Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Snowbird RV Adventure: Catalina State Park Hikes

Days 8-9

Hiking the Romero Ruins Trail.

November 22: The first hike we took at Catalina State Park was the 3/4 mile Romero Ruins Trail loop. The first and last sections of the trail are on relatively level ground at the base of the Catalina Mountain Range. There was one rise in elevation that was negotiated by railroad tie stairs.

I enjoy learning about the history of the places we visit. Maybe it's the old college history major still in me. Catalina has lots of ancient and more recent history to share.

The ruins were from two widely spaced eras. There was a Hohokam native village dating back to about 500 A.D. Depressions indicated where homes once stood and mounds were trash middens. There was an area used for ball courts similar to those found in Yucatan ruins in Mexico, only much smaller. The 15-acre site was encircled by a stone wall, remnants can be seen in the upper left photo below.

Fabian Romero homesteaded and ranched in the same location as the former Hohokam village. His ranch land covered 4800 acres, but his home and buildings were here on the bluff overlooking Canada del Oro lands below. The remains of a homestead foundation are in the lower left photo above.

On the way back, we saw a beautiful sundog. It may be warm down here on the surface in Arizona, but there are ice crystals up there in the clouds to make this colourful display.


November 23: The next day we took an easy walking trail from the campground to the park's equestrian center where there's a staging area for people with horses to park trailers, enter the park's extensive multi-use trail system, and even camp with their horses nearby.

We waited until almost sunset to walk the half mile to see the facility and return to our campsite to make dinner. 


On the way the low sun angles made the Catalina Mountains in the distance glow. -- Margy

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Snowbird RV Adventure: Back to Lazydays then Patagonia Lake State Park

Days 10-13

Lazydays has shady spots covered by solar panels.

November 24-27: At Catalina, a tooth started hurting. It's been a problem, but never this bad. My dentist back in Bellingham recommended finding a local dentist. I Googled emergency dentist and found Tucson Spectrum Dentistry

I got a same day appointment! Dr. Roberts couldn't find the source, but gave me antibiotics for a suspected infection. If you are in Tucson with a dental problem, I can't recommend his high tech office enough.

My dental issue made a return to Lazydays the best option.

We cancelled at Tombstone RV Park. Even on the same day they didn't charge us. We'll be adding them to our April travel schedule for sure.

At Lazydays KOA we picked a covered spot. Our neighbours had a Thanksgiving get-together with lots of people. We stayed distanced, but the host brought us a turkey plate with all the trimmings. We saved our BBQ salmon and enjoyed their thoughtful gesture.

Days 14-15

Western style Steak Out Restaurant in Sonoita.
November 28-29: My tooth was better so we continued south to Patagonia Lake State Park. We drove through foothills on Highway 83 and took a break for a takeout burger at The Steak Out. This is free-range cattle country. Their specialty is steak and samples in a case looked succulent. Someday we want to return for one.

Highway 82 took us to the park. It's only 70 miles south of Tucson but feels worlds away. I made reservations six months ago online so we had prime lakefront site #19.

Site #19 at Patagonia Lake State Park

Patagonia Lake is in a valley surrounded by rolling hills covered with grasses, and mesquite and cottonwood trees along the shore and nearby Sonoita Creek.

Patagonia Lake is a refuge for humans and birds alike.

Patagonia Lake is popular in all seasons. Fall and winter draws RVers and campers wanting sun and warmth. Spring and summer are especially popular with bird watchers. Watersports on a hot summer day are a huge draw.

The Patagonia Marina offers canoe, rowboat, paddle boat and pontoon boat rentals. Water-access only campsites would be fun. A boat launch ramp and ample trailer parking allows boat owners easy access. 

Seasonal weekend pontoon boat tours from October to April look like fun. We are returning in January and April so we will check that out ourselves. -- Margy



Wayne and I stock our RV with emergency supplies including extra medications, a first aid kit, and prescription medicines such as antibiotics, EpiPens and pain medication for immediate emergencies. If something major occurs, we alter our plans and head to a city with emergency dental and medical services. 

On this leg of our trip, I had a dental emergency. We diverted to Tucson and stayed there long enough to ensure my issue was better before continuing our trip. Check your insurance plans to make sure you can get the care you need where you plan to travel. Living isn't worry free, but if you plan ahead it's much easier. -- Margy

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Snowbird RV Adventure: Patagonia Lake State Park Walks and Hikes

Days 16-17

Site #19 wide view.
November 30: One thing that Wayne and I love to do is walk through the campgrounds where we stay. I carry a map of the park and mark the best sites for future reference. I keep a copy of the annotated map in my Trip Journal to use for reservations for upcoming stays. Wayne enjoys looking at all of the different RV makes, models and styles.

We came to the conclusion that our site #19 was the best, but it wasn't available for January and April. I used the reservation map to find open sites then we walked them to check location, privacy and how level the pad was. We settled on #35 for January and #8 for April. Both are in the East Campground which we prefer. It's smaller and the sites are more private.

We love our little 25' Forest River Sunseeker, but checking out what others use is fun and sometimes amusing. Small is the best for us for driving and parking, yet ample inside space and amenities. We aren't full-timers so we don't need a huge Class A or fifth-wheel trailer.

A Gila Woodpecker drilling a Mesquite Tree at our site.

Patagonia State Park has a camp store. On our two campground walks, we stopped to get a Blue Bunny King Size Bunny Tracks Cone. It's the best commercial ice cream cone available. Good thing we don't have a store handy every day to get one, they are addicting!

December 1: On our last day we took the Sonoita Creek Trail that starts at the east end of the East Campground. The trail skirts the end of Patagonia Lake then follows Sonoita Creek. There is a loop at the end of the trail so you get the chance to see both aquatic and inland areas. Except for one section with railroad tie stairs, it's a flat walk.

The mushroom on the right looks like a mature Oyster Mushroom. What do you think?

Sonoita Creek with water running in December.

It's a bird watcher's paradise. Here's a list of what can be expected. But at mid-day we saw more birds in our campsite than on the trail.

Wayne has a Roadrunner come to visit. Beep Beep!

There's also the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area near the park entrance. It has eight miles of trail to explore. This trail is open to hikers and horseback riders We'll try this one in the future.

We loved our stay so much we scheduled two more stays this Snowbird RV Adventure season. If you would like to check out Patagonia State Park in more detail, here is a link to a park brochure and map. -- Margy 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Snowbird RV Adventure: Patagonia to Pima County Fairgrounds RV Park

Days 18-19

December 2: It was hard to leave Patagonia Lake State Park after only four days. We enjoyed it so much we are scheduled to return twice more during our 2020-21 Snowbird RV Adventure. 

To get to our next destination, the Pima County Fairgrounds RV Park, we retraced our route up Arizona Highway 82 through Sonoita then Highway 83 north. This time we had to go through the U.S. Border Patrol immigration inspection checkpoint outside of Sonoita. Things like that are scary for me.

Highway 83 has a twisty, hilly section. On a tight curve our anti-locking brake system warning came on. I read the manual while Wayne found a turnout. We followed the directions, but it wouldn't reset. We called O'Reilly Chevy in Tucson. We would need to leave the RV for a few days. It took half an hour to pack for a hotel stay. When we got back on the road, the system reset. Next time we'll know to be patient. We called and cancelled.

Distancing was easy in the almost empty park.
When we got to the Fairgrounds and checked in, it was evident that COVID-19 has taken a toll. There were only a handful of RVs in their large 350 site facility. 

The camp host told us last year's fair was cancelled and they still don't know about the 2021 season. Most public activities have been put on hold as well. They are hanging on, but just barely. We were happy to help with our small site fee of $54 for two nights with full hookups.

December 3: We've come to Pima Fairgrounds three years in a row. The first was in a rental RV in 2019. We came specifically to attend the La Mesa RV Show. Attending RV shows is a great way to see what different makes and models have to offer. Their shows are once a month and we've been three times. 

During the night we had another RV incident. The built-in propane heater quit generating heat. To stay warm, we used our portable electric heater. 

Thanks to a recommendation from our good friend Dave in Powell River, we always carry one. It's also an easy way to warm the RV in the morning when we have an electric hookup.

Pima Fairgrounds RV Park headquarters with propane available.

We called the Lazydays RV dealer (next door to the KOA). They didn't have a maintenance opening until January 9. I called the KOA to get a recommendation for a mobile tech. They recommended Ryan of Country Wide RV Services. He had an opening on Saturday, two days away. We changed our plans and made an appointment to meet up with him at Lazydays. 

Camping at Gilbert Ray in Tucson Mountain Park would have to wait for two days. RVing has taught us to be flexible, especially so on this trip. -- Margy

Right now RV sales are up. They are a great way to get out in a safe, distanced manner. We purchased our 25' Forest River Sunseeker at an RV show at Bellis Fair Mall next door to our Bellingham condo in 2019. If you are interested in RVs, I highly recommend looking at a variety of makes and models at shows and dealers. I also recommend renting one for a camping test. That will help you pick the size and style that best fits your needs. - Margy

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Snowbird RV Adventure: Pima Fairgrounds to Lazydays to Gilbert Ray

Days 20-24

Tucson Lazy Days registration, meeting rooms and restaurant.

December 4-5: Here we are again, back at the Tucson Lazydays KOA. Good thing we really like this popular RV resort. 

We confirmed our camp reservation at Gilbert Ray would be honoured with a late arrival. Then we waited for Ryan from Country Wide RV Services to meet us at our site. 

Ryan quickly determined the heater's problem, a limit switch that prevents propane from burning too hot. The faulty switch prevented our propane from turning on. He made a temporary fix (that didn't last) and ordered a new part to install when we are back at Lazydays later in December. In the meantime, our electric heater will keep us warm.

Mountain view from Gilbert Ray site #A-55.
December 6-8:
Since our reservation at Gilbert Ray Campground had already begun, we didn't have to wait for afternoon check-in. We broke "camp" and went to McDonald's for a special breakfast treat. Wayne parked in the pickup stall and ordered online, an advantage of a small 25' RV.

Tucson Mountain Park is a Pima County facility. It's only 12 miles west of Tucson and 16 miles from Lazydays, but feels a lot more remote and peaceful.

I made reservations six months ago so I got the most private spot, #A-55. We had an unobstructed view of the mountains and surrounding desert.

The most common plants near our campsite were saguaro cactus, beavertail cactus, creosote bushes and cholla cactus. Blue skies and white clouds made the view picture perfect.

The cholla next to our campsite was the chain fruit/jumping variety. The closeup at the top shows the hanging green fruits. At the bottom are dried spiny segments on the ground ready to "jump" and cling to your clothes or skin.

I have history with this plant. In 1973, the paved highway down Baja Californa opened and I camped along the Sea of Cortez. During an evening beach fire, I needed to pee. I stepped away to take care of business and felt something brush against me. I kicked my foot and felt a sharp pain. When I got back to the fire I could see a cholla segment piercing my flesh pinning the sandal strap down. Removing the spiny segment and freeing my shoe was painful. Since then, I'm very careful around these highly mobile plants.

Our Gilbert Ray campsite also had great Arizona sunset views. We enjoyed the park so much we made reservations to return for five days in February.

Wayne and I develop a plan for our Snowbird RV Adventures a year in advance. That way we can get the best sites at the places we want to visit. We research new destinations using resources such as Campendium, Facebook's Where'd You Stay RV and AllStays. We like to return to favourite spots, but always enjoy adding new destinations to explore. I mark the start date for reservations for each destination on my pocket calendar and iPhone Reminders list so I don't forget. Do you make reservations in advance? -- Margy

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Snowbird RV Adventure: Lazydays, Picacho Peak State Park and Home

Days 25-36

Ironwood Picnic Area Tucson Mountain Park.
Part I of our 2020-21 Snowbird RV Adventure included several stays at Tucson's Lazydays KOA RV Resort, more than expected. First there was my dental emergency. Then it was our RV heater emergency. The good thing, we really like Lazydays.

December 9-12: After we checked out of Gilbert Ray Campground we drove to the Ironwood picnic area to wait for our afternoon check-in at Lazydays. This time we were in a patio grass site, our favourite choice when they are available.

An Arizona rainbow at the end of the storm.

While we were there, we had the first and only rain storm during our trip. It didn't last long, but the dry desert really appreciated the moisture.

Site #A17 at Picacho Peak State Park.

December 13-15: Arizona has amazing State Parks. A favourite is Picacho Peak. It's a good stop between Phoenix and Tucson. Because we made our reservation six months in advance, we got a prime outer loop spot with an unobstructed view of the hills.

We walked the campground and selected a new site for an additional stay in January. All of the prime ones were gone, but we found a private center spot in C Loop that will do just fine. 

We relaxed, read and worked on suntans. That's what a Snowbird Adventure is all about.

Outdoor dining at Seis Kitchen in Tucson.
December 16-20: Our time in Arizona is winding down. We spent the last five days at Lazydays.

We rented a car at Enterprise to drive to Mesa to catch an Allegiant Airlines flight direct to Bellingham. We got it a few days early to explore more of the Tucson area.

The last day we prepared the RV for storage. In addition to being a great place to stay, Lazydays is a handy spot to leave our rig. I remove perishables and Wayne checks systems to be ready for our next trip.

We hate to leave, but know we will be returning, hopefully in January 2021. If not, we know it will be as soon as we can travel safely. -- Margy

A rental car lets us get to and from the airport.

Because our RV is stored in Tucson and the flight we prefer lands in Mesa, we need a rental car in each direction. We learned renting a car at one airport (Mesa) and dropping it at another (Tucson) cost almost double than renting one at a local Tucson Enterprise office and dropping it at the Mesa Airport. 

Check to see if this can work for you. As a bonus, we keep the car for a few days to explore and shop to re-stock our RV. -- Margy

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Book Review: "A Perfect Storm" by Mike Martin

It's book review time again. While Wayne and I have been enjoying our float cabin home on Powell Lake, we've had lots of time to relax and read both indoors and out.

There's nothing better than sitting in a chair on our sunny deck with a cool drink and a good book.

This month I'm reviewing A Perfect Storm, the newest book in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series.

Mike Martin is a Canadian author originally from St. John's, Newfoundland, who now resides in Ottawa, Ontario. He's proof you can take a man off The Rock, but he can never leave it behind.

Just released in September 2020, A Perfect Storm is the ninth book in his light crime mystery series. You can read each one as a stand-alone, but I've enjoyed reading them all. The main characters remain in each book so the return reader has the advantage of knowing more of the backstory and how their lives evolve over time.

Mike uses several recurring themes in his books. Of course, there's the core plot of criminal activity in and around the small Newfoundland town of Grand Bank. Yes, it's a real town. Read more about it here. There's the thread of small town, family and RCMP life that ties solving crimes together. And there's the ongoing use of quotes from Shakespeare and other notable sources in dialogue to make a point. My favourite from this book was, "Happiness is what's inside your head, so be careful what you feed it."

And now for the book review: Sgt. Winston Windflower is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commanding Officer of the Grand Bank RCMP Detachment. As much as we hate to admit it, small town life isn't immune to the perils of society: drugs, theft, racism, violence and murder. A powerful multinational white supremacist biker gang has set up a network in Grand Bank to take over the drug trade. Investigating a fatal automobile accident leads Sgt. Windflower and his officers to the larger crime and drug problem.  Solving it will take a community-wide recommitment to taking responsibility and helping one another.

Windflower is Cree from Northern Alberta and follows traditional practices. His Auntie Marie gives him guidance through visions and dreams. Even after her passing, her assistance guides him in his professional and personal life. We all could use help like this during difficult times.

Other reviews I've written for Mike Martin's Sgt. Windflower Mystery series:

A Tangled Web - Book 6 in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series

A case about a missing five-year-old child quickly expands like the interconnected threads of a spider's web throughout the small community of Grand Bank, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Follow the link to the review and pictures from the trips Wayne and I took to Newfoundland in 2009 and 2014.

Darkest Before the Dawn - Book 7 in the Windflower Mystery Series

A series of break-ins has the people of Grand Bank unnerved, then circumstances escalate and the situation quickly evolves into a murder mystery. Follow the link about to the review and a YouTube video and Google tour through the real Grand Bank.

Fire, Fog and Water - Book 8 in the Windflower Mystery Series

Running down the lookout trail Sgt. Windflower slides down a slope and into a frozen body wrapped in rug. The ensuring investigation links to a women injured during a hit-and-run, a house fire and the discovery of opioid drugs in an abandoned mobile home.

You can find out more about Mike Martin at:

Mike Martin on Crime Writers of Canada
Mike Martin on Twitter
Mike Martin's Author Page on Amazon
Mike Martin on !ndigo
Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series on Facebook
Mike Martin book reviews on the Crafty Gardener blog

A Perfect Storm is available in print and ebook formats. Online options include and -- Margy

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Goin' Home to Powell River, BC

Our Powell Lake float cabin home.
As the Mick Jagger and Rolling Stones lyrics go:
I'm goin' home, I'm goin' home
I'm goin' home, I'm goin' home
I'm goin' home, bome, bome ...
Home, bome, bome ...
Back home,
Yes, I am.
I bid a short farewell to my loyal Margy Meanders readers. Time has come for Wayne and me to leave for our Powell River Canadian home. We've waited since March to make the move due to strict quarantine requirements. But now is the time since the Canadian quarantine requirement was extended to August 31.

Wayne and I drove to the Pacific Highway crossing in Blaine. Because we became Canadian citizens in 2018 and Powell River is our home, we were allowed to cross the US/Canada border that is closed to non-essential travel for US citizens and other foreign nationals.

BC Ferries recommended that everyone remain in their vehicles.

Rules are in flux right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so check with the Canadian Border Service Agency and US Customs and Border Protection before you try to go.

Back in our Hewscraft finally heading up the lake.

We'd hoped to wait until the quarantine requirement was lifted, but decided it was best to go now while there was still some summer left to enjoy our float cabin home up the lake. And there couldn't be a better place to isolate ourselves for the required 14-day quarantine period and beyond if needed.

First Narrows on Powell Lake means we are almost home.

The border crossing was smooth and our BC Ferries connections worked perfectly even without reservations. We left the Bellingham condo (which has been our Washington residence for self-isolation) at 8:12 am after loading the last of the groceries to make it through the quarantine period, and arrived at our cabin deck at 6:15 pm. That's a little longer than normal to make the 260 kilometre (162 mile) trip because we built in extra time for border paperwork and early ferry terminal arrivals.

There's no place like home!

While we are up here in Powell River, there will be little content to share on Margy Meanders. But never fear, we will be back in Bellingham and the States by late September if pandemic conditions allow.

In the meantime, come visit us on the Powell River Books blog for Canadian and off-the-grid stories.

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone worldwide. Wayne and I hope you and your family are doing as well as possible during these difficult times. -- Margy