Whew!

The last couple of weeks have kept our social calendar booked, with everyday things filling most of the slots. Seems like I don’t have much to say, even though we’ve done lots of things. The primary motivation for most of this time has been service, of course mixed with enough fun to keep us interested.

We aren’t often in an area where we can eat at Culver’s, a fast food chain that serves things like pot roast, in addition to butter burgers and fantastic fish. We’ve discovered that this restaurant is very friendly to non-profit fund raisers. The small youth group at the Northwest Community Friends Church made arrangements one evening to get a small percentage of the sales tickets from people with a flyer, in exchange for the youth acting as servers to deliver the meals to patrons in the store.

We had a pretty good turnout. Well, let’s face it, we all like to eat! Even if the food at Culver’s was somehow disappointing, which it never is, the frozen custard is enough to draw us in.

We also did something I’ve been thinking about for as long as we’ve been coming to Tucson. We drove the car up Sentinel Peak, better known as “A” Mountain. There is a large letter A at the top formed with rocks and painted white and it is visible from all over the city. I say painted white, and that’s mostly true, but occasionally some overzealous Arizona State fans will sneak in and paint it ASU’s team colors overnight, since Tucson is the home of their arch rival, the University of Arizona, which is what the A stands for in the first place.

Last Sunday night was the last hymn sing for the season at Desert Trails RV Park. When the singers begin the migration home, our crowd dwindles and we find ourselves singing “Till We Meet Again” for the final time until fall. They put up with my playing the piano and allowed us to be a part of the group, even though we aren’t staying in the park. We’ve made really good friends there and we’re sad to see it be over for now.

On Monday, we made a quick trip to Yuma to deliver a prescription to a friend and see a friend visiting from Seattle area. While we were at it, we stopped in to see our friends Wilbur and Laura Bradbury and check out the new garage they are building. Once that building is built, they will be ready to make plans for the house they intend to build on their other lot.

That trip fit perfectly as a preface to our lunch date Tuesday in Casa Grande with our daughter-in-law Shelly and her parents Marty and Steve Oldham. Shelly is changing careers and will be spending a few months in school learning to be an aesthetician, so she carved out a few days to fly to Arizona for a visit. Steve and Marty winter in Mesa and summer in Show Low, so they’ve found the best way to stay in Arizona and still deal with temperature extremes. We wish Robert could have come along, but the demands of his job just didn’t allow for that. Best wishes, Shelly, on your new adventure!

This winter, a few of us have been participating in a small group studying Rooted. It has been a really good experience, both the Bible study part (including homework that really makes us dig) and bonding with other group members. Yesterday we all went to Interfaith Community Services and volunteered in the foodbank, packaging bread, rolls, bagels and fresh tomatoes and red pepper to be handed out to those in need. This is the largest foodbank in Arizona and draws people from Nogales, on the American side of the Mexican border. Their system doesn’t allow abusing the system, but rather encourages and fosters regaining independence. We all found ways we think we might be of service in an ongoing way. We went out to lunch today for our final celebration together, since one member is leaving Tuesday. She’ll be back in a couple of weeks, but we will be gone by then.

Yesterday was also a church work day (work morning, actually, due to heat), so when we got back from ICS, LeRoy went out to start cutting and pulling brush to make the back road into the church property more accessible. I went inside the church to measure for a sewing project I plan to do in the nursery this week and when I came out, LeRoy and one other guy were the only ones still working. With temperatures in the mid-90s, I was glad when LeRoy called it a day so he didn’t overheat. He really doesn’t know a good way to say “enough” sometimes!

This week we’re tying up loose ends, plus a few more items on the social calendar. We’ll be attending a Passport America RV Rally the following week, so will leave the church a week from tomorrow. More excitement lies ahead–wait for it!

 

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To everything, there is a season

Some things in our lives don’t come to be permanent, they only come for a season. This past week, a “season” in our lives came to an end. For several years, my oldest sister, Florence Marie, has come to spend time with us here in Tucson. The first year, she came for two weeks and stayed with us in Liberty. The next year, she decided that she wanted to come and stay longer, but sleeping on the couch and going to bed and getting up on our schedule was probably not really to her liking. Can you blame her? At that point, we started looking for a small RV that she could call her own. Even though it was really small, it was a space to herself. Barring anything unforeseen, this is the last picture of her as an RVer although she may fly out and spend a week or two with us next year, just to warm her feet.

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We did all of her last minute errands on Wednesday and Thursday morning, then after lunch at another restaurant she’d not yet enjoyed, we took her to the airport to send her off. No, not in the wagon behind us but in a real airplane. Tucson is just as modern as anyplace these days.

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It was a rather emotional day for me. Although Florence Marie has pretty much stayed to herself this winter, we did spend some time together every day and I will really miss that. We came home from the airport and I busied myself clearing out everything that she had left behind for the church rummage sale just to keep my mind occupied. The RV is ready for a new owner as soon as LeRoy gets it running. It hasn’t been started in about two years, so that’s a whole new project!

Our schedule this year is changing up somewhat. Rather than staying here in Tucson until mid-April and heading back to Kansas, we’ll leave here at the end of March and go back to Yuma for several weeks before heading east. Timing there is still up in the air, but we do know that we have to be in Colorado by mid-May.

We’ve been corresponding with the new volunteer coordinator at Golden Bell Camp and Retreat Center, as well as other volunteers, about our summer duties as RV park camp hosts. Almost all the staff at the lodge is new since last summer, so we’re all anxious to find out what changes will be made. It sounds as though the senior volunteers will be about the same motley crew as last year and we can hardly wait to see them and spend time working and playing with them again.

 

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Every week is different

Just like when we were living in a house and working, each week may contain the same scheduled events, but each week is different. Going into it, we knew we would have a hymn sing, a women’s Bible study, a men’s/women’s breakfast and an evening small group. We fill in the blanks with different errands each week.

I’ve picked up an old hobby again in the last few weeks, knitting. For several years, I knitted prayer shawls for friends and relatives who were having special challenges, usually health. In fact, I have one partially finished that has been sitting for quite some time. I started it with no one in particular in mind and just lost momentum. Recently though, I picked up the needles again and started on a slouchy cap for my sister Mary Jo who is undergoing chemo. She and her husband Ray live in Manhattan, KS and are big K-State Wildcat fans and when I saw the soft ball of yarn that had a hint of purple, I knew it was for her. Mary Jo, you might be surprised to know that when I went back to the knit shop to show them the picture, the lady looked at it and said “That’s you, right?” I told her no, that it was my sister. She looked at it again and back at me in disbelief. And I don’t think we look that much alike!

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One of my other errands this week was choosing what video series our ladies’ small group would watch. With several others in on the deciding, we had some bumps along the road. You know how when you ask someone where they want to go eat, they often say they don’t care, wherever you want? And then when you choose, someone says, “Not there, though.” That has been somewhat like this experience. All’s well that ends well. We’ve selected and started “Grace” by Max Lucado for our last few weeks before leaving.

LeRoy’s time is often filled in with bus projects and this week he was working on our nemesis, the bus generator. He devised a clever little helper to hold it up when the tray was fully extended.

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With it out of its extremely tight compartment, he could remove the fuel line (part copper tubing, part fuel line and a plastic tube) which had sprung a leak. The fuel line designed for the purpose seems to do a much better job. The generator is running again, although it still doesn’t start from the inside. Oh well, running is better than not!

When there aren’t bus problems, LeRoy keeps busy working on things at the church. Saturday’s project for him, along with Glen Hartley, the head of the building and grounds committee, was getting the feed for the closed circuit security cameras redirected to the proper office inside. After many trips up and down the ladder, they succeeded!

There’s always grocery shopping and laundry and since Florence Marie doesn’t drive when she’s here, there are always errands she needs to do as well. She has had the same hairdresser here for the last three winters, I think, and had her last appointment Saturday. She will be flying back to Weeping Water, NE on Thursday and has decided not to come back for the whole winter again. We will miss her!

When I get it written down, it strikes me that our full timing experience is very much like our working existence before, but without the jobs. I guess there’s nothing new under the sun, after all.

 

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Familiar territory

The winter hosting season continues! For the past 10 days or so, we’ve had a new rig beside us, Larry and Mileta Kinser’s 42-foot Monaco Diplomat. We’ve known Larry and Mileta since they were full-timers in a tiny fifth wheel right out of college. They were musical evangelists and often parked in our front yard in Osborne, KS or near Mt. Ayr Friends Church at Alton. They left the RV life behind for a long time, pastoring churches in Colorado, Ohio and California. (I may have missed some.) Most recently, just before Larry retired, he was our pastor at Northridge Friends in Wichita. Mileta has supplied my Mary Kay habit for years and is now one of the top directors in the Mary Kay company. I’m always glad to see them come!

While they were here, we took them to the Tubac art festival, one of my favorite places. Again, it has to do with shopping and Mileta and I do that very well!

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Other than Tubac, the primary thing we did together was eating, hitting up several of our favorite places that we hadn’t taken them yet. They left this morning, headed toward Fresno, CA and their grandsons. The boys differentiate between their grandmas by calling Mileta “Bus Nana”. They use Facetime daily to keep in touch and the boys were suitably impressed that there were TWO big buses next to each other.

Valentine’s day LeRoy took me to lunch at Longhorn, since we knew the evening would find every restaurant packed with sweethearts eating together. LeRoy also brought me my favorite two-tone roses and most of them are still looking beautiful.

Florence Marie and I spent time this weekend with other women from the church at a retreat that started at Living Water Retreat Center not far from Sahuarita, south of Tucson. I say it started there because this retreat turned into an adventure. You’ve probably been to progressive dinners, where each course is held at a different home? This lovely setting in the mountains uses a woodburning fireplace and space heaters for heat and depends on a generator for its power. All would probably have been well if there hadn’t been a Willis along. You know how we are with generators! Anyway, mid evening on Friday, the generator quit and we were left in the dark. We couldn’t even charge our cell phones and you know how important that is! Our brave pastor’s wife and the Captain of Cuisine for the weekend went out to look at it. Pastor Adam had left instructions for the generator and they were able to get it started again, only it kept blinking on and off. Several trips outside later, they got it going but in the middle of the night, it quit and refused to restart. The decision was made about the time we ate lunch (the stove and refrigerator were not dependent upon electricity, thank goodness) that we would pack up and move back to the church for the rest of the day. The women spent the night in their own homes and this morning we carpooled to breakfast at the home of our Captain, since she had french toast casserole on the menu and no one wanted to miss that. I think the worship service probably looked pretty short on attendees this morning with many of the women gone, but we had a great time together and made it back home just after noon. It was a real bonding experience and we got to know each other much better.

I don’t think there are any special plans this week but I guess I’ll find out as the week progresses. Let you know when it happens!

 

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Fun week

What a busy week with friends and family! Our Wisconsin friends Dennis and Renae Hafenbreadl and their dogs Cooper and Riley stopped by in their Eagle to visit for a few days and we enjoyed showing them some of our favorite places. This picture was taken in a friend’s bus near Huachuca City when we stopped there to introduce them to Blake and Pennie Hardy.

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We were on our way to Tombstone because Dennis and Renae had so many recommendations for it and we were glad to oblige. We ate lunch at Big Nose Kate’s saloon and they ate the (recommended) Reuben sandwiches. After taking in several of the shops along the boardwalk, we went to the historic Bird Cage Theater and while we didn’t take the whole museum tour, the docent in the lobby did a good job of filling us in on the “activities” that went on inside during its heyday. LeRoy and I had been outside the historic courthouse but had never toured the museum inside, so we enjoyed seeing it. Although the county seat of Cochise County was moved to Bisbee in 1929, parts of the 1882 building are kept as they were when the offices moved and the exhibits are really good. The courthouse has been a state park since 1959 and it is well worth the admission fee is only $5. LeRoy even checked out the fit on a saddle in front of the room with the cattlemen exhibit.

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While we were in Wisconsin in the summer of 2015, we picked cherries with Dennis and Renae and watched while they canned many quarts right there in the campground where our rally had been held. During their visit here, we got to sample some of the other things they have canned and were not disappointed. One of my favorite things (which LeRoy doesn’t choose to eat) is pickled beets and Renae’s were topnotch. I’m sure we polished off more than a quart during the meals we shared with them. Florence Marie’s son Jim Walter and his wife Nancy arrived Wednesday and got to be part of our cookout one evening.

Dennis was having problems with his back while they were here, which curtailed his activity somewhat. Renae, Jim, Nancy and Florence Marie went to the Biosphere 2 one day when we were busy with something else and with the exception of the guide’s ideas about climate change, I think they really found it interesting. Hafenbreadls headed out toward home on Friday morning. I guess they were homesick for cold weather!

On Friday afternoon while the Walters shopped at some little stores in the downtown area, LeRoy and I got to be part of a surprise. Our friend Landon March from Wichita had texted early in January to see if we would be willing to pick him up at the airport and take him to McNeal, AZ, where his in-laws serve with New Tribes Mission. They were getting ready for a missions expo and he flew in to surprise them. There were some very pretty aircraft in the hangar, as well as a beautiful Kodiak which arrived just after we did. That’s Landon on the right.

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LeRoy worked for the Cessna Aircraft Co. when we were first married and after his time in the Army and since he built the tailcone, spars and wings for the 185 model, he thinks he could have helped build this one. He found the owners manual for this 1965 model in seat back.

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They had set up numerous activities for the children they expected to come visit on Saturday, including a scavenger hunt in this “village”.

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LeRoy had a work day at a church camp our church supports yesterday, so the rest of us went to Bisbee for a tour of the Copper Queen mine. Again, this was a tour we hadn’t taken and it was fun. We’ve been to the Molly Cathleen mine near Cripple Creek, CO, but this is a more recently active mine and we were privileged to have a former miner as our guide. The tour is modestly priced and there is very little walking involved, so I would recommend it. Someday soon I’ll get LeRoy down there!

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Temporary Yumans

Residents of Yuma are commonly known as Yumans. This past week, we fit that category for a while. Our friends Wilbur and Laura Bradbury have two nice lots in the Foothills with full hookups, so after the rally in Quartzsite was finished, we followed them there. When they come to the Wichita area to visit his sister, they usually stop at our acre near Sedgwick. We checked out several of their favorite places to eat (of course!) and spent one day in Mexico getting new glasses (mine are red again) and OTC medicines for the year. We also came home with fresh asparagus and strawberries, besides tasty pastries. Before we left Yuma and headed back to Tucson, we stopped for one last meal with our hosts and one last photo.

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LeRoy and I are doing a Bible study called Rooted in a small group at our church here. We were afraid we were going to miss the first real session, but due to illnesses and other obligations of other group members, we got back in time to begin. It sounds promising!

Friday we took a road trip to play in Phoenix traffic with plans to meet several couples we have worked with at Golden Bell. It is always fun to see friends that we see infrequently. One couple are from the Kansas City area, one from California, one from Prescott, AZ and one who share time between Omaha and Phoenix. When we could hear above the restaurant noise, we caught up on the last year, or in some cases two, since we had seen each other. All people we had never met until the summer of 2013, but fast friends now!

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As a full-timer, I sometimes have to think about who knows who. Bus friends don’t all know our other RV friends and few of those know our Golden Bell friends, let alone our Kansas friends. Imagine our surprise this morning when a visiting couple came into church this morning and we found out they know Kansas RVing friends, Larry and Mileta Kinser. Better yet, their daughter went to church camp with our daughter and they remembered her! Gary and Sandy are here taking care of another daughter and her first baby.

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Within the week, Florence Marie’s son and possibly his wife are planning a trip to Tucson. Nancy’s dad has been having health challenges, so there are lots of ifs about their coming. We hope they get to come!

One last thing: Happy first anniversary to our son and daughter-in-law, Robert and Shelly Willis tomorrow!

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Q

Quartzsite, Arizona. For several months in the winter, Quartzsite or “the Q” as some of our friends say, is a hopping town with traffic jams and everything. The rest of the year? Not so much. Businesses and restaurants close down, some never to reopen. In the past few years, we’ve seen a decline in the amount of rigs you see sprinkled across state land and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property but this year, they’ve come back. The world didn’t come to an end, gas and diesel prices remain lower and relatively stable and after all, the weather tends to be warmer here than where most of these campers come from. Our rally ended with coffee and muffins this morning but we decided to forego the muffins in favor of breakfast at Bad Boys Cafe. Our waitress there told us that she and her husband are camp hosts at “mile marker 99” on the road to Yuma and in three days this week, they checked in 1,675 vehicles just at their one location! Special interest groups like our Eagles International club come and go throughout the winter but especially around the week or so that the Big Tent is open. As we left this morning, we met more motorhomes and trailers than I could keep track of headed  in to refill the vacancy. The attraction for us, besides the Big Tent event and the vendor market across the street, is our friends from all over the country. Believe me, dirt, camping without hookups, wind and this year, rain, don’t appeal to me all that much.

Speaking of no hookups, one of the mainstays of a successful stay in Quartzsite is our generator since we are very dependent on electricity for refrigerator, lights and most of our heat. And if you’ve been following this blog for several years, you already know that the generator has been the Achilles’ heel of the Liberty bus every year at Quartzsite. This year was no exception. The first night, it ran like a champ, just smoking along as usual. The next morning, it started and died and refused to start again. Pull out the propane heater and prepare for cold water sponge baths. The problem remains to be found but we were able to plug in to a friend’s bus for lights, at least. Today we are in Yuma staying on Wilbur and Laura Bradbury’s lot with full hookups, so the generator and 12 volt system problems can wait.

Last week was the chili cookoff at Northwest Community Friends Church and LeRoy’s chili was award winning, even if he did not win the Golden Spoon for best overall. The winners were chosen by popular vote, so who knows who might have voted for LeRoy’s chili if they hadn’t had a close relative in the contest!

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We’re both looking forward to getting new glasses in Los Algodones, Mexico this week, along with good food at the cantina and inexpensive medicines. We’ll probably get fish tacos at our favorite taco stand while we’re here before heading back to Tucson midweek.

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