Sunday, January 31, 2016

Goodbye Tucson

Tucson is a good city. One of the best I have been to in the US. It seems well run with an upbeat feel. Many, many community activities always going on. Traffic flow is some of the best I have ever experienced. Left turns are allowed via left turn lanes anytime during green at major intersections, (based on oncoming flow, of course…), then the dedicated left turn light comes after the cycle. In that way, cars collect safely in the intersection middle knowing they’ll be able to turn as soon as the ongoing light becomes red.
As a city, it quickly transposes into suburban then desert countryside. It is easy to get away. Back in town, Tucson offers a nice selection of grocery options, restaurants and specialty stores. For example, our RV neighborhood has a very fine French bakery, two organic grocery options and Oink, within less than a mile radius. Oink?, it is a cafĂ©, perhaps in balance with the two natural food places, that proclaims itself, “Breakfast, Lunch and Bacon”. I have a to go order of Bacon from them in the freezer now awaiting defrosting and use in a midwinter BLT on baguette, frozen while still warm from our bakery.

That will help as we leave this place tomorrow, headed north only about sixty miles to Casa Grande, AZ for the month of February. We’ll have a different experience there and it will be fun to have a Tucson memory as we trade the city for the snowbird country of Casa Grande. The town swells 20,000 to 65,000 in winter for total residents. Cathy and I have done a lot of, “hey look, that’s us over there”, in our travels as we’ve seen many of our age group out doing what we are doing. I think we are going to be everywhere there. There have been many of us in Tucson also and it has been a comfortable stay. The frosting has been the amazing desert here. Really just spectacular. But, it is time for moving on. Tales of Casa Grande to follow!
Late afternoon sky and The Catalinas from our RV park awaiting the evening color wash. See ya', Tucson.

Thank you, readers.

We are humbled that we have just reached 10,000 page views on this blog. While it started as a way to journal our travels and share with friends and family, Cathy and I have much enjoyed hearing from the growing pool of you who have checked in and read a pass or two.
Now, we know at 10,000 views over seven months, we will not make the Fox "trending now" news blip...but...We're out there! Stay tuned.

The Sons of the Pioneers

Who of my age era did not watch Roy Rogers on television?  Many of us watched everything there was on TV in our youth. TV was new and there was a limited, (though rapidly growing), selection of shows that would interest us. Ah, us Boomers. The infestation to US population following the GI’s return home after final success in Europe and the Pacific. We’ve had some impact and TV has been one. If we were not there to watch the early shows and pester our parents for the products advertised, what might have happened to TV? No Roy?
We went last evening to the hokey but cute, Old Tucson. It is today, mostly a tourist attraction. It was built in the late thirties as a western movie set for the 1940 movie, Arizona. The set designers overbuilt in terms of sturdiness and much of the original still exists, and has been expanded upon. It borders state parkland and so has remained an open range western movie filming oasis. Diverse acting from John Wayne to Sharon Stone, Glenn Ford, The Three Amigos and beyond has been filmed there.
They do occasional shows at the dance hall-like saloon that has been recreated. We went last evening to hear one of our country’s oldest musical groups, The Sons of the Pioneers.
What used to be Country & Western Music is now Country with endless sub-groups and Western, well, classical Western is now an idiosyncratic music form well off the play media’s radar. So for that, thank heavens for the survival of The Sons Of The Pioneers.
Formed in 1934, they are into their eighty-second year of continuous performance. They are a musical legacy from Roy Rogers.  The Sons were founded in 1934 by Leonard Slye, Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer. Leonard was the one that created the unique, tight harmony arrangements to vocal songs that have become the hallmark of this great type of American music. In 1938 Leonard was offered a movie deal and left the group, changing his name to Roy Rogers. The music and sound was too special not to survive and today’s five members are what you’d expect, and more, in terms of the caliber of their talent. Heck, you don’t play and sing this music if’n you don’t like it and you sure as jehosaphat don’t get yourself into The Sons unless you can sure play and sing it at the top of the game… They were stunning. The setting was perfect and they responded to it with a great show. Tumblin” Tumbleweeds, Don’t Fence Me In, Cool Water and the perfect close with, Happy Trails To You.

We have not adopted Happy Trails as our theme song, but we sure could. It has popped up often enough in our travels in this part of our US. It is a good descriptor for this phase of our RV adventure.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Swim Video

Cathy's swim video at

Swimming Fun

I did something that I have had on my bucket list for a long time....swam in a short course swim meet....the Tucson Senior Olympics. In Dec while researching Tucson I found the event and decided to train for it. I had been swimming with the St Helena Masters prior to our departure and have tried to keep it up while on the road....I won the gold in the 100 yard Individual Medley for my age group...second in the 50 Free (missed the gold by .3 seconds) and 2nd in the 50 butterfly....It was a great way to feel was impressive how many people in their 80s were competing....even a few in their 90s....Hope that is me in many years!!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Wine Splurge....2012 Corton-Charlemagne

2012 Corton-Charlemagne
So, a follow up to the prior blog entry, Glenn Frey, and the wine from the Bonneau du Martray,  producer in this captivating wine appellation, Corton-Charlemagne, that is within Burgundy, France.  Recorded production of Corton dates back to the early 1300’s. That is a long time for a place to be doing the same thing year after year. Many contemporary wine makers dismiss the importance of place and soil in the resulting wine. No surprise. As mentioned in another recent blog entry, there are so many wineries now and most cannot tie themselves to history, so history is not part of the marketing blather. But it often matters.
Bonneau exists where the chardonnay grape originated. That’s history…There is also the soil. Chalk. A soft form of limestone. Calcium carbonate.  Same stuff  that when processed, becomes the scribe utensil for blackboards.  Minerals from this soil dissolve into the ground water and are drunk up by the vines and may have their affect on the flavors the grapes deliver. When a soil is intense in certain factors, coupled with local climate and the hand of man it affects the wine made from grapes grown there. The French call this Terroir. We call it things like Jersey Corn, Georgia Peaches, Idaho Potatoes, Chicago Polish dogs on a bun. Well, maybe not that last one.
On to tasting notes…We just had the wine with a mild, aged white cheddar cheese, a terrific baguette bread from a local French bakery, ( yessir cowboy, right here in Tucson!).  A dip made from sour cream mixed with inexpensive, sea salty Romanoff jarred caviar and some capers. Some potato chips, a couple of anchovies on the side, some smoked salmon and chilled cooked asparagus spears.
So, forgive me some fun as I offer a description of this wine in the words and style I used in my professional life…so much for marketing blather.
2012 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne:
“At once one is struck by the overt aromas of toast and nuttiness that emerge from this wine as freshly poured into the glass. With time and the development of secondary aromatics, citrus elements begin to reach the nose. It is a unique and heady mix of lime and grapefruit zest. The taste follows the nose with a subtle melange of hazelnut and raw almond flavors coupled with a fruit mix of citrus, sweet dates and ripe apple. In structure, this wine is complete. The aromas are pronounced but not overbearing. They are in balance with the weight of the wine in the mouth. You know you are not tasting water…there is a fullness equal to a fine red wine. This Corton defines complexity of taste as the various flavor components cycle around the mouth. The finish, after swallowing, adds a mushroom-like earthy density pared with a cleansing acidity that calls you back for another taste of food and sip. This is a true classic wine.” 

 Here's Cathy's wine notes....
This wine was a splurge so I had to try it (I am not a white wine fan)....My first reaction was "Eck, it tastes like chardonnay" (my least favorite white wine)....But after a few more sips following bites of Bob's finely selected food to go with the wine, it tasted great!  And you thought RV camping was 
roughing it.....No No!


I first became aware of this word in College. No, I was not studying the English language; I was watching a W.C Fields movie. In the movie, some character comes into Field’s place and W.C. states, “None of your peccadilloes in here!”. W.C. Fields had an amazing command of our language. His was a unique blend of vaudevillian slapstick and cerebral humor.
A peccadillo is defined as a “trifling sin”. The kind of thing someone does that may annoy if you do not like them much but would embrace and tolerate with a loved one.
Here’s a pic of my travel pal, enjoying a photo book she made of and for a granddaughter. She’s cute, huh? Sitting in one of her favorite spots in the RV. She is a good friend and forgives me my many peccadilloes. One of the many reasons I love this gal.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

My Old Career Is Part Of A Changing World

Often, as you age, you encounter things that tell you life is okay where you are now at and that parts of the contemporary world are now a place for the youthful. Take music. There are comfortable lyrics of old like, "You make me feel so young, you make me feel there are songs to be sung. And every time I see you grin I'm such a happy in...dividual" Or unintelligible rap blabble maybe like, "I may be funky but I'm no junky I get my zip from a different kind of sip you think you know me well that will go see I ain't no stooge and I don't wear rouge so if you cruise by my ports just don't touch my shorts"  Whatever.
So, somehow that takes me to the wine business. I just saw some internet blips saying that California now has 4,000 wineries and the US has about 9,500. At a dramatically increasing rate, they are selling their product right to us. Direct sales via the internet. Nearly $2 billion in direct sales in 2015. That's up from being measured in the thousands of dollars only a decade or so ago.
I'd be lost trying to compete with that were I still marketing wine. Oh, I suppose I could tough up and learn the e-commerce thing if I had to. I know I'd hate it. Part of wine's beauty is the social aspect. Give people a glass and they start to socialize. It nearly always happened as I brought a bag of samples to a store or restaurant and tasted with the buyer. We interacted, talked. Even if there was no sale made, a personal communication was made allowing for possible follow up and future hopes.
When I did wine dinners or tastings for groups, typically I would say some welcoming words, the first course would come and I would stand again to talk about that first wine served and comment about what is coming next. It was always the same. The crowd would be in subdued conversation early on, but as that first course was served the volume and animation would rise. Well before anyone was feeling much alcohol buzz. I liked to point that out to folks as that part of the beauty of wine. Wine beats any other form of drink for its power of sociability.
In 1986, only 30 years ago, California had 700 wineries. Now 4,000? After the industry was decimated by prohibition, the US had only climbed back to 260 total wineries by 1960. Now 9,500? Whew. It is good to be retired. I do hope in spite of this saturation that wine keeps people talking, together, not just on the internet.

Connecting with Family

Many of you met (or heard about) my beloved Aunt Ruth from Florida.....This is Walter, her son, his wife Diane, John (grandson) and Solana and Tyler (great grands)....always thought it was sweet that they called her Grandma Great"....Nice visit with all as John lives in Tucson....the kids are adorable....extremely well-behaved and polite....Good Job John....Aunt Ruth is smiling down on all!

Life On The Border

Many of our side trips here in Arizona have brought us close to our border with Mexico. It sure is different from our crossing with Canada. We have been through a half dozen US Border Patrol checkpoints. You drive through, roll your window down and stop at the patrolman. If you look like Ma and Pa Kettle, as we must to them, you get a have a nice day and you drive on by. I've appreciated that. We've seen vehicles pulled over with the German shepherds sniffing through them. Imagine your dog being so well trained to sniff through a car and ignore the beef jerky!
When you are below the checkpoint areas there are many Patrol cars, white with a green diagonal stripe, both moving and sitting. That most all the Patrol we have seen has been in the 27-38 age bracket tells me that we have expanded our presence over recent years.
Our technology too. In this photo in the middle of the sky area, you can find a silvery oval blur. That is an "industrial strength" jumbo balloon. From a distance, it looks like the Goodyear Blimp. Turns out, it is tethered to the earth and contains observation equipment focused over the mountains at that section of the border. With today's technology, I bet it sees pretty well at night. Looks like we have folks that watch rolling videos for a living on behalf of our safety. Thanks go to them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New Friends

ANother fun visit with two new friends....we had gone out to dinner with my college friend Peg earlier this month.......they were staying with Jerry and Barbara who had come along to dinner also.....had such fun we got together again.....Love this RVing connecting and reconnection....

Old Friends On The Road

Reconnected with Stan and Dorothy.....friends from Colorado....I met Dorothy at the YMCA, playing tennis, while our 2 month olds were in the child care.....After 5 minutes of conversation, felt like we were back in 1976 ....Fun time!!

Cactus Hiking Into The Night

Nice guided hike at Saguaro National Park......a sunset/moonlight hike....hiked up 3 miles to a high point to watch the sunset over Tucson....then 3 more miles in the moonlight...the Saguaros were breathtaking in the was fun and informative.....WooHoo!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunset Culture

Along the way I have published a few pictures of sunrises and sunsets. What is a once in a while event in many parts of the country is commonplace here in the desert southwest. Clouds reflecting rich pastel colors set against impossible blues of the dry desert sky.
Tucson is surrounded by five groups of mountains. They all offer elevated views of skyline. I noticed that residents tend to gather, particularly on weekend evenings, at these viewpoints to watch the sunsets. Quiet groups watching Nature's prelude to night.
Here is the sunset from last night at our RV park.
Two nights ago we took a 6 mile guided hike at Saguaro National Park. It was a sunset/moonlight walk. Sunset Culture...We started in the afternoon and reached our highest elevation and halfway point as the sun was setting. Treated to yet another color show, we relaxed and ate our packed in dinner. We then hiked down by the light of the full moon. It was a pretty cool experience, walking by the desert landscape and tall saguaro in cameo against the moonlight. Cathy will have photos of that to follow.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

More Tucson Adventures

Adventure to Tumacacori National Monument, a stroll on the Anza  National Trail, visit to Tubac (an artist colony) and San Xavier Mission....

Lunch with Ronni and Bing

Lovely lunch and visit with the Ronni and Bing....who are from St. Helena.....their daughter Janet is married to our good friends' (Barry and Joy) son Evan Roades Brown......they live part time in Green Valley, just south of Tucson.Serenaded at lunch!   Nice to connect with them...that is their snazzy red car!!!


Tequila In The Southwest

A flight of margueritas....strawberry, mango and pomegranate......Yum!!!!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Glenn Frey and a Bottle of Wine

Glenn Frey of the Eagles was a major musical influence for me. Some of his songs have achieved monumental status in and for my life. His passing gave me pause to reflect on that. We interacted twice, although he never knew it. I recorded a CD, First Vintage, of some of my own songs in 1999. One of those songs, “I’m Not Going Back”, was written many years before the CD and opens with a guitar riff that sounds very similar to Frey’s “Lyin’ Eyes”.  I had written that sweeping strum from G to G major 7th, coincidentally, well before the Eagles appeared on the music scene. When I first heard Frey’s song, I remember thinking, hey, that’s mine! That was our first interaction. The second was at Wally’s Wine and Spirits in Los Angeles. Steve Wallace owned Wally’s and had become a purveyor to the stars through his personality, connections and knowledge of the world of wines and liquors. My first visit to his store was in 1986, shortly after I had been transferred to Napa Valley by Wine World, the then Nestle owned parent company of Beringer and other wines. Steve was more gracious than many buyers and let me tell my story of Wine World’s recent acquisition, Souverain Cellars, in Sonoma County. (Souverain was why I had been moved to St. Helena which is a good story for another entry). We went to Steve's back of the store “office area”, which was on top of one of the stacked cases of wine being staged for customer delivery. I noted very nice wines in the various orders and the name, Glenn Frey, written on fourteen of the cases. Glenn had excellent taste and one wine really stood out to me. Bonneau du Martray, a producer of Corton Charlemagne, a chardonnay from the place of the origins of that grape, Burgundy, France. Early on in my wine career I was fortunate to be exposed to many of the world’s finest wines. The 1970’s was the time of the bloom of wine in America, and there were many opportunities to attend wine tastings of very nice wines. Once Sixties era youth, my generation had gotten to the “get real” years of life and many were getting good at making money and a cultural shift was occurring. With that came an increase in our nation’s taste for life’s treats, including nice wine and good food.  The industry was feeling it and it was a time of some amazing cork pulling. I had tasted Bonneau du Martray a few times and it was always a standout for me. I found it to be extraordinary in taste and style and in its aromatics. It remains a classic for my wine life. Even though the last time I tasted it was in 1999, same year as the CD…I was employed at Clos du Val, and it was included in a comparative tasting of chardonnay wines to see how we were doing with our own chardonnay. The Bonneau stood out to me then, as it had before.

Remembering the wine, with the help of Glenn Frey, had me poking around on line for it, just out of curiosity. It is way above my price level. I have always been a wine cheapskate when on my own nickel, relying on accumulated knowledge to purchase and bring a nice glass to dinner.  But then, there it was,  the best price I found for it was at Wally’s on line store. Too much coincidence, so I bought one. It was delivered to our RV site yesterday. End of story? Oh, I guess now with this much of a story told, I will need to share my “tasting notes” when we open this bottle. Will do.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird

More from the Pima Air Museum. This aircraft was built to replace the infamous U2. Not the rock band, the 1960's spy plane. A U2 was knocked out of the sky in May of 1960 as it flew above Russia.  The US faced world pressure and ultimately admitted, yes we were watching Russia... Amazingly, while the plane was brought down by a Russian missile, the Pilot, Gary Powers, survived and was captured.
So the U2 was pushed aside and this craft was contracted for. Lockheed kind of over delivered. How can you spy at 2,193 miles per hour at 85,069 feet above the earth?
"SR-71A to US Command...We definitely just saw Boris shoveling snow and drinking vodka. However, the pictures are blurred. And...Boris looks very teeny."

Here's the records held by this amazing work from Man's technological mind.

Da plane, Da plane! Note the very serious looking jet engines. Interesting that the LA-DC record was relatively recent. That was set by NASA who used the plane in the 1990's for research on high speed travel. The records show the SR-71A was retired in 1999. However, given the nature of the spy world...if you do happen to see some small spec rocketing high across your sky, don't tell Boris.

MoreTucson sites

First two pics are of University Of Az campus....others are of exhibits at the Az History Museum and the Az State Museum which is on the UA campus.....Both museums were excellent.....Lots about the crazy wild west!!!

Sabino Canyon

Another great hike....this time in Sabino Canyon, Tucson AZ.....just lovin' the desert!