June’s Journal/blogs


Arizona Week #5 Highlights: March 14 – 20


Yet, another fun-filled week in Arizona. Yes, I again line danced and quilted. Ray played shuffleboard and went on a bike ride. Highlights were the Sun Life Quilt Show (yes, I finished my wall hanging in time), St Patty’s Day Parade, and two hikes: one to McDowell Mountain and the other to the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center.

  • The Quilt Show was very informal. There were 3 or 4 of the quilters doing demonstrations (hand quilting, making rag quilts, and English paper piecing), no lectures or presentations. Also quite a few of the quilts were pieced only and not quilted. Although you couldn’t get by with this at most quilt shows, it is a common practice here since many are pieced at the park and quilted back home. The quilt in the center is mine. I used black and a fabric called stonehenge for contrast and a bright red border to pull it together. Most of the quilting is done in the ditch or shadow. I did stipple the black border and even worked a lizard and my name and date into the stippleing. The pattern is “Day and Night” by Eleanor Burns.
  • St. Patty’s Day Parade: first off, sorry I don’t have more photos but since we were in the parade, I couldn’t take as many of the other participants. Our group was the bikers and hikers, we decorated our bikes with pinwheels, crepe paper, and wore obnoxious hats. Behind us was street C who put together a hilarious team of horses, hobby horses that is. Then we had the line dancers, Shriners in their cars, the park band, St Pat with snakes trailing after him in a golf cart. And to wrap it up, free green beer on the patio with lots of music.


  • McDowell Mountain Regional Park: Scenic Trail. This was our first hike on our own and we got there later than we should have (hardly any shade on the trail). We learned of this trail from our same book, Hiking Phoenix, favorite day hikes. The effort was fairly easy but not so easy you might as well walk around the block. Little Piece of Luck: we happened upon a Ranger giving a nature walk and joined in. Now we know what Mormon Tea bush is (echinacea, now a no-no in diet pills) and Brittle Bush and smelled the wonderful Creosote (the Ranger poured water on it so we could experience what the desert smelled like when it rains). Back at the visitor’s center, Ray found a new hat for his ever expanding collection. It was a Horny Toad Lizard, very neat. We also bought a couple books on wild flowers and cacti and a children’s book for the grandkids.
  • And, lastly, the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center. This is really a nice facility and a great place to learn about other places like the Gilbert Water Ranch for bird watching. Walks are held along the Salt River twice a month through March Saturdays at 8 am. Our favorite sighting was a pair of Cinnamon Teals. We also saw a Virdin, Green Heron, Anna Hummingbird, and a good number of the famous little brown birds. Next year we need to remember our bird guides and to buy a second pair of binoculars.
Quilting, Retirement, Travel

Arizon Week #4 Highlights: March 14 – 20


Arizona Week #4 Highlights: March 14 – 20


Ray and I both tried something new this week (I’ll try to get photos later): 

  • I gave Line Dancing the good old college try. It was definitely a lot of fun. I called my Zumba classes back home in Normal, Grandma’s dance class. Well, this is just a continuation of dance class with quicker step changes. As in Zumba, we line up and follow the teacher. In both, the music is very important. The difference comes in how the steps are performed. Zumba works a full range of motion and steps or moves usually are repeated in sets of 8. In Line Dancing, the feet do all the work and balance is stressed with hands and posture adding style. Definitely a fun activity with fun participants. And of course, it requires practicing at the Music on the Patio Monday and Friday and the dance Thursday night (“Come Back Buddy”). 
  • Ray’s experience with shuffleboard was better than expected. Since he can’t see the end of the lanes, we were dubious at best at how this would work out. However, his years of bowling paid off. Since much of the objective is similar in that you have to get the ball/puck (or whatever you call it) down a lane and to land it strategically. Although not an instant success, he was pleased and went back for more during the ‘Pot Luck’ times (not tournament times).

Three trips this week rounded out our activities: 

  • Organ Stop Pizza – Pizza is good, but the show stopper is the Wurlitzer theater pipe organ. The organ and player slowly rise up out of the stage, slowly swiveling around so the whole audience gets a good view. The pipes take up an entire wall (about 100 feet). In addition there are a number of percussion and wind instruments that are played/directed by the player using designated keys on the organ. A relic of the silent film industry and not to be missed!
  • White Sox spring training at Camelback Ranch in Glendale. We bought tickets for a White Sox/Cubs game intending to go with our friends from Illinois but since they had to leave early this was another solo trip for us (amazingly Ticketmaster refunded two of the tickets on request). The ballpark was beautiful, the sun hot, the view good, parking easy. Unfortunately, my husband forgot that he is legally blind and couldn’t see most of the game. Plus he forgot his radio so he couldn’t check to see if there was any coverage. Then when leaving, there was a traffic snafu, so we detoured which took longer and ran into rush hour which took even longer. Lessons learned: find out if there’s radio coverage and take it with you; go out to eat after the game to avoid the traffic. Both of these lessons we already knew, but you’d think we’d remember as well…..
  • AQG Quilt Show 2011, Along the Desert Highway”: Ray and I both had fun going through this event. We got there early on Saturday so as not to miss the speakers. We attended two lectures:
  • Darlene Reid, “Crazy Quilts are the Gypsies of the Quilt World”. Crazy quilts are like a collage of fabric and momentos. Scotty dogs were popular in 30’s prints because President Roosevelt had a Scotty. Pins that have photos of long gone relatives on them (like campaign buttons today) make great embellishments. These were given out by funeral homes as mementos.
  • Carrie Nelson, Miss Rosie’s Quilt Co, “Tips Tricks, and Tools for Better Piecing”. Use the same ruler for measuring and cutting throughout the whole quilt, Niagra non-aerosol spray starch is available at Target and good to stabilize fabrics. It’s OK to press to the light side (rather than dark which has been the rule) especially if this helps keep the seams flat. May need to trim the seam allowance of the darker fabric if it shows through.

On the quieter side, I started machine quilting a wall hanging hoping to get it finished for the Quilt Show next week. This required spending most of Sunday down at the Craft Room where I managed to get the center part done. Unfortunately, while I was busy quilting away, Ray was checking out the trailers that are for sale. Hmmmm…


Arizona Week #3 Highlights: Feb 28 – March 6


  •  Another Hike! Well, yes. Same park (South Mountain, Phoenix), different trails. Much like the one before, it was quite a challenge with sections of loose rock to maneuver, deep ruts in the trail, and a slightly higher elevation. Best advice: use suntan protection, bring lots and lots of water, wear a HAT! The scenery was great as always, but the best part was a stop at Dobbins Lookout (top of Summit Road). This rustic look out tower has amazing views in ALL directions. There was even a small fireplace if you wanted to get warm or cook out. The tower was built in 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and named after Jim Dobbins who convinced the city of Phoenix to purchase and preserve the area as a park thereby keeping the mining industry at bay (great photo of Ray here on Flickr).
    The weather was absolutely perfect with some cool breezes which were much appreciated by everyone. Fellow travelers were all seniors, many ex-military (boy can they hike), retired teachers, retired corporates, all kinds but all helpful and friendly.
    And as a bonus, since I received a request for a photo of my shoes that have proudly kept me sure-footed on these trails, here it is. By the way, does anyone know what you’re supposed to do with the long lace when you pull these tight? I’ve never had this type before. And, yes, these are my handknit socks. I did NOT wear them hiking, just for the photo op.  
  • Note: a frustrating event occurred during our bike ride Wednesday. I lost my phone. Haven’t ever lost, lost it before. But there it is. I remember putting it in my pocket on the way out to the bike with the idea that I would put it in my pack. The poor thing never made it there. And, yes, we’ve looked everywhere in the trailer, on the road, at the restaurant where we ate breakfast, at our friends, we even called it – several times. Argh…. I did have a black cow later at the Ice Cream Social to down my sorrows in. yum!
  • Second hike this week was a bit different; we went on the Tortilla Trail in the Tonto National Forrest. Advertised as an old Jeep road, I have to tell you the ruts were uneven and deeper than my knee is in places. That is to say, it’s been many years since a Jeep drove up this trail I can tell you. The trail is an up and back trail and leads to an abandoned homestead. When they originally formed much of our country’s park system, they grandfathered in many of the existing homesteads. Once the owner and family had passed on, the land reverts back to the park. I don’t know how long this one had been abandoned, but access by horse (or in today’s world, maybe a 4 wheeler but probably not on the road) would have been the only connection to the outer world. There were some remnants of the buildings but it must have been beautiful and awesome to live here. All you can see in any direction were mountains and valley.
  • The Indian Fair and Market at the Heard Museum was a great way to wrap up the week. Unfortunately our companions (Bill and Joan) had to leave the park early due to a family emergency. Very sad and we will miss them, they certainly kept us up and going for the last 3 weeks. (Thank You B & J).
    This fair was an awesome display of arts and crafts by Native American Indians. The quality was amazing. I saw wonderful woven cloth, pottery, jewelry, baskets, and sculptures. It wasn’t limited to traditional native art either, there was a lot of unique contemporary work as well. If you can make it to the fair don’t forget your wallet. Although there were plenty of items such as earrings for around $30 to $40, there were also baskets at $3000 and huge hand painted pots around $11,000. To break up our visit, we walked the tents first getting a feeling for the variety and quality, we then went inside for a tour of the museum (also to get some perspective on the work we had been seeing as well as the complexity of the tribes in the area). After the tour we bought some lunch, sat and listened to some performers (guitar, singing, dancing), then took a final run around the tents and headed home. Oh, and this little guy came with us (www.turtleclanart.com), “The turtle is seen as strength and solidarity – old and wise and well respected.” Other facts: the turtle is one of 3 in the Oneida Nation, there are 13 squares on the turtle’s back – one for each of the 13 full moons in a year, the turtle offered his shell as a foundation in the creation story.
Holidays, Retirement, Travel, Uncategorized

Arizona Week #2 Highlights – February 21 – 27

  • We started the week hiking on the National/Mormon Loop Trail at South Mountain (literally on the South edge of Phoenix).  Our leader, Jim, is a big fan of the guide: Hiking Phoenix: favorite day hikes, originally No Jive pocket guide by Cosmic Ray. Not knowing that he liked this guide I had picked up a copy at REI the day before while shopping for shoes (serendipity). I also bought some very sexy-techno-comfy-safe hiking shoes: Salomon gortex XA Comp 5 in a yuppy red called, Rubis. I can’t tell you how much I love these shoes. They’re the first ones I’ve had in a long time that really fit well all around my foot AND give me room to wiggle my toes. Plus, I definitely felt sure-footed on the trail which was a blessing since the trail was most assuredly challenging.  
    Of note: first time hiking 5 miles in a desert environment – sun protection and water were my best friends, first time at higher elevations (1300 ft to 2100)  – I especially felt it when we were making a rugged climb, first time in Arizona – it’s really strange how you can see flat land for miles and then a mountain pops up out of nowhere.   
    Oh, and of course, Jim added a little side trip to include Thin Man’s Pass and the Hidden Valley. I had to decide if I wanted to be pulled through a crevice by both feet or face a daunting, rocky climb around. I chose the feet-pull-through option.
  • On Tuesday, we visited Taliesin West. I grew up admiring Frank Lloyd Wright and had visited many of the homes he designed in and around Chicago including Taliesin North (in Wisconsin). I was not disappointed. The attention to detail, sense of cohesion in design and use, and ability to amaze and wow the spectator were more than evident. I knew that FLW was centrally influenced by nature. However, I was not aware that ancient hieroglyphic designs painted on rocks around Taliesin were also a source of inspiration.See additional photos in my Flickr account for the hieroglyphics.
  • Later in the week there was a quilt show at the RV resort next to us, Tower Point (recently purchased by Cal-Am who owns the one we are in). We were very impressed. They had a lot of variety: some beautiful jackets they had made in a class together (I was jealous and lusted after several of them). 
  • Saturday some friends from Tucson drove up for a visit and we all piled into our cars and headed for the Musical Instrument Museum at the northern tip of Phoenix. Now you would think that such a museum would put together some nice collections and have some music playing and some info on the genre. Well, yes, and then some, and then some more! This place was amazing! When you enter, after paying a healthy-well-worth-it fee (senior discount, of course), they give you a device with earphones. As you walk around the displays, it senses where you are and where the nearest source is. Once it finds the source, it plays the sound bites associated with the source video, very cool. So, when at a regional African display, you see the music played on a screen and at the same time hear the music played, as well as see some examples of the instruments used.
    And, by the way, they don’t have just one African display, they have lots, not to mention every continent. When you leave the museum, if you’ve had time to see it all, you know you’ve gotten the full treatment from cultures primarily interested in rhythm, or dance, or melodies, to a full symphonic orchestra. But I do have to say that my favorite was seeing some of the instruments my daughter, Ellie has collected over the years actually used appropriately, including a huge gourd encompassed with beads woven together, hmmm – always wondered about that one.
    And, finally, as we were getting ready to head back to the park, I could hear some acoustic music in the hall. So, of course, I peeked. Another great treat, Tim Eriksen was giving an impromptu concert. I can’t repeat everything he relayed, but suffice it to say, he grew up with music and extensively explored music in rural and urban environments. Tim used indigenous instruments to convey a sense of different styles including New England murder ballads, “shape-note” gospel, Southern Appalachian, and Irish songs.
  • To wrap up this busy, busy week, we attended “Canada Day”. So you understand, I have to tell you that there is a very large contingent of Canadians in our park. From Saskatchewan to British Colombia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and even the territories. There are so many, that the park flies a Canadian flag next to the flag of the good ol’ USA. The Canadians are a fun loving group, they are always smiling, they’re active in dancing, hiking, biking, music, organizing, everything. So, to celebrate how happy they are, they have a celebration. Yes, there was lots of food and a band and dancing, but what made it different was the opening ceremony. They paraded their flags in order as they entered the confederation. As they paraded through the hall the master of ceremony gave a little history on each one while the bag pipes played (amazing ability). And to top if off, we even have two retired Canadian Mounties who put on their full dress uniform for the occasion. WOW!
Retirement, Travel, Uncategorized

First Week Highlights: Feb 14 – 20

Well it took the whole first week to figure out where the multiple calendars of activities/ events were, how to get them, what to do with them, where everything happens, and who’s in charge.

Favorite side trips organized by us: a visit to Tortilla Flats, a Gold Mine, Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Tortilla Flats is a privately owned oddity. It started as a stage stop in 1904. Today besides a ‘museum;, their restaurant serves yummy burgers and HOT chili while serenaded by some very accomplished country musicians. The Gold Mine is also a remnant of the old west complete with saloon, multiple little shops, a mine and the accompanying rail, and even a bordello. The Arboretum was really close, basically straight east through the Tonto National Forrest. It was amazing! They have a fantastic variety of indigenous plants. The initial motivation for the park was to provide a lab to research desert plants and their environment. The result is a great place to spend an hour or a day or two exploring the trails. I highly recommend adding this to your bucket list if you’re near Phoenix.

Resort activities: bicycle ride, swimming pool, coffee and donuts each week, pancake breakfast, the quilting room, Tai Chi, music on the patio for happy hour and an ice cream social, and Texas Hold’em.

What we didn’t do is a much longer list. Obviously, if you visit or live in a senior RV active resort, you need to focus on a couple of sports or classes for the first year, then look to expand in the future. Everyone I talk to says the first year or two is to absorb and learn the ropes. From then on, it’s as much fun as you can manage. We also have found that some RV resorts have better facilities in certain activities. For instance, one might have woodworkers, another jewelry including casting silver and lapidary, another might have gardening, stained glass, or sponsored trips. The trick is to talk with other seniors and explore other parks while you’re there.

Retirement, Travel

Arizona Escape – enroute: enjoying the drive

(February 9th – 12th): We drove from Minneapolis straight south to Oklahoma City which was still colder than you know what. Finally on day 4 of our escape from the chilly North, Albuquerque promised highs in the 50’s. So we planned on spending a day seeing some of the town. Our hotel, Best Western Rio Grande, promised they were very close to museums and the Old Town. Perfect!

Saturday the 11th of February. After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel (20% off, not free), we headed out to see Albuquerque’s Old Town. It’s a mish-mash of little quirky shops and some upscale in very vintage buildings. Two things stood out from our visit: the H. Joe Waldrum show at the The Albuquerque Museum of Fine Art and Rolling in Dough, a local bakery:

  • The museum is a good size museum, not Chicago big, but definitely a lot there to see, something for everyone. As we went through the (A Passionate Light: Polaroids by H. Joe Waldrum) we were not only impressed but also inspired. This artist is a successful painter living in New York with a natural affinity for the southwest. Initially Waldrum wanted to use polaroids to bring a fresh new perspective to his paintings. One of his patrons was so excited about this approach that he offered to buy whatever camera he wanted. His ulterior motive was to ensure Waldrum didn’t become too abstract (slipping down the slippery slope to obscure). So he went shopping. At first he worked with a salesman picking out a new Hasselblad with some fancy lenses, etc. But when the guy said he needed a light meter, he balked. The result: an inexpensive standard Polaroid camera with exposure controls, SX-70. What he discovered, and what I believe, was that by keeping the equipment simple he could focus on the image and lighting, putting his creativity where it was best. The result: 900 amazing prints with a lot of subtle and not so subtle variety. Waldrum was so taken with this approach that his Polaroid obsession would run him over $100 a day in film.  http://www.cabq.gov/museum/featured.html
    Other exhibits not to miss: an extensive sculpture garden and an amazing collection of Colcha Embroidery. Practiced by Spanish colonials and handed down through generations, Colcha became a lost art until a renewed interest in the mid 19th century when they began to collect, catalog, and create anew these colorful bed, altar and table covers. Colcha means a bed covering, but the colorful images were so popular, they were used for many other purposes as well.  
  • Rolling in Dough is a teeny tiny bakery with big results: there are amazing cookies (we tried the Italian Wedding Cookies), sweet rolls, and breads. To top it off, they have homemade soup so you can make a whole meal of it and take home breakfast, which we did! As Rachel would say, yumm-o.   


As much as I wasn’t happy about loooong driving days, I wanted to see more along the way. So we did. Taking our GPS, “Myrtle’s” suggestion (since I had programmed it for the shortest route, not the fastest), we headed south off US 40 on to New Mexico 117. This led us through the El Malpais National Monument and Apache Reservation before getting on US 60 for our final approach. What we encountered was some of the most spectacular scenery yet. It wasn’t quite a gravel road, but it was remote, isolated, and amazing. The highlight of this leg of the trip was the La Ventana (the window) Natural Arch in the Cebolla Wilderness. This area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, El Malpais National Conservation Area.
Finishing off the day of driving, we approached Mesa, AZ via the White Pine Mountains and Tonto National Forest. The first hour of driving was amazing, the second a bit more tiring but enjoyable. Finally arriving at Sun Life Resort, Mesa, AZ.