Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Busy Week

We didn't take many pictures this week, but that doesn't mean weren't busy. On Monday three friends came up from Tucson. Dick and Nina have been friends since we lived in Granby, Colorado, in the late 1980s. Sharon was John's parish administrator at St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church in Cherry Hills Village. Dick and Nina later moved to the Denver area, where they became good friends with Sharon. Dick and Nina now live in Tucson and Sharon came down to enjoy watching the Colorado Rockies at Spring Training.

We spent some time in the VIP campground, sitting in the shade of a mesquite tree and creosote bush. After we gave them a short version of our Casa Grande Ruins, we drove to Florence for dinner at the LB Inn. We talked and laughed for a long time in this busy restaurant. As we left, we asked the hostess to take a picture of all of us out front.

Wednesday we helped 32 4th-, 5th- and 6th-grade students from Santa Rosa School on the Tohono O'Odham reservation learn about the Ruins. Working with school children isn't our strongest suit, but this was a really good group of pupils and we enjoyed working with them. Here is a picture of some of the 4th graders as they toured the museum.

On Thursday Dave and Alice came to visit. John has been friends with Dave since grade school. Dave met Alice when the girl John was dating in college introduced her good friend to Dave. They spend their winters in Gold Canyon here and it was good to spend time talking and going to Tag's here in Coolidge for lunch. It was a great visit, especially since we haven't spent time with them for many years. Unfortunately, we didn't take any pictures that day.

Today John con-celebrated mass at St. Michael's Episcopal Church here in Coolidge. We have been attending there since we arrived in January, but we have only been able to become involved when our work schedule changed and we have Sundays off. Our life-style doesn't lend itself to John serving in a local congregation, so it has been a real blessing to get to know the people here and for John to be able to function at the altar.

We have just one more week here, then we can begin to scratch our hitchitch and travel on down the road.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Last Week Here in Arizona

Tuesday we met Ron and Barbara at San Tan Mountain Regional Park to go hiking. First they gave us a bag of oranges, grapefruit and lemon that they harvested in their backyard. John took a picture of the fruit by an agave that is growing next to our trailer.

Here you can see the Goldmine Mountain behind us as we started our climb.

This hike is nothing like the one we made together up Picacho Peak, but it did give us a workout. And we never stopped talking as we hiked.

Arizona has had an amazing amount of rain (for Arizona) so far this year. Everything is very green.

The reservoirs are nearly full, even before the snow starts to melt and flow down from the mountains in the north. And on the evening news we hear about fears of wildfires when the heat of summer arrives and all that greenery dries out. But it sure is beautiful now.

The wildflowers are just beginning to bloom. We saw some small yellow and lavender flowers. I took pictures, but they were fuzzy. This photo of an orange poppy came out pretty good.

Two years ago we saw thousands of poppies, maybe millions, in southern California. I blogged about them then. That fall when we were in Arizona, I was told Picacho Peak had been covered with them in the spring. Maybe we will see that in a few weeks.

It was spring break for at least some of the Arizona school districts last week, so a lot of other people were also hiking at San Tan Park. At one stop, a passing hiker offered to take a photo of all four of us. Don't we look hail and hearty?

You might think hiking is what keeps us all so slim and trim. Certainly not when we go to Pizza Hut and pig out on a pan pizza supreme. But it was a great end to a wonderful time with friends.

Earlier in the week we were outside the trailer talking to other volunteers when one of them spotted a yellow bird in a tree.

When John climbed up on the roof of our trailer to take pictures, it didn't fly away. That made us think it might be a parakeet that had escaped from a cage in someone's home, since it wasn't afraid of people. It did finally fly away, but not for over 15 or 20 minutes.

This Mourning Dove is resting on the arm of our awning. He (or she) seems very comfortable there. We have lots of them living around us.

Monday, March 15, 2010

W.A.C.C. Tour

Last Friday we went on the most interesting tour. We were among 19 Casa Grande Ruins volunteers who took a field trip to the Western Archaeological and Conservation Center in Tucson. That is where the National Park Service stores and preserves museum items for NPS facilities in all of the western states.

First we toured the archives. Khaleel explained what kinds of items they keep. Friday they were scanning items from the Little Bighorn National Monument in Montana. It was interesting to us because we spent two months near there last summer. They showed us a muster list for the 7th Cavalry, which had been commanded by General George A. Custer. I know you can't really read it, but this is the actual document, written over 100 years ago.

They also had several photographs. Here you can see General Custer and his staff.

Aren't we a good looking group? Most of us were taking pictures, either with small digital cameras or high-tech cell phones.

After the Archives, we visited the two conservation laboratories. Here is Dana talking about an old basket they were restoring.

Audrey was working on pieces of cotton textile that are over 1,000 years old. Imagine a piece of cloth lasting that long! She takes the small pieces and puts them in high humidity for a while to relax the fibers. Then she can mount them so they can be stored and examined safely.

This is a pot being reassembled. On the table behind it you can see the map that was drawn to show how the pieces should be put together.

I think I was most fascinated or impressed with this item. Yucca fibers were twisted or spun into a cord and then turkey feathers were wrapped around the cord. Eventually the weaving became a blanket--not unlike a modern down-filled coat.

We only have a small museum here at the Ruins and I have often wondered what other artifacts were found here when the place was excavated. We sure don't have much on display. We learned that they have a lot of items from Casa Grande at W.A.C.C. There they have the facilities to safely store them. This is a pottery bowl decorated with red birds.

Kim is the registrar at W.A.C.C. That means she is in charge of keeping track of everything there. She gave our group a tour of the artifact storage area. Here she is explaining this huge basket that was made to store grain.

This is a turquoise-encrusted item. In my tours I tell people the Sonoran Desert dwellers traded with others to obtain items not available here, including turquoise. It was exciting to see what they did with that turquoise.

We were able to see many of the Hohokam artifacts that are kept at the Tucson center. They also have many items from other cultures and more recent times. This is one of many pieces of furniture that was made by the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) in the Southwest.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lunch with Friends

Thursday we met our friends Marcia and Bob at BeDillon's Restaurant in Casa Grande, a city about 20 miles from where we are staying in Coolidge. Marcia and Bob are spending the winter in Gold Canyon, a community east of Phoenix. We got to know them when we all were attending the Church of the Transfiguration in Evergreen, Colorado. They still live in that community. From Christmas letters we knew all of us were spending the winter in Arizona. It was so good to spend some time with them.

BeDillon's is located in an old house off the beaten path in Casa Grande. They serve Mexican themed dishes like Mexican lasagna and fish tacos, as well as American standards like French dip sandwiches. We enjoyed our meal, and even more the three hours we spent talking.

The restaurant has a patio and cactus garden. It is wonderful.

Even more amazing is a small museum. Really, I think someone cleaned out the barn by putting items in old display cases where the public could see them.

These gourds hang at the entrance to the museum.

These are very old stone tools, including arrow straighteners.

Is this an espresso machine made of copper?

Aren't these baskets and small items woven of horse hair pretty?

These are hand-made carpenter's tools. John's grandfather made his own tools and they looked like these.

Someone collected campaign buttons. The only ones I recognized were from the 1960 presidential campaign between Barry Goldwater (of Arizona) and John F. Kennedy.

These are identified as Hohokam game balls. We know they played ballgames in the Hohokam villages, so that may be a correct description.

We are so glad Marcia and Bob introduced us to this delightful place.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's the People

No matter where we are, it's the people who make the difference. The other volunteers, the permanent staff, the public, when we have contact with them. We have been here at Casa Grande Ruins for over two months now, plus six weeks last winter. We know all of the staff, as well as the volunteers. The volunteer parking compound, the VIP room, the visitor center--all of them feel like home. It really feels like family.

We are very private people. This is the first time we have been parked with five other couples who are also volunteers and we wondered what it would be like. At some volunteer sites, there are nightly campfires or weekly pot luck dinners. We sure weren't interested in that. Thankfully, we have had only one cocktail hour gathering,

one potluck and one dinner outing to a neighborhood restaurant. That is reasonable and helps us feel like we are a team.

At three of our volunteer assignments, we were the only VIPs. At one site in Oregon, the closest house was one-half mile away. At one state park in Texas, several nights mid-week we were the only people in the park. We love that kind of solitude or isolation.

But whether we live near others or far away, work with a large team or only a few, it is the people who make the difference. Twice, we couldn't wait to get away from the staff. And in at least one of those instances, the feeling was probably mutual. They merely tolerated having volunteers and we never hit it off with them.

In other cases, the people we worked with were so nice that we loved the assignment, even though the work itself wasn't really that great.

The people are also what make the difference as we live on the road. We have gotten to know other RVers as we encountered them on the road or as we read their blogs. We keep in contact, we make arrangements to get together. Last winter, we drove to Yuma to visit Bruce and Nancy, who we had met as we traveled through the Maritime Provinces of Canada. We also visited David and Joanna at Organ Pipe National Monument. We first met them along the California coast on our way to Oregon. They came here to see us last month. Just last week, Ron and Barbara, who we learned about from Barbara's blog, came by the Monument to show their visiting family this local tourist site. They also picked up some plexiglass that we have no further use for, but Ron could put to good use.

As I said in an earlier blog, we also me a couple, Jim and Jeri, for lunch last week. We worked with them last summer. And we had hoped to get together with Nan and Norm, who we worked with in Colorado last summer and who are also in Arizona for the winter. That hasn't worked out.

This year we also have made contact with people here in Arizona that we had known in Colorado, as well. By the time we move on, we will have met with at least three couples from home.

We may be private, solitary people. But people make a difference in our lives, wherever we are.

Friday, March 05, 2010

What a Mess!

Today we drove to Mesa to meet friends for lunch. Earlier in the day, just about dawn, a tour bus was involved in an accident on I-10, south of Phoenix. It was a really serious accident, with six people dead and several in serious to critical condition as of the evening news. We were glad we didn't have to drive up I-10 to get to the restaurant.

As we drove north we experienced heavier traffic than normal on Hwy 87. Eventually, we were caught in a 1/4 mile or longer stream of traffic just crawling toward a stop-light. We wondered why so many 18-wheelers were in the left-hand lane as we approached the light. Finally it dawned on us when we saw a detour sign. I-10 must still be closed and these were the trucks that had been forced to leave the interstate and make a long detour through Chandler to get back on the highway. And this was about 11:30 am.

We had a delightful lunch at Famous Dave's BBQ with Jim and Jeri, a couple we worked with at 7th Ranch RV Camp in Montana last summer. Their home base is Arizona and we finally connected for a visit. We had a great time talking about our lives since then and our plans for the future. Of course, I forgot to take their picture, but here is one I took last September.

We finally said goodbye about 2:30 or later. To our amazement, the traffic was still heavy. The Chandler police were still directing traffic at three intersections, trying to keep the detoured trucks and cars moving as smoothly as possible. We must have driven by a 4/10 of a mile back-up where the vehicles were turning back toward I-10. Hwy 87 was a mess. We were so glad we were not in the stream that had to make the entire detour. We learned at 6 pm that--finally--one lane of the west-bound road had just reopened.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Soothing Sounds

One part staying here at Casa Grande Ruins that I really enjoy is the soothing sounds of the Mourning Doves and Great-Horned Owls. A large number of these doves live here at the Ruins.

Before dawn each morning I can hear them cooing to each other. Again in the evening. They may do the same mid-day, but I don't notice them because of other sounds. They build nests in the forks of trees and in the rafters of the maintenance compound parking area. Last year one pair built their nest in our 5th-wheel hitch. The eggs had hatched just before we left here and we had to take the nest out of the hitch and move it to a nearby tree. I wonder if the babies survived?

Another soothing sound comes from the Great-Horned Owls that live in the roof over the Great House.

late in the afternoon, I hear them saying "whoo, whoo, whoo." It is a really peaceful sound.

During the hours the monument is open, we have Native American flute music playing. That music reminds me of the doves and owls.

This may be a week we want to forget. Sunday John started to come down with a cold. He felt bad enough by Monday that he stayed home Monday and Tuesday. I went in and led tours those two days. But by the end of the day yesterday, I was feeling kind of bad. Today I plan to rest all day and see if I can fight off that same cold.