Southwest Tragicomedy

Where: still in Tucson. Read on, intrepid reader.

What’s up, you say? Well, I have some info for you, but first let me start with a a true story that happened to us to set the scene. Last week, JJ and I were out for a walk, headed through a park and over a footbridge that leads to the bike path near us. As we neared the bridge, like a gang of trolls, a pack of dogs ran at us, barking furiously. They came at us menacingly, really angry. The most bizarre part was the makeup of the group: two miniature poodles and a chihuahua. I thought for sure that an owner would pop around the corner, apologizing for their naughty puppies, and then corral them so that we could be on our way. Instead, they kept advancing, and I thought they might try to bite us. We decided to turn around and head another way, and we passed a van of a homeless guy who hangs out in the park. He had seen the whole thing, and it really made him mad. “Those damn dogs were around my van earlier,” he growled, “and someone needs to teach them a lesson!” And with that, he jumped out of his van, brandishing a baseball bat like a samurai sword, and ran for the pack whooping like a madman. I was torn between wanting him to have a good whack at the beasts, and feeling sorry for potential dog abuse. Luckily, he was pretty ungainly, and he just chased them back and forth across the bridge until they finally ran away. He watched them dash away, gave a quick nod like a sheriff who just took down the bad guy and sauntered back to his van. JJ and I just looked at each other and said, “Did that actually just happen?!”

The rest of our week has been similarly juxtapositioned, with a lot of crazy combinations. First, we put in immediate notice with the tamale job and started making preparations to go home.  For reasons too complex to go into here, plans changed before we even started on the trip. So, we are no longer returning to Ohio at this time.  And that meant that we were back in the market for a job, with only a couple weeks before Christmas. JJ offered to be the sacrificial lamb, and took a holiday job with the Target Distribution Center, which promised oodles of overtime, with 12 hour days. I had heard that the park we’re in was looking for another office person, and I got an on-the-spot offer for work through the end of January in exchange for a free site and a small stipend. I feel like long parts of our year plod along without much happening, and then we had a couple months worth of excitement in one week.

We still feel like we’re recovering from a lot of ups and downs in a short period, so I’ll make this short and end with some pretty pictures. Hopefully next week we’ll be back to regularly schedule programming!

 

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And now for something completely different

Where: In Tucson, getting ready for a cross country trip

Next stop: Ohio!

When we starting full-time RVing, I never thought that we would spend a winter in Ohio again, but yes, it’s true!  We’re coming home to help out my folks for a while, because the combination of a 9 acre farm and being in your 80s is a bit much for them.  (To be honest, it’s been a minute since I had to split wood or drive a tractor, so some of this might be a bit much for me, too!)  I’m not looking forward to the gray and cold, but I’m excited to be home long enough to enjoy the parts of Ohio we miss, like seeing friends and family in person, and Graeters Ice Cream, and having a card at a library where I can take out 100 books.

In order to get ready for our adventure, we put in immediate notice with our holiday job.  We rescheduled the annual appointments for the RV and car in our favorite repair shop in town, made our to-do list of things that need to happen before this kind of long trip, and started making plans with people.  We had the chance to see our dear friends Ann and Nathan a couple times since we arrived, even with Ann’s hectic school schedule, and we’ll be able to squeek in one more visit inbetween her finals. Our nomadic friend Becky is on her way through this week, and we got together yesterday with the amazing Jen, who introduced us to Tucson almost a decade ago.  We also got out a couple times this weekend to soak up some culture and sun, really enjoying the winter offerings of the desert southwest.

The rough plan to to head out this upcoming weekend, and take a couple weeks to meander east.  We’ll have layovers in a few spots on Arizona and New Mexico, and probably just book it to Ohio once we reach Texas.  Precise plans will all depend on the weather, as we can’t drive the RV in too much cold or snow, and because I’ve reverted to a cold-weather sissy in the 5 weeks we’ve been here.   Please, Ohio friends, start waving your arms north to avert those Polar Vortexes, and save some Hartzler’s eggnog for us.

p.s. Remember how I mentioned that the Verizon service is abysmal in Tucson?  It’s so bad today that I can’t even put up pictures in this post.  Please imagine blue skies, saguaro, and a rare picture of both me and JJ.  Hopefully, the rest of the country is better!

 

 

Hitting pause

Where: working a holiday gig in Tucson, AZ

I have a fractured relationship with sleep.  Sometimes, my no-sleep monster stays pretty firmly in his cave, and I manage to feel normal for a short period, like a month or two.  In general, I’m up for an hour or two every night, but because we lay down early enough, I still get enough sleep.  Other times (ahem, now) the no-sleep monster runs amuck, and I start to feel a little out of control of my life because I’m so dang tired.  I know there’s a connection between “busy” and “not able to sleep as well”, and I generally have problems for the first couple days of a new job.  The issue right now is that I haven’t slept well since starting this holiday job, and things start to get a bit hairy when I only get a couple hours a night for days on end.

In contrast to what the lady magazines tell us, self-care is not sexy, and I’m doing all the basics that help me feel better, even though they all feel rather mundane and repetitive. That means daily yoga, and home cooked meals, and low lights at night, and keeping up with chores but not taking on too much extra.  More cat petting and less internet.  More veggies and less sugar.  Talking gently to myself.  Short blog posts.

Getting to the mountains every week might seem an extravagance, but it makes me feel calm and happy.  This week’s adventure was on Thanksgiving, and took us up Mount Lemmon, to Incinerator Ridge Trail and 7,500 feet.  The sweeping desert vistas were just the thing.

Holiday elves, 2017 version

Where: working a holiday gig in Tucson, AZ

I knew from our experience last year that Tucson has no shortage of holiday work, even in the weeks just before Christmas.  JJ and I planned to apply for the Target Distribution warehouse right when I go back from Ohio, but while I was home, I decided to check in with the job I worked last year, at the production facility for the Tucson Tamale Company.  I guess they were happy with me last year, because I got an on-the-spot offer for both me and JJ, and could we start tomorrow?  “Er, just one issue.  See, I’m in Ohio right now!” So, we compromised on a start date of this past Monday.

We’re kind of jacks of all trades for the hectic holiday season, doing different tasks depending on the day and the needs of the company. We’ll be doing production, packing, shipping, and office work, and anything else that comes up.  The first week was a bit of a struggle, as our bodies rebelled from the heavy physical labor we were doing.  We find that daily yoga and early bedtimes are essential right now.

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Weather-wise, Tucson is really crazy.  We’re still getting highs in the upper 80s every day, but thankfully, with the early sunset, the temperatures drop rapidly in the evening and we get get cooled off.  Thanksgiving is predicted to be 89, for goodness sake!  As always, it was very strange to go through fall and then snow at our summer job, and follow it up with the hottest temperatures of our year at the start of winter.

The other curious fact is the terrible Verizon service here.  Apparently, the whole of Tucson jumped on Verizon service when the company started to offer unlimited data back in April.  Problem is, the towers here are now overloaded and unless you get online at very off hours, the whole system is too slow to use.  We’ve been unable to load Google Maps when we’re cruising the city, and sometimes can’t even make voice calls.  It’s crazy to be in a city and still have awful service!

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No matter where we go, I have to get my regular mountain fix, so on our weekend, we headed south to Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains. This is one of the many “sky islands” in Southern Arizona, mountains of rich biodiversities, filled with unique plants and animals, and hosting completely different life than the desert floor below.  We enjoyed the temperate, cooler temperatures, and some much needed quiet after a week in the city.

Fall colors are just starting here:

In a sea of green, there’d be one flaming yellow tree. Can you see it? :

Home to Ohio photo essay

Where: a final week of vacation before we start a holiday job, in Tucson, AZ

It’s a good thing that my sister, Joan, went to travel agent school all those years ago, because I needed her to be a tour guide and put together an itinerary for my whirlwind visit home to Ohio.  JJ and I have been busy since we left our summer job at the Resort, doing a lot of repairs and driving, and I really didn’t get around to planning out my trip.  When I arrived at her house, she had an agenda all laid out for me, and I just had to keep to the schedule to fit everything in!  I had a couple outings with Joan, spent time with my folks, saw friends in Columbus, and ate plenty of ice cream.  Here’s the photographic evidence. 🙂

The Ariel Foundation Park is a new development in a small town close to Joan’s house. The grounds were converted from the abandoned remains of a glass making factory, and many of the structures were repurposed for new functions. There’s a pavilion for events and concerts, sculptures made from reclaimed concrete, and the piece de resistance, an observation tower accessed by a staircase that winds up the old smokestack. It was all fabulous except for the vertigo inducing stairs, through which you could see all the way to the ground, which is hell for acrophobists like myself.

The towers are the old elevator shafts from the buildings:

Trying not to pass out:

I did not die:

The first part of the week was abnormally warm, and perfect for a walk. We went with my folks to Black Hand Gorge, to enjoy the end of the fall foliage.

Ohio trees make some serious leaves:

The photo in which I convince my folks to be goobers with me:

I wanted to make a pilgrimage to eat the particularly scrumptious ice cream in Wooster, OH, at Harzler’s Dairy.  Joan and I made a day of it and traipsed all over the counties that are collectively called Amish Country, in Northeast Ohio. We ate at a fabulous small town drive in, visited Amish shops, and stopped at a state park where we had camped as kids.

For the record, I conquered 2 very scary towers in one trip:

The famous bridge in Mohican State Park:

I had a great stop in Columbus to visit with Lou and Mary Jane, and Heidi.

The best al pastor tacos–Los Guachos, which expanded from a food truck to also a physical location:

Graeter’s, which is still the best in the whole country:

It was a busy week, and I also did plenty of things that didn’t get photographed, like yardwork, and walks, and yoga, and more ice cream.  But it had to be a short visit, because it’s time to start our holiday jobs.  Spoiler alert: we’re both hired on where I worked last year, at the Tucson Tamale Company.  So, it’s back to work tomorrow!

Til next week!

Seashore picture post

Where: on a couple weeks vacation between our summer and holiday jobs. Current stop: Tucson, AZ

We first met Mary 3 years ago when we worked for Amazon in Fernley, NV, and she and her dad were living in a Lazy Daze in the same park as us. We hit it off that year, with a mutual love of yoga and ice cream. She worked with us at the Resort in 2016, but it had been a whole year since we had seen her. Mary lives in Santa Cruz, CA, and we were going to be coming from L.A. after our service appointments. What better time to meet in the middle–it was time to enact Operation Ocean!

We met up in Montana De Oro State Park, on the coast between Pismo Beach and Morro Bay, with the campground just a short walk to the dramatic bluffs and crashing waters of the Pacific. We only had 3 days together, but we really crammed lots of adventures into our time, gallivanting along the coast to see a world that was all new to me and JJ.

There was a heavy “marine inversion” while we were there, so I can’t say with certainty that there was actually an ocean behind these two:

Beach combing for shells and sea glass:

My favorite find–like a little British style fascinator for Barbies:

JJ’s picks:

Mary’s haul:

Lots of the rocks had perfect little holes rounded out of them:

The property was originally the Spooner Ranch, and the original house is now a museum.  We we allowed to touch everything, and even listen to the Victrola and peep into the stereopticon:

Up the coast, we walked through the charming town of Cambria, who was hosting a scarecrow festival.  This trio of biking marine mammals was our favorite:

It’s not a visit with Mary without ice cream:

The most fascinating thing was our visit to the Elephant Seal Rookery, close to Hearst Castle.  Docents are on hand to explain the details about these fascinating creatures, and the boardwalk along the beach means you’re only about 20 feet away:

A lighter version of the marine inversion:

Fall colors on the coast:

Finally! We can see the ocean:

A thousand miles of coves to explore:

Our next stop was the Escapees park in Southern California to visit our friends, Dave and Max.  (And I must be improving–I only cried once going through L.A.)  We always have a blast when we hang out with them, laughing the whole time.  This stop, though, ended up being more about work, as Dave spent hours diagnosing an electrical problem between our RV and car.   It was a doozy, and he had to call in his friend, Rick, a gifted electrician, to figure out a solution.  It took 2 days altogether, but they solved the problem, and we’re rolling again!  Because of all the work, I neglected to take pictures, but I did snap a shot of Max’s nifty new mask that allows her to swim face down as she does laps in the pool–I think it makes her look like a unicorn!

Yesterday, we made the long drive from Southern California to Tucson, AZ, and set up in an RV park in the south end of town.  I’ll be flying back to Ohio tomorrow for a quick visit, and when I return, we’ll start our holiday jobs, whatever those might be.  Til next time!

Where: on a short vacation before our holiday jobs.  Current stop: Montana de Oro State Park, Morro Bay, CA

The life of a seasonal employee is a world of sharp changes.  Just a week ago, and we were working, enmeshed in routines and schedules.  And with the end of the season and a quick move to the Alabama Hills, it was time to relax, and we were free to spend our days in any way we pleased.  Good thing that we’re experienced at this point, because we only had a few days to enjoy the quiet of the pleasure of nothing to do.  In the past, it would take me a week or more to calm down and switch to a new mode, but it’s getting easier as we practice more.  And there’s no better place to savor a slow down than the Alabama Hills.

The Alabama Hills are BLM land, open to public use for camping, hiking, and climbing.  There’s a main road that winds through the middle, named Movie Road in homage of all the Westerns that were filmed here.  Off this road are many narrow dirt paths, some wide and flat enough to let our RV through, and some just narrow two tracks better suited to Jeeps.  And finally, there’s a million little foot trails, some which just go out and back, and others which lead to gorgeous vistas, and others that take you through a maze of rocks.  The myriad trails here are my favorite part of the Alabama Hills; there’s nothing better that choosing a promising trail and finding out where it might lead.  No matter what dips and twists you take, you can’t really get lost, with Mount Whitney standing guard to the west, and the Inyo mountains to the east. The whole crew loves this area, and I think we’d all be content to stay for a couple weeks just to enjoy the dramatic sunrises and sunsets, the dark night sky, the quiet, and all the exploration.

Adventure cat approves of the bouldering:

Sunrise on Mount Whitney:

Autumn in the desert:

We took up drive up to Cottonwood Meadows, on a road that leads from the valley floor up to 10,000 feet.  We hiked a short trail to Cottonwood Pass that wasn’t terribly remarkable, but did include a beautiful view over the meadows, and intersected with the PCT at the pass.

On the dizzying way back down, we had overlooks of mostly dry Owens Lake and the whole Alabama Hills area.

On Sunday, we headed south again, into the L,A. megalopolis and some of the highest heat that area has seen all year.  We had a couple RV appointments to take care of, like installing a new kitchen sink, and replacing a cracked window pane.  I found what seems to be the best RV parking option at Prado Regional Park, with low rates, and a dark, quiet environment at night.  We were glad for full hookups when the Santa Ana winds came through, holding the overnight temperature at 88.  I can’t believe that we needed AC after we just left an area where we’ve been running the heat for a month.  Poor little Soupy had to come out of the rig for each appointment, so we packed her food, water, and litter box into the car and headed for shady parks.  She’s comfortable enough with her leash that we could take her out for walks to stretch her legs.

Tamed adventure cat:

We all lived through the indignities of hanging out together in the car for two days, and then were free to get out of the city.  We spent two quick nights in artistic, hippy, and also very ritzy Ojai, but we were doing some of our own repairs and had other chores to get done, so we didn’t see much besides the rolling hills around the campground.  On Thursday, we had a fitful start, with a problem in connecting the RV to the car, and we had to make an unexpected repair stop. We finally got on the way to the main event late on Thursday afternoon, and made it to right-on-the-coast Montana de Oro State Park.  Frivolities with Mary will ensue!