Showing posts with label Phoenix. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Phoenix. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

South, then North by Northwest – An Autumn Road Trip

“To travel is to live”
- Hans Christian Andersen

It was time to travel.  We’d had the travel itch for days and the suitcases had been in various stages of packing for a few weeks. We’ve been in one place – our Pacific Northwest home – since early May – the bags unpacked and stowed away - an unusually long time to be anywhere for us. It was definitely time to hit the road.

[Sorry about the print size this week. Blogger and Surface don't mix well and makes travel n writing a bit frustrating when it refuses to enlarge the font size.}

A scene from Scottsdale, Arizona
We are kicking off the ‘travel season’ with a trip to the Southwestern United States – Arizona, Nevada and Utah. The road trip began following a flight to Phoenix, Arizona and a week spent living our ‘timeshare life’ there.

Not everyone thinks Arizona in August is the most desirable of destinations. It is still a summer sizzler and it is monsoon season in ‘The Valley of the Sun’ (as the greater Phoenix area is known). But we decided to take a chance on the weather.

An Arizona rabbit that thought he was hiding in the desert

Monsoon season in the desert has an average starting date of about July 7th and ends approximately September 13th. Our visit was near the end of the season which is determined by the number of days with an average dew point of 55 degrees or higher.

Storm clouds threatened but we avoided the Arizona monsoon

The monsoon is a thunderstorm that can sweep across the valley bringing heavy rain, wind and lightening. Flash floods often close roads. It can cause an event called a haboob, an enormous dust storm that can envelope the valley with dust and debris. An advisory handed out at check-in, warned that if a dust or rainstorm should happen while we were outside to move inside immediately. If we were on the road, we were to move well out of the way of traffic. 

How green the desert can be in monsoon season in Arizona

We made it through the week without experiencing a monsoon or haboob, but were excited to leave the desert’s penetrating heat behind us. Daytime temperatures reached  107F and that made outside activities somewhat limited. However, a travel bonus of the desert this time of year is the lush green desert scape that surrounds instead of the dusty barren brown carpet.

Sand dunes in northeastern Arizona

Of course that isn’t to say there weren’t places along our route that reminded us of Egypt’s pyramids (like the dunes in the photo above)  in Northeastern Arizona en route to Moab, Utah. Our ultimate Utah destination was Park City, a popular outdoors destination (home to the 2002 Winter Olympics Alpine and Snowboard events) southeast of Salt Lake City that sits high in the mountains - 7,500 feet elevation, in fact. In the winter skiers and snow enthusiasts flock here; mountain bikers and hikers the rest of the year.

Map picture
Beginning in Phoenix, AZ then Moab, Park City, UT, and Las Vegas, NV
“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
- Lao Tzu

We’d not planned to visit Moab when we left the Northwest. Half way through our stay in Phoenix we read a newspaper article about Monument Valley and decided it was high time we see it. We cancelled our previously made hotel reservation, switched our route and headed northeast instead of northwest. And decided to spend two nights in Moab, just the other side of Monument Valley.

Mother Nature's canvass in northeastern Arizona

It took eight hours to drive from Phoenix to Moab; much of it on two-lane roads, punctuated with passing lanes every few miles. Elevations changed like a roller coaster, 4000 feet at Flagstaff, then 5,000 then 6,000 by the time we neared Sedona 30 minutes later. We passed or traveled through  towns named Kayenta, Tuba City and Cameron, the latter which proudly proclaimed itself, “Home of the WWII Navajo Code Talkers”.

Afoot and light-hearted
I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me.
    -- Walt Whitman

The desert landscape in Northern Arizona near the Utah border
The hours and miles passed quickly with such an ever-changing and stunning landscape. We congratulated ourselves on changing directions - and not being tied to an itinerary. After a summer of being bombarded with presidential politics on television, it has been good to be reminded of America's beauty, small towns and friendly people. While western Utah reminds us of Arizona’s vast flat lands, the monuments and mountains that make up eastern Utah are simply spectacular. We’ll take you on a pictorial tour of them next week.

Again, thanks for the time you’ve spent with us today. Wishes for healthy and safe travels to you and yours.  We hope to see you back here next week - please bring a friend!  Have you taken a road trip lately? Are you the type to change plans in the middle of a trip or must you follow a set itinerary? Tell us about it in the comments below or shoot us an email.

Linking up with:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chasing Daydreams – and then. . .

Egad, we are back chasing the daydream.

You know, it’s the one we were after last spring and summer in Greece. The one that got away.

Roadside trees middle of Nevada - 2014
We were thankful for so many of you who followed the adventure here and offered words of encouragement and support as the purchase of ‘the stone house on the hill’ fell through because its owners found they didn’t have the documentation to sell it.

We’d had a good trip and an interesting experience. We’d moved on. . .or so we thought. . .

Last week when I wrote about “Opportunity rocking the boat” I didn’t quite tell the entire story as not only did that inbox of ours last month hold tempting alternate cruise offers, but it brought news that the owners of that ‘stone house’ were now in a position to sell it and they wondered if we were still interested.

Arizona Road Trip 2014
We were in Arizona at the time, enjoying the carefree life of timeshare ownership.  We focused on changing our cruise plans; we corresponded with Greece at first in general terms, and then those generalized discussions with Greece became more focused:  opportunity was again knocking at the door, the daydream had looped back again and was tempting.

We’d  looked at other properties, lots, homes, unfinished structures. We considered building. We considered forgetting the whole thing. We thought of our ages. We thought of the work needed to make this house ‘pop’. We thought of many things. . .

San Diego Sunset

Greece was set aside somewhat as we went to San Diego where I was attending a conference, but The Scout continued and stepped up the email conversation.

Then he found a reasonable airfare to Athens. . .

Outside La Jolla - San Diego

We arrived in Greece last night, those dream catchers in hand.  Unlike my rather naive writings of last summer, I am not going to say we will capture the dream of that ‘stone house on the hill’.  That remains to be seen. But, one thing is for sure, it will likely be an adventure.  We do hope you’ll come along with us for the next few weeks as we report on chasing the daydream – again.

We’ll be at the mercy of Greece internet access – which is somewhat limited in the Mani -- we do know the new house has none.  Our presence in the blogosphere, Facebook and Twitter might be a wee bit disjointed but I’ll report back as technology allows.

Photos in this post are from Arizona and San Diego.

Linking this week:
Budget Travelers Sandbox – Travel Photo Thursday

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In Scottsdale ~ ‘Tis the Season. . .almost!

I’ve written in recent weeks about the concept of not being home for Christmas which also means not doing the traditional decorating of our house.  In response, a friend or two have exclaimed, “But you love Christmas!”

And that I do. But it doesn’t mean I need to be the one doing the decorating to enjoy the season.  To illustrate that point, I thought I’d take you on a tour of Scottsdale and Phoenix where we've been for the last three weeks and where ‘Tis the Season. . .


Christmas trees stand taller than palm trees in some displays around town. 
And how about that blue-sky backdrop?


And speaking of palm trees. . .
how about this duo decked out in their sparkling holiday jewels?

PicMonkey Collage

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Hotel gets into the celebration with a garden of lights 
and an ice skating rink – all open to the public as well as guests.

PicMonkey Collage

They also have a tree that changes its holiday gowns as Christmas carols fill the air.

 FourSeasons2012 012

But let’s not forget we are in the desert and those stately Saguaro cacti and Palo Verde trees (these at the Four Seasons Troon Resort) like to get dressed up as well for the holidays.


Nothing compares with the gingerbread displays at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Phoenix.  
This display from a couple of years ago was the Wizard of Oz theme – 
see the brave foursome at the Emerald City?

PicMonkey Collage

So I am not decorating this year. 
Our setting is not the usual one and our traditions are left behind, 
but there is no doubt ‘Tis the Season!
And we plan to enjoy it where ever we are! 
Hope you will too!


As the busy holiday season is upon us, we appreciate even more the time you spent with us today!  Photos in this post were from our trip here two years ago – but I can assure you Arizona is as decked out this year as it was then! The decorators have seen out in full force for the last two weeks!

Linking up with:

Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Travel Photo Monday – Travel Photo Discovery 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Aboard The Southbound Polar Express

When the High Plains Drifters set out on our Winter Road Trip early Thanksgiving morning, I’d silently decided we were taking a holiday from the holidays (like that John Grisham book/movie a few years ago about a vacation from Christmas).

As the Pacific Northwest forests gave way to the barren Southwest high plains, I ticked off the list the things I wouldn’t be doing: seasonal decorating, shopping and cooking, cards and gifts, ahh, yes. . .no holidays for us this year!

What I didn’t realize at the time was that we weren’t escaping from the holidays; we were hurtling toward them aboard our own  Polar Express, (it’s the other book/movie that convinces the Scrooge in all of us that the magic of Christmas is alive and well).

082We were headed to Arizona - Christmas Central -  the best place in the world to experience this season, …well,. . . with perhaps the exception of the North Pole.

The Sugar Plum Stations along our route left holiday visions dancing in our heads . . . visions like those in. . .


AZroadtrip2012 114

Christmas Spirit enveloped us within hours of our arrival in Prescott, “Arizona’s Christmas City”.  This is its Courthouse, a centerpiece in the downtown, which by now is lit up each night just like the Christmas Tree next to it.


AZroadtrip2012 125

We had a week-long stay in Marriott’s Desert Canyon Villas, five-minutes from the J.W. Marriott Hotel where Christmas decorations began appearing the same weekend we arrived.


With each day the decorations seemed to expand throughout the hotel’s massive lobby. Poinsettias lined the stairways, festive green and red decorations seemed to sprout – as if magically – during the night.


I didn’t think the Land of Oz could be made any more wonderful than the Emerald City that welcomed Dorothy and her friends. But thanks to the Marriott’s culinary team this land of Oz was a Confectionery Convention Center where gingerbread pavers lined the Yellow Brick Road.

108We spent three nights – thanks to a Cyber Monday deal – at the Fairmont Princess Hotel in Phoenix –a place that in December could be mistaken for the North Pole.

Scrooge would have had a difficult time here but not those who are still kids-at-heart. 

080Much time was spent watching their four-story tall Christmas Tree change colors; the changes synchronized to the Christmas Carole’s that ring out over the hotel’s plaza, located just outside its elaborately decorated lobby. 

113Then, down a path to the skating rink. . .yes, real ice, six-inches deep, in the heart of the desert. A large truck/generator  hidden behind one of the buildings brings this frozen wonderland scene to life.  (The rink is open to the entire community, not just hotel guests.)
They rent skates at the hotel.



After a bit of time at the rink it was time to follow a luminaria-lit path through a fairy land of lights and scenes that appear each evening. Any other time of year, the same pathway leads through a beautiful – but not particularly magical – lagoon area.

And if the kid within you allows you to do it, you can hop aboard a miniature train to tour this enchanted land.

In Arizona where everything seems big – even the Christmas decorations are enormous.  The tree below at  the Desert Ridge Shopping Center towered over the palm trees around it.



At Scottsdale’s iconic Pinnacle Peak Patio restaurant we found Santa’s sleigh being hauled by cattle.

FourSeasons2012 050

And just down the road this big ol’ bronze mountain lion was decked out for the season as well.


Each evening at the Troon North Four Seasons the pathway between the Hotel and Residence Club wound through a daytime-desert that each evening gave way to a seasonal showcase.
FourSeasons2012 012

By the time we reached the Four Seasons I was much like the kids on the Polar Express – I was a believer again.  We may have left the holiday hustle behind, but we’d re-discovered the Magic of Christmas!
Have you visited any magical places this year? What made them magical?

Where ever your travels take you this holiday season we hope you’ll also find some Christmas Magic ~ it’s Travel Photo Thursday – don’t forget to visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more armchair travel.  I’ll resume the High Plains Drifters tales this weekend with a stop in Ely, Nevada . . .

Friday, March 11, 2011

High Plains Drifters in the Sonoran Desert

Saguaro Cactus - Arizona's Sonoran Desert
j. smith photo, (c) 2011
The High Plains Drifters believe we are in the Sonoran Desert. All the travel guides are promoting hotels with views of it, golf courses that blanket it and excursions that could take you further into it.  It's a stark, dry, and somewhat intimidating place because it is so vast -- as are the cities clustered around Phoenix, which continue to spread their roads and homes out over its flat monotone surface.  Coming from the Evergreen State and its towering mountains, this place has required that stretch from the comfort zone that we are seeking when we set out on new adventures.

The Timeshare Trail led us south from Las Vegas, past Hoover Dam (more on that later), over a ribbon of highway that stretched off as far as your eye could see into the distance. It lead us through remnants of the old American West.  We passed places that just sort of appeared, all alone, hugging the highway; places like Rosie's Den offering 47-cent a cup coffee which was just down the road from  the Last Chance where you could eat the best burger.  We drove a section of Route 66 in the town of Kingman, a frontier town founded in 1882.  For those of you watching our soaring gasoline prices, the price there was $3.74 a gallon.

Just beyond Haulupai Mountain Park was the small Wikiup, AZ with a couple cafes and motels and where we noted the first sighting of saguaro cactus, those towering sentenals of the Southwest that live so long, they don't start growing 'arms' for the first 50 - 60 years of life.

We set up 'housekeeping' for the week in Diamond Resort's Scottsdale Links Resort.  We've explored the town in Ol' Orange (still the only car we've seen painted that color); me with two maps spread out on my lap and Joel's head swiveling as he announced crossroads and intersections in hopes I could assure him we were going the right direction for whatever our intended destination.

In the course of the week, thanks to several of you, we've found some new 'finds' and visited some old  favorites, I'll tell you about those places soon.  And while here, we fell in love with Pinnacle Peak, one of our directonal landmarks and a striking bit of scenery. I have more to tell ya about it, but fer now gotta pack up as we are headin' to Tucson today and Ol' Orange is awaitin'.


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