Christmas 2016

Anyone that knows me, knows, I LOVE Christmas. I love everything about it. I love decorating our home, cooking special holiday meals to share with family and friends that come to visit us, and going to visit family and friends that invite us into their Christmas celebrations…

When Bill and I were still living in our home with Shantel, I went all out decorating for Christmas. I had Christmas decorations in every room of our home as well as having the outside of our home lit up and decorated.  For me, and my family, Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. For us, Jesus is the reason for the season.

That said, when I host a celebration of a birth, or birthday, of someone I care about, I always what to make sure in addition to the food we will share, that I decorate our home as best I can to show how much that person means to me…

Well, now that Bill and I are full-time RVers, of course I don’t have room for all the beautiful decorations I displayed when we had our home in Chandler. In fact, we had to leave years of decorations, and memories, I collected behind, because I just don’t have room to carry them around with me… And, more importantly, when Bill and I made the decision to go full-time RV, I decided I wanted to let go of  past “stuff”, knowing I don’t need “stuff” to remind me of past memories… I will always keep those memories in my heart.

So…, I decided I wanted Bill and I to start new memories when we started this new retirement life. With that, I knew I still want to celebrate, and decorate for Christmas, but on a much smaller scale…

*Note to readers: I write my blog for our daughter, Shantel, who lost her sight to cancer when she was two. So I always try to explain each picture in as much detail as I can so she can get an idea of the pictures I post.. Her phone has voice-over that will read to her what is written.  I also love that our sighted family and friends enjoy reading my blog, and I especially love it when you leave your comments..

Welcome to Christmas in our home, 2016, at McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

On the side table between the two reclining chairs, I have a Santa bucket (little red and white bucket with a black Santa belt in the middle) holding candy canes. I also put some Christmas flowers, and ornament that says seasons greetings.

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We have a small green metal Christmas tree that has little tiny Christmas ornaments attached to it.

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I hung a Santa hat from one of the fans in our RV.

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And a center piece with evergreens, pine cones, and berries that sits on the dash of our RV.

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I put a Santa face bath rug in front of our shower that is mostly red(hat), white (beard), and green (background).

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A snowflake tissue box, and cinnamon scented pine cones, are spread throughout our home giving off a warm and inviting holiday smell.

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I placed a second Santa hat above the bathroom sink, hung over the hand towel holder. Not to worry, we have a paper towel holder on the bathroom sink to wipe your hands..

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I flipped our bedroom comforter to show the red/green plaid, and placed your childhood favorites, Velveteen Rabbit and Hug-a-muffin, (that you said you didn’t need anymore when you moved from our home to your own place, but I just couldn’t leave behind after all they saw us through…) on our bed. I will NEVER give them up!

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And finally, this is a picture of the reclining chairs in our home( where you sit when you travel with us) which is the area I most use to decorate for the holiday’s .  It shows most of what I described to you above as far as the main living area… Can’t  wait to spend Christmas Eve at your apartment, along with your best friend, and our dear friends, Jaz, Holly and Chuck.

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And this next picture is just for my frissy. She loaned me a Nikon camera so I could practice taking pictures with a “big girl” camera. And, because she loves abstract photography, this is my attempt at a close-up of our little metal Christmas tree with the little tiny ornaments..

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We are ready, and anxious, to celebrate Christmas with our family and friends.. Let the fun of the season begin!!!

Stay Tuned!

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Scenic Trail

This morning Bill and I hiked the Scenic Trail at McDowell Mountain Regional Park. We are trying to make our way through all of the trails in this park while we are here, not only for our own enjoyment, but also so we will have first hand information to share with visitors that ask us to recommend trails for them to hike when they visit this beautiful park. With approx. 22 thousand acres of land, and approx. 80 miles of trails, we can hike for a long time without hiking the same trail twice.

One of the first things we noticed as we started out on the scenic trail is that the area at the beginning of the trail is void of any mighty saguaro cactus. That is because a desert wild-fire destroyed several thousand acres, back in 1995, killing most of the saguaro cactus in this area of the park.

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Only a very few saguaro cactus survived the fire like the one in the middle of the picture below.

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The scenic trail is approx. 4.3 miles long, and takes you through several elevation changes.

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Eventually we made our way into areas where the mighty saguaro was untouched by the desert wild-fire of 1995.

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The views from the top of the highest elevations are just beautiful.

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And you never know what you will come upon just around the next bend in the trail…

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The scenic hike took Bill and I about 2 hours to complete, and we found out it burned 773 calories. Can’t beat that for a walk in the park!

Stay Tuned!

Ragnar

Now that Bill and I are all settled into our winter campsite at McDowell Mountain Regional Park…, this weekend we were assigned to work the entry booth for what we were told is the “biggest” event of the winter season here at McDowell. It is so big that anyone working the event attended a meeting Wednesday morning with the people that sponsor the event so we could get an understanding of how Ragnar works.  We learned what is expected from the event sponsors, as well as what is expected of the McDowell Park staff working the event…

Ragnar is an overnight, long distance relay event that takes place over two days and one night. Bill and I worked the entry booth, along with other McDowell hosts from the park, supervisory staff, and full-time staff from the park. Thankfully, Bill and I had some experience working large events from our time at San Tan… But, we had never seen anything like this event at McDowell.

The biggest event Bill and I ever worked at San Tan consisted of approx. 1,5o0 total people including spectators. This Ragnar event easily presented 3k – 3.5k runners, not including the spectators, and overnight campers . What a thrill it was for Bill and I to be part of that!!! We LOVED it! Why? Because it was fast and furious getting all those people through the entry station and the time just flew by.. That is the kind of excitement Bill and I love!

Now don’t get me wrong. Bill and I loved our time at San Tan Mountain Regional Park, and we still promote that park as a beautiful day-use park… But, if you are looking for BIG running and mountain biking events as well as overnight camping accommodations… McDowell delivers that in a BIG way!

All that said, let me show you some pictures to help you see how McDowell can accommodate that big of an event.

As you enter the park you are greeted by this sign.

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This is the entry station where Bill and I, along with many other park staff worked the Ragnar event. Believe it or not that entry booth has a flushing bathroom, area with refrigerator and microwave, as well as heating and refrigeration… What more could we ask for? Also different from San Tan where the entry booth and Nature Center were combined, this entry booth is 2 1/2 miles away from the nature center.

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This is a picture of the Nature/Visitor Center

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Like San Tan, they have a little picnic area just outside the Nature Center.

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And, like San Tan, they have a tortoise exhibit… I just happened to get there at the right time and the tortoise was out and I got a picture of it

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In addition to approx 75 campsites( not counting host campsites) offering electric and water only…. (host sites have full hook-ups including electric, water, sewer, and propane). There is also a campsite overflow area.

This is the campsite overflow area. It is primitive camping (no water, electric, or sewer) but all campers have access to our dump station.

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But even the primitive overflow area has access to flushing toilets and I believe showers.

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This area also has a bike repair area. There is a tool station, to fix your bike, where the tools are securely attached to a pole. There are also air pumps for filling tires, and even a wash down hose… This place has it going on!!!

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That area also has camp hosts that live there and take care of the campsites, bathrooms/showers…

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McDowell also offers a competitive track for serious mountain bikers, as well as this area for those that just want to have fun…

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We have a nice workshop where we can borrow tools if we need to fix things… This area also has a full-size washer/dryer for hosts to use. There is a sign-up sheet so everyone gets time to use the washers/dryers. We have a washer/dryer combo in our rig that I can wash 8-10 lb loads and I do a load or two every other day… but for sheets and towels, I will sign up to use the larger machines…

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We also have access to complimentary propane right here in the park. Just another perk that comes in handy when you live full-time RV.

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Again, let me say… if you are looking for a GREAT place to spend the day hiking, mountain biking, or horseback ridding in the east valley… San Tan is the place to go..

But if you are looking to spend the night, hike, mountain bike, etc. Check out McDowell Mountain Regional Park. We LOVE this place!!

Stay Tuned!

Kindness

As most of you know our daughter, Shantel, lost both eyes to cancer when she was two years old. If you follow my blog you also know how hard she has worked to become a strong, independent, contributing member of society. She is entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits (which isn’t even enough to pay the rent and utility bill for her small one bedroom apartment), and she receives a small ($77.00) monthly food allotment which she can only use for what she can eat. She cannot buy personal care items, cleaning items etc. Only what she can consume… I don’t know how they expect anyone to live on that… And for those that say “get a job” well, again if you read and/or follow my blog, you also know how hard Shantel works at trying to “get a job”. She has two college degrees, and a licence to sell health, life, and medical insurance in the state of Arizona, and still she can’t get a full-time job even answering phones in a Call Center… But, Shantel is determined that she is not going to live on Social Security benefits for the rest of her life. She is tenacious, and she never gives up. She recently was offered a sessional position in a Call Center working through the end of the year, helping people choose the Medicare plan that is right for them… She gave up her Social Security benefits and food allotment card when she accepted this temporary position hoping it will turn into a full-time job, but if not, at least it will give her more work experience for her resume…

Bill and I could not be more PROUD of how hard Shantel works to be independent, and it just absolutely breaks my heart when I hear how sometimes people that she is forced to depend on to get her to and from work, to and from the grocery store etc. can sometimes be so unkind.

Shantel uses Dial-a-Ride when she can, meaning if she has the time to schedule Dial-a-Ride in advance… But, sometimes she is forced to use other transportation services like cabs, which are very expensive, so she recently started using Uber which only charges her $11.00 to take her to work and $11.00 to take her home from work as opposed to paying $28.00 for the same distance using a cab. And the $11.00 charge for Uber includes the tip!

Shantel told me Uber offers two types of services. Regular Uber and Uber assist. Uber assist drivers are trained to help people with disabilities and are required to offer to walk a blind person to their door. The only drawback to using Uber assist is that like Dial-a-ride, there is a bit of a wait time if you can’t schedule the service well in advance… Regular Uber drivers are not “required” to walk customers to the door. However, Shantel told me that every time she has used the regular Uber service, the driver has always offered to walk her to her door which she very much appreciates. One of the regular Uber drivers even told her that if she can’t get Uber assist in a timely manner not to worry about it because most regular Uber drivers will get out and assist a blind or disabled person to their door. He went on to say “if they don’t then they have to be a complete moron…”

Why am I sharing all this with you, you might ask? Well last week, Shantel was called into work early so she had no choice but to call the regular Uber service to take her to work. When she got off work that day, she needed to stop at the grocery store to get her food for the following week. She called the regular Uber service to take her from work to the grocery store. That driver walked her into customer services where she asked for someone to help her select her groceries. Then, after she purchased her groceries, she called for Uber assist but was told she would have a long wait time. Since she had some cold and frozen food in her bags she decided to call the regular Uber service. That driver, a woman, picked her up at the grocery store, drove her to her apartment complex and told her the ride was over and she needed to get her groceries and leave the car. Shantel asked the driver if she would help her to her door, which is approx 75 yards from the parking lot (not a real long way, but a long way for a blind girl carrying four bags of groceries, her purse, lunch bag, and trying to use her long cane…). The driver told Shantel it wasn’t her job to help her to her door and that if she wanted that kind of service she should have called Uber assist!

Now, I understand that that Uber driver wasn’t “required” to help Shantel…or any other disabled person… But for the love of God, what happened to kindness, understanding, empathy, and compassion for our fellow human beings…?

Both Bill and I have spent most of our lives doing things that “were not our jobs”, or were not our responsibility etc., but we always try to step up and do the right thing when we see someone in need.

I can’t even begin to explain how it made me feel when Shantel told me how hard it was for her to make her way to her apartment carrying four bags of groceries which made it impossible for her to use her cane so she had to try to follow the walkway with her foot until she got to her door. Then she had to put all the groceries down so she could find her key in her purse and open the door. Then she had to go back outside and try to make sure she found all her groceries off the door step because some food rolled out of the grocery bags… It broke my heart and still brings tears to my eyes as I write this just thinking about what all Shantel has to go through just to get through her day doing what so many of us take for granted.

I started writing this blog years ago, mainly for Shantel, as a way to document our lives for her so she can read back on our lives when I’m gone. Because of course, being blind, photo albums would be of no use to Shantel.. But sometimes, like today, I share this story as a way to bring awareness to others of the difficulties people with disabilities face each and everyday, and to perhaps encourage you, if you don’t already, to step up and do the right thing next time you see someone in need, even if it is not your responsibility. It costs nothing to practice kindness!

Stay Tuned!

McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Now that we are all settled into our campsite at McDowell Mountain Park, I took my morning walk and captured a few pictures of what this park has to offer. McDowell Mountain Park is about four-times larger than San Tan Park, with what I am told offers over 22 thousand acres of land, and approx. 80 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback ridding, as well as about 80 campsites for RV’s, and I think they have about 10 tent campsites as well. I have not been given the “official” documentation of the park to study yet, but you can bet when I get that information, I will memorize all that information so I can share it with our visitors when I’m working the entry station booth…

The sun was just coming up over four peaks mountain as I started out this morning. What a beautiful sight. This is what we see every morning from the front window of our motorhome. I never get tired of watching the sun rise over those mountains.

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I didn’t hike the trails this morning, but instead, I walked the paved road that goes around the campground where we live. This area is called Pemberton Loop Drive. As I walked along I saw lots of quail scurrying across the road. I love the quails especially when they are with their little babies. They run fast and are hard to capture when they are on the move. But I did manage to capture a picture of one before it got across the road and into the bushes…

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I don’t know what kind of bird this is in the next picture, but it was perched in the top of this tree (not a great picture but if you look closely you can see it), and it was singing the most beautiful tune as I walked by.

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Of course the mighty saguaro cactus makes its appearance by the thousands throughout the park.

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But one of my favorite cactus is the beautiful, and graceful, ocotillo cactus. When this cactus is in bloom it is just fabulous!

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The park offers visitors the opportunity to purchase memorial benches, for their loved ones that have passed, and have them places in different locations throughout the park.

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As far as the eye can see in any direction here in the park, there are trails that take you through miles and miles of beautiful desert. With trails for every level of hiker, mountain biker or horseback rider.  From flat walking trails to more slightly elevated moderate trails, to the more difficult and challenging trails for more experienced and adventurous folks…

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After about 45 minutes of walking and enjoying the quiet of the morning desert, with the exception of a few coyotes howling in the distance…, I returned back home to our little slice of heaven in the desert.

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This will be our home for the winter. We love our space here. This is where we will spend our mornings watching the sun rise, and our evenings watching the sun set. Where we welcome family, and long-time friends, and where we will make new friends along the way. Our home… welcome to it!

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Stay Tuned!

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