Saturday, February 26, 2011

Just Kinda Normal Day to Day Stuff

Wednesday 2/16

That’s what I get for waiting to update the blog - neither of us can remember what we did on Wednesday!

Thursday 2/17

The first time we ate at Beyond Bread a couple of weeks ago I managed to chip off a piece of a front tooth on the particularly hard bread crust (they do have a symbol on the menu warning you to be careful!), Well, it turns out I also cracked a filling in another tooth! It has been starting to hurt and getting worse, so I made an appointment at a dentist in Tucson Estates. Dr. Schmahl turned out to be very nice and very gentle. I was a bit apprehensive since I have been going to the same dentist for 35 years! Probably will eventually need a crown, but I chose to try to get by with a filling until we get home.

Friday 2/18

Nancy had a meeting at the campground this AM to plan for the cook-out next week. I installed the new Sirius antenna on the truck, so now we can use the Sirius radio both in the trailer and in the Volvo, should be nice on the road. We still do not have a radio in the truck with audio input, but the Sirius receiver we bought also transmits in FM so we can pick it up on the FM radio.

In the afternoon Nancy went over to the University where she had appointments for a pedicure and a facial at the Aveda Institute. Afterward we found a new Chinese restaurant to try. The Mandarin Grille turned out to be pretty good, not up to the standards of the East China Inn in Batavia, IL where we usually go, but better than anything else we have found in Tucson.

Saturday 2/19

Running around town doing some shopping today and we ended up on the north side of town so we stopped at Beyond Bread - I stayed away from the really hard crust bread that I broke my tooth on!

We are really enjoying having the Sirius radio in the trailer, should have done this a long time ago instead of messing around trying to find local stations. This evening after A Prairie Home Companion we just put on the classical pops station and read all evening.

Sunday 2/20

IT RAINED TODAY! First measurable rain for Tucson in 2011 (there was one day of scattered showers, but it did not rain at the airport). Cooled off bit as well, it has been sunny and in the high 70’s all week! Of course being Sunday we had the AM TV shows to watch and then the Daytona 500 along with a Blackhawks hockey game at the same time. So it was pretty much sit around and watch TV all day!

Monday 2/21

Morning meeting at the campground. We had a headlight burn out on the smart the other night. Turns out the whole front fiberglass shell has to come off to get at the bulb! Last year we found that we had to do that to get at the valves for recharging the AC. The AC has turned marginal again so we will get that charged as well. So Monday afternoon we took the front of the car apart and dropped it off at Tucson Mountain Motors for AC service.

Tuesday 2/22

Getting ready for the campground Recycling Picnic on Wednesday. Pericles (the owner) springs for hot dogs and hamburgers with the money saved by recycling, everything else is pot luck. While Nancy was baking cupcakes and brownies for the picnic I volunteered the Volvo to help move tables. We picked up 13 folding table and stacked them on the deck to move over to the picnic area, then picked up a couple of picnic tables as well.

After doing the picnic set-up we drove into Tucson to the NAPA store to pick up new headlight bulbs for the smart. The smart has Hella headlights that were put in with the federalizing conversion. They are pretty good on low beam and spectacular on high beam. Well, now they are spectacular on high and low beam! We replaced the 65 watt headlight bulbs with 100 watt Zenon bulbs that put out a powerful, really white light. A big improvement.

We also stopped at BK Sonoran Hot Dogs for lunch. Had tacos and caramelo de carne asada, which were excellent. Along the way we stopped at Barrett’s Propane and filled a tank.

Wednesday 2/23

Campground picnic today, had about 160 people there and lots of good food.

Sometime in January Pericles asked in the Monday morning if there was anyone interested in dog sitting while their owners were away from the campground for an extended time. We volunteered and that was the end of it, now all of a sudden, we are in demand. We had a dog we were taking care of Sloopy, a Boston Terrier who is shoot from guns on Wednesday, and will be looking after her again on Saturday. On Tuesday Pericles called and asked if we could go to another RV and take Rufus for a walk as his owners were stuck in town having some car repairs done. So we went and introduced ourselves to Rufus, a really sweet little dog. On Thursday we will be taking care of Sprocket, a sheltie, who is very laid back, seems to have separation anxiety.

Thursday 2/24

Watching everything on the news and speculation about what it is doing to oil prices, we decided to top up the tanks on the truck. My original plan was to top up in Oklahoma on the way out here in December (which we did) and that would give us enough fuel to get back to OK on the way back east. It is looking like the fuel in OK might be more by the second week in March than it is here now, so we went 50 miles up the highway to the Flying J on Eloy, AZ and put in 150 gallons of diesel at $3.739!! Oh well.

Along the way we stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch and then stopped at Total Wine and More to stock up on Scotch and Irish whiskey for the rest of the trip. We stopped at PetsMart to pick up a toy for Molly, Nancy’s friend’s labrador. Next door was an Ultimate Electronics that was having a going out of business sale, so we looked in to see if they had a deal on a Sirius home dock that we could use back home - no luck there, but we did see a Sony HD TV that looked like it would fit in the space in the trailer. The current TV is a flat screen, but not HD or digital. Went back home and looked up the dimensions and determined it would fit and I drove back to Ultimate Electronics and bought the last one in stock.

Then I spent the evening trying to figure out how to get everything hooked up again so it works! With three possible inputs - satellite dish, RV batwing antenna for over the air, and a hook-up for campground cable connections - it requires a distribution box and hook-ups to the TV from the all three inputs plus the DVD/VCR. Takes a good bit of head scratching and cursing to get it all right, especially since the inputs on the new TV are different than the old one!

Friday 2/25

Headed up to the Arizona - Sonora Desert Museum this morning, busier there than we had seen it before, six busses in the parking lot and the closest lot was full at 10 AM. When we left at 11:30 the line to get in stretched all the way out to the parking lot! We did find out that as members we can just skip the line and walk right in, another nice perk!

After we got back Nancy did the laundry and I finished the TV installation. Had to modify my homemade stand a bit as the mounting holes in the new TV were in a different place than the old one! Nothing is ever easy. The new TV will make it a lot easier to watch NASCAR, F1, and hockey.

We went with Nancy’s friend Karen to a little dinner nearby that has a fish fry on Friday evening, excellent fish.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Good Hiking and Good Jazz

Wednesday 2/9

Tuesday evening we tried out a new Mexican restaurant very close to us called Los Nopales. It was small and crowded, had to wait for a table, but the food was excellent and the service was fast. This is probably the closest restaurant to the park, so we will be back.

Nancy has been trying to complete the tether from her new phone to her laptop without much success. She should be able to surf through the data plan on her phone, but the app does not want to link up. So we made an appointment at the Genius Bar at the Apple store - which naturally is on the exact opposite side of the city from where we are, over in the high rent district.

So we trekked all the way over there and in spite of trying for a full half hour the tech was also unable to make it work! Oh well, we will figure it out eventually. At this point we need to try a new cable.

On the way back we stopped at The Garland Bistro for lunch. We had seen it driving by and looked at their Asian flavored menu on line. Turned out to be a very nice place in a relatively inconvenient spot, although it is close to the university.

Back home we took a nice walk and relaxed the rest of the day.

Thursday 2/10

Off to Tucson Yoga for our weekly yoga fix this morning, then a fairly relaxing day puttering around. Cleaned the car up and then did some house cleaning, Dennis finished cleaning up the wiring on the new stereo installation, bundling cables with zip ties, etc. and put in some wood blocks to keep the tuner from moving around in the cabinet when we are traveling. We have the electronic stuff pretty well permanently done now and it only took four years to get it the way we want! The Sirius radio is working well, now we can reliably get all the NPR shows that we like to listen to, along with the BBC World Service and a plethora of music stations.

We signed up for the Ala-Carte subscription where you can choose 50 channels for $6.99 per month as opposed to the regular subscription cost of $12.99. There were one or two other stations we would have liked that are not available on the Ala-Carte, like the XM NPR feed, but not worth the extra six bucks a month.

The next project is to get the Sirius receiver working in the Volvo, and get all of the speakers there back on line. The Sirius receiver came with a car kit, so we have ordered an antenna that will clamp on one of the mirrors. The magnetic antenna included in the kit will not work since the entire upper part of the truck cab is fiberglass. We may also need to get a new radio for the truck, but that remains to be seen.

Friday 2/11

Still a bit chilly in the mornings, low 30’s so we are not getting our desert walks in until later in the day. Today was shopping day, hit a couple of grocery stores, etc.

Went to dinner at Coyote Pause with Nancy’s friend Karen who is staying here for the winter also with he labrador retriever Molly. Nancy goes over to the dog run often in the afternoon and has gotten to know a lot of the dogs (and their owners). Most dogs come right up to her and nose the pocket where she keeps the dog treats!

Saturday 2/12

Warmer this AM, 48 degrees, so we were off for a ice walk in the desert first thing in the morning. Then we enjoyed being able to turn on the Saturday morning NPR shows without having to fiddle around with FM reception or on line.

Speaking of on line, we have been listening to the Blackhawk games on WGN on the net. As I mentioned earlier, we lost our Blackhawk TV coverage when we changed out Dish Network location to Tucson so we can get the local channels. Just as well - if I was watching this week I probably would have had a stroke over the officiating. When it is so bad that Troy Murray is calling the refs out on the radio it is pretty bad.

We had given some thought to running up to Phoenix today to catch the Blackhawks playing the Coyotes. Well, I guess I waited to long to look for tickets, the cheapest seats available are $369 each! Plus $15 for parking! Needless to say, we are going to listen to the game on the radio!

Sunday 2/13

Just a quiet day around home today, relaxing and reading. Sat outside most of the afternoon as temp was in the low 80’s - not ready to turn on the AC yet!

Monday 2/14

Happy Valentines Day.Monday AM meeting at the campground to review the days activities. Did some shopping. On the way we stopped at Rincon West RV Park to check it out. It is mostly permanent park models witha few RV’s sprinkled in, although they do have one RV area with a clever concept: the RV’s are parked in groups of four, all facing inward to a grassy area with picnic benches. An interesting layout as it gives everyone some space and access to a nice open area outside their door and encourages neighborliness. We were not looking for ourselves as we have already made reservations to return to Desert Trails next winter. Nancy’s sister Joan has found out that an acquaintance has a place there and rents it occasionally. It is closer to us than the hotel where she has been staying (and cheaper!) so she may stay there next winter.

As I said, we have reserved space here for next winter and have been able to move one space to the west into a roomier spot. The one we are in now is a bit tight, there is a cactus garden at the front of our site which does not leave a lot of room to park the truck and the truck somewhat blocks access to the walkway that runs next to our site. In the new site we will be able to back the trailer deeper into the site and make room for the truck. So we are happy.

Tuesday 2/15

Took a long hike in the desert this morning, a little over two hours. Hiked up through Tucson County Park to the Ironwood picnic area on South Kinney Rd. and back. Of course on the way back we missed a turn and somehow got off the trail we took on the way out, which meant we kind of went a longer way around to get back to the park, no big deal. There are a lot of trails in the park, we have three maps and they all are different, so it is a bit of a crapshoot figuring out which way to go sometimes. Pretty hard to get really lost though.

After our hike we cleaned up and went to Coyote Pause for brunch. Relaxed in the afternoon and then we decided to go over to the Sheraton on East Grant Rd. to hear the Tucson Jazz Institute band who are there on Tuesday evenings.

They did a show here in the campground a few weeks ago and were really good. They had a sizable group there and they put on a great show of traditional jazz! From older folks to young kids it was a pretty varied group, trombone players who looked no older than 15 and a female drummer who is in seventh grade! They also have a young man who does a pretty credible impersonation of Louis Armstrong. Overall a real enjoyable evening sitting around a fire pit under the full moon and stars, listening to good live jazz.

On the way over to the Sheraton we went to Shlomo & Vito’s NY Delicatessen on Skyline Dr. Good sandwiches and soup, to bad it is all the way over on the other side side of town. We will probably stop there again though as it was very good.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Hummingbird Guest and a Serious Hike

Wednesday 2/2

COLD here this AM, 25 degrees. Still, it’s sunny and a whole lot better weather than at home (or in a lot of the rest of the country!).

We have a hummingbird feeder hanging outside our back window and it gets a lot of attention - both from hummingbirds and woodpeckers! The feeder is hanging on a rod extended from our ladder and this morning a hummingbird is sitting on the rod in the sun. We think he is getting warmth reflected off of our back window as well as from the sun.

High today was 37 and our little hummingbird friend stuck around all day! He was still there at dusk and filling up from the feeder - hope he makes it through the cold night!

Thursday 2/3

11 Degrees this morning! We were up fairly early and off to Tucson Yoga for our weekly class. Left water running at a trickle all night the last two nights (gray tanks are open) and it kept us from freezing up. Did not know that would work, but the campground suggested it. Normally we would have disconnected our fresh water hose and worked off our fresh water tank, but the spigots here are on pipes above the ground and if we just shut the water off they would freeze.

I mentioned in an earlier post that we had decided to subscribe to Sirius radio in order to get NPR and some news stations while we are in remote areas like here in Arizona. We are unable to pick up either Public Radio station in Tucson due to the shadow of the Tucson mountains immediately East of us.

Well, let me tell you, if you decide to try Sirius do not try to order it on line! I experienced the worst ordering process and the worst follow-up customer service I have ever run into. As briefly as possible: After researching and determining what I wanted, I attempted to order on-line. Deep into the order process it did not want to accept our home address! Finally I got a message that said, “Your order MAY have been placed, please contact customer service”. OK, so I called, 45 minutes later my call was answered and I was told that the order was not in process because of the address, so I went through the whole order process again on the telephone.

The website said orders are shipped by the 2nd or 3rd business day, so I waited until the 5th business day to check on what was happening. This time they answered fairly quickly and I was told that the order was “on hold for inspection”. The first rep put me hold when I asked for a supervisor, after 30 minutes (yes, I can be stubborn!) I was kicked back to the new call queue, the second rep got me to a supervisor reasonably quickly and he said the order was on hold to verify the address!!!! After I went balistic he said they had approval from the credit card company and he was releasing the order. “The release will take 24 to 48 hours (this was on a Friday) and shipping will take 3 to 5 business days”!! What happened to 2 or 3 days? “Oh, the website is wrong, 3 to d working days is the standard shipping time.” Is there anything you can do to speed it up? “No”.

So...I waited another four business days and called to check “I show that order on hold for inspection.” What the??!!!!

At that point I cancelled the order and went to Radio Shack and bought the radio and installation kit I wanted, brought it home and hooked it up that evening. To bad there is no other company offering satellite radio (Sirius owns XM), I would go there in a heartbeat. Sorry for the screed, had to blow off steam.

While we were in the Tucson Mall picking up the radio Nancy stopped in the Verizon store and ended up getting a new cell phone. We were able to switch around our plan so that she will get unlimited data and internet access for about $10 a month more than we were paying before.

Anyhoo... the high today was 42 and we were back below 32 by the time we went to bed.

Friday 2/4

Low last night was 24 and it got up to 59 today so things are improving. Trust me, we are not complaining, we will take bright, sunny, cool days over the nasty weather a lot of the country is seeing - life is good.

Still a cold breeze, so other than going to get a propane tank refilled and doing some grocery shopping we stayed in all day. Got a few things done a round the trailer, cleaning and a couple of minor repairs. Dennis also finished running the wiring for the Sirius radio and the antenna.

Saturday 2/5

Still a bit of a cool breeze today. We went into Tucson to the old Presidio to see their monthly living history reenactment. It was quite interesting in a low key way. We watched a blacksmith make a link for a large chain by hand. We were able to stand right next to him, feeling the heat from the coal fire he was heating the iron in, while he described the process. There were also Spanish soldier re-enactors who were demonstrating firing of flintlock rifles and a brass cannon, along with displays of traditional foods and grains.

Since we were only a couple of blocks away, we just had to stop at El Charro for lunch.

Sunday 2/6

Finally took serious hike today. Headed out about 10 AM, drove up to the trailhead of the King Canyon Trail in the Saguaro National Forest, just past the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. We headed up the trail about twenty after ten, three miles out and three miles back, along with a 1,700 foot climb to the top of Wasson Peak! Whew, it was about all we had in us, but the views were just fantastic, both west into the Avra Valley (where our RV is) and east across the city to the Santa Catalina mountains. Overall it took us almost five hours. The trail up started on an old mining road of large crushed rock, which was tough going on the way up and really brutal on the way out when we were exhausted.

These pictures were taken on the saddle where the King Canyon trail and Sweetwater trail meet. We were sitting side by side on a rock and just passed the camera between pictures, so you get an idea of the views in both directions. Behind Dennis is the Rincon Valley and the Santa Catalinas

Behind Nancy is the Avra Valley with Kitt Peak way in the distance.
On the way back down we finally spotted an example of the iconic Arizona cactus, a Saguaro with two arms like you always see in drawings and very rarely see in the desert!

It really was a really beautiful day, about 70 degrees with thin, high clouds and a light breeze. As we got toward the top we needed a light jacket. A really enjoyable day, although the last couple of miles coming back were really tough!

Made it back home in time to watch the Packers win the Super Bowl while we ate pizza. BTW, we have found that WalMart has some pretty good rising crust frozen pizzas. Combined with the pizza stones that Joan gave us for our RV oven we can make pretty good pizza.

Monday 2/7

Monday morning meeting at the campground was cancelled this morning. We headed in to the city to do some grocery shopping, then decided to go up to the Northeast side to check out the hiking maps available at Summit Hut. Spent some time browsing as it is a very nice hiking/climbing/camping store.

Since we were already in the area (do I detect a pattern here?) we stopped at Beyond Bread for a couple of their excellent sandwiches for lunch - and dinner since we brought half of both our sandwiches home!

In the same shopping center was Annabelle’s Closet, a resale and antique shop that we had heard about. We spent the better part of an hour browsing an eclectic collection of “stuff”. Actually very nicely displayed and a lot of interesting items, although we did not end up buying anything. Found a couple of rugs that looked interesting, but the prices on the ones we liked were a bit high.

After that we stopped in Bookman’s, a nice large used book store in the same shopping center. We were getting a bit worn out by that point, but we may have to stop back here sometime - of course we have two boxes of books in one of our storage compartments on the trailer that are awaiting our attention! We’re not going to run out of reading material any time soon!

Tuesday 2/8

Dog sitting today for Nancy's friend Karen. Her dog Margo is a 9 month old Labrador. We went and took her for a walk around 11 AM and she was wound up tighter than a drum! Running all over the place. After the walk Nancy took her to the dog run where she ran herself out of energy with several other dogs, including our neighbor's Australian Kelpy herding dog. Of course that then required a bath at the dog wash before we could take her home!

Nancy did laundry and we puttered around home the rest of the afternoon.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Turning Cooler, Pics of Ceramics

Friday 1/28

Out for a morning walk in the desert today and then we went over to the SE side to pick up the Volvo where we had some minor body work done at Family Auto Body. It looks really nice with a freshly repainted front bumper!

On the way home we stopped at BK Sonoran Hot Dogs, which, as Nancy says “is just an excuse to drink Coke with real sugar!” They bring the Cokes in from Mexico in real glass Coke bottles made with cane sugar, and they taste like Coke used to taste.

Friday evening Pericles, the owner of Desert Trails stopped by with his aunt from England. He had asked earlier if he could bring her by as she had never seen large American RVs as compared to “caravans” in England.

Saturday 1/29

Getting back into our routine of hiking in the desert every day.

Sunday 1/30

Relaxing morning watching the Sunday AM shows. Another nice day, in the 70’s. Supposed to cool off next week and maybe even rain! Official rainfall YTD is 0.00”!

Had lunch at Coyote Pause.

Monday 1/31

A cloudy day! A real rarity here. Later in the morning we actually had some rain and in some areas it was proceeded by hail! Cloudy off and on, with scattered showers most of the day.

After the morning campground meeting we drove into the University where Nancy had found that the Aveda spas have a school on the campus where manicures, pedicures, facial, etc. are available at really low prices so she made an appointment for a manicure to check it out. Turned out to be a great deal!

While she was doing that Dennis went over to Antigone Books and browsed for a while.

Checked out Beyond Bread for lunch, excellent sandwiches and bread. To bad they are all on the NE side of the city.

Still cool drizzly and cloudy in the afternoon. When we stopped at the office to pay our February rent we asked if we get a refund for rainy days - this is the first one since the first of December!

Tuesday 2/1

A bit cool here today, but nothing like what is going on in much of the country! Supposed to have a hard freeze here the next three nights with daily highs in the forties, still bright and sunny though.

Nancy went to the quilting class today to finish up here “table topper”. Dennis went across to the east side and picked up the ceramic pieces that we all painted last week at Color Me Mine. They all came out pretty nice:

Here is Nancy’s bowl,

Nancy’s expresso cup and saucer,

Joan’s spoon rests,

Dennis’ teapot,

and our garden gnome - Elfbert! All three of us worked on this one.