Monday, November 28, 2016

Hiking and Up Close With the Birds and the Bees

Saturday Jim came down with something.  Somewhere, someone breathed on him.  So Saturday was spent primarily on the couch, reassuring Jim that he would not perish.
Sunday we walked out into the Tucson Mountains, out towards the Camino del Oeste trailhead.  We started on the Bowen Trail.  It was just a gorgeous day, but very windy.

The saguaros out there are very happy.  There are a lot of them.

Today we went back out the Bowen trail, but turned left at the Y and went to the old Bowen Homestead.  This is the view from one of their doors.  A kiosk has been installed in front of the house, with a request that people stop vandalizing it.  Good luck with that.

The chollas want to reach out and touch someone.

This morning we spent some time sitting on the patio waiting for it to warm up some.  This is the aggressive male hummingbird that drives off all of the other hummingbirds.  He is watching that bee.

Still watching.  Apparently hummers do not like the bees.

He's leaning back.

At this point the hummer is flying backwards as the bee approaches him.

Eventually the bee departed, and he got a drink.

Now he's off to terrorize the other hummingbirds.

Recently, there has been much discussion about bringing the jobs back.  This is a very interesting article about how the jobs are changing in aerospace.  Robots are doing more and more of the work.  It used to be that a high school graduate could sign on at Boeing and earn a living wage.  Those days are close to over.

Then later, there was this.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving Week

Wednesday was a good day for us.  We did a 25 mile loop that we did a lot in early 2014 trying to get ready for the bike tours in Vienna/Prague/Budapest.  Even though we rode 1600 miles for that bike tour it was not enough, given the weight of the bikes, the hills and the gale force winds.  But anyway, it was our first hilly ride since the incident last November.  It was hard, but there was no walking.

Thursday we were pretty tired.  We did a 22 mile flat ride, but by the end I was a hurtin' unit. I'm finding that my legs are not the limiting factor so much as it is my triceps and holding my head up.  Road bikes are just an unnatural position, and it takes awhile for the upper body to readjust to that form of torture.

For whatever reason, we did not go out last night for Indian food.  Instead, Jim and I cooked sweet potatoes, dressing and Jim grilled a spatchcocked game hen.  The dressing, despite not having any scratch made cornbread or turkey stock was not bad.  It's been years since I've made it.  This morning we had to throw the left overs away, we are powerless over dressing.  I had to laugh at us last night, picking at it out of the baking dish.  It's not like calories consumed standing up don't count.

Today, the wind is once again blowing like crazy.  It was fine, we read terrible news on the internet, tore our hair out some, and then went to Performance Bike for tubes for the road bikes.  After my two flats on Wednesday, we were down to two.  Given the state of the roads around here, one must have spare tubes.  We also discovered Wednesday that Jim's frame pump is not working.  Do you think you can buy a frame pump anymore?  No, no you can not.  This is not progress that I can embrace.  Now they sell mini-pumps to put in your jersey pocket.  I don't know about you, but I already have enough stuff in my jersey pocket without sticking a pump in there, as well.  So this is very frustrating.

Do you get this from Google on your birthday?

I don't think I like this, I feel like they're spying on me.  I wouldn't give Facebook my real birth date, and I'm pretty sure I didn't tell Google, either.

Finally, this is what's happening in the GPNW.  There have been pass closures due to ice caused accidents, and there are landslide warnings being issued.  Are we not happy not to be there? 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Wind, Real Estate and Shoes

Today started off with a clap of thunder and a brief down pour.  Then the skies cleared and the wind rushed in.  It was really blowing hard, so much so that bicycling was taken off the table.

This is the Mercado San Agustin.  It's near the tracks of the modern street car and is a delightful place for coffee.  My one knock on it is the complete lack of grab and go sandwiches or something like what you see in the coolers at Starbucks.  There are two excellent restaurants there, but if you're on a bike ride it's too much food and too much time.

There is a new neighborhood near the Mercado that I've been wanting to look at since last year.  When I think about living in Tucson, this is what is in my mind.  The sterile monochromatic brown neighborhoods are just not doing much for me.  This is what I'm thinking about.

Although the houses look like they're touching each other, they aren't.  There is an inch between them so they are stand alone.  Construction is cement block with stucco over the blocks.  Each house is unique; the owner designs the house with one of the two architectural firms that are working the development.  How do I know all of this?  We were walking down a street and a home owner flagged us down and invited us in to see their house.  It's just gorgeous.  They have a beautiful covered patio in the front and a small courtyard in the back.  It's designed so that when they are old and rickety, all living can be done on the first floor.  Currently they're using both floors, but when the day comes they can stay in the house.  They even did a wheel chair accessible shower.

The mural is on the side of one of the houses.  Garages are in the back, so they're long houses front to back.  The neighborhood is designed to be walkable, and people know each other.

Jim and I engage in an on going discussion of "the final resting place."  Where do we live when we become too rickety to live in the bus?  So far, Tucson is the least worst place, but summers are just brutal.  Then again, if you're that rickety, odds are that you'll be inside a lot.  We waffle between buying a house, just waiting it out and going from the bus to assisted living, to some sort of orbit between two houses.  To add to our indecision, what's going to happen to the economy?  What if our new administration kills the dollar?  What if we get nuked because our foreign policy is so heinous?  We're loathe to spend any money in case I can't get on Medicare (one year away).  I feel like I'm stuck with permanent brain freeze.
Anyway, this neighborhood is really cool, with the following caveats.  An apartment building will be going up right next door to it.  If it's occupied by UofA students that will be bad.  The U makes no effort to mitigate students' bad behavior and its effects on the neighborhoods they infest.  It's also pretty close to a very low income part of town.  I don't know if I would feel safe using the modern street car after dark.  So, despite its high coolness factor, I doubt we'll move on it.

On the other hand, you're able to walk to the Mercado and eat at Seis, a Mexican restaurant.  We split this torta for lunch and it was just to die for.  The green thing peeking out of the torta is a battered and fried green chile.  It was all so good.  Fortunately we had the good sense to split the order.

So that was today, it was very pleasant strolling and lunching out.  We went out to Summit Hut to try on hiking boots, but there was no joy to be found.  My evil feet could not be satisfied with anything.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Day Trips and More Hike

Greetings Earthlings.  How have things been for you? 
We took an overnight trip to McDowell Mountain Park, and rode Thursday afternoon and Friday morning on the trails.  There is nothing like pedaling a mountain bike up the gentle grades to let a person know just how much muscle has been lost.  It was fun.  We were able to spend some time with Jim and Gayle which is always a treat.  The site they were in is one of the best locations that looks out towards the mountains.
Since we were staying in a hotel, we missed the sunsets at McDowell.  I hate hotels, we had terrible room service and the toilet broke Friday morning.  These things can be avoided by taking the RV, but we were too lazy to dig it out of the site.  Tire covers, lights, stuff set out for the winter, stuff like that led to us leaving her behind.

Yesterday was El Tour de Tucson.  It started out with really high winds, we felt bad for the riders.  Hermosillo’s Hector Hugo Rangel won the 106 mile race with a time of 4 hours 10 minutes 47.12 seconds. Rangel, a former Olympian for the Mexican national team, rode in a pack with the other top finishers before pulling away down the finishing stretch. 
Today we walked out in the Tucson Mountains.  We did not go out there last winter at all.  The trails have dis-improved since we were last out there.  There are a lot more loose rocks.  It's uncomfortable on the feet. I miss dirt trails.

Tomorrow it's supposed to rain.  We'll have to find some way to occupy ourselves if water is falling from the sky.
Other than this, I have precious little to write about.  I'm resisting the urge to discuss the administration-elect and their positions on torture, failure to place assets in a truly blind trust and the fact that a $25M check had to be written to settle a fraud case just prior to the inauguration.  It just boggles the mind.  But, I'm not talking about that!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Water Treatment and Riding

Saturday, the 12th, we were looking around the internet trying to figure out who is building the new reservoir out by the trail we hiked the previous Thursday.  See here for that post.  It is a city project, for home use, it's not for the golf courses.  I was wrong.  While on the city water website, we noticed a pick for the Sweetwater Wetlands.  Being bored beyond spitless and tired of the wind, we drove up to take a look.
It's really interesting.  In Tucson there are signs everywhere saying "X" has been watered with reclaimed water, where "X" is a golf course, park, or school.  We did not know that Tucson has two parallel water systems, one is for drinking and one is for water that has been through the sewage treatment system.  It's a system, not just a treatment plant.  Sewage comes in to the treatment plant and then is sent to the reclaimed water system or the wetlands.  The wetlands also treat backwash water from the treatment plant. Water from the wetlands is eventually either sent to the reclaimed water system, or allowed to sink into the ground via the recharge basins where it's stored for future use.

The wetlands.

A recharge basin being filled.

Before the Europeans came to Arizona, the Santa Cruz river was free flowing above ground.  Between the 1700s to early 1900s the Europeans with their cattle and their intensive agriculture, caused the river to dry up.  Deeper and deeper wells had to be dug to get at the ground water.  In 1940 the ground water was 40 feet deep, by 1990 it was 100 feet; today, some wells are 1,000 feet deep.  The recharging ponds allow water to go back to the ground water.  Some of it is pumped in to the reclaimed water irrigation system later, and some of it stays in the earth.  Tucson is making an effort to reclaim as much water as possible.

These are little fishies in the wetland.

Sunday and today we rode up the trail to the Christopher Columbus Park.  It's a pretty place.  We've always wondered why one lake was so blue.  We've about decided they're dyeing the water, like they do at the RV park in Newberry Springs, CA.

Also seen today was a controlled burn on Mt. Lemmon.  It was producing a lot of smoke.  That's about 25 miles north and east of us.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Election Humor

I swiped this from Bob and Sophie's website.  It's funny, in a dark way.

Britain and America are in a bar having a drink.

Britain: "Brexit was the stupidest most self-destructive act a country could ever undertake".

America:  "Hold my drink and watch this ! "

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Two Days of the Tucson Mountains

Today, being Saturday, puts us at day five of the windy days.  Tuesday through Friday were of the sort that can make one take a step back.  Hope that today will be better is dimming as I watch the trees in the neighborhood behind us.  So far, the Tucson weather has been suboptimal.
Thursday we hiked from the Genser trailhead up to the ridge line.  We kept hearing machinery, and eventually were able to see this crane.  The reservoir is being expanded.  The green area to the right is the existing, the shiny part is new.  They've put up concrete walls, with roof supports in the water.  They're putting down what appear to be large sheets of aluminum. We'll have to wait and see what happens next.

Rocks in the distance.

Another shot of the reservoir. It's big.  Golf courses need a lot of water in the desert.

On the way back, Jim was attacked by a cholla.  As he passed by it, a gust of wind knocked it into his arm where it stuck.  My only tool for removing it was a tube of sun screen.  We eventually got if off.  So that day's key learning is to always hike with a pocket comb.  They are the best method to get those things off of your flesh.

We got home to discover one of these wretched birds had tried to use the hummingbird feeder.  I have the kind with perches because the hummers like to sit there.  Anyway, he dumped out all of the hummer juice, down the side of the bus where it hardened off and all over the table we keep by the door.
What do you notice about that palm tree he's on?  The grounds guys went through the park over the summer and peeled the bark off of some of the trees, including ours.  I'd really like to know the logic path behind that decision.
Also notice how is feathers are ruffled up from the wind.

Friday we went up the Cat Mountain trail.  It's a lovely hike with the exception of the long unpleasant walk to get there.  First there is a dirt road followed by a wash full of loose rocks and boulders.

 It gets better and then you see things like this.

It feels incredibly banal, expending the effort to document the unexceptional.  But what can you do?  America made the choice to elect a con man, and all that's left for us is to vote at the mid-terms.

Friday, November 11, 2016

More Election

I had, briefly, backed away from the edge of the Slough of Despond.  It lasted for a few hours.  Then I read this.  Although Trump originally nixed the idea of over hauling Medicare, it appears that he is now going to let Ryan go with it.  These two paragraphs are lifted from Washington Post article (with attribution).
The “Better Way” policy package that Ryan drafted earlier this year with the aid of his fellow House Republicans proposed a broad package of proposed Medicare reforms, ranging from the repeal of the IPAB to expanding the privately managed Medicare Advantage program to a full-blown overhaul of the Medicare system into a “premium support” model.
That would involve transforming Medicare from a largely single-payer federal program to a private model where seniors would be(sic) federal subsidies to buy private insurance — similar to the subsidies available to younger Americans who can now buy insurance on the ACA-mandated state marketplaces.

Medicare Advantage doesn't work for me because I'm a South Dakota resident and I never go there.   Those programs tend to be local and require you to use their network of doctors.  So that will be the end of traveling for us.

I don't know about you, but after two heart procedures, two ear drum rebuilds and three foot surgeries, I am not insurable.  Is Ryan's plan going to do what the ACA did and forbid the use of pre-existing conditions to deny coverage?  I'm pretty sure anyone who is 65 or older has something in their health history the the insurance companies won't like.  Insurance premiums for the elderly are going to be punishing.

I am just sick to my stomach.  The new EPA guy is a climate change denier.  A key member of Trump's team is Ken Blackwell, who thinks being gay is a lifestyle choice.  Trump has already said he's cutting spending for education in the first 100 days.  This will allow further dumbing down of the country.  Even I, a chronic pessimist, underestimated how bad this is going to be.  I know many people are relying on the checks and balances provided by the three branches of government to control the amount of mayhem done, but when all three branches are controlled by the Republicans, it's hard to see where there will be many checks.

If this comes to pass, I wonder how the pensioners in Florida will feel about their support for Trump.

Then, there is this.  Political correctness, aka good manners, dictated that while one could have such thoughts, one did not give voice to them.  So much for that.  The bullying of those who are not white males has already begun in schools and on the streets.

Even though it's not part of today's rant, I'm also concerned about the demise of the ACA, cuts in funding for the disabled and the hole being torn in the public safety net.

I promise I'm not going to make this a political blog.  However, it's a journal of where I've been, and right now I am back on the edge.

So, I will leave you with this lovely image from today's hike in the Tucson Mountains.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Election and Saguaro East

Well.  It feels like all of the air has been sucked out of the room.  I can not believe that man won.  I can't believe America hates women so much that they chose him over her.
Even if he's only a one term president, he's going to do some damage.  Ryan is already working on defunding the ACA.  The war on women is about to heat up again.  It will not surprise me if some forms of birth control are outlawed on his watch.
I am very, very angry at my fellow Americans who chose him.  It seemed like we were a better nation than this, but I was wrong. 

Jim and I are both in mourning.  I really wanted to hear someone call Hillary "Madame President."

We went out to Saguaro East this afternoon and walked around in the desert for awhile.  It's nice out there.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Rain, Hummingbirds, Detailing

Thursday (11/3) our friends Kim and Jim stopped in for two days on their way back to Texas.  We had a very impressive storm with thunder and lightning.  Then there was a double rainbow.  Kim took this, my camera did not see it as well as hers did. 

We took the pickup truck into the Chevrolet dealer for detailing.  After towing it through the agricultural regions of California it was dirt encrusted.  They do such a good job.  They steam cleaned the wheel wells and the engine.  Look at that, it's a five year old engine and it still can be pretty.

 This is the aggressive male hummingbird who chases all of the other hummers away from the feeder.  They're really fun to watch, he sits in the palm tree and waits.  When another bird comes to the feeder he drops down chirping and drives them away.

This female has managed to get something to eat.  I wonder what she will have to say to the male when breeding season starts.

Marco and his crew came today and washed and waxed the RV.  It, too, is now all loveliness and shininess. I am very grateful for the fact that I did not have to participate.

Tomorrow is a bike day. Tuesday and Wednesday are supposed to have very high winds, so we'll probably be hiking.  We're thinking we may join a gym again so we have stuff to do in the afternoon.  As soon as this infernal election is over, I will regain control over my thought processes once again, and the internet will be less interesting.  Having the gym in the afternoon will be good.

No, Jim is not voting for The Donald.