Saturday, January 30, 2016

Back to Beauty

Catalina State Park in Tucson, AZ, is our next stop. We wanted to catch up with Dave and Sue, and John and Pam, since we said good-bye the end of October. There was also an opportunity to meet some new friends staying in the area.

Another beautiful public park with 50 amp and water in large, level sites with incredible views of the Catalina Mountains - we immediately love being back in a natural setting. 

All sites are full but we have a lot of space
Dave and Sue stop by not long after we pull in - they're the best welcoming committee! With the nearby restroom and extra parking, we decide that our planned gathering can be here on Friday.

The rest of the afternoon we hang out listening to the birds and enjoying the views. Tessa and I take a short walk around the park and part of the nearby horse trail.

Catalina Mountains
Lunch with mountain views 
Winter trees in the Southwest
So much going on here! 
With expansive views out the front window, Site 7 is my favorite in Loop A
We join Dave and Sue at their site in B Loop for happy hour. At the back of the park, the unobstructed views of the saquaro-covered hills are lovely. Great fun getting caught up until the temps dip with the sun and we return home for the night.

A subtle sunset 
Just over the highway at the park entrance is a large shopping center where I head for groceries Friday morning. Back home I make chili for the gathering, read awhile in the sun, and listen to the birds. 

By 2:00 everyone has shown up. Wonderful to see John and Pam again, and to get to know Steve and Mona Liza, and Walter and Cindy P, with their daughter Geneva. With full-timing experience from five years to three months, the conversation is not only lively and often hysterical, but informative as well. I continue to be surprised and delighted at the instant camaraderie among fellow travelers, and look forward to our paths all crossing again down the road.

Bill, Sue, Dave, John, Jodee, Cindy P 
Mona Liza, Steve, Geneva, Walter - thanks for the pics Pam!
As much as we'd love to stay longer to explore the area and soak up the natural beauty, we need to continue east. We will definitely return to Catalina State Park.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Three Days, One Day, Two Days - Reservation Ping Pong

When the mobile tech schedules us for Monday at noon to repair the slide I contact the park in Casa Grande to change our reservation from three nights to one night. It is a stop to get laundry done so one night will be fine.

We extend two nights at White Tank Mountain, and although we have to move to another site, it also means we can watch the NFL division championship games with our friends on Sunday afternoon.

View out our front window from Site 19
We enjoy the desert beauty around the campground in the morning, visit the nature center when picking up our new ID tag, and are ready for some football when Cyndee and Rocky join us for the Broncos/Patriots game.

Small signs of spring in January
In addition to a nice interpretive center

is a library with amazing views
All of us are happy with the outcome of the first game - Go Broncos! Patty joins us between the games and there's enough food (thank you Cyndee!!) for two dozen people. Unfortunately the second game is so bad (we are in Arizona) that we move from the TV to the campfire before it's over. 

Best seats for the game
Still hopeful the Cardinals will turn it around
Maybe if we ignore them, they'll score.....
The campfire and the company are both warm, and ultimately we're all okay with the Carolina win. They did play an amazing game.

The setting sun reflects off downtown Phoenix

The moon is beautiful, and gives us a great show from our fire ring
Cyndee tests the heat resistance of her sneakers
It's wonderful having this extra time with our friends in this exceptional place.

Monday morning we learn the game and camp fire are the silver lining as the part needed for the slide repair won't arrive until sometime Tuesday. Potentially not until 5:30 PM.

Irritated is a word. There are several others as well....

We cancel the repair and call the Casa Grande RV Resort and again change our reservation, this time making it for two nights, arriving the same day.  We have people to meet and aren't going to delay another two days.

Even after our 40 yard move the day before, the 90 mile trip is very quick. This park is the opposite of where we were, with zero character, zero space between sites, zero views. It's fine for our needs.

Clean parks are always desirable, but the non-stop blowers going here are ridiculous. Especially when we see that they are blowing dirt off the street - and onto everyone's vehicles. Really?

So we can drive our dirty cars on clean streets
A couple loads of laundry, a trip to Safeway for dog food and gasoline, and after a light dinner we go to bed early.

With the Safeway card discount, can't remember the last time I paid this!
Tuesday morning is another bright and sunny day, the rest of the laundry can wait!

Bill has not seen the Casa Grande Ruins, and although I saw it when the boys were little, I want to see it again too.  I forgot it's so close to "civilization", it's a little weird to turn right at the Walmart to enter the monument.

The parking lot is full, including a large school bus. All the kids are having their lunch in the picnic area, most of the adults are waiting for the guided tour scheduled in 30 minutes, so it's the perfect time for us to see everything with the least number of people.

We check out the information center first

where there are signs that Tessa's ancestors lived in the area
The multi-story Big House
Amazing preservation of this centuries old structure
My favorite part is this wonderful alignment with the turning of the wheel of the year
Summer Solstice marker
Twice a year the light of the equinox aligns here
Thick walls maintained comfortable interior temperatures
A pair of Great Horned Owls
nest in the tall rafters above the ruins
Enjoying the sunshine and history
My favorite movie is Murphy's Romance with James Garner and Sally Fields. It was filmed in Florence, AZ.  I'm hoping we can have lunch in the cafe that was the drug store in the movie.

Sadly it's now an insurance office :-( . The historic downtown is almost completely closed so we head back.

No longer the drug store/fountain counter or a cafe
The tree James Garner planted in the movie is still here 
Nature's sculpture on a small side street
County Court
The Jeep lights are still working sporadically while towing so Bill pulls out the new cord we picked up in Quartzsite to install on the tow bar. 

Pulling the end piece off the old cord he discovers that two of the wires are broken off. He fixes these, re-installs the cap and - yep - the old cord works fine. Don't mind that we have an extra cord now, but less thrilled about the $125 we paid the tech in Quartzsite who didn't check the wires.

While he's doing that I contact Jimmy's RV Repair in Deming, NM, and make an appointment for the slide. We can continue to live cozy for another week.

To celebrate the successful cord repair and renewed hope for the slide, we find an Italian restaurant with great reviews. The food is delicious at Tommy's Bistro - butternut squash with sage and brown butter, and spicy shrimp fettucini - it is much nicer than it appears on the outside.

Tomorrow we continue east to catch up with good friends in Catalina State Park. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Surprise(d In) Arizona

I found White Tank Mountain Regional Park when trying to get reservations at Ursury or McDowell near Phoenix. I'd never heard of it, but it's near some of our friends, so I took a chance.

It is a wonderful surprise, and the park is now tied for favorite with Emerald Forest in Trinidad, CA! With 50 amp and water at each site, a double dump station, dozens of trails, spacious sites, beautiful views, and $30/night, we will definitely be back for a longer stay in the future.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park, near Surprise, AZ
Large spaces (that's our picnic table on the left), and amazing views
Friends Cyndee and Rocky drive out to see us when we arrive on Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately it is a little more snug as our dining slide is once again not working. The reset on the controller doesn't make it work, and this time we can't get the front of it to come in all the way. This is not a pleasant surprise!

We visit a bit, make plans for Friday, and I follow them out of the park to find the RV service place and groceries. 

I am not expecting the town to be so big, so clean, so nice. There's everything here. Surprise, AZ, is just that!

No luck at finding service that can take us in less than a week - no surprise :-)

Happy to find a Sprouts Market for groceries, and gas at $1.79/gal, and I'm back home before dark.

Friday we get "passed on" to three mobile rv techs before we find someone who can get to us on Monday. It means extending our stay two nights, but we have enough wiggle in our schedule, and there's open space to stay here. Bill changes the controller in the non-working slide which does straighten it enough to pull the front side level - but the fault code continues to say it's a connection issue. The tech orders the necessary wiring for our Monday appointment. 

Lunch with the sharks is first on our schedule. We meet Cyndee and Rocky at Dillons for an excellent meal. Attached to the Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium, we watch the sharks and rays all around us while we enjoy our meal.

After completing the paperwork, and reviewing the restricted areas, we take Tessa to her first zoo visit.

We spend four hours just in the aquarium, reptiles, birds and monkeys. We'll have to see the big animals next time!

Love the bright color of this eel

I could have watched the variety of fish all day

Rays soared through several tanks, gliding like birds
The albino alligator looked more like a plucked chicken
Teeny, tiny little guys
The Spiny Lobster in the back was at least twice as large as the other one - and the biggest I've every seen
 The Lion Fish are beautiful
Once we enter the outdoor areas we are very conscious of how the animals reacte to Tessa, not wanting to cause them any stress. The howler monkeys are the first to show any interest - jumping from the back of the cage to the front. Not stressed but definitely aggressive. We move on.

The peacocks "honk" at us, but don't even move off their perches above the cages. The other large birds are not so calm and we don't stick around. 

Not sure if he is getting her attention, or scaring her off, but this guy makes sure Tessa sees him

The monkeys are all very interested, swinging to the front of their cages to stare at her. She's equally interested in them, putting her paws up on the wooden barrier to say hi (several feet from the cage).
The reptiles ignore her - and us
The highlight of the visit is the sea lions playing in their indoor pool. Playing tag, jumping in and out of the water, full body flips, slapping each other - we laugh at their silliness for several minutes, the only ones there. Photos through the window don't come out.

Back home we relax and enjoy the spectacular sunset.

Once again forgetting it's Saturday, we head for the Waterfall Trailhead, only to find it packed with vehicles unloading lots of large families. Instead we drive the loop and take in some of the Waddell Trail. All of the trails we've seen in the park are well maintained, flat, and wide. Just our speed :-)

Too many people

Much better
Large rocks
with a tiny surprise
So many saguaros in the valley
and on the ridge tops
I forgot coffee so we need to go back to town. We look closely for what Bill thought was a crested saguaro when we were on the entrance road earlier.


This crested is right by the road, at the Area 2 parking, and once you know it's there you can't miss it. 

Before we get to the store we change plans again and decide to visit our second NFL stadium. We don't need to tour them all, just want to see them. 

The University of Phoenix Stadium, has not only a retractable roof, but a retractable field as well. The multi-purpose facility is in Glendale, Arizona, less than 25 miles from us. The 63,400-seat stadium opened on August 1, 2006, and is home to the Arizona Cardinals and the annual Fiesta Bowl.

The pro shop is disappointing, not having any collector pins, so I opt for a pic through the back window into the stadium

We were here!

Bill remembers they "take the field outside" and we find it soaking up the unobstructed sunshine

They roll it back inside between the goal posts for each game
Some people wonder why we don't go to the stadiums on game day. For the same reason we didn't hike the Waterfall Trail on a Saturday :-)

We're meeting friends for dinner so we return home to get cleaned up. Once again the sky is full of amazing color.

Cyndee, Rocky, Patty and Sonya join us at Macayos for drinks and dinner. It's surprising that we still have so much to talk about after more than 40 years!

Good times with good friends (missing Coy and Tom)
Sonya and Patty
Rocky and Cyndee
We make plans to get together for football and a camp fire on Sunday and return home for the night.

We are really enjoying this surprising place :-))