Two Tributes and Melissa

fullsizeoutput_4f07As Randy is still recovering from major surgery, we aren’t able to hike or explore yet, but we can be entertained!   Our timing is great because entertainment abounds for snowbirds in Mesa.  


We could go to a show every night.  More than any other year,  the music is right in our sweet spot – the 70s.

fullsizeoutput_4f1bWe saw an Eagles tribute band called One of These Nights right in our own park.  They were so good!  I actually enjoyed this concert more than the real Eagles concert we went to years ago. (Randy would probably disagree with that although he loved this one too.)  It is amazing how tribute bands can sound exactly like the original. 

fullsizeoutput_4f2cA few days later we went to a sister park and saw The Chicago Experience celebrating Chicago.  It was an odd assortment of wonderful musicians including an amazing young singer (who could really move) to a seasoned, balding trumpet player and every possibility in between.

One of my favorite songs in life is Color My World by Chicago.  I was determined to get that on video and started recording the beginning of every song so I wouldn’t miss that wonderful keyboard beginning.  Randy finally told me he could see the sax player, could see when he picked up the flute, and that could be my cue.   If you too loved Color My World, I hope you enjoy the video below.

fullsizeoutput_4f35Then we saw the “real” performer, Melissa Manchester.   The tickets for the real deal are more expensive ($45 per ticket) than the tribute bands ($15).  Imagine that!  We enjoyed the evening as she sang her hits and iconic songs from her new CD Fellas.  She had stories about her songs  and the various artists she’s worked with over the years.

fullsizeoutput_4f34One of the cool things about this show was the side videos showing her singing the songs during other parts of her life, almost perfectly synced.

And as much as we enjoy being entertained, we have done a few other things.


We joined Tim and Yvette (brother and sister in law) to celebrate Yvette’s retirement!  Congratulations Yvette!


Beth came up to visit again – That’s always fun.

fullsizeoutput_4f29Randy took this picture of me not having fun at all!   I have been doing all the driving  and early on I wouldn’t even let Randy have the radio on because I just needed to concentrate.  By now I am mostly accustomed to scooting along at 75 miles per hour on the endless freeways but I’ll never enjoy it.   I was totally unaware when he took this picture as it was rush hour and no one else seemed to think 75 was fast enough.  I hate driving 80 mph on a crowded freeway.   I will cheer when Randy can take back driving!


I do have fun keeping up with Boise State basketball.  Sometimes the men’s and women’s teams play at the same time – so one game on the computer and one on the iPad.

I also had fun taking stained glass classes here in the park.  In the first class we learned to cut and grind glass.

During the second class we made a sunrise/sunset piece where we learned to tape and solder.  It was fun.

I may do something again or I may try something else.   The choices seem endless.

And from the home front…


A windstorm destroyed our canopy.  It wasn’t a big deal because it was the one that was damaged in Idaho last summer.  The company graciously replaced it for free (for a good Amazon review) so we have another.  We’ll wait until it gets hot again to put it up.


You might remember we were hoping for oranges on the fruit tree on our site…nope, they are grapefruit.  Anyone have any ideas to make them edible?

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The Eye of the Storm

If chemotherapy was the frontside and surgery is the back side, we have been enjoying relative calm in the eye of the storm.  We’ve had about six weeks in which Randy has gained strength and resumed some level of normalcy.  He still has headaches and fatigue but overall he has done well.  That has allowed us to enjoy some visiting and take a couple road trips.  

fullsizeoutput_4ebbOur first road trip was to Tucson to visit Boise friends Warren and Connie.  They live in a  very nice 55+ community that is on our short list of places we might land.  

P1020750While we were there we went to El Charro in Old Town Tucson.  It is the oldest (1922) Mexican restaurant in the US that has been continuously operated by the originating family.

fullsizeoutput_4eb6On the way back to Mesa, we stopped for a visit in Casa Grande with Oregon State Park volunteer friends Jess and Jean.

fullsizeoutput_4eb2Boise friends Bryan and Debbie joined us for a couple days in Mesa and we went to Organ Stop Pizza.   Randy and I have been there a few times and the organ is the draw, not the food.  We had given up on the pizza and had pasta this time.  Next time I’m having salad and mozzarella sticks.

P1020767But the organ is very cool, taking up an entire wall of the restaurant.  It is the largest console organ Wurlitzer ever made with 276 keys, 975 controls and nearly 6000 pipes.

fullsizeoutput_4eaaA few days later we took off for Yuma on another road trip.  One of the notations in my 177 page “Things to Do” document referenced a restaurant en-route in the little town of Gila Bend.  Usually a town you just drive through, we stopped at Little Italy because Prince Harry dined there in 2011.

fullsizeoutput_4ea8He was in the vicinity for helicopter training and supposedly declared their Meat Pizza the best ever.  The restaurant is still taking full advantage of their unlikely royal visitor!


We tried Prince Harry’s choice and it was a little too meaty for me.

fullsizeoutput_4ec1We enjoyed days in Yuma with our Canadian friends, Linda, Catie, Gord and Dave.   We had most recently seen them on Vancouver Island last spring.   Randy golfed nine holes with the guys and was pleased his game hasn’t gone away in the last few months.

fullsizeoutput_4ecfOnce again stopping for lunch in Gila Bend,  on the return trip, we ate at the Space Age Restaurant. 

fullsizeoutput_4ed0Nothing was remarkable except the alien sunglasses we bought to send to our grandson.    We wore them when we were skyping with them this afternoon and he is excited to get his glasses.

Back in Mesa we are preparing ourselves for the backside of the storm.  Randy has two more pre-op appointments Monday and my mom flies in.  Our friend Beth will also be here to offer support.  We all check into the Residence Inn near the Mayo Hospital and get ready for go time on Tuesday morning.  (Medical updates will be on the site, Randy’s Bladder.)

We can’t say we are looking forward to any of it but….let’s get that stinkin’ thing outta there, get through the recovery, and be done with this storm.  Or at least as done with it as we’ll ever be.


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We’re Hoping for Oranges

We are in a good place.  Randy is recovering nicely after his chemotherapy and we are enjoying some normalcy.  He still “feels” the poison in his body, and will for many months, but its effects are no longer incapacitating.  Surgery will be December 18.  That medical journey is blogged at

fullsizeoutput_4e3eWe are in a good place because we have family here.  Randy’s brother, Tim, made a cake for Randy’s 60th birthday.  We spent Thanksgiving and a number of Sunday afternoons with Tim and Yvette.  (Yup, no hair….)


We are in a good place because our friends come to see us.  Beth came through to hang out for a week!


And Mike came for a few days too!


We are in a good place at Val Vista Villages RV Resort in Mesa.  This is a 55+ playground.

fullsizeoutput_4e53We enjoy music and drinks in the courtyard a couple times a week.  I access all kinds of activities here and  at “sister” resorts.  We are making  friends.


When we first got here, there was a high pitched squeal from this pump on the other side of the canal.  Randy can’t usually hear those sounds but they are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.


The noise made sitting outside very unappealing.   

fullsizeoutput_4e6fSince we enjoyed our patio and sunset views, it became a project to see if there was anything to be done about the pump.

We determined it belonged to the Salt River Project and walked over and got some identifying information.  After contacting them we found we needed different information that was not readily available.   Randy did some deep sleuthing on the Salt River Project site and got the needed information.  Then I became a very pleasant squeaky wheel.   

Eventually I got a phone call from a maintenance engineer agreeing that pumps do get noisy as they age  – this was a 1950s model.  While explaining that the pump noise was still below the Mesa sound threshold of 60db, he said they would switch it out with another rebuild they had at the shop.  They would also add some plastic inserts to the fence.   I was impressed with his willingness to address my concern.

P1020710I’m not sure how much either fix actually helped but I stopped bothering them since they tried.   It also seemed like they were using the pump less often.

What really helped was time…time for the canal to go dry and to stop needing the pump!  Since then there has been a lot of activity to watch along the canal.

fullsizeoutput_4e43First they moved dirt to make ramps for bobcats to go into the canal and move and clean up debris.


See all the junk that ends up in the canals!

fullsizeoutput_4e4aNow they seem to be repairing the concrete along the canal walls.   It is such an entertaining activity out our back window.

fullsizeoutput_4e38Also entertaining was the Mystery Dinner Theater in the resort.   I wrote about it on the Caring Bridge site already but, in a nutshell Randy, the problem solver engineer, figured out the mystery very quickly.   The rest of us tried to find flaws in his theory and couldn’t.   Our table got the win and each of us got a pin.

The next mystery to be solved is the identity of the fruit on the tree in front of our site.   Many sites at Val Vista Villages have fruit trees because of the orchards planted on the mesa.  The rules are that you can have the fruit growing on your own site or any vacant site.  Most resort trees grow grapefruit (yuck)  but there are a few other varieties.


Lemon trees are easy to identify!


This is a close up of the fruit on our tree.  We’re hoping for oranges!


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A Nice Little Bounce-Back


Commemorative Air Force Museum entrance.  Notice the dark clouds and wet pavement.

Randy has had a nice little bounce-back during this second week of his first cycle of chemotherapy.  (Doctors plan four two week cycles.) He suggested an outing to the Commemorative Air Force Museum.   We spent an enjoyable day exploring this museum last spring.  The blogpost from that visit is Chapter 5: Yours, Mine and Ours.   

fullsizeoutput_4e08As we’ve visited before, we went this time to hear a presentation by Jim Olivi about his uncle’s involvement in dropping the bomb on Nagasaki.

Lt. Fred Olivi was the co-pilot on Bockscar, the plane that held the bomb dropped on Nagasaki and author of the book Decision at Nagasaki:  The Mission That Almost Failed.

The bomb dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 weighed 2500 lbs. and contained uranium.  It was carried on the Enola Gay.   A second bomb was planned for Kokura on August 11.  It was a 10,000 lb. Fat Boy containing plutonium.   A third bomb, destined for Tokyo and never used, was also a Fat Boy containing plutonium.

As bad weather rolled in, the mission for Kokura was moved up to August 9.  The plane, Bockscar, was loaded and readied for take off.  (Bockscar was named for its usual captain Frederick Bock but he did not fly it on August 9.)

Six hundred and forty gallons of fuel were loaded in an auxiliary tank for the return flight.  Before takeoff the pilots learned that the pump for this tank was not working and fuel would not be available for a return flight.  Given the urgency of the mission and weather conditions, the pilots decided to proceed anyway.

Three planes, the bomber, the science/instrumentation plane, and a photography plane had designated meet-up coordinates.  Two of the planes met up and but the third was at the wrong altitude.  The two proceeded on to Kokura.

The Fat Boy bomb was armed once Bockscar took off and was set to go off when it dropped to 1800 feet of elevation.  Returning to base with the bomb still on the plane was not an option.

When they arrived over Kokura the weather was too bad to gain visual target, a required element of the drop.  They made three unsuccessful passes and then proceeded to Nagasaki, the secondary target. 

Also obscured by weather, the Nagasaki target was not seen on the first pass.   The target was viewed on the second pass and the Fat Boy was dropped.

Bockscar had to veer off quickly to get seven miles away before detonation to avoid being enveloped.  Even then they felt three shockwaves.


Olivi described the mushroom cloud as having a myriad of colors, dominated by salmon pink.    

After the drop, the next goal was to land on Okinawa.   Radio contact failed and Bockscar just moved into place for landing while other planes got out of the way.  They had extra weight because of the unused fuel and as a result, came in 25 mph too fast.  Their usable fuel was down to fumes.

They was able to land safely in part because Bockscar was one of fifteen B29s equipped with reversible propellers.  Normally that feature allowed the aircraft to move backwards on the ground for loading or taxi.  In this case the reversible propellers helped reduce speed.

bockscarBockscar is now in the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.    Notice the five fat boy mission markers – the red marker designates the live drop on Nagasaki.


We are in site 593 along Canal Street.

We came home to our trailer site located along Canal Street in the Val Vista RV Resort.   There is a Salt River Project canal behind us which we like because the openness allows for nice sunset views out our back window.


The real canal is beyond the fence.

But this afternoon we had a bonus canal right behind us and another bonus canal in front of us on what is usually the street.   


P1020699The water rose rapidly and it became apparent that some drainage grates were blocked.  Randy joined several of our neighbors in removing debris to allow a better flow. Unfortunately the rising water toppled a garbage can and several of us had to snag floating garbage.

As I write the sun is peeking out of the clouds and the street is mostly clear of water.  The canal behind us remains.

On Monday Randy starts cycle two of his chemotherapy.  Even though some of the impact  will be cumulative, we have learned some strategies and are hopeful he will get a nice bounce back again in week four.

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Welcome to Stillwater Ya’ll!

Given a one week delay before the start of Randy’s chemo, we were able to go to the Boise State – Oklahoma State football game – almost as planned.   Originally we were to fly in and out of Boise, meeting our friends Kent and Pam in Oklahoma.  Given we are now in Mesa we looked into changing our reservations to fly from Phoenix. That was crazy expensive so we canceled, rented a Cadillac and drove 1000 miles with about three hours notice.   It was great to take off and put some of the worry of our present circumstance behind us.


This Oklahoma map is backwards from the courtyard, but not from the street!


Our frequent traveling companions, Kent and Pam!

When we arrived for the game we heard “Welcome to Stillwater Ya’ll” over and over again.  We have gone to quite a few “away” games and nearly all venues have some welcoming people but nothing like Stillwater.

fullsizeoutput_4d90Like a thousand other people we started our game-day experience at Eskimo Joe’s.  Kent had heard it was the place to go – and it seemed everyone agreed.   To make it even busier – it was open seating.  

fullsizeoutput_4da6Pam was diligent in watching for BSU fans who were nearly done with their table.  They turned it over to us and we shared our table with other BSU fans.

IMG_3165The famous meal at Eskimo Joe’s is cheesy fries.  I ordered them and decided they were very good except for the too-sweet bacon.  Randy, Kent and Pam all thought the bacon was just fine.


Ready for the game – hot, humid and blissfully overcast.


Boone Pickens Stadium had free water for awhile, until it was empty.




What do you do when the game doesn’t turn out the way you want?  Have ice cream for dinner!

fullsizeoutput_4d5fAnother day we traveled 50 miles west of Oklahoma City to El Reno, home of the famous Onion Burger.


El Reno has a street fair that includes a huge onion burger.  (Internet photo)

We had already eaten but decided we’d get one onion burger to share.  It was fine, but not reason enough to come to El Reno.

fullsizeoutput_4d5aThe real reason we came was to visit Randy’s old home-town.  He lived in El Reno until he was nine years old.  He remembered this theater and other buildings.

fullsizeoutput_4d6cWe found the street he lived on as a very young boy and he recognized the house type.  I took a few pictures of possible home sites.

Matthews_P_0018I found this old photo when we got back to the computer and saw which house we should have looked for –  number 524.  Randy is front left, the third of four brothers.   Randy had remembered the scrolled M screen door but we didn’t see one  50 plus years later.


We also found his family’s second home in El Reno.


Randy attended elementary school at Rose Witcher.  


This building held his dad’s Champion Service Station in the 1960s.


We went on a Tram Tour of El Reno. 


Kent, Pam and I explored the Historical Museum grounds and found the very first Red Cross Canteen in the United States, built in 1917. 

fullsizeoutput_4d6dRandy met a woman in the museum who knew his dad, mom, aunt and uncle.

fullsizeoutput_4d50She helped us find junior and senior yearbook photos for Randy’s mom, Mable Wilson.   It was a fun day letting Randy re-live his childhood.

Kent and Pam have a goal of geocaching in every state.  They nabbed their first Oklahoma geocache in El Reno.

We were so glad to spend a few mostly carefree days with Kent and Pam.  We played a lot of cards and watched football and watched the Mariners – sometimes all three at once thanks to great wifi.   Unfortunately, real life beckoned us back and we needed to drive the 1000 miles back to Mesa.  

fullsizeoutput_4da0We stopped for a quick over-night with Randy’s aunt Lahoma near Witchita Falls, Texas.  

It was bittersweet to drive past so many places on our “To Do” document.  We saw signs to Petrified Forest National Park and El Malpais National Monument among others.


We actually saw Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo from the road.   There are Cadillacs, highly decorated, submerged halfway in the ground.

Hopefully, we’ll be out on the road again next spring with a healthy Randy behind the wheel.  Again, we covet your prayers and invite you to follow this unwelcome diversion to our adventures at  Our site is called Randy’s Bladder.

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A Hard Leave


P1020544We left Lake Cascade a week ago.  It was a hard leave.   We felt like we were losing our boy Elko all over again.  This was the last place we had him with us.

P1020547Elko loved his woods.   He’d look at us and make it clear this was his private space and he didn’t need us to go into the woods with him.  If we had been leaving him behind to go play and travel, that would have been hard.   


But that isn’t why we left Cascade sooner than expected.  The hard leave was worse. Did I mention it was only a week ago? It feels like an eternity.  We left Cascade for Boise and then a few days later drove 1100 miles to Mesa.  Why?  It is a sad tale.

Yearly bladder scopes had been part of our life since Randy’s urologist found a low grade papillary cancer in 2008.  Quarterly scopes were the norm after Randy’s second bladder cancer diagnosis in the spring of 2017.  Things had been going well but during the mid August scope a new tumor was visible. Subsequent biopsy revealed a new, and even worse, form of bladder cancer – his third.   This tumor is muscle invasive and the bladder and prostate need to come out. Good riddance to his bad bladder!!

Randy had researched this potential development long ago since bladder cancer usually comes back and comes back worse. Unfortunately, Randy could be a poster child for this tendency. He already had an idea which of the three types of bladder removal surgeries he would opt for – one that forms a new bladder using small intestine.   

In consultation with his urologist, she recommended that he plan for that extensive surgery to be done elsewhere.  The Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale kept coming up as a good choice (thanks Sharon!).  After a frustrating false start for pre-surgery chemo with a Boise area oncologist, we decided to pursue everything at the Mayo Clinic.  

We made that decision on Wednesday evening and the next day Randy had an appointment scheduled with the surgeon for the following Tuesday.  I arranged for an RV site for the fall with the promise of them making something work for the already booked January, February and March.   Everything fell into place quickly, in less than 24 hours, and it absolutely feels like a God thing.  

fullsizeoutput_4cffWe drove all day Saturday and most of Sunday to be here for today’s appointment.  We feel confident in the doctor and the plan.  For the first time in four weeks, we had a doctor’s appointment that made us feel better instead of worse. We are encouraged.  

The road ahead will be hard with aggressive chemo for six weeks and then extensive surgery. We are under no illusion otherwise.  We are so thankful for those who have upheld us with their time, prayers and good wishes.  

We will have the support of Randy’s brother and sister in law who live in the Phoenix area but still covet contact with our family, Boise friends and road friends.    

To make it easier to keep people updated we have opened a Caring Bridge site called Randy’s Bladder.   The link is:     You may visit the site or sign up to receive updates when either of us post new information.

It is likely that the Serene Wandering blog will be quiet for the time being, until we can get out there and have some fun again.

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What’s a Handy-Randy To Do?

P1010926Randy worked really hard on two campground fences and has been enjoying a bit of a lull before starting his last campground.   He’s mostly worked alone but occasionally has help from the rangers or seasonal workers. 


Randy has enjoyed getting to know the ranger and seasonal staff including RJ and Kenny.  When RJ and Kenny helped Randy install posts Randy wanted everything to be very precise.   One of them asked “Are you an engineer or something?”  They chuckled when Randy admitted that he was an engineer.

Given the lull, Randy tackled some trailer maintenance.  Our Progressive Industries Electrical Management System is designed to give information about electrical usage and provide warnings and protection if the power amperage is too low or surges.   All that was good until it started humming at a pitch that drove me crazy!   The hum started in May and we pursued a replacement under the life time warranty.  While waiting for it to arrive, we had a thunderstorm complete with electrical surge that took the hum away.   Recently the hum started again so Handy Randy switched them out.   

fullsizeoutput_4cb2We had another company stand behind a product in an unexpected way.  We ordered a 10 X 10 canopy from Crown Shades on Amazon and it came and all was well until a microburst sent it flying and bent one leg.   I contacted the company to see if there was a way to purchase a replacement leg.   There wasn’t – so they sent us a brand new canopy.  We made it clear that the leg had not come damaged but they sent us a new canopy asking only for a positive review on Amazon.  We got to keep the old canopy and Engineer Handy Randy made the bent leg workable so now we have two.


Handy Randy repaired the rotating sprayer inside our black tank.  That was a smelly job.

And he replaced a cracked drain in our shower tub.   There’s no end to what Handy Randy, the engineer, can do.

fullsizeoutput_4cc4As a break from all that maintenance, we walked the Tamarack grounds and came upon a few abandoned construction sites.   Randy enjoyed these the way I enjoy museums!



Randy never saw a closed (but unlocked) door he didn’t feel free to open… least in a place like this!

We found some interesting things.. like these Delvo pucks.  I had to research what they are used for.  They are recommended for use in slowing down the hardening of fresh concrete or stabilizing returned concrete wastewater.  Now you know…


Yes, it’s fiber optic wire.


Abandoned or never used Tamarack signage in here.


Handy Randy is good looking, capable, smart and very strong.  Look at him lift the massive styrofoam block!  There were dozens of them.

So…there’s going for a walk with one engineer – and then there’s going for a walk with two of them…


Kent, Pam, Randy and I started the day at the Donnelly Huckleberry Festival pancake breakfast!



Then we went up the Tamarack chairlift to see what we could see.  



We were hoping to see the Mesa fire on the other side but that involved an additional three mile hike uphill so we didn’t.


We did come across this 4000 gallon water tank.   Kent, former engineer for the Public Health Service and the City of Boise, quizzed us on water usage.   He explained that nationally households use about 5000 gallons of water per month.   It was interesting to have that 4000 gallon visual.


Who is providing salt licks and why are they different colors?  Even the engineers didn’t know.


We’ve had so much fun with Pam and Kent this summer!


This upper lodge was never completed.


The hazy, smokey view of Lake Cascade from up top.


Pam enjoying her passion – photographing flowers, bugs and critters.



We saw lots of elderberries but had no way to get to them.

The only wildlife we saw were the human variety riding the chairlift with their bikes and then racing downhill.  $169 for a season pass for human and bike.


On the way down… enjoying the mountain biking wildlife.  We left the top on the chairlift at the same time this group left on their bikes.  They went a lot faster and covered more ground and we arrived at the bottom at the same time.

More adventures from Donnelly, Cascade and McCall coming soon!

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