Leaving Manitoba in the broad daylight

Today is day one of the 2011 winter escape. We had great hopes of leaving by 9 am. We had said all our goodbyes the night before. The water was turned off, the thermostat was turned down. But there was no way we were leaving on time! Even after we finally drove our loaded van off the driveway at 10:30, we still had to make one more stop at PrintStudio so that Sue could drop off her Sobeys coupons for Lois. After more goodbyes, we were off. But wait! A few miles down the 52 hwy Sue remembered that we had forgotten our road atlas. Turn around. Back home.

We had to pull into the garage at U.S. customs — and Sue had to surrender her illegal basmati rice. That took a bit of unpacking and repacking.

Sandwiches from home enroute. Nice drive. First gas stop was at Watertown, SD. Well, why don’t we call it a day here? Okay. Checked into a Hampton Inn. It’s cold here! Thats when we discovered that Rudy had forgotten his jacket at home. And his sandals. A bit of verbal abuse from Sue.

Walked through the big Walmart next to our hotel and bought a new fleece for Rudy. Then out for some very delicious burgers at the neighbourhood bar and grill. Everything around here is all decked out for hunters. “Welcome Hunters” signs in all the windows and doors. In fact, we decided to alter our route because Sue struck out getting a hotel reservation in Dickinson, ND this morning because all the rooms were booked by hunters. That’s why we are here in Watertown. We’ll head west to Rapid City after breakfast this morning. Hoping to avoid the big SNOWSTORM that has hit Denver. And we thought we would escape all that bad weather this year. We’ll see.

Sent from my iPad

Home on the Range

After a way-too-big breakfast at the hotel (waffles with peanut butter, scrambled eggs and 3 sausages, yogurt, and coffee) we left Watertown, South Dakota, and headed east. We decided to zig and zag our way toward Rapid City — the ‘scenic’ route. And that’s what it was. Very nice 2-lane highway with very little traffic, through farm country. Rolling hills speckled with black angus dots and lots of combined corn stalks. Miles and miles of tiny big round bales stretching out to the horizon. At one point Vince Gill was singing so loudly on the itunes that we missed the Garmin telling us to turn at the next intersection. After several ‘recalculating’s we finally realized we were heading North and needed to get back to our suggested route. Turned at teh next corner and ended up on a few miles of unpaved dirt road — with a few ‘soft spots’ and ‘dead end’ signs that added a little or our excitement. But soon enough we were back on the right road and our ETA was only about 15 minutes later for all our troubles.

Lunch was delayed. We’d eaten such a massive breakfast. We made it all the way to Pierre (the capital city of SD, I think) before we pulled in at the trusty old golden arches for a much-needed washroom break. I had a milkshake and Sue a coffee. Then back on the road.

In the afternoon we got onto the I-90 and listened to classical music while we followed the twin ribbons of divided four-lane west into the hills of the Badlands. Lots of dinosaurs and petrified forests and Wall Drug signs and no more small towns to slow down for. We took a turn south at Wall Drug, opting to take the road atlas “Best of the Road” route through the Badlands. We had to pay a $15 park entrance fee even though we weren’t actually going through the park. That was okay. The scenery really was great — we finally hauled out our camera and missed our first photo of the trip because of dead batteries. No problem. Spare batteries in the backpack. Nope, the replacements are dead too. Third set worked. Let the picture-taking begin. We parked our car and took a short walk on a very nice boardwalk that led up to the terraced cliffs of the badlands. Along the way we met 2 women. Said hello. Kept walking, thinking how good this was for us to get a bit of exercise and stretch our legs. When we got to the top we startled a man who was already up there. We had seen him from below. We greeted each other and marveled at the scenery. Sue asked him how old the tiered cliffs might be. He motions the layers and says 10 million, 20 million, 30 million… We asked if the sidewalk would take us around a loop and back to the parking lot. He says he thinks so, but he had come up the same way we had. We left him up there and continued along the path, hoping it would lead us back to the base. About halfway down I heard what sounded like a gunshot up on the hill. Hmmm… hunting here in the badlands? Should we be wearing orange? We met one of the women at the bottom (the man had explained that his wife and sister-in-law were down there waiting for him). She asked if we’d seen a man up there. Yes, he should be coming down not far behind us. Well, I thought I heard a gunshot up there. Yeah, we heard it too. Hope those aren’t hunters. She looked worried. We headed back to our (unlocked) van and continued on our way. But now I began wondering if maybe that guy up there had committed suicide! Or what if the woman finds him shot and thinks it was those two hikers who hurried up and down the trail and then took off! Maybe I’ll have to check the local paper tomorrow morning to see if anything terrible happened in the National Park yesterday.

We arrived in Rapid City shortly after that. We’re now in Mountain Time Zone so that means it’s an hour earlier than what it feels like to us. We checked into a La Quinta with a huge attached waterpark (oh no, lots of screaming kids) and got a 3rd floor room (pet-free). Went to the attached bar and grill for beer and salad. Then hurried back to our room to catch the beginning of Game 6 of the Rangers-Cardinals World Series. Sat in bed and watched the game and wrote this journal entry.

Sue is scouting out tomorrow’s route and hotel options — probably we’ll end up near Denver. Hopefully the snow and ice from yesterday’s first winter storm has melted.

Rocky Mountain High

Left the La Quinta in Rapid City after enjoying their “deluxe” continental breakfast (not bad, but it’s right next to the big indoor waterpark and the ‘restaurant’ felt a bit like a Chuck E. Cheese with all the kids running around and a waiting line at the waffle machine). The road was great (once again). Not a lot of traffic, great scenery, speed limit 65 to 75 miles per hour. We had a bit of a misunderstanding with the Garmin and ended up getting to our lunch stop, and, more importantly for Sue, bathroom stop, an hour later than what we had projected. So it was 1:30 before we pulled in at an A&W in Wheatland, Wyoming. No teenburgers here, but Sue and I both had a cheeseburger and shared a big frosty rootbeer. Back on the road within 20 minutes. By now the sugar-sprinkling of snow that we had seen on the rolling hills had become quite a bit more intense and it was evident that the big snowstorm that had shut down Denver a few days ago had reached this far north. But the roads were clear. Around Cheyenne, near the border between Wyoming and Colorado, the traffic increased noticeably. By the time we were in Denver we had driven for over an hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic, sometimes going 75mph, sometimes slowing down to just a crawl. Friday afternoon rush-hour.

In Denver we turned west off the I-25 onto the I-70. Traffic eased up a bit; I guess lots of people are heading INTO Denver for the big Detroit-Denver NFL game this Sunday. We were determined to be checked-in by 5pm so that we would be comfortably settled into our room in time to watch Game 7 of the World Series. Last night the St Louis Cardinals came back from a 2-run deficit 3 times to win Game 6 over the Texas Rangers in 11 innings. One of the most exciting baseball games we’ve ever watched.

We pulled into Silverthorne (in the heart of Colorado ski country, in Breckenridge) and found another La Quinta Inn. Checked in. Went to pick up some beer and wine from the liquor store across the street. Ordered in pizza from the ‘Old Chicago’ restaurant right in our building, and snuggled into our 6th floor room to watch the sun set behind the chalets and mountains outside our window. It was a bit cool in our room, but once we’d eaten we had a great evening watching the amazing Cardinals come back to win Game 7. I was exhausted from my day of driving, so it didn’t take either of us long to fall asleep.

Utah: land of mountains and deserts, land of stark beauty and grandeur

We left Silverthorne after another waffle breakfast. The Levi’s outlet store across the street only opened at 10am — too late for early-birds like us — so we passed on the chance to update the wardrobe for discount prices and headed back on the road. West. Some of the most beautiful country in America, maybe even the world. Snowy mountains. Yellow leaves still clinging to the trees. Big sky. Great roads. We finally stopped for lunch in Grand Junction, Colorado. Then crossed the border into Utah.

Years ago Utah and Alaska were the only two states I hadn’t been to. And so on one of our family trips we made a point of visiting Utah — and discovered, to our amazement, that it was one of the most beautiful places we’d ever seen. Well today, years later, our return to Utah didn’t change that opinion. Utah is gorgeous.

We stopped short of the I-15 on our westward route along I-70, and followed US-89 south through Bryce National Park. It would be a long day of driving but since we are planning on NOT driving at all tomorrow (Sunday, a day to relax and enjoy NFL games on TV), we thought we’d stretch it out a bit today. So when the scenic drive through the Dixie National Forest was blocked by a mudslide and resulted in a 1 hour extension of the route over some seriously winding roads over a 2-mile-high hill, we were okay with that.

We finally arrived in Cedar City, just north of St George, at around 7pm. The sun had set. Since tomorrow is to be a TV-watching day, the hotel we were looking for would need to have a decent TV. And the billboards along the road in to Cedar City told us that the Abbey Inn had new 42-inch TVs. So that’s where we ended up.

After a long walk through the not-so-nice part of town, looking for a pub Sue had found on a motel map, we decided NOT to join the patrons for a Saturday-night Halloween party, walked back to our hotel, had half a sandwich at the IHOP right next to our hotel, and back in the room for the night. Journal update. Some roasted almonds and a glass of wine. Bedtime. Gotta get up early to watch Fareed on CNN tomorrow morning.

All rooms have 42″ Flat-screens

Woke up. Fareed on CNN. Waffles in the breakfast room. Short walk in the beautiful sunshine. NFL Countdown on ESPN. Game 1: Giants beat Dolphins. (Vikings squeak by Panthers.) McDouble and McChicken for lunch. Game 2: Steelers beat Patriots. Lions pound the Broncos. 60 Minutes: Madoffs talk suicide attempt. SNF: Eagles trounce Cowboys. Trailmix snacks (no supper). Perfect day.

Get your kicks on Route 66

Cedar City: Breakfast at the Abbey Inn — waffles again. Then we headed down through Zion National Park. Temperature was cool but not too cool. It was CRAZY BEAUTIFUL. Some day I’ll show you the 300 photos that Sue and I took of it. Leaves were turning orange and yellow. Pine trees were still dark green. Rocks were red. Sky was blue. Camera batteries were almost dead.

We stopped in Kanab, Utah for lunch at McDonalds. Then we took the 89A down into Arizona, skirting around the Vermillioin Cliffs. We’d already realized that the striking stripes of color that we’d seen in so many brochures were actually from a place called “The Wave”, a place in the Vermillion Cliffs that is restricted to 20 visitors a day, with permits required, and that we wouldn’t actually see that. So we drove through the big valley south of the Vermillion Cliffs, and then turned south to the Grand Canyon.

We entered that national park from the east entrance, just as we’d done in the fall of 2008, After paying our second $25 national park entrance fee of the day (first one was at Zion), we drove along the southern rim of the canyon, stopping at several lookout points for photos.

Then we exited the park and headed south to Williams, a quaint little tourist town along the old Route 66. Old cars, old motorcycles, old museums, old hippies just like us, staying in the many old-style motels and eating in the old-style diners. Checked into the Lodge on Route 66, then headed down the street to a diner for burgers, beers, and Monday Night Football. Settled into our room for the second half — we hadn’t realized that we’re in a new timezone here and it’s actually an hour EARLIER than what we thought it was. Oh well, early to bed. What else is new? Tomorrow we’ll reach ‘home’ in Gold Canyon.


We’re “home”!

Woke up. Sue made coffee in the room. Yech! Walked out around the corner to the little coffee shop whose wireless internet we’d been sponging off of last night. Ordered an espresso and a medium coffee. Sue still wasn’t impressed. The hotel breakfast in the lobby of the office wasn’t much better – no waffles for the first morning since we left home. After breakfast we took a walk up and down the Highway 66 main street. Took a couple of photos. Souvenir and curiosity shops were opening up for the day. Didn’t make too many sales to the Manitoba tourists. We were back on the road for our last day of driving soon enough. We left Williams and headed down towards Prescott Valley. Stopped for lunch at a McDonalds just before turning onto the I-17 south to Phoenix.

We arrived at our house in Gold Canyon shortly after 1pm. All just as we left it in April. Sue took off the sheets that had covered all the furniture. I carried all the patio furniture out to the patio. Hauled in our suitcase and Rubbermaid bin. Sue was cleaning and I had just put the bikes together when our neighbours honked as they pulled into their driveway. I wandered over to say hello. I was just chatting with Charlotte’s husband (forgot his name) when a dark Montana van pulls up to our house. Ed and Val. Both the neighbour and Ed told me about how Brian from ‘Not Just Stumps’ had only that morning trimmed the plants and cleaned up the yard. We arranged to go for supper to Ed and Val’s. It looked like our fridge wasn’t working. I tried playing with the controls on the front for a bit and thought maybe it just took longer to get started. In the meantime, after lighting the pilot light on the hot water tank and setting up the water softener, I plugged in the fridge in the garage and put our stuff in there.

We were so hot from all our cleaning and unpacking. We showered and headed over to the Peters’ new house. They live not very far from our place. They have a lovely house. We had a spaghetti supper on their patio and shared a good bottle of wine that had been given to Ed and Val by Tim Snider, who had brought it from Spain. Sue emailed Jill about the fridge; she emailed right back, suggesting a ‘reset’ by unplugging and plugging it in again a couple of minutes later. We’ll try that when we get home. All in all, a great first day in Phoenix.

Day 1 in Gold Canyon

Fridge was nice and cold when we got up; the ‘reset’ worked. We went for a short walk this morning. We ended up at Gecko’s, a small café in the little strip mall near our house. Since we didn’t have internet yet, this was a place where we could check our email. After breakfast we went to the Chase bank at the corner and opened up an account. Lunch was at Subway. Then Sue went for a major grocery shop (10% discount on first Wednesday of the month) while Rudy and Ed went golfing at Mountain Brook. It was a beautiful sunny day – a great day for golf.

Sue had packed away all the groceries and cleaned up the patio furniture and barbeque by the time I got home. Today the Peters came to our place for barbecued smokies. Another great evening of visiting. We made arrangements to take the Peters to the airport tomorrow noon.


Got up early and went for a bike ride – the old route. We stopped at Walgreens to buy a few items. We barely had time to have lunch before picking up Ed and Val. We dragged some of their extra furniture out onto the driveway – they’d arranged for Salvation Army to pick it up later that afternoon. Then we took them to the Mesa Airport and said goodbye. We had to hurry home because the Mediacom guy was supposed to come and ‘connect us’ between 1 and 5pm. He showed up around 3pm. The good news was that he got our TV and internet all hooked up. The bad news was the set-top box wasn’t HD. We’ll try to exchange it tomorrow.

For supper we had leftovers. Then a bit of TV, Skyping with Alex, and tired to bed. Weather forecast calls for a dust storm tomorrow afternoon. We’ll have to make our Walmart trip in the morning.

Dust storm in AZ

We went to exchange our Mediacom TV box today. Not that easy. Had to call Richard in Manitoba to get authorization to exchange our box for an HD box. The lady at the Mediacom office felt sorry for us, but couldn’t really make the switch without Richard’s okay. We went to Walmart to shop for sandals and a cell phone before returning to Mediacom — where the lady finally called Richard directly and we got our HD box.

Back at home I plugged it in only to find that we still didn’t get any of the HD channels. So I skyped Mediacom and they did a reset from their end. While we waited for that to take effect, Sue and I went for a walk. We went to Ed and Val’s house and put their garbage bin back into the garage and returned the garage door opener. Then we went to Basha’s and ordered a pizza. By now the sky was already quite gray with blowing sand.

We had an early supper and watched a bit of TV. Not much good on. I finally connected my Mac to the TV and we watched the CBC National news (live streaming) and Thursday’s episode of “At Issue” and Rex Murphy. Felt like we were at home. We’ll probably do that more regularly.

Brrrr… Not what we came here for!

After yesterday’s dust storm and last night’s rain shower, we woke up to a gray, cloudy, and cold Arizona morning. Superstition Mountain was shrouded in cloud. I tinkered with the “TracFone” cell phone we bought at Walmart yesterday — and couldn’t get it to register in our zip code. So I guess we’ll return that.

We had bacon and eggs for breakfast and eventually got into our cycling shorts and went for a morning bike ride. There were signs posted along the way advertising garage sales and an “Art Tour”. We stopped at quite a few garage sales along the way. When we got to the end of our 10km loop we stopped at the Walgreen’s and bought a “MagicJack” phone that plugs into our computer. We picked up bread at Bashas’ on the way home.

Lunch. Then I installed the new MagicJack phone and pulled out all the handsets in the cupboard and plugged them in. Registered the phone and it all seemed to work. Now we have a phone number! I paid an extra $10 for a Winnipeg number so the long distance shouldn’t be a problem for people at home to call us. Sue and I each called our moms and everything was cool.

I went outside to work on the yard for a bit. Finally got the sprinkler system to work only to find out that there are a couple of major ‘leaks’ in the lines. I’ll either need to get them fixed or just turn the whole thing off. It was a bit cool outside, but now that the sun was out it seemed a whole lot nicer than it had been in the morning.

Supper was warmed up leftover pizza. I was on the ‘help live chat’ option with the MagicJack techies trying to figure out why we got ‘busy’ signals when we called our new number. Didn’t get the issue resolved. They will email us when they have a solution.

Then we got a Skype call from Tim and Alex — and when they called our new MagicJack number it all worked! So I don’t know what’s up with that. Discussed flight back to Phoenix after Christmas options with them.

Well, the Bombers lost a big game to Calgary this afternoon, but the Lions appear to be beating the Alouettes big time tonight. That’ll put the Bombers in first place in the east for the playoffs. Looking forward to Sunday NFL games tomorrow.

Time for a little TV.

Sunday, a day of rest

Although most of North America had an extra hour of sleep last night, not us in Arizona. Like Saskatchewan, we don’t observe Daylight Savings Time. But as of today, we’re just an hour behind Steinbach.

So we watched our regular Sunday morning ‘news’ shows — Fareed and Reliable Sources on CNN. Then it was time for football. Ironically we get more choices of games at home than we do here in Arizona, because at home we get Detroit, Minnesota, and Winnipeg channels, and often they pick up different games at each location. Here we had to settle for the local CBS and FOX channels. Oh well, it was just fine.

As we were watching the second game of the afternoon we got a call on our new MagicJack phone — Dorothy and Bob Schinkel were just 15 minutes from our place, shopping at the big Mesa Flea Market. So they came over and we barbecued steaks and had supper together. Had a fine visit.

About halfway through the Sunday Night Football game the Schinkels got back into their Porsche and headed back across town to their home in Goodyear. Strawberries and ice cream for snack. A great first weekend here in Arizona.

Blue Monday

Rained at night, and the morning air was downright cold. Sent an invoice to the ICS in Hong Kong for work on MaryLou’s book. Skyped with Dave D for a bit while Sue was busy on the MagicJack phone and reading. We had a late lunch. I did a bit of web work until 3pm when Sue and I went for a long walk. We rented a movie from Walgreens and walked back to our house. It was cool and a bit windy, but we were still wearing shorts. That’s better than back home, where the first snow of the year has fallen.

After supper we settled down to watch Monday Night Football, a great game in which the Bears managed to upset the Eagles in a hard-fought battle. Then we watched the CBC National (Livestream) before calling it a day.

End of Week 1

After breakfast (yes, after BREAKFAST) we watched the RedBox DVD we picked up at Walgreens yesterday — Mordecai Richler’s “Barney’s Version”, nominated for Best Makeup Oscar last year. Two hours of great movie. And it’s fun watching movies in the morning — we don’t fall asleep during the slow parts.

After a quick lunch, we went for our first hike. An hour and a half on Silly Mountain. Cool weather, but sunny — perfect for hiking. Showered and then headed into Mesa. Returned our cell phone to Walmart. Bought a new office chair and new jeans. Back home I put the chair together. Then the doorbell rang and my antenna order arrived. I hooked up my computer to the TV, and the audio to the Bose system. I played with the antenna a bit — got 3 Digital channels with the antenna inside the house. I’ll try it again with it mounted outside.

Supper. A bit of computer work for me, reading for Sue. Then we watched Frontline and some late night TV. Off to bed.

Active Lifestyle

Went for a bike ride at around 11. We cycled our regular loop and added a ride around the “Deerfield” suburb — got back to the house at around 12:30. Sue had booked a tee time for 3pm at Mountain Brook. We had our lunch outside — it was sunny and warm — it’s supposed to be cold and rainy again on the weekend so we have to make the most of the weather while we’ve got it. I diddled around with my new antenna but gave up after getting no more than 9 digital channels — PBS, NBC, FOX — even HD, and pretty good reception, but not really a replacement for cable.

Sue on the 9th green

We loaded our clubs into the van and went for 9 holes. Beautiful. One old guy behind us, but he stayed well back and put no pressure on us. We had a few coyotes on the ninth hole. Took a couple of photos on the final green. On our way to the parking lot we heard a squawking bird — and got a photo that explained why all the fuss: a big hawk had a bird in one of its big talons.

Hawk with dinner

We loaded up our clubs and took a ride into Apache Junction, looking for the fruit market Sue heard about. We found it and Sue bought a bunch of fruit. On the way home it was getting dark quite quickly — by 5:30 it was quite dark and by 6 it was completely dark. We stopped on our drive back to take a few pictures of the full moon over Superstition Mountain. Didn’t really get anything we’ll keep, but it really was quite beautiful. Stopped at Bashas’ on the way home and bought bread and a few other grocery items. Then home for supper.

Full moon over Superstition

Sue’s shrimp with pasta was a little too hot (spicy) even for our tastes. But we were hungry and we ate it all. Then we settled down in the living room to watch tonight’s DVD — The Tree of Life. Long and beautiful and a very slow-moving and abstract. We ended our evening with a bit of CBC news.

Time to read…

Today we decided that our ‘activity’ for the day would be golfing (for a second day in a row). So we spent our morning inside; reading, computing, sudokus, eggs and toast. Got an email from Uncle Abe which triggered a whole series of Nikkel emails back and forth. Fun times. Also, we finally booked our flights back here from Winnipeg for January 1. Nice to get that settled.

Then, just before lunch, our Amazon book order arrived. The Steve Jobs book for me and 3 books for Sue. Great! Now we’ve got something to do for the long (Remembrance Day) weekend.

We went to the golf course just after 3pm. It was cooler and windier today, but still a great day for golfing. I shot quite a bit better than yesterday, although somehow I managed to miss recording our scores for one hole and so I don’t actually know how well I shot — well, maybe I should just add ’em up as is.

It was getting quite dark by the time we teed off on our last hole. We’d already heard the coyotes on hole #9 howling — now they were just lying there quietly, waiting for us to clear off. We stopped at Walgreen’s to pick up another RedBox movie (Source Code) before taking the long way round back to our house. A very big moon was slowly rising up from behind Superstition Mountain. Very impressive.

When we got home I lit the barbecue and was cooking chicken while Sue was making salads when the kids Skyped us. Big news: Tim has finalized the deal for a new location for Oak Leaf. A big relief for them; finally an end to the uncertainty about where they’ll be after Christmas.

We had supper and settled in to watch our movie. Sue thought we might have seen it before and I had already decided that Plan B would be to go to the Fireman’s Pub to watch Thursday Night Football if the movie was a repeat. But no, we hadn’t seen it before — so no football tonight. The movie was ‘okay’.

After the movie we watched The National on live-stream, then Letterman before calling it a day.

Remembrance Day

Forgot all about having a ‘special’ Remembrance Day celebration today. I read the introduction to the Steve Jobs bio book this morning.

At 1:30 we went for a walk — ended up walking along the wash between two little developments — not easy to walk on the big stones with lots of brambles scraping our shins — we won’t do that again. But it was a long walk and served the purpose. We showered and ‘cleaned up’ and then sat around waiting for the proper time to arrive for us to go out for our Friday Night Pizza.

At 6pm we got in the van and headed out. We returned our movie rental. Then we parked on the full lot in front of the new Hitching Post restaurant on King’s Ranch Road. A happening place! Inside it didn’t look all that much different than the Garage Pizza, a place we frequented last year, but which has since closed. Lots of tables and old people sitting around them. An old Kenny Rogers wanna-be was singing and playing guitar along with his karaoke tracks. Blues song. Sounded good. Full house. We found an available arboreta table in the corner and sat down. No peanuts in the shell here, but at least they had the handy-dandy roll of paper towel on each table.

We ordered: a glass of merlot for Sue, a pint jar of “Kilt-lifter” brew for me. A medium #1 pizza. “Good choice,” says our waiter. The big flat screens are showing the NFL channel, CNN, a basketball game, and NASCAR. Lots of tables have a plastic basket of chicken and fries on them — seems like the ‘broasted’ chicken is a specialty.

Our pizza arrives. Not bad. Now I’m hungry. And Kenny Rodgers has the old-timers up on the dance floor! A couple of old round-bellied guys with red golfing faces and neatly combed heads are leading ladies with dark brown dyed hair and new jeans and neatly pressed cowgirl blouses around on the dance floor. One couple is the reverse; he’s got the dark dyed hair and she’s got a neat gray hair-do to match her big shiny earrings. The old women sitting at some of the big tables are watching her jealously — how did that old bag manage to snag such a handsome young buck?

By the time I’ve finished my second pint jar and Sue has boxed up the 4 pieces of leftover pizza I’m ready to get out of here. We’re not old enough for this. Old guys in new Walmart Wrangler jeans prancing up to Kenny Rodgers with requests for old Waylon and Willie songs dedicated to their sweethearts. Good times. Even the ‘youngish’ couple sitting next to our table are clearly ‘made-up’ upon closer inspection. She’s got long black straight hair better suited to a teenager, and is squinting through her make-up, typing away at her Blackberry while he plays with his iPhone. Even when their food arrives, she’s got one hand on her phone while the other holds her sandwich. It’s disgusting.

Sue drives us back to our house. Next week we’ll check out the Firemen’s Pub across the street. I find what looks like a pretty good movie in the “unwatched movies” folder on my computer and start it playing back on the TV. Whoa, I’m tired! better lay my head down a bit. When I wake up the movie is just over. Sue has watched it by herself. We close up and head off to bed.


Mesa Market — on bike!

The weather forecast for today was nice in the morning, with strong winds for the afternoon. So, after our Saturday morning bacon and eggs, Sue decreed that we would get on our bikes and get our exercise in the morning before the 45mph winds arrival.

We decided to ride into Mesa to the big market at Baseline and Signal Butte. The shoulders on Hwy#60 have been repaved and it was time for us to check out this route. The ride was fantastic. Lots of shoulder, so even though there’s a lot of traffic on that highway it felt sort of like riding to Kleefeld on Hwy#52 — too much traffic noise to visit but you feel safe in your lane. No shoulder at all for the first couple of miles on Baseline but hardly any traffic. Actually the 15km ride only took us half an hour. Once we got to the market we idled around for a bit on our bikes — didn’t have the guts to go in and ‘shop’ in our spandex — and then headed right back home. Not a bad ride, but probably too boring to repeat regularly. The regular route around Gold Canyon is more interesting — hills, neighborhoods, no traffic.

After lunch Sue gave me a haircut. I hadn’t had one since we were in Chile last winter. Not quite a year. But Sue said it looked real ugly, and apparently everyone else thought so too. So finally Delilah had her way and I was powerless to resist.

Since Sunday is reserved for sitting in front of the television (watching NFL) we decided to go golfing at 3pm. Perfect weather. Nobody else on the course. Cloudy but comfortably warm. No wind. No wind? So much for those weather forecasts. We both had fun, and felt we were making progress. I shot 52, with a 10 on the final hole (damn sand trap), certainly one of my best scores so far. And Sue was getting under her drives. So that was a good afternoon.

Back at the house we barbecued cheeseburgers and watched TV. Then to bed.


Sunday. A day to sit in front of the TV all day long. Perfect!

We got up just in time to catch our two favorite CNN programs: Fareed Zakaria on GPS and Reliable Sources. Then, after scrambled eggs, it was time for NFL. I got a little side-tracked by an email from Tim Schmitt asking me to build a website for one of his ‘horse buddies’. I finished that only to have the NY Giants lose a close one to the Niners. Then (after left-over cheeseburgers for supper) in the Sunday night game, which I expected to be a ‘classic’, the Jets lost badly to the Patriots.

We watched the CBC National news online before going to bed.

A very active day

Whew! I’m glad that’s over. I don’t think I can handle that much activity in one short day. In the morning we ate our burnt toast and then got on the bikes and went for a long ride: all the way to Walgreen’s, then back up to the parking lot at the hieroglyphics hike, then down a long dead-end street that seemed to lead up to a construction site up on a hill near the Superstition Golf community, then back home.

After lunch I vacuumed and Sue went shopping for more groceries. Then at 3pm we were back on the golf course. Another nine holes before the sun sets. Didn’t shoot as well as we did last Saturday, but after a bit of a rocky start we managed to pull it together a bit.

After golf we went to the Chinese restaurant on King’s Ranch Road and ordered take-out. I washed the van while we waited for our order. Back home for a delicious supper. Settled in for Monday Night Football — although by the second half most of the commentators accolades for Aaron Rodgers were starting to pay off — as the Packers (9-0) demolished the Vikings (2-7). A bit of late night TV before calling it a day — a very active day.

Today is NOT Saturday

Reg and Rudy on Silly MountainToday at 10am our visitors arrived. Reg and Ingrid pulled up in their rented Ford SUV. Their first visit to our house in Gold Canyon. They’re staying at a resort up in northern Scottsdale, an hour away. We put on our hiking boots and headed up Silly Mountain out behind our place. It was warm today. We had a nice hike, not too strenuous, and returned to the house about an hour and a half later. Sue had pre-made our lunch earlier in the morning. We sat down, hot and thirsty, and had our some kind of lettuce wraps without the wraps.

Coyote on the golf courseAfter lunch we sat around a bit. We called the golf course and changed our tee time from 1pm to 3pm. We’ll go for nine holes a little later. Which we did.
Had a fun time golfing (again). No one else on the course; no pressure. And Reg and Ingrid were fun to go golfing with. We finished nine holes at around 5:30pm. The sunset was painting Superstition Mountain in some nice pinks; the air was quite a bit cooler than it had been in the morning; it was time to think about supper.
The Penners stopped at our local Bashas’ for a few groceries. We barbecued bratwursts and potatoes. Sat around the table and ate and drank and visited. Good times. All day if felt like it was a Saturday today — I guess because we had ‘visitors’ — and we had a long supper sitting around the table — and that’s what we do on Saturdays. But it isn’t Saturday. On the other hand, EVERY DAY is like a Saturday.
The Penners left a little after 10; they have an hour drive back to their resort. Sue cleaned up the dishes and we sat and watched a bit of TV and I updated this.

Didn’t do nothin’ today

Completely re-did my address book on my computer (again) today — somehow the iCloud version is combining my Mac address book with the iPad one and the Google address book AND the iCloud one! Duplicates. Anyway, I think I finally have that all cleaned up and figured out properly. Same goes for my calendar.
After lunch I read a bit more in my Steve Jobs book. We talked about golfing. Sue really wanted to go for a walk. We didn’t do either. At 4pm we went to the driving range (our first time this year) and wasted a bucket of balls — I probably had 3 good shots. Then we went to Walgreen’s to pick up a movie (Trespass) before I dropped Sue off at the hair-dressers in the Bashas’ mall for a 5pm appointment.
Sue warmed up the leftover Chinese for our supper. Then we watched the repeats of the Daily Show and Colbert Report. And Tim and Alex skyped with us for a bit — Tim’s finalized his new location and will probably be moving in close to Christmas time.
We watched our movie which wasn’t as bad as I expected, although it wasn’t very good. And although we both hadn’t done much all day, we were too tired to watch the news to the end — and dragged our weary butts into bed shortly after 10:00.

Thursday Night Football at the Firemen’s Pub

I worked on a few Christmas banners for the SMC (Steinbach Mennonite Church) website this morning. Then Sue and I went for a bike ride — returned our movie to Walgreen’s and picked up another one. Then we pedaled around some of the bays in MountainBrook before coming back home for lunch.
After lunch Sue read outside and I recorded a birthday greeting for Irmy using GarageBand, a program I hadn’t used before. We left it on her voicemail at the library and at her house.
Sue picked up our debit cards from the Chase Bank. I read my Steve Jobs book until it was time to go out for supper at around 7pm. We had never been to the Firemen’s Pub on King’s Ranch Road, but because they were advertising Thursday Night Football which is on the NFL Network (which I don’t get at home), we decided to give them a try. They had 15 TVs, a cheeseburger special, and quite a few customers. And the pizza looked good too. We ordered the burger special and sat there quietly cheering for the Jets. Three or four patrons were wearing Bronco shirts and a few more were cheering whenever the Jets stumbled. So we had to cheer quietly. Unfortunately, although the Jets were leading for most of the game, Tim Tebow led the Broncos down the field in the last 5 minutes and won the game in dramatic fashion 17-13. Sue took it out on the waitress, shortchanging her on the tip.
Back at home I spent some time computing and updating the blog; then watched some late night TV before calling it a night.

Computer work

I spent most of the day sitting at my computer. I did a logo trace for Tim, a couple of new Christmas ads for the Holiday Travel website, some research into a website for Bob, and worked on an update for the Smitty’s website. No time for reading or much of anything else.
Sue went for a walk in the afternoon. Then at 3:00pm we went for nine holes of golf at Mountain Brook. Seems like we can par one or two holes, bogie or double bogie most of the rest, but there’s always one (or two!) TENS in there — I’m shooting about 20 over par on 9 holes. But the weather was the usual, the scenery was the usual.
Sue made pizza for supper and after that we watched our redbox movie, Terri. Weird. Not great. A bit of TV and then bedtime.

Hello In There

Called Paul and Kathy this morning; they are interested in visiting us in February. We’ll see if it works for them. After bacon and eggs we went for a little bike ride around the neighbourhood. Checked out the Montserat community across the highway — inexpensive homes ($109,000 new), having garage and patio sales. We didn’t buy anything — no golf clubs, no home.
After lunch Sue read and I worked on a website for a while. Then at 4pm we took the golf bags out of the van and headed into Phoenix. We stopped at the big Superstition Center on the way — I bought a couple of pairs of shorts at Target and we filled up the van with gas. Then on to the Orpheum Theater, just northwest of the Phoenix airport. We parked our car and went to a Thai restaurant for supper. Sat next to one of the crew members from the John Prine show.
John Prine Concert poster outside the Orpheum TheaterAfter supper we bought tickets to the Loudon Wainwright / John Prine concert — two $52 tickets for $75. After waiting until 7pm to fill up the parking meter so that it would be paid until 8:00, after which parking is free, we went into the Orpheum Theater. Turned out are seats were pretty good! Row one, center. Right in front of the singers! Sound was great. Theater was very nice. Concert looked pretty much sold out. Audience LOVED Loudon and John. Loudon’s set was an hour, Prine’s was from 9pm to 11pm. He played ALL his best songs, often accompanied by a young guitar player and an older bass player. All three guys were great. Final encore had Loudon join the Prine band onstage for a very fine version of “Paradise”. The concert was excellent.
We got into our van and were back on the 202 freeway in no time. Back in our house in Gold Canyon in less than 45 minutes. This is even easier than going to a concert in Winnipeg.
Looking forward to tomorrow — and other Sunday in front of the TV! Life is hard!

A ‘Cracker-Jack’ Day

Sunday TV day again. Watched Fareed and Reliable Sources on CNN. Then NFL Countdown on ESPN. Then 3 football games in a row. Well, actually a couple more: I was able to watch the CFL East and West Finals on ESPN3 online! So while we were skyping with Alex and getting a few updates about the Bomber game from Tim (he was watching it at home) I tuned in online and watched the end of the game too. Bombers won. Later the BC Lions won their game, so those two teams will face each other in the Grey Cup next Sunday. I expect I’ll be able to watch that online too.
The Sunday Night game was a disappointment: the NY Giants blew a great opportunity to end all playoff hopes for the 3-6 Eagles — but they lost! But the good news is that Sue made some delicious cracker-jack-style popcorn and so we enjoyed some of that while we watched the Sunday night CBC National News (online). All-in-all, a cracker-jack day.

Blue Monday? Not quite.

Began the morning looking like we would be couped up inside all day — the sky was cloudy, a shroud hung over Superstition Mountain, the air was cold, the ground was wet. And the forecast wasn’t great. Sue tried a few times to go sit outside and read and always ended back up inside a few minutes later. I read my Steve Jobs book — pretty much all day. Then in the afternoon it looked like it might clear up, although it was still cool. Why don’t we go for nine holes of golf?
The guy in the clubhouse misunderstood Sue’s request and she came back to the van announcing that the course was closed ‘for repairs every Monday after 1’. What?? Go back and check that again. No, the DRIVING RANGE is closed every Monday afternoon. Of course you can golf!
And golf we did. Sue’s game was getting better. My game showed flourishes of greatness — with some serious disasters mixed in. But the weather? Outstanding. Took of my sweatshirt on the first hole. T-shirt and shorts. Sun shining. No wind. Stunning views. Even some great drives and putts — a par, even!
After golf we came home, took the garbage to the street, had leftover Thai food from yesterday a delicious fresh new homemade mexican enchilada dish that Sue made especially for us today, and watched the first 3 quarters of Monday Night Football. Patriots hammered the Chiefs. Boring. Switched to a PBS special about Woody Allen — much more entertaining. Someday we’ll get the complete box set of Woody Allen movies and watch or re-watch them all.

Watching the Camino de Santiago

A bit of reading this morning while Sue was on the phone. Then we went for a long hike around Silly Mountain — the Jackrabbit Trail — before coming home for lunch. We showered and then hopped into the van and headed down to San Tan Village in Gilbert. We visited the Apple Store, Macy’s, walked up down some of the shopping streets, picked up some cheap wine at the Wine Store. We were nearly late for the movie. Well, actually we WERE late — couldn’t find the theatre for a while. By the time we were there we were about 15 minutes late for the 3:25pm start time. But… when we found our seats we were the only ones in the theatre and the movie and the previews hadn’t started. So I guess they don’t run the movie if there are no paying customers. Sure enough, as soon as we sat down the lights dimmed and the previews began.
The movie was so-so. It was called “The Way” and it was about Martin Sheen doing the 800km Camino de Santiago walk in Spain. Sue liked it. By the time we got out of there it was 5:45 and pretty much dark. We got caught in a bit of traffic on the #60 (accident). We made a stop at the fruit and vegetable market that Sue likes in Apache Junction. They were ready to close too, so Sue had to hurry her shopping.
Supper at home — leftovers from yesterday. Caught the tail-end of the Republican Presidential candidates debate on CNN. Ho-hum. Bla bla bla. At nine o’clock we watched Frontline. A bit of late night TV and then to bed.

Cycling, golf, movie — that’s the routine

After breakfast we got on our bikes and headed out around our loop. Today the temperature was 80 degrees, quite a bit warmer than it has been lately. At Walgreens I picked up my Redbox movie. Then after lunch I cut down the 2 dead trees in our backyard. I found a nice saw in the garage and I managed to fit all the cut up branches in our big garbage bin. I skyped Werner for a bit of an update. Then at 3pm we went golfing. We had to wait quite a bit for a couple of ladies ahead of us (they were even poorer golfers than we are!) and eventually skipped a hole and passed them. Not that we are so good — no, today we shot crappy! We finished off the golf by putting around on the practice green for a few minutes before heading back home. Spaghetti for supper. Then time to watch the DVD: “Bridesmaids”. It was even worse than our golfing today! Way worse.
The local news had lots of video of the flames up on Superstition Mountain where a small plane with 6 people on board had crashed just before sunset today. Not that far away from us. Sounds like a guy came down here to pick up his 3 kids to take them back to his town for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving. Sad story.
A bit of late night TV before calling it a day.

Thanksgiving: American-style

The biggest holiday of the year here started out looking kind of gloomy. And it was cloudy all day — but still nice and warm. We spent the day inside, sitting in front of the TV, watching football. Two NFL games, one on CBS, the other on FOX. Then it was time for supper. Everything was closed today — BSue just barely got to Bashas before the 3pm closing time to buy a loaf of bread. We were going to go for pizza to the Firehouse Bar & Grill. But we got there just after 7pm (to watch the Thursday Night NFL game) and the waitress told us the cook had gone home — all we could get with our drinks was a plate of nachos. Beggars can’t be choosers. After the game we came home and had dessert. I worked on a new theme for the MIT cycling website, and before I went to bed I had uploaded it and made sure all the links were working. I went to bed listening to the (loud) dishwasher, rain pounding on our barbecue outside (that’s something we certainly are not used to here!), and the little TV in the bedroom.