Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Desert Christmas

We left this in Lexington

Headed down Versailles Road

Spent the night near the Mississippi River

Trekked across Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico

Came over the mountains in Arizona

Found the Saguaro

And landed in the desert

This is the first time we have spent the holidays in Arizona, but not likely the last time. We are staying out at Fort McDowell by Fountain Hills, where my dad and step mother used to own a home. It's about ten miles from Scottsdale. Mary is set up in a nice park across the highway from the Fort McDowell Casino. The Salt River Indians own the property that we are parked on. The day that we pulled in we spotted three loose horses traveling down a trail, head to tail, headed to the river for a drink of water. A day later I was pedaling with Ransom around the park when I spotted two cows with their calves moseying on down the side of the paved road toward the river, totally unfazed by all we RVers. Really cool.

We were scheduled to leave Lexington on Sunday December 5th so that John could attend a USEF judging clinic in Scottsdale on the 9th. But the weather didn't cooperate and we couldn't leave until Wednesday. Mary is a wonderful machine but she becomes a 50,000 pound bobsled in snowy weather. We made it into Ft. McDowell three and a half days later. We always say that we are not going to bust our bums to get where we are going, but when you are traveling Interstate 40 through Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle why would you take your time. There's not much out there but wind ... not John's favorite element, nor mine. He missed his clinic but that can be done another time. Now we are parked in a beautiful spot in the desert, surrounded by mountains and saguaro and prickly pear cactus, and enjoying the most beautiful weather we could ask for. The days are hovering around 70 degrees and the nights are cold enough to require a down comforter. We are walking with the dogs every day in tee shirts and I've been outside in shorts and flip flops (cute new ones) on a couple of afternoons. It's just plain heaven. We've had some rain but its not cold so we are fine with that.

Breezy is sacked out in her bed as I type this and Ransom is curled up in his new bed. He kept trying to steal Pocket Arcuri's little round, high sided bed when she was our guest, so I decided that he needed one of his own. It's a little bigger than Pocket's bed was, so when he gets comfortable in it all I can see is his side rising and falling with his breathing, and sometimes an ear or a foot sticking up. They are so happy here. In the mornings we take them with us while we pedal the bikes around the park. Each time we pass a coach or travel trailer with dogs we hear them sound off at the sight of us, madly pedaling with our dogs galloping alongside our bikes, their ears flying.

Before we left Lexington the weather was so bad for so long that Breezy didn't get out as much as she needed to, and she gained five pounds. I took them both into the vet before we left for their semi-annual checkups and Breezy weighed in at 49.9 pounds! She is the first foodie Border Collie I've ever been around. Tag, my last little Border Collie, was a non-eater. Food didn't mean a thing to her so I spent the better part of 14 years thinking up new ways to get her to eat. Not so with Breezy. So I bought Science Diet Light dry and wet dog food before we left and we put her on a diet and exercise program. She's not taking the diet part too well, but I think we've peeled a few pounds off of her in the nearly three weeks that we've been here. We've both lost a few pounds along the way as well. We take them for a long afternoon walk each day that usually concludes at about feeding time. There is a good gravel road to walk on about a quarter mile from the park so we head up the paved road to get to it. Every so often Breezy stops and licks the pavement. John swears she is licking up the remains of local road kill. We make the turn onto the gravel road and it is all uphill for a mile or so until you get to a rock quarry, where we turn around and head back. She leads us back at a hurried pace, so that we don't miss her dinner time, 4:00 on the dot and not a second later! I swear she has a clock in her stomach. Ransom will eat but he's not as food focused as she is until we finish with our dinner. I keep a little something special in the fridge that they get after the dinner dishes are done. He may be dead asleep in his bed but when I open the door of the refrigerator to get their treats, out of his bed he comes flying. I'm not sure exactly how they know that particular door opening sound when I've spent the last 20 or 30 minutes in the kitchen cleaning, clattering around, and putting leftovers away, but they do. At home Breezy will position herself in front of the refrigerator door, with her nose pointing toward it so that I don't forget to give her the treat. In the coach I would be falling over her if she did that so she sits next to the sink and watches my every move until I'm done.

Today we were walking back from our trek up the hill and a huge coyote crossed the road in front of us. He hung out in the bushes and watched us as we walked past him. John hollered at him and he took off. In the mean time Ransom was going to get all testosterone charged about the "big dog" that crossed in front of us. I explained in firm language that the "big dog" would eat him for a snack, and to chill out. I hope he got the message. He thinks he's tougher than he really is. I can hear the coyotes singing outside in the desert now.

We spent Christmas Eve at the restaurant at The Raddison Hotel at the casino. It is a beautiful place with a very good restaurant. We toasted my dad and Christmas in the desert and enjoyed a fun time together with our server, who was new. We were her third table ... ever. She was so sweet, from Missouri (she reminded us that it is the show me state) and we really enjoyed her company. She was really nervous and made some mistakes but it only added to the charm of the meal and the time of year. On Christmas Day Karen Anthony and her husband Leon Ray invited us to their beautiful home up on the hill overlooking Scottsdale. Along with their family we enjoyed great company and a wonderful meal. It has been an awesome holiday.

For Christmas this year (and the next 30 Christmases!) we are giving each other a new house. Or trying too. We found a lovely property in Scottsdale that is being sold on short sale. Neither of us really knew what that meant until after we got into it, but I can tell you that if you are looking to buy a property I would avoid short sales if at all possible. The market in the Phoenix area has taken a 50% hit in the real estate melt down so there are a ton of great values out here, but the short sale process is long and trying and without any guidelines or rules that we can discern. Thankfully our agent is a specialist in these sales so we are in good hands. We are both learning to exercise our patience regularly. So far when one of us has come up short in the patience department the other one is making up the difference. I'm not sure how much longer it will take to find out if we have prevailed in this purchase, but we are hopeful that we will know something in the next week or so. Since we sold the Florida property we have really missed having a warm weather home. We were both weary of living through six months a year of hurricane season and we both love it out here, so it seemed like a good place and a good time to shop. The second house that we looked at we both went head over heels for. That was at the end of October. But if it all works out our patience will be well rewarded. If not we'll go back to shopping and cut a wide swath around the short sale listings.

We will have to head back into Kentucky winter soon. I've spent so much time bragging about our good weather on my Facebook page that my friends are probably blocking my postings. For awhile John was calling his friends every day and when they would pick up the first thing he said was, "I'm surprised that you are still taking my calls." I was too. He was terrible about pounding our freezing Kentucky friends with all of the gory details, like, "I'm sitting in the sun but I'm going to have to go in because I'm SWEATING." Really cruel. Or, "I'm sitting on the patio of a local Mexican restaurant in the SUN having a MARGARITA." Below the belt stuff.

"Silent Partner" has had a good holiday season. I've had really nice feedback on it from a lot of people so I'm hopeful that they will all tell their friends about it and sooner or later it will have a really good following. I'm encouraged enough to keep working on the second book!

I hope that everyone has had a wonderful holiday and that 2011 is the best, most inspired year yet! I'll update on how we are coming on the house project as news comes along!

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