Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mesa Spirit

     So far, we are loving Arizona.  The weather has been perfect - 70s during the day, 40s at night, with clear skies and incredible sunsets.  We are staying at Mesa Spirit RV Resort, a 55+ community, its lovely.  There is SO much to do its hard to choose!  Here is just a sample:

5 or 6 different kinds of card games
5 or 6 different kinds of exercise classes
3 or 4 kinds of dance classes
A lapidary workshop
A wood working workshop
A silver smithing workshop
Stained glass classes
Fused glass classes
Sewing Room
Music Room
Golf - outings, mini, virtual, putting greens
Tennis and pickle ball - like giant ping pong played on 1/2 the tennis court
Horseshoes, bocce ball, shuffleboard, corn hole
Weekly dinners and dances
Weekly entertainment
Themed parties (Valentines, Mardi Gras, etc)
Field trips
Swimming pools and hot tubs

and that's just off the top of my head.  This snowbird-ing is the LIFE!

Noel has been going to the lapidary workshop, cutting stones for me to set!  We make a great team.  I went to line dancing the other day and the old ladies danced circles around me as I tripped over my own two feet.  I also am taking the stained glass class on Fridays, and played Bingo the other night.

We have ventured out into Mesa a bit having been to the flea market, an art show, a movie, the grocery and to do a bit of hiking.  We saw August: Osage County with Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep.  Great acting but a depressing story - definitely a "could have waited for video" kind of movie.

We've been to a lot of art shows during our RV adventure, but this was our first in the west and it was interesting how the art and subjects changed.  Instead of herons and beach scenes, this one featured more cactus and native americans, pottery and western style jewelry.

 One afternoon we drove north to "red mountain" in the Tonto National Forest.   Every turn in the road and around every bend in the trail the view changed as the sun began to set.  I took a zillion pictures, which I've whittled down to a reasonable amount to share with you.

  I'm thinking of joining an online gallery so if you want prints of any of my pictures you could order them and it might be the source of a few incoming dollars.  Also, I've been making jewelry from the stones I purchased in Quartzite, which I will be posting pics and prices of my Anna Lemons Jewelry facebook page.  Payment can be made through PayPal or with credit card by calling me.  Mama needs a new computer.  This one is on its deathbed....RIP

Friday, January 24, 2014

Quartzsite, Arizona

If you've never heard of Quartzsite, Arizona I highly recommend you google it.  It's a tiny dot in the middle of the desert near the western border of Arizona.  In the summer it can get as hot as 120 degrees F and it has like 140 residents.  But every January since the 1960s, the population grows to something like 10,000 and most of them are rock hounds.  I'm talking tried and true prospectors with a film of dirt on their skin that never washes off, hands gnarly and arthritic and they haul around truck loads of rocks.  Big rocks.  Tiny rocks.  Sparkly rocks.  Colored rocks.  Fossil rocks.

I've loved rocks since I was a little girl.  I would spend hours banging small rocks with bigger rocks to crack them apart and marveled at the little sparkly mica flakes and shiny quartz crystals.  Once I heard of this giant gem and mineral show in the desert, I wanted to go.  And then I started to make jewelry, and had a reason to go.  Yet I never could justify spending the money to make the long journey from Ohio to the desert.  Well I finally made it to Mecca - the rock and mineral show to end all shows!

I have to say, it was everything I thought it would be and then some. And yet in some ways I was a bit disappointed.  It was dirty and gritty and when I pictured acres of gemstones, I guess I pictured them a bit more Hollywood Glam and a lot less Yosemite Sam.  The sheer amount of stones and fossils and minerals made it hard to believe there was anything left in nature!  Plus there was a lot of other vendors selling all kinds of other junk and products and dollar store crap at least 10 years old and covered in layers of dust and dirt.  Lots of old men in need of a bath, lots of foreign dealers from the middle east and India selling beads and stones, lots of young people with long dreadlocks and openly smoking pot.  Then there were the shoppers - lots of snowbirds driving giant motorhomes and ladies looking for a good bargain on Indian jewelry.  And dogs....oh so many dogs!  In purses, in backpacks, on leashes, in strollers, even a front baby snuggler with a frou-frou dog in it!

Finding the beautiful gems I had in mind for my jewelry creations was going to be harder than I had imagined.  I thought we came prepared.  We had water and snacks.  I had on my Z-coil shoes, sunglasses and visor.  I brought my walker, which I couldn't push through the sand and dirt, so it proved useless. I searched and searched and picked through hundreds of cabs (cut and polished stones) to find just the perfect ones....

But we persevered.  I was on a mission.  I lasted 4 hours the first day before pain did me in.  I lasted 1 hour the second day, before my wallet did me in.  It was empty.  That was the fastest $1,000 I ever spent!  I can't be out of money - there are still so many rocks......ACK!  But I'm happy with what I found - I chose each one because of it "spoke" to me - the shape, the color, the pattern, the polish - each one special and I can't wait to make them into beautiful pendants and earrings....Here are a few of what I purchased...

Tonight I got to work on them, but found I've gotten soft!  I'm out of practice - I used to be able to do this all day, but after just three pendants, my hands and wrists are so sore I had to stop.  Tomorrow we are going to an art show and Saturday night Bingo, but Sunday I'll get back to work.  I will put the finished products up on my Anna Lemons Jewelry Facebook page, but if you aren't on facebook, you can always call me to inquire about purchasing.  They have a resident craft show here once a week, so hopefully I will sell a few, because there is another big show in Tucson next month!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Arizona Rocks!

After a day of resting and recovering, we said goodbye to Santa Fe and continued to head west.  Exits were few and far between and the phrase "no mans land" came to mind after we drove mile after mile without seeing so much as a rancher, a horse, a rabbit, even very few birds, and they were mostly ravens.  It was rather eerie - for miles we were the only ones on the highway as far as we could see forward or behind us.

Leaving Santa Fe, we couldn't help but think the pueblo style
buildings and desert terrain looked a little like
pictures we've seen of the middle east

At one exit, we stopped to fill up with diesel and saw a sign for "Indian Fry Bread Tacos".  Well I'm not one to pass up an opportunity to eat (no wonder I keep gaining weight on this trip!), so we stopped at the Indian Arts Center.  That whole area off that exit was considered a Navajo Pueblo.  The way it was explained to us is that the difference between a reservation and a pueblo is that a reservation was land given to the Indians by the government, and a pueblo was land that the Native Americans had occupied for hundreds of years and have never left.  Either way, the young man that waited on us was a wealth of information and the Indian fry bread tacos were delicious!  If you ever find yourself traveling I-40 in Arizona, its a great stop!

Indian Fry Bread Taco -mmmmmmm!

We continued to drive on 40 until we found the exit for the Petrified Forest National Park.  We stopped at the visitors center and Noel took a glance at the truck where he had duct taped the sensor that was giving us trouble.  The whole thing had come apart, including this metal spring, and miraculously had landed on the manifold and stayed there, despite all the bumps and hills and turns we had driven over.

We duct taped it again and continued through the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest.  Every turn out and overlook was beautiful and the geological history so interesting to learn about.

The different minerals made some of the logs
very colorful!

Playing with different settings on the camera

we were lucky to see these mule deer!

A huge petrified tree

They call this "Newspaper Rock".  Lots of petroglyphs!


One stop was where the old Route 66 came
through.  Beep Beep!

The park closed at 5 and the ranger had warned us that at 5pm we'd better be in our vehicle heading out of the park, so we only made it 1/2 way through all the stops along the main road before 5pm.  It was decided we would come back in the morning.

We drove into Holbrook and found a campground.  When the sun sets here, it gets cold FAST!  The moon was full and there were a zillion stars and it got down to about 19 degrees (high 50s during the day).

The next morning we headed back to the petrified forest, about 20 miles out of Holbrook.  We continued to walk some of the trails and stop at the various pull outs and my camera was getting a workout, since each area was so incredible.  Basically, thousands of trees had fallen in some sort of weather event and quickly were covered by flood water which stops the oxygen needed to break down the wood.  Over thousands of years, volcanic ash and minerals replaced the cellulose in the wood, creating "petrified trees".  As wind and water have then un-covered the long buried trees, it makes this rocky valley look like its been scattered with this fossilized tree trunk pieces.

An ancient indian agricultural village

Iron and Manganese makes these so colorful!

The area is also the ancient home to native peoples, so indian ruins, petroglyphs, arrow heads, pottery shards and more are found throughout the park.  Before that it was home to many dinosaurs, whose bones have been dug up by archeologists and geologists that study the area.  That explains all the businesses that have dinosaur statues out front.

Rrrraaaaaaaa!  Did I scare you?

We saw this cute wigwam motel on Route 66!
Much to my discomfort, the bathrooms were closed for the winter!  Fortunately, we pretty much had the park to ourselves so even though there wasn't a real tree or even a bush that didn't have big thorns, I can now say I peed on something from the triasic period!  Can you?
Cover me Noel!  I'm going to have to pee on this rock!
After we left the park, we stopped at a few of the rock shops that sold petrified wood, since taking anything out of the national park is illegal.  It's amazing that there is any left in the park since we saw so much of it for sale, in people's yards and in front of businesses, even in the campground.  Once place did have some un-set cabochons of cut and polished petrified wood for sale, so I bought a few to make into jewelry, and then we purchased a few pieces as souveniers for the "grandkids" and nephews.
It's amazing there is anything left to preserve!
I was pretty tuckered by afternoon, so we kicked back in the trailer and fixed some dinner.  That night, Noel woke up to the cold, like, really cold.  He threw some extra blankets on me and braved the cold to switch propane tanks.  We went through that tank quickly in these cold desert nights!
In the morning, we headed southwest to Mesa, our final destination for a while, but not before driving through several mountain ranges.  We opted to take the "scenic" route instead of the interstate, and scenic it was!
We made a little detour just so we could get a picture of us in front of the "Snowflake, Arizona" sign, since our friends in Ohio were experiencing such a snowy winter. 
We passed through the Tonto National Forest and each pass brought new scenery and changing landscape as we dropped in elevation.  Soon we began to see more and more cactus.  The pictures don't look that great, but I was pretty excited, since I've never been to this part of Arizona.

Can't you just picture cowboys chasing after these
trains for a heist?

Soon we began to see saguaro cactus!  Aren't they awesome?  Whole hillsides of them!

    So are getting settled in our new  home at Mesa Spirit RV Resort.  Wait till I show you how fabulous this is!  Tomorrow we are going to Quartzite for the big rock and gem show, so I will have to wait until the weekend to blog some more!  Stay tuned.....