Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

Oh, the places we've been and the things we've seen! This year has truly been amazing.

In January, we left Arizona, headed for Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. We made a stop in Big Bend National Park, where we saw this raccoon and duck.

Then we continued to Santa Ana for two weeks of training to drive the big green tram around the refuge. We enjoyed giving the tours.

In February, we learned more about birding. At least 400 species of birds have been documented at Santa Ana, more than anywhere in the country other than the states of Arizona, Texas and California. This is a Northern Shoveler.

We learned about beer can chicken at the Smokin' on the Rio Grande BBQ Cookoff.

You can see many more birds if you check out my posts from late January and February.

In March (clockwise from top left) we spotted the scissors-tailed fly catcher, a raccoon in the trash dumpster, the colorful green jay, the fly catcher again, a screech owl camouflaged in a tree stump, and fallen trees blocking the tram route.

In April we visited the South Padre Island Birding Center, where we saw this little blue heron. Across the canal from where our RV was parked, we spotted these crested caracaras. John spotted this coral snake. We learned the warning, "red touches black, friend of Jack; red touches yellow, kills a fellow."

In May, we headed north to Colorado and beyond. The trip didn't start out very well. First, we had a flat tire on I-10, then our front landing gear failed. We made it to Albuquerque, where we had repairs done. In Colorado we watched John and Kylie in their sports events. We ended the month in Alberta, Canada, and saw great scenery on a visit to Waterton Lakes National Park.

In June we drove from Banff National Park to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. We saw Lake Mistaya as we drove along the Icefields Parkway. The campground in Jasper National Park was full of cow elk and their calves. We saw a number of black and grizzly bears along the way, made a stop at the Signpost Forest in Dawson Creek, and watched the start of Yukon Quest, a 444-mile canoe and kayak race on the Yukon River.

We spent the month of July in Alaska, including a tour of Denali National Park and another through Kenai Fjords National Park. We rode the riverboat Discovery III out of Fairbanks; saw lots of wildlife, including sand hill cranes, caribou and moose; the volcano Mt. Redoubt; numerous bald eagles; a calving glacier; a puffin at the Seward Sea Life Center; Portage Glacier; and this great view of Mt. McKinley (Denali), the tallest mountain in North America.

August took us to Valdez, where we saw a bear in the campground and watched the salmon run upstream from the sea. Then we drove north out of Alaska, back through part of the Yukon, where we saw more great scenery. We then boarded an Alaska Marine Ferry that took us through the beautiful Inside Passage and back to the lower 48 at Bremerton, WA.

In September we stopped at Promontory Point National Monument in Utah to see a reenactment of the meeting of the rails on the transcontinental railroad. Then it was back to Colorado, where we spent time on their boat with Eric, Liz, Kylie and Eric, saw a beautiful sunset in Chatfield State Park and viewed great fall colors in the mountains.

In October, we returned to Arizona, where we saw more great sunsets, bought new chairs, enjoyed Oktober Fest, and dealt with a dead truck battery and later furnace problems.

In November, I spent time in the pottery shop at our resort. We went birding at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, attended a historical festival and a chuck wagon cook off, and hiked in the desert. John completed three hiking sticks from diamond willow branches he obtained in Alaska.

This month, we have faced a couple of RV issues with the bed and TV, I did more work in the pottery studio, we enjoyed Christmas decorations at our resort and attended a concert at Organ Stop Pizza. The month ended with an unforgettable time at the Fiesta Bowl parade.

Over these months, we have spent good time with both new friends and old. Some of these folks we saw here in Arizona, some in Texas, others in Colorado. We also met family and friends as we traveled in Canada and Alaska. We met with RVing friends who are also relatives, Harry and Marilyn, and visited with John's sister Cindy and husband John in May and John's brother Tim and wife Diane and sister Kendal and husband John in late September. This month we attended an neighborhood party here at the resort with our neighbors.

As you can see, it has been an amazing year. We have been so blessed to live this life.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

What a Treat!

Saturday, we went to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl parade in downtown Phoenix. Kansas State will play Oregon in the bowl game Jan. 3. The festivities begin with the parade on Saturday and marching band competition on Sunday. Since downtown Phoenix is 32 miles from our resort and we didn't know where to park there, we drove to the Mesa light rail station and took the train downtown.

The parade we saw was very interesting. But all that happened, beginning when we got off the train, was the real treat. It was almost like a late Christmas gift from a Secret Santa. We got off and were trying to decide which way to go (we have never been in downtown Phoenix) when a woman who had also been on the train asked, "Are you going to the parade?" We answered yes and she asked if we would like tickets to sit in the bleachers. We had read about those seats and chose not to spend $25 a person to watch a free parade. But Trisha had extra tickets and offered them to us. We learned that her family had planned to use the tickets to watch one daughter march with the Basha High School band from Chandler. However, her son and husband got tickets to the Fight Hunger Bowl game in San Francisco, where Arizona State University was playing.

Wow! Free seats within a block of the parade starting point, within sight of the reviewing stand! So, we walked with her toward the seats. We came to a large area blocked off and Trish asked one of the Fiesta Bowl officials on a golf cart how we could get around the blockage. He said to hop on the golf cart. Here was our view of the parade route as he drove us to our seats.

Here I am, seated with Trish. Since the parade lasted 2 1/2 hours, we were really glad we were able to sit down.

In case you are more interested in the parade than our good fortune, let me show you some of the things we saw. There were a number of large balloons. I had never seen a parade with balloons before.

There were some really interesting bicycles.

Both high school and college marching bands were there. Participation is by invitation only. This college band was huge.

Trisha's daughter Emily is (I think) the third flute player in on this row.

These biplanes flew over just as the parade began.

One float had blooming saguaros.

Here are some of the Wild Women of the West.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his wife rode on the department's tank.

And these young people were singing about "Standing on the Corner in Winslow, Arizona."

We had a great time at the parade and want to thank Trisha for being our Secret Santa. We bought ourselves another late gift, as well.

We have finally moved into the 21st century with our iPhone 5 smart phone. Let me tell you, the learning curve is a little steep, but it does take good pictures.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Week

The 113th annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count takes place between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. We didn't take part, but we did go bird watching Monday. We returned to the Gilbert Water Ranch Riparian Preserve and found even more birds than we saw last month. There were American white pelicans.

And these black-necked stilts.

And we found some black-crowned night herons. We saw some of these early this year in south Texas and were delighted to see them again.

The mallard duck isn't unusual. I think we have seen them everywhere, but they sure are pretty.

I can't identify this small gray and yellow bird. Anybody know what it is? (Carolyn, help)

The large palo verde tree is magnificent, isn't it?

Over the weekend, we attended a Christmas party with several other couples on the street where we are parked. Our hosts, Joe and Isabel, had wrapped gifts for everyone. You could either open a new gift or take one that had already been opened by someone else. It really helped to break the ice in our relationships (there isn't any ice in Mesa except in the freezer). Here is Barbara choosing a gift. Joe and Isabel are in the background to the right.

After the sun went down, we started to gather around a propane heater.

And we came in closer and closer to the heat.

Today we joined the community Christmas dinner. These are the folks we were sitting with.

The decorations for the party were beautiful.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone. As we celebrate Our Savior's birth, I hope you are with the one (or ones) you love. John and I are together and we will join many others at our resort for a great Christmas dinner this afternoon. Before then, we will talk to our children and grandchildren. I hope you all enjoy your day as much as we will.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Waiting for Christmas

We only have three more days till Christmas. Since we mailed all our cards and gifts days to weeks ago, what are we doing? One evening we walked around our resort to look at the decorations. On some streets, most of the park models have lights decorating the trees and front yards.

One place, we saw these two strings of colored figures. I think they may be solar powered, rather than plugged into the grid. On the left they are the moon and stars, on the right hummingbirds.

Some RVs also have lights.

During the day, the citrus trees almost look like they are decorated for Christmas with yellow or orange balls.

Here in southern Arizona, we don't have snow and cold, so a desert hike is a good activity while waiting for Christmas. Friday we made the short 3-mile round trip hike on the Hieroglyphic Trail. We have had quite a bit of rain in the past week or so, and the desert has lots of green.

There were several pools among the rocks in the canyon.

This bird stayed around, looking for a handout from our lunch, I think. I believe it is a Bendire's Thrasher.

Eric and Liz have been sending our mail regularly, so we have been received lots of Christmas cards already. It is so fun to catch up on the lives of our friends and family.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Hopeful View

I posted my response to the murders in Connecticut. The debate over how to address the problem will continue for some time.

Today I read a post by Julia Attaway on the Guideposts magazine web site that really helps me keep my focus on the only true hope we have in all of this.

I hope you find it as helpful and true as I did.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Friend and Quiet Time in Mesa

Tuesday we had lunch with a man John hadn't seen in over 51 years. We met Fred at a local Olive Garden to catch up on lives over the past half century. There sure was a lot to talk about. John and Fred are two of a dozen youth who attended 12 years together in Castle Rock schools. Fred wasn't able to attend the group's 50th reunion in 2011, so there was a lot of catching up to do.

Other than that good visit, it has been pretty quiet here in Mesa. Winter has finally arrived (temperatures from 40 to 62 degrees), we've had rain, and we've spent a lot of time at home. It is too cool for John to sit outside and carve and I have finished all my current projects in the pottery studio.

So, what are we doing? Both of us have been doing some writing about genealogy and I have been doing a lot of online genealogy research. If you have seen the ads for, you have seen people talking about the green leaves that show when there are possible family information in the program's files. Right now our family tree includes over 2500 people and there are those green leaves all over the place. It can keep me busy for days, if I have the patience to keep at it. Right not, John is focused mainly on writing a history of his father's life.

I also have plenty of time of clean house (yuk, not my favorite activity, but sometimes it is necessary) and do end-of-the-year filing and record shredding.

We also enjoy watching the birds that are hunting for food around our RV. There is a large family of gamble's quail in the neighborhood.

We also see and hear several noisy cactus wrens.