Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tucson, Arizona -- and other interesting things

A friend I met during a Road Scholar trip several years ago told me about this RV resort in Tucson and it sounded so interesting that I had to go and spend a little time there to see if I might not actually go there for a month or more during the cold winter months. This years visit was what I call an exploratory adventure. 
The Voyager RV Resort is rated number one by at least one rating agency and it does indeed seem to be a very well run establishment. It is made up of Permanent mobile homes and casitas; these are smaller mobile homes - one bedroom, bath and kitchen/living room with a pull in carport and a covered patio where one can sit and watch the world go by. The rest of the place is  open area for those land yachts to pull in and spend weeks or months on a pad and when the weather or the mood strikes, off they go to other adventures.
In addition to the living facilities the resort offers a multitude of activities to busy oneself during the day and evening. There is an onsite restaurant and bar --with lots of meet and greet activities and football parties. Then for the physically active there is pickleball, tennis, swimming aerobics, fitness room lots of varying exercise classes. Lots of folks ride bikes here, but if you are in to that, you have to bring your own. Other activities are crafts galore, including jewelry and silversmithing, woodworking, ceramics, several discussion groups, card and domino events and pool shooting for those interested. 
It all sounded great, but since I was staying only a week I found that it was hard to enjoy the activities since most were offered on a 4 or 6 week continuing series basis. Hardly worthwhile for a person staying only one week. So, while there was a lot to be enjoyed, I somehow didn't get the full benefit of it. I did spend the week enjoying all the sites that Tucson and the surrounding area had to offer and so you will be hearing no complaints from me. My little casita was very comfortable and private and allowed me to prepare most of the meals easily in the fully furnished kitchen.

I enjoyed a visit to the Colossal Cave which is  just east of Tucson and the tour was very informative. It is one of the few caves that has a constant temperature of 70 degrees -- I found that to be unusual, since all the other ones I have visited are usually somewhere around 40 or so.

The Sonora Desert Museum is a must see stop in Tucson, if you see nothing else. It is a walkable loop botanical garden - zoo and at each turn you see something else that is just amazing. There were animals which included fox, coyote, javalina, a variety of snakes, 2 separate bird aviaries and lots of cacti. They offered tours and videos as well so one could easily spend an entire day there, but I had other ideas. I timed my visit in mid morning so that I could escape and enjoy lunch at what may be the best Mexican restaurant in Tucson. 

On my other days of exploring I went to Sabino Canyon for a tour and hiking. It was one of the highlights of trip and I also spent an afternoon hiking with friends in the Sagauro National Park West on a five mile loop trail, which was also very nice, but it seemed longer and there were moments that we all thought somewhere along the way we must have made a wrong turn and were assuredly lost. But, in fact, we were always on the trail and really appreciated finding the end. While I saw a lot while I was there, I left quite a few things for perhaps another trip --the Pima air museum, Tombstone and several other interesting places.

Here are the photos
The best Mexican Restaurant that I found while in Tucson was Cafe Poca Cosa located at 110mEast Pennington Street, Tucson, Az. i actually went there three times. The first to discover
 Here I learned that each day the menu is created not once but twice. Generally 2 or 3 chicken dishes 2 beef dishes one fish and one vegetarian. Then you may notice that the bottom of the menu has a selection that is larger that the rest. This allows you to sample three of the chefs choice on one dish. I opted for the chefs choice twice out of my three visits and each meal was superb. The food was so good that I had to stop between bites and just savor the wonderful flavors.
On my first choice I got a cod fish sample in a robust clear sauce, a shredded beef dish and the vegetarian selection of the day. They were all fabulous -- oh you also get a great salsa and chips beans that alone would make a great meal, rice and tortillas. The beer was extra. Ha!
 On my third and last visit, I stopped for lunch on the Saturday before my early morning flight out the next day. I had just finished a week of volunteering at the Bird Sanctuary near Benson and was ready for some really good food. Charlie was my waiter and the first thing he said was "how are you doing today?" me. "well, not so good my phone has no cell service. I showed it to him and he insisted that I use his phone to call ATT to fix whatever the problem was. It required me to go out of the restaurant so I could hear the technician. Well, five minutes later I was all connected and happy as a clam. That is why he is standing there telling me about the menu with his Iphone in his hand. I was really happy to have my phone back in working order. It was a really good thing too, because, little did I know at the time that when I finished my meal I would find my rental car had a flat tire and I would REALLY need a phone.
Alls well that ends well. The flat was fixed in less than an hour and I went back to my hotel one happy camper!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Volunteering at the Oasis Sanctuary -- Somewhere near Benson, Arizona

As a part of my Southwestern sojourn this year, I decided to spend a week at an exotic bird rescue compound. The official name is The Oasis Sanctuary. Getting involved in things that touch my life is a natural for me and so, since I possess a cockatiel it seemed a logical choice. After scouring their website, which is quite robust and informative, I was ready to make the commitment. It took only a short email indicating my interest in volunteering and the specific days I would spend there. Within a day or two, the arrangements had been made and directions received. All that was left was the wait for my departure flight out of XNA.

They are located about one and a half hours southeast of Tucson, Arizona; half of the drive time is spent on a remote partly paved road. You lose cell service around the same time the paving ends. It is just part of the mystic. One could imagine that they are stepping out of civilization, but it isn't true. The facility has all the conveniences that one could desire: satellite TV, internet connection, fully furnished accommodations and a fabulous star show every night. If none of this appeals to you, there is also a fully stocked parrot library for your reading pleasure.

I arrived on a Sunday, late morning. Just in time for lunch as luck would have it. So I unpacked all the food I picked up for the week in Benson and selected something simple for snacking. I was too excited to think about an entire meal. The hour crawled by at a snails pace and ended with the staff meeting at the office/house to pick up laundry (this is an ongoing activity here) and delivery the folks to the staging area.

I got a tour of the facility while the staff jumped into the afternoons work activities. I expected to see exotic birds. I expected that a few would have names that the staff would know. I expected to see some damaged birds. And I did see all of that, but not quite that way.

The birds were housed in flight aviaries (where possible and no further injury could happen) there was one for macaws, female cockatoos, male cockatoos, ring-necks, cockatiels(ok, really, they call this one small bird aviary), African greys, quakers and lories. These aviaries were quite large and had lots of room for flight and places for the birds to naturally 'claim their territory'. They were also equipped with misting devices for cooling (and bathing) in hot weather, heaters and panels that could be opened to allow natural lighting during the day and closed to retain heat during the night. It was becoming quite apparent that the folks here had a very good system for caring for all 750 birds. The birds that had other issues and could not be kept with other birds were in smaller aviaries with few birds or in cages alone or with one other bird considered a mate.

As I toured the facility I learned that while the staff knew practically EVERY birds name, it was clear that I would not match that feat. Each aviary was designed for safety, bird comfort and feeding stations were specific to the breed and different in every case. It gave me great pleasure to see the care and compassion devoted to these abused and abandoned feathered creatures. I did see birds that had been abused and victims of their own self-destruction...feather picking. But most birds seemed well adjusted and quite happy and content to be there. Those that had violent histories are making the best of their remaining lives in smaller quarters. All the birds are greeted by name and examined daily for health condition.

The tour ended and there was not much left to the work day, so I got the job of giving showers to the birds in the barn, behind the food staging area. This is one of the loudest places in the facility, since most of the birds are macaws or cockatoos. I asked which ones liked to shower and was told the birds would let me know. That they did! Those not interested, just walked to the back of the cage. Those that enjoyed it, kept coming back again and again. One African grey came back five times! He REALLY liked it. That was a great way to interface with the birds and get comfortable with them. Comfortable is a relative term. These are wild birds and they can give quite a bite -- so one must stay alert and not provide fodder for aggressiveness. I am happy to report that I spent the week bite free!

During my week I was working in every area of the facility except for the male cockatoos...they are a little too feisty to allow anyone other than staff in. That was ok with me, I had a fabulous view from outside the aviary and could talk with them from my safe position.

The work day is divided into two main sections pulling the dirty food and water dishes, cleaning the stands and replenishing with fresh food and water. This is the morning activity. After lunch the aviary floors and cages are cleaned. The last hour of the day is spent closing the facility and doing a final check on the birds. Each day was a buzz of activity just to get it all done. If I did my nose counting correctly there were only 6 or 7 people on duty each day. So, yes, I pulled dirty dishes and dumped water, I scraped floors of bird doo and helped to hose it down, I brushed trays and wiped them clean for food replacement. I filled gallon upon gallon jug of water for the birds. One day I spent an entire afternoon washing vegetables and fruit which got processed to small pieces and added to food dishes throughout the week. On my last day, they let me feed one section known as Pumpkin (a converted trailer aviary of cages) all by myself! I felt like I was part of the staff. Every day I played with the birds and received so much love that it felt as though every day, all day I was receiving bird love therapy. This was a week of hard work that was so rewarding I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have never met a group of more dedicated and hard-working folks who truly love what they do.

And now...on to the pictures!

I am in my favorite spot -- the small bird aviary and the birds apparently like me too!
Staff member, Lily is preparing food for, I would venture a guess, the African greys. Each species gets a specific blend of seeds and veggies along with nutritional supplements.
Two little sweeties that keep each other company and guard the limb from invaders!
So this seems to be my favorite place, and I had four birds on me and two on the tray. They just can't get enough attention.
Staff member, Amanda sharing some love in the Lorie aviary.
The greys...they really are loving, even though those eyes are a bit piercing!
Cheryl showing a resident cockatoo some love

Okay, really, I think I spent too much time in the cockatiels aviary.

Joe, the Director, feeding the Macaws. Yes, all the bigwigs get down and dirty here!

Two paired Macaws enjoying walnuts together. They didn't need any help getting them open. Keep your fingers away!

Oh, and one last brave bird. There is a duck...named Dottie that has bad feet and wing issues which render it unable to walk, fly or swim. But -- this duck really has it made here. Twice a day a small pool is filled so Dottie can paddle around for 10 to 15 minutes, before being placed in a special lined cat bed so she is comfortable for the day. At night when she is placed in a special protected outside room, lined with towels and dishes placed just so she can eat whenever she feels the urge --she also gets socks on each foot, taped so they stay put, to protect her feet from errant mice that may happen by. Here is here picture just before bedding down for the night. With this pose, I would call her Rocky!