Monday, February 27, 2017

One Month to Go

Sitting in an RV, listening to the Eroica while a gentle rain waters the ever thirsty desert.  We have one month left.  It has gone fast, time slipping away like the rain water on our RV roof.  These winter months in SE Arizona have been one of growth.  Our Camp Host position has really not been a challenge but is steady and sometimes hard work.  Since the beginning of January we have been booked solid with travelers, campers and snowbirds.  The weekend folks that come out tend to build fires, throw back a few brews and relax from their work.  They leave more of a mess than others but bring in a vibrancy we do not have with other groups.  Spring break is around the corner which will increase the energy in the campground.  The motorhome folks come and go leaving hardly a trace of their visit.  They do the hikes, view nature and return to their self contained world taking pleasure from their rigs.  The people with small trailers are the one's I enjoy the most.  Some are fulltime while others are snowbirds and weekend people.  They seem to revel in the simplicity of their rigs making no excuses nor presumptions about who they are or what they are about. This and more comes together in this little microcasm in the universe making for an ever changing never boring life.  Carol and I have grown finding we can work together in our roles.  We make rounds first thing in the morning posting new tags for reserved campers later in the day, cleaning sites that have been vacated and then there are the dreaded bathrooms.  Bathroom cleaning has become a science beyond anything I  ever imagined and when done, they sparkle and are clean.  Never thought I would do such work but we are okay with it.

We did find a rattle snake at one of our sites and the ranger came out and removed the varmit.  As you can see he used tongs, sort of like a trash picker, to gather up the snake.  We drove to a far point in the Park in my work cart to place the snake in a bush.  It was was an early awakening by Arizona standards and the snake was pretty groggy.  It does signal that care needs to be taken in the future as temperatures climb.

We visited the Pima Air and Space Museum today.  My father flew the Burma Hump during WWII in a C-46 Commando.  Needless to say I was attracted to this exhibit.  The C-46 had not been tested as it rolled off the assembly line and was put into duty due to the demands of the war.  The safety record was less than stellar so between mechanical failures and the Japanese there were a lot of crashes.  As if that was not enough the cargo was primarly gas which made the aircraft a flying bomb.  The pilots lived in poor conditions with dysentery, malaria and a host of other diseases and maladies afflicting the crews of these planes.  In a book I was reading, Among the Headhunters, Lyman describes the emotional state of the pilots as a very brave group of men under incredible stress.  In the pictures I was able to capture some of the stuff the Museum felt important and the fact this bird had its own little spot with supporting photos and relics testifies to the importance of this mission and aircraft.

Carol's favorite aircraft is the SR-71, something I like to call the James Bond of spy planes.  It is perhaps the most smooth aircraft ever made.  You can see in the photos the lines and angles of the bodywork.  It is a world apart from the C-46, but wow!  She supported TR-1's, sort of like U-2s, when she was active duty and understands the mission the SR-71 had.  The Museum has a great deal of pride in this aircraft and it shows.

You can see a number of aircraft from different eras of which I offer just a sample.  The Museum has a restored B-24 that my adopted father supported in Europe.  It is an awesome looking aircraft and is open beneath so as to peer into the bowels of the plane through the bomb doors.  Other aircraft one can see are previous Air Force Ones, a B-36 bomber and the list goes on.  The tour guide we had was a F-15 pilot who knew his stuff.

Finally got a visit in to the Tucson paths.  We have similar in Albuquerque but I have to say I have never seen a trail with a bicycle repair mechanic on it who also sells drinks and snacks with a place to sit and talk with other cyclists.  I started at the north end of town where the path ends and rode east.  I did run into some road construction closing that part of the trail but got around it.  The rest of the trail was not too bad, in fact pretty good.  I stopped after 22 miles as Carol had finished shopping and had frozen items that needed to be brought back to the freezer in the rig.  I am going to cycle downtown and check it out as well as out to the most eastern part of the trail.  Tucson has a very active inline skating community, most of the skaters are far more advanced than my old bones are.  Nonetheless I will get on this trail with skates just to try it.  Beautiful scenery is breath taking, or perhaps it was the bicycling:)!  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


RV living for many reading this is a given.  Home on wheels, open road and adventures.  We purchased our Cameo for the long haul and it works.  We have replaced the old Carrier AC system which had a heat pump and going to a Coleman, going up to 15000 BTU from the previous 13,500 system.  The heat pump has been a worthy partner in our RV lifestyle, acting as a furnace when the temperatures are chilly and if really cold the propane furnace kicks in.  Saves in propane and keeps us warm.  I am glad we got it and upgraded it to boot.  The dogs seem to have adjusted to the lifestyle, sleeping inside at night and spending most of the day outside.  They get a two mile walk at the end of the day which allows them to romp through the desert and do that which only dogs can do.  
  We added a front curtain on the nose of the Cameo which allows us to keep the bicycles relatively protected from the elements.  The product, purchased from Camping World, snaps on and just hangs there.  One of the snaps has already failed and wind is not its friend.  I purchased some PVC and formed a brace at the bottom, tying it to the PVC.  We will see how it stands up but does make a neat little garage in the front.  The PVC will be disassembled when we leave, wrapped in the curtain and stored in the rig for later use.  The jury is still out on it but for now it works.

 Picacho Peak has a steep North face and a somewhat less rugged slope on the South side.  The Park owns both sides but only use the North Side for hiking and general visitor use.  There is a 4x4 road that goes behind the Peak and I was just itching to explore it last year but never made it.  This year I aired up the moutain bike tires and headed back there on to have my butt handed to me.  The road is composed of loose rock and has hills and valleys as you ascend.  The bottom of those valleys are arroyos so as you go down the hill you are met by erosion and large rocks.  The result is you cannot gain any speed in anticipation of the uphill side so it is all work.  I went about 1.5 miles and decided my 68 years had caught up with me.  I stopped to rest for a bit and looked around, noting some old mines about half way up the Peak.  I promised to return but felt there would not be much of anything to look at.  A couple weeks later Carol was shopping and I decided to do the hike.  I got my two ladies and away we went.  The walk is not easy but sure beat the bicycle.  We got to the place where I turned around and began the ascent.  Some of it was old road but in many places it was hard to tell where the road went.  We got to the mines and it turned out to be very rewarding.  I figure the mines were for copper and were dug around 1900.  Despite the proximity to the Park very few people venture up there.  We did find some javelina dung and possibly coyote dung in the area which was fresh.  The mines go back 30 or 40 feet although being alone I did not venture in too far.  A true find and the dogs had a ball.  I decided to go to the top of the Peak as you could see a way to it.  I figured we would intersect with the trail the visitors use on the other side.  We made it to the top and the views were awesome.  No intersection of trails could be found so we had to back track.  The footing is loose rock and many times I would be sliding four or five feet as we descended.  I know my way around most of the Park but thought to myself how easy it would be for someone to get lost or injured on this little Peak.  We do have a lot of Search and Rescues and I can see why!  

  Christmas was fun, simple and warm.  The eve was raining and very windy so we stayed indoors and enjoyed the Season.  The girls got everything they ever wanted like bones and chew toys.  Carol and I exchanged modest gifts which were cool.  The cart we use became decorated with a ribbon on the front, I did my duties with a Santa hat and Carol had elf stuff on.  The campers loved it as much as we did.  Christmas Day we were off and decided to host a campfire for our fellow volunteers which went well.  Arizona may be warm during the day but the desert does get cold at night.  New Years was the same, rain on the eve and a campfire at another volunteer's site.  We did not make it to midnight!

January 15th marks the middle of our time here.  The hosting has been both rewarding and not so much.  The 0800 call out is early and the weather at that time is cold.  Cold is measured more on how you feel and 40 degrees is brutal riding around on a cart.  We dress warmly and by 9 or 10 AM we are warming up.  Most campers make our day being friendly and sharing their stories.  The stories are varied with boy scouts freezing at night to folks in half million dollar motorhomes not stepping outside their rigs.  We did have a bloke change his oil and diesel filter in one of our sites.  The campers who came in after wards complained of stink and indeed it did.  The hardest part of our work are the bathrooms.  They require a thorough cleaning and is not my first choice of jobs.  Most of the time people use the bath house and leave it decent but there are some who break things and have little respect for those who keep them up.  I am learning to smile and be agreeable.  The appreciation I have developed for those who do this for a living has grown tremendously.