Start off a Sunday morning with a hike along the Treasure Loop Trail at Lost Dutchman State Park, in the Superstition Mountains, near Apache Junction, Arizona. Sun is starting to show its glaze between the crags near the Praying Hands formation.
New posts coming soon!
Are you a gadget junkie? Anyone with smartphones or tablets knows how addicting they can be. At Sunglow Ranch, in the Chiricahua Mountains south of Willcox, Ariz., guests now can opt for the new Digital Detox package. They will have the chance to put away — or leave at home — those frustrating electronic devices that seem to distract us from the more important things in life.
Relaxing in the swimming pool from March to October, unwinding in the hydrospa and strolling along the nature trails at Sunglow Ranch will “put your life back in balance” according to owners, Brooks and Susan Bradbury. You see, there’s no telephone or television in the suites.
The three-night Digital Detox Package includes lodging, all meals, house wine, two private, two-hour guided horseback trail rides, and a one-hour massage. The cost is: $1,500 for two-room casita or $1,250 for one-room casita (plus tax and ranch fee, for one or two guests, double occupancy. Based on advance reservation & availability. Excludes holidays & blackout periods.)
And Sunglow Ranch has added a new suite to its collection: The Blue Heron Suite, a 530 sq. ft. king bed room with views of the spectacular Chiricahuas and the nearby pond, stopover location for the occasional blue heron. The suite’s private porch is the ideal spot to enjoy morning coffee or a glass of wine. Like all of the Sunglow Ranch rooms, the Blue Heron Suite includes coffeemaker, microwave, refrigerator, hairdryer and comfy waffle robes — for that porch time.
Of course, WiFi is available for those who are not detoxing digitally or others who can no longer withstand the peace and quiet of Sunglow Ranch and all its surrounding natural beauty — and absolutely find it necessary to check the latest Twitter trends.
For other packages and information including spectacular photos of Sunglow Ranch, please visit its website.
While recently sorting through some old vacation photos, I came across an abundance of snapshots of skies and sunsets. Several dozen photos of the same scene make up hundreds of files, taking up precious space on disks, thumb drives and memory sticks. Before these get buried back into the depths of storage, I wanted to publish just a few of the most recent photos:
Sunset view from Princeville Resort, on Kauai’s north shore.
Late afternoon sky at The Windmill Winery, near Florence, Ariz.
Sunset over a choppy Sea of Cortez near San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico.
Dusk at Ashurst Lake near Flagstaff
Setting sun near San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Sun peaks through huge cottonwood tree at San Pedro House near Sierra Vista
Nightfall on the Pacific Ocean near Jaco, Costa Rica
Brilliant sun prepares to sink over Isla Venado near San Carlos.
In the U.S., punting means kicking the football downfield to the opposing team. In the U.K., punting means riding in or operating a flat-bottom boat using a long wooden pole. And punting on the River Cam is a great way to see some of the best sights in Cambridge, England. You can hire a chauffeured punt, then sit back and enjoy your journey on the river or you can rent one for yourself and test your skills of balance and dexterity. If you hire a chauffeur, you will likely have the chance to learn some of the history of Cambridge, the University of Cambridge, the River Cam, as well as hear colorful stories of some of Cambridge’s famous residents.
A view from the river of King’s College Chapel is iconic Cambridge. As soon as the sun peaks out in spring, punts and punters are out in full force on the river. Sometimes a traffic jam may slow down the punting trip. The trick is to not let the boats collide, but when you’re watching the sights and scenery; it’s much easier said than done.
The Mathematical Bridge is a reconstruction of a bridge built in 1749. Legend has it that Sir Isaac Newton designed the bridge without nails or bolts, and that after the bridge was taken down for repairs, no one could figure out how to put it back together again. That’s just a myth. Newton had already been dead 22 years before the original bridge was built. It’s ‘mathematical’ because of the series of tangents that form the arc.
Wildlife along the River Cam includes varieties of ducks, swans and other waterfowl. In the spring, cygnets (baby swans) can be spotted along the shore. Some punters have seen the occasional fox or badger.
One of the many fascinating older buildings along the River Cam is the Old Library of St. John’s College. Cambridge University’s college chapels, libraries, common areas and interesting bridges make up the scenery along the river.
Cambridge Chauffeur Punts is just one of several punt-for-hire enterprises along the River Cam. Some tourists aren’t as successful with their own punting skills, resulting in some accidental dips in the not-too-clean water. Handling that long, heavy pole of spruce can prove to be quite a challenge. Other rental and guided tour options: GoPuntingCambridge, Scudamore’s and Let’sGoPunting. A basic 45-minute, chauffeured punting trip will cost about 14 pounds or 21 dollars. Tour prices vary with combination package type, length of trips and group size, of course.
Take some time before or after your punting tour for a pint of ale and fish and chips at The Anchor Pub. Sit in the upstairs bar area for great views of the river and street activity. The Granta is another very popular riverside pub. In summertime, ice cream vendors draw the crowds.
Keeping knees slightly bent and feet apart, the best way to propel the punt forward is to push off with the pole in back of the punt, not to the side. Allow the pole to trail behind, to keep moving straight. Experience punters recommend twisting the pole slightly after pushing off from the soft river bed to prevent the pole from getting stuck. Otherwise you may find yourself circling back using auxiliary paddles to retrieve your pole. Punting against the current can be a exhilarating whole-body workout.
Students members of the Darwin College Punt Club can sign out punts then embark from this punt house, located at one end of the River Cam in Cambridge.
The Bridge of Sighs is part of St. John’s College. Named after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, it’s reported to have been one of Queen Victoria’s favorite sights in Cambridge.
Twenty-three bridges span the River Cam through Cambridge, including several footbridges, such as this one.
Punts come in a variety of sizes. All are flat bottom to accommodate the shallow river waters. Look for seats with backs and cushions. This sign specifies the maximum capacity of our vessel. Punting is probably one of the top tourist activities in Cambridge. If you’re considering a trip to anywhere in the United Kingdom, you should investigate the punting opportunities at your destination. Punting also is popular in other towns such as Oxford, Bath, Sunbury and Stratford-on-Avon.
Chuck and I celebrated another wedding anniversary in June. Often this time of year, we reminisce about past anniversaries and the many ways in which we have celebrated over the years. For our 10th anniversary in 2007, we spent a memorable vacation in Hawaii. Our itinerary was so jam-packed with places to go and things to see over two weeks on two islands that some vacation memories have gotten a bit ‘fuzzy’ with time. But our helicopter trip over Kauai is one anniversary trip activity we won’t soon forget.
Who could forget the breathtaking scenery over the Garden Isle? We soared high above Kauai’s spectacular beauty — each sight made us imagine we were dropped onto a page of a Hawaii photography coffee table book, a flashy, souvenir calendar or a colorful tourism website.
Inter-Island Helicopters was recommended by friends and also came highly rated in the tour guide known as the “blue bible” — The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook. We opted for a deluxe tour which landed us at a private waterfall where we enjoyed a break from the loud whirring of blades. Some of us even took a quick dip in a crystal clear pool at the base of the falls. As I understand it, the waterfall landing tour is no longer available, so we feel really fortunate to have been able to go when we did.
Inter-Island is one of a few Kauai helicopters companies to offer tourists door-free rides. It’s one thing to fly a couple thousand feet above the azure blue waters of the Pacific and the lush Hawaiian tropical canopy; think about riding in a helicopter without doors! After a few minutes getting our heads (and stomachs) adjusted to the motion and height of the take-off, we felt much more at ease. The pilot’s narration and humor helped us to relax a bit more.
Yet as we looked down over the landscape, we were quickly reminded that the only thing holding us in was a combination seat belt/shoulder strap. Our white-knuckled fists stayed firmly wrapped around the nearest grab bar — aka the “Oh-(insert expletive)! handle.” At one point when the helicopter climbed up out and over the island’s northern cliffs, we glanced back and forth in both directions — we could see up and down the Kauai’s iconic Na Pali Coast. These overwhelming views kept the exclamations rolling off our tongues: “Wow!” “I can’t believe this!” “Incredible!”
Gorgeous landscapes, infinite coastal beaches and dazzling canyons were not the only sights from our Kauai helicopter tour. We also were able to spot wildlife — mountain goats, wild boars and of course, those famous Kauai chickens.
Here are some of our favorite photos and a short video from that unforgettable anniversary helicopter tour.
The Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas is coming up fast! Trek fans: Do you remember your first Star Trek Convention? If you were like me (a convention newbie in 2011), for your first convention you wanted just three things: to see everything, do everything and know everything. In an attempt to be the most prepared as possible for my first convention, I searched the Internet for any advice or tips I could find for Trek convention-goers. Some of you may remember asking the same questions: Do I need to wear a Starfleet uniform? Do I need to dress up as a Klingon? Do I need to learn the Klingon language? Do I need to eat gagh, drink blood wine and participate in mating rituals? (Okay, maybe not the last one.)
Well, this blog post is NOT an attempt to answer those questions, but I can offer a few tips to those who are new to the convention. These tips may also be useful to those of you who are ‘con veterans’ but are new to the next week’s event, which runs August 8-11.
At the Rio Las Vegas Resort & Casino:
Sign up for a Total Rewards card. Even if you don’t plan to gamble, it’s worth the five minutes it takes to apply online. Have your card number handy when you check in to your Rio suite and you can start earning reward points immediately. Show your card everywhere. Not only can you continue to earn points for comps and deals for future visits to any Caesar’s Entertainment resort, but you’ll immediately reap benefits with shopping and dining discounts while at the Rio. Look for the reduced Total Rewards prices on Rio restaurant menus. Read the FAQs and fine print and shop through Total Rewards retail partners throughout the year — inactivity will cause your points to expire in six months.
Make advance dinner reservations. Why wait in long restaurant lines with a bunch of overpowering Jem’Hadar? Advance dinner booking may work best if you’re confident you’ll be dining on a particular day and time. For example, if you’re already planning a meetup with your fellow Ferengi for a 7 p.m. Friday night dinner at the All-American Bar & Grille, know you can make that reservation online and not wait for a table. (Not available at all Rio eateries.)
Enjoy the resort and the city. Gamble, shop, eat, drink, go to shows — do all that Vegas-type stuff. Get to know what’s playing and who’s performing, whether it’s part of the convention or not. Relax at the pool. Check out the VooDoo Lounge. Pamper yourself with a spa treatment. Explore one of the new casinos. Smart con-goers pad their stay with a day or two before or after the convention for this purpose. (Also see “10 reasons to stay at the Rio.”)
Ask for a map. Especially if you’re new to the Rio, a small map or smartphone image helps immensely. There’s nothing more humbling (or embarrassing if you’re not alone) than walking for half an hour down the wrong hallway… of the wrong floor… of the Ipanema Tower. Only you suddenly realize your room is in the Masquerade Tower! You could ask for one at check-in or find some handy maps and property info on Caesars’ properties website.
At the Convention:
Pack some snacks. Speaking of long walks, it’s a fair jaunt out from the room towers to the convention wing. Now I (almost) understand why so many ‘non-disabled’ people use those mobility scooters! At my first two conventions, I found it helpful to pack some granola or protein bars to nibble on between panel sessions. Hopefully, again this year a deli-type food concession will be set up adjacent to the registration rotunda for light breakfast and lunch. You may want to bring along a plastic water bottle to fill up at one of the many water stations.
On a related note: Wear comfortable shoes. Standing, walking, waiting: you’ll need them. Even if you need special footwear to complete a costume or to comply with strict Starfleet (or Guinness World Record) uniform regulations, you’ll eventually want to slip into a pair of flip-flops or sneakers.
Don’t forget batteries and chargers — for the laptops, tablets, cameras, phones, phasers, tricorders or portable transporter devices. I like my Mophie Juice Pack for iPhone – it gives me almost an extra day of usage, while on my cell service network. The alternative is paying $13.95 per day wireless internet access in the room or $22.95 per day for access throughout the resort. Of course for some, like those who require WiFi, those extra fees may not seem like a such a bad deal.
Take your time in the dealers room. You may want to plan your tour around the dealers room. For example, you might compare the dealers room to the galaxy: Divide it into quadrants and get ready to explore… or assimilate. Back in 2011, I had the temptation to run around and see every vendor and celebrity in the first hour of the first day. Now I take my time: talking to the vendors, enjoying the parade of fans, chatting with the celebrities, shopping for souvenirs and collectibles — posters, shirts, jewelry, accessories and props.
Take advantage of phone apps, websites and social media. Regularly check Twitter using the hashtag #STLV. This is a great way to stay in the loop with all the impromptu meetups, breaking convention announcements or last-minute schedule changes. Keep track your convention activities with Bloodhound, a smartphone app developed for business conferences. With Bloodhound, you can customize your own schedule of events, view maps, connect with other attendees, and link to Twitter and Facebook.
Help set a new Guinness World Record for most Star Trek costumes in location. After my blog post on Trekmovie.com about the record attempt, I found a webpage outlining the costume regulations. It’s from a Texas Lottery promotion’s attempt from earlier this year. Please set your alerts and alarms to be there. Hopefully the powers that schedule events this year won’t put competing sessions during the half hour or so it takes to complete the World Record attempt.
Finally, and probably the most unnecessary tip: Have fun! I say “unnecessary” because at my first two conventions, I was so amazed and impressed! There’s no dispute — Star Trek fans are the best! They’re the most friendly, patient, courteous, helpful, fun-loving, tolerant convention attendees! Where else can you find several thousand people with different backgrounds, ages, nationalities (or from different planets?) with one common bond? If the Star Trek community is like a big family, the convention is a big family… on vacation!
Please add to this list: What convention tips can you suggest?
Note: Please check out Trekmovie.com for “all things Star Trek,” including news, information and opinions about Star Trek TV shows, movies, events, science & technology, and celebrities. This article is cross-posted there.
While strolling around the Phippen Museum Western Art Show in Prescott last May, a 10-foot tall woman stopped me in my tracks. And I was not the only bystander to stop and take notice of this tall figure. A small crowd had gathered around her and as I quickly learned, she’s a bit of a local celebrity. She’s the “Not-So-Gentle Tamer” — not just a bronze statue, but the epitome of a western pioneer woman. Looking into her eyes, I could see her strength, courage and determination.
With a rattlesnake in one hand and a hoe in the other, she was attracting a growing crowd at the Prescott Courthouse square. But her new official home is in front of the Town of Prescott Valley Civic Center, 7501 E. Civic Circle. The unveiling and dedication ceremony is at 10 a.m., Saturday, July 27.
At the Memorial Day weekend art show in downtown Prescott, another local celebrity was also drawing some attention. Bob Boze Bell, popular Arizona artist, cartoonist, columnist, writer, radio personality, True West Magazine owner and authority-on-all-things “old west,” stood behind a table signing prints of the colorful painting of the same towering bronze statue. My curiosity peaked. Bell is known for his drawings and paintings of “Old West” characters, scenes and themes, so at first I thought he might be dabbling in a new medium.
He must have seen my puzzled look as I glanced back and forth from the stack of colorful prints of the “Not-So-Gentle Tamer” to the 10-foot bronze statue with the same name, so he proceeded to offer up the short version how his commissioned painting for the centennial evolved into a statue bronze.
The story is a fascinating one. After Bell was asked to create a painting for the centennial, he captured memories of both his grandmothers’ personalities and lifestyles into one pioneer woman character — that of a sweet, but strong-willed rancher’s-farmer’s wife. Bell remembered his maternal grandmother, the wife of an Arizona rancher, would show both a soft side and firm hand. He recalled she could “calmly dispatch rattlesnakes with her trusty hoe.”
Bell’s original painting was so well-received; Prescott Valley Vice Mayor Lora Lee Nye had the idea to transform the work to bronze. Fast forward a few frames: Vice Mayor Nye contacted Ed Reilly, an owner of Bronzesmith, a Prescott Valley foundry, who then contacted local sculptor Deb Gessner, who would agree to create the 10-foot clay-to-bronze representation of Bell’s painting.
Vice Mayor Nye aptly tells about the Arizona pioneer woman characterization of American West in an online video: “The men won the West, but they did not tame it — the women tamed it.”
And many pioneer women, like one Arizona rancher’s wife, were “not so gentle.”
Thanks to the Town of Prescott Valley for permission to use these photos.
Arizonans don’t have to travel far to take advantage of cool, cultural offerings. Five air-conditioned locations in downtown Chandler offer respite from the heat and provide satisfaction for summertime cultural cravings — music, theater, art, film and literature.
At Chandler Center for the Arts, free summer concert performances start Friday Aug. 2 with the Bad Cactus Brass Band at 7 p.m. Other performances are jazz musician Dmitri Matheny on Aug. 16, a blend of flamenco and mariachi — “FlaMEXico!” on Aug. 23, and a music variety show for youth, “Plugged In” on Aug. 24. Tip: Since these shows are free and seating is first-come, first-served, you may want to get there when the doors open at 6:30 p.m. Allow extra time to check out the center’s gallery.
Xico Arte y Cultura Galeria is an art gallery, shop and studio dedicated to traditional arts and crafts by Native American and Latino cultures. Find jewelry, paintings, multimedia art, folk arts and crafts at the shop, located on the west side of A.J. Chandler Park. Many of the items carry colorful Dia de los Muertos themes. Tip: Check this non-profit organization’s Facebook page for upcoming special exhibits and artist demonstrations. Open Wednesday through Saturday noon to 5 p.m.
Stop by the versatile Vision Gallery and view special exhibits: “Decision Portraits by Susan Lenz” until July 26 or “Fine Art Photography by David Miller” beginning Aug. 2. About 300 regional artists’ works are on a rotating display. Don’t miss the popular “Art-O-Mat” — itself a mini art gallery, a showcase of mini art. It’s really a converted cigarette machine. Hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tip: Sign up for the gallery newsletter and you’ll get first news about special exhibitions and artists’ opening night receptions.
Cool off with a “hot” read from Chandler Public Library’s Friends of the Library summer book sale. Buy Library discard books at 4 for $1 through the month of July! And if you stop by on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. through Aug. 6, you can watch a showing of one of the flicks in the Get Reel Documentary Film Series hosted by the Library in partnership with Public Television’s Point of View series. Tip: Don’t forget your library card to check out a Cultural Pass for free local museum visits.
Gangplank, downtown Chandler’s collaborative workspace, comes alive with arts, crafts and music as the indoor location of the Downtown Chandler Art Walk on third Fridays during the summer months. Desks and computers make way for displays of sculpture, photography, painting, ceramics and jewelry from 6 to 10 p.m. So if you don’t have plans yet for this Friday, July 19: Come and enjoy music by Chris Buzan and a glass of wine while you stroll through the exhibits at Gangplank, located at 260 S. Arizona Ave. Learn more about Gangplank and its Wednesday brownbag series talks, health initiatives, community classes, business workshops by visiting the website or signing up for the weekly newsletter. Tip: Park in the city parking garage directly across the street, on the east side of Arizona Avenue. (Entrance to the garage is on its east side — off of Washington Street. It’s No. 10 on this handy downtown Chandler parking map.)
Combine any of these “artsy” venue visits with dinner at one of downtown Chandler’s cool restaurants, and you have the makings of a masterpiece — a memorable night out on the town.
Although I was already in my 20’s when PBS television show Reading Rainbow originally aired, I enjoyed how LeVar Burton seemed to instill a desire for learning. Following the young book reviewers’ descriptions, Burton invited his viewers to “check it out” or “find more about it.” The end of the show would list related books or activities as a means to follow-up. Such experiences undoubtedly would spark exploration and discovery.
The same can be said of travel. We read about a fascinating destination or exotic location and we want to go there. And sometimes the converse true. As travelers, when we visit a new location, we naturally want to know more about it. Many of us delve into a kind of in-depth research — finding out all we can about our destination. That’s why travel websites and guidebooks also are — in a sense — concise geographical and historical encyclopedias.
When I visited the Scott Polar Museum in Cambridge, UK, I realized I was merely scratching the surface of information about North and South Pole exploration. I wanted to know more about these expeditions — these men — these “heroes” who put themselves in such extreme and dangerous conditions to reach the ends of the earth – literally. The museum, which houses collections of the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute, is continually expanding and developing its displays devoted to expeditions of both Arctic and Antarctic regions. Physical sciences meet social sciences with historical evidence through letters, journals, and photographs — all convening under plate glass displays. Museum visitors learn the gripping tales of polar conquest, perseverance, human survival and sometimes, tragedy. Here, visitors can learn about a bit of everything that represents polar exploration — about regional native cultures and indigenous plant and animal species including polar bears, penguins or tiny marine micro-organisms.
Exhibits at the Scott Polar Museum tell a story of various expeditions, especially the British led parties. The museum itself is named for Robert Falcon Scott, British leader of the Discovery and Terra Nova Expeditions. The latter team found its way to the South Pole 33 days after a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen, who is credited with the discovery. After a series of setbacks such as foul weather, poor health and unsuccessful rescue attempts, Scott and his Terra Nova team would not survive the return trip. Journals, letters, personal effects, tools, photos were recovered when the bodies were found months later. Some of these can be viewed at the museum. Other museum exhibits describe similar expeditions. One heroic tale involves The Endurance, the ship of Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1916. Although the ship became trapped in the ice and the entire crew was forced off the sinking ship, a small contingent of men including Shackleton and Captain Frank Worsley miraculously reached a whaling station and returned to rescue the rest of the crew. There are some amazing videos of The Endurance and the rescue story on YouTube and it has been the subject of many books and films.
So when I asked my son, Andrew Britton — a University College London and Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration graduate, Cambridge resident (and my personal Scott Polar Museum guide) — if he could recommend a book that might describe both geography and history of Antarctica. His answer: “The Roof at the Bottom of the World: Discovering the Transantarctic Mountains” by ASU geologist/SESE professor Ed Stump. I can’t wait to start reading.
After my Scott Polar Museum visit, my interest in these expeditions peaked, I now find myself searching for old movies and documentaries about polar exploration on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. I am flipping through out-of-print books, journals and Wikipedia references.
See what travel and tourism do to an otherwise normal person? When I’m not exploring physically, I’m exploring intellectually. A little taste of exploration and discovery — even the satisfaction of reaching that destination — and it only makes you want more. Travel — like reading — ignites the imagination. Remember that famous LeVar Burton-Reading Rainbow phrase? “But you don’t have to take my word for it…”