Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We’re really enjoying reading Christmas blogs from others, so I have to write one of our own!

We’ve enjoyed Craig and Liz being here for about a month. We got them a neighbor’s site nearby to rent for their stay. The neighbors won’t be back until February, so it worked out well for all of us. (And, by the way, their lot is for sale if anyone’s interested.)


It’s great to have family visiting in their own RV. It’s not like having them in your house and being together 24/7. Don commented that this is the most time he’s spent with his son since Craig was a child. We’ve been together in three different states during the past 4 months: Laramie, WY in September; Albuquerque, NM in October; and Benson, AZ in November/December.

We’ve enjoyed many meals together, both cooking at home for each other and eating out. Shadow and Koa have gotten along pretty well, even though Shadow was surprised when Koa decided to try out Shadow’s bed. Making himself as small as possible, Koa couldn’t figure out how to get his front legs in the bed, too!


Craig & Liz left their coach here while they are in San Antonio, TX for Christmas with her son and family. They didn’t know they would be staying in Benson for this long, but Craig has been waiting for his next EOD job to begin and there were two possibilities: one in SE Kansas, the other in Gila Bend, AZ. The one in Gila Bend came through and he’ll be starting work just after the New Year, so they didn’t need to take the motorhome eastward. Glad they avoided a lot of bad weather in that direction! It’s been fairly cold in Benson, but nothing like a lot of the country has had.

We’ve taken advantage of Craig & Liz’s relative youth and energy to get some things done around our RV lot. After clearing out some cactus, we bought some lavender and salvia plants to take their place. The plants look small now, but they should thrive in this environment, with very little maintenance.



The areas still look a little bare, so we’re shopping for some yard art to add to the southwest theme. And we still have two barrel cactuses in the yard and plenty of cactuses outside the fence, in front and back of the lot.

Don and Craig went through all of our storage bays, cleaned them well and re-organized, getting rid of a lot of stuff in the process. They installed a piece of fence screen under the propane tank to create a storage area for sewer hoses and accessories. This will help keep the wet bay floor clean, as any residual liquid from the hoses will now drain onto the ground while we’re driving down the road.


We also had time to do a few tourist outings. Historic Tombstone is always good for a day trip. Liz seemed happy to take up with this colorful character who was roaming the streets!


After lunch at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, the Rattlesnake Crafts store was our next stop, about 15 miles southeast of Tombstone, near the ghost town of Gleeson. It seemed like we were driving into a very large, uninhabited part of the desert when we came to the turn onto Double U Ranch Rd and this sign, confirming that we were on the right track.


The craft shop is housed in this old trailer, open to anyone who walks in.


Sandy Weber, one of the owners along with her husband John, walked by and waved to us, but didn’t come back during our visit. We were free to wander and observe the many treasures in this assortment of “antiques, collectibles and odd items.” The couple left their traditional jobs in Illinois in 1979 and moved to Arizona where they became rattlesnake hunters. They use almost every part of the rattlesnake in making crafts, and even make jerky from the meat. Read more about this interesting couple and their unusual place on their web site (link above).

Anyone wishing to purchase goods that are for sale (only those with a price may be bought – the vast majority of items are for display only) is asked to leave the money in this box, with a note of what was bought. How nice to see people who believe in the honor system!


Liz & I each bought a pair of earrings. The pair I chose were made from rattlesnake vertebrae, malachite and mink penis. What a conversation piece!


Here’s a sample of what you can see on this one-acre display of over 5,000 items.

We saw some friends locally, too. We visited Becky Hazen and Lonnie Hodge to see their new 40-ft Discovery motorhome, and went out to dinner at a new steakhouse in town.


We went to an Escapees Boomer gathering in the Saguaro Co-op in Benson. It’s always fun to join fellow RVers for a little food and libation.


And we visited Benson’s Christmas on Main Street, with cowboy poets and musicians on the stage in a lot near Safeway, and lots of arts and crafts booths in 4 locations all over town.



If you’ve followed this blog, you know what else we’ve been up to this year. We’ve had some health ‘hiccups’ but are generally healthy and happy. Our travels keep us interested in pursuing even more adventures, and we’re lucky enough to be able to continue full-time RVing. We seriously considered buying the park model below, which is nicely set up with a big Arizona room on a very large lot with room for our motor home on the left. But we re-affirmed that we’re not ready to have any home other than the one on wheels.


Christmas Dinner this year will be shared with our neighbors at Cochise Terrace Resort. Turkey and ham will be provided, with everyone bringing a dish to share. I’m making up a big batch of sausage dressing with mushrooms, celery and onions.

Our next adventure after the new year will be to head to the western border of Arizona, first to Parker on the Colorado River for the Escapees Chapter 21 Winter Rally, and then to Quartzsite for the big RV show and lots of Escapees gatherings.

We wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kayaking: A Little Too Exciting!

The good news is that nobody got hurt, well at least not seriously.

It was a beautiful day for kayaking. We loaded the 4 kayaks onto Craig and Liz’s truck and headed off for Patagonia Lake State Park, about 60 miles southwest of Benson.


We launched the boats using one of the boat ramps and set out on a new adventure.


Don noticed a Blue Heron in the reeds. I got a great picture but the bird let me know his opinion of being photographed by taking off quickly and yelling loudly!


The water was calm and peaceful as we paddled under the pedestrian bridge to the main body of the lake.


Don was enjoying the peace and quiet.



Craig climbed out of his boat to go off in search of a geocache, which he quickly found.


I noticed one of the Coots seemed to be following Don.



As I got closer, the Coot turned around to face me and came close. He seemed to be looking for a handout, so he might have been fed by people and was hoping to get lucky again.



We saw several Cormorants in trees and on the lake.



When Liz floated by, the birds took off. Although our boats are quiet, I’m sure the wildlife is occasionally annoyed by our intrusion in their space.


Craig sure attracted lots of bovine attention!


We enjoyed our picnic lunch near the swimming beach.


After lunch, we decided to explore the west end of the lake, and headed toward the dam. Craig & Liz went off in search of another geocache, while Don and I leisurely paddled toward them and noticed a fellow with a sail on his kayak.


We caught up with Craig & Liz and were discussing their second successful cache find of the day, when Don looked back and saw the kayak/sail capsize when the wind got a little stronger. We all immediately headed toward him to help out.


That’s when things got a little too exciting. I moved alongside Craig to tie a rope to his kayak so he could tow the overturned kayak to land. I leaned over a little too far and was surprised to find myself in the water, too! It happened just that fast – one minute I was tying a perfect square knot, and the next I was totally wet!

I didn’t take any more pictures, and I didn’t even know if the ones I’ve posted would be retrievable from the memory card until later because the camera was totally submerged while still on a leash around my neck. Fortunately, my little Fujifilm waterproof camera really is waterproof! And my life vest did its job of keeping my head above the chilly water.

Don, Craig and Liz all worked to get Mark (the sailor/kayaker) and me to safety, asking a nearby power boat operator to come lend a hand as well. They found a rocky bank where we could climb out and start drying off, and got our boats emptied of water. Then we all paddled our way back to the dock. It was definitely time to call it a day, as the wind was growing stronger and the waves were big enough to cause problems when we had to paddle across the lake. A big wave horizontal to a kayak can easily tip it over.

Cold, still a little wet and shaky but not hypothermic, I was glad for a change of shirt on the lake (thanks, Craig), then my own dry shirt back at the truck, and some dry sandals. I changed in the restroom and was grateful for a blower hand dryer that I could stand next to for drying my quick-dry pants.

When we got home, I took a long hot shower and enjoyed green chile burritos that Liz made for dinner.

We took away some lessons from this experience. Always wear a life jacket when you’re going in a boat, keep the paddle on a leash attached to the boat, tie down or leash other items like cameras, sun block, water bottles and lunch packs, and don’t try to hang onto the boat after it has capsized. Some extra clothing, drinking water, and rope come in handy, too.

Don’s concern on the lake was first for my safety, but also whether this event would ruin kayaking for me. No, I’m looking forward to the next time, but will be wiser about trying to reach too far sideways!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving and Afterward with Craig & Liz

We’ve been enjoying our time with Don’s son Craig and his wife Liz, who are visiting Benson in their motor home. They arrived a few days ahead of us and spent some time on cleaning up our RV lot as we’d been traveling since April 11. We had hired someone to spray the weeds while we were away, but that just killed them and left dead weeds, so we had some removal to do.

There were a few dead cactus due to the ‘deep freeze’ the area had last February. By the time we arrived, Craig and Liz had taken care of them. We also decided to quit fighting some of the other cactus that kept overtaking the fence and gate, and simply dug them up.


Craig did a lot of the heavy lifting and digging, while Don repositioned pavers and removed big chunks of the plants.


Liz and I did clean-up, and she also helped with loading plants in the back of their truck.


When we finished, there was a big load to dispose of!


After several attempts to find a place to get rid of the debris, we finally discovered that the park has a way of disposing of such things. They brought in the big tractor! Dennis, the park manager, positioned the scoop under the truck’s tailgate, and Craig and Don shoved the cactus in. Our big load didn’t look so big then!


With that job done, Craig and Liz fixed dinner for us at their site in the campground.


And we watched a nice Southwest sunset.


For Thanksgiving, Don smoked a 20 lb. turkey in the Orion charcoal cooker. Here it is, brined, rubbed and stuffed with rosemary and lemons, ready to be cooked.


I was too busy helping prepare side dishes, then eating all the goodies to get pictures of the rest of the dinner. It was a beautiful day and we all had too much to eat, including Shadow, who took a rest on the couch beside Liz.


Another thing on our “To Do” list was to hang Christmas lights. We were so grateful for Craig and Liz’s help, especially for Craig climbing the ladder so Don didn’t have to.


It took a little coaxing, but Shadow is starting to enjoy his own little patch of grass that we bought him in Wyoming.


Later we enjoyed relaxing by the fire in our little chiminea.


It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

McKelligon Canyon and Scenic Drive

We played tourist for a few hours this afternoon in El Paso, Texas. Although I grew up here and have returned many times in the years since I left at age 18, it’s been many years since I visited these two spots.

Just the name McKelligon Canyon brings back fond memories from my childhood of picnicking and hiking here. The canyon is now part of the Franklin Mountains State Park. The web site reports that developers were encroaching on pristine areas of Mount Franklin, so in 1979 the Texas Legislature passed a bill to protect the mountains. I was very glad to see the canyon pretty much the same as I remember it from my youth.

The picnic areas have been updated and enlarged. Note the cave in the background.


The Ron Coleman Trail leads to the cave and beyond, for those who want to hike the entire 3.5 miles along the top of the mountains.


Some hikers explored the shallow cave.


The Visitor Center was constructed in typical rock-wall style.


However, it’s closed on Sat-Sun so we weren’t able to visit. Too bad they don’t open on weekends when people usually have time off from work, and close on other days of the week.


An amphitheatre has been built, with a full schedule of performances. It was closed, too.


The old Pavilion is still there and is used for performances, too.


There are some nice vistas from the canyon. The large building on the left is William Beaumont Army Hospital, where one of my nieces was born 52 years ago. (Cloud cover made the rest of my pictures a bit hazy.)


The next part of our tour was Scenic Drive.


The drive snakes around the south end of Mt. Franklin and offers lots of scenic views of El Paso and Juarez, Mexico further to the south.


The Border Highway and the (currently) dry Rio Grande can be seen here, with Juarez on the other side. I grew up in the lower valley, not far from the US-Mexico border in a community called Lakeside.


With a population of about 800,000, El Paso stretches far and wide.


Downtown El Paso with Juarez in the background.


The city’s Police Academy is nestled in the side of the mountain.


Mt. Cristo Rey can be seen in the distance to the northwest, with its characteristic cross on top.


This mountain has a very interesting history, and is in Sunland Park, New Mexico, best known for the horse racing track, established in 1959 when I still lived in El Paso. In early 1964 my parents moved to the upper valley north of the park, and I continued attending high school in the lower valley for a few months to finish my senior year, commuting past the heavy traffic on Friday afternoons. There was no freeway then! The casino was added in 1999. It’s debatable whether Sunland Park, NM is actually within the geographical city limits of El Paso, TX, since there’s a shared zip code. The mountain, race track and casino are on the border of two countries and three states.

Driving through a historic district back to our motorhome at the Ft. Bliss FamCamp, I caught a quick picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, with a cornerstone date of July 7, 1929. Before I was born, my parents and older siblings lived not far from this area.


This was a pleasant visit that brought back some good memories for me, and showed Don some parts of El Paso that he hadn’t seen. Still, I don’t regret leaving El Paso to live in various other places, that now allow me to see and appreciate the area from a different perspective.