Saturday, January 6, 2018

A trip to Urgent Care highlights first full week in Arizona

One week in and we’ve already made our first trip to Urgent Care, but this time it was for Joan and not me. A couple years ago it was my ticker and shortness of breath that ate up a couple days in the hospital – for nothing as it turned out, but this time Joan has caught a nasty eye infection.

Eating out, Arizona style
Not sure where she contracted it, but she looks miserable with her swollen and red eyes. After a trip to the urgent care we made separate trips to two Walgreen’s until we found one that had the prescription salve she needed to clear up her eyes. The issue will keep her out of the pool for a couple days anyway.

Before Joan’s eyes went all crimson on us we enjoyed the Wednesday concert in the ballroom – To Ella With Love – a tribute to the talented Ella Fitzgerald. Crystal Stark – a popular local singer and American Idol finalist was the star of the show. The band wasn’t bad either.

Here’s a little story about Ella Fitzgerald – and me – that y’all probably didn’t know. Back in my days with the Atherton Police Department I used to work special details and one of the more memorable ones (I actually had a few memorable ones, including Shirley Temple Black, Mayor John Lindsay, Senator Ted Kennedy, to name drop a few) was an afterglow for a Boston Pops concert at Stanford University.

Joan's newest creations
Arthur Fiedler, the incomparable leader of the Boston Pops, brought his show to Stanford and Ella Fitzgerald with him. At the close of the show he and Ella were to come to a party at a mansion in Atherton where I worked. The host of the party gave specific instructions to only let the cars bringing Ella and Arthur into the driveway.

“Everyone else parks on the street,” were the instructions. So me, and two other officers providing security waited at the driveway entrance directing cars to on street parking. Finally a large black limousine came down the road and it was the vehicle carrying Ella Fitzgerald and it was directed into the driveway. At some point a small Toyota must have pulled up and without recognizing its very famous passenger it was sent to park down the road with the rest of the party goers.

A few minutes later here came the driver and his famous passenger, Arthur Fiedler, walking up the street. We were very apologetic, but Fiedler was gracious and understanding and told us he enjoyed the walk. That’s my one and only brush with Ella Fitzgerald – and Arthur Fiedler.

On Thursday, I had my first Men’s Bible study, Joan went to her Aquacize class (pre-eye infection) and then she walked the park. We were supposed to get a propane delivery, but when the truck arrived he declined to put gas in our tanks because they “expired” in July 2017. Fortunately we had gas in reserve, but now I had to deal with “expired” tanks. More on that later.

We went shopping at the newly remodeled and expanded Walmart near our park. They have all the sugar free items we need for our diet so we will likely be shopping there in the future. I also got the car washed and the gas tank filled. Plus, we returned a Christmas present I bought for Joan – an accessory for her Kitchen Aide blender – at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I purchased the item (which was too large for her Kitchen Aide) for a small one and they made the exchange even though I purchased the item in Flint, Michigan.

Cannabis Doctor sign spinner
We also passed a truly energetic sign spinner on our way home. The guy – a Frank Zappa lookalike – and obviously a refugee from the Haight Ashbury district of 1968 was wildly spinning and throwing a sign that advertised “Cannabis Doctor.” It appeared he had been testing some of the doctor’s medicine. Unfortunately a van blocked my attempt at a photo of him, but I did capture the sign.

So lots of chores completed on Thursday. Because of the very nice weather we ate outside on our picnic table.

Friday dawned with me heading to O’Reilly Chevrolet to check on why my “check engine” light keeps coming on in the Tahoe. Turns out it is a minor issue with some government mandated emission device and nothing I need to deal with during my time here. I did have them do an oil change so the trip wasn’t entirely worthless.

I stopped to price new propane tanks for the trailer, but before purchasing two $85 tanks I went to the Internet and discovered that a local company will recertify old tanks for an additional 5 years for $12.50 a tank. A $25 recertification sounded so much better than a $170 tank purchase, so while Joan went to her polymer clay jewelry class I made a short trip to Barnett’s Propane and got my tanks recertified and topped off.

Joan’s eye continued to get worse so after dinner we made the trip to Urgent Care so she could get medicine for her eye.

On Saturday morning I was up early to help set up tables and chairs for the donut and coffee gathering in the ballroom and then I worked out for an hour in the fitness center before returning to the ballroom to clean up the tables and chairs.

For dogs that can read
The head of security at the resort pointed out that the biggest area of concern in the park right now is dogs – both the noise and emissions they make. Apparently dog owners have not all been complying with rules about noise and emissions.

At least one owner believes that dogs can read as you can see by the accompanying photo.

“What we have here right now is a dog park that includes humans,” the security man said. Now you are up to date….

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Mountain lions and Bingo, all in day's rest

Happy New Year! We welcomed in the new year in the Voyager ballroom to the tunes of “Two’s Company” a local duet that appears here at least once a month during the winter.
Joan at Meet Me at Maynard's

The night was not without its drama though. One of the party goers, who had obviously partied a little too much, somehow went to his knees on purpose during a song just before the midnight countdown. The tipsy man was apparently reacting to lyrics in the song that indicated being on a knee or knees.

Anyway, once he was down on his knees he then had to get up. I watched this whole horror in slow motion as he worked himself up to a crouch and then stumbled two or three steps backwards finally losing his balance and going over backwards striking his bald head very hard on the seat of a folding chair.

Meet at Maynard's scenery
Then he hit the hardwood floor with a thud and blood started draining out of a cut on the back of his head.  A number of people immediately went to his aid, including a retired nurse and he laid on the floor for a few minutes and then a couple men lifted him into a chair where the nurse applied a bandage to his head.

The musical duet never missed a beat and the midnight countdown went on without any further distractions.

It did get me to thinking that we have seen death come in many forms at the resort. According to a number of folks, a man plunged to his death while cleaning the top of his trailer a few years ago. A fact I know because I am reminded of it by every passing resident when I am on the roof of my trailer cleaning it.

Another man died while playing pickleball (a very popular sport that roughly looks like tennis and ping pong) but that was attributed to a heart condition. I nearly got killed by a senior citizen driving a speeding golf cart through a stop sign. So it would not have completely surprised me to have a “death by dancing” incident. Fortunately, the man is probably walking up with a massive hangover 
combined with a concussion this morning. Not a great way to start the New Year’s.

On the patio at Meet Me at Maynard's Super Moon in the back
On Sunday we went to church after I started my exercise regimen at the resort fitness center. I also reconnected with the table and chair committee and have already helped tear down church, set up the New Year’s party and then stayed late to tear down the tables and chairs after the party was over. 

Next up the Ella Fitzgerald tribute concert on Wednesday.

After church Joan and I went shopping to fill the cupboards and then returned to the resort to watch NFL football. The Lions pulled out a meaningless victory over the Packers on Sunday. This team is so frustrating. They win the games that don’t matter and lose the games that mean everything.

Seven Falls selfie
In addition to watching football, Joan did our travel laundry while I made up some burgers and bacon and cut up some fruit for a snack to pass at the New Year’s party. The weather has been outstanding since we’ve been here with much of the same predicted at least a week into the future.

One sad thing about Arizona is that you know you are here because you immediately notice one or more homeless people on nearly every major intersection seeking help. Probably a function of the good weather than keeps them here.

Now here’s an observation I made in Fort Smith (or Port Smith as Joan calls it). We spotted a story called “Sofa City.” Over the years I have see a number of businesses who use the “City” as a formal business name.

That is just stupid. If you can’t come up with a better name than that, you should not be in business. I’m sure somewhere there is a “Car City” or a “Taco City” but just stop it. It’s dumb.

New Year’s Day (today) will be a time of football and then Meet Me at Maynard’s tonight.

So we went to Meet Me at Maynard’s and continued our Monday tradition when we are here. We walked our two miles, returned to the courtyard. We failed to win any prizes and then had dinner at Fired Pie, a custom pizza and salad place we really like. It would have been better if we had won a gift certificate to go there.

After returning home we watch Alabama dismantle Clemson and then went to bed.
A very small amount of water at the base of the falls

The Tuesday hiking group was off because of the holiday (not sure what holiday Jan. 2 is, but they were not hiking today) so I went alone to Sabino Canyon and did the Seven Falls hike. This is a good starter hike for the season as it is an 8.2-mile out and back hike with just a 1,000-foot elevation.

Because of a lack of rain and snow, the falls at Seven Falls was more like Seven Trickles. Last year we couldn't even hike this trail until March because of high water. There is almost no water right now.
On the trail with my new hat

Coming from Michigan I need a week or so to acclimate to the altitude and climbing so this was a perfect chance to do that. Although Joan doesn’t like it, I love hiking alone sometimes because it gives me a chance to have a little solitude and enjoy nature.

A volunteer at the park told me that a mountain lion had recently been spotted in the canyon, so that added an element of adventure to the hike. I figure with tasty Big Horn sheep in plentiful supply the mountain lions would probably not bother with an old man.

While I was off playing in the mountains Joan was at her Aquafit class and she spent some time walking through the park for exercise. We live and eat healthier down here for sure.

At 5 p.m. we attended our first Tuesday potluck dinner and caught up with a number of our friends from previous stays here. Joan then stayed and played Bingo until 9 p.m. and was about as successful at winning there as she is at the casino. She was only out a couple bucks so no big deal.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Eagle has landed - in Tucson

Bottom line - We made it safely to Tucson and life is good. Temperatures are warm, we are wearing shorts and all is well.

The day started early in Flagstaff and after our preparatory work last night we made quick work of hooking up the trailer and heading down the hill to Tucson.
Our winter home

Weather was a challenge as it was only 11 degrees when we arrived at the storage lot, but with most of the work done all I had to do was back up the Tahoe to the trailer and hook up. My hands were still pretty chilly by the time I was done because some of the work cannot be done with gloves on.

The trip to Tucson was uneventful and traffic through Phoenix was mercifully moderate for a change. Gas prices are a joy. $2.05 a gallon almost everywhere.

We arrived at Voyager Resort about 12:30 p.m. and check-in was quick and easy. Only 15 people were on the schedule for arrival today a number that will substantially increase over the next few days. Right now we have only one close neighbor in the park, but that will soon change.

Our neighbor has some spirit
After hooking up electrical, water and sewer and the most important thing - the cable television, we decided to do our grocery shopping tomorrow so we went to the resort restaurant for dinner. After dinner we took a quick walk around to make sure all our favorite things were still in place - they were - and then returned to our trailer to watch football.

There was also some major cleaning because of our little unwanted visitors to the trailer while it was in storage. They are gone and so is any evidence of them.

As per usual we always anticipate seeing our first Saguaro cactus at Bumble Bee Road on I-17 as we approached Phoenix. Although Joan through a little wrench into that by "thinking" she spotted one about 5 miles north of the road. I tried hard to convince her that it was a barrel cactus, but she is hard to knock off a notion when she thinks she is right.

I'm still going with Bumble Bee Road for the first Saguaro cactus.

Time out:7:53 a.m. (MST)
Mileage out:96041
Time in: 12:30 p.m.
Mileage in: 96322

A "breezy" travel day and a DIY dinner

(I will add photos to this post when we get to Tucson)

We breezed into Flagstaff Friday afternoon where the high was 64 degrees. Usually when we arrive here we are digging out the trailer from snow and I’m freezing my hands off trying to hook up the trailer. Not this year.  Actually this is not good news for Flagstaff as they really rely on the winter skiers to boost their economy.
Arizona here we are!

The trip from Tucumcari, New Mexico was uneventful and the temperature was 41 when we left so a major improvement over the past few days.

As per usual we encountered high winds as we drove through the high desert on the way to Albuquerque (they call it breezy on the news) so the gas mileage was a little down on this portion of the trip.

Outside Albuquerque the temperature rose to about 60 and bounced around there all day as we drove through western New Mexico. We passed a sign that usually has a great warning for us as we drive along I-40 with temps in the 60s – “Caution  watch for ice.”  Not this year!

By the time we arrived at Flagstaff the temperature had risen to 69 degrees. Before anything else we headed to check on the trailer which was sitting in the same spot we left it in April. It was apparent we had a couple small visitors and one was still inside – dead. We pitched the mouse out the door and moved our luggage and supplies to the trailer in anticipation of an early departure tomorrow.

I moved all the hitch gear to the car so all that is left in the morning is to drive over, back up to the trailer and hitch up.

Following that we went to Camping World to take back a hitch lock we purchased last year. Although you are supposed to return items within 90 days they nicely took back the item because they could obviously see that we had not used it.

Our burgers roasting on an open fire.
Our next adventure was to find a restaurant we had read about on the Internet. The Roadhouse Grill was not as easy to find in reality as it was on the Internet. Following the pointed directions of the clerk at Camping World we drove down a paved road that rapidly turned into a potted paved road and then narrowed into a two-path dirt road that was leading us nowhere.

Realizing (too late) that no restaurant would be located on such a remote lumber trail we turned around and checked into our hotel. For some reason they booked us into a Handicapper room which always troubles me because it feels like I am parking in a space meant for someone with disabilities. But that’s where they put us.

Using the directions given to us by the hotel clerk we found the Roadhouse Grill along the same road we had traveled but it was much closer to the good part of the road than where we had previously traveled.
Our handicapper room

It was a really nice restaurant and at the time we were there we were the only ones in it. We quickly found out that the unusual aspect of this place is that you order off the menu whatever meat you want and then they point you to a grill where you cook your own steak, burger, chicken or hot dog.

They had all the fixins’ and a really nice soup and salad bar so we cooked up our burgers had a nice salad and some chili and then called it a night. (I was tempted to tell them that my burger had been cooked incorrectly and see what they would do).

We went back to the Days Inn and fell asleep early watching Ohio State beat USC.

Mileage out: 95518
Time out: 7:52 a.m. (MST)
Mileage in: 96039
Time in: 3 p.m. (MST)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

"On the Road Again!" Tucson or bust

   Like a Willie Nelson song we’re “On the Road Again!” Yes, nine months at home flew by and with a pretty strong push by the crappy weather we left even earlier for Tucson this year.

   After Christmas Day with son Tim and daughter Elin, we quickly packed up and stored Christmas for another year and hit the road early Tuesday, Dec. 26.

   As if to give us a swift kick in the butt the real outside temperature was 0 degrees as we pulled out. The whole time we negotiated snowy roads through Ann Arbor the temperature in Michigan never got above 7 degrees.

   By the time we got to Dayton, Ohio we were in a veritable heatwave at 16 degrees. Our first stop was Murfreesboro, Tennessee to have a late Christmas with son John, daughter-in-law Nicole and the three grandchildren. We arrived at their house about 2:30 p.m. Central time and the temperature was 44 degrees.

   Like a really incompetent grandfather I took exactly no photos during our Christmas celebration there. I admit it I am an idiot.

Mileage out: 93786
Time out: 4:21 a.m. (EST)
Mileage in: 94421
Time in: 2:30 p.m. (CST)

   Wednesday started later and warmer than the previous day. It was a steamy 25 degrees in Murfreesboro and dropped to 18 degrees at points along our route through Tennessee early.

Parked outside one of our dinner stops
   I wanted Joan to find Fort Smith, Arkansas (our next destination) on a map so I could see about where we were headed as we have never driven this route before. She politely told me that Fort Smith was not on the map or listed in the city directory for Arkansas in the road atlas she was using. Then she gave me a look like “what kind of Podunk village did you book us into that it doesn’t even appear on the map.”

   When I booked our hotel there were a number of options so I was surprised that it was showing up in the atlas. Finally at one of the bathroom stops we made I grabbed the atlas and immediately found “Fort Smith” on the western border of Arkansas right next to I-40 where I asked her to look. When I politely (and sweetly) informed her that I had no trouble finding our destination she looked at the city and said “I thought you said Port Smith.”

   By Little Rock we reached 33 degrees, but never got above 37 degrees on Wednesday. We stayed at a decent hotel in “Port Smith” and once we got in our room, Joan pulled out two clothes clips that my sister Pam had given her to keep the curtains pulled closed nice and tight.

   In the morning as I was emerging from the shower I found myself in the altogether with the curtains slightly parted and me exposed to the outside world.

   “What happened to the “privacy clips” you had on the curtains last night?”, I asked.
Panhandle crystal trees

   “They aren’t privacy clips, they are only to keep out the sunlight so I can sleep,” she said. We really need to communicate better.

    My father told me that my Uncle Bill had done his initial Army training during World War II in Fort Smith so I found that kind of cool.

Mileage out: 94421
Time out: 7:45 a.m. (CST
Mileage in: 94949
Time in: 4:25 p.m.

   Woke up Thursday realizing I had left the trailer battery in the Tahoe overnight. Now hoping the overnight cold didn’t drain too much power out of it because we’re going to need it to hook up the trailer on Saturday morning.

   Had a nice breakfast at the hotel and hit the road. Temperatures are still below freezing and this region (Arkansas/Oklahoma) are bracing for a big influx of cold air coming this weekend. Fortunately, we will be long gone by then.

   During our trip through Oklahoma and Texas today the Tahoe rolled over 95,000 miles and just to remind you the Tahoe is just barely three years old.

More Crystal trees
   When we hit Oklahoma City about 10:20 a.m. we encountered some minor snow squalls, but other than being a little discouraging because we are trying to get out of that kind of weather it posed no traffic issues. Almost all the way through Oklahoma and the first part of the Texas panhandle temperatures fluctuated through the low 30s.

   The trees in the panhandle had a very beautiful coating of snow and ice that made them look like crystal figurines. That all changed as we approached Amarillo and the sun came out and the temperatures steadily rose into the low 60s (yea!). The highest temperature of the day was 64.

$2.07 a gallon
   At the gas station in Amarillo I was going to give the windows a quick wash, but all the buckets were frozen solid with the squeegees frozen in them. One great thing is how much cheaper the gas is once you get south of Michigan. We are paying 40 to 50 cents less per gallon (a pretty significant savings) once we get out of our home state.

   There was a huge gathering at “Cadillac Ranch” a kind of Stonehenge made up of old model Cadillacs standing on end.

   Once into New Mexico we had a just a short trip to our night stop in Tucumcari where I had enough time to take the Tahoe to a local U-wash place and cleaned off a pound or so of road salt and mud.

Mileage out: 94949
Time out: 7:30 a.m. (CST)
Mileage in: 95518

Time in: 2:46 p.m. (MST)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Home sweet home! The winter adventure of 2017 comes to a close

Our trailer in the rest stop
The long slog home is complete. Since we last visited we have covered a lot of ground.

As I mentioned in our last post we departed the resort about 12:15 p.m. on Friday, March 31 (Joan’s birthday) and stopped at the Tucson Camping World and had the grey and black tanks of the trailer flushed and sanitized. We also had the trailer plumbing winterized to survive the cold days in Flagstaff during the next nine months.

While the work was being done on the trailer I dropped Joan at the casino and left to gas the car for the trip to Flagstaff. I returned to the casino, collected Joan and we headed back to Camping World to pick up the trailer and begin the trip home.

On our way up I-10 we spotted an official looking car and it was lettered “Zombie Outbreak Response Team.” It struck us as funny.

Son William at a Napa winery
To avoid going through Phoenix at rush hour we stopped in Casa Grande for Joan’s birthday dinner. Finding a parking spot for a Tahoe pulling a 33-foot travel trailer can be a challenge, but we found an empty section of the mall parking lot and by taking up about 12 spaces we were able to leave the car and trailer and walk to the restaurant for dinner.

We spent a leisurely 90-minutes eating dinner at Mimi’s Restaurant and then walked back to the trailer and began the drive through Phoenix and up the hill (I-17) to Flagstaff. As we did last year we topped off our fuel tank in Phoenix and then started up the long climb.

As we did last year we stopped short at a truck stop and climbed into our trailer for our last night of sleep until next winter. Getting up early we headed to the storage lot and secured the trailer for its long rest. We methodically go through a checklist to make sure nothing is left behind we need home and that everything is locked and secured in the trailer.

We did hit one snag when the new lock I purchased for the trailer hitch turned out to be the wrong size, so I had to make a quick trip to a local store to purchase a new lock for the trailer.
Urgent care in Folsom, California

As soon as we finished all that we began the long drive to Cousin Cynthia’s house in Danville, California and the left coast part of our winter adventure. Cynthia had a wonderful dinner waiting for us and we spent some quality time catching up Saturday night.

On Sunday, Joan and Cynthia enjoyed a quiet day together – I think there was a manicure and a pedicure involved some where  - and I drove over to Santa Cruz and took son William to church and then lunch and dinner before heading back to Cynthia’s. On the way home I was able to stop and visit for a few minutes with son Timothy at his new job as night charge nurse at a San Jose nursing home.
We saw Timothy again on Monday as Cynthia, Joan and I headed back to San Jose and had a nice lunch with Tim before he had to go to work. It was great catching up with him. On the way home we stopped and visited a couple wineries in Livermore so we could pick up a couple more fine wines for the wine basket we donate to the Family Literacy Center auction in May.

Sign outside Urgent Care
On Tuesday Joan and I headed over to pick up William for a short vacation to Santa Rosa with him. We stayed in a condo in Windsor and on Wednesday went to Middletown, California (the scene of a major fire last year) and visited with our friend Jan. Long time readers of this blog will remember that Jan and her late husband Norm, drove to San Antonio a number of years ago and visited us when we were staying there in our trailer. We very much miss Norm, but love it that we have stayed close to Jan and our visits are always full of love and laughter. It doesn’t hurt that she lives a stone’s throw from Twin Pines Casino and she and Joan always spend an hour trying their luck there.

I gave my son William 2 - $1 bills and he parlayed that into a $15 win on a slot machine which he smartly took with him.

Too soon it was time to say good bye to Jan and head back to the condo where we watched a couple movies.
Steve and Susie at Kenny's house

On Thursday we battled heavy traffic south on Highway 101 towards San Francisco but took the East Bay route back to William’s house in San Jose. On the way up to the condo we made the long trip up the coast on Highway 1, passing through Half Moon Bay, Pacifica and San Francisco and it turned into a marathon, so we didn’t want to repeat that on the way home. We did get to cross the Golden Gate Bridge which always brings back great memories.

After dropping William off at his home we started back over Highway 17 only to find that someone had flipped their car which meant an hour long traffic delay getting back over the hill. We did arrive back at Cynthia’s in time for a wonderful dinner with her and her friend Ed.

Joan with Liz and Kenny
I re-loaded the car and prepared for our departure on Friday morning. We left Cynthia’s and headed to El Dorado Hills to visit my old friend Kenny from my police department days. Kenny and his friend Liz are always great hosts and the time always goes too fast there. He promised me a surprise and shortly after we arrived there another old friend from my police days – Steve – arrived with his friend Susie.

On the way to Kenny's we stopped at an Urgent Care so Joan could get some medication for a lingering cough she has had. The pollen in Arizona and California really played havoc with her health this year.

We spent a wonderful evening eating steak and talking old times and catching up. Again too soon the time was up and we were on our way. We had to make a major change in our travel plans due to a weather situation. A winter storm was dumping feet of snow on the summit of the Sierras and our route was supposed to go right over I-80 and Truckee, California so to avoid being held up for many hours we took a long route south through Bakersfield, up through Las Vegas and then north back to I-80 through Salt Lake City. There was no snow on that route, but it added about three to four hours to our overall trip.

Me with Kenny and Liz
We ended up in Mesquite, Nevada where we stayed at a very nice Holiday Inn Express. The town seems extremely new and clean and we had a nice dinner at the Eureka Casino before playing long enough to win a few bucks and then returned to our room for a good night’s sleep before heading north to our next stop.

On Sunday, we drove for more than 10 hours from Mesquite to Cheyenne, Wyoming. The winds were howling all day and I was very thankful that the trailer was stored quietly back in Flagstaff. We hit snow in the high mountains of Utah and at one spot saw five cars spun out in a ditch from an apparent freeze up that must have occurred a few hours before.

The wonderful thing about Utah and parts of Wyoming is the 80 mph speed limits that allow you to really put some miles behind you in a hurry. I wish more states would realize that on many sections of open highway, 80 mph is just as safe as 70 mph.

On this day we spotted some unusual looking cows with a big white strip around their middle and twice crossed the Continental Divide.

Utah scenery
Another long drive day was in store for Monday. We left Cheyenne with the winds blowing a gale and that continued through all of Nebraska and the Iowa. Nebraska is just a long state. Make that a long and boring state. The terrain is flat and the scenery never changes, unless you consider a difference between one plowed field and another a change.

We love Nebraska, but it is just a long drive. Somewhere inside Nebraska the time changed from Mountain to Central which just made the day an hour longer. To pass the time we tuned into “Radio Classics” on the XM radio. I love the old radio shows and Joan tolerates them well. I especially love the old detective and mystery shows like “Johnny Dollar,” “Boston Blackie,” and the “Shadow.”

During one of them some of the dramatic dialogue turned sappy. “She’s the whip cream on my shortcake,” that kind of dialogue. Joan took over the driving for about 90 minutes once we got inside Iowa. She drove to just outside Des Moines when I took the wheel for the final couple hours.
A little Utah snow

We ate in Cedar Rapids at a Texas Roadhouse that we once ate at with my sister Laura and brother-in-law Philip when we went to Iowa City to see an Iowa versus Michigan State football game. After dinner we still had 45 minutes to drive to Davenport, Iowa for our night. We stayed at a Country Inn and Suites and because of my use of this night was free. The website gives you a free hotel night for every 10 nights you book a hotel with them.

Because we only had a short driving day on Tuesday we slept in and enjoyed our hotel room until late in the morning. I still got up relatively early so I went for a walk near the hotel because they didn’t have a fitness center. It was cold (30s) but I dressed warm enough to stay comfortable. While walking I found a cheap gas station and a place to wash the dirt and grime off my car later on.

Wyoming scenery (Joan's driving)
We ate breakfast at the hotel and then started the short trip to my sister’s house in North Aurora, Illinois.

This is the third time we have stopped at my sister and brother-in-law’s house on our journey home and each time we have passed a sign along I-88 that advertises the “Birthplace of Ronald Reagan.” Because my sister was working on Tuesday we didn’t want to arrive too early so we decided to take the detour to see this historic site.

Tampico, Illinois is about 15 miles off the freeway and in the middle of literally nowhere. The little town has seen better days but it has a very nice museum in a storefront located below the roomy apartment where the former governor, actor and President started his life. The apartment has been restored with period furniture.

Reagan's birthplace in Tampico, IL
Before we went to the museum we spotted “Ronald Reagan Park” and then across the street a sign announcing his boyhood home. Unfortunately, that home is currently being lived in and not being well cared for. We spent about an hour in Tampico before heading back to the freeway for the final leg to our familial destination.

During this leg of the trip we encountered one of my biggest pet peeves. Remember, this was Tuesday, not a holiday and we came to a 16-mile construction zone that narrowed the traffic to one lane. The right lane was closed for this entire distance and not one worker, not one piece of construction equipment was working during the entire stretch. If you are going to block a lane for a construction project, at least have the courtesy to be doing construction. It’s almost as big a pet peeve as those sections we run into where they put up barrels and a sign to let you know that a piece of guardrail has been damaged. Why not just fix the guardrail if you’re going to be there anyway?

We arrived at my sister’s after eating lunch and my wonderful sister fixed my favorite dinner – spaghetti. In fact the spaghetti is almost as big a tradition as our stop there. I can only hope it is a tradition that will continue long into the future.

Reagan's boyhood home
On Wednesday, my sister took the day off from work and we went shopping at a number of great stores. Joan and I picked up some really tasty olive oils and a balsamic vinegar from a store owned by one of their neighbors. Then we went to a movie and saw “Gifted” a wonderful movie about a young girl who had a gift for mathematics, but had a grandmother who wanted to exploit her for her own reasons.

After the movie we returned home and later went out to dinner with my family. Too soon our time with them came to an end and on Thursday we were up and ready to make the final trek home to Lapeer. There was one thing that brought a smile to our face. A large motor home had a folding aluminum chair strapped to the back and a sign that said “Mother-in-law.”

That trip was pretty uneventful (and mercifully short by our recent travel standards) and we arrived home safe and sound. We made a stop enroute to home to pick up a Prime Rib for Easter dinner Sunday when we will be reunited with our Michigan children and grandchildren.
Mural on a building in Tampico, IL

So this brings to an end another winter adventure. We leave behind in Arizona many friends and great new memories. When I wake up in the morning in Michigan I will look wistfully out the window and be sad that I can see no mountains. But I look forward to the memories we make here with family and friends and the welcoming weather of a Michigan summer. So I won’t wish I was in Arizona and be happy where I am.

We also left behind in Arizona some friends who are having serious medical challenges and we wish them well and continue to pray for them despite our absence from them.

Joan and I are very aware of how blessed we are to be able to do the things that we do and the life we have. We wish the same for all of our family and friends. So until the next great adventure we close this chapter of Grandma’s Recess. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Here are the stats for the trip home:

Mileage out of Tucson: 66121

Time out: 12:15 p.m. (from resort)
Dinner with family

Time out from Camping World: 4:35 p.m.

(Into rest stop near Flagstaff at 9:58 p.m.)

Mileage in and out at Flagstaff: 66441

Time out of Flagstaff: 7:28 a.m.

Mileage in at Cynthia’s in Danville, California: 67175

Time in at Cynthia’s house: 7:19 p.m.

Mileage in and out at Kenny’s house in El Dorado Hills: 68095

Time out at Kenny’s house Saturday morning: 8:47 a.m.

Mileage in and out at Mesquite, Nevada: 68771

Time in at Mesquite, Nevada: 6:30 p.m.

Time out at Mesquite Nevada (Sunday): 7:45 a.m. (Pacific time)

Mileage in and out at Cheyenne, Wyoming: 69538

Time in at Cheyenne, Wyoming: 7 p.m. (Mountain time)

Time out at Cheyenne, Wyoming: 7:22 a.m. (Mountain time)

Mileage in and out of Davenport, Iowa: 70341

Time in Davenport, Iowa: 8:59 p.m. (Central time)

Time out of Davenport, Iowa: 9:53 a.m.

Mileage in North Aurora, IL: 70506

Time in North Aurora, IL: 2:32 p.m. (Central time)

Mileage out in North Aurora, IL: 70547

Time out in North Aurora, IL: 8:23 a.m. (Central time)

Mileage in at home: 70883

Time in at home: 3:15 p.m. (Eastern time)

Total mileage for trip: 10,152 miles 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Time winding down, time to put Arizona in the rear view mirror

Time, as it always does, conquers our visit to Arizona. As I write this we are methodically packing our things and preparing for the long trek home. As our time winds down I often get a little melancholy because I really love the mountains and the activities here at Voyager, but deep down I know that I wouldn’t enjoy the 114-degree summer days.

It is also good to get home and see family and friends in Michigan.
Cactus blooms along the Bridal Wreath trail

During the past week the temperatures have slid back to the more normal 60s and 70s of this time of year. We have done a number of fun activities including our annual wine tasting trip (I’m the designated driver and Joan is the designated taster) and this year we did it with our new friends, Mike and Susan.

Mike has lived all over the world as a plant manager for GM and his wife is delightful. We had a really fun day with them while touring the Sonoita wineries near here. We picked us a few selections for the Southwest Wine Package that we annually donate to the Family Literacy Center auction which occurs very soon after I get home.

We also attended a nice party for my friend Frank, of Elko, Nevada, who at 90 continues to hike with the Tuesday hiking group. He is an inspiration to all of us as he climbs up and down the mountains at his age. The party was fun and Frank was surprised by the appearance of several out-of-state family members.

Tonight (Wednesday, March 29) will be our last show and it’s a presentation here at the resort by a large part of the Arizona Symphony Orchestra. Last week was another great show – Paper Back Writer – a tribute to the Beatle’s. Some of the older members of the park weren’t as impressed, but at least they didn’t walk out after intermission like they did with the Beach Boys show.

I’ve done two more hikes – Hutch’s Pools – which is a moderate hike into the bowels of Sabino Canyon, but it was made a little more difficult because the temperatures in the afternoon as we completed the hike were in the low 90s. Water became scarce and many of us spent a lot of time hydrating when we got back to the trailhead.

Frank's party on the patio
The second hike was supposed to be to the Chirachua National Monument, which is one of my favorite hikes, but we woke up to rain on Tuesday (March 28) and an advance group of hikers from the park who were staying at the monument texted that it was still snowing there into the morning.

So we aborted the three-hour drive there and did a more local hike to Bridal Wreath Falls in Saguaro East National Park. It was a good hike, but only five of us made the hike, and it certainly was not comparable to the Chirachua hike. This is the second year the Chirachua hike has been aborted so I’m hoping that next year will be the year.

In all seriousness, if missing that hike is the worst thing that happened this trip, I’m a blessed man.
Joan continues to volunteer at the health center (her last day is tomorrow) and my last chair set up was today for the orchestra show tonight. After the show I’ll help put away the 500 chairs and then I’ll be done for this season.

We’ve signed up to host next year’s Michigan Party again. The rhythm of the resort is slowly winding down and the bulletin board where all the week’s and month’s activities are listed, is nearly bare now. We’ve already said good-bye to many of our good friends here, a couple of them apparently for good, as they feel they are no longer able to travel. While it is sad to see them go, it has been a pleasure to get to know them.
Meet Me at Maynard's March 27

We were invited last week to attend a private dinner for volunteers who helped with the chair, table and kitchen set-up crew. This was different from the all volunteer party, which includes many more people who help around the park.

Because we are involved several days a week, the park hosts a special dinner just for us and it was very good. The park could not operate as it does, for the prices it does without all the many volunteers who help out here.

Although I’m not a card player, there are several groups of folks who play cards here every week. Bunko, poker, euchre, bridge, you name it, just about every kind of card game is played here.

There is pickleball, tennis, bocce ball, shuffleboard, softball, volleyball and other sports which are popular here as well. All have gone pretty quiet this week as people depart for home.

On Friday, March 31 (Joan’s birthday, by the way) we will head out of the park about noon and drop the trailer at Camping World in Tucson so that it can be winterized for storage. Later that evening we will start the trek up the hill to Flagstaff and drop the trailer off early in the morning and then head to California to visit friends and relatives there.

At some point I’ll post again, but I can’t say for sure when I will have time for that. So stay tuned. Thanks for joining us on this year’s voyage and we look forward, God willing, that we will do it all again next year.