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In the pest-control biz since the 1960s, Nedra and husband Al decided two years ago to share their global assortment of insects, arachnids and reptiles -- all pinned, caged and encased in exhibits named for Nedra's granddaughters.
Not drawn to a building full of black widows, snakes, termites, tarantulas and Happy the downhearted iguana? Say a quick prayer to Gratus of Aosta (patron saint for the fear of insects, duh) and face your phobias. Thanks to Nedra's knowledge and charm, the whole ordeal somehow avoids The Silence of the Lambs creepiness and becomes a pleasant educational experience. After all, this is the home of a turtle that nods hello and a scorpion about to birth 25 babies. How could it not be a place of joy?
One caveat this fall, though. As with much of Arizona, the drought has taken its toll on the plant life, so this autumn likely will be a replay of last year, when severe heat and dry conditions muted the colors.
As for the details: Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children 5 to 12. Children under 5 are free. The Arboretum is open every day of the year except Christmas from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is just about a half-hour east of Apache Junction on Highway 60.
Part of the Apache Gold Casino/Resort complex east of Globe on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, Apache Stronghold is probably best enjoyed by the under-10-handicap crowd. Not only is it long -- more than 7,500 yards from the back tees -- but just about every shot awaits a disaster of some sort. Lightning-fast greens drop away into trouble, and undulating fairways and hidden doglegs pull even the straightest ill-conceived shots into the high Sonoran Desert.
Expect at least five shots added to your score. But also expect the hurt-so-good pleasure of being beaten by a great Tom Doak-designed course. And if that's unacceptable, just enjoy panoramic desert views unhindered by Valley development, or the 5- to 15-degree temperature reprieve you get coming up above 3,200 feet.
The San Carlos Tribe offers stay-and-play deals throughout the year. Your best bet: Load up the car with three buddies, drive up, play 18, hit the casino and spend the night -- all for $79 per person.
In south Chandler, they'll allow you to play a Nicklaus Design golf course on a weekend for $9.
That's if you're willing to walk the short 18 at Bear Creek, which can be a bear in the heat. But just get there early and it's a piece of cake.
The Bear Creek short course is a maddening challenge for your short game. Nowhere in the Valley can so many sub-100-yard holes cause you so much trouble.
And because of the price, the Bear Creek short 18 is one of the best places in the Valley for a good golfer to bring his or her son or daughter. While you struggle keeping a short wedge shot on the tricky greens, kids can blast away and probably end up in equally good shape. This little course levels the playing field between parent and child, making the experience more enjoyable for the kid. And remember: If they have fun, that means you can continue to call a round of golf "quality time with the kids."
Best puppy behavior is recommended (though not enforced) as you enter through the pay-by-honor snack bar. It only takes one or two snuffs of sharp cactuses to convince your pet he should stay on the trail. The walk is wonderful, easily two hours past a symphony of Arizona history, babbling brooks and traveling sculpture. You have to factor in time for bops on the head for your kids who may insist on frightening lopes along the edge of a crevasse, and to scrub off the sticky spittle of your own sweat and dried dog drool. But you, and your hyper hound, may never be as happy anywhere as you can be, for a day, at Boyce.
Shop anywhere else? We'd have to be nuts.
Be thankful for the dim lighting -- the quality of art is more varied than the quality of the spring rolls -- and appreciate the fact that whether you dig art and music or not, you can still score hot and sour soup 'til 1 a.m.
We go to Palm Court to whisper sweet nothings. This intimate space speaks of yesteryear, a candlelit room framed by picture windows overlooking the golf course, exotic floral displays, the quiet melodies of a Steinway, even a personally engraved matchbook for our party.
It's impossible not to melt in each other's eyes as our tuxedoed server prepares our entrees tableside, au flambé as appropriate. We know what these dishes are without any primer -- steak au poivre with cognac and tricolor peppercorns, duckling aux framboise in raspberry bigarade, lobster Lord Randolph with fresh mushrooms, truffles and Courvoisier. An evening of enchantment begins with escargots Bourguignonne on toasted brioche, and ends with bananas Foster.
Or, if we're really lucky, the evening's just begun.