Monthly Archives: November 2009

Flagstaff: Little America Hotel

the little america hotel

After a 2.5 hour drive with my parents on the 1-10 and the 1-40, we made it to our one-night place of stay. Glowing radiantly white against the backdrop of pure, Flagstaff night was the Little America Hotel sign right off the interstate. The blue outline and red letters let the patriotic theme stand out. A stark contrast stood beneath it: a large penguin. This image could be a testament to the young man who founded the hotel chain. History says, that after camping in the Wyoming wilderness during a blizzard in the 1890s, he wished he had a warm, inviting refuge to sleep in. Decades later, he saw a picture of Admiral Byrd’s “Little America” while in Antartica, and soon the memories of his time camping in the snowy blizzard wishing for a haven sprang up in mind. He decided to build his own and with the help of Byrd’s inspiration came Little America hotels, which are now spread throughout the western parts of the United States.

fireplace in the lounge

As soon as the car doors opened the freeze could be felt. We ran to the lobby where a giant fire crackled in the back and checked-in. Christmas displays were already up behind protective glass and their hotel shop appeared to be a December calendar photo with pine trees decorated for the season and holiday gifts available for purchase.
We left to find our room among the 247 the hotel offers.

our room

Passing the small gym, and climbing up one level of stairs we located number 229. The room offered a plasma t.v., two queen-sized beds, a table and seating area, as well as a vanity seating area outside the bathroom, which includes plenty of sink-space, shower and toilet.

bathroom

Little America also provides rooms with fireplaces and wet bars. In the morning, if you have brought warm clothes, there are two miles of walking trails around the 500-acre property to get some healthy exercise in if you don’t feel like hitting the gym. A breakfast buffet is also available in the hotel’s restaurant, Western Gold Steakhouse. Evening time can be spent watching t.v. or having small-talk in front of the fireplace at the Tiffany Tree Lounge, where live music is played. The hotel is located in a quiet setting, but is a close enough drive to the downtown Flagstaff area. Whether for one night, a weekend or a family vacation, Little America is a haven of warmth and comfort the founder dreamed of providing.
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The Northwest Valley of Arizona

Ten years ago, the settlers of the Northwest Valley would never have dreamt it to look as it does now: bustling intersections, a brand new football stadium, a man-made lake and an antique shopper’s paradise.


The city of Glendale has seen its fair share of transformations. Some of which include a prominent grammar school in the early years to today having Arizona State University West, Glendale Community College and the Thunderbird School of Global Management within its borders. The Santa Fe Railroad that once steamed through the city will look toward the future as the Valley Metro Light Rail is completed in 2011. The more modern part of the city consists of the Arrowhead Mall, the new Westgate shopping and dining region right next to the Cardinal’s University of Phoenix Stadium and the Jobing.com Arena, where concerts and hockey take spotlight. However, with so many changes, the community has been able to hold onto its heritage in the tiny downtown district. Some of the historic homes are actually antique shops full of books, furniture, clothing, dolls, paintings and more while other homes have been turned into restaurants with eclectic menus. Winter brings the traditional Glendale Glitters attraction, where lights sparkle in the trees and shops stay up late, booths overtake the lawn with food and merchandise, kids enjoy rides as dancers and singers perform in the amphitheater. Do not forget to visit the Cerreta Candy Company and take the factory tour, where visitors can get a first hand look at how the fudge and fine chocolates are made.


You won’t ever find yourself indoors while in the city of Peoria. It is a mecca for those who love nature, sports activities and those who want to learn something new. The Peoria Sports Complex hosts the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners for their Spring Training and is also the site of the Dolly Sanchez Egg Hunt, 4th of July All-American Fest, and Halloween Monster Bash and Balloon Illumination events. The ice skating rink and roller rink are located close by, as well as the Rio Vista Recreation Center and Park where a gym, sand volleyball courts, fishing lakes, playgrounds, baseball fields and skate park can be found. Those who can’t get enough, head up north to West Wing and Sunrise Mountains where new hiking trails have just been constructed, or even farther up north to Lake Pleasant Regional Park for boating, fishing, hiking, camping, and picnicking. The park itself sponsors many activities from scuba diving, stargazing, nature tours and even running events. If adrenaline is still pumping, enroll in Turf Soaring School, and glide through the blue skies or watch the speedsters at the Canyon Speedway Park.


Surprise, surprise, surprise…it just keeps multiplying and multiplying and it isn’t any wonder because the city already has an active shopping center and sports complex. The White Tank Mountains are the backdrop of Surprise and provide hiking trails, the Waterfall Trail being amongst the more popular and numerous events suitable for every age. For the more artistic bunch, The West Valley Art Museum offers collections of over 4,000 items from around the world, exhibitions, musical performances, and activities such as classes and workshops. If you like straying from the pack, visit the Speedworld Motorcross Park where you can practice or watch the throttles reach their maximum performance.


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The Southwest Valley of Arizona

It is not debatable that the Southwest Valley has been growing faster than a saguaro’s arm ever could. Developments have sprouted up and spread as far as the White Tank Mountains and beyond with the lure of affordable land and homes bringing thousands just like the Gold Rush. The cities and towns of Buckeye, Goodyear, Litchfield, Wickenburg and Gila Bend comprise most of this area that is filled with activities for those interested in the arts, outdoors, sports or indulging themselves in the many shopping centers that are springing up.
Buckeye was once the home of author, Upton Sinclair, but is now known as one of the largest growing neighborhoods in Arizona with 22 master planned communities and the future site of a 900-acre Buckeye Town Lake. Head south on the State Route 85 toward The Buckeye Hills Regional Park, which is composed of 4,474-acres to hike trails in the lush desert landscape, pitch a tent for camping, enjoy a family picnic or try for a bull’s-eye at the shooting range.
Goodyear is a prime living arrangement for the family team. The Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds host their Spring Training in the city, which is conveniently located 20 minutes from Downtown Phoenix. Take the family out to a game or visit one of the many community parks: the Splash Pad, the Skate Park, Roscoe Dog Park, or any of the other neighborhood playgrounds. The outdoor sports enthusiasts can enjoy the Estrella Mountain Regional Park, which provides bikers, horseback riders and hikers miles of trails to blaze in a perfect desert landscape. The surrounding area, Casey Abbot Recreation Area, has volleyball courts, an 18-hole golf course, picnic areas and a jungle gym for the kids. Every two years, Goodyear hosts the Luke Days, an air show that draws many crowds and if you want to see the largest collection of bibles, look no further than in the Grand Lobby of the Hampton Inn and Suites, and in the summer cool off with Movies in the Park and Dry Heat Comedy. For those not interested in recreation, stay tuned for Estrella Falls, the newest mall will be opening in fall 2011 and spans 105-acres in the budding city that still has reasonably priced land available.
A small suburb is maturing within the farming community of Litchfield Park, situated 16 miles from Phoenix near the 1-10. The city is recognized for its family atmosphere and easygoing lifestyle. Throughout the year the Recreation Services holds “Arts in the Park Live”, a free concert series with performances by diverse bands that play everything from blues, jazz, country to even big band swing. Art festivals are always marked on calendars and the recreation center provides a variety of programs for the youth, adults and senior citizens so everyone can become involved.

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Kartchner Caverns State Park in Arizona

Nestled in the middle of a transition zone between the Sonoran Desert and the Chihuahuan Desert, Kartchner Caverns State Park offers a great weekend get-away for any family. At 4,600 ft, the park is surrounded by hiking and walking trails, and 62 camping sites. However, the must-see attraction is the caverns hidden beneath the Arizona desert that average 68F and 98 percent humidity year round. They are home to some of the greatest formations in the world and the origin of a story that must be heard.
It has been six years since I first stepped foot in the Big Room. It started out as a family surprise, a day trip my parents wanted to take us on, it ended as an unforgettable experience. I will never overlook that moment in the Big Room when I realized just how small I really was in such a big world. I felt like I was on another planet as I glanced at all the rainbow colors reflecting off the water. The thousands of extraordinary formations surrounding me were water coated and the lights reverberated everywhere. The air was moist and thick. I had to take off my sweatshirt. I remember asking myself, “How many people would ever think such an amazing place like this exists?” My eyes could not stop wandering. This felt like a secret place, there were no outside sounds except for the dripping of water in a far off corner. The best part: it wasn’t a secret.
According to the cave’s history, the story goes that in the bottom of sinkhole, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts, found a narrow crack leading into the hillside at the base of the Whetstone Mountains in 1974. Warm, moist air flowed out, signaling the existence of a cave and they needed to find it. After several hours of crawling, they entered a pristine cavern. Their tracks are still present and clearly visible in the mud to this very day.
After four years of secret exploration, the two young cavers told the property owners, James and Lois Kartchner, about their amazing discovery. They wanted to preserve the original and extraordinary formations the caverns were home to. The cave’s existence later became public knowledge in 1988 when Kartchner Caverns was approved as an Arizona State Park.
Kartchner Caverns offers unforgettable guided tours that provide an observation of the natural wonders discovered years ago. Today, anybody can become a caver, an explorer, a discoverer of any sort and travel through the very same vast, air-filled rooms Tenen and Tufts did. The whole family will witness the colors, the sounds and the sights that they will always remember and share together. It is truly a site of the south that should not be ignored.

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An unexpected history lesson

His smile revealed teeth that were as bright as the White House’s exterior. He was pushing a dollar bill into my hand and his dark complexion contrasted the glowing spirit that left me bewildered. This man was homeless. Money was being placed into my palm, not his. I could see his makeshift bed of faded blankets behind him on the concrete bench that wrapped around the replicated Liberty Bell memorial. A group of three or four other homeless looked as if they were guarding the bench; their eyes fixated on us but wavered every few seconds. They had to. The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless says at least 17,800 people are homeless in Washington, D.C. over the course of a year. Iron and concrete benches, metro train stations, every corner outside the centuries-old government buildings and the grass are claimed in the morning, at noon and night by the homeless to nap or sleep on. Escaping my memory was his name but what he taught me escaped any defining notation.

My two friends and I had just figured out the metro train system that brisk September weekend where leaves crunched beneath our feet and a breeze tickled our skin. The orange line was our line. Taking us everywhere we needed to go from Capitol Hill to Arlington Cemetery across the Virginia border. We conquered the Smithsonian and climbed the steps to Abraham Lincoln. Pages and pages of history books were catching up to the current time we spent in the national mall. Staring at the homeless did not become normality. Police officers could do nothing as the problem is rampant. Joggers ran past them and tourists, including ourselves, easily disregarded them. Homelessness may be an issue but in the country’s capital it had become a daily sight just as much as the World War II memorial and the Washington Monument.

After reaching one of our stops, we exited Union Station. This magnificent building has played host to 17 Presidents and countless foreign dignitaries, according to its Web site. However, the site also mentions what may be most impressive, the fact that Union Station’s marble floors echo with the footsteps of over 25 million people each year, making it the most visited site in all of Washington, D.C. Union Station is the most exciting and dynamic shopping destination in the country. Maybe that is why the homeless man came walking toward us as we stepped outside the door that evening. If people were leaving this building we had to have some sort of expendable money, right? Confidence exuberated in every step he took. And when he offered his hand that reached out in business-like form from the sleeve of his shaggy shirt, my hesitant hand remained next to my side. This was not the first time he acted his part I assumed and this would not be his last. To present himself accordingly, he stood straight-backed with his two feet close together and offered his best thirty-second pitch. Masterfully.

Three pairs of eyes were upon him and he did not falter. Words of a well-prepared monologue poured out of the experienced actor, a political speech if you will at a vital campaign stop. One of us, he said, would have the opportunity to win or lose. First things first: money. He needed the evidence that we were not wasting his time. I pulled out my bill and he pulled out his. If you win, he began, I give you this but if you lose, you give that to me, his finger pointing at the dollar resting in my hand. That’s all. What do we have to do, my friend asked. That White House smile appeared. No, no, he said, only one of you gets thirty seconds to find the misspelled word on this replica of the Liberty Bell. Immediately our bodies shifted to look at the sculpture to our left that we had not even given notice to as the homeless man led us from the station. So who will it be, he inquired with a grin. Both my friends turned to me and without a word I had been nominated for the simple fact that they knew I was a grammar geek. They left my side and joined the homeless man who nodded his head. Go.

Within ten seconds I knew the word. But I felt like amusing my friends longer and kept circling the tarnished bell with its signature crack. Inside my head were thoughts on why this word of all words would be misspelled in the first place. I did not know the answer and yet, the homeless man had. Worried looks decorated the two faces across from me while I saw the hope bursting from the squished up cheeks of the homeless man whose smile never seemed to cease. His fellow friends watched the show from their concrete-bench bed. Starting to count down 5, 4, 3, he began walking toward me confidently again. Two and one. I stopped. So, he said, do you know the word? Certain and full of myself, I answered: Pennsylvania, it is spelled with only one “n” when it should have two. Correct, he stated without hesitation and disappointment in his tone. Continuing, he explained that the spelling had not been adopted at the time and presented his dollar bill to me, placing it into my palm. Without pause I looked at my friends who instinctively had the same reaction.



A closed fist shocked the homeless man. Insistent, he began to follow us and attempted to give us the money but we refused. I said, no, no, that it was quite alright and thanked him for allowing me to use my grammar skills. Even deeper inside was the embarrassment I felt for not knowing the history of the bell and its grammatical error. Laughter left his lips as we left his location. He returned to his friends and as we rounded the curve of the concrete wall, the corner of my eyes witnessed him moving back to his spot, straight-backed and two feet grounded in place. Normal workday people would be returning home through the doors of Union Station as the sun set a pink and red backdrop to the national mall. He, on the other hand, would be working overtime, awaiting the next contestants to his game until the very last person disappeared into the darkness. But it wasn’t really a game for him. He depended upon that one simple fact for his day to day necessities. Pensylanvia was a lifeline.


Whether it is the shoe shiner offering a quick polish outside the restaurant door or the homeless man who took claim of the misspelled word engraved upon the replicated Liberty Bell outside Union Station, I learned that they are just as much a part of the history that Washington D.C. stands for, helping us remember times gone by. The museums with their entrance fees may share textbook pictures and artifacts behind glass smudged with fingerprints from school kids and tourists but until the history walks up to you in the most unexpected way, you will never learn just how much the past remains in the present.

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An Argentina tour: the life of a lady for the people, of the people

Candlelight evaporated in the window of the Casa Rosada on July 26, 1952 marking the end of a lifetime but not of a legacy. Thousands of Argentines stood in silence outside the presidential house in the Plaza de Mayo that night. All signs of life in the country had ceased except for the tears of Eva Peron’s people as they mourned together.A lone voice echoed through the airwaves confirming what many had already known. “It is my sad duty to inform you that today at 20:25 Eva Perón, Spiritual Leader of the Nation, entered immortality”. She was adored and misunderstood for the path her life took and is still revered in the trying times Argentina faces.A cultural and historical tour of the path that led Maria Eva Duarte to become Argentina’s first lady will make your visit to this country unforgettable.Sus Principios: Her Beginnings

One of the reasons why people praised or had the wrong impression of Eva “Evita” Peron was because of the background from which she came. Visiting the towns of Los Toldos, which is located about 195 miles from Buenos Aires, and Junin will give you an insight into the poor childhood she was brought into.

“I think it’s important to know where she came from because then you understand what she accomplished,” says Rocio Villanueva, who lives in Rosario, Argentina.

Thousands of Argentine and foreign travelers visit the Casa Natal de Maria Eva Duarte de Peron in Los Toldos, which was turned into a museum, on a daily basis to see the birthplace of the woman who would make a significant impact on the country. On May 7, there is a particular celebration to commemorate her birth. Children may enter free and adults are asked to make a contribution. Guided tours are available and the museum is open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The existing hypothesis as to the legitimate birthplace of Eva Peron, whether it is Los Toldos or Junin, is what makes a look at both these towns a discussion topic among fellow travelers.

Estrella Ascendente: Rising Star

After Eva had her initial taste of fame in Junin as a teenager, where she first used a microphone and heard her voice ring through the speakers, she escaped to Buenos Aires to pursue her acting career. She toured extensively with theater groups, such as the Compañía Argentina de Comedias and Armando Discépolo.

Even in death, she still graces center stage on Broadway in Evita, but also on occasion in Argentina at Teatro Lola Membrives, on Corrientes Ave. 1280, in Eva: the musical. If it is on the playbill, it is recommended to spend an evening watching her life depicted and honored right before your eyes in poignant acts accompanied by touching music from her own country’s perspective.

As she was making her mark on stage, she was also landing small roles in films, including “La Carga de los Valientes,” “El más infeliz del pueblo” and “Una novia en apuros.” A larger part was played in “La Cabalgata del Circo” but by this time, she was also claiming a voice on the radio waves.

Primero Reunión: First Meeting

As her star began to shine, a disaster would lead her life to even bigger fame. An earthquake struck on January 15, 1944 and devastated the city of San Juan. Eva Duarte attended an event at Luna Park that helped to raise funds for those affected. It was at this occasion that she met her future husband, Colonel Juan Peron.

This site would later be a campaign stop she attended to rally supporters for Peron. Today, the park is a stadium of culture, arts, music, and other entertainment and competitive acts that is located on the corner of Ave. Madero 420. It offers a great picture-taking opportunity for the classic style and lettering of its name on the building.

The budding relationship between Juan and Eva had later become officially visible to the nation’s people during a Gala at the The Opera House “Colon Theater” that is now known world-wide as a host to a number of operas and ballets. As of this time, it is undergoing a refurbishment process with plans of reopening in 2010 but still provides a great site to visit at Cerrito 618 for its sheer architectural beauty and ability to conjure up memories of the earlier Peronism time.

Nuevo Mundo: New World

From the moment of their first meeting Juan Peron had been infatuated with Eva and the two stayed particularly close. Eva seemed to fuel Juan as she stood by his side, not behind, during his campaign for presidency, a first on many accounts.



The strong following of Juan Peron would lead him into exile from growing governmental fears; however, Eva showed her unwavering faith and rallied protesters to help aid in the release of the man many had grown to believe in. Juan would soon step onto the balcony of the Casa Rosada, located at 50 Balcarce around the Plaza de Mayo, to address those who freed him, and later go on to marry the woman who never left him and become President of Argentina.

As his wife, the working class would be Eva’s largest support system and gave her the name, Evita or “Little Eva”. Her role had been redefined, but Evita still knew who she was.

“Peron had a double personality and I would need to have one also: I am Eva Peron, the wife of the President, whose work is simple and agreeable … and I am also Evita, the wife of the leader of a people who have deposited in him all their faith, hope and love.”

She put her original pursuits behind to focus on the people of Argentina. The Plaza de Mayo was a central place of many key moments for the country, most well-known for its significance in the May Revolution events that led to the country’s independence. There is a week of celebratory events that end on the May 25 celebration of el Día de la Revolución de Mayo.

The Pirámide de Mayo stands across from the Casa Rosada in the square and is the oldest national monument reminding the country’s citizens of that historical revolution. However, it was also the place where Eva Peron helped pass Argentina’s women’s suffrage law. Since the earlier events, the plaza has gone through bombings, protests and to this day is still filled with crowds putting together demonstrations.

Su Gente: Her People

According to its Web site, the Eva Musuem, located at 2988 Lafinur, was a restored mansion turned into Hogar de Tránsito (Temporary Home) #2, a shelter for women and children with no resources.

The site notes that on July 18, 1948, Evita inaugurated El Hogar with these words, “The Temporary Home shelters those in need and those who have no home… for as long as necessary until work and a home can be found… .” Evita offered the women and children “an open door, a place set for them at the table, a clean bed,” as well as “consolation and motivation, encouragement and hope, faith and self-confidence.”

For a small entrance price, visitors can enter the museum Tuesdays to Sundays (and holidays) from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and see the clothes Evita Peron wore, look at pictures of her past, relive the grand moments she shared with her country’s people and spot relics of the history she left behind in a place that she once walked through herself.

Her voice comes through the videos and recordings and speaks to you, if you are listening. It is an atmosphere of quiet reflection, an honorable experience that will touch you in unpredictable ways. It is suggested to reserve an entire afternoon to appreciate the museum as it is full of wall to wall information and well worth the price. The English version pamphlets are necessary as the information and texts are in the Spanish vernacular.

Su legado: Her Legacy

Her last public appearance was of that during her husband’s second inauguration into the Presidential office. Many had wanted her to take role as vice president, but she did not want the title and many theories, her long-standing illness being among them, surrounded her renunciation.

Evita’s health turned worse after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer that later spread and resulted in her death at the young age of 33 in the Casa Rosada on July 26, 1952, where a crowd of thousands stretched for blocks in every direction.

“I think it´s mainly because of where she came from and what she accomplished,” says Rocio, on the impact Evita had on the lives of the Argentines. “I think it gave people hope to see what they could potentially accomplish and, more importantly, saw her as someone who was like most of the people who followed her, poor, sometime during her life.”

Her body was on display for two years before it was stolen after Juan Peron had run away when he was overthrown. The whereabouts of Argentina’s First Lady remained a mystery for 16 years before it was found in Italy and then reunited with Juan Peron in Spain where he lived before returning to Argentina.

Peron then died and it was his third wife who finally had Evita’s body returned to Argentina to be next to Peron’s before it was placed in the La Recoleta Cemetery, at 1760 Junín, under intense safeguarding. It is said that her body is within a room, accessed by another room, which is then accessed by stairs underneath a trapdoor in the floor of her tomb.

Such protection of her body is a testament of the Argentine people who hold Eva “Evita” Peron in such high esteem for all she stood and fought for, wanting to bring the “hopes and dreams of the people to the president.”

It is at her gravesite where this tour ends, in the belief that you would see the many flowers that are still bestowed upon her, weaving through the iron door of her tomb, and remember the great journey one woman took in her short lifetime. Spend a moment or two reflecting on your own journey that you have just taken and witness the travelers, like yourself, paying tribute and the Argentines who are still mourning the death of their beloved First Lady.

Travel Tips:

Renting a car may be the first choice on your list but the roads of Argentina are quite busy and frantic, consisting of many lanes in all direction. Remember, the Avenida 9 de Julio has six lanes in both directions (it is the largest intersection in the world). There are also no “true” speed limits in the country and no “true” rules of the road. If you are planning a visit to Argentina, consider the following modes of transportation to help you get around safely and quickly:
  • Take a taxi to most of the places mentioned in this tour. They are all within a good distance of each other and the drivers know how to navigate the streets of Buenos Aires.
  • Take the subway system. It is small for a city of millions and has simple routes, which means no missing your stop.
  • Take the city bus. There are stops at almost every corner but the bus can become very crowded and standing room only. Still, quick and cheap.
  • Feeling adventurous to travel outside of the Buenos Aires province? Visit the Estacion Terminal de Omnibus, which offers a vast array of bus companies that can take you anywhere in the country. They offer different types of seating from the typical upright, to reclining and even chairs that can become beds.

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