Hangin’ Out in Vegas

Hard to believe we’ve been camped in Gail/Dan’s driveway for over a week.  Is it remotely possible that we’ve overstayed our welcome?  Um, yes.

But, what a terrific family holiday we’ve had.  We arrived on Christmas Eve afternoon, about 10 minutes behind my sister Lynn and husband Jerry, who traveled from Green Valley, AZ.  We tucked the Fireball in behind Gail and Dan’s coach.  It was intimidating enough that we slept with one eye open every night!wpid-20150101_144731-1.jpgGail’s son Mark, along with his wife Tatsumi, and kids Erin and Shaw rolled in from Laguna Hills, CA on the 26th to complete the holiday celebration.  This is our whole gang – Lynn/Jerry, Gail/Dan, Tatsumi/Mark, Shaw, Erin, John and me.  Jezzy sneaked into the photo, although the other five pups somehow were left out.  20141229_115213Gail/Dan bought everybody remote controlled helicopters for Christmas.  An aerospace engineering degree apparently didn’t  help Mark much with his launch.  Who knew these would be so difficult to fly?John also a tough run with his mini-helicopter, managing to fly it into the light fixture over the dining room table, delighting the peanut gallery, and terrorizing all the dogs.

We did get in a bit of a hike at Red Rock Canyon National Park (sans Gail and Dan), despite frigid temps and high winds, over unenthusiastic protests of teenagers Erin and Shaw.  We scrambled over boulders and through narrow crevices on a clear, cold day, and enjoyed the spectacular scenery (in spite of ourselves).  Here’s Mark, Tatsumi, and Erin.20141227_130003 Tatsumi gave us a real Cheryl Strayed moment when she slipped out of her shoe while scrambling over some slickrock.  Fortunately, her shoe tumbled down onto John, who snagged it as it rolled past.20141227_13570420141227_13592220141227_130537 20141227_133039 It was a photo-perfect afternoon, highlighted by the appearance of four wild burros, sighted shortly after we drove into the scenic drive.  Although we know they are in the area, this is the first time we’ve even seen them – what a treat!  We kept our distance, so this photo is somewhat less than National Geographic quality.t20141227_122458 Much of the rest of our time was spent playing games (I may be the family cribbage champ, although Gail and Mark tried hard).  Have you ever played Dumb Ass?  A crazy fun board game with lots of laughs.  Perhaps the weirdest game was Heads Up, which utilized an iphone.  It was ridiculous, separating the generations among us even more quickly than Name That Tune could have done.

While Mark and Shaw played dominos, Erin created a beautiful pagoda with the spare bones.  She casually created what the rest of us could not have done with an instruction diagram.20141228_134754 Thank you, Shaw and Erin for hanging in there with us – I can’t imagine myself being quite so gracious as a young teen hanging out with my great aunts and uncles.

Mark, Tats, and kids rolled away on Monday, Lynn and Jerry on Tuesday.  So, we decided to gorge on sushi on Tuesday night.  One of the most enjoyable feasts we’ve had.  20141230_195428Our Fireball refrigeration has crapped out again (for the last time).  We’re junking this fridge, but have decided to go without any electronic refrigeration for the next month, while we camp.  Just too much hassle (and expense) to get one shipped in to Vegas, so that we can install it while we are still here.  Does that qualify as roughing it?  Doubtful!

wpid-screenshot_2015-01-01-17-22-28.pngJezzy and I have patrolled the area since we’ve been here, trying to make up for the three lost days of activity while we were in transit.  Here’s my activity log from my Garmin Vivofit for December.  I purchased it on December 4 – can you tell which were our three travel days?  Not too bad for 27 days!

John and I took the bus down to the strip on December 31 (afternoon) to check out the decorations at the Bellagio.  Stunning.  Unfortunately, there were too many people, and I have too little patience to have anything to show for the day.  But, the gawk-worthy Chihuly ceiling there did merit a photo.20141231_132412Taking the bus was a blast, but it did account for a big portion of my mileage for the day (about 10.5 miles).  We waited patiently at one stop, after running out of energy to push ahead on foot.20141231_143200The oddities of Vegas, and especially Gail’s neighborhood will never get old for me.  20141228_200916We awakened every morning (around 3am) to the rooster that her neighbors keep in their back yard.  Apparently, they also brought in some turkeys (at least one of whom escaped the Thanksgiving axe).  It’s a bit unnerving to hang out in the back yard, and hear a turkey next door – although we never got a glimpse of him because of the wall between.  The house around the corner has two horses in the yard.  It’s wild and woolly in their unincorporated neighborhood.

Christmas decorations without snow will always be an oddity to me.  These strings of lights, laid right on the roof would never last in Michigan.20141227_165656Palm trees?20141227_16592020141231_165408But, now it’s time to camp!  Tomorrow at this time, we’ll be in Lake Havasu State Park.  That’s our first stop in a month-long trek around the perimeter of AZ, traveling along the west, south, and east borders.  All of our destinations are campgrounds we’ve never visited, and we’re excited to cycle new roads, and hike new trails.

So, bye to Gail and Dan (for now).  They’ll be heading to Green Valley in February, staying just yards from Lynn/Jerry, and a few miles from our rented house in the area.  For now, we’re shedding no tears at parting.

We did finish out our year with 179 days of living in our T@DA.  Not sure if we can outdo that in 2015, but we will dream about it.

Happy New Year to all.  Hope there are adventures in your future!




Eight Long Weeks

The past eight weeks, since we rolled home from our Lake Superior odyssey, have been a test.  Two months away from home means a glut of yardwork and housework. Everything looks neglected.  Then, we got dumped on, with over two feet of snow before Thanksgiving (which, sadly has melted and has not been replaced.)

The best news of the past two months is that John’s folks have moved from their home 40 miles from us into an independent living apartment just five miles across town.  They’ve got a tidy, bright two-bedroom apartment in a complex where they’ve got community meal service, housekeeping, and plenty of activities to keep them involved, should they wish.  Today was moving day, and it was an ordeal for Frank, Verna, and Aunt Alice (as Jezzy refers to their gorgeous cat).  We’re so happy that they no longer have to drive, that they can turn the heat, and ignore (for the most part) snow piling up in streets and driveways.  No more yard maintenance, which is a big chore when you’re in your 90’s.  I’ve learned a lesson about dealing gracefully with stress – the Crankshaws were so calm in the teeth of the storm today.  What an awesome family.

My part of this was to provide lunch and a bit of moving muscle.  To punch up the celebration, I ordered a cake from my friend Kirsten’s custom baking business.  omg……what a treat.  This was a dense pistachio olive oil cake, studded with raspberries.  Served with a dollop of whipped cream, its slightly crispy top and dense interior…..I have to stop thinking about it.

So, that’s been the big focus of the past two months.  Here’s the rest….

As always happens when we come home after living in a compact space that has everything we need to comfortably sustain us, I’ve been on a rampage of household crap reduction.  This time, we’ve finally made a dent in the mountain of crap in which we reside.  John’s sold dozens of items on ebay, and nearly every day brings a trip to the post office to ship off some bicycle part or unused tool to a new home.  Truckloads of small household items and clothes have been carted off to Goodwill.  It’s liberating to clean out whole corners of the basement, and see a bit of floor space open up in the garage.  Gone is our enormous stand mixer and all the attachments that came from John’s break-baking days.  Gone are two fiberglass Herman Miller chairs.  Gone are dishes, utensils, spare camping gear and endless stuff.  The amount of sheer stuff we have is ridiculous.

Gone also are the ugly mini-blinds that have (dis)graced the windows of many rooms in our house.  They’ve been here since I moved in 21 years ago.  Finally!  New shades in three rooms.  Can’t believe how great it looks.

Gone (sadly) is our old furnace.  A service call resulted in the discovery of two cracks in the heat exchanger.  Cracks = carbon monoxide leaks.  Not gonna live with that!  So, last week we had a new 96% efficiency furnace installed.  We should see about a 20%+ reduction in our monthly gas bill, which will be very welcome.

While we were waiting for the new furnace, our dishwasher sprung a leak from deep in the inner bowels somewhere.  Don’t mistake me for a gal who will willingly hand-wash dishes.  Nope!  New dishwasher will be installed Monday.  We need to sell more stuff.  Furnace + diswasher+ blinds  >> income from selling crap.  This equation just doesn’t balance!

What’s the good news?  I got a small package in the mail this week (from Santa!)  It was full of shiny oblong orange-y looking things.  Kumquats! wpid-20141213_224806.jpg What??  It dawned on me that Cozybegone, a blog I religiously follow, had recently had mentioned kumquats. I commented, asking about them, as they’re a taste I’m unfamiliar with.  Well, Carla tracked me down (scary that it’s so easy for someone who doesn’t know you to find your home address) and sent me a box of kumquats and pecans to sample.  While I still can’t get John to try one, since he apparently saw the surprised look on my face when I popped one into my mouth, I’m liking the bitter, then sweet rush, they provide.  Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus.

Caroline and I cycled out to see my mini-donkey/horse buddies a couple of weeks ago.  Yep, he’s still there, and as curious as ever.20141130_124127We chatted with the owner for a few minutes, and gleaned this fact about donkeys.  They have a reputation for being stubborn, but that really is untrue.  In order to be compliant, they need to trust.  The owner assured us that she could get her donkeys to jump off a cliff if she instructed them to do so, because they trust her. The image of donkey basketball games with balky animals refusing to trot downcourt is all due to a lack of trust.

Hey, is than an iphone?  Android?  Oh, let me see???20141130_123613This is Skip (I called him Billy Idol).  He really wanted to get up close and personal!

Other than this bike ride, I’ve been a huge couch potato since we got home in mid-October.  Gained about eight pounds, which are not pretty.  (On the plus side, I’ve read a huge number of wonderful books!).  Had my annual physical this week, and was terrified to face the doctor.  I need a motivator to get off my butt!  Garmin Vivofit is the machine for the job.  It’s a wearable, electronic pedometer, which connects to my computer and phone.  It tracks my steps, mileage, and caloric output and gives me some neat reports as to how I’m doing.  Silly as it may sound, it does motivate me – I’m super-competitive, and the thought of missing an easily achievable goal just isn’t going to happen.  I’ve had it for under two weeks.  Here’s my best day so far, in steps.  Actually, it was my first full day.20141204_220545The reports I see look something like this (on my phone)….this is the first four days.wpid-screenshot_2014-12-11-22-31-25.pngHere’s my week so far….wpid-screenshot_2014-12-13-23-18-01.pngJezzy has been a beneficiary of the Vivofit.  She’s my walking buddy, although she often hesitates and looks longingly at our street as we pass by to make just one more lap around the block.  We’ll be ready for hiking in the Southwest, soon.  Bring it!

So, we’ve hauled the Fireball out of storage, and are preparing to depart for Las Vegas on December 22, the day after the Crankshaw family Christmas celebration.  For the first time (ever, I think), my entire family will be together to celebrate a holiday.  Not exactly Christmas, but kinda.  We’ll gather at my sister Gail and Dan’s home in Vegas, sister Lynn and Jerry will come up from Green Valley, and my only nephew Mark, along with Tatsumi, Erin, and Shaw will come in from California.  We are all excited.  Not Christmas, but Christmas-ish.  I can’t wait.

After the holidays, we plan to move around Arizona, camping for the month of January.  There are loads of interesting State Parks we haven’t visited – trails to ride and hike every day.  The Vivofit will get a workout.  We stay in one spot for February in Green Valley (AZ), then hit the road again on March 1.  Our road bikes are Fed-Exing their way to AZ already, and the mountain bikes will be in the truck with us.  Boots and backpacks are ready to go.

So, thanks for letting me get this all off my chest.  Merry Christmasish to all of you.  Be safe and happy.  Next post will come along the road (somewhere).



20140308_134336After a few days of hanging around the house with Gail and Dan in Vegas, we’re ready to head into town to check out new additions since our last visit.  Specifically, I want to go to Slotzilla – a gigantic zip line that runs under the canopy that covers Fremont street in downtown LasVegas.  Although its opening has been scheduled for months now, we found that it’s not open yet.  Next year, for sure.

It’s crowded downtown, and the canopy holds in all the smoke of the hundreds of smokers.  Even though it’s huge, there’s a definite feel of being in a smoky bar.

So, off to the Strip we go, electing to leave the Firetruck parked downtown, and riding the bus instead.  At the RTC (Regional Transportation Center), we viewed the bike hub.  Indoor, super-secure bike storage – FREE – for up to 75 bikes. 20140308_13595420140308_135927 With a $60 annual pass, you can also get a locker, shower, and unlimited bike repairs.  They also have lots of free clinics and rentals.  Impressive, and appears to be fairly well used.  Sure wish we had something like that going on in Grand Rapids.

Wandering around the Strip, we rubbed elbows with thousands of folks.  The sidewalks were jammed with all sorts of folks – some in town for the NASCAR race this weekend, some around for the boxing match, some for the huge heavy equipment show at the convention center.  We even ran into Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and a Star Trooper.  20140308_150612

Not sure what these folks were up to, but it’s Vegas, baby.  You just gotta roll with it.20140308_134051

20140308_150113The Fireball is rolling today – headed to Valley of Fire State Park.  Hard to say goodbye, knowing that we won’t see Gail and Dan for another year.  But…..family – like fish – begins to stink after a few days, so it’s time to head out.  Back to the dirt!

A Rough Start

Here’s the response I got from my snake “friend” about the photo in the last post. 

It looks to be to be a young Bull Snake (Pituophis catenifer sayi)…harmless but aggressive, though they can get about 6 feet in length as adults.  Go ahead and pick it up so you can get bitten and get it over with just so you’ll know that snakes bites aren’t so bad and are nothing to worry about.

Let me think about that for a bit.


Moving on…..

We were excited to be back on the road again after a very cushy month in our rental house. Ominous weather forecasts for the Prescott area didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for returning to the Yavapai Campground in the National Forest there. Our friends, Vern/Ilene Baker, who also own a T@DA, bailed out of joining us, citing weather concerns.  Cowards, we thought!

We arrived under darkening skies, picked our favorite campsite and got set up before darkness settled in. Put up our big Thermarest awning, to give us an added bit of shelter (and a great foot-wiping station for Jezzy). Toasted our return to camping life with IPAs.


As the first few raindrops spatter down, we decide to quickly grill the Italian sausages and peppers we planned for dinner.wpid-20140228_182327.jpg The rain picked up – we put up our rain pole, which helps to keep too much rain from pooling in the awning.  “Bring it!”, we foolishly thought.wpid-20140228_181724.jpgHoly Cow!  About six inches of rain later, accompanied by 30mph winds, we called Uncle.  The Saturday night forecast called for 3-6 inches of snow above 6000 feet. We were at 5800 feet, with a treacherous downhill road to exit.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a storm like that.  We could just see Vern/Ilene smirking at our departure.

So we bailed out, and headed to Vegas a day early, enjoying most spectacular storm skies along the way.wpid-20140301_163505-1.jpg We’re regrouping at my sister’s house, and will head out to Death Valley tomorrow.

Just a bit of an ominous beginning to a couple months of camping.

Cosmo Zandbergen

We lost the senior canine member of the family this weekend when my nephew Cosmo (Zandbergen) passed away from cancer.

Cosmo and Lynn

Cosmo and his mom,  Lynn

An eleven year old Bull Terrier, Cosmo grew from a rambunctious pup who used his anvil-shaped head like a battering ram to push his way into any situation, into a mellow senior statesman.  He never was one to allow his weight or girth to prevent him from finding a warm lap in which to snuggle.  What Cosmo wanted, Cosmo got.

Don't blame the sweater on Cosmo - I'm sure he had nothing to do with it.

Don’t blame the sweater on Cosmo – I’m sure he had nothing to do with it.

If you’ve ever loved a pet, you understand.  Each one is unique and holds a special place in your heart.

RIP Cosmo buddy.  We will always miss you.