Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Verde Valley County Fair

Cottonwood, Arizona

The tennis results from Sedona are encouraging. I lose to Mrs. Phred: 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. I see a trend here. The backdrop for the empty public courts is interesting.

We have dinner in the Elote Mexican restaurant. It's been recommended to us. Mrs. Phred orders lamb. We have second thoughts about our dietary habits after visiting the farm animals at the Verde Valley County Fair and meeting the cows and lambs in person instead of on the plate. I try mezcal for the first time. It has a kick and looks and smells like the stuff I brewed up in a 55 gallon drum back in high school (after filtering out the bugs and dead rodents)..

We made another trip up to the little town of Jerome to listen to music. Unfortunately the information we had about the live music was bogus.

We visited the Spirit Room bar in Jerome. Someone was playing The Doors on the jukebox. We listened to my old college roommate, Jim, sing about the Blue Bus and Strange Days.

Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They're going to destroy
Our casual joys
We shall go on playing
Or find a new town

We find the fairground just before sundown.

I hope the front forks on this bike are sturdy.

 I liked this photo at the county fair.

They sang the Star Spangled Banner at the start of the rodeo.

They have the bucking broncos, bull riding and doggie wrestling and roping.

When the cowboys get thrown the hooves seem to come perilously close. I think its a sport that has a lot of broken bones which come along with the territory.

We see the prize pigs, steers, goats and lambs. It makes us think about what we eat.

Mrs. Phred thinks this goat has a strange face.

Saturday night at an Arizona County fair. Lots of kids. The lines for the rides are very long. Someone cooks giant plates of curly french fries smothered with cheese. We split an Italian sausage sandwich.

 Strange days have found us
And through their strange hours
We linger alone
Bodies confused
Memories misused
As we run from the day
To a strange night of stone

As night falls, the rides light up.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A Simple Plan

Sedona, Arizona

After considering and rejecting a number of foreign vacations for 2011, Mrs. Phred and I have finally agreed on a simple plan.

We will catch a flight to Rome in the Fall and then take the train to a port that has a ferry to the isle of Sardinia. Once we arrive on Sardinia we will pick up our red rental Ducati motorcycle and proceed to explore the island from our base camp.

Today we hiked up into a red rock canyon near Sedona, Arizona.

Some of the desert flowers were beginning to bloom.

It was a tough hike. About two miles to a box canyon end point. The trail was uphill in both directions. We didn't take enough water for the arid climate.

Sedona has some lovely red rocks. Some of the 80 or so available hikes go to places called "vortexes" which are hubs of spiritual energy that occur only in a few special places on Earth. Vortexes are created, not by wind or water, but from spiraling spiritual energy. The vortexes of Sedona are named because they are spiritual locations where the energy is right to facilitate prayer, mediation and healing. Vortex sites are locations having energy flow that exists on multiple dimensions. The energy of the vortexes interacts with a person’s inner self. It is not easily explained. We plan to visit several vortex locations.

The vortexes prevent the Earth from spiralling into an evil timeline.  Tomorrow we move from Cottonwood up to Sedona. That will put us closer to the hikes and public tennis courts. We do want to go back to Jerome on Friday night to have dinner and catch some live music.

The Verde County fair starts today. Friday and Saturday they have a rodeo scheduled. Maybe Saturday we can catch the fair and rodeo?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Yom Kippur Option

Sedona, Arizona

The sun comes up here at 5 AM because Arizona does not observe daylight savings time.

I was standing outside the RV at 5 AM, when it came to me, in a sort of early morning epiphany, that, despite my early Catholic schooling, I have never made a confession of my many sins.

There's a Catholic church just down the road.

I discussed this, and all my sins with Mrs. Phred. She says that she repents her sins at the Day of Atonement on Yom Kippur, but that it's a private matter between her and her God, if there is one. I learned nothing more, despite sharing my sins with her.

When I was five I played with matches. I stole three yo-yos from the five and dime a year later. I built a 55-gallon still in High School metal shop class. I cheated once in college by writing the algorithm for determining a square root on my palm. I killed a cat when I was 20 instead of taking it to the vet to be euthanized. I often drink too much and upset Mrs. Phred. I have taken the Lord's name in vain 20-40 thousand times. I've been smoking for 54 years, which is probably a sinful use of perfectly good lungs. I get angry at tailgaters, cell phone users and Republicans. That's all I can remember. I don't think I ever seriously coveted my neighbor's wife or ass (donkey) . So I'm guessing somewhere between 50 and 1,000 Hail Mary's would do it for me.

But, I think I kind of like the Yom Kippur option. It's October 7-8 this year.

When they said repent,
I wondered what they meant.
Not much for the report today. I went to a walk in clinic to get a prescription to help me stop smoking, They say the average smoker quits eight times before achieving success. Maybe this is my time? Later we went to Sedona to find the tennis courts and get a haircut. The Montezuma Castle National Monument was a typical abandoned Indian dwelling on a cliff. Like the rest it was abandoned about 1425 AD for dark and mysterious reasons.

President Theodore Roosevelt created this National Monument though an executive order in 1906.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Bumper Sticker Wisdom

Jerome, Arizona

On our first day in the Sedona area we decided to drive to the Toyota shop in Prescott. The new key cost 106 dollars. To get to Prescott from Cottonwood you have to go though Jerome. Jerome was a fabulous source of gold, silver and copper at the turn of the century but became a mining ghost town in the 1950s. The hippies moved in and salvaged it. Today it has 30 art galleries and attracts tourists from afar. Imagine my delight to find this hippie VW van.

" I do what rice krispies tell me to do"

"Thanks for honking, now piss off"

"Don't make me release the flying monkeys"

"I'm already against the next war"

"Well behaved women rarely make history"

" Honk if you've had sex with the President"

"So many men, so little reason to sleep with any of them"

"Hang up and DRIVE"

"I'll try being nicer, if you try being smarter"

"If Voting Really worked it would be illegal"

"Sometimes I wake up Grouchy. Other times I let him sleep"

"Don't steal the government"

"Have you ruined your day yet?


"shut your mouth, open your mind"

"Drugs lead nowhere, but it's the scenic route"

"You can't be first, but you can be next"

" Mall-Wart"

"Please tailgate, I need the money"

"Grow your own dope, plant a man"

"If you don't like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk"

Anyway, Jerome has become a thriving hippie artist town with open mics, restaurants, wineries and stores that sell tourists $500 kaleidoscopes.

Back in the day, Jerome was named the most wicked town in the west. The miners were entitled to one free weekly visit to the "Cribs" and the ladies received free medical care and inspections. The volume was about 80 customers per night per lady and the price ranged from one dollar to 25 cents. Gambling and saloons were very profitable enterprises.

Starting in May 1917 there was a series of miners strikes, in part organized by the Wobblies or Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Armed agents of the mine owners roughly rounded up all the suspected labor union organizers and unionized miners, forced them on to railroad cattle cars, and shipped them out of town, letting them out on 12 July near Kingman, Arizona. They were warned to stay away from Jerome on threat of death. This event is known as the Jerome Deportation. Later that year, the Phelps Dodge Corporation shipped out about 1,000 workers from Bisbee, Arizona to New Mexico, an event known as the Bisbee Deportation.

Jerome is at an elevation of 5,000 feet. The town and houses are built on steep hillsides that reminded us both of Positano, Italy.

Today the town offers $300 wind mobiles. fine clothing and art to well-heeled tourists.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Just Another Pretty Place

Cottonwood, Arizona

We drove up from Benson today and settled in a RV Park on the river in Cottonwood.

Cottonwood is just south of Sedona. There are three National monuments we want to see nearby. Tennis courts are to the north and there are hiking trails all over the place.

I took Mrs. Phred on a balloon ride here for her birthday a few years back.

The second time we came it was snowing and some black hairy pigs called Javelinas we running though our campground.

We'll probably spend a week our so here and then head due north to hike the Grand Canton again.

Mrs. Phred has misplaced her keys so we might need to hit the Toyota dealer south of here in Prescott.

These pictures are all from previous visits.

I always wondered why we called GMT "Zulu" time. I had just assumed that Zulu time was an American military snide slap at the English and that African Zulu territory was, like England, also on the prime meridian.

Turns out that my old 1938 edition of Bowditch's "American Practical Navigator" was first written in the late 1700s. It was acknowledged at the time to be the finest book on navigation ever written. Bowditch wrote it because British sea captains were getting all the credit for navigational advances and he felt that some American Captains were producing truly amazing breakthroughs.

Bowditch wanted a shorthand letter designator to refer to each local time zone. There are 25 zones since each half zone on the sides of the International Dateline became separate zones. Since there are 26 letters, Bowditch left out the letter "J" or, phonetically, jig. GMT time got the letter "Z" or Zulu. So GMT time is time zone Z.

Now you know.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The Last Titan

Green Valley, Arizona

The drive to the missile museum includes a stretch of Arizona desert with good specimens of saguaro and blooming ocotillo cactus.

The Titan II was placed in service about 1962 and retired 20 years later. There were 54 of these two stage ICBMs  in three rings around Tucson, Wichita and Little Rock. Each site was about 30 miles away from a central support Air Force Base. That probably would require a separate nuclear strike on each site to knock them all out. It had a 10,000 mile range and carried a single warhead. Notice the tubes on the tail of the engine. The toxic liquid rocket fuel was forced up and down these tubes to superheat the fuel (improving mileage on the first stage to 530 gallons per mile) and to keep the stainless steel from melting. Titan rockets were used in a variety a space programs, including the Gemini  and Voyager programs.

The rocket was protected by a huge blast door sitting over a nine story buried launch silo. This site was saved as a museum. All the other Titans were dismantled and the sites were bulldozed.

The safety procedures to prevent an accidental or unauthorized launch were impressive and redundant. One involved a valve in the rocket engine that could only be opened with the proper six digit hexadecimal code. After six false tries at the code the system shuts down

The whole underground complex was built on huge springs with blast doors and reinforced concrete as much as eight feet thick. Above ground was protected by Doppler radar to detect intruders. There were eight different methods of redundant communication between this site and SAC headquarters.One of the strangest was that two of the 1,000 Minuteman missiles were equipped with high frequency radios rather than warheads. These could be launched to an altitude that would permit them to communicate with all the missile silos in the continental U.S. We go underground and turn the keys for a simulated launch. The lights and buzzers all still work. Fortunately, the rocket is inert.

Ocotillo in bloom along the highway.

Ocotillo flower.

We colored Easter eggs in the evening and had a potluck dinner and barbeque. This egg was judged to be the best. A lady walks in to a Zen butcher shops and says that she would like the best cut of meat. The Zen butcher replies, "All my meat is best".

Jil and Tom do a great job with their eggs.

The Titan II was an improvement over earlier ICBMs because it used storable propellants, Aerozine50 and dinitrogen tetroxide. These toxic fuels allowed it to be launched from within the silo within 60 seconds. Previous rockets had to be raised from their silos, fueled and then launched. During launch, 100,000 gallons of water were poured on the missile to prevent it from destroying itself within the silo.

The missile in the silo was used for training and has never contained fuel or the 9 Megaton warhead that the Air Force claimed for a payload. That size warhead would devastate a 600 square mile area. In the "mine is bigger than yours" department, a single B-52 bomber could carry two 1.5 megaton Hound Dog missiles and four 24 megaton bombs.

Happy Easter...All my eggs are best.