Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal #14

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

50th Logo

 

Now, on this road trip, my mind seemed to un-crinkle, to breathe, to present to itself a cure for a disease it had not, until now, known it had.

Elizabeth Berg

 

Saturday, March 21 through Wednesday, March 25, 2015-Flagstaff, Arizona:  Kit and I woke to cool temperatures and bright blue skies.  This is the first morning we needed the heater…..two days ago we were using the air conditioner!  However, even with these temperatures the Plum Trees were in bloom!

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Fort Tuthill is a partial hookup campground providing only water and electric…..since the overnight temperatures are still below freezing water isn’t available.  Actually, the campground technically isn’t even open for the season yet.  However they allow folks that wander in to stay for a reduced rate…..$15.00 per night for electricity only.  Not a problem for us but apparently for other folks because during our five day stay we had a few nights where we were the only campers!

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Our stay in Flagstaff is dictated by two factors; one is that we really like the area and the campground.  And second, we scored a few nights in Grand Canyon National Park at Mather Campground for later in the week…..difficult to come by!  So if we needed to delay our trip anyway, this is a great place to do it!

Fort Tuthill is a military recreation facility managed by Luke Air Force Base down in Phoenix.  One of many such campgrounds spread about the US, recreation facilities are in areas that feature an abundance of natural beauty and recreation opportunities…..think of state parks for military families to relax and unwind.

In addition to the twenty seven site campground, Fort Tuthill features a traditional Western Lodge.

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And a number of cabins scattered about the wooded grounds.

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Also a few Yurts!

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Kit and I have seen these round tents in campgrounds previously and have often thought it would be fun to experience staying in one……maybe someday we will!

Many Fort Tuthill sites feature views of the San Francisco Mountains and Humphries Peak.

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At 12,633 feet above sea level, Humphries is the tallest mountain peak in the state of Arizona and the home of the Arizona Snowbowl.  On one of the days during our stay, Kit and I drove into the Kachina Peaks Wilderness and up the flank of Humphries Peak.

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At 9,200 feet in elevation, this Alpine ski resort receives up to 300 inches of snow a season.

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It features 32 runs serviced by 5 lifts…..the longest carries the intrepid skier to 11,500 feet for a 2,300 foot vertical descent on groomed packed powder.  The day we visited, was near the end of the season and there was little activity on the trails.

After wandering about the lodge and grounds, we decided to head back down the mountain in search of a nice picnic spot.  On these day long adventures, Kit has been packing a nice and healthy lunch.  Not only does it save a few bucks over eating out, but we tend to eat a lot better when we prepare our own food.  About half down the mountain I noticed an intriguing dirt road off the main highway.

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The temperatures were moderate, the sky crystal clear and the scent of pine was in the air….a perfect spot for our tailgate picnic.

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Following a delicious meal, I took a walk about the area and spotted something out of place in the woods.

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The sled looked undamaged and complete sitting in the middle of what was likely a major snowmobile trail.  Maybe the rider ran out of gas or became disabled in some way.  Gonna be a chore recovering the thing this time of the year!

After a great day in the mountains, Kit and I returned to our camper where she made some incredible Broccoli and Cheddar soup!

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Served with fresh bread and a few Barley Pops!

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A great meal to end a great day!

Fort Tuthill is within the 1.8 million acre Coconino National Forest.  At 6,900 feet of elevation the area is cool during a significant portion of the year.  During our stay the daytime temperatures averaged in the 50’s and overnight lows dropped into the 20’s.  A refreshing change to the heat experienced in the lower elevations of Arizona.

The surrounding forest features some of the best hiking and biking trail systems we have experienced in this state.

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On one gorgeous day, Kit and I enjoyed a nice five mile stroll through the Ponderosa Pine, Oak, Aspen and Juniper trees that make up the Coconino National Forest.

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Scattered about the forest are large granite boulders, many split open by the forces of hydraulic fracturing.

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A number of these rocks were affected by patches of scaly blue-green growth…..perhaps from that fracking process we’ve all been warned about!  Not sure, but as an environmentalist I’m not lichen it!

Another activity that is popular in these woods is Geocaching.  Within a few miles of the campground there are no less than twenty geocaches!  Using my iPhone with the Geocaching App, I spent many an hour in pursuit of some cleverly hidden caches.  Note the phone is plugged into an external power supply…..no getting lost in the woods today!

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Usually, I walked.  But, on occasion, the cache was hidden very near one of the many multi-use trails that spider-web the surrounding hillsides……so for those searches, I would take the bike.

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This cache nearly stumped me (pun intended) as it was hidden deep in an old stump…..hard to find and difficult to retrieve!

Another geocache I located was titled “Fort Tuthill’s Fallen Soldier”.  Here I placed a Travel Bug that I had retrieved a few months ago from a cache in Maine, which is shown to the right in the photo below.

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From the same cache, I retrieved the Travel Bug on the left, which ironically was affixed to a compass……anyone remember how those things work?  This bug will travel home with me where I will likely place it in other bug’s original cache……just like the symmetry of it all!

On yet another outing I located this cache along an old abandoned railroad bed.

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After logging the find, I took the nail with the number “28” inscribed on its head.  Not sure what the nail signified; I turned to my buddy Jeff, who knows a lot about railroading and railroad history…..he even has his own rail car!  Jeff informs me that the nail was pounded into the end of a rail tie to denote the year the track was built or repaired…..in this case “1928”.  Pretty neat!

Also sharing space with Fort Tuthill is the Flagstaff Outdoor Adventure Challenge.

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The course is suspended high off the ground in Ponderosa Pines and consists of wobbly bridges, swings, nets, barrels, suspension cable walks, and zip lines.  Didn’t try the course this stay, but it is now on my bucket list!

All the trails within the Fort Tuthill complex are multi use…..meaning hiking, biking and equestrian.

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Most of the trails were sinuous single track with gentle changes of elevation.

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However some sections were more challenging, consisting of steep climbs, rocks and drops.  Also natural hazards, one of which brought me to a rather abrupt halt!

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In addition, there is a very well maintained and very long Rail-trail that connects Fort Tuthill with the city of Flagstaff.

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Even though I didn’t encounter any horse folks on my many ventures into the woods, I did see evidence that mountain bikers and equestrians can coexist peacefully on the same trail network.

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However, other critters were spotted along the trail as I came rolling by.

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Also nearby, there was a nicely designed Bike Skills Park that featured an elevated launching point which fed into a number of humps, bumps berms and chutes.

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With enough launch speed one could bike the entire circuit without pedaling…..with too much speed, one could become airborne!

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Deciding I just had to try this, I set up the camera, hit record, and made my way to the beginner loop…..to see if I made it check out the video at:  http://youtu.be/X0LXhmiCRWc

As much as we enjoyed hanging around the campground and enjoying the peace and quiet, the city of Flagstaff has a lot to offer as well.

With a population of just over 68,000, the City of Flagstaff has a similar vibe to our hometown in Maine.  In addition to being a college town, it features a number of architecturally significant buildings and is bisected by a railroad.  Also, Flagstaff is home to The US Naval Observatory and the national dark skies facility for the Department of Defense.

NOFS

Which, unfortunately is not open to the public…..it would be a neat place to tour!

Flagstaff came about its unusual name in a rather innocuous way.  Back in 1876, a Boston (yes, Boston) scouting party stripped a Ponderosa Pine of its branches and created a pole to fly the American Flag.  The flag pole remained for years and became a geographic reference point for the burgeoning community……which everyone knew as Flagstaff, and the name stuck.

Due to its prime location, Flagstaff became a major east-west corridor for the transcontinental railroad and in the late 1800’s nearly 100 trains a day would rumble through town.  Today, Flagstaff is still an important railroad hub and the regional office for Warren Buffet’s Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway.

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Appropriately, the railway parallels West Santa Fe Street…..also known as Route 66.

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A former ranching, lumber and railroad town, Flagstaff has evolved into a cosmopolitan city.  Amtrak as well as freight trains still rumble through town.  However other early enterprises have been surpassed by educational institutions, industry and tourism…..Northern Arizona University, as well as Nestle/Purina and W.L. Gore Company now call Flagstaff home.

After a day of exploring the city, Kit and I treated ourselves to a great meal at a local watering hole that came highly recommended.

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Their expertly crafted beer is brewed in-house and was incredible!

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As was their tavern fare!

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And the homemade dessert!

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As we waddled back to the truck and made our way to the camper, Kit and I decided this area is in our top five RV destinations so far!

Stay tuned for the next issue…..Bill and Kit’s Adventures in Grand Canyon National Park!

Kit’s Bit’s: Fort Tuthill is one of my very favorite camp grounds.  Bill can find so many things to do, which allows me to catch up on my reading and get in some relaxing time.  The weather is a nice reminder of home, warm days and cool nights.  I also love browsing the local area.  The town has quite a lot of character and is modern enough to have some decent shopping.  Did I mention that Bill gets “lots” of bike and hike time?

Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal #13

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

50th Logo

 To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.

Elizabeth Gilbert

 

Thursday, March 12, 2015:  On our last morning in Tucson, our incredible host made a full blown southwestern country breakfast for Kit and me!  After lingering over coffee, we broke camp at 1130 and headed down the road under cloudy skies and warming temperatures.

Following a quick stop at Tucson’s RV Central to dump the black waste tank, we jumped on I-10 and headed northwesterly.

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A few hours of monotonous driving brought near Phoenix, where we took a short cut which added an extra hour to our travel day……and, we ran into a sandstorm!

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Don’t ask…..I promised the chief navigator that I wouldn’t tell a soul about her confusion as to what hemisphere we were in.  Imagine our surprise when we arrived in Surprise instead of Sun City!?!?

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A lot can be learned from a simple screenshot of our trucks navigation system.  First off, there is indeed a city in Arizona called Surprise and second, it is indeed 90 degrees!  But the real embarrassing revelation is that Kit and I listen to old Neil Sedaka tunes…..of, the shame!

Actually, we intended to be in Surprise…..a state we seem to perpetually live in anyway.  You see, the RV Park in Sun City that we usually stay was plum full of folks enjoying MLB Spring Training games and NASCAR.  So, we found a Resort a bit farther to the west in the City of Surprise…..surprised?

Sunflower RV Resort is like many “age appropriate” parks in the Southwest.  It contains anything and everything that the active retiree could possibly want to see or do and the whole place is made from recycled cardboard.

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Well, not really…..but the color of the buildings did have that generic cardboard pallor.

To offset the rather drab desert color scheme, the Sunflower folks planted sunflowers!

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Yea, I know…..technically they’re not Sunflowers, but they are flowers and it is sunny, so….?

They were near full capacity here as well!  However a portion of their parking lot had been pressed into service as emergency overflow which was known by the locals as Asphalt Beach.

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Even at that, there was only one other spot available!  What our assigned site lacked in amenities or landscaping was partially made up by the convenience to the resorts courtyard.  Contained within was The Tiki Bar…..a nice relaxing poolside eating and drinking establishment with a stage where live music groups performed.  This evening’s featured entertainment was a talented cover band playing Jimmy Buffett songs!!

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Kit and I settled in for a nice meal of barbeque pork followed by a couple of high octane adult beverages.

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A resort such as this draws folks from all over the northwest, similar to how Florida attracts retirees from the northeast.  Folks like Kit and I are a rare sight in the west…..being from Maine and all.  However a couple of kindred souls wandering by and attracted our attention.

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Tried to get his backstory, but the fellow clammed right up…..which was kinda ironic.  However his partner said he has a habit of getting into hot water, becomes really steamed and she has to butter him up in order to set things right again.

Kit and I had a great time visiting with fellow retirees from all parts of North America and listening to incredible music long into the night.

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Before returning to our little piece of paradise on Asphalt Beach and pouring ourselves into bed……zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

 

Friday, March 13 through Wednesday, March 18, 2015-Surprise, Arizona:  Surprise is a town largely made successful by the developer Del Webb who designed and built the first age restricted community, Sun City.  The name “surprise” came from the original owner of the land that Mr. Webb purchased it from when she exclaimed, “I’ll be surprised if anyone would want to move here”.  That was in 1960 when the population stood at a few thousand…..today Surprise, Arizona boasts over 125,000 old folks.

After our penance of staying in overflow was satisfied and we apparently passed the “Dork Test” last night, Kit and I were able to move into a full hook-up spot with the general population.

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The site is actually owned by a snow-birder who had to return to his northern home a month early, so it was made available for short term rental.  And, as an added bonus, we were fortunate to be next door to some great neighbors!

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They are winter escapees from Red Deer, Alberta.  Reg retired from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a float plane pilot and Janet is a nurse.  Being members of the local church, they volunteer in a number of ways to support the community.  Every Sunday, Reg and fellow members of the congregation are invited into the local commercial citrus fields to participate in a process called “gleaning”…..or the harvesting by hand of fruit that the large machines have missed.

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Most of the perfectly fine citrus is donated to various food shelters, and a small amount is kept by the gleaners…..Reg thoughtfully gifted a portion of his share to Kit and me.  Absolutely no tastier oranges can be found!

Reg and Janet have been coming to Sunflower RV Resort the past few winters for the great weather, friendly folks and incredible variety of activities…..one of which is classes on making Nantucket Baskets.

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Reg is very talented in the artistry of making these traditional vessels and Kit loves handmade baskets…..she was able to purchase a couple from one of the other members in their group.

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Sunflower RV is huge…..1,139 sites!  All but 230 of them are occupied by folks in Park Model units, and most of the rest by folks in large motorhomes or fifth wheel trailers.

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Only a handful of sites are available for rent to the traveling public, and most of those are in a dusty back corner.  We lucked out in getting a site that was convenient, large and nicely landscaped.

The community Center surrounds a central courtyard that contains two swimming pools, two spas and a steam room, as well as the very popular Tiki Bar.

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Which, in addition to live music, features theme parties…..such as the one we enjoyed on Saint Patrick’s Day.

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Complete with the obligatory green beer and the ubiquitous parade o’ green.

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The community buildings themselves contain many different workshops and rooms devoted to crafts and activities such as: Arts & Crafts, Ballroom, Billiards Room, Card Room, Church, Computer Center, Dance Classes, Fitness Classes, Hiking Club, Horseshoe Pits, Community Kitchen, Lapidary, Musical Groups, Pickleball, Ping Pong, Pottery/Ceramics, Quilting & Sewing Room, Round Dance Lessons, Scrapbooking, Shuffleboard Courts, Fitness Center, Water Aerobics, Water Volleyball, Wood Shop and Zumba.

The park borders the Agua Fria River……a major north-south waterway that is bone dry most of the year.

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This is the first time we have seen aqua in the Agua Fria…..it has been a pretty wet winter in these parts!

The weather has been schizophrenic during our stay…..days of bright sunshine and warm temperatures interspersed with days of turbulent weather.

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Folks about tell us this is common for this time of the year.  Kit and I thought it a refreshing change to the hot, dry weather we had been experiencing.

All in all, a great place for the active senior to slowly age…..however not quite our style for a long term stay.

One reason we even stop in the Phoenix area is to see friends from our old San Diego neighborhood.

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Martha and her husband Tommy live a few miles away……and, as an added bonus my childhood friend Rodney was up visiting from Tecate, Mexico.  Also, living independently at age 99 a few blocks away is their father, Mister O.  He still drives and is alert, funny and active…..playing golf a few times a week.  Martha and Rod put on a great backyard barbeque for Kit and I and we had a blast remembering old stories of teenage indiscretions.

On our way back to the campground, oh…..excuse me, the RV Resort; we came across this interesting vehicle.

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It is said that folks that like trucks are just big kids with big toys…..this fellow kinda proves that assertion!

 

Thursday, March 19, 2015:  Today we were planning on heading out.  However, last week Kit noticed a problem with her left eye last week so we made a visit to an urgent care clinic.  The MD thought it might be a rather large “floater” floating about…..a common problem that affects folks of a certain age.  However to be on the safe side, he referred her to an ophthalmologist and the earliest appointment we could get was today…..so we delayed our departure until tomorrow.

 

Friday, March 20, 2015:  With a clean bill of health and a referral to be seen again in six weeks, Kit and I hit the road at 1000 under clear skies and a temperature of 80 degrees.  We looped around Phoenix on AZ-303 until we intersected Interstate 17.

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Then, we headed north toward the town of Flagstaff.  This is the first highway we have driven on that featured a yellow diamond shaped road sign that was truly useful.

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Warning the sane and courteous driver that they were likely to encounter a real jackass in the next five miles was invaluable…..needless to say, but I will, my defensive driving skills went into overdrive……like the metaphor?

Within a few hours of leaving the Jackass Zone, we began gaining altitude.

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As the rig topped out at 6,000 feet we entered the Coconino National Forest and a different environment than we have experienced these past few months.

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Nearing the town of Flagstaff we spotted snowcapped Mount Humphries through the trees.

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And just south of Flagstaff we pulled into the Fort Tuthill Recreation Facility…..a place Kit and I have enjoyed many times on past Excellent Adventure trips.

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Being sparsely populated, we had our pick of the sites.

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After setting up and walking about the grounds, Kit and I sat down to a great meal and then retired for the evening.  Stay tuned for Issue #14…..Fun in the Coconino Forest of Northern Arizona!

Kit’s Bit’s: We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Surprise, AZ!  The Sunflower RV Resort was very nice.  So many activities, it almost made me dizzy!  We enjoyed walking around the grounds and chatting with people.  Best part of our stay there was seeing our old friends, Mr. O, Rodney, Martha & Tommy.  We missed Gloria; she was with her mom (also 99) in Tecate.  On to Flagstaff, one of my favorite places!  Very much like Maine!  We took it easy and rested up from all the activity in Surprise!

Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal # 12

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-201550th Logo

 We can’t know what’s going to happen.

We can just try to figure it out as we go along.

Roger Sullivan

 

Sunday, March 1, 2015-Organ pipe Cactus National Monument:  Up to overcast skies, cool temperatures and gentle breezes from the southwest.  As Kit and I were breaking camp and saying goodbye to our home state neighbors Tom and Sharon, another New England winter escapee wandered by with his friend from Montana.

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On the left is Adam, who lives with his wife in Boston and has a summer place on Bailey Island in Maine.  They are IT folks who work from anywhere there is a reliable internet connection which allows them to travel south during the winter.

The other fellow is Bert, he and his wife reside in Montana but head south for the winter as well.  An author and professional wildlife photographer, Bert travels about the US in an Airstream trailer while blogging about their adventures.  In addition, Bert has written a number of outdoor books…..check out his work at:  http://gildartphoto.com/

By 1145 Kit and I are hooked up and back on the road.  Retracing our steps to Why, Arizona we veer to the east on AZ-86.

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Why Why?  Well, why not?  There are no other US roads out of Organ Pipe than the one through Why!  Oh, and there isn’t a “Y” in Why…..just a “T”, which dumps onto the state highway that leads toward Tucson, which starts with a “T” but has no relation to the “T” in Why.

Following a few hours of enjoyable backroad travel, Kit and I pulled into Agave Gulch Campground at Davis Monthan Air Force Base.  This military RV Park has an efficient and very fair method of campsite selection.  No homesteading allowed….after 21 days, you have to roll off to overflow and let someone else have a turn.  And, overflow is much nicer than any other military park in the system…..true, there are no hookups but the sites are large, level and well maintained.  Usually one only has to stay a day or two in overflow before moving to full hookup, but since we are only planning on being here for a few nights, I didn’t bother putting our name on the wait list.

Since we are coming from dry camping at Organ Pipe, I first swing by the dump station to take care of the necessaries.

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As I’m dumping the black and gray water tanks and filling the white water one, Kit takes our pile of laundry to the river and begins beating the clothes on a rock.

Confident I can move the rig a few hundred feet without my traveling companion; I make my way to the overflow area and select a nice site as the sun begins to set in the west.

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As you may have noticed in the photo above I generally favor the left side of any site to maximize space in the front (also known as the street-side) of the camper.  This method worked very well with our former trailer, however when a 46 inch slide is involved the extra width can be a problem.  Fortunately, there were no immovable objects in the way of the slide, but unfortunately I encroached on our neighbor’s space by about a foot.  Fortunately he was very understanding about my RV faux pas and laughed it off……gotta pay better attention to the positioning of this new rig!

As we settled in for the night, I noticed a Gibbous Moon nestled in the Cumulus Clouds being illuminated by the retiring Solarorbeus.

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Yea, I had to look those fancy words up…..however the sight did make for an interesting photo!

 

Monday, March 2, 2015-Agave Gulch Campground, DMAFB, Tucson, Arizona:  Generally while in the town, we dooryard surf with my brother and sister-in-law….however they are still on the left coast enjoying time with family.  They kindly offered to let us pull into their place anyway, but we decided to stay on base to get resupplied and take care of some truck/trailer maintenance.

While bouncing about the US, Kit and I notice a huge variety of RV’s.  This park had a few examples of the extremes.  There was an antique motorhome.

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A custom built unit on a Volvo truck chassis.

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And a Blue Bird (Yea, the bus company) motorhome that retailed north of seven figures.

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Some folks have way too much disposable funds!

After a run to the base commissary and exchange followed by a pilgrimage to Camping World, Kit and I met some folks for dinner at El Molinito’s in South Tucson.

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David and Bonnie are related to Dean, my mother’s final and favorite, husband.  David would stop and check on my mom whenever we was in the area…..she always enjoyed his visits and we always appreciated that he took the time to see her.

Everyone appeared to enjoy the excellent food and engaging conversation.

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Can’t go wrong with Mexican cuisine in southern Arizona!

Back to the campground long after dark, Kit and I turned in for the evening excitedly looking forward to the next week.

 

Tuesday, march 3, 2015:  Heard from Dew and Bea that they are back in town, so we decided to relocate a few miles to the north and enjoy our favorite dooryard camping opportunity at the Doobie RV Resort!

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Their large and accommodating driveway is perfect for visiting RV’rs.  And since Dewey and Bea have a travel trailer of their own, they know what is needed to provide a comfortable stay.  In addition to a freshwater connection, and a 30 amp electrical outlet, they conveniently have a sewer line connection alongside their driveway……that’s the upside down square terracotta pot you see with my auxiliary grey water hose feeding it!

Kit and I spent the remainder of the day, relaxing, enjoying Dewey and Bea’s company, eating some great food and quaffing a few Margaritas…..Ah, life is good!

 

Wednesday, March 4 through Wednesday, March 11, 2015-Tucson, Arizona:  For the most part, the weather during our stay was incredible….sunny and warm during the day and cooling off in the evening!  During this visit to Tucson, we had a number of family issues to contend with; however we did eke out a few days for play time!

One day, we all went to the locally famous…..Gallery in the Sun.

2015-03-11, Photo #37The place is a unique art gallery of southwestern works by the painter Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia.  Kit had learned of him from our neighbors at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and from our sister-in-law Bea, so really wanted to check it out.

Now normally I’m not much of an Art Gallery person, however I will have to admit the story behind this artist and his incredible body of work did intrigue me!

As one enters the gallery, the first thing they will notice is how low the door is and how the first few feet resemble a tunnel.  This was intentionally designed by DeGrazia to represent his father’s life as an immigrant copper miner in the nearby mountains.

The gallery is constructed using local materials in the native tradition, including this unusual floor made up of Cholla Cactus sections laid on end.

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The material makes for a very durable and interesting effect!  A number of other floors throughout the gallery are laid up with Mexican Tile which made a perfect backdrop for the “Four Amigo Dorky Keen Club” photo.

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Keen sandals are the preferred footwear for retirees here in the Southwest…..they are rugged, cool, and comfortable.  On a few occasions we have taken multi-mile hikes in these clunky things and they perform very well.

Ted DeGrazia is of Italian heritage and was born in Arizona three years before it became a state.  He is known as a colorful character that creates colorful paintings of Native American and Mexican children in addition to many other subjects that define the American Southwest.

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The Gallery contains a number of interconnected rooms, all built in the same style.

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One entire room features his collection of religious art.  A devout Catholic, DeGrazia painted his interpretation of the Stations of the Cross which are pictured below.

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A master with the palette, DeGrazia painted with a vivid imagination…..many of his works features his own personal interpretation of the subject.

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As he became popular with America’s elite, DeGrazia was able to command more money for his work.  His big break came as a result of UNICEF selecting one of his paintings for its annual Christmas card.

Los Ninos

The card sold millions worldwide and introduced him to the general public…..this created an even stronger demand for his art.

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As he became prosperous, DeGrazia enlarged his studio and gallery to accommodate more visitors.  He soon became concerned that his collection, which had little intrinsic value to him, was being appraised by the government at a very high price.  As way of protest, DeGrazia hauled many of his paintings by horseback to the nearby Superstition Mountains and set them ablaze…..much to the horror of art historians worldwide!  Upon returning to his studio, DeGrazia established a nonprofit foundation to ensure his art will be protected from government taxation and available for future generations to enjoy.

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What an incredible collection of original southwestern art…..Kit and I highly recommend a visit to the Gallery in the Sun if you are ever in the area!

As mentioned previously, there were a number of family items to attend to while in Tucson.  When she passed, my mother left a home full of mementos and household items.  Kit, Dew, Bea, Dan and I spent a number of days going through mom’s stuff.  Some we donated to charity, some we donated to the town dump and the rest of the items we split up amongst ourselves.  I shipped four good sized boxes home to add to all the other “stuff” we have in our cellar.

Also, while in town, I was able to get the oil changed in the truck.

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Watson Chevrolet has been my go to dealership for truck maintenance while on the road and I have consistently received great no-nonsense service.  A new benefit provided by General Motors is their covering the first two years of schedule maintenance free of charge.  At Watson’s this included warm fresh cookies and great coffee in their comfortable, Wi-Fi equipped waiting room……and they even washed the truck!  While waiting for the truck, I took a walk about the showroom to see what new vehicles are being offered.  It was then that I came to the realization that for the cost of our new truck, I could have purchased one of these instead!

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And…..factor in the cost of the new trailer, I could have purchased two!  This would have come in handy because I would have surely lost one of them in the divorce settlement.

On one beautiful morning, Kit and I took Dewey and Bea out to breakfast…..but not to any ordinary place, on this morning we enjoyed the views, ambiance, and food at the Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch.

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This five star establishment is nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

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Hacienda del Sol started life as a humble dude ranch and school for girls back in 1929.  It was highly favored by folks from back east such as the Vanderbilt’s, Pillsbury’s and the Westinghouse families to introduce their offspring to life outside the big cities.  Below is another prominent couple from an old Culver City family out enjoying a stroll through the historic grounds.

Dew and Bea at La Hacienda, Pix #1

Hacienda del Sol later became a guest ranch and has been carefully preserved to retain the original Spanish Colonial ambiance.  Kit and I traditionally treat folks that allow our dooryard surfing with a nice meal out…..and this year we treated our host and hostess to breakfast at Hacienda del Sol.

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The food was magnificent……I selected the Hacienda Buffalo Benedict on Bea’s recommendation.

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Which substituted Buffalo Chorizo for the ham and the Hollandaise Sauce was kicked up with Jalapeno Peppers…..it was incredible…..as were the views from our table this crystal clear desert morning.

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Following an excellent meal with some great folks, we lulled about the property and meandered through the lushly landscaped grounds.

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What an enjoyable morning!

A rather unusual combination of our favorite tastes was introduced to Kit and I during our stay.  Bea has discovered this regional delicacy at her local COSTCO, which is similar to Sam’s Club back east.

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Yep…..Greek yogurt and Jalapeno!  I personally devoured the better part of two tubs of this tasty treat during our week stay.  Hope I can find a source for it after we return home!

While in Tucson, we try and spend as much time with Brother Dan as possible.  The only working stiff in our Tucson family, we like to treat him to an experience of his choosing.  An avid auto racing fan, this year Brother Dan chose to attend the World of Outlaws Sprint Car national event conveniently taking place this week at Tucson International Raceway!

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A trackside dinner was enjoyed before we headed to the grandstands.

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As we settled into our seats, the skies became dark and threatening…..a harbinger of the infamous desert storm.  However as rain fell all around the area, we stayed dry and soon the sun peeked out to illuminate the backstretch.

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Sprint cars are high performance racing machines with huge wings that help hold them on the track.  An unusual event that neither Dewey nor I had seen before, we were excited to share it with Dan.  After a number of heat races, the main event was underway!

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No clue as to who won, or even the color or sponsor of the victorious car…..there was way too much dust in the air!?!?  You see, this type of auto racing is run on a dirt track, in the dry desert!

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We all did have a great time however, even covered with a layer of Arizona desert soil.

Speaking of Dan, he is an accomplished chef…..frequently he will prepare a signature dish for the family, such as his barbeque shrimp shish kabob.

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Which we all consumed with a number of adult beverages!  After dinner, everyone retired to the rooftop terrace and watched the surrounding mountains turn from an earthy grey……

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…to brilliant crimson!

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This marked the end of another delightful day in Tucson and in this case the end of our stay as well.

 

Kit’s Bit’s: We had a very nice time in Tucson.  It was productive, in that we were able to go through Miriam’s home and sort out some stuff, thus helping Dan out.  We also had a lot of family time as well as finally getting to see the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun!  I had heard of that awhile back but somehow, we never had the time to visit.  A most interesting day was spent learning about his art and life.  Many thanks to Dewey & Bea for their hospitality!