Happy Canada Day 2020!

Canada Day 2020 is a steamy hot one in Winnipeg again this year, with temps in the 30s C. all week.

This is just a quick update on a few of our campsite improvements. Hope you can enjoy the day, even from a distance…

We had a heavy thunderstorm last night. The grass is green and the flowers are blooming. Still hoping for the trellis to fill in with black-eyed susan.
This is what some of our grass looks like up close and personal. There are a few bare and weedy patches that need to be overcome by the micro clover, but it’s getting there…
Our vertical garden is propped against a satellite dish stand, loaned to us by our neighbours, Brian & Henny. Thanks to our dear granddaughter, Isabella, for adding the musical notes, and the plant pot pics on the next photo!
The vertical herb garden is labelled and starting to grow, with the mint already dominating. Better make a rack of lamb to go with it!
It’s all looking like a place where we can stay for the summer. Cheers!

Stayin’ Put For A While

With the coronavirus still around us, now is not the time for travellin’, although I end this post with a travellin’ song I wrote during our quarantine. It is still a work in progress, with our dear son Andrew assisting with the musical arrangement. Watch for it at the top of the charts in the near future! Lol.

Adam shows Betty’s latest creation, made with love to keep him warm when Lisa isn’t around. lol

Speaking of work in progress, at the end of our last post I mentioned that we had begun upgrading our seasonal campsite at Town & Country RV Park in Winnipeg. This pictorial post chronicles that process.

Before the leaves arrived on the trees, we added 15 yards of gravel to our parking area, levelled with the assistance of our neighbour, Brian, and the park owner’s son, Kevin. With heavy rains last fall, large pools of water had covered much of our site. A new drainage system has now also been installed, so we hope to stay high and dry.
Park owner, Ken, then compacted the site with his tractor & roller.
I edged the parking area and patio with mini ties, secured with rebar.
Including a border for our sewer & water connections.
15 yards of good quality topsoil were then added to the site.
Andrew helped to create the patio area with large paving slabs.
As an experiment, we seeded the lawn with micro clover, in addition to grass seed. A large bag of grass seed was about $34., but this tiny bag of micro clover was $79.95! Sure hope it works!!!
The tiny micro clover leaves are starting to make an appearance. They are supposed to choke out other broad leaf weeds, and provide a green lawn during both droughts and wet weather. Because it is a low ground cover, it doesn’t need to be mowed often. And if we sprinkle it with vodka, it will come up half-cut. lol
Betty & Charlie watch the grass start to grow.
Who’s lookin’ at you, Charlie?
Betty is starting to make a vertical herb garden, from one of the left over pallets.
And our storage shed finally arrived. Not sure what caused the supply chain issues, but it seemed to take forever to get here!
It has just enough room for our bikes, ladders, and garden equipment.
Betty talked me into quilting also… Here I’ve taped off and started painting the design for a barn quilt.
The installed barn quilt, on the back of our shed, as seen through the trees.
A closeup view shows our name plaque, which came from a restaurant in Bragg Creek, Alberta 40 years ago. When you made a reservation, they would carve your name onto a board, which would be placed on your table. After dinner, you could either take it with you, or have it mounted with many others on a feature wall in the restaurant. They served great Alberta beef, so we went more than once, and did it both ways…
The planter below our other Alberta tree-sliced name board is made from left-over construction forms.
Four weeks on, the micro clover is still coming. It looks patchy in places, but hopefully will fill in soon.
Our add-a-room has finally gone back up on our new patio, expanding Betty’s sewing room, in anticipation of great things to come!

Well, as you can see, we haven’t been doing much travelling this month. Our plans are to stay put here until October, when we hope to head west to Vancouver Island for the winter. Campgrounds there stay open year-round. Yeah! In the meantime, here’s the first draft of that travellin’ song. Enjoy!

          A Travellin’ Song

Mountains and plains

Rivers and rain

What are we all going to see?

When the rat-race entwines

And we need to unwind

Where can we go to break free?

(Chorus)

Travel free with me

Travel free with me

Let us see all that we need to see

When the road takes us up

Let’s go to the top

And enjoy nature’s true reverie. 

Travel free!

—–

There are settings on earth

That fill us with mirth

With a joy that is really sublime

When we go there we find

Another place and a time

That lets us feel fully alive.

——

Travel free from the hate.

Get out of the gate

To see a world full of surprises

Enjoy travel time

And the people we find

Sharing love that brings joy to our lives.

——-

Wherever we go

Let’s remember to sow

The seeds of a love that unites

Bring peace to this earth

Join hands round its girth

And end all the stress and the fights.

——

When this life is over

Did we take time to discover

The miracles of people and places?

Did we find joy in travel

And wonder and marvel

At all that put smiles on our faces?

——

From oceans to ponds

From deserts to lawns

There is so much that we need to see

Join us on our journey

Wherever roads may lead

And learn to forever break free!

Travel free!

Graham Reddoch 2020

Cheers!

Happy Mothers’ Day!

The mother of our kids shows off a new haircut, courtesy of our eldest daughter.

Tomorrow we celebrate Mothers’ Day, but today would have been my mother’s birthday – May 9.  Betty & I are still staying put at Town & Country RV Park on the outskirts of Winnipeg Manitoba, so don’t have access to our archived family info., confirming Mom’s birthdate and the year she passed. Our memories aren’t what they used to be, but she would likely have been close to 100 years old now. We still miss her after many, many years. Mom was a great lady, but like those born on Dec. 25, her cards and presents were always combined – happy birthday slash mothers’ day… In hindsight, not sure how fair that was to her, since she should have been doubly celebrated every day of the year! Betty would say “ditto” for her mom too.

Betty has been hard at work making masks and quilts to keep our family warm and safe.

In my humble opinion, Betty has also been a great mom to our four grown kids, and a fine Nana to our three grandkids. (Can’t say she is a great grandma quite yet. Lol) Usually we would be getting together as a family to celebrate motherhood, but for everyone, this year is different.

Here is one of her creations, to keep our son Andrew warm at night.

Not only has the coronavirus been keeping us apart, it has also been creating a time warp, where days, weeks and months seem to blend together, and it is difficult to remember whether or not we are coming or going.  It feels like we’re all caught in a recurring episode of “The Twilight Zone”, a TV series that scared the crap out of me as a kid!

Betty has made and distributed over 100 coronavirus masks for friends and family, since our return to Winnipeg.

Time may seem to be standing still, but we need to appreciate the benefits of delayed gratification. The definition of delayed gratification is “The ability to delay the impulse for an immediate reward to receive a more favorable reward at a later time.”  Right now it is tempting to lose patience in waiting for the virus to pass, waiting for a treatment, or waiting for a vaccine. We want to return to normal and create a bright future, because being cooped up in isolation from friends and family is definitely not normal.  But an even worse second wave can hit us if we disregard health warnings before COVID-19 is under control. Hold on!

Valerie, Isabella, Kevin & Georgia appreciate the quilt Betty made for Valerie’s 40th birthday.

Mothers’ Day 2020 is likely to be much different from any we have experienced in the past, and hopefully much different from all future Mothers’ Days. But we can still take the time to recognize and appreciate the unselfish efforts of our moms, the moms of our kids, and the moms of our grandkids. In my case, it’s a remembered hug with my mom, a real warm hug with the love of my life – my wife, and a virtual hug with our kids and grandkids.  Looking forward to the real ones all round in future!

Betty works on another great quilt, in the tiny confines of our motorhome.

Stay safe, stay home, stay healthy and we’ll get through this together. Happy Mothers’ Day!

Betty also practiced her hair cutting skills on me for the first time. Hope to go back to my stylist again soon! lol

Cheers!

Since returning to Town & Country last month, I’ve been working on plans for improvements to our campsite, which was under water for much of last fall. As you can see, the leaves aren’t out yet, and overnight temperatures are still below freezing, We are far from the current 40 degree c. temps of Quartzsite, Arizona!
We have temporarily moved to the site in the background as we upgrade site 168, adding 15 yards of soil and 15 yards of gravel, as well as a storage shed. We will improve the drainage and create a microclover and grass lawn that should stay green & resist weeds during droughts and wet weather. It also doesn’t need to be mowed often. Yeah!

“Strange Days”

“Strange days have found us 
Strange days have tracked us down 
They’re going to destroy 
Our casual joys 
We shall go on playing 
Or find a new town 

Yeah!…”

Even though The Doors lead singer, Jim Morrison, is long gone (1943-1971), the words to many of his eerily dark, moody, mysterious and strange songs seem to resonate in these unpredictable times: Strange days indeed!

Back in the day, only teenyboppers and groupies showed outward excitement during live performances by popular bands. It just wasn’t cool to do more than nod appreciatively for a great song by an epic group. I was fortunate to attend live gigs by nearly all of the legends of rock ‘n roll, from Jimi Hendrix to Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, The Who and of course, The Doors. This was long before cell phones and their ever-present cameras, so there was little opportunity to chronicle these historic events. In fact, the saying goes “If you remember the ‘60s, you really weren’t there!” lol

My little Kodak Instamatic. Not quite as small as today’s cell phone cameras, which have a much greater resolution. The flash was good for 4 pictures, before it was totally dead. One had to wait days, if not weeks, for the photos to be developed, to see if you got any good shots…

Only once did I take my Kodak Instamatic camera to a concert, and it was The Doors at Cobo Hall in Detroit in the late ‘60s. Not sure if I even tried to use that little flash cube on top, which illuminated one shot before it died and turned 90 degrees.  In keeping with their dark and sultry songs, the stage area wasn’t well lit, and the pictures are very grainy, even though I was less than 50′ from the stage. I’m sure if I didn’t tell my son, Luke, that he was looking at Jim Morrison, he wouldn’t have known.

Betty & I are thankful to be nestled up close to our daughter’s home, where we can shelter in place. Our heated hose has a short run to an outside faucet, and our electrical connection is only 15 amp, but much appreciated! The foil covering the windows is usually to keep the heat out. In our case it serves to keep it in.

What the coronavirus has done for us all, as we continue to self-isolate and social distance from friends and family, is give us an opportunity for reflection. Those days hanging out at the Eastown and Grande Ballrooms in Detroit were not necessarily the best of times (although as I teenager I thought they were pretty great!) but they were part of the ongoing story of my life, and that of much of our generation.

We had a large dump of snow a few days ago, and the temp. dropped to -14c overnight (-21c with the windchill), with a daytime high of only -6c in Winnipeg, Manitoba. With auxiliary heaters in our plumbing bays we have proven able to survive such temperatures without winterizing and abandoning ship.

Even with its ups and downs, Betty & I have found that our overlandish odyssey has been one of the best adventures of our lives so far. COVID-19 has us cooped up in a small living space, with little or no face-to-face contact with the rest of the world, but we will all get through this together – as the sign on our daughter’s window declares – and we will gain a greater appreciation for the connections we have with each other, strange days or not.

Our upbeat granddaughter, Isabella, is always able to make lemonade from lemons. The window behind her proclaims: “We’re all in this together!”

Cheers!

“Strange days have found us 
And through their strange hours 
We linger alone 
Bodies confused 
Memories misused 
As we run from the day 
To a strange night of stone.”

        Song written by Jim Morrison, 1967

My life changed dramatically when I moved to Toronto in 1971 & met Betty. This pic of us was taken at Bet’s brother’s wedding in 1972. Finally got a haircut in 1973. lol

Going Home: The Long & Winding Road

“Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
Look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind.”

Betty & I found ourselves running on empty roads through much of rural Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South & North Dakota, & Manitoba, as we drove to outrun the coronavirus.

Like all other Canadian snowbirds, Betty & I were told to head for home before the COVID- 19 virus catches up with us. In addition to our regular travelling songs, Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty” seemed to capture our mood and experience, but it could just as easily have been Bruce Springsteen’s “Baby We Were Born To Run”, Ten Years After’s “Going Home” or “The Long & Winding Road” by the Beatles. Lol

Spring colours are now filling the fields throughout southern Arizona. Wish we could stay to enjoy them.

From the Painted Rock Petroglyph campsite, we headed east on Interstates 8 &10 to the Pima County Fair campground, where the FMCA International gathering was to be held this month. Of course, everything is cancelled. Lots of full-service sites were available, and for $28. we were able to flush out our tanks (after a winter of limited flushing) and re-fill our water.

We found ourselves on the Deming Lot, a Boondockers Welcome site on a dirt lane in southern New Mexico: a very convenient social-distancing location for us.

Our next night was spent at a quiet Boondockers Welcome spot in Deming, New Mexico. In keeping with social distancing rules, we were able to stay well away from our hosts, who were back at their home base in North Dakota at the time. The site is a vacant lot on a dirt lane, but served our purpose well.

Heading north from Deming we passed by Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which almost became the title for this blog post. lol

By the time we reached Coronado Campground in Bernalillo, New Mexico, where we had previously enjoyed a stay while visiting nearby Albuquerque & Santa Fe, the campground was reduced to its ordered limit of half capacity, with no sites available, even for dry camping.

Our overnight rest area, just south of Santa Fe, had great mountain views. The snow-capped peaks foretold what was about to come…

After a pleasant night at a roadside rest area just south of Santa Fe, we continued north, without a visit to the beautiful, but closed, downtown shops and art galleries.

We passed amazing rock formations along the road somewhere, just not sure where… lol

In our last post we mentioned our intention to continue north to Denver, before turning east. For some reason our radiator appeared to be guzzling antifreeze (we couldn’t see a leak anywhere) and our engine temp. gauge kept rising into the warning zone. We had been enjoying the scenery on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains (in that area known as the Sangre De Cristo Mountains) but decided to turn toward the prairies when we got to Trinidad, Colorado. Our engine temp. returned to normal on the flatland, which was a relief!

Many majestic snow-capped mountains came into view on our journey home.
While not our intended state sequence, Betty was able to add Colorado (state #39) to our sticker map last week.

We were soon on the kind of flatland familiar to prairie dwellers, and decided to stop for the night in a turn-off beside grain elevators in the small town of Pritchett, Colorado. It seemed like a quiet town that has seen better days, with most buildings on their short main street boarded up or abandoned. 

Broken windows and boarded up buildings greeted us in Pritchett, Colorado, but we thought it would still be a safe place for a quiet night’s stay. However, like The Boss: Baby we were born to run…

A couple of pick-up trucks passed by in the evening, but no one approached, which seemed fine due to the rules around social distancing. Betty & I had been on the desolate roads since early morning, and chose to turn in around 8:45 pm. When a gunshot was heard nearby at 9:00 pm, we leapt out of bed, deciding it was time to find another resting stop for the night!

A nice find for us along our route: the price of gas was at record lows. This pump was at $1.679/ gallon, but others were even cheaper. No need for running on empty…

We had our slides in and motor running in record time, and were on the road again before finding out whether we had heard a warning shot, or just a farmer shooting a nuisance  skunk. Lol

In Montezuma, Kansas, we found a full-service campground (Prairie Wind RV park) where we had lunch, dumped and filled up for $10. (drop-box honour system – no attendant.) The price included the night’s accommodation, but needed to get back on the long and winding road.

Springfield, Colorado is only 16 miles east of Pritchett, and contains a truck stop that was full of 18 wheelers when we arrived. We nestled in for a peaceful sleep before heading to the famous Dodge City, Kansas the next morning.

Because of our need to get outa Dodge, we didn’t have time to visit any of the local attractions. Maybe another time…

Betty has always wanted to tell me “Get outa Dodge!” so that is what we did after topping up with cheap gas at the local Flying J.

At Dodge City’s city limit, I think the Flying J gas was about $1.59/ gallon.

Later that day, we turned north at Salina, Kansas, onto a road often travelled in our trips to the south. A northbound rest area near Salina was our overnight campsite.

On the side of the road, just north of Salina, Kansas. Not much traffic either on or off the roads. We’re going home…

From there we continued north and then east to Pine Grove RV Park, between Lincoln & Omaha, Nebraska. Paying $44. for a full-service site was the most we had spent on accommodation for a long time (Our total campground cost from Yuma to Winnipeg was less than $100.) but it gave us a last opportunity to dump & top up before returning to Canada.

Charlie got quite the surprise when we let him out to pee in Fargo, North Dakota!

Our final night in the U.S. was in Fargo’s Walmart parking lot, where we were shocked to see high rows of snow piled across the lot.

We never intended to subject our Cruise Master to that white stuff ever again, but it was seen in increasing amounts from Sioux Falls, South Dakota northward.

Just after noon on Friday, we approached the normally busy border crossing by Emerson, Manitoba. Only one lane was open, and only two cars preceded us, with no-one behind. Nearly all information exchanged was coronavirus related, and after receiving our 14 day quarantine instructions, we were on our way to Winnipeg.

Granddaughters Isabella and Georgia greeted us from afar as we pulled into their driveway.

It’s been quite the run, and while we’re not quite running on empty, we are somewhat exhausted by the stress of dealing with the unexpected risks related to COVID-19. While hotels, motels and restaurants were closed, shopping malls exhibited huge vacant parking lots, and almost only commercial trucks shared the roads with us, we were still able to get gas along the way, always donning disposable gloves and paying at the pump. We didn’t stop for groceries since leaving Yuma, and were happy our daughter & her husband, Kevin, could drop emergency supplies at our door.

Betty & Charlie relax in a quiet, isolated spot in front of our daughter’s garage. It’s great to be back, even though we can’t have personal visits yet!

Yes, it was an unexpected long and winding road, but it’s great to be back with our family, even though we can only visit them through glass and share virtual hugs for the next two weeks. Hope you can stay safe and healthy through this strange time, wherever the roads take you.

Valerie made us each a delicious “quarantini” to de-stress with, during our period of isolation.

Cheers!

Coronavirus: Head For Home or Shelter In Place?

The world has changed immeasurably in the past few weeks with the pandemic spread of the coronavirus. Every day new unprecedented major decisions are taken by local, national, and international leaders in efforts to control the expansion of this deadly virus. Everyone is being asked to do the right thing to curtail the advancement of Covid-19. And so, many friends and family members who follow our adventures have been asking about how Betty & I are coping, and what our immediate plans are. Do we plan to head for Winnipeg or shelter in place?

Betty captured evidence of recent flights from Los Angeles on a bright sunny sunrise in Quartzsite, Arizona

On the one hand, the U.S. and Canadian governments are discouraging travel, because most known cases are currently travel-related.  And on the other snowbirds like us are encouraged to make a beeline back to Canada, in case the border becomes closed. As it stands, all discretionary travel is banned or limited, and some travel health insurance providers are warning that coverage may soon be ended. We have Manitoba Health and CAA coverage, but will it last if we do not immediately return to the province?

Our home, with little car on behind, packed and ready to leave our place in the sun.

For us, our motorhome is our home, and provides the best opportunity to safely “shelter in place”. We have been staying in the Arizona desert for the past four months, and there are few better places to practice social distancing, if that is what is required. We are fairly self-contained, with our own kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom, and as a general rule are already camped at least forty feet from our nearest neighbours.

Leaving a vast land under an equally vast sky…

Also, at the end of March and beginning of April, winter hasn’t left Winnipeg yet, and our motorhome would need to be winterized with antifreeze to prevent the plumbing from freezing and bursting. It would still be too cold to live safely or comfortably in our home, even if the local campgrounds were open, which I don’t believe is the case.

Hope you like sunsets, because it’s hard not to take pics of them in Quartzsite. Evidence of passing planes is still visible in the sky.

Yes, we have four grown children in Winnipeg with their own homes, but how easy is it to self-quarantine in someone else’s home, especially where grandchildren are involved?

Ok, this is the last sunset pic, for today…

So under the circumstances, what is the right thing?

A recent full moon rises over the desert. We had planned on going “howling at the moon” in Yuma with our neighbours, but our slide-out got stuck, so we couldn’t go.

Our original plan saw us heading into California for a leisurely, scenic drive through Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojavi Desert, Death Valley, Sequoia National Park, and Yosemite National Park, before heading east past Lake Tahoe, Reno, Nevada, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Mount Rushmore, among other attractions on that route. We would not be back in Winnipeg until we knew the snow was gone.

Parts of two bolts were left behind when our slide-out motor broke away from this bracket.

As new information is presented, we have literally changed our travel plans daily in the past week or so. About two weeks ago I was headed out to dump our black & grey tanks, and fill up with fresh water. But when I pushed the button to retract our living-room slide, nothing happened. With the able assistance of a number of kind neighbours, we discovered that the slide-out motor had broken loose from its mounting bracket. I searched on-line for a replacement motor, to no avail. One of our neighbours was able to remove the motor, and another manually cranked in our living room. Yet another neighbour supplied us with water, and offered to pump out our holding tanks, if necessary. But once we were mobile again, I performed the original task and took the motor to a machine shop in Yuma for welding.

Betty captured some of the colourful spring flowers on the roadside leading to Yuma.

The day before yesterday Betty & I said good-bye to Quartzsite and our great neighbours, and turned south toward Yuma, Arizona. Just before Yuma is another BLM campground, on the California side of the Colorado River, where we spent a quiet night. Known as Imperial Dam, we were finally able to add state #38 to our sticker map, before heading to C & C Machine Shop in Yuma yesterday.

State #38 – California – joins our sticker map, just not the way we planned it.

Manuel and his great staff at C & C did a fabulous job of repairing the motor, and welding a plate under one of our holding tanks, which had been sagging. He also found some of our lithium battery cables to be loose, and tightened them before sending us safely on our way.

These are some of the mountain ranges on the drive today from Yuma toward Tucson, Arizona. Yes, that’s a rotary dial phone on the dash. Call us! lol

Tonight we are at the Painted Rock Petroglyph campground, west of Tucson, where we had stayed on a prior trip. 

Betty & I are sheltering in place tonight at a scenic Painted Rock Petroglyph campsite, far from the madding crowds.

Given all of the current information, the answer to the question in the title is: We are headed to Winnipeg! Right now our plan is to take a fairly direct route through Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, before heading up through Denver, Colorado, and over to Nebraska, South and North Dakota, and back into Canada. We expect to cross into Canada by the end of March, and will need to sort out living arrangements along the way.

Obviously, Betty & I aren’t the only ones trying to make sense of this crisis. The grocery stores visited this week are out of toilet paper and other basics, as some people feel the need to horde. While some states have announced the closure of campgrounds and even highway rest areas, we hope that gas stations and other essential travel services will remain available during this most interesting leg of our adventure. 

While it’s not what any of us planned, Betty & I hope that we all can stay safe and roll with the punches, whether you shelter in place or head for home. Regardless of what comes our way, keep your chin up and wash your hands!

 Cheers!

Gary, Betty & Graham displayed their birdies on the Quartzsite golf course, before the six foot social distance rule took effect.

Welcome To Our Neighbourhood!

As full-time RVers, Betty & I follow the axiom on our doormat: “Home is where we park it”. Through our travels we have found many kind, friendly folk with whom we have shared stories and life adventures for a matter of minutes, or maybe days, and sometimes months. While even brief encounters can be extremely meaningful and memorable, our longer stays have resulted in lingering friendships, based often on a common love for travel and our shared encounters in that particular location.

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Some of our South Padre Island neighbours.

One of our first experiences with a sense of neighbourhood – and neighborliness while on the road – came from our stay at Isla Blanca Park on South Padre IslandTexas. The full-service sites in this county park are fairly close together, and many residents on our “street” near the beach were seasonal campers who had been going to not only the same park, but the same campsite, for 20 years or more. They were able to point to fully-mature palm trees and shrubs that they had planted years ago. Betty & I were warmly welcomed and invited to join in on local activities. It created a most enjoyable experience!

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The Reddoch Retreat sign marks our campsite in the Arizona desert.

While we had made a two week visit to Quartzsite a couple of years ago, and enjoyed our encounters with fellow travellers at that time, Betty & I had no idea what to expect as we planned an extended stay in the Arizona desert. 

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A full moon rises over the desert landscape.

There are no assigned parking spots on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land where we are staying, and campers can park as near or as far from others as they choose, although the local rule is not to set up closer than 40 feet from your neighbour, unless you are invited to do so.

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Dust from passing ATVs blows across the desert as dusk arrives.

We fairly arbitrarily chose a spot in La Posa West Long-Term Visitor Area, although there are thousands of acres of BLM land set aside for short or long-term camping stays. We chose the west side of the main dirt road, as the wind tends to blow from the west, so campers on the near east side receive more dust from passing ATVs and other vehicles. We chose to park near one of the “washes”, as the trees and other vegetation are a little more robust there. And we chose to not park too far from downtown Quartzsite, so we can make easy trips in for groceries and other necessities.

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No additional charge for these spectacular nightly shows.

The hand painted sign at the entrance to our “loop”, or cul-de-sac, as they would say in French (lol) identifies it as “Rattlesnake Flat”, although apparently the snakes have remained in hibernation for the duration of our visit so far. That’s fine with us! lol

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Betty goes clubbing at the Quartzsite links. Note the cone-shaped ball tee. In many places the ground is too hard to plant a regular tee.
Betty got a birdie during one of our golf games. You can tell because it’s pinned to her hat. lol. Gary & Cathy are in the background, with Cathy awarding successful players with a noisy bird. It’s always lots of fun!

As mentioned in prior posts, Betty & I have met all of our near-by neighbours, and find we thoroughly enjoy their company. We are living in a very laid-back, impromptu neighbourhood, where there are no raised angry voices, and generally there doesn’t appear to be a care in the world! Everyone seems to go out of their way to be helpful, and to watch out for their neighbours. It’s a very safe place to be. The warm sun shines almost every day, providing enough solar power to keep us going without those pesky hydro bills.  The cost of our campsite can’t be beat – $180. for seven months – so it’s possible to live on a very modest budget in this community. There is a lot to do locally (including a quilt guild and a free golf course, as previously noted), so travel further afield is optional. While there are a number of local restaurants, we enjoy preparing meals at our home base, often outside on our trusty Weber bbq.

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We did take a day trip to the west to visit friends in Palm Desert, California. Snow can be seen on the mountaintops in the background, but Palm Desert, at the bottom of this hill, was nice and warm.
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Betty catches up with old Winnipeg friends, Debbie & Bev, at their Palm Desert condo. The condo is near Frank Sinatra Drive and Dinah Shore Boulevard…
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Their condo backs onto a golf course, which is a little more lush than the Quartzsite golf course. lol

After dinner, it has become customary to join our neighbours at a communal fire. One neighbour has a large truck that he has regularly loaded with free firewood from Yuma to the south, and Alamo Lake to the northeast. 

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Gathering at the Quartzsite nightly fire.

Those who know me know that I cannot sing, but do know one campfire song: The Mountain Dew song. Well one night I sang a few verses, until Betty told me to stop and another neighbour encouraged me to continue. Following the rule “Happy wife = happy life” I shut up, but prepared a few more verses for the next evening’s fire.

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A warm neighbourhood gathering by the fire, with Charlie watching from the centre right.

Now known as Kevin’s Quartzsite Fire Choir, in honour of our campfire host, we have the following verses, with hopes of one day making our Grand Ole’ Opry debut:

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A roaring blaze with free firewood from Alamo Lake, Arizona.

The Quartzsite Mountain Dew Song

(Chorus)

Well they call it that good ol' mountain, mountain  dew,
And them that refuse it are few.
I'll shut up my mug if you'll fill up my jug
With that good ol' mountain dew!
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Kevin’s Quartzsite Fire Choir prepares for a visit to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
Well my good friend Kevin
Is in a little part of heaven 
In the Arizona desert known as Q  
Every night he lights a fire  
And the only way to get higher
Would be drinkin’ that good ol’ mountain dew!
(Chorus)
If you look closely on the right, you can see the truck Bruce uses to bring in free firewood from Yuma & Alamo Lake.
Well then there was Pat
She just said “Imagine that
We’ve assembled us quite a crazy crew!
They’re in Quartzsite for some beer
But what they really need is here – 
It’s a cistern of that good ol’ mountain dew!”
(chorus)
Well my neighbour Bruce
He came lookin’ for the juice
He was wondrin’ if it was really true
If Kevin lights a fire
Is he really gonna get higher
By drinkin’ that good ol’ mountain dew?
(chorus)
Well there’s Cathy & Gary
The way they golf it is scary
Every shot is another woo hoo!
They put the ball on the green
On every hole that I’ve seen
Because they both had lots of good ol’ mountain dew!
(chorus)
Well our neighbour Marvin
He comes out with dear wife Ardith
To discover what’s all that ballyhoo?
His neighbours just won’t be quiet
Are they getting in a fight
Over who drank up that good ol’ mountain dew?
(chorus)
Well Darlene & Dale
Have a life that just won’t fail
They're having fun in everything they do
Whether going on a cruise
Or with Debbie they can’t lose
‘Cause they’re chuggin’ lots of good ol’ mountain dew!
(chorus)
Well Betty’s sitting by the fire
Her eyes sparkle like sapphires
Is that love she shares with even me and you?
No, it’s just a touch of lust
Mixed with all that Quartzsite dust
And a hearty dose of good ol’ mountain dew!
(chorus)
Well Mike & Elaine think this place is insane
What’s with all of these crazy yahoos?
What brings everyone to Quartzsite?
Is it because no one’s uptight?
Or ‘cause we’re hankerin’ for more good ol’ mountain dew?
(chorus)
Well Bob is a dear
On his bike there’s no fear
His rides around here are more than just a few
Is he looking for a drink
To whet his whistle don’t you think
He’s just on a search for good ol’ mountain dew?
(chorus)
Well Charlie’s dawg-gone pretty
Even though he’s awful dirty
He really needs a very good shampoo
But the problem here tonight:
There’s no water in Quartzsite
So we’ll have to wash with good ol’ mountain dew!
(chorus)
Another free neighbourhood light show.

Cheers!

Saying Goodbye Is Never Easy

The summer I turned 16 I met this adorable young petite blonde girl from Windsor, Nova Scotia. She had come to Toronto to spend the summer with her grandmother, aunt, uncle and family. She came to my house with a friend and met my brother Bill and *BAM *- he was head over heals in love. Heather went home after her visit but was quick to return to live with her grandmother, and that began the love of a lifetime between Heather and Bill. 

Heather & Bill celebrated Canada Day with us at Ontario’s Lake Simcoe in 2018.

Heather and I attended high school together at Western in Toronto and became very close friends. Heather and Bill married shortly after her graduation. 

During happy times: Rob, Heather, Bill, Betty, Deb, and Graham at the beach. Everyone but Graham attended high school together.

Heather was a great wife, mother, grandmother , good friend and sister. We went through trials and tribulations with joy and love   We were family. 

Heather, surrounded with love and her immediate family. Back row: Brett, Bill, Craig. Front row: Ethan, Jacob, Cynthia, Heather, Alma & Hunter.

When Heather was first diagnosed with cancer it was shocking to all of us. Her prognosis was poor but she was a fighter and the 3 months that she was given turned into 26. She fought hard to be here for family but in the end cancer won.  She went quietly from this world on Monday February 24, 2020.

Heather, Christine & Betty share a laugh.

Valerie and Lisa flew from Manitoba and I from Arizona to Ontario to be with our family. Heather will be greatly missed by all who knew her. 

Rest In Peace my dear sister. We will miss you.

Bill, Jack, Heather, Christine, Betty & Graham shared a last meal together in southern Ontario, April, 2019. It’s always hard to say goodbye!

MORE Fun In The Desert Sun

What could Betty & I possibly do to occupy four months in the Arizona desert? Surely we would get bored out of our tree – except the word “tree” must be used loosely here, since most are sad looking scrub bushes, withering in the winter heat. Today we found yet another answer regarding how we can spend our time.

Betty has recently moved her quilting centre further out into the desert. Her sewing machine and iron still have electricity thanks to a very long extension cord attached to our solar system, and she is sheltered from the scorching sun by our beach tent. BTW, I put the margarita down beside her, in order to take the pic. Charlie is chillin’ in the shade, under the chair.

We were invited by our neighbours to play a round at Quartzsite’s famous golf and country club – well except the country club is a falling down single-seater outhouse that we don’t think is suitable for use any more – certainly not a place to join together for 19th hole festivities. Lol.

The Quartzsite Golf Course sign. Someone didn’t heed Johnny Cash’s warning not to take your guns to town, son.
The 19th hole has seen better days at the Quartzsite Golf Course. It’s the only facility at the course.
Betty, Cathy, Elaine, Gary & Mike celebrate on one of the Quartzsite golf course greens (or maybe they should be called “browns”. lol)

I had purchased new clubs last winter in Florida, and took beginner lessons in Winnipeg last spring, but Betty hasn’t been on the links since we had to invite the 23rd group to ‘play through’ on the first hole of Bayfield, Ontario’s Bluewater golf course. If it had been a par 30, she likely would have holed at 10 over par…lol. That was at least 40 years ago, and she wasn’t too inclined to give it a try again. Truth be told, after that experience, I wasn’t too inclined to invite her to join me either…

There is actually no hole at the base of the flag on the “greens”. To get a hole in one is to get the ball within the scribed circle.
Betty keeps her head down, missing the fantastic view, but not the ball.

But this was different. This is desert golf!

Betty addresses the ball in the tee box, as she prepares to let it rip down the fairway. (One must pretend there is a fairway. Random rocks can send your ball careening well off course. Not your usual hazards. You don’t need to worry about water hazards here! lol)
Gary sends some dust flying as his orange ball heads for the pin.

The first step in desert golf is to ensure you don’t use a good set of clubs. Instead, I visited a local flea market where I perused the options. Told I only needed one club – a 5 iron – the flea market proprietor attempted to upsell me. He claimed I should also have 3 & 8 irons.  I hesitated and said “but how much would that set me back?” He replied “$6.” and I assumed he was talking about $6. EACH. So I said “I’ll just take the 5 iron.” He says “OK, that’s two bucks.” I said “two dollars, are you kidding me?” When he replied “No” I said “OK, I’ll take all 3 clubs”, and he graciously threw in 3 golf balls with the deal.  We were set!

Cathy has a killer instinct and style, but she gets the job done!

The second step is to take the dirt road to the course, but don’t bother taking your wallet: There are no green fees, because there are no greens! This is the desert, remember. Also, there are no real fairways, and by the way, there are really no rules either. It’s all just for fun!

Mike sends his ball straight for the pin. Note the comfortable spectator seating at this hole, courtesy of a famous bus company. I wonder if they would pay for that ad placement??.

Since golf tees don’t hold up well in this rocky terrain, we were issued little orange ball holders, with awards given for whomever’s ball holder gets wacked the furthest. And you need to re-tee the ball for every hit, since many lies would break those expensive clubs. If one is lucky enough to birdie a hole, Cathy carries a pocket full of noisy little battery-operated birds that must be clipped to the brim of your hat until the next hole. I never did get to see what the eagle looked like. Lol

Gary gets well teed off at this hole also.
Elaine is about to swing into action on this picturesque course. She always makes it look so easy!

Well, in fact we did laugh out loud the whole round, and very much look forward to playing the course again. Whoever said there was nothing to do for four months in the Arizona desert obviously has never been to the Quartzsite Golf Course!

Betty stays clear of the unusual hazards on the Quartzsite course: The snakes are not out of hibernation yet, but their holes, and those of gofers or other desert dwellers, are everywhere.

Cheers!

Mike aims for the pin on this 91 yard par 2 sixth hole.
Another spectator seating area awaits at the 12th hole (complete with headrests!). No one was watching for Tiger Woods today. lol.

Those who know me know that I am not much of a morning person, but we had to complete our round before noon, because the sun is a little too scorching after that. Despite the early morning rise, I’ll be back for more fun in the desert sun, bringing my handicap down one way or another! Cheers!

Hallelujah!

Well I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah”

Andrew plays a chord while Valerie listens.

As our eldest son, Andrew, played the chords of Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallellujah, in the backyard of our Phoenix-area rented home, Betty & I enjoyed the company of our family for a belated Christmas celebration. We were in a community appropriately named Anthem, Arizona!  Our fabulous week together can best be summed up in one word: Hallellujah!

Our belated Christmas family gathering. Back row: Graham,Adam, Lisa, Valerie, Andrew, Allon.
Front row: Kevin, Georgia, Betty, Isabella, Luke & James, with the wrong end of Charlie in front.

For the first time in 40 years, we had not been together with our family for end-of-December festivities. Betty & I were anxious for a happy gathering to take place.

Before our family’s plane landed, Betty & I enjoyed an Arizona sunset over our backyard bbq area.

We didn’t want to drive our motorhome back to Winnipeg, necessitating winterizing and de-winterizing, and we didn’t want to put our aging golden doodle, Charlie, in a kennel and fly home. So we said to our family: “If we rent a house in Phoenix, will you come and spend a belated Christmas with us in January, when flights are cheaper again?” They all answered “yes”, and our gathering last week was the result. As a bonus, my brother, Allon, was able to fly down from the Yukon to spend a couple of days with us as well.  A great time was had by all, with the following pictures providing some evidence. 

Our now 12 year old Isabella chills in a backyard seating area with her Nana and Uncle Andrew. That’s not real grass, btw, this is Arizona…
Luke and James try a game of bocce ball, while Adam, Georgia, Valerie & Lisa relax in the sunshine.
Our yard also included a putting green, with some holes more difficult than others… Not pictured are the beanbag toss game and tetherball court.
Andrew lines up a shot in the billiards room.
Lisa takes a break in the backyard hammock.
James, Isabella & Georgia challenge Nana to a game of Monopoly in the family room, while Charlie watches the fun. Note the home owners left the Christmas tree and some decorations up for us – much thanks!
For one of our day trips, family members went fruit-picking on a local farm. The various types of fresh oranges and grapefruit were delicious!
Another day trip was to the Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. Here a 1967 Volkswagen bus is on the block.
I missed out on buying this 1961 Nash Metropolitan. Back in the day, I owned two of them – a 1957 & 1959, purchased for $75. for both. I think this one went for a little more…
Andrew & Kevin check out this hot yellow Bugatti. I would have bought it, but didn’t like the colour. lol
We also went for a hike around nearby Lake Pleasant.
Lisa & Adam stand amazed by the giant cactus, on a clear blue sunny Saturday in January.
A variety of plants, not seen in Manitoba, caught our attention along the path.
This cactus reminded me of directions from our navigator: Which way do we go?
Kevin and Valerie share a kiss along the path.
Andrew finds himself deep in conversation with his niece, Georgia.
Back at our home, it’s time to cool off in the pool. Here James and his dad splash it up.
Valerie checks her phone by the pool.
Betty takes a break in one of the quiet outdoor seating areas, while Charlie naps nearby. The home had comfortable outdoor seating for approximately 40 people.
Bet, Lisa & Valerie consult on meal preparations in the spacious kitchen, while Isabella passes on the way from the pool.
For Christmas dinner, Kevin did the honours of carving the birds. And of course, before we began, I had a captive audience for the traditional playing of the Queen’s Christmas message, and the reading of the story of Jesus’ birth from my new NET Bible. As the Queen says: “A happy Christmas to all!”
After dinner, Uncle Allon examines a number of family pictures brought by Andrew for the occasion, while Georgia, Betty, Valerie & Andrew look on.
Lisa, Andrew, Adam & Betty take on a challenging puzzle, while Uncle Allon tells a story.
The northern lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see… Betty, Andrew, Adam & Lisa celebrate completing a challenging puzzle.
Lisa plays a late night game of bocce ball.
In the evening, we all retired to the patio, warmed by our love for each other and the overhead heater.
Andrew gives his older sister, Valerie, a hug.
Betty has some snuggle time with her granddaughter, Isabella.
Keeping us alive with the sound of music.
Andrew plays another chord, while Uncle Allon, Valerie, Betty, Lisa, Georgia and James catch up. Hallelujah!

Overall, it was a wonderful experience for a couple of full-time RVers to spend some quality time with their family.  We hope that all who wander this earth can find opportunities to connect in ways that inspire and evoke the response of King George II, on hearing George Frideric Handel’s Messiah: Stand up and sing Hallelujah!

Andrew stretches his long arms for a group hug.

Belated Merry Christmas & Cheers!