Monday, December 23, 2013

Desert Trails week 3

December 16 - 23, 2013:

On Monday morning, we learn that a trip to the local post office, inside a small gift shop, next to a large snow bird trailer park a week before Christmas is not a smart idea.  There was a line to the doorway and the seniors on their golf carts driving in the parking lot could easily have been a subject for a U-tube video. Latter in the day, at 2 PM I ventured to the recreation hall for the music jam which I find quite entertaining, but it sure could use some young blood in the mix.  

I broke down and bought a new camera to replace the current one that is starting to fall apart after 2+ years and 20,000 + photos.  Cameras get more complex each year with menus on top of menus and all sorts of bells and whistles, I can hardly stand it.  It was a package deal and came with a huge professional model printer that is virtually free, but is kind of large and heavy (42 lbs) for the RV.  I plan to use it while here, or until the ink runs out as the print quality is fantastic, then I don't know what I'll do with it.  Anyone need a great printer at a bargain price ?

unusual cloudy day in the desert

Nice cloud formations caught my attention
On Monday evening, the circle area of the campground had a luminera display and open house with campfires, hot cider, hot chocolate and munches.  Everyone brings some kind of food, mostly rich sugary deserts guaranteed to give you an immediate sugar buzz.  It is an annual campground event, very festive that draws a big crowd.   

Tuesday night we went with campground friends to hear a young high school mariachi band perform out in the Catalina foothills area of Tucson.  They were very talented and polished performers for their age.  Twinkles is taking a Spanish class at the campground, studying hard and doing very well, but could not understand a word in the fast paced Spanish songs.  Have no fear she will master this in no time.

Meanwhile, back at the campground, they had a String Band performing that turned tragic, (horribly tragic), one of the musicians in the middle of the performance, dropped dead.  I'm sure glad I missed that show !

High school Mariachi Band

In addition to sewing, working in the library, spanish class, game night, Twinkles is taking a Gourd class.

The Gourd project is looking good

Thursday, I went on a campground group hike on the the Pima Canyon Trail in the Catalina foothills.  It was a beautiful day, perfect temperature, a great trail and much interesting conversation, these hikes are as much a social event as a hiking event. There was even water flowing at the dam in the canyon.  The desert vegetation is so much greener this winter due to the recent substantial rainfall.  Thursday night a cold front moved in and we had some light rain overnight, then heavy clouds and more light rain showers on Friday.  Interestingly, the temperature here was 49 degrees in mid afternoon, exactly the same as back home in Hightstown, New Jersey.

The hiking club on the trail
We have found the local Pima County library, where you can easily get a library card, take out up to 25 books.  They have a nice modern building with computers, tables, chairs, books, magazines and good internet.  Since the WiFi is so poor at the campground, I will be spending considerable time there this year.  

Friday night I'm drawn back to downtown Tucson to the "Plush" for another round of live music. There is always much street activity on 4th Avenue where Plush is located so I usually start with a walking cruise around the block.  The first band, the Wayward Saints, started about 9:30 and was very good, but there not much of a crowd, too quiet !  The second band came on at 10:45 and I didn't like their name, their look, their music at all so I left about 11:00 and headed back to the campground.  As I went through downtown there was a huge crowd at the Rialto Theater for a concert there, which explains somewhat the lack of a crowd at the Plush. Should have gone to the Rialto ? 

Saturday, Twinkles and I were back to 4th Avenue again to shop and have lunch.  We ended up at the "Bison Witches" that was packed with diners, we had to wait 10 minutes for a table, but it was worth it. The sandwiches were delicious and huge, I had half a sandwich and great cream of potato soup in a bread bowl.  

Bison Witches

I have been eating like a hog lately so on Sunday it was going to be a big hiking day for me. It was a 7 mile roundtrip hike to the top of Wasson Peak, the highest point in the Tucson Mountains at 4,687 feet.  It is very rocky and moderately steep in sections giving me a good workout.  Then I return to the campground and eat a healthy German hotdog from the food truck.

The distant mountains are calling

Classic cactus view

The city of Tucson in the distance from the trail

Another trail view

Many old mines are in the area

Since the rain, the Ocotillo's have sprouted
leaves and are starting to flower

Indian grinding holes used to grind seeds

Indian Petroglyphs in the rocks

My beard is now fully grown in and it's feeling a lot more like Christmas.  This is a good RV look, no shaving saves water and razor blades and it is hiding all sorts of winkles, loose jowls and multiple chins, I love it !  Do not fear, I won't end up looking like the Duck Dynasty guys.

We are headed to Phoenix to celebrate Christmas with my sisters family and my mother, so we have opened our presents early this year.

New grill, I'm getting too old for that Charcoal stuff

Twinkles new cruiser

Happy birthday to my daughter Jessica today and a Merry Christmas to all.

Good Night,
Twinkles and Slick

Monday, December 16, 2013

Desert Trails and beyond

December 8-15, 2013:

The RV lifestyle gives one an escape route from many of life's more unpleasant tasks, but one you can't escape is Christmas shopping.  We had to go out to the Mall on Monday to deal with it.  Occasionally, I like shopping, if it is for me and I know what I need or want and there is no deadline to meet.  Christmas is different, gift cards are easy, but not a real gift.  I am never really satisfied with a gift that I give unless I physically make it, like painting a rock or something like that, that no one wants.  Regardless, we are really in the holiday spirit this year with a Christmas Tree and a string of exterior lights. 

The Tree  
Back at the RV, I'm continuing on my old postcard project.  I had packed a box of old family postcards, approximately 200, into the RV in July 2012, some over 100 years old, as a project to sort them and get them into a album.  I have not touched them since that day.  Finally, the time is right to get them out, put them into date order and into a album. I soon found that many don't have dates at all, or legible dates, but the stamps or the address give clues to the age.  The old cards are nicer than modern cards, they have a warmer, more artistic quality about them.  These cards were a form of communication in their day, like texting today, to let friends and relatives know where they were, how they were doing and when they would be home.  Also it is interesting was how long it was a 1 cent postage stamp and the beautiful flowery handwriting on some of the cards.  In reading these cards, I'm revisiting the travels and thoughts, good times mostly, of many family members who are long departed from this world.  That is something to ponder ?  Will someone be reading this blog 100 years from now and be amazed by the primitive communication method used in 2013 ?

The post card album

My first trip to the South Tucson Bario (4th Avenue) area this year on Tuesday.  I remember most of the sights from before, but things change with time.  Buildings get painted, sometimes buildings are gone, murals are painted over, things change. I usually recognize scenes I have taken previously, and then almost always repeat the photos as something will always be different, the light, the clouds, the backgrounds.  Twinkles says that I am always so focused with the camera that I miss much of what is going on around me.  I have always believed I see more because I am always looking for the photo, but as I watch other people at events with cameras, she has a good point.  I just read a quote in a magazine article by a musician "Black Joe Lewis" who stated; "Like at concerts, half the people are holding up their cell phones and watching the shitty picture on the screen rather than the live concert".   It kind of like people at a table in a restaurant, all looking at their cell phones and texting, instead of having a conversation. That's something else to ponder, I believe I'll have another beer !

Arch on 4th Street

Mural on 4th Street

Another mural on 4th Street

And another mural

The El Dorado Restaurant

South Tucson welcome sign

I also found my way to the famous Diamondback Rattlesnake Bridge in Tucson which really is an award winning pedestrian/bike path bridge over Broadway Avenue. 

The snakes tail

The snakes head

After getting a propane tank refilled in the morning, I attached some Christmas lights on the RV with some self stick adhesive clips, wonder how long it takes for them to fall off ?  I then waited for a UPS delivery that we missed yesterday, they come right into the campground and deliver to our door.  In spite of what people say, the Postal Service, UPS and Fed-Ex are amazing these days.  I order stuff from Snapfish, Adorama, Amazon and others and receive it in a couple of days.  Amazon in particular is incredibly efficient, you place an order and it is shipped within hours, sometimes you receive it the next day.  

On Thursday, we went with a our friend Leila to the "Mini Time Machine" a Museum of miniatures in Tucson.  It is filled with over 275 miniature houses and room boxes. The level of craftsmanship and artistry in these is amazing.  It is advertised to be the only miniatures museum in the country. 

Really liked these mass produced miniature houses

Museum exhibits

More exhibits

In the evening, I go downtown to the "Plush" club for the first of the "Cover It" music sessions. The "Cover-it" event is a three day Tucson music series that is held at three different venues in which each band performs songs by a well known band or to a particular musical theme.  I'm not a huge cover band fan, there were a couple that I liked (Jethro Tull and The Clash), a couple I didn't even know, a couple that I don't care for and one band that was outstanding covering "Heart".     

I was most impressed with the sound guy, he worked his ass off, (hope he was getting paid well), there were 10 bands playing 1/2 hour sets, all with different band configurations and everything had to be reconfigured for each new band.  He must have ran 100 times from the sound booth to the stage to set up, fix stuff, change cables and then the sound checks.  These guys are often the unsung hero's of the music scene, they can make or break a bands sound, they are amazing to watch, the sound board has hundreds of switches, lights, controls and they are constantly tweaking these adjustments.  I have also noticed that they are almost always weird looking strange dudes, like a secret society and I wonder how they learned this craft.  I know one can go to school to become a sound engineer, but most of these guys look like they learned in the school of hard knocks ?  

Twinkles and I went to the 4th Avenue Winter Street Festival in Tucson on Saturday, one of the largest Tucson festivals of the year.  A long stretch of the street is closed off with street vendors and food stands.  It is a fun area of the town even without the festival with lots of interesting shops, restaurants and bars.  As usual we saw much that appealed, but no room in the RV.  We then returned to the campground (Desert Trails) for a breather.  In the evening, Twinkles went with her friends to the Karaoke session at Desert Trails while I returned to downtown Tucson for the final 2nd Saturday downtown Tucson event with food truck vendors and street musicians and the final "Cover it" music session at the Rialto Theater.  I heard a decent rendition of "Free Bird" by a young college age band on the sidewalk that was pretty cool and another band doing stuff reminiscent of the Ramones. 

4th Avenue poster

The BBQ smoke was heavy

These guys were almost inciting violence on the street

The crowds were heavy

multiple horns

Good eating !

Lots of street musicians

I took in about the first half of the "Cover it" show as all the ones I wanted to hear were early.  The Neil Young cover band lived up to all expectations, really great.  They were followed by a Velvet Underground cover band fronted by this Tucson child prodigy musician.  I had seen this kid (can't be more than 12) last year playing amazing slide guitar to Robert Johnson blues songs. I am not a Velvet Underground fan, but the band was good and he did all the vocals and sounded good. This was followed by the absolute worst Bruce Springsteen renditions I have ever heard, someone should have pulled the plug on this guy, horrible ! Next was a band doing "The Cars", these guys were really veteran performers who were great.  On one song, the guitar player to entice more crowd clapping participation said " Come on, this isn't those fuckers up in Phoenix, this is Tucson".  Last was a band doing Aerosmith, with a vibrant female lead who had an incredibly great voice and great Stephen Tyler stage moves. 

The Rialto Theater

Street musicians
Downtown Tucson is looking better this year. The new trolley system is almost done, they are track testing the cars now and many new restaurants and clubs have opened up in the Congress Street area. This downtown is definitely on the rebound. 

New Tucson Trolley under testing

More to come,
Twinkles and Slick

Monday, December 9, 2013

Desert Trails Again

December 1 - 7, 2013:

On the road again at 10 AM, traveling route 85 north back to Why, AZ then taking route 86 (Ajo Road) east to Tucson. Ajo Road actually goes to within a few miles of the Desert Trails RV Park on the western side of Tucson.  Route 86 is a mostly a flat straight road, but rough in areas, just enough to keep you from getting bored.  It passes through a long, poor stretch of Tohono O'odham indian territory, with no sizable towns, rest stops or fuel for many miles.  We arrived at Desert Trails around 2 PM and got settled into our winter retreat by about 3 PM.  They started a new thing this year having food trucks come into the campground a couple times a week.  On Sunday it was the "Serial Grillers" truck which is a favorite and as a result there was a long line, but it was worth the wait. 

Tucson has received much rain in the past two weeks to ease the drought conditions and now there are freezing low temps forecast for the next few days, but day time high temps are still in the comfortable 55-60 range. 

Monday and Wednesday were settling in days for us, going to the Monday morning campground meeting and learning about all the planned activities, stocking up on food, cleaning, laundry, washing the truck, changing the air filter and repairing the RV spare tire crank rod that was bent from a tire blowout. It is also time to go through all the travel brochures and booklets that we have accumulated during the past year and painfully (for me) deciding what must go.  Then pulling everything out of the basement, weeding out what we can part with to try to sell or give away at Friday's campground yard sale.  I did sneak out for a while to visit "Tiny's Saloon" nearby, just to see if it has changed.  Good news, they have not renovated or modernized it and ruined the vibe, it's the same as ever. 
Saguaro view

Chain fruit Cactus

Barrel Cactus

 Thursday night I ventured to downtown Tucson to the Hotel Congress to see a band that sounded very interesting, "Texas Trash and the Train Wrecks".  They turned out to be extremely interesting, a very amped up band of misfits, more than a little scary looking, but very entertaining.  It was a little unsettling to look at the front man with his open black leather jacket exposing his chest tattoo's along with his weird facial tattoo's and his hook for a right hand. It was quite the spectacle when the hook came off during one of the high energy songs !   I also really enjoyed the opening solo act, Chris Hall, many sad depressing songs (my favorites), hope to hear more of him in the future.  

Texas Trash and the Train Wrecks
I joined the Desert Trails hiking club on Thursday's for a 6 mile hike to the Bridal Wreath Falls on the eastern side of Tucson.  It had rained during the night and early morning and it was rather cold and cloudy, but the rain held off and it was a good hike.  There was even a trickle of water flowing over the waterfall. 

The hiking crew on the trail

We took in many activities during over weekend, first the Tucson Botanical Garden on Friday evening for their holiday "Luminaria Nights" event.  They had thousands of candle illuminated paper bags set up along all the Botanical Garden pathways, food vendors, Christmas music and even Santa. There was a great inside exhibit titled "Alien Invasion, of the Plant Kind" on evasive plant species with movie posters and magazine covers about man eating plants and such.

The Botanical Garden at dusk

Saturday was the Casino Del Sol Tamale Festival which is # 1 for Indian/mexican food vendors.  The focus is on Tamales, but everything there is great !  It was very well attended and people really pig out, there is a line at every food vendors table and they usually start running out of stuff by mid afternoon.  The Casino is operated by the Pascua Yaqui Indian tribe, who have roots in Mexico and the food and music was all mexican. We went last year, thought it was great then and it seemed even better this year.

Mariachi Band at the Tamale Festival

Tamales for sale

Sunday we travelled an hour south to the Fiesta de Tumacacori for more Indian and Mexican culture and food.  We went to this event last year, it is another really great festival, not to be missed.  I love the old Tumacacori Mission, so much history there, you can almost feel it oozing from the adobe bricks.  We took in the guided tour this year and now have a better understanding of the chaotic goings on in this period in history involving the native people, the spanish, the mexicans and finally the Americans. 

Folklorico dance group from Sonora, Mexico

Balancing bottles while dancing not easy

A fast paced dance

Interior of the Mission Tumacacori

Interior of the Mission Tumacacori

Original paint still visible in places
Interior of the Mission Tumacacori

Exterior of the Mission

The original Mission interior looked something  like this

Twinkles is really enjoying being around many people again and getting a break from me 24/7.  I am enjoying one place for a while to get caught up on several projects that have been on hold and Tucson is a great place for that.

More to come,
Twinkles and Slick