Sunday, February 26, 2006

Hallelujah! I’m much better --

-- Just in time to leave tomorrow morning. I still have a bit of a cough, but I am sleeping good at night. Today it finally warmed up enough for summer clothes, and for a long barefoot walk on the beach. There is no way around this thought – this part of the trip has been a disappointment.

Now to back up. Friday afternoon we went to “shacks fifth avenue” for more shopping. It is indeed simply shacks and a lot of inexpensive, dusty merchandise. Of course, practically every vendor boasted that he/she had the “best price” and sure wanted to make sales. After that, we went to the regular shopping area, where many of the seafood restaurants are, for dinner.

Saturday afternoon was our rally Shrimp Feast Potluck. It was the best part of the rally. We had tons of food, including all the shrimp we could eat. The rally hosts had bought 70 pounds of just-off-the-boat shrimp, and when everyone was stuffed there were 25 pounds left.

I bought 5 of those pounds, and have them in the freezer to take home.

Sunday’s evening meal will be a “Surf and Turf” dinner at the nearby restaurant. I’ve already done some get-ready-to-travel chores. All I need to do in the morning before we leave is unplug from electricity and get all the inside things stowed. We have a travel meeting this afternoon to find out times for departure.

We are escorted as far as the border and then we’re on our own. I plan to travel as far as Benson, Arizona tomorrow. I’m eager to get back to a park where I should have Internet access. Supposedly this part has it, but I’ve been unable to get on.

After Benson, I’ll spend one night at Percha Dam and then drive home on Wednesday.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A trip to the Mexican medical clinic

A doctor’s visit, a chest x-ray, a rental “breathing” machine, two medicines – and about $200 (US dollars) later – I found out that I have bronchitis. I was worse instead of better.

But first, let me back up. I did OK on the drive to Puerto Penasco. As I drove through the charming downtown of Ajo on Monday morning, I was so sorry I never got to explore it. At the US/Mexico border we picked up our Mexican insurance and then drove on to our destination. Jeremiah, Cat and I settled into space 71 at Playa Bonita RV Park.

Rally events started Monday late afternoon with a chilly Happy Hour on the restaurant’s outside patio – chips, salsa and pitchers of Margaritas – and ended with a lovely shrimp dinner.

Tuesday morning was a car tour of Puerto Penasco that included driving by the fish markets, bakeries, restaurants and shopping areas. This is a typical poor Mexican town: mostly dirt roads, rundown shacks and other tiny homes, kids and dogs running loose, topes (speed bumps from hell), semi-hidden stop signs (tourists seem to be the only ones who stop at them), a handful of intersections with actual traffic lights (one of these intersections had both stop signs and traffic lights!), and of course the ocean (called the Sea of Cortez in this area).

There are two shopping areas – the “regular” one with sidewalks and paved road and “shacks fifth avenue” – aka the “dirt mall” with supposedly cheaper prices. And this doesn’t count the many walking vendors (“Best price for you”) many with similar merchandise with a variety of prices.

On Wednesday my friend Carol Rayburn took her mother, her aunt and me shopping at the regular area. I bought a beautiful, locally made coffee mug. That evening our rally group had a Mexican buffet dinner. I’m not feeling good at all – darn it! The weather is chilly, so instead of shorts and t-shirts, I’m in corduroy jeans, long-sleeved shirts and a jacket. And I had a bad night on Wednesday – coughing a lot and after every coughing spell I had a pounding headache. I’ve been feeling various levels of sick for a week now.

This morning, I decided I needed to go to the medical clinic. One of the rally host couples took me over. Surprisingly, there was only one person ahead of me to see the doctor. My blood pressure was sky high (reason for the headaches after my croupy coughing), I couldn’t even take deep breaths without coughing so that the doc could listen to my lungs. He sent me down the hall for a chest x-ray. This led to the bronchitis diagnosis and the need to rent the “breathing machine” and take an antibiotic.

This evening I skipped the rally-provided dinner. I’m hoping for a better night tonight. This being sick is the pits!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I’ve decided to go to Mexico

It’s Sunday evening, and I think I’m feeling better. The rally hosts arrived on Friday afternoon and they stopped by to say hello. I was at a real low place, seriously considering not going on to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, unless I felt much better by Saturday evening.

I was not running a fever and didn’t have a sore throat, but my body was making “crud” faster than I could cough it up or blow it out. One of the host couples drove me to the grocery store for a different medication. I spent Saturday and Sunday hunkered down, resting, reading, taking various meds and drinking lots of fluids.

Tomorrow morning the group – 44 motorhomes – leave for Mexico. And I’ve convinced myself that I am better and that I will go. Also, the hosts tell me there is a good medical clinic and that someone there speaks good English. It’s about a 100-mile drive to Puerto Penasco.

I’m still not much in the mood to write, but in my reading I came across these words about “believing” attributed to Calvin Coolidge. He titled it Thoroughbred Code.

I believe in work. For discontent and labor are not often companions.

I believe in thrift. For to store up a little regularly is to store up character as well.

I believe in simple living. For simplicity means health, and health means happiness.

I believe in loyalty. For if I am not true to others, I can not be true to myself.

I believe in a cheerful countenance. For a sour face is the sign of a grouch.

I believe in holding up my chin. For self-respect commands respect from others.

I believe in keeping up my courage. For troubles flee before a brave front.

I believe in bracing up my brother. For an encouraging word may save the day for him.

I believe in living up to the best that is in me. For to lower the standard is to give up the fight.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The “dark side” of solo travel

It’s Friday morning, February 16. When I left Apache Junction on Wednesday morning, I was sick – it felt like a bad head cold that was working its way into my chest. I was eager to get out of Phoenix’s dust and polluted air. Overhead signs on I-10 said in effect “really bad air – carpool or stay home.”

Even though I only had about 150 miles to drive, the trip seemed very long and tiring. It was very windy and dusty all the way to Ajo. I was looking forward to getting settled in Shadow Ridge RV park and take a nap. I checked in and found out that the park was set up for wireless Internet.

Well, Ajo – a really small town – didn’t have the air pollution from vehicles, but it did have a lot of blowing dust. Instead of getting better, I was getting worse. My head was totally stopped up and my cough had started to deepen and rattle. The closest store is the ‘dollar store’ and yesterday I walked over for some cough syrup and more boxes of tissue. My bathroom countertop looks like a pharmacy with all the pills and potions that I was hoping would help.

Both Wednesday and yesterday the park was pretty empty except for the RVs that came in for overnight stays. I’m the only one here for the WIT rally. And I’m miserable. I called the one and only medical clinic in Ajo and the first appointment I could get would be on Monday. I’m seriously considering just going home or going back to Tempe where I have family and could get medical care instead of to Mexico.

I’ve been trying to get on the Internet, but it isn’t working. I tried taking my computer to the clubhouse, but still no Internet.

I’m depressed and don’t feel like writing. No pithy or witty words. I just want to feel better!!!!
So that’s all for now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Have a good time? You Betcha!

Hang around Minnesotans very long and soon all your affirmative answers will be “You Betcha!”

I had expected to hear a big sigh of relief once Sierra Days were over because the entire event was organized and run by residents. Perhaps the streets, swimming pool, shuffleboard arena and pool hall would be quiet today. Seniors would be plopped in their recliners resting up or simply sleeping in.

Hah! Not a chance. The clubhouse was full by 9 a.m. for the Monday morning coffee and doughnut get-together. It started with a yo-yo competition between board members and block captains – who could keep the yo-yo going the longest? Block captains won. The coming week’s activities were mentioned, including Wednesday’s potluck dinner and Saturday’s pancake breakfast.

After the meeting, the park was as busy as ever. A crew was dismantling the huge grill, and the water aerobics class and shuffleboard courts were in full swing. Residents were riding on bicycles and golf carts, some were outside taking care of gardening chores, etc.

While most everyone was out and about, Gloria decided it was a good time to teach me to play Cribbage. Also, we both needed to have some quiet time. Gloria had had an allergic reaction to the gel her chiropractor used with an ultrasound treatment for headaches, and that resulted in itchiness. I’ve also had an allergic reaction to something in the air, and that has resulted in stuffy nose and sinuses. We’ve both been good customers of the nearby Walgreens searching for remedies.

One neighbor had been to Uurgent Care for her allergies, and the doctor said, “If we don’t get rain soon, everyone will be here with these problems.”

It’s time to travel again – next I head to the small southern town of Ajo, Arizona. Map dot “towns” near Ajo are Gu Vo, Hikiwan, Schuchili and Why.

It’s nice here in Apache Junction – and plenty of people call it their “home” for part of the year. It could be tempting ---- except for something that a man named John A. Schedd said:

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

And it’s not what Jeremiah was built for. So we’ll hit the road.

And besides, Cat says she is tired of being cooped up.

(I don’t have a clue when I’ll have Internet access. However, don’t let that stop you from sending email messages. Maybe I’ll be lucky.)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Thanks for family visits

I have some great memories to file away from my week in Apache Junction.

As a child, I spent 10 years in The Valley of the Sun – the area that encompasses all the Phoenix-metropolitan cities. Of course, “way back then” there were a heck of a lot less people living there. And there were no freeways and no smog. We lived on the northwest quadrant of the valley in Glendale.

There were eight children in our family (seven girls and one boy), and only three chose to stay here. It was nice that they spread their visits out: Margy and her daughter Jenny on Friday, Alice on Saturday and Ed and his wife Debby on Sunday. Also I got to visit several times with Alton and Marcella - Gloria's brother and his wife, snowbirds from Minnesota.

I attended Glendale High School for three years, and then had the opportunity to transfer to a just-built one, Washington High School. I was one of 49 in my graduating class. Last month I realized that 2006 is my 50th high school reunion. Sister Margy did some checking and – boo-hoo – found out the big celebration had already been held. I called the school and belatedly brought them up to date with my whereabouts. With all my moves and name changes, (Anderson to Pray to Anderson to Serry and back to Anderson) they had lost track of me and I had neglected to keep them up to date. However, the school gave me information about a website started by the class of 64 and also will email me the list of my class that attended the reunion festivities.

It won’t make a bit of difference tomorrow!

Got a poor hand of cards? Lost the card game? Win or lose: “It won’t make a bit of difference tomorrow.” That’s the attitude about playing games around here. Snowbirds – oops, winter visitors – are quick to point out the big picture in life. They know not to sweat the small stuff, not to focus on their aging bodies, and to quickly forgive and/or accept apologies so that hard feelings are not harbored.

One senior was overheard saying, “I just wish I could get up one morning and feel really good.” The other said, “I’m just grateful to put my feet on the floor.”

Author/pastor Chuck Swindoll said well when he wrote,
“Instead of eating our heart out because a few more aches and pains have attached themselves to our bodies, we determine to celebrate life rather than endure it. Aging isn’t a choice. But our response to it is. In so many ways we ourselves determine how we shall grow old.”

Saturday’s big event was the Bar-B-Q chicken dinner. Not only was it a delicious meal, the chickens were cooked on the huge grill that Gloria’s husband Roy made. In fact, when Roy was alive, he was instrumental in making several things around the park (pun intended because he did the wrought iron parts of the park’s fence)

The grill is big enough to hold all 302 half-chickens – 300 for the ticket holders and 2 for “quality control.” A volunteer crew tended the chicken, turning when necessary. Meanwhile the kitchen volunteers were preparing coleslaw, scalloped potatoes, beans and rolls. The dessert was ice cream. What a scrumptious meal!

Then came the evening’s talent show – what a hoot! The skits kept everyone in stitches. Then when the Red Hat “Ladies” took the stage you should have heard the whooping and hollering. I’m sure you’ve guessed that they were men dressed up. The guys really played the part – one even had on sandals and had painted his toenails red!

As I lay in bed on Saturday night I was reflecting on the lively seniors here – and elsewhere, I’m sure:

In childhood years, life is full of fun. Children play games, laugh a lot and can be silly.

As they progress through life, things get serious.

They study during the school years.

As young adults they settle into jobs and family.

Then their children are out on their own. The empty-nesters/retirees can now play games, laugh a lot and be silly!

Sunday morning the park held a non-denominational church service. After the opening, there was a brief memorial service for the six park residents who passed away last year.In the evening, and to close the Sierra week activities, a special party was held for four couples celebrating their golden wedding anniversaries.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Snowbird? Or Winter Visitor?

The sauce of traveling is its surprises.
Writer/columnist Jim Klobuchar

On Wednesday I afternoon Jeremiah, Cat and I settled in space 439 at Sierra del Saguaro in Apache Junction, Arizona (east of Phoenix on highway 60). This 55+ facility that is the winter home to snowbirds is hopping with activity because it is their annual Sierra Week. This facility is also a “no pets” place! So, my curtains are closed so that no one sees Cat! I’m sure Cat would at least like to be able to look out the window, but I can’t take a chance of being booted out of the park.

I’m at this park because it is where my Cousin Gloria Timm has wintered for the past 27 years – the rest of the time she lives in a small town in southern Minnesota. Needless to say, Gloria knows just about everybody here, which means I’ve met a lot of folks. Most of them are here to escape the bitter cold weather of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada. Many of them are farmers and can recoup from last year’s farming season and plan next year’s under the Arizona sun instead of from their bitterly cold – and often snowed in - homes.

This makes them “snowbirds” – or at least that is what they’ve been called for years. Say “snowbirds,” to locals and they think of bad driving, long lines and other annoyances. Merchants, however, do appreciate how the snowbirds contribute to the economy. In fact, thanks to the snowbirds, places such as Apache Junction have gone from tiny dots on the map to thriving towns. An effort to change the image is behind the move to start calling snowbirds “winter visitors.”

(As an aside, these same Arizonans who complain about the invasion of snowbirds are the bane of San Diegans who rue the invasion of the “Zonies” escaping the heat in the summer!)

Sierra Week Activities
Things are hopping here because it is “Sierra Days” at the park. Before I arrived, various tournaments had been held: bridge, cribbage, pinochle, whist, 500, wizard, pool, shuffleboard and horseshoes.

Thursday’s events included horse races, golf cart races and a dance. As I looked at the schedule, I couldn’t imagine how they could have horse races. I was eager to attend, camera in hand.

The horse races
Six “jockeys” arrived on stick horses! I imagined them running to the finish line. Nope. They lined up at the “gate” to the applause and encouragement of the race fans that had already placed their bets (25 cents each). The announcer rolled three dice, and horses advanced from one line to the next if their number was called. (reminded me of the children’s game of “mother may I”) This continued until a horse reached the finish line. Bets were paid off, new bets made. The horses raced about six times.

The golf cart races
Not just ordinary golf carts – they were decorated to match the event theme: South of the Border.

Friday morning was a blur of activity: the annual park-wide patio sale, bake sale, coffee and cookies, and craft sale, followed by lunch in the clubhouse. The big attraction in the afternoon (that is unless you chose to take a nap or play card games with neighbors) was the Jam Session and that was followed by Bingo in the evening. Gloria and I opted to play cards – progressive rummy.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Lazy days along the Colorado

"Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking." Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius

"It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy that makes happiness." English clergyman Charles H. Spurgeon

While I'm driving down the road, walking through an RV park, and while I take care of tasks in my rolling home, I smile and grin with happiness - delighted to be traveling in Jeremiah! I'm glad that I listened to my adventurous soul and gathered courage and the willingness to take risks.

After a dozen busy days in the San Diego area, I gave myself a couple of lazy days at Mayflower County Park on the western side of the Colorado River. I'm parked amidst Ironwood, Palo Verde, Mesquite, Washington Palm, Cat's Claw and Smoke trees. The park surface is grass, but of course it is mostly brown this time of the year. The weather is great and perfect for being outdoors - low 40s at night, and up in the high 70s in the afternoon.

Many very friendly, and active, RVers are spending the winter here - in all sizes and kinds of RVs - however the most interesting vehicle is the remodeled school bus (see photo). Throughout the park I met a lot of people as they played games, visited, read, walked and rode bikes. Games included "lawn bowling," "washers," horseshoes, card games and dominoes.

I took my coffee and camera out this morning and captured some early morning shots of the river. This evening's sunset is brilliant and interesting. Today I saw a nesting Great Horned Owl (picture - the owl is in the middle) and Vermillion Flycatchers (brilliantly colored, not able to get a good picture).

Yesterday I saw a "lost cat" sign on the restroom door, and read that it had been missing since Jan. 21 - a little more than two weeks! How sad I thought; surely after this long of a time it must be a goner. Well, I was wrong. This afternoon the owners found the cat on the bluff over the river, and I happened to be talking to a neighboring RVer when they tearfully brought her home. She was thin and extremely hungry. It must feel like a miracle to the owners.

The evening as I walk around, I am enjoying the fragrance of smoke from bonfires and aroma of dinners cooking. Tomorrow morning I drive east to Phoenix.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Why I love New Mexico

The sun in New Mexico starts shining first thing in the morning, and shines all day. Here at Guajome, four or five miles inland, the sun finally broke through the fog about 10:30 a.m. yesterday. It’s now 9:30 a.m. on Sunday and no sign of the sun. And it is chilly and damp – 67 percent humidity. Oh, give me the New Mexico sun!

Let me back up a couple of days. My country/western dance friends Diane and Wayne Crawford picked me up on Friday evening and took me to the Elks Club where we joined other dance friends: Kathy and Bill Harrod, Joyce and Wayne Ford, and Rita Jones. Since most, if not all, country western dance places have closed or changed to other types of dancing, the group of friends joined the Elks. A two-person band played country-western songs and there were lots of folks on the dance floor, many doing line dances. I recognized a bunch of them, but I’ve been away from dancing a long time.

Yesterday was the reason I stayed longer in the San Diego area – Granddaughter Danielle was participating in a major cheer competition at the San Diego Convention Center. After cheering for several years in Pop Warner Football, she auditioned and was accepted by the California All Stars. This is “serious” cheering – actually choreographed dance and tumbling. This event is their tune-up competition before heading to Dallas, Texas, next weekend for the very-major “super cheer competition.”

Rick picked me up (note, the sun was out at Guajome at 2 p.m.) and as we headed to I-5 that parallels the coast, we drove back into a hazy fog.

I could hear the competition “music” long before actually entering the arena. They play it LOUD. Teams in several divisions and from various parts of the country competed. Each routine is 2 ½ minutes long, and there is a lot of action, including tossing and catching petite girls (called flyers). In spite of the loud noise – music and excited parents, grandparents and friends – I enjoyed the evening. Here is a picture that includes Danielle. (go to the girl standing on the right in the back, then look down and a bit to the right – that’s Danielle, she’s on her knees) NOTE: the “people” behind the squad in the red are painted on the wall behind them, not part of the squad.

I’m sure enjoying the birds outside. I have two bird feeders – the white one holds thistle seed that is a favorite of finches and the other has whole, in-the-shell sunflower seeds being enjoyed by sparrows, dove, thrashers, and grosbeaks and a few other LBBs.

In the evenings I’m reading Journal of a Solitude by Mary Sarton. It is kind of slow reading because she gives so much to think about.

“I have time to think. That is the great, the greatest luxury. I have time to be. Therefore my responsibility is huge. To use time well and to be all that I can in whatever years are left to me.” May Sarton

And in her book she quotes another writer:

“There is nothing that will bring us such abundant returns as to take a little time in the quiet of each day of our lives. We need this to get the kinks out of our minds and hence out of our lives.” Ralph Waldo Trine

Now, go find some solitude and enjoy it.

Tomorrow morning I head north to I-10 and then east. I’m planning on taking two days to get to Apache Junction (Arizona) where I’ll spend from Feb. 8 to 15. I hope I’ll be able to find convenient wireless Internet access.

NOTE: I keep forgetting to give you the Internet link to the weekly food column I write for the North County Times (San Diego County). It is

To write to me, please send email to:

Friday, February 03, 2006

Jan. 30 to Feb. 2, Escondido, California

Sweetie (the Vollman cat) and Cat had to take turns exploring Pat and Russ Vollman’s property while I was parked there for four nights. Jeremiah parked easily at the end of their steep driveway – and was perfectly level – (Yeah!) The Vollman’s home sits on the side of a hill with a great sunset view. It is in the midst of avocado and citrus trees, and that means lots of birds to enjoy. I had such a nice time there.

My friend Irene Bauer picked me up Tuesday afternoon and we talked non-stop for several hours at her house and then over a delicious Italian dinner at Joe’s Café. We exchanged notes about our kids, grandkids and travels.

On Thursday I went to lunch with Pete Durst, my bighorn sheep-counting partner and dance partner/country-western line dance co-teacher. I was eager to talk about the Palm Canyon trail and show him the pictures I had taken. Pete knows first-hand that our counting site is still there because that’s where he counted sheep this past July. So, cancel what I said in a previous post that the site had washed away. Either I didn’t go far enough, or I just didn’t recognize it. I won’t be counting sheep this coming year, but I’d like to go in 2007.

You’ve probably heard this: “How are things at work?” “I feel like a mushroom – they keep me in the dark and feed me (manure)!”

If you were a specialty mushroom grown at Golden Gourmet Mushroom Farm in San Marcos (San Diego County), it would be different. You’d be grown in a darkened computer-controlled environment on a “sterilized substrate,” a mixture of ground corncobs, oats, hardwood sawdust, bran, soybean meal spent brewers’ grains, and ground limestone. No pesticides or synthetic fertilizers are added. The process is fascinating.

On Wednesday, I met the COO Steve Farrar and spent a couple hours touring the farm and learning about the specialty mushrooms grown there. If you recall your science classes in high school, you know that a mushroom is a fungus – hardly an appetizing name. These edible fungi are almost a perfect health food: low in calories and fat, high in protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. A diet that includes mushrooms on a regular basis is helpful in maintaining optimum health. GGM grows several specialty mushrooms: Enoki, white and brown Beech, King Trumpet (also called French Horn), and Maitake (also called Hen-of-the-Woods).

GGM does not grow common “button” mushrooms such as the small white ones, the small brown ones called cremini, or the portobella (which is a cremini that has been left to grow longer). These are grown in the dark on composted manure mixtures.

The photo shows Steve in one of the growing rooms, holding up a bottle with King Trumpet; the other photo shows a row of such bottles.

Western medicine is finally recognizing – what has been long known in other parts of the world – that they also stimulate and regulate the immune system. GGM grows and processes several medicinal and nutraceutical varieties. They are too bitter and hard to eat, so they are dried and pulverized and then used as an extract, tea or powder.

IMPORTANT: One important fact I learned is that the health properties of mushrooms are only available when they are cooked – so raw mushrooms on salads and such don’t count. In fact, Steve advises that we never eat raw mushrooms of any kind. Steve gave me eight packages of their specialty mushrooms and a packet of recipes for them. I sautéed some Maitake with my scrambled egg this morning and they were delicious.

Tomorrow (Friday) I head back to Guajome. On the way I’ll do some shopping and gas up Jeremiah.

“In our materialistic age, we forget that true wealth is gauged by enjoying what we have, not longing for more. Money can buy medicine, but not health. It can purchase a house, but not a home. It can buy companionship, but not friends. It can provide a bed, but not sleep.” Pastor David Jeremiah

“I have learned that in whatever state I am, to be content.” Apostle Paul writing in The New Testament; Philippians 4:13.