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.

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