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  • Writer's pictureRobert Gidley

In a pickle without any pickles

Mar 5, 2023 (Sun)

2:00 pm Marana, AZ

We are ready to leave the Ironwood Forest (Ha!) National Monument. Gini has spent the morning making friends with one of the nearby campers. This lady has spent the last four years full-time camping and boondocking. During the summer, she “hunkers down” in an RV Park (rates are probably super-low, and the electricity and solar keeps the A/C going).

We sometimes think about going full-time, but Holy Cow—where would we put all our stuff? It also seems like it would be super-hard to keep up with your friends and your community, so our hats are off to this lady for making it work.

Harvey among the desert flowers

Remember that 6,000 GVW bridge we crossed to get here? Well, a little internet research has revealed that the weight for our RV (a Chinook Concourse) varies from 6,000 to 10,000 GVW, so Robert—in a rare burst of rationality—decides to plot a different course out of here. One that doesn’t tempt the Engineering Gods. As if to make their point—we pass an upside-down car on our way out. We’re not sure how they ended up that way, but several other people have stopped to help them, and all we could do is stand around and wring our hands (or write snarky tweets about it), so we decide to keep moving and keep the crowd down. We pass a fire truck and a sheriff’s vehicle on our way out, so Competent People were there. We hope they’re okay and just have a story about how they ended up upside down.

As to the “Ironwood,” we can’t find any locals who have ever heard of that plant. The only thing they can think of is that maybe it refers to mesquite. “But why would you call it ‘ironwood’ when it already has a perfectly good name?” Have you ever met the United States government?

The local VFW thought this would be a good thing to put outside their club

4:00 pm Green Valley, AZ

We’re here! And “here” is the house of our friends Pat & Diana who are also snowbirds (which, technically, we are, since we flew away from all that snow and cold). Unlike us—living in a 10 by 15 foot space, they have a lovely multiple bedroom house (three bathrooms!). It was even fully furnished (down to the dishes and silverware) when they bought it.

For dinner, it’s spaghetti with an old family Italian recipe for spaghetti sauce, a soak in the hot tub, and then drifting off to sleep on an actual bed with sheets. Best of all—when we get up to go to the bathroom at night, we don’t have to climb over the other person to get there.

Mar 6, 2023 (Mon)

10:00 am Pat & Diana Resort in Green Valley, AZ

After sleeping in and a lazy breakfast with yummy homemade apple pie, we break out our instruments (Gini’s autoharp, Robert’s carbon fiber ukulele) and play some music with Diana (ukulele). Because this is Arizona, we decide to play outside and we don’t have to wear wool coats and long johns. The sun isn’t even in our eyes, although the snow-capped mountains are a bit of a distraction. (Yes, we know—we’re tempting the Weather Gods, but the heck with it.)

Diana is a birder and she points out the Arizona State Bird—which is not the roadrunner (that’s New Mexico), but the Cactus Wren. It goes screek screek screek screek scritch and is a teeny little thing. Our favorite fast fact about them is that the Cactus Wren will feed on insects caught in vehicle radiator grilles.

11:30 am On the road south

We’re off to see a sight! Along the way we see orchards of apparently dead 20 to 30 foot trees. Turns out they are pecan trees, so Robert’s first thought is: “Can you get fresh pecan pie around here?” We hope Robert’s doctor is not reading this…

Other fun animal facts: if you find a rattlesnake on your porch, you should leave it alone and let it slither off on its own. If you capture it (or try to find someone else to capture it—but don’t call the Fire Department, because they no longer are in the snake removal business) and take it away from its home, then it will die.

Then other, less friendly rattlesnakes will move into the territory and start snake gang wars and pretty soon there are snake drive-bys and you will wish you had just let the original snake bask for a bit.

12:00 pm Tumacácori National Historical Park

This Park is about 17 miles south of the Green Valley and a favorite of our hosts. It’s about the Spanish Franciscans coming along in the 1750’s and teaching the natives how to be civilized (that is, Christian) whether they wanted to or not.

It’s not crowded, the old mission is still standing (although crumbling a bit, and definitely a few measures shy of its original grandeur). The displays in the museum are pretty straightforward and talk about the real native killers (smallpox and measles brought by the Spanish).

Our dynamic duo in front of the mission building

The inside of the mission building

We hike through the underbrush and take a gander at the Santa Cruz River, which at this point is a 20-foot-wide muddy creek. Later on, it gets bigger (north of Tucson, we hear). It’s also one of the few rivers that flows from south to north.

Here’s Diana in front of the less-than-mighty Santa Cruz River

3:30 pm Green Valley, AZ

Diana and Pat live in a planned community which has all sorts of amenities and classes. There are pickleball courts and Diana signed up for a pickleball lesson. Pat, unfortunately, isn’t feeling too well, so Robert volunteers to fill in and away they go!

Despite the name (and Robert’s hopes), the game has nothing to do with pickles. It uses kind of an oversize racketball racket and a wiffle ball and a half-size tennis court. It involves whacking the ball back and forth across a tennis net (with a “kitchen area” in-between).

Pickleball is evidently the latest sport sweeping the country! This is despite the slightly insane scoring system. At the start, the second player on the first side serves and then after they goof up, the first server on the second side serves, and then the second player on the second side serves. Each side gets two servers, because Pickleball!

After carefully drilling us on being gentle with the Pickleball, we move to full court where it turns out that being gentle is right out the door. You have to whack that sucker to get it all the way over there and then you’re ambling up the court to return the serve.

Speaking of ambling, one of the reasons Pickleball is going crazy across the country right now is because it’s suitable for old people. It’s very hard to hurt yourself (or really, exert yourself) in half of a half tennis court. After working at it for an hour, Robert’s watch says he got three minutes of exercise.

And it’s a good thing Robert went along with Diana to fill in for Pat because even if you are very limber and fast and think you can play by yourself, it’s against the rules and Old People like our rules and you’d best not flaunt them, you video-game playing hip-hopping kids!

7:00 pm

The night ends with a Mexican restaurant (because we’re only 45 miles from Mexico, so it should be more authentic, right?) and slow digestion on the couch afterwards. We are able to stay awake for a bit longer than the night before—when soaking in their wonderful hot tub wiped us out and sent us immediately to bed.

We dream of cactus wrens…


How we got here

Gini & Robert

Harvey Staff

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Mar 08, 2023

Sweetness and I traveled to Tucson and stayed in a wonderful hotel named something like the Westward Look in that it looked to the west over the desert. We were there so I could officiate at a wedding at Tumacácori National Historical Park. One must obtain the permission of the Park Service and the Bishop of Arizona to do such a thing. The judge I was marrying had elderly parents who lived in the area and in this way they could be present. We also discovered a place called something like the Tucson Desert Museum and Wildlife Preserve. We thought we'd spend an hour or two there and ended up spending an entire day. This was an especially valuable tri…

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