Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ah, the lazy, crazy days of winter

Thursday (Jan. 23)

When we last left off, we had just finished Bible study and putting together my wooden canvas for my first wood carving project. 
My wooden canvas

Joan was patiently waiting for me to return from the wood carvers class to do laundry, but things took longer, much longer, than I expected so we didn’t get to the laundry until nearly noon.

After finishing the laundry and Joan’s soap opera, “Days of our Lies,” we headed out to put some food in the trailer. Because of the lateness of our return from shopping Joan cooked us “tube steaks” for the second night in a row. No problem for me, because I would eat hot dogs just about every day if it were up to me.

While we were shopping we made a stop to the “Red Box” outside the grocery store and looked for a movie to watch. Unfortunately, the only thing available that was even remotely on our watch list was “The Butler.” I don’t usually watch movies with Hanoi Jane Fonda in them for personal reasons, but we took it anyway and it wasn’t a bad movie. 

A line from a car dealer’s commercial caught our attention tonight:  “Our dealership has more cars than the desert has dirt”

Friday (Jan. 24)

A vigorous 6 a.m. workout at the fitness center started my day.

Well, back the truck up, my day actually started with a rude awakening when gusty winds started rocking the trailer in the middle of the night. Joan, who said I slept through the early part of the wind storm, mentioned that she thought she heard our outdoor furniture playing tag.
A photo from my Box Canyon hike (below)

So I slipped on my slippers and headed out in my pajamas to secure the chairs and tables which were in fact doing a weird dance outside the trailer in the wind. Back inside the trailer we recalled other times when we had endured high winds inside our little rolling home.

After my workout we ate breakfast and then I headed back to the wood carving shop to continue working on my first project. There was plenty of sanding to do get my wooden canvas smooth and flawless so I can start carving it next week. My new found friend and wood carving mentor “Hap” has been more than gracious in helping me to get started.

In appreciation for his efforts I got him a small Home Depot gift card. Hap reminds me a lot of my late father-in-law Red Uleskey. He is very resourceful and uses scraps and bits of steel and other recycled items to make his tools and fill his workshop. He even made me a wood carving knife out of some scrap wood and some scalpel blades he has saved.

We’ve been her almost two weeks and Joan was eager to pay a visit to the local Native American cultural center so we headed to Casino del Sol to offer our reparations for the way the first Americans were treated. Fortunately for us we escaped after three hours of fun only $12 lighter.

An extra Whitewater Draw photo (see Saturday)
At home, Joan whipped up a great Shrimp Louis salad and then we headed over for tonight’s entertainment, ventriloquist Brad Cummings. Cummings has appeared on Late Night with David Letterman and been an opening act for a number of big name comedians.

The show was very funny and by the first five minutes I was very glad we were not sitting in the front row and some poor guy named “Don” became the foil for nearly every one of Brad’s gags.

He played off the audience very well and was a very polished performer. And, surprise, surprise, you didn’t see his lips move.

Saturday (Jan. 25)

Joan watching the Sandhill Cranes
Last year we made a trip to the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area with a group of park residents.  January is peak season for the migrating Sandhill Cranes to do the meet and greet with thousands of other Cranes at the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area.

In a matter of just a couple weeks the cranes will move on to better climes before the final trip back to the more fruitful food hunting areas in the north during late spring and summer.

The cranes at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area come from as far away as Siberia and parts of North America, including Michigan. Actually it sounds like most of North America is pretty much the same as Siberia this year.

As I mentioned in an earlier post we met some nice neighbors here who are from Grand Rapids. So last week we invited Jim and Faye to travel with us to the Whitewater Draw area and Saturday was the day we were all free to make the trip.
The birds

Joan and I spent a little time cleaning the trailer Saturday morning and then welcomed our friends for the trip at 10 a.m. The drive to the wildlife area is through some beautiful country in Southern Arizona and includes a drive through Tombstone. The trip is about 90 minutes each way.

We arrived about 11:45 a.m. just in time to see waves of Sandhill Cranes beginning the return from morning foraging to the wildlife area. The birds make a strange kind of gargling sound both on the ground and in flight.
Watching the birds travel into a graceful flight pattern and then make a parachute type landing is pretty incredible to watch. We spent a couple hours moving around the wildlife park stopping and viewing the large gatherings of birds in different areas.
There was more water last year (Photo from 2013)

One thing we noticed this year was the extreme reduction in the amount of water in the area. I’m going to post a photo from last year to show you the difference.

We returned home to the resort by 4 p.m. Joan cooked up some tasty grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

After dinner we headed over to the ballroom for a night of dancing to the Renaissance Band, a group of musicians all made up of park residents played favorites from the 30s to the 60s. There were polkas, waltzes, rock and roll, cha cha and regular close dancing.

Sunday (Jan. 26)

Last Sunday at the resort church service they took up a collection for a local charity and we learned at church this morning that they raised $10,001.04 for the Primavera organization. In addition to our donation, another donor agreed to match it dollar for dollar so a total of $20,000 will go to the charity.
Joan at Sweetwater park

Church was great and the choir did a rendering of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” that was perhaps one of the best I ever heard.

It was also the Sunday they have the “roll call of the States and Provinces.”  They call out the states alphabetically and you stand when your state is called. Michigan was well represented with dozens of folks standing when the Wolverine State was announced. As you can imagine the representation was greatest from the states with the worst winter weather.

Before church I went to the fitness center for an early morning workout. The fitness center here is top drawer and if you get there early enough you don’t have to wait for the weights or treadmills.

More than half the states and several Canadian provinces were represented in the congregation. There were more than 400 people at church on Sunday.  They also post the American and Canadian flags before the service and sing the National Anthems of both countries. It was a very moving ceremony.

A turtle is wildlife isn't it?
After church Joan and I headed back to the Sweetlands park that I visited with the easy hike group this past Monday. We spied a number of bird species, perhaps the most unusual were several Cormorants  that were drying wings in the sunshine.

We took our lunch, a diet cookie and some fruit and nuts, and had a picnic lunch at the pavilion.
On the way home we went on the great Little Caesar’s pizza hunt. Joan, being the navigator was supposed to be looking out for a pizza place while I drove. I pointed to a strip mall that looked like a place that might house a Little Caesar’s.

Just as Joan was telling me there was no pizza place in the mall I spotted the Little Caesar’s sign in the mall. So I crossed several lanes of traffic and pulled in and we picked up a Meat Lover’s pizza for $8. Told Joan she was fired as a navigator for missing the pizza sign. She mentioned something about quitting as my cook if I fired her as a navigator. She has been rehired.

We arrived home in time to spend a little time outside reading and them went back inside the trailer and warmed up our cheap dinner in the microwave.

Monday (Jan. 27)

A beautiful Sycamore tree on the trail
The easy hike on Monday was through “Box Canyon” near Madera Canyon south of the resort. The drive was about 30 miles and I took four others with me in the Tahoe. It was what they call here a one-way hike which means you drop a car and all the hikers at one end of the hike. Drive to the end of the hike drop another car there and then reverse that when the hike is ended.  Lots more miles on the car than the people that way.

The hike was beautiful and followed a rough dirt road through the canyon for 2.6-miles. Some of the drop offs next to the road were several hundred feet straight down. We also encountered several cows roaming the area doing what cows always do, look for food.

A view from the trail
We arrived back at the resort about 2 p.m. and I offered Joan a chance to head to the movies. Mondays are senior citizens discount days at the movies around here and we found a theater that offers recent, but not the latest movies. Normally it is $3 a person, but on senior citizens day it is only $2.

“The Book Thief” is on our list of movies we want to see (we use our time in Arizona to catch up with all the movies we didn’t see while at home in Michigan) so we headed to the theater. Once there, Joan pointed out that also playing was “Captain Phillips” which is a movie I have wanted to see for a couple months.

So we made a quick course correction and decided to see that movie instead. We were not disappointed. Tom Hanks is one of our favorite actors and the story was one that we heard about on the news about five years ago.
Box Canyon from the trail

We very much enjoyed the film and headed home about 6 p.m. for a late dinner. Monday night TV is pretty thin for our tastes so we stopped at our new favorite place – The Red Box – and picked out a movie to watch in the trailer tonight.

The movie we selected was “2 Guns” with Joan’s favorite actor – Denzel Washington – and Mark Wahlberg who is one of my favorite actors. Wahlberg was also in the “Lone Survivor” so this week has been pretty much “Mark Wahlberg” week.

Tuesday (Jan. 28)

From here it is straight up
Usually I look forward to hiking, but I heard a lot of warnings about the Blackett’s Ridge hike planned for this day. The leaders of the hiking group warned that this was one of the season’s most difficult hikes because of a 1,800-foot rise in the trail in the space of about 1.3 miles. No matter how you look at it that’s a lot of “up.”

Once again I drove three of the folks in my car to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area and we gathered in the parking lot to start the 6.2 round trip hike.

The first part of the trail is relatively flat with a couple generally moderate grades until you get to the fork where the Blackett’s Ridge Trail heads off. Almost immediately the trail goes up, and up, and up and up.
Some of the rock steps are very high which puts stress on aging knees (it’s even worse on the trip down). 
Looking back towards Tucson

There are several false summits as you head up which can be discouraging if you don’t know they are there. Just when you think you have reached the top, you see that there is another “top” yet to come. That happens about three times on this trail.

Because the ridge trail is high above both the Sabino Canyon and Bear Canyon you get wonderful views of both as well as tremendous views of the Tucson metropolitan area.

The group was smaller this week as some folks knew they would not be able to keep up with the rather strong pace that our leaders set even with a dramatic uphill climb.

The trail ends at a cliff
Because of the warnings I carried extra water, double what I usually carry, and plenty of snacks. The fluids and snacks were all gone when the hike was done. But I didn’t have any cramps and never felt really stressed. My son Tim has given me good advice over the years for what I need to do to hydrate and fuel while hiking.

The after a 2 ½-hour trip up you suddenly come to the end of the trail. The end of this trail is truly “the end.”  The trail stops at an abrupt rock overlook that is 1,800-feet above the canyon floor. We stopped and had lunch on the boulders at this spot. We took in the wonderful views and then too soon began the arduous trip down the mountain.

Just to prove I got to the top
My trekking poles really come in handy on these downhills as they keep me from lurching forward or falling flat on my face, which is something I have done before. It only took about 90 minutes to make the 3-mile trip down the hill and we were back in the park by 1:45 p.m.

Joan whipped up some of my favorite “Tuna Surprise” for the potluck tonight and we pigged out with a few dozen of our closest friends here in the park. After dinner we drove to return “2 Guns” to the “Red Box” machine and picked up another movie “Last Vegas” so we wouldn’t be stuck watching the State of the Union speech.

It has nothing to do with who is President either. I find a 45-minute speech, that includes a number of things that have not an never will happen, interrupted by 45 minutes of patronizing applause a waste of my time.
Hiker Jim enjoys his lunch and a bird's eye view
“Last Vegas” was funny and we enjoyed it very much. It also included a number of folks we also enjoy, including Morgan Freeman and Robert DeNiro.

If you want to see additional photos of the last couple hikes, simply scroll down and the post below will include a number of photos I took.

No comments:

Post a Comment