Rounding out January with Some More Adventure


The problem with getting some blogging done these last two weeks hasn’t been lack of adventure, but finding the time to write about them. Our weekdays are always busy with ukulele, pickleball, bocce ball and just socializing with our neighbours and friends. We’ve had two adventures during the last two weekends, which produced lots of pictures.

The first adventure started with a last minute decision to take a drive up Superstition Mountain, a place I’ve written about many times before. Our plan was just to go as far as Tortilla Flat for some lunch and to listen to the band. But, after enjoying a huge hamburger at the outdoor grill and tapping our feet to the great music, we opted to continue driving to Roosevelt Dam, a distance of only about thirty miles. It was a fairly warm and sunny day, so of course the top was down on the convertible.

The last time that we’d travelled that part of the “highway” was the first year we were in Arizona and our neighbour had loaned us her car (we only had our bike here that year) so that we could take Jim’s daughter, Karen, sightseeing when she visited in March. We’d forgotten that after only a few miles past Tortilla Flat the paved road suddenly ended, tossing us into a mixture of hard ruts, gravel and sand. Or maybe we had hoped that the newly widened and paved section to Tortilla Flat had been extended beyond there. Anyway, there isn’t too much traffic on it at that point, but the vehicles we met were mostly 4x4s, and none were open convertibles. We got some amused looks.

We chose the paved highway to the left and made our way back to the city before darkness engulfed us.

Hope you enjoyed the ride! Watch for our next adventure, coming soon.

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Memoir Monday – The Princess Doll


I was dragging my feet along the tiled floor of the grocery store aisles, my mind probably at home in my room with my toys and books.  Or maybe I was thinking about what would be on the table for dinner that night. Perhaps it would be my favourite, chicken and dumplings. Of course my child’s mind didn’t think about how that would happen when it was already getting dark outside, and Mom the cook was still in the grocery store.

My daddy was holding my hand while mother was consulting her list and piling items from the shelves into the metal shopping cart, when my eyes darted upward to a crowded shelf that held not peas and corn, nor bread and cereal.  Instead the shelf was full of toys! There were big red trucks and shiny toy drums, building blocks and dolls. Dolls! That’s when I saw her. My eyes grew big as saucers; my feet stuck to the floor. There she stood, taller than all of the others, that princess doll.  Her shoulder-length hair was a dark blond and set in a Paige-boy style. The sparkling “silver” tiara on her head completed the royal look presented by the dark blue satin gown, trimmed with white lace. Her blue eyes shone from her perfect rosy face. All I could do was stare. I could imagine her sitting elegantly on my bed.

Although Mom and Dad looked toward where I was pointing, they didn’t seem to share my excitement and my pleas to buy her went unheeded. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and Mom’s thoughts were on getting the Christmas baking ingredients and the week’s meal supplies. They may have told me too that they couldn’t afford to buy her then. Or possibly they’d suggested I put her on my list to Santa. I’m sure I dreamed about her that night, but she wasn’t mentioned again.

The weeks passed and soon it was Christmas morning.  I wasn’t allowed to go downstairs until the rest of my family was up. Since my three siblings were teenagers who’d much rather linger in their beds, I had to be content with dumping out the contents of my stocking that hung on my bedroom door knob. When I was finally allowed to creep down the steep stairs to the living room, my eyes lit up in disbelief. There in front of the Christmas tree stood my princess! That was all I needed. I ran to examine her. She was even more beautiful up close than she’d been up on that shelf.  I looked at the little pearl earrings on her earlobes, and the triple strand pearl choker necklace around her neck. Her nicely shaped feet fit perfectly into the silver plastic, high-heeled slippers. That was the best Christmas ever!

I didn’t play much with that doll. I was almost getting to an age that I was more interested in playing games and reading books and playing outdoors than playing with dolls.  But I loved to look at her where she sat on my bed. She held that spot as I grew up, married and had daughters of my own. My father-in-law, an antique dealer, once offered me $100 for her, but I turned him down. A number of years later, when her dress had faded to a dull purple and the elastic of her necklace and slippers had rotted and broken, like my marriage, and I needed the cash, I made her a new dress and regretfully sold her on eBay for far less.

I wonder now what that doll represented. Why did I want her so badly? And why, when my daughters were given a number of very pretty and costumed dolls as Christmas gifts from an uncle, did I have a shelf built for them to be displayed, rather played with? Interesting questions.

Do you have a similar story, a childhood memory about a special gift? I’d love to hear about it.

Wrapping up Another Year


Happy New Year 2019!

It’s been too long since I’ve written a new blog post, I know. I’ve just lacked inspiration I guess, possibly because we’ve been staying close to “home” (motor home in Mesa, Arizona) so far this season. I’ve been busy with pickleball, and sometimes I join Jim at his ukulele classes and jams, but arthritis in my thumbs is beginning to make long stints of playing too painful. I did get a few stories edited and submitted to some writing contests though, and that felt good.

Here are highlights of how we ended 2018. 

For three days during the first week of December we were involved in the Annual Steve Judy Pickleball Tournament here in the park, not as players, but as volunteers. Since I am the new Pickleball Club Board Vice-President and Webmaster, I was busy mostly taking photos for the website, while Jim took a turn of driving a golf cart to transport visiting players between the courts and parking areas.

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Men in Action
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Ladies’ turn to Shine
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Our MCs Added a Little Fun

Between attending three Christmas Parties and a Birthday Party, we managed to get in a couple of trips to Tempe on the Light Rail, once to wander the many-blocks-long Fall Arts Festival, and another time to watch the Annual Christmas Light Parade.

Interesting Items at Arts & Crafts Festival

Everyone and everything in the parade was lit up, including dogs.

On December 29th we took the Light Rail again, this time all the way to Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl Parade. It started out as a very cold morning so we dressed in layers and I packed snacks and hot chocolate, but by the time the parade started we were looking into bright sunshine that warmed us up. I wasn’t in a good spot for picture taking though, so have only these few.

The ride home was livened up when there was a bit of a ruckus that brought eight security guards into our car. The culprits were removed.

The weather here has been much colder than usual at this time of year, especially during the night and into the morning, so we’ve spent way too much time indoors with little exercise. New Year’s Eve day I decided to do some inside renovations, and cleaning. We are starting the new year without the dust-collecting valances an mini-blinds on the bedroom windows. By ten that night I was exhausted and neither of us saw the new year in here in Arizona, but we watched the ball drop in Times Square in New York before turning off the television. Yesterday we got in a walk and some pickleball.

This all sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it? I resolve to write and post more often going into 2019 and I hope it will be more interesting. If we aren’t being tourists, I’ll entertain you with more memoirs, or maybe explain the game of pickleball.

Settled into Life at Mesa Regal Again


We’ve been in our winter destination for nearly two weeks now. It’s about time I got caught up on posting the rest of our trip!

The day we left Nashville, we drove until time to quit for the night, stopping only for lunch in Jackson at the Catfish Gallery. The catfish wasn’t anything special, but we smiled all through our meal while listening to the wonderful southern accent of our very chatty and bubbly waitress. We made it to Brinkley, Arkansas and after much searching, found an RV parking area behind the Super 8 hotel.

By 3:00 pm the next day we had reached Texas. That was the beginning of a long drive. We stopped for the night at the lovely KOA Mt. Pleasant RV Park.

We broke the next day up with a  stop in Dallas to do a tour of the 6th Floor Museum, dedicated to the story of the Assassination of J F Kennedy and located in the 6th floor room of the former Texas School Book Depository Building where the assassin fired the shots.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures. We bought a couple of postcards.

Find out more by clicking the link above.

It was very interesting, but the stress of finding a place to park the motor home (it took about an hour) left me anxious to get out of the city and settled in for the night. We stayed at the Wetherford/Fortworth West KOA.

The following day was another long driving day, across Texas. The landscape was littered with oil wells, and distant flames spewing from the refineries stacks.

Very long box-car trains stretched along the tracks running beside the highway, and trucks carrying oil or machinery for often times crowded the highway and parking lots.

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There were also a number of small “RV Parks” along the highways, where seasonal oil workers parked their various temporary homes.

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That night we were in one of those parks, in  Monahans, Texas after spending over an hour looking for the advertised RV Parks. There were very few amenities, but we had what we needed. It was raining and there was lots of mud. I was glad I had my rubber boots with me. When the rain stopped we took a walk up the road to the Travel Centre to get some exercise, snacks, and lottery tickets. We were in bed early that night, but still a little later getting away the next morning.

At lunch time we pulled into the town of Sierra Blanca, hoping to find a restaurant. It turned out to be mostly a ghost town! There was one Mexican restaurant that was in one of the old buildings, a newer sign hung beside the original sign. There was also an Exon Station with a Subway. We enjoyed wraps there, with the Border Patrol officers who were taking their lunch break. Doing a search later, I found some of its interesting history.

Shortly after one in the afternoon we had reached our destination for that day. We were back at Mission RV Park in El Paso! It felt like home! Jim had discovered that the RV was in need of one new spark plug and he hoped that the Repair Shop there would have what he needed. But, like the windshield wiper we needed last year, they didn’t. This time we were told that they only did work on things inside RVs, such as appliances. We did find a set of plugs at another location, but it was too big a job to do while travelling and nothing that was urgent.

We did get to enjoy a lovely reunion dinner with Shawn, our new-found friend from last year in El Paso. It was so nice to see him. We regretted that his wife was unable to join us.

We were in Deming, New Mexico for lunch the next day and happily in Arizona by mid-afternoon.

Some highway signs across the desert.

Our last stop before reaching Mesa was in Wilcox, home of Rex Allen, Sr. We did the tour his Museum before booking into the Grande Vista RV Park for the night.

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There was a section for Rex Allen Junior, and other Country Hall of Famers

Rex Allen Junior in his younger days

Rex Allen Junior in his younger days

 

The Memorial continued in the park across the street.

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Grande Vista RV Park

 

We were “home” in time to make dinner the next day.

Something We’ve Never Done Before! A Tour of a Distillery.


Before we left Bardstown Kentucky on Friday morning, we decided to check out the Distillery that our Camp Ground Host told us about. The little map that he provided was a bit confusing so it took us a half hour or so to find the Barton 1792 Distillery, best known for its Bourbon.

I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy such a tour, but it was really fascinating. I wish I could remember all that our wonderful guide, Katie, told us. I can’t but I’ll share what I remember, with some of the many pictures we took.

We waited in the gift shop for the tour to begin.

A few facts Katie shared about the production of Bourbon:

  1. It is made from mostly corn, mixed with some barley and rye.
  2. It has to be 51% corn to be called Bourbon.
  3. It can be made and bottled as Bourbon only in the US because of trademark

We walked over to the productions buildings where Katie explained much along the way. She showed us samples of the ground corn, barley and rye that was used to make the mash (starting process) and we had a peek in to see the Masher, but it was too noisy to go inside.

She told us of the strict rules for acceptance of corn from the farmers, and how it is brought in and emptied from the bottom of the trucks into the bins below the ground.

Next stop was a Ricker, the building where the barrels of brew are stored to age. They have 27 of these buildings, and they hold between seventeen and twenty thousands barrels each! Here we were able to take a sniff of a few barrels to see if we could discern a different aroma. Because all barrels aren’t exactly alike inside, the aroma and flavour differs. The barrels are charred inside to allow the liquid to absorb the flavour of the wood better. The barrels are used only once for Bourbon, but can be used once more to make Brandy.

From there we went into the Distillery, where we had to climb two flights of steep stairs. At the top was a hydrometer that measures the specific gravity of liquid to determine the alcohol content. It must be at a 125 before it is put into the barrels to age. We were given a chance to sip a sample that was a higher content. At first I declined, but my scratchy throat made me give it a try. It helped! Going down the stairs might have been a little more challenging!

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After that we went back to the Gift Shop for some taste-testing of finished products, Bourbon on it’s own, Bourbon paired with dark chocolates, and Bourbon Egg Nog.

If you get a chance to do one of these tours, do it. You’ll find it very interesting, whether you drink the stuff or not.

By the time we were finished the tour and taste-testing, it was lunch time. We drove back to the highway to the Walmart to get a few groceries and picked up a couple of Wraps to eat on the road. We wanted to get to Nashville before dark.

While Jim drove, I booked a site at the Nashville North KOA, one we’d stayed in on our last visit to Nashville. I was disappointed to learn that the Shuttle Bus no longer transports people from there to the Grand Ole Opry, something Jim wanted to attend again. But we were assured that we could get an Uber or a Lyft ride. I called the Opry and secured us two tickets for the evening show, way up high again, but still good.

I thought we’d have to rush to get ready after we arrived at the KOA, but then realized we’d gone through a time-zone change, so we had an extra hour. That was good because our neighbour wanted to chat. And the Lyft driver was forty minutes early so I did have to rush to finish dressing once we got that warning! We arrived in plenty of time to pick up our tickets and get a bite to eat at the outdoor BBQ truck and sit on the patio to eat. We even had some time to wander through the Gift Shop. We had to climb three flights of stairs to get to our seats, but that exercise did me good.

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I have to admit, again, that I wasn’t familiar with many of the performers, but they were fun to listen to. Some gave us some chuckles too. I still think that Mario Carboni belongs on that stage!

When we got home at 10:00 we had great internet reception, so I just had to finish my first blog post and get it published! I wished I could stay up all night and get caught up on the lot, but as it was I stayed up too late and had trouble sleeping.

It was a very busy few days. Saturday and Sunday we spent on the road. The Mount Pleasant KOA was our first stop in Texas and I enjoyed having good internet to get caught up with my blogging.

Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to publish this one, and it’s been three days since we’ve had WiFi.

A Modern Day Noah’s Ark


Thursday, Day Four didn’t get us very far, but that was by choice. After breakfast at another Cracker Barrel, we drove for another fifteen minutes to the popular themed attraction that was the reason for the campgrounds being full – Ark Encounter. Friends had told us about seeing it, so we thought we’d take a look.

This mammoth wooden Ark, built to the size mentioned in the Bible – 510 ft. long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high, sits high up on supports on a hill, outside Williamstown, Kentucky. It’s said to be the biggest timber-frame structure in the world, and for the price of $38 each, we got to do the tour through exhibitions and videos.

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The gardens on the way inside were beautiful, completed with some animals.

Inside the bow.

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It was interesting. I was relieved to learn that the “animals” in the many cages are not real, but created with 3-D computer sculpting, as are the animated people at the various stations. There are recorded sound effects, and voices.

Animals Two by Two

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Dinosaurs?

Dinosaurs??

There were a few live animals in an open area.

Family life aboard the Ark

There are three decks.

The work put into it is really quite amazing.

I found it to be a good glimpse into what life was possibly like so many years ago, but the brochure states: “all three decks of the Ark are full of state-of-the-art exhibits that will amaze and inspire you to think differently about the biblical account of Noah’s ark.” I have to agree with this statement, but my different feeling probably isn’t what the creator of Ark Encounter had in mind. I felt that the videos that tried to convince us that everything in the Bible is true, confirmed as being the absolute and only truth, were propaganda, an attempt to create a profitable theme park.

That might be just my opinion, but I saw few people looking very revered as they strolled through the exhibits.

I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has been on the tour. Tell me how it made you feel.

When the tour was over, we were ready for the delicious buffet meal at the onsite restaurant. It was huge, fresh and inexpensive. And there were more beautiful gardens on the other side!

New Adventures to Spice-up Our Annual Journey to Arizona


We’re off again! That summer sure slipped by!

We must be slowing down in our old age. Despite dropping some things off at the motor home several times on our way by during the last couple of weeks, it still took us the better part of three days to load everything else that we (thought?) we needed once we had it parked outside the Condo building. By the time we were finally on the road at 11:30 on Monday morning, I think we were already tired. The rainy weather didn’t help to lift our spirits, and it turned out to be not a good day.

The driver side windshield wiper wasn’t hitting where it should, so when we reached Cobourg, twenty-five kilometers down the road, Jim felt he needed to purchase a new blade and install it. We were barely out on the highway again when I heard a thump and looked back to see the fridge door swinging open! That had happened once on our way home in the spring, but it was on a very bumpy road and it was forgotten about. Unlike the dual refrigerators meant for RVs, our newer house model didn’t come with any sort of locking system other than the suction seal. I managed to find some pieces of Velcro and secure it. An hour or so later, Jim was in need of coffee so we made a quick stop and got going in earnest.

A couple of hours later found us in the middle of rush-hour traffic going through Toronto, when traffic suddenly slowed to a stop and Jim had to brake very hard. The cars ahead of us loomed closer and closer. I saw Jim downshift and, fortunately, was able to make a quick lane-change to the left. Whew. He told me once it was over that the brakes had gone soft after the initial push. The rest of the way through the traffic he drove much more slowly and kept his hand on the gear shift, downshifting at the first sign of a traffic stop. It was already 4:15. We stopped to get brake fluid and that seemed to help a little.

There was no way we would make it to the US border before dark then, so we called Jim’s cousin, Marjorie and her husband Dave,  who had accommodated us on our way last year, and asked if we could once again park in their driveway. Of course we could. We stopped to pick up sandwiches. We arrived at Glencoe at 7:00 pm, just as the sun was setting.

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The rain had stopped somewhere along the way, but we hadn’t really noticed. It was a beautiful sunset, but then the temperature tumbled. We had a visit with Marjorie and Dave and then crawled into our cold bed. Jim discovered he’d forgotten the extension cord that he uses for his CPAP, so had to improvise. Last year, if the batteries were well charged before we went to bed, the inverter would keep them running for the night. But, of course, that wasn’t to be that night. Jim had to get up twice to turn on the generator. It was a long and stressful night.

In the morning, Dave made some calls and found a mechanic who could get us in to diagnose and fix the brake problem right away. After breakfast we said our thanks and goodbyes. When we got to the shop we had to wait for them to finish up another job before they could look at ours. The diagnosis was a blown brake line! It could have been worse. They set to work replacing it. Because the other one showed some signs of rust they recommended that be replaced too. Lunch time came and they took their break. We sat in the motor home reading. We had only snack food to eat without any electricity to even heat a bowl of soup. At 2:30 the job was done and it cost much less than we’d expected. At last, some good news.

An hour and a half later we were rocking with the waves of Lake St. Clair, on the little Walpole Ferry to Michigan.

 

Upon arrival, because we couldn’t fit through the scanner, we were told we’d have to wait in the office while they did a manual search. Hunger was making me fidgety and the one male officer was watching me. Maybe he thought I was nervous about something, but we had nothing to hide and we were soon on our way. I couldn’t help but notice the picture of a very stern-looking President Trump staring down upon us while we waited.

We stopped at the first place that we saw that served food – Hungry Howie’s. It was take-out only so we ordered a pizza and ate it in the motor home. We would have loved to just crawl into bed and stay there for the night, but we drove on for another hour then stopped for gas, picked up a couple of things at Walmart and hunkered down for the night. Our propane tank was empty by then, so we had to haul out one of our portable ones and hook it up so we’d have heat.

Day Three Brings Relief

We were up at six the next morning and waiting at the door for Bob Evan’s to open a half hour later. A big breakfast of Eggs Benedict got us off to a good start to the day. And except for a detour around Detroit that cost us some extra time, it was a very good day. We were in Ohio before noon and stopped for an early lunch at the Cracker Barrel. We were in Kentucky by 3:00 and looking forward to staying in our first Campground with propane, electricity and water. We hadn’t had a shower since we’d left home. But Oak Creek Camping was full, as were a couple of others in the area. We thought we would be stuck at the nearby Flying J truck stop. Then, a very nice man named Larry offered to let us connect to his electricity if we wanted to dry-camp at the empty space next to him. The office agreed. We could also get propane at the Flying J, and showers, and dinner! It worked out well after all.

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