Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Making the Transition

 August 2 - 22, 2023
Tombstone, Arizona

Beyond the physical transition of coming off the road for a few months is the mental/mindset of returning to the house lifestyle. For me it starts with a sigh of relief that we're "back" safely, works it's way through the exhaustion of unloading (in the high heat this time), and sort of settles into a combination of projects, visiting, errands and relaxing in the larger space. 

At about 3 weeks I'm once again a comfortable stationary-house-dweller, appreciating our little home in the desert of southeastern Arizona. We still say "I can't believe we own a home in Tombstone!"

Getting back here from SoCal this year I planned two repeat stops to break up the tedious 600 miles. Banning Stagecoach KOA is a nice small park with easy access and tall trees at the foot of the San Joaquin Mountains. For this overnight stop it's 102 degrees when we arrive at 2:00. Other than a quick lunch in town, we hunker down in the AC with some TV for an early night. 

Hoping to beat the heat, we get back on the road before 8:00 Thursday morning. Happy there's no wind, and little traffic on the climb out of Indio, we make one stop for fuel before arriving in Buckeye, Arizona (or is it the surface of the sun?). Leaf Verde RV Park is an overpriced, but efficient, stop just off the Interstate with very little shade. Even though we turn on the generator to run the house AC when we stop for fuel at the Arizona border, it's now 99 degrees inside the coach. When Bill unhooks the Jeep it reads 129 degrees! The reality is the outside temp is about 113, and it's brutal. 

About 15 miles from our stop an accident/vehicle fire has the westbound lanes stopped for nine miles. When we come back to the park after dinner the signage says it's still closed (6 hours later!) Grateful we weren't held up in this heat.

Plugged in with both ACs running we're able to get comfortable for naps and some packing before meeting our friends for dinner. Like many of our RV friends, several high school pals landed in Arizona, and we try to meet up with the handful in the west side of Phoenix when coming through the area. 

Rocky (my class), his wife Cyndee, Jodee, Patty and Kristy from an earlier class, and Bill. Tessa keeping us in line.

Again we're on the road early, and thankfully the temps are much cooler the closer we get to Tombstone. Still, 93 is plenty warm. Glad we can park the motorhome in the driveway with 30 amp for loading and unloading. 

The day after our return we get the exciting news that grand number nine arrived on time! We welcome Cassidy Jane Bannerman to our growing tribe, and can't wait to meet her. Mommy is doing fine, and she and Daddy are as delighted as brother Henry that she's here at last!

Welcome Cassidy Jane!

Four days later we welcome our good friends Maggie and Jimmy who are wrapping up their own summer travels heading back to Kingman.

Donnie and Anna, and Turk (Donnie's brother) come up for games and meals, and we go to their place for same over the three day visit.

Bill, Jimmy and Donnie play cribbage.

Turk contributes the play-by-play for a Cribbage game.

Donnie, Anna, Jimmy, Maggie and Bill play 3-13 after dinner. 

Maggie and I take day-trip adventures whenever we get the chance so Wednesday we're off to Tucson for a museum and lunch. At 108 degrees we're happy for an indoor option at the Arizona History Museum. We take our time (she's the best museum buddy) to read and absorb all the exhibits. The combination of variety, detail, and relevance make this smaller museum a real gem. 

This stunning music player from the mid-1800s is in beautiful condition.

I wish the lighting was better to see the delicate porcelain dancers.

Lots of gems and minerals in Arizona. Their collection is a beauty.

With both the abundance of information and the two-story exhibits, the museum details what a big impact mining has had on the state.

Another big influence on the history of Arizona are those who were here first. The exhibit on those known as Apaches and their leader Geronimo includes information and photos on the changing relationship he and his people had with the settlers and military.

Although he traveled with President Cleveland in eastern cities, Geronimo was still a prisoner when he died at Fort Sill, OK.

The exhibit on the history and growth of wineries and breweries in the state includes this original bar from the Birdcage Theater in Tombstone.

Maggie grew up in this area so on their last day she and I take a quick trip east to Willcox where she and her family farmed for several years. The little town is nearly gone now, but we're able to find a few spots from her past.

Now twice the size as it was, her local church is still here.

One of the best things we did when we first bought the property was to add two 50 amp/water gravel sites for our RV buddies to visit. It's also where our motorhome hangs out when we're here.

Saturday morning we say our good-byes-for-now, and settle into house-mode once again. 

The last few years we've missed the monsoon season here with Jeff telling us how amazing it is. This year we arrive just in time to enjoy the beginning of the incredible power and beauty of these daily storms. Every day the desert is more green, and most evenings include hours of lightning shows all around us.

I can never catch lightning shots like these that were taken in Tombstone.

We get some wonderful colors from our backyard.

Being at the house means getting caught up on appointments and errands. Bill is successful in scheduling a new local doctor so no more drives to Tucson for those appointments - yay! The motorhome slide is diagnosed with parts ordered for our scheduled appointment the first week of September. With another trip planned in October we're anxious to finally have that fixed!

Back in SoCal we get updates from our kiddos as they ride out the tropical storm and then an earthquake (just enough to add to the fun, but not a big one). Some backyard flooding for those in the valley, but the mountain dwellers just had regular rain and wind. All are well, and the next morning the sun is out :-)

Elliott thinks tropical storms are fun!

I'm hoping to explore some of the places we've missed so far in our four(!) winters here in between lazy days and taking care of those pesky things that always need "doing". 

More backyard color courtesy of a healthy monsoon season.

Teatime for Reese and Penelope

Oliver cools off at the park.

Henry snuggles with his little sister a week before she arrives to meet him face-to-face. So cute!!

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

The Best of Both of Us - Enjoying the Family

 July 21 - August 1, 2023
Frazier Park - Valencia, California

It seems like lately we either bring snow or scorching heat to our SoCal visits. We watch the temps climb as we leave behind our spot on the coast and head for the mountains above L.A. County. We've stayed at the Pyramid Lake RV "Resort" before and it hasn't improved. There's no one at the metal trailer they use for an office, and my phone isn't working right so it's 20 minutes walking around in the 100 degrees trying to find someone to open the gate. Bill's phone works and we finally reach the "managers" who give me the code so we can get in and set up. Another park that could be lovely with some hard work and regular upkeep, today it's lots of weeds and some trashy residents. Still, we feel safe and the 50 amp FHU site is fine for our needs. Afterall, we're here to see Ezra and Elliott and their parents!

We love hanging out with the family, playing with the grands and getting caught up with the grown-ups. With the heat we spend most of this visit indoors. 

Elliott and Ezra entertaining PopPop.

Frog the cat meets PopPop.

The new kittens are really good with the kids. Ezra with Enola.

Because octopus fingers are so much better than regular fingers with making cup towers!

Sharing water is nice but blowing bubbles - infinitely better.

Brian and Shalise with Elliott

If you don't look down, the views in the rv park are great!

There's a lot to see and do in Los Angeles, down the mountain from Frazier Park. Monday Shalise and I take the boys to the Natural History Museum. It's a favorite I haven't visited in over 15 years. The surrounding area is under construction, but we find parking behind the Science Center that's walkable even in the extreme heat. 

There are quite a few people here on a hot summer week day, but I never feel like we're in a crowd. Both Ezra and Elliott are engaged throughout the day, excited about all the amazing (and very large) exhibits. There are also several interactive opportunities that add to the fun.

One of two spectacular rotundas.

Let's do this!

Hard to believe he's a third grader already!

The dinosaur collection is amazing, and so much better than the Smithsonian.

Ezra is fascinated at the size of these skeletons.

The most bestest museum buddies in the second rotunda.

For both Shalise and I, this is why you visit this museum - the mammal dioramas are like being in the habitat of each species.

Ezra and I agree it feels like the elephant is going to walk right up to us!

All are uniquely beautiful, but it's hard to beat the lion pride.

In addition to the African mammals, there is a full exhibit of North American mammals. The Grey Wolves prepare to descend on their prey below.

It's impossible to capture the size of these mammoth Grizzlies. They're very impressive!

Elliott tracks the large territory of the famous local Mountain Lion known as P22.

Bill and I had a "pet" Black Widow spider (like loving snakes isn't weird enough) on our patio before we retired. Beatrice  lived in a small bird house on the patio, and was very entertaining. Each of these boxes contain a BW spider in a different "vignette" they've decorated with their sticky webs.

Learning about how snakes read your body heat while dancing through the exhibit.

Mommy creates a Peter Max poster :-)

Every area of the museum is visually stimulating with enough space for everyone to learn and play.

Upstairs the Bird Room hasn't changed since the 1960's and features over 1000 species.

Some are fancier than others!

Digging for dinosaur bones.

Learning the delicacy of finding detail with a small brush. Yes, even on a hot, hot day the museum can get chilly :-)

That's a wrap on a perfect day!

Our last day on the mountain passes too quickly and before we know it we're saying see-you-later to Shalise and Elliott. Because Wednesday morning Brian drops Ezra off at the motorhome so he can go with us down the mountain to Santa Clarita!! 

No pics of his ride in the big bus, but it's smiles and wows all the way. Nothing like seeing what has become common through the eyes of a seven-year-old to remind you how cool your life is!

Bill drives the Jeep for the short 39 mile drive, and there's no issue with our early arrival. We've stayed at Valencia Travel Village more than anywhere else in our travels with most of our kids close by. Last year they lost a whole row of sites to the raging river that washed out the cliff taking three RVs with it. The park has been 80% permanent residents for years, and I wondered if there would be overnight spaces anymore. Looks like they didn't move those who lost their sites into this area, and there's remarkable little changed from our past stays. Except for the increase to $85/night! Guess you have to make up for those lost rentals somehow.

The tarp hangs over the cliff at what used to be the middle of the RV site.

This new curve into the park used to be straight across with about ten RV sites. In total they lost 20 FHU sites and two RVs went into the river. You can Google the dramatic video footage.

The neighbors to our right have our picnic table at their site, and these neighbors are three feet onto our narrow space. Not feeling the love. It's too hot to be outside anyway so we live with it.

With lemonade to drink, Ezra covers the yellow food group.

It's cooler in Tombstone.

Fun to have the little pool all to himself!

They don't get together very often, but cousins Ezra and M&M are all excited to reconnect for a few hours. Before the morning heats up we meet at a wonderful playground near M&M's house. The three of them are at full speed with other kids, and then just themselves, until they're worn out (the adults are worn out just watching them!). 

Created with funding for handicap access parks, this place is incredible! Shaded, soft rubber surface, multiple play equipment. This one spins and is a favorite.

Little M and Ezra get this big double swing rocking.

Little M, Big M and Ezra checking out the exercise equipment next to the playground.

Ezra takes one last ride on the zip line. Note the seated option on the next track.

Little M and Ezra

Big M and Ezra

Cousin buddies - we love this!!

So I get him ice cream, take him swimming, take him to Target for some school shirts and Legos, get him a Happy Meal. When it's time to relax - this! There's never enough PopPop time for Ezra :-)

His dad is picking him up for more fun at his other grandpa's on Thursday evening. Before dinner Ezra gets one more chance to see the cousins at their martial arts class. It's lots of fun and Ezra of course wants to join the class every week now.

When it's a million degrees outdoor this is the perfect sports option!

Bill wants to see Oppenheimer, and son Richie suggests we all go see it and have lunch on Saturday. Good idea! It's long at 3+ hours, but it's also brilliant. Definite Oscar nods for both Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr - and probably for Best Picture. So much I didn't know about such historically significant times. Just wow!

Tessa and I stop to endorse another movie. 

We enjoy a tasty lunch and getting caught up with Richie (Bill's youngest, our #6) and girl friend Amanda at Salt Creek Grill next to the theater. Hard to believe he was 11 when I moved in with Bill, and is now all grown at 26! 

Bill, Richie and Amanda

Sunday is the hottest day and we're at Oliver's for the afternoon. He is such a smart little guy with full sentences before turning two! His cousins M&M bring their parents and we're delighted to have more time with more grands. Corey and Christie make yummy eats and we all have a great time.

Big M with his Aunt Christie and Cousin Oliver

The second oldest and youngest grands.

Corey and his dad get caught up.

Little M entertains himself with the ball-scooper-upper-thingy.

Oliver gets a warm-up cuddle from Daddy after water play.

Uncle Nick watches Big M, Christie and Oliver - and PopPop's feet.

We missed each other last time so I'm determined to visit with my friend Lupe. Tuesday I make the drive to Buena Park, about an hour southeast, to make it happen. We realize it's been 25 years since we've seen each other!! So lots of getting caught up that goes by too fast. But we're committed to making sure we get together much sooner this time.

Lupe and Jodee - union buddies from way back!

When I get back we meet Oliver and his parents for dinner at my favorite local eatery - Solitas. 

Even their wooden menus are special.

Best tacos ever!

Christie, Oliver, Corey and PopPop.

Nick comes over for a few games of Cribbage with his dad while Tessa and I run some last minute errands on our last day here. Later we're down the road to visit Henry and his parents - and his other grandma who I haven't seen in years!

Henry's baby sister is due this week, but she holds off for this visit :-) Megan is our "borrowed daughter", and we love getting together with she and her husband Chris. It's never long enough but I'm always grateful to get some hugs and catching up.

Nawma and PopPop with Henry

Henry entertains PopPop and Daddy

Nana Dee, Megan's mom, with Henry

Henry, Megan and Chris

If there's a couch and a pillow - it's Tessa's.

And just like that it's time to continue on. We're grateful our kids and their families are healthy and doing well, and for these visits that are never long enough. We'll make a couple stops on our way to Friday's arrival in Tombstone. To an empty house as Jeff has moved on to his job in the Pacific Northwest!