Trouble with the Dream

Whenever I hear the phrase ‘your living the dream’, I do a slight cringe. Dream? Hmm! Living full-time in a RV was never a dream of mine. Al and I decided to move into the RV full-time on a whim four years ago with the intent of traveling for a year or two before finding a home base. And here we are, into year five of full-time RV living and still rolling along. We haven’t found that home base just yet, but we’re still searching and getting closer every day in narrowing down our choices.

south rim Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park – south rim

I have to admit, full-time RVing is an adventurous lifestyle that is filled with highs as well as lows. And the highs are indeed like a dream …. gorgeous scenery, beautiful weather, birdingand the forging of new friendships makes this lifestyle somewhat addictive.

What’s not to love? Perhaps that’s why we haven’t looked too hard for that home base.

But those lows? Ah, yes …. those lows sure don’t feel like I’m living a dream. Feels more like a nightmare and not one where I’ll wake up thankfully realizing all is well.

Nope, no waking up from a bad travel day. Instead, we find ourselves digging deep for the energy and wherewithal to deal with life’s mishaps, and we try our best to keep a sense of humor about us …. remembering this too shall pass!

Let’s take a step back… We spent four months this past summer camped in Prescott, Arizona. It was a very enjoyable summer with very little vehicle or RV maintenance mishaps. Al did have an issue with the F-250 back in May, but after some service it pulling a fifth wheelworked great all summer long which included a bunch of trips back and forth to Phoenix in the excessive heat to visit our children.

Tidbit – there’s about a 3,000 foot elevation change between Prescott and Phoenix, Arizona, meaning there’s quite the hill climbing necessary heading north on Interstate 17 from Phoenix. When temperatures exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit, overheating vehicle engines are quite common. Thus, we were thrilled the Big Dog handled those drives without incident, but remember, we weren’t pulling the RV during those Phoenix excursions.

camping near the Grand Canyon

Our son joined us for a few days. Good times around a campfire!

Once the calendar flipped to September 1st, it was time to lift the jacks and get the wheels rolling. We moved up to the Kaibab National Forest located just south of the Grand Canyon and enjoyed a near perfect week camped in a pine forest surrounded by wildlife. Our son even drove up from Phoenix to spend a few days with us.

bull elk

one of our neighbors strolling by our campsite

Coyote

This neighbor serenaded us at two in the morning. Al and I were amused – son not so much!

Considering it was the Labor Day Weekend, we were pleasantly surprised with the lack of crowds (that is, in comparison to other times of the year) and we considered ourselves lucky to snag such a beautiful campsite.

If it hadn’t been for Al’s dental appointment back in Prescott, we would’ve stayed another week, that’s how much we loved our little spot in the Kaibab National Forest.

squirrel

Don’t be dissing one of my relatives!

But alas, Al needed a tooth dealt with. A week earlier, he woke up with an abscess which made him look like he was storing nuts for the winter. His name quickly changed from Al to Alvin … as in, Alvin and the chipmunks ūüėÜ

With a round of antibiotics completed, it was time for a root canal and crown … I’m sure you can imagine Al jumping for joy!

Medical emergencies of any kind while living a mobile lifestyle is always stressful. Will we find a Doctor or Dentist who can see us right away? What kind of care and follow-up can we expect, not to mention the cost? In my opinion, this is the biggest concern about full-time RVing. I can deal with the maintenance issues much easier than medical issues. And don’t even get me started on the problems with insurance!

Speaking of maintenance issues … so after our glorious week near the Grand Canyon, it was time to hitch up and take what should’ve been an easy non-eventful two and a half hour drive back to Prescott.

Grand Canyon camping

Travel day morning, I noticed a tire on my little red truck looked low. This was the perfect scenario for Al to try out his new air compressor – Viair 450P Automatic Function Portable Compressor. I bought this Viair compressor last spring for Al’s birthday. Fortunately, at the time Amazon was doing a Prime deal on it. This was the first time we took the compressor out of the package.

portable air compressor

We had a bit of a Frick and Frack moment when we failed to remove the red plug for air intake. Duh! But in our defense, the instructions made no mention of removing the plug. So what should’ve taken five minutes to add ten pounds of pressure to my low tire, took a tad over thirty minutes.

portable Viair air compressor

After a good laugh, it was time to hitch up the 5th wheel. Al positioned the truck and slowly backed toward the hitch. I flipped or rather tried to flip the switch to raise the front landing jacks. Hmm! The switch wouldn’t move. With my nifty little hand singles, I stopped Al from backing any further and walked up to the driver’s side door. I proceeded to tell Al the switch wouldn’t work.

Al begins to tell me how the switch works. SERIOUSLY, dude dear husband!!! ¬†We’ve only owned this RV for the past seven years and¬†hooked and unhooked this RV a few hundred times. I think by now, I know how the dang switch works. Not in a mood to argue, in my sweetest voice I ask, “I’m sorry honey, but I’m just not sure how it works. Could you please show me?” My man to the rescue. Al walks over to the RV and tries to move the switch. “Ugh, the switch won’t move”, he says in a rather perplexed tone. “Ya think”, I declared in a less than amused tone!

5th wheel landing jacks

Me getting in an upper body workout hand cranking the front landing jacks up!

Like a couple of RVing newbies, we stared at the switch then at the round hole in the side of the RV. “Isn’t there a hand crank that fits in that hole?”

Coyote

Hey, you guys need any help?

Kaibab National Forest

We were an hour and a half behind our self-imposed schedule, but still smiling as we waved goodbye to our neighbors and campsite. A few deep breaths and fifteen miles later, we had settled nicely into the drive heading south on route 64 toward the town of Williams. Since we were traveling with two vehicles, we used our walkie talkies to stay in regular communication. Midland GXT1000VP4 36-Mile 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio (Pair) (Black/Silver)

Arizona state route 64

Just when I thought all our troubles were behind us, Al radios me and says the truck stalled and he’ll be coming to a stop ūüė®¬†Let’s turn on our flashers/hazard lights!

Let me explain a little something about Arizona State Route 64. It’s a busy two-lane road with virtually no shoulder, and it’s the only route to or from the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Thus, one can expect lots of RV’s, large tour buses, and plenty of traffic on this road.

sitting ducks

sitting ducks – stalled on Arizona State Route 64

Al pulled over as much as possible and I did the same, keeping a fair distance between the two of us. We were sitting ducks and I prayed traffic would see us sitting there and slow down. ¬†The fear of being rear ended was a constant concern. We were also concerned about oncoming traffic knowing that southbound traffic would need to go around us and there wasn’t enough space for us and the two-way traffic. In essence, we had shut down the southbound lane.

coyoteA few days earlier while Al and Logan (son) were exploring some of the back roads in the Kaibab National Forest, the truck had stalled necessitating Al call our mechanic in Prescott.

After a few wire jiggles on an internal temperature sensor, the truck started up.

So there we were stalled on route 64 in a very precarious situation waiting for the truck engine to cool a tad all the while Al jiggled the wires. After 15 minutes, the Big Dog started up and kept running all the way to Prescott.

Suffice it to say, by the time we arrived at our destination, we were a bit frazzled but okay plus Al was not looking forward to the next day – a morning spent in the dental chair. Good news, Al had a positive experience with Highland Dental¬†(Dr. Bennett) and his mouth is doing just fine these days… no more Alvin¬†and we’ve found a dental office in Arizona that we like.

But ‘living the dream‘ didn’t end here. After Al’s dental appointment, we spent the rest of our week in Prescott doing a deep interior cleaning of the RV along with taking care of the necessary truck and RV maintenance.

RV mice

We eventually found a SOS pad to wrap around our electrical cord.

Along with Mr. Elk and Wiley Coyote stopping by our boondock campsite in the Kaibab National Forest, Mickey and Minnie Mouse decided to stop by and dine on some peanut butter.

Apparently, we left the door open (electrical cord opening) and the welcome mat out (interior electrical cover plate off) for Mickey and Minnie’s easy entry. Al normally wraps steel wool around our exterior electrical cord but he misplaced it and eventually we used a SOS pad. I also forgot about the interior electrical cover plate that had fallen off the wall (hiding behind my camera bag). Anyway, this combination provided the perfect entry for the little field mice.

Boondocking and mice are a pretty common occurrence and one we’ve come to expect, but once we get back to full hookups, it’s time for some deep cleaning and making sure our unwanted guests haven’t taken up residency.

Whew! It was an eventful and busy week which was anything but dream living. A week we’re glad is over. And now we’re onto a new location and working on living the dream. So far, so good!

south rim Grand Canyon

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A Solo Stroll

The monsoon season has officially arrived here in Prescott, Arizona. It’s curtailed my hiking and explorations somewhat, especially when there’s lightening present. But the drama in the sky is luring. The other afternoon I ventured out with no real plan in mind. With camera in hand, I thought I’d swing by one of my favorite spots in Prescott, Arizona … Watson Lake.

Watson Lake Prescott Arizona

It was late in the afternoon with ominous clouds looming. The park was relatively empty. I began aimlessly strolling down one trail and then down another. I was alone, but I was never really alone.

The quiet solitude allowed me to take in the sights and sounds around me. I was in my element, and if it hadn’t been for the severe storm, I could have stayed until nightfall. The highlight of my day was coming across a bobcat in the middle of the trail. She was on the hunt and very focused. She knew I was there, but could’ve cared less. She glanced at me once and immediately returned to focusing on her prey.

Lynx

108 mm – What a rare treat to come across this beautiful bobcat. She was in the middle of the trail and wasn’t about to move. She was intent on her hunt and very focused.

I waited and watched this elegant cat for awhile. However, she obviously exuded more patience than moi, and I soon found myself walking in another direction. I hadn’t ventured far when I heard her success. Tweetie bird’s beautiful chirping was halted in mid chirp along with some serious rustling of the bushes. I quickly swung back to the previous trail where I had spotted her, but saw no signs of the majestic cat. Although, I knew to keep a very safe distance, and didn’t walk past my original spot where I photographed her.¬† Ah, the circle of life!

A collage of what I saw along the trail that fine day illustrating I was never alone ……

Fingers crossed the storms aren’t too severe this afternoon and I can head back over to Watson Lake and visit with the locals while getting in some trail hiking. In lieu of exercise, I’ll settle for more shutter clicks ūüėĀ

Update – Oops in my exuberance to share these photos, I failed to do my homework on the cat I encountered along the trail. Because of the ears, I assumed it was a Lynx when in reality I believe it’s a bobcat. Thanks Laurel for pointing that out¬†ūüėŹ

This post was written in response to the WordPress photo challenge = collage

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Too Much Sunshine?

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

sunshine Prescott Arizona

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

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

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

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

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

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

reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prescott Arizona Willow Lake

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

Monsoon season in Arizona

Willow Lake Prescott, Arizona

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

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

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Fire, Confusion, and Compassion

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

Goodwin Fire Prescott Arizona

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

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

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

Goodwin fire Prescott Arizona

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

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

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

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

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

Goodwin fire livestock

This gal seemed stressed and restless

Goodwin Fire evacuated animals

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

goodwin fire animal shelter

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

Goodwin Fire animal shelter

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

goodwin fire animal shelter

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

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

Goodwin Fire animal shelter

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

Goodwin Fire Prescott Arizona

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

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

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

‚ÄúNo one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.‚ÄĚ ¬†‚Äē Charles Dickens

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

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

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

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When Cold water is Hot

Living a minimalist mobile lifestyle can be enlightening, fun, and rewarding but it can also present challenges. Last summer, Al and I meandered around Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado and although we had a fantastic time, the transient way of life can be stressful at times.

Moab, Utah

A transient lifestyle can be challenging but oh so amazing!

Wanting to keep our schedule flexible, we didn’t make any reservations last summer. That sense of freedom and rolling on a whim is one of many things we love about this RVing lifestyle. But there is a down side. Summer is a time for family vacations, peak travel season, which means state parks, national parks, and private RV parks are usually booked months in advance and for us that meant finding a place to camp was no easy feat without a reservation.RVing

This summer we decided to park in one place for a few months and see how long it would take for hitch itch to set in. This summer we’d have no worries or stress as to where to camp. In the past, I’m usually good for a month, maybe two, parked in one spot and then I’m ready to get those wheels rolling again.

Prescott, AZI’m enjoying my time camped here in Prescott Valley, Arizona, and there’s only a small part of me missing the adventure of travel …. just a little anyway. However, I’m sure my latest adventure with my daughter tempered that need to roll.

So to overcome any hitch itch, I’ve been keeping myself busy. When the weather isn’t scorching hot, which it unfortunately has been this past week, I’m out an about hiking or exploring with the camera in hand.

One of my favorite places to hike in Prescott, Arizona, is at Watson Lake. I’m never at a loss at finding a photographic composition in this unique little spot. And when the light isn’t quite right for those landscape shots, I always manage to find a willing model or two to focus my camera on.

Watson Lake

Not only is it a fun adventure exploring new landscapes, learning the idiosyncrasies of a new location can be equally amusing.  In early May when we moved up to Prescott from Phoenix, up to 5,200 feet in elevation, we thought we would be escaping the extreme triple digit heat which is normal in Phoenix. Boy, were we wrong!

First off, Phoenix has been experiencing record high temperatures this past week and that heat has permeated into every square inch of the state of Arizona, including Prescott. Now granted, we’re still at least ten to fifteen degrees cooler than the city of Phoenix, but who’s counting when the temps rise over 100 degrees Fahrenheit ūüė≤

Watson Lake

me hiking at Watson Lake when the temps were still comfortable

With those high temperatures in mind, when I take a shower in the late afternoon, I have a fun time adjusting the water temperature. I try putting the faucet nozzles in the same position all the time. Lately, the water is hot, I mean unusually hot. The other day when our thermometer was registering 108 outside, I kept turning the hot water nozzle down in hopes that the water temperature would cool.

bird photographyEventually, I had the hot water nozzle ¬†turned totally off and just the cold was running. No cold water for this gal! Considering we only have a six gallon water heater and I’ve become quite adept at taking a quick Navy shower, the excess hot water was a treat. Yep, the cold water was hot …. how interesting!

I’m always learning something new with each place we call home.

Eventually, the water did turn cold, but it did take awhile for the above ground and shallow below ground water lines to be cleared of the heated water.

Watson Lake

This photo was taken in May. You won’t find any puddles around these days.

A transient RV lifestyle is anything but boring, and there’s always something new to learn and experience. And although there’s a part of me that would like to be on the move exploring like we did last summer, I’m enjoying the lack of stress associated in finding a place to park. Plus, I still have so much more to see around here, and I haven’t even mentioned our active social life yet.

There’s definitely an upside to being stationary for a time, but I assure you my transient RVing lifestyle won’t be coming to an end anytime soon. That freedom to roam is addictive!

Watson Lake

First stop – Coral Pink Sand Dunes

I love road trips with my daughter. We always manage to find plenty of adventure, and trust me, this recent road trip was filled with lots of laughs, challenges, and new experiences for the both of us.Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

The last time Ashton and I took a road trip she was still in college living in Fort Collins, Colorado. That trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota has always held the fondest of memories for this mother and daughter duo.  We never imagined that we could possibly top that road trip.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Ashton taking a panorama

But oh boy, we topped it indeed.  What an adventure.  One for the books!

sand dune flowersIt all started when Ashton drove up from Phoenix to pick me up in Prescott Valley, Arizona, where Al and I are currently camped with the RV.

She had her new Honda CRV (lovingly named Charlotte) all loaded up with everything we needed for our camping trip.  She and I had been planning and preparing for this trip for the past several weeks, and just like her mom (me), Ashton is well-organized.

Wednesday РMay 17th   After loading my personal belongings into Charlotte along with a few items into the cooler, we hit the road.  As the lunch hour neared, I received a text message from hubby thanking me for the yummy food left in the frig.  Say what?  I had a feeling all along that I was forgetting something. I managed to load the cooler with the freezer items, but totally forgot about the frig; the egg salad, lettuce, and turkey in the RV refrigerator were left behind.  At least Al was a happy camper with a full tummy.Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Having traveled this route in Arizona many a time, I knew exactly where we were going to stop for a picnic lunch, or so I thought ….. ¬† The plan was to stop at the famous¬†Horseshoe Bend overlook for some photo-ops and a picnic, but as we neared the turn for the overlook, there was a line of cars and RV’s stretching down the highway waiting to enter the parking lot. ¬†Egad¬†…. no thanks! ¬† And¬†with the food targeted for our lunch left behind, it was time to come up with an alternative plan.

Lake Powell

Lake Powell – A scenic overlook north of Page, Arizona. Perfect stop for lunch.

We continued north on Highway 89 and stopped at the Walmart in the town of Page to pick up some lunch meat and groceries along with a couple of Subway sandwiches.  We then had that picnic lunch at the Lake Powell scenic overlook.  Not a bad plan B, but that weather was not looking good.Coral Pink Sand Dunes

We encountered a steady stream of rain and wind our entire drive from Page, Arizona to Kanab, Utah. It was still drizzling when we arrived at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.  Much to my surprise, the campground was full, but they did have a primitive site for us which turned out to be perfect and gave us views and privacy.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Our primitive site F at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Our previous practice pitching the tent in daughter’s backyard paid off in spades. ¬†We managed to battle the wind and rain like pros and had our shelter up in no time.

tent campingWe held off inflating our air mattresses and brought our camp chairs into the tent.

As the rain pelted the tent and the nylon fabric whipped to and fro by the winds, Ashton and I sat inside our shelter wrapped in a blanket watching the weather pass by.  We were warm, we were dry and we were on an adventure.

Eventually, there was a short reprieve in the weather and we wasted no time getting out to explore the sand dunes.  The poor weather actually served to our benefit.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes is an off-roader’s paradise. ¬†With 1,200 acres of dunes to explore, the steady roar of engines from ATV’s and dune buggies is to be expected. However, with the poor weather, we practically had the sand dunes to ourselves. There were a few other hikers out and about, but absolutely no OHV’s (off-highway vehicles). We didn’t need to share this amazing scenery with anyone. ¬†How cool was that!Coral Pink Sand Dunes

It was quiet, peaceful, and down right beautiful. ¬†Ashton and I hiked, climbed, and explored the dunes. ¬†There wasn’t a single four-wheeler out on the dunes, allowing us to wander about without concern.¬†What a treat and a privilege to be able to experience this unique landscape in solitude.Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The shutter on our cameras clicked away as we admired the views. We were fascinated by the wildflowers and vegetation. The contrast of colors between the sweeping sand dunes and the mountain backdrop dotted with juniper pines captivated us.  We drank it all in before the second wave of weather began to assault us.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The dunes were dotted with these lovely wildflowers

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Rain turned to sleet and eventually to snow. ¬†The winds were relentless and the temperature continued to drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. ¬†For cripes’ sake, this was the middle of May! ¬†For some reason, we found a great deal of humor in our situation and by 8:30 p.m. we were cocooned in our warm sleeping bags atop our four-inch thick inflated air mattresses and laughing. ¬†Yes, we were roughing it. No glamping for these gals…. at least not this time!Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Just two weeks earlier as temperatures in Phoenix were hitting the triple digit range, daughter Ashton, a Colorado gal at heart, decided to take her ice/snow scraper out of her vehicle for the first time ever. ¬†Having grown up in Colorado and traveling regularly to higher elevations, she’s used to encountering inclement, unexpected weather anytime of year.¬†We found the timing of her ice scraper removal just another laughable moment.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

We woke up to an iced over car and ice topped tent …. brrrr – it was cold!

At some point during the night I woke up.  I was a little disoriented and not sure when we had fallen a sleep. Probably in between giggles and story telling while the tent swayed hither and yon.

And now it was calm and quiet.  No more wind or rain.  It had to be about one or two in the morning.  Not wanting to wake Ashton, I slowly unzipped the tent, and although I was shivering from the cold, I was awed beyond words the moment I exited the tent. The sky was incredibly clear and the stars shone brilliantly against the navy blue background.  For a split second I thought about waking Ashton and had it been even slightly warmer, I would have.  What a sight to behold and oh how I wanted to linger and drink in that breathtaking vision, but alas the warmth of the sleeping bag beckoned.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The sand was frozen and felt like we were walking on pavement.

The next morning while we allowed the rising sun to melt the ice on Charlotte, we took another hike across the dunes.  The sand was frozen and reminded us of walking on frozen snow.  It was a very different experience from our hike the day before.

So how did we feel about tenting it in these conditions? ¬†I won’t lie, once it started sleeting the thought of a hotel did cross our minds, but in the end, I’m so glad she and I are both stubborn. ¬†Our experience at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes couldn’t have been any better (well, maybe a tad warmer). ¬†Sure, we were cold, but the weather added another dimension to our overall experience, and fortunately, we maintained our sense of humor which definitely helped.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Frost and snow dotted the landscape that morning

 

And this was just our first stop. ¬†Next up, Zion National Park ….


Homesteading and becoming a Reptile

The more time I spend in Arizona, the more I like it. It’s a fascinating state offering diversity and extremes.  The landscape ranges from stunning red rock country to unique hills filled with cactus to dense forests of tall pine trees.  In the morning, I can enjoy a cup of coffee in delightful 70 degree sunny weather in Phoenix and a couple of hours up the road I can go snow skiing in Flagstaff (that’s if I was into snow skiing).

Grand Canyon

Me at the south rim of the Grand Canyon 5/6/17

This kind of diversity can catch visitors by surprise and quite often does.  A few years ago, we visited the south rim of the Grand Canyon the first week of November.  The north rim had already closed for the season.  We were well prepared for whatever weather Mother Nature had in mind, and I was actually hoping for snow.  By mid October, all the campgrounds located outside of the national park are usually closed for the season.

Grand Canyon

south rim of the Grand Canyon – May 6, 2017

We set up camp at the only campground open year round offering hook ups; Trailer Village.¬† With the overnight temps expected to dip into the twenties, we connected the electric only.¬† The next morning as Al and I were ready to head on over to the rim for sightseeing, we chuckled as numerous RVer‚Äôs were struggling unsuccessfully with their water hose connections.¬† Yeah folks, when the overnight low hits 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you can expect things like waterline’s to freeze up.

Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro Cactus are only found in certain parts of Arizona

When we arrived at the visitor center, we glanced at a couple of tour buses that had just pulled up.  The moment the tourists disembarked in their summer attire, they were assaulted by the winter weather. We noticed the shock, disbelief and discomfort on their faces.  While Al and I stood there comfy in our winter garb, we wondered if anyone bothered enlightening these European tourists.

Several months ago, I made mention to a friend back in Illinois that Al and I decided to spend most of the year in the state of Arizona, including summer.  My friend questioned our logic and wondered why we would stick around Arizona in 110 degree weather.

And just like those tourists at the Grand Canyon, my friend had no clue about the elevation changes in this state.  Let’s face it, Illinois is pretty flat.  You want colder weather, you drive north.  You want warmer weather, you drive south.  Easy peasy, huh!  But it’s not so easy in the west.  It’s all about elevation and has nothing to do with north or south.

reptile, lizard

This lizard and I both like sunny warm weather. Does that make us both reptiles?

A little over a week ago, the temps in Phoenix were nearing that three digit mark.  That was our cue that it was time for us to head to the hills.  Our one hour plus drive took us from Phoenix’s elevation of 1,100 feet to Prescott Valley’s 5,200 feet, and the temperature dropped more than twenty degrees…. brrrr.  Al and I were cold.  Had our time in the valley of the sun turned us into reptiles?  Anything less than 70 degrees and we were donning sweatshirts!

Prescott RV Parks

Our home for the next few months!

Since we’ll be staying in Prescott Valley at least a couple of months, I decided to do a little homesteading and plant a garden.

I haven’t done any digging in the dirt since we went full-time in the RV four years ago. I purchased three planters, a bag of dirt, and a bunch of plants; ¬†parsley, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, chives, and tomatoes.

I think I’d be dating myself if I said I was humming a Simon and Garfunkel song while planting my garden ….

It felt wonderful to do a little gardening and even though I’ve never been the best gardener, I’ve always found the activity enjoyable. ¬†That said, Al and our two children have made bets on how long I’ll be able to keep these plants alive. Who needs fantasy football when you can bet on mom and her green thumb or lack thereof ūüėĄ

RV gardens

me planting my garden

So our first week in Prescott was a busy and fun one which included a day trip to the Grand Canyon for a picnic lunch.  Fun planting my little garden.  Hiking at one of my favorite locations РWatson Lake.  And trying to stay warm as a cold front accompanied by a record rainfall blew through the area.

Watson Lake

I love hiking at Watson Lake

reflection Watson Lake

Reflections at Watson Lake

I have a few more entertaining things planned for the month of May. ¬†Let’s hope Mother Nature is agreeable and she won’t make me bundle up …. even more!

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Danger in the Desert

With the temperatures rising and starting to surpass 100 degrees, it was time for us to raise the jacks and get the wheels rolling in a northerly direction.  Our two month stay in Phoenix, Arizona, was filled with lots of socializing, some home maintenance projects, and plenty of hiking surrounded by beautiful scenery, vegetation and interesting critters.

I don’t know about you, but I never tire of fantastic scenery dotted with wildflowers. During our first week back¬†in the valley of the sun, we hiked at the Superstition Mountains as much as possible, which wasn’t nearly enough. ¬†It never is. ¬†If I haven’t already told you, well even if I have …..¬†I love, love, love hiking here .

We were first introduced to this area about five years ago during our six-week road trip with our brand new 5th Wheel. ¬†It was also during this trip back in 2012 when we were enlightened on the concept of full-time RVing. ¬†My how time flies …. ¬†fond memories!

I truly enjoy my time in the desert southwest, but it’s not for everyone and there are dangers to be aware of.

As the temperatures soar, the snakes come out making me a very cautious hiker.  Last spring I had a rather close call that rattled me.

And then of course, the extreme temperatures are not to be taken lightly.  Folks seem to underestimate how dangerous the sun and heat can be and hiking trail rescues become a regular occurrence during spring and summer.

I love it when the saguaro cactus bloom

I love my dear friend, but he can be a prick ¬†ūüėÜ

The desert feels so alive during spring time!

Watch where you step – the desert can be a dangerous place!

Our time in Phoenix may have come to a¬†temporary¬†end, but our time in Arizona has not. We’re now comfortably parked in Prescott Valley, a mere one hour plus drive north of Phoenix and are settled into a nice campsite for the next couple of months. ¬†I have some favorite places around here that I’m looking forward to revisiting.

More of this to come!

 

 

 

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Oh, and one final thought……
Happy Cinco de Mayo – what’s for dinner? I made these delicious hatch chili hamburgers and they were so yummy especially paired with grilled asparagus and a tall margarita. If anyone’s interested, I’ll share the recipe in an upcoming post. ¬†All you have to do is ask ūüėČ

Urban Planning at its Finest

I’ll admit, I wasn’t always a fan of Phoenix, Arizona. Quite frankly, if our son hadn’t moved here¬†eight years ago, I’m not sure how much time we’d actually spend in Phoenix, but¬†let’s add in the fact that our daughter also lives here now¬†…. well, need I say more … this place has definitely grown on me.desert wildflowers

With that said, Phoenix, Arizona, has since become our ‘home’, our home base so to speak.¬† We always manage to find some place in the Phoenix valley to park the RV for a desert birdlengthy stay¬†and get in as much parent/child time as possible.¬† Although,¬†from Al’s and my point of view, there never seems to be enough time spent with the kids.

Gosh, they are adults after all and do have demanding jobs and lives of their own.  Thus, we take what time we can get.

Our two favorite pastimes to spend together as a family are hiking and eating, and there’s no shortage of either around here.

As far as urban planning goes, I think Phoenix has done a fabulous job.  Traffic can be a bear just like any other major city, but the road system is laid out in a hikingsomewhat  organized manner compared to other cities and is easy to navigate. There are several expressways looping around the city to assist in keeping the dense amount of traffic moving.

Over the past¬†several years of visiting Phoenix regularly, at all times of the year including summer, we’ve¬†had the opportunity to observe traffic patterns and¬†noticed there seems to be¬†a sharp increase in traffic during the months of January, February, and March when the valley is loaded with snowbirds from the north.¬† Once these snowbirders move on ….¬†come April, the density of the traffic seems to lighten, and by May the city can once again breathe.

Phoenix, AZ

This sure doesn’t look like a big city, does it? And check out the dense amount of wildflowers.

But what impresses me the most about Phoenix¬†is the park¬†/ trail system.¬† No matter what side of the valley¬†we park the RV, there’s always a trailhead within a short distance.¬† Quite hiking in Phoenixoften these trails feel remote, are rugged, and vary in challenge.¬† Don’t be fooled, there are some very challenging hikes in this city.

There’s also tons of groomed, kid friendly parks with playground equipment perfect for families. Yes, urban planning at its finest.

Although the Superstition Mountains remains my favorite place to hike while in Phoenix, I’ve discovered several other wonderful trailheads.

Most recently, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time hiking at the Sonoran Preserve.¬† The Desert Hills Trailhead was recently completed and is less than ten minutes away from our RV Park.¬† The Apache Wash Trailhead is located a little closer to where¬†our children live and makes for a great place for us to meet up.

desert wildlfowers

the wildflowers have added a joy to my hiking

This spring has been especially enjoyable hiking with the abundance of dense wildflowers.¬† I’m a girly girl and a sucker for flowers.

hiking

hiking with my daughter regularly has been a wonderful treat

So, while it may not have been love at first sight, I’ve come to appreciate and embrace all that Phoenix has to offer.¬† Of course, the fact that my babies live here adds to¬†mommy’s overall enjoyment ‚ėļ

Sonoran Preserve

Sonoran Preserve – Desert Hills Trailhead

share the trail

Whether you’re in the heart of the city or further out, you’ll share the trails with all kinds

share the trail

“I don’t mind sharing the trail”

desert birds

it’s not just the sights that are lovely … natures sounds are musical

desert wildflowers

love, love, love the desert wildflowers

happy camper

Me – happy camper, hiking near Lost Dutchman State Park

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Color of Spring in the Desert

Thanks to the unusual and excessive rainfall this past winter in the desert southwest, the hills have come alive.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Phoenix valley so green, but it’s not just an abundance of green that has carpeted the land.

hiking in Phoenix

Superstition Mountain – Apache Junction, Arizona

Everywhere I look, I’m greeted with a delightful kaleidoscope of color. The wildflowers are on steroids this year and I’m loving the view.¬† Each bloom, bush,¬†and tree¬†is a wonderful sight to behold.

poppies

me photographing the wildflowers

desert wildflowers

The stunning display of wildflowers is an unexpected surprise to those visiting the desert for the first time.  The desert southwest is lush with vegetation and color and a far cry from the drab, barren brown most folks associate with a desert.

Phoenix hiking

Spring hiking in the desert is the best!

desert wildflowers

I always look forward to spring in¬†Arizona, and couldn’t wait to share some of my favorite Phoenix valley spots with my daughter.¬†¬† First up was hiking at the Superstition Mountain¬†located on the far east side of the valley.¬†This is my absolute favorite place to hike in Arizona.

Superstition Mountain

My daughter – it was a glorious morning to hit the trails.

March 2nd – Al and I managed to snag a lovely campsite in the overflow loop for a couple of nights of dry camping at Lost Dutchman State Park.¬† This is a popular state park and without a reservation, it’s difficult to nab a site with electric.

Lost Dutchman State Park

Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, Arizona

By camping at the base of the Superstition Mountains, I was able to hike multiple times throughout the day and photograph the beauty that surrounded me. Sharing this amazing scenery with my daughter was a special treat.

wildflowers

Fields of poppies blooming at the base of the Superstitions

If you ever find yourself visiting Phoenix and looking for an entertaining way to spend a day, here’s a post I did a while back about the Apache Trail that you might find fun.

Lost Dutchman State Park

The desert provides the best skies

Who knew the desert could be so colorful?¬† ‘I know, I know’, she exclaimed with raised hand!¬† And once the wildflowers wither, it’ll be time for the cactus to bloom. The color of spring in the desert is a memorable and unique experience ….¬†not to be missed.desert wildflowers

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