We are in the living room watching the Suns lose Game Six. Dejected I get up and go to the kitchen, mostly to walk away from the loss when out of the corner of my eye I see something flickering by the tree outside. I can only see it’s back, but a large animal is getting water at our water bowl! First thought was maybe a neighbors dog until I saw the spots on the ears!
“NO WAY!” I semi yell whisper to my husband as I literally RAN for my phone and to a better filming spot.
Having absolutely no idea what has gotten into me, Jay follows me into our bedroom where I am glued to the window, motionless with my iPhone on video. There under our tree is a young looking, fairly thin but still good sized, bobcat! Tail flickering from the excitement of birds chirping emergency calls announcing this predators arrival. Panting from the heat, the cat settled in for a nice, long drink of water.
I fell in love instantly.
I couldn’t move.
I couldn’t breathe.
Right there before my eyes was a wild cat bigger than either of my two dogs. Gorgeous colors. Stripes and markings like a small tiger. Paws the size of my husbands fists. I wanted nothing to scare this glorious creature away.
When the bobcat was done it turned and walked toward our kitchen. I flew passed Jay to not miss any action! Sure enough I was met with possibly the prettiest, biggest cat eyes I have ever seen staring right back at me. Not alarmed, it looked me in the eye, curious, just not as equally enamored. With the nonchalance a cat that size can afford, it turned away from my stare and wandered down the hill out of my sight. I was outside of myself with excitement! Did that really just happen?
Timing had been everything.
Now all I could think was “How much was I missing regularly?”.
Of course I posted the bobcat videos everywhere I could, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Linkd In, fully expecting millions upon millions of views! HA! Nope. Though popular with my friends and followers, my bobcat sighting had only changed MY world. For everyone else, where viral videos come at you in multiples daily, it was more of a “That’s really cool Stace, your house is crazy” type of response. Oddly enough, my slow motion video of rain drops has over 4k views on Instagram and climbing but my incredibly gorgeous bobcat only made it to a little over 2k. I really don’t get algorithms.
If I thought I suffered from FOMO ( Fear Of Missing Out) before, well this experience just magnified it! How was I supposed to walk by any window and not look to see if by chance my love was nearby? I can’t. I don’t. I’m still looking.
Crashing while tubing in the Salt River…a true recent event
Take Me to The River…drop me in the water…
“The water is flowing fast and high today!” yelled our bus driver as a word of caution to all of her riders packed on board the old school bus converted as a shuttle, bouncing and rattling it’s way down the all too familiar road to drop everyone off for a day of tubing on the Salt River.
“Stay to the RIGHT side unless you want to lose all of your belongings today…” she continued with only half in attendance listening. Too excited to party and have a good time, plenty of folks chatted over her solid advice. “…you are going to want to stay to the right side…” “SO WE DONT DROWN!!?” Yelled out a college aged female with a group of friends as they laughed and continued joking. I felt that twinge in my stomach. Good luck girls, I thought to myself, I hope you are good swimmers.
” Stay to the RIGHT…” my brain recorded those valuable words “Stay to the RIGHT!”
I have had my share of trips down this not so lazy river. Listening to and actually paying attention to the suggestions of those who work around it daily is smart. Laughing off the power of a river is not.
It is a complete Captain Obvious statement to say Arizona gets HOT in the Summer. Triple digit heat is why Phoenix is called the Valley of the Sun. Our Basketball Team is named the Suns. Outdoor water activity is a fantastic way to combine cooling off and exploring the natural world around you. But water can also be deadly. Time and again we learn about drownings and how to prevent such tragedies. It does not take much water to drown.
The more we, as a society, entertain ourselves with online, virtual, controlled experiences, the further we distance ourselves to the real dangers in the real world. Amusement parks and resorts have to ensure your safety to stay open. Period. Too many people get hurt and its over. Shut it down. Headlines screaming lawsuits pending, insurance rates go up forcing those parks still in business to control and buffer their rides even further. Safety first or make no money! Online games and virtual reality again are allowing the user to experience a very safe, almost real environment, sanitized from all the things that would actually end you, not just the game. The blur of reality versus entertainment is upon us with serious consequences. The shrug of the shoulders and the “meh” attitude prevails as another trendsetter falls off a cliff for a selfie.
Plopping our oversized tubes in the water, we were off to spend the day relaxing and tanning. Being a twosome, we tried to gain some distance between us and the louder, larger party groups. My husband and I both truly enjoy seeing and hearing the wildlife along on the river and don’t bring music with us. You never know what wild animal you might see at the rivers edge drinking or cooling off. The birds sing and the water flows. Its a beautiful place. Its un groomed and wild. Branches grow into the river that force you to navigate your tube or risk impalement or a good scratching.
The Bus driver was absolutely right. The water flow was faster than we normally float on and the river seemed full. Noticeable enough that inside I was slightly alarmed by it. My husband assured me it’s fine and we settled in for our 4 hour float adventure.
Rocks on the bottom of a river can cause all kinds of issues as you float. Where the water flows are lower, the rocks hit your butt requiring you to lift up to continue moving forward. In some areas of the river, large rocks create divides and ripples in the current asking you which direction you want to take. These decisions can and do make a difference on the overall quality and safety of your ride. Knowing my mantra for the day was “stay to the right”, that is exactly what I intended to do.
Almost 20 years ago now, when we moved from the beach in Southern California to Arizona, some people I had just met were taking a kayak trip down this very Salt River, just launching from a higher spot up. Told it was a blast and asked if I wanted to go, I jumped at the chance even though I had never kayaked in my life. Looking athletic and being in reasonable shape does not make up for a complete lack of training, experience or talent yet that is what I went with. Add a healthy dose of ignorance for good measure. Complete with helmets, life jackets, other large rafts and groups that would travel along with guides. Something about class 2/3 rapids was discussed but I had no idea what that meant, I told myself it couldn’t be that bad of a trip as I surveyed the groups climbing into the rafts. Not everyone I saw was fit as a fiddle nor did they seem to have anymore knowledge than I did. Ignorance mixed with arrogance put on a helmet and vest, grabbed her paddle and wobbled into the water. It took mere minutes before I had a good wake up call about how seriously I had misjudged what I had signed up for.
With the first drop in and turn I slammed sideways into the sheer rock wall. By the lunch break my hands were reddish purple from the death grip I had on my paddle the last few terrifying hours. I watched as a Dad with a young girl who appeared to maybe have special needs, request to get out of their two man Kayak and go to a large group raft. I should have done the exact same thing. I should have raised both hands in surrender and rode the rapids with a guide and a group. Again, my ego, newer friends, not wanting to be “that person”, all those things played into me making a very bad decision for the second half of my afternoon. I stayed in a single kayak heading for class 2/3 rapids…whatever those are.
Fear. Blood chilling, bone deep fear overwhelmed me as our group pulled over to the side of the very fast moving river, to hike up above and watch the large rafts take the rapids so we could chart our course! The sound of the raging water, the screams of terror and excitement as the larger rafts “tacoed” in sections, bending and flopping along as they sped down and around and out of view. My body went numb.
As our guide asked if anyone felt they couldn’t do this my hand shot in the air ready to take the first bus outta there. But that was not an option. No, there was no other way out. The guide had simply wanted to know which less experienced kayakers needed extra help, not that a never ever been in a kayak before idiot was now staring at him terrified. There was no answer for me. I had to figure it out. He stayed at the top of the falls as long as he could with me and another kayaker until you simply run out of rom and the water takes you. Over his shoulder he turns and yells “follow my line…” and he was gone! The rocks slowed my forward progression literally requiring me to scoot myself and kayak almost hopping it to my doom. I looked to the sky and said my prayer and my apologies to my family for having put myself in such an awful predicament.
As I scooted forward, my kayak starting turning. I’m not sure who said it earlier in the day but I distinctly heard “a kayak is a kayak, let it flow but NOT sideways!” Turning sideways in a kayak on a flowing river is a sure way to give yourself a tumble. I wound up learning that the hard way earlier on this trip, flipping myself over and having a hell of a time getting back in. Now, staring at serious rapids was not the time to try it again. I felt the back end of my kayak swing around and I simply closed my eyes and took the initial fall facing backwards, convinced I was heading into my death.
I have no rational explanation as to why or how I survived. The river spit me out at the bottom bruised and bleeding and in shock. My group and guide cheered with relief I had made it! I vowed never to sit in a kayak again.
To everyone I talk to or share my kayak horror story with their answer is always the same, tubing is different. It shows up as the “safer” option on peoples minds as a fun outdoor river activity. Everyone goes tubing. Still, it took me years before I was even willing to go near the river again let alone in it.
I am married to an individual who loves to be outside and athletic. His entire life has been spent doing physical activities. Sports, basketball, golf, tennis, biking and hiking, his smile gets bigger the more he sweats. Flip huge tires? Sure! Hike to the top of the Superstition Mountain just because? Sure! With a Marine Corps mindset of simply throwing me over his shoulder if I go down, he sees me as his favorite action buddy. I remind him often I only play the part on tv.
So there we are, floating rather fast on a river I most likely should not be in. My partner in crime smiling and lightly teasing me about only going to the left the entire way, trying to build my confidence back up. We had not made it to the curve the bus driver warned us about yet and I’m not even sure we knew exactly where it was besides “before the bridge.” There are no exits or areas to pull over until you reach the bridge. Often it is directly under the bridge where your tubing adventure starts if you are only going tubing for a few hours. But this day we had started at the first point of entry that is not always an option due to the water flow.
Having been on the river for probably almost an hour at this point (I’m now guessing) we see an area that looks like it could be trouble. The right side is shallow and rocky. The left side is full and the water flow is fast and taking you straight at a curve and thick branches. Navigating that type of situation practically laying in a tube became serious in an instant. Obvious to both of us, we needed to paddle our arms legs whatever to move us over enough to make the curve. Standing up on the rivers edge at the water impact spot is a man watching the river as if he’s already seen enough mayhem and is concerned. I see him only for seconds before I see a large sharp branch sticking straight out at the curve, directly in my line of fire. I’m going to be impaled by this thick branch directly into my face or neck if I don’t do something immediately. Though our tubes are tied together loosely for our cooler to hang between us, its my tube that is being sent into the strong current and forced towards the trees at high speed like I’m at the end of a whip. I instinctively grab for the branch coming at my eye level and the water flips my tube into the current forcing it , pinning it in place. I’m terrified. Its happening so fast. The water is pummeling me. The rocks are beating my legs, Screaming in absolute terror I lunge myself at my husbands tube. His strength, both mental and physical plus instincts pull me forward, dragging me along the rocks and river until we reach a point I can breathe. My worst nightmare come true.
One would assume I got out of the water at the first chance I had. I did only to re adjust myself, realize I had lost my shirt and now only had a bathing suit top, and got right back in for the remainder of the float. Why? Shock. My adrenaline was so high, my husbands cheering me on that I had made it and it was ok, all of the same things that kept me in the kayak kept me in the tube. It wasn’t until later that night when the reality started to set in but not fully. The next morning I made a video talking about the exact things I write about here. I can see I’m in shock but I’m not fully aware of it just yet.
Because of my post, friends comment that someone had just drowned at the very spot we launched from. I am also hit with stories of much the same experience I had. By the end of the month there had been 3 drownings. No numbers on the people like me who no official record ever happened. Just a near miss. It took a news report about faster response times to near drownings before I fully understood why my mind, body and system was having so much trouble with what had occurred. Had it not been for my husband, I would have drowned out there. This is not for dramatic effect. It is a true statement. I had no life vest, did not have the strength to fight off a river, and was pulled to safety by a man who loves me intensely. It took him awhile to admit seeing that level of fear in my eyes was not something he wanted to repeat ever again.
Do I think tubing is dangerous? Yes. Should the general public get to go tubing? I still say yes. But with a better understanding that its not controlled or even safe. Most outdoor activities come with risk. Adventure. Whatever word you put on things like sky diving or mountain climbing. Where I think we as a society fall short is we have allowed so much virtual reality to slip in, the perception of what is “safe” and the idea of someone immediately coming to your aid is skewed.
The month of June 2021 would turn out to be filled with life changing events for me. This one, in the river, believe it or not, was second only to the rattlesnake I encountered at 4 am only a week later. That’s another story for another time.
Depending on where you live, and the general safety of that area, sleeping with a window open or with a door even slightly cracked could be considered normal, everyday behavior when you want a cool breeze or totally reckless behavior that could get you killed.
I don’t sleep well. When I was very little, maybe 4 or 5, I rolled right out of bed one night crashing on to the floor face first into my dresser, popping my lower lip open. At the hospital my parents were interrogated for child abuse while I got a couple of stitches. They were not the cause of this injury. Moms feelings over even being asked would never heal.
Growing up I had reoccurring nightmares and often walked in my sleep. More than once I woke up outside, confused and scared. My parents blamed the heat and my daily overactivity. The solution was to put a chain high up on the front door. There’s nothing like knowing the safety chain on the front door is for you, a little girl, and not because the family is worried about a bad guy breaking in. Considering my entire adult working life has been fueled by coffee and sugar, driven by an over active, artistic and now menopausal brain, I blame everything and anything on why I don’t sleep more than 4/5 hours a night. It’s just me.
We live in a small house built in the 1940’s up on a hill in Gold Canyon Arizona. If you are not familiar with this part of the United States or any desert, the desert you might immediately picture could be a barren sand dune or you could picture something sparkling and visually out of control like Las Vegas. “Desert” is not a specific enough term, it simply describes a climate really. Out here in Gold Canyon we are tucked up next to the Superstition Mountain. It is quiet with an abundant wildlife population including deer, coyote, bobcat and even Mountain Lions. It is truly a beautiful area with large expensive homes and golf courses that dot the area giving the animals mini oasis to find shelter and water. It is hot and dry here most of the time. The summer high heat daily hits triple digits and stays there for months at a time with overnight lows only dropping back to the high 80’s or low 90’s. Air conditioning is a luxury/necessity with a monthly bill that can also cause nightmares with the worst being “what if the air-conditioner unit breaks and we have to replace it?” I wake up screaming from that one.
Most of my nights are filled with me flipping my pillow over and over to find the cold spots. I go from kicking off all the covers believing I’m about to spontaneously combust to being frozen and rolled up in them like a swaddled new born. I usually give up around the magic hour of 3am and head out to the couch. I have no idea how my husband sleeps near me. I credit his Marine Corp boot camp experience as his pre training for me, not war.
My recent creative solution to the intense over heating is using an old window screen jammed into the tracks of the sliding door at night when I’m desperate to cool off. This type of random creativity has been employed because our house is old and has its share of idiosyncrasies. Some windows are permanently sealed shut with only a few having screens. We have fans and air conditioning going almost 24/7 but again, because the house is old and it’s layout is odd, the air doesn’t circulate like you want it to. My main objective with the screen, it seems now looking back in hindsight, was only to prevent something lower to the ground, like a rattlesnake, from slithering in. Looking back at this strategy it is glaringly apparent, I discounted anything bigger or smarter lurking in the night from easily coming in.
When you are sleep deprived for any length of time, your rational thought takes a hit. After months, if not years of worsening sleep habits, all I care about is getting some sleep. Any sleep. Napping daily is mandatory. Being sleep deprived makes me grouchy and irritable and confused. It is this state of mind that I developed my dangerous, now nightly pattern of, as soon as my body over heats, sleep walking the two steps over to the sliding door and popping in the half screen, letting the cooler night air blow in, then flopping back into bed to get hopefully another hour of sleep. My husband, sound asleep next to me, blissfully unaware I have yet again stripped him of any of the basic protection he put into place before laying down for the night. The closed, locked door he fell asleep with is now wide open with only a tiny, flimsy, old screen as a barrier and he has no idea. For that alone I should be locked up.
A few nights ago the inevitable happened.
Deep asleep for one of those brief pockets of time where I am actually getting some rest, I am startled awake by the sound of something hitting the screen in the open sliding door… hard! As if it had not seen the screen at all and bounced off it! The metal vibrated and rattled the entire sliding glass door.
I have horrible eye sight and wear either contacts or glasses for all things. I keep my glasses on the nightstand next to my bed alone with a glass of water. It is this nightstand and only this nightstand that now acts as any barrier between me and the open sliding door while I sleep. As I retell this story I am embarrassed repeatedly by what is so so obvious and such dumb behavior. I again blame lack of sleep for total lapse of judgment. Have pity on this tired soul.
Vision, a total blur in the dark, roughly three or four feet from my sleep deprived face, a large something just hit the screen for the second time as if it is trying to see what it just ran into! My adrenaline and senses kick into overtime. I pop up ready to face off with this home invader unarmed, barely dressed and virtually blind. I hear a deep grunt. For a half a second, my body freezes in panic mode, locking me, paralyzed next to the nightstand. My brain knows what is on the other side of the tiny screen is not a good thing and it is having trouble formulating what to do next. There has been no emergency plan put in place for an event such as this.
Instinctively “HEY!” flies out of mouth as my weapon of choice.
I am now awake enough to know I am facing off with a good sized Javelina (Collared Peccary) who, for whatever reason, has decided to wander around the patio and take a closer look into our house! It’s sensitive nose must have hit the screen initially, then, with the stubbornness and curiosity of a wild animal, pushed again until I popped up startling it in the process.
Now for a moment, let’s imagine this wild animal having succeeded the first time it pushed its snout against that screen! It could have literally been inside our small, dark bedroom with us trying to get it back outside!
As luck would have it, “HEY!” is the magic word to yell to make a Javelina turn and sort of run off! It shuffled over to a large tree to regroup. It did not simply run away. The night air now thick with that energy that comes from real fear, we both simply stood there in the dark, only a few feet apart from each other, trying to figure out what just happened.
My husband slept through the entire event which, of course the next morning, made me question my sanity, especially when the trail cameras didn’t have any confirming video! In my defense, only one camera could have picked it up depending on the route the Javelina took.
For now I am going to try sleeping on the couch where the air conditioner can blow directly at me, I’ll have two dogs sleeping on either side of Momma ready to bark at outside noises and hope my husband gets a better, less dramatic, nights sleep.
3:30 am was the time given to be able to see the Sagittarius Full Moon Eclipse…whatever, I’m delirious and without a doubt need to get some more sleep. 3:30 am our normally cloud free, Arizona desert skies turned into a fuzzy haze covering the eclipse and stayed there long enough for me to miss the entire Lunar event. Wide awake with coffee already brewing, I figured I will just stay awake and try to catch up on some sleep later if possible.
Fear of missing out is a significant cause for my lack of sleep ever since moving to Gold Canyon five years ago. It only magnified once I committed myself to starting a non profit entirely dedicated to showcasing the animals who live all around me. I had no idea how many different species there really were here ( our count is up to 56 species seen on or flying above our 3.5 acre property) and just how active they are at all times of the day and night. I just knew that it seemed like there was always an animal or reptile or bird doing something fairly cool and I wanted to share it with as many people as who were interested!
I poured a cup of coffee and made the simple mistake of looking out the window. The roadrunner was there! This made up for the clouded over eclipse if I didn’t scare the bird off! Roadrunners are unique birds. WE have one that sleeps in the garden gazebo thing on the property over by our bedroom. The water bowl has been active from the minute we put it out right in front of our living room window. The location makes for great observations of birds who otherwise wouldn’t come close if I was actually sitting on my patio. Some birds couldn’t care less who is around and will happily hunt for seeds at your feet. Other birds won’t land at all if a human is anywhere near. We have a combo here. I don’t like to video from inside the house because you can’t hear the outdoor sounds, just the hum of our fish tank or music from the stereo. But if a quiet video allows me to catch baby Gambel’s Quail coming for a first drink of water I’m fine with that.
I needed to get outside and down before the roadrunner took off. Slowly, in bare feet, I crept outside barely breathing. Surprisingly, the bird seemed like it recognized me and with eye contact and a slight nod just fluffed into a ball and sat there! I laid on the ground quite a few feet from it so I didn’t disrupt hunting. I got some video but nothing I will win awards for. I only use my iPhone so live action with wild animals as my subjects is not easy. I’m lucky I catch what I do. Being at the right place at the right time with a lot of patience and endurance for no pay off is more accurate. Today was no exception. Yes, I had a Greater Roadrunner feet from me, as I often do, but it still doesn’t translate to good viewing. Todays audience needs action! A bird can’t just be beautiful and sitting there relaxing! NO! Make it hunt or “do something”. I gave up after about twenty minutes. I needed more coffee and my body was feeling every bit of laying on the ground.
Out of the corner of my eye I see a brown flash fly by. Its a hawk and I know it. But I’m tired. But its a hawk. I slowly walk around the corner and see it sitting up on the telephone pole. Will it stay long enough for me to video it? Arms up, camera on video zoomed in, I creep closer and closer. Even perched safely high on a pole, hawks do not like to be closely watched or even be around humans. For almost 8 minutes this gorgeous juvenile Harris’s Hawk sat up there with me standing below. My arms and neck on fire. There was no way I was hitting the stop button! Not until it flew off. I committed. It’s not the same if you have chopped up video. No editing, straight video is the goal.
My neck has a weird, painful crick in it now, my shoulders are sore but I got to spend a chunk of my morning with a roadrunner and 8 minutes with a Harris’s Hawk, alone. To me, that is a blessing that comes with the obligation of sharing. Sharing to those who may not ever get to see. Sharing for those who are curious and studying. Sharing for those who love birds and watching them. Sharing for those who keep track of the birds and know they tell us about our planet.
Too tired to fall asleep, I set up my phone on the tripod aimed at a lone hummingbird feeder and hit time lapse for a half hour while I found food. The larger birds are drinking all of the hummingbirds jet fuel ( sugar water) lately. This seemed like something I should monitor and document how the hummingbirds responded to losing their water source. Though I have videoed a hummingbird at the large water bowl, 99% of the time they go to a flower or feeder. I took away the other 4 feeders that are normally out leaving just one. I caught the action but hated the angle of the shot. The clouds looked great but the birds were not easily identifiable. I’ll try again later.
A couple of hours of sleep came with the help of a herbal pill, a full belly and a purring cat and a brain fairly satified with a full mornings work.
Jay and I moved to Gold Canyon Arizona roughly 5 years ago now. Immediately, the surrounding nature and wildlife let us know that, not only were we not living ALONE out here in the desert but, they had ALL been here for a lot longer so THEIR regular habits were NOT going to change overnight. If we didn’t want javelina or rabbits in the planters, rooting up and eating everything, well, we shouldn’t plant green flowery things like its a buffet in them should we?! I knew from my time working for the Phoenix Zoo that this was no ordinary patch of desert we had landed on. This eco system was thriving! It wasn’t long before the entire cast of usual and unusual suspects made their appearance. Literally the first night we moved in there was a huge scorpion on the wall by the front door greeting us. It was a sign of what was to come.
The first time I saw a bobcat was by my living room window. All alone in the house that day, out of the corner of my eye, I saw what appeared to be a tiger casually strolling by! It was the stripes that threw me, stripes and the white dots on the ears. I froze, terrified a tiger was next to the house! Not sure why but I was relieved when I realized it was “only” a bobcat. I said to myself “uh wait…that bobcat just walked through here without a care in the world…” obviously this wasn’t this cat’s first stroll around “our” property. Sighting’s like this prompted us to buy trail cameras to hang around the property so we could see who, or what was coming by for a visit day or night! I have to admit, to this day it’s a mix of fear and excitement every time we grab the cameras to view the footage.
One morning a coyote walked up the steps and casually crossed over the patio after a failed attempt at catching a rabbit. It stood on our hilltop majestically scanning the area below as the sun glistened off its thick fur. Glorious moment indeed. I felt like I was in the presence of an Alpha male or female. So far the largest group of coyote we have seen together at one time on the property was 6 of them cruising through the lower acre in the back one early morning, most likely heading into the wash to go hide and sleep off a night’s worth of prowling. But on our trail cameras at night, at the water hole we provide, there has only been one coyote coming for a drink at a time. We cannot say for certain whether it’s the same coyote coming every time, however, the more footage we get, the better we will be able to recognize subtle differences. Coyote look like coyote. If I told you I saw a dog you would ask what kind, how big, color etc… If I told you I saw three coyote, what do you picture? Three of the same animal right? They aren’t that easy to identify if you don’t have them all in a line-up.
I had no idea what a Mule deer was until I moved out here to Gold Canyon. I thought deer in Arizona lived in the higher elevations. I was wrong. They seem to happily and safely live on the nearby golf courses where there is plenty of shade, water and grasses to munch and hunting is not allowed. They might get hit by a golf ball, but actually the real danger locally for the deer are coyote, bobcat and the Mountain Lions or a fast car. Mule deer are good sized deer and will easily feed a large predator or pack. We have watched a few of these deer travel through our property from time to time but we have not seen any during the day or night on camera near the water bowl. Nor have we seen a Mountain Lion either but we know they are in the local area from photos shared online.
Honestly most of my desert life growing up I hadn’t seen many animals at all, just lizards. Born in Las Vegas and raised in the high desert of Southern California, I would have been that person who would have said “the desert sucks, its boring, Baker has a huge thermometer… blah blah blah…” I hated it and openly told everyone “If I die and you bury me in the desert I will come back and haunt you!” I can honestly say even while working for the Phoenix Zoo I avoided the Arizona Trail like the plague, especially when we had to walk over for “Creature Features” where I was expected to talk about the animals for 15 minutes straight! I knew virtually nothing but the basics anyone could look up like how long they lived. Studying didn’t seem to help me at all. I would always try to include a Zoo guest by asking them questions about things they had experienced or knew first hand getting them to fil the time with a much better story than mine! All I wanted to do was get back over to the Giraffe deck and feed Giraffes! It took moving way out to the East side of the Valley, long after I had left working for the Zoo to travel the states a bit, to discover I would fall madly in love with… the desert! We just hadn’t officially met yet. Apparently I needed to live in THIS part of the desert, live with it ALL and by all I mean ALL OF IT before I would wake up to just how magical being “desert” really is. I was a part of it and had been all along. I was born in the desert. Try as I might through the years to live by the coast, I simply can’t be transplanted successfully for long. I need hot dry air, lots of space, rocks and things to hike over and climb under big open blue skies. I am desert.
We have a roadrunner that sleeps in our garden gazebo in the top left or right corner depending on it’s mood. I enjoy roadrunners and will watch intently whenever one is near. They make unique sounds and their quirks and their mannerisms are fun for a rather large bird. Roadrunners beat the hell out of their prey. I’ve filmed a lizard beating more than once while simultaneously fascinated and horrified. The other birds don’t seem to care for roadrunners period and will sit up in the tree tops screeching at it if it comes near. I had the same response when I zoomed in and found out how a scorpion eats! Watching their claws/pinchers is nothing short of terrifying and I’m beyond grateful neither are not much larger creatures!
Nature is brutal there is no denying that. From my perspective here on the hilltop, it seems animal code is still more fair than humans. I can’t say that I’ve witnessed violence simply for violence sake when it comes to all of the animals I’ve seen and videoed out here. Killing is a result of hunger or protecting a territory, not personal anger or jealousy and overall ends quickly. It all appears pretty straight forward. I have watched as the javelina herd protected and successfully fended off the coyote pack who had circled them and were getting too close to their babies. It was a face off ending with no animal hurt and the coyote giving up and trotting off figuring there was no need to fight to the death. Physical power with sharp teeth and numbers versus slick, fast moving, semi vicious gangsters. It became too much effort for not enough pay off leaving the gangsters to go find a meal elsewhere. Done. Everyone back to normal. It is was it is. The food chain. Where you are in it matters and effects daily life. How you behave in it matters. How well you see and hear and smell all matters. How well you can run or fight. You don’t have to be big in size in the desert or in nature in general to be able to ward off an attack. Some creatures send that serious signal of “you don’t want to play with me” simply by what color they are. Rarely can a creature in the desert get away with bright colors unless it has no need to camouflage. Prime example is a Tarantula Hawk. Bright orange wings, blue black body, immobilizes a tarantula and drags it off to use as a host. Comes with one of the worst stings known.
There is extreme beauty and harmony in the deserts natural rhythm as well. The Saguaro bloom flowers for roughly the entire month of May. Those flowers bloom feeding countless birds and bees. In the arms of the Saguaro we have filmed baby Great Horned Owls, Screech Owls, Cactus Wren, Gila Woodpeckers and more all creating homes while creating babies safely up high. The Saguaro’s flowers, very much like the fruits and flowers from the prickly pear, wither and die leaving a fruit that again multiple animals including humans consume. Those seeds get spread allowing more Saguaro to grow. Saguaro only grow in a very limited area of the desert, known to live for a good hundred years withstanding extreme heat, high winds and drought. It takes a lot to not only live in the desert but to thrive in it. The sunrises and sunsets are pure art. The shadows over the mountain, the clouds rolling through, the smell after it rains, the chorus of birds, Gold Canyon is beautiful.
Day after day we were either seeing animals, hearing animals or finding parts or bones of animals. My collection of parts, pieces, and now even full animals grew rapidly. A jaw here, a bone there, lots of cottontails tail only. Signs the eco system was at work. But I also knew that though there were other nature lovers around me, this area had no center, museum, anything that would help a new comer to life in the desert. Subconsciously I knew I was collecting to become something much bigger but time would need to play out longer.
One day I went outside to contemplate building a raised bed for a garden out of wood pallets I had found. I had left them in the back yard by my bedroom in the hopes my garden could be close to my windows. It was roughly 8 in the morning. I had on the usual shorts and no shoes. I walked over to the pallet and decided I should flip it over and use it from the other side. I lifted it up and flipped it to the other side of the walkway. That’s when I saw it. Some sort of tube like thing was sticking out of the edge of the pallet. Confused I took a closer look. The patterns… I grabbed my phone. Taking pictures so I could zoom in…sure enough I had flipped a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake up over my head inside that pallet and now it was under it like the Wicked Witch under Dorothy’s house in the Wizard of Oz! I had flipped it in the air and dropped a pallet on it! Is it dead? Stunned? or now seriously pissed off? I cannot say I handled this situation well. It scared the living daylights out of me! Once the rattler came to, it started wiggling itself from under the pallet! I ran and jumped over our side fence and called 911. The operator tried to give me a non emergency number but there was no way I was going to agree with her that THIS was not an emergency! I just hurled a Rattlesnake over my head! At bare minimum send some oxygen I can’t breathe!! I’m having an out of body experience and so is that snake!
The fire department came, patted me on the head and told me I would be fine, scooped up this poor confused snake and relocated it down the road safely.
I couldn’t sleep. I had nightmares.
Two days later I drove over to the fire station and spoke with them. Was I supposed to be able to handle this myself? I live on 3 acres of desert. Snakes do too. Assured that help is always available at multiple sources and it was a normal reaction for a lot of people around snakes, I went home not confident at all. Jay wasn’t any more equipped than myself at removing a rattlesnake from an unwanted spot. I wasn’t sure he had even seen a live one in his life that wasn’t at a Zoo. Reality check had happened.
Living in any beautiful area, with wildlife, in a healthy ecosystem, you have predators. Period. You cannot remove one for your comfort. It doesn’t work that way. You mess with the chain and it becomes weak. Balance and respect are how you cohabitate. You create boundaries that keep everyone safe. You wear protection. You educate yourself.
And if you are me and Jay, you realize you should share this much good with as many people as you can. You recognize the abundance the Superstition Mountain is providing. You simply can’t take and take and take.
We both felt a purpose. It was too obvious to ignore. How did we even land on such a good deal on property surrounded by mansions when we are simple working class people? Our friends and family had never seen anything like this either. Jay was finding his share of things when he would go out looking for golf balls or even simply driving home. More often then not he would alert me to go see what he had thrown in the bucket in the back of the truck this time. But somehow dealing with all the dead animals and parts didn’t seem like the same calling for him as it was for me. He was my support. He is already a teacher, Math. I was the one who was the desert kid, the former Zoo employee. I asked myself “how and where do you share?” When we moved here in 2016, I still was not on social media. I liked to write and was trying to figure out what I was going to do with myself career wise. I heard about WordPress and it was easy for me to sign up so I began writing about the things around me, but on a personal level. I wasn’t getting much interaction and felt like I was simply writing my diary for public consumption, so after more than 200 posts, I wandered away from WordPress.
Videos and photos were filling my storage and WordPress was now not their home so I went to over Facebook. Wrong place again. FB format is for your friends and family to say “happy birthday!” or “I got a puppy!” and keep you in a loop of the same four friends you had in elementary school. I’m truly not a FB fan but still go to see all my people who refuse to hear what I’m doing anywhere else. Instagram is more of my home. It welcomed me and my desert view with open arms! The format screams “post all of your photos here!” Immediately I made friends who loved where I lived and all the nature surrounding me. With my computer skill level still painfully low, I would make one minute videos and just ask viewers to scroll to the next. Someone suggested I develop a Youtube Channel. I figured why not. Its just as easy to load videos there also.
After my encounter with the rattler I had challenged myself to collect the dead snakes off the road and keep track of what I had found. Could I even pick a dead one up? What would I do with it? No one I knew encouraged this effort and pretty much thought I had lost my mind. I was now bringing home dead rattlesnakes to identify and measure and skin and do anything scientific I could think of to add value to this poor dead creatures life. Having absolutely no background in any form of taxidermy or skinning anything, my first attempts were slow and rough with finishes not necessarily worthy of the amount of effort I had put in. I looked up tips and tricks online but then also questioned what and why I was doing any of this for.. Not to create hat bands that was for sure. Simple. I had that answer. There was/is too much education surrounding me not to figure out a way to do something bigger and positive with it.
Real desert education like this; observations, identifications of species, behaviors, anatomy, the sciences, the math, the art, the botany, all of it, shouldn’t have to come at a huge financial cost to those who seek it or be found in a typical classroom. Not when we have so much readily available with no end in sight. I grew up middle to lower income in the middle of the desert. No one told me when you grow up you could work at a Zoo. I grew up believing Zoo employees were special magical people and I wasn’t one of them. Had I been offered different career paths earlier on would it have changed me? Or would I have still needed to go through all that I did in life to appreciate what was in front of me in order for me to truly make a difference. All I did know was I had been called to do something and it was definitely on behalf of the nature around me.
With love and support, Jay fully encouraged me to take over as much of our house, garage, property, whatever I needed to create what was obviously coming, I needed to create a non profit with a small museum dedicated as a permanent home, a final resting place where they could be honored and we could learn from the animals we had found. A study zone, a work zone, whatever it needed to be. Funding wasn’t and still isn’t the primary focus. There is so much money out there to support real honest quests that financial support will, and has come, as its been needed. Not in an abundance sort of way but in a measured, natural way which only solidifies our belief that this idea, this venture, this goal is being watched over by the Superstition Mountain.
The official paper work came, appropriately on Jay’s 55th birthday, on that special number day that added up to 555. The Desert Nature Alliance had the things the IRS said it needed. They hadn’t rejected the paperwork I had cried over. With a puffy face and smile, Jay took a photo of me holding my legitimacy in my hands. Friends and family poured love at the post. They had watched from the sidelines. They had viewed the weird photos and videos. They feared for my safety as photo after photo I posted was me carrying another dead rattler home. They watched and continue to watch me fumble through my own videos where I teach and explain and share my relentless enthusiasm. And now they know none of it was a show or fake or made up internet photoshopped trickery. It was simply Jay and Stacy all along, falling in love with each other again and the desert for the first time.
Yesterday we went for a much needed walk, get away from the constant grind of working from home. Half way across the golf course I told Jay I wanted to go and look around an area I hadn’t been to in awhile. When the weather gets hot the rattlers come out. It’s no longer safe for me to hunt for bones so I don’t! Plenty of other work to keep me busy. Usually he will just stay around the course and putt or whatever while I wander off into the bushes but yesterday he came along figuring I would be quick then we could go on walking. I don’t think I was more than a few yards down the wash when I spotted something large out of the corner of my eye. I am always terrified I might find a human. It was a full, completely intact coyote that, for whatever reason, had laid down there and died. Its remains were dried and withered. This coyotes death happened awhile ago but the smell still lingered. Sad. Recently there was a coyote in the golf course lake. I doubt this was the same one because it wouldn’t have been so dried out and so far along in the decomposing. I record and document this type of thing around here for the dNa’s records. There may not be studies now or even a need, but if there were to become one we, the Desert Nature Alliance, are ready with the observations to help.
We would love for you to follow us! Be a part of our growing and changing and exploring and sharing and educating. Please find one of our social media platforms that works for you. We are on Instagram: Stacy’s @oh_so_stace or Jay’s @the_ozone_experience and exclusively animals and nature photos and videos @desert_nature_allaince or follow on FB or YouTube channelhttps://youtu.be/UUKuxrPbC1Q “oh so stace” Like, share, comment, subscribe or simply watch and send love! We appreciate it ALL! This journey has just begun. Thank you for reading. Thank you for your time and spending it here. If you have questions, would like to visit us want to support the dNa head over to our website www.desertnatureallianceaz.org.
To my younger ones in love, I want to share something with you. Something that I want to help preserve. Something that I don’t want you to miss.
Traditionally friends and family would throw rice at a newly married couple as a symbol, “showering” them with blessings of love and support as the couple started their journey together.
Styles change. Ideas change.
Rice, deemed no longer a safe option to wildlife, was replaced by confetti. Glitter and plastics created colorful and magical visual effects rice could not compete with.
But soon it was realized this type of “shower” was hard to clean up, a hassle, destructive to nature. No longer seen as a symbol of spreading blessings, confetti became banned at many places. No longer necessary as part of any celebration.
Now everyone is told to simply use digital celebration instead! It’s easier! It’s quicker! An emoji. A heart or two. A horn. No mess. The warmth is simply not there. Real. Tangible feelings.
LOVE is an energy. It is so powerful it has demanded that those of us who do know, remember and understand what it feels like and looks like to actually “shower love” with rice or flowers or leaves, find a way to celebrate it properly and responsibly once again.
Love is a gift. Love is shared. Love radiates.
Seek it. Cherish it. Emit it. Flow in it. Spread it. Speak it.
There is nothing wrong with feeling so wonderful in someone else presence that you are simply happy they were ever born!
YES! Celebrate the love that’s bursting out of you! Live in that moment that feels like forever! Throw flowers in the air and yell I love you! Stare into the eyes that meet your soul and don’t question it!
It is THAT feeling I can’t imagine we let slip away. Feeling so full of love and joy for another that we would toss flowers in the air!
Why is that pure emotion being suppressed ? Another rule, another limitation, another stipulation to what defines love? Give up on creating or finding that better way? Never.
I’m too rebellious to tolerate watching something pure and good get sucked away into the land of it doesn’t matter anymore.
I saw an abundance around me and knew it was there for a reason. I felt it in my soul that this gift was not a blessing if not shared.
Less than 24 hours after Jay and I hosted our first, and by all accounts, incredibly successful Open House for that tiny charter school we have tried to help for the last year, we both no longer have jobs. So surreal I’m still in a state somewhere between shock and numb.
Estimates were over 150 people came to see the school, eat from the four happily sold out food trucks, check out the local car club, fill a room listening to live acoustic music by recording artist Brutha White.
Kids ran around with football sized multi colored shaved ice playing ping pong and test out the new putting area for our new golf team.
Students dragged parents into my highly decorated room, the true antidote for the muted, sterile, office like environment they had been forced to go to try to learn in for the last 5 years, to share the excitement for the new STEAM Program I was volunteering to set in place literally for free.
Donations had poured my way giving me more than the determination I needed to watch a fledgling project grow with no money in my pockets. The kids faces and smiles were the fuel. The parents sighs of relief that someone like me had come into their child’s world was the reason why.
Jay and I both made friends during Open House. The community came to support us and we felt it.
The next school day the kids were exhausted from the night and shared what flavors of shaved ice they had. My interviews for student council were wrapping up and all 8 council members had projects and partners to move forward.
We knew the school was hurting. With 22 enrolled that’s not much in terms of funding.
We also knew the ” principle” was not at school all of last year as she was ” retiring ” leaving only 2 male teachers, no front desk, no nurse, no aids. No fire drills.Nothing.
By the end of last year things were so unstructured and messy that I stepped up and said I would volunteer. The need was so great and so obvious there was no choice.
I promised those students I had started to bond with that over the summer serious change would happen just trust.
Jay and I worked tirelessly over the summer break bring a warmth and personality to those basic and empty rooms allotted to us.
The ” bosses” “owners” whatever the hell you call 2 “educated” humans that choose to barely put attention to a school they created in a strip mall and pretend to be teaching at. Well those two individuals spent their summer in Hawaii.
No they brought back no gifts. Nothing. Hardly a story to share. Certainly no enthusiasm for the children about a place literally erupting new life.
Weekend before school starts they go away again.
No effort towards the school. None.
Jay and I developed two sport teams, concept learning around the 100% computer learning the students had been forced to do and could now manipulate, created 3 new STEAM based extracurricular classes with parents permission slips signed ready to go.
We painted the game wall blue for the never seen school colors of blue and gold. We found out we were the Bears and eagerly sought help getting shirts in the works for the students.
Those owner people again did nothing.
I was able to get free advertising in the newspaper , internet, local monthly and the radio station the Wave spoke about us almost daily for Open House. Flyers were posted in local businesses.
Yet those two horrid people were more concerned about money and that Autistic children are ” worth more” in terms of funding.
They suggested using basically dime baggies filled with rocks and their business cards dropped at driveways in a local gated community as a way to drum up business.
Yes, we are still talking about a free school open to the public.
So out of touch, so insensitive to the students and what hell they daily call school, when the bills mounted and the landlord still wanted rent, it was Jay and especially me that had to go!
My exceptionally popular brand new room and program was being shuttered to rent out that “useless” space so it could make money. Possibly a pizza place I was told. The sting still rings from such a smack in the face along with the light nervous giggle that accompanied such deceitful news balls my fists.
Yes Stacy, your wildly popular program that can and will bring the school to life, empty that room please. We didn’t get 10 or more new recruits or any Autistic students in less than 24 hours since Open House so you are gone . Jay, we can’t pay you. Tops is 20k. Told otherwise barely a week previous he was still getting salary with a meager 2 k raise over last year.
Those people, those outwardly ” nice” people had screwed us hard with no kisses or lube. Hard.
I made a conscious decision at that moment to not have police called on me for kicking someone’s ass. Hard. I’m 50 and have no record which is pretty damn surprising if you know me.
Anger spewing inside hotter than any lava flow , I saw red. They were hurting kids but not in the hitting or abusive way. They used them for profit. Dollar signs on their heads.
Do the bare minimum. So what if they play video games all day? Just shhhhhh. Sit on the computer from 8-3. Here’s a snack.
It couldn’t be real. They were nice people, good salt of the earth Midwest people weren’t they? Soft spoken. Educated. White. Don’t cha know ?
I’m the mean edgy one . I’m the one with the bad mouth and tattoos and snakes. I’m the lightning rod for drama or attitude. Yet I am the one who donated everything to kids I’m not related to. I cried with them , hugged them, encouraged, and gave my heart to those who really needed to be heard. Me and my husband gave our money and time to help support a tiny community school of kids ignored by its surroundings. No parks, not welcome to live in certain ” communities ” no sport team or field and a school so sterile and pale no one cares if you only attend 3 days a week. You matter so little in terms of personal growth or happiness they actually encourage students to come only three days a week.
The emotional pain this will cause the students is yet to be seen. Monday the band aid will be ripped off.
The pet lizard is gone. No council, no classes, no teams, no more laughter and fun. Nothing to look forward to. Mrs. O is not coming back nor is Mr. O. Rent , money and horrible adults have decided your happiness and your future doesn’t matter to them. Their bank notes do.
Drive an hour or two north from PHX and you can escape the boiling cauldron that is the “Valley of the Sun” and into the promise land of rolled down car windows, fresh cool air, red rocks and pine trees.
Drive another hour or so further and the crisp air has a slight chill (for a desert dweller like me anything below 80 causes an involuntary shiver) the altitude change is noticeable, the Grand Canyon is within reach and if you stop just outside of Wilson, you can drive next to bears.
So… we did.
Jay and Stacy did Bearizona.
Now, I have to catch you up on a few things.
Jay and I have been married 20 years. From the day we met it was instant attraction turned almost immediately into love and grew from there. Far from perfect or easy, growing in to an “adult” through 20 years alongside another human, no matter how much you love them, is hard. Life is hard. If you don’t understand that sentiment read no further.
I have called Jay “my bear” for most of our 20 years for various reasons, but recently “bears” have been prominent in our life, more so than ever before.
The little school Jay started teaching at last year and that I now volunteer at as their resource/librarian are called the “Bears”. As we continue growing this new little school by building golf and table tennis teams and science programs, the word “bears” appears over and over again.
So, with school out for the summer, a good 3 +months in the desert with no rain just triple digit heat and our anniversary month at hand, Bearizona needed to happen.
Coming from Gold Canyon thankfully, and not downtown PHX, gave us the instant opportunity to take a more scenic and much less traveled route up north.Sadly, we did see the effects of the drought in certain hard-hit areas as we drove alongside what were once campsites near smaller lakes now diminished or entirely evaporated. A sobering reality when you live in the desert continually hearing about months of no rain, 3% humidity and looming fire danger.
The fact that AZ has such a wide variety of plant and animal life specific to our desert that can thrive in such extreme climates is awesome. If you can drive through untouched areas covered in Saguaros and not be awed by them
A: you have no clue what you are looking at
B: you need to learn that what you are staring at is possibly 100-200 years old, can weigh over 3000 lbs and took 10 years in the first part of its life to grow 1 to 2 inches hidden by a protector plant, those “arms” drawn like cartoons take more than 50 years to appear and Saguaros only grow in our desert.
C: you are not in my car
Wilson sits just outside of Flagstaff. High Desert Country with beautiful mountains that do see snow, Wilson is a wonderful stop over to launch from if you want to explore or head to the Grand Canyon or go to Bearizona.Literally 10 minutes from town, Bearizona opens daily at 8 am.
Having worked for the PHX Zoo I knew first thing in the A.M. was the time to go. The animals would be up and getting fed or waiting to be. Either way makes for great viewing.
Sure enough, we were not disappointed.
Now again, having worked around wild animals and around worse, the creatures that come to see those wild animals, I knew better than to “expect” anything. Animals do what they do. Food motivates them just like it motivates me. I get it. Don’t bug a wild animal when it’s eating. Period. Take pictures all day long just don’t touch it, harass it, poke it yell at it or be an ignorant human at it and 9 and out 10 times all goes well.
Also like me, once we get a full belly we nap. Who cares that we just got up a few hours ago! Full belly equals naptime. Same goes for animals.
Our first drive through Bearizona was everything we could have asked for. All enclosures were clean, well maintained with relaxed, healthy appearing animals. We saw no stress, just a lot of mid-way shedding and velvet antlers and a few infants depending on the species. Bearizona houses more than just bears and half of their animals are rescues.
The bear portion of our drive was intense, exciting and everything you probably shouldn’t be doing that close to that many feeding bears. Bearizona takes no responsibility for you or your car once you pay to drive in. They give good sized, free roaming bears, treats like oranges along the sides of the roads of their large habitat to encourage viewing.
If you are completely stupid you could get killed in seconds by getting out of your car. This is no joke. There is really nothing to stop you except signs warning you not to do this combined with your own common sense that’s hopefully better than God gave a Goose and a normal persons will power to not be mauled by multiple bears while on a two day road trip.
I videoed just how close bears were to our car and my door and just how easily it could have been a horror show in seconds.
Would I do it again?
Hell yes I would! We drove around again immediately!
Also not a huge surprise, after we made our first drive through and went in for lap two, the experience was entirely different. Now fed, the animals were heading off to regular nap zones away from the continual drive bys. No signs of any snacks, bears had their full.
There was only one straggler bear trying to bother the gate attendant by acting like a bear escape just might happen on this watch. It didn’t.
Inside Bearizona is more of a zoo experience with again natural enclosures that felt large enough for who they were housing. The only animal who had any obvious signs of “stress”, if you call it that, was a younger male bear new to his enclosure debating if escaping via the moat was worth the attempt.
Again, having worked where I have, I simply asked a keeper. Oh yes, that male is a handful and now housed with a sibling. We laughed knowingly, yep, seen my share of animals who only sort of cooperate with their keepers.
We enjoyed Bearizona.
Is it family friendly? I would say yes for the most part. If you don’t want to risk your car or feel like that is too much intensity for your family, they have free bus tours. Inside, the walking portion was clean even though obvious construction was adding new attractions.
Is Bearizona safe?
Who knows. The freeways to get there weren’t. The 17 has more wrong way drivers than what seems even possible. We saw mayhem on the 60. I take my chances everytime I get behind the wheel. Bears made no real change in that fear but upped the excitement and adrenaline factor for sure.
In 1962 we met George Jetson… Jane his wife…his boy Elroy…daughter Judy… We watched George fly from his skypad apartments off to his job at Spacely Space Spockets. His maid was a robot. The family of the future as seen through the eyes of Hanna-Barbera.
We wanted it.
The generation that knows these cartoons and can sing the opening song is now living it. But Hanna- Barbera gave us the cartoon version.The reality isn’t as fun.
I don’t recall George crashing his flying car/saucer drunk, wrong way or even purposely driving into a group of people because he could, though in one episode they did clone him.
I don’t remember his daughter Judy glued to a device that incouraged her to ignore her family, take a million pictures of herself, distract her driving or told her it was time to walk.
I don’t remember floating trash or pollution in the air.
The robot maid Rosie was close.
I volunteer at a school. I see kids with computers, phones and head phones, all the latest technology. I see what 8 to 10 plus hours a day on a computer or phone or internet is doing to our kids.
Its not the Jetsons thats for sure.
I see less and less motivation. I see kids who don’t want to read further than a sentence before they scroll let alone pick up a book. I see less and less interaction between the kids. Less laughing. Less playing outside. Just more time staring at a screen. I see boredom. I see and hear how little they truly care. I see numb.
For all that this technology has brought in terms of good and advancement, it has brought bad.
Did the Jetsons have to know someone or even see them in person to say something horrible? OUR computers allow it so it must be ok.
The Jetsons world was sterile. Pure air, clean everything. Touch a button and its yours.
Elroy didn’t have active shooter training.
What was Jane doing? She had a robot maid. She was pretty? I don’t remember anything else.
We all assumed that given advanced technology our society would become smarter. Yet I see more and more kids born into a world with technology everywhere. Covered in it, smothered in it , consumed by technology and yet struggle to achieve.
Constant advertising. Consume Consume Consume. Sit there longer. Play more games. Eat more processed snacks for the next few hours. Talk to others online only and have no empathy or concern unless they entertain you. Watch images of death and horror as long as you can stomach live by helicopter. Ride in a self driving car and let it run someone over. Fake Fake Fake. Lies lies lies. Do whatever it takes to get yourself on that screen so everyone can see… even if that means taking a life. Fame is now more important.
So, Jetsons of 1962, let me introduce you to The Jetsons 2018. What does the Jetsons of 2074 look like?
I can skin a rattlesnake. I own a giant hairy scorpion and a big curly haired tarantula as pets. I have photographed my face next to a rotted Javelina carcass. I can do all of that and still not get the shock that I do when I say I enjoy golf.
Golf?!? Wha?? You golf? Since when???
I guess it’s more believable that I am spiritual and weirdly sensitive to energy or that I’m slightly off and who knows what I’m up to. Everyone seems good with that. But the visual of me on a golf course, for some, is as foreign as me in snow.
The high desert in CA where I grew up was not a hotbed of golf courses. I’m not sure there were maybe one or two local courses at the most. I don’t remember him playing or owning clubs yet growing up, golf was on T.V. every Sunday with my Dad holding the remote hostage. I knew all the top players’ names. I learned the scoring. I heard the whispering announcers tell us to watch in silence from our living rooms in another state because one peep could ruin the final putt for the win!
I hated it.
So, what changed? Why golf now? Why would someone like me choose a sport like golf?
Roughly 20 years ago I met Jay. The day we met I was coming home from Disneyland, he was coming home from golfing. He loves the sport. His addiction for golf took up where my Dads had left off.
With Jay now in my world I was again hearing the familiar sounds of the hushed announcers, but with new names and faces. It still didn’t make me run out and buy clubs. I did start playing here and there with whatever club Jay handed me but would rather be driving the cart.
My father had never encouraged me to play golf. Jay always has.
See, back then, my “why I was playing” was different. I wanted Jay to be proud of me out there. I wanted him and probably others to be impressed. My expectations where grossly misguided from years of only watching pros and never having watched real humans golf. It discouraged me horribly when I sucked at this very expensive “game”. Intimidated by the beauty and size of a real golf course and the very real water hazards in front of me, I felt embarrassed and extremely self-conscious.
Truth be told, most golfers hit balls everywhere and so do the pros. That’s why they yell “Fore!” But the T.V camera angles change your perception of what it’s really like to be out there. My head was so full of “watch the ball- stand like this- swing don’t miss-ohmygod are people watching” I surely didn’t enjoy it. Golf was frustrating, awful and long.
I wish I had known back then that Golf was exactly what my brain needed.
I’m creative. My brain goes all over the place randomly. As I have aged, and my hormones have started running amok, my brain and body have seen some not so enjoyable severe highs and lows. Oh sure, you can add chemicals to the mix and see what works or helps but meditation does not come in pill form. Meditation and exercise are top on any list of ways to help yourself heal.
My brain isn’t going to allow me to just sit idly and clear my thoughts. Oh no, it’s going to beat me up about not doing anything while I “just sit”. I have that mental issue that I think I have never done enough. Never good enough. My brain wants to be in constant motion to keep happy.
To play golf you need to be able to clear your mind. Shut out distractions. Focus. Visualize. Be the ball. Multitasking and golf do not go hand in hand. Life’s other bullshit cannot be anywhere near your brain.
The game of golf itself is simple right? Hit the ball with the metal stick into the cup. Go. You’re on your own. No one even keeps your score. It’s up to you to be honest.
I have good hand eye coordination yet can swing and miss a ball right in front of me. If I get mad about it, my swing will automatically become worse. If I can focus and find that small spot I can hit the ball. If my body relaxes it will flow and swing. If there is stress and tension my body will hit the ball wrong or simply miss altogether. So sure, it’s a “simple” game.
There is even Tai Chi for golf to help with the flow.
Honestly the minute I stopped playing golf for a score but rather for my peace of mind it all changed. The minute I accepted I was new and learning and took off all the expectations, my swing improved. My goal was no longer trying to impress. My goal had become much more personal. Golf was a tool I was using to make me feel better not to become famous.
Putting areas are free. I can practice whenever I want. I have my own driving range and mats at home or can go to any of the courses nearby to practice. I am outside, fresh air, green grass, walking, moving, and most importantly playing. I’m playing. It isn’t anything more than that.
Keep it simple. Don’t make it harder than it already is. Visualize where you are going. Don’t rush, you can walk there. The tranquility and the beauty of a golf course gives me a setting where challenging myself feels less like I’m under an attack.
Now that I had an old set of clubs to play with it was time to take off the old crusty grips and begin my “tape it like Bubba” experiment. These grips are obviously factory and never been replaced. I’m curious if there is any tape underneath them at all. Did previous owner “Old Guy” even know? Were these the right size grips for him or did he, like a lot of golfers do, take what was already on them because they were new? Did he suck at golfing because of it and thus the clubs ended up in his closet? If his old score cards I found were any indication…
I grab a club and lock it in place. I slide the curved blade down the shaft and find no tape. The grips seemed to be adhered only in one spot almost midway down and they are dried and cracked making removing the grip as a whole impossible but not horrible to get off. Tiny bits of scraping and I have my first club ready to tape.
Jay surprises me out in our shop “I thought you were going to do my clubs?” Nervously I tell him I have no clue if I can really get a grip over mounds tape without messing up the grip itself but he’s convinced I got this. My interest in this tape nonsense has him intrigued. I’m finding he’s not so set in his ways that he won’t try something new with enthusiasm. This attitude alone gives me confidence to go ahead.
We decide on using a few of his irons from Callaway. On his 8 iron I put one piece of Double sided tape then add another 6 layers of regular masking tape on top for what I am calling 7 layers. I only use solvent around the opening to get the grip in place then with the help of my air compressor the Mint grip slid right on over it all! Next was his 7 iron. I did the same with the tape except added 8 layers on top of one double sided for what I am calling 9 layers.
Filled with pride that I could do it I handed them off to Jay for a test swing. He could tell they felt different immediately but was it good or bad was yet to be determined.
Never one to let me coast through life, Jay turned to me and said, “Now take these off and put Star grips on.”
Star grips are made with some seriously strong rubber. They come with a three-year guarantee not to do anything bad except be a grip. Mints have a much softer rubber. Still a good grip but not near as intimidating to play with. Jay knew that was a hurdle I had no choice but to get over if I wanted to really do an experiment like this.
With the help of my compressor, the Mint grip slid right back off. Tape still in place. I just needed to slide a new Star Grip on. I felt my chest tighten. This wasn’t going to be that easy.
I add a little solvent to the opening and slide the grip into position. The compressor’s blasts of air opening up the grip, pushing back at me as I guide it along, squealing over 7 layers of tape!
It didn’t rip! It didn’t blow me back into the wall!
Ok…time to try 9 pieces. The same. With an air compressor and a little solvent, I was able to slide the grips on. The feel obviously different. Star Grips with their strong rubber made the shaft feel like a baseball bat in my hands! But what will it do for Jays swing? His overall game? Will my game improve?
I’m at a local yard sale and see a set of golf clubs leaning against the wall. Nothing fancy, certainly not new, but looked as though rarely used. I bee line over to them but can see out of the corner of my eye Jay lightly shaking his head and rolling his eyes at me. I ignore him. I know what I want this set for if I can get it cheap enough.
“Spalding Futuras” Old guy says. They been sitting in his closet for years. It showed. The faux leather brown on brown bag was still looking cool, old school style, but with rusty zippers. Bulging pouches full of golf balls plus God only knows what else. A few extra woods not part of the set thrown in for good measure along with a ball retriever and metal cart.
Jay has now positioned himself next to our car like he’s ready to leave in a half- hearted attempt to stop whatever deal I am trying to make, but, says nothing. I smile at him like the Cheshire cat.
Old guy likes me so much he gives me all of it. Clubs, bag, all his nonsense. Insists I take everything including the old rolling cart. I didn’t tell him what I had planned for these clubs, just that I was excited to take ‘em off his hands and clean ‘em up. I think he was under the impression I was very new to golf. Wonder where he got that idea from? (Insert Cheshire cat smile here)
Using free clubs also makes it easier for me to justify ripping off grips and wasting supplies just to see if I can put new grips over excessive amounts of tape like Bubba Watson. It’s my math logic. Paying for newer expensive clubs to try this seems silly. I’m not trying to impress, I’m trying to grip.
The book “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect” by Dr. Bob Rotella talks a lot about the thoughts you have as you play your game. Positive thoughts tend to produce positive outcomes. Its part of the puzzle that creates a winner. Practice and natural ability of course are huge parts of the equation as well. So, my positive outlook on old clubs is this: when these clubs were made they were considered good to play with. Yes, we have better materials now blah blah blah but honestly, I refuse to make the excuse that my bad shot was my clubs fault. If I were to hand one of these “old clubs” to a scratch golfer I’m going to bet tons of money he could hit the ball with it.
I’m more than happy to try my “tape it like Bubba” experiment out on a set of older clubs. I want a set of clubs that I can put different layers of tape on random clubs of my choice. I do not want all the same thickness otherwise I won’t be able to tell. Again, my logic.
I took the bag home and dumped its contents all over the floor. Some really old, crispy golf balls came tumbling out along with nasty cigarette butts, matches, tobacco unused, score cards, tees…the usual suspects.
Warm soapy water and some scrubbing gave me a shiny set ready to be regripped. Now all I needed was to decide what tape, how much and on which clubs?
The other day after I finished reading an old article about unique golf grips, my next suggested reading option that popped up was about Bubba Watson. I’m not a Bubba hater, he’s just not one of those golfers I tend to go out of my way to read about on purpose.
This article happened to focus mainly on Matt Rollins, Pings PGA Tour Rep who personally installs Bubbas grips, so I was a little more enthusiastic to read on.
Bubba was using Ping’s 703 Gold grip by Golf Pride. It’s oversized by one 32-nd of an inch. On top of that, Rollins was installing 10 layers of tape on the top half of the shaft and 12 layers oftape on the bottom half with one complete layer of tape over all. For Bubbas lob it was 13 and11.
“Damn, Bubba…picky much?!?” and “Why?” were my first thoughts.
Supposedly it’s because Bubba fears hooking.
Now, this article was from 2012 so it’s possible all these specifics have changed, but at that time, this set up was giving Bubba the game he wanted.
I was intrigued.
In the article Rollins says the only other Pro he knew of doing anything even remotely like this is John Daly who comes in second with 6 layers of tape.
So, just for some light fact checking, I went on to look up and read a few more articles that all said basically the same thing except having Daniel Udd, Pings Master Technician working on Watsons equipment exclusively not Rollins. Safe to say whoever has the honor of gripping for Bubba is among Ping’s best of the best installers and are at Watsons disposal doing whatever Bubba wants because that’s how Bubba likes it. He’s a damn good golfer. You can’t argue his tape situation works for him.
Most of the articles I found also highlighted the fact that stretching over that much tape was busting the cords on the grips they were using. At some point Bubba switched to a cordless style. The feel of the cords outside must have mattered less to him than the bulk he wanted underneath? I doubt Bubba switched grip styles just to make it easier on the installers. He doesn’t come across as that kind of giver.
This just led me to even more questions.
Is the feel that much different with 10 pieces of tape instead of one or two? Five or six? Can you really tell? Does it change your game that much? Is it mental or superstition? Does Bubba just THINK extra tape is better so therefore it is? Why doesn’t Ping make a Bubba inspired grip that is internally thicker? Would that still not feel the same? Why are females supposed to hold smaller grips? I have never played with anything but men’s clubs and grips because that’s all that was available to me for the longest time. I want a decent grip to hold onto, not a pencil. Smaller grips just make my hands tired by the 3rd hole. If Bubba can play with a caveman club sized grip why can’t I?
Now Bubba has me wanting to put 10 layers of tape under my grips!
Most clubs come standard with either one piece of tape or none. How would the average golfer even know if just one more sliver of tape is going do the trick and not just switch grip styles or brands all together?
As someone who installs grips, my curiosity went into overdrive.
All the articles mentioned how it was not easy for these top installers to get grips over that much bulk. It also sounded like it was done by hand installation and not compressor, but I could be mistaken. None the less, the best installers Ping has ripped grips and popped cords in the process. If I was going to try this myself I was already being warned there would be casualties. For Bubba and Ping it was roughly 20 grips for 13 clubs. For Stace and Mint…?
I’m pretty sure Bubba or Matt or even Daniel isn’t going to take my calls and tell me all about where they are at currently in 2018 with his tape set up or give me any pointers on application. If I really want to learn anything about the differences extra tape makes or how it improves your game, I’m going to have to do it myself along with the help of some golfing friends.
Our business GoldCanyonGrips.com carries Star grips and Mint grips, so I have access to plenty of different styles. Both companies suggest using compressors to install their grips and I do. The first time I tried manually installing Star grips over standard double-sided tape, 4 out of 6 stuck midway up the shaft no matter how much solvent and cussing I tried.
Oh, I got them all off eventually without cutting or damaging the grips themselves and installed properly but not until after more cussing and literally solvent dripping down my arms.
Jay videoed my reaction the first time I used a compressor to install my Stars. That first grip slid on so easy I wanted to kick my whole set up for the abuse it had put me through earlier.
So, for this tape thickness experiment I have in mind, I’m chosing to play with Mint grips. Mint grips are good quality at a cost that won’t hurt so bad if 7 or 8 end up in ruins on the floor like the Ping article suggested could be the case. They also have a softer rubber that makes them easier to install in general. I’m a fan.
There is one obvious problem with this little project of mine and it is that I am not a consistent golfer.
Two days ago, at the driving range, standing all alone at the end stall, I smacked two shots with my driver so far to the right into the trees you would have thought I had purposely aimed at the poor ball attendant hiding behind his cart trying to take a leak!
I don’t even call myself a golfer. I like replacing grips and selling tools like practice mats that help fine tune a player’s overall performance. I see myself more as a mechanic for top race car drivers. I’m happy in the shop, dirty, music up loud, tinkering with the equipment. For me personally, every swing I take is simply practice. I play golf for the mental peace it gives me, not for the scores. I measure myself against all other golfers as I should…by height.
So, to really learn more about how extra tape could work for or against a player I’m going need avid golfers and their feedback.
I need to ask Jay first to see what he thinks.
Jay’s a good golfer. He’s consistent, practices almost daily and is always working toward lowering his score. Detail oriented, disciplined, a Marine, he is the one who taught me how to install grips. I do all his taping and gripping so I know I am trusted. But Jay, like most golfers, has worked hard to make his grip comfortable and natural in his swing. And like most golfers, over the years he has become particular about what he believes works best for him. Asking to mess with his grip, possibly his game and his score is most likely not going to be received with the same level of enthusiasm I have for conducting this random test. He is going to notice the difference immediately, but will it be for better or worse? Would he be willing to play with a new grip if it meant shaving off numbers from his average?
There was also the other problem… I can’t ask Jay or anyone else for that matter to try this experiment with me if I can’t prove I can get grips over that much tape! No one asks for 10 or 12 pieces of tape in the real-world, Bubba! At most it’s 2!
So, what clubs am I practicing on? How much tape will I waste and how many grips will I rip before I admit defeat? What is Jay going to say if he watches me mangle a few grips before I get it down? Will that image alone mess with his confidence?
Am I regripping all of his clubs or just a few? With how many pieces of tape?
I had better have some answers before I go and ask…
41 golf balls found in just over an hour as we hiked our way through the desert by of one of the local courses. The other day, the count slightly lower at 22.
The cost of a box of Titleist Pro V 1 golf balls? $48 ish give or take depending on where you shop. That’s $4 a ball. For some golfers that’s simply one bad tee shot lost, left to magically disappear into the desert. Who cares. Buy more. Drop another and swing.
But the awful truth is it takes a golf ball anywhere from 500 to 1000 years to decompose naturally. An estimated 300 million golf balls are lost or discarded in the United States alone every year.
I’m a desert kid. A self-proclaimed lizard who gets cold below 70 degrees. Besides the obvious eco part of clearing trash from the desert, the enjoyment of collecting lost golf balls comes from the hunt. I see collecting lost golf balls as a scary desert version of an Easter egg hunt. Reaching into a dried-up shrub for a ball can get serious REAL quick. I grew up trying to catch lizards. I’m older and somewhat smarter now but the enthusiasm’s still the same. Just now I use a walking stick.
My husband loves golf. For years he has been collecting lost golf balls. To be honest, at first, I thought he was slightly crazy. He would ride off on his bike and return with bags full of balls. Then I woke up and realized if one person can collect that many in an hour, what kind of an impact can we make if I helped too?
Do you really need a brand-new ball every time you play? I’ve watched enough average golfers and that answer is no.