Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fine dining Tucson style

Ron & Dee C went out to a new fine dining restaurant the other night and highly recommended this restaurant.  Ron thought the drinks were out of this world ( or the U.S. at least ) and thought we would like the place.  He said it had a lot of charm and a nice country setting between two railroad tracks, so we thought we'd check it out tonight.

The Sonoran hotdogs perked up our interest so we ordered two of them and a taco platter.  With the 2 drinks the bill came to $14.00 and it was enough to fill us up.  Without further adieu here is Valerie's Mexicana Diner in Vail, AZ.

 The restaurant was actually a food truck with a room added to the side of it.  The room was a carport roof with steel posts and a durable clear plastic added as walls.  Inside they had a tile floor and some picnic tables and regular tables.  All in all it was a neat place to eat and they showed a lot of originality with the design.

 Ron said the hotdogs were good so we each ordered one.  We, too, thought they were very good but I'm glad I didn't have jalapeno peppers on mine.  Here is our authentic Mexican dinner for two.  Although we liked the hotdogs, the tacos were made with shredded beef and they didn't have that much taste.  I added some pico de gallo and that spiced them up a litte.

 Gerry made me wait to eat so she could get this picture of the hotdog.  Figure out what hotdog she was referring to.

 We drove a short distance to Gerry's favorite stop in Vail and picked up desert.  Ok, Ron K, eat your heart out.  The banana split was perfect and Gerry helped me finish it off.  She saved her blizzard for later consumption.

Gerry had a full day before the dinner with a routine doctor appointment and then going to her last PT session with Noonan Associates.  Kari, the physical therapist said Gerry had progressed and didn't need any more therapy at this time.  Of course, that was great news for Gerry and now we are almost free to hit the road in April.

We are in the midst of some high winds here in Tucson and the pollen is quite high.  The campsite is lower in the area where we are and the winds aren't as bad as when we were in the front of the campground.  

That's all from us today.  Not that exciting, but a lot better than sitting around a house in the snow out east.

The Arizona Wildcats came from behind and beat San Diego State U this evening and will move on as one of the final eight teams in the NCAA basketball tournament.  We were out on the road about game time and it looked like orders had been to stay off the roads and everyone followed it.  Everyone was home or at a bar watching the game it seems.  I imagine there will be some celebrating on campus this evening.  



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Chair

Gerry said I had to lay off the Florida Keys blogs for a while, so I came up with this.  Barbara asked if it was THE CHAIR in one of the recent blogs about the Keys.  I got to thinking about how old the chair was and went back and checked some pictures from the past.  As far as I can tell we bought a chair set circa 1965 and one of the chairs had redwood slats on an aluminum frame.  This chair keeps popping up in photos over the years.

The first photo I could find of the chair was taken in 1966 at the Ten-X campground outside of the Grand Canyon.  We had a popup camper and went west on a 6 week trip and Gerry's sister Darlene came with us.  Darlene, Gerry, Barbara and Cassie are in this photo with Gerry sitting in one of the original chairs.


 It reappeared once again on an Easter camping trip to Sun-N-Fun campground in Sarasota, FL in 1969.  Gerry and I are enjoying some adult beverages while Barbara is taking the photo.

 The chair appears in this grainy photo taken on the Mississippi River near LaCrosse, WI in 1975.  By this time Larry Jr. had joined Cassie, Barbara, Gerry and me on a trip out to Illinois, Minnesota, Canada and back to Maryland.  

 The chair is hiding behind the 2nd picnic table on our patio at the house in Maryland.  Barbara was a real tomboy and we had to put an end to her playing touch football with the boys in the neighborhood.

 Gerry, Larry Jr. and I moved overseas for a number of years and we left the chair behind.  When we returned it came in handy with our camping down in the Florida Keys.  

1997  Long Key State Park, FL
Erin had the honor of sitting in the chair in this photo taken in our back yard.  Cassie & I joined her in celebrating some event.

1999  Maryland
 Once again the chair is hiding by the picnic table on our patio.  I do remember this event was a celebration for Gerry and my 65th birthday with all the family there.

2004  Happy Birthday

Barbara & Henry came up to the cabin and spent a week visiting us there.  Tom was the guest of honor who sat in the chair this year.  We enjoyed sitting around a campfire burning some of the huge amount of firewood we have up there.

2012  Where are the marshmellows?
 Just so you aren't worried about the chair, Grant was the guest of honor this year after we returned from his 1 month trip in the motorhome.   

2013 Cabin in South Mountain, PA
As far as I can tell, the chair is 48 years old this year.  No, it wasn't made in China.  It was a good old American Made chair built to last.  Do  you think the Chinese chairs will last that long?

If you have read the blog this far expecting something other than the story of the chair, then I am sorry if I disappointed you.  This story is like the Shaggy Dog story that is a favorite of Darlene.

Yes, Barbara it is THE CHAIR.  That is all for the night and I hope Gerry leaves the Florida pictures in for the final edit.  

Good night all and stay warm if you are back in the midwest or eastern part of the U.S.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Snowbirding in Florida Keys - 1999

Bahia Honda Key

This was a busy year for us in the Florida Keys.  Friends Linny & Patsy Jameson came down for a visit and stayed with us for 3 days.  Linny wanted to fish and we spent a lot of time on the old bridges catching fish.  Linny hooked into a 40-50lb tarpon and fought it for 15 minutes before the fish jumped out of the water and shook out the hook.  Linny was thrilled with the fight and really loved it.

Barbara and the three boys came down over spring break once again and had a ball.  Sean & Jared love to fish also, so Barbara and I took them out on a big headboat into the Atlantic Ocean.  We lucked out since the boat wasn't nearly full and we didn't have many line tangles.  Each of the boys caught some fish and were just happy to be out on the big 65 ft boat.

They rented some sea kayaks and spent the afternoon paddling around Bahia Honda Key all morning.  Our daughter Cassie and two childhood friends were on their way to Key West and spent the night with us and also went kayaking with Barbara and kids.

Cassie & Sean

Barb & Jared, Sean & Cassie, Ryan

Gerry, Cassie, Lee & Randy

Lee, Randy & Cassie at Key West
 The first day Barb and kids got there, it was off to the beach to get some sun.  Jared is very fair and picked up a little too much sun but he was a real trooper and suffered in silence.

Me, Sean, Jared, Ryan & Barbara
 One of our favorite restaurants in the Keys was the original Islamorada Fish Company on Islamorada Key.  They had a marina where you could eat freshly caught seafood under umbrellas.  The kids always enjoyed watching employees feed the the sharks and tarpons that were swimming around.  Plus, the beer was cold and the meals great.  We loved the place but a hurricane wiped out the dock and when they rebuilt it, the charm was gone and the prices were much higher.

Jared at Islamorada Fish Co

Ryan, Jared & Sean at Islamorada Fish Co
 They had a replica of Hemmingway's fishing boat at the Bass Pro Shop next to the Islamarada Fish Co and Barbara looked like she belonged on the boat.

Since it was Easter time and that meant dyed Easter eggs, Gerry made sure we dyed a lot of eggs.  The boys went out and found most of the eggs, but you can tell from the look on Ryan's face that he would have preferred to be doing something else.  He did manage to perk up and eat all his candy.  Smart kid.

No trip to the Keys would be complete without a visit to Key West and Mallory Square.  They have a number of street performers there and the "Silver Man" was very popular.  He would stand there like a statue and only move very slowly to take a dollar from someone's hand.  Jared gave him a dollar and got a sucker as a reward and loved it.

Jared and the Silver Man

 Gerry and I always try and celebrate St Patrick's Day wherever we are and that year we attended a corned beef and cabbage dinner at St. Peter's Catholic Church on Big Pine Key.  The meal was great and afterward they had Irish entertainment and dancing until late in the evening.  We went there every year we were down there except the first year and made a lot of good friends.

We also spent time at Long Key State Park in the Keys and it was one of our favorite parks in the U.S.  We especially liked parking right on the beach and having great sunrises and sunsets in view every day.  Long Key was narrow and we could walk from one side to the other in a matter of minutes, so we had the best of both worlds.

Gerry searching for shells with our Flair MH behind her.
 There were a number of regulars who came to Long Key SP year after year at specific times.  We were fortunate to become friends with many of the people there and still continue to be in touch with most of them.  We always enjoyed it when the Chicago Boys came down and set up their fish camp.  They flew a huge American Flag all the time and had floodlights shining on it.  They would bait their lines, wade out to about chest high (200-300 yards), cast out their lines and then wade back to the shore and wait for the fish to bite.  They caught a lot of fish and fried them up all week.  Their fish fries and beer fests were great. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Snowbirding in Florida Keys - 1997

We had such a great time in the Florida Keys in 1996 that we decided to make the long drive down there again in 1997.  Once again we arrived without reservations and managed to snag 3 months of combined time in Bahia Honda SP, Long Key SP and Pennekamp SP.   We were limited to two weeks at a time in each park and we bounced back and forth among them for our time down there.  We only spent 2 weeks in Pennekamp SP since they were having electric power problems.

Our favorite park that year was Bahia Honda SP since we managed to snag a waterfront site 3 times.  How could we not love it down there with scenery like the pictures below.

Bayside beach photo taken from bridge

Sunset over the bay

Barbara and the grandkids came down without Henry this time.  Notice the Easter eggs on the table.  We dyed the eggs the previous night with the kids and then hid them around the campsite.  The g'kids were up early to look for the eggs and that meant we were up early, also.  You can tell from the angle of the sun how early it was.

 We walked out onto the old railroad bridge to take this photo.  It was a railroad bridge first and then when the Flagler Railroad went bankrupt, the state of Florida bought the rights to the line.  They built a structure over the railroad bridge and converted it into a highway bridge.  It must have been scary driving over the bridge since it was so narrow and the guard rails were flimsy.  The Buttonwood Campground is in the background on the left and you can almost see our campsite.

Jared, Sean, Barbara, Ryan (without shirt) and unknown kid on the bridge

 Barbara, Sean, Stephanie and Jared enjoying some bonding time in the motorhome.  Aren't they the cutest little kids you have ever seen?  They were there for Spring break and ran us ragged with all their energy, but we had a great time.

 We didn't have cell phones back in 1997 and would arrange for the kids to call us on a pay phone in the park on Sunday at a set time.  It was always an iffy situation since there were other campers using the pay phones and we would sort of stake one out and hold it until our call came in.  We had to stand out in the hot sun for the calls, but it was worth it to chat with the kids.  It would be next to impossible to do this nowdays since it is very unusual to find a pay phone in a campground. 

 There was a mini tornado that went through the Keys that year and it hit the Marathon Marina really hard.  We couldn't get into the area for a while but finally we stopped by to check out the damage.  There were a number of boats sunk including the one in the picture.

After Barb & kids left the Keys we began a slow journey north and stopped in Orlando, FL to visit with my cousin Jim.  Jim is standing next to me with the blue jacket.  He works for Disney World and is one of the original workers when they opened the park.  His specialty is the sound tracks for the parades in the part of the parks where all the shows are.  At that time he could get free tickets for us and we went there for a number of years.  That all came to an end one year when some people abused the free tickets.  Too bad for us.

Me, Jim, Gerry and a detective arresting Gerry

After the Disney visit with Jim and his family we slowly continued our trek north.  Back then we only spent 3 months on the road for our Florida trip.  Those were great times and we really loved the Keys.

Meanwhile, back to the present time.  For some reason our neighbor to the left pulled out early this morning, heading for Minnesota.  They still had a week or so left to their reservation time, but left early.  I can't imagine driving back to Minnesota and shoveling snow after all the great weather we've had here in Arizona.

It was another basketball feast for me today.  I watched a number of the games and there were some great ones.  The Arizona Wildcats dismantled a good Gonzaga team today in an easy fashion.  I expected it to be close, but they pulled out to an early lead and were never in danger of losing the game. 

That was our day here in the desert, how was yours? 

Snowbirding in Florida Keys - 1996

The last few days we haven't been doing much and actually ran out of time not doing that.  Other than going out Friday for a fish dinner at Montgomery's Bar & Grill we hung around the park.  A few friends dropped by to chat the last couple days and we enjoyed visiting with them.

We got to talking about our first trip snowbirding in the Florida Keys in 1996 without reservations or knowing anything about what was available.  This was before all the campgrounds had websites and we didn't have a cellphone.  No Directv or Dish was available or was too expensive so we used the over the air TV.  I remember that I wanted to watch March Madness and many games were available on the main networks. 

I knew I wanted to fish, so I checked and found I could buy a 6 month fishing license fairly reasonably so that was a necessity for me.  I fished from the shore and bridges and managed to catch a few meals while we were there.  Renting a boat or going out on a headboat wasn't in the cards, but I did manage to get my fishing time in.

Big catch of the day.

Fishing from the campsite at Bahia Honda SP.
 We just drove up to the entrance to Bahia Honda SP and walked in and obtained a water site for two weeks.  That was possible in those days and I seem to remember that it cost $18/night for water and electric.  Those were the good old days at Bahia Honda SP.

Old railroad bridge at Bahia Honda.
 We left Bahia Honda SP and traveled back to Long Key State Park and were able to get two weeks on the beach there also.  This was before they started cutting down the Australian Pine trees and the sites were 70-90 ft long and bordered right on the Atlantic Ocean.  We loved it there also and rode bikes, walked the beach and even found time to discover a number of nice Tiki Bars.

A few years later the state decided to remove the Australian pine trees and then when the hurricanes came along, they took out 30-40 ft of the campground.  It used to be a great campground, but over the years the shoreline has been reduced quite a lot.

We left the Keys and drove up to St. Augustine Beach and got a campsite at the KOA there.  It wasn't the greatest spot, but it was a full hookup site and near all the attractions and beach.  We needed the full hookup site since daughter Barbara and her family drove down to spend Easter week with us.  Now, at this time we had a 30ft Flair motorhome with no slide outs.  

Early morning breakfast.

We dyed and hid Easter eggs on the campsite and the kids managed to find most of them.  Everyone slept in the motorhome even though the boys brought down a tent.  I think they lasted one night in the tent and then decided it was nicer in the motorhome.  Thank God they weren't that big at that time and we managed to make it work.  Some days we ate outside and others inside in shifts.  They must have enjoyed it because they joined us in the Keys for the next 10 years and loved it.

Now it is impossible to get a site at Bahia Honda SP or Long Key since they are reserved 11 months in advance.  Private campgrounds run from $75-150 a night and many campgrounds pack you in like sardines.  We were fortunate to enjoy the Keys for 11 years before it became such a hassle to stay down there.  Plus, we can't handle the Tiki Bars that much anymore.

It was nice while it lasted.   Good night.

 All the above pictures were scanned in from printed photos with the quality not being so good, but they were all we had back then.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Geocaching, Basketball & PT

It was a slow day here in the park.  

Gerry had PT this afternoon and went up to have her neck twisted and pulled around for an hour.  She came back to the MH sorer  than when she went up there, but that is typical.  After a little while she started to feel human again.

I managed to watch a little basketball to see who the good teams are and who was overrated.  There were some upsets with Harvard beating Cincinnati in a good game.  North Dakota State put a big loss on Oklahoma which was a surprise to me and the Sooners.  North Carolina State should have beaten St. Louis Univ., but the Wolfpack players couldn't hit their free throws.  Dayton put a loss on their big brother to the North, Ohio State Univ. which was a surprise.  Of course, that is why they play the game.

Gerry suggested we go geocaching and we went out close by the park and picked up a few caches.  We had to drive down a very rough desert road to get to the caches.  Then it was a short walk to the caches, which were easy to find.  They have a habit of covering the caches out here with branches and rocks which make them stand out very much. 

Who is that guy out there in the desert?

It is getting to that time of year when the rattlesnakes and scorpions start to become very active.  I am very careful when walking in the desert while looking for the caches and don't want to upset any of those critters.  So far, so good.

We took advantage of a sale at Fry's to buy some corned beef and Gerry fixed it in the crockpot today.  It cooked all afternoon and we had it for dinner tonight.  It was even better than what we had at the Irish Pub the other day.  Superb!

We got home in time to see a beautiful sunset.

Arizona Sunset
As I said at the beginning of the blog, not much to write about, but there are days like this.  The weather was great with a nice warm day and just a little breeze.  All in all, it was a great day.

How was your day and did you do anything interesting?


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Arizona Bike Tour

Each year about this time a bike tour group appears at the rv park and sets up their tents.  This was one of the largest groups we've seen at the park with over 40 tents for the bikers.  Everything is catered for the group and they use the outdoor pavilion for their meals.

 This is one section of tents for the bikers along with some very expensive bikes.  There were two different areas of tents and this was the smaller section.

Time for some repairs.

Nice bikes.

3 stragglers coming in late

2nd group of tents
 They were a quiet group and slipped out of here this morning heading for Sierra Vista or Tombstone.  It's about a 78 mile drive to Tombstone which is about 73 miles further than I would want to ride a bike along side of a busy road.  Good luck all, maybe we will see you again next year.

We went to coffee and donuts this morning at the rec center and the crowd was a lot smaller.  People are leaving every day and the park is starting to look deserted again.  Once again we did not win the lucky buck drawing, but we continue to hold out hope that our number will come up a winner.

Gerry joined the quilting group after coffee and worked on a quilt for herself.  It is coming along slowly, but should be speeding up since she finished all the small details getting ready to make the quilt.

Other than the above, it was a quiet day around here.   Some days are like that and after the St. Patrick's Day celebration it was a welcome break for us.  Now to dry out and get back on track.

That was it for us.  Hope you had an exciting and interesting day.