Settled Back into our “Summer Home”


It’s been almost a week since we arrived back in Hastings, Ontario. I apologize if any of my readers and friends have been concerned about us, since my last post was about the high winds. We did get away from there the next day, but poor internet connections prohibited posting pictures so I postponed blogging. Once home, there was a week’s worth of household chores, and of course we had to play some pickle ball. Activity was very much needed after nearly 10 days of mostly sitting in the motor home.

We did have a few adventures along the way though.

We got away from Clovis, New Mexico shortly after 8:00 a.m. and, despite the usual strong winds across Texas, the sun was shining and we made good time. We made one stop in Texas, back in McLean hoping for lunch at the Chuck-wagon Restaurant we’d visited before. We were disappointed to discover that, being a Wednesday, it was closed, so we pulled onto the road shoulder near the highway entrance and finished off some leftovers. We were once more struck by the desolation of the town, which probably had once been booming before the new highway bi-passed it. Beside us was what appeared to be a large motel, now overgrown with vegetation.

By 2:00 we were in Oklahoma; two hours later Jim was beginning to feel the effects of fighting the winds. We’d already stopped once to check the awning on the slide out because it was constantly banging, but it was just the wind playing with the spring. I found a KOA at El Reno, but it was fully booked. This doesn’t often happen this time of year. We moved on for another hour. I called ahead to reserve a spot in the Rockwell RV Park where we’ve stayed a few times, near Oklahoma City. The weather was much cooler than it had been last year.  We took a walk around the park for some exercise, stopping to see the Buffalo in the pen, before heating up the last of the chicken pot pies for dinner.

The next morning we drove to Bricktown, Oklahoma City in search of the Banjo Museum. We found a place to park beside the Land Run display along the River Walk. We had to walk through there again, and discovered many details that we’d missed the first time.  It’s still one of our favourite places.

To get to the Banjo Museum, we walked nearly to the other end of the River Walk and up onto the streets. Jim was following a map he’d found in a travel brochure of Oklahoma City, but it wasn’t quite right.  It took us some time to find it; however, it was worth the effort. Two floors displayed these beautiful instruments that not only are used to entertain, but are works of art!

Banjo Museum (1)Banjo Museum (3)

Gibson1EarlScruggsBanjo Museum (22)Banjo Museum (21)

When we left there an hour later, we returned to Jazzmo’z for another delicious lunch before getting back on the road again. After that, we focused on our destination – home. We stopped only for gas, meals and sleeping. The folks at the Cracker Barrel chain along the way became our best friends. Construction near Troy Illinois held us up for an hour, meaning we got only as far as the Casey KOA on day seven, but we sailed through Indiana and a good portion of Ohio the next day before stopping at a Cracker Barrel, where we always have dinner and breakfast in exchange for the privilege of staying in the parking lot for the night.

By 3:00 p.m. of day nine we were crossing the border into Canada at Buffalo, New York, seeing only a bit of snow in the ditches of Pennsylvania. While traversing the bridge the side mirror (yes the one that almost fell off on our way down!) caught in a section of the chain link fence that had been erected along the under-construction sidewalk, cracking the case and leaving the lower part of the mirror hanging. There was nothing we could do about it before we got through Customs. There was a big crowd of vehicles filling the lanes right back to the beginning of the bridge. A fellow directing traffic managed to get us across three lanes of cars to the Bus Loading Lane, where we had to go into a building to check in. While Jim answered questions I watched an officer come out of the back, take a look around with his hands on his hips and then retreat without a word. I could be wrong, but the dazed look on his face and the weird eyes made me think that he might be stoned. That could have been a scary thing!

Once we were back into Canada Jim pulled over to put the mirror back together, and a few miles later we stopped for Tim Horton’s coffee, and to change the phone SIM card. Then we were into the crazy slow Toronto traffic. It had taken us only six hours to get from Ohio to Buffalo; it took us four more to get home! The restaurants of Hastings were already closed, so I had to make us some dinner. I was tired and hungry, but it was good to be home.

 

HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!

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.

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.

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!

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.

Three States in Three Days with Lots to See and Do


It’s hard to believe that it’s been only five days since we left Canada and we’ve already been through Washington and Oregon and are now deep into California.

Our first stop was Seattle, Washington where we arrived at rush hour so spent some time crawling along Hwy. 5 before turning off in search of somewhere to park for the night. Jim wanted to stay in the downtown so we could tour on foot the next day. However, there was only one RV Park that we could find listed near downtown and we were told that it wasn’t really a “camping” type of park, but only for long term, i.e. minimum of 30 days. At 6:30, hungry and tired, we asked if we could park overnight in the gated Home Depot Store/Rental Centre. We could, but had to be out before things got busy in the morning. With no restaurants within sight, we ate my left over Quesadilla from lunch. Close by there was…you guessed it… a train track crossing, and a shipyard! Things got quieter after 11:00 pm, but at 5:00 am street cleaners were at work just outside our door. We were up and out of there by 6:30 in search of breakfast (we hadn’t yet restocked our cupboards and fridge since crossing the border), and a place to park for the day. After a couple of hours I suggested we drive further south to a KOA Campground that was close to public transit. We got settled in there just in time to catch the 10:15 bus that would take us to the rapid transit station. Well, it would have if we hadn’t missed the stop. We waited at the end of the line for another bus to take us back.

Finally, at noon we were sitting down to lunch in a cafeteria, and from there took the monorail to The Space Needle, a remnant the Seattle Worlds Fair, where our tour began. The view from the Needle was worth the hour wait.

Space Needle

Space Needle

IMG_1293 IMG_1303 IMG_1305We caught the monorail back, and then the rapid transit to Pioneer Square, where we took the hour long tour of the Underground City. I found the history of the first city of Seattle interesting, but the actual remains not as impressive as I had expected. The tour guide was excellent though.

Underground City

The sidewalk grates provided the only light to the Underground City

Underground City

One store in the Underground City, perhaps updated?

We’d planned to meet other Mesa friends, Nita and Fred, for dinner, but that didn’t work out for them in the end.

After sandwiches at the nearby Subway, we boarded the train and bus back to the campsite. It was a wonderful day, but by the time we got back, at 7:15 pm it felt like midnight! I opened the fridge to get a drink of water and discovered that, from all the banging and bumping we’d done while crossing cobblestone intersections and jamming on brakes when it looked like someone was going to pull out in front of us that morning, a jar of Kalamati Olives had managed to flip completely upside down and all the juice had drained into the vegetable bins and the door shelves. Sigh. Not quite what I wanted to do that evening.

The next morning we enjoyed a hot breakfast available at the campground, before we got on the road again. We drove through intermittent cloud and rain, but the temperatures started to rise. When we were ready to stop for the night, there seemed to be few campsites around, but I thought I’d found a good one on public land near the reservoir at Cottage Grove, Oregon It took a bit to find it, only to discover that it was closed for the season. I’d missed that little detail at the bottom of the description. However we found a day Park with a paved parking lot right next to the reservoir. We parked there for the night. Fortunately we had stopped at a grocery store to buy a few groceries so we had food for dinner and breakfast.

Cottage Grove Reservoir

Room with a View of Reservoir

IMG_1343The next day, a visit to the Information Centre in California resulted in a decision to camp somewhere near the Shasta Caverns so we could do the 10:00 am tour the next day. It was only 3:00 pm when we pulled into Shasta RV Resort and Campground, but it was nice to have a shorter day. We enjoyed a walk through the forest and along the Shasta Reservoir while the sun was warm, and that evening we had great WiFi connections that enabled us to catch up on email, and I could add the pictures to my last blog post. If you want to see them, check it out.

Shasta RV Resort and Campground, California

Shasta RV Resort and Campground, California

IMG_1372Today, we did the Shasta Cavern Tour. It was quite the adventure, one that I will share in detail in my next post. I will say that we enjoyed it, but we were reminded that we aren’t as fit as we should be.

Tonight we’re at the Vineyard Campground, seventy miles away from San Francisco, where we will go tomorrow for a few days.