Discovering gargoyles and ghosts at historic hotels

Posted By Mike Padgett

Oct. 26, 2014

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Gargoyles are perched outside our hotel window. A ghost in a red gown roams our hallway. And at the end of our journey, we watch several water taxis perform a ballet.

Our adventure began on a Tuesday afternoon. We opened the drapes and discovered two gargoyles outside our hotel window. From this vantage point on the 14th floor, these stone creatures have a view of the downtown of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.


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Gargoyles outside our hotel window, overlooking downtown Vancouver, B.C., were a pleasant surprise. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett

Our journey in Canada actually started nearly two hours earlier, after we landed at Vancouver International Airport. “Ever been here before?” the customs officer asked. She had our passports open in front of her. She glanced at us, then at our passport photos. She was youngish and all business.


“No,” I said. I wasn’t sure if “here” meant Canada or Vancouver. We visited a different part of Canada in 2012. And in the 1990s, we rode the Victoria Clipper ferry from Seattle to Victoria. That was years before 9/11. It was a time when travel across international borders was simpler.

“Why are you here?” the officer asked.

Vacation, we said.

“Where are you staying?”

“The Fairmont,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. She stamped our passports and returned them.

“Thank you,” I said. No response. The officer waved us through. She motioned to the next visitors in line to step forward.


My Best Friend and I headed for the luggage carousels. It was summer in Arizona and we longed for cooler weather. For weeks, we had been dreaming about British Columbia’s mountain scenery and two of Canada’s historic hotels. It’s now fall in Arizona, and we’re still thinking about our summer adventure in Canada.


The flight from Phoenix to Vancouver, B.C., is a short three hours. Another 90 minutes later, after walking the meandering line at customs, collecting our luggage and the ride from the airport to the neo-gothic Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, we checked into our room.


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The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is one of the city’s historic cornerstones. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


I joined my Best Friend at the window. We stood admiring the view of downtown Vancouver, the mountains in the distance across the harbor, and the gargoyles. I put my arm around her. She rested her head on my shoulder. British Columbia was another destination on our growing list of places to explore.


Once upon a time, travels for us were rare interludes in our high-energy careers. But no more. Today, with our careers behind us, travel is our priority. And with airlines increasing costs and charging for everything – from seats closer to the door, to luggage, to printing tickets – we’re giving more thought to trips closer to home. That way, we could drive to our destinations  and avoid check-in times and emptying pockets for intrusive security. And no angry passengers feuding over knee space.


We’re nearing a milestone year of our journey together, and it seems like the clock is running faster. Each day we anticipate tomorrow because yesterday was better than the day before. We plan to spend more time walking, holding hands and sharing sunrise with the quail.


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Five blocks from the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is Burrard Inlet where floatplanes jockey for takeoff and landing. These planes resembling giant water striders share space on the water with private boats. A white cruise ship is docked nearby. Across the inlet are docked freighters. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


Vancouver has three Fairmont hotels downtown. Adjacent to the Vancouver Conference & Convention Centre is the Fairmont Waterfront. Nearby is the Fairmont Pacific Rim. History fans that we are, we chose the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, a historic hotel that opened in 1939 at Georgia and Burrard streets. This hotel, often called the “Castle in the City,” is a few blocks up the hill from the waterfront.


We learned that this majestic Fairmont is the third hotel bearing the Hotel Vancouver name. The first opened in 1888 at Georgia and Granville streets, two blocks from this location. It closed in 1916 and was replaced by a second one that had a short life because of “structural problems,” according to an account in USA Today.

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Historic hotels, with their roots in the city and distinctive architecture, offer much more than clean rooms and attentive staffs. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


Hilton Hotels bought the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and later sold it to Canadian Pacific Hotels. In 2007, the hotel was purchased by Quebec’s public pension fund, the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, as part of its real estate expansion. Earlier this year, the pension fund announced its plans to sell the Hotel Vancouver and other hotels.


We had some time before dinner on our first day, so we explored the hotel. Outside our hotel room door is a brass framework that can be closed to create a security door for the other rooms down the corridor. Past the brass door a few more rooms is another brass security door.


During our stay, we were pampered by the dedicated and attentive hotel staff. Our well-appointed room was clean and neat. Each day, after a visit by housekeeping, a note listing the following day’s weather forecast was left on our pillows.



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The 14th floor of the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, with elaborate brass hallway security doors off the elevator lobby. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


Whenever we visit historic hotels, our curiosity powers up. One can only imagine the hotel’s previous guests. Who else stood at the window in our 14th floor room and enjoyed the views? What decisions or deals did they make during their stay? Were they local or foreign politicians? Business tycoons? Did they appreciate the gargoyles outside our window?


On our first day, we spotted a construction crane towering over a high-rise building near the waterfront. We saw many other cranes at construction sites during our ride from the airport. Vancouver is a city undergoing major growth. It would be interesting to see a time-lapse video comprised of photos of this city’s skyline shot from the same vantage point once a month since the city’s earliest years.


Such a video would show one downtown Vancouver building changing very little, if at all – Christ Church Cathedral, which opened in 1894. The church, built with local stone and wood, was founded in 1888. It is across Georgia Street from our hotel. The church once was “the brightest and tallest building” in Vancouver, according to the church’s website.



A historic hotel’s link to the past

There are many fine contemporary hotels offering luxurious accommodations. But historic hotels offer something found nowhere else ­– a glimpse of life in another era.


The architecture and interior design of a historic building are from another time. The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s high ceilings, interior arches, seating areas in elevator lobbies and stone gargoyles on the structure’s highest corners are reminiscent of Vancouver’s earlier years.


Historic hotels are a combination of unique architecture, influences of architects and owners, and dedication of conscientious employees. A few, like the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, have a ghost story for intrigue.


According to a narrative on the hotel’s website, the friendly apparition wearing an elegant red gown has been spotted on the 14th floor. Some say her name is Jennie and that she and her husband and their daughter began frequenting the hotel after it opened in 1939. They died in an automobile accident in 1944.


Hotel guests and employees have reported seeing a lady in red in the hall and in one of the rooms on the 14th floor. The hotel bar has named a drink honoring the ghost.


We learned about the hotel ghost while riding the hop-on, hop-off trolley. It was in her narrative about Vancouver that the trolley driver shared the ghost story. We later verified her yarn with a hotel employee and by checking the hotel website.


The trolley driver’s energetic narrative also answered our questions about the city and its history, parks and neighborhoods. She told us about Robson Street, lined with many fine restaurants and exclusive shops.


At one of the trolley stops, we stepped off to walk to the waterfront for lunch at Mahony & Sons Restaurant. From the promenade, we watched Harbour Air’s floatplanes arrive and take off.


The Fairmont has its own fine restaurant, and many other restaurants are within walking distance. We enjoyed dinners at Joe Fortes and Cin-Cin. For lunch one Sunday, after services at a downtown church, we stopped at YEW seafood + bar, the Four Seasons hotel restaurant. The restaurant’s 40-foot ceiling and the towering sandstone fireplace mimic Canada’s great outdoors.


To Victoria B.C. by bus and ferry


After a few days in Vancouver, we boarded a Pacific Coach bus for the short trip to Victoria on Vancouver Island. The bus took us from the hotel to the ferry landing at Tsawwassen, a suburb of Vancouver. After a short wait, the bus driver drove onto the ferry. He parked second in line to drive off the ferry. The crossing to Swartz Bay, a distance of 24 nautical miles, lasts about 95 minutes.


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Sailboats are a regular sight during ferry trips to and from Vancouver Island. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


During the crossing, we and the other passengers left the bus to find seats on the observation floors. We returned to the bus prior to docking at Swartz Bay.


Fairmont Empress 

Once at the Victoria bus station, we retrieved our luggage. Our destination was the Fairmont Empress Hotel. It is about a block from the bus station, so we walked. After sitting much of the morning, the walk was invigorating.


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The Fairmont Empress Hotel was built in 1908 in the style of a French chateau. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


In 1965, the hotel’s supporters rallied against a proposal to demolish this historical centerpiece of downtown Victoria and replace it with a modern high-rise hotel. A local newspaper, calling the iconic Empress “the heart and soul of this city,” opposed demolition. “Without this splendid relic of the Edwardian era,” the newspaper warned, “literally tens of thousands of tourists will never return.”


A year later, it was announced that the Empress would remain. The resulting renovation cost about $4 million.


In 1989, more then $45 million was spent on a more extensive renovation and the addition of a health club, indoor swimming pool and guest reception, according to the hotel website.


Earlier this year, Vancouver developer and philanthropist Nat Bosa and his wife Flora, bought the 477-room hotel from a subsidiary of the Quebec pension fund. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts will continue as manager, according to news accounts.


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One window of our corner room offered a view of the Inner Harbour across Government Street from the hotel. We watched ferries arriving from Seattle and Port Angeles, Wash., private boats, and the local water taxis. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


The Empress’ guestroom floors have wide hallways with occasional seating areas where one could enjoy reading during inclement weather.


We wandered the hotel and found the Tea Room, which we discovered is a victim of its own popularity. Too busy for our liking. But we enjoyed meals at the hotel’s Veranda restaurant. Most days we sat at one of its outside tables. One evening we sat inside and enjoyed the brilliant sunset.


Earlier that evening, we crossed the street to walk along the harbor. On the sidewalk were a few arts and crafts vendors. A fortuneteller sat at her table waiting for a client. Behind us, the hotel took on a glow from the setting summer sun. To our left, across the street, are the British Columbia Parliament Buildings.


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The British Columbia Parliament buildings were designed by Francis Mawson Rattenbury, the English architect who also designed the Fairmont Empress. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


The Empress has its own permanent residents, according to the hotel history. A guest several years ago wrote about “a little girl who had watched over her bed and then floated across the room.” The hotel history also mentions “an early 20th Century maid” who sometimes helps with cleaning on the sixth floor.


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The Fairmont Empress’ gardens welcome visitors seeking quiet and beauty. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett 

In the hotel garden on a late afternoon, we walked the path slowly, absorbing the beauty and the quiet. A couple sat quietly on a nearby bench tucked into the flowerbeds. The late July weather is perfect, with an occasional light breeze. White roses and other flowers and a patch of lavender next to a trellis punctuated the lush lawn.


The Empress’ roses were a prelude to our visit to the Butchart Gardens, a series of gardens that has been blooming since its beginnings more than 100 years ago.


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Butchart Gardens occupy a worked-out limestone quarry established by Robert Butchart in the early 1900s. Butchart and his wife, Jennie, completed the first part of their home nearby in 1904. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


A friend gave the Butcharts a rose and some sweet peas to celebrate their new home. A garden publication says Jennie Butchart, in planting the rose and sweet peas by their home, “probably little realized this was the modest start to one of the world’s great horticultural adventures.”


As limestone in the quarry was exhausted, Jennie Butchart and workers recruited from the quarry crews added more flowers, shrubs and trees in establishing the 55 acres of Japanese, Italian, Rose and other gardens. Tour buses run hourly between downtown Victoria and the gardens 14 miles north of the city.


In 2004, its centennial year, the gardens was named a designated National Historic Site of Canada. The Butchart residence houses a historical display of the development of the gardens.


An elegant end to a memorable vacation

The morning we were packing for our return to Vancouver, we glanced out our window and saw several water taxis performing a ballet in the middle of the harbor. They were accompanied by classical music broadcast on loudspeakers. The unexpected visual treat was an elegant end to our summer adventure in Canada.

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From our hotel room, we watched water taxis perform a water ballet in the harbor across the street from the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett



(Copyright @ Mike Padgett, All applicable U.S. and International copyright laws pertain to any and all photographs and other images and articles on this site. Downloading, hot-linking, copying, reproducing, manipulating in any way and/or distribution by print, electronic media or other means is prohibited by law.)


(Please contact Mike Padgett if you are interested in purchasing prints or licensing images on this site, or if you wish to use any of the images on this site for noncommercial purposes. All rights reserved.)


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Oct 26th, 2014

Storm leaving Phoenix creates dramatic sunset

Posted By Mike Padgett

Oct. 10, 2014

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Copyright © iPhone photo by Mike Padgett

Pictured above is the departure of the storm that rattled metropolitan Phoenix in late September. I captured the iPhone image from an upper floor of the parking garage at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s Terminal Four.

At the horizon in the center is a rain shaft. A bank of low-hanging clouds obscures the mountains to the left. At the far right is part of the downtown Phoenix skyline.

Our flight that day into Phoenix from Seattle was diverted to Tucson, where we waited a couple hours for the powerful weather system to move out of metro Phoenix. Our plane was on final approach into Phoenix when the pilot was ordered to fly on to Tucson.

We learned later that our flight was one of several diverted that day from Phoenix. When we landed in Tucson, paramedics boarded to treat an elderly man complaining of chest pains.

After the storm passed, we returned to Phoenix and landed about seven hours after leaving Seattle. The Phoenix-Seattle flight usually lasts less than three hours.



Oct 10th, 2014

Arizona mesquites glisten with early morning rain

Posted By Mike Padgett

Oct. 9, 2014


Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett

A walk in the Arizona desert after a gentle morning rain is a special treat. The air is clean and fresh, filled with the aroma of creosote bushes and other plants. Rabbits, quail and other wildlife begin emerging from cover offered by trees and brush. Overhead, the grey sky begins changing. By noon, it will be a collection of fluffy clouds scattered across a blue canvas.


The drops of rain glistening on the tiny leaves of a mesquite tree fit this quote from author John Updike: “Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.”



Oct 9th, 2014

Desert sentinels greet sunrise today in central Arizona

Posted By Mike Padgett

Oct. 7, 2014



Photo copyright © Mike Padgett

“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”

John Muir (1838-1914), conservationist, co-founder of the Sierra Club, and considered the father of our National Park System, according to the John Muir Association.


Oct 7th, 2014

‘Flying Jewel’ darts into photograph, then vanishes

Posted By Mike Padgett

April 25, 2014


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Hummingbirds collect nectar from about 1,000 flowers each day, according to a list of facts found on (Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The saying, “Blink and you might miss it,” applies whenever hummingbirds are around. I was focusing on the cactus flowers near our front door, preparing to click the shutter, when this hummingbird flew into the photo scene. A few clicks of my camera and the tiny hummer was gone as suddenly as it appeared.

The result is a serendipitous photo of a delicate bird visiting brilliant flowers sprouting from a spiny cactus. Red is said to be a favorite color of these flying jewels. 




(Copyright @ Mike Padgett, All applicable U.S. and International copyright laws pertain to any and all photographs and other images and articles on this site. Downloading, hot-linking, copying, reproducing, manipulating in any way and/or distribution by print, electronic media or other means is prohibited by law.)


(Please contact Mike Padgett if you are interested in purchasing prints or licensing images on this site, or if you wish to use any of the images on this site for noncommercial purposes. All rights reserved.)


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Apr 25th, 2014
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A Friend’s Birthday Cards and New Year’s Eve Campfire

Posted By Mike Padgett


April 22, 2014

MESA, Ariz. – For several days, I’ve been thinking about a breakfast meeting I had 16 years ago with a friend. He loved life and he wore many hats, including those of media executive and community activist.

Our meeting was in the spring of 1998. Chuck Wahlheim was the first to contact me when I returned to Arizona. I had accepted an offer to relocate to Phoenix to write for The Phoenix Business Journal after working for nearly a year at a newspaper in Washington State.

I had moved out of state in 1997 after the owners of The Phoenix Gazette, my former employer, closed the 117-year-old newspaper.

Chuck saw the news item in the Journal about my return to Arizona. He called to invite me to breakfast.  We met in a hotel restaurant in east Phoenix.


Compassionate boss

Chuck was my old boss at the Mesa Tribune from years earlier. From 1977 to 1985, Chuck was the CEO in the executive offices while from 1978 to 1987 I was one of the reporters in the newsroom.

I believe Chuck’s family and friends could share many stories about the influence his energy and guidance had upon their lives.

In my case, there was the day that Chuck ­– after reading one of my stories – ordered the editor to give me a raise, beginning immediately. The story featured a young family I discovered living out of their car parked along the Salt River northeast of Mesa.

That was Chuck – a take-charge, do-it-now kind of business leader.


Always a news junkie

When I entered the restaurant that morning for breakfast with Chuck, I saw him seated in a booth. He was focused on the morning newspaper.

Chuck rose to greet me. He acted like we’d just seen each other, though we hadn’t talked since he left the Tribune in 1985. Two years later, in 1987, I resigned from the Tribune when I received a better offer from the Gazette.

During breakfast, Chuck and I updated each other on our careers and families. He said his goal in contacting me was to stay connected as well as to offer his help in arranging interviews with East Valley business leaders.


Kids Voting

At this point in his life, Chuck had many achievements. He was former CEO of Cox Arizona Publications, which once included the Mesa Tribune, Tempe Daily News and Chandler Arizonan newspapers.

Chuck helped launch East Valley Partnership in 1982. He left the news business in 1985. In 1988, he helped create Kids Voting, a non-profit organization that encourages children to learn the importance of voting. Three years later, the program went national with Kids Voting USA. In the 2012 presidential election, about 1 million students cast ballots, according to press accounts.

Chuck’s biography on LinkedIn says he “had an extensive career owning or operating over 50 newspapers, network and cable television stations, both as a publisher and corporate CEOs.”

Another story involves the New Year’s Eve party Chuck helped arrange at Usery Mountain Regional Park just northeast of Mesa. Invited were the Tribune staff and a few East Valley business contacts. Chuck reserved a campsite for his rented RV. A couple more RVs were there.

I saw the party as Chuck’s way of celebrating good fortune with friends and employees. The desert park is on the slopes of the foothills, giving us a panoramic view of the East Valley’s city lights.

It was cold that December night, but Chuck’s friendship matched the warmth of the New Year’s Eve campfires.


Helped uncover news

I remember the time I joined Chuck for lunch at the Mesa Country Club. He had arranged a meeting with a county official involved in a budget dispute with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. The lunch meeting was a backgrounder for Chuck and me. Later, it was confirmed that the final authority on the department budget rested not with the county official, as had been assumed, but with the county supervisors.

After I left the Tribune in 1987, the birthday cards Chuck sent me became our only contact. I don’t know how many others received his cards each year, but I’m sure the number was large.

It was in 1998 when Chuck and I shared breakfast. After that, our careers sent us in different directions. I saw him a couple more times over the years when I contacted him about business stories.


Birthday cards stopped

My work progressed at the Business Journal. But in 2006, after 33 years in newspapers, I decided to take early retirement.

Eventually, Chuck’s birthday cards stopped arriving. I made a mental note to invite him to lunch so we could stay connected.

But I waited too long. Charles “Chuck” Wahlheim died earlier this month. He was 82. I will always remember Chuck as a true friend and as one of those executives whose smiles, encouragement and interest in you and your family were genuine.


(Copyright @ Mike Padgett, All applicable U.S. and International copyright laws pertain to any and all photographs and other images and articles on this site. Downloading, hot-linking, copying, reproducing, manipulating in any way and/or distribution by print, electronic media or other means is prohibited by law.)

(Please contact Mike Padgett if you are interested in purchasing prints or licensing images on this site, or if you wish to use any of the images on this site for noncommercial purposes. All rights reserved.)

(Ideas for interesting news stories about Arizona residents and businesses are welcome. Please send ideas and suggestions to

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Apr 22nd, 2014

Memories of Joe and His Grave, Decades Later

Posted By Mike Padgett

March 10,2014


Joe looked like he was sleeping. We didn’t know Joe’s age when we rescued him years earlier from the animal shelter, but he had aged gracefully. He was handsome and friendly, and he barked only when strangers approached our home.


There were no marks on his body from the truck’s impact. The absence of blood made me assume death came instantly.


A large truck braking suddenly makes a distinctive sound. Mom heard it. She looked out the window. It was summer and the roadside weeds were high, so she was puzzled why the truck was stopped in the road. Until the driver reached down and picked up Joe’s limp body.


The driver carried Joe carefully off the two-lane highway. Slowly, he placed Joe on the thick grass and weeds in the ditch.



The feelings generated by a dog’s loyalty and friendship over several years are difficult to describe. (Photo “labeled for reuse” in Google images, March 2014.)


I’m very sorry, Mom said the man told her. Your dog ran in front of me. I didn’t see him. I’m sorry.


Mom said the man paused a minute before he walked back to his truck. It was parked and idling on the road.


Later that day, when I arrived home from high school, I learned the bad news. I walked to the ditch east of our driveway. Joe was partly hidden by the tall grass.


Joe was on his left side. His proud tail, usually curled over his back, was straight out behind him. Joe’s natural smile was gone. His pink-and-blue-black tongue hung out of his open mouth.


I slipped my hands under Joe. I could tell that death came quickly. As I lifted him, his lifeless body opened behind his right shoulder. There was no bleeding. I placed him on the flatbed trailer behind our tractor and drove him to a place next to two trees in our pasture.


It was a numbing experience, digging a grave for a loyal companion. I buried Joe nearly 50 years ago, but I still can visualize where I placed him in the pasture. Two trees shade his grave at sunset.


Dogs are unique

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Dog enthusiasts walking their dogs exercise themselves as well as their canine friends. The walks also improve the dogs’ socialization. This photo was captured soon after sunrise in New Orleans’ French Quarter. (Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett)


Dogs are among my favorite people. The permanent grin and a perpetual tail wag will brighten any day. That’s why it’s frustrating to see dogs that are poorly socialized. They are easy to spot. From their barks, you often can tell whether they are lonely, bored or dangerous. They might bark at everyone they see, or at any sound, real or imagined. Some don’t play well with other dogs.


Dogs that exhibit such behavior generally have been abused or ignored by their masters.


And as much as we understand about the abilities of dogs, recent books are suggesting they are capable of much more. Two examples are “The Possibility Dogs,” by Susannah Charleson, and “The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think,” by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods.


Throughout my childhood and high school years, one or two dogs always shared our home. When I was 5 years old, I remember my neighbor’s dog digging for a small critter that scampered down a hole in a dirt bank. The dog was excited. He whined as his front legs shot dirt back and under him, through his hind legs.


When he paused and shoved his nose further down the hole, all motion stopped. He was sniffing and listening.


I moved closer to my neighbor’s dog with its head down the critter hole. That was my mistake. I was behind the dog, on my knees, watching. Without warning, the dog shot a double-paws load of dirt back through his rear legs and straight into my face.


It took me a few minutes to get the stinging dirt out of my eyes. Meanwhile, the dog kept busy, digging for the critter he never found. He finally gave up.



Dog disappeared


I was in the second grade when we had a small light-colored terrier mutt. His hair was so wiry, every day was a bad hair day for him. But he was my friend. We played around our home in northern Oregon.


One day, our bad-hair dog vanished. We never learned what happened. I imagined that he was hit by a car or dognapped. Maybe he fell prey to a larger animal from the surrounding forest.


It was a few years later, after we had moved to Washington State, when Joe entered our lives. I don’t remember the year. I think I was about 12. Joe was a collie-chow mix whose personality earned him a permanent place in our memories.


Joe was the size of a collie but a little broader across his chest.  His pink tongue was streaked with blue, from his chow heritage. His hair was darker than the collie’s golden color, and it was thick, especially around his neck.


Joe’s previous owner had surrendered him to the animal shelter because Joe had nipped a little girl in the neighborhood. Or so we were told. But that story also pointed out that local children had teased Joe, so the owner probably had been forced to take him to the shelter.


From the animal shelter, Joe rode home with Mom in the backseat of our car. The first few hours in our home, Joe stayed under the dining room table. He relaxed there, like a handsome sphinx but with his head on his paws. We waited. He watched. We kept our voices calm and low. We placed a water dish nearby. He was in a strange world. We allowed him to become confident in new surroundings.


If we walked past the table, he would raise his head and follow us with his eyes. Later that evening, he crawled out from under the table to greet us. He saw that no one was waiting to tease him. We offered him a new home. He offered us his friendship.



Haircut mistake


One summer, because it was especially hot and humid, Dad cut Joe’s thick hair. That buzz cut was a mistake, and it didn’t happen again. Using shears meant for trimming our horses’ manes, Dad cut Joe’s thick hair. He left part of Joe’s thick neck hair and a tuft of hair at the end of Joe’s tail. Joe’s strange haircut startled a neighbor.


These memories of Joe’s life with us flooded my mind while I dug his grave. A dog’s loyalty lasts forever in a boy’s memory. Joe’s violent death was in the early 1960s, but I still think about him.


After Joe, it was many years before I had time for another dog. I had enlisted in the Air Force, after which I was busy with college studies.



Cancer: Too late


A few years after meeting my Best Friend, and after purchasing our first home, we decided to bring a dog into our lives. She and I chose an Australian shepherd pup from a litter. We called him Bandit because the markings on his face resembled a mask.



Bandit fed himself from an automatic feeder I built for him. He never became overweight. He enjoyed chasing a Frisbee or a tennis ball. During hot weather, he preferred standing under a running hose to jumping in the swimming pool. I believe he didn’t like the pool because he fell in twice.


When we first moved into that home, I walked him into the back yard. Since it was strange territory, he trotted around the yard, sniffing and eyeballing his new surroundings. He turned toward the pool and, without pausing, tried to walk across it. He bobbed to the surface right away and I fished him out. He shook himself off, trotted a short distance and again tried to walk across the water.


I pulled him out of the pool again. That second dunking probably convinced Bandit that when he wanted to get to the other side of the pool, the best way is to walk around it. Even when we entered the pool, he stayed on the side, watching us, wagging his tail. A few times, I carried him gently into the pool and lowered him into the water at the pool steps. He tolerated my efforts, but he always dog paddled to the steps and climbed out. I guess he thought it was a game, but he preferred to stay out of the water.


In the 11 years Bandit was with us, he provided much friendship and loyalty. He was a high-energy dog, but always quiet and dependable. He was a rare dog.  He worked his way into our hearts.


One day, Bandit yelped when he tried to walk fast. His flanks, which should have been soft, were rigid. We drove him to our family vet. Bandit stood still on the examining table, allowing the vet to run his hands across his sides and abdomen. The vet wasn’t sure what to say, other than the situation was not normal. He decided on exploratory surgery.


The next day, on the operating table, Bandit died. Our vet said he found cancer that had caused Bandit to bleed internally. It was too late. He was about 11.


A dog treated kindly can become a loyal companion, with its wide eyes and willingness to go anywhere. And when the child (or the man, or the woman) is struggling with family or work pressures, the four-footed companion will be there, sitting quietly alongside the chair, listening, watching, waiting, as if to say, “I’m here. I can help. Can I help?”


(Copyright @ Mike Padgett, All applicable U.S. and International copyright laws pertain to any and all photographs and other images and articles on this site. Downloading, hot-linking, copying, reproducing, manipulating in any way and/or distribution by print, electronic media or other means is prohibited by law.)


(Please contact Mike Padgett if you are interested in purchasing prints or licensing images on this site, or if you wish to use any of the images on this site for noncommercial purposes. All rights reserved.)


(Ideas for interesting news stories about Arizona residents and businesses are welcome. Please send ideas and suggestions to


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Mar 10th, 2014

Magical History Tours at Musical Instrument Museum

Posted By Mike Padgett


Feb. 22, 2014

PHOENIX – This musical time machine encourages visitors to follow musicians into history. Listen to their stories. Study their instruments.


The multimedia exhibits in the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) include the works of legends. Museum visitors, as they tour the exhibits, will hear music and narratives that likely will revive memories of favorite songs, lost loves or personal journeys.

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The Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix. Photo © copyright by Mike Padgett 

When they look carefully at the instruments, they will see a few scars from concerts and road trips. There are the nicks and scratches Elvis Presley’s guitars received from his large belt buckles. On display is the Martin guitar Presley played in his last concert. It was in Indianapolis in June 1977. He died two months later. The guitar was found in 1982 in a closet at Presley’s estate, Graceland.



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The Elvis Presley exhibit includes a selection of Presley’s outfits, posters and guitars. Photo courtesy of Musical Instrument Museum


And there’s the crack in John Denver’s favorite guitar, the 1910 Gibson his grandmother gave him when he was a boy. She played it when she was a child. Denver said the guitar was cracked when a lumberjack who didn’t like Denver’s singing of a Hank Williams song hit him with it. Denver died in the crash of his private plane in 1997.



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John Denver received his first guitar from his grandmother. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


The MIM, with its two floors of exhibits, is like a candy store for music fans. The 200,000-square-foot museum houses a collection of 15,000 instruments and other items representing more than 200 countries. About 6,000 items are on display at a time. Many are enclosed in clear cases.


One of the museum’s historic instruments is the first Steinway piano ever made. It dates to 1836, or 60 years after the approval of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.



The first Steinway piano. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


My favorite places in this magical history tour are the Artist Gallery and the United States-Canada Gallery. Both galleries are filled with guitars, pianos, costumes and the handwritten lyrics of hit songs spotlighting the achievements of many singers and songwriters.


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Displayed are two of Carlos Santana’s guitars. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


There are guitars played by Eric Clapton, Roy Orbison, Carlos Santana, Dick Dale and others. These legends created memorable melodies from inspiration, dedication and metal strings stretched across hollow or solid body guitars. Imagine the stories these instruments could tell.


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A special treat for visitors is the piano John Lennon played while he composed “Imagine,” a song released in 1971. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


Visitors enjoy the historic concert video clips showing wicked guitar or piano performances of Fats Domino, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, The Ventures, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, to name a few.



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Next to Roy Orbison’s guitar is the Grammy awarded posthumously to him in 1990 for his song, “Oh Pretty Woman.” Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


In the Jazz exhibit nearby are instruments from giants of the Big Band Era. There are clarinets played by Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. There is a trumpet played by Harry James.


Female rockers

A special exhibit is “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power,” coordinated by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Featured are the song lyrics, concert posters, videos and costumes of more 70 female artists, including Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Cher, Melissa Etheridge, Linda Ronstadt, Tina Turner, Donna Summer, Janis Joplin, Madonna and many others.  The WWR exhibit is open through April 20.




“Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power” exhibit at MIM closes April 20. Photo courtesy of Musical Instrument Museum


The MIM is a place where one could spend many hours. As a journalist, I admire the way songwriters can create powerful songs with a melody and a few descriptive phrases.


During a recent visit over two days, I gained a new appreciation of the museum’s collection. I watched visitors gently sway or nod in time to the music from their wireless headphones. I was ready to play my air guitar.


A teenager at the Rock and Roll exhibit nodded in time to the music. Two others approached him from behind, their eyes transfixed on the video. A man stood motionless in front of the C.F. Martin guitar exhibit. He was captivated by the video explaining the family business that was started in 1833.



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The C.F. Martin guitar exhibit highlights the company’s history. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


Music’s impact

Scientists are unsure why music has such an impact on the human brain, but they are gathering clues. A study in 2008 found that children with after-school music classes developed higher IQs.


A 2009 review of 23 studies involving 1,500 patients concluded that music helped reduce the patients’ heart rates, blood pressures and anxiety levels.


A 2010 study concluded that many people have experienced spine chills listening to music.



One could say some music, whether soft or energetic, can become immortal. Listeners experience the music. They feel it. The musical chemistry brings back to life some favorite memories, first loves or sad goodbyes. They remember high school dances. Or a special event, like a wedding, baptism or funeral.


Human physiology can be influenced by a song’s mix of instruments. For example, various instruments in Elton John’s powerful “Runaway Train” paint a mental vision of a powerful train racing along its tracks. This song is an energetic musical journey that includes Eric Clapton on blues guitar and shared vocals. The song is on my list of favorites for inspiration and long drives.



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Eric Clapton’s 1964 Gibson guitar. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


9/11 songs

Inspiration for music is found all around us, from personal adventures to national headlines. It has been estimated that more than 120 songs were sparked by the terror attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11.


One of those songs is “Freedom,” by Sir Paul McCartney. In a 2007 interview, McCartney said he was sitting in a plane on the tarmac at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport when he saw the World Trade Center burning. Before his plane took off, the airport was closed. Across America, all aircraft were grounded for days. The day after 9/11, McCartney began writing “Freedom.”


Bruce Springsteen wrote several of his songs on his “The Rising” album to honor the 9/11 victims, first responders or family members. The album won several Grammys.


But back to the museum’s collection. Visitors should check out its many other instruments. One is a piano its display says was originally made for Czar Nicholas I of Russia. He was Russia’s emperor from 1825 to 1855. The piano is one of only 24 made by Johann August Tischner (1774-1852).



A piano made for Czar Nicholas I of Russia. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


MIM is on Tatum Boulevard in north Phoenix at 4725 E. Mayo Blvd. It has a restaurant and a 300-seat theater for concerts. The museum was founded by Robert Ulrich, former CEO and chairman emeritus of Target Corp.


Many more details about the museum, its concert list, admission, design and architectural team are on the museum website,


(Copyright @ Mike Padgett, All applicable U.S. and International copyright laws pertain to any and all photographs and other images and articles on this site. Downloading, hot-linking, copying, reproducing, manipulating in any way and/or distribution by print, electronic media or other means is prohibited by law.)




Feb 22nd, 2014

A Partial List of Pleasures Awaiting Visitors to Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada

Posted By Mike Padgett

Sept. 19, 2013

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta – One of our most memorable journeys took us to a historic hotel in the Canadian Rockies. It is a place of soaring mountain peaks, ancient glaciers and icy lakes, this destination where nature’s beauty competes with hotel luxury.


Life is too short, so 12 months ago we indulged ourselves with a few days at the luxury Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The hotel occupies an important place in the history of Canada’s westward expansion in the late 1800s. Plus, this Canadian icon is surrounded by  majestic mountains blanketed with evergreen forests.


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The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is an elegant hotel where – if it were possible – we would grab time’s pendulum to stop the clock.


Our stay at the hotel in the small community of Lake Louise fits into the mother lode of upscale travel. The eight-floor hotel – it has 554 rooms – is dignified and polished but not overdone. The many positives we experienced at this hotel place it very high on our list of favorite high-end hotels.


After checking out, we thanked the vacation gods for giving us a string of sunny days in a region that often receives significant rainfall during its short summers.


Today, a year later, I often think about our stay at this luxury hotel. It is in a region where nature occupies center stage. On the nearby Trans Canada Highway are fenced overpasses built for wildlife to use to avoid traffic.


Besides the friendly and helpful employees, many other things to love about the hotel and its surroundings include:


• The rugged beauty of the mountains surrounding the lake and the hotel.


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• Tranquil walks at sunrise in the clean mountain air on the trail along the glacial lake.


• Stops on the trail to look back at the hotel and its image reflected in the lake’s mirror-smooth surface. The only sound is morning mist dripping from trees.


• The lake’s brilliant turquoise color, caused by “rock flour” created by glaciers grinding rocks into powder. Melting snow and ice carry the rock flour into the lake that freezes during winter.


• Breathtaking vistas of the lake. Between some of the snowy peaks are glaciers.


• Pausing to relax on a trail bench made from peeled logs sawed in half lengthways. Across the lake is the rental canoe dock.


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• Breezes whispering through the dense evergreen forest.


• Morning dew dripping from the trees and merging into tiny rivulets that trickle off the slopes, across the trail and into the icy lake.


• The history of the lake and the luxury hotel, which traces its origin to a guest chalet built in 1890 by the Canadian Pacific Railway.


• The hotel’s colorful flowerbeds, kept fresh by a friendly staff.  Flowers dominate the landscaping between the hotel and the lake and also in creative arrangements in the driveway to the hotel’s main entrance.


• Watching the lake color change through the day, depending on smoothness of the water and the angle of the sun reflecting off the lake.


• Postcard vistas of the lake and the snow-capped mountains through the Lakeview Lounge’s arched windows.


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• The ethnic mix of hotel guests speaking languages from the Far East to Europe and the Middle East.


• The tasty menu selections at the hotel restaurant, the Glacier Saloon. For economical meals and for picnickers, the hotel’s sandwich shop offers a wide selection of fresh sandwiches and hot meals.


• The private Gold Lounge on the seventh floor. We’re not fond of crowds, so this level of privacy and service is worth the extra price. We enjoyed our breakfasts here. In the afternoons, the private lounge offers an honor bar and generous canapés. We had our choice of tables close to windows or in alcoves. The windows offer upper-floor views stretching from the hotel’s entrance to the mountain peaks in the distance.  For privacy, we chose tables in the alcoves.


• The courtesy and conscientiousness of hotel and restaurant employees. Hotel staff in the Gold Lounge and at the front desk helped us receive and return documents to negotiate a real estate transaction during our stay.


• The view of the lake from our corner room’s windows. Several mornings, we watched a morning breeze cross the lake, painting its glassy surface with ripples.




• Relaxing with favorite books in our room or in the concierge floor lounge at the end of the day.


• Finding excuses to walk again along the lake. Photo ops are around every turn in the trail.


• A thundering sound echoes occasionally across the lake, even on sunny days. We are told the sounds likely are snow avalanches in the mountains.


• Reading about the hotel’s history, and imagining the challenges construction workers faced before there were power tools and concrete trucks.


Sadly, major flooding scarred Alberta’s beauty in June. Floodwaters damaged or destroyed homes, businesses, bridges and roads. Southeast of Lake Louise, the Trans Canada Highway was closed for a short time because floodwaters damaged the four-lane highway between Banff and Canmore. Nearly a week later, the highway was repaired and reopened.


We send Albertans our wishes for a speedy recovery from the historic flooding. Theirs is a magnificent country where its natural beauty can erase fatigue.


Our experience at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise boosted our interest in luxury travel. We are planning more similar journeys in our slower and gentler lifestyle AD, or After Deadlines.



(Copyright @ Mike Padgett, All applicable U.S. and International copyright laws pertain to any and all photographs and other images and articles on this site. Downloading, hot-linking, copying, reproducing, manipulating in any way and/or distribution by print, electronic media or other means is prohibited by law.)


(Please contact Mike Padgett if you are interested in purchasing prints or licensing images on this site, or if you wish to use any of the images on this site for noncommercial purposes. All rights reserved.)


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Sep 19th, 2013
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To the Ocean, to Read and Recharge

Posted By Mike Padgett

June 1, 2013

SAN DIEGO – Ocean, ocean, ocean, she chants softly with eyes closed and arms stretched in front of her like a conductor. She is resting her head back against the passenger’s seat.

We’re racing west on the interstate to find a slow path on the beach. I’m anticipating salt air with my morning coffee.

My Best Friend opens her eyes and lowers her arms to resume typing on her laptop. We’re halfway across the Arizona and California deserts. Twin dust devils spin in the distance to our left. Three hours ahead is San Diego and the Pacific Ocean.

It is late spring. The possibility of a gray May and a June gloom – a regional saying referring to cloudy or rainy days this time of year – is irrelevant.

Actually, the unpredictable spring weather and the collective daily activities at sunrise on the coast are exhilarating, not gray or gloomy. There is brisk morning air with drifting clouds or fog. We can share endorphins with joggers, cyclists, kayakers and sailing enthusiasts. It is a grand new day, every day.

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Sunrise over the Coronado Bridge in San Diego. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett

With each new dawn, Nature offers her personal orchestra. Rays of sunlight reaching through clouds and landing on anchored sailboats turn the watercraft blinding white on dark water.

Pelicans fly single file overhead or glide inches above waves. Solitary motionless herons stand in shallow water, waiting for a meal to swim by.

We’ve made this Phoenix-San Diego road trip many times since our paths crossed years ago at the intersection of Future Journeys and Best of Friends. We are drawn to the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. The ocean breezes and the sights and sounds of the Pacific Ocean offer beauty and solitude.

The ocean reminds me of the quote, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” Isak Dinesen, pseudonym of Danish writer Baroness Karen Blixen, author of  “Out of Africa,” and “Seven Gothic Tales,” wrote it.

On the beach, all we need are light jackets and each other. And a camera to capture the occasional spring flowers as bright as airport beacons.


Flowers seem more vibrant in marine environments. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett

We enjoy California’s rich variety of cultures, climates, moderate politics and more tolerance of individual differences. During an earlier trip, after learning we live in Arizona, a San Francisco waiter said, jokingly, “You sure have your problems.” He referred to Arizona headlines that are trapped in negative viral mode.

When we visited San Diego a year ago for a conference, I took a seat at our 23rd floor window to watch the day begin. My coffee was too hot. Joggers wound their way on their routes between the downtown high-rises and along the marina.

I watched as a three-deck yacht, one of the largest in the marina, was maneuvered from its slip. On the yacht’s top deck was a small silver helicopter. I wonder about the boat’s ownership.

On our newest visit, 11 months later, the time is ours. No business meetings. No conferences. We set aside this time to read, to leave our car parked, and to walk along the bay. No standing in lines at museums and restaurants. No fighting traffic. No searching for parking spaces or gasoline stations. Coronado is our destination.

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Solitary fishermen often are the first to greet sunrise on San Diego Bay. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett

On our morning walks along the bay, we encounter several other early risers. The earliest to greet the new day are fishermen. They are in their boats, positioned at favorite spots but out of the water traffic lanes, as we walk past. Next are joggers and bicyclists. A man on a skateboard – one foot pumping, the other on the skateboard – races to keep up with his dog on a leash. A few walkers, of all ages, walk alone. A few others walk hand in hand. We pass an exercise class for a dozen young mothers, each with a baby buggy, on the promenade.

During our pre-dinner walk our first night on this trip, we stop to watch a dozen small, dark amphibious craft,­ each carrying four or five passengers, cruise at high speed  – in single file – on San Diego Bay. Since it was after sundown, maybe it was night military training. Naval Amphibious Base Coronado is nearby.

We walk a short distance to Currents, the restaurant at the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa. Dinner was seared salmon filets. Dessert was a shared slice of chocolate and peanut butter pie with caramel sauce.

The next morning, after a breakfast of lump crab hash topped with a fried egg, we spend the day reading, checking email and watching activity on and around the bay.

This part of Coronado has been one of our favorite getaways for many years. We remember when the hotel was the Coronado Island Le Meridien. In the late 1990s, the Marriott Corp. announced its plans to buy the property, according to news accounts.

From our villa patio, we can watch the daily slowmo parade of Navy and cargo ships on the bay. A man, on his stomach, paddles by on a surfboard. He passes two kayaks. Passing him is a giant cargo ship. We check the behemoth ship’s name on the Internet and learn that it is delivering new European automobiles to dealers on the West Coast. San Diego was its first stop after passing through the Panama Canal.

We watch a few sailboats cruise by slowly, their sails filled with gentle breezes. The sky is clear. A water taxi crosses the bay, carrying several passengers to downtown San Diego.

In the distance is the Coronado Bridge where, on weekday afternoons, the Coronado-to-San Diego rush hour traffic can slow to a crawl. A recent road rage incident on the bridge between a motorist and a motorcyclist is in the news.

Life goes on. In the hotel, we enjoy the waiter’s recommendation – sea bass on a bed of mashed potatoes and steamed veggies.

On previous trips, we enjoyed walking through Coronado’s residential neighborhoods, filled with small bungalows, larger contemporary homes and restored mansions.

We also enjoyed morning walks on the promenade in Coronado along the bay and under the Coronado Bridge. If you go, follow the path past the anchored sailboats, under the bridge and along the golf course.

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Sunset on the beach in Southern California. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett

Walking along the beach or bay allows time for reflection. There are no I-shoulda-dones, and the only regret is, time passes too quickly.

The following morning, on another day set aside for more reading and walking, we begin with a breakfast of blueberry scones, bananas and caffeine. We’re planning to order gyros for lunch at a nearby restaurant. Dinner? We haven’t decided. Our week is going well.



(Copyright @ Mike Padgett, All applicable U.S. and International copyright laws pertain to any and all images and articles on this site. Downloading, hot-linking, copying, reproducing, manipulating in any way and/or distribution by print, electronic media or other means is prohibited by law.)


(Please contact Mike Padgett if you are interested in purchasing prints or licensing images on this site, or if you wish to use any of the images on this site for noncommercial purposes. All rights reserved.)


(Ideas for interesting news stories about Arizona residents and businesses are welcome. Please send ideas and suggestions to


(To avoid missing news, essays, features and photos on, sign up for convenient email alerts in the FeedBurner box in the right rail. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose.)




Jun 1st, 2013
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