Tag Archives: Arizona

The Gun Show

In my continuing quest to learn about America, I went to a gun show in Phoenix.  For many U.S. citizens, especially those in the Southwest, guns are a key element of the American identify.  The right to own and bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Many Americans have a strong and outspoken affection for their firearms, and gun culture remains a very visible and hotly debated aspect of American life.

Yellow billboard with black writing adversing the Gun Show

Gun Show Advertisement

In the wake of the latest school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December, the U.S. Federal government and many state legislatures are debating gun laws (though not all of them are trying to restrict them).  I heard that potential changes to the gun laws were resulting in increased sales of firearms and ammunition, especially items that might be restricted like assault rifles and large ammunition magazines, so I wanted to see for myself.

The show had hundreds of vendor booths packing 3 large buildings plus an outdoor display area.  There were a lot more women and children in attendance than I would have guessed.  For many, it was a family outing.

White sign with black letters saying :No Loaded Guns in the Show"

Sign at the entrance to the show

I was surprised to see that you’re allowed to bring your own firearms into the show, the only safety requirement being that they be unloaded and a very thin zip tie be put around the trigger.  Many attendees were carrying firearms around and signs listing the guns in their backpacks that they had to sell.  Ammunition was sold in 2 areas separated by plastic flagging tape, a symbolic division at best.  There was no visible security, though I’ve never heard of anyone shooting up a gun show.  Does this add weight to the gun advocates case?

Handguns on a table

Handguns for sale

Note – Sorry for the poor image quality.  Photography was banned at the show so these pictures were taken surreptitiously.

Vendors were selling everything I could have imagined related to hunting and personal protection (e.g. rifles, shotguns, hand guns, targets, ammunition, knives, etc.) plus a lot of stuff that I didn’t expect to see for sale:

  • exploding targets
  • survival gear (for the prepared and the paranoid)
  • 3-D human shaped targets
  • concealed carry clothes and purses, each with one or more slots to conveniently carry your concealed hand gun(s)
  • brass knuckles, pepper spray, stun guns, and tasers
  • firearm themed jewellery, and
  • toy guns for the kids
A lont of long guns for sale, laying on a table

Yes, that’s a Thompson machine gun in the foreground

Although I’ve never been to a gun show before, it seemed like there was a general sense of paranoia about the place.  Training courses offered at the show with names like, “How to Survive when the Bad Guys Come” may contribute to this.  I had a helpful guy explain to me how to kill someone with a keychain. I understand hunters and target shooters, but why is everyone here so afraid?  Perhaps I can’t relate because I’ve never lived in a situation where I felt threatened.

There were a lot of T-shirts for sale with slogans like:

  • “It’s a right not a privilege”
  • “In God we trust, but carrying a gun doesn’t hurt”
  • “Armed Patriot”
  • “Power to the People”, and
  • “We don’t dial 911” (i.e. we shoot first and call the police later)

Large black rifle with legs sitting on a table

I was shocked to see the following for sale:

  • magazines that hold up to 100 rounds (there is no limit in Arizona)
  • Kevlar body armour
  • semi-automatic pistols that look like a sub-machine guns (they’re only called a ‘pistol’ because they don’t have an obvious front hand grip)
  • targets with zombie versions of Hillary and Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Michael Moore, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden (note that only the last 2 are already dead), and
  • a lawyer offering his services (for after you shoot someone)
A large yellow sign with a skull and crossbones saying "Blackgunstuff.com, Your 1 Stop Assault Shop"

Tactical Weaponry Dealer

There was a heavy emphasis on tactical equipment from companies with names like “Death Dealer Tactical”.  Why do people need weaponry intended for soldiers and SWAT teams?

Assult rifles lying on a table

Assault Rifles for sale

They were selling military hardware and gun accessories like:

  • Pistol grip shotguns
  • Assault rifles, with or without LED lights
  • Bayonets (a bit old-fashioned in my book)
  • Drum magazines that hold up to 100 rounds
  • Military-grade body armour with heavy metal strike plates that can withstand fire from a .308 (I was told, “you’ll hardly feel it”)
Snipre rifle on tripod legs with a white background

50 Calibre Sniper Rifle

For me, the most astonishing items I found being sold were huge .50 calibre sniper rifles, each with a maximum killing range of over 1 mile (1500 – 2000 meters).  Yes, these things are legal in the United States!

6 rifle cartridges in front of a U.S. dollar bill to compare sizes

They fire the bullets on the left

I asked what would be required to purchase one, besides a lot of money.  “Only a 1 minute telephone background check”, I was told.  “You can buy it and be shooting in 15 minutes”.  Scary.

Held on the Arizona State Fairgrounds, this is one of 52 gun shows that Crossroads of the West holds each year in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.  Children under 12 are free with an adult.

Taking it on the chin — Mountain Biking in McDowell Mountain Park

Our friends Kevin and Annette flew from Vancouver to Phoenix to visit for a few days.  They’re active people, so we planned 3 full days of mostly outdoor activities.  On Day 1 we hiked Pinnacle Peak, the ‘Grouse Grind’ of Scottsdale, though it’s not as challenging.

A rocky double peak with desert leading up to it and a dirt trail in the foreground

Pinnacle Peak viewed from the back side trail

That afternoon we enjoyed the Fountain Hills Festival of Arts and Crafts, a twice annual outdoor show, where we consumed a giant bag of kettle corn (OK, it was mostly Kevin and me).

On the morning of Day 2 we headed out to McDowell Mountain Regional Park, a popular place for mountain biking in the Phoenix Area.  With the addition of 2 borrowed mountain bikes (thanks!), we had enough for 4.  We had a few hours to ride and so we headed north on some trails that I had explored a few days earlier named Wagner, Granite, Bluff, a short section of Pemberton, and Rock Knob.

Everything was going great.  It was sunny and the temperature was perfect for cycling, a lot warmer than Vancouver!  The trails were good and the terrain moderate.

A desert landscape with small mountains in the background and a sign post intersection in the foreground

Great mountain bike trails!

We climbed gradually as we pedaled further and further away from the campground where we began our ride.

A trail in the desert with Diane riding her mountain bike on the left side and small rocky mountains in the background

Diane riding

We turned around at the park boundary, aware that we had to get back in time for our planned afternoon activity.

Patrick riding his mountain bike on a dirt trail with a large Saguaro cactus behind

Patrick cruising

The return trip was mostly downhill.  Easier and faster.  Aside from a small section as we crossed a little valley, it was not difficult.

Kiving riding his bike down a short dirt hill with desert in the background

Kevin coasting

Everyone was having a great time, stopping to pose for pictures along the way.

Kevin and Annette posing with their bikes

Annette and Kevin posing

Diane was having a good time too, enjoying her first mountain bike experience.

Diane stradding her bike and holding another

Diane smiling

Then, with less than a mile to go, things took a turn for the worst.  While making a left-hand, off camber turn, Diane drove off the trail.  Her front tire slide in the loose gravel and she fell forward and to the left.  Luckily she avoided serious injury to her hands and body by catching herself with her face.

Picture of Diane's face after her crash, bloody chin, lip, and nose

Diane bleeding

Diane was a great sport about the whole thing, despite the sand embedded in her chin and the blood running down her neck

Diane standing with blood on her face

Diane bleeding AND smiling

She was very concerned though about bleeding on her precious Blacka Chicken jersey.  She splashed some water on her face and cautiously rode back to the car where she changed and cleaned up a bit in the campground restroom.  Kevin had a large bandage in his backpack which she put over her chin.  Her top lip started to swell as we drove back to Scottsdale.

We arrived in Old Scottsdale just before game time.

Green Scottsdale stadium sign showing names of teams play

First game of the non season

We had tickets to see the ‘World Champion’ San Francisco Giants play the Los Angeles Angels in the opening game of the Cactus League, the series of baseball games that take place in Arizona during spring training.

Diane with a bandage on her chin and Annette talking to the park staff

Annette and a bandaged Diane entering the stadium

We had great seats about 10 rows back on the 1st baseline.

Wide shot of baseball stadium taken from 1/2 way down 1st base line

Take me out to the ball game

At the end of the 3rd inning, Diane and I went to the ball park’s first aid room.  They used distilled water to clean her wounds, but didn’t have a good replacement bandage.

First aid attendant cleaning wounds on Diane's face

Diane’s new dermatologist?

Instead they used a giant gauze pad and some white tape, creating a small Santa Claus beard.

Diane's new and not improved bandage

Diane’s new and not improved bandage

Remarkably unphased by the whole thing, Diane bought a hotdog afterward to take back to her seat.  Eating that hotdog with the ‘chin sling’ in place was quite a feat.

Kevin, Anette, and Diane with new chin bandage standing in the stadium bleachers

Still having a good time!

Except for the bike crash, it was another great day with our friends.  I was very impressed with how Diane handled with whole thing.  She even went out to a honky-tonk, greasy-spoon for dinner that evening!

Patrick, Diane, and Annette seated at a table with other tables and a country western band in the background

Still going sans bandage

———————

Thanks to Kevin and Annette for joining us, and to Kevin for allowing me to use some of his great photos in this post.

Paddy Get Your Gun

While visiting our friends Gail and George in their top-secret desert boondocking location outside Yuma, Arizona, I had the opportunity to fulfill a dream of mine.  Something that’s been on my Dreams List for years.  Nothing life changing – more of a guilty pleasure kind of thing.

Gail and George had other friends visiting them with their RVs – a retired tugboat captain and his wife from ‘War-shing-tun’ state, and a retired veterinarian and his wife from Colorado (names withheld to protect the innocent).  We learned that the vet (‘veterinarian’ not military ‘veteran’, at least to my knowledge) enjoyed pistol shooting, and he offered to take those from the group that were interested out in the desert to shoot targets.

Although I have had some experience with firearms, I’m not a gun guy.  I learned to shoot a .22 rifle around the age of 12 at the old Langley Rod and Gun Club.  I fired a shotgun at clay pigeons, flying disks that explode when you shoot them, at a Boy Scout Jamboree (I wonder if they’d allow that today?).  I have even taken the Canadian Firearms Safety Course which teaches gun safety, gun storage practices, and responsible gun use.  But perhaps because I’m Canadian, where handguns aren’t common, I’ve never fired a pistol before.

A small group of us drove out into the desert, which wasn’t far at all because we were already camped there.  We set up targets on a hillside, and took turns shooting.

Looking over the shoulder of a man wearing a couwboy had with targets in the distance on a sand hillside

Looking Down Range

Diane, appropriately attired, watched nervously.

Dinae wearing a cowboy hat and sun glasses

Diane looking on

I fired 3 different semi-automatic handguns.

Patrick shooting a handgun seated with arms outstretched on a table

Please ignore my cowlick, our shower was broken!

I couldn’t hit the proverbial ‘barn door’ with the first handgun, but a  red-dot sight makes aiming easy.

Close-up of hands holding 22 black target pistol with a large sight

.22 target pistol with a large red-dot sight

I couldn’t miss.

Patrick firing a target pistol with a large sight

Firing the target pistol

At this point, Diane was encouraged by the group to give it a go.  Diane had never held a firearm before, let along shot one.  Perhaps peer group pressure was a factor, but soon Diane was in the shooting position.

Diane seated getting ready to fire with others assisting her and looking on

Sweaty Palms

Diane cautiously fired a full clip.

Diane firing the target pistol

Little Diannie Oakley

Luckily this .22 had no kick, otherwise her form may have been an issue.

Diane standing looking relieved with white pickup truck in background

A very relieved Diane

The final handgun was this monster.  A ladies purse gun, still semi-automatic, and surprisingly accurate.  I was shocked that I hit every target I aimed at.

Patrick shooting a tiny black handgun

Dirty Harry?

Another dream fulfilled.  More of a whimper than a roar, but still plenty of bang.  Live Boldly.

Quartzsite

Quartzsite is a sleepy little town of about 3,000 residents during the scorching Arizona summer, but in the months of January and February it swells to over 1 Million people, almost all of them living in RVs.  Most of these people boondock in the desert, staying on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands surrounding the town.

Many white RVs coating the horizon

RVs scattered across the desert

Quartzsite sits on the western side of the La Posa Plain along Tyson Wash.  It’s small, dusty, and poor, with a median family income around $26,000.  On the surface it might appear that there’s not much to see or do, but there are lots of activities that cater to RVers.

Diane standing in front of post office bside a post office box wearing purple fleece with sign behind

Diane in front of the Quartzsite Post Office

Many people enjoy hiking, biking, or riding quads in the desert.  There are also an innumerable number of gem shops, selling rocks, gemstones, and jewellery to rock hounds, collectors, and visitors.  But the main attractions to this tiny town are The Quartzsite Shows.

Quartzsite hosts a steady stream of trade shows during the winter months, primarily in January and February.  The largest of which is the Annual Sports, Vacation, and RV Show, a 9 day RV extravaganza held in the massive show tent just south of town.

Large white tent with multi-coloured flags on top and parked crs in the foreground

Quartzsite Show Tent

There are also gem & mineral, craft, classic car, and several other swap meet type shows, each of which attracts hundred of exhibitors and thousands of attendees.

Aerial photo of large white tent surrounds by motorhomes and other vehicles

Quartzsite RV Show from above

We arrived just in time for the last day of the RV show, something we’d planned to do in order to complete the outfitting of our motorhome.  We bought an aluminum folding table, some nice reclining lounges, and a lot of microfiber (a soft, quick-drying fabric that’s great in RVs for washing and drying just about everything).

Free camping is allowed in the Dome Rock Mountains, which overlook the town from the west.  There are no designated campsites, and you’re allowed to stay for up to 14 days.  We stayed here for three nights.

Patrick seated in front of motorhome in reclining lawn chair with martini in hand

Martinis in the desert!

On our first night at Dome Rock we met Bob and Beth, a nice couple who have been full-time Rving for almost 20 years.  Although they own a couple of ‘stick houses’ and tried to live in one recently, they couldn’t give up their life on the road.  They invited us to visit them at their ‘home park’ in New Mexico.  They also invited us to join the Escapees RV Club, a club that focuses on full-time Rvers, something that we’ll be doing for most of this year.  We joined the next day at the RV show.

A unique  economy has developed in Quartzsite to service the needs of all those seasonal RVers.  Very little is permanent and many things are mobile.  For example, trucks travel around to deliver fresh water and propane and to collect sewage, grey water, and garbage from RVs parked in the desert.  Many businesses selling RV services locate temporarily in the town during the winter months, when the RV business is slow in their cold home towns.  We had some work done on our RV by one such business, Erik’s RV Performance Center located in Sequim, Washington, but currently operating in Quartzsite.

We found that our Solera swayed uncomfortably on uneven ground at slow speeds.  Within a few days of buying it, we turned in to an upward-sloping driveway that had a speed bump at the top of it.  We crossed the bump on the diagonal.  Even (perhaps especially) at a crawl, the resulting sway managed to pop open our microwave door and send the glass turntable flying to smash on the floor.  We also noticed the sway when driving over potholes, when being passed by large trucks, and on cambered freeway ramps. We found this a bit disconcerting and so after some internet research, we decided to upgrade the suspension with Roadmaster RSS Anti-Sway Bars.  Roadmaster had a booth at the Quartzsite show, and recommended Erik’s to install their products.

A bent metal bar lying on the ground in front of our RV

One of our new sway bars

We had the rear factory sway bar replaced with an upgraded, thicker one, and we added an additional, forward-facing sway bar (also at the rear).

Our Solera on an outdoor lift with a technician working benearth

A flying Solera

The new sway bars reduce the initial sway and quickly dampen any subsequent rocking.  Unfortunately they also make noise, an issue that we’re still dealing with.

Quartzsite is a mecca for RVers, a pilgrimage site where the desert blooms with fiberglass coaches each winter.  It’s a unique place where you can be among others with the penchant (some say affliction) to live the mobile, warm-weather lifestyle.

‘God’s Waiting Room’

We recently returned from a trip to Arizona.  Our main goal was to visit family, Canadian ‘snowbirds’ who spend part of the winter in this warm southern state situated between California and Texas on the Mexican border.  It was our first visit to Arizona, and we’d heard a lot about it.  It is a popular place for Canadians to visit during the winter when the average temperature there are 25 to 45°C warmer than in Canada.  Additionally, Arizona is dry (mostly desert), and we had rain only one time (at night) during the 3 weeks that we were there!

We drove from Vancouver, British Columbia to Phoenix, Arizona in 2 long days (13 hours of driving each day).  We’d recommend making the trip in 3 or 4 days instead, which makes it much more civilized.

We spent our time in the Phoenix area, including two of its surrounding communities (Scottsdale and Apache Junction).  Although this region is mostly flat desert, small rocky hills dot the landscape, making for good walking and hiking.  We hiked over Pinnacle Peak three times during our visit, a great fitness walk taking about an hour.  It’s not as tough as the Grouse Grind (a popular fitness hike near Vancouver), but equally popular and with all ages of people.

Pinacle Peak with Saguaro catus in the foreground

Pinnacle Peak with Saguaro Catus

We also did some mountain biking in McDowell Mountain Regional Park.  The terrain is generally flat (at least when compared to British Columbia mountain biking terrain), but it does have small variations including rocky rises and sandy washes.  It’s important to stick to the trails to protect the desert and one’s bike tires, which don’t last long otherwise due to the cactus needles that litter the ground.  Most mountain bikers in Arizona ride with tubeless tires that contain a gel that makes them self-healing to generally avoid (or minimize) this challenge.

While in Arizona, we attended an NHL hockey game.  The Phoenix Coyotes were hosting the Vancouver Canucks at their (LINK Jobing.com) arena.  Aren’t these corporately sponsored arena names inspiring?  It appears that the strategy is working though, as I’ve just called attention to their brand, and I bet that at least one of you is going to look it up to see what they do.  I did.

Diane and I arrived 5 hours before the 7 PM game time, which is a bit too early, even for Canadians, but we were not the first Canuck fans there.  An added benefit of arriving early was that we got to park in the media parking lot for free, although there seemed to be plenty of other free parking at the Arizona Cardinals’ University of Phoenix football stadium across the street.  We settled down at a western restaurant and bar in the Glendale Entertainment District just outside the arena to enjoy some BBQ ribs and beverages.  It was great that even in middle of ‘winter’ we could sit outside with just a light jacket on.

Canucks fans with blue hair in their seats at the game

Canucks fans with glow-in-the-dark blue hair!

The crowd seemed to contain far more Canuck fans than Coyote supporters.  It was a sea of blue and white Canucks’ jerseys everywhere.  And not just snowbirds, but all ages of Canuck fans, some of who may even have traveled down just for this game.  Unfortunately Vancouver lost in an overtime shootout, but it was still a great evening.

Patrick and Diane in their seats at the game

Enjoying the game!

While in Arizona we also visited Diane’s aunt and uncle and my cousin and his wife, both of whom have places in mobile home parks (aka ‘trailer parks’).  These are extremely popular with snowbirds as they provide reasonably priced accommodation with low maintenance in an active community of like-minded seniors.  The mobile homes are single (about 400 sq. feet) or double wide, depending on lot sizes and park regulations, and the newest ones are rather nice homes, indistinguishable from the interior or exterior from something built in-situ.

New park model home, beige with porch and van in driveway

A new ‘Park Model’

They are located on palm-lined streets in gated communities that offer a smorgasbord of activities for seniors.  Diane’s uncle Ernie plays on 2 softball teams and Patrick’s cousin Jeff golfs several times a week.  Some residents (and guests!) enjoy hiking, beach volleyball, or driving dune buggies and quads in the desert.  Each day there are literally 50 or more organized activities to partake in – tennis, pickle ball, and shuffleboard leagues, a batting cage and driving range, water aerobics, pottery, ceramics, lapidary, lots of card playing clubs, and many more.  There are also many informal activities like a library and several pools and hot tubs.

Most importantly, trailer parks seem to provide a great social environment for seniors.  There are people walking or cycling around the park constantly, resulting in conversations or informal visits from friends perhaps 5 or more times a day.  You always need to keep the kettle on.  It’s really tough to get any work done with so much visiting going on.  There is a happy hour at someone’s home almost every night.  In addition, there are dances and parties a couple of nights a week.  Once each season (which runs from October to March), the people from each state or province arrange their own party (grouping together if they don’t have the numbers, e.g. Western Canada), and there most streets in the park also arrange a block party.

A unique social phenomenon that I observed is that of ‘bobbing’.  Each afternoon, many seniors drive over to a nearby pool in their golf carts, the preferred form of transport in the parks.  They don visor and sun glasses and sit on pool noodles (the long foamy things) while bobbing in a circle to enjoy hours of conversation.  People arrive as singles or as couples, and everyone seems to be welcome.  They beat the heat of the afternoon while spending quality time with others!

Thank-you very much to the family and friends who hosted us during our visit.  We enjoyed our trip to Arizona immensely.  A great place for a winter getaway!