Tuesday, July 31st
Yuma had little to offer us besides a good, clean motel with a great sign.
It was the drive north that provided some interesting sights. Based on my research from Roadside America, I knew of several places of interest. A tiny, tiny church was seen and passed, but the abandoned McPhaul suspension bridge was looked at, appreciated, and photographed.
It was clear to me that the narrow bridge could not withstand modern traffic needs, but I was amused to know that the rerouting of the river, a new bridge location, and bad weather had all combined to destroy the replacement bridge in '84.
We continued north, deep into the Yuma Proving Grounds. Soon we passed the two atomic cannons, weapons that sounded good on paper until it was realized that battlefield soldiers would be handling lots of nuclear warheads. Not the most secure way of dealing with atomic weapons. (-- hee! -- Ed) The program was scrapped because of that and many other reasons and the cannons parked on the side of the 59. Later in the drive, there was a massive white blimp, far off in the distance, on the ground, silhouetted by the mountain. Even without much as a frame of reference, I could tell it was big.
Turns out that it was a Tethered Aerostat Radar System. Twice as big as the Goodyear blimp and significantly more expensive, it was designed in part to detect low-flying drug-running planes.
I would be hard pressed to want to go to the city of Yuma, but the proving grounds have a museum and I'm a sucker for such places. Maybe another trip will take us this way, possibly one where we stay at the Shady Dell.
Eventually we made it to our northern destination, Quartzsite, AZ, home of the Grave of Hi Jolly and the Quartzsite Yacht Club. The grave is a memorial to a Syrian-born man who came to the US to help the army develop a camel corp. The program never met the expectations of the government, and the camels were let loose in the desert to fend for themselves. Hi Jolly died in 1902, and the pyramid-shaped memorial was placed in the cemetery in 1935 by the Arizona Highway Department.
The Quartzsite Yacht Club has a slogan, "Long Time, No Sea." They have t-shirts with that on it that members can get. But the place was closed, so I didn't get my membership card and t-shirt. I need a t-shirt!
We headed east to Phoenix with no stops for sightseeing interruptions and arrived, hungry, in the late afternoon. My sweetie had spent some time here in Phoenix as a kid. So, after setting into the hotel we headed to a favorite destination, The Sugar Bowl. Mostly known for its ice cream , we had a little lunch before making a night of it at the Hotel Valley Ho.
The Valley Ho is a fantastic retro-modern hotel. Recently renovated, the place looks like money well-spent. Clean lines, lots of expensive-looking furniture scattered about and loads of details that complete the look. While the room was an off-season rate, our stay there was the biggest splurge of the trip. So was the much-needed massage I got at the spa. Driving and heavy luggage had conspired to make me achy.
Wednesday, August 1st
Phoenix-Flagstaff. Stayed with friends outside Flagstaff, AZ. While talking with one of them about the myriad of strange places that are around the country, I mentioned that Roden Crater, a longtime project of James Turrell, was not too far away. Shawn noted that not only was the crater literally just over the hill from where they lived were, but that he had seen James flying his plane many a time. Turrell in addition to being an artist, was a former CIA pilot. Shawn said that there were times when he pulled over and stopped driving just to watch Turrell fly his plane as he would cut through the sky putting the plane through all manner of amazing acrobatics.
Thursday, August 2nd
After fun with the folks in Flagstaff, we headed south for a little tour of Arizona. We drove up to the historic mining town of Jerome. Crazy mountain roads twisted and turned as we got into the town. Time constraints kept us from stopping and we headed on a back way to Prescott. Prescott was the former capital of Arizona and the city looks like old money. Had a really good meal. And continued on to Vegas.
Driving to Hoover Dam I noticed a smashed-up mobile crane near the massive construction site. Work on the huge Hoover Dam overpass was put drastically behind schedule when a windstorm blew down many of the cranes. Must have been a hell of a blow to bring them down like the one I saw.
Once home, we found that the annual Las Vegas Air-Conditioning Breakdown was right on schedule at our house, so a friend hosted us for a couple of nights until it was repaired. We dined at Tinoco's with our host, and another good meal was had.
Friday, August 3rd
Gallery hopping. Had dinner with a good friend Matt and his girlfriend. Since we care about our friends and don't care about clubbing, spending the evening with them was a perfect Friday night.
Saturday, August 4th
More time spent with Matt and his girl. The weekend started with a trip to Luv-It Custard, which is a neighbor to the Olympic Gardens strip club and can be found underneath the shadow of the Stratosphere on Oakey St. Another must-have Vegas food destination, it lived up to our memories. Matt and his girl decided that we needed to go to the Pinball Hall of Fame.
I continue to love the Pinball Hall of Fame in part because they rotate machines on occasion (which is great for photography's sake) and also because, on this last visit, Tim Arnolds (owner and operator) was there tending to one of the machines, cleaning and maintaining it. Previous interviews have made it clear that this has always been a labor of love. And it shows.
Sunday, August 5th
Our friend Steve had us over for drinks and food at his sweet downtown pad. We were talking about the relocation of the burlesque Exotic World museum from Helendale, CA, to Vegas. The Vegas venue has been closed, and I mentioned my disappointment at not seeing the place. Steve had met the guy who was running it and told me that he would see what he could do.
Monday, August 6th
Steve came through, and I got to visit the Burlesque Hall of Fame (renamed from Exotic World USA.) The operator, Luke, opened it up for me. Development meetings, fund raising, and everyday life prevent the museum-- a labor of love-- from keeping full-time hours. It now resides next to the Commerce St. Gallery, but since these buildings have been sold for development (like Vegas needs more condos?!) the museum will be relocating sometime in the near future. For the time being, the collection of photos, memorabilia and costumes will be on display whenever the manager has time, like First Fridays.
After all of that, we flew home late that night and arrived in Atlanta at 8:30am. And that was the end of our vacation out west.