Hiking a Slot Canyon with Friends

Last week, I took the best hike ever! First off, the hike involved a slot canyon, and second the experience was shared with friends. Yes sirree, it was an awesome morning filled with amazing scenery and lots of laughter.

Up until we started RVing full-time five years ago, I had never heard of a slot canyon. I had no clue what folks were talking about, but by reading blogs, I was introduced to Antelope Canyon. The photographs intrigued me to the point that I had to see and experience this magical sight for myself.

What is a slot canyon?

The first time I heard the term slot canyon, I remember asking myself, “What is a slot canyon?” I was totally clueless. So what exactly is it? A slot canyon is a narrow canyon formed by rock wearing away by water rushing through it. The split rock crevasses are polished by water and time and are a photograper’s delight. A slot canyon is much deeper than it is wide and many slots are formed in sandstone and limestone rock …. the perfect conditions here in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

Water Holes Canyon slot

The most popular and world-renowned slot canyon in the United States is Antelope Canyon which is located in northern Arizona near the town of Page. Folks come from around the world to see this unique and stunning red rock slot.

Since Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo Indian land, the only way to experience these canyons is via a paid tour. Tours are usually not my thing, but ever since I hiked my first slot canyon at Kasha-Katuwe, I was eager to hike one of these red rock wonders. I pondered the thought of a tour …. but then ….

Friends plan a hike together

Mona Liza on the left, Faye in the middle and me on the right

So let me set the stage for you ….. A couple of months ago, these three RV blogging pals began discussions on a potential rendezvous.  You see, Mona Liza and I met online via our blogs over five years ago. A couple of years later, I introduced Mona Liza to Faye, another friend I met via blogging.

friends made via bloggingOver the past few years, the three of us have crossed paths rather happenstance. I’ve bumped into these ladies separately in Texas, Arizona, Colorado and even Idaho.

The three of us have serendipitously  found ourselves camped in Texas and Arizona while Faye and Mona Liza have stumbled upon each other in Utah and Canada.

This past winter, Faye and I spent a month camped at the same RV park in Phoenix, Arizona, but it had been quite a while since either one of us had seen Mona Liza. Thus, a little planning was in order. Since Mona Liza (and her honey bunch, Steve) had a well planned RV travel itinerary scheduled with firm reservations, Faye and I did a little rearranging of our own schedules so the three of us could meet up.

After comparing notes, it was decided Page, Arizona, would be the best place for us to connect even though we’d have less than 48 hours to hang out together. With that said, we didn’t waste any time. During our first happy hour, we discussed potential hikes for the following day.

We all love hiking slot canyons and our first consideration was the Wire Pass Trail, but that would require at least an hours drive north into Utah and the group didn’t want to waste our short time together driving. Plus, Mona Liza and Steve would be heading out-of-town and traveling the next day anyway.

hiking near Page, Arizona

Our group – me center front, Mona Liza on the left, my hubby Al in the red, then Faye, Steve, and Dave

Unanimous decision

After a short discussion over drinks, we agreed on Water Holes Canyon for the hike of the day. Since this self-guided slot canyon trail is located on Navajo land, a permit is required. Obtaining the permits turned into a little laughable fiasco since much of the info we found online seemed to be outdated.

As of this writing, the only place to purchase a permit to hike Waterholes Canyon is at the  Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park Office located on Coppermine Road, 3 miles south of Page and next to the LeChee Chapter House. The cost is $12 per person and the office is closed on weekends.

Note: The state of Arizona does not participate in daylight savings time. We never change our clocks. BUT the Navajo Nation does. Depending on the time of year you visit, you’ll want to verify and double check the time so you arrive at the appropriate time for any tours or stopping by a Navajo business. Nothing like keeping tourists on their toes!

the trail from the parking lot to the canyon

With permits in hand, we hit the trail around 9:00 a.m. (Arizona time). The trail is clearly marked with rocks leading from the tiny parking area down into the canyon. Once we navigated the steep descend into the canyon, we took a left heading east.

The trail also goes to the right, but once you pass under the highway bridge, you’ll need some serious Canyoneering skills…. as in ropes, ladders, strong upper body strength, rappelling, experience – I think you get the picture. So take my advice and go left, east of the highway.

Once you pass under the Hwy 89 bridge, the trail is for experienced hikers with canyoneering skills.

The trail starts out wide and sandy. Our group ooh’s and ah’s at the unique red sculpted sandstone. It was a beautiful morning with few other people on the trail …  just yet.

Eventually the canyon starts to narrow … hence the term slot canyon. More ooh’s and ah’s were heard!

As the trail narrowed, there were a few obstacles for those of us a tad more vertically challenged. But we all excelled in a our team building efforts.

The most challenging part of the entire hike for me was that first ladder because it wasn’t quite tall enough for my comfort level. Thank goodness I had help at the top. Mona Liza needed help being pulled up as well.  The two ladders strapped together made for a rickety setup and we all took caution climbing it.

Once past the ladder, the slot canyon continued to wow us with her beauty. With three out of the six of us carrying cameras, there was plenty of stopping. With all the stopping to admire the canyon and snap photos, there was no cardio workout for this group.

Dave and I compare camera settings

Photographing a slot canyon can be a challenge due to the light, but that’s also what makes it so interesting. I’ve heard great things about the Indian guides at Antelope Canyon instructing photographers on the best camera settings. Dave said he learned a  lot about his camera and the best settings from his guide when they hiked Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon a couple of years ago. Hmm, I may need to take one of those tours yet.

Depending on the time of day you visit, the colors of the rocks can vary greatly. So I highly recommend taking the time to admire the ever-changing light.

A word of caution …. Be sure to check the weather before embarking on any slot canyon hike. Remember how a slot is formed …. rushing water. You’ll want to avoid a flash flood, which can occur even if the rain is many miles away and upstream. This is not something to be taken lightly and even experienced hikers have lost their battle with a canyon flash flooding.

Once we reached the end of the trail (near the overhead power lines), it was time for us to turn around and view the canyon from a new direction. The hike is just as amazing on the return, but this is also when we starting running into crowds. Seems as the day progresses, it can get busy.

Time to climb back out of the canyon. We need to join Al up there!

The climb back out of the canyon is a bit steep and this was another area where I was glad I wore good hiking shoes for traction. In the above photo, the hike up is around that bend and up to where Al is standing. Seems I failed to photograph the trail back up 😏

But here’s one of Dave’s photos showing us hike down, and showcases the kind of rock we had to walk on. This could get real slick if wet. As it was, the rock is dusted with sand and gets a little slippery in spots.

slot canyonWaterholes Canyon is about a 3 mile (total) out and back hike. I loved it! It was so much fun …. partly due to the stunning scenery but a bigger part due to the wonderful camaraderie.

Yep, this was one great hike … a great hike with great friends. Doesn’t get much better!

I’m so glad we rearranged our travels so we could all connect for this fantastic hike. Unfortunately, as full-time RVers, it’ll be awhile before we bump into each other again. Seems we’re all heading in different directions this year.

Laughter and adventure near Lake Powell – Thanks for the memories!

slot canyons

Hiking a slot canyon with friends

Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment. – Grenville Kleiser

(affiliate links) Good hiking shoes are a must for this trail for sure-footed traction. Al and I love our Merrell’s…..

Merrell Men’s hiking BootMerrell Women’s
Compass T-Shirt

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Timing, RVing and Chocolate

Since our January 1st arrival at Lake Havasu City, we’ve been staying on private property and enjoying time with our friends. Although we have electric and water hook-ups, we don’t have a sewer connection which requires us to pack up and visit a dump station about every 7-10 days. Earlier in the month, we decided to change-up the scenery when it was time for us to empty our tanks by booking a night at the Lake Havasu State Park. Arizona has some great state parks and the Lake Havasu State Park definitely ranks high on my favorites list.

Lake Havasu State Park

I was in love with this tree at our campsite.

Timing is everything …

The last time we stayed here, the state park was undergoing some serious renovation and this time wasn’t much different. They were doing some major road grading and paving which provided a few obstacles for RVers, but our view more than made up for any inconveniences. Some of the trails were also closed due to the state park adding a new campground complete with cabins. From what we gathered, the cabins will be basic (not much more than a shed) and will adjoin a RV campsite. Interesting concept! Something to keep an eye on for those of us that enjoy sharing our adventures with family or friends who don’t have RVs.

And more about that timing thing …

bloggers meet

Judy and me at Mudshark Brewery in Lake Havasu City, Arizona

Blogger pal, Judy, and her husband just happen to be staying at the Lake Havasu State Park during our one night stay on January 9th. Our campsites were actually in view of one another.  Serendipity! I don’t think we could’ve planned this encounter any better.

She and I have tried to connect for quite some time. As a matter of fact, we almost made it happen in Texas last winter. But alas, a year later, we finally managed that meet up in Arizona. A couple of happy hours complete with great conversation ensued. I’m sure we’ll see them down the road sometime!

More about our state park stay, or not …

We made the most of our one night stay at the Lake Havasu State Park, up to the point of sitting at our picnic table until minutes before noon, official check out time. Granted, we were all hooked up and ready to roll by 11:00, but I wanted to enjoy this spectacular site as long as possible. I took a ton of photographs during our stay, and I’d love to share more, but I’ve got a problem …. actually, I’ve got two problems.

One: my computer is acting up and has been ever since the latest Windows 10 update. Two: I’m sick. Yeah, timing sucks! Okay, I’ll admit, there’s never a good time to get sick, but when the weather is glorious, and has been all week … you know, light gentle breezes, an abundant amount of sunshine and temperatures are in a comfortable 70 degree Fahrenheit range in mid January …

(Sorry to those of you in colder climates. I’m not trying to rub it in. Well maybe just a little, cause isn’t that what friends do 😀)

bird photography

Anyway, I didn’t have time to be sick. I wanted to be out and about exploring and taking advantage of the unbelievably gorgeous weather this past week. Fortunately, before I ended up flat on the couch, I did manage to shoot a fair amount of photographs, mostly during our twenty-four hour state park stay, BUT unfortunately, I can’t process the photographs. We’re back to the computer acting up thing again.

I’m no techie, but I do know just enough to get myself, or rather my computer, out of a pickle … at least in the past I’ve managed. Right now, I’m a bit at a loss and may have to seek professional help.

After backing up all of my photographs, documents, downloads, etc. on to three external hard drives (hey this gal wants a backup to the backup to the backup), I reset my computer to factory settings, wiping out everything. “You got this girl”, I said to myself while my heart skipped a beat or two before hitting the return key or rather the key of no return. This computer is like an extension of my life! Lots of minutes later, the computer was started and restarted and appeared to be working well, but before I download Adobe Lightroom, I wanted to double-check the computer was indeed working properly.

After a little use, I closed up the laptop with the intent to reopen it within fifteen minutes (I did not shut it off, just closed the lid). Now here’s the ongoing problem – when I open it up and try to wake it up, I’m greeted with a black screen with occasional white blips or a white screen with what looks like a repetitive pattern. I’m left with no other option than to turn the computer off with the on/off switch.

never alone in the woods

Maybe it’s my heavy, illness filled head talking that makes me feel like I’m in some sort of old 1950’s horror film and being given slide show therapy for mental illness; black screen, white screen, flickering screen. Thank goodness there were no blipped images of clowns. That may have sent me jumping off the London Bridge. I have a serious clown phobia, but shh, don’t tell anyone 🤡

bird photographyWith the computer problem clearly not fixed, I decided to reset the computer yet again. After all, I had only downloaded Chrome and the TD Ameritrade platform along with a few minor changes. All easy enough to redo. This time when the computer restarted, a few of my personal screen saver images greeted me. There shouldn’t have been ANY personal items left on the computer after the first factory reset.

You know that sound from the Twilight Zone – yeah, that tune – it’s been playing in my head a lot the past week dealing with this computer. Perhaps it’s time I admit, I need professional help … for the computer, the computer I say, seriously it’s the computer that needs help. I don’t care what my husband says, it’s the computer, not me 😵

Sharing is a beautiful thing, or not …

After a wonderful, albeit short, stay at the Lake Havasu State Park, Al and I were flying rolling on cloud nine …. smiles from ear to ear! Our little jaunt reminded us why we love RVing and why we embarked on the full-time RV lifestyle. Yeah, we enjoyed it that much.

We had time to kill before we could move into our site at the state park. After driving around, Al thought it would be funny to park the RV on the boat ramp and make it look like he was going to launch it. The lighthouse in the background is Lake Havasu’s newest addition.

Less than forty-eight hours after our blissful state park experience, Al was hacking and coughing and bedridden for a couple of days. He had come down with the crud, but with the aid of nurse Nellie Ingrid and her Southwest Chicken Soup, he was quickly on the road to recovery. As is common with most loving spouses, we enjoy sharing experiences. With that said, Al felt compelled to share his crud induced stupor with his loving wife, moi. However, wife wasn’t satisfied with the basic crud, she felt compelled to out perform her husband by adding in the queasy stomach.

live laugh rv

Dogs! I love dogs and miss mine terribly, but I don’t miss the cleaning up after. (Where is she going with this? Stay with me. I swear it’ll make sense soon enough.) One of the things I always appreciated about dogs is they give you fair warning when they’re about to toss their cookies. And it’s your job to sprint over to them and either guide them outside or off the carpet asap before the nasty deed commences.

Kids on the other hand, rarely give warning. Let’s say it’s a beautiful sunny day as you run a couple of quick errands in your immaculately maintained Honda Accord. As you happily drive to your next destination be-bopping with the tunes on the radio, you pat yourself on the back for your wonderful mothering skills. You’re well-behaved child wild westwho’s sitting quietly in his car seat in the backseat decides then and there that this is the perfect time to showcase his talents and upstage Linda Blair in the Exorcist by sharing his projectile skills. The warm chunky substance slowly slides down mom’s head and a quick U-turn for home commences. Come on kid, a little warning would’ve been nice! Yeah, dogs are great!

So back to me being sick and upstaging Al in the illness department. It all started with a scratchy throat followed by the loss of appetite and energy. Wanting to reciprocate the nursing skills, he thought he’d warm up some soup for me. The result was like that dog warning followed by, “Oh dear God, take it away”. I couldn’t eat a thing for more than twenty-four hours. The mere thought of food put me into pre purging doggy mode. Thankfully, there were no child like Exorcist moments around the RV during the worst of my illness.

When I finally thought about eating something, the only thing that didn’t sound repulsive was chocolate. I didn’t even drink coffee for three days which really concerned Al. Concerned me too because I love my coffee and never go a day without. So my return to eating started with a Kit Kat for breakfast followed by German made Ritter Chocolate later for supper. The next day was a repeat but with the addition of soup for lunch.

I’m still not back to eating normally just yet but I’m definitely on the mends. Now as to my mental state? The jury is still out on that one!

sunset at Lake Havasu State Park

Watching the sunset from our RV at the Lake Havasu State Park.

But let’s face it, chocolate makes everything better. It’s at the top of my must have list of items required for successful RVing. An ample supply of chocolate is the secret to marital bliss while living in less than 300 square feet 24/7. Spousal dispute? Chocolate, but go for Belgian or German … some of the smoothest chocolate you’ll ever taste and it’ll smooth out any dispute.  Europeans make the best chocolate! Flat tire on the RV? Eat chocolate while assessing the situation. I swear the repair will go a heck of a lot better or at least any discussion with your partner will. Sick? Go for your favorite childhood candy bar and bring back fond memories of your youth.

Ah, the medicinal value of chocolate is endless. So while an apple a day may keep the doctor away …. a chocolate bar a day will bring harmony and peace into your life, or at least fill your tummy and make you smile. Namaste!

By the way, if any one thinks they know what might be going on with my computer, I’m all ears and willing to try just about anything. Next week, my sleek Dell girl may have to go in for help 😪 And one final tidbit – I almost wrote down the wrong name of the Exorcist actress. I originally typed Linda Lovelace instead of Linda Blair. I’m used to being corrected by my educated followers with my misnaming of birds, animals, and plants, but this faux paus may have resulted in my face flushing from severe embarrassment. Oh my gosh, my face is red just typing this!

What’s in my pantry? These are affiliate links.

Ritter Chocolate with Whole HazelnutsLindt Lindor Assorted Chocolate Truffles

RVing in a Big City

I love the diversity of spending time camped in nature one day and living near a major city the next.  It’s an amazing joy not to have to choose one or the other and it’s probably one of my favorite things about living in the RV full-time – I’m not committed to a location. This sense of freedom is hard to explain, but I firmly believe it’s one of the top reasons RVing can be addictive.

Fork in the road

Fork in the road – city living or country living?

When you come to a fork in the road take it! – Yogi Berra

Fork in the Road …

The freedom to choose where we camp is wonderful, but there are times I feel torn and have trouble making a decision.  Which way should we go? There’s so many things to see and do in a big city; museums, events, restaurants, stores … the list goes on, but the solitude and beauty of nature is always a strong draw and many times that’s my preference.

photo taken with Panasonic DC-ZS70

Taken with my new Panasonic DC-ZS70   Set on Auto – F6  – 1/125 – 373mm

Guess what? I don’t have to choose one or the other to call home.  One month here, one month there, or next month it’s something in between. That’s how we roll. Ah, the beauty of full-time RV living. We get to be non-committal.

After spending three months in Phoenix, Arizona (Oct, Nov and Dec), we started off the New Year by moving over to western Arizona to the small tourist town of Lake Havasu City. We’ve visited this area many times before and love returning. Even though our first two weeks here have whizzed by, I’ve had time to reflect on our three month stay in the big city.

inspiration, crafts, ideas, quotes

Phoenix, Arizona

It’s a rare treat to find a RV friendly city, and when we do, we like to plan a lengthy stay allowing us plenty of time to immerse ourselves in everything big city life has to offer. Since our children live in Phoenix and Phoenix is RV friendly, this city has become a regular stopping point for us. You’ll find us traveling in, out and around Phoenix regularly.

Phoenix resorts

JW Marriott Camelback

The Phoenix valley is not only a super popular snowbird location, but also popular with vacationers and convention traffic.  Peak tourist season is January, February, and March … March being the busiest due to baseball spring training.

Reservations for whatever kind of travel you choose during those three months are a definite must. You’ll also find lodging prices at a premium.

The lodging options are abundant and diverse. For those of us with RVs, we can find everything from basic campgrounds to full on RV resorts complete with pools, pickleball courts, and golf courses. For non RVers, there’s everything from inexpensive hotels, to Airbnb’s, to mega resorts, and everything in between.

Did I mention how awesome the weather is around here? That is, excluding summer of course!

Lost Dutchman State Park

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park is one of our favorites. Barely fifteen minutes to grocery stores, restaurants plus amazing hiking trails right out our door. Scottsdale and Phoenix are an easy drive away.

I can't adult today

There’s a never-ending schedule of art shows, craft shows, or home shows to attend throughout the year in the Phoenix valley. My daughter and I always manage to find time to attend a few.

I’m never at a loss of things to see or do during my visits to the Phoenix valley. Although hiking and photography top my list of favorite activities, there are so many other great recreational and educational opportunities to explore.

Here are some of the things we’ve done in Phoenix …..

Scottsdale farmers market

Farmers market held all winter long in Old Town Scottsdale. Photo taken Dec 23 – yep, DECEMBER!

beignets farmers market

My friend,  Faye, and I enjoying freshly made Beignets at the farmers market. Come on, can’t be all about veggies! Since we visited the farmers market early morning, it was still on the cold side. By noon, we didn’t need those jackets any more. There are bunches of 5 star restaurants with award winning chefs located throughout Phoenix and Scottsdale …. plenty of culinary delights to satisfy any palette.

TD Ameritrade seminar

Conventions and seminars are held throughout the year. Our son and daughter join us at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Resort for a TD Ameritrade seminar.

JJ Kinahan

This was the second day of the TD Ameritrade seminar and I got to meet Joe “JJ” Kinahan. If you’re a trader or CNBC watcher like me, shaking hands with JJ was a treat. JJ was getting ready to hit the links and enjoy the beautiful Phoenix weather while it was snowing in Chicago. TD Ameritrade and Think or Swim hold educational seminars once or twice a year in Phoenix and Al and I try never to pass one up. Always educational. We attended one of the best seminars yet this past December and had a couple of ah-ha moments.

I was really excited about attending the WordPress Camp, but was sorely disappointed. I thought I’d be surrounded by fellow bloggers in the audience, but instead the vast majority of attendees work in the tech industry. This conference was geared toward businesses who work behind the scenes, who write code and do lots of other stuff that I can’t begin to articulate. It was all Greek to me. At least the food trucks were good!

Desert Botanical Garden butterfly display

Daughter taking a selfie with a butterfly at the Desert Botanical Garden

Chili and Chocolate FestDaughter and I watch a cooking demo at the Chili and Chocolate Festival

western history

Lots of western history to explore around here along with the amazing trails.

Family and friends

Being able to spend time with family and friends is our number one reason for hanging around Phoenix

Let’s get social …

Because Phoenix is such a popular travel destination, we never know who we might bump into. It’s always a pleasure! During our three-month stay in Phoenix, we enjoyed several get togethers with bloggers and non-bloggers alike.

Blogging

Happy hour at Cave Creek Regional Park. From left to right: Dave, Faye, Al, Sue, Dave, me, and Lewis in the front. We all met via our blogs first – blogging leads to friendships!

Jeanette doesn’t write a blog but she’s been following mine for a while and she reached out to me last year as she and her husband were preparing to RV full-time. Since then, they’ve sold the house, moved into the RV and are workamping at Usery Regional Park this winter. We’re hoping to do some boondocking with them this spring once the hot weather pushes us all north.

Nancy on the left, me on the right. Nancy and her sweet man don’t RV but they do like to travel. They own a home just north of Phoenix. She and I met via our blogs a few years ago and we enjoy getting together whenever we’re both in town. She’s always so kind including us in their social gatherings at their home. Thanks Nancy

This is just a small sampling of the folks we socialized with during this years three month stay in Phoenix. Every time we visit this city, our social calendar is as full or empty as we’d like it to be. Over the years, we’ve made some great friends via the blog and via RVing and Phoenix is the perfect city to physically connect with like-minded people.

How about wildlife?

Although I enjoy most aspects of big city living, I have a need to be close to nature and wildlife. Fortunately, with plenty of parks and open space, I’m still able to get my nature fix while staying in Phoenix.

coyote

You can expect to see or at least hear plenty of coyotes.

wild burro

wild burros are more elusive and a treat to see while out hiking

Gambels Quail

The Quail are everywhere and I find them exceptionally entertaining.

Gambels Quail are everywhere, and if you can’t see them, you can quite often hear them. Since they fly as a last resort, spotting a covey of quail running across a street, sidewalk, or trail is a common sight, and always makes me smile.

Hummingbirds are also very common and entertaining to watch. Gosh, those little things buzz around so fast that it takes a great deal of patience to capture a photograph of one – a non blurry photograph. Obviously my patience during this visit eluded me as evidenced by the lack of a photograph. Oh well, next time!

Another fun thing to do …

There’s some great scenery in this part of Arizona. Just outside of the city is one of my favorite scenic drives. Driving the Apache Trail makes for a perfect day trip, but before embarking on this drive do your homework. The stretch of road between the town of Tortilla Flat and Lake Roosevelt is a gravel road and can be pretty rough in spots.

holidays in PhoenixIt was a very busy three months …

Aside from all the socializing and activities, we tried to get in as much hiking as possible to work off all those extra calories consumed. It was the holiday season after all.

In addition, we managed to complete a bunch of maintenance on the trucks, RV, and our teeth 😒 And as if that wasn’t enough, I threw myself into a RV remodel project.

I’m not ready to reveal the remodel just yet, but let’s just say, there was at least 24 yards of fabric involved with 10 more yards in my future. I’m loving my new window treatments and the fresh new look and wish I’d a done this sooner. Since we’ll be bouncing around Arizona the next few months, I’ll focus on completing the remodel in May when we’re back in a full hook-up site and sitting stationary for a few months. We  plan on spending most of the summer back in Prescott, Arizona again.

And speaking of sitting still, it came as a total shock to Al and me that at the end of our three-month stay in a RV Park in Phoenix, we weren’t ready to hit the road. Usually we get antsy after about a month and can’t get the wheels rolling quick enough.  Not this time! We hemmed and hawed about extending our stay …. there’s that fork in the road again …. decision time. In the end, we lifted the jacks on New Years day in search of new scenery.

Cheers to new and fun adventures in 2018! Maybe we’ll bump into you down the road 😀

Affiliate links below ….

PANASONIC LUMIX DC-ZS70

Unique Pillow Shams

Eat Well, Laugh Often, Love Much – Wall Decal Sticker

Apple Pie, Holidays and RVing

Cooking and baking in a RV

“I could never live in a RV full-time because I’d get bored living on hot dogs and hamburgers”. Al patiently listened to this comment. Then in a somewhat perplexed tone, he looked at the guy and asked, “What are you talking about?” The guy quickly responded, “Isn’t that what you eat when you’re camping?”

easy apple pie recipe

With a chuckle, Al quickly responded by rattling off a list of meals he had enjoyed that week – all lovingly made by his dear wife …. Chicken Marsala, Shrimp Pasta Primavera, Fish Tacos with homemade guacamole, T-bone steak topped with sautéed mushrooms, Chicken Enchiladas, and of course, Hamburgers, but not just any old Blueberry Oatmeal Squareshamburger, a Hatch Chili Burger.

Then hubby went on to list a few delectable treats that he had the pleasure of devouring (also made by the love of his life). The guy was in total shock and exclaimed, “Wow, if that’s how you eat, I could live in a RV full-time. As a matter of fact, can I move in with you?” 😆

The bottom line is, if it can be made in a sticks and bricks home, it can be made in a RV. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some challenges to overcome cooking in a RV. First and foremost is the size of the RV which dictates the size of the kitchen, the size of the appliances, and the amount of storage space available. But with good organizational skills and thoughtful planning, anything is possible. Just ask my family and friends.

Game of Thrones birthday cakeLast month I baked a delicious birthday cake for my daughter, and all from scratch. No box mixes that day. Her millennial girlfriends (non RVer’s) were surprised this was all done in an RV.

According to my daughter, it seems I may have redeemed myself from last years mess of a birthday cake.

And no, I won’t be sharing a photo of that cake, too embarrassing, but she sure had fun re-posting the photo of it on Facebook. Last years cake was one of those failures in crafting –  “A” for effort and “F” for execution.

(This post contains affiliate links)  This years birthday cake was a tasty Black Forest Cake with a Game of Thrones inspired theme and actually turned out cute and tasty. My daughter is a huge Game of Thrones fan and loved the beanie baby Dragon on top. (FYI – Black Forest Cake = chocolate cake covered in chocolate frosting with a cherry filling between layers – oh, yum indeed!) Yeah, I did good creating this birthday cake, and I had fun doing it and all in the confines of my little RV kitchen.

I’ve talked many times before how social RVing and blogging can be. We’ve developed some fabulous friendships these past several years between RVing and blogging. Usually the meet ups are centered around food and beverages. Either we meet at a restaurant or preferably at someone’s home which could be a sticks and bricks or an RV, and everyone brings something to share.

sharing a dish to pass

Many of us, whether we live in a traditional house or a RV do not have family close by, and this can bring on a feeling of loneliness and even more so during the holiday season. We love and miss our family during the entire year, but especially during the holidays. Al and I have lived most of our adult lives far from extended family and have learned to adjust. We turn to friends during those times when we aren’t near family for the holidays.

Holiday journey …

I recall, the first Thanksgiving Al and I ever spent together. He was a Pilot and I a Flight Attendant for a small regional airline based in Chicago, Illinois. It was the second time we had met and worked together, and we were on a three-day trip over the Thanksgiving holiday. During those three days, we found ourselves bouncing between the cities of Chicago, New York, Omaha, Kansas City and Philadelphia.

easy apple pie recipeBy the time we landed in Philadelphia on Thanksgiving Day, it was around 4:00 in the afternoon. The entire crew was famished after a very long second day of this three-day trip.

We scoured the airport for food, but everything was closed except for a cafeteria which was also in the process of closing down. Our only choice …. Phillie cheese steak sandwiches. We’ll take’m! Not one crew member complained as we sat in silence filling our growling bellies. This was just the beginning of a blossoming romance between a Pilot and a Flight Attendant

Quail

Many years and two kids later, we were living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. With extended family more than a thousand miles away, we decided to head to the mountains for the Thanksgiving weekend. I booked a hotel room in Dillon, Colorado, so the kids, who were about 12 and 14 years old at the time, could enjoy opening ski season.

Armed with walkie-talkies, we turned the kids loose on the slopes at Copper Mountain while Al and I enjoyed the comforts of a roaring fire at the base of the mountain accompanied by hot toddies.  (Al and I are certified flat-landers who have never been bitten by the skiing bug, but we encouraged our children to ski. After all, if you grow up in Colorado, you have to ski. It’s a rule 🎿 😄). Less than two hours later, we were greeted with a hysterically crying twelve-year-old daughter, whom I might add was dressed quite adorably by moi with her powder blue ski boots, matching jacket, headband and bouncing French braided pigtails … so cute, but back to the crying mess …

ColoradoThrough all her hiccuping cries, we had trouble understanding a word she said. She didn’t seem hurt and her hysterically laughing brother following behind her lead us to believe it wasn’t serious.

Once the crying and laughing subsided, we were briefed on the kids faux pas. You see, when they got off the chair lift, they took a wrong turn and found themselves going down a challenging slope with moguls. Those two young novice skiers didn’t even know what the term mogul skiing meant, let alone know how to navigate that slope. To make a long story short, there were a few wipe-outs and somersaults involved, but no injuries. Something to be thankful for!

To stem the hysteria, we gave the kids the choice of where to eat for our Thanksgiving dinner and they unanimously picked pizza at Old Chicago in Silverthorn.  Another turkey saved. Fun and memorable times!

friendship

sharing a meal with fellow RVers / bloggers – camaraderie at its finest!

For our family, it isn’t so much about the food as it is about making memories, spending time together, and being thankful. We’ve always opened our home to neighbors and friends and we’ve continued that tradition in our RVing life. Full-time RVing finds most of us many miles away from family, and this is when we reach out to our RVing and blogging community.

I’ll never forget the toast friends of ours made before sharing a Thanksgiving dinner together, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.  Cheers … here’s to picking us”. 

Whether you’re spending the holiday by yourself, or sharing it with a partner, or with extended family, or even with a friend made the day before, remember to make your own holiday tradition. There are no rules …. well …. except for one ….. apple pie. For an American Thanksgiving meal, dinner can be the traditional turkey with all the trimmings, or a Phillie cheese steak sandwich, or even pizza, but you must have apple pie … it’s the American thing to do 😆

easy apple pie recipe

Easy apple pie recipe …

As I mentioned earlier, cooking and baking in a small kitchen like a RV can be a challenge. When we lived in a sticks and bricks home, I always made my apple pie from scratch, including the crust, but I have a counter top space issue in my RV, meaning I easy homemade apple piehave very little room to roll out a pie crust …. sigh!

Believe me, I’ve tried every possibility including the table and even my desk, but in all cases it was a huge pain, not to mention a mess, to try to roll out a pie crust. Don’t even get me started on trying to roll out Christmas cookies. Ah, that’s another story and another sigh.

So onto plan B which includes a store-bought frozen pie crust. Hey, when you live in a RV full-time, some sacrifices are needed, but I still insist on making as much from scratch as possible, and this pie still tastes better than any store-bought version.

Hope you enjoy this super easy apple pie recipe, and be sure to let me know if you give it a try!

Easy Apple Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

easy apple pie recipeFor the crumb topping;
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 Tablespoons butter (softened)

Whisk together flour and sugar then cut in butter with a pastry cutter/blender forming crumbles. Set aside.

For the Pie and filling
1 frozen pie crust (defrosted)
3 large tart apples, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Place sliced apples in pie crust.  In a measuring cup add 1/4 cup sugar and mix in 1 to 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon. Combine well. Pour sugar cinnamon mixture over apples. Top apples with crumb topping

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 40-45 minutes.
Recipe by Ingrid @ LiveLaughRV.com

desert sunset

Arizona has the most amazing sunsets!

Apple pie, a bottle of pinot grigio, good friends, and an amazing sunset …. things to be thankful for. With that said, I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Thanksgiving. How and where will you be spending Thanksgiving?

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A few of my favorite items that you might find handy especially if you decide to make your own crust … note: these are affiliate links
Bamber Wood Rolling Pin

Check Easy Care Spillproof Table Cover for Dinning (Rectangle/Oblong, 54 x 70 Inch,

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites

A Sense of Freedom

We’re baaaack, comfortably parked in the valley of the sun, otherwise known as Phoenix, Arizona. We arrived in early October and have been enjoying regular visits with our children and a few of our non-RVing friends. We’re staying at a new to us RV park on the north side of Phoenix near the town of Anthem, Arizona.

Grand Canyon Black and White photography

south rim of the Grand Canyon

The RV park is your usual 55+ pack’m in kind of place, but it’s working perfectly for our needs. Could it be that when we toured this place earlier in the year, the woman behind the counter was hesitant to give me any information. She looked at me and said, “You do know, you have to be 55 or older to stay here?” With a smile on my face and calling her my new best friend, I summoned hubby over to the counter and proceeded to say, “Well, if I don’t look old enough, I bet he does”. A few chuckles later, we picked out a site and our three month reservation was made – Oct 1st to Dec 31st.

company Adirondack chairs on the beach

Adirondack chairs near Rockport, Texas – pre hurricane Harvey. I doubt they survived the storm … sigh!

I’m not usually a fan of RV Parks, much preferring the rustic scenic landscape of a state park, regional park, or national forest, but wanting a three month stay with full hook-ups finds us homesteading with all the other silvers and that’s ok. For now, we still have plenty of elbow room around us in the way of vacant sites, but each day more and more RV’s are pulling in. I’m sure by the end of December this place will be full, and I’ll be ready to roll, but for now things are going well.

Chicago skyscrapers

Willis Tower aka Sears Tower Chicago

Over the past few weeks a few things have happened that have put me in a reflective mood. I think it started with the Lake Havasu lighthouses and continued with a photo challenge on Facebook … Seven days, seven photos in black and white of everyday life. No people, no pets, no explanations.

I’m usually not a fan of black and white photography, especially my own, but I was up for the challenge which had me going through a bunch of my photographs ….. a bunch!

As I searched through my external hard drives, I wanted to pick photos of a variety of places showcasing a diverse collection, as well as have the photograph look every bit as pleasing as it’s colored counterpart. I had so much fun gathering these photographs and turning them into Black & White that I thought I’d share them here.

As the week went by posting a photo a day, I reflected upon the memories behind each photograph. For me, they represent a story…. my story. I can’t help but feel fortunate to be able to experience so many beautiful and diverse landscapes.

Dillon Lake, Colorado

Dillon Lake, Colorado

The Facebook challenge was just one reason I found myself digging through archives. A couple of blogging friends reached out to me in search of recommendations for their Arizona travels this winter. It’s usually easier for me to search my blog for past posts and then email the links onto them for ideas.

During my search for helpful information, I came across a few posts that brought a smile to my face. Again, I was reminded why I love RVing AND why I blog.

Corpus Christi, Texas

Corpus Christi, Texas

Not everyone gets the whole RVing thing and that’s ok …. actually more than ok.  I would prefer this RVing boom come to an end and soon. It’s becoming more and more of a challenge to find available camping which interferes with keeping our plans fluid.

sunrise over the Gulf

somewhere along the Texas Gulf Coast

Going through my photographs and blog archives not only brought a smile to my face, it reminded me of all the wonderful experiences we’ve encountered over the past six years of RVing.

trees in the mist

Trees in the mist – somewhere near the Texas Gulf Coast

For anyone traveling to Arizona this winter and looking for some interesting things to do, here a few links to posts I’ve written in the past ….

If you enjoy wildlife as much as I do (especially birds) then you might enjoy visiting the roosting grounds of tens of thousands of sandhill cranes. I know it was a very special and amazing sight for me. Plus free camping – Sandhill Cranes at Whitewater Draw

We don’t go out to eat very often, but when we do, we try to find unique dining options. This post shares a couple of our favorites – Dining Western Style  (unfortunately, the original Buffalo Chip Restaurant structure burned to the ground, but it has since been rebuilt.)

We’ve always had a great time visiting western Arizona. Here’s a couple of posts on those excursions – Hiking Sara’s Crack and Happy Hour

We’re never at a loss of things to see or do while staying in Phoenix – A Tour of Phoenix. Why spring is my favorite time to visit the desert and if you’re looking for an adventurous day trip, the Apache Trail is not to be missed.

Yep, so much fun traveling down memory lane. All these fun excursions have me contemplating the new year. What ever shall we do? Can we top these adventures? Ah, this sense of freedom is the best, and the amazing beauty we get to immerse ourselves within on a regular basis are things non-RVer’s don’t understand. But shhh! Let’s keep it our secret.

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Guess who got a new camera for her birthday 😎 (affiliate links ahead). Love this little powerhouse of a camera and I haven’t even tried the 4K video yet!

PANASONIC LUMIX DC-ZS70S, 20.3 Megapixel Tripod

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 😲

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

Data Diet

I love my mobile lifestyle.  To be honest, the lifestyle can be quite addictive. What started off as we’ll do this for a year or two until we find that special place to settle down has turned into four years and soon approaching year five of full-time RV living.  Egads, where does the time go?Desert Wildflowers

My one big dislike, a bone of contention, to this RV lifestyle centers around the internet.  The internet?  However, did we manage to survive before this remarkable invention?  I still remember a time when the TV flipper was the youngest kid in the family.  The invention of a TV remote control was a life changer for my little sister.

butterflyBack to the internet … when we first hit the road in the RV full-time, we started off with a Verizon mobile WiFi hotspot / jetpack with 5 GB of data that worked fine for a few months.

However like any RV newbie, we were so busy running around exploring those first few months that we didn’t spend much time on the internet. But once reality set in, we needed to get back to business which meant back to needing steady and strong internet connection.

Thus, we signed up for 30 GB of data, first through a Verizon reseller, and then later directly with Verizon.  All was fine until about a year ago.  We never stream. We don’t watch videos.  I don’t use the GPS on my iPhone and yet we seem to gobble up data twice as fast as we did previously.

egret

Data usuage? Gag!

We’ve run in to other location independent folks who seem to be experiencing similar data problems.  Some have switched providers or changed their plans.  I still haven’t desert poppiesfigured out why the increase in usage since we haven’t changed our habits.  If anything, we spend less time on the internet.  It’s been extremely frustrating.  I’m not sure what the fix might be, but in the meantime, I’ll need to curtail my internet fun leaving the gigs for our internet biz.

So yes my dear friends, I’m on a data diet and it does not make me a happy camper 😭

Our two months in Texas really spoiled us.  The RV park offered strong free WiFi right at our campsite. And boy oh boy, did we take full advantage of endless internet.  The you tube videos were rolling regularly … the educational kind, not the funny cat trick kind ……. well ….. maybe the cute puppy dog kind, but mostly educational.

So much fun!  But now that I’m back to using our jetpack with limited data (sigh, sad face, tear), I’ll need to plan visits to the library or coffee shop more strategically, which is just not as enjoyable as sitting at home with feet propped in my jammies and socializing with all my blogging pals.wildflowers

Oh well.  Such is the life of a full-time RV’er.  Life could be a whole heck of a lot worse. Seriously! Check out these photos of the amazing desert wildflowers.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Phoenix valley covered in so many beautiful wildflowers.  It’s crazy pretty around here lately.butterfly

I’ve tried to get out with the camera to capture her beauty, but between RV repairs, health matters, visiting with our children and navigating data issues since our return to Phoenix, Arizona, it has been a bit of a challenge.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and with the valley heat soaring those flowers won’t be sticking around too much longer.  Thus, over the next couple of weeks this gal will be hitting the trails with the camera at every opportunity.  Stay tuned!wildflowers

Superstition Wilderness Trails West: Hikes, Horse Rides, and History
Hiking Arizona’s Superstition and Mazatzal Country: A Guide to the Areas’ Greatest Hikes (Regional Hiking Series)

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

Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ300K 12.1 Megapixel, 1/2.3-inch Sensor, 4K Video, Splash & Dustproof Body, Leica DC Lens 24X F2.8 Zoom (Black)

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

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