Friday, January 30, 2009

House Hunting

I love looking at houses! Seriously! I'm afraid Ron isn't quite as enthralled with the process, but I get a kick out of it. Maybe I should have been a Realtor, but then I'd have to deal with people like me who can't make up their minds. Although Ron wanted to get a fixer-upper, the house we had submitted a bid on was just too much to fix and we (or maybe I) changed our minds. After all, it's supposed to be a winter home not a full time job.

You can tell when these houses were built by all the harvest gold and avocado green appliances. We saw lots of kitchens that looked like this.

This is Kathy our Realtor expressing her opinion about the smell in this house.

By the way if you're ever looking for a house in the Mesa area, Kathy is the best. She happily showed us house after house beginning last winter.

This house came completely furnished! I'm sure green velvet will be back in style soon.

And this one was actually cute as a button except for the all-pink bathroom. I think the toilet seat had seashells in it.

But finally we found the right one. It's only 1119 sq. ft., but will work perfectly for us. We have a signed contract and barring any major problems with the inspection, we'll be closing in mid-February. Our original two criteria for our winter home were that it had to be in an 'over 55' community and allow RV parking on the property.

It has a lovely RV gate. Unfortunately after careful measuring, even with the side mirrors folded in, they won't fit through the gate. But never fear, Ron will take out some of the wall and redo the gate. What a guy!

Here's part of the eat-in kitchen which I like just the way it is, but will love when we replace the counter top. But that's much better than replacing all the appliances and remodeling. I just know we're not going to agree on the counter top, though - Ron wants something light and I'm thinking granite looking. Humm.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

WIN Farewell

Today the unusually solemn WINs held a memorial service for some beloved members who recently passed away. I confess that for the first several years I was with the group, when notified of a member's passing, it didn't mean a lot to me since I didn't know them well (or even, at all.) As I read what I've just written, it sounds a bit cold, but honest - although I am saddened to hear of anyone's passing, it wasn't personal. However, in the past two months, I was staggered by the deaths of three wonderful, special people and, by the turnout for the memorial, I was not alone. Many people shared personal memories they had of each individual at the memorial. I knew I would end up a blubbering mess if I attempted that, so here are my memories.

First, in late November, our precious Weezie was taken from us. She had already been traveling with the WINs for ten years when I joined in 2001 and I only knew her for a short time before she went off the road. However she made a huge impression on me. She was one of the most upbeat, friendly people I have ever met and always had a smile and a kind word for everyone. I understand she had been a mail carrier and loved to hike and dance. She was a big believer in the phrase, "Life is short, eat dessert first." In her honor, Ron and I had ice cream for lunch today.

Next we lost our wonderful Don. I thought of Don as a philosopher. As I was traveling through Utah one day, I happened upon Don at a rest area. We had a longer conversation than usually happens during morning hugs (although he was a great hugger,) and he imparted two bits of wisdom I have never forgotten. First he said he is always looking forward - that's why he has a big windshield and small rear view mirrors. Secondly he said when he was a boy he had everything he needed - a bicycle and a nickel. The first is self-explanatory, and, although I probably should have asked him exactly what he meant by the second, I interpreted it to mean we can be happy without all the extraneous stuff that fills our adult life. What a wise man.

And just the other day, Billy, who never even got a cold and we thought would live forever, lost a very quick battle to cancer. Billy loved people, talking, hiking, talking, dancing, talking, kayaking, and, did I mention talking? He was a generous, good-hearted soul who was first to offer help if anybody needed it. He once offered to drive a friend's rig across the country when he was in a bind. After Hurricane Katrina, he went to Mississippi to help transport supplies. Many of the WINs have stories about how Billy helped them in so many ways. It's impossible to grasp that this vibrant force is gone.

Farewell, dear friends. We will never forget you.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hiking the Desert

Today the WINs took a break from all the shopping in Quartzsite and went for a hike. When Chuck organizes a hike, you can be sure it will be an adventure. He doesn't believe in following trails and blazes his own. He's a true 'Road Less Traveled' type.

As we were leaving home, Ron and I were surprised to hear that the drive in was for high-clearance vehicles. Somehow we missed that. But it was too late to get a ride since they were pulling out, so off we went in the Saturn. Luckily the high-clearance turned out to be optional. Hey! We drove through Monument Valley! This was nothing.

Here we are getting last minute instructions at the trailhead. (Or it would have been the trailhead if there had been a trail.) There were 30 of us!

My camera really hates cloudy days, so I apologize in advance for these pictures. They really don't show how lovely it was. We even had a few drops of rain!

We started out winding our way up, around, and through the hilly landscape.

There was one section that was pretty scary. I'm not much of a rock climber.

The view from the top was gorgeous - lots of green in the desert this year. Here we are blocking the view.

When we came down the other side, we stopped at the bottom to regroup. Ron thought to count the hikers and came up with only 25. Oh no, that's two more than the 10% you're allowed to lose on a hike!

Don't worry the rest showed up soon and we continued on our way.

I was going to say, "Watch out for the jumping cholla, guys," but I think I'm the only one who was clumsy enough to get stuck today.

Finally we stopped for lunch at this unstable-looking spot. Chuck had informed us that the hike was about 4 1/2 miles and, at this point, I thought we must be almost back to the cars. However the darn GPS said we had only gone just over two miles. Geez. I guess all that climbing and descending is deceiving.

Thankfully the rest of the hike was pretty flat and we all made it back without too much whining from me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Here we are in Quartzsite for the largest gathering of RVers in the world, which is also probably the largest gathering of seniors in the world. Each January this tiny town in the desert of Southern Arizona swells to an estimated million people, most of them in RVs. They come for the Sports, Vacation, & RV Show, followed by the Hobby, Craft, and Gem Show and the Classic Car Show. For RVers, this is Mecca. You can find and purchase anything you want or need to make your RVing experience even more enjoyable, from nuts and bolts to the RV itself.

From the top of 'Q' mountain you can see the whole town as well as lots of RVs parked on the surrounding public land. (I have to confess this picture is from last year - we've been to busy to mountain climb this year.)

This 70,000 sq. ft. tent, the 'Big Tent', is the core of the RV Show and is filled with the excited crowds. (Picture courtesy of the Quartzsite Chamber of Commerce.)

Recently we had an 'oops' when a pin came out of one side of the tow bar. After punching a couple of holes in the car bumper, the one arm of the hitch dragged along the road until Ron noticed the problem and pulled over. Here you can see how the steel wore down almost to the vital nut. (You could see it better before it rusted.)

Blue Ox has technicians who service their tow bars here at the RV show. Ron was hoping to just replace parts, but this was beyond their scope. It would have to be sent to the factory and by the time we added up the parts, plus labor and shipping charges, the cost was close to a new one. So now we have a brand new shiny tow bar.

Close to the Big Tent is Tyson Wells with more vendors hawking their wares.

La Mesa is only one of the RV dealers with new and used inventory on hand, but they have the biggest crowds because they provide free lunch! RVers will even stand in line for free food!

Another busy day ends with a spectacular desert sunset. (Alright, this picture is also from last year, but tonight's sunset was very nice too.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Well, good grief!

I know everybody has been anxiously wondering what we've been up to since the new year. We've been in the Phoenix area getting a big city fix.

We started out staying in the Chandler Elks parking lot where we were fascinated by this team of guys building a wall. Yes, it doesn't take much to entertain us, but you never saw a wall go up this quickly.

We took walks through the surrounding neighborhoods,

And communed with nature.

But once we moved to the Elks in Mesa, we have been occupied with looking at houses. Every year, we think about getting a winter place where we can park the RV and I can play and Ron can have projects. We picked a Realtor who was a friend of our friends Pat and Harold. After what we put her through, I hope she's still their friend.

While I snap pictures and jot down impressions of the various houses, Ron has a complete checklist and checks every detail.

Now here's where Sally will empathize. We narrowed down our first set of seven to our favorite so while we were at the house, Kathy (our Realtor) called the listing agent. There was already a bid in on the place. The next day we started over in another area, found one we really liked and once again she made a call. A bid had just that day been accepted on that one. Today we decided to go with our second choice from yesterday, she called and, you guessed it, just today a bid had been accepted on that one. The moral of this story is - If you have a house you want to sell, just interest us in buying it and it'll be gone!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sweet Sixteen?!?

Well, maybe not. But today was my birthday and in honor of the momentous occasion, Ron took me out to the Outback for dinner. Of course we pestered the folks at the next table to take our picture.

Thinking about it, why do we celebrate our birthdays? I have a friend who calls her children every year at the very minute they were born. Since they both arrived in the middle of the night, they are not too gracious about it. However, I think she has something there. Because my mother has passed on, I'll just send a 'thank you' out to my father for bringing me into this world. Here's to you, Dad!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Where there is a WIN gathering, you can be sure there will be lots of planned activities. Ron and/or I have participated in some since our return from Denver.

One of my favorite adventures is 4-wheeling into unknown territory. Since the Saturn only has a two-inch clearance (ok, Ron insists it's three inches,) we don't have the ability to explore that way. Happily the WINs planned a 4-wheel trip through the mountains to the nearby town of Wellton. Even better, Carol wanted to drive it in her Forerunner and agreed to take Diana, Phil, and me along. As I mentioned before, Ron doesn't deal well with those exciting car rides so he went rock hunting with another group.

To our surprise, the 4-wheeling group consisted of our car and five ATVs. Humm. But Carol fearlessly followed along the rock strewn road. . .

Through the flooded tunnel. . .

And over some very exciting hills. This one was just about straight down.

And I didn't even get pictures while I was busy holding on.

We ended up at this quaint little restaurant in Wellton. I know it doesn't look like much, but their burgers were wonderful.

Then Carol safely delivered us back home.

Ron didn't get any pictures of the rock hunting, but then it's not exactly a photographic activity. :-)

Another day we went birding in the West Wetlands Park in Yuma. I had told the group about the little green bird (identified only as an LGB) that Ron and I saw when we were parked in that area. So everyone was anxiously watching for this special bird. When we all fanned out, wouldn't you know Ron and I saw it again. By the time we got the others' attention, it was gone. I'm just glad Ron was with me or they would probably think I was making it up or just nuts. And, no, it wasn't a parrot.

Here are some of the birding group - Bob, Carol (of 4-wheeling fame,) Me, Ron, and Sandra.

Notice Sandra's very serious hiking shoes in the above picture. They're quite a change from the ones below that she was using during our circle tour this past summer.

Actually the women loved them so much that one day they all decorated their hiking shoes with beads.

Then it was time for New Year's Eve. The WINs started the evening with some delicious finger foods. Bob and Donna paused to smile for the camera.

I have to confess that I didn't realize at first that there was a line inside the group of tables and was just picking from my side. Oops!

Then we went into the VFW for dancing. Diana and Phil look very festive.

And what would the occasion be without our Bagpipe Bob to bring in the New Year?

We spent New Years Eve as it should be enjoyed - with lots of good friends like Joey and LJ.

I hope the New Year brings you good health and happiness. It must be a sign that I'm aging - I now list good health as the first priority.

2008 Year in Review

We began 2008 with our annual trip to Quartzsite for the big RV show and swap meet.

We enjoyed the WIN dance rally in Casa Grande, then spent some time in Southeastern Arizona.  Tombstone is especially fun.

While Ron flew back to Wisconsin for family business, I hiked to Seven Falls.  I guess it's more impressive after a rain.

Crossing east through New Mexico, we stopped at City of Rocks SP

And White Sands NM.

Crossing Texas, I noticed every town had a hook, but my favorite was the cattle drive down the street in Fort Worth with real Texas Longhorns.

It was a memorable trip across because we had a couple close calls with tornadoes, but we made it. We decided to never again hit Texas in the spring.

In Arkansas we looked for diamonds in Crater of the Diamonds SP.  For the low price of $6.50 each we could dig all we wanted.  Needless to say, we didn't find any.

We were on our way to join up with the WINs who are kayaking NARKSMO.(northern Arkansas, southern Missouri.)  We stayed at a couple of lakes on the way and found flooding with camping sites under water.  When we joined the WINs, some of the kayaking had to be canceled because of the high water.

We decided to made a small side trip to Branson, Missouri and take in a couple of shows.  We really enjoyed both that we picked - Yakov Smirnoff and SIX (six brothers who sing and do beatbox.)

When we rejoined the WINs, the water had receded enough that kayaking was allowed.  I thought it was more fun than usual because not much paddling was required.

Of course sometimes the current was a hindrance and pushed you into a rock or tree.  As one smart WIN said, "If your boat fills with water, don't panic, just stand up!"

But at least there was a good meal afterward.

After getting our fill of kayaking, we broke off once again.  We went up in the famous St. Louis Arch - the Gateway to the West.  It was a beautiful day for it.  Last time I visited it was raining and I could feel the arch swaying.

We spent some time in Illinois, hitting some of their very reasonable state parks, then made our way north through Wisconsin and into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
We visited one of my fathers favorite places -  Fayette Historic Townsite.  He likes his ghost towns, but this was mostly recreated and pretty interesting.

Ron and I had volunteered to host the stop at St. Ignace, just on the north side of the beautiful Mackinac Bridge.

We organized lots of activities, including a trip over to Mackinac Island, but my favorite was a zipline that Mill Creek Historic SP had just opened.  I guess they needed guinea pigs to test it because they were offering it for $5.  Here I go!

We stayed with the WINs and crossed over into Canada at Sault Ste. Marie for a trip around the north side of Lake Superior.  It was a fantastic trip that we wouldn't have done alone.  There was a lot of hiking and kayaking.

And the very interesting Fort William Historical Park,  The fort is recreated to how it looked in 1815 with lots of people in period costume demonstrating everything.

After returning to the US and a fun stop in Grand Marais, Minnesota, we reached my favorite stop on the whole trip in Ely.  From there we explored the Boundary Waters, both on the water . . .

And from a six-seater float plane!  Fantastic!  Thanks to Diana who organized it and got everybody's exact weight so we could take off.

Soon we were heading back west across South Dakota which has a lot to offer.  First there's the Mitchell Corn Palace which was not the makeshift stalks of corn I expected, but a real work of art.
 The grasses and grains that form the pictures are changed every year.

Personally I think Badlands NP is misnamed, because the hills are lovely.  But I guess the early settlers didn't think so.

Then we appreciated the scenic Black Hills of South Dakota with Mt. Rushmore NM which I hadn't seen since I was little.

And the Crazy Horse Memorial which I don't think I ever saw.  They take great pride in the fact that they don't get any government funding, but maybe that's why it never seems to progress.

In Wyoming, we appreciated Devils Tower.NM.  It really is quite a sight.

But just as remarkable to me were these ruts made by the pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail.  These are just outside of Guernsey, WY.

After a visit in Denver area to celebrate Ron's birthday with his daughters, we rejoined the WINs in El Jebal.  We had a blast there with biking 25 miles downhill from Aspen, bowling, and visiting beautiful Maroon Bells.

And Phil safely drove Diana, Ron, and me down the scary one-lane rocky track to the very photographed Crystal Mill.

After a fun stop in Grand Junction where we hiked down into Colorado NM, biked, and kayaked (the WIN trifecta), we arrived in Moab.  There we did a jeep trip down the Shafer Trail,

A boat trip on the Colorado,

And hiked in Arches NP.

After Moab, Ron and I went to the Needles section of Canyonlands and did some hiking,

Then explored Natural Bridges NM.

After crossing into Arizona, we drove our low-clearance car through Monument Valley.  'They' said we needed high-clearance, but Ron didn't listen.

We met up with the WINs again in Borrego Springs for the annual Thanksgiving gathering.

From there we made a quick trip over to San Diego to see Ron's daughter Kelli and my niece Corrie and her family.

Then we experienced the ambiance of the Slabs outside of Niland, CA, with its unique Salvation Mountain.

To finish the year, we joined the others in Yuma, but flew from there to Denver for Christmas.