Hole in the Rock

Two Days Spent in Phoenix

To wrap up October, I set off to explore another state – Arizona. This trip had been in the works since May, when I decided to throw in a mini mid-week fall vacation. Since Southwest had bargain fares for Phoenix, I decided to head for “The Grand Canyon State”. After arriving on my early morning flight, I was ready to start seeing everything that this desert city had to offer!

Arizona is known for its mountains, and so I decided that Dobbins Lookout, a scenic mountaintop observation point, would be my first stop. A part of South Mountain Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the country, Dobbins Lookout is the highest publicly-accessible point in South Mountain. The best part is that there is no hiking required – winding mountain roads take you all the way up to the summit, clocking in at an elevation of 2,330 feet. Look at those views!

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A stone ramada made for a great place to hang out, while also providing shelter from  the direct sun in those hot summer months.

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Due to it being a weekday, there weren’t a lot of other people around. The lack of noise made it a pretty serene place to be, and although the temperatures were slowly starting to climb, the lack of humidity kept it relatively comfortable.

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Dobbins Lookout is one great spot to see Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun.

After enjoying the sights for about an hour or so, it was time to explore the city, starting with the Arizona State Capitol. Located close to downtown, the state capitol complex is unlike any other I’ve seen, with a design similar to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Unlike D.C. though, there was an abundance of free parking!

Arizona State Capitol
Making up Arizona’s capitol complex is the Bolin Memorial Plaza, with the capitol museum and executive tower in the background.

Starting off with the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, different memorials paid tribute to military veterans, law enforcement, and firefighters, just to name a few. There was also a 9/11 memorial, and other various markers commemorating the different wars the U.S. has been involved in.

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A mast and anchor from the USS Arizona, which was one of the ships bombed during Pearl Harbor, was also on display here.

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Before heading into the capitol museum, I stopped by the House and Senate buildings flanking it. Both were open to the public, and it was pretty neat seeing the legislative chambers where the laws of Arizona are made.

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The House chamber.
Arizona State Capitol
The Senate chamber.

The capitol museum, formerly the working capitol building until 1974, was well laid out and allowed me to get a good understanding of Arizona’s history. Different exhibits on the four different floors talked about various events in the state’s history, ranging from statehood to a boxcar full of gifts received from France. On that day, it was pretty busy, with a few groups of schoolkids coming here for a field trip.

Arizona State Capitol
The Arizona State Capitol Museum.

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The majority of the rooms were open for visitors to explore, including the old legislative chambers, the governor’s office, and Supreme Court chambers once used to keep Arizona running.

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The old House chamber.
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The historic Arizona Supreme Court chambers.

The capitol museum had a rotunda design, like most state capitols. However, I found it to be pretty small. It wasn’t just me, as one of the main factors that caused the state to build the present day Executive Tower was overcrowding of the historic capitol.

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Arizona State Capitol

Before leaving, I briefly looked around the Executive Tower. It really is as plain on the inside as it is on the outside – nothing but state employees walking around a rather un-appealing lobby. Definitely not worth the hassle of having to go thru security.

Arizona State Capitol
The Executive Tower, where the Governor and other state officials office out of.

After lunch was a journey to the days of the Wild West, with a visit to the Wells Fargo History Museum, located in the heart of downtown.

Wells Fargo Phoenix Museum
The Wells Fargo Plaza, which houses the Wells Fargo History Museum.

As the name implies, the museum is owned and run by Wells Fargo. Admission is free, although they are closed on the weekends and bank holidays. Here, you can learn the story of the company’s history, and how they started from hauling gold and other precious metals to being one of the biggest banks in the nation.

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In addition to different artifacts and relics from their early days kept in glass displays, there were also several interactive exhibits, perfect for families with kids. Here, you get to ride on a stage wagon, get your picture taken at two photo booths, and try your hand at Morse code.

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After learning about Wells Fargo’s connection to the American Southwest, I set off to visit another museum, this one talking about the Native American population here in Arizona. At The Heard Museum, all sorts of artifacts related to American Indians are exhibited, from rows and rows of pottery to different pieces of art.

Heard Museum
Due to copyright issues, I barely took any photos. However, this is a museum that’s worth seeing, especially if you are into art or Native American culture!

With two stories and over 40,000 items, the Heard is the largest private museum dedicated to exhibiting all things Native American. All-in-all, it was an interesting hour-and-a-half experiencing the culture and story of the indigenous peoples.

Heard Museum

With the sun setting soon, it was time to head to my last stop of the day, the Hole-in-the-Rock at Papago Park. One true geological marvel, it literally is…a hole in the rock!

Hole in the Rock
The Hole-in-the-Rock at Papago Park.

One of the most popular places to watch the sunset here in Phoenix, this giant rock formation was created by the forces of erosion over millions of years. Early indigenous inhabitants used this hole to mark the different seasons and positions of the sun. To get up to the hole, a short hike is involved, with different rock formations and man-made stairs leading you all the way to the top.

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Hole in the Rock
The view while hiking up.

The hike up took around 7 minutes, although I’m sure more experienced folks can ascent much faster since it’s not a steep elevation by any means. From there, I joined others watching the Arizona sunset.

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After picking a comfortable spot, I spent around 30 minutes up here, taking in the beautiful scenery.

There was some rain that had begun to fall on the drive to Papago Park, which luckily had stopped by the time I began my ascent. Seeing some dark clouds in the distance, I decided it was time to get back down before the rain moved back in. It took me around five minutes for the descent, and I was ready for dinner and wrapping up the day after that.

Hole in the Rock
The beautiful sunset with downtown Phoenix in the background. It was a successful and fun first day here in Arizona!

After breakfast the next morning, I was ready to start another day’s worth of exploring. Yesterday I had gone to see the stuff within Phoenix, and today I wanted to hit some spots in the suburbs. Universities are someplace I usually visit in every city, and so I stopped by Arizona State University, located in Tempe.

Arizona State University Campus
The entrance to Arizona State University.

Parking my car in one of the pay-per-hour covered garages, I spent close to two hours here, checking out the various buildings that made up one of the largest public universities in the nation by enrollment.

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Most of the buildings were pretty modern, and reminded me of my school, UT Dallas. The exception to that would be Old Main, the first building constructed at ASU back in 1898.

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Arizona State University Campus
Old Main.

Old Main, used by the alumni association, is open to the public and welcomes visitors. The lady that greeted me gave me a brochure, which detailed a self-guided tour thru various rooms like the historic auditorium. Unfortunately, most of these rooms listed were closed off. However, the second-floor balcony was open, providing a great view of University Drive.

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Arizona State University Campus
Photos show different historical milestones here at ASU.

After this short tour was over, I continued exploring the campus. I happened to walk into a random building when I discovered a room with a glass observation window. It turned out that this was the operations center of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, capturing the surface of the Moon in a partnership with NASA.

Arizona State University Campus

There were free posters, postcards, and other small souvenirs that were placed by the guest book for visitors to take. Definitely unique!

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Finishing up at ASU, I stopped by several other places on campus, like the Memorial Union and the W.P. Carey School of Business. Much like what I had seen before, they were new and modern.

Arizona State University Campus
The Memorial Union, ASU’s student union. On a weekday morning, it was pretty busy with students studying, visiting different offices, or grabbing some Starbucks.
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The W.P. Carey School of Business.
Arizona State University Campus
A state-of-the-art video wall located inside the business school.

In the afternoon, it was time to get a real-world look into the lives of Native Americans, with a visit to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, located in Scottsdale. Having watched various documentaries of the living conditions on many of the nation’s Indian reservations, I was curious to see firsthand how good or bad these communities were. After driving around for a few minutes and seeing mostly barren land, this ominous sign greeted me, a reminder of the substance abuse problems present.

Salt River Indian Community
The sign reads “Tradition not Addiction”.

Not all of the roads here were paved, and there were some crops being grown in fields within the reservation.

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Offices used by the tribal government were relatively modern. I didn’t go inside, but they reminded me of my visit to the Choctaw Nation in Durant, Oklahoma.

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On the other hand, a lot of the houses here were in less-than-ideal condition. Unfortunately, the landscape of the community appeared deserted and run-down in general.

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Seeing how the Native Americans live today was a real eye-opener. Problems like alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, and suicide are prevalent amongst this group of people, and real change is needed so that conditions improve.

Departing Salt River, I headed for my last destination of the trip, the Hall of Flame Fire Museum, located close to Papago Park. Originally founded in 1961, the Hall of Flame is the world’s largest firefighting museum, containing over 90 fire engines in five galleries. Add in over 10,000 various other artifacts, and you have quite the collection that displays everything in the world of firefighting.

Hall of Flame Museum

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After paying the admission fee, I got handed a binder full of information about each fire apparatus on display, which served as my virtual tour guide. From horse-drawn wagons all the way to modern-day engines, it was super cool seeing how the technology of firefighting has evolved over the years.

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Close to the back of the museum, one particular engine stood out. It was the New York Fire Department’s Rescue #4, which responded to the World Trade Center on 9/11. I learned that none of the 6 people that responded to the scene on this truck made it back.

Another exhibit I found neat at the Hall of Flame was the patch wall. Over 4000 arm patches from fire departments across the world were displayed. I was able to find the ones used by fire departments close to where I live!

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For families, this would be a great place to visit, as there is a small Fire Safety section specifically for kids, with different interactive objects to teach fire safety. On top of that, there is an antique fire engine that everyone can board for photos.

After spending over an hour here checking out all the different pieces of equipment, it was time to head to the airport, since my flight was leaving in a couple of hours. I enjoyed my time at the Hall of Flame, and Phoenix in general. This city wouldn’t have been much fun to visit had it been July, but the relatively temperate fall weather made it nice for all that exploring. Every state that I’ve visited had something unique to offer, and Arizona was certainly no exception. Although “The Grand Canyon State” is now officially off the list of states I have yet to see, I know that since I haven’t visited the Grand Canyon National Park, I will be back!

Titche-Goettinger Building

Straying Off the Beaten Path in Downtown Dallas – Exploring the Titche-Goettinger Building

Exploring history first-hand and seeing places that are long forgotten is one of my favorite pastimes. This summer, I partnered up with Beth Schon from the lifestyle blog WiseMommies and set out to explore Downtown Dallas and the many notable buildings that make up the cityscape. One of the most notable places we checked out was the Titche-Goettinger building, located at the corner of Elm and St. Paul.  The former location of one of the most well-known department stores in Dallas, the name might sound completely foreign, or it just may bring back fond memories.

Titche-Goettinger Building

Founded in 1902 by Edward Titche and Max Goettinger, this department store sold everything from apparel to housewares to fine china. This building wasn’t their original location- it was actually their third!  The business started off on the corner of Elm and Murphy. In just two years time, they had outgrown their current location, and the store moved to their second location off Main Street. By 1928, Titche’s had outgrown that, so they moved into their flagship store. Eventually, Dillard’s took over the company in 1987. The building was not included in the sale and was closed not too long after. It sat abandoned until 1997, when developers renovated the inside and converted it into loft-style apartments.

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Titche-Goettinger Building
The lobby of the Titche-Goettinger building.

Arriving, we met up with Stephanie Tutt, the assistant manager of the leasing office who offered to show us around. The first place Stephanie showed us was one of the apartments on the second floor.

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One cool thing about here was that many historical aspects of the building have been preserved, even after the extensive renovation! In this particular unit, that cylinder-shaped thing is actually an old rolling door unit dating back to the days of the department store.

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A vintage fire protection device of some kind hung from the wall. Maybe a fire pump?

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Architectural features, such as the support beams and an exposed brick wall, were all original to the building and part of the design.

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Stephanie explained that there are over 50 unique floor plans, all different in some way due to the historical nature of the building. At a 98% occupancy rate, the residents seem to like it here!

Just outside the apartment was a door that said “Fitting Room.” It piqued my curiosity, and we went in to take a look.

It turned out that room was the community gym. Not sure if back in the day of Titche’s it served as a fitting room, but nevertheless it seemed to have been repurposed well. Much like the unit we just toured, there was a lot of exposed brick and beams, all original to the building.

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Back down on the first floor, Stephanie showed us probably one of the coolest things in the building: an antique Otis elevator that hadn’t be removed.

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In those days, there wasn’t air conditioning, so there was a fan to keep the air inside (somewhat) circulated.

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The listing of the many departments in the store was still on the wall.

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On top of the elevator bank was the Titche-Goettinger crest. Just looking at it conveyed thoughts of a simpler time, when going to shop at a department store was an experience on its own.

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The crest was one of many artifacts that remained in the building and are on display. A plaque marking this place as a World War II blood donor center was in the leasing office.

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This was one of the original door handles, complete with the store’s initials.

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In the lobby were various floor plans of the original store. Not sure if these were originals, but they were done pretty well(from an amateur’s perspective), and depicted the different rooms and departments of this huge store.

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Something else Beth and I came across was one of the store account books. In a glass case close to the center of the lobby, it was cool to see what folks used to keep track of purchases and returns before the days of the computer.

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Some of the books used to keep track of store finances.

What did customers who used to visit this elegant department store have to say about it? Click here to read a testimonial over at Beth’s blog WiseMommies, as well as learn about the importance of knowing the past and understanding one’s history!

In conclusion, although I had heard about Titche’s in the past, I never knew it had such an expansive storefront until now. Almost all of these buildings in the downtown area have an interesting past, and it was cool to learn about the history behind this otherwise unassuming old structure.

picture of houses in dish texas

This Denton County Town is Named After Dish Network

Texas is full of cities named after different places – from Athens to Italy, and all the way to Palestine. However, the town that I visited recently wasn’t named after a country or even a U.S. state- rather it carries the name of a satellite TV provider. Welcome to DISH, TX. Yep, that’s right, in all caps.

I first heard about DISH as I was browsing around on Wikipedia. On a page listing the different municipalities making up the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, the unique name caught my eye right away. Upon doing some Googling, I learned about the interesting story of this tiny town. Located about 16 miles to the southwest of Denton, it was originally known as Clark. In 2005, this community of less than 400 voted to rename their town in an agreement with Dish Network. In return, all residents received ten years of free basic service, a satellite dish, and a DVR.

Upon arriving in this town of only 1.6 square miles, I noticed the number of relatively new homes there. Given that there are many new developments in the nearby town of Justin, it didn’t come off as much of a surprise.

photo of homes in dish texas

photo of homes in dish texas

One thing I wanted to see was how many homes still had Dish Network satellites, since the agreement had expired in 2015. As ironic as it sounds, I saw many more DirecTV dishes! Maybe that would have been different had Dish Network continued to give at least some sort of discount to these residents. Perhaps it was just the quality of service. Really can’t say either way.

In many of these ranch-style houses, the backyard area was fairly large. I’m sure the residents wouldn’t be complaining of being crowded here! All this space made it look like a relaxing place to live and enjoy life.

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The spaciousness in this neighborhood was nice.

However, this town has had its share of problems. On the other side of the neighborhood were natural gas drilling sites. DISH sits in the Barnett Shale, a huge source of natural gas spanning seventeen counties. Some residents have reported health problems as a result of the chemicals emitted from production. Other folks, like town founder L.E. Clark, say that there are no issues. “There is a sniffer checking air quality. The pump is located 1800 feet from my house, and if anybody would be breathing it, it would be me. I have had no problems.”

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One of the natural gas sites.

Just down the road from the natural gas sites was the town hall. A small single-story metal building, it is only staffed for less than 3 hours a day, four days a week. A satellite dish was erected in the lawn close to the roadway – a landmark of sorts.

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Dish’s Town Hall. I wonder what company the satellite dish atop their roof is.

An equally tiny park sat right behind the town hall. The playground equipment looked to be surprisingly modern and well-equipped for such a small community like this.

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Behind the town hall was this playground.

Another neighborhood, this one considerably older and consisting of mobile homes, was located right across the street. Unlike the stereotypical trailer park most people have a mental image of, this neighborhood wasn’t cramped at all, and there was plenty of space in between units.

picture of mobile homes in dish texas

picture of mobile homes in dish texas

Having been to many of the small towns on the outskirts of the Metroplex, I enjoyed this mini trip to this very unique, yet relatively unknown little community. If you find yourself driving by DISH, pop in and check out it out- regardless of which satellite TV company you prefer!