Friday, December 23, 2011


Where to begin?  I guess I should start with rambling about how much we continue to enjoy the area.  We're just having so much fun.  Our friends Bill and Rena are wonderful hosts to the area and involve us in many of their activities to include their friends and community (Quail Creek Country Club).  The fact is we look at real estate most places we go.  Here, we're looking especially hard.  Truthfully, we have one particular place in our sites that may become a keeper.  Time will tell.

Take a look at one of the many things we love around here.  Late afternoon sun on the mountains right behind our campground.  Beautiful!

In our  previous blog  I mentioned a golf cart parade we were to attend.  As they say, it was "priceless!"  There was lots of creativity and plenty of laughs.  Bill and Rena did a awesome job of decorating their golf cart with "A Christmas Story" as their theme.

We continue to bowl on a weekly basis.  Lots of fun and camaraderie.

One night we went with Bill and Rena as well as their friends Tricia and Alex to celebrate Bill's birthday at a Tucson steak house.  Way good.  From there we went to the local zoo to see Christmas lights.  On another night Debbie and I spent 2-3 hours walking through a Tucson community called Winterhaven.  Their specialty is Christmas lights.  It's a rather modest community but they, as a group, go to great lengths to create quite a "wonderland."  Great fun!

We have a small Christmas tree set up in the camper and we have a few more Christmas activities on the agenda so we're enjoying a great holiday season!

We have fallen off our 5 mile daily walking but somehow we're managing to keep off most of the pounds we lost.  We seem to stay busy with who knows what, plus we've had a fair amount of rain, it's much cooler then we expected and if you give me a little more time I'll come up with a few more excuses!  But we do continue to hike. Each hike has been in a different mountain range and each uniquely beautiful! I did a hike this past Tuesday that will be one of my favorite for years to come.  It's Mt. Wrightson. The trail head is at 5400 feet.  The peak is 9400 feet.  The distance is 10.8 miles.  I was with the "diehards" from Quail Creek that save Tuesdays for their recon or more strenuous hikes.  As we departed they explained that they didn't know what to expect of the hike.  Certainly there would be snow.  They were SO right!  The primary challenge of the hike became the snow.  At the lower elevations we had mud that gave way to light snow and then much more snow and finally we were at times breaking through the crust of snow to a depth of 3 feet or more.  It took us about 4 hours to go 4.5 miles.  We finally stopped .9 miles short of the peak with 700 feet of elevation gain left.  The problems included consistently deepening snow, the fact that only a pair of snow shoers had broken the trail ahead of us and there was also concern of running out of day light.  So we turned around and headed down.  Given that it was after 3pm when we got to the cars we concluded with confidence that turning around was a good idea.  Plus the snow shoers later told us it was their most treacherous accent of the peak (and they have done it like maybe 100 times) so we felt like we had used good judgement!  But the hike was BEAUTIFUL!  Again I was somehow prepared for the conditions and I was never uncomfortable.  The attached pictures are my contribution but, as usually is the case, they don't fairly represent the enormity of the beauty!

Our destination!

My hiking mentors

The destination is closer but we didn't make it, too much snow!

Love that BLUE sky!

One other side bar.  Last week I took part in a half day volunteer activity related to removing an invasive plant called Arundo.  It has snuck into the desert and is crowding out native plants.  It's a bamboo like plant that has to be cut down and then the roots have to be dug out. I really enjoyed the activity.  It's just one more opportunity to get to know the area, learn about the desert which is new to us, meet some locals and contribute to something worthwhile.

OK, we're trying to get the blog up to date so I'm going to share a little more and maybe we can finally click "post."  What can I say, another great hike today.  We met at Bill and Rena's house this morning at 7:30 am.  It was about 28 degrees!  We then headed for Sabino Canyon.  (I love the fact that our destinations have names that include the words like canyon and mountain.)  Sabino Canyon is a premier hiking area a little north of Tucson.  Today's hikers included Bill, Rena and their son Brian and his girl friend Jen.  They live in Manhattan - cool!  Also, hiking were friends of Bill and Rena (and now our new friends) Fannie, Tom and their daughter Audrey.  She lives in Seattle. Here's a picture of us all (minus Debbie, the photographer).

From left:  Bill, Duane, Rena, Fannie,  Audrey, Tom, Jen and Brian 
Sabino Canyon doesn't permit cars so we took an open shuttle to the back side of the canyon....cold ride!  We then hiked out about 5.5 miles.  Mostly you're hiking down and out of the canyon so it wasn't very difficult and the scenery was beautiful!

Loved the event and the companions!  After the hike we all went our separate ways.  Debbie and I stopped for a In-N-Out burger, hit Walmart and topped it off with a visit to Dairy Queen.  Great dieting!  So tonight we're chilling.....quite literally.  It's suppose to be down in the high twentys again tonight.  We'll just have to spend more time hugging!

It's been a great year for us!  Hopefully yours has also been wonderful. 

Happy Holidays!
We'll be in touch.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Still in Tucson (Amado, Az)

If you're still listening I imagine you've about given up on us.  I guess we've been back in Arizona about 3 weeks and this is the first blogging effort since our return.   I won't bore you with endless details and timelines because I can't recall all the details. (otherwise I might).  But here goes....we LOVE this area.  I think I've mentioned previously that our camper is set up in a campground in Amado, AZ which is about 40 miles south of Tucson.  The primary attraction of the area is the mountains and desert.  We've invested significant energy in enjoying them immensely.  Viewing them is nice but hiking them is superb!  We hike with our friends Bill and Rena and we hike with a group from Bill and Rena's neighborhood (Quail Creek Country Club) in Green Valley. Tucson is literally surrounded with mountain ranges.  We've completed several hikes in the 6-9 mile range.   They've all been in different mountain ranges around greater Tucson.  Our best and most challenging was something called Elephant Head that we hiked with Bill and Rena.  It was about 8.5 miles round trip and took us 8 hours.  That's pretty slow for an average hike but this wasn't average.  The trail was either very steep, narrow, nonexistent or all three.  The goal was to summit the mountain.  It's not fair to say we were rock climbing vertical rock walls but toward the top we were climbing rocks at something like a 45- 70 degree angle.  That's not straight up, but clearly involves finding ways to reach the rocks overhead.

Elephant Head Peak

Bill and Rena on the way up

Debbie before the big climb

Now where??
Bill and Rena have hiked for decades.  Debbie and I are new at this but I have a huge reach.  Debbie was very much at the outer limits of what she could handle, but with some encouragement, coaching from Bill, and boosting from behind by me she made it nearly to the top.  Both Debbie and Rena had to stop short of the summit by about 500 feet.  The last obstacle was a rock with maybe a width of 2 feet.  It required a giant step to get up on and falling right or left would have been grim!  So Bill and I went on to the top and the ladies started down.

Many  leave elephants at the top

Debbie didn't seem too sad when she realized she couldn't go any further to the top.

Or Rena either!
We returned to our car just as the sun set. 

In no way can I accurately express the satisfaction we enjoy from these hikes!  I've gone on a couple hikes without Debbie.  The most memorable was a 9.5 mile hike in Madera Canyon this past Saturday.  By the end of the hike we enjoyed freezing temperatures, a little rain, a little more sleet and a great deal of SNOW!  It was a blast!  I was reasonably well prepared and never felt uncomfortable.  Mostly I just felt like a kid on my own little adventure.  So I particularly am  hooked on hiking no matter what the challenge or conditions.  With this in mind I'm falling into a pattern of hiking twice a week with this group called the Quail Creek Hikers. Bill, Rena and Debbie are normally with the group as well but I'm driven to join the group at every opportunity possible.

So lets talk about the weather.  Mostly it's been very sunny, comfortable (50-60, maybe some mid 70's) during the day but a steady stream of below freezing temperatures at night.  So lets talk about Quail Creek.  The community has about 2000 very nice homes, endless activities and top notch amenities.  Everywhere Debbie and I go we asked ourselves if we would retire in that location.  Quail Creek is a front runner!  In addition to our hiking we've done a little bowling, it looks like we'll be part of a Christmas golf cart parade this upcoming Saturday and we're meeting lots of very nice people.  The rest of this story shouldn't surprise you after all that I've shared.  As of now we expect to stay here until late April or early May.  As I've said, we LOVE this area!!!!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Cozumel and "Home" (Cozumel, Mexico)

Hola Amigos

We wrapped up our week in Cozumel.  We had a really wonderful, laid back time.  Most days we walked into town, 2 miles each way, for a meal, cruised the back streets soaking up the local vibe (we always felt very safe-not a single scary moment), moseyed around and then hoofed it back to the condo.  We snorkeled several times right from the shore line adjacent to the condo. One day we went out on snorkeling excursion with a company that we've joined a couple times in the past from cruise ships.  The snorkeling nor the service was as good as in the past but we spent about 7 hours on the water which is always fun.

Loved seeing a turtle!!

The rest of our week was just spent reading, exercising the brain with Sudoku, chalking up more miles, enjoying the beautiful views, whining about the humidity, hanging out and going to bed early.  One of the many great pleasures of being retired and full timing is that most everyday feels like vacation.  Consequently, we didn't feel driven to maximize every hour of every day.  It was just a very nice pace. 

We departed Cozumel Saturday morning.  In the interest of simplifying our return to Cancun we decided to skip the bus and ferry routine.  Instead we splurged on a 20 minute flight via Maya Air. These small airlines can be "interesting" and sometimes frightening but the flight was smooth and picturesque.

After working our way through Customs/Immigrations we settled in at our gate with about a 3 hour wait.  I don't mind sitting around airports.  I read, watch people and snack.  Debbie likes it less.  But lets talk about snacks.  Now I understand "mark up."  Capitalism is a great thing.  But folks, a 12 ounce Diet Coke in the Cancun airport  was about $6.50.  That's nearly $40 a six pack!!!!  I passed.   Food items required a second mortgage!  Eventually we settled on an individual pizza for Debbie and I went for the burger and onion rings.  About $20.  For a sweet treat we did find a "reasonable" deal on a mammoth candy bar for about $5.50.  Two bottles of water were $7.00.  So do the math.  I'm thinking mighty pricey for a little junk food.  The flight was good.  There was some uncertainty about our seat assignment so we upgraded our seats. United has something they call Economy Plus.  For about $30 a head you get seats that have maybe 6 inches of additional leg room.  If you're 6'5" like me that sounds like heaven. We arrived in Denver, stumbled through Customs/Immigration with a little confusion and boarded our flight to Tucson.  Our good fortune continues.  We easily hooked up with the shuttle to economy parking, found our car without incident, it started, and we remembered the code for getting back into the campground after 10pm!

The last task to complete prior to fully settling back into our little full timing lifestyle was to go pick up the dogs at the kennel.  We missed them terribly and felt bad about their confinement.  They're SOOOO spoiled.  We picked them up at about 1:30 on Sunday.  They were jubilant!  We were pleased.  Bo growled but that's just his way?!  He's also hoarse.  I'm sure from commanding the entire universe which of course is his!  So we're back in our comfy little space.  Our trip was great but it's always nice to come home..