Monday, January 31, 2022

Book Review: "American Dirt" by Jeanine Cummins

I'm currently in Arizona and just finished reading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron Books, 2020). In fact, I finished reading this compelling novel in Tucson, Arizona, the destination for Lydia and her eight young old son Luca after they escaped tragedy in their home town of Acapulco, Mexico.

There are mixed feelings in the United States about undocumented immigrants. Those feelings are more evident here in Arizona. There are few people that hold the middle ground. Many want to continue building the wall and deter border crossings at all costs. Others have sympathy for undocumented immigrants and provide them with empathy and support.

I grew up and in California. As a teen, I spent summers with my grandparents near Modesto, a major agricultural area. Much of the labour was provided by undocumented immigrants. I saw how whole families and single men were forced to live in squalid conditions without recourse. Later, when I became a teacher, then a principal, I saw how the fear of discovery weighed heavily on daily life, and how the power of street gangs took the place of cartels.

Jeanine Cummins has first hand knowledge of immigrant issues. She also spent years in research and sought personal experiences for her so novel it would tell a true to life story.

The Review: Lydia Quixano PĂ©rez befriends an unassuming man who visits her book store not knowing he's a cartel lord. Her husband is a journalist who writes an expose about this same man. Lydia is conflicted because she feels she knows the gentle side of Javier. It turns out she is wrong, almost dead wrong. After her family of sixteen was gunned down at a party at her parent's home, she knew she had to flee. With the far reaching arms of the cartel leader, she knew it had to be fast and far, all the way to el norte.

Lydia and Luca follow the same trail as many other immigrants searching for safety and economic improvement. After a harrowing bus ride and help from a friend, they reach Mexico City. From there they meet other migrants heading north. Even though Lydia has money, unlike most of the rest, her fear is discovery by Javier through members of his Los Jardineros cartel. Of the options available, she settles on walking and riding on top of La Bestia, trains with connections to U.S. border cities. Along the way she experiences many of the same trials and tragedies as thousands of other Mexicans and Central Americans hoping for a better life in el norte.

I did not read reviews before reading American Dirt. It was recommended by Wayne and that was enough for me. Reading reviews now, the book has been criticized because Jeanine is estadounidense (American). Some reviewers felt this story should have be told by someone of Mexican or Central American heritage. That reminded me of the time I was working on my bilingual teacher certification. At the end there was an oral examination. One of the questions was, "What gives you the right to teach our children." At the time I felt it was a harsh thing to say. Now that I look back on it, it was profound. I only knew of their life experience from the outside. I'm don't remember what I answered, spoken in Spanish, but I hope it conveyed that I was an ally and would do everything in my power to teach their children in an unbiased manner with heart and caring. After 31 years in the profession I feel that I was able accomplish that goal.

American Dirt was a #1 New York Times best seller and became an Oprah's Book Club selection. I read mine on my new Kindle Paperwhite. That's a perfect way to stay stocked in books while traveling across Arizona in our RV. -- 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 also posted at Book Date

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Snowbird RV Adventure: Fort Huachuca to Butterfield RV Resort in Benson

Days 11-15

January 12: We left Apache Flats RV Resort right at 11:00 checkout. On the way out, we went to the base's commissary to purchase groceries for the following week. During the Omicron surge, weekly shopping is our most vulnerable activity. The base has a mandatory mask rule which makes us feel more secure.

The 34 mile drive north to Butterfield RV Resort in Benson was quick using Highway 90. Just north of Whetstone there's a border inspection station, but fortunately it wasn't backed up.

Google maps on my iPad is how we get around and monitor traffic. It's a lot easier than the old way using paper maps and gas station directions.

I made a reservation at Butterfield in late December and still got a prime pull-through full hook-up spot.

Site #67 at Butterfield RV Resort with pine trees for shade.

January 13-16: The Butterfield RV Resort is one block off Benson's main street. The park has a mix of patrons. Some sites are primarily used by short-term RVers like us, others are seasonal (winter) long-term RVers, and at the rear of the resort there are park model homes for a few full-time residents and vacation homes for others.

Typical resort amenities include: daily activities, store, laundry, dog parks, clubhouse, swimming pool, spa, fitness center and pickleball court. Catering to many long-term residents they also have a wood shop, golf putting and driving areas, a ham radio shack, and most interesting to us, an observatory with a 20" Mead telescope.

We had an informative evening with Observatory Tom who led us through the night sky. During the winter season, nightly sessions are offered for a limited number of participants.

The observatory with a rotating dome and 20" Mead telescope.

We don't have a toad (towed vehicle), so walking is how we get around. Being close to town, we could walk to restaurants and stores. For now, we only picked up dinner from Magaly's Mexican Restaurant, and breakfast from Wendy's to eat at the RV. We'll return when it's Covid safer to enjoy the many cafes Benson has to offer. Safeway, ACE Hardware and Walmart are also within walking distance for resupply needs.

What are some the amenities you look for in a campground or RV park? -- Margy

A big part of RVing is sitting outdoors in fresh air and sunshine. We've traded our simple folding camp chairs for larger cloth padded chairs. We want to keep them safe and dry when not in use in camp.

When set up, our bed slideout serves as a roof over our collapsed chairs. For windy conditions, strong twine holds them in place. In rain, a large trash bag covers them for moisture control. This way we have dry seats ready for relaxing and reading the following day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Part 2 of Wayne and Margy's Snowbird RV Adventure Begins

Days 1-10

December 19-January 1
We returned to Bellingham to spend the holidays with our good friend. While there, two things made us change our plans. A snowstorm followed by freezing temperatures kept us condo-bound. The other was surging Omicron cases. RV travel is an enjoyable way to self-isolate.

Wayne modified our airlines and rental car reservations from the 23rd to the 2nd. I reserved RV parks and campgrounds for the three extra weeks. In a few hours we were ready to go.

January 2: We were worried about flight cancellations with the holiday rush and Covid staffing issues. We were lucky our direct Allegiant flight from Bellingham to Mesa was only delayed. With a late arrival, we spent the night at the nearby Holiday Inn. We don't have a toad (a towed vehicle) for our RV so we kept the rental car for five days. It's more economical than an extra car to store with our RV.

Tucson Lazydays KOA RV Resort

January 3-6: If you follow my blog you've read about Lazydays before. We discovered this destination back in 2020 at the end of Part 2 of our 2019-2020 Snowbird RV Adventure. In February 2020, we left our RV here planning to return in April to finish the third part of our trip. That didn't happen due to Covid and it took until November to return.

Sunseekers sunseeking at Tucson Lazydays KOA Resort

Since then, we've kept our rig here when we aren't traveling around the southwest. It's much easier than driving back and forth from Washington State each time. We also like Lazydays because of their resort atmosphere and friendly staff.

Ft. Huachuca Apache Flats RV Resort

January 7-11: After a relaxing for a week at Lazydays we drove 70 miles south of Tucson to Ft. Huachuca Army Base near Sierra Vista. We discovered Apache Flats RV Resort last November. Wayne's retired Air Force status allows us to use military campgrounds, and they are always the best. The only down side is an early reveille bugle call each morning.

The park is only about half full. With a reservation, we got a pull-through end spot with extra space and privacy.

Site #10 in Apache Flats at Ft. Huachuca.

Like many places, Covid restrictions have places like museums and libraries closed. We'll be back in April so we'll have another chance to learn more about the history of Ft. Huachuca. We did enjoy the sun and daytime warmth for reading and desert walks. Nights got pretty cold, but our propane heater kept us toasty.

A stormy Arizona ssunset on our last night.

Wayne and I hope you will follow along on Part 2 of our 2021-22 Snowbird RV Adventure. While many of our  stops will be familiar favourites, we have a few new ones to add to the mix. -- Wayne and Margy

Over the years we've stayed at a number of military campgrounds in western states. All of them have been excellent places to stay in an RV. Services always include water, power and sewer in most of the sites. Each park has it's 0wn special qualities like: Cliffside RV Park on Whidbey Island Naval Air Station (to the right), camping in the forest at Holiday Park FamCamp at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and now Apache Flats.

Thanks for visiting part of my world this week. For more great posts from Our World Tuesday, click here.

Also blog shares called Through My Lens by Mersad.

I'm also posting on Travel Tuesdays at Intelliblog, Sharon's Souvenirs for travel trips and My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand.

Sunday, January 2, 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?

Thanks for visiting part of my world this week. For more great posts from Our World Tuesday, click here.

Also blog shares called Through My Lens by Mersad.

I'm also posting on Travel Tuesdays at Intelliblog and