Wednesday, March 29, 2017

57th Escapade

As we planned to go fulltiming many years ago the Escapees RV Club was our go to place for information. We attended RV Boot Camp and the Escapade in Goshen, Indiana in 2007 and have been to five more rallies since that first one. At first we would volunteer for jobs when we arrived and then in 2011 in Gillette, Wyoming we served on staff. We have taken on different duties since then and this year we were co-coordinators with John and Lora Newby. This job was a big step up in responsibility requiring long days of setting up and helping to do whatever needed done to see that things ran smoothly. It was a lot of work and long hours, but also a fun time getting to meet new people and helping others enjoy their Escapade experience.
What is Escapade? A gathering of like minded people with the common interest in the RVing lifestyle that stared 39 years ago with 29 rigs. This year there were over 900 rigs and 2300 attendees who took part in 80 educational seminars, numerous socials, dancing, games and entertainment. All this while getting caught up with old friends and making new ones.
When we arrived at the Pima County Fairgrounds five days before the start of the Escapade the two huge buildings where just about everything happened were empty shells. Part of my job was to help Bob and John put up the sponsor's banners.
There were 14 banners and a four part stage back drop that we had to install wire for before we could hang them. A lot of climbing up and down the ladder.
Lora and Nanc worked in the office, did most of the needed signage throughout the grounds and were responsible for much of the decor along with anything else that popped up.
Another job all the staff helped with was stuffing over 900+ welcome bags with rally information and flyers. 
The market, which started as an empty hall, was soon buzzing as nearly 75 vendors set up their booths. When the doors opened hundreds of shoppers moved in to look and buy just about anything any RVer could possibly need, including a new rig.
Duane and Jean Mathes, Escapade Directors, who spent most of their time since the last rally in Vermont preparing for this one, opened the Escapade on Sunday afternoon.
Escapees have a long history of fun and tomfoolery going back to the founders, Joe and Kay Peterson, SKPs # 1. As you can see that tradition is being carried on by their grandson, club president Travis Carr and his wife Melanie (right), vice president. Nice panties Travis.  
The Escapades always have wonderful entertainment and this year was no exception. Native Spirit performed dances that are part of the culture of Native Americans. 
The group includes dancers who have won championships and performed in Europe, Central America, North America and for Fortune 500 companies.
Native Spirit leader Brian Hammill and his son Nedallas are World Champion Hoop Dancers. The dance under black light was fantastic. If you ever get a chance  this group is not to be missed.
We always say making and meeting friends is the best part of what we do. We met Gary and Anita several years ago at Betty's and have seen them on the road including in Winnipeg, their home base. They called and said they were passing through Tucson and wanted to get together.  Wow, we are so busy how do we do it?  Problem solved, adopt them into the Class of '07 and invite them to the social. They got to check out the market and we had a couple hours to catch up with their travels.
Class of '07 mates Jim, Bobbie and Sal (front) Jim, Norah, Molly, Lora and Bob (center) Angela, Bobbie, Mike and Heinz (back). We met most of these people at Boot Camp in 2007 and know they are always a fun crew.
This group of Class of '07 mates are the ones who went to Quartzsite the first winter on the road. Mike who is waving donated and cooked a turducken for the social. We took up a collection and raised over $300 for CARE (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees). 
Bob and Molly have been Escapade Directors since 2011 and have now passed the job on to Duane and Jean. Brenda had a quilt made out of the shirts for each of the events they managed. A big THANKS to them for all their work in making the Escapades a fun experience for all. 
We have not crossed paths with Susan and John since we were in California in 2009 but have been following their travels on Facebook. It was great seeing them again and getting caught up with all that has been going on in our lives. 
Sandy, Steve, Lora and John at the social. Lora and John were so busy as co-coordinators all week this is the only picture I got of them together. They were great work partners.
SPK friends who we met at Betty's RV Park in Abbeville: Jan and Bill; Loretta, Don, Sharon and Rey. We have seen them all on the road since meeting there, always the best part of RVing.
On another evening the entertainment was provided by Woodie and the Longboards. They did one set of Beach Boys songs that had them dancing in the aisles and the other set was Eagles songs. The crowd knew the words and sang along to all the tunes.  Great show!!!
One of my duties was to read the announcements at the beginning of each assembly. While this was a fun job as you can see below..............
...........not all my jobs were glamorous. I had to lead the truck around to all the rigs that needed their sewer tanks emptied. You can believe I heard many, many crap jokes about this job.
Jim Koca was the MC for the Escapees Got Talent show. As you can see, Jim is very shy and did not want to stand out.  More of that Escapee fun and tomfoolery.
Just a few of the many talented people who performed. There was singing, skits, cowboy poetry and many instrumentals. The kids are part of the Kidscapade program that is geared to families and kids going back to the way Escapees RV Club was when it started, working on the road and traveling with family. There were 65 kids in attendance this year.  They also took part during the assemblies by handing out door prizes.
Another fundraiser for CARE was the Hair-Raising Chili Cook-Off. Brenda was the winner of both the best chili and raising the most money prizes.
While we were so busy we did not get to attend any of the great seminars we were part of the full-time panel discussion; FAQs and chat. Brenda, the moderator, full timed for 16 years. Kim and Chris (left) have been on the road for seven years traveling with their four young children. Dave and Brenda (middle) had planned to be on the road for eight years and that has turned into 26. Nanc and I (right) are in our tenth year. It was fun sharing the lifestyle with follow SPKs.  
Escapees is all about community service where ever they are and that includes the blood drive for the local Tucson community.
We did squeeze in a couple happy hours given by Paul Evert, the dealer selling rigs at the rally. Nanc and Bobbie look like they are having a fun time. 
Part of the farewell party was a 90th birthday bash for Escapees founder, Kay Peterson. Even at 90 this woman is a dynamo who loves being with her many SKP friends.
As the more than 900 rigs began to depart, those of us on staff did in reverse what we had done last week. All the banners came down, the office was torn down and everything was packed in 26 carriers and loaded on to the big truck to be sent back to headquarters in Livingston, Texas.
A beautiful sunset over Tucson to end the day and another Escapade. Next year the 40th anniversary of the club and the 58th Escapade will be at the end of May in Sedalia, Mo. Since that fits our travel plans we have agreed to do the same job next year. We are already looking forward to seeing our many SKP friends there.  Thanks again to John and Lora who were great partners to work with and to Duane and Jean for a job well done.  Also, good luck to Bob and Molly on their new adventures and hope to see ya'll down the road.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mt Lemmon and Frederick Douglass

Our last few days at Tra-Tel RV Park were busy as usual doing a bit of exploring, using the Santa Cruz River Trail and taking in a play, something we have not done in a while. The temperature continues to be well above normal with highs in the 90's. Good news, the rain we had early in our visit has moved on so we have had sunny skies.
We went to this one man play about Frederick Douglass. It was sponsored by The Invisible Theatre, a local theater group. Mel Johnson Jr. did a great job playing the role of Douglass as an old man telling the story of his life. What the president said about him was correct about this play, “Frederick Douglass is an example of someone who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed,”. 
If you are in Tucson and want to escape the heat then the place to go is nearby Mt. Lemmon. Yes, we saw many bicyclists riding the road with a 6,500 foot elevation gain over 20 plus miles to the top. It is a really tough climb, but an easy, quick trip coming down. 
Going to the top the changes in weather and environment are the same as driving to Banff, Alberta in Canada.
The road winds slowly up through the five climate zones, easy in a car, really hard on a bike.
Standing near the edge, but behind a rock. You can see the road below.
Nanc loves living on the edge.
Hoodoos, tall thin spires of rock protruding from the ground. We saw a rock climber scaling one of them.
The vegetation changes the higher you go.
The five vegetation zones from desert to mixed conifer forest you pass through. If you were driving north at the same elevation you would find the top one somewhere in Montana.
OH NO!!!  Who knew you can ski so close to the desert in Tucson? This is the only way we want to see s##w, on a sunny day in the spring when it is 65.
Once you reach the top you can see the valley and the mountains over 60 miles away to the north toward Oracle. 
We checked out Summerhaven, a neat little ski village, at the end of the road. Even though it was only in the 60's it was warm enough for Nanc to be sitting outside without a coat. Guess being closer to the sun at 8,000 feet helps.
More hoodoos, these look like a couple people guarding the highway.
A drive to the top of Mt. Lemmon is well worth it if you are in the Tucson area. There are great views and a chance to escape the heat of the valley below.
Because it was getting hot earlier in the morning we started our walks before it heated up. Look who else is also up early in the day.
We saw six coyotes cross the trail and disappear into the scrub plants in the river wash. We had seen signs of them since we arrived here but seeing six at one time was very neat.
Looks like it is time for us to move on. See what they added to the sign at the RV park. Who knew snakes had their own season. We had paid $320 plus electricity for a month at Tra-Tel. We were leaving a couple days early for the Escapade and when I went in to pay for the power they said we had a credit because we were leaving early and owed nothing for electricity. That is the first time that has ever happened. If you are looking for a nice little park at a great rate in Tucson check out Tra-Tel.

We left Tra-Tel RV Park and are now 20 miles down the road at the Pima County Fairgrounds for the 57th Escapade. We were so busy at the Escapade that I am way behind with the blog. We will be heading to Deming tomorrow so maybe I'll be able to catch up.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and Friends

We had another great week in Tucson. The weather has really warmed up with highs near 90. Even with those high temperatures during the day it really cools off at night, sometimes by as much as 35 degrees. Most mornings we start out with long sleeves, change to a t-shirt by 10 AM and then back to long sleeves in the evening. One thing I like about places with higher humidity is the low temps are usually within five or ten degrees of the high. We have been exercising earlier in the day to beat the heat.
We had a few days with some high thin clouds so there has been some great sunsets. Our view looking out our big picture window - windshield.
We finally took advantage of the Santa Cruz River Bikeway. We rode nearly 20 miles on this beautifully paved trail. When complete it will be a loop over 100 miles long.
The Tra-Tel RV Park is in the background on the other side of the "river". To friends from parts of the country where rivers actually have water in them this does not look like much, but I guess during the monsoon season there is water.
Another morning during our walk we ran into Heather and Craig who we meet at Betty's RV Park. They are not full timers but do spend several months a year on the road. It was a quick visit, but it is always great seeing friends when we travel.
One of the neatest things about Arizona is the saguaro cactus. While you see them as part of landscaping in many places, they only grow in the wild in a very narrow band. In Tucson you have to get a bit higher in elevation to see them. Often where they grow there will be thousands of them. They do have a human look about them.  
We went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum with Allan and Sharon for the opening of the Pastel Association exhibit. We only got to see a small part of the 98 acre facility. It includes a museum, botanical garden, and aquarium in addition to the art galleries. Here are a few pictures of the many animals, some that I don't remember what they are, and landscapes.
In the scorpion display they have a button to turn on a black light so they glow. 
One of many species of tarantulas, this one is very colorful. 
A handler with a kestrel. We have seen many of these raptures during our morning walks.
Part of the cave exhibit includes a section about bats. I my have to get a pair of these bat ears because I sure could hear a lot better. That would make Nanc really happy.
Arizona has a huge number of different minerals. This is just a small part of that exhibit in the cave.
It was hot the day we were there and we were surprised how active many of the animals were. The mountain lion was roaming around its pen. They don't have one here but we saw on TV that they have spotted at least three jaguars in the southern part of the state. The wall will be stopping these illegal border crossings. 
The Black Bear was having a great time cooling off in the water.
A pair of wolves escaping the direct sunshine and afternoon heat.
The coyote was fast asleep and trying to stay cool.
None of the javelinas were moving. We saw a couple and they were both hiding in the shade. 
The chuckwalla is an animal that loves the heat. They are active at temperatures up to 102 degrees. This one was loving the heat.
A bobcat was holed up in a small box cage.
The frogs were in full spring time mode.
This is the only way I want to see a rattlesnake. They have many different species of rattlers. This one was extremely active. We sure were happy it was behind glass.
If you have Wile E Coyotes you have to have roadrunners. We often see them on our walks.
No this is not a two headed snake, it is two coiled together.
While they are not native to the Sonoran Desert the prairie dogs are always popular.
Here are several pictures of the many cacti and desert plants in full bloom.
While the desert blooms do not cover the ground like spring plants in wetter environments, there is still a variety of colors. 
The Sonoran Desert has one of the greatest variety of plants of any arid environment.
There is also a very large variety of bees that pollinate the many plants.
One blooming and one dead century plant. These plants are part of the agave family and only bloom once. While it takes a long time to bloom, 20 to 30 years, it does not take a century. 
It is neat seeing so many different desert plants all together. 
Many of the plants here are meant to attract bees and butterflies.
The otter was in almost constant motion. You can view them underwater or from above.
The sheep seem to like the shade over the sun.
While it is a zoo, wild animals are on the grounds. This guy was eating the leaves off the plant. We didn't mind seeing him but we sure were glad we did not see any snakes.
We had visited the hummingbird garden when we were here last month, but were told we should check it out again because the were mating. Here is one on a nest. Their eggs are the size of a small jellybean. 
The desert museum is a worthwhile stop if you want to get up close with a large variety of desert plants and animals.