I’m happy to announce that I snagged another one. Earlier this spring, the Herberger Theater posted a call for artists for a show called Nature Nurtures Us—the show’s theme is about nature’s well-being without side effects. As you know, I have a couple of nature shots, so I submitted six images from our 2016 Alaska trip. I’m pleased to announce that my Storm on Lake St. Mary is included in the exhibition. If you’re curious, here is a link to their Web Page with a preview of all the works that will be on display.
The show’s opening reception is free and will be held on Friday, September 15th from 6:00-8:00 pm. Queen Anne and I will be there and we’re looking forward to seeing you then. If you can’t attend that Friday, the show will continue through November 9th. The Herberger is across the street from the Convention Center and the address is 455 N. Third Street, Suite 1200 (in Phoenix of course). From what I can see, most of the artwork is reasonably priced and as they say in their literature, “A portion of each piece sold benefits the Herberger Theater’s youth outreach programs.” Hope to see you there.
In the months before we married, my ex-wife bought a 59 cent Schefflera from Berridge Nursery as an apartment decoration. It came in a green-plastic pint container and was less than six inches tall with the same amount of shoots having the characteristic radial leaf pattern. She put it on the counter under the kitchen window so it could get enough light. Her cat, Frodo—being a contemptuous animal that cats are—ate half of the tiny plant’s leaves during the night. It would have made sense for her to toss the plant and run down the street to buy another, but she scolded the cat and moved the half eaten plant to a safer place.
Ten years passed, and my ex and I went our separate ways. When we divided the house, I got custody of the Schefflera. By now it was a waist-high shrubbery living in a large pot. When I moved into my condo, I put it at the end of my couch by French doors. It looked good there. Even when Queen Anne moved in, she agreed and promptly named it Harvey, which was how she marked her territory. Between the high ceilings and southern exposure, Harvey continued to grow. Like kids and shoes, we constantly re-potted him. He grew to eight feet. When we sat at that end of the couch, his overhead leaves would shade us.
After another decade, we wanted a house, and as we looked for a place, one of our considerations was where to put Harvey. He needed space. With the help of a realtor, we found a place only five miles away, and after navigating all the paperwork we hired movers to schlep our crap to the new house. Harvey was one of the last things to go, so he wound up in the back of someone’s pick-up truck. We didn’t trust him with the movers, but as I followed behind, I watched in horror as the forty-five mile an hour wind began to shred his leaves. By the time we put him in the new house, he looked like a tornado victim. He went into shock and the taller branches were wind-burnt, so we pruned and nursed him. He managed to survive, but he was forever stunted.
The next time Queen Anne had her seven-year itch, we were wiser. On this move, we made sure to wrap Harvey in a sheet and put him inside the moving truck. He didn’t go into shock and he made it without damage. He was a bit stubbier but had new growth each year. We found a spot for him in the family room at the end of the couch where he watched TV and listened to music with us for another seven years.
Our latest move was two years ago—to Congress and retirement. By now we were old hands a moving our pygmy tree. Even though we stayed in temporary housing for a month, when we settled in, Harvey took his place at the couch’s end and stood proudly. As we neared our Alaska Trip, he looked scraggly and we worried he wouldn’t make it, so Anne found a plant-sitter to look after Harvey and his siblings. Before we left, we moved everyone to the dining room where the light is better and it’s not as warm. The plant-sitters did a good job and all the plants survived the summer without us.
Even though we’ve stayed home this year, we haven’t been as lucky. With the porch and large Palo Verde tree out front, the light in the living room is marginal. To manage the summer heat, we’ve also been closing the blinds, which means less light. Harvey started losing leaves. To get more light, we moved him to the dining room and then in front of the guest bedroom’s north facing window. Anne has rooted in the soil trying to aerate it. His last leaf fell off on Tuesday. I think he’s root bound and has slowly drowned. He looks like the summer mesquite—just leafless branches. I’m afraid that our forty-five-year-old living room centerpiece has gone to the great salad bar in the sky. I suggested to Anne that we throw in the towel and replace him.
She turned, scowled and barked, “He’s not dead … he’s merely resting his eyes.”
I am a reluctant traveler. When Linda — my wife — suggested we go to Serbia this year to join my son and his family on vacation, I was more reluctant. Then she said we would also be spending ten days on a Greek island visiting new beaches every day during the middle of our visit to Belgrade. That’s when I reluctantly agreed.
My wife, my son, Nathan, his wife, Nela, and their three-year-old son, Matija and I took a ten-day diversion trip from Serbia to see Rhodes. This was one of the best vacations I have ever been on. We booked a package tour that included the flight from Belgrade, ground transportation, and ten days at a hotel with what’s called “half board”. That means the price included breakfast and dinner and we were free each day to explore the island for good places to eat lunch
I am barely off the plane and I am already awestruck by the history of this island! Most of us are familiar with the Colossus of Rhodes, the giant statue that stood at the mouth of Rhodes harbor, and one of the wonders of the ancient world, built in 280 B.C. Historians estimate the statue was as tall as the Statue of Liberty. An earthquake destroyed it in 226 B.C. and the harbor it overlooked has a “new” lighthouse built quite recently (1412 A.D.).
The whole north and east coasts of Rhodes have become a resort Mecca on the Mediterranean Sea. The west coast is on the Aegean Sea. It’s windier and has more waves, so all the resorts are on the east side of the island. The water on that side is calm, clear, and warm enough for even us Southerners to enjoy. All beaches have chairs and ‘sunbrellas’ to rent, and most have kayaks or motor boats to rent, and some even offer parasailing. Our hotel was in a small town called Faliraki. The town’s main attraction is a long, wonderful beach with sand that felt like velvet under our bare feet.
We shared a rented car with another family and used it to explore the island’s beaches and attractions. Every other day we would drive to a new beach, eat at new Tavernas (as they call them in Greece), and explore new fortresses. One day we visited Lindos, a famous town with a huge fortification at the top of the hill, but found we could not get to the beach easily with our bags and grandson. Just around the corner, however, was another called Saint Paul Beach — my favorite of the trip. There was a scuba diving school, good food, excellent beach sand, and we could swim out to a rock and jump from it. We walked over to a small white chapel to see it up close, and we saw a plaque that explained the bay’s name; it said Saint Paul visited here on his Third Missionary Journey as he returned to Jerusalem. The island’s incredible history came at us like waves all week.
Speaking of waves, there weren’t any. No tide either. This made for some very clear water and we realized it was perfectly safe to let the three-year-old play in the water without fear of him being dashed to bits by surprise wave action. Swimming was wonderful and the snorkeling was some of the best I have seen. The weather in July was incredible with blue skies every day, nice breezes to keep us comfortable, and temperatures in the mid-80s. One day there was a cloud and we all stopped to marvel at it; that’s how good the climate is there.
Everyone we met was friendly and almost no one was American. Along the coastline, nearly all the folks in shops and restaurants spoke enough English that communication was simple. We did take a couple of trips to remote areas of the island where English was not spoken, but we quickly learned to point and grunt to make our needs known. The real Greek food was delicious and they press olive oil right on the island. All the dining was al fresco and most places where we stopped had good Wi-Fi so we could update our messages and stare at our phones like true Americans. My only complaint about Rhodes (and most of Europe really) is they still allow smoking in restaurants and even seem to encourage it with ash trays on all the tables. Make sure to get an up wind table!
I have gotten this far in the telling and have not mentioned the old, walled city of Rhodes. Oh, my! The history there is worth its own narrative. We spent a day visiting the shops, eating gelato, looking in at several restaurants, touring the old walls and bridges, walking down narrow alleys and passageways; did I mention the gelato yet? One of my hobbies is geocaching — an outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS enabled devices — so I took some time and found all the caches in the city. It led me to places I would never have seen otherwise.
I wish I could adequately convey the sense of awe and wonder we all felt at seeing the ancient and modern artifacts on the island. I would go back tomorrow if I could and I am so grateful to my wife for cajoling me into going this summer. Perhaps I won’t be such a reluctant traveler in the future.
Don is Queen Anne’s older brother and he and his wife live in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m pleased that they shared this story and pictures with us and I thank him for contributing to our blog. – jw
We we’re traveling to a new town, one of the tools we rely on is the Web Site, Trip Advisor. You can search for things to do, hotels and restaurants. It’s like Yelp. The restaurant reviews are pretty helpful, but you have to watch out for people who have an axe to grind. I’ve even written a few reviews. Before our trip to Springerville, one of my chores was to check the restaurant reviews. When I did, I found two of the top-ten restaurants served Mexican food (the 11th ranked restaurant was McDonald’s). One of them is at the top of the list while the other is tenth.
My all time favorite joint for south of the border food is family owned and they have a couple of places in the Phoenix, and another in Springerville. I love their food because it’s New Mexican style. You may have already guessed that I’m talking about Los Dos Molinos. Their main location is on Central Avenue south of Baseline; in the old Tom Mix house (the link is for those who have no idea who Tom Mix was). The food is spicy hot and the Margaritas will knock you back on your spurs. A shock to me was that it is the underdog on Trip Advisor’s list.
The highest ranked place in town is Booga Red’s, and they also serve American and Southwestern (?) style meals. Cars are always parked in front and they’re open for breakfast. The style of their food is Nortino. It’s milder; like you’d expect at Macayo’s.
For the shootout, The Queen and I ate dinner at both restaurants and tried to order the same menu items — which was impossible. The judges are Queen Anne and me, we get one vote each. The common items that we judged are the chips and salsa, the margaritas, a taco and a tamales. I’ll be talking about the other stuff we ordered. Are you ready … bring out the chips and salsa.
Chips and Salsa
This is the first impression that you get at any place that serves Mexican food. The worst that I ever had was in Salina, Kansas, where they didn’t have a clue, and served cinnamon bun bites instead. There is a big difference between tonight’s candidates.
At Los Dos, they serve red and green salsa. Of course, you don’t really eat it. You only hold the chip over your favorite color and let it absorb the fumes. If you accidentally dip your chip into the salsa, carefully shake it off, and immediately order a glass of milk. Their chips are thicker and darker, but they need to be. If they were thinner, they would instantaneously burst into flames. We didn’t finish the chips and salsa.
Booga Red’s chips are light and thin and taste good, but the salsa is a clone of Pace, the salsa that you buy in Safeway. There aren’t any chunks, not enough jalapeños and no cilantro. We ate all the salsa.
(Los Dos – 1, Booga Red’s – 1)
When you order a margarita at Los Dos, they ask you if you want a single, double or three shots of tequila. The mix is distinctly house made. Anne didn’t like it because it was sweet instead of tart, but that didn’t stop her from ordering a second.
I thought the Booga Red’s margarita was indistinguishable from the pre-mixed Costco bottles. The tequila was probably in there but it wasn’t up-front. I still ordered a second.
(Los Dos – 1, Booga Red’s – 1)
This is where it gets complicated. The nightly special at Los Dos Molinos was Posole which I am very fond of and rarely find on a menu, while Anne ordered a quesadillas at Booga Red’s, so there’s nothing to judge here. I must say that my soup lacked flavor. It needed more seasoning (not just chilies), it needed to simmer longer and it needed more of the ingredients that make up a great Posole, however the pork was fork-tender (as only Los Dos Molinos can do). My other complaint was that Mama’s Carnitas were not on the menu, and that is my favorite and why I go there. As for quesadillas, you can do those in the microwave in fifteen seconds.
Tacos and Tamales
OK, we’re down to the basics. At Los Dos, the tamales was everything you would expect. Course ground masa with a spicy pork filling and, in this case, topped with a red enchilada sauce. If the masa was made with blue corn, I would have died right on the spot. I tried to order a shredded beef taco, but Angelina insisted that I try the Carne Adovada — marinated pork — and I was glad. I can count on one hand the number of tacos that I’ve had better.
Booga Red’s shredded beef taco was very good, and I’d order it again. It was light on flavor but the shell was cooked properly and held up as you ate it. The tamales on the other hand was something I’ve never seen. The masa was light and airy, almost flour like, and it had whole kernels of corn mixed in?!? I ordered mine enchilada style with green chili on top. This close to New Mexico, I expected tears in my eyes, but instead it was a tasty chili gravy. It was good but bland, just like I like my Cream of Wheat.
(Los Dos – 1, Booga Red’s – 1)
Desert (this is actually cheating)
At Los Dos Molinos, Angelina makes her own Sangria, that’s a wine and fruit juice mix. It’s awful and most of us stopped drinking it in the sixties. However, after she makes the wine, she uses the smashed fruit to make an upside-down cake. It’s baked in a skillet like a normal pineapple one, only the fruit marinades the cake half-way through. I’ll be really honest here, pineapple upside-down cake is my favorite and I bake one each year for my birthday. This was better than anything I have ever made, and mine are damn good.
Booga Red’s — < the sound of crickets>.
(Los Dos 2, Booga Red’s – 0, but this doesn’t count)
If you’re keeping score, you’ve noticed that we have a tie. You can tell which of us enjoys a little adventure. Now, I regret to tell everyone that Anne thinks that the best tacos come from … Taco Bell. Because she obviously has no taste, she is disqualified from the judging panel. So, the winner is … whoever you like the most. If you like safe and tasty food, Booga Red’s is the place for you. We both enjoyed our meal there. If you’re one of Satin’s children, I recommend Los Dos Molinos, because it’s beyond the normal.
And now we return you to regularly scheduled programming.
Over the 2011 Memorial Day weekend, a forest fire started in the mountains overlooking Springerville. They called it, The Wallow fire, the largest forest fire in Arizona’s history. Crews fought the blaze for over a month before containing it, but the fire did an enormous amount of damage and one of its victims was the little town of Greer. The reports that came over the TV news were not good. We feared that Greer had burnt to the ground.
Anne and I have a fond memory of the quaint town tucked into a White Mountain valley. When we decided to get married, she sold her Atlanta home and moved to Phoenix. She drove across the county alone, but I flew to Albuquerque and we made the rest of the trip together. Rather than take the Interstates, I thought it would be nice to show-off some of Arizona. We drove south along the Rio Grande to Socorro, and picked up U.S. Highway 60 so that we could enter Arizona the back way. If this seems familiar, it should. Our route took us past the Very Large Array, through Springerville, and we spent her first Arizona night in a Greer cabin. During the night, we had a late winter storm, and on the morning of April 15th, we found that it had snowed. Ironically, that delighted her. After she finished playing in the fresh snow, we scraped off her car and continued the trip to Phoenix.
Yesterday we drove up to Greer for lunch, expecting to see a barren blackened valley. We didn’t find that. We saw the burn scar along the mountain ridge flanking the valley’s east side, but the valley floor seemed untouched. The Molly Butler Lodge was unchanged and even the Greer Peaks Lodge, reportedly damaged by the fire, had long been repaired and open for business. What had changed however, was the little town of quaint cabins has become a community of large expensive mansions that were second homes for the wealthy. With its proximity to the Sunrise Ski Resort, Greer was looking more like Vail, without the expensive downtown shops.
We stopped at the crowed Rendezvous Cafe and had lunch. The food was great and we took in all the kitsch cluttering the walls (why is that still a thing?). While we ate, we watched hummingbirds fight over the feeders outside. On the specials board, they had home-made cherry cobbler, so we couldn’t pass that up and added a dollop of ice cream. “That’s some mighty fine cherry pie, ma’am.”
After lunch, we vainly searched for our little cabin Perhaps it fell victim to the fire, or maybe they tore it down to make room for a McMansion. In either case, we couldn’t find it. After we gave up looking, we drove around taking pictures until a light rain started. It seemed like a good excuse to call it a day and head back to the trailer for an afternoon nap. We left Greer behind assured that it was fine and we’d visit again.
P.S. Since this is our last day in Springerville, we’ll be posting the results of “The Great Springerville Mexican Food Shootout” this afternoon. Stay tuned for that. For now, Queen Anne and I are busy watching the eclipse.
In the spring of 1959, my dad traded in his ’52 Ford Business Coupé for a brand new Ford station wagon. It was two-tone — white over red — with red vinyl seats, push button radio and 4-60 air conditioning — you’d roll all four windows down at 60 miles an hour for greatest effect. Neither my three sisters nor I had a clue why he bought the new car. His pride and joy was the ’56 Crown Victoria that was in the garage. We didn’t need a reason, and we didn’t care. It was new and shiny and had pretty wide white walls. As we found out later, he bought it so we could visit his uncle in California. The six of us were taking a two-week road trip from Pittsburgh to LA and back. We were the Griswolds prototype.
When my dad was behind the wheel, he focused on the destination. I don’t think the man would have stopped for a bathroom break had not one of us been whining from the back. We started out on Friday evening, and drove all night to Chicago, but not stopping until the next evening in Joplin. Mom may have done a stint, but we were asleep in the back.
We were on Route 66, The Mother Road. We didn’t appreciate its significance then, the TV show wouldn’t air for another year and we were too busy making truckers honk their air horns. My dad was relentless, he wouldn’t stop to see the Jackalope, the Thing, the Grand Canyon, or any of the other cool places that cost time and money. Can you imagine torturing kids like that? Signs along the road … “The Thing – 50 miles”, “The Thing – 10 miles”, 5, 4, 3, etc. At least he didn’t stop the car to kill us. Of course, that would have meant stopping the car.
He did stop at one place — The Petrified Forest — he had to. The stupid road ran right through it. He said we could stop and go through the park and we were giddy. Finally, we’d see something and maybe get a break from the treeless desert we drove through. A forest, with trees; made from rocks … yeah! Imagine our shock when we saw all the rock-trees were knocked over. This wasn’t a respite from the desert, this was just more desert … with cool looking rocks. “There’s so many of them, can I take just one mom … huh? … huh? … Can I?” Even now, I sound so annoying, I want to slap myself.
Within a month of our return from that vacation, my parents sold our Monroeville house and the second car. They got rid of most of our excess baggage and we moved to California. We settled into a Sylmar rental house so quickly that none of us kids missed a day of school. Although our family drove along Route 66 four more times, we never again stopped at the Petrified Forest. After I moved to Arizona decades later, I made two photography outings to the park on my own.
Yesterday, I took Queen Anne to visit the park for her first visit. Despite what Google Maps says, it’s only an hour trip along U.S. Route 180. The road follows the Little Colorado as the river descends from the grass-covered Springerville Volcanic Fields, past the little town of Saint Johns where the cinder cones give way to dirty tan sandstone. The red silt river played hide and seek, only revealing itself when it passed under the empty highway. As the elevation continued to drop, the sandstone formed low tables and — where water eroded the softer underlying shale — large angular blocks broke off and slumped on the red soil below. Further along, I saw a bright white swell that I guessed was Chinle Shale and I knew we were almost there.
When we visit a national park, we head straight to the visitor center. That’s where you learn stuff … besides, I love those giant relief maps — which they didn’t have here. This time, we sat through the documentary film, browsed the museum exhibits, picked up some pamphlets, and bought two photo books before driving north along the road. As a photographer, I want to see the ‘long-shot’ first, so we slowly drove the road’s length. I made mental notes as we went, and tried to figure out how I’d shoot those images after the crowd thinned. After we turned around, we stopped at each pull-out, walked the trails, and photographed what we saw. As the day passed, I watched how the light and the sky changed as clouds formed over the White Mountains and the San Francisco Peaks before they drifted away in the invisible air stream.
We discovered that the park isn’t just about petrified trees, it’s about layers. There are layers of soil and rocks, layers of flora and fauna, and layers of settlers and travelers for everyone to see in an open time capsule. As each rainy season washes away soil, more fossils are uncovered. There are fossils of ferns, grasses, lizards, crocodiles, toads, dinosaurs … and yes, trees. People before us settled this land, and they’ve left things behind for us to find. They left arrowheads, baskets, weaving, petroglyphs, and along the bank of the Puerco River, a pueblo ruin. Other people have traveled through the park. The Mogollon’s had trade routes to and from the Pueblos in New Mexico. In 1853, Lt. Amiel Weeks Whipple used those trails to survey the route now used by Burlington Northern Santa Fé Railroad. The tracks were a basis for U.S. Route 66 and now Interstate 40. These routes are layer upon layer of traders and countless migrants moving across the Colorado Plateau.
Even though the National Park’s mission is to preserve and protect natural history, I was pleasantly surprised to see a nod to history more recent. There’s a turn-out north of the Interstate 40 bridge marked by a rusty skeleton of a 1932 Studebaker on blocks. It’s the spot where Route 66 passed through the park. The pavement has returned to grass and sage, and only the telephone poles give away the road’s alignment. The road of my past. While I was photographing the scene, I swore I heard distant echoes of four kids in a red and white station wagon, begging dad to stop.
I wasn’t interested in fishing as a teenager. Fast shiny cars and women were the only things on my mind. I liked the times my dad took me to drown worms, but it was never a thing I did with friends. It wasn’t until I moved to Arizona as a lad of twenty-four that a group of guys accepted me to fish with them. After the first time they invited me to come along on a long weekend trip to Big Lake, I was hooked.
In those days, camping was something you did because you were on a fishing trip. It was a necessary evil that you endured so that you could be on the water. To compensate for the suffering, we’d bring fine wine, Jack Daniels, and gourmet food — some big steaks at least — and we’d swear that everything taste better in the dirt. There were no tents or Dutch ovens, we cooked everything on a Colman stove or a cowboy fire and we slept in the back of trucks. We were manly men … although we really were young and stupid.
According to my new friends, the only time to fish Big Lake was just as the lake thawed or as it began to freeze. Fishing the spring thaw meant that there was a chance that you could catch a fish that had wintered-over; a big fish. Since it was before the official season, the store was closed and the lake hadn’t been stocked with fingerlings yet. Who wanted to catch a puny fish? They were sardines! We were after the two or three-pound rainbows, or maybe a nice brown trout. Those were rare.
To get to Big Lake for the thaw, you needed a four-wheel drive truck. The road wasn’t paved in the 70’s, and the snow plows didn’t do the forest roads. So as we drove, we might need to stop and engage the front hubs to get over a snow drift or two. That was enough justification to drive a monster truck the other 360 days a year. One year we were late. The Palo Verde were already in bloom. The roads were clear of snow and we didn’t need to four-wheel. What a disappointment.
The trip I remember the fondest was the time I brought back the biggest fish. It was late afternoon of our second day. The sun was behind Mount Baldy and the light was fading fast. Out of our group of ten, we only had a couple of rainbows on the stringer. They were less than a foot each. It was a pathetic day. Up and down the line, guys began complaining. It was cold, the fishing was lousy, it’s time for a drink by the fire. To increase chances, each of us tried different bait, lures or whatever. I had come to the party with a fly rod. Fly fishing was new to me and I was mostly catching my hat or ear. Someone called out, “Last cast.” We were going to call it a day. With my best effort, I cast a black woolly worm onto the water’s surface. It was too dark to see the fly, so I blindly began stripping in the line.
BAM! My rod bent in half. I thought I snagged a rock at first, but then a fish cleared the surface once and then again. It was a huge fish, even in the dark everyone could tell. It took out line, enough line that I feared it would take it all. It put up a nice fight and I finally netted it. Once on the bank we examined the brightly colored rainbow and put it on the scale. It was over five pounds. I smiled and looked up, only to see everyone fishing as hard as they could. We beat the water to a froth for another hour before giving up and heading back to camp. As I recall, it was a great night around the fire.
Anne and I made a pilgrimage to the White Mountains yesterday. We explored the roads and stopping for every photo-op. When we got to Big Lake, these memories flooded my brain, so we sat for a moment on a picnic table. Since those guys were ten to fifteen years my senior, they’re all gone now. I’m grateful they gave me a love of the outdoors and the thrill of catching a fish. Although our camping is more refined now, it’s still fun to act stupid around a campfire.