Friday, January 22, 2021

Three Weeks in January

January 1 - 21, 2021
Tombstone, Arizona

While it was shocking to watch the attack on the Capitol, on the people who were confirming the vote of millions of Americans, on the democratic process we hold so dear, it didn't shock me that it happened. That it was allowed to happen. Investigations, arrests, charges and sentences will confirm what we already know.

Here in Southeastern Arizona little changes. We stay home 99% of the time, piddling around the property, mostly being lazy. Check-ins from family and friends confirm all are doing fine, coping as best they can, staying safe and healthy. Several have received their vaccines without issue. It's all we can hope for until the vaccines do what we all pray they will.

Last month we finally found good Internet service which has added a whole new level of entertainment access, and a whole new level of laziness I'm afraid. We still "need" satellite tv for the NFL Channel, otherwise we mostly watch Amazon Prime Video now. It's something we're likely to miss when we're back on the road, but we'll get over it being able to travel again!!

Speaking of the NFL......I can't remember any team taking such a dive after being the last undefeated at the end of 11 weeks as my Steelers. That last game was beyond embarrassing :-( Now we're just hoping Tampa Bay doesn't make it all the way!

Speaking of traveling again.....we drop the motorhome at Camping World in Tucson for a list of minor repairs and replacements needed before we leave this Spring. It's still strange to leave it for an extended time rather than returning to sleep in it!

On the way home we take scenic Hwy 83 and finally make the drive into the historic Empire Ranch. I've seen pics from other bloggers in the past, but forgot that it was such a big place with access to the grounds and the house. With bright sunny skies, warmer temps, and no one there but the guy cleaning the restrooms, it's a perfect day for a bit of exploring.

Different colors and textures designed by age and weather.

One of many large barns.

The rooms are stark with little done to create a feeling anyone lived here.

More effort in the dining room.

At the end of my wanderings through the house I find myself where I was supposed to have started. The walking tour pamphlet would have been nice :-)

In addition to the barns and corrals, the grounds include several outbuildings and trails.

Along Empire Creek is the Cotton Wood Gallery. Like at the San Pedro River, the trees here are enormous.
The ranch is part of a larger conservation area so we take our time through the old growth trees and yellow plains, making a loop back to the highway. 

Minimal but informative signage.

A large herd of antelope cross in front of us, we give them a wide berth until they've moved on. Beautiful animals.

Ongoing efforts to remove the invasive mesquite that grew up after overgrazing stripped the plains. 

Unique geology surrounds the area.

One afternoon I remind myself that I'm a member of our little Amerind Museum and that I can go anytime! Less than an hour away, it's a nice drive east of Benson. Not another visitor shares the space with me, making for a safe, quiet, and very enjoyable few hours. No photos allowed inside, I take my time absorbing the beauty and history collected here. They will be changing some of the exhibits soon and I'm excited to see what's to come.

Huge old doors from a church in Mexico, circa 1660.
Tucked in among the beautiful rocks and trees of Texas Canyon, the museum grounds are one of the best parts of having access to this space. Without the worry of rattlesnakes (one is still smart to keep an eye out on warm, sunny days), it's wonderful to meander the short trails.

This arachnid-looking "creature" startles me as I come around a corner!

Jeff and I take a drive to Bisbee to take photos but the light is wrong so we end up with a yummy breakfast at the Bisbee Breakfast Club and a bit of window shopping. The BBC does a nice job of separating diners, mandatory masks, one-use menus (one per table), and lots of sanitizing. And their food is still wonderful!

I have to confess that one window did turn into actual shopping in a little store with no other people.

In our house January 20 was a day of celebration. A day of relief. As much as hearing words of compassion and hope from our new president, I was encouraged by recognition of our losses to COVID, Eugene's honor, Amanda's power, and even Bernie's mittens. I see a bright future in spite of the hate that continues to bubble.

Big boy Ezra on a warm day at his mountain home.

Sweet angels

Happy, healthy and (almost) 3 month old Elliott.

Stay safe, choose happy, be kind to others, 
be kind to yourself.


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Making it to the Finish Line

 December 13, 2020 - December 31, 2020
Tombstone, Arizona

As long as our calendar says 2020 we can blame any negative, depressing and/or bizarre occurrence on the year. For many reasons it is the year from Hell. The year when just about nothing outlandish would surprise us. It became the definition of horrible "things" we had to endure. And certainly the celebration of a new year will be a bigger deal for us than ever before. 

I share the enthusiasm for better times. In 2021. In this new year. Vaccines, open theaters, accessible state and national parks, border crossings, seeing the smiles of strangers in public places. 

But not on January 1. Opening a brand new calendar sadly does not flip a magic switch causing instantaneous glittering rainbows returning us to how we remember normal.

Oh how I wish that were the case.

The pandemic is at its highest level of transmission, and with the sad-but-true continuation of large holiday gatherings around the country, the numbers are expected to keep climbing. Restrictions will continue, lockdowns may be necessary again, remote education will still be the norm for our grandkids probably at least until Spring Break.

2021 is something we're all looking forward to, but real, positive change is more likely a June 1 reality rather than a January 1 one.

However, seeing any brighter future is uplifting. Just having competent leadership, and the potential for a legislature united for working Americans is enough to get me excited about better days ahead. Knowing that the vaccines are out there, already given to millions around the world is happiness-worthy. Having plans and reservations for getting back on the road this Spring/Summer makes me feel more normal than I have in months.

Our Christmas is small and quiet and lovely, as expected. Photos and calls and videos from the kids and grands keep us connected with their (also small) holiday celebrations. It's fun to have Jeff with us, and he's happy to "be the baby again" after many years :-) 

The kid opening his presents.

Ezra excited for it to finally be Christmas.

Elliott chilling through his first Christmas.

Reese welcoming Santa.

M&M have lots to be excited about.

Henry greeting his Christmas giraffe.

Our temps are winter-chilly with a few days of biting winds, and only one more day with rain. We're brown and dry with still no wet in the long range forecast. Certainly 2021 will bring us what we need to turn the drought around!

While our views aren't as pretty as last year, our skies give us plenty of awesome to enjoy.

Dragoons at dusk.

Cotton candy drifts to the west.

Monochromatic cross hatches.

Rare for me to see the sunrise. What a treat!

Catching the eastern skies.

It's completely cloud-free to see the planetary convergence. 

Fire in the sky.

The Cold Moon rises in the pastel east.

Donnie comes to play Cribbage with Bill, and Anna joins him a couple times for coffee and catching up. Otherwise we haven't seen anyone else except the coffee kiosk and grocery pickup folks in Sierra Vista. Bill works in his garage some days, I putter around the house. Jeff has remote school and meetings. Tessa tries out different spots to nap throughout the house.
It's a lazy, quiet time.

I'm happy as long as you keep me company.

Happy with how the half-bath turned out. Still more rooms I could be painting.
Clearing an emission system recall on the rig is required before we can get our current registration so we're off to the Cummins service shop in Tucson. Also a chance to get the check engine light cleared up. Velocity Travel Center is a large facility just off I-10 with friendly and efficient folks. There are three water and electric spots just outside the lot for full-timers who need multiple days of work. We end up leaving the rig but now we have a house so don't need the space. Good to know though.....

There is no recall on record which leads to lots of hoops to navigate for the registration (still navigating), but they replace four gaskets which clears the light. We don't regret getting a diesel, but those repairs are not cheap. Stops for breakfast, Trader Joe's and Camping World and then back to Tombstone. It's ready the next day, and I'm glad to get that off the growing list. We have several items to resolve before our planned travels this Spring.

Near to the KOA, they serve a great breakfast. Masks, good spacing, and a heated patio make for safe dining.

Trader Joe's does a great job of limiting the number of shoppers inside. While this long line looks intimidating when I arrive, it moves quickly.

We celebrate our 8th anniversary and Tessa's tenth birthday. Per usual, we're in bed when the ball drops in New York City. 

So we made it through 2020. None of us are unchanged. All of us learned important things about our world, our country, our neighbors and ourselves. I believe they are all lessons that will serve me well moving forward. I'm resolved to be grateful and to remember that I get back what I put out there. 

To be happy every day is a choice. 
Happy 2021 to you all!


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Food, Friends and a Crow Bar

 November 16 - December 12, 2020
Tombstone, Arizona

Although we returned from California to above normal temps, they are thankfully short-lived. By Thanksgiving we're enjoying 60 degree days and 40 degree nights. Feels much more like Fall, more like the holidays are close.

Our San Pedro River Cottonwoods give us a pop of color.

Jeff and I take the scenic route to Tucson on a cold and clear afternoon. I've gotten picky about canned tuna (of all things), and can only eat Trader Joe's brand. Their unsalted option is worth a drive to the big city. Tucson is strict about masks and TJ's limits the number of shoppers, making for a comfortable experience. 

Pretty vistas along Hwy 83 
Before Jeff starts school on December 4, he and I paint his room and add some furniture to give him designated space for remote classes. It comes together nicely.

With a large gray dresser and TV to the right, he's all set.

Like most people we choose to stay home alone for Thanksgiving, and still manage to cook enough for a large family gathering. Everything is delicious, and with Bill doing the turkey and dressing, and Jeff making mac and cheese, I get off easy with deviled eggs, candied yams and mashed potatoes! 

Bill makes the best BBQ'd turkey and this one is exceptional!

We enjoy days of leftovers - why don't we do this more often??

November ends with the arrival of dear friends Darryl and Dawn. We first met at the Boondocking Rally in Quartzsite a few years ago, then connected in Michigan and back in Arizona last year. Adding 50 amp and water hookup spaces to our property last year was a priority so we could share our little piece of desert with friends. It's wonderful to have Darryl and Dawn here for a fun week.

On the coldest and windiest day of the year we head for birds and rocks - a great time for three of us as Bill isn't feeling great. 

I'm so happy when we arrive at Whitewater Draw to see there are more Sandhill Cranes than I've seen before!

Several species of duck share the water space.

With the high winds, the incoming cranes seem to hover in midair while landing.

With almost no one else at the Chiricahua National Monument we're able to enjoy the warmth of the Jeep while slowly making our way through the amazing rock formations.

Acres of hoodoos.

Masks are a bonus on a blustery day!

It's always a treat to share Cochise Mountain with new people. You can't not see his face!

After Dawn treated us to her chicken salad in Michigan it's become a tradition (in that we always say yes please!) for our get togethers. This time we enjoy sandwiches and fruit under the majestic rocks.

We share some yummy meals in both our homes, and of course hours of conversations about the important and the ridiculous :-) 

Back in California Elliott is already turning one month old!

On their last day, Darryl, Dawn and I have another adventure. Tessa comes, Bill stays. Since I've only been once, I'm really looking forward to seeing Cochise Stronghold again, and I'm confident they will enjoy the natural beauty.

Entering the park we're greeted with a little end of the season color.

More amazing rock drama.

Tessa and I on the history trail. They do a great job of telling the story of Cochise and his people. Not as windy, but yes, it's cold!

New for me too, Dawn and I take the half mile nature trail where good signage identifies numerous plants.

Sotol, like Agave, makes a tasty distilled liquor.

Long views from the top of the trail.

We actually remember to get a pic of all of us (thanks Jeff). Bill, Jodee, Tessa, Dawn and Darryl.

The week went by too fast, as all good times do. We all agreed to mask when we were together and while it's more comfortable without them, I'm confident it's the right thing to do. 

Inspired by how good Jeff's room looks, I decide to take on the half bath. More than just painting, the half wall of metal paneling has to come off. Which means the toilet, vanity and baseboard have to come off. When the water valves won't budge we call our buddy who remodeled our kitchen last year for help. I remove all the baseboard, and Billy and Josh show up the next morning to replace the water valves. They move out the toilet and vanity so I can remove the paneling, scrape, sand and paint, then put them back and hook everything back up. We're a good team!

Lots of glue behind the paneling holding tight since 1968 - glad we have a crow bar :-) Note the dated medicine cabinet. I forgot to capture the faded wood vanity.

With the old sink still usable, some white paint saves us the cost of a new vanity.

Still need to put up the new white cabinet above the toilet and install the new faucet and towel ring, but you get the idea. Better I think :-)

We get much needed rain, but for only a few hours. It's been a dry year on top of everything else.

Sheepshead to the north shrouded in low clouds.

Plains to the south getting a much needed drenching.

Ezra (he's getting so tall) calls his dad outside to see if he sees them. Do you see them?     
Peacocks in the old dog run :-)

Do you sometimes see things, just in your daily life, that make you chuckle? Here are a couple seen at Lowe's and the post office:

Should I have been worrying about this when buying toilet paper???

I bet they're working on changing their name, and their slogan!
Like our Thanksgiving, our Christmas will be small this year. Happy to have Jeff with us, grateful we and all our family and friends are healthy and safe. 

Fa, la, la, la, la

Holiday hugs from M&M!