Monday, December 4, 2017

Staying Busy


IMG_2014                                              Lone bloom on a leafless ocotillo.

We’ve been back at McDowell Mountain for a month already, which is hard to believe since it feels like we just got here. We had the TadiBrothers backup camera installed last week, but other than looking at our backyard we haven’t driven anywhere yet to see how it really works. We have to change sites today so we plan to take the Lazy Daze for a drive and see what we think. We’ll write more about the installation and how it functions after we try it out while actually driving.

Male Phainopepla, a silky flycatcher that eats the berries of the parasitic desert mistletoe.

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The first replacement in-dash radio we bought did not easily fit so we ordered another one which arrived yesterday. Hope to get it in sometime this week. The whole doghouse and a couple dash panels had to come off to get the old radio out because there was a screw in the back, so putting in this one should be much easier since we won’t have to disassemble everything. It wasn’t such a bad thing, though, since it gave me a chance to do some cleaning in places that rarely get cleaned.

We met Debbie for lunch in Chandler last week and picked up our new Blue Ox tow bar from her. It’s really nice and looks almost new. I’m sure Debbie is happy to have it out of her car. And one of the volunteers here at the park has the same tow bar as our old one so he took it for parts.

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We’ve also been biking, hiking, visiting the gym, and caring for cats. The weather has been incredibly warm this fall but I’m not complaining. Last year was very cold and rainy while we were here so this has been a nice change.

This is Randy and Sunaree’s Airstream with the almost full moon shining down on it. Randy is off working in Georgia so he’s missed some nice sunsets this past week.

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And some nice sunrises.

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Sunaree and I joined the 8am Friday Fitness Walk in the park last week. I was surprised there were over a dozen people who showed up for the almost 12 mile hike. Most of us were senior citizens, and we finished in 4 hours, a pretty fast pace for that distance. We had to eat our snacks on the run since Kevin, the hike leader, barely stopped for a minute at a time, but it was fun and a pleasant morning for a long hike. That is Sunaree in the beige shirt and pants but I couldn’t get her to look my way.

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I was impressed that everyone pretty much kept up the pace, but then it is billed as a fitness hike for experienced hikers only.

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We hiked through a very pretty part of the park with lots of cactus.

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This is chain fruit cholla.

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There was a lot of teddy bear cholla, too. Both of these are also known as “jumping cholla” because segments break off easily when brushed against and attach to whatever part of you is unlucky enough to make contact. Jim’s rear has been up close and personal with a teddy bear cholla and he can tell you it isn’t pleasant.

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No photos, but we saw a dead coyote, a live jackrabbit, and a scorpion along the way. Also one of the women spotted a plant called a cereus, or Queen of the Night, which looked like a stick coming out of the ground. Apparently once a year in June or July it produces beautiful white flowers which open one evening and close forever the following day. It was a good morning in the Sonoran desert.

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Saturday night we went on a group sunset/moonrise hike on the Lousley Hill trail. It’s a mile climb up to a ridge with great views. We had some cloud cover so missed the moon as it rose over the mountains but we did get to see it a bit later.

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The moon is there somewhere. I think this is the third time we’ve gone on a moonrise hike here at McDowell and it’s always been cloudy.

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The camera battery died just after I took this.

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Last night there were no clouds but we forgot to go outside until the moon had already risen.

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Just one cat photo this time. This is Big Daddy, an FIV positive feral cat who used to hang out around the old Fearless Kitty building for food and water. Before the move last year he was trapped, neutered, and is now an official Fearless Kitty. He would not let anyone near him for many months, and last year he hissed at me every time I got close to him. Time and more contact with humans and his two other FIV + cat roommates have really changed his personality, and much to my surprise he rubbed on my legs and let me pet him for a long time last week. It made my day, and is one of the many reasons I love volunteering here!

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Another Thanksgiving in the Desert


DSC08980                                                                     McDowell Mountains

It’s been great being back and we’ve had a busy few weeks so far. It’s always fun to see what shows up at the hummingbird feeder. It amazes me the suction cups actually stick when the big birds land on it.

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Gila woodpeckers love the nectar. The male has this pretty red spot on his head.

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Sometimes it’s actually a hummingbird.

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Jim replaced the water pump, which is under the bed. Everything we work on in the RV is in a limited space, which makes it more challenging. And I can assure you, Jim does not like challenges. He only lost a little skin and blood on this project.

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He’s had a couple doctor appointments so far and all is well. More to come and mine are next month.

We met fulltimers Dave and Shannon (2wanderaway.com) and enjoyed a couple happy hours with them. I failed to take any photos. They will be in the area a while and we hope to meet up again along with Kurt (http://thekuhlodyssey.com/), our mutual friend.

Cycling friends Randy and Sunaree from Pensacola arrived Monday and will be here off and on for a few months, although Randy will be gone working some of the time. They’ve been living in their 30’ Airstream for the past two years, and believe it or not we were their inspiration for fulltime RV living. It’s a tough life.

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We’ve had some lovely sunsets.

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Randy and Sunaree on the trails.

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Can’t do a post without a few Fearless Kitty cat photos.

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Jim and his babies.

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Not too crazy about the vacuum cleaner.

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Theo is a handsome boy, but a bit on the wild side.

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We received a generous offer last week from TadiBrothers, saying they would send us a backup camera in exchange for an honest review on the blog. We have never had that happen before, so we couldn’t pass it up. It was shipped yesterday, but we are still trying to decide on a replacement in-dash radio. There are way too many choices out there, and the more we look the more confused we get, but we hope to figure it out by tomorrow since there are so many Black Friday sales going on.

We’re planning a quiet dinner with friends today. Thanks to everyone for following along with us!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Little Things


Although not anything major, we have had a lot of little things break down recently. Jim thinks more things go wrong living in an RV than when we lived in a house, but I think he’s just blocked those bad home ownership memories.

Wonder what’s going on here. Love, maybe?

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About a month ago the in-dash radio of the Lazy Daze quit working. Jim ordered a cheap used faceplate from Ebay and at first it worked fine but after using it a few times it would not turn on again. After lots of wiggling it came on again so we are just leaving the power on. Scott, the RV techie guy who worked on our inverter last year was doing a TV install for one of the camp hosts here so he stopped by to look the opening and will get back to us on a replacement. We may combine it with a backup camera monitor but haven’t decided on that yet. 

Not a hummingbird.

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A day or two after we arrived at McDowell last week the water pump quit working. We typically don’t hook up the hose to city water but just fill our tank and run off the pump. We’re so used to camping without hookups we forgot we could just connect the hose to the city water inlet, which Jim remembered just as I was about to go fill up some jugs to use until the next morning when we planned to install the spare pump we carry. A senior moment for sure!

Once the water was connected we heard the pump cycle, as we had forgotten to turn it off. It continued to work intermittently for a few days, but finally quit altogether. We ordered a new pump as the spare is an old one that Jim repaired, since he decided he would rather just install a new one and keep the other as a spare if we are ever in desperate need. It should arrive this week.

A few weeks ago I found some water in the cabinet under the kitchen sink. I felt all the plumbing connections but everything seemed to be dry. Then I realized the water smelled like vinegar, so I thought a bottle of window cleaner had leaked. I forgot about it until yesterday when I discovered even more water on the shelf, and this time saw a drip coming from the connection under one side of the sink. After pulling everything out and drying it off I also discovered a leak on the other side. Of course Jim didn't have a wrench big enough to tighten it with so we had to make a stop at Lowe’s for yet another tool to add to his collection. After tightening things up so far both sides are staying dry.

I also got a flat tire on my bike, which will only hold air for a day or so, and we finally remembered to stop by a bike shop today for another tube. I have gone out on a few rides and it’s held air, but I do carry a pump just in case.

There’s a new picnic shelter at the intersection of the Delsie and Pemberton trails since the old one collapsed last year after heavy rains. It’s decorated with hanging beer cans, and a retired mountain biker. It hasn’t rained here in over 80 days so everything is really brown and dry this year.

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I couldn’t get the toaster to work the other day and tried plugging it into the other plug where it worked. Later I tried it again and it worked in the first outlet. I made the mistake of reminding Jim he needed to check it as we were laying in bed around 10:30 last night, which got him worrying about it so he got up and took a look. The outlet looked fine so maybe the toaster is on its way out. Just one more little annoyance.

On a positive note, Jim was able to access our Progressive EMS box and check to be sure all the connections were tight. After Debbie’s experience we were a little concerned, but everything looked great inside of ours.

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He also checked all the connections in our power management box and did find a couple screws that he could tighten just a bit.  He tries to do this once a year but doesn’t always remember.

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Debbie finally got her new EMS installed on Saturday, and it would not allow power into her rig. She called Progressive and they informed the tech that there is an adjustment that needs to be made. Why they won’t include instructions for the installer is hard to understand, but that was the problem and now it’s working fine.

Debbie found a very lightly used Blue Ox tow bar for sale in Casa Grande and was kind enough to go check it out for us.  It was a great buy and almost new, so we will get it from her one of these days when we meet up for lunch. It will definitely give us peace of mind having a new bar, since after we discovered how bent the old one was we would never have wanted to continue using it.

This is a Blue Ox Avail.

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The original owner threw in a bunch of other parts, too. Unfortunately he didn’t get a cover for it, so we will have to order one, since it’s a few inches longer than our old one.

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Speaking of more little things, we’ve been to Fearless Kitty three times now, and we’re having to learn the quirks and names of all the new cats. There are a bunch of cuties there, and quite a few have been adopted just in the last week. This past weekend was a big arts and crafts fair along the Avenue of the Fountains in Fountain Hills.

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Fearless Kitty is located right in the middle of it so they had an open house during the event and ended up with seven adoptions.

One of the rooms we have to clean is now occupied by five little kittens that were saved from euthanasia at a local animal shelter. They are the most adorable little things, and being around them made me remember why we kept Elvis and Sophie when they were brought to us around the same age. Unfortunately they grow up!

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I forgot how crazy little kittens can be. Jim had them all mesmerized by the fishing pole toy.

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This is Ashley, one of the free roaming cats who likes to lay on the steam cleaner pads. Luckily today was a mop day, so we didn’t need to make her move.

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Guess that about sums up our first 10 days at McDowell. Unless something exciting happens I probably won’t be posting much since we’re doing pretty much the same stuff as the past couple of winters here. Not that it’s a bad thing, it just makes for repetitive blog posts.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Week of Frustration


We pulled into the lot in the Yuma Foothills on Sunday Oct 29 after an easy 85 mile drive from Quartzsite. We had a bit of trouble figuring out how to open the gates but a neighbor came to help, and the lot owner showed up a short time later. We got backed into our private spot, joined about a half hour later by our friend Debbie, who came from Casa Grande to hang out with us for the week.

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You can hardly see our rigs behind the fence.

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When Debbie plugged into power the circuit breaker at the pedestal kept tripping. It was in the low 90s so she really needed air conditioning. Jim suggested she turn off the solar controller and try again. This time the breaker didn’t trip, but she still had no power. One of the guys heard sizzling and told her not to attempt plugging in again. This is not what you want to happen when it’s hot and a Sunday, since there was no way to get anyone to work on it.

Jim immediately posted a message on the Lazy Daze forum about her dilemma and got a few responses, the most helpful being to call Progressive Industries, the maker of the hardwired EMS we both have. They have a 24 hour hotline, so Jim called and explained the problem. They said to have the repair person call before working on it, and if it was the EMS it would be covered since Debbie is the original owner.

Luckily she found a mobile RV tech to come out on Monday morning, and it turned out that the EMS was fried. The tech was able to do a work-around so she would have power until she could get a new one. She is still in Yuma awaiting arrival of the replacement, which was supposed to be here early this week but is now scheduled for delivery on Friday. We did learn that it’s important to check the connections for any loose wires once a year, although our EMS is located under the kitchen sink in a location that’s really difficult to access. That is now on Jim’s list of things to do soon, as it could be a fire hazard.

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Progressive asked Debbie to email a photo of the cover, not the inside. The distortion in the print is a dead giveaway that excessive heat caused the failure.

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Now onto our dental experience. Jim had an implant placed back in March by Dr.Carlos Rubio in Algodones and planned to go back to him for the abutment and crown. He was told when he came back it would be about 3 days to get the crown after they placed the abutment and took impressions. When he called a couple months ago to make the appointment they now said it would be 10 days for the lab to make the crown. Not really wanting to spend that much time in Yuma, we decided to see if another dentist could do the crown. A couple of friends recommended Dr. Maria Fonseca, so Jim had several email exchanges with her about getting the correct abutment for his implant, (he gave her all the specs) and she assured him it would not be a problem. She also quoted a price quite a bit lower than Dr. Rubio.

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I also needed a crown, and she was able to get us in on Monday morning, so off we went to Mexico. When we arrived at Dr. Fonseca’s office she told Jim that she was not experienced in Straumann implants, and was going to take him over to the office of another dentist who does them. Had she told him that to begin with he would have just gone back to Dr. Rubio, but now that we were there he decided to take his chances and go with her to Dr. Roberto Arce’s office. I did do some research and he gets great reviews, and he uses Straumann implants, so we were hoping for the best. X-rays were taken and the abutment was placed, which Jim said was more painful than when he had the other two implant abutments put on. Then impressions were made, and he was told to come back the next day to get the crown.

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Dr. Fonseca then prepped my tooth for the crown, took impressions, and said mine would also be ready the following day. She was very gentle, personable, and seemed very competent. I just wish she had been up front with Jim about her lack of experience with the implants, but then this is Mexico and things are done differently here.

On Tuesday we made the 25 mile drive back to Algodones, and this time I went first. The crown fit well but the color was not a good match, so Dr. Fonseca said she was going to have the lab remake it, and put the temporary back on. She called the lab and had the tech come over to her office to look at it. I understand enough Spanish to know that the tech said it would have been helpful if she had sent photos, and she promptly pulled out her iPhone and showed him the photos she had sent over the previous day. They took some more photos and he said the new one would be ready on Thursday, which meant another trip across the border.

Then Dr. Fonseca walked Jim back to Dr. Arce’s office to get his crown, and it unfortunately was not fitting well and he wanted it remade. More impressions were taken, and we were both given appointments for Thursday morning. At this point Jim was very unhappy, but I have had crowns made in the U.S. that were the wrong color or didn’t fit and had to be redone. The difference was that it always took a couple weeks for the next appointment and the temporary crowns would fall off by then.

We went back Thursday morning, with me going first again, and this time the color of the crown was perfect, and took just a bit of adjustment before being permanently cemented on. For $300 I was very pleased, considering it would have cost probably 4 times that in the U.S.

Dr. Arce had a bit more difficult time getting Jim’s crown to fit correctly, due to the fact that the implant was placed slightly off-center. He said he would have placed it differently, but didn’t actually say it was wrong. Anyway, the crown was screwed on to the new abutment, some adjustments were made for Jim’s bite, and he was good to go. He does feel like the crown is too big, but that could be just due to the fact that he hasn’t had a tooth there for a year.

We had mentioned to Dr. Fonseca that we would like to also get a cleaning, so she was able to do that when we got finished. She does the cleaning herself, and it was one of the most thorough cleanings we’ve had anywhere, at a charge of $40. We haven’t had our teeth cleaned since December 2015 but had started using a new, very expensive toothpaste back then, Livionex Gel, which is supposed to prevent plaque, so we wanted to go a while and see what our teeth looked like. She said neither of us had much plaque at all and our teeth looked great except for some minor gum recession around crowns. I do have a couple of old crowns which she said should be replaced sometime in the next year, but they are not bothering me even though there is a hole in one of them, and I hate to rock the boat. Looks like another trip to Mexico next year.

Jim didn’t floss around the new crown that night, but he did on Friday night and the floss would not go through without breaking. On Saturday morning he decided to drive back to Algodones to see if there was another adjustment to be made, since we were leaving on Sunday. Turned out the floss they used in Mexico didn’t break as it was thinner, and Dr. Arce didn’t want to do anything else as he said things would still shift a bit. He was right, and now Jim can floss without it breaking, although it shreds a little coming back out.

It was a stressful dental week and we’re glad it’s over.

After our tow bar incident in late September we have been very nervous about towing the car, but we’ve checked and triple checked and there hasn’t been a problem. After arriving in Yuma Jim noticed that it didn’t look straight, and when we looked closely we saw a bend that shouldn’t be there. Not sure what this part is called but you can see it in the photo.

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We were so focused on making sure that there were no cracks in the metal and that everything was hooked up properly that we completely missed the fact that this piece of metal was bent. No doubt when the one bar came off the stress of the car pulling on one side caused it to bend. No more hooking up until we get a new one!

While in Yuma I took advantage of Debbie’s sewing machine and bought some new sunshade fabric to make a new Protect-a-Tow to replace the one that was torn up after the tow bar arm came off. It was great having a big table on the patio to work on. By the way, this lot is for sale for $58,000, a good price for this area, especially with all the improvements they’ve made.

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Jim also replaced our gray tank valve which had developed a tiny leak. He had a little trouble getting the new one back on but finally was successful.

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We did do a few fun things while there. Although I couldn’t talk Jim or Debbie into joining me I took an early morning hike up Telegraph Hill on one of our non-dental days. I really like this 5+ mile round trip trail, a great workout, nice views, and a good way to ensure sore legs for a couple days after.

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It’s extremely steep but at least the steep part is paved.

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We also rode our bikes and walked around the neighborhood. It’s really flat there so the biking was the easiest we’ve done in a long time.

Fiery sunset on one of our evening walks. It’s getting dark way too early!

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Debbie and I went to a thrift store and the Arizona Market Place one afternoon. It had just opened for the season on November 1st, so some of the businesses were not yet open, but we managed to find a few things we couldn’t live without. We also hit the new Yuma Sprouts that just opened in July.

One evening we all went out for dinner at Da Boyz downtown location. We like the atmosphere and the pizza and beer are always good. On the way we stopped to look at a used Blue Ox hitch, but it turned out to be older than the guy said so we weren’t interested.

The evenings were pleasant and we enjoyed sitting out for happy hour on our patio. One night we were joined by a fine feathered friend. It was too dark for a good photo but you get the idea.

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We left Debbie on Sunday and almost forgot to get a photo for Debbie’s mom, but Jim took this right before we left. Me, Elliot, Rupert and Debbie.

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We drove separately for 230 miles to our home for the next three months, McDowell Mountain Park in Fountain Hills, AZ, with very light Sunday traffic. We’ve already worked one morning at Fearless Kitty, did a bike ride, had happy hour with some of the camp hosts, and signed up for Anytime Fitness. It’s nice to be “home” again.

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