A Technical Note: EpicRoadTrips.us enters the realm of Responsive Web Design
Much has happened since I published my first web page nearly 20 years ago. After a slow start I learned to write HTML and apply CSS rules for styling. I ditched my deprecated tags and strove to be semantically correct and have my code validate.
I was successful eventually, or so I thought. To get there I had a lot of help along the way. Mainly from the good folks from help forums like CSS-Discuss and the NoteTab Discussion Groups.
Once I got my page layout and styling the way I wanted it I "called it done". And it stayed that way for years and years. Guess what happened during that time? The smart phone revolution. Then tablets came along. All of the sudden millions of people were viewing web pages on devices other than desktop and laptop computers. And now there were many new display sizes and screen resolutions and this meant that designing for the old standards was no longer adequate. Although I knew about browser viewport width settings I ignored them. Bad idea.
I knew sooner or later I was going to have to tackle the issue of responsive web design.
Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience easy reading and navigation with a minimum of re sizing, panning, and scrolling - across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).
A site designed with RWD adapts the layout to the viewing environment by using fluid, proportion-based grids, flexible images, and CSS3 media queries, an extension of the @media rule...
The need to adapt my pages to be responsive became painfully apparent when I viewed EpicRoadTrips.us on a smart phone.
Although most pages at EpicRoadTrips.us did not display too badly on tablets, phones were another matter.
Then Google makes the bombshell announcement they are changing their algorithms to rank pages which use responsive web design with a higher ranking in their search results than web pages which do not use responsive web design.
Search rankings are not of any importance to me. EpicRoadTrips.us is not monetized. I have had offers, but have resisted. So the ranking will not make or lose money for me. But it might dump EpicRoadTrips.us to the bottom of the barrel in a search result.
But I decided not to worry about responsive web design and leave that to those out there who have the need to "keep up". I thought I did not. And I don't. But I could not stand the thought of having a web site which now seemed like it was designed in the Dark Ages.
I made several attempts to get my poor addled and alcohol soaked wits to comprehend all the ins and outs of responsive web design and promptly gave up.
But I just could not stand the thought of publishing more pages which were not compatible in this day and age of mobile phones and tablets.
I signed back on to the CSS-Discuss list and lurked for a while.
Then I spotted someone who I thought might be able to help me - Marsha Bryant. Marsha is a professional web designer whose office is Templates in Time. She has designed many fine responsive web site templates which can be viewed at Templates in Time. If you are in need of a responsive site I am sure you will find a template to fit your needs.
I contacted Marsha about what I wanted to do. And after some back and forth emailing and a very long phone conversation we were able to turn EpicRoadTrips.us into a responsive web site. And she spruced up the images a bit by adding a border and drop shadow. Now ain't that fancy!
I am happy to announce with this very page EpicRoadTrips.us embarks on its maiden voyage into the land of responsive web sites. I can't thank Marsha enough for her time and patience!
Yes, I still have many 100s of pages which are not responsive. But hence forth all newly published pages will be responsive. And I am hoping to chip away at the old pages and bring them up to date. This will be a mind numbing and repetitive grind but I will see what I can do over the next decade or two.
Caveat: The "Click for larger image" pages have not yet been made responsive. Does this page validate? Not yet...
And with that little missive out of the way we can get on with the show!
Our 6 months in Tucson flew by like the pages of a cheap dime store novel.
Our arrival in mid-October was heralded by 3 late monsoon thunderstorms complete with displays of vertical lighting which up until now we had only seen photos of.
The very first night the storm caused a 3 hour power outage which Betsy and I celebrated with an early bed time. ;-)
We met our neighbors behind us - Joan, Kirk and Dennis and enjoyed their company throughout the winter.
We enjoyed the visits of friends and family: John, Petra, Char and Joe, Tim, Andrea, Karen and Colin. It was lots of fun showing them the beauty of the Sonoran Desert.
Betsy enjoyed a full season of Line Dancing and Choral classes as well as hiking, birding, knitting (rainbow socks), reading, relaxing.
Click or Tap on the photos below for a larger image.
We both enjoyed *more dinners out than we have ever had for such a short period of time. But most dinners were at home where Betsy served up one tasty meal after another. Various forays to local breweries and Trader Joe's saw Betsy trying out a plethora of new brews and finding a few new favorites. Life is good!
Brews and munchies with Joe and Char at the Borderlands Brewing Co.
BBQ Joe added to all the tasty eats with his outdoor cooking prowess by fixing entire meals on our new smoker/grill. All we had to do was show him the bag of mesquite charcoal and stand back!
This is the grill we bought for Joe to play with. He had the racks cured and the whole thing fine tuned in no time. The "stand" is an old grill I got out of the garbage. Makes it much easier to move around as it is a heavy duty little work horse.
Dinners and parties at Lil and Lou's place up the street as well as forays out to Donna and Ashok's country retreat for vittles added to the already wide variety of goodies we chowed down on.
Did I mention vittles? We hosted 3 Shindigs at our place one of which was attended by 17 people bearing covered dishes and various assorted drinks and desserts.
* Oh, did I mention food? ;)
This video will give you an idea of what an integral and important part this has in the regional culture.
"Foodies are still celebrating Tucson's designation by UNESCO as a World City of Gastronomy as seen in this wonderful video from AZPM..." See: Food for Thought
When we arrived at the HillBillyHillton in Tucson Estates I immediately set out on a landscaping project. I planted 3 Palo Verde "Desert Museum", 5 Saguaro (Thanks Patricia and Dennis!!!) and numerous other cacti. For some additional color I also planted a few Lantana and a Pyrocantha. A baby Mesquite from the Pima County Native Plant Nursery was placed in a back corner to fill in a blank spot.
This was the first time I had ever used a miner's pick for a landscaping project! The ground was like concrete and it is not an uncommon practice for professional landscapers to use jack hammers when breaking new ground to plant.
Here are some of the fruits of my labor:
In the foreground is pyracantha, lantana and 3 Saguaro youngsters which Patricia gave us. Further back, just beyond the steps is one of the one of 3 young Palo Verde "Desert Museum" trees I planted.
On the left are some of plants which came with the place: Spanish bayonet (Yucca gloriosa), Indian fig opuntia (Opuntia ficus-indica), Arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis) and Blue Palo verde (Parkinsonia florida). Photo by Betsy
Here is some background on the Palo Verde "Desert Museum".
This tree is a complex hybrid among Mexican, blue, and foothills Palo Verdes, selected from a batch of seedlings grown by Mark Dimmitt. The parentage is (Mexican Palo Verde: Parkinsonia aculeata X Foothill Palo Verde: Parkinsonia microphylla) X Blue Palo Verde: Parkinsonia florida.
It combines the best traits of its parents: the very fast growth and large flowers of Mexican, the upright habit of Mexican and foothills, and the smaller and therefore less messy leaves of blue and foothills palo verdes. It has two additional desirable traits not found in any of the species: a very long flowering season (two months or more) and no thorns at all. 'Desert Museum' grows to about 30 feet high and wide, up to eight feet a year during the first couple of years. We grow this tree on its own roots, not grafted onto another species, so that there will be no rootstock suckering problems.
Source: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
We were amazed and delighted at the quantity and size of the flowers.
After we got settled into the Hillton and the landscaping projects were mostly done I started up my group hikes again.
Hiking the Madera Canyon Nature Trail in the Santa Rita Mountains.
In addition to leading hikes for the Tucson Hiking Meetup Group I started another volunteer activity. More on that later.
Unfortunately my hiking activity was cut short due to an ankle injury which is still healing. It is now going on 3 months and still I must tread with care. This has resulted in a full blown case of Hiking Deficit Disorder. Fortunately I am able to cycle with no apparent ill effects or pain. This will be a good reason for me to get back in the saddle and start doing more biking.
Here is one of the ways I have been passing the time while nursing my ankle injury.
Should you care to read about my ankle injury which started last summer with an ankle turn, you can read about it here.
Warmer than average temps made for an earlier than normal blooming season.
Below are some photos Betsy and I took of the beauties we saw.
Betsy goes first:
We saw many Saguaro in bloom.
During the night the flowers are pollinated by the lesser long-nosed bat and the Mexican long-tongued bat.
During the daytime the flowers are pollinated by bees and birds such as the white-winged dove.
Here is one of the desert display areas at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
They have a mix of both native and non-native species. The hybrid Torch cactus seen here is not native.
My turn now:
We saw thousands and thousands of Ocotillo in bloom.
The Cholla were also in bloom.
There were literally square miles of Palo Verde in bloom. This was taken at the entrance to Tucson Estates where the HillBillyHillton sits.
I took this shot on a bike ride with Donna and Ashok. It was on the north section of The Loop in Marana. The mountains are the Santa Catalinas.
A bit of whimsey here - storage tanks in Marana which we saw while cycling The Loop.
While hiking in King Canyon we spotted this nice clump of Hedgehog cactus.
There were lots of Prickly pear cacti in bloom as well. This photo and the one directly below were taken behind the Hillton - about a 15 minute walk from our front door.
These were taken on the edge of a nearby housing development. They may be non natives, I am not sure.
Needless to say we are looking forward to our next winter in Tucson and leaving the gloomy Ohio Valley weather behind.
Mike and Betsy
'Till next time...