Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Desert Trails, the rain, the music and shopping

December 15 - 21, 2014:

We are living life large here, first shopping at Trader Joe's, then to Bookman's book store followed by lunch at Beyond Bread.  In the evening a section of the campground called that Circle hosts a Lumineria light social event with a huge spread of cookies, brownies, crackers and other goodies with bonfires, hot chocolate and cider. Virtually everyone in the campground turns out for it.  As usual, I eat way too many cookies and other rich sugary things, they are near impossible to resist !

I'm still trying to adjust to this stationary snow bird lifestyle.  Tucson is a very cool town with much to do and I haven't done it all, but I have seen a lot and I have to struggle a bit to avoid using that "been there, done that" phrase that I hate. I'm one of those types who never exactly fits in or feels at home anywhere so constant travel is easy for me. All you working people out there must wish you had this problem ? 

Tuesday evening was a concert by BAT Bennet at Desert Trails.  He is an amazing touring (full time RV'er) performer with a great act, perfect for the nostalgia craving senior boomers.  His wife goes around the room just prior to the show taking song requests for him to play.  He is a  amazing guitar player with a good voice for impersonating other artists.  He also has great stage presence, is funny and encourages the audience to clap and sing along.  He was a huge hit here, very entertaining, but I am not a big fan of these nostalgic audience participation acts.  

Wednesday was a mostly rainy day, the weather has been weird this year, I believe we have had more rain in the last two weeks than we had in the past two winters here combined.  I went out for a walk in the desert behind the campground between showers and ended up getting drenched, which was something that doesn't happen often here. It was actually fun and I managed to get a few decent photos.

Nice to see gray clouds once in a while

This old Saguaro fell during the year

The Palo Verde were looking so green

I returned to LaCocina to see Lana Rebel and Kevin Mayfield perform.  They played inside the bar area due to the rain with much background noise from a birthday party.  They play many interesting old songs and originals, but there are usually only a few people actually listening.  It kind of sucks being an artistic, creative musician these days !  No one seems much interested in original music anymore, unless it's the crap like I just heard on a TV Christmas special from NYC called Jingle Ball. The current generational trend seems to be all about trash talking and shaking your booty. I am wondering if 40 years from now people will be listening to cover tunes from the media idols of 2014. Is that a sobering thought ? I bought a bumper sticker to suit this mood the other day.

Feeling old

After Thursday mornings rain we were left with big puffy white cumulous clouds and great photographic opportunities.  I took off with the camera to explore on a hike off Gates Pass Road near Saguaro National Park.

A view from the campground

View from a roadside pull off

It is bow hunting season, watch out !

View from the trail

Lots of boulders out here

Thick stands of Saguaros

The Teddy Bear Chollas were sparkling

On Friday I finally made it to a nearby hiking trail that leads out past Cat Mountain.  I had been wanting to get into this area for a long time.  Cat Mountain is a prominent nearby peak with a unique shape, but not sure why the name as it doesn't look like a cat to me.  It was a really scenic trail, interesting rocks, great views and thick cactus covered hillsides.

A Cat Mountain view from the trail

So many Saguaros

A view of downtown Tucson in the distance

Tucson has this annual music series called the Great Cover-up over two nights in downtown.  I caught the second night show at the Rialto Theater on Saturday.  The show included eight local bands who each did a twenty minute set covering about 4 songs of a known band's hits.  I left after seeing Interpol, the Temptations, Erykah Badu, Led Zeppelin, Otis Redding and Talking Heads.  A few of these bands were doing stuff totally different from their usual material and were quite amazing.

Christmas shopping was thankfully finished at the Mall followed by a nice lunch lunch.

Tucson Mall tree

Sir Veza's cool old chevy panel truck

My kind of place where the napkin is a shop rag

A few other desert hiking photos taken along the way.

Close up of a Saguaro

Prickly Pear Cactus

Returning to the campground at dusk

We are heading to Phoenix to spend Christmas with my mother and sisters family.

Our tree

Merry Christmas to all,
Twinkles and Slick 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Desert Trails

December 8 - 14, 2014:

This is a good time to go through all the RV storage areas and get rid of stuff not being used and to reorganize.  This is going to be a work in progress for a while along with a good exterior cleaning and waxing.  Another project is to check the roof sealant, repair as needed, clean the roof and apply another coat of UV protectant.  It's not exactly fun, kind of like real work, but it is necessary. 

Another issue this week is two campers in our vicinity are having problems with pack rats getting inside the RV or engine compartments.  As a result, more string lights are being installed under RV's to repel the rats.  We have not had a problem with this in past years here, but since they are next door and Twinkles totally freaks out on mice, we might be adding a few ! The real solution is to seal up any holes there might be at wiring or piping pass-throughs into the RV interior.  

We attended the Monday morning campground meeting, also known as the Donut meeting, as you get a free donut for attending.  It is very well attended and is to go over all the weekly activities, upcoming area events, to ask questions, make announcements and on and on.  It lasted about an hour and a half, way too long (for me) as many attending are long-winded and "wanna be" comics. 

We went on a hike in Saguaro National Park on the Signal Hill Trail.  A very scenic trail terminating on a hilltop with indian petroglyphs.

A classic view from Signal Hill

Lots of Petroglyphs

Twinkles on the trail

Saguaro with many new arms
In Tucson there are a few live music venues, which enable me to go somewhere almost any night of the week.  In spite of that being said, the music scene here in Tucson is still pretty lame. Monday night I am at the Chicago Bar where the Rondstadt Generation Band plays every Monday.  The Rondstadt family is sort of a first family in Tucson who at one time had a huge hardware and wagon building business. They also have deep musical roots with Linda Ronstadt being the most prominent family member.  The Rondstadt Generation band has many varying configurations, but is usually Michael Ronstadt (Linda Ronstadt's brother) and various sons and other family members along with other local musicians. These guys are really good ! 

Tuesday evening was a Johnny Bencomo concert at the campground who is always interesting ! He is a real quirky cowboy type, playing for Jesus with an 18 string guitar, has many stories to tell and is able to play about any song requested using his big loose leaf binder. He is always a crowd favorite. He personalizes most songs somewhat and does about the best version of "Ghost Rider" that you will ever hear.

Wednesday it's off to the Boondocks Lounge to see Chris Duarte, a nationally touring blues musician.  I had heard of him, am not a fan of his blues style, but went anyway to see for sure.  He is a tremendously good guitar player, a cross between Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, with almost every song from beginning to end being a blazing guitar riff.  Well now I am sure - I was sitting there thinking that it all bordered on noise pollution.  The most interesting thing there was this cowboy type with a big white hat practically stalking every woman in the bar to ask them to dance. He didn't have that handsome cowboy look, was actually kind of creepy and after being shut down by practically every women there, he left.  I also left soon afterwards.

Boondocks Lounge

Thursday I went with the campground hiking group on the Pima Canyon Trail in the Catalina foothills for a 7 mile intermediate hike.  It was a perfect weather day and is always a good interesting hike.  These group hikes are mostly a social event, when I really want to hike I prefer going with Twinkles or going alone when I can go at my own pace, stop when and where I want, take photos or just look around and absorb the surroundings. 

Pima Canyon view

Friday was an arts and crafts and yard sale in the campground.  Twinkles had a few sewing items to sell, but as a whole RV'ers are a pretty cheap group and really don't need anything or have room for much.  There are a few talented artists here with good art work for sale who did OK.
Afterwards we went to the Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair which is always a good event.  The street is closed off for about a mile and is solid crafts and food vendors.  We took the new light rail train across Tucson to the Fair, it started operation a few months ago.  It was the opening day and was pretty crowded, partly because the weather forecast for Saturday was rain. The highpoint for me was a group of young spirited street performers, St. Cinder, playing many instruments and doing old time acoustic music.  They attracted a big crowd, were really good and appeared to be selling all their CDs which were self recorded CDs in a plain brown paper bag with their name stenciled on.

Tucson's new light rail, appears they operate the switch manually

Twinkles shopping

Plenty of fair food

St. Cinder and crowd

The weather forecast was right on, mucho rain on Saturday morning with the sun finally breaking through at 3:30 PM.  That was cool as my plan was to go to downtown Tucson to the Presidio San Augustin for the Luminaria Light celebration at dusk and have some cookies and hot chocolate.  I then planned to go to the 2nd Saturday downtown happenings and sights and get something from a one or two of the food trucks. 

 The weather did clear exactly on schedule and I caught a great photo of a rainbow over a church on the way downtown.  The luminaria show was mainly a historical enactment of a African American female member of the Anza Expedition who became a successful early settler of California.  The museum and exhibits at the Presidio San Augustin are well done and everyone who visits Tucson should be required be go there as the history of Tucson is pretty amazing stuff. 

Inspiring Rainbow

Historical reenactment

Tucson Christmas Tree

Fox Theater

On the other hand, Tucson's 2nd Saturday celebration can be missed, they don't have anything going on, absolutely nothing ? 

Downtown Tucson is looking better that in the past, many new restaurants have opened in the vicinity of the Congress Hotel and there are lots of people downtown for dining.  Of course the cleaning up and gentrification of the downtown doesn't always sit well with everyone, myself included, as I prefer the rustic dive look to the new upscale trendy dining and cocktail places.   I sympathized with a guy on the street wearing a tee shirt that said "Keep Tucson shitty" or something to that effect.  Not to worry, they still have plenty of those areas in town.

Sunday was a beautiful day, we went to the San Xavier del Bac Mission for an Indian crafts market except that only two vendor's bothered to show up.  These indians just don't understand the Capitalistic system ?  We ended up sharing an Indian fry bread with honey, always great !  Also walked around the front of the mission, no matter how many times you see it, it's always inspirational.  We then went straight to Target and bought a 1/2 price fake Christmas tree. 

San Xavier del Bac

Cactus closeup

Twinkles in line for Fry Bread

So true

Nice to hear to the coyotes howling again,
Twinkles and Slick 

Monday, December 8, 2014


December 1 - 7, 2014:

A not so fun drive on route 10 through Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler and all the other metropolitan towns.  Once on the other side it is the wide open area prone to dust storms which makes that section of I-10 known as one of the deadliest roads in Arizona. No wind or dust to worry about today, clear sailing all the way.  We arrive at Desert Trails RV Park on the western side of Tucson around 2 PM and start to settle in. It will be relaxing to settle in one place for a while (to mid March) as we have maintained a crazy pace this year staying at 74 campgrounds.  This is our third winter here, we know so many people, it's almost like going home.

The view from the observation deck at Desert Trails

Desert Trails entrance

Speaking of going home, I have made travel plan and reservations for January to fly to Ft. Myers, Florida on the 8th to visit my oldest daughter and family, then flying from there to New Jersey on the 15th to visit my son and finally returning to Tucson on the 25th. 

Wednesday evening I go to to see my favorite Tucson musicians, Lana Rebel and Kevin Mayfield at La Cocina Restaurant.  They have a wonderful laid back, cool vibe that I love and they play an eclectic mix of music that I like.  Really great to see them again !

Thursday morning was a unusual, good soaking rainfall in the area, I believe the most rain we have seen here.  As a result, the planned campground hiking event was rained out.  Instead I went to the local library to use their internet for a while.  After the library I found my way back to Pat's famous Chili Dogs which I had been to once before, located in the interesting "Hollywood" section of town.  Sonoran Hot Dogs are really popular here, not sure what these actually are, but for sure they are great chili dogs and you can't beat the price at $1.50 each.

Pat's famous Chili Dogs, can't eat just one !

So many activities here at Desert Trails, Twinkles is back in Spanish class again, we went for an hour hike in the desert this morning, then a soup and salad pot luck lunch at the recreation hall, now she is at Gourd making class, happy hour at the neighbors later this afternoon, then there is a high school mariachi band doing a concert here in the evening.  

We attend the Tamale Festival at the Casino del Sol on Saturday for the absolute best food court along with several music and dance performances.  On Sunday we did another favorite cultural event, the "Fiesta de Tumacacori".  We watched the church service which is quite unique as it is done outside right in front of the Tumacacori Mission.  The setting is downright spiritual, it was a beautiful day with the mountains in the background, birds flying overhead and the sight of the ancient old Mission.  The service is done in a combination of English, Spanish and some form of native Indian accompanied by Indian dancing and spanish music.  
The religious ceremony is followed by a festival with several folk dance groups and musicians, craft vendors, environmental exhibits, children's activities, Mission tours and other activities.  Also more great local food vendors !  These are two of my favorite events in the area which are held each year prior to Christmas.

A piƱata for the kids to break

Old time fiddler's played OK, but could not sing

A weird but interesting Indian dance group

Many vendors

Of course everyone likes the dancers

A beautiful red tailed Hawk

Interior of the Mission

Interior was stripped by vandals many years
ago, the park service has stabilized the
building and is leaving it as is

A model of the Mission showing what it originally looked like

The front of the Mission

Next week's plan is less eating and more exercise to work off a few unwanted pounds.  

Twinkles and Slick