Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hikes, jewelry, shows and more, much more

Life remains good, but very hot in the desert since we last visited. Temperatures are unusually high for this time of year and we have just gone through a stretch of consecutive 90-degree days that promise to continue into the first of this coming week.
On top of Mt. Wrightson

We have enjoyed another wonderful concert, “Mr. Boogie Woogie” (feel free to Google Mr. Boogie Woogie) which was a tribute to Fats Domino and several other artists. Next year’s lineup appears to be just as good so we have reserved our same seats for next year.

Some of the older residents in the park are not thrilled with some of the shows as they would prefer more Lawrence Welk type music, but such is the challenge of the activity office in trying to please a population that ranges from 55 to 95.

I have been teaching the Thursday night coed Bible class for the past three weeks as the park chaplain has had his hands full with a wife recovering from hip surgery. He comes to the class and helps, but has asked me to take the lead. It has been a lot of fun and very instructive as well.

Joan continues her volunteer work at the health clinic at the resort and I continue to schlep tables and chairs as needed in the ballroom. As a result of that we were both treated to a free lunch for volunteers on March 15 and then we get a special dinner on the 23rd because of my service with the setup crew.
Summit sign

On Saturday, March 12, we got up early and headed to Madera Canyon for some bird watching. Madera Canyon is home to hundreds of bird species and many of them you can only see there in Arizona. We got there about 7 a.m. and sat at the Santa Rita Lodge bird feeding station for a while watching birds. We took a short hike on a nearby nature trail, but heard a lot more birds that we actually saw. Then we drove down to Proctor Road in the park where we walked a mile loop to see if we could see more birds, which we did, but the human traffic on the trail seems to limit the birds.
It's a trip we’ll do again.

Because I’m a veteran I signed up for a “Tribute” card at the Desert Diamond Casino. I don’t gamble, but Joan dabbles in it for fun. As a “Tribute” member I get 12 free nights in the hotel a year and just for something to do away from the resort I booked two nights for us to stay there. It is nice because we can spread out a little and our shower is only 20-feet away instead of a short walk in the resort to the shower house. It’s a nice break and we have one more night booked before we leave.

Desert Diamond also has a nice eating place, “Agave Restaurant” that has a Prime Rib for two dinner on Sunday night for $29 so we usually take advantage of that as well.

Joan continues her polymer clay jewelry class and has made a couple more beautiful pieces she can wear.

Resort church was excellent Sunday (March 12) as a string quartet from the Arizona Symphony Orchestra came and accompanied the choir and then did a few numbers on their own. I love a good string quartet and this was a very good string quartet.
My truck is parked way down at the bottom

Another thing we did during the current time was attend the “One Act Plays” performance of the Voyager Theater Group. At least one of the plays was written by a park resident and all were performed by park residents. All very entertaining, but sitting on a hard, folding chair for two hours leaves my butt frozen.

Last Monday, we led a group of about 14 people, which included a number of friends of Marcia and Jerry to the Meet Me at Maynard’s event in downtown Tucson. About half of them had never been to Meet Me at Maynard’s and I think most of them had a good time. We all ate at “Fired Pie” 

afterwards. Fired Pie, if you don’t recall, is the place that makes individual pizzas and salads and they have an array of toppings for both. It is only $7.99 per person and with the Meet Me at Maynard’s discount we save 10 percent on top of that.

We’re all about the discounts.

I have done a couple great hikes since last we met. One of them is a repeat and that was to Josephine Saddle in Madera Canyon. Actually, this was the third time (the fourth we’ll talk about in a minute) I had been up this trail this season as I had done this hike with Mahlon, our friend from Michigan, when they were here in January.

The Tuesday hike group headed up there and while we initially had plans for some of us to continue up to Mt. Wrightson, those plans fizzled when a number of folks had to bail out for more mundane issues like doctor appointments and closing on a house in the park.
Snow on the trail near the summit

The hike to Mt. Wrightson for those who wanted to go to the summit was rescheduled to Thursday (March 16) but I had Bible study obligations in the morning so I couldn’t go.

So I decided to get up early on Friday and head up there myself. I tried to find someone to go with me, but that didn’t work out either. The trail is pretty well traveled so I was not worried about going alone. If you crash and burn on the trail you are never more than 20 minutes from someone coming by.

I arrived back at Madera Canyon about 7 a.m. at the trailhead and made a bad decision to take the Super Trail to the top instead of the Old Baldy Trail which I have always used. Someone told me that Super Trail to the top is more scenic (which is correct) but it is also three miles longer which may not seem like much but those three miles make this a 14-mile hike instead of a 10.5-mile hike which by the end of the day is a lot.

Looking towards Mexico
The Old Baldy Trail is steeper with lots of switchbacks but it cuts about two hours off the hike time from the Super Trail. Also, the Super Trail has not been maintained for a while so my legs got scratched up for the overgrowth of sticker bushes that grow on both sides. A number of large trees have fallen over the trail as well and those you can’t walk around you have to climb over, which gets tiring.

Toward the top of the trail I encountered snow left over from the early season’s snowfall, but it wasn’t icy and not an obstacle.

After the long slog to the top I finally arrived at the summit along with a few other folks, including quite coincidentally a couple from the Voyager RV resort. Dave and Deb also hike with the Tuesday group and like me decided to make up the hike on Friday. They were excited because they were going to go down the mountain on the Super Trail and asked if I might go with them. I declined, as I didn’t want to add another three miles to what had already been a long hike. So I went down the Old Baldy Trail and beat them back to the parking lot.

It took 4 ½-hours to get to the summit (9,453 feet) from the trailhead which is at 4,500-feet but only 2 ½-hours to get down to the parking lot. I arrived back at my car at 2:43 p.m. and immediately let Joan know I was down and safe.

I took two quarts of water up with me, but with the high temperatures that was barely enough. I drained my last bottle of water about a mile from the parking lot and then headed to a convenience store where I bought a bottle of apple juice and a large 20-ounce bottle of water and downed them as well just to start the re-hydration process.
Dancing in the courtyard for Frank's 90th

Once home I showered and took Joan to dinner in the resort at the restaurant. They had a St. Patrick’s Day special of corned beef and cabbage which she loves. Not being Irish I settled for a fat juicy steak and potato dinner.

On Saturday I helped set up the Catalina Room for an author book signing (see below) and then later helped set up a 90th birthday party for fellow hiker (yes, he hikes very well at 90) Frank who hails from Elko, Nevada.

The temperatures were in the mid-90s, but in the shade where we set up the tables it was very comfortable. The dancing went on into the wee (well, wee hours as defined in a 55 and over park) and I got the chairs and tables cleaned up and stored by 8 p.m.

Author J. A. Jance was the best selling author that we set the room up for and I picked up two autographed books for the Family Literacy Center auction.

In my last newsletter I mentioned that we had lost our space at the storage lot. Susan called and said a space had opened so we got our spot back. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s closer to Tucson and it has been very convenient so we snapped it up and that’s where we will be in two weeks.

Well, I did a little better in keeping you up to date this time and there will probably be just one more posting before we leave here in two weeks. I’ll try to post as we head to California and then home.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Better late than never, our next post

Rattlesnake bridge on Meet Me at Maynard's
Despite my resolve to keep track of these posts and our activities our full calendar has left me once again way behind in recording what we have been up to in the Old Pueblo, as the locals call Tucson.
It’s been three weeks since I posted so I have a lot to cover, but I’m going to miss some things I’m sure.

Anyway, here are the highlights as best I can remember them with help from Joan’s calendar. When we last visited here we had just attended the Valentine’s Dance here at the park on Feb. 18.

We always attend church on Sunday so that never changes. One of those Sundays was Western Heritage Sunday and coincides with the rodeo being in town. Everyone is asked to wear their best cowboy outfits to church (leave the guns at home, though).  I continue to volunteer on the table and chair set up squad and have met many great new friends doing that. Joan is happily volunteering at least one day a week for four hours at the Voyager Health Clinic where she diagnoses illnesses, gives shots and prescribes medicine for folks. Just kidding, she arranges for appointments and makes sure the office is running well.

The tail of snake at the bridge's end
The chair and table set up crew has been very busy, as there are events in the ballroom almost daily now through the end of March. I can’t make them all, but I have been on hand for about 80 percent of them. No one can make them all.

We’ve seen two more Wednesday concerts here at the resort (there was no concert on Wednesday, March 1 because that was Ash Wednesday, but we did go to services in the ballroom). The first one was one of my favorites (Feb. 22) because that was the Beach Boys Tribute “Catch a Wave”
so that was two hours of music that I grew up with and loved.

On Wednesday March 8 we went to the “How Great Thou Art” Concert which was a tribute to the gospel music of Elvis Presley. Two hours of really good music left us pretty happy. The singer, Robert Shaw, is one of our favorite entertainers here. This season has been excellent and we’ve already reserved our concert series next year so we will have the same seats.

Wyatt Earp killed a guy at this spot at the Tucson train station
We continue to attend the Thursday lecture series at 1 p.m. (Joan is forced to miss her favorite soap opera but finds the lectures are well worth it). We’ve heard many science based lectures (space exploration and this week (March 9) was a really interesting presentation on the state of Internet Security and privacy. The bottom line is that you might as well consider everything you write or post on the Internet to be read and saved by someone you wish didn’t have it. Another lecture (March 2) was on the effects of climate change and the current drought situation here in Arizona.

Another lecture (Feb. 23) was on the ongoing mission to reach an asteroid that has a near earth orbit. The project, which is being supervised largely by the University of Arizona, is a seven-year round trip to the asteroid. The space probe is supposed to touchdown (only briefly) on the asteroid and collect samples from the surface and then return them to earth.
You can lock your love on one of these kiosks

The lecturer brought lots of great photos and models and it was a really fascinating talk.

We’ve been to a couple Saturday night dances in the interim, including another Reminiscence Dance and then a really rocking good time at the Retro Rockets Dance on March 4. Retro Rockets is a popular dance band that plays exclusively music from the 50s, 60s and early 70s. They go from one song to the other and the female lead singer is extremely talented.

Joan has continued her classes in “polymer clay” and has been busy making pretty jewelry. Every Friday she goes to her class and continues to learn new techniques that she can take home and use there.

Joan's jewelry
She enjoys creating the jewelry and can design them in colors and shapes that go with her clothes. She is getting very good at it too. On Wednesday, March 1, she and other members of her jewelry class set up a table at the “Show and Tell” event in the ballroom. All the shops and activities at the resort display what they have been doing all season and try to convince others to sign up for next year. I am very proud of what she is doing.

Part of the reason I have been tardy in keeping up the blog is that I have been writing and producing my 24-page Navy newsletter for the USS Cogswell DD-651 Association. I finished it just on deadline on Feb. 28.

One of the big highlights of the last few weeks was attending the musical “Motown the Musical” at Centennial Hall on the campus of the University of Arizona. It was the story of Barry Gordy and the rise and proliferation of the music now known as Motown.
Me on top of Blackett's Ridge

Every Monday (except March 6 when we hosted the Michigan Party – more on that next) we continue to go to Meet Me at Maynard’s in downtown Tucson. Our Michigan friends in the park, Marcia and Jerry, have started going with us and they also seem to enjoy the activity. You get a nice walk, you get to sit outside and enjoy the warm night air and some local music and then eat dinner out, what could be better?

Recently, we've been taking a different route, one that takes us over "Rattlesnake bridge." You can see a photo above and if you look carefully you can see the eye of the snake and the root of its fangs in the upper left part of the photo. The metal work looks like the skin pattern of the snake and the tail rattles when a bicycle passes by.

One of the tasks I need to perform here every year is the wash and wax of the trailer. It is always a daunting job that causes me to have to go on the roof of the trailer and endure the constant taunts of everyone walking by reminding me of the death of an RVer years ago who did a swan dive off the top of his RV.

Dressed for Western Heritage Sunday
I was just about to start that process when I learned from our RV repairman (yes, we finally had a reason to call him to our RV for a malfunctioning propane gas valve) that there is a young Tucson man who has an auto detailing business who washes and waxes RVs for a very reasonable rate. So I called Alex and for just a little over $100 I saved myself from a full day of miserable work and the constant lectures from passersby. Money well spent and the trailer looks great.

So let’s talk about the Michigan Party. Just a little background in case you forgot. Nearly all the states and Canada have annual parties where the folks from those areas get together and celebrate not being where they are from. The only state missing from that list during the first few years we came here was Michigan. Joan and Marcia took it on themselves to fire up the Michigan Party.

In the past, the party was a swanky affair with a price to match at a local restaurant and banquet center. The poor folks that organized it got burned out doing all the work, making reservations, picking a menu, selling tickets, etc. and finally dropped the event when the attendance fell to an all-time low in 2012.
Pins in the Michigan Party map

Enter Joan an Marcia who decided a simple potluck, in the park with a few party games would be just as good. Last year’s event on Feb. 29, drew more than 60 people. We anticipated a similar turnout this year, but were surprised when nearly 80 people showed up in the courtyard for the party March 6.

Everyone brought a dish to share and the food could not have been better. We invited our Canadian neighbors in the park because they drive through Michigan from Ontario each year on their way to and from the park. Besides, we’re doing the party so we can invite whoever we want and they are very nice people. Everyone had a great time and we gave out a number of door prizes, including a grand prize of a $25 gift certificate to the resorts bar and grill and a large bottle of Michigan maple syrup in a beautiful Maple Leaf bottle.

Our total expenses, including the prizes, was $125. We put out a donation basket and collected $127, so we came out $2 to the good which we put in the bank to add to the $200 the former committee left us in the Michigan Party account. We had each person put a pin in the Michigan map showing where the were from. Most are from around Grand Rapids. We are the only ones from Lapeer.

Picacho Peak Saddle looking down
We’re searching for a date to do the party again next year. Of course I forgot to take photos. Arrgggh!

My biggest highlight of the past three weeks was finally crossing off the Picacho Peak hike  off my bucket list. Every year we come down here we drive by Picacho Peak on our way to and from Phoenix as well as on our way down here.

We have been to Picacho Peak State Park several times, including when we have visitors, but hiking to the top of the peak has eluded me until this year. The hike is considered very difficult as it is nearly straight up in some places and requires the use of cables to pull yourself up the several steep sections of the hike.

Cable climbing to the top
In the past I had considered doing it alone, but always deferred to Joan that it would not be wise to head up there without someone with me. Finding someone in a park full of old people who want to pull themselves up a mountain is not easy. A couple weeks ago a few of the Tuesday hikers asked who might be interested in scaling Picacho Peak. I jumped at the chance and by Friday, March 3, 12 hearty folks signed up for the hike.

We drove the 45 minutes to the park and then headed up the steep Hunter’s Trail near the face of the Peak. It is about a mile up to the saddle on a steep switchback trail. Once at the saddle, defying all logic, you then descend down a pretty steep 250-foot rock formation using cables. It is always frustrating after climbing up a steep mountain, to give back that much altitude, knowing that you are going to have to regain that altitude again and then come back up that same rock after you reach the peak and start back down.

Me on top of the Peak
As we headed up the back side of Picacho Peak the trail gets steeper and that’s when the real cable work begins. Toward the end of the trail there is a very narrow wood bridge next to a sheer rock that one has to walk across to get to the final switchback trails that lead to the top. I’m not a big fan of heights so I crossed the narrow (about 8 inches) bridge hanging onto the cable and not looking down.

The long and short of it is that we made the summit and enjoyed the incredible views from the top. You can see Tucson to the south and Phoenix to the north from the summit. We had lunch there and spent a little time taking pictures. I had a great sense of satisfaction finally making it to a place I had only dreamed about for five years.

Coming down the mountain is more strenuous and nerve wracking that going up. Going backwards down the steep rocks (using cables) means trying to find a place for your feet without being able to see where you are putting them.

Lunch on the peak
The worst part came when we arrived back at the 250-foot rock section that we had come down after reaching the saddle. Going up that steep incline as tired as we all were taxed both heart and spirit, but we got it done.

We passed a lot of folks coming up the mountain in the heat of the day and we would learn the next day that one of them had to be rescued off the mountain because he had a heart attack.

As a reward we headed to a state area that holds petroglyphs from Native people who lived in the area 1,000 to 1,600 years ago. Consider it ancient graffiti but it was eerie to consider where those people had lived and played so long ago.

Climbing Picacho Peak was a reminder that we are never too old to try and achieve our dreams. I hope to do that hike someday with my son Tim. Not this year though.
Ancient petroglyphs

I also hiked on Pontatoc Ridge and Bog Springs/Kent Springs as well as Blackett's Ridge trails. I know I'm missing a couple, but that's what I get for waiting so long to post.

Last Sunday (March 5), after church, we headed to Sweetwater Park, which is a nature area using reclaimed water from the sewer system. There are lots of birds and critters that live there and Joan loves to go there to look for rare birds. We didn’t have a lot of luck seeing too many birds, but we did see a Roadrunner, a quail, a hawk and plenty of varieties of duck. A couple turtles and a huge frog.

I think the name "Sweetwater" is clever considering the source of the water. Which reminds me I saw a truck who apparently picks up dog poop and other waste and the sign on the back of the truck said "We're No. 1 in the No. 2 business." 

Joan  and bonnet at Sweetwater Nature area 
Joan continues to receive constant comments on her bonnet whenever she wears it. Perhaps we should buy a bunch and sell them as we travel.

We are making our final plans for leaving in three weeks and ran into a little snag when the place we usually store our trailer let us know they don’t have room for us this year. I have found another storage place in Williams, Arizona, near Flagstaff that has room so we will have to drive an extra half hour. It’s $12 a month cheaper so that was good.

I’m going to try to keep you up to date better on what is going on here, but no promises.

One more thing, in the interim since our last check in we have signed up and put a deposit on our stay here next year, so it looks like Arizona has really infused itself into our blood.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Another fun-filled two weeks with roller coaster weather

The time flies around here and now I’m trying to catch up with two weeks of activities for this post. Generally the weather has been a roller coaster ride, but mostly on the upside. The rainy weather in California is causing us to have some above average rainstorms around here and as I write this on Sunday, Feb. 19, it is pouring out.
One of the planes flying over my head

Yesterday, it was warmer in Michigan than it was here, although it was unusually warm in Michigan and just a little below normal here.

Before I recount our latest fun here, let me bring you up to speed on a dream that Joan recounted to me one morning recently. Her dream, more like a nightmare, was that I had kidnapped a baby. Yes, I kidnapped a baby. She didn’t know who the baby was or why I kidnapped it, but what she was most upset about in her dream was that I didn’t bother to bring any diapers or formula for it.

During the dream she was handed a warrant, but she didn’t know the nature of the warrant or what happened next because she woke up. Somewhere in dreamland I’m probably doing some serious prison time.

When last we met here on Grandma’s Recess we had just visited with our Michigan friends visiting in Phoenix and then on Tuesday (April 7) I went on a pretty serious hike up to the summit of Wasson Peak, the highest point in the Tucson Mountains.

This is the same hike that darned near caused me to faint a few years ago, but not so this year. Because of our new eating plan and my 35-pound weight loss the hike was still pretty tough, but a fun trip nonetheless.

We had lunch on top of Wasson Peak and unlike it usually is up there, it was very pleasant and calm.
Tuesday night we attended the pot luck dinner in the park and Joan brought the jello salad that our grandson Griffen thinks is pretty tasty. So did the folks at the potluck as we came home with exactly none of it.

Wednesday (Feb. 8) was Market Days and we did a quick trip through and bought nothing but a few raffle tickets for some beautiful items that will be auctioned off next month. On Wednesday night the resort concert was “Sons of the Pioneers,” which is the same group that has been touring for more than 80 years. Roy Rogers was one of the original members of the group and there have been many dozens of singers and musicians since, but they stay true to music and sound that started the group. Despite Joan’s dislike for country and western music she enjoyed the cowboy music she heard that night.

On Thursday we headed over for the lecture only to find out that the Internet Security expert from the University of Arizona was home sick with a virus. Not the computer type, but the one that makes you sick to your stomach.

I’m not going to bore you with the volunteer work that we do here other than to say that each week Joan volunteers several hours as a receptionist at the health clinic at the resort and I probably spend a total of 3 hours setting up and taking down tables and chairs with a group of really nice men for various functions, concerts, church, state parties, etc., in the ballroom.

The other things I won’t keep repeating are Joan’s weekly Bible study, polymer clay and aquacize classes. Ditto for my Bible studies and trips to the fitness center. We both also attend church services each Sunday. Highlights only from now on.

Friday, Feb. 10, was a quiet day, filled with exciting things like doing laundry and picking up mail and just enjoying the weather in the Old Pueblo, as they call Tucson here.

I’ve been struggling with a little annoying neck and upper back pain, a result of trying to do much weight work in the gym, so while I headed off to a massage therapist, Joan spent much of the day supporting the local Tohono O’odham Indians at their Casino del Sol.  She came up about even and we had dinner at the little diner before returning home to the resort so we could attend the resort’s talent show.

Because my massage finished earlier than Joan was ready to be met at the casino I drove out by Davis Monthan Air Force Base and spent an enjoyable hour watching some civilian pilots flying vintage war aircraft train with some of the regular fighter pilots at the base.

The casino parking lot was packed, but mostly because the show “Wheel of Fortune” was running a contest to find new contestants for the nationally televised show.
The wheel of fortune bus

By the way, my neck and back pain is greatly reduced since the massage.

The newspaper and television stations said this was a requirement for certification for these civilian pilots if they wanted to perform at or around regular military aircraft at air shows around the country. I had a P-51 fly about 500-feet over my head at one point. What a unique sound they make.

This will surprise exactly nobody, but I did not have a part in the show (other than setting up chairs for it) but we had a really fun time as there are some very talented folks in the park. The acts ranged from comedians to the hula so a pretty wide range of acts.

Because I have been remiss in keeping notes, some things we have done I can’t remember even after just one week. We did got shopping and to the final day of the Tucson Gem Show on Sunday (Feb. 12). The most significant result of that trip was that Joan bought a bunch of cheap beads to use in her jewelry class.

Because the “Easy” hike leader is taking care of a friend recovering from surgery it fell to me to lead the hike on Monday (Feb. 13). I took the group to the Gabe Zimmerman trail a little south of here. It is an easy, but scenic hike on part of the Arizona Trail. The folks seem to enjoy the 4.5-mile trek. I’m hoping that Brad is back tomorrow so he can lead the hike again.

Monday night was again Meet Me at Maynard’s and this time we took an alternate walk which led us to 4th Street, a hang out for students from the University of Arizona. We found a little kitchen gadget store and purchased a potato chip maker that we wanted to try. It worked so well we are planning on going back and getting a couple more for friends and family who are also on the same diet we are.

When I woke up Tuesday morning for my big hike, I was greeted with cloudy skies and the threat of rain. I met in the hikers’ room and we discussed options as the rain was pouring on the mountain we wanted to hike on. So we headed south to where we thought it might be clear, but found that the rain was so widespread we could not avoid it. Instead we went to the less traveled DD Trail and spent some time together. (DD stands for Dunkin Donuts). I had only decaf tea so I didn’t wreck my diet with a tasty fritter.

Tuesday night again we attended the pot luck and Joan’s watermelon salad was such a big hit that she has to bring several copies of the recipe to next week’s dinner because a few women wanted the recipe.

Wednesday was another quiet day in the park until we headed to Wednesday night’s show which was “Dream Lover,” a tribute to the music of Bobby Darin. The singer, Robert Shaw, is one of our favorite performers who come here.

Although I just said I wasn’t going to mention it, I did lead the Men’s Bible study on Thursday morning. The lecture series continued Thursday with a University of Arizona geologist, who has been working for years on the Mars lander program. He brought with him stunning photos and videos of the Mars surface and a very interesting presentation on what they are finding there. An hour and a half well spent.

A new friend of mine in the park wanted to go on a hike with me on Friday. “Doc,” a retired veterinarian from Iowa is a really nice man and he sometimes hikes with the Tuesday group. He wanted a slightly less challenging hike than we usually do on Tuesday so we went to Sabino Canyon and did a one-way hike on the Telephone Line Trail.

Back at the park I got cleaned up and on Friday night we headed back to the ballroom for the Mardi Gras dinner and a performance by the Wildcat Jazz Band. This is one of the finest groups that comes to the resort and it was a fun evening. We sat with some new people at our table and made some new friends.

On Saturday I again set up the Michigan information table at the coffee and donuts event in the ballroom. We are just letting Michigan folks know about the party that Joan and her friend Marcia are putting together on March 6.

Because the weather was crappy on Saturday afternoon, we decided to go to the movies and we saw “Hidden Figures,” the story of three African-American woman mathematicians who were critical to the success of the Mercury missions and later the Apollo missions. A great movie, if you haven’t see it.

Our time in Tucson is often spent catching up on movies we missed during our busy schedules back home. So far, in addition to “Hidden Figures” we have seen “Allied,” “The Accountant,” “Deep Water Horizon,” and then with weather still bad on Sunday we saw “Patriot’s Day.” All the movies so far have been really good.

I think I mentioned in previous posts that we like to go the Century 12 theater on Kolb Road because the tickets are only $3 ($1.50 on Tuesday). In fact, I already mentioned that we saw “Allied” but that was the movie I took Joan to on Valentine’s Day. So call me cheap but my Valentine’s Day date only cost $3. I’m nothing, if not cheap.

To back up a little, I took Joan to the Valentine’s Day dance on Saturday night (Feb. 18) for a total cost of $12. But we had a great time, sat with our friend Kathy and husband, Ron, from Toronto, Canada and met two couples who were spending their first winter in Tucson.

The couples both said they were having a great time here at Voyager and while they planned on traveling more, they all said they were coming back here next year for a least a month. I told them that Voyager is like a human mousetrap. They bait you into coming here one time and then you are caught and don’t want to leave.

I apologize for the low amount of photos and I'll try and do better. I've been working a lot on my Navy newsletter and have not taken as many photos as I usually do.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

From chilly to warm time flies in Arizona

Snow on Mt. Lemmon
With the weather still on the chilly side last Thursday, Jan. 27, we hung around the resort and then decided to  grill steaks outside for dinner. Actually, I grilled the steaks and they were delicious, even if I say so myself. After dinner I went to the Bible study in park and we continued our conversation about Genesis.

I had a pretty open day on Friday, so I offered to prepare dinner while Joan attended her Women’s Bible study and later her polymer clay class. Joan is learning how to make pretty jewelry in the class and she is really enjoying the class on Friday afternoon.

While she was at her jewelry class I helped set up the ballroom for the coffee and donuts on Saturday morning and then went shopping.

This is how I prepare dinner for us. I drove to Walmart with a very short shopping list. I purchased an already cooked chicken in a plastic container, a head of lettuce, a few bananas and eggs for breakfast the next morning.

Tanque Verde Ridge hike
When I arrived home from shopping I realized that I had left my trailer keys (which are on a separate key ring) inside the locked trailer so I had to interrupt Joan in her class to borrow her keys. I did that because I had a chicken that needed to be kept warm and didn’t want to sit out on my patio for another hour.

Joan was supposed to leave me a crock pot to place the chicken in when I got home, but she forgot. I, being the dutiful husband searched the trailer and found a crock pot and stuffed the medium sized already cooked chicken into it and put the temperature on low.

When I say “stuffed” I mean “stuffed.” The crock pot is small and I had to break a few chicken bones to get the dinner to fit, but finally was able to get it squashed enough to fit the lid on to the pot. It was after Joan arrived home that she mentioned we actually have two crock pots in the trailer and I had chosen the junior sized version instead of the larger, ample chicken-sized container. To her credit, she agreed that she had erred in not leaving behind the proper crock pot and actually admired my ability to squeeze a fairly large chicken into a pretty small pot.

More Tanque Verde hike 
For the first time since we arrived her there were no weekend dances at the resort, so I suggested we go to the Tucson Roadrunner’s hockey game Saturday night. First we went shopping and filled out the cupboards an refrigerator.

Joan made a delicious spaghetti sauce with meatballs that we ate without noodles as required by our new diet and it was delicious.

We headed downtown to the Tucson arena about 6:15 p.m. confident that we would be able to buy tickets to the game as they rarely if ever sell out the arena. What I didn’t figure was that this is Gem Show Week, which is a huge draw for the city and it was also Superhero night for the children, who all received free capes as they entered the arena. On top of that it was $1 hot dog and $1 popcorn night.

Me on top of the world (Tanque Verde anyway)
A security guard at the back door told us we probaby were not going to be able to buy a ticket, but we walked around to the box office anyway just in case. After all, we had just paid $10 for parking that I was sure we would not get back. Sure enough, they were turning folks away at the ticket window, but a nice man approached us and indicated he had two tickets he was trying to sell because two of his friends couldn’t make the game.

I quickly snapped up the two tickets and we ended up sitting with the man and his family in Section 201. We learned that he was born in Binghampton(?), New York and later moved and worked in the Boston area. So we had a lot in common.

What we didn’t see was a very good hockey game. The Roadrunners were on a four-game losing streak and they managed to stretch that to five games on Saturday night. They not only didn’t score a goal against the San Diego Gulls they really didn’t come close to scoring a goal. Besides that there were no fights.

About the most entertaining things at the game were the silly hats worn by the Gulls fans, who were at the game in abundance, and a little 19-month-old girl who was sitting behind me and took a liking to my beard. Her parents kept apologizing for her reaching out and grabbing me, but I told them it was OK as it helped soothe my feelings for being away from my own grandchildren. As we left I told little Ava to have a nice life and that I enjoyed meeting her. She never stopped smiling.

Joan and Kathy looking for Sand Hill cranes
I was able to escape my $10 parking space quickly and we were home from the game before 10 p.m..
The weather is slowly warming here although the heater ran much of the night Saturday night and the winds picked up on Sunday. What they describe as “breezy” here could more accurately be thought of as gale force winds anywhere else.

We went to church Sunday morning, which was Unity Sunday here at the resort, and stood with many others when the roll call of states reached Michigan. As you can imagine the largest contingents of folks in the park are from states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana, although there are smatterings of folks from nearly every state in the union. Hawaii, predictably, is not represented in the park.

A small group of us went on the “easy” hike Monday. We hiked into Dove Mountain on the same Wild Burro Trail that I did on my first hike this season. The difference was this hike stopped where the other hike really started. But it was nice to be outside in the warm air, which has arrived back here in Tucson.
Believe me, there are flocks of cranes in this photo

Then Monday night brought us to Meet Me at Maynard’s in downtown Tucson. With the better weather there was a much bigger crowd this week than last. On the last turn we noticed that there was a concert at the Rialto Theater across from the Hotel Congress.

A large crowd was gathered outside and we noticed that many of the women and girls were dressed in very skimpy outfits. Apparently they were all going to the “Excision” concert, which according to a google search is a “Rave” group.

After the drawing at Maynard’s we headed to O’Malley’s for dinner. While waiting for our dinner two couples walked in and Joan and I both did a double take because at first glance it appeared that both women were wearing fish net stockings – and very little else. In fact the fish nets left very little below the waist to the imagination.

Then it occurred to us these folks were heading to the concert with the rest of the inappropriately dressed people. While the girls were at the bar it was very difficult not to catch a glance every so often, so I distracted myself by watching the Oklahoma State versus Oklahoma basketball game on the large screen television.  Mostly, it didn’t work.
Sandhill Cranes at Whitewater Draw

After the peep show we headed home.

The Tuesday hiking group was supposed to be heading to Ventana Canyon, but because of the recent snowstorm and subsequent melt the water in the canyon was too great for us to make the several crossings.

The group decided to switch to Tanque Verde Ridge which is a hike that I have missed in the past so this was my first time on this hike. Wow, this was a very difficult hike. Nearly 2,500 feet elevation in five miles and many, many stone steps.

The views are awesome and in some cases 360-degrees. But it has warmed up here and we lost have the group at the 2.5 mile and 1,500 elevation mark. Several folks turned back a little later and only 6 of us made the complete 5-mile trek up the ridge. Actually, you can hike 12-miles to Tanque Verde peak, but that would take longer than we had.

Lots of folks looking at Sandhill Cranes
We found a nice place for lunch and I opened my Epic beef power bar. Joan purchased these because they contain no sugar and are compliant with the Whole 30 diet I am on. Unfortunately, the packaging would probably taste better than the bar. I ate it because I needed the calories for the rest of the hike down, but I told Joan when I got home to just pack my lunch with cardboard next time.

All of us had planned for a 6-mile hike up and down Ventana Canyon so the 10-mile trek up Tanque Verde Ridge left most of us short on water. By the time I got back to our starting point I was parched. We stopped at the visitor’s center at Saguaro East National Park and filled our water bottles for the trip back to the resort.

This is the same hike my friend Mahlon did alone when he was here a couple weeks ago so I’m glad I finally got to do this one.

Because of the length of the hike I arrived back at the resort about 4 p.m., but just in time to get cleaned up and ready for the Tuesday night pot luck. The crowd was down a little this week, but there were still about 50 people there. Joan made a tasty all-beef (and no bean) chili that was very good. So good there were no leftovers to bring home.

While I was gone Joan worked her volunteer shift at the health clinic at the park.

Lunch at Whitewater Draw

On Wednesday we were joined by a Canadian friend in the resort and headed to Whitewater Draw to make our annual pilgrimage to see the Sand Hill cranes. We have seen some pretty amazing displays here, but nothing like we saw on Wednesday, Feb. 1. We arrived about 11 a.m. and within a half hour the waves of birds began flying in.

Like squadrons of airplanes they approached from far off until they would circle overhead and make the graceful glide to the surface. There are reports that more than 20,000 birds are wintering at Whitewater Draw this year. I believe we saw 99 percent of that 20,000 between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

We returned to the resort where we enjoyed a Roy Orbison tribute show in the ballroom. As always the concert was good and while Joan headed home I remained behind to help break down the chairs in the ballroom.

Lunch on Wasson Peak
Thursday brought Men’s Bible study in the morning and then a lecture on climate change in the afternoon. A professor from the University of Arizona talked about the recent droughts in the Southwest and what the future portends for this area. It was a very interesting lecture. Thursday night I attended the coed Bible Study.

Joan was the busy one on Friday as she had Bible study and then went to her polymer clay class on Friday afternoon. I grilled beautiful ribeye steaks out on the grill Friday night and we enjoyed a rare, quiet night at home.

Saturday started with a visit to the fitness center for me and then setting up chairs for the Saturday morning coffee and donuts in the ballroom. I also set up a table for the Michigan Party, which Joan and her friend Marcia are running on March 6. So far only a few of the Michigan folks in the park have signed up, but we expect that to pick up over the next couple weeks. In case you are wondering they have wonderful, tasty donuts and bagels for free at the Saturday morning event and because of my diet I ate exactly none of them.

Jim and Jim on Wasson Peak
On Saturday we headed to the nearby Walmart and did our weekly shopping and picked up an already cooked chicken for dinner. I went over to the ballroom at 4 p.m. and helped set up chairs for the Sunday chapel services here at the resort.

Saturday night was another rare night without a dance or activity and we stayed in.

Chapel services were on tap for Sunday morning and then we spent a leisurely afternoon around the trailer waiting for the big game, which turned out to be quite an exciting game for a Superbowl. We were rooting for Atlanta, but who couldn’t be amazed at that Tom Brady comeback effort in the second half.

On Monday, we headed to Phoenix to visit friends there and on the way back in the afternoon we stopped and sampled the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show which is in town for two weeks, and which ends next Sunday. After Joan bought a basketful of beads for her new jewelry endeavors we headed to our usual Meet at Maynard’s Monday night walk and then had dinner at Diablo Burger who accommodated our need for some special preparation so we could stay on our diet.

Climbing down a natural dam from Wasson Peak
Wasson Peak was calling my name Tuesday morning. Two years ago, the last time I did this hike, I barely made it to the summit as I was struggling with my breathing and stamina. Not this year, I climbed up the 2,200 feet to the summit like a champ and enjoyed my time at the top with my hiking buddies in the park.

The hike is about 9-miles and the weather could not have been more perfect. Temperatures in the low 70s and bright sunshine. I did a pose at the top with my friend Jim who has been here the last several years and who is an avid hiker and outdoorsman. He’s trying to convince me to start coming to the morning Yoga classes, but I’m not sure I’m up to that potential humiliation yet.

A recent Tucson sunset
Once home, I found the trailer locked up and Joan gone. I let myself in and had a late lunch and then set out to figure out where she was. I checked the calendar and found that she was not scheduled to work. So then I checked the closet and discovered one of the laundry baskets missing. I went and took my shower and then headed to the laundry where I found Joan. She was surprised to see me and asked how I figured out where she was.

“You know I worked for a police department once don’t you?” I said. “You left enough clues to solve the Hoffa murder, that’s how I know where you were.”

After that we came home and headed to the Tuesday potluck dinner. Joan made our grandson Griffen’s favorite jello salad.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Potlucks, hiking, shows and more

My Tahoe next to the van
When last we talked here Joan and I had returned from a night at the Desert Diamond Hotel and Casino.  We spent a quiet day around the trailer and got ready for a chilly walk around Tucson at Meet Me at Maynard’s.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the start of the big Jazz Festival here in Tucson and finding a place to park during the festival is always a challenge, but we found a lot that seemed to require a $5 payment, but we, and others parking there couldn’t find anyone, or anything to pay, so we took a chance and left the car there without paying.

We parked next to a van that was covered with stickers. One of them "As of today I have been sober 100 days. (then in small print) Well, not consecutively, but 100 days total in my life."

Another stickers said one of my favorite lines from Saturday Night Live: "Live in a van down by the river."

A van held together by stickers
Not looking for any sympathy from anyone back home, but the weather here has been unseasonably cool and wet for the past few days and promises to remain such for the next week or so. Rain and water is a precious commodity around here so we don’t begrudge the locals a little rainfall even if it is a little damper on our time here.

Temperatures are in the 50s and 60s during the daytime, which has everyone here diving for sweaters, coats and jackets.

While at the Meet Me at Maynard’s event some folks from the Voyager RV resort where we stay invited me to join them on their hike Tuesday instead of the regular hiking club here. The official hiking club was heading to Catalina State Park, which is a very long drive and a hike I have done just about every year so I opted to go with my friends.

On Tuesday morning six of us climbed into my Tahoe and we headed to the Douglas Springs Trailhead at the end of Speedway Boulevard. Being that is was the day after a holiday and a regular school day we didn’t expect a lot of hikers. We were wrong. The parking lot was full and we had to park out on the roadway.

The hike is a beautiful one that climbs about 1,500 feet into the foothills and the destination was Bridal Wreath Falls. I did make this hike a few years ago with the resort hiking group and the falls were more like a little trickle.

Entertainment at Meet Me at Maynard's
With all the rain and snow that has fallen here in the last week we anticipated a much better falls viewing and we were not disappointed. It wasn’t Niagara Falls, but it was pretty large and to get close one had to negotiate a number of boulders across the large pond formed by the falling water.
We had lunch at the falls and then headed back down the trail to the car arriving back about four hours after we began. It was a really good day.

Once back home Joan had made up a crock pot full of my homegrown Butternut Squash which I grew this summer. Joan always brings a basket full of the squash with us and once here she processes and cooks up all the squash and then freezes it for later enjoyment. If I do say so myself this year’s squash crop was particularly sweet and good and none of what she cooked for the potluck made it back home.

This week’s potluck was the most attended of any we have gone to during the past five years with about 75 people on hand for dinner.

There is plenty squash left in the freezer, however.

With my friend Mahlon in town from Michigan I did something on Wednesday I don’t usually do, but I went on another moderately tough hike on Wednesday after the moderately tough hike on Tuesday. Usually I leave a day or two in between hikes to let my legs recover a little.
Bridal Wreath Falls

I’ve taken Mahlon on a few of my favorite hikes during the past couple years, but wanted to show him something a little different this year. So we met at the local Costco store and he jumped in my car and we drove 40 minutes to Madera Canyon for a trip up to Josephine Saddle, the approximate halfway point to the summit of Mt. Wrightson.

Mt. Wrightson, as some of you may recall, is the 9,500 peak where I hiked up to last year to leave my brother’s ashes. With the recent valley rain and mountain snow the trip to the summit is a little too treacherous for my hiking skill level, but I was sure we could make it to Josephine Saddle.

I have been up to the saddle five times, including the three times I made it all the way to the summit of Mt. Wrightson. Mahlon and I took the Super Trail to the saddle and we discovered quite quickly that temperatures at the 5,500-foot trailhead were very below that of Tucson.

Neither of us had gloves and Mahlon was wearing shorts. It took us about two hours to make it to Josephine Saddle, which is the location of a memorial to the 1959 deaths of three boy scouts in a sudden snowstorm.

Only the last parts of the trail had some minor snow and frost, but our hands were pretty frozen by the time we got to the saddle. After a quick snack we started back down the much steeper Old Baldy Trail arriving back at the parking lot and car about 11:30 a.m.
Another view of Bridal Wreath Falls trail

I did get a couple good views of Mt. Wrightson peak and, of course, that brought me great memories of my brother. I’m so glad he’s there on the summit because when I’m here he always feels close.

Back at the resort I cleaned up and got ready for dinner and the regular Wednesday night concert. With the concert being “Your Cheating Heart,” a tribute concert to Hank Williams and Patsy Cline I was expecting Joan’s nail marks in my arm as she clenched me tightly during the twangy music.

Fortunately, the music was very good and the singers were very good and entertaining. Even though this isn’t our favorite music we still very much enjoyed the show. The female lead singer was the 2010 Miss Arizona, so that was pretty good too.

After the show Joan returned back to the trailer and I stayed behind to fulfill my chair clean up duties which only takes about 10 minutes.

On Thursday morning, I led the Men’s Bible study and then  Joan and I went grocery shopping at Walmart and then to Fry’s where we picked up some very nice steaks on sale. Too bad for me though, we are not having them tonight.
Miss Arizona 2010 - our singer at the concert

At 1 p.m. we attended the weekly lecture which featured a local medical doctor, who is also a re-enactor, who discussed the practice of medicine during the time of the Tucson Presidio, which was 1775, the same time as the beginning of the Revolutionary War. The doctor was very interesting and wore an outfit that would have been appropriate to a “barber-doctor” of the late 1700s.

He brought some antique doctor instruments and described in detail how they would have been used to amputate limbs or dig out bullets or other fragments from a wound. He also answered questions about herbal remedies and ancient medicine practices.

With a coming rainstorm the TV stations here are going crazy with dire warnings and Winter Weather Warnings about a potential ¾-inch of rain over the weekend.

Thursday night I attended the coed Bible study.

Friday night we had tickets to the 50s dinner show here at the resort. The group - ?? – is one we have seen before here. It is a family of performers and they mix some corny humor with great musical talent playing many of the great hits from the 1950s. I stayed after to help take down tables and set up for the Saturday morning coffee and donuts.

Snow on Mt. Wrightson
On Saturday our dance card was full, literally. First we went to the movies and saw Deepwater Horizon at the cheap movie theater and then returned home for dinner and then over to the ballroom for the dance. The weather was wet and cool and that seemed to affect the attendance at the dance as there were many empty seats at the tables.

The music was good and it is always fun to dance with my honey.

We went to church on Sunday, but before that I did a workout and then helped set up the ballroom for church. After church we met Mahlon and Colleen, our friends from Michigan, for lunch at Zayna’s Restaurant, which serves Middle Eastern food. I’m not usually a fan of the food buy they had a wonderful lamb plate so it was all good. It also works with our new Whole 30 food plan that Joan and I are on.

After lunch we returned home and tried to watch football games. Tried, because of all days for the Direct TV signal to be down it was. Apparently there was a power outage on Mt. Lemmon, the site of one of the Direct TV signal links which meant that we missed all of the first playoff game between Green Bay and Atlanta. We were able to watch other cable channels but not the channel that had that game.

Lots of water along the Romero Pools trail
Even the local bar and grill, which is on the same system as the rest of the area, was unable to show the game. Power was restored in time for the Pittsburgh an New England game so we did get to see that. There were plenty of unhappy Green Bay fans in the park, but considering the end result probably better for them they couldn’t watch.

 Mahlon and I arranged to meet again on Monday for our final hike together while he was here. I picked Mahlon up at the home he and Colleen rented and then drove to Catalina State Park and he and I hiked up to Romero Pools in the mountains. The hike is a 6-mile round-trip hike that rises 1,500 feet into the mountains. It is a pretty challenging hike and even more so on Monday because there was ankle deep water in the wash that is usually dry.

To cross the first time we used plastic bags supplied by the park over our boots and pants, but even those sprung a couple leaks but not enough to soak us. On the way back we just decided to remove our boots and socks and wade across the 45-degree snow melt. It was quicker and easier than trying to salvage the plastic bag method.

We hiked up just short of the snow line and the pools were running so deep with water that we could not risk trying to jump to the other side.

Back down off the mountain I dropped Mahlon off at his rental, we said our good byes and then I returned home to lean up and get ready for Meet Me at Maynard’s Monday night.

Maynard’s attendance was a little down, probably owing to the cold temperatures an threat of rain (it never rained) but still more than 400 walkers showed up to the event. We ate at Hub’s, a downtown restaurant after the walk.

Our lunch spot at Romero Pools
Some Michigan friends arrived in Phoenix recently and let us know Monday they would like to come and visit us at Voyager on Tuesday, Jan. 24. Of course we said yes,

I took my shower early and when Joan went to get her shower she discovered that between the time that I had my shower and her attempt the park had broken a water main and the system was shut down.

With friends coming that left her worrying that she would not have a chance to clean up before their arrival. We’ve had cold temperatures at night but nothing that would cause a water main to freeze and break so we never found out what happened but the water was restored before our friends arrived.

We spent a delightful late morning and afternoon with our friends touring the resort and then taking a ride through the Air Force boneyard and then a quick trip around Saguaro East National Park.
We always enjoy showing off the park and sights to friends from back home.

The friends left and we still had time to make the Tuesday night pot luck. Joan made a very tasty marshmallow and fruit salad.

Market Days was back for Wednesday morning and my first order of duty was to buy an 8-pound bag of oranges for Joan before they all sold out. After my workout at the fitness center I stopped by the booth with the oranges and purchased them before the event had even started. That made Joan very happy and by extension my life is now good for the next few days at least.

The view of the valley from Romero Pools trail
After Market Days as part of my volunteer job of setting up chairs I was back in the ballroom at 1 p.m. to take down tables and set up chairs for the Wednesday night concert. With all the help it only took about 50 minutes to tear down Market Days and set up 500 chairs for the evening show.

Joan used Wednesday night to have a COR dinner (clean out refrigerator) and we devoured some pork, beef and potatoes that we had left over from previous dinners.

We headed to the “Teen Idols” concert at 6:45 p.m. This was, so far, the best concert of the season and even more so because the performers were actual teenagers. Lots of Dion and the Belmonts, Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis, Ricky (and Rick) Nelson songs and many other classics from the 50s and 60s. Very talented young people sang in this show.

Very sad to learn today of the passing of  Mary Tyler Moore. As a youngster I remember watching her on the Dick Van Dyke show and later, of course, the Mary Tyler Moore show. A classy lady.

Thursday morning Joan went for training so she can volunteer at the health clinic here at the resort, I went to my Men’s Bible Study and we have a lecture Thursday afternoon call “Blood in the Rincons,” which is an historical account of violence in this area in the olden days.

You would think with all the complaining about the weather here that we were in the deep freeze when in fact we've only had two nights below the freezing mark and just a few days in the 50s for highs. Next week we are supposed to be back in the 70s for highs and 40s for lows.