Tuesday, February 28, 2006

10:50 AM Tuesday February 28, 2006

After her blood draw at the hospital in preparation for Ardella’s chemo today, we drove down to Lake Roosevelt yesterday, about 50 miles south of Payson and picked our spot for a potential camping/fishing trip next week in our motorhomes. All will depend on how Ardella feels in a few days after this, her next to last treatment. It was our first trip to the lake we’ve heard so much about over the years and we were impressed. It’s over 20 miles long and looks totally out of place in the middle of the desert. According to our friends, there’s lots of good fishing in this lake including bass, croppies and catfish. They will be bringing their 24’ pontoon boat down so Ardella and I can ride in comfort and maybe do some fishing ourselves. It was a beautiful day especially since Ardella felt well enough to participate after being flat on her back for weeks. Such a simple fix … getting the blood pressure back to normal certainly is cause for thought in regard to my friend’s health care. Her next hurdle is a brain MRI but as I’ve said many times before, her attitude is so positive, she is hands down … my hero!
L-R Donald, Ardella, Joy and Phil at the Butcher Nook Cafe located near Lake Roosevelt where we stopped for an early dinner.  Posted by Picasa
Lake Roosevelt marina. Posted by Picasa
Beautiful Lake Roosevelt bridge. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 26, 2006

2:03 PM Sunday February 26, 2006

It’s confession time again. There are only a couple things that really frighten me and one of them is traveling up and down mountains in the motorhome. When they are unavoidable (we use both east and west trucker’s mountain pass books), on all the upgrades I am positive the engine is going to blow up and on all the downgrades I’m convinced the brakes will fail. You must know seeing my friend Ardella was VERY important to me (and I continuously reminded myself of that fact during our drive up the mountain to Payson yesterday) because this kind of travel is so very scary for me.

Phil takes it in stride but a 6% grade or steeper breaks me out in a cold sweat and turns it into a white-knuckle ride for me. In addition to the several 6% hills, they’ve thrown in a couple 7% downgrades to be negotiated across the ups and downs of AZ highway 87 through the Mazatzal Mountains in the Tonto National Forest. Actually, it is a wonderful four-lane road and in a car or even our little Lone Ranger it’s a fantastic drive. Then, just as we reached the turn into the RV Park our remarkable Penny the Pace, who had worked so hard for 120 miles just quit. She started again, then quit again and Phil coaxed her to the door of the office. After sitting for about 30 minutes while he checked us in and we picked our site, she started again and ran perfectly. Vapor lock? Phil insulated the gas line and routed it away from the exhaust when this happened back in Minnesota last year. We thought we had the problem solved—maybe not, or maybe it was something else this time? If so, I'm sure she'll let us know once we’re on the road again.

Once we were set up, we drove the Lone Ranger into Payson and spent the rest of the day and early evening visiting with our friends and eating some homemade green chili and beef burritos and pinto beans, prepared by Donald and their son, Jason. Yummm! Don and Ardella were both looking good yesterday but Ardella is having a very difficult time keeping her blood pressure high enough. Consequently, when she stands up she very nearly loses consciousness and has gone down twice. Lack of food (nothing tastes good and she’s lost 21 pounds since I saw her last), lack of salt and high blood pressure meds have contributed to the bottom falling out of her blood pressure. She called her doctor and he told her to stop taking her meds and get busy eating some salty foods to get some sodium into her body. By the time we left, her numbers were on the rise! Isn’t the human body an incredible machine?

Note: When we leave the top of this mountain, I will be driving the Lone Ranger and we’ll hook back up at the bottom. Phil and I will keep in touch with Walkie Talkies and I will follow to keep an eye on Penny’s brakes. This should definitely lower my anxiety level and without a toad it will make it easier for our much loved Penny the Pace! I’ve been told I’m silly for worrying but unfounded or not, this fear is a reality for me. Hopefully, this new method of traveling across any mountains will be our solution.
Lunch break along side the highway in the desert. Salmon, onion and lettuce sandwiches accompanied by chips, baby dills and grapes with iced tea to drink. Life is good!  Posted by Picasa
The beautiful Saguaros kept us company. Posted by Picasa
Yikes! Heart rate is up ... anxiety level over the top.  Posted by Picasa
It's a loooong way down! Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 24, 2006

10:42 AM Friday February 24, 2006

One of the benefits of living fulltime in our motorhome is the ability to change our plans at the drop of a hat. And, change them we have. Tomorrow we will move up the hill to Payson from Maricopa in order to visit our friends, Don and Ardella. Just yesterday, her doctor ordered another test that will make it impossible for them to spend any time in the desert in the near future so ... "If the mountain will not come to Mohammad, then Mohammad will go to mountain." In other words, "If one cannot get one's own way, one must adjust to the inevitable."

We picked up our mail and visited with John and Carol yesterday. John has a new toy. It's like a four-wheeler but bigger and has a little dump bed on the back that can haul small loads like wood or dirt. It is two-wheel or four-wheel drive and Phil took it for a spin with John riding shotgun. He was surprised by what a good ride it was down those washboard desert roads. They have a lemon and grapefruit tree in their yard and we came home with a bag full. Yummm!

Next stop ... Payson, Arizona!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

12:46 PM Wednesday, February 22, 2006

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY (it was yesterday) to my sister, Dixie! Hope it was a good one little sister. I have to say, we love southern Arizona! The weather is “mild” according to the meteorologists and that translates in our vocabulary as WONDERFUL. It does get chilly very quickly after the sun slips behind the Maricopa Mountains to the west but that’s a given in the desert. We are parked in Table Top RV Park at the intersection of AZ highways 84 and 347 about 17 miles west of Casa Grande. This park has few amenities but the price is right!

I talked to our dear friends, Ardella and Donald yesterday. Even though she is getting chemotherapy, she is feeling so good that they are going to bring their motorhome down here (one of their sons will drive it down as Don isn’t supposed to drive it for at least six months after his bypass surgery) and park beside us for as long as she continues to feel good. That is the very best news we could have received! Her oncologist is in Phoenix and she can get there from here as quickly as she can from Payson. She loves the desert and does so much better at this lower altitude (Payson is a mile high) it’s a good thing for her to be here. Their daughter, Debbie (a near-professional caregiver) is relocating to AZ from WA to take care of her parents for as long as need be. She will also come with them to the desert. Debbie was born the same year my oldest, Shawn was born and they grew up together until Ardella and Don moved to AZ in the 1960s. I am looking forward to spending some time with her as well.

We drove to Casa Grande yesterday for lunch and a Wal*Mart visit. Shelton friends who winter in Maricopa, John and Carol, met us at Barney’s Restaurant, one of our favorite places to eat in the area. After an hour or so of catching up on all the news, we parted company and made plans to visit them at their house tomorrow afternoon. Their place is a fabulous example of a desert home that they have decorated in the charming southwestern style inside and out. Their son, David is one of my favorite Shelton “kids” and he snuggled into a special place in my heart years ago while he was married to my daughter, Bobbie’s best friend Terry. It was great to hear he is doing well after a few rocky years during his youth.

Phil put his back out in Benson while washing the Lone Ranger (no rhyme or reason for it) and has been slowly on the mend. He managed to prepare for and drive Penny the Pace the 142 miles from Benson to this wide spot in the road named Stanfield without any problems (the Captain’s chair is very comfortable) and we arrived safe and sound. He is taking a long walk twice a day and resting as much as he can so each day he feels a little better.

Downtown Tucson Arizona. Posted by Picasa
Sure beats bare concrete ... lovely to look at! Posted by Picasa
Tucson does a beautiful job decorating their freeway supports, walls and overpasses. Do you think they are protecting the support or the driver who aims for it? Posted by Picasa
A common sight as you drive in the desert. I-10 parallels the railroad tracks and we passed stretched out train after train after train. This nation truly moves by rail! Posted by Picasa
Picacho Peak in southern Arizona. Posted by Picasa
You've heard of the movie, "The Long, Long Trailer" ... this is the LONG LONG train! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 18, 2006

11:15 AM Saturday February 18, 2006

Before I tell you about one of our recent adventures I want to say HAPPY WEDDING DAY to my wonderful niece, Tammy and her fiance Steve. They are being married in Reno, Nevada today and many of our clan have made the trip to share her special day. From Reno, she and Steve are taking Tammy's two children, Andy and Jessica to Disney World in Florida for a family honeymoon. I hear a second honeymoon, one for just the newlyweds is in the plans for sometime later. I'm so sorry to have missed the celebration but I know Tammy will forgive me for not being there. Much love and hearty congratulations to both of you!

And now for our newest special adventure. White Sands National Monument, nearly 300 square miles of sparkling white gypsum lies just 15 miles SW of Alamogordo, NM. It is also known as one of the world’s natural wonders and we couldn’t help but agree after driving the eight miles into the dunes one afternoon. The weather was perfect and due to the time of year I suppose, we had the place nearly to ourselves. Completely surrounded by White Sands Missile Range, an important testing site for experimental weaponry and space technology the whole park and even U.S.70 are closed on an average of twice a week for one or two hours while tests are being conducted. Luckily, all was quiet while we were there.

Gypsum becomes rock-hard when it is mixed with water but the commercially mined gypsum is mostly found underground. Did you know that “Plaster of Paris”, a crafter’s essential is pure gypsum? And of course, we all know about plasterboard or sheetrock, central in the building industry. So, once the blacktop runs out the road becomes hard packed pure white sand and an interesting phenomenon occurred to us. We began to feel like we were driving through snow-covered terrain; similar to what we’ve encountered in the northwest. Phil had to resist the urge to “dig a donut” out in the large empty center space of the picnic area. Back in our younger days, this was an enjoyable (and harmless) delight we’ve both experienced in deserted parking lots during heavy snowfall in Washington and Alaska. Does that mean we’re still kids are heart or has the state of senility begun? Time will tell ;-)
Our first stop. We watched a 12 minute video (excellent info) and browsed the gift shop. The lady behind the counter was also a fulltime RVer and volunteer. She and her husband have been volunteering for several years in National Parks and Monuments and they love the lifestyle. Phil and I decided as much as we like the sound of "free campsite", we weren't ready to stay in one place for four months just yet. Too many places left to see and experience ... and who knows how much time we have! Posted by Picasa
Our first look at White Sands National Monument. Wow! This place is very special. Posted by Picasa
Small animal tracks and one hardy little bush in this wall of sand. Posted by Picasa
We stopped and Phil gave me a demonstration of the "sands of time" pouring through his fingers. Less grainy that seashore sand, it has a powdery feel to it.  Posted by Picasa
Picnic Area ... I'll bet it gets HOT here in the summer! Posted by Picasa
Phil posing for the camera. Posted by Picasa
The red hat lady at White Sands. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

10:05 PM Wednesday February 15, 2005

Our time in Las Cruces NM has come to an end and we will head for Benson Arizona tomorrow morning. Although it’s only about 230 miles, we will leave earlier than our usual 10-11 AM (probably about 8 AM) because the gusty winds (up to 50 mph) that are in the forecast will mostly likely not begin until the afternoon, according to a local Phil talked to. With any luck at all, we’ll be long gone before they start. We really enjoyed our time here and I'll tell you more about that later.

Phil had noticed that one of Penny the Pace’s shock-assist airbags in front was losing air. We went to the Wal*Mart Supercenter down the road and bought a small air compressor and Phil put in more air. Within an hour or so, it was nearly empty again and although he worked underneath for several hours trying to locate the leak, he couldn’t find anything. Penny was listing to the driver’s side and not really safe to drive that way so Phil went off to make arrangements to have a new one installed.

Bogart’s RV Service Center was just a mile or so down the road and agreed to get us in right after lunch. We quickly got her ready to roll and delivered our home on wheels to Bogart’s at about 2 PM. While we went off to have some lunch, they replaced the airbag and gave her a full service Lube/Oil/Filter. While she was with them, they checked all the fluids, hoses, belts and tire pressure as well and proclaimed her ready to roll at 5 PM. We were back to our RV park and completely set back up by 6 PM. Everyone including the receptionist, the service manager and the mechanics we met were extremely helpful and efficient and we were extremely pleased at how fast they got us in and how quickly they got the work done. The total cost was $329 (after the 10% Good Sam Discount on parts). We highly recommend this shop if you are in the area and need work done.
Bogart's Service Center 2210 South Valley Drive Las Cruces NM 505-524-0881  Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 12, 2006

12:51 PM Sunday February 12, 2006

Our stop last year in Van Horn, Texas was an overnighter. We were headed east for San Antonio and didn’t want any grass growing under our feet. This stop we decided to stay long enough to do some exploring—and we have done that. On our second day we decided to drive our little Lone Ranger north on Texas State Highway 54, heading toward a shadowy vista of mountains off in the distance. We were out in the middle of nowhere but along the way we passed miles of windmills up on the ridge to the east (see website noted below). The map showed the road passing through the sparsely populated plains of the Chihuahuan Desert with the Sierra Diablo Mountains off to the west and the Delaware Mountains toward the east. This desert surrounds the ancient Guadalupe Mountains, part of one of the finest examples of an ancient marine fossil reef on Earth formed 260-270 million years ago. While being held up by road construction we decided to continue as far as the Guadalupe Mountains National Park created in 1972.

These mountains include the ominous “El Capitan” as well as Guadalupe Peak, which at 8,749 feet is the highest elevation in Texas. While not as tall as Guadalupe Peak, El Capitan’s sheer rock formation reaching for the sky is by far the most awe-inspiring to admire from the highway. At the visitor’s center, we wandered through the small but very well done displays of flora and fauna then watched a 12-minute video. The woman volunteer was very friendly and knowledgeable about the area and sent us off to explore the campground (no hookups, first come, first serve at $4 per night with a Golden Age Passport) and the Frijole Ranch History Museum. It was closed but we wandered around this early homestead located on one of the six bubbling fresh water springs in the area. The National Park Service maintains the ranch and barn where they keep park service horses. As we were leaving, our curiosity took us across the road to examine the Park Service Ranger’s settlement and the housing provided for volunteers. A spectacular view (the sunrises and sunsets must be dramatic) surrounds the single family and duplex cottages and we could appreciate where it would be an incredible place to spend a few months. The volunteers, many being full or part time Rvers, are a win-win situation for the National Park Service.
Driving north on Texas State Highway 54 from Van Horn, Texas. Posted by Picasa
"El Capitan" Posted by Picasa
Frijole Ranch Museum in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Posted by Picasa
http://www.lcra.org/energy/windpower.html Posted by Picasa