The Arizona Chronicles, Vol. 4, Day 1: Kidnapped

The stories you are about to read are true. . .well, mostly.  Not that I’d lie to you.  A lot of the stuff did happen and some of the others might not have happened, but are in there due to artistic license to give you a better story.  But I don’t want you to confuse the things that did happen with the things that did not happen.  So if you find yourself scratching your head and wondering which is which, just take a deep breath, relax, and remember it’s just a story. . .except for the parts that aren’t.

Arizona.  For some it conjures up pictures of sand and cacti.  For others, an escape from winter weather.  For me, Arizona always fills me with a certain sense of trepidation.  For those of you new to this blog, I refer you to the previous three volumes of these tales which I call The Arizona Chronicles to help you better understand the anxiety I feel whenever I visit this state.

Several years ago, through an unfortunate series of events, I had the dubious distinction of meeting Arizona Mat, an “explorer” whose fame may not be great, but his ego certainly is.  I also met Tall Square, his refrigerator shaped sidekick.  And by sidekick, I mean arch-nemesis as the two of them were constantly at each other’s throats.  Since I’ve met these two I’ve traveled to the top of Mount San Jacinto, helped track down a killer bent on Arizona Mat’s demise, and discovered the legendary Voodoo Blue (Woo woo!).  Oh, great!  Now I’m doing it.

Needless to say, whenever business brings me to Arizona, I always get a bit leery because, one way or another, Arizona Mat ALWAYS seems to find me and drag me into another series of misadventures.  A year or so ago, I wrote a hit movie for the SyFy Network called Giraffealanche.  The movie did so well that SyFy wanted me to write a sequel.  I decided to join forces with a writer named David Sindelar who had written another SyFy Original, Armadillogeddon.  We had written a crossover sequel for both of our franchises, Giraffealanche vs Armadillogeddon, and I was heading to Phoenix to iron out the last details of the contract.

I was certain that there was no way on Earth than Arizona Mat would find me this time around as I was traveling on Delta Airlines.  SyFy was kind enough to pick up the tab for the flight and they were flying me down first class.

First class is the only way to travel.  The perks began when I got to the airport as I had a dedicated line to check my luggage and I was able to check up to 3 bags for free.  I also got to board the plane before anyone else and a found a pillow, blanket, and bottle of water waiting on a slightly larger than normal seat and I got two armrests.

As I made myself comfortable, the flight attendant asked if I’d like a beverage and I ordered a Bailey’s Irish Cream.  I sipped my drink as I mused on how wonderful it would be to travel like this all the time.  Even better, my flight was able to leave early and we must have had a powerful tailwind as the pilot announced that nearly 30 minutes would be cut from our flight.  Not bad at all.

At 10,000 feet, I pulled out my trusty laptop and began watching my favorite comedy, City Slickers, though I wasn’t able to finish the film due to my battery going low.  I swapped out my film for my Kindle and started reading another adventure of the obsessive-compulsive detective, Adrian Monk.  During snack service, I was offered a better variety of snacks and had a small bag of Lay’s Kettle Cooked Potato Chips and a sea salt caramel.  I also enjoyed a Coke which was served to me in a real glass.  The friendly attendant offered to continue topping off my glass and I thought, “A guy could really get used to this.”

I had a 90 minute layover in Salt Lake City and had hoped for a glimpse of the Mormon Temple, but no dice on that one.  It was well past my normal dinner hour, but I was strangely not hungry.  I decided I should have something and grabbed a sandwich from McDonald’s as I waited for the next leg of my flight.

This leg was even better than the first as I enjoyed a double wide seat.  I requested a Blue Moon and was stunned when the attendant let me have the whole can.  Viva la me!  The only downside was that I knew I wouldn’t be able to linger over the drink as they would be collected before takeoff.  Once airborne, I ordered a Sprite, had another small bag of chips, and continued reading.  Again, we were able to leave early, and cut another 20 minutes off the flight.

The last perk I received for first class is that my luggage was given Sky Priority which meant my bags would be in the first group off the plane.  In less than 10 minutes, I had my luggage and was ready to get a cab to my hotel.

I stepped outside into the hot desert night and thought that life was good.  As I scanned the road in search of a taxi, I suddenly felt a sharp sting at the base of my neck.  I clapped my hand to my neck as my vision began to swim before my eyes.  Then everything went black.

To Be Continued. . .

The Arizona Chronicles, Day 4: Idling in Idyllwild

Miraculously, Tall Square escaped from his, ahem, “accident” at Mount San Jacinto with a few bumps, bruises, and scrapes.  We returned to Barry’s home, where I put him to bed and then gave Arizona Mat a “tsk, tsk, tsk” before I left him at the dining room table and went to bed.

As I headed to the kitchen the next morning, I found Arizona Mat unconscious at the table, with his face in a big ol’ piece of pie.  A goose egg had formed on his head where he had obviously been slugged.  I heard soft chuckling coming from Tall Square’s bedroom and knew what had happened.  (As if there was any doubt.)

Chalking it up to more of the same old, same old, I fixed a bowl of Cinnamon Spice oatmeal for myself and then left for church whistling a jaunty tune.

I attended services at Sacred Heart in Rancho Mirage and I was blown away by the chapel.  This is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever been in.  It was still decorated for Christmas and I could have sat inside and soaked up the atmosphere for hours.
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The church was quite full which did my heart good, especially since it seemed people willingly sat up front first which is something I don’t see enough of in worship services nowadays.

It was a great service as well.  The pastor was a warm, welcoming man who gave a terrific sermon on keeping focused on Jesus at all times. 

After services, I was picked up by Arizona Mat and Tall Square, who seemed to have an unspoken truce going on between them.  Arizona Mat drove us up to Idyllwild, CA which is on top of a mountain.  It was an absolutely fantastic drive.  The scenery was pristine and gorgeous as the road twisted and turned on our drive up to Idyllwild.

Once we had reached the town, Arizona Mat decided he wanted breakfast, so we stopped at the Mile High Café.  Having eaten already, I wasn’t very hungry, but opted for something small as I knew I probably wouldn’t be eating again until supper.  I had a ½ biscuit and gravy with a bit of bacon and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice while Arizona Mat enjoyed a chicken fried steak with eggs over hard, hash browns, and toast.  Tall Square enjoyed the same sides as Arizona Mat, but had his eggs over easy and opted for some sausage as his main entrée.  It was a tasty meal/snack with a beautiful view of the mountains and forest, though I thought the freshly squeezed orange juice was a bit overpriced at $4.50 a glass.

We then spent a while helping Tall Square explore the town for a shot glass which we finally succeeded in obtaining at the last shop we visited.   Tall Square also picked up a pocketknife at one of the gift shops we visited.

From there, we drove down the mountain and headed to the Whitewater Preserve. 
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This is a massive area full of hiking trails and one could easily spend hours, even days, exploring the trails.  Arizona Mat was in a rush to get back to Barry’s to watch the Denver Broncos play the San Diego Chargers, so he said we’d only do a brief walk around the preserve and stated we might return tomorrow as he had a trail he wanted us to wander through.

Tall Square was not too happy with this and promptly removed his pocketknife and poked a hole in the bottom of Arizona Mat’s water bottle, spilling its contents onto the sand.  In an attempt to avoid a fight, I rushed to a nearby stream and filled my canteen.  I then gave it to Arizona Mat who thanked me before taking a long, deep drink.

Immediately, he blanched, gagged, and his face turned a sickly shade of green.

“Where did you get this water?”  Arizona Mat gasped.

“From that nice, clear stream over there,” I replied.

“That water has been traveling over the desert floor for 67 miles,” Arizona Mat managed to get out before rushing for cover and purging the contents of his stomach.

Tall Square rolled on the desert floor, laughing so hard that his face turned a bright blue.  After he had caught his breath, he helped me carry Arizona Mat to his car.

We returned to Barry’s home where he and Arizona Mat watched the Broncos defeat the Chargers, putting Arizona Mat into a better frame of mind.  Barry cooked some lip smacking ribs and baked potatoes for our supper which seemed to relax the tense atmosphere that had been building for the last couple of days.

After dinner, I suggested a game of poker was in order.  Tall Square’s pockets were quickly emptied of his cash due to his numerous tells.  Arizona Mat was a bit craftier, but I ended up taking his money with an all in on a straight.  I thought he would pitch a fit, but he said, “At least it wasn’t Tall Square” before going to bed.

But I’m willing to share the truth with you, my loyal readers.  I was cheating.  I was going to get paid for this gig one way or another and Arizona Mat had it coming to him.  So as I count my winnings, I wish you a fond good night and shall see you tomorrow for some more adventures.

The Arizona Chronicles, Day 3: Arizona Mat and the Peak of Peril

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After 2 days, it was finally time to begin an exploration with the alleged explorer, Arizona Mat. 

My day began with my eyes fluttering open at the crack of dawn.  I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, let loose a mighty yawn, and blearily padded my way to the bathroom for a long, hot shower. 

As I walked down the hallway, I bumped into a solid wall of a man.  Knowing that I was the only one in the house who rose at this early hour, I feared a break-in and immediately leaped back and assumed an awkward karate pose.  My sleepy vision then cleared enough to see that it was Tall Square carrying a glass of milk.  I sheepishly apologized for nearly unleashing my hands and feet of fury upon him and he looked at me with a cocked eyebrow before returning to his bedroom.

After performing my ablutions, I made my way to the kitchen for a bowl of oatmeal and some V-8.  I was heartily greeted in song by Arizona Mat’s electronic parrot, Polly.  I finished my meal and completed organizing my gear for today’s journey.

Two hours later, I was sitting inside Arizona Mat’s Nissan Sentra and he began the drive to Palm Desert, CA.  I looked in the rearview mirror to see Tall Square giving Arizona Mat the finger as he began to chase down the car.
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Apparently, Arizona Mat had “forgotten” Tall Square, though I suspected he still rankled over his defeat at the hands of Tall Square in last night’s board game.  After chasing us down for six blocks, Tall Square caught up to us at a stoplight.  Sitting down in the front seat, he gave Arizona Mat the look of death as he struggled to catch his breath.

Three hours later, we arrived at the home of Arizona Mat’s father, Barry, in the unincorporated community of Thousand Palms, CA.  I was quite surprised to learn that they were related as Barry was gregarious, cordial and polite.  Barry has a very nice trailer home in a retirement community.  It reminded me of my grandmother’s house back in Storm Lake, IA and I was looking forward to this little home away from home for the next few days.

After settling in, Arizona Mat drove Tall Square and I to the Mount San Jacinto State Park.  After boarding a tram, we began an 8 minute ride up to the top of the mountain.  It was an amazing experience as the tram rotates as it glides up the rock face, giving us an incredible view of the mountain and the valley below.

Upon reaching the top of Mount San Jacinto, we breathed deeply of the fresh, clean air and began hiking around the park.  Arizona Mat attempted to send Tall Square on a snipe hunt which triggered a rather loud, unpleasant argument between them.  Shaking my head in resignation, I began climbing to the top of one of the peaks.

After reaching the top of the peak, I was greeted by a sight that had to be the prettiest this side of heaven. 
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The vista was awesome and the view brought a sense of peace to my soul and gave me the sensation that everything would be all right in my life.  I then succumbed to my inner child and unleashed a roar of “Drago!!!!” from the top of the mountain.  Soon, I was joined by Arizona Mat and Tall Square and the sharing of this spectacular view seemed to spark a truce between the two of them.

After soaking up the scenery, we began to make our way down the mountain.  I heard a grunt and then saw Tall Square go bouncing past me.  I turned to look back up the peak where I saw Arizona Mat grinning evilly.  I sighed and reached into my backpack for my first aid kit, hoping that I could patch up Tall Square quickly enough for tomorrow’s adventure.