Thursday, March 29, 2012

Don’t turn right at Taco Bell

Tonight we are at Dead Horse State Park south of Sedona, AZ.  We left Chandler, AZ this morning.  Our first stop was for gasoline at a nearby Costco; Costco’s gas station was closed for an annual state inspection.  After we figured out where to get gas (not always easy for a rig with tow car) we headed north for Javalina Leap Winery in Cornville, AZ.  I had talked with the winery about staying there; the man I spoke with was very hospitable. The person who met us at the winery, however, was not quite as welcoming.  After we couldn't level our rig where she told us we had to park, we decided to try nearby Dead Horse State Park.  Winery staff gave us directions that included a major error (hence the Taco Bell reference in the title of this post).  But we got here before dark, our rig is in one of the few remaining spots, Jim apologized for being a butt head when things don't go exactly right (and I apologized for getting upset when he's a butt head) and there are plenty of hiking trails to explore tomorrow. 
Also,  a little about yesterday:  After another night in the Kokopelli Winery Parking lot, we did more wandering of historic downtown Chandler and sampled “paletas” or Mexican popsicles (yummy).  Then we had dinner at the SanTan Brewery with Phill, a former coworker of Jim’s from Intel.  Jim had a good time catching up re: what’s going on with Intel and talking about all the different Intel locations he and Phill worked at.  And I was so interested in what they had to say that I forgot to take a photo.  Phill also gave us some good ideas of places to visit next time we are in the Chandler area.  
Downtown Chandler, AZ park and fountain.
On our way to Dead Horse Park State Park, we stopped at a beautiful rest area on US-17.
Cactus in bloom at the US-17 rest area.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wine and olive oil

We spent last night in the parking lot of the Kokopelli Winery in the historic district of Chandler, Arizona. 
Chandler itself is one subdivision after another, but the downtown historic district is charming with restaurants, shops, and a hotel that looks like it belongs in Belize.  Besides having lunch at the Kokopelli Winery Bistro, we had dinner at the SanTan Brewery, which was really hopping for a Tuesday night, or any night actually.  

We also drove out to the Queen Creek, AZ Olive Mill, a working olive farm about 15 miles from our parking lot home.  Besides olive oil, their shop sold pastries, sauces, tapanades, gelato, coffee, bread, and had free recipes to go with their items (and an on line recipe collection I’ll hae to go back to when we are home in Salt Lake).  Plus they had a restaurant.  Very fun to look around.  Jim says it feels like we’re on vacation ... and it does.
Jim enjoying lunch at the Kokopelli Bistro and Winery.  The Kokopelli Winery is a member of "Harvest Host" which lets motor home travelers stay at wineries for a night or two.  We spoke with Kokopelli's owner, Dennis, to arrange our stay.  Very nice winery.
Jim putting air in our rig tires before we leave the Davis Monthan Air Force Base FamCamp.  We stayed there from January 1 to March 27.
Bev at the SanTan Brewery in Chandler, AZ, just south of Phoenix.

Jim at the SanTan Brewery.  If it looks like all we did yesterday was eat, in our defense both our meals consisted of appetizers.  But it was an eating day.  And the food was good.
Our "camping spot" on the parking lot behind the Kokopelli Winery.  This is our third winery stay but the first time we've stayed at a winery in an urban setting. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Slowly homeward bound

We’re getting ready to leave the the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base FamCamp.  We’ve had a great time in Tucson and plan to come back next year.  But our Salt Lake City kids are expecting baby # 2 April 25 -- and we’ve promised to be there to help.  If we want our trip north to be a meander instead of a bee line, we’ve got to leave.
The plan is to leave tomorrow morning.  Our first two camping stops will be at Arizona wineries, then we have a couple of parks picked out.  After that ... well, we’ll figure it out as we go.
Today was spent getting ready to leave, including finally getting our rear window sunshade reinstalled.  It partially fell off while we were driving on I-10 in Texas last fall; Jim pulled off at the next exit and wrestled the rest of it down.  Since our rear window is big, it’s nice to have it back.
Above is a flower bed in front of Tucson's La Encantada shopping center -- how can allysum be that filled out in March? Yesterday we window shopped at La Encantada, plus we bought some fancy tea but passed on a $300 tea pot. I think Jim would have bought it left to his own devices because it was beautiful.  However, left to his own devices Jim might not have been in a tea shop in the first place.  
Jim with the husband-wife team from Cameron's Reliable Maintenance Service, who fixed our sunshade on site. To the left you can see the rig of Linda and Kurt,  a couple we visited with from Washington State. 
Still working on the rig.  Directly in front of our rig is the overflow camping area -- which is pretty much empty.   In he distance (and across the street) you can see another part of the FamCamp that still has plenty of campers.
The Cameron's 7-year-old daughter, Jasmine, created a rock design on our campsite patio while she waited for her parents.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Instead of tulips: Fewer rigs

The crowd is thinning out a bit here at Tucson’s Agave Gulch FamCamp.   Since mid January, all of the 266 campsites were full, plus plenty of folks were camping in “overflow” without electricity, water and sewer.  But this week we began to see empty campsites.  Several people told me they were leaving so they could get home in time to do taxes.  Maybe others are leaving because it’s warm elsewhere in the US and they figure when it’s warm at home it’s time to go there.  Or maybe a smaller campground population is a true sign of spring.  
Since our last posting, I finished our taxes.  I've been going to physical therapy and doing exercises at home -- the Air Force Base feels like home now -- for an ongoing shoulder problem.  We’ve been watching some NCAA (OSU Buckeyes) and CBI (OSU Beavers) basketball.  We also went to a local Mexican restaurant recommended by our campsite neighbors and mentioned in Jane and Michael Stern’s book “Roadfood” called Cafe Poca Cosa  Somehow I was expecting a divvy restaurant; instead it was an upscale-martini-bar-looking place where the menu depends on what’s fresh and what the chef feels like cooking; the menu changes twice a day and is posted on a small portable blackboard brought to your table. We each got the special -- a sampler of three of eight available dishes but you don’t get to pick. I couldn't tell you all of our six, but there was a drunken pork, some moles (as in sauce, not rodent) and ... I can't remember.  But it was good.

Last note:  it's 83 degrees and sunny here.
Here is Jim talking with a guy who tent camped at the FamCamp.  He's active military on leave.  I thought maybe there was a bike inside the small tent, but no -- he's hitch hiking and walking around the U.S.  
Our rig is dwarfed by many others at FamCamp; here's one of those being readied to leave.  It consists of a semi tractor pulling a fifth wheel pulling a tow car.  Also note the motorcycle.  This thing has to be 65 feet long, and there are several here similar to it.  Detach the tow car and it barely fits in a camp space.  (Carl, if you are reading, it's an option for you and Sandy.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chilly hiking

Until today, Arizona has had colder weather than most of the rest of the US.  Flagstaff, for example, got three feet of snow over the weekend.
But Tucson is 260 miles south and 4,500 feet lower than Flagstaff, so while Tucson's nearby mountains got snow, here at the Air Force Base it was just chilly and wet with about 30 seconds worth of small hail. I don't think I've ever been so excited to see a rainstorm.  We also wanted to see the desert in the rain, so on Sunday we hiked Saguaro National Park East.  Photos below.
Yesterday we hiked the Rillito River path again and it was wildlife day.  We saw three coyotes in the wash, plus a bird sitting on a waist-high nest just barely off the trail.  However, the nest was tucked in a cholla cactus, so I doubt that too many critters/people could get close to it.
Today the temps are to be in the 70's and by tomorrow we should be in the 80's again.
A hiking trail at Saguaro National Park, with rain clouds low in the sky.
A couple of puddles on the trail.
Raindrops on a creosote bush.  After a rain storm, the desert smells like this plant; the smell is slightly like burned sugar.
Jim on the trail at Saguaro National Park. 
Jim took this photo of the bird sitting on her nest at the Rillito River Trail.  No telephoto necessary.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A couple of photos from the Air Force Base

On two recent Friday afternoons, airmen/women lined up along the exits to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and reminded people to "have a plan" for getting home if they were going to drink over the weekend.  

I've mentioned that every weekday mornings at 7 a.m., reveille is played, and at 5 p.m. we hear the national anthem.  The national anthem is introduced by something called "Retreat;" if you are outside when Retreat starts, you have to stop -- and that includes people in cars.  One day we were returning from a day of hiking when the music started.  While pulled off to the side of the road I took this photo of cars stopped near a base exit (the same exit shown in the photo above). In the rear view mirror you can see cars stopped behind us.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Snow alert

It’s supposed to rain hard this coming Sunday and snow on Monday. But we had 80 degree plus temps all this week and here is some of what we did:
--Took a hike in the Catalina Mountains that began at the site of the now closed Catalina Federal Honor Camp. The camp housed, among others, a man named Gordon Hirabayashi who protested the iternment of 117,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.  He appealed the issue all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him.  No one would pay for his being sent to prison, so Hirabayashi hitchhiked to Arizona to serve his sentence.  In 1987 his conviction was overturned.  Hirabayashi died in January of this year.
Jim and Cooper on an upper switchback on the Bug Spring Trail that starts at the former Catalina Federal Honor Camp, which closed in the 1970s.
The trail and a view toward Tucson. 
When it's hot you can spray yourself with water ... or just stand in the shade of the person holding the spray bottle. 
Jim and Coop.
--Visited (and hiked) at Saguaro National Park West.  This was our first visit to the western section of the park, which has a beautiful visitors' center and also has a great deal more elevation that the eastern section of the park.
Trail at Saguaro National Park.
The "stick-looking" plant among the saguaros is ocatillo, which we first saw in New Mexico.  Ocatillos are in bloom right now with red flowers at the end of each branch.
The entire first mile of this hike was made up of steps... and after the first mile we decided it was time to turn around.

--Did a longer-than-we-wanted hike on the Rillito River trail, a 10 mile urban path for people/bikes/horses.  It was hot and mid-day, and we couldn't find a path back across the wash that didn’t include  a scramble up a stone we just kept walking.

View of the Rillito River Trail.  We crossed the dry riverbed (wash) to the left, and then found ourselves in a section where we couldn't easily get back.
--Made a couple of trips to breweries and watched college basketball.
--Walked around Tucson’s Fourth Avenue area, a funky strip of boutiques, second hand shops, tattoo parlors, bars, health food stores, etc.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

We don’t usually go hiking on weekends here -- too many people on the trails -- but we hadn’t been hiking in almost a week because of the wind. So we decided to go to Catalina State Park today.  And boy, were there a lot of people there. And cars.  But it was a beautiful, cool (mid 60s), sunny day and the trail was gorgeous.

We were going to go hiking yesterday but it was still windy -- gusts of up to 42 miles an hour said the TV weatherman.  So instead, yesterday was a chore day that included hauling the the throw rugs and dog beds to the laundromat, cleaning the rig and getting groceries.   Then we scouted for a place to watch Oregon State play Arizona in the PAC 12 tournament.  We ended up in front of a sport bar big screen TV surrounded by Arizona fans shouting “U of A, U of A” every time the home team made a basket or blocked a shot.  Which, unfortunately, happened often.  We did get to see the First-brother-in-law/Coach fist bump Oregon State's mascot. No points for that, however.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Big activity of today and yesterday:  Watching Jim’s alma mater, Oregon State, win basketball games.  Yesterday number 9 seed Oregon State beat number 8 seed Washington State in the PAC 12 tournament.   Today Oregon State beat number 1 seed University of Washington.  Tomorrow Oregon State plays Tucson’s home team -- the University of Arizona.  On the local news tonight a sports caster called it a "best case scenario" for UA.  We'll see.
It’s been really windy here the last few days, so I’m glad we’re staying put at the Air Force Base.  In fact, with wind like this -- more than 50 miles an hour -- we’d have the motor home parked instead of driving no matter where we were.  I took these photos of Wednesday, but Tuesday it was so windy the palm tree fronds were bent parallel to the ground.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Yesterday morning we continued to be amazed by the loop de loops and barrel rolls we saw up in the sky.  In the afternoon we went back to the Tucson Museum of Art, where we saw a 90 minute documentary about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.  We saw a photographic exhibit about her a week ago, but by the time we were done our brains were too full to take in the film, too; hence the return trip.
Today we hiked in the Tortolita Mountains about a half hour north of Tucson.  Jim had hiked there a couple of times while I was in Ohio and thought it was very scenic.  I agree.
View at the trail head to the Tortolita's Mountains Wild Burro trail.  We had to go through a gate to a Ritz Carlton resort to get to the trail -- really.  But once you hike a half a mile you can't see the resort and the area seems very remote. 
More wild flowers in bloom.  There were also many honey bees out having lunch.
Jim keeping a tight leash on Cooper as they walk by some cholla cactus on the Lower Javalina trail.  About two weeks ago Cooper brushed against a cholla on the Air Force Base.  The cholla stuck to his coat and Cooper got it in his mouth before Jim could pull it off.  It took a trip to the vet to the the needles out.
Jim near a swirly saguaro. 
Bev and her new hiking hat.  It was supposed to get into the upper 80's here today -- I'm not sure if it got that warm, but it was hot enough that I had to wear both my hat and a long-sleeved, light weight shirt I wear for sun protection.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Really wild blue yonder

This weekend we’re seeing something pretty exciting without even leaving the Air Force Base.
Civilian and military pilots from across the country are training at the base in modern and historic fighters in preparation for future air shows.
According to a press release from the base, the types of planes the pilots are training in are the P-51 Mustang, the P-40 Warhawk, the A-36 Apache, P-47 Thunderbolt and the F-86 Sabre, the F-4 Phantom II, A-10 Thunderbolt II, the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-22 Raptor.
I have no idea what any of those planes are ... but below is a great photo Jim got of four of them flying in formation right over our motor home. 
This doesn't even look real to me because the big jets are flying in formation with prop planes -- but Jim  did take this photo just a few minutes ago.  The large plane in the front would leave the formation, race low in the horizon, and then aim straight up and do what I can only describe as a "back flip" followed by barrel rolls.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Island in the sky

Today we explored the beautiful Sky Island Scenic Byway, a 28-mile road in the Santa Catalina Mountains and that starts just north of Tucson.  The terrain is like a trip from Mexico to Canada, with vegetation ranging from cactus at the beginning to pine, fir and spruce trees at the top -- plus a ski resort.    Along the way were dozens of picnic areas, scenic view points, campgrounds and hiking trails.  Jim had hiked a few of the trails when I was in Ohio, so he was a great tour guide.  At the summit was Mt. Lemon Ski Valley, the southernmost ski resort in the United States (if you don’t count Hawaii, which I read has some skiing.) The ski resort was started during World War II by a group of skiers including novelist and adventurer Lowell Thomas.  We had lunch at the nearby Iron Door restaurant.  It was a very scenic day.
Saguaro near the beginning of the scenic byway.
Cooper playing in the water at the Babad Do'ag Vista, which is Tohono O'odham (the local Indian tribe) for "Frog Mountain."
Pine trees near the top.
Mt. Lemon Ski Valley.