Escape from high gas prices, admission fees with a day trip to Chandler’s Veterans Oasis Park

Okay, so gasoline prices are sky-high. You’d like to take an out-of-town day trip, but don’t want to shell out the bucks for a couple of tank fill-ups. Admission charges for zoos and animal parks also run a little too steep for your budget. Here’s a suggestion: try spending the day at one of the Phoenix-area municipal parks or riparian preserves. Many of the local parks offer a variety of enjoyable ways for a family to spend the entire day.

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Inside the Environmental Education Center at Chandler's Veterans Oasis Park

 

We recently spent a few hours at our one of our local parks, Chandler’s Veterans Oasis, located at the northeast corner of Chandler Heights and Lindsay Roads. It’s one of our area’s newest parks, and it really does have a little bit of everything. The Environmental Education Center (EEC) is a standout – it houses classrooms for nature camps and classes, landscaping workshops, healthy cooking, scouting programs, fishing lessons, birding, art, even yoga. Spring Nature Camp during the two-week Chandler school spring break provides both full and half-day programs.

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Urban fishing lake at Veterans Oasis

 

But we didn’t come to the park to look at nature programs; we came to look at nature. The park sits on 113 acres with a five-acre urban fishing lake, over four miles of trails and walks, many picnic ramadas with grills, playground areas, equestrian trails, butterfly and hummingbird habitats, plus an outdoor amphitheater for outdoor concerts like the Sonoran Sunset Series. Upcoming appearances include a folk/country trio from Gilbert called “Firefly,” on March 8 and a locally known jazz singer, John Vold on April 12.

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Spring wildflowers bloom along one of the walking trails at Veterans Oasis Park

 

Municipal parks such as Veterans Oasis are the perfect getaway for a Saturday or Sunday – or any day of the week, because they provide such a different environment than you’re accustomed to. For example, the day we were there, we couldn’t believe we were still in Chandler. As we strolled around the lake, we heard some bird songs and nature sounds we certainly wouldn’t hear at our subdivision’s playground, park or retention area, or even some of the city’s other parks. And as we came around the far side of the lake, I spotted a jackrabbit about the size of my border collie, just lumbering around a few feet from us between the bushes. I couldn’t get my camera or phone out fast enough.

Veterans Oasis Park has recently been named, “Certified Wildlife Habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation. From the beginning, naturalists and park administrators have combined their efforts to plan the park so that it will attract small animals, birds, fish, butterflies and other forms of wildlife to the park and maintain the environment to protect them. Since the park’s opening in 2008, more than 135 species of wildlife have been documented.  Last year the park became the first municipally owned park to be a part of the Bird Habitat Recognition Program from the local Desert Rivers Chapter of the National Audubon Society.

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Part of a recent community art exhibit at the Environmental Education Center

 

Veterans Oasis Park in Chandler is the perfect location for the family to observe Earth Day 2012. The City of Chandler is combining Earth Day, Arbor Day and the four-year anniversary of the EEC into one event on April 20 from 4 to 7 p.m. with hands-on activities, live animal exhibits, food booths, artisans and prize giveaways.

The best thing of all about Veterans Oasis? It requires little gasoline to get there, (at least for those of us in the Southeast Valley) and it’s FREE!

Regular park hours are 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily. The wildlife preserve is open 6 a.m. to sunset daily and the Environmental Education Center is open Monday and Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Readers: Where are the riparian preserves or wildlife areas near you? Have any suggestions for day trips that are close to home and free? I’d like to hear about them…

Health benefits of traveling with tea

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Travel with tea for health and wellness

 

You’re apt to find an online packing list for every type of getaway, business trip, family vacation or around-the-world tour. And no doubt, there’s a ton of information and websites about healthy traveling and handy remedies for the traveler. Rather than packing a little of this or that for each and every malady, you may find relief for many common travel ailments in your kitchen canister – tea.

On a recent airline flight, I was bothered by an eye infection and I tried treating it with eye drops without much success. My sister-in-law had suggested using a cooled, used tea bag, placed over the eye. So on my return trip, after enjoying a cup of Earl Grey, I placed the warm bag over my eye for several minutes. “This is really working!” I remembered, thinking how soothing it was. And drinking a cup of the tea seemed to improve my general malaise.

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Teapigs English Breakfast Tea, a favorite my son brought back from Cambridge, UK

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This had me thinking: there must be lots of other ways tea can benefit travelers, so I consulted local tea expert and restaurateur, Glynis Legrand. Glynis, who owns Urban Tea Loft in downtown Chandler, has been a longtime advocate of the health benefits of tea. Glynis agrees: tea is perfect for traveling, and in addition to being a tasty beverage, can be used to energize, relax, relieve congestion, refresh from heat, calm stress, alleviate inflammation and soothe sore muscles.

As a pick-me-up, Glynis recommends Yerba Mate (pronounced mah-tay), derived from leaves of a Brazilian rainforest plant. It has energizing qualities that are different than the caffeine in black tea or coffee.

“With Yerba Mate, there’s no caffeine crash,” Glynis explained, “rather you step down gradually from the energy lift from Yerba Mate.”

The feeling of alertness would be perfect for business travelers trying to work on a long flight, but would still like to relax once they reached their destination, she added. Black tea, with caffeine is also beneficial. It’s the more palatable and popular of the two teas, and blends well with many different flavors.

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Mango Orange Tea from Hawaii's Island Plantations

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According to Glynis, a variety of herbal teas will help accomplish relaxation after a long flight or road trip. Chamomile is the most popular. And to counter anxiety of travel, such as delayed flights, fear of flying or other travel stressors; a cup of calming, warm hibiscus tea will work.

Traveling can be hard on digestion too. Rooibos or other red teas will not only aid digestion but also act as an antioxidant. Rooibos has no caffeine and may be mixed with milk for children with stomach upset, said Glynis. Or it could sipped as an after-dinner drink. Mixing Rooibos tea with water in a small spray bottle is an ideal way to refresh the skin and hair.

With their antioxidant properties, warm green teas will fend off respiratory infections such as colds — extremely helpful for air travelers. And green teas will relieve accompanying congestion, too. They also provide relief for painful joints and muscles resulting from heavy suitcase lifting, stand in long lines or sitting for long periods on trains, planes and automobiles. Steeping green tea bags in warm water creates a soothing foot soak, added Glynis.

After your long flight, train or car ride, you’ve finally reached your destination and checked into your room. Again, consider tea’s advantages; nothing works better to relax and calm than a long soak in a lavender tea bath. Just the aroma itself slows the nervous system, promotes relaxation and a good night’s sleep — all very valuable to the frequent traveler.

Some teas pack better than others. For example, Matcha tea, a Japanese tea used in ceremonies travels well because it comes in a powder form, which can be added to water, or even stirred into lemonade.

“Matcha tea is very high in antioxidants,” said Glynis, “it has six times as much as other green teas.” Glynis advised green or black teas should not be packed in clear plastic bags, because sunlight and UV rays will degrade the tea. Instead, travelers can stow tea in a opaque, airtight container. For brewing tea ‘on the go,’ Glynis suggests a portable tea infuser like the Tuffy Steeper, a collapsible, packable strainer.

Readers: I would love to get your input about healthy travel. What items do you pack to keep healthy and stay comfortable while traveling?

Be a tourist in your town: Arizona Railway Museum

I’ve driven back and forth along Arizona Avenue and McQueen Road in Chandler for the last few years and never paid much attention to the small blue sign, pointing to the Arizona Railway Museum. Last Saturday afternoon, my husband and I decided to stop.

The Arizona Railway Museum, located at 330 East Ryan Road, comprises a collection of railroad cars and a museum building displaying a miscellany of memorabilia: tools, signs, photos, lanterns, timelines, an antique control center plus various parts and pieces of trains and rail systems — even samples from railroad company china cabinets. What caught my eye were the old photos of some of Arizona’s train stations, now long gone. A gift shop provides visitors with a wide selection of hats, shirts, mugs and toys. We spent a few minutes strolling around the museum, gaining a renewed appreciation for the era when rail transportation was both prevalent and popular.

But when we made our way outside to the tour the railway cars, I felt my heart beat faster. Simply walking between the cars prompted a childhood memory of a trip from Cleveland to Milwaukee on a pre-Amtrak passenger train. Memories of all those train sounds, sights and smells suddenly rushed to mind. When I was about 6 years old, I was more than a little apprehensive to climb up those steps to our seats. Last Saturday, I was eager to jump aboard.

At the Arizona Railway Museum, visitors can board several parked rail cars and walk between others onsite, some of which are in various stages of restoration. There are big mining company engines, shiny silver passenger cars, cabooses, locomotives, dining cars, sleepers and track maintenance vehicles. Train buffs and non-train enthusiasts alike, young or old, can spend an enjoyable afternoon at the museum, open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., September through May.

Volunteers work to restore cars and act as docents to help visitors by giving tours and assisting at the museum and gift shop. The museum has several fundraising events each year. According to Tour Director Holly Antosz, the museum’s most recent event, “Dinner in the Diner,” held each December, was so popular, it had to be expanded to a third evening. She said an additional “Dinner in the Diner” event on St. Patrick’s Day is in the works. On our visit we were informed another major event at the museum is National Train Day on May 12, when all cars will be open for viewing. National Train Day commemorates the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Arizona Railway Museum always welcomes new volunteers as well as visitors; contact information is on the website. A visit would be a great way to celebrate the upcoming city or state centennial.

Antique traffic control center

Schedule board from Chandler Station

Southwestern decor in one of the passenger cars

Dome allows for the ultimate in scenery viewing

Walk alongside the cars at Arizona Railway Museum

Museum highlight is the steam locomotive Southern Pacific 2562

At the end -- Santa Fe caboose

 

 

 

 

 

Basha’s Art Gallery: A hidden masterpiece

It’s no secret that corporate offices throughout the country are filled with famous works of art. Paintings, sculpture, multimedia creations from nationally-known and regional artists occupy the walls, cases and pedestals of corporate galleries, lobbies, hallways and lounges. But it’s a little known fact that Arizona supermarket giant, Basha’s, has maintained a vast collection of American Cowboy and Native American art, basketry, jewelry and artifacts in its Chandler headquarters.

Basha’s Art Gallery front hall features works by Joe Beeler

The Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Western American and Native American Art houses over 3,000 pieces in a wide range of media: oil, watercolor, acrylics, charcoal and pastels on canvas and paper as well as three-dimensional works in bronze, wood, granite, marble. The Pima and Apache baskets, Zuni and Navajo jewelry and Hopi kachinas not only “catch the eye;” they entice the visitor’s curiosity.

Bronze piece shows intricate details of animals

Zelma Basha Salmeri was an aunt of board chairman and CEO Eddie Basha Jr., who died March 26. Zelma passed along her love of art to her nephew and encouraged his hobby as a collector, so this collection is a tribute to her. He began collecting these works in 1971, and continued to expand the gallery throughout his life.

Contemporary pieces include ink and watercolor paintings

Many of the artists can be identified with the organization of western artists, Cowboy Artists of America. Joe Beeler, James Reynolds, Howard Terpning and George Phippen are represented here as well as John Clymer, who is known for his western art and his famous magazine art used on 80 front covers of “Saturday Evening Post.” Display cases created with hammered copper and glass boast fine examples of silver, turquoise and coral jewelry, Zuni fetishes and seed pots.

Paintings often depict an eventful scene as in John Clymer’s

Basha’s Art Gallery-goers should opt to take a few minutes to read the captions – to learn about the scene’s background and become acquainted with the artist. Then one can ascertain how each work is the sum of much historical data collection, creative imagination and technical interpretation. These artists must have also carried a fierce determination, as if it’s a parallel to their subjects and the spirit of the American frontier.

One part of the Kachina (or katsina) collection

There is no charge to visit the gallery, located in south Chandler, at 22402 S. Basha Road. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit the website.

Yavapai, Navajo, Apache and Pima tribes represented in the basket room

Note: This blog post first appeared April 21, 2011. I wanted to reprise an updated version now as kind a personal tribute to the late Eddie Basha Jr. I believe this amazing art gallery that Mr. Basha opened to all demonstrates how much he cared about his community as well as Arizona’s diverse history and cultural heritage.

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