New Years Eve in Tucson

Usually on this day I am writing about my life during the past year, but at the moment I am still trying to integrate my life of the last month. Quiet time for reflection consists of a few moments here and there as the miles pass, and then I am usually either writing or trying to knit on bumpy pavement. As we speak.

Yesterday was fun as we looked up two different sets of friends that Mo had in Tucson. The first people, Joe and Joan, have been friends with Mo since she and Carol lived in Monterra in the 70’s, and were actually married at the ranch there. They lived in a typical Arizona country club, with winding streets and generic houses that went on for a long way, but their home inside was lovely and their xerixcaped gardens were great. They have only lived there for a little more than 2 years, moving from Grass Valley in California and they loved it. We visited with them at their home for a time before going to Wes and Gayle’s home just a few miles away in the same area. Gayle called while we were traveling and suggested that we all come there for dinner instead of trying to go to a restaurant. She said, “I’ll just throw something in a pot, so it’s not a bit of trouble.” Mo had thought that it might be nice for the two couples to meet, but till now that hadn’t actually happened.

Wes and Gayle are Mo’s next door summer neighbors back in Rocky Point, but they are only there for 3 or 4 months a year and then come back to Arizona for the rest of the time, especially the winter. They had a truly lovely home on an acre or so along a typical Arizona arroyo with palo verde trees and cactus all around. The home was like something out of Sunset magazine showing contemporary desert living, with a barbeque patio that rivaled most kitchens I have seen, a big southwest style outdoor fireplace/over, with adobe walls and a beautiful waterfall. The waterfall was very similar to the one at Joe and Joan’s home, so I guess it’s the thing to do in the desert when you have no grass, you need some kind of water here and there.

The inside of the home was every bit as memorable with all the southwest décor that is so open and full of light. There were big windows with views on three sides of the mountain ranges around Tucson and we watched the sunset while eating some kind of incredible appetizers made with corn tortillas, shrimp, avocado and cilantro with a great pepper kick. Gayle also made lovely Cosmopolitans, which were new to me and a surprise as well since I didn’t think I liked vodka at all. Could do that again!

From appetizers in the living room we ambled to the dining room for a meal that was surely more than “something in a pot”. We had some kind of famous southwest chicken soup called “posole” that had hominy in it, but it wasn’t anything like the hominy I remember because this was really really good. They also served corn salsa, and green corn tamales that they brought back from Puerto Vallarta, beef tamales, and chicken enchiladas. After dinner she brought out the liqueurs with desserts and a can of whipped cream which made us all laugh. It was fun.

It was nice that everyone had a chance to get to know each other and I got to know Wes and Gayle a bit better so that when I get back to Rocky Point and they are there it will be fun. Gayle likes to walk and to play “hand and foot” so that’s a good start. Although her heart is here in Tucson so they may not be going back to Rocky Point many more times.

Mo and I were worn out and not up to the New Year’s party thing so we left around 10 and traveled back to the rv park and slept right through the whole thing. I put the tv on the channel where the ball was supposed to fall and don’t remember another thing. LOL

We stayed at a park called Cactus Country RV, which was just off I-10 near Houghton Road east of Tucson. It was a great choice, with really friendly staff, and in spite of being very nearly full, it was incredibly quiet. Maybe it was the direction of the desert wind, but I never heard a sound from the freeway that was about ½ miles south of us. Also, they have the night lighting restrictions in place in this part of Arizona as well and the sky was dark and brilliant with stars since the moon is in it’s waning phase and wasn’t up yet.

It’s interesting to see how we are treated in different parks. Most of the parks are geared to wintering snowbirds with lots of activities and amenities for long term stays. As a result, short timers or overnighters aren’t treated as well now and then. In this park, though, there was none of that, and I would definitely go back and stay here if traveling through Tucson, and if visiting would choose this one as a home base.

Texas to Las Cruces, New Mexico

A day later and the story is similar, at least for the moment. Driving west on a 2 lane Texas road with very little traffic. We took a side route off I-10 to get away from the big trucks and the wind, driving north on Texas 54, the “Texas Mountain Highway”, which is the main route north from the Interstate to the Guadalupe Mountains and Guadalupe Mountain National Park. It’s also the route to Carlsbad Caverns.

Yesterday we decided to pull off the highway in early afternoon so that we could get some groceries and set up before dark with a bit of relaxing time. Couldn’t make it all the way to Las Cruces so figured we could stop halfway at the only town of any real size between San Antonio and El Paso, Fort Stockton.

Fort Stockton didn’t have much to speak of, except the visitor center was actually open and also built from the large lovely limestone blocks that are used throughout this part of Texas. The proprietor there was a very old man who was very kind and helpful and gave us RV park lists, maps, and a great brochure on the Texas Mountain Country. Seems as though we unexpectedly were on the edge of another interesting area of Texas, one that will need further exploration another time.

But in the mean time, the important thing was food and rest, so we decided on a funky park south of town called Parkview RV. From the highway it looked really terrible, and yet once set up and inside our rig, it wasn’t so bad. First thing to notice was all the telephone poles and wires. Most parks now have underground utilities, so it was strange to see all these ugly things everywhere. The bathrooms looked as though they were made of old cardboard, and the spaces were just gravel and weedy grass full of burrs and stickers, another thing that has been a real pain in texas, the goathead burrs.

But the park had the fastest wifi I have had in some time, cable tv which we seem to never manage to watch, but always think we want it, power, water that tasted good, and sewer, which we ended up not using anyway. Our tanks are still only less than 1/2 full after 4 days now, including our boondocking night, and we haven’t emptied them yet. Lots more storage space for water of all types in this rig.

Haven’t had a pizza since we left a month ago, and pizza is one of the favorites around here, so we bought DeGiornio’s rising crust and decided to give the new oven a try for something more complicated than baking a potato. Worked great after I got the hang of the warm up cycle, and it’s really nice to have a real oven to cook with. Took a little bit of time to fiddle with things and get more settled in for the evening, went for a walk with the dog, and took some photos of the sunset before settling in to write and upload photos and watch a little bit of news.

Walking through the park I got to do one of my favorite things which is looking in people’s windows at dusk while they are doing life. Crazy thing, I know, but I love it. So walking by an older rig I saw a sweet older couple all cuddled up on their sofa watching TV. They waved and smiled and I waved back thinking, ahh, the rv life, not a bad way to retire if you have someone who loves to do it with you and who cares about you as well. They seemed so contented in their cozy little space, and so friendly with the windows all open.
The night was cold but not as cold as some have been on the trip, but the insulation in the back of this rig isn’t enough to keep it warm in the bedroom portion and I kept waking up with a cold head. Guess I have to get an old lady nightcap or something, because I couldn’t sleep. I’d get all hot under the covers, and whatever I stuck out would get all freezing. Finally got up at some ungodly hour and turned the heat up, but still couldn’t get my head warm. Then Teddy decided it was time to play and visit and work on his security issues, stepping on our heads and crawling around yowling for a few hours. I kept wondering why I wanted to find him anyway. He seems a bit traumatized and sleeps hidden all day in whatever space he can find and then wanders around from window to window for a good portion of the night. Hopefully after a bit he will settle down again, but at the moment he has found the space under the sofa between the wall of the slideout to hide and is sleeping there soundly and won’t budge. I decided I needed to harass him all day and keep him awake, so I closed up his cage where he usually hides, but he seems to have found another hiding place after all. Think I’ll go bug him soon.

Morning came, still dark at 7am because we are so close to the time change boundary into mountain time and I got up and made coffee and started planning the day. Heading for Las Cruces now and there is a great park that we hope to stay right within walking distance of Old Mesilla, the historic part of Las Cruces.

The drive west from Fort Stockton has been wonderful in the way driving in the open desert can be wonderful. There were lots of mountains, shadowed desert kinds of mountains, all along the interstate and then when we headed north it was really dramatic for a time. The landscape changes a lot, but it’s fun to be back in an area that I was in 5 years ago when I went to the Soil Science Geomorphic Institute in Las Cruces. Once again I have some familiarity with the landscape, the vegetation, the natural story of this place and that feels good. I’m looking forward to seeing the Rio Grand valley again, and the Organ Mountains. As I remember in this part of the country, once again the sky is perfectly clear and blue and the sun is still straight up, not a shadow anywhere is the white hot light. And it’s December. Highway 54 was a great way to get north and now on 62/180 going west we have skipped all the boring interstate stuff and truck traffic, and even though there is an occasional car and truck, it’s still relaxing and fun to do. Probably adds about 30 miles to the distance to El Paso, but well worth it.

Mo filled up the rig for the first time and the numbers don’t look that great. At first it looked like 8 mpg but hopefully that figure is skewed by the fact that we ran the generator quite a bit the night we were boondocking. We will fill up again all the way the next time we get gas and hope that the numbers go up somewhere in the vicinity of 10 mpg at least. The Baby MoHo got about 10mpg when she was towing the baby car, but that was 10,000 pounds and a ford 350 and this is 14,000 pounds and a Ford 450. I guess we will see how that one goes. Both of the engines are V-10’s, and never seem to be short on power in any situation, so that’s a good thing. Not like some of those old motorhomes that you see lugging down on the hills. Will have to wait for the western mountains I guess to see how she does on a really steep pass.

Once more we are crossing Texas

Beginning of week 5 on the travels

At the moment, just before 1pm on a Saturday afternoon, we are driving west on HWY 190, which up until now has been a pretty good two lane road. The most unique feature although, is the complete lack of company of any kind, including traffic or cell towers. It is utterly straight, utterly flat and utterly repetitious. There is brown grass and some kind of low tree that has no leaves. Occasionally there is a patch of prickly pear cactus or a dead deer. Have seen at least a dozen since we left Llano, which was a cute little town just a few miles north of Fredericksberg.

Fredericksberg and Llano were actually on the western edge of what is called the Hill Country of Texas, a general area west of Austin, north of San Antonio, and east of our route through the area. There seems to be a lot to do around the area, and the number of Texans wintering in their motorhomes and rv’s was astounding. Fredericksberg itself was a great little historic German town of around 8,000 people and a lot of cute shops and a few good restaurants. Publicity says it has the best Octoberfest west of Germany, and the Volkwaagen walk in November also draws big crowds.

We drove a few extra miles to see the famous Enchanted Rock, which is a huge batholith of pink granite extending up from the surrounding limestones and offering a view of all the surrounding hill country if one is willing to do the steep ½ mile hike, which we weren’t this time since the western road is beckoning. But there were some other state parks for hiking, some rivers and lakes for boating, and many small towns to explore, with a reputation for really good live music and shopping. Of course, shopping, it seems that Texans really love to shop. I can see going back to this place in Texas, especially in April when the famous bluebonnets and wildflowers are in bloom. The Visitor’s Center in Fredericksberg was actually open and was a lovely limestone building, full of light, airy, and crafted with European/German finesse. There were plenty of maps and brochures, good parking, and helpful people. A good place to check out if you are traveling in the area.

But driving west things begin to change. The lovely low rolling hills slowly give way to flatter limestone area of truly big nothing. That’s were we are right now, and Mo is driving so that I can return to my thoughts and write about the misadventures of the last couple of days.

Traveling with cats, part 2

I spent a large part of this day remembering sadly how recently I had written about how wonderfully easy it was to travel with cats. I also spent almost all of this day in tears, big sobbing tears that I couldn’t stop. If something dies, it’s over, you cry, but you can begin the healing process as soon as it’s done. But something lost is so different. When do you give up? When do you say it’s time to go? How do you know that maybe the sadness will all end any moment and it will all just become a story? And of course, the guilt is huge. How could I have done this? How come, when I have been so incredibly careful for a month could I have let him slip past me? Over and over the questions, walking the park, calling, calling, crying, walking some more.

It started in the morning, while cooking breakfast. The new house has nooks and crannies, as well as a leather hide abed. Anyone with cats knows how much they love to crawl up into those things, and what a pain it can be. We ate breakfast, cleaned up the house for moving again, checked all the closets, and thought of course Teddy would show up in the hide abed. So we moved everything around, opened the thing up, and omigod, no Teddy. It was a shock, because the MoHo felt incredibly silent and Jeremy just looked at us reproachfully. We tore the place apart, again and again, thinking there must be something we missed, there is just no way he could have got past me when I let Abby out. Yet, there was no cat. There really was no Teddy cat in the MoHo. He was gone.

So the walking and the calling began. The worst part was that the RV Park was full and the management insisted that we had to move from our space by noon when the next people were coming in. I cried to no avail, imaging Teddy finally returning to find us gone. I walked everywhere, to the ponds on the south side of the park, to the old wood piles on the west. Everywhere. I met Rene Rios, the maintenance man, with dark soft eyes and a mustache and a gentle accent. He commiserated with me, another cat person, and said he would get his girlfriend to help as well. More walking, more calling. I just knew he had to be hunkered down somewhere waiting for the dark, but then what if what if??? And I had to move out!!!

Finally I walked to some empty fields behind the rv park and there was a funky gas station and an old junk yard full of old trucks and such. The truck owner offered to help, and then the service station manager said that we could park the RV and dry camp in the station for the night so that we could keep looking for him. Big sigh of relief finally on that one and still no cat.

A bit later, as Mo and I were walking and calling, we came upon a young woman also calling for Teddy. She asked, “Are you Teddy’s owner? “ and when we said yes, she told us she was Rene’s girlfriend, Sandra, and she was walking the fields looking for Teddy. Amazing. We could see Rene in his little golf cart going around the park looking looking and calling. But Ted was gone.

I thought suddenly of his leather collar and bell, not a cat safe collar because he is never outside, and then even worse, of his bright orange and blue toenails, covered with the fancy caps that Mo and I just finished gluing on last night so he wouldn’t damage the new leather sofa. He wouldn’t be able to hunt or climb or fend for himself. The only good thing at all is that I was discovering that there were a lot of cat lovers around there and that people would at least know that he wasn’t a stray.

More calling, more crying. The day was passing and by late afternoon we decided to unhook the baby car and go up to town to see Fredericksburg, the reason we were there in the first place. I laughed sadly and told Mo, at least she didn’t have to worry about me getting all excitable and crazy in all the shops. We walked up the streets and looked in a few places and finally found a truly wonderful little restaurant that had been decorated in amazing warm colors and had a fabulous meal of comfort food. I was able to stop crying a bit and actually appreciate the meal, thinking, it can’t fix it, but it can make things feel a bit better anyway.

After dinner we headed back to the MoHo, and on the way I had a thought. The previous night, a wooden panel in an area above the bed had come loose. Mo had pushed it back up, and I asked her what was behind it. She said, nothing, she thought it was flat. When I got back, I said let’s check that out again. Sure enough, there was open space behind the panel and in great excitement, I said; let’s check the back storage area!!! We were thrilled and opened it up, but sadly there was nothing, no cat, and no opening to the guts of the MoHo either.

About that time Rene drove up to see how things were doing. I was looking at the back of the MoHo carefully when I realized that there was empty space on either side of the rig that was tall and narrow and just perhaps accessible behind the ceiling panel that had fallen. I asked Rene to come and take a look and we were all getting more and more excited as we realized that teddy may very well be caught in the interior guts of the rig somewhere.

Now I have to say, that all day long I had been praying to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, introduced to me so long ago by Eva. I don’t remember the exact prayer, but when you say it, you promise to give to the poor. I was promised, and I was promising not my usual 10 or 20 dollars, but 50 dollars and promised to someone I didn’t know at all!

The excitement was mounting as we circled the rig, trying to figure out a way to get to those hidden parts, when suddenly, there it was, Teddy’s unmistakable voice, coming from that inaccessible dark part of the new rig. I was so happy I thought I would burst. Rene said, “Let’s undo the tail lights”. We did that, and teddy crawled out of reach and out of sight into a completely inaccessible area, but when Rene reached up in there, he could feel him but he was just a few inches too far. We went back inside, and quick as a wink Rene grinned and said, I’m going in. He knocked out the safety exit window so he would have more room and climbed right up into the hole and bent his body around till he could see teddy. Ted, of course,, was having none of it and kept his distance. We tried using the vacuum hose, and that didn’t work, and finally we ran the broom up one taillight and Rene used that to push teddy down the other side and out the other taillight. There he was, yowling and howling one big bundle of teddy fur. Unbelievable, just completely unbelievable.

I told Rene the St Anthony story and asked if I could please give it to him and he didn’t hesitate when he smiled that cute grin and said sure, thanks. By then the owner of the park showed up, all pink and blond and shiny in her new white truck telling us that there was a cancellation and that we could come back to the park. But we said, thanks, no thanks, and we will just hang out here and boondock for free. I wasn’t about to give her my 30 bucks after all of that.

I went into the house then, hugging teddy while Mo and Rene put the MoHo back together. I hugged him tight till he yowled in protest, rubbed my nose in his fur and said thank you thank you thank you.

So what could have been a really sad end to a great trip turned into a truly great cat story!

Moving Day

One would think that “moving” from one RV to another would be of small consequence. One would think. But that isn’t the case. And the salesman at Stahman’s RV told us were certainly were not unique. A couple transferring from on small roadtrek to another new one spent three hours moving stuff. After a reasonably comfortable night at Hill Country, we went in to pick up the new rig, which in spite of the salesman’s assurances that it was all ready to go, still had some work going on. We hung around for a long time while the technicians tried to get the step and the stereo working perfectly, and after a few hours finally decided to start moving stuff from one rig to the other. Before long the technician named Yolanda was helping us move boxes, and Mo filled them, Yolanda brought them to me, and I unloaded into the new rig. This was not as easy as it sounds. It still amazes both of us that we had so much storage in the baby MoHo, and even though this one is 4 feet longer and has a big slideout, we don’t have a much storage. By the time the boxes had filled all the spaces, there were still more boxes coming and I was throwing stuff on the beds and on the sofa in complete disarray. By the time we left the dealership at 230 in the afternoon, the house looked every bit as awful as any house can look when you are moving. Ugh.

We had originally planned to stop at the rest area to clean up and organize, but were so far behind that we just kept going west, got through the San Antonio traffic and decided to go check out Fredericksburg and maybe find some groceries to cook in the new stove. Bought a baked potato some salad and wine to celebrate and found the Fredericksburg RV park and settled in while it was still daylight. We especially wanted to set up in the daylight since it was our first time.

Obviously, everything was a mess, and I had things in all the wrong places, heavy stuff too high, and dishes too low, and couldn’t find anything. We popped out the slide without too much trouble but trying to figure out the levelers was hysterical. Up down, side down, and what do all these lights mean anyway? Of course, in the huge box of manuals, there is no manual for the automatic levelers. So the rig stayed somewhat level and we decided to save that one for another day.

Then trying to figure out TV and DVD remotes at the same time that you are trying to figure out which button is the inverter and should we be on “run” or “store” when we are plugged in and why won’t the microwave come on? We sat there at the very nice heavy new table in front of the very luxurious and comfortable leather sofa eating our perfectly cooked baked potato, looked at the mess around us and wondered, why did we do this?

There is lots more room with the slide out, the dog and cats love it, but there are also lots more places to lose things, including cats. And no place for books or magazines. No more reading racks by the bed and none of the spices will fit in the spice rack so cutely tucked in over the sink. Ohh, but then there is the area below the sink, with plenty of room for just about anything. And of course, the refrigerator is the real luxury. It’a a real refrigerator, with a real freezer than can actually hold food, and I don’t have to get on my knees to open it. Some of the stuff that was in the cupboards ended up in the fridge since there is so much more room in there.

There were a couple of hysterical moments, however, when we blew out the tv, or when Mo accidentally turned off the main power button which also turns off the propane. Well, when the propane goes off , the appliances that are busy running away on propane get a little freaked out and all sorts of buzzers and bells start going. Find what is beeping and why and fix it. Finally gave up on the GFI that blew all the switches when Mo plugged in the little electric heater and just went to bed without thtem. Hence no writing for a couple of days, the computer batteries are all down.

Another hysterical moment happened when we were trying to get the wooden panel back up above the bedroom window that had fallen down. We goofed up and forgot the tools in the step area of the old MoHo, so Mo was using a screwdriver as a hammer. It is a very small space, but she needed me to hold the wood in place and to also use the screwdriver. Funny part was that I coulnd’t move properly and my arm was stuck underneath my body and while holding the screwdriver and the wood, my body started tipping sideways. Of course, with nothing to hold me up, I rolled right over and the wood fell from the ceiling and hit both of us in the head. So Mo tried to fit in another way, and as the flashlights started losing power she tried tto screw the thing in blindly. UhOh. Elbow in the boob. That hurts. No I can’t move over any more, the wall is here, and no I can’t move my arm or the board will drop again. Where is the wine. Is it bedtime yet?

First night in the new MoHo. Well, I should say first evening. First night turned out wonderful, as the new bed is more comfortable than the old one. Teddy and Jeremy loved the big window over the bed for hanging out and watching the stray cats running around, and for some reason, Teddy really kept trying to get up into the space above the window. But that is another story.