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.

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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!

Always Experiencing Something New – Through the Smoke in Kelowna and Kaslo BC


Other than having my carry-on bag inspected because I’d inadvertently packed one tube of facial cleanser that was a little over the size limit, my flight to Kelowna was very pleasant. The plane was newer, but had more leg room than usual. It wasn’t full, so the friendly woman in the outside seat and I shared the empty space between us. And we arrived twenty minutes early!

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Somewhere over the Prairies?

It was hot, dry and smoky when my friend, Judy, picked me up at Kelowna Airport, but that didn’t stop us from chatting all the way to her home in Vernon, as long-time friends tend to do. I stayed with Judy and her husband until the next leg of my trip by bus began the next afternoon.

During a trip to the Vernon Library, we came across this lovely little park and caught the last beautiful song from a young woman performing with her friend or husband, who accompanied her on guitar. We were sorry we arrived too late to catch more and to get a better picture, maybe even a video clip.

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Music in the Park

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Next to the Vernon Court House

While Judy and I waited at the station for my bus the next morning, a police officer came in looking for someone named Ernie. He approached an elderly man who was sitting behind me and asked if he could speak to him. We heard the officer say that someone was worried about him. The man was tall and frail-looking. He carried with him only a small shaving kit and a brown manila envelope. Neither the pockets of his plaid cargo shorts, nor those on his shirt showed any sign of a wallet. They took their conversation outside and then eventually left together.

“I hope he can get a refund,” said a man sitting two seats over from me. “He bought a ticket to Swift Current (a destination hundreds of miles away). I thought that to be doubtful, but it reminded me of the man who was reluctantly about to celebrate his 100th birthday at an Old Age Home, in the book The-100-Year- Old- Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson. I recommend it for a fun read.

Soon, I was riding the Greyhound Bus to Nelson, where my daughter Sarah picked me up, while observing the clouds of smoke and areas of blackened forest that had succumbed to the fires last year. We arrived in Kaslo just in time to say good night to my two grandchildren.

Like last year, large portions of the days in Kaslo were spent at the beach. The cool breeze off the lake made the temperature bearable, but the other shore of the lake was obscured by the smoke, even that far away from the nearest wildfire.

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Smoke across Kootenay Lake

The next morning I was introduced to a sweet dog named Leté. Sarah had gotten a call telling her that one of her friends, who had recently been acting very strangely and who Sarah suspected was having some sort of mental breakdown, had been admitted to hospital. The neighbour who was calling was looking after the woman’s dog, but because of some physical restrictions she was unable to take her for long walks. She asked if Sarah could do that. So she and I and my granddaughter, Skylet walked down the hill and took Leté out. She enjoyed running along the beach.

Long story short, Leté ended up living with us for the next two weeks until her owner returned home. We all grew very much attached to her.

On Saturday morning I went to the diverse Kaslo Outdoor Market, where Sarah did quite well selling her popular pottery.

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My Daughter the Potter

Other vendors

By mid-afternoon, when we returned all of Sarah’s market equipment and unsold pottery back to her studio, the temperature was very hot. We drove back down to spend the rest of the day at the beach with the rest of the family. I was hot enough to actually venture into the lake for the first time, but it was cold. I got only to my waist!

Sunday there was a celebration at the lower bridge along the River Trail. It was there that I pulled out my camera for the first time, only to discover that I’d apparently left the memory card at home in my computer! Thank goodness for my smart phone, which provided pictures for the rest of my visit, but I hadn’t taken it with me to the trail either!

That evening the males of the house went fishing and my grandson, Callum, came home very excited about the Rainbow Trout he’d caught – big enough to feed us dinner the next night. That boy loves to fish!

The rest of the week went quickly with several trips to the beach and a trip to the Riding Stables to watch Skylet taking her horseback riding lesson.

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Skylet on her Horse

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Annual Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival

During my second weekend in Kaslo the population of the small town, about the size of my home town of Hastings (pop. 1200), swelled to probably triple that as people came from all around the Kootenays and beyond for the Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival.

Sarah and I spent Friday at the Market again. There was a different crowd and some different vendors, and it was another successful day. Ten-year-old Callum took his un-tuned violin to the main street and, despite not having practised in several months, managed to earn $25 for himself to spend at the Festival. I was wishing I’d taken my ukulele!

Saturday and Sunday Sarah and I joined the others for some great concerts and a variety of food at Kaslo Bay Park.

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The top Headliner of the event was Buffy Sainte-Marie. She was amazing! Unfortunately the heavy bass prevented me from witnessing her from close to the stage, as it did unpleasant things to my heart rhythm.

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The day closed with the sun reflecting off the mountain tip.

By 9:00 Sunday night we were all exhausted. For me, Monday was a bit of a lazy day, doing my laundry and helping with a few household chores while Sarah prepared her Studio for the kids Clay Camp she was putting on for the next four days. I had agreed to be her assistant for that. I had to rest up!

Tuesday and Wednesday there were both morning and afternoon classes, two different groups doing two half-days each. The kids were young and excited and needed some guidance, which, after listening carefully to Sarah’s instructions, I was able to provide. I enjoyed it.

The pre-teen/teen class was on Thursday and Friday mornings. I listened and observed and made a pinch pot on Thursday morning, but my assistance wasn’t really needed, other than to help clean up at the end of the day. I took the whole family out to the little (and unusually crowded) Front Street Pizzeria for dinner, thanks to a donation from Jim. The food was great, but because of the extra tourists in town and some restaurants chose to close early, the wait time very long.

On Friday I opted to do some laundry, both mine and family, and get organized for my departure the next morning. We drove to Duncan Lake in the afternoon. Despite there being so much smoke that we could see only half-way across the lake, and at some point we noticed ash falling onto our clothes, it was a fun family time on another beach, and the water was warm enough for me to get in and swim!

Smoke across Duncan Lake

Smoke across Duncan Lake

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When Sarah took me to catch my bus in Nelson the next day, we discovered that the shut-down of the Greyhound service was already in progress. The terminal was no longer open on the weekends. I had to stand outside under whatever shade I could find to wait for my bus. Next time I go, there will be no Greyhound bus at all.

I spent Sunday and Monday with Judy. Sunday we drove to Salmon Arm to visit my cousin George, after the smoke cleared a little. The sun never made it through the haze that day. Shortly after noon on Tuesday, after another bag search that didn’t pass inspection this time (more on that later) I was flying high above the smoky clouds, looking forward to home and a break from the smoke.

The Development of the Kaslo River Trail


The Kaslo River was often subjected to severe flooding during the 1800s. In 1895-96, during the rebuilding of the town after one such flood, the first hydro-electric system was included in the construction. It was privately operated by George Alexander. Kaslo Creek (River) was rerouted southwards into the current channel. In 1914 the City of Kaslo purchased Kaslo Power and Light for $27,000. It was upgraded in 1931 to be fully automatic. Another flood occurred in 1948 and in 1962 the power utility was abandoned, putting Kaslo onto the BC Hydro grid.

Hiking trails began to develop along this abandoned land, but they were treacherous. In 2005 the many townspeople who like to use these trails formed the Kaslo Trailblazers Society and began the Kaslo River Trail Project.

Many volunteer hours over the past ten years have resulted in two beautiful, safe hiking trails along both sides of the river, joined by red-stained wooden bridges at each end, both built by the volunteers. Where parts of the trail have become flooded in recent years, new higher links have been created and reinforced with wooden steps. Rope railings to assist with the climb, and wooden or steel benches, dedicated to donors, make the hike more friendly to people of various physical fitness. Animal-proof garbage cans have also been added to help keep the area clean.

And the scenery is fantastic!

Warkworth by Night – Food, Music, Dancing, Puppets and Lanterns


This past weekend we went yet again to the Town of Warkworth. It seems they have some sort of festival nearly every weekend throughout the summer. This time it was something new to us – the Second Annual Warkworth by Night Street Festival.

We arrived in time to chat with friends and admire the beautiful costumes some people were wearing,

Lovely costume made from paper

Lovely costume made from paper

before the first entertainers began their performance, The Starlight Belly Dancers.

Next, a brother and sister from Brampton, but originally from India, had fun showing us some Bollywood dancing, and later gave instructions to an enthusiastic audience.

A Costume Parade

Was followed by a Giant Puppet Parade.

Once the sun had disappeared we were treated to a Parade of Lanterns.

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The final performers, the Polky Village Band hailed from Toronto. They are a group of young Polish immigrants who taught us a bit about Polish music and dance, which especially thrilled me, since my son has recently moved to Poland and I hope to visit him there one day.

Polky Village Band

Polky Village Band

What a beautiful night!

We finished the evening off with a cup of “adult” chocolate drink from the local Chocolatier. She assured us that it was called “adult” only because it was a drink made from fine, dark chocolate rather than chocolate milk or hot chocolate that are kids’ favourites. It was yummy, as you can see from the empty, environmentally friendly, heavy-paper cup and straw.

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