Tuesday, March 31, 2009


When I turned on the radio this morning, I heard a familiar voice: Donna Apidone, the host of Morning Edition on Capital Public Radio, the Sacramento metro area NPR station. Good morning, again, Donna!

Before we moved out of West Sacramento when we began fulltiming, my weekdays began every morning at 5 am, listening to Donna announce the local news. Hearing her voice again means we're back - to family, friends, the dentist, the doctor, and all the well-known shops and restaurants. Toss the maps - we don't need 'em now.

In the six years we have been traveling, we've returned to Sacramento twice a year (except 2008, when medical issues intervened), in spring and in November. To me, the springtime visit marks the end of our winter travels; the November visit marks the end of summer's travels. Parked here at the Lodi Elks Lodge (click here to read our review and see additional photos) for a few nights, our winter travels are winding down.

A couple of weeks ago, we were in the arid and relatively barren southwestern desert - now we are surrounded by green fields, blooming orchards, and budding vineyards. April is a beautiful time in central California, and our drives during these last couple weeks of travel have been eye-poppers.

Above: Hiking in Fremont Peak State ParkAbove: Blooming roadside orchard
Below: Farm along Interstate 5Below: Traffic thickens near Stockton

Tomorrow we'll move another 60 miles or so to our "home" lodge, the Placerville Elks (click here to read our review) in Shingle Springs, about 5 miles from my parents house. Next Monday, we'll move into the heart of Sacramento for a month-long stay at Cal Expo RV Park (click here to read our review) - not a favorite spot, but convenient to the places we like and need to visit. Rest, relax, re-group, visit, play, catch up with maintenance (mostly on ourselves) - and plan our summer!

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Because our travel day was Friday, and we knew the roads would be clogged with visitors to the wine country and the beaches, we were up and on the road early for our drive from Paso Robles to Salinas. Another beautiful day for driving.

Our route wound through some of California's premier agricultural areas, with a quilt of crops spread around us. Lettuces of many colors, broccoli and strawberries, with patches of wildflowers addiing color on the grassy green hillsides.

We were in place at the Salinas Elks Lodge (read our review and see more photos here), backed up to a golf course, by early afternoon. Unlike our travels in the southwest, by the end of this short travel day, Scoopy's huge windshield was smeared with the bright yellow innards of countless squashed bugs. Odel did a major cleanup before he snapped our solar screens in place.

Then we were off to Old Town Salinas to visit the National Steinbeck Center for all things John Steinbeck, a native. Naturally, the largest exhibit area was devoted to an examination of Steinbeck's life and writing, but I found myself more interested in the exhibit describing the history of agriculture in the area - especially the packaging that enabled transport of local produce further and further afield. When we stopped to buy packaged "Herb Salad Mix" for dinner at Safeway, it occured to me that it was probably picked within 50 miles of our current RV site.

We had picked the Salinas Elks Lodge because of its proximity to the coast and Monterey, and we were up early this morning to drive the 16 miles to Monterey before the road was too crowded. We had a long walk on the "coastal trail", a paved walking/biking trail that runs from downtown Monterey, past the Monterey Wharf and on to Cannery Row (and beyond) before it was too jammed - but even early in the day we mingled with joggers, bikers, parents pushing strollers, dog walkers...

Parking lots were filled with bodies wiggling into wet suits, and kayakers unloading their watercraft. The sunshine was dazzling, and the color and movement fascinating, the views spectacular.

When we got back to the car, we headed farther south, to Pacific Grove and a seafood restaurant we had tried to visit (it was closed) many years ago. This time, it was open and not too crowded, so we stopped in for lunch. I had a delicious seafood quesadilla (shrimp, crab and scallops) and a glass of wine; Odel had Shrimp Fettucini Alfredo - good, but accompanied by garlic bread that was so stale it seemed leftover from last night. Not really worth driving out of our way to eat there, but we took another beautiful walk afterwards that made up for his mediocre lunch.

By the time we got back home, we'd walked at least five miles. I settled down on the bed for a little reading which, thanks to my lunchtime wine, turned into a little napping, instead. What can I say? I'm a lightweight!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


It was a very short drive from Oceano to Paso Robles yesterday - in spite of a road detour that abandoned us after diverting Scoopy from our planned route, and a missed turn on the way to Kit and Nancy's (my fault). I took this photo of Scoopy in their driveway just as the sun was setting, after a two-bottle happy hour (followed by a delicious meal accompanied by more vino).

Paso Robles is the center of a grape growing, wine producing universe - vineyards in every direction with huge, beautiful wineries and their tasting rooms on every hillside. Kit and Nancy know most of the wineries, and like to visit 'em - and we were willing passengers for their guided tour.

It was the kind of day that makes a fulltimer think, "Hmmmm. If we ever decide to settle down, this might be a good spot." Warm-but-not-hot sunshine, a tiny breeze, new green grasses and leaves everywhere, and the occasional whiff of blooming jasmine. As Nancy reminded me, though, everyplace looks great in spring and fall!

We stopped at several wineries, tasting here and there - but often simply admiring the architecture or the gardens, the caves or the sculptures.

Kit was the designated driver, and Nancy had packed a picnic of cheese, fruit, smoked oysters, salami, crackers - and chocolate truffles for dessert. For Odel and me, it was really delightful to simply climb in the car, ride along, get out and have a few tastes of vino, climb back in, get out at a picnic table, eat the scrumptous lunch packed for us, take off again... it was like being a kid, except we got to drink wine!

We ended our afternoon in downtown Paso Robles, around the square. The men went off to a park bench to practice being seniors; Nancy and I browsed in and out of shops, and walked several of the blocks while she filled me in on the history - including the 2003 earthquake that caused considerable damage here.

We all met up for dinner - melt-in-your-mouth BBQ ribs and sweet potato fries, mostly - as the sun was sinking behind the huge old oaks in the square. Pleasant music was playing, the food was delicious, the service perfect, the companions mellow and contented - a day to be savored.

Bottom Photo: Northern Magnolia

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I woke up at 6:18 this morning and said to myself "it's time". I got out of bed at 6:21 am, leaving Odel peacefully sleeping. Dream on, my man, dream on... he, he, heh!

Yes, it was time... time to solve the analog-to-digital TV problem. Unless you use a TV antenna (not likely, unless you are an RV'er), you probably haven't paid much attention to the buzz about the switch from analog to digital. For us, it means losing the ability to watch local channels, which are crucial when dangerous weather threatens.

Like many RV's, we have two TV's in Scoopy. We have a rooftop TV satellite so, even though our TV's are analog (like all older TV's), we can watch DirecTV without any changes to our televisions

However, we also have a batwing TV antenna on the roof, which brings in local, over-the-air TV stations. When we are able to use the batwing antenna to pick up local stations, Odel usually watches the front TV (on satellite), and I watch local PBS on the back TV - hence, I have a bit more interest in this issue than Odel does.

I have strong feelings about the switch from analog to digital and how it is being handled (very poorly), but I will spare you my rant. Several months ago, we got a converter box - using a government issued coupon plus additional cash - and tried to figure out how to make it work.

After much sweat and frustration, we learned three things: you need a separate converter box for each TV; you have yet another remote, as the converter box now becomes your channel changer; and, unless you get a converter box that allows analog signals to "pass through" to the TV, you will get digital channels only.

To us, all three things were NOT GOOD. Phooey on two converters! Phooey on more remotes! Phooey on the converter we had purchased, which was digital only (and there were no digital channels yet)! Opining frequently, loudly and negatively, we detached the converter box and put it all on the back burner to deal with at a different time.

Unknown to my slumbering mate, today was that time. I fired up the computer and started Phase I: research. Costco, Walmart, Radio Shack and Best Buy - I visited each website. Forget a converter box - by the time Odel got up, I had narrowed the field to four new TV models.

I gave him sufficient time to rub the sleep out of his eyes before I told him my plan for the day: buy and install the new TV in the bedroom, and get rid of the old one. His words: "What??? I thought we were going to wait until we got to Sacramento!"

In no time, though, he was in the bedroom with the tape measure and we were comparing the specs I had printed to the available space. Soon tools appeared and a determined Odel spent a hot, sweaty couple of hours (including two trips to the hardware store) removing the wooden trim frame around the TV compartment (we have very well built oak cabinetry). When that was finally done (which actually involved snapping off a recalcitrant screw), we headed off to Costco and came home with our new unit.

We pulled out the old TV and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry over it’s condition. Really, our home doesn’t look so dusty… but everytime we get into a hidden nook or cranny, this is what we find!

Wow, have TV’s changed in 8 years! We could fit two or three of the new TV’s into the TV compartment.

After that, it was all easy. The new TV surged to life as soon as we plugged it in, and menus walked us through setup. This TV has both a digital and an analog tuner (low-power and repeater stations, not uncommon in rural areas, don’t have to switch to digital), and the automatic scan found several of each.

It’s now 9 pm. The old TV has been dropped off for donation, Odel is stretched out on the bed watching the new TV. Woo-hoo! We’re in business.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Wow, wild weather - California style (no fear of tornados). Last night brought gusty winds and occasionally heavy rain, but we awoke to sunshine. Sunshine, and WIND. It was too windy to enjoy a walk on the beach, so we drove, instead

I don’t know how much the weather had to do with it but, by 11 am Sunday, the rigs we had seen streaming onto the beach on Friday afternoon for a weekend of camping were packing up and heading out. Cars, trucks, trailers and motorhomes were moving along between the water and the dunes, sometimes two lanes, sometimes three or four lanes - or in a swarm. Far more vehicles on the beach than on the road.

Most of the campers had let air out of their tires for better traction in the soft sand of the campsites in the dunes. A business I never knew existed: providing generator-operated air compressors so the drivers could refill their tires as they regained the hard-packed sand away from the dunes.

They ran four compressors at a time, apparently charging $1 per tire. There were several other businesses set up for the weekend, too: ATV rentals, sand rail rentals, and horse rentals.

Though the wind made for crummy camping and walking, it was exactly what the kite surfers wanted. To the north end of the beach, away from the traffic of the campers, hearty surfers in wet suits inflated the edges of their big kites and took to the waves.

They tore along the surf, back and forth, sometime jumping up into the air, even turning somersaults. We parked and watched from the warmth of the Jeep, all the windows rolled up to keep the sand out and the warmth in. We felt like wimps, warm and cozy wimps.

The wind never died down, so we gave up on walking today… maybe we ARE wimps?!

Friday, March 20, 2009


After we started our fulltiming life, we joined the BPOE, the Brotherhood of the Elks. Many Elks lodges across the country offer RV parking. I think it started as a way for lodges to provide safe and friendly overnight parking to traveling Elks, but many lodges find that providing RV parking with a few amenities can provide a useful (and often, much needed) income stream for a lodge.

We particularly like the Elks lodges in California (our "home" lodge is the Placerville, CA, lodge). Lodges on our current route (up Hwy 101) have capitalized on their location, putting in utilities (several lodges have FHU) and dump stations. Add to that the friendly "local knowledge" available in the lodge and fees about half of what you might pay at a commercial park... what's not to like?

We left our site at the Santa Maria Elks lodge (
read our review here) a few minutes before 11 this morning and were in a site at the Oceano Elks lodge (read our review and see more photos here) half an hour later. It's not our shortest moving day ever, but close. :)

This lodge has a 50-site RV parking area on grass with an on-site host and water and electric hookups for $20/night. The state park campground across the street charges $29 for the same amenities, and commercial parks in the area run from $30 (for a cramped, ugly space) to around $60 (the mid-summer high).

We hit the beach, 2 blocks away, as soon as we set up. Pismo State Beach allows driving and camping on the sand. You see EVERYTHING on this beach! We walked quite a distance in both directions, ogling the stream of slow-moving cars, trucks, ATV's, and trailers... and this trio of buggy-pulling horses. We saw an ambulance (no lights flashing), and a tow truck with huge sand tires. Lots of ranger vehicles were on patrol, and trucks pulling flatbed trailers hauling rental ATV's cruised by.

When we walked back up to the street, a motorhome bigger than ours was in line at the kiosk to pay for beach camping. We were amazed to see it gun the engine to speed through the soft, dry sand at the head of the "road". They are far braver - or more foolish - than we. (Maybe it's a rental - ha, ha!)

After our exercise, we set off to explore. Oceano doesn't seem to be much of a town, but Pismo Beach is just up the road a couple of miles. Our friend Richard Dopp had traveled this route not long ago, and included some mouth-watering photos from a
lunch stop in Pismo Beach on his blog. We headed over to Pismo Beach to check it out.

Friday afternoon, sunshine, and the beach: the place was jumpin'! The Splash, Richard's recommended restaurant, had a line out the door. We dodged our way up and down the street, checking out menus to make plans for later, then walked out over the waves on the Pismo Beach pier.

What a gorgeous day! The people-watching was fabulous, the water glittered, the surfers rode the waves. What a difference from yesterday's beach-front experience! We were in California Coastal Heaven.

We strolled back to the main street and decided to take a seat outdoors at Brad's. Brad's patio was sandwiched between their seafood restaurant and their BBQ takeout stand, out of the (cool) ocean breeze.

A first for me: I ordered a Senior Meal. For $4 less than the "under 55" folks pay, I got 4 huge (and deliciously sweet and tender) deep-fried shrimp on a bed of "chips". Washed it down with a glass of white wine (full price, no senior deal there). Odel didn't order a senior meal - he still eats like a junior, and ate every last bite of his 3-piece Fish and Chips meal (washed down with two steins of cerveza).

Walking back to the car, we seemed full - until we saw a sign advertising a flavor of ice cream called "Motor Oil". The name sounds hideous, but the description: chocolate ice cream with Kahlua and fudge ribbons. Oh, what the heck - let's split one! Thank goodness we walk a lot.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


It wasn't one of our best travel days. Our goal was Emma Wood State Beach, where we would have a site facing the Pacific Ocean, hear the sounds of the surf, enjoy long walks on the beach over the weekend. All we had to do was negotiate the freeways of the L.A. basin and the beach would be ours.

We hit the road at 10:15. Took The Ten west to The Two-Ten, which was an easy route for 30 miles or so... then things slowed down. The smog - YIKES! The traffic - LOOK OUT! On we went for a couple of hours, closer and closer to our goal, Emma Wood State Beach.

It was the word "Wood" (which we kept mis-pronouncing as "Woods", plural) that put the image in our minds of a beautiful beach-side site with green shrubbery and trees behind us, maybe a few trails we could walk through a wooded area when we weren't beachcombing... We could not have been more wrong.

Arriving as we did after a slog across L.A., on a dreary day when either smog or fog obscured the sun, the narrow sites just below the freeway didn't appeal to us. We've learned, though, that parks that don't appeal at first sometimes look better after we set up, relax, and learn our way around.

We had planned to stay there four days, so we picked a site (one site away from a trailer with kids bikes, toys and Big Wheels strewn into the neighboring site) and maneuvered into it. This was our near view: a huge, dead Elephant Seal with seagulls picking it apart. UGH! It was 63 degrees outside; I can only imagine what this carcass would smell like on a warm, sunny day.

Dreary day, narrow sites, and a rotting carcass out our "picture window"... it was too, too much for us. Time to FORMULATE PLAN B, quick!

While Odel drove north, I got out our various guides and directories, and fired up the computer. In expensive California, parking at Elks lodges is a great option for us. They usually have electric hookups - sometimes full hookups - and are generally more appealing to us than commercial parks and WAY less expensive. Our Plan B was to drive another 60 miles north on Hwy 101, where we ended our day in a wide, spacious site at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge (read our review and see more photos here). No ocean, but we had sunshine and blue sky. No huge dead mammals. Sometimes that's good enough. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


This photo pretty much says it all about our time at Yucaipa Regional Park - the livin' is easy! About the hardest thing we've had to do is listen to AIG Chairman Edward Liddy try to justify the retention bonuses paid to executives and other employees - especially those who have left the company! The man lives in an alternate universe!

See Luna under Odel's chair? She has decided to be an outdoor cat while we're here. The site has lots of protected area for her to explore - best of all, the berm beside us is infested with a hamster-sized ground-dwelling rodent that fascinates her.

When she spies a bit a movement, she runs to a hole, sticks her paw in all the way up to her armpit, switches to the other paw, then finally hunkers down for a long, patient waiting game. It's like sticking a kid in front of Sesame Street.

We've ALL enjoyed being outdoors. The weather could not have been better: sunny, totally calm, highs in the low 70's. Flowers are popping out all over around here, the hills are covered with thick green grass, and the distant mountains are still snow covered. It is a relaxing oasis in the midst of southern California's busy, busy, busy-ness.

JoAnn and Doug moved here from Borrego Springs on the same day we did and are parked three sites away. Yesterday, when Odel went to play golf and Doug went to do chores, JoAnn and I headed to the Desert Hills Premium Outlet Mall. I wanted another pair of the super-well-fitting Eddie Bauer jeans (they make a "short" version that is just right for me) and JoAnn wanted to get out and about.

We happened to park in front of the Crate and Barrel outlet, so decided to go in. I've always disliked the throw pillows on our sofa (we kept the pillows from our old sofa when we switched to our new leather sofa) - but I have been unwilling to pay what always seems to me like way-too-high prices for new throw pillows.

Well, Crate and Barrel had everything on SALE, including throw pillows - and I found three new ones that look (and feel) great. JoAnn found three baskets of a size and shape she needed, so we felt successful 15 minutes after we arrived. Not being serious shoppers, though, we didn't stay long - left after I got my jeans.

Meanwhile, Odel enjoyed himself on the golf course adjacent to the park, Yucaipa Valley G.C. He first found this course when we stayed at Loma Linda, using EZLinks.com, a website that provides reserved tee times with heavily discounted greens fees at various courses around the country (from inexpensive to costly) for one, two, three or four people. If you are a golfer, especially a traveling golfer, you should visit the EZLinks site - Odel has played at several courses for half price since he learned about it this winter.

JoAnn and Doug are coming over for dinner tonight - grilled outdoors, dining on the picnic table. Tomorrow we're heading to Emma Wood State Beach, where we hope to snag a beachside site for four days. It's great to be traveling again.

Monday, March 16, 2009


What a change of scenery!

The winds came up Saturday night, our last in Borrego Springs, and beat on us all night long. It sure made it easy to hook up and get going! We like the deserts of the southwest, but once the springtime winds get blowing, I'm glad to get out of there.

For big rigs, there aren't a lot of access routes in and out of Borrego Springs. We drove east to the Salton Sea, then turned north, swung west past Palm Springs, and checked into our reserved site at Yucaipa Regional Park (click here for our review and more photos) 3 pm. It was calm, cool, and slightly overcast - what a difference 150 miles makes!

We didn't get much exercise yesterday, so we took a morning hike up the trail to Mt. Zanja, one of the high hills nearby. Lots of flowers blooming here, including a beautiful blue shrub (which I think is Ceanothus, the California lilac).

Now, 24 hours after our arrival, we're relaxing in the sunshine and working through our list of chores - mainly, dust and grime removal, from the interior and exterior of both Scoopy and Jules, and our clothes. The washer and dryer are going; Odel is outside shining up Scoopy's wheels and keeping an eye on Luna, who LOVES this new site.

This park is very near to Loma Linda - in fact, we discovered it while we are staying there for Odel's cancer treatment, when we came out here for a hike. We had admired the campground and liked the location - now we have more time to explore it. With the fishing lakes, swimming beach, and water slides, I'm sure the park is jammed during the summer - but now it is just us campers and a few fisherfolk, lots of green grass and springtime flowers.

We'll be here until Thursday morning. Odel wants to revisit the 18-hole golf course that is practically next door, and I want to drop by the outlet stores for another pair of jeans before we continue our northward travels. Next stop: somewhere along the ocean.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Though I haven't found this year's wildflower displays particularly compelling, this apparently is THE weekend for wildflower viewing in Anza-Borrego. It's true that many plants are flowering now, and it makes any hike more enjoyable to come upon a garden of delicate blooms tucked away in a rocky nook, or a golden patch of poppies brightening a hillside. The ocotillo are displaying their fiery tips, and the beavertail cactus, fat with buds, are beginning to open their showy blossoms.

We were up and out rather early (for us) this morning, to hike Alcoholic Pass. It's close to where we are parked, not too long, strenuous enough for a workout but not exhaustion, and we could be finished before the hottest temperatures of the day arrived - all the ingredients of an enjoyable hike.

(Top row: heading up the rocky trail, ocotillo blooming alongside the trail. Bottom row: Odel signs the log on top of Alcoholic Pass, trail's end).

If you walk half a mile up a trail, you can leave behind at least 80% of the visitors to a park. If you walk a mile, you will leave behind 95% or more. On our hike (1.7 miles one way), we saw 3 other hikers (or was it five?). Flowers, birds, rocks, vistas... and hardly any people.

When we got back to the road, we saw many, many, many cars - and the farther we traveled back towards town, the more we encountered - until it was practically a traffic jam on a sandy desert road! The most amazing sight, though, was on our way home, along a paved road that has seen very little traffic during the week: cars parked on both sides of the road, with flower peepers tromping off into the desert to view (and photograph) the little yellow wildflowers carpeting the arid soil.

Some people were sitting down to be photographed; many were snapping shots with pocket-sized digital cameras (like I use); many more had almost arms-length lenses set on tripods. Wildflowers are a BIG DEAL here this weekend!

After a winter spent in the southwest, I'm ready for a change of landscape. Tomorrow we're heading north, to a green and shaded county park with full hookups and spacious sites. Luna is the only one of us who will miss the dust

Thursday, March 12, 2009


On yesterday's blog post, PWeaver left this comment: "I noticed that table right away... wondered "how do they carry that huge table in their MH?" How about a pic without the table cloth and an explanation!... cool!"

It got me thinking about how useful it is to have a large, sturdy outdoor table (we had dinner for 6 on the same table tonight) and piqued my curiosity about the table's design. It was built by our friend Richard Dopp, the same guy who got us interested in building an earthen oven when we stomped mud with him in this same spot last year.

I took off the table cloth and studied the table, taking photos from several angles. I'm thinkin' that maybe Odel and I can build one when we are at our volunteer job in Oregon this summer - it looks like you can do the job with a hammer, some nails, wood scraps, a hand saw and maybe a drill and some screws.

I decided to check
Richard's blog and, sure enough, there was a photo of the table (next to the earth oven) and a description. If you know Richard, that first line will make you laugh... it's SO RICHARD:

"In the mean time I have been busy improving our site in the desert. While in Quartzsite, I watched some men build a table out of old pallets. The hardware store here in Borrego sets out the old pallets for people to take. I helped myself to 4 old pallets and using the material from two of them I put together a base and four legs of the table. Another trip past the hardware store revealed a 4' by 4' piece of plywood that had been cut in two on a diagonal. There were some old sheet rock screws imbedded in the plywood which I extracted and used to screw the plywood to the frame to complete the table."

So, PWeaver, there is your answer. You can see that the legs are simply pieces of pallets nailed together at right angles, fastened to a 2 x 4 framework to which the scraps of plywood are screwed. It's sturdy, it's functional, it's big, it's reasonably lightweight - and it's free. Richard, thanks! We're enjoying it, and I know future campers will, too.

P.S: Just after I posted this, I received the following in an email from Richard:

"I needed firewood for the earth oven so every time I went by the (hardware) store, I would stop and pick up any pallets that were available. After accumulating a few I realized that I had more than I needed for fire wood so at Marlene’s suggestion, I thought I would make a table like the one at Quartzsite. At about the same time I remembered seeing a couple of pieces of plywood beside the hardware store that no one had bothered to pick up.

"I stopped one day and discovered that the two pieces of plywood were originally one piece which was 4’ by 4’, but it had been cut in two at an angle. There were several screws still in the plywood. I took them back to our boondocking site and removed and saved all the screws. Then I removed several nails from pallets I planned to burn and built the table out of totally recycled materials.

"One solid pallet is used for the top of the table. By carefully removing eight pallet boards from another solid pallet and sawing them off at 29 inches, I constructed the legs by nailing two boards together at their edges to make each leg. The legs were then nailed to the top using salvaged nails. Lastly, the two pieces of plywood were centered on the top pallet and screwed down to make a very nice table. It will be interesting to see if the table is still standing when we return to the site next year."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Ummmm.... check out this spacious "site", in the boonies just east of the tiny town of Borrego Springs, CA, surrounded by California's largest state park, Anza Borrego. We've come here to meet up with JoAnn and Doug for a few days of boondocking in the desert sunshine before we head north.

This area (Rockhouse Road) is one of many boondocking areas surrounding Borrego Springs, and we were here a year ago when Richard Dopp built his earth oven. It is still here, becoming a local landmark for boondockers' gatherings.

Today is Odel's 66th birthday, and we decided to host a birthday breakfast, inviting JoAnn, Doug and Joyce and Larry, the other friendly Boomer couple in our small enclave. Odel donned (our) apron and (his) matching hat and treated us all to cornmeal pancakes with - as Joyce, from Vermont, pointed out - REAL maple syrup. What an excellent start to a birthday.

Richard, if you are reading this - yes, that is your handbuilt table hiding under the tablecloth!

After breakfast, JoAnn and Joyce gave me suggestions for good wildflower hikes and we headed off to Glorietta Canyon, a little used (and poorly marked) hiking trail on the other side of town. We couldn't have picked a better day - 70 degrees, sunny and calm. I don't know where everyone else was - we had the trail entirely to ourselves.

I took SO MANY photos as we hiked the trail. The rock formations were glorious, hosting perfectly beautiful flowering gardens. We saw ocotillo with arms almost as big around as my own (not as well toned, though - ha, ha), thickly covered with green leaves, the tip of each arm decorated with a brilliant orange blossom.

We were just a bit early for the blooming of the barrel and beavertail cactus, though we saw lots of fat buds... and all sorts of blooming desert plants. Bright yellows, pinks, oranges and blues, sometimes in carpets on the hillside, sometimes as exquisite miniatures pushing up out of the sand of a wash. We tromped all over in the sunshine, listening to birds and bugs and the occasional little plane coming in for a landing in Borrego Springs.

After our hike, we did a little sightseeing and exploring in the Jeep, then headed home - where I promptly fell asleep on the bed. Thank goodness my husband is 66 - I couldn't keep up with him otherwise.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Today's drive was easy, from Catalina State Park north of Tucson to Gila Bend, Arizona - maybe 125 miles, with most of it on interstates.

It RAINED last night in Tucson, completely unexpectedly (at least, it wasn't forecast on weather.com). Odel had smelled rain - he took up the "grass" and stashed our chairs away last night, while they were dry.

We got up early - well, for us these days - so we could do our walking at Catalina before we left; walking in Gila Bend is pretty dismal. The morning was still overcast, and the mountains looked dramatic with clouds snagged on the high peaks.

Before we left our site, I vacuumed Scoopy thoroughly, my usual routine (so the slides don't grind dirt and grit into the carpet when then come in). Next, we filled all our tires to their perfect pressures so we could be sure the new Pressure Pro system worked as it should (it did). We stopped at the dump station to offload several hundred pounds of black and gray water, then left the park at noon.

Sunshine, puffy white clouds, and bright yellow roadside flowers marked the drive. We put on our Spanish CD's and went over some of the old lessons ("We want to buy a cold beer." "Where is your husband?" "We like to eat and drink.") and the drive slipped by quickly.

We got to Holt's Shell RV Park at 2:15 pm and slid into a site directly across from the laundry room. By 2:45 pm, we had three large loads of laundry going.

By 4:15 pm, the laundry was washed, dried and stashed away; the rugs were washed; the sinks and shower were scrubbed; the dusting was done; the tile floor was washed; the windshield was clean; the oak table had been oiled and dusted; and all the countertops were sprayed and wiped with lavender-scented spray cleaner. The sheets on the bed were freshly laundered, as were the towels.

Two hours, start to finish - one of the many benefits of living in an RV!

Even in an RV park of only 24 sites, we knew another couple parked here, George and Judy of the Roving Rods (to which we also belong). They are heading east, we are heading west. Parked between us, we met another Roving Rods couple, Gary and Judy. Roving Rods is a fishing club... funny that we would all meet in here in dry, dry Gila Bend.