Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tucson . . . Here We Come . . .

A stop at the Rovers Roost Escapees RV Park in Casa Grande was not in the plans but when Fred said his back was bothering him, Rovers Roost was the right place to rest up before we went to Tucson.

We were in Tucson last year but our visit was interrupted by THE shooting (what I call the Safeway massacre) that left me just wanting to get out of there. This was our chance to come back and explore all the places we didn’t get to as well as those we wanted to revisit.

Tucson and the surrounding areas are exceptionally diverse and the inhabitants share and celebrate that diversity. It is a city built in and surrounded by volcanic mountains and desert. Even the name Tucson is derived from a Spanish adaptation of the O’odham word for at the base of the black hill - Cuk ᚢon.

Our first stop was at the Visitor Information Center downtown. Downtown is an array of colour and lines - the plazas, the buildings, the streets – and history.

They offer a special Passport that offers special attractions discounts so we stopped to pick one up.

Jewish Historic Museum

One of the places in the passport was the Jewish Historic Museum so I thought it might be interesting to see. I was quite surprised first that there are so many Jewish people in Tucson and then that the first synagogue was reform built in 1902.

Mission San Xavier

Archaeologists claim that the area was visited by Paleo-Indian people as long ago as 12,000 years and there is evidence of irrigated farming and the red and black ceramics of the Hohokam Peoples.

The first Catholic mission of San Xavier founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692 still stands and is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona. It’s been named a National Historic Landmark.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

There is no question that the Museum is our favourite attraction in Tucson. We spent most of the day there (we were there last year) and this time took part in the Raptor Free Flights demonstration.

The museum is spectacular . . . it sits on 98 acres with 3.2 kms (2 miles) of walking paths covering 21 acres. Much of the property is covered with natural growth and cacti. All sorts of plants line the walkways many are named and labelled for identification. There are snake and reptile exhibits; hummingbird and other bird enclosures; and large animal like Cougars and Bears that are housed in very natural settings. What with my camera and Fred’s new camera, we took over 150 photos. (So - I’m going to do a separate posting on the Desert Museum once I get the photos sorted out!)

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

It’s difficult to describe the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun experience. The gallery is a complex of buildings scattered over 10 acres in the hills in north Tucson. The buildings and the setting exemplifies the spirit and backdrop surrounding the entire city – natural desert with an array of plants and cacti. Impressionistic sculptures and settings are sprinkled throughout and that is even before you go into the sanctuary or gallery.

A Visiting Artist’s Studio sits to the side of the entrance. Geri Bringman was there when we visited. I love her work – she works in acrylics on canvas - her figures are colourful and delightful.

We traded our creative endeavours – Jacob’s Tails yielded a wonderful print that will find its way onto a wall somewhere in my life.

DeGrazia’s Gallery itself is room after room filled with his impressionistic sketches, paintings, sculptures of the South Arizona he loved and lived in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. In addition to his physical environment, DeGrazia was enthralled with the Mexican Indian lifestyle and children. He was incredibly prolific and the entire complex is filled with his work. I remember the picture chosen by UNICEF for one of their Christmas Cards a few years back. But I did find a Chanukah Card there.

On our way to explore the Saguaro National Park – the RAINS started OMG did it rain!

We never made it up to Saguaro – instead we have come back to Casa Grande to spend our month retreat.

I never realized how much we actually did while we were in Tucson – our plan is to either do day trips while we are here or go back later!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Doing Our YumaThing!

Would it surprise you to find out that we are again and still in Yuma? But things do change.

Our first shock was when we turned the corner towards KOFA (the Escapees RV Park we stay at) and all the orange and lemon trees had disappeared – we thought we were on the wrong road.

Bare fields or fields of alfalfa replace the orchards. The 40 foot high wind-machines that keep the frost from the plants sit in the middle of each field as the only reminisce of the acres of bushy green growth. The lemon tree grove across the street from the Park is no more!

As we explored the area, we found all sorts of orchards in various stages of development. Various rumours contend that the heavy frost killed off a number of the lemon orchards or the price of lemons had gone down so drastically that it was not worth growing them or that the groves were just getting to the end of their productivity. I think it is probably a little of each of these factors.

This was the only field we saw where each tree was wrapped and covered with burlap – never did find out why but I am sure it is some form of frost protection.

Fred and his new camera are almost inseparable – except when he goes over to the hot-tub (or SPA, as they call it here). Thanks to a great friend (Diane), he found out about the Magic Lantern series of Dummy books for beginner photographers on specific cameras and he managed to order one from Amazon and it arrived at John & Sallee’s place in just a few days.

It never ceases to amaze me when things work they way they are supposed to. Every once in a while he pops his head out of the book or away from the camera and make an innocuous statement like “Oh that’s the way it is supposed to work”. He doesn’t seem to realize that I don’t have a clue what he is talking about.

Actually some of his practice shots have been fascinating – like:

The Cotton bolls and fields

The old car and trailer

The Hummingbirds


This internet is driving me crazy!! Sometimes it works and sometime it doesn't.

I finally got my articles and photos up for RV West - it took forever! I got the Newsletter done and have been eating too much.

We'll be off on Tuesday to
Tucson and then to Ajo or Casa Grande – we’re not sure where we’re going.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Yes it is Beyond Next Week

I just got reprimanded because the last BLOG entry left us back at Yosemite and Coarsegold . . . h-m-m . . . we aren’t there any more. The reprimand came from Bill and Julie – folks we met and visited with at the Tropicana often over the last few years who stumbled across us here at Hi Jolly. In fact we left California over a week ago. It was starting to get cold and time to move on to warmer climes.

We did our Laughlin thing for a few days. We checked-in at the Tropicana but there were only four RVs there – the old sticker-oners – and a couple of RVs from California.

One of the reasons for going to Laughlin was to go to the IRS office to see if we could somehow get a tax exemption to realize some of the revenue from the Jacob’s Tails E-Book without the 30% hold-back. After spending over an hour with a very nice, rather useless IRS field agent, I honestly think it is easier to leave the 30% hold-back. We did try but won’t know anything for 4 to 6 weeks, when they will let me know by mail! This was truly a frustrating experience!

Anyway, I managed to get considerable pleasure from the pedicure received from my favourite pedicurist – small things can make me happy.

We’re at Quartzsite, now – at Hi Jolly again.

It’s nice to be back here. We’re parked up against the wash; we have water and feed out for the little critters; the hummingbird feeder is out; I have already seen Debbie (from the Authors Fair at Paul’s Book Oasis); and we’re settled in for a while.

Oh, I forgot to mention – Fred has gone photographical on us – that is to say, he has been having so much fun taking photos that he is no longer satisfied using the old Fuigi or sharing the Olympus with me, he decided he wanted his own camera. After Fred’s usual in-depth research, he decided on a Cannon Rebel with two zoom lens. Yes, folks – if we had a first born, we would have to give it up to pay for it. Actually it wasn’t that bad, but as we talked about it with Thom and Dar, it turns out that they had just the set up and they really didn’t want anymore.

Long story, short – Fred now has the photographic set up he wanted and is heavy into learning how to use it. Need I say, after the automatic camera we’ve had, this is a very steep learning curve!

Well, we’ve heard from some other travelling friends and it looks like all plans are a go and we should see them in short order.

Well, I think that should bring us up to date – for the time being, anyway. Our plan is to go down to Yuma next week.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Son-of-a-Gun: it’s a long way!

Double Click on photos to enlarge
Flu shots on the 17th and all set for our departure on the 20th (October).

Our first night was in Butte, Mt. second in Idaho Falls, ID (ran into some problems setting up the Air Card) then we spent a couple of nights in Elko, NV then into CA and finally to the Escapees’ Park of the Sierras (POS, as they call it) in Coarsegold, CA.

Being absolute devout anti-crowds (anything over six people is a crowd); and anti-busy, crowded roads; we were fine until we got to Reno, NV. I had anxiety attacks just on the highways in California let alone going through the cities. Then I remembered . . . there are as many people in Los Angeles area as there are in all of Canada . . . and I swear they were all on the same roads at the same time as we were.

Son-of-a-Gun: it’s a long way! Over 2400 kms just to get to the RV Park . . . BUT it’s been worth it.

For you folks who are not accustomed to RV parks, most of them sit on what we might call a very level playing field . . . meaning that the sites (and therefore the RVs) are lined up in straight rows one after another. POS is built in tiers up the side of the mountain.

California drivers are crazy and the road from Park Sierra through Coarsegold and then through Oakhurst snakes, winds and climbs up over 2000 feet before you even get to the Park Gate.

As a special bonus, a great couple we met at Yuma last year (Thom & Dar) showed up the same day as we did – so we managed to share a couple of Happy Hours; catch up on all the news; and, of course, solve all the problems of the world at least a couple of times.

Yosemite National Park

Ever since we saw Ken Burns’ documentary on John Muir, we have wanted to visit Yosemite National Park and this was the year. Yosemite sits on the edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range on the east side of Central California about 2.5 hours from Fresno. It’s huge – around 1200 square miles but only about 5% is accessible - the rest is all wilderness. One visit to the park would never be enough. We went up three times and still never got to all the places we would like to explore.

Giant Sequoias of the Mariposa Grove

Our first visit was to the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias just north of the Gate. Standing among these giants makes any human feel small and insignificant. You can barely see the tops they are so tall. Some are said to be as old as 3,000 years.

Unfortunately, we were joined by a whole big bus tour so did not spend much time there. We never did see a tree you could walk through – many of the trees have fallen down.

The Roads

Big Surprise – they are crowded – even in late October in the middle of the week. Driving on the roads through the Park is like skiing a slalom run weaving in and out of the trees following the edges of the mountains. Up and down; dark and light; up to six seven thousand feet and down again into the valley all the time twisting and turning.

At one point it was so dark we wondered how anything ever grew on the forest floor but it does.

The Falls

When I went to take a picture of the Bridalveil Falls, I took it at an angle because there were so many tourist heads in the way but Fred managed to snap some from the parking lot.

The path up to the falls is a photographer’s delight. Every step shows fascinating shapes and textures with huge rocks, fallen trees and twisted undergrowth.

There is an Ansel Adams Gallery in the Village and as we wandered through the park, I started to understand why so much of his work was done in Yosemite.

Wawona Tunnel

At over 6000 ft elevation, about half-way between the South Gate and Yosemite Village, a mile-long tunnel cuts through the side of the mountain and there is a special parking area before the tunnel to view the incredible sight.

Gigantic monoliths rise up through a lush green carpet that resembles a tropical rain forest.

El Capitan

El Capitan stands at the southern entrance of the Yosemite Valley. It presents a 3000 foot shear granite wall that challenges even the best of climbers. El Capitan is often called the Guardian of the Yosemite Valley

Glacier Point

Glacier Point Road is another one of those slalom roads; only this one is very, very narrow which heightens the challenge of safely manoeuvring it from one end to the other especially with the California drivers and tour buses.

Usually by this time of the year, the road is closed but the Gods were with us and we have had nothing but fair weather since we left Alberta October 20th. The view from up here is absolutely breathtaking – a panoramic view of the entire Yosemite Valley.

Half Dome

So, to say the least, Yosemite has been a wonderful, unforgettable experience and the Park of the Sierras has get to be one if not THE best RV Park we have ever had the opportunity to stay in.

They are calling for some precipitation and colder weather tomorrow so our plan is to get the laundry done (the bane of my existence) and move on towards Nevada and Arizona next week.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Summer into Fall

Visiting the newly renovated Interpretation Centre at Frank Slide was a good excuse to get out on a beautiful fall day and get photos of the prairies.

Frank was a small coal mining town of about 600 people at the foot of Turtle Mountain. The weather along with the tunnels of the mine and the instability of the mountain, itself combined to initiate a 90 million ton slide that took 70 lives.

They’ve done a nice job of interpreting what happened and dispelling some of the myths and stories of that fateful night in 1903 when the rocks came tumbling down.

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Home on the Range

There is something totally fascinating about the prairies: the expanse of the sky; the fields that seem to go on forever; the horse standing out there up to its knees in grass; the huge round bales of hay that dot the landscape; as well as the smell of the grass that has just been cut and lays windrowed in the fields. Mile after mile of nothing but fields and big skies speckled with fluffy white clouds. This is the country where they measure the farms/ranches in sections rather than acres.

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These photographs are a combined effort from Fred and me - I really wanted to share the prairie scenes – I think they are spectacular.

Five more days til we are off – I better get to work!!