Archive for April 2014

The Roadrunner Cafe   1 comment

Sunday, March 30, 2014, I jumped in the car, and drove up the freeway to the desert town of New River. The plan was to hike the desert and look for striped stones, and take some pictures. Didn’t find any striped stones, but I did take some pix, and the plan sort of changed into getting breakfast about halfway through . . . (grin).

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I found a way off the main roads and a little trail leading into the Arizona brush. The desert north of Phoenix and at a higher elevation is a great place to find the saguaro cactus.

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At this point I parked the car and continued on foot. All I really want to find are a few good sedimentary or metamorphic rocks with stripes built in.

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Typical rock field. No luck. Proof I’m there. My shadow with Trollgod’s hat.

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Desert wildflowers in the spring, predominantly yellow. I saw a rabbit hop into this thicket but the camera is way too slow to catch the rabbit.

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Suddenly I heard a strange whirring noise not far from my feet. Hello, Mr. Rattlesnake! This picture is actually taken after I took about 3 large steps backwards. 
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And back a little more. He did not seem inclined to relax while I was anywhere near. This is a brown diamondback rattlesnake. If you look closely you can see the distinctive diamond patterns on its body.

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I headed back toward the car and into a wash, thinking there might be some better stones there.

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I really like walking in desert washes. The scenery is so variable.

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I left the undergrowth and headed into New River. There were some bikers enjoying the early morning sun and breeze.

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I decided to stop for breakfast at the Roadrunner Cafe.

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This is THAT desert bar for bikers you see in all the road movies.

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Beer, especially cold beer, is very important in the desert.

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Little rodeos still thrive out here away from the big city.

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Here’s the corral where the bucking broncos show their stuff.

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No seating discrimination at the New River rodeo. They all cost the same, and they all feel the same and everyone is close to the action.

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What good entertainment facility doesn’t have a space for musicians? Here’s a western stage.

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The main business is the restaurant. In nice weather the good seats are outside on the patio.

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Here’s a look at the bar. Look at that assortment of beers! Some time when I’m not driving, I’d like to come up here and try some of those flavors in the second and third columns.

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Bartender, boss, manager is slicing lemons for the day. I don’t know for sure that she’s the boss, but she was telling the other waitresses what to do.

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I ordered black coffee. It came in a styrofoam cup. Things are basic in the desert. Why waste time, water, and money washing coffee cups when styrofoam is cheap.

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I wondered about the picture and the crosses, so I asked. Not Willy Nelson–just a regular long-time customer who died a few years back. The crosses have no real connection to the picture. They are made by a local who leaves them at the bar and sometimes sells a few to tourists who see them.  (Amazing what you can find out if you just talk to people and ask questions, isn’t it?)

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I kinda like the neon bullhead used as a Bud Light sign. This bar has all the modern conveniences, too.  Big screen tv for those who want to watch sports. Just inside is a pool hall with 3 tables. Dang! Made me want to play pool and drink beer.

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Breakfast finally came. Two fried eggs, hamburger patty, hash browns, and the largest fluffiest biscuit I’ve ever had.  So good!  Worth driving 20 miles and paying $10 just to have it.

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Country bathrooms remain politically incorrect.  These babes are on the door of the Men’s Room–I had to visit it before hitting the road again.  The Ladies Room door was decorated with hunks–at least the outside was–I didn’t see the inside.

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The mirror is a little chipped up, or someone went to a lot of trouble to give it that ragged outline.

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This lovely lady makes and sells rhinestone jewelry. I didn’t buy any. What’s the point? I have no one to give it to, though if a lady admired it in my presence I might get her one. It’s cheap and flashy, but I like it.

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Rhinestone rattlesnakes and crosses.

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I stopped to admire this motorcycle. Beautiful black–what a great ride. The guy is named Soto, rode up from Buckeye with some friends.

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I was ready to return to Phoenix, but with that heavy breakfast inside me, decided to go for one more walk. I decided to walk up to that green sign you can see about 1/4 of a mile up the road. I was searching the roadside for stripy rocks. 🙂

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I found some big beautiful yellow flowers.

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I saw desert dune buggies out for a ride. Looked like fun. Got a thumbs up from the passenger in the second vehicle.

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I think it might be safer being a flower photographer than a desert wildlife hunter.

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The closest thing I found to a striped rock. I decided not to bring it home with me. Also some tiny yellow desert wildflowers.

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Not all desert wildflowers are bright yellow. These little desert buttercups are golden orange.

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A piece of twine, a flat rock, and a chewing tobacco tin. These were my roadside finds for the day, and the photo is taken on the trunk of my Kia. I kept the twine and the rock, washed the tin, and then decided to throw it away. I have no use for chewing tobacco, and it had a strong odor, not unpleasant, minty actually. The tin says: Warning: this product can cause mouth cancer. Even though I don’t like tobacco, I thought the package was rather elegant.

And that was my big adventure for Saturday. It may not seem like much, but I just really like to get out of the house and see places that I’ve never seen before.  It’s not so much seeing–it’s being there that satisfies me emotionally and makes me feel good about life in general.

If you like to wander out into the countryside and see how other people live and have breakfast, or if you’ve ever been up close and personal with a rattlesnake, why not leave a comment?


Mystery Castle   Leave a comment

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 I went, on a whim (and in my car), to the south end of 7th Street. Some day I need to do an end to end trip on 7th Street and show all the significant things that are located on that one vital thoroughfare in Phoenix, but not today. Today I found something else, and since I had my camera with me, I took pictures, and mainly for those of you who might actually enjoy vicariously strolling through the Arizona desert with me, I have this record of the day’s adventure. With the right attitude, every day is an adventure–do you agree?


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South Mountain Park is, I believe, the largest city park in the world. It contains an entire mountain range and is about 20 miles long and  ten miles wide. There are numerous ways into the park, only one goes by the park ranger station. In a lifetime in Phoenix, this is the first time I have ever seen this entrance.  There is a nice trail, and I want to walk a mile or more every day, so I decided to enter. The time is near 11 a.m.

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There is an unnatural depression/valley/crater near the entrance. It might just be the end of a gully that has widened out a lot, but perhaps it is the remains of an open pit mine that is so old that the desert has reclaimed it. You can’t tell from the photo, but the bottom of this depression is a good 50 feet below where I am standing, and is quite flat.

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Do you see the far walls on the other side of the pit. These are typical of gravel pits and other big open mines in Arizona. The houses over there are very nice, upper middle class dwellings, and all this flatness is not typical of the bottom of a mountain range. Everything should be sloping downward toward Phoenix in the north. It’s a mystery, and I don’t suppose I’ll ever know how this place came to exist, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t natural.

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Once I got past the dirt trail I started on I found a paved road. That seemed kind of strange because there is no way for a vehicle to reach that road.  The entrance I used is a foot trail barely wide enough for a car at the beginning and too narrow for one a little further on, and it is blocked off by thousand pound boulders placed across the entrance. Perhaps there is a way in through the fenced-off water tanks at the ends of the trail, but I don’t know how the city made this nicely-maintained stretch of asphalt.

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Broken rock landslide area. Desert scenery. I just like to look at and discover such places.

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Looking back the way I came in. The huge tank is probably storing water for South Phoenix. It’s not like any explanation is posted for it.

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Another view of the depression. Some time I may return and climb down into it.

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Mountain slopes and mesquite trees.

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A view across the pit. The eroded slope in the foreground is more typical of an Arizona gully.

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This is the southern end of the pit. The mountain slopes become very steep here, and a true gully appears.

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My walk has taken me to the end of the big pit where a real desert wash empties into it. The tumbled rocks and the undercut caves on the far side are typical of such watercourses. The caves provide shelter for all manner of desert wildlife.

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This area is well explored (by others). Here is a trail leading across the wash.

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Back on the road. Such scenes always make me think of Tolkien’s song: The Road Goes Ever On. I want to see where this one will take me. And also it’s easier than climbing through gullies. 🙂

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The road climbs to this other big tank nestled between two hills and fenced off from the world.

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Looking uphill. This desert is not real good country for saguaro cactus, but there are a few, and here is one that has found a home.

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A trail on the ground.

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A trail in the sky.

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Looking back down the road. I had to climb a bit to get here. I think the climbing should be worth extra credit in the big scorebook in the sky. (I’m so obsessive. I have to count and score everything I do these days.)

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That desert trail I’ve been talking about apparently has a name. I will wind up on this trail that leads to the summit some 2.5 miles away, but I’m not prepared to climb any mountains today.

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As I was looking at the signpost, this woman came down the trail. I said good morning, and asked her where the trail led. This developed into a short conversation. I told her my name (Ken), found out her name is Barb.  She hikes in the desert two or three times a week and goes many different places including the Superstition Mountains and Prescott. I offered to walk her back to her car, just to continue the conversation. We stayed on the lowest reaches of the Holbert trail for another quarter mile, just chatting about the desert, and hiking and such. I probably should have asked her to get a picture of me, but, oh well, didn’t think of it.

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I have seen petroglyphs at South Mountain before, but wasn’t really expecting any. This is clearly a lizard.

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This is more likely to be a man, or perhaps a horse or coyote.  If that is a tail, then it’s an animal.

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Barb had taken a guided walk with a ranger on this trail before. She told me that the ranger said these petroglyphs are relatively modern, and not made by the Amerindians who lived in this part of the country.

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But these petroglyphs are authentic. You can see a solar symbol, a desert tortoise, and a snake. The rangers have erected a small fence to keep people away from these glyphs.

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Near the end of the trail I noticed these glyphs. I think they look like camels because of the humpy back and curving necks. The U.S. Army did import some camels into the Arizona desert after the Civil War, although the experiment was not a great success. Or they might be horses, though I like my camel hypothesis better.  A wonderful thing about such scratches on the rock–they make one think, wonder, and dream, but there is really no way for me to ever know the truth.

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Back at the parking lot, I take one last look back up the hill. I wonder what caused that big scar up on the mountainside. I think I’m about done here, but my adventure isn’t quite over yet.

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Barb gave me a lift in her van back to my car some 7 blocks to the east. Looking around I see some signs I hadn’t noticed before. I have found the location of Mystery Castle. There is quite a story about this place. I visited it once as a teenager 50 years ago. I tell Barb what I remember about it, though I haven’t given the place a thought in decades.  It looks kind of sealed off and forgotten, doesn’t it?

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Raising my sight, I see the castle itself. Someone is living here.

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This sign is so worn out. I wonder if they still give tours of the place.

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By walking off the road I find a better angle to photograph the house.

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This is how I know someone is living here. They have a guard dog. He barked at me once, even though I didn’t approach the fence or make any effort to get inside. Just being friendly, I guess. He didn’t get up and come over to the fence to see me.

And that is my last photo from Tuesday morning. Although I did not find a striped stone, it turned out to be a morning well spent. I got a good walk of a couple of miles, made a friend, rediscovered a fabulous place that I had visited once 50 years ago.

If you’ve ever hiked around the desert, admired petroglyphs, or visited strange architecture, why not leave a comment?