normally on display. We had to graciously depart or we would have been there a lot longer. We can’t find our pictures so these are from the internet.

Fort Smith NHS

“Miss Laura’s” As The Fort Smith VCB

Renovated To Its Former Style

“Gentleman” Waiting At Miss Laura’s










General Wm. O. Darby

Boyhood Home Of General Darby

The second trip took us to the north central part of the state near Harrison and the Buffalo River National Scenic Riverway. We rented a dog friendly cabin through VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) at the same price as a motel room. We visited the Buffalo River National River, a NPS site although it was too chilly for on the water activities. We did a few short hikes and enjoyed the area. We are saying “when we come back” as it would be a fabulous place to paddle. Yes there are shuttles available if you like us have only one car. We also drove to the Mountain Home area to visit one of Steve’s uncles.

Buffalo River View

Imagine Paddling Here













Trip number three was at the end of our stay and we headed to Petit Jean SP. This was Arkansas’ first state park. Stephen Mather, first director of the National Park Service was consulted and you can see his influence in the lodge. It looks like a smaller version of the great park lodges of the west. The CCC did a lot of work here in the 1930s from building cabins (like the one we used), to a stone water tower, to furniture still in use at the lodge today.  For those who can do a strenuous hike there is a beautiful waterfall. We plan to return some day and use the excellent campground. The story of Petit Jean, a young woman who stole aboard ship to be near her beloved but pretended to be the cabin boy.  A favorite of the crew “he” was nicknamed Petit John. Not until “he” became ill was it discover she was a female. She died and is buried at the park overlooking the Arkansas River.

A Beautiful Place To Hike

Overlooking The Arkansas River At Petit Jean SP










Steve and Opal At PJSP


Our Cabin

Exploring A Cave











Some day trips took us to Mt. Magazine SP, the highest point in Arkansas. This park also has a beautiful lodge and some of the cabins come with hot tubs! We are very impressed by the state parks we have seen in Arkansas. On our way there we stopped at Hickory Nut Overlook for a great view of Lake Ouachita and Ouachita National Forest. Another trip took us to the Lum & Abner Museum. I don’t remember this radio program but a friend of mine does who was raised in Arkansas. They were local “class clowns” who entered a local station’s talent contest making up the characters of Lum and Abner from Pine Ridge on their way there. Like Andy Griffith they used their home town area and people they knew in the routine. They became regulars and later went on to be syndicated. The store they featured in the program is now the museum. It is full of L&A artifacts and implements from early years in the Ozarks.

Lum And Abner Store And Museum

Lum And Abner In Real Life And In Character









Museum Inside



Ozark Women Wore Corn Husk Hats To Work Outside











Heading south we visited Hope, AR, and the NPS site, boyhood home of President Bill Clinton. Arkansas loves Bill Clinton. Hot Springs is where he graduated from High School. There is a big sign letting you know it. Apparently, another claim to fame for this small town was the world’s largest watermelon. Now although surpassed several times, the sign still brags about the event. I had to stop and take a photo of a bit of roadside humor photography at a local grocery. The name of the town is Hope for a reason as it has seen better days and is hoping for a recovery.

Bill Clinton’s Birthplace

On A Ranger Led Tour











A Town Named Hope

They’re Proud Of That Melon

Make You Hungry?

We made several day trips to Little Rock to visit Heifer International Headquarters, The McArthur Museum, eat at Cotham’s Mercantile, tour the Arkansas Capitol and return to Central High NHS since we’d missed the ranger led tour when we were there in 2014. Steve’s Mom has been donating to Heifer International in lieu of giving Christmas gifts for the past several years. We were very impressed with both the philosophy of the organization and its totally green headquarters. For history buffs the Mc Arthur Museum is a treasure. This is where General Douglas McArthur was born. Right next door is the Arkansas Art Museum where we viewed early works by Ansel Adams. If you are going for lunch at the original Cotham’s Mercantile (there is a new one in town), do get there early. It gets busy by noon. They’re famous for the Hubcap Hamburger. Free tours of the Capitol give you an overview of state history and government. It is the only state that let’s you enter the vault and hold on to a big pile of cash. They do insist you give it back though! For anyone wanting to have an “in the moment” experience of what Civil Rights in the 1960s was all about should take the ranger led tour at Central High NHS. Since Central High is still used as a high school the tours  inside are available only when school is in session and very restricted hours. You need to call ahead and claim a spot but the tour is free.

Heifer International Museum

Heifer International Green Headquarters










Mc Arthur Museum

Korean War Memorial










Arkansas State Capitol

Stained Glass At The Capitol

Show Me The Money!












Inside Cotham’s Mercantile












Would You Eat Here?

We had a wonderful and busy three months in Arkansas and still didn’t see everything we wanted to see or do. So as we like to say… “When we come back…”

What’ s So Hot About Hot Springs?

Hot Springs NP, Arkansas

The View From Bathhouse Row

Before we wind up falling further behind in posting than we already are, here’s a post on our time in Hot Springs. Arkansas from January-March 2017. Our first visit to this area was in 2010 before we were full time RVers. Still dazzled by the splendor of the western parks we were very unimpressed with Hot Springs and left wondering why this was a National Park. A National Historic Site or even a Monument but a National Park? We are so glad that we had the opportunity to return, spend time and learn about both the national park and the city. We really had missed the boat the first time around! So if you come here be sure and take the time to do tours and come prepared to learn. Both the park and the city have lots to offer but you can’t do it by whizzing through in a day or less. It is like an iceberg. There’s what you see above the water but when you start looking deeper there’s more and more.

A Tub In The Fordyce

Fordyce Music Room

The Quapaw Bathhouse

Us At Work In The Fordyce



Chari’s Reflection In The Hale Bathhouse Window



Monument To The First NPS Ranger Killed On Duty


We were working at the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center, the museum and information center for Hot Springs National Park on Central Avenue in the historic district. There are 8 remaining bathhouses along what is known as Bathhouse Row in the national park and 6 of them are open to the public: the Fordyce visitor center, the Lamar gift shop and the Ozark art museum for the park, 2 operating bathhouses (the Buckstaff and the Quapaw) and the Superior microbrewery. So here’s some of what we learned and shared during our tours.

The Buckstaff, The Lamar and The Former Army-Navy Hospital (now ACTI)

Hot Springs National Park is the smallest of the 59 National Parks and the only one with a city completely within its borders. The geology of the hot springs is special because it is one of only 2 in North America not heated by volcanic activity. The rainwater takes 4,400 yrs. to travel over a mile and a half into the earth reaching 150 degrees but returns to the surface in about a year thus retaining its heat (139-143 degrees). So when you drink from the springs you are drinking water that fell as rain at the time the Egyptians were building the pyramids! That’s another big difference. Most national parks warn you to not take anything while Hot Springs NP encourages you to drink the water and take some with you by having drinking and jug fountains all around. In fact the original legislation protecting the hot springs states that the water will forever be free to the people.

Historic Hot Springs, Arkansas


It Is Always Spring Time In Hot Springs


Filling Up At The Jug Fountain


The Stevens Fountain

Old Hot Springs Artwork At The Ozark

The springs yield, on average, 700,000 gallons per day. Of that the park collects and distributes about 250,000 gallons. People come from hours away to fill pickup trucks full of bottles with the mineral rich water. Don’t want to drink hot water? There are two cold springs from another source as well. However, don’t expect to dip in the springs outside. They’ve been covered up for over a century to protect them from man-made and natural contamination. We occasionally had the opportunity to assist the water technicians as they tested the springs each week. The park contains the oldest land in the world ever set aside by a government to protect a natural resource. That was in 1832. If they had named it a national park back then, Hot Springs rather than Yellowstone would have been our first national park. Instead it was called Hot Springs Reservation and did not come under the NPS until 1921 as the 18th national park.

Volunteers Help With Water Testing

Recording Water Quality Data

So what is a bathhouse? In the days before modern medicine (post WWII) as we know it, people had few medications and surgery was very risky. So they depended upon the curative properties of heat, light, water, exercise and later electricity. The bathhouses were the rehabilitation facilities of the day. We told visitors that coming to Hot Springs was coming to the Mayo Clinic on one side of the street (Bathhouse Row) and Las Vegas before Las Vegas existed in the city. Hot Springs was also the primary spring training area for major league baseball before it relocated to Florida. Other sports stars like Jack Dempsey trained here. Babe Ruth hit his longest home run here (over 500′). Follow the signs on the Baseball trail to learn more.The museum is filled with interesting old equipment.The Fordyce featured the best appointed gym in Arkansas when it opened in 1915. A few items like the Hubbard tank from the 30s and the Hoyer lift from the 50s I used during my career as a physical therapist. Well, not those models but a generation later. Once again I’m seeing my life in a museum! Make sure to take the guided tour and hear some stories. When that’s done, take a hike or drive and check out the view from the observation tower. Steve was reading in preparation for our next volunteer job about some of the ways Lewis and Clark handled medical issues using Indian sweat lodges and alternate heat and cold. Equipment may change but principles stay the same.

Fordyce Gym

Indian Clubs

The Hubbard Tank Room

Chari and Steve Hiking On Hot Springs Mountain

The city is just as interesting. Gambling, bootlegging and other carnal activities were the main business. While never legal it flourished d/t payoffs to police and government official until the mid 1960s. When Winthrop Rockefeller was elected he vowed to clean up corruption and gambling. He did. Learn more at the Ganster Museum. We enjoyed the tour there and as you can see hammed it up a bit with some pics. At the same time the golden age of the bathhouse was declining. Hot Springs fell on hard times. In the late 1980s the NPS remodeled the Fordyce Bathhouse into the Visitor Center and repurposed others. This was no small task. Today you can visit the Fordyce and see the most opulent of bathhouses restored to its former beauty. Don’t miss the beautiful stained glass on three of the four floors or ride the original elevator car. Only the Buckstaff never closed its doors. Today you can experience treatment as if it were one hundred years ago at the Buckstaff or enjoy the mineral rich spring water at the Quapaw Baths spa pools. We did both and came out feeling like a piece of cooked spaghetti each time! I (Steve) had a bad cold and went to the Quapaw. Almost immediately I could feel the congestion in my chest lessening. I do believe soaking in the water cut the length of my cold in half. 

Make My Day! Steve At The Gangster Museum

This Lady Is Serious!


Stained Glass In The Fordyce Women’s Bath Hall

Skylight In The Music Room

Neptune’s Daughter

The architecture of the town from the 1890s-1940s is terrific and makes for some great photos. Like to shop? Only your credit card limit will dictate where and how much. Hungry? We enjoyed numerous good restaurants in Hot Springs. A few of our favorites were McClard’s for BBQ (also Bill Clinton’s), Colorado Grill for Mexican, Rolando’s for Ecuadorian, buffets at the Arlington Hotel, a Southern Living best breakfast winner Colonial Cafe and the Ohio Club where you can rub elbows with Al Capone (or at least his statue). For fun in the evening catch the monthly free performances of the Jazz Society, attend a show at the Five Star Dinner Theatre or feel like a kid at the Maxwell Blade Magic Show. Garvin Gardens was just as magical in the Spring as it had been at Christmas with a sea of tulips at peak bloom. We didn’t go to the horserace at Oaklawn but it is a big attraction from late winter through April. In summer there is the Magic Springs amusement park and all the water sports of lakes Hamilton, Catherine and Ouachita plus the Belle of Hot Springs riverboat.

Exterior Window At The Fordyce

The Arlington Hotel Lobby


Stairway At The Ozark

Volunteers And Ranger Touring The Archives

Ranger Leading A Guided Tour

Best Breakfast In Town

The Name Says It All

Tasting A Flight At Superior Brewery

When all is said and done it is the people from Hot Springs National Park we will remember. We made new friends with several volunteers. The Rangers were fantastic. They coached us and taught us so that we could hone our interpretive skills. They made it possible for us to visit places not open to the public such as the water distribution system, the Hale and Maurice Bathhouses and the museum archives. They thanked us for our time volunteering at least once a day. While we enjoy new experiences by volunteering at different parks or for different agencies, if we ever do repeat a job this will rank high on the list. Thank You Hot Springs National Park for a fabulous three months!

The End!

Starting Our Summer At Flaming Gorge NRA

Canyon, Flaming Gorge

Firehole Canyon On Wyoming Side Of Flaming Gorge

We drove from Fuita, Colorado to the Ashley National Forest in northeastern Utah where we will be volunteering at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. The drive through the mountains just north of Fruita was beautiful as was the drive from Moab through Vernal. Much of this route is part of the Dinasaur Diamond National Scenic Byway. We reached a maximum height of 8500 feet. We are planning a third trip to Fruita as there is still much to explore.

In Vernal we headed north on US 191 also known as the Uintas-Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway. If we hadn’t been pulling the trailer we’d have pulled over at the many overlooks and interpretive signs detailing the geology of the area. The area is known for its geology and paleontology. Dinosaur National Monument is only an hour and a half away and Vernal has a museum that’s part of University of Utah’s paleontology collection. As you drive north you pass from the youngest geological layers to the oldest ones at a billion years old. There are 10 switchbacks and several 5-8% grades but we had no trouble even with the new 40’ rig.

Red Canyon, Flaming Gorge, Ashley National Forest

Red Canyon From The Rim Trail

We arrived at the Red Canyon Complex where 15 RV volunteers will be housed in RVs and a duplex. We settled in. The volunteers work in different areas of the forest from fee collection/boat ramp management, the historic Swett Ranch and the Red Canyon Visitor Center. The USFS provides us with an RV site and full hookups, uniforms including pants and reimbursement for propane and mileage. We are even being given 350 miles to explore the area so we can talk knowledgeably to visitors.

Steve At Dowd Mountain Overlook

Steve At Dowd Mountain Overlook

Uinta mountains, landscape

Snow Capped High Uintas Wildness

As if that’s not enough they provide a day on the river at Volunteer Appreciation Day. Our days off will be spent driving scenic back roads, hiking, paddling/rafting and fishing. Besides the reservoir there are some 600 lakes in the Uintas (pronounced U – win – taz) although only a few are accessible by car. There are numerous campgrounds and lots of dispersed camping in these, Utah’s highest and oldest mountains. Last winter was the snowiest one on record in 25 years so the High Uinta Wilderness with peaks to 13,000 feet still have four feet of snow. In anticipation of the melting snow the dam began releasing water from the reservoir to the Green River at 6600-8600 cu. ft./sec. for 24 hours a day for at least two weeks. A float trip on section A of the river that normally takes 2.5 hours now takes just 45 minutes. Quite a show.

Flaming Gorge Dam Releasing Water

Flaming Gorge Dam Releasing Water

Green River Below The Dam

Green River Below The Dam




So far we have walked a portion of the Canyon Rim Trail, climbed the historic Ute Fire Tower (just reopened after being closed for 8 years), visited Dowd Mountain Overlook, driven Sheep Creek Geological Loop and the Red Cloud Scenic Backway, toured Flaming Gorge Dam, visited the Utah Natural History Field House, observed a cattle branding at Swett Ranch and put the kayaks in the water once. Is it any wonder we’re behind in posting? Weather for our first 2 weeks was cool and rainy. Now temperatures have warmed up with sunny days but pleasantly cool nights. This is going to be a fabulous summer.

wildlife, pronghorn

Pronghorn In Aptly Named Antelope Canyon

Bighorn sheep

Rams Rest Under A Tree At The Volunteer village



High And Mighty

Sequoia NP

A Long And Winding Road To Sequoia National Park

We rolled on to the Central Valley of California with a stop at Tule Recreation Area, a U. S. Army Corps of Engineers lake and campground near Porterville. No doubt we are in the agricultural hub now. Great Spring weather greets us but the lake is low. This is primarily an irrigation lake and only secondarily a recreation lake. With rain and snowfall low throughout the west it will be a challenge to meet water needs this summer.

A Long Way Up

A Long Way Up

Porterville proves a good stop for restocking with groceries and supplies after Death Valley. The Hispanic influence in the area is strong and our choice of supermarkets takes us on a trip. With cactus leaves piled high in the produce section along with other fruit we can’t identify, several types of chorizo and hot sausage and a whole aisle devoted to tortillas, it doesn’t take much to imagine you are in Mexico. Steve tries to ask how to cook prickly pear leaves but gives up when he gets five employees trying to tell him different methods all at the same time. We try several sausages and buy a few new ones that turn out to be delicious.

sequoia flower 8

sequoia flower 8 closeupsequoia flower 3 copysequoia flower 6 closeupwildflower 1Our main reason for stopping here is that we are about a half an hour from Sequoia National Park. In a normal year the park would be questionable to visit this early. Not this year. With the snow pack at less than 50% the park was open and quite busy. The only place we couldn’t reach due to snow was Kings Canyon NP that adjoins Sequoia although we could get to the Visitors Center. Not that we need an excuse for returning but we have one. We made two visits with the first one concentrating on the three Visitor Centers, hiking to the General Grant and General Sherman trees and marveling at the size and age of the sequoias despite huge lightening scars or hollow trunks. On our second visit we enjoyed the mountain views, wildflowers, historical photos, Tharp’s log and colorful meadows. You can’t help feeling dwarfed by these giants. They were young trees when Rome dominated the world. From a photography perspective we composed vertical panoramas, black and white landscapes, macro shots and put an artistic twist on others.

Strolling Among The Giants

Strolling Among The Giants

General Grant sign and tree

General Sherman Tree

General Sherman Tree

hollow tree view 3

Hollow Tree View


Sequoia Vertical Panorama

Sequoia Vertical Panorama

Steve and Opal at Sequoia 2

Towering Twins

Towering Twins

Steve at Sequoia 1

Sequoia Starburst

Sequoia Starburst

Soft Trees In Fog

Soft Trees In Fog

yellow twig dogwood

Yellow Twig Dogwood

red twig dogwood 2

Red On Red

Impressionist View Of Sequoia

Impressionist View Of Sequoia

sequoia scene 1

sequoia scene 4 B+W

sequoia scene 6


High Above The San Juan Islands

Those of you who follow us on Facebook know that we celebrated our 6th anniversary by taking a biplane ride over the San Juan Islands. We have put together a 10 minute video covering the highlights of our trip. There are pictures of both sites making up San Juan Island NHP, American Camp and English Camp. This summer Steve and Chari have been volunteering at the English Camp Visitor Center.

As with our previous videos you will get the best results by playing at full screen and allowing the show to load completely before hitting the play button.

Enjoy the ride!

How Green Is My Valley: Arizona’s Verde Valley, Sedona and Cottonwood

Sedona, Arizona, red rock country

Sedona Panorama

When we left Petrified Forest NP on 2/3/15 I was promising to keep the blog current during our Spring wanderings as for the past two years I’ve fallen off the blog wagon and still haven’t made up for the lapses! Someday maybe I’ll learn not to make promises I can’t keep. We are now settled in for the Summer on San Juan Island with great Wifi and hopefully time to catch up. We hope you won’t get whiplash as we jump back and forth from the cool, green, watery northwest to the desert southwest.

Stop number one as we left PEFO was to get a new tire for the trailer in Show Low, AZ. Rather than back track up to I 40 we then followed AZ 260 over to Cottonwood, AZ and our campground at Dead Horse Ranch SP. AZ 260 is a scenic route that winds through the Sitgreaves National Forest and along the Mogollon Rim (pronounced Mug- ee-yon). This is where the Colorado Plateau ends and drops 3,000 feet into the Tonto NF and Phoenix valley. Dead Horse Ranch SP is a wonderful place to stay and one loop is set up for larger rigs with drive-thru sites, electric and water hook-ups and a central gray water dump. The name comes from the previous owners who when looking for a ranch to buy had viewed several. They asked their children “which should we buy? The kids answered, the one with the dead horse!” The name stuck. The town of Cottonwood and nearby Jerome were mining boom towns that flourished and failed but are now retirement meccas and tourist destinations. With Sedona about 20 miles away it is a very popular spot.

We could have subtitled this entry “What Happens When Things Don’t Turn Out The Way You Expect”. We had made arrangements with a mobile RV repair to come as our washer dryer combo and oven weren’t working. The dryer needed to be man handled out of its small cabinet by both Steve and the repairman and have the filter flushed. Unfortunately the park water pressure was low so the machine had to be loaded onto the back of the truck and taken to the fairgrounds. The repairman couldn’t wait for this so when Steve returned he was able to slide it off the truck onto the picnic table. Now we had to wait 2 days until the repairman came back. We’ve kidded about “rednecks” living in trailer parks with old cars and washers outside. Now we had one! The stove just needed a new pilot light assembly and that was ordered. Just an hour before the repairman returned our electric system went down. The diagnosis was we needed a new converter. That was ordered and arrived the next day. The repairman made trip number three, installed the part, tested it and the part was defective!! OK, so now we are due to leave the following day. We check with the park and we can have the spot for two more days. We cancel two days at our next park. A rush order, yet another visit by the mobile repairman who by this time felt like family and we are finally back in one piece. All of these unplanned incidents had cut into our sightseeing. We know we will return to explore the area again. We did enjoy what we got to see and people we met.

One night while sitting in camp we met a couple who have very interesting hobbies. He plays in a 1860 baseball league which plays by the original rules, uses authentic equipment and wears period uniforms. She is active in a women’s group called Sisters On The Fly. The group began for women who enjoyed fly fishing. Quickly it expanded to many other activities. Several of the women (our acquaintance included) travel in vintage RVs. She had just finished refurbishing a 1970s era trailer. This Summer the group will caravan from Chicago to Santa Monica along Rt. 66. They will start with 50 trailers and end with over 300. The other couple we first met at a gas station and later visited at our campsite. They now live in Cottonwood after losing both their home and their RV park business near San Diego to wildfires in 2001. Along the way they had lived in Anacortes, WA where we would take the ferry to San Juan Island. After visiting with us they reciprocated by inviting us to their home for dinner. Many times you meet people and know it is one of the “for a reason” friendships and you might not ever see them again. Travel isn’t always about the places you go but the people you meet along the way.

Arizona, Jerome, old mining town

Scenery From Near Jerome, Arizona

ancestral puebloan, national monument

Montezuma’s Castle NM… now that’s a real high rise building!

















restaurant, BBQ, Jerome

English Kitchen Restaurant With Original Bar Stools

We did get to Sedona and Red Rock Country on two drives, visited Prescott Valley for a Costco stop but saw beautiful scenery along the way, visited Montezuma’s Castle NM and Tuzigoot NM and had dinner in Jerome. There is so much to explore in the Coconino National Forest and trails around Sedona. We wanted to take one of the Pink Jeep off road trips and a railroad trip but these fell by the way. The dinner in Jerome was at an excellent BBQ spot called The English Kitchen. The history of the building included being established by a Chinese man during the mining boom and at one point the basement was an opium den. So enjoy the few pictures we took. We will be back!

Sedona, Arizona, sunset, photography

Sunset In Sedona

national park, national monument, Tuzigoot, Arizona

Tuzigoot National Monument

A Long Weekend In Phoenix

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!

Salt River Canyon, Arizona, scenic byway, road trip

Our GPS Showing The “scenic” Salt River Canyon Byway

Salt River Canyon, Arizona, scenic byway

Salt river Canyon Overlook








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.

Chino Bandito, Diners Drive-ins and Dives, Triple D

Mealtime at Chino Banditio

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!

Music is the language of the soul 1

Motto Of The MIM

Music In Africa

Music In Africa

Chinese Instuments

Chinese Instruments










Music In Celebrations

Music In Celebrations

Costume From Peruvian Scissor Dance

Costume From Peruvian Scissor Dance

Music In Switzerland

Music In Switzerland











Flamenco In Spain

Flamenco In Spain









Indonesian Gamelan

Indonesian Gamelan











John Lennon's Piano

John Lennon’s Piano










The Apollonia

The Apollonia












Tunes In The USA

Tunes In The USA

Steve Joins A Drum Circle

Steve Joins A Drum Circle

Great Design From Germany

Great Design From Germany






















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.

Examples Of Student Shelters

Examples Of Student Shelters

Desert Garden At Talesin West

Desert Garden At Talesin West

Entry Sculpture And Fountain

Entry Sculpture And Fountain










View Of Taliesin West

View Of Taliesin West

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.

fire truck, museum

Ceremonial Parade Wagon

Hand Pulled Truck With "Balloon" Type Water Tank

Hand Pulled Truck With “Balloon” Type Water Tank









Fire Truck Inspired By An Elephant?

Fire Truck Inspired By An Elephant?

Truck With Jumper Net Just Like The Old Movies

Truck With Jumper Net Just Like The Old Movies











Patch From Altus

Patch From Altus

Dinner At DeFalco's

Dinner At DeFalco’s

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…”

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

3 Generations Of Cactus

Barrel Cactus In Bloom

Barrel Cactus In Bloom












Get The Point?

Get The Point?








A Sticky Subject

A Sticky Subject




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.

The Barrio Cafe

The Barrio Cafe



Barrio Cafe Artwork

Barrio Cafe Artwork










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.