The intoxicating beauty of towering red rock sandstone monoliths and buttes…. rocks aptly named Coffee Pot Rock and Cathedral Rock…. equal parts of rugged and luxury…. a small town blessed with an abundance of beauty and surrounded by National Forest land…..
These words barely begin to personify stunning Sedona, Arizona. Sedona served as stop number two for my excursion with my daughter, and as you might expect, it did not disappoint. Ashton was pleasantly awed by the angular rock formations, high mesas, and stunning colors.
Talk about a visual treat. A feast for the eyes. An abundance of beauty in all directions.
Those beautiful red rocks serve as a backdrop for a number of outdoor activities ranging from spiritual pursuits to hundreds of hiking and biking trails to guided Jeep excursions.
Since Ashton and I only had a couple of hours to tour the area, we set our sights on exploring the shops. Sedona is well-known for its vortex energy and folks from around the world come here for healing and spiritual renewal.
Many of the shops focus on the metaphysical and sell jewelry made from various crystals and stones, each serving a distinct purpose. We stepped into the Sedona Crystal Vortex shop and found ourselves learning the metaphysical value of the array of polished stones. The store offered everything from loose stones, to stunning pieces of jewelry that I would classify as “Art”, to simple elasticized bracelets.
As we perused the numerous bracelets, we read the special benefits of wearing particular stones. It seems there’s a stone for whatever ails a person.
My skeptical nature may have had me doing an eye roll, but the bracelets were cute and thus I figured what the heck. It certainly couldn’t hurt to wear one of these ‘healing‘ bracelets and I can always use a little help. Hmm….. I pondered which stone(s) would be most beneficial for me; creativity, energizing, harmony, inspiration, courage, grounding, prosperity, calming, balance? The list went on, and although I was tempted to walk out of there with half a dozen bracelets, my wallet thanked me for walking out empty-handed. Perhaps I should have indulged in a citrine stone bracelet = prosperity!
Ashton, on the other hand, found healing and inspirational therapy at a wine shop. Following a little wine tasting, she walked out of the store with two bottles of Arizona wines.
We spent another hour engrossed in retail therapybefore heading off for a little spiritual enlightenment.
Regardless of one’s faith, a visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross is a must. Built in 1956 this Catholic Chapel rises 70 feet (21m) out of a 1,000 foot (300m) red rock cliff.
I must admit, a quiet moment of reflection inside this church had more of an impact on my aura than any of the crystals or healing stones I handled that day. Perhaps my chakras are in need of attention.
On that note, I know just the place to go to have my chakras aligned, engage in vortex energy, have my aura analyzed, or purchase stones to help heal whatever ails me 😉 Yes, Sedona…. I shall return. I’m itching to hit your trails!
Before heading out of town, we made one final stop. Not only had I worked up a thirst, but I felt compelled to show Ashton the architecture on this one of a kind McDonald’s. Yep, this is the only McDonald’s in the world where the arches are turquoise instead of golden. So when I told her we were stopping at the Turquoise Arches for soft drinks, she was initially perplexed and later humored.
October! With a briskness in the air, it’s the time of year to enjoy fall colors, carving jack-o-lanterns, sipping pumpkin spiced lattes, and embracing ghosts and goblins. Halloween is one of my daughters favorite holidays and since this October finds her living in Phoenix, Arizona, I knew just the place to take her for a ghostly adventure.
First – on the home front, it didn’t take Ashton long to settle into her new home. She’s become quite proficient at moving. This however, is the first time she’ll be living with two straight guys – her roommates (one of which is her brother). Her entrance into the home might be compared to that of a tornado whipping through Kansas. She obviously has no trouble taking charge of a situation.
The first thing the whirlwind did was reorganize the kitchen and clean out the fridge, followed by some house cleaning and the rearranging of furniture. I’m not sure the guys initially knew what hit them, but they seemed to be ok with her take charge attitude and actually like some of the changes she made. I know they certainly aren’t complaining about Ashton’s culinary skills.
So once she felt settled, I took her on her first Arizona excursion. A little over an hours drive north of Phoenix is the quaint mountain town of Jerome. Jerome prides itself as being America’s largest ghost town.
This former copper mining town grew from a settlement of tents to a roaring mining community and is now a bustling tourist and artistic community. On the outside, Jerome doesn’t appear to have changed much over the past 100 years. Many of the buildings built in the late 1800’s are still standing and have been proudly renovated. However, due to the 30 degree incline of the mountainside, some of these historic buildings have slid a bit down the hill from their original location; the most famous being the town jail.
Checking out the famous sliding jail was first on our list followed by shopping. My daughter and I always enjoy strolling through shops especially when there are unique, one of a kind items like the huge kaleidoscope assortment at Nellie Bly’s.
In addition to the world’s largest collection of kaleidoscopes there are other one of a kind collectibles. Ashton and I were enthralled with the creative talents displayed in the numerous shops in Jerome. But all that shopping had us working up an appetite.
After climbing a bunch of stairs (remember this town is built into the side of a mountain and there’s nothing flat around here), we arrived at the Haunted Hamburger.
We dined outside and enjoyed drinks, a great meal, and an awesome view. But no ghosts. Only skeletons. Supposedly the building is haunted and you can read the story here if you’re interested.
With nothing spooky happening at lunch, we continued our search and trekked up the road to the Jerome Grand Hotel. Constructed in 1926, this Spanish Mission style building was once home to a modern and well equipped hospital.
By 1950, the hospital closed due to the slow down in mining, and the building stood vacant for 44 years. In 1994, the building was purchased, renovated, and turned into the Jerome Grand Hotel. There seems to be a high level of alleged hauntings, from strange moans, to coughs and images, to doors slamming without explanation making this a very popular destination for amateur ghost hunters.
After I was totally grossed out by some of the decorations, it was time for me to pull daughter out of the haunted Jerome Hotel…… not that we had any paranormal encounter mind you, but the place in general gave me goose bumps, and not in good way. Was it the decorations or the aura? Didn’t matter, it was time to move on. Somehow I didn’t sense Casper, the friendly ghost, lived here.
Next stop; the glass blower. Watching this artist create little glass blown pumpkins was much more to my liking, although daughter is still laughing about my unease at the hotel. Aren’t these glass pumpkins adorable?
The town of Jerome is well-known as being haunted and has been featured in several paranormal television programs and publications, but the over all history and vibe to this town is what keeps many returning…. me included.
Ashton and I shared a fabulous day exploring Jerome and October seems to be the perfect month to visit for a hauntingly good time. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for the mine tour or wine tasting (much to daughters dismay) or exploring some of the side streets. Having merely scratched the surface of this quaint town, she and I are already talking about a return visit. Next time Ashton wants to spend the night, some place haunted preferably. I don’t think so!!!
This past week I’ve taken full advantage of daughters time off; time before she starts her new job on Monday. I want her to love the desert as much as I do, or at least embrace the delightful uniqueness of the land.
She’s not quite sure how she feels about the cacti. She thinks some look evil and ready to attack with their thorns.
There’s a harsh beauty to this land that I find anything but ordinary. I never know what I’ll see or discover on my excursions.
There’s something special…. something extra ordinary about the desert that makes me smile.
Daughter hasn’t quite embraced the desert, but she does maintain an open mind. I’ll keep working on her, and in the process, have fun sharing some of my desert favorites.
Moving! Does anyone look forward to this arduous task? Some people seem to move often while others have only moved once or twice in their entire life. My dad has lived in the same house over fifty years while hubby and I, however, have moved a dozen times. I’m not talking about moving around in our RV. I’m talking about moving from house to house with a boat load of stuff. Some of our moves were within the same community while others were cross-country. Some moves presented challenges while others went smoothly, but all were exhausting.
Our daughter, Ashton, was three-years old when we moved from Chicago, Illinois to Las Vegas, Nevada. She may not remember that move, but I remember it as though it were yesterday. Al and I loaded up our rear wheel drive, full-size van, pulling a small U-Haul trailer and with two little kids and a dog, we crossed the Colorado Rockies in January. A moving company transported the majority of our household belongings while we transported personal items.
The 1,800 mile move took us three days and did not pass without incident…. ah, but that’s another tale for another time. For today, I wish to focus on Ashton’s journey. It was during this drive west that Colorado made an indelible impression upon this three-year old little girl, as it did on the rest of us as well. After exiting the famous Eisenhower Tunnel located about an hours drive west of Denver along Interstate 70, we were all greeted with the most breathtaking sight. Laid before us were rugged mountain peaks in all directions, blanketed in a thick layer of the brightest and whitest snow we had ever seen.
I remember pulling over at the Dillon Lake scenic overlook. While I walked the dog, Al watched our 3 year old daughter and 5 year old son run around throwing the white fluffy snow. The lack of moisture in the snow made it impossible to compact into a snowball. The children giggled in delight with their failed attempt at throwing snowballs at one another.
It was weeks later, long after we had settled into our new world in Las Vegas, that my little curly-headed blonde announced, “When I big girl, I move to mountains. I like mountains”. Well this adorable three-year old only had to wait a mere four years. At the ripe old age of seven, we moved from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, making her dream come true.
There would be two more local moves in her future before it was time to head off to college. Then those college years brought about several more moves for Ashton, but most of her belongings at that time would fit stuffed into a vehicle or two.
Last summer was one of her most enlightening moves. For over two years, Ashton had endured a horrible work commute. She was living in Westminster (north of Denver) with a girlfriend from college while working in the Denver Tech Center (south of Denver). Her commute to work one way was anywhere from 35 minutes to 2 hours based on traffic and weather, but the apartment and roommate scenario were perfect thus making the commute tolerable, at least for the time being.
However, with another impending winter approaching along with those dreadful snow storm commutes, she finally decided to move closer to work last September (2014). The majority of the furnishings in the 2 bedroom apartment belonged to Ashton and she was relying on Al and me to help her move. This is when I stepped in and showed daughter how a young, single gal can move easily without the help of family or friends. With her checkbook handy and pointing finger ready, she directed Two Men & a Truck to move her from point A to point B. Within hours she was easily moved and comfortably situated in her new home in Centennial, Colorado. Her self-reliant confidence grew by leaps and bounds that day.
So here we were a year later. Ashton found herself moving a thousand miles away; a move that’s a little more challenging to navigate than a local move. Al and I were in town to provide moral support and advice. This time I didn’t even help her box things up. She had a handle on the whole process. And as much as she knew this move was good for her, it was emotional. She was leaving her beloved Colorado behind and moving to a city she’s never been particularly fond of.
Moving day was on a Monday. Al and I picked up Ashton at her place and drove her to the U-Haul facility where she picked up a 17 foot truck. The U-Haul was no sooner backed into her driveway (with a little help from dad), when the two guys she hired to load the truck called wondering if they could swing by sooner. YES! A little over an hour later with the loaded U-Haul truck, Ashton headed back over to the U-Haul store. I followed driving her car while Al followed in our F-250.
At the U-Haul store, they hooked up the flatbed trailer. Ashton nervously drove her car onto the trailer and the guys secured the vehicle. With that task complete and with Al’s assistance, she clenched the steering wheel of the truck tightly and navigated out of the tight parking lot. This was her first time pulling a trailer. We rendezvoused at the Cabela’s on Denver’s south side in preparation for the long drive to Phoenix.
It was 2:00 in the afternoon and we were way ahead of schedule. It was time for me to implement Plan B. You see, I took it upon myself to be in charge of the navigations and picking out our gas stops and overnight stops along the journey. I had a slew of notes written with lots of built-in flexibility…. I had backups to the backups, not knowing how the trip would go.
We lucked out with mild traffic on Interstate 25 from Denver through Colorado Springs. By 6:00 p.m. we were parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot in the town of Trinidad, located just 12 miles north of the New Mexico/Colorado border. Whew! It had been a long day, but a productive one.
Day 2 had us skirting through Albuquerque. Since I was really concerned we might run into a lot of traffic through Albuquerque, considering it was the Tuesday before the big balloon fiesta weekend, I drove the U-Haul through this stretch with Al and the 5th wheel following close behind. Fortunately again, we lucked out with light traffic and once we were west of Albuquerque on Interstate 40, Ashton and I switched drivers. It was at this point and time, I briefed Al and Ashton on our intended overnight stop that involved a little scenic drive in the process.
I was happy my little plan was not met with resistance. We were traveling via myPlan A all along, but shhhh don’t tell them that 😉 Not long after crossing the New Mexico/Arizona border, we took the exit for the Petrified Forest National Park. As many times as Al and I have traveled this stretch of Interstate 40 in northeast Arizona, we had never stopped at this National Park. Hmm, I’m not sure why!
First we took in the unique sight of the Painted Desert. From there we continued south traveling the 28 mile scenic drive with the occasional stop at an overlook here and there. Remember, we started our day early in Colorado and it was now late afternoon. We had already spent all day driving and were all getting rather tired. Thus, Ashton and Al were putting the kibosh on my photo-op stops 😦
After a fair amount of oohing and ahhing, we kept our wheels rolling (come on guys, just one more stop – NO) until we arrived at the Crystal Forest Gift Shop Campground. Thank you to fellow blogger, LuAnn, for the heads up on this free campground.
We settled into two sites next to each other and opened a bottle of bubbly while I made dinner. We had made it to Arizona! While we enjoyed dinner, we watched a beautiful sunset. This turned out to be the perfect stop for the night. It was quiet, dark, and we all slept soundly.
By noon the following day, the RV was all set up at the RV Park in Phoenix. After enjoying another homemade meal, we were on our way to our son’s home with the U-Haul. Our son and a friend unloaded the U-Haul and that evening, Ashton slept in her own bed in her new home.
As far as moves go, this one could NOT have gone any better. Moving karma was with us the entire journey. We ate well (thanks to my planning and preparation), we slept great, traffic was light, the weather was perfect, and we even managed to enjoy a few laughs along the way. Ashton did an amazing job driving the truck and trailer and by the time she was met with Phoenix traffic, she was navigating like a pro and already talking about a future cross-country move. Slow it down honey, slow it down LOL.
In the end, it was wise to have a plan A, B, and C, but I was thrilled to be able to carry out my Plan A all along. The move was tiring but fun! And by the way, I look forward to returning to the Petrified Forest National Park, but after Al and I enjoy some much needed down time.
It was the middle of September when we arrived back at the Cherry Creek State Park located near Denver, Colorado. We had an enjoyable and enlightening seven week sojourn that took us to the Midwest and back (I put a map of the trip at the end of this post). Family visits and exploring new territory made for a memorable trip.
As pleasurable as the trip was, it was nice to be back in familiar territory and enjoying regular visits with our daughter again. I was also relishing the full hook-ups. After seven weeks of partial to no hook-ups, it was nice to be back in luxury. Let the cleaning commence!
After getting caught up with chores, we found time to visit with old friends and connect with new. Fellow blogger Larry, his wife, and sister-in-law were passing through the Denver area on their way back home in Tennessee. Larry and I have followed each other’s blogs for a while now. Thus, when the opportunity to meet up presented itself, we jumped at it.
Since we were camped at opposite ends of the Denver Metro area (well over an hour apart), we rendezvoused at the C.B. Potts Brewery in Highlands Ranch where the conversation AND laughs (and maybe even some Beer) flowed freely for nearly four hours. Obviously, we all had a great time and now with both of us bloggers slowing down the travels, it’s time to get back in the kitchen. Larry is always cooking up something yummy over at Big Dude’s Eclectic Ramblings and I can always use a little inspiration.
Ok, now for the BIG news….. Before we left Denver around the end of July, our daughter, Ashton, had been talking about needing a change. When she visited a close college girlfriend last spring in Texas, she started thinking about moving to San Antonio or Austin, Texas. The thought came somewhat of a surprise to hubby and me considering she’s our little mountain goat who has always sworn she would never leave Colorado, but seems she may have inherited that gypsy gene after all.
So, there I was in northern Illinois visiting with my dad when the phone call from Ashton came in. Hmm, it was an actual phone call versus a text message, which of course sent me into mommy worry mode immediately. I hurriedly answered the phone, “Is everything okay?” Ashton responded in an upbeat tone, “Yep, sure is. I’ve decided to move to Phoenix, Arizona”. SAY WHAT!
In order to understand my utter shock you have to understand, during every visit to Phoenix that daughter made, she repeatedly announced, “I could never live here”. To some degree, she didn’t even like visiting, but considering her brother lived in Phoenix and we (her parents) spend a great deal of our winter in the area, she would visit to be with family, but always reluctantly.
I won’t bore you with all the ensuing calls, text messages, and emails that followed after her initial heart stopping announcement, but I would like to preface, not once did our daughter EVER ask us for our help or assistance regarding the move. However, that didn’t stop hubby and I from going into parent mode and canceling our Upper Michigan Peninsula leg of our trip and returning to Denver a few weeks earlier than originally planned.
One of just many advantages to RV travel is the ease of changing plans. A few clicks of the mouse here and a little research there and ta-dah ….. we’re onto Plan B which in this case included exploring South Dakota and eastern Nebraska on our return to Denver. And if you all remember, Plan B turned out great!
Quite frankly, I was so excited for Ashton to embark on this new journey that I couldn’t wait to be a part of it. I had recommended this move to her for the past couple of years and each time I even mumbled the thought, I was met with a rude dismissal.
Perhaps, she just needed a little time to mull the idea over. Regardless, I’m one happy mom having both my children in the same city. This year will have our family of four spending Thanksgiving and Christmas together for the first time in five years.
I’m still dancing, can you tell? ….. Next up, the big move.
Whew!!! The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, keeping hubby and me on our toes. I’ll share more about our shenanigans in an upcoming post. For today, I’ll focus on getting caught up on our travels.
In my last post, we were working our way south through western Nebraska; America’s Heartland. Much to our surprise, we found the prairies in this part of the country incredibly enjoyable.
As we meandered down Highway 385, there was virtually no traffic. We took in the scenery and although mostly agricultural, the land rolls with the occasional rock butte.There’s a beauty to the land AND the hard-working people who call this place home. The area is rich in farming and rich in history. The iconic Chimney Rock served as one of the most recognizable landmarks for the great western pioneer migration in the 1800’s.Chimney Rock is now a National Historic Site. This slender rock spire rises over 300 feet from a conical base and can be seen from nearly 30 miles away.Pioneers used Chimney Rock as a landmark to guide them along the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and Mormon Trail. The trails ran along the north side of the rock following the Platte River and continued on to Scotts Bluff, another important landmark.
It’s no secret that I’m not the history buff in this family, but I’m fascinated by the tale of those gutsy Pioneers. This was, after all Indian territory. As a matter of fact, the Lakota Sioux referred to Chimney Rock as Elk Penis, a name I find much more entertaining. Indians, rattlesnakes, and harsh weather were just the beginning of the difficult journey west for those enterprising pioneers. The fortitude and determination it took to embark on such an ambitious venture is astounding. Many made it to their destination, and many did not.
So while the Pioneers of the 1800’s could park their horses and covered wagons anywhere they saw fit, hubby and I need to abide by rules and laws governing where we can park our modern-day horse and covered wagon.
Free overnighting with electric AND water…..
We find ourselves frequently using the site Campendium.com for camping reference and quickly noted a place to camp for the night. We find the Bayard town park easily. It’s located across from a large grassy picnic area in a small gravel lot with electric and water pedestals for 3 RV’s. What a great find and it’s located only 3 miles north of Elk Penis Chimney Rock.
As much as Al and I enjoyed our free campsite, later that evening we accused each other of having stinky feet…. that is, until a gust of wind brought the rather light stench to one of sheer on assault. Ah yes, we were quickly reminded that we were indeed camped in cattle country. The next day, it was time to take our clean feet and move on!
By the way… there were a total of four bloggers all traveling through this part of Nebraska within days of each other. For a different view on the same area, I’ve attached a link to the other bloggers. First up was Pam and John followed by Mona Liza and Steve, then us (although we didn’t visit Scotts Bluff), and lastly Nina and Paul. I find it interesting to read four very different and distinct blogging accounts on the same subject.
We continued our journey south through western Nebraska. We could not possibly pass through Sidney, Nebraska, without a quick stop at the original Cabela’s store. I love success stories and this is certainly a tale of the American dream.
Dick Cabela turned $45 worth of fishing fly materials into the number one outdoor retailer. You can read the entire story here.
We also appreciate the RV friendly facilities found at most Cabela locations. The Sidney store offers a couple of dump stations along with plenty of free overnight parking PLUS a campground complete with full hook-ups for a nominal fee.
On to Colorado……
We pulled into the North Sterling State Park in northeast Colorado. It was midweek with no ranger in sight and plenty of open campsites. We drove around looking for a nice site with a view and noting any reservation notices on the site posts. We pulled into site #6 which required a little creative leveling but nothing we couldn’t handle. A mere two hours later, the camp host came by and reluctantly said, “I’m sorry folks, but I’m going to ruin your day. I need you to move to another site”. Apparently, the ranger failed to post the reservation notices that morning and this site was already reserved for the evening. We responded in a very understanding manner.
With the camp hosts assistance, we found a site that was available for that night and into the up coming weekend. Within 30 minutes we were all set up in our new spot – site #49, which turned out to be equally as nice as #6 with even more spacing between sites and more privacy.
That evening the camp host dropped by bearing a gift of the most delicious full SLAB of BBQ ribs that he had slow cooked all day. Yum! A little visiting over drinks ensued.
The next day I was off on my adventure; an excursion I had planned a few months earlier and one not of interest to hubby.
I wasn’t optimistic about by sojourn to the Pawnee National Grasslands, but I was curious since a blogger recommended I might enjoy it. I drove, and I drove…. down this gravel road and that gravel road. I encountered one 18 wheeler after another. At one point, I was sandwiched between two. The cloud of dust was blinding at times.
You see, this is serious fracking country. Beneath the surface of the Pawnee National Grasslands are oil and gas reserves that are being extracted. The land is dotted with production facilities and evaporation ponds (the waters used for fracking turn toxic after use and need to be dealt with). Not exactly fitting of the scenic category.It took me awhile to find the trailhead to the famous Pawnee Buttes, but after a little meandering down various gravel roads I eventually found my destination. I spent 15 minutes looking around and talking to the cows before hopping back in the truck. No hiking for me. My interest had totally waned.
I wanted so much to like this place. I tried really hard to find the beauty, but after 4 hours of driving one gravel road after another and sharing the dust with semi-trucks, I turned tail and headed home. I would categorize this visit as a bust (aka failure, flop, fizzle, dud). Don’t get me wrong, there is a beauty to the land and I enjoy communing with cows, but the industrial aspect took away from the experience.
Perhaps birders might find this place of interest as the Colorado State Bird the Lark Bunting was flying around in abundance, or perhaps the western region of Pawnee NG offers something more photogenic, but the area I explored held little interest to me personally.
When I returned to the RV, hubby and I looked up reviews for the Pawnee National Grasslands and discovered the majority of the reviews were negative. I’m glad I went with an open mind and read these reviews AFTER my visit. Even though it was a bust, I’m still glad I visited. Not all places in Colorado can be labeled majestic.