Lavender, Motorcycles and Prison


It’s hard to believe that half the summer has slipped away and I’m a month behind with my posts. Guess that means we’ve been busy! I now offer a summary of what we’ve been up to.

1. Something to improve My Quality of Living While in the Motor Home

The installation of a new refrigerator in the motor home was exciting for me, and I was happy with the results when we spent a weekend in nearby Preston Springs at the Country Jamboree. We decided to try a house fridge instead of the usual two-way models used in most motor homes, mainly because the very hot, direct sunlight in the spring in Arizona sometimes causes freezing on those, and because the gas components take up a lot of space that I’d rather have for inside fridge space. Household models are also much less expensive than new motor home models. Since we already had a voltage inverter in the motor home, Jim just had to run wiring to reach from it to the fridge outlet, and install a switch so that we can use the coach batteries to power it when we are on the move, and then switch to 110 volts when we are plugged in at an RV Site. It was a bigger job than expected, but worth it.

 

2. Lavender Fields

In mid-July I made a trip to Campbellcroft to meet my Red Hat friends at the Lavender Fields, but  by the time we all arrived, heavy rain and the threat of thunder storms chased us away to the nearest shopping area and an indoor lunch.

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I was disappointed that I couldn’t get any pictures of the fields, so Jim and I took a drive out a few days later. There were so many people there that day, it was still difficult to get good unobstructed shots, but here are a couple.

 

3. A Motorcycle Ride to Picton

Last week, instead of playing pickle ball on a Wednesday afternoon, we joined our friends Steve and Sue on one of the few motorcycle rides we’ve taken this year. We left Hastings at 10:30 in the morning, expecting to be gone a couple of hours, but having no particular destination. By the time we stopped for lunch at 1:00 pm, we were in Picton in Prince Edward County, having explored many country roads and covered many more miles than anticipated. Picton is an interesting community that is heavily populated with tourists and cottagers during the summer months and well worth checking out if you are in the area. We reached it via Hwy. 49, but after lunch we took the Ferry across the bay to Glenora and drove along the shore of Lake Ontario before turning back north through the towns of Napanee and Tamworth, then cutting back west to Campbellford and home. That was the longest bike ride I’ve been on since my hip replacement almost a year ago, and I have to admit that I enjoyed the scenery and the perfect riding weather, but my joints and muscles were a tad sore when we finally got off at nearly 3:00 pm!

 

4. A Tour of Kingston Penitentiary

This past weekend we went to Kingston to tour the Kingston Penitentiary, which ceased operations on September 30, 2013, and was opened to the public just last year. I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy it, but the hour and a half passed very quickly. We were amazed by what we learned about this, the first British North American penitentiary, which sits on 8.6 hectares of land on King Street. It was constructed through 1833 and 1834 and officially opened on June 1, 1835 with the arrival of the first six inmates. Our various tour guides, many of whom are retired guards or wardens, explained the operation, the security systems, the routines, and enlightened us with stories of riots, escapes, work crews, rehab programs and building updates. It was well worth the $25 price of admission.

 

After a visit with family in Brockville over the next couple of days, we stopped in Napanee on our way home to have a lovely lunch with friends on the riverside outdoor patio of a relatively new restaurant that wasn’t there when I used to live in Napanee. How things change in thirteen years!

 

Next week I’m flying out to British Columbia for three weeks to visit with some more of my family. Because they are spread from southern BC to Vancouver to the Gulf Islands, it has been a challenge arranging the various modes of transportation needed. It will be an adventure. Stay tuned!

The Tour Riders Ride Again


Last night we rode the Boulevard to Peterborough to meet up with what few Tour Riders could make it.  Our numbers are dwindling: some have given up riding for age related reasons; some have moved away. Sometimes those who have moved, like us, return occasionally just for a reunion. Last night was one of those nights for a few people.

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Although I have known these riders for only twelve years, the group has been together for over thirty. Mike came down from Toronto last night and brought with him a photo album of memories. John, who makes it out only once or twice a year made the journey as well.  By the time the walk down Memory Lane was finished, there wasn’t a lot of time to ride so a shorter trip was planned. We were a group of five bikes.

The wind on our faces felt good on that hot evening as we headed north up Water Street from our meeting place at the Peterborough Zoo. At the third set of traffic lights, we turned right onto Nassau Road, which winds to the left after crossing River Road, crossing the Trent River and then makes an unexpected turn onto the first road on the right.

We cruised through the twists and turns, up hills and down for many miles, until we came to a stop at Peterborough County Road #4. Here we turned left, and then made a quick right turn onto County Road #8. This road isn’t as windy, but there are lots of hills and great open spaces. We continued on for many more miles, until we reached what seemed to be another road to the right. If you take this course, be sure to keep an eye on the signs, because this right turn is the continuation of County Road #8 and you want to stay on it, through South Dummer.

Several miles later, we made another right turn at the stop sign, onto Asphodel 11th Line, which soon took us onto Hwy 7. A left turn from there soon took us into the town of Havelock and a Tim Horton’s where we stopped for coffee and more reminiscing. Before we knew it darkness had taken over the sky and we all headed for home back down Hwy 7, after making vague plans to get together again in a couple of weeks. At Norwood we turned left toward Hastings, while the others continued back to Peterborough.

If you’re a local rider, looking for more roads to ride, give this one a try.

Retirement and Getting Lost in History


We’ve been home for a few weeks now, and, after getting caught up on household chores and reconnecting with friends and family, it was my intention to write one or two more blog posts to complete our latest journey.

But last week I’d decided to spend a day sorting through the huge box of photos and memorabilia to see if I could downsize a little more. In so doing, I came across a very old photo of some people that I’m sure could be the grandparents that I never knew. I scanned it, along with many others so that I could look at it more closely later.

Johnstons

Then, after I got into bed, I got thinking about it, and wondering who these people could be. I had some ideas, but needed to check out some dates on the Family Tree.  So, instead of getting to travel writing in the morning, I logged into Ancestry.ca and looked for clues to solve the mystery.  Most of my ideas were eliminated by date discrepancies, but while searching some people, I discovered other hints for other family members, and then I was gone.  To me, researching family history is like a big jigsaw puzzle. Once I find one piece, I can’t stop. I’m drawn to find more. Before I knew it, three hours had passed and I hadn’t even started to write! But I have no regrets. Genealogy is just another one of my passions. I actually created another blog about it a few years ago, but then posted only twice, and never made it known.

I took a break to make some lunch, and as I worked, I thought of the long To-do list that I always have running through my mind:

Write travel blog posts

Update/improve my website, monetize it perhaps

Write memoirs

Research family

Edit photos

Make photo books

Develop new blog: Unfolding Our Past

Then I asked myself, “Why do I put these burdens upon myself?” What difference will it make if I do none of them? I don’t expect to earn a living from any of them, because technically I’m retired. So why can’t I just relax and enjoyment retirement? But then, what does retirement mean? It should mean having the freedom to do whatever you want, right? For some, that might mean reading a book, watching TV, playing games or doing nothing at all, but for others, like me, it means having the time to pursue passions that keep the mind and body active, that give pleasure. That’s why I want to do these things, and more.

What does retirement mean to you? Do artists ever retire?

A Visit to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum


Our time in Arizona is quickly slipping away and we, like many others here, are trying to pack our last few weeks with as much as we can. On Monday some of our neighbours invited us to join them on a trip to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, near Superior, Arizona. We had never heard of it, but it was one item on their Bucket List, so we accepted.

Tuesday morning, we were up early and headed out Hwy 60 for the one hour drive. It was a perfect day for a hike through this intriguing botanical garden — sunny, but cool enough for a light jacket. We arrived perhaps a little earlier than necessary since the guided tour didn’t begin until 11:00, but we strolled along some of the smaller trails, and then bought some snacks in the gift shop while we waited.

The first stop on the tour was the Smith Interpretive Center, which was built in 1925 of locally quarried stone, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The building served as the original visitor’s center until the present one was built, and has two greenhouses attached to either side, one housing cacti from around the world, and the other showcasing succulent plants from other plant families.

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Taking the tour was the way to go. Jim, our guide, was a wealth of knowledge concerning the history of the park and the plants that were there.

The hike lasted nearly two hours and took us through the Hummingbird & Butterfly Garden, and Heritage Rose Garden, home to a large selection of Heritage roses. Unfortunately we were just a few weeks too early to see these in full bloom.

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We saw many beds of native and southern European herb plantings divided into specific use areas: culinary, medicinals, cosmetics, insect repellents, etc. The Wing Memorial Herb Garden is said to contain any type of herb or spice that one could want. Jim also pointed out the trees from which myrrh and carob beans come.

At the Cactus & Succulents Garden, Jim told us some interesting facts about the Saguaro Cactus. It is a protected species that cannot be destroyed under any circumstances, even when roads are being built. That is why we have often seen rows of them, their roots wrapped, sitting alongside of highways that are being expanded.  They have been dug up and will be transplanted to a new location. The Saguaro also has very long roots, extending for five feet or more just eighteen inches below the ground. Jim had samples of honey made from Prickly Pear Cactus, and syrup made from Agave Cactus, which he passed around with plastic spoons for us to try. Yummy!

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Saguaro Cactus

We stopped at Ayer Lake, a man-made reservoir that supplies the arboretum with irrigation water, and is home to several different species of migratory waterfowl.

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Ayres Lake

From the high trail along Queen Creek Canyon we had magnificent views of Magma Ridge and the historic Picketpost Mansion, former home of Colonel William Boyce Thompson, which is perched on volcanic cliffs overlooking his namesake Arboretum.

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The Australian Desert Exhibit and Walkabout Trail transported us to a different type of desert life.

It would be great to be able to return later in the spring when more plants are in full bloom, but our welcome here would be overstayed.

No, We Never Get Bored in Mesa, Arizona


We thought we had a good internet solution with our T-Mobile hot spot, and for the first few weeks it was. But we soon ran out of data when we started sharing pictures and looking at videos. It became impossibly slow so I had to give up on trying to post on my blog. Now we are hooked up with Century Link and hoping that it will continue to serve us well.

Contrary to the impression we have given of always having warm sunny weather here, today is rainy and cold. In fact yesterday morning it was colder here than it was back home in Ontario! So it’s a good day to catch up on all the things that have been keeping us busy the last few weeks.

When I was talking to my sister at Christmas time last year, she thought we would have been home already. I told her we wouldn’t be “home” until the middle of April. She said, ”Aren’t you bored?”

I replied, “If you get bored down here, it’s your own fault!” Here are some reasons why:

Besides enjoying good food and music and dancing on the patio with our many friends at Mesa Regal, we’ve enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast with our American friends;

We celebrated the birthday of one of those friends, with an evening at the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas display;

We’ve spent a good part of a day touring area roads on the motorcycle, with other Mesa Regal enthusiasts;

We’ve played pickle ball and bocce ball, and for three days last week cheered on good friends who were in the Pickle Ball Tournament, held right here at Mesa Regal RV Resort.

Jim makes a good shot at Bocce Ball

Jim makes a good shot at Bocce Ball

Patti and Mark Earned a Silver Medal

Patti and Mark Earned a Silver Medal

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We participated in the Tree Lighting Ceremony and caroling on the west-end patio;

We rounded out the last week with a ride on the light rail train to Tempe with two of our neighbours for dinner, followed by a stroll to the Salt River to watch the annual Lighted Boat Parade and Fireworks on Saturday evening,

And a drive to Glendale on Sunday with friends and neighbours to view these marvelous Sand Sculptures that were still being finished off near the end of the three-day competition.

So, no, we are never bored down here. But we might be when we return to our Ontario home!

San Francisco, Again, From a Different Perspective


As I mentioned in my last post, I was suffering with some major pain in my left back and hip the morning after we did the Shasta Caverns Tour. I really don’t know if that walking had anything to do with it. It could be sciatica; it could be a worn out hip joint. I was hoping that the pain would dissipate before we reached San Francisco.

We arrived at our reserved spot next to the wall overlooking the beach, at the San Francisco RV Resort in Pacifica at 1:00 p.m. on October 21st. This spot is a lot pricier than the one we stayed in the last time we visited, and we had only dry camping (no water, sewer or electrical hook-up), but the view was worth it. The temperature was warm enough for us to don our shorts for the first time. Unfortunately, Pacifica is ten miles away from downtown San Francisco. The plan was to ride the motorcycle to the Rapid Transit Station, and then take that downtown. But the pain in my hip was not letting up. There was no way I could lift my leg over the bike seat. It was all I could do to walk a few blocks to the nearest restaurant for lunch. After ice and pain medication it felt a little better and I could take no more sitting inside on such a gorgeous day, so we decided to try walking down the boardwalk along the beach to the pier that we could see in the distance. It wasn’t so bad going, and we took lots of pictures, but it was much further away than it looked.

Distant Pier

The distant pier along the shore at Pacifica

Shoreline Trail

The shoreline trail where we were camped above the ocean

SanFran (5)ShorelineWe were fascinated with these little birds that scurried in and out from the edge of the waves along the beach’

Birds on Beach

Tiny birds running on the beach

On the pier we watched many different coloured sea gulls that waited for fish or food scraps from the fishermen, and a lone pelican that sat still on the railing.

SanFran (8) Birds on the PierWhen we arrived back at the RV two hours later, I was in agony. From the front of the RV, we watched the beautiful sunset over the ocean, and the moon rising behind us. I was determined to do better the next day.

Sun setting

SunsetMoon RisingI still wasn’t up to climbing onto the bike the following morning, but after sitting on an ice pack, taking more pain meds, and rubbing on some lotions, I was able to walk the few blocks to catch a bus to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Station that took us downtown. The first thing we did was purchase transit passes. For $26 each we got three-day passes to ride any city bus, street car or cable car as many times as we needed. Jim really wanted to do the tour of Alcatraz, so we caught a street car to the Piers where the tour began. He was disappointed to discover that it was booked up until Saturday and we had to leave on Friday. He’d read that some of the City Tours included Alcatraz in their packages, but it took us several tries and a couple of hours to find one that did, only to learn that they too were sold out.

Alcatraz

Alcatraz, so near and yet so far

Instead, we purchased a regular tour package, at a discounted price because of the late time of day. We were assured we could use it again the next day too. We took a one and a half hour tour around the downtown, learning some of the history of the different parts of the city. When the tour was done strolled around the Fisherman’s Warf area, and had clam chowder in a bread bowl for dinner before catching the street car back to the BART station.

Seals at Fisherman's Warf

Seals basking in the sun at Fisherman’s Warf

The temperature had taken a plunge once the sun went down, and I hadn’t taken a sweater along. By the time I got off the bus back at the RV Park, I was cold, tired and ready for more Advil.

The next day we did it all again, this time taking the tour through Golden Gate Park and down to the coast for pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge. The park is huge, and beautiful. I would like to have explored it more.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

When we got back to the downtown we did get off at the Ashbury and Haight corner to experience what’s left of the” hippy era”. Instead of stepping into the “Glass Gallery” that a friendly, bearded fellow wearing a top hat assured us we’d like, we relaxed with a wonderful Chai Tea at a little café.

Asbury St. Decor

A fine example of some of the interesting decor on Ashbury and Haight Streets

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Glass Gallery?

We had to take at least a short ride on the cable car before we said goodbye to the city, but I wasn’t up to hanging on the side like we did last time.

Cable Car

Cable Car

It was certainly a different visit than our first, when we took the ferry into the downtown, from the other side, and spent our days walking and hopping on and off streetcars and trolleys. This time we had a new city walking tour app that would have been a great help, had I been able to walk more. Here’s your chance to try it out for free.

Mind Traveler has recently partnered with GPSmyCity to bring you access to one of these detailed apps that will answer all your questions about what to do and where to find it, in whichever city you choose. To get this free app all you need to do is be one of the first 20 Mind Traveler readers to like and comment on this post, telling me what motivates you to travel, and which city you plan to visit next. The codes for the free apps will be sent at the end of two weeks from the date of this post, or shortly after I’ve received 20 responses, whichever comes first. Note: These apps are currently available for only Apple devices. For a list of cities that are covered, visit www.gpsmycity.com

Be sure to follow this blog to get notifications of future posts and opportunities.

Shasta Caverns, Shasta Lake, California


We are already much further south, at Ventura, California as I write this post, but I promised I’d give you the scoop on Shasta Caverns, so I will do that first and hope to catch up again soon.

I have to say that these caverns are very interesting, and the area around them beautiful, although not as colourful as others we have toured. However, the tour comes with a warning – they aren’t for those with heart conditions or walking difficulties, especially stair climbing. And if you are in a large motor home, pulling a trailer, your driving skills and brakes need to be optimized. Here’s why:

The road into the Shasta Cavern Tours office is 1½ miles of narrow, uphill roads with hair-pin turns that had me holding my breath at times. It was a relief to finally reach the parking lot and see that there was actually room there for us to turn around and park!

We bought our tickets. When the announcement that the tour would start was made, we were given fifteen minutes to get to the boat that would ferry us across the lake. That was a another warning. We had to walk downhill almost as far as we’d driven up it seemed. One Hundred and Fifty stairs (or ramps if you preferred) switched back and forth, and then several more switch-backs on sand and gravel took us to the shore, where a large open pontoon boat with metal seats along the outsides and down the centre and powered by two 150 H.P. Yamaha motors, picked us up. The trip across the lake was beautiful. On the other side a ramp was let down so we could disembark, and then climb up a small hill to an awaiting mini-bus. The captain of the boat was also the driver of the bus, and the tour guide. If you think the sound of the drive up in the motor home sounded nerve-racking, you wouldn’t want to be on that bus; more hair-pin and S-turns sometimes at a 17% slope and hanging on the edge of the cliff. Good thing I was in the outside seat! We soon arrived at the little log cabin where the actual tour into the caverns began. Again there was a lot of climbing and although the stairs didn’t bother me, the high elevations did cause some heart palpitations that forced me to stop now and again for a rest. After any long climb there were always benches to sit upon. Our guide gave us lots of the history of the caverns and helped keep our minds off the physical challenge with some light-hearted chatter. The walking paths and stairs were all solid and railed. We saw some amazing examples of nature inside the several rooms that had been discovered. I’ll let you decide if it would be worth it to you.

The drive up

The drive up

The narrow road

The Narrow Road

Driving UpThe Walk Down to the Lake

The stairs to and from the lake

The stairs to and from the lake

Walking down

Crossing the Lake

Crossing the Lake

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View from Above

View From Above

Inside the Caverns

Inside Caverns

inside caverns inside caverns inside caverns IMG_1461 IMG_1458Inside CavernsWhen the tour was over, we had to climb back down many more stairs to the bus, make the return trip to the lake, cross the lake, and climb back up the hill. Someone asked how many stairs there were in total and we were told 150 up and down the hill to and from the boat, and 691 through and out of the caverns! Is it any wonder that we were exhausted when we crawled into bed that night, and that I suffered with major hip pain for the next five days? It did make me feel better to hear some of the much younger people on the tour huffing and puffing just as much as we. It was another Adventure, for sure!

Next time I’ll tell you about San Francisco and a little contest, perhaps.