Thursday, May 24, 2007

Flagstaff, Arizona

Now that the power company has raised our rates, summer is officially here! Over the next few months, droves of Las Vegans will drive to nearby lakes and mountains in efforts to escape the heat. Flagstaff, Arizona, is about four hours southeast on US93 and I40. Northern Arizona’s biggest city is at a 7,000 foot altitude in the middle of the largest stand of ponderosa pine trees in the U.S. Route 66 passes right through downtown, as do the trains. And they’ve got a lot of trains. If you think the noise from the Right Turn is obnoxious, try listening to train horns all night long. I liked Flagstaff, but I wanted to hurt someone by the time daylight arrived. The city’s historic homes, museums, arboretum, and observatory offer plenty of things to do, but if you’re a light sleeper you might want to find out how close you’re staying to the train tracks (or bring earplugs).

On the day after our sleepless night, we drove through Sedona and never stopped. Back in the prehistoric 1970’s, my family discovered the canyon on a trip back from Texas. My dad took a tip from someone he met at a roadside diner, and we took a detour through Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. We were rewarded with beautiful, eclectic, and stunning scenery. One roadside stop was an artist who sculpted sandstone. He’d done The Last Supper and shaded it under a green plastic patio cover. The place was amazing and magical, and it’s all gone now. I was surprised we didn’t find a Starbucks.

Jerome, perched on Cleopatra Hill outside Sedona, hasn’t lost an ounce of charm. In fact, the people here have posted plaques everywhere to tell visitors about the original purposes of the restored homes that the artists and merchants converted into shops. Salons and brothels were very popular.

Many people are surprised to find that Arizona contains beautiful mountains. It ain’t all desert, folks! Grab a road atlas and check the country around Flagstaff. Both Prescott and Payson are nearby mountain communities (Prescott is about four hours from Vegas, Payson almost six).
Photos from top to bottom: Downtown Flagstaff, as seen from the Lowell Observatory's grounds on Mars Hill; Oak Creek Canyon Vista; Jerome Plaque. Double-click on any image to enlarge.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A True Success Story

This might look like every office building you’ve seen, but that’s only the outside. On the inside you’ll find the staff of Summit Restoration, a hard-working team of 20-somethings who struck out on their own to start their own company. Las Vegas is filled with success stories, but this one is special to me because Summit’s staff are pretty much all related to me. Hey, I never said I was unbiased.

The leader of this bunch is William Dellaechaie, the man with the vision. I won’t talk about his former employer, except to say that if you’ve ever been misled and mistreated by an employer’s specious promises, you can appreciate the sweetness of William’s success. Let’s just say that my nephew has a low tolerance for being treated badly, which meant that he and the Former Employer had a falling out. With not much more than moxie, really big you-know-whats, and money he raised by hook and crook, William struck out on his own. He entered the same business as the Former Employer, snagged a bunch of their staff on the way out the door, and has been making steady progress at eroding Former Employer’s client base. For all of us who have smarted at the hands of unscrupulous bosses, we salute you, William!

Of course, part of the reason William snagged all those staff members was because he was related to most of them. His two brothers, Travis and David, and his cousin, Bill, worked pro bono in the beginning. Faithful office manager Colleen took care of the details. Now, it’s reward time, baby! They’ve been adding staff and, just recently, were able to move out of William’s house and into this new warehouse and office. No one has worked pro bono in a while.

If you’ve got water damage or mold in your house, these are the guys who know how to fix it. Yes, of course, I know I’m biased and all, but Summit is the best at what they do – give ‘em a call if you don’t believe me. Tell them Aunt T says hi!

Calico Basin

When I was growing up, Calico Basin was where my family picnicked. Red Rock was just around the corner, but for some reason my dad was never interested in picnicking there. I finally discovered Red Rock as a teenager, when the Loop was still a two-way road. Red Rock was not closed at night in those days, nor was there an entrance fee, which made it a great place to do those up-to-no-good things teenagers like to do. But while Red Rock may make me nostalgic for my teen years, Calico Basin holds my childhood memories. Imagine my shock a couple of weeks ago when I made a detour to Calico Basin and discovered the area had been completely renovated.

Now, I have to digress for just a little bit and say that although I like the renovations and believe that the boardwalk and the picnic area and the parking lot are all good additions, even necessary additions, that wasn’t my first reaction when I pulled up. My first reaction was, “What the #@$!# happened? Where’s the Calico Basin I remember? What yodel head came up with this idea??” I imagine many people can sympathize with me because progress tends to wipe out our past, and sprawl has infected every part of our world. No one likes to see her childhood memories tampered with. However, as a native Las Vegan, I must say that the rate at which things are demolished, changed, removed, redesigned, or otherwise altered is kind of hard on a person.

At any rate, Calico Basin is now accessible via a boardwalk that protects the fragile meadow and springs. Three rare species live here – the Spring Mountain Snail, the Mariposa Lily, and the White Bearpoppy. One lichen, the Dermatocarpom Iuridum, may be endemic as it has not been found (yet) at any other location. In order to protect these creature and plants, as well as to protect the springs, the meadow, and the petroglyphs, the boardwalk was created. Interpretative signs and benches invite visitors to take a seat and watch the abundant wildlife.

Sadly, a part of the boardwalk was vandalized and burned. Repairs were in progress when I visited. It seems that not everyone takes such a charitable view of the BLM’s efforts to preserve the area.

Curiously, almost every parcel of land in the residential area had a For Sale sign posted. The Calico Basin residents must know something we don’t.

To visit Calico Basin, head west on Charleston, which will turn into State Route 159. Look for the sign on your right directing you to Calico Basin. Follow the road and you’ll see the parking/picnic area. Hiking trails are also available.