A year later – settled into our new life

Well, yes… since our big move to Wickenburg and becoming permanent desert dwellers. In case you missed my previous post, many things have transpired in our home, our family and our “normal” world. I promised myself that I would resurface in the blog world again when Betsy sold, and at long last she has found a new family and we think she’s in good hands. Betsy was a huge part of our wonderful travel life for eight years, and now it’s their turn to enjoy her. Yeah!

Our remembrance of where Betsy has taken us

Goodbye, Betsy!

Thank you for all the great times on the road.

On a sad note, I lost two brothers last year, one due to COVID19 and the other succumbed to heart failure. We mourned remotely, one of the sad consequences of the pandemic. COVID hit home again this year, sending my brother in law to the hospital for over two months. Thankfully he survived, but lost a leg as a result of complications. The good news is that we are now among the 30% of Arizonians that are fully COVID jabbed.

Fair warning: Since I have not posted for several months this will be a long one with many pictures.

Closing the final chapter in California

We emptied our storage room in Tracy, CA last October, the final goodbye to our former hometown. Opening our storage after eight years was like Christmas day! To cut our driving segments from Wickenburg, AZ to Tracy in half we stayed for two nights at one of our favorite coastal getaways in Cambria, CA. Our trip was during the height of the many fires, and COVID cases were soaring. It was very unusual for me not to see family while there, but those were very unusual times.

Who knew there are wild zebras along the California coast?
Smoke from inland fires blew all the way to the coast

Home Improvements

Back at our homestead, the long list of upgrade projects began. We managed to tick off many items from our list to transform the house into our own home. Except for hiring a contractor for major work requiring professional tools, Steve kept himself busy as a painter, roofer, plumber, electrician, cable guy, carpenter and everything in between. He loved every minute of it, getting back to his old handyman self once he had all of his tools from California. Fortunately he also had his lovely assistant to help when she wasn’t working on her own projects 🙂

The work we did spanned several months. We experienced delays, backlogs, lack of or low supply of materials and availability of contractors and landscapers. COVID really took its toll, but as new homeowners with nowhere to be, we patiently waited.

Fortunately the redesigned WordPress has an “image compare” function which is perfect for showcasing our “before and after” home improvements. Drag the arrows left to right to see the changes on the following pictures:

The kitchen got new appliances, counters, sink, backsplashes and paint
Guest Bathroom (also Steve’s bathroom)
Cutting a hole in the wall for our french doors
Great room facing the front door
Great room facing the new office
If you visit us you’ll be sleeping here

The “Hideout

Steve decided to convert the separate garage structure that came with the house into a gym/music room. He had missed his gym while we were living on the road for eight years, and saw an opportunity to convert it into his “hideout”. He worked on it for several weeks before installing a full-on HoistFitness gym. Now he starts his “torture routine” every morning at 5AM while I’m still snoring. The downside is that I walk mostly by myself now for my exercise, as the gym is his primary workout.

My “She-shack”

Not to be outdone, I have my own digs to do my gardening chores and a place to store our outdoor stuff. This turned into an involved project, as we had to order a lot of gravel to build up a foundation for the building. It was great to have a neighbor with a backhoe and loader to help set up the site, then we had the pre-built dorm style building installed. Steve decided to insulate, sheetrock, texture and paint it as a pet construction project. I think he went a bit overboard, but I’m very happy with the results!

Our Health

We were so engrossed with our indoor/outdoor projects that we didn’t realize we were inhaling undesirable fungus from the soil. Both of us have been diagnosed with Valley Fever, a fairly common issue for those living in Arizona. Valley Fever is an infectious lung disease caused by the inhalation of airborne particles of the fungus Coccidioides, which is found in the southwestern United States. The spores are carried in dust particles from the soil by the wind when the desert soil is disturbed. Being a Filipino I’m at a higher risk of contracting it. If you live in the southwest and have unexplained symptoms (cough, headache, weight loss, fever) you should mention it to your doctor, because many doctors are not very aware of it. They don’t normally test for it, but a simple blood test will tell and you can request it.

At first I thought I had COVID because my initial symptoms were a severe cough and fever, but thankfully the COVID test came back negative. Ordinarily I would have been happy losing weight, but when I shed 8 lbs in a month without even trying and had consistent headaches my anxiety level rose. During this time I was still able to function and continued to work on my projects. It wasn’t until Steve had his routine CT scan that we were prompted to see our primary doctors.

Steve’s Valley Fever diagnosis was detected by chance when his routine neck CT scan showed a nodule on his lung. So in February his oncologist ordered another round of CT and PET scans and a needle-aspiration lung biopsy to see what that shadow on his lung was. You can imagine what went through our heads while waiting for the result! Thankfully it was determined to be a small residual patch that turned out to be Valley Fever, and not a malignancy. Whew, not cancer!

Also, after Steve’s cancer doctor in Tucson scoped, poked and felt around his neck he was given a clean bill of health. Alleluia!

After taking the anti-fungal meds for six weeks we’ve been cleared of Valley Fever and are in the best of health.

Weather

It’s a given that we’ll be roasting during the summers in Wickenburg. In fact, 2020 broke a record with 145 straight days of over 100 degrees. But what surprised us was that we got snow in January, an unusual event here. While it only lasted for a couple of hours, I enjoyed it and will remember it when we hit 100º degrees again soon:

Yup, 145 straight days of triple digits

I savored the snow as Steve just rolled his eyes
The birdies didn’t mind!
This is what I imagine now during our hot morning walks, and it cools me off!

Hikes

During the busy weeks and months when we were focused on our home, we limited ourselves to our daily walks around the neighborhood at dawn. Once we were mostly done with our projects and the weather was decent, we re-hiked the Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial Trail in Yarnell, AZ. This was our first serious hike in over a year, and with an elevation gain of 1699′ over 7 miles we were huffing and puffing, and I was sore the next day. I wrote a detailed post about the Hotshot Trail here.

While in Tucson we made a day out of Steve’s Dr. appointment by doing another hike, the Finger Rock Short Route trail. It was a beautiful spring morning and the saguaros gave us a standing welcome while the Ocotillos were in full bloom.

On other occasions we shared two area trails with our friends Hans and Lisa. One was on the state land just across the street from our house, and the other a more serious venture up to Vulture Peak:

Our resident and visiting feathered friends would be unhappy if I didn’t insert some of them on this post. These were all taken from behind our glass window, my private bird blind.

Friends and family

We weren’t totally isolated during this time, even though our socializations were far and few between:

In springtime the first color to burst in the desert is yellow – the Palo Verde and Mesquite trees. Even in dry years they give us a great display:

Just recently we were excited to have new neighbors move into town. Dave and Sue, who really gave us a push to check out Wickenburg, recently found their own home here! That exciting event called for a celebration, along with Steve’s clean bill of health, Dave’s improving back issue and Betsy’s sale:

What’s next?

The era of RV travel is now closed for us, and forever fondly etched in our memories. With most COVID restrictions lifting we are going to do some mini road trips this summer, and if 2022-2023 are good “new normal” years then our plans call for a bit of international travel.

We are hopeful!

Categories: Arizona, Where we have been

Tagged as: ,

21 Comments »

  1. If you get the bug to RV again, you could consider renting an RV in a foreign country. My wife and I have done this for month long trips to New Zealand, Australia, and Scandinavia. Each trip worked out well.

  2. That was an incredible post! ML, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your brothers and brother-in-law. I lost my brother in January and it has been pretty rough so I can’t imagine how you are coping. Doing tons of home projects seems like a great way to keep your mind busy for sure. Steve, I am thrilled that you have a clean bill of health – praise the Lord! Although, I’m sorry to hear that you both had valley fever. Len had it when we were in Arizona and he was super sick, struggling to even cross the room. It’s good that you are telling people to tell their doctors that they visited the Southwest if they get sick as VF is not something medical folks would think to check on in other parts of the country. I must say, your home and its location are absolutely beautiful. I’m so happy for you both! Bonus that Steve gets his hideout gym and music room, and ML gets a she-shack! Woo hoo! I also wanted to mention that the “before and after” photo feature is really cool. Len and I are now in Huntsville, Alabama, and are awaiting the build of our dream home. I think this is it for us – finally! The people here are so friendly and it is very pretty too. Not too big or too small – a Goldilocks city as far as size. The growth here is quite remarkable and we were lucky that we made it here just before it got crazy to even get a home! Thanks again for your great post – it was really enjoyable! Take care and happy future travels! Carla B. 😀

    • Carla it is so great to hear from you. You are now in Alabama? We had visited Hunstville in the past, with Betsy of course. I am now super careful when working in the yard. When there is just a bit of wind, I just go inside and hide. We are just glad we caught it at its early stages and the fungus has not done damage it.
      You guys also take care. Too bad we won’t be heading to Alabama anytime soon, we could have a reunion! But if you come and visit AZ, be sure to give us a call.

  3. So nice to see an update post and get to check in on all you’ve been up to this past year. How the time has flown! We’re so sorry about the losses you’ve endured. It’s been such a tough thing – the losses compounded by not being able to spend time with loved ones. Hopefully things are really improving and there is real light at the end of this tunnel. Your home looks fabulous and I LOVE the slider feature. It really shows off all your hard work. I’ve now heard of Valley Fever from several folks who were surprised by it in Arizona. Such a strange thing. I’m glad you’re both back to feeling better and have so much to look forward to with good friends close by! Stay well and we look forward to seeing you all next time we roll through AZ!!

    • We were hoping you would go by AZ on your way to the east but… maybe sometime soon. I think our projects kept us sane from all the bad, sad and negative news around the world. Zooming is now the in thing no only for meetings but also for grieving.

  4. So sorry to read about the loss of your brothers. Hope your BIL is able to make a good recovery from the virus. This virus has been something I hope we never experience again. Glad to hear you and Steve recovered from Valley Fever without any lingering side effects. I had a doctor give me info on this when we first arrived in Arizona. I’d never heard of it prior. I can only imagine the stress of waiting after the doctors found a spot on Steve’s lung. Good to hear all is going well now with both of you. Thanks for sharing so many photos of all your hard work. Your new home is looking wonderful. You two have been very busy making it your own. Someday we will get there to see it in person!!!

  5. Good to hear of your doings. We’re selling our 5th Wheel and soon to sell our Ram BigHorn dually, but for a good reason. We’re going to Norway for 18 months and we didn’t want to store the rig and truck for that period of time.
    However, when we return we’ll probably become snowbirds between Wisconsin and Arizona and use a travel trailer instead.
    Our Facebook group is OwenTrek (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2192111427726277)

  6. Wow, you have been busy! I was just on your blog last week looking to see what camera you use. The house looks great, we have been busy working working on our own house and wish we were as far along as you. The before and after thing is really cool!

    • Hey Jim, except for the Zebra and bird photos, the rest are taken by my iphone12 pro. I have to over to your barn and see how far you have done. I have been out of the blog world.

  7. Although we’ve stayed in touch with you guys over this past year, it’s really fun to see this update post. All that you’ve accomplished is remarkable—you two are seriously talented! And seriously hardworking. We need to get busy here in Florida, LOL! You make us look like slackers.

    It’s so cool to see your before and after photos—I love the colors you chose and the changes you made. Adding those French doors to open up the office was a brilliant idea. And you both have your own private hideouts and your own bathrooms! Does that have anything to do with living in a motorhome for eight years, haha?

    I know I’ve told you this when we’ve talked, but I’m so deeply sorry that you suffered so much loss in your family during the pandemic. I’m glad you guys are doing well, and that you’re healthy and happy in your beautiful new home. We’re looking forward to visiting you there. Much love to you both, Laurel & Eric

  8. Great update and photos. Thanks for sharing. It sounds like you two are enjoying your new life in your new home.

  9. Hooray, the comment section is back!

    The photo-enhanced map you had made of your RV life still impresses me. I have an idea for one I want to make in the future, but we won’t have all the states filled in like you!

    So glad to hear Betsy found new owners. They are sure to make many more happy traveling memories with her.

    Many condolences for the family losses you’ve had over the past year. Long distances and travel restrictions didn’t make that any easier, I’m sure. Zoom-grieving isn’t optimal, of course, but thankfully it exists for folks to “gather” the best they can.

    Having all those home projects surely helped keep your minds and bodies occupied, and what fabulous results! Everything looks so good, and I know you’re both enjoying your spaces and hobbies. Your in-house bird blind is still one of my favorite areas of your new digs. When will you be putting in a pool? 😀

    Sorry about the Valley Fever — yikes! Glad you’re both recovered well and that Steve has an otherwise clean bill of health to boot.

    Thanks for the nice, long blog post. I’ve missed them so much since you came off the road. We’ll video chat soon, I hope!

    • No pool! I blame WP for the missing comment block 🙂 . This was my first post using the new Block editor. Thank you for all the nice and kind words. Indeed we drowned ourselves with project so can push out all the sad and negative news. We became zoomable with family and friends.

  10. Hi MonaLiza – great update and photos of your new home. You & Steve have done a great job. Any chance you will be completing the World Cruise. We initially thought about 2025, but ended up booking the Viking 2023 World Cruise. Lots of our fellow pax from 2020 also coming.

    • Hi Andy, thank you, the home projects were good distractions from the pandemic. All three of our cruises this year has been cancelled but able to rebook it for next year. For 2023 we are doing the Seven River Cruise in Europe for 46 days. (equivalent to a World Cruise, but just in Europe).