Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Staying Sane


All work and no play made Jack a dull boy. We didn’t want to be like Jack. We understood early on the importance of ‘fun time’ to relieve house hunting stress. House hunting and selling the RV could not, would not, rule our lives.

cats at the museum
We’d thought about renewing our membership at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. But before we took action, friend Nancy Novak, bless her heart, surprised us with a a pre-house warming present: a membership renewal. Regular visits to the museum proved invaluable!
Other distractions like Saturday garage sale forays (Carol and Nancy), shopping for mattresses, and visits to several Tucson resale shops also helped. A few more mental health day visits to Madera Canyon, Kitt Peak, a Fall drive up the Catalina Highway, and a visit to Tubac provided more balance. Our timing this year allowed us to take advantage of our favorite annual sale: the Sabuko Artwear sale. Killer discounts on artsy T-shirts! Yay!

mural inTubac, Saguaro NP, Kitt Peak, Catalina Highway
Early in November friends Marti Hemwall and John Peterson flew into Tucson for a week long visit. John had for years visited Tucson to meet up with golfing buddies. This was Marti’s first visit so we wanted to put Tucson’s best foot forward. Breakfast at the Blue Willow, a walk around parts of the Desert Museum, a stop at Saguaro NP (west) and capped the day off with margaritas.

John and Marti
We assumed we would at some point need to make a trip back to Wisconsin to retrieve stored possessions. We’d considered driving our truck and renting a one-way tow-behind trailer. But reconsidering the load, it made more sense for us to fly back and rent a one-way truck. Our choice of companies fell to Penske. They offered very competitive pricing, unlimited mileage, a longer window of time, and a useful insurance package. Our initial inclination had been to rent a U-Haul but after reading so many negative reviews, we opted for Penske. U-Haul may have great advertising but that’s about all they had to offer.
Now, with the closing behind us, our plan to head back to Wisconsin and collect our stuff would finally happen!

4th Avenue and Hippie Gypsy
On the morning of November 14, tempted by the lure of breakfast, friends Ron and Renelle drove us to Tucson. We asked, and they provided, a breakfast venue: Lerua’s Fine Mexican Foods, in business since 1922 (so you know it was good!). With some time to kill, Ron and Renelle took us on a stroll along historic Fourth Avenue, lined with lots of thrift shops and hand crafted goods. In particular the Hippie Gypsy. Step through the front entrance and fall back into 60’s culture. Another upside of being dropped off in Tucson meant our truck would be waiting for us in Sierra Vista upon our return.

dipping the wing into Madison
With an an early flight, a night in a local Tucson hotel was a must.  Shuttle to the airport and after a layover in Denver, we touched down in Madison where Marge collected us. On our way back to Marge’s we altered our plan somewhat by first swinging by Jerry’s to collect artwork. We’d forgotten just how much artwork we had in large frames with lots of glass. It proved much safer transporting it snugged in the back of Marge’s SUV. Once at Marge’s we could better determine just how best to prepare it for transport in the rental truck. Looked like It would take a fair amount of bubblewrap.

we started the loading process at Jerry's
First thing the next morning, Jerry picked us up at Marge’s, then dropped us off at a Penske rental outlet in Madison. Our 16-foot bright yellow GMC truck was gassed and ready to go. And when we say “gassed” we mean “gas”, not diesel. Diesel prices had skyrocketed again. Gas would be a lot less expensive. 15 minutes of paperwork and a brief review of the truck’s controls and we were off to a nearby Menard’s to pick up bubblewrap. Lots of bubblewrap. Then on to Jerry’s to begin the first phase of loading.
Jerry had stored our rugs, a dining room trestle table (Jerry had thoughtfully already disassembled it), a chair-and-half, and bins of stereo equipment. Once loaded we left the truck parked at Jerry’s while we went out for breakfast with Jerry and Melissa before driving to Marge’s. Thankfully we hadn’t opted for a larger truck - backing down Marge’s narrow driveway was a bit of a challenge. But backing a 35’ fifth-wheel for so many years? Piece of cake.

on to marge's to finish loading
November weather in Wisconsin can be iffy. The threat of rain later in the day prompted Tom, the ‘spacemaster’, to load the rest of our belongings. Fortunately, during our summer stay at Marge’s earlier in the year, Tom had pre-positioned belongings. Loading went quickly, smoothly and by mid afternoon, when clouds rolled in, the truck was ‘almost’ loaded.

now you see it and then you don't - cleaning out at Marge's
We say ‘almost’ loaded because during our trip to Menard’s to retrieve bubblewrap, Carol spied a light fixture which would ‘work nicely’ above where our dining room table would sit. The fixture would replace a much less desirable ceiling fan.  Since we hadn't bought it at the time we were buying bubblewrap, we opted putting off leaving for a day. Back to Madison to buy the fixture. And, as long as we were headed back into town, Marge had asked for help at Costco picking out a new flat panel TV.
The Gaskills, learning we were staying an extra day, suggested getting together for lunch in Sauk at the Blue Spoon (an upscale Culver’s). Following lunch, the rest of the afternoon was spent installing the new TV and a sound bar plus moving another TV into Marge’s upstairs loft bedroom.

everything just fit - the "spacemaster "did his magic
Brennan, Caitlin and Graham
The next morning we awoke to much colder temps, a smattering of frost and once on the road, freezing sleet. Time to get out of Dodge! By late afternoon we arrived in St. Peters, MO to spend the night with Graham and Caitlin and meet for the first time our newest grandson, Brennan Daniel Sykes, born August 21. At just over 2 1/2 months old, there was still a lot of adjusting going on for mom, dad and baby. But they appeared to have things well in hand. We would have loved to have stayed longer but they already had their hands full and so did we.

Pinkie, Carol, Dave, Paul, Frank
Just three more overnight stops. The first in Tulsa, OK, the second in Amarillo, TX, and our last overnight, as guests of Pinkie and Dave Hansen in Las Cruces. An evening meal with the Hansens and friends Frank and Paul. An early start the next morning, anxious to get off the road, looking forward to finally being back in Sierra Vista. By early afternoon we gingerly backed into the drive way.
When all was said and done, 2,050 miles averaging 12.8mpg costing an average of $2.32/gal. ($395.56 total fuel cost). Average miles driven per day: 410. Our one-way flight to Madison: $397.60. Total truck rental (insurance and tax included): $2,051.62. Lodging (including our overnight in Tucson): $242.05. Food: $172.67. Tolls: $9.00. Our total expense came to $3260.50. We had figured on $3500 so we were under budget. And now, for the first time in nine years, all our possessions were in one location! And, not one piece was damaged!
Unfortunately our return was tempered by Tom’s back being out of sorts. We knew friends Mary Ellen Vollbrecht and Steve Hiniker were just wrapping up a mountain bike tour through a handful of western national parks. We had extended an invite to stay with us if the chance should arise. Even though we didn’t have much in the way of furniture, we could offer a guest room with comfortable twin beds and a guest bath. Miraculously, who should arrive within an hour after we backed the truck into the driveway? Steve and Mel! They set about helping unload the truck which took little to no time since most of the bins and boxes were stacked in the garage to await a time when a more methodical unpacking ceremony could begin.

Thanksgiving Day with Steve and Mel 
The dining room table was quickly reassembled, chairs from an outdoor furniture set we had purchased earlier in the month (on sale at Ace!), were put into use. Carol had already planned a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The next day, Thanksgiving, we celebrated our first Thanksgiving with Steve and Mel. Truly, we were thankful!

Bloody Marys at the Copper Queen
We extended our invite for them to hang around for as long as they wished and use our place as a a base while they took advantage exploring more mountain biking opportunities. It gave us time to introduce them to the Bisbee Breakfast Club and drinks on the Copper Queen Hotel veranda.

visitors Anne and Don
Finishing out the month, Canadian RV friends, Anne and Don Aitchison passed through the area. Of course their visit invoked another trip into Bisbee and the Copper Queen.
Early December was spent leisurely unpacking. Opening bins and boxes felt very much like Christmas. Possessions that hadn’t seen the light of day for nine years. There were also many trips to Ace Hardware plus drafting a to-do list of minor home improvement and updates. It also had not escaped our attention that most of February 2018 would be spent in Thailand and we needed to start planning what to take (subject of another blog post).

Degrazia Gallery
December 13 was Tom’s birthday and our wedding anniversary. An outing to Tucson with Ron and Renelle was put into play. A visit to a couple of their favorite haunts in Tucson including the Degrazia Gallery in the Sun. In return we introduced them to the Feast restaurant.

Boyce Thompson
Earlier in the year we had accepted an invitation to return to Boyce Thompson Arboretum SP to partake in their annual Christmas bird count. Volunteer Coordinator Paul Wolterbeek had graciously offered us the use of one of the park’s cabins. An afternoon scouting for birds, a campfire with guests and this year’s cadre of volunteers, then we capped the day off with pizza at Edwardo’s, our favorite in Superior. The entire next day we counted birds within the park proper, then finished with all the participants at a post-count meal gathering. In no rush to get back to Sierra Vista, the next day we stopped for breakfast at the Gold Canyon Cafe in Gold Canyon, explored a new to us birding spot, Encanto Park in Chandler, and before heading home, a stop at Queen Creek Olive Mill.

extent of our Xmas decorating
Christmas Day was pretty quiet. With most of our ornaments still packed away and distracted by other small projects, we didn’t have the energy to erect a tree. Our final December birding event was December 29, an outing with friends exploring Pinery Canyon Road in the Chiricahuas. Our New Years celebration was also low key (as it has been for the past several years).

contemplating the New Year in our new house
Looking ahead we still needed to sell our RV and at some point trade/sell the truck for a conventional automobile. For now we talked about changes to our new space. Before hanging artwork we wanted to paint interior walls (which were all white). But before any painting, we had to choose colors which meant experiencing how the light played in all the rooms at various times of the day. You know, let the spaces “speak to us”. As we slowly adapt to our surroundings we constantly reflect on how grateful we were to have lead an exciting nomadic lifestyle for as long as we had. Being  “tied down” again was going to take some getting used to!

Five-striped Sparrow - life bird and ABA tick