Saturday, March 27, 2010

KSU—What a Roll

It’s hard not to be disappointed—mostly for the team.   They worked hard, played hard and this will be a hard loss. 

My feeling is they didn’t let anyone down.  Who would have thought at the beginning of the season we would be playing for a final four position.   It seemed it just was not going to happen for them today. 

When Bob Huggins came to KSU he reportedly said, “we’re going to turn this program around.  It can be you, or the team after you.” 

It was you.  Thank you to a great team.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fishing Texas

Our retired neighbors Bob and Barbara go south, but not quite as far as our Arizona friends. Their destination is Palestine Lake near Tyler, Texas. They have invited us to come down and fish over the years. Since we were already “south” we decide to drop by and sure glad we did.

One thing we had to do first. Drive over 800 miles.

Maybe it's because we live here, but people will tell us there is no road trip worse than driving through western Kansas. Maybe those who complain about the fertile farm land with endless waves of grain haven't seen endless sand with cacti and sagebrush in our southwestern United States. Still, since we had not seen that area before, it is interesting. And, I did see more desert wildflowers!


El Paso is the first big city after leaving the valley. Easily visible right across the Rio Grande is Juarez, Mexico, which is in the news constantly. It must be one of the most violent cities in Mexico. However, I read recently El Paso has a low violent crime rate.   We wonder how so much violence can happen so close to law and order.


As the Rio Grande River and valley disappear into a mountain range, we turn northeast.  Alerted by signs on the road, there is a vehicle check ahead.



This sign, the German Sheppard search dog and a handcuffed person being led away let us know they are serious. As we pull up, a stern faced Border Patrol officer ask us if we are citizens, where we are from and going and if anyone is in our camper. When we reply from Kansas, he waves us on. How could anyone from a flat boring state like Kansas be up to no good, right?

From there, it is an uneventful drive as we connected to I20. Western Texas starts to look like cattle country. A little more grass and a lot more oil rigs. Influenced by movies and television shows of this region, I expect it to look more affluent. All across western Texas there are abandoned homes, businesses (mostly bars) and sometimes groups of both. I know recent times are hard, but these tumbled down buildings have been there a while.

Approaching Dallas, things start greening up. East of Dallas is Tyler and a short distance south is Palestine Lake, our destination.

Besides Bob and Barbara, Phillip and Gayle, also neighbors, are parked in the campground right by the water. We pull up beside the group and they welcome us with open arms and boats. They share their equipment and expertise adding lots of laughs, encouragement, and even believable fishing stories. 

We were fishing for hybrid striped bass, a mix of female white bass and male striped bass. As I understand these fish are stocked in fresh water lakes for several reasons. They are selective foragers, they don't reproduce in still water so no overpopulation and finally they are good to eat. Dan and I are in agreement on the eating part after the first day of fishing that netted more than enough for a shore lunch.

Trolling is the best way to catch stripers. When they hit, it is definitely a thrill to bring one in. When they are not hitting, it is fun and relaxing to just drift about on the lake. It ended up I fish mainly in Phillip's boat. We had the most luck on red and white lures—no little jigs, big lures and hooks.

Texas definitely thinks their fish are valuable. It was $16 a day each in license fees for Dan and I to fish. (Kansas non resident is $5.50 a day) It was worth it.  Especially since our friends so graciously let us tag along in their boats.

One thing I've learned on our road trips. When we turn that vehicle toward home, it's like a horse to the barn. I wish we would have taken a little time to drive around Paris, Texas. It looked to be an interesting town. Maybe next time because it was a good thing we hurried home. Only a few miles from the mailbox, the wind turned and the storm begin. Twenty four hours later we were in front of the fire with eight or more inches of snow on the ground.

A notable ending to a memorable trip.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Arizona Valley

Five days in Apache Junction, AZ, would probably hardly be worth the drive for most of the northern winter visitors there the first part of March.  We learn most come in November and stay until April.  Why?  I think they start coming because it is warm but come back to see their friends.  It seems a close knit group.

Warmth was not the main reason for our trip but rather to visit our long time friends Kayzie (Kay to those who have known her less than 45 years) and Lynn who now reside full time in the Apache Junction area.   They made the decision to be full timers because of health reasons, as do many others who suffer pain from cold or changing weather.  

Since catching up with old friends was our mission, we spent a lot of time talking, laughing and reminiscing.   There were a few basketball games and lots of delicious food.  We checked out the huge flea market one afternoon where I was so overwhelmed,  I bought very little.  It is a clean, well run affair, though.  And, fun to be a part of the festive atmosphere.  

One evening we attended the Arizona Opry dinner theater.   These performers are as talented as any popular acts in the country.  Maybe they prefer to stay one place and let the country come to them, which is essentially what happens in the winter months when they have regularly scheduled full house performances.

Lynn found a notice of a Arizona Wildlife and Parks sponsored program at Usery Mountain Regional Park about desert wildflowers.  Since I kept talking about wanting to see the “blooming desert” he drove me out there.  We saw some wildflowers, but we were a bit too early for the total show.  We also hiked about 2/3 of the way to Wind Cave.  It must have been spring break because the trail was full of young kids with their parents.  They put me to shame when I asked to turn around about 2/3 of the way up.  Next time I’ll be in better shape because I want to see that cave.

After we picked up our camper, we parked in the Lost Dutchman State Park  at the base of Superstition Mountain and only a few miles from Kayzie & Lynn’s house .  Each morning the sun rose peeking through crags and set red against the straight up mountain in the desert.   The park has walking trails full of wildlife and birds and it is the base for the hiking trail up the mountain.  However, while there, we learned the park only had a short time before it would be closed because of lack of funding.  I asked the ranger what would happen to the land where the park is located.  He said most likely it would be residential housing.  Very disturbing.

The time went fast and it was a good visit.  But, we have a date with some fish in Texas.  More about that next.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

South from Colorado

As I wrote earlier, we started the trip to Arizona by detouring through Colorado.  We probably would have done that anyway to see our family.  Always a good visit with good food.  Finally after turning over the reins of the Roadtrek, we were able to spend time with Trent and Carly.

Monday morning, after seeing Doug off to work, Trent on the bus and Carly & Drue off for school,  the roadtrip was on.

First stop,  Gallup New Mexico and Route (Root) 66.  We were actually on I 40 but while looking for a motel, got off on the actual road where we found retro mom and pop motels and drive-in eating establishments catering to the diehards. It would be fun to follow the road sometime.  (The two guys in the Vet—what were their names?)  We stayed in a chain, but wished afterward we would have driven up to the door of a room in a line.

Up early, it is off for Payson, AZ to make the deal on the pickup camper.  We felt like we knew the owner after bugging him with questions over the past weeks.  We pretty much purchased the camper sight unseen—rather risky but the pop-up style pickup camper we wanted was not to be found within our price range other than in California.  We left owning our new (to us) digs and a plan for picking it up in a couple days.

The drive from Payson to Apache Junction (suburb of Phoenix) is beautiful.  Snowy mountain vistas called Rim Country.  We comment the name is appropriate after dropping down into the much warmer Phoenix area basin with palms  and Saguaro instead of pines and oaks. 

It doesn’t take long to notice something else—many many other people our age also driving noisy 3/4 ton pickups.  Or beautifully restored retro classic cars.  Think the population of Manhattan or Lawrence when school is in session except elders acting like college kids.  Definitely a upbeat atmosphere.  Lots of playing, laughing and generally enjoying life.

Tomorrow, our stay in the area.