SMM Three Gun

I’ve become a little lazy about posting lately. I haven’t written a post in 10 days! It’s mainly due to the routine we’ve fallen into here at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort in Mesa, Arizona. It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for almost three months already. Our routine consists of pickleball games most mornings, tennis lesson a couple of times per week for Donna and I instruct a pickleball class on Wednesday afternoon for players graduating to intermediate level play.

I have happy hour with my friends at Lucky Lou’s a couple afternoons every week. I spend time with some of the guys I knew and hung out with when we lived here 10 years ago. In one week, we’ll be moving on – back to San Diego for a month. With the coach set up at Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego, we’ll take a week off and kick back in Belize.

Last week, I finally got the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker grill out of the trailer and prepared my famous babyback ribs. Our neighbor across the street from us, Dick, was a bachelor for the week as his wife, Roxie, had to take care of business back at their home in Spokane. We invited Dick over to have a smoked rib dinner and we enjoyed the company and a few adult beverages. Originally we intended to include our other neighbors, Chuck and Sue from Illinois, but Sue’s brother unexpectedly passed away and they hastily packed up and headed back to Illinois.

There’s an outdoor shooting range up on Usery Pass – a couple of miles up Ellsworth Road. They hold an annual competition there for three gun competitors. Three gun competition is exactly how it sounds – you must be proficient with three types of firearms – pistol, shotgun and rifle. I went to check it out Friday afternoon – there’s no charge for spectators.

Rio Salado Sportsman Club at Usery Mountain

The event is called the Superstition Mountain Mystery Three Gun. Competitors complete various scenarios in different settings called stages – this competition had 12 stages. In each stage, targets are engaged from different positions and distances and the competitor has to transition from one gun to another.

In the picture below, the shooter is knocking down steel plates with a shotgun. He started on the left side of the helicopter chassis and knocked down six plates, then he had to move to the right side to knock down six more plates – he’s shooting at the last plate.

In another stage, the competitor is shooting a pistol at a variety of targets, then he drops the pistol and picks up a rifle as he scrambles onto an inclined board to engage targets 500 meters away with his rifle. This is a long shot! Five hundred meters is about 1,600 feet – well over a quarter of a mile. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking so they have to make the shots as quickly as possible and don’t have time to catch their breath during a stage.

Pistol shooting – judges and time keeper behind the shooter
Transition to 500 meter shot with a rifle from prone position

I had the opportunity to meet a legend in the speed shooting and competition shooting world. Jerry Miculek (MITCH-e-lek) was competing in the Superstition Mountain Mystery three gun event. Jerry has been at the top of the game for as long as I can remember. I think he’s been sponsored by Smith and Wesson for nearly thirty years. He holds several world records for speed and accuracy. He has a TV show on the Outdoor Channel called Shootout Lane that I enjoy watching.

The greatest shooter of all time – the Legend, Jerry Miculek

I had to opportunity to meet and speak with Jerry. He’s truly a nice guy – if you’ve ever watched his TV show, he is just as soft spoken and humble as he appears on TV. Jerry’s 64 years young and still at the top of the game. His daughter, Lena, is also a top competitor sponsored by Sig Sauer – she was the top female shooter in the world in 2014. She wasn’t at this competition – she’s concentrating on Pistol Cartridge Carbine (PCC) competition at this time.

Saturday morning, I competed in a men only pickleball tournament. We started with a series of round-robin play to establish the qualifiers for the semi-final and Championship round. I played nine games of round robin and qualified for the championship round. Unfortunately I lost the in the end and wound up in second place again. It was fun, but I was whipped after 10 games. My S-Health app recorded nearly 15,000 steps on Saturday. You can see from the bar graph that most of them were before noon during the pickleball tournament. I keep my phone in my pocket while I play to record the steps.

14,873 steps!

On Saturday afternoon, we went to a pool party and barbeque at Jeff and Krissy Van Deren’s house. We had a fun time with plenty of good food and drink. The only person in the pool was Mike and Kim Child’s granddaughter Abigail. We said our goodbyes to Mike and Jodi Hall there as they’re heading out for week-long vacation in Jamaica.

Pool party

My post wouldn’t be complete without a dinner plate picture. Thursday night, Donna made Chicken Lombardy. It was absolutely delicious served with forbidden (black) rice and asparagus.

Chicken Lombardy

The weather has been very pleasant although we had a couple of cloudy days and gusty winds last Tuesday. The daily high temperature ranged from 70 to 80 degrees. The week ahead looks a little warmer with mid-to-upper 80s. I’ll have to get busy and finish a few maintenance chores before we pull out of here next Sunday.

Spring Ahead

We had a great weekend. It started with the usual Friday happy hour at Lucky Lou’s but the highlight was Saturday’s lunch. Our friends, Jeff and Deb Spencer (Rolling Recess) organized a lunch for members of Xscapers. Xscapers is a sub-group of the Escapees RV Club. We aren’t really Xscapers – it’s geared more toward young, working full-time RVers. But, we are Escapees members and although I’m retired, we still feel young enough – most of the time!

The lunch meet-up was at the Monastery Bar and Grill adjacent to Falcon Field on McKellips Road in Mesa. The Monastery is a unique place. Although they call themselves a pub, it’s mostly an outdoor restaurant, bar and activity center. The menu has everything from nachos to steaks. They have a full-service kitchen and wait staff – but you can also order your steak, chicken or burger uncooked for about half-price and grill it yourself on grills they provide in the courtyard. They also have a huge beer selection.

Xscapers group at The Monastery
Jeff Spencer in his usual pose


The indoor seating area has limited space, but there’s a bar on the patio with a stage, tables and several outdoor seating areas. There are also two sand volleyball courts and bean bag cornhole games.

Outdoor sand volleyball court at The Monastery

The only people in attendance that we had met previously were Jeff and Deb. We had a good time meeting several new people in the RV community and we’re glad that Jeff and Deb organized this and invited us.

After the big lunch at The Monastery, Donna kept it simple for Saturday night dinner. Simple but delicious! She made an Asian chicken stir-fry that I loved. The sauce she whips up for it makes the dish – it includes soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, chopped fresh ginger and garlic.

Asian chicken, broccoli and mushroom stir-fry

We had another social event on Sunday. It was time for the annual Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort Pickleball Club meeting and banquet. There was a short club meeting in the ballroom at 4:30pm here at Viewpoint to discuss club business. We learned that the pickleball club now has over 500 members in good standing. They had door prizes and Donna won a free membership for next year – a $15 value.

Viewpoint Pickleball Club meeting

The dinner was catered by Buca di Beppo restaurant and they served a great lasagna with dinner salad and bread. The serving line was very slow though as they only had two people staffing the cafeteria-style food service.

The rest of the country set their clocks forward over the weekend. In Arizona, we don’t do that. In the winter months, Arizona time is equivalent to Mountain Standard Time. When everyone else springs forward, Arizona doesn’t change their clocks, but now we’re the same as Pacific Daylight Time. Someone forgot to tell Verizon that. I have my phone set to automatically reset to the local time. On Mondays, I have an alarm set for 6:15 am so I can get up, have coffee and breakfast and be ready to hit the pickleball round-robin match at 8am. Yesterday I got up at the sound of my phone alarm and fixed coffee and breakfast. Donna came out and asked if I realized we were up an hour early. What! I checked my phone and sure enough – the clock had reset to Mountain Daylight Time. Grrr!

The weather was great last week – mostly in the 70s with clear to partly cloudy skies. That changed yesterday. Rain moved into the area and the temperature will only reach 60 degrees over the next couple of days. We expect rain showers to continue through tomorrow morning. By the weekend, the forecast improves with highs in the upper 70s to 80 degrees for the remainder of the month. That’s more like the weather we expect and love in this part of the country at this time of year. This has been and long, wet and relatively cold winter here.

Who Let the Cat Out?

This blog is written on a template from WordPress. Periodically, WordPress updates the platform. I was told, by someone in the know, to always update to the latest version. Sometimes the update fixes bugs or plugs vulnerabilities. So that’s what I do. Well, the latest “upgrade” changed the whole platform. My photos no longer are reduced to a smaller image that can enlarged to their original size by clicking on them – they are sized to fit the page automatically. I don’t see this as an upgrade.

It’s taken me a while to figure out how to insert links in the new format. The biggest issue I have is with the sidebar widgets. I have affiliate links in the sidebar. Some no longer work – for example, I’m an Amazon affiliate. If you go to Amazon from my website link, I earn a small referral for anything you buy from them on that visit. You pay the same price – I just earn an small referral fee. It isn’t much and now that the link has broken, my last statement showed I earned all of 54 cents in the last month. I’ll have to figure out how to fix it. I’m never going to get enough referral money to even pay for the web hosting cost of a blog, but a few bucks here and there doesn’t hurt.

I don’t have much to report on the RV side of things. We’re settled in and I haven’t had any real projects here in Mesa. We stay active at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort though. I’ve been busy playing pickleball and instructing pickelball lessons. Giving lessons has helped me focus my own play – so it’s beneficial to both me and my students.

We enjoy the birds here at Viewpoint. When I bought the second quail block to attract and feed birds, I wondered if I could keep it up. The birds demolished the first one in about 10 days. At $14 per block, I wasn’t sure if I should keep it up. Now that we have much warmer weather, the birds have an easier time finding more naturally occurring food sources, so the block isn’t disappearing as fast.

Ozark the cat loves the quail block. She sits on the bottom step of the entry and watches the birds through the screen door. She doesn’t try to go outside though. I think she had enough of the outdoors when we found her as a young kitten hiding under our coach at Turkey Creek near Branson, Missouri. She’d much rather stay dry and well fed in our coach.

Ozark the cat stretching out on the dashboard

Our friends Mike and Jodi Hall have a rescue kitten that looks a lot like Ozark the cat. We were talking over happy hour at Lucky Lou’s and Jodi told us her cat story. Apparently, the night before, their kitten, unbeknownst to them, went out the back screen door sometime after 10pm. Jodi knew something wasn’t right when the cat never came to snuggle in bed all night. In the morning, she couldn’t find the cat and it didn’t come when she put food out.

She checked the backyard fearing the kitten may have fallen into the koi pond or got into the pool and ended up in the filtration system, but the cat was nowhere to be found. In the backyard they have an aviary built around a tree. In the afternoon, Jodi looked at the tree carefully. Sure enough, the kitten was up in a crook in the tree. Jodi had to climb up on the aviary, then into the tree to bring the cat down. Mystery solved and now their cat doesn’t seem as inclined to go outside anymore.

While I don’t have any RV related things to post, I want to post a few meal pictures. I know this seems like a food blog at times, but I like to make the point that full-time RV living doesn’t mean always mean eating out, grilling hot dogs or microwaving frozen food. It doesn’t always have to be fancy either. Last week Donna diced leftover pork tenderloin and prepared street tacos. Yummy!

Street tacos

I took advantage of the fine weather and grilled steaks on Sunday.

Steaks right off the grill
Steak with baked sweet potato and asparagus

Monday Donna made a dish called chicken Gabriella and served it with mashed potatoes and roasted Brussel sprouts.

Chicken with mashed potatoes and Brussel sprouts

Speaking of fine weather, we’ve had daily highs in the mid to upper 70s over the last 10 days and even hit 83 degrees yesterday. The forecast looks good although we may have a couple of cooler days with rain showers next week. Overall, we can expect upper 70s and low 80s in the foreseeable future.

Snow Gawkers and Cowboys

The lousy weather forecast from last week held true by Thursday. We started off dry Monday afternoon and Tuesday, but it wasn’t warm. The high on Tuesday was only 55 degrees. But we didn’t let that stop us from hopping on the Spyder and heading over to Lucky Lou’s. Tuesday was Jodi Hall’s and her sister Jackie’s birthday and a bunch of us celebrated on the patio at Lou’s. Good thing they have propane heaters out on the patio.

Happy birthday Jodi and Jackie

The overnight lows hit the low 30s – there was frost on our neighbor’s car. We braved the cold and played pickleball Wednesday morning. In the afternoon I gave lessons – it was a bit windy and cold though.

Donna made chicken tikka masala for dinner Wednesday night. It was scrumptious and I paired it with a IPA from Coronado Brewing (San Diego). This IPA is very traditional West Coast style with centennial, chinook, and columbus hops.

Chicken tikka masala
Coronado Brewing Islander IPA

By Thursday morning, the rain was coming down in force. It was cold and wet out – the high was only 50 degrees and we had the heat pumps running all day. We hunkered down and stayed indoors. Donna made a batch of chili in the slow cooker – just the thing for a cold , rainy day. Lucky for me, I had another IPA in the refrigerator – something called Scorpion Bowl from Stone Brewing that Donna picked up for me.

The rain continued through Friday and it was an even colder day as the high was only 47 degrees. Over the 48-hour period, well over two inches of rain fell in Mesa, Arizona.

Saturday the sun was back and it was dry out. The official high temperature on Saturday was only 55 degrees, but it felt warmer in the direct sun. Our friends Kim and Mike Childs picked us up around 12:30pm and we headed out Brown Road toward Apache Trail to the rodeo grounds. It was time for the 55th Annual Lost Dutchman Rodeo.

The traffic getting to the rodeo was unusually heavy. Part of the reason was the rodeo and carnival, but it was also created by a large number of people heading out toward Apache Trail to take photos of the snow on the Superstition Mountains.

Snow on the Superstition Mountains looking east from the rodeo bleachers
More snow on Four Peaks looking northeast from the rodeo bleachers

With all the rainfall, the ground was quite wet and the arena surface was mostly mud. It couldn’t have been much fun for the cowboys as they had to jump, fall or wrestle in the cold, wet mud.

Muddy arena

The bulldoggers wrestling steers to the ground came up dripping mud. One of the saddle bronc riders lost his boot as he flew out of the saddle and had to stomp around in the mud in his sock to find the boot. None of the dozen or so bull riders were able to get a qualified eight-second ride – all were thrown into the mud. I wrote about my rodeo experience a while back in this post.

I wanted to post over the weekend, but server issues at Bluehost made it impossible. I think this site was actually down for part of the weekend. It all looks to be resolved now. Today we’re expecting a more seasonable high of 71 degrees and should be in the mid-70s for the rest of the week. I’m up for that!

Tournaments and Lovebirds

In my last post, I mentioned that the Valentine’s Day pickleball tournament was cancelled. Donna and I looked forward to it as an opportunity to play as a team in a tournament. Here at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort, they have monthly tournaments at this time of year. However, Donna and I play in different groups in these tournaments.

Pickleball players are rated from 1.0 (beginner) to 5.0 (Pro). Here at Viewpoint, they are fairly strict with their ratings – most people over-rate themselves – but that doesn’t work for long here. The powers that be will move you into a group commensurate with the expected level of play here. I think we would both be rated 0.5 higher than we are here at most places. Donna plays in the 3.0 group while I play in the 3.5 group.

The February tournament was held on Saturday. The play was very competitive and we played well. Donna made it through the elimination rounds and played in the championship round. She finished in second place for the 3.0 group. Likewise, I made it through to the championship round but lost and finished second in the 3.5 group.

Donna has been back for a week now and it’s flown by. I’m happy to report that the quality of my meals has improved greatly. Donna whips up meals that I wouldn’t dream of making on my own. I’m just not that into it, although I love eating. The grill is more my forte rather than elaborate meal planning and blending of flavors. Last Thursday, Donna made cioppino for our Valentine’s Day dinner with clams, calamari, shrimp and cod. It was delicious and a real treat. She served it over chickpea spaghetti and garlicky sauteed spinach.

Cioppino

Saturday afternoon we joined friends at Mike and Jodi Hall’s place for an impromptu barbeque. We actually had a plan the night before, but things don’t always go as planned. When we left Lucky Lou’s Friday night, I planned to pick up babyback ribs and cook them on the Traeger after Saturday’s pickleball tournament. But the Safeway supermarket next door was sold out of babyback ribs. No problem I thought, I’ll get them Saturday morning after the tournament and should have ample time to smoke them.

I thought we’d be done with the tournament around 10:30am. With both of us advancing all the way to the final round, we weren’t done until noon. That ended the possibility of me smoking ribs in time to get to the Hall’s by 2:30pm. Mike Hall said not to worry, Mike Childs was bringing meat and also he had beef ribs to grill. Jeff and Chrissy Van Deren were bringing salad and guacamole. Donna made prosciutto and boursin cheese wrapped asparagus for an appetizer. Then we heard Mike Childs was under the weather, so we had to make do with what was available.

It was no problem though – there turned out to be plenty of food for all. It was fun time and we all enjoyed the company and conversation. Mike Hall and I enjoyed stogies on the back patio by the koi pond.

Donna snapped a photo of Mike and me shooting the breeze and puffing cigars

I put out another quail block last week and the birds have been flocking to our site. I’ve had quail blocks out before – I even had them years ago when we lived in this area – but I never had such a variety of birds attracted to the seed block.

We had colorful visitors at our site this weekend. A couple of weeks ago, I saw what I thought was a Central or South American conure in our orange tree. He didn’t stay long enough for me to get a positive identification. On Sunday, he returned and perched on our window sill. I was able to photograph the bird and identify as a Lovebird – it’s either a Rosy-face Lovebird or a Fischer’s Lovebird. Both birds are very similar in appearance but I think this was a Rosy-faced Lovebird due to its size.

Rosy-faced Lovebird on our window sill – photo was shot through the screen


This morning, the Lovebird returned with its mate. Unlike most bird species, Lovebirds have the same plumage whether they’re male or female.

Dove, Lovebird and Grackle at the seed block

Rosy-faced Lovebirds are indigenous to southwest Africa – Namibia and Angola. But flocks of feral birds are known to inhabit Puerto Rico, Phoenix metro area and San Diego County. The origin of these feral flocks is most likely from the pet industry – birds either escaped or were let loose.

The fickle winter weather continues in the southwest. In the photo from Saturday, you can see we have jackets on. The high was only about 60 degrees. Sunday was cool and breezy with a high in the upper 50s. We had rain overnight and today we’ll only reach the mid 50s with breezy winds again. The week ahead doesn’t look much better with cool temperatures and rain moving in again on Thursday.

Sweethearts and Sumatra

Happy Valentine’s Day. I’m not a big fan of Hallmark holidays – we don’t plan special activities or buy special candies and such. Today our plan was to play as a team together in the Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort Valentine’s Day pickleball tournament. That plan was dashed last night when I received an e-mail that the tournament had been cancelled due to inclement weather in the forecast. We heard a few raindrops on the roof of the coach at bedtime last night, but it’s dry so far this morning. The forecast and the weather radar both indicate rain on the way though.

I started our morning as usual – my morning ritual includes grinding coffee beans and making a pot of coffee. I prefer and use a burr grinder and we brew with a thermal pot so the coffee doesn’t require a heat source to stay warm. Our coffee maker brews at a high temperature – 200 to 205 degrees – and the insulated thermal pot keeps the coffee hot for a couple of hours. Keeping a pot of coffee on an external source of heat will create changes in chemistry after 40 minutes or so – the coffee often acquires a burnt, bitter taste.

We’ve been buying whole coffee beans from Costco. At the Costco we go to in San Diego, I found some of my preferred beans. I like single-source coffee beans because I know what I’m getting. Blended coffee beans can be excellent, but you have to know the blend beforehand to know if it is something you really like. My preference is dark roasted coffee of African origin like coffee from Ethiopia, Kenya or Rwanda. I also favor Indonesian coffee from Sumatra, Sulawesi or Java. By the way, when I was a kid, Sulawesi was called Celebes. Coffee flavor like wine or tobacco is greatly influenced by terroir.

Map from Lonely Planet

The Costco here in Mesa, Arizona doesn’t have any of the single-source varieties I like so I had to find an alternative. I saw whole bean coffee at Winco Foods and decided to try a pound of their Sumatra coffee beans.

Coffee from Sumatra is unique. Indonesia is the fourth largest coffee producer on the planet with most of their high-quality arabica beans grown for export. Most of the production comes from small farms – average size is only two to three acres – instead of the large plantations found in Central America. Sumatra coffee flavor is further influenced by the processing technique.

What we call coffee beans are actually the seeds found in the coffee fruit or cherries. In most places, once the cherries are picked, they’re stripped of the fruit and laid out to dry in the sun to reach a moisture content of 11% or so. In Sumatra this isn’t possible because it rains daily. There they take the the skin off the cherries, but leave the mucilage on the seed. They’ll lay the fruits out on a covered patio or cover them with a tarp if it’s raining. Later they wash the mucilage and ship the beans through cooperatives with other farmers in the area at a moisture content of around 50%.

The broker or exporter completes the drying process by running the beans through a machine that strips the remaining tissues from the seed called parchment and creating friction to dry what is now called a coffee bean. This lengthy period of high moisture and unique fermentation creates a coffee unlike any other. I’m told Sumatra coffee is a “love it or hate it” affair. Donna and I love it. It has a sweet, earthy flavor and is very full-bodied with low acidity. This morning, I brewed the Sumatra that I bought at Winco and we both agree it’s a winner.

It’s still dry outside as I type this at 10am, but the radar shows rain is coming from the west-southwest. The forecast calls for rain overnight before we have dry days again, but the temperature will be below normal with the highs in the 60s tomorrow and Saturday but we might not even reach 60 degrees next week.

Block Party

Another week without Donna has gone by. It seems like she’s been away forever. It has changed up my daily routine. I still start the mornings with breakfast, coffee and pickleball. But from there, I don’t have as much leisure time. I clean Ozark the cat’s litter box, sweep the floor, do dishes, make my meals and I’ve done a few loads of laundry. It certainly gives me a greater appreciation for all the things Donna usually does on a daily basis.

I still break away on Thursday and Friday afternoon for happy hour at Lucky Lou’s. A cold one on the patio while Mike Hall and I puff cigars is a good break from the daily routine.

Locally brewed pint of Four Peaks Kiltlifter on Lucky Lou’s patio

Last week, a cold snap moved in – it’s central Arizona’s version of an arctic blast. The daily high only reached the upper 50s and I saw frost on my neighbor’s car Thursday and Friday morning. I know in many parts of the country there isn’t much sympathy for this weather at this time of year, but in Arizona, it feels chilly.

The cold mornings have the quail attacking the seed block early and often and the hummingbirds frequent their feeder. They need the energy after spending a cold night. The seed block I bought was intended for the Gambel’s quail in the area, but a host of birds have discovered it. There are large flocks of sparrows and a few thrashers – even grackles are coming and they’re quickly decimating the 14-pound block of seed. They are also leaving a bit of a mess on our patio. I think I’ll place the next block at the rear of our cargo trailer in the gravel area.

Gambel’s quail heading into our site

On Sunday, a group of people at the end of our street organized a party for everyone on the 5200 row. Donna purchased tickets for us weeks ago. The $5 ticket included food and they had music set up and some games and prizes. Of course, Donna had to miss out but I went anyway. The change in diet was good – I’ve been on a pretty limited variety in my meals since Donna’s been gone. Being married to Donna for almost 13 years has eroded my culinary skill and motivation. Before I married Donna, I was a bachelor for five years and I did a lot of cooking. I wasn’t ever as good a cook as Donna, but I did okay.

5200 row party

With the large number of sites here at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort, there is always something going on. Snowbirds often organize parties for guests from their home area – for example, I’ve seen signs lately announcing a party for people from Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The management also has scheduled activities such as concerts in the ballroom and weekly outdoor concerts on Wednesday and Friday. And there’s always golf, tennis, pickleball and the swimming pools here too.

The weather for the week ahead looks good with a return to daily highs of 70 degrees or more. The real good news is Donna’s returning from her emergency trip to San Diego this afternoon – Yay!

Oranges and Birds

I added an edit to last week’s post when Donna told me Sheila’s surgery was moved ahead of the schedule. The surgery went as expected, but Sheila wasn’t discharged from the hospital until Thursday. She’s not mobile, so Donna has been her nursemaid, cook and is running errands for her. I don’t know at this point how long Donna will be needed – I’m guessing another week.

Meanwhile I’ve been keeping busy mostly with domestic chores. I’m not the meal planner or cook that Donna is, but I did some grocery shopping and pre-cooked chicken thighs on the grill to have on hand to use in simple lunch or dinner plates.

Wednesday I taught my first pickleball lesson. The lead instructor, Lorraine, gave me an overview of the day’s objectives and I took it from there. It went well and I had fun doing it. The class ran long – over an hour and a half. I’ll keep giving the weekly lessons while we’re here.

Most of the sites here at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort have citrus trees – lots of orange trees with some grapefruit. The orange tree in our site is overgrown and unruly. We asked one of the groundskeepers about having it trimmed. She said they trim the trees every year in late February or March. Well, we were in this site last year in February, March and even early April – it didn’t get trimmed. We’ll see if they get to it this year. Our overgrown tree is loaded with oranges. Normally I would think this is a good thing, but here’s the rub. The oranges are sour and inedible!

Loaded with oranges

Lots of birds come to the tree during the day and a few of them pick at the fruit. Ozark the cat loves to watch them. I put a quail block out to feed the birds and it attracts lots of Gambel’s quail along with doves, sparrows, wrens and even flickers. The quail block is basically a variety of seeds pressed into a block with molasses. I put it under the front of the cargo trailer in our site to give the birds some security and to shelter the block from the weather.

Sparrows and a quail at the block
A covey of Gambel’s quail this morning

Speaking of weather, rain moved in the area late last night and it continued to rain this morning. You can see the wet concrete pad in the photo above. We’ve had a great run of warm weather and clear skies this week with the high temperatures in the low 70s and overnight lows in the 50s. The week ahead looks much cooler – we may struggle to reach 60 by mid-week.

I didn’t make any plans for the Superbowl this evening. I’ll probably watch it with a few snacks and an IPA or two. My only interest in the game is to see if I win anything in the pool I entered. I don’t care much about the teams – I’m really dissatisfied with the way the NFL handled the playoff games. I don’t think either team earned their way into the Superbowl.

A Bad Break

We always say we need to be flexible and ready to roll with whatever comes our way. This week, I’ve become an unexpected temporary bachelor. Donna had a phone call Sunday morning from her sister, Sheila, with bad news. Sheila had been downhill skiing in Deer Valley, Utah and had a mishap resulting in a badly broken leg. She was flying home to San Diego and needed help.

Donna found a flight that would get her to San Diego by 1pm on Sunday – around the time Sheila, Jeff and Sheila’s son Connor would be coming in. Jeff has to work and Sheila would need assistance. Jeff’s house in La Jolla has multiple levels and stairs. Sheila will be in surgery Tuesday. I don’t know how long Donna will be away helping her.

Meanwhile life goes on here at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort. To pass the time, I’ve volunteered to instruct a group of pickleball players that are ready to move up from the beginner classes. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and my level of play and understanding of the strategies and tactics are good enough for me to instruct at this level. I’ll start on Wednesday afternoon.

Ozark the cat and I will certainly be missing Donna, but we’ll get by. I’m hoping the best for Sheila’s recovery.

Edit – I just got a message from Donna. Sheila’s surgery has been pushed forward to tonight.

Ford Tri-motor Tour

Another fine week has gone by here in Mesa, Arizona. We started the week with some cool mornings – overnight lows dropped to around 40 degrees, but the days have been dry and the skies are clear with comfortable temperatures.

If you’ve been following my posts, you probably know that I got started with cigars nearly a year ago. As usual, when I get into a new hobby, I jump right into the deep end. With cigars, I wanted to learn as much as I could and experience the different styles, flavor profiles and everything else that goes into making a fine hand-rolled cigar.

First of all, I only puff cigars handmade of all natural ingredients – that is, aged tobacco and and a small amount of vegetable gum as an adhesive. Since I’m always on the lookout for bargains, I buy most of my cigars online and look for discounts. This usually means buying cigars in bundles or by the box, not individual sticks.

Early on, I thought I knew what I liked, but over time, my palate and criteria for what constitutes a good cigar developed. I realized I made a mistake in buying bundles of 10 to 25 cigars at a time to reduce costs – some of the cigars I bought weren’t what I wanted and I ended up with several cigars in my humidors that I probably wasn’t going to light up.

Well, Donna always says if you don’t love it or use it, lose it. So, last week I learned about a 501c registered charity called Cigars for Warriors. This charity collects cigar donations and distributes them to troops deployed overseas. Their first priority is military personnel in combat zones, then other overseas assignments. I found a shop nearby, Cigar Warehouse, that participates in the program.

I went through my inventory of cigars and came up with 34 stogies I wasn’t likely to light up in the near future. I bagged them and took them to Cigar Warehouse. The proprietor was so happy about the donation he gave me a premium cigar – an Ashton VSG Pegasus! I wasn’t expecting that, but gladly accepted it.

Nowadays, I’m a little more careful in the cigars I buy and I have a pretty good idea of what to expect before I light up.

Perdomo is my brand of choice

On Thursday afternoon, I was enjoying happy hour with friends and a cold one at Lucky Lou’s while puffing a cigar on the patio with Mike Hall. I heard the unmistakable roar overhead of an airplane with multiple radial engines. As it flew past, I recognized it as a Ford Tri-motor.

Ford Tri-motors were built from 1925 to 1933 and, as the name implies, were powered by three nine-cylinder radial engines. They made 199 of these planes. I searched online and found 18 still in existence, eight of which were labeled as airworthy. Another five examples were listed as under restoration, so I don’t know the exact number of airworthy craft that are out there today. The plane flew over three times in the next hour and a half.

Ford Tri-motor NC9645

I saw the plane again flying over Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort on Friday. We have a lot of air traffic here with Falcon Field nearby to the northwest and Mesa-Gateway south of us. Most of the air traffic is general aviation small aircraft. We often see old warbirds flying out of Falcon Field.

As the Tr-motor flew by overhead at low altitude, I noticed the registration number on the underside of the left wing (NC9645). I saw flight plans for this plane flying out of Tucson last week. A little more digging around and I found it is flying out of Falcon Field here in Mesa until the 27th. This plane was built in 1928 and the original owner was Transcontinental Airlines. It passed through several hands and was owned for a time by William Harrah of Harrah’s Hotels and Casinos in Nevada.

The current owner is listed as Ed Patrick/Liberty Aviation Museum in Ohio. I found out it’s currently leased by the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) and it’s part of the EAA Ford Tri-motor Tour.

Originally, these planes were built with corrugated metal skins. As you can see from the file photo above, this plane was re-skinned with smooth sheet metal during an overhaul in 1951. They’re offering flight tours from Falcon Field for $77 through Sunday.

We’re still following our routine of hitting the pickleball courts in the mornings. Donna has tennis twice a week in the afternoon. Of course, we’re eating well. Monday night, Donna made cumin-spiced grilled lamb chops with sides of garlic cauliflower mash and corn with diced peppers. The cauliflower mash looks just like mashed potatoes and almost passes for it but for some cauliflower flavor.

Cumin-spiced lamb chops with cauliflower mash and corn

Tuesday, she served the leftover garlic cauliflower mash with baked mustard chicken thighs and Southern bacon-fried cabbage.

Baked mustard chicken and Southern bacon-fried cabbage

Thursday night, Donna joined our friend Sara Graff for an interesting dinner and a movie. They went to Alamo Draft House where the dining and drinking experience take place in a combination movie theater, bar and restaurant. You dine and drink at a small table right at your theater seat! They went to a special showing of Beautiful Boy that was followed by a community panel discussion about addiction, particularly addiction to crystal meth.

The weather outlook for the week ahead looks good. Daily highs in the 70s with overnight lows in the lower 40s. We don’t mind the cool nighttime temperatures – that’s what blankets are for. We don’t like to sleep with heaters running, so the coach cools overnight to 55-60 degrees and we run the heat pumps for a while after we rise.