When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money
Then take half the clothes and twice the money
Tuesday, January 29 to Sunday, February 3, 2013-Doobie RV Resort, Tucson AZ: Woke to rather cool weather for this part of the country…..temperatures in the 50’s. It was cold enough that our hosts, Dewey and Bea were in there Severe Winter Survival clothing.
Living in Tucson are, Dewey my bruzzin, Bea his fiancée, Dan, my half-brother and of course, my wonderful mother, Mom. The folks that live here are one of the draws that pull us and our RV clear across the country despite New England law that states all residents of Maine must age in Florida.
After a real nice homemade Mexican breakfast, Kit and I drove over to the care home where my mom resides to surprise her.
Mom is doing okay for a woman who singlehandedly raised two unruly boys in the wilds of 1950’s San Diego. She celebrated her 88th birthday last August and her sparkling blue eyes and bright smile still shine! On this year’s visit to Tucson, we will make an attempt to see her at least once each day as her condition allows. Battling dementia, mom has some short term memory loss and suffers from severe fatigue. There are some good days where she is lucid and up for the visit, and others where she is not as alert. It appears my mother fills her day with memories of the places she has been and the characters she has met. Mom has lived in Turkey, Mexico and the US and she has successfully outlived three husbands, many close (if you know what I mean) male friends and a lot of her family…..she is a true survivor.
The place where mom lives is a very nice adult care facility situated a few miles from Dewey, Bea and Dan. The large property has a neighborhood feel and consists of three small residential homes each containing a dozen residents or so. It features a nice courtyard and lush gardens from which the residents can sit enjoy the water features, listen to the birds sing and enjoy a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains.
After a nice visit with mom, we returned to the Doobie RV Resort and were immediately greeted by the resident royalty…..Max, Nile and Kalie.
Max, a lovable beagle lives for ear scratches and belly rubs. Nile, a lanky Pharaoh Hound is all legs and full of mischief and energy. He is the Counter Intelligence Specialist of the group, able to locate, seize and devour any edible item left unattended on any counter in the kitchen. Then there is Kalie, the undisputed Alpha dog, quietly waiting for one of the other two to provide some entertainment.
As mentioned, Dew and Bea are engaged!
The above photo was snapped out at camp last summer when they visited Maine and I believe speaks volumes of their love and commitment. Bea is a wonderful woman and we happily welcome her to the family.
The campsite and facilities at the Doobie RV Resort are first rate.
We enjoy electricity and water connections and there is a sewer cleanout available if we need to dump our holding tanks. In addition Dew and Bea have provided us with a key to the house and allow us to freely use their guest bathroom. We usually only impose on them for a week or so, but the accommodations are such what we could easily spend a few months here!
One of the highlights of our annual visits to Arizona is the incredible authentic Mexican Restaurants that populate the area. Dew and Bea spend considerable time before we arrive researching and trying out new establishments, a chore they gladly endure. One establishment they wanted us to experience was Mi Nidito’s Restaurant located in south Tucson.
This incredible place has been popularized by many celebrities; Bill Clinton dined here as he stumped about the southwest during his 1st presidential campaign, then returned a few times while in office. There is a specially marked booth that remains reserved for Bill and his posse whenever they decide to return…..no mention of any special accommodations for Monica Lewinsky however. Willie Nelson, another guest of note, (pun intended) likely joined Mr. Clinton because, um well, you know they had the bud thing in common. However I hear on good authority that Willie did all the inhaling. Or, was that Monica; I was never very good at keeping politics straight. Come to think of it, neither was Barney Frank, but that’s a whole other story.
Being this is the Wild West you never know when the banditos might show up. So Dewey and I practiced our marksmanship in his backyard on some hapless steel silhouettes of a humped backed flute player called Kokopelli.
For the information of my NRA friends out there, that’s a massive .177 Caliber sidearm im’a sportin there mister man!
On a beautiful, sunny and warm day we all decided to drive out to Catalina State Park and hike in to see the Romero Ruins.
Those aren’t the ruins; those are the hikers…..the ruins come later, smart ass!
The typical Arizona terrain was enjoyed by all as we trod the well-worn path through the desert while viewing lots of interesting Saguaro Cactus formations. A pastime that entertains folks that spend a lot of time in the hot sun of the desert, is trying to see if any cactus resemble any human form.
When I attempt this, they all look like skinny legless green men caught in a hold-up! The two experienced cactus watchers above often envision other forms.
This particular Saguaro cactus formation reminded them of their worst schoolyard pick basketball game nightmare!
It’s a funny story how these cactus’s came by their name. Many generations ago as sun addled pioneers came out of the mountains to the east they hallucinated many human forms on the desert floor. At one point a particularly brave and gregarious cowboy walked up to the image and said “So, how are you?” The native Indians misinterpreted the phrase as Saguaro. OK, I made that all up, and I know, it wasn’t worth the time…..sorry!
As mentioned, the particular trail we chose to hike led to a number of Indian and early settler ruins.
It was fun to envision what the structures might have been and how life was in the desert might have been while living in dirt floor and mud caulked stone huts. Today, we think it’s tough when the internet goes out or the air conditioner isn’t working correctly!
Deciding that his rifle wasn’t a good enough self-defense weapon, Dewey has been making and learning how to use the ancient sling.
On the hike he discovered a cache of sling suitable rocks and honed his sling accuracy by chucking them at various objects. I suggested that as an alternative, he should use Brussels Sprouts…..they are the correct size and heft, are biodegradable and really serve no other useful purpose.
After our enjoyable and entertaining ramble about the desert we took a break under a shade tree before locating the car and heading back to a cold beer.
One of my favorite local Mexican food spots is El Guero Canelo, which means the red headed Mexican, which is coincidentally owned by a red headed Mexican!
I ordered a medium Burrito which, as you can see, is quite large…..their Burros are humungous, completely overflowing the plate. All the condiments you see are available buffet style and one could easily make a meal out of the variety of sauces, peppers, vegetables and other items.
My newly discovered passion for Geocaching has caused me to become a bit evangelical. After helping Bea download the iPhone App and explaining the basics of the sport she took to it like a seasoned pro.
Her first Geocache attempt was a short walk from the house…..the coordinates led us down a narrow wash toward a neighborhood stream bed.
There hidden amongst some Mesquite she spotted the cache and logged her first cache find ever!
And another Geocacher was born! Can you tell how excited she was?
On the days that I visit mom and she is alert, we frequently sit with the iPad and look at family photos…..old and new. On one occasion, with the help of relatives back east, I used Facetime to connect mom to her brother back in Upper Darby, PA for a session of video chatting.
The wonders of modern technology…..only the stuff of science fiction not that many years ago!
Speaking of the Philadelphia area, there is a new film in the theaters that we enjoyed here in Tucson. Silver Linings Playbook is an incredible story and very well acted. However the thing that caused us all to go see the film was that some of the movie was filmed on the block where my uncle (mom’s brother) lives! Even though during actual filming everyone had to stay out of sight all reports were that the actors and crew were very friendly and accommodating between takes. One of our relatives did some catering for the crew and a few of the younger members of the family were cast as extras in the film. There were even background shots of my uncle’s house. Exciting times in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania! Dew, Kit, Bea and I all enjoyed the movie and highly recommend it.
Well folks, it’s getting near Valentine’s Day. And being ever the romantic I decided to get Kit something large, white and shiny. No, not a kitchen appliance…..I’m not that dumb. And besides I remember not too fondly the Thigh Master fiasco of many years ago. This offering is the perfect gift for the gal that has everything and one that she will remember for many Valentines to come!
The doctor tells me that the lumps on my head will start to recede soon. Actually this was an upgrade to our camper that Kit honestly wanted to replace the plastic OEM terlet. It was a good move (no pun intended)!
Well tomorrow, Dewey and Bea are heading off to the left coast and a long planned and highly anticipated visit to see his kids and grandkids. So we decided to pull up stakes and hit the road as well.
Monday, February 4 to Sunday, Sunday February 10, 2013-Davis Monthan AFB: Following an arduous 45 minute drive we pulled into Davis Monthan Air Force Base in South Tucson and were able to acquire a spot for a few days……which ultimately turned into a week’s stay!
Our first night we had to stay in the overflow area but the next morning we were able to move into a nice full hookup site.
We spent these bonus days in sunny Tucson wisely…..exploring, shopping, relaxing, more visiting with mom and other worthwhile pursuits.
One of the days Dan and I decided to explore Mount Lemmon and leave poor old Kit to fend for herself at the Tucson Mall……hope she won’t be too lonely.
At 9,174 feet, Mount Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains bordering Tucson’s northeastern edge. The Catalina Highway which leads to the summit is designated a National Sky Island Scenic Byway and is the only paved access to the summit.
The highway takes 27 miles to climb 6,000 feet due to its use of many switchbacks. It takes the traveler from desert terrain and vegetation to an alpine environment where evergreen and hardwoods flourish. The highway was originally built by Japanese Americans that were housed in a nearby internment camp during WWII and the highway has undergone extensive rebuilding in the past few years.
The great weather and diverse terrain make the Catalina Highway a prime location for bicycle racing teams to practice for major events such as the Tour de France as it resembles some of the pitches encountered in the Tour as it traverses the Pyrenees Mountain range.
One cyclist from Team Lance Walgreen, rode circles around us as we motored along toward the summit.
As we climbed in elevation, we started seeing patches of snow. I decided to pull off so Dan could get a feeling for what we experience back home.
Living most of his life in the Arizona desert, he was not amused.
The summit of Mount Lemmon receives an annual snowfall of 180 inches. So, with that kind of resource, what better thing to build in the Sonoran Desert but a ski area!
Only one problem…..no water to use in snowmaking equipment because, well, this is the Sonoran Desert! So they have to rely on natural snowfall and sustained cold weather to build up a snow base suitable for skiing. The day we visited was following a warm period and their snow base had depleted to the point that the resort was closed.
I had thought it would be really cool to rent some equipment and take a few runs on the southernmost ski area in the United States…..oh well, maybe next year.
The lodge itself was open and we decided to enjoy some coffee and homemade pie while sitting by the warm fire.
Great day touring a fascinating area of Tucson and I really enjoyed spending it with my brother.
After 40 years or so of on and off RV ownership we had pretty specific ideas as to what we wanted to pull around the countryside in retirement. For the most part we were in complete agreement; however size was an issue, as it is in most marriages. Kit wanted a trailer in the 25 foot or larger range and I preferred one in the 18 foot or smaller range. So as a compromise we went with the 22 foot model we currently own. However one feature that Kit really misses is a comfortable chair to relax and knit or read. So, I should have known that something was amiss when she wanted to attend a local RV show.
Off we went to the Pima County fairgrounds on a beautiful sunny morning and walked into this sight.
That is a row of $200,000.00 motorhomes! A few were in the $400,000.00 range!! One of us has to sell an organ or two on the black market to afford these land yachts!!!
However Kit did look completely at home and quite comfortable enjoying the palatial interior of these rolling mansions.
That’s leather, granite, ceramic tile and solid hardwood you see there. Much nicer than anything we have lived in over our 47 years of marriage……ever! The very nice sales folks were happy to explain why we needed one of these coaches in our possession and even treated us to lunch to soften up our reservations.
Over lunch I reiterated all the reasons that “smaller is better”, an explanation that I find myself frequently making by the way. I really thought I had convinced her of that fact as we toured the “low rent” portion of the RV show way in the back and she suggested we consider the following cute little trailer.
I was ready to purchase the mini-rig until I realized that this was to actually be my trailer and it was to be attached to the back of Kit’s new motorhome.
Undaunted in my never ending quest to make Kit happy we returned to our fully paid for and certainly adequate RV and was inspired to provide her with the RV creature comforts that she so desires.
She certainly looks as happy and content as in the motorhome photo doesn’t she?
While driving about, we frequently notice trucks and vans with advertising that that promote their business…..occasionally they have a slogan that pretty much sums up what they do for a living, such as this one spotted in downtown Tucson.
On another day, one that Kit needed some quiet time (read no Bill around time), I decided to head south and visit The Titan Missile Museum which is a National Historic Landmark. It was a bright, clear and warm morning as I drove along the snowcapped Santa Rita Mountains toward the town of Sahuarita.
A relic of the cold war, the Titan II Missile sites were part of a massive US vs. USSR one-upmanship during the 1950’s to ensure each could wipe the other country off the face of the earth. Officially called Mutual Assured Destruction, ironically referred to as M.A.D., the missile was intended to be used on any region that threatened our civilized way of life…..such as, say Trenton, New Jersey.
This was a particularly scary time if you were a youngster growing up under these mutual threats and watched neighbors build bomb shelters in their backyard or you practiced “duck and cover” drills in school by diving under your desk whenever the air-raid siren went off.
Known as Complex 571-7, it is all that remains of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the United States from 1963 through 1987. Possibly needed at the time but fortunately never used.
Looking pretty innocuous from the ground, the 740 ton blast doors cover a 140 foot deep by 55 foot wide tube that housed the 103 foot and 340,000 pound Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).
Yep, a ballistic missile with a ballistic flight profile…..like a bullet fired from a rifle. Fire and forget, then hope it glides to the appropriate target half a world away.
Also underground are two large blast hardened structures that contain equipment rooms, the missile launch control center. On a separate level there are living quarters for the crew of four that stood watch on a 24 hour rotation being on alert for the coded launch order to come from the President.
Fifty eight seconds after the coded message is verified the largest nuclear warhead in US inventory is on its 6,300 mile journey to a pre designated impact zone. Apparently the concept of M.A.D. worked and the US just waited patiently until the USSR self-destructed from within.
This complex is the only one remaining from the cold war…..the other 53 sites had their bullets removed and were destroyed by imploding the silos. The missiles were then repurposed for more benign uses like satellite launching and space exploration.
Included in the visit is a very interesting guided tour of the underground facilities, including the launch control center.
If you are ever in the Tucson area, take the tour……just don’t touch that amber colored button in the upper left of the desk control panel.
The next day, our last in Tucson, we met Dan at Crossroads to say our goodbyes to him and mom.
It’s been a great visit but we need to be moving on. These moments are difficult as one never knows with an aging parent if it will be the last.
Love you, mom!
Kit’s Corner: Each time we leave Nana, it gets harder. We seem to need a few days to kind of get back on track because our thoughts are consumed by her advancing age and what’s to come. She has always been so kind to me, I could not have asked for a better mother-in-law. She probably thought I was a bit too weird for her son back in the early 60’s but once we married, she accepted me into the family unconditionally. Not only that, up until she became ill, she somehow managed to come and see our family every single year! A huge commitment considering we’ve lived 3,000 miles away from her for most of our married life. Hang in there, Nana! We love you J!