Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 in Review

The year 2017 has been full of contrasts.  We spent 6 1/2 months in our winter home in Gold Canyon and 8 weeks in 4 Colorado state parks and we still managed to drive a little over 17,000 miles, including 8,139 miles towing our Airstream.  Part of the year we were really on the move.

Our travels included 47 campgrounds from Arizona to New Hampshire to Colorado and back to Arizona.  We stayed in two of those campgrounds twice.  As we traveled, we stayed in 9 KOA campgrounds and 2 Corps of Engineers campgrounds.  We try to avoid KOA because they are often overpriced but there are just times when they are the only or the best place available where we want to stay.  Unfortunately, the Corps doesn't have campgrounds all across the country.  In fact, the majority are west of the Mississippi River.

We were in 20 states as we traveled.  Five of those we stayed in for the first time--knocking one item off our bucket list.  We have now slept overnight in our RV in all 49 continental states.  It has taken us 29 years to make it to all of the lower 48 and Alaska. This shows where we have been this year.

We didn't drive to the East Coast just to complete an item on our bucket list.  We traveled to New Hampshire to watch our son Doug graduate from Nashua Community College.  We also spent some time with our 2 granddaughters, Rachal and Samantha.  Since we were in the neighborhood--so to speak--we also visited New York City and Washington, DC.

We were able to see family and friends as we made a somewhat slower return trip west.  In Colorado we had more time with family and friends.

At least at this point, we don't expect 2018 will bring as much travel--at least in our RV.  We are hoping to fly to England and spend 6 to 8 weeks traveling there.

Thursday, December 28, 2017


We are spending the week of Christmas in Tucson, at Justin's Diamond J RV park. It isn't a resort by any stretch, but the sites are large, the hookups full with 50 amp and there are trails right outside the gate through the beautiful Arizona desert.

There are cholla, saguaro and prickly pear cactus thick in this part of the Sonoran Desert.

The nearby trails were developed and are maintained by the campground staff.  They are labeled with neatly printed signs on the rocks.  At one time the signs must have been different.  In 2 places we saw this old tin baking sheets with long faded arrows marking the way.

The have a sense of humor, as well.   Here are two "graves" along the track.  The jug at the head of the right-hand grave reads "Platte River."  It comes from Missouri.

These folding chairs once provided a resting place along the trail.  There have long outlived their usefulness.

The day after Christmas we went hiking in the nearby national park.  Can you guess which one it is?  We are near Saguaro National Park West.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Getting Into the Christmas Spirit

Looking for a little Christmas spirit, we went to Mesa Monday evening and had bbq sandwiches at Waldo's.  John had the brisket sandwich on the left and I had the pulled pork on the right.

The food was good and filling.  The we were ready to set off for the Christmas light display on the Mesa LDS temple grounds.

There were the 3 wise men.

Lights around the reflecting pool in front of the temple.

The trees were lighted, the gardens and walkways.  It was truly beautiful.

As we were taking pictures, one of the volunteers offered to take our picture.

And more lights on the grounds.

Here is on last photo of the wise men and their camels with lighted palm trees in  the background.

Monday, December 18, 2017


Change can be hard and we’ve had a lot of it this year.  After officiating in July at the marriage of our niece Sarah to Jay, John announced that he was retiring and that was the last priestly event he would do for the family.  The past 2 summers there have been funerals for one brother-in-law and one sister-in-law. Those life events are very important and serious and they demand a lot of time and effort for everyone involved.  John was ordained to the priesthood 30 years ago and we are both 75 years old.  It was time for a change—for real retirement.

That retirement from ministry meant he would not be preaching and celebrating several times a month at the Church of the Epiphany in Tempe, the Episcopal church we have been worshiping in for  5 years during our winters in Arizona.  That was a real change.  On top of that, the rector there (who happened to have attended the same seminary as John at the same time) retired.  The worship experience was different as a result.  Being a part of that church community and worship had been a central part of our life here each winter.

These changes were difficult to adjust to.  We decided to see if we could find a church where we could truly worship God in the Phoenix valley without driving 25 miles one way to the services.  That drive had meant John drove 400 miles during Holy Week last spring, serving at every worship service during that special week.  We wanted to find something closer.

After visiting 3 nearby churches, I wondered if we would find any place where we really felt we could worship.  I had to keep reassuring myself God would not abandon us.  There would be a church closer to where we live, where we would feel comfortable and reach out to God in this part of the valley.

In 1984 the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America entered into open communion, agreeing they could share clergy and members could worship and receive communion in either church, no matter which one they were a member of.  We think we have found a church home in an ELCA church and are working through this change with hope.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

No Pictures?

Not much to talk about this week--and less to post photos about. Wednesday we met Ron and Barbara and Diana for lunch at Kneaders. Good food and good conversation. But would you believe that 3 bloggers met for lunch (Barbara, Diana and I) and no one took a picture? Oh well, it was a good get together even without pictures.

A week or so ago, our neighbors Jack and Kathy said they were having a painter come to do some work on their house. We said we really needed someone to paint some of the exterior trim on our house. Thursday the painters came and made estimates of the cost of our paint jobs. By 9 am Friday their were working at Jack and Kathty's and by the end of the day they had painted the trim on 3 houses on our street. Today they painted 3 or 4 more places and others are expecting them to come on Monday. It looks really spiffy on our street!

The painters are very careful and neat. We didn't see any drips or spots and they didn't put the dark paint on the light stucco--all without any masking. They do a really good and professional job. Thanks!

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Lunch With Friends

John and Dave have been friends since childhood and we were glad when we moved to Gold Canyon to learn their winter home is less than 2 miles from ours. Each winter we see them 2 or more times. We got together Wednesday at a nearby Mexican restaurant. We talked non-stop for a couple of hours, catching up on each others' lives over the summer.

It is good to have friends from many years ago. It is always good to meet up with Dave and Alice.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Somebody Has Been Really Busy

In early October John and I took a class on turning pens. It is relatively easy to do. But it takes practice and skill to do it really well.  Since then I have made 4 more pens. But John is another story. He loves creating pens. Just look at what he has done!

Only 2 of these pens are ones I made.  I need a lot of practice before I am good at it.

John especially likes woods with pattern or designs. If you look closely, you will see zebrawood, bocote, wenge and others. There is even stabilized ambrosia maple. All of these woods can be made into exquisite pens. We have found three stores in the Phoenix area that sell wood pen blanks, plus we can order them online.

All this creativity is filling John's time in his retirement.

Monday, November 27, 2017

So Many Memories

It's that time of year again, time to put up the Christmas decorations.  For us, and probably for many of you, it is also a time to rejoice over a lot of good memories.  The decorations on our little tree bring back memories of Christmases past.  We talk about where the ornaments came from.  Some belonged to my mother, some remind us of why we bought them--like the small US Marine in dress blues, bought when Doug went into the Marine Corps.  There is a Santa in running gear to remind us of when we both ran for exercise.  The Santa wearing a priest's color brings back the many years John served as a priest in Colorado churches and here in Arizona

We have been traveling in our RV since 1988 and some of the ornaments were purchased as souvenirs of places we've been.  Even one from England--obviously we didn't get there in our RV. We have a canoe and a lighthouse from the Maritime Provinces of Canada and 4 small RV trailers recalling our mode of travel.

I collected Santas for years.  One of these I had as a child, 2 belonged to my mother, 4 are Santas John carved and others were purchased on our travels or at garage sales.

These 4 snowmen were made--or dressed--by my mother.  They represent John, me, Doug and Eric.

I also have a small collection of nativity scenes. This year is has been joined by this great scene that John carved over the past couple of years. We set it up in front of our house here in Arizona.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Family, Friends and Food

We celebrated Thanksgiving at the home of my cousin Deanna and her husband Don and their neighbors. It was a beautiful, sunny Arizona day and we visited and ate on their patio.

Don and Deanna are real animal lovers.  They rescue dogs--large dogs.  Today they only have 3 at their home.  Within the last few months 2 others have died.  These dogs were quiet and very interested in what was going about 20 feet beyond their enclosure.  Usually, they are loose in the yard or in the house.

They also have 3 large turtles in another enclosure.  These animals are very friendly and enjoy having their necks scratched.  We have never before seen turtles this large as pets.

All of the guests brought food to eat so we had quite a spread--including smoked ham and turkey.

The next day we had  to work off some of what we had eaten so we walked from our resort to Silly Mountain and back with our friends John and Rose.  The trip is about 3 miles round trip.

This saguaro reminded me of a menorah, except it was missing some arms.

As you can see, everyone enjoyed the walk and the talk.  This was taken at the end of our journey.

We give thanks for so many things in our life, including for family, friends, being able to spend our winters in the beautiful Arizona desert, and good food.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

I have so much to thank our loving God for--family, friends, health, the wonderful world we live in and the opportunity to travel around it, good food, an being married to my best friend.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Proud Grandparents

We think being grandparents might be even better than being parents. There is the advantage that you can enjoy them when you want, then send them home when you are tired. Plus, you don't have to pay their bills unless you really want to. As they grow up, we are seeing that we can enjoy their achievements without spending all the time and energy it takes to help them accomplish them.

We just received photos of our two Colorado grandchildren.

Not a Good Day

Could I just forget this day happened?
Or maybe ask for a do-over. It really hasn't been a super day.

This afternoon I decided to spend some time turning a bowl out of a bowl blank of red cedar. I had used a paper joint to glue a glue block to the bowl blank. The glue block had a faceplate screwed on. When I attached it to the lathe, I asked John to leave the work shop while I turned on the lathe and made sure the paper joint would hold. There was a loud sound, then the bowl blank came off and hit wall behind the lathe. This is what the "injured wall" looked like.

At least only the drywall was injured, not John or me or the window in the door to the shop.

Next, I thought I would turn a pen. I loaded the pen blank on the mandrel and turned it. When I checked to see how much further I had to go, I discovered the hole for the tube must not have been straight into the pen blank. The turned item was round but on one side there was plenty of wood left, on the other side I had bare copper tubing. D***, double ***. I cleaned up the shop and went in the house and turned on my computer.

But the damage wasn't done yet. While cooking dinner, I removed a pan from one of the burners on the stove but I neglected to turn off the burner AND I inadvertently pushed a plastic storage container onto the burner. This is the mess I made.

I would really like a do-over on this day. Or maybe I should stick to ordering take-out and working on my computer.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

San Tan Mountains Hiking

Tuesday we took a hike in the San Tan Mountain Regional Park in Queen Creek. It isn't our favorite park in the Phoenix area but it has lots of trails and most of them are fairly flat.  We hiked 6 miles that day.

I just love the saguaro cactus.

The trails are popular with runners (didn't get any pictures of them), bikers and horse-back riders.

In 2009 we went full-time in our RV. On New Year's Day 2010, during our first winter in Arizona rather than Colorado, we hiked in San Tan Regional Park. That was a new experience for us--very different from spending New Year's Day in Colorado.

We are still enjoying spending the winter months in Arizona.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Cooking on the Trail

History and good food come together each fall when competitors gather for the Chandler Chuck Wagon Cook-off at Tumbleweed Park. We have gone several years in the past and wanted to check it out again this last weekend.

The competition includes both authentic recreations of the chuck wagons that traveled with cattle drives in the old West and typical trail meals.  The contestants put a lot of effort into recreating the complete kitchens that fed the cow hands. Notice the tipi to the left rear where the cook would sleep.

A lot of time and effort is put into finding authentic containers and cooking equipment. Antique dealers must love to see these folks come in the door. Cooking without running water takes a lot of work. Look at the bucket of water this woman is carrying. And imagine how hot her clothing must be. I was glad to be in chorts.

I hope these red long-johns weren't washed in the water that was then used for cooking.

This miniature cook wagon attracted the young visitors. It's important to get children interested in cooking and history at a young age.

You can click here or here if you want to learn more by looking at my blogs from previous contests.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

An Annual Hike

Almost every winter one of our first hikes is in Usury Mountain Park to Wind Cave. It is a very popular trail and a little under 2 miles one way. We went there last week. The desert in that area is beautiful.

Although the trail isn't too long, it is steep. This is an awful picture John took of me. I really wasn't struggling as much as it looks like here but it does take some work to get to the "cave."

But the view over the valley is worth it, even if we had to share it with quite a few other hikers.

Although it is called a cave, it is really an overhang. At Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado  overhangs like this and those a lot deeper were used for cliff dwellings. Wind cave would provide some protection from rain. It often hosts large numbers of bees and some chipmunks as well as hikers.