April 1, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,
    Baseball season opened in Denver today with the Rockies playing the Arizona Diamondbacks. A full house is almost assured since state workers are being furloughed for the day (a money saving strategy) and the temperatures will be above 80° for the first time since last year some time. While we’re interested but not avid fans of the “home team,” the beginning of  baseball season—or any season—is always filled with optimism. The same is true for a new school year or new semester. Or a new job. It’s a chance to begin again. As the poet Eve Merriam wrote, “Morning is a new sheet of paper to write on…”

    Of course the same is true for a new year. It’s a time for looking ahead with hopefulness and determination for a better year than the year before. A chance to begin again. That’s how we’re looking at 2011. Last year we helped make local doctors and hospitals a bit more wealthy and medicare a bit more poor. Our bodies have now nearly fully recovered and we’ve planned a full plate of new opportunities for ourselves in the coming year. Lots to do and lots to look forward to. All good.
Christmas at Michael and Cindy's
    We enjoyed a very quiet Christmas at Michael and Cindy’s. As the picture shows, we were four of the walking wounded: Michael’s thumb was a bicycle crash casualty; Cindy finally decided she had lived with shoulder pain long enough and had her rotator cuff repaired; Hughes was recovering nicely from his heart attack last spring; and Judy was back to slow running after two major surgeries in the early fall. The dogs, however, were fit and feisty. A week later we celebrated with neighbors on New Year's Eve but left well before the stroke of midnight, though we stayed past our bedtime.

    The first weeks of 2011 were busy with local social events—dinners, music making, card parties, and book groups—and our regular volunteer “jobs,” along with visits to various medical folks who checked us over pretty well. January brought most of the snow we had this winter; February was cold and March windy, but overall the area has had precious little moisture so far.

    Weather tends to be a large factor when one lives in the mountains. Roads can get iced over and occasionally blocked, pipes will freeze when temperatures dip well below zero, power lines go down, and cabin fever can threaten the strongest relationships. Fortunately, this year we avoided such problems in spite of what the winter threw at us. Roads did ice over on occasion, but we managed to move around as needed. Power lines swayed in the high winds and sagged under the weight of snow and ice, but held steady in the end. When the temperature dropped to –27°, we strategically set out space heaters thereby avoiding exploding pipes that hit many in our area during February. When our driveway was clear enough, packed our RV and parked it at the top of our road so that it was only ten yards from the pavement to make our winter getaway when we wanted to.
    We had two separate and compelling invitations to spend the last week of January in Florida. During the past two years, Judy had reconnected with a cousin with whom she had not seen or talked in over 60 years. The phone and email conversations blossomed into an invitation to visit that was impossible to decline. Coincidentally, a former University of Toledo colleague and family friend, offered an extended period of time to visit in Florida, but on the other side of the state. So, Judy went to the east coast for a few days and then joined Hughes in the Sarasota area for a few more days. The week was a wonderful and warm reunion for us both.

Florida’s East CoastJudy and Cousins

    Cousin Joan (on the right) and Judy can remember, vaguely, seeing each other in the late 1940s somewhere in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or New York. They’re not certain. But it was a long time ago and much had happened in the meantime: marriages, family, careers, etc. Yet when they met face to face at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, it was almost as if they had seen each other just the month before (except they looked much different!).

    Joan has a lovely house filled with an amazing collection of chairs, mirrors, teapots, and turtles that is well set up for guests, and the hostess was most gracious. The first evening they spent talking, fixing a fabulous dinner, and talking more! In the morning Joan had a hair cut appointment so Judy went for a lovely run, her first humidity run in a long time! Yoga class followed and then, yes, more attempts to fill each other in about the years when they were out of touch. That evening they visited Joan’s special guy Jerry at his penthouse apartment with a totally unobstructed view of the water. Rather amazing! 
Morikami Museum
    The following day included more running, walking, and yoga as well as a trip to one of the largest indoor flea markets in the country! More walking! That evening they had a special dinner with another cousin Judy had not seen for nearly 50 years: Wendy (in the middle between Judy and Joan) was Judy’s matron of honor at our wedding and was even so generous to lend Judy her wedding dress! So much has happened with both Judy and Wendy that, again, there was lots of “do you remember...” talk.

    The best of the visit was saved for last! Joan treated Judy to a trip to the Morikami Museum and Garden in Delray Beach. What an amazing place!  Judy and Joan wandered through the gardens, had a wonderful picnic lunch, and strolled through the exhibits. It was theraputic, peaceful, and magical. They were there so long that there was only time for a brief visit with one of Joan’s very talented artist friends before Judy had to be at the airport for her flight to Tampa to hook up with Hughes.

Florida’s Gulf Coast
Sarasota Statue
    Hughes stayed home while Judy was visiting Joan and flew to Tampa and waited for Judy’s plane from Ft. Lauderdale. We picked up a car and drove south to Longboat Key, winter headquarters for longtime (42 years!!) Toledo friends, Jack and Anne Ahern. For the past several winters, they have left their home on the Maumee River in suburban Perrysburg—where the winters are dark gray, biting cold, snowy, often blustery, usually dismal—and joined the good life on Longboat Key on Florida’s gulf coast. In fact, the view from the deck of their 6th floor condo, is of the ever-changing and always calming gulf sunsets and ocean breezes.

    Our brief visit interrupted their pleasant routines of daily swims, New York Times crossword puzzles, adult education classes (Jack was in the middle of a British Literature course), and lazy afternoon naps. However, together we celebrated the sunsets each evening with cocktails on the deck.
    Jack loves local history (anyplace he is is “local”) as much as his convertible. This combination resulted in an entertaining and interesting driving tour of Longboat Key and the history of its neighborhoods and development. We visited Sarasota, which we found bigger than we anticipated, but a city with a certain pizzazz and energy. The much larger than life (and controversial!) “Unconditional Surrender” Kiss Statue stands 40' above traffic along Sarasota’s waterfront (Jack and Anne decided to mimic the pose!). Judy loved running on flat sea level paths; Hughes tried for a bike rental but couldn’t find any. Walking the white sand beach was a great treat, especially in the middle of winter. Of course we ate lots of seafood at some of the area’s fine restaurants.

Tucson’s Desert Trails

    If our Florida sojourn took a bite out of our winter, the month we spent in Arizona was a whole meal. We left in the RV with two bikes, two dogs, and warm weather clothes on February 15, planning to spend a couple of weeks with Judy’s cousins Carol and Ken at Desert Trails RV Park just a dozen miles west of Tucson. We enjoyed our time there so much that we stayed another two weeks, returning to Nederland in time for the start of spring. Details of our time there can be found on a separate web page.

Sonoran Museum Cardinal
    Desert Trails is a marvel—a summer camp for adults in the winter! It is much more than simply a place to park for a night or two while visiting friends or going to local events or sites. Rather, we found ourselves part of a community of friendly, welcoming people (and dogs) who are active, bright, and involved in a wide variety of interests in which they engaged while at the park: hikers, bikers, dancers, geocachers, game players, scrapbookers, artists, quilters, crafters, photographers, musicians, writers, et al. After active, sometimes exhausting days, our late afternoons before dinner were times for visiting with small groups of “neighbors,” or swimming, relaxing in the hot tub, working out in the gym, or sitting together reading and relaxing with the dogs. After dinner we attended free twice-weekly free concerts by visiting musical performers, or game nights or cash bingo, or talks/seminars hosted by resident campers. We were busy every day, at least as much as we wanted to be.

    [Note: Last year we were short-term campers at Desert Trails at the suggestion of Judith, a fellow camper from Canada we met last March in southern Arizona. We came to Desert Trails and stayed three nights. We saw Judith at Desert Trails last year during our short stay and we saw her again this year. We’ll likely see her again next year as well.]

Desert Pose    During the two weeks we were with Carol and Ken (who left before us to prepare for their trip to South Africa to visit their daughter), we visited other cousins Bob and Ginny in Tucson and their son Bob who lives in Sierra Vista. We spent a very brief visit at the Sonoran Desert Museum where were greeted by a friendly cardinal—and hummingbirds and butterflies by the hundreds, as well as examples of Sonoran desert plant life. We plan to return again next year and purchase a membership so we can go often. It is an amazing living museum where there is too much to see in a one-day visit.

    Desert Trails is, without question, the most enticing campground/RV park we have found among the scores we’ve visited. Granted, there are no tall trees like in the Rockies and higher elevations (palo verdes provide precious little shade and are greatly coveted by those who are there for the long haul); there is no stream nearby to throw a line into or lake to sit quietly watching the sun go down. Saguaro and cactus cover the nearby mountains, and the Sonoran desert flowers are abundant. And, Oh the sunsets! As gorgeous as they were from Jack and Anne’s deck on Longboat Key, Desert Trails sunsets are spectacular.
    Much of the reason for the climate of activity and friendliness rests on the shoulders of the British-born owner, Pericles Wyatt, whose personal history is as interesting as his name. Pericles, along with his step-daughter Andrea, set the tone and nurture the atmosphere that attracts repeat guests who come from all over to Desert Trails for 4–6 months every year, many for all or most of the 13 years the park has been in existence. There are other parks that may look dressier from the outside, but they lack the warmth and soul of what has evolved at Desert Trails. Thank you, Pericles, for all you’ve done for us and many others who have visited Desert Trails. And thanks to all those campers who made us feel so welcome during the winter of 2011: Judith from Ontario (thanks for steering us to Desert Trails in the first place); Ron and Edna from BC (the new margarita recipe and the Best of Bridge cookbook are winners); bikers/hikers/geocachers Jack and Ada (we’ll have that test on number bases next winter); geocachers Dave and Loretta (your foot will be as good as new when we see you again); hikers/bikers Russ and Pat (Hughes will bring his own guitar next winter); jack-of-all-trades Stan and Judy (the RV repair looks like new—many thanks); and bikers Jerry and Martha (we’ll do it all again next year).

    We’ve already made reservations for two months next year.

Desert Trails Sunset
The End of Winter
    The two weeks we’ve been back from Arizona have been mostly cool without much moisture. In fact, this March is the fifth driest on record. It was the gusty wind that told us we had truly arrived home and reminded us of what living in the mountains is really about. The winds plus the lack of moisture and low humidity have created an earlier start to fire danger season. Red flag warnings have been out regularly for weeks and Boulder County already has had several small grass fires and one good sized wildland fire in the foothills north and west of Boulder. They have served as a glimpse of what might be on tap for us as the year unfolds. We have our evacuation containers ready for the unthinkable.

    Postscript: The Rockies lost today in 11 innings, 7–6. Arizona scored on a wild pitch. The players who were interviewed following this tough loss each seemed to say, “It’s just one game—there are another 161 to go.” Even in losing they remain optimistic. And so are we as we look ahead to the coming spring: a week of serious R&R in Sedona (no dogs this time, but lots of biking and hiking in this beautiful red rock country, along with time for poolside reading and relaxing); a long awaited visit from Judy’s adult niece from Massachusetts; another Bolder-Boulder medal for Judy; and at least a month driving and camping through the Canadian Rockies, a trip we’ve been looking forward to for years and haven’t seemed to get it on our schedule. Michael and Cindy made the trip a few years ago and we’ll spend a good deal of our time following in their footsteps. The photos on their web site are enticing. We’ll report back in July.

    In the meantime, we would love to hear from you. All good wishes to you and your families.

Judy and Hughes

Judy and Hughes Moir
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