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!
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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:
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:
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!