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Navigating Fabulous Las Vegas

Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Las Vegas sign

Apparently, it was a big controversy when some Las Vegas casinos started charging for parking.

As long as The Strip had been there, there had been acres and acres on which to park your ride free of charge.

Las Vegas Flamingo

Then MGM decided to charge at all of their properties. Some casinos followed suit, others didn’t, but free parking in Vegas is no longer a given – even for hotel guests.

Las Vegas Strip

Free Parking

  • You can currently still park for free at Tropicana.
  • Parking at Flamingo and Caesar’s Palace is free for the first hour.
  • There is a small lot where you can park at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign for a short amount of time to get a photo of the sign. Enter from southbound Las Vegas Blvd.
  • Many nearby hotels have shuttles that will take you to The Strip, and you can skip parking altogether.

Las Vegas - Mandalay Bay

Transportation on The Strip

Once you’re there, there are several transportation options. Everything is so oversized that it’s farther to walk from one place to another than it may appear.

Bus: $8 for 24 hours (unlimited rides).

  • The Deuce bus route goes the entire length of the Strip up to the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas. It runs 24 hours a day and stops at most hotels.
  • The Strip and Downtown Express (SDX) makes fewer stops and goes farther into Downtown Las Vegas. It runs 9am to midnight.

Monorail: $12 for 24 hours. Runs from MGM Grand to SLS Las Vegas. 7am to at least midnight.

Aria Tram: Free. Runs from the Monte Carlo to Bellagio. 8am to 4am.
Las Vegas sign

– More Vegas Parking and Transit Info –

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30+ Ways to Travel Without Leaving Town

Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Sometimes you need to stay close to home. Maybe family or work responsibilities are keeping you grounded. Maybe it’s health or money issues.

There are still ways to see new things, experience other cultures, feel transported.

Norton Simon cafe

Recently, National Geographic featured a “travel photographer” who finds and composes interesting shots within Google Street View.

Navigating through the Street View of an area does give you a better sense of a place. So we’ll start there.

world-map-2

1. Use Google Street View to explore an area you’d like to visit or re-visit somewhere you’ve gone in the past.

Flamenco

2. Go to a local cultural center, performance, or festival.

3. Be a tourist in your own town.

  • See the cheesy stuff you’d normally skip and take photos.
  • Pick out postcards.
  • Visit the tourist information office or visitor bureau and find out what visitors are seeing or doing that you might’ve overlooked.

fremont-postcards-front

4. Watch some foreign films.

5. Try out any travel apps you’re interested in. See how well they work while you’re still at home.

papago-park-lake

6. Have you visited all the parks in your area?

travelexpo-dtphx

7. Take a different route home.

  • Skip the freeway.
  • Walk or ride your bike.
  • Try public transit or take a different line.
  • If you’re in Phoenix, have you ridden the light rail yet? End to end?

8. Get lost in a library.

cartel-mocha-art

9. Try a new restaurant, coffee shop, or bar.

10. Watch movies about travel.

  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty comes to mind.
  • So does Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, which I reviewed last year and is now on Netflix.
  • Phillip reminded me of The Motorcycle Diaries. So good. Definitely feels like you’ve been on a long journey through South America by the end.

Backyard

11. Set up a tent in your backyard or inside the house.

12. Sign up to host an international student.

p-drive

13. Go to another part of town and explore a neighborhood that’s usually not on your radar.

14. Get out photos and relive memories. Put them in albums or scrapbooks if you haven’t already.

Norton Simon museum

15. Visit a museum. Find out when they have voluntary admission days or other special events.

Pressed wildflowers.

16. Read a book set in a place you’d like to visit or that takes you on a journey. A few ideas:

  • Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.
  • In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson.
  • Riders of the Purple Sage, the Zane Grey novel that we recently saw an opera based on, really puts you inside the canyons and valleys of its setting.
  • Phillip loved Mitchner’s Iberia and said it made him feel like he’s been to Spain.

Mesa community garden

17. Ask friends for their favorite spots around town (to do, see, eat etc.) and try out their recommendations.

18. Wander around an international market. Buy something you’ve never seen before.

Patio

19. Bring a little of the places you love to visit into your regular life. Splurge on extra soft towels or have coffee on your patio.

20. Buy music from a place you’d like to travel. (Or borrow it – Phillip has found some great stuff at our local library.)

21. Make a friend from another country.

  • Volunteer with an international students’ group.
  • Adopt a refugee family.

star-over-desert

22. Explore the stars at a local planetarium or with a regular telescope.

23. Have you seen all the public art on display where you live?

Bag at sunset

24. Test out your travel gear. Make sure everything works, is comfortable to wear, etc. My dad used to fill his pack with encyclopedias and walk around the block to get ready for future backpacking trips.

25. Take photos of places or things you see every day. Use it as an opportunity to really look at what’s around you and maybe see it in a new light.

26. Watch travel shows or documentaries.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

27. Book a staycation at nearby hotel or resort. They probably offer discounted rates in the off-season.

28. Switch things up in your house.

  • Have dinner outside or spread out a blanket and “picnic” on the living room floor.
  • Build a fort.
  • Rearrange the furniture.

Riverside, CA

29. Go for a drive and see where you end up.

Tacos from Tacos Atoyac in Phoenix

30. Eat food from another culture. Go to a restaurant or try making it yourself with the help of a friend, cookbook, or a food blog….

31. Find the nearest places to camp.

Setting up camp at Lakeside

32. Learn another language. There are apps, podcasts, and resources at many libraries to help you with this.

  • MindSnacks has several free language learning apps. Their Learn Chinese app was great when I was attempting to do that, and the games were really fun.
  • There are lots of language learning podcasts if you just search on iTunes. I’ve been working on italiano on and off with Learn Italian from Italianpod101.com.

33. Plan your next trip or in-town adventure.

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Vacancy

Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 6 comments

Historic hotel in Peoria AZPhillip read an article an old hotel that had been sitting abandoned for years with plans to tear it down when the city decided instead to preserve it.

Historic hotel in Peoria AZ

He wanted to go find the Edwards Hotel on his day off, so we drove to the Peoria address in the article. It wasn’t hard to find.

Edwards hotel

Even from outside the chain link fence, it was interesting to guess what had been there originally and what had been added later.

IMG_9564

Then we took a stroll around Old Town Peoria, where there’s currently not much going on, but they have a revitalization program in the works.

 

Peoria

image

Peoria

State bird quilt

In the meantime, they have ornate, agriculturally-themed bus stops, a handful of historic buildings (including a church that was turning 100 the week we were there),  and a nice little community center with paintings and quilts on display. It was all a cozy contrast to the hollowed-out hotel.

image

Peoria

Peoria

 

Peoria Quilt




 

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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The Opening Of The Fire Pit

Posted by on May 5, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments

After our morning hike at Tumamoc Hill, we returned to the Mission Garden that evening for demonstrations on agave rope making and roasting, tequila tastings, a display of products made from agave fibers, plant sale, and The Opening of the Fire Pit.

Agave products

Tequila

The day before, probably about the time Phillip and I were driving from Phoenix to Tucson, a group had gathered at the Mission Garden. Jesús García, an Education Specialist at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, was demonstrating how to build a fire in a traditional roasting pit and fill it with agaves. They would be covered with metal from the side of an old washing machine and then layers of dirt to keep the heat inside the earth oven.

Jesus Garcia

Other than the repurposed washing machine, the pit would be similar to the ones we had seen evidence of on our hike that morning, the charcoal gray rocks contrasting with the reddish desert clay only hinting at what was under our feet.

Agave plants

We don’t know exactly how the ancient roasting pits worked. Current tribes in the area have not continued this tradition. However, Jesús García pointed out that just a few miles south of the border, “the tradition is still alive.” He talked to his family in Mexico about the process, taking notes and drawing extensive diagrams about every step. Adapting those techniques to the Tucson area has taken some trial and error. Apparently. Last year’s cooking time wasn’t quite enough.

So this year, they would give the agave a full 24 hours to cook underground before literally digging in and opening up the fire pit.

Agave

That must be the magic number. It was soft and slightly sweet. Each variety had a different flavor. One tasted like sweet potatoes.
Roasted agave

So what if you don’t happen to have access to a 5-foot by 6-foot roasting pit?

Carolyn Niethammer shared how she roasts quartered agave heads in her home oven – just roast at 350 for 17 hours (!)

Carolyn cooking demo

Once they’ve been roasted, you can add them into other dishes. With an electric skillet, she demonstrated how to saute up some agave along with nopales (prickly pear pads), peppers, and tepary beans, a drought-tolerant heritage bean that has recently come back into use. It was delicious!

Agave and tepary beans

She followed up by passing around some “Aztec delights,” bite-sized treats she made from amaranth, chia, agave syrup, and chocolate.

Dessert at Mission Garden

It was a sweet finish to our Mission Garden visit.

 

 


Next Agave Heritage Festival events in Downtown Tucson:

  • May 6 + 7, 10am + 1pm: Fibers, Tequila and Fun at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Included with admission.
  • May 6 + 7, 10am: Agave Garden Tours at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Included with admission.
  • May 6 + 7, 10am: Rare + Collectible Agave Sale at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Included with admission.
  • May 6, 6pm: Agave Fest tequila party at Hotel Congress. $35
  • May 7, 11am: Agave Heritage Brunch at Carriage House. Proceeds from this brunch help benefit Mission Garden. $55



We were guests of Hotel Congress and Maynards Market + Kitchen.

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Ancient Agave Tour

Posted by on May 4, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Agave

To kick off the Agave Heritage Festival, Stephanie and I got to play archeologists for the morning.

Mission Garden Tucson

After getting to the Hotel Congress late the night before, I used my front-desk-issued earplugs to get some sleep, so we could get ourselves to the Mission Garden by 8:15 am.

Paul and Suzie Fish

We met our gracious guides there: Paul and Suzie Fish, emeriti professors of archaeology from the University of Arizona and the Arizona State Museum. The plan for the day was to carpool over to some pristine desert land several miles away at the base of Tumamoc Hill, where U of A Desert Laboratory is located, hike in about a half mile, and then be guided by the archaeologists on a tour of an ancient agave horticultural/gardening site and roasting pit used by the Hohokam people of the American Southwest.

Desert hike in tucson

While on this tour, I was surprised to find out that the Tucson area has evidence of farming estimated to go as far back as 5,000 years! The fields we were to tour are estimated to date to the 1200-1300s.

Charred rock

The first stop was the roasting pit. It’s a good thing we had trained professionals to take us here. Most anyone would have walked right by the spot, which looked like any other unremarkable clearing in the desert. A closer look yielded the clues: a few potsherds here and there, a slightly more charcoal-colored soil, and pieces of “rind.” Rind is the bubbly mix of stone and organic material that forms around such pits due to the high temperature in the roasting process.

Agave roasting site and cactus

The roasting was probably done every few years as it takes years for agave to grow to the harvesting stage. During its lifetime, little “pups” or rhizomes, which are essentially agave clones, grow out from the plants. Farmers would have taken these and used them to plant new agaves, which would have helped stagger the harvesting seasons.

Agave pups

Our guides explained that the agave was cultivated for three reasons: food, alcoholic beverages, and fibers – Stephanie filmed a jaw-dropping demonstration on how agave fiber can be made into a rope within minutes!

Since it would take at least 24 hours to roast the agaves, apparently, the Hohokam would multitask, using the time to work on other projects like making spindles for forming the fibers into thread or ropes.

Suzie Fish

As Suzie was explaining this to us, she reached down and grabbed a few bits of pottery sherds to show us. So I stooped down to glance at the dirt around my feet.

All of the sudden, the desert seemed to bloom with evidence of past humans. I found some pieces of the rind that our guides had described and some pottery pieces. Most interestingly, I found a rounded piece of pottery that Suzie told us was likely the beginnings of a spindle for making thread. Therein lies one of the most amazing aspect of archaeology – to touch an object that had been made with such intentional effort by another human centuries removed from me.

From the pit, we moved on to the remains of the gardens.

Desert

While there are no original agave plants left, our guides pointed out rocks arranged along the sloping hillsides to guide water to various miniature terraces where the agave would have been. Farther along, we started seeing evidence of experiments being done by the University of Arizona to replicate agricultural techniques used by the Hohokam. Since the early 1980s, scientists have been using this spot to try to replicate Hohokam techniques with agave horticulture.

Agave oasis

My favorite example was seeing how the terraces set up to encourage agave growth would not only foster significantly better growth for agaves, but they would also have a variety of plant neighbors which would grow up alongside next to them. They also benefited from the more advantageous microclimate of the terrace.

Desert terraces

I was in awe of how observant and creative the Hohokam were to create a space where they could cultivate agave on a larger scale. Indeed, our guides say that agaves are seldom naturally found below the 3,000 foot elevation mark. With a few ingenious adaptations, the Hohokam were able to make it work!

 

Ocotillo

 

– More Archaelogy Info –

The Southwestern United States and Arizona are hotspots for archaeology.

If you’re interested in getting involved in local AZ archaeological preservation efforts, one place to look is the Southwest Archaeology Team. It’s a great opportunity to get involved with archaeology on an amateur basis. They’re based in Mesa, Arizona and affiliated with the Arizona Museum of Natural History. I joined the organization for a time during high school and used the opportunity to take a class they offered in archaeological field surveying. In addition to educational opportunities, they provide volunteering opportunities in archaeology.

You can also check with local community colleges. As a high school student, I was able to take a class at Mesa Community College on archaeological field methods to learn the tools, techniques and terms of the profession.
Tucson desert


Next Agave Heritage Festival events in Downtown Tucson:

  • May 5, 6 + 7, 10am + 1pm: Fibers, Tequila and Fun at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Included with admission.
  • May 5, 6 + 7, 10am: Agave Garden Tours at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Included with admission.
  • May 5, 6 + 7, 10am: Rare + Collectible Agave Sale at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Included with admission.
  • May 5, 1:30pm: Talk on Cryptic Gardens and Pre-Columbian Agave Clones at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Included with admission.
  • May 5, 5pm: Cinco De Mayo Party at Club Congress. Free until 9pm, then $3
  • May 5, 6:30pm: Agave Heritage Dinner at Maynards Plaza Patio. Proceeds from this dinner help benefit Native Seed Search. $110
  • May 6, 6pm: Agave Fest tequila party at Hotel Congress. $35
  • May 7, 11am: Agave Heritage Brunch at Carriage House. Proceeds from this brunch help benefit Mission Garden. $55



We were guests of Hotel Congress.

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