Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bright Sunny Days

Most times I drive without sunglasses. Not so these last several days. A sun almost overhead in Tucson and 90+ degree temps, every last bit of moisture in the air is removed. There is little moisture in the air to soften the sun rays. Or perhaps it isn't the moisture at all, but the sun rays reflecting from every light colored surface that causes eye strain.

With a wide brimmed hat and less reflection on the hiking trails, my eye sight is not bothered.

When driving and not hiking, my eyes are strained from the intensity of the sun. Back to wearing sunglasses when driving -- especially during the middle day light hours.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wandrin Snowbird

In just a few days, I will have been in Tucson for six months. That is the longest I have stayed any place in the past 12 years. The longest before this was three months last winter -- also in Tucson. Prior to that, the longest I had parked/camped any place was two months in San Diego.

My life -- everyone's life -- consists of loosely definable stages or phases or chapters of an autobiography. Seems I have been trying to get into that next phase for some months. Even years. Need change in my life every five years. Considering this is year twelve, I am overdue for a change.

The most recent post imagining the next phase was six months ago in the post Could I Do That. There I questioned living in sticks and bricks with an only vehicle being a Super B type RV vehicle -- such as a Road Trek or PleasureWay.

Considering sticks and bricks would be located in Colorado, there would be times that temperatures would not be conducive to short pants and Hawaiian shirts. That's the reason for the Super B which would provide the opportunity to escape to more comfortable temperatures. Or perhaps just a week in the mountains. The major concern about that imagined world was living in that small RV space for several months. Sure. I could have done it. If I had to.

The big negative to sticks and bricks would require the acquisition of a different vehicle. Shopping for vehicles is not a favorite pastime. I dread the thought of having to go through that experience.

After six months of Tucson living and more future imaginings, I've concluded that I'm not ready for sticks and bricks. Nor am I willing to live in 90 square feet for several months with a vehicle that has to be unhitched from the RV park to go exploring.

These past six months in Tucson have been great. It's been a very enjoyable stay. Lots of hiking choices -- close by or an hours drive away. Hiking with others from the RV park or hiking alone, there are options. In previous visits to Tucson, I've considered joining the Southern Arizona Hiking Club for more hiking options and hiking companions. One of these winters, I may actually join the group.

In addition to hiking, there are always places and activities to explore. Sometimes a repeat visit is required. Museums are always changing exhibits. There is also new exploring to be done. After many visits to Tucson in the past twelve years, I have never been to the Kitt Peak Observatory.

Big city shopping abounds. Food shopping includes Trader Joes, Costco and grass fed beef at the farmer's markets. Couple of Starbucks are a short drive away. Several thrift stores to check for Hawaiian shirts. What more could I want. Actually, I don't need another Hawaiian shirt. But I have to check for an unusual shirt. Might provide an opportunity to replace a less favored shirt of the 30 day rotation.

The RV park is comfortable with lots of social activities. Could also use the park diverse facilities to work at a hobby. The pool and hot tub are there for relaxing after hiking. Or just relaxing from my very taxing life style. As more people leave the park and head to their homes in the north, the park is becoming very quiet. The pool is vacant most times.

For me, RV living in an RV park resort is preferable to sticks and bricks where I have to share walls with my neighbors. In any living situation I can be a hermit or be alone. If I want to see my neighbors, there are many options for social interaction. It is a choice. And as a single guy, I make all the decisions.

The conclusion of the recent imagining is that the next phase in my life is to become a "dual citizen" -- six to eight months in Tucson and Arizona. The rest of the year would be in Colorado or traveling/exploring on the way to or from Arizona.

The positive is that Wandrin Wagon continues to be my home. No dollars for a different vehicle need be spent to pursue that imagined phase.

Stay tuned. When I arrive in Colorado in May, there may be a new imagined plan. :-)) Perhaps there is another option to the imagined wandering snowbird.

Previous posts about this indecision of what to do with the next phase of living:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tucson Downtown

Downtown Tucson is undergoing construction. A street car track is being built through the downtown area causing no end of traffic rerouting and dead ends. In addition to the street car construction there are at least three major building projects. One appears to be a Federal building. Another appears to be an apartment building. There were also building renovation/permits for some vacant buildings on Congress. Wonder if zero interest rates might be the reason for all this construction activity.

Been avoiding downtown ever since my first visit when I arrived in Tucson six months ago. Yesterday was time to go for a photo walk of downtown.

All photos were taken with the Canon SX230 and rendered further with Adobe Photoshop and Topaz Detail Plugin.

Tucson City Hall -- Built 1929

Corbett House (built 1909)
on the Tucson Museum of Art complex

The Art Deco Fox Theater was built 1929 and opened in 1930
Standing idle for 25 years,
it was refurbished and reopened in 2005.

The Stables is a very colorful residential retail complex

Bottle of water in one hand and camera in the other, it was a good day for a walk in downtown Tucson.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Desert Blooms

Hiking in Saguaro East yesterday, got a few photos of cactus blooms.

This staghorn cholla was the only cholla with blooms.

Less than half of the saguaros appear to have buds. Some have buds and blooms.

Loading the photos to the laptop and then reviewing them is when I noted the bees coming in for a landing on the blooms. Credit goes to the Canon SX230.

The prickly pear are also blooming.

The good thing about flora is that it stands still for photos. Not so with the representatives of fauna. Didn't get any photos.

Rabbits and deer were spotted -- heading away from me. Not good for photos. Numerous lizards of different species were seen. A black coach whip snake left the trail as I approached.

At the end of the hike and leaving the park is when the bull snake crossed the road. Stopped the truck to allow him safe passage.

Then it was the gila monster that I saw making a hasty retreat down the middle of the road. Stopped in the road, grabbed the camera and jumped out. In the grass and brush on the side of the road it was impossible to spot the gila monster with its camouflaged body.

It was a great morning for a hike to experience the natural world. I'll be back.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Gave up trying to be clever for a title for this post.

These are two of the photos from yesterday's post. With Photoshop, Topaz plugin Remask, and a Bamboo graphics tablet, here is the result of filling the day light hours in Tucson. And a few hours after the sun goes down.

It was fun doing creating these. Also like the result.

Note: After I was through with the creation, I downsized the photos to post on the internet. Of course that also reduces the quality. Sorry about that.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tohono Chul Park

The desert plants are blooming at Tohono Chul Park. At least some of them are blooming.

Don't have to come to the park to see the palo verde. They are in bloom all around Tucson. The mass of yellow blossoms on the tree is followed by a yellow snowstorm of flower petals on the ground.

Trees, annuals, and perennials in the park were blooming. Cactus were also in bloom. Not really sure what this cactus is. Much of the plant and the blossom looks like the senita cactus. However, they are a white flower. Most likely it is some kind of cactus hybrid to produce the colors of the yellow, red and pink.

The desert is home to several varieties of yucca. Here is a close up of the blossoms.

A desert garden is not complete without a saguaro. There were very few of the saguaro with buds and I didn't see any blossoms.

In my hikes around the Tucson area, I see lots of prickly pear along the hiking trails. However, in this protected environment of the park with a little water, this prickly pear has grown rather large. I couldn't back up far enough to get a photo of the whole plant. It grows horizontally rather than up. Kind of like an adult human. :-)

A close up of prickly pear blossoms with a new pad. Probably would be a bad idea to harvest that pad for a nopalitos side dish with an omelet.

The only wild life I noted in the park was this lizard. Perhaps a desert spiny lizard. Each time he stopped he would do push ups.

One reason to come to the park was to see what the night blooming cereus looked like. Blooms in June and at night is the way to see the bloom. I knew I wasn't going to see a bloom, but I had to see the dead looking stick that held this bloom.

All of the plants are in "cages". Noted several of them along the Desert Trail. Looking closely at many of them, I noted only one with a very small bud. The rest were -- well -- dead sticks.

Most of the plants will bloom on a single night. How do those plants communicate with each other the night of their bloom. According to a docent, there are some who didn't get the message about that night. Some will bloom early and others later. However, it is June when they bloom and I will be in Colorado.

It was a warm day wandering around the park with temps in the high 80s. It was a great day for a walk to see the desert in color.

Note: Put your name on a Tohono Chul email list, and a blanket email will be sent out when the night blooming cereus blooms will appear.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Just Sharing

Browsing of blogs and other selected readings on the internet, there are some that -- I believe -- are worth sharing with my readers. Since I am not a Facebook or Twitter groupie, my blog is the only way for me to share.

The decision to read is up to you.

The daily internet reading material includes a couple of cartoons. Non Sequiter is a favorite. As a long time cynic, I found this cartoon of April 13, 2013 amusing.

The Segway has proven quite popular since its debut in 2001. Take that concept further by removing one wheel and nothing to hold onto and you have Solowheel from Laptop Vehicle. Check out the video of the Solowheel in action.

For those who want to remember their loved ones,  Urns For Ashes can be made to resemble your deceased. Then put the urn on the mantle.  For me, looking in the mirror is enough as I see my father looking back. 

Guess what. Read this article in the news to discover why news is bad for you.

One more thing to share. The days are getting a lot warmer in Tucson. Some mid 90 degree days are just a few days away.

Enjoying life is a matter of balance. Without cold, I wouldn't know what hot is.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Senita Cactus

After looking at my Cactus Of Arizona book, I've come to the conclusion that it is a senita cactus. Although also a night bloomer like the night blooming cereus, it was eliminated because this plant was on a cactus type plant. The night blooming cereus plant is more stick like with the blooms at the tips.

Regardless of the identification, it is a quite showy flower. Guessing it appeals to bats for pollination since it is a night bloomer.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April Snows

Nope. Not snowing in Tucson. No rain either. With the clouds over the area mountains, there may be a possibility of a dusting at those higher elevations.

In a recent email exchange with a traveling friend heading to Denver, the friend assumed that April snows were unusual events in Denver. I assured the friend that was not the case. In my long time residence of Colorado, I have seen snow (sometimes significant amounts) in every month except June, July and August over those 30 plus years living in the Denver area.

As a long time hiker, I also had the privilege to hike in snow flurries during those summer months. One year it was a mountain hike on the Fourth of July when the snow was falling on my companion and me. We decided to end the hike early and head to a Mexican restaurant where there would be a Margarita waiting for us.

In that exchange with my friend, I attached the following photo. This photo was taken on Easter of 1977 -- April 10th.

Son TJ assisted me in the dog and rabbit construction. Things change. Today TJ is taller than me. The hair on Wandrin Lloyd has turned gray and is much thinner.

No doubt you're wondering about the trailer in the background. Not mine. My folks were visiting from Wisconsin on that Easter weekend.

Thanks to my traveling friend for bringing back memories of Colorado snow in April.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jackalope Sighting

When hiking today, spotted this immature jackalope (no antlers) munching on the prickly pear cactus.

Seems the jackalopes are only found as specimens from a taxidermist's creative hands and are in saloons across the west. Never have seen one in the wild. Of course there are many animals I have not seen in the wild. Like the mountain lion. However, I have no doubt that a mountain lion has seen me.

Up early this morning and on the trail shortly after seven this morning, the shadows mask some of the detail of the photo of the desert hare.

This desert hare wasn't bothered by my presence and continued to munch on the prickly pear. Seen evidence of the javelina eating the prickly pear. Also been told that deer will sometimes eat prickly pear. Haven't seen either of those animals in action eating prickly pear.

Javelina eat the spine covered lobes of the prickly pear. Have to admire an animal that can chomp on inch long spines.

The desert hare wasn't eating the spine covered lobes of the plant but rather at the base where there were no spines. Appears the desert hare knew how to tackle this meal.

In yesterday's post about curved bill thrashers, I noted the pair in the nest in Saguaro East. Passing that nest today, there was only one in the nest. The remaining one hopped to the side of the nest. I expected it to fly off to see its solo flight. Didn't happen.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Curve-Billed Thrashers

Tucson Botanical Gardens was where this curve-billed thrasher had its nest in the usual location in the upper branches of a cholla.

With no shade and no breeze it was a warm day for momma bird as she provided some shade for the three youngsters. Failed at getting that family photo.

The following day on a hike in Saguaro East, it was another curve-billed thrasher nest. Two in this nest. One is in the shadows in the rear.

These two were older than those in the photo above. Although the eyes haven't taken on the adult color, the beaks were just beginning to get that distinctive curve. The one in the shadows at the rear seemed to be poised for a flight.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fat Free Sugar Free Gluten Free

Big agribusiness wastes little time responding to the latest report of some issue that is caused by the food we eat.

Decades ago, the mantra was "we are what we eat". Don't want to get fat. Then don't eat fat. Agribusiness responded quickly with "no fat" products. The packaging of the product made the message clear. Buy this product; it has no fat.

Then it was discovered that the human body didn't know how to handle trans fats. Soon agribusiness responded by creating products without trans fats. That message was right on the food package in bold letters.

Guess what. Food doesn't taste good without fat. To make it taste good, the food industry added sugar. Good for the sugar industry. Not too good for the human body. Fat out. Sugar in. 30 years later, there is an obesity epidemic. Causation or correlation for obesity and sugar. Might be. Where are the studies. In an article at Mother Jones, Gary Taubes' notes that the sugar industry might be a culprit.

That article and others like it may be the reason for some products to be advertised as "sugar free". Check the ingredients and discover that Splenda (or an equivalent artificial sweetener) is added to give it a sweet taste.

To meet the latest findings from medical studies, now agribusiness creates foods that are gluten free. Many people are gluten intolerant (I am one of those one in a 100) or celiac. Agribusiness came to the rescue and made gluten free products. Check out the labels on processed foods and there it is: "gluten free".

Not to be left out, there is the "low sodium" or "no salt added" words on many products.

Agribusiness knows how to make food taste good and feel good on the tongue. With numerous unpronounceable ingredients, they can make a product that has "no fat, no trans fat, no sugar, low sodium and no gluten". And people will buy it.

At one time, Breyer's was the only ice cream brand that I bought. With three ingredients, it was perfect and it tasted like ice cream. Not any more. The answer about Breyer's history is found in this Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breyers  Today, my desserts at home are Greek yogurt over fresh fruit. Sometimes, I sweeten it with pure maple syrup.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Parkinson's or Alzheimer's

Most of my readers and long time friends are aware of my drink of choice -- Crown Royal on the rocks and a glass of water.

This is an email received several times from readers and friends. Time to share with all my readers.

My wife asked me the other day, 
"At your age, what would you prefer to get
 -- Parkinson's or Alzheimer's?"

I answered, "Definitely Parkinson's.  
Better to spill half an ounce of Crown Royal, 
than to forget where you keep the bottle."

Note: Crown Royal is only consumed for medicinal purposes.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tax Time Again

With the TurboTax software (compliments of daughter Vanita's employment at Intuit), the process should be easy and non-painful. Perhaps for some people. Not for me.

The easy part is filling out personal data: social security number, age, any dependents, etc. Then it is time to collect your income. The software asks slews of questions of your sources of income. There are about 40 different sources of income that are identified by the software. (Of course, the software only interprets the 7200 pages of Federal Tax Code. That code is the result of laws enacted by the Federal legislative bodies. Most times those decisions are based on favors to blocs of voters, large campaign donors, etc. i.e. The usual suspects.)

At some point I opted out of the TurboTax "easy" questions and decided that I would fill in the data in TurboTax "spread sheets". For some reason the spread sheets have no relationship to the IRS final form -- or documents that I have received from various financial organizations. In some cases there is no spread sheet available. If there was one for the 1099-R forms, I was unable to find it.

At some point, I began to wonder why the blazes I am actually doing any of this detailed mind numbing error prone routine. The IRS receives all the information from various financial organizations. It is those organizations' data forms that I am using to fill out the 1040 form and the many attached schedules. The IRS could send me a form already completed with all the information they received. All I would have to do is to make changes, include missing data or approve as received.

However, that is not how we do things in this technologically advanced country. Apparently, I wasn't the only one questioning this stupidity. Found a recent article about simple tax filing by ProPublica that describes the ugly situation. Yup. Lobbying for a corporation's interest is the reason for maintaining a complicated taxing system.

So what is the state of my tax filing.... If that document had arrived from the IRS which only required completing the information that wasn't supplied to the IRS, it would have been an "easy" tax filing. Fill in the cost basis for stock sales and the taxes would have been done. Once the data inputting for taxes 2012 was complete and the amount due was small, the tax form was e-filed. The form was accepted within a day and the same day, the amount was deducted from the checking account.

A few days later, I started to think about that small amount due and decided that there should have been a refund. So I looked at the forms and discovered that I had obviously made some human (that would be me) errors. Thought the error might be in Schedule D. Checked it. That was okay. Then I looked at the data entered from the 1099-R forms. Oops. As I entered the data from the 1099-R forms, I managed to transpose digits from one form and forgetting to enter a number from another form.

Started TurboTax to file an amended return. The 1040X. Made all the corrections and the amount to be refunded would be the amount that was deducted from my checking account plus the refund amount from the corrections of input data. No e-filing of 1040X. Get an envelope and stamps and mail to the IRS center. It will be six to eight weeks before the refund will appear in my checking account.

Since there will be no form from the IRS with all the data completed in the foreseeable future, next year I will recheck my data entry before e-filing taxes.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Found: Soccer Ball

When exploring and touring the grounds of Aqua Caliente Park, I noted a white spot at the water line on the distant reeds. Mid center about a third of the way up from the bottom.

With the Canon SX40, I was able to get a good close up of the white spot.

First impression it was the head of a Martian. Wrong. Yup. It was a soccer ball.

I recognized it as a soccer ball because I had "coached" son TJ's soccer team for a couple of games when the regular coach was out of town on business. Knowing very little about the team playing of soccer, I probably caused considerable damage to the team's win/loss record.

There were a few minutes of wondering about making a home for that soccer ball. But how to get it. Out there in the middle of a muddy bottomed pond was not too attractive.

Just what would Wandrin Lloyd do with a soccer ball. Not sure. Probably store it with all those golf balls I have managed to accumulate when out walking the rough of golf courses. If any golfers out there read this and cross my path, those golf balls will be yours for the asking. Caveat: I don't know a good golf ball from a poor golf ball. Or is the difference the name on the golf ball.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Solar Warming

It was a few days ago at the Agua Caliente Park where the turtles were warming their cold blooded bodies.

Today it was cloudy and the high temp was in the low 60s. The clouds and some wind made it cool day. Not sure what the turtles were doing today, but I waited for a warmer day for a hike. Yup. I'm a wuss.

Considering the snow dumping on the northern plain states, this Tucson weather is balmy.

Yesterday it was very windy and the sky was filled with dust. Not a comfortable day outside. Also turned out to be a good day for a planned lunch with Flora and Phil. We ate inside.

Last evening there was rain. Not much rain although there was standing water in some places. The rain cleared the air of dirt and left an "artistic" imprint on the windshield of Silver Slug. To ensure the rainy artistic endeavors were past, Silver Slug gets a bath tomorrow to remove the muddy graffiti.

With few clouds predicted for tomorrow, the turtles -- as well as Wandrin Lloyd -- will be soaking up some solar rays.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sonoran Desert Springtime

The spring time warm up acts of brittlebush and poppies are in bloom. With the infrequent rains through the past winter, there are lots of spaces between the color. That is compared to some years where the colors blanket a hillside.

Cactus don't cover hillsides, but they do provide spots of color. This hedgehog cactus was a spot of color in the landscape.

Hiking in Saguaro East NP, I noted buds on the prickly pear and cholla. Trying not to stumble, I looked up occasionally to note just a couple of saguaros beating the rush with some buds.

All the color in the desert isn't stationary. Some is on the move. Caught a photo of this collared lizard before he escaped to avoid a second photo.

With plans to go hiking every other day, I expect my readers will see more photos of a Sonoran Desert spring.

Enjoying life is a matter of balance.... So I hike some days. Other days, I go to Starbucks for tea. Every day is a good day.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Older Hiker

Hiking up Blackett's Ridge at Sabino Canyon, there seemed to be an indication that this body just didn't move as it used to. Perhaps the trail had gotten steeper and more rocky since those earlier hikes a few years back. I've become very good at denying old age.

As I was hiking the trail I remembered one of the first times I was on Blackett's Ridge. It was eleven years ago and -- of course -- younger by that same number of years. I was hiking with a guy I met in the RV park where I was parked. He was 71 years old and I was impressed that we were well matched as hikers. Today at the age of 72, I wonder if I am as fit as that 71 year old guy I hiked with eleven years ago.

Phoneline Trail is an easy walk, but Blackett's Ridge becomes a climb with numerous switch backs over broken rock and rock steps. Although I had been to the dead end on Blackett's Ridge in previous hikes, that day's choice was a journey -- not a destination. The very uneven trail and my balance issues were causing lots of stress. A good sitting rock was found where I sat to admire the view and snacked and rehydrated.

May have been a short hike, but it was a great journey. The views, the air, the solitude... It was a great day.