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!

On the road to Tucson - Oct 1, 2009

Headed for Tucson today. Not much happened, other than we crossed the Continental Divide on our way from Silver City, NM to Tucson, AZ, at the elevation of 6,355 feet. We were a lot higher up in Golden, CO at 7,700 feet. We looked at some new and used RVs at PEDATA RV and Camping World. There’s a lot to choose from, but we haven’t seen a model with more space (or even as much) as ours, so it is not worth re-financing yet.