Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thu 28 Feb - Scottsdale, AZ

Happy birthday to Di, happy birthday to Di, happy birthday to Di-i... It is Di's birthday today!!

No particular tourist activities planned today, just BBQ and cake to celebrate.

Di suggested that Hans does a short hike in the morning as she wanted to feel like a girl and go to the hairdressers (and to shop for tonight's BBQ which the boys are cooking!)

Di dropped Hans off at the trailhead for Sunrise Trail at 9am and Hans then hiked up to Sunrise Peak and then back through a loop to 128th street.

This is the hiking board at the trailhead.

It goes up and up for about 45 minutes as Vineet had said it would. Here we are looking back at the trail just hiked...
Top of the world - Sunrise Peak. Great views over the Phoenix / Scottsdale valley.
Arizona Canal in the distance
The trail on the other side of Sunrise Peak.
Behind the Sunrise Peak that you can see in the picture was this hitching post where you can tie up your horse. Horses were allowed on most of the trails from what Hans could see.
This is Sunrise Peak from another angle, almost at the 128th Street trailhead.
A minor downside of Di's birthday morning - a run in with the law! Yep, she got pulled over by a cop for doing 19 in a 15mph school zone after dropping Hans off. The cop went easy on the dumb tourist who was clearly upset and let Di off with a warning. It's very tough to drive at 15mph in a powerful automatic car. Lesson learned - in School zones put the auto car in LOW gear and crawl.

Di recovered with a coffee and a nice chat with the hairdresser.

Hans finished his walk in just over 2 hours and Di drove him straight to the hairdresser too. His hair was worse than Di's! A wash and good cut scrubbed him up good enough to accompany Di for cake later. See before and after photos below. Much better!

Hans before haircut... And after hike with no shower in between.

Hans after haircut...
After Hans had his haircut, we went literally next door to the Thai House for lunch... Again. Then back to base for Hans to have his shower before we headed off for Di to have dessert cheesecake for her birthday. We found a Cheesecake Factory outlet opposite Scottsdale Quarter and Di was in heaven...
Doesn't she just look pleased here?
Back to base again and Vineet's buddy Baha turns up a little later and we start with social drinks and nibbles in the back yard to watch the sun goes down. Here we all are after a few drinks!
The BBQ was fired up and great steaks cooked with nice red wine to accompany.
Dessert (second for the day for Di) was very good gelato at "That's Amore".
A great birthday for Di with great company. A bit sad to leave Vineet and the "boys" tomorrow but we do look forward to the Big State of Texas and our next adventures.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wed 27 Feb - Scottsdale, AZ

We are today looking for signs from some of Phoenix and Scottsdale's famous inhabitants. In other words, a driving day in this sprawling place.

First off, finding Nils Lofgren's house on 7422 E Berridge Lane in Scottsdale. Here is Hans outside the gates.

We liked the decorations of Nils' Cadillac.
Well, it is a sprawling complex at the end of a cul de sac. Seems private enough although no high fences or greenery in the way.
Nils Lofgren, for the uninitiated, is a great guitarist who has played with Neil Young, done lots himself and with his band Grin, and is mostly known as a member of E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen's band.
Of course, according to family lore, Hans may be a distant relative to Nils although that is yet to be proven. Hans' great grandfather was a Lofgren, had 17 children whereof 12 of them moved to the US.
We also know that Nils' Swedish origin is from the same area as Hans' great grandfather and grandfather came from. Something to research further at another time.
Next up, Alice Coopers house. There is not much of it that you can see from the road, but here is Hans again outside the driveway of 4135 E Keim Drive in a very posh area called Paradise Valley.
We then drove to downtown Phoenix and parked the car in a parking station on 1st Street. Around the corner on E Jackson St and 1st Street is Alice Cooperstown where we will go for lunch later...
We wandered around downtown looking for a cafe with karma. We failed. Only Starbucks style coffee places were to be found.
Downtown Phoenix is quite uninspiring with very few interesting buildings and open spaces. We did find a couple though. Hotel San Carlos has had many of the yesteryear's film stars staying there, and with stars on the sidewalk outside to prove it.
The most famous star to stay at San Carlos was Marilyn Monroe, but Ingrid Bergman had also stayed there.
Here is Hans in San Carlos lobby, doing his best to blend in. Nah.... Fail...
Civic Space Park had this interesting piece of art. We were not quite sure what it was supposed to be. Something to catch yabbies in? Symbolizing a tornado? Who knows...
Note the bloke suntanning at the bottom of the picture. He looked very relaxed and comfortable - he brought his own sun lounge!
Arizona State University has a sprawling campus next to and east of Civic Space Park, but it looked a bit dull to be frank. Only one picture.
We wander south back towards Cooperstown and crossed Van Buren Street, the major thoroughfare west to east in Phoenix. Looked nice just here.
In the little Catholic park across the street, Di is giving a former pope a hug...
We wander past Arizona D-backs baseball stadium...
We managed to get a look inside the stadium. Looked pretty impressive. They are preparing for Spring Training which starts here for Baseball within a week and is a big deal.


A somewhat redundant sign...
Arizona Diamondbacks even got the road outside the stadium named after them.
Finally, we get to Cooperstown for our lunch. The place is crowded when we get there just after noon, but had thinned out significantly an hour later.

Frankly, it is Hard Rock Cafe with another name; same types of food, memorabilia on the wall etc.

Here are some pics from inside Alice Cooperstown...

But the memorabilia is cool and definitely from Alice Cooper and his buddies.
This is the trophy for Alice' annual golf tournament, held in April from memory.
After lunch, we decided to try out Phoenix metro system and travelled east to its end station passing Sky Harbor International Airport, Tempe the main university area and ring road 101 along the way.
We didn't get off the tram, just went back the same way again. The tram is nice but the trip is not very scenic given that long stretches go through light industrial areas.
The trams clearly encouraged bicycles use and it had a clever way of storing them while in transit. 4 bicycles per carriage.
We then decided to call it a day, picked up our car and went back to Scottsdale.
Home cooked dinner yet again, spaghetti with spicy sausages. We then watched several episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" before retiring just after 9pm... Good night.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tue 26 Feb - Scottsdale, AZ

Hiking today.

Last time we were in Scottsdale, we researched McDowell Sonoran Preserve trails, a huge reserve just to the east of Vineet's place.

The hike started well enough, but after about 2km, Di decided to go return to base and take it easy and nurse her cold. She did however a shorter hike on the way back that took her closer to home, so she probably ended up walking some 7 km after all before panadol and a rest in bed.

Bye Di.

Hans continued the hiking on his own, and after passing the junction of the shortish loop around the Visitors Centre, the yummy mummies and sight seers thinned out and there were only occasional hikers and a few runners to be seen.
Fantastic landscape. Here are some views from aptly named "Inspiration Viewpoint", the first of 3 passes. One way...
And then the other...
OK, Hans probably got a bit carried away with cacti pictures, they are so cool, but here are a few...
Pass 2 is called Windgate Pass. Equally great views. One way...
And the views in the other direction...
Great and very clear signage on the trails.
Final pass, and the highest point is Bells Pass.
Views while having lunch at Bells Pass.
The hike on the board... Hans walked the blue the yellow and part of the black trails.
And using Runkeeper.
Back at the farm, Hans found Di recovering after walking back home via the shops. How nice that she left the car for Hans...
We then did some washing and had a couple of drinks outside at the back in the afternoon sunshine. Very relaxing.
Later Di was then cooking up a storm yet again. She needed an apron... And she got one...
Time spent playing with the dogs is always fun. Here is Hunter...
And here is Raylan (the obsessive Kelpie we now have dubbed Collector).
Dinner - Chicken Tikka Misala, rice, potatoes and pea curry and tomato and onion salad. Very nice :-)

Vineet keeps making comments about our dinners on Facebook and we seem to be attracting some attention (and likes) with home cooked food. It's nice for us too as we have so many meals on the road when travelling, which we will do again from Friday onwards.