Week two @ BTA

Sunday November 28th 2021

So, after our first week of training, and surviving our first full day at admissions on our own, we were thrilled to have four days off in a row, this is partially because the American Thanksgiving is this Thursday and the arboretum will be closed and apparently, we should be prepared for a very busy weekend, it would seem that everyone comes out to the arboretum to walk off their Thanksgiving feast. So, we will be doubled up with another couple on admissions for most of the Friday and Saturday shift. And we were given the opportunity to sort of pick out the shifts that we wanted to work and we choose to work the longer shifts which means that we will work three longer days each week and then have four off, which simply frees up more time for our exploration of the surrounding area.

So it’s Monday and we ventured into the metropolis of Phoenix so Miss Laurie could get some new running shoes at an outlet mall in Glendale, and luckily we were close by a Costco so we stopped to see if they had any of the Kirkland Irish Cream and they did, we have been waiting over twenty months to get some, as it has become a staple for us when in the States. It’s as good as Bailies or maybe even better than the original, and we were able to purchase four 1.75 litre bottles for the same price as one 1.75 litre bottle of Bailies back home in Canada.

When we got back to the arboretum on Monday afternoon, we decided to start our exploration of the Wallace Desert Garden, this garden was not open when we visited the arboretum in March of 2020. This garden has been moved here from the Scottsdale area, and involved over five years of planning and work to make it happen, and it officially opened in October of 2020, and is truly a magnificent collection of arid plants and a great addition to the arboretum.

A little history is required here, the Wallace family a multi-generation of farmers from Iowa fell in love with the Arizona desert and purchased property located in the community of Sincuidados in North Scottsdale, the Wallace Gardens were home to thousands of arid plants and millions of memorable moments. Ranking among the world’s largest collections of cacti and succulents, the Wallace Gardens featured 12 acres of cultivated gardens and six acres of natural vegetation, with plants native to the Southwest U.S., Mexico, South and Central America, Australia, the Arabian Peninsula, Madagascar and Africa.

Many of America’s oldest and finest botanical gardens were created by individuals who had two things in common. First, an immense love for nature, plants and gardens. Second, the financial wherewithal to create something “larger than life.” the Wallace Gardens was among this class of gardens.

At the same time, the Wallace Gardens was different than most private gardens for two significant reasons. For one, it is a garden devoted to plants from arid lands and deserts. Even more unusual is the fact that it was created so recently, in the 1980’s.

The founders of Wallace Gardens, Henry B. and Jocelyn Wallace, moved to Arizona in the early 1980’s and immediately fell in love with the desert. The Wallace Gardens is a testament to that love affair, a botanical paradise that was inspiring to all who come to visit.

Henry, H. B. as he was known to his friends, was an extraordinary horticulturalist drawn to the amazing resilience of cacti and succulents and their ability to survive in the harshest of environmental conditions. Jocelyn loved the beauty of the succulent plants, desert trees and bushes, all with their glorious floral displays. Together they created a spectacular 12 acre garden of arid land plants from across the globe.

So why move the Wallace Garden to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum? Well that was a multi-point decision, while both the Wallace Garden and Boyce Thompson Arboretum were both 501c3 nonprofits and in 2008 during the financial collapse that effected much of the American economy, the foundation set up for the garden started to fail when interest rates plummeted and also because of the community the garden was located in it was not able to charge an admission fee so was now having to draw on the foundations principal, which would lead to an eventual bankruptcy, as well as ongoing climate changes were effecting the garden itself. The BTA receives twice as much rainfall a year as the gardens, and while at close to the same elevation, the overnight temperatures were cooler at BTA which give the plants the overnight relief they need from the extreme Arizona sun, and in the Superior area there are fewer sever hard freezes each year.

Not only did BTA need to design a new garden, it had to transplant 5,870 plants. Beginning in December 2015, most of H.B.’s collection was moved the 75 miles from north Scottsdale to BTA—by truck, car and semi. Logan Simpson Architects, Native Resources International, the Wallace Desert Gardens Board and staff, and Boyce Thompson Arboretum all collaborated to bring the mammoth endeavor to completion. The team developed and designed a 13-acre garden with 1.5 miles of new trails, and a bridge over Queen Creek.

Tuesday has turned out to be an overcast day in Arizona so the expected high temperature today will only be 75°F (24°C) as compared to yesterday’s mid 80’s (high 20’s). Today is going to be a special day as we are expecting Bob & Corrine, some of our fellow Canadian Full-timer family to visit us at BTA, they crossed the border a few days after us and are working their way toward Quartzsite Arizona for the winter via the more southern Texas route. And they have come to the arboretum at our recommendation, now we hope they enjoy it even just a portion of how much we do, as we fell in love with it back in 2020. One of the first things that they commented on was how different the landscape is in this area, and that was one of the things we have grown to love so much about Arizona, is the diversity, with a climate or a terrain that would meet everyone’s expectations.

This flowering plant is called a Baja Fairy Duster and since our arrival it has hosted a collection of insects and humming birds feasting on its nectar, and although having what seems like a never ending supply of honey bees their only interest is the plant. The desert has hundreds of leafy plants that have adapted to the extreme heat by having either very small leaves or heavy waxy leaves to reduce their moisture loss.

Miss Laurie has also started the clean-up of the gardens in front of our site, which are full of Aloes and other arid plants, and while somewhat a low maintenance garden, they have obvious been left neglected for some time, which will help fill Miss Laurie’s down time as well as fill her “need to weed” which is a very real thing in Miss Laurie’s world, as many of you already know. While I have starting to read up on the history of BTA for another blog, and I’m now learning about the many different stages the Arboretum has transformed through as it progressed.

Welcome to Wednesday, day three of our four days in a row off, Miss Laurie is all scratched up from her gardening experience yesterday but luckily there was lots of aloe nearby to soothe her wounds. We were on the road at 8am this morning, off to a Walmart in Mesa, Miss Laurie had a list of needed items and we decided that if we going it was best to go early before it got busy the day before Thanksgiving. On our way back we checked out the village of Queen Valley a small community between Superior and Gold Canyon, it is located around five miles north of US-60 and is home to a golf course that I thought would be handy to play if available to green fees, and we were still back to the coach before 11am for an early lunch or a late breakfast, all I know for sure is the Irish Cream thing is working out well in our morning coffee as I seem to have went from one cup of coffee each morning to two cups, I’m not sure if that is just having more time to relax in the morning or if it is because of the Irish Cream.

They have emptied Miss Laurie’s clean-up buckets so she is back in the garden for a second day of garden clean up. I for some reason seem to have too many blogs on the go right now as I’m trying to post a regular blog every Sunday to revel our adventures each week, I have our November Windshield post that is due in less than two weeks that includes five years of review and Novembers were normally a big travel month for us. I also know we are looking forward to catching up with Ray & Karen tomorrow and then we have a couple of long work days but I have a couple of more things to get done before this weekend so a quick trip to Globe will be on my afternoons agenda, as our toad needs a bath badly and we have managed to burn through the best part of a tank of fuel with all these shopping trips, but I expect that will be less shortly, as there were just a number of items that we had put off getting until we got to Arizona, and then some of the items we needed were in short supply I suspect because of Thanksgiving so multiple trips to Mesa have been required to get everything.

The clouds seem to have made their way away and as I sit under the awning catching a little of the sun and it feels a lot warmer than the 65F that the computer says it is, don’t get be wrong I’m not complaining about the warmth, in fact I just hear that it is cold on the east side of the country and we got a little rain last night, kind of a normal Arizona rain like a round 10 minuets of spitting about the equivalent to ten or twenty actual drops of rain. And as I look to the weather from the Newfoundland area, and the heavy rains there that have washed out the Trans-Canada highway our thoughts are with you and I’m thinking that climate change is a real thing.

We decided to barbecue dinner tonight, it will be an early dinner, with our early start today I think we combined breakfast and lunch at 11am and it’s nice not to barbecue in the dark, So as I step out to start the barbecue the setting sun is hitting the mountains and I grab my phone for a shot, some of the most beautiful Arizona sunset photos are taken looking away from the sunset and at the mountains as they change colour, but this happens quick that I had to hustle to get the shot. There are a number of things about living in the mountains in Arizona for the winters, right now from sunrise to sunset is only 10 hours and we are still almost a month to the winter solstice, and they happen quickly as the sun rises from or falls behind the mountains.

And most importantly stay away from low ground if there is rain anywhere around you in the forecast, because rain many miles away from your location can turn a wash that looks like a dry riverbed into a raging river almost in the blink of an eye. This has always amazed me and I have seen enough people’s YouTube videos of wash water and we even found ourselves experiencing it two years ago with an overnight rain while boondocking at Craggy Wash near Lake Havasu, we heard the heavy rain, and woke to see the damage. We were lucky and only had some large rocks to navigate around and I decided then and there that if there was heavy rain in a forecast that this boon-docker would be heading for higher ground.

Today is Thanksgiving day here in the States, and it is another very special day for the Buchanan’s as we are going to spend thanksgiving with Ray & Karen who have become part of our RV Family, that we last seen in March of 2020 just as the pandemic was taking hold in North America, so in reality we have a lot to be thankful for this year and to be able to spend it with Ray & Karen is almost enough to make an old guy get a little emotional, and to having seen tour path to surviving this horrible pandemic and now being able to almost fully resume our nomadic lifestyle is worthy of giving thanks.

Well, the day was great, we ventured off to Gold Canyon and met up with Ray & Karen at their resort just after the lunch hour, and other than a few tears of joy, it was like we had last seen them a couple of weeks ago. We listened while they explained their past two summers of travels and adventures. Then we headed to a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Mesa where we put our names on the wait list for dinner (it was a 90-minute wait) and while waiting we walked across the mall to a Starbucks for a coffee and some more conversation, they notified us by text when our table was ready and we sat and had turkey dinner with all the trimmings and even a piece of pumpkin pie. We then returned to their resort and sat around the fire pit and reminiscing about previous adventures, we headed home around 7:30 and as we drove home it felt like our world was whole again … truly a memorable day that just left us felling complete. And we have new adventures planned for next week already.

Well, it is seven o’clock on Black Friday the day after Thanksgiving and is this not only a huge shopping day here in the States, but it apparently is also a huge day for spending time with family at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior. So we start into our first of two eight-hour days and our expectation is that we will be busy, in fact we have been told this will be the busiest day of the year at the aboretum.

Well busy it was, we had the long shift and we’re picking up our entry terminal before eight o’clock and the guests were there at eight, so because it was going to be busy the staff had brought in a couple of porta-potties in the parking lot to help with demand. And as luck would have it, we lost our potable water supply to the park, which comes in from Superior just a few miles up the road, so the porta-potties were in high demand, as the main washrooms were closed and on this busiest day of the year, but the day went well other that the whole water issue.

At the end of the day, we were pretty much done, Miss, Laurie and her new shoes were still on speaking terms, but eight hours was beyond the comfort zone for new shoes, not a lot happening other that some brats on the barbeque and an early evening streaming some shows.

Saturday morning was kind of like a repeat of Friday but with the water restored, and while still busy the admittance was only about ninety percent of the day before at least according to the entry dollars. There was less breeze today but the temperatures very similar. We were working with the couple that trained us Anita & Leveon, and they worked 9am to 2pm, to help through the busiest times and allow each couple to have a lunch break. Leveon and myself water plants for more than an hour in the mornings and help out where needed during the day, a large portion of everyone’s daily tasks consists of assisting guests, handing out maps, or direction a bit of a tough task for a two-week volunteer with limited knowledge, but still two weeks more than first time visitors. Again, at the end of the day, we were whooped and ready for a comfy chair, with most of our week behind us already, tomorrow will be our short day then off for three.

It is Sunday morning shortly after 6 o’clock, I think I’m finally getting used to the time changes, a nice change from the the four o’clock in the morning thing that the last two weeks have been like. Today is our last work day and our short shift day 10am to 2pm, then we are off for three days, with our next scheduled work day being Thursday. We will have a later breakfast and plan on an early dinner and will most likely skip lunch, Miss Laurie has been packing us a sandwich on the long shift days, and we just sit in one of the picnic areas for lunch and a break, usually in the sunshine. The spot in the breeze way where we work is covered and with a continual breeze you start to feel chilled after a while so the sunshine just warms us back up a little. The last few days have been a little cooler here in Arizona, and there has been a breeze from the east which has seemed chilly after standing in it for a while.

Sunday is the day I have chosen to to my tanks, just the same as any RVer the black tank has to be dumped, and flushed and rather than depending on the gauges we just dump every Sunday, then there should never be an issue. Other than me forgetting to close the grey water to have enough to flush the hose. like this week, normally we could keep the grey valve closed for the week as well but we have been using the washer on the coach to wash our cloths untill we can figure out the laundry room schedule, so I have had the grey tank open, this is not a big deal, I will just use the black tank flush to flush the hose. I normally wouldn’t worry about it but our site has the sewer connection quite high so the stinky slinky (sewer hose) stays full of liquid all the time, and I would prefer the liquid was not sewage in case of a leak, so a little more flushing will be required.

I also hope to look at an issue with our satellite dish, as it is not locating the required satellites and appears to have a bad connection, and then there is also an issue with the new LED light strip I purchase needing a 24-volt supply as opposed to the 12-volt feed of the previous strip (more on this little issue latter), and then there is the task of mounting the under-coach lighting that is presently just lying on the ground, these are the pack rat lights, that are very common in some areas of the desert. This particular task will be quite involved and will take some time to complete but a task that I can work away at for a few weeks if required.

I’m going to try and close out this blog before our Sunday shift today, as I’m not sure I will get back to it after work without being too late to get it posted today, so on a chilly but sunny Sunday morning here in Arizona, and see that an Alberta clipper bringing snow to our friends back in Ontario, my thoughts are with you as I smile and think how lucky we are to be following our dreams in the sunny south!

Be well, stay strong, and live your best life!

Categories: Personal, Travel

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