A View of Superstition Mountains from the Back of the Boulevard


After ukulele lessons, lunch at the Cactus Grill, and a visit to Verizon to purchase some more internet data, we decided it was time for a ride on the motorcycle. We did part of the trip up the Apache Trail, in the Superstition Mountains, that we’d done in December on the Jeep Tour. It was a different perspective from the back of the Boulevard and before long I was busily snapping pictures. Sometimes they turn out; sometimes they don’t. But that’s the beauty of the digital age.

The road is a popular one for motorcyclists, with all of its twists and turns.

Bikers' Twists and Turns

Bikers’ Twists and Turns

One lane bridge around the bend

One lane bridge around the bend

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Being late in the afternoon, it was a perfect time for capturing the scenic mountains and lakes.

Apache Trail

Apache Trail Vistas

IMG_3345 IMG_3368 IMG_3395 IMG_3402 IMG_3403We made a stop in Tortilla Flat for another taste of Prickly Pear Ice Cream.

Tortilla Flat

Tortilla Flat in the Valley. Great Prickly Pear Ice Cream found there.

IMG_3424 IMG_3428By the time we were heading back down, the sun was setting, dusting the rocks with gold, before becoming a blazing red aura around the peaks.

Sunset on the Apache Trail

Sunset on the Apache Trail

IMG_3441 IMG_3460 IMG_3471Another glorious day in Paradise.

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A Weekend of Music and Entertainment in Phoenix Area


It all began on a Friday night when our new friend, Mary Lee, took us to The Arizona Opry, which is located east of Mesa near the community of Apache Junction. We were ushered into a large hall lined with rows of long tables, clothed and set for the chicken dinner that was to come. On stage was a huge array of musical instruments, including strings, brass and percussions, which would be played for our entertainment when dinner was over.

Arizona Opry Stage

Arizona Opry Stage

Jim, Judy, Mary Lee at Opry

Jim, Judy, Mary Lee at Opry

At precisely 6:30 pm trays of filled dinner plates began to appear, and within thirty-five minutes all 508 guests were served a sumptuous meal of roasted chicken breast, baked potatoes, vegetables and rolls. The “Opry chocolate cake” that was already on the tables when we arrived completed (or started) the repast. Coffee and lemonade were constantly available from the moment we sat down. By 7:30 the tables were cleared, chairs were turned toward the stage, and the music got our feet tapping. The Barleen Family and Guests perform and choreograph fourteen different shows throughout the year. This night was a Variety Show displaying a multitude of talent and unbelievable energy. When the “Arizona Champion Guitar Picker” was introduced as the evening’s guest performer, he seemed familiar. Sure enough, it was Ryan Martin whom we’d first heard picking and strumming back in 2010 in Cody, Wyoming. What a pleasant surprise.

If you ever find yourself in this area of Arizona, be sure to pay a visit to Barleens Arizona Opry Dinner Theatre. You won’t be disappointed.

On Saturday we rode the bike to the North West side of Phoenix to check another item off our Bucket List – a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). Little did we know that one day would never be enough time! It happened that that particular weekend was a special one at MIM, with a Carnival Theme. That meant the price of admission included not only the chance to tour the gallery and listen to samples of many types of music and instruments in the process, but we could choose to experience the spirit of Caribbean cultures by attending workshops, listening to live music in the courtyard, watching dancing and observing the colourful costumes. We could have had our pictures taken wearing some of these costumes, but we ran out of time! There was so much going on that we had time to tour only two rooms of the gallery, between taking in a steel pan making workshop given by master steel drum maker, Ancliff “Ansel” Joseph, and eating lunch while enjoying the courtyard entertainment.

Steel Pan Maker

Tuning a Steel Pan (drum)

Steel Pan Maker

Steel Drum Band Performing

Steel Drum Band Performing

Stilt Walker

Stilt Walker

We were given headsets for the self-guided gallery tour. Once we clipped them onto our pockets, we didn’t need to touch them again. Sensors placed at the front of each display connected with the headsets as we approached, providing us with the music and dialogue for each station, in whatever order we chose to travel.  We oohed over the beautiful guitars and music boxes, and found it difficult not to dance along with the music.

Guitars

Guitars

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Music Boxes

Music Boxes

We left at closing time, with a second-day pass in our pockets. We would return on Thursday to finish our tour, because on Sunday we wanted to experience the annual Renaissance Festival and Artisan Marketplace.

Sunday morning was a little overcast and therefore cooler, but by the time we’d reached the gates of the Renaissance Festival the clouds had moved off and we had to shed the extra layers of clothing we’d donned for the bike ride there. After maneuvering through the long but quickly moving ticket line, we were greeted at the gates by wenches, peasants, monks and lords. Inside we were invited to sit with the “Queen” and her court.

Entering through gates

Entering through gates

Received by Royalty

Received by Royalty

Besides all of the employed character actors in costumes, we were surprised to see so many visitors who melted into the theme with their own costumes. In fact there was a costume rental facility at the gate, and inside there was a store where beautiful costumes costing hundreds of dollars could be purchased for every member of the family. We strolled through the park, listening to buskers performing on renaissance era instruments, watched a stilt walker wander through the crowd with ease, and a vendor selling baked pretzels from a wooden rack.

Lunch

Lunch

We shared a huge turkey leg for lunch, watched a glass blower, and chuckled at the results of hypnotic suggestion at a Hypnotist’s Show.

Harpsichord Player

Harpsichord Player

Street Musicians

Street Musicians

We were amused by the variations on modern day carnival games – axe throw, star throw. We visited the vendors of jewelry, leather, feather and metal crafts. The pretty princess head dresses and skirts, hair braiding and pirate paraphernalia made us think of how much our grandchildren would enjoy this fair.

Then there was the King’s Jousting Tournament! We found ourselves joining hundreds of people in bleachers overlooking the ring. There were to be three competing knights and the crowd was divided into three cheering sections. Our knight was Sir Maximilian. He won many of the challenges, but was defeated in the end.

Maximillian

Maximilian

A personal challenge was issued for a fight later in the day. We didn’t return to find out the results. By 5:00 we were hot and tired and ready to ride home. It had been another amazing weekend.

Thursday we finished our tour of MIM, when we saw some very interesting instruments. I was especially amused by these bagpipes!

Bagpipes

Hmm. These bagpipes might be a challenge to play.

Bagpipes

BagpipesWe also saw how Martin Guitars and Steinway Pianos are made.

Martin Guitar in Making

Martin Guitar in Making

The parts of a Steinway

The parts of a Steinway

Part two – Quartzsite


I’d planned to post this second part within a day or two of the first, but I was forced to take a sabbatical when, the very next day, something began to bother my throat. What I expected to be a two or three day cold, turned out to be five grueling days of laryngitis and sleepless nights of coughing and spitting.  On day six our kind neighbours sincerely suggested I go to a clinic to get checked out and offered to drive us. Riding through the open air on the bike had somehow lost its appeal for me. I accepted the offer. Fortunately the diagnosis wasn’t “Valley Fever,” one possibility that concerned our friends, but I was just as surprised to learn that it was allergies! I’ve been hearing a lot on the news lately about the poor air quality because of the dust, and reports of more cases of allergies starting early this year, probably because of the hotter and dryer weather. But I’ve never been one to suffer from allergies, other than mild hay fever now and again, so I was completely unprepared for this. I returned home with $150 worth of medications to combat this out-of-control problem, drugs that I usually avoid, but embraced this time with the knowledge that the torture would soon end. Next time I’ll pay more attention to the signs and start on the antihistamines right away.

So what am I allergic to, and when did it start? When did the itchy ears begin? Was that at Quartzsite? It could very well have been.  Let me tell you about Quartzsite.

There’s a story among some seasoned RVers that a visit to Quartzsite during the first two months of the year is an absolute must, while others who have gone don’t understand the attraction and will never go again. I think it compares the Friday the 13th Bike Rally that started out with a few bikers getting together on a Friday the 13th in the small Ontario town of Port Dover many years ago. They made plans to do it every Friday the 13th and the invitation spread. Now, the town is completely taken over by bikers and spectators on those days, especially on the warm summer ones. There’s music and vendors and long lines at the restaurants. Bikers go just because it’s the place for bikers to be. Quartzsite is the same for RVers, but it’s not for just a day, it’s for a couple of months. They start rolling in the first week of January. Most are snow birds, looking for an inexpensive and warm place to spend the winter; others, like us, are just curious and plan to spend only a day or two, just to say we’ve been there.

I have to say that I was feeling very disappointed when we arrived late in the afternoon. We’d watched a DVD about the great migration to Quartzsite and I’d envisioned one very large tract of desert land that slowly transformed into a mass of RVs and vendors. I thought that the restaurant and book store were also moved in and under large tents, and likewise the RV Show that was scheduled for the weekend we were there. That wasn’t the case. We drove through town, where we saw the restaurants and book stores and gem shops, and out toward the last exit to Hwy. 10. There we found a barren looking patch of sand and gravel where a couple of dozen RVs were set up. There was also a large tent and a sign that read “Revival Tonight.” We circled through the area until we found a fairly level spot not too far from the road, and set up camp. Looking at a map we discovered that the RV Show was back down the street and across the highway. By the time we got the bike unloaded, rode over there and found a place to park, it was 4:45. We were told that the doors closed at 5:00. We had just enough time to find a vendor of the LED light bulbs that we were looking for to reduce electrical usage in the motor home. We’d have to return the next day. When we were leaving, so were hundreds of other vehicles, spewing clouds of desert dust into the air. I imagined what it was doing to my lungs! I wished I had a face scarf with me.

Quartzsite dust

Quartzsite dust

Something for Everyone

Something for Everyone

We returned to camp for a quiet evening. It seems that most RVers travel in groups, or at least plan to meet up at predetermined locations. When we arrived, most of the RVs that were already there had formed wagon circles of four or five motor homes. We were on the outside. A walk over to the revival tent in the hopes of hearing some good gospel music proved disappointing. There were no television stations available either, so we decided to read in bed, but we were soon asleep.

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Desert Sunset

Desert Sunset over our campsite

Desert SunsetThe next day things looked a little better. We went back to the RV Show and roamed around for a few hours. We found several things to buy for the RV, including one set of bulbs for the ceiling to try, different that the one we’d picked up the night before, as well as some others for the wall lamps. After a brief rest and a sausage on a bun, we continued through the outdoor flea markets until we had only $1.00 left between us, not even enough to buy a much needed bottle of water! We did find an ATM and water on the way back to the bike, enabling us to seek out Sweet Darlene’s Restaurant for a home cooked meal and fresh baked sticky buns for our bedtime snack. At the table we met Jan from Oregon (I think) and exchanged stories and tips of the RV life. On the way out we chatted with a couple who were also wintering somewhere near Mesa, with a group of Ham Radio buffs, and only visiting Quartzsite for the week. More examples of the interesting and friendly people we meet.

We spent our last day back at the RV Show to get the rest of the light bulbs, and finished our tour around the Flea Market. We learned of the many other things available in the Quartzsite area, but we had tickets for a show back at Mesa the next evening so had to be on our way in the morning. We had to stop in at the famous Reader’s Oasis Books store, where we spent an hour perusing the thousands of used books and magazines. There is a sign on the door warning of the “nudist” on site who wears only a G-string.” Since Paul Winer (the nudist) had been interviewed on the DVD, we quickly recognized him when he passed through the store wearing only a black felt hat and what appeared to me to be something even less than a G-string! Sorry ladies, I didn’t take any pictures. Let’s just say that his days as a porn star are long past, although he is still pretty lean. It could have been worse.

We went to Times Three Family Restaurant for dinner. The parking lot was full and there was a line up at the door, a sign of good food, we figured. We got seated quite quickly, but the place was packed. Our table was close enough to the two on either side of us to be considered one long one, but everyone was friendly. A cute little lady with out-of-control white hair and bad teeth, but sparkling blue eyes and a lopsided smile, and her husband kept us entertained with their  views on American politics and their displeasure with the Utah government who had just passed a law to allow gay marriage. I just smiled and nodded. I wasn’t getting into that, but when she suddenly asked Jim if he was gay and he said, with a serious face, “yes”, the look on her face was precious. Jim quickly told her that he was joking with her.

Our waitress began to apologize for the poor service that was to come from the moment she took our orders. She said it was very busy and she had ten tables to wait on. We said we weren’t in any hurry. When we had sat down, the people on the other side of us were eating their salads. An hour later we still hadn’t been served our salads, nor Jim his iced tea, and the others still didn’t have their entrees. They complained when they watched other patrons, who had come in after them and been served by a different waitress, already on the way out. Soon our meat loaf meals were on the tables, the special of the day, but we had to tell the waitress that we didn’t get our salads, or the bread that our neighbours told us we all should have gotten. We were nearly finished our meals when the waitress brought us our salad in to-go boxes. We never saw the bread or the iced tea. She took the iced tea off the bill, but Jim let the manager, who was working the cash, know that we’d received the worst service ever experienced. He tore up our bill. I wonder if that waitress still has a job.

In the morning we strolled through the rocks and gemstones shop next door to our campsite before leaving for home. They were all so beautiful and fascinating that it was difficult to leave, but leave we did.

The Rock Shop

The Rock Shop

Rock Shop

Jim admiring some of the rock gems

Jim admiring some of the rock gems and minerals

Calcite

Calcite

More Calcite

More Calcite

Malachite

Beautiful! But not within our budget.

On the way out of town we made one last stop at the Hi Jolly Cemetery to read about a bit of Arizona history.

Hi Jolly Cemetery

Hi Jolly Cemetery

Hi Jolly Cemetery

Hi Jolly CemeteryHi Jolly Cemetery

We got “home” to Mesa in time to shower, change, and eat before walking over to Regal Hall for “Dancing with the (Mesa) Stars.”