Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rain In The Desert


This year I will try to avoid posting a daily litany of what we are doing as that seems to get a little repetitive, and just try to hit the interesting highlights. This week we did some settling in housekeeping. Nancy got over to the pool and got in a swim on two or three afternoons. It has been in the high 70’s all this week, supposed to cool off a little this weekend, then warm back up next week. 

The entertainment here at Desert Trails is right up to par this year. We already missed a couple of performances that were reported as excellent. Tuesday evening we went to see Mariachi de Atzlan, a group of high school students from Tucson High School who put on an outstanding show.

We did get over to Beyond Bread for lunch the first week we were here and have hit BK Sonoran Hot Dogs a couple of times already. There is a new French restaurant in Tucson that we want to try out.

We’ve been to our regular restorative yoga class at Tucson Yoga the last two weeks and made a stop at Food Conspiracy on the way home. We also made a quick visit to the Desert Museum on Wednesday. We can dip in and out since we are members, so it does not have to be an exhaustive visit each time.

We were looking forward to shows at UA Presents at the University of Arizona this winter, but we were disappointed at the mixture of shows they have scheduled, nothing of the quality that we saw last season. Not one show of national stature or any that we would be interested in.


The desert is always changing. We have been taking our regular morning walks in the BLM land just north of us. I have used my new GPS to create a map of all the trails in that section. It will come in handy when we venture out into the web of trails in Tucson Mountain Park.In years past we found it was easy to get confused out there as there is no good map of the trails and they don’t always match the map we have.

I took the GPS with me when we went to the Desert Museum last week and marked a waypoint at the southern end of the pathways there. Turns out that the museum is only 4.25 miles due north of us - however, Brown Mountain (3,064 ft.) is directly between here and there! So the hiking route to the museum would be somewhat longer and circuitous.

The effects of this summers heavy rains are readily apparent in the desert, most obvious being the saguaro which are puffed up with moisture, their folds fully expanded. The palo verde are very green, and all of the various cacti are looking quite healthy. There are places where we can see the scouring of the desert floor by the flowing water, outside of the arroyos. There is one saguaro standing well clear of an arroyo where there is mud plastered 18 inches high! Obviously there was a considerable amount of water flowing across the area.

Monday morning we jumped on line and signed up for next years Prairie Home Companion cruise in August. We skipped the one last year that went from Amsterdam to Barcelona. The one next August will be a ten day cruise going from Barcelona to Venice, with stops in Marseilles, Monte Carlo, Livorno (a port near Florence and Pisa), Civitavecchia (near Rome), Naples, Montenegro, San Marino, and finishing in Venice. We decided to take this one since almost all of the stops are places we have wanted to see, but will probably not get another chance to do so.
The weather continues really nice, although we did have our first frost of the season last night. Supposed to high sixties today. Just what we love about the climate here, cold clear nights which are great for sleeping and warm sunny days.

Last evening we went to Barrio Brewing for dinner and some good fresh beer. Very good hamburgers and excellent beer. On the way home we came across Gates Pass and stopped near the Iron Mountain picnic area in Tucson Mountain Park to look at the stars. Just an amazing sight for those of us that are usually buried in the light pollution of cities. A great view of the Milky Way and millions of stars.

Last Friday we went to the 4th Ave Winter Street Fair. Walked the entire length of the fair. Many of the downtown streets are blocked off and torn up with the new streetcar construction project. In fact the southern end of 4th Ave was blocked off only a week before the fair. Nancy picked up several items and at the very end, actually after she had almost given up hope, she found her favorite vendor of hand and face creams.

Today we are headed into town with stops planned at Beyond Bread, Bookman’s book store and Trader Joe’s. Not sure why we are going to the book store since we both have  a Kindle Paperwhite now, but we are addicted to books and bookstores. In fact I picked up a fascinating book about the Fred Harvey restaurant chain when we were at the Desert Museum. We’ll struggle to keep our money in our pockets today!

So not to bad at the bookstore, we came out with five books, which is light for us, the most expensive was $8. Lunch at Beyond Bread takes care of dinner tonight as well, the sandwiches are big enough for two meals.

Over the weekend we skipped a couple of shows in the rec hall, from what we hear the comedians Friday night were not well received. Apparently the show was a bit raunchy and this is definitely not a a raunchy humor crowd - a very conservative senior crowd.

This evening (Tuesday 12/11) we went to see the Dusty River Boys, a bluegrass group,  five guys that put on a really good and entertaining show. The mandolin and banjo players were particularly good. 

Wednesday morning we spent at the Desert Museum. It was a beautiful morning, temp in the 60’s and not a cloud in the sky. We spent some time in the aviary and then the hummingbird exhibit. There is a brook running through the aviary and it is a great shady place to sit and just listen to the birds and the water falling over the rocks. Same thing with sitting and watching the hummingbirds. The great thing about weekday mornings at the museum is the lack of crowds, it is almost like our own private preserve.

Late in the morning we made a run down to Green Valley, south of Tucson, to the weekly outdoor market there. Nancy was looking for some special skin cream, but the lady was not there this week, or at least we could not find her. We did pick up a couple of things and I found a nice pair of kidskin work gloves for a very reasonable price.

Thursday morning was our regular yoga class at Tucson Yoga. The in the afternoon we checked out the farmers market at the Mercado on the west side of downtown. Not real big, but better than any of the farmers markets we have found in the area so far.


The Tucson area finally got some rain on Thursday evening, started just around dusk and rained lightly off an on through the evening. Notable since this is the first rain they have had since sometime in October!

It rained off an on all evening and through the night. Still raining when we arose Friday morning. Friday was cool, in the fifties with occasional rain mixed with sun. Going over Gates Pass this morning we could see snow on the Rincon Mtns. Northeast of the city.

Stopped at a Barnes and Noble late in the morning and spent an hour or so perusing travel books for next summer’s cruise. Ended up with a half dozen books on the ports we will be visiting. Then lunch at Beyond Bread.

Merry Christmas

We will be heading home for Christmas tomorrow (12/16) so I won't be updating the blog until after we return on 12/26. Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Back Again

Back Again

Well I kind of dropped the ball at the end of the winter season last spring and just left the blog hanging - no specific reason, just got lazy I guess, sorry about that. I will make up for it with a fairly long first post.

For the first time in a long while we stayed home all summer, no trips at all and we never moved the trailer and truck out of storage after we got home in mid-March. Since we did not renew our NASCAR Bristol tickets this year we did not even make our traditional trek to Eastern Tennessee in August. We finally got off our butts and hit the road with a vengeance in November.

4,300 Miles in Two and a Half Weeks!

When they announced the inaugural Formula One race in Austin was being moved from June to mid-November we decided to give it a try since we are rabid F1 fans and had never been to an actual race. The race was scheduled for November 18th so we decided to get there a week early to check out the lay of the land and check out the Bar-B-Que in the area, since the RV Park we found was near Lockhart - the “Bar-B-Que Capital of Texas”.

We left home on Friday the ninth, stopped overnight in St Robert, Mo and Chandler, OK, and arrived at Lake Falling Star on Sunday evening. Turned out to be a really nice mid-sized RV Park with friendly hosts. Quiet and dark at night, just what we like.

Early in the week we drove by the track and checked things out, hit three of the barbecue places in Lockhart - Blacks being our favorite, Smitty's number two - explored downtown Austin and spent a day exploring San Antonio as well.

I should mention that Lake Falling Star, besides being a nice RV Park, was very reasonable with their rates for the F1 weekend. Unlike some other parks in the area, LFS kept their normal rates, with Good Sam or Escapees discounts, and only asked for a single nights deposit. There was one park I contacted that was charging $100 a night, seven night minimum, full payment in advance, no refund! I was also disappointed to see that LFS, in spite of being fully booked, had a number of no-shows. They had a waiting list and I hate to see people being so rude that they do not have the courtesy  to call and cancel when plans change. Unfair to the park and those on the waiting list.

Austin F1 Race Weekend

Friday found us at Circuit of the Americas for practice 1 and 2. What a beautiful facility! We were very impressed with the whole place, they really did an impressive job. Traffic control coming in a Friday was a bit congested, but they straightened it out on Saturday and there was no issue at all over the weekend. Our RV Park was 30 miles southeast of the track and since most traffic was coming from the northeast we had no problems at all. After the race on Sunday, which should have been the worst traffic period, we were back home an hour and a half after the end of the race!

The weather over the weekend was perfect, sunny and in the 70’s with a nice breeze. The practices, qualifying and the race itself were great fun and interesting. We did determine however that we are both too old to spend several hours sitting in aluminum bleachers! At Bristol we had nice plastic seats with armrests and backs, guess we are spoiled. This is probably a one-time experience since you can really see more of the race on TV than in person.

Our seats were very good, row four in turn 12 at the end of the DRS straight where a lot of the passing took place. We had great sight lines, much closer to the racing surface than we anticipated, and a diamond screen right on the other side of the track so we could see activity on other parts of the track, so it was a very enjoyable weekend. We also rented a FanVision for the weekend which allowed us to keep close track of what was happening and gave us a radio feed for our noise canceling headsets.

Bad News, Good News, Bad News, Yada Yada

Monday morning after the race we loaded up and headed for home for Thanksgiving, that’s when the trip got interesting.

Bad News - Coming north out of Austin on I-35 I threw a cap on the left outer rear wheel of the truck - BAM! It took out the fender on the truck AND cracked the front fender on the smart! We were about 300 yards from an exit so I crept along the shoulder until I was off on the exit ramp (Thank you Texas DOT for those nice marker posts that prevent getting well off the pavement!)

Good News - Just after I called Good Sam Emergency Road Service a Texas trooper stopped and pointed out that there was a truck tire center just off the end of the ramp! He covered our rear while I crept into the tire center. A little over an hour after the big bang we were out the door with four new (virgin not recap) tires on the drive axle.

Bad News - Stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch, as I walked out an ambulance went north on I-35, as Nancy came out another one went by, and a third one passed us on the northbound entrance ramp. Methinks, “this does not look good”. Sure enough, about 20 miles north we came to a dead stop and in spite of a bit of creeping we sat still for two hours. When we finally made it past the tie-up there was a wad of 3 or 4 semis under a bridge.

Good News? - maybe, a little figuring said we would have been right about here three hours ago if we had not had the tire failure. Maybe we dodged a big one?

Bad News - the delay put us into Ft Worth at 5 PM, took an hour to get through. Got to the campground east of Oklahoma City at 10:30 PM. 

Good News - we had reserved a specific site when we were here a week before so we could just pull in and set up.

Bad News - next morning the left front tire on the smart was flat. In addition to cracking the fender the flailing tire cap had broken the tire valve (with tire pressure sensor!). 

We left the trailer in Oklahoma, left at 6:30 AM Tuesday in the truck and made a quick run back to Homewood in time to attend a wake for a friend that evening. Then we met Nancy’s sister Joan for dinner (at a Cracker Barrel of course) and then another hour home. I had Wednesday only to straighten out the issues with the smart tire. Picked up a new tire pressure sensor from Mercedes ($150!!). Oddly enough a new fender will only run $148, will save that repair for later. 

Took the tire and new pressure sensor to the local tire store to have it installed ($30) and then when they went to balance it we found the wheel was bent! So now we need a new wheel and we are leaving for Arizona on Thursday!

Unloaded the car and threw on the snow tires and spare wheels - so we will be driving on four Blizzaks all winter in Arizona. Oh well, we don’t need them now anyway. 

Good News - the trip back to Arizona was uneventful. So now I just need to come up with a new rear fender for the Volvo and a new front fender for the smart. 

We left Thursday afternoon after dinner at Joan's house, stopped at a hotel in Missouri that night and got back to the trailer in Oklahoma on Friday. Saturday we went on to Roswell, NM and stopped at Trailer Village. We stayed there Sunday so we could watch the final F1 race of the season from Brazil, then on to Wilcox, Az Monday night and arrived at Desert Trails Tuesday morning.

Good to be back in our regular spot for the winter. They had some substantial storms this summer and the desert looks very lush, with nice fat Saguaros. On our morning hikes we have seen several places where there is evidence of water flowing across the desert well outside of the washes.

Weather is warm and sunny and we are relaxing, visiting with winter friends and settling in. More later.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday 3/29 : Wow! As Nancy said to a friend, I have been a slacker! I have not posted in a month! Sorry about that. I will get caught up on what we have been doing. This post is just my rough notes through the middle of March. Since then we have pretty much relaxed. A fair amount of eating out, a couple of visits to the Desert Museum, and a couple ranger talks at Saguaro National Park West were about the extent of our tourist type activities the last few weeks.

The wild flowers have pretty much come and gone, although there are new ones showing up every day and some of the cactus are starting to bud. I will post some pictures of wildflowers after we get home.

We hit the road tomorrow, 4/30. Heading straight home, but taking our time, no long days planned. We expect to be home by the fifth.

Tuesday 2/28

Wildflowers are still appearing more and more every day, they are really tiny in the area of the desert where we walk every morning. Walking along you have to look closely, if you stop and take a look there are tiny, tiny flowers all over the place and buds on a lot of the other green stems.

We both had appointments for hot rock massages from Angel here in the RV Park today. Mine was in the morning and Nancy’s was in the afternoon so we pretty much stuck around home today. Nancy did go and do some shopping while I was getting my massage.

Wednesday 2/29

Nancy had an appointment in Tucson this morning, so after our walk we headed into town. The office is just across the street from Bookman’s Book Store and I am proud to say that I did not make a visit while I was waiting! Of course Nancy threatened me with bodily injury if I did!

We did stop at Beyond Bread for lunch, then make a visit to the Tucson Botanical Garden to see what their wildflowers looked like. Surprisingly it turned out there was not much there! No big deal since the membership we bought through Groupon gets us unlimited admission.

We did indulge another vice by stopping at the See’s Candy Outlet store and stocking up on chocolate candies!

Every time we go over Gates Pass the wildflowers along the road are more and more dramatic. It seems that the ones at the highest altitude are the largest and the water run off from the road appears to have really benefited them.

On this side of the pass there is a Saguaro that we call “Gumby”, here are a couple of pics. Skipped these, better ones in a later post.

Thursday 3/1

Regular Yoga class at Tucson Yoga this morning and then our usual stop at Food Conspiracy.

Nancy had an appointment for some “girly stuff” this afternoon, I basically did nothing all day!

Had a stiff, cool wind blowing all day. A boring, quiet, relaxing day.

Friday 3/2

Morning hike in the desert, more wildflowers showing up, but I am concerned that the wind the last couple of days has started drying them out. They are amazingly delicate and tiny, especially considering the harsh climate they survive in. We talk about the good rains in December, but in reality they were only about an inch and a half, annual rainfall is just around 12”!

We were dog sitting with Margo today, so we once again stuck around home.

Another great show in the rec hall this evening. The Roadrunners are a small group of performers from the Ellington Band (which was here last month), usually a rotating cast of five or six performers that play traditional jazz. The groups consist of students from the Tucson Jazz Institute and their instructors. Tonight there were three students playing piano, trumpet, clarinet, and saxophone, along with two instructors playing bass and banjo. Max Goldschmid, who is a senior this year, was here again. His has been Arizona State Champion in trumpet, trombone, and saxophone. We have also seen him playing the bass and the piano. He plays all of the reed instruments with amazing skill. A young man with a splendid future!

This makes the fourth or fifth very enjoyable show we have had here this winter. All we have to do is walk over to the rec hall and contribute when they pass the hat!

Saturday 3/3

Skipped our walk this morning as Nancy and Karen wanted to check out the craft and bake sales at Copper Crest, a gated over 55 community down the road from the RV park. All they found were some cupcakes, which I enjoyed!

After they returned the three of us went over to H F Coors for their first Saturday of the month seconds sale. What a mob scene! Nancy & I went last month and it was a bit crowded, but not bad. This morning it was ridiculous - there were 40 or 50 people in the checkout line! Since Nancy was actually looking for a gift and not actually interested in the seconds sale, and Karen did not find any treasures, they decided not to brave the horrendous check out lines.

We stopped at GK Sonoran Hot Dogs for an early lunch and then back home in the afternoon.

Sunday 3/4

Pretty much a stay-at-home day today. After our morning walk we watched the morning news shows, then the start of the NASCAR race before we switched over to the Blackhawks game. Got it on TV today and they beat Detroit at home and looked good doing, still a tough climb to get back into a solid playoff picture, but things are looking up.

Mon 3/5

Morning campground meeting, then we went over to H F Coors to pick up the things Nancy picked out on Saturday. Lunch at BK Sonoran Hot Dogs, our second favorite place after Beyond Bread and back home for a relaxing afternoon. Weather is warming up, into the 80s today and tomorrow, then predicted low 60s Wednesday and Thursday.

Nancy has been unhappy with the collapsable clothes drying racks that we have for the laundry she does not want in the dryer. We put one on our bed for socks and things, but like to put one outside for larger items and it keeps blowing over. So looking in the Trailer Life Tech Tips archive she found a pattern for a collapsable rack made of PVC pipe that hangs on our rear ladder.

Looked pretty simple so we ran over to the Tucson Estates Hardware and bought what we needed. Probably the most time consuming part of making the thing would have been cutting the pipe into the 23 pieces of various lengths needed, but fortunately Desert Trails has a little wood shop (right close to our site) and the power mitre saw made short work of the cutting. After that it was just a matter of fitting the pieces together, drilling some holes, and threading some cord through, and presto!, a ladder clothes rack.

Tues 3/6

After our short hike we drove across to the far east side to visit Colossal Cavern Mountain Park, which is just south of Saguaro National Park East. Went east on I-10 this time, looking for a better route than 22nd Street across the city, a bit out of the way but better. Coming back we went north past the National Park and back west on Valencia. This is probably the best route to the National Park East.

The park at the caverns is a county park and they had a nice little museum about the CCC. There was a ranger there who had just given a presentation to a school group, so he stood and talked with us about the history of the CCC in the area. Good timing and very interesting.

Then we took the tour of the cavern, which was a good tour and interesting, but a bit pricy at $13 each. We’ve been to a number of caverns and caves around the country (and in Ireland) and this one was a bit pedestrian, but interesting. It did give a good feel for what it would be like to have to crawl through there, the walkways (built by the CCC) were pretty narrow and confining.

Since we were on the south side we stopped at BK for lunch again, is there a pattern here?

Back home Nancy worked on income taxes since the SS forms finally showed up and I dumped and rinsed tanks and check the anode rod in the water heater since we changed it a year ago.

Wed 3/7

For our morning hike this morning we waited until after breakfast and went up to the visitors center at Saguaro National Park for their daily wildflower survey. Turns out you really don;t have to register, just hike a trail and come back and put pins in the map matching the colors of the wildflowers you saw, not even keeping track of the names.

Oh well, we had a nice hike up the Hugh Norris trail anyway. It was a beautiful day, cool and breezy. Never got out of the 50s today, even though it was about 82 yesterday! We did see an amazing variety of wildflowers, many of them very, very tiny. Here are some pictures from this morning.

After lunch we went over to Fry’s for their first Wednesday “geezer” sale - 10% for all seniors. Unfortunately it was a strategic error to hike in the morning as a few of the things we were looking for, like fresh rolls and coleslaw were sold out. Oops!

Picked up a copy of “The Help” to watch tonight, first time we’ve used Redbox. Missed it when it was in the theaters.

Thursday 3/8

Usual Thursday morning yoga class, then a stop at Food Conspiracy.

This afternoon Nancy did laundry and tried out the new drying tack that hangs on the ladder on the back of the trailer, worked out great.

Otherwise a quiet day.

Friday 3/9

Usual walk in the desert, some of the flowers are getting a little dried out from all the wind, it was windy yesterday and the day before and it blew pretty good all night long.

The RV park had their monthly “soup, salad, and birthday cake” luncheon. This is the first time we have gone and it was quite good.

I may have mentioned earlier that we seemed to have lost our Escapees Club name tags, they should have been in the door pocket in the truck, but we searched all over and could not find them! Well, last week I decided to look again and there the were, right in the passengers door pocket where we though they should have been! Beats me how we missed them.

Our friend Barbara closed on her new house today and asked us to come over and see it, as I mentioned it is only about five miles from where we are staying. Well the house is beautiful, a nice layout with wonderful woodwork throughout and the most amazing tile floors throughout, along with spectacular tile work in the bathrooms. Really, really nice. They will be flying back to Illinois in a week or so to move her belongings back here.

Saturday 3/10

After our morning walk it was pretty much a case of doing a few things around the trailer. Finished up our income taxes and got them sent off. Nancy did then this year so we saved the considerable expense of hiring an accountant.

Sunday 3/11

Hung around home today, morning news shows and NASCAR race and then a Blackhawks game.

Monday 3/12

Nancy had an appointment on East Speedway this morning, so after the Monday morning park meeting we went into town. Had lunch at Beyond Bread, stopped at Trader Joe’s and then Costco.

Tuesday 3/13

Wildflowers are pretty numerous, but the windy, dry weather we have been having is taking it’s toll, they are starting to look a bit dry. Rain predicted for early next week, so maybe they will perk up a bit. We have no more than a light sprinkle since mid-December.

Several of the folks Nancy has met through their dogs are leaving in the next few days an Thursday is Margo’s 2nd birthday, so Nancy decided to have a “doggie birthday party”. She took invitations around to all of the dogs (telling them they could bring their owners as guests) for a party Tuesday afternoon.

The weather was perfect, high seventies and a nice breeze. The area beside our trailer around our picnic table is shaded in the late afternoon, so it was very pleasant. I tried to count, but the dogs were doing a lot of moving around - I think 15 or 16 were there with about 25 people. We had a good time and the dogs were very well behaved, mort of them play with each other at the dog runs in the park. It was fun.

Tuesday evening they had another jazz band at the rec center, Max Mercury and the Monsoons. Actually it was the student jazz band from Tucson High school, a number of whom also attend the Tucson Jazz Institute and Play in the Ellington Band.

They put on a great show and with a full compliment of horns and reeds (17 members) it was really very good. We have really enjoyed the entertainment here this year.

Wednesday 3/14

After our morning walk we drove down to Green Vally to a farmers market in a shopping center. Really more of a French Market with a wide variety of new items, arts & crafts. Nancy bought a nice Mexican rug for yoga, she had been looking for one this year.

Had lunch at a Mexican restaurant there La Palacida. Then back home and relaxed.

Thursday 3/15

Off to Tucson Yoga this morning, then back home to meet Karen. She wanted to take us out to lunch as a thank you for watching Margo, so after a discussion of various options we settled on BK Sonoran Dogs as the place we all liked the most.

It was a beautiful day, very comfortable sitting on the patio there and we sat and chatted for quite a while. Karen is leaving her trailer her this summer rather than towing it home to Wisconsin, so she has been preparing it for storage. One of the things she is doing is getting aluminum foil backed insulation sheets to cover the insides of the windows. Well ... in the position we are parked the large left rear window in our trailer has started getting full afternoon sun and it get HOT. We have been hanging a beach towel inside the shade for the last couple of weeks to deflect some of the radiant heat.

In her research Karen found that Home Depot had rolls two feet wide and ten feet long for about $10! So we stopped at Home Depot on the way home and bought a roll. The width was perfect, I simply cut a piece to length and pressed it into the inside of the window frame behind the shade. What an amazing improvement! The afternoon heat from that window is no longer and issue at all! I also put a piece in the bathroom window that had the same issue.

Friday 3/16 and Saturday 3/17

Not much going on, relaxing and doing some puttering around the trailer. Nancy did some laundry. It has been in the mid-80s the last few days, but turning colder this weekend.

Stayed up late Friday night to watch F1 qualifying from Australia, first race of the season is Saturday night.

Saturday morning we woke to a steady rain, blessed rain for the wild flowers since we have not had a drop since December! It was only in the fifties, windy and off and on rain all day Saturday.

We did get into town to pick up a battery for Nancy watch, stopped at Wine and More on the north side to restock our scotch and whiskey supply - almost as dangerous a thing to do as stopping at the book store for us! Picked up six bottles since they have a good selection and better prices than at home.

A stop at Trader Joe’s and then Beyond Bread for lunch.

Sunday 3/18

Pretty much a sit at home and watch TV day for us. With the time change last week we are now two hours behind home since AZ does not switch to Daylight Saving Time. Thank goodness for the DVR! The noon news on WGN America is now at 10 AM and the evening news at 7 PM!

Sunday morning we watched the F! race that we had recorded during the night while CBS Sunday Morning, Fareed Zakaria, and then the Nascar race were recording. After the F1 race we watched the NASCAR race from Bristol. This is only the second spring race we have missed in the last 18 years! Neither of us are very disappointed about not having renewed our tickets this year. The racing there is just not as exciting as it used to be for a variety of reasons and getting there from Arizona in the spring was a bit of a hassle.

It was nice to watch the race on TV and it appears that a lot of people feel the same way we do. We have never seen those stand as empty as they were today! The reported attendance was 120,000, but up until last spring they had been selling out all 160,000 seats for both races. Tough times for Bristol. Don’t know what they can do to fix it though - the economy is part of it, but we think only a small part. The quality of the show has really suffered the last few years and the middle of March is way to early for that race - it used to be the first weekend in April, much nicer weather in that area then.

After the Bristol race we watched CBS Sunday Morning and by then it was almost time for the Blackhawks game! And they won again, they seem to be picking up a little steam again - hope so anyway. Next one we get on TV is next Sunday.

Monday 3/19

Still cool and off and on rain here. We are anxious to get out in the desert and see what the rain has done for the wild flowers, they were starting to look a bit bedraggled and dried out from the heat and the windy conditions.

It was still a bit chilly after the Monday morning meeting.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Disney Cactus

Tuesday 2/21

After a nice walk in the desert this AM we spent the day hanging around home as we were dog sitting for Karen. We really enjoy having Margo here, she is a really lovable dog, Nancy particularly enjoys taking her to the dog park to play with the other dogs.

The wildflowers are continuing to multiply in the desert. We are starting to see areas with widespread groupings of tiny, tiny flowers. Looks like it is going to be an incredibly pretty spring in the desert.

It was another beautiful day here, mid-70’s with a slight breeze. We spent much of the afternoon sitting outside and reading. This evening they had a celebration of Fat Tuesday in the rec hall. Featured a great little band playing New Orleans style jazz. Trombone, clarinet, trumpet, banjo, tuba, and drums. The tuba player gave an amazing solo rendition of “Black & Blue”. Never heard that done before and it was pretty incredible.

Recorded the 2nd and 3rd periods of the Blackhawks vs. Detroit, while we went to the band performance (love that DVR!). The Blackhawks won thankfully. I think this game could have been the turning point of the season, a poor performance might have spelled the end for the Hawks, but they stepped up and won it.

Wednesday 2/22

After our regular morning hike in the desert we drove over to the Desert Museum. Turns out it was almost as crowded as it was Monday! Might be that a lot of schools took the whole week off since Monday was President’s Day and Thursday and Friday are school holidays for the 87th Annual La Fiesta De Los Vaqueros (Tucson Rodeo). Yes, they close the schools for the rodeo!

Anyhow, we spent some time walking around the museum, checking out the wildflowers and watching the hummingbirds. There was a volunteer docent with a display of wildflowers picked this morning and some really interesting information. She had a very good guidebook on Arizona Wildflowers. We looked in the bookstore, but did not find it.

After lunch in the cafeteria at the museum we went over to the Saguaro National Park Visitors Center as Nancy needed some postcards (she has found the best selection there) and we found the guidebook there.

After that it was just a quiet afternoon at home. As I mentioned earlier, this year we have managed to get out of “vacation mode” and don’t feel the need to be going and doing every day.

Interesting mail service today. We received a 2011 Form 1099 that was mailed on January 27, forwarded from Geneva on February 17, Received here on February 22! That’s right, 26 days! No wonder the USPS is in such dire straights.

Thursday 2/23

Tucson Yoga first thing this AM. We left a little early and went over Gates Pass into the city. a bit slower that way, but we wanted to avoid traffic headed for the Tucson Rodeo Parade on the south side. They were expecting upwards of 150,000 spectators!

After a stop at Food Conspiracy we came home and watched the Twin 125 qualifying races from Daytona. Disappointed that Mikey wrecked and will not make the race. This will be the first time since 1972 that Michael or Darrel will not be in the 500!

Late in the afternoon we took a nice hike in the desert. Would have been pretty warm except for a nice breeze.

Friday 2/24

On our walk this morning we went by the spot that Nancy calls the “Disney World cactus”. There is a large Saguaro with the archetypical (and relatively rare) pair of arms, an ocotillo and cholla, perfect for picture taking - so we did.

Typical tourist shots with the photogenic cactus (click to enlarge):

A couple we know here in the RV park went to an RV show last week and ended up purchasing a new fifth wheel. They brought it back on Thursday so they had a “house warming” cocktail party this afternoon.

Saturday 2/25

Took an extra long hike this morning, a little over two hours. There are tiny little flowers blooming all over the desert, not what could be called a “carpet” of flowers yet, but the potential is there. Anytime you stop and look closely you can see all of these tiny little, incredible flowers blooming.

The morning paper said there were good wildflower blooms along Picture Rocks Rd., which is the first paved east-west road on the north side of Saguaro Nat’l Forest West, so we decided to take a ride up there and take a look. Other than one area were there really was a carpet of Mexican Poppies on the hillside, it was not any more than we are seeing going over Gates Pass. Since we were so far north we went on across to the Beyond Bread at Ina and Oracle - this is in the shopping center where Gabby Giffords was shot last year. We got take out sandwiches which will serve for dinner tonight and lunch on Sunday!

Weather is warming up, lows in the high forties and highs in the upper seventies this week, that along with the earlier rain is driving the early wildflower bloom.

Sunday 2/26

After our hike this morning we relaxed and watched the morning news shows, planned on watching the Daytona 500, but rained out.

Later in the afternoon we watched the Hawks game, they lost. Things are not looking good this season, they have a string of really good games and then a string where they look like they are just going through the motions. Very frustrating.

Monday 2/27

Other than the weekly morning meeting we did not accomplish a lot today. There are people starting to move out of the campground being the end of the month. We had originally planned on leaving this week, but decided to stick around to see the wildflowers, so far they are living up to expectations.

This afternoon we went up to the visitors center at Saguaro National Park for a couple of ranger talks. The first one was on foods the native peoples found in the area, going back to the first humans known to inhabit the area. Very interesting talk that included a demonstration of the way early man was able to hunt woolly mammoths with only stone tipped spears.

We are always surprised by the few people that take advantage of these talks. When we arrived the visitors center was very crowded, busier than we have seen it, but we were the only two people that went to the talk!

After that talk we went to one about memories of early Mexican settlers in the Tucson area. Also very interesting, and at least there were four of us in this session! The ranger spoke a bit at the beginning of the talk about snakes and scorpions. She said she often found scorpions under the mats by the doors to the visitors center (!!). After the talk we went with her to look and she started lifting the mats INSIDE the doorway! And sure enough, there was a medium size scorpion in the crack in the floor under the mat! She said the small ones have the most painful bites, but none of them are really serious.

Watched the Daytona 500 this evening, a pretty good race and quite eventful.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Saturday 2/11

We had heard about the Tanque Flea Market meet from some people, so after our morning hike we headed over to check it out. Forunately we determined that it was nowhere near “Tanque Verde Rd”, but actually on Palo Verde Rd south of Ajo. Strange but true.

Anyhow, it turned out to be a pretty large and amazing collection of stuff we have absolutely no interest in! So after a walk through we decided we had seen enough and came back west to S12th Ave and had lunch at BK Sonoran Hot Dogs. Great as usual.

Just did some puttering around the trailer in the afternoon The Blackhawks were playing i n Phoenix so we got to watch them on TV - unfortunately losing their 8th game in a row! After that torture we watched a movie.

Sunday 2/12

After our walk and the morning news shows we decided to take a drive over to Saguaro NP East and check it out. Since that is all the over on the far east side of the city it took us just about an hour to get there. While we were in the visitors center, I got a call from UA Presents. When we went to the Garrison Keillor show on February 1st we had inquired about ticket availability for the Itzhak Perlman appearance on the twelfth. Well it was sold pout, but the lady at the ticket window asked if we wanted to get on the waiting list. We said sure, so she picked up a steno pad and put our name down - at the bottom of the third page of names! OK, not much chance of that.

But here we were at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon and they were calling to say they had two tickets available. Wonderful! Yes, we will take them. So it is 2:30 PM, we are an hour from home and the show is at 6:30 back at the University! So instead of doing the park loop, which looked crowed anyway since there were eight cars on line at the ranger station when we left, we just turned around and drove back across the city home, changed our clothes and back across Gates Pass again to The University.

Had dinner at the Chipotle Mexican Grille on University and then walked over to Centennial Hall on the campus for the show. Was it ever worth the price! We had front row seats, all the way to the left side, but a beautiful sight line to Mr. Perlman. He was accompanied by Rohan de Silva on the piano and it was a masterful performance of Schubert, Brahms, and Prokofiev, plus an encore with several pieces by Fritz Kreisler. A wonderful, mesmerizing show!

Monday 2/13

Monday morning park meeting, then we drove across to the east side where Nancy had a beauty appointment, then lunch at Beyond Bread on East Speedway and a stop for some major shopping at Trader Joe’s. We did resist making a stop at Bookman’s Bookstore since we have a pretty good backlog of unread books going at this point.

We did stop at Summit Hut on the way back and I picked up a pair of Merrill hiking boots on sale. Mine seem to be getting past their prime as my feet hurt quite a bit after (and during) our last hike, so hopefully these will help that situation.

Back home and relaxed and watched the Downton Abby episode that we recorded last evening - that DVR is the greatest thing, should have gotten one a long time ago!

Sometimes on our morning walks we catch sight of a jack rabbit. The pictures do not give any scale, but these guys are pretty good size, probably two feet tall at the top of their ears.

Tuesday 2/14

A very different feeling in the desert this morning. Sky is overcast, there is virtually no wind, and the feeling is one of anticipation. It’s like all the plants are just waiting for the rain, the the mesquite, the jojoba, and all the other plants have their leaves open and turned to the sky.

As much as we are all hoping for rain, the clouds passed over without any rain here, but then later in the morning it clouded over again and we got an hour or more of a nice gentle rain! Just what we needed for the wildflowers!

Already there are some blooming in the desert.

Annual park picnic tomorrow and we volunteered our truck to help move tables. Nancy and I picked up 13 folding tables from the rec center and carried them over to the area for the picnic.

Wednesday 2/15

More and more little wildflowers showing up during our walks in the desert. Some of them are really pretty and we can see the very beginnings of what we expect to be a blanket of flowers. The desert is greener than we have ever seen it.

Beautiful weather for the picnic today, sunny and in the low sixties. We met a nice couple who are full timers and had a nice conversation during lunch. After the picnic we hauled our load of folding trailers back to the rec center and then we made a run into town to do a little shopping. A quick stop at Wal Mart and then the grocery store.

Early in the morning the low angle of the sun makes an amazing difference in the appearance of the desert. This cholla is a good example. This picture is taken looking at the sunny side of the cactus, notice the shadow.

This picture is seconds later with the sun back lighting the cholla. The pictures really don't do it justice, but you get the idea.

Thursday 2/16

Morning class at Tucson Yoga and a quick stop at Food Conspiracy. Back hoe we relaxed and did some housekeeping. I have been working on removing the Red Max 3 sealer that pealed a bit on or dark decals and it is starting to look pretty good.

Got to watch the Blackhawks break out of their loosing streak by beating the Rangers tonight. Hopefully things will get better now.

Friday 2/17

After our morning walk we headed into town. Stopped at Bookman’s Book Store as Nancy wanted to look for a good atlas. While she was doing that I found five more books that I could not live without! Need to stay away from that place. We did, however get $125 plus worth of books for $50!

After lunch at Beyond Bread we drove on over to the Saguaro National Park East to finish the loop drive that we had planned on doing last Sunday. It was a very pretty 8 mile drive through the park. One thing that we noticed is that the Saguaros in this part of the park are considerably different than those over on the west side. Not as plentiful, but there are many, many of them with multiple arms. It is common to see ones with ten, fifteen, or even twenty arms! Very common here, very rare on the west side. Maybe due to more plentiful water here?

Saturday 2/18

Pretty much stuck around home today, we have been successful this year in getting out of “vacation mode” and into “retired and relaxing” mode. Not doing as much running around checking out the sights as we did in the past two years.

Blackhawks won again today! Yeah!

We did get out to Coyote Pause for lunch, but that was about it.

Sunday 2/19

We had planned on watching a Blackhawks game this morning, but the local NBC affiliate chose to carry the Detroit game instead. Can’t blame them considering the Hawks recent record. They did win though and we get the next game Tuesday evening against Detroit at home. Might be a pivotal game for the rest of the season!

Otherwise not much happening today. Nancy spent some time playing with the dogs at the dog run in the afternoon and that was about it.

Monday 2/20

After the Monday morning meeting we ran up to Saguaro National Park for a ranger talk about rattlesnakes. Turned out to be a very interesting talk, with a lot of great information on rattlers. Information makes it a lot less likely that you will be afraid of the snakes if you do encounter them. 90% of rattlesnake bites are categorized as “preventable”, and of those the majority are young males and alcohol is involved. Gee, what are the chances?

We had planned on stopping at the Desert Museum after the talk, but we forgot it was President’s Day. The parking lot was full, so we decided to pass and come back later in the week.

Instead we went into Tucson and had lunch at BK Carne Asada and Hot Dogs. Great as usual. A stop at the grocery store and then back home for the afternoon.

Here are a few more pictures of wildflowers that are starting to bloom in the desert. As you can see by Nancy's fingers they are really quite tiny, but if one looks closely you can see that there are a lot of them getting close to blooming.