Thursday, January 26, 2012

Good Music, New Freezer, Visit From Joan

Forgot to mention in the last post that we went over to the Rec Hall Tuesday night for a performance by Mariachi de Atzlan - the 2nd best in the USA. They came in second in a competition at Disney World. Anyway, it was a group of local high school students and they were very good.

Thursday 1/19

Regular class at Tucson Yoga this AM, stopped back home long enough to change clothes and have a snack, then we went back into the city to the El Con theatre to see Hugo. A pretty good movie, if a bit predictable, the visuals were really well done. After the movie, since we were in the area, we stopped by the Tucson Botanical Gardens, took a stroll around and relaxed for a while before dinner.

Late in the afternoon we stopped at El Charro for dinner, our first visit there this winter, and frankly we were a bit disappointed. I ordered their signature dish, the Carne Seca Platter and it arrived cold on a cold plate. After sending it back and getting a second one I was still disappointed as it was only warm, not hot, and the meat was really dry. Maybe we need to try La Fuente again.

Nancy had an appointment for a facial at the Aveda Institute this evening, so we wandered over to 4th Ave and spent some time browsing at Antigone Books. After I dropped her off at the institute I went out to Bookman’s book store and spent an hour and a half just reading.

Friday 1/20

According to their tracking info Fed Ex was supposed to deliver our freezer today, so after our morning walk in the desert we pretty much stuck around waiting for the delivery. As is usually the case with Fed Ex they failed to show up. The tracking website showed all day that the shipment was on the truck for delivery, then at 4:30 they posted that they were unable to find the address!! What a bunch of BS! The RV park has a sign 15 feet high with the address on it. So I called and Fed Ex and the automated system said they would deliver the package tomorrow - how are the going to do that if they can’t find the address? So I talk to a representative, who contacted the distributions center, but when they tried to contact the driver he was not answering his phone - what a surprise! As Nancy said, it is a nice Friday afternoon, he did not feel like driving all the way out here, put in a bogus excuse, turned off his phone and went home.

This is exactly the same thing that happened on our last Fed Ex delivery here, only that time they said there was no one to sign for it. I try to avoid Fed Ex at all costs, but sometimes the shippers give no choice. I let the seller know that I was disappointed in their customer service since they picked the shipper who did not live up to their standards.

Tonight the was an excellent show at the Rec Hall, a group of three young women, The Silverthread Trio, who were outstanding folk singers. A really enjoyable show.

Saturday 1/21

Up early this morning to check the flight tracking to see if Nancy’s sister Joan was able to get out of Chicago on her way here. The snow in Chicago on Friday resulted in a lot of cancelled flights. Turns out she made it, albeit 45 minutes late.

Took our morning walk in the desert then did some puttering around home. We decided that putting the new freezer in the truck was not the most practical solution - visions of one of us falling on our kiester climbing in and out with things in our hands. So after some measuring I determined that it would fit in the front compartment of the trailer. That required doing some shuffling around of stuff we have stared in the various compartments. Finally after owning the trailer for five years we have pretty much filled up all of our available storage space! Time to do some weeding out!

Joan got in a little before noon and we went and met her at the place she is renting for the week in Rincon West. We zipped over to In N’ Out Burger for lunch and then Joan and Nancy went to do some shopping and I came back home and cleaned out our storage compartments and reshuffled everything in order to open up the front for the freezer - which finally arrived around three-thirty this afternoon.

The freezer fits perfectly on the front compartment. I did need to use the boards we put under our jacks on soft ground in order to lift the freezer high enough to allow the door to clear the lip of the compartment. I will need to pick up some 2x8s and redo the setup so it is secure for traveling, but I have more than a month to do that.

We went over to Coyote Pause for dinner and much like a few weeks ago on Friday evening they were way, way understaffed - people waiting to be be seated with numerous empty tables waiting to be cleaned. Unfortunate as they may be shooting themselves in the foot.

Sunday 1/22

Had to cut our morning walk a bit short today as I seem to have developed tendonitis in my foot again. May have been walking around without my orthopedic shoe inserts to much!

Joan came over this afternoon for a hot rocks massage from Angel, a lady here in the park who is a massage therapist. Nancy, Joan, and I gave each other hand made gift certificates for the massages since we all enjoyed them so much last year.

Tried a new place for dinner, recommended by a lady here in the RV park - Fred’s Arena and Steakhouse. Out west of the city on Ajo Highway the other side of Ryan Field, a mile off the highway on a paved road and then another mile on a dirt road brings you to Fred’s Arena. A big pole barn with the atmosphere limited to beer signs and televisions, with a fire pit in the middle and and some of the biggest and best steaks we had ever see! My NY Strip was probably 6” by 4” and a full inch thick, cooked to perfection. That, along with a big baked potato, salad, and garlic toast for $14.95! Nancy and Joan each had top sirloins that were equally large and equally good. We will definitely be going back!

Monday 1/23

Skipped the Monday AM meeting today and took a short walk, foot is improving. Then we went over and picked up Joan and went to H F Coors, a company that makes pottery style dish ware primarily for the restaurant industry. The dishes are handmade here in Tucson and they have an outlet store. Really interesting products and we picked up a few things, will probably go back the first Saturday in February when they have their seconds and rejects sale.

After H F Coors we went way across on West Broadway to See’s Candy - a place Joan always needs to visit when she is here. Then up to Beyond Bread on North Campbell for lunch. Nancy and Joan had appointments at the Aveda institute for make-up lessons. I stopped at Trader Joe’s and Walmart to pick up a few things and then back home.

Leftovers from Beyond Bread for dinner and a quiet evening at home tonight.

Tuesday 1/24

Off to the Desert Museum first thing in the morning. This was the coolest day of the week with a high in the low 60‘s, but sunny. Lunch at Ocotillo Grille at the Desert Museum, then back to Desert Trails where Joan and Nancy had massages scheduled. We went to Perfecto’s for dinner this evening.

Wednesday 1/25

Nancy and Joan drove up to Casa Grande to meet a couple of friend’s who drove down from Phoenix to meet them. I took the truck up to Casa Grande as well and stopped at Speedco for an oil change and lube, a local CB shop to have the broken antenna wire on the CB fixed, and also bought a couple of “stinger” antennas. They look more like an automobile antenna rather than the fiberglass antennas I had before. The guy at the CB shop said part of my CB issue was mismatched antennas and the spring-mount bases I was using. These antennas should avoid the breakage issues I had encountered with the fiberglass ones. On the way back I stopped at the Flying J in Eloy to top off the tanks - 150 gallons! So between the maintenance and the fuel it was a pretty pricey trip!

After we all got back we drove up to Thunder Canyon Brewery in Foothills Mall, which was a fair drive away, but pretty good. We would go back if we found ourselves in the area at mealtime, but more of a hike from here than it is worth.

Thursday 1/26

Our regular class at Tucson Yoga this morning, along with a stop at the Food Conspiracy, which is right down the street on Fourth Ave. Joan went to take a look at Old Tucson. We had told her it should not be to crowded during the week - turns out this was Ted Walker Youth Day at Old Tucson! That means there were 3,000 third, fourth, and fifth graders! On the bright side she got in for a discounted price and all of the shows and demonstrations were in full swing.

We met at Coyote Pause for lunch and then went over to the Saguaro National Park visitors center for a couple of ranger talks. The first one was the talk on the geology of the Tucson Mountains, which Nancy & I had been to before, but it was well worth hearing again. Nancy and Joan went to another talk, which was a short walk in the desert to look for evidence of animal life. I skipped that one as slow walking and standing around is real hard on my sore foot, which is improving. After cocktails at home we drove back out to Fred’s Arena & Steakhouse to try their pizza which had been highly touted. Not bad, but nothing to write home about either.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Desert Loves Rain! And a Fallen Giant.

Take a look at the post for the 18th to see the effect of the rain in the desert and a picture of a fallen saguaro.

Wednesday 1/11

Regular morning walk, then off to do some shopping. While we were out walking yesterday there were some fire trucks coming into the area from the two local stations and they really set off the coyotes out in the desert! Usually we here them howling late at night, but this morning there were at least two packs off in different directions howling in time with the fire sirens.

Speaking of being close to nature, we are hearing owls hoo-hooing in the palms trees behind our trailer almost every evening at and just after sunset. Apparently it is mating season. The shortage of hummingbirds also continues. Last year, and in December, Nancy was filling the feeder at least twice a week. Now it has been a week and a half since she filled it and it has only gone down about a third. Very puzzling, we used to see hummingbirds there all day long, now just one once in a while.

We stopped by Home Depot late in the morning to see if they had restocked the small rack that we bought for our shoes by the door. We picked one up last week and have room for two of them. They did, so now we have a nice arrangement for our shoes instead of having them scattered all over the floor. We went on over to 12th St since we were in the area and stopped at Perfecto’s for lunch. First time there this year and the food was as good as ever.

Stopped at Food City and Target on the way back home.

Thursday 1/12

Tucson Yoga for our “gentle yoga” class in the morning. In the afternoon we went over to Saguaro National Park for a patio talk on the geology of the Tucson Mountains. The volunteer ranger who made the presentation was one of the guides on a moonlight hike we took last season. The talk was outstanding with a lot of really interesting information about the geologic history of the area and the development of the mountain and valley formations typical of the southwest.

Friday 1/13

Skipped our morning walk and headed straight off to the Desert Museum, figured we would get enough walking there, and we were right. We ended up spending the whole morning there, did not leave until 2 PM.

We started out with one of the guided walks, but we were not to impressed with the docent, first one we have run into that we did not like. They were trying, and doing a fair job, but most of the info was about things we already knew.

So we dropped off, went to the hummingbird exhibit and watched the birds for quite a while, no one else in there this early in the morning. One of the birds took an inexplicable liking to Nancy’s powder blue fleece jacket, hovering around her and actually nibbling on the jacket with it’s beak!

We then wandered over to the Coyote Ramada where a docent had a presentation about coyotes, which was very interesting. Turns out that the coyotes travel in pairs or threes, when we hear all the howling in the desert that we take for a “pack”, it is probably only two or three animals. When we got there one of the coyotes was sunning on rock right near the trail, actually looked like it was posing. We sat in the sun and relaxed until the docent arrived to make the presentation.

We decided to have lunch at the museum as there was another talk at the Saguaro National Park that we wanted to go to and it is just a few miles down the road from the Desert Museum. We had eaten at the cafeteria style restaurant a few times, but we decided to try the Ocotillo Cafe, billed as a “fine dining” restaurant since we had plenty of time. Turned out to be a pretty nice place, the food was very good and added to that was the fact that members get 10% off, same as the cafeteria.

After lunch we stumbled across a group being guided by the same docent that did the coyote talk, he was very knowledgeable and articulate, so we tagged along with that group until it was time to head over to Saguaro National Forest.

Most of the talks here are at the Red Hills Visitors Center, some of the walks meet at other trail heads. We always check in at the ranger station at the Visitors Center as their funding is based on numbers and it costs us nothing since we use my America The Beautiful Senior Pass. The pass gets us free admission at all National Parks.

The talk today was on the history of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) and specifically the camp that was located here in the Tucson Mountains. Most of the roads and all of trails in the parks here were built by the CCC. Traveling around the country we have seen many, many places where amenities in parks were built by the CCC - Starved Rock State park in Illinois and various places in Smokey Mountain National Park jump to mind.

Seeing all these things consolidated in one presentation really brings your attention to the great recreational opportunities we enjoy today because of the efforts of the CCC and the tremendous help it was to families during the depression. The unemployed young men (18 to 25 and unmarried) who joined the CCC earned $30 per month for six months, and $25 of that was sent back to their families each month! There were camps all over the country, with 250,000 men in 1,300 camps between 1933 and 1941.

The CCC camps were organized and managed by the US Army and one little noted benefit of the operation was the large group of men who learned discipline and working as teams. This provided the US with a competent group of young men when we entered WWII.

Saturday 1/14

Blackhawks game on TV today - at 10:30 AM! Being an afternoon game in Detroit accounted for the strange starting time. The Blackhawks stunk up the place in the first period, but they got better once Nancy put on her Blackhawks Jersey and they managed to salvage one point for a tie.

After lunch we ran into the Walmart so restock - have to shop fairly often here since we have limited refrigerator space and a REALLY small freezer. Usually don’t buy our pizza for Sunday afternoon until Saturday. We have been thinking about buying a small freezer and putting it in the truck (we have a 120 electric connection in the truck). So far we have not found anything satisfactory.

Back home we watched part of the Denver/New England game and some shows we recorded on the DVR.

Sunday 1/15

A little cloudy this morning, we have seen more partly cloudy days this year than we did in our entire stay the last two years. December and January are actually the secondary rainy season here - although with an annual total just under 12” “rain” is a relative term. The rain we got in December helped break the multi-year drought in Southern Arizona and the experts at places like the Desert Museum and on TV say if we get some rain in January it should be a really good wildflower season in the spring.

We some of the rain did come today, it started to sprinkle off an on late this afternoon and has continued off and on into the evening, good news for people in this part of the country.

Quiet day at home today, Nancy went over to the dog play area this afternoon with her friend Karen and her dog Margo. They go over there quite often in the afternoon.

Monday 1/16

After the Monday morning meeting we went over to Saguaro National Park for a talk on the food and medicinal use of desert plants by Native American women. Another very interesting talk. On the way home we stopped at Coyote Pause for a large enough lunch that we skipped dinner that evening. It was a bit cool and cloudy so I took advantage when we got back home and did some cleaning of the decals on the outside of the trailer. Making progress on the areas where the Red Max Pro sealer is peeling a bit.

Tuesday 1/17

We needed a few things from Walmart and Trader Joe’s so we decided to take advantage of their proximity to the Beyond Bread on East Speedway. As usual the sandwiches were large enough to take half home for dinner.

We have decided to purchase a small freezer and put it in the truck cab for additional frozen storage. The freezer in the trailer is rather small, so we cannot stock up - we have to get out and buy our pizza for Sunday afternoon either that day or Saturday.

I had been looking for a small freezer that would fit in the truck between the passenger seat and the bunk. Last night I found an EdgeStar freezer on sale that will do the trick. It will also function as a refrigerator if needed, although we leave our cooler just outside the door and under the slide for an auxiliary refrigerator. Easy to do since the RV park supplies free ice.

The truck has an outside connection for 120V, but I had taken the female plug off the end of the cable when I had the fairings off a while back, so when we returned home I re-threaded the cable back into the passenger seat and installed the connector. Freezer should be here Saturday.

Wednesday 1/18

The desert loves rain! After Sunday and Monday’s rain the desert has come alive. Tuesday morning we noticed blankets of grasses growing in open areas where there had only been gravel the previous week.

This morning we noticed tiny little flower like growths right along the trails. Hopefully you can see the pictures. All of the Saguaro are expanded to maximum, having pumped themselves up with stored water. The desert is green and alive this week.

Here you can see the size compared to my foot:

On Sunday we took a different trail that we have not been on this year and came a cross a large saguaro that had fallen, obviously when it was still alive. Maybe a windstorm or damage at the root? There was still fresh growth on top of the main trunk and the arm and it was very green. I did not have the camera with me Sunday, but this morning we went back the same way and took some pictures.

This is usually what a dying saguaro looks like:

This beautiful specimen seems to have fallen in the prime of life:

If you look closely you can see the indentation it made on the desert floor when it fell. This is hard ground - those saguaros are heavy! It appears that this saguaro fell quite recently, when we saw it on Sunday it was still very green and this morning it has already lost a noticeable amount of color. Kind of sad to see this magnificent “giant of the desert” laying on the desert floor.

Stuck around home today, dog sitting with Margo. I took a quick trip to the bank and an optometrist, Desert Optical, to have my glasses straightened - I stood up with them on my lap last evening and stepped on them!

A beautiful, sunny day in the 60’s today. Weather has been nice all along, in spite of a couple of days with some clouds and light rain. Last year they were still in a drought here and we only had one day of rain, this year is much more normal as December and January are a secondary rainy season. Of course with 12’ of annual rainfall, a rainy day is a relative thing!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Walking, Shopping, & Ranger Talks

Wednesday 1/4

After our usual morning walk in the desert we did some house cleaning and then made a run to the grocery store. Instead of going to the Walmart Neighborhood Market as we usually do, we went to a Fry’s Grocery as Nancy needed something they carry. When we got there I commented on the parking lot being more crowded than usual at this store. It was also busy inside. As we were checking out the clerk said “Oh, wait, let me make sure you got your discount.” We asked “what discount”, she said “it’s Senior Wednesday and you get 10% off your purchases.” Who knew!? Seems the first Wednesday of the month is Senior Wednesday and we just stumbled into it.

Thursday 1/5

Off to Tucson Yoga first thing in the morning for our Gentle Yoga class, then a stop at Food Conspiracy. In the afternoon we went to the visitors center at Saguaro National Park for a talk about the Hohokam Indians who lived in this area from around 300 AD to the thirteen hundreds and then vanished. Loosely translated Hohokam is a Pima Indian word meaning “vanished ones” or “those who went away”. A pretty interesting talk. They offer a regular series of talks and short hikes in the National Forest and the are several more that we want to take advantage of in the next couple of months.

Friday 1/6

Friends from the last two winters are arriving today. They left their trailer here at Desert Trails last winter and are not bringing their truck, so they asked if I would move their trailer from the storage area to their site. So when they arrived I took the tire covers off the truck and went to start it - it fired once and died! Well, last week I had decided to drain the water out of the fuel/water separator as I had not done it in a while. So I opened the petcock to drain it and could not get it closed! Drained the whole filter before I could get it shut off. I started it and let it run for a while, but apparently not enough. Fortunately Reed, the guy who’s trailer I am moving, has fairly extensive truck knowledge and he was able to show me where the hand pump is for priming the fuel system and we got it started with a very judicious application of starting fluid. So then I moved their trailer into position.

Needed to refill one of the propane tanks, so I strapped it onto the back of the truck and we went over to Costco with the truck and stopped for propane on the way back home.

Had dinner at Todd’s Restaurant at Ryan Field, the nearby small airport. Just so-so, they are better choice for breakfast and lunch.

Saturday 1/7

In the paper this morning the was an ad from Worldly Soles, a shoe store, promoting a storewide sale and showing so slip-ons that Nancy though would be prefect for me. It is a real pain to keep putting shoes on everytime I need to go outside to get something out of the cooler or one of the compartments, to pick up the newspaper, or whatever. Last year I bought a pair of sandals for that purpose and I can’t even walk in the silly things! The ad said they were located across the street from Beyond Bread, so that was reason enough to stop by.

After a stop at Trader Joe’s we hit the shoe store. Turned out we both found shoes that we liked at 30 and 40 percent off! After that we stopped at Beyond Bread for lunch and, as usual, the sandwiches were big enough to take half home for dinner.

Sunday 1/8

Not much going on today. Other than our usual morning walk in the desert we were pretty much couch potatoes watching football games and the rare Blackhawks game that we get on TV here. Nancy did go over in mid-afternoon and get a dog fix at the dog park and then a hot rocks massage from Angel - she received coupons for five massages in Christmas gifts from her sister Joan and I, so she can be a spendthrift.

After the Hawks game we watched the new episode of Downton Abbey. We had the first series on our DVR so we re-watched those in the last week getting back into the swing of the show.

Monday 1/9

Regular morning meeting at the RV Park, temps have turned a bit cooler, around 60 yesterday and in the 60’s today. Bright sunshine though. After the meeting we ran down to the Home Depot to pick up some light bulbs and look at small grilles. Found the bulbs we wanted and a small rack for shoes beside our door, but no luck on a small grille. We have a small propane grille, but had heard about a nicer one on a great sale at Home Depot, but as I said, no luck.

Tuesday 1/10

After our morning walk in the desert, we took our friend Karen’s dog, Margo, out for a walk since we are puppy sitting today. Later in the morning we went over to the Saguaro National Park for a talk about the life cycle of the Saguaro. Turned out to be an excellent talk about the desert in general as well as the Saguaro, very enjoyable. As usual we ended up spending money in the gift shop. They have the best selection of postcards in the area and one of the best gift shops we have seen in a National Park.

On the way back home we stopped at Coyote Pause for lunch, then a relaxing afternoon at home, along with a romp in the dog play area with Margo.

We have both been getting in plenty of reading time, I just finished my fourth or fifth book since we arrived in December.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Back to Tucson and Warm Weather!

Friday 12/30/11

Up early this AM and headed to Midway Airport. 35 degrees and raining, but at least it was not ice and snow. Traffic was light due to the holiday weekend, the check-in line was fast, the security line was short and they started boarding as we walked up to the gate. Dennis was the third or fourth person on and grabbed an exit row, so it could not have gone smoother

Arrived in Tucson a half hour early! 75 degrees and sunny. Stopped at In N’ Out Burger for lunch, dropped our luggage at the trailer and made a grocery run in the afternoon.

Saturday 12/31

Out for our morning walk in the desert this morning, ran a few errands and relaxed. Did a bit of maintenance, cleaned the shady side of the Volvo in the afternoon. Weather now is much more to our liking than it was in early December, sunny and mid-70’s.

The RV Park had a New Years Dinner and Dance this evening. We had paid for the dinner, but were not interested in the dance. Had a nice dinner, steak for Dennis, ribs for Nancy, with pleasant dinner companions, then back home and watched TV shows we had DVR’ed while we were away. Did not make it to Midnight!

Sunday 1/1/12

Happy New Year to all. Took our usual walk in the desert this morning, watched the Sun AM news shows and cleaned the other side of the truck this morning. Realized we left two of our Clean Bottles at the dinner Saturday night, checked in the Rec Hall, but not there. Afraid they got tossed - bummer! Have to order some more.

Sat outside in the shade and read most of the afternoon. Just relaxing and enjoying life. We are puzzled about the lack of humming birds since we returned. Our feeder was empty of course, and Nancy refilled both of the feeders as soon as we returned. Last month there were birds on the feeders very regularly, but we have not seen one hummer since we go back! At dusk though there were two owls sitting in the palm tree right behind our trailer and hooting to each other.

Monday 1/2

Regular Monday morning RV park meeting this morning, than we went up to the Desert Museum and took a nice walk around the desert habitat loop. The only coyotes and Javalinas we saw were sleeping. Stopped at the Saguaro National Forest visitors center and picked up the guided tour and walks schedule for January. Looks like a number of interesting things going on. Back home for lunch.

Watched some of the Winter Classic hockey game, then continued with our second time around watching the first Downton Abbey series in preparation for the second season starting next week.

Tuesday 1/3

We decided to skip the morning walk today and take a hike in Sabino Canyon, on the theory that it would be a good day to go up in the mountains considering the warm temperatures. Of course we had to drive clear across Tucson to get there since we are on the SW side and Sabino Canyon is to the NE. Arrived there about 10:30 AM, when I went to pay the $5 entrance fee the ranger asked my age and said I could get the senior pass - well duh! I already have one! So we saved five bucks.

Of course my pass did not cover the $8 each for the tram up the canyon, but it was well worth the price. The trip up the canyon was very pretty with spectacular cliffs on both sides. At the top we left the tram and hiked 1/2 mile up to the upper part of the canyon to the junction with the Sabino Canyon Trail and the Phoneline Trail. The Tram makes nine stops along the canyon and you can rejoin at any of the stops, so we decided to go a half mile down the Phoneline Trail and then 0.7 miles down to tram stop 7.

It turned out to be a bit tougher going than we expected! We left the tram at 11:45 and got back down to stop 7 in time to catch the down bound tram at 2 PM. The seven tenths of a mile down to the road was pretty steep and tough going for both of us. Of course there was also a family going along the trail that consisted of grandparents, parents, a young boy - oh, and the mom was carrying a baby! They passed us, we passed them, etc. Finished about together. We were exhausted.

The scenery however was spectacular and well worth the effort. We were much higher than we would have been able to climb on our own. Surprisingly looking down the canyon we could see out across the valley and the city of Tucson, over the Tucson Mountains, and, on the far horizon, all the way to Baboquivari Peak, 50 miles the other side of Tucson!

After the tram ride back to the visitors center we headed back to town for a late lunch at Beyond Bread. As usual the sandwiches were big enough to take half of each of them home for dinner.

Back home and relaxed, watched TV and just vegetated. As I write this there is an owl hoo, hooing away in the tree right outside our window.