Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Another Year


It’s been a quiet week here at McDowell Mountain. Just riding our bikes almost every day and finishing up some chores. Jim got the oil changed in both vehicles and I am almost done polishing the Lazy Daze.

The day after Christmas we had a nice visit from blogger John (Just Finding Our Way) and his wife BJ. Anyone who comes bearing sugar cookies, snicker doodles, and freshly picked citrus from their yard is welcome to stop by anytime! We were following each other this past summer and fall in the Pacific northwest and southern Utah but never connected so it was great to finally meet.

We moved sites again, and have to move once more on the 1st, but will get to stay in that one until we leave on the 15th.


Another nice view, with lots of rabbits and birds to entertain the cats.



And speaking of birds, I braved near freezing temps the other morning to join the ranger-led bird walk on the Nursery Tank trail. I was surprised to see such a big group.


Being a man-made tank continually pumped with water, this area attracts many birds and animals looking for a drink.


Although we did see quite a few different birds, (which I may or may not remember), one of the guys in the group spotted this freshly dead javelina under some trees. If you look closely you can see the arrow stuck in it’s side. Bow hunting is allowed but not in this part of the park, so they guessed it was hit and maybe ran a long distance before succumbing to the wound. Very sad to see.


I don’t normally do a recap of our year on the blog, since it is all there to look back on, but after reading Geogypsy, Bayfield Bunch, and Wheeling it about their Anza Borrego group, I got to thinking about this past year and how it was probably our most social one yet. We left McDowell on January 1st, met up with Debbie, spent almost the entire month in Quartzsite, dividing our time between the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and the Lazy Daze group. Then we moved on to Mittry Lake near Yuma, where we were met by various friends coming and going for the entire month of February.

While there, Laurelee suggested we come to the Lazy Daze get together in Morro Bay, CA in March. We hadn’t yet made plans for the spring or summer, and on a whim decided to go and then continue on up the coast, all new territory for us. Debbie joined us and we had a fantastic time along the CA coast, visiting San Francisco, wine country, then north to OR and WA.


We managed to find some good inexpensive or free places to camp, parked on friends’ property in several places, and met up with a number of bloggers and friends who travelled with us on the Olympic Peninsula. It was an excellent summer.

One of our rare happy hours filled with lots of laughter. I know Karen, Suzanne, Carla, Kim, Jim, Debbie, and Chuck will remember this evening at Mora campground near Forks, WA.


We then spent some time in Idaho and Grand Teton National Park before moving on to southern Utah where we met up with the Box Canyon gang for some boondocking and hiking in Torrey and Virgin, a great way to spend the fall. We were very fortunate to have had generally good weather almost every place we went.

It was an amazing year, meeting new people and reconnecting with folks we had met before. We had a few medical issues to deal with but nothing that slowed us down (yet). The interesting thing about hanging out with other RVers, many of them fulltimers like ourselves, is that we all tend to respect each others space and privacy, and don’t feel the need to spend every waking moment together. The above happy hour was not the norm, as most days we all went to our respective “homes” for dinner and relaxation following a day of hiking or sightseeing, either on our own or with the group. No pressure.

In our old life we had a small circle of friends with whom we played racquetball or biked, and went out to dinner with on weekends. We have made more friends and met more like-minded people these past 6 years than we did in our 30 years of living in Pensacola. Maybe we were just too busy then with jobs, home ownership, aging parents, etc, to make the effort. Out here it seems so easy.

So we end the year in the same place as last year, enjoying the Sonoran desert at McDowell Mt. Park, alone and anonymous for a change. We have met a few nice people here, though, and our friends Jim and Allison arrived at the nearby RV park in Fort McDowell yesterday, and will be joining us here for a mountain bike ride this afternoon. Maybe we’ll even break tradition and do something for New Year’s Eve. 

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy 2015! Can you believe another year has gone by?


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Perfect Timing for a Photo Op


We’ve had  a couple of very aggravating days dealing with insurance companies, doctor’s offices, and businesses with poor customer service. I will not go into details or a rant on Christmas Eve, but getting out on the trails this afternoon on our mountain bikes sure helped relieve our frustrations. Just as we were heading out on the bikes the camp host came by with his kitty, Miss Lucky, dressed in her finest holiday outfit.

I had been trying to find an appropriate holiday photo for the blog but came up empty. This was just what I was looking for!

How could this not improve our mood? She is simply adorable, and a real sweetheart of a cat who walks with a leash on the trails and never meets a stranger.



Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

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.