Leaving Mesa Regal


The time has flown by this winter, probably because we were late arriving in Arizona in the fall. The last weeks were filled with a bit of pickleball and a whole lot of eating out with friends before saying goodbyes. I will really miss all those people who have become an integral part of our lives. But I am anxious to get back to my efficient, well equipped kitchen in Ontario.  It’s been over a month since I’ve had a properly working fridge, which meant we ate out too much.

We left Mesa Regal at noon on April 1st, after our motorhome played a trick on us – the leveling Jacks refused to rise up off the ground. It took about an hour before the problem was solved with an electric drill being used to manually lift them to their traveling position. When we finally got the bike loaded into the trailer, said our final goodbyes and started off, we realized that when we’d parked and covered the car in its storage spot, we’d left the GPS in it! Fortunately it was just a few streets away so we swung by, uncovered the car, retrieved the GPS and re-covered the car. We were already tired! Some lunch helped, and then we were on our way.

By 4:00 we were almost at the turn off for Tombstone. We decided to stop there for the night, and spend part of the next day seeing some of the things we missed the last time we visited that old city. We found a spot in the Stampede RV Park, within walking distance of all the attractions. In the morning, after breakfast served in the park’s Coach Stop, we took the trolley tour,

witnessed a comedy version of the notorious gunfights common in the old west

and looked around the Rose Museum, where the world’s largest rose is huge and presently blooming.

A big thanks goes out to Sue in the RV Park office who gave us a great summary of what to find and where.There are still a few more sites to see, but at 1:00 we knew if we were going to get out of Arizona before the day was out, we had to get back on the road.

We made it to Las Cruces, New Mexico before it was too dark, and stayed at the Coachlight Motel & RV Park.

Monastery Tour


Last week our new friends and neighbours invited us to join them for lunch at Zupas, restaurant we’d not been to before, followed by a trip to St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery near Florence. It turned out to be a wonderful day.

Zupas is a perfect place to eat if you prefer freshly made soups, sandwiches and salads from a wide variety of both healthy and flavourful ingredients.

We were told that there were rules about dress codes at the monastery, so, after checking the website, Jim put on his long pants and long sleeved shirt, the only requirements for men. For us women it was much more stringent. Our legs, feet, arms and head all needed to be covered. No pants allowed unless under a long skirt; no hats, but a head scarf was imperative. I looked into my closet and found a black skirt that hung to mid-calf that I thought might pass if worn over my black jeans. I had a white long-sleeved blouse that I could put over a t-shirt, and a white and black infinity scarf to cover my head. With shoes and socks, I thought I’d be passable. I put the extra layers on at the car, once we’d reached the monastery parking lot. Ruth had worn pants and a long sleeved shirt, but opted to borrow from the skirts and scarves made available. We were greeted at the open court yard by a Sister. She scowled at me and told me my skirt was too short. She thrust a long, brown, cotton one at me and I pulled it on over my own. The one she gave Ruth turned out to be only an inch or two longer on her than mine was on me. Oh well. As she told us about the rules for touring, she kept looking me over and abruptly said, “Put your blouses outside your skirt!” We graciously complied and were then allowed to begin our self guided tour with one map in Jim’s hands.

Judy and Ruth dressed for the tour

Judy and Ruth dressed for the tour

Once we began, the whole atmosphere changed. It was a warm, sunny day and the beautiful, quiet gardens offered a sense of peace. We stopped several times just to sit and take it all in. It was hard to believe that we were in the middle of the desert!

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Enjoying the tranquility

Bill and Ruth enjoying the tranquility. Notice the intricate brick work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olive Groves

Olive Groves

 

 

Arizona Monastery (7)

One of three guest lodges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were allowed to look inside all of the chapels and take pictures. The architecture was amazing, as you can see from the pictures.

St. Nicholas Chapel

St. Nicholas Chapel

About an hour later we finished the tour in the gift shop where jams and jellies and olives grown on the grounds were available for purchase along with a variety of other products. When we emerged, tours were over and everyone had gone to Chapel. We left our borrowed clothing on a bench in the courtyard and then made one last stop on the way off the grounds, to take pictures of the chapel on the hill.

St. Elijah Chapel

St. Elijah Chapel

Tour Guiding Around Mesa and Area, Arizona


We have been busy since arriving at our winter home, but mostly with things inside the park. On Friday, after the unexpected evening arrival of our friends Jane and Lloyd, from back home, that changed. They are taking a “long way round” trip this year on their way to their winter home in Florida. Because of some cold, windy weather in Winslow Arizona they decided to come further south before turning toward California. We were so glad to see them, and happy to offer them a tour of some of the things that we find amazing in the area.

After some catching up and warming up in the hot tub on Friday night, and a good night’s sleep, we took off to one of our favourite breakfast spots that we hadn’t yet been to this year – What the Hell Bar and Grill, and then we journeyed to Tortilla Flat on Superstition Mountain. Jane is as much of a camera buff as I am, so it was a slow climb, taking time to snap pictures. They were very much in awe of the mountain scenery along the way, and then the unique décor and lunch in the restaurant.

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Customer donated paper currency from around the world covers the walls and ceilings.

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Tortilla Flat gets its name from this rock formation that resembles a stack of tortillas

We were too full to indulge in the prickly pear ice cream, but we enjoyed a little “gunfight” outside the school house. While we waited for the show to begin, the actors made small talk with us, establishing that we were all Canadian. Before the fight began, two of the actors asked for a Canadian volunteer.  Lloyd, being the good sport that he is, allowed himself to be drawn inside the rope, where he was immediately hand-cuffed and led to the hanging tree!

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When the noose was around his neck, the Sheriff appeared and asked what was going on.

“We’re going to hang this guy!” his captors exclaimed.

“I’m innocent,” cried Lloyd.

“He says he’s innocent,” replied the Sheriff.

“But he’s Canadian! So we’re still going to hang him!

At the Sheriff’s command, they let him go and got on with the show. The air filled with gun smoke after the shootout between a few former bank robbers and the Sheriff.

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Of course, on the way back down the mountain we had to let Jane and Lloyd experience Goldfield Mine Ghost Town, a place I’ve written about before. We arrived just time to catch the last more elaborate gunfight of the day there. Lloyd wasn’t recruited this time. It was a great photo op though.

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Sunday morning we were out for breakfast again, at another favourite Sunday morning breakfast place, Midwestern Meats, before starting out on new adventure. We drove out through Miami and Globe towards the other side of Superstition Mountain. Our destination was Tonto International Monument, a heritage site of cliff dwellings.

We took a wrong turn and got ourselves onto a narrow trail meant for four-wheelers, not a Sebring convertible! But Jim got us turned around without dropping over the edge and we found some more scenes worth shooting.

A few years ago we took Jim’s daughter Karen to the cliff dwellings and we hiked up to the upper dwellings. This time we did the lower ones, which was just right for us, since I’m still recovering from my hip surgery and Lloyd has a bad knee. This trail was paved all the way.

The weather was perfect, although I found it a little too cold and windy sitting in the back seat with the top down on the convertible. By the next morning my allergies were acting up.

We took the Bush Highway back into the city, and we were excited to finally discover some of the wild horses that had eluded us last year!

When we got back to Mesa I suggested The Organ Stop Pizza for dinner for Jane and Lloyd’s final adventure before they had to be on their way the next day. I’ve written about this before too, but it is always just as amazing. The food is very good, but the entertainment is spectacular. Music played by the very talented Mr.  Charlie Balogh, on the huge Wurlitzer organ, kept everyone bobbing and clapping and turning our heads to watch all of the various instruments on the walls and ceiling jump into action at the appropriate times. Again, Jane became so excited she could hardly eat her dinner. It was so much fun to see them enjoy themselves.

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We hope that we have provided some good memories of their trip, and wish them safe travels.

Six Days, Seven States, 2,110 Miles


I said that I would keep you posted along our journey to Arizona, but that hasn’t worked out so well. We are in Holbrook Arizona tonight and will be in Mesa tomorrow, so I’ll give you a synopsis of our travels during the last six days.

Since we have driven this route several times, and this time we aren’t taking time for any sightseeing, there isn’t too much to share with you. The things that have made this an adventure this time are the inconveniences that have occurred.

We got away last Thursday afternoon and got caught up in the rush hour traffic in Toronto. We’d planned to make it to Windsor, ready to cross the border to the US in the morning, but it was dark and rainy so we stopped at the Onroute (Travel Centre) at Guelph for some dinner and the night. We’d driven away from the light snow that was falling when we left, but the temperature was just above freezing. The furnace was necessary. This was the first inconvenience. Jim started it up. The fan came on and we could hear the click of the propane burner trying to fire, but it never made it. Jim started the generator so I could use the microwave, and the furnace came on. It ran the whole time that the generator was on, shutting down when the required temperature was reached, and starting up again. We shut the generator off and went back inside the building to read before bed so as not to use up battery power by using the coach lights. When we got back, it wasn’t so warm, but we were ready for bed anyway. Jim plugged his APAP into the 12 volt outlet and we left the furnace running. At 1:00 a.m. he woke up, unable to breath. The APAP wasn’t working and the coach was very cold, so he had to turn the generator on again to charge up the batteries. Seems the furnace will only run on 110 watts and if that battery gets just a little low, it shuts off. The fan, however, will keep on going on the 12 volt batteries until they too die! It had been running for several hours non-stop, using up all the battery power. Well, at least we knew that. We turned off the furnace once the place was good and warm, and crawled under the covers. Thank goodness for the silk and down duvet that I’d snagged at a patio sale last year!

The second night we parked in a Cracker Barrel parking lot for the night, after enjoying a delicious home-style meal, in Joliet Illinois. Again we had to play the game with the furnace. We were up early and back on the road by 8:10 the next morning. We stopped for gas and just nicely got cruising down I-55 when the passenger side-view mirror, which had seemed a little wobbly the day before and Jim had tightened up the bolts holding it to the arm, was suddenly vibrating so hard that it would soon be off on the side of the road. So Jim got out to check it again and this time discovered that the problem was with the wood behind the siding where the mirror arm was attached. It was rotten! There was nothing he could do but remove the whole thing. Now that’s not so good when you’re driving a vehicle with no back window, so therefore no rearview mirror, and you have to depend on your side-view mirrors. Back on the highway Jim avoided passing anyone because he wouldn’t be able to see well enough to get back into the lane after. He figured if he had some longer bolts he could put them through into the plywood under the inside dash, so when we stopped in Leitchfield for lunch he got what he needed at the local NAPA dealer and replaced the mirror. We’d planned to make it to Lambert’s Café in Sullivan for dinner, but by 5:00 we’d had enough and stopped at the KOA in Stanton, Missouri. Since we’d had to winterize the motor home with antifreeze before we left home, we had only bottled water on board, so it was really nice to be able to hook up to water, sewer and electricity. Oh yes, the water pump wasn’t working anyway so we couldn’t have used our own water. We enjoyed hot showers (thank goodness the water heater was working!) and recharged all of our electronics before crawling into bed.

The next morning we timed it just right to have lunch at Lambert’s. Each other time that we’ve gone there we didn’t have much of a wait and we were out within the hour, but we forgot that it was Sunday of the US Thanksgiving weekend this time. The parking lots were full, but we got lucky enough to grab an RV spot that had just been vacated. However, the porch was filled with people waiting to get into the restaurant and there was a line up at the outdoor Registration Booth!

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We were told there was a 70 to 80 minute wait, but since we’d been anticipating this since the evening before, we decided to wait. It was cold outside so we went into the Gift Shop. Many others had the same idea. We had to get extra layers out of the motor home. At 90 minutes our names were called and we were shown to our seats in a room filled with large families and lots of chatter and of course rolls being tossed across the room. Jim enjoyed a pork variety platter and I decided to try the fried chicken. I hadn’t had fried chicken like that in years. Of course it was too much, so we had the base for our dinner in the RV that night, buying some salad at the Walmart in Claremore Oklahoma, where we parked for the night. It was windy there, but a little warmer.

We were on our way by 7:30 the next morning and except for a stop at a 60’s style diner, Jerry’s Restaurant, in Weatherford, and a short rest at a rest stop in Texas where we could have bought a stuffed buffalo for $20,000, we kept driving until Jim could fight the strong winds sweeping across the plains no more. We stopped in Tucumcari New Mexico for dinner at Denny’s, and checked in for the night at Red Mountain RV Park. The winds were so strong that they would slow the RV down so much that it shifted into a lower gear, making it difficult to climb hills.

Today we left early and stopped for lunch in Sky City at the Dancing Eagle Casino. We indulged ourselves with $5.00 each to play on the slots. Although that lasted us for a good half hour, we came away with nothing to show for it. At 4:00 this afternoon we arrived in Arizona, having traveled 2,110 miles. We drove through a bit of snow flurries and saw more in the ditches and fields along the way as we rose in elevation, but fortunately none was on the roads. We are in the OK RV Park in Holbrook tonight. We’re hoping that the snow will hold off again tomorrow, at least until we get down into the valley. It’s supposed to be well below freezing, so they wouldn’t allow us to hook up to water, but at least we have electricity and WiFi.

. ☺

Texas, Oklahoma and Home: Concluding another RV Adventure


After a goodbye breakfast with neighbours, we finished the last minute preparations, and left Mesa, Arizona shortly before noon on April 1st. At 4:30 we were in Winslow, Arizona sitting on the corner eating ice cream, while watching first-time visitors posing for the same pictures we had taken on our first visit.

When we’d finished the ice cream, we decided to call it a day. We found a campground listed in a flyer we’d picked up so called to reserve a spot. The woman implied that it was filling up quickly, and it was a good thing we’d called ahead. We didn’t expect a lot of amenities because the rates were fairly low, but when we arrived at Winslow Pride RV, we had difficulty recognizing it as a campground. It was located behind a convenience store. The gravel driveway was full of many water-filled potholes, and the water and electric hookups looked very doubtful.  We chose to use only the electrical since we still had plenty of water on-board. There were many empty spots.

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Water tap bearably visible, beside sewer connection.

We’d taken the same course, on I-40 through Gallup, and Tucumcari, New Mexico, through a corner of windy Texas, and into Oklahoma before, but this time the weather was warmer and there seemed to be more RV Campsites available.

We made one stop in McLean, Texas for lunch. McLean is one of the many towns that were once vibrant when Route 66 was the main highway crossing the nation and ran through them, bringing lots of business.  Now McLean is practically a ghost town with many boarded up buildings and dilapidated homes. Not one of the three museums was open, but we did find a The Chuck Wagon Diner, where we shared the daily special of cheeseburger meat loaf served with gravy (of course), mashed potatoes, mixed veggies, a fresh dinner roll and a piece of cake! Even shared it was too much food for us to finish, but it was tasty.

Near Oklahoma City we found a familiar RV Campground, Rockwell RV, where we stayed for the night.  The weather, that had been cooler after we left Arizona, had warmed up to 85°F.

Total length of this rig, including truck, trailer and towed vehicle -- 80 feet!

Total length of this rig, including truck, trailer and towed vehicle — 80 feet!

The next morning we drove into downtown Oklahoma City and spent a few hours enjoying the scenery along the River Walk and taking many, many photos of the magnificent, larger-than-life bronze statues depicting the Land Runs of 1889. Be sure to come back to click on the link and all the menu items on it. It’s a wondrous story. I did find the monument that honoured the natives from whom the land had originally been taken, disturbing.

We had lunch at jazmo’z Bourbon Street Cafe on the canal,

before getting onto the I-44 to Joplin, Missouri where we stayed for the night.

The next day we veered away from I-44 and took a scenic drive through the Ozarks on Hwy 265, stopping for lunch at Lambert’s Café (Home of the Tossed Rolls and extra large coffees) before getting back on course.

After that, home was our only goal. We stopped only for food, gas and sleep. Our last morning, in Erie, Pennsylvania, we woke up to find snow on the ground and Jim said, “I wish I’d listened to the GPS when she told us to make a U-turn when safe to do so!”

We were thankful that there was no snow when we arrived home by dinner time on April 7th.

I, for one, was happy to get out of the motor home that was feeling very cramped after seven months of living in it. But it was an excellent adventure!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this adventure. Thanks for joining us. Likes, comments and new followers are appreciated.

One Last Adventure in Arizona – Biosphere2


With our days here dwindling quickly, we went on one last adventure before starting the task of sorting and packing to get ready for our trip back to Ontario. Saturday morning we packed a lunch, and struck out in the car, top down, towards Oracle and Biosphere 2.

An hour later, we stopped for a stretch at a little park that displayed a memorial to Tom Mix, a famous movie cowboy who died in a car accident at the spot in 1940, too long ago for me to know anything about him, but his interesting story was posted.

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It was lunch time when we arrived at Biosphere 2, so we sat outside on one of the stone benches and enjoyed our lunch while soaking up the sunny atmosphere. Then we went inside to wait for the tour to begin.

Biosphere 2 contains 5 biomes, including a 900,000-gallon salt water ocean, a rain forest, a desert, agricultural areas and a human habitat, all within the 7,200,000-cubic-foot sealed glass and space-frame structure.

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A Little History

Biosphere 2 was a Space Biospheres Venture project that began in 1984 with the purchase of the property near Oracle Arizona that had previously been the site of a conference centre for Motorola, and then the University of Arizona. Two years later an iconic facility was constructed with $150 million in funding from Texas oil magnate Edward Bass. It was designed as an airtight replica of Earth’s environment (Biosphere 1).

Some of the early designers and managers were interested in space travel and the possibility of colonizing the Moon or Mars.  With the hope of learning what problems would arise from living in a closed system, in 1991 a colony of eight people were sealed inside Biosphere 2 for two years. Six months later another crew of seven entered Biosphere 2, but after a number of physical and social problems developed these experiments were suspended in 1994.

In the years following, the facility was managed by Decisions Investment Corporation and Columbia University until 2007 when CDO Ranching and Development bought it. The University of Arizona assumed management, and was then gifted the facility in 2011. It has been a state-of-the art research laboratory for students of science ever since, with tourism providing some extra funding.

After a five-minute video that highlighted some of the things we would see, our tour began. I can’t remember the tour guide’s name because he was not a memorable soul and brought no life to the tour. It seemed like he didn’t have enough to tell us and was always checking his watch and then saying, “So I’ll give you a minute or two to stand here and look around” as if he was killing time. That was disappointing.

We saw banana and eucalyptus trees in the rainforest, and a little experiment in progress that some school children had set up. It was a several-tiered vegetable garden that was being nourished with the run-off water from a Koi fish pond at the top level. We walked through the mangrove marsh and the desert.

There are two “lungs”, white domes that are variable air-volume control devices. Our guide took us through a tunnel, into the South Lung and explained a little bit about how it works.

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Inside the “lung”

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I think with a more enthusiastic guide, the hour and a half long tour would have been very interesting, but as it was, we were glad when it was over.

Then we were allowed to do self-guided tours of the Ocean from below, through a windowed tunnel, but some sections were under repair or construction, so there really wasn’t much to see. We decided to skip the self-guided tour of the Upper Habitat, where the crews had lived in 1991 to 1994, since we’d been given views of it in the video, and we were ready to continue on to Globe for dinner.

Although the history of the Biosphere 2 is interesting, I felt that today it would be far more enticing to spend some time there as a science student or researcher, living in one of the adobe apartments and making use of the facility for experiments and further knowledge. Summer programs are offered to young students as well.

To learn more about Biosphere2 check out these websites:

http://www.desertusa.com/desert-arizona/bios2.html#ixzz44HTcoxGj

http://biosphere2.org/

A Cruise on the Dolly Steamboat and New Views of Superstition Mountain


As many times as we’ve driven up to and around Superstition Mountain, we’d not taken a trip on the Steamboat that we often saw when we skirted Canyon Lake so this year we decided this would be one of the highlights when Jim’s daughter Karen was here. Two old friends and two new friends joined us.

After lunch at Tortilla Flat, we drove back down the road to the Dolly Steamboat Boarding Area and waited in line to pick up our boarding passes. We’d reserved our spots online a week or more earlier, which was a good thing because tickets were sold out.

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The day was perfect. We were too far back in the line to get seats on the upper deck, but there were plenty of opportunities to duck outside to the open bow and stern decks to capture some of the natural wonders hiding in the 1300 foot cliffs around us. The captain, using a PA system, let us know where to look for things he knew would be of particular interest.

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Long-horn Sheep roaming the cliffs

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Bald Eagle Nest – some were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the eagle

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J. S. Bach gave us a performance (with the help of the captain and PA system)

Because spring has come early to the area this year, we saw a whole new version of Superstition Mountain. Instead of the various shades of browns, grays and reddish rocks that were in all our previous photos, this time there were the yellows and reds and greens of the flowering trees and cacti, and mosses and lichens. Everything was in bloom!

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We also managed to find views without hydro wires, after the cruise was done and we were on our way back down to Apache Junction.

Wishing Everyone a Happy Easter!