How to Pick the Perfect RV

How do you pick the perfect RV for your personal needs? I’ve wanted to write a post on this very subject for a super long time and have enlisted the help from a guest.

But before we get into the meat of the post, let me take a step back …. a few weeks ago my daughter wanted me to meet the parents of one of her friends. You see, these folks were contemplating selling their house and moving into an RV full-time, but didn’t know the first thing about RVing …. total newbies.

on the road againAfter a three-hour luncheon, I had inundated this couple with so much information that their heads were spinning. To make a long story short, in the end, I recommended that they rent at least one RV. They wouldn’t have to travel far, just spend a couple of nights in a nearby state park and test things out. Figure out what they liked, didn’t like, and how they felt about the overall experience.

RVing is not for everyone, and buying the wrong RV can be a very costly endeavor. Remember, RVs are a depreciating asset.  It’s really easy to get caught up in all the pretty bells, horns, and whistles on an RV Dealership lot, especially with an encouraging salesperson eager to spend your money, only to walk away with something that doesn’t fit your personal goals and will lead to unhappy travels.

Without further adieu, I’ll let Gaby from RV share enlighten us all on the benefits of renting an RV – try before you buy. 

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How to Try Out an RV Before Jumping In
An RV is a hefty investment. And, like any good consumer, you need to do your research before investing in one. Because while RVs offer a freer, more fulfilled lifestyle, they can also be a significant strain on your bank account. If you purchase one frivolously, it could turn out to be a nightmare of an expense that you’ll be paying off for many years to come. Thankfully, renting an RV before you commit is a great way to find out if ownership is right for you.

classes o RV's

Peer-to-Peer RV Rentals Help Owners and Renters Alike
More than 9 million Americans own RVs. The industry is undergoing a renaissance, and more people are buying RVs than ever before. The RV age gap is also shifting; Millennials are quickly becoming one of the largest age brackets of full-timers and renters.

Sadly, though, roughly 90% of RVs sit unused for most of the year. The RV’s gather dust while ownership costs, like payments and storage fees, accumulate. RV share and other peer-to-peer rental networks offer a solution to this problem that works for both parties: owners can rent out their RVs and supplement their income, and renters get to try before they buy.

RVing in Moab Utah

Due Diligence: Rent an RV Before You Buy
It’s of the utmost importance that you do your research when buying an RV. We can’t stress this enough. You wouldn’t buy a house without making sure it met your needs first, would you? Considering that some RVs can cost as much as a house or more, it only makes sense that renting an RV should be your first step. Here’s why:

● Renting an RV isn’t difficult or expensive. Depending on the type of RV you rent, you can find rates for as little as $60 per day! It’s a small price to pay for the experience.

● You’ll start learning to see through the eyes of an RV’er. Whether you’re considering buying an RV to live in or to use for weekend camping, you’ll need to know how to downsize and prioritize. Renting an RV for a few days will help you change your perspective and learn how to pack for RV living.

● You’ll learn a lot about how RVs work. This is knowledge you absolutely must have if you want to buy an RV. You need to know how to dump and clean the tanks, maintain the batteries, make minor repairs to appliances, use the slide outs and leveling jacks, and much more. Even a short weekend RV rental will enlighten you to the necessary skills you need to own an RV.

● You’ll figure out which type of RV is best for you. Can you imagine spending thousands of dollars on an RV, only to find out it’s too difficult to drive or too small to fit your family?  By renting an RV, you’ll get to try out a variety of different types and sizes, so you can determine what you like and don’t like. RV share has a diverse inventory of hundreds of thousands of RVs for you to check out.

● You’ll get some driving (and lifestyle) practice. Traveling in an RV is a skill in and of itself. You need to plan your routes and campground stays carefully; but you also need to be able to adapt to changes quickly. Taking a road trip in a rented RV will teach you how to be organized and prepared, and how to think on your feet.

RVing Dillon Colorado

How to Choose the Right RV Rental
Before you rent, it would behoove you to narrow down your list of potential RVs. There are millions of different RVs out there, each with their own features, floor plans, and price points. Ask yourself the following questions to help you find some good rental candidates:

● Would you rather tow or drive your RV? Towables are more affordable, roomier, and can be left at the campground if you need to run into town for errands. On the other hand, motorized RVs are much easier to drive, and thus more comfortable for many.

● How many people will travel with you? Small trailers and Class B vans are perfect for two people, plus they’re affordable and easy to drive. Mid-sized RVs, usually between 25 to 30 feet, are good for three or four people. Anything over 35 feet in length is considered large and good for big families or if a couple is considering living in the RV full-time.

● How important is privacy to you? RVs with separate bunks and bedrooms (like Class C’s and large Fifth Wheels) give everyone their own personal space. If privacy isn’t an issue, convertible dinettes and sofa beds might be enough.

● Do you plan on dry camping a lot, or do you prefer campground stays? Maybe you’re not sure. If you like the idea of camping under the stars and away from the crowds, you’ll want an RV that’s adequately equipped for boondocking. Features like solar panels, large holding tanks, and a good-sized generator are key.

● Finally, how do you plan on paying for your RV? Generally, you won’t be able to finance an RV that’s 15 years old or older. So, while older RVs are more affordable, you’ll need to either pay in cash or take out a personal loan to buy one. New RVs can be financed, but can cost close to $100,000 or more. If you’re looking for a middle-ground, look for RVs that are about 10 years old and come with financing.

RVing in Moab Utah

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, start looking for two or three different RVs to try out. Experiment with different types of floor plans and features. Maybe you test out a large Class A with slide outs one weekend, then rent a mid-sized Class C the next. This way, you’ll get a sense of how it feels to drive different types of RVs and how well the layouts suit your needs.

Hit the Road and Find Your Dream RV!
Thanks to peer-to-peer RV rental networks, trying before you buy has never been easier. You can find just about any type of RV you have in mind, whether you want an affordable conversion van, a luxury Class A, or something in between. For just a few hundred dollars, you can rent an RV for the weekend and see what type of RV is best for you – which will save you a lot of hassle if you eventually decide to buy.

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on the road again

Thanks Gaby for providing my readers with some great information.

Have you ever rented an RV to test out the RVing adventure before buying? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

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Wildlife on the Trail?

Would you know what to do if you came face to face with wildlife on the trail? Obviously, a lot depends on exactly what kind of animal we’re talking about.  A marmot would have me stopping in my tracks to snap a bunch of photos all the while baby talking to it and letting him know how darn cute he is.

A snake on the other hand gets my heart pounding while exclaiming, “Oh sh*t!” but of course still managing to take a quick snapshot 🐍😮 (which I don’t recommend)

rattlesnake

coming face to face with a rattlesnake on the trail

Even though I should already know the answer(s) considering my past wildlife encounters, lately I find the need to evaluate my trail safety savviness and ask myself, “What should I do if ….. ?” The reason for my review pertains to my recent encounter with a rattlesnake on the trail last week. This was my second time having a close encounter with a diamondback and I’m hoping it’s my last, but when you spend as much time hiking in their habitat as I do, chances are we’ll meet again.

Willow Lake Prescott Arizona

Willow Lake, Prescott, Arizona

So what did I do when I heard that unmistakable sound only a diamondback rattlesnake can make? My tale about his tail ….

Willow Lake, Prescott, ArizonaLast Thursday was a glorious day offering a much wanted reprieve from the every day rainstorms. However, it is monsoon season here in Arizona and the moisture is very much-needed in this arid climate.

With the sunny blue skies, it didn’t take me long to lace up my hiking shoes and head on over to the Granite Dells area for an exploratory hike with the camera.

I chose an out and back hike at Willow Lake in Prescott, Arizona. The trail started off like any other dirt hiking trail, but soon I found myself scrambling across huge boulders and using the white spray painted dots to guide me along the trail.

hiking Willow Lake, Prescott trails, Arizona

white dots highlighting trail

I was a mere fifteen minutes into the hike when the trail went up rather steeply and I began wondering what I had gotten myself into.

To maintain my balance, I leaned forward toward the boulder and steadied myself with one hand on the ground as I climbed following the white spray painted dots.

I continued to pay close attention to those dots as to not veer off the trail. I was focused on my footing and my where abouts and of course the obligatory photo taking.

About 20 to 25 minutes into the hike, the trail had taken me up and over some beautiful scenery. I was enjoying myself and getting in a great workout. The trail had dipped down only for it to head back up over a rock outcropping. I was slightly winded as I climbed and just as the boulder leveled off, there was an unmistakable sound to my right.

diamondback rattlesnake

Is it just me, but I see shoes? I find his skin beautiful … the repetitive pattern, texture, and color is stunning.

“Oh sh*t, not again!!!” There off to my right about 10 to 12 feet away was a rather large diamondback rattlesnake in strike position. Tail was up and rattling. Head was up with tongue dancing. I slowly and gingerly kept walking (which I felt was my safest and quickest option).

Within seconds, he settled down and both of us no longer felt threatened. I quickly, and I mean quickly, snapped a couple of photos while admiring his unique beauty.  Hmm, years ago I owned a pair of snake skin shoes with a similar texture. At the time, I lived in the Chicago area and had never seen a snake in the wild.

For some reason, I kept thinking about those shoes and soon came to the conclusion that it would somehow feel very wrong to me owning a pair of snake skin shoes. Although I didn’t appreciate the encounter on the trail, I do appreciate wildlife and that beautifully textured skin belongs in the wild and not on my feet.

diamondback rattlesnake

I was hiking from left to right when I met Mr. Diamondback

diamondback snake

guess I wasn’t the only one on the move.

rattlesnake

As I was hiking from the left and coming over the ridge, I was more focused on my footing and potential critters in the rock crevices which is why I didn’t immediately notice the snake sunning himself near the ledge.

For a brief second, I thought about hanging around for more photo-ops. He was rather large and a good-looking snake at that, but thank goodness my better judgement took over.  Although he and I seemed to have come to an understanding, you never know what might provoke the guy. He is a snake after all and unpredictable. I’m not afraid of snakes, but I am afraid of being bitten by a snake.

I continued on my hike and once I was on the other side of the ravine, I looked back to see if the snake was still there.

Willow Lake Prescott, Arizona

Looking across the ravine to see if the snake is still on the trail.

I certainly felt somewhat relieved seeing Mr. Diamondback on the move. Remember, I have to hike back this way 😲 This rattlesnake encounter did take some of the joy out of the rest of my hike and I was almost ready to call it quits, but I’m a stubborn gal and I was on a mission to see the red bridge. Thus, it was onward and upward …. figuratively AND literally.

hiking Prescott trails, Arizona

Eek – all those nifty places for snakes to hide. “Please Lord no more diamondback encounters”.

Red Bridge Willow Lake Prescott, Arizona

The red bridge looks more pinkish than red thanks to the Arizona sun

I made it to my destination; the red bridge. I was tempted to continue hiking a little further, and probably would have had it not been for the snake encounter. It was already 85 degrees Fahrenheit at ten in the morning. With the heat and sun shining, this was ideal snake weather and one diamondback meet up was more than enough.

Willow Lake, Prescott, Arizona

Red Bridge – Willow Lake, Prescott, Arizona

After a little rest and several photographs later, it was time to turn around and retrace my steps. To say I was on edge or a little jumpy would be an understatement. Each little rustling of vegetation from lizards or grasshoppers would have me whipping my head around in search for the cause of said movement, and lets not even talk about the sounds of crickets or birds.

lizardgrasshopper

 

 

 

 

 

It really was a beautiful day and Willow Lake is a wonderful place to hike, but I couldn’t relax and enjoy the return hike. I was on edge and just wanted to get back to my car.

Prescott trails

I laid my pack down next to the white trail marker to help show the grade – steepness

I navigated the areas of the trail where I was concerned about the steepness of the boulders with a quickness and ease that surprised me. And to think, earlier I thought I’d be scooching back down this trail on my derriere.

Willow Lake trail Prescott, Arizona

follow the white dots – hiking up to see if Mr. Snake is still there!!!

When I retraced my steps on the trail near the rattlesnake encounter, I felt nervous and heard a large sound in my ears. It was a familiar sound, yet unfamiliar. It was so loud that it nearly drowned out the sounds of birds chirping. I stopped for a second to figure out what it was and soon realized it was the pounding of my heart.  “Geez, Ingrid. Get a grip. It’s only a snake”.  “Ah, but not any old snake”, I replied to myself.

critters on the trail

careful of sneaky critters on the trail!

Okay, now I’m talking to myself.  I vowed, when I got home, I’d do some Googling and investigate what to do when encountering wildlife. I felt pretty sure of myself and what to do, but a little review might be helpful and perhaps make me feel a bit more confident in the future.

hiking in Prescott, Arizona

The stick on the trail made me jump thinking it was a snake

I made it past the rattlesnake sighting only to have a hornet keep buzzing around me. Must’ve been the sweet nectar oozing from my pores. Between the heat, blazing sun, and nervous fear this gal, who normally doesn’t sweat, was sweating indeed.

And although I managed to avoid a snake bite or hornet sting, I did return to the RV with a dozen itchy tiny welts from mosquitoes.

At least these were itty bitty mosquitoes when compared to the huge ones found in Minnesota.

hiking in Prescott Arizona

So here are my thoughts on safety guidelines. Although today I’m talking about wildlife, I use the same personal guidelines when visiting a city. Thus, whether I’m in the wilderness surrounded by boulders and vegetation or in a metropolitan area surrounded by concrete and roads, a little street smarts goes a long way.

  • learn an animals habits and potential dangers
  • stay calm and back away slowly
  • appear tall and confident
  • allow a wide berth
  • do NOT turn your back
  • do NOT act threatening or provoke
  • be prepared and always have an exit strategy
  • carry pepper spray/bear spray

I know this is a basic  guideline and each animal reacts differently, but in all cases, I’d say most important is not acting threatening or provoking. So what would I have done if bitten by that rattlesnake?

  • First, distance myself from the snake
  • Second, sit down and stay calm. Try not to move.
  • Third, call 911 (when I’m out and about, I’m always checking my phone for reception) If my phone won’t work, use my whistle or scream for help (I try never to hike remotely when by myself. Although this day, I didn’t run into another hiker on the trail. Thank goodness I had good cell service)
  • Always be familiar with your location and surroundings so you can give good directions should you need rescuing. I stopped at every trail post noting my location.
  • If not dizzy, slowly make my way back to the trailhead
  • Get to a hospital as soon as possible.
  • Additional info on snake bites here and here

Willow Lake Prescott Arizona

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Too Much Sunshine?

Is there such a thing as too much sunshine? I grew up in the Midwest and I remember well the days that would turn into weeks where the sun stayed hidden behind a thick layer of cloud cover. The month before we packed up and moved west, we experienced an entire month with seeing the sun shine. Talk about depressing!

sunshine Prescott Arizona

That gloomy weather made it a lot easier to say good-bye to family and friends as we packed up our family of four plus furry dog and moved west to the unknown. We didn’t have jobs. We didn’t know a soul. All we knew was we weren’t meant to stay in the Chicago suburbs.

sunshine in Prescott ArizonaWe purged more than half our stuff. Items we couldn’t part with, like our canoe and a few family heirlooms, were stored at Al’s sister’s farmette in northern Illinois. We packed up our full size van and a small pull behind U-Haul trailer and off we headed west to Las Vegas, Nevada ….. in January, no less. Our larger pieces of furniture were moved by Mayflower.

Yeah, there were a few people who thought we’d lost our marbles moving from Chicago to Las Vegas in the dead of winter with our young children – 3 and 5 years old at the time.

When you know in your heart that it’s time for a change, time to move on, why procrastinate? Al and I share a favorite scene from the movie Paint Your Wagon ….

Elizabeth: Then simplify your life, Jacob. Sell me.
Jacob Woodling: But Elizabeth: you don’t know what you’ll get.
Elizabeth: But I know what I’ve had.

It’s a line Al and I share regularly when discussing a change, a change of any kind, “I don’t know what I’ll get, but I know what I’ve had“. Sure, there’s always that fear of the unknown, but Al and I have never allowed fear to hold us back. Although, I assure you there was a fair amount of fear with an incident or two crossing the Rockies in the middle of January with two small children and a dog in tow.

reflections

The highlight of that cross-country move happened in Colorado. The Eisenhower Tunnel located 60 miles west of Denver, Colorado on Interstate 70 is over a mile and a half long and sits at an elevation exceeding 11,000 feet. The moment we exited that tunnel, we were greeted with the most spectacular sight. Laid out before us were stunning snow-covered mountains in all directions along with the brightest blue sky I had ever seen. I’m sure my mouth dropped open in awe.

On Interstate 70 near the town of Frisco, Colorado, is a scenic pull-out. (I highly recommend this stop when traveling westbound on Interstate 70) We stopped here to stretch our legs and take in the amazing scenery. We no sooner exited the vehicle when all four three of us started complaining, “The sun, the sun! I need sunglasses!”  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such brightness in nature. I started seeing spots like I’d been hit with the flash of a camera.

Although, Mr. Aviator sunshineHusband always sported cool dude aviator shades, the kids and I rarely found the need to wear sunglasses in the mostly overcast Chicago suburbs. Ah, little did we know, but this lack of sunglasses habit was about to change 😎

Three days and 1,800 miles later, we arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada, and our introduction to life in the desert southwest began. We went from an average of 189 days of sunshine a year to over 300 days.  Oh yeah, bye-bye seasonal depression … bring on the sunshine!

But is there such a thing as too much sunshine? It’s a question I’ve recently been asking myself. Now that the forest fire is contained and the air has cleared, I’m getting back to exploring the Prescott area with my camera. Never in a million years did I ever think I’d return to the RV complaining to my husband about a boring blue sky. But that’s exactly what happen the other day.

sunshine
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t dare swap these lovely blue skies for the grey gloomy ones in the Midwest. It’s just nice to change it up every now and then. We’ve gone over six weeks without a drop of rain and hardly a cloud in the sky. I find myself collecting sunglasses and stashing them in all the necessary locations …. a pair in the car, one or two in my purse, another pair on my desk. They seemed to have multiplied and partnered up with my old eye cheater glasses that I also have lying around every where 🤓

Prescott Arizona Willow Lake

Ah, so much sun, but patience is a virtue. I keep my eye on the sky. I’m longing to photograph one of those amazing desert sunsets, and I need a smattering of clouds to fulfill my quest. Considering it is officially “monsoon” season here in Arizona, I shouldn’t have to wait too long. I keep the camera at the ready.

Monsoon season in Arizona

Willow Lake Prescott, Arizona

And finally a storm rolls in. It didn’t exactly produce the shot I was envisioning, but I’ll take it. The storm passed through rather quickly, but it smelled wonderfully refreshing while it lasted. And now that I’ve had that quick little fix of storm clouds, bring on the sunshine. Yeah, I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much sunshine or having too many pairs of sunglasses 😎

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!

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Full-filling Dreams

June is always a time for Al and me to do a little celebrating. We have a couple of important anniversaries to celebrate. Sometimes I don’t know where the time has gone. Time can be fleeting. On one hand it seems like yesterday that I was preparing to walk down the aisle and marry my partner in crime and on the other hand it seems like a lifetime ago. The last thirty plus years have sure been one heck of a ride!

outdoor weddings

over thirty some years ago – where has the time gone

So not only did we celebrate another wedding anniversary, we celebrated our full-time RV living adventure. At the end of June, we completed four years of living in the RV full-time. Funny how what was suppose to be a year or two has now turned into five. As we enter year five, we have no immediate plans to change things up.

I was feeling a little nostalgic the other day and started reading some of my earlier blog posts about the transition of selling the house and moving into the RV. I thought I’d re-share a post I wrote back in April 2013 as we were preparing to move into the RV full-time.

outdoor wedding

let’s take a look back

 A look back……

Skirts AloftI came across a book titled “Skirts Aloft“.  I smile, sit down, and open the front cover.  On the inside of the book in handwriting it says, “Ingrid, may all your dreams come true. Love, Mom”. I had lost my mom exactly a year earlier and coming across this handwritten message brought tears to my eyes.

Ah, the memories ……

I was seven years old the first time I traveled to Europe.  It was the mid 1960’s and my parents had not been back to Germany since they immigrated to the United States in the late 50’s.  My mom had been experiencing twinges of home-sickness.  So after a year of hard work of scrimping and saving, our family of five was off to Germany for a three-week vacation.

It never ceases to amaze me what memories my mind chooses to recall.  My mom, an excellent seamstress, had made matching dresses and coats for my three-year old sister, myself, and our Thumbelina dolls.  These were the years everyone dressed up to travel, white gloves and all.  Our outfits were the latest, most up to date fashion in Jackie O style.

We boarded a Lufthansa plane.  My three-year old sister sat at the window. My mom sat in the center and I sat on the aisle.  My dad sat across the aisle with my eleven year old brother.  I remember being bored and having trouble sitting still.   My mom was exasperated and embarrassed as the gentleman sitting in the seat in front of me had to repeatedly turn around and ask that I stop kicking his seat.  Come on, it’s a long trip to fly from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany, and this of course, was long before any kind of technology for entertainment.

My mom thought traveling with a three-year old would be a challenge…..not….sister slept most of the time when she wasn’t eating.  What a good little girl.  The seven-year old, moi …..well, the kicking of the seat, the whining, and the frequent visits to the bathroom were just a precursor to the ensuing fun for mom.

Flight AttendantWith an hour left before landing, the crew came through the cabin taking care of last-minute clean up and paperwork.  I’m mesmerized by the pretty gals in their navy blue uniforms adorned with bright yellow scarves.  This is when I tell my mother, “I’m going to be a Stewardess when I grow up”.  “That’s nice honey”, she responds, clearly exhausted.

As the plane starts the initial descent, that’s when I reach for the first barf bag.  Did I mention, I have a problem with motion sickness?  Not a big surprise for dear mom as she had plenty of practice with my car sickness.  Once again the three-year old sits quietly and is duly entertained by looking out the window while poor mom deals with the puking seven-year old.  Two barf bags later and an empty one in hand, we’re in my uncle’s car heading to his house.  That’s when my mom turns to me and asks, “So, you still want to be a Stewardess when you grow up?”

The car is warm.  I’m sitting in the middle in the backseat.  I have my barf bag in hand.  Before answering mom, I dry heave into the bag then respond, “Yes mommy, I still want to be a Stewardess”.  My dad chuckles and shakes his head in total amusement, while mom clearly could use a break from this seven-year old.

Nine years later at the age of sixteen, I board a Lufthansa flight by myself bound for Frankfurt, Germany, for a summer abroad.  Hugs and kisses goodbye are plentiful.  Mom goes in for a second hug and whispers in my ear, “Don’t forget to keep one of ‘those’ bags within reach just in case you need to throw up”.  “Yes mom, thanks”.  Yep, at sixteen I still needed one of those bags.  Oh, how embarrassing!

My summer in Germany was amazing and in many ways, life changing.  And although I still endured motion sickness, the dream to become a Stewardess did not falter.

Chicago skyline

In my early twenties I fulfilled this dream and was hired as a Flight Attendant for a small airline based in Chicago.  My first day on the job was a six leg flight schedule.  Each flight is referred to as a “leg”.  This was my flight schedule that first work day as a Flight Attendant…..

  1. Chicago to DetroitChicago
  2. Detroit to Chicago
  3. Chicago to St. Louis
  4. St. Louis to Chicago
  5. Chicago to Detroit
  6. Detroit to Chicago

Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it?  Strap on throwing up eleven times!  No problem with next months weigh-in for this vomit comet.  Yes, those were the days of regular weigh-ins.  You had to maintain a certain weight or risk being fired. Heels, make-up, and nails done were also requirements back then.

My second day on the job went a little easier…..

  1. Chicago to Kansas City
  2. Kansas City to Chicago
  3. Chicago to Washington D.C.   Arrive in D.C. at 9 p.m. and spend the night.  The next morning check-in at Regan National Airport for a 6:30 a.m. departure.
  4. Washington D.C. to Chicago
  5. Chicago to Detroit
  6. Detroit to Chicago      Off for three days…..time to rehydrate.

The vomiting stopped after six weeks, but the headaches and occasional dizziness would still rear its ugly head from time to time, especially in the spring time when the cold and warm air currents were mixing.  To me, the movement felt like the gentle rolling of a sailboat riding the waves ….. NOT the kind of movement that agrees with me.

Trips to the Caribbean confirmed my lack of love for sailing.  I love the water but prefer a speed boat, jet ski, or even a canoe.  Cars?  I’ll take a Jeep over a Cadillac any day of the week.  When the airplane would encounter severe turbulence, I was fine.  It’s that gentle rolling motion I can’t handle.  I’ll refrain from saying, “I like it rough” for fear some folks might take this statement the wrong way 😉

It was during my third month on the job when I walked into Flight Operations to check in for a flight.   There standing at 6 feet 4 inches tall was a German-Norwegian hunk of a man in a navy blue uniform.  What is it with me and those navy blue uniforms?

outdoor weddingI introduce myself, “Hi, you must be new around here.  My name is Ingrid.  I believe we’ll be working together for the next few days.”  I never imagined I had just introduced myself to my future husband…. First Officer Al. And they said it wouldn’t last!

I was a Flight Attendant for five years and feel very fortunate to have full-filled the dream of a once naive seven-year old.  My mom always questioned my ability to be a Flight Attendant due to my motion sickness and encouraged me to go to school to be a nurse or a teacher. She’d say, “just in case, you know“, but she never discouraged or tried to squash my dream.

I have the fondest of memories of those years flying….the good as well as the bad.  Yes, there was plenty of bad like the Air Traffic Controllers strike in the 80’s.  A flight from Chicago to St. Louis usually takes about an hour.  We’d pull back from the gate and sit in line on the tarmac for one to two hours waiting for take off.  FAA regulations requires the Flight Attendants and passengers to remain seated at this stage….no drinks, no potty, no fun, and lots of complaints.  Not the fondest of memories.

Washington DC

Then there’s the travel benefits.  One year for her birthday, I took my mom to Washington D.C. for lunch.  We caught the first flight out of Chicago to D.C.  Several of the pilots I worked with had spent years working at the Pentagon and obviously were very familiar with the D.C. area.  A few restaurants were recommended and I chose one that was known for southern cooking, complete with black-eyed peas, and housed in a historical building.  Mom and I had a great day.

Another time, my folks joined Al and me for a Boston layover and witnessed us at work.  Al was the Captain and I the head Flight Attendant.  I was the one in the front of the cabin doing all the talking…..I love being in charge.  “Look, mom.  No puking”.  She was proud.  Fun times……ah, the stories are plentiful.

Life changes, we grow, and we move on.  New dreams are forged. With that said, time for me to get back to sorting the other boxes here in the basement …… I have a new dream chapter to get started on after all.  Here’s to all your dreams coming true!

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That was then, this is now ….. So while Al and I toast to another year in the books, we discuss tentative plans for this next year of full-time RVing ….. plans that are written ‘in jello’ with lots of wiggle room. Although we’ve narrowed down our options, we’re still torn with choices….. our journey continues!

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Fire, Confusion, and Compassion

I awoke to a burning in my throat and the smell of a campfire, same as I had the previous four days. It was around 5:30 in the morning and the sun hadn’t risen yet. The winds were calm, thank goodness, and the air was a crisp sixty degrees … perfect for sleeping with the windows open.

Goodwin Fire Prescott Arizona

Fairgrounds RV Park can be seen on the left side of the road – my current home base – photo taken 6/28/17

Although I slept great, there was a restlessness about me. It was Thursday, June 29th, and under the circumstances that restlessness was justified. No longer sleepy, I jumped out of bed, went downstairs, started the coffee and quickly went to the window to check for the plume of smoke. I was flooded with a sign of relief as the sky appeared clearer than it had the last couple of days.

I’m sure the calm winds played a major role in allowing the firefighters to try to get a handle on this out of control forest fire.  The Governor of Arizona declared a State of Emergency due to the Goodwin Fire located to the south and east of Prescott, Arizona. The fire started on June 24th and has since scorched over 25,000 acres.

Goodwin fire Prescott Arizona

Goodwin Fire – photo taken 6/29/17 from the Yavapai County Fairgrounds, Prescott Valley, Arizona

Evacuations and road closures have been an ongoing event and although Al and I haven’t been personally affected (other than the continuous campfire scented air), Al does have a good buddy that has been affected. Hubby’s friend was in one of the evacuation zones but wouldn’t leave his property. During Al’s first phone call with the friend, he seemed confused and unsure what to do. Al did his best to make recommendations and suggestions along with our offer to help. Regular communication ensued checking in on his well-being.

Goodwin Fire Prescott ArizonaFortunately, the evacuation order for the friends neighborhood was only in effect for two days. Once the evacuation was lifted, the friend was obviously relieved there was no longer an immediate threat of fire, but more importantly, his out-of-town guests were finally able to visit so they could all attend the big rodeo in town together. Important stuff out here in the west, ya know. Yep, let’s get our priorities straight 😆

Considered the world’s oldest rodeo, Prescott Frontier Days is a huge event that locals always look forward to attending.  Since 1888, this traditional rodeo has occurred annually over the 4th of July weekend.  Although the Prescott Rodeo Grounds and events were not affected by the forest fire, the slew of extra horse trailers around town proved to be a benefit.

A disaster, like this forest fire, seems to bring out the best in people …. compassion sums it up nicely. Folks have come together and rallied to help one another in any which way they can. The small towns of Mayer and Dewey, which were located within the evacuation zones, are rural and many homeowners live on acreage with all kinds of animals, large and small.

Goodwin fire livestock

This gal seemed stressed and restless

Goodwin Fire evacuated animals

Yavapai County Fairgrounds serves as animal shelter for evacuated animals of all kinds

goodwin fire animal shelter

animals from the evacuated areas being brought to temporary shelter at the fairgrounds

Goodwin Fire animal shelter

With smoke-filled skies and ash falling, this was a scary and confusing situation for people and animals a like. Folks from all over the surrounding Prescott area were hitching up their trailers and driving into the evacuation zones to offer help in transporting animals. Unfortunately, not all animal owners have the equipment to transport their horses or livestock, in which case corral gates were left open for the animals to escape. These three alpacas were picked up by a Good Samaritan and brought to the shelter.

goodwin fire animal shelter

These alpacas were found skittishly roaming. They seemed very confused and scared.

Yesterday during my afternoon walk, I checked in on the alpacas. Apparently, the relieved and grateful owner had picked them up that morning.  We talked with a couple of volunteers and they informed us there was a very good system in place to reunite the proper owners with their animals.

Goodwin Fire animal shelter

With evacuation orders being lifted (July 1st), the pens in the make shift animal shelter were a mere quarter full versus the near full facility just two days earlier. The shelter was offered all free of charge ….. the animals were cared for by volunteers, food had been donated, and a veterinarian was available. This had to offer peace of mind for the owners. I know it would me, an animal lover!

Goodwin Fire Prescott Arizona

photo taken late afternoon July 1. Goodwin Fire in the distance – over 40% containment and light winds.

The compassion didn’t end with the animals. For anyone who was evacuated and owned an RV, they were welcome to park in just about any parking lot around Prescott Valley. One of the local RV dealerships even offered up the use of their RV’s on site. I’m not sure which dealership it was or any of the circumstances, but I did find the story interesting.

A Red Cross shelter was setup at the Prescott Valley High School and the parking lot there had a bunch of RV’s in the lot as did the local Walmart, grocery stores, and shopping centers. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many RV’s scattered around a town…. take that back, I know I never have. The rules for overnight RV parking were bird photographyoverlooked during this trying time.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”  ― Charles Dickens

Even though there’s been some misinformation posted on social media, most of the posts have been positive, compassionate, and offering help.

As we celebrate this 4th of July weekend, I can’t help but feel proud of the camaraderie I’ve seen this past week … the American spirit at its finest. My thanks go out to all the fire fighters who put their lives on the line daily to ensure our safety and to all the volunteers who lend a helping hand. The Goodwin fire continues to burn, but at the moment (July 2nd), no towns are being threatened and containment continues to improve. Let’s hope the winds don’t kick up!

Wishing you all a wonderful and smoke free 4th of July!

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Embracing Photography Failure

When I started this blog five years ago, I was sharing photographs that were shot with a $79 Kodak digital point and shoot camera.  I didn’t know anything about photo editing or even that the photographs needed to be edited.  What came out of the camera got shared on the blog … as is.great blue heron

Like any newbie blogger, I was excited to get that first follow, that first like, and of course, that first comment.  As the months passed, I eagerly continued writing posts filled with photographs.  The comments and followers increased and I developed friendships, friendships that continue to this day.

sandOne day, I received a message.  An email message from a fellow blogger?  Oh, how exciting, I thought!

That excitement was short-lived as I read … “If you’re going to post pictures on your blog, the least you could do is a little photo editing.  There’s no excuse for sharing a photograph with a crooked horizon especially since there’s free editing software like Picasa that’ll fix it in a second. 

Oh and quit posting the photos so little.  If you’re going to share photos, then share photos so we can see them.  Don’t expect readers to click to enlarge because they won’t.  Nobody has time for that.  Aside from the poor pictures, nice blog“.

whooping cranesAll righty then …. I was heartbroken, mortified, and embarrassed.  How is it I was capable of building award-winning custom homes from conception to completion, and yet I knew nothing about photo editing?

Quite frankly, my computer/technology skills were basic at best, which drove my business accountant crazy 🤓

Old school film seemed simple;  snap a bunch of pictures until the roll of film was full then take it to the drugstore to get it developed. Botta bing, botta boom!

poor photograph

FAIL – nice color, relatively sharp, but I didn’t keep panning and thus cut off his head

That message gnawed at me.  Editing?  Hmm!  Google and I became well acquainted.  Picasa was downloaded.  I started following blogs that focused on photography, along with all the RVing blogs I already followed.  As our RV travels increased, so did the photo taking AND sharing.  A slow and steady photographic evolution morphed.

Great Blue Heron

Better – Great Blue Heron     ISO 100     F4     1/800       56.9mm  (35mm equivalent 312mm)

I’ve been humbled by many of your complimentary comments lately about my photography.  Through A LOT of trial and error, I do feel it has improved as have my editing skills, but the compliments and questions still surprise me.  I consider myself a novice, a beginner, a work in progress when it comes to photography.

With that said, I thought I’d share a little behind the scenes, or shall I say, behind the lens with you all, and show you a few of my photo fails and successes…. a post about what works for me, using simple and inexpensive camera gear.

ducks in-flight

Camera set on ‘shutter priority’.  ISO 200  F4.5   1/1600   54.5mm (35mm equivalent= 305mm)

I’m still a comedy of errors behind the lens, and fully embrace my tried and true method of ‘point and pray’ style of photography.  So this isn’t a detailed ‘how to’ post.  And if you consider yourself an accomplished photographer, I always welcome critique cormorantand recommendations.  I’m actually grateful for that critical email message …. well, maybe 😉

I’ve gone through the camera envy stage, and still do.  When I see amazing images on a blog post, I’ll ask the blogger about their camera gear thinking if I use what they’re using my photographs will improve.  Or maybe if I spend more money on camera gear, I’ll capture better images.   We all know this isn’t necessarily true!  We’ve all seen stunning photographs taken with an iPhone and some very poor photos taken with a DSLR.

Therefore, camera choice is personal, and the best camera to have, is the camera that you carry?Pelican

So what camera(s) do I carry?  I predominantly use what’s referred to as a “Bridge” camera.  A bridge camera is more than a Point and Shoot, but not quite a DSLR.  Thus, a bridge between the two.   There’s no lens changing with a bridge camera but there are a lot of customizing options.  I have a whole page dedicated to cameras if you’d like more detailed information.  I realize, whatever camera I use, it’s important to learn how to operate the equipment and know its capabilities and limitations.

shore birds

FAIL – I set camera on ‘program’ mode. Totally wrong setting for moving subject.   ISO 400      F4.0
shutter  1/100   causing a blurry mess         55.7mm (35mm equivalent 310mm)     No cropping

shore birds

Moderate FAIL – ISO 400   F4.0    shutter 1/250    still too slow for moving subject    30.1mm (35mm = 167mm)shore birds different day   ISO 100   F4.5     shutter 1/1000      70.5mm (35mm equivalent 392mm)        No cropping

The built-in zoom on my Panasonic is marketed as a 25-600mm lens which allows me to shoot a wide-angle landscape image one minute and then zoom in on wildlife within roseateseconds.  I love this flexibility, but it does have its drawbacks.  The quality of the photograph will never be on par with a DSLR and the crop factor is limiting.  It’s all about resolution, pixels, and sensor size.

I’ve used this camera for three years and have learned its strengths AND its weaknesses and I know when I zoom in to that 600mm capability, I will lose image quality.  I also know its aperture sweet spot is F4.0 and it’s best not to take the ISO over 400.  There are also times it has trouble focusing,

heron

FAIL – even though the heron is in the center of the photo and  camera was set to a ‘center’ focal point,  camera had trouble focusing on the heron with all the vegetation  😒  It’s the camera, not me!  Panny and I have been at odds lately!    ISO 100    F2.8 (even at F4.0 camera had difficulty focusing)     1/800      107.8mm (592mm)

egret

ISO 100    F5.0    1/1600       108mm (600mm)    Fail on placement of Watermark. Not thrilled with composition!

How close am I to the birds and what lens am I using?  Hmm!  I have no clue on actual distance but I can share lens distance.   Since I’m using a bridge camera, there’s no specific lens to talk about, but I can share an equivalence to a DSLR.  If you note the info on each photo, I’ve shared the mm number.  Since I have a cropped sensor camera, the number in parentheses is the equivalent if using a full frame camera.  If you don’t understand sensor size or why my camera or an iPhone will never capture the image quality of a DSLR, here’s an enlightening article that might clarify.

bird photography

How do I capture birds in motion?  For a Point and Shoot, I set the camera to the “sports” setting.  My little Sony P&S doesn’t offer a sport setting but it does have a “pet” setting that does ok. Then set the camera on “burst” mode.  Multiple shots taken spoonbillat one time is key, but note, point and shoot cameras can be slow to process multiple shots and take a few seconds to recover and be ready to snap again.  I’ll admit, I rarely use the Sony P&S for birds. Too challenging.

For my bridge camera, I prefer to set the camera on “shutter priority”.  I’ve tried using the “sports” setting and “aperture priority”, but wasn’t pleased with the results.  Every camera and user is different.  Because I’ve photographed so many birds with my Panasonic, I have a pretty good handle on how fast my shutter needs to be for specific birds.   For example; cranes and herons in-flight, the shutter can be as low as 1/800 but for ducks, I need at least 1/1600.  And I always have the camera set on “burst” mode, taking at least three shots at a time.whooping crane

Yes, I do delete a lot of photographs, and I’m ok with that.  I also set the camera on continuous focus (AFC) and switch back and forth between a center focus point versus multiple focus points.

cormorant

Cormorant  –  ISO 200    F4     1/800     46.5mm  (35 equivalent 290mm)

If my subject is holding still or I’m shooting landscapes, I’ll alternate between the IA (intelligent auto) and P (program) settings.  I do acknowledge that the camera can often times be smarter than me.  Thus, I never feel badly using the camera in full auto mode.Killdeer

Whenever I’m photographing wildlife, I take a ton of photographs.  Remember, digital photography is free. So why not shoot away!  It’s not uncommon for me to shoot 300 plus photographs in a day, and if the birding is really good, I might shoot as many as 1,000.  Out of those images, I expect to like maybe 25.  By the way, I only shoot that volume of photographs when it comes to wildlife.

sunrise

Camera set on Auto – unprocessed, right out of the camera.  I still can’t hold my camera straight!

sunrise

exact same photo, but OVER processed for fun!

Photo processing – This past January, I finally graduated in the editing department.  I jumped from Picasa to Photoshop Lightroom.  I know some folks think processing/editing is somehow trickery, but processing is necessary for optimal imagery.

It’s no different from film.  The roll of film was processed and pictures were developed from the negatives.  You wouldn’t walk around sharing the negatives.  It’s the same with Lightroom or any other photo editing program.

Some folks like to over process a photograph for dramatic effect.  Most of the time, I try to keep the colors in my photos to as close to what I see, to reality.  However, even Ansel Adams played around with developing/processing.  It’s just another way to let the creative juices flow.

sunrise

image right out of camera – no processing.  I finally activated the “grid lines” on my camera to assist me in achieving a straight horizon.  You’d think by now, I could hold my camera level 😒

bird in-flight

Same image processed; a little cropping & color adjusting. Is the horizon now slanting the other way? Geez!

Lately, I’ve been shooting more purposely.  You know, thinking about composition, accessing settings, and striving for a compelling image.  All I can say to that is the delete black bellied whistling ducksbutton is working in overdrive and the fails far outweigh the wins more than ever before.  Ah, but isn’t that part of the fun and challenge of photography?  Hmm, maybe I’ll return to that ‘point and pray’ method  😄

But the big question is always, “Are we having fun yet?” You bet I am, and my recommendation is whatever camera you’re using, whether you process or not, keep posting.  Don’t let  anyone derail your creativity.

Cheers to sharing pictures – the good, the bad, and all the in-betweens!great blue herons

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Comedy of Errors

It was another early morning around the RV.  Once again, Al and his buddy were heading to the marina by 6:15 a.m.  While I sat in bed enjoying my first cup of coffee, I contemplated how energetic I felt.  I determined, not very!Rockport, Fulton, Texas

While sipping my second cup of coffee, I read emails and glanced out the RV window checking for cloud conditions.  Looks like another morning of ho-hum skies, eliminating any urgency to leave the comforts of the RV post-haste for a photo-op.

roseate spoonbillFinally around 8:30, I hopped in the truck and headed on over to one of my favorite areas to walk.  I figured, I might as well get in some exercise since the day won’t be about photography.  But this gal never goes anywhere without her trusty camera slung around her neck.  One never knows when a rare photo-op might present itself!

There’s a relatively new housing development being built not too far away from our RV park near Rockport, Texas.

This former home builder still likes being around new construction and enjoys checking out the latest trends in the housing industry.  I even enjoy the smell of lumber!  I know, weird 😏

new homes

I still like checking out new construction housing developments – walkway lower right.  This photo was taken on a beautiful sunny day …. just one of many.

paver boardwalk

this is the walkway aka boardwalk in the new housing development. Houses are on the right – marsh and Gulf on the left. This photo was taken on that foggy morning in my previous post

Anyway, I love getting in daily strolls in this gated community.  Most of the homeowners are only here occasionally … maybe on weekends or holidays.  The houses are used primarily as second homes.  Thus, I usually have the “boardwalk” (their label, not mine) to myself.Gulf shore birds

I parked the truck in my regular spot and took the path to the walkway.  As I started down the boardwalk, I immediately gasped in awe and glee.  The little ponds in the marshes were loaded with shore birds. Thank goodness, I brought my camera.  It was a gloomy, overcast morning and my camera seemed to have difficulty focusing.  Perhaps, it was camera shake due to my excitement.

Texas birding

this may be reality  …. but

colorful birds

This is what my mind saw – a flurry of color – where to look? where to point the camera? To say I was excited would be an understatement!

I was elated to have stumbled upon so many shore birds.  I did my best not to startle them, but the slightest movement on my part seemed to send them flying off to the roseate spoonbillnext pond. I slowly followed in their direction and my camera continued to work in overdrive.

Well over an hour later, it was time for me to leave.  Oh, how I wanted to stay longer, but my teeth were floating from the coffee ingested earlier.  As I approached the truck, I dug around in my bag for the keys.  I couldn’t seem to find them.  I entered the code on the keyless entry pad on the driver’s side door of the truck and began searching the vehicle floor, ignition, passenger seat and still no keys.  It is so not like me to misplace my keys.egret

I began to wonder if the keys had somehow fallen out of my bag while I was retrieving a new camera battery.  After all, there was a lot of excitement going on and while I dug in the bag for the battery, I kept my eyes on the birds.

So it was back to the boardwalk to retrace my steps.  Still no keys.  Eek!  I’m frazzled and really need to pee but the last time I used the construction porta-potty, I attracted a lot of attention from the workers … something I was hoping to avoid this go around.  Plus, I was in no mood for jovial sparring.

egret

someone’s feathers are ruffled

“Check the truck again, Ingrid”, I said to myself.  I tried punching in the code on the keypad but had a total space out.  Oh my gosh, I can’t remember the code!  😱  Just then, one of the landscapers yelled something out to me.  In a daze, I asked, “I’m sorry, what?”  He repeats, “Did you get some nice shots?”  “Oh, yeah”, I responded, still frazzled.  heron

All I could think about was loosing all the keys on my key chain.  The truck key was one thing, but the other keys, holy sh*t, not easily replaced!!!

As I responded to the landscaper, something to the left of him caught my eye.  Ah-hah!  There was a lone porta-potty in the distance and after a quick visit, I was once again able to thick clearly.  I still couldn’t remember the keyless entry code on the truck though.  Talk about a brain fart 🙄

Oh well, I shrugged. I’ll walk back to the RV Park and get Al’s keys which he always leaves behind while boating.  I thought about calling my friend and neighbor in the RV park, but I forgot to take my cell phone with me – grrr.  So that wasn’t an option.  Well, I needed the exercise anyway considering I got sidetracked earlier by all those birds.great blue heron

So it was off to the RV Park by foot.  Along the way, I discovered the roosting grounds for Great Blue Herons and a delightful pond.   Once again, I was sidetracked and found myself meandering through a grove of twisted oak trees all the while my brain kept saying, ‘focus – tend to business’.

pond

note the tops of the trees – great blue herons nesting

I couldn’t help but get sidetracked, but soon logic took over and I was once again on my way to the RV Park.

But then …. the unique sound of the Black Bellied Whistling Ducks stopped me in my tracks.  These squeaky guys always make me smile and I can’t resist looking up to the skies when I hear them to catch a glimpse of their beautiful coloring.  Little did I know, I was in for a treat.  As I stood still trying to blend in to the truck of an oak tree, I watched them circle.  Hundreds of whistling ducks landed not far from me.  Then to top it off, a deer emerged from the brush.

whistling ducks

black bellied whistling ducks

whistling ducks

Alas, after being sidetracked a couple of times, I finally made it to the RV to retrieve Al’s keys.  I stuck my cell phone in my bag (just in case) and briskly returned to the truck.  Well…. maybe briskly is an over statement since there was a slight detour back through the oak trees and the heron nesting grounds.  But I swear, it was brief 😉

great blue heronBy the time I returned back to the RV with the truck, Al was home.  He and his buddy had a great morning out on the water.  He had worked up an appetite and wanted to know, “What’s for lunch?”  Twenty minutes later, we were sitting at the local dive up the road indulging in an awesome shrimp po-boy sandwich arguing over the code to the truck keypad.  Seems I confused Al, as well as myself.

To wrap up the day …. I had one of the most exciting bird photography mornings ever along with a very cool location discovery.  My close proximity to the shore birds is what lent to the thrill.

I lost my keys and later found my keys on the backseat floor.  Don’t ask 😆  I ended up walking about four miles that day.  I took hundreds of blurry photos.  Therefore, broke my camera.  Oops!  User error?  Maybe!  Fixed my camera.

sunrise

someone woke someone early!

I confused my husband regarding the keyless entry code on the truck, but not to worry.   The code was recalled in the wee morning hours the next day …. I believe someone waking someone exclaiming, “I REMEMBER THE CODE” was involved.

Lost my keys.  Found my keys.  Walked four miles.  Broke my camera.  Fixed my camera.  Communed with hundreds of birds.  Confused my husband.  Husband remains confused (living with me thirty plus years, confusion justified lol).  What an exciting day.  Ah, rarely a dull moment in the life of a full-time RVer!seagull

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It was a good year!

It’s that time of year again. The old calendar is in the trash and the new one is hanging on the wall.  I’m not sure why putting up that new calendar made me smile.  2016 cardinalwas actually a pretty good year for me and I was in no hurry to bring on any change.

But as I gaze at the semi-glossy calendar sporting a beautiful landscape photo, I note the lack of scribble on any of the dated boxes …. a clean slate.  Oh, the possibilities!

You know that feeling you get after cleaning out a closet?  (Well at least the feeling I get) Not only do I feel a sense of accomplishment, there’s a feeling of being refreshed, out with the old, in with the new.  It’s a positive feeling that brings a smile to my face.  I kind of got that same feeling when I threw out the old calendar and replaced it with a new one.

The dawning of a new day, a new year

The dawning of a new day, a new year!

Al and I have just recently started talking about our travel plans for 2017.  I know, kind of late for us considering the new year is upon us already.  Quite frankly, I’m still relishing in the memories from some of last years excursions.

Today I’m sitting in Rockport, Texas, back in the very same spot I was in a year ago. As I type, I’ll occasionally gaze out an RV window admiring the unique and resilient oak trees.  I contemplate the twists and turns of the tree trunks while listening to the pleasant chirping of cardinals.fog

Last years travel plans started out relatively organized and well laid out, but as the year unfolded,  we encountered unexpected twists and turns.  And just like I may not understand why those mighty oak trees grow in a hither and yon manor, I don’t fully comprehend how our well organized travel plans went astray in a similar hither and yon way.

"The Big Oak Tree" said to be over 1,000 years old.

“The Big Oak Tree” said to be over 1,000 years old.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter because the year turned out to be one heck of a fun ride.  Sure, there were a few negatives thrown in here and there, but that’s life, isn’t it!

A few memorable experiences of 2016 ….. After our regular January stint of birding along the Texas Gulf Coast, we returned to Phoenix, Arizona for a little desert dwelling and hanging with the kids. In April we moved on down to Yuma, Arizona for a short stay to tend to some business which included having the RV and truck washed and hand waxed all for $150.  In Phoenix, we paid $400 for the same type of work.  That was a memorable price difference, wouldn’t you agree?  I foresee regular visits to Yuma in our future 😉

Then it was time for a day trip across the border to Los Algodones, Mexico for dental work.  I was a little apprehensive about this at first, and reached out to a few of my full-time RVing friends for recommendations.  In the end, I had two crowns and a filling done for a total cost of $750 and thus far no complaints.  Normally, I wouldn’t include dental work as a highlight or memorable event, but eating without discomfort allowed me to enjoy our travels the rest of the year that much more.  Plus, it was a new and interesting experience that was all positive.Bryce Canyon

Also in April, I had my mind blown away by some of the most perplexing and boggling scenery in southern Utah.  I’ve always loved visiting Utah, but the fascinating hoodoos that make up Bryce Canyon National Park had eluded me until that day.  Trust me when I say, pictures do not do the park justice.  It’s one of those places you really do need to see in person. Bryce Canyon National Park was definitely a highlight of my year and goes toward the top of the list.

Then there was our two month work camping gig in Idaho.  I had a great time, Al not so much.  I found myself doing things I never thought I could.  I spent my time working in the RV Park restaurant and office.  I waitressed, I cooked, and I checked campers in and sometimes I was the only one available to do all three.  Oh yeah, I was hopping and as much as I impressed myself with my abilities, I was glad the job was temporary.  You know Lilacswhat, that was the best thing about it – the job was temporary and I wasn’t in charge.

After running my own business for years, it was wonderful for me to say, “Let me get the owner. I just work here”.

Overall, it was an enlightening experience on many levels.  Would I work camp again?  I’m not sure.  It boils down to risk/reward and every scenario is different.  If I had permanently injured myself on the commercial grill, which was hubby’s constant concern, it sure wouldn’t have been worth it.  While building picnic tables, Al ended up tweaking an old back injury, which took a while to realign and hampered his fun most of the summer.  Risk vs. reward, definitely something to consider when contemplating work camping.

After years of dreaming, I finally made it to the Grand Tetons … not once, but twice.  The first time was in early June and the second time was mid July.Grand Teton

I loved all the spring blooms in early June.  Grand Teton National Park did not disappoint and remains a place I hope to revisit time and again.

At the end of July, we returned to our former home town of Pueblo West, Colorado.  I like to return once a year to hug my stuff in storage.  I’m just not at a point where I’m ready to let go of everything and give up the storage units (yes, plural 🤔).  I retrieved some stuff and left other stuff behind.  As I looked into the storage units, my thoughts were mixed.  Some things I’m glad I’ve kept and others make me wonder whatever was I thinking.  We really do need to think about consolidating and purging.  But not today!  I know it’s only stuff, but I like my stuff and I like embracing it once a year.  Hug, hug, kiss, kiss moving on ….

We had the opportunity to see Al’s sister’s new condo in the Denver area.  In the spring of ’16 she moved from northern Illinois to Denver, Colorado and hasn’t looked back.  She’s loving every minute of her new home state.  It was also very convenient for us to spend the night with her so Al could drop me off at the airport for my early morning flight from Denver to Chicago.

While camped at Lake Pueblo State Park, the A/C needed some maintenance.

While camped at Lake Pueblo State Park, the A/C needed some maintenance. That’s why Al’s on the roof.   My photo is not crooked, the lay of the land was.  It was a sloping site but offered delightful views.

During our stay in Denver, the RV was comfortably parked at the Lake Pueblo State Park, a two hour drive south of Denver.

DadMy visit with my 89 year old dad was very special as I escorted him to his grandson’s  wedding (my nephew).  Dad beamed as he watched the first of five grandchildren get married.  The wedding was beautiful and the day was absolutely perfect.

Initially, I wasn’t exactly excited about returning to Illinois, but little did I realize, I was in for a special treat ……

I flew back to Chicago on a Wednesday.  The Monday before, I received an interesting email.  Turns out my bestfriend from junior high and high school was trying to track me down.  We’d lost touch twenty-eight years ago and after several failed attempts she finally succeeded in finding my correct address.  Talk about timing.  That Thursday we enjoyed a four hour lunch filled with non stop talking. After all, we had a lot of catching up to do.  How fun was that!  Now we stay in touch via Facebook.

The day dad and I did a little yard work together was laughable.  It was literally a frick and frack moment.  Words like hootchie and jigma jig were used in regards to starting the lawn mowers. At 89 Dad’s brain is as sharp as a tack but he occasionally has trouble finding the right words and as far as I’m concerned, you can call it a primer, a gas thingy, or a jigma jig … I didn’t care.  I just wanted to get the things started.Lawn mowind

And once we had both the rider and push mowers started, the necessary sign language used to communicate with one another over the loud engine noise was incomprehensible to each other.  I guess I don’t need to tell you which one of us used the pusher 😎  Yep, a lot of laughing took place that day and the yard work eventually got done.  Without a doubt, it was a wonderful and memorable trip.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National MonumentBut I encountered the highlight of my year in mid August near Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I’m convinced travel is all about timing.  Ever read someone’s blog post where they gush about a place and then when you visit you just don’t get it?  Sure, it might be a nice place, but not over the top ‘oh my gosh gotta visit’ worthy.  I firmly believe it’s all about what’s going on in one’s personal life that makes a place resonate with ones soul.

Another year, another time and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument may not have touched me in the same way it did.  Guess it was just what I needed at the time.  As much as I was enjoying the summer, it was filled with many stressful moments.  Unexpected twists and turns can be a ton of fun, but they can also be a trigger for stress.

I really should have my arms out stretched as I sing "Let it Go". Yes, I was having an "Elsa" moment! (Disney animated movie, 'Frozen')

I really should have my arms out stretched as I sing “Let it Go”. Yes, I was having an “Elsa” moment! (reference=Disney animated movie, ‘Frozen’)

So you could say, by this point in our travels, I needed to recharge.  Santa Fe and Kasha-Katuwe were my salvation, just what the doctor ordered, and remains my all time favorite moment of the year.  I’m sure it was all about the timing for me.

How about politics?  Although I wasn’t exactly stressed by the political climate, the commercials and news stories became an irritating annoyance.  But it did make for one heck of an entertaining and memorable year in America!Route 66

Although the rest of 2016 brought about some fun adventures worth writing about, I’ll leave those tales for another post.

In the meantime, keep in mind, life may take a bunch of unexpected twists and turns and we may not always understand why, but remember, we are a resilient thriving bunch just like those mighty oak trees.

Light at the end of the tunnel

A light at the end of the tunnel 🙂

I send you warm wishes for a wonderful New Year.  Let’s start filling in our calendars with intriguing travel adventures … cheers!

1,000 Places to See Before You Die: Revised Second Edition

A Mirror of Reflections

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe it’s September already.  Our summer flew by, and although our travels didn’t exactly go as planned, we are not complaining.  Actually, we couldn’t have planned our summer any better.  Sometimes winging it can turn into an amazing adventure.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

The travel God’s smiled on us regularly as we changed directions on a whim.  I mean literally from one second to another we were changing our minds on where we should go and pulling into campgrounds without reservations…. not ideal in the peak of tourist season.  One minute we were in crisis mode pointing the RV in an easterly direction, and the next, with the crisis averted, we found ourselves turning around and heading north; traveling with no real rhyme or reason other than some impending obligations.

Jackson Lake, Wyoming

Jackson Lake, Wyoming

The flexibility and freedom of traveling in a RV can be liberating, exciting, stressful, wonderful, scary, perplexing, and of course, relaxing …… it’s kind of like a rollercoaster of emotions, but minus the word relaxing.  As much as I love a good rollercoaster ride, I’ve never found one to be relaxing – exhilarating yes, relaxing no!  And RVing can be an exhilarating journey.

Jackson Lake, Wyoming

Jackson Lake, Wyoming

Along with seeing spectacular scenery this summer, we met some wonderful people.  More than once we were referred to as “seasoned”.  On July 1st, we entered our fourth year of full-time RV living.  Our one to two year intention of living in the RV full-time has since turned into year four.  I’m not sure when we progressed from “newbie” RV’er to “seasoned” RV’er, but here we are,  still enjoying the journey, and willing to share our school of hard knocks knowledge with any “RV newbie” who asks.

Grand Junction, Colorado

Grand Junction, Colorado

I’ll admit, three years ago as a relative ‘newbie’, I would never have handled the winging it style of travel we embarked on this summer.  I’ve always been a planner and usually have a game plan laid out weeks in advance, and most times, months in advance.  I think, over time, we’ve developed a level of RVing confidence. We have confidence in knowing we’ll always manage to find a place to overnight, even if it’s just a parking lot.

Loved visiting the ducks at Schbacher Landing, Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Loved visiting the ducks at Schwabacher Landing, Grand Tetons, Wyoming

There are days I do miss a home base.  A place to go back to and regroup, but I still haven’t found that spot I’d like to call home.  So the search shall continue.  I do know it won’t be Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Although amazingly beautiful, and I look forward to returning, my blood is too thin to tackle that weather.  More than once we awoke to temperatures in the 30 degree Fahrenheit range along with a fresh dusting of snow on the peaks and this was in mid July …. beautiful BUT brrrr!

I don't think I'd ever tire of this view, but I couldn't live here - too cold...brrrr!

I don’t think I’d ever tire of this view, but I couldn’t live here – too cold…brrrr!

The moment I realized this weeks photo challenge was mirror, I knew I had to share some images from our summer excursion ….. photographs depicting reflections.  I’m still struggling with my computer issues, thus my lack of blogosphere presence may continue, but now that we’ve decided to slow our travels down a tad and spend the next two months hanging in Prescott, Arizona, I’m hoping to finally upgrade this dinosaur of a laptop.

Yellowstone Bear World, Idaho

Yellowstone Bear World, Idaho

Once I bring home that new laptop, I’ll start writing about our interesting travel stops.  Not only do these photographs depict reflections, as I review them, I reflect on our memories, on our journey, on the adventure.

Grand Junction, Colorado

Grand Junction, Colorado

Slate River Road, Crested Butte, Colorado

Slate River Road, Crested Butte, Colorado

My biggest dilemma was narrowing down the photographs to just a few, which was not an easy task for me.  We managed to visit some stunningly beautiful places during the past few months.  We started in Arizona last April then ventured into Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and now, five months later, have returned to Arizona.

I was excited to see a Pelican fly by - Pelicans in Wyoming?

I was excited to see a Pelican fly by – Pelicans in Wyoming?

Lots of ducks

Lots of ducks

Mountains and Wildlife - love it!

Mountains and Wildlife – love it!

Yep, we had one heck of a rollercoaster ride this summer ….. wouldn’t change a moment….. not the highs, the lows, or the upside downs.  Stay tuned for all the stories!

Why we winter in Phoenix

What is it about the desert southwest that has us returning year after year?  It’s obvious we share our desert addiction with hundreds or more like thousands of other visitors.  Each winter season, droves of people migrate to Phoenix and the surrounding area to escape the cold and snow.desert sunset

Some folks come for a long weekend visit, while others (us included) stay for months at a time.  Let’s face it, with over 300 days of sunshine a year, mild winter temperatures, and sunsets that’ll knock your socks off, it’s hard not to like this part of the United Cactus flowerStates.  But there’s a lot more to the valley of the sun than merely the weather.

Sometimes I relish quiet, remote solitude while other times I like the hustle and bustle only a city can offer.  Phoenix is unique in offering me the pleasure of both world’s.

Phoenix is not only the capital of the state of Arizona but also the county seat for Maricopa County.  Maricopa County encompasses 9,224 square miles (23,890km) and includes the city of Phoenix along with 13 other cities, 10 towns, over a dozen other unincorporated communities, and 5 Indian Reservations.

fawnEach locale offers its own distinct vibe and topography.  Recreational opportunities are endless and diverse ….. hiking, biking, kayaking, golfing, fishing, horseback riding, hot air ballooning, fine dining, casual dining, museums, art galleries, rodeos, car shows, zoos, festivals, casinos, concerts, professional sports, minor league sports, shooting guns, and shooting cameras (my favorite, of course).

Trust me, there is no shortage of things to photograph around here; from wildlife, to beautiful flora – fauna, to distinct architecture and landscapes.  And of course, those amazing sunsets.desert sunset

The Maricopa County Park System is a recreational delight for locals and tourists alike.  Our favorites include Cave Creek Regional Park, Lake Pleasant (week days), and Lost Dutchman State Park.  We’ve heard great things about other regional parks, but  can’t speak from personal experience due to a failure on my part in making a reservation.  wild donkeyWeekends book up and reservations are a must during the peak winter season.

That said, I love going to sleep in a rural setting being serenaded by coyotes and wild burros while the next day I’m able to take an easy twenty-minute drive to shop at a top drawer grocery store/mall or visit a one of a kind museum like the MIM (Musical Instrument Museum).

Or I can drive 45 minutes west and watch cotton being harvested, however if I drive 45 minutes east I can find myself exploring an old ghost town.  Seriously, this place has something for everyone.art gallery

Accommodations vary from rustic tent camping, to RV Park Resorts, to hotels, five-star all-inclusive resorts, to plenty of vacation rentals.  In other words, there’s no shortage of overnight options that’ll custom fit anyone’s taste buds.

giraffe

me, my son, and a friend

I haven’t always liked Phoenix, but the more time I spend here the more I like it.  Of course, it’s a bonus that both my children now live here, but there’s other relationships as well.

Since Phoenix is such a great place to visit, there’s no shortage of social opportunities. I love meeting up with fellow bloggers, RVer’s, or long-lost friends.

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from a friend whom I hadn’t seen in twenty-three years.  She and I were in a play group together back in the Chicago suburbs when our children were little.  In the early 1990’s, Marianne and her family moved to California while my family and I moved to Nevada.  Once a year we’d exchange Christmas cards while keeping up with each others ever changing addresses.

Marianne and I enjoy tea and crumpets at the English Rose Tea Room in Carefree, AZ. We haven't changed a bit in twenty-three years ;-)

Marianne and I enjoy tea and crumpets at the English Rose Tea Room in Carefree, AZ.  Hmm… there were crumpets on those plates! We haven’t changed a bit in twenty-three years 😉

I picked Marianne up at her son’s home here in Phoenix and the two of us headed out for tea and crumpets.  After five hours of visiting, we bid farewell with the promise of getting together again soon.  Although she and her husband live in Florida full time, they do enjoy regular visits to Phoenix to see their son.  Thus, I’m sure it won’t be another twenty some years before our next luncheon or tea time 🙂

cactusAnd since we’re speaking of tea, I realize the desert isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  Me? I’m intrigued by the harsh desert landscape and fascinated by the vegetation and wildlife that are able to thrive in such an unforgiving environment.

I love the diversity of activities available, the weather (well, not the summer), and all the friendships, new and old, that we’ve made since we started visiting the valley of the sun.  I love hanging with my children and although I always hate saying good-bye, the itch to hitch has set in thus the wheels on the RV will start going round and round in a few days, BUT “we’ll be back“!

Love

May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. And rain fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.