Monday, March 31, 2014

Roadrunner Reflections - ASU Memories

Since we were in Mesa for a few weeks we were able to go over to Arizona State in Tempe where I spent four years of my young adult life.  I attended ASU 1971-1975.

It was different even from the last time we were here three years ago.  There were still some familiar landmarks and I was glad to be able to walk from our parking spot on one side of the campus and make it over to the main area  of the campus (to the Memorial Union - MU) without a problem.  Winding through some sidewalks and auditoriums, I remembered a few classes I had take here and there.  We never did make it over to the College of Business where I spend most of my time.

I was struck once again by the different the look of the grounds.  It seemed so much smaller and crowded than it was a student.  Arizona State was a big school back then - almost 30,000 students.   But now it has almost 60,000 students making it the largest undergraduate population in the nation.

The fountain, MU building, Women's Gym, Palm Walk, Hayden Library, were all there.  About the only thing that looked the same was Palm Walk.
I remember walking back to the dorm from classes in the evening and sitting on the benches and taking in the smells.  Orange blossoms in late winter/early spring were more than I could take!  I would inhale to the bottom of my lungs and soak it up...

The central part of the campus was the fountain where people would come and hang out and people watch.  Not far away others would throw frisbees or talk or study in the shade.  It seemed back then to be a large and expansive, open campus.  Not now.  It is full of huge and mammoth buildings and lecture auditoriums where parking lots or open areas existed.  It seemed as if there were twice as many buildings as there used to be in the same space...

We drove around just on the edge of campus over to a couple of places I used to live:
Saguaro Dormitory - My freshman year I lived in the dorm and walked to class.  It was fine and I liked the cafeteria food.  Most folks like to rag on it but it usually tasted good to me.  When we drove over near where it used to be, a monstrosity of a dorm complex has swallowed it up and the entire area is not recognizable.  I did see a What-A-Burger that was on the corner.  On special once in awhile occasions I'd eat Sunday dinner there.  But mostly I would not splurge my $$ like that.

Lemon Street - my second year I moved in with Rick who had an apartment.  Rick had one bedroom and another roommate (Bob) and I shared another.  That was great and I really felt like I was learning how to live on my own then.  We cooked and did laundry next door at the laundromat.  I have a few poignant memories in the apartment.  I remember hearing on the stereo that Nixon resigned and listened to John Denver a lot.  I also remember studying at my little setup in the bedroom on Sunday nights and listening to the radio.  I think it was there I learned about all-nighters and realizing cramming was a pretty ineffective way to study.  I went through the whole book and all the exercises but by the time the 8:30 AM test rolled around my mind was completely fried...

Mill Ave - my senior year I moved into another apartment, this time by myself.  It was located behind a house on Mill Ave above the separate garage.  We drove down the alley and found it and it was still there.

During our time down memory lane (my memories actually since I did not meet Pam until 1978) 40 years, the university has bought up a lot of real estate, so familiar places are the dormitory where I lived as a freshman, and the lighted tennis racquetball courts, and the Haberdashery, Hobo Joe's restaurant, The Tee Pee (Wigwam) motel, the Burger Queen hamburger joint....

The Howard Johnson's where I worked (across from Grady Gammage Auditorium) is still there but the name has changed under new ownership.

Like most things of long ago - it has changed considerable.  But I remember the good times I had at ASU and all the friends and great times.  My circle of friends primarily centered around my new found faith while a freshmen.  Most of my activities were involved with Campus Crusade for Christ during college.  I remember thinking as a freshman about this huge decision I was making as a friend urged me to pray.  I thought, "OK I am going to pray here and if this belief system works - great.  If not the joke is on me..."  43 years later, it is the most significant decision I have ever made.

I was not a party animal, but I remember loving the football games and watching all the folks get dressed up for the big event.  And I liked watching the college baseball games.  Back then Danny White was the quarterback of the Sun Devils under head coach Frank Kush.  Bump Wills (son of LA Dodger great Maury Wills) played on the NCAA national championship contender team.  At that time both football and baseball teams were powerhouses.  This past year the football team had a good season, but one would think if they have such a huge student body population, they would be able to field a top 10 team every year in many sports?

Yes -- it was a fun couple of hours being on campus and drifting back to earlier days.

 Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Until next time...

Thoughts on Our Stay at Mesa Regal RV Resort

This is our first stay at a large as in very large RV Resort.  We decided to give it a whirl here in Mesa since we have heard good things about these places.  I remember the term "snowbirds" back in the early 1970's when I went to school at Arizona State in nearby Tempe.  Now I are one.

Sunday was a good day to arrive, there was almost no traffic and no waiting at check-in.  It was easy place to find but we noted the parking spot for check-in is fairly tight.
After a few moments and no issues, we were escorted over to our site by a guy in a golf cart.  I told him that he didn't need to stay, Pam and I could back it in fine.
And we did - no issues.

At first glance it seems really tight, but our 2007 Allegro Bus turns well and I went slow.  With Pam giving large animated hand signals, we backed in, straightened it up and were done. We had a big concrete slab for the car and our 'common area' to host friends and guests if we wanted to.
We maneuvered the Roadrunner into place, adjusted so the door opened next to the grapefruit tree.
And were all set in a few minutes.

There's a lot to like about this place.  First and foremost -- the people!  This has to be one of the friendliest RV parks we have visited.  Three people came over and said 'hi - welcome!' within the first hour.  That was nice.

Our second day here, a lady stopped by with a "Welcome Package".  It had a bottle of wine, two glasses and some other goodies in it.  We were quite impressed!

And though the place is very large with 2000+ sites, it really is enjoyable.  We have a lot of amenities and they have organized things well.  For example,
- near the office, we have our own Post Office with a PO Box.  And UPS delivers right to our site.
- there is a large common area near the front pool where folks can gather each morning for coffee and gab/socializing
- dog owners are in another area of the park, so we seldom see or hear them.  When we go on walks in the evening, the dogs that are out are very well behaved and we have yet to hear any barking
- we are intermingled with the old and new units, as well as the park models, 5th wheels and motor homes
- our own separate trash and recycle bins that are emptied weekly and every other week.
- we are mixed with the folks that are here for a few weeks or a few months and we 'feel' part of the community
- the two pools are good sized and we are half way between both.
- large number of pickle ball and bocce ball courts
- large laundry with 24 washers and the same number of dryers
- clubs and groups of lots of hobbies:  tap dancing, piano playing, silver jewelry, quilting, sewing, computer clubs, etc
- a large fitness center
- lots of pool tables
- poker room and card tables
- gift shop
- complete woodworking shop

- golf driving range (into a net)
- tiki bar at the pool with happy hour starting at 3 PM
- full time maintenance crew who keeps the grounds and trees well manicured
- folks who take pride in there places with lots of flowers and some fountains
The list goes on and on.  If you get bored at this place it is not for the lack of things to do.

One thing I thought was a great idea was the block party our 10th street had.  They apparently have one every month.  We signed up and it was a nice way to meet people.
I met Vince and we partnered for the bean bag toss tournament.
We all grabbed some shade and got ready to play and enjoyed the ups and downs of each match.  Then Vince and I got to play our first match. We smoked our opponents 15-0 in the first game and vaulted to the top of the bracket.  Unfortunately after that, we sat out most of the afternoon and cooled off considerable.  Then we got ousted in a quick 10-15 game and that was it for us.

The highlight of the get-together was the potluck at the hosts campsite.
He and his wife have been coming here for 19 years.  We grabbed some food and sat down, ate and got to meet a nice couple from Ohio.  Ray and Luellen are workampers here and are in their second season.  And then everyone stood up and introduced themselves, gave a little background on where they were from and we got an idea of who they were.  It was very nice.

All in all, we really liked this large and up-to-now foreign snowbird resort.  It has a lot of amenities and to our surprise--full of very friendly folks.  Folks from all over, half of our neighbors are from different parts of Canada.

We would take another shot at staying at a place like this is the future as we look for winter time month+ stays.  Some of the drawbacks or down side items would be:
- does not have the 'it factor' for camping
- surprisingly slow internet connections
- streets ok and well maintained but are narrow and somewhat tight

We'll be here another day and then off to Catalina State Park north of Tucson.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Until next time...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix

We continued our quest to see state capitols last week by visiting Arizona's in downtown Phoenix.

It was a nice day and we got there mid morning.
The state capitol complex has the old state capitol building (now the museum) with the governors offices directly behind the main museum.  To the right and left of the capitol building are the House of Representatives building on one side and the State Senate on the other.

Construction of the capitol began in 1898 and took three years.  It was built in part to demonstrate the territory was ready for statehood but that did not happen until 1912.

We found the Liberty Bell which is something we look for at each capitol.
Then we took a walk around the grounds and saw the Wesley Bolin (15th governor of Arizona) Plaza of outside memorials and displays for noteworthy events and people in Arizona's history:
Inside the old capitol building and now full time museum, we were greeted by a volunteer docent who told us about the copper platters and settings that were part of the USS Arizona display.
Before the war, the valuable place settings were sent away to Bremerton, WA 'in case anything happened'.  That was fortuitous since the ship was lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  After the war a section of the ship and all the fancy place settings were sent to the capitol building to be part of the display.
Two famous Arizonans had individual areas - Cesar Chavez and Barry Goldwater.  There were lots of others (less famous to me).  I knew Goldwater was from here but I thought Chavez was from California where he was active in worker's rights activism in the 1960's.
The old capitol (museum) was fairly small but it was used until 1960 when the House and the Senate moved to it's own buildings.  Looking down from the third floor, we could see the chandelier and mosaic of the state emblem.
The Old West in the Arizona territory was given a lot of attention and something I liked to read about.  Mining is and was a big part of the state's economy beginning in the mid 1800's.  The introduction of the railroad throughout the territory contributed significantly to its development.  Today Arizona is the largest copper producing state in the Union.
The old House chambers were open for our viewing.  Interesting to note, they were used as late as 1960 until they moved to another building.
We had a relatively short visit on the grounds before we headed out to grab some lunch.

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles today!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Desert Flowers Hike

We went hiking in the desert outside of Mesa yesterday over at Usery Mountain Regional Park.  It reminded me a little of our hikes near Tucson.  Plenty of desert -- well marked and really a beautiful day.
The regional park is used a lot and the trails are easy to follow.  We started out on the Noso Trail and ended up on the Blevins Trail.
Almost immediately we saw lots of flowers.
Bushes, cacti and trees had some blooms going.  It was just one of those days I said to myself, "I love the desert".  I think it has been a dry season here and we marveled at how green things were.  I can't image how it would be if it rained three of four times a month here.
The ocotillo blooms were the most prevalent with their bright orange colors.  But their were plenty of purple cacti too.

We picked easy trails and enjoyed a leisurely walk through the countryside.
On a great day like this we were not alone
A guy and his dogs
Another guy and his bike
And some creatures
A dove (or quail)
Some ground squirrels
And a hawk 
And a couple of saguaro cactus sitters

It was a pretty big one and I barely got a photo of him.  We were walking up the Crimson Wash Trail and he was criss crossing it in front of us.  Even though I was 'ready' I still almost missed him.

Mostly on our hike, I think we enjoyed the flowers most of all.  They just kept coming.
The trails took us in a series of right turns so we essential walked in a rectangle box direction.
After a good hike, the trail took us back to the Horse Trailhead Staging Area where we were parked.

We found a covered picnic table and enjoyed more of the day over a picnic lunch.  Another great time in the desert...

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chihuly in the Desert - Phoenix

We knew we wanted to see the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix and got to do that last week.
It was a terrific bright and sunny day to walk through the exhibits.  Dale Chihuly had some exhibits lighted in the evening, but we will have to save that for another time.  They were quite spectacular in the day time, more so in the evening we were told.
The Gardens were just the right size - not too big that it takes all day.  But there were enough side trails and exhibits to keep it interesting.  And it was the type of place that made you feel like you wanted to stroll through it and take it all in.  It was all very well done.
There were many separate trails
and some individual displays and as one would expect lots of desert plants with signs.
I love the beauty of the desert but often don't know what kind of cactus or plant I am looking at.

We caught it at a good time to see plenty of blooming plants.  It was really colorful!
And no surprise here - but there was a lot of cacti.  What surprised me was the many different varieties of the same kind, 
- like prickly pear cactus
- or barrel cactus
- or chollas
plus new things.
- Octopus cactus
And familiar plants
The real bonus was all the Chihuly sculptures integrated into different landscapes and gardens.  
They were all around but one never got the feeling of it being too much...

Back near the entrance to the gardens a couple of distinct ones
We even saw a cactus sun dial. 
Unique and surprisingly accurate!

I can see why they have memberships and season tickets here -- one time through was definitely not enough time.  But it was worth it and a real highlight of our time in the area!