A Love of Water

The sun is still tucked behind the mountains when Bear nudges me. He’s ready for his morning walk. I had a rough night, a very restless night. So, I’m moving rather slowly this morning. A weather front had rolled in and the high winds kept rocking the RV all night long. Perhaps, one day I’ll get used to living in the RV and won’t be so worried about every sound, smell, and movement felt in this tiny home on wheels.

March 16, 2012 – Upon exiting the RV, I noticed the water level had risen even more. Soon our firepit will be underwater. Each night as more water is released from the dam, the water level continues to swallow up more shoreline and encroaching closer to our RV and campsite.

A few days earlier, the rangers came around notifying RVers that we’d have a few more days before we’d have to move. Some RVs, those that were camped closer to the boat ramp, had already moved on considering their slice of land was already covered with an inch of water. Since Lake Pleasant is a reservoir, water levels are closely managed and levels fluctuate a lot. During the fall, lake levels are allowed to go down and in the spring, the lake is allowed to fill. Soon our beautiful lakefront property will be underwater.

We loved camping along the shores of Lake Pleasant.

Walking the dog and reflecting on life.

While walking Bear, I glance up and down the shoreline. There’s only a handful of RVs scattered about. I take in my tranquil surroundings and admire the colorful sky as the sun begins to rise. As I leisurely stroll, I reflect on the past month of life on the road and ask myself, “Am I ready to head home or am I home”? I don’t have the answer just yet, but I do have a much better understanding as to why my mother encouraged me to start RVing while young and healthy. It’s a fantastic way to travel, and I feel a sense of contentment that I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Local wildlife – Burros can be seen hanging around Lake Pleasant Regional Park

I find so much joy and peace being near the water, camping in nature, and enjoying the wildlife.  Perhaps it’s due to fond childhood memories spent camping near lakes in northern Wisconsin. My mind wanders …

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My parents are originally from Germany and had traveled all over Europe on their motorcycle before emigrating to the United States.  As two very adventurous souls, they sold most of their belongings, packed two steamer trunks and a suitcase, boarded a ship near Amsterdam, and a week later mom, dad, and their two-year-old son (my brother) arrived in New York City. They then took a train from New York City to Chicago, Illinois, where their sponsor would help them get settled into their new life in the United States.

My father did not speak any English with the exception of some very inappropriate phrases taught to him by American soldiers during the war.  My father spent his eighteenth year in an American-French prison camp.  He had been a German soldier during World War II and had been captured by the Americans. So you can imagine the type of English he was taught. My mother was a bit more adept at picking up languages and knew enough English words (proper words) to get by. 

What guts and fortitude they had to leave their home, their family, and move to a foreign country … a country that had previously bombed and destroyed their homes and towns and imprisoned my father. Their intent was to explore the United States for two years then move to Argentina for two years and then eventually return home to Germany. 

Life did not go exactly as planned or expected.  I showed up a bit more than a year after their arrival to America. I guess the doctor was wrong, much to mom’s delight. Thus, with two kids and all the responsibilities associated with a growing family, the travel that they intended to do was slightly out of reach.

But they weren’t content to just stay housebound. Summer weekends were spent at Chicago’s Lake Shore with the additional car and tent camping trips to Wisconsin and Michigan.  During these explorations, my father developed a passion for fishing. Summer vacations were soon spent camping throughout the state of Wisconsin at various lakes. My brother and I loved these trips. We would spend hours swimming, making new friends, catching frogs, fish, grasshoppers, and lighting bugs. Television was never missed.

When my sister came along (doctors were wrong again), a pop-up trailer replaced the tent. My dad also added a boat, which was pulled by his fishing buddy and co-worker. The guys would fish early in the morning and again late in the day. I guess that’s when “the fish are biting”. During the heat of the day, my brother and I learned how to water ski. Oh, how fun these summer vacations were, and I thank my parents for such fond childhood memories. 

Fast forward … three grown kids, empty nesters, and retired.  It was finally time to see the United States of America, the whole reason for coming to this country all those years ago.  For over fifteen years and a few RVs later, mom and dad explored the United States making friends from around the country.  These adventures turned into the best years of their lives. My mom’s face would always light up just talking about their RV travels and the friends they had made.  

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Would history repeat itself? Would I too embrace this RV lifestyle with the same passion as my parents? Questions to ponder! Hmm, it might even be fun for Al and me to retrace some of my folk’s travels.

Moving on!

Our ten days camped at the spillway near the 10 lane boat ramp at Lake Pleasant were enjoyable and educational, but we had new territory to explore and new people to meet. It was time for us to move over to the east side of the Phoenix valley for some new adventures which would include group camping with the Escapees.

Salt River, Phoenix, AZ
Salt River
An egret lands along the shore of the Salt River near Phoenix Arizona. Snow capped Four Peaks can be seen in the distance.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Sleeping Bear Dunes

There comes a point and time when we could all use a break from the responsibilities of everyday life and the need to interject a little fun becomes a necessity. I usually know when I need such a break, and I was sure feeling the need to have one soon.

It was already the middle of August, and our neglected RV continued to sit on the side of the house untouched all summer. Would our new RV turn out to be rarely used just like our former truck camper? I certainly hoped that wouldn’t be the case, but thus far, it wasn’t looking promising.

August 2011 – Well, we wouldn’t be taking the RV on any excursion this month. We had more pressing matters to attend to. Our daughter’s summer internship in Illinois was coming to an end, and just like I kept her company three months earlier during the 1,100-mile drive from Colorado to Rockford, IL, I planned to do the same and keep her company upon her return journey to Colorado. However, instead of purchasing a one-way flight, Al and I (and the dog) would be driving to Illinois to make those family connections.

Time for a Getaway

Not only was it our goal to connect me with Ashton, but the second purpose behind this trip was also for Al to visit with his mother. She hadn’t been doing well the last several years and appeared to be declining a little more each day. It was important we both return to Illinois. We loaded up the truck and left well before sunrise. Eighteen long driving hours later, we arrived at Al’s sister’s house exhausted. After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to socialize.

My dad aka Opa proudly showing off a flower in his garden.

With Ashton’s internship over and a few more days to enjoy before hitting the road, we took a day to visit with my dad who lived about an hour’s drive southeast of Rockford in the Chicago suburbs. He seemed to be doing well, yet still adjusting to life alone. It was only four months earlier when mom passed away. Fortunately, Ashton was able to visit with her Opa on a somewhat regular basis throughout the summer. Time she will always treasure.

When the day came for Ashton and me to say our goodbye’s, there were hugs and watery eyes all around! As Ashton and I approached her packed car, Ashton hands me the keys and breaks down into tears. “Mom, I know this is the last time I’ll see grandma alive”. We drove in silence and a few hours later we had skirted around Chicago and the bottom of Lake Michigan and were heading further north into the state of Michigan.

Wait! Colorado is in the opposite direction. Shouldn’t we be heading west? What are we doing in Michigan? Remember that break I needed?

Ingrid and Ashton at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – August 2011

The heck with adulting. Let’s have some fun!

Once in the state of Michigan, I exit the Interstate and opt for a more scenic route along the shores of Lake Michigan. The two-lane road has us traveling through quaint little towns and picturesque scenery. Our thoughts move on to more pleasant topics, and eventually, Ashton asks, “I can’t remember. Where are we going”. “Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes”, I respond, knowing that she has absolutely no clue what I’m talking about. “Okay! Where are we staying?” she continues. “At a campground”, I casually mention.

“MOTHER! YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY BE SERIOUS!” she exclaims. “Of course I am, honey. I packed everything we need. Don’t worry, it’ll be fun”, at least I hope, I quietly say to myself. “Well, do we at least have a reservation”, she questions? “Nope! Worst case scenario, we’ll just sleep in the car somewhere.” She is not amused by my free-spirited lackadaisical response. I was not sounding like the mature responsible parent that she was accustomed to and relied on.

Ingrid and Ashton next to their home for the night – August 2011

When we arrived at the D H Day Campground late that afternoon, we snagged the last available campsite and set about pitching the tent. You have no idea how grateful I was to have practiced setting up and breaking down that tent numerous times in our living room just a week earlier. Thank you Al for helping me practice, or Ashton and I may have ended up sleeping in the car after all.

Ashton and I looked like a couple of camping pros. Within thirty minutes, we had the tent up and beds made on inflatable air mattresses. With our campsite complete, it was time to explore and check out our surroundings including the lakeshore.

Ashton tests the Lake Michigan water temperature. That’s some cold water … brrr!

After our shoreline explorations, we went into the town of Glen Arbor to stroll the shops and find a place for dinner.

Ashton was drawn into a small spice and tea shop. For the first time in days, I saw her face light up. The previous year, she had spent a semester studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, and acquired a taste for tea (as well as wine, but that’s another story). As she excitedly flitted about the store, she engaged in conversation with the store clerk. I could see the stress from her, somewhat less than fun, summer begin to fade away. A few purchases later, she and I were strolling up the street heading toward the nearest restaurant.

The skies were dark by the time we returned to camp. Therefore, we retreated to the comfort of our tent where we engaged in a series of card games. I had brought along cute little battery-operated lanterns, emphasis on cute, that provided just the right ambiance for an evening of laughter.

The next morning, after a so-so night of sleep, I was nudging Ashton to get out of bed. I had brought a bin for us to wash up and some homemade muffins to get us through the morning. I had an agenda … let’s check out those dunes. We quickly broke camp and were on our way long before most people were even awake.

It’s windy on this enormous sand dune high above the shores of Lake Michigan

Photographs fail to capture the sheer size and magnitude of these stunning sand dunes. There are miles upon miles of sandy beaches with bluffs towering as high as 450 feet above Lake Michigan. As much as we were tempted to run down that dune, logic stepped in. It might take us less than 30 minutes to get to the bottom but would take literally hours to climb back up. Yeah, not going to happen!

Instead, we head on over to the popular “Dune Climb” where it’s a more manageable size dune to climb. Since it was still early in the morning, we practically had the place to ourselves. Ashton decides to take a closer look to see if this dune is something she’d like to tackle.

The popular “Dune Climb” is usually busy with hundreds of people tackling the dune which would provide scale. It’s much taller than it appears.

It doesn’t take long before she and I agree that we really don’t have the time to play around in the sand. Besides, we have a few more scenic spots to explore before we continue on our journey.

The two-lane roads take us through lush dense forests that Ashton becomes smitten with. I’d forgotten, while this type of northern Midwestern landscape was quite normal to me considering I grew up in the Midwest, Ashton was three years old when we moved west to a much more arid climate. She had never seen such a green dense forest before and found it fascinating.

The forest is so dense that it’s difficult for the sunlight to penetrate.
Ashton at one of many scenic overlooks.

We found Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to be an extremely peaceful and serene place and noticed ourselves frequently taking in deep breathes and gazing out at our surroundings. It’s a magical place as well as perplexing. The landscape had a calming effect on both of us and turned out to be the perfect first stop on our mother/daughter getaway.

And I needed that sense of calm before crossing a certain bridge later that day …

When Life Happens

Our one week vacation over the Christmas holiday went by way too soon, and now we were back to the realities of life. We were in the thick of winter in Colorado. Fortunately, the climate in Pueblo West is much milder than in other parts of the state. It’s actually located in what’s nicknamed the banana belt of Colorado. But regardless, it’s still colder, and of course, snowier than Phoenix, Arizona.

By the afternoon, the sun usually melts most of the snow on the road,

Winter 2011 – Our RV was nestled on the side of our new home. We began to enjoy living in this newly built house and finally understood why our customers loved the floorplan. After selling our large custom home, we decided to build our “bread and butter” floorplan for ourselves. Sure, I had spent plenty of time in this floorplan at the model home, but I had not personally lived in it.

Our poor RV covered in snow. She wants to go to south.

As well as selling our custom home in 2010, we also sold the model home. We were still in the throws of surviving the Great Recession, and although we managed to keep building homes here and there, it was a scary time financially. Building one home at a time was a far cry from juggling the usual six at a time.

In our small community, we were considered a mid-sized volume builder. There were no national builders for us to compete against. I loved my job and quite often worked seven days a week, but that all changed when the economy changed. Nonetheless, we were one of the lucky ones still able to hang on with a couple of new custom home builds contracted for the year. A lot of home builders had closed shop along with many of the subcontractors. It was a challenging time to work in the construction industry.

The phone call we all dread

April 2011 – The phone rang. It was my sister. Mom had been in and out of the hospital the past year, but this time my sister wasn’t sure how much time mom had left. Her COPD was winning! After the recent hospital stay, mom was admitted to a rehab center, and her survival was questionable. I immediately booked a flight from Denver to Chicago for a ten-day visit.

My brother arrived a few days earlier than me allowing him a little one on one time with mom, and then he left before me so I too could have some one on one time with her. Dad was doing as well as could be expected and was grateful to have his three children nearby to help him through this difficult time.

My mom and dad, aka Oma and Opa, in their early 80s.

A week after my return to Colorado, my mom passed away. Those precious conversations are forever etched in my memories. I’ll always miss her!

I feel so grateful to have had ten days to sit with mom and just talk. Not everyone is as fortunate. Mom repeatedly encouraged me (and Al) to “Hop in that RV and LIVE … enjoy life while young and healthy … life is short. Who needs a house when you have an RV … a house on wheels. Go live, explore, have fun.”

She absolutely loved the RV lifestyle and when they had to call RVing quits due to health reasons, she was pissed. “Damn cigarettes!” she’d say.

Life goes on

With the arrival of spring and the snow long gone, our new home was in dire need of landscaping. And I was in dire need of a project to keep my mind and hands occupied as I worked through my grief.

There are very few subjects that Al and I have difficulty working through together. We’re a pretty good team and have worked together from the moment we met during our airline careers as Pilot and Flight Attendant. Then years later, we ran a home-building business together. We rarely fight with the exception of backing up an RV or doing yard work. Then, all bets are off!

Al having fun with the Bobcat. So this is what it took for him to enjoy yard work? Boys and their toys!
While Al dumps the gravel with the Bobcat, I rake it out. Team work!

Unfortunately, Al’s dad put a bitter taste in his mouth when it comes to yard work. His dad didn’t just want Al to mow the yard but also wanted it done a certain way including alternating directions from one week to another. I’m sure that’s the short version of the story, and we’ll leave it at that. I guess, we all carry around negative experiences from our childhood, and when it comes to landscaping and general yard maintenance, Al prefers to hire it out. End of subject.

But with our finances in less than stellar circumstances and my go-to landscaper out of business, what’s a gal to do? I know, bribe the husband with a Bobcat rental. A week later, we had just enough landscaping around the house completed to make it look presentable until I could come up with a plan for the rest of the property, and the bonus was a husband who didn’t complain once about landscaping the yard ourselves. That’s a win in my book!

Ah, but what about that neglected RV on the side of the house? We really should plan a trip, but that’ll have to wait until work allows us to sneak away. I’m just glad we’re still working!

Our crew swinging trusses at one of our job sites.

Remembering Mom

Remembering Mom

Staring at the pink diamond earrings laying in the palm of my hand seemed to open a flood gate of memories. I remember the day as if it were yesterday when I became the proud owner of these pretty little gems.

I was seven years old and our family of five had taken a trip to Germany. My parents hadn’t been back to their homeland in several years and this was a trip to help alleviate mom’s homesickness and/or to see if they wanted to move back to Germany.

As children, we were oblivious to any ulterior motives our parents may have had and simply embraced the adventure of travel.

I thought the gems were pink tourmaline, but when I had the level clasps replaced, the jeweler said they were rare pink diamonds.

Part of that adventure for me personally was getting my ears pierced. Back in the ’60s, it was rare to see little girls with their ears pierced in America but rather common in Germany.

Being a girly-girl (no Tomboy here), I was already into fashion, dresses, and jewelry at a young age and when I noticed young girls sporting beautiful dangly earrings, I wanted in … I wanted pierced ears and hanging earrings.

Ah, my poor mother! Off we headed to the local jewelry store to pick out a pair of earrings. I was given a few choices, but immediately knew which pair I wanted.

Easy peasy, so far! I sat in a tall chair while the jeweler, an old intimidating type of man, marked my earlobes with a pen for mom’s approval. Mom held my hand while the jeweler held a strange device up to my ear. A second later a hole was punched in my earlobe. It hurt much more than I was told it would, and then it began bleeding. Blood started running down my neck and I burst out hysterically crying.

It took what seemed like an hour before I calmed down. Everyone kept trying to convince me to have the other ear pierced. Yep, dad, big brother, and three-year-old little sister were all there dealing with my antics. My mother was exhausted, exasperated, and out of patience, and clearly, the jeweler couldn’t wait for us to leave. Mom had had enough of my drama and with a firm stern voice, she ordered me to get back up on that chair, stop crying, and sit still and then ordered the jeweler, “Do it, NOW”.

Five minutes later, I was skipping down the sidewalk tilting my head from side to side to feel the hanging earrings swing. I loved those earrings (and still do) and wore them every day for years. Today I retrieved them from my jewelry case and am proudly wearing them. Somehow, it makes mom feel just a little closer.

“For everything I am today, my mother’s love showed me the way”

Happy Mother’s Day

It has been several years since my mom’s passing and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. But I feel blessed that she lived 83 years providing my children with lovely memories of their Oma. Our family is truly fortunate to have had such an amazing woman in our lives.

I can only hope that my own children think of me and my mothering skills with equal fondness.

Wishing you all a wonderful day.

(These are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support❤)

Belgium Chocolates
Mama Bear T Shirt
Instant Pot Lux Mini 3 Quart

Best Souvenirs

You all know by now, I love photography and I take bunches of photographs at the places we visit. But every now and then, I like collecting something special that serves as a memento.

Canyonlands

When a photograph isn’t enough

Souvenirs are a great reminder of a memorable trip or even a special day. Since we live in our RV full-time, space is always an issue. With that in mind, I’m a sucker for jewelry and t-shirts and neither takes up a great deal of space in the RV.

I’ve purchased necklaces and bracelets from around the country. Wearing the jewelry brings me right back to the place where it was bought, and always elicits fond memories.

best souvenirs
Jewelry and t-shirts are my favorite souvenirs

I love pearls. They remind of sparkling sand and ocean breezes. My pearl earrings were purchased in Hawaii while the pearl necklace was bought in St. Thomas. Our children were teenagers during both those trips and I have wonderful memories of those family excursions. If you asked our children about those trips, that’d both start laughing as stories would quickly be shared. Fun times with plenty of mommy faux pas moments!

bracelet souvenirs
I love my inexpensive bracelets

Purchasing a piece of jewelry needn’t be expensive, and quite often you can find unique pieces that are specific to the destination.

We live a relatively active and outdoorsy lifestyle, which is not always conducive to wearing fine jewelry. I learned that lesson the hard way several years ago when I lost a rather nice bracelet while out boating. Some fish in Lake Powell is adorned with a lovely ruby bracelet 😣

These days you’ll find me wearing multiple bracelets purchased from varying locations. Each one has special meaning to me. My pearl bracelet reminds me of our winter sojourns to the Texas Gulf Coast while the multi colored crystal bracelet reminds me of stunning Sedona, Arizona, and Sedona’s energizing, spiritual vortex, new age thing. Not that I know what that’s suppose to mean, but it’s Sedona, and I’ll roll with it. So far, the crystals that make up the bracelet haven’t energized me nor given me prosperity, but I’ll keep wearing the bracelet since I wasn’t given a time frame as to when those crystals will work their magic 😏

Turquoise stones are easily associated with the desert southwest. Last year, I found this turquoise bracelet in Old Town Scottsdale. Since we spend a far amount of time in Phoenix, Arizona, visits to the Scottsdale farmers market followed by a little souvenir shopping is one of my favorite pastimes. Although I don’t have room or use for the usual souvenir tchotchke, I do enjoy browsing the local shops and buying the occasional trinket.

bracelets souvenirsMy petrified wood bracelet is probably one of my favorite souvenirs. Not because I really like the look of the bracelet, but because it’s petrified wood. Seriously, how fascinating is petrified wood … real petrified wood worn around my wrist … pretty cool in my opinion!

Ah, the memories! My morning exploring the Petrified National Forest was one of my more eventful solo excursions.

RVing has given me the opportunity to experience a multitude of meaningful experiences.  Al and I shared a very special day in Rocky Mountain National Park several years ago.

It moose necklacewas one of those days, we couldn’t repeat even if we wanted to, and probably ranks in our top ten most memorable days as full-time RVers.

If you’re interested in a must do scenic drive through Rocky Mountain National Park or interested in seeing stunning landscapes and amazing wildlife or perhaps curious about why this moose necklace is so incredibly special to me, you can read those posts here and here.

While the words, “I don’t need any more jewelry” will never pass my lips, I do realize I can wear only so much. With that said, what shall we shop for if jewelry isn’t an option?

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt

National Park t-shirts
National Park T-shirts anyone? Posing with our friends – Dave, Faye, me, and Al

Never worry about the extra space to pack a souvenir if you can wear it! Who doesn’t need a new t-shirt or ball cap? I’ll admit, I’m a t-shirt junkie. If I’m not buying a t-shirt for myself, I’m buying one for Al or the kids. Yeah, I’m one of those mom’s who occasionally brings back souvenirs to her grown children …. sure, thanks mom!

But in all seriousness, our lifestyle necessitates casual and comfortable clothing. So even if we weren’t wearing a shirt with the name of a national park plastered across the front, we’d probably be wearing one that says Nike. Therefore, why not wear a t-shirt with meaning, one that represents a beloved travel destination!

Death Valley National Park
Yep – both of us our wearing “Death Valley” t-shirts while visiting Death Valley National Park

Other souvenir ideas that don’t take up a lot of space

When the photos I take don’t seem like enough memorabilia, I enjoy buying something I can hold, admire or put on display.  My favorite souvenir used to be Christmas ornaments, but with limited space in the RV, my adult daughter has taken over that habit and is now in possession of my collection, a collection that started when she was a little girl. Thus, those ornaments elicit memories for her and our family adventures.

Other popular souvenirs are coffee mugs, shot glasses, and refrigerator magnets. When space is limited, there’s nothing wrong with buying them if you’re actually going to use the mug for your morning coffee or use that shot glass for your favorite whatever or you have a refrigerator that’ll hold those magnets, then why not?

National Park Pins
National Park pins

We have friends that collect logo “pins” from the national parks they visit, and/or have a national park passport book stamped.  If you have small children, signing them up for a Junior Ranger program at a National Park is an educational opportunity, and the workbooks they fill-in or color will serve as a special memento for you, but especially for them.

Items that are locally made are always special; items like blankets or rugs. Think about it, every time you wrap yourself in that blanket, you’ll be reminded of that trip, that day, those remarkable memories.

If you travel to another country, a place where there’s a different currency, save those coins or banknotes. I have a scrapbook from my trip to Germany (many years ago) and added the foreign currency to that scrapbook along with plenty of photographs as well as my plane ticket.

I’ve also been known to collect small stones or rocks (when permitted), but I do keep weight in mind. No  Long, Long Trailer story around this RV 😆  So while I might collect a rock here and there, I have a friend who collects seashells from her favorite beaches.

I treasure my photographs from all the places we visit, but also love having a little sliver of our travels in the form of a souvenir.

Do you collect souvenirs? If so, what?

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”
― Denis Waitley

hot air balloon(affiliate links)

I used to have a decorative pillow addiction. Hubby is grateful the pillow collection in the RV is minimal ….. for now 😉

Hey, pillows can also be souvenirs, can’t they?

A Sense of Freedom

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

Grand Canyon Black and White photography
south rim of the Grand Canyon

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

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

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

Chicago skyscrapers
Willis Tower aka Sears Tower Chicago

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

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

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

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

Dillon Lake, Colorado
Dillon Lake, Colorado

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

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

Corpus Christi, Texas
Corpus Christi, Texas

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

sunrise over the Gulf
somewhere along the Texas Gulf Coast

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

trees in the mist
Trees in the mist – somewhere near the Texas Gulf Coast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PANASONIC LUMIX DC-ZS70S, 20.3 Megapixel Tripod

Full-filling Dreams

June is always a time for Al and me to do a little celebrating. We have a couple of important anniversaries to celebrate. Sometimes I don’t know where the time has gone. Time can be fleeting. On one hand it seems like yesterday that I was preparing to walk down the aisle and marry my partner in crime and on the other hand it seems like a lifetime ago. The last thirty plus years have sure been one heck of a ride!

outdoor weddings
over thirty some years ago – where has the time gone

So not only did we celebrate another wedding anniversary, we celebrated our full-time RV living adventure. At the end of June, we completed four years of living in the RV full-time. Funny how what was suppose to be a year or two has now turned into five. As we enter year five, we have no immediate plans to change things up.

I was feeling a little nostalgic the other day and started reading some of my earlier blog posts about the transition of selling the house and moving into the RV. I thought I’d re-share a post I wrote back in April 2013 as we were preparing to move into the RV full-time.

outdoor wedding
let’s take a look back

 A look back……

Skirts AloftI came across a book titled “Skirts Aloft“.  I smile, sit down, and open the front cover.  On the inside of the book in handwriting it says, “Ingrid, may all your dreams come true. Love, Mom”. I had lost my mom exactly a year earlier and coming across this handwritten message brought tears to my eyes.

Ah, the memories ……

I was seven years old the first time I traveled to Europe.  It was the mid 1960’s and my parents had not been back to Germany since they immigrated to the United States in the late 50’s.  My mom had been experiencing twinges of home-sickness.  So after a year of hard work of scrimping and saving, our family of five was off to Germany for a three-week vacation.

It never ceases to amaze me what memories my mind chooses to recall.  My mom, an excellent seamstress, had made matching dresses and coats for my three-year old sister, myself, and our Thumbelina dolls.  These were the years everyone dressed up to travel, white gloves and all.  Our outfits were the latest, most up to date fashion in Jackie O style.

We boarded a Lufthansa plane.  My three-year old sister sat at the window. My mom sat in the center and I sat on the aisle.  My dad sat across the aisle with my eleven year old brother.  I remember being bored and having trouble sitting still.   My mom was exasperated and embarrassed as the gentleman sitting in the seat in front of me had to repeatedly turn around and ask that I stop kicking his seat.  Come on, it’s a long trip to fly from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany, and this of course, was long before any kind of technology for entertainment.

My mom thought traveling with a three-year old would be a challenge…..not….sister slept most of the time when she wasn’t eating.  What a good little girl.  The seven-year old, moi …..well, the kicking of the seat, the whining, and the frequent visits to the bathroom were just a precursor to the ensuing fun for mom.

Flight AttendantWith an hour left before landing, the crew came through the cabin taking care of last-minute clean up and paperwork.  I’m mesmerized by the pretty gals in their navy blue uniforms adorned with bright yellow scarves.  This is when I tell my mother, “I’m going to be a Stewardess when I grow up”.  “That’s nice honey”, she responds, clearly exhausted.

As the plane starts the initial descent, that’s when I reach for the first barf bag.  Did I mention, I have a problem with motion sickness?  Not a big surprise for dear mom as she had plenty of practice with my car sickness.  Once again the three-year old sits quietly and is duly entertained by looking out the window while poor mom deals with the puking seven-year old.  Two barf bags later and an empty one in hand, we’re in my uncle’s car heading to his house.  That’s when my mom turns to me and asks, “So, you still want to be a Stewardess when you grow up?”

The car is warm.  I’m sitting in the middle in the backseat.  I have my barf bag in hand.  Before answering mom, I dry heave into the bag then respond, “Yes mommy, I still want to be a Stewardess”.  My dad chuckles and shakes his head in total amusement, while mom clearly could use a break from this seven-year old.

Nine years later at the age of sixteen, I board a Lufthansa flight by myself bound for Frankfurt, Germany, for a summer abroad.  Hugs and kisses goodbye are plentiful.  Mom goes in for a second hug and whispers in my ear, “Don’t forget to keep one of ‘those’ bags within reach just in case you need to throw up”.  “Yes mom, thanks”.  Yep, at sixteen I still needed one of those bags.  Oh, how embarrassing!

My summer in Germany was amazing and in many ways, life changing.  And although I still endured motion sickness, the dream to become a Stewardess did not falter.

Chicago skyline

In my early twenties I fulfilled this dream and was hired as a Flight Attendant for a small airline based in Chicago.  My first day on the job was a six leg flight schedule.  Each flight is referred to as a “leg”.  This was my flight schedule that first work day as a Flight Attendant…..

  1. Chicago to DetroitChicago
  2. Detroit to Chicago
  3. Chicago to St. Louis
  4. St. Louis to Chicago
  5. Chicago to Detroit
  6. Detroit to Chicago

Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it?  Strap on throwing up eleven times!  No problem with next months weigh-in for this vomit comet.  Yes, those were the days of regular weigh-ins.  You had to maintain a certain weight or risk being fired. Heels, make-up, and nails done were also requirements back then.

My second day on the job went a little easier…..

  1. Chicago to Kansas City
  2. Kansas City to Chicago
  3. Chicago to Washington D.C.   Arrive in D.C. at 9 p.m. and spend the night.  The next morning check-in at Regan National Airport for a 6:30 a.m. departure.
  4. Washington D.C. to Chicago
  5. Chicago to Detroit
  6. Detroit to Chicago      Off for three days…..time to rehydrate.

The vomiting stopped after six weeks, but the headaches and occasional dizziness would still rear its ugly head from time to time, especially in the spring time when the cold and warm air currents were mixing.  To me, the movement felt like the gentle rolling of a sailboat riding the waves ….. NOT the kind of movement that agrees with me.

Trips to the Caribbean confirmed my lack of love for sailing.  I love the water but prefer a speed boat, jet ski, or even a canoe.  Cars?  I’ll take a Jeep over a Cadillac any day of the week.  When the airplane would encounter severe turbulence, I was fine.  It’s that gentle rolling motion I can’t handle.  I’ll refrain from saying, “I like it rough” for fear some folks might take this statement the wrong way 😉

It was during my third month on the job when I walked into Flight Operations to check in for a flight.   There standing at 6 feet 4 inches tall was a German-Norwegian hunk of a man in a navy blue uniform.  What is it with me and those navy blue uniforms?

outdoor weddingI introduce myself, “Hi, you must be new around here.  My name is Ingrid.  I believe we’ll be working together for the next few days.”  I never imagined I had just introduced myself to my future husband…. First Officer Al. And they said it wouldn’t last!

I was a Flight Attendant for five years and feel very fortunate to have full-filled the dream of a once naive seven-year old.  My mom always questioned my ability to be a Flight Attendant due to my motion sickness and encouraged me to go to school to be a nurse or a teacher. She’d say, “just in case, you know“, but she never discouraged or tried to squash my dream.

I have the fondest of memories of those years flying….the good as well as the bad.  Yes, there was plenty of bad like the Air Traffic Controllers strike in the 80’s.  A flight from Chicago to St. Louis usually takes about an hour.  We’d pull back from the gate and sit in line on the tarmac for one to two hours waiting for take off.  FAA regulations requires the Flight Attendants and passengers to remain seated at this stage….no drinks, no potty, no fun, and lots of complaints.  Not the fondest of memories.

Washington DC

Then there’s the travel benefits.  One year for her birthday, I took my mom to Washington D.C. for lunch.  We caught the first flight out of Chicago to D.C.  Several of the pilots I worked with had spent years working at the Pentagon and obviously were very familiar with the D.C. area.  A few restaurants were recommended and I chose one that was known for southern cooking, complete with black-eyed peas, and housed in a historical building.  Mom and I had a great day.

Another time, my folks joined Al and me for a Boston layover and witnessed us at work.  Al was the Captain and I the head Flight Attendant.  I was the one in the front of the cabin doing all the talking…..I love being in charge.  “Look, mom.  No puking”.  She was proud.  Fun times……ah, the stories are plentiful.

Life changes, we grow, and we move on.  New dreams are forged. With that said, time for me to get back to sorting the other boxes here in the basement …… I have a new dream chapter to get started on after all.  Here’s to all your dreams coming true!

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That was then, this is now ….. So while Al and I toast to another year in the books, we discuss tentative plans for this next year of full-time RVing ….. plans that are written ‘in jello’ with lots of wiggle room. Although we’ve narrowed down our options, we’re still torn with choices….. our journey continues!

outdoor wedding venue

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