brad's blog

Too old for Tik-Tok. Too lazy for YouTube.

Electric Bat Arcade

03/29/24 - Sometimes you just want to play some old school pinball IRL. Yea, most of us have a mini arcade in our pockets but if you want to pull the plunger, slap the flippers, and hear the bells you have an opportunity if you are in the Tempe AZ area. The Electric Bat Arcade is adjacent to the legendary Yucca Tap room. I think the arcade may now have more square footage than the bar. There are three rooms worth of games from as far back as 1977 up to 2022. Some of the older machines are 50 cents per game (five balls) while the newer ones can be $1 or more. You cash in for tokens at one of the two dispensers and then pick you machine and if you are like me, go back in time.

Picture of one of the rooms in the arcade showing about 20 different pinball machines

The vibe there is very chill. Everyone is there to have fun and any attitudes are checked at the door. It is attached to the bar, so if you wish to partake, you can bring your drink into the arcade. They have tiny tables between most machines that are perfect for holding a pint or a pitcher. I like to play a particular machine, but if it's occupied, there is typically a similar substitute with the same type of action. I'm a fan of the 70'd era games and my current favorite is a 1978 Gottlieb Joker Poker, although today I saw a new to the arcade Eight Ball game of similar vintage. It's usually mildly busy during the day, unless there is a tournament then it's standing room only and you may not get on your favorite. Check their website for events and plan accordingly. When the bar is open, so is the arcade.

Picture of the author's current favorite machine, a 1978 Gottlieb game - Joker Poker

There is also, a smaller setup run by the same folks in the Yucca Taproom North in Flagstaff, AZ. Like the Tempe location they are attached to/inside of the bar. Sometimes the machines are rotated between the locations and sometimes they are removed for repairs, but they always seem to find their way back. If you used to play pinball as a kid, this is a great trip down memory lane. If you are lucky enough to find an old favorite, that's a special feeling. If they are all new to you, then you can work your way around until you find the ones that you favor. If you are in Tempe or Flagstaff, it's a great way to spend some time. Not everything has to be an outdoor activity like hiking or a trip to something cultural like a museum. Activate your inner Pinball Wizard and have a blast.

A picture of  console type electronic games in the arcade.

Tucson Toy Train Museum

03/22/24 - I recently learned about the Tucson Toy Train Museum on a trip to a different train museum. Tucson is a 2 hour drive, but it was Sunday and there was no F1 race so I decided to take a trip and check it out. It was easily accessible, just minutes off of the I-10. It's buried in an industrial area, but that makes sense in that it's probably cheaper than other areas and this seems to be a place run by hobbyists so I get that they are trying to keep costs down. There are multiple layouts representing G, O, S, HO, N, Z, and Standard Gauge. The layouts were all running multiple trains and had some incredibly detailed scenery. When you first go in, it may seem small, but then when you start looking at the detail, you begin to appreciate how much detail (and work) has been put into each display. I'm currently into Z scale and I did check that out, but I spent most of my time looking at the O scale, which was amazing.

Wide shot of all of the layouts.

As I walked around the layouts, I first looked at the trains that were running. I saw UP 4104 (Big Boy) that I had the pleasure of seeing in person a few years ago. I also saw a lot of Santa Fe locomotive, which makes sense geographically, but they also had thing like New York Central and the Pennsylvania Railroad, which all had the appropriate rolling stock. These guys were all about the details. In addition to the layouts, they had wall displays with all types of old toy trains, historical displays, and other railroadiana. On my second lap, I took a deeper look at the detail of each of the sections of the layouts. When you look at the care put in to building a trestle bridge, an auto accident scene, an industrial area, or a vibrant downtown, you realize the dedication and commitment that the folks running this place have to the hobby.

HO steam locomotive on a trestle bridge

Outside, there are a couple other items of interest. There is a 1/8th scale (7 1/2" gauge) ride on train that circles the perimeter of the grounds. I did not partake, but it was a lot of fun to watch the kids freak out when the train took off and to just appreciate the skill and care it took to build and maintain this line. There was also an actual caboose, which was open for inspection and with several docents inside to give you its history. These guys could have talked about trains for hours, and if I had more time, I would have too. The museum is only open on Sundays, from 1p-4p between September and May. Admission was $5 for a single or $10 for families. I enjoyed my visit and would encourage you to check it out if you like trains, and are in or near Tucson on a Sunday between 1p-4p between September and May.

HO layout detail featuring a downtown and some industry spurs.

Tiny Churches

03/15/24 - I was looking for offbeat things out hear in AZ and I found a reference to a tiny church in Salome. I'd been doing as lot of research into tiny houses, so while I'm not a church goer, I decided to go check this one out. It's about a two hour drive from me and there is a whole lot of nothing between route 10 and the church. I wasn't sure what to expect, but from what I read, it was on private land but it was publicly accessible. When I pulled up, it hit me how tiny it was. The door was unlocked so I let myself in to look around. It was about 8' x 16', had a pew along one side, and a pulpit at the front. There was a guest book to sign in and a small collection box for donations. It also had 6 small stained glass windows. It seems as if it is not a place where regular services are held, but more of a place for passers by to stop and reflect.

Exterior shot of Tiny Church in Salome, AZ
Interior shot of Tiny Church in Salome, AZ

After my find in Salome, I went online and searched for other tiny churches. It tuns out there is also one in Yuma, AZ. This one was also in private land but was publicly accessible. This one was even smaller. I estimated the size at 8' x 12'. This one was set up more traditionally with seating for 12 and the pulpit up front and facing the pews. I could see someone having a tiny wedding here, but I'm not sure how the owners would feel about that, or if you would have to make arrangements. At this church, I noticed that people would leave things there, which I guessed was in remembrance of people who had passed. Some examples were a can of Mello Yellow or a pair of flip flops. This one is showing some signs of wear. I'm hopeful that some maintenance is forthcoming because it is really charming.

Exterior shot of Tiny Church in Yuma, AZ
Interior shot of Tiny Church in Yuma, AZ

Both of these are places I will stop by if I am in the area. Independent of my own religious beliefs, I like it when private individuals do public things without expecting something in return. In my last trip to the Salome church, a caretaker told me that the new picket fence was partially paid for with donations left in the donation box. I'm thankful that others also felt compelled to give and it's nice to see the place being kept up. Next time I am in Yuma, I'll check for a donation box there as well. You can find directions linked below. (Yes, I am the one guy who still uses Mapquest.)

Tiny Church, Salome
Tiny Church, Yuma

Midnight At The Oasis

03/08/24 - Every year, on the first weekend in March, there is a car show in Yuma, AZ. It's a three day event named Midnight At The Oasis. It features hundreds of cars of all kinds but does seem to tilt heavily towards the hot rod heyday of the 60's and 70's. I started going there when I moved to Phoenix at the behest of some friends, who had friends who were showing their cars at the event. Most of the folks I know, go down Thursday and stay until Sunday but work this year made it a Friday night to Sunday morning affair to me. No worries if you get there after sundown because they usually have some kind of cover bands line up playing Friday and Saturday nights, and as cover bands go, they're not bad. Pretty sizable turnout for a ball field in Yuma as I see it and not a bad way to ease into the weekend

Eagles cover band on main stage at Yuma car show

For me, Saturday was the day to hang out with my friends, at their cars, and to take in the rest of what was there. I'm hard pressed to think if a muscle car that was not represented in some way at this show. And for niche guys like me there were at least a half a dozen Falcons and nearly as many Ranchero's. Plenty of Novas, Mustangs, Chevelles and some one offs like a Citreon Deux Chevaux or a 1950 Ford coupe. Some folks pop the hood so you can marvel at what is underneath, and I'm a big fan of that, but some of the cars are better to look at with the clean lines of a buttoned up hood. It took me the better part of three hours to walk the grounds, but I think next year, I will do it in two shifts so I don't feel the need to rush it. In addition to all of the cars that I dug, I saw a lot that were first cars or otherwise significant vehicles for friends who all got a picture of said cars from me.

V8 Flathead motor closeup

There are also the usual mix of vendors and food, but if you are plant based, you might want to consider going out for lunch. Can't bring food or drink in and beers were $7, but as I recall you can leave and come back. Since I've been going there, we have been staying in nearby Cocopah Casino & Resort in nearby Somerton. It's a quick Lyft away (about $17.00 for me on this trip, excluding tip) or an easy drive if you want to mess with traffic and parking. If you find yourself in AZ in the beginning of March, consider a trip thru Yuma. If you are staying overnight, I would suggest booking by early January at the latest. See you there next year!

1950's era chopped car.

Martin Auto Museum

03/01/24 - Continuing on the specialty museum theme, I took a trip to the Martin Auto Museum, located in Phoenix, AZ. The museum is the largest auto museum in Arizona which boasts over 175 vehicles in a 107,000 square foot building. It is a private collection of Phoenician Mel Martin. One of the unique features is they allow you to go into (some) of the vehicles for pictures. I'm not 100% sold on this as a good idea, but they are not my cars, so I will defer to the owner. I had been there a couple times, but I heard a rumor of a new acquisition and had not been there in a while, so I took the short drive to Phoenix to see what was new.

Picture of the main floor at the Martin Auto Museum.

There is a wide range of automobiles here along with other types of memorabilia. The oldest car is from the late 1800's (replica) up to the current century. I would say that the bulk of he cars are from the 1930's to 1970's though. Looking for an AC Cobra? Check. A gaggle of Crosleys? Check. A Ford model B? Yea, they have one of them too. There are a lot of what I would call the "popular" cars there but a lot of unique or not often displayed cars too. Did you know that many Fords were re-branded as Mercury in Canada? The museum has at least two. A Mercury pickup, basically an F150, and a Frontenac - which is a re-badged Falcon, and this one is a Ranchero.

Canadian Falcon, aka Frontenac at Martin Auto Museum

The museum also has a good smattering of open wheel racers, some hot rods, gas pumps, and other auto related memorabilia. Some of the display have open hoods so you can appreciate the insides as well as the outsides. The museum is also very kid friendly based on the number of kids I have seen on my visits. I think being able to enter some of the cars (with parental supervision) plays a big part in that. They also have a nice game room and even a small Ferris wheel. I'd estimate that your visit there would be about 2 - 3 hours if you read all of the placards. Since I have been there before, my latest trip was on the shorter side, but still worth it to me.

Olds 442 at Martin Auto Museum.


04/24, 03/24, 02/24, 01/24