August 24, 2014

Spend a little time exploring Arizona – there are some great places to visit. Near the end of April I drove up to Prescott Valley to see a friend from RVing days, arriving in the middle of a wildly windy day. Prescott Valley is almost a mile high in elevation, so generally about 10 deg. cooler than Tucson, and probably 15 deg. cooler than Phoenix. I’d been wanting to visit Arcosanti and Tom had never been there, so we drove over that afternoon. It’s right off I-17 just past the exit for 69 and Prescott Valley.  

Founded by Paolo Soleri (1919-2013) and constructed in the high desert of AZ as an alternative human habitat, it is home to a diverse community of people who, among other things, produce the world-famous bronze and ceramic Soleri Windbells. There are workshop programs, concerts and other events throughout the year so make this a definite stop while you're exploring Arizona. We each got one of the windbells, but didn’t have time for the guided tour. We’ll definitely go back another time to learn more about this fascinating place.

Soleri Windbells at ArcosantiSoleri Windbells at Arcosanti

The following day, believe it or not, there was wind, rain, and even snow in PV – certainly a far cry from Tucson’s rapidly climbing temperatures – so we hunkered down and played cribbage or read for most of the day.

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On Sunday, we took off for Out of Africa Wildlife Park, in Camp Verde, about an hour away. We spent most of the day there, taking lots of photos of an incredible collection of wild animals. I was kissed (sort of) by a giraffe who gently took a piece of acacia from my lips. 

The big cats were awesome and there was a terrific show with tigers and young people around a big pool at the end of the day. These gorgeous creatures (the tigers) do like to play! 

I had hoped for some good photos of the wolves - sadly, they slept the whole time we were there. There are several other attractions in the Camp Verde area, so plan to spend some time here when exploring Arizona.

White TigerAt Out of Africa Wildlife Park

I’ve been back to Prescott Valley a few times since, taking Bijou with me. It's about a three-hour drive, but she’s a good traveler and has gotten reasonably comfortable around Tom’s Australian Shepherd, Buddy. 

Highlights you don’t want to miss when exploring Arizona

Sedona, about an hour away, claims the top spot on USA Weekend’s list of Most Beautiful Places in America and boasts 4 million visitors a year, almost as many as the Grand Canyon. Many come for the healing and spiritual energies of the several vortex areas, some to hike, camp and enjoy the natural beauty of the red rock formations, others to prowl the countless art galleries, as we did when visiting Sedona’s delightful Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village in early July.

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Bell Rock in Sedona, AZBell Rock in Sedona, AZ

On a more recent visit, we drove through Sedona and continued north on 89, through Oak Creek Canyon, winding up and up to Oak Creek Vista in Coconino National Forest. The Navajos set up at this site and you can see their beautiful art work displayed. There are wonderful camping areas throughout this area, but all were closed off due to the Slide Fire in late May which destroyed 21,000 acres and cost $9.3 million. We stopped at Slide Rock State Park on the way back down but were not allowed down near the creek – unfortunate, as it was extremely hot and humid and we would have loved to dangle our feet in the water.

We headed back to Prescott Valley by way of Jerome, which sits above what was the largest copper mine in the state and is now a thriving artist and tourist community and “the largest ghost town in America.”

Slide Rock State ParkSlide Rock State Park

BOOKS: I've cut this list in half as it's way too long, but will include the rest of the titles in my next update. It's been five months, after all, and reading is what I do when I'm not painting or exploring Arizona.

From a Buick 8 - Stephen King.  I hadn't read King for many years and had forgotten what a good writer he is. This was excellent. What is it about Buicks?

Until I Find You - John Irving. I've enjoyed many of Irving's books in the past but quit this one mid-story - it just didn't seem to be going anywhere.

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The Burgess Boys - Elizabeth Strout. The story of a family, a small town in Maine, and how childhood trauma touches us all in many ways. Also the story of immigrants, their struggles and the town's difficulties in understanding who they are. Beautiful prose by a gifted storyteller. Now I can't wait to read Olive Kittredge!

The Swan Thieves - Elizabeth Kostova. A psychiatrist, Andrew Marlow, has an ordered, somewhat solitary life, devoted to his profession and his painting hobby. A famous painter attacks a painting in the National Gallery, becomes Marlow's patient and refuses to communicate. A story of an obsession, a mystery, the power of love and of art. I greatly enjoyed it.

After Her - Joyce Maynard. I'm a fan of Maynard - have read, I think, all of her books and eagerly await the next one. This is the story of two young sisters, their divorced and depression-prone mother, their often-absent police detective father and a town in Marin County in the grip of a serial killer.

The End of Your Life Book Club - Will Schwalbe. Memoir. The story of a son and his mother who is dying of pancreatic cancer. They find their connection in the books they agree to read and share during her treatments. Though sad it's a lovely story about an amazing woman. I made a list of all the books I hadn't read.

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Still Life with Bread Crumbs - Anna Quindlen. Quindlen at her best - as always. A deeply moving, frequently funny story of a 60-year old woman photographer in the process of remaking her life. What she discovers, along with an unexpected love, is that what she sees through the camera is not all there is.

Coming Clean - Kimberly Rae Miller. A memoir. A horrifying story of a single child growing up with a hoarder father and an enabling mother, surrounded by garbage. Told honestly and fairly; in spite of her shame and embarrassment about her parents, the love she feels for them is obvious.

Unfinished Desires - Gail Godwin.  It all starts in 1951 at Mount Gabriel's, a girls school in the mountains of North Carolina. Godwin does an excellent job of capturing teenage feminine conformity, coercion, betrayal, jealousy, secrets, and love and switching her time span over an eight-decade span

I intend to do a lot more exploring in Arizona. There are some neat places in southeast Arizona where I'd like to spend more time. So stay tuned.

Prescott Valley SunsetBeautiful Sunset in Prescott Valley, AZ

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A thoroughly enjoyable and interesting book, well-written. I've visited some of the spots he writes about, and can't wait to go explore some of the others. 

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Settling into my new home and discovering the wonders of Tucson, AZ.

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