John, Terry, Ric and I still kept in touch and - in early July, 2005 - they invited us to come down for a visit.
My involvement with Ric over the past eleven years has meant that I have done a lot of flying and have flown on some airlines for the first time. Our trip from Oakland to Tucson was one of the 'first timers' - we flew on Southwest Airlines.
When one flies fairly frequently one comes to believe that all airlines are virtually the same which is not the case. Sure, the inside of one aircraft looks - except for decor - much like the cabin of another. The differences arise by the different ways the passengers are handled.
With Southwest seats are not assigned but are allotted on a 'first come - first served' basis. We were fairly early for the flight and went to enter the lineup for the seating. In front of us were a 'beautiful people' couple who dropped their luggage closest to the doorway leading to the ramp and then went to the cocktail lounge. Those of us who were gathering at the gate grumbled at the rudeness shown us - and then received retribution. Some ten minutes or so before our flight was to leave there was an announcement of a gate change. All of us in line moved our luggage to the new gate, went on board, and selected our seats. The 'rude couple' were now the last and had to sit in the rear of the aircraft. Served them right!
Always - if I can - I select a window seat so I can watch the terrain passing below. This was not a direct flight to Tucson but via LAX.
When we landed in Tucson we collected our bags and had to wait for a while before our host appeared. John is a trained chef - at one time he owned and operated a French restaurant in Seattle (I had eaten there long before we knew each other) - so shopped carefully. A ride with him in his BMW meant visiting a number of markets while on our way to his house.
Before leaving Toronto I had thought of the chief 'boarder' so bought the usual hedgehog squeaky toy. I had it in my hand but behind my back. Rex was beside himself with excitement so I showed him what I had and then tossed it towards him. It was not out of his mouth (except when he stopped to eat or drink) for the rest of that day.
Jack and Terry had a pool in the yard in Concord but it had no stairs by which to get in or out. Twice, while he was still a puppy, Rex had fallen in and had to be rescued. Therefore he was terrified of the pool - even the one in Tucson. There was a gently sloped set of steps into the shallow end but Rex could not be coaxed to come into the water with us. Instead he would stand and bark where the garden hose lay. I would grab it, aim it and squirt him. He loved that!
John very kindly took us sightseeing while we were there. On our fist excursion we drove southwest along the Ajo (pronounced 'Aw-ho') Highway to Mount Kitt and the observatory up there. Unfortunately, it was later in the afternoon when we arrived and it was closing. However, we remained there for quite a few minutes enjoying the views.
The giant saguarro was in bloom (sort of) and here are the pretty flowers.
On our third day in Tucson Jack drove us to the top of the highest peak in the region - Mount Lemmon.
From the top of Mount Lemmon (which is high enough that there was a noticeable cooling of the air compared to what we encountered down below) there was a magnificent view.
On the fourth day we flew back to Oakland. Again the carrier was Southwest Airlines however, we went via San Diego instead of LAX and we did not encounter any fellow passengers who were rude.