Difficult as these last few weeks have been, we’ve found ourselves quite thankful for several things. After a certain amount of experience, you begin to appreciate how bad things could have been if circumstances were just a tiny bit different, and that has been on our minds a lot recently.
Location, Location, Location
Most obvious is that we were only an hour south of Tucson when we found ourselves in need of an emergency veterinary clinic for Dixie. Just a couple weeks before, we’d been crossing west Texas, and if you know anything about West Texas, you know why we were relieved to not be there when everything happened. While the drive certainly wasn’t bad, there is NOTHING in West Texas.
It’s hours of this….
I took this picture because: “Hey! Mountain!!!”
Tiny towns pop up every so often, but you’re certainly not going to find an emergency veterinary hospital in the booming metropolis that is Van Horn, Texas. Here’s us parked in Van Horn:
Trust me on this: there are no veterinary neurologists in Van Horn.
Alas, when Dixie needed help, at least we were only an hour away from Tucson, a large city with a very capable veterinary practice that had the facilities to try to help her. We know we got her the best care available, which provides us some measure of comfort.
We were also quite fortunate to have good friends in the area. We knew no one in Arizona, but, lucky for us, our friends and fellow RVers, Celena and Shoam, whom we’ve hung out with several times around the country, had specifically planned to meet up with us in Benson and Tucson. So, throughout this whole ordeal, they were close by.
Before Dixie passed away, we went hiking a number of times…
we spent a day exploring famous Bisbee, Arizona…
and we watched the Super Blue/Blood Moon with them and their neighbors, Ed and Therese….
When Dixie passed away, their presence became even more vital to us. We really lucked out meeting them on the road. We have a lot in common, conversation flows freely, and we just enjoy each other’s company. What that meant in this situation was they gave us a reason to get out of the house, talk about other topics, and have some fun.
We went out for dinner, did some more hiking, invited each other over for meals at our respective homes, and spent hours talking about all kinds of stuff. While Kevin and I certainly would have tried to stay busy without having close friends around, I think the fact that they were there made it that much easier to get up, go out, and stay engaged.
Plus, there were new friends to meet and keep us occupied. I’ve been reading MonaLiza’s blog, Lowes Travels, for years. She and her husband, Steve, have a lot of the same interests as us and they have traveled extensively, so I often check her blog first when we’re going somewhere new and I need ideas. We had emailed each other around Christmas and made tentative plans to meet up while we were all in Tucson. When Dixie passed, I briefly considered canceling our meet-up because I just didn’t know if we would be up to putting on a happy face and going to meet new people, but I also knew it would be beneficial for us to stay busy and keep socializing. In the end, I was so glad we didn’t cancel. We met MonaLiza and Steve for lunch and then a trip to a local brewery and just had a fantastic time chatting.
A couple days later, she invited us to their RV park for a happy hour with several of their other RVer/blogger friends. That evening, we got to chat with Sue and Dave (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure) and John and Pam (Oh The Places They Go).
This whole group has been on the road for years, giving them the kind of experience that is so helpful to relative newbies like us – especially when discussing travels in the western half of the country – an area that is completely unfamiliar to us. By the end of the evening, we were positively buried in fantastic information about RVing in general and many of the specific locations we’ll be visiting this spring and summer. Not only did we learn a lot, but we really had fun talking with them and sharing our experiences. The evening just flew by and, before we knew it, it was late and we were discussing our hopes to meet each other again out on the road.
And if you want to see proof positive that folks in this community are just good people, check out the pile of brochures, maps, and magazines Mona Liza gave us, along with two pages of handwritten notes for the places we should go while we were in Tucson… and San Diego… and Utah (all of which, she knew, are coming up for us).
And, separately, she handed us a bag of approximately 432 lemons picked from the lemon tree growing behind their RV.
It was like some perfect metaphor for our lives at the moment. Making lemonade out of the lemons we’d been handed…
Never underestimate the power of friends – old and new – to help get you through crappy times.
We were also thankful to be in Tucson. To be honest, we weren’t sure we would love the desert southwest, but Tucson is a great town and we truly enjoyed being there. In fact, we liked it so much, we already booked a return trip for next winter.
What was so great about it? Well, first, it was warm and sunny just about every day….
We cannot imagine having gone through all this if it were cold and gray and damp and miserable. Tucson’s spectacular weather unquestionably positively impacted our mood.
Second, I’m a huge proponent of the “sitting on your ass feeling sorry for yourself will get you nowhere” school of thought, and Tucson made it easy to avoid doing that. We set our alarms, got our butts out of bed, went hiking, ran errands, and tried new things.
(Ok, the “new thing” was just In-N-Out Burger, but it was new, and it was delicious.)
Third, the opportunities to take advantage of the great outdoors were seemingly infinite.
One of our favorite days was when we went to the top of 9,157 foot Mount Lemmon with Celena and Shoam.
When you start driving up the mountain, you’re surrounded by Saguaro cacti. By the time you get to the top, the temperature will have dropped 20 degrees and you’ll find yourself surrounded by pine trees and looking at a ski resort.
Unfortunately, they’ve had almost no snow up there this season, but you can still ride the ski lift to the very top to take in the scenery.
On the drive back down the mountain, we stopped at a number of scenic overlooks.
If you find yourself in Tucson, we highly recommend a trip up this mountain for unexpected scenery and dazzling views.
Before writing my last post, we had only told a handful of friends and family about what happened with Dixie. I wanted to write a proper tribute and that meant going through a lot of photos, crying, writing, crying, editing, crying, finding more pictures, crying, deciding I had too many pictures, crying, second guessing everything, crying, reconsidering the photos I’d removed, crying… you get the picture. Honestly, the day the article went up on the site, I was exhausted by all of it and just happy to hit “publish.”
To say we were overwhelmed by the response would be an understatement. We woke up to not only a lot of comments on the article, but a pile of emails and texts from our friends, family, former colleagues, and fellow bloggers.
I often make fun of social media because there’s so much nonsense involved in it, but there are also huge benefits that come along with having a presence online. We connect with different people on different platforms and it was honestly comforting to see all of these people we know or “know” sharing stories, expressing sympathies, and offering us support while we are out on the road. It really did help. And we really do appreciate it.
Helping Other Doggos
We also knew that finding a way to help other dogs would make us feel better so I did some research and found a small German Shepherd Rescue in Phoenix and reached out to them to see if they could use any of Dixie’s things. While we are holding onto her most prized (ie: drooled on and ripped apart) possessions, we had a lot of items that could help other dogs (specialized harnesses for dogs with back and leg problems, a ramp, food for dogs with sensitive stomachs, a THOUSAND poop bags (Amazon was having a sale – it made sense at the time), flea and tick medication, heart worm preventative, etc.). Happily, they wanted ALL of it. So, we gathered everything up and donated it all to the rescue. It was bittersweet, to say the least, but we know it’s what Dixie would have wanted.
That is SUCH a lie… Dixie DEFINITELY would not want to share any of her stuff with another dog, but…. it sounds better this way so that’s what we’re going with.
As an added benefit, when we dropped the stuff off, we got to meet some of the Rescue’s special needs puppies and give them some love and attention.
The last several days of our time in Tucson were marred by rain, wind, and Kevin not feeling well. In addition, we realized there’s a problem with the plate on the Xterra that keeps it attached to the motorhome when we’re towing it, and we’ve concluded that the Xterra may have some significant age related engine issues that we need to address. So, in an abundance of caution, we’ll be driving the RV and Xterra separately until we can get the tow set-up fixed, and we’ll be blowing even more holes in our budget as we send our poor, put-upon, Xterra in for some much needed TLC.
It seems as much as we loved Tucson, our visit there really did a number on us.
So, as we continue our trip westward, we are, undoubtedly, a bit bruised and battered. As I’ve said in the past, just because you’re traveling around the country in an RV “living the dream” doesn’t mean life doesn’t kick you in the shins once in a while. But, we will get through this rough patch as we have others: with a little creativity, a bit of optimism, a healthy sense of humor, and the (very much appreciated) support of our friends and family.
Until next time….
Where we stayed:
Kartchner Caverns State Park, Benson, AZ
Catalina State Park, Tucson, AZ
Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson, AZ (review coming… at some point)