After an early breakfast at the famous Steaks and Cakes in Blyth: this restaurant is truly a step back in time to the fare of the 1950’s and 60’s without the faux chrome and kitsch of restaurant chains that try too hard. The menu is a throwback as well, chicken fried steak and four eggs. The truck driver; six eggs, a pound of hash browns (real taters, not re-hydrated) a one-pound hamburger steak and lots of toast, butter and coffee. I ordered the ‘big sissy:’ two eggs poached, dry toast and water. Aaron ate something or other. They make fresh cobbler every day, hard to resist.
We slowed down in Quartzite and waved goodbye doing 50 on Hwy. I-10, next up was Phoenix, just a drive-by as the I-10 turned south. A few hours later we were in Tucson. We checked into the La Quinta near the airport and unpacked some stuff. We headed out to our first venue, the downtown hotel. This is an entire hotel including the two story units in the back section. Here I found my favorite importer of fine shells from the South Pacific. Hidden in a box I found an abalone shell I’ve never seen before, a ‘Copper’ abalone. The back side of the shell looks like it is made with gem grade copper, the business side, where the snail lived, is less remarkable. It had been polished and finished in an epoxy that will preserve the incredible beauty. A Google Image search came up with lots of copper jewelry and lots of abalone but only a few images of this magnificent shell. They appear at the top of the search results page. I also bought Paua abalone shells. The shell has much more blue and green in it than the Red abalone in our part of the world, which are beautiful in their own right.
Next I visited some of the meteorite dealers. Last time this venue had four dealers selling meteorites, this year there were more than twenty. I felt like a chicken that walked into a fox house. They looked me over with hungry eyes as they tried to guess my budget and my naiveté. I smiled and made a hasty exit. I’m sticking with someone I know for any extraterrestrial material, Michael Santos of Napa. He shows at many events, mostly in Ca., but not Tucson. Michael says, “I’m just part of the furniture there. I’ll stick with local rock shows where people have time to learn about ‘real’ meteorites” I found Aaron, we communicate with “walkie talkies” because we are like kids in Disneyland, gone in a flash in two different directions. We finally met back at the Suburban, about to take off, Aaron told me there were lots of dealers in one of my favorite green stones, malachite. We got back out, I love the deep green color and the swirls and twirls that are the nature of this copper alloy. Google Image: malachite will give you pages of images of this popular beauty. Another alloy of copper is turquoise, a familiar gem stone and the most expensive stone in the copper group. Search for chrysocolla, another blue/green beauty but far less valuable than turquoise. We stayed until four in the afternoon. Aaron moves way faster than me, he had already visited the main hotel that had hundreds of rooms chock full of beautiful things to buy. The offerings are not only stones, gems, beads and jewelry but hand crafted art from all over the world. There were dealers in rare coins, another area to tread carefully. One vendor had ancient ivory, Walrus tusk Ivory, dug up in the Arctic Tundra and Mastodon Ivory. These hairy old boys were here in Sonoma County during the last ice age that ended twelve-thousand years ago. Not sure if Rohnert Park was here then, but the Grand Dame Cotati, might have had a feed store then.
Although this was one venue, forty-two to go, it was enough for day one. We headed out to dine at one of the many authentic Mexican restaurants in the city. Back at the hotel we scanned the guide books for the day-two plan. Then we dug out the days finds, treasures one and all.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.