- Where We Started: Scottsdale, Ariz.
- Where We Ended: Green Valley, Ariz.
- Miles Driven: 214 (7,658 total)
- New States: None
- States So Far: 15 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
Wednesday marked the end of our week in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. While the break allowed us to catch up with friends and family, get the dogs and the car checked out and also gave us a break from the unforgiving daily blog deadline, we were definitely ready to get back on the road. Even the dogs -- who loved the canine beds in the room at the FireSky Resort & Spa -- had grown bored of being in the same place for a week. So we packed up, and prepared to head out. but not before I decided to find out why the dogs loved those beds so.
I noted in the blog a few weeks ago that, because we had a hard deadline on reaching Phoenix, we decided to take a bit of an unorthodox route from west Texas, hitting Phoenix first, and then going back through Tucson before heading north to Santa Fe, N.M. So we put the route in reverse on Wednesday, and saw a handful of sites between Phoenix and Tucson.
We started at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West. This home served as the winter residence for the legendary architect. It is the now main home for the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and also hosts the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Taliesin West is also where Wright did some of his most famous design work, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The home is open for tours, though the timing wasn't right for us to take one, so we couldn't get too close.
A tour group blocks Taliesin West from actually getting much of a view of Taliesin West. But you can see the home here.
We then departed Taliesin West, said farewell to the Phoenix area and returned to the sparsely crowded highways that have made up so much of this trip. An hour later, we were in Coolidge, Ariz., where we stopped at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, the site of an ancient Hohokam farming community. The major structure at the site is Casa Grande ("The Great House), which has been preserved quite successfully. There are about six partial structures on the site, and a museum in the visitors' center. They were nice enough to let us bring the dogs through the visitors' center and into the monument, though we made sure Fred and Hank didn't mark any ancient structures.
From there, we shot down pretty Arizona 79 and came upon the Tom Mix Memorial, located at a rest stop alongside the highway. Named after the early cowboy star who was an acquaintance of and major influence on John Wayne, this memorial marks where Mix died in a car accident in 1940. Apparently, Mix drove into a gully there, not realizing the bridge that once spanned that gully had been washed away by a flash flood. When he hit the ground, a large aluminum suitcase in the back seat shot forward and struck Mix in the head, killing him almost instantly. The gully is now named the Tom Mix Wash. At the rest stop right near the gully is a statue and marker.
We then continued our journey south, cutting slightly west to try and get a close-up look at the Pinal Air Park in Marana, Ariz. If you've ever driven Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson, you've probably seen, to the south of the highway, the few hundred commercial aircraft sitting in the middle of the desert. This is where retired commercial airliners are stored and maintained should they ever need to be pressed into service. Most never see the friendly skies again, but the desert climate is optimal to prevent corrosion. The Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson does the same thing for military aircraft.
The public is not allowed into the park, but we managed to stop a few miles away and get some pictures.
Each stop we made Wednesday brought us closer to Tucson, and when we left Pinal, we were only 28 miles away. And with nightfall not too far off, we decided to get some dinner and head back to Green Valley to prepare for a day of off-pavement exploring with my Uncle Vinnie and Aunt Theresa.
- As were passing through Chandler, Ariz., we saw a common sight in Arizona -- a golf-cart dealership. That wasn't all that notable, though the concept is funny. I mean, does the salesman tell you, "I am going to make sure you hum out of here in a brand-new cart today?" Anyway, the funny part was the security guy, who was buzzing around the dealership in -- yes, you guessed it -- a golf cart. There are only a few ways I can think of to look less imposing as a security guy: a tricycle, pogo stick and a Big Wheel. But if he should ever catch anyone and need to defend himself, I hope he picks the right club.
- Sign of the Day: "Do Not Enter When Flooded," on Park Link Drive in Florence, Ariz. I'm sure the intent is good, but this sign -- which we've seen many times since -- struck us as rather unnecessary. But, then again, there is a warning label on fan belts that reminds you not to change them while the motor is running, so you can really never can underestimate the stupidity of some people. I hear there are even people out there who don't know how many axles their car has.
- It is a well-known fact that Joan is not a sports fan. So that made it all the more ironic when, as we were approaching the restaurant where we were having dinner, she noted that it was on Pennington St., and said, "This is a good sign, must mean the restaurant will be good." Now, this is a reference to former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, who was cut last season when the Jets decided to go a bridge too Favre. I was a big Pennington fan, and disagreed with the decision to replace him. But it was still funny to hear Joan pull that one out of left field. My mother, who has been subjected to thousands of hours of sports in her life, will also occasionally pull one out. My father and I were watching a baseball game, and the trivia question came up, "Who is the only pitcher to save 300 games in his career and win 20 games in a season." Without a blink, she blurted out, "Dennis Eckersley." Correct. My father and I both looked at her, stunned. She just shrugged, and said, "Osmosis."
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "Stranded," by Rainbow. A much-forgotten hard-rock band from the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rainbow's revolving-door lineup at times included Ritchie Blackmore, Ronnie James Dio, Roger Glover, Cozy Powell and other big names of that genre. They made some good albums, most notably "Straight Between the Eyes," which featured my favorite song of theirs, "Stone Cold." The shuffle song of the day is not a particularly strong effort, with half the song comprised of the lead singer repeating the word "stranded." But Rainbow was a pretty good, forgotten band of the era. Other good Rainbow songs: "Since You've Been Gone," "Street of Dreams," "All Night Long," and two great instrumentals, "Anybody There" and "Snowman."
- Most-Played Albums: We were pretty much on shuffle play all day, sorry.
- Lunch: FireSky Resort & Spa, Scottsdale, Ariz.: We ended our Kimpton experience with lunch at the very good hotel restaurant, which also allows dogs, So Fred and Hank watched closely as we chowed down. I continued my horrible eating with a burger and fries (I'm terrified about tomorrow's weigh in) and Joan had a salad. But, feeling sorry for me, she decided to have dessert. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).
- Dinner: Cafe Poca Cosa, Tucson, Ariz.: This downtown Mexican joint was a little more upscale than the places we've been going, and we even had to wait for a little while. The service seemed a bit slow, but that's probably because we've gotten used to the greasy spoons that pride themselves on fast service. We were also both tired. Halfway through dinner, I dropped my knife on the floor. Annoyed, I figured I'd just try and finish my chicken with just a fork. I reached for the fork and knocked it onto the floor as well. Joan started cracking up. Five minutes later, she dropped her fork on the floor. As for the food, it was uneven. The salsa for the chips was probably the best we've had on the trip, but my chicken mole -- the house specialty -- was surprisingly tasteless. Joan enjoyed her vegetarian pie. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5). I had the chicken mole and the salad that came with it, but really did myself in with the chips and salsa at the front end. Restaurant Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5).
- Quality Inn Green Valley, Green Valley, Ariz.: We stayed here last week, and gave the hotel a 4-star rating. I see no reason to change that, although the wireless really doesn't work well for me. But Joan isn't having any issues, and I can use my wireless card anyway. Hotel rating: 4 stars (out of 5). It should be noted here that we grade on a curve with hotels. When we give the resort in Scottsdale four stars, and then give the Comfort Inn in Green Valley four stars, we're not saying they're the same. The FireSky is in the luxury class, and four stars there means more than four for a budget hotel. Basically, we're rating on expectation.
COMMENT OF THE DAY
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO
Fred stands before Casa Grande at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Coolidge, Ariz. And, no, the steel structure that shelters the structure -- you can see the beams here -- is not a sign of amazing Hohokam architectural skills; it was put there by the National Park Service in 1932 in order to protect Casa Grande.