Sunday, March 16, 2008


MARCH 3 - 12, 2008


Georgia asked me to look after their dog Shaggy tomorrow, but I had planned to go to the Grand Canyon tomorrow. It’s too bad, as I would like to have reciprocated since they have looked after Ripley.

I took my bike out, along with Ripley running alongside to explore some of the neighbourhood around Indian Skies. She eagerly ran along beside the bike.

I spent part of the remainder of the day preparing for my trip tomorrow, packing some clothes and food for Ripley and me. I had originally thought about traveling northward in the RV, but decided that it would be easier and probably less expensive to drive the rental car up and stay in a motel. Gas has again gone up in price, and is now a serious factor in determining my travel plans. The roads north climb considerably in elevation, making it easier in a car than in my RV.

While doing these chores, I listened to a concert on the radio of the New York Philharmonic’s first visit to North Korea, a groundbreaking event in relations with this country.



I was up at 7:00 a.m. and on the road by 8:30, after stopping to fill air in a soft tire. We passed a number of signs leading to Indian-run casinos along the way.

Ripley and I headed north on I-10, moving on to Highway 17 at Phoenix, and stopping to visit Montezuma Castle, another cliff dwelling site. The people here were referred to as Sinagua (Spanish for without water). The National Park Service again had an informative brochure, and there was a volunteer guide at the site. I was allowed to take Ripley with me, as this is a cliff dwelling that visitors do not enter, so I paid the $5 entry fee and went on in. If I were a US citizen, I could have bought a Seniors pass that would have allowed me access to any national park or monument throughout the entire US. The main portion of the cliff dwelling is halfway up a cliff, so it is viewed from the path below.

The name Montezuma Castle came from the mistaken belief that it had been settled by Montezuma who was thought to have traveled up from the Aztec region of Mexico. But the reality is that the area was first settled in prehistoric times, and the cliff dwellings were made in the 1100’s CE (Common Era) by farmers known by archaeologists by the name Sinagua. Like all the other early tribes in this region, there was no written language to leave any information behind, and all that is known about them has been pieced together by the artifacts that remained.

The name Sinagua is rather curious, as there is still a swift-flowing river below the cliff dwellings, and must have provided the ancient farmers with a good source of water. They were primarily farmers, but also hunted and gathered resources from the desert. Apparently, they also mined salt nearby as well. These particular peoples had stone tools as well as the ubiquitous metates, and they created woven garments of cotton (grown locally) as well as fine jewelry and undecorated pottery.

The cliff dwellings halfway up the cliff have survived well over the years and have been restored, but the Castle A at the base has deteriorated badly, and only portions of the once six-story apartment-like structure have survived.

I forgot to make a note on the type of tree found in the area, but they provided great shade, and had an interesting bark. Ripley and I took a walk along the river trail, passing by a picnic area before heading back to the parking lot.

Montezuma’s Well (a large round lake) is about twenty miles away, but I decided to continue northward instead of detouring.


I had recalled from my last trip to Arizona some twenty years ago that Highway 179 through Oak Creek Canyon was beautiful, and I opted to take this detour. I certainly didn’t regret it, as the area is surrounded by remarkable red-coloured peaks of various shapes and sizes.

I stopped at the Visitor Center in Oak Creek around noon to purchase a hiking pass for $5. This entitled me to park the car at various designated spots along the way.

Since I was getting hungry and didn’t feel like eating the food I had brought along, I pulled into the Full Moon Saloon, sat at an outside table with Ripley, where the friendly server brought me a grilled chicken sandwich to share with Ripley, potato salad and a Dr. Pepper for $8.75,. A few of the patrons came by to pet her, as usually happens when we stop in a public area. She really attracts a lot of interest everywhere I go.

I also found out at the Visitor Center that Red Rock State Park, my planned destination, did not allow dogs. So, I chose to remain in the town of Oak Creek and, thanks to information provided at the Visitor Center, checked into a room at the Village Lodge for $49. It was clean and comfortable offering a basic room which was all I really needed.

It was still early afternoon as we got back into the car and headed to nearby Bell Rock for a 3-mile hike around the base of this natural beauty, passing through desert as we went. I stopped
Cactus chewed probably by a javelina
Bell Rock
to offer Ripley water, as the day was quite hot and she gratefully drank it from my cupped hand. We wandered through dry river bottoms, up little inclines, around trees and cactus until we returned to the entrance where an enterprising man was selling cold drinks, hats and t-shirts. I found one with a snake on it for the young son of a friend, as a souvenir.


I was now at an elevation level of 4,000‘, having climbed 2,000’ from my park in Coolidge. As Sedona is touted as “the prettiest town in the world”, I wanted to see how much it had changed in the past twenty years. It is only a short drive from Oak Creek, but Ripley fell asleep almost as soon as we got back into the air conditioned car, having become exhausted from our hike.

Sedona Art Gallery
Sedona, like every other town and city, has increased in size considerably over the years, and is now a tourist mecca, with high-priced hotels, lots of restaurants and fast food places, art galleries, souvenir stores, etc. and as a result, I think it has lost a lot of its original charm of an artists’ colony that I recall. Nevertheless, the architecture is uniformly southwest – even McDonalds (I surmise because of a city ordinance) and is not garish as a result.

At the far end of Sedona is the Red Rock Loop, allowing me to park at the designated spots on my permit to take photos of the scenic rocks with their unique red colour. I wound around the road for many miles, taking in the scenery, and then turned around to return to Sedona where I arrived just before The Bead Garden closed. There were many beautiful stones, and I chose a few for my newly-developed interest in making jewelry. I can’t wait to get started!

Cathedral Rock could be viewed in the distance, and on the way back I drove there so that we could hike up part way, as dusk settled in. This trail took us gently up partway, and if there had been more time, Ripley and I could have climbed halfway up the rock. I saw others up there, but both of us were tired by this time, and I chose to turn around near the base. Ripley seemed quite happy for this decision.

I didn’t feel like preparing any food and opted to stop at a local KFC which I shared with Ripley on our way back to the Village Lodge where I enjoyed cable TV for a change.


Across the street from the motel is the Blue Moon Café, advertising breakfast. I couldn’t resist ordering a waffle with real strawberries and whipped cream. So much for economizing by bringing my own food along! I felt like it was very much a small-town type of café with a friendly waitress and bottomless cup of coffee, and left her a good tip.

The Ace Hardware next door had a cheap tire gauge, and I decided to get one so that I could keep an eye on the tire pressure on the car. I was concerned that the soft tire yesterday was a slow leak, but it seemed to be holding its pressure.

We continued up the road past Sedona and through Oak Creek Canyon, as we climbed to 6,000’. It was at this height that I saw snow on the peaks and in the shaded areas of the hills.

Continuing on through Williams, I lost track of my speed and was pulled over by a highway patrolman, going eight miles over the 75 MPH speed limit. Fortunately for me, he only gave me a warning instead of a ticket! However, he approached the car on the passenger side and Ripley nearly took his arm off!!

Williams retains parts of the old now-defunct Route 66, but I decided to press on, as we still had a long way to get to the Grand Canyon. I headed north on Highway 64 and was surprised to see that most of the scenery was meadow, with larger trees and grass, with cattle grazing. The temperature outside was getting increasingly cooler as we continued to climb slowly in elevation to over 7,000’, so that by the time we reached the Visitor Center at the Grand Canyon, it was around 42 degrees F. The fee to enter the park is $25, with no seniors discount.

By this time it was around 1:00 p.m. I stopped to check out the souvenirs and to consider watching the IMAX movie, but decided to continue on, in light of the time.


I had considered taking a mule ride to the bottom of the Canyon, but changed my mind when I learned the price was over $100. Instead, Ripley and I walked along the rim of the Grand Canyon, stopping at various points to admire the incredible sight of this huge natural wonder. I was very glad to be wearing my ski hat and winter gloves and leather jacket, because it really was chilly. I felt sorry for those tourists who arrived in shorts!

The Grand Canyon was begun to be carved out around 2,000,000,000 (that’s billion) years ago, with ongoing shaping continuing into the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago. The Colorado River flows through the base of the canyon, and there are rafting trips available for those who wish to have that adventure. Naturally, all these extras (rafting, helicopter trips, airplane trips, etc. etc.) cost a great deal of money, and are not in my budget, as nice as it would be to take them.

There is nothing that I can’t say about the Grand Canyon that hasn’t been said before. It is an incredible sight and is a quite overwhelming sensory experience.

I had determined that any motel within driving distance of the Grand Canyon was exorbitant, I decided to head to Flagstaff to spend the night. So, after a 1 ½ mile hike on the south rim, I headed towards that city, passing through a part of the Painted Desert on the Navajo Reservation on the way. There were many booths offering native jewelry for sale, but due to the cold temperatures, most were shut down.


It took about two hours to get to Flagstaff, and I didn’t want to spend too much time checking out local motels. The Motel 8 offered me a room with a seniors’ discount for $65, but wanted $15 extra for Ripley. I rejected that and went on to the Days Inn where the price was $70 and $20 for Ripley. I protested, and the price became $10. I was pretty exhausted by this time, and chose to stay there – they had a pool and hot tub where I could soak my aching bones, and the price included breakfast. We were given a room on the main floor, just off the lobby, which turned out to be pretty noisy.

The nearby gas station and convenience store offered beer, something that I have now become accustomed to. In Ontario you can only buy beer at the beer or liquor stores – and it’s more expensive. For example Corona beer costs $7.99 for a six-pack here, whereas it would cost around $14 in Ontario. After feeding Ripley and myself from my supplies, I took her for a walk around the neighbourhood and we found ourselves on a nearby street that appeared to be a low-income neighbourhood, judging from the sheets on the windows and children’s toys in the driveways. I suppose that I should be concerned about wandering around in the dark in a strange neighbourhood, but I really feel quite safe with Ripley there.

I enjoyed the hot tub and cable TV again, and chose one of the two queen-sized beds on which to sleep (along with Ripley).


The voices coming from the lobby awoke me, so I took Ripley out for her walk before heading over for breakfast. We were now at an elevation of 6,000’ and the temperature was 32 degrees F.

I had anticipated that breakfast would be continental style, but there was a good selection of cold and hot cereals, juice, coffee, donuts, muffins, yogurt, make-your-own waffles and toast, oranges and bananas. I took a banana for the road.

It took about four hours to return home, stopping at a rest stop within the Gila River Indian Reservation off I-10. There were several natives selling their jewelry here, but I’ve decided not to buy anything else. Instead, I want to try my hand at making my own. When we got to Casa Grande mid-afternoon, I stopped at Lowe’s to buy a carbon monoxide detector, as a safety precaution and then pressed on to Coolidge, passing by some dairy farms. I was quite amused at a sign on one of the farms that is very near a new housing development. It is a warning to potential homebuyers that “agricultural fragrances, insects, pests and dust are possible”. When I got back to Indian Skies, I crashed, feeling quite exhausted after all the driving.



I was up early because I had signed up to volunteer to help at the Donuts and Coffee hour. After getting Ripley settled, I headed over at 8:00 a.m. to take in the money. It costs 75 cents for a donut and $1.00 for a muffin – but that includes bottomless cups of coffee as well. The volunteers get theirs free and also a ticket for the door prizes. I was lucky enough to win a bottle of citrus wine!


At 10:00 a.m. I headed off to another craft class in the rec centre. This day we made spirit dolls and again Penny led the class through the process, encouraging each one of us to use our ingenuity to create our own unique design. Lorraine sat beside me. She is from Chicago, and worked in a lab injecting guinea pigs to test for TB for many years. As a consequence, she has developed a terrible cough, and I really felt sorry for her.

My bursitis started to act up during the class, possibly from holding the steering wheel for such a long period of time over the past few days, and I found it difficult to trace my design. Penny and Faye both helped me and eventually I was able to finish up the painting and design. I incorporated into my design the garbanzo and chickpea beans that the fiddler at the Goldfield Ghost Town had given me.

I am quite pleased with my efforts, and it has encouraged me even more to try my hand at different crafts. As it happens, Penny lives in Ontario, so it is possible to seek her out for further help.


I apologize for being so far behind in updating my blog. As you will see, there is so much to do here in Arizona and in particular at Indian Skies, that I am having a hard time finding the necessary time to keep the blog up, and particularly for adding photographs. Just to give you an idea, composing the blog can take several hours, and then I usually edit them before posting them. They each have to be re-formatted after downloading to the blog site. The photographs all have to be downloaded to my computer files, then edited for cropping, brightness and right-side-up. Then I have to take each photo that will be used on the blog to another program to reduce the size. Then, each one has to be downloaded to the blog site. They appear at the top of the blog and have to be dragged down to the right spot in the story. I usually end up with big empty spaces, and have to re-format the wording. As you can appreciate, this really takes up a lot of time. So, again I’m sorry if I’m behind. I’m having too much fun here!

I had bought a very nice stainless steel propane barbecue back in Canada when I purchased my RV and had yet to use it, simply because I was moving around too much, and in New Mexico it was far too cold. I decided that it was high time that I pulled it out, hooked it up and used it, so I christened it this evening, barbecuing pork chops. It works!! I will have to use it more frequently before I leave.


Once a year the volunteer group at Indian Skies holds a Fun Day, free for all residents, starting off with donuts and coffee. Just as in the Olympics, there was an opening ceremony, featuring maidens dressed up as Olympic goddesses.
The morning activities feature various games at 10 cents apiece, ranging from a bean bag toss,
to mini-golf, to baseball pitching between two lines, sitting in a circle and passing a plastic egg around (the one who gets an egg with a mini-marshmallow with a black “X” wins), and musical chairs. There were prizes of a choice of either a can of beer or soft drink for each event, except for the egg and musical chairs. There were homemade cakes for these prizes, but I didn’t win any of those. However, I went home with several cans of beer and soft drinks. My aim was pretty good!


In the afternoon, after a free lunch there was a hilarious “horserace” featuring six participants, all dressed outlandishly, as you will see from the photos. The funniest one was Wanda dressed up as a cow, complete with udder.
Canadian horse Jean-Pierre
They lined up at a grid of squares, and the announcer pulled out numbers to tell which entrant could advance one, two or three steps. We were allowed to place bets at a dollar a try, with a daily double for the two races. Odds were announced, and the winners shared the money raised. I won a quarter! But I didn’t care, because it was just a lot of fun to participate in the shenanigans.


Later on, in the afternoon there was a dance, but I chose not to go. Instead Ripley and I headed into Casa Grande to check out the new Michael’s that had opened today. That was a mistake, as I ended up spending $75 on beadings and accessories. I’m going to have to sell a lot of jewelry, just to recoup my outlay over the past week or so! It is so easy to get carried away when confronted with so many pretty stones and beads.

I also shopped for groceries at Fry’s, a large grocery chain here in Arizona that features fresh produce, good bread and other good things that I haven’t been able to find. And they have a loyalty card to save 10% on many items which costs nothing to sign up for.


Most of the rest of North America changed to Daylight Savings Time tonight, but Arizona does not do so. I’ve never thought that there was an advantage to switching, so I’m quite happy with this arrangement. I just have to calculate what time the TV programs come on now.


I spent a long, leisurely breakfast sitting on the patio area outside my rig, listening to the birds singing nearby. The grackles, in particular, can mimic many sounds and are quite lovely to listen to in the warmth from the sun.


Today, we were invited to display the items that we made either in craft class or on our own, so I took over my gourd hanging lantern, spirit doll and some of the crochet and knitted items that I have made while traveling, including an unfinished afghan. I would work on it more often if the pattern were easier, but the outside trim is quite complicated and requires concentration, so it is not one that can easily be done while watching TV, the time when I like to do crafts.

There were many beautiful quilts exhibited, as well as paintings, sewing, jewelery and, of course other hanging lanterns and spirit dolls. Penny’s items were especially beautiful; she is very talented and creative. There was one gourd that she had painted and decorated that sold for $125, and it was worth it! Penny and her husband Doug spend their summers in Kearney, Ontario, not far from my Muskoka land and she sells her crafts at local shows. If I can get to be half as good as her, perhaps I can sell some things too.

Charity quilts

Larry's cross-stitching
Penny's Fabulous Gourd
Zipper art
As I’ve mentioned, there is never a break in the activities here at Indian Skies, and Sunday is again the ice cream social – always a nice time to chat with my new friends. And I won a bracelet as a door prize! I seem to be pretty lucky at winning things here.

By now, it should be evident that I have found a place to which I want to return again and again. Indian Skies has the nicest group of people I have met on this trip in all the parks at which I have stayed. I have never felt like an outsider, and wherever I walk in the park, people say hello, many of whom know me by name now. The park itself is kept immaculately clean and I feel extremely comfortable here.

MONDAY, MARCH 10, 2008

Another glorious day of sun and warmth here.

Hoppy came over today to help install my new microwave permanently, so that it won’t fly out while I’m driving. He had to make two trips to the hardware store in order to get the right kind of bracket and drilled holes in the support tray, but I feel confident now that there will be no mishaps.


I was originally meant to leave Indian Skies tomorrow, but I have booked another week because I like it here so much, so my departure date is now March 20th. It cost me $89 for the additional week.

The day has finally arrived for Jerry, Diane and me to go to a Phoenix Suns basketball game.

I left around 2:30, leaving Ripley in the care of Georgia and Hoppy, in order to arrive in Mesa just before 4:00. This gave me time to stop in at Wal-Mart, to return some drapes that I had bought for the bathroom, and which did not fit. I just hate the pink venetian blinds that I inherited in the RV and would like to replace them all with curtains which are more easily cleaned and which don’t bend and break. However, the windows are not standard sizes, and custom-made curtains are very expensive, and so far I have only tackled the bedroom windows. Before I left Canada, Keith Wood helped to install two Roman blinds on the large windows, and the other day I bought a valance for the smaller window, large enough to cover almost the complete window. There is a roll-up blind on this window, which covers the gap at the bottom. I also bought a new comforter to match the colours of the new valance. So, I have a few drapes to get yet, and probably will not do anything further until I return home, where I hope to persuade my friend Donna to sew some for me. She had rashly offered to do this before I left, so I’ll see whether her offer is still good.


Diane had invited me for a “light supper” before we headed off to the game. This included chicken, potatoes and carrots done on their barbecue, and broccoli/cauliflower mix, with a lovely light dessert. Really delicious.


I offered to drive, and Maude took us to the USAirways Arena in south Phoenix, where we found the same parking lot that we had been in on the last aborted try in getting into a game. But this time we have tickets, albeit not together. We were all three in the same section but in different rows, Jerry and Diane in the fourth row and myself in the second.

On our way to our seats, we passed a desk where a local cartoonist was autographing his version of the Suns mascot, which just happens to be a gorilla, and handing them out free of charge. Of course, I immediately thought of Jane Dewar and her gorilla collection, and asked him to dedicate a copy to her, as well as one to myself. Diane asked for one dedicated to her grand daughter Mikayla. I can’t imagine why a southwestern team would choose a gorilla for a mascot, and I have to say that I was not impressed by him after comparing him to the Toronto Raptors mascot, who is out constantly during the game getting the crowd energized and performing some very acrobatic maneuvers.

The Suns were playing one of the lesser teams in the League, the Memphis Grizzlies and the game was not as exciting as it would have been if we had got tickets for either the Utah Jazz or the San Antonio Spurs, the two games that were sold out. But, a live game is much more fun than watching one on television because you can see the entire court and what is going on that the TV camera often doesn’t show. In the last quarter, the coach sent out many of his second-string and rookie players and rested his top guys like Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Nash. The Suns easily won.

Diane invited me in for tea, and we sat and chatted for awhile. I have invited them to my park for a barbecue next Monday.

I arrived home around 1:00 a.m., with many a tail wags from my buddy Ripley.



My month’s car rental is up today, and I spent the morning cleaning out any evidence of dog hair, in order to avoid being charged for cleaning. Ripley has been shedding her winter coat that she grew while in cold New Mexico, so there was quite a bit to clean up, but thanks to an industrial vacuum, and then a liberal use of a lint roller, the car came out looking as good as new.

Hoppy and Georgia had driven her mother to the doctor in Casa Grande, and they agreed to meet me at the Enterprise rental place and give me a lift back, and I met them there at 2:00 p.m. We stopped at a western wear store on the way back, but luckily nothing fit me! Georgia’s mother bought a nice western shirt on sale.

So, I am now reduced to a bicycle for transportation, meaning no more long trips.

Later on, Ripley and I stopped by the RV belonging to Steve and Anna, and visited with them and their grand daughter Brittany, who is visiting on her Easter break.

No comments: