Tag Archives: sightseeing

How to Plan for a Trip to Alaska

Last week I wasn’t feeling too hot, so I published some photos from my Alaska visit in Light and Color in Alaska. If you take an Alaskan cruise or visit southeast Alaska, here are my suggestions in bullet points.

  • Bring a good camera that will work almost telescopically. That is the only way to capture the eagles in the trees and the seals floating on the icebergs. Really be comfortable with it.
  • Bring a backup camera of some kind that will actually work (and that doesn’t have a defective SD card). (Sniff)
  • Get a waterproof pouch or dry bag for kayaking and rafting so you can bring your camera or iPhone.
  • Bring a nice thick hoodie with deep pockets.
  • Bring all the outdoor and clothes layering necessities, but don’t bring any extra clothes. If you plan to dress up you are taking the WRONG CRUISE SHIP.
  • Invest in a good rain hat. Consider bringing full rain gear unless you don’t mind being wet. You might use an umbrella occasionally, but the hat is much more important. It was all I used–and we had a lot of rain.
  • Go beyond your comfort zone. Cross some stuff off your bucket list. Mine included kayaking, riding a river raft in 60 MPH winds, seeing glaciers up close, frolicking with bears (well, sort of haha), taking pix from the outside platform on a mountain train, and seeing the other wildlife and landscapes of Alaska.
  • Be happy if you don’t have cell phone access for long periods of time. It means you’re having a real vacation.

I have been too tired to post until now. First I was recovering from my illness and then my daughter’s new boyfriend came to visit. The best part of that sentence is the new boyfriend part because he was her best friend. In fact, they have been friends for twelve years, so it was pretty exciting that they finally figured out what everybody else already knew. And it was fun being around lovebirds for a few days.

Also, I am working on a new memoir piece that has to do with guns, as well as working on some proofing of pieces going out, as well as writing poetry reviews. I have several coming out this fall and winter.

Here are a few more Alaska photos. Have a great week.

Haines, Alaska

from the train platform

a peek at the blue sky

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Light and Color in Alaska

What was that intermission all about? The gardener and I went to southeast Alaska, cruising on a small ship–and also staying in Juneau awhile.  Then we got back and became sick almost immediately. How often has that happened to you? Is it the germs on the plane?

Since I’m not feeling so hot, I’ll mainly post some pix to give you an idea of what we saw. Unfortunately, the photos from kayaking are lost, and that was the most fun of all. But we used a lil old camera I had lying around and for some reason those photos did not turn out or the SD card is locked somehow. I didn’t dare take my iPhone with me on the kayak. However, I did take it on the river raft trip we took during SIXTY MPH WINDS. What an experience.

One of the things I took away from Alaska was how different the landscape depending on the lighting. You should be able to see from my pix that sometimes the natural color of Alaska appears to be greyscale and sometimes the color is vivid.

Here we flew into Juneau, the capital of Alaska. It is inaccessible over land.

That is a color pic, by the way. In Skagway we picked up the train that took us up into the mountains. These pix are out of the train window, but at one point I did stand out on the platform, leaning over. You have no idea how much my fear of heights has improved recently!!!

And here:

We saw creeks and tall trees and other mountains in the distance.

Bald eagles are plentiful in Alaska, but we saw the most on our terrifying and uncomfortable river rafting trip. This photo was taken, though, not from the raft in that wind, but by someone else through a telescope with an iPhone.

Because we were on a very small ship, we were able to get up close to a lot of glaciers, particularly in Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier Bay. Notice the color changes.

The melting glaciers lead to many waterfalls along the route.

The wildlife was abundant, so abundant I wish I felt like talking about it! Alas, I feel pretty ick today.

Here’s a pretty water pic. No filters.

And on the ship they took pretty good care of our food and drink needs. Crab legs and butter are gluten free.

 

 

The liqueurs are for the hot chocolate with giant marshmallows and whipped cream (and candies if you like).

See that white Bailey’s bottle near back on the right? It’s gluten free and dairy free!

I hope to be chattier next week ;). Have a good one!

P.S. OK, I can’t withhold this video. In Juneau, on the last day, we saw first an adult bear run across the road in front of our car–and I mean directly. My phone was zipped in a pocket. Then we saw a cub eating by the side of the road, but the photos are crap because the grasses obscured him. So we stopped at a salmon stream to look for bears. They weren’t there, so we meandered back along the bank and toward our car. That’s when I saw two black bears crossing our parking lot! In the video you can see one of the bears in the way back near the trees and then the low white wall. The group of people and dogs were unaware of the bears until I warned them. The particular concern was that one of the dogs was unleashed and “wandering.”

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Arkansas, America, and Art

Last week I told you about the great restaurant we found in the Ozarks, along the White River bank. But we did more than go to that restaurant. We kept my uncle going every day! It had been decades since we had been to northern Arkansas. When we last visited, there were so many ancient Ozark-style log cabins tucked into the woods on the side of the road that the flavor of the land was everywhere you looked. If you don’t know what those are, they are small slightly rectangular box cabins with a peaked roof and a front porch with roof (imagine a wooden rocking chair and Pa with a corncob pipe just about now). Typically, the cover to the porch is a different pitch than the main roof–and best yet, the roof is generally tin. There aren’t very many left, but the remains of the ones being slowly claimed by the forest can be seen. Also, some have been refurbished with aluminum siding. Some new houses are built in the same style, to reflect the traditional architecture.

The reason I don’t have photos for you is that most of my Arkansas photos are crap, having been taken through a car window. It was too hot and humid to keep rolling the window down–and the so-called highways (NO freeways at all) are winding and long. It’s way out in the country, y’all. Anyway, the gardener drove, and it exhausted him so I didn’t want to distract him by rolling the window up and down–or asking to stop where we could have been run over IF someone else had driven there just then (that’s a big IF).

This part of Arkansas must be well within the Bible Belt. In Mountain Home (population 12,448), the Wednesday newspaper had a listing of churches in the immediate area.

I counted FORTY-ONE Baptist churches. There are also a lot of other denominations, including LDS, Jehovah’s Witness, and even Bahai! There is no synagogue, and I don’t think there is a mosque. Also, there are only two Catholic churches–one in town and one in a nearby town. The one in town is my uncle’s church. You might wonder then how my uncle ended up in Arkansas. He was born and lived in Chicago. After a horrible crime touched his life (story coming tomorrow in thefamilykalamazoo.com) he moved his family to rural Illinois–and eventually to Arkansas. He wasn’t alone–there is a whole “expat” group of Chicagoans who live there. They like being away from the hubbub–and a lot of them like to fish. That–and some Californians who have escaped the west coast–probably makes up the majority of people who attend the Catholic churches.

Let me mention that my favorite church names are the cowboy churches. Notice that this listing shows Bar None Cowboy Church. We flew into Tulsa, OK, and drove to Mountain Home. On the way, we saw other cowboy churches, like the Cowboy Gatherin’ Church in Inola, OK, and Crooked Creek Cowboy Church in Harrison. Apparently “cowboy churches” are a thing and are scattered across the country. Who knew? Well, I sure didn’t.

Speaking of Harrison. It’s only 48.4 miles from Mountain Home, but there’s a big difference. Mountain Home, as I said, has attracted people from Chicago and California and is close to reknowned trout fishing near the Bull Shoals dam which links Bull Shoals Lake with the White River. People think of pretty Ozark country when Mountain Home is mentioned. Harrison’s reputation comes from being known as the most racist city in the country. I got that from Wikipedia. So who knows the accuracy. Apparently, between 1905 and 1909 white citizens threw out all the African-Americans who lived there and established their city as a “sundown town.” That means just what it sounds like: no non-white people in town after dark. You think things have changed?

The city has been dubbed “the most racist city in America” because of its high presence of white supremacist organizations. Kingdom Identity Ministries, a white supremacist organization, was founded in 1982 in Harrison. Thomas Robb, national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, maintains his office near Harrison in the outlying town of Zinc and uses a Harrison mailing address for the organization. Combined with the history of the 1905 and 1909 banishment of unemployed railroad workers and all other African-American residents, this incidental connection to the KKK has given the town a negative image.

The article goes on to say that there are people who are trying to combat that image by speaking up against racism. Of course, all this just made me want to visit. The writer in me, you know. But that’s an easy call as a white woman. As the white mother of Asians, I would not have suggested we visit if they were with us.

When we got to town, I saw the pretty historic theatre where events are still held.

Love the neon sign!

Harrison is quite a pretty small town, and there wasn’t much to hint at a dangerous undercurrent of racism. Then we stopped at an antique shop for the gardener.

My eye was drawn to certain things. I started to feel uncomfortable.

I realize people collect Mammy this and that. Raised in Kalamazoo by my northern relatives, I will never feel comfortable with this stuff. In fact, in Arkansas, I had to keep reminding myself it used to be a slave state. I’ve never lived in a state where slave-holding was legal.

And then there was this little section.

Don’t you love the juxtaposition of items? The Rise and Fall swastika, desperation, a book called Rifles and Shotguns, Rhett Butler, and the fragility of that ruffled porcelain atop the stack. I figured we’d been in town long enough. Time to go!

Next day we visited my cousin’s home in the mountains. He is an orchid farmer by trade, and they live way out in the middle of nowhere (yup, it’s probably even called that). He always loved cacti and orchids, and it’s kind of cool that he’s made a living all these years doing what he loves.

He’s got such cute grandchildren, too. So much fun playing with them!

One day we visited Mystic Caverns. I guess northern Arkansas has a lot of underground caves. Many have probably not even been discovered yet.

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Close to Mountain Home is a tiny town called Norfork. There you can find the Jacob Wolf House Historic Site.

The site includes the main house, which was the territorial courthouse, built 1825, as well as some outbuildings. Seeing how the men “roughed” it even inside the courthouse really made me think of what the settlers went through. During the day, court was in session, and at night, the men spread out their bedrolls where they had been sitting in court earlier.

As we left Arkansas, the gardener and I stopped at the Osage Clayworks because the area has been known for pottery for quite some time. They had some good buys on “seconds,” and I bought my daughter a garlic thingie to use for her rings on her dresser.

 

The Photography of Justin Hamm

If you like seeing small towns and the fading past of America, you need to check out the photography of poet and photographer Justin Hamm. He’s also the editor of the museum of americana. I love Justin’s photos. Rustic images of old cars, barns, that kind of thing. Gorgeous. Click here for his Instagram. Here are the photos on his website. Look at this photograph of an old Ozark barn, care of Justin. He’s been in the Ozarks recently so I am watching for all those shots I imagined but couldn’t pull off.

 

The Art of Len Cowgill

On the subject of beautiful American art, I want to tell you a little update on the work of Len Cowgill.

Many, many years ago, when Len, the gardener, and I were all very young, Len gave us a series of three pieces as a gift. This was before he knew about archival materials, and over the years in the hot sun of California, the drawings faded. Here is one of them–see HOW faded.

Upon hearing about the fading, Len kindly offered to repair all these drawings. Look out great they turned out! In the first one, he changed the static brick wall to Allen Ginsberg’s poem “America” and then followed the theme for the rest of them.

I’m so blessed to have such thought-provoking and breathtaking art in my life. Thanks to Len and thanks to Justin both for sticking with your passions and making the world more beautiful.

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Rocks and Light: Natural Art

After last week’s Phoenix excursion and the second hummingbird baby flying off into the big world, we took a drive up to the Lower Antelope Canyon to see the stone sculptures. They are on Navajo land outside Page, Arizona, right near Lake Powell.

This area is actually out in the middle of “nowhere,” from the point of view of someone with celiac, an auto-immune disease. In this case, you know I am talking about the gardener.

No offense to anything else about the town, but you don’t want to get stuck in Page if you have celiac. While we were there I found an old blog post someone had written about just that issue. There is supposed to be an Italian restaurant that serves actual gluten-free food, but it seems pretty apocryphal to me. It was closed for the season when that blogger visited (three years ago), and it was closed on the day we tried to go (Monday). Using my gluten-free app, we drove from place to place–and each restaurant was closed. And to tell you the truth: they didn’t look like the sort of places that would be genuinely gluten free. So we went to the only grocery store we could find. Since we had no microwave, I figured I would find some tuna salad for the gardener. Even the tuna salad had wheat flour in it!!! I bought some tough-as-leather chicken pieces and a tub of potato salad that I thought was just awful (tasting as it did of sweet pickle relish), but the gardener was satisfied. We tried two restaurants at the Lake Powell Resort and Marina while we were there. Both times he was glutened, probably by cross-contamination.

To see the stone sculptures you have to take a “hiking tour” through a Navajo company. I was worrying that my foot would develop a sudden, intense pain, as it occasionally does, and that I would hold up the group or at least the gardener. I needn’t have worried about too much walking. It’s not much walking. Instead, if I had known what it was I probably wouldn’t have gone. You go down into the canyon via stairs, ladders, and walking very narrow, very rocky trails. I am afraid of heights and am claustrophobic, but those problems were nothing compared with walking on narrow rocky surfaces.

My reconstructed foot is very fragile. I need a flat enough surface to put my foot down in order to put my weight on it. Otherwise, the rebuilt navicular bone could crack. My tone would be different in this post if that, in fact, had happened. But the only reason it didn’t is because the gardener, with his bad shoulder, had to hoist me through these narrow tunnels so that my weight would be on him instead of my foot. I was super careful how I placed my foot each time. Now that I have come through on the other side completely whole, I can say that I am so glad I did it. I wish everyone could see these beautiful natural artistic canvases of rock and light.

Because this is what you experience:

And this:

And this:

This one gives you the perspective of how far down we were.

That afternoon we were exhausted and went on a cruise of Lake Powell.

The way to do Lake Powell is to rent a big houseboat with a large family and/or friend group. Get one with a slide and grill! And explore all the northern canyons. When the kids were in high school, we rented a boat just like that in Lake Mead (closer to Las Vegas and near the Hoover Dam) and took their friends with us. It was such a fun family experience. Though these lakes are sort of “sister lakes,” they are quite different. Many people prefer Lake Powell, but it is more solitary and Lake Mead has more of a sporting lake feel to it.

No, zero writing went on this past week. Lots of Perry hugs, though, when we got home. In fact, all the cats were so happy to see us walk in the door!

 

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Checking Out A Silver Lining

Before my father passed away, he and my mother wanted to get rid of their vacation club membership, but they couldn’t figure out how to do it and started to get all stressed out about it. They asked if we would take it, so the gardener said, “Sure.” Later, I told him I wasn’t very happy about that :). I didn’t like the idea of planning a vacation based on where I could stay for free that I had been paying for monthly all along, if that makes any sense.

It didn’t to me.

But it made them happy and, as it turned out, sometimes it’s very useful because the units always come with a kitchen, which is important for dealing with the celiac disease issue. That is what we did in New Orleans last year, and it worked out perfectly. You should see us moving into a regular hotel room with two coolers and four bags of gluten free foods. Not to mention, the air purifier and humidifier the gardener uses to deal with symptoms of his auto-immune troubles. No fear that I might be able to travel light, which is my dream.

We wanted to go on a vacation this year because we visited mom for her surgery this summer instead of taking a vacation, so we decided to use our “points” and visit somewhere on the vacation club map. We settled on Reno and Lake Tahoe in The Silver State (Nevada). The Reno portion was mainly to acclimate to altitude before reaching Tahoe because before the gardener was diagnosed and still eating gluten, he would get very sick at altitudes like Salt Lake City, which is only 4,226 ft!

We spent a few days in Reno, traveling to see Carson City (the capitol of Nevada) and Virginia City. We also had dinner with my cousin (who lives in Carson City and works for the State of Nevada) and his wife at a Persian restaurant. I’ve mentioned before that Persian is usually safe for celiacs, if they avoid the bread and the desserts. This restaurant turned out to be a bit “nouveau” in its cuisine, and while I thought the food was particularly delicious, the gardener was sick overnight. There was probably cross-contamination.

Carson City has a darling Capitol Building. They allow visitors to walk through, looking into the offices of the Governor and other dignitaries. I won’t share the photos I took past the entryway because it seems unsafe to me. But, gosh, it was so nice to be able to take a look at all that beautiful history on our own.

Sorry if one or two of those are a little crooked (@#%^&). The statue when you enter the building is of Sarah Winnemucca who wrote the first autobiography by a Native American woman (Northern Paiute), so I found that pretty meaningful.

I was shocked that Reno is such a casino-driven city. Maybe you knew that, but I didn’t. I don’t like casinos or cities with lots of casinos, but it was interesting to watch the motel outside our window. It was directly across the street and had a reputation for stabbings, shootings, drugs, and prostitution. The new managers were supposedly trying to clean up the property, but it was still a sad and fascinating site for me to observe.

The gardener dragged me to the casino three times, but MEH. I don’t like the cigarette (and cigar!) smoke, the glazed looks on the faces of people who might be ruining their own lives and the lives of their families, or the unnatural outfits those poor servers have to squeeze into.

Judgmental, moi? OK, I am judgmental about gambling, but not about the gamblers. I’ve seen the harm it causes, and I don’t like it. At least the gardener didn’t lose much because he didn’t fall into the trap.

What I did enjoy was the Zombie Crawl one night we were in Reno. The parade of costumes in the streets and inside the casinos was a lot of fun. And Reno has the best gluten free bakery I’ve ever experienced. Wherever we go, we look for gluten free bakeries; many cities have them now. But this one had baked goods and other foods that were the most like what I grew up with. Their frosted sugar cookies were like those of the bakeries of my childhood. All gluten free though! If you’re in Reno, stop by Haven on Earth at 10855 Double R Blvd., Suite A. Here’s their website: www.havenonearthbakery.com. They even have lasagna and chicken pot pies in a freezer case.

To make up for the casinos, I dragged the gardener to a lovely performance of the national tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. We saw it at this cool-looking theater.

Nearby is the Riverwalk.

And a gorgeous old building. I looked it up and now I can’t remember the name of it.

We were happy to move on to Tahoe when we did. What we found there was gorgeous. And October was a wonderful time for visiting because there weren’t the crowds they see in the summer months and during ski season.

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Lake Tahoe is the purest body of water in the world, and it looks it. Just stunning. I could have walked on the beach in my sweatshirt every morning for the rest of my life. The gardener, on the other hand, thought it a bit chilly. He’s more the Caribbean type. While I prefer more deciduous trees in my dreamscape, I couldn’t get over the beauty of this national treasure.

And they had a great burger place that doesn’t get a celiac sick! They have a “dedicated fryer,” which means only gluten free foods go into that fryer. That is important if you want fries with your gluten free burger. I loved their veggie burger, too. CALIFORNIA BURGER COMPANY. Remember that if you go to Tahoe.  They feature live music and art on the walls. And gourmet casual food. Yum!

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BETA READER SHARING? On another note, I have been tinkering with the ole memoir a bit. It’s gone through a lot of versions already and may still have a lot of versions to go through. But it would be helpful to have 2 beta readers look at the dang thing as it stands now as I have too many versions in my head and can’t really “see” what is here any longer.

Do you feel that you have the time, inclination, and a bit or a lot of experience with a full-length manuscript (I think a novel would be fine, as well as memoir)? I’ll warn you that it’s approximately 280 pages.  I am happy to trade manuscripts with you and give yours the same careful reading with comments.  I am only interested in reading complete manuscripts in draft, though. No manuscript where you are sure you are done and just want confirmation. No manuscript that doesn’t have an ending yet. If you are interested, please email me at luanne.castle[at]gmail.com. If I get more than two offers, I’ll choose the two that seem the best fit, but will save names for the next version haha. If I get no takers, I’ll try to find readers through some other channels. Thanks for listening!

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One Wacky Western Landmark

For years, whenever I traveled on the 202 freeway loop and saw a strange wedding cake shaped structure in the distance I wondered about it. Then the gardener saw a program on TV where the place was identified as Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights. I googled the castle and discovered that there were tours of the property. When we decided we wanted to go check it out, I found that I needed to book the tour many months in advance. So about nine months ago I bought the $15 tickets for two. In the amount of time it takes to develop a full human baby, the gardener and I finally were allowed to visit and learn about Tovrea Castle.

Our tour group traveled across the property and up to the castle in two golf carts driven by our two orange-attired docents, each named Nancy. I’m not sure if the tour guides have to be called Nancy or if it was a coincidence they were both named Nancy. (OK, I’m kidding).

The castle and acreage are now in the middle of the city with industrial and commercial zoning all around. It’s not far from Sky Harbor Airport either, and I saw several planes overhead. Other people on my tour saw roadrunners, squirrels, and a jackrabbit with big ears, but I didn’t catch a glimpse of anything with a heartbeat outside of our tour.

What looked like a castle from afar actually wasn’t that large up close. The entire building is about 5,000 square feet, and that includes the basement, which is the largest floor. The second and third floors have small hotel rooms. We were not allowed to go up there, but were told that there is only one bathroom per floor. On a 360 degree iPad tour, the rooms looked quite nice and ready for move in. I might call the architectural style cheesy, but maybe I just don’t appreciate it properly. The light fixtures and other accessories were all in the art deco style, which is definitely a style I like very much.

The castle is painted in its original colors. The front door was remarkable for its plainness. From every floor of the building it is possible to get a 360 degree view of Phoenix.

The bannister is made of terrazo and the columns marble. Terrazo is a compound of granite and concrete.

Before the castle was ever built, F.L. and Lizzie Warner established a homestead on 160 acres in 1907. They built their house (no longer in existence) on a rocky knoll, overlooking . . . desert. Scrub is what I call it. Eventually they added to their property and when Lizzie (after F.L. died) sold the property to Alessio Carraro in 1928 there was a total of 277 acres.

Carraro was an Italian immigrant who made a fortune in the sheet metal business in San Francisco. In 1928 he moved to Arizona, wanting to develop a desert resort and luxury housing subdivision. The “castle” was built as a hotel and completed in 1930. Because of the Great Depression, Carraro had to sell the property in 1931 at a great loss to get cash. Maybe he also sold because his wife refused to move to the desert. Or maybe it was another reason . . . .

While Carraro owned the property, a lot of construction was completed. He hired a Russian gardener, called Mokta, who built an enormous cactus garden. The garden still exists, in a way, but some of the sahuaros (the sentinels of the Sonoran Desert) are dead or dying, and it does not look as rich and thickly planted as shown in the old photographs. What my gardener noticed (that was not mentioned by the tour guides) was that in the old days the property was completely irrigated, whereas today it is not. Even sahuaros need some water, I guess.

Mokta, Carraro, and Carraro’s son Leo planted over 500 species of cactus and lined the property with white river rock from the Salt River. They also created two concrete-lined pools, a horseshoe area, and a game court (for a game that was a combination of bocce and pool).

At this point, the history of Carraro and the “castle” meets the history of the Tovrea family.

Edward Ambrose (“E.A.”) Tovrea was born in Illinois in 1861 and moved to Kansas at the age of 10 where he worked on a cattle ranch. He started a freight company that transported goods between western states and eventually settled in Arizona where he built and owned butcher shops throughout the state, founding the Arizona Packing Company, later known as the Tovrea Packing Company.

In 1931, E.A. and his second wife, Della, purchased the castle with 44 acres from Alessio Carraro. Now this is not part of the official story, but I found it online and maybe it’s the real reason Carrara had to sell the property:

Carraro’s dream of a resort hotel and a subdivision of fine homes ended a few months later. For some time, Carraro had tried unsuccessfully to buy 40 acres adjacent to his land that would serve as an important buffer between his property and a stockyard and meat packing plant. When the acreage finally was sold, it went not to Carraro, but to the owner of the nearby packing company E. A. Tovrea.

Tovrea promptly put up sheep pens on the land. That was it for Carraro, who figured few people would be interested in buying a nice home next to a flock of sheep. In June, 1931, Carraro accepted an offer from a real estate agent for the hotel and much of the property. Unknown to him was that the buyer was Della Tovrea.

What rotten luck. I’ve seen photos of the descendents of Carrara and Tovrea together in a friendly manner, but this must have been such a blow to Carrara.

That stockyard came to be part of the Tovrea Stockyards. Can you imagine the smell in the heat of the summer?

E.A. passed away within a year, leaving behind a son who took over the family businesses. Della Tovrea resided in the castle until her death in 1969. During the time the property was owned by the Tovreas, features added to the gardens include a large concrete patio just east of the castle, a rose garden, an aviary, and a reflecting pool. The pool reflected an enormous sahuaro. The sahuaro is now a skeleton only 1/3 its original height.

There are a lot of small outbuildings on the property, but most are completely falling apart.  The well house is one of the few that still stands. You can see it below.

Near the well house is the dovecote which is completely fallen apart. The dovecote was to keep pigeons to feed the many workers.

Another outbuilding was a little kennel for the dogs. It was just a large free-standing cage. The guide explained that this was built for the protection of the dogs because of the dangerous predators in the area. Hello! So the dogs are inside this cage the size of a small bathroom and the bobcats, mountain lions, javelina, coyotes, and God knows what else, are LUNGING at them from the outside. How many dogs ended up with heart attacks?!

Della Tovrea was a very important person in the Arizona Democratic Party and the only woman representative for Arizona at the 1936 convention.  In her later years, she began sleeping in the kitchen. I have no idea why she slept in the kitchen. She had developed a fear of being locked in her huge bank-type vault in the basement by burglars and had had the lock disabled. One night while she slept just feet away from her beautiful blue kitchen sink two burglars did break in and force her to take them around the house pointing out the valuables. There are two different stories about how a bullet hole was made in the kitchen ceiling that night. In one version, a burglar shot his gun. In another version, it was Della herself and her old Colt. When the men left in their pink Cadillac (no relation to Mary Kay or Elvis, to my knowledge), she had no way (in 1969!) to contact the police or the caretakers who lived in a cottage on the grounds and had to make her way to their house in the pouring rain. She died two months later, possibly of pneumonia.

The cast of characters in the story of Tovrea Castle would make for a picaresque novel, to be sure, and I think Della was the greatest piece of work of all. I have a soft spot, though, for Carrara who was a dreamer who repurposed creatively (the blue sink might have come from elsewhere, as did the maple floors and other features of the building and grounds). He took risks and couldn’t withstand the machinations of “bottom line Tovrea,” as I like to think of him.

Today the basement is a tiny museum of Carraro Heights. The ceiling is the bird’s nest style (with hidden eggs throughout). And there are tunnels leading outside.

The Boy Scouts made and installed green ladder stairs around the property. These are views far away and up close.

In 1993, the Castle and the 44 acre Cactus Gardens were purchased from the Tovrea Family Estate by the City of Phoenix which now maintains the National Register of Historic Places property and runs the tours. But at some point somebody else must have run tours here because in the basement there is an old sign.

When I asked why it’s necessary to buy tickets so many months in advance, the tour guides explained to me that they don’t have enough docents. I’d almost swear the one lady looked at me pointedly and hopefully at that moment.

The thing is that while the combination of history and garden and architecture was great fun for both the gardener and me, the desert leaves me cold (you know what I mean). I can’t blame Carrara’s wife for not budging from San Francisco. Are you KIDDING me? What was he thinking? We probably lucked out and got the last beautiful weather for the next three months or so. From now on it will be HOT.

On the other hand, plenty of people love the desert. Identify yourself right now!

And, like Tevye (I like musical theatre references), I can always repeat on the other hand: have you ever seen a bluer sky than ours?

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Filed under #writerlife, Essay, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, History, Liminality, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

More Arizona Exploring

To get away from the record heat in Phoenix, we went south for a day. Tucson, at 2,589 ft,  is a higher altitude than Phoenix, which is 1,086. Plus, Tucson is protected from the sun by the mountains and thus has more cloud cover. But we didn’t stay there long. We went to the real mountains. To Bisbee, AZ, to be precise. 5,589 ft.

There are those darn lines again!

It was a lovely temperature for summer. I don’t know what temperature it was, but it felt perfect. There was even a drizzle part of the day.

See that B up there on top? Stands for Bisbee.  No kidding! The population is about the same as the altitude. About one person per foot of altitude.

Bisbee is a very charming looking town because in the downtown area there is very little new construction. It’s almost all “antique.”

The museum had a lovely garden.

And the shops were interesting to me. A honey shop. A custom hat shop. A dress shop where I bought a hat in my favorite color (coral called peony). And a shop with a window after my own heart.

Dolls, masks, old photos, and memento mori. What more could I want?

The only thing they had very little of: gluten free food. Yikes. OK, I won’t go into that rant again.

On the way back from Bisbee, we drove through Tombstone (yup, that Tombstone), where we’ve been before.

I had to take photos out of the car window . . . .

We also drove through St. David, a town founded by LDS pioneers. It’s still mainly Mormon, and it appears to be a farming community, but maybe the farming was in its past. I was glad to get home, though, to my 4+1 cats. Slupe is doing so well! She’s now been out with all the others cats, and I am hopeful that they can be one happy group (when Tiger watches her back so Kana doesn’t sneak up on her).

Slupe

Slupe

My new writing project is a play. I’ve been working on the play with my daughter. I find it fairly easy to write dialogue, but more difficult to conceptualize how it all works onstage. That is her expertise. As an actor, she has a good feel for the physical parts of the play. I expect it to move slowly because of being the work of two people.

Have you ever worked on a project, writing or otherwise, with someone else that you were used to doing by yourself?

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, gluten free, gluten free travel, History, Inspiration, playwriting, Sightseeing & Travel, Vintage American culture, Writing

More Arizona

  • This year we travelled to Sedona, Jerome, Cottonwood, the Grand Canyon, Prescott, Williams, and Montezuma’s Castle, all in two days.

That’s what the Sedona sunrise looks like.

Here is your chance to see the classic Luanne ponytail–always just off center as though the middle of the back of my head is just too far to manage.

 

The slide show is the Grand Canyon. It turned out to be overcast that day, but the rain held off at least.

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The squirrels at the Grand Canyon beg for food. They are adorably cute, but it’s kind of sad that people have unwittingly trained them this way. This little guy gave me vertigo because he would go very near the edge of the walkway.

 

Sort of between Sedona and Phoenix is Montezuma’s Castle, which is the remains of a town that existed between the 12th and 14th centuries. The people, called the Sinagua,  lived on the face of the mountain in a beehive of rooms that are known as “cliff dwellings.” Only a few parts of the town remain.

 

The settlement was built along Beaver Creek.

I used to bemoan the fact that we have all these spindly trees in Arizona–Palo Verde, Mesquite, Sweet Acacia. At this national monument I discovered an actual Real Tree of Arizona that is not an evergreen. The Arizona Sycamore! Beautiful and wise . . . .

 

 

The bark looks like camouflage clothing.

I’ve had too much company in the past few months to get much writing done. But I also feel that I need to start a new project and haven’t landed on the one I really want to tackle. It’s not writer’s block–in part because I don’t have much time to think anyway and also because I actually want to write but need a project that feels right at this time to focus on.

Until then, #notreallywriting. heh

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As you know, I typically don’t post much political and didn’t post any petitions for the elephants on my elephant book post, although they are in danger of becoming extinct in 15-20 years if humans don’t change their ways. But I am posting the following. You can stop reading here and it won’t insult me. But I can’t not post this information because this abuse of horses and mules is almost in my own backyard.

Please consider signing this petition for better treatment of the pack animals at the Grand Canyon. The horses are said to be “punched, kicked, push off the sides of mountains when injured, starved to death, without water and rest for long periods of time?” I even read the yelp reviews that talk about the horrific abuse of the animals.

You can sign here:  http://www.thepetitionsite.com/815/945/903/.

If you are interested in more information you can read this:

About This Petition

A concerned group of citizens have started the “Stop Animal ViolencE” (SAVE)  Foundation to protect the pack animals in Havasupai from abuse. These horses and mules travel from Hualapi Hilltop to Havasu Falls daily, and there have been an overwhelming number of reports of rampant and heinous animal abuse.

We are calling on the Havasupai Tribal Council to establish a minimum standard of care for all horses and mules living in Supai, AZ. Until it is confirmed that these standards have been adopted and implemented, we will boycott trips to the Havasu Falls that use horses and mules.

This treatment that has been witnessed by many tourists around the world is nothing short of horrifying and violent for both animals and humans. SAVE has collected first-hand accounts of extreme animal abuse and neglect by specific violent people. Recently, a Havasupai man was charged with four counts of animal abuse.  

We are turning to you, the public, to help these defenseless animals. We are committed to the cessation of violence against animals by these violent individuals. Please help us in putting a stop to this violence and bringing about not only healing for these peaceful, deserving animals, but with your signature, change.

Do you feel pain and agony seeing this photo and imagining the terror of these horses? We have eyewitness accounts of these horses being punched, kicked, pushed off the sides of mountains when injured, starved to death, without water and rest for long periods of time. It’s a death camp for pack animals.

So, please, reach into your pain and feel the ferocity of compassion well up in your heart. And then take action. Sign this petition to demand that the Havasupai Tribal Council adopt SAVE’s guidelines for a minimum standard of care for these horses and mules. For you, for me, for the earth and for all the inhabitants who will suffer if this abuse continues.  Please, do not post anything hateful against an entire group of people. These crimes are being committed by certain violent people, not by a group. We will not accept prejudicial, rude, or inappropriate comments targeted toward entire groups of people.

If you read down to this point, thank you SO MUCH for caring about the horses and mules.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, History, Inspiration, Memoir, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

An Hour Spent Peering into Zane Grey’s World

The most recent little trip was to Payson, Arizona–with hubby and daughter. We drove northeast on the Beeline. The landscape was dotted with saguaros for the first half of the drive.

Many or most of the saguaros had flowering tips.

We followed behind this truck for awhile :/. At a certain point, the saguaros disappeared as we were at an altitude where they can’t live.

None of us had ever visited Payson before. I had expected a quaint village, fun little shops, that sort of thing. The economy didn’t look very strong, and there wasn’t too much that was quaint.

We tried to find the candle factory, only to discover it was just a gift shop. We had a pretty good laugh about that.

But next door there was a fudge shop where we each picked out a flavor. Caramel pecan, creme brulee, and rocky road. The ceiling was tentlike and they sold little sculptures made out of spoons.

I enjoyed these sculptures. The young man who helped us with our fudge said his father made them.

We drove past these odd old buildings. Notice the new construction behind.

We had each selected something we wanted to see. Daughter = candle factory. Scratch that. Hubby = antique stores. They were out of biz, closed, or not very good. Scratch that. Me = The Zane Grey cabin and museum. Woot–that turned out to be a winner.

Zane Grey, if you don’t know, was a writer of frontier novels and short stories. He was responsible for creating (or helping to create) a very romantic image of the American cowboy. He was also a very enthusiastic and talented hunter. When he was older, he began to have second thoughts about all that hunting and joined the Izaak Walton League to promote conservation.

The cabin is a reconstruction because Grey’s original cabin burned down in a big 1990 fire, but it was fascinating to see it and hear about the writer’s life in Arizona. Did you know that Hemingway ripped him off? I think it was The Old Man and the Sea that took its story from one of Grey’s–an unpublished one that Grey had let Hemingway read before Hemingway wrote his “masterpiece.”

They didn’t let me take pix of the cabin’s interior.

But next door was an old cabin that used to house eight people. We all had a hard time getting our minds around that as the interior is very small. You can’t really tell that from the photo. Apparently the Haught family built (1904) and lived here while they built their “real” house. It took about two years.

After viewing these two buildings, we toured the museum. Our tour guide was an old-fashioned schoolteacher type (you can draw your own conclusions). She did a great job teaching us about the Tonto Apache and the history of the vicinity. This is where I plugged Adrienne Morris’ wonderful novel about just this subject: The House on Tenafly Road. You can read my review here if you missed it: book review.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, History, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

Flutterbyes

Two years ago I wrote a blog post called Flutter Fun about the Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale. I was there with my kids. The other day I took Mom and my uncle and aunt to visit the butterflies.

As before, they had the stunning blue morphos that are brown camouflage on the outside and bright blue when the wings are opened.

They had many new species in addition to the original beauties.

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A few butterflies pressed up against the few windows, trying to get out of the atrium. I felt sad for them, but most of the butterflies seemed to be concentrating on eating.

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Hubby and I also took my aunt and uncle to Sedona and Flagstaff. Then I ended up sick afterward, probably because I managed to get myself pretty tired keeping up with an 87-year-old (my uncle who is my dad’s twin).

 

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Filed under Arizona, Blogging, Cats and Other Animals, Inspiration, Nonfiction, Photographs, Sightseeing & Travel