Thursday, March 26, 2009



March 20, 2009
I can’t believe it is almost the end of March already. Today is the first day of spring, but here in Arizona there is no winter as such. The temperature today is 87 º F and I would hardly call that spring-like weather! The climate is so gentle and generally unchanging that one day folds into the next. I know I am way behind in my blog, so here goes an attempt to give you an update.

Typical Arizona Sunset

Craft Show
On March 1st, we were invited to exhibit our crafts and handiwork so that all the residents here could come and appreciate the talented people who stay here. There were gorgeous quilts and other sewing work; some spectacular woodcarving including two beautiful Egyptian pieces in colourful reds and turquoise; acrylic and oil paintings; gourds made to look like birds and a Disney hot air balloon, drums made out of goatskin and other southwest artifacts and of course, jewelry mine own included. Several people admired my new collection of bracelets and I took orders for four over the course of the next few days.

Happy Hour
That evening Stephen and Anna (from Collingwood, Ontario) invited everyone over for margaritas at sunset. Anna and Betty set up a bar and Stephen dispensed the drinks. It is the custom for the invitees to bring food and there was much to choose from.

Off to Mexico
Dentists in the United States and Canada charge a considerable amount of money and it is the tradition here to slip down to Mexico to the highly qualified dentists who charge much less there. I was feeling a twinge in one of my lower teeth and also was overdue for a cleaning, so made an appointment with Mr. Nogame for Monday, March 2nd.

Georgia very generously offered to accompany me on the 175 mile (one way) trip and we set off around 8:00 a.m., stopping at Gila Bend for breakfast at a restaurant that resembles a spaceship. It was great to have Georgia along for company and she also shared the driving. We arrived at the border around 11:30, parked the car and walked across to Los Algodones, Mexico. I know that Americans have been warned to stay away from Mexico, particularly Nogales, but many, many tourists cross here and return safely and I didn’t feel endangered at all. As Dr. Nogame was behind schedule, Georgia and I wandered around the streets where vendors eagerly try to persuade you that they have a good deal for you. We did stop at the farmacia where I bought a large bottle of authentic vanilla for $1.00.

Finally it was my turn to sit in the dentist’s chair – something that I really hate doing. However, Dr. Nogame was very skilled and in no time he had replaced my cracked filling and cleaned my teeth. I wish I could say the same for his assistant, who was obviously just learning. She did not seem to know what she was doing and kept pressing the instruments down pinching my lip. The new filling and cleaning came to only $100.

We then headed home via Yuma, arriving back in Coolidge around 5:30. The local pub, the Galloping Goose, features $5 hamburgers on Mondays, so we joined Georgia’s husband Hoppy plus four others from the RV park for a very good hamburger, french fries and a beer.

Observations on Life at Indian Skies
The RV park reminds me of a small village where everyone knows everybody and will unhesitatingly help a neighbour. Anna and Stephen, Penny and Doug, Georgia and Hoppy have been particularly helpful, fixing things, offering advice, providing materials when needed, etc. Their help has really made my life easier, and even though people take an interest in your life, you are also given the space to do whatever you like.

But in a park where the population is 55 plus, there are bound to be casualties. Two people had the misfortune to pass away while here, and memorial services were held for each in the clubhouse.

Munchkin on one of her many walks

At dusk rabbits hop around my campsite and during the day the various birds are busy vocalizing (mourning doves, starlings, etc.) and building nests in the palm trees. The butterflies are beginning to appear, along with insects of various types including pesky flies. I am told there is a giant skunk who wanders around the park at night, but I have yet to see it.

St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery
Many people had told me about the monastery nearby and I decided it was time that I visited it. I must say that the architecture is quite spectacular and the paintings within the various chapels quite beautiful. I decided to head on down on Thursday, March 5, taking Ripley along. But of course I left her in the car, in the shade, while I went into the monastery grounds. I was greeted by women who provided me with the requisite long-sleeved, blouse, long skirt and headscarf. These particular monks have chosen to be celibate, although I do believe that the Greek Orthodox faith does allow the priests to marry.

I caught up with the tour group being guided by one of the younger monks who said he was originally from Alaska. He was in his mid-20’s and it always interests me to know what draws a young man to the priesthood. He took us into the main church and pointed out the beautiful ceiling and chandelier, as well as the altar and high-sided chairs in which the priests sit during services. They have one service at 2:00 a.m. and another at 3:30 p.m., so I am assuming that they retire early.

The gardens are immaculate and restful, with fountains and gazebos and fruit trees here and there, and as I wound my way around the path I came across small chapels dedicated to St. Nicholas and St. George, each with its own style of architecture.

There is a new church being built on a small hill and it reminded me so much of the snow-white buildings with blue accent that one sees in Greece.

There is no admission fee, but a donation is welcome in the gift shop where one can buy homemade breads and preserves, as well as religious items. After returning the borrowed clothing, I left the grounds, stopping to pick up three lemons which were offered to each visitor.

Ripley and I then headed out to a part of the unfenced area of the desert so that she could get a good run in. I often take her to an alfalfa field directly behind the Indian Skies RV Resort where she loves to poke her nose down the gopher holes. She can smell them down there, but just can’t reach them – but that doesn’t stop her from trying!

On March 6th I was making my way over to the office when I stepped in an invisible hole in the grass and went down hard, hurting my knee, hand, elbow and neck. I must say that Rosemary, the office manager, was quite unsympathetic when I hobbled in to report the accident. She was only concerned about getting the hole filled in after I showed her how difficult it was to see with the grass growing in it.

As the day progressed, my hand swelled up and I was sore in various parts of my body. I resorted to ice and a product called BioFreeze.

Fun Day
Once every year the resident committee hosts Fun Day. There are various fun games, like bean bag tossing, miniature golf, ball toss, metal washer toss, and plastic egg passing to music. When the music stops, each participant opens their plastic egg, one of which has a stone inside. I was the lucky one and won a loaf of homemade bread. I also managed to win six cans of soda and beer at the other booths. The day progressed with a free lunch, followed by a horse race in which the human “horses” had to answer questions before progressing towards the finish line.

Dick and Lorraine

Later in the day, I headed to the VFW for a Mexican dinner of beef fajitas, refried beans, rice, salad and beer while listening to a very good Mariachi band. This was part of the festivities for Cotton Days in Coolidge, an annual fair and festival.

There are so many attractions and activities in this region that you could literally keep occupied in just these things. Not to mention that I take Ripley out three or four times daily, and also try to squeeze in water aerobics. Consequently, I find there is little time left for some of the writing that I should be doing.

Curtains for my RV
Besides continuing to make jewelry, especially bracelets that are very popular here, I have begun to make new drapes for my motorhome. I have endured looking at very unsightly and broken dirty pink venetian blinds, and have long wanted to replace them with curtains. Penny very generously gave me some lovely ivory-coloured material and I have slowly been turning it into five sets of drapes, all lined. She also loaned me her sewing machine, and I have taken advantage of the long tables in the craft room to cut and sew. As I didn’t really know what I was doing I have made many mistakes, having to start over again and ripping out stitches, etc. However, as of today, March 20th I have only one pair of drapes left to go. I then have a southwest pattern for the valences and pillows. It really is making a difference to the interior appearance of good old Philippa.

I did, however, have to make a special trip in to Phoenix just to buy pleater tape, as there is no store near here that sells fabric and supplies.

More Ouch
By March 11 my neck and back were really paining me as a result of the fall I had earlier, and I called Kathy to see if she could fit me in for a massage. Unfortunately, she had no openings, but recommended Vivian. She did a wonderful job in easing the pain, particularly in my neck which is an area that gives me a lot of trouble even when I don’t fall down.

Happy Birthday, Georgia
Hoppy invited many people to a birthday party for Georgia at their campsite on March 11, including myself. The tradition is that you bring your own chair and contribute a dish to the food. But there was so much food, that it really wasn’t necessary. As I mentioned earlier, the park is like a small village and the party was another reason to have fun and share experiences.

I did stay for about two hours, but was beginning to feel very tired so left early. The next morning I realized that I had caught an intestinal virus that has hit several people here in the park. I spent the next two days evacuating everything in my stomach and sleeping.

When Brenda found out I was ill, she offered to take Ripley out for a walk and I was very grateful for her offer. And then Anna learned that I was sick and also offered. She came by early on Saturday morning and took Ripley out to do her business. This is the type of kindness that is so predominant here.

By the afternoon March 14th I began to feel better and hungry. Just in time for the evening’s planned corned beef and cabbage dinner, in honour of St. Patrick’s Day. Most people dressed in green for the occasion and we were treated to Stephen’s idea of funny limericks as we ate, in between listening to Irish music.

Harriet (in pink) from Chatham, Ontario and Bob (in white t) from Ottawa, Ontario

TV Converter Coupon
Here in the United States, all the television signals were supposed to switch to digital by now, but the date has been extended to June. However, the government will provide a $40 coupon towards the cost of a converter box, but you must apply. I did that as soon as I arrived, and finally received coupons for two boxes. I took advantage of this coupon to purchase one box at a cost to me of $19.95. I’ll hold on to the other coupon just in case. But in the meantime, I have really good reception and get about ten channels (including three in Spanish) with just my rabbit ears.

Ice Cream Social
On Sunday March 15th at the evening’s ice cream social, we were treated to a concert by the resident gadget band. The “musicians’ played every kind of strange-looking contraptions that you can imagine – everything from a kitchen mop to a kazoo to tambourine. We sang Irish songs to their accompaniment.

My Brother in Japan
My brother Carl and his late wife Jennie had planned to visit their son Brad and his family Brad who live in Japan, during early March. After losing his wife, Carl wisely decided to go anyway. I have been getting photos of him visiting various places and he is truly enjoying himself. I’m glad for him.

How to Get My Car Home?
In a previous blog I had mentioned that my friends Blue and June Enright had driven my Chevy Malibu down here, so I was left with the problem of what to do with it once I leave here. Should I just store it here? Should I buy a towbar? Should I buy a tow dolly?

After checking out the various options and consulting with a knowledgeable mechanic here, I decided that I would advertise that I was looking for a used tow dolly, as the most economical alternative. And low and behold, a resident right here in the park had one for sale at a reasonable price. So, I now have the dolly attached to my motorhome in preparation for leaving. I did take it into the mechanic along with my motorhome, for servicing, and Loren repacked the bearings in the wheels of the dolly. This will enable me to tow the car behind the motorhome wherever I go – a great thing since I’m heading further south to Benson for awhile and I want to explore the area there.

My Cousins
Jerry and Diane Ziolkoski, my cousins from Winnipeg, Manitoba have been renting an apartment in Mesa. I wanted to see them one more time before I leave the park, and invited them over for a barbecue. The beef here is really good and very reasonable, so we had some wonderful hamburgers, and one last visit. They did invite me to visit them at their cottage in Kenora, Ontario this summer, but I don’t think I’ll be able to get up there. It is quite a distance from southern Ontario.

A New Printer
Like all things that eventually wear out, my printer has stopped printing. I went searching in the two thrift stores in Coolidge, and came across an HP printer/scanner/copier/fax machine for $5. What a bargain!

Spring in the Desert
The desert plants are all beginning to bloom, showing a remarkable variation in colour and design – from bright reds, to yellows, mauve, pink and blue. The orange blossoms are out, wafting a wonderful fragrance over the entire park, and the many oleanders here are starting to open their white or red flowers as well. It truly is remarkable how the desert comes alive at this time of year.

Another Barbecue
There are three couples here in the park who have been extremely helpful in one way or another, and I decided to repay their kindness with a steak barbecue. In Canada there is no way that I could afford sirloin steaks, but here the prices is so much cheaper that I was able to buy six very huge steaks for $12. I added Cajun style black beans and rice, red potatoes. Georgia and Hoppy provided a salad; Anna and Stephen provided wine, and Penny and Doug brought two wonderful banana cream pies. All in all, a wonderful meal enjoyed by all.

Amish Dinner
Because I am still working on finishing my curtains and valences for the motorhome, I decided to remain for awhile yet, past my original departure date. On Saturday, March 21, a group of the residents hosted an Amish pork dinner – deliciously cooked pork, potatoes, sauerkraut, with ice cream for dessert. Stephen acted as narrator, and provided us with interesting historical tidbits about the Amish lifestyle.

I am sorry to report that something has happened to the pair of burrowing owls that I reported in an earlier blog. One of the pair has disappeared and the remaining individual is spooked now whenever I drive by. Instead of standing quietly as it used to, it flies away, over to another owl’s neighbourhood. It looks a though one of them may have been the victim of a predator, perhaps a hawk or perhaps a coyote or bobcat from the nearby mountains. What a shame. I was really crossing my fingers that they might have had a nest.

Observing Water Aerobics
Whenever I can spare the time, I have been joining a water aerobics class. I find it is very beneficial, especially for my back and neck and it is nice to do the exercises with other women my age. What I find very amusing is that there is one particular mourning dove (at least I’m assuming it’s the same bird every time) who flies down to the pool deck and watches us while we go through the various exercises. I imagine that we must look very strange to this bird, as we wave our arms in the air, jog across the pool and perform all sorts of contortions, but I’ve never seen a bird take an interest in human activity like this one.

A Lucky Cat
Early in the year a very skinny black cat began to hang around one particular trailer at the end of one of the rows near the back of the park. The people there felt sorry for it and started to feed it, and eventually it lost its fear and allowed herself to be stroked. I don’t remember the name of the husband and wife, but the wife took the cat into the veterinary office and had her spayed and vaccinated, and named her Ebony. Well, the cat is now looking sleek and healthy, and the wife mentioned to me a few weeks ago that she is concerned about leaving it behind. She had asked the staff in the park to feed it until they return next year, but she was concerned that they would not do so and the cat would deteriorate once again.

Thank goodness there are still kind-hearted people in this world. Lucky Ebony is going home with them on the plane – all the way to the Yukon!

Today is March 26. I was planning to head down to Benson today, but there is a wind advisory, with winds gusting up to 40 mph. I decided that it would be prudent to wait another day until the winds die down, especially since I will be towing my car for the first time.


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