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!

1 comment:

Kim Meehan said...

Hi Marilyn!
How goes things? Sad to hear you are still suffering from migraines...what a drag. Things are getting nice again here and Vanessa has returned home too. Hope you get the housesit job...take care, we're thinking of you! Kim