A Travellerspoint blog

Derby Weekend

A little taste of Kentucky Oaks in Southern Arizona

sunny 90 °F

Okay, so it isn't exactly Kentucky Oaks, but there is a racetrack about an hour and a half south of us.
Last year we ditched church and went to the races!

With the wind in our hair, we jumped in the jeep and headed south to Sonoita.
Pronounced Son-OY-ta.
Personally, I would say Son-oh-EE-ta, but apparently, I would be wrong.
(That's me in the rear view mirror of the jeep...you can't see me because my hair is blowing around like mad...I kind of like it...)

The welcome sign to the town of Son-OY-ta has horses racing. I kind of think that is all they do there. It's a small town, out in the middle of friggin' nowhere, with a bunch of ranches. Horses and cattle. That's what they do. And wine. There was also a sign saying "You are entering wine country." I'm guessing we are among the rare and few French people to visit "wine country" in southern Arizona. Otherwise, they would not possibly call it "wine country." We may come down again in the future for the Stomping of the Grapes and Wine Festival to find out for sure.


As we got closer to our destination, The Daddy asked where we were supposed to go.
I said, "I don't think we can miss it."
Sure enough, a cowboy welcomed us to the fairgrounds.
There were races both Saturday and Sunday over the weekend. The fairgrounds' website announced the events for both days, with a derby hat contest, mint juleps, and a mariachi concert (that's what you get when the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo collide) and free military day on Sunday. Even though I wouldn't get to strut my fancy stuff in the derby hat contest, we decided to wait until Sunday so that we could go with the Daddy.

There were hats at the track of the cowboy variety, worn by spectators and the Rodeo Princesses on hand to congratulate and provide a photo op for the winners:
The trumpets blared, warning the betters (or is it bettors? Gamblers? Anyway...) that they had 5 minutes before the race to place their bets.

We saw quarterhorses...
...and thoroughbreds.
We preferred the longer races for sure, and I secretly desperately wanted to yell "C'mon Dover, move yer bloomin' arse!" but I refrained. It was hard.

Sonoita is significantly cooler than Tucson, so it was a nice escape from the spring heat.
It's race time again this weekend and the Daddy is in the market for a new Jeep...we may have to take a test drive and go see horses again!

Posted by TamB 14:10 Archived in USA Tagged arizona derby_weekend horse_races Comments (0)

The Valley of the Moon

A stroll through magical fairyland

82 °F

When we first moved to Arizona, I spent some time looking at what there is to do in this sleepy, dusty town. I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of fun and interesting events and places to visit nearby. One place that piqued my interest was The Valley of the Moon. It is called a "whimsical fairy-tale garden," a corner of the world for childlike fantasy and wonder to revive and thrive.
It is on the National Register of Historical Places under two criteria: It is "a unique expression" of the Modern Spiritualism movement of the early twentieth century, and it is particularly notable for its fairy tale motifs. It was built when "fairies" were being photographed in England, and fairy tale culture flourished. Kind of like Vampires and Zombies these days. The second qualifying trait of The Valley of the Moon is, according to the National Register of Historical Places, "distinctive characteristics of a type, romantic folly and a unique example of “Storybook” garden architecture."

Fun! I thought to myself. Whimsical and fantastical! I decided to take The Kid. I called them up and got a message. The message said to leave a message and someone would call when they got a chance. Turns out, this childhood fantasy land is run completely by volunteers and not open all that often. Makes sense. I didn't call back and it went to the back of my mind.

Then last week I saw that The Valley of the Moon is conducting one of its twice a year fundraisers. Starting at 6:30 p.m. for three nights in a row on two weekends in a row, you can come and take a tour led by the volunteers through the "crossroads." The Crossroads is where all the gateways to all the fantasy lands meet...Narnia, Middle Earth, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Wonderland, Oz, etc. And, Sunday was Food Bank Day. Half off admission with two cans of food.
We decided to go.
The Valley of the Moon is tucked away in a residential area. It seemed like we couldn't possibly be in the right place. But when we reached the gates and saw The Green Man dressed like a tree and strumming his guitar, we knew we had arrived.
We sang songs with The Green Man until Sam, the Daughter of The Gatekeeper, came to tell us the news that her father had been kidnapped by Zogog, The Evil One and all the worlds are in danger! She led us through the gardens and all the gates and the well-mown lawn which was The Void. We met Legolas, Hermione, Oz the Great and Powerful, the Mad Hatter and The White Queen along the way.
There was a final battle in which all the warriors teamed up to defeat The Evil One and save the Crossroads. One little girl, she was probably three years old, yelled, "Kick him in the face!" Funny. One little girl, she was probably one and a half, cried. Not as funny. But a little.

As we were leaving, the volunteers informed us that they are open the first Saturday of every month, twice a year for the big fundraiser, and available for private events.

The Kid said, "That was so awesome. I'm totally coming back every first Saturday of the month!"

Success. Childlike whimsy and fantasy are alive and well.

Posted by TamB 10:22 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes gardens arizona tucson valley_of_the_moon national_register_of_historic_p Comments (0)

Springtime in the Sonoran Desert

Who says we don't have four seasons?

sunny 88 °F

Very often when The Papa and I brag about the splendid weather we experience in Southern Arizona, we are met with the defensive response, "I like having four seasons." This happens most often in winter, when those to whom we are bragging are stranded indoors with freezing temperatures.
Well, so do we. You know, enjoy four seasons. Sometimes we even get snow.








We also like being warm. That's the big difference. We have four seasons, but each is roughly twenty degrees warmer than where our friends and family reside.
Ah, the best of all worlds!

When we got back to Arizona after our California Getaway, spring was popping out all over. I startled six quails when I pulled out of the garage. There must be a nesting pair among them! I don't want to find them, though. I have a bad history with quails in my yard. Somehow, either The Kid or I, myself, manage to frighten the mama away, thus causing her to abandon her nest.
The lizards have been out, sunning themselves on the warm patio tiles.
That means it's time to watch out for snakes and scorpions too. Nasty critters, those.
The orange tree has blossomed and is literally buzzing with life. The Kid is banned from playing in his playhouse until all the blossoms drop and the bees fly away.
One of our century plants sprouted its stalk.
Some cacti are just getting their buds, others are in full bloom.
The palo verde are amarillo, not verde. The palo verde and the bright green mesquite trees are wreaking havoc on my sinuses.
The View from my Cruiser

The View from my Cruiser

We have a few more weeks until full-fledged blooms, but we have definitely bid adieu to Old Man Winter. It is distinctly spring!

Posted by TamB 11:56 Archived in USA Tagged lizards desert cactus spring blossoms snakes scorpions quails Comments (0)

A Stroll through Quirky Baker's Hill

It's Like an Easter Egg Hunt!

sunny 67 °F

Our San Diego friends live near the airport. My Kid had an airplane obsession for the longest time. The obsession is waning, but the interest is still there. Truly, who wouldn't get a kick out of watching airplanes land and take off from up close? We took a walk to the best vantage point, finding fun and silly surprises in the neighborhood along the way.

Around the first bend, we saw this funny face watching us cross the street:

Just a little further along, we were treated to a rooftop concert:

There are interesting neighbors in Baker's Hill, but apparently nothing ever happens on their block:

Our desert is still in its winter dormancy. There are signs of spring, but not a lot of color yet. It was nice to see the foliage, especially the Birds of Paradise and whatever this fluffy red flower is:

We reached our destination, watched some airplanes coming and going, and questioned the sanity of anyone who would willingly live next to the airport and highway 5. Even after the airplane noise ends with the airport curfew at 11:00 p.m., the traffic doesn't stop.

Our stroll back home took us past a koi pond and garden center, where we met Mark. Making his acquaintance is worth a trip to San Diego! He let The Kid feed a worm to the hungry blue gill and made us giggle with his witty, dry-humored banter.

We continued our stroll through Maple Canyon. Because we were at the bottom of the canyon, we had to scale the steep walls to get back home. The Kid thought he might just die and stopped about ten feet from the top and urged me to go ahead and leave him behind. He couldn't make it one. more. step. When I walked past and he thought he might actually be left behind, he mustered up the strength to take those last five steps. And run across the historic Spruce Street Suspension Bridge. A miracle!

In this world of Homeowners' Association rules and regulations and cookie cutter developments, it was nice to see the personality, character, and charm of Baker's Hill.

Posted by TamB 10:40 Archived in USA Tagged nature san_diego california street_scenes baker's_hill spruce_street_bridge Comments (0)

The Flower Fields, Carlsbad CA

Stop and Smell the Ranunculus!

68 °F

In the planning stages of our spring break California getaway, our Lovely Hostess mentioned the spectacular Flower Fields in Carlsbad. Based on her recommendation as well as the enticing blurb on the website, not to mention it was five minutes from the beach--motivation for The Kid, I decided we would include the gardens on our list.

At The Flower Fields each year, a professional colorist (that's a thing, I guess) designs and plants waves and bands of colorful blooms that cascade down fifty acres of the hillside. They call it their Fields of Dreams, Fields of Color. I looked at the current conditions online and was a little aprehensive. The blooms were only just beginning to burst. I was afraid we would be disappointed. I wanted to have my breath taken away! I forced my family and friends to go along anyway. That is what a good traveller does. It would be an adventure!

We arrived at the gate and after teaching the ticket taker how to take our tickets, (word to the wise--always double check what you get and what you pay for) we entered a world of floral fantasy. Kind of.
As advertised, the blooms were only just popping. The fields had sprinkles of color, but definitely no cascading bands of spectacular hue.

We looked at and smelled the flowers up close while the men in our party mocked and teased me for wanting to see the pretty flowers.
We watched the workers gathering flowers. There is a variation of an assembly line here. First, someone goes in and cuts the blooms and packages them in bunches wrapped in plastic. Then someone goes up and down the rows gathering the bunches to load onto refrigerated carts to be shipped to customers around the world.
The Kid just wanted to play in the dirt.
We walked and talked and could see the colors getting brighter and denser in the distance. Aha! I thought to myself. I knew this would be spectacular!
And wouldn't you know it, I was right.
On our way out, the Kid and I wandered through the Sweet Pea Maze. It was more complicated than I expected. I was not alone. Our ears rang with echoes of "I just want to get out of here!" from kids and grown-ups alike.

We passed the Fairy Garden, a kids' playground, and a mining operation on our way out. My kid didn't want to do any of the activities. I think it's because he knew we were going to the beach afterwards. He probably would have been more enthusiastic if I had known about the yellow passport they give to kids at the entrance. Then again, if our ticket taker knew what she was doing, she probably would have given me one without asking. Something to keep in mind for future visits.

We waved a patriotic farewell to the gardens as we headed toward the beach.

Posted by TamB 13:22 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes children gardens san_diego california spring carlsbad the_flower_fields ranunculus Comments (0)

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