Idle Hands . . .

It seems we had too much time on our hands today. We needed to be planning something, it would have been cheaper had we elected to go for a long walk. I mentioned we wanted to be in Rochester for a very special Percussion performance so I got busy booking flights to Rochester while sharing some information about concerts in Rochester with Dottie and Larry (well, Dottie’s name was on the email). Seems there is a Rochester Philharmonic concert that week and Christopher Seaman will be conducting and Jon Nakamatsu will perform the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto #2 in G Major on Thursday. We have flights from Salt Lake City to Rochester on Wednesday the 29th arriving late night so we can recover in time for the concert. We fly back on Sunday to rejoin our coach wherever we have left it.

We had email from Bunny and Alan with whom we have been trying to plan a trip to New Zealand and Australia. They are hot on going on a National Geographic Tour on South Island of NZ. Although the trip looks excellent it is not what we are are really thinking about. We have heard a lot about RVing in those parts, but it seems rather daunting to put it together for ourselves. I remembered that Fantasy Tours (yet another shameless plug) runs an annual 51 day tour of NZ and Australia mostly in rental RVs. As we explored on line it dawned on us that we knew a member of CHAI who represents Fantasy Tours. With just a bit of research we located Marcy’s phone number in an old CHAI roster. That launched a long conversation at the end of which we agreed to take the trip, as soon as they firm up any proposed itinerary changes. Departure is from Los Angeles on March 24, 2016. It is about 30 days in NZ and the 21 days along the East coast of Australia. There is a 12 day extension to the Outback, still in RVs and then a stopover in Fiji on the way back to LA. We are psyched.

Our passports are expiring in January so we are applying for renewals for our travels. They will have plenty of stamps before we get passed the middle of 2016.

Relax! Read a Book! Stop Trying so Hard!

Somehow it seems a waste to arrive someplace new and not start touring. I need to remember that this is living not “vacation” not a “tour.” Yesterday, after a lovely lunch at Chipotle in Sierra Vista with Mike and Cindy which extended into mid afternoon, we decided to take the long route back through Tombstone past the San Pedro Riparian Reserve. As we passed through town I saw a tire shop and stopped to rotate the tires on the Jeep as they are wearing sort of weird and then at a natural food market so Carol cold pick up some produce since we were having Ellie and Kelly from our Thailand/Vietnam trip at the coach for lunch. As we pulled into the parking lot I noticed a barbershop next to the store. I hadn’t had a haircut by a barber in some time. I usually just use an electric clipper I keep for the purpose and when Carol goes into a unisex hairdresser I often will have them cut my hair too, they are hairdressers not barbers! These guys were trained barbers. Not only did he reduce my hair length to almost nothing as requested, but he shaved the back of my neck with a straight razor, trimmed my eyebrows and made sure the hair on and in my ears was eliminated. I’ll never understand why as men lose the hair on top of their heads it seems to start growing from the ears. Is it gravity?

Goodness that paragraph seems to have wandered all over the place. I thought I would wax philosophical and then cover some locations and somehow I got into barbering and aging. The mind does wander and there is no one here to edit me, well Carol might try. Back to the initial thought, I know there was one there someplace. We are sitting in Benson with no motivation to move on to Phoenix just yet. Our mail will arrive at Benson General Delivery on Monday at some point. Then we be free to consider moving on. Since we know we have to be in Phoenix on March 6, we will most likely head on up there on Tuesday, that is February 24 if you are not reading as I post it. Actually we are hoping to get into the Tempe Elks Lodge if there is space available.

This year has been an interesting mix of the planned/scheduled and lots of time to stare at the mountains and read. We can even take the occasional hike or long walk just for the fun of it. The planned we have taken on intentionally and then sometimes find it to be a straight-jacket. We really want to go to Escapade, but it is a fixed time commitment. We do enjoy getting together with the people we know along the way, but most people plan more than a day ahead and that means we must also. This is not a complaint, just a comment on how our lifestyle has changed from one of daily/weekly/monthly commitments to a very loose schedule. Also since we are traveling through areas we have explored many times, the sense of urgency to get out and explore is much lower.

On the other hand, while sitting with Ellie and Kelly yesterday, Kelly asked whether we had been to the Amerind Foundation Campus and I replied yes, but many years ago. It is less than 20 miles from where we sit so we will head there after lunch. I looked at their website  http://www.amerind.org/index.html and started drooling over some of their offerings. But that will require us to plan ahead.

People do ask when we will be where and this is as good a time to outline our thoughts for the balance of 2015 as any. Through March 22 we will be in the Phoenix area. April 1 through 13 (at least) we will be in Los Angeles visiting with Yechiel, Miriam and family and celebrating Pesach. We will then drive north to the Bay Area to meet our nephew Leo. We need to fly to Rochester for May 1 and 2 when a percussion piece we have commissioned in honor of John Beck will be premiered. We still need to figure out where we will fly from, Reno? Salt Lake City? I know those sound strange but we are determined to travel east far more northerly than we have in the past. I tripped over the Lincoln Highway in my browsing and we are thinking it would be interesting to follow the first named US Highway back east. Everyone follows “Route 66” we have too, but this is different and it passes through Reno, Salt lake City and Denver. The calendar includes our nephew Steven’s wedding in Vermont in early June, Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival -June 19 to 28, and travel to Greece and the Adriatic with OAT in August and the last stop we are sure of is C’vlle Virginia for Corey’s Bar Mitzvah on October 24. Hmm, just noticed my high school class will be gathering in Rochester October 9 -11 to celebrate our survival of 55 years since graduating. It actually sounds like a pretty full calendar for retired folk who don’t plan ahead.

As I say when I blog the jazz Festival, watch this space to see how it actually plays out.

Benson AZ – Social Time

My goodness, we are becoming very social all of a sudden. Today we went to the  Jil and Tom’s, for happy hour which extended into dinner at Mi Casa, the most highly rated restaurant for miles around. I met Jil online in a forum on RVillage.com and extended the contact to FaceBook. She is from Florida, but we attended the same summer camp, Camp Cherokee, back in the 50’s. Given our ages we were there at the same time and she remembers many of the people I knew who went there. Her husband, Tom, is from Irondequoit just a few years younger than us. They are members of the Saguara SKP Coop where we like to stay. We can’t get in this year, oh well, we are a few miles away at Red Barn RV, a piece of desert with hookups, I 10 and the railroad for borders.

While here we contacted Ellie and Kelly from our SE Asia trip last year. they decided to drive down from north of Tucson on Saturday to visit us on GeeWhiz for lunch. And tomorrow we will drive to Sierra Vista, about 35 miles south of us to have lunch with Cindy and Mike. They were on the site next to us in Livingston and kept an eye on the coach while we were in Israel. We are also working on getting together with other people from Rochester while we are in the neighborhood.

If we have missed anyone in the Phoenix Tucson area and you would like to get together let us know!

I have not been completely social, for that matter I dealt with a very unsocial issue yesterday. I decided the time had come to find out what was wrong with the macerator pump which I had sort of abandoned when it suddenly stopped while pumping out the black tank. I had verified that the fuse had not blown which meant dismantling the pump head to see what had jammed it. I started by pulling off the hose which let me look into the throat of the pump after I flushed it with fresh water. There was a half circle of plastic wedged in the blade. It didn’t look right to me and I could only hope it was something extraneous that had come down from the tank. A pair of needle nose pliers provided the reach I needed and I extracted the plastic chip with ease. This freed the pump which now works just fine. I can only guess that the piece of plastic was construction debris which had fallen in the tank and rattled around in there for a couple of years before finding its way to the exit. The other possibility is too terrible to think about. What if something in the effluent tanks has broken and this is the debris from that failure. This is very unlikely so I will not think about it.

On to the social life.

Las Cruces – Caught up!

From Marfa we pressed on directly to Las Cruces, Siesta RV Park, where we usually stay. It was an easy uneventful drive once we got clear of the rotten weather in the Marfa area. By the time we got to Van Horn we had our sunglasses on (that’s about 90 miles and where US 90 merges on to I 10).

We have been very busy here with Leora and Stuart and Marianne. Shabbat dinner, a Ukulele band concert (I kid you not) a movie “the Imitation Game” – why can’t Hollywood either do a straight story or just make a totally fictional story with no tie to reality? and a book group where Marianne Zeitlin was invited as the author of her latest novel “Motherless Child” followed by dinner at La Posta.

All of that in three days. We are resting today. Making plans for the coming months and, oh yes, I had a small repair job. One of our shades was not working well and the daytime privacy shade was not working at all. I had explored a bit and figured out that I needed to take down the entire valence to get at the rollers. Turns out it is held in place by four screws. Once I had it laid out on the bed it was easy to sort out how it was supposed to work and why it wasn’t. I realigned the rollers and with Carol supplying a third hand I was able to reinstall the valence with the rollers and I am so glad I didn’t pay a minimum  30 minute rate ($55) for the 10  minutes it took me.

I am facing another repair that I am not looking forward to. While pumping out the black tank in Marfa, the pump came to a sudden stop. I have verified that the fuse is not blown. I am convinced that something has lodged in the impeller blade. It should be a simple matter to dismantle the pump and clean it up, but it also has a “yuck” factor so I am putting it off. If I had been pumping grey water when it stopped I would be less hesitant šŸ™ I’ll let you all know how it turns out and when it turns out. I expect I will not include a lot of detail.

We were in email contact with one of my Brown classmates, Lee Berk, who has settled in Phoenix. They live very near the Musical Instrument Museum about which I have written several times, hereafter MIM. Diane Schuur is performing there on March 6 and we now have tickets to be able to join them and hear her. As I was browsing the MIM Jazz concert schedule I spotted a concert later in March by Anat Cohen who we absolutely fell in love with at XRIJF last year so we know where we will be March 21. We have other friends in the area so March should be a fairly social month for us. Then on to LA and I guess we are inviting ourselves to Miriam and Yechiel’s for Sedar right here in this post. Now to contact Malibu Beach RV Resort for a spot.

Somehow I never got around to posting this last night as I finished writing. It is a good thing as I have now had a chance to clean up several typos in advance (hope I haven’t added any).

Running to catch up

It seems I have not sat down to write in a week and what a week. We stopped at Terlingua Ranch Lodge RV Park, 16 miles off route 118 which heads down from Alpine to the Study Butte (both “U’s” sound the same) entrance to Big  Bend and eventually to Presideo TX. The last three miles in to the Lodge are on dirt. We set up on site 19 (to remind us where we want to be the next time) with mountain views in all directions. Terlingua is back out the 16 miles and then 20 miles to the south. That is the nearest town. The lodge has a cafe with local music and we ate there once. From there we drove to Terlingua Ghost Town where we saw the sites and had lunch at the El Dorado Hotel.

This is the main shopping experience and the Starlight Drive In which was not open for lunch

We visited the local gallery with the “space ship” out front.

and saw what becomes of a big motorhome left in the sun too long.
While at dinner we met Mike Huston a professor of Ecology at a school near Austin whose name I can not remember. He was collecting moths and counting mammals seen on a specific route he drives every time he comes to Terlingua Ranch Lodge once a month for the past four years. 
The next day we drove the back road in the Jeep into Big Bend. We actually found ourselves entering the park inside the park entrance station and had to stop at Panther Junction to pick up our day pass. We stopped at Chisos Basin for picnic lunch.

and here is a 180 degree panorama taken in the basin:

It appears I clipped the top off Casa Grande to the left and at the far right is Window
We drove to Santa Elena Canyon at the west end of the park and hiked in as far as we could go. We had wanted to float the canyon, but as you can see, there was not enough water for float trips to go.
On Monday we drove to Marfa and stopped for three  nights at Tumble In right on US 90. We revisited many of the sights we had been before from Chinati Foundation to the hotel where Giant was filmed in the 50’s. We drove to Fort Davis and up and around Davis Mountain State Park just to see what might have changed and to once again drive to the top of Skyline Drive with its magnificent views, no pictures this time. 
We planned to head into Las Cruces NM on Thursday. Wednesday night the temperature dropped 40 degrees to about 32 and the wind began to howl. I decided that given the forecast for cold and rain I would stow everything I could before going in for dinner. By the time we were ready for dinner I had the car hooked up and ready to go, and everything except electric was disconnected and stowed. Finally as bed time approached I pulled in the driver side living room slide to reduce the wind noise and provide less volume to heat. It was a great idea that I should have extended to the bedroom slide. As we were cleaning up in the morning waiting for the rain to subside we heard radio reports of snow to our east. I know, for those of you in the northeast, whats a little snow in the desert southwest. It’s A BIG DEAL! no one has a clue. We stayed put until it stopped snowing and began to melt. When I pulled in the driver side bedroom slide it didn’t feel right and when I looked out I could see that it had not fully retracted. This meant extending the slide and going up on the roof with a broom to clear the snow. It was slippery up there! I crawled on hands and knees to the slide and swept off the snow from a kneeling position. It is a very long 12 feet from the roof to the ground and I wanted to do it feet first by way of the ladder. Safely back on the ground we completed our departure preparations and set off for Las Cruces where we arrived in a timely fashion to find our mail waiting and good times with the Kelter/Zeitlins waiting. 
More on that tomorrow.

Birding, Sightseeing, Wandering

It seems that Falcon State Park is one of the primary birding areas we go to many years. See Carol’s post Message in a Minute for her tale of a day of birding. We are not avid birders, I am a bit more interested than Carol, but I have never gone 50 miles out of my way because there was a special bird I just had to see. Well, not quite, before we found out where to see them easily, we chased the migratory Sandhill Cranes from a playa in Arizona to the middle of New Mexico, but we were going that way anyhow. We have also seen them in Alaska, but we were there anyhow. I have never counted up how many birds are on my Life List, but I can tell you when I see one to add. I don’t keep day lists or year lists and I cannot imagine going for a “Big year.” But I do love to see a broad variety of birds and be able to identify them. I think I will have to take our grandson Alex along birding, where there are no chickens to distract him. While in Israel with us, he picked up a local bird list and proceeded to memorize it and begin to identify every bird he saw. It made me jealous. Maybe I will invite him to share a “Big Year” with me, but no there are too many places Carol and I still want to go that are not birding places, not that there are places with no birds,  but there is so much else to see.

We stopped for the night in San Pedro Flats in Amistad NPS. We have driven by here many times usually after a night in the Wal Mart parking lot in Del Rio, a couple of miles east. After looking in Days End Directory I saw this NPS campground that charges $4/night, 50% discount for holders of the Senior Pass. Services are none, but the place is beautiful and quiet (or will be once I shut down my generator). And who can pass up a campsite for $2? We are trying to see different parts of south Texas as we make our crossing even though the highway is the same. We plan to stop in Terlingua outside the west entrance to Big Bend, I may have mentioned this in a prior post and then decided we wouldn’t because of the weather and now, I guess it just seems right. We have driven through but never stopped. We will see what we can find.

Even when we are in Rochester, where we lived most of our lives, we will put on our “this is a new place” hats and find things to see and do that we had not known about or had forgotten about. On the road we pick up brochures and we pick the brains of locals. We will go into the Chamber of Commerce or the Visitor’s Bureau and make friends with the person whose job it is to be friendly to find the good stuff. Sometimes it is just a matter of asking the campers in the next site what they have done/seen that was interesting. A glass of wine does wonders for opening the conversation.

We are in wander mode. We know where we will be in a week and in three weeks. Timing is forcing us to actually make plans so we can stay where we want to be. that means “schedule” which is an 8 letter word that is is almost as bad as 4 letter words in our life, like “work”.