Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 25 & 26 2009: Keith Urban, Amy Buxton AND the D'Backs WIN!

Wow! What great weekend ... Fran and I went to the Keith Urban concert in Glendale Saturday night and had a great time. We don't get out to many concerts and this one was so cool because Keith is young and hip and often writes his own materials as well as being a great guitarist and singer. Not that Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, The Rolling Stones and Tom Jones are slackers ... not by any means ... did I say "THE" Rolling Stones ... and I really enjoy watching them .. but it was nice seeing an entertainer younger than us :-) The audience had quite a range of ages so I must say and I think we were "up there" relative to the average age ... there were many many 20 & 30 something people there having a blast. In all, even though it was billed as a country music concert it sure came across as a rock concert with pounding heavy bass, five guitars and a drummer. Keith Urban and his four other guitarists all could sing really well.

A nice surprise was Amy Buxton replacing Sugarland as the opening act. Amy sang about eight songs and won the hearts of the audience with her vocals and sincerity in expressing how happy she was to have the chance at singing at the Glendale Arena and being the opening act for Keith Urban.

To top the weekend off we saw the Diamondbacks whup the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-0. Quite a performance by the D'Backs starting pitcher Max Scherzer for the first seven innings and the closer Blaine Boyer pitching shutout relief. Seven out of nine runs were scored with two outs.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Old Violin

I'm posting an email trail that started over three years ago from my friend Steve ... aka 612. It's not a coded name ... its just that he arrives at swim practice late every day typically around 6:12AM ... I should restate that in a Bohemian way ... he arrives at a time that fits his natural biorhythm :-) hence ... the 612 moniker.

I had forgotten about this story of the old violin but it speaks to other things I've written in my blog about 612 and my swim team. For example; swim teams that have lasted 20+ years don't happen just because there is a pool ... there is something more than that bringing people together, day in, and day out, year after year. We share so many hours every morning before work swimming for a masters team ... this is more than a shared experience ... its about a swimming and social community that stands together and opens its doors to all who choose to enter.

From: Steve
Sent: Sunday, July 19, 2009 2:56 PM
To: Dave
Subject: The Old Violin

I was going thru my email archive and came across this

Long Live the King!

From: Steve
Sent: Sunday, February 26, 2006 12:47 PM
To: Dave
Subject: The Old Violin

thank you for sending this - i love the story of the old violin (especially after I so rudely walked away in the locker room after you told me you wanted to tell me this story - so thanks for your persistence in getting this idea to me) I will definitely pass this on to my daughter who has recently become a "Devil's Advocate" as I once was long ago. This is the honorary / service group that gives tours of ASU. and.........yes - we must keep SACistan in good tune and repair!!!!
it is good that we have developed this governmental system with so many ministers helping in the care and tuning!

Long Live the KIng!

From: Dave
Sent: Sunday, February 26, 2006 12:33 PM
To: "Bo"
Subject: The Old Violin

Hi Bo.

I was thinking on Friday about what you said about why we stick together; camaraderie, humor, like interests . turns out Friday evening I attended the 50th anniversary of the ASU Memorial Union. Interestingly, it is only one of 50 University student unions in the world dedicated to remembering the men and women in the armed services who gave their lives in service of their country.

The keynote speaker left us with a story about "the old violin" . about an estate auction being conducted and item after item was being sold for nominal value as all items were in disrepair, dusty, and uninteresting. One item, an old, dusty, out of tune violin came up for auction . after plucking a few of the strings the auctioneer started the bidding for the item "do I hear $1 for this item? .. Do I here $5 ? Yes? Going . go ." and then an old man in the back of the room stood and walked to the front before the item could be sold. He spent a few moments dusting off the item, tuning the strings, and then played a sweet musical arrangement to the astonishment of all those in attendance. When he finished, the old man handed the violin back to the auctioneer and walked back to his seat. Not quite knowing how to proceed the auctioneer returned to closing the sale but quickly a bid for $1,000 was offered, then $3,000 and then finally sold for $5,000.

The message being that a violin, a building (in the case of the MU), a pool, or even a country like SACistan has the greatest perceived value when it is well cared for by experts and fulfills the needs of those to who it is offered for service. Worth more pondering over a bagel, but I'm thinkin that SACistan fulfills a deeper need in us than we understand yet.

Long live the KING!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

July 3, 2009: Day Trip To Kitt Peak

Kitt Peak and Dinner at the Feast (Tucson)

Fran was understanding enough of my interest in astronomy … and I think a little curious herself to agree to drive to Kitt Peak today. Kitt Peak is a mountain southwest of Tucson that was selected 50 years ago out of 1,000 potential sites to be the location where the National Science Foundation would put a national observatory. Formally known as the “Kitt Peak National Observatory” (KPNO), part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). NAOA has three facilities … KPNO plus a facility in Hawaii and one in Chile. These three facilities are run by a consortia of universities including the University of Arizona. The KPNO web site:

We made a day trip out of it leaving Phoenix at 9AM and getting to KPNO a little after 1PM with a short stop for lunch and a long mountain climb by car to 6400 feet elevation. We arrived shortly before their 1:30PM tour of the 4 meter Mayall telescope that was one of the original scopes used back in 1970. Today’s telescopes use something called adaptive optics to help manage the shape of the mirror as temperatures change and the angle of inclination changes. Adaptive optics use little computer controlled actuators to put pressure on the backs of the mirror to change its shape ever so slightly and allowing it to retain its perfect reflecting shape. Back when the Mayall mirror was built adaptive optics did not exist so they needed to build the mirror as big and and as rigid as the state of the art allowed. So, the mirror … it is 158 inches across and weighs about 12 tons! But now picture that the mirror has to tilt and rotate to look at different parts of the sky and it has to be accurate to a millionth of an inch! So they had to design a 300 ton monster of a table to sit the mirror on and this is the way they have operated it for 40 years. Then they had to drag all that equipment to the top of Kitt Peak ... unbelievable feat!

Another little "factoid" ... KPNO has a million gallon water tank on top of the mountain ... that explains why they have flush toilets! The neat thing about it is behind the visitor parking lot they have a BIG concrete cone that collects rainwater that runs to a collector and is then filtered and treated for storage and use on the mountain. It also comes in really handy in case there is a fire.

So after a two hour tour of the Mayall telescope and a walk around part of the mountain top we headed into Tucson for dinner. I had looked up on “” for a suggested restaurant and the top rated restaurant was a place called “Feast” on Speedway Boulevard. We made it there and had a very nice meal and spent time with Megan … I think … the owner or manager who also waited on our table. Tucson is more a laid back atmosphere than Phoenix and this was certainly the case at the Feast. It was very tastefully decorated and equipped and I could tell from the clientele that came in while we were sitting and how they interacted with the staff that it had a very high percentage of regular customers.

Friday, July 03, 2009

June 26, 2009: Westin, Silverthorne Mall and Vail Gondola

We took it pretty slow today. Fran was again up all night coughing but by 9AM she seemed well enough to go for a walk along Gore Creek and then after we changed we went for lunch at the brand new Westin Resort located next to and overlooking Gore Creek and the Beaver Creek Resort. The Westin was quite impressive and we had an OK meal and the view while eating was awesome! After lunch it started pouring as we made our way to the Silverthorne Outlet Mall we had seen on the way in from Denver. I am a little surprised to hear me say it but I actually enjoyed the mall … it has about 80 outlet stores on three campuses. OK … the river running through it and the towering snow covered mountains directly behind it were pretty impressive and gave a pretty positive impression. But the stores we went to were pretty decent and while we were not able to go to very many of those stores Fran was pretty impressed and claimed it a “successful” shopping experience.

After shopping we stopped at our favorite place ... the Vail Lionshead Village for a quick bite to eat. We went to a restaurant next to the Gondola and were pleasantly surprised to see the Gondola running … and because it was after 4PM it was FREE ☺! So we quickly ditched our dinner plans and rode to the top of Vail mountain and had dinner at 11,000 feet in the mountain top lodge called “Bistro 14” in honor of the many 14,000+ foot mountains in the area. It was a great way to wrap up the week!

June 25, 2009: Aspen and Independence Pass

We took a 200 mile round trip south of Interstate 70 today. Going south through Leadville on state route 24 and had lunch at the “Tennessee Pass” restaurant (really good food ☺). Leadville is quite a nice little town situated at 10,000 foot elevation. We passed so many beautiful spots along the way to Independence Pass … one was called Twin Lakes. A little five building village overlooking a lake under some towering 14,000 foot peaks. There were a few cabins for rent here … maybe for the future?

Another hour of climbing a winding state route 82 along a rushing stream brought us to Independence Pass … a high mountain pass connecting Leadville and Aspen. The highest point is at 12,000 feet and is above the tree line and even in late June has plenty of snow. Mountains rose all around us up to and past 14,000 feet … it turns out Colorado has 52 mountains over 14,000 feet. After cresting the mountain pass we began a 10 mile journey down the other side of the mountain into Aspen. This pass is typically closed from the first snow fall through late May. Fran and I were amazed at the number of cyclists who made the trek up the mountain. Not only are they climbing thousands of feet in elevation the air is so thin their lungs must have been burning terribly. I was relieved to find they had support vehicles waiting for them at the top of the mountain.

Aspen was so picturesque just like I imagined but … it was raining and everything we wanted to see was outside. We tried to make the best of it but we were getting tired and ended up calling it a day after about 45 minutes and then started the long drive up route 82 to Glenwood Springs and then Interstate 70 back to Avon. Before we arrived in Avon we decided to have dinner in Edwards at a place called “E-Town” … a part of a planned live / work / play community. Edwards reminded me of a rural community suddenly facing an onslaught of development spreading out from the Vail ski area and encompassing the entire Vail valley.

June 24, 2009: Colorado Vacation Vail Pass Bike Ride

On Wednesday the 24th we got daring and signed up for a 25 mile bike ride starting in Vail Pass. This was stunning beautiful and quite a nice ride for Fran and I especially for Fran as she had not ridden a bike in over ten years and had never ridden as fast or on such steep hills as we did today. A shuttle bus picked us up outside the Sheraton and brought us out (with 12 other people) 25 miles east to “Vail Pass”. Vail Pass is at 10,660 foot elevation and is at the snow line for June. After getting used to our bikes at the start of the bike path Fran and I followed the trail for the next 12 miles down winding paved trails occasionally turning into country roads that we shared with a few cars. The only real danger was letting the speed get away from you and then having to navigate one of the many turns through the forested areas. Easily we could have 40 miles per hour on these downward slopes but we kept the speed to less than 25 at the maximum and more like under 20 mph for most of the faster runs.

At around mile 12 we entered the east end of Vail and came across the Gerald Ford Amphitheater and the Betty Ford Garden. The Ford’s came to Vail quite a bit and when he became president the entire entourage would come to Vail while he vacationed. This attention by the national media is what put Vail on the international spotlight and development of the area subsequently took off.

From mile 12 through 17 we navigated the Vail ski area winding through some beautiful neighborhoods and the Vail villages. At this point we could have met the shuttle bus but we decided to keep going and followed the bike paths and marked roads back into Avon and returned our bikes. In all it was a 25 mile trip and close to a 3,000 foot drop in elevation. This mostly downhill (with a few ups) is definitely an enjoyable way to go biking ☺

In the evening we went out to dinner at a restaurant in Vail Lionshead Village called the “Montauk Seafood Grill”. June is a slow month for the Vail Valley and the specials were fantastic at many restaurants. Montauk’s offered a special for June for all their entrees to be $19. Fran and I both had great meals for a very modest price.

June 23, 2009: Colorado Vacation Hiking in Vail and Gore Creek

On Tuesday the 23rd we went to the Vail ski area again. Vail ski area actually has five little “villages” that serve the ski slopes; Golden Peak, Vail Village, Lionshead, Cascade Village, and West Vail. It is only 10 miles and this time we went to the Lionshead village hoping to ride the gondola to the top. It turns out the Gondola was only running Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week. It brings sightseers and bike enthusiasts to the top of the mountain. The sightseers get a return ride but the bikers actually ride down any number of groomed trails. The level of difficulty for riding bikes down hill cannot be underestimated … from relatively easy “Green” slopes to the “Double Black” equivalents of the down hill ski world. The hardest hills require bikers to wear what can only be called body armor from head to foot in case of a spill. The bikers are a regular sight in Vail Village during the summer.

Fran and I wandered the villages of both Lionshead Village … and then after a short walk up the slopes and across a trail we proceeded down into Vail Village for lunch and a shuttle bus ride back to Lionshead

After returning to Avon we went for a walk along Gore Creek and saw the new Westin resort that has just been completed. It is spectacular and sits right over Gore Creek and looks up to the Beaver Creek resort and ski slopes. It even has its own gondola ride to the base of the ski resort … too much! Leave your room and step right into the skiing resort.

Fran and I sat in the Sheraton hot tub that evening before dinner and met a couple from Tucson who had just bought their first time share unit at the Westin that day. They were so excited to have bought but their maintenance fees are about $2100 per year and that would likely translate to a $30-40K purchase price. Too rich for us but we have run into multiple people who have 3, 4, 5 and even seven condo weeks that they absolutely love.

June 22 2009: Colorado Vacation w/Camelot Balloons and Grouse Mountain

We started Monday morning at 4AM. I awoke not knowing if Fran would be able to go through with our plans for a hot air balloon ride to celebrate her 50th birthday due to her bad cold. Her body was racked with coughing all night long and as a result neither of us were able to sleep more than a couple hours.

I had chosen Camelot Balloon rides for this morning’s adventure and they did not disappoint. The launch site for Camelot sits just north of the Eagle County Regional Airport or (EGE). EGE was closed to commercial traffic this summer but it remains a busy general aviation airport while they are expanding their runway capability. When reopened this fall it will be able to support large commercial flights from anywhere in the US. This is a great airport to get to Vail, Aspen and Beaver Creek ski resorts.

Camelot Balloons is owned and operated by “Merlin”. His flight crew chief “Sir Shrek the Red Neck” and three young men that served as his flight crew were all wonderful good old boys in the nicest sense. It was obvious that Merlin and Red Neck had worked together for many years and their stories, good humor and expert ability managing the balloon launch and recovery made our morning quite enjoyable. We were joined in our first time balloon ride by two other couples; two attorneys from Chicago and another from Charlotte, NC.

The flight consisted of rising to 1,800 feet above the launch site (which sits at 6,540 foot altitude) and going back and forth across a valley boxed in by mountains. Merlin would take advantage of winds that were different at every altitude … so to go west he would rise … to go east he would drop … to go north he would hug the tree tops. The time in the air was so pleasant … it was quiet … almost breezeless (as we were part of the air current) and very enjoyable. After our soft landing and return to base we were treated to champagne and a light lunch and stories. I highly recommend Camelot Balloons … it is not fancy but it is fun, safe and memorable! Merlin’s next adventure is to launch a balloon service in the Cayman Islands this fall where he will launch on one end of the island chain and land on a boat. One of his prior balloon clients is the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton in the Cayman Islands and paid for Merlin to bring his balloon down and test out the whole process including landing in a boat.

After a light lunch … and a manicure & pedicure we rested and took a short walk along the Gore Creek bike trail. The trail parallels the creek for many miles and provides a nice way to walk and enjoy the sight of a creek swelled by mountain runoff. Monday evening we went for dinner to Grouse Mountain Grill in Beaver Creek. GMG is breathtaking to arrive at and the food and service matched the first impressions. Fran and I were the first couple of the year to eat outside on the patio overlooking the mountains and the ski resort. BC is a beautiful ski resort community next to Avon nestled into a set of spectacular mountains. Our waiter was a free spirit and at 60 years old someone who had experienced Woodstock, and numerous late 60’s and early 70’s events that most of us only read about. He did have a story about traveling through Schenectady in 1973 at 2AM and pulling over for gas and looking into the car next to him where there was a lion and a poodle in the car. Turns out the driver was only one of a couple licensed owners of a lion in the country and he was taking the lion out for a drive (one of the lions favorite activities) … but he could only take him out in the middle of the night as his day time drives caused accidents from drivers to shocked to drive straight.

At the end of the day we were able to return to the Sheraton (just five miles from GMG) and admire our certificates of accomplishment signifying we had participated in man’s first aeronautical experience by ascending into the heavens on the hot air balloon “Caerleon” and piloted by the wizard of Camelot “Merlin”.