Saturday, March 30, 2013

Time for Change?!

This last month of our Winter 2012-2013 Season has been erratic and unsettling!
After the wonderful time in the desert near Ajo and Why, AZ with our birder-friends Judy and Terry, a dark cloud descended on both of us – not really knowing where we wanted to go next; the noise in the motor; the sense of being vulnerable in a foreign country 1500 miles from home – Fred seemed to be tired of driving and I felt like we were travelling the same old trails and doing the same old things – nothing really new or exciting.

As Sheila would say, “We’ve seen too much.”
It’s been a dozen years since I told Fred, “I’m not having fun any more!” and we started planning this magnificent adventure of learning and discovery. Now, the fun times seem wider apart and further away. The Motor Home seems smaller and we seem less congenial – it certainly could be time to move onto something else.
The journey back to Lethbridge was much like an exercise in putting in time hoping winter would turn to spring so we could travel north in hospitable weather . . . snow-free roads and no wind.
We spent a couple of days in Quartzsite with Deb and her family (Jer had taken a load of rocks back to their home near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico). They are a card-playing family and we spent many hours involved in various games, especially Wizard.
Deb is an artist and a collector. Her Mom is more of collector than she is. For years Deb has been telling me that her Mom has this incredible collection of gum (sticks and in wrappers) that she started collecting when she was six years old.
I would do an “Oh Yeh” thing and go on talking about something else. Well, we were now a captive audience and I couldn’t believe what I saw.
The Gum Museum (in Quartzsite, AZ) is housed in a building that must be 20’x30’. Inside are rows and rows of display cases with chewing gum paraphernalia dating back beyond the turn of the 20th Century. I couldn’t believe what I saw!
Apparently, the Smithsonian is interested in the collection – it’s that extensive.
After a few days, we were concerned about overstaying our welcome and started moving slowly northward. In an effort to stave off the inevitable bad roads and bad weather, we checked into an Escapee Discount RV Park in Kingman. It was still Air Conditioner weather so we stayed there for a few days. That gave us a chance to get the window covers re-strung and revisit sights along Route 66.
The Hackberry General Store is still there and still my favourite place. It’s grown some since our first visit in 2001 . . . more memorabilia . . . more old vehicles . . . same cowboy-shit sign – a little worn but then, aren’t we all? 


A new attraction for us was the "Keeper's of the Wild Nature Park", along Route 66 in Valentine, AZ ( One of the work-campers at the RV Park recommended it. I’m not sure what we were expecting but it wasn’t what we experienced. The only other Wildlife Park we have visited was around San Diego many years ago. There, we were in an enclosed tram that wandered throughout the area while the animals ran free. In this Park, the animals definitely were in enclosures. Mind you the enclosures are very large and natural but it felt more like a zoo than a Natural Park.
The Keeper’s Park grew out of the founder’s (Jonathan Kraft) realization that the performing animals in Las Vegas were being mistreated and abused. He started by rescuing one lion . . . and that started a chain of events that snowballing into the rescue of a wide variety of exotic animals from all over the world.
We didn’t take the safari tour and maybe we should have. We were there mid-day and the animals seemed very lethargic and inactive. There were a lot of chain-linked fences and protective space between the animals and the visitors. The only interaction we observed was one staff feed on of the moneys. That made it difficult to even see some of the animals let alone get any good photos but here are a few we managed to capture.

Someone suggested the best time to see them is during feedings – makes sense.

Well, we thought there was a break in the weather – who were we kidding?
It started getting down-right cold!
After Kingman, we went up through Nevada and parked at the Nevada Hotel in Ely, NV and then we plugged in at Cactus Pete’s in Wells, NV. Fred managed to do his usual “Win enough to pay for the RV site” and I did my usual “leave with less than I came with”.
Onto Dillon, MT and we planned to spend our last night on-the-road in Great Falls, MT before we crossed the border.
What is it they say, the best laid plans . . . ?
We went into the Truck Stop to get gas and I was going in to give them my card and fill the coffee thermos. KerBANG - I slipped on some ice that was covered with water that was being generated by a leaking tap - no salt - no sign - no barrier.
I landed on my chest, knee and hand - don't ask me how – Needless to say, we came right home!

I am very sore and went to Emergency Monday night. They took x-rays - nothing broken - It feels like a sprained ankle in my side, chest and back. The doctor at Emergency said sprained muscles and pulled ligaments but I’ll check with my doctor after the weekend.
Good thing I am well padded!

I’ve been sleeping sitting up because it hurts to lie down.
Fred’s been bring in all the stuff from the Motorhome and I’ve been working on putting it all away . . . slowly!
How did we ever get that much stuff in the Motorhome in the first place.
What are the changes going to be – when??
That is such a good question!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

If You Were Here With Us

If you were here with us, I think you too would find the desert here fascinating.
I look out the window on one side of the Motor Home and I am transported to a place where the white crowned sparrows; the house finches; the Verdins; the Doves; the Quail; and even the Gila Woodpeckers flit around – chase each other off – ward off intruders and then totally abandon the whole area for a time and then come back. It is mating time and even the Doves get involved protecting their territory. I never think of Doves as being aggressive but this fellow defies that myth as he wards off four other males!
Some of them talk to each other, but not many. Mostly they mingle around the water bowls, eat the feed we put out for them and peck at the grapefruit and oranges mounted on the shrubs but when they take off – they all take off together.

Oh, look, there are three Gila Woodpeckers trying to eat the grapefruit – come on, guys, there’s only room for one!

The new visitors are the Mockingbirds and the Cardinals.
We’ve seen the Cardinals before but not in the numbers we’ve seen this year. We have never seen the Mockingbirds here before.

The Gila Woodpeckers have taken over the hummingbird feeder but the hummingbirds seem to have abandoned us but that’s okay, they probably have far more important things to do.

Behind the shrubs and bushes that act as sanctuaries of protection for the birds, there is what they call down here, a wash. Now to me it looks like a wide dry river bed that once may have carried a flood of fast moving water. Now it is all but forsaken and taken over by smaller versions of the vegetation that lines the banks.

Wandering and exploring the wash is a favourite past-time for most folks who spend much time here. There always seem to be something you may have missed last time or are seeing for the very first time.
Just out in the wash from us here, is an old dilapidated bicycle that is considered an abandoned Mexican bicycle (meaning it would be a bicycle used by a Mexican to jump the border – we are very close to Mexico – and then just left there). Heaven know if that is the truth but it’s a good story anyway.

Further down the wash is a Crown of Thorns plant that we have looked for and not seen since the first year we were here.

Now, if you go to the other side of the Motor Home, you are immediately struck by a panorama of the desert. Not what you usually think of as desert, but a vast array of vegetation that stops only when it meet the mountains of the Sonora Desert. 

This time of year, the plants start to shed their lifeless grey hue as a green tinge creeps over the landscape. Here and there Saguaros Cactus pop up from the sandy green mat: a few of the Saguaros look like single poles reaching for the sky but others have an array of arms stretching out, then up, then down . . . you never know what direction they will go.

 Just behind the Motor Home is that perfect cactus that must pose for every picture we see of a desert cactus. Surrounded by the creosote bushes that protected and nursed it as it grew, it now towers high above its protectorates and has become the home for those who nest within.
Four perfect arms encircle the solid green trunk. Right now the cactus  are heavy with moisture and the bristle-laden veins that extend the length of its height and surround the stock in wide pleats.


Half a dozen round, scarred holes are scattered down the top section. Gila Woodpeckers come and go often visiting one hole after another but as yet, there is no sign of any baby birds.
The sun is warm, but not hot. We sit out on our desert patio surveying our kingdom, reading or just talking and greet hikers or walkers who pass by. Many of the passers-by are Canadian. Being Canadian, we engage in the most Canadian thing to do . . . we talk about the weather back home . . . as if we need an excuse . . . but it seems to rationalize why we are down here.
Everyone has a story . . . especially about where they have been and the different things they have done or seen while spending time in the desert. You are never sure if the stories are even true or when it all happened, but it doesn’t matter . . . it is their story. Often, I can’t remember the people, but I remember their stories.
This weekend we will leave this spot. We will be back again next year – God willing and the creek don’t rise!