AQUANUTS?

We have taken full advantage of the record warm spell in Tucson.  Every day for the last two weeks we have swum laps at the trailer park pool.  We’re up to fifty!  We have definitely improved.  I’m getting so fast that Mary is complaining about the wave I leave in my wake.  She says it “swamps” her when she’s backstroking, which I find hard to believe because she has a mean backstroke.

Tomorrow it is forecasted to be down in the low 70s which is too cool for these fair-weather swimmers.  We have had the pool to ourselves as this is a senior citizen trailer park and most of the residents, for various reasons, don’t feel up to swimming.  We would probably resent it if anyone were to use “our” pool at this point.

They say the snow is melting back in North Central Washington so we will be pulling up stakes by the end of the week and heading for home.  We’ll probably stop off at Lake Mead for up to a week and then make our usual mad dash for home.


NO MARK SPITZ, HE

The name of that new guy who won all the swimming gold at the Rio Olympics eludes me at the moment so I’ll compare myself to the great Mark Spitz of Munich fame.  Let’s just say I’ve got a way to go.   There is a decent sized swimming pool at the Crossroads RV Park in Tucson where we’re staying and with the 90-degree weather Mary and I have been swimming every day for a week.  We’re up to 40 laps now but I’m spaghetti-armed for the last few laps.  The weather is forecasted to stay hot for a few more days before it cools down.  We may make it to 50 laps before it all ends.

Even with the warm weather, the water takes some getting used to.  It generally takes us five minutes to slowly and painfully adjust to the cold water.  I know it’s better to just jump in and get it all over with but I somehow just can’t.

Keen student of human behavior that I am, I have become aware of a primitive instinct erupting to the surface of my psyche of late.  The annual NCAA basketball tournament, the so-called March Madness, is underway as I write.  I generally pay about as much attention to basketball as I do to the latest trends in wedding gowns (none), but the University of Arizona is in the competition this year and I find myself giving a damn about their prospects.  Why?  Good question.  My affiliation with UofA amounts to no more than that I meet with my German tutors on the campus several times a week.  But sitting as we do at an outdoor table in the shadow of the enormous Wildcat football stadium, I have absorbed a modicum of school spirit.  Such a strange thing allegiance is.  After all, if the Wildcats do well, it is no reflection on me.  I have contributed nothing to their success or failure.  And yet, how easily we humans attach ourselves to groups, teams, nations of all kinds.  Even a rationalist like myself is susceptible.  Instincts – don’t understimate them.


MR BOMBASTIC?

Rudy is quite the strutter and walking him reminds me of a Chase Bank commercial I once saw.  Take a look: http://youtu.be/NaFlfaXJW4Y

My German lessons are going well.  The weather is warm and sunny.  We are healthy.  What can I say?


It’s not exactly scenic but it suits our purposes.  We have taken up residence in a traditional trailer park in Tucson for the next month.  Gone are the natural vistas of the national parks and the wailing of coyotes in the desert wash.  We have traded them for the sewer connection and the electrical grid connection of the Crossroads RV Park.  Our primary motivation for this conventional setting is the availability of the nearby University of Arizona.  With so much time on my hands I have once again taken up my German studies.  

In my never ending, penny-pinching quest for the best deal, I stumbled upon several foreign exchange students at the university who will willingly tutor me in German conversational skills.  The alternative was to employ the Berlitz school in Phoenix but that worked out to $80/hr which seemed a bit much.  In a classic “cut out the middle man” strategy I get the real thing for a small fraction of that – $20/hr.

Mary is pleased with our present circumstances because it provides her with unlimited nearby shopping opportunities.  Should she wish to exercise, there is a fitness facility on the corner.  Two miles away is the connection to the bicycle path that encircles the city.  If anyone is suffering here it would be Rudy.  He has to be walked on a short leash lest we incur the wrath of homeowners who don’t appreciate dog turds in their front yards.  (Mary has adopted the new-fangled practice of “bagging” dog turds but I prefer the traditional natural approach of natural decomposition.)

Tucson is a very bicycle-friendly city.  While the university campus is a full four miles from our trailer park, there is a nearly traffic-less bicycle route the whole way.

I was pleased to discover that Tucson is populated by numerous orange trees, the fruit of which no one seems interested in harvesting.  They let the oranges fall to the ground.  “Fresh fruit going to waste!” I thought.  Not wanting the fruit to go to waste, I “havested” a few oranges.  Now I know why no one else does.  These things are more appropriately called “orange lemons!”  Tart!  Sour!  And don’t tell me they’re not ripe.  They’re bright orange and falling to the ground.


Wish me well in my German studies.  Hoffentlich, ich werde mein nachste Post auf Deutsch schreiben!


Tucson claims to host the world’s largest gem & mineral show and I can believe it.  There are enormous tents and convention halls all over the city filled with dazzling displays of rocks, gems, and fossils.  We spent and hour strolling through the 22d Street show and were duly impressed.  After admiring 2-ton geodes and entire dinosaur fossils costing tens of thousands of dollars, I settled for the five dollar pyrite chunk in the photo above.

Our current pastime is biting off 20-mile sections of the 130-mile paved loop trail that surrounds the city.  We did a section yesterday and another today.  Yesterday we nearly bit off more than we could chew.  We rode a mere 26 miles but the temperature hit 90 degrees (a Tucson record for this date).  Mary’s face was beet red from overheating near the end.

The temperature was a more tolerable 80 degrees today.  We rode past the Pima Air and Space Museum but the best attraction was a thrilling aerobatic display over Davis-Monthan AFB that we witnessed from the trail.  The ground beneath our feet shook as the F-22 Raptor poured it on and climbed from just above the airfield, straight up and out of sight.


My View

In more down-to-earth matters, Rudy has a front-row seat from his perch on the front of my bike.  His bat ears, like radar antennae, never stop rotating, sometimes independently, scanning the surrounding countryside for vermin of all sorts.  The ground squirrels and roadrunners that scurry through the trail-side brush present an almost too tempting lure to him.  He wants to leap out of his bin and give chase so I have had to tether him for his own good.


Strolling through the desert listening to a good audiobook or bouncing along dirt roads on my moutainbike are fine activities – up to a point.  I’ve been doing that for a month now and I find myself looking around for something a little more constructive; something that might leave my imprint on the earth’s surface – more of an imprint than a bicycle tire in the dust.  Ajo, Arizona, the small town we’re camping near offers some tempting opportunities.  The town is now a shell of its former self.  Until 1985 the local economy was fueled by an enormous open-pit copper mine, the tailings of which form a man-made mountain on the outskirts of town measuring several miles long and several hundred feet high.  When the mine closed, hundreds of homes were abandoned and can now be had for bargain prices.  Most of them are non-descript bungalows but a few show enough promise that Mary and I got to thinking “What if we bought one of them and fixed it up?”  

I’ve got a little experience with putting houses together so the technical aspects would not be beyond my skill level.  We could swing it financially.  The house pictured above is listed for $42,500.  We both think it would be fun to take a shell of a house and bring it up to modern standards.  Would it be a wise investment?  My guess is that it would.  Ajo has warm sunny winters – just the thing for northern snowbirds.  Summers are less appealing – hellish, in fact, but that’s of little concern to the snowbird crowd.

We are not the first people to see Ajo as a diamond in the rough.  Other people have done what we are considering.  Some sort of commission was assembled  about ten years ago and it was decided that Ajo should aim at making itself into a Mecca for artists – another Taos.  Modest steps in that direction have been taken.  The town has an attractive downtown square and the architecually stunning former school has been converted into artists’ apartments but on the whole the town’s business district shows many of the signs of being on life support.

After toying with the idea for several days, Mary and I have decided not to take the plunge.  The main reason is logistical.  Ajo is too far from Chelan.  Lugging my tools down here, the 4000-mile round trip, the distraction of overseeing two widely-separated operations, vandalism during our 9-month absence each year – too much to worry about.  It was tempting but it looks like it ain’t gonna happen.  

Gotta run.  My mountain bike is calling.


Nine months of the year Quartzsite is little more than a collection of filling stations along Interstate 10 near the California-Arizona border.  But each winter its population swells from several hundred to many thousands as RVers from all over the US and Canada stream south to enjoy the bountiful sunshine and cheap living it offers.  

Blessed with flat terrain and a gravelly surface that holds down dust when the wind blows and doesn’t turn muddy after the occasional rain, it is the perfect landscape for vehicles of all shapes and sizes.  Some genius at the Bureau of Land Management has put together an amazingly simple program (Long-Term Visitor Area (LTVA)) that seems to work to everyone’s benefit.  For the modest fee of a few dollars per day RVers get uncrowded parking, fresh water, and sewage and trash service.  The BLM pockets a tidy profit of several million dollars per year (a government program that makes money!)

LTVAs, incidentally, offer the curious a sort of sociological experiment.  What kind of community do you get when you pluck several thousand middle-class, over-fifty couples together in the middle of nowhere?  No crime for one thing.  No trash for another.  Not a great deal of socialization either.  People here are friendly enough if you approach them but few people seem to go out of their way to congregate or exchange more than a few friendly words.  Past a certain age, the company of strangers holds limited appeal.

Territoriality also seems to crop up with surprising regularity.  Everywhere you look, former and present RVers have gratuitously gathered rocks and outlined “their” space on the desert floor.

Quartzsite has its own radio station.  Whether it bothers to transmit a signal during the summer when the town is deserted I’d be curious to know.  But now it, most appropriately, it dredges up exclusively, oldies from the sixtys and seventys – not surprising when you consider who the audience is.  I enjoy it.

The disparity between the summer and winter populations seems to present a dilemma to the cellular telephone service providers.  During the peak season when the big RV show is taking place, late January, the signal is overwhelmed and service is slow.  I have to wait until late at night, for example, to send out my blog post.  The show ended yesterday and the ranks are thinning so, hopefully, this post will make it out during daylight hours.

We too, will be leaving.  It should come as no surprise that RVers tend to be a restless bunch.  If they were content to stay in one place they’d be sitting on the couch at home.  Always curious what is on the other side of the distant mountains, we’re thinking of heading east toward Tucson.


Not a cloud in the sky today – beautiful, right?  Wrong!  The wind is so strong it could rip your pants off and even though it’s 59 degrees outside it feels like 39.  At least we’re not in a tent and riding bicycles (something we know a thing or two about).  Then again, the wind is coming from the north so we’d make great mileage  if we were pedaling south.  

It’s a great day to appreciate our trailer’s shelter.  We have our big windows facing south to catch the ample sun’s warmth so after the heater took the edge off last night’s 34 degrees we have been able to get by on solar radiation alone.  Even so, when Mary baked a loaf of her award winning bread today, the added heat from the oven was welcome.

Trailer-bound because of the wind, I have foregone my usual bicycle adventure for the day.  I was also unsure if Rudy was up to his 5-mile run because of an accident last night.  I was awakened in the night by Mary’s loud accusation “Did you fart?!”  I was at that moment speechless, not only because my sleepy thoughts were so disorganized but because, having been asleep, I was unsure as to the truthful answer to her question/accusation.  For once, however,there could be no doubt that the dog, not I, was the perpetrator:  a steaming pile of fresh dog shit awaited us on the living room rug.  Rudy, apparently, got into something yesterday.


We have been in Quartzsite for several days, waiting for the start of the big RV jamboree.  Motor homes are all around us in every direction, as far as the eye can see, thousands of them.  The big tent opened for business yesterday.  It’s probably several acres in area and filled with hundreds of vendors selling everything from sewage pumps to snake oil.  Despite the variety of offerings, we didn’t see anything we couldn’t live without except a jar of Dead Sea salt mixed with various emollients which is guaranteed to heal cracked skin (my only physical flaw, bald head excluded).  We shall see.

Mary has developed an infatuation of late with Class B+ motorhomes and we have looked at a lot of them here.  They are the little ones with multiple slides.  This would probably be the place to buy an RV if one was in the market.  Hundreds and hundreds of them from many vendors.  I have had my hands full as the voice of reason reminding Mary what a nice setup we already have with our fifth wheel.  The other night we had a rain storm and wind while we were snug in our trailer watching satellite TV.  A “grass looks greener on the other side of the fence” situation if you ask me.  But then, who’s asking.

I talked Mary into baking some of her award winning Dutch oven bread using the little gas oven in the trailer.  She was doubtful but the results are spectacular.  If anything, these loaves are better than the ones she makes at home.

Rudy’s exercise routine continues to evolve.  It’s current manifestation involves me on my mountain bike with Rudy out front tethered by one of those recoil leashes.  I was hesitant to try this arrangement because I thought I might run over him but he so loves to run that he stays well ahead with constant tension on the leash.  If only he were a little bigger he’d make and excellent sled dog.  I take him on a 5-mile run and then take him home in my bike’s basket.  He doesn’t seem to tire but the rocky road is hard on his paws.

By the way, we got the results back from DNA My Dog.  We just had to know what his pedigree is so we had his DNA analyzed.  Somewhat surprising.  He’s 75% schnauzer and 25% dachshund.  I don’t know how that accounts for his bat ears.  And his long legs certainly didn’t come from a dachshund.  I think he looks like a miniature husky or a black fox.


DACHSHUND?!


Rudy, aka Rudebaker, aka El Vampiro, is an energetic dog who needs his exercise.  Toward that end, we have acquired several devices.  One is the green plastic rod (Woof Cycle Bike Trotter) seen above which attaches at one end to my bicycle and the other end to Rudy’s collar.  When the rod isn’t being used to tether Rudy, it flips up out of the way.  I only need to check on him once in a while to make sure that I’m not dragging him in the dust.

When he looks like he needs a break, I put him in the plastic bin on the front of my bike and he’s quite content to ride along taking in the sights and smells:


Not a whole lot going on here.  Not that we’re complaining.  We’re still content to just be out of the frigid cold in Chelan where we hear it’s in the single digits.  Sixties and seventies here and mostly sunny although this morning was cloudy.  

A typical day for me includes a long morning walk with Rudy out through the desert and an afternoon ride on my bicycle.   Mary cleans house and reads and takes a shorter walk to the garbage dumpster.  Two days ago I rode a 25-miler into Yuma where I joined Mary at the laundromat.  The route took me through the irrigated fields along the Colorado River where they grow a s—load of lettuce – thousands of acres.  Peaceful country roads. They were picking and I stopped to watch:

The lettuce in the foreground is the waste!

There are many places in the middle of nowhere where small groves of orange trees are seemingly abandoned.  I suspect they are the remnants of former large groves.   Farmhouses often have several citrus trees.  The point is, no one bothers to pick the fruit!  The oranges eventually drop and rot.  I guess they don’t deem it worth the trouble.  Out of nothing more than compassion, I stopped and filled my saddlebags.  Such plenty.

In a few days we’ll mosey north to Quartzsite where the annual RV jamboree is held.  If nothing else, it’s fun to see the latest RV technology and extravagances.