Sunday, December 31, 2006

Goodbye, 2006.

Tonight, New Year's Eve, is a big night in Boomerville. Our "Z-Circle" social event begins at 8 pm, so all the Boomers are now at home either making ready for guests, or preparing a "heavy appetizer" (popcorn or anything that comes straight from a box has been banned) or dessert to bring to the first host's house. The eating, drinking and socializing all leads up to the big event: we stay awake for midnight (on AZ time). Whoopee, we're living on the edge!

Here are a few photos from the last day of 2006:

This is our neighbor (I think that is his rig on the far right). Not a Boomer, but he buzzed over our happy hour this afternoon. What a way to travel, huh? One of the many interesting toys we see out here.

When I turned north, I saw the moon rise over Boomerville; when I turned south, I saw the last, gorgeous sunset of the year - and felt once again that we are lucky, lucky, lucky to live this way.

Happy New Year, you all.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Such Busy Days!

This is the road to Sidewinder and the New Year's Boomerang (a Boomer get together). We gather very near to the mountain on the far right of this photo.

If you don't live this lifestyle, I'm sure you look at this road, and the surrounding desert, and wonder what the heck we find to do here all day???
Before we can do anything, Luna gets her roll in the dirt. What a great way to start any day! At 9 am MST (we stay on Arizona time even though we are in CA), anyone who wants exercise (about half the group) takes off on what was supposed to be a 3 mile walk - though we ended up walking about 5 miles this morning. Talk, talk, talk as we walk, walk, walk. It is a great time to get to know Boomers we haven't met before, or learn about what other Boomers have done in the past year.

After the walk, Odel and I went into Yuma to the "Marketplace", a huge, permanent flea market. There are several vendors there who specialize in RV needs, and we had a list of specifics we knew we could pick up there: a drinking water filter, a "pigtail" to connect our cell phones to our "trucker's antenna" to improve the signal in remote places, a special kind of tape that can repair ANYTHING, and our favorite Red Chili Jam.

When we got back to Sidewinder around 2:30, excitement was afoot! Padraic and Willie were stuck in a wash!

A missed turn and a missed cue had resulted in some unplanned off-roading. This is Padraic and Willie's huge truck, pulling their 40' 5th wheel, sinking in the sand. In no time, the place was swarming with Boomers, shovels, 4 wheel drive trucks, and expertise.

This is our friend Barry, ready to pull the truck loose. This is so typical of the attitude and humor that we always enjoy when we get together with the Boomers - it is all about helping, and having fun doing it. There were no frayed tempers, and no frustration; lots of laughs and goodwill.

Within an hour and a half, the big red truck was free, the 5th wheel was turned around and pulled back to our gathering at Sidewinder, and we had all adjourned to the usual - but late today - 4 pm happy hour. It is a time for travel tales and making new friends...

and then home for dinner. I'm hoping tomorrow will have a little less excitement!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Tucson to Sidewinder

This was what we saw when we awoke Friday morning: snow! It looks like the snow level was several hundred feet above our campground, but it was very chilly. We got moving quickly and hit the road for Sidewinder and the sunshine around 9:30 am.

Rather than just fill our diesel tank at the truck stop, we did a necessary and interesting exercise today.

Our new sofa weighs considerably more than our old one, and I have wondered if that might be a problem for us. All motorhomes have "weight ratings", and woe to the owner who exceeds the weight rating for their vehicle. For Scoopy, the maximum safe weight is 31,000 pounds - yes, that is over 15 TONS!

Unloaded, Scoopy weighs 25,000 pounds, which includes all the factory-installed furniture and appliances. To that, we add any "aftermarket" items (like the refrigerator/freezer in the basement), 800 pounds for fresh water (when the tank is full, like it is now), the weight of our propane and diesel fuel, several hundred pounds for the two of us (and 13 pounds for Luna)... and all the wine, food, dishes, pans, clothing, books, linens, kitty litter, shoes, etc. etc. that we carry. The 6,000 pound difference between the empty weight and the maximum weight can be used up rather easily.

Because I was feeling nervous about our weight, after we filled the 100 gallon diesel tank today, we pulled onto the big Cat scale. You might have noticed these before at "travel plazas" when you are driving on the freeway. It consists of four independent "pads", and a big rig pulls onto it in such a way that each axle is on a separate pad. The weights are recorded, and you pay $8.50 for a certificate showing the weight of each axle and the total weight.

For us, the front axle is rated to carry 12,000 pounds, the back to carry 19, 000 pounds, for a safe total weight of 31,000 pounds. On the scale, we showed the front axel as 10,860 - to which we added another 200 pounds for Odel; Laurie was in the driver's seat for the weigh-in - for a total of 11,060 on the front axle: 940 pounds to spare. The rear axle weight was only 40 pounds under the allowable weight - but even 1 pound under is sufficient. We were thrilled, as neither of us can imagine EVER carrying more "stuff" than we are at the moment.

We rolled on toward Sidewinder feeling relieved, and are now settled in, ready to make a dent in our prodigious food stores and get those weights even lower!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Our Year End Food Challenge

Odel and I love to eat, and we're kinda' picky about it. Even with our limited space, we carry plenty of food and wine along with us, and eat at home most of the time (except in Louisiana or Mexico, where a street vendor or corner dive frequently has such delicious and inexpensive food it would be criminal to miss it).

Today we stocked up for one of the biggest food challenges in our annual travels: the Boomers New Year's Eve rendezvous in the California desert, 15 miles or so from Yuma, Arizona, the closest town. Of course, there are grocery stores in Yuma, but we try to avoid that trip - they are JAMMED this time of year. Crafting the shopping list for this event taxes my brain. Why?

We will be camped in the desert for five days to a week. There are no hookups of any kind, and only as much water as we can carry - 100 gallons of fresh water for showers, shaving, toothbrushing, dishwashing, cooking, and toilet flushing needs to last up to a week.

With only the water we can carry, minimal food preparation and cleanup is GOOD; dirty dishes, vegetable washing, and cleanup of juicy/messy/sticky stuff is BAD.

Since we need to generate our own power, using the microwave, convection oven or crockpot (my personal favorite cooking gadget) is generally BAD; using the stovetop or propane oven is GOOD.

Because the garbage truck doesn't stop by - ever - excess packaging and inedible bits are BAD; large volume containers and waste-free portions are GOOD.

And remember, we are gathering with a big group - that means potlucks, the daily 4 pm happy hour, spontaneous socializing, and a big New Year's Eve party - so menu planning isn't only "dinner for two".

We've just finished up our shopping, and every bit of food storage space is bulging. Since we still have plenty of water and a convenient dumpster here at Catalina State Park, I have prepped and pre-cooked while Odel has hauled out sack after sack of discards: the tops and skin of a fresh pineapple, the inedible parts of the broccoli stocks, celery tops, butternut squash peel and seeds.

The freezer is packed with my favorite homemade chili, Trader Joe's roasted vegetable lasagna and chicken enchiladas; the refrigerator is full of the vegetables I have already washed, cleaned and chopped, along with yummy cheeses, juicy Cara Cara oranges and all the usual staples. The dry bar is bursting with wine, margarita makings, chips, nuts, crackers. Hidden under the bed are extra paper plates, hot cups, and plastic wine glasses - this is the one time of year we submerge our environmental consciousness to stretch our water to the last possible day.

So that's it… the last of our grocery shopping for 2006. Let's eat!

A Day to be Indoors

It’s raining, it’s pouring… but my old man isn’t snoring. He’s consolidating trash, commenting on the news, readying his new fire extinguisher for use (we used our's a week ago when we came across a pickup truck beginning to flame), checking out our grocery list - the usual.

We're back in Tucson, at Catalina State Park. See the RV's in the photo above? Between them, they have TEN kids. They pulled in yesterday afternoon just before the cold front met the 10-degrees-above-average Tucson warmth. A BIG thunderstorm resulted - the lightening lit up the inside of Scoopy even with the shades down. The rain began and hasn't stopped. What do you do with five kids in a tiny RV when the weather switches to COLD rain?

Today's plans consist of urban chores in preparation for the next several days with our Escapee Boomer friends in the desert near Yuma. We go fully stocked with food and drink, happy hour snacks and New Year's treats. Hmmmm... still need some bubbly.

When we arrived yesterday afternoon, the weather was warm and dry. Luna immediately hopped outside for her favorite outdoor activity: rolling in the dirt and gravel. She does this anywhere we park, but particularly likes the southwest, where the static electricity caused by the low humidity binds twice the dust to her coat. This morning, thanks to the rain, she has not set a foot outside.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Moving Day

It's 7:30 am. I'm drinking my morning coffee, listening to Terri Gross eulogize James Brown on Fresh Air (via satellite radio, which seems to me to be a necessity in this little corner of the world), and hoping Odel will take Luna outside so I can enjoy the sunrise in silence.

We are leaving early this morning to head to Tucson and our favorite RV repair man, Lance. We hope he can fix, once and for all, our hot water heater problem. Our social life was severely disrupted yesterday when, once again, the hot water stream contracted to a trickle, then a drip. Laurie did the now-standard basement crawl to repair it, but we think we have come up with a permanent fix, to be made by Lance today at 11 am in Tucson.

So, I have to jump up and get dressed. R.I.P. James Brown AND Gerald Ford. Hey, did you hear that the Governator broke his leg skiing?

Monday, December 25, 2006

What Else? Merry Christmas!

We awoke to a beautiful, cold, sunny day, and soon will be heading up the hill to Sydney's and Frank's for Christmas. Happy holidays to all our readers!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Wandering through Bisbee

Bisbee, Arizona is a product of copper mining. "Old Town Bisbee", the historic section of town that clings to the canyons near the big pit, is now home to artists, actors, ex- and current hippies, hikers, birders... all sorts of colorful and creative personalities who don't mind hiking Bisbee's famous stairways carrying their groceries and laundry. In this photo, you can see the edge of the pit mine, with a tiny bit of Bisbee peeking through the pass in the background. Right above the pit, on the far left of this photo, is one of my favorite stops, Queen Mine RV Park. It is a little tricky to get to, but has a great view of town, just a short walk down the hill.
This is the main street of old Bisbee, lined with galleries, restaurants, antique stores.
This fellow and his trio of pets is one of the many entertaining sights in Bisbee. Look closely, there is a mouse on the back of the cat, which is riding on the back of the dog.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sunshine in Naco, AZ

Yes, he is wearing a jacket, but Odel is happy to be out on the Turquoise Valley Golf Course on a sunny December morning. It might not be his very favorite golf course, but he compliments it as "the best value for the money" of any of the courses he plays and looks forward to our visits here. It is a beautifully maintained, interesting course, and we pay about $30 for a full hookup site (including 50 amp electric and cable TV) and 18 holes of golf! Of course, that makes him smile.

Here is Scoopy in site 6 of the Turquoise Valley RV Park, directly across the street from the golf course (which you can see in the background). The mountains in the far background are to the north, the Mules. We are here at Turquoise Valley in Naco, AZ, to visit Sydney and Frank (Laurie's sister and brother in law); their house is on the flank of the Mules. Great views all around.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bone Chilling COLD

We broke our previous record this morning. The new record low for Scoopy: 12 degrees! We stayed cozy and warm inside, thanks to the little catalytic heater with a bit of help from the furnace. In a few hours we head to Naco, where it will be around 10 degrees warmer at night (we hope).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


All you hikers who know the hike through Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains (one of our favorites in this area), look at this picture of the water hole at the Half Moon Tank. That's ice! Today's hike took us through a sprinkling of snow and a bright splash of sunshine, but when the wind rose at the higher elevations, we hightailed it back to the trailhead and the warm car.

Last night, the night of the snow, our low temperature was 15 degrees. Tonight is forecast to be lower still - this maybe our new record low temperature in Scoopy. We have extra blankets piled on the bed, our catalytic heater on high, and the furnace on standby for indoor temperatures under 62 degrees. If cold weather says "Christmas" to you, this would be shouting in your ear.

Check out this sign, on the gate at Paws and Hooves Ranch. It's no joke! Luna loves to visit here, and we do, too. Look at that big smile on Odel's face (he's hauling a salt lick out to the sheep pen).

Tomorrow we leave the ranch to move to Naco, on the Arizona/Mexico border, to spend Christmas close to Bisbee and take care of the paperwork for our trip to Mexico in January. Ah, Mexico.... ah, 70 degrees!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

White Pre-Christmas - A Dream?

Yes, readers, this is Arizona... about 10 miles north of the Arizona/Mexico border. Is this why we RV travelers who head south are called "snowbirds"?? I don't think so! Tonight we drove from the ranch to Bisbee, so Sydney and Frank could have an early Christmas celebration with Rosanna before she heads to Cincinnati. As you can see, it SNOWED!

I took this photo right out the window of the Jeep on Double Adobe Road heading towards Bisbee. We were shocked, and a little thrilled.

When we got to Sydney's and Frank's, the snow had stopped, but enough had fallen to blanket the ground and all the spiky Arizona plants. This was the view from the front picture window.

It was cold and snowy outside, but warm, light, and filled with holiday spirit inside. We opened gifts, admired the decorations, and consumed a typically fabulous Brown/Baker meal.

We're back in Scoopy now, snug, fat and happy... and, yes, it is snowing outside now. Big, lazy white flakes drifting straight down in the very still night air. I wonder what we will see when we wake up tomorrow.

No Record Set

We prepared for the worst last night: the propane catalytic heater was set on HIGH, the furnace was set to come on when the indoor temperature dropped below 62, an extra fleece blanket was on standby at the foot of the bed, and I had my fleece sleep sox on (a glamorous getup, no?).

When I got up at 4 am for… well, readers over age 50 know what for… Odel sleepily complained that it was a little too WARM. Our indoor temperature was 66 degrees.

Last night's low temperature was only 29 degrees - our furnace never even came on. Balmy here in Sunizona!

To update two prior reports:

Luna is making a full recovery from her wounds, with one noticeable change: she is much more wary around other animals than she was before - and that is probably a good thing. All the outdoor animals at Paws and Hooves seem to remember her, but she doesn't try to approach them as closely as she has in the past. It's the end of innocence. :(

Thanks to a few days of driving the interstates, my knitting is progressing well. Check this out! No, it's not a narrow afghan, it's my ever-growing scarf.

Monday, December 18, 2006

An Arizona Ranch Visit

What a surprise. Here we are in what I think of as the "middle of nowhere", and the aircard has a stronger signal than anywhere else we have used it! The mysteries of technology...

This is "our spot" at Paws and Hooves Ranch, my cousin's home in the southeastern corner of Arizona. The elevation here is around 5,000 feet, and high, cold mountains loom not too far to the east of us. It gets COLD here in winter, no kiddin'! We've experienced our coldest temperatures in our motorhome here, 17 degrees... or was it 14?? And would I know the difference? So we are preparing for cold nights.

It was a beautiful day for travel. I took this photo from the comfort of my shotgun position "arm chair" as we drove east on I-10 near Benson.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Looking Like Christmas

It's Sunday, an excellent day to avoid the shopping mall! After we read the Sunday paper...

... we "put up" our Christmas decoration...

...wrapped some presents...

And took a walk on a beautiful day!

Tomorrow we leave Tucson for Paws & Hooves Ranch, with a stop in Benson along the way. I hope the new air card will work there so we will be online, but it is pretty remote. If not, we'll catch up with you a little later. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Climb to Romero Pools

No more errands to run! We set aside Saturday for one of our favorite hikes at Catalina State Park, the 5.5 mile roundtrip hike to Romero Pools.

When you see this sign, you are on your way. 6 miles to the top of the pass. We have never gone that far (and I don't plan to).

See the trail? This is why we bought stout hiking boots shortly after we began visiting Arizona during our winter travels. Rock, rock, and more rock. BUT, we have seen people much younger than ourselves hiking this trail in sandals.

This is Odel halfway through the hike.

This is Laurie halfway through the hike.

We came home to a long, hot, steamy, wonderful shower in the spa-quality restrooms here at Catalina State Park, and a batch of Posole in the crockpot. A little wine, a flaming sunset... can't be beat.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Be-Beep! Be-Beep! and eep, eep...

We've seen roadrunners all over the park... I love 'em. Although they will walk right up to the campsite, these wily characters are not that easy to photograph.

Even more difficult to photograph, and more exciting to see, was a little tribe of four coatimundis (same family as racoons) that wandered past us on our afternoon hike. Unfortunately, they were across a canyon, so we couldn't see them well - as evidenced by this photo! Can you see the two dark patches that might be animals??

Odel was amazed to see animal he had not even heard of before. I had seen one several years ago, on a road in Costa Rica with my friends Pat and Becky, so I recognized them with GREAT surprise!

Here is a description from "Southern Arizona Nature Almanac":

The reaction of most people at seeing one is utter astonishment. The coatimundi looks more like a benign cartoon creature invented for a children's book than a real animal. Its long, faintly ringed tail sticks jauntily straight up in the air while the black nose on the tip of its extended snout seems to have a life of its own, probing the air this way and that. Coatis often travel in groups of a dozen or more animals and frequently mutter to each other with high-pitched little eeps.

That is a perfect description, right down to the eeps.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Catalina State Park is EMPTY

With nothing holding us in Gila Bend, we were settled in our site at Catalina State Park, north of Tucson, by noon on Wednesday. The park is so empty! I took this photo last night as the last of the sun lit the mountain top - you can see all the empty spaces.

Once we settled into our site, we got to work on a hot water heater problem that has plagued us for the past few days - the hot water came out only in a drizzle. The fix requires much frustration, moving a lot of "stuff", crawling around the basement (Laurie), running in and out of the motorhome (Odel), drips, floods...! BUT, we got it fixed - YAY!

Today was a day of errands: to the lab for Odel's blood work, to the Post Office, Safeway, the Verizon store (mercifully short), Ace hardware and Trader Joe's. Just like a normal day, huh? It is our usual first day "in the city", catching up on everything. Tucson is under a haze of smog - really ugly! They are expecting wind and possibly rain this weekend, which would be a big help. We first noticed smog here last winter, and I am sorry to see that it continues to get worse.

One more errand to do tomorrow (Costco, which I enjoy) - then we have a weekend of hiking and relaxation to look forward to. I hope to get a photo of a roadrunner to post. They are all over this park and so much fun to admire.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

300 Miles, 1 Border, 1 Time Zone

There is nothing special about the drive from Aguanga, California to Gila Bend, Arizona. Miles of scrub, very dry. Lots of trucks, a few cars...

Around this time last year, I decided that knitting would be an excellent hobby for the days we are underway. I'm still working on my first project, and on my first ball of yarn! I don't know how to undo goofs so everytime I make one, I undo the entire scarf and start over.

I got a LOT done today. Here is how it looked when I started working on it this morning. (Remember, I am using a wide angle lens so my thighs look WAY wider than they are in reality!)

We arrived at the Gila Bend Elks Lodge at 5 pm MST, just before the sun went down. This photo of Scoopy and Jules is extremely kind to the parking area, a big gravel lot. Not pretty, but very convenient. We are facing the road, ready to leave first thing in the morning.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pre-Departure Day

Laundry is drying. The sheets and towels are washed and dried. The holding tanks are clean and empty. The refrigerator is full (enough). Yep, after extending our stay from four days to ten days, tomorrow is our departure day.

We have one more social event before we leave, though - dinner! Our friend Carol has a menu planned; my assignment is Zucchini and Tomato Salad with Almonds. We bought the vegies at the Temecula Farmers' Market on Saturday, and picked the lemons off the trees in the Jojoba Hills lemon orchard this morning.

I had a big head of cauliflower stashed away, so I'm also taking my favorite, a simple roasted cauliflower with olive oil and red pepper. There is no shortage of delicious food here.

Luna is recovering quickly, begging to go outside again and able to jump to the top level of her kitty condo (aka the throne). Whew.

Tomorrow night's stopover - enroute to Tucson and Catalina State Park - is the big gravel lot at the Gila Bend Elks Lodge (our "home" lodge) where we will boondock overnight. We want to pull in just before dark; I think we've seen all Gila Bend has to offer. I'll try to remember to snap a photo for you all.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Luna's Misadventure

It finally rained! I awoke last night to the sound of a good, soaking rain, a welcome relief to these dry hills. Maybe the humidity level will rise above the single digits today.
The sun has just risen, and dozens of quail are scurrying in front of the early morning walkers.

I am up early to check on Luna. We made a trip to the emergency vet yesterday afternoon after she was attacked by another cat in the morning. It was obvious that she had sustained some bites near her tail and we didn't want to risk an infection, so off we went.
Poor Luna! She is stiff and sore, has to take antibiotics twice a day for a week and, most pathetic of all, has two shaved patches on her rear with several puncture marks in each. After a week of daily morning excursions, she seems content this morning to stay curled in her favorite chair, safe indoors, trying to look dignified.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Our Day at the Beach - San Diego

Does this say "beach town", or what? We took off this morning for a day in San Diego with our friends Dick and Carol Schneider. Their friend Nancy lives in San Diego, and we all piled into her Suburban for a sightseeing tour.

Lunch was the first order of the day. Carol had fuzzy but fond memories of the Tin Fish Cafe at the end of the Imperial Beach pier, so we started our tour there.

Odel had fish and chips; I ordered a shrimp taco with a calamari taco as backup.

Carol's memories were right; excellent food in a great location. Pelicans skimmed the waves as we sat at an outdoor table washing our fresh fish down with white wine Dick had hidden away in a cooler bag. These people have their priorities straight.

Next stop was Point Loma and the Cabrillo National Monument. This is the lighthouse there, high on a bluff overlooking San Diego on one side, the Pacific on the other. The "marine layer" was rolling in on a bracing breeze and the sun was low in the sky - pretty, but we didn't linger too long.

By the time we got to our last stop, La Jolla, it was dark. We just rolled along in the Suburban, finishing off the wine with cheese, apples, nuts and chocolates - a rolling feast provided by our fabulous guide/driver. All the fancy stores and restaurants of La Jolla were decorated and lit for Christmas, the palm trees wrapped in twinkling lights... I don't think it would have been prettier in daylight.

An excellent day trip.