What a difference the monsoon makes

This is our first summer in Arizona.  We didn’t plan on staying here this long but we didn’t really have a choice so we’re making the best of it.  We’ve officially been in the monsoon season for over a month and have gotten a number of downpours during this time.  The rain is almost always very localized.  It can be fascinating to look over the San Pedro Valley and see an area mile or two across getting rain (often with lightening) but just over next to it is in sunshine.  The rain has made one distinct change in the landscape around us.

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The Whetstone Mountains near Kartchner Caverns state park

The difference is that it’s green everywhere.  Normally the mountains are brown but starting a couple of weeks ago they greened up and have been that way since.  We’ll be interested to see how long this lasts.

Our new RV site and casita

This is our third winter at the SKP Saguaro Coop RV Park in Benson, Arizona and we’ve been on the “hot list” (waiting list) for a permanent site for over three years.  When we started on the hot list we were number 292 and since then we moved up to number 144.

Site 6 is just down the street from site 702 where we’ve stayed the last three years, and it was vacated earlier this year.  The previous leaseholder had passed away last Fall and it had taken her family almost half a year to remove her belongings and her fifth-wheel trailer from the site.  Since I could see site 6 from my desk I watched them refurbish the casita (small house) on the site and when they were done, it was put on the leaseholder availability list.  Leaseholders (those that already lease an existing site) have first crack at any new sites that become available and many of them take this as an opportunity to move to a better site.  To our great surprise, particularly since #6 is one of the very nicest sites in the entire park, no leaseholder requested it and it became available to hot list members. We spoke up for it, and again to our great surprise, we had the lowest number of those who called in and we got it.

Just so you know, you don’t own sites in the SKP Saguaro Coop, you lease them.  We had to pay a lump sum for the lease on site 6 but the way it works is that if and when we leave we get that money back (and probably some extra for the improvements we’ve made).  We were able to “pass papers” on the site and move onto it about a week later.

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Front view of Site 6. Front door opens only to the workshop.

One of the reasons we think this site is so nice is that it has a view across the San Pedro River Valley to the Dragoon Mountains, which are about 18 miles away.

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View from the back porch of the casita looking east to the Dragoon Mountains

Continue reading Our new RV site and casita

Staying in Arizona for the Summer

And not really because we intended to.  This seems to be a year devoted to health issues.  I never wanted to be the kind of person that would immediately bore you to death about all their health problems and their operations when you asked them how they were doing, but there’s not much else to tell you about what’s been going on with us lately.

To make a long story short, Susan fell and broke her hip last November.  She spent a week in an acute care hospital and then a month in a rehab hospital after a partial hip replacement.  Although she is better her recovery has been slow.  She fell because of vertigo and when they started doing tests to find out why she has vertigo they first thing they found was that she had heart problems.  So, during late spring and early summer, she had two arteries in her heart stented and her aortic valve was replaced.  She is better than she was but again recovery has been slow.

For myself, my right hip was replaced in March and my left hip was replaced in July. Fortunately my recovery has been swift and I am now walking and climbing stairs pain-free (what a novel sensation!) for the first time in over five years.

When we first hit the road five years ago both I and some of Susan’s close relatives had some concerns about our health care when we were going to travel full time.  The fact is that we’ve been able to deal with all of our health issues very well no matter where we’ve been.  I’d even add that changing our doctors and health systems may have saved Susan’s life.  Two years ago we switched all of our medical care to the University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson (now the Banner University Medical Center) and from the beginning Susan’s doctors have been very aggressive about diagnosing and treating her problems. It’s quite possible that without this her heart problems would have been overlooked.

So we’re spending the summer (and really the entire year) in Arizona because of the health issues we’ve had to deal with.  That’s the way it goes and we’re making the best of it we can.  Hopefully we can resume our normal traveling next year.

Not something you expect to see every day

We were on our way to Tucson for (another) doctor’s appointment and got stuck in traffic near the Empirita Road exit around mile 292 on Interstate 10 because of road work.  I noticed something odd in the sky to our left.

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When it got closer I was able to see it was a blimp and specifically, the Hendrick’s Gin blimp.

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It was flying due East a couple hundred feet off the ground and was porpoising (steadily rising and falling) as it went by.  Whether that was to get our attention or because that’s the way it flies, I don’t know.  I later learned that its nickname is the “flying pickle” and had left San Diego a couple days before.  It was on a nationwide tour for National Pickle Day (May 15).

Not something you see every day while driving to Tucson.

Locomotives in waiting

About 12 miles west of Benson, on the south side of Interstate 10, there is a spur line of the railroad.  I’ve never been sure what reason it has for being there since is nothing on that side of the highway but some ranches.

About mid-December I noticed while coming back from Tucson that there were a bunch of locomotives parked there.  It wasn’t until after a couple more trips that I realized just how many of them are parked there.

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Here are the first of the locomotives you can see from the highway.

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A little further along you can start to see how many of them there are.

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It’s only when I got up on an overpass and looked back that I started to get some idea of how many are there.  Each dot in that line in the middle of the photo is a locomotive.

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Looking off in the distance the other way.  Both the dark line and the yellow line are locomotives.

How many of them are there?  Certainly over a hundred and maybe as many as two hundred.  Why are they there?  They’ve been there for at least a month now and I haven’t got the slightest idea.  They could be obsolete and have been “put out to pasture” but they don’t really look any different than the locomotives we see pulling trains on the rail lines next to Interstate 10 every day.   We also haven’t noticed any fewer trains coming through Benson.  One of those little mysteries.

Scenic Park Cabins

We stayed at the Scenic Park Campground in South Sioux City, NE, which is on the Missouri River.  It is a city park that is immaculately maintained and was a pleasure to stay in.  The park has four “cabins” for rent.

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Three of the four cabins

The cabins are several years old and we were told that they were art projects from the Architectural Schools at the University of Iowa in Sioux City.  They were located just across from our camping site and looked very interesting.

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Cabin 4

They were all made from either found materials or what you would be able to find in a Home Depot or Lowes.

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Cabin 2

There was nothing earth-shattering about them but they were all fun-looking projects.

Continue reading Scenic Park Cabins

Sioux City Museum

We were staying at a city park in South Sioux City, Nebraska which is just across the Missouri River from Sioux City, Iowa.  When I checked to see what was worth seeing nearby, the Sioux City Museum was at the top of several different lists so we took a short trip to see it.

The museum isn’t very large but it is very eclectic and they packed an awful lot of things in a very small space.  Since Sioux City is mostly known for its stockyards and meat packing industry and although they’re mostly gone an entire corner of the museum was devoted to them.

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There have been several large fires in the past so there were several fire department exhibits.

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Continue reading Sioux City Museum

Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge

We had stayed at a campground in Valentine, Nebraska and took a tour of the area.  We found the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge nearby and it had a gravel loop drive that we took.

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What makes this wildlife refuge different is that several different ecosystems converge here and it has elements of prairie, Rocky Mountain and boreal ecosystems.

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The Niobrara River runs through the wildlife refuge and the forested areas were mostly around it.

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But most of the areas away from the river were prairie and included several prairie dog towns.

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There was a large parking lot next to the river and many people kayak and canoe on it. There was also a picnic area, a handicap accessible boat launch (which unfortunately wouldn’t have worked for Susan) and a couple of hiking trails.  There was a fair amount packed into a small area and it a pleasant surprise to find.

We’d give a B for handicap accessibility.  On the plus side it had handicap accessible bathrooms in a couple locations but on the minus side there were no handicap accessible trails of any kind and we had to make do with what we could see from the car.

Garden of the Gods

We had been told about the Garden of the Gods by a friend who suggested we stop by and take a look as long as we were traveling nearby.  For that reason we are camped at the Garden of the Gods RV resort in Colorado Springs and yesterday we took a short drive to see them.

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View of the Garden of the Gods from the Visitor Center

The Garden of the Gods is an outcropping of ancient sandstone that had originally been laid down around 300 million years ago.  The rise of the Rocky mountains (that’s Pike’s Peak covered by clouds in the background) turned the sandstone layers on their side and weathering and erosion have done the rest.

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Sandstone leaves or fingers

They reminded us strongly of Arches National Park in Utah which had similar layers of sandstone also turned on its side.  Like Arches, there were several fingers or leaves of sandstone.

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More layered sandstone standing on edge

Continue reading Garden of the Gods