A New Week

It’s Monday and the week stretches out in front of me. Rudy is off golfing this morning and so I have a whole day to myself. I can hardly settle on what I will do first. I take the garbage to the curb, have a cup of tea and sit down to write this blog! But I can’t stand the fact that I could be doing so many things. I am thinking of starting a sewing/crafting project …. but no I will first go for a walk….oh yeah I want to cycle down to one of the mountain walks on the edge of town …. but maybe a sudoko to begin the day. What shall I do first?

Well I first take a walk around the neighbourhood. I marvel at how beautiful it all is. No matter which direction I go on the winding streets I always have the beautiful mountains right on the edge of town to look at. Not to mention the palm trees, grapefruit, lemon, and orange trees, and the beautiful bouganvilla and other flowering shrubs and vines. It is beautiful, cool in the shade and hot in the sun.

After this I head out for a number of hours of cycling. The are many cycling paths that are so safe. There are dedicated lanes with a curb between me and the traffic. And when there aren’t any like this the sideways are wide for pedestrians, golf carts, and bikes. It is just lovely being out in the warm summer air. I get home after one, have some lunch and lie in the cool of the house.

Rudy arrives home after a morning of golf with some old Steinbachers (Robert D., Ken K., Darrel P.). He is smiling so it means, that despite not having golfed for a month, he must have done okay.

He has taken the van into the Honda garage and gets a ride back here. He hasn’t been home very long when they phone rings with some good and bad news. The good news is  that the Old Blue Lady is not ready for the junk heap yet. It is not the transmission but something else much more manageable. The bad news is the price tag for the repairs. But Rudy has a thought. He just phones Katherina at his local garage in Steinbach and she crunches numbers and consults with the mechanic and the result is that Rudy will just drive carefully and then get the work done at home at a fraction of the cost. He is relieved. At this point Ingrid arrives to pick me up for a shopping expedition and she agrees to drive Rudy back to pick up the van before we (Ingrid and I) go shopping. I have nothing to shop for (except a few groceries) but that doesn’t stop me from perusing the baby section of each store we go to. I am super excited as I am expecting 3 new grandchildren (one in January, one in April, and one in May) so the grandma urges are huge and it means I get so much pleasure looking at small outfits. Ingrid smiles politely when I show her some stuff (she is shopping for her grandchildren as well) but moves me on as the items are not on sale. She is a more proficient shopper than me and it turns out she is right. One must look for the sale racks and she knows where to find them. I pick out a few little outfits and buy them.

By this time we need to rush off to meet Rudy for supper. We get to the restaurant and Ingrid knows all the gluten free options. I am the odd person out in this group. But I have basically been eating gluten free with Rudy for the last while so we order a combination of dishes that all of us can eat. Restaurants have changed a lot in the last number of years and there is always something for people who can’t eat wheat. Rudy has been doing so much better since he switched over so he is getting pretty religious about the whole thing. And I am glad he is feeling better. We have a nice time even though we miss Reg. (Ingrid especially, of course)


Sunday: A Great Big Day of Relaxing

It is Sunday and time to relax for the day. You never know what our busy schedule will look like this next week. I say this all with tongue in cheek as I know for sure that Rudy will golf and I will swim, and bike and explore. But today is a day of rest. For Rudy that means football (watching it that is). For me the usual. Now that I am settled in one place I have a least one phone call to a family member of friend. And today is no exception. But first we do our morning  walk.  Then Rudy watches more football…. games and games of it. I swim, read, chat, putter. A great day, all and all.


Saturday in Palm Desert

Today is Leif’s 15th birthday.  It is sad not to see him or talk to him but after many attempts at a phone call I finally have to give up and will try to contact him tomorrow. Rudy and I do a morning walk and I am happy to say that my bad hip is getting better all the time. And then I basically spend the day fretting and worrying and researching stuff about a house that I think I want to buy in Winnipeg. Ana does a walk through a real estate guy and there are many things that I like about it. But it doesn’t check all the boxes. It needs new windows and is a litter smaller than I would like. I think and plan and replan and spend the whole day with it. I don’t even go to the pool.

But we have planned to go out for dinner with Robert and Arlene so that is a great distraction. They come over for drinks before we go out. It is great to see some old Steinbach friends and we discuss what all old people do: aches and pains.  And of course other things too. We head to Fresh Agave, a Mexican restaurant.  The food is fabulous: rice, beans, guacamole, tortillas, shrimp fried with onions and peppers.


The Reliable Old Van

I wake up very early. Is it because of the excitement of finally being here and not having to think about moving on to a new location tonight. We are 2 hours ahead of Manitoba time and so after a few hours being awake I can still phone Ana on her way to work as I sip my second cup of tea. The sun is shining in the patio window by the time I call her and the day begins so pleasantly. Rudy finally wakes up and we head out for a morning walk. It is cool in the shade but when we walk through the sun it is beautiful. It feels like the beginning of a new holiday.

In the afternoon Rudy takes his van to the car doctor. He has been worried periodically during the trip. The old lady shutters between 30 and 50 mph (you Canadians may have to translate that into kms). She also has begun to grind a bit when Rudy turns the steering wheel. She isn’t a spring chicken any more but Rudy is super fond of her and doesn’t want to start writing the obituary right away. So he takes her to a transmission guy who Carlo, the maintenance man who keeps the yard, etc. in good condition, recommends. The transmission guy says it could be a transmission problem and that if transmission fluid doesn’t work, a transmission replacement is not feasible due to the big price tag. She just isn’t worth it. Rudy sighs and starts to look online for what he might be able to buy. It all seems discouraging. He books an appointment at the Honda dealer for Monday to get a prognosis and crosses his fingers. I guess we will know early next week whether we might have to look for a place to bury her.

While Rudy deals with van issues I spend time at the pool. I swim some laps and sit in the hot tub. Nothing sad for me doing what I love to do. Swimming!

The Last Leg of the Road Trip

We are on our way to our permanent digs today. And we are ready for it. Palm Desert here we come. It is just over a 4 hour drive so it is not a long day. The road is hammered out by trucks and that, combined with the busyness of the highway, makes the driving not ideal. But Rudy is cheerful and happy to be getting to his home away from home. He will be in Palm Dessert until the beginning of January. I will stay until November 23.

We arrive early afternoon and start to unpack. There are loads of things to organize and after a month on the road we are happy to do some nesting. Once everything (clothes, groceries, and miscellaneous) are put away I start to dream about cooking supper. I can tell I have been away from this for a while because I can usually think of a whole list of things I would rather do than cook. But I am gungho. I search for recipes and make a list and then head off on my bike to Albertsons. Rudy wonders whether I need more than my large backpack but I say that my list is small. Famous last words. Once I get there I have loads more ideas for other meals and by the time I have shopped and crammed everything into my backpack it weighs a ton. I manage to slip it up on my shoulders and ride home. But it isn’t easy. I have to be careful that I am not thrown off balance and shoot off into the busy street. I manage to make it home. And I cook and cook, not letting Rudy into the kitchen at all. It is a big mess once I am done and Rudy is starving. We feast on mashed potatoes and creamy parmesan chicken with a delicious broccoli salad. Doesn’t sound too gourmet, you say? Well maybe not but you can’t find that on the McDonalds menu.  We have not had any regular home cooked meal for so long that we think we have died and gone to heaven. What a perfect way to spend the first day at our place.


Rodney Crowell

This is a day I have been looking forward to since before the trip began. When we initially decided to do a road trip we immediately checked to see what kind of concerts we might find along the way. Of course many of the artists we checked on were touring in Great Britain, or Australia, or, even if they were in the US, they were in totally different states than those we were travelling through. But Rodney Crowell, someone I have wanted to see for a long time, is actually playing on our route at a time we will be there for.

We are just marking time today until the concert starts so we decide to shop for groceries for our stay in Palm Dessert. We make a HUGE list and head to the local grocery store to pick up everything from toilet paper to corn tortillas. It’s a big load but we manage to squeeze it into the van. The perishables we stash in our hotel fridge to keep cold until tomorrow when we drive the last stretch to Palm Desert.

The concert in the evening is in the Performing Arts Centre attached to the local high school in Wickenburg, Arizona. It is a fabulous facility and anywhere a person might sit is a good seat. But we have great seats, right in the centre just 3 rows from the stage. There is no warm up band, just Rodney Crowell and 2 others. They walk on stage with no fanfare and start to play. It is low key. The music floats out into the auditorium. It is so different from the Jason Isbell concert we saw in Nashville that was loud with a light show and lots of musicians. This feels like Rodney Crowell is in my own living room with a couple of friends. He plays old songs and songs from his new album. The concert lasts for 2 hours. For last song that he plays he gets the audience to sing along with the chorus. And then it is done. No big encore. Just the end of the concert with the sound of all of us singing together sending us out to the parking lot and back to our hotel for the night.


No Ghosts Sightings, but a visit to a Boneyard

Well, we slept the night through and were not bothered by any creaks on the stairs or visitations by by white night gowned women. Somewhat disappointing (in retrospect) as I would have loved to be woken up in the night by a cold chill passing over the bed or a moaning in the hallway. But the only untoward thing that happens is a somewhat cold shower in the morning that Rudy has to endure. This is perhaps because of old plumbing instead of ghosts as by the time I shower the water is deliciously warm. We head to Safeway to get some fruit and bacon to augment breakfast that is being hosted by Wes and Bridget in their camper. It is nippy again this morning and we are happy to have a cosy camper to have breakfast in. Wes has discovered a screw in one of his tires that is now flat so he and Rudy set to work to make that right (take it off and bring it to a tire shop) and Bridget and I head into town for a walk and to look into some shops. Nothing is open but the walk is fine and when we get back the tire is being put on the camper and we bid each other goodbye and safe travels.

We head out on the road towards Tucson which is a short drive and we decide to go to the Aviaton Museum and Boneyard. The Boneyard has approximately 4,400 aircrafts and covers an area of 2,600 acres. Basically this place is where old planes go to retire or just to sit until they are put back into use. Because of the hot dry climate the planes do not degrade. We get to the museum and pay for the entry and decide to take the tram tour (Rudy and Sue were here quite a number of years ago and found it fascinating). The museum is great. There are so many planes from so many different eras. All the US airforce planes are here (ones I have seen on the news and ones used in movies). The blackbird high altitude surveillance plane is fascinating. We listen to an old guy talk about it. From using titanium that was imported from Russia (through front companies so the Russians didn’t know) to how fast (2200 miles per hour), how high to flew (85 to 90 thousand feet) and hot (600 to 900 degrees Fahrenheit) it got. Anyway after some looking around we get on the tram for our 45 minute tour. WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT! The tour guide just reads facts off a print out sheet. And much to Rudy’s disappointment the tour does not go into the boneyard. When he and Sue were here and had the tour they had had a great tour guide who had all sorts of personal stories about planes he had flown. Anyway next we go into the World War 2 museum and it is great. There are lots of old guys who have lots of stories and we are able to look into areas in the planes where the gunners sat (in the tail and under the belly of the plane) and hear stories about flight jackets and how each flight crew individualized theirs.

After this we head across town to our hotel. Each day we wonder about our sleeping arrangements. In some ways they are all the same. Bed, desk, TV, bathroom and, almost always, a fridge, microwave, and coffee machine. Today we totally lucked out on our best accommodations so far. The hotel is named the 3 Palms and this does not sound that promising as far as hotel names go. It costs 51 dollars (US dollars but still it is cheap). We arrive and are blown away. The room is SOOOO nice. Clean, comfy, all the amenities. Not to mention there is a HUGE courtyard in the centre with a pool and hot tub and gardens and space. I immediately don my bathing suit, grab my book and head to the hot tub. Ah! Warm! And there is a lovely couple from Wisconsin that I visit with. After they leave I enjoy my book and dream of how it will be in Palm Desert a few days from now when I will be doing the same thing.


Heading to Bisbee, Arizona

We are up and out of El Paso in the morning with our jeans and sweaters and down vests on. It is cold, especially the wind and it looks like it will be this way for the next couple of days. We are taking a desolate lonely road today with few towns or gas stations or places to eat. Once we are out of the big city (after a couple of wrong turns) we are on a quiet single lane highway that heads off into nowhere. There are some ranches but mostly just open spaces. We discuss what it would be like to live out here where neighbours are few and far between. Where do children go to school? How many friends does a person need to keep them happy and connected?

One small town we go through is Hatchita, It is literally a ghost town. It was formerly a copper and silver mining place but now is basically abandoned. One or two houses in town seem to be occupied. This is not re creation of an old west town but the actual thing you might see in a movie. It was cool to see and to compare how it is different than an old abandoned village in the Manitoba Prairies.

Down the road in Animus, New Mexico we notice a restaurant and it may be the only place to stop for something to eat on these miles of desolate highway so we pull in. A pile of high school students burst out of the door with what looks to be like their takeout lunches. The woman inside is a nurturing sort who apologizes for making us wait but she tells us she just has to get her kids fed. By her kids it becomes apparent that she means the high school students in town. Usually they use an app to order their food but today they all phoned her personally and she had to rush to get the food all ready. We chat for a while longer and hear that the school (grades K to 12) has about 227 students and they come from as far away as way south of Hatchita and many have a 1 and a half hour bus ride in the morning and then again after school.  The restaurant serves up the regular restaurant food. I get a salad and a burger and it is homemade and good. We just start our meal when an old cowboy walks in and orders a meal. He is wearing a cowboy hat, boots, and ranching clothes. He is dusty from the top of his hat run down to his boots. He promptly turns to us and says that he hopes that we ordered the green chili burger as it is the best you can get anywhere. This is the start of a conversation that goes on for a long time. It is fascinating. A real insight into life in these parts. He banters back and forth to the cook/server/probably owner of the place. He is off to get his oil in his truck changed but wants to order the chicken and fries to pick up later to take home to his wife. We talk some more and ask him about his life here. Has he lived here his whole life?

“Nope,” he says, “I grew up on a ranch in Colorado. Then ended up in California working on a ranch there. My neighbour and I helped each other out. Well, neighbour,” he continues, “he lived 21 miles away but he was the closest around. Anyway my neighbour moved to Oklahoma and I said I would help him and drive his rig out there. After I done that I decided I’d take the train back to California. On the first day I met this widow woman and we got along real well. We talked for 2 days straight before she got off here in Animus. I got her phone number and one day I phoned her from California and said I was thinking of coming for a visit. Well I did, and that was 18 years ago and I never left.”

It is a beautiful story and the way it is told sends shivers up and down my spine. The romance of it (not just the relationship between the two of them, but the idea of putting down roots based on a chance encounter on a trip across the country) warms me. I know, of course, that it is never that simple, but the man has a charming way of speaking about his love for place and what it all entails (cattle, dog, cats, 6 chickens).

“Oh six chickens was yesterday. Today there’s only five.”

When he hears that we had spent the previous night in El Paso, he exclaims, “I hate that place. Way too many people. And they are not very polite either.” It speaks volumes of small town friendliness where you depend on your neighbours for a variety of things, the least of which is civility. We mention seeing the miles upon miles of the wall as we drove along the border. “Ah,” he mutters, “How stupid is that! We had a former president who had some idiotic ideas.” Rudy and I are sure surprised to hear that statement in this neck of the woods that, for all indications, seems like it is total Trump country.

We arrive in Bisbee, Arizona where we have arranged to meet Wes and Bridget. We check in at Hotel La More. It was built in 1916 and was inhabited by miners  who worked at the local copper mine (now closed) as well as others. The present owner has restored it to its previous charm. Rooms have been renovated to ensure each room has a private bath but it has all been done to remain true to the original feel. The doors and woodwork match the original and the bathroom floor is done with vintage penny tile. Parlours and dining areas are filled with antiques and these areas are meant to share with other hotel guests. I am absolutely charmed. This is exactly my cup of tea.

We text Wes and Bridget and make the 4 minute walk to the RV park where we sit in out of the cold and visit. Afterwards we bundle up and walk around town. There are many old miners’ houses that have been bought up, and fixed up with paint etc. The stores (beautiful huge spaces with wooden floors and brick exteriors) house many artists places and antique and junk stores. There is a massive stone building that was one of the first libraries built in the state. There are other old hotels and town buildings and miners museums. Around supper we stop at a Mexican place and choose a warm place inside to have a bite to eat. Afterwards we head to a place that has live music. Unfortunately it is not to our liking so we head back to our hotel parlour for a cup of tea. While we are there we meet other travellers and even a ghost tour comes through to check for restless spirits. Supposedly there are a number of ghosts who have taken up residence in the hotel. Most famous is a cat that took up residence in room 23. Room 15 contains the Exhausted Spirit who is harmless and just trying to get a good nights rest. However I can see this might be distressing (not to mention crowded) if I would have to share the bed with both Rudy and that guy. But luckily we have booked into room 8 and even if we meet the Lady in White in the hallway (recognizable by the scent of Lilacs that usually accompanies her spectre) we will probably be okay.

I climb into bed expecting to be woken at least by a creak in the hallway.



Freezing and Then Hot

The morning when I wake up and step outside I immediately reenter the hotel room. It is freezing out and I need to change from my shorts into jeans and a sweater and my down vest. Yikes! Yesterday we almost melted into the pavement when we went for a walk to the Historic Fort Stockton and today it is cold. We decide to eat breakfast out of our cooler. Rudy has bread with peanut butter and Swiss cheese. Yuck. But he washes it down with a slug of wine.  Because, as he says,  “Bread and cheese need a little wine to go with them.” I settle for just the bread and cheese. We set out in the rain with our heated seats on but by the time we have traveled a couple of hours the sun has come out and it is 23 and when we arrive in El Paso, Texas we feel VERY overdressed. We have nothing that we want to see in El Paso. I guess we feel like our trip is over and we have lost our interest to historical war monuments etc. So instead we go for coconut shrimp and salads. It is delicious, especially the salad. I am definitely looking forward to more veggies once we get to California and set up house. Rudy spends the afternoon watching Sunday afternoon football and I read and blog and just generally hang out. We are off to Bisbee, Arizona tomorrow where we will meet up with Wes and Bridget. Just a few more days before the road part of this trip is over.

Stranded in the Middle of Texas

Today we have randomly chosen Fort Stockton, Texas as the place we will stop for the night. It is a shorter drive, just over four and a half hours. The land becomes quite desolate. This is definitely Texas desert: sand and rocks and dry brush with small touches of green. Not much to tell about the journey.  It really feels like the road trip is coming to an end as the whole highlight of the drive, at least for Rudy, is a stop at a Dairy Queen for a stretch and a strawberry chocolate Blizzard. I feel like an old woman. My hip is still bugging me and is exacerbated by sitting long hours in the van. But finally we make it to this desolate town of Fort Stockton. We have booked into the Deluxe Hotel and is is fabulous. It’s a family run business and boy do they take pride in this place. Everything is spotless and the woman at the desk is so nice. Her young children play in the courtyard on their trampoline and with their bikes. But the town itself is a wind blown nothing place.

I have researched that there is a historic fort here. We walk out onto the blazing hot asphalt and head down a couple of blocks to the Fort. We are the only visitors although Rudy says that there is one other name in the guest book from today. We learn that in 1866, Congress established six all-black regiments (consolidated to four shortly after) to help rebuild the country after the Civil War and to fight on the Western frontier during the Plains Indian Wars. It was from one of these regiments, the 10th Cavalry, that the nickname Buffalo Soldier was born. According to sources Native Americans (I am not sure which tribes) called these Black soldiers Buffalo Soldiers because their hair reminded them of Buffalo fur found on the shoulders of American Bison. Hmmm, this term rings a bell. Rudy googles the song by Bob Marley and here are some of the lyrics:

Buffalo Soldier, dreadlock RastaThere was a Buffalo SoldierIn the heart of AmericaStolen from Africa, brought to AmericaFighting on arrival, fighting for survival
So basically the US government at the time used these newly freed slaves as cannon fodder in the Indian Wars, a no win situation for both the American Indians and the Black people of America. And here at Fort Stockton this bit of history is polished up and presented as something seen through the lens of Colonial America.

For supper we head to one of the two restaurants that are open in Fort Stockton. It is a Mexican place and not exactly a place where you get great service. We had to get our own menus, practically go and get our own drinks and definitely had to ask for cutlery so we could eat our meal. The meal, however, was delicious so that was good and the clientele is just what you would expect. In fact almost looked like a characters in a movie about the Wild West (as seen in this sneak picture that I took) but certainly a fitting bookend to our day.