Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spring Training: Scottsdale, AZ

When I found out I would be going to Arizona during Spring Training, I wasn't sure I would go to a game.  David and I have talked about going out for vacation someday.  It felt a little wrong to go without him.  Not so wrong that I didn't go ahead and look at my options.

Having grown up in Arlington, Texas, my team is the Texas Rangers.  I don't understand people (you know who you are) who root for someone other than the home team if they have no connection to that city.  I have never been to Cleveland so why would I ever be a Cleveland Indians fan?  I wouldn't.  It hasn't always been easy to be a Rangers fan, even when they have a good season but that is part of being a fan.  You aren't a real fan if you are only on board when things are going well.

My research immediately tells me that I won't be seeing the Rangers.  Though they play in Surprise, a drivable distance from Phoenix, all of their games start around 1 in the afternoon.  I am in Phoenix for a conference related to my job and although I am here alone and there is no one to rat me out, it feels wrong to bail when my company is paying a lot of good money for me to be here.  (Later, my boss  - who is a Rangers fan - said he totally would have supported my going and that may actually have been that true but I didn't put that to the test so we will never know.)

David and I had a good experience at a Giants game last year, I love San Francisco as a city and the Giants play in Scottsdale at night so I decide to go ahead and get a ticket to go.

Just to prove I was at the conference...
I find this totally distracting.  I am trying to listen to what the speaker is saying and this woman is furiously typing emails.  Half the people in the room are typing on iPads or on their phones and I have serious doubts that much of it is business related.

After sitting inside all day watching people check their Facebook status, I am ready to be outside.  And after being late for the boat the day before, I left nothing to chance.  
I arrive over an hour before the game.

I had a lot of expectations for spring training.  You hear stories about people taking weeks off and taking the whole family to experience this.

Now having been...I don't get it.  I didn't see the draw.  I enjoy baseball games and I like to go to live games but I expected more excitement, more buzz, more....something.  It was just a game in a smaller stadium.  Some big name players played, some new people played, some people who won't be on the team on opening day played.

In this case, Lincecum is on the mound for the Giants.  I don't normally follow the Giants but at least I know who he is.  The Padres were the visiting team and though most fans here were Giants fans there were still some obnoxious Padres fans in the section in front of me.  That's the same as any regular season game.

Something else is the same...the food.  I spent $18 on a regular size hot dog, a water bottle and popcorn.  The ticket to the game was $29 and parking was $10 so I spent nearly $60 on this outing.

I hate to say that I would be less likely to take a vacation to spring training in the future because I know David would still like to go someday.  So if he wants to, I will go and eat my $5 hot dog and cheer on the home team.  But if he decides to stay home, I will happily make him  $5 worth of hot dogs.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dolly Left Without Me: Apache Junction, AZ

Before I go too far into this story, I need to set the stage a little.  I left for Arizona on Sunday to attend a conference.  The Friday night before, someone in my personal life caused a lot of drama.  This isn't totally unusual for that person but no matter when it happens, it never fails to waylay me, sometimes for days.  This was one of those times.  Extra-large drama that I am not over on Sunday and that is, in fact, still occurring while I am trying to catch my connection in Salt Lake City.

I arrive in Arizona late and don't get to my hotel until 10 pm pacific time since Arizona doesn't observe daylight savings and today is the first day of that.  So I sprang ahead and immediately flew to another time zone feeling very stressed out.  Good plan.

Monday finds me sitting through long and boring sessions at the conference.  I don't know a single attendee and because I am a "vendor", other participants avoid me.  I assume this is because they don't want a sales pitch, which if they knew me, they would know they wouldn't get from me.  I like to pretend it isn't that I am unapproachable though I have been told this before.  A former boss told me that even my walk is intimidating.  My husband recently compared me to a Sasquatch, in the most loving way possible of course.  (His exact words were something like "She's going to squatch up on you and kick some ass".  See, very loving.)  Whatever the case, I am not making friends.

So I picked up some of those brochures next to the registration desk to find some way to spend my evening alone.  This is a "resort" hotel (code for gigantic and expensive) and there are a lot of brochures.  I sort through them in my room and select a couple for further inspection, including one for the Dolly Steamboat tour (

This one appealed to me for two reasons:  1) The nature tour, the only one that will happen on a schedule I can work with, promises beautiful views and animals like big horn sheep.  This is one of the animals I have yet to see in Montana.  2)  Who goes on a steamboat tour in Arizona?  This isn't St. Louis or New Orleans.  The oddity of it calls out to me.  So I go online and purchase a ticket.

The GPS and one attendee who lives locally agree that it will take me an hour to get there.  Being a person who cannot stand to be late, I give myself an hour and a half.  The drive out is very scenic once you leave the main highway and I have to control the urge to pull over every few feet to take a picture.  When the GPS says I have arrived, of course I haven't.  I call because at this point I am a little concerned that I have missed it or that I won't be there in time.

The woman who answers says she isn't positive where I am but if I am where she thinks I am, I won't make it.  I have 15 minutes until the boat leaves.  I tell her I am trying but at some point this highway became a two lane twisty road with no place to pass.  There are a lot of turnout areas but the car in front of me refuses to use them.  There are also 2 single lane bridges that hold up progress but on the last one, after the original car in front of me finally pulled into a scenic overlook, I go when it isn't my turn.  I can see the dock and the boat and I am determined to make it.

On the road to the parking lot the driver in front of me stops to let out the passengers in his car.  I can't park because he is in the way.  His family goes up to the ticket booth.  He finally parks - in a handicap space right in front - and I skid around him, jerk into the first spot and rush to the ticket booth. He calls out, "Think you'll make it?" as I go by.

I power walk up to the counter and say to the woman who has just sent the man's family to the boat that I am the one that called.  She smiles broadly.  "I gave your ticket away."  I laugh.  I assume she is kidding with me since she is smiling so big.  "The captain made me."  She isn't joking.

There is Dolly, still parked at the dock while I stand near the ticket booth after finding out I will be denied passage.  The man that prevented me from parking isn't on the boat yet.  

I am in shock.  I am not sure they understand the concept of the word RESERVATION.  The point is that when you arrive you are guaranteed a spot.  I wouldn't have been so upset if the boat had already left.  But it hasn't.  I am ONE person.  I HAVE A RESERVATION.  The man BEHIND me is getting on the boat!  Also, the ticket lady knew I was coming because I called and I assured her I was going to try to make it.  She never said they might sell my ticket.

AND I was not offered or given a refund.  So, I paid for the ticket and so did someone else.  Nothing like a little double-dipping to pad your profits.  Now, in fairness to them, I was late.  By 5 minutes.  But the boat is still here, I called and I HAVE A RESERVATION THAT I HAVE ALREADY PAID FOR. 

I am very upset but despite what people think about me squatching up, I would never be rude or ugly to the ticket agent.  I step back from the booth and she begins to lock up for the night.  I take a few more steps back and...


There are a few people standing around (this is also the marina for Canyon Lake) so I flee back to the rental car where I can cry in private.  Once I get some control and can drive, I leave.  Back up the twisty road to the scenic lookout for Canyon Lake where I can see her one more time.

There she is.  Dolly.  The boat I am not on.

Standing here, I start to calm down a bit.  I have been working on trying not to force things in my life (don't listen to anything David says to dispute this, it is a work in progress).  I try to take this as a sign I am not supposed to be on the boat.  Maybe something bad will happen.  Maybe I am supposed to be somewhere else.  I try to be open to what is possible in light of the circumstances.

I turn the car back towards Phoenix but since I have nothing to do when I get there besides sit in my hotel room, I decide to take my time.  I wanted to stop on the way out to take pictures and I couldn't. 

Now, I can.  And I do.  A lot.

As I get near the town of Apache Junction, I see a sign for the Mining Camp Restaurant and think why not?  I need to eat.  

This full name of this restaurant is The Historic Mining Camp Restaurant & Trading Post & The Dutchman's Hideout  (  There is a large store and two rooms where you can eat, and in theory, the Dutchman's Hideout but I didn't see anything other than some other buildings that didn't appear to be open.

In the back room, where I eat because it seems quiet, it is pretty traditional and there is a bar.  In the other room meals are served "family" style and there is a show.  (I didn't know there was going to be a show until I am leaving but I doubt I would have waited anyway.)  

There isn't much in my life that a good piece of salmon won't fix.  And it is good.  I am not crazy about the cactus sauce on top but it isn't terrible and most of it was easily removed.

I enjoy my food, read some posts at The Bloggess' blog for some laughs (, very funny and frequently inappropriate, don't say I didn't warn you).  I am much calmer now, the tears are gone and don't feel like they will come again so easily.  

On my way out, I check out the gift shop for souvenirs for my granddaughters when I spot him.  Like I said earlier, some things are meant to be if you are open to accepting whatever may present itself.

$2.98 for a therapy session whenever I need it and all I have to do is add water?  Sign me up.  I am not sure what they think people do with their therapist though that there needs to be a Do Not Swallow warning right on the front of the package.

Back in the car with my new Therapist (who needs a name, I am open to suggestions), I head back to Phoenix.  The sun is going down now and I can't resist stopping for a few more pictures.

Sometimes missing the boat is just what the doctor (or therapist) ordered.

Dolly...this one's for you.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

National Bison Range: Moise, MT

Part 1:

After leaving the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, I wasn't quite ready to go home but I needed to thaw.  My GPS tells me that the National Bison Range is only about 15 miles away so I decide to drive over with the heat on high and see what that is all about.  I think in my head I had something in the way of a zoo in mind but that wasn't the case at all.

There is no admission fee charged, at least not in the winter.  I couldn't tell if they charge in the summer when the main road is open. 

There are some nature trails here where you can get out and explore but I don't because I am still cold.  You can also picnic here and there are a lot of composting toilets available.

The ranger station/welcome center is also not open due to the season.  Outside there is a large board with information about the park and some brochures.  There are no other cars in the parking lot.  There is however, a large antler tree.

I assume they collect these from around the range but I didn't see anything that indicated how this is done.  Did the animals die?  Do they shed their antlers?

The main road - Red Sleep Mountain Drive - is closed and won't open again until May.

So I follow Buffalo Prairie Drive.  It says to allow 20 minutes.  Later I learn that this is a gross understatement.  Since Red Sleep Mountain is supposed to be 2 hours, I assume it will take much longer someday when I come back to do that. 

Along the drive, there are markers that correspond to the brochure I picked up.

There is only one problem.  I didn't fill my gas tank up and I have no idea how far it is to the end of this road.  I have already been in here more than 20 minutes and, based on the map, I haven't made it that far.

While obsessing about my gas situation, I almost drive right past the my first wildlife, a pair of deer laying down in the high grass.

The brochure has a list of wildlife I can expect to see.  Notice what is conspicuously absent from the list of wildlife at the National Bison Range?

I always think these are hawks but now, based on list I wonder if it is actually a golden eagle.  After him, I turn around, too stressed about my gas situation to enjoy the drive. 

This place is pretty remote and I have no idea how far I will have to go once I leave to find a gas station.

Almost to the last gate on the way out, I see two more deer, including this one which appears to have been gored in the side or otherwise injured in the past.

I am pretty sad that I went to the National Bison Range and didn't see a bison.

Which isn't altogether true.  This is thawing for dinner.

But then, on the drive back towards home (no longer on the Range but circling around the perimeter on the highway), I think I see something in the distance.

There he is!  A bison!

I know he is kind of far off but I am still happy.  But not happy enough.  So....

Part 2:

The very next weekend I talk David, Diana and Gerry into a trip back.  This time I hope to check out the nature trails (it is warmer and I am more prepared) and to make it all the way to the end of the road (I filled up with gas closer to the Range this time).

We explore the nature trails first.  These consist of two paved loops, one that goes around this pond. 

There is a cattail marsh here and two more trails listed as discovery trails.  These are unpaved but easy to follow.  We watch for wildlife but mainly see birds.

Like the rare and elusive do-do bird.

And what Gerry declared "The First Robin of Spring".  Gerry is an eagle-eye, all throughout this trip he is the first one to notice the animals.

Diana looking for a photo op.  She might need Gerry to come point out the animals.

It is Gerry who suggested taking the short loop off the main road and that is where we see the first bison.  Sadly, he was also the last.

Gerry was also the first to notice the large herd of elk.  My first elk!  Rumor has it that there is a large herd of elk that roam the area near our house but I have yet to see them.

This time, we make it to the end.

Which happens to be Antelope Ridge where we didn't see a single Antelope.

If this is where "the deer and the antelope" play as David suggested, I think they must be playing Hide 'n Seek and the deer are "it".  We see plenty of deer on this trip.

When my parent's visit in May, I plan to come back.  The landscape will look a lot greener then and maybe the antelope can be persuaded come out in the open to play.

P.S.  If you are tired of stories about Montana now, take heart...I am off to Phoenix and my first Spring Training game.