Saturday, January 30, 2016
"I'm movin' out!"
No, Joan did throw me out. It is time to get ready to roll for our next destination: San Diego. Mother Nature, with her quirky sense of humor is tossing an El Niño storm our way. Tomorrow and into Monday. We are outta here on Monday, so that means getting everything packed up today; while the weather is nice.
Like most RVers, we tend to "spread out" when we are in one place for a while, and we've been here 6 weeks. Since this RV park doesn't allow cargo trailers (don't get me started), we have been parking the scoots in Steph and Dan's garage. Yes, we have covers for them, but this park is pretty much a sandy/gravel site, and anything outside gets covered with a layer of red dust. So, we drive to Steph's place, park the car, and take the scoots. Certainly not as convenient as having the scoots right out our door.
To add to the fun, there is a storage lot connected with this park. It is entwined with what used to be a horse racing park, so there are stalls (literally), narrow passageways, and lots of deep, sloped drainage... seems designed to tear the back end out of an RV. To put the cargo trailer in storage, we borrowed a truck from one of Steph and Dan's friends. And now to get the trailer out, we borrowed another friend's SUV. Yes, it is more effort due to this park's "policy." (Seriously, don't get me started)
After getting the trailer on our site (and hoping the cargo trailer nazis don't come after us with pitchforks and torches before we can get out of here), we went out for breakfast with Steph and Dan. A bit of shopping after that, then back to their place, where we picked up our scoots. Back to the park, and we are ready to start the packing-away process...
We have our system with loading and strapping down the scoots - it goes pretty quick...
Little Izzy poked her head out the door... "This isn't right. Stuff isn't where it is supposed to be - the car is in the wrong place." She is definitely a creature of habit. She went back to the bedroom to stay out of the hub-bub...
I told her that she may like the next place even better. She is not so sure.
We continued around our site, putting away chairs, getting the patio mat "uprooted'... you hold it down with metal stakes. The ground here is like concrete, so it is just as much work to get those stakes out. Worth the effort, though - the patio mat helps keep dragging all that sand/gravel in the coach to a minimum.
Next up: giving the fresh water tank a little freshen-up; bleach and flushing. Holding tanks dumped, rinsed, and dumped. With both of us working on it, the process goes reasonably fast. There will be some last minute stowing of stuff, but the Aspect and crew will be ready to roll Monday morning.
I mentioned Mother Nature earlier... the local weather weasels are calling for a "winter storm." They love to say crap like that, including, "Winds will be in excess of 45mph and there will be significant snowfall." Yeah, in Flagstaff; 150 miles north. We expect the weather to start going downhill sometime tomorrow (with a 90% chance of precip in the afternoon/evening). We will be heading west, so, of course, the wind will be out of the west at 25mph and gusty on Monday.
Right now, the incoming weather is making for some interesting cloud patterns...
Finger-painting with watercolors? ;-)
We have reservations on Monday in San Diego... we may just take our time along the way.
Friday, January 29, 2016
Really. Playing Bingo. There is a bingo hall not too far from Steph and Dan's place. Generally, Joan likes to do an evening of bingo one night while we're here. She talked Steph and Dan into it tonight.
People take it very serious there - they have their bingo bags, full of daubers and good luck charms. The place also rents machines that keep track of your bingo cards for you. A whole session takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours, playing about 20 games, with a 15 minute intermission. They move right on through the games.
Dan and I stood in line to get the packets (a bunch of different cards, well paper sheets) - they play a bunch of different types of bingo. Things move so fast that you need to put all the sheets of paper in proper order before they get started. We were ready...
Dan "accidentally" bought two full sets... each. Seems that having twice as many cards didn't make much difference. Most of the games have a $100 pot. A couple are $150. At the end of the session before intermission is a blackout game with a bigger pot; and then a similar big pot at the final game after intermission.
I am pretty sure I had special cards that had "unlisted" numbers - one game featured a diamond shape for the winning bingo numbers... my card looked like the inverse of that. The blackout game rolled around... more of the same for me. Looking over at Steph, she had a giddy look about her: "I only need one more number!" Yep, that was the next number called!
"Bingo!" If the pot had been won with 54 numbers called, the pot was $1,000. After that, it dropped to $400. Steph won it on the 57th number called...
We were all very excited for her... especially Dan, since he had "doubled down" before we started. ;-)
A couple games into the second half, Steph won again! She shared that $150 pot with one other winner. Nice profit for the evening. And, a good time for all of us.
... in a previous post I said our grandkitty is the "second cutest cat on earth."
What a sweet little face. :-)
She looked out our bedroom window this morning... and sighed. The new neighbors' RV is blocking the view she has had for the last 6 weeks or so.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Roadrunners. State bird of Arizona? You'd think so, but, no; that would be the Cactus Wren.
For those who have never seen a roadrunner, they don't look like this...
No, they actually look like this...
We see them around the RV park regularly. Today, while out on the scoots, one of these things ran across the road in front of us. No, we did not hit it. However, the pickup truck coming the other direction did. An explosion of feathers. You don't see that sort of thing in the cartoons.
I did get a look at the pickup driver...
Since we arrived here, the only other RV close to us has been the older motorhome, owned by the guy who picks up dog poop with his bare hands. TMI? This means Izzy has been able to walk pretty much any direction she wants, without going into an occupied site.
Things are getting busier here in the RV park, with new arrivals daily. When getting back from some urban cruising on the scoots today, we found we have a new neighbor. It appears the "parking police" didn't tell them that they need to leave room to land a 747 between their RV and the utility pedestal, so they are quite close to the starboard aft quarter of the Aspect.
Not an issue for me - it's an RV park. Little Izzy, on the other hand, was appalled - "Who are these interlopers parking in my walking path?" She is very brave... until she hears a human voice that isn't her Mommy or Daddy. Then, she gets as flat to the ground as the roadrunner mentioned above. Because, as ever cat knows, when you get lower to the ground, you become invisible.
Over Izzy's objections, I said, "Hi! And welcome to the neighborhood!" They are from Washington State, and seem genuinely happy to see sunshine. I get that.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
No, not Izzy - obviously, she is first!
We went to Steph and Dan's so Joan could make supper for them. Yes, they are spoiled. It is fun to visit with them at the end of their day, then head back to our own accommodations.
While Joan was making supper, their young kitty, Tasha, started playing in a bag we brought...
She was having a great time jumping in and out of that bag. Yep, we left it behind. Sweet kitty.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Today was "Jim teaches the blues" day at school. Of course, Steph was very concerned that I might say or do something to cause her problems. While I never would, I played along like I might! ;-)
"What rhymes with 'snit'? Or, 'rich'? Maybe: 'luck'?" Kinda fun to make her sweat.
The goal: guide the kids into writing a song. The reality: with only 40 minutes, and that includes trying to teach two boys (who don't know how to tune their guitars) a couple chords, get the other kids fired up so they will put some "emotion" into the singing, maybe add a little percussion... oh, and writing the whole damn song!
I knew what I was up against, so... with apologies to Dave Mason (Feelin' Alright), I came up with the hook: "I got the homework blues... it's just bad news."
Another reality: the kids had no idea what we'd be doing... well, except the two guitar playing boys. I gave Steph the two chords we'd be using, and they were supposed to practice those for two weeks before hand. Apparently, they had a bad case of the homework blues, because they didn't know how to tune a guitar, much less play one. "OK, we're going to learn a couple 'fake chords'! Good luck!"
I had Joan write out the first verse on the white board while I played it, to give them a feel for how the song should sound. You could see the excitement building on their faces. Would have been nice for them to know the topic, to be working on some lyrics, but I was ready for it.
We practiced the hook... most of them were actually singing. I asked, "Who really likes to sing?" Several hands went up... "Great! You're the vocalists!" Looks of terror, mixed with horror. "Nahhh, we're going to do this together, but I want to hear you belt it out! No one actually dies of embarrassment!"
"Yabut, what if we have a heart attack?"
"Not much chance of that, so let's sing!"
Second verse: I gave them a line, then had them come up with the next line. Back and forth. Joan added guidance, then wrote it on the board. The singing was quickly getting stronger. Amazing how fast you can pull something together when you are on a tight schedule. ;-)
When we had three verses and the hook, it was time to put it all together. One run-through. Time to add some percussion, getting the ones who were too shy to "belt it out" something to add. We had 100% involvement. Jack Black's School of Rock has nothing on these kids.
Time to put it on video for Steph to put on the school's website. "One take - let's do this!"
The bell rang shortly after we finished... "That's a wrap!" The class next door gave us a round of applause. Walking down the hall afterwards, two girls were singing, "I've got the homework blues..."
There may be hope for this generation. ;-)
(photos by The Blonde)
On edit: some photos from Steph...
Doing the lyrics...
My lovely assistant writing down the lyrics...
The back-up band...
Time to get out the percussion...
Let's do this...
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Well, for the day.
Today was a real treat for me: we got together with Mark & Cindy Lamkin, and Randy and Cindy Peters. Randy and I played in bands together starting when we were 13 years old. Mark and I played in bands through high school and college, and in a duo (piano, guitar, vocals). These guys were a big part of my formative years. And today, we were all three together for the first time in about 4 decades.
Mark is a very talented keyboard player; Randy is a great singer and guitar player. Mark hadn't played piano in quite a while, but bought a keyboard this past week... apparently, it is like riding a bike - he sounded as good as I remember. Randy is just a natural at whatever instrument he picks up. I did my best to not hold them back. And, it was a blast.
We took turns with "Do you remember this one?"... and encouraged and followed each other.
Yes, both playoff games were on - we were able to multi-task...
We played well into the evening. Acoustic guitars and an electric keyboard without a lot of aux amplification - no worry about disturbing the neighbors. ;-)
Mark and Cindy ordered pizza. We brought bundt cakes (mini) for dessert. I worked up an appetite with all that music. ;-)
It was great to see old friends! And, of course, make some music.
Friday, January 22, 2016
A 50s love song? Nahh.
We went to a movie again today. Not the typical Robert De Niro film - Dirty Grandpa. More like The Hangover meets Last Vegas meets Neighbors. Raunchy humor. Lots of swearing... really, it made me look like an amateur. But, it was funny. In a slightly I-hope-I-don't-see-anyone-I-know kinda way. De Niro has been in a lot of movies the last few years. I remember thinking, "De Niro in Meet the Fowkers? Turns out, he is funny. Especially playing that tough-guy routine. Which he is doing again here.
We both laughed our way through it. But, don't tell anyone. ;-)
After "burger Friday" out with Steph and Dan, we saw some interesting clouds with the moon peeking through...
Contrails from the planes landing at Sky Harbor (PHX). Quite a sight.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Monday, January 18, 2016
Joan was surprised when, after she paid for our Styx tickets, she saw that they had "SRO" on them. Yep, Standing Room Only, even though there are row and seat numbers. Doesn't matter - we are going to enjoy the concert!
In the 70s and 80s, Styx was one of our favorite bands. One of the bands I played in, Stinger, did a lot of Styx songs. Styx was hard to put in a category, so music critics called them "progressive rock." Some thought they "jumped the shark" around the time of Mr. Roboto. No one could deny that they were great musicians with outstanding vocal harmonies.
The venue for the concert was the Talking Stick Resort, an Indian casino/resort. We haven't been to that one... it is impressive. Upscale Vegas-style facility. We arrived there plenty early, planning to eat and do some gaming before the concert. We walked around the casio, played a bit, had a great meal at their buffet (American/Italian/Asian/Mexican entrees). Then played a bit more before going to check out the hall for the concert.
Thank goodness for these casinos - because of them, classic rock bands have "second careers." There may not be enough demand to fill 10,000+ seat concert arenas, but these casinos have halls that can hold a good size crowd. This particular one is billed as 1,600 seats, and this Styx concert is sold out.
We were in line early, wanting to scope out our "standing room only" situation. I have to admit, I wasn't looking forward to standing through the whole thing. Once inside, Joan asked one of the usher ladies about the SRO... "You can stand here on the side or anywhere in back. Or, if you want, there are two rows of seats that are not reserved, and you can sit there."
Bingo! We claimed a couple seats on the aisle, and settled in...
No, they aren't front row center, seats... but this room is laid out wide. And, the row in front of us paid $50 more per seat for the same view. When Joan booked this, these were the "best available."
A view of the stage before the place started filling. In typical casino style, they also had 4 bars set up in the hall.
Right on time, a guy from the casino came out to warm up the crowd and talk about upcoming concert events (bands and comedians). Ten minutes after the scheduled start time, the music came up... with no one on stage... and a huge roar from the crowd. The band members came out as the lights came up and the music hit a crescendo, and the live playing started with Grand Illusion...
Tommy Shaw is 62, James Young is 66... they sing, play, and move like they are still in their prime! Seriously, these guys rock! We have seen some artists from that era who can't hit the notes anymore - not these guys. Lawrence Gowan replaced Dennis DeYoung on keyboards and vocals in 1999... some thought Dennis DeYoung was Styx, but this guy has nicely filled those shoes. The drummer and bass player are every bit as good as the Pannozo brothers they replaced. This current line up brings great energy to the many hits this band produced.
The crowd was enthusiastic and appreciative. Early on, Gowan let the crowd know that they'd be playing "all the songs you came to hear!" Again the crowd roared.
From the first song on, it didn't matter where you were sitting - this crowd stood for much of the evening. The sound mix was well balanced, and the music was rockin! They did a couple tribute songs of David Bowie's, and a great job of building the crowd up, mellowing, then a bigger build. They made it all look effortless (as well they should since they have been playing some of these songs for 40 years) and did a fine job of engaging the crowd.
At one point, they brought Chuck Pannozo (the original bass player) out, and their current bass player joined Shaw and Young on guitar...
That is Chuck in the suit and tie.
They moved Ponnozo in and out, did some good crowd-engaging talk between some songs, and rocked from one song to another on others. It felt intimate and big arena at the same time, not an easy thing to pull off.
At one point, Gowan did a solo on keyboards and vocal, while the rest of the band left the stage. When they came back for the next song, he stepped off for a few seconds, then came back in another outfit. They played straight through for an hour and a half, set themselves up for and encore, then came back and rocked it some more...
It was a great night - one of us even came out ahead on the gaming. Everyone at the concert came out ahead on entertainment.