Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Time 2012

Some construction projects at our annual site, some good food in the tent with our friends, some wildlife around camp, and a few specially conceived Christmas present for "them that deserved em." It was another good season of the year in Arizona. Nationwide we go into the new year with the same political crap of the old year, and facing the prospects that even if a "deal" is agreed to, we just may wind up worse off than if one isn't reached. We have to swallow hard to keep a positive attitude, but there are some things more important than all that, I guess, and we just have to try to zero in on those aspects of our lives.

For us personally, it was a marvelous year. For our coach, it was a piss poor year, which forced us to deal with our own budget at the same time we fretted about the country's. Still, nothing exists in a vacuum, so we try our level best to keep an eye on everything. And enjoy life all the while. Sometimes that is easier than other times.

 Linda starts the pot of beans for Christmas dinner in the tent.
Barlow is gifted a block of wood for under the gas pedal of his Ranger to keep him from speeding (anything over 10 mph) in the park.
 We bubble wrapped Franny to keep her from bruising herself any further. Now there's a Christmas present you won't see very often.
 "Ma and Pa"- a sculpture we made to hang in our garden with a couple cow bells from my parent's house.
 Marilyn stains one of the two new plant benches we built
 And the hummers partied on.....

To end the year, just a few pics and couple slide shows of life here in the winter.....

Happy New Year to you and yours! See you in the new year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Welcoming The Baby Cheeses

Don't think for one second I am trying to be sacrilegious at Christmas time or any time. But when I posted on Facebook a few days ago that I had received the cheese making supplies I had ordered from to launch my "I want to learn how to make cheese" mission, my rather witty kid Derek commented that I was getting ready to "welcome the baby cheeses" for Christmas. Have to admit I laughed out loud at that as did a few others. Clever to say the least!

And so a few days later we located a source for some traditionally pasteurized milk, brought it back to the coach and made our first attempt at some cheese- choosing mozzarella as our first try. Halleluiah. It worked. Now I missed photographing a few steps along the whey (I mean way) because cheese making happens fast- by the minute, by the temperature, by the chemical recipe, and there were a few steps like stretching and salting that we just couldn't film and do properly so the photos had to pay the price. Next time.

So our first results were very promising. Cheese looked like and tasted like mozzarella cheese. Could have been seasoned a bit better- but all in all, not that bad! Definitely NOT a deal breaker or something to make us quit right here right now. Not sure what recipe we try next, but that is part of the fun of something new.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Desert Rain

It's the desert! Enough with the rain already!

I think this is day three in a row with rain, and while it's wonderful to see it rain in the desert, I'm thinking about an hour or so is good enough. We've already had way more rain in the last couple days than we had for a 6 month stretch last winter. Not complaining though, just anticipating the return of warm sunny days with gusto.

So here are a few images you won't get to see very often this time of year in the desert.....or so I hope.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Bouse Like House; Not Boose Like Moose

It's Bouse, like "house." It's a thriving metropolis a few miles away from Brenda. OK, it's a large city near Brenda. No? OK, a huge town near Brenda. Oh heck, it's a tiny little village but it really is only a short ride across the desert by atv from Brenda- about 18 miles, and we made the ride a couple days ago to take in the Bouse Christmas Bazaar. And it was- bizarre so to speak, but well worth the ride which included a side trip following Dandy Don back in to the hills and a canyon we call "Sheep Canyon." It's a beautiful piece of real estate and while many others have reported sheep sightings in the canyon, I personally had never found one back in there. But on this day, they were pretty much everywhere. A single ram as we headed back in, then an old boys club with four more rams and then a group of four ewes. We had plenty of time so we took plenty of time to just watch what these fine animals were doing. Many were eating- browsing on creosote bush, Palo Verde scrub brush and small mesquite trees. Nearly all of them seemed intent on doing some head rubbing against the saguaro cactus, and we couldn't be sure whether they were just scratching an itch or whether they were removing spines so they could take a bite out of the water storing capabilities of this mighty cactus. Our visit to Bouse included a visit to the assay office and an old pit mine where we mined a few old metal relic pieces to bring back for the "desert junk" garden I'm starting.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Back In The Saddle Again

Many thousands of miles have we rolled since last I posted to Gundyville. During that time we drove back east to Pennsylvania to visit my mother and do a few chores "at home" then we moved back down to Florida for the annual physical and financial checkups and now we are back in Arizona at our winter headquarters. As we had driven this route and done these very things quite a few times it felt too much like old news to be trying to keep up with posts, not to mention that that is one powerful lot of driving and a bit tiring and grueling to boot. This was the 13th time we have crossed the country in the last seven years!

But like I said, we are back in the saddle again. Had an all day quad ride into the desert to see a bunch of old mines and helped Lynn locate some geocaches on that first ride. It was pretty much an all day affair and we were rewarded with aching bones and muscles but with smiling faces. It is good to be back. Nearly all the gang is back and raring to go. Our Happy Tuesday tent is re-established and it would seem that no one lost any cooking skills over the summer- the treats have been really fine as in the past.

Here at our site in F-1, the gardens are pruned and looking super. The vegetable garden is planted and everything is up and running. Flowers are in hanging baskets, new hummingbird feeders are drawing lots of hummers (and not so many bees as last year) and we have stared a few new projects here and there at our place and around the park as well. Marilyn is in the Christmas decorating spirit- our tree - all 20 inches of it- is up and we have shatter proof balls on the mostly dead but making a comeback mesquite tree on the back wash.

A couple days ago a small group of us (I think there were 9 of us) got up at 5:30 and headed out on a full moon into sunrise desert ride that was totally awesome. Started out in only moon light (very dark to be riding) and set up a camp to make breakfast just as the sun came up behind a hill picked specially for the occasion. The black silhouettes of the saguaro cactus and mountains against the brilliant red sky at sunrise was all we had hoped for. There are only two good reasons to get up early when you don't have to: night riding like this in the desert is one and fishing is the other.

A couple of still shots for you today, a slide show, and a video clip if it will cooperate. And let me just explain that I will try to have this winter's posts be a bit more micro and or macro depending on what is going on. I plan to do considerably less of the story telling, unless of course a really good one comes along, and more of an up close and personal look at the things we see and do while we are playing in the desert. Hopefully that will mean more pictures, fewer words, but we'll have to see how things shape up.
Just one more small explanation for what you will see in the pics. We did not make breakfast like the cowboys used to do. No cast iron skillets, no steak on the fire coals, no kettle of coffee on an open fire. Nope. This was a ride hard and cook fast operation. To that end we all filled a quart sized zip lock bag with a couple raw scrambled eggs and whatever else we wanted to have in our "omelet"- mine for example had some slices of smoked turkey sausage and some cooked up bacon nibbles. Some folks added a few slices of mushroom. When we "made camp" we lit a propane tank hooked up to a single burner stove, heated a big kettle of water and then all threw our baggie omelets in the boiling water. By the time we had our sunrise photos well in hand, we had breakfast in a bag all ready- just dump onto a paper plate and eat. I'm not gonna tell you they were the most beautiful omelets I have ever seen, but they sure were tasty and doing the dishes was a total no-brainer. It's for sure we are gonna do this again!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Buckaroo Bob and Prescious Polly

Back quite a ways when we first started our great RV adventure, we met Bob and Polly in Wachula, FL. They have been dear friends ever since and we have hooked up with them and their many friends all across the country- this time in Thane Wyoming, where they have established a "summer residence." Great place. Fly fish the Snake River. Do some white water rafting. ATV ride the many trails though the mountains and along the many rivers. Take a gondola ride to a mountain top cafe in Jackson Hole. Plenty of fun stuff to do and we did as much of that as we could in the allotted week there. Plus- Bob helped my a great deal with figuring out what is going on with many of the recent issues of our coach- he used to have the same make and model. Much appreciated. Images from Thane, Wyoming and Jackson Hole.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Yellowstone 6 - Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces

I thought the Old Faithful loop was a painful hike....but Mammoth Hot Spring terraces and all its many hundreds of stairs hurt even worse. I think the collective nature of being in the park driving and hiking day after day has taken a toll on us old farts. I think we have decided that this last week was the dividing timeline between middle aged and officially old. Or so say the legs anyhow. The altitude hasn't helped much I am sure, and maybe, just maybe, we'll be able to look back and blame our fatigue on that.

Mammoth Hot Springs are vertical, not horizontal like many of the springs in the park. Covering them from one end to the other hurts, but it sure is nifty to look at and produces such amazing sites as Canary Springs which is actually of waterfall of boiling water that has built up the hillside with its highly calcified water content. Add to that the thermophile bacteria and you have a recipe for rare intrigue and beauty- the likes of which IS here on earth but much more resembles what you might expect to find on some other distant planet. This is our final chapter from within the park. Don't know if time will allow more from West Yellowstone Village where we are camped or not. Still dealing with a slide issue on the coach- the part should have been here and done last week but that didn't work according to plans and so we won't know if the part will arrive before our scheduled departure and/or if it will solve the problem when it does. I do know for sure we are sick of dealing with it- so hopefully it all comes together at the last minute and we hit the road with renewed confidence. Hope so. Hope so. Hope so.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Yellowstone 5- The Old Faithful Basin

Last post closed with the eruption of Old Faithful, the presumptive "must see" of Yellowstone National Park. Yea, I guess. But there is so much more that is even more fascinating in one way or another that gathering in the great outdoor amphitheater with as many as a thousand people to await its timely eruption was almost a bit of a letdown. To us, it felt much better to get off by ourselves as much as possible to investigate the far reaching features of the park. The park is enormous, and even on a day when thousands and thousands of people are roaming the park along with the buffalo, it is possible to find solitude to enjoy the grandeur of our nation.......

with one exception!

And Marilyn commented on it one day as we drove endlessly through the park. You see, we have been at this game for a long time. We can spot wildlife be it large or small, with the best of them. In fact we often make it a competitive sport on a drive. First one to spot each roadside animal wins that round and so on. And in the park, this was no exception- we spotted much of what we saw. BUT- there is no escaping the fact that if you are driving along and come upon a bunch of cars and people yielding binoculars and cameras, you can pretty much rest assured that they have spotted something that you have not yet seen, and so, like the eagle, you swoop in to see what you may be missing. This works to help more people see more stuff, and I have no problem with that. But on a few days this became a bit of a problem in its own right. To wit: One day we watched as the guy up in front of us pulled over to the side of the road. Before we got there, there were nearly 25 vehicles pulled over to see what he was seeing. But as we cruised by slowly so as not to miss a special opportunity ourselves, we realized that there was actually nothing at all there to see except the side of the road. We chuckled about that....and as I continued down the road toward the next sighting, Marilyn said: That poor guy probably just pulled over to take a leak and there were 25 tourists with cameras pointed right at him...."

This post reveals what is out and about in the Old Faithful Basin- way more good stuff than Old Faithful itself. And seeing the area makes for a long hike. Too long for us perhaps, but we did it anyway and found it almost impossible to put one foot in front of the other by the time we made it back to the Inn and the parking lot. Tired puppies! But worth it as I hope you will see here....

Yellowstone 4: Journey To The Center Of The Earth

They say the center of the earth is still a ball of molten lava which churns constantly and tries despite its constraints to reach the surface if for no other reason than to cool off a little. Well, Yellowstone provides at least a glimpse of what lies deep below our feet as we walk this earth for the whatever time we are allotted. I was tempted to say that visiting the geo-thermal features of the park is like standing on the rim of an active volcano and peering down at the bottom of it. But the reality is that when you are in Yellowstone you are standing ON TOP OF the caldera that once was an active volcano, and you are taking a tour in essentially what will again become an active volcano at some point. Moreover, the Yellowstone Volcanic activity area is one of, if not THE largest area of such activity in the world. Simply put: in the future, this could well be the source of the site of the largest active volcano on planet earth. You get a sense of that here. You are not afraid. But you take the signs that tell you to stay on the marked trails very seriously....because you can see the boiling water and mud and steam just below the surface and in fact coming to the surface all around you- all the time. It is impressive to say the least.

So in this post and with the images today, I would like to share our look into the earth below us....

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Yellowstone 3 - Wolf and Bear Discovery Park

It's a tough time of year to see bears in the park. Mostly they are way off in the wilderness seeking food far off the beaten path. Same with the wolves. But it's easy to see them both up close and personal at Discovery park- a non-profit organization and facility where animals that cannot survive in the wild are given a home. A happy home. A healthy home. We totally enjoyed visiting and since admission includes a second day in the park at no charge, we just may be going back in again real soon.

Be sure to watch the slide show, especially for the last shot of Marilyn in a Teddy Bear......OOO lala.... Has ya curious, doesn't it???

Yellowstone 2- The Great American Buffalo Hunt

Lots to see in Yellowstone National Park. But this day was for hunting buffalo. And hunt the buffalo we did. Most all day we found lone bulls- off by themselves, because they WANT to be off by themselves. We found 28 in all; 27 more than the day before so we were feeling good. But during the day- no large herds, no cows, no calves. Until we had put well over 200 miles on the car in the great and earnest search and then there they were, just over the hill, near the north entrance to the park. Herds. Large herds. Herds of perhaps thousands. Certainly too many to count. Love it when a plan comes together.

But, incidentally, where were all the elk. A stray elk here or there, but no herds of them either. Until, again, near the end of the day when we pulled into the village of Mammoth Hot Springs...and there they were as well. Not out in the wilds. On the front lawns of the village homes and offices and churches. Munching on nicely cut green lawns and laying in the shade of the buildings. Safe. Secure. Comfortable. So pictures we took. Not the photo of raw nature you hope for, but the picture as nature presented on this day.

 And then there were the two coyotes who hunted in the grasses beside our roadway on the way back to camp after a long, long day. Special.

Today, we focused on wildlife. But there are always the geo-thermal features of this park to remind you that this is not an ordinary place in any way.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Yellowstone 1

We did what we always do on our first full day in a place where there is a lot to do and see- we headed off to the visitor's centers for maps and an overview of the place. Since the ranger station is only a few miles into the park, we decided not to lug all the big camera gear, choosing instead to take Marilyn's Lumix point and shoot and my Android phone camera. I knew it was a mistake when we decided that, and sure enough it turned out to be a big one. Just inside the park on the far edge of a large marsh was a lone bull bison, too far off for any picture worth having with the equipment we were toting, but fun to watch in the binoculars.

We traveled the rest of the way to the info center and ranger station without any sightings other than the admittedly awesome scenery. So maybe not having the cameras wouldn't bite us too hard. Wrong again. Elk. Cows on the side of the river and one little calf stuck in mid stream trying to figure out what his next move needed to be. At least the camera caught some of that and the cell phone got a respectable video clip which I'll embed later in the post. Not what we could have done with the big guns (you know I mean cameras, right?), but not too bad either. Then a short distance down the road we came upon not one but two bald eagles sitting by the side of the river, seemingly not doing anything but chillin' and hanging out together. Sure was wishing for the telephoto lens. Didn't even try with my phone. Marilyn caught a few shots with her camera.

But then out of the clear blue sky, one of these eagles drops into the water and then starts trying to swim back to shore in the swift current. Huh? Was he drowning? Nope, he had caught a big trout- heavy enough that he could not take to flight from the current so had to head for stiller waters. Back on shore he made short work of that fish, much to our wonderment. No video. No closeups. What are the chances I will ever see this again? If I do though, I WILL have a camera at the ready. No shortcuts!

On The Move...

I got sick and tired of taking photographs of mobile repair techs and diesel repair facilities and writing about breakdowns along the way. There have been far too many of them along the way. Enough already. So- just a few lines to say that the trip from Washington to Yellowstone National where we find ourselves for the next ten days was rotten. No pictures. I refuse. We had two slide issues- came out fine but wouldn't go back in. A leak in the black tank valve- that by itself can ruin your day! And tire sensor alarms, that turned out to be false alarms, happened on desolate roads with no shoulder where once again we had to stop dead in our tracks and deal with the situation right smack dab in the middle of the road.

So here I sit four blocks outside of Yellowstone, with three slides out and one that the guy finally got to come in- still in and refusing to go out. Not hard to understand since we had to cut the wires to it and hot wire it to a battery to get it to come in so we could keep going to this destination. Hopefully Monday morning hooks us up with yet another mechanic who can resolve the issue, because we've just about had it "up to here."

Exploring Yellowstone should be fun, provided we can get matters back to normal and ready to head back east after one last stop in Wyoming to visit our friends Bob and Polly. And that's the name of that tune!

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Day With Derek

What a day. Clear. Warm. And complete with a chance to spend some time with Derek and to spend some of that time out on the oyster beds and clam flats doing what we like to do- harvest the sea. It was a family-hunter-gatherer kind of day.

We started by gathering and shucking some oysters on the outgoing tide, giving the clams a chance to run, ....make that DIG and hide.

Once we had the oysters shucked and on ice we headed back out after the clams. We found little necks, manilas, and cockles for the most part, although we found a few eastern soft shell clams as well. The tide was not enough of a drain to find any geoducks, so we put that on the target list for next year, and I'm already looking forward to that.

While we were picking clams, Derek came across a Northern Kelp Crab (the first I have ever seen other than on my ID chart) who had captured and was in the process of wolfing down a sand worm.

The area we were working adjacent to today is one of the coastal shellfish farming areas belonging to the Taylor Shellfish Farm we had visited the day before. Here, oyster shells are washed and "sterilized" before being seeded and returned to the beds where the oysters begin a next generation.

After our outing on the flats we stopped into a local cafe and grabbed a bite before heading back to our respective home bases. On the way home, Marilyn and I stopped along the roadside by Hood Canal and picked a mess of berries. What a day!

What The Heck Is A Geoduck?

Let's get started. It is NOT pronounced geo-duck. Nope. That would be too easy. It is pronounced gooey duck, from an Indian word that looked more like "GWEDUC," which is loosely translated as "dig deep." Anyway, time and spelling changed as it has a way of doing and we wind up with the absolutely awesome, positively enormous clam they call the geoduck (gooeyduck). Remember the old line about "Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" Well, at Taylor Shellfish headquarters in Shelton, Washington, the wall of the retail store is graced by a picture of the stars of the TV show DIRTY JOBS, which asks the question:"Is that a geoduck in your pocket, or are you just 'happy sashimi'?" It is often used in sushi, sashimi and other fine and Asian dining situations or you can just make a chowder, but considering how hard they are to get, or how expensive they are to buy, why would you?

Want some averages? OK. The average farmed geoduck is raised for 5 years, weighs 2 1/2 pounds and costs, are you ready, about 15 dollars a pound, give or take a little. So a thirty dollar bill will buy you ONE geoduck clam at Taylor Shellfish. Man, that's a lot of clams for just one clam. Especially for one that is just plain, well, a tad on the obscene side- hence the 'happy sashimi' line above works pretty well. Wanna see what I mean?

So if you have never seen or heard of these before, now you get the idea, huh? Above, a single geoduck and then a case of them.  From the very beginning, this type of clam is too big for its shell- and it only gets worse with ensuing years of growth. Even the siphons you see on these clams can extend for about three feet- which helps to explain why the clam is named the way it is- it literally lives 3 or more feet deep in the mud flat and at the very edge of the low-water tide range. So a person who wants to try to capture a wild geoduck must wait for a drain tide, then dig a deep hole and dig it fast. If you are a YouTube user, there are some pretty hysterical videos on line about people out trying to dig these clams up. And I would especially like to recommend that you visit Taylor website and then click on the video page and see the great videos they have to offer for your viewing pleasure. Here is a link: Just click on it to visit their site....and check out those videos.

In the wild, these clams can grow as large as 15 pounds! 15 pounds! I have dug just about every kind of clam this great land has to offer, but I never did find one of these. But I will. Sooner or later.  Now where did I put that bucket list?

But Taylor's is not just about the geoducks. They also farm blue mussels, manila clams, and a whole host of different oysters. On this visit we did not see the mud flats where these delicacies are farmed, we visited the headquarters and saw the processing and shipping facilities. We enjoyed the tour so much that we actually went through a second time. Owing to the nature of the work, the plant is largely damp, quite cold, and has low light, making it hard to photograph fast moving objects- like say the hands of the oyster shuckers. Those individuals can shuck an oyster and move on to the next one faster than I could even focus the lens! Some of them were incredibly skilled at the process.

One thing we found interesting about both Washington and Taylor Shellfish is the ownership rights permitted in this state that are most assuredly not available in other states. Here, an individual or a company can actually own the tidal lands- meaning that they can own the land below the water, and they can own that land all the way out to the dead low water line. Like mineral rights ownership, you may own a property and NOT own the tidal land in front of it...or vice versa. But the very idea that someone can come out from their house on the shore and tell you to "get off my land" a half mile out on the mud flat in front of their place is odd. Especially since they explained at the farm that a lot of individuals think they own the tidal rights in front of them, but may well not. Good to know! Here are some images from the day:

Oh, did I mention you have to wear a hair net in the plant? Just wondering....