Sunday through Thursday, March 20-31, 2022—Completing Repairs from Winter in Arizona

Kay and I squeezed in nine holes of golf, walking at Coronada Golf Course Sunday afternoon after church. She’s scored pretty well, and is getting so good, I hesitate to play with her! We had loads of fun. And, in the evening we resurrected our Sunday night bridge game with Jim and Jackie; Jackie was the big winner.

Golf at Coronada Golf Course

On Monday morning, the 2011 Honda CR V went in to Class Action Paint & Body just outside Hot Springs Village for repairs to damage suffered in early January at Palm Creek in Arizona. (A guy backed out of his carport and into the passenger side of the car.)

Our “baby” has a booboo

Fortunately, all the parts were available, and it should be repaired in a few days. After dropping off the car, I attended a Church Council meeting and Kay played pickleball at Diamante. I joined the guys for golf in the afternoon at Ponce de Leon Golf Course and despite playing pretty badly, had a great time.

Rain on Tuesday foreclosed all outdoor activities, and provided time for both of us to catch up on chores. I played pickleball at Balboa Baptist Church on Wednesday, and Kay attended the Duffers (ladies’ golf organization here in Hot Springs Village) Spring luncheon. Pickleball and golf were on the calendar again Thursday.

Balboa Baptist Church indoor pickleball courts

The “old” Honda CR V collision repairs were finished on Thursday, and we picked it up. They did such a great job (see in the photo below), even polishing the dull headlights. The motorhome was driven to Cummins Sales and Service in North Little Rock on Friday for generator repairs. That wiped out all of the morning for me; Kay did some household chores and then played golf in the afternoon.

Cummins Sales and Service in North Little Rock

An unexpected visit from the Adams family was a great delight on Saturday; we had a blast. Karyn, Matt, and Ridge enjoyed an introduction to pickleball and loved the game—warms my heart!  We all seemed to have a great time playing together.  While they were all naturals, Ridge was especially good, and like his mother, loves outdoor sports.

Aker wanted to hang out and fish so Kay stayed home with her, and they played and fished—quality granddaughter/grandmother time. Back together again, they all enjoyed kayaking Lake Estrella. Ridge has outgrown his “sit on” kayak!  Aker will inherit it, and then our younger Memphis kiddos. We love our grandkids to the moon and beyond…just sayin’.

Though Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, we attended church, played pickleball, and then played bridge. Life is a hoot. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were somewhat back to normal, if there is any such thing. We played pickleball, golf, and took care of “look pretty” appointments.

As the month of March ended on Thursday, we picked up the motorhome from Cummins in North Little Rock, paying a small fortune for the generator repair (replacement of the “board”). This wrapped up our major maintenance/repair items from almost four months spent in Arizona. Back at the Village, East Gate Pharmacy had the newly approved booster vaccine. Since we will be traveling internationally in a few weeks, we took advantage of the “not too long” waiting line and got our fourth COVID vaccination, and our second booster, and are now up to date. That made for a tiring day, and we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening lounging about.

As an aside, here are some photos of Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park in New Mexico made during a trip in late September and early October 2008. Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America, has over 150 individual rooms and more than 20 kivas (rooms for religious rituals). Crafted of sandstone, wooden beams and mortar, the Cliff Palace has been remarkably well preserved from the elements for the past 700 years.

Friday through Saturday, March 11-19—Getting Back in the Swing of Things

Unpacking from a winter away is a required and time consuming chore. Not only do clothes have to be washed and cleaned, but pantry items have to be resolved, and refrigerator/freezer items relocated. And then there are the “toys” and their maintenance. 

We awoke Friday morning to winter weather advisories being issued for the entire state of Arkansas continuing through Saturday morning. An arctic front quickly moved into the Hot Springs Village area, is already moving through western Arkansas, replacing the comfortable temperatures enjoyed the last few days. Temperatures did hit the low to mid-50s before the boundary arrived. And then  the temperatures plummeted into the 30s with gusty north and northeast winds of 15 to 25 mph. Precipitation started as rain, but changed to light snow before going to all snow in the late afternoon and evening. Kay multitasked washing, drying, and folding clothes while moving and sorting food in the refrigerator/freezer. In addition, she made a grocery list of food for home.

Saturday was for visiting Karyn, Matt, Ridge, and Aker. Though it had only been a month since I had seen them, seems like they grew a couple of inches! We heard all about Ridge’s soccer exploits and saw Aker in glasses for the first time—cute kids. As we were about to leave, the car wouldn’t start—dead battery—and, we got a boost (jump) from Matt’s truck. Since the battery was apparently fried, we were off to Costco for a replacement—leaving the car running while we shopped—only to find they do not install batteries. Nevertheless, we bought a new one, and I installed it when we got home.

On Sunday, after church, the power washer was retrieved from the crawlspace/basement, and I used it to wash both our bicycles and her push golf cart. The dust from Arizona had worked its way into all the nooks and crannies of these toys. And, while the power washer was out, I washed the rugs from the motorhome and spread them out to dry in the sun. We’re getting there…

Taking a break from household chores, we both played pickleball at Balboa Baptist Church Monday morning (March 14). It was fun, but most of the players are bangers, and either do not know how, or choose not to do drop shots and dinks. Kay held her own quite well; she has improved so much over the winter. If not careful, she’ll advance to the next level for competitive play. After pickleball, I played golf with the HSV guys at DeSoto golf course. It wasn’t a pretty game, but it sure was fun.

It rained all night, and continued through Tuesday morning; golf was canceled. I used the time to work on photos, write blog posts, and do genealogy research. 

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were filled with completing unpacking winter items from the motorhome, re-familiarizing ourselves with the house, playing a bit of pickleball, and playing golf. Recall work was done on the Honda Pilot, the house’s HVAC unit was cleaned and inspected, and Kay attended a pickleball clinic at Diamante.

Wednesday and Thursday, March 9-10, 2022—Enroute to Arkansas, Two Long Driving Days

The goal Wednesday was to continue southeast through El Paso, then east to Monahan Sandhills State Park in Monahan, Texas, to overnight; I had stopped there in November 2020 and November 2021 on the way from Arkansas to Arizona. This would be a relative short and easy driving day. Upon arrival, the office advised that they had no vacancies—it was impossible to reach them via phone! Consequently, we made the camping loop so Kay could see the dunes.

We then continued eastward to Coffee Creek RV Resort in Santo, Texas, just west of Weatherford. This resulted in a 600-mile travel day! We arrived before dark even with a time zone change, and fortunately, not too worse for wear.

Our 600-mile day trip

Thursday, the drive took us east towards Dallas, then northeast to home, a total of over 400+ miles. The trip was uneventful, though we did stop at Buc-ee’s fulfilling a bucket list item for Kay.

Homeward bound

We arrived safe and sound at the Hot Springs Village RV park about 5 PM. Kay took the old Honda CR V home as it was packed to the brim. Meanwhile, I began the process of setting up, so that the arduous task of unpacking the RV could take place. Kay returned with my car, and after filling it with stuff, we drove home to find Kay’s car’s battery dead. We began the overnight process of charging it, unpacked most of the stuff in the car, took hot showers, and enjoyed sleeping in the house bed (the motorhome bed is identical). 

Tuesday, March 8, 2022—Enroute to Arkansas, White Sands National Park

Up bright and early Tuesday morning, we departed Palm Creek and Casa Grande, Arizona, driving south then west with no particular overnight stopping place in mind. Our original plan had been to travel northeast, over the White Mountains, to near Petrified Forest National Park, the Interstate 40 to home; a 24-inch snowfall in the White Mountains a couple days before scuttled those plans. To make things a bit more challenging, just a day before our departure, the interstate past Tucson was closed due to high winds and dust. 

Fortunately, little to no wind and clear skies accompanied the day’s drive. We received a message from fellow travelers that RV sites were hard to come by on the way to Arkansas. After some discussion, we opted to stop in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and then visit White Sands National Park, recently renamed from White Sands National Monument.

Arriving fairly early in the afternoon, the motorhome was set up (on hooked up the electricity), a picnic lunch was made, and we were off to White Sands NP.  

The 50-minute drive took us through White Sands Missile Range where the US space program began.

White Sands National Park is completely surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range. White Sands was established as a national monument in 1933 and re-desginated as a national park in 2019. Today, its location between several military bases means the monument is sometimes closed due to missile tests. The park covers 145,762 acres in the Tularosa Basin, including the southern 41% of a 275 square mile field of white dunes composed of gypsum crystals.This dune field is very dynamic, with the most active dunes moving to the northeast at a rate of up to 30 feet per year, while the more stable areas of sand move very little. The pure gypsum (hydrous calcium sulfate) that forms these unusual dunes originates in the western portion of the monument from an ephemeral lake or playa with a very high mineral content. As the water evaporates (theoretically as much as 80″ per year!), the minerals are left behind to form gypsum deposits that eventually are wind-transported to form these white sand dunes. Many species of plants and animals have developed very specialized means of surviving in this area of cold winters, hot summers, with very little surface water and highly mineralized ground water. Major activities include hiking, sliding down the dunes, and just walking the dunes.

After watching the sunset, we returned to the RV for the evening.

Monday, March 7, 2022—The Winter Season Ends in Arizona

Three and a half months, two trips back to Arkansas, lots of photography, pickleball galore, not enough golf, too much wind, great weather, meeting new neighbors, and wonderful happy hours and potlucks—that’s been our winter in Arizona. 

For me, it began the day after Thanksgiving, November 26, 2022, as Dan Olson and I traveled by motorhome to Santo, Texas, then to Monahan Sandhills State Park in Texas, then to Rodeo, New Mexico, and finally to Arizona where we stayed at Whitewater Draw, Fort Huachuca, and ending up at Palm Creek. 

For Kay, it began on December 29, 2021, as we flew from Little Rock to Phoenix, and then traveled by car to Palm Creek Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona.

At the lounge in DFW International Airport

We enjoyed sunshine, few bugs, cold nights, and comfortable days. We did not enjoy wind and dust storms, and the guy backing our of his carport without looking, caving in the passenger door of the old Honda we tow. Several thousand photographs were made; most were deleted. Lots of pickleball was played, as was golf a couple of times a week for each of us. We traveled to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch, and Madera Canyon and Patagonia, Arizona, and we witnessed the best pickleball players in the world in Mesa. Except for aches and pains associated with our ages and physical activities, no illnesses were suffered. Some great shows were performed, and a little dancing occurred.

It was a great winter season, and we look forward to returning next season. Fortunately, we can do much the same thing at home with the same people!

Wednesday through Sunday, March 2-6—Tournament Time at Palm Creek

The Palm Creek Pickleball Club Members’ Tournament began Wednesday morning bright and early.

Kay was scheduled for one of the first games. She and her partner found the competition too tough, but nevertheless medaled—GOLD for Mixed Doubles in their age group. 

Steve Seitz and his female partner played in the 3.5 Palm group in their age bracket. Though they played well, their mixed double team did not medal.

Thursday morning I played as a late entry in the Men’s Partners, 70+ age group, and lost the first two matches, won the first game in the consolation bracket, but lost in the second game by a score of 13-15. For the first time this year, I “couldn’t find” my backhand!. Kay and her partner played in the Women’s Doubles, 70+ age group, but lost both games in the first round. They won the first consolation game, but lost the second to a team in which one of the players consistently made grossly bad line calls (even the referee agreed, but couldn’t or wouldn’t overrule), costing Kay and her partner the otherwise close game. However, Kay did win a SILVER medal in her age group.

Although a few games were played Friday morning, the tournament was postponed because of dangerous wind and dust. 

Saturday was a non-starter as well, with all round robins canceled to afford open play on all courts.

As the tournament wrapped up on Sunday, others from Hot Springs Village played, all medaling. Mary Seitz was awarded a BRONZE medal in her age group in the Women’s Partners, 3.0.

Steve Seitz was awarded a BRONZE medal in the Men’s 3.5 Palm group, perhaps the toughest group playing in the tournament. He and his partner played several outstanding “complete” games with great serves, dinks, and slams. Laurie Furney won bronze in her 4.0 Mixed Doubles group, having to play several hard fought matches. Photos of her below are with her Women’s Doubles, 4.0.

And, of course, Kay won gold in mixed doubles and silver in women’s doubles in her age group. A pizza party was held subsequent to the completion of all games and awarding of medals.

Sunday eventing we attended “Garth LIVE” show by the Garth Brooks Tribute Band from Phoenix. We saw them two years ago, and though they performed well Sunday evening, it was not a good as the previous show. In my opinion, the fiddle player was the star of the show and received a standing ovation.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022–Birding Southeastern Arizona

As we are wrapping up this winter in Arizona, I traveled to Madera Canyon and Patagonia, Arizona, respectively, to photograph birds for the last time this season.

The drive to Madera Canyon was about 1.5 half hours, but stretched into 2 hours after stopping to buy breakfast and retrieve a forgotten golf rangefinder. Madera Canyon was packed with people, and I got the last remaining parking place at Santa Rita Lodge, a great place for viewing birds. People were moving about, somewhat frightening the birds, but a few posed for photos. My goal was to capture hummingbirds in flight, or a least a good, sharp photo showing their colors. However, those photos will be saved for a future blog. I had planed to hike the long nature trail, but the crowds “drove” me away. Here are photos of other birds.

From Madera Canyon, I drove south and east to Patagonia, Arizona, home of Paton Center for Hummingbirds. Renowned for its backyard birds and scenic location, the Paton Center was acquired by the Tucson Audubon Society early in 2014. It was established as an international birding destination several decades earlier by Wally and Marion Paton, homeowners with a heart for birds and birders alike. When the Patons passed away in 2001 and 2009, the birding community began pulling together to save this gem for future generations. In the years and months since, many people have come forward with very generous donations to ensure a secure future for the site.