Sunday, June 21, 2009


Shadow Hill Rv Resort

Joshua Tree National Monument

Fellow Earthlings Wildlife Center

Pam Bennett Wallberg, founder of Fellow Earthlings Wildlife Center

Is this a happy dog or what?

Flowering Saguaro Cactus

I'm having trouble putting the photos in the text, so I'll leave them at the top of this blog.

Ripley on the Trail

June 20, 2009

There’s another long delay since Blog Eleven, but I will catch up now.

One of the interesting characters at Quail Ridge is a man who takes his overweight bulldog Goober for a ride in his golf cart twice a day. Goober seems to enjoy watching the world go by, but it seems to me that it would do him some good to get out and do some walking for a change!

Sprinkle of Rain
It’s a real event when there is any sign of moisture in southern Arizona and on May 19 we did actually get a few drops. And on May 21 it rained all day. I’m told that later on in July and August the monsoons come and it pours down, but I’ll be gone by then.

My New Camera
I had mentioned in Blog Eleven how I had damaged my digital camera, and the quandary I was in as to whether or not to spend the money to buy another one or do without. I do enjoy taking photos and sharing them on my blog, etc. so I decided to bite the bullet and get a new one. I did my research, comparing prices at Best Buy, local camera stores, etc. and then searching online. I finally settled on buying online a refurbished Fujifilm S1000 camera with 10 megapixels and 12 optics with image stabilization and other bells and whistles from Tri-State Camera located in Brooklyn, New York. It certainly was an improvement over the old one that I had damaged, but it turned out to be defective. Not every frame shot properly. I contacted Tri-State by email and tried to phone them, but there was a long waiting period on the phone, but I eventually got through to a live human. I explained the situation, and he assured me there was no problem. Just ship the defective one back, and they would replace it. I told him that I wanted the camera mailed to my home address in Canada, and repeated that request in the letter accompanying the package. However, the shipping confirmation email stated that it had been shipped to Arizona. I emailed them and received no response and eventually got through to another live human on the phone, told him the problem explaining that their shipper could not read. I was informed that I would have to pay the shipping costs to Canada, after they got the package back from Arizona. After some argument, he offered to split the shipping cost. Not entirely satisfactory, and I was very tempted just to tell them to forget it and refund my credit card. But I am now awaiting the shipment – and hope that this camera is not defective!!

On to California – But Not Without Incident
After having spent a pleasant six weeks at Quail Ridge RV Resort, I got on my way to California by way of Ajo which is located in an old copper mining town. The next morning I continued north to meet up with Highway 10 and shortly after leaving Tucson, the motorhome sputtered and died on the side of the road – and naturally this happened on the Memorial Day Long Weekend! And to add to my woes, I was almost out of minutes on my cell phone. It seems to be my lot to have a disaster happen on long weekends! I did try to contact two different RV mobile repair places, but both were shut down of course. After sitting for awhile, the motorhome started and I managed to get a little further down the road into the parking lot of the Family Dollar Store in a little town called Three Points where I was able to add more minutes to my cell phone.
By sheer chance I asked the cashier if she knew if there was a mechanic nearby and she responded that her boyfriend Jim was a mechanic. Chris called him and he quickly arrived, agreed with me that it was a dirty fuel filter, cleaned it for me, and drove me to a nearby Ace Hardware to buy a new one, which he installed. Just in case, he gave me his cell number and it’s a good thing he did because I only got a few miles down the road when it died again. He suggested that both fuel pumps needed replacing. We managed to get the motorhome back to the Family Dollar parking lot, where Jim began draining and dismantling the gas tank (one of the fuel pumps is located INSIDE the tank!!) Meanwhile, I took the Chevy off the tow dolly so that I could drive the 30 miles back to Tucson to Checkers Auto to buy the two fuel pumps needed. To make a long story short, I had to return to Tucson three times before we had the two right parts. Jim was simply wonderful and worked on the motorhome until 9:30 p.m. But it was dark by then, and Chris, his girlfriend and who is also the assistant manager of the Family Dollar, allowed me to stay in the parking lot overnight. Jim had also changed the oil in my generator and charged my auxiliary battery which was flat. I was visited by Border Patrol during the night, as they are on the lookout for suspicious vehicles carrying illegals.
Early the next morning I had to call Jim back because there was gas leaking from the re-installed tank. He tightened the clamp and he followed me to the Ace Hardware store to get a new clamp and hose. After all this and having paid Jim $265 for his labour and another $100 for parts, I had one more obstacle and had to call Jim yet again because I couldn’t fill the tank without it back splashing. He fixed this problem and I was finally underway, crossing my fingers that this would be the last of the problems.

Respite At Last
Thank goodness no more incidents happened on my way and I eventually made it to Indio, California where I stayed a total of five enjoyable nights at Shadow Hills RV Resort – a very beautiful campground complete with gated entrance, palm trees, saltwater pool, hot tub, pond with fountain and off-leash dog park. Ripley and I basked in the luxury, and enjoyed the pleasant hosts Bry and Salem, a young couple who are partners of the owners of the resort. The temperatures were reaching into three digits F., so the pool was very welcome.

Fellow Earthlings Wildlife Center
My primary reason for going to California was to visit the meerkat sanctuary known as Fellow Earthlings Wildlife Center, run by Pam Bennett Wallberg and located in Morongo Valley. Last year I had the opportunity to visit and made an appointment again for this year, for May 29. Pam has a policy of allowing only one group at a time, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, for two hours each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only. I had a wonderful time sitting in the pen with the meerkats climbing on me as I fed them mealworms while chatting with Pam. We hit it off, chatting about all sorts of things, and my visit ended up being four hours instead of two. It was truly a highlight of my trip to be with the meerkats once again, and I hope to return again in the future. Because of the publicity generated by the TV show Meerkat Manor, the bookings are full a year in advance, and Pam has been visited by some of the narrators – Sean Astin, Whoopi Goldberg, Stockard Channing and other celebrities.

Joshua Tree National Monument
This national park is just a few miles away from Indio, so it was only natural to visit it while in the neighbourhood. Two deserts converge in this park – the Colorado Desert below 3,000’ where cacti abound, and the higher, moister and slightly cooler Mojave Desert where the famous Joshua tree predominates, along with interesting geologic rock formations. Wildlife abounds within the park’s 794,000 acres as well. Ripley and I visited an oasis of date palm trees, and walked a short way on the trail. But the heat was oppressive so we mostly just stayed in the air conditioned car, travelling along the roads through the park.

Homeward Bound – Sort Of
On June 1st we left the resort, getting as far as Parker, Arizona in the central western region where Phillippa overheated. We stopped to let the engine cool down and I noticed that the fridge was not operating on the propane setting. On checking I discovered that the auxiliary battery that powers the setting was dead. The woman at the local Chamber of Commerce gave me the name of a nearby garage where a new battery was installed, after an interminable wait while they located a marine battery and brought it back. Cost $212.

However, the fridge was still not functioning and I was worried that all my food would spoil. I got to Lake Havasu City where I located an RV repair place. Harley, the mechanic, determined that the problem was the control board in my fridge. This is the fridge that I bought only 1 1/2 years ago – but they didn’t have the correct part. Harley finally located one in Bullhead City, 50 miles away. It was getting late, so he and the manager allowed me to stay in their lot overnight, plugged into their power so that the fridge would operate. Harley also repaired the window screen that Ripley had damaged by putting her head through it when she saw another dog!
The next morning I headed to Bullhead City (which was out of my way home) stopping at the RV repair store that had the correct fridge part. Betty the receptionist was very sympathetic when I explained that my food was spoiling because of the fridge not operating and had a mechanic look at it right away. After a few phone calls, it was determined that the part and labour were covered under warranty, so thank goodness for small favours! BUT my “Check Engine” light came on, so Betty referred me to Advanced Auto in town where they checked the sensors and determined that it was the O2 sensor (something to do with the exhaust system) that was making the light come on and that I could ignore it as long as I checked my temperature and oil gauges frequently.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I cried.

Finally, finally, I started across Arizona, with the price ever increasing as I drove. In Sierra Vista I had paid $1.97/gallon. By the time I got to the Canadian border in Michigan, the price had risen to $2.95/gallon.
In the meantime, I stayed overnight at state rest areas and truck stops, hooking up to wi fi services at the latter, and enjoyed the cooler temperatures as I climbed in elevation to 7700 feet near Flagstaff. Every third or fourth day, I pulled into a campground in order to have a proper shower instead of a sponge bath. I continued on through New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, through Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. I counted a total of ten dead deer plus numerous dead raccoons and one coyote on the highway.

The temperature gradually got lower and lower, and Ripley picked up some ticks which she brought into the motorhome with her. Fortunately I found them and got rid of them before they could burrow into either her skin or mine! So I stopped and got some flea and tick medication to apply on her skin. That, coupled with the black flies and mosquitoes certainly indicated that we weren’t in Arizona anymore!

More Trouble
You probably remember that I was towing my Chevy on a dolly behind the motorhome. When I stopped to fill up the gas tank in Fishers, Indiana I got too close to the post that protects the gas pump and managed to rip the wheel off the tow dolly and bend the frame as I was leaving. I stood there stunned by what had happened. Luckily for me Police Officer Josh Ahnert saw the accident and came over to help me, offering to guide me to a nearby church yard to park overnight. He kept his flashers on as I limped over there, then looked up the names of several repair shops in the neighbourhood on his inboard computer, gave me his card in case I needed him. He couldn’t have been more caring, and his demeanor helped me considerably.

The next morning, I met some of the church staff and explained what had happened, and they were very sympathetic. Janice, the receptionist helped me to call several businesses in town, including the local U-Haul store (they wanted $634 to rent a tow dolly) as well as several repair stores (they couldn’t help me). Sue Griffith sat and prayed with me, Mary Kay offered her help, as did Mark the custodian and Milt. I used the church’s wi fi to look up used tow dollies for sale on the internet, but couldn’t find anything reasonable in the neighbourhood. Finally I located a used one in a nearby town at a trailer dealership. The cost - $800!! I had no choice but to drive the motorhome over and buy it and then make my way back to the church parking lot to put the car on the new dolly. But what to do with the old one? I couldn’t just abandon it in the church parking lot. Milt came to the rescue and got one of his friends to take it off my hands.

My stress level by now was through the stratosphere, and I was very grateful for all the support from the staff at the Fishers United Methodist Church. I cried.

With an empty wallet and a feeling of despair, I continued on north in Indiana, up through Michigan, finally making the Canadian border on June 10th, three days later than planned because of the various breakdowns. Strangely enough, it was the American border people who pulled me over and inspected both the motorhome and the Chevy. The Canadian Customs officer checked my passport and waved me through without incident.

Canada Once Again
We crossed the border at Port Huron, entering Sarnia, Ontario where gas was listed at 97 cents/litre. I’m bad at metric conversion, but I believe that was more expensive than the gas in the U.S. As of June 20th, the price per litre has risen to $1.03.

I got as far as the Flying J Truck Stop in London Ontario on June 10th, staying there to contact people via email. These truck stops are quite convenient because there is a restaurant, store, booths to plug into wi fi, showers as well as gas and propane – and they allow RV’s as well as the big trucks to park overnight.

But I continued on to Maple, Ontario where I parked the RV overnight in the community centre parking lot behind my friend Donna’s apartment building. I had a nice visit and BB Q chicken dinner with her, and left the next morning to continue on the journey up Highway 400 to Parry Sound.

My Summer Home
Michelle and Don Berry own the KOA Kampground in Parry Sound located in the cottage country of Ontario, and they have offered me a position working 20 hours per week, in the office in exchange for my site. It is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and to take in the breathtaking scenery of the forests and lakes of northern Ontario.

Woofstock is an annual celebration of dogs held in downtown Toronto. On June 15 Ripley and I attended and participated in a walkathon to raise funds for the Jack Russell Terrier Rescue Organization. I received pledges of $190. It was a little overwhelming for Ripley as she is not used to wall to wall people and dogs, but we did have a good time.

Final Words
All in all, Ripley and I travelled a total of 4,500 miles from Ontario down to Arizona, then on to California and back to Ontario and Parry Sound, and I don’t believe that I would risk taking Phillippa on a long trip again. I think she will remain in a campground in Ontario from now on, and I will find an alternative means of transportation and accommodation in the southwest next time. But I do expect to remain in Ontario for this coming winter, out of necessity. All these mechanical breakdowns, etc. have put a huge dent in my credit card and it will be necessary to go back to work for awhile.

I will be remaining here until mid-August when I will head further south and east to Chalk Lake to housesit for the same two couples I housesat for last year. I will be there until the early part of September. After that, who knows? The advantage of being retired is that life is an open road and anything can happen.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

BLOG ELEVEN - MAY 17, 2009

BLOG ELEVEN - Photos Now Here
May 17, 2009

I don’t know where the time goes, but I never seem to have time to sit down and update my blog, so here goes.

I’m still staying at Quail Ridge RV Resort near the tiny town/village of Whetstone. It is very peaceful here because most travelers have headed back home, and I continue to enjoy watching birds come to the feeder in the tree outside my window. Whetstone is ten miles north of Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca, a huge military base where I am told troops are trained in intelligence. Sierra Vista is a small city with lots of big box stores, supermarkets, banks, two movie theatres and a huge recreation complex with a pool, a wave pool and a spa. I haven’t been to the pool complex because it is only open for public swimming on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and now that the temperatures are soaring, I tend to stay at home during that time in my air conditioned motorhome. Temperatures are in the 90’s now and even though there is no humidity, I find it a bit warm.

Radio Stations
I was glad to find that the National Public Radio (NPR) operates down here through the University of Arizona, so I do have an alternative to country music which every radio station in the neighbourhood seems to favour. It’s not my favourite genre, so I’m glad that I can listen to good classical music, and in particular the announcers who are very knowledgeable about the music they are playing.

Square Dancing
On most days here in the park, there are just a few RV’s, some of whom live here permanently, but on April 17th we were invaded by a large group of people who came to share square dancing for the weekend. They weren’t rowdy by any means, but it meant that the clubhouse was taken over by them, and I had been accustomed to going there to watch television and relax. But they left on Sunday and everything returned to normal.

The Sky
One of my favourite things to do at dusk is to sit outside the clubhouse in one of the comfortable chairs provided, with Ripley beside me, and just watch the sun go down over the Whetstone mountains to the west. On a good day, the sky is lit up with brilliant shades of red as the sun descends.
And then a little later, the sky sparkles with a multitude of stars, both bright and dim, one of the nice benefits of being in an area mostly clear of pollution. Right now dusk happens about 7:15 p.m. and dawn is around 5:30 a.m. Most people are up by 6:00 because they tend to chores while it is still cool, and I have fallen into the habit as well (at least on most days).

My Day
First on the agenda is to walk Ripley and let her relieve herself. She likes to strut at a good pace when we go for these morning walks around the park, stopping whenever she discovers an interesting smell to check out. I am told that javelinas come into the back section during the night and, judging from Ripley’s reaction, I would say that they do indeed. I feel it is more prudent not to walk around at night to test the theory!

After breakfast, I will check my email and that may take a bit of time, depending on how many jokes have been sent to me. After that, I may drive into Sierra Vista to do some errands, read a book, work on my computer, do some housecleaning or go off to see an attraction. If I’m going to do a hike, I usually start off by 7:00 a.m. and I try to find areas where I can take Ripley with me, as she loves to go to new areas with all sorts of wonderful smells to check out, lizards to chase, etc.
One of the dozens of Gambel's Quail that come to my feeder daily
And before I know it, the day has gone by and evening rolls around again, with another walk for Ripley (there’s one also during the afternoon if we haven’t gone out anywhere). Then depending upon what day it is, I may watch a little television in the clubhouse. I must confess that I have become addicted to American Idol just because of Adam Lambert. What a breath of fresh air he has been this year on an otherwise very dull show. Most of the contestants seem to have come from the same cookie cutter mold of whitebread America, and it is really refreshing to watch someone who comes up with new interpretations and dares to push the bar ever higher. As I write this the finale is coming up, and I am eagerly looking forward to yet another great performance by Adam. But alas, after this week I won’t have any more fixes until he releases his CD. Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a Glambert!

Border Patrol
This entire area of southern Arizona is very close to the Mexican border and consequently is at risk for illegal immigrants and smugglers sneaking through. As a consequence, the Border Patrol people are ever on alert and whenever I travel north towards the Interstate I go through a checkpoint. It has become routine now for me to hand over my passport. Sometimes the officer waves me through while on another occasion one will check out my passport before letting me go. I understand that in June it will become mandatory to have the passport, but I don’t begrudge the slight inconvenience, as these personnel have an impossible job, in my opinion. There is just simply too much open land to cover and the powers that be have refused to increase their numbers. Illegal immigrants continue to make the dangerous trek across the desert and mountains and many die in the attempt. Bribery is a way of life in Mexico and many believe that there is no way that smugglers are going to be stopped completely. There may be the odd arrest that looks good, but the culprits are generally soon out of jail again after money has crossed palms.

West End Block Party
Since I still had a lot of jewelry left over, I decided to rent a booth in Sierra Vista at their West End Block Party on April 18th. Mary (the lady from Minnesota) very kindly made sure that Ripley was okay while I was gone, and I managed to borrow a table from the clubhouse in the park and set up shop on Fry Boulevard, along with many other vendors. There were quite a few booths selling jewelry, including the couple right next to me who specialized in expensive gems. They did quite well, but I managed as well by keeping my prices low. Despite the fact that I suffered from exposure to the sun all day (I did wear a hat), I was happy that I made the effort. Besides making a bit of money, I also met several of the local crafters who belong to the Huachuca Art Association, as well as a helicopter test pilot who lives in a mobile home in Sierra Vista.

Pig Roast
Because many of the people who own their lot in the back of the park are leaving to return to their homes, they organized a pig roast, to which I was invited. After spending all day out in the hot sun at the West End Block Party, I welcomed the opportunity to sit down to roast pork, potato salad, vegetables and a raspberry dessert. It was also an opportunity for me to get to know some of these people a little better. The square dancers were still here and, despite their mature ages, seemed to enjoy themselves a lot. They were in the north clubhouse while the pig roast took place in the south clubhouse. The only thing missing in this park is a pool.

Snow’s Little Bead Store
In conversations with Mary, I learned that she too is a beader, although she does bead weaving - a different technique from what I know. She told me about Fran Snow who runs a bead store from her garage in Benson and we agreed to drive over there, along with Mary’s husband Ed. Of course I had to buy some of the beads, but I also signed up for a class with Marcia to learn how to wire wrap a swirl around a pendant. Wire wrapping is something I have wanted to learn, and as it happened, I ended up taking three different classes with Marcia. The fee was very reasonable and I have now learned how to wire wrap a swirly pendant and a caged pendant, and also how to make a ring. So now I have expanded my knowledge and can offer some different items. The only problem is that this technique requires using gold or silver or copper wire, all of which material is quite expensive.
Ring Wire Wrapping
Caged Wire Wrapping
Spiral Wire Wrapping
Chiricahua National Monument
On April 21st Ripley and I set off on less-traveled roads through the historic town of Tombstone, then on to Gleeson on a primitive road, passing the White Gulch Experimental Watershed, the Rattlesnake Store (featuring lots of items made out of rattlesnakes – I didn’t stop), and on to the little town of Elfrida where I discovered a delightful shop featuring great coffee and a homemade apple/cinnamon muffin.

This little repast kept me going on to the Chiricahua National Monument where Cochise and Geronimo had made their home. The signs leading to the Monument warned there were no gas stations or restaurants in the area, so I was glad that I had stopped in Elfrida. The Chiricahua National Monument lies within the huge Coronado National Forest, and the road twists and winds to an elevation of 6870 feet, endng at Massai Point. Because the nature trail here is closed to dogs, we just walked around the parking lot area to see the beautiful view. The brochure mentions that four ecosystems meet in these mountains (Chihuahua Desert, Sonoran Desert, Rocky Mountain and Sierra Madre), making it a naturalist’s paradise for the number of species that can be found in the area of the park which encompasses 11,985 acres, most of which is wilderness.
This mountain is called the Face of Cochise
The brochure also mentions that the tourists in Chiricahua National Monument are climbing up a sky island – an isolated mountain range rising above the surrounding grassland area, and an area where the vegetation changes from cactus and mesquite to sycamore, juniper, oak and cypress, pine and fir. “The Chiricahua Apache called these pinnacles “standing up rocks”, and I remember seeing similar formations in other parts of the U.S. and Canada in my trip last year. They are referred to as hoodoos in other parts and are the result of rhyolite cooling and uplifting during volcanic action 27 million years ago. Very spectacular views everywhere.

On the way back down I took Ripley for a walk around Faraway Ranch in Bonita Canyon, an original settlement dating from 1888. The eldest daughters converted the ranch into a guest ranch where visitors came to watch birds and hike in the hills. After their deaths the ranch was incorporated into the national park as a historic district.

What I truly love about Arizona is that there is so much history everywhere you turn, from the original native inhabitants to the pioneers and cowboys who called it The Wild West. There are still many areas that have been preserved in the way of scenic drives and hiking trails, as well as ghost towns and archeological sites. Although I haven’t been on it, the Arizona Trail is an example. The brochure states that it “is a scenic, non-motorized trail that stretches for 800 miles through some of the state’s most renowned mountains, canyons, deserts and forests. The Trail begins at the U.S.-Mexico border in the South and ends at the Arizona-Utah border in the North.”

Housesitting in Arizona
I’ve mentioned previously that I have signed up on a website that puts together people willing to housesit with people who need a housesitter. I had answered one of these ads and Susan Scott contacted me. She has a wonderful adobe-style hacienda in a remote area outside the small town of Sonoita, right in the heart of cowboy country, and only about 30 miles down the road from the RV park where I am staying. The house has the typical red-tiled roof, with two courtyards, one with a fountain and several lovely eating nooks. The main part of the house is an open concept with a high ceilings and beams. The master suite is on one end and the guest suite on the other. Ripley and I enjoyed this wonderful luxury for six days while Susan went to San Diego. Zoe is an elderly border collie/Australian sheepdog mix (it seems to be a popular breed down here) and she and Ripley got along well. Zoe is used to getting up at 6:00 a.m. and made sure that we did too! Every morning after breakfast we would go for a leisurely mile-long stroll down the nearby gravel roads, and then we would head back for another luxurious day. I had brought along all my jewelry-making material and was able to lay everything out on the dining room table and consequently I managed to make several new pieces and re-work some old ones that I wasn’t happy with. Susan had given me permission to use her Jacuzzi bathtub and I indulged myself every day. It really does help my arthritis. Then, I had the option of sitting in one of the two courtyards enjoying the breezes, making meals in Susan’s modern kitchen, watching TV on one of the three sets, or just simply lounging around. It felt very decadent, and all too soon Susan was back, and I returned to my motorhome which seemed very tiny!.

Ripley’s Birthday
During our time at Susan’s, Ripley and I celebrated her eighth birthday on April 23rd with a New York strip grass-fed steak dinner (simply delicious), and of course Zoe participated too. This is real cattle country around Sonoita and the beef is very reasonable.

Gardner Canyon
On the way to Susan’s hacienda, I took a short detour to Gardner Canyon, a gravel washboard road that led to several ranches. I couldn’t help but stop at the sign that I came across on this road, shortly after having to wait for several cattle to cross the road.

April 25
While I was at Susan’s I wanted to investigate some of the nearby area and Patagonia sounded like a funky place to start. The town is home to many quaint shops and restaurants, as well as a historic hotel and I stopped at the Gathering Grounds café to order a delicious coffee. I sat outside at one of the little tables while Ripley investigated the nearby area.

We pressed on to the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy, and of course Ripley was not allowed to enter. This is one of several nature reserves totally 1.5 millions acres in Arizona that the Nature Conservancy has protected, and the birding is wonderful. I managed to park in the shade and left Ripley in the car while I joined a tour led by Elaine, a woman who knew almost every bird we encountered or heard. She knew their individual songs and would pull out her guidebook to show us a photo of the birds that we couldn’t actually see. We came across dung beetles and nasty red ants whose bite can be very painful. I didn’t write down all the birds that we encountered but there were dozens as well as beautiful butterflies. Even though it was still relatively early I was disappointed that we didn’t see any mammals (not even a squirrel). Two hours later I made my way back to the visitor centre while Elaine continued on the tour with the rest of the participants. The hummingbird feeders there attracted many birds for a close-up look.

As I was giving Ripley a drink of water, a couple noticed my Ontario licence and introduced themselves. Mary Beth and Bob Worthington are from Toronto and had a tent trailer in nearby Patagonia State Park. They are avid birders and as we chatted, Bob asked me if I knew Jim Fairchild who used to work at the Toronto Zoo. Of course I knew him but regretfully had to inform Bob that Jim had passed away the week previously. Jim was also an avid birder and he and Bob knew each other quite well, so it came as quite a shock for him to learn that Jim had died while out birding.

On my way back through Sonoita I had wanted to stop to see the quarter horse racing that was being held that day. Naturally I wasn’t going to leave Ripley in a hot car, and took her with me when I paid my admission fee. Nobody stopped me until I was actually by the grandstand, where a security guard informed me that dogs weren’t allowed, so I went back and asked for a refund. I was very disappointed as the Mexican caballeros in their colourful outfits were demonstrating their horseback skills, putting their horses through the beautiful paces of dressage.

April 26
My friend Mary (from Quail Ridge RV Resort) is a bead weaver and I asked her to teach me how to do this. As a result, I invited her to come over to Susan’s hacienda for lunch and we spent the morning weaving, another new technique for me. There are several different stitches, and Mary showed me the straight stictch and the peyote stitch, the two most common types. It takes a good deal of patience and decent eyesight, so I’m not sure how much I will get into it, but at least I know the method now, and it was enjoyable to get to know Mary better over a lunch of barbecued hamburgers (on Susan’s outdoor grill), red beans and rice, hot corn muffins and the pickles that Mary had brought. She is about 15 years younger than her husband Ed and back at Quail Ridge she works out every morning in front of a video in the clubhouse. Mary and Ed are from Bemidji, Minnesota and own one of the lots here where they park and live in their bus for the winter. They have a cocker spaniel named Daisy. I do meet some very nice people on my travels!

Ripley is limping quite a bit today, so we had only a short walk. I’m not sure what she did, but she seemed to have injured her left front leg. The next few days she was still sore, so I decided not to go for a hike in the adjacent 30,000 acres land grant, which was disappointing as I was hoping to see some reptiles and mammals.

Susan had left me a few books on the history of Arizona, and I enjoyed skimming through “Arizona in the 50’s” by Captain James H. Tevis in which he described frontier life battling Apaches including Cochise, as well as his friendship with Esconolea, an Apache who saved his life. Another book was entitled “Journey of the Heart by Annette Grey, a true story of Mamie Aguirre who lived from 1844 to 1906. She was a southern belle of the Wild West. Richard Shelton wrote a book entitled “Going Back to Bisbee” recounting his experiences of returning after many years. Betty Barr is an author who lives nearby and wrote a book entitled “Hidden Treasures of Santa Cruz County”. It was really fascinating to read of the accounts of people who had lived in this region and the history of the places, many of whom are now ghost towns.

And all too soon, my mini-vacation was over. Susan returned with a gift of assorted jams, and after a brief discussion about whether or not she should get one kitten or two (I was pushing for two) from a friend of hers, we parted. Later, she informed me that she was going to get two kittens.

Back at Quail Ridge
I returned to my routine of checking and answering emails, working on my computer and reading mystery books obtained from the Benson library, visiting nearby attractions and shopping in Sierra Vista, and sitting by the clubhouse at dusk. The entire environment here is so laid back and relaxing.

I took time out to go to see the movie “State of Play” starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck. My friend Pat who lives in Calgary, Alberta, is absolutely nuts about Russell Crowe, so naturally I had to see his latest flick to discuss with her. I have to admit it was very good.

Every time I went back to Benson for another jewelry class, I took Ripley with me, and she charmed everyone in the store. She would sit in a chair and watch the class or visit with Fran, the owner and her husband, or else just stretch out flat on the carpet.

After one of these classes I took Ripley to the nearby Lion’s Park for a run and we encountered a group of adults who were under supervision. I’m not sure if they were mentally disabled, but they had a ball and Ripley soon joined them in a game that everyone enjoyed. One of these would throw the ball and Ripley would race over and bring the ball back to the person. Both she and these people had a great time, and after the ball became somewhat deflated, they gave it to her to keep.

Later, we went over to meet up with Doug Thompson, my friend from Indian Skies now staying in Benson, and we caught up on our news. He is still busily editing and revising his latest book “The Human Tribe”, a philosophical attempt at analyzing human behaviour, especially with regard to religion.

May 1
I still had some mail at Indian Skies up in Coolidge, so Ripley and I drove the three-hour trip there, and at the same time took the opportunity to make an appointment with Kathy Burchett, the wonderful massage therapist in nearby Casa Grande. She really knows how to put me back in shape!

While in Casa Grande I stopped at Pet Smart to get Ripley some low-protein natural dog food to replace the type that I have been feeding her, which is 42% protein. Hopefully the change will help to get some weight off her, as she is still about three pounds too heavy. I also ordered a product called Missing Link Plus through the online Pet Meds store. Susan Scott had been feeding her old Zoe with this and said that it really improved her comfort level. Since Ripley really hates the glucosamine tablet that I crush into her food (it’s very bitter), this should be a better alternative to ensure that she is getting all the supplement she needs to keep her active as an older dog.

May 2
For a change the sky is overcast, but there is no rain. However, the winds have picked up.

May 3
I was originally planning to leave Quail Ridge RV Resort on May 9th, but have decided to remain here for two additional weeks, as the rate is very reasonable, so I now will be leaving for California on May 23rd. That gives me seven days to reach the meerkat sanctuary near Palm Springs.

The Oasis Sanctuary
Mary had mentioned that there was a parrot sanctuary nearby. I called Sybil Erden to make an appointment to visit and on May 5th I drove out to The Oasis Sanctuary, located in a remote area about 40 minutes north of Benson. She is the founder and executive director and started taking in psittacine birds (parrot family) about twelve years ago at her home in Tucson. She realized that she needed to be in a more remote area with more land, and bought 72 acres beside the Rincon Mountain range southeast of Tucson. There are currently 650 birds at the sanctuary!!

Sybil has done an amazing job in providing excellent care for all the birds, many of whom are in very large flight cages. There are many that cannot adapt to these large cages and consequently they are kept in smaller cages. Some have mutilated themselves and plucked out much of their feathers. Many of these poor birds have gone through traumatic experiences in their lives and exhibit psychological problems as a result. The sad reality is that many of these birds outlive their caregivers, because they are very long-lived and they may then end up in a dark garage or worse. Others have been confiscated by authorities. The birds range all the way from the very common budgie and cockatiel all the way to rare parrots and macaws, and thanks to Sybil’s paid staff and volunteers, they are very well cared for. Every cage was very clean, contained lots of toys, fresh food and water. The bowls are disinfected daily.

One of the large aviaries
Besides the birds, Sybil has also taken in many dogs and cats that have been abandoned in the nearby desert by thoughtless people and at the sanctuary itself there were two Great Pyrenees, two deaf cattle dog mixes, an Akita mix named Koda plus several others (nine in total, four of whom act as guard dogs at night). She also currently has twelve cats in her house adjacent to the sanctuary.

The Oasis Sanctuary has charitable status and of course is always in need of money to continue their work and to build more cages. Many of the birds come in needing medical attention, and the annual veterinary bill alone is $30,000. You can check them out online at She has just initiated Pennies for Parrots. There are approximately 10 million parrots in 5 to 6 million homes in the United States. Her thought is that if each of these owners donated a penny, it would add up to a great deal of money towards the future care of the birds.
Ground Squirrel enjoying a free lunch
Sybil very kindly spent three hours out of her very busy day to take me around and I have to say that I was very impressed with the sanctuary’s facilities, cleanliness and her dedication to giving these birds a second chance, including Gulliver who was abandoned by his owners on a South Pacific island when their boat sunk. It took a great deal of effort on Sybil’s part to wade through the paperwork to bring Gulliver to the sanctuary and he now acts as spokesparrot when she goes out to do talk. I took out a membership and if things work out in the future, I hope to return to volunteer. Gulliver

May 6
There are reports of wildfires breaking out, one of which is very near the area where Susan Scott’s hacienda is. She reassured me via email that the fire is further south from her, but I wonder if Whisper’s Sanctuary (the place where I tried to be a Workamper) might be in danger. The grassland is so very dry right now that it takes very little to start a fire. I have been told that many of these wildfires are started by illegal immigrants who light a fire to keep warm during the cool evenings.

Good Sam
Good Sam is a camping group for seniors who get together around the country, and the club also provides discounts at various parks. A group of them from Tucson arrived for the weekend, so the clubhouse was again filled with people. They enjoyed playing cards and chatting with each other, some of whom seemed quite elderly.

I mentioned that I often took Ripley over to the chairs outside the clubhouse at dusk, and in the grassy area beside there she encountered a large white spider. She kept pawing at it and I went over to investigate, only to find a very large creature on its hindquarters, in an attack position, with its mouthparts open. Later on I checked on the web and determined it was a colour variation of the venomous brown spider. In a person its bite causes the skin to die around the wound, which may have to be surgically removed. After reading this, I felt it was prudent to stop Ripley from bothering these spiders, which climb out from under the clubhouse at dusk.

Fairbank and Lizards
I’ve returned to the ghost town of Fairbank beside the San Pedro River a few times whenever I’m in the neighbourhood because I can let Ripley off leash. She just loves to be able to check out the various scat and other smells encountered on these walks, and recently all the lizards are out. They are much too fast for her, but that doesn’t stop her from racing after them!
Fairbank cemetery
A little further on I parked the car beside the bridge and walked down to the San Pedro River so that Ripley and I could soak our feet in the cool refreshing water. While she explored the area I sat and watched the birdlife.

Scanning Photos
Before I left on this current trip I had ordered a photo/slide scanner that would allow me to scan my old slides and old albums, many of which are deteriorating. They are all from my travels around the world, and I wanted to preserve them. And who ever looks at slides on a projector anymore? In any event, I’ve finally started scanning an old album, and hopefully I will find time to do more before moving on.

Of course, I am always optimistic about the amount of time I have. Another project that I am working on is creating a website to sell wildlife t-shirts. I’ve registered the domain name of and am in the process of putting together the website. But it is much harder than I had thought, plus I have a huge learning curve to figure out how to do it. But with any luck I’ll complete the website and have it up and running in the near future. It is one of my attempts to earn extra money without having to actually commute to a 9 to 5 job again.

Philippa Needs Work
Speaking of extra money, what can I say? My motorhome would not pass an emissions test, which will be required when I return to Ontario to renew my licence, so I decided to take it in to Midas Muffler here in Sierra Vista on May 12. I was expecting to have to replace the piping and perhaps the muffler. However I was not aware that the previous owner had removed the catalytic converter. The price for this one item alone is $800!! The part had to be ordered so I started back to Quail Ridge, only to have Philippa cough and sputter and finally die just as I entered the driveway. My rear end was still sticking out on the highway and some kindly fellow Rotarian stopped and pushed me off the road.

So then I was faced with the dilemma of how to fix this problem. I had actually made a call to my insurance company back in Canada to arrange a tow to a garage, when the park night watchman came along and suggested that he go get John in the permanent area, who is a mechanic. Shortly afterwards John arrived, crawled under the motorhome and took off the fuel filter, shook it, replaced it and when I turned the key, it started. I was very grateful to avoid another bill, as John graciously waived a fee. I was very relieved and parked Philippa.

Two days later I returned to Midas Muffler (with Ripley of course, who sat in the chair beside me during our two-hour wait). I had brought my laptop along with the idea of bringing my blog up to date, but found that the keys would not tap out the correct letters. I usually use an external keyboard which was inside the motorhome and at this point in time, it was up in the air on the hoist. So I gave up in frustration. My computer is slowly dying. The fan is broken; the CD drive no longer copies and three of the five USB ports no longer work. I’m hoping it will last until I return to Toronto where my brother assures me I can get a better deal on a new laptop than I would get here in the U.S.

Eventually the mechanic finished the repairs, and the bill came to $1,100.

More Problems
I almost made it back to the RV park, but Philippa started to cough and sputter again and died on the highway. I had previously been told about a mobile RV repair service, so I gave them a call and about an hour later the driver showed up, took the fuel filter off again, cleaned it and Philippa started once again. He followed me back to Quail Ridge just to make sure I’d make it and promised to return the next day with a new fuel filter. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that I had a new one put on when I broke down in Albequerque, but I should keep in mind that it is very dusty here. I have learned my lesson to be more attentive to Philippa’s needs!

My Tooth Still Hurts
I had mentioned in the previous blog that I had gone to Naco, Mexico to the dentist there and he couldn’t find any cavity. However, the pain has returned and I made an appointment with a different dentist in the same clinic (the one who had originally been recommended to me – Dra. Lorena Martinez).

On May 13 I arose early, said goodbye to Ripley and drove the 1 ½ hour trek down to Naco, Arizona, parked my car and walked across to Mexico. Dra. Martinez took another round of x-rays and determined that I had a cavity down the groove of a tooth that had a cap on it. After a great deal of effort she managed to get the cap off, drill out the cavity and have me fitted for a new porcelain cap. The old one was made of gold and she gave it to me to keep. I’m going to see about having it melted down into a ball so that I can make a pendant out of it.

I will need to return in a week to have the permanent cap put on. Total damage was $320.

On the return trip I stopped at the historic town of Bisbee, one of the old copper mining towns. The mine is no longer in operation, but the pit is still visible. Much of the town is now populated by creative artists, etc. and the buildings reflect their tastes.

The Military Life
While I was sitting in the waiting room at Midas Muffler, I overheard a conversation between the owner and a customer who was in the military from nearby Fort Huachuca. He appeared to be about 25, and has already had two stretches overseas – nine months in Afghanistan and a year in Iraq, and has been transferred now to another base in the U.S. He is married and his wife must find it difficult to be left alone for long periods, never knowing if she will see her husband again.

It’s Raining Men!
One thing that I am discovering is that there is no shortage of older men whom I have encountered in my travels. In the short period of time that I have been in southern Arizona, I have met Darold (a helicopter test pilot); Terry (retired pilot who flew 747’s and who is currently studying for a position with the unmanned aircraft program at Fort Huachuca) and Fred (traveling in an RV from Florida who is here to take soaring lessons from an expert). All interesting men, but I’ve given up on male humans.

Other Interesting Travelers
There are also many couples whom I have met along the way who are enjoying the RV lifestyle. One of these couples arrived recently in the park originally from Maryland, but now fulltiming. They remained for a couple of nights, and we watched American Idol together. After they had moved on Jim and Anna arrived, originally from Oregon and on their way to Chicago. Anna is an avid birder, so I was able to share some good locations with them while they were here. They are traveling in a VW van.

Amerind Foundation
Time is getting short now and there are still several places that I would like to visit. On May 16 I traveled out to Dragoon about 40 miles from Quail Ridge to the east to a privately operated foundation that features a large collection of archeological material from the region. The original person who set up the foundation was a Mr. Fulton, an amateur archeologist who had purchased a number of items from private individuals in the early 1900’s. They are now on display in the Foundation’s museum and are studied by researchers who visit. I was fascinated by the various katchinas, pottery, baskets and other early artifacts of southwestern cultures. There is also an art gallery featuring mostly native art. No photography is allowed inside the buildings, but I did take several photos outside of the surrounding countryside in the Dragoon mountains, including a pioneer cemetery.
Rock Formation in Dragoon Mountains

Millville – Disaster Strikes Again
Another place that I had wanted to visit before leaving features ancient petroglyphs on rocks in the vicinity of the ghost town of Millville.
Historic Trash
The town no longer exists but used to be a thriving mining town, and some of the trash left behind by the inhabitants is still there, protected by the Bureau of Land Management. The petroglyphs have suffered from vandals as well as the weather, but it was still possible to see the drawings on several of the rocks.

Ripley accompanied me on this walk and enjoyed chasing more lizards.

We were walking on a path very near the San Pedro River to get to the petroglyphs, and I noticed a path leading to the river itself. It’s easy to tell where the river runs because large cottonwood trees grow near the water source. We followed the path and encountered a low tunnel that I had to stoop to walk through and eventually we came to the very shallow but cool river. Ripley of course walked right in while I sat by the riverbank for awhile observing the birdlife. I decided to walk along the dry part of the riverbed to get closer to two geese and almost stepped on a gila monster. This was one of the many species that I cared for during my time at the Toronto Zoo, and I was very excited to see it, as I have never seen one in the wild before.
Found this shot of a gila monster on the web
It stopped to look at me, and then slowly wandered towards a bank leading up to grass cover. At this point Ripley noticed it too and started towards it. Gila monsters are venomous and don’t let go after they bite, so I was really distracted in stopping Ripley from getting too close and managed to bang my camera hard on a rock, destroying the optics. So, not only did I not get a photo of the gila monster, even though it was posed beautifully, but I wrecked the camera that has traveled with me for many years. Needless to say, I was very upset.

So, now what do I do? Spend more money to buy another camera? I don’t think I have a choice as photographing my adventures is one of my hobbies.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

BLOG TEN - APRIL 15, 2009

April 15, 2009

Since writing Blog Nine, I have traveled south east of Tucson to the small town of Benson, to stay at Pardners RV Park on March 27. Pardners is where Doug Thompson had moved to and he had suggested that it would be a good and cheap place to stay for awhile.

On the day that I arrived, it happened that Hoppy and Georgia Hopfauf, from Minnesota were to leave Indian Skies as well and to meet up with Doug in Benson at Reb’s Café for lunch. I arrived just as they were finishing up.

Pardners Not for Me
Benson is at a higher elevation (3,500’) than Indian Skies and consequently is cooler. But I had not anticipated the noise level. Pardners RV Park is located on the main street into town and there is the usual street noise, but what really made it impossible for me to remain there was the railway that lay just beyond the rodeo grounds behind the rv park. The trains continually tooted their horns and I frequently woke up from a sound sleep as a result. Just to add the icing on the cake, the rodeo arena had a bar with live music that didn’t stop until 1:00 a.m. on Saturday nights. I had paid for one week and determined that I would move on after the week was up.
Scenic Arizona

Sightseeing in the Area
In the meantime, on the next morning Doug came knocking on my door at 8:30 to invite Ripley and me to go on an excursion to see some of the local area. Because I had been up half the night with the train noise, I had slept in. He’s an early riser and tells me he generally gets up about 3:00 a.m. to write. We took off in his truck southwesterly to Sierra Vista, which is a fair-sized town (complete with box stores like Wal Mart and Lowes). There is a large military base called Fort Huachuca just beside Sierra Vista, and that would explain the infrastructure.

We stopped at Denny’s for breakfast and then headed down to the local swap meet (in Canada we call them flea markets) where Ripley had to remain in the truck. Usually there is no problem with taking a dog in on a leash, but there were signs posted. Most of the stalls were featuring used items – clothing, machinery, electronics, etc. plus some fruits and vegetables. But my eye caught on to one booth where a man was selling some very beautiful gems. Naturally I had to get some to add to my collection to work on once I return to Canada. I simply cannot find these types of stones up there, or at least not at a reasonable price. I returned the next Saturday as well to purchase some beautiful coral and opalite.

After leaving the swap meet, we drove through part of the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area, consisting of 56,000 acres in total of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management. It turns out that this is one of the prime birding areas in North America because it is not only the home of many bird species, but is also a major migration stopping point for many other birds. In the time that I have been here I have hiked on several of the trails available and have greatly enjoyed the large trees that grow along the San Pedro River system and the wildlife that it attracts.

We continued back towards Benson, coming up Highway 80 into St. David’s, a pleasant-looking small village featuring several rv parks. One, in particular, had inviting lakes along the road. We drove in to enquire, but learned that it is a private park for members only, who of course have to pay for the privilege of staying there. The man operating the guard post would not provide information on fees, stating that we would have to listen to an hour-long pitch to obtain that information. So, we quickly backed out and continued on our way back to Benson.

I have found that when arriving in a new area, the best source of information is the local Visitor’s Center and Benson was no exception. The woman in the office was very helpful and provided me with lots of information about hiking trails, local history, etc.

Benson is a small town but does have a Safeway and a WalMart, Radio Shack and a very disappointing ice cream store. I thought it would have really good homemade ice cream, or at the very least locally made ice cream. But it was only the soft stuff that comes out of a machine. The library has wi fi and that is where Doug and I visited every day, since the rv park did not have such service.

Store in Benson

The local Lions Club Park was virtually deserted during the day and it was a good place to take Ripley for a run. She scared up several ground squirrels, and I saw a hawk (couldn’t ID it) take something on the ground as it swooped down.

The other place where I could take Ripley off leash was into the rodeo grounds behind Pardners. There were two friendly Australian shepherds, plus a mixed breed dog who greeted Ripley whenever we entered and invited her to play. The two shepherds rollicked around, jumping up and grabbing each other, but Ripley would have none of it. I doubt whether she ever had an opportunity to play with another dog, as she has never been interested, whereas she loves to play ball with me and to be chased by me. BUT, she did enjoy rolling in the horse manure and having a bit of lunch as well! Needless to say, she got a bath afterwards before I would allow her back into my bed!

The main street runs southerly off Highway 10, winding its way eventually down to Tombstone and the border towns next to Mexico – only about 60 miles away.

Teeth Problems Yet Again
I had been feeling twinges of pain in both my upper and lower teeth off and on for several weeks, and decided that I should have a dentist look at it. My choice was to head to Mexico once again because of the vast difference in the fee structure there from what I would have been charged if I had gone to a dentist here in Arizona.

Not knowing where I should go, I headed back to the Visitor’s Center where the woman at the desk very kindly gave me the name of her own dentist in the small border town of Naco. I had originally thought that I would need to go to Nogales, very notorious right now for gun battles with the various drug cartels there. In fact, Americans had been advised not to go there. So, it was with some relief that she advised that Naco was closer than Nogales and did not have the same problems. But to be on the safe side, I invited Doug to come along with me. He has lived in Mexico off and on for many years and speaks Spanish fluently, so was the ideal person to travel with me.

Of course, Ripley could not come with us, so I left here behind in my motorhome, Philippa. Doug does not like to be driven, so we took off in his truck for the 1 ½ hour drive to Naco. I arrived without an appointment, but was soon in the chair of Dr. Jacobo Barraza, one of several dentists who are all related. I explained my problem and he tested where the pains were coming from. He took x-rays and determined that I didn’t have any cavities, but suggested that I might have a gum infection. He prescribed an antibiotic (tetracycline) plus a painkiller (Naproxen) and had the prescription filled at one of the many local farmacias nearby. The dentist’s visit cost $30, and the prescriptions $20. Can you imagine what I would have had to pay in Canada for a similar dentist’s visit? Dr. Barraza did say that if the pain didn’t clear up, then I might need root canal. I hope not! So far, two weeks later, the pain has mostly gone and I hope it stays that way. I’m not up for root canal work. I’m very nervous about going to any dentist, in the first place, but would want a second opinion before being subjected to that kind of invasive surgery.

Main Street in Naco

The trip down to Naco and back was interesting, as we traveled through legendary Tombstone and the old mining town of Bisbee. We took another route home through the countryside here, where several mountain ranges meet. I couldn’t help but think that it was no wonder that many westerns have been filmed in this area. In fact just a few days ago I watched an old video of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly starring a very young Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach, and it could easily have been filmed right here.

Whisper’s Sanctuary
I have had subscriptions for two years to two separate services. One provides me with information on housesitting opportunities, and the other on opportunities to volunteer in exchange for full-hook up for my motorhome. From time to time I have responded to ads, and found one that I thought would be ideal. An animal sanctuary/bed and breakfast was looking for someone to help out in exchange for a hook-up in the countryside near Elgin, about 30 miles southwest of Benson. When I applied, Toni responded and we wrote back and forth explaining our individual needs. We then spoke on the phone and I offered to visit so that we could discuss the situation further in person.

Toni and her husband had set up a bed and breakfast and Whisper’s Sanctuary (named after their first rescue horse) beside it. They took in several ex-cavalry horses from the nearby Fort Huachuca, plus two wild burros, a flock of geese, a herd of goats and four dogs, and it was their dream to take in animals in need. Unfortunately Toni’s husband passed away very suddenly just a year ago, at the age of 49 and she has been left with the burden of doing all the chores herself. When we met, we discussed what I might do to help and I emphasized that I couldn’t do any heavy lifting after years of abusing my body as a zoo keeper. Everything seemed to be fine, but she emailed me a few days later to say that my physical limitations were too great. So, I have to admit I was quite disappointed, as I thought it would have been a great opportunity for me and Ripley to be amongst animals for awhile and to help Toni out. But, it was not meant to be.

An Oasis Found
While waiting for my appointment time with Toni, Ripley and I traveled further south on the same road to Parker Canyon Lake, a beautiful oasis of greenery and water very near the Mexican border. I was surprised to see that there was a campsite there on a hill overlooking the lake and may even consider staying there later on. We went for a lovely hike around part of the lake and I enjoyed the sight of ducks diving for fish, hummingbirds visiting flowers, other unidentified Little Brown Jobs (LBJ’s for short), and even a robin. The scenery in that area is spectacular, with grasslands and mountains. I was thrilled to pass some pronghorn antelope in a field, and later in the day a herd of mule deer.
Rodeo Grounds in Sonoita

Quail Ridge RV Resort
As mentioned earlier, I had found Pardners RV Park in Benson to be very noisy and unsuitable for me. Last year I had spent one night at another rv park about 20 miles southwest of Benson and decided to contact them for their fees. They had a special on of $350 for five weeks, so I booked a reservation and headed on down the road to Quail Ridge RV Resort, outside of the little village of Whetstone on April 3rd. I will remain here now until May 9th. The park is almost empty, as most people in the visitor section have already left for home.

The back park is a membership area where some people have permanent mobile homes. There are two clubhouses, one in the front and one in the back and both are open to everyone. And there is a “bark park” where I can let Ripley off leash. But it has small pebbles as a surface and they tend to get stuck in between her paws, so I don’t usually take her in there.

On our first walk, we encountered Tanner and his owner. Tanner is a very bouncy 1 ½ year old Jack Russell/poodle cross and wanted desperately to play with Ripley. She was not impressed and told him off! There are several dogs here in the park and I’ve had the opportunity to stop and chat with a few of the owners, one of whom is Mary who also makes jewelry. We’ve invited each other to come to see our own creations and I’m looking forward to that. She also told me about Fran, who operates a bead store out of her garage in Benson, and who teaches beading. I’ll have to investigate.

Quail Ridge has changed ownership since I was here last year and I’m told that things run much more efficiently now. It does have wi fi service, which I find very valuable so that I can get online whenever I want, but it does not have cable TV. I only have rabbit ears and cannot pick up a signal because of the surrounding mountains. But the clubhouse has a large-screen TV and so far I’ve been able to head over there to watch whatever I want. I don’t watch a great deal of TV anyway (I do have to see American Idol, though!) so it’s not much of a hardship.

Birds Galore
What I have truly enjoyed is being parked beside a tree where I have hung a bird feeder and a waterbowl on the ground. Every day I get a great deal of pleasure out of watching the birds come to the feeder. So far I have ID’d grey-headed junco, white crowned sparrow, cactus wren, house sparrow, mourning dove, curved bill thrasher, house finch and pyrrhuloxia. I particularly like the many Gambel’s quail who scurry around letting out a call that reminds me of a baby peacock. They have a bobbing plume on their heads that makes them look particularly charming. And in the evening the rabbits come out to forage for any dropped seed, as they make their way over to the patch of grass surrounding the office and clubhouse. They don’t seem afraid of dogs and will just stand motionless as we pass by.

Because the park is virtually empty, I have been able to get caught up on some outstanding projects rather than being distracted by activities and friendly people. Not that I don’t like friendly people, but at Indian Skies I was finding it difficult to get anything accomplished.

Writing as a New Hobby
One project that I have been working on for the past few months was to write articles on the various wildlife habitats of the world for a friend’s website. I have finally finished the remaining two, which were freshwater and marine habitats. I have to admit that I learned quite a bit in doing the research to write these articles and have enjoyed the work – my first paid job as a writer!! Hopefully, there will be more opportunities in the future. You can check out these articles on the website of

Food Poisoning Yet Again
You would think that, after my experience last year, I would be more careful about the food I eat. But I had bought a carton of eggs from free-range chickens, thinking that I would be getting some good wholesome food. As it turned out I ended up with a mild dose of food poisoning after eating two eggs and spent most of April 5th in the bathroom as a result.

Bird Walk
The local Sierra Vista Herald had mentioned that there would be a guided bird walk at San Pedro House, located just southeast of the town, on April 8th, starting at 7:00 a.m. I dutifully got up at 5:00 in order to be there on time and met up with the leader Alan and several local birders. San Pedro House is the former ranch manager’s house when the area was owned by the Boquillas Ranch. It is now part of the Bureau of Land Management acreage. The San Pedro River runs through this area as well as further north by Benson, and Alan led us on a walk through the grasslands, along a wash and then along the river, where we saw many many birds. It was great to have along the local experts who easily ID’d the birds for me. For those who might be interested, here is the list from that walk: Sayre’s Phoebe; black chinned hummingbirds, straw headed woodpecker, hooded oriole, calliope hummingbird (migrant), white winged dove, Eberts towhee, pine siskin, pyrrhuloxia, lark sparrow (migrant), Brewer’s sparrow, a large whirling flock of yellow headed and red wing blackbirds (migrants), kestrel, loggerhead shrike, Vesper sparrow, tree swallows, vermillion flycatcher, mallards and Bullock’s oriole.
Evidence of Beaver

After two hours of walking, I had had enough and left the group to return to San Pedro House, passing three white tailed deer on the way. Because of my arthritis, I am no longer able to walk as far as I once did, and the next day I ached from the exertion. Perhaps if I did this more often, I might be able to build up some more stamina. In any event, it was a very enjoyable morning, and when I returned to the car park, I took Ripley on a walk so that she could get exercise too.

Calendar Girl
Speaking of Ripley, I should mention that her photograph is the featured dog for April on the Jack Russell Rescue Group’s calendar. The photo is one I took of her looking into the shallows at Shad Bay, Nova Scotia last year, and is one of my favourites.

Her birthday is coming up on April 23rd, when she will turn eight, so I think we’ll have steak that day!

Benson Library
Since I was at the Benson library daily while I stayed there, I asked the librarian if it would be possible for me to take books out. Because I am not a U.S. citizen, unfortunately I was denied the privilege, but she did point out that there was a large section in the back of the library where I could take out paperbacks on the honour system. In this way I have been able to continue to feed my insatiable appetite for mystery books, and have even discovered a new author (new to me). Lee Child writes some of the best mysteries that I have encountered.

Fairbanks and Other Hikes
As mentioned previously, there are many hiking trails in the neighbourhood and I have taken Ripley with me to several. Fairbanks is a ghost town with some restored buildings, plus a cemetery marking where many of the previous occupants ended up. The path from Fairbanks can eventually take you up to St. David’s Monastery if one has the stamina to walk that far – a distance of about 20 miles. I got as far as the cemetery ¼ mile up a hill from the town itself and enjoyed sitting on a rock contemplating the fate of the people buried around me. It seemed like a fitting thing to do on Good Friday. I was startled by an English couple who came up the hill behind me and we chatted briefly before they headed back.

On our way back to Quail Ridge, I stopped and parked beside the San Pedro River itself and took a path leading down to the river. I sat on a rock and watched a vermillion flycatcher on the other bank (the river here is only about 5’ across at this time of year),

Vermillion Flycatcher

who seemed just as curious to watch Ripley and me. Usually Ripley doesn’t like going into water, but she seemed to enjoy walking in the shallows and cooling off on this hot day. We remained there for awhile, much to the consternation of a flock of sandpipers who loudly protested our presence.

Another hike we have taken is on the Little Boquilllas Ranch area, also along the San Pedro River, where I saw my first two lizards this year. They were just little guys and scurried away before I could identify them. I thought by now that I might have seen a snake or two, as the temperature has risen enough to bring them out of their hibernation. But I don’t venture off the pathways anyway, because there are a number of venomous species in the region. I have had Ripley vaccinated for rattlesnake bites but hopefully she’ll manage not to anger a snake, as she makes her way poking her nose down various holes that she encounters. But she also does not venture off the pathway – perhaps an innate knowledge of what might lie in wait in the grassland area.

We’ve also gone back to San Pedro House, and I’ve bought a hiker’s guide to the area for future walks to enjoy.

Nuts Anyone?
I hadn’t realized that this region grows pecans, but stopped at a roadside stand outside one of the orchards near St. David, to sample them. I have been accustomed to pecans that were old and hard to crack from my childhood memories at Christmastime; however, the pecans that I found here were easily cracked open and were very tasty. I bought a pound for $3.00 and as they were also selling pistachios (my favourite nut), I bought them, despite the bad publicity lately about e coli. Just because one particular grower had a problem doesn’t mean that all pistachios are tainted and I can attest to the fact that the ones I bought were just plain delicious with no side effects – other than wanting more.

It rains very seldomly in Arizona, so I was very surprised to hear a heavy rainstorm during the night of April 11, which continued on into the day. I had unwittingly left my folding chairs outside and of course they were soaked. At least I had closed the car windows!. The rain brought on cool temperatures of 53ºF.

Saturday was also the swap meet in Sierra Vista, so I headed back down there hoping to meet up with the man who sells gems again, but he didn’t show up. And because business was slow I bargained for a whole bunch of vegetables (zucchini, peppers, tomatoes) for $3.

I don’t usually eat out, but after going to the swap meet and then on for a hike at San Pedro House, I decided to look for a fast food place in Sierra Vista to get lunch for me to share with Ripley. I decided to try Carl’s Jr. burger because of the ads on TV. Mistake. The beef was mostly filler, but at least Ripley enjoyed it.

As I was returning to Quail Ridge, I ran into hailstones!

Migraine Again
I really thought that I would suffer fewer migraines here in Arizona because of the low humidity, but after the rainstorm I had another serious attack. Having run out of my regular prescription medication, I decided to try one of the samples that my doctor had given me. Maltex must be very powerful as it made me sleepy for the rest of the day, and gave me an upset stomach to boot. Since I have no more Amerge left, I will just have to get by until I return home (or else get some in Mexico, where you can get just about anything without a prescription).

Tax Time Again
April 30th is the deadline for filing income tax forms in Canada, so I spent some time gathering up my documents, only to find that the government had not furnished me with statements for my pension. A lengthy phone call to their office in Ottawa soon got me the required information, and I was able to mail all the details to Scott, who will take care of filing it for me. I am still awaiting a response to my revised submission for 2007, in the hope that I will recover at least part of the $4,000 extra that I was forced to pay last year. That would be very helpful.

Exchange Rate
Speaking of money, a Canadian dollar is worth approximately 33% less than an American dollar, making it extremely costly for me to exchange money to use here in Arizona. This has put a real damper on my disposable income, and for this reason I have had to re-consider visiting several attractions that have admission fees, as well as any excess purchases. I try to buy only what I need in groceries and not to do any impulse shopping. I would really like to buy some expensive, supportive running shoes, but don’t want to spend the $100 needed to get such a shoe. Instead I have bought a $20 pair that are okay but don’t make it easier for me to walk long distances – one of the reasons that I can’t walk too far.

Border Patrol
As most people will have heard, the U.S. has a serious problem with drug smugglers along the Mexican border as well as illegals being smuggled into the country. Consequently, there are a lot of highway stops along the main arteries coming out of Mexico. Because Quail Ridge is near two of these, I often get stopped. I have no problem with this, but it was interesting that the last time I was stopped, the officer asked for my passport, which I am not in the habit of carrying with me when I drive locally. He did let me go after consulting with a more senior officer, but I was told that after July I will have to show my passport every time. I am glad to oblige them, as they have a very difficult (I would say almost impossible) task.

Although I don’t have television, I have been fortunate enough to have a radio strong enough to bring in National Public Radio (NPR) which features glorious classical music 24 hours a day, along with knowledgeable announcers who recount interesting facts about the music, the composers and the performers. Otherwise, I would have a choice only of rock or country on the local stations. I do enjoy small doses of these genres, but my preference, especially when working on my computer, etc. is to listen to classical music.

Meeting People
One thing that I truly enjoy traveling around like this is meeting very interesting people, and yesterday, April 14, I ran into Kitzie in the laundry room. She is a former school teacher (algebra and English literature) who had lived on military bases most of her life, first as an army brat and then as an army wife. She lost her husband eight years ago and since then has been traveling around the U.S. and Canada in an RV with her two dogs, a Rottweiler named Boo Bear and a dachshund named Ferd. While waiting for our clothes to complete their cycles, we exchanged tales about experiences on the road. She left today to head to New Mexico and then north to visit her children.

Maybe Housesitting
As I mentioned earlier, I subscribe to a website that features housesitting opportunities and I had contacted one about a possibility very near Quail Ridge, in the nearby town of Sonoita. Susan is looking for somebody to housesit for a week and is interested in me, but is a bit concerned about her dog Zoe getting along with my Ripley. She said that she would contact me about setting up a time to meet to see if it might work, and I’m looking forward to hearing from her. It would be very pleasant to stay in a house for a few days (and even have a bath as opposed to a shower). We shall see if she gets in touch.

Today, April 15th the winds are gusting up to 50 mph and it is too unpleasant to sit outside. The motorhome is rocking back and forth. I do hope that these winds die, as I’m told this is most unusual for this time of year. Apparently they get monsoons during the summer, so I’m glad I won’t be here then!