Monday and Tuesday, March 20-21, 2023—Wild Horses and Desert Canyons

Monday afternoon, we met for the next to last HH (happy hour.) “Arkansas” happy hours provide a great time to visit, eat hors d’oeuvres, and enjoy an adult beverage or two with other Arkansans, but the number of attendees is dwindling as couples end their winter and return home. Also on Monday, Kay and I have been participating in “our street’s”neighborhood” Monday night pickleball.

The wind was howling in Casa Grande on Tuesday, March 21, so Kay and I opted to do a day trip to the Salt River area in Tonto National Forest near Mesa, Arizona, where the winds were not to high, but it was misting rain. Our goal was to view and photograph the wild horses of Salt River. We slowly passed by the 7 recreation sites where the wild horses have historically been observed: Granite Reef, Phon D Sutton, Coon Bluff, Blue Point, Pebble Beach, Saguaro Lake, and Butcher Jones. These 7 recreation sites are all within 13 miles of each other, only taking 20 minutes to get from the first (Granite Reef) to the last (Butcher Jones). There were no wild horses at any of these sites, but the landscapes were great.

We traveled further north and east on the North Bush Highway, and then veered north away from the river and Saguaro Lake. Near MP 35, we noticed a number of cars parked on the side of the highway. Sure enough, a few wild horses were coming into view on top of the hill, and they grazed towards the highway. As we watched we noticed several scattered bunches across the entire hill side.

In addition to photographing these magnificent creatures whose genes date back to the 1600s in this area high desert flowers were in bloom and presented great photo ops.

We were particularly drawn to the Cactus bloom and the Desert Globemallow, aka Apricot Mallow.

Bush Highway, we traveled south to the small city of Apache Junction, then northeast on East Apache Trail. Apache Trail is a scenic byway designated in 1998. It is approximately 39 miles long, winding in and out of some of the most awe-inspiring country in Arizona—or for that matter, in the West. A couple of years ago, we drove the section from Roosevelt to Globe, and a couple of weeks ago we drove the section from Globe to near Apache Junction (we had also driven this route a couple of years ago.) Today, we closed the loop by traveling the drivable portion of the Apache Trail from Apache Junction to Fish Creek Hill Overlook/Rest Area (MP 220). Note: Due to the potential for severe flooding from areas burned in the Woodbury Fire in June 2019, a 5-mile, unpaved section of the Apache Trail from the Fish Creek Hill Overlook/Rest Area (MP 222) to MP 227 (near Reavis Trailhead Road) remains closed for public safety reasons, due to extensive roadway damage and rock debris.

The first main attraction (4.5 miles from Apache Junction) on the Apache Trail was a reconstructed 1890s ghost town, Goldfield Ghost Town. The second main attraction was Lost Dutchman State Park. It gets its name from a longstanding legend about a lost gold mine within the mountains that was discovered, then lost to time by an infamous “Dutchman.” Even today, treasure hunters continue to scour the Superstitions looking for the lost gold. Next was Canyon Lake. It is one of three man-made lakes along the Apache Trail, and by far, the most scenic. Dramatic red rock cliffs surround the lake. Following Canyon Lake was the small town of Tortilla Flat. Founded as a stagecoach stop along the Apache Trail in 1904, Tortilla Flat is one town that’s refused to be swept away by the desert sands of time. The saloon and restaurant are famous for their hamburgers, a fact we didn’t know until later. And then, Fish Creek Hill presented itself. The drive from Tortilla Flat up to the Fish Creek Hill Viewpoint is quite challenging but very scenic. We stopped at viewpoints along the way for dramatic photos of the Sonoran Desert vistas.

Three miles east, the road passes above a short slot canyon with pools and dry falls. The road forded Tortilla Creek, up to our running board, and then soon after, the paved section ends and a narrow gravel track continues to Fish Creek Hill Overlook/Rest Area, where the road was closed.

After turning around, we traveled back to Casa Grande, winding up a great day.

Monday through Sunday, March 6-19, 2023—Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

While Kay is keeping active with pickleball and Sunday afternoon golf, and partying, I have been working on writing a book on the ancestry of Fred and Zoula Dunn, my paternal grandparents. My participation in sports is limited to playing occasional pickleball left-handed as the right arm is useless due to a suspected rotator cuff tear.

Weather continues to be subpar, with cooler than normal temperatures, occasional rain (much needed in the area), and high winds.

Highlights of the week include Wednesday evening bridge with the Seitz’s, Friday afternoon pickleball with the Arkansas group, Sunday night concerts, and Monday afternoon “Arkansas” happy hours.

Sunday night concerts have mostly been really good, but on Sunday, March 12, the Eagles and Friends Show featuring music of the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Joe Walsh, and JD Souther was average. It was the same band, The Big Zephyr, that performed for the Linda Ronstadt concert a few weeks ago, with another lead vocalist. Most of the musicians were “mature” and one of the lead guitarists pranced around stage like Mick Jagger—not becoming!

The “That’s Country—The Outlaw Show” On Sunday, March 17, featuring music of  Johnny Cash and his outlaw friends Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and Charlie Daniels was really good.

All the musicians and vocalists were good, but the fiddle (and violin) player, Cathy King from Mesa, was excepti0nal. She had all the audience rocking in their seats.

Monday afternoon “Arkansas” happy hours provide a great time to visit, eat hors d’oeuvres, and enjoy an adult beverage or two. But, the number of attendees is dwindling as couples return to their domicile.

And, Friday afternoon “Arkansas” pickleball is always fun, but the dinner and adult beverages afterward is even funner!

Wednesday through Sunday, March 1-5, 2023—Trying to Stay Busy

Here’s hoping that March brings “better” weather—not the cold, windy days experienced most of winter here in Arizona.  

Kay played pickleball on Wednesday, and I processed photos taken yesterday at Picacho Peak State Park. And, we “played” bridge with the Seitz’s in the evening. Our Wednesday evening bridge lessons with Steve and Mary have proven to be one of the highlights of the winter season here at Casa Grande. We’ve learned that there is so much we don’t know, but every week it seems a little tidbit is added to the repertoire. And, the evening is kept simple—no drinks or snacks—and it makes for a very pleasant evening! Now, if I could only keep Kay from saying, “just one more game.”

Thursday was Kay’s “cut and color” day, and she was real happy with the results. If Kay is happy …

Another highlight of the week was a cycling trip on the Consolidated Canal Path in Chandler and Gilbert, Arizona, on Friday. Norm Bushee and I met at the Paseo Vista Recreation Area Trailhead in Chandler, and rode north about 10 miles to Guadalupe Road, then back south to to the trail terminus at the intersection of East Hunt Highway and South Arizona Avenue, and finally back to the trailhead. This ride was a long time in the making. On the trip from home to Casa Grande, we almost lost my bicycle twice because the bike rack slipped and the bicycle kept tipping backwards. Fortunately, Kay’s bicycle was firmly enough entrenched in the rack to keep mine from falling completely off. The problem was solved by adding a “stopper” bolt in the bike rack bar to prevent further slipping—and it worked! However, there might be a new bike rack in our future. Now, back to the ride. Make no mistake, it was a great ride. However, there were several intersections and some road noise from nearby traffic. Signage was good, and the intersections were well controlled to allow trail user crossings. Statistically, here are our results. 

26.67 mi—Distance, 2:22:09—Moving Time, 110 ft—Elevation

137 W—Estimated Avg Power, 1,169 kJ—Energy Output 

Speed11.3 mi/h18.9 mi/h
Heart Rate90 bpm106 bpm
Elapsed Time3:30:20
Ride Information from Strata
Norm Bushee at the beginning of the ride
Beginning of the ride
Consolidated Canal Path
Consolidated Canal Path
Restrooms were available along the trail
Hand-held iPhone photo
Small section of gravel

Despite heavy traffic on I-10, I made it back in time to play (left-handed) pickleball with the “Arkansas” group. There were three full courts, and we had some fun games. Afterwards, we enjoyed beer and pizza at Dell’s.

Kay played pickleball again Saturday afternoon; for someone who never played sports, she does well and is steadily improving. Sunday afternoon was for the “Arkansas” group to play golf, and of course, Kay played and won a bit of money once again; that seems to be a habit. Sunday night was a dinner and concert. The food was good and the concert was great. It featured Crystal Stark doing a tribute to Whitney Houston. She put on a marvelous performance and was backed by a great band and back-up singer. Of course her resume is outstanding, including graduating magna cum laude in music education from University of Arizona, educator, America’s Got Talent semi-finalist, and international recording artist. Images courtesy of her website.

Crystal Stark
Crystal Stark and family

Monday and Tuesday, February 27 and 28, 2023—Finally, Some Photos

Monday was Arkansas Happy Hour day. We had good times visiting and sharing, though numbers are rapidly dwindling. Afterwards, Kay played pickleball with the neighborhood ladies, and had a really good time.

I finally made it out to take photos on Tuesday morning, traveling southeast about 30 minutes to Picacho Peak State Park to view the wildflowers. The Mexican Gold Poppies and the Lupine were in full bloom.

Mexican Gold Poppies
Mexican Gold Poppy
Mexican Gold Poppy

Given that it was the peak of the wildflower season at the park, I had to wait in due for about half an hour to enter the park, and then there were no readily available parking places at any of the trailheads or picnic areas.

Pichacho Peak SP
Pichacho Peak SP
Pichacho Peak SP
Pichacho Peak SP
Pichacho Peak SP
Pichacho Peak SP
Pichacho Peak SP

Another winter month has come and gone—much too fast. Many snowbirds will be leaving tomorrow (March 1), returning to their “sticks and bricks” house in colder climates, hoping winter is near over.

Monday through Sunday, February 20-26, 2023—Tournament Time

Monday was Arkansas Happy Hour day, hosted by the Bushees, and again another birthday was celebrated.

On Tuesday morning we had breakfast with Mary Emily and her friend Tim who were traveling from east coast to west and back. Mary Emily and her late husband, Wayne, were Winter Texan friends of hours for several years. Tim was also a recent widower and the two of them are having a great time traveling together.

This week another dinner and dance was held on Tuesday evening to celebrate Mardi Gras. The food was good—shrimp and chicken gumbo was the main course—but the band was too loud and with too much bass and not terribly good. We left after an hour of music, staying way too long! 

Wind has been particularly heavy this week, with speeds consistently over 15 miles per hours and gusts up to 50 miles per hour. In addition, rain Tuesday evening and a good portion of Wednesday, combined with high wind speeds, postponed the start of the Palm Creek Pickleball Club annual tournament until Thursday. Neither Kay nor I played because of injuries, but the action was fast and furious. The metal matches were particularly good, with most finishing with close scores. I also took a Lawn Bowling class on Thursday morning. It is believed that Lawn Bowling was played in Europe during the 12th century. It became very famous in England because in lawn bowling, physical stress is minimum. Since in those days there was always a war with the neighboring countries, the same proved to be a stress reliever. Bowls, also known as lawn bowls or lawn bowling, is a sport in which the objective is to roll biased balls so that they stop close to a smaller ball called a “jack” or “kitty”. It is played on a bowling green, which are usually be flat, and is normally played outdoors., on Thursday I took a lawn bowling class.

We watched practically our club’s pickleball tournament all day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but only a portion on Sunday. Friend Steve Seitz won gold in the competitive 3.5 group. All told, there were 537 participants, all members of the club here at Palm Creek. Kay also played golf Sunday afternoon with the Arkansas group and again won money!

Monday through Sunday, February 6-19, 2023—Party Time

Without pickleball everyday and golf a couple times a week, and with almost daily winds in excess of 15 mph and cooler than usual temperatures, we’re finding it hard to keep busy doing things we like. Photography has definitely suffered! We still enjoy the Arkansas happy hour potlucks on Monday afternoons, Wednesday bridge lessons with the Seitz’s, and Friday pickleball with the Arkansas group. And, Kay plays golf every Sunday afternoon and pickleball with the neighborhood ladies most Monday evenings. Oh, and Kay also plays pickleball almost every Tuesday and volunteers a couple times a week checking people in at the pickleball desk. So, she stays busy—not unusual.

I played pickleball on Wednesday, February 8, and again with the Arkansas folks on Friday, February 10. While there was no aches nor pains while playing, the right shoulder really hurt afterward. Consequently, I decided to not play again as the pain doesn’t seem to go away, and see an orthopedic specialist when we return to Hot Springs Village—a real bummer for this pickleball addict! And, this is probably the last word on the injury.

We did an interesting road trip on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, driving north and east to Globe, Arizona, trying to find the Salt River Canyon Scenic Drive. Though we didn’t find the scenic drive, we did drive up into the mountains to snow level at about 5,000 feet. In fact, there was enough snow on the roads that we turned around. Regrettably, the rain, snow, overcast, and mist did not provide for great photos.

A very rare Crested Saguaro Cactus.

The annual Palm Creek Pickleball Club dinner and dance was Thursday, February 16. We shared a table with the Seitz’s. The theme was “The Roaring Twenties.” The food (a pasta bar) was good and the band was great, maybe the best dance band we’ve experienced at Palm Creek. A good time was had by all.

Steve and Mary Seitz

On Saturday, February 18, we traveled to Bell Bank Park in Mesa to watch the Professional Pickleball Association tournament. Having watched a lot of the players live and on You Tube, it seems as if they are neighbors. The game among the pros (all very young, athletic, and mostly tall) is becoming so fast and physically challenging, that amateurs are emulating their play. The game is evolving so quickly that future play among us minions will appear to be in slow motion and have to be broken down by age group.

Anna Leigh Waters and her mother, Leigh, on the far right. She is rated as the best female player in the world; just turned 16 years old!

Kay played golf with the Arkansas group on Sunday afternoon, and afterwards Ron and Bev Graham hosted a root beer float party at their place. Following root beer float party, the pickleball club hosted “Paddle Day” for trying out most, if not all, the most popular brands of paddles on the market. Neither of us bought a new one!

PS: The blog updates are running behind—mainly because of the lack of photos! If the weather will ever cooperate, then some photo ops should become available!

Wednesday through Sunday, February 1-5, 2023—A Bit Bored

Kay was still experiencing a sore left hamstring, and joined me in seeing the chiropractor on Wednesday; he recommended exercises for her, but did not schedule any further appointments. I continued the TENS treatment at his office, concluding the daily appointments on Thursday.  

Having waited the advised two-day moratorium on pickleball recommended by the ortho clinic, I was off to the pickleball courts on Friday for a  couple of games on the challenge courts. It was obvious the time off had impacted the hand/eye coordination and ability to hit near the lines. I did experience some slight soreness afterwards. Later in the afternoon, two courts of “Arkansas” pickleballers played several games, and Kay was able to finally play after a week’s absence. Significant pain and soreness reappeared in my right shoulder during the evening. Consequently, Saturday was a “down” day with a bit of coach housekeeping on the schedule.

Kay opted to rest her hamstring Sunday, and I departed early and traveled to the Salt River northeast of Phoenix in an attempt to photograph wild horses.

No luck spotting wild horses, but the “mountain” atmosphere in the western part of Tonto National Forest was a welcome respite from the daily grind of hanging around the RV resort.

Even a Phainopepla posed for a photo.

From the Salt River, I drove to the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert to see if any birds were posing for photographs. As with the absence from pickleball, the absence from photography had definitely impacted my ability to make good photos! 

A brief stop was made at Costco to pick up some much needed coffee, Coke, and beer. We attended a dinner/concert in the evening featuring Piano Men: Generations—the Music of Billy Joel and Elton John. Father and son team of Terry and Nick Davies and their incredible band provided an outstanding concert, perhaps the best we’ve seen at any of the winter shows presented at the resort.

Friday through Tuesday, January 20-31, 2023—Honey, It’s Cold Outside; Injuries Abound

This has been the coldest winter that we’ve experienced in Arizona; in fact, it is the coldest we have experienced since wintering away from home. Highs have mostly been in the 50s, and lows in the high 30s and low 40s. Combined with light to moderate winds, it’s been chilly. Nevertheless, on Friday afternoon we wandered outside to play pickleball with the Arkansas contingent; it was my first time to play right-handed in two weeks. Afterwards, we had “dinner” as a group at Boston’s. My right shoulder ached afterwards. 

Most days here are carbon copes of one another. We have dinner out with friends a few times during the week (Saturday was at Texas Road House with the Bushees), attend concerts/dances on Sunday evenings, and Kay and I play pickleball or golf most days, including Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Temperatures were so cold on Wednesday that over 150 pickle balls were broken during play. The right shoulder was re-injured playing golf during a match on Thursday, January 26. I have ceased playing pickleball for the time being because of the injury. Here’s a panorama of 24 of the 32 courts here at Palm Creek.

On Friday, January 27, we attended the Major League Pickleball tournament in Mesa featuring all the big name pros. It was one of the most exciting days of sports either of us has experienced. With the intent of only staying three or four hours, we stayed nine! 

Anna Leigh Waters, just turned 16, considered by many to be the best pickleball player in the world
Ben Johns, 23, also considered by many to be the best pickleball player in the world

Kay injured here left hamstring Saturday, thus neither of us did much of anything Sunday or Monday. Finally giving in to the pain, I visited a chiropractor on Tuesday, and he did a couple of adjustments and activated a TENS unit for about 20 minutes. He was a great practitioner and surprisingly referred me to a sports ortho clinic and arranged for an appointment there in the afternoon.

Life without pickleball

Without an MRI, the ortho specialist suggested and executed a “diagnostic” cortisone injection, advising not to play pickleball for a couple of days.

Friday through Thursday, January 13-19, 2023—Great Birding and Pickleball?

Hot Springs Village friend, Mike Cigleman, and I met Friday morning at the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert for birding/photography. Not many birds were flying, but Mike picked up a bunch in the trees and shrubs using the “Sound ID” on Cornell’s Lab app, Merlin. After identifying a particular bird using sound, Mike would visibly locate the bird. After lunch, we did a quick walk-around at Veterans’ Oasis Park in Chandler, identifying up a few more birds, including Some Costa’s Hummingbirds. Regrettably, I did not carry the camera on that walk! It was a really good day for Mike as he picked up 57 species, a new Big Day for him, as well as 17 Lifers. 

Friday was also pickleball day for the Arkansas group. I arrived back in Palm Creek just in time to make the second game as the start time shifted from 3:30 PM to 3:00 PM. I opted to play left-handed because of the right shoulder injury; pity my partners. Kay played really well. Afterwards, we all enjoyed sandwiches and beer at a local sports bar.

Saturday was a quiet day for us; no pickleball or golf or photography. Rain all day Sunday and Monday dictated activities, or the absence of them—no golf, no pickleball, no photography, and no happy hours—basically we stayed in the motorhome. I didn’t mind as it provided additional time for the shoulder injury to heal. And, it provided time to read (12 books since Christmas thanks to Jim Morris for author suggestions.) But, we did celebrate Mary Seitz’s birthday at Texas Roadhouse; rumor is that she turned 39!

Mary celebrating her “39th” birthday
The “Arkansas” group

And, we attended a show in the evening, “Coast to Coast” by the vocal quartet, the 4 Gents. My oh my, but they were awesome; possibly the best show we’ve seen in our almost 15 years of wintering in Texas and Arizona. They specialize in doo-wop and popular music from the 50s and 60s, sticking to the original artists’ harmonies and choreography. All four singers are classically trained, and have experience singing opera. Again, they were awesome.

Tuesday was a return to “normal,” whatever that is. Kay played pickleball and I wandered around aimlessly, waiting for the shoulder to heal—arghh!

After attempting to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist in the greater Phoenix and Casa Grande areas, and attempting to schedule an appointment with a family medicine doctor in the Casa Grande areas—April was first opening for either—I relented and scheduled an appointment with a nearby Urgent Care for Wednesday, knowing that I would see a Nurse Practitioner. With a 12 noon appointment, paperwork was updated and the nurse practitioner came in, we talked, and he gave me the option of getting general steroid injection in the hip; I declined. He then gave me the option of getting an anti-inflammatory injection in the hip, a bit stronger than an Alleve, etc. I reluctantly agreed. He said that there it was likely a strain or small tear, and rest was the best solution. And, that was that; no further comments about the state of medical care in the US.

The anti-inflammatory injection helped a lot, and much of the bad pain went away. Thus, I was hoping to play pickleball Thursday, but Kay laid down the law and said to wait until Friday, and then play left-handed. While she played pickleball, I watched some matches of the highest level players, trying to pick up some advice here and there, and perhaps some strategy lessons. It was enjoyable, particularly because I could listen to an audio book while watching play (thank goodness for bluetooth hearing aids.)

Thursday through Thursday, January 5-12, 2023—A Test/Assessment and Healing

Kay continues to play pickleball several times a week and is steadily improving. In addition, she plays golf weekly, and is hitting the ball well. She worked the check-in desk for pickleball Thursday morning, and played with her round robin group in the afternoon, and won several matches. 

On Friday morning, I was assessed for promotion to the next higher level of pickleball. The following will be of interest only to people who follow pickleball.

The assessment process included both Skills Testing and Play Observation. Ratings are recognized by USAPA, IPTPA, PC Canada or DUPR. I was being assessed to move from the 3.30 to 3.49 group to the 3.50-3.89 group. The assessment was comprised of two components: a Skills Based Component and a Game Play Component.

Skills Component consisted of dinks, drop shots, serves, and return of serves as follows:

DINKS (Ball must land in the Kitchen)

Forehand/Backhand 14 out of 20 Windshield wiper Dinks

DROP SHOTS (Ball must land in the Kitchen)

Transition-forehand 8 out of 10

Transition-backhand 8 out of 10

Baseline-forehand 6 out of 10

Baseline-backhand 6 out of 10

SERVES (Ball must land in back 1/2 of court, excluding the kitchen)

Right court, 4 out of 5

Left court, 4 out of 5

RETURN OF SERVES (Ball must land in back 1/2 of court, excluding the kitchen)

Right court-forehand, 4 out of 5

Left court-backhand, 4 out of 5

Minimum to pass is 58 out of 80.

At the conclusion of the Skills Component, assessment participants played three games with other players. Scores were recorded and evaluators observed overall play. Assessment was objective, based on Skill scores, Game scores and evaluator feedback on overall game play.

It was a very difficult test, particularly transition-BACKHAND and baseline-BACKHAND drop shots. I did PASS, and was promoted to the 3.50-3.89 group; I was the only age 70+ player in the group.

Kay and I both played social pickleball with the Arkansas group Friday afternoon, and we all had pizza afterward.

Saturday was a rest day for us, but Sunday was a full day with golf in the afternoon, and a Neal Diamond tribute show in the evening.

Kay continued playing pickleball Monday, but I was in a bit of pain from the “bad” shoulder and did not participate in any physical activities. In fact the pain was such that I did not participate in the Arkansas happy hour in the late afternoon.

I played golf with the Arkansas group on Tuesday, and it did not end well. I shot a decent game, but reinsured the right shoulder joint, and was in substantial pain. On Wednesday and Thursday, Kay continued playing pickleball and working the pickleball desk. I attempted to get an appointment at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix for the injured shoulder, but there were no appointments available through April. Otherwise, I watched several pickleball games and lawn bowling, soaked in the hot tub, watched social water volleyball, and listened to several audio books.

Friday was pickleball day for the Arkansas group. I opted to play left-handed; pity my partners. Kay played really well. Afterwards, we all enjoyed sandwiches and beer at a local sports bar.