|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.
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.
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.