Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Few Pics and REALLY Nice Weather

Tuesday 1/22/13

First a picture from last winter that I never posted. We call this guy "Gumby", he is along the western approach to Gates Pass and easily seen from the road. We say "Hi" every time we drive by.

Now back to your irregularly scheduled blog:

Jan 11

33 degrees this AM, but it was clear and sunny with no wind and we had a pleasant walk in the desert. It warmed up into the 40’s, but with the bright sun and clear skies it was a really nice day. Supposed to turn cold tonight though.

Nancy had lunch at the soup and salad pot luck here at the RV park, I skipped it since soup and salad are not my thing.

Jan 12

22 degrees at 7:30 AM today. 

However, not a cloud in the sky and a bright sun coming up. Put on our silk underwear, wool sweater and a cotton sweatshirt, added a cotton scarf and a wool toque and headed out into the desert. Very comfortable! A lovely morning, well into the 40's now at 11 AM. Just now walking around outside in a cotton shirt and light sweatshirt.

We came across this giant saguaro, which we had passed numerous times without really looking closely at it. This one must be 200 plus years old! It is really large compared to most of the mature saguaro in the area. 

There are a lot of younger generations around as well, this one is most likely between 50 and 60 years old.

And this little guy is probably 15 to 20 years old!

We went to the movies this afternoon to see Lincoln - an excellent movie, go see it if you have not yet done so. After the movie we had an early dinner (no lunch) at Los Portales in South Tucson (this is a separate city completely surrounded by the City of Tucson). A mexican place recommended by our neighbors here in the park. Very good with a nice atmosphere, we will definitely be back.

Speaking of neighbors, the electrical post in the site next to us apparently shorted out the day before yesterday, burned the power cord to the fiver and fried the TV set! A good argument for having an Electrical Management System (EMS) like the one from Progressive Industries that we installed right after we purchased the Newmar. Good for peace of mind and it has detected a couple of defective hookups for us.

Getting cold again tonight, already down to 32 at 8 PM.

Jan 13

21 degrees at 7 AM today. We bundled up like yesterday and got in our morning walk. We still have not broken out our heavy winter jackets that we have with us - a point of pride I guess.

Jan 14

19 degrees this AM! OK, this is getting old. We have been able to keep our water from freezing by keeping a trickle going all night. We could have disconnected and used our on-board supply, but that would no keep the spigot from freezing as they are not protected. In fact there was a break in one of the water pipes leading away from our spigot this morning. We slept in and skipped the Monday morning meet. Finally got out for our morning hike around noon. It was cool - mid-40’s - but a beautiful sunny day. Otherwise we did some house cleaning and took it easy today.

Jan 15

15 degrees this morning! I do not like this trend. Record low in Tucson today, lowest official temperature in 39 years in Tucson!

Supposed to start a warm-up tomorrow and into the 70s by next week. Stuck around home and stayed warm today. 

Jan 16

OK, better today, 23 degrees this morning! The heat wave has begun, supposed to be in the 70’s by early next week.

Took a ride down to Green Valley to the weekly Farmers Market and browsed around.

Should mention here that we are enjoying the Weber Q100 that we bought before we left home. It works really well, much better than the cheapo portable grille we have been using for years.

Jan 17

Yeah! Low of 35 last night and it was over 40 when we left for our regular yoga class. Hit 69 degrees today.

Received the new fender for the Volvo today, then determined that the mounting bars were bent by the flailing tire cap! Need to get a few more parts before it’s done. New ones ordered and should be here next Thursday.

Jan 18

Into the 70’s today, a beautiful sunny day. We went all over town today, over to East Speedway where Nancy had an appointment, then the Lowes east of there for Scott RV TP, then Beyond Bread for lunch and Trader Joe’s. Then down to the SE side and a quick stop at Camping World.

Arizona Road Runners jazz band at the rec hall tonight. Only had five pieces (the composition of the group varies by who is available on a particular night) but they put on a great show. They are a group from the Tucson Jazz Institute consisting mostly of high school students from The Ellington Band. The Road Runners also usually include the band director and a teacher or two. Tonight Max Goldschmid, who graduated last year and is currently on a music scholarship at The University of Arizona was with the group. He is an amazingly talented young man on a wide variety of instruments. The saxophone player tonight is a sophomore who has won a statewide competition twice.

Jan 19

Blackhawks hockey is back! And they started out with a bang, beating the Kings solidly in their opening game this afternoon. We decided to sign up for NHL Center Ice on Dish this season so we will be able to see all the Hawks games that are on Comcast Sports Net just like we could have if we were at home.

Jan 20

Finally got in our long hike to Gilbert Ray campground, made it all way there, which was good because it enabled us to refill our water bottles! Six and a half miles out and back and over four hours. It was a beautiful day with just enough of a light breeze to keep things comfortable.

We had determined that none of the trails in Tucson Mountain Park actually lead anywhere close to directly there, so we decided to strike out across the desert on our own, using our GPS to navigate. Just after we left one of the east/west trails and headed north we came across the tracks of a horse heading straight north just like we were and we were able to follow the horse’s trail more than halfway to the campground. As it turned out we should have tried harder to stay with the horse trail when we lost it, since on the way back we took a little more direct route and came across the same trail closer to the campground than where we had lost it. A nice day and a great hike in desert, no climbing other than up and down in and out of washes.

Along the way we came across this unusual barrel cactus, it seems to be a genetic mutation much like the crested saguaro. Normally this cactus would have yellow fruit on the top rather than the additional growth.

We were beat when we got home and just plopped down and relaxed. This evening the Hawks continued their sterling start to the abbreviated season by beating Phoenix. Yea!

Jan 21

Monday morning meeting at the RV park this morning. Weather has improved back to normal, lows in the 40s and high around 75 the last couple of days. Later in the morning we took a short walk in the desert and after lunch we headed into town and did a couple of errands.

Then we stopped in at the Tucson Jazz Institute. When the Road Runners were here Friday evening the  director said they would be recording a couple of arrangements for their submission to the Essentially Ellington competition for best community jazz band - which they have won the last two years. He said people were welcome to come and watch so we decided to stop by. 

The school is in a store front in a small mall on the East side. We were surprised to find that as soon as we walked in the door we were in the room with a live recording session going on! We very, very quietly took seats along the edge of the room.

It was quite interesting and the band was in great form, we listened as they recorded three selections, critiquing them between takes. These are all high school kids - I think he said they only have two seniors this year - and they are an amazingly talented group. There were four trumpets, four trombones, five saxes, guitar, drums (two different drummers), bass, and piano.

On the way home we decoded to check out Borderlands Brewing Co. but they have not yet reopened from the installation of larger vats. First visit will have to wait. We ended up going back to Barrio Brewing Company for dinner.

Jan 22

Decided that we felt so good Monday morning after our long hike on Sunday (yeah, I know, hard to believe) that we would try a little longer hike again. This time we went East along the south fence line of Tucson Mountain Park and then turned into the park. It was flat most of the way, but the last mile or so that we walked East was a steady upward grade and there was a fairly good climb as we went North into the park. We were close to the base of the Tucson Mountains and up on a plateau that gave us a pretty nice view out into the Arva Valley.

Altogether we covered almost four miles and kept our moving average at 2.4 MPH, which is almost as good as we do walking on pavement at home! The hand held GPS we bought last winter has proven excellent for what we wanted on our hikes here. It is a real help in figuring out where we are in relation to the RV Park and I have marked waypoints at various spots so we are able to decide which way to go at trail junctions.

On the way back we came across this group of saguaro - there were at least eight of them under this palo verde tree. We though this might be a good spot to look for infant saguaro (which are very hard to spot) and ... after a fair amount of searching ...

sure enough we found one! It was only about an inch high, probably three to five years old. You have to look closely, but it is just to the left of the tip of the trekking pole in the picture below. It's spikes are bigger than the main body!

We were thrilled to find it!

Another beautiful day, in the 60s when we took our hike with just a light breeze. After lunch we went over to the pool for a nice swim. Bright blue sky, not a cloud in sight, palms trees around the pool, it just doesn't get any better than this for January 22! Right now, 4 PM, it is 81 degrees!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Getting Cold Here

January 8

Well we did get in our longer hike, but only about 3-1/2 miles. It was sunny, but cool with a fairly stiff south wind that was chilly. We wanted to see is we could get to Gilbert Ray campground, which is 2-/12 miles due north - I made a GPS waypoint there last week. However, we spent our time zig-zagging back and forth as all the trails in Tucson Mountain Park  seem to run primarily East and West! Since we had to face into the wind coming back home we decided to cut it a bit short. We’ll try again later and just strike out straight across the desert using the GPS.  If you look at the map in this link, our RV park is just above the junction of Bopp and San Joaquin Rds.

Still a bit cooler here than it has been the last few winters. For the last week the highs have been in the 50’s with lows in the 30’s. Supposed to continue into next weekend, with lows Saturday down into the mid-20’s! Then a warm up next week. Guess we should not complain as those snowbirds over east in the Rio Grand Valley have had rain, snow and sleet.

As a result of the weather we have been pretty much sticking around home the past week. Today though we did have a very interesting day.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum opened a new aquarium on Saturday, which features the fresh and salt water fish of the Sonoran desert. The Museum covers the Colorado River valley which runs into the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. At least it used to run into the Sea of Cortez, it no longer supports any water flow into Mexico because the communities to the  North from Las Vegas to Phoenix, Tucson and Southern California are using all of the water in the Colorado!

The new Warden Aquarium is open to small groups at scheduled times so you need to make reservations. They do however offer a “behind the scenes” tour each morning. We went on line and reserved a “behind the scenes” tour for this morning. We skipped Monday as we wanted to go to the weekly meeting at the RV park. That turned out to be a good choice - we had a private tour for just the two of us! The curator said she had 11 people on Monday morning.

So we got an in depth tour (an hour and a half!) from the young lady who assisted with the design, selected and acquired most of the fish. It was fascinating and we got to go behind the exhibits and watch her feeding the very unique fish and marine life on exhibit. The most unusual were Sand Eels. Yes, they are tiny eels that live in the sand and stick their bodies out to find food. They look like waving stalks of grass! If a fish swims over they suck back into the sand in a flash. They are less than an 1/8th of an inch in diameter and up to 18 inches long. Never saw anything like it.

SO ... that was enough for one day, but there is more. In last week’s Tucson Weekly, a free alternative newspaper, we saw a tiny blurb about a conversational Italian group that meets at Beyond Bread on Tuesday afternoons. Well ... what could be better, we love Beyond Bread and we are going to Italy on the Prairie Home Companion cruise next summer. So we went over there this afternoon. They were a really nice group of 7 or 8 people and very friendly and welcoming. Although we didn’t understand most of what they were saying, we did pick up a few words and plan on going back again. Who’ed a thought we would find a conversational Italian group in Tucson!

Jan 10

Walks in the desert have been a bit short this week because it has been cold and windy in the morning. It’s been warming up into the 60’s during the day. There is going to be a cold snap this weekend though, they are forecasting lows in the 20’s for the next four days! Friday’s high will be around 40! We are planning on going to the movies.

Thursday morning we were off to our regular class at Tucson Yoga, then, after we each had a short massage from Angel here at the park, we went to Agustine Brasserie for lunch and checked out the Mercado San Agustin Market. We were walking through the market and we came across the man who organizes the Conversational Italian group! He was selling Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes) which are actually sun flower roots.

Still 60 degrees at 9 PM but the wind is blowing and they say the cold front is going to be here sometime after Midnight.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

Saturday night before we left for home it rained off and on most of the night. When we took our walk in the desert in the morning everything was dripping with water and beautiful. There was a white fog bank lying along the base of the Tucson Mountains to the east. Unfortunately we did not have a camera with us, I need to put it in my hiking pouch. It was really pretty with the mountain tops thrusting up out of the clouds.

Hope everyone had a nice Christmas holiday, ours was pleasant and uneventful, but ten days was as much of gray damp weather as we needed! It is really good to be back in sunny Southern Arizona.

We headed back on Wednesday morning, taking the train into the city. With plenty of time to spare we stopped and spent a couple of hours at the Art Institute. Then we took the El out to Midway, had dinner at Harry Carry’s there and then found that our 7 PM flight was delayed. Several flights were backed up at the gates. We finally boarded about an hour late, then after the usual haranguing from the flight attendants to hurry up and take our seats so we could be underway (hey! I’ve been sitting in the gate for two hours, ready to go! I’m not the one that has been holding things up!). Anyway, after being abused for our sluggishness we were all seated and ready to go when the pilot announced that we were waiting for passengers from a delayed incoming flight! So ... a half hour later the delayed passengers appeared, then they announced we were waiting for their baggage.

Finally we backed away from the gate and then sat another ten or fifteen minutes waiting to be deiced. A young boy sitting behind us finally shouted out “Hurry up, lets take off!” to which Nancy replied “He is the only one with the nerve to say it out loud.”

We finally got off about two hours late, with the benefit of free drinks in return for the delay - yeah! And I must add that our particular steward was excellent, with a great personality. We finally got into Tucson around midnight and it was 45 degrees, which was very nice.

Weather has been a bit cool since we have been back, highs in the 50s the last few days. We were wiped on Thursday and did not do much other than some grocery shopping.

Friday morning was around 30 degrees, so we waited until afternoon to take our hike in the desert. We went to Beyond Bread for lunch and then stopped at a car wash where we had the car washed last month. I had noticed a week later that the antenna was missing, I saw them take it off, but did not remember to check if it was replaced. I looked around the drivers seat, expecting that they would have put it in the car. So we asked about the missing antenna and the attendant found it under the passengers seat! So we had it all the time, just did not look in the right place.

Saturday morning we did get out for our early walk, and then we went up to the Desert Museum, which was pretty crowded, and then ran a few errands.

January 2, 2013

Weather continued cool with occasional rain showers through the weekend. Of course what they call rain showers here would not even rate mention in a lot of places. Lows have been around 30 degrees with highs in the 50’s. Really odd though, we get a brief shower, then bright sunshine for a few hours and then another brief shower.

New Years Eve we went to the dinner here at the park. Really good steak and ribs with backed potatoes. We did not stick around for the dance with the 50’s cover band that followed.

A couple of quiet days this week, not a lot to write home about. It is nice weather now, high’s around 60 but still down around 30 at night. We are going to try to get in a bit longer hike later this week while the weather is still on the coolish side.

Happy New Year!