December 25. 2009

Merry Christmas! This is our first Christmas since we retired, and it’s been a pretty good one.

Yesterday we were invited to an open house at our neighbors John and Janet, so we went over there for dinner. Janet is a good cook – she made chili, appetizers, cookies and a soup with potatoes, hamburger and dumplings. Some of the other guests had spent a few years in Alaska so we talked with them about what we can expect there.

In the evening we joined almost everyone else in the Park at the Christmas service. We really enjoyed most of the service – someone read the Christmas story from the Bible, and everyone sang well-known Christmas carols. But there were also some guest singers who didn’t seem to know how to stay on key, and we could have done without that part!

This morning there was frost on the car, which was a surprise to me. I didn’t expect Arizona to get cold enough for that. But it did warm up a bit later in the day and it’s a lot better than the weather in the Midwest right now. We and 6 other couples met together for brunch, with everyone bringing a couple of dishes. Randy made smoked salmon and bagels, Bloody Marys and individual bacon, egg and cheese quiches. Other folks brought ham, biscuits and gravy, fresh berries, egg casseroles, monkey bread, and a lot of other great food. Everyone also brought a $5 gift for a gift exchange. I picked up an envelope with a $5 lottery ticket in it, which had the potential to win up to $500,000 - but unfortunately it wasn’t a winner! The gift package Randy selected had a 6 pack of beer in it, so although my gift had more potential, his gift will be enjoyed a little longer. We tried not to overeat at the brunch but we wanted to try a little of everything, so we decided we didn’t need to have the big prime rib dinner that Randy had planned for tonight. Instead of dinner, we played pool with our next door neighbors. And now he is practicing his new Guitar Hero!

December 22, 2009

Hey, it's all the way down to 51 degrees here. Might have to change from sandels to shoes!

December 20, 2009

Not much happening today. It is a little laid back. Went to church this morning here at the park. There is a group called Resort Ministries that provide ministers to parks through the season. They do a non-denominational service for the park community.

This afternoon was spent doing some cleaning and candy making. It seems like this place is always a mess. When you live in a small place anything out of place creates a mess. We are still trying to fit into this coach. Sometimes it feel like we will make it and then we buy something, oh say maybe a piece of gum, then you have to rearrange everything. (I may exaggerate some but it does not feel like much).

Tonight was the Workamper's Christmas party. We had a nice dinner of Salad, Spaghetti, Bread Sticks and Dessert. Jeannie, the park manager was the sponsor. We played a few games, had a visit from Santa and all in all had a good time.

December 19, 2009 Arizona Desert Museum

Today we went to the Arizona Desert Museum, a little west of Tucson. It's mostly an outside museum and is well worth the trip! It has a huge variety of cactus. These photos are of a pipe organ cactus, the heart-shaped beaver cactus, a living and dead saguaro cactus, and a view across the plains.

Birds are and important part of the desert eco system. The outside museum includes several areas where you can see local birds, including owls, hawks and hummingbirds.

There are separate areas where larger desert predators, such as cougars and wolves, are visible.

We had such a great time at the museum that we skipped lunch, so we were really ready for dinner by the end of the day. A friend had recommended the Pikachu Steakhouse. When we got there it looked a bit like a dive, but since it was recommended, we decided to try it. That was the right decision because the food was really good - baked potato, Texas toast, side salad and a big steak, cooked on the outside grill. Well worth stopping for, although afterwards I felt a bit like this big boy!

Friday December 18, 2009

Wow, only one week to Christmas. The time is sure going fast. The Ole RV Park is all lit up with Christmas lights. There is a contest for the best dressed Park model and RV. There is a $100 at stake and many are vying for it. We have done some decoration but not enough to be in the running. I really don't care who wins because we all win by how the Park looks for the season.

Last night we did a tag-a-long out to dinner and to see Christmas lights. We had a total of 18 go to dinner and 14 continue on to the lights. Dinner was at a place called "Heart Attack Grill". They serve burgers, fries, soda and beer. What is unique about them is the size of the burgers, the fact that the fries are cooked in Lard, the soda is the full sugar type from yester year and there is no light beer in sight. They name the burgers; "Single Bypass", "Double Bypass", "Triple Bypass" and "Quadaruple Bypass". No question "Health Food" is not allowed. Each patty is at least 4 ounces and comes with a thick slice of American Cheese on it.

When you arrive you are seated at a counter, similar to an old diner, then a "Nurse" comes around and puts a hospital gown on you.
Jackie Lambert, Randy Lambert
The nurse then takes you order and give you a French Fry boat. The French Fries are all you can eat so you can fill your boat as much as you want. Your burger is cooked by the "Doctor" with the assistance of another nurse. When you receive your burger you can take it to the condiment bar and dress it as you wish. It should be noted that if you order either a Triple or a Quadruple and eat all of it then you will be shuttled to your car in a wheel chair by one of the nurses. The food was great, the atmosphere was unique and the entire group had a wonderful time at the Heart Attack Grill. And yes we did have one guy eat a triple and yours truly did eat a double (I won't do that again).

After dinner we went to Glendale Glitters in Glendale, Arizona.

This is a Christmas light display that begins in Murphy Park and covers many of the streets of downtown Glendale. There are some where in the neighborhood of 1 1/2 millions lights. Needless to say it was beautiful. There was one tree that had lights that looked like each was about 12 inches long and contained a string of chasing lights. The tree looked like a shower of falling stars. It was very unique and beautiful. On some of the palm trees they wrapped the trunk and then on the under side of each leaf they strung lights along the entire leaf spine. It made for a great display if you stood at the base of the tree and looked straight up. We spent about an hour looking at lights and started back home.

We made it as far as the Cold Stone Creamery in Casa Grande and inspite of the huge meal we had all eaten we decided to indulge in Ice Cream. I know that those young ladies working there will never be the same after having to put up with ten rowdy RVers. Once again the food was great. I don't have any idea what the calorie intake was yesterday but I can say with confidence "It was TOO Much".

December 12, 2009

While I was in Missouri and Illinois it never occurred to me to look at the stars. But here I am usually out after dark and I am amazed all over again at how beautiful the stars are in the clear Arizona sky.

Last evening we played pool with our neighbors. Randy and Harry beat Judy and I five games in a row! At least by the 5th game we made it into a fight down to the last ball. I’ve got to get in some practice!

Tonight the RV Park hosted a 50’s Sock Hop. I recall some early 60s Sock Hops, and they were nothing like this. The “live band” was a couple who, I think, usually do country music, because there tended to be a twang to their music. The guy made a kazoo sound that he used in almost every song, under the impression that it sounded like a horn section. They couldn’t keep a steady rhythm, even though they were using recorded music. And they had a very odd idea of what music was played at a Sock Hop - they played everything from Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” to “Something” by George Harrison. . . although it took us awhile identify the Harrison song, since they sang it as a country ballad. Fortunately we sat at a table with friends so we were well entertained. It was a BYOB party, which that helped a lot! I participated in a hula hoop contest but it didn’t take me long to drop out.

December 11. 2009

Here is something I learned in Arizona. . . around here birds often build nests in cactus. I am not sure if they create a hole in the cactus or if they enlarge an existing flaw, but they hollow out an area large enough for their nest. Because they are workiing with a living plant, the area around the nest sort of scabs over and becomes a separate piece of the cactus. After the cactus dies sometimes the hollowed out part can be found. Randy found one of these recently - everything around the nest area has fallen away, leaving just the nest cavity.

The opening to the nest is smaller than the rest of it, and makes it look like a crumpled paper bag. And it's about as lightweight as a paper bag.

December 10, 2009

New update from Jackie – I had a wonderful trip to see my family. The Southwest flight only went to St. Louis but I needed to get to the Peoria area, so my sister Ruth drove 150 miles to pick me up and then drove me back. That was a long drive but there was a definite upside for me – after my plane landed and before we left I had a chance to visit some of my friends at Enterprise. I have only been gone since early September, but it feels like I’ve been gone a year! It was great to visit with friends and catch up on things. I do love those Enterprise folks!

And the visit with my family was a very good one. Mom recently broke her shoulder but she is recovering, and she visibly improved every day I was there. I also got to spend time with my sisters and one of Randy’s sisters. And on Monday my friend Dezina picked me up and drove me back to the St. Louis area to spend the night at her place so we could have a long visit before my Tuesday flight! It feels wonderful to have friends and family who will go out of their way for me! And just as an added perk it was cold and snowing there so I could also appreciate coming back to Arizona. Unfortunately it's cold here too, but at least it's not as cold as Illinois.

Back home I found that Randy was very busy in my absence. Not only had he kept up the Blog, but he also cleaned out the kitchen grout and waxed the shower door. This area has very hard water and it has been spotting the shower door, but waxing it fixed that problem.

We are continuing to decorate the RV. Here's the latest look...

Tonight we went over to one of the Park’s common rooms to play Bingo. They use a few rules here I'm not familiar with…for example, they say that a “regular” bingo is a row up, down or across (which I expected) as well as “postage stamp” and “four corners". And the one time we actually got Bingo, we were disqualified because we called it after the caller had moved on to another bingo ball. Apparently here Bingo only counts if it’s called immediately after the call that concludes the pattern – you can’t call it if another ball has already been called. I may not be cut out to be a Bingo champion...

Wednesday December 9, 2009

I picked Jackie up from the airport last night. Unfortunately her plane was about 45 minutes late. She had a good flight back with a couples of delays, one in St. Louis and one in Phoenix. Apparently when they landed in Phoenix there was a plane still at the gate so they had to wait on the tarmac. It is good to have her home.

Today was a great day as far as weather is concerned. The sky was clear and the temperature was cool but not really cold.

We had the second cooking class today in the cantina. It was Italian Cooking. We made and Italian Salad, pasta, Chicken and Mushroom Fettuccine and Zabagloine Sauce over Strawberries. We only had 3 in attendance but it was still fun.

Monday December 7, 2009

Let's remember the soldiers who served in WWII and especially those that served and were unfortunate enough to be at Pearl Harbor this date so many years ago. My hat is off to all who have served in the military or who are currently serving.

Today is Sugarbaby's birthday. He is 8 years old. Man it seems to going fast. I don't know how long Pekinese dogs live but I know it won't be long enough.

There isn't much going on at the ole RV park today. It is overcast and looks like it will rain at any moment. Judy and Harry next door invited me over for Dinner. We had a homemade soup, corn bread muffins and a gooey butter type of cake. It was all very good.

The weather this evening has been awful. It is rainy, cold and very windy. Our electrical power went off at least 3 times. Thank goodness for battery backup and a big generator. All through the night it rained off and on and was very windy. I know there has been some damage in the park.

Well tomorrow I go to pick up Jackie from the airport.

Note: I am actually writing this on a different day because I didn't think to do it the other day.

Sunday December 6, 2009

Last night I went to a comedy show here at the park. There were 3 comedians. One guy played a guitar and tried to do some funny songs. He was not very good. Second was a black lady who was ok but not all that funny. The best part was a guy named Bob, he was very funny. All in all a pretty good event at the ole park. After the show I stopped over at Clyde and Nancy for a drink.

Today has been a day of work. I went to Home Depot this morning and got a Dremel tool to help me cut out the floor tile grout. It helped quite a bit even so it was a lot of work. I think tomorrow I will grout the floor.

Tonight I need to get ready for the next cooking class. It will be Italian food. We will make some basic pasta, probably vegetable lasagna, an Italian style salad and zabaglione. I think this should be a fun class.

Saturday December 5, 2009

Last night got cold. It was around 38 degrees or so. I have decided you can tell it is winter in Arizona when you turn on the Cold water and it actually is a different temperature than the Hot water. Today the temperature has been around 60 all day.

Today I went to the Mesa Swap meet to sell the extra tow bar we had. I was successful. I then spent some time checking out the different vendors. I do believe you can find some pretty good bargains there if you want.

The rest of the day was spent doing some maintenance on the MotorHome. I did some work on the battery straps and a little bit of rearranging. I also did some searching for some jeans and again I was successful.

It has been interesting trying to keep things cleaned up around here,especially the litter box. It seems that for some strange reason Sugarbaby has decided that the litter box is a good place to poop. This is really not a bad deal except he throws litter all over the place. I guess if he continues to use the box we will have to get one with a top on on it to try to keep the litter in place.

Thursday December 3, 2009

Well this morning I took Jackie to the airport for her trip to visit her mom. We had to leave at 4:00 am to get her there in time. We followed the GPS but it took us to the freight gate and that was a bit frustrating. We were able to find our way, inspite of the GPS without too much trouble.

After dropping Jackie off I went and got some breakfast and went to find a few stores. I was able to locate Penzeys Spices in Scottsdale. That is good for me because I really like the quality of their spices. I also found one of the AJ Fine Food. They have a great deli, a butcher counter, a large cheese selection and fine wines. It really is a neat store.

After that I went to a store called Bev Mo. They advertise low prices and huge selection. I agree they have a huge selection and their prices aren't bad. I did find some Belgian beer, Corsendonk, that I have had before and will now be able to get again.

When I got home I did my monthly RV chores. Things such as run engine, run generator, drain Fresh water tank, battery maintenance, etc.

December 2, 2009

I am really looking forward to Christmas in Arizona! But I also want to spend some time with my family in Illinois, so I'm going to take a few days to visit them now - as sort of a pre-Christmas present for us.

Randy will take over the Blog while I'm gone. I'll let him start by adding the text to go with this!

Last night was party night at the ole RV Park. Our theme was White Trash. Therefore, all the food, drink, costumes, decorations and games had to reflect the theme. I must say it was amazing how well our little group here adapted. One might think that "White Trash" was in their blood.

Many showed up dressed appropriately. That is to say they fit the part well. If you look at the picture behind me you will notice Judy who showed up dressed in her Sunday go to Meetin clothes. We had one guy show up with "New" tatoos and a MoHawk. For the food we had saltines with Velveeta, Beans and weiners, grits, more beans, fried taters, tater tots, fried spam, spam burgers, pork rinds, french onion dip and generic cookies (I am sure I forgot something). Now be truthful, how many of you are watering at the mouth over our vittles!!!

For games we had a pumpkin seed spittin contest and a burpin contest. The pumpkin seed spittin contest was a lot of fun except we didn't get to it until it was dark. So, it was a real mystery as to who really won because we couldn't see the seeds fly. But, we still determined that Gary won First, Frank won second and Julie won third. On the burpin contest there was no doubt Judy won first, Dee won second and Susan won third (obviously we have some classy ladies here). Not only did all the folks have the honor of being the best in their field they also went home with some fine prizes. First place took home a can of Vienna Sausage and a can of potted meat, Second place took heme a can of soup and third received a package of Ramon noodles. Now you see why they practiced so hard to be the best.

So far the RV live has been pretty good. The trip out here was a great adventure and the park here is real nice. The other Workampers are alot of fun to be around and very helpful with information and ideas. It is quite amazing how many friendships we have made already. It has also been good for the dogs. They have been placed in a situation where they can be aclimated to others and they have been doing a great job. Judy, our next door neighbor will be coming over tomorrow to take the dogs out while I take Jackie to the airport. A month ago the dogs would not have allowed that. Now when Judy comes over they both run out to see her.

The weather here is great, though it has been cold a few mornings usually in the afternoon it warms up nicely. We have had a few days of blowing winds which kicks up the dust pretty bad. All in all it is great.

December 1, 2009

December already??! We are putting up Christmas decorations but there are a few challenges. We want to do most of the decorating outside, since it’s easy to make the inside of the RV look cluttered. But right now there are strong winds blowing through the park. We had to bring in the awning so we won’t be able to hang garland on it (at least not for awhile), and the wind keeps knocking down the Christmas tree! Randy tied it with fishing wire and added string ties, but the wind changes directions just enough to find a weak spot, and down it goes. Oh well, we will figure out something.

Yesterday some friends from Texas came for a visit. We went to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and talked for hours. Thank you, Frank and Cathy, for stopping by - we really enjoyed your company!

Feliz Navidad!

November 30, 2009

Wow, over a week has gone by without any updates! Occasionally time just slips away.

Our RV oven won’t hold a whole turkey so Randy didn’t get to cook a turkey this year for Thanksgiving. The RV Park organized a turkey dinner; they cooked turkeys and everyone signed up to bring a specific side dish for their table. So we met up with several of our friends and had dinner there. Randy made mashed potatoes, and also made a papaya chiffon pie. Dinner was pretty good but nothing can beat the brined and golden-brown turkeys Randy makes. And we don’t have any leftover turkey and dressing!

One of our neighbors had been cooking dinner for an older gentleman in the Park a few days a week, for $4 a plate. But now she has a job and doesn’t always have time to do that, so she asked if I wanted to take it over. I said yes because Randy always cooks enough for about 10 people. John seems pretty happy with his meals, and no wonder – he’s getting a $4 dinner created by an excellent professional chef!

Randy got a new I Pod recently and I inherited his original one. I downloaded some music, so now I can listen to what I like at any time. It's hard to find a radio station that I like - I have a fondness for swingy-jazz such as Stacey Kent, Bette Middler, Ella Mae Morse, and some very early Frank Sinatra. And anyone who sings “Frim Fram Sauce”.

And I have a new job now! Since Randy needs to spend about 50% of his time at the RV Park, we can’t travel all the time. And some extra spending cash would come in handy. So now I am a waitress – excuse me, a “server” – at Cracker Barrel. I went through the training last week, and Tuesday will be my first real day. I figured I could put the experience from Lambert’s Sandwiches and More to good use.

November 21, 2009

Tomorrow is our anniversary but I expect to be busy at my new part-time job tomorrow (more about that later) so we celebrated today. We started with a pancake and sausage breakfast at the RV Park. We didn’t stay too long at that because the guy Randy contacted to fix windshield chips in the Jeep and RV arrived at 8:30. As soon as he was done we intended to go to a local RV show, but on the way out of the Park we met up some friends and ended up talking for over an hour. Eventually we did get to the RV show; there were a couple of nice models but we didn’t see anything that we felt was spectacular. Good thing, because we aren’t really in the market for a new RV. But it’s nice to keep up on what’s available.

Then we went to the movies to see The Blind Side, which was just released. It’s a good show – go see it if you can.

And to finish off the day we went to a dance at the Park, where they had a DJ who played a lot of early rock-and-roll. There were 8 couples at our table and we all get along great, so it was really fun. Everyone brought some wine or beer and we danced almost every dance! As more wine and beer was consumed the dances got a little more ‘creative’ but everyone had a great time.

Tomorrow will be our 34th anniversary. It has gone by so fast . . . Randy, I want at least 34 more years with you!

November 20, 2009

Today an RV dealership brought in free doughnuts, to draw a crowd in to hear their representative. It worked!

Next Randy and I decided to do one of the things we do best - shop! We headed towards the Phoenix Mills, but before we got there we stopped at an IKEA store. We’ve been talking about updating the RV so we went through the whole store, from kitchens to bedrooms. We got some interesting ideas and then had lunch at their restaurant - Swedish meatballs and gravlox. We bought a few things in the kitchen area and food store, but no furniture. Before we do that we need to make some decisions about what we want the RV to look like and how much we want to change. We also found some great walking shoes at Dick’s Sporting Goods and checked out a Total Wine store. And by then it was too late to continue to the Phoenix Mills. Thus ends a pretty good day.

November 19, 2009

Nothing earth-shaking going on the last few days. Evening still comes ridiculously early here. When it feels like it’s 9 pm, it turns out to be only 6:30! Everyone feels the same way; we think it’s because it gets dark so early. Our entertainment lately has been low-key but very sweet. We played pool with some of our neighbors one night, rented some movies another night, and tonight a few of us got together and had an appetizer pot-luck for dinner. All in all, it’s been a good week.

November 18, 2009

There is a very small town nearby called Eloy, which is home to some local skydiving. We heard they are busy every weekend, so yesterday we drove over to watch. There are a few bleachers set up for spectators; this is a common spectator sport around here. While we were there several planeloads went up. The planes are large-bodied and have open backs to make it easier for jumpers to exit.

There was an almost steady stream of skydivers coming down. I was surprised at how fast their landings were. I thought the jumpers would slow down as they get close to the ground, but they continued at high speed until they were about 2 feet off the ground. Then they twisted the canopy a bit and just took a couple of running steps. A couple of guys mis-judged the distance and skidded to a stop on their backs. When a new jumper is diving tandem with an instructor, the student is supposed to raise their feet and let the instructor handle the landing.

The last group we saw was 3 planes that went up together, and they were gone longer than the others. Eventually the people in all 3 planes – about 40 people – jumped together. They stayed very close together for awhile, forming a red, white and blue patch in the sky. Then they broke apart and filled the sky with tiny parachute canopies.

Today we are back to our usual schedule – Randy is doing some maintenance work, and I am supposed to be looking for work, cleaning the RV and getting some miscellaneous tasks done. But the truth is that I am homesick today. I miss the people and places I know. To cheer me up, Randy suggested we meet up with some of our new friends and go out to dinner. We went to The Gym, a local sports bar, for appetizers, and then to Cold Stone Creamery for dessert.

November 15, 2009

I finally found a way to insert some of my pictures, although it's a bit time consuming. I have to edit each one to change its attributes which causes them to lose a bit of clarity. and sometimes they are a little lop-sided. But it's better than nothing! Here's my favorite sunset...

And here's our RV and Jeep -

Friday evening most of the Maintenance crew and a few other friends got together for a potluck dinner. We set up lawn chairs in one of the unused RV sites and set serving tables under the awning of the nearest RV. Someone brought a fire pit and started a nice fire. The theme was German food - the couple hosting the event cooked brats and everyone else brought a German dish. We had cabbabge, potato salad, German chocolate cake, cole slaw, etc. Randy made Nurenberg Soup – we had that when we visited Nurenburg several years ago, and it was so good that Randy recreated it when we got home. As usual, it was great! To our surprise, it rained that evening. That was the first time it rained since we got here. Fortunately it was after everyone had eaten and it didn’t rain very much, so folks just stood under the awning for a few minutes.

And Saturday the RV Park had a “welcome back” lunch for the snow-birds who have arrived. They served hamburgers, baked beans, and some good desserts. It was fortunate that the event was inside because partway thru it, the heavens opened up and it downpoured! For about 10 minutes the rain just roared down. The ground here is so hard that rain can’t soak into it, and there isn’t any grass to hold it long enough for the ground to soften, so it runs off quickly. The park has a large gully along the back fence and the drives are very slightly sloped towards it, so all the rainwater quickly accumulates there. It’s nicknamed the Quail Run Shore.

We are still organizing the RV. I am convinced that is a never-ending project. I had been looking for a tablecloth to fit the small RV table, but I wanted something a bit unusal , instead of going to Walmart to buy one. At the Arizona State Fair one of the vendors was selling Persion cloths. According to him, these cloths were hand-made, stamped with a pattern, hand-painted, and then dried in the sun for 30 days to set the paint. He also said that they used to sell this type of product many years ago, but they haven’t been able to for years because of some rules made by the Muslim government. However, recently they have been allowed to market their products again. I don’t know if any of this is true, but it sounded like a good story to me! So I got one to use as a tablecloth.

I have discovered a little plant called a Lithop (discovered it in Lowe's - they sell it there). It’s nickname is “living stones” because that’s pretty much what it looks like – stones. I love this thing! I looked up some info on the internet, and apparently the main problem people have raising these is overwatering. I think they only need water during the summer season. Although it is not recommended, they have lived up to 2 years without water.

And they bloom!

November 11, 2009

Today Randy gave a cooking class at the RV park, and it went very well! Folks had requested a low-fat class, so he prepared chocolate angel food cake with fresh stawberries, maple-glazed salmon with pineapple salsa, broccoli with horseradish sauce, and fettuccine primavera with alfredo sauce. The class ran about 2 ½ hours long, which is average for Randy’s classes. He covers a lot of material and discusses technicques as well as receipes.

We wanted to an overhead mirror, to help the class members see what Randy was doing. The ceiling in the park kitchen isn’t right for hanging anything, so Randy created a stand from PCV pipe and attached a mirror to it. It worked really well, and it’s easy to take apart to store.

The park had a Veterans Day event today. They honored all branches of the military - Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. And because several Canadians winter in this park, they included the Canadian Armed Forces. Some vetrans read poems, and we sang the official song for each branch of the military. Funny, I didn’t know before that the Navy song is basically a drinking song! Actually, the service was very moving, and I’m glad we attended. I thought of my dad, who was in the Navy. Dad never liked to talk to anyone in the family about his time in the military. But one of his best friends was a man who was survived the Batan Death March, so I imagine they shared some stories. When Dad was 17 or 18, he served on one of the carriers that put men on the beach of Iwo Jima. Dad totally refused to talk about that day.

Cute owls in the ground, and a late night for old folks - November 7, 2009

We’ve become very regular about taking the dogs for a long walk in the morning and short walks throughout the day. And they are getting much better about not barking at everyone.  On one of the walks we found some burrowing owls. These little owls live in burrows in the ground, like gophers. They are so cute! They are sitting at the edge of their burrow almost every morning when we walk the dogs, and they are so well camouflaged in the desert landscape that neither dog has every noticed them.
Recently we went to the newly-opened Wild Horse Pass Casino. We expected loose slots, interesting shops and good food. We were disappointed on all fronts. One person in our party of 6 won $30, but everyone else lost, and lost quick. The only shop we found was a small gift shop at the front of the casino. And a Midwest casino would never open its doors without a “Grand Buffet”, but this place has a couple of small, expensive restaurants and, almost unbelievably, a simple (but overpriced) food court. Needless to say, we will not be back.

Sunday afternoon the RV Park sponsored another get-acquainted pot-luck for the Workkampers. It started at 4pm, which is a little early for dinner and a lot late for lunch. But there was a lot of good food, so we visited with friends and had a good meal – hamburgers with about 20 side dishes to choose from. Afterwards I played a 9 hole game of mini-golf with our neighbors. I surprised myself by not doing too bad – my expectations were low so it wasn’t too hard to exceed them, and it was a lot of fun. After the golf game finished Randy joined us and we played 3 games of pool. And again, I wasn’t embarrassingly bad.  Randy did better than I did – the guys won 2 games, then the ladies won one. By the time we finished the pool games everyone else was long gone so we walked back home, through a totally dark and quiet RV park . . . and realized it was only 6:45!  Dang, they turn in early around here!  So we four sat outside in the cool evening breeze and talked until 8:30, when we could call it a night in good conscience.

November 1 2009

We drove over to check out nearby Picacho Mountain. There is an RV park at the foot of the mountain, so we decided to stop and look it first. This park, like most around here, is for folks age 55 and over. So when we stopped at the gate to get access, the guard asked us if we were over 55. And Randy, with just a tiny smirk, nodded towards me and said “Well, SHE is”. I thought he enjoyed that too much so I punched him in the arm! Of course, I’m old and feeble now so it wasn’t a hard punch.

We looked at several Park Models; we think there might be a Park Model in our future. Park Models combine a condo's freedom from grounds-maintenance with the privacy of a house. The limited size helps avoid the clutter-syndrome, and the low cost makes it feasible to own one in the location of your choice. All these things together make it reasonable to only live there half the year, and travel the rest of the year.

After we were done at the RV park, we checked out Picacho Mountain state park. There are a couple of trails that go to the top (a 2 mile steep trail or an easier 3 mile trail), and there are informational signs up about the kinds of snakes and bats that are found on the mountain. Very interesting. . . We’ll come back here when we have a full day, and brave the snakes and bats to climb to the top.

October 31, 2009

Tonight was the Halloween party at the RV Park. About half the folks dressed up, including Randy and me. Randy went as the Spirit of Christmas Present, from the movie “A Christmas Carol”. A trip to Goodwill provided a red tablecloth and a silver tinsel garland. I sewed the garland all around the tablecloth, then sewed a couple of seams to create a robe with sleeves. We added gold roping around the neck, and made a belt of gold roping with little wrapped present boxes. A couple of small Christmas stockings were pinned to the sleeves, just for grins. And to top it all off, we made a crown of colored garland with battery bowered Christmas lights. Actually, it was a great costume!

My costume was simpler to make, and easier to wear. I wore a loose, casual dress (also acquired at Goodwill) and stapled a bunch of plastic bags to it. So I went as . . . a bag lady!

We took some treats to share – popcorn cake, chocolate clusters and pumpkin bark. There were a ton of snacks and appetizers already there, plus soda and punch. We sat with some friends and admired all the costumes, and danced a few times. I was able to remember enough of my one line dancing lesson to join several line dances. All in all, it was a great evening!

Wednesday, October 28

The wind and dust have died down, and our neighbor’s awning survived. There is a coating of dust on everything outside, but no lasting damage that I know about. To our surprise, it’s getting quite a bit cooler. It stayed around 57 degrees all day. The folks back in Illinois and Missouri would probably like to see that, but after days and days of 90-100 degrees, this seemed like a cold wave!

We haven’t seen much of the surrounding sights yet, so we decided to go see the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. It took about an hour to get there. We passed several cotton fields along the way, some of which were being picked. They don’t pick them by hand anymore, of course. Big machines pick the cotton and pack it into huge bales the size and shape of a semi-truck load. So at the end of the picking, it looks like several white trucks have parked their loads out in the fields. In spite of the modern machinery, I find there is something about these cotton fields that makes me think of the past, and feel connected to it. Cotton, one way or another, has been cultivated across this country for countless generations. I’m sure the plants have been refined along the way, but they look basically like they always have and therefore, like the ruins, connect us for a moment to the people of history.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at the ruins; I thought they might be like the cliff dwellings which are found elsewhere in Arizona, but this was different. This is basically a single, fairly large building sitting in the middle of a bare, flat plain, but it was very interesting. According to the historical notes, this was the first archeological find to be protected by the US government. It is reported to be 4 stories tall, but it has been weathered and vandalized to the point where there are really only about 3 stories. To protect it from further decay, a huge, free-standing roof has been built over it, protecting it from the sun and rain, and probably decreasing the wind’s impact. The building looks like it’s made from adobe, but I think they used a different technique. You can walk right up to it and all around it, but not inside. Since some of the outside walls and most of the roof are gone, you can see inside most of the room structures. According to the notices around the building, a colony of bats have recently settled inside the building, and they have tested positive for rabies. However, there is a “very low” risk of contracting it – that’s nice to know! We didn’t see any bats, just a sleepy owl in the rafters.

The building sits in the center of what archeologists say is a living complex. There is a low wall around the complex (weathered down to 1-2 feet), as well as partial walls of some of the small houses that were built just inside the wall. I thought it was pretty cool that so much had survived, but then we noticed that the outside wall was sitting on a concrete pad. All of the extra buildings and ruins are reconstructions! Oh, well, at least they did a nice job of it.

Across the road from the building they have excavated an oval depression which they call a ball court. It might be one, but it’s much smaller than the ball court we saw in the Bahamas. This was about twice the size of our RV, in terms of volume. There are several small holes in the ground out there. I am not sure what created them – it could be ground squirrels or ground owls. Either one is small enough to make those holes, I was just hoping they weren't made by snakes!

Randy bought a couple of books at the ranger station. One is about edible desert plants, and one is a prickly pear cookbook. Prickly pear cacti are supposed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, so it’s worth a try.

It was still early in the afternoon when we were ready to leave, so we drove north to part of the Apache Trail. We’ve been there before, when Randy worked in Phoenix for Boeing, but everything has been built up since then. We stopped at the Lost Dutchman park first. It’s on the foothills of Superstition Mountain. The story is that back in the days of the gold rush, a Dutch miner kept bringing a fortune in gold to town, but he wouldn’t tell anyone where his mine was (smart guy!). Whenever he headed back to the mine, he shot at folks who tried to follow him. Eventually he fell sick and on his deathbed tried to tell someone where the mine was, but he couldn’t give clear directions before he died. A lot of folks tried to find the mine but couldn’t. Randy and I didn’t understand why, with today’s’ technology, the mine still hasn’t been found, but then one of the storekeepers (in Goldfield) said that the whole area around Superstition Mountain is owned by the government, and they won’t let anyone search for it. Apparently several years ago they did approve one expedition for 90 days. That expedition did find a mine, but they had to do the work by hand – no blasting on government property – and they ran out of time before they could get enough excavated to know if that was THE mine.

This area has a lot of old (or reconstructed) building, and a small stage coach that looks like it would have been awfully uncomfortable to ride in. The locale used to be used as a movie set quite a lot – mostly for grade B westerns. Some movie actors left their footprints in concrete squares and signed the wet cement (along the lines of Grauman‘s Chinese Theater). Several buildings burned down several years ago, but the concrete blocks were rescued and are currently displayed in a large barn. The barn also includes a display of barbed wire – I didn’t know there were so many kinds of barbed wire in existence.

As you can imagine, this was pretty exciting stuff. However, the most exciting thing is the Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel. Apparently Elvis’s movie “Charo” was partially filmed in this chapel. So, to commemorate that historic event, inside the chapel are western movie posters all along the walls and a life-size cutout of Elvis in front of the pews (but not, fortunately, in the pulpit).

We sampled some prickly pear candy in one of the stores, and headed further down the Apache Trail.

Next stop – Goldfield Ghost Town. This is advertized as a real ghost town, and I do believe some of the buildings are probably from the original old mining town. But it has not been left to the ghosts. The buildings are converted to stores (very nice stores; we bought some stuff), and they are adding more “old” buildings. An old-looking chapel has been added, and it looks like they are working on another building that sits at a pretty steep slope sideways. That’s probably to capture the authentic “ghost town” look. Still, I plan to come back when the tourist season is fully open – this looks like a great way to spend an afternoon. And Superstition Mountain is so beautiful!

October 27, 2009

Randy’s been off of work for a few days, and I find that the days are running together. Randy's cooking again – delicious things like apple and cream cheese pastries, pumpkin bread pudding with caramel sauce, pulled pork - wonderful!!! We are sharing it with the neighbors; otherwise I’d sit down and eat it all! And I can't do that because we are working on improving our health. We’ve exercising more - mostly bicycling and walks - and I went to a beginner’s line dancing class today. Well, they called it a beginner’s class, but only me and one other lady were beginners – everyone else had taken the same class last year! So I have a lot to learn…

We're also working on modifying our menus. To help change the way we eat, we’re checking out some local stores to see what they offer, such as Food City, which has a lot of Mexican products that we want to learn how to use. We also drove into Phoenix to try a Fresh & New grocery, but we're not sure we’d do that again.

Last Saturday we went out to dinner at Eva’s, a local Mexican restaurant, with two other couples from the RV Park. Randy and I shared an order of beef nachos that was really good – I would definitely go back there.

Our neighbors in the park are really nice. They offered to let our dogs out if we want to take an all-day sight-seeing trip, so we are in the process of socializing Sugarbaby and Julienne to accept them. They got used to our neighbors at the St. Louis park, so I know they can accept other people – it just takes time. I think if Julienne accepts someone, Sugarbaby will, too. He is so protective of her that if she starts barking, he’s instantly on the offensive.

We recently went to Camping World to get another set of de-flappers; that’s a funny name, but it’s pretty descriptive. It’s a clamp that is supposed to stop the RV awning from flapping in the breeze, which can cause the awning to tear off. We already had one set, but two sets are better than one. We had them on until yesterday, when some neighbors said that the wind was going to really pick up. They started pulling their awnings down, and since they were here last year and had experience with this, we took ours down too, even though the wind was still light. This morning the weather was just the same and we were wondering what happened to the wind storm we were supposed to get. This afternoon, it arrived! The wind did pick up a lot, enough to hurt the awnings if they had been up, but the remarkable thing was the dust. We were driving into town when the wind picked up and it was like we were driving in the dust bowl of the olden days! Everyone on the road had to turn on their lights, and it was like driving in a fog. Somehow it un-nerved me – I don’t think I would have lasted very long as a pioneer, unable to get away from the blowing wind and heavy, blinding dust.

When we got back to the RV Park we noticed that one camper wasn't able to bring their awnings in, so Randy loaned them our 2 sets of flappers. Hopefully that will be enough to save their awning, but we won't know until the storm passes.

October 23, 2009

Today was the type of day that I retired to get. I woke up around 6:30 when Randy got up, but I went right back to sleep and didn't get up till 9:00. Then Randy and I went for a 6 mile bike ride, stopping at Chris's Diner for a late and leisurely breakfast. Back at home Randy and I got a couple things done on our list, and then we noticed a few neighbors getting together at the RV next to us, so we joined them. They brought out some chips and dip, someone brought a bottle of wine, everyone got a chair and we sat around and talked. We talked about everything - families, jobs, vacations, costumes, pets, casinos - everything. A few hours later, as the sun started to go down, everyone went their separate ways (mostly to take out the dogs), and then we wandered over to another neighbor's place, where the conversation turned to food and restaurants. When it was too dark to see each other, that group also broke up and we came inside to great some home-made broccoli cream soup for dinner. I wouldn’t want every day to be this low-keyed, but it sure was wonderful!

October 22

The weatherman in Arizona must have one of the most boring jobs in the world....all he ever gets to say is "Today will be sunny and clear!". OK, I'm sure that isn't always true, but it's been true since we arrived. I'm certainly not complaining, I'm just surprised at how perfect the weather is. Long may it last!!

The Arizona State Fair started a few days ago, but Wednesday was the first day of the fair that Randy didn’t have to work, so it was Fair Day for us! We go there a couple minutes before noon, when the fair opened, and learned that entrance was free before 1 pm! That makes 2 state fairs where we have gotten a break on entrance fees - maybe this is a trend?

One of the first exhibits we saw was an enormous model train setup. It was really cool - it included several different train lines, roundtables and towns, with a detailed desert and mesa landscape. It’s the creation of a local train club and it looks like a permanent exhibit.

The fair had some interesting twisty-and-turny rides but we weren’t in the mood for rides. What we were in a mood was some fair food, so we shared a good Polish sausage, and then tried a BBQ’d turkey leg. But apparently I've been spoiled by Randy's excellent turkey-cooking skills, because I was really disappointed in that – it was dry and tough, without much flavor.

This fair is the first one we attended where they sell beer on the Midway, next to the corndogs and cotton candy. One stand advertised “imported beer”, which oddly enough was Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer. Michelob offered beer samples which was nice, although the beer wasn’t as cold as it should have been.

We were surprised to see a full team of the Saint Louis Clydesdales at this fair! They were housed in stalls under shade netting, which is like roughing it in the wilderness for these horses - I've seen their regular quarters in St. Louis, and they live better than most people! Most of this team were young – 4 or 5 years old. They are so gorgeous – something about their massive size and gentle demeanor is so impressive.

The only animal act we found at the fair was a pig race. The carney gave them a funny and big build-up and everyone was expecting some big, fast pigs to come out to race, but when the gates opened, 5 little piglets trotted out! But they did race and they were pretty fast.

This fair has a lot of exhibit halls that I associate with county fairs. First we walked through the craft exhibits, which included collections of things like transformer toys, buttons, Titanic memorabilia, etc. Some of these exhibits had notecards that explained how the owner/exhibitor had been collecting them for several years and what their favorite items were and where they got them, and then mentioned that the owner was. . . maybe 6 or 7 years old. It was so obvious that the collections belonged to the parents!! There were also beautiful quilts, sewing, flowers, and wood carving, including as an intricately carved clock that Randy and I both loved. There was a large culinary exhibit with lots of cookies, cakes, and bread. I’m sure the entries were really good, but food doesn’t hold up too well during several days without wrapping or refrigeration, so most of them didn’t look very appetizing.

Then we walked through the agriculture exhibit. There was a whole barn of sheep – large, small, with horns, without horns, wooly, shorn, and in the process of being shorn (which they didn’t seem to like at all). There were a lot of rabbits, who looked so soft and cuddly that we both wanted to pick them up. And, to my surprise, there were llamas. Llamas are taller than I thought, with long necks, long curved ears that stand straight up, and amazing long eyelashes. Several of them had what I called a modified poodle-cut – their fur was trimmed down to the skin on their body and legs, with long fur left at the shoulder and hips. They were very alert and interested in everything going on, raising their heads over the fences to watch everyone.

We like to see the local entertainment when we go to a fair, so we checked what was on the schedule. One interesting show was put on by two young lumberjacks. These guys were in their early twenties, but they already had several years of experience. They had a contest with their announcer to see who could saw a log fastest, with him using a chainsaw while they used a two-person handsaw – and they won! They also had a log rolling contest with each other, and then one of them had a log rolling contest with their trained dog. The dog won that round - four legs balance better than two!

We got in on the tail-end of a couple of acts, such as a blacksmith and his story-telling wife, and Native Indian dancers. Around 6 pm when we were ready to leave, those beautiful Clydesdales were hitched to the Budweiser wagon and it was driven around the fair grounds. That was a nice end to the day.

Wednesday 10/21

I took the day off yesterday because it was my birthday! I can now legally be in the 55+ RV park. Randy had to work so we didn’t go out, but in the evening we went to the RV Park’s Pot-Luck dinner. Most of the folks in the RV park were there and there was a ton of great food, including Randy’s chicken and dumplings. Randy had not been able to bake a birthday cake because of his work schedule, so he secretly ordered one at a bakery and asked one of our neighbors to pick it up; then he brought it out at the Pot-luck dinner. It was chocolate cake with thick chocolate icing – does this guy know me, or what?! The pot-luck stared at 5 and it pretty much wrapped up by 6:15 pm, including dessert. But our usual group of late-nighters hung around until almost 8pm – we are certainly the wild bunch around here!!!

One of my neighbors is helping me socialize our dogs. She has a very mellow golden retriever named Brandi (the one with the yard) and she’s very consistent about walking Brandi every day. So for the past few mornings I have joined them, taking Sugarbaby out for a short walk with them both, and then when Brandi goes home (because she’s a real senior citizen and can only do a short walk), I swap Sugar for Julienne and we head out for a longer walk. Sugar and Julienne are already beginning to get a bit better, and I am sure they will improve if we keep this up.

Monday, 10/19/2009

I decided to take a day off from my usual routine. Did a (very) minimum amount of cleaning, got in the Jeep, and headed for the bright lights and big city sounds of Casa Grande (population 41,200). I stopped at the first Great Clips I found and got my hair cut. I wear my hair short and in the 8 weeks since my last cut, it’s gotten pretty shaggy-looking. A fresh haircut always cheers me up! Afterwards, since I had this great haircut and a positive attitude, I went job-hunting. There are only so many hours I am prepared to spend inside the RV, and it’s still awfully hot outside the RV. A part-time job might be just what I’m looking for, if it’s something I enjoy. I decided to only apply at a few places that I really like – no details to be shared until I hear back.

The stars are filling the sky again tonight. I'll probably get a chart so I can identify constalations, but I also know that it's not necessary to categorize this beauty - it can be enough just to take the time to notice it, and appreciate it. Tonight the moon is so beautiful - it's just the barest sliver possible to show at all; it looks like a celestial eyelash caught on the distant mountaintop. Back in the city I would never have seen it.

October 17, 2009

Randy only had to work ½ day today because of the heat. Around 1:00 when we got in the jeep to go to town, the thermometer said 110. But it did drop down to 108 right away, so I guess it’s not really a heat wave!

We’ve still seeing new wildlife around here. Today a roadrunner jogged across the road in front of us as we headed towards Casa Grande. And recently I saw 4 quail trotting across the RV Park. I am not sure where they live because the whole park is enclosed except the front entrance, but others have seen them too, so they must live in here somewhere. That makes the park name of “Quail Run” pretty accurate!

We continue to see, on the horizon or out in a field, something that to my Midwestern eyes looks like a small brown tornado. But it’s just a dust devil and they are, as far as I know, harmless (unless you are standing by one and breathe in a bit of dust - that could make you cough).

October 16, 2009

It didn’t get to 100 degrees today, which is great, but it is expected to get there tomorrow. Since Randy and his crew work outside doing park maintenance, he has to consider the weather as well as the work requirements, to make sure nobody gets over-heated.

Today the park had a Happy Hour at 3 pm and everyone brought snacks and drinks. We brought fresh fruit and Randy made a cream cheese and cinnamon-honey spread. Other folks brought some great food, too – dips with chips, cheese, crackers, and all sorts of appetizers. Then everyone sat around and talked. Most folks left by 5, but our table were the “night owls” – we stayed out until 6:30! Actually, that was a very nice time of evening to be out because the sun sets early here, around 5:30, so it was much cooler after that. When we got back to our RV we found that the neighbors across from us had bought 4 strips of sod and created a small green lawn outside their RV!! The purported reason was to build a comfy yard for their yellow lab Brandi, but the guy was enjoying it as much as the dog - after the grass was down he started envisioning it as a small putting green! The grass is under the RV awning so with daily care, it might live, at least for awhile. It takes awhile to get used to this desert and the appreciation for soft, green grass never really goes away.

The sky is perfectly clear tonight and because there are not a lot of city lights around us, we can see thousands of stars above us.

Getting started in Arizona - Oct 14, 2009

We spent yesterday re-organizing the kitchen cabinets again. It’s difficult to find the right spot for everything, but we are getting closer. Half-way thru that exercise we heard a really loud bang right outside our RV. We rushed out to see what it was but didn't see anyone or anything right away. Then Randy saw that his bike spontaneously blew out a back tire tube! It was so loud that our neighbors thought it was a gunshot, and came outside to see what happened. We don’t know what caused it to blowout, but Randy put on a new tube right away so he will be ready for our next bike ride. During the past few days we started to get into a routine. Randy gets up before me and goes for a walk, and when he gets back we both go for a 45-60 minute bike ride around the area. This is a good way to get some exercise and learn about the neighborhood.

The land here is incredibly flat. And very, very hard. They grow cotton in some fields, but only with irrigation. In the Midwest irrigation is done by spraying water over the fields, but here it is done by flooding the fields. They don’t waste water by putting on the leaves to evaporate.

The neighborhoods are remarkably similar – one-story houses with gabled or flat roofs, and the color is almost always some variation of sandy beige. There are slight variations towards pink or grey or brown or white, but no strong contrasts. Most houses have tile roofs, which are very pretty. A few houses are in the old adobe fortress-style, with squared-off fa├žade and the ends of wooden poles sticking out at the roofline. These houses are not really old, they just borrowed the style. Many houses have a privacy fence, but it’s not the kind you see in the Midwest. Around here the privacy fences are about 6 feet tall and made of concrete blocks. The blocks are almost never painted – they just leave them the normal gray color. The “yards” are almost all gravel. Some folks have created patterns in their yards with different colored gravel (beige and reddish-brown), and some have small stone edging around their yard boundaries. Instead of bushes or hedges, most yards have a few cacti. There are small barrel cacti (which are flowering now), and the taller saguaro cacti that often tower over the house. I was surprised to see that several yards have palm trees, which grow very tall out here. 
There are a few other hardy trees that may get as tall as the house, but no taller. I don’t know what these trees are but they don’t grown leaves as closely bunched as the maples and oaks that I’m used to. No maples or oaks grow here, of course – they just wouldn’t last.

Many houses have a privacy fence, but it’s not the kind you see in the Midwest. Around here, the privacy fences are about 6 feet tall and made of concrete blocks. The walls are almost never painted – they just leave them the normal gray color.

Because the land is so flat and the trees, cacti and palms are scarcely scattered around, one of the main visual elements here is the sky. Since we’ve been here it has been a beautiful, clear sky with a few clouds at dusk that make for a gorgeous sunset. That might be rare – I’ve heard that there usually aren’t any clouds. And when you look across these flat plains in almost any direction, there are always, in the distance, the shapes of mountains. They are hazy brown during the day, but at dusk their color changes to a dark purple.

The weather couldn’t be more perfect. It’s been between 70 – 90 degrees with a slight breeze. It only feels hot if you stand in the sun for awhile, and even then you don’t sweat – you just feel like you might be getting sunburn. I put on sun factor 45 every day!

We saw jackrabbits on one of our bike ride. They are over twice the size of the little fluffy bunnies from Illinois. Their ears are about as long as their bodies and they hold them straight up. They are so large that you can see them from quite a distance, once you know what to look for.

This RV Park is very pretty, and seems huge to me. There are over 300 sites here but they are not all RV sites - there are a lot of Park Models here that are either owned or for rent. Most owners have added a car port and a large shed. Every Park Model has a paved driveway and apparently when the owners are somewhere else for the season, they put a few potted cacti or stones across the driveway.

I’ve seen two types of flowering bushes here – a pink one and a flaming red one. I think they are some variation of azaleas, and I love them because they are not beige! Every site in the park has some kind of tree or bush, and most of the trees are fruit trees, pruned down to 3-4 feet tall. There are figs, lemons, oranges, limes and grapefruits. Our site has a great-looking grapefruit tree with lots of fruit – can’t wait until these are ripe! There are a lot of doves in the area, and I was delighted to see there are hummingbirds, too! Our neighbors put up a hummingbird feeder and have a couple of hummers fighting over it, so I put up one too, and one of them is coming over to it now.

On Wednesday we had a lovely morning - got up, went for a bike ride, got cleaned up and went out for a late breakfast, then took a nap. What a great life!!

A quick trip to Phoenix - Oct 10, 2009

We drove into Phoenix area for the day. Several years ago Randy worked there for 5 months, so we drove around to see how much had changed. Areas that used to be a desert were now converted to shopping centers and houses. 

We stopped at an antique/consignment shop that was having an outside sale with lots of vendors. They had everything from Victorian copper to rocks. Yes, someone was selling rocks, shaped like they could possibly be pestles for a mortar-and-pestle. I didn’t buy those, but I did get a horseshoe that I want to clean up and paint, and a . . . well, it’s hard to describe the other thing. What is really is, is a larger-than-life cast-iron locust. It’s about 10 inches long, painted dark green and has a heavy glass interior shell where a small candle could be put, although I can’t imagine why that would seem like a good idea. The candle light would show thru the spaces in the wings and thru a small hole on the top of the thing. I am not sure a giant illuminated locust would be a stunning visual image – I just want it to hold down the corner of the outside rug. It was only $1, and is certainly unique! 

For a late breakfast we got hot dogs at a vendor, then walked across the street to a motorcycle sale and found they were giving away hot dogs and brats for free…so we tried some of theirs, too. Then we went to the big Swap Meet near Apache Junction. It was here when Randy worked in the area and is still going strong. Randy bought a hat because his other wide-brim hat is about worn out, and you don’t want to be without a hat in this area. We also got a couple of red shirts. These shirts are dyed red by a process that uses the red mud around here, and the company that makes them was on the Dirty Jobs TV show. In today’s world folks can get famous for the strangest things, but I can’t argue the point – after all, we did buy the shirts! I also bought a camera case and some tiny cacti for an outside planter.
So…now we are ready to start our Arizona winter!

Destination reached - Arizona! Oct 3, 2009

We finally arrived at Arizona City! We got to Quail Run RV park and setup the RV. We met some other Work-campers, then went to town for dinner at Mimi’s restaurant.

The next few days were full of re-organizing the RV interior and lower bins (aka the basement), cleaning the RV, cleaning the pets, cleaning everything!

An amazing Mission in Tucson - Oct 2, 2009

Randy fixed his special oatmeal with nuts and bananas for breakfast today, which is a great way to start the day. We only have one day in Tucson, so our Tucson agenda is small. We drove out to the Mission San Xavier Del Bac. It was built between 1783 thru 1792. It was not quite completed – one of the bell towers does not have the decorative top that the other one has – because the Franciscan friars could not get further credit (some things never change, the banks still control everything!). The friars were expelled from 1828 but came back in 1911, and they’ve been in charge of it since then. The church is really beautiful and it’s hard to imagine how they built it, way back then. An extensive restoration project has been going on for a few years, and they are doing a wonderful job. 

 It looks restored, not updated. The interior, especially the front where the priest stands, has every inch decorated with paintings, carvings and statues. There were excellent carved angels and statues, and two “golden” stylized lions flanking the front of the high alter. Personally, not being Catholic, I haven’t seen anything like this. 
The feast day of St. Francis and St. Xavier is October 3, so the carved wood effigy of St. Xavier, which is normally stored in a glass coffin on the left side of the nave, was put out for parishioners to touch. When you come into the church and your eyes haven’t adjusted to the change in light, it looks like a body has been laid out for visitation. There is a legend that only the pure of heart can lift the effigy’s head, so everyone who stopped by the pray also slipped their hand behind the head and lifted it slightly. Just a bit, just enough to be comfortable that they could.
The building complex behind the church has been expanded to include classrooms around a plaza with a fountain, gift shops, and several rooms that hold artifacts and information about the history of the church. Some of the statuary is remarkable. There is also a small mortuary where 3 priests are buried, one each from the late 1700’s, the 1800’s and the 1900s. All the buildings are surrounded by a low adobe wall and there are several excellent cacti gardens just inside the wall. Nearby is a mounded hill with a grotto where the Virgin Mary was reported to be seen. In the plaza in front of the church there was a small market set up, under a rough cover of prickly cacti branches. Randy and I shared Indian fry bread with beans and cheese. Fry bread is a lot like a St. Louis elephant ear, except that this one was really greasy. 

We decided to drive to downtown and look at another church - the St. Augustine church. It is a somewhat similar style to Mission San Xavier Del Bac on the outside, but totally different on the inside. Inside this church are gorgeous stained glass windows but not a lot of other decorations. The church ceiling is full of simple, clean lines.
Next we went to the local 6th annual Oktober fest. There were craft booths, food booths, and a polka band. We had a cheeseburger but there wasn’t much else going on there, so we got a late lunch at Church’s and came home for a nap – I could get used to napping every day!