Thursday, April 29, 2010

McDowell Mountain Park

Behold! The next wave of blooming cactus. This is a Buckhorn Cholla, a relative of those nasty chollas that have been puncturing our tires and flesh out at Fantasy Island. They seem to bloom later in the season than anyone else.

This is McDowell Mountain park. It's one of our favorite places. The first two days we were here it was HOT! Lower 90's. Even though we were getting up and out early, we felt like we were baking when climbing up some of the hills. We may have to rethink spending the last week of April here, it's too dang hot!

Here is Jim at the end of a ride at one of the ramadas. We split a candy bar and drank a bunch of water. I like Jim's technique for drinking from his Camelbak.

Today it is windy and 25 degrees cooler than yesterday. We decided we would hike the Scenic Trail out at McDowell instead of riding. The beginning and end of the trail is quite pleasant, the middle section is steep and challenging. We decided it would not be part of our riding portfolio.

We got pretty excited when we saw this descent. It looked really good. Once you get around the corner, this turns into a twisty little section (that still looks like fun) right on the edge of a cliff. We tempered our enthusiasm at that point, we both still have cornering excursions, and it would be bad to go over the edge of a giant hill.

Tomorrow we plan to ride one more time. There's a hill I've been walking because I'm trying not to let my pulse get over 140 or so. I may give it a shot to see what happens with the new drug and since I still have real time monitoring.

This is me in my Life Watch monitor. It's kind of cool. There are three EKG leads stuck to me, you can see one on my right chest, and the round thing by my navel is a Bluetooth sending unit that talks to the cell phone. I carry a Blackberry which sends data 24 hours a day to monitoring central. They send tracings and analysis to my cardiologist daily. They're invaluable for diagnosing what kind of arrhythmia a person has, since they're worn over a period of time, and can catch the heart in the act of misbehaving.

Is anyone following the controversy over the new Arizona immigration law? All the TV debate is focused on the Hispanic segment of the population. One wonders whether our Canadian friends will have to carry documentation with them at all times. Its passage is already having an economic impact to the state; people are not coming up from Sonora to shop, conventions have been canceled, potential students and programs are breaking ties with U of A. The lawsuits have begun.

So, we're out of here Saturday, on the way to Petaluma, CA.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Scottsdale AZ - Eagle View RV Park

Here's a little more cactus loveliness for you. The bloom is winding down, I'm almost done, I promise.

So - here are the mountain bikes on the new rack with the old Swagman cover. It's not designed for platform racks, it's designed for the racks where the bikes hang from the top. However, if you turn it upside down it works pretty well. We had to tie the zippers down so they wouldn't work their way loose, but other than that, it's pretty well adapted to the new rack. You'd think they would make a cover, they make this kind of rack.

Ken came yesterday morning to finish the camera install. It was laborious. Here is Ken drilling a hole in the side of the truck bed. Rachel is under the truck with her hand in front of the trailer brake wiring harness to ensure that Ken doesn't hit it with the drill. Thank you Rachel. It took longer than any of us expected, getting the wire through the truck firewall was a pain. I'm so glad we outsourced that install.

Here it is, in all of its camera glory. See the bikes? It's very unnerving how much movement there is. There's a microphone as well, which we need to learn how to turn off, we had to listen the ladders rattling on the way to Scottsdale.

So, we're now in travel configuration - Ken, who has strongly held opinions, cast aspersions on the strength of the welding we had done to support the receiver. We kept reminding him that it's max 110 pounds, but he seemed to think that a much heavier gauge tubing should have been used. Who knows, we'll keep an eye in the welds to see if they're doing something bad.

We're in the Scottsdale area until Saturday morning. We were going to stay at the McDowell Regional Park, which is just gorgeous, but it's really hot here and we wanted 50 amp service so we'd be able to run both of the air conditioners. We're going to have to get up early to go ride McDowell before it's too hot. Currently it's 91 in the shade at 1711 hours. So, no internet coma for us in the morning. Up and out will be the rule of this stay.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Death to my Schedule

Owning and living in an RV forces a person to assume a bovine posture and to chant a soothing mantra when your schedule implodes. We were so close to making a clean get away from Tucson, so close. Notice the use of the past tense in that sentence? Were. But now we're not.
Thursday, Ken Cameron of Cameron's Reliable RV came out to install the rear vision camera. Talk about something that is not a user friendly install! He ended up running the coax from the camera down behind the refrigerator (which had to be removed), through the floor and towards the front via a conduit that he and Rachel installed along the frame rails. Keystone, in their infinite wisdom, did not provide for any after market electronics installations.
This is Jim Waddle in the yellow shirt, and Rachel and Ken Cameron. Ken was looking for places to run wire. Anyway, they got about half way done on Thursday, when the weather went to hell and so they left before finishing. Unfortunately, Ken has had periods of not feeling well recently, and Friday and Saturday were bad days for him. So, at this point we do not know when Ken will return or when we will leave.

So, here we are and here we be for awhile. We've spent yesterday and today purging items from the basement to make room for the satellite antenna. If it hasn't been used in the past 7 months, out it goes.
If Ken doesn't feel up to finishing us up tomorrow, I think we're going to go out to Fantasy Island and ride. We've been seeing a lot of jackrabbits while riding. Often all you can see is the tips of their ears moving through the bushes, they look like dogs they are so big.

Other than reconfiguring the RV for travel we have zippity doo-dah all to report.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More Cactus and Allison's Heart

Ok - I know I said no more cactus pictures, but these are just so pretty I could not resist. This is an ocotillo with the red blossoms. They had been green and leafy, but they're all dropping their leaves now. The yellow bushy things are jojoba plants.

More prickly pear.

Jim and Kim Waddle have been here this week on their way to the West Coast. It's always lovely seeing them, Kim is a brilliant cook and has a great wine cellar as well.

Tomorrow Ken Cameron is coming to install the rear vision camera. That will be our final RV action item to close before leaving for the summer. We expect to depart Sunday for a week in Fountain Hills. So, you may all expect pictures of somewhere new, and interesting.

I have had a personal set back. Beginning in January I've had 9 episodes (or events as the cardiologist likes to call them) of atrial fibrillation. My particular version occurs while bicycling; my pulse will jump to 230 and my heart bangs around in my chest like a mad jack hammer. The worst of it is that while this is happening, oxygen is not effectively flowing to my head or legs. Both of these things are bad when one is mountain biking. After some rest, it will settle into a bounding irregular 134 bpm rhythm for awhile. I've been prescribed Flecainide, which is a sodium channel blocker. As you all no doubt recall, muscle contraction occurs via the mechanism of the sodium-potassium pump pushing ions across the cell membrane. The drug seeks to limit the rate at which the heart can contract. So far the side effects are debilitating due to the fact that I can't sleep. I'm going to give it 2 weeks and then ask for something different. I'm very angry and sad about this. I feel like I had a life that I liked a lot, and now I have a new life that I don't like at all. There is a surgical option (cardiac ablation), but given my recent bad surgical karma, I'm reluctant to try it. It's hard to get an unbiased opinion on what one should do. The obvious choice would be to stop riding, but that's what Jim and I do. Some people play golf, other people ride. I want to ride, damn it. So, that's what is happening with me.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Last and Final Cactus Post

This is a giant Prickly Pear cactus. Look at the flowers.

A flower close up.

A different Prickly Pear with yellow blossoms.

I think we're done with blooming cactus. They're just lovely.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

WiFi and Axle Alignment

The wifi at Rincon West is just abysmal. Wifi is often abysmal at RV parks. They'll advertise "free wifi", but it actually translates as "free wifi when you sit in the laundry room on really hard chairs". So, we upgraded from the Verizon aircard to their new product, MiFi. MiFi is a combination aircard and wireless router. It gets really good reviews; simple, easy to set up, fast. HAH! Double HAH HAH HAH! Set up required an hour on the phone with Verizon. Yesterday morning it worked fine, then I went outside and my PC hibernated and the MiFi ceased working. After two hours on the phone with Verizon, the 3rd level tech said the problem is with your PC, call Sony. I called Sony, no clue. Then, it started working. What the HECK? I hate computers. So, now it's fine, I have no idea why. We're going to have to start watching usage, I now have to share my 5 gig monthly allotment with Jim. Mine! It's all mine!

As you no doubt recall, our original set of RV tires was worn slick after 14,000 miles, requiring very expensive replacements. Jim had been told that many RVs have improperly installed axles. Not wanting to replace 4 tires every year, we decided to have the axle alignment checked at Arizona Spring. It's one of those places that has been around forever. It's old, slightly grimy and is somewhat of a throwback to a time when America actually made things.

We drove onto a concrete slab that was very level. It had a ramp down to it that was fairly intimidating. The front landing gear was about 1/2 inch off the ground at the top of the ramp. Very unnerving. But, no blood, no foul.

It's very similar to the welding shop we've been to.

It was discovered that we had axle sag, the wheels were canted in at the top, and the rear axle was on a slight diagonal to the frame. It's no wonder we chewed off the tread on 4 tires. One wonders why an RV manufacturer can't do a little bit better. So, if you're buying a new RV, this would be worth checking on prior to setting off in to the great wide open.

While the axles were being fixed, we went up to La Encantada, a high zoot open air shopping mall. It was pleasant to stroll about and look at stuff we don't need. These are cool plants in front of AJ's Fine Food Market.

Bougainvillea in the court yard.

This little flowering cactus is so cute it hurts me. Look at the symmetry of the flowers.

The countdown continues to departure. All of our RV maintenance is done. We still have to have Ken install the rear vision camera, get the pickup washed and waxed, and get eye exams. We appear to be on schedule and over budget.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

New MTB Wheels and Padding

This is what we saw out side of the kitchen window upon our return from the GPNW. This is a dove, sitting in her nest, on our ladder. With all the hundreds of palm trees providing secure nooks for nests, with shade, why would a dove build a nest on a ladder rung in full sun, completely exposed to the elements? Fortunately, there were no eggs, the ladder is now on the ground to discourage any more nesting behavior.

I now am the proud owner of elbow guards to go with the knee pads.

Behold, the padded mountain biker. MTB technology has moved on. I've gone tubeless. The rims are different, and there's a more substantial rim strip that makes the tire hold air, without a tube. So, I have the lighter rims, hubs and spokes, as well as no tube. My new wheels are schweet! The lighter weight is very noticeable starting up from a stop, and climbing out of deep washes.

The cactus bloom continues unabated. It's difficult to photograph cactus blooms. They close up at night, and by the time the blossoms unfurl, the sun has become strong and harsh. This particular prickly pear is just covered in blooms. As always, it just tickles me how such a spikey plant can make such a pretty flower.

We were driving down the road the other day, and we saw a van with a photographer's logo and name on it. They do weddings, portraits, and boudoir photography. Now, if you were a small business owner, with your name and phone number plastered all over your van, don't you think you'd want your employee to look just a teensy bit more professional than this?

Remember Manitoba Dave? He who rides with the Fast Old Guys group in the Great White North? We'd like to acknowledge Dave's accomplishment. He did the Tour of Phoenix (72 miles) in 3:03, thus earning a Platinum finish. Way to go, Old Guy.

Jim is somewhat improved, but continues to struggle with his cold. Hopefully it'll be better soon. We have many places to go and things to do.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Return to Tucson from the GPNW

We are back in Tucson, it was 72 when we landed, perfect, just perfect. Jim seems to be coming down with a cold. From his perspective, it's the plague, but I'm pretty sure it's a cold. It was a good trip, we accomplished our trip goals, and were able to spend time with friends.

This is one of my favorite viewpoints in Bellevue. This is taken from the top of the hill where Vicki and Dave live. This is looking at I90 over Lake Washington, with Seattle in the distance over there on the left.

Bellevue has a plague of deer. They're not shy about standing in your yard and eating everything you've planted.

Monday night we went over to Larry and Sharon's house for dinner. Larry recently retired, and is exhibiting the anti-aging effects of pulling the plug on work. He's got a smoker and he's not afraid to use it. It was fun, we got to hang out with people Jim used to sail with. This summer Larry is going to teach Jim how to make pizza dough. I tend to murder yeast, so it's up to Jim to learn to do this.

Historic downtown Issaquah.

Now we are back in the desert. We have 2 1/2 weeks left to accomplish many things before leaving for points north.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter Weekend from the GPNW

We're in the GPNW now, where they are having an early spring winter storm. Yesterday it was raining sideways and blowing. Today is much improved, although it's still windy and cold. Of course cold is a relative term, I recently remarked to Jim that I am losing the ability to tolerate temperatures at either end of the climate spectrum, thus making me a total weather wimp on all fronts.
To remind us of the desert, here is another lovely blooming cactus. Look at that color.

Friday we had appointments with the family doctors who wanted us starving so they could draw blood for cholesterol and etc. After leaving their offices, we dashed down to a diner for eggs (yes, ironic, isn't it) and toast. This is one of their fish. He's a big fish.

The scenic overlook in West Seattle. This was about 20 minutes before it rained again.

I think the Metropolitan Market is one of the best grocery stores anywhere. We've not been to a Wegman's yet, but they certainly rival Dean and DeLuca. This is part of the cheese counter.

One of the Easter displays. They were selling boxes of handmade organic Peeps. I should have bought some so we could bite their heads off.

Pretty cakes.

Their floral department is just stupendous.

Medical tourism resumes on Monday. We'll be returning to Tucson on Wednesday. This trip has reinforced my desire to stay out of airplanes. TSA and the airlines have just sucked the fun right out of air travel.