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.