Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Safford, AZ: From 0 to 10,000 in 35 miles or less

Being busy with "life" (boooo) since returning from our 7-week Canadian adventure this summer, we hadn't been camping in two months and were feeling the itch!  Safford, Arizona, in the southeastern part of the state filled the bill, with an easy 3-hour drive to Roper Lake State Park.  Delightfully stormy weather provided for astonishingly different sunsets each evening!

A downtown Safford "Salsa Fest" drew our attention, but besides the salsa competition, car show, music stage, vendors and more, the coolest thing was a sidewalk chalk art competition with truly astounding entries!

Who knew you could buy sidewalk chalk in colors like wisteria, pink flamingo, and macaroni & cheese?

There were other kinds of cool art on the way to Roper Lake ... horse made of horseshoes, anyone?

Our #1 goal was to explore Mt. Graham, rising dramatically from the desert floor to become the tallest mountain in Southern Arizona at 10,717 feet.

The journey takes you from cactus-studded Sonoran desert to forests of pine, spruce and fir at 10,000 feet along the 35-mile Swift Scenic Trail. You experience the ecological equivalent of driving from Mexico to Canada all in one leisurely afternoon on this sky-scraping, switchbacking mountain road!

SWITCHBACKS!  All the way!!!!!

We parked at Shannon Campground and hiked the Arcadia Trail to the Heliograph Trail to the tippy top of the mountain, where we found a historic 99-ft lookout tower and cabin. The tower is still functional and is occupied during the fire season. We climbed partway up the tower (before we got scared) and had a picnic lunch. The views were amazing!

Wearing jackets!  So COLD at the top!!!!
Isn't the campground ranger's tent cute?  It really looks like logs and stones!

Back at Roper Lake State Park, there are many delights!  Including spacious campsite #14 ...

complete with raccoons!  I missed the photo of actual raccoons, but here are their footprints outside our RV door.  They sure got Sprinkles all hot and bothered!

The park's "island" has green grass, BBQ grills, picnic tables, and a swimming beach.

A natural hot springs feeds soothing mineral waters to the campground's "hot tub."

The huge fenced doggie play area even has a swing for human relaxation.

And of course, the beautiful lake with thousands of migratory birds and critters was spectacular.  
At sundown, the birds would all be squawking at once in an ear-deafening concerto!  So cool!

Most importantly, the campground had "THE TREE."  What tree?  The tree that surely inspired Philip's brother Michael to paint this painting many years ago in South Carolina!

Can't you just see the connection here?  The "Tree of Inspiration" was right outside our RV door.

Heading home through Globe/Miami, AZ, we had heard that one simply must stop at "La Cocina de Casillas," most commonly known as The Burger House.  This is a misnomer since they have maybe one burger on the menu, and the REST of the menu is all mouth-wateringly good, authentic Mexican food.  A don't-miss, for sure!

Bella and Sprinkles loved Safford, but their next adventure will be "less mountains" and "more sand" as we're off to the beaches of Oceanside, California during Max's fall break week.  Catch you then, as we catch some waves!

See you next time, Roper Lake State Park!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Calgary Life & Home Again, Home Again Jiggedy Jig

After the craziness of the Stampede week, we stayed an extra five days in Calgary.  As a Calgarian said to us, "You need to see that we don't always dress like cheap imitations of rodeo cowboys."  But our real reason was simpler:  BIKE TRAILS!

Calgary is crazy with bike trails.  Everywhere.  Hundreds of miles of bike trails!  You can literally ride for five or six hours through the heart of the city, without having to stop for a car or a traffic light the entire time.  Who could resist?

In the late '60s, Calgarians began envisioning a system of connected pathways to travel through the city and access the many, many areas of natural beauty in Calgary.

Indeed, many of the trails are through parks and along waterways.  The bike-path-starved Phoenicians in us were drooling with envy!

You don't even have to haul your bike somewhere to get it repaired.  Just pull into one of the mobile repair shops in the middle of many downtown Calgary parks.

Calgary has 1.1 million people and a vibrant, urban scene.  Also, REALLY REALLY good mass-transit that can get you anywhere you want to go quickly, safely and cheaply.  Even during the Stampede, we never had to wait for a train.

We were shocked at the amount of construction going on in Calgary, this despite Alberta's economy being in a recession.  Many formerly sketchy neighborhoods like the East Village are being reclaimed and turned into trendy destinations, like this refurbished Simmons mattress factory, which now houses an outstanding Argentinian restaurant, along with a coffee shop and a bakery.

Part of our Calgary time was spent residing at McMahon Stadium, home of the Calgary Stampeders football team (one of only 9 total, vs. USA NFL's 32), as part of an organized "RV Rally" with 120 other RV'ers. It was interesting because the players (who do not have celebrity hero status like NFL players do) would wander right by our RV on their way into the stadium to practice.  Don't tell the Cardinals that Philip was cheating on them!

We didn't touch even a fraction of the things to do in Calgary (partially because we were so tired from the Stampede week, partially because BIKE TRAILS) but did love these things as well .....

THE CALGARY SKY TOWER & GLASS BRIDGE gave amazing 360 views of the City and the Stampede grounds above, and the streets and cars below.

THE CALGARY GLENBOW MUSEUM had great displays on the history of Calgary, but what we liked best was a multi-scene display called "Kaleidoscopic Amimalia" by fashion designer Paul Hardy that combined fashion with flights of fancy, all related to animals.

THE CALGARY HERITAGE PARK is a 120-acre "living history museum" with lots of authentic buildings, painstaking re-creations of Canada's past, and actors roaming around bringing it all to life.

They also had an excellent, spotless display of hundreds of vintage autos in "Gasoline Alley."

THE CALGARY FARMERS MARKET was 85,000 indoor square feet, which led us to question why we don't have such a thing year-round in Phoenix?!  Wouldn't that make sense? #thingsthatmakeyouwonder

As we pulled away from Calgary, thousands of acres of bright-bright yellow canola fields lined the highways, and we realized we had never stopped to consider where canola oil came from.  Now you know!

We crossed the border (uneventfully, again, despite my fears of being thrown in forbidden-produce jail, again) and felt our hearts swell.  A Veterans' Memorial just across the border in Shelby, Montana, immediately reminded us that there really is no place like the USA!


But we gotta give a hearty salute to our Northern Neighbors.  Their country is extraordinary and the people are exemplary human beings!

Canadians are polite ... they even ask you to share the pathways with the pigeons.

Canadians are environmentally aware ... recycling literally everything.  They even have public bins for food scraps to be composted (by whom? The Ministry of Composting?) and even for those Stampede midway stuffed animals you just spent $42 to win and now realize it's a $3 made-in-China throwaway.

Canadians are proud ... as they should be .... of their beautiful country.  We're fully ready to seek exile in Canada, and not just if  >>insert your hated candidate Trump/Clinton HERE<< gets elected. We've adjusted to driving in kilometers and figured out how much salmon we're buying when it's priced by the gram, and having our pockets weighted down with heavy $1 and $2 coins.

We also accomplished our goal of being cold, actually frickin-freezing 90% of the days of this trip and using an electric blanket at night!  The general formula was that wherever we were in Canada, it was about 50% the temperature at home.  114 in Phoenix?  57 in Canada!  Yesssssssssssssssss!  That's enough to make Sprinkles (and us) smile from ear to ear!

A 100% accurate map of North America as drawn by a Canadian.

As we beeline back home after 6.5 weeks of Canadian adventures, we're brainstorming our 2017 Summer Adventure (???) because HOME IS WHERE YOU PARK IT!