I had a free weekend in mid-January 2014, so my oldest daughter and I took to Arizona’s open roads and checked the Apache Trail off our Arizona Bucket List. The roughly 5-hour loop begins just north of the town of Apache Junction on the eastern edge of Phoenix metro. Most of the drive consists of fairly navigable two-lane blacktop. It’s the 25 or so miles of dusty, washboard road that will keep me from rushing back.
Prior to moving to Phoenix in 2012, I spent 17 years in the Denver – Boulder area of Colorado and did plenty of driving in the Rocky Mountains. So, I am fairly adept at handling steep, winding roads. However, I wasn’t prepared for just how steep some of the sections on the Apache Trail would be. In particular, Fish Creek Hill requires you to ride the brakes almost non-stop as you descend over 1,500 feet in elevation in just a couple miles. Even riding in my vehicle’s lowest gear, the decline was too steep to cruise without the use of brakes. As a result, many drivers, including me, pulled off about two-thirds of the way down the hill to let the brakes cool off – and take a few pictures.
I will let the pictures below tell the rest of my story; however, if I had to name a highlight it would be the awesome splendor of Apache Lake – a Goldilocks sized reservoir sandwiched between Roosevelt and Canyon Lakes along the Salt River. At one point, we backed my truck onto a small driveway on a bluff overlooking the marina area and sat on the tailgate to chow down our picnic lunch. As we resumed the drive, I was awestruck by the towering cliffs shooting out of the glassy, narrow channel on the lake’s eastern end. The visuals ignited dreams of bringing my family back in warmer months to cruise the lake in a rental boat.
Views from the Apache Trail (click any image to enlarge):
We’re on a tight budget these days but determined to do something fun out of town with the kiddos for Spring Break. Since we’re new to Phoenix and only a six hour drive from the LA/Hollywood area, my wife and I decided we could work a thrifty road trip into the budget.
So we put some dates on the calendar and began to plan. The trouble with searching the web for things to do is that most of the search results include options that cost money. I knew if I could talk to some locals I could find some cheap or free ways to entertain our tween-aged daughters.
Since we don’t know anyone who lives in LA, I posted this plea for help in the “Frugal” message board on Craigslist/LA:
Looking for help from locals. We’re hoping to find a studio tour or filming of some sort to experience that is free or cheap. Any tips?
The crowd came through in a big way. Here are the responses I received in just the first 48 hours:
Google free tv tickets Los Angeles. We saw the Jimmy Kimmel show and Jeopardy. The Science Museum in Exposition Park is free. Natural History Museum is cheap. Ride the Blue Line to Long Beach. Take the Red Line to Union Station, walk to Olvera Street and Chinatown. Red Line also to Hollywood Blvd. Gold Line to Pasadena.
Call the Burbank studios to get tickets to Leno.
Universal has a theme park tour, but I think it costs.
Google free tv tickets Los Angeles. We saw the Jimmy Kimmel show and Jeopardy.
The Science Museum in Exposition Park is free.
Natural History Museum is cheap.
Universal city walk – it’s a few miles north of downtown LA (on the subway too) its free to walk around the stores and browse. the biggest cost is parking. but its about $80 a person to enter Universal City theme park next to it.
Drive to Santa Monica beach. You have to see the ocean plus the Santa Monica pier is a boardwalk classic the main cost is finding parking at the end of the 10 freeway.
Walk around Hollywood & Vine. See the stars in the sidewalk with Grummans theater handprints, and Kodak theater walk into souvenir stores see all the hucksters on the sidewalks, some impersonating stars.
Drive up to Griffith Observatory. That’s where they film lots of movies you’ll have a good view of downtown L.A. and the Hollywood sign nice science museum there too; parts are free.
About this time last year, when I was living in Colorado, I proclaimed to my Facebook friends, “One of these years I’m going to go to Phoenix for a couple weeks and attend as many MLB spring games as I can. Just not this year.”
At the time I had never been to the Phoenix area and we had not yet discussed moving here. (Another post for another time.) That was also before I realized just how much baseball action takes place in Arizona. Every spring thousands of people flock to the Phoenix area for to catch glimpses of their favorite players up close during Major League Baseball Spring Training. It turns out Spring Training is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
In the past five years or so, I have become a fan of the complete game – the players, the stats, the rules (written and unwritten), the coaches, the umps, the fans, the reporters, the stadiums. I love it all – minus paid parking. I study in the off-season by reading biographies, magazines and geeky books like “Watching Baseball Smarter.”
So this year I’m committed to taking in as much baseball in person as I can. Back in January I mapped out what the spring would look like on a calendar. I started with the MLB Spring Training calendar – six or more games per day from the end of February through March. On top of those games, I overlaid the World Baseball Classic, then Arizona State and University of Arizona games, plus a baseball experience like no other.
Would you believe the oldest active baseball stadium in the U.S. is also in Arizona? Yes, even older than Boston’s Fenway Park. Had to book a family trip to Bisbee in April. We’ll catch one day of the Copper City Classic Vintage “Base Ball” tournament on Saturday. They play by 1860 rules in old school uniforms and the umps wear beanies and bow ties.
On our way home Sunday, we’ll stop in Tucson to watch the defending national champion (2012) Arizona Wildcats play the Cal Bears – a 2011 College World Series team – in another classic ballpark: Hi Corbett.
I took in my first Spring Training game with my teenage daughter this past Sunday. It was windy and cold and she wanted to leave early. I coaxed and coddled her to stay through six innings. Day two of my 2013 baseball binge is today: day one of the four-day round robin Coca Cola Classic Tournament in Surprise featuring ASU, Arkansas, Gonzaga and Pacific.
As if plotting out all the baseball games going on isn’t challenge enough, I need to work in my full-time job and my part-time role as taxi driver for the kiddos, plus their sporting and school events and the occasional family meal.
I’m not sure how I’ll handle all this baseball but I’m going to give it a try.
I’m not into numerology, so I don’t believe anything special happens when numbers line up in a certain way. That said, all the hype with 12-12-12 could have came and went for me with almost no significance. Same for last year on November 11, and October 10 the year before that. August 8, 2008 (08-08-08) was sort of cool since it was my sister’s birthday – and the day of the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.
My lack of interest in a numerically significant date notwithstanding, somehow a switch was flipped for me the morning of December 12, 2012. It actually started the night before when my 11 year-old daughter made me pinky promise I would take a picture of my iPod screen for her at exactly 12:12 pm since she would be at school.
Couldn’t avoid the buzz
When I checked in on Facebook the morning of the 12th, my feed was lit up with all things 12-12-12. Same thing on Twitter. One post in particular stood out to me: ” 12.12.12 …I have the DVR all ready to go!,” a friend from my high school posted. It was then that I remembered hearing about the benefit concert taking place later in the day at New York’s Madison Square Garden. I promptly set my DVR too.
I worked from home that day and started my lunch hour at exactly 12 noon, so could I stay focused on upholding the pledge I made to my daughter. An added bonus was being able to hug and kiss my wife like we do each New Year’s eve at midnight. I captured the special moment on my iPod and posted the image on Facebook with a snarky comment about surviving 12-12-12. Even though I know the Mayans alleged apacolypse was allegedly not to occur until December 21, so many people mistook the twelfth for D-day that I decided to play along.
The day continued as any usual Wednesday would until 6:30 local time when the 12-12-12 benefit concert came on the tv. What a line up! When it kicked off with Bruce Springstein and Bon Jovi I quickly realized this was going to be a big event. The legends just kept parading out, one after another. Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, the Who. Honestly, I got chills a few times just sitting there watching these larger than life rock stars humble themselves for the cause of raising money for those suffering from the effects of SuperStorm Sandy.
I checked in on Facebook and Twitter a couple times during the show to see how others were reacting to the performances. Most were impressed, although there were a few low points. Kanye West comes to mind. A personal favorite for me was Adam Sandler’s rendition of Hallelujah. An instant classic! The biggest shock for me was that Alicia Keys did not sing her hit “New York”. Maybe I’ll find out when I play the rest of the concert on the 13th that it was part of a finale. I hope so.
Like Farm Aid on steroids
Here was my one-liner that summarized how I felt about the concert: Farm Aid has been working out and taking roids for the last 25 years and has re-emerged as the #121212concert for Superstorm Sandy victims.
I mentioned to my wife that when we look back at tonight in ten years or so, we’re going to realize this was a bigger event than Woodstock, BandAid or any of the other big time concert events.
Another topic that others were commenting about on social media was the Geminid Meteor Shower – an event I would not have been aware of were it not for Facebook. Then Kanye West took the stage. About 45 seconds into his act I decided then was a good time to make a break for the hot tub. Everyone else in the family had already dozed off, so I was solo. Low and behold, I saw a few streaks from the meteors whizzing through the night sky, high above South Mountain on the south edge of Phoenix.
I still don’t believe there is any thing special about how certain numbers line up. But thanks to the large contingent of others that do believe, 12-12-12 was anything but an ordinary Wednesday for me.