Saturday, October 29, 2016

Mesa, AZ - 95°: What Were We Thinking?

Back in Mesa. And it’s hiking time. Our first hike is traditionally on in Usery State Park. It’s shorter, has less elevation and the views are pretty good. We are so out of hiking shape when we get to Mesa that an easy hike is the one for us. This year it has been even worse. Usually we at least walk a lot in Iowa but with refrigerator, RV and Jeep problems, we have not had much time even to walk. 

It’s hot down here - the Phoenix area is setting several records as far as high temps are concerned. So: short hike, early start - that’s the way to go. Judging by the parking lot when we arrived, everyone else had the same idea. But we soon lost most of them by the time we had gotten 2 miles out and everyone else had taken another trail. When we got to the other side of the mountain, we saw only 5 others. 

One of the iconic sights here is the white rock ‘PHOENIX’ and an arrow that someone has put on a nearby mountain to show airplane pilots where the Phoenix airport is. 

Nice start to the day. Not too hot yet, sunny and back to the desert for hiking. 

I do love desert hiking and this is definitely desert here. 

An ocotillo 

We even found an ocotillo bloom along the way. 

Love how the spines catch the morning sun.

Lots of cholla with lots of little babies getting ready to jump on unsuspecting hikers who happen to brush their way. 

Nice bench to sit on and look over the valley. Thanks to Virginia from Marthaville, LA. 

The hike circles around the Pass Mountain and when we got to the other side, we had views of the mountains in the distance. 

It’s still pretty early and the sun hasn’t risen enough to highlight these mountains in their best light. Last year we were a bit later in the day and that second mountain from the right looked like this. 

Finally, we reached the pass and time for a bite to eat and a rest before we head down. From here it’s all down hill - until the last mile or so. Is this a trail? Looks like rock to me. That’s Scottsdale and Phoenix in the distance. 

OK, I said it was mostly downhill from here. Oh, sure, there are some washes that we go down into but come right out of but mostly it’s downhill. That was my memory and, as I age, my memory plays tricks. And, this time, it was a doozie. Did I remember that the last mile was uphill? Absolutely NOT. 

It was 95°. 

The sun was beating down. 

There was no shade.

My legs were screaming for relief.

But I finally found a flat rock on which I could sit. 

Ahhh. Then I spied a stop sign ahead of us amidst the cacti. Sure enough, our car was right over there. Whew, I made it. Compare how I feel now with how I started out. 

I welcomed this sight - a drinking fountain. Oops, it’s not working.

And, I even managed to smile and say ‘hello’ and ‘have a good hike’ to the young couple in the parking lot, just starting out up the trail. 

Glad I’m not them. 

Ah, first hike in the books. Now I’m in shape. Ha, Ha. Yeah, right. 

'Just because you're following  a well-marked trail, doesn't mean that whoever made it knew where they were going.' 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mesa, AZ - Keeping Busy

Well, Gary has been busy. 

A little work on the toilet. 

Oh, yes, the washer/dryer which has been on the fritz for about 4 weeks. Gary ordered a new master board and it arrived. Now to install it. He built up a platform in the bedroom to hold it, asked the neighbor next door to help him get it onto the platform so he could work on it. 

While Gary worked, I didn’t want to look like a sloth so I chose my own project. First, here’s our site. The house on the right was bought last year by Bob and Diane from British Columbia. They knew it was a fixer-upper and Bob is hard at work on it. The house to the left is Smitty’s and Dolores’ from Orange City, IA. We visited them in August on our way back from Alaska. They dated in high school but married others. About 10 years ago, after both of their spouses had died, they reconnected, married, sold Dolores’s home in Val Vista and bought another. They are fun to talk with and we’ve lived close to them for the 4 years we’ve been coming to Val Vista.

OK, now - my project. Several days ago, I was trying to back into our spot and ran over that white pyramid next to Smitty’s house. Big black tire marks on it. Gotta paint it. (You know why that pyramid is there, right? So people don’t run into their home. Sure did the job here) So, I bought some paint in Home Depot and went to work. First I scraped the little pyramid and the one that they have on the other corner of their home. They painted up nice. Next: see that white brick rim around the base of the tree? Well, it’s looking pretty tacky. The rest of my project is to paint that. But, it took lots more scraping and paint removal. 

Now, here’s what it looks like. Lots better. 

It’s not all fun and games. We also wanted to get some walking in since we’ve missed our daily walk for quite a while. 

It’s close to Halloween and homes are decorated to the teeth. 

Since I seem to have focused on pictures of Gary for this blog, I was reviewing some old pictures and found these - the first selfies. He was in the Navy for 4 years, many of them on a carrier in the Atlantic. Of course, once sailors leave shore they can do things that sailors on shore cannot: like grow beards. Here’s Gary before and after with one picture in between. Some of the original selfies. 

Here’s he’s got the cool Fu Manchu moustache but has added a ruffle to his chin. Gary took these pictures with a film camera (imagine that!!), scanned them and put them into our digital collection. These pictures are old, really old. 

Now, we’re getting more fluff.

And, finally, he’s grown a full beard. 

When he got ashore and I picked him up at the base, I didn’t know who was in the car. I recognized the voice, but the face? Whoo-eee.

'Always walk tall and keep your head up - unless you're walking in a cow pasture.'

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mesa, AZ - Cruisin' Down the Rim

Yesterday we cruised down to Mesa from Holbrook along one of our favorite highways. We are on the Mogollon Rim and in the forest. 

Lots of people from the Phoenix area in the hot valley come up here for the summer. We can certainly see why. Tall trees, green grass, cool temperatures. 

Then the highway curves, winds and swirls down along side the rim to the valley below. 

We arrived at Val Vista, checked in, parked, unpacked and here we are for 2 months. Whew. 

The next morning we awoke and it was light out already. Well, it’s really Pacific Daylight time here since AZ doesn’t observe Mountain Daylight time. Confusing? It sure is, We had to change our watches twice yesterday to account for the 2-hour difference between New Mexico Daylight time and Arizona regular time. 

Nice leisurely beakfast - about time. We watched our neighbors pack up and leave. Ahhh, we get to stay for a while. 2 months + 8 days. Whoo-eee. What a thrill. We have projects but we can also spend some time relaxing. We did get to relax a bit in Iowa but we always had the little refrigerator cloud looming over our heads. 

I went up to pay and stood in like with all the others who had arrived over the weekend but the line moved fast when the Mgr of the Service desk came out. Oops, I forgot to take a check in - they will take the deposit in credit card but not the payment. I also checked the library and brough back 3 books and saw a few others I might like to try. 

Then the fun began. I cleaned the front of the RV while Gary emptied the car of all the stuff he brought from the storage unit that he wants to scan this winter.

'There's never a shortage of good horse sense. Of course, it's mostly the horses that have it.'

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Lacona, NM - Into New Mexico

We woke up at 6:30 for an early start. Then Gary checked the weather. It’s 37 degrees but ‘feels like’ 30. Must be a bit of wind out there. It’s supposed to get up to the 80’s today in NM but we’re putting on sweatshirts, long sleeved shirts, thick socks and jeans now. Then we learned that ‘first light’ wasn’t until 7:30. Yep, we must be on the far western edge of the Midwest time zone. But soon, we’ll be in the mountain time zone, just over the border into NM. And, we’ll gain an hour. 

Ah, the colorful sculpted rocks of the desert. And, where you have a beautiful example of the beauty of nature, you often have a beautiful example of man's ability to turn it to a profit. 

We ate breakfast and began our closing tasks. I then decided that I needed to clean the windshield that had been splattered by insects when we drove in late afternoon yesterday. One grasshopper hopped wrong and found himself in a yellow goopy mess all over the front of our RV, 2 sq inches of yellow goopy mess. I looked over at the RV parked next to us and notice that the owner had also started washing his windshield. Maybe I’ve started a trend. But I was so glad that I had cleaned it since our view so so much better all day. 

Another uneventful trip through Texas in to New Mexico and then on past Albuquerque to a small town called Lacona. Why here? Well the price for a night with full hook-ups (50A) is - get this - $11.56, tax included. Whoo-eee. Our kind of price. And, that’s why lots of others are here. We got the 2nd of the 4 pull-throughs and hooked up the electricity, changed into shorts and headed over to the Dairy Queen for a blizzard. 

Then our walk. We took the trail from the Casino to the jr/sr high school, past this for a mile. At 1 1/2 mi, a guy driving by, stopped to ask if we had seen any mountain lions. Yeah, right. Mountain lions? Oh, boy. Yep, he told us that they were seen quite regularly in the area. We quickly finished our 2 miles, turned around and 4 miles later we settled in for the night.

'the quickest way to feel rich is to figure out what you can do without.'

Friday, October 21, 2016

Dalhart, TX - Bustling Across Kansas and Oklahoma

OK, we're finally on our way. But, here's our last week.

10/11 - we took the RV in for routine maintenance and found out that we had a water pump that needed to be ordered and replaced. We changed our windshield replacement from 10/12 to 10/17. We extended our stay in Altoona.

10/13 - we took the RV back for the water pump replacement. After that we went to one of Gary's aunt's visitation.

10/15 - we headed up to Fort Dodge to say our good-byes to my brother, Jack, and to work on his shower stall.

10/16 - We visited with Shirley and Jerry who will be taking off for their winter jaunt to Texas on 10/20

10/17 - we took the RV in to Kinman's for the windshield replacement. We stayed over night there to let the glue (my word, not theirs) dry.

10/18 - we took the Jeep in for routine maintenance and some other 'small' problems that Gary had noticed and found out that there were some major problems and that parts had to be ordered. We left the Jeep and drove the RV back to the campground. We extended our stay in Altoona to 10/20.

10/20 - we got the RV ready for travel, drove to Jeep service, test drove the Jeep, paid (WHOO-EEE - bigger problems than we thought), hitched up the Jeep and took off.

That first day we drove to Cassoway Service Center along Interstate 35 in Kansas. big service center in the middle of the interstate with gas, fast food restaurants, a small store and a huge dirt parking lot where we have stayed before.

Up early in the Cassoway Service Center - well, I was up much earlier than I wanted to be with the semi running continually next to us and the whoosh of the diesel every minute. The parking lot had filled almost to full over night. When we had arrived we were the first but semis started streaming in about 8:00 and 11:00. Of course, I wasn’t watching them stream in - I was in bed. But when we woke up and I looked out I found us surrounded with semis. Last year when we parked in this lot, we had about 10 others join us. 

Funny, in 2015, when we got to the toll booth in Wichita when we left the toll road, we had to pay a $10 fee for staying over night. They looked at the hours on our ticket and charged us for parking over night. $10. Not a problem. But we saw no signs anywhere near the parking lot where we stayer nor any mention on the toll ticket so we questioned it and got our money refunded. This time we knew about the $10 and went with it. When we got to the toll booth ready to pay our $10, they didn’t charge us for the over night. Hmmm. I wonder if, for safety on the toll road, they have decided not to charge anyone for staying overnight and that’s why there were so many semis in the lot this year compared to this year. 

Back to this year, we did actually get up about 6:30 so that we could get another early start for the trip across Kansas, Oklahoma and into the panhandle of Texas. Pretty unremarkable journey. We took route 54 through Kansas, through the panhandle of Oklahoma and into Texas. Flat, brushy and seemingly unoccupied for miles on end. Nope, there are fences with fancy entryways, windmills, dirt roads heading off into the hills, cattle grazing on the sparse grass and a tree every now and then.

Long trains and their whistles as they wind their way across the vast plains of America.

At one point we stopped in a town for lunch. I walked to the Loves for a soda and was talking with the clerk about the weather. I mentioned that we were heading to AZ and she asked if we were from Iowa. Huh? Do I look like I have corn cobs in my ears? No, she said, she had met a lot of people passing through to Arizona and they all seemed to come from Iowa. 

Hey, here’s another happy RV’er on the way to - wherever. 

Crops are coming in now and the grain elevators are packed to the gills. Lots of grain just piled on the land and covered with plastic. Must have been a good harvest in a time of low prices. 

Note the different colors of the grain in this pile. Looks like a giant hour glass with the different colored sand particles dropping down. But it also looks like the red rocks in the area. 

377 miles later, we had planned to stay over night in a vacant parking lot spot next to a Senior Citizens Center in Dahlert. We got to town, found the center but the parking lot was full with the new Methodist building. Huge and it must have taken the whole parking lot. OK, now where? So, we backtracked about 2 miles and here we are in the Corral RV Park. $25 for full hook-ups but we used only the electricity. Oh, yeah, we used the wi-fi and got some updates. 

First view of the mountains. Looks like we're on our way.

'The best way to break a bad habit is to drop it.' 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Altoona, IA - Sisyphus

First thing we did was to cancel the Kinman appointment to put the new windshield in. Shucks. Since our anti-freeze is leaking like a sieve, we could never have gotten that far without hurting the engine. Then over to Freightliner to discuss the problem. Oh, just buy 2 quarts of anti-freeze and get here tomorrow. Hmmm. 

Then back home. Believe me when I say it’s cold - well, not really cold, but nippy - we’ve been snowbirds too long. You know, when you’ve spent your winters somewhere south for quite a few years, 45 degrees is cold. And then it was really windy out here on the prairie, then the rain started. Ah, well. We were inside. 

Do I get a bit stressed about all the problems we’ve had recently? Well, yeah. I get tired of watching Gary always working on the RV, always taking something apart to see what is going wrong or putting it back together. I’d like to see him have a bit of time off sometime to do something that he wants to do.

While he was taking apart the closet and the entry points to the engine so they can get at the water pump tomorrow, I got the Canon paperwork ready so we can send it in to either get repaired or get a new camera. Oh, my, a new camera. The guy on the phone said this was one of the options. They do sell refurbished cameras so I know they have these. But it seems a bit pricey to fix this camera which now sells for less online than I paid for it. 

Then I filled in our absentee ballots. I voted for the President & Vice President and the senator. I also voted for some of the ballot initiatives and even an amendment or two for the state constitution. In one case, they wanted a ceiling of 36% on loans. I voted for that but, heavens that seems so high. In another we voted to amend the constitution to allow for a commission to re-align voting districts and take it out of the hands of the legislature. 3 Republicans, 3 Democrats and 3 Independents. But - are there even 3 Democrats or 3 Independents in SD? 

We also have our third funeral of the month. Gary comes from a large family: his mother had  8 brothers and sisters and his father had 12. Unfortunately, they are getting older and funerals are to be expected. So, tell me, why does the word ‘funeral’ begin with ‘fun’? Yes, it’s ‘fun’ to see everyone and catch up on their lives, but we sure miss those who have died. Two of the funerals from Gary's mother's side were on the same weekend.

Here are the cousins from Gary's generation. Unfortunately, we seldom see them but enjoy them so much when we do.

We all went out to the cemetery afterwards for the internment. Cathy, Gary and I then visited the graves of Lug and Darlene, their parents. Cathy ensures that there is always a nice saddle on their stone. This smaller country cemetery allows this. My parents are buried in a larger cemetery in Fort Dodge and the rules for flowers are much different.

Gary's aunts are from his parent's generation. I met them when I married Gary, 43 years ago. Because we drove back to Fort Dodge, IA from where we lived in New England for the holidays, we used to attend the family get-togethers between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Big gatherings, lots of hugs and kisses, Santa Clause, $5.00 gifts, tons of good food and a chance to reconnect with those we seldom saw. In my mind, his aunts, Dolores and Marian, below, will always be in their 60's and 70's, when I first met them. You know, we cousins are now that age. Funny how that happens.

The third funeral was from his father's side and was so unexpected. Dawn was able to get back to Des Moines for that and we went out to dinner at a local restaurant and dessert at Cathy and Tom's home.

Oops, Tom's rushing in to get the next picture. Don't worry, Tom, I've got my camera.

And, of course, the selfie since Tom and Cathy's cat, Tigger, was too busy eating to take the picture. I think Tom held the camera and Dawn pushed the button. Teamwork.

Tigger like to have an audience when he eats so Cathy and Tom have a small stool by his dish so they can be there. Now, that's a cat who rules the roost. 

'Nature  gave us al something to fall back on, and sooner or later, we all land flat on it.'

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Altoona, IA - Gary in the Shower

No, this is not that kind of blog. Gary might be in the shower but fully clothed and working hard with his tools at the ready.

It's our last trip up to Fort Dodge and Gary wants to finish up Jack’s shower but is thinking that if Jack wants to do it himself, he’s not going to fight it. But, Jack was happy to have Gary do it. He knows that Gary will do a good job and he’s got it started. Then, instead of hovering over him, Jack did his own thing: exercising, working on the deck. Just what Gary wanted. 

Since we had eaten bagels on the way up to FD, we weren’t hungry and Jack gave us some yogurt later in the afternoon. I meanwhile, had gotten in a 3 mile walk around his neighborhood. This was obviously before I stubbed my toe on Jack’s Exercycle. Metal - boy, is my toe black and blue. Well, actually, there’s a lot of red for the blood vessels that broke. 

Gary had lots of trouble with the piping in Jack’s shower since the pipes seem to have been stripped and they don’t screw together like they should. He finally got it all done about 6:00. We had planned to leave Fort Dodge much earlier but . . .  Oh, well. Gar got it done right. 

We had dinner at Subway and got home at 8:30, a bit too late to do the utilities and get the RV ready for travel tomorrow to Freightliner. 

Another late day.

'Beware the pessimist: the sort of person who hangs around the train depot and tells everyone the train 'is never going to get here' When it chugs into view, he says: 'They'll never get that thing stopped.' When it stops, he says, 'Nope, they'll never get it started again.' When it fires up and heads off, he says: 'Well that's the last we'll ever see of that thing.'

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Altoona, IA - Favorite Alaska Pictures

We have an 8 picture frame in our RV and every year I change the pictures in it to reflect our adventures of the past year. Well, Alaska gave us lots of adventures and things to photograph. I’ve been reviewing all our pictures and came up with these and now I’ve got to winnow them down to 8. 

The first is when we flew up to Prudhoe Bay where the oil fields are. Now, I’ll admit that this trip cost a bit more than I might have spent except that our friends, Shirley and Jerry, had made this trip the previous year and recommended it. Their philosophy was that this might be their only trip up to Alaska and they wanted to make it a great one. I thought that philosophy a good one so signed us up for this trip. While we were up there we made it up to the Arctic Ocean. Now, whenever I show people some of our pictures of our trip, I always start with this one. Bare feet in the icy Arctic. We’re wearing long underwear, down jackets, wool caps and about 3 other layers of clothes. We’re on a rocky shore in icy water. Wow, was it ever cold. We were there long enough to got this one picture and, luckily, it was a good one. 

The next picture was when we took a glacier hike. When we signed up for this one, we never knew it was dangerous. Just a hike, you know. But our guide began listing the rules for the hike: if you drop something, don’t reach for it until it stops, stick your crampons hard into the ice so you won’t slide, walk wide so you don’t clip your pant leg in the crampons and fall, follow me. Well, I was scared silly the whole time. I enjoyed the hike much more AFTER I had gotten off the ice. And, again, I always show this picture when people ask about out trip to Alaska. 

We hiked in Denali National Park and it was a super hike. Great weather: sunny and warm, great views the whole hike, a bit of a challenge and long enough to get a good hike in. 2 days later they closed this trail because a bear had come near several hikers. No one was hurt but the rangers thought it a good idea to close the trail. We were above the tree line so the view was a 360°. Here you can even see Denali in the background behind Big Gar. I like this one so much that it is now the screen saver on my computer.

We took a cruise from Seward and it was so cool. Again, we took the longest cruise available so we could see the most glaciers and the most wildlife. We saw orcas and humpback whales, puffins, seals, sea lions, waterfalls and glaciers, glaciers, glaciers. A small boat so we got better views than on of those huge boats with hundreds on it. Everyone on the boat took turns sitting in the bow of the boat with Northwestern Glacier in the background.

We took many hikes while we were in Alaska. Given the rain that Alaska gets, it would be hard to hike in the sun every time. Sure enough, we had planned a hike and noticed fog as we got into the car, drizzle as we drove up the mountain and rain as we started up the trail. Pretty cool hike though up to a mountain lake where we saw a paddle boarder gliding across the lake. This must be why we have Gore-tex raincoats and pants. 

We took a flight out of Valdez up to the ice field above the city. The forecast was for 17 straight days of rain so we took the first day available which was foggy and cloudy but not rainy. Because of the fog and drizzle, we never made it up to the ice fields but we got to the front edge of the glaciers. Here we are on the ‘shore’ of the glacier where it has melted. Glassy water, reflections of the mountains across the water, a small ‘ice berg’ on the rocky shore. A perfect helicopter ride. 

This is Exit Glacier in Seward, the one we hiked on when we were scared silly. We wanted to see where we had hiked and took the trail next to the glacier on a lower trail up to the glacier’s leading edge. When we hiked ON the glacier, we were above the brown hill cutting into the glacier on the right hand side. Interestingly, the glacier used to cover the ground we are now standing on but, over the last hundred years has retreated as the temperatures have gotten warmer.  We don't usually get a lot of photos of us together (do we not get along) so this trip, I made an effort to get some. 

Alaska is filled with mountains. We flew over the massive snow-covered Brooks Range on our way up to Prudhoe Bay and took a 2-day drive back to Fairbanks where our RV was. In the middle we crossed the Brooks Range of mountains. We started out in a snowstorm with several inches of snow and in the mountains it was a beautiful drive as we headed over the pass. 

And, of course there are the animals. You know you are not in Iowa any more when you see the moose, the sea otters and the bears. My favorite is this shot of this moose, looking back at us as if saying: ‘Aren’t I the cutest moose you’ve ever seen? Check with my agent for special appearances.’ 

And, this bear checking us out as we drive by. We were on the road at 8:00 pm and found this bear forraging for food as he wandered by the highway. There was no other traffic on the road this late at night and we stopped to get a good shot. Then Gary began driving to get closer to it and, when it looked back at us, I was taking pictures with my right hand and rolling the window up with my left. 

And, the sea otters. Cute. Floating on their back as they eat dinner. 

But one of my favorite pictures was this one. As the sea gull flew over us, I snapped a few shots, not having any idea what I might have gotten. Of course, one of the shots got only a bit of the right wing. But this one captured the gull perfectly. Every now and then I’m lucky. 

Now, I need to winnow these down to 8. I’m in trouble, I like them all.