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Light Rail Phoenix: A Beginner’s Guide

Posted by on May 27, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Mesa light rail station with train

People have asked me how to take the Valley Metro light rail in the Phoenix area, so I made a video guide.

However, if you prefer tips in written form, read on!
Phx light rail station Big map

1. Find where to go.

There’s just one line with 2 directions, Eastbound and Westbound. You can ride anywhere on the line all day for $4.

Westbound train route:

  • begins in downtown Mesa (Mesa Dr./Main St.)
  • ASU Tempe campus
  • Sky Harbor Airport
  • Downtown Phoenix (Phoenix Convention Center, Talking Stick Resort Arena, Chase Field)
  • Central Ave. (turns north)
  • Roosevelt Row/arts district
  • ends at 19th Ave. and Dunlap (near Metrocenter)

Eastbound trains start at 19th Avenue and Dunlap, retracing basically the same route, heading south and then east and ending at Mesa Drive and Main Street.

Phx light rail station At night

Schedule

To find where to get on and off the train and get schedule information, pick up a Transit Book, check the Valley Metro website, download the Ridekick app, or try Google Maps. If you don’t want to bother with the schedule, you can just show up. Trains run about every 10-20 minutes until around 1am.
Mesa park and ride with grid bike

Park-and-Ride

If there’s not a stop near you, you can drive to one of the 11 Park-and-Ride lots, where there’s free parking for people riding the light rail or bus. You just find a spot, lock your car, and head to the station platform.

Phx light rail station On Jefferson

2. Get your ticket.

You can easily get a pass from a fare vending machine at your stop before you leave.

Follow the prompts on screen to select an all-day pass and activate it immediately. Then pay with cash, credit or debit.

Your pass and receipt print from two different places. Make sure to pick them both up!

Tempe light rail station

On the Station Platform

While you’re waiting, check the signs to make sure in the right spot for the train going in your direction.

Stations have…

  • fare vending machines
  • scrolling LED signs that say when to expect the next train
  • seating
  • some shade
  • route maps (simplified to highlight the stops – not to scale)
  • drinking fountains
  • artwork inspired by the local area

Mesa light rail station art - serpentine

Stations don’t have…

  • restrooms
  • food or anything for purchase (except rail passes)

You can bring your own beverage with a lid on it.

On board Phx light rail station

3. Get on board.

Trains stop at every station. You don’t have to flag them down. If one looks like it’s not stopping, Don’t panic! It’s probably just pulling up farther.

When the train pulls up to the station, it will come to a complete stop, the doors automatically open, and you can step into any car. Find a seat or or a place to stand and hold on to the railing. If you are standing, try to move back away from the doors, so people can easily get on and off.

Phx light rail station Art

There’s usually not anyone checking tickets as you get on. It’s kind of on the honor system. Occasionally, though, transit officers in black and white uniforms will come through and check tickets after the train is in motion. Not having one can get you fined up to $500.

Watch and listen for your stop. You can find a route map above some of the doors. And before each stop, a recording will say “approaching station” then the station name and whether you’ll exit the train on the left or right side. The information is also on scrolling LED signs in the middle of the ceiling of each car. Once you arrive, wait for the train to stop and doors to open, and you’re there!
Tempe light rail station art - hands

– More light rail info –

  • Fare details.
  • Make sure you are waiting for the train going the direction you want to go. Most of the platforms are in the middle of the street and trains going both directions share them. However, around downtown Phoenix the line splits. So if you’re at the Phoenix Convention Center for example, the station for westbound trains is at Washington and eastbound trains stop a block south of there at Jefferson.
  • If you’re only going one way (to the airport, for example), you can purchase a 1-ride ticket. Once you purchase it, take your ticket and receipt. You have a two-hour window after purchasing to make your trip in one direction.
  • You may notice that there’s a “buy online” option on the Valley Metro website. This is NOT for last-minute purchases! Since electronic tickets are not accepted, you can order tickets online, and then they’ll be shipped to you via snail mail.
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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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