Sunday, June 30, 2013

Older and Wiser, and Having More Fun All the Time

Grand Canyon, 16 x 20 inches, acrylic on canvas, SOLD

A few days ago, I celebrated my 58th birthday here in Pinetop, Arizona.  We are not towing a vehicle this summer, so we decided to go out to eat lunch someplace that was on the Lakeside-Pinetop bus route.  

We'd noticed an Asian buffet, but we really couldn't tell what it was like from the outside.  So we took a chance, and I'm so glad we did!  Sakura Buffet turned out to be very, very good.  Everything was fresh and delicious, including the sushi, which was much better than typical buffet sushi.  The restaurant was much larger than I would have guessed from the outside, and it was clean and tastefully decorated.  It was also reasonably priced, so we won't be waiting until another birthday or other special celebration to return.  If you get to the Show Low area, I'd say it's worth the drive down to Lakeside to eat at Sakura.

We have about another week-and-a-half here at Blue Ridge Motel & Cabins.  We can't extend our stay because they're fully booked for the rest of the summer, but we're also ready to move on, anyway.  I'm craving a little travel, new scenery, and a larger campsite.  So I've looked into a couple of RV parks that are part of the Passport America program, and we'll probably head to Clay Springs (about 30 miles away) next for about a week, and then on to Overgaard (another 15 miles) for another week.  We are definitely on the s-l-o-o-o-w tour of the White Mountains this summer, and I'm glad there are so many places to stay up here where it's cool (highs of about 90 degrees, while lowland parts of Arizona are hitting 115+ degrees this weekend!).    

For those who aren't members, I'd definitely recommend Passport America.  It is a 50% off campground membership program that costs about $50 per year.  So, if you use it for just a few nights, it's been worth the yearly fee.  Every campground has its own rules about PA rates.  They usually limit the number of nights you can get half-off, and they also often limit what time of the year or what days of the week as well.  But, if you take the time to look at the fine print and plan accordingly, you can get some pretty good deals.  

Fortunately, after a career as a law librarian, I'm a planner and researcher.  I spent a couple of hours online yesterday figuring out why these two Passport America parks would work best for me.  Since I sell on eBay and we don't have a car with us, staying within bicycling distance of a Post Office is important.  Also, because I use Verizon as my Internet access, I like to know how good the signal is going to be.  Post Office locations can be found pretty readily on the U.S. Postal Service website under the "Manage Your Mail" tab.  And yesterday I found out how to locate cell phone towers, too.  I'm glad I figured this stuff out, because it eliminated several campgrounds I'd been considering going to next.  

I'm working on a couple of things as we finish our stay here in Pinetop.  First, I'm lowering some of my eBay prices.  A few months ago, I bought 1000 vintage scarves from a person who used to be known as "THE Scarf Lady" on eBay.  She used to list her scarves at very high prices and she had a lot of success.  However, it's been a few years since she did much eBay selling, and people just aren't buying stuff like they used to.  After buying her inventory, I initially tried pushing my prices up to the maximum of what I might expect to receive, but the result has been fewer sales.  So I'm going back to the kinds of prices I used to charge, and hopefully that means I'll get a lot more sales.  This has meant spending hours reworking existing eBay listings, but I think it's going to be worthwhile. 

Second, I'm working on my series of road sign fantasy paintings, which I'll be sending to Grapes Gallery in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, in time for July's Second Saturday Art Hop.  I'm having a lot of fun making these paintings, and so far the response to them has been very positive.  I've already sold two of the paintings before even getting them to the gallery, just from sharing them on my FaceBook page

Deer Crossing, 16 x 20 inches, acrylic on canvas

The older I get, the more comfortable I am with just creating artwork that springs from my mind, without having to edit myself or worry about how the work will be received.  The more fun I have making the work, the more my joy of life is reflected in my paintings, and the more people like them.  I currently have enough ideas to make art for years to come, and I'm just going to keep doing it.  

Today I'm looking forward to the possible arrival of my friend Roxanne, who will be passing through this area on her way to visit family.  Can't wait to see her!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Movin' on Up: Pinetop, Arizona

 Double rainbow over the RV Sites at Blue Mountain Motel & Cabins

In my last blog post, we were staying at the National Forest Service campground in Lakeside, Arizona, a few miles south of Show Low on Hwy 260.  But we were having problems.  We'd been counting on using our generator to run the air conditioning once in a while if necessary and to keep our batteries full.  When we tried the generator, it smelled like something was burning.  We tried getting by with the small solar panel we'd brought with us, and that just wasn't enough.  The afternoons were very hot, and there wasn't enough power for me to sell on eBay.

So I called around to find someplace we could stay that had full hook-ups.  Boy, that's hard to find in this area!  Most RVers that come to the Show Low/Lakeside-Pinetop area stay for the entire summer.  A lot of RV parks only accept reservations for the whole season, and some of those are very selective:  No RVs that are more than 10 years old, or even 5 years!  

Fortunately, we'd met somebody local who recommended Blue Ridge Motel & Cabins, which also has RV spaces.  They are pretty much booked up for the summer, too, but they happened to have one space available for a month, so we took it.  The price was right--$295 per month, which includes electricity.  We moved as soon as the site opened up and have been here about a week-and-a-half so far.

We're parked very close to our neighbors, but fortunately we have quiet folks on both sides.  We like the resort.  The owners are a nice family, and they keep the place very family-friendly, so there isn't any conspicuous consumption of alcohol or anything else.  Most days the only noise I hear from other people is the happy sound of kids playing.

We're also more comfortable temperature-wise than we were in Lakeside.  We're just a little bit higher in elevation, and we are on the front edge of Blue Ridge, where we get some nice breeze.    

We're still right off of Hwy 260, so we can still take the bus, which is handy for us, since we opted not to tow a car this summer.  We've been able to take the bus to the Post Office, to various grocery stores, and to take care of some business.  Since the bus runs on a circular route that takes about an hour, there's often quite a bit of wait time, but that's okay.  I just bring a book and find myself a cup of coffee.       

 A great almond croissant and cup of coffee at "Baked in Pinetop"

Some of my readers who have been with me since the beginning of my travels in 2011 might remember that, when I started out on the West Coast, I reviewed all of the almond croissants that I found along the way.  I ate them in several places in California, but then after I took a left turn and headed through the Southwest, almond croissants became very hard to find!  So I was sure delighted to find a really good one the other day at a little shop called "Baked in Pinetop."  It had just the right amount of almond paste inside--enough to taste really good and to be moist inside, but not so much to affect the lightness of the pastry on the outside.  I'll definitely be going back there again before I leave this area.

While we have hookups and fairly reliable Internet, I'm working on two goals:  To make some money on eBay and to get some paintings done.  I've started work on a new series of paintings inspired by my travels.  They're based on road signs and they are fantasy "what if" situations. 

 "Watch for Tie Dye Cows on Road"
16 x 20 inches, acrylic on canvas

Lucky for me, right after I started working on these new paintings, I got a call from Grapes Gallery in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, asking me for some new work.  So I hope to get five or six paintings done within the next several weeks, and I'll mail them to the gallery in time for the July Second Saturday Art Hop.  

Also lucky for me, my friend Bridget immediately bought the tie dye cow picture!  I mailed it to her yesterday at her little ranch in Guadalupita, New Mexico.

Okey Dokey Smokey
16 x 20 inches, acrylic on canvas

Steve had some sad news right after we moved here to Blue Ridge.  His friend Bob, with whom we'd stayed a few weeks earlier near Ramah, New Mexico, died of a heart attack.  We had just put the money down on our month here at the resort, and we decided not to go back.  Fortunately, Bob and Nancy's grown kids, as well as other family, friends and neighbors, will all be gathering tomorrow to celebrate Bob's life.  I'm glad Steve got one last chance to hang out with Bob.

We'll be here another two-and-a-half weeks, and then we'll head a little ways west, maybe to Overgaard.  We'll probably find ourselves another place to roost for a while in the White Mountains.  It's nice and cool here in the mornings and evenings, and it rarely gets hot enough for us to need the A/C in the afternoon.  There doesn't seem to be much reason to move very far or very fast.      

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Figuring Stuff Out at a National Forest Service Campground

 Approaching the White Mountains

Four days ago, we left St. Johns, Arizona, where we'd unexpectedly spent a full week at a pleasant private RV park.  It's a good thing we hung out there--the first prescription of antibiotics I'd been given at the local clinic didn't completely make me well, so I was able to get another round of stronger meds before leaving town.  Now I am really feeling much better.  

We drove only about 60 miles to our next destination.  We want to check out the Show Low, Arizona, area this summer.  This part of Arizona, also known as the White Mountains and the Mogollon Rim, has at least three contiguous National Forests:  Sitgreaves, Apache and Cococino.  All of these have established campgrounds, and all allow dispersed camping (boondocking).  There are also city and county campgrounds, State Parks, and many private RV parks. 

Entering Sitgreaves National Forest

Somebody told us a ways back in our travels to go to the Lakeside Ranger Station out by the Show Low Walmart and there would be a good campground close by.  Wow, they weren't kidding!  Right across the street from the Ranger Station is Lakeside Campground.  

This is a very interesting place to camp.  The sites are large and wooded, so you feel like you're out in the boonies.  However, just outside the campground entrance is a bus stop, where you can catch a little bus that drives all through Lakeside-Pinetop, two communities a few miles south and east of Show Low, as well as out to the Hon-Dah Casino on the White Mountain Apache (Fort Apache) Reservation.  So you can have the best of both worlds here--a spacious, inexpensive campsite that's close to everything you might need or want.  

We can also take the Lakeside-Pinetop bus to its northernmost stop (Walmart) and transfer to another bus that loops through Show Low.  We haven't done that yet.  So far, we've been satisfied with finding groceries, the post office, and a bookstore on the bus route that goes by our campground.  

In fact, a lot of stuff is within easy biking distance.  I've been needing a new bike, so we took the bus up to Walmart the other day and got me an inexpensive 26" ladies 18-speed mountain bike.  It's much easier for me to ride a bike than to walk long distances, because a bike has zero impact on my knees. 

 My new bike!

We are experiencing very good and somewhat disappointing aspects of staying here at Lakeside.  The good part is, as mentioned, the sites are big!  Even though we're close to Highway 260 (I mean, we can walk to the other side of the campground and eat pizza and wings at a franchise), it's quiet in the evening.  Last night we watched a great horned owl hunting for field mice. 

The Beluga in our lovely campsite.

What's not working for us is the lack of electricity.  We have a generator, but it makes a troublesome burning smell when we use it, so we're not using it until we find out what the problem is.  

We do have a small solar panel with us, but it doesn't gather as much electricity as we sometimes need, given that I am not yet retired and need to keep up with my online business.  If it's cloudy for very long, I can't do my work.

We had been counting on being able to run the generator to have a little air conditioning during the hottest part of the day (it's about 95 degrees in the tin can...I mean, the Beluga right now).  We thought I'd be able to iron the scarves I sell on eBay while the generator was running, too, and maybe do a little sewing. 

So, much as we love this campground and the price (just $6 per night with Steve's Golden Age Passport), we did some research today and we'll be moving to a private resort on Friday, or possibly sooner if something opens up before Friday.  We're going to stay there about a month, which brings the nightly price down to about $10, which is a really good deal, considering it includes electricity, as well as some services we might not use, such as cable TV.  And we'll still have access to the bus, so we don't have to uproot our home every time we want to get groceries.  

So that's pretty much what we've got figured out in our nearly three weeks of summer travel.  We like driving a short distance and then staying a while, and we're enjoying the balance of woodsy camping and urban life.    

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Week of Relaxation in St. Johns, Arizona

 A castle-shaped rock formation on the Zuni Reservation

It's been two weeks since we left Truth or Consequences, and I just checked Mapquest--we are 257 miles from TorC.  Of course, we've driven more miles than that, because we went a little ways up north in New Mexico to visit our friends on the Ramah Navajo Reservation.  But after we left their house, we headed across the border into Arizona and then started south on Hwy 191, which follows the Arizona-New Mexico border and puts us closer to where we started.

 Red and yellow striped rock mesa

I mentioned in my last blog that I saw some pretty cool things on the Zuni Reservation, but I couldn't take pictures the first time through because I was scared spitless while riding shotgun on a narrow, winding, hilly road with no shoulders.  On our way to Arizona, we drove across the Zuni Res, but on a better road this time, so I was able to take a few photos. 
 A rural Zuni house made of yellow limestone from the area

We did not stop and pay to enter the Zuni Pueblo itself.  It costs about $11 per person, plus an extra $10 if you want to take pictures.  We've done similar pueblo tours elsewhere in New Mexico, so we passed this time. 

 A larger building made of sandstone in the town of Zuni, near the actual pueblo

We were in kind of a hurry to get to St. Johns because I wasn't feeling well.  I did some online research before we left our friends' place and found out about North Country Healthcare, a low-cost clinic with a sliding scale with locations in 13 northern Arizona towns.  I'd emailed the clinic director in St. Johns and got an appointment and the paperwork rolling for my getting a low-cost appointment.  

It all worked out great.  I got to see a wonderful nurse practitioner for over an hour, and she addressed all of my problems.  They are female problems, so I won't go into detail--suffice it to say that nothing is life-threatening, and I just needed some meds.  Getting the prescriptions was a good experience, too.  St. Johns Drug is an old-fashioned pharmacy where they stock lots of old-time remedies such as Bag Balm and horehound lozenges.  They charged me far less than retail due to my lack of health insurance.  

We are staying at Moon Meadows RV Park on the west edge of St. Johns.  We'd planned to stay only one night, but we liked the park--it has large lots with trees, and it's affordable, so we are staying for a week while I recuperate.  Most of the other residents live here full-time here in their RVs and are working on construction projects in the area. 

I definitely am getting better.  Sometimes I think the meds are worse than the underlying conditions they treat.  I have to nap a lot, and I'm kind of spacey.  Steve and I were sitting down to play cribbage the other day, and he mentioned something about not wanting to "take advantage of a stoner"!  Well, I made sure to beat him 2 out of 3 games.  Stoner, indeed!  He says he let me win, but I don't think so.

So here are some pictures of what the cat and I have pretty much been doing lately:

Sonja on her back, sort of
 Sonja on the Bucky, on the dashboard

Sonja on the--"Seriously, do you  have to keep taking my picture?!"

We haven't spent time exploring St. Johns.  It's largely a Mormon town, and the Udalls are all from here.  There are some historic buildings, because this is one of the first areas of Arizona that LDS pioneers settled in the 1870s.  

Steve has been riding his bike into town to get groceries, and he's been doing a great job of taking care of me.  We're paid up here through Tuesday night, so Wednesday morning, we'll be heading to Show Low, where we heard there is some good boondocking on Forest lands on your way into town.