3/19 Update

10-19 Mar 04, Wed – Sat: Aztec RV Resort, Mesa, AZ

10th, Wed: This is the day we've been anticipating for a long time. We checked in here at Aztec about noon, grabbed a quick lunch and were off to the Phoenix Airport, the Car Rental area in particular. Our family arrived on the shuttle from the terminal as scheduled.

Connie's sisters and brothers-in-law, Carolyn and John, Edie and Jack, all from New Hampshire, are here for a week. Paperwork complete, with Cal signed on as an alternate driver, they, in a 7-passenger Chevy Venture and us in our Honda, were off to Mesa. Their home for the week is the Travel Lodge next door to our Aztec RVR – couldn't be more perfect.

Now that their long day of travel was complete, we settled down for some relaxation before walking to the Midwestern Steak House next door for dinner. Having a restaurant so handy is great as the short walk and excellent food were just what we needed to top off the day.

11th, Thu: Goldfield Ghost Town on the Apache Trail is our attraction today where we got a taste of the Old West. Goldfield saw its heyday in the 1890s when gold was discovered at the base of the Superstition Mountains. “The weathered wood buildings that house a restaurant, museum and antique shops look original, but they are actually recreations... The old mining and railroad equipment scattered about are authentic, as are the museum's geology and mining exhibits and the underground mine”, all of which we enjoyed.

We patronized the Goldfield Cafe for lunch and then returned home for some downtime as a special evening was planned.

We love the Arizona Opry and were eager to share the dinner show with our family. Friends who are staying in Sun City attended with us last year and suggested they'd love to see the entertainment again this year so our party of eight has reservations, fourth row center.

Cal and Connie have never experienced even a little thunder shower in Arizona, but that was to change. As we were preparing to leave for the Opry, a mother of all thunder showers was in progress. The thunder was crashing, lightning was streaking alarmingly close, and it never rained harder. All this as our departure time was upon us, and we had no choice but to make a dash for the Chevy Venture. Jack drove over from the Travel Lodge and got as close to the RV as he could, and we were off for Apache Junction and the Opry. The torrential rain made it difficult to read street signs and the driving was slow for the first half hour. Friends, Jim and Sue, were waiting for us and the last phase of our trip was dry and sunny.

The Barleen family prepares the delicious roast beef dinner and then most of them participate in the musical entertainment. Twins, Barbara and Brenda, sing and play a number of instruments; Barbara's husband, George, plays 32 instruments; the twin's brother, Ben, is a marvelous comedian and sings. Add to that a wonderful drummer, two guitarists (one played with Barbara Mandrell for 10 years) and the hilarious 'Granny' Larson. These superior talents perform with great enthusiasm and appear to be having a terrific time – we surely did.

12th, Fri: We returned to the Apache Trail but sailed right on by Goldfield Ghost Town as Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flat are our destinations today. It's a spectacular ride along steep rock walls where we can look down into canyons and off to awesome mountains. We stopped for a short walk to Weaver's Needle and to view Canyon Lake before proceeding to Tortilla Flat which is an Old West stagestop.

Our lunch was served on the patio beside Canyon Lake where ducks paddled on the clear water below. At 2 p.m. we boarded the Dolly Steamboat for a 90-minute narrated nature cruise on the Lake. It was a perfect day: warm sun, light breeze, blue sky, white cumulus clouds billowing over the mountains, and we were seated in comfortable chairs to relax and enjoy. Soon we had left the main part of the lake and were winding into the narrow canyon where rock walls with interesting formations towered above us.

Then it was back over the picturesque Apache Trail to Apache Jct., Mesa, and some R&R and pool time before dinner, again next door at the Midwestern Steak House.

13th, Sat: Another ride north into the country and the Out of Africa Wildlife Park was on .the agenda for this day. The staff actually lives with the big cats and other animals in this park: lions, tigers, bears, wolves, reptiles, to name a few, live in a natural setting. We attended most of the shows, e.g., the big cats where their instincts, intellect and feelings are demonstrated, and the giant python show where children touch, carry, and learn about snakes. The most fun was the tiger splash where the staff played ball and swam with a couple of tigers.

Dinner that night was at Organ Stop Pizza where one of the world's largest Wurlitzer organs was played expertly by a very, very talented young man. He played a great variety of music, every number absolutely fabulous. Carolyn and Edie are both organists, and it was fun to watch their rapt attention as we all enjoyed the terrific music with our pizza .

14th-15th, Sun-Mon: Best Western Inn, Cottonwood, AZ

We got an earlier-than-usual start this Saturday morning with all prepared for an overnight in Cottonwood as we had two full days ahead of us. After escaping Mesa and Phoenix and heading north on Rt. 17, we enjoyed the beauty of mountains, cacti and another blue-sky day on our way to Jerome.

Our first stop after climbing part way up to this hillside town was the Douglas Mansion which was designed by James Douglas to be the home for his family and a hotel for mining officials and investors. It is now a museum featuring exhibits of photographs, artifacts, and minerals in addition to a video presentation and a 3-D model of the town with its underground mines.

Now that we had some background on this historic mining town, we continued up the winding roads to the heart of Jerome and were lucky to be quickly seated on the patio of the English Kitchen, the oldest restaurant in Arizona. Jerome is humming with tourists today.

Our little party of six then split up a bit as we had varying preferences; there are many museums, shops, and galleries which kept us happily entertained for a couple of hours.

We then wound our way back down off Cleopatra Hill and checked into the Best Western in the center of Cottonwood. Refreshing drinks and some pool and hot-tub-time were just what we needed before dinner at Nic's Restaurant, a short drive away in Old Cottonwood.

Monday morning we made our own breakfasts of cereal, toast, juice and waffles in the dining room next to the Inn's lobby and then were ready for another adventure.

Sedona is just 17 miles north of Cottonwood so, in no time at all, we were marveling at the beautiful, unique, red rocks for which this town is so famous. We detoured from the main route through Sedona on preplanned rights and lefts to take advantage of the best vantage points for Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, the Coffee Pot, and the Airport Mesa, before arriving at Tlaquepaque (T-locke-pocke) Village.

“Tlaquepaque treats visitors to an exceptional collection of galleries, shops and fine restaurants. The Village reflects the dream of one man, Abe Miller, who emulated the methods of construction employed by Mexican artisans and builders—graceful arches, dancing fountains, tranquil plazas and shady verandas. It's boundaries enclose more than 40 shops featuring one-of-a-kind items that make a visit to Tlaquepaque incomparable.”

The next stop was Hillside Sedona where we enjoyed lunch at Shugrue's Grill while viewing the fabulous red rocks through their floor to ceiling windows.

Our last Sedona attraction was one of the most spectacular, the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which is “built on a twin pinnacled spur about 250 feet high, jutting out of a thousand foot rock wall.

Our return to Mesa via Routes. 260 and 87 was selected for its beauty through the country, miles and miles of fantastic vistas, rather than the hectic pace we would have encountered during rush-hour traffic in Phoenix.

Carolyn indicated she'd like to have some gumbo while she was out here and selected the Pier de Orleans Southwestern Restaurant so that was our dinner destination when we returned to Mesa.

16th, Tuesday: This morning the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is on the agenda for our last day together. To quote their brochure, “it's where the frantic pace of the world fades to bird songs among towering trees, captivating cacti, a streamside forest, a hidden canyon and more. It's nestled at the base of Picketpost Mountains.” We thoroughly enjoyed listening to the birds as we strolled along the paths, noting the identification for many plants and trees, and the ducks paddling on Ayers Pond.

After a little shopping in the Arboretum gift shop, we were ready to continue east on Rt. 60,
and a few miles later pulled into the Buckboard Cafe for lunch.

Soon after leaving the Cafe we were in Devil's Canyon which is another awesome piece of real estate between Superior and Miami.

We observed the massive manmade hills of bleached-out dirt, a by-product of the copper mining operations here. The white mesas which stretch for a couple of miles are what's left after the ore has been bleached, crushed, and smelted.

After a stop in Miami on this beautiful, hot day, we agreed that the pool back in Mesa was very enticing. Dinner this evening at the Midwestern Steak House was a bit sad as tomorrow four of us have to board a plane for the return to snowy New Hampshire.

We've had a marvelous week with perfect weather, great visiting, and many happy memories to treasure forever.

17th, Wednesday: Our family was up early this morning and off to Phoenix; Jack called to tell Cal and Connie that everything had gone smoothly, and they were all set for their 10:30 departure.

When we talked with Carolyn at 10 p.m. EST, she reported the connections and flights had been perfect. Jack had a little difficulty finding his snow-covered car at the Manchester airport and then about froze digging several inches of snow from it, but other than that, all was well.

Meanwhile, here in Mesa, we signed up for three more days at the Aztec RV Resort. We're playing catch-up, and the next time you hear from us, we'll have begun our eastward trek, albeit a slow one, toward New Hampshire.

Our best, Cal and Connie