Sunday, April 23, 2017

Beautil Big Bend!

When Texans tell you that everything in Texas is BIG, they really do mean it!  We've visited this state quite a number of times (it's hard not to, traveling across the country the way we do!), and you would think that nothing would surprise us anymore, especially when the word "big" is in the name! 

Big Bend National Park had been on my "to visit list" for quite some time, so this was the year we were able to cross it off!  April is usually a good time to visit.  If you can time it just right, the rains will have gone and the wildflowers will be blooming, and the weather won't be to hot yet.  The trick is all in the timing... Have you ever tried to "time" Texas weather?  Good luck with that!  ;-)

Well, we didn't do to bad... According to a birder (and there are a lot of them there!) the week before we got there, it had rained (a lot!)...but according to one of the Rangers, we did miss most of the wildflowers as they "came early this year".  The heat, however started getting up there.  You certainly needed to do your hiking early in the day, because by mid-day it was getting way to hot to do much walking in the sun, and that lasted until sunset which came around 8:30pm. and then it didn't really cool down much below 75 degrees.

Once we got settled into our campsite (which wasn't much more than a slot at a parking lot) we quickly set out for our first drive to see what we could, only having 3 days to explore this HUGE park (over 1200 miles of it!).  We decided to check out the Eastside and visit Panther Junction and Rio Grande Village area.  There were a couple of "easy" trails in this area that we thought we could do before it got to late in the day.

Even though the Ranger told me that most the flowers had left already, the park was still full of cactus blooms.  Almost all the Prickly Pear's had bright yellow or salmon blooms, and every now and then I'd even see a red one.  More than half the Ocotillo's were still in bloom and the same for the Tree Cholla.  I only found a few of the Yucca's still fresh though.  All in all, still lots of pretty color to see...making Jack stop every little bit while I snapped away!   ;-)


When we returned to our campground that night, we were greeted with a band of (at least 18) friendly Javelinas enjoying their evening meal of grass under the trees!  It was quite the sight to see.  On the other side of the lot were a couple of Turkey Vultures doing the same.  Must have been dinner time for everyone!


The following day we started out early so that we could take the full day and make the long loop all around the Westside, called the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.  This was going to encompass several trails and some dirt roads, so a long day ahead.  We loaded up on water, a picnic lunch, our sun hats and hiking shoes and headed out.

First stop was at the Sam Nail Ranch. Sam R. Nail and his brother, Jim, moved to the area just east of Burro Mesa, in 1916.  The two brothers, with little outside assistance, constructed a one-story adobe house following the building techniques of the native Mexican-Americans along the river.  The two brothers lived there alone for two years, or until June of 1918 when Sam married Miss Nena Burnam.  Here the Nails lived, reared a family, and ranched seventeen sections which they owned, plus about an equal number of leased or otherwise used sections which were within their fence. 

Although life on the ranch was difficult at times, on the whole they loved the place, and while they were in sympathy with the  movement for the establishment of the park, they gave up their ranch with considerable amount of regret. 

What is left now are ruins of one of the houses showing the adobe walls, two windmills (one still working) and a beautiful desert oasis that is a great spot for birding and wildlife viewing.


There were a number of "farmers" who, for a few years made their living here in this area, with no one around them for miles, it seems.  One such person was Wayne Cartledge, a businessman, who, back in 1922 decided to grow cotton here.  It all ended by 1942.  A few of his machines are left and a couple old buildings as a reminder of his adventure.  That's where we stopped for lunch.


Further down the road were some more ruins left by the Sublett settlers, who first came to Castolon in 1914.  They built a stone farmhouse and introduced mechanized farming into the Big Bend area.  By 1918 they had 2560 acres of sorghum, corn and alfalfa and other livestock feed crops.  They called it The Grand Canyon Farms.


From there we drove down into the Santa Elena Canyon where limestone cliffs rise 1,500' above the Rio Grande.  That was quite a site to see.  One fellow traveler remarked at looking at the canyon wall "well, that's an area Trump won't have to build the wall, Mother Nature already has done it for him!"  It separates Mexico & the US with just enough space to allow the Rio Grande to flow through quite nicely.


When we were down at the river's edge, we met a couple that were just coming out of it with their kayak and asked them how the trip went.  They shared that it had been very enjoyable!  They had gone earlier that morning for about two hours and saw wonderful things like caves and outcroppings and such beautiful rock formations.  It sure made me wish we had our own kayak...


That evening we decided to treat ourselves and have dinner at the Chisos Basin Lodge Restaurant.  So we drove the 40 minutes from the campground to there and was lucky to get a wonderful window seat.  Dinner was pretty good considering the location and as we left, the sun was just about to set.  As we started our drive back down towards the campground, we caught a really nice sunset.  It made for a nice ending to a perfect day.


Our last day in the park we decided to go check out the Hot Springs.  Now, with the temperatures being in the high 80's I had no desire to actually go into them, but I wanted to see them and the surrounding area.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but boy, I sure was glad we made the effort!  The trail, like so much of the park itself, changes from moment to moment.

As you drive down the dirt road to get to it, you pass these odd looking hills (?) that look like wavy stacks of shale.  Then when you arrive at the parking area, there are a couple of abandoned buildings that once was the home, store and small motor court back in the early 1920's when people used to come here for the "Hot Springs".  Then you continue on and you pass by a hillside that has several petroglyphs on one side and the Rio Grande running on the other side.  At the end of the path, you come to the spring.  It's odd looking too.  It's a cement square about 10 X 12 built on the edge of the Rio Grande River.  That's it.  Several people were there.  A couple submerged, a couple sitting on the edge, a couple sitting outside of it, and us.  We stayed awhile, chatted with everyone for a bit, took some pictures, then left.  Interesting.


Back at the campground we just relaxed for the rest of the day and tried to stay as cool as we could.  I was glad for the air conditioning and iced tea.  Being in the desert in mid April turned out to be a bit hotter than I expected.  This was a unique park and very diversified...I'm glad we took the time to come!

 
...on the road in Texas,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Relaxing by the River

We've been spending the last week just being lazy!  Sitting back, enjoying the sun, the cool breezes off the Colorado River, watching the boaters zoom by while we camped right on the river's edge...nice.


We've belonged to the Colorado River Adventures club for five years and haven't hardly used it, so while we were in Arizona, and not in to much of a hurry to get to Texas (trying to avoid tornadoes), we decided that it was "high time" we took advantage of our membership!  We'd stayed in Lake Havasu a number of times, but never out at their campground in Earp down by Parker Dam, so decided that we would this time, for a week.  We lucked out and got a site right along the river, and with 85-90+ degree weather, I was glad we did!  The cool river breezes really helped make the days enjoyable.

I ventured into the river as far as my feet, but decided it was way to cold for this "California girl", so no swimming for me!  Others enjoyed it, but they must be hardier souls than I!  ;-)  We went over to the pool area a few times, but being spring break time, it was busy with very active children having lots and lots of noisy fun.  Not my style either...

So, with good books in hand, both of us just sat back in our comfy chairs and read to our heart's delight!  Our week had a nice break with our friends John & Doloris driving in from Surprise to spend the day with us and go out to lunch together one last time before we head out for Texas.


We met nice neighbors and enjoyed chatting and sharing our adventures over ice cream, but otherwise, it was a pretty quiet week for us before the trek to Texas.  Sometimes it's just nice to do that!


...on the road in Arizona,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Good times with friends...

As I've shared before...we did something different this year, we "settled in" at one place for 3 months.  If you've followed my blog at all, you know that's not something we do!  Staying anywhere longer than a week is rare for us.

We have one set of long-time friends who live at Happy Trails Resort in Surprise, Arizona full time and another set who live there part time.  Last year we stayed there for a month visiting with them while we waited for the rest of the country to "warm up".  This year we were talked into doing it for 3 months. With the crazy weather the way it's been...it was a good idea!

When we planned this trip, I had all kinds of things I wanted to do during our stay, knowing that Happy Trails has lots of shops (sewing, crafts, wood, etc) and classes (dance, computer, photography, etc).  With all the wonderful sunshine I envisioned I would get all this great exorcise in riding my bike everywhere, swimming in the pool and (re) learning line dancing!  Then at the end of the the 3 months I would be 20 pounds lighter!  Wouldn't that be a fun way to loose the weight?   ;-) 

Well...of course we all know that didn't happen!  One broken wrist later, and I spent the next 3 months going to doctors and physical therapists!  So, no sewing, crafts, dancing, swimming or (more) biking for me!  ;-(

What I did do though (besides all those "appointments"), is read a lot and meet a lot of nice people!  Being in one place for that long of time affords you the time to get to know the people around you. 

Our friends like to have people over, and several nights a week John & Dolores "were cooking" and/or "having drinks" at their site.  It was not uncommon for there to be 8 to 10 of us there several nights a week.  They loved it, and we all loved being there! 


I might not have been able to do much, but Jack kept busy.  Besides taking care of me, which at the beginning of my injury was pretty "full time", he got involved in the wood shop.  We have a game board called Aggravation that we enjoy playing that we learned from my family in Washington.  I thought it would be nice for him to make my two sisters each a board for Christmas this year.  We found some great wood on sale and he had fun creating some nice designs for them.  They turned out wonderful!  I'm glad someone got something done here! 


Just before we left, I was (finally) able to hold my heavy camera a bit, and went around the resort and took a few pictures.  The cactus are starting to bloom and many are just about bursting with flowers!  I could hardly contain myself!  Here are a couple of snaps of a few of them.  In another week or two this place will be a blaze of color tho...


We also got our RV washed and polished.  It's quite a job, since she's 10 years old and gets oxidized pretty badly.  It took 3 guys all day long, but they made her shine like new again!  Yea!  ;-) 


The last week of March seems to be the "end of the season" for many as well, because the parties were hopping!  Several nightly!  Some even had block parties with a live band!  Food, fun, lots of laughter and camaraderie was everywhere!  We almost hated to leave...


But leave we must...as that's what we do!  Places to see, adventures to experience...and onward to new roads!

...on the road in Arizona,  Marie


Thursday, March 30, 2017

A beautiful day on the lake!

We had a "free day" the other day and one of the couples that we are visiting suggested that we take a day trip somewhere.  They hadn't been doing them since they arrived in Surprise and asked me to come up with a trip for us to do the next day.  I did a little "web search" and discovered that about an hour from here was a boat tour of Lake Saguaro that sounded like just the ticket!  

The weather was perfect (just under 80 degrees) so off we went!  We got to Mesa about 11:30 a.m. and the guys dropped us ladies off at the ticket booth that already had a long line in front of it for the 12:30 p.m. tour while they went in search of a parking spot.  By the time we finally made it to the window, they were sold out of the 12:30 trip, but were selling tickets for the 2:45 p.m.  They had a nice looking restaurant at the marina, so we decided that worked out just fine, we would all have lunch, then take that later tour, so bought our tickets and went over to the restaurant!

We were seated right away "inside", as all the patio seats were full (pretty day that it was).  Got our drinks right away and ordered from an interesting menu.  They were hopping!  We waited patiently, after all, we had plenty of time.  And time went by...and by...and by.  Finally, somewhere after 1:00 p.m. we were able to grab our illusive waiter and ask him just when he thought our food might arrive?  "He would check on it".  It finally arrived about 20 minutes later.  Thank goodness we had plenty of time!  At least it was tasty!  ;-)

The boat tour, aboard the Desert Belle was fully narrated and done quite well, by and wonderful captain who told us all kinds of interesting things, not only about the lake but about the surrounding area as well.


Lake Saguaro is formed by damming the Salt River and is rare in that it is an arch dam and not connected to a mountain or hillside on either side of the dam.  It was completed in 1930.


One of the interesting things the captain pointed out along the was was a large rock that had lime green lichen growing on it.  He explained that the only time you will see that color it when it's "welded tuff".   This is formed only on volcanic rock.  Pretty neat.


Also "left by the volcano" was this little bitty island that they had to put a small light on so that boats wouldn't run into it (I thought they should have put a cute little lighthouse myself!).  They just call it "Shiprock". 


Of course the Brittlebush was in bloom everywhere!  Here are a couple of my favorite shots.  One was at the parking lot before we loaded, the other along the lake...


The lake wasn't named "Saguaro" for nothing!  They were everywhere...from "lone" ones to "meadows" full of them...


They even had a rare "Crested Saguaro" to show off!


All in all, it was a lovely day, with beautiful sights to see, cool breezes and fun learning about new things!  Well worth the trip! 
...kicking back in Arizona,   Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Monday, March 27, 2017

Time for a change…

Every now and then, it’s time for a change.  Even when one has a “sticks & bricks” home, people like to change things…you paint walls, buy new furniture, rugs, even remodel a room.  Well, it’s no different living in an RV!  One gets tired of looking at the same old surroundings after 5 1/2 years! 


Many of our friends over the years have either bought new RVs or even traded their RVs in for something else.  We aren’t ready to do that, so instead, I just “freshened” it up a little!  “It was time” I told my husband, who always thinks things look just fine the way they are.


So, knowing that we were going to be in one spot for three months, and with girlfriends who were experienced and handy in changing out old valences with new ones, I had it all planned out!  Now, all I needed was the right material and the right time.  What I hadn’t planned on though was breaking my wrist.  THAT wasn’t in the plan…and put a damper on the process. 

The other challenge was our dining chairs.  To cover our old ones, or buy new.  We spend a lot of time in them as we use them while we are on our computers, and sometimes that’s for hours.  They are not the most comfortable, so we decided that we would really prefer new chairs if we could find the right ones…if not, we’d cover the old ones.



So, off we went shopping!  Several stores and weeks later, we were able to find the perfect chairs!  Yea!  So that solved the problem about covering the old chairs.  Then, it was on to finding the material…that too was a success, a lovely “country” look at a nearby JoAnn’s

 Now all I needed was to heal enough to help my friend with the work.  Weeks, then months went by and my hand made progress, but it still wasn’t up to doing the labor necessary.  I was getting worried.

With only a few weeks left before we were to leave, my wonderful friend Doloris just bit the bullet and came over one day, surveyed the situation and said “OK, tomorrow I’m bringing over my tools and I’m doing it, you can just watch”.  So she did.  My small contribution was holding up a piece or two while she tucked and pinched the cloth, and then later going over the tucking, hot-gluing the braiding nice and tight against it all.  She and the guys (they had to take some of the valences off & back on again) did it all.  She also covered my three pillows and made me two arm covers for my chair.  What a sweetheart!


What a wonderful difference my new room looks!  So bright and cheery!  The other style was just too “stuffy” for me, this new pattern is much more my style.  First thing my husband said when he came in and saw the first two windows was “wow, how pretty!”  He may be the last to recognize we need a change, but he will be the first to appreciate it when we do make it!


The new chairs are sooo comfortable and make “blogging” so much more a joy as I sit here, no more back aches…


Ahhh…life is good…

Kicking back in Arizona,  Marie

Sunday, March 12, 2017

FMCA's Rally in the Valley

We just got back from Chandler Arizona where FMCA (Family Motor Coach Assn.)) held their 95th International Convention and RV Expo.  Five days of meeting up with approximately 5000 other like-minded folk in over 2200 RVs plus another 600 chimerical RVs.  We had great weather (no rain, yea!!), but dusty, dusty, dusty!  Phew!  As it always is with this large of a group, you get parked in large open areas that are covered in gravel or dirt.  Being out in the open, you either get rained on or if lucky not and get the sun and hopefully a breeze...but at the cost of DUST!  We've had the rain, and quite frankly, I'll take the dust over the rain/flood that we've had in the past...;-)


The Rawhide Western Town & Event Center was kind of a fun place to hold the various seminars, even if it was a bit of a walk from our coaches.  They had tram/bus services to & from all day and evening, but when I could, I chose to walk as I needed the exorcise.  Sitting all day in those tiny chairs didn't do much for my posterior!  ;-)


Since we were only coming from Surprise, just an hour away, we thought we would get an early start to the arrivals on Monday and hopefully avoid a lot of the long lines to get into the parking.  Well, we did get there by a little after 11:00 and "in line", but would you believe it took us until well after 3:00 to get settled into our parking spot?  That's how crazy the parking situation was!  In and out of lots, zigging and zagging around and around, it was crazy!  We were caravaning with some friends and had managed to stay together right up to almost the end, when just as they were sending us to "our lot" when one of the parking lot attendees separated us!  We had told, and retold them we were together, but no mind, this particular attendee "didn't care" and separated us anyway!  We kept trying to get back together, but just couldn't seem to make it happen.  Just when we had given up...here they came, driving right up next to us!  The had been led around and around, but ultimately, right to our row!  So, in spite of it all, we ended up OK.  We were suppose to have an additional couple as well, but they ended up selling their RV two weeks ago and getting a "destination cottage", so now was just going to come over on a day pass.

Once we were all settled in, we all set off to go get our "welcome packets" and see where everything was.  Our friends were "first timers" so they, along with our neighbors on the other side were off to their "First Timer Welcome Reception" while Jack and I settled in with a refreshing glass of wine and sat back and enjoyed one of many sunsets!


For the next few days it was off to various seminars and to see what the vendors had to sell us!  My interests were mostly about writing including blogging, more info from the Geeks to add to my blogs (maps!  yea), cleaning tips, and household products.  Jack's were understanding our TV, fire & life safety, generator operation & maintenance, suspensions and always a watchful eye as to when the coffee and donuts station opened in the morning!


We didn't buy to much this time, and actually won a gift basket from the Almost Heaven MicroFiber folks that had a whole bunch of wonderful things in it!  Lucky us!  Our friends at the rally ended up buying a kit that helps your back realign and our friends that came for the day-only ended up buying battery-assist-stand-up bikes.  So I'd say everyone found a little something to bring home!

The evenings were the best, tho I thought.  The temperatures dropped, and the cool breezes came in.  The sunsets were just beautiful.  We BBQ'd each night and shared wonderful meals together.  Each night had fun entertainment.  Tuesday night was a movie that we skipped and just sat around and enjoyed each other's company and got to know our neighbors.  Wednesday night was a very funny comic by the name of Dick Hardwick.  I haven't laughed that much in a long time.  Afterward Jack and I ended up sitting up another couple of hours talking to our neighbors who are from California.  She recently had surgery on her right wrist too, so we chuckled about both of us being "handicapped".  She is just about ready to retire and they are thinking of going full time very soon, selling their California home (they still have one in Prescott AZ tho).  Super nice folks.


Thursday and Friday were music nights.  Keith Anderson and his band played on Thursday and was a bit loud and probably and bit more of the "electric guitar" than some of the older folks could handle, so he lost about 100 or so as he played.  The crowd was a bit smaller on Friday night as about a third of the attendees decided to leave early, but boy did they miss a good show!  The entertainment, Sapphire Sky band was fantastic!  What a great band!  They put out a dance floor and it was full all night (we even got out for a few dances!).  Fun, energetic, easy to dance to, not to loud, just a great happy group.  They played for two hours and no one left early!  A great way to end the event.

It was a nice break from our stay at Happy Trails in Surprise and my twice weekly physical therapy appointments.  The chill of the last few months have definitely left us and "summer in the west" has arrived so out with the sweats and on with the shorts and bathing suits!  ;-) 

With only three more weeks here, it's time to plan our next adventures...we know we are heading to Lake Havasu for a few days, but after that??  Hm mm

...kicking back in Arizona, Marie

Monday, January 23, 2017

Where's Marie?

It's been a while since I've written a blog...and that's not like me.   After all, I usually have something to say about what we are up to and where we are!  Actually, I still do...it's just that it's a bit more difficult right now, and that's why I've been putting it off for so long...

You see, I had a bit of an accident, a small one (no nothing as dramatic as the car one in Hawaii) and it's left me with a broken right wrist.  But let me start at the beginning...

We left California on December 30th and headed to Surprise Arizona to meet up with friends of ours that have lots in a big RV Resort here.  We've stayed here last year for a month, and this year decided to try it for three months, something we've never done before.  It's quite a nice place with a ton of stuff to do and we were able to get a lot at a very reasonable rate, so, we thought this seemed like as good as any place to hang out until the weather gets better!

The first thing Jack did after getting us settled in, was to take our bikes to the shop to have them gone over, as they had been in storage for the past two years.

We all celebrated the New Year together with good food, drinks, and lots of laughter.  That following Monday we took our rig into Phoenix bright and early to have some work completed that didn't get done while we were in Washington.  It was so early, nothing was open (even after breakfast) that we joined the "mall walkers" for an hour!  We took in an early movie, went shopping...then finally got the call that our rig was ready!  Back home we went.

We still had enough time to set everything up, and make our spot our "home".  Yea.  Tuesday we got the call that our bikes were ready to be picked up, so off we went.  I was really excited to finally have them back and really looking forward to riding all around this very big park.  Our two friends live close enough to walk to (a couple blocks apart in opposite directions) but the rest of the park's activities are quite a bit further.  We could rent a cart, but I want the exorcise!  We went for a nice (short) ride that afternoon.  ;-)

Then came Thursday the 5th...it started out just fine...A lovely sunny day.  We decided to go for a nice bike ride.  I was beginning to tire and suggested we turn and head on home, as we came onto our street, it has a small decline so I took advantage of it and pumped it so I could coast the last little bit as I made the swing into our lot...at least that was the plan.  I had forgotten that Jack had pulled the chain across the large part of the driveway, leaving only a small opening between it and our truck (pretty much forcing you to stop out front and walk the bike in instead of ride it in).  So, I came barrelling down the road, turning my handlebars to make the "big swing", I quickly realized with the chain there, that wasn't going to happen, and with the truck where it was if I didn't do something fast I was going to crash head first into it...so I stuck out my right hand and stopped the crash.  The thing was tho, because of the speed, etc. it took all of the impact.  So, I really broke it good!

End result...surgery.  They had to put a steel plate with two screws to pull it back together.  They thought they were going to have to add some bone chips into the gap, but thank goodness, they ended up not needing to after all.  The good news...I should be out of this cast in 8-10 weeks.  I'm counting the days...So is Jack, he's been waiting on me hand and foot!  It's tough when you are right-handed and that's taken away...then add un-ending pain on top of it and the party is over!

So, to say that this has slowed me down is putting it mildly...but, hey, the weather is icky anyway, and we are going to be here for awhile, my friends have loaded me up with lots of movies...and now I've caught a cold, so what else is there to do anyway?  ;-)


...kicking back in Arizona, Marie