Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Las Cruces; Secret Santa's Spring Sleighride; Cave Creek; Desert Kayaking; Flagstaff; Kachinas; Scorpions; "But We Don't Have a Dog..."

From Kerrville, we headed west on I-10 to Las Cruces, New Mexico. We had stayed in Las Cruces before, but this was a special visit - we were having a traditional New Mexican dinner with Ray and Raven Valencia at their beautiful Southwest-themed home. Raven is one of Suzanne's spiritual friends and a member of Souls Awakening, and Ray is a fellow Navy Surface Warfare Officer and ship commanding officer. Ray and I had a lot in common, swapping sea stories with storms in the middle and tales of wild and crazy guys we had known back in the days of the Old Navy...

Before leaving Las Cruces, we went on a bike ride on a bike path alongside the Rio Grande. Last year during our visit, the river was running fast and high, but this year... well, here is My Lovely Bride standing in the middle of the dry river bed!

Okay, it's time for a floral quiz... help an old sailor out, will you? What is this flower?

Some of you may recall the post from Kansas City when we visited Always and Furever, the remarkable animal shelter for elderly dogs. Well, one of our friends is the famous Secret Santa, and when he heard about this shelter, he decided to help out with a Spring Sleighride. He and a dozen or so Kansas State Police and local police cruisers, the chief of police, and the mayor rolled up to the shelter during a Volunteer Day Orientation with lights and sirens... here is a Secret Santa Elf in front of a 2012 Econoline van that was presented to Jen Dulski, the founder of Always and Furever, to transport dogs to the vet. (Their old small bus was inoperative.) It's generosity like this that renews your belief in humanity. Secret Santa even replaced all the carpeting and provided magnetic signs with the shelter's logo... 

Speaking of Jen and Always and Furever, here is her photo of an amazing sunset from the shelter... we wish Jen, her amazing volunteers, and of course the residents of Always and Furever much love and happiness in the years to come. Here's the link to their web site: https://alwaysandfurever.love/our-history/

From Las Cruces, westward to Tucson for an overnight stop at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, then on to Cave Creek Regional Park, just north of Scottsdale and Phoenix, for four nights. We had the good fortune to spend time with our dear friends Lynn and Jeff Hollahan and Elizabeth and Cyril Boisson. This dinner at the Boissons was great fun, with Elizabeth's fabulous food and Cyril's amazing French Champagne and wine... he is a real connoisseur - my favorite that evening was actually the Conn Creek Anthology Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. (Cyril surprised me, because as a Frenchman, he is very proud of his Bordeauxs and Champagnes...)

Jeff is an amazing guitarist, and provided a fine musical interlude after dinner (as did Cyril, but that picture didn't come out, regrettably).

Suzanne presented her "Magnificent You!" talk at the Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center to a large, enthusiastic crowd, including many friends in the PHX area. It is partly based on her book "Wolf's Message", one of my favorites...

We also love Cave Creek for its hiking and mountain biking in a desert environment; the mountains here are studded with big rocks and saguaro cactus, and there is no water at all... so when we arrived at our trailhead, Suzanne got out of the car and asked a couple of gals finishing a hike, "Hi... is this where we launch our kayaks?" There was more than a moment of stunned silence before the laughter began...

Next, on to Flagstaff, where we had a week of rain, almost every day during our stay at Camp Navajo. Nighttime temps dropped into the low 30s/high 20s, and we even had frost on the car... This wasn't "Chamber of Commerce weather"! We got together on several occasions with our dear friends Janean and Jack Quigley, also Shining Light Parents, and went for a bike ride at Lake Mary in off and on rain and windy 50 degree weather, but having pizza in the back of their truck while it rained was a highlight of our visit.

We had several great hikes, including one with Janean to Sandy's Canyon Trail, Walnut Canyon Trail and Fisher's Point....

... which sits atop this impressive striated sandstone rock formation, which is actually made of petrified Permian Age sand dunes. The Permian Age, lasting from 299 million to 251 million years ago, ended in the great Permian Extinction, when 90% of marine life and 70% of land animals were wiped out. 

Flagstaff's San Francisco Peaks (elev. 12,633 ft) had a lot of snow on them during our visit...

One of my favorite cultural stops was at the Museum of Northern Arizona, where there are numerous displays explaining the lives of Pueblo Indians indigenous to this area. These kachina dolls representing spirit beings are mostly identified with the Hopi and Zuni tribes...

Image result for striped bark scorpion

We reluctantly departed Flagstaff for San Diego (via Gila Bend) The gate guard at Luke Airforce Base Auxiliary Airfield, where we spent the night, informed us to beware of rattlesnakes and scorpions, as they are very active at this time of year. "Don't worry about the large brown scorpions, they aren't very poisonous; but the small white ones, kill on sight!" He was referring to the giant hairy scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis), up to 6 inches long, and the bark scorpion (Centrursoides exilacauda), seen here, which is much smaller but deadlier.  The guard must have realized his warning was subject to interpretation, because he added, much to our relief, "The scorpions don't kill on sight!  You should kill them on sight because their sting is really bad!"

Finally, being on the road for a year, we often have to arrange with friends around the country to receive our mail and packages in anticipation of our arrival.  We asked an anonymous friend in an unnamed location if we could use her address for an order from Amazon.  She kindly agreed and notified us that it had arrived.  When Suzanne emailed to thank her, I asked her to find out if we could also ship some boxes of dog food that Rudy and Gretchen need for their special older dog diet.  Suzanne added to her email, "Is it okay if we have some dog food delivered to you?" You will understand why she will remain anonymous, because her reply, which made all of us laugh when we met up with her in California, was, "Thanks, but we don't have a dog..."

Friday, May 10, 2019

Tulsa; Oil; Fleet Admiral Nimitz and the Museum of the Pacific War; Kerrville

On the road again, heading south and west! From Unity Village, we headed to Tulsa for an event and some special time with Lynette Setzkorn. Suzanne's Tulsa event, Magnificent You!, was very well received at Tulsa's Center of Light. (It is a totally new presentation that will grab your heart - if you haven't seen it, you're missing out!) The event were hosted by Rev. Monica McIntylre, and garnered the highest attendance on record. 

We had a delightful experience - and a delicious dinner - with Lynette, Rev. Monica, and several friendly and interesting members of the Center of Light.

While in Tulsa, we stayed at Expo Square RV Park, a very nice campground near a huge arena where the state fair, car shows, equestrian and cattle shows, etc., are held. This great statue, the Golden Driller, honors the Oklahoma men who drilled for oil and built the oil industry in this part of the country. 

Next time you turn on your home furnace, fly to a distant vacation, take a cruise, or get into your Chevy, Lexus or Mercedes, think about the hard work in rain, hail, snow or hurricanes that oil field workers, refinery operators, pipeline workers, and long haul truckers perform so that you can turn that ignition key and get to work or take your kids to school. I grew up in south Louisiana, where the offshore oil industry was the largest single industry, allowing anyone willing to work long, hard hours to make a good living for their families and even put kids through college. They are underappreciated today, and that's a shame. Our energy independence (and much of our national security) today is due to their efforts.

Before we left Tulsa, we had to go on a bike ride and walk through an amazing park, The Gathering Place, a brand-new attraction on the Arkansas River near downtown. It boasts great trails, gardens, a pond with a beach, unique and creative playgrounds, and eateries. With a price tag of $465,000,000, it is the largest private gift to a city park in US history; the park was the original idea of George Kaiser, and the Kaiser Foundation continues to lead the park project, although about 80 foundations, businesses and individuals also have made large contributions. 

We left Tulsa for Texas, and it was an interesting trip. We had a major mechanical issue in Jacksboro, when a leveling jack hydraulic line burst. The line had been replaced a few months ago by Ocala Camping World, a national RV sales and repair company, but the service tech evidently didn't secure the hydraulic hose with a retainer, because we found that it had been rubbing against the inside rear drive tire for 3,000 miles, and in spite of being metal jacketed, friction and heat took its toll and it failed. (We are NOT happy with Ocala Camping World... they won't even return my phone calls.) In spite of our problem occurring over Easter weekend, we were very lucky to have been just a few spaces down in our campground from a mobile repair technician, who fixed our hydraulic problem Monday morning.

On to a great stop in Fredericksburg, Texas, where we visited the National Museum of the Pacific War; the adjoining Nimitz Museum was closed for renovation. Watching videos and listening to radio news reports of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and the Bataan Death March were particularly emotional, as were the displays and recordings of the battles of Midway, Guadalcanal and Tarawa. We were drained before getting to the Okinawa, Iwo Jima and other displays. You need at least a full day to see the entire museum. The ship model is USS Tennessee (BB-43), which was lightly damaged by Japanese bombers at Pearl Harbor- she was protected from torpedoes by the USS West Virginia (BB-48), moored alongside, which was sunk. Both ships were repaired and returned to the Pacific war; Tennessee was hit by a Japanese kamikaze suicide aircraft off Okinawa. I was fortunate enough to have served on USS Iowa (BB-61), built during WWII, decommissioned after the Korean War, and recommissioned in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, one of my heroes. I also served as his escort officer when he and Nancy visited USS IOWA in 1986.

Admiral Chester Nimitz's famous quote, "Uncommon valor was a common virtue", was meant in that instance for the US Marines at Iwo Jima, but it can equally be applied to the young men and women who continue to be deployed and fight our enemies in the Global War on Terror, even though political correctness prevents the use of that descriptor any more. 

At Iwo Jima, the Leathernecks' incredible sacrifices against a dug-in, battle-hardened, suicidal enemy is one of most legendary in world history. Our Marines suffered over 26,000 casualties, including almost 7,000 killed in action; the Japanese lost 26,000 men killed. The battle is memorialized by the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, DC. The photograph of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi by Joe Rosenthal is one of the most stirring and iconic images ever taken.

Our next stop was Kerrville, in the heart of Texas Hill Country. This is a beautiful and very friendly part of America. Suzanne had two events here, and we enjoyed the company of our good friends Sylvia and Ed Reeves on multiple occasions. 

While in Kerrville, we stayed at a very nice RV resort near this stream. You don't think about Texas having such scenery, but come to Hill Country and find out for yourself how beautiful it is! I first came to Kerrville to visit a great aunt in the 1950s. (My Lovely Bride reminds me with a smile that she wasn't even born yet...)

During a walk around town, we saw this sign... it reads, "Camping... spending a small fortune to live like you're homeless". Yup, I think that's pretty accurate!

I went for a hike while Suzanne was teaching her Serving Spirit class, and this lake at Joshua Springs Park and Preserve near Comfort, Texas, provided a serene view for a weary hiker. 

This fisherman may or not be catching, but at least the setting is fabulous! This is just a mile from Joshua Springs Park.

The nearby town of Ingram has a replica of Stonehenge, built by local ranchers Al Shepperd and Doug Hill in 2/3 scale and originally erected on Al's ranch in Hunt, Texas. It sits on the path of the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse. The duration of the eclipse will be 4 hours and 26 minutes, and there should be some neat festivities.

Finally, the Ingram site also has two replica Moai, Easter Island statues.  This one looks like he could use a serious haircut!