Fran's entertaining story of moving to and settling into Arizona
The packing guys came bright and early Monday morning the 19th of August and packed the dog, cat and anything else that sat still for more than a second. I had most everything packed, but there were some things I just didn't want to deal with. Ken had packed about 1/4 of the garage and his upstairs room so that is where they spent most of their time. I think they got done around 1:00 or so, so we had a house completely full of boxes. Tuesday morning the moving van came and our driver was totally cool and offered to take the motorcycles, much to my relief because that meant I could drive my car instead of the Camaro and we wouldn't have to tow a questionable trailer from U-Haul. The bikes were packed in very tightly and even the Coke sitting on the Buell's seat didn't spill. After that, we cleaned up, turned our keys in to the Rental Bitch, went out to one last bad dinner at Marie Calendar's and hit the road about 6:00 p.m. We made it as far as Roseburp and paid for an overpriced mediocre room. Driving down I-5 through the middle of California's finest scenery is always a delight. Somewhere between Sacramento and Bakersfield, my tachometer and speedometer were going spastic, dropping to zero, bouncing up again and the radio would cut in and out. I phoned Ken and when we pulled in around Bakersfield, he crawled around, checking the wires and found nothing wrong. We spend a luxurious night at the Super 8 Motel (the rich man's Motel 6).
In the morning we cut through Lancaster/Palmdale to miss LA's morning traffic and right around Indio, my car started being weird again. We stopped in a parking lot, more wire wiggling but then the car wouldn't start and the battery was dead. We bought a new battery and a volt meter, and according to the volt meter, the alternator was charging. Before Blythe (Blight) it did it again, so we stopped at a 7/11, checked the battery again and it had dropped a full volt so we knew it was the alternator. Ken (Mr. Fixit) was beside himself because we were in the middle of Bumfuck and no one even heard of an Isuzu, let alone have alternators and he was sure our trip was ruined and we'd have to spend 3 weeks in Blight and our furniture would be put in storage and it would run into the millions of bucks. Superwoman whipped out her owner's manual, had the Kenster call Roadside assistance, explain our problem and after about the 15 minutes it took the chick to figure out the car was still covered under warranty (let's see, 2002 minus 1998 is how many years?), she agree to have it towed to the nearest Isuzu dealership which happened to be in, you guessed it - Phoenix!!!
$485.00 later, the Rodeo was unloaded at a very nice dealership. The alternator bill was, however, on me because the vital things you need to power the warranted drive-train are only covered to about 7 days after you purchase the vehicle. That put us in Phoenix Thursday night and by Friday afternoon, we had the keys to a new house and Ken could relax because the movers would have a place to dump our furniture.
Our house is the required Spanish modern, tile roof, stucco and in the middle of a new subdivision on the far edge of society. It's a little smaller than the house we had in Hillsboro so we had to squash a lot of things in places they wouldn't normally go. Ken's biggest problem is being able to set up his shop in a garage that currently registers 150 degrees on any thermometer, digital or otherwise. It seems he's not too happy working under those circumstances. The garage is huge and after he does get his shop set up, we may even have room for one car. He's going to have a company truck and apparently the CC&R's don't allow cars to be parked on the street as our neighborhood busy-body was so quick to point out. There are, however, many derelict cars parked about so she certainly hasn't done her job of contacting the proper authorities to report violations (the same calls I used to receive when I did all that subdivision work for Carl). The neighborhood is sooooooo quiet.
August 31st we started to go for a ride in the mountains, got almost to Globe and stopped for gas. When we were ready to go, the bike wouldn't start. Ken couldn't find anything wrong and was sure the ignition went out and he was able to hot-wire it so we went back home. Later he found some wire in one of their dopey connections to the battery had come lose and it wasn't something you could easily see. That was a bummer. It's really HOT riding in full leather and full-face helmets. There is not a helmet law in this state and almost everyone we see is in shorts and tank-tops. That pavement is sooooo hot; I would never just lay down on it in shorts and tank tops, let alone skid across it. These people are insane. Speaking of insane, there are two types of drivers here: 1) very bad 2) very fast. Since we live right next to Sun City, the place is loaded with old farts, driving very slowly in huge cars OR (get this), golf carts (golf cars) are actually licensed for the street here and the fossils are plugging up traffic with those. This is the first place I've lived where ALL of the handicap parking spots are filled.
Old fart population has also spawned a whole bunch of really bad restaurants down the main road from where we live. I think by now we've tried them all. The other night we went to some Italian restaurant full of old farts and had the good fortune to sit behind the original lounge lizard past his prime. It was the first dinner date and he was going on about being in Cabo San Lucas and how that really was a party town and he wasn't one to be involved in the excess drinking and dancing on the table, he preferred a glass of wine in a quiet bistro. He was soooo full of shit, I'm sure he was the first guy to be on the floor in the Giggling Marlin. The woman he was with smacked of "realtor" so she was easily impressed. The best line was "This food is really good". It's so hard to keep from laughing out loud.
I live 20 miles from work, but it takes me no time. The city streets are 6 lanes wide and the freeways 8. Not at all like Portland and the perpetual pile-up on Highway 26, anytime of the day, any day of the week. Yesterday I observed 4 cars jammed very tightly together, the result of the 2) very fast drivers, not being able to stop within the 2 feet they allow themselves behind the car in front of them, which is also the result of the 1) very bad driver. We had to get Arizona plates on all our vehicles so we too could drive 65 in the 35 mile-an-hour zones. That only cost us $800.00 for one year. Driver's licenses were really easy - just trade them in and they, like, never expire.
Life is swell here and I don't have to have the heater on in my car on the way to work. I can walk outside in the morning in 85 degree temperature instead of seeing my breath, like I'm sure it is in Portland right now.
We have absolutely NO GRASS in our yard!!!! Ken is so excited. Our entire back yard is fenced in concrete block instead of cheap wood and the entire yard is covered with a very course (1") crushed rock. The carefully selected desert plants in the front yard are automatically watered with an underground drip system so they are always bright, perky and full of flowers every day of the year. That is good because if it were up to me to remember to water them, they would be brown sticks by this time next year. This is funny. This morning Ken heard over the TV that it would rain today, so he frantically hauled all of the 7,000 cardboard boxes we have temporarily stored in the side yard back into the garage. Silly man, he's still working under Oregon's assumption that if there is a cloud in the sky, it will rain. I told him there could be thousands of clouds in the sky on the desert and it will never rain. Wait until he gets home to a dry yard this afternoon only to see all his effort was unnecessary. Actually, I would love to see a good old desert storm with an inch of rain falling in 45 minutes and lightning striking all around me.
Well, we actually got to see some good old desert storms with the required lightning, thunder and pounding side-ways rain. I've always loved how good the desert smells when it rains and I love to see the steam rising as the hot ground is hit with the rain. The rain is like standing in a warm shower and you don't even mind getting wet. One night Ken and I got in the car and drove away from some of the civilization to experience the phenomenon in the dark. I'm sure everyone here feels we are insane, sitting in the middle of nowhere with the lightening blasting all around us, but I loved it.
September 11th after work we headed west on Highway 60 on the Indian and turned north on 163rd Avenue, or something like that. It was our intention to take this road to Dove Valley Road and go west back to Wickenburg. Our plans were cut short when we discovered Dove Valley Road is nothing but a dirt trail. Anyway, we toured around some areas people are building huge houses on the sides of the hills and, of course, forming the almighty association. This is getting to be a huge joke, and I would imagine highly unconstitutional if push came to shove. The desert in this area is very pretty with a lot of saguaros about. I want my own saguaro, but I also want my own of all the desert plants.
September 14th we got up early, packed the Indian and headed west on Highway 60. Our destination was Flagstaff where we planned to stay the night. We got to Wickenburg about 10:00, behind some other bikers Ken decided he absolutely had to talk to in a little restaurant. It was "Lone Biker Dude" and "Biker Couple". Biker chick from biker couple had spent a few too many nights in the local bar showing her tits to unsuspecting men and therefore wouldn't speak to the likes of me. I'm hoping Ken is starting to realize that just because a guy is riding a Harley, doesn't necessarily mean he knows anything mechanical about bikes. The constant smoking of those people made us decide not to eat breakfast there before we fell over with smoke poisoning, so we just settled for mediocre coffee. Wickenburg is really a pretty little town. I half expected it to look like Whitman - old and run-down with shacks or the requisite single-wides, but it was very clean and polished. I guess it was quite a mining town and probably merits spending some time there. We continued north up Highway 89A towards Prescott. We stopped at a little wayside restaurant for breakfast and I was able to order Chorizo with eggs and a side of refried beans!! Ah, the perfect breakfast. A few bike-riders were in there having breakfast, not to be confused with "bikers". Like, Dude, there are soooo many bikes on the road on the weekend, it makes me wonder when these people have time to haul their huge, expensive boats to Lake Havasu.
We got to Prescott and there was a classic car show going on in the middle of downtown. All the cars very nice and beautiful but I'm really getting tired of seeing 55 Chevys and 32-34 Ford Coupes. Doesn't anyone have imagination anymore? I'm sure every single 55 Chevy manufactured has now been restored to a better than new condition and being shown at some car show on some main street in some city in America. What ever happened to the '62 Valiants and '75 Dodge Cordobas? Where are the Gremlins, Volares, Vegas, Pintos, Yugos and Cavaliers? We tried to go into a bar, but it was stuffed to the gills with smoking bikers and smoking car people and smoking smokers. Why can't people stop smoking? We walked right out and even the split second we were in there, we came out with our clothes and hair reeking. They probably only served Bud Lite and Coors anyway.
Thirstily, we left Prescott and continued north to Jerome. We went up over the mountains and down the other side was Jerome. I'd heard about Jerome all my life, maybe from my dad. He lived all over Arizona when he was a kid and possibly Jerome was one of the places, or maybe people just talked about it because it's a "ghost town". Like all other historical mining places on the side of a hill (i.e. Virginia City), it was a total tourist trap with a thousand people milling around seeking out the perfect souvenir to take to the folks back home in Missouri/Iowa/Minnesota, something like a scorpion paperweight or a little vial of gold flakes. We stopped for a beer in a brewery. At least it was called a brewery, but I didn't see any actual brewing going on. The beer was better than what you normally can drink in Arizona (Coors, Bud Lite) and was served in an actual glass. I don't know if the building was old and original, but it had a lot of woodwork inside and every piece of it was sticky. The handrail was sticky and the big wooden table was sticky. Maybe soap is at a premium in Jerome, so they just wipe all the spilled beer over everything. We contemplated walking sideways on the sloping sidewalks for about a second and then decided it would probably be more interesting to move on down the road. We could easily see the old, falling-down buildings from the Indian. So we continued down the mountain and into the flat plains on our way to Sedona. Sedona is everything everyone has ever told me about it. The mountains behind the town are brilliant in their reds and oranges and the town itself has been carefully planned to blend in with its surroundings. Sedona is another place in which we should spend some time, but later, because we were more concerned with speeding through.
We then went through Oak Creek Canyon. It's like being back in Oregon with the pine trees, oaks and streams, but not raining. We stopped at a rest stop/state park. There were a bunch of Indian vendors selling jewelry and pots there. Ken bought me a goldstone/hematite necklace and him a belt buckle. There was a young lady sitting in the Parks Department gift shop, reading probably her 8,000th book because things are never busy. Within the 5 minutes we were in there looking at stuff, about 25 people stopped in to ask stupid questions like "What state are we in?" and "how far is it to Wall Drug?" (That question may be lost on you if you've never traveled through South Dakota.) She must be immune to stupid questions, can you see me having that job?
We got to Flagstaff about 5:00 and blasted through town to the other side, back to the infamous Museum bar, reminiscent of our trip through Flagstaff a year ago. We went inside, but at this time of the afternoon, not as boisterous or full of lesbians as it was that one night. The bartender wasn't familiar with most drinks, so she would make up something, but they were really cheap, so I guess it didn't matter. We vowed to come back later that night after we got a room in the same hotel as last time, which is within walking distance of the Museum. We went out to dinner at some really bad Mexican Restaurant called "Kachina Downtown". I'm not sure how that name relates to a Mexican restaurant, but it was so bad the Mexican's probably objected to having any sort of connection to it. We went to the hotel, sat around, put on going-out clothes, which for me was my jean-capris and little sandals. We stopped outside and whoa, Nellie, it was like being in Portland. It was actually very chilly outside and since the elevation there is 6,000 feet, I guess that's understandable. I could have stood the long walk to the Museum, but I knew later that night it would be really cold, so we turned around and went back in the hotel, wusses that we are. THEN that night we were given pillows that somewhat resembled 1 x 12 wooden planks and were just as soft. I was fussing around trying to bend my pillow into a sleepable shape, but it was so hard it was making my ears numb. Then about 2:00 in the morning, the guys from the room next door brought in at least 12 giggling, drunk women who WOULD NOT SHUT UP. We heard every dumb utterance, followed by 5 minutes of uncontrolled giggling for at least an hour and half until Ken got up and knocked on their door to request they cease and desist. I'm not sure if he was naked, plus he didn't have a gun. The girls finally left or passed out or something because it finally got quiet enough for us to go to sleep. We got up in the morning and packed our stuff in the Indian and went to their breakfast offering. I swear those "complimentary" breakfasts are becoming lamer and lamer. I'd rather they dropped about $25.00 off their rates and not bother with the vast selection of stale donuts, Cheerios, over-ripe bananas and lack of coffee. And we always have sit next to some mom who hates her seven children running around with sticky fingers, whining, crying and spilling their cereal all over your feet. It also attracts very large lesbian women wearing shorts that don't much cover the disgusting fat lumps on their legs and old retired couples who sold their house and decided to travel the nation. This is about their second month and they hate the mere sight of each other so they spend their breakfast glaring in silence or bickering about whose fault it is.
I thought it would be cold leaving Flagstaff, but it was perfect for riding so we headed south on Highway 17. It's a pretty routine ride out of the mountains into the desert. Just north of Phoenix, we stopped at some pioneer village, paid the $5.00/each (the it's-summer-and-nobody-else-is-dumb-enough-to-be-here rates) entrance fee and wandered around their old, falling-down buildings which were painstakingly relocated from other areas in the state. That was boring and hot and I was tired of lugging my heavy leather jacket around. We went in to the restaurant and sat at the old, massive bar and ordered XX beer because nothing else was worth drinking (Coors, Bud Lite). Ken got into a conversation (naturally) with the bartender about the area, about Seattle, about Portland, about Chicago, well, you get the picture. He was actually pretty interesting to talk to. We didn't stay to eat because it was getting toward the early afternoon and we had a bunch of stuff to do at home so we left there and were home in about 45 minutes to a welcome air conditioner. Always good to get home.
September 16th (Monday night) when I got home, Ken told me the Camaro died on his way to work, the ABS light came one (the first symptom my car had) and it died and he initially couldn't get it started, so he started to push it out of the intersection and then got back in and it bumb started so he drove it home. This time only the battery had died because it was 8 years old. Anyway, he hopped on the Indian, but had to pack a bunch of his work stuff in the saddle bag and he set his phone on the other saddle bag, which he promptly forgot. The phone fell off the saddlebag in the street right in front of a new house that was being built and one of the Mexican workers picked it up. When Ken realized his phone was missing, he called it that night from home and the guy answered. Ken said he would pick up the phone from the guys house, but the guy spoke such broken English that Ken had a hard time understanding what he was saying. Ken got an address, so we hopped in the Rodeo to find the place. Ken must have been on drugs when he looked up the address on the map because he first took us to Way-North Phoenix, realized he was on the wrong side of town and then took us to Way-South Phoenix. The only admonition I every received from everybody here was "Stay out of South Phoenix" because you will not leave there alive. So here we are driving all the fuck over South Phoenix in what they call here "suspect neighborhoods". Actually, I thought the neighborhoods looked pretty good, but I guess the locals won't let you leave until they at least make you bleed. Anyway, it only took about 2 hours and 100 miles later to find this guy's house and it was deep in South Phoenix. So I've had my tour of South Phoenix, late at night, in the dark, surrounded by lots of low-rider cars with semi-automatic weapons glinting out the windows.
September 21st we went to the drag races at Firebird Raceway. That night they were racing vintage dragsters in odd groups with weird requirements. Ken was ecstatic which relates back to the primal Arrrhhh-arrrhhhhh instinct of power, fire and loud noise, all of which were in abundance that night. My feelings were for the women and children sitting at the hugely expensive trailer-haulers with nothing to do while their husbands/fathers spent hours and hours tuning, repairing, swearing and sweating over their dragster. The really tragic scenario is the fact that they have to do this EVERY WEEKEND and possibly during the week also. I really felt out of place because I didn't have nearly enough tattoos to be attending an event like that, nor was I wearing shorts up my butt and a halter top. I could have fit right in with the cheesy legs, however, but I prefer not to display them like that. I suppose I could have the dimples tattooed to create a spider-blob effect that could have people talking. The best part of the whole thing was the fact that it was dark on September 21st and I could actually walk around without a heavy winter coat and I wasn't being rained on. During the middle of the races, they had a bunch of restored cars parade down the drag strip, many of which we had seen at the car show in Prescott. At least there were more than 55 Chevys and 32-34 Ford Coupes. There actually was a '62 Valiant! We spent about 3 hours at the drags being engulfed in tire burn-out, gagging smoke and cigar-smoking gagging smoke. I'm sure Ken loved every minute of it and was enraptured with my enthusiasm. As we were leaving, I noticed a whole bank of red lights flashing on TV towers on top of a mountain to the south of the drag strip. I mention this only because:
Sunday night we decided to take a ride on the Indian and Ken picked an area called South Mountain Park, which is a Phoenix City Park and it appeared to be a lot of roads winding up in the hills. We left the house at 5:30 and got to take another trip through the dreaded South Phoenix, right up to the park entrance. By then it was getting dusk and the guy at the park entrance told us the best thing to do that time of the day was to go up to the summit.
The park is just a section of desert not spoiled by a new subdivision YET and it was totally cool riding up the road to the top of the mountain, right below the TV tower lights. There were at least a million people up there and by then it was fairly dark and hard to stumble around on the rock outcroppings and rock building called "the castle". The view was spectacular of the entire valley, covered with the usual light pollution as seen from outer space, but it was still very pretty. We stayed for just a bit and then started our ride down the mountain behind the slowest, most afraid driver in the universe. Ken finally got tired of riding the brakes and stalling the Indian, so we pulled off for awhile until the traffic cleared. It was really nice riding and we'd vowed to come back to the park in the daytime so we could actually see the vistas and bring the Rodeo so we could leave it without worry and not have to haul around helmets and jackets.
September 28: Our weekend was awesome. We didn't get to leave Friday night because Ken got home late and still had to change the brake pads on the Indian which required taking off the fender and wheel and by then it was too late, so we left Saturday morning about 9:30. We stopped in Yuma for lunch at some Mexican restaurant (like there would be any other kind in Yuma). The waitress must have been from the Bronx because she had this extremely thick New York accent. I told her all I wanted to drink was water (even though my meal included a drink) and she must have thought that to be the strangest request she had ever heard because every time she walked past our table, she would chant: "Wadda, wadda, wadda". I wanted to tell her it's "water", but I think she could have taken me. It's a pretty boring ride to San Diego until you get to the coast range, however we hit these really high winds between Yuma and until almost San Diego and were just beat up by the wind. It's a good thing it wasn't cold or else it would have been a repeat of our ride between Salt Lake City and Mountain Home, Idaho of last year.
We got to San Diego about 5:30 and pulled into the Del. That was after being in the south-bound I-5 parking lot because some idiot decided to jump off one of the overpasses and there were emergency vehicles and police plugging up traffic all over the place. They let us park the bike right inside valet parking at no charge which was cool because it was in their sight the whole while. We checked in and had the front desk call Peter's room. Melissa answered and said he and his dad were down in the lobby, but we didn't see them. We went out and got our stuff out of the Indian and called him on his mobile and he promptly invited us to a party that night at "Stevo's" house. We walked back into the hotel and there was Peter. He didn't recognize Ken with his long hair and beard and he confessed he thought we were rock stars in our motorcycle leather and expensive luggage (plastic bags from the Indian store). It was great to finally meet him. We went up to our room which was in the old part of the hotel and totally cool. The hallways slant and the floors creak, but the room didn't appear to be haunted. We no more than got in the room and Chris called which was good because the piece of paper I brought, thinking was Chris' phone and address was in fact our address and phone number which did a lot of good because we weren't even home. Anyway, we agreed that they would come over to the hotel on Sunday morning because that was our only free time.
We had dinner at one of the over-priced restaurants in the hotel and then wandered the grounds until it was time to leave for the party. We took a cab because we didn't want to have to deal with the bike, helmets, leather pants, jackets, etc. plus we didn't have a clue as to where to find the address. The party was at this little house tucked between a couple of stores and "Stevo" had remodeled it so it was really nice, but strange. The kitchen cupboards were these metal boxes attached to the wall. They looked cool, but you could get about 2 plates and two glasses in them and I have no idea where they put the food. The people there were a mix of Melissa's friends and Peter's friends, from all over the US and some from foreign countries. Techno music blared the whole night and I figure they had to have really drugged-up or deaf neighbors. Finally Melissa showed up. We had never met her and she was this little, tiny person with a huge personality, really cute and vivacious. Peter showed up later. Peter has a goatee and has a really outgoing personality and loves to hug (I got hugged a lot). Everyone at the party who were Peter's friends said last January he threw a party in Rio and flew all of them down there for a week. So how does one get on THIS list? Most of them had worked with Peter in the past and none of them seemed like the type to just be sucking up for the good ride. There was one, very cool, BIG chick (yes, bigger than Melanie) there with black and maroon hair, black lipstick and piercings. She was the bouncer at some nightclub in Milwaukee (Wisconsin, not Oregon). She was like mistress of the dark who would interrogate the people who wanted to get into the club. If they didn't know the secret password, she would make them do disgusting things just to get in. She was big enough to put fear into anybody, and was laughing about how people would do ANYTHING she asked. We left the party at midnight and rode back to the hotel with Melissa. Melissa said she met Peter, I believe in a bar in Los Angeles, and they instantly were attracted to each other. They hung out for a couple of weeks and then Peter said he had to do some traveling and wouldn't be back for 3 months. She could either see him in three months or come with him, so she went with him and spent the next 1-1/2 years traveling all over the world. She seems pretty unaffected by his money and was totally in awe when he let her drive his Jaguar XK8 - her dream car.
Sunday morning we got up and had coffee and the most decadent pastries at the pastry shop in the hotel. We sat outside because we could, the weather being perfect and all. Chris and Jetta were supposed to show up at 10:00, and finally made it at 11:00 because they lost their way to Coronado Island (she grew up there, how could she do that?). We walked all around the hotel grounds because neither one of them had been there before. Shayla was being a little butt, whining and crying the whole time. I swear most of the people staying at the Del need to get over themselves because they all think they are so important and elegant staying there. Excuse me, dirtballs like us could afford the place also, so back off, assholes. We were sitting at a table in the patio section and Shayla was throwing an absolute FIT, like crying and flinging herself to the concrete. Jetta ignored her and the extremely self-important guy at the next table (you know the type, boat shoes and sweater flung over the shoulders) literally turned his back to us while shooting a disgusted glare. Shayla of course kept it up until they finally left. Right on, Shayla. Ken was mortified, so we left the hotel and had lunch at some restaurant down the street.
They left at 2:00, so we got ready for the wedding. We wandered down to the patio and ran into Ken's uncle and his wife. We had some pictures taken with them, talked to Peter and generally wasted time until we went down to the beach where the wedding was going to be. Peter's ex-assistant planned the whole wedding so all they had to do was show up. She has got to be the most capable person in the world, and she was flitting around making sure everything was going good, but she didn't seem to be stressed in the least. I want that woman to plan my life. The ceremony was a Lakota/traditional mix. The woman who performed it was dressed in full Lakota Indian white fringed leather, beadwork, feathers, the whole nine yards. Indian flute music was being played while we were waiting hours and hours in the blazing sun for Melissa to get her butt out to the beach.
THEN while she was walking down the aisle, this loud Indian chanting was being played. Melissa was in this very simple bronze silk long dress with a beaded top and she was barefoot as were the Maid of Honor and the one bridesmaid. It was not lavish at all and Ken really got into the Indian spirituality thing. I mean he had his eyes closed like he was meditating and the whole bit. I pretended to be with the empty seat next to me. It was just another ceremony to me.
After the ceremony, everybody went to the patio where they served champagne, drinks and appetizers until it was time for the reception. The mix of people at the wedding was even more interesting than the party. I met an actual rocket scientist who had a big part in designing the US part of the International Space Station and his young wife. There were two guys in ice-cream suits with a couple of tall women from Paris - Clementine and Sophie (they have much more interesting names in foreign countries) and there was a waiter who could have doubled for Brad Pitt.
The reception was held in this huge room at the Del, sit-down dinner with excellent food, techno music again and dancing. The wedding cake was filled with raspberries and cream and I swear the frosting was melted Peeps because it was kind of really sugary, marshmallowy and very chewy. We danced a lot because you can't help but dance to techno and the dance floor was so slippery I had to take off my shoes, but even then it's a wonder I didn't kill myself. The wedding planner's sister was out dancing in suede buckskin pants with fringe and she could really dance - break dancing and everything. I think she probably had years of dance training because she was so good. The other spectacle was gay guy on cocaine who was undulating, but never fell down. The party started breaking up about 10:30 so we hugged Peter and Melissa good-bye and went back to our room. I guess they were going on a honeymoon to Rome and Sweden or something like that. You would think after spending 18 months traveling the world, Rome would be small potatoes.
We left Monday morning at about 8:30. The wind wasn't as strong as it was on Saturday, but blowing nonetheless. It was nice and cool leaving San Diego and we didn't hit hot weather until Casa Grande. The ride was even more boring going back and I think we both were fighting to stay awake. I guess sleeping on a motorcycle is a bad thing. Anyway, we got back home about 3:30.
I'm sure the wedding ran into the tens of thousands of dollars because you don't rent the Del for cheap, but it was so low-key and nobody was snobby. Ken said he thinks Peter is embarrassed by his money. Throw some of that embarrassment this way, I can handle it!
October 11th - Friday night was really gorgeous so I talked Ken into taking a ride on the Indian to Lake Pleasant. Carby said they liked to take their boat there on weekends and it's not that far away. It was a nice ride, but when we got there, we couldn't see the actual lake, all the entrances were blocked except for one that went into a "Harbor" club. It was gated and had an entrance fee. Ken asked the guy if there was a gas station in there because we needed gas and the guy let us through without paying. The whole place was basically a high-end RV park full of fifth-wheels and larger RV's with Corvettes and huge 4-bys parked next to them. There were hundreds of big sail-boats sitting on lots all around. We followed the road down to where we could see the actual lake and BEHOLD there it was, the smallest puddle I have ever seen with a marina that had at least 1,000 large boats stacked right next to each other.
I'm sure if all of those boats were out in the water at the same time, there would be at least 2 feet between them. Imagine Lake Oswego with that many boats. We did get the "needed" gas - 1 gallon and left before the security police picked us up. We went back to the main road and continued west to another entrance to the lake which was a state park and at the gate there were 500 RV's with boats waiting to get in. That place must be a zoo on the weekend. It's so amazing how many people have huge, expensive boats around here that every weekend they haul to the puddle or all the way over to the Colorado, which surely must have dried up by now.
We went to the Arizona State Fair October 19th - Saturday afternoon/night. It is huge and was mostly rides and booths. Ken did this thing where they crank you up about 100 ft and then drop you, free-fall into a net for 80 feet. He loved it.
That's just before we went to see the Destruction Derby and I was getting nose bleeds in the center section of the grandstand. How can he do that? I guess because he spent years climbing to the top of 150 FT radio towers, dangling by a little line, fixing antennas and microwaves. Ken mentioned there were a bunch of really good-looking young girls there. He's right and most of them were in really tight hip-huggers with a tattoo right above their butt-bone. I can't say that I witnessed any really good-looking young men. Most of them were the Mexican honchos or NHRA fans with giant guts hanging over their leather-tooled belts and dirty Wranglers. We went through some of the exhibits.
There were some really spectacular quilts in the "So You Don't Have A Life" section. Some of the things people show at fairs is pretty bizarre. I don't mean that it is unusual or interesting, just the opposite. You look at it and say "Why is this here, who cares?" I think the whole concept needs upgrading. The best thing was we were wandering around outside at 8:00 at night in the middle of October and IT WAS WARM!!!!! I can't begin to express how much I love it here.
Saturday, November 2nd, we decided to take the trip we had started a few weeks ago into the Superstitions. That morning at Starbucks, Ken started talking to this older guy (I always think that, but they usually end up being younger than me - know how that goes?) with a ponytail and flames tattooed up his leg who said he used to drag race nitro Harleys and he had a shop, blah, blah, blah. At this point in his life, he was hanging out with a very ugly woman (he said he just moved in with her from Denver) and working at some manufacturing company in town. He was telling tales of Hells Angels and bizarre bikes and how much money he had ... Wait a minute - did he say he had money? Could he have been lying?
We took the freeways to Apache Junction and then Highway 88 northeast. Almost immediately we came upon a ghost town called "Goldfield" (I think there's one in every state west of the Rockies). It was a lot like Calico in California and had old weathered wooden buildings and people dressed up in old west costumes with the requisite gun fight and dance hall girls. We signed up for the mine tour. It was explained that the vein of gold was so rich that they were getting $6,000 (when gold was $20.00/ounce) worth of gold per mine car which held a ton of ore. They had just hit the glory hole when some dam broke and flooded the entire mine. They tried everything to get the water out, but the process was more costly than what was left in the mine and so it was abandoned and is now on private property a ways from the actual town. However, they made a replica of the mine and that is what we toured. They did an excellent job because it really seemed like we went 200 feet below ground in a rickety elevator when we were above ground the whole time. The real trick was getting the "tunnel" to be in total darkness when the lights were turned off. After that, we wandered around the town and looked at some of the old machinery, buildings and shops until we were eager to get back on the bike.
We continued on up the mountain. There were a lot of huge boulders around and they were covered with these yellow-green lichens so from a distance they all looked to be yellow rocks. We stopped at a vista point to peer down into a small lake (Canyon Lake). Up the hill, we followed this weird army-type vehicle and when we stopped at the vista, Ken started talking to the guy who owned it. He said it was a Swiss Army vehicle that he bought and it looked like it hadn't been modified in any way. So Ken checked it out and made small talk. They told us that the road turned to dirt shortly after Tortilla Flats which dashed our plans of taking it all the way to Globe. They left and we followed shortly thereafter. We got to Tortilla Flats, not even a wide spot in the road and decided to eat lunch. We ran into Swiss Army people as we walked in the door and Ken suggested we eat lunch with them and they agreed. The place was a typical tourist place with dollar bills and business cards stapled to every inch of walls, tables, whatever would accommodate a staple. I think there were a couple of business cards stapled to our waiter's forehead. I ordered a Rattlesnake beer for $3.75, fully expecting to receive at least a pint in tap, but it was this little bottle that was about 12 ounces. The beer was pretty good, the food okay. Lee and Linda were not, however, as interesting as their vehicle. I guess they all can't be winners.
We turned around at Tortilla Flats to ride home. We were told that Tortilla Flats was the tarantula capital of the world so Ken was wanting to see them. We stopped along side the road and wandered around amongst the trash and car parts, but no tarantulas. The rocks were like huge petrified mudballs and I could just pick pieces of them apart in layers. I'm sure some environmentalist would have arrested me had he seen that blatant display of destruction. We climbed back on the Indian and probably no more than 500 feet down the road, there was a lone tarantula trying his best to cross. I'm sure he was a smear as soon as the next car passed by.
We rode home under a hazy sun, but the weather was still perfect.
It's been really boring with this constant sunny, 75 degree weather and I'm beginning to question why we ever moved here - NOT. Last Saturday, November 16th, we left the Street of Stark Realities to go to the Street of Dreams. It was wayyyyy the fuck east, close to Omaha, I'm sure, nestled at the foot of the Superstition Mountains, next to a golf course. That in itself raises the price of land and that is a mystery to me. I would think having to dodge errant golf balls and observing disgusting, badly-dressed old farts adjusting themselves in front of your living room window would proportionately lower the property value. Anyway, it was this exclusive gated, hoity-toity place and I'm sure the CC&R's aren't ridiculously restrictive. The lard-butts trundling up the path in front of us were concerned as to which charity part of the proceeds were going to. What a bunch of phonies. If the cashier said "it's going to the society that supplies crack-whores with alternative drugs", do you think they would turn away and not attend? I don't think so. Are they questioning whether or not their state tax dollars are funding the governor's kiddie porn collection? Anyway, the entrance fee was $12.00/person for only 5 houses! At least in Portland you had so many houses to tour that you went away sick to death of overkill and ridiculous décor. I must admit, there was one house there that was perfect, and usually I'm not at all impressed with these places. This one was styled after a Spanish Villa. Every piece of furniture was correct and the tile work was exquisite. It was way too big for the likes of us, but a scaled-down model would be just fine. All the houses had huge sliding glass walls, so you literally could open up the entire living room, kitchen and whatever to the outside patio. The perfect house had one of those pools that was filled to over the brim so the far edge of the pool disappears. I personally don't need a pool, but it looked great. All the houses had a hundred fire places, even little tiny ones above the counter. Excuse me, this is Arizona and it's fucking hot most of the time, YOU DON'T NEED ANY FIREPLACES!!! Only one house had a home theater room. I was really sick of that stuff in Portland, but I suppose since the weather is always so crappy, all you can do there is watch movies on your wide-screen TV.
Last Sunday, November 17th, we took a ride on the Indian to Wickenburg and had a late lunch in some little restaurant called the "Cowboy Bar" or something like that. The food was okay but the waitress was very loud and annoying. It was your basic luxury eatery with the bathrooms outside which very closely resembled the disgusting old gas station bathrooms, which probably makes the restaurant itself an old gas station. Most every item in a gas station is considered toxic so I always thought it was a great idea to turn those places into restaurants (and Ken thought he was eating macaroni salad). We went home a different way through the fairly unmolested desert which could fall into the "middle of nowhere" category. I want to emphasize the fact that that was November 17th and we rode the motorcycle without being icicles. God, I love it!!
Saturday, November 23rd, after attending the wedding reception for Ben's (our neighbor) daughter at the park/retention pond in our neighborhood, we left on the Indian for a ride. But before I tell you about that, here is a personal observation: Ben's daughter's husband is in the Marines. I grew up in a Marine town so I'm pretty much aware of what Marines look like. This guy, however couldn't have weighed more than 100 pounds and I'm sure a stern word would snap him. How did he ever get through boot camp?
Anyway, Ken wanted to go to Cave Creek because he heard it was a big biker hang-out place. The ride was really pleasant through only half-developed desert to this little town nestled in the foothills. It's sort of an art community (like Taos NM, but not as annoying) and had all kinds of little shops. Anyway, we did find the bar, and the name totally escapes me, but it actually had an area just for motorcycle parking. It was filled to the gills with Harleys, but we managed to squeeze the Indian into a spot. The spot we chose to squeeze into was at that moment occupied by a guy looking at one of the Harleys. Ken excused our intrusion, but the guy said it was okay because it was refreshing to see someone riding something other than a Harley. He, in fact, was riding a 77 (I think he said) Triumph. Ken immediately liked him because he was really knowledgeable about all kinds of bikes and could talk mechanics. He was waiting for his friends to come back from a ride and agreed to have a beer with us (outside because we could). He had an ever-so slight accent and ended up speaking Danish to some other friends. After Ken handed him his business card, he complained about WorldCom's cutting off his mobile phone service in the middle of a conversation to Europe on his birthday. That will teach him to go with a second-rate company. Hundreds of bikes kept arriving, including a few Indians, a couple of which were owned by the Clem Brothers from Deliverance. Ken always rushes around to talk to those guys, but I'm not sure some of them are able to connect words into a sentence. We had a great time as the sun slowly set and darkness took over. Danish guy's friends finally showed up and he wanted to go eat so we parted ways. The ride home in the dark coolness was very nice and it was still warmer than a summer's evening in Portland.
Thanksgiving, November 28th, we took a motorcycle trip south. Our intention was to go to the Biosphere, spend the night in Tucson, go to Bisbee and then home for a two day trip. We stalled in the morning doing minor maintenance and cleaning up the Indian so we didn't leave until around 10:00. We took Highway 79 south which went through the town of Florence. That's a really nice place if you want to live amongst about 50 prisons. I'm sure the whole town works at at least one of them because there was no other visible means of support. It was a totally depressing place. We got to Oracle Junction about 2:00 and ate our Thanksgiving dinner at this fabulous restaurant called Jaspers. What are the chances of finding a gourmet place in the middle of nowhere? We got to the Biosphere at 3:30 and they turned us away because everyone went home early since it was Thanksgiving. The audacity of those assholes! So we continued on to Tucson. What a pit! We turned back to Oro Valley and got an overpriced room at the Hampton Inn. Friday morning we went to the Biosphere and listened to some academic gasbag drone on about research. I'd always wanted to see the Biosphere because I closely followed the initial experiment when it was going on. It's pretty well thrashed, but at least we got to actually go inside and it was interesting to see how people with too much money can waste it on stupid things. At least it proved just how unprepared we are to try to set up a livable, self-contained environment. I think what disappoints me more is the fact that it truly was not self-contained, but had all kinds of outside systems to keep it operating. Won't work on the moon, fellas. Anyway, we had lunch there and the food was also remarkably good and not too spendy. It was getting late and we had gotten rained on earlier that morning so we headed back for Surprise! before the looming cloud cover got us again.
We took a different road home, Highway 77, I think, towards Superior. This took us through semi-mountainous countryside and past huge, I mean HUGE open pit copper mines. The scenery was breath-taking and the saguaros were very healthy so the area must get more rain than Phoenix. Being a mining area, the rocks were extremely colorful and varied. We stopped on a side dirt road and walked around a bit. We really have to take the Rodeo to these places so we won't have to worry about leaving the bike and carrying helmets to do some real exploring.
The clouds were getting heavier and darker and when we were about a quarter mile from home, it REALLY started raining. It was, of course, a fun trip and we didn't have to deal with dreaded relatives we never would talk to if they weren't related to us.
I "worked" until noon Christmas Eve, but we had no party because we have no money and most everyone was in Portland anyway, so it was just Larry and me and going home was much more important than sitting around snoozing through one of Larry's three stories which I've heard at least 20 times by now.
That afternoon, Ken and I took a drive through the desert and he took me to the farthest site he had to maintain while he still had a job. It was way the fuck out in the desert not far from the nuclear plant and natural gas plant. One strategically dropped detonation device there could really fix up this valley. It was fun driving on the dirt roads at excessive speeds - I haven't done that in years.
We did NOTHING for Christmas. Ken did plug some Christmas lights in (still in the package) and placed them in our front window just to show the neighbors, who must have spent a mere $1,000 in garish lights strung all over their house, that we also had some cheer. Ken made me a gourmet meal right down to the biggest apple pie I've ever seen. He even made his own pie crust which you would never catch me doing. Now he's blown his cover and I know he is capable of more than just bachelor chow. Everything was simply yummy.
New Year's was pretty much the same. There was a big "Fiesta" block party going on in Tempe, but since everything is 55 miles away from us, we opted not to spend time with a bunch of gun-toting, drunken college football fans. Speaking of guns, it appears the right way to celebrate the new year here is to shoot your gun into the air. I haven't checked the house for stray bullets yet; they probably bounced off the tile roof and are lying on the ground nearby. If I had known that, I would have taken the opportunity to off the neighbor's continuously barking dogs. With all that gun-fire, who would have known?
Sunday, January 5th we took a mini-ride north around Lake-Pleasant-Mudhole. We left at 2:00 and Ken was starving since we hadn't eaten anything besides muffins that day, but he said he could hold out because he remembered a restaurant all by itself on the way. We got there, one of the many famous middle-of-nowhere areas around here. The place appeared to be a bar/restaurant with lots of quads and dirt bikes parked close to the horse hitching posts. We walked inside and it was exactly like Wankers Corner in Tualatin off of 205. It was stuffed with dirty bikers and their beautiful women slugging beers and eating suspect food. We ordered the only thing they had on the menu, bottled beer (at least Wankers had beer on tap, but that was Oregon) and a cheeseburger. We were forced to share the table with a couple who said they loved going there for the food. The "food" turned out to be a huge, fat hamburger with an unmelted slice of American cheese on top, all on a cheap bun half the size of the hamburger and a bag of disgustingly over-fried, tough potato chips. I was able to slather the meat slab with enough mayonnaise and mustard to choke it down, but it kept dribbling out and running down my arm into my sleeve, not neglecting to coat my rings with goo on its trip down there. I love that because no matter how much you scrub your hands with Lysol, you can never erase the hamburger/condiments smell for at least three days. I'm not a connoisseur, but that place would never be on my list of places to go for the food which makes me wonder what kind of life those two experienced on a daily basis.
This time we went to the far north tip of Lake Unpleasant. The "lake" is down about 50 feet, which probably leaves 35 feet of water. There was this boat-ramp that went down this very steep hill for what seemed to be a half-mile before it reached the water. That looked like a whole lot of fun to me. Since it was late Sunday afternoon, most people had already left for home so it wasn't very crowded, but the entire area gives the term "recreational fun" a whole new meaning.
Ken was going stir-crazy January 10th and made me promise we would do something fun on the weekend. So that Saturday we went to the Phoenix Zoo and it was awesome. It kind of rambles on into the desert but there are lakes and tropical places in the trees and you are never sure what sort of animal you are going to find tucked away in some little hidden cranny. The zoo rented out these mega three-wheeled bicycles that would carry at least three people, maybe more. Parts of the zoo are kind of hilly and we were in extreme danger of being flattened by run-away bicyclists. And of course the law is that the most slovenly and largest will opt to ride the bikes, so the rapidly-moving bulks would have surely meant certain destruction. There were a lot of animals not seen at the Washington Park Zoo in Portland (and a lot we didn't see like the polar bear and penguins) and one of those was a pair of Galapagos tortoises who were enjoying unbridled sex. The most interesting part of the torturous exhibition was the sound effects emanating from the male tortoise after each awkward thrust. The female seemed to be really excited about the whole thing because she spent the time tidying up the pen and dusting the furniture while the male, who incidentally was three times larger than she was, was teetering on top. Imagine a Volkswagen Bug being mounted by a Hummer. That exhibit, of course, had the most people gathered around. My favorites were the Meercats and Prairie dogs. We got tired before we got to tour the whole thing but we definitely will be going back. The place was resplendent with native plants and fat Norwegians from Minnesota in plaid shorts.
We ate lunch downtown; I patted Ken on the hand and told him he deserved a day on the town. (Here's $20.00 - go buy yourself something pretty). After that we went to the Science Center and watched some kind of thing about Mars at the Planetarium. We wandered around the Science Center but it wasn't nearly as nice as OMSI in Portland. We didn't get through much of it because they shut down at 5:00 and made us leave which seemed like a ridiculously early time to be closing. On our way back to the car, we wandered around some replicas of Victorian houses and early buildings at the "Copper Center" which were of course, closed. Downtown Phoenix is weird. It's a bunch of big, absolutely beautiful buildings, but nothing is happening. I'm so used to the bustle of downtown Portland and the emptiness of downtown Phoenix seems strange. There appears to be no commerce or shopping except for a few restaurants scattered around.
January 18th we were on a mission to find a fabric warehouse because the nearest Joann's just doesn't cut it. Every place we went to was either closed, out of business or had moved. Ken was working off a list he had printed out on the computer and I finally asked him where he got that list - a 1910 phone book? It turned out to be off the internet which is just as reliable because nobody ever updates or removes their old websites. Anyway, we ended up in Scottsdale around eating time so we stopped at some shopping complex that was laid out in blocks with really expensive cars inching through.
We stopped at a restaurant called Zinc's Diner, or something like that and had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. This was about 2:30 in the afternoon, not normally a busy time for restaurants, but this place was packed. When we finally got to sit down and order, we realized why - the food is fucking fabulous. We both ordered a veal pennini (yes, I will eat a tortured cow-in-a-box) and it came with a big bowl of skinny Rosemary French fries with home-made ketchup (there were actual tomato chunks in it) and some kind of smoky cheese dip. Oral orgasm or what!
We ate outside because we could in the middle of January and watched all the women with their Gucci bags (I just learned you aren't anyone unless you have an $800.00 designer bag, so imagine how I felt with my fringed cow-side purse), sensible shoes, 5-carat diamonds and really expensive, very ugly, shapeless clothes. I actually thought I saw Nancy a couple of times.
Just the night before (Friday), the weather was fabulous, so we hopped on the Indian for a little ride. Since it was still rush-hour, we went west on 60 back to Wickenburg because the traffic is always light and Wickenburg is kind of a neat little town. Our goal was dinner and we breezed through town, noting the restaurants. We continued to breeze until we got out of town, forcing us to turn around and Ken pulled into a steak house. BIG mistake.
First off, the place was entirely loaded with blue-haired old farts. I'm not kidding, the average age was at least 80. We stood at the door waiting to be seated at the one of the few empty tables that didn't have codgers propped up against and it was like the hostess was confused, but she finally led us to the punishment table. It was the punishment table, not by location, but because our waiter just happened to be spending all his time waiting on a banquet table full of about 50 old farts who most likely had to be hand-fed, so he didn't have time for the likes of us long-haired, hippy bikers. We perused the menu and the only thing it had on it was: Steak - $100,000.00. There was a children's menu: Hamburger - $50,000.00. There was also the $7.99 special: Fish fry. We had the good fortune of witnessing the fish fry special and it somewhat resembled Gorton's fish sticks and Ore-Ida underfried mealy French fries, with a little cup of Safeway coleslaw on the side. The only steak I can somewhat choke down is either prime rib or filet. Prime rib was not on the menu and the filet was $300,000.00. We both ordered sirloin tips. That came with a salad which consisted of iceberg lettuce butts, the most indigestible fiber on the planet. After about 45 minutes our meal came and it consisted of 5 sirloin tips and a skinny baked potato wrapped in gold foil. There was some butter on the table and they gave us a dollop of sour cream as a luxury item. The meat was very tender and not overcooked, but the rest was pathetic and I know those people in there were slurping it down, thinking they really were at a good restaurant because the prices were so high. We passed on the dessert because the only dessert I ever saw them carry out was spumoni ice cream in a stainless steel cup, direct from the Old spaghetti Factory. I figure all the people in the restaurant had retired about 30 years ago and moved to the desert from Dirty Ankle, Iowa and Blownover, Minnesota so they had no idea what good food the rest of the country is eating.
Saturday afternoon, the 25th we were bored so we took the Indian back to South Mountain Park, in the daylight this time. We rode on all the roads and went up to the radio/TV towers area and looked down the mountain. We visited all the lookouts we could. It was a really smoggy day in the valley, so the view somewhat resembled what you'd see overlooking LA from Mount Wilson, and we still couldn't see Catalina Island. Anyway, it was starting to get dark and cooler on the mountain (it is January, after all), so we left. Ken expressed his desire to grab a hamburger and beer at some tavern and the idea appealed to me too.
I realize all I talk about is food, but these experiences are just too bizarre not to acknowledge. Since we took the freeway back and everything is walled in, it's impossible to locate restaurants from the freeway. We ended up on Highway 60 going towards home and Ken spied the "Heidelberg Inn". That was okay because I love German food and good beer is one of their best assets. The first bad omen was the "This is a smoking establishment" sign on the door.
We went inside and the place had a huge dance floor along with its very own lounge lizard singing Neil Diamond. I'm sure that music was much too racy for the 100+ year-olds (or "young" as they prefer) who were shuffling to the electronic beat. The guy had a guitar and so much taped background music that I'm not sure if his strumming was real. We were seated and handed a menu. The proprietors may have considered this to be a German restaurant, but it was no Gustav's. The menu offered almost no German food and what it did offer had side dishes of French fries and coleslaw, no German potato salad, and sauerkraut or red cabbage were considered an extra. Then we made the huge mistake of asking for their beer menu. That's easy: Bud, Coors or Miller Lite. Ken kept pressing and finally went to the bar and came back with two "German" bottled beers. They were awful. One was supposed to be a Heffeweisen, but it tasted like it was brewed from weeds and was really sweet. The other one was drinkable, but you could watch TV through it and it wasn't what we were endeavoring to find. We ended up with kind of German food, if you consider a side of scorched potato pancakes as German, but it mostly fell into the "We'll never go there again" category. While we were there, two ladies arrived and sat at the railing that held in Lounge-singer guy. I would guess them to be in their late 70's and they were the result of beauty queens who just got old. I'm pretty sure there were a lot of scars behind their ears, just hidden under their blonde Barbie-bubble wigs and they had their waists cinched in with control-top Depends, but they were looking hot and definitely there to steal the shufflers away from their women. Or maybe they were just Lounge-singer guy's groupies.
We never attracted any attention in our leather and Ken with his long hair. I'm sure most of the men were envious that Ken even had hair and fossil-bimbos were eying my pants. We never did dance. Our list of places not to go is getting longer by the minute. We did, however attract the attention of some guy who followed us out of the restaurant to the Indian and asked us what year it was. When we told him it was a 2000, he said it "looked old" and then wanted to sell us a blue velvet Elvis costume from the 70's. We jumped right on that opportunity!
Phoenix is a huge city so I always have certain expectations of a higher quality of entertainment. On Friday I search the on-line newspaper for things that are going on during the weekend so we can expand our horizons. Last Friday, I found that the City of Glendale was having a "Chocolate Festival with all kinds of chocolate booths and other things". I was jazzed - CHOCOLATE!!! Lots of chocolate, booths of chocolate and I envisioned something like "The Bite" in Portland with rows of chocolatiers selling all kinds of chocolate goodies. So Friday night we went to Glendale. The event was being held right next an area that had lots of razor wire on top of every fence, always a good sign of the quality of the neighborhood. Tucked in the middle of this is "historical Glendale" which is kind of like the Hawthorne district with all kinds of useless shops. The Chocolate festival was a bunch of booths set up in some kind of park. Out of about 50 booths, we counted three that actually were selling chocolate. The rest were the t-shirt and stupid useless things booths. I couldn't believe it. Then when we visited the actual chocolate booths, we discovered the only things they were selling were apples coated in chocolate with things like marshmallows and sticks (if they happened to drop them beforehand) stuck to them. Excuse me, I'm not about to have perfectly good chocolate ruined with the possibility of biting into an apple at the same time. We found one booth actually selling chocolate candy which we greedily bought up. We also got some glazed nuts. I picked the almonds with a sweet jalapeno glaze. Yummers. Then I'm not sure what the park was used for during the rest of the year, but I swear the place smelled like semen, so either it was a meeting place for gays or the winos were jerking off behind trees on a regular basis. I think we made it home by 8:00 p.m. after touring the place exactly three times just in case we missed some errant chocolate.
Another thing I pulled off the on-line newspaper was the suggestion to visit the Vulture Mine outside of Wickenburg. Ken's always wanted to take the Rodeo out 4-wheeling so Saturday morning we took off in a northwesterly direction to Wickenburg. We found the Vulture Mine Road and approximately 7 or so miles into it, we turned off on some dirt road. It wound around here and there in the desert and was totally a 4X road with deep ruts, deep sand and in one instance, deep mine shafts. The countryside was spectacular and we stopped several times just to walk around down the washes, through the dales and up the hills. It was so nice to see the natural desert without a subdivision sign somewhere. There were trails all over the place and we drove through some guy's camp right next to a mine he was working. On trying to find our way out, we went up this unsuspecting little trail on top of a mine dump only to discover we had parked approximately 3 feet from the edge of a totally open mine shaft. There was nothing around it, just a big hole so deep we couldn't see the bottom. I think the Rodeo could have fit very nicely face-first, but I doubt we could have gotten the doors open. So if I never answer your letters, that's probably what happened to us. We finally got out of the hills, after collecting some cool ore with veins of azurite, iron and silver coloring in quartz. We went down this one wash for a few miles which was really deep, loose sand. We had the Rodeo in granny-low and it just chugged through that sand. I remember that sand, growing up in the desert, and it was the type to bury you in a second. We actually stopped a couple of times and were able to start up again with no problems. Ken was really impressed with the Rodeo's performance.
We got back to the main road and about two miles further was the entrance to the Vulture Mine. There was this old couple who collected money from us for a self-guided tour around the mine. They made each of us sign a "release" statement which said nothing, just lines to sign your name and I'm sure that document would hold up in any court of law after you fell into an unmarked, open mine shaft, breaking every bone in your body. The mine shaft was not actually unmarked because there was some yellow caution tape sort of strung across the entrance to the 3,000-FT deep mine. The place was a mess of falling-down buildings with a lot of the stuff still there from when the mine was shut down sometime in the 40's. Ken was ecstatic over the old machinery and could have spent my entire 3-week vacation there just inspecting gears and pistons. The set-up was pretty big and there must have been quite a few unwashed, drunken men working the mine at any one time. One of the signs claimed they took $200,000,000.00 out of there and there was probably 3 times that left. Apparently it suffered the same fate as most of the mines around here in that it has filled up with water. I guess there have been noises about starting it up again, in fact they were trying to leach the microscopic gold out of the tailings pile because they figure they could find $7.00 worth of gold in a ton of tailings. Sounds worth it to me.
The old man and women tending the place had a box with 3 diamondback rattlesnakes in it, always a popular tourist attraction. The snakes didn't seem too happy about their fate, however. Ken spent some time talking to the guy, but I had to leave the shack because I couldn't stand listening to his black-lung, emphysema wheezing.
All in all, it was very interesting, but I've been to many an old abandoned mine and they're all pretty much the same. It's more thrilling to find one tucked back in the hills that has obviously been unmolested for decades. When I was a kid, we'd find those around Old Dale and even some in Joshua Tree National Monument (Park now). One time I found an actual mine claim still in its tobacco can stuck in a corner marker. It was dated, when I think about it, around 1911 and the paper was all yellow and stiff but you could still read the spidery handwriting. I'm sure there are some of those mines around, but it's pretty hard to remain hidden with all the off-roaders tearing through the hills on a daily basis.
We went back to Wickenburg for a late lunch and stopped at a Mexican Restaurant. One would think that you would be able to get good Mexican food in Arizona. We have yet to find it. Ken really likes the Wickenburg area and it truly is beautiful, but if I were to ever consider living there, it would have to have (1) a fabric store and (2) at least ONE good restaurant.
March 8th we had a great weekend. The weather was gorgeous, about 80 and sunny so we decided on a bike trip to Lake Havasu City. We left about 8:00 Saturday and went west to Blythe. That basically was uneventful.
We did stop in Quartzsite to take in the sights. I've never been past there in the wintertime so we previously missed all its glory. It's quite a happening place with all the adventurous fossils living there in their RV's, shuffling their walkers through the dust to the nearest swap meet/bunko tournament. It's such a beautiful location, also - basically flat, lacking any sort of vegetation or interesting views. I'm sure the raging topic of conversation is the quality of their RV and how they managed to get it from South Dakota to Arizona while only driving off the road 7 times due to heart attack, falling asleep, missing the road entirely and chasing the poodle.
Ken wanted to follow the Colorado on the California side because the road was closer to the river and he thought the view would be more interesting - NOT! The Colorado is about 10 feet wide at this point and meanders to and fro so most of the time we couldn't see it at all. There were some very nice "resorts" however which consisted of a dirt road to the river's edge and about 3 million run-down single wides parked next to each other. I wondered if any of these had been featured on the Travel Channel. We went north to the junction of Highway 62, which, if taken straight west would land you in the middle of Twentynine Palms. Ken decided to get gas since stations are few and far between in the desert. The pumps were so old that he couldn't use a credit card and had to prepay. He paid for $5.00 and could get only 1.5 gallons since regular was $3.00/gallon. At this point, we decided to go back to Arizona and went due east to Parker. About 30 years ago I spent a drunken, speed-boating weekend in Parker and that was the last time I was there. I would have been happy with that. 30 years hasn't made it any more beautiful or desirable and the only reason it's on the map is because it's the closest place to water besides the ocean for all the LA folk with very expensive boats. We were starved and could find about 3 restaurants in town, two of which had absolutely no place to park the Indian, so we settled on a Mexican restaurant with one parking space left. It turned out to be a fast food Mexican place and the place reeked of things I'm sure I never want to know about. While Ken was ordering food, I asked him what the smell was, and of course, being a man, he had never noticed anything. The food was less than mediocre and I'm really surprised I'm still alive from eating it.
Back on the road again, the Arizona side of the Colorado was very spectacular because we started getting into more hilly country with the river next to us. Parker has a dam so the river became wider above that and is quite beautiful.
In no time we were in Lake Havasu City. I'd never been there before and kind of expected another place like Parker, but on the contrary, it is really a beautiful little town, very modern and packed with boaters from Phoenix and Las Vegas this time (excuse me, Las Vegas folks, don't you have Lake Mead much closer?).
We stopped at the Mudshark Brewery because it looked like a great place and mainly because we stop at any place that says "brewery" since good beer is nonexistent in Arizona. We went outside to the patio, had some excellent beer and bemoaned the fact that we had eaten pig swill in Parker instead of holding out for obviously excellent food in Lake Havasu City. At this point, Ken decided he really wanted to live there, which would be really nice, but I don't think there's a lot of anything to sustain a person unless you are (1) already rich (2) a boat repairman or (3) a hot dog vendor.
We left the brewery in search of the London Bridge, which was a couple of blocks north. I thought the London Bridge was built, like by the Romans or something and was really old, but it turns out the London Bridge brought over from England was built in the mid-1800's so it really doesn't look much different than, say, the Sellwood Bridge, just in better shape.
At the last minute we hopped aboard a paddle-wheel boat that was taking tours out into the lake. We went under the bridge and around the "island" that used to be a peninsular until they dug the channel under the bridge. On our way out, we passed by hundreds of boats docked on the water's edge. Apparently the minimum cost of a boat has to be in 6 figures in order to even be allowed on the lake. These boats were filled up with overly-tanned rich California lawyers and their secretaries with bad boob jobs and snotty kids. There were very few boats actually out on the lake, maybe most people weren't drunk enough to go 100 MPH over the water yet. The paddle-wheeler trip was sort of boring, but we did manage to make one old woman from Dirty Ankle, Iowa very uncomfortable in our leathers and long hair. She immediately gathered her purse and all her belongings to her skinny chest so we wouldn't be a-snatching them from her death grip. After the boat trip we wandered about the tourist shops under the bridge and slurped down some ice cream while watching how the rich spend their money.
We hopped back on the Indian and rode through the residential areas and the rest of town. I really couldn't see anything wrong with the place except it only has one tiny fabric shop, that I suspect, only caters to the quilt maker. That's okay if all you ever want to sew on is calico, but I require much fancier materials than that. Ken's real destination was Bullhead City, but he realized it would be better to spend the night in Lake Havasu City than take our chances at the unknown. We got a room at the Ramada Inn across the street from the Mudshark Brewery for only $100.00. Talk about excessive, the place was pretty much a dump and it didn't even include the pathetic continental breakfast. Plus it was a true motel and our door opened directly into the parking lot where at least 17 drag races occurred along with bad music and the ranting of drunken assholes. We walked over to the Brewery for dinner and as we suspected, the food was as excellent as their beer.
The next morning, bright and early we left the luxuriant motel in search for coffee. There was a restaurant at the place, but we figured they had enough of our money already. Alas, there is not a Starbucks on every corner in Arizona, so we ended up at a little café. Waitresses hate it when all you want is coffee and to add insult to injury, all I wanted was an English muffin because it was way too early to eat. She brought me an English muffin slathered in margarine. I didn't recall the menu stating "English muffin slathered in margarine", it simply said "English muffin", so I sent it back and requested butter. She flounced off and said "it would be awhile" to punish me because it does take a lot of time to burn them in the toaster. She finally returned with my dry English muffin and two tiny little butter things that she had just retrieved from the freezer so they had to sit on my muffin in perfect form until they melted enough to even spread. I didn't notice any wet spots on the muffin, so I don't think she spit on it, but she probably wiped it on something disgusting before she brought it out.
We continued on north through some spectacular country until we got to Bullhead City. The only reason that place exists is because Laughlin, Nevada is directly across the river. It was one of those towns you only want to pass through on your way to somewhere else. Ken asked me if I wanted to walk around through the casinos in Laughlin, but next weekend we are going to Las Vegas to meet the Jaimester who will be there for her birthday and I'm sure we'll do plenty of walking through casinos then. So we headed southeast for home on the very same road we will be on next weekend, but fortunately it's a pretty boring ride so we won't miss anything twice. We did, however, pass through huge Joshua tree groves and I was astounded. I didn't think they grew at all in Arizona and there were gazillions more Joshua Trees than in Joshua Tree National Park, famous for its Joshua Trees.
My butt and back were really starting to protest long hours on the rock-hard bike seat and we were hungry, but the closest place we could find to eat was Wickenburg, famous for its bad food. Ken pulled into a Denny's because "we already knew what to expect". Granted I fully expect bad food at Denny's, but this was especially bad. Our waitress was the most incompetent buffoon EVER. We witnessed her as she non-methodically fucked up everyone's order and then would spend at least 10 minutes begging for forgiveness. I also got the distinct impression there were people who actually LIKED eating there. Just what kind of sad lives do the majority of people lead? Never mind, I know because I work with them. Only 40 minutes later and we were home - always good to be there, as long as we still have one!
The 14th I took the day off so we could spend a long weekend in Las Vegas and most importantly, meet the Jaimester and DK who were also in Vegas for Jaime's birthday. We left about 8:00 in the Camaro, back on the same road we were on the previous weekend. It was a beautiful day and all the rain has caused the desert to be especially green with a few wild flowers blooming here and there. A lot of the Joshua trees were in bloom in "Arizona's Joshua Forest" also.
I always forget how spectacular the canyon is where Hoover Dam was built and it's hard to imagine traveling through it before an actual road was created. There was a security check point just before reaching the dam and they were pulling over cars and motorcycles and letting pickups driven by dark, bearded guys with turbans whose pickup beds were bulging with toneau covers under which you could glimpse incendiary devices and illegal weapons go through without question. We fully expected a long delay over the dam because just the weekend before in Lake Havasu City, the RV/boat toting/Yugo-in-tow ex-bikers-who-sold-their-bike because they refused to comply with Nevada's helmet law were complaining that they had to take an alternate route since they weren't allowed to go over the dam, but it was an easy passage.
We got into Las Vegas about 1:00 and went directly to the Stratosphere to check in. Of the hotels I was familiar, they had the best deal. When we checked in, they offered us a suite for $75.00 more a night. If I wanted to pay $164.00 a night plus tax, I wouldn't be staying in that dump. The hotel isn't that old, but it sure is seedy and I rejected the Sahara and Excalibur for that very same reason. We called all the cell numbers I had for Jaime with no answer and also left a message at their hotel room. We were starved because we hadn't eaten anything, but we noticed all the questionable restaurants at the hotel didn't open until 5:00. Jaime called and we told her we would call her back after we found a place to eat.
It turned out Roxy's Café was open in the casino so we went there. Roxy's is a pseudo-1950's type diner and we had our choice to sit in the quiet side without entertainment, or the side where pimply-faced, emaciated waiters were dancing on counters while belting out Elvis tunes. Hard decision. Ken ordered a Fosters and received a Bud Lite. When the waitress checked on it, she said it was a Fosters, but would be willing to take it back and bring something bottled that was drinkable. The food was typical, tasteless American stuff that more than satisfied the majority of middle America with absolutely no concept of things that are good.
After that, we hopped in the car and drove the 1.5 miles to the Imperial Palace, a trip that takes approximately 30 minutes through the Strip traffic. We parked in the hotel's parking lot and went OUT FRONT of the hotel, on the sidewalk, next to Las Vegas Boulevard where we thought Jaime agreed to meet us. We waited and waited and waited and no Jaime. Finally, Ken walked through the bar, past the arrival zone to the front of the hotel entrance where Jaime actually meant for us to meet. She looked spectacular, as always, said DK was taking a nap and would meet us at 5:00 in front of the pirate show at Treasure Island which gave us an hour to goof off. We went to Paris, had a drink and wandered over to Treasure Island.
We found a spot to stand on the platform behind the tallest gay guy on the planet, so he should of course be in the front row. DK showed up with a new Canon camera he had just bought from a camera shop on the strip. It was big and fancy and he knew nothing about how to operate it or if it was any good, for that matter. Ken and I find it hard to believe someone would pay a lot of money for a camera that wasn't digital, but that was the first of many revelations we would learn about DK. Jaime did mention that her dad was writing up a pre-nup for her, so I asked her if she was getting married. She hesitantly said "sometime" and then went on to say they were going to have two kids. The conviction was missing, however, so I started paying closer attention. The Pirate show was cancelled because of high winds. I guess they don't want to set any hapless pedestrian on fire, but that was the whole reason we were there. We went into the Casino to a bar they had been at the night before. Neither Ken nor I were hungry because it wasn't but two hours previously that we had choked down Roxy's fare, so we only had drinks while Jaime and DK had salads. Ken kept the conversation going, but I could see by the glazed eyeballs that DK was not following and more importantly, didn't give a rat's ass because he wasn't leading the conversation. He kept making fun of Jaime and how naïve she is and I also noticed he would strut at least 5 feet ahead of her when we were walking. Right after dinner Jaime whispered to me that DK was getting cranky and they were going to go back to the hotel and she would call me later. That was the last we saw of them. I'm afraid she's making a HUGE MISTAKE and I hope she remembers my #1 rule in life: It doesn't matter who you marry, but BE VERY CAREFUL who you have kids with, because you will be tied to them for the rest of your life.
Since we were left to our own vices, we decided to slowly make our way back to the car at the Imperial Palace, stopping in every casino on the way. We toured through the Mirage and then went to the Forum shops at Caesar's Palace. We had a great time looking at all the over-priced stuff and stopped in at FAO Schwartz to look at the toys. I knew they would have the expensive dolls there and sure enough, we found Gene, Tyler and Alex in all their glory plus the high-end collector Barbies. I discovered that although I'm not a Barbie connoisseur, I knew more about them than the clerk did. It must be a calling...
Since we had walked our feet off and we were across the street from the Imperial Palace, we hunted down our car and went back to the Stratosphere for a night of luxury in our hotel room.
We got up Saturday morning and decided to have a real breakfast instead of the usual vain search for drinkable coffee. We went back to Roxy's and I guess they don't have singing waiters in the morning because it would be too hard on the ones who hadn't been to bed yet. Anyway, the coffee WAS NOT drinkable and had the moldy urn taste, but the breakfast was okay and we were on our way.
Ken's goal at the Stratosphere was to ride the shooter-up needle at the top of the tower. It was 9:00 a.m. and we discovered, when we traveled the approximately 1.5 miles through shops to the tower entrance, that it wouldn't be open until 10:00 and the guard thought it would be highly unlikely that the rides would be running because of the wind and impending rain.
Plan 2 was to ride the roller coaster at New York, New York. This time we decided not to take the car because it is too hard to park it and waited for the Strip Trolley. That's a pretty good deal; for $1.65/person, it stops at all the major casinos down the strip. We got off at New York, New York and headed directly for the roller coaster, thinking it would already be packed. We got there about 5 minutes before it opened and there was absolutely no line. We were in the last car and got really slammed around because the ride is extremely rough, but a good roller coaster nonetheless. Ken wanted a good coffee, so we wandered around the "boroughs" of New York, finding nothing. We planned on taking the tram from Excalibur to Mandalay Bay and as we were leaving New York, New York to go across the street, there was a Starbucks!! Yea! - drinkable coffee.
We jammed in the tram to Mandalay Bay and wandered around that casino for awhile, but nothing exciting was going on so we got on the other tram to the Luxor. That is still my favorite place and I think I will pay any amount of money to stay there hereafter.
Ken wanted to see an Imax film so we bought tickets to "The Grand Canyon", but it didn't start for a couple of hours so we wandered the casino and sat on a bench in front of the talking camels for awhile. This guy staggered and sat down at bench next to us, about 10 feet away. He was drinking a huge beer and he was already drunk on his ass. I watched him sway, mini-pass-out, drink beer, sway, almost throw-up, drink more beer, sway, almost fall over... He finally finished the beer, got up and staggered away. I'm sure that was a glimpse into his entire life. Watching his drinking success made us realize it was time for alcohol and the only place we could find selling anything remotely like that was the Mexican restaurant on the mezzanine. However, you could not sit at a table and order a drink like you would at a normal place. Here you had to stand in line, get your drink and then go find a table. They also couldn't afford to have anyone actually clean the tables either, so we had to move all the smelly crap away from us and hope we didn't stick any parts of our body on the left-over goo that occupied approximately 75% of the table. We didn't spend much time there and it was time for the movie to start. What can I say - Grand Canyon - Imax - always good.
We were hungry and it was early enough to be able to get into a decent restaurant so we took the tram back the Excalibur and went across the street to the MGM Grand at ate at the Rain Forest Café. I love that restaurant and the food, drinks, everything was super good. I wanted to take the monorail from MGM Grand to Bally's, but it was shut down, so we hit the streets until we found another tram. I wanted to go to the Venetia, but wasn't sure how far down the strip it was so we got off at Paris. It actually was quite a ways down so we ended up walking a lot.
We FINALLY got to the Venetian. I might add it had rained that afternoon and the temperature cooled down CONSIDERABLY so I thought I was going to freeze, but my Oregon conditioning kicked in and was able to endure the less than 70 degree weather. The Venetian is so beautiful with the canals and old architecture. We immediately went into the shop area which is huge and makes you feel you are actually outside wandering the streets of Venice. We stopped in a piazza and listened to a trio performing Italian songs with (you won't believe this) an accordion, a violin and a flute. The guy with the accordion took a liking to us and kept sliding over to say things to Ken and one of them was "you're a romantic". The music was really good and we stayed for awhile to listen.
My feet were killing me and we were pretty much tired from the whole day so the most important thing was to find a quick way back to the Dumposphere. We could see the taxi stand at the entrance of the Venetian across the street, but it was one of those things where "you can't get there from here". We backtracked a lot and finally made it to the taxi line. The valet was singing Italian songs while he was shuffling people into taxies. Las Vegas is full of really talented people who probably couldn't break into anything else. It was heaven to be able to ride at any expense and not walk.
Sunday morning when we peeked out the window, it had obviously rained and looked like it was going to burst open any minute. We gathered all our stuff and checked out of our last stay at the Grimeosphere. It really started to rain and we were happy to be riding in the Camaro instead of on the Indian. We stopped in Boulder City at Jitters for coffee and hit the road. It rained all the way back to Surprise! and many times really heavy so it was a grueling drive for Ken. We got home and the yard hadn't sunk so it was another successful trip.