Saturday, November 19, 2011

Is it Fall already?

Where does the time go. Last time I looked it was April. And now it's November and we're still back at our new RV lot here in sunny southern California, land of swimming pools, movie stars and a whole lot more. It's hard to beat the comforts of heated pools, tennis courts and good walking areas here at Glen Eden Sun Club especially with Trader Joes just up the road. We've enjoyed a great time this many months rediscovering the joys of digging in the dirt and talking plants. Tom completed a 10 month Master Gardener training program with the UC Riverside Coop Extension in June and is now "certified" for whatever that means; like his Master Composter designation from a few years ago, piled high and heated up. Nancy thinks it's just one more proof of him being "certifiable". Our arrival back in April was met with feverish push to transplant the many seedling starts we'd grown from seed in the motorhome. The garden beds needed completion, the fence needed extending, the shed needed moving, the esaplier fruit trees needed wires, as did the grapes, the shed needed a get the picture. It's been fun. I've also gotten to know the area better through volunteering with Master Gardeners at the UCRiverside Botanical Gardens, the GrowLab, many "Meet&Greet" community information tables at nurseries, garden tours public events. Tom managed a couple of short camping trips with one up the coast near Malibu and the other in the Santa Ana mountains west of Lake Elsinore. It's surprising how remote and beautiful a lot of southern CA can be, and yet within a few miles are all the trappings of freeways and people. We try to imagine the beauty of the lands here before being discovered by so many people seeking a mild, Mediterranean climate with ocean, mountains and desert so near.

We've also made good use of our time and are now trying on clothes that only a few months ago were way too tight...I've followed the progress of Ms. Nancy who has lost over 40 lbs during these few months and me along for the ride. Quite an accomplishment for her, and good luck for me.
Looks like we'll be around here until the 20th of December when we will shove off on our first cruise through the Panama Canal and on to Miami and visit with son, William. This will be a special birthday for Ms Nancy on Christmas day and our 32nd aniversary on the winter solstice! More at that time.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Welcome to spring in the desert...

Just one week ago we were in Globe, AZ watching the large snowflakes and the feel the 37F. with the nearby hillsides white! Today we're in Indio, CA and parked behind the Fantasy Springs Casino at 103.5F trying to find a bit of coolness on the shady side of the motorhome. We just left our friends' drive in Scottsdale after Ms. Nancy got in one more swim in 70F water, refreshed and ready to travel, even if she didn't think her evening would be this warm.
These past few weeks have taken us through southern Arizona, from when we last left Ajo through to Tucson, the ranch and grasslands of Southern AZ along the Mexican border, the Huachuca mountains, the copper mining district and funky town of Bisbee, the Chiracahua National Monument and now Safford and Globe along the "old west highway" on to Phoenix. We've never been travelers to back track, so all our routes tend to be nice loops and this one should take us back to SoCal and Glen Eden.
By way of overview (and photos) we had a wonderful time with some of our oldest friends from our early RVing days and exploring a new region. We enjoyed good weather, until now, good food including Ethiopian, vegetarian, different quality of Mexican and middle eastern, and even a good steak house. Nancy got some much needed pool time while in Tucson. While there, Tom, dropped and broke his 6year+ camera while on a bicycle ride and was really bummed out. Laundry got done, and new sites were visited and old ones revisited. We got back to the Sonoran Desert Museum, a landmark in the Tucson area, with our friend Deanna. Wildflowers were somewhat scarce this year due to poor winter rains in the area. Sierra Vista was a great location to explore the popular birding spots of Ramsey Canyon and the San Pedro Riparian area which was one of the busiest for migrating hummers and other species between the Rio Grande and the Colorado Rivers. Water is a real treat in the desert, and even the grasslands of southern AZ We explored nearby Fort Huachuca, home of the famous all black cavalry units or "Buffalo Soldiers" of the 19th and early 20th century. They were renowned as talented and hard fighting in the Indian wars against the Apache who were the main obstacle to travel and settlement of this area, and later went on to valor in WWI and WWII. More recently the Fort has become the center of advanced communications as an outgrowth of the US Army Signal Corps. It's an active post and is the primary support in the community.
We were also able to visit the nearby copper mining town of Bisbee. Now rediscovered as a funky and artsy tourist area after years of decline from when the mines closed and converted the labor intensive underground & hard rock mining for the energy and capital equipment intensive open pit mining. We did take in an underground tour of the Copper Queen Mine complete with hardhats, lights and rainslickers...enhances the tourist experience I guess. Interesting history, too, of diversity and labor protest in early part of 20th century, as well. One of the first mass deportations in US history occurred here in 1917 with roundup of hundreds of striking miners and their "removal" to New Mexico.
After a week in the area we decided it was time to move along to the rest of our winter travel route and to the Chiracahua National Monument. We (at least one of us) have always wanted to explore these mountains and former lands of the Chiracahua Apache. The "HooDoos" or rock formations are the result of wind and water erosion acting on the 2000feet of rhyolite laid down by the TurkeyCreek volcano over 25million years ago. It's a beautiful area with lots of trails and hideaways in the rocks, surrounded by high country grasslands and oak-juniper forest lands of the Coronado National Forest. We thoroughly enjoyed our short time here. After that we traveled north through Willcox and along the "old west highway" through Safford, San Carlos, Globe and Superior ending at Apache Junction after a brief visit to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and a tour of spring flowers and wonderful desert landscaped exhibits.

We finished our tour in Phoenix area enjoying visits and food with friends along the street in Chandler and in the drive of friends in Scottsdale. And now it's time to head west and back to our SoCal homespace. Our garden seeds have grown to healthy seedlings and are ready to be planted..our first return to gardening in over 18 years! We rigged a simple rack to hold the seedlings in our shower under the skylight and they grew wonderfully. We're now considering using it for other plantings throughout the summer months since the light is so good, and it's relatively insulated from temperature swings. Just another adaptation to life on the road. That's it for this installment. We're headed back to where diesel prices are above $4.50/gallon so our summer travel plans are really uncertain at this time. Stay tuned for more...happy trails.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Back to Arizona again

Well, it's been some time since the rains and cold of southern California. Now that spring is upon us in the Sonoran desert, it's easy to see why we needed to get out some and travel to our "places of the heart" again. In our many years traveling we've coined this term to note as special some of the places we've been and connected, with the people, the land or the activity. As we've begin to slow and limit our trajectory, we try to maintain these special visits and hope to maintain them as long as we can...and still find time and energy for discovering new friends and places. Even though we've landed in a wonderful place like Glen Eden, we still love this RVing life and the opportunities it affords us. Seems, too, whenever we encounter settled folks, it's hard to avoid becoming territorial and getting involved in the daily politics of living. This lifestyle affords us a better balance.

We missed the annual RV gatherings at Quartzsite again this year due to illness...ours. The crud we contracted from Las Vegas came back again with a vengeance. We did get to Yuma for a few weeks of desert peace and quiet and warmer temps. We also managed our annual dental checkups in Los Algodones, Baja CA, Mexico...and we're happy to report that the teeth are holding up better than the rest of us. We met up with old RVing friends (and they are getting older, too:) and enjoyed catching up on life over the past year, our travels and trials, along with the requisite visit to favorite restaurants, flea markets and sights around the Yuma area. Great place to spend the winter as many snow birds in their RVs from Canada and the US have found. I believe there are over 50 RV parks just in the Yuma area alone. All types of new services and traffic have been added, along with the regular agricultural schedule. Yuma this time of year is the lettuce bowl for much of the country, and also grows broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. All kinds of citrus and dates are grown in the area, as well. And you can't beat a date milk shake...alas, I must limit myself to only 1 per season, as I could easily get out of control.

We've since moved on to another favorite area in the Sonoran desert near the former copper mining town of Ajo, on the road from Phoenix to Puerto Penasco, Mexico and the Gulf of California. We're actually less than 20 miles from the border here, just north of Organ Pipe National Monument, and just south of the Barry Goldwater live fire gunnery range! It's a quiet place of saguaro cactus, creosote bushes and wide open skies. We've been coming here for years and never seem to tire of it's calmness and beauty. That, in spite of the active border crossing and smuggling route this continues to be, but we've been fortunate to not have any adverse consequences in all our time here. Homeland Security in the form of US Border Service is very visible in town and on the many dirt roads in this wide open area. Since the closure of the open pit copper mine here in the 1980s Ajo has had a hard row to hoe, but renewed interest in "national security" along with continuation of the war on drugs, the low cost housing which has encouraged new migrants from the north in the form of "Q" tips (senior citizens) and artists to take up residence. A more recent boon to the area is a 4.5megawatt solar electric generating array located on mining property on the southside of town. This grid enhancement will provide power to over 1000 homes throughout the region, and a few more jobs in Ajo. "Where", according to the latest promotional brochure for the area, the "summer spends the winter".

Looking to move along to the Desert Rain Cafe in Sells, AZ for a lunch of homemade TohonoO'Odam (Pima) treats and on to Tucson and southeast Arizona... Happy trails...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Welcome to our new year!

We arrived back at our lot amidst a 7 day rain cycle that finally broke at Christmas. And they say it never rains in sunny California. Not that we're complaining because it's a desert here and water is a real necessity and a treat, too, and not the daily gray grind of NE PA that we left so many years ago. But enough rain is a few inches. Nearly 20 inches in fewer days is more than this parched SoCal could well accommodate! In fact, here's a few pics. The traditional channel/creek through the park became clogged with debris and it remembered it's own pre-RV park route, through our yard and our neighbors'. We didn't have any memory, but nature and a few of our older neighbors did and now,so do we! Little actual damage occurred, but a lot of mud and debris went where it wasn't wanted, and had to be removed, replaced and refilled. So for the next weeks that became the order of the day. Add to this the return of the "Vegas Crud" we had picked up while enjoying the Penn & Teller, the bright lights and food in Las Vegas and another couple of weeks were lost to misery and a sore head, nose, chest etc. But we made it through Christmas and New Years!

One of the benefits of settling somewhere with a few square feet of dirt is that Tom has rekindled his gardening interest. Since October he is a "Master Gardener in Training" with UC Riverside Cooperative Extension. While in town he attends classes in person, and when not, he reads and follows classes online via our satellite internet connection. This training will now be added to his already distinct title of "Master Composter" that he earned in 2008 with the Riverside County Waste Management. He even has a T-Shirt that says so!

He's already enjoyed getting pricked and cut learning to prune roses at the UCR Botanical gardens. By the way, the first rule is never where shorts, sandals and a Tshirt to a full scale rose pruning!

He's also had a day at an olive ranch where they are growing olives and pressing oil. Actually the RV park where we have the lot, Glen Eden, used to be an Olive ranch where there are still many huge, shapely and prolific olive trees. (and olives smushed all year some curing and pressing is going to happen!)

Well, it's almost 1 February and should be time to be in Quartzsite, but looks like we'll stick around here to help with community garden, our site projects including finishing irrigation for our new apple, plum, pluot and nectarine trees and 2 grape vines, along with helping out and visiting mother in a not too distant nursing home. It's comfortable here, but really time to be moving along. Yuma and the desert are calling. Happy trails until real soon (we hope)