There is nothing so lovely as the American Southwest in the Spring. This is a glorious day, and we are on our way to an amazing park, the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, with is a huge indoor and outdoor park and museum. It is one of the best stops on our trip.
There is a huge parking lot, and we got there around the time it opens. We were still in the third row away, but the rows go on and on forever, and we wondered why so much parking? As we left, we understood. We had been there about three or four hours, and the parking lot was filling up fast, buses, travelers from every state and many nations, coming to this beautifully thought-through museum.
One of the things we are picking up on is that everywhere we go, there are people our age, physically fit, volunteering. We saw this at the Benson – Rio Grande Valley Park in Texas, where I thought they were the happiest volunteers I had ever seen, and then again, at Tombstone, AZ, participating as characters in the daily dramas. People our age are living their dreams, and we met a lot of really happy people, working for various parks and volunteer agencies.
I volunteer in several areas, and one of my favorite is with the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council. The Department of State sends delegates here to meet with counterparts in specialized areas – environment, juvenile justice, fair election processes, women entrepreneurs – it can be anything. You never know what comes next, which I love. Another part of it that I love is introducing our foreign delegates to the volunteer experience, whether it be dishing out hot meals for the homeless or packaging food for the food bank. For most, it is a new experience, and the idea of giving your time voluntarily to work to help others is a revelation. They are so often surprised at how good it feels.
This is what we are coming across again and again. At this museum, there is a volunteer passing out maps, and others selling entrance tickets. There are volunteer rangers, volunteer guides, and volunteers answering questions. They are happy, they are fit and tanned (LOL, yes, this is Arizona!) and they work for free. They are doing what they want to be doing. It is a joyful experience to find all these happy volunteers, and to benefit from their expertise. It is a joy to us; I feel so proud and humble to be a part of this kind of community.
This museum is so first rate. These are the bronze sculptures at the entry:
There are all kinds of walking trails, and every exhibit is also reachable by wheelchair.
The museum cactus display is gorgeous along the wonderful walking paths:
They have a wildlife display with all kinds of snakes and frogs. This is a poisonous frog:
AdventureMan and I separate; he has a mission, he wants to see the Butterfly garden and what is planted there. I take a few trails, and then head for the gift shop. I also have an agenda 🙂
In the wonderful gift shop, where I found unique and really fun gifts for grandchildren, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, I also saw two of Mary Doria Russel’s books about this area, about the legendary Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. There were also books and puzzles about bugs and desert creatures, and wonderful edibles, hot sauces, salsas, BBQ rubs. Great gifts.
It is a wonderful visit, but even this early in the season, by noon, it is getting very warm. We decide to head on for Sedona, and because we are not so fond of big city traffic, we skirt Phoenix and stop for lunch at one of our favorite places, Whole Foods. What a treat!
We wanted to take the scenic route to Sedona, so we went through the Tonto National Forest. At the beginning, I started laughing and said to AdventureMan, “It’s a Saguaro Forest!” Later, the Saguaros stopped, and small scrubby pines began, and then taller pines, and taller, thicker pines until we were in a truly dark forest with a lot of trees. Driving was a lot of twisting and turning on this road, and we were glad when we headed out towards Sedons.
We knew we were getting close when we saw the beginning of the famous red rocks. This is the view from our hotel balcony:
I had a really super group of diplomats in town this week, really smart people dealing with serious topics – arms control, human rights, freedom of the press, immigration – and the appointments were fabulous. They were greeted at Baskervile-Donovan by a German speaker, coffee and cakes, and the presentation was a clear outline on corporate fund raisers, goals, and candidate selection.
We had a few extra minutes before our next appointment, and as we were just next door to Joe Patti’s, I took them there for a peek into life for “real” Pensacolians. Of course, they loved Joe Patti’s.
While I was there, my phone rang and it was a stranger, telling me she had a package for me from a friend in Kuwait. When could she bring it by?
You know how sometimes it’s hard to think? My mind was full with my delegation, but I set a time – and I was at Joe Pattis, so I quickly bought some cookies to serve and headed out for our next appointment.
When I said goodbye to the delegation for the last time and headed home, I put the coffee on and prepared for my Kuwait guests. They arrived and we had a wonderful visit, a friend in common and lots to talk about. And oh my, the packet my friend sent, full of fabrics from the Kuwait souks, a care package for my quilting addiction:
Even better – and it feels so wonderful to have a friend who understands me so well – look at the bag she sent them in! It is SO adorable! It is something I would have bought in a heartbeat, so unique, so special! My heart is dancing with ideas for a new quilt!
Thank you, Hayfa 🙂 for a real treat, both the fabrics and the friend you sent to carry the package 🙂
On my way home from a great Algerian pastry treat at SoGourmet, I passed Grafitti Bridge. Grafitti Bridge is one of Pensacola’s quirks. Every month – sometimes every week, even sometimes daily – the bridge is repainted. Sometimes it is that BubbleGum pink of Breast Cancer Awareness, with names of the fallen and names of survivors, sometimes it is Gay Pride, sometimes it is who loves who, or who is a first class jerk, sometimes it is Class of TwoThousandWhatever – it can be whatever someone feels passionate enough about to buy the paint and make it happen. No one gets too bent out of shape about it. Occasionally profanity will show up, but very shortly someone else will spray paint out the offensive word, or, which I love, alter it to have an entirely new meaning.
As I drove past today, I saw a lightning storm, well done, I couldn’t imagine how they had captured what it was like seeing so many strikes at once, and then I saw “Pensacola Tough.” By that time, I was through the bridge, so I had to circle and go back. I had to park, and take a closer look. And then I had to photograph it, and post it here.
Pensacola Tough. Pensacola got an award as the Toughest City in the USA, based on a criteria that measured percentage of felons in the population (it’s OK, it keeps us humble), sports heros, the number of military personnel, violent crime statistics, etc. It isn’t an award cities run for.
And yet, as the raging water abates, tales of heroism and helpfulness abound. While there have been bands of looters at an apartment complex housing the low-income workers in Pensacola, there have also been bands of volunteers scouring the county, helping clean out houses, pull out sodden carpeting, moving soaked furniture to the curbs for pickup, pulling out drywall and ceilings to prevent black mold. In today’s Pensacola News Journal, there is a story of a man who worked just above where the Escambia County Jail exploded and fell through the floor, breaking legs, ribs and assorted bones. He was paralyzed. His co-worker, also hurt, saw him with his head under water and pulled his head out, and held his head out for over an hour while waiting for help to arrive. She got tired, but the alternative was letting him die. She didn’t let go.
“When Things Get Rough . . . We’re Pensacola Tough.
You gotta love this place