Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares
What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014: This is the day we had planned to head east and slowly meander home, however we decided to head north to Sun City in order to see some dear old friends instead. And, just as important, I had promised Kit a few days relaxation in Barbie Town!
The morning was a bit cloudy as the sun rose over the Catalina Mountains.
By mid-morning, the gloom had burned off and was replaced by the customary bright blue Arizona sky.
And some of the desert critters started to scurry about darting in and out of their subterranean burrows.
Since it was to be a short travel day, we lounged around CSP and I was able to get some Geocaching in. The Geocache.com app on the iPhone led me to the east and into the foothills of the Catalina Mountains.
Where, I spotted the cache hidden under deadfall at the foot of a large Mesquite bush.
Signing the enclosed log and then noting the find on Geocache.com, I noticed that from this vantage point one can enjoy a panoramic view of the campground and the surrounding terrain.
I also noticed many cactus flowering as spring was well entrenched in the Sonoran Desert.
Finally on the road, at 1240 we hopped on AZ-77 which led us to AZ-79 and eventually connected to AZ-87 near the county seat of Florence. Next we joined I-10 for the remaining journey north toward Phoenix.
At 1630, we arrived at Paradise RV Resort, or as we call it “Barbie Town”, and settled in for a few days rest in the transient section of this luxury resort.
And were reprimanded because we did not have some kind of bridge contraption to keep the sewer hose off the ground…..so I improvised!
Pretty clever, huh?
Wednesday, April 2 through Sunday, March 6, 2014-Sun City, Arizona: Welcome to Barbie Town, USA! Why do we call such a pleasant and all-encompassing RV resort by the nickname of “Barbie Town”? Well for one thing this very large resort is full of cute little Barbie homes.
Each uniquely landscaped with chotskies depicting the owner’s state of origin. And everyone drives about in little Barbie Cars while the worker Kens attend to beautiful gardens.
The sense of community in Barbie Town is unparalleled…..three neighbors came across the tracks to welcome Kit and I to the neighborhood and invite us to the weekly Pickle Ball Tournament. Since Kit does not care for pickles and since I do not care for any pastime involving balls…..we politely declined.
So now, we sit back and enjoy some rest and relaxation in Barbie Town USA.
But first…..Kit suggested I call Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery located in San Diego, California to begin the process of getting mom interred there. My mother, a proud WWII Veteran has earned the right to rest in one of the 131 national cemeteries located around the United States. And Fort Rosecrans is the preferred site as it holds historical significance to our family for a variety of reasons. Our plan was to schedule the funeral with full military honors later in the year when more folks could attend. However, in talking to the scheduling office I learned that Fort Rosecrans was near capacity and that they may very well close to new burials as early as next week…..Yikes! It was also mentioned that if I was able to get all the required documentation in order and then get mom to San Diego by the weekend, she would likely be accommodated. This would be a direct interment and we could still plan a formal military service at a later date. So we quickly made another change in travel plans and direction.
By Thursday morning, we were in full blown panic mode as we had virtually none of the required documentation that the military needs before an interment is approved in a national cemetery, but we did have mom and that was the most important passenger! Our first stroke of luck came when we discovered that Arizona Vital Statistics Records were computerized and that we could get copies at the main office in downtown Phoenix. However the other documents had to be obtained from a Public Records office in San Diego. So, at 0400 on Friday Kit, mom and I left the trailer where it sat and made a speed run to the coast.
Arriving at 1030 (don’t do the math) we picked up the second, and final form and beat feet to Rosecrans Scheduling office arriving at noon. Mom was going to make it…..we were tired, relieved and overjoyed.
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery holds a special place in our families hearts and as a veteran, mom is entitled and deserves to lay in eternal repose there surrounded by the many heroes and her comrades in arms.
The location is absolutely spectacular, nestled on Point Loma between the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay.
And the well-kept grounds are beautifully landscaped.
Mom is in a columbarium overlooking the bay with North Island Naval Air Station in the foreground and the skyline of San Diego in the background.
Her view is one that she would be very pleased with as it features panoramic views of the Navy facilities as well as the city she loved.
Emotionally drained and very hungry we decided to head to Anthony’s Fish Grotto on San Diego Bay and a short distance away.
Anthony’s is the first place we enjoyed a meal as a newly married couple following our wedding way back in June 1965, so it also has special meaning to us.
Ironically, tomorrow is the commissioning for the USS Coronado (LCS-4), the ceremony I was offered tickets for just a few weeks ago. The brand new ship sits in full dress regalia right across the harbor from where we dined.
Following an excellent meal we decided that we were both way too drained to make the 370 mile trip back to Phoenix. So we decided to stay the night at a very nice Courtyard Marriott at Liberty Station on San Diego Bay.
This place too has meaning in our lives, as it was the location of the former Naval Training Center, where I received Recruit Training back in March of 1965. The place looks a bit different, and it feels a whole lot different as well! However there are still vestiges of its former life as the developers did an excellent job incorporating the new with the historic.
Following an early dinner and a number of 22 ounce Barley Pop’s, it was time for some much needed rest.
Saturday dawned bright and blue with some lingering low level clouds. As Kit relaxed in the room….
…..I decided to take a walk about the grounds.
I was surprised to see that one of the icons of the old Navy Training Center was still being maintained.
The USS Recruit, or as we used to call it, the USS Neversail, was used back in the day for seamanship and gunnery training. The hull actually contained classrooms and the main deck contained the pilot house, ground-tackle and the main gun battery. This important piece of military equipment was, and still is, visible to the thousands of folks that travel along Harbor Drive just to the south. I recall being on the RTC side of the fence locked in recruit training misery as my former life enjoyed the day on the civilian side.
In addition, fronting the motel was the saltwater basin that the Navy used for training in small boat handling and whale boat racing.
Nowadays it contains an exclusive marina at the far end and is a launching point for kayakers and folks on Stand Up Paddleboards on the beach area.
It has been an emotional and stress producing couple of days, but everything worked out perfectly…..Kit and I got to enjoy more of San Diego and we both are happy and relieved that mom is resting in peace at Fort Rosecrans.
By 1100 we were on the road and heading back to Sun City to our little camper in little Barbie Town.
The return trip was a lot more relaxed and peaceful as we were both lost in our own thoughts of the past 24 hours. We drove straight through, but did make a few stops for some fuel, food and walking around time.
A little after 1800 we returned to the camper and enjoyed the first restful sleep in many a day.
Staying in Barbie Town USA notwithstanding, the main reason for us to visit the Phoenix area after leaving Tucson was to see our dear friends Martha and Tommy and their 98 year old father Mr. “O”. We all met at a local restaurant for good food and drink and great company!
Marti is the sister of my best friend from high school, Rodney…..who we spent time with in California a few weeks ago. And her husband Tommy is a retired Hollywood actor that has been battling some health issues of late.
Marti and Rod’s father Mr. “O”, along with a few other men in the neighborhood, were one of the main reasons I didn’t end up being a true delinquent many years ago.
He is a true inspiration, at 98 years old Mr. “O” lives independently, still golfs and enjoys his daily scotch. We owe him a lot and care for the family very much!
The final day in Barbie Town was spent getting caught up on correspondence, paying bills, and doing a mountain of laundry.
You may have noticed a few new “Rescue Shirts” in my wardrobe collection. Yep, we trolled the second hand stores over the past few months for those castoffs that likely were purchased by Arizona cowboys during a trip to Hawaii. Then, I‘m guessing, they returned home to the southwest and thought the shirts would find a better home with an old Maine retiree and donated them. There are more really nice quality Hawaiian shirts sitting in the second hand clothing stores of the American Southwest than all the other areas of the country combined!
I also spent part of the final day giving the truck and trailer a very much needed washing and then performed some preventive maintenance on the hitch components and sway control devices. Other than that…..we goofed off all day!
Monday, April 7, 2014: As we prepared to depart Barbie Town, the weather cooperated by giving us sunny skies, mid 60’s temperatures and a gentle breeze…..gotta love winter in the American Southwest!
On the road at 0955 and since we are heading east, why not go north first? As we pieced together a number of back roads we eventually came to AZ-303N, which led us to I-17, where we continued north toward Flagstaff.
Along many highways we have noticed that the state of Arizona does not let convicts sit around in jail cells, watching TV or bulking up in the provided weight room…..they put them to work!
These fellows were preceded by a number of other convicts picking up roadside litter and were under the watchful eye of armed corrections officers.
The breeze from the west picked up in intensity and Kit helped considerably, by scanning the road ahead for any errant tumbleweeds that might intersect our path.
As we headed up I-17, we rolled through the high desert plains of Northern Arizona.
And as we climbed in elevation we began to encounter the trees and vegetation of the Coconino National Forest.
Gaining altitude, the air temperature began to drop and soon the snowcapped summit of 12,637 foot Mount Humphries came into view.
Shortly after noon, we arrived at Fort Tuthill Recreation Facility and pulled into a very nice campsite located in the pine forest of northern Arizona.
It was early in the afternoon and since Kit needed some quiet (read without Bill around) time I trod off into the surrounding woods with iPhone in hand looking for a few Geocaches.
Even in this heavily wooded area my tiny iPhone utilizing the Geocache App worked very well. The reception and GPS accuracy was ten times better than my dedicated older GPS unit. The advances in technology are amazing!
The first cache was in difficult terrain but pretty easy to spot when near. It was constructed of PVC pipe 3 inches in diameter and 18 inches long…..by geocache standards, it was huge!
The cache was full of trinkets to trade, featured a onetime use camera for selfies and a very nicely designed logbook. But the real find was another Travel Bug…..the forth one of my brief geocaching career!!
Logging on to Geocaching.com, I discovered this little fella wanted to go on a grand adventure far, far away. Yep it’s coming along with Kit and me all the way back to Maine. Shhhhh, don’t tell the owner, I don’t want to ruin the surprise!
Since there was another geocache about a mile away, I decided to bag that one as well. Zoning in on an area in the middle of a stand of pine trees, I searched diligently for over half an hour. The iPhone showed that I was within 7 feet of the cache, but still could not spot the little bugger.
However, as I was scanning the forest floor, I came across this little fellow.
It is a Frogi Horneus or better known as a Horned Frog, or as we used to call them, Horny Toads! I had many of these prehistoric looking creatures as pets while growing up on the rim of a vast canyon system in San Diego. They made great companions…..as “sit and wait” predators, they were slow to move and pretty docile. And being ugly as sin was a great advantage when you wanted to scare the bejesus out of a summer school teacher as she opened her desk drawer during class.
Don’t ask how I know that, but Mr. Roberts, the assistant principal and I used to meet on a regular basis.
After snapping a number of close up photos of Mr. Horny Toad (hey, that could be the name of the character in my next novel), I resumed my search for the frustratingly hard to find geocache. Thinking it must have been removed I was ready to give up and head back to camp when it suddenly came into view. Can you spot this cleverly hidden cache in the following photo?
What? It is in plain view…..look again!
Yep, about 15 feet up that tree! It required a very long stick and a bit of manual dexterity to fetch the thing…..But fetch it I did! What an interesting find!
As the sun was getting low to the west, I started following the GPS Tracks App back toward Camp Tuthill. Enjoying the warm afternoon as I was bushwhacking through the heavily pine scented air; all was right with the world…..that is until my iPhone battery ran out! Yikes!!
Now, I have a terrible sense of direction, however whenever I take off into the backcountry I keep emergency supplies in my daypack, including a compass. On this occasion all that useful equipment was indeed in my daypack but unfortunately the pack was safely stowed away in the truck…..where I hoped to arrive before it got dark. Add to the embarrassment of being lost in the woods a mere 3 miles from ones campsite, I had told Kit that if I failed to return by 1700 to contact the park ranger.
It was a brooding and scary forest that began to close in around the hapless geocacher as he was hopelessly lost in the Northern Arizona backcountry and the eerie sounds of nocturnal creatures waiting in the shadows pierced the gloom. OK, it was still bright, and sunny, and warm, however, there was a gentle breeze blowing and this being allergy season, I could have been in great peril!
Now the conventional wisdom when one is lost is to stay put, but I violated that rule as well. However, within a few minutes I came to a well-used trail and noticing the telltale tread marks of a mountain bike, realized that it was the same trail I had biked when we stayed here last year. The problem now was what way to travel, being that it was a loop trail it probably didn’t matter. Other than it was almost 6 miles long…..go the wrong way and it could be quite a trek. Contemplating my fate I soon heard a biker rattling down the trail and flagged him down. As luck would have it he was one of the rangers from Fort Tuthill and was on a sweep of the trail to see if anyone was still out on the trail. Following his direction I bushwhacked the remaining quarter mile right back to the campsite…..halleluiah!
Relaxing in the waning daylight as I reminisced on how I was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, I researched auxiliary battery systems for iPhones and made a mental note to always carry at least a compass when relying on electronic gadgetry while walking in the woods.
Tomorrow we head due east until we hit the right coast then its north towards home…..stay tuned!
Kit’s Bits: It’s a good thing we operate primarily without an itinerary. And, we were fortunate in that we have such wonderful friends as Martha & Tommy. We had made arrangements to meet up with them 3 different times and had to cancel. The 4th time, we finally made it. Thanks Martha for being so understanding. With all the craziness we’ve encountered, there is no way we could have kept dates with friends. Operating “on the fly” seems to be our standard MO these days and being able to take Miriam to her final resting place, on the spur of the moment is a perfect example. She loved the ride over and was overjoyed to be on Point Loma! She used to bring us there when we were kids and loved the beautiful views. She was also fond of pointing out all the relatives’ graves and telling us about each person. Love you and miss you Nana!