Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Party We Didn't Attend

"The Jewel of the Nile" is the theme for the New Year's Eve party here at VDO. It BEGINS 30 minutes from now. We really don't do nights. But we did go check out the ballroom. Here is what we saw.

Pretty fancy, isn't it? I'm not sure if they are serving dinner or fancy snacks. There were several serving tables.

We shared our wine earlier in the evening and will welcome January 1, 2012, sometime between 4:30 and 6 am. Our celebration is more like these folks.

End of the Year

We really enjoyed the folks we ate with Christmas Day at the VDO Christmas dinner.

We had chosen a table in a small side room off the main ballroom, hoping it wouldn't be quite so loud and John (with his hearing aides) could hear better. And it worked.

Thursday we picked up my new glasses. Since we arrived during the lunch hour and they were closed, we spent some time looking at airplanes nearby. The optometrist's office is next to Falcon Field, a small-plane airport. This old plane looks like it might have been from World War II.

There also was a company that manufactures and repairs helicopters. Tthis one won't be going anywhere soon.

We watched this chopper land and refuel.

We felt like we were in a time warp when we saw this restored Ford convertible. Is it a 1955 model?

Friday we took one last hike in the Sonoran Desert at Usery Mountain Regional Park. The desert is so pretty there.

The cholla and saguaro are great.

Most trails in the park are multi-use, so in addition to other hikers, we encountered people on horseback.

And mountain bikers.

When it was quiet, John tried out the binoculars we bought ourselves for Christmas. We will be doing a lot of bird watching at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, so we needed a second pair. They give a better view than our old, smaller pair.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Getting Ready to Move

We have been here at Valle del Oro in Mesa since the first week of October. Next Monday we will move on, headed toward the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas where we will volunteer as tram drivers and interpreters at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. On the way there, we plan to spend five days at Big Bend National Park.

We love seeing birds, but we have a lot to learn about bird watching. Santa Ana is at the confluence of two major bird flyways, the Central and the Mississippi. We are excited to see all the birds and butterflies there and share the joys of that with others on the tram tours. They sent us a 17-page tram narrative to study--and we have been doing that. We will have two weeks of training when we arrive, before we begin giving tours on February 1.

Our focus yesterday was to put away a lot of the items that only come out when we are parked in the same place for weeks or months--like the grill and sun screens and tire covers and our "home" stained glass window. In addition to that, we had Christmas decorations to put away. It may have only been the second day of Christmas, but the decorations had been up more than a month. So we stored them till next year.

We will go on one more hike this week and today we went to a movie. That is quite an event for us. Usually, we watch old movies we can record on TV. We had both read all three books by the late Stieg Larsson and when we read that the movie version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" was coming out this week, we decided to see it before we leave Mesa. If you have read the book, the movie is a way to re-experience this story. If you haven't read the book, we don't think the movie is really all that good. (Appreciate this movie review. This is only the second film we have seen in a theater this year and probably also only the second one in five or six years.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

T'was the Week Before Christmas

And all through the town
Not a creature was resting
Not even a mouse

So, what were they doing? Lots of people were in the parking lots and stores, shopping for Christmas. What have we been doing? We have been done with Christmas shopping for weeks, except gifts for each other. We each took part of a day this week to do that.

We also went hiking at San Tan Regional Park with our friends Ron and Barbara. Barbara is a fellow blogger and each year when we are both here in Arizona, we get together for a hike and/or lunch. This year we did both, the hike followed by the lunch buffet at Pizza Hut. We walked, talked, laughed and shared and had a great time with them.

Today, we went to the Mesa Swap Meet. It's been cold, at least for Mesa, for the past couple of weeks. So there were lots of sweatshirts for sale.

And decorator items for winter homes and park models.

Southern Arizona is a mecca for snowbirds: read old retired folks. Look at all these sales booths.

What kind of free space?

We (I) only made one purchase--some beads. I have been learning how to bead, so I couldn't resist some new beads. But they aren't shown in this photo.

John comments that there certainly were a lot of well-behaved, patient grandchildren there. You go to Arizona to see your grandparents for Christmas, so where do they take you? The swap meet.

Not all the merchants feel good about the children.

But this booth had delightful dresses for really little girls.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, then Christmas Day we will open gifts from our children and grandchildren--and each other--then go to church, then join hundreds of our friends at the Valle del Oro Christmas Dinner.

Hope you are having a good week, too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Christmas Time

Our Christmas decorations are small and confined to the inside of our RV. But many people here at Valle del Oro, a 55+ resort in Mesa, AZ, go to a lot more work. This is especially true for the folks who live in park model trailers. I guess they have more storage room and don't have to carry the decorations around the country. Their trailers don't go anywhere.

We don't want to store all that stuff, but we do enjoy looking at the decorations others put up. Last week we rode our bikes around the park and I took pictures of the lights. I hope you enjoy them, too.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Fun!

Wednesday we had lunch at Organ Stop Pizza with a group from Valle del Oro. We had heard about this place two years ago and are glad we decided to go. The restaurant has a restored and improved "The Mighty Wurlitzer" theater organ. What made seeing the organ even more special was that it was originally built for the Denver Theater, the movie theater where I had my first real job (not counting babysitting) at the age of 16. During the time of silent movies, some theaters had orchestras. In small towns, there was a pianist playing during the film. But many movie theaters had theatre pipe organs designed with imitative orchestral tones. The theatre organ has been described as part military band, part symphony orchestra and part theatrical sound effects.

The Organ Stop Wurlitzer was installed in the Denver Theater in 1927 and used regularly until the early 1930s. With the advent of the talking picture and the 1930s depression, the organ was rarely heard. Organ Stop purchased the instrument in the early 1970s.

When we arrived, we were able to see part of the pipes and bellows and other sound effect devices.

But where was the organ? We had been told "they only bring the organ up at lunch time for larger groups." I wondered what that meant. We could see a large round area that might be a stage, but no impressive organ.

Then the organ and organist began to rise out of that round area. Donna Parker was the artist on Wednesday.

Here you can see the beautiful instrument. She played it very well. I have played the piano, but I can't imagine knowing how to work with the 4 manuals, 276 keys and 798 stops and controls on this organ. Donna explained a lot about the organ, how it worked, and many of the bells and whistles (literally) that it has. For more information about the organ, click here.

Today the organ has nearly 6,000 pipes. The massive quantities of wind required for operation are provided by four huge turbine blowers. In addition to musical sounds, horse hoofs, police sirens and drums, the organist can make bubbles rain down from the ceiling.

And cat marionettes dance to Alley Cat. Sorry this picture is fuzzy. I couldn't get a good one of the moving cats in the dim light.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Florida or Arizona?

I thought we were in Arizona, but today I wonder if we have somehow been transported to Florida. Here is a view down the street in front of our RV as the sun was setting today.

And one of the runoff holding ponds.

What do you suppose Fido thinks of this dog run? The water from the street goes right though the grass to reach the holding pond above.

They are supposedly building pickle ball courts in this area. I think they will have to start all over when this rain stops. It has been raining almost non-stop since late yesterday afternoon. The only letup was for about 2 hours this afternoon.

This street looks more like a lake than a street.

See the rose garden on the left that I posted about a couple of weeks ago? Then entire depression to the east of the flower bed is a huge lake. Waterfront garden maybe?

A new patio area is being built here. But water is pouring into the depression. I am sure they will have a lot of work getting it ready for plantings that will hold the slopes in place.

Despite the weather, we met some friends for a late breakfast/early lunch at IHOP. We worked with Willie and Vera two winters ago at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. It sure was good to see them again and catch up on our lives. A great visit on a rainy day.

Despite the cold and rain, our friends here are putting up their Christmas decorations.