Monday, December 31, 2007


This morning I found a comment on my blog post about hobbies from an anonymous Boomer (she describes herself as a "lurker"). She mentioned a website I had seen mentioned before, but had not explored, FreeRice.

I took a quick look and found a fun vocabulary-expanding game with a charitable aspect: while you enhance your vocabulary, the advertisers donate rice to the United Nations World Food Program (20 grains of rice for each word you get right). I took a look - and it was FUN! Not quite a hobby, but a fun pastime... so thanks, Pinchrx, for the note and the link.

Our blog also brought another comment, with a game: "Tag, You're It". This is what it said:

We read your blog and Tag, you're it. to the person who tagged you.
2.list 5 weird things about you
3.list 5 places you want to see or go back to
4.send this to at least 5 other bloggers and link to them on your blog.
5.and I forget the last one. Its on our blog:
Hope we meet up somewhere!

This was signed with two names new to me, Doug and JoAnn.

I ignored the message. When we began fulltiming, I began to examine those things that I did out of guilt or obligation and determine whether or not they were a worthwhile use of time and energy. I now avoid anything that I don't wanna' do or that smacks of work - except those things that CAN'T be avoided (motorhome repairs, for instance, and cleaning...)

Chain letters and email "pass it ons" fall into this category. I simply don't. If any of you who have my email address send a chain email, you can be positively assured that it dies at my keyboard.

"Tag" was a little different, but sounded like work to me, so I blew it off. On the other hand, I DID take a peek at Doug and JoAnn's blog, Living Our Dream, and made a mental note to read it more thoroughly when I have time... we share an interest in hiking, food, and travel.

This morning I read my friend Jo Wishnie's blog, The Wandering Wishnies, and what did I find but a long and interesting post in response to being tagged! Jo, you are a nice person (plus, now I know you believe in UFO's).

So here is what I am doing in response to being tagged: providing a link to Doug and JoAnn's interesting blog (see above), and revealing this about myself: I don't do chain letters!

To all our readers, known and unknown, "lurkers" and "taggers", best wishes for a great year. We're looking forward to meeting up with you - new friends and old - somewhere down the road. Safe travels!

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Check this out - the view from our front window this morning when we awoke in "Boomerville", overlooking Mittry Lake, a BLM property northwest of Yuma. Not bad for the desert.

There are two reasons we come to Yuma: Our Boomer friends are here this time each year, and the weather - sunnier and warmer than most other places in the USA. I'm not sure WHAT attracts permanent residents here, but they keep coming... in the few (five) years that we have been coming to Yuma for New Year's, this little burg has grown substantially.

I don't remember the exact figures, but a huge percentage of the fresh greens you find in the supermarket this time of year come from Yuma. The streets north of town are lined with fields of lettuce, light green, dark green, and red. "Fresh Express" signs direct semis to pickup locations alongside the roads.

The south side of town has the citrus orchards, many with "For Sale" signs - too bad! Everywhere else, Yuma sprawls with new growth - homes, RV lots and RV parks. Motorhomes and 5th wheels are as plentiful as SUV's. The new mall - a year or two old now - has filled up, and Verizon blankets the region with 5 bar cell service and broadband access for our aircards - a welcome improvement for us boondockers, who had to hike to a hilltop for phone service just a few years ago.

Barry is knocking on the door... Odel wants to get going... more knocks on the door... time to get going on a geocache adventure. Later, readers!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Over the (mostly dry) river - well, a wash, really - and through the (short, scrubby) woods - more like a mesquite forest - to "Mom's" house they go...

All us scattered "children" gathered yesterday for the Christmas feast at Paws and Hooves Ranch in Cochise County, Arizona. Odel and I were parked in our usual spot near the minature horse stable; everyone else came from Bisbee. Here is our Christmas album.

My Auntie Carol, known as MOM to more than one Escapee Boomer and to all her "adoptees" in the area, with the 20 pound turkey. In our group of nine, four were vegetarians. A twenty pound turkey for five omnivores gives you a good idea of the proportions that graced the Christmas table.

I tried, I really did, to caption this photo. Words failed me, so it is up to you. This is my cousin Rosanna, animated by her new Day of the Dead apron.

My man Odel confronts the 20 pound turkey in his carving attire.

Here is Ron, preparing his specialty, Caesar Salad. He brings his own giant bowl and salad implements (along with the ingredients). It is rumored that he can't make salad for fewer than 12 people, so we had some leftovers.

The buffet is ready: giant salad, giant turkey, cornbread stuffing, gravy, southern greens, corn casserole, sweet potatoes, roasted cauliflower, cranberry relish.

Odel's plate (first round). Believe it or not, we had dessert, too - Frank's unbelieveably good cheesecake (better than any you have ever had, no matter what you might think) and a huge pecan pie. We all vowed to cook half as much food next year - which I think is what we said last year.

Last night the temperature dropped to 16 degrees - we needed those Christmas calories to survive (hibernating bears come to mind). We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, wherever you are.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


My hero, Odel (shown here getting a hug from his favorite "little baby girl") jumped up early this Christmas morning, drove an hour and twenty minutes back to Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate, retraced our 3.5 mile hike, and FOUND the driver's license and health insurance card I lost while hiking yesterday! He is on his way home as I write this.

All I can say is WHAT A MAN!


May Santa bring you peace, contentment, and a sunny, warm spot for your bath and a nap.

Monday, December 24, 2007


We found it! A few days ago, I mentioned that we had tried to find the ruins of Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate, one of the forts the Spanish planned to construct on the northernmost frontier of their New World holdings. We weren't successful last week, so Odel, Rosanna and I set out on Christmas Eve (day) to find it - and another geocache in the area. Beautiful weather once again: we got to tie our jackets around our waists and hike in short-sleeved shirts.

The site chosen for the Presidio was on the sweep of a high plain, with views of Cochise County's numerous mountain ranges all around, as well as views into Mexico (which wasn't Mexico in 1776, of course). Our easy hike lead across level ground; we could actually look around at the view rather than watching our feet.

We found the geocache very near to the trail, a good start to the day. I brought along a small book called "Scats and Tracks of the Desert Southwest", a guide to the poop and pawprints of the animals of the southwest, which I had registered on BookCrossing, and a big KIVA button. We exchanged these treasures for a slim book about cactus for Rosanna and a yo-yo for Odel, who turns out to be rather talented in that arena.

The flat, easy hike ends in a loop on a bluff overlooking the San Pedro River. It is rather pathetic to read the history of the short-lived Presidio. The Spainards, using European-style fortress design, were no match for the Apache who were defending their homelands.

This cross and plaque, placed by warrant officers from Fort Huachuca, the current-day military base nearby, memorializes the soldiers and their captains - around 90 people - who died in the four year period that they tried to establish the fort. As usual, there is no memorial for the probably unknown number of Apache who died defending their land, their families, and their food supply from the predations of the Spanish.

Abandoned in 1780, before completion, now there is little of the Presidio left - mostly the rock foundation. Stubs of adobe walls do still exist in places, though, which seems amazing to me. Each year, volunteers from various public lands agencies apply a mud "cap" to the tops of the remaining walls, called the "sacrifice layer". This mud erodes through the year, protecting the original adobe from the elements so we hikers have something fascinating to view as we prowl around.

The site has numerous intrepretive signs explaining the form of the fort and the variety of uses for the native plants. Benches have been placed about every 1/4 mile along the hike - we got to eat our lunch sitting on a bench for a change!

The day would have been perfect except for one thing: it appears that I lost my driver's license and my health insurance card, which I was carrying in my pocket, somewhere along the way! If YOU hike the trail and find them, will you please mail them to the address on my driver's license?? Muchas gracias!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I was not meant to be a birder. Whether it is my poor eyesight or simply lack of attentiveness, I am only good at spotting BIG or very colorful birds: owls, raptors, green jays, cardinals...

Yesterday's outing to the Whitewater Draw was perfect for me. You can double click on the photo to enlarge it so you can see the multitude of BIG BIRDS resting along the shoreline and flying in waves overhead.

Now, these are REALLY BIG birds, Sandhill Cranes, a yard high. They winter at the Whitewater Draw, leaving in the early morning to eat, then returning in the afternoon. We arrived just as the flocks were returning, and it is a sight to see... rivaled only by the SOUND! Sandhill Cranes make a strange, loud, very melodic call. I found it described on the web as "trumpeting, rattling and resonant, "gaarr-oo-oo," audible for over a mile!" but to me it seems more like the ululating sound that Mid-eastern women make (seen by me in movies only, not real life) for celebrations and festivals. Indescribable. Exciting.

Mingled in amongst the Sandhills were a few beautiful waves of Snow Geese, another Big Bird, easily seen by me. They all swirled together overhead against the bright blue sky... that's my kind of birding.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


This Christmas season, I have read several newspaper articles and heard several radio stories about charitable gifts for the holidays. Simultaneously, a few of our Kiva loans have been repaid, allowing us to re-lend the money. If you are thinking of doing some charitable giving this season (gift certificates or lending), you might be interested in an update of our Kiva experience.

We joined in May of 2007, and had invested all the money we planned to allocate to Kiva within about four months. Recently, two more of the loans were repaid: our very first loan, to Victor Glukhov, a clothing salesman in Ukraine, and a loan to one of my favorite borrowers, Luz Elena López Lara, an artist in Mexico.

Thanks to the repayments, I got to make two new loans this month:

Hernán Cahuanihancco Aguila, a cheese maker in Peru, who needed $675 to purchase forage for his cows (I particularly like the description of his business).

Koffi Assamua, a woodworking artist (father of 3) in Togo who needed $900 to purchase wood to fulfill his customers orders.

Of course, we don't loan the entire amount these borrowers request. Our $25 loan contribution is bundled up with all the other lenders' $25 loans, transfered to the "Field Partner", a microlending institution or group, who then administers the disbursement of the loan and the collection of payments. None of our loans has defaulted so far; a couple were refunded when it was not clear to the Field Partner that the loan was going to be used for the intended purpose.

By the way, we have one borrower in Kirkuk, Iraq and one borrower in Kabul, Afghanistan, both making their repayments right on schedule. For me, it is particularly gratifying to have a way to help borrowers in these countries support themselves, their families, their businesses and their communities.

Our experiences with Kiva have been great. We receive email messages as payments are collected, and the exciting final message when the loan payback is complete. Our Kiva account is credited with the repaid funds in 3 or 4 days, and I can go borrower hunting once again (an engrossing activity). As of now, we have been able to reinvest about 20% of our original funds - truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


We couldn't have had a more beautiful day for a hike yesterday: clear enough to see for MILES in all directions, all the way to Tucson, with bright sunshine and no wind - the kind of day winter dreams are made of.

Rosanna, Frank, Odel and I met at Fairbank, a "ghost town" now under the protection of the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area. We had a hike planned that would begin at Fairbank, include a geocache, some birding and, we hoped, a sighting of ruins of a Spanish fort built in the 1770's. Frank, recently trained as a docent for the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area and an Elderhostel birding guide, was our personal docent for the day.

Fairbank, now a cluster of protected buildings - some falling over, a few rennovated - was at the crux of the railroads that traversed southern Arizona, connecting Benson, Tucson, Tombstone... even Guaymas, Mexico. It was settled in the 1870's and finally "abandoned" (when the last residents were forced to move from the collapsing buildings) in the 1970's.

Lot's of history there: floods, a huge earthquake, train robbery. Interesting signs and maps interpret the area for visitors, and pointed us off in the direction of the cemetary (above).

Before we left, I set my GPS with the coordinates for a couple of geocaches that I hoped we could find along our hike. The first was not far from the cemetary and we didn't have to roam among the prickly desert flora very long before Odel spotted it. We traded Rosanna's pink collapsible drinking cup for a yellow plastic soldier who seems right at home in the history we'd been reading on the signs in Fairbank.

Then on we hiked, past ruins of a huge stamp mill that crushed the ore from the mines around Tombstone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - an endless, deafening, dusty roar. On a beautiful, clear, quiet day, just a few birds cheeping or a hawk screeching from time to time, it was very difficult to imagine!

I had coordinates for another, more remote, geocache, which I punched into the GPS when we reached the far end of the Fairbank loop trail. Here a big sign identified the locations of interest in all directions, including ruins of the Presidio of Santa Cruz de Terrenate, our next goal.

Terrenate was a Spanish fort, established along the San Pedro River in 1776 (that rings a bell... ah, same year as the American revolution!) and abandoned in 1780. The Spanish soldiers were no match for the Apache who were not interested in having their territory compromised.

At the sign pointing off towards Terrenate, we headed down a poorly marked trail and were soon bushwhacking along the banks of the San Pedro River, the GPS leading us in the direction of our next cache and the fort ruins. Unlike most of the times we have visited Cochise County, the San Pedro was running ABOVE ground today! We never managed to find a good crossing spot, so wandered to a place opposite where we imagined the ruins to be and ate our lunch in the warm sunshine.

It couldn't have been a more pleasant day, and I don't mind leaving the ruins of Terrenate (and the nearby geocache) to be explored another day... soon, I hope.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Last year at this time, I was exploring my new hobby, knitting. I had great dreams of riding down the road, knitting in my lap, working my way from beginner projects to... who knows? Something soft, lovely, useful, something creative and loveable.

This photo documents the extent of my knitting. I think I ripped out and re-knit this same portion of "Project 1 - Scarf" about four times before I lost interest. Six months later, my mother thoughtfully relieved me of my yarn, my 16 dusty inches of knit scarf, and my various needles, books, patterns and other supplies. This past November, she presented me with the completed scarf (as pretty as I imagined, and way less dusty than when she received it) and I closed that chapter of my life.

Time to face it: I am not a "handwork" kinda' gal. I am not a knitter, or a beader... or a quilter, woodcarver, or balloon animal artist. Still, when the long, light, lovely days of summer begin to shrink, when "nightime" comes at 5 pm and the short, cold or wet "daytime" doesn't translate to outdoor fun, I wish I had a hobby (not counting the blog, of course).

Kiva is fun and rewarding and was consuming for quite awhile, until I had loaned all the money I could without jeopardizing our financial future or causing Odel to wonder why he was eating beans for dinner AGAIN this week. (By the way, several of our loans have been repaid and reloaned - very exciting.)

So, time to audition a new hobby. While I was considering the pros and cons of geocaching, I remembered reading, somewhere, some time ago, about a way of sharing books that intrigued me at the time. Couldn't remember the name, but I googled a few key words and up popped BookCrossing.

BookCrossing was launched in the USA in 2001. This now-global movement encourages people to read books, release them ‘into the wild’ and then follow their journey the BookCrossing website.

Prior to the book's release in a public place, it is registered on the website with a unique ID number (BCID) that allows finders/readers to make an entry so that the travels of the book can be tracked.

Now, this appeals to me on SO MANY levels! What a great combination of a little adventure, an international online community with a common interest, computers, reading, and the excitement of the "message in the bottle" - who knows when I will hear back from a book I registered and "released in the wild"?

I'm off to a good start. I immediately took the all-important first step of any hobby: BUY SUPPLIES. (Sometimes this turns out to be the most fun part of the hobby.) I bought labels for the inside front cover of the book, and blank labels that I can print with artwork available online (like the one shown here). I bought sticky notes and Sharpie pens to label the front cover with "FREE BOOK". I bought Bookcrossing bookmarks. I almost bought a t-shirt! I set up my new profile, AreWeThereYet, and created my virtual "bookshelf".

So far, I love it... the process of registering and labeling, thinking about where to release the books, semi-surreptiously leaving them behind, wondering about their fate. It is a mixture of planning, organization, and mystery that is enormously appealing to me. And, it cuts down on the excess weight in the motorhome, an ongoing challenge.

This time next year: still BookCrossing? We'll see.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


What a day we had yesterday. It started EARLY, when Odel got up early to deal with a car problem (!) in below-freezing tempertures (our low here in Naco was 19 degrees). When we tried to drive to a family birthday party on Friday night, Jules II would NOT start. Odel got a poor night's sleep and wasn't surprised to find that Jules still didn't start in the morning.

Frank came over in the freezing weather, jump started the car and, before I even was dressed, Odel was back with a new battery and renewed faith in Jules II.

Since we were making a trip to Tucson later in the day, I was working on our Costco list and our Trader Joe's list and we were watching a poor guy try, and try, and try, and try to park his 5th wheel when a helicopter started buzzing overhead. It was SO CLOSE, circling the RV park and the golf clubhouse/restaurant... we thought it was a border patrol incident. When we saw a knot of people standing near the clubhouse, we were afraid someone had had a heart attack on the golf course.

Surprise! None of the above - it was Santa! The helicopter landed, Santa climbed out and ambled in the direction of the clubhouse, surrounded by kids. Wow.

Next, we were off to pick up my Mom and Dad and away we went to the Tucson airport. No traffic problems, so we got them to their flight on time. Next stop, Costco.

WHAT WERE WE THINKING??? Well, since we were in Tucson, Costco was on the list regardless of the fact that it was SATURDAY, TWO WEEKS BEFORE CHRISTMAS! If you could get your cart through the people and tasting tables jamming the aisles, the checkout lines weren't bad. We weren't in a rush, so we mostly went with the flow (I only got irritable once; I can't imagine why Costco would set up a tasting table that blocked half the aisle).

Since Costco was too crowded to get all the tastes we had counted on for our lunch, we needed food before our next stop, Trader Joe's. Quizno's isn't a fun, local spot, but it was right there on the side of the road going in the right direction for TJ's, so we pulled it - and had a DELICIOUS lunch. I tried their new "Sammies", little folded flatbread sandwiches the size (and price) of a taco. Two of these were just right for me - and FAST, a good thing. Soon we were headed for TJ's.

TJ's was fast and efficient. With Jules now completely laden with food and wine, we headed for our last stop, one I had looked forward to all day.

Here is a picture of me with two previously "virtual" friends, Jo and Judie. I met Judie, in the middle, a year or so ago. Judie and her husband Gary are Escapee Boomers, and we first "met" on the Boomers electronic bulletin board. Judie and Gary live in Sierra Vista (usually), but Gary is undergoing cancer treatment (successfully, it appears) in a hospital in Tucson now, so Judie is in Tucson, too.

On the left is Jo, who I met through her "Wandering Wishnies" blog this summer. She and Fred, her husband, did the Epicurian Walking Tour in Portland that Odel and I had done 2 or 3 weeks earlier... Judie pointed me to Jo's blog to read the posting. So Judie knew Jo "virtually", and they planned to meet at Jo's favorite coffee shop at 4 pm. I mentioned to Judie in email that I was going to Tucson yesterday and, in a flurry of emails completed in under an hour, I had the details of the meet.

It was so fun to meet these women whose lives I follow through blogs and emails. The conversation (and drinks and sweets) gave Odel and me the energy to make the drive home to Naco where we hauled our purchases in, put 'em on the table, gave thanks that it appeared the new battery had solved the car problem, changed into sweats and slippers, and took a deep breath. That's a busy day for us!

Friday, December 14, 2007


The rain/snow clouds that dogged us for a couple days moved on (probably to pile on with the ice and snow in the east) and left us with bright, cold sunshine. I don't know if the daytime temperatures have reached 60 degrees, but recreating in sunny 50's feels great! Yesterday, Odel walked across the street to play golf, so I had the car and an open day... fun.

First I drove to Sierra Vista, about 30 minutes away, to do some of the shopping errands that can't be accomplished in Bisbee or Naco - Staples and Target. In Jules II, our new-to-us Jeep, the CD player works (unlike original Jules) and we even have a 10 CD changer. This is a GREAT thing in southern Cochise County where the radio choices are a religious station asking for financial support, a country-western station with a wobbly signal, and several strong Spanish language stations. I drove along singing with Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker and Bonnie Raitt at the top of my lungs.

From Target, it is a straight shot to the San Pedro House, a nature preserve along the banks of the San Pedro River, a bird/birders paradise.

San Pedro House (NOT the building in the photo) has a great bookshop inside - THE place to find books on local history and lore, hiking trails, and the area's flora and fauna. I'm not sure WHAT is story is on this little building - first homestead in Cochise County?? Old ranch storehouse?? I'm sure the info is available in the bookshop, but I headed out on the trails, instead. Quite a tree, isn't it?

The birders had a great time peeping at the various birds taking advantage of the feast laid out in the feeders around the San Pedro House. To avoid annoying both birds and birders, I took my walk out into the open range between the House and the river, basking in the sunshine. Ummmmmm, felt wonderful.

Then I continued my loop, coming back into Bisbee from the north. Coming down the canyon, you get several great views as the town opens up in front of you, and I stopped along the roadside to get a photo.

Most of the towns in southern Arizona are flat. Bisbee is a standout exception; unusual little homes cling precariously to the narrow, rocky canyons that radiate out from downtown "Old Bisbee" and the copper pit mine that was Bisbee's reason for existance. The streets are narrow (many one way) and twisted, and many of the homes are accessible by stairways only. Galleries, cafes, great historic buildings and plenty of creative energy - Bisbee is a fun place to relax and explore. I'm glad we have family here!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


When I woke up this morning and parted the front curtains, I could barely see outside. We were in a heavy, wet fog, yet another side of the variety of winter weather we have experienced over the past few days: scudding clouds, rain showers, strong wind gusts, snow on the nearby peaks, and COLD temperatures. The weather forecast indicated SUNSHINE for today, so I was a little disappointed.

As I contemplated my limited view and wondered how long it might be until the fog lifted, my phone rang.

My mom, still staying in Bisbee at my sister's house uphill from Turquoise Valley RV Park, asked about our weather - then told me that they were in bright sunshine!

I jumped in the car, drove about 3 miles uphill, and - no fog! This photo, taken near my sister's house, shows San Jose Peak in Mexico. Our RV park, in Naco, Arizona on the Mexico/US border, is in the lake of fog at the base of the peak. The foreground flora is in Bisbee.

In cold (31 degrees), bright sunshine, I took several pictures of San Jose Peak floating above the fog, then headed back down the hill.

It is about 5 miles downhill from Bisbee to Naco. The road disappeared into the fog about halfway, and I stopped to take this photo where we make the turn to the RV park just before crossing the international border.

As I write this, I am once again looking out our windshield at the bleak, cold, very damp fog... wondering how long until the sun breaks through.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


We're back in Bisbee, Cochise County, Arizona, settled in for a week or (more likely) two while we visit family and enjoy the town. This is not the warm Arizona sunshine that snowbirds dream about! We arrived in cold rain showers and the possibility of snow is in the forecast in a day or two. A white Christmas??

My sister Sydney and brother-in-law Frank live in Bisbee and have a new member of their household: Frisco, a cat. While Sydney and Frank are vacationing, my parents (Bev and Bill) flew down from Sacramento to cat- and house-sit.

Last night, we went to visit my parents, meet Frisco, then head over to Sierra Vista (a nearby town) to see Baxter Black, master cowboy poet and humorist in a live benefit performance for the Annual Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering.

Here's wild Frisco, a long, slender, young male cat FULL of mischief. This photo shows him rather calm, laying on top of a kitchen cabinet (floor to counter to top of the refrigerator to his high perch - boom, boom, boom, boom). He is a lot of fun, curious about and into EVERYTHING.

Five of the group of six of us with tickets for the performance met at Sydney's house for a quick dinner before the performance. We were dressed a little less casually than usual - jeans and boots traded in for "dress up" clothes and shoes. We bundled up for the rain outside and headed out the door.

As "designated driver", I was in the lead, ready to unlock the car doors when screams, shrieks, and shouts stopped me in my tracks. "There he goes!" "Laurie, grab him!" I turned my head in time to see a dark shadow streak past me, full speed, and disappear into the total darkness that is rural Arizona on a moonless night. Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no!

This is what the yard looks like at Sydney's and Frank's house. This photo shows some of the "manicured" part. How would you like to meet this cactus on a dark night? That big, scrubby looking bush in the background? That was where we last saw Frisco before the complete and total darkness swallowed him up.

Frisco is an indoor cat. Now he was outdoors, on a pitch dark night, in a light rain - and we had places to go and things to see that were WAY more appealing than what appeared to be our new mission: capture the cat!

Five aghast faces turned towards the spot we had last seen him while our brains slowly processed our change of plans. Flashlights! We need 'em! Where are they?? Remember, no one who actually lives in the house was with us. We found one flashlight inside, and Odel set off into THIS in the dark and rain while I fumbled to put new batteries in the flashlight we keep in the car.

My turn next and let me tell you - you do NOT want to be wandering through thickets of ocotillo, agave, and other well-defended desert plants in the pitch black night. Oh, how I wished I was wearing jeans and boots.

Then, a miracle: Odel spotted Frisco! He thrashed his way back towards the house, Frisco moving in front of him. Next, a sighting under the van... in the carport... near the door... and he ran inside. YAY!

Oh, man, thank god! We piled into the car, giddy with relief, and took off for the theater. That is one wily cat.

Oh, by the way, Baxter Black was GREAT.

Friday, December 7, 2007


Looking at my recent photos today, I realized I hadn't shown you how nicely Catalina State Park cleaned up after the big rainstorm. Here is Odel walking down "our street" in loop B of the campground there; we called it our street because we were the only people parked along there for a few days.

It was a great time of year to be there. The leaves were still on the mesquite trees and, best of all, so FEW other campers. We like the huge, level sites.

This photo was taken further south in Arizona, though at a higher elevation, on the way to my cousin Rosanna's ranch. I always get a kick out of this sign!

This road is the route to Chiricahua National Monument, an incredible wonderland of rocks that is quite remote... I think the sign is a warning to visitors to the monument that they should not expect much (well, ANYTHING) other than striking physical beauty when they arrive. If you want food, water, or fuel - bring it with you.

Elevation trumps latitude here in Cochise County so, even though we are farther south than in Tucson, it is colder here. The coldest temperatures we have experienced while living in our motorhome were experienced at Rosanna's ranch - 12 degrees one night.

Not on this visit, though. We had great sunshine during the day and nights in the 40's. Today we three did one of our favorite hikes in the area, the Cochise Stronghold trail in the Dragoon Mountains. Here are Odel and Rosanna at the top of the divide, a hike of 3 mostly uphill miles. Happy hikers on a beautiful day!

Tomorrow we are moving even farther south, to Naco, Arizona, on the Arizona/Mexico border. We'll be staying at Turquoise Valley RV Park, a gravel lot directly across the street from Turquoise Valley golf course. While I visit family in Bisbee (5 miles north), Odel can walk back and forth to the golf course, his dream come true.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


We're back in Cochise County in far southeastern Arizona, visiting at Paws and Hooves Ranch - home to my cousin Rosanna and my aunt Carol, and their multitude of animal companions.

This is Chili, their macaw, in her beautiful and gigantic cage which sits next to the dining room table. She talks, and barks, and laughs. Probably meows, too, as she shares the house with many (6? 7? 8?) cats, a miniature dobie, a large mutt... oh, and a caged snake. Four more big dogs outdoors, along with 3 miniature horses, 2 big horses, 3 sheep and 5 goats... and a couple of barn cats. All the animals get along, and accept Luna as part of the pack, so she roams at will when we are here.

At the ranch, we slow down. The nearest shopping, movies, or restaurants are FAR. We visit, hike, relax, lend a few more hands for the ranch chores... and EAT WELL. Which reminded me that I am behind on posting recipes! So, this afternoon, I added two recipes to the "Favorite Recipes" sidebar on the left side of the blog.

You saw a photo of Salsa Veracruzana featured on the blog recently, when we had the big rain in Tucson. This is a warm tomato-based sauce that is typical of Veracruz, Mexico.

The very easy recipe makes a bit more than 3 cups. I add about half of it to a pan of sauteed white fish or shrimp during the last couple minutes of cooking, just long enough to get the sauce simmering before serving. This sauce will last about a week in the refrigerator (well, hmmmm, come to think of it - I'm not sure I have ever kept it that long - we eat it quickly).

The other recipe, Spiced Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup, is now officially Odel's Favorite Soup. I got the recipe out of my girlfriend Becky's crock pot cookbook when we were in Sacramento - I'm always on the lookout for good crockpot recipes, especially vegetarian ones.

I travel with a LOT of spices... REALLY a lot. This recipe, however, called for Garam Masala, an Indian spice blend that I did not have on hand. I thought of using curry powder, a blend in the same family, but then remembered that I had a bottle of Trader Joe's Thai Yellow Curry Sauce in the cupboard and decided to use it for seasoning, instead.

I'm not sure why I felt that an 11 oz. bottle of curry sauce was the proper equivalent replacement for one teaspoon of garam masala, but I did... and the soup was DELICIOUS, though on the spicy side for those who like milder flavors. For guests, I'll be using just half the amount of curry sauce. You can try it either way... or follow the original recipe by using 1 t. of garam masala in place of the curry sauce I wrote into the recipe.

That's it for recipes for now. Time for a nap before we have the second half of the Salsa Veracruzana on snapper for dinner tonight.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


As this "Camper's Flood Advisory" says, the sandy wash on the main (and only) road in and out of the campground at Catalina State Park is "prone to flooding", and "it is possible for vehicles in the campground to be stranded there for up to several days".

Heavy rain was in the forecast yesterday so, obsessive planners that we are, we were ready, well stocked with everything we might want.

The weather forecast was right - we got heavy rain (around 2 inches) along with strong winds... it was a wild night. First thing this morning, when we stepped outside, the campground host told us that the wash was flooded, so we hustled on over to take a look.

This is what the road looked like. The people who have their backs to the camera are campers - we all are watching another camper wade the flood. He got to the other side, but the water was knee deep in some places.

The rangers say it will be at least Monday before the sand and mud can be cleaned off the road, depending on when the water stops flowing. Not a problem for us... we aren't planning to leave until Tuesday anyway. The hiking here is great, we've got food, books, entertainment.

Other campers aren't so lucky. We talked with several who had planned to leave today, and other who are camped in tents! One woman told us she moved from her tent, which seems to be blowing away, to her car in the middle of the night. Another camper was to participate in an art show/sale this weekend; she is counting on her sister to staff the booth.

As I write, the wind is blowing, with squalls of rain moving through every so often. Odel's got a college football game on TV, and I've got a new recipe in the crockpot. Next break in the weather, we're going out to check the wash again. Great entertainment!


Later this afternoon, we walked back to the wash to see what progress had been made. A line of cars had formed, hoping to get out. We joined the drivers and passengers standing on the "shore", watching the big front loader work.

The driver was a real pro, scooping up huge loads of mud and water, which he deposited on a giant berm - the visible sign of other floods.

Before too long, he had a narrow road cut through the mud, filled with a couple of inches of muddy water.

A few more scoops and the wash was reopened. The lineup of cars - which now included a few of the smaller motorhomes - headed through. Our day's entertainment was over... oh, except for the fact that we ran into a couple of old friends of ours, Stan and Lee, also staying in this large campground. We had a nice happy hour with them, catching up on our summer travels.

Back home now, listening to the wind whistle - and occasionally howl - outside.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Look good? Ummmmmmm... you should smell it! Salsa Veracruzana, a delicious, zingy tomato based sauce that I started making after our first RV-ing trip in Mexico, near Veracruz. Dinner tonight: Orange Roughy with Salsa Veracruzana, brown rice, and sauteed fennel.

We're "staying in" tonight. After leaving Gila Bend early this morning, we arrived at one of our favorite state parks, Catalina, just north of Tucson. Thanks to our aircard and the National Weather Service website, we knew that rain was forecast for most of Arizona for the next couple of days, with heavy rain moving in this afternoon.

Between the entrance to Catalina State Park and the campground, a wash crosses the road. We know that this wash can flood during heavy rain, so we set up camp and headed to the grocery store - I don't mind being "stuck" in this lovely park, but food plays heavily into my rainy day fantasies. We came home, stocked up the pantry, and zipped out to get some exercise.

Whoops, too late! The sprinkles turned to rain halfway through our walk.

Well, what's more cozy than a pot of garlic-y something bubbling on the stove? While Odel and Luna entertained each other, I got to work... now it smells fabulous! We're watching the local news/weather as I write this, with HEAVY rain forecast for later tonight. Snow advisory for Mt. Lemon, all sorts of Friday night holiday events cancelled... we don't care, we are PREPARED!

Time to finish dinner.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


This is the third or fourth time we have visited the area around Palm Springs and I am still completely amazed by the place. Where do all these wealthy folk come from??

We actually have spent very little time in Palm Springs. We stay at the Elks Lodge in Indio, one of a chain of desert communities that have discrete boundaries but have no space between them - a long, unbroken stretch of unusually attractive shopping malls, gated communities, and golf courses, against a backdrop of arid mountains, navigated on crowded, palm- and flower-lined thoroughfares.

To me, the entire experience seems unreal. In such an arid environment, so much perfect grass! Such lush gardens! So many cars! So much wealth! We drove a couple hundred miles through dusty, high desert scrub to get here, and will be driving through low desert scrub when we leave - this lush oasis of high living is quite an anomaly.

Aside from the eye candy, we have one main reason for coming here: the deep-fried Baja shrimp (for me) and catfish (for Odel) from the Fisherman's Market and Grill. They serve the best fried shrimp I have had outside of Mexico or Louisiana, and the catfish is outstanding. We were here two days, and ate shrimp and catfish two days - it's that good.

Usually when we visit, we hike - there are SO MANY hikes in the immediate vicinity. Today, though, we did something different: we visited The Living Desert, a plant and animal preserve in Palm Desert. About half of the vast acreage is habitat for African animals; the other half for species from the American southwest and Mexico. Mature gardens representing various desert environments are interspersed among the animal habitats, with intrepretive signs for all the plants and animals.

After we had walked through half of the preserve (and I got the photo of the warthog, above), we sat down in the amphitheatre for the 2 pm wildlife show. It began with a Great Horned Owl swooping down to the stage from behind the (small) audience, soon to be followed by a red-tailed hawk. That was the cue for the trainer to enter - a great beginning to the show.

She gave a little talk and put on a leather glove... the next thing we knew, a Harris Hawk swooped overhead and landed on her outstretched arm. The other handler/trainer was on the walkway up behind the amphitheatre bleachers, and the hawk swooped back and forth between the two handlers, directly over the heads of the startled audience.

The bird made four passes, the second directly over Odel and me. I SO REGRET that I didn't get a photo as it came straight for us - I felt just like a little mouse about to be snatched up for dinner. It seemed as though it passed right between us. Though the trainer had told us (after the first pass, over other audience members) that the hawk would never touch us, both Odel and I let out very wimpy yelps (actually, closer to screams) and ducked... and not just once, but on the return flight, too! By the way, the photo shows the handler with a Golden Eagle - very impressive.

Besides the endangered animals in the preserve, they have a $70 million dollar animal hospital that provides all the care for the animals in the preserve AND treatment of local wild animals found sick or injured in the area. We took a quick tour - I found the "freezer room" very interesting. Here they freeze and store sperm, eggs, embryos and DNA. The sperm and eggs are shared with other breeding programs around the world to help avoid inbreeding of endangered species; the embryos are stored in the hope that someday enough protected habitat will be available to "grow" wild populations of endangered animals. A few of the rooms were closed to tours; they were being used to house animal refugees of the southern California fires, waiting to return to their zoos once their habitats were cleaned and/or repaired.

From this beautiful - but way too congested - oasis, we move on tomorrow to it's opposite: Quartzsite, Arizona and probably beyond to Gila Bend. No grass, or palm trees, or flowers, or delightful restaurants there!

Monday, November 26, 2007


We had three relaxing days at one of our favorite RV parks, Park of the Sierra in Coarsegold, California. This is one of the Escapees private parks, with sites available to Escapees for long-term lease or short-term stays.

It is beautifully designed, with large spaces tucked into the grounds between the oak trees and rocky outcroppings that are typical of the Sierra foothills. The neighbors are friendly and the hilly layout is good for getting exercise.

We used to have our name on the list to get a long-term lease here - yes, sites are limited, so there is a waiting list of 5 years or so!

After two years, we took our names off the list, mostly because of the weather: HOT, hot, hot in summer, and cold (with occasional snow) in winter. Since we are most likely to sit in one place during either summer or winter - and we didn't like the weather here during either season, we decided it wasn't the long-term spot for us.

This trip opened our eyes to another disagreeable aspect: SMOG. It was the worst I have ever seen, really sickening. At Park Sierra, we were a little bit above the valley floor (the famous Central Valley of California) at 1,700 ft. elevation... loook at these photos, which I took as we descended into Fresno and on south to Bakersfield.

This is NOT fog, though it looks so dense you would think so. It was horrible. Residents must suffer dismal health side effects.

After three and a half hours of driving through this haze (while I took dozens of photos in amazement), we headed east at Bakersfield, over the Tehachapis (4,000 ft.) and down to the high deserts of southern California. High wind warnings had be posted for this area last weekend (which is why we spent the weekend at Park Sierra, avoiding the gusty winds) and any smog that had been here was blown far, far away! What lovely difference.

We're parked tonight at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds in Lancaster... off to Indio tomorrow.