Southwest Chicken Soup and the Saguaro Cactus

It’s mid December. The days are short, the air is crisp, and the holiday lights are sparkling. Winter has arrived and we’ve finally had a cold front roll through here in the desert southwest. In Phoenix, Arizona, this past week the thermometer barely hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit … Brrrr! I’m sure my friends to the north are either tilting their head quizzically or scowling at me.

superstition mountains arizona

Hey, when it’s been a consistent 90 plus degrees, anything much less than 70 degrees feels cold and has me putting on a sweatshirt. With that said, I think I’ve officially turned into a reptile. What other explanation could there be as to why 70 degrees would feel so cold to me? Crazy, I know! However, I must say the mornings and evenings do get into the 50’s and even 40’s, which is definitely cold and has me pop’n on the heat in the RV.

Easy Southwest Chicken SoupWith winter in full swing, it was time to make a big pot of soup, but not just any soup, Southwest Chicken Soup. Nothing like warming up from the inside out.

Considering I’m in one of my favorite places; the desert southwest, why not embrace the unique landscape and culinary flavors of the region!

With the soup simmering in the slow cooker, the RV is filled with a wonderful scent. While inhaling the delicious aroma filling the RV, I glance out the window and admire the landscape.

Saguaro Cactus

I find the Saguaro Cactus intriguing.   As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I thought this three armed cactus was a fabrication of cartoonists.  I remember watching cartoons like the Road Runner, Huckleberry Hound, and of course Bugs Bunny.  The background contained scenes of red rock, cactus, and the ever abundant tumbleweed … all foreign to a young gal growing up in northern Illinois among cornfields.

Saguaro Cactus

Each saguaro cactus is unique and appears to have a personality of its own.  It took me weeks of living amongst these beauties before I was even able to pronounce the name saguaro correctly…. pronounced:  sa-wha-ro.

Saguaro CactusThe saguaro cactus is a large, tree-sized cactus which can grow as tall as 70 feet (20 meters), and is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, some parts of southern California, and northern Mexico.

Saguaros have a relatively long life span, averaging 150-175 years of age with some living as long as 200 years.  (Hmm, makes me feel like I’m a tiny spring chicken in comparison 😀) It can take 50 to 70 years just for a saguaro to develop a side arm. Arms are grown to increase the plant’s reproductive capacity … more arms lead to more flowers and fruit.

flowering saguaro cactus

Saguaros are very slow-growing and may only grow an inch or two during its first eight years.  The growth rate is determined by climate, precipitation, and location.

This army of cacti seem to have their own personality; some cute, some not, some look like proud soldiers, some like cartoon characters, and others look tired, twisted, and weathered, but no two are identical. Oh and by the way, the plural is either cacti OR cactuses – either is considered acceptable.

saguaro

AND then there is the rare crested saguaro.  Why are some crested?  Saguaros rarely grow symmetrically and often grow in odd or mis-shapen forms.

crested saguaro cactusBut on rare occasion, the growing tip produces a fan like form which is referred to as a crested or cristate saguaro.

Biologists disagree about why some saguaros grow in this unusual form.  Some thoughts; genetic mutation, lightning strike, freeze damage, but no one knows for sure why the unusual growth occurs.

Fascinating to say the least for whatever reason!

crested saguaro cactus

crested saguaro cactus

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Health Hazards of Travel

hummingbirdsOne of the concerns for folks that travel regularly, is health.  I know it is for me.  I’d like to think I could travel anywhere in the world without a thought of getting sick or injured.  Unfortunately, that would be naive on my part.

What I can do is prepare and educate myself on potential health hazards for a given country or region I plan on visiting.  For instance, its common knowledge we American’s can’t seem to handle the water in Mexico.  Thus, to avoid Montezuma’s revenge, most American’s stick to bottled water, soda, or alcohol when visiting Mexico.  I’m sure the same can be said for Mexicans visiting America.  It’s all about what our bodies are used to.birds of preyIf I were to visit certain foreign countries, I’d probably undergo a slew of shots in an attempt to protect myself from hepatitis, typhoid fever, meningitis, or any other serious medical conditions which might be considered rare in the United States.

mountain wildflowersI remember during my airline days when I would frequent tropical paradises like Hawaii and St. Thomas.  The first five days were always sheer joy and tons of fun.  As the week progressed, I’d be overcome with an unease or even an ill feeling; almost a sense of claustrophobia.  Toward the end of my stay, I couldn’t wait to board that plane for the mainland.  Come to find out, there’s actually a condition called “rock fever”.  Ok, this isn’t anything serious other than a mild phobia, but it did enlighten me. You won’t find me moving to a tropical island anytime soon.  I’ll opt for miles and miles of endless roads any day.

Since I enjoyed plenty of international travels when I was younger, I have no plans to travel outside of North America.  As a full-time RV’er traversing my homeland, what health concerns could I possibly have?  Surprisingly, more than one might think.

prairie dogsLet’s talk about those adorable Prairie Dogs found in the western United States.

I love watching these little guys pop up and then down …. in and out of their mounded burrow.  And their little defensive squawking barks accompanied by the flipping tail is quite entertaining.

I’ve found myself more than once hanging around a prairie dog colony being entertained by their cute antics and trying to capture them on film (film sounds so much better than media card ).  These delightful little rodents can be quick and captivate the attention of not only us two-legged creatures but also our four-legged family members.  I’ve seen many a blogger post about doggie sticking his head in a prairie dog hole or trying to chase these furry rodents.  It’s all I can do not scream at the computer, “NO”!hummingbird

Prairie dogs are known plague carriers.  Yes, you heard me right, Bubonic plague still exists in the United States and is usually contracted from fleas living in the fur of prairie dogs.  These fleas are easily passed on to our pooches, compromising everyone’s health.  Recently near Fort Collins, Colorado, a teenage boy passed away from contracting a rare case of Septicemic plague contracted from prairie dog fleas.

So if you’ve recently been near a prairie dog village and develop flu-like symptoms, it would be wise to seek medical attention immediately.Falcon

There was a time when contracting Lyme disease from deer ticks was an exclusive worry to those living in America’s northeast part of the country.  Although it’s still a huge problem in New England, the disease can be contracted from any infected tick throughout the United States.

BroncoLyme disease is a serious bacterial disease with debilitating consequences.  Thus, a tick bite should never be taken lightly and should even be followed up with immediate medical attention.  You can read about singer – songwriter Avril Lavigne’s Lyme disease journey and struggles here.

Valley Fever?  I don’t know about you, but I never heard the term Valley Fever until we started traveling regularly to Arizona.  Every now and then we would encounter someone informing us they needed to visit a friend in the hospital who was suffering from Valley Fever.

Since we spend our winters in Arizona, I was quick to educate myself on the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever and the fungal spore behind the illness.  Some folks grow up in Phoenix and never ingest a spore while others may visit for a few days and return home with these nasty guys imbedded their lungs.Canadian GeeseThe spores causing Valley Fever live in the dirt of the arid desert southwest and become airborne during windstorms, construction, four-wheeling, or even gardening.  Once airborne the spore can be inhaled – ingested and imbedded in the lining of the lungs.  Depending on the number of spores ingested and the overall health of a person, determines the severity of the symptoms and illness.  Some folks never know they have Valley Fever while others are hospitalized.  It can be fatal.

RobinYou can read more about it here, but there’s one huge fact to understand about Valley Fever especially for travelers.  After returning home, weeks later a person might develop a nagging cough.  The fungal spores on a lung X-ray can mimic cancer and lead to a misdiagnosis. Doctors outside of an arid climate might not be familiar with Valley Fever.

So before jumping to the Big C conclusion, a doctor might need to be informed by the patient that further testing would be prudent to rule out Valley Fever.  Thus, it’s important for anyone traveling to the southwest section of the United States, to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever.

ButterfliesAnd last but not least, there’s West Nile.  No one likes being bit by an irritating mosquito.  The itchy welts are bad enough, but now, after being bit, I have to be concerned about contracting the West Nile virus!

So there you have some of “my” health concerns while traveling around the country in our RV; plague, Lyme disease, Valley Fever, and West Nile.  I’m sure my friend Mona Liza would add chiggers to this list.  You can read about her chigger attack here and make sure you don’t meet a similar fate.

Is there a disease or bug where you live that is of particular concern?  Have you ever traveled someplace and been exposed to an unusual health risk?  Feel free to enlighten us in the comments 🙂

Blue Jay

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor or a nurse.  This post is merely meant as entertainment.  It is meant to enlighten and provoke awareness of geographical health concerns and nothing more.

1001 Natural Remedies (DK Natural Health)
Straw Packable Sun Hat with Black Sash- Wide Front Brim and Smaller Back

It wasn’t all work!

During the 5 week remodeling project at our son’s house, we did manage to fit in some play and other projects.  So it wasn’t all work.  After all, the paint needed to dry, we had to wait for carpet to arrive, and a little break here and there was warranted.

Watson Lake

Watson Lake, Prescott AZ

Aside from remodeling, socializing and hiking, we managed to get in a day trip up to Prescott, Arizona.  Prescott continues to remain on our radar as a possible place to settle down one day.  I was first introduced to this high desert community 25 years ago and again repeatedly over the past 3 years.Prescott Arizona

Our day trip was two-fold.  First and foremost was having the Ford F-250 serviced.  Why would we go to Prescott for servicing when we were staying in a major city?  Four years ago the turbo went out on the truck and we broke down on Interstate 17 near the Sedona exit.  We had just dropped off a load of furniture to our son in Phoenix with our utility trailer and were returning to Colorado with the empty trailer when the truck refused to climb another hill.

Prescott ArizonaWe were towed to the Ford dealership in Cottonwood/Camp Verde where Ted (our now preferred Diesel mechanic) gave us the low down on the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We were offered the easy less expensive fix or the lengthy more costly fix.  Turns out, years ago Ted worked for Ford and was a consultant on the original design team for this particular engine.  He knew its strengths and weaknesses.  If we went with the quick fix, it was just a matter of time and we’d break down again with another issue.  If we went with the total redo fix, then our engine would easily go another 150,000 plus miles without major issue.

Since I have an extensive background in marketing and sales, I’m always the skeptical one and felt we were “being sold” or taken advantage of….. out of staters broken down – perfect for the plucking.  Four years later and after swapping stories with quite a few other Ford F-250 owners, I now feel we were NOT ripped off and Ted did right by us.  Hubby knew that all along  😉

Prescott Arizona

Where’s Waldo … oops, I mean Al? Hint; he’s wearing a blue shirt.

So this past winter as we crossed the seemingly never ending state of Texas, we sensed the Big Dog wasn’t running quite right.  Ah, what to do, what to do?  We already had a bad experience with the Peoria Ford Dealership (Phoenix area) and weren’t sure where to go for honest service.  Much to hubby’s surprise, I recommended he call Ted.

Gambels QuailTed was now working at H & H Diesel in Dewey, Arizona (a small town just before you get to Prescott).  Ted had Al call him back first thing the next morning so they could talk on the phone as Al started the truck.  Ted walked him through the settings on the “tuner” (which had been installed during the major turbo fix) and in less than 2 minutes it was determined the number two injector was bad.  A repair estimate was given and an appointment set up.

A few days later we drove up to Dewey, which was an easy one hour drive from Phoenix, with both trucks.  We dropped off the F-250 at H & H Diesel and ventured off in my little Tacoma.  Our first stop was Watson Lake.  A few years ago, friends introduced us to this unique and stunning lake.

Prescott Arizona

No such thing as ‘too many’ photos!

Prescott Arizona

Can you see the two kayaks? Helps give scale to the enormous size of the boulders.

Watson LakeI was loving it…. climbing here, climbing there, all the while giving that camera shutter a good working out  We continued to do a little hiking and exploring with the promise to return another day to take the time to really savor and experience all of Watson Lakes’ nooks and crannies. Perhaps renting a kayak would even be in order.

A short day trip to Prescott was definitely not enough time to take in everything this lovely community has to offer.

When we picked up the truck, the owner, John Hughes, of H & H Diesel spent an hour educating us on the tuner and the repair.  The bill was even less than the verbal estimate.  It’s been 7 weeks since the work was performed and the Big Dog is running better than ever.  Yes, we are very pleased with the work and this will be our go to service shop in the future.  As we were leaving and thanking John, two RV’s pulled in confirming they not only work on trucks but diesel pushers as well.

So let’s see…. the big truck is feeling better, the little truck was given some attention, and then I too had a check up.  Now all three of us are running in tip-top shape.

Food blogsAnd if I didn’t already have enough on my plate, I decided to start another blog.  I’m not sure what I was thinking especially since we were having a ton of internet/router issues at the time – and still do.  One minute I’ll be commenting away on someone’s lovely blog and the next I’ll lose the connection along with whatever words I had typed.  Grrr… talk about frustrating.

So why another blog?  Many of you know, 2014 was not kind to me in the health arena.  My new blog will focus on cooking and how diet plays an important role in how we feel. I still don’t have a solid focus regarding this new blog, but I know it’ll evolve over time.

Food allergies and sensitivities are a huge issue.  The food we eat today is not the food our ancestors ate.  Preservatives and genetically modified grains have changed the game.

saguaro sunsetBefore I did the post on “Blogging lessons learned“, I did a little research.  One common thread was repeatedly mentioned; have a focused topic and know your audience.  That said, I think some of you that follow this blog might be interested in my recipes, a Paleo diet, health, etc., but I feel the majority of Live Laugh RV followers are more interested in our travels and photos.  However, if I am wrong and you are interested in food and health, click on over to Dally in the Galley and follow me over there.

I also have my food blog link in my side bar with the above wine photo as the feature.

Also, since I’m usually posting here a couple of weeks (or more) behind in our destinations, if you’re every wondering where we’re at “today”, I update our current location in the side bar with the photo of Al and me.

We left Phoenix on May 7th leaving behind beautiful clear skies and warm temperatures.  Now we’re wondering why we left.  The weather in Colorado has been wetter and colder than normal.  Yikes, snow in May?  All part of the adventure I guess!

The Recipe Hacker: Comfort Foods without Soy, Dairy, Cane Sugar, Gluten, and Grain