This is just a journal of our recent vacation.
The weather is so nice at this time of the year in this location. It has been years that I have not sat in the balcony under the starry night. The warm breeze feels so soothing. I really enjoy not so much of the view of where we stayed but the tranquility of the nature. We stayed at The Westin Kierland Villas. It is odd but probably natural that not a sound of insects was heard, neither a cicada shrilling nor a frog croaking. Maybe, this land is just too dry for most insects to survive. I often wonder why people would spend millions building golf courses in this location. Water is scarce and precious here. A waste of natural resource I would say to water the greens and maintain so many golf courses. But then that is just my own opinion since I am not a golf enthusiast.
I used to have a colleague who lived here. He had a house with a swimming pool. I could only think that he was out of his mind and had nothing better to do than to throw away his money by keeping a swimming pool in a desert. Can you imagine how fast the water evaporates even under a retractable pool cover in the desert where the temperature constantly rises over 100 degrees in the summer? Can you imagine crayons melting under such temperature? It was too bad that even though he had been in the workforce for over ten years then, he was still as clueless as some college kids. He was later demoted and had to sell his luxurious house.
We arrived on Saturday, April 2nd, 2011. Before we checked into the villa, we went to AA Wholesome Bakery in Super L Ranch Market next to the Chinese Cultural Center to buy some Taiwanese bread. Yes, pity me as you may, I am just a Nobody who enjoys torturing herself and her insatiable craving of Taiwanese food by living in a place where Taiwanese is considered extinct.
Not that food in this place is not worth mentioning but that food in this place is not what I would crave. I am a picky eater and have no interest in Mexican food. Anyway, we visited MIM the next day. My son learnt about the museum from his violin teacher and has been eagerly waiting to visit the place. I was surprised at his great interest in the string instruments. It is quite an experience touring the Musical Instrument Museum (http://www.themim.org/). Were it not for our son’s persistence to visit, we would probably not have visited the place considering the high admission fees.
Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is a rather unique museum, which boasts over ten thousand instruments and related objects. It is the world’s first global musical instrument museum. State-of-the-art audio and video technology enables the visitors to both see from the TVs and hear through the earphones the instruments on display.
There are more than three thousand instruments on display in five geographical galleries, Europe, Asia and Oceania, Africa and the Middle East, the United States and Canada, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Aside from the geo-galleries, the Artist Gallery exhibits musical instruments linked to world- renowned musicians and authentic costumes. If you have kids, you would not want to miss the Experience Gallery. Now you probably understand why my son persisted in visiting this place as soon as we landed. The hands-on Experience Gallery provides visitors an opportunity to play, hear and touch exotic instruments similar to those on display.
Our next destination was Desert Botanical Garden in Papago Park (http://www.dbg.org/). I have been to the desert garden in Palm Springs before but not one in this location. We visited the garden on Monday, April 4, 2011, our third day in this city. My husband said that I was just like my son, lack of patience. Besides the magnificent view, we were pleasantly surprised at the educational value that the garden offers.
By now, you have probably figured out where we went for our spring vacation. We were in Scottsdale, Arizona. We went there because my daughter didn’t want to go skiing again this year, so our alternative was a sunny place. You might be amazed to hear that the temperature there was as high as 95 °F on the day that we arrived. The next three days, the temperatures maintained in the high 80s, then gradually dropped to low 80s in the next two days and then to the low 60s and eventually down to the low 40s the day before we returned home.
Since temperatures were going to drop significantly later in the week, we decided to take it easy and spent our time at the pool, slid down the waterslide and relaxed on the lazy river for the next two days before it was too cold for us to enter the water. Besides swimming, water sliding and lazy river tubing, we also took advantage of the outdoor facilities such as the five-hole putting green (synthetic grass), the giant chess board, the pool table, the ping-pong table, and the foosball table provided by the Villas and the Resort.
On Thursday, April 7, 2011, our sixth day, we drove north on Scottsdale Road to Desert Foothills Scenic Drive in north Scottsdale. The view is breathtaking with stunning scenery of Pinnacle Peak, Black Mountain, and the McDowell Mountains in this Sonoran Desert. It is a short six-mile drive between Happy Valley Road and Carefree Highway where you can see a gentle 1,200 feet elevation gain from 1,100 feet to 2,300 feet along the way in addition to the various cacti , Palo Verde trees, ocotillo, creosote, and mesquite that dot the landscape. The drive ends with a stupendous rock formation at the Boulders. My husband found hidden gem in this Sonoran desert, a Westin Villas. Maybe we will stay here next time. In the afternoon, we went to Papago Park to see “Hole-in-the-Rock”. Hole-in-the-Rock is a series of tafoni, created 6 to 15 million years ago, caused by erosion in a small red sandstone butte. Red sandstone buttes are icons to the Valley of the Sun.
On Friday, April 8, 2011, we had lunch at Kierland Commons before we drove to the South Mountain Park in search of “Fat Man’s Pass”. We parked our car at Buena Vista Lookout and headed into the mountain. It was an easy hiking trail but somewhat confusing. We reached an intersection with the sign to National Trail on the left. My husband picked the National Trail and we continued our hiking. Since we did not have a map nor see a sign along the trail indicating if we were on the right path and how long it would take us to “Fat Man’s Pass”, I started to question my husband’s judgment. My husband didn’t like to hear me complaining. By the way, I wasn’t complaining. I was merely questioning. So, he suggested that we could climb upward to the top of the mountain where one couple was sighted. The path upward was pretty steep as it wasn’t meant to be climbed. We were misled by that couple who was down the hill and back to our original trail in no time. Along the way as we climbed, we got poked by several cacti. Wearing sandals hiking wasn’t such a good idea as sand and stick would occasionally get inside my sandals even though my KEEN sandals were made for hiking. My husband was the only one with proper gears. My kids were wearing Crocs. We finally got to the top of the hill. The path became extremely hard to follow as it was extremely slippery with loose sand all over the place. As we reached to the end, it was another upward climb but now on the big rocks. I would rather climb downhill through the cacti getting poked than climbing up those rocks. They didn’t look climbable at all. We climbed down again and back to our original trail. It turns out that if we had kept on our original trail, we would have reached “Fat Man’s Pass” in an hour for a two-mile hike. By then, we were too hungry and exhausted after the steep climb when we detoured from the main path. We decided to head back to get our food and water. Even though we didn’t find “Fat Man’s Pass”, we were mesmerized by the magnificent rock formations as well as the impressive view of Camelback Mountain. The elevation change is about 400 feet in Hidden Valley. Since I wasn’t able to take a picture of “Fat Man’s Pass”, a 20-foot-long passage between smooth granite boulders with a foot apart in some places, this is the link where you can see what it looks like. http://phoenix.gov/webcms/groups/internet/@inter/@rec/@parks/@parks/@nrd/documents/web_content/056528.pdf
On Saturday, April 9, 2011, the day before our departure, we ended up staying in Scottsdale Fashion Square as it was rainy and rather cold at a temperature around 42°F. There was nothing interesting in the mall except for the kids’ play area which seemed unique with tree houses, castles and pirate ships.
On Sunday, April 10, 2011, we boarded Southwest Airline flight and headed home. By the way, we were lucky that we weren’t onboard the aircraft with ceiling torn open.
This is the fourth time that I have visited Phoenix/Scottsdale area. The first time I was here was to visit our offices and colleagues in this location. I was single then. That was about 15 years ago and in early April as well. The second time was a tag-along to my husband’s business trip while he was attending conferences in this location. My son was about two years old. That was in early May. My third time here was a family vacation with my husband, my two kids and my mother-in-law. That was in the heat of the summer. We took the deal that Westin offered but didn’t book the trip far in advance and ended up vacationing here in early July. The heat is still intolerable at a temperature over 100 degrees though somewhat relieved by the lack of humidity. We had to submerge ourselves in the pool all day long. That was when we realized that crayons could melt. We picked this place to have our family vacation again primarily due to my daughter’s preference. Though she doesn’t like swimming, she considered it the lesser of the two evils when comparing to skiing. I don’t know if we will visit this place again. Maybe we will return to find “Fat Man’s Pass”.
Here are some of the pictures we took. I will post some more when I have time.
Written by Elisa English, all rights reserved.
On April 12, 2011