Big Winners!

If only Randy and I had known we were big winners before we left Las Vegas!  No telling what we could have done with that information.  The only clue we had was that Randy won an eBay auction for the first time!


Those of you who have known Randy a long time may remember that he bought his little yellow car on eBay – but that was after the winner couldn’t get financing and the sellers contacted him after the fact.   It is now my mother’s little yellow car.

This time it was a true eBay win – and it was even a bargain!

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 7.39.14 AM

We have enjoyed our new satellite system but finding the satellites has been hit and miss and sometimes quite frustrating.  Randy purchased a cheap satellite finder and found it unsatisfactory.   The BirdDog Ultra is professional equipment.  He saw prices near $600 for a new meter and decided to try eBay.  The winning effort was the third or fourth BirdDog he bid on – and then went for the least amount of money. Whoo-hoo!

The used BirdDog meter was waiting for us when we got to Boise.  Randy has only used it once, but so far so good.

I won too! I won $5 from the Albertsons-Safeway Monopoly Game. There are 900,000 $5 cash prizes and I won one of them.  It is the least valuable prize on the board, but it was a win!

We are winners because we got to celebrate Elko’s 13th birthday!

034 When he came into our family March 20, 2010, he was thought to be between four and seven years old. We and our vet decided to christen him age five. Given that, he just turned 13 – a good long time for a 90 pound lab.


178At his semi-annual exam last week Dr. Katie asked if we wanted to do the annual blood work.  She suggested that sometimes “ignorance is bliss.” I would have gone with that but Randy thought it was better to know. So now we know – and fortunately we know that he is doing great.


No significant health concerns for Elko at age thirteen!

We got good news on Randy’s health as well!  We are in Boise this early in the season for Randy’s bladder cancer follow up tests and maintenance treatments.   His scope and chemical exams came back normal. The treatments are painful but seem to be working.

Not only are we big winners, we are blessed.

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Variety in Vegas!

fullsizeoutput_4640We timed our trip through Las Vegas to attend the Mountain West Basketball Tournament. Both Boise State teams were high seeds and we hoped to watch quite a few of their games.

fullsizeoutput_4678We arrived in Las Vegas in time for the BSU women’s semi-final game. They won easily and had a place in the finals.

P1000769The Bronco women won their championship game with a buzzer-beater! It was very exciting and we enjoyed the post-game festivities.


fullsizeoutput_467aThe BSU men played their quarterfinal game and suffered an upset loss. We were sad but reducing our basketball activity freed us up to do a variety of other things in Las Vegas.

We went to see Donny and Marie at the Flamingo! (No photographs allowed so this is a picture of a picture…)  It was a very good show.   Even after fifty plus years in show business, they both have strong voices and good engagement with the crowd. When Donny started singing Puppy Love, I was twelve all over again!


We went to The Neon Museum and Boneyard.


Parking was a little tight for this beast but Randy is good at it.

The Neon Museum occupies the old LaConcha motel lobby and grounds. It has 200 iconic neon signs in its collection. Eleven are fully restored and lighted.

Nearly all Las Vegas signs are commissioned and the custom design company maintains ownership and does the maintenance.   When a sign is removed, they might canibalize parts from one sign to fix or build another.    The non-profit Neon Museum has eleven signs that are in working order. A few were given to them that way and some they have restored at great expense.

fullsizeoutput_468d.jpegBinion’s Horseshoe was the first casino to comp common gamblers with drinks, rooms and transportation intending to lure them back.  Before Binions, just the high-rollers got that “benefit.”

The original 1950s Moulin Rouge sign is massive.  This is just one part of it.  Moulin Rouge was the first desegregated casino.   Sammy Davis, Lena Horne, and Nat King Cole could perform and gamble with their friends, black and white. At other casinos they might be paid to entertain, but they would have to enter and depart out the side door.


There were sign subtleties like dollar signs for S at Sassy Sals.


We learned that the combination of red and yellow work as day time neon. Think McDonalds and In-Out Burger.

fullsizeoutput_4690It isn’t clear in this picture but the word Yucca and the yucca plant are different shades of green.  Using different types of gas in different colors of glass tubing can create a full array of colors. Each sign is individually produced. There are no shortcuts.

fullsizeoutput_4694Steiner Cleaners was Liberace’s choice for dry cleaning his fancy clothes. A seamstress would take a week to remove and then replace the sparkles and sequins when an item was in for cleaning.  This sign was one of the first to show movement.

fullsizeoutput_4696This sign was at McCarron Airport for many years. Las Vegas was, and is, a destination for easy marriage and divorce.  The city itself took hold in 1931 due to Nevada’s easy divorce laws, the end of prohibition and the construction of Hoover Dam.


The Stardust sign used a space age font designed right after the Russians launched Sputnik.

P1000858Past and current Las Vegas signage is beautiful and mesmerizing in a way.   In a city famous for glitz and glam, we never expected to find natural beauty.

P1000878Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is 20 miles north of Las Vegas. Geologically created by the Keystone Thrust, the landscape is quite varied. Red Rock Canyon is managed by the BLM and Nevada State Parks.  There are many hiking trails and a 13 mile scenic drive.




Some people were using electric bikes on the scenic drive.  That looked like fun.

P1000925Another option were these Scooter Cars.  That looked like more fun.  We had Elko so we used our truck.  That was less fun, but we were comfortable and his company was outstanding.

There are tortoises, wild burros, wild horses and mountain goats in Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area but we didn’t see any.  Insert sad face….


We went back to the glitz and glam for our last night in Las Vegas.

We enjoy a variety of shows in Las Vegas.  This time we saw Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson One at Mandalay Bay.   As the poster says it was “a virtual parade of wow moments.”  We saw stunning acrobatics, a life size Michael Jackson hologram singing and dancing with the real person dancers, and even got snowed on inside the theater.

We are hoping that is the last snow we’ll see.   We head north tomorrow and since it is only mid- March, we likely won’t escape it totally.   We like variety – but not in the weather!

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Loving Arizona: The Epilogue

We had a terrific month in Mesa!   There is so much to do in the Valley of the Sun. Even though I wrote about a lot, there was still more.  We enjoyed seeing Randy’s brother and his wife each week and loved having so much to choose from.  Whew!

fullsizeoutput_3a1cYet, it was time to move on. We came to a familiar place, White Tank Mountain Regional Park. We have been here before and liked it so well we came back!  After our very tight site in the Mesa park, we had room to move and breathe!


fullsizeoutput_45e3It was so nice to be in the desert again! We spent a lot of time walking, hiking and just enjoying the view. Last year when we were here we had multitudes of wild flowers. No such luck this year, but it is still lovely.


Since we were at a place with a fire ring, Randy had to do our version of shredding confidential paperwork! 


We went into town for another Mariner’s game.  After being down 0-7, we won 10-7!

This game was at the Texas Rangers’ stadium.  They share with the Kansas City Royals.


As we watched the game, the doves watched us.

fullsizeoutput_45f4It was a cold day for Phoenix!   The snow cone vendor was selling hot chocolate!


fullsizeoutput_4607Another day we toured Sun City Festival in Goodyear, AZ.   We liked the development and the homes and think a place similar to this is likely in our future.  No timeline.



Boise friends Mike and Paula, also in Arizona for the winter, came by for a visit.


A road runner came through our campsite.


And one of our many hummingbird guests.


Our own personal wildlife, Elko!

fullsizeoutput_460aFor the third year in a row, we walked the trails in Arizona without ever encountering a snake! Whoo-hoo!     (Looking at you Oregon, land of many snakes.)
We leave Arizona tomorrow and begin the trek north. First stop is Las Vegas for the Mountain West Basketball Tournament!  Go Bronco Women and Men!


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Chapter 5: Yours, Mine and Ours

For those who remember the 1968 movie Yours, Mine and Ours, this blog isn’t about kids. We have one “kid” and she is ours. This blog is about three museums, one in Randy’s wheelhouse, one in mine, and one that had something for both of us.

Yours – Commemorative Air Force Museum 

fullsizeoutput_45bcRandy really enjoys airplane museums and we have been to some great ones. (The blog post  Airplane Stories visits one of the best.)  My eyes glaze over after a couple hours but Randy could go on for days. In Mesa, we visited the Commemorative Air Force Museum.

fullsizeoutput_45c2The Commemorative Air Force is an international organization dedicated to preserving combat aviation history.  They focus primarily on World War II aircraft and service.

fullsizeoutput_45dcThe Arizona group’s first vintage aircraft restoration was a donated B-17 named Sentimental Journey.   Although we have been inside a B-17 before, this time we had a docent walking us through every nook and cranny.


Gary is a retired air force optometrist and licensed pilot – and a great docent!



P1000674The saying “the full nine yards” came from nine yards of munitions used by the waist- gunners in B-17s.


It gets cold up there – like 40 below zero at 22,0000 feet.  Each waist gunner station had an outlet for the gunner’s heated long underwear.

Commemorative Air Force pilots (most former military and airline), and crew fly their preserved aircraft to air shows around the country. As a fund raising tool, they sell rides on many of the vintage planes. Waist-gunner area seats are $425 per ride and $850 for the coveted bombardier nose seat.

P1000669We watched an interesting movie about B-17s. They weren’t the fastest or most agile, but they were nearly indestructible.  They often returned to base with significant damage. Some credit the B-17 with winning World War II.

fullsizeoutput_45beGeneral George C. Marshall credited the jeep as America’s Greatest Contribution to Modern Warfare in 1941. WWII correspondent Ernie Pyle said the Jeep and the Coleman GI pocket stove were the “two most important noncombat pieces of equipment ever developed.”

We learned how the Army Air Corps trained pilots in the WWII era.  Potential pilots completed a twelve week module on the first plane and if they passed, went on to the second, third and fourth planes in successive twelve week modules.  Each  plane type was more advanced.  Those that failed in a module might become crew or a gunner.

fullsizeoutput_45c0This plane is a DC-3, also called a C-47 in military vernacular, a transport plane for troops and supplies.  This particular plane was surplussed in 1951, purchased by a company in Bolivia, and used as a transport plane in South America.


The Hoover Vacuum company purchased this plane (1960s?) and outfitted it as their corporate plane.  A ride on this vintage plane costs $150.

fullsizeoutput_45c4The third plane we were told about was the B-25, Maid in the Shade.  Fund raising seat prices range from $325 – $650.

Sixteen B-25s were used in Colonel Doolittle’s bombing raid over Tokyo memorialized in the movie 30 Seconds Over Tokyo. This was the first retaliatory raid on Japan after Pearl Harbor.  The attack on Tokyo was successful but most pilots ran out of fuel returning and had a variety of experiences in China and Japan.  fullsizeoutput_45c7The Commemorative Air Force invites people who had experience with a plane model to sign it.   Notice Ed Saylor signed as one of the 1942 Tokyo Raiders.


Notice Betty Hayes was a Rosie the Riveter.

Mine:  The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is the number one rated attraction in Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the country. It is also ranked in the top 20 museums in the United States. We wondered if MIM would live up to those lofty rankings. It did. It was also overwhelming.


There are displays of musical instruments grouped by continent and country. Each continent collection could take an entire day to explore!

P1000257Most displays also feature video of the instruments being played in a local setting.

There are some interesting instruments out there!

The featured exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum during our visit was Ancient Musical Treasures from China.

This bone flute was found in 1986 and believed to be 7000 – 9000 years old. Its complexity suggests use in harmonies and in tuning instruments to different scales.

This Bianzhong chime set is thought to be 2500 – 2800 years old and is one of only ten known surviving instruments.

One of our favorite sections of the museum was the Artist Gallery. There are displays encompassing everything and everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Taylor Swift.


John Lennon’s piano is here.

P1000150One of the 2008 Chinese drums used in the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics is at MIM.  A link to that performance is here:  2008 Olympic Drummers

P1000140The first guitar John Denver ever owned,  given to him at age 12 by his grandmother, is also at MIM. This guitar was lost for a time and when found was the motivation for his song “This Old Guitar.” He tells the story and sings the song at this link. John Denver – This Old Guitar


Of course, an Elvis guitar is here!

We could play instruments ourselves in the Experience Gallery!


One time I went looking for Randy and found him here! Why is that not a surprise?

fullsizeoutput_457aOurs:  Arizona Science Center looked to have exhibits for both of us –  a planetarium, IMAX theater and general science stuff for Randy and a visiting exhibit on Pompeii for me!

fullsizeoutput_45b2We started with the Pompeii exhibit which was fascinating and haunting.  Pompeii was destroyed in 79 AD by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.   The eruption destroyed the city but also preserved it. The exhibit holds hundreds of artifacts excavated from Pompeii.


An upper-crust home in Pompeii had an elaborate courtyard.


A fresco from the first century.


Glass blowing developed in the first century.  Glass and pottery were excavated from Pompeii.


Amphoras held wines and oils.

Jewelry found in Pompeii.

These coins were found in a pouch next to a body.


A mother and child


A young boy





This guard dog never left his post at his home’s gate.


It was a somber and touching display.

If you found the Pompeii stuff compelling, I send you back to the related Oplontis Project in the blog post from Montana, Fall 2016 Way Above Average!

We also had some fun at the Arizona Science Center.  This Forces of Nature Display allows you to experience representations of tornado force winds and some mild earthquake rocking.


When we got to hurricane, we even had some light misting rain. That was a surprise!

We spent time figuring out where all the innards fit!


A retired meteorologist gave us a passionate lesson on climate change.  Preaching to the choir….

And we had some science fun.

We’ve been to many planetarium shows and do not care to go to another on constellations.   This planetarium offered different topics and Randy chose The Solar System.   It wasn’t just a video production.   It was an interactive experience with a gifted teacher.


I took this one photograph (no flash) before he told me they weren’t allowed.

I know this blog post is way longer than usual.  I apologize!  Each of the  “yours, mine and ours” museums could have been a blog post in itself.  But then I’d have had to come up with a new title!







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Chapter 4: Gotta Get Those Tickets!

I started looking at the Cubs’ Spring Training ticket site in December.  I knew from experience that Cubs’ spring training games frequently sell out.  Since the Mariners were going to be playing the Cubs just once while we were in Mesa, I was on a mission to get those tickets!   That was accomplished on the very first day tickets were available.


As it turned out the game wasn’t a sell out but it was plenty full.

Given we don’t live near Seattle, we have been to quite a few Mariners games. We usually go to a game in Seattle each year and we’ve seen them in Minneapolis and Kansas City.   Since we’ve been in Arizona the last few years, spring training games are a given.

P1000502Surprisingly, we’ve never been to a game that King Felix has pitched. Felix Hernandez has been the Seattle pitching icon for a decade. Our game didn’t have many regulars in the line up, but we finally had Felix.   Unfortunately he got hit with a line drive in the second inning and was out. X-rays were negative!

fullsizeoutput_4559The folks behind us were from Chicago and when first baseman Anthony Rizzo came up to bat, they talked about him being a Stoneman-Douglas High school graduate. Rizzo returned to Florida after the school shooting and helped where he could. It was easy to root for him knowing that.

fullsizeoutput_4557Most spring training parks are shared by two teams. For example, Seattle shares their Peoria facility with the San Diego Padres. The Cubs have Sloan Park all to themselves and that allows for some individualization.


If you wait in line you can get personalized pictures.  We didn’t.


When we saw the Cubs’ retired numbers, we wondered why there were two 31s. Google says:   Fergie Jenkins wore number 31 in the 1960s and 70s and Greg Maddux was given the same number when he joined the Cubs in the 1980s.  Both had “number retirement” worthy careers.


Fergie Jenkins was at Sloan park selling autographs and stuff.

And the other numbers:  Number 42 is retired in all of Major League Baseball to honor Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in the league. Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s and 50s.

The other Cubs players were: 10 Ron Santo, 14 Ernie Banks,  23 Ryne Sandberg and 26 Billy Williams.


The game was fun but the end was frustrating! The Mariners had a 9-2 lead in the 8th and the Cubs tied it up.  No extra innings in spring training.

fullsizeoutput_451bThe other tickets I decided we had to have were to Hamilton, the traveling Broadway production being performed at ASU. When the tickets went on sale in December, thirty two shows sold out in four hours.   Hamilton is a hot ticket on Broadway and all over the country.   I hadn’t even known to try and get Hamilton tickets in December.

Once we got to Mesa and saw Hamilton was in the valley, I went back and forth about whether we should pay more than twice the regular ticket price on the secondary market.  After going back and forth for a week, I held my breath, clicked the keyboard, and paid for two back row, balcony tickets.   Randy was doubtful, but as I don’t squander money very often, he didn’t grumble.


He did grumble trying to park our big truck.

There were no pictures allowed during the production but this was the set.


See, back row balcony – the cheap seats!


The show that won 11 Tony Awards really is every bit as good as you’ve heard. We didn’t look at our watches once in three hours. We have no regrets about spending the money  and consider ourselves fortunate to have had the opportunity.

If you have the opportunity to see Hamilton, we suggest you brush up on your Founding Fathers- Alexander Hamilton – Aaron Burr history.  The songs move very quickly and we were glad for a good working knowledge going in.

However, we were not well versed regarding Eliza Schuyler Hamilton.  After Alexander’s death (at the hands of Aaron Burr) she lived another fifty years.   Until age 97, she dedicated herself to telling Alexander’s story and preserving his legacy.   Eliza Hamilton opened the first orphanage in New York City because Alexander had been an orphan. With Dolly Madison, she was instrumental in raising funds for the Washington Monument.   She was a very complex and interesting woman.

Our other tickets haven’t been nearly so precious in dollars or effort, but these two were worth it!


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Chapter 3: Friends Together, Having Fun

During our winters in Arizona we have been blessed to make a number of friends from Canada.   Most have been folks from British Columbia and Alberta but we did meet Rob and Kris from Ontario in Tucson a couple years ago.  We were glad to re-connect with Rob and Kris here in Mesa.  I just wish I’d remembered to take a picture!

fullsizeoutput_445eThis is where we’ve lived for the last few weeks,  D Street at Towerpoint Resort in Mesa.   There are a number of Canadians from Manitoba staying on D Street.  On this day there were six Canadian flags, and two American flags flying!


IMG_2850And there was this one!  I don’t know if this flag represents a mixed marriage or Canadians trying to honor both countries.

The Olympics have enabled some good natured fun and competition, but overall there is a great sense of camaraderie in the park. This past week the resort held a festival honoring the United States and Canada.

There was a king and queen from both countries to reign over the festivities which culminated in a big parade.


My favorite activity in the park has been Zumba and our group walked and danced in the parade.

It was a cold morning (45ish) so we had some liquid fortitude.


We warmed up in the staging area.  I’m the one in the long pants!


Randy carried the Zumba banner.


Uncle Sam is our only Zumba guy.

fullsizeoutput_4538There were a number of nice floats.  This one represents the Peace Arch at the international border between Blaine, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia.


We were there in 2014!



In another story of friendship, we learned about a restaurant in Phoenix called the Joy Bus Diner.  The story began in 2011 as one friend helped another with meals during cancer treatments.

P1000401The story evolved into a 100% non-profit restaurant whose mission it is to provide “chef crafted meals and caring conversation to cancer patients.”


We were happy to go for lunch and support the effort.  Friends, together making a difference.


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Chapter 2: Randy’s Social Director

Since we’ve been together, and especially since we’ve been on the road, Randy has been content for me to be his social director.  He frequently doesn’t bother with what’s next on our schedule until he needs to know.  He reserves the right to stay home if there are too many museums and will occasionally object. (His most recent objection was the Phoenix Renaissance Fair but I was lukewarm so it didn’t matter.) I generally know the types of things he enjoys.  I also know to leave adequate down time.

28337708_10209425374825979_438006994597628128_oHe also wants time for the occasional golf game.  Especially if it involves our nephew Sean,  brother Tim and Sean’s brother-in-law Kyle.

Entertainment is big on this social director’s priority list!  Vast entertainment options are part of why we are loving Mesa.

Selectie+RotD+2017-050We began with Rhythm of the Dance, a Celtic style troupe from Ireland. The dancing was great but we enjoyed the music and varied instruments just as much.  This photograph is from their website because our camera just didn’t take good low light pictures. It also had another dust spot and wasn’t opening and closing well. A camera just doesn’t last in our lifestyle. It is always in my pocket or purse and gets pulled in and out and knocked around.  I’m hard on them but if we’re going to have pictures for the blog that is just the way it is.   So, we bought an updated model at Costco. Randy read the manual and I need to!

fullsizeoutput_4511We were interested in how the new model would perform in low-light. We took pictures at the LeeAnn Rimes concert at the RV Resort next door. The pictures were marginal but we found two that were usable.  The concert was better than the pictures! LeeAnn Rimes has a beautiful, powerful voice and sings a variety of music genre. Like many vocal artists, she has re-worked the songs from way back and that was bittersweet.

fullsizeoutput_4512Because the concert was at the next resort over, we thought we’d save ourselves parking issues and walk. That worked well going at 7:00. Coming home we were four minutes late to access the back gate and had to walk a mile plus to get back around to our resort’s front gate.   The blocks are big here!


fullsizeoutput_445bWe enjoy western dinner theaters and visited Rockin’R Ranch for their version. This is a family operation and daughter Chelsea was great pre-dinner entertainment. Family dog Montana has apparently heard the show too many times and just wanted to go outside.

P1000286We enjoyed another family of entertainers – The Duttons. They were finalists on Season 2 of America’s Got Talent.  Parents, siblings, spouses and grandchildren split their year between theaters in Branson and Mesa.  The multi-generational show is good wholesome fun.


The youngest Dutton’s have their own part of the show.  They split their school years between Branson and Mesa Public Schools.

Eating can also be entertainment! We look for food tours as we travel and enjoyed the Arizona Food Tour in Scottsdale.


We had a rainy day for our food tour.  The yellow and green bikes in the picture are easy pick up and rental all over Scottsdale.

fullsizeoutput_4484Food tours usually provide some local history.  We began at the Old Adobe, Mission,  the oldest church in Scottsdale.  It began as Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in 1933.

fullsizeoutput_4513The city that became Scottsdale was developed on land owned by former Civil War Army Chaplain Winfield Scott.  Arriving in 1888, he called his community Orangedale. It was eventually renamed for him (Scottsdale) but also had the moniker “The West’s Most Western Town.”


Back to the food!  We started with a Mexican sampling at The Mission Restaurant!


We had a lesson and delicious pairings at Outrageous Olive Oils and Vinegars.


Our soup and local beer at Malee’s Thai Bistro were delicious.

fullsizeoutput_449cWe had Stetson salad at Cowboy Caio! It was delicious, unique, and we got the recipe!


We enjoyed sitting and chatting with different couples on our tour.

fullsizeoutput_44aeWe finished the tour with three small cookies at SuperChunk Bakery.  I ate the first one before I remembered to take a picture!


Because it was a rainy day we utilized the free Scottsdale Trolley on our tour.

We aren’t done being entertained yet.  There will likely be more in future chapters of Loving Mesa.





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