Saturday, March 31, 2018

March 25 - 31, 2018, AZ

Saturday, March 31.  Early Tuesday morning, I learned that Rick passed away Monday night around 10:00 pm.  I am saddened and heartbroken but also relieved that he will struggle with life no more.  He managed to live for 64 years, in spite of the last 18 of them being a burdened with the claws of alcoholism - The Ursino Curse.  I was asked to write his obituary and here it is:

Richard Scott Ursino started his life on May 13, 1954 in Stoughton, WI and died from complications of Cancer on March 26, 2018 in Springfield, MO.

Rick is survived by his daughter, Monica (Loren) Vandever of Peoria, AZ, sisters: Rita (Dennis) Walker of Blue Springs, MO; Rose Bridge of Minneapolis, MN; Rene (Michael) Moore of Warsaw, MO, and brothers: Robert (Penny) Ursino of Grain Valley, MO; Randall (Julie) Ursino of Springfield, MO; Ronald Ursino of Wichita, KS; and Russell Radecki of Iowa City, IA and many nieces, nephews, and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Ruth (Peckham) Ursino and brothers Rocco and Raymond Ursino.

Rick was an artistic guy who was good at sketching and drawing, taught himself to play guitar and harmonica, and had a lifelong appreciation for blues music. He was very involved in Boy Scouts and Explorers as a child and earned a trip to Washington DC with his troop. These experiences gave him a love for the outdoors and camping. He spent much of his life in the Stoughton area and relocated to Springfield, MO in 2009.

Rick endured many struggles in his life including homelessness, alcoholism, and 2 bouts with Cancer, but he kept his faith, a positive attitude, a sense of humor, and a determination to carry on. He was a loyal brother and a friend to many. His battles ended at the age of 64.

Would you know my name

If I saw you in heaven?

Would it be the same

If I saw you in heaven?

I must be strong and carry on

'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven.

        From "Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton

I also worked on researching options for burying his remains with Mom and Dad at St. Ann's Cemetery in Stoughton.

Tuesday morning, I learned that my good friend, Jim McDaniel fell during the night and broke his neck. What sad news this was and the community is praying for his recovery.  Surgery on Thursday was successful in fusing the bone, although he will probably not be able to turn his head and recovery will be long.  Positive thoughts and prayers going their way.

Things like this make you realize that you just never know what could happen in a split second that can change your life forever. Especially as we get older and live in a community of people in our age group.  I believe that you just have to make the best of life and enjoy every minute that you can.

I did just that on Tuesday night when Connie, Kathy, and I went to Val Vista Village to meet up with Pat and Sue for an evening of girl talk, music by Northstar, dancing, and fun.

Last night, Tom, Arlene, and I met up with Jim and Sue, Pat and Rog at La Casa De Juana for dinner and had a very enjoyable time.  The Hoovey's head back to Wisconsin on Sunday and Chandlers leave on Thursday.  

Friday, March 23, 2018

March 19 - 25, 2028, AZ

Friday, March 23.  Today is Mike's and my 50th anniversary. I can only imagine how we would be celebrating this monumental occasion.

It is also a very sad day, as Randy was summoned to Rick's side early this morning as he had a rough night and is slipping away.  My comfort in the situation is knowing that he will no longer struggle with a life that has been very rough for him.  I wonder what my brothers would have been like if they were not controlled by alcohol.  I went and spent the afternoon with Monica and we had a very nice talk, mostly above it her fractured relationship with her dad.

We walked with her dog, Scooter, to a nearby restaurant only to learn that they don't allow dogs on their patio, not even tied up for outside the railing.  So we walked back to her house and drove to a nearby sports pub and shared a pizza.  It has been a long and emotional day

I had 3 jobs this week and the afternoons and evenings flew by.  We met up with the Chandlers and Hooveys at Garcia's for happy hour drinks and appetizers. Good times!

My little Gypsy travel trailer is listed for sale on Craig's list and RV Trader and I have been communicating with a few people, two that will be coming for a look.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I get a decent offer.

Saturday, March 24.  Tom and I have been living together for 5 months today. Life is good with a few hiccups as is to be expected.

Our day started with a drive to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and the Lost Dog Trailhead where we hiked with Pat, Jim and Sue.  It was a 4.4 mile hike, a bit on the warm side but there was a nice breeze.  There were a lot of people on the trail, even a man on horseback.

    At Taliesen Overlook on Lost Dog Trail

    View to the east on the trail.

Tonight was our Brentwood Days dinner and music provided by the Rave Ons, a couple of gals who do a nice job of selecting good dance tunes and interacting with the crowd.  It was an early night though, we didn't stay until the end.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

March 12 - 18, 2018, AZ

Wednesday, March 14.  There has been lots of family activity in the last few weeks, because my brother, Rick is nearing the end of his life.  He was unable to continue the radiation treatments due to his weak physical state and declined chemotherapy treatment for the cancer in his lungs and an open tumor that started out about the size of a nickel and is now closer to baseball size.  It is so sad to see the deterioration and the effects that his lifestyle as an alcoholic have had on him.  The family has been rallying to be there for him and Randy has been especially helpful - actually he has done everything that needs to be done.

Randy and Julie will arrive here tomorrow for a few days of much needed R and R. I'm so looking forward to their visit!

Saturday, March 17.  Happy St. Patrick's Day!  We celebrated last night wth Randy and Julie and several of our Highlands friends.  Jan and Jim cooked corned beef and cabbage that was delicious, complimented by the usual pot luck dishes, we had a few drinks, and sat around talking and laughing for a while.  Good times!

I put a beef stew in the crockpot this morning in preparation for dinner with Randy, Julie, and Monica this evening. I was missing an ingredient for the stew, so we walked to Albertsons instead of our usual 'around the park' walk. Once our guests arrived, we had a drink out on the patio, lots of conversation before and after dinner.  It's so nice to be with family.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

March 5 - 11, 2018, AZ, Mexico

Wednesday, March 7, 2018.  We kept the trailer parked in front of the house and plugged in, unloaded only laundry and some of the food.  I had 2 cleaning jobs this week and we spent the afternoons getting ready for the next trip to Yuma.  So, this morning we were on our way after selecting a different RV park because the Escapees KOFA Koop didn't work out. They don't take reservations, sites are only available to members, are available on a first-come basis, and it is the place we really wanted to stay at. Unfortunately, we learned there were no sites available when we called this morning and had to make alternative arrangements.

I had an opportunity to do the driving between Buckeye and a Rest Area about 80 miles east of Yuma.  I was sure that I could handle it and all went well, but I wasn't in heavy traffic or having to change lanes and I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable backing it into a site.  Once Tom took the wheel again, I called the Escapees park and learned that they did have a site available, so are settled in site 56 at a members rate of $20 a day. The site is wide and long, bordered by a 2' brick wall, has plenty  of room for the camper, a generous concrete patio and a place to park the truck, and a shed for the owner's personal items.  These are leased lots and when the occupants are away, they allow them to be rented.  We are backed up to open desert and there is a very large fenced Dog run. 

Shortly after setting up, JoAnn came by to welcome us, gave us several brochures with regional information, a goody bag for Frisco, and a handmade jar opener and 2 coasters with a retro RV design.  We are impressed!  Well, not so impressed with the cable TV, antenna reception, or radio signal.  I'm good with that but it bugs the hell out of Tom. I'm fine as long as I have phone data or my hotspot is working.

Thursday, March 8.  Our first stop today was the Yuma Visitor Center and the Yuma Quartermaster Depot.  The following info is taken from their website:  "It is located on high ground above the Colorado River, the U.S. Army's warehouses held a six-month supply of clothing, food, ammunition and other goods for forts in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas - and were surrounded by as many as 900 mules and their teamsters.

Ocean vessels brought goods to the Gulf of California, from San Francisco where they were loaded onto steamboats for the trip upriver to Yuma. Supplies were shipped farther upriver or overland in wagons pulled by the 20-mule teams of Western lore.

With the coming of the railroad in 1877, the Depot's supply role faded and the Army closed it in 1883. But the site lived on as a telegraph and weather station and customs office - and then as the first home of the Bureau of Reclamation (U.S. Reclamation Service) and the Yuma County Water Users Association. Engineering pioneers worked from here to tame the river, building dams to prevent floods, generate power and ensure a source of water."

It was very interesting and we learned a lot and before we left, we stopped at the Back in Time Pie shop for a yummy piece of bumble berry pie with a dollop of ice cream on top.

From there, we went to the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Site and got a feeling for what it was like to be in one of the worst prisons in the US, rated right up there with Alcatraz.  Most of the buildings have been reconstructed after years of decay, exposure to the harsh weather conditions, and abandonment.

Friday, March 9.  It was another day of touring and exploring and our first stop was the town of Felicity, CA whose claim to fame is that it is the Museum of History in Granite and the Center of the World.  It is a strange place but has a very heartwarming feel about it.  You can read more on their website at We were taken into the pyramid and stood on the dot that marks the center of the world, made a wish, and were given a certificate stating that we had been there. In the future we can enter for a $3 donation.

While we were there, we walked and viewed several of the memorials (triangular shaped walls engraved with stories and pictures that tell about events and people in world history). We then climbed the 49 steps that led to the Church on the hill where we had a beautiful view of the entire place, including a new exhibit that is a concrete walled maze that will, one day, be covered with plaques that tell the story of individuals. Anyone can pay $100 and send in a photo or story, and you will be recorded as part of history for as long as the memorial stands.  

Before we left, we stopped in the gift shop and bought the children's book, "Coe, The Good Dragon at the Center of the World", the story that is the basis for the place.

We then headed south on CA 186 to the parking lot on the border at Los Algodones, Mexico.  We stopped in and got an estimate of some of the dental work that we both could us - an implant is $800, then 4 months later, the crown is added for $350 - not bad considering that Tom was recently quoted about $3,500 in Mesa.

We also stopped for some lunch and a beverage in a Cantina, then did some shopping.  Tom bought a belt and Kahlua and I bought Vanilla, antibiotics, tortillas and some Tequila.

Sunday, March 11.  Yesterday was a 'do nothing' day and we never even left the park.  We thought we might go to the pool but didn't even make it that far.  We also thought we might join the neighbors for happy hour but the chairs never came out and the OPEN sign never came on - these are serious happy hour folks that usually draw a good sized group most afternoons. Bill told me that you had to be prepared to tell tall tales if you joined them.

Today, we went to Gateway Park and walked the trail along the Colorado River and a canal. It was a nice day and a walk felt really good.

The chairs came out across the street and we joined a few folks for Happy Hour. Most of the people in this park are getting ready to leave for the season. In fact, the park is closed, starting on April 1, to everyone but those few who remain through the summer.  We didn't stay long because there is an ice cream social at 6:00 and we had to fit in some dinner before then.

We got a free scoop of ice cream because we were newcomers and got to be first in line.  Stan and Beth joined us at our table, telling us that one of their park rules was to never let newbies sit alone. They are nice folks from Canada who are world travelers and had interesting stories to tell.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

March 1 - 4, 2018, AZ

Sunday, March 4. Thursday was our day to check out some of the hiking trails in the park. After a visit to the Discovery Center to learn about the area, we took the Roadrunner trail that went along the lake, past a couple of day use areas and a huge boat ramp. We learned that there is primitive camping along the shoreline in many areas - you just pull over and park it, but have no hookups or restroom facitilities.  It was a nice walk, about 4 miles.

   Time for a break.

    Full moon over the marina.

On Friday, we took a drive to explore some of the other campgrounds and then drove out Castle Hot Springs Road until the pavement ended at the northern border of the park.  We continued on the dirt road, as Tom remembered a resort back there and wanted to see if it was still there.  And yes, it is a really cool setting that entertained several of our past presidents, the last was JFK when he was recovering from a war injury.  The sign said that it was reopening in October of this year - might be a great place to check out in the future. I did an online search and it said that 200,000 gallons of 120 degree water comes out of the hot springs daily.

   Castle Hot Springs Resort

    Castle Hot Springs Road

We stopped at a little corner bar and grill, the Wild West Saloon and had a beer and a burger on the way back home.

After breakfast on Saturday morning, we drove to the Wild Burro trailhead and started our hike from there, a 4-mile hike out and back that provided us with some great views, a couple of stops on the shoreline so Frisco could wet his feet and slurp up the cool, clear water.

Monica came out and joined us for dinner and a campfire in the evening and we had some great conversation.  Life is a challenge for her these days, as her Dad (my brother Rick) has decided to discontinue treatment for his cancer, and he lives far away in 

Missouri.  Also, her husband left this week for a work assignment in Puerto Rico for the next 6 weeks. I feel bad for her and hope we gave her some reassurance and at least a shoulder to lean on for a while.

Today would be my brother, Rocco's 69th birthday, may he Rest In Peace.  It's hard to believe that he has been gone from us for 16 years now.

It was also pack up and leave day, we were on the road about noon, after waiting in line for to empty the tanks for almost an hour.

February 26 - 28, 2018, AZ

Wednesday, February 28.  We celebrated Tom's 69th birthday last night by meeting up with Jim and Sue and Pat and Roger for dinner at Dirtwater Springs for dinner.  Again, the service was poor, they didn't get the orders right, my chicken was underdone and their prices are high.  We barely got out of there in time to make it to Countryside RV for a night of entertainment by Maggie Mae and Stevie Ray Nelson.  Their auditorium was filled to capacity and it was a fun night of good old country music.

This morning, after a trip to Costco to pick up Tom's new glasses, we headed out to The Roadrunner Campground at Lake Pleasant where we will be spending the next few days.  Our site, #14 on the lake side has a nice view of the lake and a huge one it is! Once we got setup, we walked around get a feel for the place - the visitor center was closed and there is some construction going on right near there, blocking off some of the trails.

It's quite windy, but our site is backed by a small hill and we have plenty of sunshine.