Monthly Archives: March 2009

Southwest Inn – Sedona, Arizona

Getting It Right

As travelers we stay in a wide variety of lodging facilities. Criteria for perfection changes with each person. Rarely do we find one that truly gets it as close to perfection as the Southwest Inn in Sedona, Arizona.

sedona-southwest-innI spent a lot of time researching Sedona lodging options before making reservations. Many options are expensive resorts, even the national brand hotels tend to be more expensive than in the majority of destinations. I read reviews and comments from lots of sources. One facility caught my eye – Southwest Inn. From making our reservations to check-out our experience was all that we desired and expected.

25+ Reasons to Stay at Southwest Inn

  1. Quiet – well situated to mute road noise and well insulated between rooms
  2. Clean – no linty corners and even passed my “behind the bathroom door” test
  3. Location – on 89A at the west end of town, away from the worse of the congestion and  traffic
  4. Corner, gas fireplace – A bit of evening March chill chased away with nice ambiance and on a timer
  5. 3-way lamp switches with 3-way bulbs – you choose lighting level
  6. Frig in cabinet – mini-frigs aren’t the latest in attractive decor, behind closed doors in a wooden cabinet much more pleasing
  7. Clock/music player with pre-programmed music and iPod dock – softly playing when we enter
  8. sedona-si-roomPillows – plenty of pillows in good condition, I hate worn-out, lumpy pillows
  9. Bedding – comforter warm without being heavy and quality sparkling white sheets.
  10. Chair & Ottoman – A comfortable place to relax (if one spends any time in their room)
  11. Free bottled water – staying hydrated in this climate is important
  12. Coffee maker and mugs – pottery logo mugs, not squeaky Styrofoam cups
  13. Flat screen wall mounted television – up to date with wide channel selection
  14. DVD player – watch one of the many movies filmed in Sedona Red Rock County
  15. Rental movies & microwave popcorn – DVD rentals available in the lobby, a free bag of microwave popcorn with each rental
  16. Friendly helpful staff – everyone appeared to be pleased you’re their guest
  17. Concierge – Well informed with excellent recommendations, dining to activities, good follow-up
  18. sedona-si-fireplace2Towels – an abundance of thick absorbent towels
  19. Jacuzzi tub + roomy shower stall – large, well equipped bathroom
  20. Bath mats for both tub and shower – smart thinking by someone
  21. Robes – two terry-lined robes neatly folded on the bed at check-in, large enough for a man to use without looking silly
  22. Heated Pool & whirlpool with towels – clean and well maintained
  23. Price – not inexpensive but excellent value for the Sedona market
  24. Wireless Internet that works – easy log on, good speed
  25. Decor – Southwestern style without getting cute
  26. Iron and ironing board – an amenity that’s almost standard today
  27. Ceiling fan – preferable to the noisy fan in the normal AC/heater unit
  28. Private patio – chairs and table for a private outdoor spacesedona-si-pool
  29. Complimentary breakfast – hot items, plus the typical Continental  buffet fare, hard-working attendant keeping food fresh and tables clean between uses
  30. Restaurant menus – a large album of area menus to help make a dinner decision
  31. Three computers, printer available  – guest computer room available with workable equipment
  32. Hot drinks – available in the breakfast room all day
  33. Parking – plenty of parking space for the number of guest rooms
  34. Two luggage racks – details, details, details
  35. Maintenance – when we had a small computer problem it was promptly taken care of
  36. Scenery – this is Sedona!

When I started I guessed there would be 25 reasons I thought so highly of this lodging; I over achieved. We had a comfortable Southwest Inn stay and will definitely return the next time we’re lucky enough to be in the Sedona area.

Artists Wanted – Georgetown, Colorado

Historic Georgetown, Inc. Art Exhibition


Colorado celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Colorado Gold Rush during 2009. Special events are scheduled in many communities throughout the summer.

Historic Georgetown, Inc. plans, “Archival Art and the Art of Mining,” a free exhibition at the Hamill House Museum Stables from July 25 to September 5, 2009. Opening and closing receptions are planned along with a live and silent auction.

If you’re an artist check their website for entry details and forms. Artwork must have a mining theme.

If you’re a Colorado resident or tourist this summer plan a visit to Georgetown and other communities celebrating our mining heritage. 

Chatfield State Park – Littleton, Colorado

Spring has Sprung

chatfield-kayaks2The first Saturday of spring 2009 with temps in the 70s- what other incentive do we need to get outside? A trip to Chatfield State Park  proved we weren’t the only ones wanting to be outdoors and active on such a day. Fishermen line the banks of streams and ponds, fathers wait patiently as offspring cast their lines. Kayakers paddle into headwinds, turn around and leisurely drift back to their starting point. Bicyclists, recreational and competitive, peddle along roadways, bike paths and dirt trails. A string of horseback riders set off from the stables for a trail ride. Trees show the merest promise of budding. We vow to come back in May when ancient cottonwoods shade the banks of Plum Creek.

We are surprised to see how many boats dot Chatfield Reservoir in March. Obviously these were boaters eager to get the season underway, not wanting to waste a day. We didn’t see any waterskiers or jet skis but it probably won’t be long before they’re out too. I did see a black lab enjoying a swim.

In an area set aside for dog training canines of every breed and their owners walk, run and train. Picnickers and campers arrive to relish the weather.

chatfield-plane-and-pilotThe model airfield is a unique feature at Chatfield. With wind gusts up to 33mph only one plane was in the air during our visit. However, seeing the many different designs, prop to helicopters, and watching the guys tweak their aircraft was almost as interesting as watching a flight. I’m sure it’s not a male only hobby but you wouldn’t know it by today’s “pilots”.

Plum Creek and the South Platte River flow into Chatfield Reservoir which was constructed in 1967 for flood control. The state park surrounds the reservoir with terrain varying from prairie to wetlands. More that 300 bird species, migratory and resident, have been identified, including double-crested cormorants, bald eagles, American white pelican and the elusive burrowing owl. A heronry provides nesting habitat for about 80 pairs of great blue herons.

chatfield-bikersProximityto the Denver Metro area makes Chatfield a popular recreation destination. Twelve miles of hike/bike trails in the park link with a number of connecting trails including the Colorado Trail, Centennial Trail and Highline Canal Trail. Water sports draw capacity crowds in summer: boating, swimming, water skiing, jet skiing, sailboarding and fishing.

Today was a perfect day to wander along a pathway and listen to the swoosh of a paddle cutting into water, rhythm of a horse’s gait or the trill of an unseen bird.

When You Go: Chatfield State Park is open year round 5am – 10pm except for overnight campers. The main entrance is located one mile south of C-470 on Wadsworth. Check the website for a list of activities, fees and regulations.

Metro Light Rail – Phoenix, Arizona

Get Off the Road in Phoenix

Ride Metro Light Rail

metro-1Phoenix public transportation got a huge boost when Metro Light Rail opened in late December 2008. Twenty miles of the system is complete; carrying passengers from central Phoenix (north of downtown) to the west side of  Mesa. The route runs near Ballpark Arena, Papago Park, Downtown Tempe, Arizona State University and Sun Devil Stadium. From the 44th and Washington station a shuttle connects passengers with all four terminals at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. An automated train route around the airport that will connect with Metro is under construction.

Riding the route end to end requires about 70 minutes. Downtown Phoenix to downtown Tempe takes 25 minutes. If you’ve ever been jammed on a Phoenix freeway when traffic comes to a crawl you’ll love the Metro option. Fares are $1.25 for one ride or $2.50 for the entire day. Tickets may be purchased at machines in each station. Don’t forget to validate the ticket after purchase before boarding the train. On weekdays trains operate about every 10 minutes from 6am – 7pm, 20 minutes apart other operating hours. On weekends and holidays trains arrive every 15 minutes 6am-7pm, 20 minutes early morning and until 11pm.

metro-footstepsDuring our Phoenix visit the hotel was one block from a Metro station, we used it to avoid traffic and parking at the Heard Museum Indian Fair and to dinner downtown. We found the stations to be clean and well lit with shaded waiting areas. Each station is individualized with public art. At the Osborn/Central station bronze shoe and foot prints traverse the platform, a fun element but not especially outstanding as a work of art. More dramatic and eye-catching sculptures, murals and decorative walls adorn other stations.

It’s a treat to find a city in the Southwest where you can get to cultural, sports, parks, shopping and dining via light rail. Cheers for the option of getting off the road onto light rail in Phoenix.

Northern Arizona Exploration Pass – Flagstaff, Arizona

Incentive Program to Scientific Wonders of Northern Arizona

lowell-clark-domeThree premier attractions in the Flagstaff area have joined together to offer an Exploration Pass giving $2 discounts on admission to each the Lowell Observatory (see blog), Meteor Crater and the Museum of Northern Arizona. The free passes are available at the three attractions and the Flagstaff Visitor Center located next to the downtown train station.


metero-craterMeteor Crater is located 35 east of Flagstaff. View the 4,000′ across and 550′ deep crater, explore space, meteorite and asteroid exhibits in the Learning Center, watch the “Collisions and Impacts” movie or take a one-hour guided rim tour.


mna-dinosaurNine Galleries at the Museum of Northern Arizona introduces the visitor to the region through Native cultures, tribal lifeways, natural sciences and fine art. The Mystery of the Sickle-Claw Dinosaur exhibit introduces therizinosaur, the newest and strangest dinosaur skeleton found in North America.

Pick up a free Exploration Pass and discover scientific wonders from the depths of the earth to the heavens.

Lowell Observatory – Flagstaff, Arizona

Seeing Stars – The Solar System and Beyond

Delight with a Lowell Observatory visit replaced the previous week’s disappointment at the Whipple (see blog) Visitor Clowell-pluto-dome-2enter. Monday morning brought clouds and a soft rain to Sedona, the things we had planned to do were outdoor activities. We decide to drive up Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff for a couple of indoor attractions.

The Lowell Observatory campus caps Mars Hill immediately west of Flagstaff. The facility offers an interesting mix of historic and futuristic astronomy, public educational programs and scientific research.

We arrive at the Lowell Observatory Steele Visitor Center a few minutes before the beginning of the hourly tour. The “Discovery at Lowell Observatory” show in the digital space theatre, relates Lowell’s distinguished history, discovery of Pluto and current research and observations including Kuiper Belt objects in tlowell-guide-with-clark1he outer solar system. A guide leads the tour group through the campus to the dome housing the historic 24″ Alvan Clark refractor telescope. Percival Lowell spent a great deal of time observing Mars from this scope in the early 1900s. Evening programs allow public viewing of night skies – weather dependent, or course.

The official tour ends with a visit to the Rotunda Museum, a depository for historic artifacts and astronomy displays including the story of how Flagstaff was selected as the observatory’s home and a hands-on exhibit for children. We choose to take the Pluto Walk to the dome where Pluto was first discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. Markers along the path denote planets of our solar system with fun facts, distances between “planets” are in scale.

lowell-exhibit1Back in the Visitor Center we spend time in the interactive Discover the Universe hall. Exhibits cover from how the eye sees to the order of planets from the sun.  Attractive, informative and well maintained the exhibits are in direct contrast to what we found at Whipple the week prior. A multimedia show “Lowell Observatory: A New Century of Discovery” in the Giclas auditorium reports on the construction of the 4.2-meter Discovery Channel Telescope. Because the sun was a no show on this day we did not get to view the star through the special-filtered solar filtered, an activity usually available from 9:30-9:55am. Before departing Bob spent time selecting a book in the gift shop while I canvassed the staff for lunch recommendations.

lowell-2009-poster1Significant because of the 400th anniversary of Gaileo first pointing a telescope skyward, 2009 has been designated the International Year of Astronomy. Lowell Observatory will offer special programs and exhibits throughout the year.

Flagstaff wasn’t originally on our agenda for this trip. The rain created change of plans opened the opportunity for an educational day of new experiences. By the time we returned to Sedona in late afternoon the sun made intermittent appearances. We visited Red Rocks Crossing and Bell Rock before the sunset ritual on Airport Mesa. A richly rewarding day because of plan B – even though we didn’t originally have one.

When You Go: Lowell Obsevatory Visitor Center is open daily except for major holidays. Hours March through October are 9am – 5 pm, November through February Noon – 5pm. Evening hours are Monday through Saturday 5:30 – 10pm June, July and August, Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Saturday 5:30 – 9:30pm September through May. Reservations are not required nor accepted for public programs.

Contessa Cafe Italian Buffet – Tucson, Arizona

Caps Off to Contessa Cafe

I love it when the day comes together with sunshine, fresh air, outdoor activity, a good meal and relaxation. We spent most of the day at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, then finished the afternoon at the Red Hills West section of Saguaro National Park. No lunch, an ice cream cone bridged the hunger cap at mid-afternoon. Checking into our motel we asked for locally owned restaurant suggestions. Not only did they offer options but handed me a coupon for 20% off at either Contessa Italian Buffet or La Olla Mexican restaurant. The desk clerk made it known that the margaritas at La Olla where the best.

contessas-chef-diane1Bob was ready for a switch from Southwest cuisine so Contessa became our destination. We expected it to be nearby but drove several miles before finding the address in a rather dark, nondescript strip mall. We experienced a moment of doubt about our choice. A Pizza Hut stood in the same parking lot nearer the street, should we go there instead?

Stepping through the door we were immediately greeted and seated by chef/owner Diane Gallardo. The dining room is rather small but nicely decorated – booths had church pew style seating, colorful inlaid tile tops tables. A family with young children enjoyed the warm March evening on the patio.

The dinner buffet offered caesar and pasta salads, fresh fruit, ingredients for a make-it-to-your-liking garden salad and antipasto. Bob started with a cup of the daily soup, a chicken ???. A basket of fresh in-house baked bread was served along with our ice tea. Five main dishes and a nightly special change throughout the week. Diane says Tuesday night is stuffed shells night. Main dishes are kept covered until served by an staff member, nothing is dry or sporting that crusty, no one’s eaten me buffet look. We tried small servings of most of the items including the evenings special of Chicken Palerno, eggplant parmesan, and what Diane declares to be the best meatball on the planet. I indulged in the fettuccine – some with marinara, some with alfredo. I thought the creamy cheese sauce to be the perfect balance of richness without being thick and heavy. We stopped after one plate of entrees but could easily have gone back for more.

contessas-dessertsIn the name of research we made selections from the enticing dessert tray, raspberry cheesecake for Bob and cannoli for me. I opted for the traditional instead of the one with chocolate chips. Bob totally enjoyed the cheesecake but one bite of my cannoli and I thought I might have to fight him off with dual forks.

Diane and staff were friendly and extremely service oriented, especially for a buffet style restaurant. Most everything is made in-house from old family recipes – good Italian comfort food. We’re delighted to tip our caps to Contessa Cafe and the motel staff that recommended it.

When You Go: Contessa Italian Cafe is located at 4145 W. Ina Road, Tucson, 520-572-0222. They do not have a web site. Reservations accepted for six or more. Open for lunch 11am – 2pm, dinner 5-9pm Tuesdays – Saturdays. Closed Sundays and Monday. Lunch is $7.50 for an adult, dinner $11.99.


Desert Botanical Garden: Chihuly Exhibit – Phoenix, Arizona

Chihuly: The Nature of Glass by Night


As night descends on the Desert Botanical Garden the Chihuly: The Nature of Glass exhibit becomes even more dramatic and intriguing. Photographs can’t fully capture the entire essence of the evening illumination.


Tickets are timed for four-hour blocks, visitors may enter at any time during the four-hours. The 4pm – 8pm ticket with arrival near 4pm allows time to see the exhibit in daylight, enjoy a snack or dinner break at the Patio Cafe during sunset and experience the glass and gardens under the clear Arizona night sky.





Reservations are strongly advised, evenings frequently sell out. Chihuly: The Nature of Glass exhibit runs through the end of May 2009. If you’re anywhere near the Phoenix area include a visit to Desert Botanical Gardens and the Chihuly exhibit. You’ve never before seen anything like it.


Click here for more Chihuly Nature of Glass at the Desert Botanical Garden.

Pass Key Restaurant – Pueblo, Colorado

Annual Fix

We’ve had it, our annual Pass Key’s fix. Passing through Pueblo, Colorado anytime between the lunch and dinner hours is reason for us to stop at Pass Key’s, a Pueblo tradition for more than half a century. Anyone who grew up near Pueblo or spent time there salivates when you mention the Pass Key Special. Bob’s been indulging since 1963 when it was a small drive-in with carhops and just a few tables.

passkeyA Pass Key is an Italian sausage patty and cheese sandwich hot off the grill served with peperoncini and fries. I had mine with provolone cheese and chips. Bob chose half a Super Pass Key with three kinds of cheese. The handful of shredded lettuce may be the only healthy aspect but once in a while we have to indulge. Since we’re starting early this year it may be more than an annual fix in 2009.

When You Go: We always stop at the Pass Key near the original location, 518 E. Abriendo, Pueblo, CO, 719-542-0827. There is also one at 1901 Hwy 50 West, 719-542-9144. Closed Sundays.

Taos, New Mexico

Taos – Through the Windshield

We were on our last leg of a three week road trip. The route took us through Taos, New Mexico – a place we like to visit and know fairly well. Other than a stop at the Visitors Center to use the restrooms and pick up the requisite five pounds of current travel literature we stop only for traffic and stoplights.

blue-doors-of-ranchos-de-taos1As I’m sitting in the passenger seat thinking how strange this seems Bob says, “Feels funny not to be doing anything here, to just drive through.” We point out new street lights, a reopened restaurant, a road project completed since last summer, new gallery locations but keep driving. Today we’re focused on getting home. The draw of Taos is strong, we already have plans for a week this summer when we’ll see Taos up close and personal not through the windshield.

When You Go: Don’t just drive through plan a Taos visit.