Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Times They Are A- Changing

January 16 - 31, 2018:

A new Bob Dylan is needed in these sad days of political change, but I will not get into that conversation here.

Instead, I'm talking about our full time RV adventure that has been constantly evolving since the start in 2012, now going on six years ago.  In the beginning, the plan was to divest ourselves of the conventional house and its contents, buy a 5th wheel RV with a dually pickup to pull it and to roam the country free as a bird.  Next we realized that the large rig was kind of restrictive to really going everywhere and we downsized to a 30 foot Class C Motorhome and a Jeep.  This has been working out great, but after the second year of wintering for 3-4 months in Tucson I knew the free spirit full time RV adventure was ultimately doomed, Twinkles would eventually need a nest.

I also realize that a time will come when I will no longer be capable, physically, mentally or emotionally, to handle the rigors of this life on the road and will have to stop.  At that time it will be much more difficult to make the change back to a house.  I expected to avoid this situation for another year, especially after buying the Jeep, but Twinkles has been looking at house listings all year and this one fit most of our requirements, it was sort of too good to pass up on.  We looked at it and basically said, OK, we’ll take it. 

We will keep the RV and become sort of reverse snow birds taking off in the summer and fall. This year is going to be different, we will be RV’ing from April to July, then returning to Tucson to move in, after which I will return to New Jersey to get stuff being stored there, rent a truck and drive back to Tucson.  After settling into the house there could be additional RV road trips in early fall.        

 I go to the “Tap and Bottle” for Tom Walbank and Austin Count”s recent CD release.  I have seen Tom Walbank a number of times around town, he is a highly rated harmonica player but had never seen Austin Count before.  I am joined at the bar by an old guy who turns out to be quite entertaining giving me his thoughts on the changing roles of men and woman in the future world, specifically how women will become the dominant sex and men with good DNA attributes will be used mainly for breeding purposes.  I recently sent a sample out for DNA testing and am patiently waiting to see how I check out ? 

Kevin Pakulis’s Sunday Sessions event at Borderlands Brewery is becoming more popular and crowded every week.  It seems that the word has gotten out, it’s the coolest thing to do on a Sunday afternoon in Tucson.

Another Sunday Session at Borderlands

A Christmas present of mine “The Oregon Trail” by Rinker Buck turned out to be an excellent read.  I could identify with it somewhat (on a lower level) with our own RV travels of the last few years.  I also love traveling the old historic paths and thinking about the people who pioneered these routes.  He really trashed RV'ers in the book, in particular the large motor home types, was kind of funny.  I especially liked how he told the story of westward expansion in a light that was not exactly the sugar coated heroic version learned in school.  This book is about much more than a wagon ride across the country, highly recommended.

Wednesday evenings at LaCocina with Kevin and Lana have become more like visiting old friends.  Every year one of their friends, Gabe Rozzell, comes to visit from California and sits in with them.  He is very Alt-Country or something like that with a deep country accented voice.  Nobody does a better rendition of Townes Van Zandt's “Pancho and Lefty” than Gabe.

Lana, Gabe and Kevin at LaCocina

On Friday evening I ventured to the St. Charles Tavern to hear a rather weird father daughter duo called the “Exbats”.  The description of the band clinched it, late 1970’s New York Bowery punk,  I had to see them.  I must confess, one of my biggest regrets is missing the whole punk music period.   The opening band, TWGS, had an interesting punk alternative sound that was very interesting. The Exbats were as weird as expected, (not in a bad way) with a musical style you don’t hear in southwest, or anywhere, truly unique.  Dad is obviously an old hand on the guitar and the daughter has a unique standing up style of drumming with brushes and strong vocals.  Of course, a band like this draws a strange and fun crowd including the “Resist Fascism” volunteers who I totally support.  At the end of the concert, Kevin Mayfield and Gabe Rozzell show up after a show Gabe had performed earlier at “Exo Roasting”, another place I need to visit in the future.

Good to see the youth getting involved in more than texting

The big event this month is the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show and we must go.  I don’t care so much about the beads and jewelry, but love the rocks, gemstones, dinosaurs and fossils.  Twinkles who used to have a bead selling business is considering getting back into it again next year.

Many fish fossils can be purchased

Or Indian brass goods

All sizes of stone lamps

Or polished rocks

All kinds of beads

Alaskan Mammouth tusks

Even a Tyrannosaurus Rex 

I've had a horrible cold or flu for the past two weeks, but still managed a couple of hikes behind the campground.

The fence line at Tucson Mountain Park

There are people here with too much spare time 

A dead Saguaro taking on a monumental appearance

I found an interesting historic park adjacent to the Julian Wash in Tucson that described the native indian cultures that inhabited and farmed this area.

The Julian Wash Cultural History Walk

A roadrunner crosses my path

Many healthy looking agaves

Exhibit on native Indian stoneware 

I am always on the lookout for a new mural in Tucson which is a treasure trove of street art and murals.

This is a talking mural that celebrates local businesses

You can scan the business into your phone for information

Local self serve car wash

A wild looking leopard mural 

There is a plan underway to return to New Jersey to retrieve the 38 Dodge from storage and bring it back to Tucson at the end of this month.  More will be revealed later ?

I want to plug a wonderful Tucson organization called "Ben's Bells".  Their mission is to educate communities about the known positive impacts of intentional kindness and to empower individuals to act according to that awareness.  Twinkles and a couple of friends went there and did some volunteer painting last week.  The world needs more of this kind of thinking these days !


Give that some thought:
Twinkles and Slick

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Another full go around

January 1 - 15, 2018:

The highlight of my New Years day evening was a trip to the Chicago Bar to see the Rondstadt Brothers Y Los Tucsonenses perform.  I could have seen them at the campground the previous Friday evening, but it’s far better at the Chicago Bar.  

A Christmas present of mine was a video recording of a Muddy Waters concert in 1981 at Buddy Guys “Checkerboard Lounge” in Chicago.  This was a great concert even before the Rolling Stones showed up at the club and joined Muddy on stage. Mick Jagger did the black sharecropper blues talk thing so well, Muddy was looking at him with wonder at times.  Also rough looking Keith Richards and Ron Woods on stage with cigarettes dangling from their lips were classic.  They were joined by other notable blues players and a dapper looking young Buddy Guy.  

I’ve been slacking off lately on area history, that needs to change this month.   We take in the Arizona State History Museum with lots of exhibits on local Tucson history and multitudes of other stuff.

A1923 Studebaker car, a pretty fancy car for the 
Pima County sheriff !

Tucson street view

Old original stage coach

A romanticized view of Custer's last Fight 

My usual Wednesday evening at LaCocina with Lana and Kevin is a special one as old friends of Lana were on hand to join in.  As a result Lana is doing the vocals on many old country songs from previous band days back in Portland, Oregon.  Also, the parents of Lana’s old bandmate were there who once lived in both New Jersey and Vermont.  We had an especially good time talking about Vermont where I have spent considerable time.  I need to get back there again soon, the Northeastern states may be in the travel plan this year. 

Kevin and Lana on the LaCocina stage

On the live music front I’ve been very busy making the rounds between LaCocina, Hotel Congress, Chicago Bar, St. Charles Tavern, Borderlands Brewing, The Tap and Cork and Monterey Court.

Dan O'Rourke and Kata Hay at Monterey Court, Kata
is a Dolly Parton clone who appeared on the "Voice", great
voice but I preferred Dans music

Eb Eberlein has become a favorite of mine, a
great laid back vibe, attitude to match and
endless stories and songs

Rich Hopkins and the Luminaries at Tap and Bottle, nice to see
a real guitar god in action, it was a 60th birthday party for Rich 

There have been a few hikes and a few decent photos but nothing very exciting.  In the next few weeks I need to pick up the action and get in some serious hiking and do some of the other things I planned to do this winter. 

The sharp jagged peaks surrounding Tucson are ominous from this viewpoint

Love these hazy mountain views

The trail to the old stone house near the 36 street trailhead

It was once a nice house

With a great view !

A close up of a Saguaro shows the woody interior

The pretty Saguaros shouldn't get all the attention,
I respect these survivors even more

As we have been driving the wheels off our Jeep for the past four years (I can’t believe it’s been four years) it now has 125,000 miles on it.  It has been very reliable, but at that mileage repairs and reliability issues are expected.  We soon found that new Jeeps are sort of pricey, but that used Jeeps hold their value really well, negating the advantage of buying a slightly used Jeep.  As a result, we started thinking new with the anticipation of getting a good trade value on our 2011 Jeep.  We then found that Jeeps hold their value really well until they get upwards of 100,000 miles at which point their value nosedives.  We then had trouble deciding between the two door and four door versions.  The Jeep has a dedicated following and an iconic image to maintain and as a result the basic body styling inside and out has not changed for at least a decade.  There isn’t really much difference between a 2008 and a 2018 Jeep.  We ultimately decided on the two door in a light color mainly for some some change.  I’m glad to be done with this, I hate the car buying experience. 

The Jeep in front of Cat Mountain

We’ve been having above average temperatures and mostly sunny days with virtually no rain.  It’s another “beautiful day in paradise” as many here like to say,
as I’m having another miserable winter cold, I seem to have no resistance to them.   

We are in limbo as to where we are going and what we are doing next year, it’s becoming more complicated.  More will be revealed in the next installment.

Keep watching, also check out our friends on:  https://www.hitchupandgo.com

Twinkles and Slick 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017 final thoughts

December 16 - 31, 2017:

Check out the new map, a work in progress, you can zoom in and out, go full size at the lower left corner and if you click on a pin you see the campground name and general location.

2017 was a great travel year, no accidents, breakdowns or broken bones.  We traveled 7,460 miles through 14 states with our usual short hop mentality staying in 63 campgrounds along the way.  Only 25 of these were private campgrounds, the rest were either State or County parks, National Forest, Corp of Engineers or Casinos.

This years travel path reinforces my opinion that there are great things to see and do just about everywhere in this country.  I get very annoyed when I hear people say “What did you go there for” or “there’s nothing to see there but corn fields”.  “Anti-destination” places like Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa come to mind that are loaded with hidden treasures if you leave the interstate highway and look around. The north woods area of Minnesota was also fantastic and the Lake Superior shoreline bordering Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Check out the new map, a work in progress, if you click on a pin you see the campground general location.

In spite of the christmas lights, decorations, holiday get-togethers, extended happy hours, etc, I find it difficult to get into the christmas spirit here in Arizona.  I would “sometimes” love to have a winter retreat, a small cabin in the north woods, stocked with supplies, where I could sit in front of a roaring fireplace or stove and watch the snow fall.

I learned of a new music venue in Tucson called the "House of Bards" where blues harmonica player “Harpdog Brown” was playing.  He is a Canadian who has won prestigious awards for his blues harmonica playing in Canada and is currently on US tour.  The publicity photo alone sold me on seeing him, but I didn’t have high expectations.  He turned out to be great, far beyond expectations in every facet and one of the very best blues shows I have seen in recent memory.

Harpdog Brown and band were awesome, a word I hate to use lightly

At this time of the year there are many pre Christmas parties in the campground.  A neighbor held a sort of block party for campground “row M” and friends with about 40 people.  It was a Mexican themed pre christmas party with some traditional singing, various Mexican foods and a Mexican punch.  There were entertaining stories from a couple of guys who have worked and wandered around the Mexican back country with daring tales of dealing with the federales, the locals and the Narcos. In comparison, I’m feeling like I’ve lived a sheltered existence.

We visited the "University of Arizona Museum of Art"  which had amazing stuff.  My favorite was the somewhat controversial artwork titled "In Transit" fabricated of strips of trash paper that was glued together then painted over.  It dealt with the social implications of trans-national migration and human rights in the borderlands region.  The paintings were amazing, you had to look closely to see that it wasn't just a painting on canvas.  The other amazing exhibit was the altarpiece of the Ciudad Rodrigo, one of the most important works of 15th century Spain.  This is an amazing, priceless collection of religious paintings.

The art was amazing and the message strongly communicated 

Power to the people

Really like this painting by Alexander Hogue

Gallery entrance

There is a lot to think about sitting in this room

I now know where woman came from

A couple of weeks ago at the 4th Street Winter Fair a man came up to me and asked to take a picture of me, this is the second time this has happened to me.  The first time I was “supposed” to be Kenny Rodgers.  This time it was scoutmaster Rick who was a dear departed boy scoutmaster, loved by all.  I supposedly look exactly like him so a photo was taken to send back home to the kids.  A few months ago while hiking a man said I reminded him of Jerry Garcia, that was ridiculous, I look nothing like Jerry Garcia, does everyone with a beard look like Jerry.  Many years ago I really did look like Chuck Connors, It’s beginning to bother me some that all these people are dead ?

I just saw a rerun of the TV show “Frazier” where he went on the road trip with his father, his brother and Daphne in a Winnebago RV.  It was a classic, hysterical, watch for a re-run. ! 

I subscribe to a website called the “Blues Festival E-Guide”.  In a recent post, the death of Robert Bilbo caught my attention and as I read the accompanying story my memory returned of meeting him.  I had traveled to Mississippi, following the blues trail, searching for the birthplaces of the blues.  I was staying at the "Shack up Inn" on the former Hopson Plantation in an old wooden sharecropper’s cabin called the "Crossroads Shack", it was way cool !!!  A few miles away was the town of Clarsdale, Mississippi where the famous Ground Zero Blues Club is located.  In town is also the famous “Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art" shop” filled with everything blues oriented.  I was the only customer in the store except for the clerk who was talking to a Chuck Berry looking black man.  As I approached the counter, the clerk said, It’s your lucky day, the famous Robert Bilbo is here and he introduced me to him.  He was very friendly and after recognizing me as a real blues fan told me about a place to go outside of town to hear good blues, said it was rough looking, but not to worry, it would be safe.  I went to the area, which was very ghetto looking and decided no way, looking back now I now wish I had ventured in.  I later googled Robert Bilbo and found him to be a very exciting flamboyant blues player to watch.   The story about him the the Blues E-Guide is a classic and a nice tribute to him, he was definitely a loved blues man.


Next was native American music at the "Sea of Glass" in Tucson where I saw the
Cody Blackbird Band open for Keith Secola.  Cody Blackbird is a great flute player and Keith Secola is a legendary Native American musician compared to Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.  He played solo at first and then with a group of notable players he called the "Wild Javelinas".  World renown classical guitarist, Gabriel Ayala, of the local Pacua Yaqui Tribe who performs at Desert Trails RV Park was part of the band. Keith Secola has a song that is said to be the most popular song on Indian radio called "Indian Cars, or NDN KARS".  They joked about it as they had had car issues on the ride to the concert event.  He has great stuff on You Tube with his Band of Wild Indians.

Keith Secola and the Wild Javelinas 

The pre Christmas Sunday Sessions at Borderlands Brewery put on by Kevin Pakulis and other talented musicians was a great one.  A couple of people in the campground expressed interest in going which eventually ballooned into 15 people total.  It’s funny to me how people in the campground tend to travel in groups, never solo like me.  The Sunday Sessions are getting very popular, almost too crowded, I remember when it was just a few people.


I made it to a few Monterey Court shows, this monthly show called the "Spontaneous Sessions with Ed Eberlein" are a new favorite of mine.

Ed Eberlein on left has a different special quest each month

I next attend the “Wooden Ball” music event at the Hotel Congress where several local bands play semi-acoustic. in other words not acoustic at all, but very good.  I’m seeing some of these bands for the first time and kind go wondering where they play, I never see them advertised anywhere.  A couple of them have been around for a long time but rarely play except on special occasions like this.

Leila Lopez had a great strumming technique and interesting voice

I haven't found the time to do much hiking this month, but managed to squeeze in a couple of short ones.  Attached are a few photos from an interesting hike to a mine shaft off the King Canyon Trail.

I left the trail to hike deep into this wash

These cactus will grow about anywhere if their roots can
find a place to anchor like the crack in this rock wall 

These are real american indian petroglyphs in the area,
I won't disclose their exact location

Everyone loves to see stunted "crested" Saguaros

I had to bushwhack into this beautiful area to get to the mine remains

That's a big hole to fall into, but it is surrounded by a barbed wire fence
which tore my jeans open !  No, I wasn't climbing over it !

The holiday social scene here is more than I can can handle and I tend to skip much of it.  I could not evade the New Years Dance where the Bad News Bears Band played and I will say it was fun for the sake of domestic tranquility.  A few of our Canadian friends at the New Years dance had fun singing the Canadian Anthem with a US flag, it's good the border patrol didn't see them !

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018;
Twinkles and Slick