Lumberjacks, Rainbows, and Unicorns

Lumberjacks, Rainbows, and Unicorns

One of my favorite things about RV travel is the ability to spend extended time in diverse landscapes. This past winter, we were exploring the Sonoran Desert surrounded by the majestic saguaro cactus, and this summer, we find ourselves living on lakefront property surrounded by a lush landscape full of tall trees and a forest floor carpeted with ferns and wildflowers. Talk about extremes!

I just love it when the stars align and my days are filled with rainbows and unicorns. Ah, life is good in the Northwoods … that is when one of their insane storms isn’t rolling through!

When we decided to spend our summer with family in northern Wisconsin, Al and I weren’t sure if we’d enjoy spending three months back in the Midwest. After all, since moving west in 1992, the most time we had spent back here was in 2015 when we only lastest five weeks. Yep, after five weeks back in Illinois and Wisconsin, we ended up canceling a bunch of reservations so we could high-tale it back to Colorado.

Although we enjoyed that Midwestern excursion in ’15, I think our mindset at the time was more interested in exploring places west of the Rocky Mountains. These days, I’m feeling a draw to return to my roots and some old stomping ground favorites.

a reflection mallard duck swimming by

Hayward, Wisconsin

Folks come to Hayward and the surrounding area to enjoy the abundance of lakes and relaxing way of life. As a child, I spent quite a few family summer vacations in this part of Wisconsin, and they were always so much fun that my siblings and I couldn’t wait for dad’s vacation time so we could return to our favorite lake and campground on the Chippewa Flowage. Ah, such fond memories and now we have family that actually live just down the road from that favorite place … with room for us to park our RV. How sweet is that!

RV camped in the northwoods on a foggy morning
A foggy morning at our summer campsite. Yoho!

During summer months, fishing, swimming, and strolling Hayward’s small-town streets are just a few fun activities in this former lumbering town. Hayward keeps its past alive by hosting the Lumberjack World Championships each summer. And guess what? We had the pleasure of attending this entertaining competition. This was definitely a first for me! Who knew there was an International Timber Sports Competition? I know, I didn’t. And it’s even televisioned on ESPN.

Lumberjack World Championships

The Lumberjack competition is a three-day celebration of timber sports with over 120 competitors from around the world. Competitors are from five different countries; Australia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Canada, and the United States. There are 24 events including logrolling, boom running, sawing, chopping, axe throwing, and speed climbing.

Log Rolling: Lumberjacks and Lumberjills (yes, “lumberjill” … how cute is that!) run atop spinning, floating logs in an attempt to topple their opponents. If opponents don’t fall off after a specific time, they switch to a smaller log. Difficulty increases as the logs get smaller.

Boom Running: Competitors sprint atop a “boom” (a series of linked, floating logs) from one dock to another and back. The logs spin and dip. This is a test of speed and balance.

Boom running Lumberjack competition
Boom running

Sawing: Sawdust will fly when lumberjacks and Lumberjills attack lathe-turned white pine in a head-to-head competition using a crosscut saw or a souped-up chainsaw in a variety of fast and furious events.

Chopping: Lumberjacks and Lumberjills sharpen up their axes to compete in the high intensity standing chop, underhand chop, springboard chop, and standing block chop.

Throwing: Precision is the name of the game as competitors throw a double-bit axe as close to the center of a target as possible from a set distance away … bullseye!

Speed Pole Climbing: Lumberjacks go head to head in the breathtaking speed pole climb as they scale a 60′ or 90′ pole and seemingly fall to earth in record time.

Lumberjack World Championship Hayward Wisconsin
The storm passed just in time for the competition to begin.

Fortunately, the threatening storm clouds passed just to the north of Lake Hayward allowing clear skies to prevail for the championship to begin on time. “Yoho!” This was a really fun and interesting sporting event. The competition moved rapidly keeping everyone entertained. At various times throughout the event, spectators could be heard yelling “Yoho!”.

The story behind the “Yoho” goes something like this… Back at lumber camp (many moons ago), one of the lumberjacks needed to visit the outhouse. The weather was clear when he first entered, but upon exiting the outhouse the forest had become covered in a thick layer of fog. The fog was so thick that it was impossible for him to find his way back to camp. So he yelled out “yoho” to his fellow lumberjacks who in turn yelled “yoho” back. The yelling of “yoho” back and forth helped guide the lumberjack back to camp. “Yoho!”  ūüėŹ

A special treat

Ah, when those stars align … seeing wildlife in their environment is always a special treat and my encounters with the Loons this summer has been amazing but seeing a bald eagle was equally spectacular.

American Bald Eagle

The first time I saw this gal/guy fly by was during happy hour. There we were, sitting on the back screened-in porch on the upper level of the lake house enjoying our margaritas when a huge bird swooped down from the top of the house and flew by us at eye level. We could literally hear the movement of her wings. I was giddy with excitement. I had no idea that this would be the first of many eagle sightings during my summer jaunt to the Northwoods.

Bald Eagle
The neighborhood Bald Eagle
A Lake house
This is our spot for the summer. The upper deck on the house is the perfect place to enjoy a drink, mingle with family, and watch the wildlife.

Country living

We are absolutely loving our time and campsite on private property this summer. Not only do we have a lake view, but we also have hookups and access to a house AND boat, not to mention special time with family. Yep, I’m loving those boat rides. But there is a downside to country living, our cell phones and hotspot do not work. Well, I guess somedays that might be construed as a plus, but other days it does present some challenges. Thankfully, my sister-in-law has a landline and a pretty good internet service, so we aren’t totally disconnected … oh, and cable TV. We were able to get caught up and watch the final season of Game of Thrones. Pretty important stuff, ya know!

Heading into town is about a 25-minute drive and once in Hayward, I can find almost anything I need at the local grocery store or Walmart. But Main Street should not be overlooked.

Strolling the quaint shops and taking in the interesting architecture is equally entertaining. There are also plenty of restaurants, bars, and treat shops to satisfy anyone’s taste buds. Of course, being the T-shirt addict that I am, I felt compelled to add to the local economy by not passing up the opportunity to add to my collection.

Oh, and I bought a pair of super comfy Teva sandals at one of the local shops, Glik’s. My favorite Merrell’s were wearing out and needed to be replaced. I’m loving this new sandal and have been wearing them almost exclusively ever since I bought them. I found it pleasantly surprising that some of these small-town shops here in Hayward as well as Grand Marais, MN offer such a great selection of trail shoes and offer styles that I didn’t see in the big city of Phoenix. Hmm, do I dare go shopping some more?

All good things must come to an end

I can’t believe that it’s already mid-August and our summer is quickly coming to an end. For those of us that have been RVing for a while, we all know the ups and downs of the RV lifestyle. I usually cringe when I hear people say, “Your living the dream” because there are many times RV life is more like a nightmare than a dream, but this summer has really been a dream for us. We didn’t do the traveling we thought we’d do this summer. Instead, we settled into lakehouse living and enjoying our time with family and that’s fine by us. Traveling all the time can get tiring.

Perhaps we’ll return next summer and do that exploring we thought we’d do this year. Ah, time will tell! In the meantime, I’ll savor the last weeks of summer in the Northwoods before we head back to the desert southwest. Are there more unicorns and rainbows in my future? Stay tuned!

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Casual Print T-Shirt – Lake Life
Distressed Vintage Patch Hat: Lake Life, Black
Teva Women’s Verra Sandal

What I Love about RVing

There are lots of things that I love about RVing and near the top of that list is traveling with my home in tow. I sleep in my own bed, cook in my own kitchen, and have all my necessities within easy reach around me. All the comforts of home with an ever-changing yard, but that’s not the best part…

Our friend’s beautiful property near Cotopaxi, Colorado

Our journey continues

It was day two of our summer excursion. The day before was a long nine-hour drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’m grateful Al and I slept well and woke up with energy. Sleeping in our own bed makes a huge difference and the good night’s sleep had us ready to tackle another long day of driving.

It was a little before 6:00 a.m. when I put the kettle on the RV stove to heat the water for coffee. When we’re boondocking and other RVs are nearby, we won’t start our generator this early in the morning so that we could use our drip coffee maker. (This post contains affiliate links) So, when I don’t have the power for the Cuisinart¬†coffee maker, I use the pour-over coffee brewing method … just as tasty.

After a quick breakfast and one cup down, we were once again rolling with our second cup of coffee in our travel mugs. We knew we had at least a six-hour drive in front of us and a destination that was new to us. Even though we were familiar with the general area, we weren’t familiar with the specific piece of private property where we’d be spending the week.

The best thing about RVing

If you follow other RV blogs, join any RVing Facebook groups, or read any RV Forums, then you’ve probably heard from others that as much as we all enjoy the freedom of the RV lifestyle, most of us will agree that the best thing about RVing is the people we meet and the friendships that are made. It’s the best, and it’s unlike any other lifestyle.

There’s something about the camaraderie of the RVing community that turns complete strangers into true friends in a short amount of time.

Al and I spent our winter in an RV Park in Phoenix. Many of our neighbors were doing the same while others were there for shorter time frames. One such neighbor, Dick and Steph, were only there for a couple of months. They were on a snowbird trial run to test out the desert southwest with their RV. (By the way, they loved it and will return to Phoenix next winter.)

Noticing their Colorado license plates, I was quick to stop and chat to see what part of Colorado they were from. Turns out they live just west of where we used to live in southern Colorado. During one of their last days in the park, we discussed our upcoming summer travel plans. When I made mention that we’d be in their neck of the woods near the beginning of June to tackle our storage units, they were quick to offer their property as a place for us to stay.

Seriously? These were folks we barely knew and yet they were offering us the opportunity to stay on their land for as long as we needed to. Well, twist my arm! This scenario was so much better than staying at the Lake Pueblo State Park where we’d need reservations to get us through the busy weekends. Dealing with those storage units would be stressful enough without adding in the stress of a time frame.

The only real downside was the distance. The state park was only a fifteen-minute drive to the storage facility while Dick and Steph’s place would be over an hours drive. We’ll take it!

Not a bad place to call home for a week!

An emotional, yet fun week

After getting settled in and getting acquainted with Dick and Steph’s beautiful home and property, it was time to take the hour and twenty-minute drive to the storage facility. We spent about five-hours that first-day pulling box by box out of the jam-packed unit on the left.

Whatever were we thinking? Obviously, we weren’t!

The next day, we spent four grueling hours going through more boxes. The task was a combination of tedious, grueling, and emotional which lead to a much-needed break on day three.

Our day off

Even though we had previously lived in southern Colorado and knew all about Bishop Castle, Al and I hadn’t personally visited. So Dick recommended the four of us enjoy a scenic drive to a castle.

Hmm … it’s an interesting structure surrounded by a lot of controversy. I don’t think it’s an attraction I would recommend driving out of the way to see, but since we were somewhat in the area, I found it to be a unique sight and fun day with our friends.

I do question the safety of the structure which is why government officials have tried to stop Mr. Bishop from keeping it open to the public. If you have even the slightest fear of heights, I wouldn’t recommend exploring the inside of the building. Nor would I recommend visiting with children even though we saw quite a few.

I don’t necessarily agree with some of the county’s tactics to close Mr. Bishop and his castle down, but I do understand the concerns. When we lived in Colorado, I remember watching our local news channel and hearing about Mr. Bishop’s problems with local law enforcement and county officials. Talk about an interesting story!

After our enjoyable day off, we had one more day at storage. Whew! We were sure glad when that task was done. We did widdle our stuff down to 1 1/2 units. Part of that half will be going to our children (at their request) which means we’ll be moving all our stuff to Phoenix. Nope, I’m not even going to talk about the plan to move everything from Pueblo to Phoenix this fall for fear of breaking out in hives from stress.

Perhaps I should do a blog post on How not to move into your RV full-time. Do as I say, not as I do!!! ūüôĄ

More fun

Once the storage job was complete, we weren’t in any hurry to move on. After all, we had a full hook-up RV site and it was free … awesome! But the best part was hanging out with Dick and Steph and enjoying the amazing views. Our next few days were filled with laughs, good food, and great company. They even invited us to revisit anytime … always a good sign that we didn’t overstay our welcome.

Fun in the Colorado Rockies!

Moving on

We reluctantly bid farewell to our Cotopaxi, Colorado friends, and look forward to spending more time hanging out together this winter when all of us return to the Pioneer RV Park in Phoenix, Arizona.

Our next stop found us back in some familiar territory and making new friends. Once again, the common thread of RVing and this little blog of mine lead to a great overnight on private property just east of Colorado Springs. Kathy has been following my blog for a while even though she doesn’t write one herself. In the past, she has commented on various posts and we’ve even communicated via email.

She and her husband were full-time RVers for about a year. Their intent was always to purchase another home near Colorado Springs when their other house sold. Thus, while their new home was being built, they traveled around in their RV. Al and I knew very little about her and her husband, but to sum up our experience with our new friends, we enjoyed our visit so much so that we almost stayed another night, but we had plans which involved a time frame. By the way, their home and property are beautiful and we hope to reconnect with these fellow RVers sometime down the road.

Conclusion:

RVing is a great way to travel and see the country, and although the list of things I love about the RV lifestyle is long, at the top of my favorites list are the people we meet. However, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the fabulous friends I’ve made via this RV blog who have also offered up their property and friendship.

During our RVing journey, we’ve met so many fine people that we enjoy hanging out with, as well as have developed some really amazing friendships … the kind of friends that I know would drive out of their way to come help us if we asked and we would do the same. Those kinds of relationships are rare and special … thank you!

Next up – South Dakota and meeting blogging pals for the first time!

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Pour-Over Coffee Brewer w/Carafe
Cuisinart Coffeemaker
Thermal Stainless Steel Cup with Lid for Travel

The Perfect Travel Itinerary, or not

Our summer journey began at the end of May. We finally lifted the jacks on the RV and got those wheels rolling again. It felt great being back on the open road. After sitting stationary for nearly seven months, we felt like total RV newbies but after a couple of hours of driving, we quickly found our groove.

ATV in Colorado,

Never too old to change!

Aren’t most people creatures of habit? I know Al and I are. He and I have been doing this full-time RVing thing for over six years now (so much for a year or two), and as such, we have a basic routine when it comes to a day of travel which includes hitting the road in the morning usually around 8:00 a.m. … nine at the very latest and driving no more than five hours. A drive of three to four hours is preferable.

Our original plan was to start our summer excursion on the Wednesday after Memorial Day (May 29th). Over the long holiday weekend, we bid farewell to our children who both live in Phoenix which then gave us the flexibility to leave town when it best suited us. We were able to adjust the schedule if needed.

Although we had a well-planned itinerary, the plan kept changing at the last minute. Obviously, we were anxious to be on the road again with a firm destination in mind.

  • Plan A – Leave early Wednesday morning and take three days to get to Cotopaxi, CO.
  • Plan B – Leave late Tuesday afternoon, drive two hours and spend the night at the Twin Arrows Casino east of Flagstaff. This would shorten the next two days.
  • Plan C – Leave around noon on Tuesday and spend the first night near the Petrified Forest National Park and then spend the second night in Santa Fe, NM.
RVing at the Petrified National Park
Boondocking in the past at the Petrified Forest gift shop

And then there’s what we actually did, which is so out of character for us and something we’ve never done before, ever. Guess we aren’t too old to change things up a bit and step out of our comfort zone. We did end up leaving around noon on Tuesday, but once we neared the exit for the Petrified Forest, we weren’t ready to stop for the night. Plus, the Arizona / New Mexico border was just a little over an hour away. We figured, the more driving we did that day, the less we’d have to do the next two days.

In lieu of spending the night near the Petrified Forest, we decided to stop at any number of Indian Casinos along Interstate 40 in New Mexico, which we’ve done frequently in the past. As our day progressed and with each passing casino, Al and I would agree to keep on rolling. We eventually made it to the Route 66 Casino on the western edge of Albuquerque. The sun was about to set. It was around 8:30 p.m. We’d had a very long day of driving and were feeling ready to stop. We filled up with gas and began talking about spending the night. We planned to call it a day and boondock here, but then we discussed the next morning.

Grrr, we needed to think about morning rush hour traffic. We used to love overnighting at the beautiful Sandia Casino located on the north end of Albuquerque which would solve the problem of navigating rush hour traffic in the morning, but inconsiderate RVers ruined that privilege. We’ve noticed this ongoing theme as more and more companies are banning overnight RV parking. Some RVers don’t understand boondocking etiquette ūüė™. Ah, it is what it is and with the Sandia Casino not an option, we decided to go for it and continue driving another hour up the road to Santa Fe.

So much for the travel itinerary

485 miles / 775 km and nine hours later, we pulled into the parking lot at the Elks Lodge in Santa Fe (for members only). It was 10:00 p.m. with pitch dark skies. We were grateful that we had stayed here previously and knew the lay of the land. We quietly (well, as quietly as a diesel truck can be) pulled alongside a grassy area while trying not to disturb the other RVs already parked nearby. We didn’t disconnect, didn’t bother leveling, and didn’t put our slides out. We merely climbed into bed, clearly exhausted from the long day of driving, and quickly fell asleep. We both slept great. The next morning, with coffee in hand, we were once again rolling. This time, we were watching the sunrise.

So much for planning and putting together a perfect travel itinerary! We don’t normally make it a habit to drive after dark let alone put in a nine-hour day of driving, but Al and I stopped often and switched drivers regularly. Not that we were keeping track, but I believe I spent more time behind the wheel than Al did ūüėĀ

In the end, we both agree, it turned into the perfect travel day for us. Sure we were tired, but the beauty of traveling with your home in tow was we ate healthily and stayed hydrated … a must for any long day of travel. And of course, we took plenty of breaks to stretch our legs.

The main reason behind the quick travels was we had a goal and a mission to accomplish and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible so we could get on with our summer fun. The weight on our shoulders needed to be lifted asap. We had two storage units in southern Colorado full of crap momentoes that we needed to widdle down and eventually get moved to Phoenix.

Next up, moochdocking on a gorgeous property in Colorado while we tackle those storage units.

Our sweet spot on private property WITH a full hook-up. Did we score or what?

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Pour-Over Coffee Brewer w/ Carafe
I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons
Power Up Trail Mix

Upstairs, both ways

As the sun was slowly rising, Al steps out of the RV to start the generator for the¬†drip coffee maker.¬† The two other RV’s that were camped across from¬†us in the Cabela’s parking lot have already moved on.¬† And we thought we were early risers.

Cabela'sWith coffee mugs filled and a couple of scones pulled from the freezer, we hop in the truck and start rolling east on Interstate 80.  Five minutes later, we cross into Iowa from Nebraska.

It’s a Sunday morning with slightly overcast skies and almost no¬† traffic.¬† A perfect travel day.¬† By early afternoon, we cross the Mississippi River and enter the state of Illinois.

RVing in Illinois
Looks like Illinois to me! Filling up with gas.

Al and I both grew up in Illinois and when we moved away in the early nineties, we never looked back.¬† If it weren’t for family, we¬†probably would not¬†return.¬† During our long drive yesterday, we both decided to embrace this trip to Illinois with an¬†open mind …. as newbies to the state, you might say.¬† Let’s play tourist!¬† Having said that, we still chuckle each time we see a little blue sign saying “tourist info”.¬† Although Illinois does have some unique and interesting sights, I still wouldn’t put it on a tourist destination list.

Illinois River
Crossing the Illinois River

Last night while we were¬†camped in the Cabela’s parking lot in Omaha, Nebraska, Al and I each got out our laptops and started doing a little Googling.¬† Family wasn’t expecting our arrival for a few days¬†which allowed¬†us a chance to slow down and explore a little.

Hmm!¬† We came across these words;¬† Voted # 1 attraction in the State of Illinois …. a world apart from anything else in Illinois ….. towering trees, amazing waterfalls.¬† Al says, “I went there once on an elementary¬†school field trip”.¬† We quickly decide to veer 50 miles out of our way to¬†visit Starved Rock State Park.

We arrived late on a Sunday afternoon and drove around the campground a couple of times looking for a suitable campsite.¬† It’s obvious the area experienced a good dowsing of rain the day before.¬† With the exception of the handicap sites which are concrete, all the other sites are grassy.¬† The grassy ground appeared soft and many sites featured tire ruts.¬† We had concerns of sinking in the soft ground and possibly getting stuck.

camping in Illinois
Typical campsite at Starved Rock State Park

After serious consideration, we pulled into one of the six available concrete handicap sites and paid for one night.¬† When the host/ranger came around checking sites, Al was quick to tell him we can be moved within 15 minutes if the site was needed.¬† We were assured since we weren’t staying on a busy Friday or Saturday night,¬†that it wasn’t a problem considering there were plenty of other handicap sites available.

Illinois State Parks
Starved Rock State Park

We ended up booking another night so we could spend a day hiking and exploring the area.  First up;  we hit the trails in search of waterfalls.

LaSalle Canyon Waterfall
LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park

We visited Starved Rock State Park¬†at the end of July¬†and even though the area had experienced plenty of rain, so much rain that the road to the visit center was blocked off, it was still¬†mid summer¬†meaning the waterfalls would be few and far between…. snow melt had long been melted.

hiking in Illinois
Hiking at Starved Rock State Park amongst lush vegetation. We haven’t been around this much dense greenery in years.

The most popular trail and waterfall is French Canyon.  There was no waterfall and only a trickling stream.  We ventured on taking in the lush, green vegetation.

poison ivyThere’s definitely a beauty to this landscape.¬† It was a rather warm and humid morning and while other hikers were sporting shorts and tank tops, Al and I stayed in our western hiking attire of being covered up.¬† We actually managed to avoid using bug spray and didn’t think the mosquitos were terribly bad.¬† We were also concerned about poison ivy¬†and were vigilant about staying in the center of the trail, that is when we weren’t going up or down stairs.hiking in Illinois

What’s so unique about the trail system at Starved Rock is the series of planked trail and stairs.¬† You’ll find stairs AND more stairs.¬† So many stairs, we climbed up stairs both ways.

state parks in Illinois
Note the little plaque on the right post saying “RETURN”. That means the trail leads toward the Visitor Center

Al and I counted 227 steps on one stairway alone.¬† During our two-hour hike, we have no idea how many stairs we climbed¬†or descended overall.hiking in IllinoisEven with all the stairs, we found the hiking to be¬†very easy.¬† It was also extremely easy to navigate.¬† I love maps and rarely hit the trails without one, but here a map is not necessary.¬† They’ve dumbie proofed the trail system by using little color coded plagues.hikingYellow “AWAY” means you are hiking away from the Visitor Center.Illinois State ParksWhite “RETURN” means you are returning to the Visitor Center.¬† Pretty easy peezie.¬† Now if only we could dumbie proof some of the visitors to this lovely Illinois State Park.¬† We hiked on an early Monday morning after a very busy and crowded weekend.¬† Al and I were disappointed and disgusted with the amount of trash left behind on the trails.¬† We’re talking piles of plastic water bottles and¬†empty¬†snack and condiment packaging.¬† Gross!

We’ve never seen anything like it and I can only assume these are the same ignorant people who approach wild animals¬†for photo ops.¬† Who do they think is going pick up THEIR trash?¬† Fortunately, there are volunteers willing to step up¬†and tackle the task.¬† On July 30th¬†just 3 days after our hike, the Walkers Club and Lodge Staff picked up over 5 huge bags of garbage.

Starved Rock State Park
Volunteers gather trash. On the day we hiked, we had the trail and waterfall to ourselves…. with the exception of that pile of plastic water bottles that greeted us.

The above photo is from the Starved Rock State Park Facebook page.  I did my best not to show any trash in my photos, wanting to share only the beauty of this park.

Illinois State Parks
LaSalle Falls – Starved Rock State Park. If you look real close, you’ll find trash.

Rant over!¬† No wait.¬† Did you know the Illinois State Parks are¬†FREE to use?¬† Yep, that’s right, no day use fee….¬† nada, no dinero.¬†¬† So the Bozo’s that left their trash behind, got to hike here totally free of charge.¬† And by the way, the trails may have been littered with trash, but the campground was spotless and well maintained.

waterfalls in Illinois
a ten second timer was not long enough for me to scurry behind the falls to join Al, without falling on my a*s!

How did the park get its name?  You can click here by learning more about the local Indians and the history surrounding Starved Rock State Park.  We enjoyed our 2 night, 3 day stay very much and would return in a heartbeat to tackle more stairs.Illinois State Parks

Dual Hydration Waist Pack Moss By Everest
Manfrotto MKCOMPACTLT-BK Compact Tripod (Black)

 

Quacking Carolers

I think its obvious based on my last few posts that hubby and I enjoyed our month on Galveston Island immensely.  Hopefully I’ve done the island justice by sharing our discoveries and adventures.seagull

photographing birdsThe one thing left for me to share is where we stayed.  Galveston Island offers everything from high end accommodations like the San Luis Resort, to vacation home rentals, to a State Park, and everything in between.

Al and I knew we wanted to spend a month on the island therefore a RV Park would be our best option.  After a bit of research, we booked a reservation at the Jamaica Beach RV Resort located 10 miles south of the town of Galveston and only 3 miles from the state park.

Texas RV Parks
checking in at the Jamaica Beach RV Resort, Galveston Island, Texas

Jamaica Beach RV Resort

Once we arrived and were all hooked-up, I realized this was the first time in 6 months that we had full hook-ups.  Talk about luxury!  However, there are always tradeoffs.   I may not have had the need to worry about water usage, but I no longer had any fabulous views out my RV windows.  I will say the RV Park was lovely and the sites were nicely spaced in comparison to other RV parks.RV Parks in Texas

TurtlesThe Jamaica Beach RV Resort had plenty of amenities as well as an onsite Pirate themed mini golf course complete with Dora, the turtle.

Just across the road was the beach access. With its close proximity to the state park and the beach, this turned out to be a great place to call home for the month.  However, the wildlife was a problem…. wink, wink.

A problem instigated by moi, I might add.  It all started accidentally.  Al and I were reorganizing the basement and the corner of a small bag of bird seed tore spilling some seed onto the pavement.  Not interested in continuing to store this bag, I spread the rest of the bird seed into the grassy area.  Huey, Dewey, and Louie loved it and thought this would become a regular event.Serenade

From that day on, every morning I could hear them singing (in a rather quacky way) as they waddled down the street.¬† The serenade would continue at our door.¬† ‚ÄúOh, how cute‚Ķ Quacking Carolers‚ÄĚ.

Donald Ducks nephewsHowever, I don’t think they were quacking “Deck the halls” as much as they were¬†saying¬†“Feed us more, Miss Ingrid“.

They looked under fed, don’t they?¬† Gosh, I could practically see their ribs.¬† That’s exactly what these three little beggars would have us think.

They do know how to endear themselves and made their rounds throughout the RV Park regularly.

Since we no longer have a dog, I found myself quickly bonding with Huey, Dewey, and Louie… they’re rather cute, I’d say.quacking ducks

I’ll admit, it was kind of¬†nice being greeted by these¬†three entertaining chaps upon our return from a day of explorations.¬† Numerous times,¬†we found¬†the green headed characters¬†napping under¬†our RV.¬† A regular washing down of the RV site quickly became a necessity ūüėČ

Mallard Duck
The Duck whisperer…. How to train your duck!

photography birdingThe three Amigos¬†did add some enjoyment to our stay at the RV Park and made up for¬†any lack of views. I guess I’m easily entertained these days.

We would stay at the Jamaica Beach RV Resort again and feel comfortable recommending it.

With the state park just 5 minutes away, I did spend a fair amount of time strolling around that park.  I think if we were to camp at the Galveston Island State Park, we would stay at the campground on the bay side.  It seems a little more protected from the winds than the ocean side plus the birding is better.

bird photography
Will sing AND dance for food …. coochie, coochie!

We also¬†checked out¬†Dellanera RV Park and Tiki Tom’s.¬† Tiki Tom’s seems to be geared more towards anglers and kayakers while Dellanera RV Park is geared towards beach goers.

All and all, our month on Galveston Island was a great experience. We’d return ūüôā

Jamaica Beach RV Resort
I’m outta here ….. That lady scares the crap out of me!

 

 

 

A little something for everyone!

Texas Gulf CoastOur month in Galveston has come to an end and we’ve moved four hours down the Texas Gulf Coast to Mustang Island.

Normally by week four in one location I’m more than ready to move on.  Such was not the case regarding Galveston Island.

I was actually a little sad to say good-bye.  There really is a lot to see and do on the Island ….. a little something for everyone you could say.

I think it’s safe to say, most folks come to Galveston for the Beach.  There are miles and miles of beach with public access for all to enjoy.  I assure you, Al and I took full advantage of that beach access with regular walks.

But there’s so much more to Galveston Island than the beach.  From that first day as we crossed the bridge onto the island, I knew I had to explore and discover all that she had to offer starting with the three pyramids that I couldn’t help but notice glistening across the bay.  Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to figure out what exactly were those pyramids.things to do in Galveston

things to do in GalvestonMoody Gardens is an educational tourist destination featuring three main pyramid attractions: an Aquarium, a Rainforest, and a Discovery pyramid.  Also onsite: Zip Line and Ropes Course, Water Park, Golf Course, IMAX Theater, Paddlewheel Boat.

Although¬†I didn’t indulge personally in taking in these attractions, I did stroll around Moody Gardens out of curiosity. There is a separate fee for each attraction.

Each year for the holiday season they feature a Festival of Lights.  This mile long trail boasts over one million lights themed to holiday music.

Festival of Lights
It was a cool misty late afternoon, thus I didn’t stay for dark to see all the lights in their glory

Moody Gardens huge event this year was being held in a large commercial tent; Ice Land.  Thirty-one internationally-acclaimed professional ice carvers from China transformed 900 tons of ice into a holiday wonderland with a Sponge Bob Square Pants theme.  To maintain this work of art, the tent is kept at a balmy 9 degrees Fahrenheit.  For obvious reasons, I took a pass on the experience.Sponge Bob Square Pants

Besides I got to see Sponge Bob Square Pants at the Dickens on the Strand parade.Bikini Bottom and Sponge Bob

Pleasure PierAnd then there’s Galveston’s Pleasure Pier.  This amusement park is relatively new having opened in 2012.  However, this isn’t Galveston’s first Pleasure Pier.  Ah, more hurricanes and history.  If interested, you can read about it here.

The Lone Star Flight Museum¬†was on our radar but we never did make it there.¬† Although hubby doesn’t miss his aviation career, he still drools over the possibility of going up in a by-plane.¬† His face lights up whenever¬†there’s talk¬†about open cockpits or acrobatic flying.

Hurricane Ike damageOn one of our last days in the area, we took a quick drive over to Pelican Island to visit Seawolf Park.  Before Hurricane Ike hit in 2008, this was known as a premier park to visit complete with restaurant.

The building was destroyed by the hurricane and remains in a state of disrepair.¬† For an additional fee,¬†there’s a WWII submarine and destroyer that can be toured. These days the¬†park is pretty much frequented by fishermen and pelicans, but there are plans for renovation and even putting in a RV park.

Not only is fishing popular around Galveston Island, but so is kayaking.  The state park even has paddling trails outlined in their trail guide; land and water trails.

Great Blue HeronThe weather wasn’t always agreeable during our thirty day stay.  We did get our fare share of rain, cold, and wind but I won’t complain because during those most inclement weather day’s places to the north were getting buried in snow. So on the bad weather days we would run errands, go Christmas shopping, or do daily chores.

There are plenty of places to shop within 25 miles of Galveston…. from an outlet mall to regular malls and everything in between.  I found myself visiting Best Buy and Kohl’s a couple of times.

We also discovered a great RV Center called Ron Hoover RV.  It’s a small place with a parts department, service department, and onsite RV Park.   We thought the parts prices were very reasonable and before heading out of town, we picked up a few additional items.

Makers Mark Bourbon
Steve, Ingrid, Mona Liza, Al

I think it’s obvious, we loved our time on Galveston Island and were never at a loss of things to see or do but our favorite pastime was running into fellow bloggers.  We had a blast sharing a special bottle of bourbon with Mona Liza and Steve in addition to a couple of other get togethers with these two energetic RVer’s.

RV get together
I’m sampling the Makers Mark Bourbon as Mona Liza gets ready to slice into their homemade bread!

blogging buddiesI also had the pleasure of meeting Russ from Russ on the Road.  Russ is a solo RVer who shares my interest in photography.  He and I met for lunch and the conversation flowed freely for nearly three hours.

I’d love to run into him again somewhere along our travels.  He’s a very accomplished photographer that I’m sure I could learn a thing or two from.

Hmm, have I told you yet where we stayed?¬† Let’s save that for the next post.Beach sunsets

Texas journey continues…

It’s¬†the 3rd of November we hit the road about 9 in the morning.¬† We only had about 3 hours to drive to our next destination and we didn’t want to get¬†there too soon.¬†¬†¬†Al and I are both morning people and during our working days when we would go on vacation it wasn’t uncommon for us to hit the road between 5 and 6 a.m. especially if we had a long travel day in front of us.South Llano State Park Ah, the days of hurry up and get there are thankfully behind us.¬† But habits¬†don’t break easily. ¬†Now a days, we have to remind each other that we don’t¬†need to get rolling so early.¬†¬†We try to keep our¬†travel days anywhere¬†from an hour to four hours and keeping check-in times in mind we don’t necessarily want to arrive to our next destination too soon.Cardinal Deer hunting in TexasSo we meandered down the road taking in the countryside and it isn’t long¬†before the land started to roll¬†……¬†the Texas hill country near Junction, Texas.

We arrived at South Llano River State Park just in time for lunch.¬† Fortunately the park was only a quarter occupied and we were checked into a lovely site. This is a beautiful Texas State Park with an abundance of wildlife.¬† While¬†driving into the park we passed turkey and deer. Texas State ParksThe most significant Rio Grande turkey roosts in Central Texas can be found here.¬†There’s over 240 bird species that have been documented in the area.Texas State Park

Texas State Parks
our RV and campsite can be seen in the background

This 507 acre Texas State Park offers water, woods, and wildlife.¬† There’s 18 miles of hiking/biking trails, 58 campsites with electric and water, and 11 walk-in tent sites.¬† There are several blinds for birding, and¬†access to the river for summer swimming, tubing, and canoeing.Texas State ParkTexas State ParksI was really excited and looked forward to spending a couple of nights at this state park, but without cell phone service we opted to spend just one night.¬† Yep, no cell phone service, no internet, no TV.¬† Sometimes it’s fun being without connection, but we needed that cell connection for a family member.Texas State ParksSo the next day we pulled out of South Llano River State Park…. reluctantly, I might add and drove to San Antonio. In San Antonio we stayed at an Elks Lodge and had hoped to see a few sights we missed during our stay last February.

Road runner
Beep Beep!

Such was not the case as the torrential rains did not let up for 2 whole days and we had a reservation for the weekend at Goliad State Park.¬† So onto Goliad, Texas….

Lone Star: A History Of Texas And The Texans Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections from the Pit Bosses

Texas here we come!

RVingOne of just many pluses to living in a home on wheels is the way at which we are able to travel.  Traveling can be done as quickly or leisurely as we desire.

That said, when it came time for us to depart Phoenix, we allowed ourselves 2 weeks to travel 1,300 miles; destination Galveston, Texas.

Long gone are the days of Al and me pushing a drive like that in a day and a half.  Actually, more than once we’ve done 1,200 miles in one day… a very long day.  This slow meandering style of travel is the only way to fly drive.Heron

So let’s see …. In previous posts I’ve already talked about our stops in Apache Junction in Arizona, and Rockhound State Park and Alamogordo in New Mexico which leaves us with the Texas journey yet to talk about.

November 2nd we bid farewell to New Mexico and skirted around El Paso, Texas as quickly as possible on an early Sunday morning.¬† We were grateful traffic was light in what normally is a very congested city. ¬†¬†Knowing this, the early Sunday morning drive was planned well in advance.¬† The 4 ¬Ĺ hour drive to Balmorhea State Park was uneventful and whizzed by.¬† Well, ‚Äėwhiz‚Äô is probably an exaggeration because anyone who‚Äôs driven west Texas knows it goes on forever.¬† Texas is one BIG state‚Ķ. bigger than a lot of country‚Äôs.

How big is Texas
Hey look – Balmorhea State Park is located in the same spot as Paris. Our destination is by the S in Austria

We first heard about Balmorhea State Park about 3 years ago from fellow full-time RVer’s.¬† What makes this place so unique and a destination for families is the large swimming pool.¬† But this isn‚Äôt just any swimming pool, this is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool.

spring-fed swimming pool
world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool

The Civilian Conservation Corps built Balmorhea State Park and the swimming pool in the 1930’s and nearly 80 years later folks are still cooling off at the park.¬† Although this particular fall day¬†the air was¬†cool enough and thus no swimmers – including us.¬†largest swimming pool in the worldSan Solomon Springs; water comes from a large underground aquifer flowing through porous limestone and fault lines.¬† Worker’s hand dug and constructed the pool using local materials.¬†world's largest swimming pool

The water temperature averages 72-76 degrees Fahrenheit (22-24¬ļ C) year round.¬† The depth of the pool goes from a shallow 2 feet to as much as 30 feet (9.1m) deep allowing swimmers and scuba divers alike to enjoy this spring-fed pool.

Swimmers can expect to share the water with plenty of fish.  We saw lots of minnows and some large catfish swimming around.Texas State Park

As we strolled around the park we noticed a series of waterways and wetlands. The fresh clear water quickly moves throughout the park.cienga wetlands

San Solomon Cienga; a wetlands habitat for endangered fish and other aquatic life was near our campsite.Texas State Parks

I found myself strolling over there several times to observe the turtles.Texas State ParksAnd speaking of campsite, Balmorhea State Park offers 34 campsites.¬† Some of the sites even have cable hook-up which is something we’ve never seen before in any state park.¬† We didn’t opt for a ‘cable’ site but next time through I think we will because you won’t find any TV reception with the RV antenna…. ‘we be in the boonies, honey!’

Texas State Parks
our campsite at Balmorhea State Park

We enjoyed our one night stay at this state park. We did purchase the seasonal Texas State Park pass for $70 since we planned to stay at more state parks this season.

limestone
I loved the use of the local limestone used throughout the state park

Next stop South Llano River State Park.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 12.1 MP Digital Camera with CMOS Sensor and 24x Optical Zoom – Black

Just for Fun

Our second day in Alamogordo, New Mexico, consisted of plenty of wind. Wind around here is normal and expected.  After all, it is the wind that helps form the sand dunes at White Sands National Monument.   That’s why I scheduled a minimum of a three-day stay in the area.  Weather is not always accommodating.Cloudcroft New Mexico

So just for fun, we headed off to the small mountain town of Cloudcroft.¬† Not only did we want to explore this little mountain town, Al and I wanted to check out the road to see if we would be comfortable pulling the RV via this route.¬† Several folks highly recommended against taking this road with the RV¬†but we’re from Colorado and seem to be a little more¬†comfortable with¬†elevation changes and mountain passes so we wanted to lay our own eyes on the route.Lincoln National Forest

Our starting point was Alamogordo, New Mexico, at an elevation of 4,335 feet and our destination was 19 miles to the east.¬† Cloudcroft sits at 8,650 feet in elevation.¬† Thus there’s a 4,315 foot elevation increase in less than 20 miles.¬† Yep, that’s quite the pull and although there was nothing scary or intense about the road, we would probably avoid driving it with the RV just to¬†refrain from¬†straining the truck.

Ranger Station Lincoln National Forest
Can you guess what day we visited the Lincoln National Forest?

Once in Cloudcroft, we stopped in at the Lincoln National Forest Ranger¬†headquarters (on Halloween I might add) to pick up maps and info on the area.¬† The campgrounds were already closed for the season and it was definitely colder than we anticipated.¬† As a matter of fact, colder than our hoodies would accommodate.¬† A quick drive around town and we were on our way back to warmer temps LOL.Old Apple BarnOn our return trip, we stopped¬†at the Old Apple Barn.¬† It’s fall and anything ‘apple’¬†gets my attention.Cloudcroft High Rolls New Mexico

Old Apple Barn
The Old Apple Barn was a fun stop. Hmm, pie and coffee???

Back in Alamogordo our next stop was a pistachio farm. McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch was recommended to us by friends and this too turned out to be a fun stop.  There was plenty of sampling to hold our attention.

pistachios
This is one large pistachio!

McGinn's Pistachio Tree Ranch

First we started with the sampling of pistachios followed by wine tasting.  And of course, there were a few purchases made.New Mexico wineries

Our friends particularly enjoy the Chocolate infused Cabernet by Arena Blanca Winery and although good, we opted for a bottle of their red wine called “Outlaw Red”.¬† It’s a fruity red that is actually served chilled.

Back at camp, we made short order of the bottle of wine and bag of nuts.¬† The pistachios¬†turned out to be¬†some of the best we’ve ever¬†eaten and we regret not having bought a larger bag…….¬†¬†yet another¬†reason¬†we’ll be¬†returning to Alamogordo, New Mexico.New Mexico wine tasting

Precision Kitchenware – Luxury Corkscrew and Wine Stopper Set – PK002
Keurig K130/B130 Brewing System

Exploring Southern Arizona

To say weather is fickle is probably an understatement considering the unusual and extreme weather the United States has experienced this winter.  Last winter Arizona encountered some record low temperatures.  Tucson even endured a rare February snowstorm which Al and I were fortunate to have experienced in 2013.  Yes, fortunate because it was extremely beautiful, but we were also very happy when 24 hours later there were no signs left of the unique storm.

snow in Tucson
Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson, Arizona – February 2013

Last year’s Arizona record low temps had us rearranging our plans numerous times.  The plan to explore southern Arizona was scrapped due to the inclement weather.  Benson, Tombstone, and Bisbee will just have to wait.

This winter found us experiencing record low temperatures in southern Texas while Arizona was enjoying unusual warmth.¬† Hum‚Ķ..my only response to that is, ‚ÄėDon‚Äôt follow us as those record-breaking lows seem to¬†tag along with Al and Ingrid‚ÄĚ.¬† That said the original plan to drift around Texas for the month of February was quickly changed when the use of the term ‚ÄúPolar Vortex‚ÄĚ kept making its way into the Texas weather report.

After a quick weather Google, we were off for a week to Benson, Arizona, to explore parts of southern Arizona that we bypassed last year.  Southern Arizona is somewhat mountainous and elevations can range from 2,000 feet to over 7,000 feet.  We know it’s all about elevation when it comes to weather and temperatures and this season appears to be very agreeable around these here parts.

We settle into a really nice RV site at the Escapees SKP Saguaro RV Co-op in Benson and set about making plans for our explorations around southern Arizona.Holy Trinity MonasteryOur first stop is just 4 miles down the road in the town of St. David.¬† This quaint little desert town of less than 2,000 residents is¬†rich in Mormon history as Mormon settlers founded this community in the 1800’s.¬† During the 1900’s non-Mormon’s from Oklahoma and Texas¬†moved to the area along with the discovery of gas production.Holy Trinity MonasteryIn the 1970’s the Holy Trinity Monastery was established.¬† Al and I were quick to tour the grounds and even checked out the on-site RV Park.¬† We felt the sites were extremely close together, but for those seeking spiritual enlightenment it might be interesting to spend a night or two.

St. David
Meditation Garden at Holy Trinity Monastery in St, David, Arizona

The meditation garden was pretty and peaceful.  The church architecture was beautiful as is the humongous cross.  We noticed a couple of gorgeous free roaming peacocks.Holy Trinity Monastery

Holy Trinity Monastery

Peacock

Strolling the grounds was a¬†very peaceful experience and I’m glad we stopped.¬† For more information you can visit the monastery website.

Continuing down the road, we¬†stop in¬†Tombstone……..

Arizona sunset
Another beautiful Arizona sunset viewed from our campsite


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