Monthly Archives: February 2014

Day 64

I loooove Texas ! Big , hot , and loud ! Picture below will be of my drive this morning . I took a turn after El Paso . Nice to see that city prospering a little , but still brought me to tears seeing the Mexican side of the border filled with shacks . Dan and I have never forgotten the first time we saw it in 1998 . We’ve seen poverty before , but nothing like that . It’s haunting to see compared to the US side .

Anyway , we left Los Cruces this morning , heading east on I-10. I drove a long straight boring stretch, then up and down a little pass . Freaks Dan out to have me drive a pass , but I figure after driving the first day’s Madras/Maupin/The Dalles, I can drive anything ! You just have to use your brain .

The first five minutes is always an adrenaline rush . We sit up high with a huge front window . The rig and tow weigh 11 tons , so starting and stopping take awhile . Getting the feel of the wheel also takes awhile . The Eagles. “Take it Easy ” came on my headphones , so that was a nice start . Followed by Buffet ,Degraw, BTO, Pharrel, Denver, Elvis and Eliza’s One Direction, the 91 miles flew by .

Could have been because I was driving 70mph, too ! Speed limit was 80, but the road was rough and sometimes windy, so 70 was all I had the guts to drive . I even passed a semi . My first one ! The kids and I think he must have been a trainee .

Half way through my drive , I pulled into an inspection station . The Border Patrol definitely has a large presence here , and due to one being shot and killed a few days ago , I said another prayer for them . Not a job I could do , so I appreciate that they are trying to keep drugs and illegal migrants out of the US.

I saw the agents pass each other a look as I pulled up and will never know if it was because I was a female driver or the typical tourist RV . I prefer to think they were dazzled by my driving ability .

As the K-9 sniffed around the outside of the rig, the agent asked how many were aboard and if we were all US Citizens ? Made me sweat just to sit there , so I don’t know how guilty people can get through all the checkpoints.

I answered the questions , hoping all the while they wouldn’t ask to board . Psycho Jessica would probably try to bite , and Lady would probably put her paws on his shoulders and lick his face . Who knows what the kids would do .

We shared a conversation and a hot tub the other day with a Canadian who travels all over . When he answers “no” to the second question, he is asked to pull aside . Glad we did the stack of paperwork to get the kids their citizenship and passports years ago .

My back was screaming from sitting so long , so I pulled down on an off ramp to a gas station . At the stop sign I offered Dan the wheel to pull up to the pumps . We have to keep his blood pressure down, and he leaped into the drivers seat.

Now we’re heading south on 118 to Davis park and the observatory tonight . With losing another hour , we should be able to stay up for the program tonight . Can’t wait ! Did I mention how much I loooove this state ?!

20140222-132922.jpg

Advertisements

Day 63

Top Ten Things I Will Miss About Arizona:

10.  The Saguaro cactus.  The huge cactus with the arms that stick out  The arms don’t start to grow until it’s 70 years old.  They are only found in the Sonoran Desert and are so numerous, you become accustomed to seeing them often.  At Usery Mtn, we had them in the campsite and all over the park.  I took the ranger guided tour one morning and was intrigued by all he told us about the saguaro.  They grow to the size of your thumb in 10 years, then in the next 10 they grow to about 2 feet.  After that, it depends on how much sun and water they get.  On the inside, they have “wooden bones” about 3-4 inches around, with about 15-30 inside.  They form the skeleton of the cactus and water comes up and through them.  We saw many that had huge ripples and he said that was caused by the dry years versus the wet years.  As it was in the 80’s when we arrived, Ranger Bee was worried about the unusual heat and what would happen when a freeze came.    Not only would it kill the early flowers, the lack of water would cause the cactus to shrink and they’ve already been contracting in the drought.

The saguaro start producing flowers at age 50, which forms into a fruit.  (Will have to visit again in April and May to see this because the pictures look beautiful.)  The natives used the broken cactus “bones” to reach up and pull down the fruit to eat.  They produce over 450,000 seeds each year, but it only takes one seed to grow the saguaro.  The rest are bird food or don’t germinate. 

Of course, we all wanted to know what the huge holes were in the sides.  The holes started as a bird pecked at a bug, then continued as the woodpeckers moved in.  The hole becomes a “boot” (like a scab) inside as the cactus tries to repair itself, but the animals keep digging. The natives used these boots to hold water and the one I played with was big, heavy, and could easily hold water.  The woodpecker then might move out, and other birds and owls move in.  In our campsite, we had birds flying in and out of the holes non-stop.  Very cool.

Another interesting fact was that saguaro are master water keeper and finders.  They have an extensive root system that could reach as far as 50 feet and are very shallow. Contrast that with the pesky juniper trees (weeds) in Bend that send their roots way down to hog all the water and I realize why junipers don’t fall over like the saguaro do when they get old!

Anyway, I’ll miss them.  We could have bought one in every gift store we visited, but it wouldn’t be the same as seeing them in nature.

9.  The beautiful stars and city lights from Usery.  Clear as a bell each night to see the stars, and west of us were the lights of Phoenix.  We were initially surprised to see the stars and lights because of the pollution and haze during the day.

8.  The great artwork on the new freeways around Phoenix and Tucson.  I wish we’d had a guide to explain what they all meant.

7.  The 4.2 million people driving like maniacs!  Passing on the left, passing on the right, forgetting to use turn signals, eating and talking on cell phones.  Just like everywhere else we’ve been, but the 75 mph speed limit made it seem a little risky.  I don’t think the 4.2 includes all the snowbirds that should have to take a test to keep driving.  Really!

6.  The SE Regional Library where the kids did school for 10 days.  Huge windows facing a pond, with birds and ducks always providing a show.  Great computers, great working environment, nice people.

5.  The sun.  Have I said how happy I am to be warm?!  To not have body parts screaming or not working?!  It was a nice, warm orb and yes, I could handle the summers…

4.  Bashas’ supermarket.  Nicest people in town and the produce was amazing. 

3.  The capitol mall.  The capitol itself is a dinky little thing wedged in between their house and senate buildings that are concrete blocks from the 1970’s.  When we first drove to see it, we almost missed it because it was hidden.  So they didn’t spend a lot of money buildling it, and they don’t really take care of it, but they did a great job on the outside mall.  There are memorials to every war, and the Asian conflicts were very well explained.  They also take great pride in the USS Arizona from Pearl Harbor, and have a huge portion of the inside museum dedicated to it, as well as an original gun outside.  My favorite was the 10 Bill of Rights carved in stone and the area honoring the GI Bill dedicated to the difference it made in veteran’s lives.  There were several school groups visiting while we were there, but the best one was the Catholic schools demonstration outside and the secular music they were blaring through the loudspeakers – music I wouldn’t let my kids listen to!

2.  The Science Center.  The best kids “OMSI” type museum so far.  We were all engaged and trying each exhibit. The video on the brain tumor surgery was a little much, but the wheelchair exercise had us all wheezing.  The top floor of the center was all about solar energy, recycling, urban heat and suggestions for how we can be better stewards of the planet.  Next time we’ll go there first and work our way down.

1.  Friends and family who live here, and all our friends who visited.  John, Wilma, Steven, Robyn, Barb, Tom, Uncle Chuck and Aunt Betty – we will be back!  To our dear friends who visited – so glad you did!

 

By All of Us

From Eliza:

Tucson is so hot. I die everyday, I’m not used to the heat. My favorite part of Arizona was surprising my teammates at their meet in Phoenix 🙂 The water and air aren’t the cleanest but are tolerable. This weekend, we played mini-golf at this super cool arcade place and my golf ball matched my nails.

 

From Nate:

We took a bike ride.  It was fun.  It was hot. 🙂

 

From Dan:

Here in Tucson. Been kind of hot lately, but nice. It got close to 90 the other day. I went for a killer bike ride up Mt Lemmon. It is a 9,000+ peak here in town. I thought that there would be snow up there, but none whatsoever. Google up Bicycle Magazine Mt Lemmon bicycle ride to get an idea of what it entails. It was steady climbing for over 20 miles. The longest climb I have ever done. The views were spectacular. The ride down was awesome. Just cruising for over 20 miles. Tons of bicyclists were on the road that day. We have been in Tucson for a few days now. We had spent three weeks in Phoenix. It was a great time in Phoenix. We saw friends of Sally, John, Wilma, and their son Steve. We also spent some time with Sally’s cousin Barb and her husband Tom and her Uncle Chuck and Aunt Bettie. It was great to see them. They were very kind one night and had us over for dinner. I went for a bike ride in their town of Gold Canyon. Very nice town way outside of Phoenix.  The drive down to Tucson was uneventful. The RV is driving very nice and I pray that all of the bugs are out of it. We are camping in February and running the air conditioner. Can ya believe it? 

I have the trip itinerary done beginning early May all the way through October. We will be posting it soon. We have made reservations for every single night so we can be close to what we want to see such as Mackinaw Island, Niagara Falls, Prince Edward Island, Cape Cod, Outer Banks of North Carolina, New York, DC, and Philadelphia. I am looking forward to moving east to see things. Here in the near term we are going to Texas, Big Bend National Park, San Antonio, Austin, Houston (Joe and Olga), then over to Louisiana and then start working our way up the Mississippi Valley to Iowa by late April. 

I hope all is well for everyone. I am missing you. As I said before, it was a transition from work to retirement, but I am starting to get into it and enjoying it more and more. I really like spending time with my family every day. The little things such as just hanging out, doing homework, and having dinner together as a family. It is great spending more time every day with my wife Sally. I am loving it. This is all I have wanted from this trip was to spend time with my family. All of the rest is icing on the cake!! I would highly recommend doing this for everyone. Like a book I read, “Your life or your money.” I want my life. I can work again later someday if I want. This is time to be spent with my family and seeing our country. 

Take care everyone!

 

From Sally:

We’re staying at an RV park north of Tucson for a few days and it’s been interesting.  We went from beautiful Usery Mtn to the KOA in  Apache Junction, to this place… all downhill.  The Good Sam gave this park 9’s across the board, but I had to talk Dan into pulling into our spot when we got here.  The world’s largest gem and mineral show is in town, so it was hard to even get this reservation.  The other parks were either full or 55+ again.  They just pack us in here.  Luckily Dan can park it anywhere and we’ve stayed at worse places.  At least it has a pool and is safe!

One of the reasons we picked this park was because it is right next to the Santa Cruz River trail and on the map there is a big blue wavy line.  It boasts 27 miles of paved trails.  We took a ride today with the kids after they were done with school.  They were surprised to see that the river doesn’t actually exist.  So were Dan and I the first time we walked over to see it!  It’s a huge dry canyon, 200 feet across and 30 feet deep.  There are trees and plants growing in it, but the sad part was all the garbage.  Strewn the whole length and just so ugly.  From mattresses to tires to shopping carts to small litter – it’s all over.  I’ve noticed 3 homeless camps so far on our rides.  On the north end there is a little water coming out of a large pipe and there are other signs saying the ball fields are watered with reclaimed water.  So far none of the locals have been able to tell me why it’s empty or if it fills up at any point during the year.

The wildlife viewing has been good in the canyon.  The first morning we were walking the dogs and out of the brush came 2 big fat havelinas with 2 little babies.  They went across the trail and down into the canyon as we were coming closer and when I yelled hello they took off a bit faster and the hair on their backs stood up.  We know from camping near them years ago that you don’t want to get to close.  We’ve never seen babies and they were just cute little pigs.

The next day we were in the same spot and I was leaning over the railing looking for them when a head came up out of the brush, stared at me, and laid his head back down.  It was a coyote!  Bigger than Lady, and  obviously not impressed by us.  Another one came out of the brush as we were walking away.  We had heard them every night at our campground in San Diego, but we haven’t heard this group at all. And I haven’t been able to find them again.

The best animals to watch are the roadrunners.  They are so funny!  I’m not sure if they are any smarter than the cartoon, but they are a delight to watch.  They are fast.  They’ll come out of nowhere across the trail and be on the other side before you can blink. They fly fast, too.  The yellow went flashing by me by about 3 feet and I almost lost the bike.  The wing span looked to be almost 10-12″ and beautiful.

We are here another couple days, then off to Big Bend National Park.  Cannot wait to see new vistas!

The weather is spectacular for the only one in the family who loves the heat.  82 today, thank you very much, that I can live with.    

 

Day 52

Whew! It’s been awhile since my last post because we’ve been so busy with friends.  Our campground is awesome, set up against Usery Mountain.  The sites are big, the utilities work, and the cactus that grow like weeds are spectacular!

First, we went out to dinner at a local mexican restaurant called Arriba’s with my old friend John Bie,r  wife Wilma and son Steven.  It was awesome to finally meet them in person. Steven looks very similar to what John looked like in high school , so that took me back a few years.  (How could John and I have aged that much?!)  We talked and laughed and  could have stayed there all night.  It filled my heart  to meet John’s family and I was so glad to see he hadn’t lost his warped sense of humor that I find so funny.  What a good man he still is and how blessed we were to have dinner with he and his family.

Then Eliza’s gymnastics’ team came to Phoenix for a meet, so she and I went into town for 3 days straight.  The big Phoenix.  4.2 million people live here and it is crazy to drive.  Speed limit is 75 mph on the 6 lane highways and I was getting passed on both sides.  Fun to turn a 30 mile trip into20 minutes, but a little strange to be flying that fast down the road.  We only had a couple times in a traffic jam; other than that the traffic does move along well. Contrast their huge highways with how our city planners only did 2 lanes on the Bend bypass.

On Friday, we  pulled into the parking garage at 3rd and Jefferson after crossing 2 lanes to get there.  Oops!   Then walked to the Phoenix Convention Center.  (Eliza hates to walk.)There were huge buildings in front of us, but we didn’t know which one the meet was in. The architecture is beautiful – new glass, steel and a light brown local rock. At the stop light, I asked two older ladies carrying heavy bags what convention they were going to and they said it was a gift/trade show in the smaller building.  Perfect, scratch that building.  We kept walking to the next huge one.  We asked the guard where the meet was and of course, it was in the last building!  Downstairs! We thought this was a big meet, but they were relegated to the basement!

We had arrived early in the morning so  Eliza could be there before the girls started arriving.  Only 2 of her friends knew she was coming, so she stood at the bottom of a long escalator and waited as the girls descended to surprise the rest of the team.  I was glad that the girls are coordinated because they could have  fallen the whole way down they were so excited to see her. I was trying not to cry.   Well worth the drive in!  Eliza was able to be on the floor with the Level 7’s during their meet, then got to say hello to all the Level 8’s as they started.  She couldn’t stop smiling and I was so glad Dan and I changed our plans so she could be here for the meet.  It was hard for her to leave her friends in Bend, so we thought it was important for her to see them again.

After getting Eliza settled, I went upstairs to wait for my friend Robyn who was my doubles partner in high school.   She lives in a suburb of Phoenix and was kind enough to come in.  We had 2 full hours of non-stop girl talk and it was wonderful.  I had seen her 2 1/2 years ago in Bend, so we picked right back up again and talked about everything important in our lives.  There is something wonderful about friends like that; to be cherished.  Can’t wait to see her again.

While we were in town with the tow vehicle, the boys had to stay at the rig.  Nate slept in, Dan took long rides, Nate took shorter ones, they played with the dogs, and basically just hung out.  I’m sure they missed having two females telling them what to do for 3 days!

On Saturday, Eliza and I got up early again and went into town to pick up Denise and Kyla at their hotel.  Then we drove to Mary and Sara’s hotel downtown.  We had been kicking around ideas of what to do – hike, shop, eat, take a tour of Talesin West – and finally settled on driving up to Scottsdale and bumming around Old Town.  6 of us piled into our little tow vehicle!! (Reminded me of college; have wheels, will fit everyone in!)  Mary and I lucked out in the front seats, but the other 4 were good sports.

We pulled into the parking garage in Scottsdale and laughed at the sign “decoy vehicle on premises”.  We’re a long way from Kansas, Toto!  The signs in the parking garage in Bend would probably say, “Hey, have a good day, dude”, “Don’t forget your stuff”, or “Go eat at the D & D, it’s the best burger in town.” But in Scottsdale they are telling you that your car may not be there when you get back.  First funny.

We started walking, and one of the first people we ran into was a middle aged guy pushing a bright aqua blue stroller… with his dog inside it.  Yes, really, his DOG.  We’ve seen people pushing dog strollers before, but this one was funny.  Then we had to stare at a college age guy dressed in a leopard outfit – head to toe.  He was walking around with a group of the same age, so we asked the ones following, WHY?  They said he lost a bet.  Funny number 2.

Another block down the road found us all screaming STOP at a dog that was running hard down the sidewalk – with his leash attached to an outdoor patio chair.  Luckily he was on the sidewalk, not the busy road, but he was going fast.  As he came to us, he wrapped the leash and chair around a telephone pole, so the leash snapped off, and away he ran harder.  The funny part of this situation was his owner prancing blocks behind. She wasn’t running hard, just prancing.  I will never get the image out of my head and wish I would have taken a picture.  The funniest.

We shopped in  Old Town, went to the old Little Red Schoolhouse, watched a Native American dance in the park, took tons of pictures of the girls together, and had lunch at a mexican restaurant.  It didn’t really matter what we did, it was just nice to be together – and in the sun!

We headed back to Mary’s fancy Sheraton, and the girls changed into swimsuits.  The pool was on the 4th floor, a long narrow one perfect for swimming laps if I’d had my suit.  Instead I got to sit in the sun with Mary & Denise, compare scars,  and chat more.  Heaven.

On Sunday, we drove back in early and Eliza and Lexi had the privelege of helping Mohini coach the Level 3’s for their meet. Kyla and Hailie were in the other gym helping coach Sara and Miranda in Level 6.   Mohini had been double booked in both gyms, so she went back and forth as the girls competed.   Not a stellar meet for any of the team, but a  good experience for them.  Denise and I had a great hike on the Papago trail system.

Lunch was at the Hard Rock across from the Diamond Backs new deluxe stadium.  Wow, did they pour some money into that place!  Baseball is big business here and we wish we were here a few weeks longer to see spring training.  So many teams come to this area, and the Cubs are building a new stadium for their practice.  Would be fun to watch.

Seeing the big stadium just reminds me how  strangeit is to see such big buildings, big freeways, big everything.  Bend is on such a small, simple scale compared to all that we’ve seen so far in California and Arizona.  The one thing that isn’t different, however, are all the chains.  You can find any chain store from Bend everywhere we’ve gone.  It’s harder to find the local places to shop but we’ve really liked the Bashas’ supermarket.

So lunch was over quickly, and it was time to say good-bye . Dan and I had been worried about Eliza having to leave her friends again, but she did better than I did as we were walking away.  I was the one crying!  It had been such a special time,  and it was hard to face that we wouldn’t see them again for over a year.  It’s like that with everyone, and we should be used to it, but I’m not.  Luckily we have FB and texts and email.

On Sunday night we went to John’s house to watch the Superbowl.  First time I’ve ever watched a whole game and not just the commercials.  Wilma prepared an impressive feast and we ate more than our share.  I had a dream about the unique Rice Krispie treats!  Great to see them again, and lucky Nate, his book we had ordered finally caught up to him, thanks to my cousin Jennifer!  Really hard to hug them good-bye. Wish we could be neighbors…

The next fun we had was with Al & Sue Crouse and their friends Joan and Maureen.  We met at a  cool little spot in Cave Creek called The Grotto.  Great breakfast grub.  They all used to live here or live here now, so they know where to go.  After breakfast we drove out into the hills and had a nice hike on the Spur Cross trail.  Beautiful scenery.  Tons of cactus.  Sunshine.  Petroglyphs.  Fun conversation.  Could have gone all day, but the kids would have been vocal about that. As it was, they did great.

Yesterday afternoon we stopped by my cousin Barbara’s house in Gold Canyon.  She’s only 5 miles away from our new KOA campground.  I thought she was in Tuscon, and we had a reservation for a week there.  I happened to mention to her in an email that we were leaving for Tuscon Friday and would call when we got there.  She replied, “do you know where we are?”  Well, no, I thought I had heard Tuscon, and didn’t do my normal careful planning or even take 30 seconds to map it.  She’s only been 20 miles away the whole two weeks we’ve been there!  She was the only reason we were going to Tuscon!

So we cancelled Tuscon and started to look for another RV park here, because the state park only allows you to stay 14 days.  We made a reservation at a park near her, and were set.  We thought.  As we were trip planning for the summer, Dan happened to see the RV park listed in the Good Sam book.  It said it was a 55+ park.  Dan called and they said they aren’t too strict about the 55 age limit, but they don’t allow kids.  So we scrambled to find another park.  Luckily KOA’s don’t discrimate.

We weren’t surprised at the 55+ requirement for the parks, because we’d run into it before when we came through in 1998.  At that time, we were exhausted from a day of driving and happened upon an RV park in Sun City, AZ.  We pulled in and practically had to beg to stay there for 3 nights.  The only reason they let us stay was because they had just opened, so they weren’t full.  We had to fill out a form as long as my arm.  I didn’t mind because the new pool was Olympic sized and I was in it a lot!

This time the 55+ requirement seems a little strange.  And slightly illegal?  There are many retirement neighborhoods that also advertise no kids.  Why would you want that?  What’s better than a mulit-generational neighborhood and the sound of kids playing outside?  Come to think of it, our Tumalo neighborhood could have been advertised as 55+ .  It was not kid friendly.  The next one will be better; we promised the kids.

In between all the fun of seeing friends, we’ve been schooling at the library, seeing the local sites, and cooking up a storm. The kids have worked really hard at school and we are proud of them.  Their online school just added the silly requirement that they have to check in with their teachers twice a week, so the Oregon Department of Education requirement can be met.  Will be tough for us because the times are all over the board as far as Eastern, Mountain and Pacific time zones are concerned.  We created a spread sheet that took us 2 1/2 hours.  Then Dan spent hours getting the voice class connect program to work on one of the laptops, and we went to test it Friday morning during Nate’s math teacher’s class time.  We were told the kids could just log in, say hi, log out.  So we were testing it when the teacher’s voice came on and said, “Hi, Nathaniel, can you hear me?”  Dan and I looked at each other, laughed, and I got up to go get Nate out of his bunk… we had let him sleep in!  At least we know the program worked.  Now we have to get it on my phone so if we aren’t at a computer, they can check in. Silly, silly, silly.

So Day 52 is upon us and finds us at the library, doing school and trip planning.  Dan’s almost got the whole summer scheduled and we’ve made most of the reservations.  We are going to post it here when we get it done so that people can come meet us at any spot along the way.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the physical room for guests, but we would love to share our experience with anyone willing to fly!  Happy Monday!