Monday, May 17, 2021

Classic Trip: Tucson, Arizona - Part 1






Over the years, we’ve been to destinations across Arizona.  The Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Prescott, Oatman, Bullhead City and Laughlin, Phoenix , Scottsdale, and Yuma have all seen our van pass through.  One glaring section was missing, however, the southeast corner of the state.


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Tucson is an all day drive from L.A.  We broke it up by spending the night in Yuma along the way.

It’s midafternoon when we finally pull into our hotel, the Radisson Suites located east of downtown Tucson on Speedway Blvd.  We have a true two-room suite with a separate living room and bedroom.  The bathroom area is also two rooms, the bathroom itself and a dressing area outside with a closet and a sink.

In the bathroom, there is a bathtub with a shower seat provided by the hotel, a roll-under sink, and a no-step shower.  Not quite a roll-in, but you could put the shower seat there and transfer to it in the shower…as long as you’re not too wide.  The bedroom has a flat-screen LCD TV while the living room has an older picture tube model.

Outside is a large pool in a lush, landscaped courtyard with a spa and a large firepit for the evening.  A restaurant and bar off to the side provide a generous breakfast buffet in the morning, meals throughout the day, and a happy hour at night.  The breakfast was included for an extra ten dollars.

After unpacking, we eat our first meal in the city at Rosa’s Mexican Food on Fort Lowell Road.  This is Willie Nelson’s favorite place to eat in the city.  It’s in the back of a nondescript strip mall and is your usual Mexican restaurant.  We start off with mediocre margaritas (made with mix, not from scratch), some really good enchiladas and chile rellenos, and finish off with sopapillas which are fried dough covered with honey and served with whipped cream.


Except for the margaritas, it was all very wonderful and inexpensive.

We take a quick drive over to downtown Tucson, which is in the middle of redevelopment.  It looks like a fun place.  I stop off at the restored Fox Theater there and pick up some tickets for a concert the next night.

With that done, we get a bottle of wine, some bread, cheese, and settle in for a quiet night in. 
Except that it wasn’t that quiet.  A large group of kids were in the hotel making a lot of noise late.  I slept right through it but Letty and Tim had a rough night.  Had I’d known, I would have called hotel security to shut them up.

In the morning, I went in to take a shower.  The shower head was set to the widest possible spray and I could barely get any water on me.  The water took…and I timed this…9 minutes to warm up.  The bathtub shower head was limp and in serious need of Viagra…it just wouldn’t stay up.

After breakfast, we took our concerns to the manager who moved us upstairs to a similar room with working fixtures.  We also complained about the noise and did not have any more problems with it during our stay.  The water still took 9 minutes to warm up, though.

After eating and moving, we drove out of Tuscon.  Along Kolb Road, on our way to the Interstate, we saw hundreds of military planes, sealed up against the elements, stored on the tarmac.  This is Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the planes are part of AMARG – the  Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group – which maintains over 4,000 aircraft here in readiness and for surplus.

After the planes, we get to Interstate 10 and head east.  Our destination, 70 minutes away, is the old historic town of Tombstone, better known as the locale of such wild west sites as OK Corral and Boot Hill.

Once in Tombstone, we drive around the old part of town and have a devil of a time finding parking.  We learn that the lot on the other side of Highway 80 designated as OK Corral parking can also be used as a general parking lot for the town and it’s also free so we park there. 

Luckily, traffic is not so intense here so crossing the highway is no big concern.

Letty and Tim have been debating through the morning about attending the gunfight at the OK Corral in the afternoon.  Tim’s disability has the effect of his eardrums not being able to tense up at loud noises like normal folk so he really dislikes loud, sudden noises.  Letty wants to see it and offers to put in earplugs and cover those up with shooter’s headphones.  Tim tentatively agrees…we’ll see.

We start off by going to the visitor’s center.  While the gentleman there is friendly and lots of brochures are available, he won’t provide us with prices for the various attractions around town.  We are told we’ll have to visit each one and ask.  I think that’s what a visitor’s center should do but…

Off we go, strolling down the main street, mixing in with cowboys, gunfighters, soiled doves, and more.  While some of these people work here in those costumes, it also seems like a lot of the locals just like to dress this way.  There is also a contingent of people who also like to come here and play dress up.

Our first stop is to wet our whistle.  We go into Big Nose Kate’s Saloon.  I have to ask one of the employees to open the second side of the double-door so that Tim can get his wheelchair through.  He shows me the trick of pulling on a chain attached to the door that releases it…a little tip that would come in handy time and time again as we visited the various shops in Tombstone.

We belly up to the bar…or roll up to it in Tim’s case…and have a shot of tequila.  Letty visits the gift shop, located down a tiny, narrow, spiral iron staircase downstairs and I request some outlaw country songs from the singer while Tim and I sip our shots.

It’s crowded, but it’s a lot of fun and you need to spend a little time in the saloon where Doc Holliday and the Earp’s used to hang out in.

We continue up the street, visit the lobby of the Bird Cage Theater, turn around and stroll slowly back towards the OK Corral at the other end of town.  


Along the way we see a little plaque saying that Wyatt Earp’s brother was murdered in the shop we were standing in front of.  Of course, we have to go in there and find the spot.

Finally, at the other end of town we arrive at the OK Corral.  It’s 12:30pm and the gunfight is at 2.  Tim is having none of it and offers to wait in the car during the show.  I can’t really let him do that, so the gunfight is scratched from the schedule.  It’s $10 dollars to go into the corral and see the gunfight.  If you don’t want the gunfight, then it’s only $6 so we opt for the cheaper ticket so we can at least visit it.

Inside, at the site of the real gunfight, there’s an audio show with some rudimentary robots standing in for the Earp’s, Doc Holliday, the Clanton’s, and McLaury’s.  The recreated gunfight takes place in an adjacent arena.

We look around, take in some exhibits including a prostitute’s shack, and then visit with the blacksmith who is very friendly and makes a custom horseshoe for Tim.

After that visit, we head back to the other end of town…far away from any gunshots…and have lunch at the Longhorn Steakhouse where we have some very good burgers while waiting for the gunfight to end.



One wonderful thing about Tombstone is that we did not find anything to be inaccessible to wheelchairs.  There are basic...very basic...accessible restrooms at each end of town and it's a very easy 3 block stretch from end-to-end.



After lunch, we drive to the north end of town to the little western cemetery there better known as Boot Hill. Here is where the town buried it's dead back in the wild west days.  The dead from the OK Corral are buried here, as are numerous criminals who were hanged...some "legally" as their headstones say.



Not to forget, the infamous Lester Moore...you know, "four slugs from a .44.  No Les, No More."



The cemetery is mostly wheelchair accessible.  It's dirt, so expect so bumpy, rocky paths but for the most part, you'll be able to visit it.  It's also free, although a donation is requested.

Back in the car, we settle in for the drive back to Tucson.

There’s more to come, stay tuned for part 2 of this trip.

Darryl
Copyright 2011 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Cocktail Hour - Bi-coastal Riesling Taste Off


We're throwin' down today on the Cocktail Hour.

My friend, Lee Drake, from New York sent me a bottle of some Finger Lakes region Riesling. Of course, since I'm biased towards California wines, that means I've got to challenge it.

I invited my friend Scott over, who is a big Temecula wine fan, got the closest California Riesling in style and price, drug Tim out to the back yard and said..."we've got a challenge, boys."

So here we go...


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In one corner, Dr. Konstantin Frank semi-dry Riesling from New York. In the other, Fetzer's Riesling from Mendocino County in Northern California.

Since we admit our bias, we are doing a blind tasting. My wife, Letty, is pouring the glasses out of our sight and only she knows what we're drinking.

Wine number one, with a fruity bouquet, has a slightly sweet syrupy mouth and throat feel while wine number two has a dry, fall weather nose to it and a much drier feeling on the tongue.

We like both wines but decide that on a real hot summer day, it's the dryer wine that would be more satisfying. 

So which wine is this and which one did we pick?  You'll need to see the video to find out.

Both are very good, though.  You can't go wrong with either one.

Cheers!

Darryl

Friday, May 14, 2021

A Relaxing Day in the Comstock Lode: Virginia City, Nevada


The last day of our Nevada getaway is being spent in the old west mining town of Virginia City. Relegated to ghost town status in the 1930's, after the silver mines played out, the town had a revival in the early 1960's when the hit western series "Bonanza" hit the airwaves. Much of that show was set in Virginia City, although none of it was filmed there, which is why the fictional Virginia City of that show looks nothing like the real one.

It's a steep climb into Virginia City. So steep, in fact, that trucks and other large vehicles are banned from the main road. They must take a longer, more gently climbing road to the east.

All that climbing results in C Street (the town's main drag, also state highway 341) being at the same elevation as the water level at Lake Tahoe, high in the sierras on the other side of Carson Valley. This also makes the weather a bit more mild than the desert temperatures below, although some winter days here can be brutal.


This late April day, though, is very pleasant and clear. We park at the courthouse in a handicapped spot (which I found out later I should not have done...it's only open to tourists on the weekends). There are some pay lots along C Street. Street parking is free and there are a few other free lots a block west or east of C but it will entails negotiating a hill in this steeply banked city. (Download this PDF Map of Virginia City to see where the parking lots are) 

Our first stop is a short block down a steep hill to the visitor's center on the corner of C and Taylor Streets. We pick up a copy of that map...we're wishing that they had a cool walking tour of the town like Carson City did but it's just a basic map...and notice that they also have two accessible restrooms available along with free popcorn and gin tasting in what was an old and historic Virginia City saloon (this used to be the Crystal and the lighted sign and chandeliers above the bar are 1870's originals).


We continue north along C. While Letty browses a couple of antique shops, Tim and I share a red ale at the Virginia City Taphouse and Brewery. Technically, it's just a taphouse now as the owners have removed the brewing tanks and equipment for preparation to a move next door.

It's very good. We want to check out the Delta Saloon, which is supposed to be one of the few places in Nevada where you can still play old-fashioned, coin operated slot machines but the Delta has gone out of business. Its famous "Suicide Table" has been moved to a saloon across the street.


At the end of the block, we cross over to The Way It Was Museum and check out a few artifacts in their courtyard. We're not moved to pay admission to go in, however.

The Bonanza Saloon, which looks like it is still in the middle of a renovation, is the new home of the "Suicide Table," formerly of the Delta across the street. This is an old faro table which had a few owners who lost big, went broke, and decided to take the easy way out, giving it the name it's known by today.


What used to be a museum but it closed now, is the offices of the Territorial Enterprise where a young reporter named Samuel Clemens started writing under the name of Mark Twain.

A couple of doors down, we check out the extensive chandelier collection of the Virginia City Bar and Grill, where I pick up a quick $2.50 playing one of their slot machines.

I quickly sink my winnings into some candy for Tim and I at the extensively stocked Virginia City Mercantile.

While waiting outside another antique shop for Letty, Tim and I meet a detective from the sheriff's office who chats with us about life here. There are less than 5,000 residents of the county (Storey County, the smallest in Nevada). The Sheriff provides all the local law enforcement for the county with 20 deputies under him who work out of a small, storefront office at the end of the street.

The courthouse we parked at is still in use as is a newer one at the edge of town next to the jail. 

We bid the detective a good day as we stroll along to the Firehouse Barbecue at the end of the street on the other side of the Sheriff's Office. Along with the grill, there's a full bar and and ice cream bar.

I

t's the ice cream we're after and we get a couple cups and enjoy them out on the deck where we also get to take in the famous 100 mile view from Virginia City.

Back across the street, Letty checks out some more shops while Tim and I head to the Ponderosa Saloon where, along with your libation, there's a entrance to a mineshaft in the back of the room. Tours are available but, alas, it's not chair friendly.

We finish up back where we started where Letty picks up a bottle of gin from the visitor's center to take home. Back in the van, we do a little auto touring to check out the cemetery and the area east of town.

There's a trail, fairly accessible (packed dirt) that starts here and heads east into the hills with lots of warnings not to stray off unless you want to die a lonely death along the shards or water in an unmarked mine shaft.

Indeed, there's a fenced off area next to the starting kiosk where a fifty foot section of mineshaft collapsed. Luckily, no one was standing on top at the time.


With that, our time in Virginia City is done. We head back down to Minden where we have a delicious and cheap ($14.99) prime rib dinner at the Carson Valley Inn Casino.

Tomorrow, it's back home.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

DINNER TIME! Lemon Garlic Chicken and Potatoes


We have a lot of chicken thighs frozen in our freezer. Letty had some leftover lemon garlic marinade. Taylor made for a quick, easy, and delicious dinner.

First, I better give you the marinade. I used leftover but use the juice of a lemon, 6 garlic cloves minced, a tablespoon of olive oil, a sprinkle of Kosher salt and pepper.  Use this as a rub on your chicken and, when you cook it, save the drippings...that's how we ended up with leftover marinade.


Take three thighs, put in a ziploc bag with the marinade (fresh or leftover...only difference is that the leftover also has chicken stock), and let sit in the fridge for 6 hours.


Dice up some yellow potatoes.


Put in a ziploc bag, sprinkle in about a quarter teaspoon of Kosher salt, a few sprinkles of black pepper, and a teaspoon of olive oil. Shake well in sealed bag.


Smear olive oil on a baking pan, put the potatoes in the bottom of the pan.


Put the thighs on top of the potatoes, skin side up. Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


I'm also cooking a little broccoli for the side. Prepare the same way as the potatoes and wrap in foil with a little opening at the top.

Put the baking dish with the potatoes and chicken in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Turn chicken, put back in oven for another 30 minutes. Put the broccoli in the oven at this time, also.

At the end of the second 30 minutes, turn the chicken skin side up again. Increase heat to 475 and cook for another 15 minutes to crisp the skin.


It should look like the picture above when done.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 10, 2021

Up Close and Personal With Nevada History: The Kit Carson Trail


I like to walk. In fact, I do several miles a day. It's also a very accessible activity to do for wheelchair users while on vacation and we've come to schedule at least one big walk for each trip. We've done the massive Englisher Garten from top-to-bottom in Munich, made a 10 mile loop of Halifax in Nova Scotia, went from Market Street to Fisherman's Wharf and back in San Francisco, from Westminster to Abbey Road to Harrod's and back in London, for a few examples.

You can find some very interesting things on these walks if you know what you're looking for.

That's the case with the Kit Carson Trail, which is an historical walking tour put together by Carson City's Visitor's Bureau. The trail is a bit over two and half miles. With a few side trips and detours, ours came up to four miles by the end.

You can download a printable copy from their website, or just stop by their office at 716 N. Carson Street, adjacent to the Nevada State Railroad Museum just south of downtown. Free handicapped parking is available in the back of stop #1, the Nevada State Museum and along the streets nearby.

We've done the Nevada State Museum on a previous visit (click that link to check it out) so we just use it for convenient parking, today, and move on to stop #2, the Cavell House.


A prominent dentist, William Cavell had this house built with every possible modern convenience in 1907. The house has seen better days but, even in its current run-down condition, you can see what a marvelous house this is.

Moving up the street, the Stewart House...from 1887...was the home of U.S. Senator William Stewart. Stewart went on to be one of the founders of the Silver Party in 1892.

A block up the street is the beautiful 1862 gingerbread home of Governor John Jones who led the state from 1895-1896. 


The side treehouse is pretty fantastic.


Next door is 1864 house of Louis Prang, who started the tradition of Christmas Cards in the United States. This house is also a popular filming site for the Hallmark Channel.


The Bliss House is one of the largest of the historic homes here in Carson City. Bliss was a lumber baron and you'll find many things named after him, including Bliss State Park in Lake Tahoe where the Vikingsholm Castle sits on the shore of Emerald Bay.

Fun fact: on one of our spring break ski trips to Tahoe in College, Bliss' great grandson came along on one of them. None of us got along with him.


Across the street is the current Governor's Mansion, built in 1909 to serve as the official residence. Until then, it was up to each officeholder to secure their own lodgings.

Moving on we get to the Krebs-Petersen House built in 1914 for Dr. Ernest Krebs, who is credited for stopping the influenza outbreak in Carson City at that time. It was also used as a filming location for John Wayne's last movie, "The Shootist."

Down the Street is the Sadler House, occupied by Reinhold Sadler, when he was Governor of Nevada from 1896-1902.

In 1860 (or 1862...the printed version and online editions of this tour differ in the date), attorney William Morris Steward had a nice sandstone house built. Today, it's still home to a law office 


We saw deer on the lawn. It's Carson City's oldest standing home.


Orion Clemens lived in this 1863 home. He was the state secretary for Nevada. You might be more familiar with his brother, Samuel, who wroted under the name Mark Twain and was a frequent visitor here.

The 1868 house of George Ferris, Sr...a gentleman farmer who planted many of the trees around the capitol...is next. His son, George Ferris, Jr., went to Chicago and invented an amusement park ride...a wheel...that bears his name to this day.


We take a break and have some cold beers at Carson City's oldest saloon, a slightly divey place called the Old Globe Saloon, before moving on.

We decide to jump to the end of the tour and work our way back up so we can end up at our car. Next up is the state Capitol complex where we check out the Capitol Building. 


Mostly used for lower offices now, the Legislature and Supreme Court moved into larger, more modern buildings next door.

These are just a few highlights of the 48 stop tour. It was very interesting and a healthy way to get a close-up look at Nevada history.


Before we get back in our car, we stop by the Nugget Casino to take a few turns on their slot machines. We find another bit of pop history when we find a replica of George Barris' Batmobile parked inside. 

Done with our day of touring, we head back to our hotel in nearby Minden where we splurge on a nice Basque dinner at JT Basque, an old restaurant in Gardenerville that we've visited before.

Stuffed with a bit too much food, we retire to our room to get ready for tomorrow's adventure...which will coming soon.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved