Video of the day: driving into Phoenix dust storm

The recent dust storm in Phoenix has spawned all kinds of eerie dust storm videos online. But this one is one of my favorites. Cheesy as it might be, I love the End of The World Epic Movie music used in this video as flashes of photos, taken in 2 second intervals, compile to make this video. No matter how many people drove through the dust storm in Phoenix last week, it still seems like a rare and scary occurrence to me. And yet, somehow, I want to drive through a dust storm myself now.

Anyone else feel this way? Who here thinks that driving through a dust storm might actually be fun? Raise your hands…

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to gain light rail connector

Phoenix’s Metro light rail system opened three years ago but frustrated riders by leaving off a key destination – the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

In early 2013, plans have been announced for the opening of Sky Train which will light rail’s 44th Street station with Terminal 4 and replace the current shuttle-bus system.

According to airport projections and the Arizona Republic, only about 10%, of the 13,000 daily Sky Train riders will transfer to and from light rail. Last year, around 800 riders a day transferred to the free shuttle buses. The majority of users are expected to be airport employees who park in the 44th Street station parking lot.

Reports suggest that the light rail connector will clear up both congestion and confusion, as signs to the existing shuttle bus transport is not clearly marked.

Sky Harbor is negotiating with major airlines about providing check-in and boarding-pass services at the 44th Street transfer station, said Jay DeWitt, project manager at the Phoenix Aviation Department that operates the airport.

“This is one of a kind in the United States. It’s the new front door to the airport,” DeWitt said.

Ultimately, pending funding, a $1.5 billion system linking the entire airport is envisioned.


Five great places to see Native American rock art

I often hear people saying the U.S. has a short history. Actually it’s as ancient as anywhere else. Before the Europeans took over this land there were hundreds of Native American cultures living here. Some have survived; others have disappeared. One of the most evocative reminders of their civilizations is the rock art of the American Southwest. Here are five good places to see some.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The stunning landscape of this park is the main draw, but hidden amidst the colorful mesas and canyons are numerous petroglyphs (carving in rock) and pictograms (paintings on rock). The best are in Horseshoe Canyon, where a large panel of ghostly painted figures have been variously interpreted as gods, ancestors or, by the scientifically challenged, aliens. They date to as far back as 2000 BC.

Nine Mile Canyon, Utah
One of the best sites for petroglyphs in all the Southwest is billed as the “world’s longest art gallery”. With about 10,000 images ranging in date from 950 AD to the 1800s, it is the biggest concentration of rock art ever found in the U.S. The remains of the homes of the Fremont people are clearly visible when hiking the canyon. The images include bison being stuck with spears, strange horned figures that may be shamen, and men on horseback dating to the historic period.

Saguaro National Park West, Arizona
The rock art here isn’t as grand as the other places on the list, but it’s far more accessible. Just a short drive from Tucson and only two hours from Phoenix, the park takes its name from the forest of giant saguaro cacti that grow here. There are two parks–one to the west and one to the east of town–and the one to the west has a rocky hill covered in carvings made by the Hohokam people. The most unusual is a strange spiral that may have been an early calendar. The Hohokam built large towns and extensive canal systems in southern Arizona until about 1450 AD. In fact, the modern cities of Phoenix and Tucson were founded by the Hohokam!


Petroglyph National Monument
Another easily accessible location, this national monument is right on the western edge of Albuquerque. You can see just how close from the above photo, courtesy Daniel Schwen. There are about 24,000 images here, mostly from prehistoric Pueblo peoples starting about 500 AD but also some made by Spanish settlers who saw all the pictures on the rocks and decided to add their own. Some are even the cattle brands of the early ranchers.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona
We’ve talked about this amazing set of cliff dwellings before. Located in the heart of the Navajo Nation, prehistoric peoples built extensive villages here in the shadows of towering cliffs until their mysterious disappearance in the 14th century. As you wander the trails you’ll see petroglyphs of animals and people scattered about the rocks. If you have kids, playing “spot the picture” can be a fun way to keep them entertained. The jaw-dropping scenery will probably do that anyway. Note that the interpretive center is closed for remodeling until May 2011.

While desert scenes aren’t exactly the first thing you think of during the Christmas season, winter is a good time to explore these sites. The scorching sun takes a vacation, and in the higher altitude the desert can be downright cold!

Dog bites passenger and flight attendant, forces US Airways landing in Pittsburgh

Mandy is one tough bitch.

On US Airways Flight 522 from Newark to Phoenix, this 12-pound Manchester terrier busted out of its cage. You would have too … if the drugs had worn off. With no more sedatives in her system, Mandy bit a man sitting next to her 89-year-old owner. Then, the dog shot up and down the aisle, also biting a flight attendant, according to the NY Post.

As a result of this mutt’s mayhem, an emergency landing in Pittsburgh became necessary. Mandy and her owner didn’t get back on, though. They were moved to a different flight.

[photo by crossfirecw via Flickr]

Bullets found on Southwest flight by CNN photographer going to cover Sarah Palin

Let your kids kick the seats in front of them: it could save your life. If you’re the passenger being inconvenienced, it may behoove you to find a way to cope.

A kid who would otherwise be branded a royal pain found a loaded gun magazine … that should have been in the hands of a law enforcement official … on a Southwest Airlines flight. To make matters worse, the media was actually on the plane!

Here’s how it happened:

1. A kid was sitting on his mother’s lap during a flight from Burbank, California to Phoenix, Arizona
2. The plane landed, and the kid crawled across the seats in his row
3. His foot knocked an item to the floor – it was a loaded gun magazine
4. A flight attendant picked it up, but not before someone from a CNN crew, photographer Gregg Canes, saw it
5. The CNN passenger asked to take pictures of it, but the flight attendant would not let him
6. The gun magazine was turned over to the authorities

It’s that simple, folks … but it does get a lot more interesting.According to a statement by Southwest, “The item was immediately turned over to the crew working the flight who called in the local authorities to handle the investigation,” continuing, “The passengers who were remaining on that flight were rescreened and the plane was thoroughly inspected before returning to service.” They were ten allowed to get off the plane.

Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King told CNN that the officer who left the gun mag behind did follow the proper procedures to bring his gun on the plane. CNN adds:

“The full magazine was found in a back seat pocket,” a TSA official told CNN. “We believe it was left by a law enforcement officer on a flight that originated in San Jose and landed in Burbank. The officer was not an air marshal and we are trying to establish contact with the agent.”

Canes put it best: “It was actually almost funny, given the amount of scrutiny that we’ve been paying to the [Transportation Security Administration] and personal security. It seemed almost funny to see a magazine with bullets in it just sort of lying on the floor of a commercial jetliner.”

Need a bit of irony to round this out? Canes must have been in a gun state of mind; he was headed to Phoenix to cover a Sarah Palin book signing.

[photo by gcfairch via Flickr]