On The Road Again Dec 27,2011

We got off to an early start this morning. We hit the border just before 10 a.m. however it was 1035 before we got to the main gate.  We were then told to pull over for an “Agricultural” Inspection.  I had suggested to Brian we pack Molly’s dog food in the back seat, but he put it in the back, on the bottom.  The Inspector wanted to know what kind of dog food we were bringing in and wanted to see the ingredients on the bag.  I don’t know whether Brian was nervous or what, but a bunch of stuff fell out on the ground before he could fnally get to the box and get the bag out.  Apparently the banned ingredient is “Lamb.”  They had no interest in Molly or if she was vaccinated.  Go figure!

 

The drive today was quiet pleasant with a low temp of 1C up to 8 C.  At times we head into the low sun, so visibility was a challenge, but mostly it was partly cloudy skies and a brisk ( I’m being generous here) wind.  Felt sorry for the snow birds in their big units.  We grabbed a bite at the Drive Thru in Great Falls and stopped for gas as well.  Molly loved all the new sniffs and left her mark in several locations.  We gave her an anti anxiety natural hormone with hopes of calming her for the trip, without sedating her.  I don’t know what affect it had, but she did well with out getting anxious, but would not sleep in the car. She was happy to get into the hotel and made herself right at home and is curently catching up on all the naps she missed today.

I had forgotten how pretty the landscape is once you head south of Great Falls on Interstate15.  We passed through or near, Montana’s newest state park called Tower Rock.  During the Lewis and Clark expediation, Merriweather Lewis wrote on July 16 1805,

 ” At this place there is a large rock of 400′ which stands immediately in the gap which the Missouri makes it’s passage from the mountains. This rock I called The Tower.  It may be ascended with some difficulty ..nearly to it’s summit and from there is a most pleasing view of the country we are now about to leave.”

I have to agree with his statement.

Butte, Montana to Provo, Utah Dec 28,2011

The day started well, with getting a great breakfast at the Best Western.  This complimentary breakfast was the best ever, including hot oatmeal, bacon, eggs, a good variety of fruit and breads to name a few choices.  The hotel had several furry guests and we were all put on the ground floor, close together….great…if your dog can hear other dogs and wants to see them….or just bark….which they did, including Molly.

 The forecast was for cloud and rain and that’s what we got.  I took over the driving mid morning (just north of Idaho Falls) and shortly after ran into low clouds and freezing temps.  I turned off the cruise control and “white knuckled” for the next hours while trying to keep some kind of speed.  They did have a gravel truck on the road which was fine until we passed it.  Shortly after we started seeing cars in the ditch and then two serious rollovers, with obvious injuries. I have to wonder what I did right to stay on the road or they did wrong to end up in a serious accident, or is it just fate?  Whatever, I’m very glad we made it through that patch of ice without injury.  At the time I didn’t notice, but the car was encased in ice.  Scarey stuff.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful.  Molly spent the day in her dog bed, but keeping a wary eye.  For some reason our navigation system is annoyed with us and hasn’t spoken to us nor made a sound since we left home on Tuesday.  She has displayed the directions and maps required, so we kept kept on, especially as today’s drive was pretty straight forward.  We no sooner arrived at the hotel and the system gave up completely.  We tried a couple of things to get it up and running, but no luck.  We tried starting the car, but nada.  After we lugged everything into the room I decided to call a Ford Dealership. Thinking they would want me to try things, I thought I’d phone them from the car and thought I may as well start it up.  It started and all of a sudden the navigation system came to life, complete with audio……she’s talking again!  Go figure!  Perhaps she thought she was in trouble. 

To ensure the system was working, we decided to find a decent restaurant and let the nav system guide us.  It worked well.  We went to Sizzlers.  Great place and the best salad bar ever.  All in with 15% tip, $27, and enough left over steak to give to Molly to spice up her dinner.

Another long drive tomorrow, about 745 km to Flagstaff, but no freezing rain in the forecast.

Tonight when I took Molly for her walk around the hotel, I noticed several Alberta plates.  Of the 15 or so vehicles in the lot, 5 are from Alberta and 1 from Saskatchewan.  I know this is hard to beleive but when we were driving from Montana and into Idaho, over half the cars / trucks / RVs were driving with Alberta plates.  I guess we have officially joined the “Snowbird” group of Canadians.

Provo Utah to Flagstaff Arizona Dec 29,2011

The weather was calm and above freezing when we left Provo this morning about 830.  We left in a light mist but within an hour were driving in sunny skies and dry highways.  Despite the good road conditions, we once again came upon a very serious van roll over.  Perhaps they blew a tire., in any case there had to be serious injuries.  The car was in pieces.

We kept on Interstate 15 until just before St George.  Brian did not want to take the suggested road as it was narrow, paved, but no shoulders.  I told him there was no other choice as this area has very few roads.

We couldn’t travel as fast but the scenery was worth the ride.  We were on 89A which skirts the grand canyon.  We were up and down hills and at time were at 7900′ in elevation.  The panoramic views were spectacular and I kept the camera clicking often as the view changed with every twist and turn.  The towns are few and far between and I suggested we have lunch in a place called Hurricane” but either he didn’t remember or didn’t like the look of the place, Brian just kept driving.  I had checked the paper map and thought we could get to a town called Page, but what I didn’t know was the navigation system skirting the grand canyonwould take us further south and into some pretty desolate places.  We passed through country like the photo on the left, but then started gaining altitude.  By now, we were no where near any towns, fuel was getting low and we were hungry.  We did see a sign for Jacob Lake and we hoped they would have food and fuel.

The facility is owned and operated by a local Navaho couple.  They have a quaint cafe, gift store and bakery.  The main restaurant was  closed but the counter was open.  They had a very simple menu…but excellent food.  I had a grilled cheese sandwich served on sourdough bread and grated cheddar melted to perfection.  It came with a pickle and fresh cut potatoe chips, cooked golden brown and delicious. We were very high in the mountain and the area covered with snow.  The building is kept cosy and warm with a fireplace and wood burning pot bellied stove.  When outside, the smell of wood smoke filled the air and seemed fitting for the setting we were in.

We stopped at the gas station next door.  You had to pay using a credit card, but it wouldn’t take mine. When I went to pay cash, the place was locked….no choice but to keep going and pray for a filling station somewhere.  Soon we we heading down off the mountain ( good way to save on gas) and once again, the scenery was picture perfect. Too bad we were in such a hurry.  On the way back I think we’ll plan to stay near by and spend a day sight seeing.  Despite being in the snow, the road was clean and dry.  It may have something to do with the fact the outside temp was 12 to 15C.  Once we hit the valley floor and went around a few turns we did come across a lonely gas station.  I swear the pumps were from the 40s.  No computerized pumps here.  In fact when I started fueling the car, I noticed how slow the gas was pumping.  I hate to be rude, but I could tinkle faster!  Finally after a long $5 of gas, the attendant came out and took the nozzle.  He banged it a couple of times, started and stopped the flow and finally we got a good flow of gas.  “Sometimes they air lock” he said, before returning to his post.  We have been paying under $3 a gallon, but here in the middle of bloody no where, the price was $3.89.  I got $20 and ran…but it was enough to get us to Flagstaff.

I feel sorry for Molly.  We have to lock her in the car when we eat.  We aren’t allowed to leave her alone in the hotel room, but I wouldn’t want to.  I know she would bark her head off.  We forgot her calming pill today and she was restless.  She finally ate her dinner tonight.  I think we are all  looking forward to a much shorter drive tomorrow. We are very much looking forward to arriving in Green Valley for our three month stay.

 

 

Flagstaff to Green Valley Dec 30,2011

We awoke to frost on the car and temp of -2.  The boys in the room next to us were up and ready for another day of skiing.  The motel was full of people taking advantage of the near by ski hill, so lots of families and lots of dogs in the motel.

I did the driving today so we didn’t take many photos, which was too bad as we passed through some very scenic areas.  The temperature flucuated wildly as we drove up and down steep hills, leaving high altitudes to valley floors.  In a matter of mintues we could go from 3 C to 15 C, it was nuts.  The drive went smoothly, however the navigation system wouldn’t take the house address, so I just picked a Green Valley address and away we went.  I had foreseen we may have a problem, so I wrote the instructions down from the previous night when I checked on Google maps.

We arrived at the house just after 130 pm.  The outside temp was 77F, no wind and a sunny sky.  I would call that a very warm welcome.  We quickly unloaded the car ( we did bring a lot of stuff) and then set out to find Safeway.  $300+ dollars later, back to the house.  By dinner we had all our belongings and groceries tucked away, computer up and running and found the lay of the land and house.  Molly took no time to settle in but is very excited.  When I shook out her dog bed and blanket, it was full of hair……a sign of animal stress.  She still doesn’t want to eat much but is very lively, so not sick.  However she did miss several of her daily naps and quickly found a nice spot to rest.

When we were at Safeway, we quickly realized we were among the junior set of seniors. OMG you should see the driving.  That parking lot is a scarey place. In talking to the owners of the home, Nancy indicated they have seen more fender benders in that lot and they just sit in their car after not knowing what to do.  They described one fellow driving his golf cart straight into the side of a parked car….no thought of stopping.  They also don’t mind taking up the entire aisle with their scooter and shopping cart, with no mind to whom ever is around them.  This should be fun……but at least I am grateful, that is not me…yet!

The photo on the right is taken at the back of the house and is a lovely area to relax in the morning sun.  The photo below is the scenery looking east of the patio.  I think we can used to this.  There are many birds flitting about and I will be using the binoculars to see if I can identify our winged visitors.

Happy New Year

It was nice to sleep in this morning(Saturday).  The sun is up earlier than at home and it’s nice to have the longer days.  We decided to venture further a field and went to Walmart.  It was a busy place but found a decent spot to park the car.  Brian elected to stay in the car while I picked up the things on our list.  Parked beside us was a car with a sun visor pulled across and the driver fast asleep with his mouth open.  Once again the store was busy with seniors of all ages.  You could tell others were newly arrived like us and picking up lots of things to stock the larder and buy missing items.

Brian was kept amused by watching people trying to find their car in the parking lot and the couples arguing about who should have kept track of where it was parked.

Molly is certainly enjoying the outdoors, especially the warm temps.  She goes from the sun to shade and back.  She still isn’t eating much and won’t potty in the yard. While I was out walking her this afternoon and older man ( well of course) appproached us and said not to go down his street as they have javelinas is the area. Actually he lives on the other side of the gulley that backs onto this yard.  He went on to explain they will defend themselves if cornered and dogs have been attacked by them.  They got their common name of javelina from their teeth, which are long, pointed and sharp like a javelin.  They look like pigs but are not related.  They are from south america but very common in this area.  They love to come into yards to eat plants and drink water and root around any available garbage. Thank goodness this back yard has a brick fence and the gate is a meshed iron, low to the ground…with cement along the gate bottom.  They can weigh up to 60 lbs, so unlikely they could ever get into this yard.  They can harbour rabies and distemper.  We shoud have left Molly at home!  The man went on to say to keep her on a short leash as with the warm weather (78F) the snakes and scorpions may come out of hibernation! Yikes….what have we done to our poor doggie?

We want to wish all our friends and family a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Cactus and Javelinas Jan 1, 2012

The home owner told me they have never seen javelinas in the area.  Well today while out working on my tan, across the arroyo (gully) a small herd of javelinas strolled down the back of the homes across the way.  One man was standing at his back gate, watching them walk by.  They passed him about 2′ away and paid him no mind at all.  I can’t beleive the are not related to the pig family as they certainly look like pigs…just dark grey, not pink.

It was another warm sunny day here and I did get some color.  Given I was sitting out for 3 hours, the UV index must be low as I did not burn, the tan just deepened a little.  We will see what happens when the sun gets higher in the sky.  This is not typical weather and is about 12 degree F warmer than normal…however I will take it.

We took a ride in the car this morning and toured about the area, finding restaurants, malls, barber shop etc.  I have met a couple of the neighbours and Molly met a long haired  daschund which she took a fancy to ( male). The lady told me they have off leash parks here and told me her favorite was one where large and small dogs have their own space.  I will follow her directions to see if I can find it.  Molly routinely goes off leash to keep up her exercise/fitness routine…walking with me is pretty slow and boring.

Tomorrow I will go to the rec center and get our passes.  I’m hoping the exercise will help lose the ten pounds I seem to have found and of course start working on the knee as well.

As I mentioned before, this is a very scenic area.  The cactus look like they will bloom soon.  I am looking forward to seeing them in flower.  The birding is very good here and think I’ll have to buy a local bird book….perhaps stronger binoculars as well.

Another Warm Day Jan 2,2012

It was another lovely day today with a high of 78.  This morning we tried to get our passes for the community centers but the office was closed, however the building was busy with members enjoying a variety of activites.  I’m sure we’ll meet lots of people once we start attending. The photo on the right is of the morning sun coming up over the mountains.

 A neighbour had told us about a “Bark Park” in the area so we took a drive to see if we could find it.  I was impressed as it was fully enclosed and divided into areas for small and large dogs.  Molly didn’t think too much of it however, so we didn’t stay long.

I read outside in the sun again today, but also took advantage of some birding opportunities now that the birds have discovered food in the feeder.  

January 4,2012 Backyard visitor

We’ve been quite busy today.  We started off by going to the near by Rec Center.  While Brian did his laps, I registered for 5 classes and then did a workout of my own.  We picked Molly up and took her to the Bark Park and went to the local Farmer’s Market at lunch.  While there is some produce and home baked goods, most of the market is dedicated to services and handicrafts.  Brian isn’t one to shop ….but I’ll go again next week.

I spend most of the afternoon going through the local paper and found more activites for both of us, including free movies, lectures and card clubs to join.  The paper is for this area and publishes twice a week, so I signed on for three month delivery.

I think I mentioned I had started feeding the birds.  The food is disappearing fast and I may know why.  I don’t think the javelinas are smart enough to shake the feeder, but they sure clean up what hits the ground.  I was alerted to something out back by Molly’s sudden growling.  I looked out and saw this fella in the bottom photo, by the cactus, just outside the back gate.  I snuck out with my camera ( wanted a close up) but I need not have worried, he just stood there as I approached and took the photo.  I heard a noise to my left and here are these two cleaning up the bird feed.  I tried to shoo them away, but they just looked at me and kept on munching.  I was surprized to sniff and find they smell like “skunk.” I guess I’ll have to make a decision whether to feed the birds and thus invite the javelinas back, or let the birds fend for themselves.  I would say this was the “adventure of the day.”

 

Nogales Arizona Jan 7,2012

We decided to take a little trip today to Nogales Arizona to see what they had to offer tourists.  I think there may have been things and we likely should have done some research before setting off, but we didn’t really see anything that sparked our interest. Of some note was the huge iron fence cutting the city into US and Mexico sides of the border.  As we neared the border crossings we saw several car parking lots advertising “safe” parking, for those who I assume were going to cross on foot.  This is an old town and this photo is taken in a very old part of the town.  Some of the homes, you can tell are very old and some made of stone, which are very nice, if you can see beyond the iron gates, iron grills on doors and windows.  We felt pretty uncomfortable and decided to head back north to a newer part of town.

We came across a couple of malls and ended up having lunch at a Chinese buffet, operated by Mexicans.  The buffet table did have both cuisines to pick from and despite the run down appearance, it was by no means the worst Chinese we had.  In fact the soups and spring rolls were some of the best we had. 

Brian had been hunting for some slip on shoes so we stopped in at the Foot Locker and found just the thing.  We carried on to the K Mart where I got a Memory Foam mattress cover.  The bed here is too hard for me and keeping me from having a restful sleep.

On our way to Nogales we noticed a border patrol stop on the north bound Highway. Originally it was a temporary stop as pictured above, but now after spending 27 million dollars, they have installed a canopy over the road and have built a few small buildings.  They must have had at least 20 border patrol cars on site and three lanes of check stops.  They had sniffer dogs going by every car.  Our stop was pretty unevenful.  The officer popped his head in to look briefly at the back seat and sent us on our way.  Just a 1/2 mile down the road is this border patrol tower. Apparently this stop has seized a great deal of drugs and other contraband, so even though it is now permanent, people think they won’t get caught.

Poor Molly had her own adventure yesterday morning.  Molly likes to “mark” and routinely lifts her leg to tinkle on plants.  She has done this to a few cactus and I figured it would only be a matter of time and she would find out about a cactus.  Yesterday morning she tinkled on a “Teddy Bear Cholla” (pictured left) and brought her leg down onto the cactus.  It hurt her, so she swung her face around to see what was the issue and planted her face squarely into the cactus.  Two chunks broke off and embedded themselves into her, one into the face, the other where her leg meets her torso…like an arm pit.  I got the one out of her face without much difficulty, but the other was stuck fast.  I got it out eventually but not without Molly enduring more pain, and me getting stabbed a few times.  I do hope she has learned a lesson and will stay away from these spiny devils. 

A coule of days ago we spotted three Javelinas across the gully, walking along the path behind the homes, and shortly thereafter, spotted two coyotes leaving the street across the gully and going down into the bottom.  They looked well fed…I hope not on little dogs!  Yesterday the whole troop of javelinas ( about 18 in all) walked along the base of the gully and three thought they might come up the hill towards us.  When I spotted one across the way, I got out my binoculars but couldn’t see anymore.  I stepped outside the yard to the rim of the gully ad I couldn’t see more…..but I could certainly smell them….and went I looked towards the base f the gully, there they all were.  You can definitely smell them…before you may see them! 

 

Our week January 9 to 14, 2012

This week the temperature has been more seasonal, darn, which means daytime highs in the low to mid 60s, however today we squeaked out another 70 day.  The wind is a big factor, for if it’s sunny and no wind, you can sit out comfortably.  The sunrises and sunsets are really quite nice and this is a sunset on the Santa Rita Mountains to the east of Green Valley.

I have been very diligent about attending the fitness center daily and do see some improvement in strength and endurance, which of course is encouraging. 

I have settled into the routine of Green Valley and attended two lectures and two classes this week, plus took in a free movie at one of the centers.  One lecture was on the media…. can you believe all you hear and read. The other lecture was on back pain given by a Tuscon Orthopedic surgeon.  Again very interesting.  It is so easy here to access a specialist, all you had to do to get in to see this Dr was to fill out an appointment request and you would be called.  Such a change from Canada.

On Tuesday I attended my first class, one of four, called Brain Aerobics.  The instructor is a retired teacher and was lots of fun.  She gave us some brain work to do, but also gave an in-depth explanation of the brain and how it works.  It was a simple yet understandable explanation which I think all the class appreciated.  The teacher also sent us home with “homework.” The other class I am currently taking is “Making Writing Fun.”  So far it’s anything but and while there are only 4 in our class, I think I’m the only one without talent. Maybe some will rub off.

We took Molly to the groomer on Thursday and oh what a mess they made.  They left her a “Mohawk” on her tummy, didn’t trim her ears ( I had already trimmed her tail) and made a mess of her face.  I have done her ears ( not too badly) and tried to tidy her face and not sure I improved it much.  That evening we went out for supper to a place called “Twist and Shout Diner.”  The waitresses wore poodle skirts with several crinolines under and scarves around their necks.  It truly is a diner from the 50’s era…complete with tables chairs and booths of the era.  The menu is quiet fun and don’t miss the milkshakes.  They are made the old fashioned way with hard ice cream, milk, flavoring and topped with real whipped cream and a cherry.  I had the cinnamon pecan and it was heavenly.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a free movie at one of the Rec Centers.  It was sold out.  The movie “The Help” I had seen before, but enjoyed it as much if not more than the first time….with one exception…the chairs!

This afternoon we went to Madera Canyon.  This photo on the right, is a much closer view of the same mountain in the top photo.  The trees are green and in leaf and over all it was a very picturesque drive.  They have several hiking trails and once I can do more on the treadmill, will treat myself to a hike.  This area is part of the Coronado National Forest and is protected.  The have wild cats and bears in the area and is also the bird watching mecca for this area of Arizona.

The backyard of our unit is not a bad place for bird watching either.  We’re had the usual sparrows, nuthatch, red house finch, doves and quail.  The other morning when out walking, we saw a bright red cardinal and most days you can see a variety of hawks.  The bird feeder in the yard had the biscuit and I found it broken the other day, so off to Walmart for more feed and a new feeder.  The home also had a hummingbird feeder, so I bought some nectar for it and put it out.  I have seen the hummingbirds at other feeders here, so I’m hoping for the best.  The javelinas continue to be a frequent visitor in the neighbourhood and just come strolling along the street like they owned the place.  I sure wouldn’t want to hit one with a car.

Tomorrow is housekeeping and laundry day and perhaps enjoy the sun in the 73 degree forecast day.