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Still Alive! June Update; PHX and Scottsdale Friends; Prescott Event; Big Rocks; Flagstaff; Las Vegas; Lotus of Siam; On to the Pacific!; “Was It Something I Said?”

Mea Culpa to several faithful readers who sent “health and welfare check” emails recently.  Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Excuses for not updating this blog recently include: (1) Extreme heat in the desert Southwest; (2)  huge numbers of ground squirrels/prairie dogs/assorted rodents attracting the attention of our fearless miniature Dachshunds Rudy and Gretchen; (3) long days at the wheel of our coach driving through the desolate wastes of desert Arizona, Nevada and East L.A.; (4) several of Suzanne’s events which occupied my attention; and finally, (5) malfunctions of critical equipment aboard our prairie schooner, including the diesel generator (still not repaired, awaiting parts)… oh, and maybe (6) some laziness in my old age…

Thinking back to my last post… I think we were in Scottsdale, Arizona… but before we left the Phoenix area, we had to pay a call on our dear friend and colleague Brenda Baker, who has had some real medical challenges lately. Brenda is a fighter, though, and is building up her health and continuing to maintain her great sense of humor. Everyone who knows Brenda knows that “she is a pistol”, as my mother used to say… 

Before heading out, we had dinner with Connie Mariano (retired Navy Rear Admiral and former White House Doctor to Bill Clinton) and her husband John Weber, who had taken Suzanne and me up in his sailplane. This was the view from their patio in the hills above Scottsdale and Cave Creek. Their amazing home is like the ones you see in Architectural Digest…

Temps were rising in the Phoenix Valley, and we were looking forward to cooler weather, which we found in Prescott. Suzanne had an event there, and we had planned on spending a week in that lovely area which sits almost 2,000 feet higher than Phoenix, where temps were already up into the high 90s, and this was early June! Here is the SRO crowd when Suzanne spoke at Unity of Prescott, led by Rev. Terrence Padgett.  

We were camped at Willow Lake Campground, near the Granite Dells, gorgeous exposed bedrock and granite boulder formations which called out to be hiked. The trails laced through these rocks for miles, with hardly another hiker or mountain biker to be encountered for hours…

The water level in Willow Lake itself was much higher than during our previous visit, due to the big snowfalls experienced in the West last winter. These trees had previously been between the trail and the water.

While in Prescott, we paddled at nearby Watson Lake, another reservoir surrounded by parts of the Granite Dells. Here you see My Lovely Bride paddling her NC-15 fiberglass kayak smoothly through the wavelets at sunset. It was a gorgeous evening, and only one other boat was out on the water, over a mile away – it was wonderful having an entire lake almost to ourselves.

From Prescott, we drove north to higher elevation and cooler temps at Flagstaff, AZ. 7,000 feet up, “Flag” is a delightful college town with lots of hiking nearby. Since I am planning a Grand Canyon trip in November, I needed to get some steep climbs in for training. Eldon Lookout Trail is a 2,000+ foot elevation gain from the trailhead, and I made the climb while Suzanne was giving a reading in the coach. . On the way up, I met Terry, a part-time Forest Service firefighter who runs a fish hatchery in California. He was wearing full “battle gear”, a heavy flame-retardant suit, helmet, and boots, and was carrying his personal firefighting equipment and water. Needless to say, I was moving faster than Terry. I offered to put some rocks in his waist pack for extra training, and he actually laughed at that suggestion, but declined my offer. I have the utmost respect for these forest fire first responders, because they risk their lives on a regular basis in an extremely hazardous environment. Out West, too many instances of serious burns and lost lives occur when a fire initiated by lightning or a careless camper blows up or changes course because of high winds, low humidity and high temperatures, trapping firefighters before they can evacuate to safer ground. 

The view from Eldon Lookout (9,300 ft) was spectacular. A lookout tower there was once manned to locate fires before they got out of control. Traffic in Flagstaff thousands of feet below looked like kids’ toys, and since I was the only person at the summit, I got to enjoy the solitude (with only a few birds for company) for 15-20 minutes until I headed back down the mountain.

Another hike, this time with My Lovely Bride, took us to a section of the Arizona Trail near Aspen Corner and Snow Bowl, just south of Humphreys Peak (12,633 ft., the highest point in Arizona). We hiked through beautiful aspen groves and occasional meadows on a perfect day, sunny and 70F, while Phoenix baked in 100+ degree temps 150 miles south of us. Here she is offering her hand to one of dozens of Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) that were flitting from flower to flower having lunch. Useless trivia: Monarchs obtain moisture and minerals from damp soil and wet gravel, a behavior known as mud-puddling. Similar behavior has been observed in young boys, but it is not admired as much by their parents as those of the butterfly persuasion…

Following that hike, MLB took off her hiking shoes and noticed that she had removed a good part of dust and dirt from the trail; I warned her that the Forest Service has rules about not taking anything with you except memories and photographs…

Our next stop was in Las Vegas to visit our good friends Jerry and Karen Facciani. The foodie highlight of our brief stop was dinner at Lotus of Siam, one of the top Thai restaurants in the US. The cuisine was so amazing that we wound up going both nights we were in town. Lotus also has one of the best wine lists in the world, and we were surprised when Jerry ordered a German Reisling with some spicy Thai dishes – it paired beautifully! Jerry is a world class oenophile, and every time we get together we learn a lot about fine wines. (Yes, we are sampling a red in this photo… Jerry assured us that a Zinfandel would be perfect to sip on in between dishes and Reisling. And yes, it was!)

It was too hot in Las Vegas to run, so we went to Nellis AFB and used their gym – Suzanne ran on an indoor track and I used a rowing machine. Here is just part of the massive indoor fitness center, scaled for use by the several thousand airmen stationed here, as well as visiting aviators and retired folks like us. 

Did I mention that Las Vegas in June is hot? Reported highs were at 121F, but we saw 131F on the coach thermometer which was in direct sunlight… and it was still in the 90s at dawn… too hot to walk the pups outside on the cement, so we had to carry them to the few shady spots around for head calls. 

Suzanne departed Las Vegas by air to Richmond and Detroit for events, and I continued west, arriving in temperate Seal Beach, CA, after a long drive through the desert and the Los Angeles metro area in pre-rush hour traffic. I had been stationed in Southern California in the 70s when traffic was merely heavy, but now it is absolutely insane. SoCal is a different place in many ways, but one positive thing I noticed was the emphasis on physical fitness. Here is a summer camp for kids; they were running along the beach in sand, then would stop for calisthenics. Ooh-Rah!

After a week of twice daily workouts and extreme boredom with MLB being on travel, she returned to enjoy a day or two on the beach before we headed north to Santa Barbara. I took her out for an Italian dinner, and everything was going swimmingly until she mentioned that she had an evening event for a local Helping Parents Heal group coming up that wouldn’t require my presence – I merely said, “No problem, My Love, there’s a wet tee shirt contest at a beach bar just a mile away.” Without a moment’s hesitation, she threw a hard roll at me.  Was it something I said? 

More on our California adventures in the next installment, and I promise it will be out within a week. 


  • S/V Magnolia
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:13 am

    Glad to see you are still alive the heat in the SW does explain a couple things. Sorry you are having genset issues.. thought only boats have issues…hang in there.

  • Anonymous
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:03 am

    Good to catch up with your travels! Hope the coach gets fully operational soon. Good to see the Forest Service is keeping an eye on potential forest fires in AZ. Looks like the monsoons are on their way now to help in the Southwest. Happy Trails! Brad

  • Lynette
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:04 am

    Brenda and I are also throwing metaphorical hard rolls your way. Beautiful scenery, laughs, and an update on two dear ones. Perfect.


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