Hike like a local on California’s ‘Bump and Grind’ Trail

Hike like a local on the Bump and Grind Hike

 

Valley and mountain views attract hikers, bikers and runners to Bump and Grind HikeView from our turnaround spot on Bump and Grind TrailPlanning a California getaway to the Palm Springs area? Hiking on the to-do list? Then hike like a local — on the “Bump and Grind” urban hiking trail in Palm Desert.

Our concierge recommended this one. She said it’s where all the locals go. As long as you’re in pretty decent shape, you can make it to the top, and the views up there are terrific, she attested. So we’d thought we give the Bump and Grind a try. (By the way, it’s also known as the Mirage Trail.) This trailhead was near our resort, the Westin Mission Hills (about four miles), so we didn’t have to eat up a good portion of a weekend day driving around or riding a tramway to get to the trailhead. Another advantage: it’s free.

From Rancho Mirage, we drove south down Bob Hope Drive to Highway 111 and parked behind the Desert Crossing shopping center in Palm Desert. It’s a good thing we got there fairly early, as the street parking was filling up fast. (Phoenix urban hikers surely can relate.) Plus the day’s forecast temps were mid- to upper 90s. Dozens of hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers of all ages and abilities wanted to get an early start.

The path itself is much drier, softer and sandier than desert trails we’re used to in the Phoenix area, but it’s wide and well-marked – for the most part. The trailhead is designated as the Mike Schuler Trail at this at the parking area, but it actually picks up the wider Bump and Grind Trail (no sign) as you come around the back lot of Moller’s Garden Center. The first quarter mile is fairly narrow but widens out considerably – like an old Jeep trail.

For those who make it all the way to the top of the approximate two-mile, 1000 feet climb, it’s great workout. It’s a decent workout even going the first half mile. We took our time — snapping pictures, stopping for plenty of water, enjoying spectacular views of the Coachella Valley, Santa Rosa, San Jacinto and Little San Bernadino Mountains, and yielding right-of-way to faster, decisive traffic. We came up to about 1000-foot point (probably about two-thirds of the total distance) before we turned around. The Bump and Grind also is much less ‘green’ than those North or South Mountain or Superstition trails around Phoenix. Very little vegetation is found along the way – only brittle creosote bush.

But local hikers aren’t necessarily there to enjoy plants, wildlife or the trail’s photogenics. Sure, they hike to enjoy the panoramic views from the top. Of course, they hike to burn off calories for their daily or weekend workout. But most importantly, they are hiking there now because ‘they can.’ After a long and hard grassroots effort against California Department of Fish and Game, they can finally hike without threat or fear of being fenced out or hauled off.

It’s a long story, but basically the DFG closed the upper end of the Bump and Grind hike because it claimed big horn sheep used the area during lambing season. Locals cried foul when the DFG claims couldn’t be supported by wildlife management studies. Plus there were confusing proximity issues that seemed baseless. To the local hiking community, shutting down the best section of this scenic hike year-round seemed completely unnecessary. Naturally, locals took all the next logical steps. They started a Facebook page, “Save the Bump and Grind” and wrote to their representatives in the state assembly. Finally new legislation and the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown last month reversed the DFG decision — the last one-half mile would remain closed only for the February to April lambing season.

All’s well that ends well: Local hikers have access restored to most of their Bump and Grind Hike; Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert visitors (like those of us from Arizona) have another hiking area that’s worth exploring.

Tips: 1. No dogs. 2. Consider taking a loop hike in this area. Combine the Mike Schuler Trail-Bump and Grind Trail with the Herb Jeffries Trail and the Hopalong Cassidy Trail. 3. You can also begin the Bump and Grind Hike at the Rancho Mirage-Palm Desert boundary, just past the Desert Drive-Hwy. 111 intersection. Park in the furniture store lot on the west side of the street. 4. Get up-to-date info and advisories before starting out. 5. Pay attention to hiking trail etiquette.

And by the way, if you haven’t tried EveryTrail.com yet, this wiki-style content website and mobile app is worth a closer look. I really like viewing elevation contours and user-posted photos and descriptions along strategic points along the trails.

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A ‘down-home’ getaway weekend in downtown Safford

Halloween decor at Gingerbread & Co., a popular downtown Safford gift shop

Traveling throughout Arizona to its smaller towns and cities, I’ve learned to allow time to explore the downtown areas. Window shopping, browsing through antique or thrift stores, visiting local attractions and relaxing in town squares have been important activities of my Arizona getaways. My visit to Safford’s historical downtown area provides another snapshot of an Arizona small town.

Historic downtown Safford

Safford’s central business section is attractive and well-kept, but like most historic districts, some buildings still need a facelift. The downtown includes a well-defined Main Street, rolling out to a city and county government complex and park. Side streets include many additional businesses, offices and light industrial firms. Safford’s downtown reminds me of the “Back to the Future” movie town – “Hill Valley.”  Walking down Main Street, one can envision Michael J. Fox’s character hopping on a skateboard and careening over parked cars. Even the Graham County Courthouse strikes a keen resemblance to Hill Valley’s courthouse – sans the clock. I guess classic revival or neo-classic architecture style must have been popular for government buildings constructed during the early 20th century.

I was expecting to find quaint shops and eateries lining the thoroughfare, as I often have discovered in other Arizona ‘historic downtown’ districts. I found a few, but with all the historical storefronts, I really thought there would be more.  Much of the street level commercial frontage seems to be undergoing renovation. Some existing businesses were simply closed on Saturdays such as professional and medical offices or business services providers. Obviously downtown Safford doesn’t exist to the whim of tourism and clearly Safford is not attempting to be the “shopping Mecca” of Arizona.  Local commerce here is more about providing goods and services for its townsfolk. Granted, on this particular blustery Saturday, clouds and winds threatened monsoon rains so I didn’t spend as much time wandering the downtown as I’d hoped.

Gingerbread & Co., a spacious market for home decorating and gift ideas

However, a few shops did manage to capture my interest — I’m really glad I took the time to browse two women’s apparel stores: Sorella’s Elite Fashions and The Wear. I find independent, locally owned clothing retailers especially appealing. Call it nostalgia, but I like the way clothing, shoes and accessories are neatly and tastefully displayed at these shops. It makes shopping extra enjoyable. Friendly customer service is a bonus. Another recommended store is Gingerbread & Co., a gift and home accessory shop. If you’re drawn to decorative knickknacks, this place is for you. Plan to spend a while here, browsing through odds and ends: frames, signs, wreaths, bookends, you name it. Let’s put this way: if you have an empty spot on a wall, table or shelf in your house, it may be filled when you return from Gingerbread & Co.

Outdoor seating at "A Step Back in Time Coffee Shop and Deli"

With all this walking, visitors to Safford’s historic downtown may need a ‘little pick-me-up,’ so I can recommend A Step Back in Time Coffee Shop and Deli. This was another downtown highlight. Coffee, tea, smoothies, sandwiches, pizza and breakfast dishes make up the menu.  I stopped in for a late morning latte and a chat with the barista on duty. Downtown Safford is still going through some changes; storefronts are being reconstructed and renovated, I learned. Businesses are moving to larger spaces and new shops are opening. A Christmas decoration shop was preparing its new inventory during my visit.

 "A Step Back in Time" was once a old hardware store. Now renovated, plans include an onsite bakery

Safford is about a three hour drive southeast of Phoenix. The trip would make a wonderful getaway for anyone wanting a kind of “country Christmas” or “downhome” autumn weekend. You could shop for unusual gifts and holiday decorations while getting acquainted (or more familiar) with one of Arizona’s more rustic county seats. (Don’t forget to pick up a few dozen tamales at one or more of those wonderful southeast Arizona Mexican restaurants.)

There were several other interesting retailers I wanted to visit, but we just ran out of time: Pollock’s Western Wear — a well-reputed western apparel and boot outfitter, and a liquor store that appears to be located in the middle of an intersection, on a traffic island, called — appropriately enough: Triangle Liquor. Those will have to wait until next time.

More reasons to visit Safford and Graham County in October: Graham County Fair is Oct. 11-14; Cowboy Poets and Music Gathering is Oct. 26-28; and Harvest Festival is Oct. 27.

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Explore Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park in Safford

Discovery Park's shuttlecraft Polaris takes 'tours' to the planets

When I would think of Safford, the first thing that would come to mind is a small town in southeast Arizona, the center of Arizona’s patchwork of agricultural acreage. Now, after a visit last month to the Graham County seat, other images will appear: Safford — as the site of the world’s largest binocular telescope atop nearby Mount Graham, and as the location of Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park campus.

Discovery Park is several educational attractions in one. It’s more than just a community college campus, it’s the official visitor center for University of Arizona’s Mount Graham International Observatory, where travelers can embark for day-long tours to the top Mount Graham to view three world class telescopes: the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter (Radio) Telescope of the Arizona Radio Observatory, and the Large Binocular Telescope. The latter is reported to be the largest binocular telescope in the world.  Through advance reservations, visitors may book a 40-mile road trip up to the top of 10,720-feet high Mount Graham. They are treated to a sack lunch along with a tour of each of the telescope facilities. Trips are arranged through Discovery Park from May through October and spaces are limited, so those interested may want to call well ahead of time to reserve space for May 2013.

Old butter churn, paddle and mold: Discovery Park's also a temporary host for Graham County history

Discovery Park visitor center is also a historical museum. Portions of the Graham County Historical Society’s museum exhibit, originally housed in an aging school building in neighboring Thatcher, have been moved into the galleries at Discovery Park until the Historical Society can find a new home. Now Discovery Park visitors also will be able to get a glimpse into Graham County history. Here you can view artifacts, farm tools, cooking utensils and historic documents from the mid- and late19th century pioneers.

Learn about light and sound in Discovery Park's science gallery

And the Discovery Park visitor’s center also is a space science center, so it’s an especially great place to bring the kids. Families can learn about the planets, the Sun, and light and sound waves of space. Interactive exhibits allow visitors to “hear” space. The history of astronomy and contributions by important innovators of planetary, earth and physical sciences are described in the galleries. If you plan your visit on a clear Saturday evening, you’ll be able view the night sky through Governor Aker Observatory’s Tinsley 20″ telescope.

A highlight of our visit to Discovery Park’s visitor center was the Space Shuttle Polaris, a flight motion simulator vehicle, which takes passengers on a 10-minute jostling, jolting tour of all the planets, lifting off from the top of Mount Graham and the Pinaleno Mountains. It’s reminiscent of Disney’s Star Tours ride attraction, with elevators, doors, long drops and fast swoops. Even though you’re only watching an on-screen video for the ride, you may want to hang on to the seat — some of those visual effects can be knuckle-whitening!

Walk through riparian wetland areas - part of Nature's Hideaway at Discovery Park

After my flight simulator ride, it was time to get a little fresh air. So, while I regained my composure, I learned that this multipurpose venue continues beyond the visitor center doors. Discovery Park is also a wildlife preserve. The riparian wetland area below the visitor center, called Nature’s Hideaway, includes several desert trails and walkways. During our visit, summer monsoon rains were preparing to refill the low-lying ponds, which attract migrating ducks and other waterfowl. Our visitor center host provided us with some snack crackers for Howard. (The duck, of course.) We walked down the sloping driveway to the grassy, reedy ponds looking for Howard. We didn’t see any ducks that afternoon, but we did find an excellent environment for watching wildlife.

It's snack time for Discovery Park's box turtle and tortoise

Just as we were leaving, we passed a miniature locomotive engine, the Discovery Park Express and its cars now sitting idle beyond a chain-linked fence. We were told that steep insurance costs now prevent the park from offering train rides. We hope — through private funding, grants or with a ‘Friends’ fundraising group — this train may once again may be chugging down Discovery Park’s narrow gauge track.

Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park campus, located at 1651 Discovery Park Blvd, is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (no shuttle rides after 4:00 p.m.) and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Call 928-428-6260 for tours, special event reservations and more information.

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Relaxing getaway at Roper Lake State Park

Natural hot springs tub makes Roper Lake unique

Remember Roper Lake State Park if you’re considering a peaceful Arizona weekend getaway. When we visited in early September, the place seemed almost empty. Except for a group of scouts loading up canoes, there were only a few several travel trailers plus a couple of tents scattered throughout the park — hardly any activity, granted it was a rather rain-soaked Sunday morning. But I have a feeling when the weather’s better, Roper Lake State Park, located 171 miles southeast of Phoenix, is probably buzzing with action. Roper Lake lures visitors for a variety of reasons. Here are a few:

Canoeing, kayaking. Add to that: paddleboarding, sail boarding and inflatable rafting. Exploring Roper Lake’s shores for wildlife sightings is one way to unwind. This quiet lake would be a great place for beginners to sharpen their skills on a non-motorized watercraft. Practice kayaking; try out stand-up paddleboarding. Rest assured: No jet skis or high-powered outboards will go whizzing by.

Mount Graham capped with clouds is a backdrop to Roper Lake's beach

Swimming. Roper Lake is one of 12 Arizona state parks with a designated swimming area and it also has a few hundred feet of “beach.” Although we didn’t see any people in the water on this rainy day — the only swimmers were ducks. I guess I could imagine children wading in the sandy shallows as a possibility, but the water looks to be more like a murky pond: muddy, sandy, with plenty of cattails.

Mariah Mesa Trail walkway starts from the hot tub area

Hiking. A short nature trail appears to be the only marked path. The Mariah Mesa Trail is about .75 mile and takes one up to a short ridge, but hikers are rewarded with closer views of views of Mount Graham and Pinaleno Mountains as well as blankets of Graham County farm fields. Walking around other sections of the park, such as along the lake’s edge and campground paths will measure about five miles. Otherwise serious hikers will be drawn to Mount Graham for numerous possibilities.

Picnicking. There’s a large picnic ramada on Roper Lake’s “island.” This location would be an excellent place for the family reunion, church or company picnic. Better bring the rolling cooler and wagon, because no vehicles are allowed in this area; it’s a bit of a toting distance from the parking lot. However, the grassy lawn area is ample enough to start up a game of touch football – just be alert that those long passes don’t get too long, or you’d be swimming out in the reeds for the reception.

Quaint camp cabins have porch swings

Camping. Cute little cabins have bunk beds, heat and a/c inside, and picnic tables, fire pits and porch swings outside. I’m imagining a perfect weekend retreat for relaxation: sitting on the porch swing finally finishing that novel and ‘cozying up’ around the campfire during the evening chill.

Fishing.  Small, quiet and calm, Roper Lake would be ideal waters for teaching children or beginners how to fish. There’s a fully accessible fishing dock, and 30 acres of surface area. Largemouth bass and rainbow trout are the popular catches. The park store has fishing supplies and bait.

Soaking.  Roper Lake State Park comes equipped with its own natural hot springs! It’s actually just one of many in this part of Arizona. But others are either on private land or difficult to reach. I’m estimating the waters in this park tub are about 95-100 degrees — perfect for a short “ah” moment. Imagine relaxing here after a day of fishing, paddleboarding or hiking.

A snowy egret tests the Roper Lake waters

Wildlife watching. As we strolled along the beach, we saw a number of different waterfowl and wading birds, including a snowy egret. Killdeer piercing high notes split the light breezy quiet of our morning. The high country desert scrub geography nestled at the foot of Mount Graham brings many other kinds of wildlife to view during the dusk and dawn.

Stargazing. Of course, you could venture up to the top of Mount Graham for a close-up view of stars, moons and planets or just relax in front of your cabin or in the hot tub and stare at the night sky. Because you’re far from Tucson or Phoenix city illumination, you’ll have a better view of constellations or the over-passing International Space Station.

Only major negative about Roper Lake State Park? It badly needs TLC. We noticed facilities were fair condition at best. Structures, signs and benches need repair and paint; day use areas need cleaning and clearing. We hope — if not the state parks department — maybe the Friends of Roper Lake will act soon to help with upkeep. Unfortunately, at this writing the group’s website was removed.

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Salsa Trail ends at Safford’s Salsa Fest

Delicious lunch at Salsa Trail's La Casita in Thatcher, Ariz.

It’s that time again in Arizona – fall festival time! And if you love Mexican food, especially all kinds of salsa, then chances are you’ll want to head to Safford for the Arizona Salsa Festival Sept 28-29.

Salsa is famous throughout the Southwest, and in Safford (located 165 southeast of Phoenix), there’s a literal melting pot of salsas of all types and flavors. As there are many different types of chile peppers; so is there a wide variety of salsas. And these varieties are likely to end up in the judging sample bowls for the Salsa Fest.

Safford is one of the primary Arizona cities along what’s known as Arizona Salsa Trail. The ‘trail’ stretches between Thatcher and Clifton including smaller communities such as Duncan, York, Solomon and Pima.  Several independent, family-owned Mexican restaurants, cafes, markets, plus a chile company and a tortilla factory participate in this culinary tourism route, dating back to 2005.

AzGetawayTravel picked up part of the Salsa Trail this past weekend, as we ventured to southeast Arizona. We stopped for a Saturday lunch at La Casita in Thatcher. Naturally — and very typically — we guzzled up the hot sauce with the chips before our entrees arrived. I ordered the taco-enchilada-burrito combo and Chuck requested the taco salad with beef. His looked wonderful: crisp, freshly cut vegetables, ample amounts of roast beef chunks in a bed of warm tortilla chips. I was glad I had no rice or beans to accompany my combo, since it was obvious I would already need a “to-go” box. My meal was so tempting I almost forgot to take a photo before I dug in. Oops — that’s why the above photo shows the burrito already dissected. I couldn’t wait to take a taste of that green chile beef filling. After eating my cheese enchilada, I decided to ‘take out’ the taco.

Salsa Fest in Safford is Sept. 28-29Tip: If you intend to try one of more of these Salsa Trail restaurants on a weekend getaway, you’ll need to plan ahead and check their business hours. Many of these are closed Sundays.

Festivities for the Salsa Fest kick off on Friday evening Sept. 28 with colorful hot air balloons on Main Street in historic downtown Safford. Saturday’s events include Chihuahua dog races and costume contest, live music, custom car show, kid’s activities, jalapeno pepper eating contest and of course, the salsa making contest, salsa recipe judging and salsa sampling.

Readers, I just have to ask: What’s your favorite kind of hot sauce or salsa? Do you like the smooth, blended red — or salsa verde? Or maybe a chunky style? Or are you a fan of pico de gallo? What’s your hot index?

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Besh Ba Gowah: park visitor tips, random facts

During its days of population, Besh Ba Gowah, an archeological park in Globe, had about 400 rooms. It’s impossible to get an accurate number of rooms because excavation during the 1940s may have bulldozed perimeter areas of the original settlement. No results were published after a five-year excavation project during the 1930s because of the director’s untimely death.

Polychrome pottery can be seen at the museum

Salado Indians who inhabited Besh Ba Gowah (approximately 1150 to 1430) were master potters and used a method known as polychrome – adding black, red and white paint and dyes to create colorful geometric shapes on the earthenware. Interestingly, the Salado had other distinctions such as burying the dead (as opposed to cremating), using advanced irrigation techniques and building their homes from the ground up using masonry-type construction with rocks and boulders. Salado Indians may have been a mixed culture of Hohokam and other regional ancient communities. From the jewelry and artifacts found at the Besh Ba Gowah site, it appears that the Salado were traders; trading networks may have extended to the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean.

Besh Ba Gowah is actually an Apache term, used much later to describe the settlement as a “place of metals,” probably referring to nearby mining activity of the 1800s.

Climb up to the second level rooms

Visitors can climb up to the rooftops of some of the buildings. On the second level, you will be able to get a better idea of the massive size and layout of the settlement.

Note varying sizes of entrances such as the wall crawlspace at far right

Noteworthy are the varying sizes of the doorways and the long, once-covered corridors which connect outer sections of the pueblo to a central, open plaza area. These building features may have been built to defend their community. Intruders could have been more easily fought off if they had to crawl through a small “doggy” door or climb up to a second floor level.

Barrel cacti in bloom at Besh Ba Gowah's ethnobotantical garden

Don’t miss a walk through the ethnobotanical and adjacent botanical gardens with a large display of cacti and other desert flora. Learn how the Salado Indians used these plants for both food and clothing. According to its website, the city park accepts unwanted desert plants from area homeowners.

If you’re a first time visitor, I recommend taking time to view the 14-minute video before you stroll through the ruins. It will give you a brief overview of the Salado Indians, their anthropological and archeological history and restoration. For me, it allows a greater appreciation of ruins and museum.

Spend a few minutes in gift shop after your tour.  In addition to the usual Arizona tourist gifts, the shop carries a wide selection of interesting souvenirs plus artwork by local artists.

Besh Ba Gowah Archeological Park is located at 1324 S. Jesse Hayes Road. Admission is $5. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Wait a minute! Somebody's still living here!

Further reading about the Salado culture:

The Salado: A Crossroads in Cultures

Besh Ba Gowah by James Q. Jacobs

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Planning a vacation? Don’t forget the music!

Don't forget to pack the travel tunes on your next trip

Travel and music: Two of my passions. One almost always makes me think about the other. When I pack for a trip, before I think about clothes,  I think about what music I will bring. There’s too much about the entire subject of travel tunes, road trip music, vacation songs, to cover in one blog. It’s a bit overwhelming to think about.

We have music for: leaving home, coming home, moving or staying. We have music for trucking, biking, hiking, riding, driving, boating and flying. There are long lonesome highway songs for solo trips or happy sing-along songs for family vacations.

There are songs about cross-country explorations, exotic destinations and global nations. Many songs have been recorded about boats, RVs, trains, planes and automobiles. We use music for our highways and byways, toll roads and freeways, back roads and interstates.

Out of state visitors bring travel tunes about Arizona. What’s the first song that comes to mind when you think of Arizona road trips? Is it Take It Easy from the Eagles? By the Time I Get to Phoenix from Glen Campbell? Several songs are entitled, “Arizona” – most popular are those from Mark Lindsay, Kings of Leon and The Scorpions. Hundreds of popular songs give a simple reference Arizona — a lot about Tucson: “…take me down to Tucson…” or “…all roads lead back to Tucson…”

Great vacation memories can be created with music. It’s another form of souvenir. Those slack key guitar tunes bring back images of Hawaii. Reggae, ska and calypso remind me of Caribbean islands. Many of us have a loaded up a separate playlist for each aspect of traveling – for soaking rays on the beach, sitting around the campfire or driving along desolate highways. Travel songs have the ability to prompt a personal memory. For instance, whenever I hear Allman Brothers: Jessica, I’m always reminded of driving through northwestern Ohio at sunrise, on my way from home back to college. Another Allman Brothers song: Little Martha, makes me think of a sunset drive along a stretch of State Route 288 between Young and Globe.

Road-trip music also has a practical side. It can keep us awake if we’re getting sleepy. In the days before Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy and Starbucks Double Shot Espresso, we’d have to turn up the volume on the radio, 8-track, cassette tape or CD player. Or sing — yikes! We’d have to pop in a song to energize us while that truck stop coffee was still taking effect. Songs like Golden Earring’s Radar Love have kept many night drivers alert. What worked for me: Poco’s Grand Junction, Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway or Little Feat’s Let It Roll. They create a high energy highway driving mood.

When traveling to my favorite weekend getaway spots, I like to compile songs about the journeys and the destinations: Songs from Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers for Puerto Penasco. Mark Mulligan’s music for San Carlos. Then I mix in some Mariachi and traditional Mexican music to enjoy while I’m there. For beach escapes, I combine indigenous island musical styles and artists with popular ex-pat, ‘trop rock’ or ‘island country’ anthems.

Hundreds of music databases containing thousands of songs with dozens of key words are there for the exploring. You can come up with your favorite travel tunes playlists. Check websites and blogs for lists of music. Look at others’ compilations on iTunes or Spotify. One website has 885 road trip songs to review.

Great music makes miles pass quickly

 

Here are some of my favorite travel tunes — they’re recordings that make me think of traveling, destinations, or its music I just like to listen to while driving down the road.

Americano – Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Back to the Island – Leon Russell

Blood Pressure – Mute Math

Blue Boat Home – Peter Mayer

Boats – Kenny Chesney

Calamity Song – The Decemberists

The Coast – Court Yard Hounds

Counterclockwise – Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Dig a Little Deeper – Peter Bjorn

Eastern Standard Time – Skatalites

El Rayo-X – David Lindley

Evangelina – Hoyt Axton

Grand Junction – Poco

Hana – Ozzie Kotani

Heaven or the Highway out of Town – Refreshments

Hitchin a Ride – Green Day

Ho Hey – Lumineers

Island in the Sun – Weezer

Last Ride In – Green Day

Little Martha – Allman Brothers

Love is the Seventh Wave – Sting

Manana – Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Mercury Blues – David Lindley

Olinda Road – Hapa

Place in the Sun – Darden Smith

Roam – B52s

Soak up the Sun – Sheryl Crow

Texas Tango — David Lindley

These Roads Don’t Move – Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard

Toes – Zac Brown Band

Up Up Up – Givers

Welcome to Paradise – Green Day

What I Got – Sublime

You are a Tourist – Death Cab for Cutie

Readers: what’s on your road trip playlist? Or your flight mix? Please use the comment section below. I’m always looking for new music for traveling!

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Shopping in Globe’s historical district

This teepee was at one time part of a saloon frontage, now stand alone at the east end of historic Globe

Some of Arizona’s best attractions often are found close to home. You don’t have to drive for hours to find a picturesque, Old West town filled with quaint antique shops, art galleries, cozy cafés, historical museums and street-side parks. All of these can be found nestled on a hillside about 60 miles east of the Phoenix metro area — in Globe, Arizona.

I must admit; I hadn’t considered traveling to Globe just to go shopping. It never even crossed my mind until I recently read about upcoming shows at the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts (see August 6). So often, I only had been a passer-by of Globe only to stop for a quick snack at a Taco Bell or to fill up the gas tank. We were always in a hurry to get to the White Mountains or to get back to the Valley.

In recent years, Globe has been peaking the interest of Arizona visitors and Valley day-trippers on the hunt for quirky shops and novelty stores, antique merchants and unusual galleries. It’s all here in Globe: clock shops, coffee houses, sellers of handmade quilts, vintage clothing and jewelry, furniture, ice cream, candy and collectibles.

Place to eat? There’s a wide range, but what most notable is the number of “Mom and Pop” Mexican restaurants – you know those – the ones that have the homemade everything: sauces, salsa, tortillas, chips, machaca, chile rellenos, carne asada, huevos rancheros…. You get the idea. Globe and Miami could start a “salsa trail” of their own and give center stage to all of these wonderful independent Mexican eateries. Local residents are the best advertisements. When we inquired about the best Mexican place in town, no one could provide a single recommendation. “They’re all good,” we’d keep hearing.  So we picked Libby’s El Rey Café since it was open during the first weekend of August. (Several businesses were closed for a week or two during August.) Everything was delicious and the service was top-rate, too. Our only regret: we should have split a meal.

You’ll have plenty of opportunity to walk off your enchilada combo plate on Broad Street while window shopping and browsing through merchants’ wares. One stop we made was at Stacy’s Art & Soul, a combination gallery, art supply store and artists’ studio. Owners Stacy Waddell and Laura Stennerson who celebrated their grand opening earlier this month, also offer art classes and will be host to additional community art events. Just hearing them describe their new business, it’s easy to see why they’re excited to be a part of the historic downtown Globe community.

“Simply Sarah” was another shop we decided was worth a closer look. It’s a collection of vintage clothing, unique fashion accessories, kitchen gadgets, cooking goodies and ingredients, toiletries and gifts. If you’re looking for that perfect gift for a lady who’s impossible to shop for, you could probably find it here. Owner Sarah Anna Bernstein has created a retail space that transforms each cubbyhole and corner into a colorful conglomeration of curiosities.

When we visited Globe, we didn’t realize that the first thing we should have done was pick up a copy of the Globe Miami Times, the free tourism newspaper which is available at many shops, restaurants and points of interest. The centerfold provides walking maps for both Globe and Miami shopping districts as well as a listing of retailers, service providers and restaurateurs. (Did you know there are at least a dozen antique shops?)

Park at one end of Broad Street as you pull off Highway 60, then walk up one side and down the other. Stop by Kim’s Fashions – an authentic, small-town, family-owned clothing store with special occasion dresses, Dickies and Wrangler jeans. Don’t miss the Palace Health Mart Pharmacy with its antique Toledo scale or the White Porch Gifts and Antiques with additional antiques and crafts. There’s just too many to mention. You’ll have to see them for yourself.

Stacy Waddell and Laura Stennerson of Stacy's Art & Soul in historic Globe

Stacy Waddell and Laura Stennerson of Stacy’s Art & Soul in historic Globe

Sarah Anna Bernstein of Simply Sarah, a store for ‘woman’s spoils’

One of the nostalgic store signs in historic Globe

Take time to window shop along Globe’s Broad Street

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10 Reasons to stay at Rio Las Vegas

Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas

A long weekend at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas recently made me realize there’s a lot to like about this resort. I’m not saying the Rio can compare with the flashy newer resort casinos, but it wasn’t hard to come up with 10 reasons the Rio should be near the top of any budget-minded Vegas vacationer’s lodging list.

10. Shopping

Exploring the the Masquerade Village shops, we found many deep discounts on a variety of goods, such as Las Vegas souvenirs, travel incidentals, sundries, apparel and food.

9. Rooms

Because Rio is an all-suite hotel, rooms are more spacious than other Vegas hotels. Most rooms have sofa-beds, refrigerators, larger floor space and expanded bathroom vanity areas.

8. Value

Being a short distance off the strip means lower room rates.  Rio is one of several Caesar’s Resorts with no added resort fees, which makes staying here more practical for travelers on a budget. Rates range from $69 for a basic king or 2-queen suite to about $300 for a large 1100-square foot suite. Seek out discounts on deal websites like smartervegas.com or visitlasvegas.com.

7. Discounts

While we’re on the subject of value: If you enlist in the Total Reward’s program, you then have the opportunity for greater discounts at shops, restaurants, bars and shows. Every dollar you spend at the resort or casino earns you credits to advance to higher benefit tier levels. Ask for additional information about deals, discounts or passes at check in. Also, compare drink prices — since they vary bar to bar. Or simply sit for a spell at the slots and sip your sauvignon — gratis.

6. Dining

Rio has a wide variety of dining options that includes a basic Burger King Whopper Bar in the Masquerade Village, to an upscale Martorano’s with Italian fare. We found good value at the Sao Paulo Café for breakfast, Sports Deli for sub sandwiches at lunchtime and All-American Bar & Grille for dinner. Meal portions are large so most diners could split an entree and still feel well-fed.

Rio Resort and Casino is dog-friendly

5. Dog Friendly

I’m not quite sure why anyone would want to bring their dog to a Vegas resort/casino, but there are certainly are people who do, and the Rio accommodates them with its PetStay program.

Pool area at the Rio

4. Spa , salon and fitness center

While your spouse is busy at the blackjack tables, you can enjoy a massage, spa pedicure or salon facial. At the fitness center, pay a daily fee of $22 or $55 for three days, so you won’t have to interrupt your workout schedule. The spa is conveniently located adjacent to the pool area.

3. Nightlife

Dance into the wee hours at either the Crown Theater Nightclub or the Voodoo Lounge. The latter is 50 and 51 stories up, on top of the Masquerade tower. As you would expect, the views are spectacular. But be prepared to shell out a good chunk of precious winnings for drinks and dinner.

Upside-down Carnival parade "float" from Show in the Sky

2. Entertainment

Rio regularly features Penn & Teller, a magic act with a little bit of everything including “knives, guns, fire, a gorilla and a show girl,” according to the website. Bachelorette-partying girls and their future mothers-in-law won’t want to miss the Chippendale dancers’ show. Add these to special performances by singers, comedians, dance troupes and celebrity imitators and you’ll get a wide variety of entertainment offerings. But we think the best entertainment is the free “Show in the Sky” which is performed hourly Thursday through Saturday evenings at Masquerade Village.

Star Trek Las Vegas convention attendees pose for photos

1. Host to the Star Trek Convention

This, in my opinion, is the best reason to stay at the Rio. This was the second year Creation Entertainment has presented its Star Trek Las Vegas event at the Rio. I like the convention at the Rio Las Vegas for several reasons: Convention corridors are wide; restrooms are plentiful; eateries are abundant; meeting rooms and exhibition halls are large enough to hold record-breaking numbers of Trek fans. Staff is courteous, friendly and employees themselves get caught up in the Trek excitement — they too transform into “Trekkies” for the weekend. Plentiful small group rooms are perfect settings for celebrity photo ops and autograph sessions. Smaller stage halls are used for geeky panel discussions, Star Trek collectibles auctioning, planetary science presentations — even children’s craft sessions. Some Trek fans are still disappointed the convention moved away from its longtime home at the Hilton, but I think the Rio is a good fit. I overheard some grumblings, but they were the usual gripes about high drink prices, smoky casinos or long front-desk lines. But I’m one Star Trek convention-goer who’s happy with the Rio hosting the event. It’s hard to imagine Star Trek Las Vegas at any other resort.

Don’t miss Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery near Payson

tonto creek fish hatchery

Visiting a fish hatchery may not sound very exciting, but a stop at the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery will add both fun and a learning experience to your next family weekend getaway in Payson’s Rim Country. All ages will enjoy a tour of the hatchery and the fish feeding demonstration

Stop at the visitor center. You’ll learn the entire process of raising trout that eventually will be stocked into Arizona’s fishing waters. Rainbow, brook, brown and native Apache trout have been produced here over the years. The site has undergone numerous upgrades since its opening in 1937. At the visitor center, storyboards, posters and scaled models explain the fascinating fish growing process.

Bring quarters for fish food. Don’t forget to carry some quarters to buy handfuls of fish pellets to drop into adult trout pond. Younger children will especially enjoy this activity.

tonto creek fish hatchery

Watch feedings by hatchery staff. During weekend afternoons visitors will have a good chance of seeing hatchery workers make their presentation about the hatchery operations while feeding the fish. Watch the “feeding frenzy” by the young trout as they splash wildly in the raceways — those long, rectangular fish tanks. Trout will spend their first 15 months at the hatchery.

tonto creek fish hatchery

Explore the grounds. Spend some time exploring the area. Take plenty of photographs. Find out about other wildlife in the area. Learn how those sturdy canopies over the raceways not only provide shade, but also keep the young trout safe from predatory birds.

rainbow trout

Make a whole day of it. Combine your hatchery visit with a three to four hour day hike on Horton Creek Trail or other nearby trail, a picnic lunch at one of several day use sites, or fishing in Tonto Creek in designated areas below the hatchery. Also worth a visit is the nearby Naco Paleo Site, located about three miles west of the hatchery turnoff, south of State Route 260. Walk up the old Jeep trail a hundred feet or so, and inspect the sloping side of the hill for fossils.

Note: As of Monday July 2, Forest Road 289, north of State Route 260 to Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery, remains closed because of forest fire conditions, according to a spokesman from Arizona Game and Fish Dept. To learn when the forest roads to the hatchery will be re-opened, visit the Tonto National Forest website.