It has been an interesting week. The weather here in Phoenix, Arizona, has been a bit of a roller coaster. One day it’s nearly perfect and the next day it’s anything but. Along with the ups and downs of the temperature, the wind has been relentless causing dust and dirt to permeate every square inch of my RV.
With that said, the RV needs a good spring cleaning. As our departure date nears, I like to go through every cabinet and closet. I usually start with the pantry. When was the last time you checked the expiration date on your spices? Eek! At least three of mine ended up in the trash. I’m pretty sure the Rosemary with the expiration year of 2017 has lost its flavor by now. 🥴
And although I feel really good about the cleaning progress I’m making, all that dust and dirt has caused a ‘dry eye’ flare-up. It’s brutal when this happens and I struggle for relief. This means as part of my dry eye relief protocol, I have to limit my computer screen time. Endless hours looking at the screen on my laptop just adds to the eye irritation.
So, in this week’s post, I got nothing. Nothing to write about other than letting ya know I’ve been busy with RV cleaning and doing my best to stay away from my laptop. No hiking. No photography. No travel tales. Gosh, I’m even using photos from Pexels today. Can you believe I’m not using my own images? I think that’s a first!
But come on … who doesn’t like cute doggie pics? Plus, these particular photos seem to fit my current mood.
On that note, please excuse my absence for the next … week or two? I’ll miss reading your tales and seeing your lovely images, but right now, my vision is a little blurry and my eyes are irritated, thus forcing a blogging break upon me. Sigh!
Have a great Sunday and a great week and we’ll talk soon!
It’s a cold and gloomy Sunday. We said our good-byes to our new friends that morning and are now sitting in the warmth of our dry comfy RV parked in our little corner campsite all by ourselves. The abundance of windows in our tiny home allows us to watch the nasty weather roll in. It turns into an entertaining sight, and I’m incredibly thankful I’m camped in an RV and not a tent.
Al and I are shocked when we see snowflakes fall. It’s March 2012 near Phoenix, Arizona. We’re camped at the Lost Dutchman State Park, and I’m seeing snow accumulate on the Superstition Mountains. Really? The rain, hail, and snow continued most of the day. Bear’s walks were quick, much to his displeasure. I call my dad, who lives in the Chicago suburbs, and tell him where we’re camped and all about the weather. My dad can barely contain his laughter as he briefs me on the sunny blue sky and 80 degrees F weather he is enjoying.
It’s mid-March and I’m sitting in the Phoenix valley bundled up in winter attire while dad is in the Chicago area wearing shorts and a golf shirt. What’s wrong with this picture? We enjoyed a good chuckle and I promised to send him lots of photos.
RV Group Camping
Shortly after noon, the first of our Escapees Boomer Club starts arriving. This is our very first ever RV group event and first with the Escapees organization as well. We brave the elements with each RV arrival to introduce ourselves. Wanting to return to the dry warmth of our RV as soon as possible, we kept the introductions short. By late afternoon, our formerly empty group camping area was nearly full.
The next day, the only sign of the inclement weather from the day before was the dusting of snow left behind on the Superstition Mountains. From what we gathered, snow is a rare treat to behold around here which caused photographic excitement amongst locals and non-locals alike. Al and I changed our opinion from disgruntled to fortunate. After all, we did leave Colorado to escape the cold and snow, and here we were in Arizona experiencing the very weather we were trying to avoid. But back home, that weather is the norm while here it is a rarity, and we were able to witness this rare sight. So, we considered ourselves fortunate even though we weren’t necessarily happy about pulling out the winter coats.
With fair weather upon us once again and a group of around twelve RVs gathered, the organizers posted a list of activities for the upcoming three days. We had a choice of activities in which to engage. While the days were filled with hikes, seminars, and outings, the evenings centered around various get-togethers either at the pavilion or inside someone’s RV, activities determined by the weather.
One of the daytime outings with a couple of our new neighbors included a visit to Tortilla Flat for lunch. A few days earlier, Al and I had driven through this entertaining town and vowed to return. So, here was our opportunity. The restaurant walls are plastered with dollar bills covering every square inch of wall space and the bar stools are made from saddles. It’s a fun and busy place plus the burgers are tasty.
I believe this was the first time I ever snapped a photo in a lady’s restroom. The stall doors were each painted with a different dance hall gal dress design. So once you stepped up to the door, your head finished off the design. Too cute! After lunch, we stepped into the gift shop for a look around and then over to the ice cream shop. We had heard that the ice cream is delicious and shouldn’t be passed up. Feeling compelled to confirm that tidbit of info, Al and our friends confirm that the ice cream was definitely worth the indulgence. Nice job team! Unable to tolerate the dairy, I looked on longingly … sigh!
One evening, a large group of us car-pooled over to the Organ Stop Pizza for a meal and entertainment. This was our second visit to this one-of-a-kind establishment. Organ Stop Pizza is home to the world’s largest Wurlitzer Organ and even if you’re not a fan of Organ music, it’s an experience I highly recommend at least once. We enjoyed the food as well as the entertainment, but others in our group shared a different culinary opinion. Regardless, we all had a fabulous time!
RVing education seminars
Our days whizzed by as our RVing education with the Escapees Club continued. We learned about solar panels, batteries, inverters, holding tanks, boondocking, and more. We learned so much from these seasoned RVers and appreciated their time and friendship. We were sad for this way too short of a gathering to end. Alas, it was time for us to move on with more education to be had at the Good Sam Rally being held in the town of Goodyear, AZ.
Our stay at Lost Dutchman State Park and the Superstition Mountains left an indelible impression upon us. It’s a magical place … a spiritual place … a place we feel compelled to revisit time and again. There’s a unique draw to explore this wilderness area, a longing to experience its ever-changing personality with the weather, and a pull to uncover its hidden secrets. We left with the solace of knowing we’ll return … I must return!
Good Sam Rally
Our drive from Apache Junction to Goodyear took less than an hour. We set up camp at the Destiny RV Resort which was an easy 15-minute drive to the Good Sam Rally location. Thus, we could spend all day at the event with a quick return to the RV for lunch and a dog walk if necessary. Thursday morning we headed off to the Rally. We looked at dozens of RVs and visited the majority of vendor booths set up in a huge event tent. We looked at the seminar schedule and attended a partial seminar with a lackluster interest.
I think we were on RV information overload at this point especially after the previous days camped with the Escapees. By late afternoon, we had accomplished our goal and decided we wouldn’t return to the Rally the next day. We also knew our six-week road trip was nearing its end, and we’d need to start the 800-mile journey home soon.
As we pulled into the driveway, Al and I looked at each other. Home? We felt detached. We weren’t happy to be “home”. Why? Even the dog didn’t jump out of the truck immediately. We were tempted to turn around and head back out. Where too? Didn’t matter. We just knew we didn’t want to be here. Ah, life! Obligations and responsibilities still bound us to the house and this location in Colorado. We were tied down, yet longed for the freedom of the open road. We were given a taste, and we wanted more.
Is this the end of our RVing journey or is it just the beginning?
We left Lake Pleasant a bit reluctantly but were excited to be heading to a new location. We wanted to check out more of the Maricopa County Regional Parks. If the other parks were even half as nice as Lake Pleasant, we’d be happy campers. We knew we were running a risk traveling without reservations, but Al and I were still in flitting mode with no real destination in mind. Well actually, we did have a destination in mind but that wouldn’t be for several more days down the road. So for right now, we had a few days to fill up before that rendezvous with the Escapees group.
March 17, 2012 – When we arrived at Usery Mountain Regional Park, we were told the campground was full, but we could boondock in their overflow lot until a campsite came available, which might be in the next day or two. We opted to stay in the overflow lot for the night which was nothing more than a paved parking lot located right next to the park entrance. It wasn’t ideal, but we figured for one night we’d make it work while we discussed how we wanted to spend the next several days.
It was still morning when we unhitched the RV in the Usery Mountain Regional Park overflow lot. It was a lovely day and the sky was a beautiful bright blue. The sun was warm and the breeze light. We absolutely must take advantage of this gorgeous day! Al and I packed a light lunch, drinks, loaded the dog in the truck, and headed up the road a piece. This funny expression was one of Al’s mom’s little phrases that always brought chuckles. Today’s destination; Saguaro Lake.
Wow! Al and I were awed by the beauty of Saguaro Lake. It’s a much more picturesque setting than Lake Pleasant. We found a quiet covered picnic table and enjoyed our lunch while admiring the view.
After lunch, we spent a little time driving around exploring. The marina rents various watercraft, and we were tempted to rent something the following day, but we wanted to see if we could get into a campsite at Usery Park first.
It’s 6:30 in the morning when I awake to Bear’s restlessness. That dog’s internal clock is spot on. He’s ready for his walk at the same time every morning. Even though we were camped in a parking lot, we slept ok. I throw on some clothes, hook up Bear’s leash, and slip the camera in my pocket before exiting the RV. The cactus are blooming at this time of year, and I was hoping to capture a few photos of one particular pink bloom.
It’s a brisk calm morning. Bear and I stroll up the road that leads to an Archery range. I take in the amazing array of cactus and vegetation while watching bunny’s dart across the road. Since the sun isn’t fully up just yet, he and I are totally alone enjoying the landscape and fresh air. I’m in my own little world and daydreaming. Suddenly, I’m startled by some screaming girls in the distance. I realize it was spring break, but screaming girls at 6:30 in the morning just didn’t seem right.
I listen again and that’s when reality hit me … coyotes! And they didn’t sound all that far away, plus we were walking toward the commotion. Bear and I swiftly turn around making our way back to the RV. Photos of the flowering cactus will just have to wait. I have no intention of running into a pack of coyotes this morning.
Back at the RV, we eat breakfast and after a couple of cups of coffee, Al and I decide to move over to Lost Dutchman State Park. Our plans would be taking us there in a few days anyway to join the Escapees. So, we figured, why not show up early. However, before hooking up, Al calls the state park to verify that they indeed have room for us in their overflow area.
Al talks to the head ranger who informs him that no group is booked in the group campground prior to our Escapees group, and thus, gives us the okay to set up early in the group area that’s reserved for our Boomer’s Escapee rendezvous; our very first Escapees anything.
Thirty minutes later, we pulled up to the fee station at Lost Dutchman State Park to check-in. Oops! The ranger had made a mistake, and yes, there was a private group booked that would be arriving the next day. We were allowed to camp in the group campground for the night, after that, we weren’t sure where we’d go. The ranger would leave the decision up to the incoming group whether we were allowed to stay or would need to go. The group campgrounds were the only overflow areas available at that time and overflow camping was only available when the group loops weren’t reserved.
We set up camp in a corner of the lot and knew we could stay in this spot for at least the night. The next day the ‘Superstition Square Wheelers’ would show up and determine our fate. The Superstition Square Wheelers is a local group of square dancers that share non-dancing outings a couple of times a year.
Not only did they allow us to remain in our camp spot, they graciously embraced us and included us in activities. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade. What an incredibly warm and generous group of people. We had a wonderful time, and by Sunday morning, we were exchanging contact information and hugs good-bye. But before we bid our new friends farewell, we embarked on an adventure that the group recommended.
On the far southeast side of the greater Phoenix valley lies Arizona’s oldest highway. This former stagecoach trail which runs through the Superstition Mountains was originally used by the Apache Indians thus aptly named The Apache Trail.
The Apache Trail is officially known as State Route 88 and links the town of Apache Junction with Theodore Roosevelt Lake. The trail was developed into more of a road in the 1930s to support the development of dams along the Salt River creating some beautiful lakes in the process. There are a bunch of interesting sights and views along the way which necessitate lots of stopping. Photo-op anyone? Thus, the Apache Trail Circle Loop requires an entire day for the excursion. It’s also not for the faint of heart due to the condition and topography of the road.
From the state park, we headed north on State Road 88, aka The Apache Trail. As we entered the Tonto National Forest, the road starts to climb, twist, and bend. The scenery becomes more rugged and stunning with each mile. March is particularly beautiful as the road is lined on both sides with yellow blooms from the brittlebush and desert marigolds.
Twenty miles north of the town of Apache Junction, we round a bend and are graced with the sight of an oasis in the desert. Canyon Lake with its deep blue waters surrounded by rugged cliffs and rocky terrain is a pleasant and unexpected surprise. A few more miles up the road is the cute little town of Tortilla Flat; population 6. In the future, we’ll need to stop here for lunch. We hear they serve up a great burger.
Beyond Tortilla Flat, the paved road turns into gravel. The gravel road is wide and in pretty good condition up to the scenic view parking lot. We loved the vista view and for those less adventurous this would be a good spot to turn around and retrace the journey home. But for us? We’re off on an adventure plus Al and I are used to driving unpaved mountain back roads with steep cliff drop-offs. In other words, we already knew this stretch of road between Tortilla Flat and the Roosevelt Dam would be somewhat challenging.
As we continued beyond the scenic overlook, the road narrows and winds. This two-way traffic road narrows down to about a one to one and a half lane wide road. Those going downhill supposedly have the right of way and it’s not uncommon for the need for someone to back up to a wider spot in the road so vehicles can pass by each other. Fish Creek Hill/Pass is the worst part of the journey with sheer drop-offs, very narrow road, lots of turns, and a steep elevation transition. Expect white knuckles!
One-lane bridges and a washboard gravel road add to the overall adventure. Once we reach Apache Lake, another beauty, the road becomes a little easier to traverse. Due to the washboard condition of the road and our extra-long wheel base on the F-250, it’s slow going. Two and a half hours after leaving Tortilla Flat we finally arrived at the Theodore Roosevelt Damn and Lake.
Now it was time to complete the circle and return home to the Lost Dutchman State Park. The majestic scenery continues from Roosevelt Lake to the active mining towns of Miami and Superior and passed the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. The Arboretum looks worthy of a visit, but by this point in the journey, I’m photoed out, tired, and just ready to get home. This one-day excursion was not long enough to see everything, and we made mental notes for things to see and do in the future.
Whether one is looking for solitude or a host of activities, this part of Arizona seems to offer it all. I remain awed by its raw beauty and fascinated by the plants and animals that survive in this harsh land. I find myself smitten with the landscape and left with a desire to explore more.
After an awe-inspiring trip to Death Valley National Park, we reluctantly bid farewell to this incredible national park. February 2012 – Today’s destination is Mesquite, Nevada. The main reason for our visit to Mesquite is to connect with long time friends of my parents. The two couples met during their RVing days via their regular winter excursions to the Texas Gulf Coast. Even though both couples sold their RVs due to health and age, they still managed to maintain their close friendship regardless of distance.
We had met these friends previously during one of our Texas vacations visiting my parents at an RV Park on Mustang Island. Bill and Sigrid are a delightful couple that were currently splitting their time between their ranch in Montana and a Park Model in Mesquite. Even though they had sold their motorhome the previous year, they weren’t totally done with RVing and had recently purchased a little travel trailer for an upcoming trip to Alaska which I was particularly interested in hearing all about. This would be their third and final RV road trip to Alaska, and they were a wealth of information. Considering such an RV adventure was on my radar at the time, I was eager to soak up as much knowledge as they were willing to share.
From our campsite at Stovepipe Wells, we headed west via Daylight Pass Road (Hwy 374) toward the town of Beatty, Nevada. In Beatty, we picked up Hwy 95 and headed south toward Las Vegas. Once in Las Vegas, we picked up the 215 beltway east to I-15 north. The trip took us about three hours including a stop for gas and lunch.
Finding a place to stay in Mesquite
Mesquite is a small town about an hour’s drive north of Las Vegas, Nevada, with a population of less than 20,000. We had lived in Las Vegas in the 1990s and kept this town on our shortlist of possible places to retire. So we were curious about our current feelings toward this community.
With only two exits off of Interstate 15, we chose to exit at the first one and stop at Walmart to stock up on supplies. Before turning into the Walmart parking lot, we notice a banner hanging on some fencing – RV Resort with an arrow. Once our Walmart shopping trip was complete, we decide to check out that RV Resort on the banner. The Solstice Motorcoach Resort had only been open less than a year and was an absolutely beautiful facility. Considering it was so new, there were plenty of empty sites. We decide to spend a week and focus on ridding ourselves, the dog, and the RV of dirt and sand. I’m sure we were carrying a few extra pounds of weight in sand alone from our stay in Death Valley.
The Park sits high above the town of Mesquite offering a beautiful night view of the lights. No dark sky around here! The folks at the RV Park were extremely friendly, helpful, and made this stop perfect to tend to chores, relaxation, and a couple of fun visits with family friends.
Enlightened by seasoned RVers
One of the things I enjoy most about the RV lifestyle is the people we meet. There’s something about RVing that connects folks from all walks of life … age, economic status, race, religion, etc. doesn’t seem to matter as much as our common interest in RV travel and getting into nature.
We visit with Sigrid and Bill a couple of times throughout the week and our conversations flow freely. We talk about their plans for their upcoming Alaskan RV road trip. They bring out maps and The Milepost Book. They share photos and tales from previous trips as well as impending details of their upcoming trip. We are enlightened and soak up the information.
Eventually, the conversation switches over to photography and Bill brings out his new camera. He has owned many cameras, both DSLR’s and Point & Shoots, but really loves this new Panasonic Bridge Camera. Hmm, a bridge camera? … more enlightenment on my part. He shares the pluses and minuses of a bridge camera as well as some recent wildlife images taken with the new camera. I’m impressed and make a note for future reference. My little Point & Shoot camera was definitely limiting and I was getting ready to upgrade.
Before bidding farewell to this engaging couple, Sigrid and I turn our attention to her relationship with my mother, especially since this was the week of my mom’s birthday: Feb. 26th. Mom and Sigrid were particularly close and Sigrid and I bond over tears as we share tales about my mother and how much she is missed.
Life can be fleeting, and little did I know at that moment, but a month later, Sigrid would pass away in her sleep from a brain aneurism. 😥
Our week in Mesquite was very relaxing and productive. We accomplished some chores, visited with family friends, and engaged with other RVers at the RV Park. This last week in February, the weather was still a little chilly so it was time to move on in search of warmer weather. As much as we enjoyed our week-long stay, we decided Mesquite was no longer on our retirement shortlist.
During our stay at Lake Havasu, fellow campers had shared some of their favorite campgrounds with us … particularly places in the desert southwest. One such place was the Davis Camp Park located along the Colorado River and right below the Davis Dam in Bullhead City, Arizona. We were in the process of working our way back to Phoenix and decided the Davis Camp Park location was perfect for splitting the distance between Mesquite and Phoenix.
Upon arrival, we were allowed to drive around the campground and pick out a site before paying and filling out the paperwork. After driving all around, we finally decide on a waterfront campsite with no hookups. Ah, let the entertainment begin! I stand at the rear of the site to help direct Al in backing up into the RV site. I begin to wonder if he even pays attention to me and my direction other than when to stop. I ponder … perhaps I should get some of those orange wands ground crew use to direct pilots. Maybe then, just maybe, Mr. former Airline Pilot would give dear wife more credibility. Probably not! I’ll just continue with my usual hand gestures, or as Al likes to call it “my song and dance routine”.
These two RV newbies continue to be stressed whenever arriving at a new campground and needing to back into a site. In addition to the normal everyday stresses of learning this new RV lifestyle, the extreme wind that was blowing all around us was another stressor and concern. The wind was so incredibly bad that the RV swayed from side to side. This former Illinois gal has seen first hand the devastating destruction caused by extreme wind. I immediately have a fear of our RV being flipped onto its side by a gust of wind. I quickly extend the slides thinking perhaps the slides would act as outriggers. Al laughs at me, but in my defense, the RV did sway less with the slides extended.
We really enjoyed our great waterfront campsite … wind and all. And no, we never did come close to toppling over. This was merely the first time we had encountered such extreme wind in our new RV, and this was just another lesson in our long learning curve.
The town of Laughlin and its Casinos are practically within walking distance from the campground, and Bullhead City is bigger than we originally thought with lots of amenities. Although we liked our campsite, the warm weather, and the area in general, after three nights, we’d had our fill of the winds and were on our way bound for Phoenix.
With the RV shakedown under our belt, warranty repair on the landing jacks complete, and our long to-do list checked off one by one, it was time to take the RV on a real road trip. Plans were made for a Christmas getaway. The date: December 2010.
Our son had moved to Phoenix, Arizona, immediately after graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder and our daughter was currently attending Colorado State University in Fort Collins. We coordinated dates with our daughter, Ashton, on her winter break, and when we had the perfect winter weather window, we hit the road bound for Phoenix.
The three of us along with our dog, Bear, spent our first night at the Sandia Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We arrived just before dark, and once comfortably parked at the far end of the parking lot, we entered the casino and enjoyed burgers and drinks at one of the restaurants. The next morning, we were rolling before the sun came up.
Two days and 800 miles later, we arrived at our destination; Desert’s Edge RV Park located on the far north side of Phoenix, a convenient location to enjoy visits with our son, Logan. Upon check-in, I asked the gal behind the counter for an easy site to get into because we were newbies and my husband still wasn’t great at maneuvering the RV. She responded, “This site should be relatively easy, but if your husband has any problems, just ask my husband for help. We’re in the site across the street from you.” This was also the first time I’d heard the term Workamper.
Sure enough, Al struggled to back into the site. The guy across the street (husband to the gal in the office) had been entertained by our struggles and eventually walked over to see if Al could use some help. In the end, the neighbor parked the RV for us, and Al and I were no longer on speaking terms, at least for the next couple of hours. Apparently, Al didn’t understand my hand signals, and I didn’t understand what he was trying to do. Thank goodness, our daughter had taken the dog for a walk and didn’t witness our little spousal episode. Ah, this RVing thing isn’t as easy as it looks.
Celebrating Christmas in Phoenix, Arizona, for the first time.
With the parking situation quickly forgotten, we set about enjoying the beautiful winter weather and indulging in the abundance of citrus trees covered with ripening fruit located throughout the park. We were loving it! This RV park fit our needs and was the perfect place to spend a week over the Christmas holiday. It was super dog friendly and conveniently located to our son’s apartment. During our stay, Ashton chose to sleep at Logan’s place which offered her more room to spread out than the RV did and allowed for some sibling bonding.
On Christmas day, our family of four exchanged gifts, stuffed our tummies with delicious food, and generally enjoyed a relaxing day. Holiday phone calls were made to family members several states away. Well wishes all around.
I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention, I too joined the kids in playing mini-golf. Golf of any kind is not my forte. Actually, I’m really bad and provided a great deal of entertainment that day. I also learned a valuable lesson that day, a lesson that at my tender years, I should have learned long ago. “Be careful of what you say.”
As Logan and Ashton each took their turn at the Par 1 hole, I mocked what a wasted obstacle this was. “Seriously, how easy is this?” Each kid made it on the first try. So of course, I assumed I too would make a hole-in-one. NOT! My ball did not drop into the hole until the eighth attempt and by then Ashton and Logan were laughing so hard that we garnered the attention of other players. Oh well, it was a fun and memorable day filled with lots of laughter.
Trouble strikes again
Our week was going well, and we were loving this RV lifestyle. We learned the ins and outs of “Workamping”. The term and spelling is actually a trademarked company that helps RVers find temporary work in exchange for a free place to camp, or in some situations, provides income in addition to a campsite. We also ran into quite a few couples and families that lived in their RV’s full-time. What an interesting concept! I’m sure I had heard about full-time RVing from my parents, who were part-time RVers, but the thought never really sunk in until now.
Anyway, all was going fine until the toilet stopped working. Seriously? We had only two more days to savor before returning home to Colorado. Al fiddled with the toilet to no avail. He walked across the street and asked his new buddy, the seasoned RVer who parked the RV for us, to look at our toilet. After looking at it, he suggested we talk to the RV Dealership just down the road.
I’m not sure if it was the panicked tone in my voice or the begging on my knees (just kidding), but the extremely booked service department at Little Dealer Little Prices agreed to look at our toilet first thing in the morning. Awesome … well not really. That would require these RV newbies to quickly hitch up and pull out bright and early and maneuver around a jam-packed dealership lot. Not something Al was looking forward to doing.
The following day, after a three-hour dealership visit, we returned to the RV park repaired – complete with a new under warranty toilet. Although replacing the toilet didn’t require three hours, the service department did their best to fit our fix in in-between other service orders. We were grateful and also learned our RV Vin number was associated with a travel trailer and not a 5th Wheel. That would make it interesting when ordering parts in the future.
Fortunately, I had made arrangements for a pull-thru site upon our return from service. Thus, no need to back-in and no spousal discord. (snicker) It was perfect for our last night in Phoenix.
Ingrid takes the wheel
We hated saying good-bye to Logan, but Al and I needed to return to work and Ashton needed to return to college. Our little vacation had come to an end … sadly. All things considered, it was a great first trip, plus we learned a lot.
Before we knew it, the sun was rising and we were on the road heading north toward Flagstaff then east via Interstate 40. Over eight hours and 475 miles later, we once again pulled into the Sandia Casino parking lot in Albequerque where we enjoyed burgers, drinks, and a good, but cold, night’s sleep.
The following morning, I decided it was time to take my place behind the wheel. No time like the present time to learn how to handle the truck and RV. Al and Ashton stood side by side in the casino parking lot and with praying hands, they looked skyward …. “Dear Lord yadda yadda yadda Amen”. They ended their verbiage by making the Catholic sign of the cross. A few jabs and laughs later, I had an hour of truck-RV driving under my belt.
I successfully navigated in and out of a gas station and continued driving all morning. There were a couple of white knuckle moments for me along Interstate 25. First was going up and over Raton Pass at the Colorado-New Mexico border. With an elevation of less than 8,000 feet, this is a pretty mild and easy pass in comparison to other mountain passes in Colorado, but it’s still up and down with turns. The second was major construction on the Interstate through the town of Trinidad … single lane with concrete barriers on both sides. There didn’t appear to be a lot of room between the barriers and certainly no room for error, but one of us had to drive this stretch. Why not me?
That day, I drove the entire five-hour drive home, and not only impressed Al and Ashton, but myself. I’m not sure why any of us felt impressed. I’ve always had the opinion that if a man can do it, a woman can too. After all, I was a licensed General Contractor working in a predominantly male-oriented position. I guess it boiled down to the fact that this was something new, a new experience, and new equipment that I’d need to get comfortable driving. There’s always a learning curve when doing something you’ve never done before.
And there would be many more learning curves in our future …
Photography offers us the chance to be an artist and to witness the world through a lens – creating art through imagery, all while witnessing something unfold right before our eyes. This is why photography is such a worthwhile pursuit that you should seriously consider taking up. However, newbie photographers (me included) may find themselves frustrated at the beginning, as there are some growing pains to endure before getting that perfect shot. Fortunately, I’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts to help you get better relatively quickly:
Do use what you already have
As a beginner, any camera you currently have for photography will suffice, whether that’s your phone or a point and shoot camera, and then you can work up to a DSLR or Mirrorless camera. For now, use what you already have to get a good understanding of the different camera settings and practice composing pictures until you can buy that upgraded camera. Fortunately, there are plenty of good, entry-level cameras listed by Tech Radar that you can begin with. The Nikon D3500 and the Canon EOS 90D are a good start, as both are packed with features and are reasonably priced, but there are certainly others to consider.
Don’t go crazy buying equipment
Some beginners make the mistake of going for the most expensive camera, mistakenly believing that the pricier, the better. While others, stock up on pricey equipment, thinking that all that gear will make them a great photographer. Don’t make the same mistakes. It’s important to remember, it’s not the gear that makes a great photographer. Rather than focus on stockpiling equipment (some of which you might not even need), devote your energy and budget to learning about photography by attending seminars, taking courses, reading books, and learning from others.
While you don’t need to buy everything professionals have in their kit, accessorizing is still important to make the process much easier. Luckily, there are plenty of accessories to begin with, depending on your needs. In fact, the range of photography equipment on Adorama such as tripods, battery packs, and lighting equipment is a testament to just how much equipment is out there to help make the job easier. Whether you’re looking for your camera to last longer by purchasing additional battery packs, or looking to get a steady shot using a tripod, there’s bound to be an accessory to assist you. For beginners, you should start with a lens cleaning kit, a couple of new lenses, spare batteries, a bag to keep your gear organized, and a basic tripod.
Don’t settle for Auto
Photo Pro Magazine state that it can be hard to steer clear of the automatic settings, as it makes capturing photos easy and convenient. However, you should break that habit if you want to become a better photographer as there is a lot to explore beyond the typical settings. At the end of the day, the more you explore your camera’s settings, the better you’ll be at photography and shooting in different scenarios. Not to mention, you may have already invested in a DSLR/Mirrorless, so make the most out of it by testing out new things.
You get better by taking photos of different subjects in diverse scenarios using a multitude of settings. As you practice, keep in mind some guidelines, like the rule of thirds, where you divide a frame into a 3×3 grid and place your subject on any of the four intersections. It’s a purposeful misdirection, as it goes against the eyes’ natural inclination to look directly at something. Nevertheless, it creates a dynamic balance and compels the viewer to look at the entirety of the image. Now, as you practice, it’s important to keep those creative juices flowing, and my ’10 Tips for Finding Inspiration’ post will hopefully help inspire you.
Even walking around with your camera on you at all times will help you to flex those creative muscles.
On the road again
I just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
As I type this post, I’m currently sitting in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Yesterday (Saturday) was a very long day on the road. We left Phoenix, Arizona at 5:45 in the morning and arrived in Tucumcari about 12 hours later … 615 miles (990 km). Whew! That was a very long day.
Fortunately, Al and I took several breaks and switched drivers a few times. What also helped was my focus on fueling us properly. Al thinks about the truck and I think about our bodies. The day before departure, I did some serious meal prep knowing we intended to put in some long driving days.
Yesterday, we started off our day with a rare treat … while driving, we had our coffee accompanied by coffee cake. Ok, a sugary breakfast is not necessarily the best fuel, but it’s always a fun (and rare) splurge to start our travels in a festive mood.
Lunch consisted of Turkey club sandwiches on fresh sourdough bread with a side of crisp red grapes. For dinner, we enjoyed salmon patties (that I had prepped the day before) accompanied by homemade potato salad (also made the day before) – dinner prepared and eaten while parked at a rest area. One of the things that was super important to me when we purchased our RV was the functionality of it while the slides are pulled in. I was able to fry the patties and serve dinner and dine at our dinette all while the slides were left in.
Oh, and did I mention the homemade brownies we had for dessert? Yeah, I’d say I fueled us up just fine for the 12 hour travel day. And then the day ended with one of my famous margaritas and a good night’s sleep.
I love RV travel. Because we were able to enjoy meals at our own table, meals I had made, and use our own restroom whenever the urge struck, it enabled us to arrive at our destination with energy to spare … not much energy, but we weren’t exhausted. Staying hydrated, being well-fed, and making regular stops allowed us to crank out some serious mileage.
Today, we plan on putting in another long day of driving, but not as long as yesterday. We’ll be on two-lane roads most of the day today (Sunday) as we angle up toward Kansas City from New Mexico into corners of Oklahoma and Texas and then into the state of Kansas. Unfortunately, we expect to encounter more wind today. Yeah, yesterday as we headed in an easterly direction, we encountered winds from the south ranging from 15-25 mph. Fun times trying to stay in our lane along with the semis swaying from the gusts.
It’s 110 (bleeping) degrees Fahrenheit outside today without a cloud in the sky. It’s hot! Who would’ve thought Al and I would still be sitting in Phoenix, Arizona during the first week in June? Certainly not I. Thank goodness we have a flexible mindset and were able to readjust our plans after this most recent delay.
But it’s fricken hot 🥵 No sugar coating it by saying it’s a dry heat. Even an oven is a dry heat. Oh well, this ain’t our first rodeo experiencing extreme desert heat. We lived in Las Vegas, Nevada in the nineties. You learn to adjust.
Our initial plan was to depart Phoenix in mid-May and point the RV toward Wisconsin, but a few things happened that derailed those plans. First and foremost is that nasty virus that shut the country down … shut the world down. We wanted to wait for some level of normalcy to return (even just a glimmer) before we hit the road.
In reality, we didn’t mind changing our departure date until after Memorial Day Weekend because one of Al’s sister’s recently (April) moved to Phoenix. We were enjoying visits with her and her husband and assisting any way we could as they settled into their new home. So a couple of extra weeks in the valley spent with family would actually be fun.
Extending our stay turned out to be a good thing, a very good thing, as I encountered a potential little hiccup in my health. A couple of medical tests later followed by a teleconference with my doctor and we were once again good to go and set a new departure date. (I’m fine BTW)
The truck was ready. The RV was ready. Al and I were ready, and after one final gathering with the family to say our goodbyes, we’d be hitting the road a couple of days later, or so we thought. The day prior to rolling, Al lost a crown while eating a relatively light lunch. No peanut brittle involved. Well, he didn’t exactly lose it, it ended up in his hand instead of being securely attached to the tooth in his mouth.
Poor Al! However, after three uncomfortable hours in the dental chair enduring some major work, he’s doing great and currently waiting on the permanent crown to be ready for installation. Turns out, that old crown and root canal were most likely older than the dentist. Now that’ll make ya feel old! 😆 So obviously, that tooth was something that needed to be taken care of before traveling and we’re glad we were still in the valley when the crown fell out.
As soon as Al gets his new crown installed, my crowned king and I will be hitting the road. Fingers crossed 🤞 we won’t encounter any more faux pas. We’ve already encountered one too many for my taste!
What do you do when it’s 105 degrees Fahrenheit outside without a cloud in the sky? You stay hunkered down inside the RV with the air-conditioner blaring and do some serious trip planning. Yep, it is definitely time to head north in search of cooler weather. With this year’s Phoenix high temps arriving early and some days soaring well over ten degrees higher than normal, it’s beginning to make a Wisconsin forest infested with man-eating mosquitos look pretty darn inviting. I can hear the buzzing now!
Between COVID and the soaring temps, the interior of my RV is beginning to feel more like a rubber room with a crazy lady holed up inside instead of the free-wheeling vessel of months past. Ah, this too shall pass … soon I hope 🤪
So with a clear date in mind (well, kinda) to finally hit the road and point the RV in a northeasterly trajectory, Al and I pull up Google maps and start discussing the route and timeline for our 1,900-mile journey to the north woods of Wisconsin. This year, we won’t be doing any dilly-dallying along the way. Instead, we’ll focus on the destination and keep the wheels rolling and see if we’re up to some long driving days.
We always have several plans in mind with lots of flexibility built-in. Research is the key to any successful road trip whether it’s via RV or automobile. With a trusty pen and notepad in hand, ideas, mileage, and stops are quickly jotted down.
Favorite Apps for RV trip planning
I have a few apps that I really like that aid us in our trip planning. Some of which, I use more than others. The two apps that I find myself using most frequently, especially while on the road, are Allstays Camp & RV ($9.99 one time fee) as well as GasBuddy (free).
Allstays App – Map
My favorite feature about the Allstays Camp & RV app is their map. I can zoom in on any given location and find just about anything that’s relevant to my travel day including low bridges. Yeah, when the RV measures out to be 12’6″ tall, we obviously like to avoid bridges under 13′ high and the Allstays app notes those low bridges. Since we mostly stick to main roads and interstates, we’re usually going over and not under these low bridges, thus not too much of a concern. BUT it’s wise not to be surprised!
I know a lot of RVers use a GPS specifically geared toward RVing and trucking. We don’t and only occasionally use our basic Garmin (an old GPS at that). I much prefer to navigate myself via a map. The GPS, named Hildi, has lead us astray more than once. So I don’t always trust her and like to back her up with a paper map and my iPhone.
I also enjoy all the other info noted right on the map including rest stops, Walmarts, Propane (LP), campgrounds, RV Parks, etc.
Although the Allstays app notes diesel gas stations (predominantly truck stops), I prefer using the app called GasBuddy when searching for filling options. Not only does the app list gas stations and addresses near your location, but also, up to date pricing.
We aren’t necessarily price based diesel shoppers, meaning we’re not always looking for the cheapest fuel, but it is nice to know what price to expect before pulling into any given gas station.
When it comes to diesel fuel, going the cheap route will almost always cost you more down the road via maintenance. Yep, been there, done that, bought the T-shirt … expensive lessons learned. I’d recommend talking to your favorite diesel mechanic about what to consider when fueling up.
Apps for finding camping options
When it comes to finding places to stay, I usually start with Allstays because I’m already on the app map, and then I jump over to Campendium (free). The Campendium website was developed over eight(?) years ago by a full-time RVing couple. So they live the RV life, are knowledgeable, and know how to serve the RV community.
I was actually one of their Beta Testers back in their infancy and used to post campground reviews on the site regularly, but since our style of RVing has changed over the past few years, I haven’t engaged on the platform for quite some time, but I still use it routinely for research and ideas.
Campendium is most helpful for finding boondocking/off-grid camping. I especially like the reviews written by fellow RVers and the links to blogs/vlogs providing additional information.
iOverlander (free) is another good app for boondocking/free camping.
The newest app that I just started playing around with is called The Dyrt. I’m still learning the ins and outs and looking into their trip planning feature ($29.99 a year). I’ll let you know what I think.
So with our trip planning pretty much accomplished, we’re spending this Memorial Day Weekend hanging with family and saying our goodbyes. It’s always bittersweet for me. On one hand, I’m excited to get the wheels on the RV rolling, after all, that is why we live the RV lifestyle, and on the other hand, I’m sad to bid farewell to family and friends. But adventure awaits, and I remind myself, 4-5 months down the road, we’ll be returning to our home base back here at the RV Park in Phoenix, Arizona. But today … lake life is calling!
How are you spending your summer? Are you going anywhere exciting or opting for a staycation?
Life is about the moments. Don’t wait for them, create them! – Anthony Robbins
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TheRVers werequarantined in their snug littlehomes, while visions oftravel danced in their heads …
“Okay Ingrid, snap out of it”. I do believe the soaring 100 degree plus Fahrenheit temps in Phoenix, Arizona, have caused something to dance in my head, or is it the increase in consumption of brownies and alcohol? 🤫 Staying housebound in a tiny home, aka RV, during the Phoenix hot season is obviously not an ideal scenario.
Weather is temperamental
April is always an interesting month for the weather. The changing of seasons is rarely gradual. When we lived in Colorado, April always found winter making at least one final appearance by dumping a boatload of snow just when we were ready to welcome spring. It’s as if winter is talking to spring and saying, “Ah ah, not so fast”.
It’s somewhat similar here in the desert southwest, but instead of cold, it’s heat. Sometime in April, the weather warns us of the impending summer heat by sending us those soaring hot temps. We’ll get a reprieve (hopefully) before real summer sets in. Last year, we enjoyed lovely weather in May, but so far this first week in May is not looking promising for any kind of break from the soaring temps. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the year plays out. Let’s face it, so far 2020 isn’t playing nice. So I don’t have high expectations for anything these days.
With that said, it’s that time of year in the desert southwest when those that can do and those that can’t suffer.
I’m talking about hitting the road and escaping the desert heat. Fortunately, we fall into the lucky category where we get to leave Phoenix for the entire summer.
Others will try and get a reprieve on weekends by traveling either up to northern Arizona or to the White Mountains in eastern Arizona where temperatures can easily drop by at least 20 degrees.
Our plan is to endure the Phoenix weather until the end of May and then hightail it up to northern Wisconsin to stay on Al’s sister’s property. We stayed there last year but took a little over three weeks to drive the 1,900 miles. This time around, Al has fishing on the brain and just wants to get there asap, plus with this whole pandemic thing, it’s probably best not to meander. Beam me up, Scotty!
I don’t think anyone could’ve envisioned something like a pandemic shutting down the country and impacting our freedom to travel, but I think it’ll be okay for us to drive to Al’s sister’s place by the end of May. However, we will be cautious on our drive there and reconsider doing any further excursions this summer once settled on private property. I had a list of places in Michigan’s Upper Pennisula that I wanted to visit, not to mention returning to the north shore of Lake Superior. Time will tell how it’ll all play out this summer!
For those of us living a nomadic lifestyle, we’ve had to rethink our travel plans and some nomads have needed to do some serious scrambling just to find suitable accommodations to abide by the ‘stay at home / shelter in place’ orders. Sue and Dave over at Travel Tales of Life have recently written a series of blog posts showcasing folks from around the world and how the pandemic has impacted their lives personally. I was honored to be asked to be a guest writer. You can check out their blog here.
Back to visions dancing in my head
So with visions of Wisconsin dancing in my head, I thought I’d share a lake tale with you …
Ingrid and the Game Warden
It was a beautiful summer day in northern Wisconsin. Al had spent the better part of the morning on the boat fishing. After several hours of fishing, he returned home to take a nap.
Considering it was such a lovely day and the lake looked so inviting, while Al napped, I decided to take the boat out. I motored out a short distance to a quiet bay, dropped the anchor, and began reading my book. “Ah, this is the life!”
While turning a page, I glanced up at the approaching boat which appeared to be a Game Warden. He pulls up alongside my boat and says, “Good morning, Ma’am, what are you doing”?
“Reading a book”, I replied, (thinking to myself, “isn’t that obvious”?)
The Game Warden informs me, “You’re in a Restricted Fishing Area”.
In a very polite voice, I responded, “I’m sorry officer, but I’m not fishing, I’m reading”.
“Yes, but you have all the equipment. So, I’ll have to write you up a ticket”.
“For reading a book?”, I asked quizzically.
“You’re in a Restricted Fishing Area, Ma’am”, he says rather matter of factly.
Somewhat exasperated, I stated once again, “Sir, I’m not fishing, I’m reading”.
“Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I’ll have to write you up a ticket and you’ll have to pay a fine.”
“If you do that, I’ll have to charge you with sexual assault,” I responded.
“But I haven’t even touched you”, explained the Game Warden.
“That’s true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment”.
“Have a nice day ma’am”, he responded and quickly motored away.
So maybe this didn’t actually happen in real life, but it could’ve.🤣
MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It’s likely she can also think.
I hope you enjoyed a little chuckle and you all are having a great day and staying healthy. And although we may have to rethink our travels and possibly make new plans for the summer, we’ll get through this challenging time and may even discover new hobbies in the process. Cyber hugs!
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