Wednesday, January 27, 2016

US - Arizona

We celebrated our anniversary in Arizona. Although Arizona is mostly desert, it  has many National Parks. We flew to Phoenix, rented a car, and drove to the south. 

First stop was Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. We bought the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands "America the Beautiful" annual pass for $80, which gives free or discounted access to national parks throughout the US.

We joined a tour by one of the park rangers, and he told us the stories, i.e. How was the building made? 

Then we went to the west Saguaro National Park - Tucson Mountain District. The presentation video is great, must watch! 
We climbed the 0.3 mile Signal Hill Trail, it took us to see dozens of ancient petroglyphs (on the rocks) more than 800 years old.  

We stayed overnight in Tucson. The next day, we went to the east Saguaro National Park - Rincon Mountain District.

A couple were setting up their tricycles, seemed fun.  

The Saguaro are giant cacti that look human shaped. 
This is the only one I found with a head different than others (most have round heads). Perhaps it is the leader.

A heart shape Prickly Pear cactus, I found several.

Then we went to Tumacacori National Historical Park.  This was an old mission to spread Christianity to the native people, originally founded by the Jesuits, then eventually taken over by the Franciscans.

 These cacti look like flowers.

We were on time to join a tour, outside and inside the ruin, a Frontier Church.

The guide told us the lady makes very good traditional, homemade tortillas for visitors, it is free.
After the tour, we tasted it - yummy.  The filling is mesquite bean paste and salsa.

We drove on an unpaved scenic route to Sierra Vista, where we stayed the night.

We headed to Coronado National Memorial the next day. We climbed the 0.75 miles Cave Trail, those Agave cacti are dried but beautiful.

The elevation is 5700 feet at Coronado Cave. We decided not go inside the cave because there is no path go down, other than scrambling over the rocks, it is deep & steep going down. Also, there were no other visitors when we were there, if we had a problem.  

We drove to Montezuma Pass Overlook.  This is at the border between the US and Mexico. We tried to walk to Coronado Peak Trail but didn't make it to the end because it was too windy and cold. 

We stopped in Bisbee, once known as "Queen of the Copper Camps".  This is an abandoned open pit mine.

The malachite stone with heart shaped line on a heart shaped pendant in the visitor center's gift shop. It got to go home with me. 


We headed to Chiricahua National Monument, but the scenic drive was closed for road repairs.

Unfortunately we can only see a few of the rock pinnacles, unless we took a long hike. 

One hour drive from there to Fort Bowie National Historic Site.  It's not far from Chiricahua, but the roads are "primitive".  The trail-head is the most convenient access, but there is also a visitor center that can be driven to, behind the maintenance building. 

It was dark when we arrived Globe. We stayed at hotel where the parking lots were filled some motorbikes, a group of motorists travelling.  The hotel staff said they come every year from all over the US and Canada.  Most of the bikes were very nice, expensive looking Harley's. 

Globe is near the Tonto National Monument. A paved trail from the visitor center takes us to the Lower Cliff Dwelling. 
The ancient people in this area built dwellings in the valley and on hillsides.
(FYI, reservation needed for Upper Cliff Dwelling, it is 3-4 hour guided hike, with no paved trail.)

We can see the Theodore Roosevelt Lake from top.
Originally, I thought that the above National parks would be good enough for our 5 days trip plan, but we still have 1.5 days! So, I looked at the map, and we decided to head northeast after Steve remembered visiting the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert when he was young. 

We drove across the lake to Petrified Forest National Park. The first stop was Rainbow Forest Museum.

 What is petrified tree? How did a tree become stone?

The 0.4 mile loop of Giant Logs Trail in front of the museum, the largest petrified log in the park.

The 26 miles scenic drive between Rainbow Forest Museum and Painted Desert Visitor Center is beautiful, we stopped at all the viewpoints.

Historic "Route 66" used to cut through the park.

Showcase spectacular views of  Painted Desert.

Painted Desert Inn, a National Historic Landmark, offers exhibits on the building's rich 20th century history.  This hotel was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's.
Steve was chatting with the ladies inside and they forgot the time until I asked the uniform staff: What time do you close?
The ladies awoke suddenly: "Oh, it's already past 5!  We have to take down the flag!"
After that, we drove about 1.5 hours to Flagstaff, and stayed the night there.

The last day of the trip, we went to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. It is prohibited to climb to the volcano crater, but we walked the trails around there.

We drove along the Scenic Loop Road, stopping at all the viewpoints along the way.  The end is Wupatki National Monument.

The Ballcourt in Wupatki Pueblo Trail.

A unique, geologic blowhole, you can feel the air blowing up from the ground.

Then we went to Walnut Canyon. When we saw the stairs on the trail, we gave up.  We were tired, and this park is 6690 feet elevation, so air is thin.

We drove through Sedona.

 We saw the Montezuma's Well sign on the highway to Montezuma Castle National Monument, but didn't exit. 
When we came to the Montezuma Castle (above) visitor center, the staff told us Montezuma's Well is part of it. 

 So, we drove back!  There was still a half hour before it closed.  
After that, we headed to Phoenix stayed a night, (about 1250 miles driven through the beautiful landscapes) and flew back home the next day.

Sunday, January 17, 2016





Friday, January 15, 2016



沒想到前些天在綱上讀到如何在家自種薑時,才知道市場上的薑(或其它食物)都被噴了阻止成長劑 (growth retardant),意思是說阻止薑發芽。難怪有時一些薑留了許久,都乾巴巴,不見生芽。
我嘗試去查查,什麼是'阻止成長劑',還有'調節成長劑'(growth regulator)?他們認不認識我,我不知道,我只知道我不認識那些化學品。


Friday, January 1, 2016




Monday, December 28, 2015

US - Branson

I was thinking to visit another country during the Christmas holidays, but Steve mentioned driving to New Mexico instead. So, I searched for information about New Mexico and we planned the trip, but found that a bad winter storm was supposed to hit New Mexico and most of the places between there and St. Louis, so we changed our plan at the last minute, driving to southern Missouri instead.

Along the way, we stopped to see Stonehenge at the campus of Missouri University of Science & Technology (Steve's alma mater), in Rolla.  This is a half scale, partial reproduction of the original in England but, being on an engineering school campus, some design improvements were made, such as adding an analemma in the center and a Polaris (North Star) window on the north trilithon.

At noon, sunlight shines through the small hole in the plate on the south trilithon onto an analemma, illuminating the date.  

We also stopped briefly at Table Rock Lake before going on to Branson.

After we checked in hotel, we walked around.  All the hotels & tourist attractions along the road reminded us of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (without a Starbucks on every block.)

It was sunny when we arrived on Christmas Day.

Most stores and restaurants were closed, some because it was Christmas Day, but many because it was off peak season, so they had closed until Spring.  So quiet.

The Titanic Museum

We found a restaurant that was open and very busy.

The next morning, we had nothing to do besides shopping. I found a small heart shaped dish (less than a dollar) in a big antique mall.

It was the first time I saw heart shaped dream catchers, they were in a gift store. I bought a purple one.   

It rained the whole day.  We still went to Silver Dollar City ($60+tax for adult).  They have several traditional craft shops - candy making, woodcarving, blacksmithing, pottery, etc.  In this one, they were making peanut brittle and fudge when we walked in.  

One batch of fudge is 60 pounds.  Steve liked this store a lot.  :-)

 A comedy Christmas show in the saloon.

A master potter demonstrates making pie plates.  The masters always make their craft look so easy!

The stores were open, and the indoor shows were playing, but none of the outdoor rides were running most of the day.  The train ride finally started running at 4:30 p.m., after the rain & lightning had stopped.

We had dinner back in town that evening, and while we were in the restaurant, we saw this red sign at the donut shop next door. The waiter told us that they give everyone who comes in a free donut when the red sign is on.  No purchase required.

It was true! We went in, and the staff was handing out donuts as people came in. Fun to see the donuts being made. 

Sunday it was still raining when we checked out of the hotel. We bought a Groupon deal for 50% off at the National Tiger Sanctuary ($25 per adult). We paid an additional $10 per person for the Feeding tour.  Most of the big cats here were rescued - formerly peoples' pets, magic show acts, and pay-for-play. 

This is one of their "homes", where they can stay dry & out of the wind.  There is an exit in back where they can go out to a large, outdoor area. 

Steve loves tigers, but the staff wouldn't let him go in the cage to play with them.  The tiger was sad he couldn't come in and play.

Steve tried to pass himself off as a tiger, but the staff was too smart.  They still wouldn't let him in the tiger enclosures.