Settling in, getting out

January 22- February 7

After unloading the car at our new home, a process that now takes maybe an hour at most, we picked up dinner and drove over to Kaivan’s to visit. He’d done a cross country road trip back west after spending a couple months in Binghamton in the fall and we hadn’t seen him since early September when we left New York. It was nice to catch up, though Charley was a bit confused as to why Uncle Kaivan was here in Arizona and not in New York.

Jamie Charley and I spent the next week getting re-familiarized with our new city and neighborhood. We did a couple hikes over at nearby South Mountain, drove out to the San Tan Mountains, situated southeast of us, and made a trip to the Superstition Wilderness and front-range mountains, east of Apache Junction, about an hours drive from our apartment.

The Mormon Trail & Telegraph Pass/ National Trail, South Mountain

The San Tans

The Wave Cave and Boulder Canyon Trail, Superstition Wilderness

Our friends Maggie and Brandon had been in town for a couple weeks when we arrived. Maggie had started a new contract at Phoenix Children’s, and they got a spot at an RV Park out in Apache Junction. We stopped over for a Sunday hangout, and, again, Charley was a bit confused as to why her Santa Barbara dog pals Donald and Gurley were here in AZ. But she quickly decided it didn’t matter, she was just happy to see her friends.

That evening, we drove over to Chandler’s downtown district and had dinner at San Tan Brewery. Brandon and I sampled some of their IPAs, and I was reunited with my favorite daily driver IPA, Moon Juice from San Tan Brewery. It was odd to be eating inside, at a relatively crowded restaurant, as I don’t think we did that at all during our time in SB.

When Monday rolled around, we dropped Charley off at her daycare, Chandler Dogs 24/7 (the same daycare she LOVED two years ago), and Jamie and I made our way to Chandler Regional Medical Center for orientation.

Last time we started at this hospital, orientation was a week long and many many hours of online computer modules. This time, we received a day of orientation and then started working. Neither Jamie nor I would complain about this- the modules are soul-sucking and seem to go on forever.

That night we’d grab dinner at OHSO in Gilbert with a fellow traveler, Matt, that oriented with us. It’s always fun and interesting to meet other travelers and learn their stories, where they’ve been, what they like to do, etc. Matt’s from Indiana, loves to backpack and rock climb, and owns a gnarly Tacoma that makes me a bit envious.

Later that week, I got the chance to meet up with my old friend Adam from back home. He’s a strength coach for the LA Angels organization, and thus spends his winter and spring in Arizona where the Angels do their spring training. We played pickle ball at the local court (got dominated by some older folks) and caught up on life for a couple hours. Always good to see familiar faces while out on the travel circuit.

Getting acclimated back at work took a bit of time- we’d been off for nearly 3 weeks by the time we started working on our floors. Jamie’s floor, conveniently, is just down the hall from mine, so we occasionally get to see each other when one floor is out of supplies or medications. And on a good day, we get to coordinate our lunches outside together.

I’m incredibly grateful for our managers as well. Knowing that we travel together and would like to work on the same days, they accommodated our wishes and put us on all of the same days to work, so we could enjoy our time off together.

The fundamental job itself doesn’t change much from place to place. Nursing care is nursing care, but the way that different facilities mandate that you document and carry out nursing practice can vary greatly. We both are on Covid floors at the moment, and it’s clear that our coworkers feel stretched thin and burned out at times. They’re grateful for our help, and in turn are always willing to help us out as we get situated. It’s been a good start to our assignment here, we just hope that covid starts to tire out soon.

The second week in town, we were able to get our second vaccination, which felt like a load off our shoulders. The drive up vaccination site was rather impressive in its set-up and efficiency. I can’t imagine the logistics of preparing to vaccinate thousands of people a day in a drive-up manner.

We worked a couple more days that week, then Saturday morning packed our overnight bags and drove down to Tucson to boondock with Maggie and Brandon. They found a spot just outside the city to park the RV and had been there since Thursday. The four of us, along with the three dogs, piled in their truck and made the 20+ mile trip up Mt Lemmon, the tallest mountain in Tucson at over 9000 feet. We did a short hike through some loose wet snow, and they sent their drone high in the sky for some aerial footage of the area. Check out their YouTube channel RV There? at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOl94TG6lUgICx5r0ZS6WZg for some excellent content about RV living and the great outdoors!

It was really neat to see the changes in vegetation as we progressed up and down the mountain, ranging from low lying Saguaro Cacti around 2-3000 feet, Chaparral and woodland oak a bit higher around 4-5000 feet, and Juniper and Pinyon pine above that. Tall Ponderosa pines call the top of Mt Lemmon home, along with many feet of snow in the winter. To see all of these species in the span of 45 minutes is pretty wild, and one reason the West is so interesting to us.

We enjoyed some pizza from Anello in Tucson after our scenic drive and hike, and played Wizard, our favorite card game (thanks Maggie and Brandon!) until bedtime.

We’ve been in town now for over two weeks, and we’re well settled in. Hoping to make a good list of destinations to hit while we’re here. Talk soon!

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