Getting in the Spirit

Last night we took up the offer from our friend Heidy to come on down to her home at Green Valley. We met Heidy a few years ago when we and she were both members of the Escapees RV Club Chapter 8 Mexican Connection trip.

Since Heidy’s kitchen is kind of torn apart for new paint and countertops, we all had supper at one of her favorite local family-owned restaurants and then drove on up to Tucson to visit the Tucson Botanical Gardens for their holiday light display.

The weather was perfect, in the 50’s and the hour or so we spent there walking through the gardens was beautiful. The gardens opened at 6 pm and admittance was by prepaid tickets at specific times. This way large groups came in at staggered times as the previous group(s) left. I’d say they let in about 300-400 visitors at a time.

Here’s a gallery of pictures and videos. We talked with one of the employees and he told us that many of the larger trees take weeks to install all the lights and they have to remove them every year so as not to grow into the bark.

Many of the lights changed color as you walked through and many others were timed to coincide with the music that played throughout the gardens. It was a great way to enjoy the holiday and reminisce about how we’ve spent Christmas pasts.

Right now we’re all up and showered enjoying our morning coffee and a little later this morning were going to head over to the Country Fair White Elephant, a local resale shop to see what kind of goodies they might have that would work either in our new rig in Arizona or the house back in Ohio. Now that we’ve decided to keep the house for our summer home, we will be more comfortable with spending some on furnishings and decorating.

I was too awe struck to think about taking any pictures of the White Elephant resale shop in Green Valley, Arizona south of Tucson. It’s a huge building where they must have at least 40 volunteers on duty every day of the week. The parking lot was packed, probably a hundred or so cars and this was on a TUESDAY! Heidy told us it’s like this every day.

All of the “merchandise” is sorted/grouped by type; furniture, rugs, tools, shoes, sports equipment, etc. If you find an item you like, just flag down one of the roaming clerks (who are very friendly and helpful by the way) and they’ll write up the item, lead you to the check out counter where you pay for the item(s), and then one of their “pickers” moves your purchases to the loading dock where you’ll have them loaded for your trip home.

Heidy found a great little solid walnut drop-leaf table. It’s got a drop leaf on each side so when it’s folded it’ll go in her hallway and only take up a space about 1 foot by 3 feet. The spindle legs are lathe-turned and fold out to support the table on all four sides. It looks like something that was made in the ’30’s or ’40’s. Once Heidy gets it cleaned up, it’ll be a wonderful addition to her home there in Green Valley.

Heidy's table is similar to this one except that hers has rectangular leafs

Heidy’s table looks similar to this one I grabbed off Google Images except that hers has rectangular leafs instead of half-round. That way her table is square when it’s opened instead of round.

The special thing about this store is that all of the items are donated and the $1,500,000 plus annual sales are donated to local charities and food banks. It’s quite an operation and it’s fun to see how everyone there (buyers and volunteers alike) are having such a good time.

Here’s the link to their “About” page on their web site

Since we only took the Lexus down to her place, once we fit the table in the trunk there wasn’t a whole lot of room left, but we did manage to push in a cute little lamp we bought for $10

along with a western style hat for Kathy ($6) that’ll fit her just fine for our upcoming “Western Days” here at the park along with a pretty large wall hanging ($25) that’ll be a nice accent to the living room area rug and loveseat that are in our home back in Mt Gilead.

As we drove away I joked (maybe not) to the girls that if/when we come back next year I’ll rent a U-haul!

Goodbye to new friends

Last night we sat around the campfire getting to know our new friends a little more before they had to leave in the morning. The old crew pulls out by Monday noon (lighthouse is closed in Mondays) and the new crew pulls in Monday afternoon.

From left to right; Wendy, Belinda, and Terry. Danny and Marilyn were packing for their morning departure

It was great that we were able to pull in here a few days early as we learned not only about our new job responsibilities but also about the nearby things to see and do (and eat!) while we are here in the Rogers City area.

Terry and Belinda pulling out headed to the Soo Locks

This coming week is the annual Nautical Festival in town and it’s a big celebration with loads of scheduled activities drawing thousands from the surrounding area and bringing in lots of pleasure craft to the harbor. We are expecting big crowds this week at the lighthouse. We shouldn’t be bored!

Later today our new co-workers (3 couples) will pull in and we will all have our orientation and training Tuesday morning.

We’re looking forward to another great volunteer experience. Since we hit the road in 2016, we’ve been blessed with not only seeing a great portion of our country and all the beauty and majesty it has to offer, but we’ve been able to make so many new friends along the way.

More to follow over the next few days.

We made it to the light!

Getting ready Friday morning to leave Campers Cove at Alpena and move a little west to Eckert Park at Hamlin, I received an email from Leonard at the lighthouse that we could just come ahead now rather than have to wait until Monday due to one of the couples working here had to leave due to a medical issue.

It was only a 45 minute drive and we were here and settled by about noon. There are three other rigs here (all motorhomes) and as the volunteers each came and went to/from their lunch break they all stopped to introduce themselves and welcome us.

We continued to set up camp. We connected our electric, water, and sewer lines, took our e-bikes off the back of the car, set up our little Weber propane grill, brought out the bungee chairs and side tables, and rolled out the side awning.  All this takes about a half hour and now we can sit and relax a bit! There was a nice breeze off the lake, but it was pretty warm and humid.

Our home in the trees for the next couple weeks

All four sites are nestled in the woods (lots of shade) and there’s a community fire pit with plenty of firewood, two large picnic tables, and a large propane BBQ grill.

Just beyond the fire pit there’s a trail going down to Lake Huron.  Kathy and I took off our socks and shoes, put on other more appropriate footwear for trudging through the sand, and headed down to the water to check it out.  Surprisingly, the water is warmer than I had imagined it would be this far north!

See the freighter in the distance?

Our supervisors Leonard and Carrie came by on their bicycles to greet us, they live just down U.S. 23 a bit and there’s a nice paved bike path alongside the road and the lake that goes all the way to Rogers City about 7 miles south.

Kathy and I ran into town for a bit to pick up a couple things.  Shortly after we returned, the crew had finished their day (4:00pm) and we all settled at the picnic tables.  Each of us had our favorite drink and we had the opportunity to get to know each other.

Our first nights supper with new friends

All of a sudden an instant pot showed up and we all shared a great time enjoying homemade vegetable beef soup and Texas toast.  Ok, one side was a “little” overdone on the grill, but the other side was great 😃

Our first night backed up a couple hundred feet from the waves of Lake Huron was cool, breezy and SO comfortable we were lulled to sleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

Although we had visited the lighthouse last year, the next day we visited each venue to hear how the “pros” tell the story to visitors. Leonard had emailed us lots of info for us to study about the history, but it’s always good to see and hear how other docents share the story.

That’s the report for now. Today we’ll take a drive into town to get some groceries, stop at one of the local produce stands, hit the laundromat and then when we get back we’ll visit the venues again to hear how others tell the story. The volunteers rotate assignments each day so that each gets an opportunity to work everywhere.

In the meantime, be good and stay safe.

Working With Historicorps (National Elk Refuge)

When we were at our RV lot in Casa Grande AZ last winter, we took the time to attend our Escapees RV Club annual rally (Escapade) that was being held at Pima County Fairgrounds at Tucson, AZ.

Kathy enjoying an ice cream treat at the Escapade with new friends Connie and Dennis

This was the 59th annual Escapade and was, as usual, full of educational seminars, live entertainment, food, impromptu happy hours and a large vendor fair selling all things RV related. You can check out the 60th Escapade information to be held in July 2020 at Rock Springs Wyoming by following this link.

One of the “all in” evening gatherings at Escapade

One of the seminars that Kathy and I attended was put on by Liz Rice of Historicorps. Historicorps is a 10 year old organization that works with (typically) government agencies to restore and preserve historic buildings on federal or state lands like; national forests, state parks, and more. They solicit volunteers to do the work and some of those volunteers, like us, are RV’ers. Here’s a link to their completed projects over the last few years. As of this writing, there is only one project scheduled for 2020 (in Puerto Rico) but I know there will be many more published as we work through the winter into spring.

Kathy and I decided that there was one of their projects that would fit right into our travel schedule in late summer/fall 2019. We realized that after D.C. Booth in Spearfish SD we would then be visiting Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park along with some other spots of interest on our way back to Arizona for the winter.

The project we decided to volunteer for was the rehab of the historic Miller Barn on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson (Hole) Wyoming. (just south of Yellowstone). The project work would be mostly painting, with some replacement of wood siding and restoration of window sills and frames.

The Miller Barn at the beginning of the project
The Miller House and barn were built in 1898

Kathy, feeling a little hesitant about working with hand tools, decided that she would be happy to work in the mess tent and kitchen, but ultimately she got involved in some painting too!

Bacon and eggs for 10
Kathy and Doug painting some of the new replacement siding before installation
Kathy priming the replacement siding before installation

If you know me at all, then you know I’m not comfortable with heights over about 6-8 feet yet there was at least one time that I got up into the bucket for a few hours to paint the gable end of the barn.

No, that’s NOT me in the bucket – I’m taking the picture this time

There were 10 volunteers – two couples and the other volunteers were single folks. 3 or 4 of the crew had worked with Historicorps on other projects in the past while 5 or 6 of us were new to working with this organization. The two couples lived in their RV’s and the Elk Refuge provided us with full hook-up sites. The others slept in tents or in their cars.

Brian and Jeanette showing off their painting expertise!

We had two crew leaders … Ruthie and Daniel. Ruthie was the Chief and has worked with Historicorps many times over the years while Daniel was new to the organization. Daniel, in addition to being the new guy on the block running a crew (and the youngest in our group) was responsible for helping to give training and direction to the volunteers and he was also responsible for planning our meals, buying all the food, and cooking our meals.

Crew Chief Ruthie using the electric plane on a piece of siding (to make it fit)
Daniel, our Assistant Crew Chief (and camp cook)
Elk Refuge Volunteer Camp along with the Historicorps Cook Tent
Pancakes and sausage … YUM!
Our crew enjoying a night out after a long day’s work

In addition to providing us with an opportunity to serve as volunteers, we were also provided with all the tools necessary to do the job, training, 3 meals a day, a full hook-up RV site …. and best of all … outstanding beauty in all directions!

We’ve been volunteering for about 3 years now since we sold our sticks ‘n bricks and hit the road full time. All of our experiences have been rewarding and this was another great example of the wonderfully rewarding experiences.

This experience was especially fun because we were working (and relaxing) with other like-minded people from all walks of life but with the same interest in volunteering and seeing a project to completion. Different personalities of different ages, different walks of life, different work experiences but we all enjoyed each other’s company and respected each other’s contribution to the project.

By the way, what I haven’t already explained is that this was actually a 4 week project. Historicorps solicits volunteers for one-week stints, but they will allow you to stay longer. This means that the crew chiefs have to train a new crew every week. But it works for them as they can get more volunteers this way, not just counting on retired folks but getting those who are still working a regular job the opportunity to take a “volunteer” vacation that is very rewarding.

Thanks for riding along and stay tuned for more updates on our travel and volunteering experiences.

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Architecture Meets Ecology – Arcology at Arcosanti

Today we took a short trip down I-17 to “Arcosanti“, started in 1970 by architect Paolo Soleri, Arcosanti is an urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community, and environmental accountability. The goal is to actively pursue lean alternatives to urban sprawl based on Paolo Soleri’s theory of compact city design, Arcology (architecture + ecology).

It’s a fascinating look into the world of the future where there are no automobiles, and everything that any of it’s residents would need are provided within the community, (residences, health care, farms/food, etc.)

(From Wikipedia) “Arcosanti is a projected experimental town with a molten bronze bell casting business in Yavapai County, central Arizona, 70 mi north of Phoenix, at an elevation of 3,732 feet. Its arcology concept was posited by the Italian-American architect, Paolo Soleri (1919–2013). He began construction in 1970, to demonstrate how urban conditions could be improved while minimizing the destructive impact on the earth. He taught and influenced generations of architects and urban designers who studied and worked with him there to build the proposed ‘town.'”

Although Soleri died in 2013, the work toward completion continues by volunteers that pay to have the opportunity to work on site and contribute to the dream toward Arcology (architecture meets ecology).

Here’s some pictures that we want to share with you in the slide show below.  Enjoy!

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Now, as in all good road trips, we had to stop for lunch after the trip to Arcosanti.  We went a little further on down the road to ROCK SPRINGS CAFE, known for it’s good food and especially it’s GREAT PIES!

After lunch we headed toward home and pulled off the highway to a little place that Barbara remembered that used to sell wine and chocolate.  As you can see by the pictures, the place didn’t appear to be in business any longer.  We looked around the property a bit and then hit the road again.

Steve noted that just up the road a little further was the Agua Fria National Monument   It’s a good thing that Steve and Cindy have a 4-wheel drive truck to climb the rocky trail, although Cindy was not real hip on doing the off-road exploring.  It was fun and we got some great picutures although it was overcast and VERY windy!

We’ll be heading out of here mid-March, so more to come as we travel eastward.  Stay tuned.