October 31, 2019

Lazy Cool Days For The Hounds

Waking up to temps in the 40s now sets the trend. Sunrise keeps showing up later and with Arizona not changing time, the kids catching that first of three school buses in the neighborhood do that in the dark. I love that Arizona does NOT change time. Love it. Indiana use to do that a long time ago but now it's only Arizona and Hawaii that don't. Not only the cool temps have changed the routine a little but the two hounds have also. Both want breakfast as soon as we arrive in the kitchen first thing in the morning and they want it before I can start making coffee ... doesn't happen.

It's hard to believe that I am already at Day 53 for the new hip. Each day I can feel myself getting stronger. I might do something unintentionally, a move that was normal 54 days ago, and see that I can do that once again without feeling pain or soreness. I am doing the exercises the doctor gave me multiple times per day, I am doing most things normal but still following the first day protocol when sitting in and getting out of a chair or car.

Oh I almost forgot ... Heidi has decided to join Stella and I for the morning jaunt but just the past two days where it feels like "winter" ... she has reverted back to her Indiana Winters of hibernating and not starting her day until after 7am.

Yesterday it was cool enough outside that I thought it might be my first full day of me wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt. There is one thing different 'out here' when it is cool and sunny. That sun at 4,700 feet is still hot and if you sit in it long enough you are going to get burned. The hounds as you will see in a few pictures, LOVE this weather.

It was only 60° sitting in that ugly patio chair enjoying a beautiful day when I realized the jeans I was wearing along with the long sleeve thermal shirt was too hot ... it was back to shorts and a t-shirt in a matter of minutes. Besides the dog walk, the walk to the mailbox, I still do laps around the yard and the other day for the first time I walked over 1 mile in one of my walks. I expanded my trek through the neighborhood to get to that point. I felt fine afterward, no soreness hours later nor the next morning.

I've been doing more driving around this week in town than taking trips. Today I am thinking of two options, both familiar places. I can take the new RAV4 TRD Off Road up to Montezuma pass to compare it to what the Tacoma did just last week or the 4Runner did in June. This time I would turn around at the top and come home the way I came for a shorter trip ... unless they were still doing some road maintenance.

The second option is head out to the San Pedro house again, walk further along the San Pedro river than I did last time since the ground will be dry instead of spots of mud. Or I could take one of their three or four other hiking trails that are all flat. If I do that I will definitely be using the two trekking poles I bought right before my bike accident.

When I am at home I leave the screen door propped open and the patio door open so the hounds can come and go as they want. I know some will be thinking "what about snakes or spiders" having a free lane into the house? So far after 4 months I have been pretty lucky and have not seen but one snake in front of my garage door, laying in the shade back in July or August. I do keep a close eye out for them, using the blacklight flashlight early in the morning or after dark before the hounds go outside.

You would think with the cool weather, sunny skies and the doors open for easy access that Stella would have the perfect place to stay while I am away from home either running errands or driving to Tucson's REI for a look and some winter clothing. By the way, REI was the first time I climbed up and went down a LOT of stairs since my surgery. It was hard going down as you lead with your bad foot ... I had to take one step at a time, holding the guardrail all the way down ... taking no chances.

I will show you why at the end of this post that Stella does not get "free range" like Heidi does. Heidi is really enjoying her time outside and spends the majority of day out there after 10am when that sun I talked about earlier is warming her up and probably making those old joints feel much better. So far she has not shown any signs of hip arthritis or stiffness. The supplements seem to be enough from the Fromm Gold for Large Breeds dog food. Yes, once I got the okay from the doctor to lift a 33# bag, I was back downtown buying the Fromm food instead of buying Diamond Naturals on Chewy.

As long as I am around, Stella is fine and will sleep either in the shaded patio or out in the middle of the yard. Is the lack of landscaping cutting down my chances for snakes and spiders? I follow a Facebook group of Cochise County Wonders ... a place where photographers can post their pictures ... professional or everyday people that like to take pictures. Believe me, there are plenty of snakes and spiders in this area yet I have not had any neighbors report seeing them recently.

I keep forgetting to vacuum that small strip of weather stripping between the patio and door jam. That soft material is a dog hair magnet apparently, that is 4 months worth of dog hair you see there. I will get that cleaned today.

Hint:  See those small scratches on the patio floor just southeast of Stella's leg???

The problem with the later arrival of sunshine and Heidi already falling into her 'winter mode' is that our walk is later. That puts us in the range of people driving to work, some arriving at the vet building we walk behind and around or the street that was vacant this summer where Stella could explore every inch, now has a little traffic pulling into the business building we pass which is more vacant than filled.

Since I am jumping all over the place from topic to topic I will say what many of you may have already experienced. Once that first trip to a hospital for any reason or seeing a doctor for any reason is made, it opens up the flood gates to my mailbox for all kinds of Medicare Supplement Insurance whether you already have it. Bills are mixed in with the Medicare reports that show charges submitted, what was paid and what I "might" have to pay. This was expected and something I never wanted to go through after hearing the nightmare stories from my dad and a couple of friends.

To give you just one example of kaos causing me to get on the phone for more minutes or hours than I want, causing me to spend time that I don't want to spend trying to sort out and correct mistakes .... make sure your paperwork from the doctor or hospital has your first name matching what is on your Medicare card. That's a key piece of information there ... what a mess !!!!

I specifically gave them my 'official' first time on purpose in the ambulance, to numerous people with clipboards in the emergency room and even gave them my drivers license when asked to show them my 'official' first name.

But just like toward the end of my working career, "attention to detail" seems to be unheard of. It drove me nuts then and is driving me nuts now as I sort through billing errors because they put my name down as Steve instead of Stephen. Yes they will and have corrected that in some cases but it is a constant battle now and I am the one that has "attention to detail" with my phone nearby ready to dial and talk to someone.

I never wanted on this "medical train of crap" but I have been assigned a seat whether I want to go or not.

Of course this medical kaos is far from the hounds thought process ... they want food, sunshine and sleep ... so they are in a perfect situation. Heidi has taken more walks out here even with me out of commission for a while, than she had in years back in the field in 'the tropics'. As she gets older it has to help that there are no steps except an inch or two as she steps off the patio.

This is heading back toward the Huachuca Mountains from Benson the other day. I broke one of my rules of taking a picture while driving  but that car up ahead was the only car in view in front and in back of me. The hounds were back home so I thought I could take a chance that lasted less than a minute of distraction. I know, accidents can happen in seconds and I personally have been a player in a couple, but with a straight road and little traffic I couldn't resist. Of course I could have chosen not to put it on the blog I guess but then you would have missed that great mountain view up ahead.

Over the past month with the day time temperatures cooling off in the early morning I thought the perfect place for Stella to stay was in the backyard. She would have water in the shade, a shaded patio if needed and plenty of sun to lay out in to keep warm. I would NOT be leaving the doors to the house open because of her tendency which I will mention here.

I don't like putting her in the largest crate possible inside the house when I leave. I don't like locking the two of four small Blinks padlocks to keep the crate together because she is strong enough that she has created space with her nose between the edges of the door and sides trying to bust out. All four padlocks are locked in key locations.

But she walks in on her own when I say "I gotta go". I've caught her sleeping inside the crate when I return home. It is the only way I can keep her safe and my house in place while I am gone.

Due to those scratches I now have a job of repainting the patio around all the phone calls I am having to make now ... doesn't make me happy at all. But she is who she is and I am use to it after 4 years and 2 months of picking her up in 2015. I love that hound no matter what. I am the only owner that has not given her away nor will I ever give her away.

The thing is this is proof of what I am going to say. If I have the door shut, she tries to get out of the backyard like she does the crate. It is NOT that she wants to GET IN to anything, she is wanting to GET OUT from where she is.

If I were to leave the doors open like I do for Heidi, I'd come home to having my vertical blinds tore down AGAIN on the front windows in the living room because she would be trying to GET OUT. She would (hasn't yet) bite the round door knob so hard in an attempt to open a locked door that happens to have a deadbolt. So I'd be replacing the door.

So that is why, even though it is so tempting to let her run the house like Heidi when I am gone I can't. I can't take that chance. She has lulled me into giving her chances before and they always end up disasters and I am not going through that out here.

Yes I could give her "doggie downers". I tried some meds the vet gave me in June and by the time the end of the bottle was gone I was still replacing vertical blinds in two different rooms and a hit to my checkbook. I am in and out of the house multiple times every day it seems now that I am healthy. Personally I don't want a dog 'zoned out' all the time to cover the multiple times I leave the house so the meds are not an option. The large black crate for large breeds worked for all the hounds I have had since 1987 when they were puppies. They were only given the run of the house after they showed signs I could trust them. But the bloodhound breed was the only three dogs that showed any kind of damage while I was gone.

It's because they are trackers by nature, more than any other breed of dog, and they get bored when left alone. That is why things get destroyed and they find things in places I may have looked for years and shows you by destruction they found something you could not.

No worries though ... things really are great, I'm feeling better every day, it's great weather and I love this area. I am seriously thinking about stepping up and sitting on my bicycle seat today just to see how that feels. IF I feel good enough to pedal, I will do it very slowly and for no more than 5 minutes no matter how good it feels. The doctor gave me approval to do that back on October 22nd, "when you are ready."

Time to feed the hounds, wait 30 minutes and then take our morning walk here in the Wild West.

October 27, 2019

Tombstone - Middlemarch Road Exploration

As I get healthier my new hip is still "calling the shots" I guess, in more than just one way. I am feeling great and 99% of the time I forget what happened 49 days ago. It's those times that I do something "normal" that the hip is not ready for, when it reminds me that I had a hip replacement. So there is that, some restriction on normal movements. Another thing I had been noticing, following the doctor's protocol in getting in and out of a car, the FJ was the hardest challenge of the three cars. Can you sense yet what happened?

You better grab your favorite beverage, buckle up and hang on because I have one whopping story to tell and 38 pictures for you to scroll through if you don't want to read through my BS. I understand and will not take offense but it's my story and I'm sticking to it. Now where to begin??

I knew from my past 4 Toyota FJ's, they are not the easiest car to get in and out of. I remember back in December 2016 (?) I traded an FJ for my first Mini Cooper Countryman for various reasons but one was a factor the past few days we have been out of the blogging mainstream. Back then I started feeling a little zap of pain in my right hip as I would climb up into the FJ seat. That has nothing to do with my replacement btw but it was a memory to think about.

That's Stella last night while I watched the World Series game and football.

So I had been doing some research all the way back this spring before moving to AZ but decided against the RAV4 Adventure because it was smaller and didn't pull the weight I needed when I moved to Arizona. My friend that has the Adventure model gave me a hands on review ... I would not have thought about it anymore until that Toyota News where they were going to put their TRD Off Road tag on the 2020 RAV4 ... no one in the internet knew when they were coming to your local car lot.

In fact as recently as last week my local Toyota salesman told me he didn't think they would ever get that trim model because they are a small dealership. I was happy with what I had so it was not a big deal. But for long time blog readers you know things can change on this blog out here in the 'Wild West' just as fast as they did for years in 'the tropics' of Southern Indiana.

I did take Thursday off like I said I would after the hounds and I went up and over Montezuma Pass (the previous post). But a bored mind is a wandering mind. With the internet I can travel many places, look at many things see different colors and think way too much ... too far out of the box as some say.

Yet I went to bed that Thursday night with no weird thoughts, spontaneous brain cell activity ... it was just a normal early to bed early to rise makes a man wealthy healthy and wise. I beg to differ on that saying because I at times am not wise.

Friday morning ... same routine, only Heidi was making her walk for the 3rd day in a row and not only that, she went with me and Stella. So with two retractable leashes, a new empty poop  bag and two hounds walking at different paces ... we started our day out normal. We had a great walk and the bag remained empty.  :)

Now I do have a tendency to help friends out when they ask or if we are in a discussion they have been known to help me out but in the end I usually follow my gut, intuition, impulse, whatever. At least I don't need food like Stella does all the time.

So a friend of mine has some of the same thought processes I do and in fact we might be clones when it comes to cars and trucks. Are you figuring this out yet??? I'll let you know you better keep reading because you will not believe this story ... it's not normal.  HaHa

She is torn between trading her Tacoma TRD Off Road for better gas mileage yet wants to get her and friends off the grid where they have been going. Like me, she goes back and forth, good and bad points, pros and cons ... but the fact is ... there is not a RAV4 TRD Off Road on any car lot within 500 miles of Phoenix ... and I'm not going to drive that far anyway. Neither was she. But like me, she decided to take a sniff around her local Toyota dealership .... none ... nothing to test drive, look at or drool over. There is not a RAV4 TRD OR anywhere near us.

Case closed.

Or so it seemed.

Friday morning I get a text from her telling me the local Toyota Dealer has ONE on their lot. She mentions she is going to test drive it during her lunch break. Well when you are retired your schedule or plans for the day can change in an instant and for me that is just a fantastic feature to have available. Besides I had no plans and I admit I was enjoying watching someone else go through trials and tribulations of buying a different car or truck.

An hour later she still had not left yet to test drive. So I told her I'd do her a favor and CALL THE DEALERSHIP to see if they even had one on the lot or was that ad on their website listing just a pre-emptive strike before they arrived. I mean what are friends for?? It's just a phone call to check on availability and possibly save her a drive for nothing. I couldn't get hurt by that could I ???

I called and talked to a salesman. Well well well ... It is not only on the lot in fact it is on display right on the Toyota Dealers showroom floor. I let him know that my friend was on her way within MINUTES of coming down to test drive and I'm sure she will buy it if she likes it.

Do any of you remember the old Windows PC's back in the 90's where you could defrag your own hard drive ... then sit at your desk in amazement watching those tiny light blue squares all line up in order after the computer was running everywhere to sort all of your files and put them back in order just like you witnessed before your eyes???? Anyone??

Well it doesn't matter, except to say that when I hung up from the call to the salesman and I just heard that one of those 2020 RAV4 TRD Off Road models was actually in range of my phone, although my location wasn't .... MY BRAIN STARTED DEFRAGGING ITSELF !!!! I didn't pass out or feel light headed but thoughts and research in the past was all being gathered up at a rapid rate .... then put in order .... the 'rush' I was feeling was a familiar one ... one that some of you have read about on this blog.

But wait .... there is only ONE and my friend is buying it after her test drive. Case closed ... forget it.

She sends me a picture of her driving to the dealer ... I am getting excited. Then after a short period of time my phone is making that "zip" sound as each new text arrived ... they were only pictures of the car in question. Right after the FIRST PHOTO it was like I was hit up the side of my head with a "Love it" stick. I even told her BEFORE she left "I hope I don't like this car" ...

Get it ... BEFORe she left I said "I hope I don't like this car"

She liked it, She gave me a brief review from her test drive telling me things that I would never pick up in a car reviews. When I read her review I could not wait for this model to get on the car lot. NOT ONLY would I be able to get off road MY HIP would be close to equal of the HEIGHT of the seat ... so with my back to the door I sit at the same level, not to high not too low and slide in ... swing my feet around. The FJ is way too high where I had to do a reverse push up to get in, the MINI is still a tad too low. With a healthy hip I would still have to climb up into the FJ.

She is talking to the salesman and mentions "I don't like the color, I want the car in a different color" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  WHAT ?????? I'm thinking no not really, that small voice in my head is screaming ... "DON'T DO THIS TO ME .... NOOOOOOO I DON'T NEED THIS"

Once she told me she was not going to buy THAT car I told her or asked if the salesman was still with her. I told her to tell him that I am buying that car and I will call him as soon as she is finished talking to him. I KNEW this car would not be on the lot long ... besides, it was my favorite color for Toyota's ... Metallic Gray just like the 4Runner I bought in May.

Well he calls me and I told him consider it SOLD. Oh by the way, what would you give me for a 2013 Toyota FJ with brand new black OME rims and rock rails??? He said send me the pictures and I am going to get some numbers together for you to look at. While he did that I went to Kelly Blue Book to see what a FJ is worth with 170,000 miles on it, one owner before me.

So I had a ballpark figure what I'd like to get ... but in reality it wasn't going to make any difference ... I WAS trading the FJ for the new RAV4 TRD. My new hip was already yelling from the cheap seats ... YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS, GREAT MOVE, I CAN'T WAIT TO SIT IN IT.

So around 3pm I "crawled" up into the FJ driver's seat with a 3 hour, 190 mile road trip in front of me on a Friday afternoon/night through two major cities. No, I didn't want to wait until Saturday morning. Do you think I would want too stay awake all night watching the clock ???  LOL

The FJ drove typically great for any FJ. My hip was okay with the constant sitting, only getting out with 27 miles to go because I was on gas fumes and needed a quick pit stop for fuel and my hip. Long story short ... it was a smooth fast transaction ... that friend that test drove the car took time out of her Friday night to stop by after I had finished signing all the paper work to see me and see the car in my hands.

SIDE NOTE:  During the test drive the salesman told me that from the time our call was over around 2pm, and he put the "Sold" sign on the car ... 7 people want to buy the car without even test driving it.

As I moved the FJ over by the "delivery section" so I could move my stuff into the new car, she had the chance to see me "crawl' into the drivers seat and also sit in an FJ for her first time ever. She could tell it was hard for me to get up into the seat whereas she told me later that I was walking normal everywhere and it didn't look like I had my hip replaced. I was just happy that my two legs are the same length but that was good to hear.  HaHa

I knew by the time I drove back the 200 miles home that night I had made a good decision. Very comfortable, smooth and quiet ... plus it even had a sports mode just like the Mini Cooper does. I spent Saturday watching football and reading all the owners manual, at least about the stuff I would need to know. Those manuals get thicker by the year.

But I had plans for Sunday. I knew exactly where I was going and what I was going to do. I was leaving the hounds home this time which they don't really mind because they were going to sleep the whole time I would be gone after their long walk Sunday morning.

This morning was a little different though. HEIDI did NOT wake up with Stella and I. We waited but she never showed up. With a walk 30 minutes after they eat breakfast now, Stella and I were in a hurry so I went back to wake her up to tell her breakfast was served. After all as soon as we got back from the walk I could take my new car off on gravel and dirt and over rocks to see if it lived up to that tag TRD Off Road.

Of course while I was in back waking Heidi up, Stella was trying to steal the food I had poured out for Heidi. As soon as she heard me, she turned and looked at me as if nothing was going one.

But now that food had been eaten ... "what about our walk?"

"Are we going to walk or not?" .... hmmmmm

We did walk and Heidi made the whole walk with Stella and I ... she was tired at the end but slowly walked inside.

I went out and loaded the RAV with my small backpack with water, the Nikon camera, a jacket just in case and some trekking poles just in case. What a beautiful day to find out what this car can do and can't do.

Take a long look at this detailed car because some of you may cry when you see it again after I return home.

A few miles north of Tombstone, the first right past the river (dry or flowing) is a road called Middlemarch Road. Mountain bikers ride this, as do trucks, ATVs, etc. It runs through the Coronado NF in the direction of the Dragoon Mountains. What you are looking at is a very wide road with hard pack in the center with passable shoulders made of gravel and loose sand.

THIS ... was going to be a LOT of fun.

As a reminder I take all of my photos with the car stopped, pulled over and at times I get out of the car based on what is in front or behind me. As you can see it didn't take long to get the dealership black tire shine spray out of the picture and off my tire.

This car on that wide road was like a Rally car you see in the deserts of Saudi Arabia or the Baja 500 ... basically in some points of the highway we were hauling ass. Then I'd slow down and veer to the shoulders for some loose sand and gravel just to see how those Falken Wildpack tires were going to do.

After about 10 miles I started getting into the narrow roads and I had gained a little elevation but so far the road was really smooth packed dirt and gravel. Believe it or not I saw signs warning me that school buses stop out here.

I was driving in Normal and I turned the knob to "Gravel and Rock" ... their version of 4x4 or All 4. This was not as steep as Montezuma Pass or Carr Canyon Rd, where in a Tacoma TRD Off Road and a 4Runner TRD Off Road I had to go down to LOW 4x4 and move the stick to the the left for the lowest gears 1 & 2. The RAV has that option  but all the way up and over the top I never had to go to the lower gears. The 18" rims, the TRD suspension and the bigger frame was eating this road up with ease.

I did meet oncoming traffic a few times but we each followed the law of years past ... pulling over as far as possible to pass through. Right up at the top of that turn there is no guadrail on the right but not as scary as Carr Canyon Rd.

By this time I had passed around the top of these mountains and didn't want to make the big loop straight ahead. There was a nice large area to turn around so I headed back the way I came. By this time I had driven another 13 miles after the road narrowed.

As I turned around and headed back to Hwy 80 ... beautiful country out here.

Yes, there is road on the other side ...

I had stepped out of my car to take some photos with the Nikon, which had the18-55mm lens on it today and that worked out perfect. I could see a dust trail from where I came and heard a truck so I got back in the car, pulled over straddling the edge of the road to give the big Chevy Silverado room to get by. I followed him all the way back to the highway.

In this wide portion of the highway with no dust trails in front or behind me, I had the whole road to myself. I did a lot of fast driving on the shoulder of the road and once around a curve I had the backend coming around at me just like a dirt race car going around a turn. I knew how to handle that because it felt just like driving in the snow back in Indiana.

This car drove fantastic on the unpaved road.

As I was cutting through 1st street from Hwy 80 to Charleston Rd I barely caught this building with a food trailer outside in the parking lot. Food sounded good as well as a home grown beer ... plus I could add to my t-shirt collection.

Sitting there I thought back to the way the car handled. The interesting thing was, I had forgot all about my hip during that drive except for ONE TIME ... by habit, after taking a photo out in the middle of the road I got back in the car in the 'normal' fashion and almost immediately my leg and hip told me "not yet".

All for Tombstone's tourists.

I hated to get rid of the FJ but I just didn't feel like adding wear and tear on a new hip by climbing up into the seat each time. It WILL BE 100% eventually but why put additional stress on that joint if I don't need to. You might be asking about that red truck we took out on Wednesday ... but that is actually lower than the FJ was based on the data of my Stanley Tape Measure.

I told the young salesman on Friday night that by Sunday afternoon I would have this car going through it's paces off road. I sent him some of the pictures and told him to feel free to pass them to other salesman as a testimonial on what this car can do. He loved all the photos I sent him and he had already forwarded them to others in the Toyota sales department.

Another feature it has that might or will be used in the future ... it's the reason my other friend in Phoenix bought the RAV4 Adventure ... the hatchback floor is low enough to get his 130 lb Mastiff in the back for his trips to the vet and day car. Stella should be able to step up in the back of this with no help from me, shoving and lifting her from the back. The car is very spacious, very smooth and quiet for highway and city driving. The 8-speed transmission shifts smoothly and it's not choppy with that many gears.

I'll be taking friends on this same route again plus I will make another trip and make the full loop around the mountains.

If you read this far ... congratulation, I hope you enjoyed the story.

A real western type of day today in the Wild West.

October 24, 2019

The Hounds Go On A Road Trip

I knew on Wednesday night what I planned on doing today. I just didn't know if the hounds were going with me or not. I am sure they enjoy being around me and probably like smelling all the new scents with the windows partially down ... but long narrow gravel mountain roads sometimes isn't the best thing for them. Add on 20+ miles of narrow asphalt road that is hilly and curvy and it makes you stop and think if this was the best trip for them.

We were back to the normal routine though of two months ago with the hounds fed first, I get a cup of coffee and even in 52° weather Stella and I headed out for her daily morning walk a little before 7:00am. We had missed both school buses by then and traffic wasn't bad yet. We have to cross one street to get to the main part of our walk.

Once we cross the street at the end of our block we can see the sunrise and have a paved alley to walk in. We will circle Stella's vet at the halfway point of this section but not the total walk.

If I didn't know better I think she enjoys this walk more than the field back in 'the tropics'. She has enough things to sniff and identify, a paved surface that she likes to trot on and 25' of freedom taking her walk in town.

As we got closer to the turn up ahead she started to realize where she was. She had walked this same area directly behind that building before her surgery August 25th.

Yes Stella that is the same parking lot that you have walked three different times before entering the vet office. You never had to pee.

When we walked earlier in the summer she would have the whole street to walk in but at that time we were walking an hour or more earlier than now. I needed to make sure I could keep her out of the way of the two cars that passed us.

For a longer walk we have taken that dirt path to the right but with my new hip getting in shape and only her second day of walking we took our normal way and curved to the left on the paved surface. The walk totals about .67 of a mile.

When we returned Heidi acted as if she had missed out and was looking to walk. Under my current condition I want to walk just one hound at a time, so I grabbed Heidi's leash left Stella in the house and took off. We cut Heidi's walk short through the parking lot before getting to the vet's building. By the time she gets back home she has had enough and is dragging those last few steps.

Yes, I've been there before but at the time I didn't have the time to take the photos I wanted to at the top of the pass. I had to leave earlier than planned that day. I also didn't get a photo of the Visitors Center or the sign at the entry of the Coronado National Forest.

The plan was to go to the top, get my photos and then come back down the same way. That is the more exciting way with narrow gravel switchbacks. Plus it would be the shortest way back home.

While I was out preparing the back and passenger seat for the hounds to occupy, Stella evidently thought she wasn't going and would be staying in the backyard while I was gone. She is smart enough to lay in the shade at least.

Little did she know that I had placed a tarp over the back seats that was folded down, then a thick layer of multiple Mexican blankets. All Heidi needed was her Mexican blanket on the passenger seat to ride.

She was also preparing for me to leave by myself. She had already found her morning sleeping spot in the computer room and was a little disturbed that I woke her up to let her know she was going with me.

Of course Stella is always ready to go for a ride. She is hopping up and down at the sight of her 6' red leash. She seemed pretty happy with the backseat and the windows rolled down enough to let her move her head but not open wide enough for her to jump or fall out.

Heidi will ride okay but I cannot really say she enjoys these mini road trips.

It is rare, very rare to have someone around to take a photo with me in it. I was shocked how fat I look after I downloaded the photo. This morning the scales showed I had gained only 1 pound since I wrecked my bicycle, at 187 pounds. I am wanting to get around 170 pounds and with another surgery in the future I might just reach that goal without working out. I'd rather workout though.

When I pulled in to take a photo of the sign a Forest Ranger was parked there. He asked if wanted him to take a photo with me in it. We had a nice talk about the area, very informative.

You can barely see what looks like a train track running horizontal across the middle of the photo but that is actually the border wall between the USA and Mexico. The ranger did tell me that I can hike the train tracks that parallel the San Pedro River so I might have to put that on my list of hikes to do when my hip is a little older than 46 days.

Stella was positive there was food inside that visitor center just for her and was a little disappointed she had to stay in the truck while I took a couple of photos that I didn't take last June.

Coronado NF Visitor Center.

There are some very narrow parts of this road and that is why I don't have any photos of them to post. It was unsafe to stop the car just to take photos from the drivers seat. I did meet a couple of large trucks coming down the pass and one truck was taking up most the road as to Forest NP employees were doing some road work.

Some of the switchbacks were just as bad as Carr Canyon Rd but not as high. I guess it wouldn't make much difference if you fell 500' or a 1000' if you drove over the side of the road.

I made it to the top and unlike last time I had the place to myself and I could spend all the time I wanted taking photos. There was a car with New Mexico plates but most likely they were hiking the trail, where there was a "no dogs" sign at the start of the trail.

It is beautiful up here, quiet, clean air and not a sound anywhere.

This is the road we drove to get to the top.

I'll come back sometime without the hounds but at this time I don't think climbing a lot of steps is a good thing for my healing hip.

Going down the 'backside' or west side of the pass, there are not only a lot of pullouts to take photos or turn around but there are a zillion dirt roads turning off on each side of the road. Again, without the hounds there are a lot more roads to explore.

It wasn't that deep and it had not rained in a while so I decided to pass the sign behind me that warned me not to enter this area in flooding conditions.

Around 22 miles straight of gravel dirt road, with a lot of rutty, rocky bouncing with 15 mph speed limits. I met my second border patrol up ahead and we both drove this road 10-15mph due to the surface.

Yes a familiar sign for those that read about this trip in June.

Parker Canyon Lake ... I swear the sign said 1/2 mile to the left when we are at the T for Hwy 83. It seemed like we drove forever to get to it.

With the hounds in the truck I moved down the sidewalk to get a better look at the lake but when I saw this many stairs I wasn't sure I'd make it back up ... funny, the doctor told me I could do all normal stuff and walk a lot if I was not swinging my bad leg out to the right a million times per day. But a little voice inside my head told me that it wasn't time to attempt that many steps. I turned and headed to the truck.

There are those words, truck, car, FJ, Mini ... what can I say. I like cars and trucks. I have had a ton of them since 2000 or the past 20 years. Always before I had no more than two and most of the time only one. So for those readers that pay real good attention to what I say and what is in my photos will realize we are driving a truck today .. a Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro .. and no, it's not new ... I wouldn't spend that much for a pickup truck.

You would not have read about it on the blog back in May but on the 4Runner Forum and the Tacoma Forum you would have seen I was trying hard in May before my move to AZ, deciding between the two. Both were TRD Off-Road models. I'll not go into the reasons why I chose the 4Runner over the Tacoma in May nor why I bought this a few days ago at the local Toyota dealership. Yes ... I still have the white FJ, I am never getting rid of that nor am I getting rid of the Mini Cooper either.

Before you think that is too many cars just remember how many friends do you know that have a car, a truck, an RV or a couple of ATVs and the trailers or toyhaulers to carry them. Or if they only have a couple of nice cars but travel throughout Europe or the USA ... we all like our own toys. Personally I like having different vehicles to choose from.

There are days I want to take it slow so the FJ it is or even this Tacoma. There will be as in the past, days I need a truck to haul landscaping stuff, stone, mulch, or dirt .. the Tacoma is good for that. There are days I want to take chances and drive fast as hell willing to accept and pay for a speeding ticket if caught ... different vehicles for different moods.  Ha Ha

I'm tried today ... baseball is on in an hour ... I need food, I've done all the walking I need to do today and I am thinking of taking a "day off" tomorrow and give my hip a rest day.

A GREAT day in the Wild West.