Friday, November 30, 2012

Seeing Freinds

Yesterday, Ron and Barbara came to visit. Barbara is a train buff and wanted to see the VDO Garden Railroad and they wanted to check out the Country Store. The miniature buildings in the train setup are really well done.

This old house, with the housewife checking on the rabbit cages, is so realistic.

The horse-drawn Budweiser wagon passes behind the local automobile garage.

I think this train is my favorite, at least so far. The Oregon Lumber Co. RR wood-burning steam engine pulls passenger cars from the Denver and Rio Grande Western.

We checked out all the vendors at the Country Store and Ron and Barbara both bought something. We picked up a small gift for our grandson. Then we ate lunch. Every weekday, lunch is served here in the resort. Four days it comes from the Cactus Grill. On Country Store day it is served in the Fiesta Room. For residents who don't want to cook (I'm not one of them), it is possible to eat food prepared there every noon and one or more evenings a week. That is in addition to the substantial appetizers served at the Tiki Bar most evenings.

After lunch, we came back to our site and talked out doors for over an hour. It was a fun day.

Today, I picked up two completed pottery projects. Early in the month, I posted about making my first puzzle pot. Both of my puzzle pots had been fired, so I could bring them home. They aren't perfect, but not bad for my first attempts. John took my picture showing them off.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bike Outing

When we were in Colorado during September, we bought new bicycles. We have been able to ride them in the state parks we stayed in there and around our resort here in Mesa. But we wanted to explore more of this area. Several of the canals running through the metro are have paved trails. After a search of a nearby access point, we drove to Chandler yesterday and rode on the Chandler Paseo Trail along the Consolidated Canal. We probably rode about 6 miles of so--not long, but enough to get started.

On the web site where I found the trail, there were ads for "waterfront property" along the canals in the Phoenix area. That might be a stretch for folks from locations with lakes and oceans, but the developers have put in well-landscaped parks and greenways along the Paseo Canal. This one, at least, is very attractive.

The bougainvillea were just beautiful.

Some of the parks are even marked "private property, for use of residents of (this development) only." In some places, the other side of the canal is not nearly as attractive.

The canal even had some birds. We saw several mallard ducks, as well as this bird. I think it is a cormorant, but I'm not sure.

It was a good ride and we will find other canal trails in the future. I prefer riding on pavement and don't want to contend with vehicles on the roads, so these trails are great.

The day ended with a beautiful full moon, photographed about 9 pm.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Staying Flexible

It is important to stay flexible and go with the flow when plans change. Especially since we are retired and it is very seldom our plans really make a difference--to us or to others. It isn't like when we were working for a living or raising children.

This morning we left the RV at 9:30 to drive to church. Yesterday, one of the truck tires was low, so we went to the air pump and filled it. Everything was fine during our shopping trip. We checked the pressure again this morning and it was fine--for a while.

Soon the Pressure Pro began beeping. The tire that had been at 77 psi was down to 67 psi. Then to 66 psi. Change of plans. We used the GPS (we call her Cairn) to find a tire store. We spent the hour we would have been at church, and even more, waiting to get a new valve stem on the tire.

We were really sorry to miss the worship service. But we tried to make the most of our time, reading the very good selection of magazines at the tire store. I even copied two recipes from a Woman's Day.

This is the second time since we arrive in Mesa that the truck has kept us from church. In October we went to find a dead battery. That day we spent time with the AAA service tech, getting new batteries. He was a very nice and efficient young man.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and hope that you do, too.

We are thankful for health, for the opportunity to live this RV lifestyle, for our wonderful marriage and for our children and grandchildren.

We have food to eat, a free country where governments are chosen by a vote of the people, not the power of a person or a party, freedom of speech and freedom to worship as we choose.

We give thanks for the men and women who serve in our military to protect that freedom.

Have a happy Thanksgiving. And remember to say "thanks" for all your blessings.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Great Find

We found the most wonderful place today. It was not like what you would expect to find in Phoenix (or Gilbert), Arizona.

We found trails through lots of desert vegetation.

We saw ponds.

The ponds are man-made lakes pumped full of recycled water from the adjacent wastewater treatment facility. It is allowed to soak into the ground to recharge the aquifers Gilbert uses for city water. They attract lots of birds, which is why we went there.

We spent quite a while watching an osprey (I think) hunting for its lunch.

This photo was taken right after the bird dived into the water and came up--without a fish.

There were quite a few great egrets.

I loved this mallard duck.

Is this his mate?

Look at this cluster of different colored ducks. Doesn't the one on the left remind you of Daffy Duck?

We had beautiful weather--temperatures in the mid-70s and no wind. Look at the reflection of this black-necked stilt.

We also saw turtles.

There were lots of hummingbirds, but I didn't get any pictures of them. We also saw quite a few dragon flies.

And there were cotton tail rabbits.

During our time at Santa Ana NWR during the first months of this year, we learned to really enjoy birding. It is good to find such a great place to see birds near Mesa.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

We love history, so as soon as we read about the American Heritage Festival at Schnepf Farms, we decided to attend. Every year a group of reenactors set up displays and dress as the folks in the past did. There were people from colonial America and the American Revolution, longhunters and mountain men, the Civil War, pioneers and the old West, and the 20th century.

We arrived in time for the Saturday morning reenactment of a Revolutionary War skirmish. The Red Coats marched off to the battlefield.

They were followed by uniformed Rebel troops.

Of course, not all of the rebels had the fancy uniforms. Many men picked up their guns and joined the troops to fight for freedom.

The battle resembled a duel, with each side facing the other, loading their weapons, then firing. The British forces won the skirmish. Here you can see the smoke from the volley and also a rebel casualty laying on the field.

Of course, some British soldiers were also shot.

This is a Scots soldier. The 74th Regiment of Highlanders fought in the Revolutionary War from 1879 to 1884.

Later John talked to the Scots soldier and we learned more about the history of his regiment.

The 20th Century encampment included a field camp from War War II. I'm glad I wasn't a soldier who had to sleep in that tiny 2-man tent with no mattress!

This soldier explained the various kinds of food rations provided to our soldiers during the War.

There was also a camp from World War I.

This camp was set up like General Cook's camp during the Indian wars in the 1800s.

This woman and her daughter were living in an 1850s mining camp. They were cooking and selling meals to earn money to move back east, having discovered the mining camp was "no place for a lady. She was preparing chicken shortcake with spider bread. She explained that the miners really like getting chicken to eat. The egg used in the shortcake cost $1 for one egg!

Her daughter was doing some handwork, sitting in front of the (relatively) comfortable tent.

This is a Civil War tent. It didn't look too bad.

These Spanish soldiers came from the late 1700s when Juan Bautista de Anza and some soldiers explored Arizona and California for the Spanish crown.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Busy as a clean bee

It's been quite a while since we spent much time in a place where we knew everyone around us. We have been on the road full time for almost four years and before that we didn't see our home in the Denver area except during the winter months--when it is cold and snows. So we didn't see our neighbors much then.

On the street behind where we are parked in Mesa, the folks have all been coming there for years and they have nightly happy hours together. Every neighborhood like that seems to have someone who helps everyone out. This street is no exception.

"Mr. Clean" owns a power washer and he knows his neighbors well enough, he washes their homes before they get back for the winter. When washing park model homes isn't enough, he works, non-stop it seems, refurbishing his own park model--new carpets, flooring, etc. He seems to be working 10 to 12 hours a day, then he joins the afternoon happy hour.

It makes us tired, just watching him.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Time in the Desert

It was five years ago when we went on our first hike in Arizona's Sonoran Desert. I wasn't too impressed then. But we have both come to love the desert landscape. Tuesday, we went on our first hike of this season. We walked three miles on the Blevins Trail at Usery Mountain Regional Park. The weather this week is perfect, with highs in the 70s and low 80s.

Over the years, we have learned the names of many of the desert plants. In this shot, we can see two kinds of cholla cactus, giant saguaro cactus, creosote bush and palo verde trees. I love this view.

The hanging fruit cholla, or jumping cholla, has its seeds in loose-hanging segments that easily "jump" onto passing animals and people. Look out for the thorns.

I most love the Saguaros and take loads of pictures of them. Some look almost like people. Here are a few we saw on our hike yesterday.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fun and Mmm Mmm Good Food

Saturday we attended the Chandler Chuck Wagon Cook Off. Participants like to cook and are interested in history. According to the American Chuck Wagon Association, we want participants "to project a realistic portrayal of the chuck wagon as it was used on cattle drives. To the public, a chuck wagon cook off should be an informative, an educational, and an entertaining experience."

Cattle and dairy are still Arizona's most valuable farm products. The 1890s were the heydays of Arizona's cattle industry. Chuck wagons provided food for the cowboys on the range and during cattle drives.

Each contestant group in the cook off is given the basic ingredients for food preparation. Cooks furnish their own seasonings. All cooking must be done on site, over wood fires and in cast iron Dutch ovens or frying pans. The beef, potatoes, onions, beans and apricots they needed to prepare food on Saturday for 40 to 60 people were provided. Since everybody starts with the same basic ingredients, seasoning and cooking technique make the difference.

The tickets for food went on sale at 10 am Saturday. Last year, tickets we wanted were sold out before we got to the table, so we arrived about 9:15 to get in line. We weren't the only people there early. Look at this crowd a little before 10.

Some dishes were prepped Friday evening and had been cooking for a while before we arrived Saturday. But we saw some of the pans of food getting started.

It takes a whole lot of cast iron pots and pans, as well as other cookware for coffee and hot water, to feed 40 or more people. It makes my back hurt to look at all the gear they carry around in the wagons.

There were lots of hot fires

and smoke

and steam involved in the cooking.

The wagons are fascinating. Here are pictures of two we saw yesterday.

To really appreciate them, you have to look at the details. For instance, the hide hanging below the wagon is called the possum belly. That is where the cooks carried their wood. As they drove along in front or behind the cattle herd, they could stop and throw in fuel when they saw it.

I have seen trucks in campgrounds that have a step attached to the rear wheel to enable people to reach into the truck bed. It turns out, shelves on wheels are not a new idea.

Items are stacked and tied on everywhere.

Many of the members of the cooking teams are dressed in period costumes.

Soon, the food was ready to be served.

As lunch time approached, Barbara of Cowgirls Forever, whose food we would be eating, added honey to her pioneer biscuits.

And here are three pots of our food, ready to serve.

Was it ever good! We had smothered beef, cowgirl beans, prairie potatoes, pioneer biscuits and frontier apricot cobbler.

There were lots of people enjoying the food.

Earlier, to tide us over to noon, we had purchased sampler tickets. One sample was of biscuits and gravy. Would you believe, neither of us had ever eaten that? I never could understand the attraction, till yesterday. It was good!