Monday, January 02, 2017

Trip Story: Mesa and Surrounds

Happy New Year! I'll write my usual Family Fun List and Personal Goals posts soon. But first, I want to write about where I spent the last week and a half: on vacation in Mesa, Arizona. I visit often, and I always think I'm going to write one of my trip story posts, but I never do. This year, I'm finally doing it!

We were visiting my parents, who still live in the same house I grew up in. My old neighborhood is walking distance to downtown Mesa, and one of the nice things about recent trips home has been visiting downtown Mesa and seeing its revival. When I was in high school, it was dying. I think it passed through its nadir during my college years. Over the years, I've been watching it fight its way back. It makes me happy to see businesses surviving and even thriving there these days.

There are good restaurants and even two brewery tasting rooms on Main Street, but my favorite restaurant is a few blocks away. ‎Rep├║blica Empanada is on 1st Avenue:

I make sure to eat there every time we visit. This is the first time I noticed this sign on their wall:

The empanadas are delicious.

Right next door, is a little public garden:

Which also has a little free library, in an old phone booth:

One of the other spots we almost always visit on a trip to Arizona is the Riparian Preserve in nearby Gilbert. It is part of their water reclamation plant, and is a wonderful showcase of desert plants and a great place to see birds. Here is the view from one of the paths:

Those are the Superstition Mountains in the distance
This visit, we also went over to the Phoenix Zoo. They had a special Lego exhibit, and we love Lego. Petunia was disappointed that the zebras were off exhibit during our visit, but at least she got to see the Lego zebra.

There were also nice views of the surrounding Papago Park.

Since we were there during the Christmas season, we also went over to the Mesa Mormon Temple to appreciate their annual light display.

Here is the temple:

Pictures don't really do justice to the light display. It is huge.

A view to the manger scene.
These guys are still making their way to the manger: they are around the other side of the visitor's center.

This year, they had some beautiful "flowers" made of lights. These were Petunia's favorites:

Another favorite place to visit is the i.d.e.a Museum, a kids' museum in downtown Mesa. My kids love the place, and managed to finagle two visits this trip.

We had thought we'd take a day trip to Wickenburg, so that Mr. Snarky could see some new parts of my home state. But I got another cold, and we didn't find the time. We did stop in Yuma for lunch on both of our travel days, though. On the way home, we visited a new brewpub in downtown Yuma, which is working on its own revival. The real reason we always stop in Yuma, though, is the West Wetlands Park, which has a really cool playground:

It started to rain on us on our stop on the way home, unfortunately. It rained most of the way home after that. The rain made the dunes just outside of Yuma a different sort of beautiful, and that was nice. And we saw a gorgeous rainbow just outside of Ocotillo. Unlike many other cars on the freeway, I didn't pull over to the shoulder for a photo op, so you'l just have to take my word for it. The clouds took visibility at the summits of the two passes between Yuma and San Diego to close to zero, which was much less nice. Still, we made it home safely, and while I've done the drive so many times that it has lost any novelty, I still find parts of it beautiful. I love the saguaros near Gila Bend, and sometimes the mountains just east of Yuma are breathtaking. Mr Snarky's favorite part is the mountains with big boulders just west of Ocotillo, and I agree those are pretty.

These days, the drive also takes us past two solar farms (one in California, one in Arizona), and a big wind farm near Ocotillo. That always makes me smile, too. We're learning how to take advantage of the energy sources that are abundant in this part of the world.

We've been home for a couple of days. Our bags are unpacked, and the new toys are strewn around our house. It is good to be home, but it is good to visit my old home, too.

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