Friday, April 27, 2012

Where did last winter go?

Life is precious, and every day is a new opportunity. I want to wring all the joy out of it that I possibly can. – Thelma Wells

November, December, January, February, March – and now it’s April! Nearly six months of blog inactivity. But certainly not inactivity for me.

Five-plus months were spent as a campground volunteer at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, in the Phoenix area. My “job” during those months was to staff the busy Visitor Center all day on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. My teammate Donna worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This entailed learning a new computerized reservation system for all campsites and POS (point of sale) cash register system.

At the park I was camped in the “gated community” (aka the maintenance compound) alongside two other single volunteers – Dennis and Newell. Those two guys got busy and cleaned up a super area just outside our fenced area for Happy Hours – and we were there nearly every day at 4:30. We chose not to talk about park stuff, so our conversations ran the gamut. Topics included such odd-ball things as waterless urinals and old-time big bands. Occasionally Donna, the other single, joined our fun time.


It was not all-work-no-play. With a three-days-on and four-days-off schedule, there was plenty of time for leisure and fun stuff. This also allowed me to spend at least four days a month at my non-rolling home in Prescott Valley. My weekend work did keep me from family weekends since my younger siblings living in the area are all working.

There are a thousand tiny things from which one can weave a bright necklace of little pleasures for one’s life.—Hermann Hesse

These past six months have been filled with things in my necklace of pleasures. Here are a few:

Spam Carving Event
On April 1 the McDowell Singles hosted a volunteer Happy Hour and Spam carving activity. You’ll see in the photos that it was a chilly, windy evening. But that didn’t dampen our spirits at all, nor did the weather cramp our creativity. Albuquerque area friend Larry Flinn was there and he carved Jeremiah, my motorhome.

A day’s visit at my high school
When my sister Linda was visiting me at McDowell Park, we arranged to spend part of a day at Washington High School in nearby Glendale. I was one of 49 seniors in the school’s first graduating class and had not been back since graduation day in 1956! Linda had attended there her first three years of high school and had never been back. We toured the school, had lunch in the faculty dining room and spoke with students at one of the sophomore world history classes about the school in the “olden days”.


My artistic adventure – playing with watercolors
No, I’m not an “artist” and in spite of a couple adult education classes many years ago, I have no hidden art talent. But I discovered – thanks to co-volunteer Barbara Salmon who is a patient and super encouraging teacher – that playing with watercolors is fun. Tuesday afternoons was painting time at the maintenance compound for any interested volunteer. I bought my supplies, left my comfort zone and started in.

Baby Great Horned Owls
Lucky for camp visitors, a pair of Great Horned Owls chose to nest in a highly visible area. Ranger Amy set up two spotting scopes for easy viewing of the owl parents and two little white fuzz balls. After a few days of watching the babies in the nest, Mark (maintenance staff member) saw that one of the babies had fallen from the nest. After getting advice for rescuing it, the park arranged for the baby owl to be taken to a local raptor rescue facility where it would be checked over and then put with a “foster-mom owl” to learn how to be an owl.

Short trip to Yuma, Arizona
RV friends Richard and Essie and I drove to Yuma to visit RV friend Carol Rayburn who was spending the winter at one of the large snowbird RV parks. Besides riding along while Carol R did some geocaching, we drove through farm lands, watched some workers harvesting Romaine and curly parsley, and enjoyed date shakes at one of the farm stores. Here’s a photo of Richard and Essie relaxing outside the date store.

Short trip to North San Diego County
Drove on Monday, visited friends and family on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and drove back to the park on Friday. The main reason for my trip was to spend time with my son Rick, his wife Dianne and their two daughters Christine and Danielle. What a sweet time with them and also with some friends. Sadly, my short time there – plus the need to replace the right front wheel hub-bearing assembly on my Ford Explorer – kept me from seeing more friends. Fortunately, the wheel problem waited until I was just one block away from my first destination in Escondido. Maybe it’s time to think about getting rid of my 130,000-mile, 13-year old vehicle!

I am choosing to be ‘cat-less’ for the time being.
I’m sure you remember that Cat, my faithful traveling friend, went to Cat Heaven this past October. I sure do miss her sweet companionship. However, there are some aspects of this motorhome life that are easier without a pet.

Where am I?
After leaving McDowell Park and spending a few days at my Prescott Valley home, I drove to Rio Rancho where I lived for a bunch of years. Jeremiah and I are parked alongside Jesse Latham’s Rio Rancho house, and I’m getting around town in his Toyota 4-Runner. I’ve had super visits with friends, spent time with my daughter Sue and granddaughter Melody, and had some service work done on Jeremiah. I walked around the local mall, window shopping and people-watching. I discovered I am sorely ‘out of style’ – and that’s just fine with me.

What’s next?
As I pondered options for this summer – travel, stay home, volunteer – a phone call from the New Mexico State Parks Volunteer Coordinator had the answer. Santa Rosa Lake State Park (midway between Albuquerque and the New Mexico/Texas state line just north of I-40) needed me. I’ll be there from April 29 through about July 9. I’ll be the camp host and will do some interpretive birding programs. Stay tuned for details and photos.

And then, after Santa Rosa, I’ll be back in Rio Rancho for about three weeks before going back to Navajo Lake State Park in northwestern New Mexico. I’ll be there from early August to early October.

After that?
After that – who knows! As usual I have started a list of possibilities along with pros and cons of each. And I’ll bet a few more options will appear throughout the summer.