Sunday, March 25, 2012


Red Rocks 1Saturday dawned cool and sunny, perfect for our planned day trip to Sedona, 20 miles away.  We packed our lunch, grabbed our maps and were out the door at 9 am.

The small city of Sedona is nestled in one of the beauty spots of North America – my opinion, and the opinion of hundreds of thousands of people who come to gaze upon it… including hordes who wanted to gaze upon it on Saturday.

Like many beautiful places, Sedona suffers from its popularity.  Strip malls (albeit far more attractive than most) and traffic line its approaches; the town center was a stressful knot of stop-and-go traffic and tourists.  We weren’t interested in browsing or shopping, so passing through town was simply a practice in patience.

Approaching from the west, our first stop was the Boynton Canyon trailhead.  Gaping at the enormous, stunning, red rock formations as we approached the parking area, we looked forward to enjoying this popular trail, leading to one of Sedona’s famous vortices.  From both the written trail description and the number of cars in the parking lot at 10 am, we knew we wouldn’t be alone.  What we didn’t know – unfortunately - is that half a mile or more of the trail runs directly adjacent to a luxury resort that spreads across the bottom of the narrow canyon. 

Less than a quarter mile into the hike, the trail enters a designated wilderness area (always a good sign, in my mind – no powered vehicles or bikes allowed).  Shortly after signing the wilderness register, the trail approached the edge of the resort – and for the next 1/2 mile or more, we were serenaded by the sounds of leaf blowers, cars, and a chain saw doing its thing.  Even after we left the resort behind, the sounds of gas powered engines followed us up the narrow canyon.  What a shame!

Red Rocks 3 Red Rocks 4

The scenery, though was just what we hoped: glorious!  Both of the photos above were taken along the trail, along with dozens more – it was difficult to keep the camera in my pocket.  So, though I wouldn’t hike this particular trail again, we did enjoy the views and the weather.  No vortex effects to report.  :)

Oak Creek Canyon switchbacksPart two of our planned excursion was a drive up beautiful Oak Creek Canyon to the switchbacks 14 miles north of Sedona.  There is only one way to access the canyon from the south, and that is right through the knot of congestion in the heart of Sedona.  We worked our way through town, and joined the other drivers heading up the canyon on a beautiful day in a beautiful area, windows down, sunroof open.

What a drive!  The canyon is narrow, as is the two lane, winding road.  Oak Creek boiled with muddy snowmelt from the recent storm.  At times, rocky cliffs crowd the roadside; everywhere, high, carved, brightly colored rock walls vie for attention.  Per posted signs, vehicles over 50 feet long are prohibited on the switchbacks on highway 89A.  Though we did see a tour bus descending, there is NO way we would use this route to travel in the motorhome from Sedona to Flagstaff!

Back home, I found many interesting comments about huitlacoche (aka corn smut or Raven’s excrement) – blogs about food always seem to touch a chord.  The biggest surprise came from Judy (Travels with Emma): “I think I would have liked to try one of those quesadillas.”  I don’t think of Judy as a very adventurous eater, but her comment and a recent blog post indicate otherwise; she tried grits! 

Both grits and polenta are made of ground corn.  Polenta is a favorite of ours (grits, not so much) and Judy’s post reminded me to include a recipe I discovered the other night, Enrico’s Easy Polenta – baked in the oven! 

Cooking boiling cornmeal on a stovetop can be hazardous; the thickened mass looks like lava as hot bubbles form and burst.  Stand back!  Polenta can be cooked in the microwave, but I’ve ended up with a massive mess when I used too small a bowl. Cooked in the oven?  Trouble- and mess-free! 

I used the creamy polenta in its traditional role – in place of pasta, topped with a tomato-fennel sauce.  Next morning, I cubed the now-firm leftover polenta, fried it in olive oil, put it on top of a pile of savory beans and topped it off with mildly spiced guacamole.  Yum!

Friday, March 23, 2012


Heading down to Camp VerdeWe just returned from a failed attempt to visit Tuzigoot National Monument on foot from the trails at Dead Horse Ranch State Park (click here to read our review).  10,300 steps, and we turned back without success.  :)

BUT – the sunshine was warm on our shoulders and bare legs (yep, we dug out shorts), a light breeze was blowing, the temperature was 70 degrees.  The cottonwood trees show a hit of green and birds were serenading us, so it wasn’t all bad.  :)

Quite a bit of snow fell in the high country before we left Congress on Wednesday morning.  We took the longer, more big-rig friendly route from Congress to Cottonwood: south towards Phoenix, east on highway 74 to Interstate 17, north to highway 260 which runs northwest to Cottonwood.  As we climbed up over 5,000 feet on the interstate, a thin layer of snow covered the slopes – and here at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, the surrounding peaks still show signs of the recent storm.  It was a lovely drive.

Site 70 at Dead Horse RanchSpring break!  We forgot all about it until we pulled into the state park, but were quickly reminded by the kids tearing around the campground on bicycles and on foot.  The campground has been full all week, with lots of activity today as the weekenders are arriving.  This is a huge park, with miles of trails, adjacent to the Verde River (which is actually WET, rather than the usual dry Arizona riverbed).  Plenty of trails for hiking, a lagoon for fishing, a tent campground loop separate from the RV loops; I can see why this park is so popular.

After a morning hike yesterday, we hopped into the car and headed up to Jerome, a copper mining town very reminiscent of Bisbee (though larger and busier).  Phelps Dodge ran the mines in Jerome (like they did in Bisbee – and maybe Ajo?).  Jerome clings to the steep side of Cleopatra hill; driving is a challenge. 

The population of Jerome dropped from 15,000 to 50 after the mine closed in 1953.  Like Bisbee, Jerome was saved by hippies and artists who moved in and eventually created an atmosphere appealing to tourists.  Now, Jerome boasts numerous restaurants, shops, and wine tasting rooms.  The streets were packed with tourists when we visited mid-week.

Jerome on Cleopatra Hill Front of Jerome Grand Hotel
Above: Looking at Jerome from below.  The big building at the top is the Jerome Grand Hotel.

Below: a funny intersection in Jerome as we walked up to the historic hotel.
Above: the Jerome Grand Hotel up close and personal. 

Below: Looking down on Jerome from the hotel’s vantage point.
Funny Jerome Intersection Looking down on Jerome

After a couple of hours exploring this quirky town on foot, we were ready to sit down to a meal.  The campground host back at Dead Horse Ranch had recommended 15.Quince (pronounced keen-say, the Spanish word for fifteen) for “Mexican food with a twist”, so that is where we settled.

Quince Restaurant The restaurant was small, busy and bright, with a polished, stamped metal ceiling.  Color and art everywhere your eye rested, and I got a huge kick out of the TV: the Food Network was on (Paula Deen), rather than ESPN!

Odel ordered “Braised pork with black beans and green rice”; I ordered quesadillas.  Filling choices were the usual, plus something very unusual: huitlacoche, a corn fungus considered a delicacy in Mexico.  That’s what I picked.
Carnitas for Odel Quesadillas

Awesome!  Both servings were so large that we knew immediately we were looking at both lunch and dinner, and so yummy that we were happy to have the leftovers.  I had heard of huitlacoche before, but had never had it in such quantity.  The fungus is chopped, the slowly sautéed until it becomes a savory, oily paste, quite rich tasting.  In this dish, the paste had been mixed with soft, sautéed chile peppers and onions – awesome is the best description.  Too bad huitlacoche isn’t more readily available in the U.S.; I’d love to get my hands on some.

Tuzigoot from the Verde floodplain Tuzigoot and the mountains

Tuzigoot in the distance, from the trail.

Standing on top of the ruins.

4:56 pm: It’s now later afternoon and – guess what – we made it to Tuzigoot National Monument, via car.  From the hilltop ruin, it was easy to see the trail we had walked this morning, and to see where we turned around – about half a mile short of the trail up the hillside.  It is an interesting site, beautiful in a spare way.  We weren’t going to leave without a visit.

Tomorrow?  We plan to revisit Sedona, to hike to one of the vortices for which it is famous.  Red rocks, here we come.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Cranberry Choc Chip CookiesBack when we were in Tucson and I had a cold, I didn’t feel like planning meals or shopping for food.  Lucky us, I had the simple ingredients on hand to make an extremely easy “comfort food” soup that I had never tried before: New England Sweet Potato Soup.  I’d saved the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens “Ultimate Slow Cooker” magazine back in 2008 (!), and finally decided to buy the sweet potatoes when I realized I had all the other ingredients on hand. 

This is the perfect recipe for when you don’t have the time or energy for anything complex – just load the ingredients in the crockpot, come back 5-6 hours later (say, after a nice nap), mash, season and serve.  I topped it with chopped green onions and coarsely chopped, roasted pecans.  Vegetarian as I made it (with milk); vegan if you leave the milk out (soy or almond milk would be a good substitute); for omnivores if you add the optional crumbled bacon topping.  Odel particularly liked this soup (probably due to the unusual sweetness).  Next time, I plan to serve it with a moist, chewy bran muffin with cranberries or raisins.  Great, easy, and somewhat unusual meal for a cold day!

Red Scarlett Runner Beans in Tomato Fennel sauceOmnivore, vegetarian, vegan… there has been a good deal of talk about the options around our house lately.  Back when Bill Clinton lost 20+ pounds after reading The China Study and switching to a (mostly) vegan diet, Odel and I talked a little about cutting meat out of our diet.  Nah, never went anywhere with that – but I did cut back on the amount of meat we eat.  Odel filled in with KFC or a hot dog whenever his carnivore gene objected.

Recently, The China Study surfaced in our conversation again, and with more force when we read an email from my sister Sydney, a vegetarian who recently bought the book and wrote: “It is a REAL EYE OPENER!!!!! You should really get it.”

It is difficult for me to imagine Odel and I becoming vegans, but I do plan to read the book.  In the meantime, I’m fascinated with the cookbook and heirloom beans I bought when we were in Tucson, at Native Seeds/SEARCH.  If anything could replace meat in our diet, it would be beans.  Both Odel and I love them, and their meaty texture and flavor – along with a dollop of olive oil (or bacon fat – he, he) – provides a lot of the texture and richness that we appreciate in meat dishes.  Plus, they are a natural for the crockpot, one of the few kitchen appliances that earned a ride along when we hit the road.

Giant Red Scarlett Runner BeanDuring our two days of snowy/rainy/cold weather, quite a bit of cooking took place in our little kitchen.  Homemade cookies, a dinner of Red Scarlett Runner Beans in Tomato Sauce on Creamy Polenta, and my other new favorite, Wilted Kale with Beans and Squash (supposed to be Cranberry Beans and Delicata Squash, but I had Anasazi Beans and Butternut Squash – so that’s what I made).  Like the New England Sweet Potato Soup, this is recipe has a surprising (and intriguing) sweetness.  Totally vegan… but we accompanied it with organic, all beef, bratwurst that we picked up at the Tucson farmers’ market just before we left town.  Omnivores.

Our current food philosophy?  Light on meat (and more of it comes from farmers/ranchers at the farmer’s markets), even lighter on dairy (Odel doesn’t like cheese; I buy milk about once every three months; and our freezer can’t keep ice cream frozen).  Heavy on plant foods: grains, beans, vegetables and fruit, purchased as close to our current location as possible (farmers’ markets whenever possible; foods in season and not from the southern hemisphere as the next best thing).  Guess you’d call us omnivores with a locavore bent.  :)

The number one thing we could do to improve our diet is to cut out crackers, chips, and store-bought cookies. We both love salty, crunchy snacks; processed snacks and baked goods are our biggest downfall – along with overindulgence in general!

Pasta sauce and sauteed vegiesThis morning, before Odel headed off to the golf course (yes, our warm sunshine has returned), he made a batch of his fantastic pasta sauce (with meat), which we’ll put in the freezer to reheat and enjoy on whole wheat pasta (which we both prefer) as we continue to travel north over the next few weeks.  (I might try adapting that recipe one of these days, replacing the Italian sausage with small beans; beans and pasta have a long and honorable partnership.) 

When his cooking was done, I put Lima Beans with Smoked Turkey in the crockpot for tonight’s dinner: beans, lots of vegies (added kale this time, and replaced celery – which I didn’t have – with a bulb of fennel, which I did).  A little meat, a lot of vegetables.

We may not eat “right”, but we sure do eat “good”.  :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012


The stormy weather predicted to blow in from California arrived right on schedule.  Rain pounded on our roof last night, the temperature plummeted, and I wasn’t surprised to see snow on the nearby mountains when I peeped out the window this morning.  As I write at noon, a blustery wind is blowing, rain drops blur the windshield from time to time, and the temperature is around 40 degrees cooler than yesterday at this time.  Very wintery!

Snow on the nearby mountains

Coming our way

Awoke to snow near North Ranch Coming our way

What a complete change from the weather we’ve enjoyed during the past few days!  We’ve spent much of our time outdoors, hiking, reading, and socializing.  Walking around North Ranch, we often run into people we know, or end up in conversations with friendly residents of the park.  Yesterday, as we stood outdoors talking with Jackie Hada – a Boomer friend who had organized a happy hour at her place soon after we arrived – we were surprised to see a woman approach pushing a stroller holding her cat!  As she got near, she asked “Are you Odel and Laurie?”  Thus we met Pat McFall, familiar to us through Mike McFall’s blog, Mike and Pat’s Travels.  We’ve had several such serendipitous encounters since we arrived.

Here are some photos of our recent desert explorations (hover your cursor over a photo to read the caption); quite a change in the weather!

Vulture Peak Trail Rest break with trail on the right
Odel and Crested Cup Cactus in bloom
Pink cactus flowers Easter Cactus in bloom

These two cacti are blooming here at North Ranch.  Many of the lots have beautiful desert landscaping with cacti in bloom.

Odel (engrossed in watching golf and basketball) just leapt up from the couch and yelled “it’s snowing!”  Yep, I see some flakes mixed in with the rain.  I hope you all are warm and dry, wherever you are.  Think I’ll go make some cookies.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


DownerA few weeks ago, we reserved a site at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona – elevation around 3,500 feet.  We plan to use the state park as a base camp to explore Jerome and Sedona, two of northern Arizona’s top scenic spots, which we’ve barely brushed on prior travels (though we have taken the Pink Jeep tour in the red rocks of Sedona).  With a bit of good luck, we figured we might even squeeze in a trip to the south rim of the Grand Canyon after we left Cottonwood, heading west.

Those plans changed as we watched the weather forecast for our upcoming reservation in Cottonwood.  Chance of SNOW???

Cottonwood weatherCongress, our current location (and about 1,000 ft. lower) looked slightly better, but also wet and cold… but here we have full hookups, a huge, indoor, activity center with scheduled activities, and a clubhouse with a comfortable library – and friends.  Odel called Dead Horse Ranch State Park and pushed our reservation out another five days, when the weather returns to warm sunshine.  Smart move, my man!

Meanwhile, here at North Ranch (click here to read our review and see photos), the weather has been fine, fine, fine.  Sunshine every day, warm temperatures moderated by a slight afternoon breeze, and very cool nights.  Residents and other travelers are ultra-friendly; we’ve made new friends (mostly when Odel is recognized by a blog reader) and hooked up with old friends.  It is easy to see why traveling Escapees fall in love with the place.

Unlike many of the Escapee parks we visit, North Ranch is not a co-op with jointly-owned lots.  Instead, developed lots at North Ranch are deeded and privately owned.  RV’s are allowed on ALL deeded lots, as are mobile homes, park models, site-built homes and everything in between.  It reminds me greatly of the Foothills area of Yuma, though this is a much smaller (MUCH smaller) neighborhood.  Here are some examples - click on any photo for a larger view.

Transient spaces in the campground.

A plain, clean, undeveloped deeded lot.

Covered single wide with RV parking.

Row of transient spaces Plain, clean lot Single wide, cover, and lot

Large RV shelter with attached casita and detached garage.

Southwestern style casita with plenty of RV parking.

Large, site-built home.

RV cover and casita Large casita and RV pad Fancy home

When we aren’t off getting our exercise elsewhere, it’s great fun to wander the streets of North Ranch examining the deeded lots (many of which are for sale).  Most are very well maintained; pride of ownership is evident here.  All lot owners have access to the common areas of the park, the activity center, the clubhouse, and what appears to be a maintenance building (we haven’t checked that out yet, other than a quick peek at the pickle ball game going on inside).

Rosemary in bloom Out the back gate

Rosemary in bloom in the native plant garden.

Out the back gate into BLM land.

On the north side of North Ranch, a beautifully designed desert garden features native plants and a giant, ancient, saguaro.  At the back of the property, an gate provides access to desert walking out on the BLM managed property surrounding North Ranch.

All in all, a good place to sit out three or four days of winter’s return.  :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Odel proclaimed it the best pot of posole EVER!

Posole Posole

Freshly cooked dried corn (hominy), went into…

… Posole, a stew of meat, hominy, chiles and spices.

Al and Kelly (The Bayfield Bunch) were invited for dinner, so I kept the heat on the mild side. We served the traditional accompaniments: shredded cabbage (put it in the bowl first, then ladle the steaming stew on top), chopped green onions, chopped radishes, and chopped cilantro.

Chile Roof in Hatch-1Though it is an extra step, rehydrating and cooking the dried corn was worth the effort (though I would still use canned hominy in posole when I don’t have dried – which is just about always).  Thanks to the home-cooked hominy, the broth of the completed stew had that wonderful toasted corn flavor I associate with fresh corn tortillas – yummy. 

If you are interested in making a batch of posole, my recipe for posole in the Crockpot is in the recipe archive on the left side of the blog, easily adapted to a pot on the stove.  It is very mildly seasoned, so increase the seasoning if you like it hotter.   Use the best canned hominy your can find (I like Juanita’s, available in the Mexican section of major supermarkets); ditto for the green chiles.  When I used canned – which is most of the time – I use Hatch brand, and if you’ve ever been to Hatch, New Mexico, you know why!   I took the photo above in mid-September several years ago, as we drove down the main street of tiny Hatch.  It seemed as though every roof in town was used to dry the local product.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Odel and the SchoolteacherOdel had a birthday yesterday – not one of the biggies.  Since he has already passed Golden Age pass age, social security age and Medicare age (the GOOD milestones), he wasn’t very excited about it.  Ho, hum, just another day… but we made it a good one.

We started the day with lots of jokes about birthdays we’ve celebrated on the road (for some reason, the BAD ones stick with us).  One of Odel’s worst was in Ft. Stockton, Texas, at a horrible, cramped little RV park.  We arrived late in the day, in a downpour and, as Odel stood in a mud puddle in the rain about to plug our rig into an electric box with no breaker (we know better, NOW), he wondered if it would be his last birthday.  Fortunately, he survived.

This year, we decided to spend his birthday at North Ranch (click here to read our review), the Escapee Club’s RV park in Congress, AZ.  This area, north of Phoenix and south of Flagstaff, is mostly a mystery to us, with the exception of a couple “drive-throughs” over the years.  We came to visit Wickenburg and Prescott and explore the beckoning open space – and to drive, in the Jeep, highway 89 north to Prescott.  This route has quite a reputation among RV’ers – narrow, winding, difficult, to be avoided.

We paid a short visit to Wickenburg on Saturday – long enough to view the golf course that Odel is playing right now, to gather a map and brochures from the visitor center, visit the Western Caballeros Desert Museum, to enjoy lunch at Nana’s Sandwich Saloon (I’d eaten a big breakfast, so my lunch was pie and coffee), and to wander the historic downtown with its fun history stops (statues with audio enhancement).   Wickenburg was charming – very western, clean, big enough but not too big, filled with interesting history.  Worth more time!

Skull Valley GarageSunday: off to Prescott.  We mapped a 100-mile loop that would take us north on the devilish 89 to Prescott, then northwest out of Prescott for a looping return on route 10 through Skull Valley - couldn’t find any history on that less-than-welcoming name!  Our elevation here at North Ranch is around 2,400’; highway 89 summits a few miles this side of Prescott at 6,100’ before descending to Prescott at around 5,400’ (Prescott is Arizona’s “Mile High City”).  We knew we had an adventure ahead…

… which began with a stop just 6 miles north, to surprise Al, Kelly and Pheebe (The Bayfield Bunch) as they worked on the property they hope to buy on Ghost Town Road in Congress.  Al captured us peering in the windows; click here to read his blog post.  After a quick tour and hugs all around, we were off, heading north.

Highway 89 deserves its reputation.  A series of warning signs alerted us to the fact that vehicles over 40 long are not allowed on the highest, narrowest, most winding portion of the road before the summit.  Don’t ignore them!  It was a fun drive in the Jeep, and obviously is a favorite of cyclists (motorcyclists, that is).  Odel got to be the passenger (happy birthday); as driver, my eyes were mostly glued to the road and to the motorcycles anxious to speed around us.

Prescott is a good-sized city.  We missed – on purpose - all the big-box stores (apparently out of the east side of town) including Costco and the NEW Trader Joe’s that opened on Friday!  Trader Joe’s and Costco – Prescott has arrived in the big leagues.

Interior of The Palace

History in the Palace: contents of the safe.

The Palace Contents of the Palace Safe

We spent our time in the historic downtown area.  Kelly had mentioned The Palace, with a reputation for good burgers… so that was our lunch choice.  The Palace interior is filled with historical memorabilia, which we perused thoroughly while we awaited our lunch (and we concur – GOOD burgers).  We topped off our meal with a spin around the courthouse square, then settled into a sunny bench for a spell of people-watching. 

I preferred the homebound route, through Skull Valley, to the outbound route.  The road is less winding and wider, but what I liked best were the views, more open and expansive.  The weather was perfect, and we rode along with the sunroof wide open.  Seemed like a winner of a birthday to me.

On a totally unrelated note, remember the dried posole I bought in Tucson at Native Seeds/SEARCH last week?  The experiment has begun.  Last night, I washed the corn and covered it with water; this morning, I rinsed it, then simmered it in fresh water for two and a half hours, until it was tender (though still very chewy).  At this point, if it was in a can, it would be called hominy OR posole.

White Corn Posole Posole-1

One pound cooked into nine cups, four of which are now in the crockpot with pork, onions, garlic and the mild, roasted, poblano chilies I picked up at the Tucson farmers market.  Tomorrow’s dinner (guests are coming)is Posole, in the “green chile stew” sense of the word, along with the standard accompaniments: shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, green onions, chopped cilantro. Will we taste a difference between the canned product and the dried product?  I’m sure you all are dying to know – he, he, he!

Time to slip outdoors to enjoy this beautiful day.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Aravaipa HeirloomsI woke up at 5 am this morning, thinking about the kale, cabbage, and asparagus in my refrigerator bins, about the dried beans I bought in Tucson last week, and about the various treats stashed in my freezer.  My brain immediately began to mix and match, wondering whether I should sauté the kale with the organic, all beef bratwurst from the farmer’s market, or whether I wanted to use the kale with the heirloom Four Corners Gold beans (also picked up in Tucson) to make a variation of White Bean and Shrimp Stew with Greens.  And don’t forget the roasted green chilies from the farmer’s market and the dried posole (which I’ve never used before)… I’ve got a nice pound and a half of pork shoulder… all the ingredients for my crockpot Posole recipe.

And that’s when I knew I was going to beat this cold!

Last week in Tucson had its highs and lows.  We settled into our reserved site at Catalina State Park (click here to read our review from one year ago, updated with information about the new reservation system for Arizona State Parks) on Saturday afternoon, filled with plans for the next five days: visit Tucson’s largest and oldest farmers market on Sunday, a visit with the Wishnies, specialized shopping for me, golf for Odel… and lots of hikes in the state park.

We got off to a good start at the wonderful Sunday farmers market (southeast corner of River Road and Campbell, if you want to go).  We loaded up on goodies (organic beef bratwurst, fresh goat cheese, roasted Poblano peppers, Argentine-style empanadas, mesquite flour cookies, and another salmon pie from Anna’s Kitchen), soaked up the sunshine and enjoyed the people-watching.  Back home, my Kindle and I spent some quality time in the lounger in the sunshine.

Roasted PeppersMonday morning, my throat felt a little scratchy, which I put down to allergies or simply the dry, dry Arizona climate.  We took an hour-long hike along a wildflower-carpeted ridge in the park (and I didn’t take my camera!), in preparation for lunch with Fred and Jo Wishnie at Vivace, a favorite restaurant in Tucson.  We hadn’t seen them for quite awhile; what a pleasure to relax in that lovely restaurant with good foodie friends over a fantastic meal.

We followed lunch with a quick stop at Trader Joe’s and a longer visit to Costco.  By the time we got home, I felt quite tired.  As I stored away our purchases, Odel came in with the really bad news: coolant was dripping out of our radiator!  As our day wound down, we watched Jules towed away… boo-hoo.

Tuesday, we got a call from Aastro Transmission on Ina Road (highly recommended by us).  Long story short: two days of repairs (of many, many problems, not just the radiator), $2,800 bill plus the cost of a car rental for a day.  Meanwhile, my scratchy throat turned into an enervating cold.  Tuesday was not a good day for us!

Wednesday, we rented a Ford Escape.  Odel had a golf tee time and, in spite of my low energy, I had a couple errands I wanted to run while in Tucson.  It was rather fun to drive the Escape, one of the vehicles that might make a good towed for us when we replace our 2001 Jeep (which, with the recent repairs, should see us through the end of this year). 

Christmas Lima Beans Scarlet Runner Beans Four Corners Gold Beans blue Corn Posole White Corn Posole

Photos of heirloom beans and seeds courtesy of the Native Seeds/SEARCH website.

My target?  Native Seeds/SEARCH, a non-profit that “conserves, distributes and documents the adapted and diverse varieties of agricultural seeds, their wild relatives and the role these seeds play in cultures of the American Southwest and northwest Mexico”… promoting “use of these ancient crops and their wild relatives by gathering, safeguarding, and distributing their seeds to farming and gardening communities.”  Oh, did I have fun there, and certainly did my part to help support this worthy organization.  :) 

I came away with three kinds of new-to-me dried beans; two bags of dried corn (posole) – one white, one blue; and a great new cookbook.  We know “dried corn posole” as hominy when it is canned, which is the only way I have purchased it in the past, and “posole” is used both for the dried corn and the dish made from pork, green chilies, and hominy/cooked dried corn.  Confusing, eh?  I’ve got some fun food experiments coming up!

Odel, meanwhile, was freezing on the golf course, playing in the strong, dust-laden winds that plagued Tucson on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons.  I think I had the better day!

Tucson Sunday marketWe returned our rental on Thursday morning, on our way to meet Paul and Marsha Weaver (Where’s Weaver – we read each other’s blogs) at the new (open 6 months) Bisbee Breakfast Club in Tucson.  Our lively conversation covered all the usual RV interests, and it was fun to spend time with these new friends after exchanging blog comments for the past few years.  The food report:  our breakfasts at the Tucson branch of the BBC were as good as those in Bisbee… but it just wasn’t the same to walk out into the strip-mall ambiance of busy Ina Road instead of the funky Lowell neighborhood of the original BBC.  Still, we’d go again when in Tucson.

Checkout time at Catalina is now noon (another change that came with the reservation system), so we were on the road to Dogpound South, John and Brenda Brown’s (John and Brenda’s Incredible Journey) place in Maricopa.  By early afternoon, we were plugged into electricity on their big, level, lot, sitting in the sunshine catching up with them (last seen by us in Bouse, AZ, a year ago or so).  John and Brenda are Canadians who bought their Maricopa property last year so they could bring their horses with them when they come to Arizona in the winter.  They are avid riders, true cowboys (well, Brenda is not a “boy”, but you know what I mean).  Besides their two horses, they brought their ranch dog, Meg, and a son’s dog, Mac.  Between the horses and dogs, we felt right at home, as though we were back at Rosanna’s Paws and Hooves ranch.

Meg, Mac, and Odel play ballThe dogs absolutely tickled me.  Meg, a herder, is completely focused on teaching visitors to throw something – anything! - for her.  As we sat chatting with Brenda and John, Meg would bring a little stick, some tiny, 4 inch long thing she managed to find on their lot, and lay in next to my foot (or Odel’s), staring at it intently.  When we were non-responsive (mostly because these little twigs were too small to throw!), she would reposition the twig on my shoe, her nose pointing at it from 6 inches away, eyes never moving from her prize.  It was so, so funny.

Friday morning, before we all left (north for us, south to Catalina State Park for the Browns, their horses, and the dogs), Odel and I spent quite awhile playing with the dogs.  While Odel kicked Meg’s ball for her (to retrieve and stare down until he kicked it again), I took pictures and played with Mac, the two year old Rottweiler.  This is totally easy, because Mac’s interest is in shadows.  Since we were out early, our shadows were long – all I had to do was wave my arm while Mac jumped all over the moving shadow.  He, he!

Meg waits for the kickBy noon, we were settled into a big, level site at the Escapee park, North Ranch, in Congress, AZ, northwest of Phoenix.  Sunny, warm, calm, open – I knew right away we will be happy here for the next week.  It is new territory for us, though we’ve driven through the area in the past (and spent one night dry camping here several years ago), and we’re happily anticipating explorations of both Wickenburg and Prescott, nearby towns.  Al and Kelly (The Bayfield Bunch) are boondocking nearby; we are looking forward to visiting with them, too.

After a walk around the park, a bit of socializing, and soaking up the sunshine, we turned in early… and when I awoke this morning thinking about food, I knew this cold is just about licked.  Today, we’re off to Wickenburg – barring any surprises!