Gold Canyon, Az

Gold Canyon, Az
New Years Day 2015, Gold Canyon, AZ

Saturday, February 17, 2018

South Mountain

On Thursday we met up with Audrey and Laurie, friends from back home.  They were in Mesa for a few days before meeting up with their daughter and heading to Sedona to take in the sights.  Love Sedona.  Have to get back there some day.  

A few weeks ago we had met a couple from Calgary at the Theatre and after the show they invited us back to their Condo for Pizza.  They had mentioned a few places where they have visited and one of them was South Mountain which provides a great view of Phoenix from the top of the mountain.  As there wasn't any hiking involved I figured I could hobble around while the others explored.  The weather hasn't been great the last few days, lots of cloud, rain and cool temps but as we set out to pick up Audrey and Laurie from their hotel the clouds started to breakup.  Not great Arizona weather but at least we weren't going to get wet.  

South Mountain Park is located directly south of downtown Phoenix and is an easy drive just off the interstate.  At more than 16,000 acres South Mountain Park/Preserve is one of the largest municipally operated parks in the country. It boasts 51 miles of primary trails for horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking for all ability levels. Being on crutches does limit ones ability to participate in any of those activities.  From the park's main entrance, we drove up Summit Road 5.5 miles to Dobbins Lookout and spectacular valleywide views.  Unfortunately the clouds and the smog made for poor visibility and worse pictures.  

I had used the GPS in the truck and after one false start which took us in entirely the wrong direction a second attempt got us at least to the base of the mountain.  Then we ended up in someones driveway.  At that point we pulled our our Phones and used Google Maps to get us to the proper road and to the Visitors Centre, which was closed due to construction.  We kept on driving up Summit Road which is a long, narrow winding switchback eventually getting us to the peak. 

With my support team in place I hobbled off the asphalt over some sand and rocks to a bench with a view.  Lori, Audrey and Laurie headed off to explore a bit while I snapped some pictures and enjoyed the view.  While in the Valley of the Sun you don't really notice the smog until you look to the horizon over downtown Phoenix, particularly from an elevated position.  Then you really notice the impact of all those cars.  Too bad.   Perhaps in 20 years we will all be driving electric and the great views will be back.  

Phoenix is at 1000 ft so Summit Road took us up another 1300 ft.  

Audrey and Lori.
Audrey is Lori's regular walking partner at Birds Hill Park
I really didn't adjust the exposure very well.  

Greater Phoenix down below.

Downtown Phoenix.
The downtown skyscraper area really isn't very big.
Mostly sprawling development, housing 4.2 million people. 

Eastern Phoenix looking out over Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa.

Young love.

We left South Mountain and had time to kill before dinner so we decided to head over to Southwest Pottery just to show Audrey and Laurie the huge selection of pottery available.  Unfortunately we were in rush hour traffic and as we got close to our destination we realized we were just going to get there and they would be closing for the day.  We decided to reprogram the GPS and head to Organ Stop Pizza for dinner.  

We had heard about Organ Stop Pizza from a number of people in the RV Park and were told it was a must see.  It is basically a large restaurant specializing in Pizza but the main attraction is the huge Wurlitzer Pipe Organ.  

I took the following info off of their website.  I understand very little of the technical aspects of the organ but it was one huge sucker and put out some pretty impressive sound.  The theme to Star Wars was pretty dramatic. 

"Organ Stop’s Wurlitzer theatre organ was built for the Denver Theatre and was installed in 1927. The organ was used regularly until the early 1930s. With the advent of the talking picture and the 1930s depression, the organ was rarely heard. It was silenced when a fire in the auditorium caused extensive damage to the organ’s relay.
Organ Stop purchased the instrument in the early 1970s and undertook the mammoth task of rebuilding the instrument. Several additions were made to the instrument by acquiring parts from other ill-fated Wurlitzers. The resulting 23 rank organ was installed in our original facility in 1975.
The building’s design is expressly for the enjoyment of patrons, with the organ installed in four chambers at one end of the restaurant.. Forty-three foot ceilings provide unparalleled acoustics. The console is “presented” on an 8000 pound rotating hydraulic elevator. Many of the percussions (such as the xylophones, glockenspiels, drums, etc.) are installed in the dining room for greater audience appeal.
The enlargement and improvement of this instrument has been an ongoing project… This is the largest console type ever designed and built by Wurlitzer.  As of today, the organ has nearly 6000 pipes. The massive quantities of wind required for operation are provided by four huge turbine blowers. The resulting instrument boasts 82 ranks, 17 tuned percussions and innumberable traps and effects.  It is not only the largest Wurlitzer theatre organ in the world, it’s the largest Theatre Pipe Organ of any type to ever be assembled!!!"
The keyboard or Console is extensive to say the least.  Consists of: 4 manuals with 61 keys each; pedalboard with 32 keys; 422 stop tabs- red denote reeds, amber for strings, ivory for flues; 113 combination action pistons and toe studs; 5 expression pedals; 5 toe levers; 2 drawers housing 326 switches controlling various selective stops, sound effects, theatrical lighting and effects. 
What I wonder is how much of this extensive array of controls the musician actually uses.  I bet most of them he never touches.  

The outside of the OSP with a lengthy lineup to get in.
Actually better to come later as Snowbirds eat early.
When we left there were lots of empty seats and no lineup. 

Lots of glitz on the organ.
The platform it sits on rises up out of a pit and it rotates.

Just some of the 6000 pipes.

The restaurant seats hundreds, all on long narrow tables and long benches.
 It was packed.  Not the easiest to negotiate on crutches.
Had a hard time finding 4 spaces and definitely
did not want to do the stairs to get to the second floor. 

Kind of reminded me of Winnipeg Arena,
40 years ago, doing Octoberfest.  

An Iphone does not handle the glare of spotlights very well.
As noted above the key board is extensive.  

Older love, 

The important word being love. 

Lori's newest Amazon purchase.
2 Mexican stars for our patio at home. 

On Friday I made an appointment with a Physiotherapist in Gold Canyon.  I wasn't very happy with the lack of information that the Hospital ER provided me or the instructions for rehab. The ER Doctors hands on physical exam of my ankle was almost non-existent and their instructions for rehab which they provided me in written form upon us leaving was so vague as to be useless.  After 7 days and still not being able to walk on it without it popping I thought a physiotherapist might provide me a better action plan for recovery.  

I made an appointment with Michael at Vitality Physical Therapy in Gold Canyon.  He got me in and did a thorough physical exam of my ankle, lots of questions about how it happened, how it felt when I moved it in different directions, etc.  He provided me with a detailed explanation of the structure of the ankle and gave me an exercise routine to follow.  He also said that if I had any questions I could email him and he would provide followup without charging me.  Cost me $85. and I should be able to claim that on my Sun Life Medical Insurance that we have back home. I doubt the Travel Medical will cover it.  Even if I don't get reimbursed it was money well spent.    

Not much planned for the next few days.  Wednesday we are off to see Canyon Lake on  Dolly's Steamboat so will provide a report on that excursion.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


When I have been at the pool I always had this feeling I was being watched.  Then we were told about the Horned Owls who had a nest in one of the palm trees right next to the pool.  Apparently this couple has been here for a few years and after a quick google search I found out that they usually lay eggs in late January and incubation takes about 25 days.  Will have to go back to see if I can get some shots of the little ones.  The partner, not sure if male or female, is often up in the top of the palm trees, I guess waiting for his turn on the nest.
Strange that they would pick pool side to nest as this is probably the busiest place in the park.  The pool, hot tubs and patio to the club house are on one side and the Pickleball course are on the other side.  Obviously very comfortable with all the activity and curious onlookers standing 20 feet from their tree and gawking at them.
I circled the tree, snapping shots and her gaze never left me.  Didn't even blink.  Got to get myself a bigger lens.  500mm would sure bring out the detail of those feathers without having to crop so severely.
I took these pictures at about 7:30 AM after all my morning shots of the Super Blue Blood Moon and then got some shots of the the Superstition Mountains and the main drive into the RV Park.  The light is so much softer at this time of the morning.

The nest is only about 20' off the ground right next to the Pool.

Peek a boo!

My, what big eyes you have. 

Flat Iron is on the right.  There is a hike that goes up there.  
Not on my agenda. Thank-you very much. 

A very pretty drive into the park from I 60.

We were at Walgreens picking up some meds for Lori's hives 
(result of reaction to pool chemicals).  
Saw these on the shelves next to the Cold meds.  
Hmmm.  A sign of the times. 

Lunch at the Dana Park mall.  
A Sunday morning visit to Barnes and Noble followed 
by lunch at one of the outdoor cafe's has become 
a monthly occurrence.  

My bike ride through Gold Canyon takes in some great views.  
Golf course down below with Superstitions beyond. 

One evening we went to the Barleens Dinner Show.  $38. per ticket got us a great 
meal complete with roast beef, mashed potatoes, chicken breast and carrots all 
smothered in brown gravy.  Dessert was Chocolate Cake which was served first cause,
as the host told us, life at our age is short so why wait.  Following dinner 
Ice Cream Sundays' were also available however Lori and I passed on this indulgence.  
Mark partook and it looked delicious.  The meal was excellent.  
Following dinner we were thoroughly entertained with the Rock n' Roll Tribute show.  
They played lots of the great hits from the 50's and 60's, added in some impersonations 
and comedy routines.  We were thoroughly entertained.  This is a must see if you are 
in the area.  They have a number of different themed shows during the Snowbird season 
and it is recommended purchasing tickets well in advance.  

Mark & I listening intently to the wisdom of our wives.

Not sure what they put in the lemonade but Lori and Jan were very happy.
Perhaps it was just the fact they had the total attention of their men.  

Not sure how much hair spray it took to keep his peak in place.
It lasted the whole show. (note the hair)

This guy did a great Elvis, complete with the sneer. 

He also did a great impersonation of Barney Fife of Andy Griffith fame.  
If you don't know what I'm taking about you are obviously very young. 
Google it.  

Not the whole band.  4 more out of frame. 

Now for the rest of my story which I alluded to a few blogs ago.  The reason I now have the time to update my blogs.  
I was out playing pickle ball on Wednesday and as per usual they spend a good 5 minutes before we start reminding us that we aren't as young as we used to be and that injuries can happen very easily.  Yada, Yada, heard it before.  Lets get going, eh! 
So off we go.  I do all my stretching exercises and keep my athletic endeavours well within my diminished capability.  During my second game I was at the back of the court, planted my foot to position myself to return a shot and CRACK.   
I felt and heard a crack in my ankle.  What I don't get is that I wasn't reaching or twisting and that my feet were basically under my shoulders so no reason for something to give out.  I hobbled off the court and biked back home.  Hopped up the steps of the trailer, applied ice and propped up my foot above my heart and proceeded to watch my outside ankle bone grow and grow.  
Lori was still partaking in her dolphin activities but when she got home I informed her we were probably off to the hospital for some X-rays.  I phoned the Travel Medical Ins (don't leave home without it) and got a claim number and off we went to my favourite Emergency ward at  Mountain Visa Medical Centre.  I had been here for some medical attention 3 years before.  There was only one other couple in the waiting room and after we gave our personal information we were taken in to see the Dr.  After some preliminary questioning they brought in a machine to our room.  Looked like a large commercial floor buffing machine but was actually a portable X-Ray.  Took a couple of pictures and then the Dr came back with her shadows.  One shadow was a med student and the other had a laptop and was busy typing in all the questions they asked and the answers I provided.  Then off they went to view the results of the X-Rays.  After 30 minutes the two shadows came back to tell me there were no broken bones, just a sprained ankle.  A sprained ankle is basically a stretching or possible tearing of the tendons and ligaments surrounding the ankle and can be anywhere from a Level 1 to a Level 3 sprain.  No way of telling specifically without doing an MRI.  I was expecting an MRI next but they decided based on my symptoms and lack of excruciating pain that there was no torn tissue and a splint, crutches, ice and some Motrin combined with some time off my foot would heal me up.  
So they wheeled me out sporting my new splint and a pair of shiny crutches.  Although I drove to the hospital the Med Student that accompanied us to the parking lot suggested it was time for Lori to learn how to drive the truck.  Lori has not driven this truck and has repeatedly refused my offer of driving lessons.  Its not that the truck is difficult to drive, in fact it almost drives itself, but she is a bit afraid of how big it is.  Well despite the look of fear in her eyes she navigated through the parking lot out onto the Interstate and got us all the way home, even merging from an on-ramp into traffic on I60, with no problem at all.  I wonder what sort of injury it would take for her to drive the truck with the 5th wheel hooked up.  I don't think I want to find out.  
So for the next while I am on my ass watching the Olympics or CNN and periodically trying to navigate down the narrow hall and up 3 steps to the bathroom on my crutches.  Haven't fallen over yet.  I'm not in any pain and the swelling has gone down.  I can now put some weight on it but with the slightest twist I can feel the ligaments pop so I'm not ready for a return to the Pickleball courts just yet.  Frankly,  my season and perhaps my career is done.  Shuffleboard looks like a fun game.  Much like curling and no sweeping required.    

To steal a phrase from a fellow blogger
This is my view from here. 

Thats it for now.  We do have a few activities planned for the next week as friends from home are coming down.  I will be the chauffeur but probably won't venture too far from the truck while they explore.  

More on that later, till then Go Canada Go.  

Monday, February 12, 2018

Super Blue Blood Moon

The early AM of Jan 31 I was fortunate to be in a geographic location that allowed me to enjoy a once in a lifetime event.  The Super Blue Blood moon.  
First some definitions:  
Super because the moons orbit brings it a bit closer to the earth making it appear bigger and  coincides with a full moon.  I understand it is hardly noticeable but still....bigger.  Usually the best time to see the full effect is when the moon is clearing the horizon and you have trees, mountains or roof tops to compare it to; 
Blue because it was the second full moon of the month.  Statistically we see a Blue moon every 2.7 years however some locations will get a Blue moon in January and again in March with no full moon in February;   
Blood because of the colour of the moon caused by the lunar eclipse when the moon passes into the shadow of the earth.   
Last Super Blue Blood Moon 1866
Next Super Blue Blood Moon 2037.  Only 19 years to wait.
Enough for the science lesson. 

I set my alarm for 4:30 AM and hoped for clear skies.  The previous evening we had some high cloud cover but the clouds were supposed to clear in time to start seeing the lunar eclipse.  By 5:00 I was out on the parking pad next to the trailer bundled up in a heavy jacket, gloves and a hat with a travel mug full of Timmies best.  A bit nippy at that time, even in Arizona.   
I set my camera up on the tripod, deactivated the auto focus and set the shutter for a 2 second delay to avoid camera shake when I depressed the shutter.  When the subject is 238,900 miles away and I'm working with a max zoom of 200mm its real hard to get a crisp image.  Especially when I'm going to severely crop the final results and both the earth and moon are in motion.  Given that my exposures would be anywhere from 5 seconds up to a minute a crisp picture of the moon was not in the cards.  This is where I need a telescope with one of these adapters where the camera body can be mounted directly into the telescope.  Maybe if I start saving my nickels I can have that hardware in place for the next Super Blue Blood Moon in 19 years.   

Mark wandered over at about 5:00 with his binoculars, which reminded me that we also had a pair.  I hustled into the trailer and dug ours out.  Then I started snapping pics.  Since I don't have a lot of experience taking night time photography I figured the best chances of getting at least one good picture was volume with plenty of bracketing of f-stops, shutter speed and ISO.  As they say, even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again.  

The pictures will show the progression of the eclipse and the changing colour of the moon as it nears total eclipse.  The pictures are heavily cropped and I played a bit with the exposure in post editing to provide the best effect but the colours are pretty much what I saw with the naked eye.  In fact the pictures don't quite do justice to what I saw either for clarity or colour.  The best view was through the lens of the binoculars.  

Here we go.   

This is actually a shot of the Super Blue moon on the evening of January 1.
It was cloudy on the evening of Jan 30 so no pictures available.
 I went back in my archives to pull out this picture.

5:00 AM Jan 31.  The beginning of the eclipse 

The same as above.
The halo is an effect of the exposure and my playing with some editing features

Getting close to 50%

The blueish colour is due to me playing with editing features. 

By this time we were starting to see a pinkish colour through the binoculars

Now the camera lens is starting to pick up the colour change

Now were talking.  Only gets bloodier from here. 

Almost total

Total Eclipse. Moon is setting and can barely see trunk of palm tree on the right.
Have to move the tripod again. 

A little underexposed provides a much deeper colour. 

Predawn light and light clouds close to the horizon are starting to play havoc 

Afraid thats it.  Clouds are now blocking part of the moon and sun will be up soon.

Never did see the other half of the eclipse due to the low clouds and the predawn light in the sky.   Time to freshen up my coffee and perhaps try to catch a few Zzzzzzzz.  

Next up, who, who who is that up in the tree.