Sunday, September 4, 2022

Book Review: "The Land of Little Rain" by Mary Hunter Austin

Summer's a great time for me to read books, especially ones available for my Kindle e-reader. Up the lake at the float cabin, I have easy access to lots of books without having to carry them back and forth in our boat. 

I use my new Kindle Paperwhite with its backlit screen indoors and at night without the need for an external light source. 

My trusty 2010 Kindle Keyboard is the reader of choice while floating in a tube in our natural swimming pool behind the cabin. This old model is less sensitive to heat in direct sunlight and I worry less about dropping it in the water.

My choice for this month's review was read right here while lounging in a cool location on hot summer days.

Summer heat here in Coastal British Columbia is nothing compared to the high and low deserts on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range in southwestern United States. That arid and sparsely populated environment was chronicled by Mary Hunter Austin in her book The Land of Little Rain, originally published by Houghton-Mifflin in 1903.

Mary Hunter Austin was unique. She traveled mostly alone on foot through California's desert wilderness in the 1890s. Another unique feature was that Austin's books were published under her own name. As such, she became a well recognized early nature writer of the American Southwest. She was also a champion and example for women desiring to break away from stereotypical expectations of the day. In addition to being an author, she was an artist. Her sketches became illustrations in her books.

The Land of Little Rain is a collection of Austin's observations of the people, places, plants and animals of the canyons, hills and deserts east of the southern Sierra Nevada range. Each chapter focuses on a specific area, environment, geologic feature, or interesting inhabitants including miners, shepherds, and Mexican and Native American inhabitants.

Over her lifetime (1868-1934), Austin wrote over 30 books and many more essays, articles and poems for publication. Her early 20th Century prose writing style was typical of that era with long sentences including detailed descriptions. Each phrase creates a vivid mental picture of the subject matter.

I enjoy reading historically based books that take me back to a time gone by. My grandmother always said I was born a generation too late. I think there's a lot of truth to what she said.

Do you like to read historical accounts and memoirs? What are some of your favourites? -- Margy

Visit the monthly Book Review Club for teen/young adult and adult fiction over at Barrie Summy's blog.

Also shared with Your the Star at Stone Cottage Adventures and Kathryn's Book Date

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Always FREE Kindle "Up the Lake" by Wayne Lutz

The book that started it all!

Up the Lake
Coastal BC Stories


Head up Powell Lake to experience life in an off the grid float cabin, take a boat to world famous Desolation Sound, ride a quad into the back country and fly overhead for a unique view of this incredible place. Read Up the Lake by Wayne Lutz and see how much fun it can be.

Print for $9.95
Kindle for Free
E-Book for Free
(prices may vary in Canada)

for more information and 
additional titles in the Coastal BC Stories series.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Wayne and Margy's 2021-22 Snowbird RV Adventure

Lazydays RV storage.
Wayne and I've left our Powell Lake float cabin home to get some winter sun and warmth in Arizona and New Mexico.

Canada and the United States have fewer Covid restrictions. Even so, we are taking things carefully. RV travel can be a form social distancing. We shop for groceries once a week and don't interact with others in an unsafe manner. We are vaccinated and boosted, still wear masks in crowded spaces, and use sanitizer and wash our hands just like at home. For now, our Sunseeker RV is our home on wheels.

Wayne at the wheel.
Part 1 - We left Bellingham on November 14 and flew Allegiant Airlines to Mesa, Arizona. From there we used an Enterprise rental car to drive to the Tucson Lazydays KOA Resort to pick up our RV waiting in storage. We learned a hard lesson. Five months in dry storage depleted batteries. After a AAA visit we were ready for 36 days of exploration around southern Arizona. On December 19 we put the RV back in storage and flew to Bellingham for a Christmas break.

Tucson Lazydays KOA Resort

Part 2 - Because Canadian border restricitons made a trip home impossible, the second leg of our trip started early on January 2. Again flew south to pick up our RV at Lazydays then spent 46 days camping south of Tucson and in the foothills north and east of Phoenix. For the first time in three years we attended women's outdoor softball games at Arizona State and the University of Arizona. On February 23, the RV went back into storage (with batteries disconnected) and we flew to Bellingham for a second break.

Part 3 - Success, with relaxed Canadian border crossing restrictions we were able to return to our float cabin home. We left Powell River on March 18 for Bellingham and a March 27 flight to Mesa, Arizona. This route has become routine including a rental car to make the two hour drive the Lazydays. Before Covid they flew direct to Tucson, but we don't mind the drive. This time the batteries were still charged. For 35 days we explored and camped in southern Arizona with a short trip to New Mexico. New Mexico would have been new for us, but bad wind and dust storms sent us scurrying back to the Tucson area. On May 1 we put the RV in our reserved storage spot one last time then flew to Bellingham and a summer at our float cabin home in the cooler north. Our Sunseeker will spend the long hot summer for the third time waiting for our return in November 2022.

We hope you will follow along as our adventure unfolds. -- Wayne and Margy

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Snowbird RV Adventure Part 1: Bellingham to Tuscon, Arizona

Days 1-6

If you've followed our Snowbird RV Adventures from the last two years you know we follow the same type of schedule. Breaking the trip into three segments works well for us. We are in the sunbelt for three of the cold northern months and back home to take care of business and return to our float cabin home in between.

November 14-19: We left Bellingham on Allegiant Airlines the morning the atmospheric river arrived. We outran it to Arizona leaving British Columbia and Washington State in the path of a 100-year storm that would bring devastating flooding and landslides.

We landed in Mesa and got our Enterprise rental car. Before COVID, Allegiant flew to Tucson. Now we drive two hours down I-10 to our first destination, Lazydays KOA RV Resort. We start and finish our trips here because we store the Sunseeker here.

Allegiant Airlines offers direct flights to many destinations.

The Tucson Lazydays KOA offers a resort style atmosphere. They have two pools, a nature center, activities for kids and adults, and the BBQ Rush restaurant onsite. If you want to stay a month or more, they have lower long-term rates

Tucson Lazydays KOA has a resort atmosphere.

We like the pull-through full-hookup patio grass sites the best. There are hedges on three sides and either a citrus (you can pick the fruit in season) or olive tree for shade. They have a wide variety of site styles including tent, cabin, regular and deluxe RV spots.

For the first three days we had a rental car.

We kept the rental car for several days to make our first Fry's grocery store run and eat out. One of our favourite Mexican restaurant is Aqui Con El Nene. Wayne gets the carne asada plate and I love the bean and cheese burrito.

With a rental car we could go to favourite Arizona restaurants.

We had a relaxing six days to read in the warm sunshine, take evening walks and watch a Netfix and HBOMax movies in the evenings. It's a great way to wind down and make sure all of our RV systems are in working order. -- Margy

We splurged and got an RV wash right in our Lazydays site. The owner and a crew of four from Tucson RV Wax got our Sunseeker spic 'n' span in only thirty minutes.

We opted for an onsite wash with Tucson RV Wax's service.

In April during our last leg we'll get a wash, wax and roof treatment to prepare our RV for storage over a long, very hot summer.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Snowbird RV Adventure: Lazydays to Gilbert Ray Campground

Days 7-10

November 20-23: After six days relaxing at Lazydays, we moved to nearby Gilbert Ray Campground in Tucson Mountain Park. It's a Pima County Park only 16 miles from Lazydays, but worlds away in atmosphere.

Gilbert Ray has four loops with 130 sites. Most have power for $20 a night and a few tent only sites are $10. There are online reservations a year in advance for three loops. H Loop is first-come, first-serve.

Heading west on Irvington we were caught for an hour and a half waiting for the Tour de Tucson bike race to pass in front of us. That made us late for the USC vs UCLA football game, so Wayne pulled into a turnout after we entered Tucson Mountain Park and we watched the first half with a cellular hot spot and displayed on our RV TV. As USC fans, the results were disappointing.

We stopped at registration (only manned from January to March) but with a reservation there was already an tag at our site. I reserved early, so we got a private spot, #42 in Loop A. In addition to park personnel, there are camp hosts to provide assistance if needed.

Site #42 in A Loop has an unobstructed mountain view.

All RV sites have a 30 amp hookup and picnic table. No wood fires are allowed, but you can use a charcoal or gas grill. The sites are packed dirt and gravel. We haven't been here in the rain, but they are fine in the dry season. Water and restrooms are easily accessible.

Enjoying the privacy of our site, lots of Chain Fruit Chollas.

Reading quietly we saw some wildlife: hummingbirds, Cactus Wrens, two kinds of butterflies (one on my toe), a Harris ground squirrel and evening coyote howls.

A pair of Cactus Wrens visited us in camp.

Partly cloudy skies ended each of our four nights with gorgeous, colourful Arizona sunsets framed by tall saguaro cactus, spiky ocotillo and wispy green mesquite trees.

What better way to end the day than sitting outdoors enjoying the last evening warmth with a spectacular view. -- Wayne and Margy

On the way we stopped at Fry's to shop for groceries. In Arizona it's our market of choice.

I applied for a Fry's customer loyalty reward card years ago. I bring it with me each trip to save on my grocery bills. I have several other cards I can use if there isn't a Fry's nearby. You can get loyalty cards at the register or customer service desk. Register them online for extra benefits, or just use them to get the discount prices. Why pay the shelf price when you can get a lower one. -- Margy

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Hanging Out in Ironwood Picnic Area in Tucson Mountain Park

Day 11

November 24: Checkout time from Gilbert Ray Campground is 11:00 am. We needed to wait until 2:00 pm to check back into the Lazydays KOA only 30 minutes away. 

We decided to wait at the Ironwood Picnic Area before we left Tucson Mountain Park.

We turned right on Hal Gras Road to enter the picnic area. We stopped at the second turnout with a private ramada covered picnic table. 

The area was immaculate and inviting with it's natural desert terrain and plants. With a grill, trash can and a restroom down the road it was a great spot for a family picnic.

A private site at Ironwood Picnic Area in Tucson Mountain Park.

We didn't have a picnic, but we enjoyed sitting in the sunshine to read and absorb the quiet atmosphere. Like Gilbert Ray, a Cactus Wren came by to check us out.

A Cactus Wren visits us at Ironwood Picnic Area.

While Wayne read, I took a short trail into the desert. It was a nice way to see nature up close and enjoy our wait-time in a pleasant way. An added bonus, if you are an astronomy buff the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association sponsors free dark sky star parties here. -- Margy

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Snowbird RV Adventure: Lazydays to Patagonia Lake

Days 12-20

Another private patio grass site at Lazydays.
November 24-28: After hanging out reading in the sunshine at the Ironwood Picnic Area, we checked back into the Tucson Lazydays KOA for the Thanksgiving holiday. Our RV oven is so small cooking even a turkey leg wasn't possible. We opted to grill steak on our BBQ with baked potatoes and all the trimmings, then eat outside at our picnic table.

Being together is what's important. Wayne and I are so thankful to be able to enjoy life together.

November 29 - December 3: The week after Thanksgiving we drove 75 miles south to Patagonia Lake State Park. This is our favourite Arizona State Park, so we come here more than once during each annual Snowbird Adventure. 

There are several ways to get here from Tucson. We like Interstate 19 to the Ruby Road exit and across to Highway 82. We've gone through Nogales, but traffic can be challenging.

Patagonia Lake is popular for boating, birding and camping. Sites fill up fast, especially on weekends from October to June. There are 105 campsites with picnic tables, fire rings or grills, electric and water hookups, and a free dump station. There are also 12 boat-in only spots. You can make reservations online a year in advance.

We like the east campground best. This time we were in Site #17. It's two-tiered with parking on the upper level and the table and fire ring below near the lake shore.

Site #17 with our Sunseeker above and a large area below.

Patagonia Lake attracts a wide variety of birds. There are two major bird watching areas. The easiest to reach is the bird watching trail at the east end of the campground. There's even a viewing area with seating and feeders to attract birds. The other is the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area at the entrance to the park. 

Bird viewing area, Great-tailed Grackle and doves.

The highlight of Patagonia is the lake itself. It attracts birds, wildlife and humans alike.

In an arid locale, Patagonia Lake is an oasis.

With a large body of water, Patagonia lake attracts boaters. The west side allows some high speed operations, but the east side is limited to protect bird nesting areas.

Reflections at the Patagonia Marina.

The park has a boat launch, marina and store to serve boaters and campers. You can rent pontoon boats by the hour or day to enjoy some of the boat-in only areas and campsites.

Now you can see why Patagonia Lake State Park is our favourite Southern Arizona RV camping destination. Do you have any favourites to share? -- Wayne and Margy

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Snowbird RV Adventure: Patagonia Lake to Fort Huachuca

Days 21-23

December 4-6: We left Patagonia Lake State Park and headed north, then east, then south again to U.S. Army Fort Huachuca. We originally wanted to spend three nights at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, but they don't take reservations. Searching for an alternative, we discovered Apache Flats RV Resort at Fort Huachuca near Sierra Vista.

Wayne is retired military so we can stay at RV parks on bases. They are always a good choice for location, quality and reasonable cost.

It was only 55 miles away so we were there in about an hour. We'd hoped to have lunch at The Steak Out restaurant in Sonoita, but they changed their hours. Maybe another trip!

First we went to the Commissary to stock up on food for the next week of travel. Then we walked over to the Exchange for a few items.

We were assigned #25 of the 56 sites. They are nice sized with full hookups and mesquite trees for shade. We didn't use the restrooms or showers, but did use the laundry.

The park is surrounded by desert. It's quiet except for a distant bugle playing reveille at 6:00 a.m.

There are walking trails from the park. We especially enjoyed the Heritage Park trail with plant identification signs. There were other signs of importance and we made sure not to stray off the designated trails!

We missed the summer blooms that come with the monsoon season, but there were still lots of beautiful desert plants to enjoy. We've been good about walking for exercise each evening before dinner.

Fort Huachuca has a long history. It was set up as a cavalry camp in 1877 to protect settlers and travelers. In 1882 it was made a permanent Army fort to protect the border region. From 1913 to 1933, the 10th Cavalry of African-American "Buffalo Soldiers" became the garrison regiment.

After World War II the base was briefly closed, but reopened in 1950 as a national defense asset. Today the focus is on technology, communications and intelligence.

A warm November evening at Fort Huachuca.

Now that we know about Apache Flats RV Resort at Fort Huachuca we will be returning. If you are active duty or retired military or Department of Defense you can make a reservation at this popular destination up to 90 days in advance. -- Wayne and Margy

Are you eligible to stay in RV parks and Family Camps on military bases? If so, what are some of your favourite ones? 

Our list includes Whidbey Island's Cliffside RV Park, Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Holiday Park FamCamp, and Port Hueneme's Fairways RV Resort. Now we will add Fort Huachuca's Apache Flat's RV Resort to that illustrious list.
-- Margy

Sunday, April 24, 2022

End Part I of Our Southern Arizona Snowbird RV Adventure

Days 24-36

December 7: We ended the first part of our 2021-22 Snowbird RV Adventure in Southern Arizona before Christmas. That way we could be back with our good friend in Bellingham and take care of some end of the year business. 

 We like breaking up our RV adventures this way rather than staying on the road for a lengthy period of time.

On the way north from Fort Huachuca we stopped at Watson Chevrolet to have the chasis of our Sunseeker Class C motorhome serviced. Even though we haven't driven many miles, it's been two years.

In the service bay at Watson Chevrolet in Tucson.

At first we weren't sure they had a service bay large enough for us, but we shouldn't have worried. It's a big dealership with the largest service area I've ever seen. They even had a lift big enough for us.

Catalina State Park

Large and private Site #A-45 at Catalina State Park.

December 7-10: Catalina State Park is only ten miles from downtown Tucson and avery popular park for day and overnight use. Reservations for campsites must be made well in advance for the peak winter season.

Catalina has many walking, hiking and riding trails to enjoy. There's even a horse camping area with stables. We met Samson on one of our trail walks. He knew lots of tricks to use for children's parties. 

Picacho Peak State Park

December 11-13: Our next stop was Picacho Peak State Park, 36 miles to the northwest. On the way we stopped at a Fry's grocery store to pick up the last of our provisions. 

Site #A-13 at Picacho Peak.

These last two campsites gave us lots of privacy and space to relax, read, BBQ and end the day with a campfire. In college I studied the Civil War period of American history. I remember Picacho Peak as one of the western-most locations for a battle. 

On one of our walks, we discovered the location where they used to conduct annual reenactments. That would have been fun to see.

Budget cuts and Covid put an end to them. Here's a video from 2001.

December 14-19We spent the last week of our adventure at Lazydays before putting the RV into their storage area. Having our RV pre-positioned in Arizona makes our winter sun-seeking adventures easier and more enjoyable. 

Do you travel by RV? How do you handle your trips?