Monthly Archives: April 2018

Pipe Spring–Ranch and Refuge

It’s a long way from Las Vegas to Kanab.   By the time we got to Colorado City, a controversial town founded by breakaway Mormons who desired polygamy, Ruth & I both needed our own break.  However, we did not stop.   By the time we got to Kaibab, we were desperate for relief.  I saw a sign noting the approach of Pipe Spring, a National Monument we knew nothing about.   “If it’s not too far off the highway, let’s stop and at least use the restrooms,” I proposed.   Not only was it close to the road, it was a 5 Compass surprise, an attraction not to be missed.

Pipe Spring borders the Kaibab Reservation.  The stories of the spring and the Kaibab Paiutes both proved fascinating.  We were very lucky to get a personal tour with Autumn, a very well-educated and dedicated Paiute Shoshone who went to school, among other places, in Colorado City.  The only other person on the tour was a gentleman who was in the process of moving to St. George, Utah, the fastest growing city in the United States.  He appeared to not like what Autumn had to say near the end of her presentation.

This was once exclusively Paiute land.  The descendants of pueblo builders, they were here because of available grass and water.  Spaniards brought the slave trade and many Paiute women and children disappeared.   The tribe mostly moved out.  Jacob Hamblin, a Mormon Missionary, moved in and started a ranch.   He promised the Paiutes who remained that he would protect them, if they converted.  More Mormons moved in because they needed the grass that was “as high as a horse’s belly” for farming and ranching.  Brigham Young named Anson Winsor ranch manager, more Mormons came, and a building through which the spring flowed was built.  This gave the Mormons control of the water.  Thirsty cotton was grown.  This facility produced lots of dairy products and Dixie Wine and became a haven and hideout for wives fleeing polygamy.  Autumn called it “an Adamless Eden.”   Kaibab Paiutes dwindled to 76.

One of the more interesting Mormon settlers was a woman named Eliza Luella Stewart, master of Morse Code.  She operated the 1st telegraph office in the Arizona Territory at Pipe Spring.  Because Winsor Castle, which became its common name, had been built into a hillside and water ran through it, its downstairs parlor was cool.  Its sofa became popular with traveling Mormon honeymooners.

I have really simplified a very complex and compelling story.    Autumn ended her presentation with the news that the spring that brought people to the Pipe Spring area for millennia will dry up due to human development in the next 10 years.  The water table is dropping drastically.  The Kaibab Paiute population is up to around 250.

Pipe Spring National Monument is very old.   The 1st director of the National Park Service, Steven Mather, proposed that it be added to the National Park System, and it was…in 1923.  It was funded and built by both the National Park Service and the Kaibab Paiutes.   Rangers and volunteers lead tours every half hour all day.   I hope you get Autumn as your guide.






In Midcentury Modern (Hollywood Regency) Style

If your idea of the perfect vacation treat is to visit the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, don’t miss Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, CA.  But plan ahead.  I didn’t but got lucky.   The maximum number of people allowed to tour this home each time the front door opens for ordinary visitors is 7.   When tours are available, tickets are released in monthly blocks.   Astonishingly, one became available on the only day I could tour this house, and Ruth insisted I use it while she strolled the Sunnylands Center & Gardens, which is always possible.   Because retreats sometimes close the house for tours, to get into it can take months.

Walter and Leonore Annenberg not only lived like royalty, they knew royalty.  Walter, who entertained Kings, Queens, and Presidents, was the Ambassador to the Court of St. James and made a fortune in print media when it really mattered.  He was making up to a million dollars profit each week from just one publication, TV Guide.

Walter and Leonore, who were both previously married with children, had no kids together.  They were noted philanthropists who gave half a billion dollars to public education.  They amassed probably the greatest private art collection in history and donated much of it to The MET in New York City.   I learned this after I was in their home and looking at the best art I have ever seen in a private residence used only 5 months a year–Van Goghs in a row, not just one.

Photography inside the house was strictly forbidden, so I had to content myself with pics of the dramatic Mexican Column near the front door, Walter’s 9-hole golf course, and abundant pink flowers.  Leonore doted on pink anything.  Walter loved birds.  In the center of their living room, the largest one I’ve ever been in, was a Rodin sculpture under an enormous atrium and near a fountain surrounded by what seemed like acres of pink flowers.  The entire house, 25,000 square feet, looks decidedly 1960s but truly does showcase the architect’s desire to create soaring indoor spaces while bring the outdoors inside.  Speaking of pink flowers, the pink Barbara Bush roses in the garden took on special significance this week.

The 2nd room we were in used to be a guest bedroom, but it’s now called The Room of Memories.  It contained lots of Christmas cards from the Queen Mother, Walter’s portrait by Andrew Wyeth, a letter from Queen Elizabeth to him about the death of Lord Mountbatten, etc.

The Annenberg Foundation Trust now opens this estate to invitees who attend retreats and meetings.  Walter and Leonore, who are both deceased, had this idea.  The Declaration they approved has 7 parts.  Number one reads, “For the President of the United States and Secretary of State to bring together world leaders to promote world peace and facilitate international agreement.”  Recent visitors included Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, and John Legend.

Rancho Mirage’s Sunnylands is between Palm Springs and Indio.



The museum of arts and design is MAD

In a city with more than a thousand worthwhile places to go and things to see like New York, it’s important to create a list of them before you arrive or shortly thereafter so that your time is well-spent.   Ruth & I like to mix the old, Fraunces Tavern, with the new, Gulliver’s Gate.  This doesn’t guarantee success.   Today I’m writing about the last place we visited that, unlike Gulliver, was an unqualified success, the museum of arts and design, sub-named “The FUTURE OF CRAFT”.

The museum of arts and design (MAD) was founded in 1956 and moved to its current building at #2 Columbus Circle in 2008.  Its red, white and blue exterior is appropriately factory-like because inside are many laboring craftspeople.  This is the only venue in New York City that lets visitors watch and talk to artists thanks to its Open Studio Program.  Ruth & I tried to ask a couple of the younger ones about their projects, but they were engrossed in their crafts and not especially welcoming.   This was OK because of the dedication they exuded.   Beyond their workstations were 5 floors of temporary exhibits.   None of them are still there.

All exhibits were very contemporary.  I liked Sonic Arcade:  Shaping Space with Sound.   In it, several artists explored sound as a substance with lots of color resulting.  Another exhibit that continued the sound theme was Audiowear, which was described as “a porcelain musical jewelry collection that showcases the acoustic quality of clay by replicating idiophone and aerophone instruments”.   Huh?

We both liked MAD’s store that featured one-of-a-kind craft items.  Part of this museum will usually be used to display items from its collection.  If I had to do it over, I’d go to before going there and look at several pages of what it owns.  It currently uses 218  pages to show 2,616 items in its permanent collection, which is more than 95% of it.  Many of the items are both truly stunning and beautifully representative of this artist-centered institution.  On their website, I also like the way MAD treats exhibits.  It features pictures of and info about current, future, and past exhibitions.

If you thinks that American craft and design are in the doldrums, pay a visit to MAD and see that we are a nation of serious artists in a creative frenzy.  5 Compass!





Passing Through Quartzsite


Quartzsite is an undeniable phenomenon.  Imagine a town that grows from less than 4,000 people in August to 1,500,000 in January and you’ll have some idea of it.   It’s in a desolate part of Arizona between Ehrenberg and Salome on I-10, so why, you might wonder, is it so popular?  It’s a sunny, 75º here in January.  I myself wonder what it must smell like with so many fun-seeking humans converging, mostly in campers, in one spot?

When Ruth and I asked long-time returnees John and Marilyn, who live in South Lake Tahoe, about this, they shrugged to indicate it wasn’t a problem, at least for them, because they never dry camp like the masses in the numerous BLM campgrounds in the desert surrounding Quartzsite.  Nicknamed “The Gathering Place”, Quartzsite’s Chamber of Commerce promises, “Accommodations…are many and varied” so “You can have your pick of any kind of accommodations you prefer.”   I still wonder how this gathering is humanly possible in January as I imagine a veritable sea of RVs containing more than a million temporary residents with bowels and kidneys.

Ruth & I passed through in March, when things were winding down.  In January and February, the 2 really busy months, Quartzsite, according to John and Marilyn, offers a steady barrage of swap meets, gem shows, gun and cheap jewelry buying opportunities, craft fairs, music jams, etc.   Marilyn told Ruth that bargaining is OK.  John told me that the annual RV show is the highlight of the season.  They both told us that Quartzsite attracts lots of snowbirds.  I asked if they met many Canadians, and they told me about a couple who comes every winter but goes to Mexico for 2 weeks so they can stay in Quartzsite longer.  Canadian snowbirds, it seems, can usually stay in the United Stats each year for 182 days, but this may be changing.  Snowbirds from other countries can stay, legally, for only 90 days.

Activities in high-season Quartzsite tend to have cute names.  There’s a Ground Hog ATV Rally,  a Masters Tough Golf Tournament,  a Soup and Chowder Festival, etc.   Ads in abundant visitor guides tend to be for dental or chiropractic care, rock shows, mobility scooters, antiques, etc.   We talked to a couple of satisfied vendors who were getting ready to leave.  They assured us that some of them would remain until the end of March.

Staying until the end of March in this fort that grew into a mining community and is now a Chinese-sized city 2 months each year sounded like such a bad idea that we got into our rented car and headed west.



McDonald’s Unofficial Museum

The word most used to describe the original McDonald’s location museum in San Bernardino is “fun”.  This is accurate for a place that hopes to one day get into the Guinness World Records for having the most kitschy toys.   It’s already well on its way to achieving that goal.   Despite the controversy it engenders, this fun attraction, unlike the city it’s in, is an OK travel stop.   One TripAdvisor reviewer from Seattle also noticed its “Toys Galore!” appeal and reported that the production company creating the movie The Founder borrowed some cool artifacts, like the Speedee sign on the roof, from this museum.  This sign appears in the movie even though the McDonald’s outlet recreated for the film was in Georgia.  They did this for authenticity and despite the controversy

I was not aware of the controversy until I saw that sign near the museum’s entrance that called it “unofficial”.   Way back in 1937 the McDonald brothers went into the restaurant business in Monrovia, CA.  In the 1940s Dick McDonald noticed that 80% of their sales were hamburgers and fries, so he and his brother Mac (Maurice) opened McDonald Hamburgers featuring their Speedee sign in San Bernardino.  The burgers cost 15¢ and the fries 10¢.  In 1954 they opened #4 in Downey, CA, which remains “the oldest existing McDonald’s in the world according to the “McDonald’s History” published by Albert Okura,  current owner of this “unofficial” attraction.

Despite the fact that it’s at the original MacDonald’s location, this museum now specializing in its early years is not the official McDonald’s museum.  According to, McDonald’s is “the largest fast food chain in the world” despite the fact that Subway (#3) reportedly has 7,000 more outlets, creating another controversy.   The official McDonald’s Museum is in Des Plaines, IL, where Ray Kroc’s 1st store came along in 1955.  Probably carrying a shake mixer, Ray Kroc visited the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino and convinced them to allow him to franchise their name.  Six years later Ray Kroc convinced the brothers to sell him the rights to the fast food stores with their name on them.  Kroc’s Des Plaines location was actually the 9th McDonald’s but his 1st, so it’s considered the official McDonald’s Museum.

Trivia.  The 1st McDonald’s with golden arches was in Phoenix.   The largest group of foreign visitors to this museum in San Bernardino, according to its Assistant Curator Marvin Hernandez, come from Brazil.  They seek it out because they’re following old Route 66 backwards, according to Bobby Troup, from Santa Monica to Chicago.  Jay Leno and Pink are both former McDonald’s employees.