Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rollin' down the river

When we were planning our Arizona adventure, Toxicesq suggested a tubing trip on the river "15 minutes" from her home. I made the mistake of mentioning it to Thatboy and he became fixated on the idea. So Sunday morning we slipped into our swimsuits and headed out to Toxicesq's for breakfast. If you remember, Saturday morning it was a million degrees outside when we woke up. Sunday morning it was 1 million and 15 degrees outside!

Check out the view from Toxicesq's front porch/living room window. Cool, right? Toxicesq had breakfast all laid out for us when we got there - fruit, muffins, yogurt. After breakfast Thatmom and Toxicesq packed all us kids off into the SUV and waved us goodbye. They had no idea what was in store for us.

First of all, the river was a lot farther away than 15 minutes. It was closer to 40. And around 20 minutes in, Thatboy's morning coffee/water/milk hit him and he had to go to the bathroom. Badly. The only problem? We were in the middle of the desert. So we got to watch the potty dance until we finally arrived at the destination. I'm 99% sure there was a song that went along with the dance.

Second, we underestimated the popularity of tubing in Arizona. I'm not sure why we didn't figure out that in this heat everyone and their mother would be heading to the river, but I blame it on the heat causing our brain to not function.

There were people of all ages and walks of life waiting to board the bus that would take us down to the river. We managed to get on the bus with a group of guys that were there for a fraternity trip? Bachelor party? Who knows. But they were all wearing mardi gras beers and comparing who had more to drink the night before. Thatbrother, who was sitting across from me on the bus informed me he couldn't WAIT to read my blog about this adventure. He's never read my blog before, but decided this would be a good first read.

Once we got onto the river we were able to separate ourselves immediately from the mari-gras boys. Thatbrother pointed out that Mardi-gras beads on the river are a little stupid, since you're not really going by at a quick speed, and if someone were to flash you, you'd be floating along beside them for a while, creating quite the awkward moment.

There were plenty of other groups on the river and aside from some kind of marshmallow war that everyone seemed to know about but us, it was a very mellow ride.

Sorry about the thumb in this picture, but it was just too gorgeous not to put in. So ignore the thumb and instead focus on the calm water surrounded by trees with the mountains rising in front of you. Make it your new happy place.

There were a couple of places where the water picked up and Thatboy delighted all of us by screaming "RAPIDS" everytime we came near the area. We knew we had to get off at stop 2 if we wanted to make it back to Orange County before midnight, so we kept our eyes peeled. Right after a particularly flat moving area, Thatboy decided he saw stop 2 and began screaming at all of us to make our way over to the shore - IMMEDIATELY. In the process, China lost her tube and her flip flops. As I paddled over to help her, I found myself without a tube, in the water, clutching my camera, water bottles belonging to almost every member of our party, and frantically trying to grab at my tube. Thatboy laughed at me as I yelled for him to come help me since I couldn't swim against the fast moving current. "Stand up" he told me. But the current wouldn't even permit my feet to remain on the ground. When he finally realized I wasn't fooling around, he attempted to come to my rescue, but by that time I had managed to gain a foot hold. We met the rest of our group on the shore where Thatbrother watched to see if his shirt which he had lost in the melee would come down the river to us. It didn't. We also didn't regain China's inhaler which mysteriously was swept away. The best part of this whole story? When we made it to shore the people there told us we weren't at stop 2 yet. This is why I do the navigating and Thatboy sticks to the driving. We got back into our tubes and proceeded down the river to Stop 2, a nice, calm spot where it was easy to manuver to shore and step out. Thatboy informed me that if I ever think I'm drowning again, I can probably drop the water bottles I'm carrying to give myself a free hand. And for anyone who's interested in purchasing a new camera, they ain't kidding when they say that Olympus stylus is waterproof!

We drove back to Toxicesq's house and met up with Toxicesq and Thatmom. Everyone was starving, so we decided to grab a late lunch/early dinner before heading back.

We headed to South Beach, named not for the famous diet, but the part of the country that inspired said diet - South Beach, Miami. This meant there was a lot of Cuban influence on the menu. And gator. Thatboy and I have had gator before so we didn't feel the need to order it again. Everyone else was just not interested.

Thatmom, Toxicesq, and China all had the Sobe burger which had cheddar, bacon, and avocado.

Thatboy ordered the Sobe sandwich which had seasoned pulled pork with onions and peppers.

Thatbrother and I both ordered the Black and Blue burger with serrano chilies, a chili rubbed burger, and blue cheese. HOOOOOT. But not as hot as the Arizona sun. After lunch/dinner we got back in the car and headed west. It wasn't until we were almost in Palm Springs that the temperature sunk below 100 degrees, and the sun had set well before that time.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The heat is on

By the time we awoke on Saturday it was already 1 million degrees outside....or 108 - same difference. Toxicesq and China met us at our hotel so we could follow them to breakfast. Along the way we saw surefire proof we were not in Kansas anymore.

And just so you know those Arizonians aren't liars:

Toxicesq and China brought us to Butterfield's for breakfast, which Thatboy quickly realized was along the same lines as our favorite - Original Pancake House. So of course, everyone ordered eggs.

After breakfast, the group split up. China, Thatbrother, and UDubb headed to the mall, while Thatmom, Thatboy, Toxiesq and I headed over to Taliesin West.

Taliesin West was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as his winter home with his third wife. The above sign is a petroglyph found by the architect during construction which he took on as his own symbol.

Wright built the property out of three materials - wood, stone, and canvas. The walls are made of boulders rolled and stacked, the roof of wood, and every opening was originally covered in canvas until his wife, sick of sweeping, forced him to install glass.

Taliesin West is made up of several buildings which are connected by open walkways. So if you wanted to go from the kitchen to the living room you'd have to walk outside between the two rooms. Kinda like a mall.

The house is supposed to be cohesive with the environment - the slanted roof mimics the angle of the mountains behind the house.

There's even a cabaret theater, built almost underground with great acoustics.

And a movie room with no windows and a stone ceiling.

We spent a lot of the day at Toxicesq's house, submerged in her pool trying to keep cool. Eventually the sun went down and we were headed to dinner. Toxicesq and I had both separately chosen the same restaurant for us - Roaring Fork. We took that to be a good sign, but it was all downhill from there.

When I tried to get reservations for us, because of the size of our group, they wouldn't give us a reservation until 8pm. That's A LOT later than we usually eat, but we figured that on a Saturday night they were trying to ensure we sat at a time they could give us the best service.

We ordered our drinks and our waitress disappeared. Someone brought Thatboy a coke and the rest of us just sat and waited. Eventually someone brought by bread and butter and dropped them off without any explanation. When we asked for more bread, it took 3 separate requests before more bread appeared.

Finally our drinks arrived and we hurried to order our meals before the waitress disappeared again. Nevertheless, anytime we had a question about the menu, our waitress would "go ask" and not reappear for several minutes while we watched her check on her other tables.

As we watched table after table being served, we sat and waited for food. Finally some of our appetizers arrived. It wasn't until 10 minutes later we all finally had our first courses.

One hour and 30 minutes after we ordered our meals finally arrived. By this time it was almost 10pm and we were exhausted. Especially those of us who go to bed between 9:30 and 10. Thatboy asked to speak with the manager who wasn't quite able to explain why service had taken so long. Toxicesq noted that she brings all her visitors to this restaurant and this was extremely unusual. The manager ended up comping a lot of our meal but I can't do a great job reviewing the food since at that point all we really wanted to do was go home and get into bed.

We brought dessert home and heated it up before we all fell FAST asleep. It was late and we had an early morning the next day.

Tomorrow I'll tell you how Thatboy almost killed me and how we left a little of us behind in Arizona.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Road trip!

In Thatfamily we are prone to "jumping the gun." I won't add air to my tires because I am sure they will explode. Thatmom refuses to eat at Tommy Bahamas because people who make clothes shouldn't make food. And my Aunt, Toxicesq, will never live in California.

To be fair, of the three of us, Toxicesq has the most reason to stick to her guns. (Crap, there is an awful lot of arms language in here - I blame it on the wine and the intensely political "Lions for Lambs" Thatboy and I just finished watching.) The first (and only) time Toxicesq lived in California, it was marked by the death of her father. Then her brother (Thatdad) moved out here and had a heart attack. If there was any doubt, the final nail in the literal coffin was Thatdad's death this past February. You can't blame Toxicesq for associating California with bad things. Nevertheless, China moved out to California to go to school, leaving Toxicesq on the "wrong" coast. She rectified the situation by moving out to Arizona a couple of years ago, making her far more accessible to all of us. Although Thatmom and Thatdad had gone to visit Toxicesq in her Arizona home, Thatboy and I had never made the trip. And I had never set foot in the state of Arizona. When Thatmom found out I had never been to Arizona, she insisted we make a trip out to visit Toxicesq.

Although we didn't have any set plans on when this trip would occur, China's new job development spurred our plans onward. China leaves for Shanghai in August, and we decided we should make the trip before she left.

So Friday afternoon we rented a car, and headed out to Arizona.

One of my all time favorite sites are the windmills outside of Palm Springs. I always feel like a modern day Don Quixote as we pass.

Traffic was horrendous, and as it got later and later we decided a rest stop for dinner was in order. We hopped onto the internet and found a place in Blythe, CA to stop for dinner - La Casita Dos.

We started out with a pitcher of margaritas - well, all except Thatboy our designated driver.

I won't share the pictures that were taken after we consumed the margaritas, because there are certain members of our party who probably wouldn't appreciate it - especially since they don't remember taking them. I WILL however show you how quickly one member of the party consumed their drink. Notice how my glass and UDubb's glass is almost completely full...and someone else's is a lot less than full?

Thatboy ordered a combo plate with an enchilada and tamale. I tasted the tamale - it was okay, but nothing special.

Thatmom, Thatbrother and I all ordered the carnitas burrito. In San Diego we have what is known as the "carne asada burrito" which is just carne asada and guacamole, wrapped in a tortillas. I was thrilled to find that this burrito was the carnitas version!

See - just guac and carnitas!

UDubb evidenced her singular talent for picking the wrong menu item. Usually this is a trait her and Thatboy share. Her taco and tostada sounded like a good idea, but turned out to be an oily mess.

After what seemed like hours (because it was) we finally arrived at our hotel. The Sheraton Desert Oasis is actually very similar to our Palm Desert timeshare in that it has a jacuzzi in the bedroom.

The Sheraton differed in that they made us towel animals!

The view from our room.

Exhausted (and rightfully so) we tucked in to bed. Tomorrow I'll tell you all about our adventures in Scottsdale.