Monday, 15 February 2016

Phoenix, to Tucson

The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. Frank Lloyd Wright

Usery Mountain is a beautiful, verdant Regional Park.

Just as the sun is beginning to set, the cholla shines...
The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and outgoing. There was a Full Moon Hike and Campfire scheduled with Ranger B. We decided this would be interesting, and invited our friends from Mesa Regal, and Bob, the President of Wally Bynam, Region 10, and his wife, Darlene. 

After a pleasant afternoon and dinner, we met along with about 280 others, at the Trailhead Staging Area. After an interesting, intro, we split into two groups, self-guided and guided hikes. We chose to go with Ranger B and headed out on Blevins Trail. It was an incredibly beautiful walk on an easy trail through the desert. The moon was indeed full, but behind a film of cloud for most of the hike. We were amazed, however, how clearly we could see the trail and the surrounding cacti. Ranger B answered questions, and described the surroundings with knowledge, humour and passion.

When our group finished the hike, we discovered that the self-guided group had finished first, and with a large number of children, had finished 5 bags of marshmallows. So we drove back to Run Around Sue and had our own campfire!

John developed a bit of a cold, and was a bit sneezy, so slept a fair bit the next day. By afternoon he was feeling better, so we decided to go for a hike on Cat Peaks Trail and Cat Peaks Pass. To get there we drove to the Trailhead Staging Area
a picnic area as well as the trailhead
and headed out on the Pass Mountain Trail to Cats Peak. The trail is a bit rocky to start as it wound down into a wash

The Wash [ dry river bed]

and back up the other side. From there it was an easy hike to Cat Peaks,

A walk through the beautiful Sonora Desert
through the beautiful Sonora Desert.

The south end of Pass Mountain

A different view of the Pass Mountain in Usery Park
The first part wound around the east side of Cat Peaks.

The first Cat Peak

We had a wonderful view of the beautiful Superstition Mountain.

Looking south to Superstition Mountains about 25 Km away

The climb up through Cat Peaks Pass wound up between the two peaks

Cat Peak 2 from the Pass
of the Cat Peaks,

Starting Down...
and down the other side.
 A narrow, but easy hike down...
We took Blevins Trail

sandy soil, wandering trail

back to the Trailhead. There were a variety of different-shaped Saguaros.

We thought this one had a lot of arms...

An iconic Saguaro

Some even have holes right through, and still flourish

Beautiful as the sun sets across the campground...

This one is probably about 100 years old.

I think we found the one with the most arms we have seen. Even the arms had arms.

I think there about 25 on this on [some are on the back side]

The next day we were up early to go to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and School of Architecture in Phoenix. We drove in off Cactus Road to the entrance on Taliesin Road.

The entrance- The symbol is from a petroglyph. He saw this
as the linking of 2 hands and adopted it as the symbol of Taliesin West.
Drawn to Arizona by the beauty and inspiration of the landscape, Frank Lloyd Wright created one of his most personal designs here. In 1932-33, he and his apprentices [“the Fellowship”] built Taliesin West out of the stone and sand in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains in what he called “Desert Rubble Style”.
For walls, wooden forms were built about 18-24in apart, 3ft high. The space was filled with rocks, then concrete was poured in. When it dried, the forms were moved up and the process repeated, until the wall height was reached...

Some of those apprentices who worked and lived alongside Mr. Wright, still live here as do current students and faculty of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Interns, or apprentices, have a Bachelor of Architecture, and receive their Masters here at a cost of USD $40,000 per year. $1000 of this is refunded if the intern decided to build a residence in the desert.

A student designed and built residence in the desert

Our guide, Jim, was knowledgeable and had a lot of interesting stories.

Jim, our guide
Large rocks with petroglyphs are placed around the estate,

in the same orientation in which they were found. The buildings are built into the brow of the hill.

set into the brow of the hill

The large pillar of rock at the entrance is built at 30 degrees, the angle the rocks were in situ.

At the entrance. Look closely at the narrow side, about a third of the way down is a hammer accidentally dropped into the wooden frame. He decided to leave it there!

This angle is found duplicated throughout the whole structure. Our 90 minute tour took us through outdoors

living rooms to the right, dining room to the left, Triangle shaped grass
A triangular pool in front of the drafting studio 

Breezeway separated the private family rooms from the work areas

There are several pools around the property

The view across to Camel Mountain from the house

Entrance into the movie theatre

His love of angles is evident

and indoors, the office,

Most rooms have a fireplace

Chinese art, the blending of rock and wood 

private quarters, at right angles to the living room open to the courtyard

The "Day Room", and his wife's room

Bedroom- 2 beds, one on either side of the wood half-wall.
and living room,

Living room from the courtyard- more triangles...

Living room- was in the deep blues, then oranges. Here the students were invited to gather each night to socialize before the bell rang for dinner

Angles in the ceiling - triangular lights with attention to detail

There are 2 panels of art using local materials

The fireplace- note use of triangles on the chairs and tables are made of triangles

The bell was rung each night announcing dinner
The back garden

The fire dragon atop the barbeque - black from smoke

Drafting Studio

Pergola along the long wall of the students' studio

and buildings
Inside the door to Movie Theatre- a Chinese artifact

Walkway to the back of the Movie Theatre
Movie Theatre - the ceiling lights are to simulate stars-
to create a sense of watching movies under the stars

View from the front
Pavillion Theatre- for music and drama, with Prompter's box at right

Pavillion Theatre

he called his winter home and workplace. There is also evidence of the influence of Chinese and Japanese cultures,

There were several statues in gardens 

One of these plaques is at each entrance and exit to each building

his love of art and sculptures,

Art of various types is evident outside and inside
and of course his love of triangles. He was also the first to use indirect and corner lighting.

Corner lighting

We decided to grab a quick lunch wrap at Jimmy Johns and go to the Musical Instrument Museum. It is spectacular, rated as the #1 Phoenix attraction by Trip Advisor. It is a musical walk around the world, both today and back in time.

Paigu Yangshao People, Shaanxi Province,China 4000BCE

When you walk in you are given a map and a pair of wireless headsets which automatically sync up with the monitor in each area you visit. We started at a general information exhibit,

looking down from the second floor- instruments hanging above the hall
then into an Orientation Gallery with a display of guitars,

Caviola from Brazil

each one more exquisite than the last.

Bowed Lute Hardinfele- Norway

Gong- Yogyakarta, Indonesia, at the foot of the escalator to the second floor

From here we went up to the second floor with five galleries representing different geographical regions of the world, Africa

Apongan'ny ntaolo drum- Madagasgar

Mbira Lamellaphone, Zimbabwe

Slot Drum

and the Middle East,

Israel Shofar [animal horn], Rahabi

Malay- end blown trumpet

Turkish Tulum [bagpipes]

Mihbaj- Mortar and pestle to crush coffee beans and play rhythms

Pat-waing- Mandalay, Burma circle tumes drums

Video of a performer

Ancient Vietnamese instruments

from the video -playing courtship instruments,
 holding the coconut against his chest to control the resonance


Shakuhachi Flute- Japan

Savon- Central Java

Yu [Scraper] Beijing

Bells China

Latin America


Andean Ensemble

Argentina- Flutes, drums and single string violin
K'ai Organ -Aruba and Curacao

Bow Marimba- Nicaragua


and Oceania,

New Zealand

Vanuatu- slot drums

United States,

Musical Glasses

Marching bands with TV monitor

Hawaii- Hula accompanied by gourd and drum

and Canada,

and Europe.

Violin Makers

Each gallery is further divided into countries, and in some areas, into cultural divisions. The exhibits are exceptional. Each one has a monitor displaying a series of short video and audio clips with performers using the instruments in the display, ancient, traditional and modern, in their cultural contexts. The instrument displays cover every historical period from the Silk Road

Silk Road
to the Present, every geographical area and country, every type of instrument from African thumb pianos,

East Asian nose flutes and lutes from every region to modern artists. We heard music from beautiful cathedrals

Cathedral Music
to the Japanese opera, to street jazz bands of New Orleans, to the Steinway piano

The making of a Steinway Piano

to Taylor Swift. It was very interesting to see that so many regions have used variations on lutes,

Seto Ngbaka People in Ubangi River region

Lyre Guitar

Turkish Lutes

Boat Lute from Southern Philippines

Lutes from Indonesia

and various types of flutes.

Vessel Flutes

Bamboo instruments - Philippines
The building itself was spectacular both inside

The second floor

The main floor
and out. We walked outside and were taking pictures, and a gentleman commented that we “must have liked it if we were taking pictures”. He was the founder of the museum, Robert J. Ulrich. He told us that part of the exterior is polished sandstone from India.

The main entrance

A stunning exterior
We didn’t give ourselves nearly enough time. We did not have time to see the Artist Gallery featuring instruments, concert footage, photos linked to world-reknowned musicians and music innovators, or the Experience Gallery, where you can try out different instruments seen in the museum.

The next day we had planned to go to the Botanical Gardens. We waited to go in the afternoon, because we wanted to see the lighted Gardens too. However, we checked it on the internet before we went, and discovered that the daytime cost was $20, and it closed at 5pm. Then it cost another $25 to go back and see the Gardens lit at night. Since we have been to the Desert Museum a couple of times, we decided it was not worth the $45USD each to see the same plants and then under lights.

As we drove around Phoenix, we were once again impressed by the landscaping by the highway overpasses

Coloured sand and stones form beautiful patterns

the beautiful freizes on the overpasses and the sound barriers on the side of the highway,

coloured sound barriers

and beautiful designs, mountains

and cacti

and along the streets.

landscaping along by the road

We loved the desert landscaping
We discovered how you could tell where an RV Park was – just look for the tall palm trees!

An RV Park Resort
Our last day at Usery Mountain was filled with washing, haircuts and cleaning.
Then it was off to Tucson.

From Hwy 60, our last view of the Superstition Mountain by Lost Dutchman SP

We decided to take the back road, Highway 79, rather than the main Highway 10. It is an excellent 2-lane road through the Sonoran Desert. Initially, the terrain is flat with fewer saguaros and chain-fruit chollas. 

We were surprised at the change in terrain, flat and not as verdant
Past Florence, the Sonoran became more verdant, and with many more cacti especially prickly pear, larger chollas, and saguaros.

Many more cacti and palo verde trees,

and much more grass than up around Phoenix

As we got closer to Tucson, we could see the Catalina Mountains to the south, with just a dusting of snow on them.

Catalina Mountain Range
In early afternoon, we pulled into Catalina State Park in Oro County on the outskirts of Tucson, unhitched and moved everything from travel-mode to living-mode. It was quite different from living right in the desert with cacti all around, to a large flat area,

Larger,flat area, with grass but no cacti in the sites

But right at the foot of the Catalina mountains

with planted trees on each site, and grass between. John called our friends who were staying in the south end of Tucson, and arranged to meet them for dinner. We drove to their RV to be greeted with great enthusiasm by the two dogs, Charlie and Tucker. Dave said he was sure they remembered us, even though it has been almost a year since we saw them at Santee Lakes. After catching up over a wonderful meal at the Desert Diamond Casino, we headed back, hoping there would not be a gate that closed at 10, as there is at Picacho Peak SP. Luckily we were able to drive in, with no barriers!

Since the weather has continued to be warm, we have enjoyed coffee, just relaxing, walks around the campground, doing circuits at LA Fitness and a visit to Mesa RV’s Show in the Oro Valley Marketplace parking lot across the main road from the Park.

RV show in the parking lot, 

with RV's of every size

The Tucson Gem Mineral and Fossil show is just opening. It will be a new experience for us to see the show in all the areas all over the city.

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