5 Ballparks For An RV Tour Of America’s Pastime

Some of our best travel adventures were conjured up around a campfire. I love sitting around a campfire with friends sharing past and future travel tales. More times than not, those discussions lead to great ideas centered around RVing. We recently had a fun get together with folks that are huge Cubs Fans which lead to more RVing ideas; combining two passions.

For many people around the country, few things are more appealing than a summer ballpark tour. Baseball may have declined somewhat in popularity, but it remains America’s pastime, and its ties to the summer season are unbreakable for many. And for that reason, it occurred to us that this same idea of a ballpark tour might just make for the perfect RV trip for a lot of families and individuals alike.

For the true baseball fanatics out there, it may be appealing to take this idea all the way and visit every single big-league stadium in the country over the course of a summer. My sister and one of her sons are attempting to do this. That’s awfully ambitious for most people though, so perhaps a cross-country itinerary featuring five beautiful and significant parks might be more feasible.

1. Oracle Park – San Francisco, California

Consistently ranked among the best ballparks in America, Oracle Park is tough to beat. The stadium (formerly known as AT&T Park) sits right on the edge of the San Francisco Bay and may be best known to a lot of baseball fans as the place where Barry Bonds once rained home runs into “McCovey Cove” over the right-field stands. Fans used to cluster in the bay in kayaks in the hopes of retrieving one of his legendary blasts. Even now though it’s a beautiful, fun place to watch a game, and it helps that the home team Giants tend to be very competitive.

2. Coors Field – Denver, Colorado

The drive from San Francisco to Denver is no joke, but you can spread it out over a few days and enjoy some lovely sights in Nevada and Utah along the way. For that matter, once you get into Colorado, you can even take some time to tour the delightful mountain towns that I’ve written about before. But to continue the ballpark tour, you should ultimately end up in Denver, where you can watch the Rockies at Coors Field. There’s just something special about seeing baseball in such a laid-back beautiful city. And for many, it also won’t hurt that Denver’s famous craft beer scene has pumped some excellent options into the stadium concessions (even if the venue is named after a big-name beer).

3. Wrigley Field – Chicago, Illinois

From Denver, it’s about a two-day drive to Chicago, and it’s not the most eventful of drives. However, stops in Lincoln, Nebraska and Iowa City, Iowa – both lovely towns – can break up the drive before you eventually reach the Windy City. There, you’ll be treated to a game at the most historic, and perhaps most beloved stadium in Major League Baseball: the Cubs’ Wrigley Field. Known for exuding a palpable sense of the past, as well as for its unique, ivy-covered outfield wall, Wrigley is a place even casual sports fans should strive to visit at least once in life.

As long as you’re in town, you may as well visit Guaranteed Rate Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox. It doesn’t have the charm or history of Wrigley, and lately, the Cubs have been the better team, but it’s a comfortable modern stadium, and perfectly pleasant on a nice day.

4. PNC Park – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

With the right timing, you can drive on to Pittsburgh in either one long single day – or if you’d prefer, you can always make a stop in Michigan or Ohio along Lake Erie (or stop in to see the Cleveland Indians as you pass through!). Either way, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is a great next stop for a few reasons. One is that Pennsylvania is one of just a few states to have recently legalized online sports betting, which adds a whole new type of fun to see a game. You can find MLB game odds online and place a bet on a Pirates game, and even a tiny amount can give you a feeling most American sports fans have never had. The other reason to consider PNC Park though, whether or not you’re interested in the betting angle, is that it’s simply one of the prettiest stadiums, in any sport, in America.

5. Fenway Park – Boston, Massachusetts

If you’re all about the baseball and you’re enjoying the trip at this point, there’s something to be said for passing through a number of East Coast cities at the tail end of the tour. From Pittsburgh, you can drive just four hours to Baltimore to enjoy a game at the low-key but pleasant Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Then you can pass back through Pennsylvania, seeing the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, before hitting both New York destinations – Citi Field in Queens for the Mets, and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx for the Yankees (though keep in mind having an RV in some of these East Coast cities won’t be easy). Whether or not you take this multi-city detour though, you should wrap up your trip at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox play. It’s not the most comfortable of stadiums, but it’s the only one that might match Wrigley Field for history, meaning there are few better places to toast America’s pastime.

RV Park ideas in Chicago and Denver

When visiting Chicago, we usually stay about an hours drive outside of the city and then take the train into Chicago. The Paul Wolff Campground is a relaxing spot to return to after a day of fun in the big city.

Denver – We’ve stayed at a bunch of places around Denver and anyone of them would make a great home base to explore and take in a baseball game … Chatfield State Park, Cherry Creek State Park, Bear Creek Lake Regional Park, Dakota Ridge RV Park.

Things to See and Do in South Dakota

Things to See and Do in South Dakota

I’m sure most of us have childhood memories of family vacations, and some of those vacations were more fun than others. One of my most memorable and fun childhood vacations was in South Dakota. The picturesque lakes, rolling landscape, granite boulders, and interesting wildlife, left an indelible impression on a young fourteen-year-old me from the flatland of Illinois.

Thirty-some years later, I experienced one of the best mother/daughter road trips to South Dakota. My daughter and I shared more laughs and mishaps during that five-day excursion, so much so, that we still talk about that trip today. And then several years later, I shared an amazing visit to the Black Hills with my husband and in mid-June of ’19, we returned again.

So, perhaps it’s obvious why the Black Hills in South Dakota is one of my favorite places I’ve visited. It’s all about sharing memorable experiences and explorations with loved ones, and what fond memories I have from all my visits. So, let’s return, but where to start?

How many days should I spend in South Dakota?

Whether you plan on stopping in South Dakota’s Black Hills on your way to your destination like we recently did, or it’s the main destination, be sure and plan enough time. We’ve never spent more than five days in the area on any given visit, and we were never ready to move on, but it all depends on your interests.

Buffalo crossing the street at a crosswalk
Pretty cool that these buffalo (Bison) are using the crosswalk 😆

My favorite things to see and do in southwest South Dakota

1. At the top of my list is a scenic drive. I promise you won’t be disappointed. You’ll love taking in the landscape by driving a couple of very scenic roads, but be WARNED, these roads are not RV friendly … unless you’d like to turn your lovely RV roof into a convertible – which has happened, unfortunately.

The Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway in the Black Hills of South Dakota is one of the most beautiful roads in the United States. Mix in America’s most patriotic monument (Mount Rushmore) and you have a never-to-be-forgotten road trip. Depending on the number of stops you make along the way, plan on spending 2-3 hours to drive this byway.

This 70-mile drive includes spiraling bridges, hairpin curves, granite tunnels, and awe-inspiring views. It’s roughly a figure-eight route, taking drivers through Custer State Park and passing by Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Several tunnels carved through the granite mountain not only provide a transportation passage but artistically frame the four faces on Mount Rushmore in the distance. These tunnels are one lane only and definitely have height and width restrictions. So, no RVs!

(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image)

Needles Eye Tunnel is just 8’ 4” wide and is one of three tunnels found on Needles Highway and is certainly the most famous, longest, and tallest. Its name comes from the remarkable granite spire located near the tunnel entrance. Cruising on Needles Highway isn’t about getting to the next destination, it’s about taking in the scenery. Spectacular sites to see along the way include Legion Lake, Stockade Lake, the Cathedral Spires, and Sylvan Lake. And if you’re lucky, you might even come across some cute mountain goats lingering alongside the road.

During our family road trip with the brand new motorhome back in the 1970s, my dad drove the motorhome through Needles Eye Tunnel much to my mom’s dismay. I credit my dad for talking to a ranger and measuring the motorhome a couple of times to verify that he’d fit. However, once he saw a tour bus go through it, there was no stopping him, but keeping the motorhome in the center of the tunnel was key. As kids, we thought dad was so cool! 

Sylvan Lake

2. Spend the day exploring a State Park and National Park. Custer State Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife including antelope, deer, bighorn sheep, coyote, prairie dogs, and burros (burros who like to beg for food), but the park is probably best known for the nation’s largest free-roaming buffalo herds.

When driving the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road through Custer State Park, don’t be surprised that your travels may be detained by a “Buffalo Jam”. These large animals weighing in as much as 2,000 pounds walk wherever, whenever, and at their own pace, but can run as fast as 40 mph. So, if they feel like standing in the middle of the road, they do.

​What is the difference between buffalo and bison? Scientifically, the term “buffalo” is incorrect for the North American species; its proper Latin name is Bison. However, common usage has made the term “buffalo” an acceptable synonym for the American bison, and around here, they are called “buffalo”.

The park is also home to a wide variety of historic sites including French Creek, made famous when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and President Calvin Coolidge’s Summer White House, the historic State Game Lodge.

Wind Cave National Park… if you’re looking to avoid crowds, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with this small national park. I’m not one for caves so I can’t share any info on the cave itself, but I can tell you, if you’re interested in seeing wildlife without the crowds in Custer State Park, then driving around Wind Cave National Park is for you. That’s exactly what I did and I definitely found beauty and wildlife.

I did attempt to hike to Lookout Point but stopped in my tracks when I encountered a lone buffalo alongside the trail. There I was hiking by myself wearing a bright pink hoodie. Mr. Buff stopped eating and just stared at me. My 135 pounds was no match for his 1,800+ pounds. So, I did the smartest thing by lowering my face to avoid eye contact and slowly retreated all the while glancing back over my shoulders to make sure he wasn’t following me.

Halfway back to the truck, the herd of Buffalo that was near the highway when I first started hiking had meandered up the hill towards the trail … toward me 😯. I quickened my pace and took great pleasure in photographing these beasts from the comfort of my vehicle. And that was the end to my attempts at hiking in the Black Hills last month. I’m getting too old for these wildlife encounters lol.

3. Take in the past. The Black Hills is rich in American history and filled with tales of cowboys, pioneers, Indians, and more. Be sure and stop in at the various visitor centers and learn about the area’s history.

There’s gold in them thar hills! With the 7th US Cavalry unit confirming the discovery of gold, the 1875 gold rush occurred and thousands of European-Americans invaded the Black Hills and founded the towns of Deadwood, Lead, and Custer. By 1875, the Sioux had had enough and they fought for control of their land (which was rightly theirs by the Laramie Treaty).  Lead by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, the Sioux made a valiant fight and gained victory at Little Big Horn. In the end, the US Army prevailed and the Sioux lost their land and were moved on to smaller reservations.  In 1980, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the land was illegally taken and the US government was forced to pay for the land.

A visit to Mount Rushmore is a must

4. Of course, no visit to the southwest part of South Dakota would be complete without visiting Mount Rushmore. After all, it’s the American thing to do, as is visiting Crazy Horse Memorial … another worthwhile stop.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is free to enter but you have to pay for parking ($10.00 in 2018). Upon entering the memorial, check out the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center and watch the film about carving Mount Rushmore. After that, head out to the Presidential Trail to get a close-up view of the sculpture. The trail is a 0.6-mile loop with a few stairs. (Be sure and check the Mount Rushmore official website under “alerts” for any closures ahead of your visit so you won’t be disappointed.)

My daughter and I really enjoyed visiting the Carver’s Studio and learned a great deal about Gutzon Borglum and how they managed to carve the mountain. You might also consider a Ranger program or stay for the illumination on Friday evenings and learn a little more about the history of the monument.

And best of all, eat some Thomas Jefferson’s Ice Cream. Without Thomas Jefferson, we may not have this delicious treat. Give your Mount Rushmore vacation a taste of the first recorded ice cream recipe in American history.

As long as you’re in South Dakota, you really should visit the world’s largest mountain carving; Crazy Horse Memorial. This is another monumental sculpture that is huge. If budget or time is a problem, Crazy Horse can easily be seen from Highway 385.

Crazy Horse Memorial. The white sculpture is a small version of what the finished sculpture should look like – in progress in the background.

I recommend starting your visit at the Orientation Center. The short film, “Dynamite and Dreams,” will help you gain an introduction to the memorial and its history. Then walk through the Indian Museum of North American and Native American Cultural Center to learn about the American Indian heritage before heading out to the observation deck for views of the massive monument. For an additional fee, you can take a bus to the bottom of the monument for better views. Don’t forget to stop at the information desk to get a return ticket for the “Legends in Light” laser light show they perform in the evening from the end of May to the end of September.

And twice a year, you can actually hike to the top of Crazy Horse: Volksmarch hike. This is high on my ‘must-do’ list.

Somewhere back in one of my storage units in Colorado, I have photographs of Crazy Horse that my dad took during our family vacation to the Black Hills in the early ’70s. It would be fun to compare the progress via our photographs.

Granite rock reflections at Sylvan Lake in South Dakota
Sylvan Lake

5. Outdoor recreation: Lakes, Hiking, fishing. I absolutely love the picturesque lakes around here. There are many lakes and streams perfect for fishing, boating, or picnicking lakeside, and they are all pristine in my opinion. During that 1970s family vacation, I thought Sylvan Lake was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen. My brother and I hiked and explored all around this stunning little lake. We were intrigued by the granite rock and boulders and the clean, clear, cool water.

We even rented one of those paddle boats. While my brother and I exercised our legs, my dad sat on the back of the paddle boat with a fishing line in the water.  No surprise, dad brought his fishing gear on this summer vacation just like any other trip. Nothing like trolling via sustainable energy. Dad was great in giving my brother and me directions on where he wanted us to paddle and gave no thought to our weakening leg muscles, but after catching a couple of teenie tiny fish, dad had enough … our legs were saved thank goodness. Ah, the memories!

A family fishing on Stockade Lake.

I couldn’t wait to share Sylvan Lake with my daughter and I tried to recreate the hike with her that my brother and I took all those years ago.

After the hike, we stopped in at the Sylvan Lake Lodge to check out what the park considers their crown jewel. You can picnic on the grounds or have lunch at the restaurant.

Another beautiful lake and one of my favorites is Stockade Lake. It’s the largest of five lakes in Custer State Park. You’ll find a couple of campgrounds nestled in the pines near the lake, as well as a day-use picnic area.

Hiking in the Black Hills

There is no storage of trails to hike in the Black Hills, but one of the most popular trails is to the highest peak in South Dakota; the Black Elk Peak which was formerly known as Harney Peak. Even though this trail is popular, my daughter and I did not find it easy considering it’s mostly uphill. There are gradual inclines and some flat surfaces at the beginning that leads to steep inclines and stairs. The trail is considered moderately difficult.

Once you reach the 7,242-foot peak topped by a stone fire tower, you are rewarded with breathtaking views of the Black Hills National Forest. Be sure and take a break to have lunch at the top and enjoy the scenery. The fire lookout, dam, and pumphouse were built in 1939 and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Most people catch the trail near Sylvan Lake, but my daughter and I started at the trailhead for Little Devil’s Tower and then connected. The views of Cathedral Spires is quite stunning and not to be missed.

At the top of Black Elk Peak – We made it!

Top 5 things to see and do in South Dakota

    1. Take a scenic drive and don’t forget your camera
    2. Visit Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park
    3. Explore the local history
    4. Visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse Memorial
    5. Enjoy outdoor recreation: hiking, fishing, boating, 4×4 exploring

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Other sights worth noting

During my recent visit, I drove to the Mount Coolidge Lookout Tower. To get there, I turned off of Hwy 87 and continued up a 1.7-mile gravel road to the summit where I took in the views of the Black Hills. This site is 6,023 feet above the forest and is not for folks with a fear of heights. The gravel road is narrow in places with steep dropoffs and no guardrails, but the views are amazing. On a clear day, you can see Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and the Needles.

Towns of Spearfish and Deadwood

Spearfish is a cute little town from what we could gather, but we didn’t stop. We were here to drive Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway and take in the stunning landscape. With soaring limestone bluffs, a glistening creek, wildflowers, and three flowing waterfalls, it did not disappoint. The 20-mile byway is north of Custer State Park along Highway 14A and is an incredible road. Several scenes from the movie, “Dances With Wolves” were filmed in the canyon.

Next on our list was a visit to the historic town of Deadwood. Al and I are huge fans of the HBO series titled Deadwood and really looked forward to our visit.

The town is a throwback to the Wild West where gambling and bars are alive and well. Gamble in one of the many casinos and follow the footsteps of legendary characters like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.  Although we enjoyed the day, we probably wouldn’t return. It’s a kitschy tourist town (in my humble opinion).

But a place I always look forward to visiting is …

The Badlands

Badlands National Park is most definitely a worthwhile visit. Be sure and spend at least one day exploring the 244,000 acres of this other-worldly landscape. Driving the 31-mile scenic Badlands Loop Road is an absolute must and do take advantage of every pull-off and overlook. Can you say photo-op?

Even better, take a few short hikes. If you have time get off the beaten path on Sage Creek Rim Road to look for buffalo and bighorn sheep. Make sure to check with a ranger on road conditions before taking the drive.

Just northwest of the Badlands National Park on I-90 is Wall Drug. It’s one of those roadside attractions that’s synonymous with American road trips.

At Wall Drug, there are walls upon walls filled with photos from years gone by.

A roadside attraction called Wall Drug. The story behind this place … Wall Drug started simply enough when Ted Hustead purchased the South Dakota town of Wall’s drugstore in 1931. But it was Ted’s wife Dorothy who hit upon the idea that changed not just the drugstore, but the entire 231-person town of Wall. The idea: ice water. In an attempt to attract people, Dorothy Hustead put up a sign advertising free ice water to parched tourists on their way to nearby attractions. It was a big hit. From then on Wall Drug grew under its own strange power, adding a bizarre assortment of fiberglass animals, including the iconic Wall Drug jackalope, giant dinosaurs, and an array of taxidermy jackalopes. And then there are the hundreds of photos and newspaper clippings adorning the walls from years ago. My husband could’ve spent hours just looking and reading all the old photos and memorabilia hanging on the walls.

If you are a honeymooner, veteran, priest, hunter, or truck driver, you can also get free coffee and donuts. They still give out ice water too. Some 20,000 cups a day. This is also a fun place for kids. Every 30 minutes the dinosaur inside comes to life and gives you a little show. Seriously, regardless of age, make sure you spend a couple of hours in this little eclectic town at least once.

Conclusion

Southwestern South Dakota has something to offer just about anyone, from young to old and everyone in-between. It’s one of those places that one visit may be enough, or if you are like us, once is not enough and we find ourselves wanting to return after every visit. It’s a fun place to take children with many more kid-friendly attractions than mentioned here.

There are some great restaurants, breweries, live entertainment, and plenty of outdoor activities. Lodging is available in all forms from basic campgrounds, to RV Resorts, to motels and hotels, as well as vacation rentals. Yep, the Black Hills is definitely a great vacation destination or place to spend just a few days while passing through.

Have you ever visited this part of South Dakota? If so, what was your favorite thing to see or do?

(Thank you for shopping my affiliate links … a few of our favorite products these days)

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Lightweight Raincoat

A visit to an adult store?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe it’s almost the end of July.  This summer is whizzing by.  Although we haven’t had any eventful excursions while hanging around the Denver, Colorado area this year, we have enjoyed our stay immensely.

Denver camping
Cherry Creek State Park – we’re in site #38

We found ourselves staying at three different and equally beautiful campgrounds this summer.  Our first stop was Chatfield State Park which I wrote about in my last post.  We then moved a little north to Bear Creek Lake Park.  I discovered this park last summer when my daughter took me stand up paddle boarding for my birthday.  You can read about the SUP experience along with a few other places we explored in and around Denver by clicking here.

camping in Denver
Bear Creek Lake Park Campground in Lakewood, Colorado

The campground at Bear Creek Lake Park is small, sits in an open meadow, and offers electric only hook-ups.

camping near Denver
Bear Creek Lake Park campground. We’re in site #47

This campground is the perfect place to stay while taking in a concert at the fabulous Red Rocks Amphitheater.  Don’t have concert tickets?  That’s ok because Red Rocks is an awesome place to hike and get in a serious workout.  It’s always open and free to the public, that is when a concert isn’t in session.  We never pass up an opportunity to hike at Red Rocks or get together with fellow bloggers’s.   Thanks ML for your photo contributions.

Bear Creek Lake Park has three small lakes to enjoy.  Bear Creek Lake itself is perfect for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing.  Soda Lake offers a beach along with the ability to rent stand up paddle boards and kayaks.  There’s a third small pond lake for rental water skiing.  The hiking/biking trails throughout the park are wonderful and there’s also an equestrian center offering trail rides.  Bear Creek Lake Park was a great spot to call ‘home’ for a week.

Now before we move onto our third campground, allow me to share a fun little stop.  Between our stay at Chatfield State Park and Bear Creek Lake Park, hubby and I found ourselves traveling SH-470 routinely (a highway on the far southwest suburbs of Denver).  As we’d pass this architecturally interesting and large building with huge neon lettering saying Tipsy’s, I knew we had to stop and check it out.  And check it out we did.Tipsy's liquor worldlarge liquor store in Denver

 

 

 

 

Upon entertaining this ‘adult store’ (seriously, did you think I meant some other kind of adult store?), hubby and I immediately went in different directions.  I went to the champagne aisle while Al checked out all the beer.  I don’t think I’ve ever been in a liquor store that had a piano, a chess set, putting green, and huge fireplace.

A little strolling around Tipsy’s Liquor World and a few purchases later, our liquor cabinet in the RV has been restocked…. and then some.  With that accomplished it was time to move camp.

camping in Denver
Cherry Creek Reservoir

Our next stop was Cherry Creek State Park.  This park is a favorite with many and I can see why.  The reservoir is a serious draw for both boaters and anglers along with a marina for watercraft rentals.  Then there’s the extensive trail system, a wetlands area for birding, a model plan airfield, and a clay target shooting range.  And finally, a great location convenient to everything including downtown Denver and the airport.

The campground is large and offers full hook-ups for RV’s as well as non hook-ups for tents.  Most of the campsites are shaded with large, mature trees and the grounds are beautifully maintained.

Denver wildlife
wild turkey’s at Cherry Creek State Park
camping in Denver
the swim beach at Cherry Creek State Park, Denver, Colorado

Of course, my favorite is always the wildlife.  We had deer, turkey’s, and geese stroll through the campground regularly.  Near the marina, I spotted cormorants, egrets, pelicans and sea gulls.  On the opposite side of the lake is the swim beach where I stumbled upon some napping geese.

wild turkey
Miss Turkey decided to run for cover from the crazy lady with the camera.

We enjoyed our stay at Cherry Creek State Park so much that we already booked a two-week stay here in September.  Tonight we’ll join our daughter for dinner and in the morning we hit the road.  Where to next?  Here’s a clue about where we’re heading……corn on the cobb

Evecase Large Canvas Messenger DSLR Digital Camera Bag with Rain cover and Removal laptop and camera insert – Brown
Havana Golf Sun Hat (Medium (21-23″ circumference head))

 

Repeats are great!

The anticipation of pulling up jacks and rolling down the road to a new location is always exciting, but returning to familiar territory can be equally enjoyable.  There’s something comforting about revisiting a place.Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado
our daughter, Ashton

This summer we find ourselves once again calling Denver home.  Last year we stayed in Westminster (northwest of Denver) at the Westminster Elks Lodge.  At the time, our daughter lived just a few miles away making it super convenient to hang out with her.  The location was also ideal to head into Denver regularly and explore the city, which we took full advantage of.

Last summer also included a few visits to Rocky Mountain National Park.  RMNP offers one majestic view after another with wildlife sightings almost guaranteed.  Gosh, how I love this place!

Elk in rutObviously, our main reason for returning to Denver for the months of June and July were to spend time with our daughter.  Last year Ashton moved to Highlands Ranch (south end of the Denver area) which meant the Elks Lodge in Westminster was no longer a convenient option for us to stay.

That was fine by me since the lack of views and high density parking were not my favorite.  Now, we had the  perfect opportunity to check out some lovely state parks.

Our first stop on the agenda was Chatfield State Park, located southwest of Denver.  We spent ten days here last year and liked it so much that we ended up booking a two-week reservation in the very same site for a June visit.  The views from my campsite were exactly what I was craving.

Denver, Colorado
the view out my RV door – site 74 at Chatfield State Park

I’ll jump at any opportunity to camp with a water view.   Add in wildflowers and wildlife…camping in Colorado

Denver, Coloradowell, it just doesn’t get much better.  Since, I’d been feeling a bit under the weather, this was the perfect place for me to lay low, recover, and enjoy the scenery.

During my working days, I was one of those people who would go on vacation and would need a vacation to recover from vacation.  I’ve never been one to lay at the beach or pool while sunbathing or reading.  Oh no, no lying around when there are things to do, sights to see, and adventures to be had.

Denver, Colorado
downtown Denver

To some degree, that hasn’t changed much.  Before we even travel to a new place, I usually have a list of things to see and do.  If nothing else, at least a trail map. That doesn’t mean we’ll carry out the items on that list, it’s meant as a rough idea of what an area has to offer.  The kids have plenty of travel stories involving their mom (moi) dragging them off in the rain to go zip lining in Maui or learning to ski in a blizzard.  No sitting around for this family when adventure awaits.

Denver, ColoradoThat said, I was really excited to return to Denver for the summer.  I had such a great time here last year that I compiled a list of places new and old to visit and even picked up the latest edition of 5280, a great magazine for anyone visiting Denver.

However, my health had other plans in mind and this summer I find myself joining the ranks of loungers near water reading.  Because I explored so much of Denver and the eastern Rockies last year, I’m actually enjoying the down time and of course it helps to be camped in some pretty awesome spots.

Chatfield State Park
Chatfield State Park, near Denver, Colorado – site 74

I really like Chatfield State Park …… mountains, water, wildlife, wildflowers, and sunsets.  The park was experiencing some serious flooding during our stay.  So serious that the western side of the park was closed, as were all the boat ramps.

camping in Denver
western entrance (Wadsworth Road) into Chatfield SP – the day use area is totally under water. The water is supposed to be on the other side of those trees. The trees should not be under water – picnic area and swim beach.

We even lost the ability for sewer for an entire week causing us to make a trip to Cabela’s to dump our tanks.  In other words, the park had no flush toilets anywhere, no showers, and no dump station.  We even experienced some power outages.  I felt badly for the staff as none of this was their fault and yet some campers and boaters were hostile.

camping in Denver
We’re looking at the swim beach, what’s left of it and the partly submerged restrooms. It gets worse!
Colorado State Parks
the same beach restrooms are almost totally submerged just a few days later. Check out the buoy’s in both photos.

Colorado State ParksFor us it was all part of the adventure and we were even refunded the difference between a partial hook-up verses a full hook-up.  I think it helped that we’re comfortable dry camping.

Paddlers were loving it.  With the boat ramps closed, the only boaters on the water were either kayaks, canoes, or those that rent a slip at the marina.  Even the weekends were quiet at this normally crowded reservoir.

Colorado State Parks
this is the main road heading toward the Wadsworth entrance turned kayak launch.
Colorado State Parks
the Platte River covers the main road toward the Wadsworth Road entrance

Roads and trails were underwater throughout the park.  This all took place the last two weeks of June, and as of this writing, the water has receded and all roads are open/assessable and all facilities are back in operation.  Colorado sure experienced an unusually wet May and June in 2015 making for a nice showing of wildflowers which Miss Hummer was loving.hummers

Chatfield ReservoirSo although I haven’t been out and about exploring much lately, my repeat stay at Chatfield State Park was great.  I relaxed outside watching the world go by, or rather hummers whiz by, I played around in the RV kitchen experimenting with some new recipes, we enjoyed lots of visits with the daughter, and even managed to fit in a little socializing.

Next up, we move camp over to Bear Creek Lake Park…….

To check out my first attempt at making Barbacoa click here.  And here’s the two latest additions to my library.

My Paleo Patisserie: An Artisan Approach to Grain Free BakingPlate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling

I never thought food photography would be so challenging. Let’s face it, anyone can take a photograph of a plate of food and post it on Instagram or Pin it, but making the food look like an appetizing morsel instead of tossed cookies takes a little more work …… as I’m finding out!

Colorado State Parks
I could get used to this view!

 

 

Health Hazards of Travel

One of the concerns for folks that travel regularly is health.  I know it is for me.  I’d like to think I could travel anywhere in the world without a thought of getting sick or injured.  Unfortunately, that would be naive on my part.

What I can do is prepare and educate myself on potential health hazards for a given country or region I plan on visiting.  For instance, it’s common knowledge we American’s can’t seem to handle the water in Mexico.  Thus, to avoid Montezuma’s revenge, most American’s stick to bottled water, soda, or alcohol when visiting Mexico.  I’m sure the same can be said for Mexicans visiting the U.S. It’s all about what our bodies are accustomed to.

birds of prey

Visiting certain foreign countries might require travelers to undergo a slew of shots in an attempt to protect themselves from various illnesses that can be considered rare in their home country.

No island living for me

I remember during my airline days when I would frequent tropical island paradises like Hawaii and St. Thomas.  The first few days were always delightful, but as the week progressed, I’d be overcome with unease or even an ill feeling; almost a sense of claustrophobia.  Toward the end of my stay, I couldn’t wait to board that plane for the mainland. 

Come to find out, there’s actually a condition called rock fever.  Ok, this isn’t anything serious other than a mild phobia, but it did enlighten me. You won’t find me moving to a tropical island anytime soon.  I’ll opt for miles and miles of endless roads any day.

Plague in the United States

prairie dogsLet’s talk about those adorable Prairie Dogs found in the western United States.

I love watching these little guys pop up and down …. in and out of their mounded burrow.  And their little defensive squawking barks accompanied by the flipping tail is quite entertaining.

I’ve found myself more than once hanging around a prairie dog colony being entertained by their cute antics and trying to capture them with my camera.  These adorable little rodents can captivate the attention of not only us two-legged creatures but also our four-legged family members. 

I’ve seen many a blogger post about doggie sticking his head in a prairie dog hole or trying to chase these furry rodents.  It’s all I can do to contain myself from screaming at the computer, “NO”!

Prairie dogs are known plague carriers.  Yes, you heard me right, Bubonic plague still exists in the United States and is usually contracted from fleas living in the fur of prairie dogs.  These fleas are easily passed on to our pooches, compromising everyone’s health.  So if you’ve recently been near a prairie dog village and develop flu-like symptoms, it would be wise to seek medical attention immediately.

Falcon

Lyme Disease

There was a time when contracting Lyme disease from deer ticks was an exclusive worry to those living in America’s northeast part of the country.  Today, it is no longer a problem exclusive to New England. The disease can be contracted from any infected tick throughout the United States.

Lyme disease is a serious bacterial disease with debilitating consequences.  Thus, a tick bite should never be taken lightly and should even be followed up with medical attention especially if a slight ring/rash occurs around the bite. 

Valley Fever 

Valley Fever?  I don’t know about you, but I never heard the term Valley Fever until we started traveling regularly to Arizona.  Every now and then we would encounter someone informing us they needed to visit a friend in the hospital who was suffering from Valley Fever.

 

Since we spend our winters in Arizona, I was quick to educate myself on the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever and the fungal spore behind the illness.  Some folks grow up in Phoenix and never ingest a spore while others may visit for a few days and return home with these nasty guys imbedded their lungs. The spores causing Valley Fever live in the dirt of the arid desert southwest and become airborne during windstorms, construction, four-wheeling, or even gardening.  Once airborne the spore can be inhaled – ingested and imbedded in the lining of the lungs.  Depending on the number of spores ingested and the overall health of a person, determines the severity of the symptoms and illness.  Some folks never know they have Valley Fever while others are hospitalized.  It can be fatal.

You can read more about Valley Fever here, but there’s one huge factor for travelers to consider regarding Valley Fever; Doctors outside of the desert southwest usually aren’t familiar with the illness. The fungal spores on a lung X-ray can mimic cancer and lead to a misdiagnosis. 

So before jumping to the Big C conclusion, a doctor should be informed that you visited the desert southwest and that further testing would be prudent to rule out Valley Fever.  Thus, it’s important for anyone traveling to the southwest section of the United States to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever.

Update 11/20 … In April of 2105, my husband and I helped our son remodel his home in Phoenix, AZ. My son and I both contracted Valley Fever, Al was spared. The virus was brutal and took my son and me almost nine months to fully recover. Fortunately, neither of us was hospitalized. I  remain susceptible to coughing and CT scans show nodules or fungal spores in my lungs. I continue to get scans every two years to assure no further or unusual growth which would indicate something else that would require more testing.

Don’t get bit!

And last but not least, there are all the other illnesses that can be caused by insects, like mosquitos.  No one likes being bit by an irritating mosquito.  The itchy welts are bad enough, but now, after being bit, I have to be concerned about contracting a serious virus like West Nile, Zika, Chikungunya, or Dengue.

Is there a disease or bug where you live that is of particular concern?  Have you ever traveled someplace and been exposed to an unusual health risk?  Feel free to enlighten us in the comments.

 

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor or a nurse.  This post is merely meant as entertainment.  It is meant to enlighten and provoke awareness of geographical health concerns and nothing more.

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