We land in St. Thomas and walk down to the tarmac and enter the terminal. It kind of reminded me of my first visit to Santa Barbara with mountains on one side, ocean on the other, mild climate...what's not to like?
We hit a grocery store and checked into our "villa" just before sunset....
...which was beautiful with a passing cruise ship passing through. One - two of them arrive each day and usually depart in the evening.
The first day, daughter Olivia and Amy participated in kind of a lame exercise, pool routine while I hung out, in shade, at the pool. We ate out for lunch and dinner at restaurants overlooking the water, of course. It was a relaxing first day. OK, so I'm an outdoor active guy in an outdoor, mostly inactive local, yet in time I discovered it's not so inactive. More on that to come but I rationalized my participation as, if I can't take 1 out of 52 weeks of doing nothing (which was ultimately not the case) and it makes the Amester happy, than there is something really wrong with me, lol.
The sun sets on a beautiful scene.
The next day, another cruise heads in to dock.
I drove to Oro Valley and followed a 48 mile route, kinda hilly. It was good to break out of the 30-40 mile efforts as my endurance is really kind of sucky.
Along the way I paused to take a pic of this horse but lingered a bit too long. The woman walked over and wanted to talk, a lot.
And just like that, another front enters our region. Clouds at first and than....
...rain. I watched radar and thought I'd have an opening to get in a hike. I drove west to Saguaro West NP, sat in my car for 20 minutes and...
....got on to the Brown Mountain Loop trail.
The desert looks different just after rain and the small of creosote is strong. I finished the 5 mile hike and headed home. The next morning....
....SNOW on Mount Lemmon! Only 3" but enough to get the area skiers excited about the season. No snow making equipment at Ski Valley so it will take another round of snow to open the slopes. And with that....
...Amy and I jumped on a jet, flew to Miami, spent the night at an airport hotel and headed on the last leg of our trip. More to come, of course.
Amy and I drove to the end of Speedway to access Saguaro East NP. I wanted to finish a hike I started a couple of weeks ago, topping out at the end of a ravine.
After about a mile, we entered a wash, began encountering boulders that, over time, spilled out of the ravine. We began climbing.
It became quite steep in places but there were always enough natural handholds to grab and pull.
Reaching the point where I previously stopped, I again concluded the climb out was doable so kept going.
Coming over one wall, I encountered this "bowl", with walls 12' high. Hmmm, but stepping back, I found a workaround up the left side and kept going. Throughout, I always checked where my hands were going to be placed cause, ya know.....it was 70 degrees and rattlers come out of their dens to warm themselves on ledges.
Eventually, the top of the ravine is reached and looking back, always disappointing that images don't do justice to the effort.
We've been decorating for Christmas, including putting lights around cactus in the back yard. Beautiful full moon tonight!
I drive south for an hour to Amado, AZ where the forecast is dry. Sure enough, I soon can see blue sky while in Tucson, it rained considerably.
Twenty of us parked in front of the closed, Cow Palace restaurant. I'd like to have seen it in action when it was open. As we waited for the 9am, 50 degree start, several of us were shivering and it began to lightly rain. I couldn't recall the last time I started a ride with these circumstances. Surely in Ohio.
Our destination was Arivaca. The road is in great shape, winding and mostly climbing to the town. My clothing decisions were made while I was shivering in the parking lot. At about mile 10, with the sun out, I was aflame so to speak. At mile 12, I'd had enough and bade farewell to the group. Turning, I had a strong tail wind and enjoyed that, finishing with 25 miles.
Nearing Amado, I stopped to take this image. A lot going on here. The entrance to Longhorn Restaurant with the distinctive skull. To the left of the water tank is Elephant Head and farther right Mt. Hopkins and Mount Wrightson. Of course, the clouds add quite a bit to the image.
Driving north, I had many good looks at the Catalinas, between cloud breaks. Snow had fallen on Mount Lemmon but by the time the clouds move on, the snow had melted. More of that coming this week though.
The neighborhood that goes "goo-goo" for Halloween displays doesn't put as much effort for Thanksgiving but I thought this was a creative use of what had been up since early October.
I drive to Aqua Caliente trailhead, one of the few that allow dogs. Jack was happy as he patiently waited for me to gather my gear.
It's a beautiful area but the first mile is almost all climbing and Jack....
....needed a break after the first 1/2 mile. I had not thought to bring water and a bowl for him so began to worry that with all his panting, he'd need a drink. We turned around and.....
....ran into this woman who also had a dog named Jack.
The following day, I signed up for a group ride and began the drive, about an hour south, where it was not supposed to rain. More to come on that story.
Look at the length of those horns with a Ford 8N tractor alongside for size reference. This is Woodland Ave, bordered by numerous horse farms/stables and all kinds of animals.
I joined the Cactus Club's group ride in Oro Valley. It was a beautiful day but the start time was a point of discussion, pre-ride, because at 8:30, it was 54 degrees! That coupled with the fact the route started with a screaming descent, made for a cold start but we warmed quickly,
Amy worked tirelessly to prepare for a Thanksgiving meal with 8 of us but then one couple came down with some virus and we had to pull a couple of chairs. We thought to take a post meal pic but forgot to take one with the food and guests. Too bad.
The morning of, I was out running an errand when the "Cyclefit" group ride came by on their annual, Thanksgiving group ride. I'd say around 50 cyclists participated as I have at times. The owner of the Cyclefit bike shop requires that you buy a new kit each year to qualify for the rides. After 3 years of doing so, I suggested that rather than buy another kit, how about setting a bike shop minimum purchase amount as an alternative qualification. He had just opened a new shop and surely could use the sales but he refused the idea. Really dumb. We're not going to support a shop if they don't permit us to join the group rides.
OK, not a lot but over 3 days, we received 0.26". As always, the lingering clouds create dramatic images in the surrounding mountains. Have I already stated that our road, finally, at last will be repaved in early December? If not, it is. I ran into a couple of city workers today and asked if they had changed their mind but no, definitely going to be repaved.
A couple out walking a couple of donkeys or burros...who knows! Jack was uninterested as we walked by.
We got out for a 35 mile ride in Oro Valley and I finished the week with 127 miles. Need more.
The cooler evenings allow us to build a fire in the outdoor fireplace. To be sure, I do check the temp of the bottom of my shoes to make sure they are not melting.
Happy Beaujolais Nouveau day! A neighbor puts on a very nice party each year to celebrate and kicks in 20+ bottles for those of us privileged enough to get an invite. Hors d'oeuvres are included too!!! Amy doesn't drink much wine but that's ok, I try to make up for it so the host doesn't get stuck with full bottles, lol.
The return of the snow birds has swelled our group size as 25 come out for a ride around Oro Valley.
The front range of the Catalinas as we finish our 35 mile route with a 17.1 avg.
Still strange to me that in mid November, everything is still flowering. No grey & gloom in southern AZ.
And so, one of the items I did not think I'd ever live to see. Our road, surely one of the worst in Pima County comprised of nothing but patches on top of patches, will be repaved.
A low pressure light popped on. I ignored it for a few days because walking around the SUV, I saw nothing amiss with the tires. I eventually stopped at a Discount Tire where they checked and filled the tires. I gave the guy a tip as I always do and asked what percent tip him. About 1 in 10! Cheapskates! The low pressure light did not extinguish so now what?
Another beautiful sunrise as I drive an unusually long time of 90 minutes to....
....Arivaca to join the Cactus Cycling group for a never previously ridden route to Sasabe and the US border. Quaint little town as 14 of us gather for a simple route, west 12 miles on Arivaca Road then south 12 miles on St. Rt. 86. I got in with the front group of 6 and arrived at #86 with a 21.7 average. Full disclaimer, this portion was mostly downhill and down wind.
We regrouped at the southward leg. The intensity of the first 12 miles exceeded that to which I have subjected myself for awhile so I joined a 2nd group of 3 people. It was a strange southbound leg because there were a series of hills and at the top of each, the next hill was higher, than higher again and on and on. Anyway, we arrived in Sasabe and proceeded a short distance to the boarder.
We hung out for awhile in front of a lone, reasonably stocked market. A few people went to the border with their passports and despite being warned how dangerous was the area beyond, went through. However, they stayed only long enough to have their pic taken in front of a welcoming sign and then quickly returned.
Baboquivari Peak in the distance on the Tohono O'odham reservation. That is a worthy hiking destination. For those of us who declined the border crossing, we enjoyed the 12 mile return to Arivaca Road. I arrived there, at mile 36 with a 19mph average but again, my endurance was not up to continuing at the pace so I bugged out and waited for the border crossers. The final 10 miles was mostly uphill and into the wind. My rear end was in agony so had to stop a couple of times, lol. I need more time on the bike. Finished with 48 miles and a 17.6avg.
I watch OSSU games in my office because I can simultaneously watch the game and monitor fan comments/reactions on a 2nd large screen. For the Rutgers game, Amy was a good sport and came in to watch the 1st quarter. Jack appears indifferent about it all.
OK, the last of the Halloween images. I think this display won the award for best decoration. What you see is a small part of the entire presentation.
Although this one was good too and now with this holiday past us.....
....the neighborhood turns to the next holiday.
Meantime, I got out for a ride in the Foothills on a glorious, warm day in November.
Table Mountain in the middle. Many wonderful adventures climbing to the top of that. I still don't have the hiking itch though. Probably soon.
Wow! A moisture free system came through and brought 3 straight days of winds in the 15-25mph range. So, while the temperature was perfect, the wind kept us off our bikes. What to do, what to do.....
...hike! I drove to the end of Speedway to the Douglas Springs trailhead, which is within Saguaro East NP. Lot of saguaros here.
In the distance, I saw the above feature, a ravine with a lot of rock slabs. That could be a fun climb but would the trail pass near it?
Why yes! I left the trail, walked a bit on a wash that led to this. And it was a fun, boulder hopping climb. I came to a wall about 4' high, scrambled up it and....
....turned to have a good view of the Catalinas.
I climbed about 75% of the way up the ravine and examined what remained. It looked doable but decided to come back on a day when water is tumbling down to add to the scenery and bring Amy too. She's a fan of bouldering.
I forgot to post this pic from our visit to Old Tucson. A participant of the "scare team" offered to include himself in the group pic.
Amy and I rode out of Oro Valley on a 35 mile route that included the community of Saddlebrook and this unusual display.
The higher elevation of Saddlebrook provides some awesome views of....
....the Catalinas. For the week, I rode 100 miles but that needs to be the bare minimum moving forward since the weather is perfect now. That evening.....
....our front was flooded. I have no experience with an irrigation system. In Ohio, a hose was all that I ever needed in the rare instance a plant needed water, lol. Looks complicated so we called an irrigation contractor who surprisingly came out a couple of days later. The fix was quick and simple.
A small group of us visited "Old Tucson" which was hosting a sprawling Halloween event with numerous skits and walk throughs. I haven't been screamed at this often since I was caught doing bad things as a child.
Old Tucson usually is visited by people wanting to walk through the studio sets of old westerns. Many movies and TV shows were partially filmed here and in the surrounding desert.
I was sent to pick up carry-out and had this beautiful view. Next morning, we got back on our bikes and had to....
...once again route ourselves through 49er development to see if any new displays had been set up.
I talked to a home owner and inquired about the amount of people who....
...walk through and he said last year, he gave out 15 packages of candy, each with 125 pieces!
Most scenes are very....
....creative, especially the above, Pickleball one.
They even hang items on street signs.
How bout that! a fool front moved through and we received 0.60" of rain and some hail.
I had some time on my hands before an afternoon flight so drove around the Granville area. So beautiful this time of year.
I turned on Thornwood and as I always do during my visits, marvel at the awesome network of roads in the region. As I drove around, each new road I encountered would bring back memories of group riding experiences on those roads. Alas, the climate, even in the summer, is not so desirable, ha, ha. And so, I was glad to board the plane and....
...return to beautiful southern AZ, Amy & Jack. We got out for a short ride that included the 49er development where there is....
....of Halloween displays I've ever seen.
I really missed this woman. Life with her is so much fun.
Where do people store all these items in the other 11 months?
We exit the development and pass one fine display.
Grandson Anthony, at 7, plays in a 10 & under soccer league. The kid is really fast and loves soccer. A cold, windy, raw day and next morning....
...more of the same but it matters little for outdoor work. And then, I see this! What you likely wonder. An oak of about 8' but not one that I planted. It's been growing within a thicket I cleared this day, from an acorn dropped years ago. Weird but this discovery thrilled me.
More soccer tournament games and more cloudy skies.
Being 7 years old in a 10& under league means you'll find some physical mismatches, lol.
One evening I was at my daughters house and admired this supply of cherry. Would have loved to take a maul and begin splitting but no time.
More cutting and stacking, which I enjoy.
I discovered that if I run around growling like a monster, the grandchildren never tire of the activity. I tire of it of course but they love being chased.
My first 3 days in Ohio, the weather was great with sun and daily highs in the mid 70's. I've noticed that most of the ash trees died above ground from the emerald ash borers wreaking their damage but below ground, the roots remain and so from the stumps, new growth occurs.
The tools of my daily trade.
On one edge of the woods, long ago I planted white pine trees so they create a nice barrier now.
And then, the 4th day arrived and with it, rain, lots of rain. I drove to a soccer game and more to come on that and other Ohio days.
In the Dallas airport, minding my own business and this guy walks up to ask if he can have his picture taken with the world famous blogger so I.....
...agreed. I then gave him numerous policy changes he ought to make. He scribbled on his notepad and thanked me.
And then, a visit to my woods. How magnificent to see them in all their leafed glory, lol.
Planted as two-year seedlings, they are monsters now. The work I put in to watering them when needed (it's Ohio so not often required), sprinkling fertilizer around each of them, keeping weeds at bay so the trees could thrive, trimming lower branches, etc... was so worth it.
Still many dead ash trees to be cut so I fired up the Stihl chainsaw and got to work.
Part of the routine is also burning branches and clearing brush.
The main reason though for my Ohio visit was to see children and grandchildren so soon I headed to a soccer game. Doing so, I passed a gas station having gas at $2.99. I'm paying over $4 in AZ. What the heck!
Out to pick up a pizza and the timing of the drive permitted great views of the sunset.
Sabino Canyon Road, a nice, 4 mile climb with great views. Kind of a mini, "Going to the Sun Road" climb. Not sure why I have not done the climb since 2014, especially since it was repaved last year.
Always interesting rock walls as I coast down.
Hmmmm, since it is encroaching on the sidewalk, better trim it back before the HOA comes after us. If you've never cut one of these.....
....they are surprisingly soft and cuts easily.
Summer has fled and with it, the 100 degree days. Despite the clouds, no rain in the foreseeable future but.....
....the air cooled enough after sunset that I was able to get a fire going in our outdoor fireplace. In one year, we have gone from firewood poor to firewood rich with all my chainsaw activity.
We walked about a mile to a development that has several lakes and fine views of the mountains.
Jack loves chasing toys in the water and never seems to tire of it.
We drove Jack 22 miles up Mount Lemmon and began a short, 2 mile hike. We had ridden a fairly hilly, 40 mile ride the day before so didn't want to stress our legs much.
Relatively flat routes are difficult to find up here but Amy got us a flat to rolling one.
We crossed under Catalina Highway and along the way....
....saw where they have made numerous piles of logs and brush as good forest management efforts. Well, summer is finally over and I saw a long range forecast that suggests we'll have another wet and slightly cooler winter. I'd so much prefer summers be cooler and wetter than normal but that never seems to be the case.
We were in the house, after the sun had set. Jack let us know he wanted to go into our enclosed back yard. A few minutes later, we heard Jack barking incessantly, which is unusual. As soon as I opened the door, I heard a very pissed off rattlesnake. Got Jack into the house and went out with a flashlight and iPhone. This is the 2nd one in a month. Our first discovered in our back yard. Not good.
I ordered a life size skeleton! Jack growled at first but soon accepted the new member to our family.
OK, not quite life size. We put it outside as a Halloween decoration. Maybe it will ward off snakes.
Got in three rides this week but none more than 36 miles. That too is not good, lol. Saturday morning, saw a group offering washes so pulled in. It was in support of kid's camping opportunities or something like that. The end of September is upon us and our afternoon highs are dropping into the 80's. That's good!
I'm increasing the climbing within the routes we choose, which took me by this odd display on my way to the Foothills.
Oh and the first of many Halloween displays made an appearance in the "49er" development which will draw many hundreds of children, next month.
I drove to Oro Valley to jump in with a Cactus Club group ride which included a stop for a flat tire, conveniently under a bridge.
One of my favorite views!
My bike has a Shimano crankset that is part of the voluntary recall. I called my favorite shop, Sabino Cycles and was told they provide a free inspection. I have to leave my bike for a day but during that, they take an hour to remove the crankset and do an inspection. Shimano pays them for the labor so it's free for customers. It's worth it to have a shop remove the crankset from the bottom bracket and do a reinstall. Just part of good maintenance routine.
The Van Gogh Exhibit came to Oro Valley so we made the 35 minute drive and strolled through the exhibit.
Learned much about Van Gogh and once consuming all the displays, we entered this room, took a seat and....
....enjoyed a 20 minute visual presentation. We attended with friends Kathryn & Jim so once finished....
....we dined at Harvest Restaurant from where we enjoyed the view which changes....
....dramatically in minutes.
Amy and I got out for a 36 mile ride through the Catalina Foothills. We're contemplating participating in a cycling event early next month so will need to add more climbing miles to our rides.