Arizona, Road Trip, The World A to Z, Travel

Turning Ten Comes With a Trip

Sam

Meet Sam, our grandson. As the oldest, he is the first (and test case) to receive what we hope will be a new tradition – a gift on his tenth birthday of a trip with the grandparents.

The gift comes with a nice, but kid-friendly and appropriate, piece of luggage. For Sam we chose a canvas and leather bag about the size of a gym bag. The gift also comes with a couple of catches: First, while the recipient gets to choose the destination, it can be vetoed by us or his parents (hey, we’re not crazy); Second, they have to participate a little in the planning. There’s no specific timeline for when to take the trip. In Sam’s case, he turned ten in December, so we looked at spring break or the following summer to accommodate his school schedule.

Sam mulled over his options and asked if he could come spend some time with us in Arizona. Specifically, he wanted to know if he could ride a dirt bike in the desert. He’s an experienced rider, so I told him I’d find out. That started the ball rolling on a plan for a desert adventure week.

Hanging out in the airport waiting for our flight.

I flew out to Washington DC to pick Sam up and spend a day with his mom (my daughter) and his two sisters. It wasn’t his first time flying, so Sam knew the ropes when it came to packing and airport security. He’s pretty low key as “tweens” go, so he makes a great travel companion. We arrived in Arizona on a hot, sunny August afternoon. It was his first trip to the desert and I wondered how he would react to the heat and wide-open spaces and cacti. 

Zipping around the indoor track.

We kicked off the adventure at an indoor go-kart track. It was a first for Sam … and me! We raced each other, zipping around the track and trying to beat each other’s time. What fun! When we got home, Sam jumped on the phone and gushed about it to his mom. 

Sam is a natural.

I wasn’t able to find a way to ride dirt bikes in the desert, but we had tracked down a place that would allow Sam to drive his own four-wheeler through the Wickenburg Mountains. We arrived for our guided tour with Adventures of a Lifetime and the owner tested each of us to make sure we could handle the route. To be fair, I think everyone was a little more worried about my skills than Sam’s.

An incredible panoramic view above the Hassayampa River.

After four hours over dirt, sand, and rocks, through the Hassayampa River and up to the stunning views from a mesa, we headed back. Our guide revealed this was the first time he’d ever let a ten-year-old ride on his own and he was impressed with Sam’s abilities. Sam’s low key personality was cracking a bit with excitement.

Hamming it up in front of the Pink Jeep.

Next stop, Sedona. We figured Sam would enjoy the adventure of a Pink Jeep Tour. He had visited the website and chosen the tour he wanted to take. With reservations for one of the most daring and adventurous options made, we hopped aboard and explored the giant red rock spires on the Broken Arrow trail. 

The look of shock and awe at his first glimpse of the Grand Canyon.

From there it was off to the Grand Canyon. I covered his eyes as we approached so we could capture his reaction on video as he saw it for the first time. Needless to say, his “shock and awe” was priceless!

Sam is in four states at one time.

We drove through Monument Valley on our way to Four Corners. I was a little worried about Sam being bored with a lot of driving, but he played games on his tablet between ooohing and ahhing at the landscape

Ending the week with a splash.

Our weeklong adventure wrapped up with a fun, relaxing last day at home that included a refreshing dip in our neighbor’s pool. We were thrilled to have had the chance to spend some one-on-one time with Sam and he got to enjoy a vacation he dreamed up and helped plan. His sister, Lizzie, is up next. She knows about the “trip for your tenth birthday” tradition and is already thinking up ideas. We’re excited to keep the new tradition alive.

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, encouraging a new generation to explore it can be loads of fun.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Arizona, Road Trip, Travel

Relax and Explore Bisbee

Near the southern border of Arizona is the historic mining town of Bisbee. In researching what to see and do in the Grand Canyon State, Bisbee pops up on most lists, so Greg and I added it to ours. 

The Copper City Inn

I spent some time researching things to do and places to stay which paid off! We found the three-room Copper City Inn. This charming establishment is easy walking distance to shops and restaurants in the heart of old Bisbee. We stayed off the main roads and headed out in the morning to arrive mid- to late-afternoon and settle in for a long weekend exploring this part of our home state.

Walk softly … the guest book left us laughing.

The welcome book showed the owners’ hysterical sense of humor. The finishes featured a fun sense of style. The full balcony overlooked the community theater. It was the perfect spot and we spent a couple hours just relaxing and people-watching while we sipped the complimentary bottle of wine that came with our reservation. I’d placed an order at Cafe Roka before we left home for dinner take-out (most restaurants in Bisbee were still take-out only due to Covid), so we headed out for the two block stroll to collect our order and enjoy it in the full kitchen in our room. 

Passion Cellars wines earn well-deserved praise.

We passed a number of shops that were just closing up so we made a note of the ones we wanted to explore and laughed at the sign in the window of a bar as we wandered past. We knew it would be fun to check out the stores in the eclectic, bohemian feeling downtown. It turns out we were a good half hour early, so another block up the street we popped into the Passion Cellars tasting room and tried a few local wines. 

We’re big fans of reds and the ones we tasted were right up our alley. We bought two bottles of the Eidolon and a bottle of Bisbee Red to enjoy and timed our return to Cafe Roka perfectly.

Mussels from Cafe Roka
Duck with pomegranate reduction.

We knew dining would be a challenge, so we added an extra entree for the following night and popped it into the fridge while we dug into the positively scrumptious mussels before drooling our way through the duck with pomegranate reduction. I wrote a little note to myself to blog about how good the food was with the line, “How dare you make food this good?” 

We slept with a gentle breeze blowing in the window and woke to the sun beginning to burn its way into the crevices of the steep walls of this mountain town. 

Our day in Bisbee kicked off with a visit to The Bisbee Breakfast Club. This local favorite earned its reputation when our perfectly cooked, hearty-portioned breakfast tantalized our senses. The restaurant filled quickly and soon we were entertained by the laughs of fellow diners and clinking of forks and knives as others enjoyed their menu choices. 

Classic cars line the street in Lowell.
Flashback bus station.
Welcome sign … why are there UFOs on it?

The Bisbee Breakfast club is in what used to be Lowell, Arizona. There’s not much there, but the streets are lined with classic cars and a painted welcome sign on the side of a brick building that now houses a construction company. We cruised up and down the block-and-a-half, snapping shots of the cars and historical buildings before jumping back into our car and returning to explore old Bisbee.

This mountain town has a lot of steep staircases to explore.
Businesses show off their sense of humor.

Many of the shops were closed due to Covid, but windows offered websites for online shopping and were fun to peek in. A few open shops were filled with antiques and works from local artists. Several wineries, in addition to Passion Cellars, beckoned us in for tastings. This part of Arizona is making its mark as a wine-making region. 

Our intention was to take it easy and Bisbee proved to be a brilliant choice! We found our way back to our room, popped the cork on another bottle of wine, grabbed books we’d brought to read and plopped down on comfy balcony chairs to while away the rest of the day. The rack of ribs from the fridge heated nicely in the oven and we sucked the finger-licking flavors off the bones. Another win for Cafe Roka!

If you’re looking for a nice, quiet getaway with just enough to keep you from being bored, check out Bisbee, Arizona. 

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored … take the time to relax a little while you’re there!

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Arizona, Food, Road Trip, Route 66

The $100 Hamburger – Road Version

A road trip burger destination needs a great road trip car.

Years ago, private pilots, when asked where they were flying for a day trip, would often respond, “To get a $100 hamburger.” It meant they wanted to get up in the air and fly anywhere. Halfway through the day they would land at a little airport, pop into the ubiquitous cafe and have a hamburger before flying home. The hamburger was often nothing special and cost $5-$10. The day, though, cost fuel, time and hours on the engine — about $100 worth. It has become the way to describe a day trip with no real destination in mind. Some airport cafes are actually serving up burgers that are delicious, rarely are they worth $100.

This weekend, Greg and I were both wanting a hamburger. We didn’t want fast food. We thought about making one at home. We talked about places to get a good hamburger. Then we remembered Delgadillos Snow Cap on Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona.

We’d been there before. We even blogged about that burger when we drove Route 66. Our mouths were watering just thinking about it. We had the obvious answer to our question. Delgadillos!

What does a hamburger on Route 66 have to do with a pilot’s idea of a $100 hamburger? Well … Delgadillos is about three hours away from where we live. We figured driving three hours each way for a hamburger made about as much sense as spending $100 and several hours to fly somewhere for a burger. Thus, our road trip for a burger is a lot like a flight to nowhere. 

We hopped in the car just before 9 am. We guessed that would put us at Delgadillo’s right at noon … perfect for that burger. We hit the road with a full tank of gas, top down under 91 sunny, beautiful degrees. 

Our route took us north on the back roads, through valleys with different microclimates evidenced by the change from Saguaro cactus-filled hillsides to pine-tree-covered mountains as we climbed to 6100 feet. We passed vast fields of golden grasses being munched by herds of cattle as we approached Interstate 40. 

On the west side of the historic part of Seligman, Delgadillo’s welcomes visitors.

Two exits west and the sign pointed to Seligman and Peach Springs! Our stomachs were growling. The clock was blaring 12:10pm. LUNCHTIME! Just off the exit there it was — Delgadillo’s Snow Cap!

We parked on the side of the restaurant and followed the painted roadway on the sidewalk to the door boasting a neon “Sorry, We’re Open” sign. Delgadillo’s is well-known for pranks and gags … the welcome sign fit right in.

Double checking the order.

We lucked out … there was no line. We walked up and a bandana-clad employee took our order – an oink (bacon burger), a choink (bacon burger with cheese), an order of fries to share and two chocolate shakes. Her eyes twinkled as she squirted me with mustard (it’s fake and I fell for it AGAIN!) We headed out to the patio to wait for our order and sipped the thick, delicious shakes.

The burgers and fries were PERFECT! The bun was crisp-toasted on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. The burgers boasted an incredible grilled crunch. The fries included an optimal mix of crunchy and soft for dipping in the squeezed-out-of-packets ketchup and mayonnaise. We sat in the shade and devoured our lunch with glee as the lunch crowd filed in behind us.

Tanking up for the drive home.

Back into the car, top up in the heat of the day. One more fill up and headed home we chatted about how perfect the weather was, how light the traffic was and what fun it is to do something crazy and spontaneous — the road trip version of the $100 hamburger.

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored … sometimes you just have to jump in the car and go get a burger.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Road Trip, Travel

Road Jams

I am a music lover. It’s rare to be in our home and not hear music playing. Greg and I have created music playlists for all kinds of moods. We’ve discovered channels on Amazon Music and Sirius XM that are go-tos for us. But there’s nothing quite like creating a playlist for a special occasion.

Creating your own soundtrack is fun and indulgent. When I learned how to drive not everyone even had a radio in the car. You turned the radio dial carefully to tune in your favorite station and when the signal faded, you searched for a new frequency to get the music you wanted to hear. It wasn’t long before “search” and “scan” buttons made finding the stations easier. If you were lucky you could pop in a cassette or maybe even a CD. I remember my parents even pushing the play button on 8-tracks!

Lucky for us, technology has made creating your own playlist a breeze. But what do you play for cruising down the highway? That depends on where you are going, who you are with, what music you love … there are as many ideas as there are kinds of music.

I love a good mix. Driving down the highway on my own, I’m tuning into songs I can sing along with. I belt out tunes I know, thankful no one can hear me screeching out the (sometimes wrong) lyrics to songs I love.

Greg and I can always sing along with songs from the 70s. We hit up 70s on 7 on SiriusXM regularly around town, but sometimes you want control of the playlist. You take those standards, add in a few one-hit-wonders, opt for a few “recorded live” versions and — VOILA — the perfect road trip soundtrack.

Whether you love classic rock or classical, country or rap, oldies or pop hits, there’s a great combination of tunes that will make that long drive more fun. What the heck, throw on an entire album you love if that’s the mood you’re in.

No matter where you’re headed — cross country or to Puerto Backyarda — create yourself a playlist that makes you happy! 

After all, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Why not sing along while you’re catching the sites? 

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Arizona, Road Trip

Where To From Here?

I had planned to spend my spring exploring all the tourist sites I could get to within a few hours of Phoenix. I created a list and mapped out weekends. Then Covid-19 wrecked my plans. No worries, I thought, I’ll just wait til the coast is clear.

It might not be totally clear, but things are opening back up. Some restaurants are offering dine-in meals, others have perfected the take-out options. Tourist sites are limiting visitors, but are open. It’s time to hit the road.

Here’s a few places in Arizona Greg and I plan to explore over the coming months while we stick close to home, but still get out there and see little pieces of the world. We’ll share our thoughts, impressions, and lessons learned traveling in a post-Covid world.

Tombstone and Bisbee. This is a long weekend. We plan on watching the re-creation of Gunfight at the OK Corral, taking a trip down into the mine and wandering the streets and shops of Bisbee, which was Arizona’s commercial center in the late 1800s..

Cottonwood. We’ve been there before, but we want to go back and sample the wines and pop into the shops and maybe wander off to explore the nature trails along the Verde River.

Flagstaff. There’s so much to see and do in this Arizona mountain town. The Lowell Observatory is on our short list, but so is a winery in town that neighbors told us offers a chance to mix your own blend. 

Wickenburg. For us, this nearby town is a day trip and worth waiting for one of the many festivals that surround the town square. 

Jerome. I love Jerome, another mining town built into the side of a mountain. We’ve been there a couple of times, but I haven’t taken the time to share my observations and pictures with my blog readers … so I’ll head back with my trusty camera (OK, it’s my phone) and bring back images and ideas for you.

Scenic drives. We’ve mapped out a couple of roads to explore. As a reader of this blog, you probably know we like getting off the beaten track and finding these hidden highways, so you can expect a few route suggestions.

Hiking trails and parks. These will have to wait until the fall since our temperatures are already climbing over 100° most days. 

If you have any ideas of places we need to see or things you want us to explore for you, drop me a comment. In the meantime, stay tuned …

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. We’re headed off to see what we can find close to home.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Food, Road Trip

You Gotta Eat, Right?

Food … it’s what sustains us. When you Google food quotes, you’ll find a seemingly never-ending list:

Food is the ingredient that binds us together.

unknown author

Food is our common ground, a universal experience.

James Beard

Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity.

Jonathan Safran Foer

Of course there are tons of food quotes! We need it to live. It’s a part of everyone’s life and everyone’s culture. It can be delicious, awful, adventurous, familiar … but no matter what else it is, it is essential.

When you travel, food can be a challenge … or an opportunity. After all, not everyone prepares food the way you do (or I do). The good news is, I’ve never been anywhere I couldn’t find something to eat. In Morocco, the vegetables were spiced with cinnamon and the tea was mint. In the Galapagos, the fish was fresh and the desserts were dazzling. In Lima, we tried something we couldn’t really identify. The language barrier left us wondering if it was chicken and seafood, but it was delicious, nonetheless! Later that evening, we did find South American steak on the menu.

A hotel picnic can satisfy your craving for something familiar.

If you’re lucky, you have loads of memories of a waiter putting something in front of you that turns out delicious. If you’re not, at least you have plenty to laugh about. You can always grab a couple of familiar items from a local grocery store and have a picnic in your hotel room. We’ve done that more than once.

It’s starting to look like the rest of 2020 will be filled with road trips rather than international flights, but that’s OK. Regional food can be just as exciting as international cuisine.

Rattlesnake skewers and cactus fries in Arizona.

Hop in a car and drive a few hours from home and you are likely to find something on the menu that may surprise you. Don’t be afraid to ask, “What is this?” Then try the rattlesnake skewers and cactus fries! Walk up to a vendor at a street fair and try that bacon-wrapped meat on a stick. 

Meat on a stick is a staple at fairs and festivals around the world.

Your wanderlust shouldn’t end just because you’ve found a new place to visit, popped into a museum or dipped your toes into the water on a new beach. It should also extend to your taste buds.

After all … there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Taste some of it!

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Road Trip

What Was That?

On a last-minute trip to the San Fernando Valley over the weekend, we decided to take the “long way” home.  From Santa Clarita we headed out the 14 Freeway to Pearblossom Highway and up curvy mountain roads to Crestview. We meandered through Big Bear with a stop for lunch and down the mountain, navigating hairpin turns and marveling at the stunning views. 

We turned to head through Yucca Valley heading east towards Arizona on a ribbon of a highway that stretched further than the eye could see. As we drove along through desert vistas and deserted roadways, we noticed we were alone. At one point, we didn’t see another car or sign of civilization for about 30 minutes … well not exactly.

We did spot a couple of freight trains slowly chugging along to points unknown. Suddenly, off in the distance, a water pumping plant nestled in against the base of a mountain on the valley’s edge appeared. In a few more miles we spotted the turnoff to the pumping station and a shocking sign of civilization. Right there in the middle of nowhere was a makeshift direction sign. Dozens of hand-painted arrows were nailed to a pole. We slowed to a stop, snapped a couple of pictures and continued on. 

The Rice Shoe Tree

In another 15 minutes or so … at least I think it was about that long, we stopped keeping track of time somewhere on that lonely road … another strange site appeared. This time it was a run-down gas station overhead heavily laden with shoes. What looked like hundreds of pairs of shoes hung haphazardly. 

For the second time we scratched our heads and wondered what we were seeing. Why were these strange sites out here in the middle of nowhere? 

As we stopped for dinner, we grabbed our phones and googled the spots. I’ll let you check out the stories behind our fun desert finds. Read the story of the California Highway 62 sign post. Read the story of the Rice Shoe Tree. 

You’ve seen me recommend getting off the highway and taking back roads many times on this blog. This weekend was another reminder of what makes the back roads so much fun.

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, hidden gems are just one of the reasons to get out there and start exploring.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Road Trip

Sometimes You Should Look Back

I thought about starting this blog with one of the many quotes about why you should look ahead and not back. Then I realized everybody has probably seen at least one of those quotes and this blog isn’t about that. In fact, this blog is completely OPPOSITE that sentiment. 

You know by now that I’m an optimist. I look forward with joy most of the time, but not always. Sometimes you should look back.

For instance, yesterday was Memorial Day. I looked back and remembered my dad who served 27 years in the Air Force and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Once in a while you overcome a big challenge. It’s OK to look back and be a little proud of the struggles you endured and the strength you found to get to the other side of that challenge.

It’s OK to share a memory with friends on occasion, laughing over your youth while sharing a beer.

And then there was the end of a recent drive. We were less than an hour from home. The sun was setting and I glanced into the rear view mirror, grateful that the sun wasn’t shining below the sun visor and in our eyes. That’s when I noticed what was behind us. As the sun dropped lower on the horizon, brilliant colors lit up the sky. Sunset can be beautiful and this one was no exception. 

Greg drove on and I grabbed my camera and snapped a quick shot. The evening light turned the mountains up ahead in the distance a pretty pink-purple. The sky behind us changed from perfect blue to yellow edged to flame orange and finally, fiery red.

It occurred to me, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, while most of it is in front of you, sometimes you should take a look back to get a different perspective on where you’ve been.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Bucket List, Musings, Travel

Where Do You Find Inspiration?

Inspiration is the perennial wish of any writer. If you’ve ever written anything, even an essay for a high school teacher, you know that without inspiration, the words that end up on the paper are flat and boring. Travel is similar. Inspiration comes from images, movies, songs, friends’ vacations … all kinds of places. For those with wanderlust, there’s a seemingly never ending “bucket list” of places we are inspired to see.

As a writer with wanderlust, my list of ideas to write about is considerably shorter than my travel bucket list. That means I am constantly on the lookout for inspiration.

Yesterday, Greg opened a bottle of wine and poured a glass for each of us while I threw something together for dinner. It was good. In fact, it was surprisingly good. I picked it up at the store because of the label and the name, Storyteller. I had no idea if it would be any good at all. It was crisp and refreshing. I tasted tart apples and sweet summer peach. It was the perfect wine for a hot Arizona day.

I grabbed the bottle and read the little thought on the back: “Sonoma wine country is brimming with fables (of varying degrees of truth) passed down through the generations, usually aided by a celebrated local wine. Storyteller wines encourage your stories to unfold in ever more fantastic versions.”

The fact that I had already finished my first glass may have contributed to my reaction, but the voice in my head said, “That’s a great inspiration!”  I refilled our glasses, grabbed the bottle and set it on my desk with a little note about inspiration. I knew trying to write a blog after a glass (or two) of wine would mean a lot of editing later. 

I guess the answer to “Where do you find inspiration?” is “Everywhere!” Sometimes it’s a bagpipe-playing firefighter, sometimes it’s a casual comment about a memory, sometimes it’s the label on a bottle of wine. For travel-thirsty, quarantine-stir-crazed-cabin-fever-sufferers it seems like anywhere is the answer. 

The world is slowly reopening. We’re all chomping at the bit to get out there and do something – anything. Be careful. Be safe. Be curious. Be friendly.

After all, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, and we all have a lifetime to keep seeing it.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Travel

“S” is for Sabbatical

The World A to Z … it’s not only the name of this blog, it’s my plan to see the world. I started in 2002 with an uncomplicated plan.

I’m up to “S” this year and anyone who travels AT ALL knows that following rule “a” is pretty much out of the question. Sure, there are loads of people who say “some places” will be opened up by the end of the year, but those people also add the caveat, “as long as there’s no second wave.” 

Anyone who reads this blog has probably figured out I’m more of an optimist than not, but I am also something of a planner AND a bit of a realist. I often advise people who’ve never traveled outside the US to pack patience and a sense of humor. Those two items, to my mind, are more essential than toothpaste and soap. You can get toothpaste and soap anywhere, but patience and a sense of humor are priceless and will do a lot more to make your trip a success than anything else.

That said, I was not at all prepared for a pandemic that would essentially close the entire planet to vacation travelers and wreck my otherwise uninterrupted plan to see the world. I reached into the bottom of my suitcase and dug out the aforementioned patience and sense of humor. After all, the best way to deal with something completely outside your control is to roll with it. 

Welcome to Plan B. For now, 2020 is “S” is for Sabbatical. I will put my international quest to see the world on hold and turn my wanderlust to the backroads and towns of this great nation I call home. I’m doing my best to stick to the “never been there” rule. I’ve never seen most of the western US, so that’s where Greg and I plan to focus our attention for the rest of the year. 

“S” will hopefully include South Dakota and its Badlands and Mount Rushmore. “S” will likely include the stunning giant Sequoias of Central California. We’ve pulled out a US map, stuck a few colorful arrows on it and are looking at when to go and what route to take to get there. 

The world may not be open to tourism right now, but there’s SO much to see right here in the west. Besides, there’s still a whole world out there waiting to be explored, even if it’s not in the order I originally planned to explore it.

Here’s where I’ve been so far:

A is for Alps

B is for Belize

C is for Czech Republic

D is for Dublin

E is for Equestrian Adventure in Eastern Europe

F is for Fez

G is for Galapagos

H is for Hindustan (OK … India … but I had to go!)

I is for Italy (in this case, Florence)

J is for Jamaica

K is for Krakow (and Kurpark and Kandersteg)

L is for Lima

M is for Montreal

N is for Nurenburg

O is for Orseolo

P is for Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau

Q is for “Queen” of European Rivers, a river cruise on the Danube, 

Q is for Queen, part 2

R is for Richmond (the most Asian city on the continent of North America)

S … well … S is for Sabbatical (for now)

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020