Tucson, AZ

Where does the time go?  Retirement makes all days seem like Saturday!  I have been settled into Cactus Country RV Resort on the east side of Tucson, Arizona, since mid December. Next week I will again hook-up and head west to Palm Springs, CA for the rest of winter (February, March and mid-April).

Tucson has been nice to be planted in one place for more than a month, after the marathon drive from Long Island to North Carolina to Austin to Tucson.   Cactus Country Resort, “Resort” is synonymous with RV parking lot, while the park is surrounded by desert filled with cactus, cows, rabbits and coyotes, the spaces are too close together.  

I stayed at Cactus Country two years ago and met my golf pals Phyllis, Chris, and their adorable Scotty Terrier Molly from Michigan.  Phyllis plays three times a week and is addicted to golf like me.  We have a great time walking Molly and Maggie around the park together 3 times a day, and playing golf.

The resort is composed of snow birds and full-time residents.  It is a retirement community, mostly.  I enjoy the group golfing event on Mondays, and the ability to walk daily in the desert with Phyllis and Maggie.  Maggie loves to disappear into the desert brush and come back with Cholla in her fur, and especially embedded in her nose.  I carry needle-nose pliers to pull the horrible Cholla needles out of her nose and feet.   Cholla’s scientific name is Cylindropuntia, and is the most inhospitable cactus. Beware this stuff is seriously nasty.  

Tucson is full of old and new friends.  Former work colleague Madeleine and husband Norman purchased a winter home here.  My Alaska golf pals Bruce, Marylou and Kim also have winter homes here.  Takoma pals Bruce and Lydia are here for a few days.  Liz and Tim were here from D.C. for a family weekend event in early January, and Sylvia was here for a spa week between Christmas and New Year.  The month has been full of visits and golf.

Upon arrival the temperatures were not particularly warm.  In fact, there was snow!  As January comes to a close the temperatures are moving into the 70s, thankfully.  Better golfing and hiking weather.  

I prefer Palm Springs because that area does not seem to have as much cactus.

As for travel surprises, I arrived in Tucson missing one of the two bars on my trailer.  Don’t ask me how that happened?  Especially since I drove through 50 mile an hour winds in west Texas.  There is a reason why Airstreams are called “Airstreams”, Scout is aerodynamic making towing so much safer with far less swaying side-to-side.  I proved that by driving over 800 miles with only one tow bar attached.  Yikes!  I was afraid I would have to replace the entire hitch assembly, but Amazon had a replacement single Reese 22225 High Performance Spring Bar.  With Prime no shipping costs it was a bargain because the bar weighs over 10 lbs.  I know Amazon is the evil empire, but they sure are great for RV parts, and shopping on-line for those of us who hate shopping malls.  Amazon is building a huge distribution facility here, they know Tucson is full of retirees who might want to work for short durations for extra cash.

As for other repairs, both the 30 lb propane tank gauges gave out.  There is always seems to be something, but thankfully, nothing serious.  Like the tow bar, ordering 30 lb replacement tanks on Amazon was easy, and arrived at the door in 2 days.

Finally, the other night there was a beautiful eclipse of the moon, which resulted in a “red moon”.  My photography skills are awful, I wish I could share a picture.  It has been a wonderful month, and looking forward to Palm Springs, CA.  Stay tuned.

 

WALTZ ACROSS TEXAS: I WISH, I AM DRIVING.

Texans are known for their big bragging.  During the construction of the Alaskan oil pipeline, Texans migrated to Alaska and brought their bragging with them.  Alaskans’ retort about the size of Texas, “If you don’t shut up, we’ll cut Alaska in two and Texas will be the third largest state”.

Driving across Texas (something you can’t do in Alaska) takes a very, very long time.  Alaska has four highways that cover 1,082 miles, Texas has 675,580 miles of road.  Size matters.  Alaska is bigger, but you can’t drive to the majority of the state.  Texas roads are in better conditions than other Southern states, Texans’ like oil.

Ruth and I sold our Washington, D.C. Capitol Hill homes in June 2016.   We pinch ourselves we got out before the catastrophe.  Dr. Ruth is teaching at the LBJ School at University of Texas.  I am thankfully retired!  I have to say I really enjoy Austin, and appreciate having a wonderful friend living there.  Especially, since Ruth’s neighborhood allows me to park Scout on the street in front of her house.

Austin has great food, music, dive bars, Tex-Mex food, movie theaters, and grocery stores.  Austin is the home of Whole Foods, but the competition is fierce. I never shop at Whole Foods, (or Wal-Mart), because the store owners are virulently anti-union.  Not that grocery stores in Texas are unionized, but my politics are national.

H.E.B. is a Texas-based grocery store chain and it’s a premier grocery store – City Market, beats Whole Foods, Wegman’s or any other grocery stores hands down – no contest!  H.E.B.’s City Market is amazing, I could spend all day there!

Some people go to museums, I go to grocery stores and dog parks.   

Austin also has one of our favorite dog parks, Red Bud Island, at Lake Austin.  A water-locked finger of land, with no escape so dogs are free to run, play or swim.

Driving west, it was my hope to visit the Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) historic home near Fredericksburg, TX.  However, when I left Ruth’s Austin home temperatures were dropping into the 30’s with 50 mile an hour wind gusts, making visiting the ranch unappealing.  I plan to return to Texas in May and spend some time exploring Big Bend National Park, San Antonio, and Fredericksburg wine tasting and historic sites.

I also hope to join my friend Beth on her ranch for horse riding.  East Texas is growing on me.  It’s a bit too cold in winter, but May might be the perfect time to visit.

On to Tucson and Palm Springs, I see golf in my future.

 

The driving is killing me, but looking forward to arrival

After a wonderful Thanksgiving fest with family, and pies!  Thank you Becky and Chuck.

I began my long-haul east-to-west trek across country on 11/29 from Jordon Lake, NC to Tucson, AZ and Palm Springs, CA.  I can drive about 200 miles per day, give or take.  I now understand why West Coast residents rarely go to Florida, and easterners stay along the Atlantic.

My plan is to arrive in Tucson, AZ on 12/25 when D.C. friends Sylvia and Cheryl arrive for their holiday spa vacations.  Liz and Tim arrive after the new year for a family event and will stay with Tim’s Mom (a Tucson resident).  Pals Madeleine and Norman have purchased a Tucson winter home, so they are already there.  Campground friends Phyllis and Chris are also there; and, golf pal and snow birds Bruce and wife (Juneau, AK) live in Green Valley, south of Tucson.   Looking forward to visiting with friends, and NOT driving for a month.

In 10 days I have driven over 1,200.  Thank you, Audible, Podcasts, Pandora and NPR. Only 900+ miles to go. Thank goodness for $1.99 per gallon gas.  BUT!  Our highways are atrocious: uneven pavement, potholes, no shoulder, YIKES!  Scout and I are bouncing along, and when I open the door after a long day of driving, I hate to see what has flown — stuff has shifted, rattled and rolled.  Gas prices are so low, why can’t we add .05 cents per gallon to the federal highway fund to improve our roads and bridges?  Watch the newly elected House Democrats argue this is the time to pay for infrastructure by raising gas taxes, which are historically low.  GOP=NAUGHT.  But, I digress into politics and not travel.

Maggie continues to be the very best travel companion, but she is tired of sitting in the back seat and looking out the window.  We checked-in tonight at Whispering Springs RV Park, Texas along HWY 10.  I was so conflicted not to stop at the George H.W. Bush library in Houston?  I do have an interest in visiting all the Presidential Libraries.  But, I would rather see my living friends Ruth, who lives in Austin; and, Beth who lives on her ranch with my favorite horse Hope.  Maybe I will come back to Texas in April, after my winter visit to Palm Springs and working on my golf game.   It is cold and wet here.  I want to be in sunshine and warm weather.

The beauty of retirement and dragging your house along, is the road is long and there is no timetable.

PLASTIC, OR REUSABLE

Remember the grocery store clerk asking, “paper or plastic?”   I routinely forget my reusable sacks at the check-out and buy yet another reusable bag.  Thus, I have so many bags in the front seat of my truck.  All the more to forget before entering the grocery store.   However, there are many uses for reusable sacks when you live in a 20′ Airstream.  Here are my tips for using reusable bags:

  1. Recycle container.  When I lived in bricks and mortar, I had a very large recycle bin outside my back door.  I now a bag as a recycle container.   Great when campgrounds recycle.
  2. Wood and tinder gatherer.  Campfires are a real plus when camping.  On our daily walks I carry a reusable bag and pick-up pine cones, sticks and twigs for kindling as a fire starter.
  3. Hiking or walking around the campground, trail or dog park with a bag to pick-up trash.
  4. Goodwill.  I am always looking to get rid of something.  When you buy something new, something old has got to GO!  A reusable bag is great for sorting donations the next time I drive by a Goodwill store or bin I chuck it in.  Goodwill appreciates reusable bags, rather than a plastic garbage bag.

Other useful tips for RVing:

  1. Always fill-up the gas tank the night before you are leaving a site. Why not get a head start with a full tank of gas, and avoid towing into a gas station.
  2. Check tire pressure.
  3. Always do a walk around the trailer before pulling out.  I have left stabilizer pads behind, the black tank cap off and dangling, and just the other day I left the hitching foot down.  No matter how often you tow, the memory is failing.  A checklist for hooking and un-hooking is useful.  I can’t believe the stuff I forget, after a couple of years on the road.  I pulled yesterday, and had forgotten to lift the tow foot.  Thankfully, it made a terrible noise, and I knew something was wrong.  No damage, so stopped and raised the foot.

PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH, A very nice man.

I was going to write about driving 2,199 miles cross-country in a month, but the death of President George H.W. Bush this week has made me very nostalgic.  I will post about driving later, but this week we need to be thankful to selfless Americans, and bid President George Herbert Walker Bush farewell, with gratitude.

One of my first memories of being a “lobbyist” in Washington, D.C. is sitting next to Senator Tom Harkin (Democrat from Iowa) at a Washington D.C. fundraising dinner.  The setting was beautiful, the east hall of Union Station (my favorite building in D.C.).  What the hell am I doing sitting next to U.S. Senator Tom Harkin at a catered dinner in Washington, D.C.?  What the F+CK?  I was attending a National Democratic Senate Committee fundraiser, because I represented the 2 million members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  SEIU was the largest and fastest growing labor union, with a huge political action committee (PAC), which meant LOTS of campaign money $$$.  I was very proud to represent workers and union members who were contributing $3-$5 a month, multiplied by 2 million.  As opposed to the Koch Brothers (2) or Sheldon Adelson (1) giving millions (3 times millions), maybe even billions to the GOP.  In 1998, I gathered signatures of Nevada voters in the Carson City Wal-Mart parking lot opposing Adelson’s effort to put a ballot intiative to bust unions. Let’s just say workers are out spent and out gunned when it comes to politics.  But, that is for another post on another day.

Today, I want to talk about President George Herbert Walker Bush.   Tonight, I watched former Senator Tom Harkin on the PBS NewsHour (please listen to this post) talk about working with President Bush (41) to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and it reminded me of sitting next to Senator Harkin. 

Every time Senator Harkin tried to take a small bite of food, someone interrupted his bite.  The poor man needed to eat.  But every time he tried, he was interrupted, mid-bite.  When the speeches began, as they most certainly would, I had my chance.  I asked Senator Harkin, “Why do you do this?”  He didn’t miss a beat, speaking with his mouth full.  He said the greatest accomplishment and thing he took the most pride in was passing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Senator Harkin’s brother was disabled, and he was fighting to ensure his brother and millions of other disabled Americans (so many of them veterans) would not have artificial barriers to living a normal life.  I had to thank him, too.  As a union representative the ADA had helped me represent workers ensuring they could do their jobs regardless of their disability.

We take our access for granted.  We expect to step over a sidewalk curb; or enter a restaurant; or board a bus, train, or airplane; or walk-up a flight of stairs.  We take it for granted, and never give it a second thought.  Even campgrounds are handicap accessible!

Because of Republican President George H.W. Bush and Democrat Senator Tom Harkin  worked together (and others) for a greater good, disabled Americans are better off, and we are all better for their decency. These men/politicians worked together, across party lines giving hope, access and public accommodations to millions of disabled Americans.

Thank you, President George H.W. Bush and Senator Tom Harkin, for being kind, decent patriotic politicians who cared more about average Americans, and not party ideology.   President Bush believed in public service as an honorable calling.  “Let the shameful walls of disability come tumbling down”, President George H.W. Bush at the signing of the ADA. 

Thank you.

DOG’S BEST FRIEND

Dogs are great ambassadors in campgrounds, especially Maggie.  Maggie takes her job of greeting people very seriously and takes offense when someone walks by and doesn’t stop to say hello.  Walking a dog is a great way to meet neighbors and new friends.

Take Phyllis and Chris in Tucson, we met when Phyllis was walking Molly and I was walking Maggie.  We struck up a conversation and learned we also loved to play golf.  If not for Maggie and Molly, we may never have met.  I look forward to seeing them again this winter in Tucson.

I met Liz because she was walking her dog Roxanne on Capitol Hill.  Roxy reminded me of my Mother’s dog Aussie.  Both Australian Cattle dogs. 

Each time Liz and I met on the street I would stop her and pet Roxanne.  It wasn’t until the third or fourth crossing when Liz and I actually engaged in conversation other than admiring Roxanne.  I was dog less at that time.  Liz told me she had recently moved to the Capitol Hill neighborhood.  “Where did you come from”, I asked?  “Anchorage”, she said.  “Who are you?” I asked.   How ironic, we lived within a block of each other and both of us were from Anchorage, Alaska.   Liz was reporting for the Anchorage Daily News, and we had many Alaska friends in common, but hadn’t known each other there.  We became great friends, and I became Roxanne’s dog sitter when Liz traveled.  Liz met and married Tim a few years later and moved to England, Japan and Colorado Springs before returning to Washington, D.C. in 2013 to become the Alaska Public Radio Network reporter.  Roxanne died shortly after their return, I was so glad to share Roxanne’s final days with Liz.  She was a good girl.

Roxanne’s Memorial Brick at Congressional Cemetery.

It took me over 15 years to get another dog, after putting my dog Hanna down in 1998.   I decided after all these years it was time for another dog.  “If you want a friend in Washington, D.C. get a dog”.  Four months of searching on PetFinder.com for a non-shedding 50 lb dog, I found Maggie in Ashland, VA.  The Bark Dog Rescue a community group found Maggie and two puppies running along a rural road, no tags, collars or microchips.   

Dog rescue groups can be a bit  neurotic.  It is bad enough to be rejected by men on Match.com, but to be rejected as unsuitable to rescue a dog!  No back yard, out of state, no kids, needs the companionship of other dogs.  Some groups require home visits, and references.  Thankfully, the Bark group was sensible and anxious to find homes for abandoned dogs.  I was so lucky to find Maggie, and she rescued me.

Maggie & Lola

Liz got Lola shortly after I rescued Maggie and they bonded living together, waiting for Tim to arrive after finishing his Air Force Service in Colorado.  Maggie misses Lola during our travels but enjoys meeting new people in campgrounds.  She doesn’t care for other dogs like she loves Lola.  They are BFFs.  

I have been so very lucky adopting rescue dogs.  Hanna came to me from the Anchorage Pound.  Like Maggie, Hanna loved to travel and was great riding in cars.   As an Alaskan dog Hanna also was great riding in float planes to the King Bear Lodge on the Yentna River for summer salmon season.  Maggie has swum in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

As a single woman traveling alone in an Airstream people often ask if I am afraid.  Really?  First, if was afraid, would I be doing this?  Two, Maggie is by no means a guard dog.  I consider campgrounds safe places and always introduce myself and Maggie to the neighbors.  Walking Maggie two or three times a day offers the opportunity to meet fellow campers, and they get to meet Maggie which makes her very happy.  

A couple of years ago friends spent many months traveling in an RV.  When I asked them if they met nice people in campgrounds, they both responded NO.  It was because they didn’t have a dog, I am certain.  They didn’t experience loneliness because they were traveling as a couple.  Maggie is a great traveling companion, but not a great conversationalist.  She does help me meet people, in her role as dog ambassador.