Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Friends in Mesa

We are settled in at Good Life RV Resort in Mesa until the first of the year. We have been in the area several times and have done many of the tourist things, so much of this visit has been about seeing old friends and making new ones.
Jim and Bobby are Class of 07 mates who bought a place in Sun City on the west side of Phoenix. We were looking forward to seeing them and their new winter home. It is a very nice condo that is part of the first Del Webb community.
They invited us for lunch that turned out to be one of Jim's famous meals of steak for the guys and salmon for the ladies. Jim is a master of the grill.
As you can see we had a fun time. Jim and Bobby spend their winters here and then live in the RV in Colorado in the summer. Lately Nanc and I have talked about needing to start our search for some place to settle down so we were very interested in their condo. We were very impressed with their home and all the activities and facilities that are available to owners. One thing we have decided is that if and when we find a place it will be in the East, not in the desert.
On election day Linda, whom I worked with in WashPA many years ago, came over to watch the results with us. The evening started with smiles but sure did not end that way.
Other RV friends, who we have not seen since we were here three years ago, are Alan and Sharon. Sharon was not feeling well and did not want her picture taken. They have a place in Apache Junction set up like an art studio where they are following their retirement passion, pastel painting. They sure have produced many great works since our last visit.
Here at Good Life there are plenty of things going on where we have made new friends. Three days a week they have music for happy hour and this was a party to celebrate the opening of the new Cactus Grill and Party Patio.  
Our neighbors Nancy and Gary have been coming here for twelve years to escape the Minnesota winters.
Cathy and Mike are RVers from Michigan who just started full timing this year. We introduced them to our favorite restaurant here, Red White and Brew.
Marg from British Columbia and Darrel from Manitoba met here after their spouses passed away. They are showing off a few steps to the music at happy hour. 
Wanda and Ken are also from Manitoba. As you can see they are happy to be in the Valley of the Sun. There are more people arriving every day who are here to escape the cold winter weather up north. After Christmas the place will be full.
The super moon over Mesa. We have been dealing with a couple of RV issues since we got here, one with the new oven and another with a repair we had at Duncan in Indiana last month. Hopefully both will be resolved this week and then I will write about them. We have also been enjoying the pool and getting some sun as we prepare for a vacation to Mexico next week, so life is good.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Ojo to Mesa - Hillary Rally

When we left Ojo we had a bit more than a 500 mile drive to Mesa. That's at least a two day drive for us with most of the first day on interstates and all the second day on the red roads. There is no easy way to get from the high plateau 7,000 feet above sea level in Northern Arizona down to Mesa almost 6,000 feet below. We have done it on Interstate 17 and on route 60 and this time we figured we would try the Beeline Highway over the Mogollon Rim from Holbrook. 
We were on the road early as the forecast on the rim was for 35 mph winds in the afternoon. The first forty miles was across the high plateau on a narrow two lane road. The good news was there was very little traffic
After a few miles of driving through forest on flat land we came to the Mogollon Rim and it seemed like the bottom fell out. There were two long 6% downhills that are almost ten miles long. The good news it was almost all four lane highway to Payson. 
From Payson to Mesa there where a couple long 6% downhills and then several miles of climbs and descents with a couple 7% hills. While there are many long hills, including some climbs on this road, most of it was four lane and really not too bad with the engine brake. We knew we were near the bottom when we began to see the giant saguaro cactus. 
We checked into Good Life RV Resort and got set up for our two month stay. We are looking forward to our stay and getting together with friends. We were treated to this beautiful sunset our first evening.  
We were here for our 47th anniversary and celebrated with a great meal at Dvine, a nice local restaurant that, in addition to great food, has music each evening. It is really hard to believe that this is the tenth anniversary we have had since going on the road.
We heard that Hillary Clinton was having the largest rally of her campaign on the campus of Arizona State in Tempe so we decided we would go. We arrived two hours early thinking it would give us plenty of time to find a parking spot and get to the venue. We were shocked to find the line was four blocks long.
After more than an hour we made it through security and were into the standing room only area. 
This was as close as we could get to the seats. I guess those people were here real early.
As with all political rallies there were several speakers to warm up the crowd. The first was National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. We fit right in with this group with our NEA shirts and pins.
The next speakers were Ann Kirkpatrick, who is running for the U.S. Senate against John McCain, and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in an assassination attempt in 2011. We have seen Gabby on TV many times and it was a thrill to hear her speak. 
Finally after a long delay due to her plane being late, Hillary Clinton came on stage and the crowd went wild. She was a much better speaker in person than what we have seen on TV.

After the speech most people headed for the exits, but we moved forward to try to get a better look and maybe even a hand shake. You can see Hillary in the middle of the crowd surrounded by supporters and Secret Service agents.
We never got close enough for the hand shake......
.....but I did get a couple of closer pictures with the phone. I was surprised how close people were to her.
I got one last picture of Hillary. Being a political junkie this was a very neat experience and we felt we were fortunate to actually be a part of history in the making, seeing a female presidential candidate from a major political party. We sure were sad about the outcome of the election and are not very optimistic about the future, but only time will tell.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Topeka to Ojo

We left Topeka and headed west across Kansas, Colorado and into New Mexico to Ojo Caliente. The first 100 miles were on I-70 and the last 650 were on secondary highways. We love traveling these roads and seeing the small towns and cities along the way.
The rolling hills of Kansas. Even on the interstate there was not much traffic.
Actually we were more likely to encounter this kind of traffic jam on the local roads. There were signs warning to be alert for farm machinery because it is the harvest season.
 Not sure what grain this is but it looks like a work of art as it is piled on the ground before shipping.
There are fewer and fewer of these old style grain elevators, but seeing them in the distance is a sign of a small town along the railroad.
Our first stop after Topeka was Dodge City. Even though we have been here before and done all the Wild West stuff, we stayed two days to catch up on laundry after not having full hook ups at our last stop. 
The biggest change in Southwest Kansas since our 2012 visit is the huge boom in wind energy. There are hundreds of windmills spinning in the wind and many more on the ground waiting to be assembled.
In Garden City there is a huge area with parts for hundreds of windmills. These behemoths are more than 300 feet tall with turbines the size of our motorhome sitting atop towers over 200 feet in the air with three blades over 110 feet long.
We drove highway 10 across the high plains of Colorado in 2012 and it's now one of my favorites. It is a narrow two lane road, but with very little traffic. You can get the feel of what it must have been like for the early pioneers when they got there first look at the towering Rocky Mountains in the distance.
After an overnight stop at the base of the mountains, the next morning we headed over 9,413 foot LaVeta Pass. They are all set for winter with the snow fencing in place. We were surprised that there was no snow even on the highest peaks.
Another change since our last visit to Colorado is legal recreational marijuana. Every little town had a shop with the green cross. I have to say we?????????????????
Beautiful fall trees as we arrived in Ojo Caliente.
This is the third time we have been to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs and Spa. We love coming here to soak our bones in the springs and get massages. One thing we don't like, they doubled the price of an RV spot and the only improvement was a bath house that we don't need. I guess it is just that it is becoming more popular.
There are great hiking trails at Ojo that we always take advantage of. The trees along the river where in there full fall splendor.
Once you get away from the water the high desert is covered with dry land vegetation. Here the sun was lighting up the trees in the valley below. 
Just before our last visit there was a bad flood in Ojo. On our hike we found this old wash that the flood had cleared of debris making a new trail down the hill. 
The springs are open until 10 PM and it is very neat watching the stars come out while soaking in the warm springs. 
One of the seven different springs. Each has water with different minerals that are said to cure what ails you. The Lithia water is said to improve digestion and mood.  
The big pool is the coolest and is right next to the hottest soaking pool. There is also a mud pool where you can mud up and then dry out in the warm New Mexico sun.
Nanc found this corner of the Iron Pool where the hot water was coming in on her back. The iron is said to benefit your blood and immune system, prevent fatigue and promote healthy skin tone.
I don't know if it's all the minerals, the warm high desert sun or the quiet atmosphere at Ojo, but being here sure is relaxing.
Even though we are not happy with the increase in price for the campground, we do love spending time at Ojo. This time we even ventured into "town" for a couple meals even though the restaurant here is very good. Ojo will always be a stop for us when we are in the Southwest.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Kansas Capitol & Browns

Touring the state capitol building in Topeka, Kansas, our 23rd, was beyond a doubt the high point of any we have seen so far. We also visited the the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site where they tell the story of that historic Supreme Court decision.
The Kansas capitol is built in the classic style with four wings that house the legislative and executive branches of government. At 304 feet the dome is 17 feet higher than the United States Capitol. 
President Dwight David Eisenhower was born in Texas and died in Pennsylvania but his formative years were spent in Abilene, Kansas, the site of his presidential library. 
The interior dome is composed of 256 glass panels. The chandelier is a replica of the original which was melted down during WWII as part of the scrap metal drive.
The flags in the rotunda represent the nations that have claimed any part of the state throughout its history; United Kingdom, the French Monarchy, the French Republic, Mexico, Spain, Texas, United States and Kansas.
The thing that makes this tour unique is that we got to go up into the dome. On the first landing you can see the back of the columns where, over the years, people have written graffiti. This is no longer allowed. You can also get an up close look at the chandelier. 
Looking down from the steps to the second level is really impressive.
And we still had a long way to go, from the outer edge of the dome, up the long straight stairs, to the spiral steps, to the top. It is 296 steps from the fifth floor where the tour starts to the top.
Looking through the center of the interior dome at the painted walls on the inside of the dome we viewed from the ground floor.
The outside of the glass panels and the winch that is used to lower the chandelier to the floor below for cleaning and changing the light bulbs.
We made it!  I've always wanted to go to the top of the U.S. capitol but I don't think that will ever happen so this will have to do even though the view of Topeka and the Kansas plains is not the same as the view would be of Washington, DC. We did learn that Oregon is the only other state that allows dome tours, so it has moved up on our to do list.
The Kansas Senate chamber with 40 members has been restored to its original appearance. The chamber has several types of marble and the original, native Kansas wild cherry desks.
Here we are seated on the bench in the Old Supreme Court chamber. In this chamber in 1925 the court was the first in the country to outlaw the Ku Klux Klan.
Some of the beautiful art work, including the state seal, found in the capitol.
The House of Representatives has 125 members. A unique feature of this chamber is some of the pink columns are really painted using a faux marble process. 
Another unique feature of this capitol is the 1923 elevator that still has an operator rather than being modernized. The legislature has even passed a law that it will always have an operator.
The Governor's Ceremonial Office that is used for bill signings has many pieces of art and artifacts that are important to Kansas history.
Some of the statues on the grounds and atop the dome include, Abe Lincoln, a Kansa warrior atop the dome, a replica of the Statue of Liberty, and a tribute to pioneer women.
This mural, Tragic Prelude, was painted by John Steuart Curry in the 1930's. The painting is filled with much symbolism related to abolitionist John Brown, the time of Bloody Kansas when Kansas had to choose between being a slave or free state and the Civil War. Here is a link to a site that explains Curry's painting. 

The tour of the Kansas capitol and being allowed to go to the top of the dome sure makes this one of our favorite tours of any of the capitols to date.
The Monroe Elementary School was one of the segregated schools where Black students in Topeka were forced to attend even if other schools were closer to their homes. Oliver L. Brown was one of  several parents who filed a suit that separate schools where not equal. The Supreme Court ruled 9 - 0 in Brown's favor in 1954 overturning the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision which previously allowed segregation. This ruling is looked at as the beginning of the civil rights movement.
There are a series of videos that explain what civil rights are and exhibits about the Brown decision and the civil rights movement. While this is an important site in the movement, we were not that impressed with the way the story was told.

I'm really behind with the blog. We are now at Good Life RV Resort in Mesa until the first of the year. We are looking forward to seeing many friends here and going to Secrets Silversands in Cancun for vacation. I do have a couple more RV repair issues to write about, but that is for another post.
 Life is Good.