April 15, 2013
Dear Family and Friends,
We’re late writing this year but with good reasons.
We arrived home on April 2 and unpacked and reorganized the house after
four months in Arizona. We finished the taxes a few days later, and we
both had several medical appointments that were scheduled for as soon
as we got home. We’re still not done with those, but we have some
breathing space this weekend.
SO, HOW WAS YOUR
WINTER IN THE DESERT?
Four months in the Arizona desert is
quite a change
and a challenge from our usual life style at 8,500' in the Rockies. The
winter of 2012-13 will be remembered for so many reasons.
While we missed this year’s relatively dry and warm
Rocky Mountain winter, we arrived home only a few days after a major
spring snow; we had only to wait another week for the next one to hit
us. As a result, we’re now looking out over snowy woods, mud in the
drive, partly sunny skies, and smoke from our wood stove rising from
the chimney. It’s a familiar sight at this time of the year Colorado’s
Front Range. We know we’re home and feel the comfort of mountains: the
tall trees, the quiet, and clear alpine air. The warmth of the desert
is a nice change during the cold months of winter at 8,500', but it’s
Bella and Lucy knew they were home the instant they
jumped out of the car leash-less and dashed helter-skelter into the
woods and around the house and garage checking for old friends,
familiar smells, and signs of visitors over the time they were away.
They knew they were home as surely as we did. And just as happy.
Our four months living at Desert Trails RV Park had
its ups and downs. Many folks there had either the flu, very bad colds,
bronchitis, pneumonia, or some other respiratory ailment. Some serious
enough for a
doctor’s visit or stay at a hospital. We were among those who were
spared these conditions.
Some health issues may have been exasperated by
Tucson’s coldest, wettest winter in over twenty years. In fact, we
experienced near-blizzard conditions (i.e., severe snow blowing at
least 35 mph for at least three hours; ours lasted for two hours one
day in February, with large flakes and very limited visibility.) Who’d
have thought? This freakish weather was part of an overall cold—for the
southwest desert—January and February. (The photo above was taken from
On the other hand, we were not to escape our own
troubles. Judy split a tooth to the root (eating a sandwich!) which
required, in the end, a trip to Dr. Gonzales in Nogales (Sonora,
Mexico) who bonded the fracture in the belief that it would hold for a
few months until she returned to Colorado and a visit to her regular
dentist. It did, and she is currently in the process of dealing with
Many people believe there are excellent dentists and other health
professionals in Mexico with clean, high tech facilities and US
dental/medical school diplomas on their office walls. Many Americans
and Canadians regularly spend time in Mexico during their winter
getaways for excellent treatment costing a fraction of what American
and Canadian dentists charge.]
The poor weather and a painful heel/plantar faciitis
problem threw off Judy’s usual running program: she ran fewer times and
usually not for as long as usual. While she has seen her foot doctor
since returning and he has given her the OK to begin training for the
upcoming racing season, she’s not where she‘d like to be this close to
the Bolder-Boulder 10K on Memorial Day. She is working hard to return
to her usual speed and endurance.
Hughes’s knee, which has been troublesome for
several years, finally made it clear it was time for drastic measures.
After one of his few hikes this winter, a 5-6 mile trek through the
Tucson Mountains, wearing his knee brace and with hiking poles, his
knee was sore. The next day it hurt continuously; the second day the
pain made it nearly impossible to walk. So he finally called his
orthopod in Boulder and scheduled a knee replacement, something he’d
put off for years (in denial? waiting for a miracle? thinking it would
go away? convinced he could live with it?) Silly boy!
He’s due to meet with Dr. Paul (who successfully
repaired Hughes’s shoulder last April) at Boulder Community Hospital on
May 6 for a total knee replacement, followed by physical therapy until
everyone is satisfied he is no longer disabled. How long will that be?
We’ll give an update in early summer.
We should add into the mix of health issues and
other misadventures this past winter the problems Bella and Lucy faced
while away from their mountain home. While neither confronted a coyote
or rattlesnake or javelina, Bella came down with a mild urinary track
infection that prompted a trip to a local vet. Ten days of antibiotics
took care of that.
Lucy, on the other hand, had issues that still
remain unclear to us. After about a month she seemed at times fearful,
listless, and/or in some pain. She rarely seemed to look forward to
daily walks. She was more interested the times we went to a dog park or
public park (what dog doesn’t like grass, even dry and brittle Tucson
grass?), or just out in a desert area where she could run and roam
without much restraint. This makes sense because she is rarely on leash
here at home. A trip to the vet resulted in an expensive and
inappropriate diagnosis (we were told it was spinal pain!) in spite of
what appeared to be a thorough exam including x-rays. She is definitely
back to normal now that she’s home and the leash is only a sometime
thing. But it’s something we need to be concerned about when we return.
SO, WHAT DID YOU DO FOR FOUR MONTHS?
Thank goodness both of us could bicycle this winter, Judy more than
usual to compensate for less running. Working around the weather
(primarily the wind) we regularly logged 6-12 miles daily, and
occasionally up to twenty when the weather was ideal. There was also a
group ride planned for each Monday morning, always followed by a group
lunch like the one pictured here at Magpies Pizza on 4th Avenue.
Judy became enthusiastic
enough about road biking to call our son Michael and put him on an eBay
bargain hunt for a first rate women’s road bike. Desert Trails resident
Jack from Oregon (who this winter probably logged 200–400 miles weekly)
was especially encouraging to her interest in extending her mileage and
went with her on several longer rides. As a result she’s improved her
strength and endurance a great deal and has found cycling more fun than
she thought, an enjoyable complement to her running. As for Hughes,
bicycling was the one activity that his ailing knee permitted.
In addition to a organized road bike group that rode together weekly,
there was also a mountain bike group that roamed the desert trails
where cactus, cholla, and rocks occasionally cause riders to return
bloodied, bruised, and looking like pin cushions. The only nasty
incident among the road bikers was a dog bite that occurred in a
neighborhood near to the park. Treatment was given, pictures were
taken, officials were summoned, and the dog, which apparently had a
history of being loose and unsupervised, was taken away. Walt will
carry a scar on his leg for some time.]
We found additional exercise in our regular geocaching excursions.
Armed with an area map and a GPS device of some kind, we set out two to
three times a month with Joel, on the left (he owns a comfortable Jeep
that can go
anywhere), his wife Patty, who always wears a hat (who lets him know
when his driving scares
the hell out of her), and Frank, who also wears a hat (who helps scout
areas for the hidden
caches) in search of containers from the size of the joint of your
little finger (“micro”) which might only contain a log sheet, to a
large ammo box or camouflaged plastic jar with room for lots of trading
items: toys, coins, jewelry, etc. Hughes’s role was to navigate to the
locale and Judy was along to find the cache.
In addition to the delight of finally finding what
is often a cleverly hidden container, we visited many different areas
of Tucson, both urban and desert locations. Each search involved a
short hike (rarely more than a mile). We would usually look for 6-7 a
day. In the process we discovered new restaurants (especially The
Original Hideout: great burgers and roasted chicken specials and an
excellent neighborhood restaurant, Taco
Giro: great authentic Mexican food) which we returned to several
HIKING. Judy was a regular with the Thursday hiking group who
drove to a variety of mountain areas for some spectacular hikes, many
challenging, and usually lasting all day. Gates Pass Loop, Sabino
Canyon, and the Tubac River were among the new hikes this year. But two
hikes were most memorable: hiking the Cochise Stronghold in the
spectacular Dragoon Mountains west of Tucson which was the rugged
canyon area where the Apache chief eluded capture until 1872 when he
was persuaded to give himself up; and summiting Sombrero Peak, (the
official name is Safford Peak) a notable landmark on the horizon
northwest of Tucson just within the boundary of Saguaro National Park.
The climb is made more challenging because there is no developed or
LECTURES, CLUBS, CLASSES, ET AL. Just as we didn’t last year, we
did not take very much advantage of lectures or ongoing interest group
activities. Hughes attended a couple of meetings of the Photo Club, but
could never seem to get hold of their activities. Judy tried learning
line dancing, but it too often conflicted with the hiking group which
she preferred. The Quilting Class produced some magnificent soft
sculptures, but Judy found the time commitments too great—and she did
not bring a sewing machine. The Creative Writing group presented an
evening of their best writings, most of which were excellent: strongly
emotional or outrageously funny. But joining the group never captured
We attended an outstanding presentation of photos,
videos, and music of a trip to Vietnam by Barb and Bob who spent most
of February there. It was very professionally done. Their images and
stories of their experience made us want to make plans to go ourselves.
Hughes attended a workshop on creating web blogs. It seems easy enough
but, except for the basics he produced during the workshop, he’s not
gone ahead with one as planned.
We should have been more interested in the RV Travel
Club meetings, but like the weekly jam sessions, painting classes, and
crafts classes, we never found time or interest to join up. We even
tried Tai Chi exercises, but didn’t have enough motivation to continue
after a couple of sessions. Judy did stay with an exercise class that
combined yoga and Pilates.
As you can see, there were many opportunities and we
could not do them all. We truly were busy and often went to bed
exhausted and fell asleep instantly.
FUN AND GAMES. Bingo, bridge, pinochle, and bocce provided
regular game entertainment.
Hughes won enough at bingo the first Thursday night
we were there to pay for the installation of a TV satellite system for
the rig. (Given the chilly weather, it turned out to be a pretty good
investment—and we can reconnect the system when we return.) We
generally think of bingo as a kids game (which it is) but it clearly
has strong appeal to seniors who like to gamble a wee bit. (We heard
recently that it is now becoming very popular with younger adults!) We
spent $9 between us each night.
Monday evenings were set aside for bridge with the
few other bridge players in the park. Joel and Frank were regulars from
last year, and on occasion Joel’s sister and Walt filled in when
needed. We tried to teach bridge to another interested couple, but we
ran out of time.
However, pinochle became the mainstay of our card
playing this year. It began before Joel and Frank arrived, and we
became part of a core group of about eight who played 2-3 evenings a
week. Hughes was even able to find an occasional cribbage game with
Christine (seen in the photo giving Bella a little love). We were
introduced to Wizard, which often ended a
pinochle night when there were more than four players still interested.
We liked it well enough to buy a deck of Wizard cards and are looking
for a group to teach it to here at home.
Judy was a late comer to joining the bocce players
which played on Sundays and Wednesdays. Since there is no shuffleboard
playing at Desert Trails (and who would want it?), it is a good way to
enjoy some friendly competition.
LIVE CONCERTS. Desert Trails holds two concerts each week,
usually on a pass-the-hat fee basis, with only a couple that required
advance purchase at a fixed price. Except for a team of comedians who
bombed, all were musical performers who played everything from country
and western and bluegrass to Celtic and mariachi and jazz. Some were
families with several children performers who live on the road much of
the year; some were solo acts; some were two to five member groups.
Several were quite good and a couple were outstanding.
Tuesday and Friday evenings we usually spent at the
rec hall enjoying these live shows. Those we would see again in a
heartbeat were local singers Lisa Otey and Diane
Van Deurzen whose
songs are bluesy,
jazzy, and sultry offered cabaret style. Though they have toured the
world, their home base is Tucson and they play Desert Trails at least
twice a year. We also looked forward to hearing again the most talented
high school group we know: Mariachi Aztlán de
Pueblo High School. All
are high school students who play with gusto, sing traditional songs
from Mexico, and occasionally dance during their performance. They have
made albums, music videos, and toured the country, and like Lisa Otey
and Diane Van Deurzen, they play at Desert Trails at least twice a
The Bar D Wranglers
from Durango, Colorado, were the
best cowboy and western group we heard, and the Dusty River Boys
great bluegrass. Avril Bird,
“The #1 Native Indian Player in the
U.S.A,” was a favorite. The one performance we wanted to see but missed
was the folk music of William Florian,
a former member of the New
Christy Minstrels. His show was well attended and folks said he was
terrific. Instead, we traveled to Green Valley to hear one of our
favorites, singer-songwriter Tom
Russell in a live performance.
DID YOU EVER LEAVE DESERT TRAILS?
We could have spent virtually all of our time at
Desert Trails and forget that there are things to do and places to go
beyond the park. Except for food and other necessary provisions, you
could just stay in the ‘hood.
However, we do leave to go biking, hiking, and
geocaching. And more:
•We had a visit from Lee and Irene, two of
Judy’s high school friends who were vacationing in the area. We spent a
chilly day at the Old Tucson Studios
and theme park, where dozens of
movies and TV shows were filmed (and still are occasionally). We sat on
cold bleacher seats to watch a hokey staged shoot-out along with a
group of visiting Australian school kids and then wandered the deserted
streets of the mock-up of an old western town with its hotel, bars, and
shops. Perhaps in better/warmer weather we would have enjoyed the
We also went with Lee and Irene to Biosphere II, the
site of a three-acre artificially enclosed living space, like a giant
greenhouse, originally designed to study how people might survive
without support from outside. This remarkable complex includes several
ecosystems (rainforest, wetlands, savannah, and agricultural areas)
that originally housed a group of eight researchers who grew their own
food and maintained the power, air, and water systems within the sealed
structure. After a few years, administrative disputes brought an end to
the original mission of the project and, after changing ownership and
purpose several times, Biosphere II is now operated by the University
of Arizona for a variety of research projects. The complex of buildings
and facilities was well worth the half day visit.
•Our son-in-law Dan paid a very quick visit during a
business trip to Phoenix. He stayed the night at the nearby Cat
Mountain Lodge, an attractive and comfortable inn a few miles from
Desert Trails. After breakfast and checking out our trailer and the
park facilities (so he could report back to our daughter that we were
not living in a desert trash heap), we drove up to Marana where
Nederland neighbors Jim and Sandi have a winter home. We had arranged
for Dan and Jim to play a round of golf on one of the pretty fabulous Dove
Mountain golf course. Dan returned to Phoenix after the golf, so we
get to see much of him, but now at least he knows where we live in the
•A few weeks later we went back to Jim and Sandi’s
for an afternoon of bridge with Jim’s mother who drove down from the
Phoenix area just to enjoy an afternoon of big time bridge and visit
overnight. She played good bridge for a person of any age, but the fact
that she was over 90 made her awonder at the card table.
•We joined Jim and Sandi for a tour of a most
unusual museum: The Mini
Time Machine, a museum of miniatures. This
unique collection features antique and contemporary miniature exhibits
centered on the artifacts of a home or other building showing a setting
where people lived and worked in the past. The collection of over 275
miniature houses and room boxes is a delight for adults as well as
children; the four of us spent over two hours marveling at the
workmanship and artistry each exhibit displayed. Afterwards
weintroduced Jim and Sandi to the pleasures of The Original Hideout,
steering them away from the pool tables and into a booth on the outside
of the dance floor.
•We attended two plays staged by the repertory group
at the Gaslight Theater:
“Scrooge” and “The Lone Stranger” were
cleverly performed musical spoofs. We went last year and we’ll likely
look for another opportunity next year.
•As we do each year we’re in Tucson, we visited the
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum,
a combination zoo, wildlife sanctuary,
aquarium, and garden of desert plants. In addition to the very popular
hummingbird facility where, at the time we were there, the birds were
nest building and laying eggs, we loved the raptor show/demonstration
where hawks and owls fly untethered in the open desert while a museum
guide describes the birds behavior and characteristics.
world-famous nonprofit museum is a remarkable facility to learn about
the animals and plant life in the desert. A modest membership fee
permits unlimited entry, which is regularly $12–$14.50 daily per
person, depending upon the time of year. In addition to the exhibits,
the museum sponsors classes and seminar on a variety of topics, from
art to natural history. Hughes attended an excellent three-day
photography class in hopes of improving his limited skills. We’ll see.]
•The annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show
two-week extravaganza of amazing and unusual rocks from around the
world, fine gemstones and jewelry ranging in price from modest to out
of sight. There are hundreds of bead vendors alongside rare coin
dealers, Tibetan statues and antler carvings and statues and linens
from west Africa. We spent two half days searching for affordable
souvenirs and gifts for family. We walked our legs off and returned
each exhausted. We may go again next year.
•Shopping is a fairly popular activity among many of
our friends at Desert Trails. Judy joined a small gang of bargain
hunting ladies for an assault on the many thrift and second hand stores
in the greater Tucson area. For the careful and discerning shopper
there are lots of bargains to be had, especially in clothing and
housewares. We also investigated several weekly swap meets/flea markets
in Tucson and in Green Valley to the south. Tools, furniture,
electronics, and other goods can be found at good prices along with
clothing, housewares, and tasty street food.
•Speaking of food and eating out, we sampled a few
more Tucson area restaurants than we did last year. We found really
good sushi with Christine and Bill (who do not remember the name of the
place, but could find it again); outstanding Mexican food in Tubac at
Wisdom’s Cafe, home to fine
margaritas and a fruit burro dessert that
is worth the 70-mile drive south. Look for the giant chicken in front
of the building. (Forget the much ballyhooed Elvira’s:
Wisdom’s is superior in all ways.) Bill and Hughes drove to the other
side of town for breakfast at Gus
Balon’s, mainly to sample their
famous cinnamon roll that fills a plate and stands nearly a half foot
tall. We also had lunch with our Albuquerque friend Anna Marie, who was
visiting a friend in Tucson, at Caruso’s Italian Restaurant on
Avenue. It was good to see her and we enjoyed some good Italian food
for a change. Park neighbors Yvonne and Jim, who was
a big winner at the Casino Del Sol slots, celebrated his good fortune
by treating us to dinner at the Texas
Roadhouse (the one on Irvington) a favorite of
carnivores (and line dancers) throughout the southwest. Their steaks
were consistently outstanding, superior to those at Fred’s Arena Bar
and Steak House, the well
known desert landmark which Hughes used to consider the home of the
best Tucson steaks around. We returned to the Texas Roadhouse twice
when Hughes’s cravings for meat were too strong to withstand.
Just a five miles down the road from Desert Trails
is a small area of shops including Big Papa’s ‘50s style restaurant,
home of one of the three best milkshakes in the country, and the House
of Cheng, which serves up an excellent traditional American breakfast.
Joel and Patty spend many mornings there and treated us to our only
breakfast there on our birthdays in early March.
Add to the list of Tucson eateries the Irvington
Road Olive Garden where we had lunch with Judy’s cousin Bob and his
wife Ginny, and Ginny’s brother Gary. We also had dinner with them on
New Year’s Day. We see them each time we come to Tucson and are looking
forward to a 75th birthday party reunion planned for next year (a few
years short his real 75th, but it doesn’t matter; it’s the family
reunion that counts!)
It should not go without mention that Desert Trails has a strong
tradition of serving up outstanding food at regular potlucks (everyone
tries to bring their best offerings to add to the main dishes provided
by the park owner), at monthly breakfasts, which serve up the best
pancakes around, and at monthly soup and salad lunches. Christmas
dinner featured turkey or ham with potluck sides and desserts. Dinner
on New Year’s Eve was a sitdown and be served a complete dinner of
beef, ribs, and/or shrimp, followed by dancing with a live band. We
left the day before Easter when park residents were treated to an aged
prime rib dinner with all the trimmings. Of course, every Monday
morning is the doughnut meeting of announcements of the coming week’s
activities and whatever else is on Pericles’s mind. All in all, it’s
easy to gain a few pounds staying at Desert Trails, even if you never
leave the park!]
HOW IS LIVING IN YOUR NEW FIFTH WHEEL?
Last year we spent two months—two warm months—living
out of our 24’ Navion motorhome. The Navion is perfect for road trips,
for getting in and out of gas stations, parking in tiny slots near the
shore, and for eating in when it’s occasionally wet and cool outside.
However, after two months of close quarters—remember the front six feet
or so is not usable; it’s the cab and engine of the motor home—we
wisely decided if we were going to stay in one place for any longer, we
needed more space. Our purchase last spring turned out to be a good
Tucson summer temperatures can test the mettle of
anything left out of doors through the summer heat and monsoons. When
we arrived the morning of November 30, we found the rig on the site we
had selected (from among those available) to be in good condition. No
critters had taken up residency in any part of the interior or outside.
No water leaks showed and the inside was dry. The plumbing worked, as
did the refrigerator, hot water heater, air conditioner, furnace, and
all the rest. We breathed a sigh of relief and went to work
straightening and putting things away.
We were not to be let off so easily: in just a few
days a strong odor from the storage area below the toilet room
suggested a leak, which the RV Doctor, a fixture at the park, located,
diagnosed and repaired quickly. (Usually a toilet is “set” using a wax
ring seal. However, in a hot desert environment, the smart folks have
gone to a Teflon or other synthetic ring that stands up better to the
high temperatures.) While he was there, he fixed a stubborn drip in the
kitchen sink by installing, at Judy’s request, a new sink fixture. A
We made another good decision just before we left
this year: we purchased a beautiful stained glass window that fit into
the entry door the to trailer (photo on left). Betty has been crafting
objects for many years; we had purchased a stained glass small
hummingbird last year that has hung in our west window. We liked the
desert motif very much, and when her husband, George, came to move our
trailer to its new site for next year, he installed the stained glass
Things went along well for almost four months when
we discovered an error message on the refrigerator information panel.
We called the RV Doctor one more time who was unable to pinpoint the
source of the error message except to suggest that there was a faulty
circuit board and that he might be able to locate another, even though
they’re no longer manufactured. While he was finding one, the
refrigerator error message disappeared and the unit worked as though
nothing had happened. (Damn computerization!). We bought the new
circuit board and have it ready to go if there is a real failure in the
future. An expensive back-up plan.
In all other respects, we enjoyed living there. We
were warm, sat on comfortable furniture which the dogs could freely use
also. The 3" foam mattress topper made an otherwise ordinary bed very
comfortable. We were able to have friends visit for dinner and/or cards
in the evening. And Howard was able not only to install a new satellite
TV system in the living room, but found a link to the small bedroom TV
which may never have been used before. It’s almost like here-home.
We don’t have the comfort of a fireplace or wood
stove on cold, snowy or rainy Arizona days, but the extra room, the
usable shower space, floor space to roll around and play with the dogs,
and several large windows for watching the finches, cardinals, quail,
and other wildlife makes a very comfortable living space that we could
live in for four more months.
So, we’ll be returning next December and see how
things are working, and if our friends from this year (and last) return
to the old neighborhood. We hope so. After all, as everyone says about
Desert Trails, it’s the people that make it the place to spend the
To all our Desert Trails friends, thank you all for
helping to make our winter enjoyable. You make all the difference in
the world. See you next year.