Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Trip

As we have in previous years, Ron and I went to Denver to be with his family for Christmas. As always, we had a lovely time. However unlike the previous years when we drove the 1126 miles each way (but who's counting?), we flew from tiny Yuma.

The airport in Yuma made me laugh. When your flight is called, you walk outside, then through the 'gate' and to the plane. And this terminal was just opened in 1999. I have to wonder what it looked like before then.

Flying out of Yuma, we passed over the BLM land where the WINs are parked. You can see all the RVs, the trees where the locals conduct their paintball wars, the canal, and the dirt runway where the crop dusters take off and land until four in the morning.

This year, Ron's sister-in-law Peg and husband Harry are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Certainly an impressive milestone. Ron and I, along with his son Jim and daughter Kelli, took them to dinner in honor of the occasion.

On Christmas Eve, we were lucky enough to see Santa out and about. I guess in Denver Santa drives an SUV.

All Peg and Harry's relatives meet at their house on Christmas Eve. I counted 36 people which is a bit overwhelming to me. When we had all our relatives at my Grandmother's on Christmas, it amounted to ten people.

Here are Ron's son-in-law, two daughters, son, and two grandchildren with Peggy during the massive present exchange.

There's nothing better than experiencing the joy and wonder of children on Christmas morning. Shannon (7) and Adam (who turned 10 on Christmas) made the day very special.

Ron had to try out Adam's new skateboard. I was hoping we weren't going to spend time in the emergency room for Christmas.

Ron had his best Christmas present on our way home. While waiting for our connecting flight in Phoenix, we went to Chili's for dinner. When he ordered a beer, the waiter carded him! I should have gotten a picture of that!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hot Spot

The East has Southern Florida, the Mid-west has South Texas, and the West has Yuma. Whenever you watch a national weather forecast, you can be sure there will be a 'hot spot' around Yuma in the very southwest corner of Arizona. According to the visitors guide, Yuma is also recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the sunniest place on earth with 339 bright days a year. That's why we come here for the coldest winter months. The population is about 90,000, but that number probably triples in the winter with the influx of snowbirds.

The town only gets an average of 3.4 inches of rainfall but the Colorado River runs right through Old Town and there are several canals to irrigate the winter crops. Over 90% of the country's winter vegetable crops are grown in this area, with lettuce leading the way. The vivid green fields are a pretty sight in the middle of this dry land.

We're parked with a lot of WIN friends on a piece of BLM land located not too far from shopping, dancing, hiking, whatever. You can see the arid BLM land in the foreground, the line of salt cedar trees along the canal, and the irrigated fields in the background.

Pretty, huh? The only problem is that there is also a landing strip behind those trees which is used by the crop dusters all hours of the night. We're not sure why they only fly at night. We've been told it's because they can only spray when it's calm, but it's also not usually windy during the day. One theory is that there are workers in the field during the day, but I'm not totally sold on that either. Ron and I decided (based on no evidence or research) that it has something to do with dew at night or a problem with evaporation during the day. Sounds as good as anything.

There are a lot of WINs who have property here. Joyce (in the front) is one of them and was nice enough to invite a few friends for a party. I think she invited about five, but word spread among the WIN members. She insisted she was happy to see us all.

One evening we went to experience the Living Christmas Tree. The platforms reach 35 feet high and are covered with 22,500 lights and a choir. You can see the outline of 69 (by our count) singers. They did a nice job, but we felt the taped accompaniment was a bit overpowering. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that we were in the front row.

If you think it doesn't get cold here at night, just look at Judy, JoAnne, Mary Lou, and Kathy.

Another night about 35 of us showed up at Famous Dave's Barbecue. I confess I wasn't expecting much, but the food was really good! Here's our table - Nancy, Ron, Me, Carol, and Andy.

I swear you can tell people who have blogs - we're used to posing. Just look how cute Ted and Mary Ellen look!

If you want to see the rest of the tables, check out Mary Ellen's pictures here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Pics

Today was the day I dragged Ron out to find a good location for our annual Christmas picture. First I buttered him up with a really good breakfast at Cracker Barrel (you really didn't think I was going to cook it, did you?) Although he's always very cooperative, a full tummy doesn't hurt.

We found a spot that was set up for Santa who was not there yet. Unfortunately there was nobody around to take the picture. Ron tried - humm, let's move on.

We found this tree outside of the movie theater and caught somebody who was going in. I liked this picture, but Ron kind of looks like he has no teeth.

Next we went into Penneys and found a willing saleslady. Ron looks great, but what the heck am I doing? (If you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?)

At Sam's Club we asked the guy checking receipts at the door. Unfortunately, this is really blurry. Never ask somebody who's busy.

Then we headed over to Dillards which has the nicest Christmas tree department. We arrived right after they opened and there wasn't anybody around. Once again we were back to self portraits. This one really made me laugh. Too close?

Finally a nice saleslady arrived to help us. This was my favorite of the lot, even though Ron has tinsel growing out of his head.

Ron and I wish all of you the very best holiday season and a shiny New Year.

(BTW, we're in Yuma now - more on that later.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Slabs

For the past week we've been with the WINs at the most unique place in the entire United States - Slab City or The Slabs. Between 1942 and 1946, these 640 acres were utilized as a marine training camp. When WWII ended, the buildings were given to the town of Niland and carted off leaving the concrete 'slabs' behind. Retired veterans, snowbirds and drifters moved in and created a city of their own. With EPA requirements, the land would cost too much to be of use to anybody, so the residents are left in peace.

As you can see, the guard shack at the entrance artfully welcomes the visitors.

With no zoning laws, there are some amazing sights. We weren't sure if this person was selling these treasures or just collecting.

Anybody need a slightly used piano?

There are some creative people there. I liked the truck garden and the lampshade tree.

And decorated cars seem to be a fad. This one even has a hedge trimmer.

There's a very successful free library - it expands each year.

Keeping up with technology, they have installed 'internut' equipment.

I particularly liked the reading room. It even had a puzzle in the works just like at all the RV resorts.

The pet cemetery is full of beloved friends who have passed on. Our friend John just brought his doggy companion's ashes here to be placed under a piece of marble that he acquired in Marble, CO. I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of that, but each plot speaks of love.

Probably the most famous local attraction is Salvation Mountain, the inspiration and work of Leonard Knight. This continuous work-in-progress is something that has to be seen to be believed. Leonard expresses his beliefs with colorful paint and boundless enthusiasm.

For more on this National Treasure, see Diana's posting here.

A week was enough time for this restless duo to spend at the Slabs, but there are lots of year-round residents. We met Mayor Linda who hosts a CB broadcast and publishes a newsletter. I especially liked the nicknames of the locals - it seems nobody goes by their real name. Here are a few I pulled out of the deceased list in the newsletter. Rest in peace to Happy Bo Pappy, Rockin' Granny, Gimpy, Jailbird, Coondog Frank, Vegas Streaker, Roadkill Kenny and Insane Wayne who was immortalized in the movie Into the Wild. I hope they all have found their own personal slab in heaven.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Finney Lake

After our car trip to San Diego, we returned to Borrego Springs for the last day of the WIN gathering. Instead of joining them at the next planned stop, we decided to visit one of my very favorite winter spots - Finney Lake. Located just off California route 111 between Calipatria and Brawley, Finney and neighboring Ramer Lakes are part of the Imperial Wildlife Area. The lakes were created in 1954 as habitat for migratory birds. At dawn (which I never see) and dusk flocks of birds fly overhead. During our short walk yesterday, we saw herons, egrets, cormorants, mallards, ruddy ducks, cinnamon teals, and the ever present American coots. Last year there were lots of white pelicans, but we didn't see any this time. In the past, we have even taken the kayaks out to paddle among them. I just love it!

I also love the fact that you can park right at the edge of the lake. (Free, but no amenities, of course.)

As is the case with everything in life, there are a couple of down sides. First, hunting is allowed. I can't help but think this is like shooting fish in a barrel, but I think hunting fees support the wildlife area. Maybe it wouldn't exist at all without the hunters, so I have to live with it. The other fly in the ointment (literally) are the flies! The area is surrounded by cattle feed lots which generate some interesting odors and an abundance of flies. However, the aroma and flies are not bad enough to discourage this wildlife enthusiast.

Here are a couple of shots from last year's visit.
Pelican coffee clutch

Finney Lake

Now for the sad news. We were only able to stay one night because of an absolute deal breaker - mosquitoes! Million of them all over the screens as soon as the sun set and somehow they got in and attacked me (not Ron, of course.) We couldn't believe it. We had never seen mosquitoes there in the past. Because it has been warmer than usual, maybe they haven't died off. Whatever the reason, they chased me away from my favorite place and we joined back up with the WINs at unique Slab City. More about that later.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Side Trip

On Friday Ron and I left the RV with our friends outside of Borrego Springs and took the car to San Diego. Although we missed the turkey leftovers, turkey soup, and ice cream social, we did get to see lots of relatives.

Ron's daughter Kelli was our gracious hostess. She recently adopted a pet - little Lucy. (As in, "Lucy, you have some 'plaining to do." I know, I'm dating myself with the I Love Lucy line.)

Lucy really is a little cutie. I think Ron didn't know what to think about this tiny dog, but he was also charmed.

Here she is at her most adorable.

We had the chance to watch Ron's granddaughter McKayla in a soccer tournament. She is really good as is her whole team. As a non-athletic person, I am just amazed at what they can do. If you look closely, you can see the bump on her forehead that she got during the game. That didn't show her down though.

Then we met my niece Corrie and her family at the Studio Diner. I liked the film going around the building. (This picture is for my cousin who really likes diners.)

Here we are inside. The company and the food were both great. I haven't seen them for a year - Jonathan was just a couple months old then.

Here are Mara, Corrie, Brian, and little Jonathan. Aren't they a good-looking family?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving, WIN style

Every year our Singles RV club, WIN, gets together on public land near Borrego Springs, CA, for Thanksgiving. As I always say, we have Thanksgiving in the desert with 100 of our closest friends. This year it wasn't quite 100, more like 80 or so, but, as always, it was a wonderful celebration of friendship and community. WIN is like a family with all its ups and downs, laughter and arguments, but people you can count on to stand with you when you need support. I always say that if you need a lift, just drive into a WIN gathering. The Thanksgiving gathering is one of my favorites because I get to see people I haven't seen for a year or more. It's a great feeling.

On our way here, we took Box Canyon Road from I10 to the tiny town of Mecca. It's a funny name for a road since it does go through a canyon, but it's certainly not a box canyon. It's a very scenic drive and a surprising change from the surrounding flat desert. You can even camp there, but I wouldn't advise it if there is any chance of rain. There were signs warning about flash floods and looking at the road as it runs through the wash, you can see the problem.

Here we are all huddled together in our traditional spot in the desert.

It's really quite a production to make this event happen. We order turkeys from a grocery store in Brawley - 60 miles away. Yesterday (Wednesday), a volunteer picked up our twelve turkeys and a couple hams which also came with mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pies. The turkeys are carved up, put in serving dishes, and, along with the sides, distributed to the group to refrigerate overnight. Ron is pretty good at (un)bagging those birds.

And we have plenty of willing carvers.

This morning all the things that needed to be warm were heated in various ovens and microwaves and brought to the feast at the appointed time. Each person also brings a side to share. I made cookies and brownies for Ron and I to bring.

Here are the hungry troops gathering like the clouds in the background.

We have servers for the turkey, ham, stuffing, and gravy to speed things along. Now, who's ready to eat?

Personally, my favorite dishes are the ones made by the WINs. With the second shift servers leading the way, the feeding frenzy began.

Mort had a particularly delicious-looking meal. I'm going to have to get one of these partitioned trays.

Most people take a picture of the table before they eat, but we didn't think of it until later. Here are Diana, Phil, Ron, and I, looking fat and happy.

Trust my sister to get a shot of me scarfing down Nelda's amazing pie.

I hope all of you had a Thanksgiving as wonderful as I did. I feel truly thankful and blessed to be living this lifestyle in this great country. I must have done something right in a former life.