Saturday, December 20, 2014

McDowell Sonoran Preserve



First, a little history about Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve: Back in the 1990s the city and citizens of Scottsdale, AZ set about to acquire over 30,000 acres of the adjacent Sonoran desert and McDowell Mountains. They even approved two small tax increases over the years for land acquisition and improvements such as hiking trails and trailhead parking areas. There are now six trailheads and over 100 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, free for anyone to use. How nice of Scottsdale to preserve this magnificent landscape.

Yesterday our friend Jane met us at the Granite Mountain trail, about halfway between the campground at McDowell Mt Park and her house in Cave Creek. We hiked just under 7 miles in this beautiful desert and only saw a few other people.

Jane and Jim doing a little route planning.



We saw some interesting looking saguaros.


The beginning of a crested saguaro?


We could barely see the clump on top of the rocks, so Jim took a closer look with the zoom.


Looked a bit like palm trees from a distance.



This one appeared to be a very recent fall right across the trail, probably due to the rain we had a few days ago.



We took a side trail to Balanced Rock. Luckily it didn’t fall on us.


What an enjoyable hike, and not strenuous or rocky so we could actually look around while hiking without worrying about our footing. It would be a great trail to bike on, too.

We were hungry after our hike and stopped for a very good veggie pizza at Brugo’s. Then Jane invited us to stop by to and see their house and meet some friends and neighbors who also own a Lazy Daze, so we did. We could actually see living in a community like that one day but who knows. We really do like this part of Arizona and if Jim needs to be close to the Mayo Clinic it might just be a place we could live in at least part of the year. Always thinking of the future but can’t quite grasp settling down yet. Just hope we don’t have to anytime soon.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

McDowell Mountain Trails


Saturday was the big Dawn to Dusk mountain bike race here. It rained for several hours in the early morning but cleared up later, although it never got out of the 50s. We decided to take a late afternoon hike a few miles down the Bluff trail to the Pemberton, where the race was taking place. We could see dark clouds in the distance but thought they were moving away based on the wind direction.



We ended up getting caught in a thunderstorm with cold rain and sleet for a couple miles on the way back. The lightning was pretty scary. We had no idea there could be thunderstorms in the desert this time of year so I Googled it. Apparently the Phoenix area averages one thunderstorm in December every two years. It is also the coldest and cloudiest month, but we’re not complaining.


Sunday was still pretty blustery so we decided to go for another hike, this time on the Scenic trail. Somehow we never made it to this trail in all the times we’ve been here. It’s a 4.5 mile loop, climbing up and along a ridge with nice views.




The past two days we’ve ridden our bikes on several different trails and Jim is having a great time. We really love riding the trails here, it’s such a nice change from hiking.


I’ve been slowly working on cleaning and polishing the exterior of the Lazy Daze, while Jim has been going crazy scanning piles of important papers and receipts with the incredibly small Fujitsu Scansnap scanner we bought a couple weeks ago. It does a great job and takes up so much less space than our old flatbed scanner. And since this is our month to take care of business, tomorrow it’s back to the Mayo Clinic, with a mammogram for me and a dermatologist visit for Jim. Fun, fun.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Good News, Bad News


Jim saw the hematologist at the Mayo Clinic yesterday, and although it was his opinion Jim should stay on anticoagulants forever, he did say he could go back to his regular exercise, including mountain biking. Guess who was happy to hear that!

House finch getting a little drink at the high-tech water bowl.


Because the blood clot in Jim’s leg was unprovoked (not due to trauma or surgery), and having a history of varicose veins, the doctor said that with the combination of bad veins and the tendency to clot there was a good chance of recurrence if he doesn’t continue on a blood thinner. That wasn’t exactly what he was hoping to hear, but as the doctor said, the next time a clot goes to Jim’s lungs the outcome may not be as favorable. I think that was enough to convince Jim that the long term anticoagulant was a good thing.

We had another lovely sunrise this morning. Looks like the west coast rain is moving our way.


As to exercise, he said to do what he felt up to doing at this point, including biking, with the knowledge that a blow to the head could cause a brain bleed. So after we got home Jim joined me for a 5 mile ride on one of the easier trails. He was so happy to be back on the bike, and it’s a risk he’s willing to take.

The hematologist wants to see Jim for a follow-up in April, and didn’t see any reason to keep the appointment with the vascular specialist since there really aren’t any alternatives. In fact he didn’t even do any more blood tests, since the ones he had recently were normal, and he said looking for a genetic factor as a cause for the clots would not change anything, as the only treatment would be anticoagulants anyway. We had already figured that was the case from our research but were hoping for a magic bullet. So we move on and hope the medication works its magic without causing any serious side effects.

Our plan right now is to stay here until mid-January (we have sites reserved until the 15th), then probably head to Quartzite, Yuma, and other parts of southern AZ, hopefully meeting up with the Box Canyon gang again to pick up where we left off in Utah last month, before swinging back to McDowell Mountain in April.

With overflowing bags of dirty laundry, the other day we combined a trip to the laundromat in Mesa with a little hike on the Butcher Jones trail at Saguaro Lake. We had never been there before and were pleasantly surprised at what a pretty area that is.



Saguaro Lake is the lowest of a series of four reservoirs formed by dams that supply power and water to Phoenix on the Salt River as it crosses the Superstition Mountains. Even though it is man-made, it was a nice change of scenery to hike alongside a lake.




See you out on the trails…

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Another Week


Hard to believe we’ve been here at McDowell Mountain for 2 weeks already. Last Sunday we moved to our original reservation site, probably one of the best in the campground. No close neighbors, a huge palo verde tree that shades the picnic table, and beautiful desert and mountain views.



With several cloudy days in a row, the sunrises have been outstanding.

McDowell Mt 2014

There was a hummingbird in the tree when we were setting up, so I made some nectar and put up the feeders. Within an hour they were using them. Of course they aren’t the only ones looking for a drink, so I set a bowl of water on the grill for the others.



I’ve been biking almost every day, and Jim is still walking 3-5 miles and feeling great.

We spotted this lone ocotillo bloom, quite a contrast to the desert browns and greens.


One day we had to pick up mail at the post office so we combined it with a walk around Fountain Hills. This upscale planned community just a few miles from McDowell Mt. Park was developed by Robert McCullough, the man who brought the London Bridge to Lake Havasu. He obviously had too much money on his hands. The lake in the center of town is composed of 100,623,600 gallons of "chemically treated, recycled wastewater”. No swimming allowed.


There is a one mile paved path around the lake, and some cute sculptures.



Because we washed and waxed the car on Wednesday, it rained for hours Thursday morning. Good news for the parched desert, and I had a routine doctor’s appointment anyway, along with some shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s on the way home. Just after we got back Suzanne pulled in, spending a few nights here before flying back to Texas to take care of family matters.

We took a late afternoon walk on the Bluff trail where she caught us up on all the hikes the gang did after we left Utah. Sounds like we missed some fun and challenging adventures.



Jim twisted Suzanne’s arm and made her take his bike for a ride on the trails with me. We rode my favorite 10 mile loop and she did great for her first time on a mountain bike. She agreed with Jim about the uphill sections being a bitch, but said she felt like a kid again flying along the curves and dips on the downhill. I think I see a new bike in her future.

On another note, when Millenicom folded we ended up going with a Verizon 20GB plan for $99/ mo plus taxes with no contract. After our first month with them, we had gone over by 6GBs. Jim has data usage tracking on all our devices and our numbers don’t match theirs. In fact we can’t figure out how we could have even downloaded the huge amounts they said we did in short periods of time. We were in Virgin, UT then and had a slow connection so it just doesn’t even seem possible. Jim called and the Verizon rep pretty much said their data tracking is accurate and that’s that.

So Friday we received a new 4GLTE/XLTE Jetpack (our old mifi device was having some problems anyway) and are “renting” an unlimited plan from an individual for $120/mo. It seems to be working fine so far, but we’re just going to suspend our other plan in case something unforeseen happens with the unlimited plans over the next 90 days. It will be so nice not to have to worry about this, since we apparently can’t keep our usage under 20Gs. Time to go surf the net…

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Thanks to everyone who sent their kind thoughts and concerns regarding Gayle's brush with widowhood.

One of the best things about the past 6 years has been the new friends, both virtual and in the flesh, that we have made. It is a lifestyle that seems odd to the housebound but seems natural to us.

My biggest concern going forward is to get off blood thinners and I'm hoping that the doctors will find a cause that can be fixed. If not I will have to adjust and modify my behavior.

Anyway, thanks again to everyone. I will leave you with this. I have come up with a possible solution, at least for hiking, and I like to call it Bubble Geezer.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Not Much to Report


This is what I saw when I opened the blinds this morning.


Jim had a nice visit with Dr. Moats at Mayo Family Medicine on Friday. After looking at the ER report, I think she was surprised that he was actually alive and well, not having leg pain and having no problems breathing. We read that in nearly 25% of patients with pulmonary embolism the initial clinical manifestation is sudden death. Fortunately for Jim he was in the other 75%. She said most people with his diagnosis would still be lying in bed with their leg elevated due to pain and having shortness of breath. Just goes to show the benefit of regular exercise all these years.

Unfortunately now he must take blood thinners, probably for the rest of his life, which of course have their own risks. Dr. Moats advised him to not do any really strenuous exercise for another couple weeks, as they think the risk of the DVT in his leg throwing off another clot to the lungs is greatest in the first month. So he will keep walking, which she said was fine. He asked about mountain biking, and of course she said it was up to him to weigh the risk of bleeding from a fall off the bike. Of course he could fall off the step walking out of the Lazy Daze and would not be wearing a helmet, so everything we do has some risk involved.

She ordered some basic blood work but the hematologist will do more specific testing next month. She also referred him to a cardiovascular specialist who has an interest in coagulation disorders. The first appointment he could get wasn’t until January 30, so we will be hanging close to this area over the winter.

On the way home we stopped at Office Max, Best Buy, and Target. For being Black Friday we were surprised that there was little traffic and very few people in those stores.

Sherry wondered what we ate for Thanksgiving dinner so here goes in case anyone else is interested.  I made Portabella Pomodoro, Brocolli-Walnut Stir-Fry (I left out the oil and used olive oil spray), and baked a loaf of whole wheat bread in my little bread machine.

For desert we had Crustless Pumpkin Pie. I used EnerG Egg Replacer, almond milk, and just 1/4 cup of half sugar and half stevia. I’ve made this recipe many times before and it turned out fine, but for some reason it didn’t really thicken this time so it was more like eating pumpkin pudding, but it tasted great. And there was enough of everything left over for dinner the next day.

Yesterday Jim installed a new fan in the refrigerator. He wired it into the light, and it attaches to the fins and blows back onto them. From what a couple people on the Lazy Daze forum have said it keeps ice from forming on the fins, so we’ll see what our experience is after it’s been in there awhile.



Pretty exciting stuff, I know.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Just Waiting



After a few phone calls to the Mayo Clinic, Jim managed to get an appointment with the family practitioner on Friday, and the hematologist on December 11th. So until then he is taking the Xarelto and trying to get on with life.

The ER doc told him to take it easy for a few weeks, but he is walking several miles a day and feeling more like himself. The side effects of the medication seem to be gradually subsiding as the days go by.  For those of you who know Jim, he has maintained a surprisingly positive attitude throughout all this. I’m thinking one of those clots must have gone to his brain;-)

I’ve been having a great time biking the trails here at McDowell, although I hate that Jim can’t join me right now. That’s one of the many things he plans to ask the doctor about.

In spite, and because of this, we really do have a lot to be thankful for this year. We plan to spend a quiet day at home tomorrow, eating a non-traditional vegan dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!