Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ajo, Arizona

Cymande and I recently pursued adventure and relaxation with my parents in Ajo, Arizona. The start was a bit confusing and frustrating with a missed flight in Atlanta due to severe weather which then resulted in a 3AM taxi ride to Buckhead with a slightly deranged cabbie. We slept, watched cable and left 24 hours later, finally arriving late at night in Phoenix.

The following day my parents gave us the Ajo tour including the Curley School which has been repurposed into studios and housing for local artists. We also stopped by the deserted rodeo grounds. We finished the day with a bout of my unpracticed pool playing, plentiful food and Ajo friends.

My parents arranged a tour of the nearby desert with their friend John. He volunteered to put his vehicle through some serious desert trauma and for this we are sympathetic and thankful. The surrounding mountains are sinking into their own eroded material after centuries of wind, rain and powerful heat. From a distance the mountains seem barren, but will a little exploration an abundance of life can be observed. The trip took us east of town over the nearby low mountains and into a gorgeous valley full of saguaro cacti, chollas, creosote, bursage and ocotillo.

Which reminds me, my parents have a spectacular semi-famous ocotillo that seems to attract every bird in town. (behind Cymande and my father who appears to be mid-story)(as usual)!

Fouquieria splendens
Common Name: Ocotillo
Description: Stems 5cm diameter at base, up to 10 meters high, bright red flowers in spring, with rainfall small ovate leaves appear and last weeks to months. Only species of this family in North America.
Range: Southwest US and Northern Mexico.

The birds that visit the ocotillo appear to be eating the flowers and drinking nectar. Species include: phainopeplas, white-winged doves, a variety of sparrows, cardinals, cactus wrens, curved-billed thrashers and finally:

Auriparus flaviceps
Common Name: Verdin
Description: 9-11 cm songbird, gray body/yellow face, small sharp bill.
Range: Desert Southwest into Central Mexico.
Habitat: Desert Scrub, especially along washes.
Food: Insects and spider.
Other facts: Builds nests for breeding and roosting with the roosting nest being much smaller. The male builds the outer stick shell while the female builds the lining. The roosting nest in winter are heavily insulated and decrease energy needs by up to 50%.

Anyway, back to the tour...So, before we got started we all took some practice rounds out at the shooting range. Cymande blasted holes in a poor defenseless sheet metal deer and I shot the living hell out of a soda bottle.

Then John fearlessly drove us into the desert. The roads were composed of little rocks, moderately sized rocks and big rocks, but that didn't stop us. We had a picnic on the shore of a large dry wash.

Finally, Cymande rode, well, sat atop John's patient horse. We slept well.

The next day we travelled south to Organ Pipe National Monument and watched the vultures soar off of the Ajo Mountains. We learned about the flora, fauna and geography. Now I can casually discuss the bajada, alluvial fan and arroyo.

Ajo is a strange and beautiful place full of interesting people, plants and creatures. My parents were the perfect hosts and have surrounded themselves with fascinating and kind people. It makes it easy to visit and difficult to leave.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ross Returns..."OOOZE!"

After many years away Ross, bearing wiffle balls and bats, made a much anticipated visit to OWR. He found himself involved in a variety of activities that are unique to the local environment. On day 1 Ross and I floated down the Santa Fe and paddled up it, in that order. I take full responsibility for the sequence. The float down was placid and lovely; the return, athletic and sunburnt. Turtles basked, hawks soared, night herons hid, fishermen cast, Ross and I paddled. We spent the remainder of the day pleasantly wandering the field, eating and imbibing.

We woke early the next day to get Charlie who has been several months in South Carolina. His train was late and we had hearty breakfast at The Fox in Avondale. We travelled from the train station to St. Augustine. Food, drink and ice cream was consumed yet again. Ross spent a considerable time disputing the age of St. Augustine. He feels it is not the the oldest city in America and steadfastly denies its importance. It is still unclear why he feels this way.

We returned home to prepare for the night's activities, a night of burning rubber, motor oil, filth, noise, pollution and testosterone at the North Florida Speedway. Ross seemed impressed by the carefree attitude of children (and their parents) playing four feet away from speeding deathtraps. He seemed less impressed by the cheese fries. Charlie seemed impressed and took to banging his coke bottle on the bleachers while screaming the name of his favorite car, "OOOOZE..."

The next day was a sporting day of wiffleball, tim-e basketball, tim-e soccer and lawn bowling. There was a brief episode of a sport best described as wrestle ball, luckily everything ended peacefully. On the last day Ross and Charlie began with the axe and timber fell. It then progressed to a trip to the feed store and finally to the discovery of 12 new chicks in the coop. Sadly we dropped Ross off at the airport only a few hours ago...a brief visit. We all look forward to the next time. Cymande's in recovery from testosterone for Charlie he is still screaming "OOOOZE!".

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