Our Summer 2012 Catch Up Letter

Hello Family & Friends,

We have been out of touch, but you have not been out of mind.  Life just seems to fly away taking us with it, especially in this last year or so.

The last year saw MaryAnne’s Brother and family located to Singapore to work for the next few years.  Meaning her Mom Jean is now on her own in Boise ID.  So, we spent much of last summer there keeping company and participating with Mom in some of her activities.

In addition, Ray has had a couple of long bouts of bronchitis.  Each lasting 5 to 6 weeks.  It slowed him down quite a bit.  He sure hopes for better health in the upcoming year!!

Travel wise, we wintered last and this year in the same NW Phoenix area, still enjoying our resort.  Ray is able to play and compete in Billiards tournaments.  And MaryAnne is active with her Unitarian Universalist Church.  We also participated in winter RV club rallies in the desert of Quartzsite Arizona, which we very much enjoy.  Getting together with friends and making new ones there is always a treat.  Then there are the endless outdoor shopping opportunities!

Last spring, we made our way back north to Colorado for visits with old hometown friends and those yearly medical appointments; then up to Idaho for the summer.  We did enjoy a couple of get-aways, one we left the RV in Boise and spent a wonderful very long weekend in McCall Idaho on Payette Lake.  A beautiful mountain lake area.  Next, we took the RV and drove to the Bend Oregon area, visiting friends in communities both north and south of the city.  Visited the John Day Fossil Beds area along the way as well.  Again, fabulous scenery.  Central Oregon is very desolate, with starkly beautiful mountain ranges and canyons.

Just after Labor Day we left Boise and traveled south through Utah.  We visited the City of Rocks area in Southern Idaho.  An area of strange erosions incredibly old.  We also stopped in at the Golden Spike Monument.  The location of the meeting of the west and east bound railroad.  Terrific history for train buffs in such an unlikely out of the way barren area.

We visited friends along the Salt Lake City corridor.  And took in the Binghamton Open Pit Mine.  The mine has over 500 miles of roads in it!  Enormous!!

After all the city activity, we enjoyed the incredible peace and beauty of some of the National Parks of Utah.  We visited Cedar Breaks, Bryce Canyon and Zion.  Wow!  While in Southern Utah, we also visited a dinosaur track museum in St. George.

From that area, we entered Northern Arizona.  We visited some of the natural wonders in the Arizona strip country then headed for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Double Wow!!  Neither of us has been there before.  We camped at Jacob Lake and drove to the rim for daily visits.  The raw beauty there is so different from the South Rim.  We very much enjoyed our time there.  Heading South to Flagstaff we also stopped to drive along the Grand Canyon of the Little Colorado River on the Navajo Indian Reservation.  As well as a visit to the Wapatki Indian Ruins.

Ray dropped MaryAnne off in Flagstaff for a nice weekend with a gathering of some of her high school day’s girlfriend group.  It was a terrific reunion.  The ‘girls’ toured some of the area and included a trip up the chairlift at the Arizona Snow Bowl ski area north of Flagstaff.  Now that was some high altitude fun!

In December, MaryAnne flew to Boise to visit with Mom Jean, and help coordinate an 85th Birthday party for her.  It was a wonderful time of family and friends!  An extra wonderful happening, her Brother and family were in town a while from Singapore taking care of family business, visiting and stocking up on provisions that are unavailable or priced outrageously in Singapore.  It was great to see them and hear more of their adventures.

From April 12 to May 6th, MaryAnne was on another type of travel adventure.  She traveled with girlfriend Sue and Sue’s family on an Atlantic cruise from Fort Lauderdale Florida, stopping in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Barcelona, Majorca, Provance, Florence and ending in Rome.  The group remained in Rome for a couple of days.  Then fly to London for five days.  Touring all of those beautiful places was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of MaryAnne’s.  It was even more than she ever expected.  In addition, the ocean cruise included a balcony suite for just sitting and watching the Atlantic Ocean go by!  And then an early morning up to watch as they sailed thru the Straits of Gibraltar.  Wow!

In England, Sue and family spent their time with their British family in Oxford, outside London.  MaryAnne enjoyed another set of new adventures, this time on her own.  Besides enjoying the London city area, she toured some of the West Country visiting Stonehenge, Bath and Salisbury Cathedral (the home of one of the editions of the Magna Carta).  An unexpected bonus was the ability to travel to Paris for a very long day via the Eurostar train under the English Channel—the ‘Chunnel’ train!!  What an awesome day she experienced visiting the Eiffel Tower, enjoying a boat ride on the Seine River and seeing master works of art at the Louvre.  Wow!

While MaryAnne was away enjoying her first cruise, Ray enjoyed riding his dirt bike in the desert and then flying to Salt Lake City to spend some time with guy friend Jan.  The two then road tripped back to Phoenix in time for MaryAnne’s return.  Ray was not along on the cruise; he much prefers dry land.

We left Arizona soon after MaryAnne’s return.  This summer may bring a trip to South Dakota.  We are examining the possibility of changing our state of residence to that good State.  It has many advantages for folks like us who travel full time and have no permanent location.  We will keep you posted on that.

In the mean time, we are enjoying visiting with MaryAnne’s Mom in Boise, ID after a very enjoyable drive north thru eastern Nevada.  We visited a bit of the so-called extra-terrestrial areas and watched the amazing eclipse while in Cathedral Gorge State Park.

Life is great, full and productive.  We wish you all the best and look forward to hearing of your travels too.  Much love and hugs to all.

Back to Phoenix for a Month

We’re back in Phoenix and both of us have a big ‘to do’ list, besides having fun.  We got here this past Friday.  Already starting to exercise again in the gym at Paradise RV resort, where we’re staying, and went to a country western class and dance.  MaryAnne wants more.  We may go to other dance classes while we’re here.

I fixed my motorcycle clutch that failed about 10 days ago and am buying new tires — the old ones are pretty worn out.  Should start riding again later this week.  The weather is warming significantly and the odds are now good that I’ll see rattle snakes out in the desert riding areas now.

Starting to play pool again — got quite rusty after a 2 month layoff.  I hope to get in some competitive play soon.

We had some excitement the other day — a mini-tornado (maybe a big dust devil is more accurate) came through our part of the RV park.  MaryAnne jumped up and barely closed our big power awning in time, but our neighbor was gone and had left hers out and it was destroyed.  It knocked down our satellite dish on a tripod, but otherwise we escaped any damage.  Whew!

Note: we stayed in an Escapees park between Kingman and Phoenix for two days.  The scenery on that drive turned out to be surprisingly good, including a stretch of joshua tree forest more dense than Joshua tree national park!  And the Escapees park (North Ranch) had a wonderful catcus park.  It was very serene and had many happy chirping birds and the state’s oldest known cactus that stands about 45 feet tall.  Methusela dates to about 1600 AD.


Catch Up – Jan – Feb

Life gets away from us sometimes (also as you will see below, connections have been problematic in the great American outback). Economy in some areas we have been at has been pretty awful. El Centro has about 24% unemployment, yup. However, lots of alternative economy goes on there.

We visited a very safe border town–10 miles east of Yuma AZ. Algodonas MX, maps have some other name, but that is it’s newer one. Lots and lots of Americans go there for American quality dental and optical work. Food is safe their–even I ate there ok. Bought MX manufactured (at least not India or China) drugs with no prescriptions. I felt like I was buying illegal stuff on a street corner I am so FDA trained. But these were all very nice pharmacies. Below is a compilation since leaving El Centro (we were there a week) and after Quartzite AZ (in the desert for 2 weeks) and after leaving Phoenix January 14th:

Joshua Tree National Park was awesome. Wow, so much to see. One day we put on 150 miles and felt we had barely seen anything! We also got the downpour on one day, so had an at home kind of day, some r&r from the touristing. We really enjoyed the place. No civilization though–no mail service to the visitor center, no phone, no Internet. Campgrounds only 1/4 to 1/3 full. Very quiet and low key. ! Lots of remote dirt roads for Ray to dirt bike ride and explore the desert landscape; Ray is starting to learn to ride in sandy washes & roads. We want more! We were there about a week and it seemed too short

After that we went to Lake Havasu City for a week. Verizon and a local company are locked in court fights we were told, therefore service was poor again. Occasionally I could maybe read email but not compose or reply or even delete. And if we got a connection it could disappear in seconds. All this was tough on people used to instant service. Amazing how we have gotten so dependent. Then the phone service–would cut out at whim on a regular basis so we kept it to short and necessary and had best luck only with local calls.

In LHC we visited with Neil’s brother Craig and wife Marilyn. Did lots of catching up and enjoyed their company. Camping in LHC we spent the first nite in Lowe’s parking lot, then 3 nites at a basic time-share type RV park (for the price of having to endure the sales pitch for 1 3/4 hour–we hardly did anything, nor had any real discussion but he knew we weren’t to be swayed so it was over pleasantly). The price for that was total $19.95 for the 3 nites. Compared to the upwards of $40-50 per nite we would have had otherwise in town. So that stay got us all set up for about 4 days in a fabulous BLM “dispersed” camping area just barely north of LHC called Craggy Wash. Scenery there is beautiful and dirt riding was to be had right out the door!

Also while in LHC we were able to visit a bit with more former Flagstaff friends, Terri and Bob Kline. We only could spend a very long lunch into the afternoon, but reestablished an important connection for us.

In LHC we took the ferry across the lake (free courtesy of free casino coupons from the resort park, otherwise the charge is $3 per person); went out to drive around Pittsburgh Point; bought the rest of my seasonal herbs at Lowes (now planted in pots), had a great lunch at Thai Nakarin on McCulloch Blvd. Very yummy. Then we moved on last Friday afternoon to base in Kingman AZ for 6 days.

Sunday March 1st we drove west to Lake Mohave, on the most southern area of Lake Mead rec area. Fabulous mountain scenery over the two passes on Hwy 68 in about 30 miles. Had a cove and marina all to ourselves for a bit (Princess Cove). Sat on the boat dock and put my feet in the cold clear water. Felt great. We also drove down the block (about literal) to Laughlin NV to check out the retiree hoopla about the area. Mini Las Vegas to us, not as opulent but certainly quite a bit of the gambling and show action. LOTS of places for RVers to park. One is actually on the AZ side, Davis Camp Mohave county campground. They have a line of spaces facing the Colorado River, with palm trees and cabanas at each spot. And lots of openings (economy I’m sure). Wow. $25 per day is a great deal, their $400 for a month is a steal – maybe next year we’ll stay there.

At the Riverside Casino we pulled in and spent lots of time at an amazing (and free) antique car show they have ongoing. Some cars change out periodically and some are for sale and some are art pieces really. What a gorgeous sight! Took too many car pictures. There was a 1938 Cord–red, convertible racing type car that we coveted. We don’t gamble, so we are on the look out for alternative offerings in such locations.

The day before we took route 66 east toward Grand Canyon Caverns, for the drive and a picnic (and restroom). Figured to not do the caverns tour (still glowing from Kartchner Caverns AZ). About 1 1/2 mile from the caverns parking lot the truck in front of us blew out a tire. They were dolly towing a car too. Never have we seen a tire destroyed so badly, amazing. Well, that is a very very deserted area (about 9 miles east of Peach Springs) and they (John and Mary) are from Michigan. We stayed with information, trip to the caverns for bathroom and coffee and company till the tow got worked out. We actually all had a good time together. Very very nice people. You never know how or where you may bump into good folks. It took 5 hours to get a tow, from Seligman (about 20 miles) to them!! Way to go AAA. We said our goodbyes at that point. Gave them our card to hear how it all turns out for them. Likely getting towed to Flagstaff–106 miles. What a day for them. We drove our 60 miles back to Kingman and went out to dinner.

Day before that we drove out to old mining town/now touristy Oatman AZ and fed carrots to the wild burros–took lots of pix. Place looks the same now as it did when MaryAnne was there in 1977. Then drove back thru Kingman and drove up to Hualapai Mountain Park (saw snow) (and overheated the car on the 12% up grade). The mountain is about 8330 feet and stands over Kingman.

Well that’s the last few days after leaving LHC. We are having a home day–tired! In the afternoon we went out to the very comprehensive Mohave County history museum and the Route 66 Museum. Mohave museum has great Indian and Pioneer history and seemed to have endless display rooms! The Route 66 museum covers the Mother Road from early Spanish days. It includes a very moving section focusing on the dust bowl days and the grapes of wrath era travelers. Very heart wrenching. So its not all getting your kicks on Route 66. So if you are in the area or could be, it is certainly worth the stop to check out both of these great museums.

Wednesday we are driving to Congress AZ to stay 2 nites at an RV park that is in our Escapees Club membership. They are extremely basic–but camping is only $5 per nite. We’ll hang out in the desert and look at scenery. Then on Friday we are back at the Paradise Resort in Phoenix for a month, then a week wandering, then about 10 days in Albuquerque for the National Good Sam Club convention. Then eventually back in Denver area about first of May for about a month. Then heading up north Boise bound.

Oh, you may ask why in the world were we in El Centro CA of all places; well I have a dear friend, Sue and her husband Lorenzo and Sue’s adult son Jason, who I also knew from Flagstaff days. While there he was an evaluator of a ‘mock trial’ high schools do like debate team and such (Lorenzo is a state attorney). We went to watch and had a great time and had lots of questions for Lorenzo about court process and strategy afterward. We also toured up to Salton Sea, a neat date tree farm (was there twice, I love dates), and Palm Springs. In Palm Springs we had dinner at a restaurant right next to the town statue of Sonny Bono. And while there it was the nite of the week for the town street fair. Imagine one nite every week vendors not cars line the streets of this busy place. Ray made it out to the Superstition Mountain BLM land for dirt riding several different days; learned about riding in desert sandstorms (don’t do that again!) and watched the Blue Angels practice flying overhead.

We have adjusted to the current economy by driving some less (which is no hardship, there is still toooooo much to see and do along the way) and staying more creatively in less expensive places (again no hardship–and we have had better scenery and views).

Christmas Letter 2008

Here’s the text of the letter we sent:

Hello Everyone!

Christmas Day 2008

What an amazing year of transition we experienced!  First, we eliminated or stored most of our possessions, finished beautifying our already wonderful home better  than new, put it on the market & sold in 3 days!  In a very down market!  Sound easy?  It was an immense project with lots of help.  MaryAnne’s Brother Gerard & family even flew in from Boise to help for a week.  We are forever grateful to them & also friends Linda & Scott for their special gifts of support.  They helped us reach our dream.  Oh, thanks to the modern business world, the house sale & closing were completed all the while we were already on the road.  Pretty swift.  (And it sold to the perfect family for the house.)

We have traveled & visited & seen amazing things in the last 6 months.  We have visited some of South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico & now Arizona.  We sometimes travel every day 50 – 150 miles, or  stay for a few weeks.  Our longer stays have been Boise ID, back in the Boulder area, Albuquerque & now Phoenix.  Places we visited include Yellowstone, Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Devil’s Tower, Bandelier, Petroglyph, Salinas Missions, Timpanogos,  Dinosaur, Saguaro, Casa Grande, Craters of the Moon, Rocky Mtn Park  & Great Sand Dunes.  Those are just the National type places.  Then there are many many State & Local sights.  One that stands out for us is Karchner Caverns in AZ; a fabulous living cave system.  Along the way we have included visits with friends in many places.  So if we haven’t knocked on your door, watch out, we may soon! J

We arrived in the Phoenix area before Thanksgiving & leaving early in January.  Enjoying the warm temps & no shoveling snow!!  Seeing sights, catching up with friends that we can & taking care of the usual necessaries like dental & eye doctor appointments.  Next stop?  South & West we go (or so)!

We still don’t have a routine handle on our balzerfreespirit.com web site, but finally have the time to work on it.  We should be uploaded with lots & lots of pictures very soon.  Ray is running tests & working with our web guru to get it right this time.  Please check it soon.   Oh, the pix below was on July 5th at Rushmore; decked out in our RV convention gear.  We are very happy in the RV lifestyle; love living & traveling in our Alfa Leisure See Ya.  We are home any place we park.  The views out our windows have been fabulous.  We smile a lot.  Life is good.  Well, take care everyone & lots of love all around.  The best of the season and Happy New Year!!       –Ray & MaryAnne

First Letter From April, 2008

We sent a letter last year and thought we’d put the first part here on the web site that we’re going to start using.  Here’s that letter from April 2008:

Hello Dear Family & Friends!!!

Yes, we are still here.  We apologize holiday greetings never made it to you the last couple of years.  We seem to catch bad winter colds November to December.

Broad brushing of our happenings, MaryAnne ‘graduated’ from Social Security this October after 32+ years (yahooo!); & in November Ray successfully passed the very intensive 2-year study program in Certified Financial Planning.  Prior to that MaryAnne had more health problems in ‘07 with hospitalizations & 2 surgeries during the 2nd one.  With Ray’s colds-with-no-end it was one challenging year.

And just to make life even more exciting we are in the process of tearing our lives literally from the foundations & moving into our new RV to travel full-time.  Yes, we are going to join the retiree nomads on the open road—big rig & all!  A very major life changer.  Except for a full storage container 5 x 7 x 8ft already shipped to Seattle, to be near Suzann & Mark, if it doesn’t fit in the RV it’s disposed of—in one of oh soooo many ways.  Ray said recently it’s like disposing of our ‘estate’ while we are still alive.  Both an amazingly freeing & scary experience—quite exhilarating.

The new ‘rig’ is a 38ft Alfa Leisure brand, model ‘See Ya’; the kind that looks like a bus.  We will tow our Jeep Cherokee & carry Ray’s motorcycle dirt bike on the back.  Quite a set up.  So much to learn—even the awning has a remote control.  Oh, & a diesel engine that fills 100 gallons, as if we could afford that much at a time right now.

Short-term plans are to get the house ready to go on the market (yes, the Longmont market is way down).  We have some local camping out coming up & an RV convention in Gillette WY in June (with side bus trips to Rushmore, Devils Tower, & the Badlands).  We also hope to be in Winterpark CO to visit with friends (from Montana) who will be attending a family reunion there in August.  Winter plans will probably take us to the Phoenix AZ area & other places around the state.