Saturday, December 22, 2007

11.30.2007...Goodbye D70

Hello everyone. A happy, belated Thanksgiving to all. Monica and I were lucky enough this year to have Monica's family visit us. In short, we had a great time! I'm not going to show you the obligatory pigging out pictures at our house. However, if any of you would like to see us pig out and see what our house looks like (at least from the decidedly off camber perspective of one Brett Spigelman) please use this link to "you-tube" for a seven minute video. And don't forget, I warned you!

So, what did we do for the Thanksgiving weekend? Well, among a thousand things (don't worry, you'll be spared 996 of those things) we drove down to Patagonia. I've mentioned this place before (no tests this time, but you'd better pay attention.). Monica said they were having their holiday craft fare and we thought it would be interesting. A lovely time. Ann Marie and Monica met Santa, who turned out to be a Santa with a sense of humor. Lots of one liners from this gift giving old fellow. He also proved to be a fine tourist guide as he pointed out certain galleries that we were looking for. Below, the sisters meet Santa in the town coffee house. I think they look maaaarvelous (my apologies to Billy Crystal.)

And in one of those galleries, a number of which were in the artist's home, I came across a certain mirror that had a lovely group of people reflected from it. OK,OK, so I told everyone to pose. It still didn't come out the way that I envisioned it, but at least I got all of us in (barely.)

And in another place, another mirror. Good looking Brett on the left. You should try this. The subject (at least the one on the right) never makes a false move and always does what you want without being told. (Must be mental telepathy!)

Still in Patagonia, we met a very nice artist displaying his art outside of the first mirrored gallery. He was from California and was very glad to be living in Patagonia . Something about a slightly less stressful life. ANYWAY, he spies us posing on and around the swinging chair and noticed (unlike yours truly) that we had no spare family member to operate the camera. Well, before I could say anything, he took both my camera and Jim's camera and volunteers to take our picture. He did a good job too. Now if we could only get Jim's camera back...........

That evening we took a splendid ride back to Tucson through the Patagonia Mountains. Lots of photo ops (nearly lost Jim a couple of times as he yelled stop the car and ripped his door open, followed closely by Brett, both clutching their cameras.). You'll notice I didn't include any such shots. Yes, my camera was locked away in the trunk. That's me, ever ready's twin brother, never ready. Welllll, not really.

SO, we went to a very nice Italian restaurant in Tubac. Almost the entire rear wall of the restaurant was glass. Off in the distance was the Santa Rita mountain range. A really beautiful view to accompany a nice meal. And then...BOOM, the full moon bursts from behind the Santa Ritas. Brett and I ran to the car and I grabbed my camera and long lens and stood in the garden firing away. The below picture was one of the few that came out. AND, if you look carefully to the right of the moon, at the mountain range's highest peak, you can just make out a small almost translucent dome. That's the Whipple Observatory located on top of Mount Hopkins. This observatory is operated by the Smithsonian Institute and contains one of the largest mirrored telescopes in the world. (Hey, what's going on here with all these mirror shots - wait a minute! Spigelman in German means...........wait for it...........MIRROR MAN!!!!....really.)

Then, off to Tohono Chul Park's Holiday Lights Festival. Monica worked here for the first year and a half after we moved here and she was really relieved this time to be a spectator rather than a member of the staff. Another very good time and Brett got to chug apple cider with Frosty (turned out to be Mrs Frosty.)

So, what else did we do? The day after Thanksgiving we got some exercise in (but not as much as Steve who took his unbelievable Merlin framed bike,, on a 35 mile jaunt to the NW of Tucson instead of going with us) by visiting the Sonoran Desert Museum which is just west of the Tucson Mountains. It's a great place to see native animals in their natural habitat, including birds of prey. They put on a very good educational show using these hawks. At times, these birds were soaring just inches over our heads. Just had to show you a couple of pictures of them.

All right, I'd like to say this picture shows Ann Marie's EXTREME reluctance to leave her favorite relatives in Tucson. So, if I left it at that you'd buy it, right? No? All right then. It was taken as we searched for our car in the parking lot. We were a little pooped after all that walking and Jim is giving her a helping hand.

So, that's how we spent our Thanksgiving weekend. Hope all or your Thanksgiving weekends were as nice as ours!

PS. Not that you'll notice in the future, but this is the last picto-gram featuring images taken by my old faithful Nikon D70 DSLR camera. My new Nikon D300 arrived yesterday and picto-gram shots will be coming from that camera for the foreseeable future. least I'm excited about it!

The below photos were added by Brett in memory of the fallen D70 and his loving, talented, and handsome pop.

11.5.2007...Not to mention the pretty foreground

Hello everyone, just a quick blast from Tucson. Nothing much new. Monica and I went for a hike in Catalina State Park on Sunday afternoon and we thought we'd show you some scenery from there.

Here's me (well duh!). The park is in on the west side of the Santa Catalina Mountains and if you look over my left shoulder and pick out the mountain peak at about 1 o'clock, we live on the opposite side of that ridge (Pusch Ridge.). It's about a 20 minute ride from home.

Ah, if you only knew the mad dash I had to make to get in this picture, with my camera bag banging against my back and Monica and I trying to refrain from giggling too much. And this was the second take!

These aren't the tallest peaks in the Catalinas, but they sure are pretty (not to mention the pretty foreground as well.)

Finally, Monica pointed this vista out to me (I was too busy looking down to avoid stepping on anything nasty-not that I ever did see anything like that, mind you.). All I needed to do was step about ten feet forward from the trail and the saguaros obliged by nicely framing the Catalinas.

10.23.2007...Off Wheeling!

Hello everyone. Monica and I went 4 wheeling off road (do you think I've got that phrase right?) for the first time ever, this weekend. Friends of ours (Doug and Marlene) suggested we go off roading (they have a Jeep Liberty) and they said they had picked out a moderate trail in the Superstition Mountains (East of Phoenix) and we were happy to join them. Now, Monica and I have taken our car on dirt roads etc., but this was REALLY off road! And if this was a moderate trail, put my order in for a Sherman Tank next time. Naturally, we had a great time. The scenery was simply fantastic and I've had a very difficult time whittling down all the pictures I took to just a few. OK, just 14 then.

These first pictures were taken pretty early on in the trip and were beautiful. We had no idea that it would continue to get more and more rugged and remain just as pretty.

This area was sparsely populated, mostly by miners and those providing services to those miners. Mostly copper mines, I think. We were lucky to be traveling with Doug as his father was a geologist and he knows quite a bit about that kind of thing. He showed us how we could spot abandoned mines from great distances (not at all easy to spot even if you're just a few feet from them) by looking for the tailings around the mines entrance (the debris field produced by the miners as they removed the waste contents from the mine's interior.). I still can't get over how rugged and unspoiled the area is.

This is an abandoned stage coach depot. It probably won't be in existence at all in 10 years or so due to the roof collapsing and putting pressure on the front wall, plus the stucco covering the old adobe bricks has started to come off, exposing the mud bricks to the summer monsoons. We looked around the area and it was plain to see that this area was as remote then as it is today. Which begs the question, just where the heck were those people traveling to? Gotta try to look up the history of that depot.

Not too far off we began to see craggy and rough cliffs, with tinges of red and orange. Also, plenty of saguaro cacti. This one is just such a classic looking saguaro. Note the color of the sky. An amazing blue. The scenery soon became dominated by this type of rock.

Here's Dough and Marlene, just kind of relaxing, on our way up to Martinez's Cabin (which btw, was a good distance from where we had to finally leave the jeep and hike the rest of the way.). Doug attained the rank of "off road Deity Pilot", at least as far as I'm concerned.
I still can't get over some of the obstacles that Doug drove us through, over and around and thankfully not under.

Just a typical vista on the trail. These kind of views were everywhere and that's not an exaggeration.

OK, pull up a boulder, put the table cloth down, look up at the view and look down to eat lunch. Then look up again and chew, if you've managed to close your jaw which has dropped open from the view. This was very close to Martinez's cabin, which was our ultimate destination (but not the end of the adventure.). This is where we pulled the jeep as far off of the trail as possible (which wasn't very far, but good enough to allow the occasional ATV and odd dirt biker to get through.). After a lovely lunch, we hiked the rest of the way up to the cabin. The folks who picked this location to live (it was occupied until sometime in the 1950s) picked a great place, as it has a fresh water spring that has nurtured huge cotton wood trees and
many types of green fauna, not to mention drinking water for them. This area apparently served the miners needs, as one cave was actually used as a bordello. Well, that's what the book says!

Again, this view is directly adjacent to the remaining cabin.

So, this is what we came all this way to see? Here's Martinez's cabin, I think. There were several structures in varying states of decay, so I've picked this one out as THE cabin, mainly because I can. Despite the shabby state of affairs, boy was it worth coming out to see!! Even this cabin has a great view.

Just behind the cabins, the rocks seem to glow from within. Unbelievable colors and views, everywhere.

Remember the bordello cave I mentioned in the last post? Well, here it is. Marlene and I will await Doug's findings, thank you very much. This cave was very hard to spot. Even though we all looked for it on the hike into the cabin area, we only just spotted it on the hike out of the cabin area. Like I said, these caves and mines can be very hard to find. Anyone feel like looking for the "Lost Dutchman's Mine?" (Doug has, in a fashion, but that's another story.)

I included this shot for a number of reasons. First, I love the colors of the rocks. Simply amazing. Second, it gives you all a chance to see how narrow some of the trails are in these slot
canyons. Third, I can tell you that, whilst this picture was taken on our way out of the Superstition Mountains, this was most definitely not the route we had intended to take out.

So why did we take an entirely different and unplanned route out of the Superstition Mountains? Take a close look at the picture below. That's one of two very heavily modified off road trucks that broke at this spot on the trail into the cabins. Except that these monster trucks were going in the opposite direction from us. They were leaving the area (or trying to.) The white vehicle (which is dead in the water, so to speak) is being winched over a VERY LARGE obstacle which spanned the entire trail. It apparently was the event of the day as it attracted a crown of a dozen or so spectators (including us) who couldn't move past this point until they cleared the trucks out of the way. I think that this is one of the things that these off roaders like to boast about. How they broke their trucks and then how they saved themselves from certain catastrophe. They're very strange people! I want to be one of them!!

This should give you some idea as to the size of the obstacle that stopped these trucks dead in their path. Notice Doug far off to the right chatting with some of these off roaders? More on that in a moment.

All right then. Here's a picture of the vehicle that we were in (taken at a different spot on the trail of course.)

Not that our jeep was anything to sneeze at (as mentioned before, it negotiated obstacles that were just huge, with Deity Doug's deft direction.) But I think you get my drift. How could we negotiate that monster that had broken specially modified off road trucks in our completely stock Jeep? Leave that up to Doug, who sized up the situation and quickly said, "we can get down that thing." Sweat appeared on MY brow! Then Doug followed this statement with, "but we'll never get up that rock to come back." Oh great! But not to fear, Doug has a plan. He's talked to several other temporarily stranded people here (see above) and they all tell him of another way out, through Box Canyon. Not nearly as rough as this, they said. And although it did have its moments, they were right. It was a beautiful new trail for, us as serendipity strikes again.

And here we are, taking one last picture of the group, surrounded by the walls of the narrow slot canyon called Box Canyon......Boy, does this picture deserve a comic caption to explain why we're all leaning to the right! We four know why. Can you guess?

10.21.2007...From SLC to Tucson

Hi all. Monica and I just got back from a delightful trip to Salt Lake City, via several national forests, four Indian nations, the Vermilion Cliffs and Echo Canyon and the most beautiful scenery between Globe Az and Tucson. When my brother Alan said he and Diane were driving to SLC we thought what a terrific opportunity to see them and our niece Margot (who lives in SLC.). We used this drive as a scouting trip for northern Arizona and southern Utah, so we didn't do a lot of stopping, but we sure took names (of places we plan on going back to.).

Well, here's SLC. I can't say that we got a real good handle on the town, but we can tell you several things. First, the town proper is owned lock stock and barrel by the Mormon Church. This building was just one of many such buildings in the center of the Mormon center. It reminded me a little of Disney World (and I mean absolutely no disrespect what so ever.)

Number two: Where the city decided to keep old buildings, they did a nice job. They've built a convenient lite rapid transit system (which is free in the downtown area.). This is the old Union Pacific Railroad Depot.

The inside of the Railroad Depot and that little dot in the middle is Monica. Please note, the floor is clean enough to eat off of. In fact, this is one clean city! The railroad restoration stops here as the rail tracks have been completely removed. In fact, they've built an outdoor shopping mall behind the depot (directly to Monica's right.). The murals are striking, but I don't think that any locals use this place. It was empty while we were there (I understand that they do rent the place out for corporate events, etc..)

Number three: This city is situated in a striking and beautiful area. This is a view from our hotel window. I don't know what mountains those are, but almost every mountain we saw was snow capped. Very pretty!

As I said, we really didn't spend too much time in any one place and much of our limited time in SLC was family oriented, which was a good thing. We really enjoyed Alan, Diane and Margo's company (and Margot, you have an open invite to Tucson.).

Next stop was Winslow Arizona, the home of the Eagle's song "Standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona, what a fine sight to see......" or something like that. There's plenty to do around Winslow (not so much in Winslow.). There's the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest and Meteor Crater. However, Winslow happens to have a lovingly restored 1920s Fred Harvey hotel called La Posada. For those of you not familiar with the Fred Harvey story, well you've come to the wrong place. OK, I'll try to give the abridged and VERY short version and if any of these facts aren't quite accurate, your free to jump in and carry on.

Fred Harvey, a man of some talent, made a deal sometime during the first 2 decades of the twentieth century with the Sante Fe Railroad. Essentially Harvey said to the folks at Sante Fe RR, you build the tracks to carry the people out west to the natural wonders and I'll build hotels like they've never seen before. And he did. I don't know how many Harvey hotels are still standing, but I know of at least three. One in the Grand Canyon, one in Winslow and one currently being restored in CA. The one in Winslow, called La Posada is where we stayed.
It's almost completely restored (some work is being done outside) and unfortunately very little of the original furniture remains, as the RR took over the hotel (this one was doomed from the start because it opened just after the Wall Street crash of 1927 which ushered in the great depression) and turned it into an operations center. However, the folks doing the reno did a wonderful job and it's striking in so many ways.

I've no idea what this room is used for, but it's got a fabulous fire place and you can see the terrific detail and workmanship that went into the construction of the hotel. This is one of a number of rooms that make up the public areas, although this is the largest one not counting the check in area. The colors and design really give the feeling of a blend of the old west and a Mexican hacienda.

A peak down the hallway off of the checkin area. This leads to some of the guest rooms. Again, the details in the stucco work and stone floors etc. is striking. A very pretty place to stay. The rail road tracks practically define the end of the hotel's property out back and these tracks are very active as they are the main conduit between here and LA,or so I heard. I can tell you that there was nearly constant RR traffic whenever I looked out at the tracks! Many guests sit in old comfy chairs out back just feet from the tracks and watch the traffic lumber by.

BTW, notice there aren't any people in these shots? The hotel was completely booked (on a Wednesday night no less.). This may be attributable to the fact that the shots were taken at night and the observation that the average age of the guest was...old (and look who's telling you this!).

As mentioned before, there's not that much to do in Winslow AZ other than standing on the corner. So Monica obliged the camera guy who hasn't an original thought in his head.

Bet you didn't know that Winslow is situated directly on Route 66, did ya?

So we're back down in Arizona now, having passed between Bryce and Zion National Parks in Utah (we didn't stop at either-remember, this was a scouting trip, not enough time to stop in a lot of fabulous places.)

Between Tonto National Forest and the city of Globe and very close to the Mogallon Rim is the Salt River Canyons. This is also an Indian Reservation (the Salt River Indians.) We passed through three other Indian Nations (Navaho, Apache and I can't remember the other) as well as the Vermilion Cliffs (simply spectacular-but we didn't stop, so no pics-I could have stayed there taking pictures for several days) and the Echo Canyons (ditto for not stopping-Bisbee was awaiting us at home.). Below is a very typical view of the Salt River Canyons. This river, which is not visible at the bottom in this picture, winds its way through miles and miles of wilderness. It got its name from the saline tasting water and the Native Americans also took their name from the name of the river.

Had to take a picture of the car that took us round trip about 1500 miles. I must say, it was a pleasure to drive it and Monica spelled me at the wheel so it wasn't hard to stay fresh. In the back ground are more features of the Salt River Canyons.

More of the Salt River Canyons, but look in the fore ground and you'll notice a large rock. Look closer and you can make out the ancient rock art etched there by a Native American. No idea what it says and there aren't any plaques or signs even to draw your attention to them. There were many in this location. Unfortunately, some were defaced with graffiti. Unbelievable isn't it? But there were still many more in great shape just lying on the ground exactly where they were etched so many centuries ago.

One last stop and that's Globe Arizona. You wouldn't think that there's much going on in Globe, but they do have a really excellent Native American village that has been restored. The village of Besh-Ba-Gowah was populated by the Salado Indians. The ruins and reconstructed buildings you see here were from the 13th century. This really caught me by surprise as I had no inkling that Native Americans from so long ago were building such substantial structures. These were permanent structures built by people who meant to stay where ever they lived. They were skilled at farming and had several techniques to deal with with dry conditions of the south west. These people were the ancestors of the Tohono Odham people who eventually settled in the Tucson area. The woman in the picture below is not a Native American Indian.

Another Salado structure. Notice the long shadows. Look carefully at the second from the right group of shadows and you can see my legs and head. All right, so it's getting late and I'm tired.

One more shot of our car in the parking lot of the Indian village. After leaving here, we made a dash over the long and narrow highway between Globe and Tucson. Both Monica and I agreed that this highway, which is not designated as a scenic byway or equipped with any vehicle pullouts was equal to any scenic byway that we travelled during this trip. It traveled through desert and sky islands (mountains that rise from the desert floors that resemble islands in an ocean.). It's easy to see how the west could capture so many people's imaginations. We can't wait to start planning trips to explore the areas that we travelled through.

PS. See that little kiss on the rear bumper? I did that during my drive from NY to Tucson when we moved. Just myself and Bisbee (Monica moved two months before us to start a new job.) Bisbee never warned me about that 3' tall post that I backed into. I didn't talk to him for the rest of that day.

10.8.2007...the Thinning Blood in the Hot Weather

Hi Jerry and Ben. Hope you're weekends were good (and hope that you can take off for Columbus Day.). As I mentioned, Monica and I went to a Tohono Odham Native American scholarship dinner on Saturday nite.

Guess who's in the lower left corner of the shot. I know, that's not a difficult question. The really funny thing about the evening was our reaction to the weather. The event was outdoors and adjacent to an historical mission, just outside of Tucson. The temperature fell to the mid 60s and we acted as though it was in the mid 30s. We were really chilled by the end of the evening. Holy cow! There must be truth to the old adage about thinning blood in the hot weather. Anyway, we had a good laugh over this.

Monica loves to dance and as I never take her dancing, she jumped at the opportunity when one of the other guests invited her onto the dance floor. The only problem was, Monica had no idea what the dance step was and her partner didn't lead her. Well, judging from the picture blur, it sure didn't stop her from having a good time. Maybe I could have kept the camera a little steadier?

Taken just a little after sunset from the inside of the plaza. ISO is 800 and the D70 proudly shows off its grain. I would hope the D300 would have less grain than this. I know the D200 sure has less. But sometimes grain is good (he says with a smile.)

Anyway, that's how we spent our Saturday nite. We had a very nice time and it was for a worthy cause.

10.6.2007...Cubs vs. Diamondbacks

We went to the Diamondback's playoff opener vs. the Cubs this week. The real shocker, in my mind, was that we were able to buy tickets for the game just a day or two ahead. Well, as Doug (of Doug and Marlene who we drove up to Phoenix with us) reminded me, this ain't NY with eight million people to draw from. Point well taken Doug.

So here comes Louuuuuuuuuuuuuu Pinela, the Cubs manager. Lou has put on a little weight since his playing days in NY (and just who hasn't?) and I can assure you he was holding his tummy in for all he was worth, this being National TV and all. Notice the Cub fans behind the dugout. I'd estimate that 35-40% of the crowd were Cub fans. This picture could be a collectors item since this might be the last time those fans have anything to cheer about (you Mets and Yankee fans can commiserate right about now.).

Ahhhh, Soriano and Lou as best of friends. Knowing the way Lou carries his feelings (him being somewhat of a follower of Billy Martin), Soriano better have a pretty spectacular game today to get that kind of reception from Lou again.

After the Diamondbacks were introduced, the House was ROCKING!!!! And the roof was open. Pretty interesting to watch it go open too. Faster than you think. It caught me flat footed as I had the wrong lens on the camera and by the time I stopped watching it long enough to think of taking a picture, it was open. BTW, the National Anthem was performed by a professor with a trumpet. He was outstanding. That's him on the jumbo-tron on the right of the score board.

A young fan comes prepared, but despite his best efforts, he never got on TV. That's Doug to the right.

Finally, lets play ball. It was a very well played game featuring excellent pitching on both sides and very good defense. either team could have won, but it looks like the Cubs might have to wait 100 years for a World Series win. The Goat lives (if you're a Cubby fan, you'll know what that means.).