You haven't heard from me for a couple of days. Mostly because we have been just soaking up the fabulous weather and wandering around town indulging ourselves in pool time, pedicures, and good food.
But today was special. We met up with our friend and my former colleague Cathy McPeek, who moved out here in 2008. Cathy and I shared our work days, sitting side-by-side for seven years, and today, picked up right where we left off. Cathy is a keeper at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert. Those who know Cathy know she is a true lover of all kinds of animals. And she has a special place in her heart for the big cats. At the Living Desert, she has found a way to act on that love every day.
Cathy took us on a behind the scenes tour where we were up close to the animals while they had their morning meal. We learned how they manage the animals for feeding, transport, and medical care. And we visited the commissary where we saw how they prepare their food. We watched three cheetah sisters on their daily run and met Frankie, a very tame Kit Fox. It was fun to see that several of the animals recognized and reacted to Cathy's voice.
Next, Cathy took us up in the mountains where we enjoyed expansive views of the valley below and the Salton Sea 50 miles away.
After a delicious late lunch at Pinocchio's, Cathy took us on a driving tour of several neighborhoods where we had a close up view of some mid-century modern architecture. Thanks, Cathy, for a wonderful day!
Ah, California. We're spending the week in Palm Springs. Here's the view from our campsite.
The sites are small, but the hedges make it private. We are right in town with easy access to public transportation. Yesterday we explored downtown, and found a very mid-century modern coffee shop at a motel nearby.
Today, I took a short walk to Moorten Botanical Garden. It's a small, private arboretum created by a local family on their property. It is still being run by the children of the original owners. It contains more than 3,000 varieties of cacti and succulents.
The rest of the day was all work! Putting together the hammock the kids gave Doug for Father's Day, and sitting by the pool waiting for our laundry to dry!
Yesterday we headed west again, planning to make a stop in the desert on our way to Palm Springs. We stayed at the Black Rock RV Village in Brenda, AZ. This is where we first saw, and met, some people boondocking. That's camping for free, usually in the wilderness, without any access to utilities. Our neighbors were spending a couple of days at Black Rock and then heading back out to the desert. They had been out for nine days before taking this respite. They were so friendly, forthcoming, and enthusiastic, I had to hide my horror at the idea. I didn't have the heart to tell them that we are travelers, not campers; and that Winnie with full hook ups in a spotlessly clean campground is as close as I ever want to get roughing it.
We got to know these neighbors while riding into a little town nearby called Quartzsite. We thought the 'free shuttle into town' was such a nice little gesture compliments of the campground. Little did we know that Quartzsite's claim to fame is hosting one of the largest RV shows on the planet every January, thus the free shuttle. Imagine our surprise when we were dropped of in the midst of it! Most of those attending were ageing baby boomers like us. In response, there were at least 50 out of the hundreds of vendors offering products to ease aching joints, sore backs, and swollen feet. We also found every kind of 'fair food' you can imagine; live music and dancing at 1:00 in the afternoon; gem and rock shows; and thousands of RV's. Many were new and for sale, but just as many seemed to belong to vendors and visitors attending the show. When we can't find houses to visit, we are generally content to crawl through some RVs, so we were well occupied for a couple of hours. Here are a few pics to whet your appetite so you can be ready for January 2019!!
And one more thing. I woke up at about 4:00am this morning and noticed it was still quite dark. I stepped outside to take a look at the night sky. The stars were amazing! I haven't seen that many, so clear and so brilliant, since I was very young. I'm sorry I don't have a camera that could capture it for you. Believe me, I tried. In any event, you may know that Doug has a song for every occasion. He did not disappoint. I drifted back to sleep serenaded by Doug and the Eagles, 'I want to sleep with you in the desert tonight, with a million stars all around'.
Today was an outdoor day. The weather was clear, high temperature in the mid 70's, brilliantly sunny, with a cool breeze. We spent the day in the Catalina Mountains, visiting Sabino and Bear Canyons, and Mt. Lemmon. Here is a slide show starting with Sabino Canyon and ending with Mt. Lemmon. The canyons were dry, but we saw two 'beaches' along the way (sandy areas along the creek bed where you can see the dark line on the rocks nearby where water reaches when it flows). I can now identify mesquite and palo verde trees and gneiss rocks. A roadrunner stopped by to show off for the camera. And we saw a saguaro growing out of a rock, which is an indication how adaptable they are.
Then we decided to head for higher ground. Mt. Lemmon is over 8,000 feet above sea level. Being an Easterner, I have never been to that elevation before. Driving up the mountain, we could see Tucson to the south and the San Pedro River to the east. It was 20 degrees cooler when we reached the top, and there was a bit of snow left from a storm that came through last Saturday. See? the ice and snow are following us!
Our good neighbor Melinda, who used to live in Tuscon, suggested we be sure to see the Saguaro National Park and visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum while we are here. Today was the day. We approached the park through Grants Pass. As you come over the mountains this gorgeous desert valley dotted with saguaro cacti stretches out for miles.
We arrived at the museum in time to attend one of their free flight lectures. Today's session featured four types of raptors that were set loose while the narrator shared information about them. We watched them fly and hunt for prey while listening. One was a barn owl, so Dad, this one's for you! And many thanks to Melinda for a day we will never forget.
Today was a housework day that ended with a delicious dinner at El Charro Cafe. The downtown location was built in 1896 and is in the former home of the owner's family. It is the oldest Mexican restaurant in the US that has been continuously operated by the same family (since 1922). Excellent food in a cozy atmosphere. Here is a a picture of the place which in no way does it justice!
We love to see the neighborhoods in the cities we visit. Today started with a visit the U of A campus and some surrounding neighborhoods. The campus is a bit of an oasis--more grass and shade than I've seen in one place since we left Arkansas. The neighborhoods we sought out nearby were made up of 1920's bungalows and cottages which were for the most part, campus rentals. Kind of like the OSU area east of High Street, only adobe.
Our next stop was much more satisfying, The Mini Time Machine museum of miniatures. It was founded by Patricia Arnell as a way to share her own vast collection of miniatures with the world. Thank goodness for people who share their passions, no matter how esoteric. I have a fascination with small things, so this was a must-see for me. Much of the exhibit is a variation on dollhouses. But there are also things like Waterford crystal pieces replicated in 1/12 their original size, and miniature violins that actually can be played. You will also see Doug in the midst of a room full of Christmas themed displays, including a close up of Santa and his elves in their workshop; a couple of rooms in a witches' house; a house where the couple had vastly different tastes, Native American (upstairs) and Traditional (downstairs); and closeups of a few amazing doll house rooms. Here is a taste of what's on display:
We moved to the Mission View RV park because we could get only one night at the downtown location. This one is on the eastern edge of the San Xavier Reservation, which is the smaller of the Tohono O'odham Nation Indian reservations in the area.
We spent some time getting to know our new neighborhood, which includes the Spanish Mission San Xavier del Bac. It was built between 1783 and 1797. and is a National Historic Landmark. It has been in continuous use for over 200 years and was built by Tohono O'odham laborers. One of the signs inside suggested how surprised the Native Americans must have been when the Spanish arrived and told them they owned the land. I think dismayed and angry might be more likely descriptions! I also learned that the building, which is beautiful, looks somewhat like a mosque which is attributed to the Moorish influence when they invaded Spain in 711 A.D.
We also found Mr. K's BBQ. The barbeque is delicious and in addition to his culinary skills, Mr. K has also compiled some interesting history of African Americans in the Tucson area.
So our neighborhood has a long and complicated history. Oh yeah, and an awesome hot tub!
With our ever vigilant and faithful companions, we moved on to Tuscon, where we plan to spend the next several days.
We spent the night at Sentinel Peak RV park, which I highly recommend to those interested in staying in the city with public transportation and bike paths easily accessible. The park has less then 25 spaces, so it's wise to book in advance. And there is a large public park across the street. Adding to the fun of moving into a new neighborhood almost daily, we have some interesting neighbors. One with a vintage (looking?) Indian that Doug is coveting and another living in an authentic tiny house. My first face-to-face encounter with the real thing! The trucks next to it will give you an idea of how really tiny it is--smaller than our Winnie.
After settling in (we now have water on board for the first time since we left home--yay!), we walked a few blocks to the Mercado San Agustin, a public market. Think much smaller, and a bit more upscale, North Market. And next door, a six-generation Italian family circus had set up for the week. We had delicious cocktails and supper outdoors under a kumquat tree as the sun faded. On the walk back, we took a different route through the neighborhood and saw some houses being remodeled. As you know, we have a passion for looking at houses of all kinds, so having an opportunity to peek in some windows continued to feed our addiction.. Kind of a perfect evening!
Left Midland, TX this morning determined to finish our journey across the state. The desert became more desert-like and mountains came into view. We stopped in Van Horn (pop <1,900) for lunch and highly recommend Lizy's pictured below. We stopped at White Sands National Monument which is the largest gypsum dunefield in the world (275 square miles). It looks like shimmering snow anchored by desert plants. It's an amazing and beautiful place. As we left, Doug said, "This is why we are traveling."
And another reason we are traveling is the motor home pictured below towing a travel trailer and a boat! Now that's a lifestyle, right?
Ann, Doug, Moose, Darla, Sunny, and with gratitude, Winnie and Chinny.