Diversion, Road Trip, The World A to Z, travel

Over the Desert and Through the Hills

NOTE: Greg and I got lucky amid all the Coronavirus restrictions. We planned to spend the spring exploring our new backyard … day and weekend road trips in and around Arizona. That means we really didn’t have to cancel any plans or reservations AND we could still do much of what we had hoped to … until the end of March. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued stay-at-home orders and foiled the rest of our plans. Luckily, we managed to get a fun, scenic road trip in before the order was issued. As long as the new restrictions are in place, we are following the orders and staying put. You should, too.

Route 60 weaves through the Superstition Mountains.

The Valley of the Sun is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the nation and includes nearly 15,000 square miles of desert and mountain foothills. Top down on the Fiat, we leave the house on a sunny Sunday morning on the west end of the valley. The plan: drive across the valley and up into the Superstition Mountains to Globe. Staying off the highways as much as possible will turn the drive into a six-hour excursion. 

Spring is a great time to enjoy the desert, with moderate temperatures and wildflowers in bloom.We head out Route 60 through the Queen Creek Tunnel and into stone-lined canyons as we climb to nearly 5,000 feet. The views along the route are stunning. Rock formations and twisting roads climb and curve. Around one curve, we spot the old road far beneath us and the historic Pinto Creek Bridge. It appears to be part of a hiking trail today. Several small groups  walk along the dirt road leading to the old structure; dozens of other trails weave through the stone outcroppings.

Through another pass the scene shifts dramatically. The brown and red stones give way to rocks bleached nearly white by the sun and copper mining operations turn natural rock formations into strip-mined flat tiers. A few more turns finds us in Miami then Globe. We stop to enjoy our picnic lunch on the trunk of the car before following the signs to cruise through the old town of Globe. Frankly, there isn’t much to see here, but the drive alone is worth it.

With the sun high in the sky, we turn around and head back down to the valley for the picturesque drive home. At a junction, we turn left instead of going straight to explore some new backroads and areas we’ve not yet seen. 

There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. In these hard times of “social distancing,” there’s no getting out to stroll the towns along the way or enjoy tourist sites, but you can still enjoy the stunning views!

Stay safe and keep dreaming of future travels.

Distractions, Diversion, Road Trip, The World A to Z

The Great Outdoors as Therapy for Troubled Times

Social Distancing. Mandatory Telework. Who has toilet paper?

The Coronavirus has created a new vernacular; some fear this intrusion in our lives may become the “new normal.” But there is always something we can do to improve our own health and well-being … get outside.

After a week mostly cooped-up in the house — Judy running the business, me doing my day job —  Saturday dawned bright and sunny with temps forecast to rise to the mid-70s. Plans to do spring house-cleaning quickly vanished. We threw a picnic lunch together, hopped in the car, put the top down and headed out.

The plan was simple. After a stop in central Phoenix to pick up some wine we had ordered at a recent festival (see “Spring is Festival Season”), we’d head due south on Central Avenue to the point where South Mountain rises from the Valley of the Sun and enters the South Mountain Park and Preserve. The road twists and turns up the mountain to the TV antenna-filled summit. At 2,330 feet, the views of the valley from Dobbins Summit were spectacular with photo opportunities galore. Farther down the road was the Gila Valley overlook, with views to the south and east of town. The sky was so clear you could almost see Tucson! (not really, but you get the point.)

We ate our simple picnic of sandwiches and iced tea under the shade of a ramada (spanish for open porch), one of many throughout the park. We munched as hikers tightened the laces on their boots and grabbed bottles of water to take on some of the 51 miles of trails the park offers. We didn’t hike this day, but we’ll be back to do so, or to possibly let a horse do the work for us, available from the Ponderosa Stables at the park’s entrance.

On this gorgeous day, we weren’t the only ones enjoying this opportunity to be outside. For the most part, people kept up their physical distancing, but smiles abounded and talk was not about the difficulties but about how great life could be when you simply get outdoors.

Refreshed, we drove down the mountain and went home via side streets and roads, avoiding the highway to enjoy the sun in our faces and the breeze in our hair. All in all, the trip took us about four hours but it felt like we were days away from the daily (and new) routines of our lives. It was a great reminder there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored … go outside and see it!

Distractions, Diversion, Road Trip, travel

London Bridge is NOT Falling Down

We all probably sang this little ditty as a child: “London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady.”

London Bridge is in Havasu City, Arizona.

Well … guess what … no it is not! I’ve seen it. London Bridge is strong and beautiful and well-traveled in the warm Arizona sunshine. Yep … Arizona! We visited the bridge on a beautiful, blue-sky day recently. The bridge connects the mainland with a small island in Lake Havasu.

British and US flags fly from the bridge.

To be fair, a lot of people didn’t know that the famous London span was sold to a developer back in 1968. Robert McCullough took the bridge apart brick-by-brick and shipped it across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Panama Canal and then by train to Lake Havasu, Arizona. It was reassembled in the hopes of attracting people to the area and it worked.

Along the sides of the bridge, the Star Spangled Banner blows in the breeze along with the Union Jack. A few fellow sightseers snapped pictures (like me). We popped into a restaurant with a view of the bridge and I ate fish and chips. It was the most British-sounding meal option on the menu.

Fish and chips are a classic British lunch.

Lake Havasu is a great destination for boaters and those seeking a little water fun, otherwise the only reason to go there is to see the bridge from the song of our youth. It is about an hour south of Interstate 40 and 90 minutes-or-so north of Interstate 10 — not exactly on the beaten track. Was it worth it? I think so. We enjoyed the warm sunshine and the diversion off the highway. We marveled at the story of how the bridge came to Arizona and appreciate that it is a little piece of London here in the desert

The US is loaded with little oddities to see and London Bridge is one of them. Why not check it out? After all, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, find something quirky to see once in a while.

Food, The World A to Z, travel, Walks, Wine/Cocktails

Spring Is Festival Season

Springtime is festival time. When the weather turns warmer, we all want to get out into the sun and soak up some warmth. What better place to do that than a festival?

Everywhere I look there are ads for weekend events … art shows, food festivals, wine tastings, church bazaars, neighborhood yard sales … there really is something for everyone. 

Warm sunny days bring visitors outside to enjoy a street festival.

Greg and I recently spent a few hours at a combination wine tasting and art show outside Phoenix. The 16th Annual Fountain Hills Wine and Art Festival was one of several in the metropolitan area on a sun-filled, blue sky weekend in March. For just $10, visitors can sample wines and spirits while browsing among more than 100 artists under the warm summer sun. 

Ferricreations sculpture

We chatted with Barry Ferich of Ferricreations, his hands blackish gray from working on a new piece of art fashioned from steel cable resembling a women’s hair … or the branches and leaves of a tree … blowing in the wind. Art is in the eyes of the beholder! He shared how he got his start crafting pieces out of found metal parts from building sites like wrenches and sockets, and stories behind his inspiration.

Imported wine tasting

We sipped wines from wine importer Schlossadler, who served up tastes of amazing red wine from Italy and Argentina to us. There were others, but we love Italian reds so we opted to stick with what we knew so we could move down the Avenue of the Fountains to try other offerings. That we came back to buy a case speaks to the quality of the wine and the friendliness of consultant Liza Smith.

We wandered past a writer/illustrator, painters, photographers and woodworkers showing off stunning examples of craftsmanship. We admired a bronze sculpture and swapped jokes with the artist.

Elysian Desert Distilleries offered up samples of Carefree Bourbon and Chakra Vodka … delicious.

Carefree Bourbon

All the while, we chatted easily about life and plans and how the weather makes it so easy to get out and enjoy these events. 

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, often right in your backyard. Have fun exploring at a festival!

Diversion, Walks

Diversions: ‘Tis the Season

I awoke Sunday morning to crisp, cool temperatures; the colors of the landscape full of burnt umber and orange, beckoning Judy and me out for a Fall morning walk.  ‘Tis the season.

As we tied our walking shoes and pulled-on some warmth, we also grabbed water and sunscreen, for this Autumn walk would not be among shady elms and maples losing their leaves, but among the red rocks cliffs of Sedona, Arizona. On this fall day, the sun shone bright on the multi-hued rock strata that makes Sedona such a magical place. During a weekend designed for relaxation, we were ready for a bit of adventure.

Sedona 10062019

When Judy and I met, I had lived one the east coast for nearly 10 years, having lived most of my life beforehand in Southern California. I joked with my west coast friends that California had only two seasons — brown and three weeks of green — as I welcomed the changing seasons. Judy took me on my first “leaf peeping” trip to Pennsylvania. A to Z trips to Krakow and Nuremberg were conducted in winter. In Venice, we experienced “Aqua Alta;” in Hawaii, torrential rains. We have never confined our trips to one season, because experiencing different seasons and weather around the world is part of the adventure!  

Since we’ve moved to Arizona, we’ve come to appreciate seasons even more, and this little weekend getaway to Sedona was a reminder that no matter where you are or go, there are great opportunities to get outside and experience the constant change that nature brings us.

There’s a whole world out there, waiting to be explored. Go see it, and enjoy whatever the weather brings you. ‘Tis the season!

wine glass and menu
Food, Road Trip, travel, Wine/Cocktails

Luck or a Nose for Good Food and Wine?

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you have probably noticed we often seem to find really fun and interesting places to eat and drink. This past weekend was no exception.

Friday afternoon we decided it was time, once again, to jump in the car early Saturday morning and hit the road for a day trip. New to Arizona, we have a long list of places we want to see in a day. This particular Saturday, with the forecast for the Valley of the Sun calling for high temps over 100 ˚F,  we opted to head for the hills.

Prescott is in Arizona’s Bradshaw Mountains and at just over 5300 feet, it tends to be a nice cool getaway on a hot summer day. Saturday was no exception. As our neighbors hid in air-conditioned comfort, we strolled the adorable historic city center under sunny skies at a pleasant 82˚.

Arizona wine region map
A state map shows the wine growing regions of Arizona

While hopes for cool temps helped choose the destination for the day, luck, karma or instinct had us drive right into the town’s celebration of “Territorial Days.”  It turns out Prescott was the capital of Arizona before it became a state and the annual celebration includes dozens of artists selling their crafts  on the town square. Families wandered easily past the displays. Children played in the grass. One vendor offered face painting. Musicians fiddled. It was a fun, festive party!

Wine tasting
Two whites and three reds are featured on the tasting menu

After a bit of shopping and enjoying the scenes unfolding around us, we saw a sign advertising “Wine Tasting. All Arizona Wines” pointing to the Back Alley Wine Bar. What a great find! Lindsay walked us through five wines from our new home state and dazzled us with her knowledge.

wine glass and menu
The menu offers a refill as I near the end of a delicious red blend.

We ordered another glass each and continued to sip and share stories as other customers came and went.

As the time ticked away, our stomachs noisily reminded us we should eat something, so with Lindsay’s suggestion, we headed three blocks away to Farm Provisions. WOW! A robust farm-to-table menu enticed us with mouth-watering choices. We marveled over the fresh burrata on crostini with slow-roasted tomatoes and aged balsamic. 

Farm Provisions scallops
Farm Provisions scrumptious scallops

The farm fettucini with pancetta, wild mushrooms, Arizona-sun-dried tomatoes and aged pecorino was exceptional. The incredible day boat scallops were drizzled with a pomegranate gastrique and Arizona lemon beurre blanc while floating on a bed of butternut squash puree. Roasted Brussel sprouts, roasted baby beets and pomegranate seeds added color and perfect taste pairings. With our taste buds celebrating flavor perfection and our tummies happily full, we made a decision to schedule another trip to Prescott just to try the dessert!

As we drove out of town with the sun setting behind us, we wondered how we always seem to find these food and drink havens. Sure, we typically ask a local for options, but there is more to it than that. We asked each other, “Is it luck or is it some sort of nose for good food and wine that we are lucky enough to be blessed with?” Whatever leads us there, we plan to keep finding these amazing spots.

After all, there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored … follow lady luck or your nose and go see, eat and drink it all in.

A roadrunner sits among various trees and plants in an Arizona neighborhood landscape.
Musings

Musings – The “Sounds” of Silence

Up at dawn, I lace-up my runners and grab my sunglasses as I head out the door. Even this early, the Arizona sun is blazing; the temperature already hovering around 80 degrees.

This early morning ritual, taking a long, contemplative walk before the world awakes, energizes me. It helps me clear my head so I can think big thoughts, plan my day, or contemplate the meaning of life. I leave the iPhone and the earbuds behind. This is not a time for music to intrude on my well-deserved solitude. I don’t need some app to tell me how far I walked, or the number of calories burned. This is a time for reflection; an opportunity to be outside and savor all the world has to offer.

Often, I encounter several others … neighbors out for their morning stroll, walking their dog, people running or biking, golfers heading to the club in their electric cards, construction workers and landscapers driving to the job in their pickups. Today that traffic, both literally and figuratively, is light.

A roadrunner sits among various trees and plants in an Arizona neighborhood landscape.
A roadrunner, one of the many types of birds in this part of Arizona, tries to hide among the neighbor’s plants. (J. Romano photo)

The man-made silence opens up the landscape to sounds … a variety of birds chirping and singing, bees buzzing, lizards skittering. It’s not unpleasant. In fact, it’s a happy chorus to my thoughts, reminding me that this is good; that nature is truly all around as and we are just a part.

There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored … even right outside your front door. Go see it!