Mesa, AZ 1/1/04 - 1/5/04

Thursday 1/1/04

Tom (who was staying at our house) and Steve gave us a ride to the airport at around noon. The airport was totally dead. We used the auto-checkin machine and got some Burger King food. There was a little bakery, and Craig had wanted a chocolate chip cookie. They didn't have any, and we were joking when a young woman sat near us at the gate with a plastic bag full of home-made chocolate chip cookies. Come to find out, she was sitting right next to us on the plane. Her name was Lisa and she was heading back to college at Brigham Young in Idaho. We chatted for quite a while and she very kindly offered us each a cookie. We had a layover in Chicago, and our flight was a bit delayed. We got to Phoenix at around 9:20 p.m. Dan picked us up at the airport. As we got into the car, he called Tyson and said "I've got the package. Commence operation eggwhite!" We got to the house and met "the boys" - wolf/husky mix Akiela, boxer Eddy, and Fritz the cat. Tyson had made a delicious spinach souffle, and we had beef fondue. We listened to music (Tribe, B-52's, Tom Tom Club, Bowie) and chatted, laughing a lot. Tyson showed us some creepy postcards he had bought at an antique store that featured "German bisque head dolls". Craig tried a Four Peaks Kiltlifter Ale , and I had a Mike's hard lemonade. We had chocoate chip cookies for dessert. We went to bed around 2 a.m. We slept comfortably in Tyson's office, which is also Fritz's home base.

Friday 1/2/04

We woke up around 9 and had breakfast (coffee and a Chompie's everything bagel). We had a liesurely morning chatting and playing with the dogs. Dan drove us all to Apache Junction to the D-Spur ranch for our horseback ride. Rick was our cowboy guide, and there were six other people in our group. We mounted our horses (Tyson on Shot, Craig on Colonel, and me on Doc, which was ironic because that was the name of the horse I rode in Alaska as well). I forgot the name of Dan's horse. We rode in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains It was very peaceful. This was Tyson's first time on a horse. Dan used to own a horse and also had worked as a trail guide, so he was quite experienced. The four of us were at the back of the line, which was a nice place to be. It was very quiet and we rode past saguaros and bleached animal bones. Craig and I felt very comfortable on our horses. For the most part they just plodded along, but every one in a while they would lope up a hill, which was a lot of fun. The ride lasted for two hours. The scenery was just fantastic. There were big puffy clouds in the sky and the mountains were beautiful in the distance. We heard and saw some birds, along with many species of plant life.

After that we drove to the Tonto National Forest and did some hiking on the Peralta Trail. The trail was very well maintained, and as the sun was setting we hiked for a while admiring the hoodoos. The shadows of the saguaros got very long and the light was golden.

We stopped back at Tyson and Dan's house and then headed to Manuel's for Mexican food. I had spinach, beef, and chicken enchiladas with Spanish rice and refried beans. Craig had carne machaca. It was a nice dinner. We had margaritas to drink. Afterwards we headed up to Hole in the Rock in Papago Park. The moon was out and there was enough light that we could see the trail. We hiked up to the hole in the rock and were afforded gorgeous views over the lights of Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa. We saw some fireworks in the distance. Then we drove to Old town Scottsdale for ice cream at the Sugar Bowl (est. 1958), which is prominently featured in "Family Circus" comic strips. It had a very pink and black retro decor. I got a delicious mocha sundae. Craig had a few bites, since he was so full after dinner. We went back to the house, watched "What Not to Wear", and headed to bed at midnight.

Mounting the horses, D-Spur Ranch, Apache Junction

Craig, Dan, Steph, Tyson
Trail ride

Dead seguaro, Peralta Trailhead, Tonto National Forest

Peralta trail

Peralta Trail

Tyson, Dan, and Craig at Hole in the Rock
View from Hole in the Rock

Saturday 1/3/04

Steph playing with Eddie

Tyson and Craig at Mercado Mexico

Tyson, Dan, and Craig - smoked chicken dinner
We woke up at around 10, showered, and played with the dogs. At around 12:30 we headed out. We drove to Guadalupe, a small Mexican-style town right on the periphery of the city. We stopped at Guadalupe Imports and bought a ceramic sun and moon wall hanging. Craig was looking at a dream catcher, and Tyson joked that you could buy one anywhere, including a grocery store or a Circle K convenience store. Then we headed down the street to Mercado Mexico, which had a much better selection of imported Mexican goods. They had a lot of Day of the Dead merchandise, including sugar skulls and ceramic skeleton figurines. We got a papier mache skeleton wearing a pancho and carrying a load of wood for $20. We also got a Day of the Dead Christmas ornament. They also had beautiful tiles, pottery, and glassware. The aisles were very narrow and there were hand-lettered signs which said "Ladies, watch your children." It was amazing how many beautiful things were crammed into this shop. After making our purchases, we wandered around outside looking at their large planters, chimineas, and iron mariachi statues.

We then headed to the Chinese Cultural Center for lunch. It is a large complex which houses a Chinese supermarket, import stores, and restaurants. We ate lunch at Lao Ching Hing, a nice restaurant with lacquered furniture and a peaceful atmosphere. We shared beef lo mein (with very fine noodles), Mongolian beef, and sesame chicken, all of which we ate with chopsticks. We sipped Chinese tea and talked and laughed. Then we headed next door to the Chinese market and wandered around in there seeing if we could find any exotic vegetables for dinner (we didn't buy anything). Next we went to Zia Record Exchange. It was a very cool store which sells new and used CD's, records, and DVD's. We bought some Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, and Cracker.

We got back to the house at 5:30, and Dan showed up shortly afterwards. We visited for a while and then made a grocery list. We told Dan about the dream catcher, and he said he has seen them for sale at the car wash. It became a quest to buy a dream catcher at a mundane place, so we added it to our grocery list. We headed to Fry's grocery store and bought chickens, nachos, salsa, potatoes, and bagels. We stopped in their little housewears department to buy a dream catcher. Dan couldn't locate his keys, and while he and Craig were retracing our steps, Tyson and I checked out at the self-serve checkout. When we got back to the house, we realized that in all of the confusion, Tyson and I had forgotten the nachos. Dan prepared potatoes with garlic and onion in a tin foil packet on the grill. Tyson made a dry rub for the chickens and smoked them on the grill. While they were cooking, Tyson and I headed to the Food City (which was very bright) for nachos. When we got back to the house I took a picture of Craig with his dream catcher. Tyson gave us each a pair of chopsticks in honor of our lunch. We ate nachos and salsa and had drinks (Dan made me a cosmopolitan). Dinner was ready at 11 pm. Our plates were full with half a chicken, potatoes, and carrots. Everything was delicious; the chickens were juicy and smoky. After that we chatted for a while listening to music, watched a movie ("Pecker"), and went to bed at around 2 o'clock.

Sunday 1/4/04

We woke up at around 10 and had Chompie's bagels for breakfast. At noon we left the house for Eddie's Click a Trick dog training at Petsmart. We watched him learn to walk in a circle around an object and to shake hands. After doggie school, we headed back to the house. We hung out in the yard for a while admiring the gardens, etc. At around 3:00 we headed to Mill Avenue in Tempe (in the ASU area) and went to Long Wong's. We had onion rings, poppers, wings, and mozzerella sticks. Craig got a Fat Tire Ale and I got a Smirnoff. We walked up and down Mill Street and went into Z Gallerie, a store which reminds me of Restoration Hardware. Then we headed back to the house and played with the dogs for a while.

At 6:30 we headed to Organ Stop Pizza for dinner. What a surreal place! It is run in affiliation with the Mormon Church. There is a large Wurlitzer theatre organ from 1927. You order pizza at a counter and then choose a seat (we sat in the mezzanine). When your pizza is ready, they illuminate your number on a board, and someone from your party goes to get it. In the meanwhile, you are entertained by organ music. It is all very theatrical and rather kitschy. At the beginning of each set, the organ rises from the floor. The organ player control all sounds, lights, and special effects from the keyboard. At various times, cat marionettes dance along to the music, a disco ball spins, bubbles float from the celing, lights flash, and an American flag unfurls. I've never seen anything like it. The organ is very impressive, and the fact that one man can play all the parts from "Under the Sea" (from The Little Mermaid) is a feat unto itself. The highlight had to be "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor". After a couple of sets at Organ Stop Pizza, we went to Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream. They fold toppings into your ice cream on a cold piece of granite on the countertop. I got cake batter ice cream with white chocolate chips and jimmies in a chocolate-covered waffle bowl. Craig got white chocolate ice cream with jimmies in a chocolate-covered waffle dish. We headed back to the house and played Cranium. Tyson and I won the first game, and Craig and Dan won the second. It was a lot of fun (we had never played before) and we went to bed at around 1.
Tyson and Dan's house
Tyson, Craig, Steph, Dan at Organ Stop Pizza
Patriotic performance at Organ Stop Pizza

Monday 1/5/04

We woke up at 6:00 and packed everything up. Tyson brought us to the airport in plenty of time for our 10:00 flight. Unfortunately, the plane which arrived at the airport was smaller than they had expected. Too few people voluntarily gave up their seats, so we ended up getting involuntarily bumped from the flight. We had to wait at the gate for over an hour while they booked us on a different flight. We got most of our money for the tickets refunded, so that was nice at least. They ended up putting us on a 2:00 flight to Las Vegas, and from there to Boston. We ended up arriving in Boston at 11:30. It was ecrtainly a stressful day of airline travel, but in the end we were only 2.5 hours later than scheduled, and we managed to get a refund out of the deal. Our papier mache skeleton made it home unharmed.

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