Thursday, March 31, 2011

Home Improvements

For way more than a year, the kitchen faucet hasn't been working correctly. It was supposed to swivel from one sink to another, but if we did that, it leaked. Finally, during our last week in Coolidge, we bought a new faucet. Thursday John installed it. This is the sort of work he hates. He was sure the job would take hours and hours and maybe require a call to an RV technician. But here it is. It moves easily. Hopefully, it won't leak. And the job only took an hour. And here is a very happy John, showing off his handiwork.
Back in February, we had screens installed on the windows of the main living area in the RV. They really help cut the heat from the sun shining there. We can see out, rather than having to cover the windows with foil during the heat of the day. However, they also really cut down on the light indoors. The screens have to be removed when we travel, and we are enjoying the bright interior. In the future, we will probably only put them on one side of the trailer, where the afternoon sun shines, during long stays. It is too much trouble to put them up for just a few days.

What a Hike!

Tuesday we hiked the Hugh Norris Trail in Saguaro National Park. The ocotillo is blooming profusely. We have never seen so many flowers. It's good the scenery was so beautiful. It distracted us from the pain in our legs, caused by all the steps we had to climb. Maybe even more steps than ocotillo flowers. The section of the trail that we hiked was 2.7 miles one way. Steps like these were a constant for maybe half of that distance. First we went up. Then we had to come back down. Both were hard on us. And when there were no steps, there was mainly an uphill climb (or downhill, depending on our direction). It was a great hike. But we won't be redoing that trail for a while. Living in an RV, we only have 7 steps to climb. We are out of practice. I guess it is good for us to do it, however.

Expected and Unexpected

In our first three days in Tucson, we met with two sets of friends--one expected, the other unexpected. Monday afternoon we were walking around Justin's Diamond J RV Park. All of a sudden, a truck stops next to us and a woman jumps out to say hello. It was Jo-Anna Kikel. She and her husband, David, have been staying here for two months. waiting for the purchase of a house to go through.

We first met them in 2008 in an RV park in Klamath, along the northern California coast. During the rainy days we both spent parked on soggy grass, we became acquainted. They were heading to Alaska, so we got together to share some of our experiences on our trip to that beautiful state.

Since then, we have seen them at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where they were volunteering, and at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, during our stay there in 2010. And here we were, all in the same spot.

This is what it is like, living on the road. You run into people you have met before in other places. In 2006, during our trip to the Maritime Provinces of Canada, we met Bruce and Nancy in a park in Ottawa, Ontario. Then we found we were all staying in the same park in outside Quebec City. Next, they were staying across the road from our RV Park in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. Guess who was parked four rows away on Prince Edward Island? And while shopping for groceries near Margaret's Bay, NS, Nancy walked up to us and said, where are you staying now? We were all in the same park again. And none of that was planned.

We are always wondering what old friend we will cross paths with next.

Not all meetings are unexpected. We knew that Dick and Nina are living in Tucson and emailed them when we arrived, trying to arrange a lunch date. To our surprise, we are parked only two miles from their home. We had a great Mexican lunch with them at Los Nopales Restaurant.

Monday, March 28, 2011

We're Off to Tucson

We have finished our volunteer assignment at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument and this morning we drove out the gates, headed for Tucson. We drove no more than 55-60 miles to Justin's Diamond J RV Park, just south of the city. We had read good reviews of the park in blogs we follow and at RV Park Reviews, a web site that we find very helpful when choosing where to stay. Our site is large, but we will wait to see how we feel about this spot.

We enjoyed our time at the monument, especially the opportunity to lead tours. We both became very interested in the story of the Hohokam culture that developed there between 300 and 1450 AD. It was fun to share that with visitors.

We also enjoyed worshiping at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Coolidge. We have developed a friendship with Fr. Bob Kley, the priest in charge there, and so John was able to participate in the service, con-celebrating each week, preaching, and serving as chief celebrant twice. That was a real blessing for him, and for me. Probably the only thing I have missed in retirement was his leading our worship in church each week.

Yesterday, was John's last time to celebrate this year.

Afterward, we had lunch at Mt. Athos Restaurant in Florence with Bob. Our waitress took our photo in front of the photo of Mount Athos in Greece.

During our drive to Justin's today, Cairn (the name we have given our GPS), directed us to turn on Ajo Road, pronounced Aah-Jo (as in Josephine). After saying that several times, she finally got it right, Aah-ho. How did the computerized voice realize it was wrong? Often, she says Bull-ee-vard for the word Boulevard. We need to translate at times.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Babies

Every morning we listen to doves waking up around us. As the sun sets, numerous--maybe nearly 100--doves come to spend the night in the mesquite tree next to our RV. If we happen to go to that side of the trailer after dark, the noise of all of those birds flying away is amazing. This is the tree where they spend the night.

And now the doves are trying to multiply--maybe they are like rabbits? In a nearby tree this mother dove is sitting on a nest.

Two years ago I took pictures of a mother dove with babies in a tree near the Visitor Center.

But not all doves are smart enough to build their nests on a stationary object like a tree. Earlier this week one kept sitting on the front of our truck and John wondered if she was laying an egg. I said, "Surely not. She doesn't have a nest there." Well, I was wrong. The next morning, this is what we saw. Not much of a nest, but, without a doubt an egg.

And the next morning, a little more nest and two eggs!

We can't leave the truck parked till the eggs hatch. What to do? Today, John moved the nest and eggs into a small plastic tray and placed that in a creosote bush. He used tongs so his scent wouldn't be on the eggs.

Will Mama find her eggs in the bush and care for them till they hatch? We don't know, but this location is certainly better than them flying off somewhere as we drive down the road.

On a related note, there is a pair of Great Horned Owls that live in the roof over Casa Grande Ruins. They have been sitting on eggs in the nest for several weeks and within the last week or so, one or more baby owls have been born. We just wish we could see them from the ground, but they are too high up.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Alternative is Worse

I know that, but I hate getting old. I can run three miles, three times a week. I can do weight training. I try to take 10,000 steps (5 miles) almost every day. But if I drop something on the ground, it is ugly to watch me try to squat down and pick it up. Like I said, I hate getting old.

First it was my eyes: I had perfect vision till I was 35 years old. Then my eyes lost their elasticity and they couldn’t change shape to see things up close. When my arms grew too short for me to hold something with small type far enough away to read it, I had to break down and get reading glasses.

Now the bottom of my foot isn’t as elastic as it once was. The large piece of tissue on the bottom of my foot hurts and keeps me from running and standing unless I stretch my foot and calf muscles several times a day and wear special orthotic inserts in my shoes. This malady is called plantar fasciitis.

Skin that used to be smooth as satin, now look more like crepe paper

I take a low dose aspirin each day, per doctor’s orders. Doesn’t everyone over the age of 50 do the same? And when I bump my arm or hand the slightest bit against something sharp, I quickly find a red splotch—we call that an old person mark. I remember seeing those marks on my mother’s arms. Am I really that old already?

An ad for some pharmaceutical product proclaims, “a body at rest remains at rest; a body in motion remains in motion." I try very hard to keep my body in motion. I am quickly bored if I have to sit still very long. But nothing works as well or as easily as it used to. Like I said, I hate getting old.

And it isn’t just my body that has aged. My mind doesn’t remember as well or think as fast as it did when I was in my 20s or 30s or 40s. But I guess I don’t really want to be in my 20s or 30s or 40s, either. I’ve been there, done that, and I have lots of t-shirts to prove it. There are many good things about being in my 60s and retired. I think I’ll focus on that—as soon as I can get my mind to change directions!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Social Time

There are six RV spots for volunteers here at the Monument. We have a lot of contact with the others living here and sometimes get together to share a meal. Early in April we met at the local Elks Lodge for their prime rib dinner. The food was good, though it took a long time to be served. This is our group.

A few days later Don, one of the volunteers, deep fried some crappie he had in his freezer--he does a lot of fishing during the summer.

See all the empty plates? We ate everything up really fast.

Late last week, the regular staff of the Monument hosted a cookout to thank all of the volunteers. That included those of us who live on the grounds and others from the community who come in to give of their time. Carol, the chief ranger, provided the margaritas.

As soon as everyone arrived, we all traipsed over to the Casa Grande sign for the annual staff photo.

It took a while for us to arrange ourselves for the photo.

Then we went through the serving line, picking up salad, baked beans, fresh corn on the cob, and BBQ brisket. There was plenty to eat and everything was good. Later they put out the desserts. They were delicious.

Last week's gathering may be our last social get together here this year. Two couples have already left and another is pulling out on Saturday. That's what happens when you spend time with a lot of snow birds. They fly away when the temperature gets up into the high 80s.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Desert Critters and Plants

Tuesday, after eating pancakes at St. Michael's Episcopal Church (it was Shrove Tuesday, you know), we drove to Tucson to visit the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. This is a wonderful facility that provides insight into all aspects of the desert, from reptiles to birds to mammals to cacti to trees. A good number of the larger animals were taking their naps, but we did find a few awake. The birds were also awake. First thing we encountered was this screech owl.

In the hummingbird enclosure, at least two females were sitting on eggs in the nest. Isn't this a cute mother?

I was really impressed with this majestic big horn sheep.

This Mexican wolf was another large mammal that was active. Look at how big it is!

The black-tailed prairie dogs also were active. They are so cute.

This fox was taking a nap. It must not like the rocky surface or cold weather. Look at the heat lamp and furry blanket.

I think javelina are fascinating animals. Unfortunately, they were asleep in the shade. But I think you will be able to see them if you click on the photo to enlarge it.

It is too early for most of the cacti to be blooming, but this pincushion cactus was starting to put out flowers.

I had never heard of a bishop's miter cactus. Isn't it interesting?

And if trying to keep all the different plant names straight drives you bonkers, here is the cactus for you: the bonker hedgehog cactus.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Archeology Finds

I've never been very interested in archeology, per se. From what I have seen and read over the years, being an archeologist means digging in dirt on hot, sunny days or looking carefully at things in a laboratory. Both sound b-o-r-i-n-g.

However, finding really old things is exciting and that has happened to John and me twice this year here at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. In January, we were walking in a part of the Monument that is not open to the public when John almost stepped on this.

It is a three-quarter ax head that is more than 650 years old. You can see how large it is from the set of keys next to it. We immediately took a picture of it, made careful note of where it was, and went to talk to the chief ranger. She called the chief archeologist and he sent one of his staff to return to the site with John. She told John it had probably been dug out of the ground from a hole by a coyote or badger. We found it near a trash mound, where it had probably been buried for 100s or years.

Everyone was really impressed with the find, but there are so many of this type of object in museums, no one wants them anymore. Therefore, after measurements and more photographs, it was buried again. (All artifacts on National Park land are protected and may not be collected and taken home.)

Finding something that large is very unusual, but to see broken pieces of pottery here at the Monument is not unusual. This area was the first ever historical area protected in the United States, by order of the US Congress in 1889 and President Benjamin Harrison in 1892. That has means that pot hunters and artifact collectors have been very restricted for over 100 years. When you look at a small hill here, you can see pieces of pottery reflecting light easily.

Up close, this is part of what I saw very near the area in the last photo.

In past years, when areas of the Monument were cleaned or digging was done for buildings or other construction, pottery shards were gathered up and put in this pile with rocks that were also picked up.

All of these scenes are from areas where the public does not visit. A small area of the National Monument is open to the public and thousands of people walk through the compound surrounding the four-story building we call Casa Grande Ruins.

The area around the building has been back-filled with clean soil to make sure water drains away from the buildings after rain storms. All of this traffic and fill dirt made the discovery last week of a pottery shard really unusual.

Friday, after one of my tours, a young woman walked up to me and asked me to come see something she and her friend had found right in the public area. I was amazed when I looked at it.

This is a piece of black on white Salado polychrome pottery, probably from the 1300s or 1400s. It must have worked its way up through the fill dirt over the past years, to be seen by those visitors. Again, one of the archeologists came to look at it. And again, they left it where is was found. Hopefully, no one will decide to pick it up and put it in their pocket. Instead, we hope it will remain for others to see and appreciate.

You can be sure I praised the two people who found it and left it where it was. That is exactly what we want our visitors to do.

Friday, March 04, 2011

The Last Next Big Thing

This week on the evening news we heard that the "Next Big Thing" had just been unveiled--the i pad 2. You know what? A week and a half ago we received our new i pad--the first version! If only we had known. I am sure our purchase would have been less expensive if we had just waited a couple of weeks. But we aren't geeks enough to have any idea an updated model was about to be released.

That said, our i pad is great! The initial set up was a little frustrating for John. See that concentration?

But, by evening, he was using it with ease, exploring new apps, reading email.

It is so fast! We don't know why it is so much easier to get the email on the i pad, but it is. John loves surfing the web with it. Our granddaughter suggested a couple of games we could play. Angry Birds is a real test.

I downloaded an ereader app and have downloaded a free book to see if this device would be a substitute Nook or Kindle. We realize that some day most books will be electronic, not paper. I mourn that. But I want to be able to cope when the time comes. So far, I haven't used the i pad as a reader enough to know if I like it or not.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Hiking Near the Peak

Yesterday we went for a desert hike on the Sunset Trail at Picacho Peak State Park.
No, that is not the same trail we hiked last year. After we made it back to our car then, I said, "Never again!"

It was pretty hazy out yesterday, but this is a view of the mountain we were going to hike around. That high point on the left was our goal last year.

This is what the landscape looks like near the beginning of the trail.

After a little while, we were hiking in a real forest of Saguaro Cacti. Isn't this impressive?

In addition to all the growing Saguaro, there were quite a few skeletons of dead ones. You can click on the photo to get a better view. To the right of the skeletons there are ocotillo. Since we have had rain recently and it is warming up, they should be blooming soon.

Most of the time, I take photos of the scenery and John likes to take pictures of me taking pictures. Here is one example of his efforts yesterday.

As we headed back to the trail head, we kept hearing ravens crying out. Finally we saw them. We think there was some competition going on between two males for who got which female. I managed to get a photo of one pair as they flew overhead.

As we headed back to Coolidge, I snapped a picture of this field full of sheep. They were grazing on whatever was growing in the field.

But they laid down to rest in rows along the irrigation canals in the field. I guess they didn't want to sleep on their food.