Wednesday, January 30, 2008


On Monday, the day we planned to leave Quartzsite, the forecast for the California desert regions included a Severe Wind Advisory (gusts to 50 mph), and the lingering effects (rain and wind) of the recent storms were still being felt in Aguanga, California, our destination.

The portion of I-10 we planned to travel goes through a pass north of Palm Springs that is lined with HUGE wind turbines on both sides, a clue that there is usually wind through there on even a mild day. Since we still had a couple of days supply of water left in our tank (!), we decided to delay our departure until the weather cleared up.

Tuesday was perfect for traveling! Sunshine, no rain, no wind... well, a bit gusty through the pass. Don't these mountains look great with their fresh layer of snow?

The last 15 miles of our route were on a narrow, curving rural road - many 25 miles per hour curves, with climbs and descents. Several places were marked with yellow caution signs that said "Flooded". The water was gone, and mud had been freshly bulldozed to the sides of the road - obvious signs of the recent storms.

Jojoba Hills SKP Park is one of our favorites, and we are settled into a huge, beautiful site for the next 7 days. On the map we received at checkin, we found an advertisement for a mobile RV detailer. Odel has been unhappy with the finish on the exterior of Scoopy for awhile... at 9 am this morning, he was on the phone and at 10 am this morning, a detailer was on the roof, beginning a thorough washing (see photo).

By 3 pm, Scoopy was washed, waxed, polished and gleaming. I was so inspired that I washed the insides of the windows; the detailer did the outside. WOW! We both are thrilled with the result - money very well spent.

We walked all around the park reaquainting ourselves with the layout and amenities. Even though I don't swim for enjoyment, I am always attracted to the pool here, with its beautiful view and surroundings. Maybe I'll at least sit in the hot tub one day!

Monday, January 28, 2008


Before you comment on what you might think this looks like, let me tell you what it is: an Earth Oven - the project of our friend and neighbor here at Quartzsite, Richard Dopp.

We met Richard and Marlene last summer, when we tended their large and beautiful organic vegetable garden in Canby, Oregon, while Richard and Marlene were away. We all share an interest in food and wine, and Marlene treated us to several special meals that included homegrown vegetables and homemade bread.

As far back as last summer, Richard was visualizing the Earth Oven he was planning to build at Quartzsite, primarily using materials that would be available in the desert. Still, I was surprised to look out our window the other day and see him hard at work on the foundation of the oven.

Yesterday was a WET day here in the desert, raining most of the day. Like an ant, Richard continued his labors until his clay was too wet to work with productively.

Here is Richard, with the inner form (built of sand) that would support the clay until it dried. Richard had made the wooden door at home before they came down to Quartzsite - it is leaning in place against the oven's inner form, on firebricks that had come with them from Canby.

After I took the above photo, Richard covered the sand form with one tarp and his adobe clay pile with another. Who would have thought that his building project would have a rain delay??

Today dawned beautifully clear and Richard was back at work, applying clay to the sand form (covered with newspaper). He completed his clay work before long; now the oven is drying.

Richard had a bit of clay left after covering the sand form, so has put out the word that he is looking for a scuplter to dress up the beehive shape of the oven - but I am completely impressed even with this organic shape. After the clay dries, he will scoop out the sand - the resulting void will be the baking area of the oven.

The only sad news: Odel and I will be GONE before the oven is inaugerated! Can you imagine hot, homemade bread and pizza straight out of the oven??

If any of you readers are here in Boomerville, be sure you get over to see the oven. The Dopps are in the Country Coach on the far southern border of Boomerville, and the oven is just in front of their rig. Great project!

Friday, January 25, 2008


Reader's Oasis Books, Quartzsite's only permanent bookstore, looks like a typical retail establishment in a small Arizona town from the outside. The inside is not too unusual, either, except for the abundance of rare or hard-to-find books...

But book-lovers are not the only visitors flocking to the Reader's Oasis. This unusual attraction is "home" to Paul Winer, aka "The Naked Bookseller". A yellow public notice, posted next to the door, alerts visitors: this is not your average bookstore!

I was reminded of the Naked Bookseller recently when I saw a photo of my friend Jo Wishnie with Mr. Winer on Jo's blog. When I received an email recently from Jo mentioning that she would be in Quartzsite yesterday afternoon, I arranged to meet her there so we could visit The Reader's Oasis so I could see the star attraction in person.

Here (on the right) is the usual view of Paul Winer, wearing his "thong", his hat, and his filp-flops, his usual garb. He has been a practicing nudist for his entire adult life - and is actually much tanner than this picture shows.

The day I visited was cold, and Paul was wearing a sweater! Oh, well... his conventional upper-body garb was offset by his new thong, given to him that very day by two women patrons of the bookstore: a sock monkey! (I think you can click on the photo to enlarge it if ou are so inclined.)

Paul is an interesting conversationalist and entertained Jo and me with the story of his "prior life" in Vermont as a nude entertainer named Sweet Pie. You soon forget he is naked (which he WASN'T when I was talking with him); he seems like just another of the colorful characters that populate the Arizona desert towns.

My friend Judy says that a photo of "Laurie without her hat on" is a rare sight. Perhaps no one else will notice how underdressed I am but, Judy, to make this photo even more collectable, I took my hat off. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Was it only yesterday that we arrived in Quartzsite??

Take a look at this picture... that's Odel walking across from Scoopy to the motorhome of our friends the Dopps. This is the view out of our front window, facing to the east so we get the morning sun: motorhomes, mountains, and desert. There are 100+ rigs here in our Boomer enclave, loosely arranged in straggling rows and around small campfire circles.

It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon in the 60's when we arrived. We had the slides out, the "lawn" unrolled, and chairs deployed by 4 pm, and were starting to see familiar faces. We situated Scoopy a short walk from the happy hour/campfire circle, the venue for the various meetings and gatherings that convene each day: writers' group, solar, boondocking, geocaching, breadbaking (that one hasn't happened yet, but I'm interested)...

The daily 4 pm happy hour starts with announcements (upcoming activities, where the trash run volunteer will be parked, when the fresh water delivery truck is expected, a reminder of the daily 9:30 am walk - all the important stuff), then evolves to snacking, hugging, catching up with old friends, and making plans for dinner or other activities. After we finished with all the backslapping and off-the-cuff scheduling, we headed over to dinner with our friends the Dopps, whose garden we tended last summer in Canby, Oregon while they traveled for a few weeks. They squeezed 8 people into their motorhome - great meal and great company.

Our mission this morning was a trip into town, to The Big Tent. For those of you who are not among the initiated, Quartzsite is the center of the boondockers' universe for the last two weeks of January. RV dealerships set up sales lots, vendors of all things RV'ing and just about everything else under the sun set up booths, food vendors line the streets and walkways... and the center of it all is The Big Tent.

Odel and I had a short shopping list of items that could be found at The Big Tent, so we headed into town with our friend Barry around noon to get our shopping done. That was WAY late! As you can see from the photo, the traffic was bumper to bumper. We parked about half a mile from the tent - no problem getting plenty of exercise today.

You see everything in the Tent: demonstrations of cooking gadgets, satellite TV dishes, sheets, special cleaning supplies, jewelry, clothing, campground memberships, even job recruiters. Barry and I sat in chairs with electrodes stuck on our skin, sending electrical impulses that made our muscles jump (pain relief). We could buy the little gadget for $250 - hey, that's half price, a special deal available only at Q! Then Barry and Odel went off to eat smoked turkey legs and ice cream while I wandered the aisles of The Big Tent unencumbered.

The Tent is something else. What the heck do you think these people are doing?? It looked to me like they were sitting with their bare feet in dirty water, which reminded me way too much of how we save and reuse our water when boondocking... in fact, those tubs look just like the dishpan we use to capture shower water for reuse! It looked totally unsavory to me, but about a dozen people were happily soaking, hopefully getting "Immediate Results". Ick.

This is our second visit to Boomerville at Quartzsite. We first came here in January of 2005, and knew about a dozen Boomers. Boondocking was still a fairly new experience for us, and we certainly had never experienced anything like the Quartzsite encampment.

This visit is much different. We see familiar faces everywhere we turn, and won't have enough time to catch up with our old friends, let alone get to know new ones. Our boondocking skills are vastly improved: our big, east-facing windshield catches the first warming rays of the morning sun, we flush the toilet with reserved dishwater, we capture and reuse the cold water that flows while we wait for the hot water to get to the tap.

We'll never be desert rats, but it is fun to have the knowledge and equipment to gather with friends out here under the full moon and enjoy this unusual slice of life.

I took this last photo just as the moon rose, with our solar lights "bubbling" in the foreground. That's it - a day in the life at Quartzsite.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


What the heck do you know? Customer service lives and breathes at Beaudry RV after all.

When we woke up this morning, Odel and I discussed what we thought would be a reasonable resolution of the excessive labor charges Beaudry had included on the repair bill that we refused to pay last night. I phoned our Service Advisor to put him on notice, hoping the bill could be reduced and ready for payment when we arrived at the Cashier’s office.

That conversation was so unsatisfactory that Odel and I decided to pay the bill under protest (in writing on the bill) and move on, vowing not to return to Beaudry and to make sure we spread the (bad) word.

While I started closing up Scoopy, Odel headed to the office. I asked him to get the name and address of the person in charge so that I could document our experience in a written complaint I planned to mail later. (Note to customer service people: NEVER get on the wrong side of a detail-oriented know-it-all retired person who will make it her mission to hound you until you right your wrongs.)

When Odel asked the Cashier for this information, she pointed to the Service Manager’s office and told Odel to talk with Glenn Cannon. Glenn Cannon greeted Odel, invited him to take a seat, listened with great interest, and cut our bill just about in half.

Imagine that!

In a few minutes time, for just a couple of hundred dollars, Glenn Cannon bought Beaudry the kind of word of mouth that can't be bought with thousands of advertising dollars. Earlier in the morning, I couldn't imagine what Beaudry could do to win us back as customers, but now I know: listen with interest and respect, and react positively. I don’t know what message Glenn will take to his service staff, but the message to us was that he valued our business and hoped to keep it. Way to go, Glenn - and way to go, Odel!

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Big day yesterday - we moved less than twenty miles to Beaudry RV Resort. Beaudry is a true "resort" with all the expected amenities: wide sites with concrete patios, tables and chairs at each site, cable TV, swimming pools and hot tubs, a well equiped fitness center, "library" with comfortable seating, computers for the use of the guests who want to check their email, an on-site restaurant and bar, and friendly staff.

We usually don't stay at parks like this: too big, too orderly, and too expensive. Their current overnight rate is $44, which Odel managed to talk down to $36 by flirting with the young woman at the front desk when we checked in. Good job! Considering that the park is not even half full in "high season", maybe they should think about dropping the rate a little...

We are here because Beaudry is an RV dealership with a large service center, and is the authorized Cummins (our engine) and Spartan (our chassis) service center in Tucson. We had two repairs to be made: our water pump (to supply fresh water to our faucets when drycamping) needed to be replaced, and we had a leaky valve on our air suspension that needed replacing. We had an appointment at 7:30 this morning, so decided to pay the premium price to avoid a cross-town rush hour trip.

The day started off great. They must have 40 repair bays here. At 7:30, we checked in with Mike, who got some info, gave us the scoop on how everything happens, did a walk-around looking for pre-existing body damage, and passed us along to Larry, our "Service Advisor".

Larry had a nice, heated office (which felt great as it was freezing in the shade at 7:30 am), took more detailed information, gave us an estimate on charges, gave us an estimate on time, and told us to come back at 2 pm, when Scoopy should be ready. We walked off to the Camping World commenting on how professional it all seemed, with smiles on our faces.

You know what's coming, right? Yes, it all went downhill from there! This reminds me of comments I have heard that all hospital patients should have a friend or family member along as an advocate... man, did Scooopy need one, and that one was Odel.

Service Advisor Larry had told us that Beaudry will not do warrantly work for Shurflo, the maker of our water pump, because Shurflo doesn't pay. Our pump is only a couple of months old, so Odel called Shurflo; they assured us that they Beaudry would get credited for the pump if they replaced it and returned the defective pump to the distributor.

By the time Odel walked over to discuss this with Larry, it was around 9:30 am. Scoopy was still sitting in front of an unopened service bay door. At open bays on both sides, service staff were diligently working on RV's. When Odel mentioned this to Larry, Larry said our water pump replacement had been assigned to Aaron. Odel walked back to the bay... no Aaron. He asked the service guys on either side... hmmm... they hadn't seen Aaron today. Well, guess what? Today is Aaron's day off!

So, we arrived at 7:30; at 10 am Odel informed Larry the Service Advisor that it is Aaron's day off. Major strike one.

Larry and Odel discussed the water pump issue. Larry called his Parts Man who said Shurflo wouldn't authorize warranty repairs without a receipt. I won't bore you with the details, but it involved several more phone calls on our part, ending with a visit to the Parts Man's office, where Odel called Shurflo from his cell phone, handed it off to the Parts Man, and we FINALLY got an authorization number for the replacement of the pump.

Really, I felt like we had to wheel our patient in on a gurney, find a doctor working today, then get authorization from our insurance provider to have the surgery done! Sheesh.

Next time we checked, the water pump work was proceeding, so we went off to get some lunch. Service technicians and Service Advisors break for lunch from noon until 1 pm - we Patient Advocates did the same.

After lunch, we spend a little time "relaxing" with Luna, all of us completely tense and longing for our home. At 1:45, Odel headed back to the "hospital" to check on the status of our patient, due for discharge at 2 pm.

Fast forward to 5:30 pm, half an hour after the shop and offices are supposed to be closed. Scoopy has just been moved over to the cashier's office and we have been presented with a bill for around $150-$200 more than we should have been billed, since they included the time the Service Technician spent installing a defective valve, testing it, and removing it. Our Service Advisor tried to dodge into his truck and depart when he saw us coming, but we surrounded him.

Since it was too late to hit the road, we agreed that we would spend the night at the RV Resort once again (kiss another $40 goodbye) and continue the billing conversation in the morning - we ALL wanted to leave. We drove back to our site and rescued poor Luna from her day in the Jeep; she went straight back to the closet, meowed until I opened the closet door, then went into a far back corner to curl up and sleep, as far as possible from the front door.

So... we have our home back. YAY! The pump has been replaced. YAY! The valve is replaced. YAY! We're still in Tucson. BOO! We have conflict to resolve. BOO! But now Jeopardy is on, we had a good dinner, and I have a glass of wine at hand... life is on an upswing.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Can you make out a narrow, very rocky, barely-there trail in this picture? With cactus on all sides? That was the path we were hiking to find a geocache in Tucson Mountain Park this afternoon when we finally... GAVE UP! Yes, we did - just sat down on a rock and said "forget it"! And ate our lunch.

Arizona's trails can be a real challenge. Here, the steep surface consisted of ROCK covered with a slippery layer of sharp, pea-sized gravel. The steeper the climb, the more frequently we slid - and that was going UPHILL. In my imagination, the downhill slide included grabbing at nearby cactus to stop our falls, or breaking an ankle. NO geocache is worth that (to us wimps, that is).

This was a great test of my new Ariat Terrain Women's Boot. When I needed new hiking boots earlier this year, Ariat boots were recommended by my cousin Rosanna, who has worn her's to hike through the Grand Canyon and in the Dolomites. My sister Sydney has a pair, too, and both said they fit perfectly from day one - an almost unbelievable claim for a hiking boot.

I add my recommendation to theirs: if you are looking for a perfect-fit, lightweight, leather hiking boot that can handle even Arizona's rocky trails in comfort, this is the one. I see that they are available online, but I bought mine in tiny Elfrida, Arizona, at the High Lonesome Feed Store, suppliers of all things needed around the ranch and corral.

Before we took off on our hike, we visited a couple of our neighbors here in the park to plan a dinner out. I had read and saved a review of a Mexican restaurant in Tucson, Las Cazuelitas. Reading about their seafood dishes awakened a longing in me for the fabulous shrimp and fish we have enjoyed on our trips to Mexico.

We had no trouble convincing Jim and Ellie (left) and Doug and JoAnn (center/right) to join us. Jim and Ellie arrived here at Diamond J yesterday. Since we all had "met" previously via our blogs, we wanted to be sure to get together with them while we were all in the same park.

Odel and I are totally spoiled by the food we have consumed (in great quantity) in Mexico, so our experience at Las Cazuelitas was underwhelming. "Passable" and "mediocre" spring to mind, but the food was better than that... just nothing we would go out of our way for again.

Our companions, on the other hand, were great. Travel conversation with congenial fulltimers - especially over a meal - is difficult to beat.

And, a real surprise to me: the best mariachi quartet I have heard in a restaurant! Four musicians strolled in, settled themselves, and started off with an interesting technique: the two violin players plucked the strings of their instruments rather than "bowing" them. I had not seen/heard that before (Laurie Brown: mariachi expert - ha, ha!) and found it really appealing. Another musician played a small bass in the style of a guitar, so it looked like he was playing a GIANT guitar.

Tomorrow we pull up the jacks and move to Beaudry RV Resort, just the sort of place we usually avoid. However, their repair facility is authorized to work on our Spartan chassis (we need a minor repair) and to do warranty work on our Shurflo water pump (we need it replaced), so we are paying $44 (choke, choke!) for one night so that we can have Scoopy in for repairs at 7:30 on Monday morning.

Once the repairs are complete, we're off to Boomerville at Quartzsite to spend five days camped in the desert with our fulltiming friends. We've had a couple of good weeks here in Tucson, but I'm ready to see a new view out our windows.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


This photo has nothing to do with anything, except for the fact that we are still in Tucson... where I feel like I am falling behind. Odel has a big hike in mind for today, while I am ticking off my too-long to-do list.

Staying in one place for a few weeks brings mixed blessings... like the MAIL. In our pre-fulltiming life, getting the mail was kinda' fun: magazines, catalogs to be thumbed then tossed, junk to be discarded, and maybe a few bills that needed attention.

Thanks to our mail forwarding service, Alternative Resources, we don't get any junk mail or catalogs... so our mail package, received once a month or every couple of weeks, is ALL BUSINESS: bills to be paid (usually our share of healthcare charges, one of the few things we can't pay automatically or online), bank statements, financial updates, and every once in a while, a personal letter (very welcome). Somehow, the mail always seems to bring at least one problem to be sorted out, and paying the bills and updating our financial records ends up being a time-consuming job when we only do it once a month.

Another thing on my to-do list: plan the food I want to have on board when we head to Quartzsite for 5 days of boondocking next week. Doesn't seem like such a big task, does it?

Cooking when boondocking can be tricky, especially when we are meeting up with the Boomers. The rule of boondocking is: USE MINIMAL WATER. Even those of us westerners who have lived with periodic drought cycles throughout our lives don't know what MINIMAL means until we try to run the household on 100 gallons of water for a week. I've read that the typical U.S. household uses 150 gallons a DAY, so you can use your imagination on where you might cut back. (By the way, many of our boondocking friends make their water last far longer than we do.)

When I cook, I use a lot of water. Washing vegetables. Cleaning off the cutting board. Washing my hands. Washing big bowls or pots that get in the way. Wiping down the counter.

Well, "mindless" washing is out for boondocking, so - for an obsessively organized person like me - tight planning is on the agenda. I cook meals in advance, wash vegetables while we still have unlimited water, and plan one-pot meals for those that aren't pre-cooked. Boomers usually have one or more potlucks and daily happy hours, so a potluck contribution and snacks are on the menu, too. The planning, shopping, cooking, chopping... it definitely takes time, but the payoff is great: plenty of yummy, quick cleanup meals.

So... I have lots to do and should be doing it - but one last thing before I sign off: I got my first "catch" on BookCrossing, a response about a book I had "released in the wild" at Chopped Restaurant. The young woman who found the book also joined BookCrossing, which pleased me.

For those who are interested or have joined BookCrossing recently, I have released 22 books in various places (restaurants, doctor's offices, laundramats, senior centers, libraries, stores, on gas pumps) here in Arizona since I joined BookCrossing last December - this was my first "catch". Most BookCrossers report a catch rate of 10-15%, so I was due for a catch soon. Experienced BookCrossers counsel patience for newbies; the longer your releases are out there in the world, the more likely you are to hear back on/from them.

Okay, gotta get busy!

Monday, January 14, 2008


Wow, it's been four days since my last posting! That's what happens when we stay in one place for so long... we relax into a comfortable routine with little "excitement" to blog.

Every day includes a walk/hike in the desert. We usually head out together, but yesterday was a little different. I wanted to spend half a day on motorhome maintenance - on the inside. I need to get on this before we do our 4-5 mile walk, as all my resolve evaoporates out on the trail.

That was Odel's cue to head out for a hike on his own, as it is way easier for me to vacuum, dust, polish and wax when he and Luna are outside. Besides, it is difficult for him to relax on the couch when it is stacked with rugs and side tables.

By the time he returned, my chores were done - including one I rarely do, waxing our wood cabinets. One of the things I love about the interior of Scoopy is the beauty of the cabinets and trim, but the lack of humidity here in the southwest takes a toll. I can't possibly wax all the wood at once, but I managed to get about a third of it done yesterday, concentrating on the most needy items.

Odel flopped down on the couch and took the remote in hand for some serious football viewing; I took the GPS and headed out to find a couple of geocaches. Odel will go with me on geocaching jaunts, but his purpose on the trail is exercise, not finding hidden "treasures", so we usually move right along.

Yesterday, out in the desert alone on a perfect day (sunny, 60's, a slight breeze), I moved at a slow pace, stopping to take photos and examine plants, rocks, and views of interest. I found the caches and exchanged some trinkets; I sat near an abandoned mine on a hilltop and ate my snack, soaking up the sunshine.

I took this picture at my lunch stop, enjoying the sun on my back and the view of the mountains to the east. It made for a very fine Sunday afternoon!

Thursday, January 10, 2008


We've eaten out more in the past few days than we usually do in a month - part of the "getting to know Tucson" campaign.

We began our day yesterday with a movie, "Charlie Wilson's War" - an 11:50 am matinee, saving a buck or two off the usual price. Get this: to quality for a senior discount at the movie theaters in Tucson, you have to be SIXTY-FIVE years old! The 16 year old selling tickets told us they raised the age limit because it is snowbird (read "old folks") season. There were a total of 4 people in the theater that time of day.

When we left, we went back to Chopped, the restaurant we had discovered a few days ago. This time we both got salads - HUGE, fresh, delicious salads. We definitely will continue to return to Chopped.

Today we needed to run a few errands, so were out at lunchtime. Not far from our RV park is a restaurant recommended on another blog I read, so we decided to grab lunch at Coyote Pause. I thought (who knows why?) that they served Mexican food, and Odel was drooling for some... too bad, I was wrong - but we did have an excellent lunch, anyway.

The entertainment was provided by a group of exceedingly loud women, around my age, yakking in the corner, discussing politics. I am fairly certain Hillary is out - she "acts too much like a man". Obama is out because Obama sounds too much like Osama, and Barack too much like Iraq. And, did you know his middle name is Hussein? Let me tell you, it was an eye opener to me. Anytime I wonder how Bush managed to be re-elected, I will think of these women and their decision-making. Sheesh. I roll my eyes just thinking about 'em.

Tonight was our social event of the week: dinner at Sweet Tomatoes with a group of Boomers. Sweet Tomatoes was another new restaurant for us, a soup, salad, bread/pizza and dessert buffet. Upon entering, you take a tray and slide along the salad bar. It must have been 30 feet long, stocked with FRESH, FRESH, FRESH salads and salad makings. We paid a set fee when we arrived at the end of the salad bar, and good Escapees that we are, we had a discount coupon cut out of the Sunday paper.

We took our seats, consumed our huge salads, then went on to visit the soup station and the dessert bar - no room for the baked goods (well, except for a brownie). We were fortunate to sit across from Diane Parrot, who had eaten at Sweet Tomatoes before and had great advice for us on how to get the most out of the dessert bar: use a soup bowl instead of the tiny ice cream bowl. Put a brownie in the bottom, top it with ice cream, sauce and sprinkles. So dinner consisted mainly of a giant salad and a giant dessert, both yummy.

See that guy in the top photo? His job is to circulate around the dining area at Sweet Tomatoes passing out chocolate chip cookies. These people really know how to bring back the customers.

The Boomers dinner at Sweet Tomatoes is an annual event, as many of us are in Tucson this time of year, but this was the first time for us. Doug and JoAnn, our new friends here at the RV park, had expressed interest in the Boomers, so we invited them along. They were still interested in joining as we drove home, so I guess they enjoyed the group as much as we do. It was fun to see Boomers we haven't seen for a few years, and to make plans to get together at Quartzsite in a few weeks.

I won't name everyone in the photos (partly because I don't know everyone's name), but I know that Boomers reading this will recognize many faces. It was a great gathering - our thanks to Ron and Rob Silver for pulling it together.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Odel is not a bookish sort, although he will read a mystery or thriller when it is the only entertainment available. I usually pursue books on my own, happily.

When we arrived at our current park and met JoAnn and Doug, and JoAnn expressed her interest in BookCrossing, I suggested a "BookCrossing Day" for JoAnn and I. Monday's windy weather was perfect for what we had in mind - a visit to Bookman's, Tucson's highly regarded used book/CD/DVD store, and to Tucson's only "Official BookCrossing Zone" (OBCZ), the Black Rose Caffe.

JoAnn was the perfect companion for this outing, new to Tucson and full of curiosity, seemingly happy with any agenda. We began at Bookman's, where we browsed the stacks and lost track of time. I checked out with 9 books, several from my mental list of "books of interest" that had been too expensive to purchase new; JoAnn had a big bag of books in her hands, too.

It was almost noon when we left - lunch time. I had visited the Black Rose Caffe's website and knew they served sandwiches, salads, coffee drinks and desserts, but had put off visiting on my own because the website seemed a little wierd - mentioning Tarot card readings, a psychic fair, and neo-pagan meetings. Hmmmm. Fun? Interesting? or uncomfortably odd?

Now we had strength in numbers, and the lure of an OBCZ was strong, so off we went.

An OBCZ is a public place (business, library, senior center, etc.) that sets aside a space for BookCrossing-registered books. Anyone is free to take these books home, read them, make a journal entry on BookCrossing, and pass the book on, either at an OBCZ or as a "wild release". I had never visited an OBCZ, but was curious.

Joann and I found the Black Rose Caffe and agreed that it looked promising from the outside. The inside was even better, totally delightful: roomy, comfortable, relaxing. Lovely colors and pleasant lighting. I took this photo from our table, where I was sitting on a comfortable booth seat surrounded by lush throw pillows.

Lunch was delicious and great fun in the company of Joann. We found the BookCrossing shelf and I left a book there, and studied all the other books - some registered with BC, some not. I also studied the flyers and notices on the bulletin board, and came home with a fascinating brochure about the beliefs of Neopagan Druids - another stereotype shattered! If I was more of a joiner, I'm sure they could sign me up.

If you are coming to (or in) Tucson, both places merit a visit - and several returns.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Yes, here it is - the unavoidable Arizona sunset shot. Sorry, I can't help it!

Arizona has spectacular sunsets and this particular spot, west of Tucson, has the distant mountains and the saguaro cactus that make them even more eyecatching. I have lost count of the sunset photos I have taken during our various stays. This was yet another, snapped as we was walking home last night after a hike in the desert.

We've settled into our park in Tucson for the next couple of weeks. We've stayed here frequently enough that we know how to get around Tucson fairly well, but I realized recently that we don't know where anything is! That's not quite true... we know where to find a couple of grocery stores, and I have the three Trader Joe's marked on the map, along with the two Costco's.

But say I want to visit a bookstore, or we want to go out for a good meal... or need to pick up some birthday cards, or drop by a Target. No "local knowledge". I'm gonna start working on that, beginning by paying attention and making notes as we drive around town, so I can annotate our map more completely.

In my newly "attentive" mode yesterday, I couldn't resist taking a photo of this sign, attached to a pole in the divider island on one of Tucson't main streets. We've seen a lot of odd things, but this was a first - a "client" advertising for a lawyer?

Because I was paying attention, I also managed to spot "Chopped", a restaurant that had been recommended to us by our friends Stan and Lee. Chopped serves salads, sandwiches and soup... but their speciality is "Design Your Own Salad". Pick up an order form and a pencil when you walk through the door, marking check boxes on the order form to choose lettuce, up to 5 "choppings" (additions to your salad), a protein (if you want one), and your dressing. Turn in your order form (or order from the menu), pay, take your table number and have a seat at a table.

The "kitchen" is right out front where you can see everything being made, and our soups and sandwiches were delivered to the table in a couple of minutes. Everything we ordered - Roasted Corn Chowder and a Turkey Club Sandwich for Odel; Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup and a "Gobbler" Panini for me - was delicious. Both locations of "Chopped" go on the map!

Have you noticed the pre-cooked but non-refrigerated grains at Trader Joes? I've been very curious about 'em, since we have more cupboard space than refrigerator space.

I bought two packages to try when we were boondocking recently (where water for cooking and dishwashing is at a premium): Multigrain Pilaf and plain brown rice. I haven't tried the rice yet (I usually use Trader Joe's frozen, precooked brown rice if I need brown rice in a hurry), but I liked the pilaf. It is a little more juicy than I had expected, and rather spicy... in the "savory" sense, not the "hot and spicy" sense. We had it with salmon and thought it was a good and unusual accompaniment - worth buying again.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Yesterday was a short drive, from Gila Bend to the west side of Tucson. Just a few miles east of Gila Bend, we ran into a scary sight: two helicopters and five or six ambulances blocking the westbound lanes of I-8, attending to victims of an accident.

Traffic on the east side of the accident was backed up for several miles, completely stopped. Drivers and passengers were standing outside their vehicles peering west, or talking in small groups. There were many motorhomes and trailers in the mix, and big semi's. I'm sure those with CB radios were spreading the news that they wouldn't be moving anytime soon. Be careful out there!

As soon as we settled into our new site, we took off out into the desert for a short walk. This side of Tucson has two public parks, Saguaro National Park, and Tucson Mountain Park (which I think is owned by the city).

We have stayed frequently at Desert Trails RV Park, where a network of trails lead from the RV park to join with the trails in Tucson Mountain Park. We stay at Desert Trails because we LOVE walking through the flora of the Sonoran desert here, and we know the trail network by heart.

Desert Trails has a limited number of sites that are suitable for us and a reservation is absolutely required this time of year. During the past couple of years, we have watched the development of a new RV park, right next door, with interest. At times it looked abandoned, but this year Doc Justin's Diamond J RV Park is open.

Completely undiscovered by the Tucson snowbirds, they have plenty of space and no reservation required - our prefered method of travel. Here's Scoopy in site 65, where we will be for the next week, and likely beyond. We are facing east-ish, towards the mountains and the rising sun.

Yesterday the temperature hit the lower 70's! Last night, we slept with our bedroom windows open! No wind! Wow, is this nice, especially listening to the reports of the rain, wind, and snow pounding the west coast.

As I was walking around taking the picture of Scoopy this morning, I came across this little surprise next to a tree at our site - violets in the desert! I don't know who painted this and left it here, but I was delighted. I examined it closely and put it back with a big smile; I hope whoever left it was able to imagine how much pleasure it would bring.

We had another nice surprise here: we met JoAnn and Doug (and their poodle Fillmore), who are staying in this RV park for a month. Remember my post of a few days ago describing my non-compliant attitude towards being "tagged"? JoAnn and Doug were the taggers, and turned out to be friendly, interesting people who didn't seem to hold my recalcitrance against me. JoAnn and I are planning a BookCrossing outing one day... I'm looking forward to getting to know them while we are here.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Here is a shot of Boomerville that I took yesterday when four of us went off on a geocaching adventure - which was cut short when I dropped the GPS off a cliff! Once again, Odel was the hero, climbing down a rockfall to retrieve it for me. After bouncing off the sharp Arizona desert rocks about a dozen times, the GPS still worked!

That was enough adventure for our little posse, so we returned to camp without a successful find... but no injuries, so we just called it a WIN.

Last night we went out for a special celebration dinner: Jan and Barry Kessler's 11th anniversary. We returned to Julieanna's Cafe, where we helped them celebrate last year, too.

Here is our happy group, left to right: Barry, Jan, Pam, Steve and Odel (and my plate). I had saved up my "shower allotment" of water so that I could take a (short) hot shower before dinner. Oh, it felt so good to be clean.

And that brings me to what I learn from boondocking: how much I love the luxury of LOTS of HOT, soapy running water! We only have a 10 gallon hot water heater - large by RV standards, but tiny compared to a typical household - so we never have unlimited hot water... but a boondocking shower involves using a minimal amount to get wet, turning off the water to soap up, then using another teeny amount to rinse. It takes a lot of willpower for me to turn it off and hop out!

When we left Yuma, we drove a couple of hours east, to Gila Bend, AZ, where we checked into a full hookup RV park. We fell on Scoopy like cockroachs on a crumb - Odel swarmed the outside with a soapy brush while I vacuumed, dusted, scrubbed and polished every inch of the dusty inside. As I write this (clean, after a long, hot shower), we have the TV on, the TV satellite dish on, several lights on, the hot water heater and refrigerator running on the electricity the RV park has so thoughtfully provided... this is luxury living.

And that is one of the reasons I like boondocking: it reminds me of what the luxuries are - unlimited water and power! Long, hot showers! Clean counters, sinks, floors! Washing clothes in the machine!

Boondocking gives us a lot of freedom, and it is always fun to see our Boomer friends at the annual New Year's gathering... and then fun to take that first, long, hot shower in the newly cleaned rig. Now Odel is talking to the TV (watching the Orange Bowl), and I am off to make a cup of tea (heating my water in the electric pot!) and do some reading. Tomorrow we're moving on to Tucson.