We visit Joanne in Scottsdale

Our friend Joanne Fortune has just retired from her job as professor at Cornell University. She still lives in Ithaca for the moment, so has been flying south (along with other sensible migrating birds) for a few months in Arizona to escape the dull, cold, snowy days in Ithaca. Since Arizona is just a couple of states over, we thought we'd visit her while she is there.

She is renting an apartment in Scottsdale for three months, complete with spare bedroom. The flight to Phoenix was smooth and uneventful and we took a ride-share to her apartment. Her place is in a gated community, with a heated pool and a small outside balcony. The weather was gorgeous and stayed that way for the four days we were there; we should have not cared because Austin winter weather can be great too, but actually it has been cloudy and chilly recently, so we were happy to suck in the warm rays.

Looking out at the pool Peter and Joanne

The day after we arrived, Joanne took us to Sedona, which is about two hours away. The drive took us across desert, into mountains and then to the red-rock area around Sedona, for which it is famous. Joanne had picked an easy hike along a pretty level path which goes past Castle Rock towards Bell Rock. These are two fine-looking rocks and even I was able to walk the trail without much difficulty.

Rock Springs Cafe Starting out towards Bell Rock
Castle Rock Bell Rock Rush hour on the trail

The other high point of our trip was going to a gelato place that had the most wonderful ice cream. (Technically, I suppose that gelato and ice cream aren't quite the same thing, but they are both cold, creamy and delicious, so I am going to treat them as synonyms.) The orange chocolate was incredible. Other flavors were merely amazing.

Scottsdale also has a Butterfly Wonderland, which we visited. I was afraid that it would be cases of dead butterflies, with latin names and scientific details of their mating habits. Instead, we first were instructed to take a pair of 3-D glasses and sit in a small theater where they showed us a video about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, starting with the Texas hill country, flying north to Toronto, then south to Mexico before returning to Texas. The video was very well done, with macro shots of eggs being laid, caterpillars munching, chrysalises being formed, butterflies emerging, wings drying. Then there were a lot of flying footage that I couldn't believe was real, so it was probably supplemented by a little CGI. But it was extremely realistic and we were all flapping our programs to keep them from flying into our faces.

After the movie, we emerged into a large space with a glass ceiling and extremly humid. "Welcome to Houston!" we were told. And the air was filled with butterflies, flying around and trying to sit on your nose. The BW outfit gets thousands of chrysalises from butterfly farms, waits for the butterflies to emerge and then introduces them to this space, where they spend the rest of their lives.

We also had a couple of pictures taken against a green screen. These were turned into all kinds of wonderful composite photos:

Another wonder of Scottsdale is Taliesin West, the winter home of Frank Lloyd-Wright. It is (of course) in a perfectly picturesque spot, somewhat off the road, so it took us a while to find it. Unfortunately, though it is possible to go through the house, the tour is rather expensive and must be reserved in advance. We contented ourselves with prowling around the parking lot trying to look like we were about to find our tour. We were not able to get very close to the house, but we got a few photos.

All too soon, it was time to leave. We made one last stop at the Desert Botanical Garden, took a few pics and hurried on to the airport. After another smooth ride, we returned to Austin.

Cactus garden The garden is guarded by plastic meerkats Joanne by the restaurant

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