Friday, February 27, 2015

Waffles and Harvest Hosts

We enjoyed a much needed break from our volunteer duties at the Good Sam Rally today in Phoenix, AZ. I had fallen asleep around 7:00 pm last night, I was that tired. Yet despite the chance to sleep in, I was awake again at 5:30, and Bob got up right after I did. There was too much to do to waste any of the day sleeping!

Years ago my grandmother gave me an old Wagner Ware cast iron waffle maker meant for wood stove cooking and dated February 22, 1910. It is one of my most cherished possessions. I have used that waffle iron for probably forty years and it will outlast me (the kids will have to draw straws to see who gets it after I'm gone!) There is something pretty special about items that were not built with planned obsolescence in mind.

So this morning I fired up the gas stove and made some yummy waffles for breakfast. Boy, were they good!

Bob and I then went over to the Rally and spent some time in the vendors' section. There we met Don and Kim Greene from Harvest Hosts, a member network of wineries, farms, and agri-tourism sites that invite people with RVs to visit and stay overnight for free. For about the cost of a one night campground charge you can join this organization for a year, and then have access to their network of hosts. We were quite impressed with the options we will have, especially when we are on the move to a destination cross-country. While this is dry camping (no hookups) it looks like a really fun way to visit interesting places, meet interesting people, and save some money along the way. As members we are encouraged, of course, to purchase from the hosts, and have the options of staying at wineries, fruit/vegetable growers, cheese producers, alpaca farms, and many more. Look at the map of options on their website; I couldn't believe there were so many places in the Harvest Hosts network. Truly a great deal.

After we had our fill of Rally, we headed out to LA Fitness to use our free pass that another volunteer had given us. It's been years since either of us have stepped into a gym like that. We were given a tour and a fitness assessment, then were turned free. So Bob and I soaked in the hot tub for a while before taking advantage of the showers. Since we have had only electrical hookups this week we've been conserving water, it was nice to take a long hot shower. We may go back again Sunday since the pass is good for a week.

Poor Auggie has been left alone every day for hours. So when we decided to treat ourselves to a 
dinner out we tweaked that plan just a little and called Red Lobster for takeout. Auggie got to ride along with us while we went to get the food so he was happy. And of course he loved licking the takeout containers afterwards. He thanked us with kisses.

Happy birthday to our son, Tim. we are so proud of the man he has become.

Tomorrow we start our two day stint as Security volunteers, 7-12:00. Hope it doesn't rain!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Day Three of Parking Detail

Oh my, are we ever tired today! Our shift on the parking crew was brutal, with huge numbers of RVs arriving, often in groups of two to twelve that had to be kept together. While most of the a Rally attendees were pleasant and understanding of the difficulties involved in parking 2500 rigs across three days, others were not. A few people insisted on doing things their own way and made things so much more difficult for all involved. Yet we were thanked and complimented on our fine jobs repeatedly, which made up for the few jerks we met!

After we got back to the motorhome and spent some cuddle time with Auggie we headed off to the Rally for some fun. I attended a writers' workshop with Judy Howard, who told me that she liked my blog. That was really nice to hear!

Bob and I dragged ourselves back to our rig afterwards and crashed. We both agreed that the physicality of volunteering at the Rally made enjoying the free time we have much more difficult. Thankfully we have some time tomorrow to sleep in a bit before visiting vendors and hopefully picking up some free camping vouchers and spend our $25 Camping World gift certificate.  We are also checking out the Air Force One braking system for the car when it is being towed. It looks much easier to hook up and use than the Patriot one we have.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In Which I Meet a Famous Author

This morning, on Day Two of helping with the Rally parking, I had a really neat experience. Have you read "Coast to Coast With a Cat and a Ghost"? It's a great story about a widow who bought an RV and drove across country all alone with her cat and a life size doll that looked like her deceased husband. I had read her first two books about a year ago and really enjoyed them.  As I was parking people today at the Rally I saw this woman's rig with a life sized doll of a man in the passenger seat and the image of a cat hanging from the tear view mirror. So I blurted out,  "Oh!  This looks like "Coast to Coast With a Cat and a Ghost!" and she said, "I wrote that book!" It was Judy Howard! Judy is teaching a seminar on writing here at the Rally, and I am looking forward to hearing her speak.  Note: I ganked this photo from the Internet.
After we finished our morning volunteer duties Bob and I went to the racetrack area to see the new rigs that were displayed. No, we are not in the market for a new one, but it is so much fun to look. This is the 2015 American Eagle coach, and it oozes luxury.
One more day helping to park RVs, then we have a day off.  And I have to find the drop off for my blanket I wove for the Linus Project. Another fun day tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Our First Day on Parking Detail

Our first day as volunteers at the Good Sam Rally! The alarm woke us up at 5:30 am, in time to eat breakfast, wash and dress, take Auggie for a walk, and get to our group meeting places by 6:45. My group was told by our team leader to meet by the "Will Call" building, but by 6:45 we were all ready to work and our leader had not shown. It turns out he had decided to change the meeting place but never told anyone. Ah well...

It was COLD out! (I told Emily this when she called me today. Her reaction? "What was it, like 50 degrees? It was 45 a couple of days ago in NJ and everyone was outside with flip flops on!" No sympathy from her!)  I had on two shirts, two jackets, wool socks and gloves, and that wind went right through me. It didn't help that I was standing around outside for five hours. Bob was warmer because his job actually involved moving and parking rigs, while I did the Vanna White thing and gestured to my right whenever RVs came down my road, to show them to turn rather than go straight. But it really wasn't all that bad. Dog walkers came by regularly so I had people to talk with, and by 11:00 the sun got warmer and I was able to put down my hood.

RVs were already gathered to come into the lots by 7:00, and by 7:30 we started to see a fairly steady stream of them.

Bob and his crew had them lined up neatly in rows.

We saw some crazy people today. One driver in a motorhome actually passed another on the entrance road, and I thought he was going to run me down, he was so eager to get to his parking spot fast. Maybe he had a party to get to! Ha!

We were happy to turn over our reflective vests to the 12:00-5:00 crew replacing us, and get something warm to eat. And we get to do it again tomorrow and Thursday. Saturday and Sunday Bob and I are Security. That should be interesting! And tomorrow at noon the Rally actually opens--we can't wait. :)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Phoenix International Raceway

We arrived at the Phoenix International Raceway yesterday after an easy trip from Congress, AZ, and were parked in the electric service lot. Bob and I are volunteers so we get priority parking, which means we are in a big parking lot with room enough to park our car next to us and huge generators supply us power.  While we have no water or sewer hookups we really don't need them since our rig can carry a week's worth of water and can hold a week's worth of grey and black water (sink/shower run off and toilet waste.)

Everyone in our lot is a volunteer so everyone is friendly. All we have to do is sit outside and folks come up to chat. Many have dogs, which is another ice breaker. One couple were handing out free lemons which they picked from their lemon tree in their backyard. Apparently, in Arizona lemons and oranges are like tomatoes and zucchini in the Northeast. When they are ripe everyone has them and it's hard to give them away. We took some, and will freeze the juice in ice cube trays for lemon-water.

This morning we were treated to a volunteer breakfast (bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs with cheese, pancakes, fresh fruit salad and coffee) before receiving a tram tour of the facility. We then were divided into groups according to our assignments. Bob and I were assigned to the parking crew for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and to Security for Saturday and Sunday. Our shifts are all morning ones, 7-12, and we are supposed to work 25 hours each over the next week to earn our free entrance to the Rally and free parking with electric.  We had a brief training with more to come tomorrow. It should be interesting.

Early Birds (people who wanted to arrive a day before the general public) will start arriving tomorrow and the actual Rally starts Wednesday at noon. While we had a brief shower today, weather looks good for the rest of the week.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Friday and Saturday, a Visit to a Museum in Wickenburg

Friday was a quiet day. We went into Congress to the post office and picked up our mail from our mail forwarding service, before stopping in at the local library. I couldn't get onto their WiFi for some reason, so Bob and I headed into Wickenburg for some groceries.

On Saturday we headed back to Wickenburg to visit the Desert Caballeros Western Museum. It featured art from "the Old West, the New West, and the Next West," and had one of the best collections of Western art in the country.
A recreated street of old Wickenburg circa 1915 filled the bottom floor, complete with a general store, a saloon, and rooms from a turn -of-the-century Victorian home. There were also displays of gems and minerals, American Indian treasures, and frontier weapons. 

My siblings and I played with a scooter exactly like this one, at my grandparents' house.
A two harness table loom.
Note the tin cans under the feet of this bed.  Filled with water, they kept creepy-crawlies from climbing up and disturbing your nights's sleep. 
Typical toys from 1915.
 A view of old-time Wickenburg.
Neat wire horse sculptures outside the museum.
Flowers in town are blooming.  My sister, Wendy asked me recently if there were any flowers here. :)

Bob and I enjoyed strolling through shops in town before heading back to the campground. 
Bob met a new friend on the street.

Sunday we head to Phoenix and the Good Sam Rally. It will be a busy week!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thursday, Ride to Prescott

Thursday we drove 44 miles northwest to the town of Prescott, AZ. Make sure you say it right, for it is pronounced "Press-Kit," and people around here will correct you if you say it wrong. So now you know. :)

The road to Prescott goes through the mountains that form the northern border of the Sonora Desert, and it is a long, steep, and winding road. To get there we passed through high desert with sand and cacti, rocky areas with huge boulders that cover the mountains, grazing land, and forests with tall Ponderosa pines. It was amazing to see the variety of the topography in a little over an hour of driving. 

Prescott itself is a really neat town with a historical district called Whiskey Row. It was a nice area to walk around in.  We had lunch in a little restaurant called El Gato Azul, or The Blue Cat. Bob and I had Tapas of shrimp, chicken, and a black bean salad. It was very good!

We drove around a little to try and find an Internet connection, but soon gave that up so we could head home to Auggie.  Uploading the blog will have to wait until tomorrow when we can go into Wickenburg again. 

Wednesday, Blanket is Finished

My Dad was the kind of man who was always busy with a project. He could do anything. He tore down walls in our house where we grew up, remodeled the kitchen, built his own boat, rebuilt TVs and radios, and taught himself to navigate a boat using the stars and a sextant. After he retired he still kept busy, but was less productive.  "What did you do today, Dad?" we would ask him, and he would day, "Oh, I had a busy day. I paid bills today." My sisters and I would chuckle at how paying bills could take all day.

Now that Dad is gone and I'm retired, I can relate. A typical day consists of sleeping until 7:00 or 7:30 (I probably would sleep later if Auggie didn't need to go out at that time,) eating breakfast, checking email, Facebook, and Ravelry, reading, showering, and taking Auggie to the dog park. Now it's 10:30 and we might decide to take a drive. Back home by 4:00, another walk to the dog park, cook dinner, eat, and read until bed time. The time just passes and sometimes I'm not sure what I really accomplished. But I'm never bored!

Today we decided to stay in, and I took out my sewing machine to do some mending and to assemble the blanket I wove last month. Next week I'll be donating it to the Linus Project at the Good Sam Rally in Phoenix. I'm happy the way it turned out--its soft and snuggly.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Rodeo and Visit With Jason

The nearest town, Wickenburg, boasts five rodeo arenas. As soon as we heard that, we just had to go watch some cowboys do their thing. The nearest arena is about ten miles always so off we went on Saturday. 

We arrived in time for the cattle roping. This event is timed, with a team of two cowpokes, male or female, chasing down a calf that has been released from a chute. One rider is to the calf's right, one to the left. The left rider swings a lasso and drops the loop over the calf's horns, then turns to the left. The rider on the calf's right ropes the hind feet of the animal. Both riders stop their horses and pull the calf off its feet. Only catching one foot results in a five second penalty and if either rider misses, they are disqualified. The team with the shortest time wins (although there are several rounds.)

We stayed until it got hot out, enjoying the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of the competition. It was a nice afternoon.

On Sunday Bob and I drove to Phoenix to meet up with our son in law, Jason. Jason's job requires him to travel, and we were excited to see someone from home, at least for a few hours. We enjoyed a great Mexican meal at a local restaurant and had fun catching up with the happenings back home. Jason was preparing to record his regular podcast later, called "Higher Standards," in which he and his friends discus the world of "Magic: The Gathering." When we have decent internet again we will have to tune in and listen.

Jason took this picture of Bob and me.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Escapees Park in Congress, AZ

We have arrived at North Ranch Escapees Park in Congress, AZ. It is a very nice campground, with a lovely view of the mountains, a fenced-in dog park, a pickle-ball court with people who are happy to teach newcomers, and loads of activities. 
Sign on gate of dog park is bilingual.

Social hour is every evening at 4:00, and ice cream social is every Sunday. Classes are held in beading, woodcarving, Tai Chi, Majong, stamping, line dancing, Bridge, quilting, ham radio, embroidery, polymer clay, and more. They also have a group of musicians who meet weekly, and a chat & stitch group. If you are bored here, it's because you want to be. And the views are gorgeous!

We will take a ride into the nearest town today to see what the grocery stores are like. Unfortunately the only WiFi available is through TengoNet, which we have found is both pricey AND unreliable, not a good combo. And we are out of network for AT&T so we can't use our hotspot. Time to rethink switching one or both phones to Verizon?

On our Auggie walk this morning I took some photos of the Saguaro Park here that boasts the presence of "Methuselah," a saguaro cactus that reportedly is over 400 years old. Amazing. This camp has one of the best cactus gardens I have seen.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Time to Move Again

When we got home from Karchner Caverns on Tuesday, we discovered that Auggie had not felt well all day and had developed diarrhea, poor guy. We cleaned up the floor (thankful to have tile floors!) and only gave him a little rice for dinner. By the next morning he was feeling like his old self again. The pep was back in his step and his appetite had returned. I gave him a nice bath so he looks and smells pretty, too.

We spent the day doing little things to get ready for today's move to the Escapees park in Congress, AZ.  It's time we were on the move again! We have really enjoyed our time in Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort but we look forward to seeing a new area. Congress is about 90 minutes northwest of Phoenix, and we will be stopping at an RV repair shop to see if they can fix the sidewall damage from that blowout we had back in November.

We will certainly miss our Dish Internet we've had all month! In Congress we may not have much, so forgive me if blog posts become sporadic. I'll write 'em daily, but I'm not sure if I can upload them every day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Karchner Caverns

We find out about the neatest places by talking with fellow RVers. We were at the dog park with Auggie one day last week, and a fellow dog owner mentioned in passing that he had been to Karchner Caverns. We looked it up when we got back to our motorhome, and discovered that these caves are considered among the top ten cave formations in the world. Not only that, but of the top ten, Karchner Caverns is the only site in the US that is open to the public. And it was only a couple of hours away from us.  Well, we had to go and check it out!

The Caverns are part of the Arizona State Park system and are located in Bensen, AZ. At this time two different tours are offered, both about an hour and a half long.  While the tours are not cheap at $23 per person, taking one is the only way you can actually see the caves. We had to arrive a minimum of one hour before our tour started. There were a lot of rules to follow: no cell phones, water bottles, purses, food, gum, or cameras are allowed. Touching any surface is punishable by law. One enters the cave through a series of three sealed chambers that maintain the humidity of the caves, including one chamber that mists you down to prevent lint from becoming airborne and damaging the formations. Two guides accompanied our small group which was led by an experienced cave explorer who explained all about how the structures were formed and how they were discovered by a couple of college freshmen in 1974. It was a fascinating story!

Since cameras were not allowed, I took these images off the internet. They give some idea of the beauty of the formations.  If you ever get to southern Arizona, do yourself a favor and visit the Karchner Caverns!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Anniversary Day and Historical Museum

Yesterday was a very special day for us--it was Bob's and my fourteenth wedding anniversary. We had asked around for a recommendation on restaurants to go to, and decided to make a trip to Phoenix and visit Seasons 52.

Seasons 52 is an upscale chain of restaurants around the country that features seasonal, fresh food (each entree is under 475 calories) that is beautifully prepared. We started with a shared appetizer of lobster flatbread.  Bob ordered blackened mahi-mahi with broccoli and whipped sweet potatoes. I had Carmelites grilled sea scallops with butternut squash and leek risotto, broccolini and lemon butter. It was so good. Our table was outside in the garden.
Oh! I forgot to tell you about Sunday! We stopped in to the Casa Grande Historical Society to see what they had on display. The building itself, now called Heritage Hall, was originally a church. It was built by parishioners over a hundred years ago (by both men and women, the docent pointed out) and consists of stones hauled by hand from the river bed of a now-dry river. It's a lovely building
The museum boasts three vintage fire engines, Native American artifacts, a model railroad display, period rooms with authentic household furnishings, farming equipment, and the Rebecca Dallis School House, a one-room school that was used to educate the local African American students from 1939-1952. Rebecca Dallis had as many as 70 students at a time in the one-room school.

On display was this beautiful fire engine.
A Bell Telephone switchboard

...and this hat, covered in rattlesnake rattles. The owner reportedly killed all the snakes herself.
There was also an intriguing old two harness loom that was sitting in the sun, half under a building overhang, with bird droppings all over it. It had a very interesting shedding system where the forward movement of the beater triggered a change in harnesses.  I spoke with the docents and urged them to at least bring it into a building. Perhaps someone would undertake a restoration project and bring it back to its former glory--I think it could be saved.  I told them that if we lived in Casa Grande I would restore it (Bob rolled his eyes at that!)  I also said I'd be back to visit next year and see what they have done with it! It just needs some love.

Unfortunately the bright sun and shadows prevented me from taking a decent photo of this loom.  :/

Monday, February 9, 2015

Gourd Festival

In the last couple of days Bob and I have noticed a subtle difference in the air.  It feels like Spring. When we take Auggie for a walk around 9:00 am we don't need a jacket anymore, and the air is perfumed with the scent of flowers blooming.
Saturday we went to the annual gourd festival in Casa Grande. It's hard to believe, but I have spent my whole life in ignorance of how a gourd may be decorated or used other than, say, a bowl of gourds sitting on a table. How my life has been lived in ignorance! Apparently, gourds are big in the Southwest.  People take classes in gourd decorating. They enter decorated gourds in competitions. They make dolls, animals, jewelry, and musical instruments out of them.  Gourds may be painted, cut, combined with pine needles to make baskets.  Who knew??

They may be made into whimsical people...
...or turned into lampshades.
Some gourd artists even combine them with precious stones and deer antlers to make the most fabulous baskets...

...or use them in transportation.  Haha!
In addition to gourd artists, we spent some time talking with makers of Indian Love Flutes.  They are like recorders, but a little simpler to play, with a haunting tone. Bob is going to make me one.