Local News At Its Best

Breakfast at Brownie's
A local Yuma favorite since 1946, Brownie’s is on my list when I’m in town.

We’re back this evening from an overnight Yuma trip where I was reminded what is important in local news. While we were getting ready to leave the motel, we had the TV on. Like most local stations throughout the country, Yuma’s local broadcast talent was on doling out the news, weather, and traffic. I know, it’s good to know how long it will take to get to work. But in this case, instead of helping the viewers avoid the freeway bottlenecks, Channel 11 reported how long the lines were at the Customs and Immigration inspection stations. And you thought your daily commute was silly.

Till then … jw

Surprise Invitational

Surprise Invitational
This is such a high-class gig, they sent out post-it note adds for our Facebook pages.

Tonight we have some more good news. I have another print accepted for a show. This one is the Surprise Invitational show which will run from October 19th thru December 20th. The exhibition will be in the Arts HQ, at 16126 N. Civic Center Plaza. There will be a free reception on Thursday the 19th from 5 to 9 pm, with music and food trucks—some of those are good, but I still remember when we called them Roach Coaches.

Piedmont Crossing
Alone and in the middle of nowhere, I found this crossing guard with enough moonlight on it to make a picture.

Getting into this show was a last-minute effort. I found out about it the day before the deadline. Fortunately, they had an online application that I could send my photos from my computer last Monday. I sent in three shots I took over the summer and they picked the one called Piedmont Crossing. It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but what do I know.

I hope that you can join us at the opening on the 19th, but I understand if you’re busy with Halloween decorations. Surprise civic center is west of Grand Avenue south of Bell. If you’re in the area, I hope you take time to take in the show. Who knows, one of the art pieces may catch your eye and make it into Santa’s big red bag.

Till then … jw

Ah … What’s Up Doc?

We have rabbits at North Ranch. They’ve always been a fixture at the park, but with the abundant rain and good growing season, they’ve multiplied like … well, rabbits. On our morning walks, Queen Anne and I have spotted a jackrabbit or two, but they only venture onto the property when there’s no rain and they need to drink. They have black tails, cartoon ears, and they’re large enough that, when they rear-up on hind legs, they could slap a coyote silly. They’re also very skittish. Once they know that you’re looking at them, jackrabbits run off and don’t stop until they’re well out of sight in the desert.

Peter
A desert cottontail trying to make a decision.

More common are the desert cottontails. They are house-cat size with brown coats that blend well with the ground. Sometimes we’ll see two or three of them in a yard or they’ll leisurely hop across the street (presumably to get to the other side where the cactus is greener). Humans don’t frighten them and you nearly have to kick them out of your way. If startled, they’ll run about ten feet before they drop from exhaustion. They’re really out of shape.

Roger
Chain-link fences are useless for keeping rabbits out. They pass through them with ease.

When we first moved here, I’d hear Her Highness say, “Ooh look, a bunny. He’s sooo cute.” That was before she started planting flowers. Neighbors warned her about the rabbits eating everything, so she bought containers. She forgot that rabbits hop. Our house soon became the local Bunny-KFC and only plant stubs were left in her pots. Now she pots things they won’t eat and keeps the flowers on the porch.

Buggs
After a hard morning eating expensive landscape, Buggs turns up his nose at rosemary.

I tease her that they could be a cheap source of protein when we become old and destitute. She responded with her normal, “Eww.” People say that rabbit tastes like chicken. I say, “Just eat chicken.” I tried it once in an upscale Scottsdale restaurant and it tasted like … marinara sauce. I like to fish, but I don’t bring them home because she won’t eat them and I don’t care much for cleaning them. I can’t imagine myself skinning and cleaning a rabbit. I’d wind up marinating it with the old Technicolor-yawn before I made it half-way through.

Flopsy and Mopsy
A pair of cottontails scours the bank of a wash for tasty morsels.

In Denali last year we learned about snowshoe hares and how they were the food chain’s staple. Their population rises and falls cyclically. Prey animals that depended on the hare to survive also fluctuate in numbers a season or two behind the snowshoes. I expect that’s true about our cottontails too. I wouldn’t be surprised for them to attract more owls, hawks, bobcats or even a cougar. It’s the coyotes that keep them in balance though. Our local sportsmen have taken to hunting down the packs around North Ranch to protect their favored hound—the mighty Chihuahua.

I’m leery of actions that upset nature’s balance. We should have learned about thoughtless intervention and how often it backfires on us. I’m concerned about killing off too many predators leaving us overrun with desperate diseased and crazy rabbits. Anyone who has seen The Holy Grail knows how horrifying an attack bunny is. I say, this year everybody gets bunny slippers for Christmas.

Till then … jw

Herberger Gallery Update

In case you were planning on joining us next Friday for Nature Nurtures Us reception, I want to help you find the gallery, so you don’t get lost as I did yesterday while dropping off my work. The address that I gave in the earlier post is correct, but don’t assume that the gallery is in the theater building. It’s not. The galley is on the north side of Van Buren Street in the Arizona Center complex—where Hooter’s restaurant is (great … now I know where Jeff will be). It’s between 3rd and 5th Streets.

There are lots of paid parking lots, but you can find street parking if you’re willing to walk. As I found out yesterday, they’re remodeling the center (figures), so there’s a construction crew and yellow warning tape all over the place. The gallery is on the ground floor of the center building. The reception is between 6:00-8:00 pm, so be there or be square—hope we’ll see you there.

Till then … jw

Nature Nurtures Us Exhibit at the Herberger Theater

Storm on Lake St. Mary
Afternoon thunderstorms create a dark mood at Glacier National Park’s east side.

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.

Till then … jw

Rhodes Greece

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.

Greece, Turkey, and Rhodes.
The island of Rhodes is closer to Turkey than Greece.

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.

Saint Paul Bay
This was my favorite beach and it typifies the beaches there. The white chapel on the right is dedicated to Saint Paul in honor of his 3rd missionary journey. You can see how clear the water is!

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.

Lindos Fortress
The town of Lindos with the restored fortress at the top of the hill. The Knights of Saint John built the fortress after the Crusades.

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!

Rhodes City Gate
This is one of the gates to the ancient walled city of Rhodes. Just across the street behind where I took this photo, is the ancient harbor where the Colossus once stood.

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.

Rhodes Open Market
The new city of Rhodes surrounds the walled city but it still exists and is vibrant and alive. This is the main shopping street which runs through the city; one side to the other.

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

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

Greer

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.

Tunnel Lake
An old tree stump and wildflowers provide a foreground for Tunnel Lake in Greer.

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.

Cinder Hill Ranch
A barn at the base of a volcanic cinder cone on a rainy afternoon in Greer.

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.”

Last Cast
A father and kids make one more cast before the rain starts on one of the Greer lakes.

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.

Till then … jw