Bill and Kit’s 2012 Excellent Adventure-Journal #9

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 

The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.

Samuel Johnson

 

Saturday, February 25, 2012 through Thursday March 22, 2012-Las Vegas, Nevada-PART #2:  After 14 days on a Nellis AFB partial hook-up site where we had electric and water but no sewer connection, we were able to move to a full hook up site.

During our 14 day stay at the previous site, we only had to dump our tanks once, on day 10…..which is about average for us.  However we did make frequent use of the very clean and convenient bathhouse.

As luck would have it, the word that a site was available was one of the weekends we had the kiddles…..so we made a big adventure out of it.  With their help the move only took twice as long, but was a heck of a lot more fun.

The Air Force base has a lot to keep a 5, 7 and 65 year old kid entertained and since we were chaperoned by Kit no one became lost, overly cranky or got into any trouble…..for the most part.

One of the must see’s, according to all three kiddles, was the USAF Thunderbird Museum and Maintenance Hanger.

The team was at their home base of Nellis preparing for the upcoming show season.  We were able to have a guided tour of the museum, witness some of their ceremonial activities and watch a few of the planes get serviced.  Both the younger kids were able to spend some time in the cockpit trainer…..first older brother Jack had a turn and listened intently as the Technical Sargent explained all the controls, switches and gauges.

Then Tucker hopped in and immediately started pushing, pulling or turning anything that would push, pull or turn.

All the while making jet noises and wearing an ear to ear smile.  Tucker would have spent days in that cockpit if we had let him…..he was none too happy about being unceremoniously ejected.

All three kids scored some nifty souvenirs…..photos, patches, booklets and authentic Thunderbird dog tags.  Here Jack displays his dog tag alongside the one he acquired during our visit last year.

The Thunderbirds are coming to our hometown in Maine this August and everyone on the team that we talked to was looking forward to the trip.

Being on a military installation there is military protocol that active duty service members must follow and civilian visitors are advised to as well…..one of these is evening colors when the American Flag is lowered.  Generally what happens is there is a bugle call signifying “call to colors”, followed by the playing of the national anthem.  All activity on base stops and either a hand salute is rendered or ones hand is placed over the heart, as appropriate.  Since the weather was great and we were usually outside when evening colors were held, we taught Jack and Tucker the proper flag etiquette.  We only had to show them once, and when they heard the bugle they immediately stopped playing and stood facing the music while placing their hand over their heart.

Now the kids normally slept in most mornings…..a good sign that we had successfully kept them busy and basically wore them out.  However, one morning at 0630, a bugle sounded reveille, a different call altogether.  Tucker leapt up, yelled “Poppy the music”, and stood at attention on the bed and in his pajamas with his hand over his heart.  I followed suit while Guma and Jack snoozed on.  I didn’t have the heart to explain that he only had to do that when outside and then only when colors are being held.

The base has a number of playgrounds that we frequented.  The kiddles favorite was in Freedom Park and included what they called The Rollie Slide.

I was able to capture their antics on this particular contraption on video.  Please check it out at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlCjvd_jRS8&feature=g-upl&context=G249af68AUAAAAAAAAAA

With active and adventurous youngsters, occasionally someone gets hurt.  Tucker contracted a boo-boo while at the playground and needed medical attention by Guma when we got back to the camper.

Trouble was that he couldn’t remember which finger got hurt so she covered all the bases.  We think the bandage on the right middle finger was so he could spend the rest of the day going around saying:  “Wanna see my boo-boo”.  And the two bandages on the left hand made his “finger gun” more authentic.

Last week while poking around the vast complex of Las Vegas International Raceway, I came across a large building that got my attention.

That’s the world headquarters of Shelby American, Inc.  Any car nut can tell you about Carroll Shelby and his AC Cobra sports car which he built in 1962.  There is a small museum inside that showcases these iconic automobiles…..below is the first AC Cobra ever built and raced.

Carroll, being a Ford man wanted a car that could compete with the Chevrolet Corvette in sports car racing.  So he built one by taking an English AC Bristol, removing the anemic engine, while re-engineering the suspension, brakes and drive train.  Then he shoehorned in a Ford 260 cubic inch (CI) V8 engine that was modified to produce 335 horsepower (HP).  All in a 2000 pound car!  In order to qualify for production sports car racing, 100 cars had to be produced for sale.  Between 1962 and 1965 a total of 655 Shelby Cobras were manufactured and sold for an MSRP of $5,995.00.  Today those original cars are going, at auction, for a million dollars plus!

Then in late 1965, Carroll Shelby started installing Ford 427 CI engines producing 485 HP in these little cars.  He had the bodies custom fabricated out of aluminum and used a racing chassis and associated components.  A number of these hot little cars were fitted with a windshield and horn…..then sold as street legal machines.  One was bought by the comedian Bill Cosby, who quipped “this thing goes 200 miles an hour…..in reverse”!

This 427 upgrade increased the cars weight by 300 pounds and the MSRP by an additional $2000.00.  Since only 348 cars were ever built, and the horsepower to weight ratio was among the best in the world, these cars are now selling for many millions of dollars, if they ever come to market.

Looking at expanding his car manufacturing business and Ford Motor Company looking to provide excitement to the recently released Mustang, Carroll Shelby created the GT-350 out of stock factory supplied 1965 Mustangs.

The name “350” came about by Carroll being exasperated by the Ford suits squabbling over a fitting name for the new high performance specialty vehicle.  He finally asked how far it was to the corporate headquarters from the conference room they had spent most of the day in.  When one of the Ford exec’s said about 350 yards…..Carroll said, “That’s the name…..I’m going out for a beer”.

Shelby American is still a viable manufacturing business and produces a rolling chassis Cobra identified with a CSX (Carroll Shelby Experimental) Serial Number rather than a VIN (Vehicle identification Number) in order to dodge modern government safety requirements.  When completed by the buyer, these machines retail for up to a quarter million dollars.

And sticking with his Ford relationship, Shelby also makes a modern GT-350 as well as an unbelievable car called the Super Snake which features an 800 HP engine and turn-key ready for sale at around $80,000!

We were allowed to access their attached manufacturing facility as well…..however the tour guide did not allow any photography.  Both the Cobra factory and the Mustang assembly shops were immaculate and I spent quite a while watching the mechanics manufacture and assemble these incredible machines.

While looking around the Mustang portion of the Shelby American shop, we noticed that there were a few cars being worked on that looked different than the others.  The tour guide mentioned they were a new product that was going to be unveiled in April and couldn’t tell us any more about them…..perhaps that is why the no photography rule was imposed.

Every visitor to the Shelby American shop is invited to sign their name on the factory wall…..so I added my name to the thousands that have gone before me.

If you are a car nut, the Shelby American tour is free and a Las Vegas must see.

Las Vegas tries to make the ubiquitous Cellular Tower blend in to the surrounding countryside as much as possible.

This particular cell tower is in South Vegas…..gee, I hardly noticed the fake pine tree amongst all the rest of the desert vegetation.

There are a number of ways to go from our campsite on the north side of town down to where the kid’s home is.  Either the turnpike, or the back roads through the neighborhoods east of downtown, or straight down Las Vegas Boulevard…..better known as The Strip.  Since there is far more entertainment value by going down the strip, that turned into our preferred commuting route.

It was especially entertaining at night, when thousands of folks walked from casino to bar to casino, etc.

Kit really wanted to see the Donny and Marie show so one day we headed back down to the strip.  However while waiting in line at the ticket office a sign went up that changed our plans.

She was a bit disappointed but I was able to persuade Flat Donny to pose for a fan photo with her.

He wasn’t talkative and his personality was a bit cardboard like, however Kit didn’t seem to mind…..she said Flat Donny was far more animated than me.

Well…..since we were already downtown and I had learned of a rather unique used car lot nearby I guess one could say that the day was not a total loss.  While Kit did some shopping I went off in search of the Imperial Palace, an older casino on the strip.

Locating the place, I made my way to the fifth floor where approximately 200 antique and classic cars waited buyers flush with their gambling winnings.  Make no mistake about it…..this is an actual used car business complete with salesmen and on site financing and vehicle registration.  Below is just a small sampling of the cars offered for sale.

A 1937 Bentley Sedanca Coupe could be yours for only $475,000.00.

A 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible, a steal for $145,000.00.

A 1957 Ford Thunderbird, sale priced at $175,000.00

A 1962 Chevrolet Corvette, actually a pretty good deal at $85,000.00

This one might get our old friend Randy excited…..a 1957 Volkswagen Beetle Ragtop for a mere $35,000.00!

And the bargain of the lot…..a 1960 Rolls Royce, only $1,500,000.00.

Since I had a little stashed away from my gambling winnings, I was particularly interested in this cream puff.

That’s a 1975 Jakarta Rickshaw folks and at only $500.00!  Drat…..Kit said no.

Leaving Las Vegas (hey…..that might make a nifty movie title), I encountered a particularly low portion of the Imperial Palace parking garage…..good thing I removed the kayak a few days earlier.

You don’t think a journal would pass without a photo of food.

This incredible breakfast was enjoyed at a place called Baby Cakes…..that’s a Mexican omelet with chorizo and a short stack of Red Velvet pancakes…..it was as delicious as it looks!

On another day, we took the kids to Town Square, a nifty shopping area made up to look like Anytown USA.  After a fun time at California Pizza Kitchen we needed to run off some calories at the playground.  The kiddles had a blast hiding from Guma in the Hedge Maze.

And enjoying the many opportunities to play make believe.

While walking about Town Square, I spotted this unusual sign.

Pretty exclusive place when they can fill their fish pond with Perrier?!?!

Well, all good things have to come to an end and we reluctantly had to return the kiddles home.  However, we were able to spend a few more hours with them watching their marksmanship at play by shooting arrows at the upstairs windows while bouncing on their living room installed trampoline.

Boy, to be a kid in this day and age…..all I had to play with was myself, um…..so to speak.

Every winter while home in Maine, I spend time in the workshop making wooden toys and furniture for the grandkids to receive at Christmas.  Our three in Maine receive these gifts on time, but the two in Nevada have to wait until we make our way here.  Well the other day was the unveiling.

A couple of SUV’s just like their dads, wooden you know (pun intended)…..one made in Mahogany and the other made in Maple.

Also, while at the kid’s house we were able to enjoy a demonstration of the Lego Rubik Cube solving robot.

This fantastic machine can analyze the cube, devise multiple ways to resolve it and then proceed to manipulate the cube so all the colors were together.  A much more elegant way then I used to use…..peeling the colored squares off the cube and reapplying them with the appropriate colors on each of the six sides.

Later, all the kids in the house decided to get silly and don ridiculous hats…..sooooo, who looked the silliest?

Just to go on record…..we also have three great older grandkids back in Maine who we get to see quite often.

First there is Joe, Age 19 and a sophomore at the University of Maine.  He is an avid outdoorsman and is readying himself for a trip this summer to Washington State and an assault on Mount Rainer.  Being of voting age he has become quite politically active.

Katie is 16 years old, a high school sophomore, and an excellent student and athlete playing on her schools soccer and lacrosse teams.  During the summer, she loves to hang with us at camp and enjoys fishing, kayaking, and water skiing.  During the winter she is an avid snowmobiler and snowboarder.  Oh…..and she is driving the boy’s crazy, which in turn, drives her dad crazy.  She also got her driver’s license recently so is on the road most days.

CJ, age 12, is in Middle School and is also an excellent student athlete.  He excels in soccer, lacrosse and basketball, winning the free throw competition for his town.  He too enjoys winter sports as well as visiting with Guma and Poppy at the family lakeside camp.

We are immensely proud of all our grandchildren and enjoy spending time with them.  In fact, had we known they were going to be so much fun…..we would have had them first!

Kit’s Corner:  I’m not sure who had more fun during our time in Las Vegas, us or the grand kids.  We love to have them hang out with us in the camper and they love hanging with us.  Both Jack and Tucker are growing up so fast, as are our other three Maine grand kids.  We feel incredibly fortunate to have special times with each of the grands and hope they have fond memories of their old geezer grandparents that they can share with their family and friends.

Bill and Kit’s 2012 Excellent Adventure-Journal #8

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Bill and Kit’s 2012 Excellent Adventure-Journal #8

People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home

Dagobert D. Runes

Saturday, February 25, 2012 through Thursday March 22, 2012-Las Vegas, Nevada:

Spent an enjoyable four weeks in Las Vegas, taking some time off the road and visiting our youngest daughter and her family.  Suzie, Kevin, Jack (age 7) and Tucker (age 5) live, work and play in this town, one of the most interesting and misunderstood cities in the world.

Las Vegas comes by its handle “Sin City” naturally and most citizens accept, or even embrace, their town’s notoriety.  It’s obvious that a need exists for a place where folks can visit, be entertained and let off a little steam. Otherwise, some forty million people that visit annually would not bother.

In my opinion, Las Vegas is the most non-hypocritical municipality in the United States.  The city administrators support what takes place here and frequently lobby for more of the same.  In many other cities similar activity goes on, however it is usually underground…..not being legal, regulated or taxed.

The entertainment district is a very small part of this diverse city.  There are numerous other business, museums, factories and world class parks spread about.  There are many diverse outdoor opportunities around Las Vegas and even skiing up in the mountains.  In addition, Las Vegas is a prime staging area for visits to some of the United States best National Park’s located in Arizona and Utah.

Kit and I are generally pretty nomadic on these trips, staying only a few days at any one place…..however we usually stay a few weeks in Las Vegas.  Our two youngest grandchildren live here and we only get to see them about twice a year, and we all know how fast grandchildren grow.  The last point was startlingly evident to us when we first laid eyes on Tucker.

Both boys are both bright, inquisitive, and a blast to be around.  Tucker is a bit more mischievous and Jack is at the age where everything is wondrous and requires detailed exploration and endless questions.

Jack and Tucker have two partners in crime…..Toby and Rosie.

These four contribute equally to the fascinating chaos that transpires daily in the family home.

One of the first orders of business was for Jack and Tucker to help set up the trailer for a few days of dooryard surfing.

After which they proceeded to explore every nook and cranny of the camper.

They were amazed that our dinette transformed into a bed and pleaded with their folks for permission to sleep in the camper with Guma and Poppy.  Suzie and Kevin readily agreed so,  after telling a few camp ghost stories, we all fell into a restful slumber.

Saturday morning dawned sunny and warm with cobalt blue skies.

So into the house we quietly trooped and while mom and dad got some well-deserved sleeping in time…..Tucker volunteered to make breakfast.

Fueled up, it was outside to enjoy a beautiful southern Nevada day.  Jack and I went mountain biking in a field near their home.

While Guma watched Tucker ride his scooter round and round and round to the point of her exhaustion.

The kiddles also enjoyed just lounging around their dooryard campsite.

Until they heard the universal jingle of the Ice Cream Man and both took off like a shot with me in cold pursuit.  Can you tell which flavor of Popsicle’s they chose?

We enjoyed a great couple of days playing, visiting, playing, eating, playing and even got some playing in……however it was time to move to our traditional Las Vegas campsite at Nellis Air Force Base just to the north.

Staying in the kid’s driveway is always nice but it does disrupt their schedule a bit, and with us staying in the area for a few weeks it works better for everyone if we set up at an actual campground.

The campground at Nellis, called Desert Eagle, features numerous sites and plenty of overflow capacity for dry camping.  We were only able to score a partial hook-up site because the NASCAR boys are coming to town and the main park was full.

Yep…..we just happened to be in Las Vegas when the tour came to town.  Kit thinks it was planned, but honest it was just a co-ink-e-dink.  Considering that one of my bucket list items is to see a NASCAR race and Kit was in need of some quiet reading and knitting time it turned into a win-win for the both of us.

Early on Saturday, I headed out to the track…..a mere 4 miles down Las Vegas Boulevard from the Air Force Base.  During NASCAR weekend hundreds of thousands of folks show up and most visit the area to get in some gambling and partying before coming to the racetrack.  After parking my truck, one of these guys pulled in behind me and misjudged the distance a bit.

He and his buddies were pretty hung-over and therefore nonchalant about the mishap.  Since my truck suffered no damage we ended up laughing about the incident.  I usually keep the trailer hitch on the truck and attached the orange strips to help prevent mishaps such as this…..oh well.

Now for those that live and breathe all things NASCAR, my apologies……even though I’m a car nut and have notched previous bucket list items such as attending national level Indy and NHRA races, I have little knowledge of NASCAR.  So, if you are a NASCAR fan, feel free to just skip over this whole next section.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) is fairly new and a very well designed complex.  Getting the 150,000 spectators to the track, around the facility and out at the end of the day is a study in extreme crowd control.  They LVMS folks do this effortlessly and have the enjoyment of the fan in mind at each step of the way.

Some folks follow the NASCAR tour from race to race in huge, expensive motorhomes and trailers.

Just parking one of these things can set you back from two hundred to over a thousand dollars depending on how close to the track you want to be.

There are actually four racing surfaces not counting the roads into and out of the place.  Something about going to a race…..some folks like to pretend they are Bobbie Allison as they leave the track.

NASCAR stands for National Association of Stock Car Racing.  However there is nothing stock about these pure bred racing machines.

They don’t even look stock from underneath.

I don’t think these cars could be driven anywhere near Boston as they don’t have horns.  However each driver does have two middle fingers so they might qualify as Massachusetts transportation after all.

This particular track is a tri-oval, 1.5 miles around and features 20 degree banked corners.  This helps keep the drivers from flying off the while turning left at over 200 MPH.

The grand marshal for today’s race was Oscar Goodman, the former mayor of Las Vegas.  He showed up on the podium for the drivers introductions with a martini in hand and flanked by two show girls…..another example of this town promoting its unique status.

A neat feature of this track is called The Neon Garage.  This area has live entertainment and unprecedented access to the drivers and their garage areas.  It was a blast to watch the drivers come in, get their cars worked on and listen to the race chatter.  A virtual NASCAR Disneyland!

One thing that I noticed is that NASCAR fans are intensely loyal to their individual driver and engage in good natured bantering with other fans that support a different team.  In addition they are very friendly and helpful to a newbie like me.

Not knowing who was who, I just watched where the folks wearing the NASCAR clothing, which by the way were covered with team sponsors logos, and went wherever they went.  I did end up asking a ton of questions of those around me and learned a great deal about the various drivers, cars and race teams.

This fellow seemed to always draw a crowd.

He is the son of the late, great NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt and an accomplished racer in his own right.

This guy received a lot of attention as well.

That’s Jeff Gordon, a multi time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and one of the poster boys for modern NASCAR racing.

Not sure who drives this car, but the word in the pits is that he is really cleaning up in NASCAR.

An up and comer on the NASCAR circuit is a young woman by the name of Danica Patrick.

Formerly of Indy Car Racing, Danica has made the transition to NASCAR and races in the Nationwide Series.

At Las Vegas, she did well and at one point was in the number 4 position before falling back to finish 12th.  Speculation is that her first NASCAR win is imminent as she has succeeded in every other form of motor racing she has participated in.

There are multiple levels of racing in NASCAR.  The big boys race in the Sprint Cup and the next tier race in the Nationwide Series.  In addition there are numerous regional levels of lesser known drivers.  The race I enjoyed was in the Nationwide series, although a number of Sprint Cup drivers raced as well……clear?  Actually there is a ton of NASCAR lingo that one has to learn in order to truly understand the sport.  Until this past weekend I thought a Sprint Cup was a device that elite runners wore to give them an aerodynamic advantage and a wedge was that undergarment thing.

The Las Vegas race in the Nationwide Series is called the Sam’s Town 300…..a 200 lap event that lasted for about three hours.  The sounds, sights and smells of a national event like this can only be imagined by those watching the race on TV.  The actual sensory load and visual excitement is incredible.

Occasionally politicians get involved in NASCAR as well.

Which makes sense as they are already accustomed to going in circles, making a lot of noise and being supported by corporate sponsors.  Poor Rick did not fare too well because on the first lap of the race, when the field turned left he went right and ended up in the crazyland.

A great day of racing at a great track…..might have to see the big boys run here someday in the Sprint Cup series.

We were able to have the kiddles out at our Nellis campsite on two consecutive long weekends.  Not only does this give us some quality time with Jack and Tucker, but it allows their parents to have a break and go off on a mini vacation of their own.

Don’t the parents look sad?

And don’t the kiddles look happy?

After a run through Savers, a west coast store featuring quality previously used items, we made the obligatory stop at In and Out Burger.  Arriving at the campsite by early afternoon we enjoyed the fresh air and each other’s company for the remainder of the day.

During the three days it seemed that we were constantly on the go.  There were playgrounds to explore.

And Poppy’s kayak to play in.

And lots of running around and games to play.  At the end of each day everyone dropped off early and had a restful night.

On one of the camp day’s we took the kids to The Lied Discovery Children’s Museum.  This kid friendly museum features over 100 interactive displays.  Jack and Tucker waited patiently for the doors to open…..this was going to be a fun day!

There are exhibits on different occupations where you can try out the equipment.

There are places to climb up, on and in.

There are experiments on surface tension of soapy water

There are displays of hydro dynamics and controlling water flow and velocity.

And a Hurricane Simulator, capable of demonstrating the effect of hurricane winds.  The Kiddles went through many cycles of this demo, one of which I was able to capture on video…..check it out at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-7rZeurr1g&feature=g-upl&context=G249af68AUAAAAAAAAAA

We spent six fun filled hours at the museum and will need to return in order to further explore this unique and fascinating place.

It was opening weekend for the new movie based on the Dr. Seuss book “The Lorax”.  On another camp day, we treated ourselves and the kiddles to the film complete with buckets of salty popcorn and gallons of watered down soda.

The movie was true to the book, contains a valuable lesson, and is adult friendly…..we highly recommend everyone make time to see it.

Dropping the kids back off at their home after three delightful days, Kevin surprised us with comp tickets to see Cirque du Soleil “O”, one of the longest running Cirque shows in the US.  So off we went to the LV strip.

One of my favorite pastimes is people watching, and this town is the greatest people watching venue in the world.  Folks from all over come to Vegas and turn into their alter ego’s.  It is not uncommon to see Asians dressed as cowboys and housewives from Peoria dressed as hookers.  It is also a major hangout for the area’s homeless…..every block has panhandlers looking for financial help with shelter and food.  However unique to this trip was the number of homeless that had acquired pets and only wanted money to feed their pet.  Last year they all claimed to be combat veterans…..I guess whatever works to scam money for booze.

After walking the strip and enjoying a meal at the Bellagio we stepped outside just in time to witness this spectacle.

It was the traditional “Hauler Parade” where the NASCAR car haulers drive down the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard with horns honking and people waving from the sidelines.  In order to not be outdone The Bellagio lit off it’s its water show with accompanying music.

The whole thing was a sensory extravaganza much like a three ring circus; I didn’t know where to watch as it all was unfolding.

The Cirque show was outstanding as expected.

If you haven’t seen a Cirque performance this is one that showcases the unique Cirque style on an unusual stage.  The show has been in residence at the Bellagio since 1998 and still packs the house.  Kevin was able to get us prime seats since he works on another Cirque show, Viva Elvis, which we enjoyed last year.

There is much more to report from Las Vegas, however I’ll have to continue in Part #2 as this is getting near the maximum download…..stay tuned.

Kit’s Corner:  As one would expect, this part of our trip is always my favorite.  Love hangin out with the grandkids, even though they always glom onto Poppy like Super Glue..LOL.

We spent quite a bit of time with them this trip and it’s just amazing not only how fast they are growing but how much they love being with us, considering we only get to see them once or twice a year.  Other than the fact that Vegas has “The Strip” with all its entertainment and craziness, life in this town is much like growing up in San Diego.  The weather is almost always beautiful, the neighborhoods, schools and shopping areas resemble those in SD and getting around the city feels very comfortable to us.

Bill and Kit’s 2012 Excellent Adventure-Journal #7

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine.

Caskie Stinnett

Monday, February 13, 2012:  As we reluctantly leave Tucson, the realization is beginning to set in that this year, unlike the past three Excellent Adventure trips, we will not be visiting our childhood hometown of San Diego.  We love returning home to poke around the old neighborhood and beachside haunts, and we love visiting our friends and relatives even more.  However ongoing family needs cause us to take a different path this year……hope all in SoCal understand.  We miss you!

Heading north on I-10 we pass our old landmark Picacho Peak.  How would you like to climb that sucker, there grandson Joe?

This 3,300 foot spire rising from the surrounding desert is another example of redundant naming.  Picacho means Big Peak in Spanish…..so Picacho Peak technically means Big Peak Peak……kinda like Mount Kathadin in Maine which means Mount Greatest Mountain in the native Abenaki language.  There is a semi-technical via ferrata trail to a small flat spot near the peak for the fit and adventurous.  I’m neither, but I would love to attempt the climb at some point anyway.

Stopped in Casa Grande to fuel and resupply at The Wal*Mart.  We then headed west on I-8 toward the setting sun before exiting on US-85 South toward Gila Bend.  On the exit ramp, I had to make a quick evasive move as a Roadrunner darted in front of the truck.  Not the Plymouth type but the flightless bird type, well actually it used to fly until the TSA started making it take of his little shoes.  The poor fellow almost became a Roadrunover and Wile E Coyote would finally have had his day.

After a pleasant but short drive toward nothingness, we rolled into the Gila Bend AFAF at 1545 and made our way to the campground for the night.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012:  Woke to warm sunny skies and not much else.  Gila Bend AFAF (Air Force Auxiliary Field) is a satellite facility of Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix.  It can best be described as a military ghost town…..even the Air Force left and turned the operation over to civilian contractors.  The campground is located in the old abandoned mobile home park so each site has tons of room and features full hookup’s for only $7.00 a night!

Here is the road into the base.

Here is the road into the campground.

Here is the Gila River.

Here is our campsite.

And here are our neighbors.

There is no office, no registration building, no bath house and no camp host.  Fortunately the few hermits that winter over here are very helpful and made sure we knew what to do.  There is a metal shed with a couple of washers and dryers that are free to use and where the “special key” to turn on the water is stored.  Why a special key…..well apparently the remoteness of this area make it an ideal corridor for illegals heading to jobs in Las Vegas and since the water is unhealthy the government doesn’t want these undocumented workers getting sick on their journey.

Oh yea….. Here is our individual campsite reverse osmosis water treatment unit, no key required.

We stared at the red light, a lot.  Apparently the ground water is a tiny bit contaminated……gee, I wonder why?

So…..why is there little here?  And why did the Air Force move all their personnel out and deactivate the base?  Well…..Gila Bend AFAF happens to be smack dab in the middle of the Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range.  So the only folks left to be in danger are a few hapless defense contractors and a bunch of pensioners living in their RV’s, who by the way, are long past their childbearing years……so I guess are not in any environmental danger.

There is one lone remaining runway where bomb laden jets do incessant touch and go’s before heading out on the range to turn sand into glass.  The runway is also used for training pilots in risky approach maneuvers including an emergency procedure called dead stick……I don’t even like the name of that!

Well, what do we decide to do in this God forsaken place?  Why stay a few days of course!  After all, $7.00 a night for full hook up’s is a bargain…..even if our lives are continuously in imminent danger.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012:  Up late because, well frankly there is little excitement to look forward to.  However I did take advantage of this down time to fix a few things on the truck, trailer and bicycle.  Speaking of bike’s there is a multi-use trail that meanders about in the desert.

Without the rocks defining the trail one could easily wander into the wrong areas.  However, I guess the Air Force pilots like having a moving target scurrying about the bombing range.

As I popped off the trail and onto a dirt road, This sign did give me cause for concern…..the gate was open, but I decided to turn back toward camp not being sure whether those were clouds or puffs of smoke.

Back at the campground, I came across this rather unique barbeque pit.

I guess this one came a little close so the resourceful snowbirds turned it into something more useful.  Imagine the first person lighting the old briquettes in that thing?  The parking lot in the above picture is surrounded by cement slabs where buildings once stood before the Air Force moved out.

Being that this is the desert…..there are great sunsets however.

Of course, this photo was taken midday after a too close bombing run…..just kidding.

Thursday, February 16, 2012:  Please see Wednesday, February 15, 2012.

Friday, February 17, 2012:  Up and on the road under clear skies and a temperature of 68 degrees.

Kit and I had a “heated discussion” (if you know what I mean) on where to go next…..not who to see, but where to base our next stop out of.  I was looking forward to spending a few days at Lake Pleasant Regional Park north of Phoenix and Kit wanted to go to Paradise RV Resort in Sun City.

Decided to stay on US 85 but heading north in order to see some sights that we have never seen before.  We quickly passed through downtown Gila Bend, population 2,800 and 5 old crabs…..according to the town line sign.  Somehow we missed a turn and ended up on Old US-80 but since we were still basically heading northerly we motored on……besides, this road looked like fun!

Soon we noticed a highway sign for Gila Bend Aqua Farm.  This is probably where H2O is planted, cultivated and harvested for use in this parched environment.  I’m guessing they irrigate with sand as there is plenty of the stuff in these parts.  However as we neared the facility we noticed a sign that read: Desert Sweet Shrimp…..never heard of the stuff.

And apparently they don’t grow shrimp in these parts…..so, if you invested in a shrimp fishing operation in the middle of the Sonoran Desert than you are S-O-L!

A little ways down the road we started noticing green fields of cotton.

Sharing the road with us were a variety of farm implements including truck after truck loaded with manure headed for the vast fields.  Now, I’m no farmer…..but wouldn’t it make more sense to just let the cattle roam about the cotton fields and allow nature to take its course…..so to speak.

Near Buckeye, Arizona we moved over to US-85 heading north and passed The Lewis penitentiary and the famed chain-gangs.  Arizona’s hard line that require inmates to work and repay their debt to society is well known…..makes one proud to be an honest citizen.

At 1545 we arrived at Paradise RV Resort in Sun City and set up for a few days stay.  This place is a huge 5 star senior RV resort with over 850 sites, mostly year round vacation homes.  It is nationally known for its wide selection of activities including, lawn bowling, swimming, exercise classes, ceramics, sewing, tennis, horseshoes, quilting, urn turning, shuffleboard, woodworking, and lots of cheap entertainment……some even intentional.

The minimum size of RV allowed is 24 foot…..however the management overlooked the fact that our little camper was only 22 feet and allowed us to stay anyway.  We were given a site along the perimeter where the traveling RV’r is generally placed but still allowed to enjoy all the resort had to offer.

After a nice trailer cooked meal we turned in for the evening…..tomorrow, it’s fun and games in paradise.

Saturday, February 18 and Sunday, February 19, 2012:  Woke to sunny blue skies and temperatures in the 70’s…..yep, both days!  After breakfast we walked about to reacquaint ourselves with the place.  The resort is laid out like a small community and most units are park model type trailers that are individually landscaped.  The primary mode of transportation is walking, bicycle riding or for longer distances the golf carts.

The pool area is very attractive and features a large hot tub, sauna and shower facility.

Kit especially appreciated all the colorful flowers that were in bloom and frequently sat poolside and enjoyed the warm breezes and fragrance.

All the trees, plants and flowers attract a variety of wildlife and even some animals as well.  This little fellow sat in a tree above my poolside lounge and kept mocking me.  Saying things like “so there, sport……I see she got her way!”

In this place you expect Truman Burbank to come walking down the street at any moment.

Also, you may have noticed that occasionally one has to deal with traffic during the rush hour bingo commute.

The first day in paradise we received a phone call from some expat square dancers about a dance that evening.  So we donned our best western wear and headed out to allemande left the night away.

Martha and Tommy live in Sun City and are the main reason we made this city a stop on our travels.  They came to visit us in Maine last year and we had a great time showing them out little corner of the world.  Martha invited us over for dinner and conversation on Sunday afternoon.  Martha’s brother Rodney and his wife Gloria visited us in Maine last summer as well…..unfortunately they were not able to travel from San Diego to Sun City and join us.  However their 95 year young father, never one to miss a party, was able to drive over from his place a few blocks away.

They have a very nice home right on the golf course.  The landscaping is sculpted and well cared for…..this Carob tree looked as if it could have been featured in a Doctor Seuss story.

Monday, February 20, 2012:  Up and on the road by 1000 and heading north.  Since we got our “resort RV fix” I needed a “middle of nowhere camping fix” so off we headed toward Peoria, Arizona and Pleasant Lake.  However as we left Sun City I got a bit turned around in ended up in Surprise…..yea kinda ironic, I know.  Nice town however, looked to be another retirement community with mostly new developments and retail establishments.

Soon we were back on track, on US-60 and heading westerly into a less populated area.

Lucy was having a heck of a morning as she once again led us on a wild goose chase trying to find the access road to Lake Pleasant Regional Park.  After a 22 mile detour we were finally on track and arrived at our next camping destination shortly after noon.

Lake Pleasant is an impoundment that provides drinking water, flood protection, hydroelectric power, irrigation and recreation to the greater Phoenix area.  The 10,000 acre artificial lake is formed by a 4,770 foot long earthen dam and is partially filled by the Aqua Fria River.  However, Lake Pleasant gets most of its water from the Colorado River 170 miles to the west via the Central Arizona Project Aqueduct.

We selected a nice secluded campsite overlooking the lake with a trail leading down to the water’s edge.

And became the proverbial “happy campers”.

Where we entertained one of our neighbors…..or maybe he entertained us.  I didn’t ask but I think he is in the insurance business.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012:  Decided to stay a second night so we could more thoroughly enjoy this beautiful lake.  In addition, I was overjoyed that I could finally use the kayak I’ve been toting around for the past 6 weeks, well other than sliding down sand dunes.  Being an impoundment the lake had many interesting coves and inundated villages to explore.  And being sheltered by the surrounding terrain the lake surface was mostly calm and glassy smooth.

I used to think that few places in this country had clear clean water like back home in Maine.  However on many kayak paddles out west I’ve discovered that the water here is just as clear.

Here is an unusual shot of me and the kayak reflecting a shadow on the lake floor some 10 feet below.

One afternoon we had the resident Camp Host drop by.  Usually when this happens you’ve done something wrong.  However his statement caused us to scratch our heads when we announced:  You guys have to leave…..this campground is only big enough for one Maine couple and we got here first”.  Come to find out, Bill and his wife Doris were from the town of Topsham, Maine which is just on the other side of the river form our town of Brunswick.

And to top it all off…..Doris is a retired RN from Mid Coast Hospital and worked for many years with our daughter, Kim.  Indeed a small world!

We had a very nice and relaxing time on the shore of Pleasant Lake but tomorrow we must continue on our trek north.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012:  Woke up to an incredible sunrise streaming through the window of the camper…..well, at least one of us did.

Moving about a bit slow this morning as I must have torqued my back a bit when climbing in or out of the kayak yesterday.  Oh well, a few ibuprofens and I should be good to go.

After dumping tanks we were on the road by 0930 under partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 59 degrees.  We selected US-17, The Arizona Veterans Highway, and headed north.  Passing through the towns of Ele and Mesa we then moved over to US-69 and continued north through the town of Mayer arriving in Dewey, Arizona shortly after noon.  Since the town of Prescott, our intended destination, was just down the road, and since we thought it would be fun to stay in a town named after my favorite bruzzin…..we pulled into The Orchard RV Resort in Dewey and set up camp for a few nights.

This park, like the Paradise RV Resort in Sun City, is a senior park with primarily park model trailers and modular homes.  We took a tour of the newer portion that was being developed and the facility impressed us with its affordability and amenities……not as fancy as Paradise RV Resort in Sun City but more rustic and a whole lot less expensive.

Thursday, February 23, 2012:  Up to cool 50 degree temperatures under sunny blue skies.  This area is considered high desert and at 5400 feet elevation they occasionally get snow.  The temperatures dipped below freezing overnight but quickly recovered come sunup.

There are a number of Maine expatriates that have resettled in this area, mostly in Prescott and Prescott Valley.  Ironically most of them are friends from our community of square dancers.  Nancy, originally from Portland, Maine just moved out here this past fall.  We had a great time seeing her new digs and catching up on all the news.

Also, Terri and Charlie as well as Mary and her mother Cindy have been here for a few years and we had an opportunity to visit with them as well.

All seemed pleased that we made the effort to stop by on our way north and spend a few hours with them.  We certainly were pleased to visit with them as well.

Friday, February 24, 2012:  Up and on the road at 0950 with sunny skies and a temperature of 41 degrees.  We are very excited as today we finally reach Nevada and the home of our youngest daughter Suzie and her family.

Driving north on US-89 we enjoyed the unique topography of the Prescott area.  Just as we rounded a corner, we spotted a coyote saunter across the road.

Were you trying to find the critter in the photo above?  Well, don’t bother…..I couldn’t get my camera turned on fast enough to capture the fellow.

An hour later we entered the Kaibab National Forest and noticed more evergreens and very little typical desert plant life.

Leaving the mountains we soon reached I-40 and headed west.  After an hour of making great time but being bored out of our skulls, we noticed that US-66 still exists in the area and basically heads in a westerly direction as well…..so off we went to get our Kicks on Route 66.

Just before noon we pulled into the town of Seligman, Arizona, a once thriving town that virtually dried up and was reduced to a mere 400 hardy souls after Interstate 40 was constructed further to the south.

 Main Street, which doubles as US-66 is wide with plenty of parking space.  We found a convenient place to park for a walk about town and grab some lunch.

The aptly titled Road Kill Café seemed like an interesting, and convenient place to eat and it was!  Now, folks up in Maine enjoy eating at Road Kill as well.  However, there, it takes at least three people to enjoy the meal…..two eating as the third looks for any oncoming cars.  Actually there is a Road Kill Restaurant up in Greenville, Maine with an interesting menu.  However, I’ve learned the hard way to never assume that the garnish is actually raisins.

Leaving the café, we discovered the truth about a prominent political figure.  The press has it all wrong…..Mitt did not make his fortune with Bain Capital but as an innkeeper here in Seligman, Arizona.

And, as with most politicians, he requires one to park it in the rear.

After lunch, we walked the two block downtown district and stopped to visit with a couple of the towns more interesting, and animated, inhabitants.

Following an enjoyable time in Seligman we continued north on US-66 and I began to wonder…..what ever happened to Burma-Shave and their entertaining roadside signs?  Oh, wait a minute…..never mind.

Driving along historic Route 66 we both speculated that our parents used this main artery to travel from the northeast to the coast back in the 1950’s.  We wondered how much, if any, the topography had changed.

Arriving in Kingman we once again had to move over to I-40 in order to head toward the Nevada Border.  However, one of these days we intend to retrace the entire US-66 highway from Illinois to California.

Descending from the high desert of northern Arizona into the Colorado River valley we soon crossed over the Pat Tillman & “some Nevada politician” Memorial Bridge entering the state of Nevada and the Pacific Coast Time Zone.  As you may recall, Pat Tillman from Arizona was a true American patriot who gave up a lucrative career playing professional football to serve in the military and ultimately made the supreme sacrifice.  The “politician from Nevada” was, um well…..just another politician on the public dole.

At 1730 we rolled up to our daughter Suzie’s place in Las Vegas and anxiously waited for her to arrive with our two youngest grandchildren, Jack and Tucker.  Within a few minutes they came around the corner to much celebration.

This officially starts our three week stay in the Las Vegas area to enjoy time with Suzie and company.

Kit’s Corner:  Imagine our surprise, when Bill & Doris came to greet us at Pleasant Lake Camp Ground!  Usually, it’s us scouting around a new park to find some friendly faces.  Here, they found us (after reviewing our sign in paperwork) and what a SURPRISE it was!  I was on the phone with my sister at the time and I kept hearing familiar words outside.  Going out to check things out, I discovered one of Kimber’s good friends from MCH.  We spent a couple of hours getting re-acquainted and comparing notes.

Also noteworthy was our arrival at Suzie’s house.  We always text our ETA when we get close so she was right on time bringing the kids home!  Both kids were so excited, she let them climb out of the car to run up and greet us with big hugs and kisses!  How’s that for a Great Welcome!!

Bill and Kit’s 2012 Excellent Adventure-Journal #6

 

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries

Aldous Huxley

Friday, February 3, 2012 to Sunday, February 12, 2012-Tucson, Arizona:  Great time in Tucson…..as always!  To begin with it’s always nice to visit family on these trips and in addition we have kinda adopted Arizona as our winter home.

My mom lives in a nice assisted living facility very near other members of the family.  Mom, at 87 years old is doing as well as can be expected.

I made it a point to see her every single day we were in town…..some days for a few minutes and others for an hour or so.

Other family members who reside in Tucson are my bruzzin Dewey.

And our BFF, Bea:

Who share a fantastic home on a large lot and graciously allowed us to once again “Dooryard Surf” on their property……a place I now call The Doobie (Dew-Bea…..get it?) RV Resort.

This year they even put in a veranda for our enjoyment complete with lounge chairs and cocktail waitress serving sombrero drinks.

Also, brother Dan lives in town and came over often to visit…..together we make up Los Tres Chiflados.

The official Doobie RV Resort activity and social committee consists of Nile,

His twin brother, Max,

And the newest associate, Kali.

Kit and I were pampered by these three and felt quite honored that they allowed us to share their favorite snoozing furniture.  All this cuddling only required a scratch behind the ear…..um, the pups, not Kit…..she usually expects at least a nice meal out.

OK…..now that everyone has been introduced, what did we do for ten days?  Well we ate very well and experienced a lot of interesting things.

First the food…..of course.  Usually Kit and Bea would whip up something great in the kitchen but we also went out to eat quite a lot.  It really pays to know someone that lives in an area as we were able to experience some of Tucson’s best diners.  One such place was Ole Restaurant, an authentic Mexican place serving incredible food.

And then there was El Guero Canelo…..a long time favorite of mine and a must stop on each visit.  This place started out as a street cart and has quickly grown into a small chain of fast food restaurants.  The excellent Sonoran food is plentiful and the prices are reasonable.

The bowl on the right is just a small sampling from their condiment table and the carne asada packed burrito on the plate is considered a medium.  The large one spills over the plate and is known as a burro!

Since we ate so well we had to get outside and do something active…..so off to the park where I introduced Dewey and Bea to the joy of kite flying.

They both quickly learned how to control the kite and really had a blast.  That evening an Amazon order was placed for a similar style kite but a bit larger.  Um, gee…..wonder if I have enough Amazon Reward Points for another kite myself?  After all I only have four which hardly seems like enough.

Dewey’s fine looking 55 Chevy was running strong so we used every opportunity to use the old girl while poking around town.

A real “sleeper” the car looks stock from the outside.  However, there is a 350 CID V8 “crate motor” under the hood along with modern suspension and running gear…..it even features power steering, power disc brakes and modern air conditioning.  The 55 runs as strong as she looks and is a blast to tool around in, getting plenty of attention and many thumbs up.

The proud and happy owner likes to tell folks that this very car, back when it was bone stock, has family legacy.

Dewey’s father originally bought two of these cars and used them for years before passing this one off to his son Dan who later passed it on to Dewey.  It was he that restored the car to the incredible condition you see today.  It’s common to sport a perpetual grin when driving or riding around in this car.  We would actually make up places to go just to enjoy the experience.

While in Tucson this year we were able to enjoy the Annual Gem and Mineral show…..one of the premier shows of its kind in the world.

This two week event attracts thousands and fills every available space in the city with an amazing collection of……well, anything that came out of the ground.  There were, or course gems and minerals.

As well as fossils:

And even complete dinosaur skeletons.

In addition, there was lots of hand crafted jewelry.  Kit found a pretty ring mounting a very nice PBR.

Not sure what kinda stone that is so I’ve been calling it a Pretty Blue Rock…..PBR!  Also that happens to be the name of one of the finest brews in the cheap beer aisle.

There were specimens at the show that topped $100,000.00 in value and folks traveled from all over the world to buy, trade and sell.  Word has it that many museums send representatives to this show in attempt to fill gaps in their collections.  We actually spent part of two different days at the show in order to get a real feel for this major annual event.

Bea’s sister Jo and her partner Wiley were in town for the show as well.  They live in Montana but like most sane retired northerners they spend the winter in the southwest.

Jo is a former nun and retired college professor and Wiley is a geologist.  Wiley shared with us stories of her field work.  She described some of the minerals she has discovered and showed us others she had purchased at the show.  An interesting couple, we had a great time visiting with them before they headed out to spend a few weeks in Moab, Utah.

In order to earn our keep, Kit and I participated in a yard cleanup day…..an annual tradition at The Doobie Resort.

A very nice tree in the back yard needs constant attending.  This unusual Sonoran Desert specimen, known as a braciār abore, or “Fruit of the Loom” in English, possesses an unusual feature that attracts a lot of attention.

After all the back breaking work, a few rounds of Medicinal Tequila were in order…..and a good night’s sleep was had by all.

On another day we trekked south of the border to Nogales, Mexico.  Dewey needed some dental attention and Bea was in the market for some cheap drugs…..um, make that medicines.  This city of over 200,000 folks lies in a narrow valley and up against the US border.  Notice the border control fence at the end of this Nogales street.

The downtown area is so tight that shops and homes are stacked high up both valley walls.

And homes perch precariously to the hillsides.

In the center of town lies an elementary school.  It was lunch time recess and parents had brought their children’s lunch to the schoolyard fence.

Noticing a gringo snapping photos, some of the school kids ran toward the fence and pleaded for us to take their pictures.

This young fellow was a real ham…..striking different poses as I snapped away.

In order to get out of the tourist areas and get a better perspective on the size of the town we walked a side street up a very steep hill.

Back in an old neighborhood the folks we encountered were very friendly even though we were obviously gringos.

The sky was crystal clear and the view was incredible.

Back down in the center of town we discovered Dewey was still in the dental chair so we poked around the local bazaar.

The stores were full of the typical Mexican goods and crafts one sees on the US side of the border but here there is a substantial savings.

Most of the pottery pieces are made by folks in the small villages deep in the interior.  The craftsmanship and colorful designs were amazing.

Dewey was finally done and his bill was approximately 30% of what would be charged in the US for the same procedure.  We learned that the dentist received his education in South America then interned in Texas before setting up his practice in Nogales.

As Dewey, Bea and I walked back to the border we all agreed that, at least in this part of the country, all the bad press about Mexico was a bit overblown.  At no time did any one of us feel threatened or in danger.

Today’s experience was very similar to when, as a child, our family would make frequent trips into Tijuana to shop and dine.  The signs, smells and feel of a typical Mexican border town came flooding back.  When Kit and I started planning these winter RV trips we intended to travel deep into Mexico, but then the drug cartels started shooting and we wisely decided not to.  What a shame…..Mexico is a fascinating country!

As I mentioned, mom is in a very nice assisted living facility in Tucson, very near where Dewey and Bea live.  I made it a point to visit her daily at various times of the day in order to judge for myself how she is doing.  At 87 and battling a number of health issues…..she has a few good days but by and large, most days she isn’t well.  However her spirits are up and the care she is getting is superb.  Mom is relatively pain free and is being kept as comfortable as possible.

The staff at Crossroads frequently bring their children and grandchildren to work which the residents love.  This little cutie was a featured visitor on a few occasions we were there.

Mom is now the senior resident with the longest duration at Crossroads.  They have even featured her photo on their website…..check it out at:  http://www.crossroadsadultcare.com/

Oh…..and remember the mishap with the truck cap.  Well it was bugging me to the point that I had to get it fixed…..and quick.  Now normally I would bang, bend or otherwise “persuade” the thing back into some semblance of normal.  However the concern over the inability to properly lock the door caused me to take the unusual step and get it fixed professionally.  I was quoted a price of $450.00….Yikes!  However, in shopping around I discovered a place that had a few used caps and parts…..so Dan and I took off to South Tucson to find Shells, ETC.  My streak of “road magic” must be continuing as they had an exact match…..only problem was that the glass was broken.  Not really an issue as the one man shop said that he could remove my damaged unit, swap my glass into the used door frame and reinstall the assembly….all for $125.00, and he could do the job while we waited!  Looks as good as new!

Dewey and Bea’s neighbor Manny has, over the years become a friend of ours as well.  He is originally from Magdalena, Mexico and makes frequent trips home to bring clothing he purchases from the Goodwill to a local orphanage.  On his return trips Manny imports the best Mexican food we have ever tasted.  The tamales his sister makes are incredible and other family members specialize in making the best tortillas in the world.

Manny also shares his bounty of fresh oranges and tangelos with us.  Here are a couple of his beautiful oranges packing plenty of vitamin double C.

On the last Sunday we were in town Manny, returning from church, stopped by to bid us farewell.  He happened to be carrying his Vihuela which he frequently plays, along with other mariachi musicians, during mass.

I persuaded him to play a tune which I was able to capture on video.  Check out a bit of his great strumming and singing at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSdLyZq5bf8

Having three active dogs in the house require frequent walkies about the neighborhood.  I usually walked along and carried the ubiquitous “blue bags”…..a chore I trained for most of my working career.

Since we were in Tucson for Super Bowl Sunday, and since the Patriots were playing, we made a party of the occasion.  The fare was an interesting mix of Mexican, New York and New England regional foods along with the associated drinks…..a good time was had by all and the game was thrilling to watch.

Kit wanted a Kit day to shop, oz around and relax so Dewey, Bea and I took the opportunity to do some hiking in the Tucson Mountains, southwest of town.

We hiked the Yetman Trail, a 6 mile jaunt through beautiful desert landscape which leads to the abandoned ruin of the Bowmen Ranch.

This pioneer home, nestled in the valley of towering mountains, was built in 1931 by a homesteader who claimed 2,000 acres many miles from the then small town of Tucson.  The remoteness caused some marital strife and the place was abandoned shortly before WWII.  It is made entirely of local stone and features a built in stone cook stove as well as a fireplace.  The well and outhouse are nearby on opposite sides of the structure…..yea, that makes sense.

The Saguaro Cacti are as plentiful and magnificent as those in The Saguaro National Park a few miles to the east.

When I was a kid growing up in San Diego, our family would make numerous trips to Arizona to visit Dewey (this was back when he was just my cousin and before he became my brother) and his family.  A Tucker family tradition was to make my brother Don and I pose by a Saguaro Cactus and position our arms to replicate the cactus’s arms.  This prickly situation (pun intended) was an embarrassment to us but we posed and smiled and hoped none of our friends would ever see the photos.  Of course I had to continue this silly game with our kids and eventually our grandkids.  So, fair is fair…..it’s my turn to be like a cacti.

Hot, dusty and thirsty after our hike we made our way to the older portion of Tucson and the Barrio Brewery.  Their onsite brewed beers and ale combined with their southwest tavern fare have a strong local following.  Even Willy Nelson’s grandfather frequents the place as seen here quaffing a beer with a young chick.

The Barrio Brewery lies in an industrial area and is hard up against active railroad tracks.  The established policy is that whenever a train pulls in and blocks the parking lot, then the drinks are on the house.  Reportedly this happens every few days and some folks time their visit to the train schedule.

While we were off hiking and recovering at Barrio Brewery, Kit met the daughter of some good friends from back home.  Sandy is living in Tucson with her partner Marie, who is a minister at a local church.  They all enjoyed some great food at the Native New Yorker restaurant in Marana and got caught up on the latest news.

The sunsets from Dewey and Bea’s rooftop deck are spectacular.  Most folks watch the setting sun to the west…..but in my opinion the best view is to the east as the sun highlights the peaks of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Dewey is an accomplished craftsperson and has recently learned how to make Survival Bracelets out of Parachute Cord, or otherwise known as “Paracord 550”.  This lightweight nylon rope was developed during WWII for use as suspension lines on military parachutes.  Once on the ground the components of the chute were used for various purposes and the Paracord 550 (designated 550 because the rope has a tensile strength of 550 pounds) was useful in many different applications.  After the war, when many military surplus items were available to the public, Paracord was discovered by hunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts as an inexpensive and versatile rope.  Later, it was discovered that the paracord could be braided into lanyards, belts and straps to wear.  Then if the cord was needed in an emergency situation it could be easily pulled apart and pressed into service.  The Survival Bracelets that Dewey specializes in contain 10 yards of paracord and are very decorative.  He made a bracelet for each of us and was patient enough to show me how they were constructed.  Dewey also provided me material so I could practice and make a few of these interesting items myself.  Below is a photo of his handiwork.

The morning we left Tucson we all met at a local restaurant, The Old Time Café, and enjoyed a great meal and conversation.

I devoured a Mexican Omelet complete with Chorizo and Chili Peppers…..it was outstanding!

Reluctantly we leave family and friends in Tucson as we head north on further adventures…..stay tuned.

Kit’s Corner:  We had quite a nice time in Tucson this year.  It’s always good to see family and catch up on the latest news.  Best of all, of course, was seeing Nana!  She’s always very pleased to see us and still laughs at Bill’s corny jokes!  She is also still sharp enough to have a quick comeback to his goofy remarks that often, only SHE understands.  We are very grateful to the staff at Crossroads for their wonderful care and especially grateful for Dewey, Bea and Dan’s efforts on Nana’s behalf.  They are our eyes and ears and we appreciate everything they do to care for Miriam.