Unexpected Finds and Good Times in the Desert

So we are folding clothes in the campground laundromat after returning from the East Coast and we strike up a conversation with another couple there. We got to talking about things to do in the area and they asked, “Have you been to the Basha Museum?” We have been in the Phoenix area many times and had never heard of that museum. They said, “It is excellent and you should check it out.” After looking it up online, we took off for town one day.

Bashas is a well-known collection of more than 100 grocery stores (Bashas, AJ’s, Food City, Eddie’s Country Store) scattered across the state of Arizona. The Basha family has been in the state for many years and are a vital part of the community. Their family story goes back to Najeeb and Najeeby Basha, Lebanese immigrants, who came to America and lived in New York for many years before moving to Arizona. They ran several merchandising stores north of Phoenix. Their family of eight children helped them to keep the business viable. Two their sons, Ike and Eddie, founded the first store to use the Basha name in 1932. Among the early customers of Bashas was the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Bashas’ success is due in large part to its stable family leadership over the past 70 years.

Eddie Basha, Jr. joined the family business in 1960. Having grown up in Arizona, he loved the American Southwest. His Aunt Zelma encouraged him to find a way to give back to the community by supporting the arts. As a result, he began collecting the artwork of contemporary painters, sculptors, pen and ink artists, and watercolorists. Mr. Basha’s love of history led him to focus on Cowboy and American Indian culture. He became a life-long friend of many of the artists whose works he purchased. He made his first acquisition in 1971 but he continued adding to his collection throughout his lifetime.

The Eddie Basha Private Collection is one of the largest, privately owned collections of contemporary Western Art and American Indian Art in the world. To showcase some of this artwork and to make it available to the public, he opened the Zelma Basha Simmons Gallery in 1992. Some of the featured Cowboy artists include Joe Beeler, John Clymer, Charlie Dye, Jim Reynolds, Bill Owen, and many others.

David found the series of John Clymer’s paintings that depict the Lewis and Clark expedition of particular interest.

The Gallery has works by contemporary American Indian artists such as Clifford Beck, David Johns, Larry Yazzie, Cecil Calnimptewa, and many others.

The gallery space was expanded on three different occasions, the latest being 2001. At that time, they divided the exhibit space into two distinct sections: Western Art and American Indian Art. In the American Indian section, there is a large collection of Hopi Katsina carved sculptures as well as elegant pottery pieces. Larry Yazzie’s stone and bronze sculptures are featured prominently in this section. The most recent addition to the gallery is a special collection of basketry from different American Indian tribes. Some of these date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Pima, Yavapai, Apache, Navajo, and other tribes’ unique handiwork is presented beautifully in a separate exhibit space. There are so many wonderful things to see in this collection.

If you should decide to go visit the Basha Collection, please note that they are only open when the corporate offices in Chandler, Arizona are open (M-F 9:00 am-4:00 pm). It is a bit tricky to find since there are no directional signs anywhere. It is also a good idea to call them ahead of time because they often host school groups, mainly 4th graders, who are learning about the exploration of the West. Here is a link to their website with the phone number and additional photos of the collection. The collection is free to view, but donations are encouraged.

We were amazed to see the Basha Private Collection. We were not expecting it to be so large. We were so pleased that we had a chance to see it thanks to a great tip from a fellow camper.

After visiting the gallery, we went and enjoyed a late lunch at one of our favorite places, Queen Creek Olive Mill. We ate outside under the olive trees. If you haven’t been there, we would recommend a visit to see the olive mill.

While we were in Phoenix, we were so pleased to catch up with some of our good friends, Barb and Steve, who came down to Casa Grande to have dinner with us. It was wonderful to see them again!

Friend took this photo from his drone at night

Speaking of friends, we met up with some of our RVing friends when we moved our camper to Quartzsite, Arizona. We had been to the Quartzsite and this rally two years ago. Boomerville is a two week gathering of RVers who are also members of Escapees. This year there were about 200 rigs that boondocked in the desert to participate in a multitude of activities that include seminars, excursions, outdoor movies, live entertainment, jeep/4-wheeler trips, and much more. Two of the highlights this year were: the Party on Plomosa, a live band concert, and an auction for CARE, a non-profit organization that is a part of Escapees.

The Party on Plomosa was open to all Escapees members and it was very well attended. It was an afternoon of music, food and drink, and fellowship. We sat with two couples that we had met recently and got to know them better. Also we got to see two long-time friends, Judie and Mark, and were able to catch up a bit with them. We saw them several more times during the weeks that we were there. We camped near two other long-time friends, Paul and Vicki, and through them we made more friends!

The other big event was the auction to support the Escapees CARE Center in Texas. CARE stands for Continuing Assistance for Retire Escapees. It is a non-profit organization that provides a place where full time RVers can go to recuperate from surgery or they can live in their RVs when health problems keep them from traveling. The staff and volunteers provide meals, transportation to doctors appointments, maintenance, and activities. Our auction raised $10,000 to help make this service for RVers possible.

In Boomerville we were camped with a small group and they decided to organize a kayaking trip on the Colorado River. This activity was offered to anyone who was staying at the rally. We were among the kayakers who signed up and we are so glad that we did because it was great fun!

We drove to Parker, California and put in at the Cable Car Day Use Area which is south of Parker Dam. First we paddled upriver to a small island where there was a hidden geocache. Geocaching and Adventure Labs are big among many RVers and we had several in our group. We learned a lot about geocaching during our stay in the desert with our friends.

Once on our way down the river, we kayaked about 7 miles to Crossroads BLM Campground. We stopped at a couple of eateries along the way for lunch and refreshments.

It was beautiful, sunny day and it was so much fun to be out on the water. It was a good upper body workout for us, too. Thanks to Theresa and Vicki for organizing this kayaking adventure.

Cut a hole in the side of your trawler and make a house!

Arizona is a great place to be in the winter. Not only is there warm weather but we also get to meet up with many of our friends, to share knowledge and experiences while sitting around the campfire (Thanks Paul!), and to learn of new places to explore. The unexpected finds and good times are what make the RVing lifestyle so appealing to us.

2 thoughts on “Unexpected Finds and Good Times in the Desert

    1. You should go next year, I know you two would have a great time. We met so many great folks and since we were outdoors the entire time did not worry about crowds. Boomerville is especially fun but there are many other groups there as well. Take care!

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