The long road to recovery – Tucson, AZ

First off, a big THANK YOU to everyone, family and friends who have reached out to us, left supporting comments, sent texts and private messages extending warm thoughts and virtual hugs for Steve.  We continue to feel the positive vibes from prayers sent our way and we couldn’t ask for more.

Just when my stress level was at an all-time high after Steve’s operation, Jim and Diana of exploRVistas arrived in Tucson to give me a warm hug and much needed emotional boost. It was our first meeting, and they came at the right moment.

Explore vista
With Jim and Diana

Steve had a 4-hour minimally-invasive robotic surgery that went well.  He was so curious about the robotic surgical system da Vinci used for the surgery that he talked the surgical team into showing him the machine before they put him under.  We learned that the da Vinci system is named in part because Leonardo da Vinci’s study of human anatomy eventually led to the design of the first known robot.

Steve is taking it one day at a time.  With the challenge of surgery behind us, we still have a long way to go.  In a few weeks he will begin his radiation therapy to kill the bad stuff that the surgeon could not remove from the base of his tongue.  At this point we’re glad that chemotherapy won’t be needed – he gets to keep his hair!

Lowes Travels
Following surgery we take twice-daily walks around the RV park

What this means is we’ll be in Tucson through the summer.  It may be sizzling hot here, but Betsy is parked under a towering 28′ high “Power Parasol” solar system, keeping her in the shade at all times.

Lazy Days KOA
Betsy is comfortably tucked in under the solar arrays

The good stuff

The reward for being in southern Arizona beyond winter is that we get to experience the progression of the desert wildflowers in bloom.  So while we were in waiting mode for Steve’s doctor appointments and surgery date we hiked daily to enjoy the remaining cool temps and desert landscape.

Staghorn ChollaWe would usually miss seeing these flowers, as we would be somewhere north by now. Unlike other wildflowers, cacti don’t bloom together in great masses of color.  Different species dominate at different times and vary in their showiness, depending on weather conditions.

Beyond this point the post becomes flowery, so if you don’t like flowers or cactus now is the time to end your reading 🙂

In  March the Ocotillos were showing off spikes of crimson red flowers, to the delight of many birds:


House Finch
House Finch snacking

In early April, the Palo Verde trees turned the Sonoran Desert landscape into a sea of yellow, covering the area with dense blooms:

Palo Verde

Palo Verde

Palo Verde
This tiny bright yellow flower is what covers the Palo Verde trees in a blanket of yellow

The yellow creosote bush blossoms from late February turn into white wooly seedlings ready to be scattered by the wind:

Creosote Bush
The creosote seedlings give an iridescent glow when viewed against the light

Each time we followed a trail we were amazed how plants as spiky and homely as cacti produce such spectacular flowers.  The first one that caught our attention was the Engelmann Hedgehog for its bright beautiful fuchsia flowers:

The Prickly Pear were showing their best as well:

We’re seeing many colors in the desert in mid-April.  The Chollas are starting to display their blooms that range in color from bright red to yellow, pink, green, orange and peachy hues.  During our hikes in past years we never saw a single bud, much less a flower, and we just overlooked these Chollas as just another thorny desert plant.  But this spring we stopped, scrutinized and admired their colorful flowers.

The fuzzy Teddy Bear Cholla has a yellow-green flower
Staghorn Cholla
The top section of this Staghorn Cholla had red flowers, while the lower half had green ones

On the trail we came across the various hues of  Staghorn Cholla blooms:

Jumping Cholla
The nasty Jumping Cholla or Chain Fruit Cholla spreads a bright pink flower!

And now in May, the Ironwood Tree unfolds its beauty with lilac-colored blossoms which are abundant at Tucson Mountain Park.

Iron wood tree flower
Isn’t it pretty!

The Sonoran desert is alive with splashes of colorful desert flower blooms in the spring.  But admiring this beauty comes with a caution.  As temps warm up, the rattlesnakes that have been dormant are awakening, and one of them was waiting for us on the trail:

His appearance reminded us to stay alert!



  1. Thanks for the update on Steve. So glad the surgery is over and you have a shady place to stay for the summer. The desert flowers are gorgeous. Very happy you were able to get out and enjoy the area while waiting. Continuing to send prayers and hugs!

  2. So glad it worked out that we could be there when we were Mona Liza! We are sending loads of good vibes and prayers to Steve and you. Glad you two were able to get that spot under the solar panels!

  3. Praise God surgery went so well!!! Prayers continue for his treatments. The flowers were gorgeous! Who knew? Thanks for the floral education.
    Glad blogging friends were there when you needed them. Love our virtual community!

  4. The desert does offer some of the most interesting and unique beauty. The delicate blooms against the harsh thorny needles are a fascinating contrast. Sending hugs and prayers!

  5. One milestone down (surgery)…one day at a time sounds like a good way to deal with such a difficult situation. Wishing Steve a full recovery and both of you the strength and patience as you negotiate this journey.

    LOVE that we get to see all these desert blooms through your lens!

  6. Thanks for the update. I’ve been checking your site almost daily hoping to hear more. I was happy to see the update in my email this morning. Sending you only good thoughts!! Hopefully you will be quite cool under the shade.

  7. I’m sad to learn about Steve’s health problem. I’m glad the surgery went well and he is on the road to recovery. I love seeing your photos. Big hug for both of you.

  8. If there is a silver lining, being in Tucson for all the blooming cacti sure is it. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous, MonaLiza. So glad that the solar roofing is available for your summer stay. Betsy looks happy:) Stay strong and keep you positive attitude…one small step at a time:)

  9. Great progress so far! So good to here. I’m glad you were able to visit with Jim & Diana. Nice to enjoy the treasures of the desert that most don’t get to see. More hugs for continued progress!

  10. So glad to see the picture of Steve looking well. It is a scary road we know but together you can make it. We spent a summer in Florida without meaning to just like you are in Arizona. We also considered it a chance to see things we would probably never have chosen to see. Glad to see you are looking on the bright side at all the gorgeous blooms. That Ironwood looks like it would have a wonderful smell. We send you both big hugs and lots of strength for the days ahead. Great to hear from you!

  11. Great pictures of a desert coming alive as it moves into a new season.
    Glad Steve is progressively improving. Our thoughts and prayers go out to both of you.

  12. SO glad to hear that Steve is doing well and you have gotten past the stressful surgery. The desert is providing such a soothing outlet for recovery – well sans the snake! Your photos are stunning, what a colorful year it was in the SW.

    WIll continue to send positive energy and wishing Steve a fast recovery.


  13. Beautiful photos! Love the one of the rattlesnake. We have rattlers in parts of Canada (in the Okanagan region of BC, for one) but they’re generally much smaller, and they’re shy and elusive. The one in your photo looks so bold – as if he’s posing for the picture! So cool. Anyway, I wish Steve a quick recovery and excellent health from here on in.

  14. “One day at a time” is a good meditation that will carry you through the journey of Steve’s recovery and healing. Thank you for sharing the beauty of the desert in late spring with us— your photos are gorgeous! The finch on the ocotillo is so cute. You can never post too many flowers or birds for me. 🙂 So glad you have a shady spot to keep you cool. Big hugs to you both.

  15. Hi MonaLiza and Steve. Wonderful news about the surgery. You both have been and will continue to be in our prayers. Surrounded by such beauty surely will be part of the healing. Gorgeous pictures as always. God bless.

  16. Happy to hear that Steve’s surgery went well, and hope the radiation goes smoothly.
    We were in Phoenix much later than usual this year, too, and loved seeing all the blooms. I had no idea the cholla got such pretty flowers on them. Your pictures are fantastic!

  17. Steve looks awesome and so do you MonaLiza. I am thrilled you get to see the desert in bloom this spring…it is amazingly beautiful! Hugs and prayers…

  18. It must be a guy thing. When Kevin has had surgical procedures, he is all about watching what the doctors are doing and understanding the machines. Me? “Knock me out and let me know when you’re done.” Anyway, it sounds like things are progressing as well as can be expected. We are rooting for you guys every day. Stay well.

  19. So very happy Steve’s surgery was a success. He looks great. Praying for continued healing.
    I love seeing the desert come alive.

  20. Although I always love seeing your beautiful photos MonaLiza, and this post is no exception, the best part of this post was hearing the news of Steve’s successful surgery. We are sending prayers your way for successful radiation treatments as well. One day at a time is the best mantra. Big hugs to you both.

  21. Glad to things that the surgery is over and you are at the next stage. Hope everything continues to go well and the heat is not too bearable.

  22. Happy to hear that Steve’s surgery was a success. And keeping the positive vibes going with the wonder of the desert in summer. So many folks don’t realize how beautiful the desert is! Your positive attitude will make the desert heat bearable.

  23. Mona Liza….it’s Linda Hooker….we parked next to you in Tucson last week! I love your blog and your pictures are amazing!! I wish I had of known when we talked that you were a photographer….of course my husband would not have been happy when we were ready to take off and I start a conversation on photography…lol. I am an amateur photographer and I do love to talk to other enthusiasts!! It was so nice to meet you and Steve and I hope we see you again in our travels. I’m keeping you both in my prayers! I know it’s getting really hot in Phoenix but I’m sure you are staying cool in your beautiful motor home there in Tucson.

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