2023: Go East, Old Folks

Phoenix, AZ

February 13

And this is just the hallway!

We stopped for a couple of nights just outside Phoenix at the Destiny RV Park. We were pretty tired, but I really wanted to visit the Musical Instrument Museum so we dragged ourselves out in the afternoon. And it was worth it -- in fact we didn't have the time or energy to truly do it justice. The place was immense!


The first exhibit room we visited contained instruments and other items that have been used or owned by famous people. The photo to the right shows a fatigue shirt that Elvis Presley wore in the service, and also an amplifier he purchased while stationed in Germany.

'Tonight Show' drumset used by Buddy Rich. Guitars and costume of Glen Campbell. Who knew Glen Campbell played bagpipes? Jimi Hendrix left-handed Black Widow. Golden 'King George' vibes custom-made for Lionel Hampton.

Sitar played by Ravi Shankar in the 1930s. Ravi Shankar concert outfit. Custom-finished grand piano used by Prince.  Johnny Cash Grammy.

Telegram sent by Elvis to the Beatles about their appearance on Ed Sullivan. One of 2,008 ceremonial drums used in the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. Beijing Olympic drummers. 1843 cello played by Pablo Casals in Puerto Rico.

The next exhibit room was experiential. Other sections of the museum displayed many antique nickelodeons (coin-operated player-piano music boxes). The one in this section allowed visitors to press a button and hear a version of "Tequila", complete with self-contained percussion and an accordion. Here's a short video clip.

To boldly go...  Middle C must be here SOMEWHERE.

There were lots of fun things to poke and pound. I made a valiant stab at playing the theremin, without much success. I did manage one near-rendition of the opening to the Star Trek theme, if you're not too picky about pitch.

Piano roll duplicator. Arranger piano.

I was fascinated by the "arranger piano", which was used to create rolls for player pianos. Every key on the piano is a hole-punch; a skilled arranger presses the desired keys, and then uses a foot-pedal to advance the roll, one punch-row at a time. There's no playback and no way to go back for corrections. The process can take several hours for a two-minute song.

After the roll is edited, a pneumatic duplicator makes copies for distribution.

Dance organ from 1926.

Speaking of "player" instruments, did you know that the piano was not the only one? I present to you, clockwise on the left, the Playasax, the Clarola, and the trumpetto!

The 25-foot 2-ton giant to the right is a "dance organ" that features pneumatically-controlled accordions, a drumset, and a xylophone. Dance organs were popular in Europe, providing music in dance halls and ballrooms from the late nineteenth century to the 1960s.

Dance organ from 1926.

The rest of the museum was arranged by country or region of the world, with a dizzying array of string, wind, and percussion instruments. We didn't have the time or energy to take it all in, so we concentrated on the USA section.

Strings. Non-dueling banjos. Ever seen so many harmonicas? Handbells. The largest is 18" across.

Grand piano. The serpent, or 'lip-vibrated aerophone'. Competition powwow costume and drums.

Band! And you thought YOUR drumset was special? Speaks for itself. Lemme at 'em!

After a couple of hours at the museum, we moved on to visit Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's western home. But after looking around outside, we decided we were too tired for another tour.

But not too tired for one last stop. Mike was showing signs of Home Depot withdrawal, and naturally there was one conveniently near the interstate on the way back to the rig. So Mike got his fix. He'll be jonesing again inside a week.

One more thing I should mention about Phoenix. I'd read on an RV forum about contacting Dish via their chat and using a "script" to tell them to change our service address so we could get nearby broadcast channels ((NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, PBS) on our satellite feed. (Sic: "I am an RVer and I need to change my service address for local channels to xxxxx...") I was skeptical since my experience with Dish customer service is mostly negative. Phoenix was my first test, and...it worked like a charm! So we had local broadcast channels and could continue to record our favorite programs. (And the method would continue to work for us, until Dish had its cyber-meltdown in March.)