Thursday, January 31, 2013

Heading Out for Coffee

Last week went to lunch with one of John's friends from his high school days, Dave, and his wife, Alice. Wednesday we drove to their winter home in Apache Junction and went for a hike in the Superstition Mountains from the Peralta Trail Head. Because of the recent rains, the desert is very green.

We headed up the Lost Dutchman Trail toward Coffee Flats, a trail we had not been on before. What a great hike! According to the map, we went a little over 5 miles round trip. It isn't a difficult hike, but there are some ups and downs. And the scenery was great. There were saguaros everywhere, as well as interesting rock formations.

Dave brought along they chocolate lab, Obi. She loved the water where we had to cross a couple of streams.

We found a nice flat rock for our lunch-time picnic.

John is much more a cat person than a dog person, but he found a new friend in Obi. She is such a sweet--and very well behaved--dog. John even asked if she could come home with us for the night.

We are supposed to have really nice weather for a while. We really need to take some more hikes.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Four Years and Counting

Four years ago today we began living on the road full-time. We love this lifestyle and don’t see coming off the road for years to come. We enjoy going new places and changing the view out our front window frequently.

We had already been RVing for 11 years and had spent the equivalent of over 4 years traveling and camping in our first 3 RVs. We had spent as long as 8 months on the road at a time. So we knew what we were doing. Since January 29, 2009, we have traveled in and explored 26 states including Alaska and 3 Canadian provinces. What a life!

We also enjoy the simplicity and freedom of living in less than 350 square feet and not having very much “stuff” to worry about or deal with. We enjoy the freedom of going where we want, when we want. We enjoy being able to avoid the summer heat in Arizona and the winter cold and snow in Colorado by traveling to where the weather is comfortable (or almost comfortable) most of the time.

We do enjoy our long winter stay here in Mesa and think we will be coming here for the foreseeable future. We have been coming to this resort for 5 years. We are beginning to build community with the other snowbirds that return year after year to the same street. And we are beginning to build community at Epiphany Episcopal Church in Temper, where we have been worshipping for 3 years. This winter, John has been asked to serve as an assisting priest by the rector and I have begun serving as a lector. We also enjoy the many activities available in the resort, including a pottery shop, a wood shop, exercise room, and numerous sports we could participate in if we chose.

There are always park model homes for sale in the resort and this winter, for the first time, we have been checking out the prices and thinking about buying one. We have seen prices everywhere from $10,000 to $150,000 for these homes that start at 350 square feet of living space. Obviously, the one priced at $150,000, as well as many others, have an addition called an Arizona room to provide more square footage.

Since we know we won’t be buying one this year, we haven’t been going inside the units that are for sale. But we have checked out the flyers and the yards. The more we look the more certain we are that it is not time to come off the road, even for a few months of the year. Just the idea of unpacking the RV and moving clothing, food and computers into a park model, then reversing that action in the spring makes me cringe. So does the prospect of buying dishes, linens, furniture and other necessities for another living space. It is so nice to sleep in our own bed—the same one—every night and never have to move our belongings. We had to move in and out of the RV for years when we only traveled one to eight months a year. I’m not ready to do it again and neither is John.

We are content to live in this resort for several months of the winter—in our RV. And we still enjoy pulling up the landing gear and hitching the truck to the trailer so we can move our home somewhere new. We have the best of both worlds.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

And the Rain Came Down

It doesn't rain very often in the desert, but when it does it is impressive. Not that we are seeing a really bad storm. But it was been raining nearly non-stop since about 9 pm yesterday here in Mesa. Our resort doesn't have storm sewers--I'm not sure if they exist in this part of the state. But we do have holding ponds.

Here you can see the water flowing off the street into one of the holding areas.

This fence surrounds a dog run, but I think the pooches will have to be taken somewhere else for a while.

This is a new area for runoff.

The best part of all this will be the desert turning green and the cacti blooming in a month or two.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Interesting Foods

Wednesday we were running errands in Phoenix and needed somewhere to grab a salad or sandwich for lunch. Cairn (our GPS) led us to the Town and Country Mall near 24th and Camelback. We thought Trader Joe's might have a salad bar. They didn't, so we grabbed a sandwich at Blimpe's. On the way, we checked out an interesting farmers' market sponsored by Pinnacle Farms.

It was not the normal, ordinary farmers' market we are used to seeing. Look at all those tomatoes above.

I wish I remembered if this was a turnip or a beet or what. It is a watermelon whatever. Isn't it interesting?

There were carrots of various sizes and colors.

Beets that were white and others that were golden.

This little girl had a normal, orange carrot and she knew it needed to be washed before she could eat it.

These apples were about the size of crab apples.

Look at these oyster mushrooms.

We could have ordered grass fed beef, Arizona range lamb or cage free chicken parts. I wonder if happy, free chickens taste different than those from Sanderson Farms?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

All Better Now

Saturday night, when the bank's fraud division called, I was told it would be 7 to 10 days before we received new cards. Yesterday, I called them to find out what would happen to the charges we had made before someone used the stolen card numbers. I was told the new cards had been sent UPS and would arrive today. And they did!

That means it was only 4 days with no credit card. And I learned that all the legitimate charges would go onto the new card, so I won't have so many people to contact and send checks to.

This afternoon I spent two hours changing card numbers on all the accounts that are paid electronically by our credit card--everything from insurance to the newspaper subscription to Kindle books from Amazon. I think I did it all.

We are so pleased with how the bank has responded in all of this. First, they discovered the fraud. We don't know how. But the two fraudulent charges were denied and nothing hit our account. Second, they have explained everything to us and have sent new cards to us in record time, considering the problem was discovered on a weekend and Monday was a holiday. It has taken some of my time, but everything is back to normal--we hope.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Unwelcome Phone Call

I don't know about you, but it is very unusual when our phone rings at 8:30 pm. It is unsettling, to say the least. And it really didn't get any better after I answered it.

The man on the other end identified himself as a representative from our bank's fraud division. Oh oh. What's wrong? He asked if we had made a $200 transaction in a Houston Wal-Mart in the past few minutes. Well, no. We're in Arizona.

It seems someone, somehow, got our credit card number and used it. The bank was on top of things, I am happy to report. He was able to determine that the earlier charges yesterday were ours, but this new one was not. How? I don't know. They will cancel that card and send us a new one.

I am grateful they were able to spot this issue right away and we don't have to hassle with a charge made by someone else. But it may take up to 10 days to get new cards. This will be a real problem. We use our credit card for everything. Then we pay it in full each month and get 1% cash back. Many of our bills are paid automatically by credit card. I will have to contact everyone who expects those payments to go through in the next week or so, then change the card number with every company that bills the card--like our satellite TV and cell phone and insurance.

We just hope the thieves only got the credit card number and we don't have any problems elsewhere. I'll let you know how it goes.

On a better note, the weather in Phoenix is absolutely wonderful--sunny and in the 70s every day this week and into next week. This is why we are Arizona snowbirds!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Warm again

After at least 5 nights of temps below freezing and days with highs in only the 40s, we are finally warm again here in Mesa. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. Hallelujah! A couple of days ago, I passed a woman in one of our parking lots and heard her say, "There are a lot of cranky old people when it gets this cold here." I agree.

Today we met our blog- and RV-friends Art and Connie at their resort for lunch. They are work campers at Mesa Regal, another "Active 55+ Resort" here in Mesa. The Cactus Grill there serves lunch and with the beautiful weather, we were able to eat outside.

We shared stories of our travels and various work camping experiences. It was a fun visit.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Weather Alert

The evening news, and even roadside signs, warned of the coming bad weather here in Arizona. I think there were reports from 3 or 4 people in the field about how to prepare. What were we looking at? Overnight lows below freezing and daytime highs in the 40s until Tuesday!

Here in the Phoenix area, the warnings were about protecting plants from the freezing temperatures. There are lots of oranges and grapefruit still on the trees. Because the weather here is so mild, lots of people have blooming plants out. In fact, the garden centers are selling bedding plants. So this weather can cause lots of damage.
In the northern part of the state, snow, ice and below-zero temps were predicted. We prepared by filling our fresh water tank and disconnecting the water hose.

We have been in Arizona for long enough this winter that we, too, think it is pretty darn cold. But for years I have felt TV news has made too much of the weather. When we were living in Colorado in the winter, a snowstorm, even one depositing no more than 2 or 3 inches, became a major story. Ridiculous.

As I am writing this blog, the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens are in a playoff game in Denver and the stands are packed, even though the temperature is only 14 degrees. I'm sure all those folks would call those of us here in Arizona "wimps."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Something New

Who would have believed I could start with a board like this:

And end up with something like this?

Yesterday, I attended the certification classes for the woodshop in our resort. John went with me to the first session in the morning, even though he was certified two years ago. The second session was in the afternoon and requires participants to make the picture frame because of the many different tools we would use in its construction.

Nine people took part in the afternoon session. We used the oscillating drum sander

a couple of different table saws

the router

a cut-off saw

and the planer, jointer, drill press, band saw and scroll saw.

Most of these tools were new to me, but it was fun. And I felt so good about what I accomplished.

This is what it looked like at the end of the class. I had glued it together and strapped in place to dry.

Today, John and I went back to the shop and I sanded the finished frame. We also started work on a small foot rest.

It is really amazing what can be accomplished when you have the right tools and a little instruction.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

It's Getting Busy Here!

This is the first year we have stayed in Mesa after January 1. In previous years, we have left for volunteer assignments. We knew the resort filled up for the first three months of the year, but this is the first time we have experienced it.

Sunday we learned they were expecting 40 spaces to be filled over the weekend! That means somewhere near 80 new people would be arriving. Yesterday, two RV sites behind us and two park models across the street were newly occupied. Each day we see new people walking around, checking out who is where. There is a lot more traffic.

When we arrived in October, there were lots of empty RV spaces and the majority of the park models were still empty. Today, other than park models that are for sale, almost all of them have their winter residents in place. And the majority of the RV sites are occupied.

It will be interesting to see what life is like when this "city" is really full.

Looking to the future, we have now confirmed a volunteer position for the summer. We will spend five months in Colorado, working at Mueller State Park in Divide. That is a park we have camped in numerous times in the past. We love it there and will enjoy a summer in the Colorado mountains. We will be close to Eric and his family in Littleton, as well as John's brother and sister in Canon City and a sister in Fort Collins. Once we adjust to the 9,000 foot elevation, it should be a great summer.

This is a picture of our RV site. The red truck is parked where our RV will be located. Look at the view!

Sunday, January 06, 2013


If nothing else is going on, you can always go shopping. So that is what we did yesterday. Once every year we visit the Mesa Swap Meet. It isn't as big and isn't focused just on RVers, but it is a small version of the Big Tent at Quartzite. Actually, I had already been to the Swap Meet, but John hadn't. That is where I shopped for the stocking-stuffer gifts I bought him for Christmas.

The booths in the tent structure include purveyors of "As Seen on TV", jewelry, health foods, hot tubs, windows and doors, and lots of tools.

Several shops sell cell phone accessories. Obviously, the majority of shoppers have those wonderful gadgets.

And there is a wide variety of items to decorate homes and yards.

I did buy about $10 worth of items--kitchen gadgets and a belt carrier for the iphone.

We found one more geocache nearby. It was named "Blue Hair Bazaar."

Friday, January 04, 2013

Why Do I Blog?

Why do I write this blog? I began in May 2006 as we started our trip to the Canadian Maritime Provinces. I wanted to keep a good record of our travels and I wanted to provide a way for our family and friends to keep in touch with what we were doing and where we were. That year we were out in the RV 203 nights (some of it before I started blogging) and I wrote 15 posts.

In 2007, we were out 238 nights and I wrote 40 posts. At the end of January 2009, we moved out of our house and went on the road full time. That year, I wrote 91 posts. In the year just completed, I posted 222 blogs, including 107 during our trip through Canada and Alaska.

We get a printed book of the blog posts each year. For 2012, there will be two books--really our scrapbooks--one on the Alaska trip and the second for the rest of the year. Earlier this week, I ordered the second book.

The blog started out as a personal record and a way to keep in touch with family and close friends. It is still that. I also have found a renewed pleasure in writing. My college degree is in journalism, so writing to describe events has always been something I enjoy. But I hadn't done much writing for years. I find I look at life through the lens of the blog--including pictures, picture captions and blog title.

Blogging also has helped us make friends as we move around the country. I read blogs by other RVers, they read mine. We comment back and forth on each others' blogs. And sometimes, we meet for lunch and to share experiences. These virtual friends become flesh and blood friends. This community is important when we don't live in a stationary community.

All of this is the fun and rewarding part of blogging. Except for the time we spent going to and from Alaska this summer, I have never blogged daily. So I don't write about the mundane daily events. And I haven't found much interesting in the past four days to write about. We have now stayed in this Mesa resort five times. There isn't something new every day or two and I hate to write year after year about the same events. We don't need that for our scrapbooks and I doubt if others want to read about it. I guess we will have to find something exciting to do so I can blog about it.

We did go geo-caching today and found three of the caches we hunted for and didn't find another three. That is something we haven't done for nearly two years. We hope to do it more often.