Monday, December 22, 2014

Wine Tasting Tour in the Vineyards Of Southern AZ

Dec. 20, Saturday.   “Great is the fortune of he who possesses a good bottle, a good book, and a good friend”. Moltiere.    I was invited by a hiking friend, Donna, to go on the wine tasting tour with the group from the RV park.  Donna’s husband was unable to go so I just reimbursed her for Bill’s spot.  Let’s preface this by saying that I don’t drink, but thought this was something I had never done before and I am always up for a bit of a new adventure.  I didn’t think small sips would make me tipsy.  The RV park has its own small bus that seats 12.  Ray, our driver, had it all warmed up and ready to go as our “motley crew” gathered to head out. 

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Well, here comes my new friends, Kent and Sidney!  They are parked just a few sites down from us in the RV section of the park.  They are just the nicest couple.  We are really enjoying getting to know them and look forward to spending more time together over the winter months.  I had no idea they had signed up for the trip.  Then along comes Tony and Becky, who I have been getting to know in the hiking group.  A few of the other women I recognized from last season.   So we I knew it was going to be a fun day and with friends.  The drive to the vineyards was about an hour and a half further south from Tucson.  It was a glorious blue sky day and we passed by the ever changing landscape of AZ.  From mountains and Saguaro cactus, to rolling hills and open plains, even distant mountain tops with snow,  we saw it all.  Even the Antelope were out soaking up the sun on such a pretty day. 

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Our first vineyard was Arizona Hops and Vines.  This is where I learned how the tour works:  At the 1st winery, you buy your wine glass and cost of tasting about 6 wines.  Then you carry your new glass with you to all the other wineries and get a cost of about $5 for 6 tastings.  What a neat idea!  Even if you come on another day, as long as you have a glass from one of the local wineries, you still pay just the cost of the tastings.  The wineries tasting rooms are open to the public and anyone can sample all kinds of wines.  It seems to be a nice way of getting out and about on a weekend.  Love the view! 

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We started tasting the first wines.  This is where it got pretty funny!  Since I only took tiny sips, I had the rest of my small portions left over.  I started to pour it into the vase for unwanted wines and Donna said “No, don’t pour it out, I’ll take it!”  So that is the way it went at the rest of the wineries.  She loves wine and we had some good laughs about me being careful not to drink too many sips as she drank all that I didn’t want.  We joked about it being all my fault if her husband had to come get her! She really is a sweet person.  The wines were good and my favorite was a hot sweet mulled red wine with cinnamon and nutmeg. 

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Back on the bus, one of the ladies was thoughtful enough to prepare a tray of cheeses and crackers so we were not drinking on an empty stomach.  Good idea! I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to get so tipsy that we wound up across the border in Mexico!  We were not that far from the border!

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The next stop was the Sonoita Vineyards.  More tasting, laughing, and good conversation.   I must say, some of those ladies must be real connoisseurs of wines because they were spouting off the names and blends of wines as if they had their own vineyard!  I think by this time, after more tasting, some of these ladies had been on many of these tours before!   The 3rd stop was at The Village of Elgin Winery.  Each of the tasting rooms so far were very rustic.  I guess if you drink enough wine, you won’t care what the place looks like!  The picture below of the outside of the tasting room almost looks like an old western saloon.  I half way expected John Wayne to come through the door!

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The final stop was at the Elgin Vineyards.  Now this was more like a very successful up scale winery!  The outside of the building looked like a small castle and was surrounded by a larger number of vineyards and more mountain scenery.  Of course, the vines area all dried up for the winter.  And yep, I was still giving Donna my leftovers!  What laughs!  Some of them she didn’t know I poured in her glass!  This must be a more popular winery because the place was busy.  The inside was even decorated in a pretty d├ęcor.  It made you feel like you really were in wine country.  I stepped outside and you could see the vast vineyards.  Plus there was a pretty view of the distant mountains.  The dog in the picture is the resident greeter!  What a life!  Just  eat, sleep, and maybe a sip of wine in his water! 

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I think by now everyone was more that ready for some lunch!  It was already 3:00 in the afternoon.  We headed back up the way we came and stopped at The Ranch House Restaurant.  Let me tell you,  there are some unique places out in the desert!  This one gave a whole new meaning to rustic.  But hey, the bikers like it!  The food was good and the waitress who looked like she forgot to put her teeth in was a real entertainer!  You hardly find any small restaurants with paved parking lots out away from town.  D-I-R-T seems to be the ground cover of choice!   Things like that are what give these interesting places their character.  Some of the group ordered MORE wine with their meal.  Oh, boy! This is going to be a fun trip home!

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I really enjoyed the day and the company was terrific!  What a fun group! After all that tasting, I bet everyone slept good that night!

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(It wasn’t until after I walked back to the RV that afternoon I noticed our bikes were gone.  So that didn’t ruin my fun day before the trip.)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Grinch Stole My Christmas!

Dec. 20, Saturday.  Have you ever felt to angry and violated that you can’t help but rant and rave or just cry your eyes out with frustration?  That was me Saturday night.   Arrggg..sniff…arrggg…sniff..arrggg!

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Returning from a fun day trip with a group from our park, I noticed immediately that our bikes were missing from where we had them locked up.   It was hard to accept the fact that they were actually stolen right from under our RV!  Doug’s lock was cut and still hanging from the hitch.  My bike and BOTH locks were gone.  I had even recently bought the thickest braided cable bike lock Home Depot sold.  I got that sick feeling in my stomach you get when you know something just happened but you find it so hard to accept that there is nothing you can do about it.   Yes, I filed a police report that very afternoon.  But don’t hold much hope of the thieves being caught.  The police have more serious problems to take care of.  Proper security should be the responsibility of the park.  Maybe I should cover my self in black clothes, blacken my face, grab my camera and some Mace, play detective, and roam the park at night!  Maybe not.  If I confronted a thief I might strangle him!  You don’t mess with a ticked-off old lady!!!

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The Grinch struck and made us members of the “stolen bike club”.  I say club because over 20 bikes have been stolen from our park since we arrived here in mid November.  Apparently taking precautions to lock up bikes wasn’t enough.  The ring of thieves did the same thing last season in December.   Guess they couldn’t hock my old rusted out bike I had last year.   So this year they stole my bend new Schwinn turquoise ladies bike with front basket, night lights, and mileage meter.  I loved the color and Doug took the time to “trick out” my bike.   No, we won’t buy new ones here only to possibly have those stolen as well.

Schwinn Women's Wayfarer 7 Speed Road Bike | Wayfair **has fenders and ...   

Other suspicious activity has been going on in the park as well.  There is a very dirty smelly thin man with long beard, dirty baggy clothes, and long stringy grey hair seen in the park facilities by other people.    We saw him one night out walking and he came right out of the dark in front of us and walked by saying not a word.  He is not the type of person at all that would be renting in this park.   Last week I saw a teenage boy walking away from the brick wall fence across from us.  There is nobody camped on the row across from us, so I am convinced he pulled himself over the wall and began walking through the park as if he owned it.  Others have seen boys deliberately throw a ball over the wall and take turns going over the wall into the park to get it.   The wall is simply not tall enough to keep people out even though the front of the park is gated.   While out walking at night we have noticed that there are not enough lights or security cameras throughout the park.   The interior of the park looks like a nice upscale resort, but it is not in the best part of town.  We believe the park was here first and the less than desirable neighborhoods grew up around it.   With all that being said, we no longer feel secure and safe in this park. 

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So with heavy hearts, we have decided we will not return to this park again.  We thought we had indeed found a park where we would enjoy spending many winter seasons.  It is not only the loss of the bikes, but having to give up being with friends we have made around us, out hiking, in the photography group, and other activities that saddens us.  We made wonderful new friends last season that are either already here this year or will be here soon.  Our friends are such wonderful great people close to our age that we enjoy being in their company, sharing adventures, and doing things together.  It saddens us to have to tell them that we won’t be back at this park and won’t be seeing them anymore unless we are fortunate enough to meet them on the road somewhere in our travels as all of us keep up with where everyone is.   We will still look forward to making new friends wherever we travel. 

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So shame on you Grinch and we will still have a Merry Xmas in spite of you….. Our friendships mean more to us than anything material. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ironwood Trail in Saguaro National Park

Wednesday, Dec. 10.  It was another 75 degree warm day in the desert with lots of blue sky.  The early morning brought out 32 people for the hike.  That was a good crowd!  It is probably because we are still experiencing unusually warm days for this time of year.  But that is due to change this weekend with rain, wind, and 60 degree days for the next couple of of weeks.   But that doesn’t stop most of us.  Cool weather is better for hiking anyway.   More and more folks are showing up for the winter season.  The Ironwood Trail is part of the Saguaro National Forest but not actually in the National Park area where visitor fees are required.   We always get an early start while the morning is a bit cool and it is so pretty watching the sun get higher and cast shadows across the desert.  The scenery is always just so stunning no matter which trail we take. 

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The hike was 4 miles and we just meandered up and down the hills, through the wash,  and over rocks stopping along the way to identify native plants and take pictures.  Of course we are all talking and getting to know each other and renew friendships.  The cacti were thick and other surrounding different species of cactus and brush were so lush and green.  The desert seemed to be holding on to every bit of moisture left from the last rain about 6 days ago.  This particular mountain, below, seemed to be our guiding focal point as the trail gave us lots of views of it from many parts of the trail.  Even the moon was visible in the deep blue sky. 

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I love the way the cacti grow right up the side of the rocky bluffs and even seem to grow right from the rocks themselves.  The bluffs are so colorful against the sky.  It was just such a beautiful day out there!

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We even discovered some ancient petroglyphs.

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Break time, then time to finish the loop trail and head home.  What a great hike it was!

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