Out of Africa Zoo: Prescott, AZ Discovery Trip Part Three

This is my final post on my September Prescott, Arizona discovery trip. To be exact, the Out of Africa wild animal park is in Camp Verde, an hour’s drive from Prescott. I love the goals of the zoo workers and the animals at the zoo. Lots of camels, tigers, lions, birds, ostriches, antelopes, etc., even a colony of prairie dogs. You’ll have to visit the zoo to see them. This post also includes memories of my 2007 Africa trek, leaving me only time to talk of zebras and giraffes.

A sidenote: since it was my birthday month, my zoo visit was free!


ooa_zebratimeoutI’m starting with the zebras because they’re my favorite. At the zoo, I saw them in two contexts: one where the zebras are put in a time out and one where they can roam free. Their timeout enclosure definitely did not look like punishment.  See photo above? Do you see a hint of repentance in those saucy eyes? Yep, I don’t either.

The zebra timeout enclosure was directly across from the giraffe’s timeout enclosure. More on giraffes later.

I fell in love with zebras on a 2007 trip through Kenya and Tanzania. On a safari in a caldera, I saw a zebra taunting satiated jackals napping after a kill. Obviously taking a dare from his herd, a lone zebra eased up to the pack. Quite proud of himself, strutting before his human and zebra onlookers, he missed an irritated jackal who slowly rowe to its feet. Fortunately, he finally did catch the movement in time. Before he galloped away, his stunned “uh oh” look made me laugh.

00a_zebra-mafiaI like how our Arizona safari guide likened zebras to the mafioso of the park. See the mobsters above? The animals are given “cookies” to draw them closer to our bus on the veldt. The zebras line up on the road to stop the bus and refuse to give way till given cookies.

Another 2007 story. We stopped on the road through the park by a herd of adolescent zebras, standing in a cluster, seeming to communicate with each other nose-to-nose. They weren’t there to extort cookies from us. Suddenly they galloped at full speed into a herd of peaceful wildebeests, causing them to scatter in a panic. The zebras romped back with delighted expressions on their faces.

At the end of this post, I’ll include another sneaky zebra moment, but this time in Arizona.


A highlight of the trip was feeding a celery stalk to the giraffe. Gentle and ever so polite, the giraffes would lean into the bus window and accept the celery with their very wet, sticky tongues.

The zoo has only male giraffes. Females are pricey. The one giraffe in timeout was there because he’d come to believe another giraffe had hidden a female. This would make a fun mystery plot with an end of the world theme. Man kills a friend who claims he’s locked the last female left on earth in his attic. After the murder, he discovers that there was no female and now he is truly alone. I read that resentment and despair in the eyes of the giraffe in timeout.



As promised, I’m including this photo as a final note to my visit. Check out who snuck in the picture!

Please let me know of your favorite spots and things to do in Prescott. Anyone else visit the Out of Africa zoo in Camp Verde? Did you see the tiger splash show?

Trip report respectfully submitted by Michelle K

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A Feast for NaNoWriMo 2016

Food plan alert. Mine is ready. Is yours?

I’ve participated in how many NaNoWriMos? Nine, ten, eleven? The National Novel Writing Month in November is a writing signpost for me. My compass is somehow always tuned to it. If I’m not planning for one or editing a book that I wrote in one, then I must be in one.

In October, I’m usually feverishly planning for it and desperately finishing up other projects. This month is no different. My sequel to Jack Fell Down is with beta readers and I’m doing pre-publication work: the novella’s front and back matter, designing a cover, and setting up for pre-orders. I’m also waiting for two critiques of a short story I wrote, which I will then do a quick edit turnaround and send off to a publisher. I’m also deep into the fourth revision of The Foreign Story Collector, a suspense romance novel with paranormal elements. I hoping it will go to an agent in the next week.

In November, it will be 50,000 words in 30 days.  It’s almost a rule that you start November 1st with a fresh idea, a token stab at a few characters, and the barest outline possible.  See the website and/or Baty’s book for more information.

My NaNo? I’d dearly love to finish my YA dystopia novel. If there’s time left over, I’d like to beat my murder mystery novel with elements of olives and steampunk into shape.

But the real preparation? Getting food in order so that I can concentrate on writing.

Breakfast: hard boiled eggs on a handful of spinach leaves and kraut with a slice of papaya on the side.  A large mug of hot, black coffee.

Lunch: slaw tuna sandwich with cut veggies (cucumber and rainbow carrots). Slaw tuna is canned tuna mixed with a favorite slaw recipe then slapped between sliced bread.

Dinner: I eat chopped salad most nights accompanied by a small piece of salmon or mahi or shrimp. Sometimes with lasagna rolls.

I hydrate with iced ginger tea.

Easy-peasy preparation is how you make novels.

Questions? Please leave your favorite NaNoWriMo recipes and prep plans here!

Happy noveling, Michelle

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Morning Hikes: Prescott, AZ Discovery Trip Part Two

The dogs must be walked every day, a splendid excuse for a morning hike. In Prescott, Arizona that can mean dozens of rambling opportunities from your front door or within a short drive. Here are a few walks we did the third week in September 2016 and other gold Prescott nugggets.

Willow Lake Trail Hike

img_2725A small zoo is at the entrance and the park sprawls across the road from the Emory Riddle Aeronautical College. An archeology team is working two dig sites for pre-1200 AD Adobe huts and masonry pits at one end and we finished in the Dells at the other end. The hike was much easier than yesterday’s in the midst of the Dells at Watson Lake (where unfortunately I took no pictures), though this path was rife with midge swarms.

You can see Thumb Butte on the right side and the City of Prescott in the background.

Excellent information about the early natives around the digs. I hope to see the archeologists at work on my next visit, maybe even attend a tour or a talk. I understand those are available.

The zoo looked friendly too. Another fun outing I must plan for my next trip.

img_2748The Highlands Center for Natural History

Very fun trails in this pine forest, some are circular. I really felt like I was getting away from it all. Newly minted, the buildings were occupied early that morning, but few people on the trails. Rain was expected later, so everyone was checking the skies.

Please try this site to see what the Highlands Center has to offer.

No lie about the vistas and the vegetation! I took advantage of a memory bench to catch my breath. On a different note, a grounds worker stopped us to ask if we knew anything about snakes as he’d found one in their compost pile. We declined to examine it.

I will explore more here.

Peavine Trail

img_2809Part of the Prescott rails to trails program, the peavine trail head is located near the Humane Society. The six mile trail was originally built by the Santa Fe Railway in 1893.

We walked about fifteen minutes for an easy thirty minute walk total. Good information about the river environment. The walk takes you to Watson Lake. We saw pretty river views like this.

Good description of the hike at Peavine and Iron Trails.

After lunch, I filled my car at $1.86 per gallon at Frys. Popped into the Purple Cat bookstore and then over to Method coffee shop for maple lattes. The day never warmed past 64 degrees so the hot latte hit the spot.

At 3:00, we headed over to another spot near Watson Lake, the Dells in the background, for an American Indian Pow Wow. We stayed about an hour, long enough to enjoy a gourd dance, see native craft, and take fry bread home.

Yavapai College Walk

img_2826On the morning I left Prescott, we walked the dogs around the college. Redolent of pines and lovely architecture, this walk was very pleasant.Even though we walked at a good clip, I slowed to take pictures in the sculpture garden. How could you not?

After exhausting the dogs, we raced through a good-sized farmers market. I picked up some Lebanese bread. The produce looked wonderful, as did eggs, honey, and artesian soaps and candles.

I’ll do a last post about a zoo visit in Camp Verde and that will be my last share of my September discovery visit to Arizona.

Please let me know of your favorite spots and things to do in Prescott.

Trip report respectfully submitted by Michelle K

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Getting There: Prescott, AZ Discovery Trip Part One

After the two women road trip adventure, I decided that I was up for a solo drive. On September 17, I jumped in my trusty 2011 Elantra, recently outfitted with new tires and shocks, and set my navigation system for the 450 mile trip to Prescott, Arizona.

Summary of timeline and metrics: I left Southern California at 9:30 and arrived safely in Prescott, AZ at 5:30. I stopped briefly in Rancho Mirage and Quartsite. Gas is 70 cents cheaper in the latter Arizona town. What with the gusts and the mountains, not to mention the idling, my average mpg was 30.

Scarcely out of my county, I encountered an accident at the 57/60 interchange where I sat for nearly an hour. I almost returned home to try again Sunday. Traffic stalled again near Oak Glen for 30 minutes.

Taking the AZ 60/71/89 route from the 10 freeway was an adventure and one I will probably not do again. No traffic on any of the interchanges. One lane in either direction. It did cut 70 miles and 90 minutes from the drive. BUT the 60 was sparsely populated. A good place for Breaking Bad, but not Breaking Down. AND the 89 was 23 miles of hairpin turns looking 3000 feet down. Scary! Later conversations with Prescott residents led me to believe that I was unnecessarily hysterical. Uh huh.

img_2733I tried the Phoenix route on the return. Stay tuned for that report, but I look forward to a route of the jerky stands and gun shops I know and love.

My family’s new home is lovely (photo of the view from the deck showing San Francisco Hills and the Dells). I’m finding Prescott immediately appealing. Stay tuned for daily hikes and local events like wild animals, tarantulas, and Pow Wows.

Trip report respectfully submitted by Michelle K

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Two Women in a Car: California to Alabama Day Seven

… not to mention the cat. This is the seventh and last day on a road trip I took 30 July to 05 August 2016. FEllie writer Debra found a new home in Alabama. Traveling in her Toyota Yaris with her and her cat Loki across the United States was an experience I’ll never forget. Now was the time to say good-bye and head home.

Pensacola, FL to Orange County, CA
05 August 2016
2020 (est) miles

We squeezed every moment we could into our departures, Debra to her new home in Andalusia and me to California. Debra has 87 miles. Me over 2000.

imageWe checked out of the motel at 11:00AM, and God was good. A Starbucks appeared on the 15 minute trip to the airport. One last cold brew for us.

Navy planes were much in evidence in Pensacola: in the souvenirs, billboards, and signs. Something to explore on my next visit.

Pensacola airport is the best ever. No traffic in. Debra parked in front of AA departure so there was time and space for our goodbyes. Only me at the check in counter. Only me and a flight attendant in the security queue. Only me getting a bagel at Einstein’s for lunch. Clean, pacific, no hassles, friendly and free WiFi. I picture heaven this way.

Dallas was more frenetic but rife with Starbucks, high-end shops, and mobbed eateries. I had three hours. One gate change to wile away the time. Noted lots of places to charge devices but most in constant, frenetic use.

Arrived at John Wayne Airport before 10PM PDT. Surprised that and illegally so, the shuttle driver was waiting for me. On the negative side, he was new, his navigation system failed, and he’d never been to Orange County. Sigh. After he wandered around UCI for awhile, I became his Garmin and directed him home. He worked on his cell the entire trip, nearly causing four accidents, punctuating the night with swerving cars, screeching brakes, and horns blasting.

Now safely home. I said hello to Marino, the Icelandic sponge, and slept for ten hours. Garden, cats, family, and house thrived.

imageI chose this photo for my final one. Took it at the Pensacola marina Thursday night. A beautiful end of the day, a hint of wide vistas in our futures. A lovely farewell till we meet again …

Trip report respectfully submitted by Michelle K

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Two Women in a Car: California to Alabama Day Six

… not to mention the cat. This is the sixth day on a road trip I took 30 July to 05 August 2016. Dear friend and fellow writer Debra found a new home in Alabama. Traveling in her Toyota Yaris with her and her cat Loki across the United States was an experience I’ll never forget.

Andalusia, AL to Pensacola, FL
04 August 2016
87 miles

No longer facing long miles to Debra’s new home, today would begin a two-day journey to return me to my home.

Excited about drinking in this Alabama town, I woke at 3:30am raring to go. At that hour, only Loki shared my enthusiasm. I hurried Debra through her coffee and we headed to the Walmart Superstore, open 24×7, where Debra picked up cleaning supplies and items to tide her over till the moving truck arrives.

imageWe dropped off the packages at the house. We checked out the green pecans and ripe figs in the backyard. Also the great job Debra’s realtor’s husband did on installing a mailbox.

We then headed back to the Econolodge where we packed the car and checked out. Checkout took awhile as the desk clerk and another worker removed leeches from a planter in the driveway. We then dumped Loki and most of Debra’s road trip burdens at the house. Loki hid in a closet.

For lunch, we headed up 29 North to Hilltop Meat and Seafood Company where we enjoyed shrimp meals with Debra’s realtor Shirley Tew. Wow, really good! The owner brought out sausage samples that Debra declared were the best she’d had in a long time. The place had character and fabulous food at a reasonable price.

Returned to the house where Loki would not be consoled. Then to Alabama Soap Lady where we received steep discounts, great products, and lovely conversation. At Barista Joes, we met the barista himself who supplied us with iced coffee and launched a conversation about Prohibition and whisky making in Andalusia. The shops sit across the street from the Andalusia Public Library. Debra and I were much heartened by the friendliness and generosity we received.

The trip to Pensacola took almost two hours. Most of the 87 miles entailed country roads through wooded areas. Crossing into Florida was only noted by a Dalmatian from the sidewalk who scarcely lifted his head and never opened his eyes.

imageThe trip ended with less calm. The last half hour went lickety-split on the 10 West and we fought mid afternoon traffic while looking for motels that no longer existed. We landed at the historic district Days Inn. I had Jaco’s mahi tacos at the waterfront and contemplated a boat in the marina called PainKiller.

The trip winds down, but friendship and adventure never ends.

Trip report respectfully submitted by Michelle K

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Two Women in a Car: California to Alabama Day Five

… not to mention the cat. This is the fifth day on a road trip I took 30 July to 05 August 2016. Dear friend and fellow writer Debra found a new home in Alabama. Traveling in her Toyota Yaris with her and her cat Loki across the United States was an experience I’ll never forget.

South Baton Rouge, LA to Andalusia, AL
03 August 2016
349 miles

Summary: Eureka! We arrived.

Full story: we left Baton Rouge, Louisiana at 6:18 this morning. We rode into the sunrise. The dark clouds made good on their threat, and the horizon lit with sheet lightning, with scattered bolts and thunder. Loki made her opinions known with howls and punched the mesh doors with fists and claws that rocked her kennel. Fortunately for all our shattered nerves, the storm lasted less than an hour. Great news: the storm washed the dirt of five states off the red Toyota.

Nearing the end of Louisiana, we finally saw the familiar green mermaid and ordered cold brewed coffee. Not a beignet in sight.

The landscape was now lush with creeks and rivers feeding dense forests. At 8am, we entered Mississippi. Casinos and fishing trawlers dotted the gulf coast. We sped by Biloxi sampling the entire state in a mere 80 minutes.

imageWe entered Sweet Home Alabama, Debra’s new state of record, before 9:30. The freeways are beautifully maintained and junctions easily followed. We took back roads to her new house, arriving by 11:30. Her home is a charming 1940 red trimmed white house with two bedrooms, an office and two baths. The kitchen has an island, a separate dining room, laundry, and cabinets and built in bookshelves. The backyard is immense.

Checked into the motel and had a buffet lunch. We cruised through stores including a super Walmart. Met with Debra’s wonderful realtor who went through the house with us, talked to her mail lady, and led us to city hall where Debra arranged the utilities to start tomorrow. City hall and the rest of downtown surrounds a traffic circle and is stunning. Very old south.

Gas is $1.83/gal.

We also found a darling coffeehouse called Barista Joe next to the Alabama Soap Lady. Sadly no Starbucks. Her moving van will deliver her stuff between 10-12 August. Plenty of time to prep her house and map the community into her psyche.

I’m doing laundry again while another flash/bang storm rages overhead. Scared everyone out of the pool. We’re exhausted, so I expect we’ll wash this mugginess off and head for bed.

Road trip is over. But wait: we’ve another road that looms bElote us. Tune in next time …

Trip report respectfully submitted by, Michelle K

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