"Not all those who wander are lost" J.R.R. Tolkien

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mid-Week Summary

We left Tucson early Monday morning with intentions of an easy drive to Blythe, just over the AZ border in California.  Our plan was to leisurely travel north through California and Oregon and then be in Washington state next Monday.  Blythe seemed too easy so we ventured several hours further to a KOA in north LA.  Nice campground but it became very noisy at six on Tuesday morning when we began hearing car horns in the early rush hours.  I had been up since 1:30; one of those freakish nights when my eyes pop open and refuse to close again.  The boys were up early as well and decided to play outside a bit before hitting the road.  They found this little guy:

We thought we would be smart and hit the LA traffic at 7:30.  Perfect timing on our part as it gave us the chance to really see northeast LA.  At about 5 miles an hour, stop and go.  Not really so smart!  I've never warmed to southern California and was more than surprised at the snow covered mountains and emerald green hills that greeted us as we drove north through the San Joaquin valley.  It reminded both Donald and me of Scotland.  The scenery only needed stone fences and a few picturesque pubs to complete the memory.

Sometime in the last few hundred hours of driving I shared with my family about how I used to look through my mother's garden catalogues and long for a Bonsai tree.  I'm sure my fascination with them began after seeing the original Karate Kid because there is a scene where Mr. Miyagi lovingly tends his Bonsai.  I never even told my mom about wanting a Bonsai because I knew they were expensive.  Donald recalled the story when he saw a road side sign for Bonsai and before I could say "harigato" he whipped the RV off the road and insisted I choose my first Bonsai.  I tried to convince him it wasn't necessary but I was actually pretty excited and held it on my lap the rest of the way to San Francisco.
A really horrible picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, taken through the back window of the pickup

We arrived in San Fran last night about five and we dashed through setting up house so we could go check out the city.  I have been cooking from Cindy Pawlcyn's Fog City Diner cookbook for years and knew that's where I wanted to eat.  It did not disappoint.  In fact, it may have been one of the finer meals of my life.  Honestly.  It was a complete gastronomic delight:  crispy cheese biscuits spread with an unforgettable rosemary infused brown butter, perfectly grilled pork T-Bone, black pepper apples and crispy spaetzle with spinach.  Donald had an excellent rib eye with parmesan fries and the boys declared their clam chowder "the bomb."  It was a thin cream broth with nice chunks of vegetables and salty, meaty clams still in their shells.  We over indulged with butterscotch creme brulee and amaretto bread pudding covered in a rum sauce.  #1 and I shared the creme brulee but full as I was, I could have eaten every bite myself and still licked the ramekin!
By the time we waddled out of FCD it was nearly 8 pm so we did a walking/driving tour of the City at night.  We gazed out upon Alcatraz, a somber dwelling indeed!  We drove up and down streets so steep it made me glad I didn't learn to drive a stick in San Francisco.  We ambled through Ghiradelli Square and smelled the delicately sweet chocolate scent lingering on the evening spring air.  We wanted to take a cable car but they were, sadly, closed down for the night.  And I became aware of something interesting about myself that I suspect may be true of others who have addictively read since birth.  Many of the books I grew up reading took place in a time long before my own.  I'm also an avid re-reader so my mind's pictures stick pretty firmly.  When I finally get to see a place I read about long ago my mind expects it to look as it did in the story, which could be in 1817 or 1955.  That said, I can assure you that San Francisco no longer looks the way Dashiell Hammet described it to me in The Maltese Falcon, more the pity!  It is still an astonishingly gorgeous city and I must come back when I have more time to get under its skin.

Can you smell it?
By the time we tucked ourselves into bed last night I had been awake nearly 24 hours so we allowed ourselves the luxury of sleeping in.  Easier said than done.  I slept until almost 6:30 am.  What is wrong with me?  Even in college I never slept later than 10 in the morning.  We thought we had a short five hour drive today up the old Redwood highway and we were looking forward to sleeping in the shadows of the oldest and largest trees in the world.  But, as we have seen so many times on the Big Adventure, our route is often determined by external circumstances.  After driving three hours at top speeds of 40 mph due to mountainous conditions and multiple bakery and ice cream stops we found out that that the old Redwood Highway had just closed for possibly several weeks due to mudslides.  Our only choice was to backtrack more than an hour with the intention taking an alternate northern route.  Because we had a late start this morning it was nearly two in the afternoon when we got the encouraging word about the road closure.  Since there was nothing we could do but turn around, we did.  It gave us the opportunity to stop at the World Famous One Log House and Confusion Hill, one of nine gravitational anomalies in the US.  The One Log House is slightly smaller than our RV but without the cool amenities and Confusion Hill made me feel slightly nauseated even though it was crazy to roll a golf ball uphill!

Kitchen, two beds and just beyond the boys is a small living room, all in kitschy 1950's decor
Walking on walls in the anti gravity house

Twin Tower Memorial Redwoods

Each date corresponds to a ring of the tree, dating back to the Norman conquest of England in 1066!

This Redwood is 1200 years old!
Wherever we get to tomorrow will be just as much a surprise to us as to you.  If, miraculously, the road is clear we will retrace our steps again.  Otherwise we head east and then north on I-5 which goes all the way to Canada.  We are on a much faster pace than anticipated.  Donald, for reasons he can't explain, is not a huge fan of California and is in quite a hurry to keep going.  This caused some marital friction as we originally intended to stay in San Francisco several days but also gives me reason to go back, I guess.  He did buy me a Bonsai so I can't complain too much!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Davis-Monthan Day

B-52  This carries 258,000 lbs of fuel!
Yesterday we attended a Davis-Monthan AFB picnic.  We couldn't work out whether it was a celebration of something or an annual event.  Whichever it was, they did it up BIG!  They had everything and there was no charge for any of it.  Pony rides, petting zoo, soda, hot dogs, hamburgers, beer, about 8 different bouncy houses, rock climbing wall, play area for little ones, pop corn, cotton candy, snow cones, live music in one area and a DJ in another.  Not to mention hundreds and hundreds of people milling about, enjoying the hot sun and the cool breezes of a beautiful Arizona spring day.

It's my amazing Spider Children!  This wall was, conservatively, 25-30 feet high!  Also, check out the size of the boxing gloves; the boys could barely lift them.  #1 managed to win best two out of three in the ring but #2 made it all the way to the top of the wall.  It worked out pretty evenly!

My favorite part of the day was the free bus tour to the Bone Yard, where all good planes go to die.  We saw over 70 different types of aircraft, row after row, all lined up and mostly covered in a white latex coating to help keep the heat down inside the plane.  Many of the new fighter jets no longer in use could be brought back to the air with about 80 hours of work.  A lot of them are destined to be sent up, unmanned, and used as target practice.  The rest of the craft are either waiting around to be used for parts, to be chopped up for the metal or for someone to come kick their tires and purchase them, such as the Russians who visited for that express purpose just last week.  We even saw a plane that had no markings or serial numbers of any type and we were told it was used to fly "under the radar" and enter fly zones where it wasn't supposed to be.  How cool is that piece of information?

Row after row of engines, just stacked on top of each other.
Back when Tom Cruise was still cool he did a little movie called Top Gun where he flew an F-14 Tomcat for the Navy.   A year ago there were 400 in the Bone Yard and now there are only about eight left.

Go Navy!!

The last photo is a P-3, near and dear to our hearts because we had P-3's in Iceland along with good friends who flew them and maintenanced them.  All the P-3's were retired while we were there, meaning entire departments of folk were without jobs and had to be sent elsewhere.  There was a stationary P-3 used as decoration and when they were closing the base down they dismantled it piece by piece.  I took the boys to watch one blustery morning.  Anyone out there remember the Val?

Yesterday was somewhat bittersweet for me.  It is great to stay on military bases because I can fool myself into thinking that we are somehow still part of it all.  We get to hear the Star Spangled Banner every night at 5, go to cheap movies and attend cool functions, like free picnics.  But as I stood in line with the boys, waiting for the climbing wall, I shamelessly eavesdropped on several women in front of me as they talked about their next duty station.  One of them was headed to the east coast and another to Italy.  I couldn't help but feel a bit sad, knowing that I don't have those conversations anymore and I always wanted to be stationed in Italy.  In another line we chanced upon a couple stationed in Iceland at the same time we were there.  We didn't know them but recognized the Keflavik t-shirt and struck up conversation which brought back that familiar "homesick" type feeling for living overseas and for all things military.  No one on any of these bases knows our story so I can pretend to be part of it all but at the end of an otherwise great day, I came home pretty sad.  I'm sure this is all part of the grieving process of leaving something I truly loved and like all types of grief, it comes and goes.  I just have to keep telling myself there will be something better!
Ocotillo, very thorny with flaming orange tips

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tombstone - sounds quiet, eh?

As our time in Tucson is drawing to a close I thought perhaps I should get up a few photos of our day in Tombstone.  Those of you familiar with either Hollywood or history (the two meet often but usually not successfully) will have heard of Wyatt Earp and his brothers who, along with Doc Holliday, fought the famous gunfight at the OK Corral in 1881 against a gang of notorious outlaws.  We spent St. Patrick's day in the small, desert town that once thought it would rival San Francisco.  The towns people are still waiting.  It is a town completely dependent on its historical value and its tourist value lies in every single establishment having something to do, sometimes in name only, with those associated in the 30 second gun battle that put Tombstone on the map.  But hey, they had a green horse!
Happy St. Pat's, Tombstone style

We saw the graves of Marshal White and some of the Clanton's and McLaury's.
All of the major eating establishments were in some of the original 106 saloons that kept Tombstone from thirst in the Arizona heat.  We tried our luck at Big Nose Kate's, the actual saloon where Kate personally kept Doc Holliday from dying of thirst.  The sarsparilla was tasty but the food only moderately so.  Apparently drinks are still the main focus in town.  

We took a ride in a stage coach which gave us a pretty good idea that we love of our big diesel Ford for both comfort and speed.  Just when we were ready to head home we bumped into Wyatt on the street.  

Just to catch you up on a few additional photos, I enclose two of my skaters and one of a Tucson sunset.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Answered Prayers

Funny things, answered prayers.  As humans who are not privy to the thoughts and plans of God we send up prayers on a regular basis, some fervent and some barely tepid.  Many times we aren't even terribly sure that God will answer.  When He does answer we sometimes miss it because it may or may not be what we are looking for.

The Twist family has had two prayers answered in less than one week.  The first answer indicates what I  have always known, that God has a sense of humor.  Last week I began praying, of the fervent sort, that my boys would be better friends.  As opposed to the fighting and bickering that goes along with brothers close in age and living quarters.  Two days after I regularly started praying for this the two of them came home from the skate park and announced that we needed to talk and that they would take whatever consequences necessary.  This is not how parents want to begin a conversation with their children!  At the park was a pretty good skater who decided to talk a lot of trash to our boys, saying they would never be good skaters.  #2 can only withstand so much of this type of thing and he decided to unleash some of his mixed martial arts skills on the older boy.  Then #2 walked away.  The older boy thought it would be a good idea to attack #2 from behind which caused #1 to go a little crazy with his mixed martial arts skills.  So my boys actually had their first fight, together, for a few minutes until #1 decided they should just walk home.  I had to be responsible and let them know that as a girl and a mother I cannot condone violence, especially since #2 started the actual physical fight.  Inside I was pleased that they worked together and backed each other up.  I knew right away that this was God's very odd way of answering my prayer.  Donald, of course, was delivering high fives all around and was pleased as punch!

The second answered prayer came just a little bit ago.  This morning Donald and I were, once again, discussing our future options, what we'd like to do, what should we do and does any of it match up with what God would have us do.  That cyclical conversation.  Once again.  Donald received a phone call from the job option in Virginia to let us know it is no longer an option.  The reason why is a bit maddening but really doesn't matter.  The point is we can cross Virginia off our short list.  The list really only contains the potential job in Washington and the fact that we would love to explore jobs in the UK.  As we were talking this morning the boys were doing school and #2 left us a very interesting insight on his math test.  He wrote:  Walk by faith, not by sight.  Hmmm.  Out of the mouth of babes.  So that is what we will continue doing.  We will walk by faith and keep praying fervent prayers for God's direction.  We appreciate your prayers as well.  It is clear the answers will come.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Exercise Conundrum

The conundrum is not whether I should exercise or eat cookies.  The obvious answer to that is both!  The conundrum is how, exactly, to accomplish exercise in an RV.  Space being at a fairly high premium, my exercise equipment is limited to running shoes, a few hand weights, one military issue foam mat and assorted dvd's. Running is a no brainer for me; I've done it close to twenty years for fun and competitively the last four.  Running shoes are small to pack, especially since I've adopted the nearly barefoot method of running in Vibram's Five Finger shoes.  They are slightly thicker than socks with a reinforced bottom and individual toes.  Love 'em!  When parked on a military base it is safe to run and simple to find a route because lots of other people are out there too.

When we stay off base I don't always feel as safe, even with neurotic Shakespeare as my running partner, so I generally stick to exercising inside the RV.  This also makes for more cross training than I have probably ever done.  The major issue is how to do serious exercise in a 32 inch by 6 foot space.  Seriously, I measured it and that's what I have to work with.  So try to picture it.  My military issue, cammie green foam mat stretched out on my floor just barely fits within my 32 inch width allotment.  It doesn't have the cool sticky back of a real yoga mat and if the corners aren't held down with spare weights, soup cans or beer bottles it just wants to roll right back up.  There's my first hurdle.  Second hurdle:  which dvd?  Well, anything that is continuously jumping around is out because my entire house is balanced on four tires and four leveling jacks.  I miss the stability factor of a good concrete foundation sometimes.  Obviously yoga is a good choice but have you ever tried a downward facing dog or a boat pose when your real live dog is sniffing your very personal parts?  Or if you are upside down in a bridge and the dog decides to stick his tongue up your nose?  Chuckle away but these are daily occurrences at my house.  Not long ago I discovered Jillian Michael's Kettlebell workout and I love, love, love it but again, there are challenges.  The workout involves lots of swinging of weights around your head and through your legs.  Not smacking the weights into your shins or your temple is hard enough in a spacious living room but trying to manage it without hitting the tv, window, island or faucets all in one sweep is almost impossible.  I have, on occasion, whacked a dog in the head with a weight as it was unsuspectingly trying to leap past me onto the couch.  Poor Shakey has enough issues without head trauma!

I share these stories with you as another snippet of life on the Big Adventure.  The next time you opt for your treadmill or to flail about in your big living room or your gym, remember this posting and have a good laugh.  Just don't do it while you are trying to hold Proud Warrior or do a Sun Salutation!  And put your dog outside!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Soul in Silence Waits (Ps. 62)

I am not one who waits patiently.  I think of myself as time efficient and and the inconvenience and frustration of waiting does not for efficiency make. I look for the shortest lines in stores.  I wash dishes, mop or dust while I'm on the phone.  I read and stir pots at the same time.  I combine history lessons with field trips.  I may be traveling the country in an RV but I love airplanes because they get you from point A to B ever so much faster.  I know people who, when faced with a stoplight, pause and pray.  I admire them but I am not one of them.

The greatest lesson of my life, over and over, is waiting.  For the entirety of 2010 I was waiting.  Waiting for word of Donald's retirement date.  Waiting for healing.  Waiting for word of Donald's retirement settlement.  Waiting for a what's next plan.  2011 is a continuation of the waiting.  Waiting to hear about his settlement from the VA.  Still waiting on that plan.


Nearly every time I sat down with my Bible over the last year and a half guess what theme I encountered?  Interestingly enough, nearly every day, no matter what book or chapter, I read about someone waiting.  After a few months of this message it became almost laughable.  Okay, God, I get it.  I'm supposed to wait.   

I'm waiting. . .

Still waiting. . .

Hello?  Yep, still here, still waiting.  How 'bout that plan?

There are days when I think I am literally at the end of my small reserve of patience.  There is physically an inner turmoil that something has got to change.  Surely there has to be an end to the waiting.  Surely today must be the day when it will all be made clear because I am beyond exhausted with living under question marks.  Can I really wake up tomorrow and face another day, not knowing?

But I can.  Deep down, in my soul, I can.  What I can do is really the only thing that matters, the only thing keeping me sane.  In this dark silence, when my head and stomach ache and my palms sweat, my soul will continue to wait because I know I am in His care and keeping.  Time is self imposed and really means do-dah to the One who painstakingly and patiently created my being and has always chosen to reveal His plan to me in His time, not mine.  Doing nothing is the hardest thing for me to do.  But in doing nothing I am doing something.  I am relying on Someone other than me.  Someone who has a far better plan than I can make.  In the silence that is my right now, my soul is learning to wait.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thanks, Lori!

Destructive thing that PTSD is, it has made its home in our lives and we have no choice but to live with it.  Usually when I mention PTSD I talk about it in terms of its effects on Donald or the family in general.  I don't do a lot of reflecting about it in my own life.  I don't ignore it; I can't, but neither do I dwell on it because if I did, I'd spend way more time crying than I am comfortable with.  I'd rather be the one handing out the hankies than the one using them.

During a brief, hour and a half of doing laundry this past Saturday I met someone who, in the following days, has caused me to do a lot of reflecting about PTSD.  When I do laundry, typically I just dump it in quickly and then leave.  I'm not good at chit chat with total strangers and don't have much interest in trying.  Really nice for a pastor/chaplain's wife, eh?  I had barely added soap and quarters when someone at the end of the washers started asking me questions.  I don't mind if someone else initiates conversation; I'm just not so good at it myself.  My boys were playing with her boys (she has four plus a girl!), who turned out to be the kids with the spare skate boards.  I generally manage to keep all the kids straight as they descend like locusts on the Cheese Nips but trying to sort out all the parents, scattered across a really huge campground, is more difficult.  I still have no idea how she knew we were the parents of the boys with whom her boys were playing.

It didn't take long to piece our stories together and discover both our families are traveling under similar auspices:  a family dealing with PTSD (her husband went headfirst through a Humvee), schooling on the road and love of travel.  She introduced me to the term road school which is an excellent descriptor of what we do and there is a website devoted to it!  Who knew?  We swapped stories and there were tears on both sides, which shocked me.  We also swapped blog addresses.  I told her about Donald's service dog and gave her a brochure so she can contact the company.  I also told her about a retreat for wives of service members with PTSD that I am attending in Colorado Springs in May and I'm hoping she'll get there.

What this brief encounter showed me is that in nearly three and a half years since Donald's injury I have never once met another spouse who lives with PTSD.  I've never talked with anyone who could actually validate, empirically, what I think and feel about living with PTSD.  I was stunned to find out that many of the things I live with as my new "normal" are, in fact, "normal" for what I live with.  I hadn't really given the retreat too much thought because it will require conversation with strangers!  Now I have thoroughly researched it and I am quite looking forward to the seminars, which sound like they were prepared with me in mind.  In actuality, they were.  Duh!

My point?  I've spent the last few years focusing on my husband's healing and worrying about the effect of all this on my boys.  I've not given much thought to my own healing since it doesn't seem as prominent an issue.  It's the old "Mom doesn't get to get sick," right?  Maybe I'm not sick but I bet I have cold symptoms.  And maybe I have not been treating the symptoms in the best way.  Here's to hoping the retreat shows me a better way.  And Lori, thank you for being so outgoing! You are right, military wives need to jump in quickly because we move around too much.  Have fun at the Grand Canyon!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Just a quick note:  I ambled through some of my administrative tabs on the blog and discovered I have the power to let anyone comment at the press of a tab.  Hopefully I did it right and now comments can be made without needing a specific type of account.  Comment away!

The Skate Park?

Our oldest son will be eleven in a couple of weeks, our youngest is nine and we have always been the sort of parents who keep a sharp eye on things.  The boys are reasonably aware of the world but very inexperienced.  They still voluntarily hold our hands when we are out in public, they kiss us upon waking, again when we tuck them in and sometimes in between.  These are still childish activities that I relish because I know they will begin to occur less and less, most likely in conjunction with my own "cool" factor. 

In the past several months I've noticed some changes in my older son, such as mouthiness and moodiness and a ridiculous amount of hair on his legs.  Donald and I are chalking it up to pre-pubescence.  Along with physical changes comes a growing need for independence.  Since we nearly always stay on military bases when we travel we've been letting the boys wander the campground areas with walkie talkies, allowing them to test a bit of freedom in the trees or the playground. 

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base has, and I quote, a "totally radical skate park" which happens to be just beyond the campground, about two blocks away.  Out of eyesight but well within walkie talkie range.  Our youngest son has held a minor interest in skating for a few years, having owned a cheapie, yard sale skateboard in Washington state but never really getting the hang of it.  Plus, he's interested in just about anything that looks cool or dangerous.  Skating is definitely both.  Oh goodie.

We finally consented to let him go with a couple of boys his same age, equipped with walkie talkie, helmet, water and a borrowed board.  He came home with stars in his eyes and I quote, again, "in love with the sound of the board."  Oh goodie.  For three afternoons he hung out a whole two blocks away and came home sweaty, filthy, exhausted and begging for a board of his own. 

Our oldest son is the cautious sort, not one to jump on a bandwagon or participate in anything that could cause physical pain.  He asked for something called a SoleSkate (smaller than a skateboard, triangular, with three wheels) at Christmas, which was something of a surprise because it took him three years to learn to ride a bike.  I speculated, privately, about the number of years before he could master something without a seat and handles.  He did not find a SoleSkate under the tree.  This week he went to the skate park with his brother and a borrowed scooter and returned home, once again asking for a SoleSkate.

We are also not parents given to providing for our children's every whim.  Rarely do they get treats at the store or gifts for any reason other than a national holiday.  I know, I know, we're ogres.  Believe me, we've heard it from the boys many times.  Donald decided we should explore this opportunity since we still have two weeks living next to the skate park and the kids with the extra boards have moved on.  We checked craigslist, second hand sports stores and pawn shops but finally found what the boys were looking for at Target.  Thankfully this was not an expensive adventure!

I think it may be premature to call them skaters but they are having a good time, meeting friends and getting  crazy amounts of fresh air and exercise.  There have been a few minor injuries already and I fully expect major ones if they continue for any length of time.  They are also getting to experience a little bit of necessary freedom beyond the parental eye but does not stop me from obsessively checking in with my walkie talkie!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tucson Festival of Books

Okay, so I probably am not doing the link think properly but the gibberish below, in orange, is supposed to be a link to an online photo gallery for the Arizona Star who paid a photographer to take a photo of yours truly, as I was getting autographs from one of my favorite authors.  If I had thought quickly enough I would have given the photographer my blog address because he seemed suitably impressed with the whole "travel the country in an RV" thing.  My big chance at fame, fortune and the Today Show, gone.  All because I was about to have heat stroke and was slightly star struck.  Oh well.

To the two lovely ladies who not only saved my spot in line but requested my blog address, you should check the photo out because you are both in it!!  Again, thank you!

The Festival was my perfect cup of tea.  We arrived on the university campus early enough that the air was still cool, reminiscent of my own college days.  I felt that wistful longing for the irresponsible days of lounging about with friends under the guise of studying.  Actually, it also made me want a professorial job!  The feeling of being in school was heightened by the copious notes I scribbled while listening to Diana Gabaldon, author extraordinaire.  By the time my seminar was over the atmosphere outside had changed from serious intellectualism to that of a manic street fair.  Hundreds of vendors and exhibitors lined the campus which included a large food court sending tantalizing smells into the heat of the day.  I fought the crowds through about four blocks and finally located my menfolk in the science building where I was regaled by their morning adventure.  Apparently the boys got dressed up in sport coat and tie delivered a broadcast for the Bio 5 Institute about holograms.  It should be on the internet but hasn't been loaded yet.  As soon as we locate it and get a link we'll post it.  I can't wait to see it.  They also went digging for various minerals, designed paper fish, studied paleontology and acquired hats, one cowboy and one shaped like a turtle.  I'll let you guess who wore which.

We succumbed to deep hunger pangs and by the time we finished sampling Tucson's finest Donald could take the crowds no longer.  I had known the day would be difficult for him.  One of the side issues of his PTSD is an abhorrence of large amounts of people, even when he has Holly by his side.  His only explanation is that he feels constantly "on alert" and all the noise begins to "mess with his head."  After a few hours of this sort of function he begins to withdraw and by the time we got home he had a wretched headache and went straight to bed for several hours.  This is one of the changes that has become our new normal.  I was excited for round two at the Festival today but ended up having one child with a high fever and one vomiting husband (possibly residual stress from the festival), and thus had to stay home.  I had high hopes for another great day steeped in educational seminars but it turned out to be a rather plebeian laundry/nursing day.

Two more weeks of exploring Tucson before keep heading northwest.  We hope to get to Tombstone this week as well as meet up with our college football and cheerleading coaches, conveniently married to each other.  As newlyweds, we used to babysit their kids, who, of course, are now out of college and getting married!  Yikes!  This week should provide excellent blogging fodder!

Friday, March 11, 2011

We have not fallen off the face of the earth.  Waiting for a part for our water heater is only a partial decider; we've decided we love Tucson and just want to hang out here a few weeks.  So far we have had a relaxing week with a relatively normal school schedule for the boys.  The weather here is fantastic, very dry, breezy and yesterday, 90 degrees.  For never having been a sunshine girl, I sure love it when I know it is winter every where else.  The next time we retire I definitely want to be a snowbird!

I am over the moon excited for tomorrow.  By sheer happenstance I discovered that an annual literary festival is scheduled at the University of Arizona this weekend and I get to listen to a seminar by one of my favorite authors.  There are also seminars for educators and tons of hands on stuff for children, like Lego robotics activities and chemistry demonstrations.  Those were the big selling points for my children.  Donald, he's pretty much along just to make his bluestocking wife happy and to hang out with the boys during the boring seminars.  Hundreds of authors, some famous and some local, will be there signing books, as well as music events and tons of cool, local food vendors.  One of the great perks is that the festival, and parking, is free!  I plan on wandering around with a contented smile all day as I bask in the literary glow.

The boys have succeeded in befriending most of the campground since we moved in on Monday.  Every afternoon there are about 10 children of various ages gathered around my RV, raiding the arsenal of light sabers and guns in order to save the universe.  I know I sleep better at night knowing I am so well protected.  The raiding doesn't stop with the swords and guns though.  #2 likes nothing more than to be the perfect host which means generously offering up any and all snacks he can find, emptying the kitchen cupboards and the snack basket in the pickup.  I did not bat an eye when they emptied the Oreos, an entire box of Cheese Nips, the Anise Toast and the Seaweed Snack (all in one afternoon, by the way) but I had to draw the line when I heard him offering my cocoa roasted almonds!  I found myself at the commissary today, buying multiple boxes of Cheese Nips, the ingredients for Rice Krispie treats and freeze pops.  I hate to discourage him because I would rather everyone play where I can keep an eye on things but good grief, a girl could go broke!  I keep telling myself it is money well spent.

Keep your fingers crossed that the next time I post, I can report a steady and reliable supply of hot water!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Greetings from Tucson!

I was fortunate to have laser eye surgery last August.  I have gone from being unable to even see the chart on the wall to having 20/15 vision.  Thus, I was able to clearly see the harvest gold and avocado green tile in the KOA shower house.  I was also clearly able to see the spider who was indeed lurking above my head.  Kind of creeps me out to think about all the spiders over the years that I couldn't see!  Actually, the shower house wasn't so bad.  I've been in worse; for instance, the coed youth hostel bathroom in London that was nasty and had a naked Italian guy drying off in the hall when I stepped out of my stall.  That will wake you up in the morning!  As a former camp counselor who travelled all over Wyoming and Montana I've definitely seen worse camp bathrooms.  I survived this one and I didn't have to share it with thirty sixth graders or naked Italians.

We left NM before the crack of dawn yesterday to arrive in Tucson when the dealer was opening.  They checked everything and basically declared our lack of hot water was somehow due to operator failure.  When we got to the campground, which by the way, is a county fairgrounds because the base is full, we still had no hot water and we had to turn around and go back to the dealer.  Then they tested some things and replaced our thermostat.  As of today we sort of have hot water.  It seems to work on propane but not on electric (and it's supposed to do both) but the propane doesn't always want to ignite.  Back to the dealer on Monday.  I'm clean enough to last until then!

Until then we plan on acquainting ourselves with the greater Tucson area.  Hopefully by Tuesday we can move on base which has a breathtaking campground!  We feel authoritative in our experience level that we are qualified to make this statement.  We are going to stay for a week or two until we are convinced the Washington weather is nice enough for us to survive in the RV and we'll continue to California and then up the West coast.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

PS:  Apparently I was just kidding in my last blog.  You know, the part about having hot water?  Because we just found out we don't!  Off I go to the shower house.  If you don't hear from ever again you'll know the spider got me.
We are in Lordsburg, New Mexico and have hot water!  Yes, Doug, we found a Camping World this morning north of El Paso, within sight of the Welcome to New Mexico sign.  Turns out a very important wire had fizzled out.  It was a fairly quick fix but did allow for us to have an early lunch at a great little Mexican cantina.  We're suckers for good Mexican food, which my father-in-law would say is an oxymoron!

Driving through El Paso was interesting.  I've never been so close to the Mexican border.  We have now crossed Texas' northern border which is the Red River and now we've driven side by side with the Rio Grand River, its southern border.  Even more interesting was gazing past the massive border fence into Old Mexico.  I was honestly surprised at how beautiful the desert with its bad mountains could be.  It is a dry area.  I've lived in Wyoming so I know about dry but it is nothing like west Texas.  I cannot imagine what it must feel like in August.  There is so little vegetation here except for cactus and juniper and pinon.  And a whole lot of dust.  And Texas sand burrs.  The next time you walk on one of the regular tiny ones and you are limping in anguish, remember this photo and you'll feel better!
Everything's bigger in Texas!
Just a sample of West Texas geography

It's a good thing we have hot water because there isn't much else to look forward to here.  There was a section of I-10 that the border patrol had closed off just west of Las Cruces and we had to go through a checkpoint.  When they asked us where we were headed we ignorantly replied, "Lordsburg."  The officer looked at us in astonishment, laughed, and said, "What's in Lordsburg?"  All we could say was, "a KOA."  Now that we are here we can report, with confidence, there is nothing in Lordsburg!  It is quite desolate here unless you like cactus and lots of wind.  The RV is shaking every so often in a particularly huge gust.  On the way here Donald asked me how far we were from Roswell or Area 51 and I mentioned at one point that I was expecting the Men In Black to pop out from behind a pinon and erase our memories!  Tomorrow it is Tucson or Bust for the Twist Family and we plan on staying for a few days.  I love travel but battening and unbattening my hatches every single day is a bit tiresome.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In Search of Hot Water

What do you do when you have no hot water in your house on wheels?  Yeah, we don't know either!  We've looked online for help, we've tried everything in our manual and we have talked to two different dealers, neither of which were local or helpful.  While my boys certainly aren't moaning about not taking a shower, I, for one, have had a cold shower two days in a row.  I don't mind not showering for a day or two but not when it's 80 degrees and I've been exercising daily.  Not to mention that washing dishes in cold water is somewhat futile but certainly better than not washing at all!  We have been driving like mad fury to hit the west coast (we are currently at a KOA two hours east of a "west Texas town of El Paso"-any Marty Robbins fans out there?) but apparently circumstances are going to force us to slow down and find somewhere to get the RV fixed.

Generally speaking you would call in a someone who knows about hot water heaters.  Not us.  We have to drive our house somewhere (where???) and then sit around in a lobby for hours while it gets repaired.  The good news is that any repairs should still be under warranty.  Our destination for tomorrow was a base in Tucson and the dealer there said they can't even make an appointment for us until the end of next week.  That's just not going to work for us!  I feel pretty opposed to using a campground shower house.  Call me picky but I'd rather go without than try to get clean in one of those places!  There doesn't seem to be a clean or dry spot to put all your clean and dry things.  Not to mention spiders lurking about, waiting to jump into my towel for a free ride to my head. Blechh!

Once again, all part of the Big Adventure.  Stick around and find out what happens during the next installment!