Tuesday, April 7, 2020

There's no place like home

Luggage collection at home

    After an uneventful, but eerie drive from Arizona Joan and I are back home in Michigan.

    Our last week at Voyager was quiet with much of the time preparing for the time we would pack up and head home. With more and more departures from the park, things were getting quieter and quieter. We did see (at a distance) some of our friends still at the resort and said our goodbyes over the last few days.

   We did have a chance to get in one more hike on the Gabe Zimmerman Trail with Joan, Denny, Diane and I. 

   We spent quite a bit of time social distancing with Diane and Denny before our Thursday, April 2 departure. While the park was willing to extend stays for people already in the resort, more and more amenities (if you can call a laundry and bathrooms an amenity) were being shut down leaving us with little option but to pack up and go.

    On Thursday morning I finished prepping the trailer for departure and at 11 a.m. with help from Denny I hooked up the trailer and he and I drove it to the nearby Camping World so it could be winterized and prepared for storage in Flagstaff.

Social distance dinner in Casa Grande
    Joan and her sister watched the trailer pull out and then went back to Diane and Den’s park model to wait for Denny and I to return about 1 p.m. We had lunch with them and too soon the time came for us to leave for good this year.

   Our departure was bitter sweet as we had a lot of fun with Diane and Denny but with the cancellation of so many of our beloved events (concerts, dances, end-of-the-year parties) it left a little bit of a hollow feeling. Don’t get me wrong, the park did everything it could and should have done to keep everyone safe. Especially when you consider the vulnerable age of everyone there.

   One of our favorite couples, Mike and Suzy, departed the Saturday before we left on their trek back to Indiana for repairs to their motorhome and eventually their final destination on the east coast to visit family. They live in their motorhome when they are not at Voyager in their beautiful home there. (More on this later).

   So about 4 p.m. we headed out of the park and to Camping World to pick up the trailer. As we always do we shifted our luggage from the back of the Tahoe into the trailer to balance our load and improve the ride up the mountain to Flagstaff.

Our night stop
   We were on the road at 4:27 p.m. On the way to our dinner stop in Casa Grande we noticed that the Pinal Air Park was overflowing with commercial aircraft which had been brought there to store during the massive slowdown in air traffic. There are always some planes parked in the desert at Pinal Air Park, but we guessed a 10-fold increase in the number of planes from when we passed by in early January that option was closed. Buffalo Wild Wings was offering take out dinners so we both got a hamburger and fries and then ate our dinner outside the trailer in a mall parking lot in our patio chairs. Joan purchased a bottle of Pinot Noir from the restaurant and she sipped on that treasure until it got dark. We presented quite a sight and several people gave us big smiles as they drove by.

   We always wait until the sun goes down in Casa Grande so as not to pull the trailer up the mountain during the heat of the day. We also watched out final 2020 Arizona sunset which was beautiful.

    In Phoenix I donned my mask and gloves and topped off the Tahoe tank as the trip up the mountain sucks a lot of gasoline. (We also make another gas stop halfway up the mountain just to make sure we have enough fuel).

    At 9:40 p.m. we pulled into the Maguireville/Prescott rest area at about 4,000 feet and went to bed. We parked between a motorhome and a running semi-truck and trailer.

   Because of the current issues we did not use the rest area bathroom to brush our teeth and get ready for bed and instead used our trailer bathroom.

The truly open road
    We were up early (about 6:10 a.m.) and headed back up the mountain for the rest of the journey at 6:33 a.m.

   We arrived at the storage area at 7:38 a.m. and the outside temperature was 30 degrees in Flagstaff. Luggage was removed from the trailer, loaded into the Tahoe and I spent the rest of the time covering the wheels, securing the trailer and removing our battery before heading out on our trip to Amarillo, Texas.

    By the time we got to Albuquerque (sounds like a Glen Campbell song) it was 70 degrees and beautiful outside. Traffic was scarce through what is usually a very traffic laden city. We climbed up out of Albuquerque and the temperatures dropped to 57 degrees for much of the rest of the time in New Mexico.

   There were some pronghorn antelope along the freeway so that was cool. By the way this day was our 21st wedding anniversary. Usually we spend it in Bakersfield, California but not this year. New Mexico and Texas are a major improvement over Bakersfield as an anniversary destination.

    A local taco place was doing take out for dinner in Amarillo which we took back to our hotel room and devoured. We missed eating out at on this trip, but a small price to pay to stay safe.

Loving these gas prices
    Saturday morning was cool (37 degrees) but sunny as we headed out of Texas heading for Springfield, Missouri. We saw llamas and longhorns in Oklahoma. Gas was incredibly cheap in Oklahoma down to .99 cents a gallon at one station and $1.09 at most others. Unfortunately I filled up in Amarillo so no need to fill up needlessly there.

    Cows, cows and more cows as Joan would say along the route. With speed limit

s of 75 mph the day went fast and we only had to stop once for gas later in the day. We tried to minimize our exposure and always used masks and gloves during refueling stops.

    On Sunday, we departed Springfield about 9 a.m. and tuned into our church’s online broadcast for Palm Sunday. Halfway through the sermon we lost our signal so we had to finish the sermon later at the hotel. Again traffic was minimal, mostly trucks and it was like the world was slowly crawling to a stop.

    In addition to beautiful purple flowering bushes along the road we saw plenty of not-so-beautiful dead armadillos on the road. At one point we drove by a farm field just at the right time to see a back hoe pushing over a very large tree in a field along the freeway. Sorry no photo of that to share.

    Our high temperature was 59 on Sunday. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Cloverdale, Indiana and had a meal delivered from a small restaurant across the street from the hotel. Fried chicked, I think.

A final hike
     We have been through Indianapolis many times and we usually have to contend with oodles of traffic, not so this year. There was some traffic, but nothing like usual. Once we got north of Indianapolis we and the trucks had the freeway to ourselves.

    At one rest area we passed there was a solo car in the rest area and a man playing his guitar on a bench there. Everything was very surreal.

    For one of the first times ever the sky was clear and bright as we entered Michigan in the early afternoon. Predictably the roughest roads we encountered were as soon as we entered Michigan.  The weather did get greyer as we closed in on home. 

    We are thankful for the easy travel home and continue to pray for the safety and health of all our friends.

   Before I end this I want to go back to our friends Mike and Suzy who headed out ahead of us from Voyager. I got a text from Mike Friday night that they had gotten as far as Little Rock, Arkansas and then found out they could not find a park that would let them stay overnight further east. They turned the motorhome around and headed back to Arizona to wait out the virus situation.

   Thanks for following along with us and we pray for a better rest of the year for everyone.

Mileage out from Camping World in Tucson: 38036

Time out from Camping World in Tucson: 4:27 p.m.

Mileage in to storage at Flagstaff: 38313

Time in to storage at Flagstaff: 7:38 a.m.

Time out from storage at Flagstaff: 8:18 a.m.

Mileage in Amarillo, Texas: 38932

Time in to Amarillo, Texas: 7:17 p.m. (CDT)

Time out of Amarillo, Texas: 8:35 a.m.

Mileage out of Amarillo, Texas: 38932

Mileage in to Springfield, Missouri: 39496

Time in to Springfield, Missouri: 4:46 p.m. (CDT)

Time out of Springfield, Missouri: 9 a.m.

Mileage in to Cloverdale, Indiana: 39919

Time in to Cloverdale, Indiana: 4:28 (EDT)

Time out of Cloverdale, Indiana: 9:12 a.m.

Time in to home: 2:48 p.m.

Mileage in at home: 40295

Sunday, March 29, 2020


Bird watching - not cancelled

  Cancelled pretty much describes the past two weeks. Like much of the country Arizona has come to a standstill. The last time I wrote everything was in full swing here at the resort and then suddenly the brakes were applied. First it was a slow braking, but it soon accelerated to a panic stop.

   At first all indoor events were cancelled in the park, but eventually they shut down all outside activities as well. No more pickleball, shuffleboard, tennis or bocce ball. Full stop on everything. The store and grill were open for a few days, but even that was shut down and only take out meals are now offered.

Sunsets - not cancelled
   Also like the insanity everywhere else, toilet paper was in short supply and I had to get up at 5:45 a.m. so I could go to Fry’s during “senior shopping time” to score one 8-pack of toilet paper. We, and Joan’s sister and brother-in-law now have enough toilet paper to get through our time here.

    As I mentioned in the last post Diane and Denny are here for the month of March and while everything was normal for the first two weeks, the last two weeks have been anything but. All of us are “social distancing” but we have been with Diane and Denny since the beginning of their arrival here so we are still taking walks, short hikes and scenic drives together. Anything we have, they have and vice versa so we are not endangering anyone needlessly.

Mountain scenic drives - not cancelled

    We took a drive to the top of Mt. Lemmon, a drive to Madera Canyon, a drive through East Saguaro National Park and we have walked the inside of the resort many, many times. To say we might be a little bored is an understatement, but we are still making the best of it.

    In fact, everyone in the resort is avoiding people like the plague, which obviously is where that expression originated. Friends cross the street so they won’t get within 6-feet of each other and mostly we just sit outside the RV and read.

Mountain top experiences - not cancelled
   The last three concerts of the season were abruptly cancelled so we missed the highly anticipated “Eagles” tribute concert, the less anticipated (for me) Barry Manilow concert and the steel drum group “Jovert” which we really like. It’s a small price to pay for staying safe.

   All business with the resort is done by phone. They still want to get paid.

    Church and Bible studies were also stopped. We have been listening to our home church services which are now being done online. 

Shows - cancelled
   Our plans to go to California have been aborted and we are heading home to Michigan on Thursday. Gas stations and hotels are open (so far) and many of our snowbird friends reported clear sailing on their trips home. We will miss seeing our family and friends there.

   I get the hype. I was a reporter for 30 years and I know how the media loves a panic. As a Christian I believe it when Jesus and God tells us “to be not afraid” and to “fear not.” So I probably approach all this a little differently than many folks. While I understand that this is serious and obviously deadly, the more deadly and serious aspect is the panic and fear that drives people to do silly things. Social media, for all the good it does in a crisis, does more to spread panic and disinformation than any other source.

    My son the nurse has made it clear (and he is pretty much an expert on viruses) that eventually we are all going to be exposed to this virus, unless we isolate for a couple years so while we can slow the spread we are not going to stop it. The slowing the spread is important for the health system, but eventually we will have to face the virus.

    I lived through SARS (that was going to kill hundreds of thousands of us)

Rattlesnake bridge - not cancelled
    I lived through H1N1 (another supposed pandemic that was going to kill us all)

    I somehow survived Y2K (that was supposed to shut down the world). While some hid in the dark on New Year’s Eve, Joan and I celebrated in a hot tub watching TV. Another worldwide panic that was pointless.

   When you live as long as I do, you learn that you take these one at a time. This one is going to be bad, but I’m not fearing it. One of two things will happen. At some point, now or later (and I’m doing everything we can to make sure it is later) I am going to come in contact with this virus. Hopefully they will have a vaccine, which I will get just like I get an annual flu shot and it will all be good. In the event thatI get the virus before the protection, I’ll deal with it.

Pima Air Museum - before it closed
    We are good, we are being careful, we are not being frightened into anxiety. We have enjoyed our take out fish fries from Culver’s and we have enjoyed our time with our family. We are sorry they didn’t get to experience the park as it usually is, but even in its reduced state it’s still a lot of fun.
   Here are the things that didn’t get cancelled:

   Beautiful sunsets

   Reading books

   Visiting with family via Facetime

    Wonderful dinners

   Great weather

   Walks in the park

   Bird watching

   Rides in the mountains

   Scenic hikes

   Phone calls with friends and family.

   We pray for those who are working on the front lines of this disease and look forward to when we can shake hands, visit face to face with friends and family and return to some normalcy.
One more sunset - not cancelled

   This will likely be my last post until we get home. We covet your prayers as we make this very unusual trek home. Be safe, don’t worry.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Friends and family brighten our time in Arizona

    I’m baaack!  Just when I thought I could keep this blog up to date I failed miserably. I have no excuses, but we have been busy with friends and family who have come to the desert to visit. 

   When last we visited I had just had an MRI on my knee and was awaiting results. Well, things have progressed quite a bit since then. The verdict was a torn meniscus, which in short means my hiking days for this season are over. No more mountains to climb this year.

   The orthopedic doctor here is not knife happy and suggested I try physical therapy to strengthen my left knee (my right knee is just fine) and try and avoid any surgery or pain blocking medication.

Denny and Diane at the Battle of the Bulge Memorial
   So for the last two weeks I have been going twice a week to a physical therapist based right here in the resort and the pain is subsiding and the legs are getting stronger. My hope is that I will continue to strengthen my knees and return to some aggressive hiking next season. For now though, I have to watch all my hiking friends climbing without me.

   In addition to my twice a week physical therapy sessions the good therapist has given me a half dozen exercises to complete each day to strengthen my knees. He calls them exercises, I call them torture.

   One of the things I try (not always successfully) to do is not complain. Joan and I are truly blessed to be able to come to Voyager each year so a little setback this year with not being able to continue to hike is a little frustrating, but a minor inconvenience compared to challenges faced by so many others.

   God has been so good to us and we have such a great family and friends that I don’t want any of this to come off as complaining. Life throws us a curve now and then but we continue to be thankful for all that we have and enjoy.

    Our Michigan Party on March 2nd turned into a stress filled event as the weather promised to dump heavy rain on our outdoor party. For days leading up to the party, the local television stations were filled with the impending doom of rain (yes, they get pretty amped up over a little moisture here). Each succeeding day it looked worse and worse for the party.

    The only indoor alternative was to share a space (if they were open to it) with the Oregon and Washington folks who had a combined event planned for the ballroom at the same time as ours.

   So on Saturday, just two days before the party, I contacted the organizers of the Oregon/Washington party and presented them with a request to share their space. In keeping with the fun Voyager spirit they quickly invited us to join them in the ballroom and the party went on without a hitch. (By the way, it never rained, but it was a little cooler than normal.) Joan and I spent an hour calling all of those who signed up for the party to tell them of our new location.

Denny at Pima Air Museum
   On Tuesday, February 18, our friends Roger and Jessica from Grand Blanc, Michigan arrived in their RV and set up just two spaces from us. This is the third year they have joined us here in Tucson and it is great fun having them here.

   Roger is my former editor at the Flint Journal and more than a boss he has become a really good friend along with his wife, Jessica. We have a lot of laughs and fun. He and Jessica play Bocce Ball and have attended the concerts with us.

   The Alabama Tribute concert was great along with the Sixties Mania program this past week.
    Joan continues her volunteer work at the Voyager clinic and I continue to get up early three days a week to set up the ballroom for various events. Without my 2-3 days a week hiking schedule I find a lot of idle time here in the park.

    We attended Ash Wednesday services here in the park on February 26 so we didn’t have a show that night. The following week on March 4 was the Sixties Mania show.

    More fun began on Sunday March 1 when Joan’s sister, Diane, and brother-in-law Denny arrived from Maryland after a week long car trip across the country. They have rented a park model for a month here and because it was available for them to occupy until Monday , March 2, they stayed overnight with us in the trailer.

   It's not the first time they have stayed in the trailer in fact they have visited us in the trailer in Indiana, Texas and Arizona previously.

   We are having a lot of fun with them as they are meeting some of our friends and seeing all the activities in the park. Denny and I meet in the Fitness Center early in the morning so he can do his program and I can rehab my knee.

    Last Friday, we had dinner with all of our company in the Voyager Grill on fish fry night. A good time was had by all.

   Denny and I made a trip to the Pima Air and Space Museum last week and this Friday (March 13), Denny me and my friend Bob from Minnesota are going to the Titan Missile Museum. I'll write more about that after I procrastinate another three weeks and do a post.

We attended the Voyager Pinewood Derby, a Reminiscence Dance, Market Daze, lecture series, church, potlucks and a variety of other activities here in the old Pueblo.

The back side of the Bulge Memorial

    Diane and Jessica have been going with Joan to Zumba classes and aquacise and Joan continues to make polymer clay jewelry. Some of those creations she shared at the resort wide “Show and Tell” event this past week.

    Diane and Denny joined us at Meet Me at Maynard’s on Monday night and got registered and are now official MMMers.  We had a nice dinner of bratwursts at the Ten 55 

    During our walk we stopped to pay respects to the Battle of the Bulge Monument near the old City Hall. Joan and Diane's Dad was a veteran of the U.S. Army's World War II 75th Division that earned their reputation and awards in that battle.

  With more “impending” rain the park was quiet on Tuesday, March 10, but Denny, Diane joined us for their second Tuesday potluck in the ballroom.


Sunday, February 16, 2020

Life is good in the desert

Home away from home

  A wrecked left knee, a little cold weather and the visit of more friends were the highlights of the past couple weeks. When we last wrote we were headed to the Short Notice (that’s the name of the band) Dance in the ballroom Saturday, February 1.

    We had a good time at the dance and then followed that up the next day with the Superbowl in the trailer. Joan set us up with cheese and crackers and we snacked our way through an entertaining Superbowl. As Detroit Lions fans we can only dream of what it would be like to have a team in that game.

    Joan has continued with her volunteer work at the resort health clinic, actually working a couple extra shifts to help out another volunteer who was sick. Both of us continue to attend our weekly Bible studies and I am always busy setting up tables and chairs for various resort events.

My car is parked near that mountain in the distance
    We continue to attend the weekly Meet Me at Maynard’s events and even went on a Monday when it was pouring rain. We figured with the lower crowd numbers we would have a better chance to win a prize. Didn’t work out that way. But we did get pretty wet.

   The space next to us in the park has been a revolving door of visitors so we haven’t had a chance to get to know our nearest neighbors very well because they are here for a day or two and then POOF! They are gone.

   Our Flint friends Mahlon and Colleen came into town the day after our Lapeer friends Karen and Bob left after a month in the Voyager with us. Mahlon and Colleen do not stay at the resort but we had a chance to meet them for dinner and then Mahlon an I did a nice hike on Brown Mountain.

Had to go through this gate on my hike- cows on the other side
    The concerts at the resort continue to be really, really good. The Buddy Holly tribute show on February 5 was good, but the Chicago Experience on February 12 was even better. The activities director here does an excellent job of booking acts that meet the needs of a pretty eclectic group of residents.

    Next week is an Alabama tribute show that will make a lot of folks very happy.

   We are in the planning stages of the Michigan Party on March 2. I go to the coffee and doughnuts meeting in the ballroom each Saturday drumming up support for the party. Joan will do the planning for the food, etc.
Two Jims on a hike

    The lecture series have been good on Thursdays. I missed the one on a local Holocaust survivor because I was hiking with Mahlon, but Joan attended “the boy who wouldn’t die” and said it was extremely interesting. We both attended the lecture on the Empire Ranch. We have visited there several times and I have written about it previously. The lecture was presented by the granddaughter of one of residents of the historic ranch.

    On the weekend of the 8th we headed up to Apache lands so Joan could play at the casino and I could go hiking in a new place. I found a hike just outside Superior, Arizona on the Arizona Trail. Most sections of the Arizona Trail are popular hiking places and I assured Joan I would not be alone, but as it turned out I didn’t see another living soul during my 7.5 mile trek but arrived back to the trailhead safe and sound.

   I had planned to try a loop hike near the Arizona Trail section, but couldn’t find the trail and didn’t want to get lost. Especially when I could hear target practicing going on nearby and didn’t want to stumble onto someone’s private land by accident.
Apache cafe in San Carlos

    We had breakfast in a Native American café in San Carlos, Arizona on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation and then went to the tribal museum. It was interesting learning about the history and trials of the tribe.

   Over the past few years we have visited several Indian Reservations in Arizona and have learned a great deal about the history and trials of the various tribes. Interestingly, some of the tribes were enemies of each other and reading their competing histories show how each tribe viewed their struggles with the other. As you can imagine they have very different views of those conflicts.

Jim and Dave 1,800-feet up
   We took a different route home so I could let Joan see some of the beautiful scenery between Globe, Arizona and Phoenix. It reminded me a little of the scenery around Moab, Utah when we visited there with my sister Pam and brother-in-law Jeff a few years back.

   Also during the last two weeks I took a tour of the Gospel Rescue Mission here in Tucson and have applied to be a volunteer there during our time here now and in the future. As you can imagine, the fair weather here brings a lot of homeless folks and many have desperate needs.

   As a volunteer I can give a couple hours a week serving food or checking folks in off the street into the new facility. I have always felt uneasy just handing out a couple bucks to people on the street worried that the money would be used to their detriment.

    The motto of the Gospel Rescue Mission is “There is something you can do,” and they work hard to get people up on their feet and into productive work.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

One of our many Arizona sunsets
   Joan has continued to make jewelry (I’ll have photos in the next post) and I have kept hiking despite my miserable knee. The knee actually hurts more at night than when I am hiking but I had to cut a really difficult hike short because I knew I had 3.5 miles hiking back to the trailhead. We had climbed up nearly 1,800 feet and I knew going down was going to really stress my knee.  It was one of the better decisions I have made.

Mahlon on Brown Mountain
   I had an MRI on February 7 and will find out the results of that this coming Tuesday, February 18. I’ll let you all know how that works out.

    We attended the Valentine’s Day dance on Saturday, February 15. Oh, did I mention I made $12 helping to set up Market Daze this past week. The elite table crew that sets up that gets a small payment for the work. I have not been on that crew until the past week when one of the guys came up sick. I’ll try not to spend it all in one place.

    I also completed my latest USS Cogswell DD-651 Association newsletter with the help of my father who is a master copy editor.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

One month in the books, two to go

A beautiful Arizona sunset Jan. 30

    Time really flies. Here it is February 1 and we have one month in the books for our winter 2020 trip to Arizona. It has been a fun and eventful month and we look forward to more fun and events in February and March.

   All our usual activities continue, Joan’s voluntary service at the health clinic, my frequent trips to the ballroom to set up chairs and tables for various events and concerts here at Voyager. Bible studies, chapel service, Tuesday potlucks and just the general fun continues.

Hay ride
   After coming here for 10 years we don’t do as much sightseeing as we used to but we found a cotton farm tour up near Casa Grande that we hadn’t done and headed up there on January 15. Caywood Farms is located near Eloy, Arizona, about an hour from Tucson.

    The tour included music, a slide show, a hay ride and a cotton-picking experience in a real life cotton field. Trust me after trying to pick cotton this is not a profession or job I would have ever considered for long term work.

   We learned a great deal about cotton that we did not know including how it is graded and how the farmer gets paid for the product.  For years we have passed large bales of cotton in fields along I-10 and now we know that they are about 15,000 pounds each and are processed at a nearby gin.

cotton picker
   It was a great day and a fun experience. We got home in time to catch “Uptown” show in the Voyager Ballroom. Lots of Motown, Stevie Wonder, and other musical stars from our time and just watching the performers dance and sing left me exhausted. A very high energy show.

   On Friday, January 17, we went to the dinner show in the ballroom and Brad Fitch, a wonderful John Denver tribute artist, entertained the crowd for more than an hour after dinner. Another winning show. Dinner was pretty good too.

    The next night we attended the Retro Rockets Dance, again in the Voyager Ballroom. They are the most popular dance group that comes here and the ballroom was packed. The dance floor was crowded but the music was great. We danced the night away.

  Our friend Bob and Karen joined us for church here at the Voyager and then we went for breakfast at the Voyager grill after church. We have really enjoyed having Bob and Karen here with us and look forward to their return next year hopefully for two months instead of one.  More on them in a second.

50 MMM pins
   Joan and I attended the monthly birthday party celebration for the hikers and bikers group at Barry and Darcel’s house in the Cove section of Voyager.

    Monday, January 20 was Martin Luther King Day, but also the day Joan and I received our 50th pin at Meet Me at Maynard’s.  During our walk we met up with Dave and Deb from the Voyager and went out to dinner with them after the pin ceremony. We ate again at Elliott’s.

    My hiking has been slowed by a left knee problem I am having, but I am currently seeing an orthopedic doctor to figure out just what has gone wrong. I have gone on a number of hikes, but I’m taking it just a little easier than usual. Bob and I did the Phone Line Trail this past week and had a good time. That’s about a 7-mile hike.

    I once took a small group of friends on this hike and because of my misunderstanding the escape trails off of the Phone Line Trail ended up getting my wife and two of our friends kind of upset with me. Since that day, I have been much clearer about where one can bail off the trail if you are tired.

Bob on Phone Line hike
    Bob and I did the entire trail from Tram Stop 9 all the way back to the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center so no issues encountered on this day.

    On Wednesday, January 22 we attended “Tapestry” which was the Wednesday night concert at the Voyager. It was the music of Carole King. So far all the shows have been sold out (including the Spouse Whisperer – a comedian) who we say on Wednesday, January 29. We have seen him before, but at my age I forgot most of his jokes so the show was pretty much new to me.

   Joan attended a lecture on bees and other pollinating bugs in the Catalina Room on Thursday January 23 (I was hiking with Bob).

   On Friday, January 24 we met the former superintendent that Karen, Joan and I once worked for at Lapeer Community Schools at a wonderful restaurant in Tucson. The restaurant is called “Culinary Dropout” and it was full to capacity, but because we had reservations we had no wait.

     We returned to the park with enough time to attend most of the Dance with Delores group in the ballroom and the next night we attended the Reminiscence Dance in the Ballroom. As you can see we do a lot of dancing here.

Carillo-Garwood hike
   On Thursday, January 30 I attended two lectures, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning lecture was on “Wild Mustangs of the West” which was a film about the management of wild horses in Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. The afternoon lecture was on a the nearby Tumacacori Mission near Tubac. Joan joined me for the afternoon lecture. After that we went shopping and then had a good bye dinner with Karen and Bob at the Voyager Grill. Unfortunately they left early on Jan. 31.

    Friday morning I had a doctor’s appointment at Tucson Orthopedic Center to find out what I have done to my left knee. The pain is keeping me from having a good night’s sleep. X-rays show some arthritis issues, but more likely I have done something to my meniscus which may require some minor surgery or at least a cortisone shot so I can resume my more aggressive hiking without constant pain.

   I’m waiting on an MRI appointment which will give my doctor a better idea of what I have done to my knee. I’ll keep you all posted.  We have another Short Notice Band dance on Saturday night and then the Super Bowl on Sunday. More on what happens then later.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Better late than never, better never late (blog posts, that is)

Me at Bridal Wreath Falls

   So what is it they say about good intentions?  Well my intentions were good, I honestly planned to keep up to date on the blog and nearly two weeks have gone by and now I am way behind.

   When last we visited we had just eased into town, spent a bunch of money to get our hitch lift fixed and had our annual first night dinner at the Voyager Bar & Grill.

   Since then we have been very busy. Not making excuses, just stating a fact.

   Last Saturday (Jan. 4) I participated in my first table and chair set-ups with the Saturday morning coffee and donuts in the ballroom and since then have helped set up and take down for several events including Wednesday night’s concert “Valli Fever,” which was a tribute show for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

   The show was wonderful and the house was packed. More than 600 silver-haired retirees crammed into a small place to hear nostalgic music.  Our friends Bob and Karen also attended and seemed to enjoy the concert.

Bob, Karen, Me, Joan at Meet Me at Maynard's
   I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  On Saturday I went hiking with my friend Alan, more to test my sore knee and altitude readiness. We climbed 1,200 feet over about a 2-mile trail and while I was a little short of breath I was able to keep a good pace and only turned back when Alan injured his foot.

   My knee still aches a little, but I really tested it with a 9-mile hike up to Bridal Wreath Falls and then used the loop back through Three Tanks Trail to make it a very interesting hike. There were 9 of us from the Voyager Hiking group who made the trek and we spent much of the hike catching up on the last nine months (that is talking while gasping for air).

    Back up to Monday, I got up early and took the Tahoe to a local Chevy dealer to get the oil changed and replace the plastic cap to the windshield washer fluid bottle under the hood. In case you were wondering the plastic cap costs $8, which if you went back and put together a Tahoe one piece at a time would end up costing you about $200,000.

Me winning a gift certificate (Jan 6)
   I picked up some groceries for Joan, set up my unlimited car wash deal, and got a spare key made for the trailer. Back at the ranch, I finished organizing my trailer stuff and then we picked up Bob and Karen who joined us downtown Tucson for our first Meet Me at Maynard’s event of the season.

   In just two weeks we will participate in our 50th MMM and we will get our reward pins for our hats. Stay tuned for photos.

   Joan went to her Zumba class on Monday and of course she joined me and Bob and Karen at MMM.

   My hike was Tuesday, Joan cleaned the trailer, went to the pool and made meatballs for the Tuesday night potluck.

    Market Daze was Wednesday and I bought a new belt (actually two of them). My previous leather belt I bought at Market Daze was $5 and it lasted 5 years. So now I should be good for 10 years or better.

Rare crested Saguaro cactus
    At 1 p.m. I helped the crew take down Market Daze and then set up for the Valli Fever show, which I already discussed.

    Thursday is Bible study day for me as I have Men’s Bible Study in the morning and then I lead a Bible study on Thursday night. Several previous friends who have attended my Thursday night study have returned for another season and we welcomed a couple new folks, including my friend Bob.

    Joan went to her Women’s Bible study in the morning (I had to drive her because she lost track of time and when I said at 9:30 a.m. – “Aren’t you supposed to be at your Bible study.” She jolted awake and remembered.

    In the afternoon she went to her polymer clay class and made a beautiful necklace.

   We had leftovers for dinner and then went to a dance here at the resort. The live music group “Short Notice Band” was making their premiere appearance here and they were very well received.

   The days have been relatively cool (highs in the 60s) but the nights have been pretty cold here in the desert. On Friday night we came home from the dance and during the night it got very cold outside, but the furnace stopped going on about 3 a.m.
Pam, Greg and Joan in Florence, Arizona

    We ran out of propane. So after setting up the ballroom for coffee and donuts this morning I did a quick work out in the fitness center but then returned to off load our two 20-gallon propane tanks into the Tahoe and drove them to a nearby propane filling station.  We are good to go for a couple months now.

   After taking down the coffee and donuts I returned to the trailer, set up the propane tanks and then made eggs, hashbrowns and bacon for Joan and me. One pretty busy morning.

   At noon we met our friend Greg and Pam, who live near us in Michigan in Casa Grande for a tour of the Pinal County Historical Society museum in Florence, Arizona.  It is a small but interesting museum filled with artifacts and gems from this once wild west town. (A sheriff and his deputy had a shootout with each other back in the olden days. The deputy was mortally wounded and the sheriff survived his wounds after a dispute over the deputy backing away from a promise to support the sheriff’s re-election.

Petrroglyphs near Pichacho
   Florence is the home of several prisons and about 17,000 inmates, which is the largest population group in the area. The museum has a section on all the folks who have been executed in the state, complete with their prison photos and in many cases the hunk of rope they were hung with. A very macabre part of the museum. Some of the information included the last meals “enjoyed” by the condemned.

    One last meal (a man executed in 2012) was “eggplant lasagna” and kale salad. Trust me if I’m choosing a last meal it is not going to include anything healthy. They had a collection of stuffed animals made by a female on death row who was known nationally for a crime in which she killed a couple friends and then shipped their remains in a steamer trunk to California.

With still a couple hours to kill, I asked the volunteer at the museum if she knew of an out-of-the-way site where you can view 1,000-year-old petroglyphs near Picacho Peak. While we toured the museum she went to her computer and pulled up the exact address (which is a misnomer because the ancient site is at the end of a long and rough dirt road where there are no exact addresses).
Joan's latest jewelry creation

    It took a while to drive there but we saw great examples of ancient “graffiti.”  The pictures included animals, including snakes, long horn sheep and deer. It is sobering to walk the site and realize that 1,000-years before someone had been there doodling on rocks.

  It is my second time to the area, but because I was following someone there the first time it was a godsend to have the woman at the museum find the directions for me because it is basically down a couple dirt roads and what could only be described as a wash.

   After spending about a half hour looking at the ancient drawings we headed back to Casa Grande for dinner at Mimi’s Café (the same restaurant we always eat at on our way to putting the trailer in storage at the end of the season).

   We parted company and headed back to Tucson and the Titans versus Ravens football game.
  On Sunday our friends Karen and Bob joined us for church here at the Voyager and then they treated us to breakfast at the restaurant at the resort.

Joan and me at MMM Jan. 13
    We went shopping Sunday afternoon to refill our very small kitchen closets and came home and watched part of one and all of another NFL playoff game. The weather has been wonderful here, even if a little chilly at night.

    Monday (Jan. 13) I went on my first Monday hike and we headed up to Hope Camp which is really a moderate hike and a little more aggressive than most of the Monday hikes have been. It was a great hike but it was a bit much for a couple folks who probably misunderstood what Easy/Moderate means in the hiking sense.

   Once home I got cleaned up and Joan and I headed to downtown Tucson for out 49th Meet Me at Maynard’s. Next week we will get out 50th milestone pin. After the walk Joan and I went to a nearby sports bar for dinner (also the 20 percent discount for MMM’s folks) and watched the first half of the College Championship Game. We came home in time to watch the second half in our trailer.

  Forgot to mention that I have won 2 $25 gift certificates, one to a retail store and another to a local pizza place in the after drawing at Meet Me at Maynard’s. The odds are not good as there are only about 8-10 prizes and 300-400 people each week. So to win twice in a row, pretty sweet. You may notice that I am wearing the same outfit in both MMM. Just want to point out we did laundry so the clothes were clean both times.

Me with my 2nd win at Meet Me at Maynard's this year
   One of the men I met on the Monday hike wanted to know if I thought he was capable of coming with the Tuesday hike group and after hiking with him Monday it was obvious he was more than able. So he joined me and 16 others for a trip up La Milagrosa Trail. It was supposed to be a loop hike of about 7 miles but the coordinator changed it to a 10.5-mile out and back hike to a beautiful waterfall area.

    I led this hike last year and knew we were in for a grueling trek. The hike starts at about 2,800-feet and climbs to nearly 4,300-feet. That’s a little deceiving because the trailer goes up and down (sometimes severely up and down) so the combined altitude is about 2,000-feet.

    My left knee has been bothering me for several months now, but surprisingly less so when I am walking or hiking. I did make a mistake by not taking enough water and I had a severe groin cramp on the way down which because of the pain took my breath away a couple times. My friend Dave had extra water and I guzzled down the gift and it helped alleviate my cramps.  The hike was long and we didn’t get back down until after 3 p.m.

    I got home, showered and Joan and I went to the Tuesday potluck.

    I’ll try (no promises) to be a little more intentional on getting on the blog.

Friday, January 3, 2020

A snow covered trailer and a warm descent into Tucson

Flagstaff at 10 a.m. and 28 degrees

   Bottom line: We are safe and sound in Tucson, Arizona. But it wasn’t easy.

   First let’s go back to Tuesday in Tucumcari, New Mexico. I’ve already told you when had dinner at the Pow Wow Restaurant and Lizard Lounge. What we didn’t know at the time is that the place is advertised as “historic.”  I guess if you are around long enough you aren’t old, you are historic. So I guess that makes me historic too.

   The trip from Tucumcari to Flagstaff was uneventful, but we did run into some pretty stiff winds along I-40 between our night stop and Albuquerque, but the winds slowed considerably after Albuquerque.

   Also like last year we listened to the Michigan bowl game on the XM radio and unfortunately for the Wolverines the result was the same this year as last.

   The electronic highway message sign repeated last year’s holiday warning. “Drive hammered, get nailed.”

Tucson at 4 p.m. and 68 degrees
   We repeated last year’s stop at Twin Arrows Casino and Hotel so Joan could have a little fun there. Unlike last year, we booked a room and stayed there this year. The cost of the room was less than the hotel we stayed at last year and a much nicer room.

   If you go back and read last year’s blog about our stop at Twin Arrows you will see that she won $358 during our brief visit there. That must be the magic number because again Joan hit for $357 this year on a different machine. No gambling doesn’t pay, but let’s just put it this way, we left home with $500 cash for the trip and we left Twin Arrows in the morning with $830 cash.

    Oh, and we’ve spent some money on food and drinks along the way, so Joan did pretty well with her entertainment and profit this year.

   Last year, the trailer battery died (it served us well for 12 years) and we knew we needed to purchase a new one before picking up the trailer in Flagstaff. I called Camping World, which is right down the street from our storage lot in Bellemont, Arizona (near Flagstaff).

San Francisco peak from Twin Arrows casino
    So I went to the internet to find the phone number for Camping World and learned that the business closed last year after we stored our trailer. I quickly looked for another RV dealer and found one that would be open Thursday morning early.

    We arrived at RV Country in Flagstaff at precisely 8:30 a.m. and as advertised it was open and we made a quick purchase and headed on our way to the storage lot. It was hovering in the high 20s and low 30s and a pretty brisk breeze was blowing making it all the colder.

   We transferred some of our cargo into the trailer as we always do and then I set to work to remove tire covers, assemble hitch equipment and make sure we were safe to go. With the new battery the new electric hitch lift we bought last season before we left Tucson worked well.

    What was different this year was the trailer had about 6-inches of snow on the roof, which added some considerable weight to the trailer which had me a little worried.  The size of our trailer is already at the upper limit of what the Tahoe can pull and the extra weight of the snow probably put us over at least for the time being.

    But after a minor snafu when my cellphone couldn’t open the storage gate because I didn’t have cell service, we obtained another gate code from the owner and we were on our way.

    The speed of the trailer and the high winds cleared about half the snow off the roof before we started down the long hill from Flagstaff on I-17. The increasing temperatures as we descended made quick work of most of the rest of snow and ice. It was all gone by the time we hit Phoenix.

One of the more decorated RV spots at Voyager
   The wind died down considerably as we descended and that made driving much easier for the rest of the trip.

    At our Phoenix gas stop we had a little sticker shock as the gas prices were $2.85 for the cheap unleaded. Usually we find Arizona gas prices less than home, but for some reason Phoenix prices are very high. Tucson gas prices are in the $2.30 range.

    We pulled into the resort in mid-afternoon and lined up behind two other RVs who were also checking in. We noticed right away some new grounds improvements made here at Voyager in our absence.

   After check in we were led to our spot by one of the courtesy patrol who helped me back into our space. It is a very welcome service they provide.

    Once I got the trailer on our spot it came time to lift it off the Tahoe. Except our new hitch lift did not work. My Tahoe was parked half in the street and half on our space and that would not be acceptable for any length of time.

    It appeared that I was suffering from an electrical problem as every time I tried to raise or lower the hitch it would blow an inline fuse on the hitch lifter. We eventually called a mobile RV service who determined that the pipe that extends to lift and lower the hitch had become stuck. He unstuck it, we wrote him a check and we finished setting up our spot.

Joan's newest jewelry creation
    As is our custom we had dinner in the Voyager grill and because of the hitch delay we didn’t have time to grocery shop, so we will do that on Friday.

   On Friday I did a quick workout in the resort fitness center and then finished setting up our camp site. The outdoor mat is in place all the wheels are covered and the Tahoe is all cleaned out.

    We stopped at the activities office to purchase concert tickets for some friends and family who are coming to visit in February and March. Many of the shows are already sold out, but fortunately for us two season ticket holders had just called in to cancel their tickets minutes before we arrived and so we snatched up all the needed tickets.

    Joan set up our banking at the resort branch office, I set up our mail box to receive our forwarded mail and we joined the computer center so we can make copies and use their great Internet.

    Joan went to her polymer clay class and made a necklace and ear rings (see photo).

   Bob and Karen, friends from Michigan, arrived at the Voyager (they have visited us here briefly on previous visits to the area to see family) and have rented a place for the month of January. We are looking forward to spending some great times with them while they are here. With all the added traffic we have brought to the Voyager we should be getting a commission.

   We also went food shopping today and had a Walmart chicken for dinner. The process of putting everything away and getting things organized in the trailer continues but is nearly complete.

Mileage out at Tucumcari: 33878

Time out at Tucumcari: 8:25 a.m.

Mileage in at Flagstaff: 34360

Time out at Flagstaff: 8:09 a.m.

Time in to storage: 9:16 a.m.

Time out at storage: 10:10 a.m.

Mileage in at Tucson:  34630

Time in at Tucson: 2:49 p.m.