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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Adobe Lightroom 6 / CC Video Book: Training for Photographers

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.

The Dreaded Blue Screen

A few weeks ago I purchased a new laptop, and like any new toy, I was having a splendid time playing with it.  The first week was filled with a lot of Goggling “how to”.  The second week I settled into navigating Windows 10 with ease and personalizing the new laptop.hummingbird

I downloaded a bunch of stuff including my favorites and some photos.  I was getting used to the mouse pad (I don’t use an external mouse) and even changed the settings to allow basic functions only.   After two weeks of computer use, I noticed the mouse pad wasn’t remembering my settings and reverted back to the default settings—-annoying.

ostrichThe pinch setting allows the text to be resized with finger movements on the mouse pad which is all fine and dandy,  but when all I’m trying to do is move the cursor and the screen starts zooming in and out from itty bitty 10% to huge 200% it gets rather frustrating.

So each morning upon starting the computer, I’d go to the mouse setting and uncheck the default boxes then go about my day.  Hmm, why won’t it hold my settings?  I began to wonder if perhaps there was something wrong with the computer.  Each time I double checked that I was hitting apply and then ok.  Thus, I knew I was clicking correctly and it was not user error.

A couple of days later, I couldn’t exit the internet. The internet window X wouldn’t close the tab.  I could open and close additional tabs but the first internet tab would remain open until the computer was shut down.  Well, when you’re working off of a limited internet data plan, that was unacceptable.

birdsSince the computer seemed to be working fine the first two weeks of use, that is up until Windows 10 did an update, I thought I would set the computer to an earlier date.

With my previous laptop computer and Windows 7 whenever things seemed to be running out of whack, I would do exactly that, and it would usually resolve any issues.  So I thought it would make sense to repeat what I’ve always done.  Seemed rather logical to me and everything on Google agreed.

Once again, I was proud of the ease of which I navigated Windows 10 (remember; I am no techie).  I went with the recommended setting of an earlier date.  “Yep”, I thought. “I should have this puppy running smoothly once again”.

NOT! …. that’s when I was greeted with the dreaded blue screen of death and this lovely message  ……
😦         inaccessible_boot_device          Error Code 0x0000225

Oh my fricken gosh …. I broke my new computer.  After  several hours of Googling, tapping away at F8 then F11, and doing a System Extensive Test, I resorted to an online chat with a HP tech in India.  He determined that I had a corrupt recovery drive and would need to fix it by purchasing a Recovery Drive from HP and initiate a system recovery from the recovery media ….. say what?

ostrichHe sent me this link to help me – HP support
I ended the chat with, “Thank you for your time. I should’ve listened to my daughter and bought a Mac”. His response, “I can tell you are not happy. I will forward your information onto a case manager”.

We ended the chat and I clicked on the link he sent me to see if it might enlighten me further.  Seriously?  The guy sends me a Windows 7 link to help me with my 2 week old laptop computer installed with Windows 10?  To say I was upset would be an understatement.

Ma’am, please step away from the computer, and no one will get hurt!

The next day, I grabbed my camera, a map, and hopped in my little red truck for a little valley of the sun (aka Phoenix, Arizona) exploration.  I needed to leave the techie computer stuff alone.  Turned out to be the perfect way for me to rejuvenate from my very upsetting computer saga.  That day deserves its own post  🙂

I had already decided to return the computer but wanted to wipe out all my documents and photos first.  So first thing the next day, I was on the phone with a HP case manager.  He gave me two options:  A – they would send me recovery media free of charge and he would walk me through the fix or B – since the computer was only a couple of weeks old and Costco has a good return policy, I could return it.ostrich

He assured me there was nothing recoverable on the laptop, thus no need to wipe it.  I could feel comfortable returning it, which is what I did the moment I hung up with the manager.  Two days later, the HP case manager called me to follow-up and make sure I didn’t have any problem returning the computer and to see if he could be of any further assistance.

Botanical Garden Two thumbs up to HP and case manager, Joe.  That said, should I buy another HP?  I don’t know.  I’m feeling a little conflicted at the moment.  In the meantime, my son gave me his old HP Pavilion that he wasn’t using anymore, thus providing me with at least some sort of connectivity.

BUT … this laptop is testing my patience.  Let me walk you through my morning ….

First thing in the morning, Al and I turn on our laptops and Verizon router.  Once up and running, we click on the internet on our individual laptops.  While Al starts perusing the latest news, I go wash my face while my laptop loads.  It’s a 50/50 crap shoot upon my return whether the internet is up or I get ‘page not found’ and need to start over 😦

Once I do have the internet, it’s time to check Facebook.  After logging in, I make breakfast while it loads.  I eat breakfast as the circle continues to go round and round and finally loads once I’m done eating.  I read Facebook but half the time can’t comment.  At least the ‘like’ button works.  Then it’s time to check our personal email account.  While I wait for that page to load, I do the dishes, once loaded, I read those emails.blue screen

Well, that just took up my first hour of the day and I haven’t even started perusing the blogosphere.  I can usually do a load of laundry while I wait for a blog to load.  Ok, maybe, just maybe, I’m exaggerating a little…. but just a little.  During the past week, more than half the comments I’ve typed out on your wonderful blogs could not be posted…. grrrrr!  Once again, at least the ‘like’ button seems to work.   The computer occasionally freezes up and routinely boots me off the internet.  This is a slow, tired, and old computer but it’ll have to do until I make up my mind about a new laptop.  I’ve even thought about living with this one until the fall…. egads!

hummingbirdIf I’m a little quiet for a while, you now know why.  I do have some fun things to share with you though …… eventually.  The more time I spend in Phoenix, the more I like it here.  I’m never at a loss of things to do and see, and of course, I love having my children nearby.

The rest of the month, Al and I will be finishing up dental work, physicals, and preparing for our journey north toward the end of April.

We’ll be spending the summer in Idaho helping out friends at their RV Park just three hours away from the Tetons and Yellowstone.  Should be an interesting summer for us filled with lots of new sights and experiences.   And I look forward to sharing it all, providing my patience holds out!

Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton (Moon Handbooks)Lord, Give Me Coffee to change the things I can, and Wine to accept the things I cannot 5″ x 10″ wood sign plaque

Rattled

I’ve always enjoyed walking, but I didn’t develop an interest in hiking until a road trip my daughter and I took back in 2007 to the Black Hills in South Dakota.  I’m not sure what possessed me to agree to the almost four hour round trip hike with a 2,000 foot elevation gain up to Harney Peak, but Ashton had me convinced we could do it.

hiking in ArizonaIt turned out to be a fabulous hike – my knees may have disagreed, but  Ashton and I both agreed it was extremely enjoyable even though we arrived back at our vehicle tired and sore.

Although the hike challenged me, I found it invigorating.  It made me feel so alive.  I couldn’t remember the last time, if ever, experiencing that kind of feeling, and couldn’t wait to plan our next hike.

I should probably mention that at the time, I was an out of shape workaholic carrying an extra twenty pounds more than I currently carry.  The day after the hike, my legs and feet hurt so much I had trouble walking, but I felt awesome.

Fast forward to today, hiking has become a regular part of my life.  Granted, I don’t embark on any epic all day hikes like some of my RVing pals (you know who you are 😉 ) but I thoroughly enjoy those one to three-hour hikes amongst beautiful scenery.wildflowers

This time of year is particularly pretty in the desert southwest with the trails lined with wildflowers.  The cactuses are budding and some are starting to bloom.  Up until two weeks ago, I could be found in the morning hiking three to four days a week for an hour or two somewhere in the Phoenix metro area.  There are so many fabulous parks in Phoenix to hike and explore that getting bored would be difficult.

desert flowersAnd then the weather started getting hot …. hotter than normal for this time of year, which required I get out on the trail a little earlier.  On that fateful morning two weeks ago, I knew I was running late, temps were already in the 80’s (Fahrenheit) and I would need to be vigilant in keeping an eye out for snakes.

I left the camera at home wanting to focus on exercise and not allow myself to get distracted.  Yeah, good luck on that!  I always carry my cell phone with me for emergency purposes and it just so happens it takes photographs, which works in a pinch.

I was clipping along, making good time on my morning hike.  In spite of the heat, I kept my pace quick all the while keeping my eyes peeled on the trail in front of me and scanning the vegetation from side to side.  I’m not freaked out by snakes, but I’m also not a fan of the slithery creatures.rattle snakeI was on a trail leading me back to the truck with maybe fifteen minutes left to go and that’s when the movement in the brush stopped me in my tracks.  Mr. rattle snake was coiled in strike position and his head was bobbing back and forth as if he was dancing.  His tongue was flickering while our eyes met.snakes

I stood there frozen for a split second then gently backed away.  Once I retreated, he slowly lowered himself and starting slithering first toward me (I walked backwards some more) and then toward the other side of the trail.snakes

I stopped a women and her dog from passing me.  She was grateful that I had seen the snake first or she might have walked right by it.  We watched the snake cross the trail and counted five rings on his rattle.

This was not my first snake sighting on a trail.  I almost stepped on a bull snake in southern Colorado.   He was crossing the trail and I wasn’t paying attention.  Fortunately, I looked down before stepping on him.  Although a little started initially, I continued on my hike without concern.desert hikingThis encounter with the rattle snake rattled me …. rattled me to my core…. to the point it took me nearly ten days just to get out on the trail again.  Even then, I couldn’t enjoy that hike.  I’m afraid I’ve turned into a nervous hiker, but am hopeful in time my fears will ease.

All photos in this post were taken with my iPhone 5, and thus, not the best quality.  From now on, I won’t leave home without my Sony DSCWX350 18 MP Digital Camera (Black) Since this was my first rattle snake encounter in the wild, I wish I had gotten better photos of the snake, especially considering its my goal not to come face to face with another snake!desert hiking

Asian shrimp

 

Less time on the trails, means more time in the kitchen…… much to Al’s delight.  Click here for my Lemon Shrimp recipe.

A Tea Party

tea partyAnyone who’s fortunate to have a daughter has most likely engaged in a tea party or two.  I used to love sitting at my daughter’s Little Tykes table on a plastic molded chair made for a three-year old.

My daughter would pretend to make tea and cookies in her make-believe kitchen.  Then we’d sit at her child height table sipping pretend hot tea and eating treats.

Quite often a doll or favorite stuffed animal would join in on the tea party and be served as well.Tea PartyMy daughter, Ashton, may be all grown up now, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t enjoy a tea party, but instead of pretending, we like the real deal.  Oh my yes!  Bring on tea partythe tea and crumpets.

During one of my outings with blogging, RVing friend Faye, we stumbled upon the cutest place in the town of Carefree, Arizona, just north of Scottsdale.  Faye and I had just completed a two-hour hike and were looking for a place to have lunch.

Obviously,  we were dressed in hiking attire which seemed a tad inappropriate for lunch with the Queen.  Thus, we vowed to return another day … dressed appropriately tea with the queenand with our daughters in tow.

Two weeks later on a Saturday, Faye, Ashton, Laura, and myself arrived at the bustling English Rose Tea Room.  Fortunately, I had made a reservation at this popular and charming place.

While we waited for our table to be set, Ashton poses with the Queen.  We also perused the shelves filled with china, trinkets, and tea available for sale.

We had a fabulous time at the English Rose Tea Room and the girl’s hit it off famously.  Turns out, my daughter and Faye’s daughter-in-law have a ton in common.  The conversation flowed freely when our mouths weren’t stuffed with delectable scones  topped with Devon Cream and homemade jam.

tea party

Laura and Ashton enjoying a tea party with their mom’s

By the end of our luncheon, the girl’s were friending each other on Facebook and there was talk about setting up another tea party before our RVing ventures have Faye and me hitting the road in a northerly direction.tea with the queen

tea with the queen

me and Faye

This was such a fun girl’s outing at a very unique and charming restaurant.  Although we did see a few men joining their wives for a tea party, this is definitely a girly thing kind of place.

Faye and I just can’t envision those finger sandwiches being a satisfying thrill for Dave or Al.  Although I should mention, the English Rose Tea Room does serve large sandwiches and salads.  For us girls, it was all about tea and crumpets.

After lunch and after Ashton and Laura made a few tea purchases (who knew they were tea connoisseurs), the four of us strolled around the Carefree center grounds.  The cactus garden display, water features, and sculptures are beautiful, and worth a walk around.carefree arizona

Carefree is also a popular place for hosting a variety of festivals.  Click here for more information on the town of Carefree, Arizona.Carefree Arizona

Ashton in front of the English Rose Tea Room

Ashton in front of the English Rose Tea Room

tea party
My daughter ended up buying one of these empress tea strainers along with some English loose tea.  She also collects decorative tea pots.  Who knew, all those tea party’s long ago would continue and trigger an interest in the world of tea.   I’m just thrilled my little girl still wants to have tea party’s with her mom 🙂
The Empress Tea StrainerGracie China Shabby Rose Porcelain 4-1/2-Cup Teapot, Shabby Rose Green

Computer Woes!

Change is an interesting subject.  Most times I embrace change whole heartedly.   That shouldn’t be a surprise considering a mobile lifestyle is all about change.  But then there are times or situations that I resist change as much as possible.

Sunset over Lake Pleasant

Sunset over Lake Pleasant

I was resisting the thought of getting a new computer and learning Windows 10.  Just thinking about it had me walking, rather running, in another direction.  The mere thought of dealing with technology change almost had me breaking out in hives.  If there was a word depicting the opposite of Geek, that would describe me to a tee.  I am definitely not a techie.  With that said, the past month I chose to play ostrich and avoid the subject by leaving the computer off.  I must admit, the break from the internet allowed me to complete a bunch of projects around the RV as well as get in a fair amount of hiking.

flowers and beeI knew months ago my laptop was slowly doing a death dance, but I loved the old gal.  She and I got along famously for years and I wasn’t interested in changing things up.  She loyally cared for my thousands of digital photos, put out hundreds of blog posts, and supported all my documents.

Her keys were worn to the point that half the letters were no longer legible making it impossible for Al to use my laptop (he’s never managed to memorize the keyboard and still pecks away at the keys 😆 ).  She sported a huge crack along one side that seemed to be growing and her screen was no longer firmly attached, but we were a comfortable fit.

Day in and day out, she’d sit on my lap providing endless hours of entertainment. Perhaps too many hours.ButterflyI had no intention of replacing her.  Quite frankly, I didn’t want a new computer, but after months of babying her and refreshing her to factory status, she just wasn’t up to the task at hand.  She was tired and wearing out, and when I could no longer upload my wildflowersphotos, I had to embrace the thought that change was necessary.  Plus, I was missing you guys!

I shopped, then shopped some more. I’m usually a very decisive shopper, but not this time.  Google became my best friend enlightening me on the differences between Intel’s i3, i5, and i7 processors.  A Mac was out of the question.  First, it wasn’t within my budget, and second I felt that would be too much of a change.  Although last year’s change from an Android to an iPhone was ezzie peezie and I love my iPhone 5, I just wasn’t going to go from a PC to a Mac at this point and time.

Cowboy mounted shooting

navigating obstacles can be fun!

It’s been a week and my new HP Pavilion laptop and I are getting along swell.  Windows 10 wasn’t the navigation nightmare I thought it might be.  Yes, it’s different, and yes, the first few days I was Googling “how to” a lot, but I haven’t broken out in sweats or hives due to the change.  I’ve even been having fun setting the new computer up.

We’re still closely monitoring our data usage considering we almost maxed out our 30 gigs last month and I was hardly on the internet.  Apparently, Al’s computer and my old computer had programs running in the background that were gobbling up data.  Thus, my internet presence was throttled severely.  I’m hoping to be back blogging soon and am starting to catch up on all your latest posts.  I’m still a little slow with the new gal, but the more time we spend together, the more familiar we’ll get and I’ll soon be sharing plenty of photos of the desert blooming.  You’ve been warned!

sunset over Lake Pleasant, Peoria AZ

sunset over Lake Pleasant, Peoria AZ

For those of you curious, this is the laptop I ended up getting….
HP Pavilion 15t 15.6-Inch Touchscreen Laptop (6th Gen Intel Core i5-6200u Processor, 8GB DDR3L RAM, 1TB HDD, Windows 10), Natural Silver

Flexibility is key

I’ve discovered that there’s a major difference between going on vacation versus living a mobile lifestyle.  A vacation has a definitive beginning and ending with very little to no flexibility.  A mobile lifestyle offers oodles of flexibility.

"Life is a beautiful ride" I enjoyed window shopping at La Canterra

“Life is a beautiful ride” I enjoyed window shopping at La Cantera

As a matter of fact, flexibility is key to enjoying this full-time RVing lifestyle.  After all, we’re pulling/driving our home full-time and arriving to our next destination safely and fully intact is always the goal.  With that said, a key component to a long travel day is the weather.  The ability to change travel plans on a whim based on the weather is wonderful.

Al and I had allowed ourselves fourteen days to travel the 1,165 miles (1,872km) from Rockport, Texas to Phoenix, Arizona.  That gave us the flexibility to roll with the weather, as well as give us options; get to Phoenix a week early, or take our time Rockport egretmeandering along the way, or extend our stay in Rockport, which we seriously thought about – considering I wasn’t quite ready to bid farewell to the scenery OR the birds.

But that weather…. winter weather at that, made the decision for us.  We hit the road while good road conditions prevailed.  Plus, we usually prefer driving through major cities on a Saturday or Sunday.  Sunday morning (January 31st) had us navigating through San Antonio, Texas toward the northwest part of town without issue.  We settled into the Elk’s Lodge for what we thought would be a quick overnight stay.

That evening, we easily made a change of plans while reviewing the weather and road conditions for Interstate 10.  High wind warnings accompanied by brown out conditions (blowing dirt) followed by freezing rain along Interstate 10 in west Texas and New Mexico had us hanging out in San Antonio for an extra night, then two.

Shops at La Cantera, San Antonio, Texas

Shops at La Cantera, San Antonio, Texas

Ah, what’s a gal to do parked in a less than scenic parking lot without a vehicle at her disposal?  How about visit the Shops at La Canteraneighboring mall for a little retail therapy and architectural photography?  The Shops at La Cantera did not disappoint.

The weather was gorgeous which allowed me to hike this beautiful outdoor mall a couple of times.  While strolling the mall, I enjoyed the window shopping, the trickling sounds of water features, and the fragrant smell of all the lush vegetation. Shops at La Cantera

Although the mall had all the usual stores, the architecture was anything but boring.  There was a unique feel – a combination of new, yet old.  I think it was the blending of materials and angles that attracted my attention.  One minute I was walking on concrete, then the next I was moseying across cobblestone pavers, then it was on to ceramic tile, or stone, or slate…. and that’s what was happening just under my feet.Shops at La Cantera

Overhead was another visual delight; a combination of canopies, overhangs, or open blue sky adding another layer of ambiance.  Each store front had its own special detail, wall color, and finish.  Some of the stone used throughout the outdoor mall had a resemblance to that of the Alamo.shops at la canteraI must admit, for a split second I felt a little guilty about being in San Antonio and spending all my time at the Shops at La Cantera.  This city offers so many fabulous things to see and do, but since we weren’t unhooking the truck from the 5th wheel, driving anywhere was not an option.  Plus, during shops at la canteraprevious visits to San Antonio, we’d already visited the River Walk, Alamo, and Missions.

The Shops at La Cantera is a rather large mall, which allowed me to get in plenty of exercise, but lead to working up an appetite.  The day before departure, I retrieved hubby, and we were off to visit Penny at the Cheesecake Factory.  Their large size entrees are perfect for taking half the meal home providing lunch on the road the following day.  Yum!

Our flexible schedule allowed us to avert inclement weather, and extend our stay in San Antonio.  The delay was indeed pleasurable and I might have even pulled out of town with a few new items in my already full closet, but I’m not admitting anything  😉Shops at La Cantera

With blue skies and dry roads, we were on the road again.  And for anyone who has ever driven across Texas knows, it goes on for what seems forever.  We try to avoid staying in Van Horn, Texas, but we were on a mission to head west as quickly as san antoniopossible in an attempt to avoid the next wave of weather expected to hit this part of the country.

It was a 6-7 hour travel day between San Antonio and Van Horn, Texas (431 miles or 694 km).  We found a less than memorable campground to overnight in since the Walmart is out of the question.  Yep, no overnighting at the Walmart allowed in this town.  Van Horn? –  you know the saying, “if you can’t say anything nice……..”.

The next morning, we along with the rest of the RV’s were quick to exit Van Horn.  We made it through El Paso and into New Mexico and I was hugging rocks by early afternoon ……

Adios Texas - until we meet again!

Adios Texas – until we meet again!