Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In Memoriam.......

Casa Grande, AZ      (Click on Pictures to Enlarge)

Today we lost a beloved member of our family, our cat Willey.

Willey had fallen ill over the weekend, and was not eating or drinking anything, and was very lethargic.  First thing Monday morning I called a local veterinarian's office and they were able to get us in right away.  A battery of tests were performed on Willey, and he was given subcutaneous fluids, as he was very dehydrated.  He was also given something to stimulate his appetite.

During the remainder of the day yesterday, Willey showed little to no improvement.  We received a call from the veterinarian with preliminary results of his blood work, which painted a grim picture.

Steve and I discussed our options, and as it became painfully clear that Willey was not getting better, and seemed to have difficulty in finding a restful position that was comfortable for him, we knew what we had to do.  So, this morning we said good-bye to our "son".

Surveying his kingdom back in VA
Willey was adopted from a no-kill shelter in Virginia in July of 2000.  He would have turned 14 on March 5th.  I went to the shelter to find a companion for our other cat, Zachary, and Willey fit the bill perfectly.  He was sweet, gentle, intelligent and curious.  He also got along well with the Golden Retrievers we had at the time.

The lady who ran the shelter knew the personalities of each of the cats intimately.  She told me that I had to "earn Willey's purr".  Since that time, every time I have heard him purr, it made me smile to remember her comment.  Last week, before he got ill, he purred the loudest I have ever heard him.

Surveying his "ever changing" kingdom on the road
Throughout the years, when we took vacations in our RV, we would leave the cats home, and take the dogs with us.  In 2007, when Steve and I decided that we wanted to RV full-time after we retired, we started taking Willey along with the dogs and us, to get him used to the lifestyle.  (He was our only cat at this time). He took to RVing like a duck to water, and has been an excellent and adaptable traveler ever since.

Willey, we love you and miss you so much.  The coach is so empty without you.  We will miss your curling up in bed with us each night.  We will all be together someday at the Rainbow Bridge.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Comparing the Olympics and the Palm Creek Pickleball Tournament

Casa Grande, AZ        (Click on Pictures to Enlarge)

Ok, so what do the Olympics and the Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort Pickleball In-House tournament have in common?  Well, not a whole lot, but I thought it was a catchy title to begin today's blog with.  Actually, both have winners and losers, and medals, and medal ceremonies. That's about the only similarities, however.

As readers of our blog already know, Karen and I first began our pickleballing "career" when we arrived at Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort back on November 1, 2013. It was an activity that we both really enjoy and hope to continue as we travel.  We took beginner's lessons a few days after arriving and purchased pickleball paddles a few days after that. So where am I going to all of this you might ask.

Pickleball is a very "big" activity at this resort and is enjoyed by many people.  The Palm Creek Pickleball Club has about 600 members, probably 400 active members.  Each February, the Club hosts an "in house" tournament in which only registered members of the resort (as of February 1st) are allowed to register and play. This year we had approximately 236 persons register to play.

In early March, the Club hosts a larger tournament open to all comers.  This year's tournament already has over 400 registered for the event. Unfortunately, we will be leaving March 1 and will miss this year's tournament.

A quick primer on how players are grouped by skill levels is determined by the definitions established for each level by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). Beginner's are designated as 2.0 and the very best players are rated 5.0. The levels are separated in .5 levels (2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, and 5.0).

This year both Karen and I rose to the 3.0 level of play.  We decided to enter the "in-house" tournament together (as mixed doubles) and with partners.  Karen played with Brenda Mills in the Women's Doubles 3.0 division and I played with Jim Fields in the Men's Doubles 3.0 division.

The tournament ran for three days beginning on Monday February 17.  I played on Monday and Jim and I were fortunate enough to win the Bronze Medal in our division.

From Left: Bill Pitzl and Robert Myers (Silver)
Ken Hague and Larry Graham (Gold)
Jim Fields and Steve Fischer (Bronze)
Here's a look at the entire medal winning group for the Men's 3.0 Doubles Division.

On Tuesday I teamed up with Karen to play in the Mixed Doubles 3.0 competition.  There might be some truth to what others told us that husbands and wives generally do not play well together.  Well, we did pretty well.  We are still married and we managed to win the bronze medal in our division. Here's a picture of us on the medal stand (yes, the concrete blocks).  Aren't our matching uniforms cute?

Here's a look at the entire group of medal winners for the Mixed 3.0 Division.

From Left: Bill Pitzl and Donna Risling (Silver)
Charlie and Bob Ziegler (Gold)
Karen and Steve Fischer (Bronze)
The final day of the competition had Karen teamed up with her partner Brenda Mills playing in the Women's Doubles 3.0 Division.  This was actually a fun day for me because I got to run around taking pictures without having to worry about playing. Both Karen and Brenda were new to pickleball at the beginning of the season.  They did EXTREMELY well as they won the Gold Medal for their division.

Here's an early match with Brenda serving and Karen in the right court.

The last game of the game (for the Gold Medal) proved the toughest for this pair.  In a game to 15, the two of them were losing 14 to 7 and made a miraculous comeback to win 18 to 16 (must win by 2 points in tournament play).

Here they are proudly standing on the medal platform.

The entire group with their medals in the Women's Doubles 3.0.

From Left: Earlene Riggins and Shirley Gendron (Silver)
Karen Fischer and Brenda Mills (Gold)
Penny Rossman and Kathy Pinx (Bronze)
So after an unexpected three days of competing in our first pickleball tournament and doing surprisingly well, what do we do with all of those medals?

Why hang them in our windshield for everyone to see, of course.

Thanks for dropping by to take a look!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum

Casa Grande, AZ               (Click on Pictures to Enlarge)

Last week we decided to take a break from pickleballing (only half kidding here) and venture out from our park in Casa Grande.  We use TripAdvisor.com to check out attractions in new areas we visit many times.  The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum was rated as #1 out of #173 attractions in the Tucson area.  Well, with that kind of recommendation we thought we'd take a look.

I don't know how many folks are familiar with Groupon, but it's a site which can save you money on attractions and various entrance fees at a wide variety of venues.  The normal entrance fee for two adults to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum is $39.  By using Groupon, we paid $25 for the two of us and were able to pay and print out our entrance tickets online.  No hassles and very easy to do.

The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum is located approximately 12-15 miles south of Tucson and is very near "Old Tucson" (for those familiar with that attraction).  The museum is open 365 days a year.

During this time of the year the museum is open 8:30-5:00.  Maybe we're just slow, or maybe we really enjoyed the museum (which we did greatly), but it took the entire day to see everything and we could have spent more time.

As stated on their website:

The museum is a fusion experience: zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and
aquarium. Interpretation of Sonoran Desert animals, plants, geology, climate and native cultures is
presented in a natural environment:
  • 21 acres with two miles of walking paths
  • 230 animal species
  • 1200 types of plants--56,000 individual specimens.
  • One of the world's most comprehensive regional mineral collections.

Here's an old Studebaker positioned just outside the entrance gates. Although the museum started in 1952, I'm not certain that Studebaker made this car in 1952 (a few years later, I believe).

Once inside, the first area we visited contained the reptiles common to this area of Arizona.

Arizona Black Rattlesnake

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Cantil (Mexican Pit Viper Family)

The museum has created an artificial underground cave system which displays exhibits showing how formations are created and allows a lot of "hands-on" experiences for the younger ones. 

While underground, Karen got a chance to try out the bat exhibit which attempted to demonstrate how a bat's large ears focus incoming sound waves to allow them to locate prey.

There are approximately 2 miles of trails throughout the complex which allow you to not only observe a huge variety of desert plants, but some of the views of the surrounding area aren't too bad either.

Here we are posing along one of the trails.

Standing on one of the observation decks looking toward Mexico 80 miles to the south.

The variety of cacti are amazing.

More of the trail system.

The museum creates a small "zoo" system focusing on animals which inhabit different parts of the Sonoran Desert region. One portion shows the mountain woodlands where the Mexican Gray Wolf and Bobcats live.

Mexican Gray Wolf
                   A very large area is devoted to the Bighorn Sheep.

.....and a discussion of animals and birds common to this part of the southwest wouldn't be complete without the roadrunner.

Of course, you never know what type of animal you might find around here.  Here's the strange dressing, human type.

A large part of the museum is designed to educate.  At 12:15 PM daily a presentation entitled "Live (and sort of) on the Loose" attempts to educate people on certain types of reptiles. Our seminar today focused on the Gila Monster and the Black Tailed Rattlesnake.

Gila Monster
Here, the handler, has just brought the rattlesnake from his protective carrier.  He was not too happy at this point, but after a few moments calmed down and just looked at us humans.

Probably our favorite presentation of the afternoon was called "Raptor Free Flight".  A group of trainers demonstrated the beauty and speed of some of the birds native to this desert terrain.  With a bit of food as an incentive, the birds would fly at great speeds just over the heads of the spectators and land in nearby trees.

Peregrine Falcon

Barn Owl

Harris Hawk

Here's one of the trainers calling the hawk to him. The birds are trained to respond to hand signals and due to their great eyesight have no problems in spotting the handlers.

We really enjoyed our visit to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum.  I would highly recommend this as a place to visit and learn about the area.  It was especially "eye opening" to us easterners who had not previously experienced this part of our beautiful country. The desert can definitely "grow" on you.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Friends Come to Visit in Casa Grande, AZ

Casa Grande, AZ

Yesterday we had the pleasure of spending a few hours with fellow fulltimers Randy and Pam Warner. They have a very nice blog entitled The Road Runner Chronicles.  The Warners are also ex-patriots from Virginia who began the fulltiming lifestyle over 4 1/2 years ago.

We have crossed paths several times throughout the RVing years and in several different locations throughout the US.  It's always nice to get the chance to "catch up" with folks we've come to know through our mutual love of the RVing lifestyle.

The Warners made the trek up from the east side of Tucson to have lunch with us and to visit our wintering over campground Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort in Casa Grande.  Randy did a very nice write-up of our campground in his most recent blog.  I'll not re-hash a lot of the same things he wrote about, so if you'd like to get a look at our campground, please go over and read his blog.

We went to lunch in Casa Grande at a restaurant named Creative Café. The food was good and the casual atmosphere inside gave us a chance to catch up.

Thank you again Pam and Randy for making the trek up from Tucson to pay us a visit.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!