McDowell Regional Park, March 2019

Here are a couple last minute additions.

The Ocotillos are starting to bloom. The red flowers come out at the end of each stalk.

And then greens leaves along each stalk.

All of this seems to be happening in just a few days.

And the poppies are blooming in the middle of the campground.

The campground has two loops each with 40 camp sites. The sites are roomy and spaced far apart. We walked around both loops in the morning and one in the later afternoon and it was enough to get 10,000 steps

There is a playground between the two loops.

it has picnic tables, benches, sun shades and a giant slide disguised as a snake. There is a big spider climbing a rock.

And some desert sculpture as well.

Much of the rock in this area is granite and quartz. It doesn’t take long to find pretty good sized chunks of white quartz. One of the campground hosts turns it into art.

A coyote, road runner, a lizard and a scorpion.

Every day here was an interesting one, even the ones working on taxes. Lots to see, places to ride, places to walk. Time to just watch the sky, the clouds, the light and color.

Wondering if a thunderstorm is coming? No just clouds.

We have been here at McDowell Mountain three weeks, near Tucson for four weeks. We have been steadily increasing the time we stay at places we like. How well that feels depends on the place. There is always plenty to do right where we are. For the most part we go to places not in cities. There are always a few attractions in nearby cities we will go to see, local history and culture for example. We are not much for random shopping but it is very interesting to see the creativity and skill in things people create.

In eight years owning our Foretravel we have been in it as our home, wherever we have been, for more than three years. It is home and we are comfortable wherever we are.

More later, Much Love

Roger and Susan

McDowell Mountain Regional Park, March 2019

We have had a few cool days and cold nights, even a couple below freezing but now it is in the 70s and once in a while in the 80s. Nights are usually in the 50s. Very comfortable.

Visits and Visitors

We went to see our friends John and Kathy Juelfs. They are full timers and have been spending the winters in an RV park in Apache Junction for the last few years. On the way over we stopped at B&B Farms and bought a couple dozen ready to eat Navel oranges and a couple grapefruits. We met them about five years ago in Nacogdoches. They were just retiring and buying a coach. No real prior RV history. They found a nice coach and were ready to set off. We (and others) thought they looked scared to death. They found their own way and are now happy campers. Somehow I forget to take any pictures.

We went over to Frank and Pattie‘s home in Rio Verde for dinner and laundry. Frank is Susan’s brother. They spend half of their time in AZ and half in MN. Soon maybe a bit more in AZ. Frank and I were busy talking about Verizon vs AT&T. Susan and Pattie were busy chatting about dinner things.

We had a nice dinner, thanks Pattie. Frank and I made plans to visit an AT&T store a couple days later.

We drove over to Surprise, AZ to see our friend Jennifer who moved down here last fall. Going from one side of Phoenix to the other is a long way. She has a very nice house in among lots of other seniors. Even with neighbors all around her back yard seemed pretty private. We brought oranges for her but she has a big productive orange tree herself so we ended up bringing home more oranges than we came with. OK with us. I am sorry, I went photo dead again here.

Another day we drove into downtown Phoenix, just a block or so from the Opera and the Heard Museum to see Richard and Susan Peck. They had just bought their Foretravel about four years ago when we met them at the Foretravel GrandVention in Columbus, Indiana. They were heading off into the undiscovered world of fulltiming in the RV and still working. Susan is still working full time now and they decided to plant their flag for a while in Phoenix, sell their coach and be landlubbers again. They were involved in a serious car crash in January which left both of them injured, Richard more seriously. After several orthopedic surgeries, a long time in the hospital and specialized care they are back at home with many months of rehab ahead.

There is a family owned Italian restaurant in their apartment building. We had a very nice lunch there and a gelato for dessert at the place next to the restaurant. Truly urban living. It was so nice to see them; see them smiling knowing what they have been through and have ahead. They are another part of our extended Foretravel community who have become good friends as well.

And Roger and Vicki Henry stopped over one day for a couple hours. They are from St Paul, down here on what seems to us a high speed multi-stop road trip. More their style than ours but nice to see them as well and for them to get a small taste of our life elsewhere.

My cousin and her husband Sandy and Claus came for a visit as well. They wanted to see where we live when we are elsewhere and what McDowell Mountain Park looks like. We had a great lunch that Susan prepared. They moved down here a year ago and managed to get through their first summer. It was really fun to see them. The Senior Cousins get together a couple times in MN for a brunch or lunch each year and through the extraordinary amount of chatting it is often hard to just get some one on one time. So this was a good time to just focus on the four of us. We appreciated the time we shared. (And no, Claus is not sleeping).

And finally Susan went over to see Jane, a long time Book Club friend who is down this way for the winter.

We laughed about all the people we have seen here. Next time we are telling no one we are coming. Except those we want to see. The list is above.

Being in the desert

Susan and I like being in the desert. It does not look like Minnesota or East Texas or West Texas (no place we have ever been looks like West Texas). It does not look like the Pacific NW. The desert in Tucson is different from the desert at McDowell Mountain and they are much different from the high desert of Santa Fe, NM.

This year at McDowell we have seen the plant life become more invigorated and green. The desert here actually looks green right now. The grasses and bushes are green. The cacti are full and plump with water. All along the road sides are blue lupine plants that remind us of the Texas Hill Country Blue Bonnets. And a week and a half ago just a few hundred feet higher elevation the gold-yellow poppies burst out.

This spot is about 4 miles from the campground heading NW toward the Pemberton Trail which is a big loop all around the park. I have been riding the trails out in the desert almost every day. It is lots of fun, lots of work going uphill in this direction. At this point in the picture I am about 400 ft higher than the campground. The good part is that it is mostly downhill on the way back. Lots of washes to ride through. The technical part of riding some of these challenges is a lot of fun to figure out.

There are now four distinct yellow flowering plants nearby. And just in the last day a magenta colored flower has popped up.

And in some areas some of the grasses are changing to much more reddish colors. Probably drying out.

The clouds come in and out, usually sunny during the day but there is always something to see if you are looking.

And another visitor, I wonder if they are just here in the winter too.

There is a pair of cardinals here that show up every day. They have a very distinct song compared to all the others here.

We would come back here anytime, next time probably a month.

Next heading – north to Dead Horse Ranch State Park near Cottonwood, AZ

More later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

McDowell Mountain, February, 2019

McDowell Mountain Regional Park is part of the Maricopa County Park System. Several of their big regional parks have camping facilities with electric and water hookups. This is the third time we have been to McDowell Mountain.

It is a big park, almost 90,000 acres, 80 camp sites and 75 mikes of hiking and biking trails. Many of the trails are shared with horseback riders.

Every day here seems to be different.

Four Peaks to the East.

The Superstition Mountains to the South.

Rain and sun to the South East.

And McDowell Mountain to the West as the sun goes down.

The campsites here are spread out. We have a great campsite for 10 days and then move about 100 yds to another for 11 more. Both face pretty close to South with almost nothing in front of us for miles.

Our days have been sunny, to cloudy to an all day rain. The desert here is very green and lush.

We have been walking almost every day. I am getting out bike riding almost every day. The trails here are lots of fun. I got a new bike helmet, knee pads (from Susan) and more aggressive tires. We have been looking for elbow pads. I wear gloves and glasses too. I just haven’t reached the point where I will get the brightly colored biker wear.

Uphill from the campground toward McDowell Mountain the flowers are in full bloom. These orange poppies are all over, brilliant. There are lots of blue lupines too, they remind us of Texas Blue Bonnets.

In the afternoon the patio awning is nice. We added a sun shade last fall knowing we were coming here again. It makes a big difference. We got some inexpensive buckets at the Ace Hardware in Fountain Hills to hold the edge of the sun shade in place. We tried filling them with water. That worked for a while until it got pretty windy. We watered the nearby bushes and filled them with desert dirt (mostly gravel). They work well and nest and stack in a pretty small space.

We are here for a couple more weeks.

More later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Tucson, February, 2019

Our month in Tucson has gone by quickly. Here are a bunch of short cuts.

Drawer Slides

Our friends Carol and Jeff, own a home not to far from Diamond Js. They were full timers staying at Diamond Js one year and drove through their neighborhood, a wonderful Pueblo Style house was for sale. They bought it furnished. Since then health issues have had them sell their coach and now they are full timers in their nice adobe style home. Carol was having trouble with her kitchen drawers. The old slides were just worn out. She got some new self closing slides. Kent Spears was over there for more than four hours one day working on the first drawer. The next day Scott Seibert and I went over to help. It was a bit of a challenge getting everything to fit and to work but we got seven drawers done by the time we went home.

Carol paints rocks. And then added all of the detail to make an amazing gift for my help. Totally unexpected, much appreciated. It was my pleasure to help them out.

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

Sabino Canyon is in the mountains on the north side of Tucson. It is a popular place to visit, lots of hiking opportunities, picnic places, horse back trails, a river and a lake and a dam. The vast majority of visitors ride the tram up the canyon about 9 miles. You can get on and off at several places. Just our luck to show up to find that the tram was not running. It hadn’t been for some time and there was no scheduled time for it to restart.

We went to the Visitor Center, got a map and a suggested trail to follow. The guy said it was a couple miles, not much elevation change, and a nice smooth trail.

So off we went following the trail. We got to the river.

And the dam.

We found a thumb sized cactus getting started.

And an ocotillo in bloom.

Then we followed the Ridge Trail, up hill, lots of rocks which we expected to lead somewhere other than back to the river. So we back tracked, sat down for a while and then back to the Visitor Center.

We were hot and tired. Our phones said we had gone more than 10,000 steps. A bit more than a couple miles.

On the way we passed Poco and Mom’s restaurant. We went there a week earlier with George and Steph for breakfast. Great huevos rancheros! So we went back.


Dinner at Dave and Nancy’s

Dave and Nancy are another full time Foretravel couple we know. We first met them at Diamond Js several years ago and then again at the National Elk Refuge next to Grand Teton National park. When we saw them 2 years ago at Diamond Js they had done like Carol and Jeff and bought a house just a few blocks away. So now they are here about half time and back to Wyoming the rest of the time. Nancy is happy with more space for her hobbies and Dave is pretty pleased to have a two car garage to claim as his own for shop space. Their home was lovely, very comfortable.

Dave made a wonderful chicken stew and rice. Everyone brought something to share so there was lots to eat including deserts. It was a pleasant evening, 14 Foretravel folks who have become friends over time. Another one of those things we never expected that came with this lifestyle choice.

We are off to McDowell Mountain Regional Park just north of Fountain Hills.

More later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan

Tucson, February, 2019

First Contact

About 20 miles south of Tucson is the Titan Missile Museum. In the 1950s the US Air Force built 54 of these underground Titan II missile launch sites split between Arizona, Arkansas and Kansas. All of these sites were dismantled by 1987 except for this one as part of a nuclear reduction treaty signed as the Cold War thawed out.

Each launch site was staffed by a small crew of four who were responsible for making sure everything was working while they were on duty and for launching the missile if the proper orders were received. They were on duty for a 24 hour “Alert”. The underground site had sleeping quarters, a kitchen and everything they needed for their Alert shift.

Each of the 103 ft tall ballistic Titan II missiles had a reentry vehicle on top with a 9 megaton nuclear warhead inside. These were the largest land based nuclear missiles every deployed by the US. They were 450 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Each launch control center was protected against a direct strike. Reinforced concrete walls up to 8 ft thick, three ton air sealed blast doors and a 740 ton sliding silo door that could be opened in 18 seconds.

We got a short orientation and then went outside and through two sets of security doors and down eight flights of stairs. And then came to the first of three blast doors.

If you are over 6′ tall you had to wear a hard hat. Lots of low clearance places.

We went down into a service area in the middle of the picture above. There were secure doors into the control rooms to the right and to the long tunnel to the missile silo.

First stop was the control room.

The person leading the tour was very technical. He picked this lady out to sit in the big chair. This whole place screamed 1950s. State of the art for 1950s. Lots of buttons, lights, switches, clocks, dials. The computer here was about the same as an early 1980 PC. No disc drives, no tape drives just a punched paper tape reader. The entire control center was in a hardened shell mounted on giant springs and shock absorbers to isolate it from a near direct hit. The tour leader went through each step necessary to launch a missile.

Alerts and orders to launch came in by radio. There are several different antennas and multiple radio systems. Once the orders came the control center was entirely on its own. They verified orders and codes, started the launch process, the silo doors were opened and the missile was launched in less than a minute.

We left the control center and went though the central area. There were safety suits there worn by the fuel handlers. The Titan missiles were fully fueled and ready to launch at all times.

And then through another blast door and a long tunnel to the launch silo. The tunnel had a suspended walkway full of power and control cables. All of this in another blast resistant structure.

We got to the silo. There were big windows to look inside.

This had a familiar look.

Very familiar.

The hole in the reentry vehicle is to provide verification that the missile is unarmed.

The launch doors are locked partially open, terms of the treaty verification process.

And then I knew where I had seen this. “Star Trek : First Contact” a great 1996 movie that follows the Enterprise back in time to 2063 following a Borg ship. Part of the story is the struggle with the Borg and the other is to ensure that Zefram Cochran makes his maiden flight reaching warp speed. His warp ship is made from a missile in abandoned missile silo in Montana. The first warp drive travel lasted only a minute or so but enough to attract the attention of a Vulcan science ship traveling through the solar system. They land at the launch site and in spite of the Borg’s efforts First Contact was made.

Many of those scenes were filmed here at the Titan Museum. I asked one of the tour guides if I was right and she smiled and said yes. She said almost no one made that connection.

Pretty cool visit.

More later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Tucson, February, 2019

Diamond Js is out in the desert. It might be Tucson but it is not in the city. Being in a big city is probably the last place we would ever choose to go. It is just not what we want to do. Apparently others feel the same way.

One of Everything

From a very small Airstream trailer.

To a very high end Newell Motorcoach.

And even a Tiny Home.

A nice Prevost pulled in here today. Some trailers, many fifth wheels, motorhomes of every type. And seven Foretravels. Here are six of themSnow

We had a week or so of cool weather. Lows several nights were in the 30s, a couple below freezing. In Tucson they set three records, most rain, most snow and lowest daytime high temperature for the day.

Woke up to snow.

We went for our morning walk anyway.

Snow in the desert. It was pretty neat. A week later there is still now in the higher elevations.

More later, Much Love

Roger and Susan

Tucson, February 2019

We went to the Pima Air And Space Museum with Scott Seibert, Ken Hathaway and George Denninghoff, all Foretravel folks we know. Scott (and Carol) and Ken (and Dori) are at Diamond Js, George (and Steph) are staying over at the nearby Airforce base campground, a benefit to being retired from the military.

George on the left and Scott are waiting for the shuttle that takes us around the out door displays. Harley is Scott’s service dog. He has the waiting part handled pretty well.

Inside we got a close look at an A10 Warthog. Davis Monthan AF Base has one of the larger squadrons of these formidable air planes. We see some flying almost every day. They entered service in 1976 and have been continuously upgraded recently with new wings and are expected to stay in service until about 2040.

This is one of my favorites. In all of the air museums we have been to I have only seen one more. It is a Grumman OV-1C Mohawk. The bug eyes made it well suited for its job as an observation plane. Wouldn’t this be a cool private aircraft?

This is a Beechcraft 2000A Starship. It was a very advanced Burt Rutan designed all composite pressurized business airplane. Only 53 were built, only 2 or 3 are still flying. I made a presentation to Beechcraft in 1989 on an advanced composite curing process. It never made it into a production aircraft.

And here is a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner! It is one of the first built as test aircraft. Serial number ZA002. It has hundreds of miles of cables and instrumentation installed and was never intended as a passenger model. Boeing donated it to the Pima Air & Space Museum in 2015. This is the only one of these I have seen.

We had a nice lunch and a unhurried chance to look closer at a few planes. A nice way to do it.

Art’s Birthday

An older fellow from Canada here at Diamond Js had a birthday one day. He smoked a large brisket and invited lots of folks over for dinner (at 4:00 PM). Everyone brought something to share. It was a great dinner, as you can see it was a cool evening.

That’s Art standing up in the back of this two fire pit gathering. Glen, another fellow from Canada, brought his guitar for some very good music and sing along.

More later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan