Lumberjacks, Rainbows, and Unicorns

Lumberjacks, Rainbows, and Unicorns

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

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

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

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

a reflection mallard duck swimming by

Hayward, Wisconsin

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

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

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

Lumberjack World Championships

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

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

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

Boom running Lumberjack competition
Boom running

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A special treat

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

American Bald Eagle

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

Bald Eagle
The neighborhood Bald Eagle

Country living

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

Heading into town is about a 30-minute drive and once in Hayward, I can find almost anything I need at the local grocery store or Walmart. But Main Street should not be overlooked.

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

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

All good things must come to an end

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

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

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The Happy Hooker and Getting Loonie

The Happy Hooker and Getting Loonie

Our five days in South Dakota were over before we knew it, and before long, the RV wheels were rolling down the road heading toward our summer destination in northern Wisconsin. It was the third week in June and with severe storms coming and going throughout the Midwest, we opted to move quickly and not linger along the way. We also decided to stick with Interstate roads where feasible. We were on a mission to get to our summer home as soon as possible and avoid getting caught on the road in one of those nasty storms.

Whenever we travel through a major city, we try to plan on doing so on a weekend morning in hopes of avoiding any rush hour traffic or other heavy traffic. Although the drive through St. Paul, Minnesota on a Saturday morning was uneventful, I think the next time we drive through the area, we’ll take the truck/bypass route (494 to 694 back to 35E).

Driving I-35E through St. Paul, MN

Once we made it to Hayward, Wisconsin, Al’s sister met us at the local Walmart so she could help direct us to her and her husband’s place, our home for the summer. We were really glad we followed her to the house because our GPS was just a smidgen off. Normally that’s not a problem with just our truck, but when pulling an RV things get a little more difficult especially when the roads are densely wooded and there’s no spot big enough for us to turn around.

(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image)

The Happy Hooker

After a relaxing first day at our new RV campsite, it was time for some summer fun. High on our agenda was visiting the Happy Hooker. A few miles down the heavily tree-lined road from our RV site on private property is a cute little store called the Happy Hooker Bait and Tackle shop which is like an old fashioned country store that has a little bit of everything.

In addition to a large selection of fishing tackle & bait, they have gasoline, ice, beer, liquor, clothing, gifts, groceries, and most importantly … bug repellent. Just about anything you might need in a pinch with the convenience of not having to drive the thirty-minutes into the town of Hayward.

It was here that Al and I purchased our Wisconsin fishing licenses for the summer. Yep, the Happy Hooker is all about fishing. What did you think I was talking about?

That first week back in the Midwest took a bit of adjusting. First off, the bugs. Boy, I’d forgotten how annoying mosquitos are and as much as I tried to stay away from the harsh bug repellent, that first tick bite had me grabbing a can of spray-on Deep Woods Off. Yeah, bring on the “Deet“.

How many lakes does Wisconsin have?

Water recreation during the summer in northern Wisconsin is huge and the state is home to more than 11,000 lakes. With approximately 1 million acres of lakes to choose from, it’s no wonder that folks from the Chicago and Milwaukee areas flock to their favorite lake for a summer vacation, or better yet, they actually own a second home on lakefront property for regular weekend getaways. Who doesn’t dream of owning lakefront property? (Ok, maybe those of you who prefer oceanfront property ūüėĄ)

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, our family summer vacations were always spent at a campground on a picturesque lake, usually in Wisconsin. One of our family favorites was on the Chippewa Flowage just outside of Hayward, Wisconsin. We had a popup trailer at the time and my dad had a fishing buddy that would regularly join us so he could bring up our boat.

When my sister-in-law and her husband moved up to Hayward, Wisconsin, from northern Illinois, I couldn’t wait to visit them and revisit some of my childhood stomping grounds.

This was the campground beach where my brother and I spent most of our time playing when we weren’t learning to waterski. Still looks like a ton of fun today! Our little sister was too young to join us without mom nearby. Revisiting was rather emotional for me as thoughts of fond childhood memories flooded my mind. Oh, how I wanted to call my dad to let him know where I was, but that wasn’t possible. It has been just shy of a year since his passing.

Getting Loonie

All that water not only provides a great deal of recreation, but it also provides a water source to an abundance of wildlife. When Al and I decided to spend our summer in northern Wisconsin, high on my wishlist was capturing a nice image of a Loon, one of my favorite birds. Not only are they a beautiful bird, but their sound is so unique. There’s nothing like a quiet morning on the water in a canoe listening to their calls.

Although we no longer own a canoe, we do have a pontoon boat at our disposal this summer … perfect for lake cruising and fishing. During one of our boat rides, I noticed something white in the tall grasses near the shoreline. Initially, I assumed it was a plastic (Walmart) bag and directed Al to get near so we could retrieve it and dispose of it properly. Before getting too close to shore and possibly getting the boat prop tangled in weeds, I used my camera’s lens to zoom in and confirm that it was indeed a plastic bag.

Surprise, surprise, surprise! It was not garbage but rather a nesting Loon. To say I was giddy with excitement would be an understatement. Al turned the boat so we wouldn’t get near the nest and disturb the beautiful Loon. Loons only have one or two chicks and the last thing we wanted to do was stress the mama and cause her to leave the nest.

Al slowed the boat and for the next ten minutes, we cruised by her a few times. With my 600mm zoom and a little crop in processing, I was rather pleased with a few of my images. For the first couple of weeks in July, every outing on the boat included a slow cruise past Lily the Loon.

We knew hatching time was near when her partner was easy to spot. Normally loons dive when a boat gets near them, but one evening, it appeared Papa Loon was becoming very protective and refused to dive or get out of the way of boat traffic (which is thankfully rather light around here). This forced boaters to go around him to avoid potentially hitting him. Most boaters, like us, slowed down to capture a few photos of this rare treat. Guess I’m not the only loonie one around here.

It was thrilling to have Mr. Loon swim right alongside our boat.

Trivia; The $1 Canadian coin is nicknamed the “Loonie” – derived from the picture of a solitary loon on one side of the coin. Canadian’s have the coolest currency. Eh!

More wildlife sightings

Although my encounters with the Loons have made every mosquito, fly, and tick bite worth hanging out in the northwoods, I encountered another wildlife first. I’ll save that for a another post.

For the latest and most up to date info on our travels, be sure and follow me on Instagram @ livelaughrv

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Discovering Lakes in Arizona

There’s a saying in America’s southwest … “Whiskey’s fer drink’n and water’s fer fight’n over!” In a nutshell, water in the western United States is a precious commodity worth fighting over and fight they did back in the 1800’s. Gosh, even today, states continue to fight over water rights all the time, but instead of gunshots being slung, you’ll find attorney’s slinging water rights paperwork. Yeah, there’s beaucoup bucks in water rights … take note any young aspiring attorney.

Watson Lake Prescott Arizona
Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona

I grew up in the Midwest where water was never an issue. Sure, we occasionally experienced a summer drought when communities would implement water usage restrictions. Such restrictions were usually centered around limiting homeowners to the frequency of lawn sprinkling or car washing.

With an abundance of lakes and rivers in the Midwest, Al and I had dreams of one day owning lake front property. Oh, we came close a couple of times buying something in Wisconsin or Minnesota, but eventually logic ruled and our dream was always put on the back burner. Ah, such young responsible adults we were!

Goldwater Lake Prescott Arizona
Goldwater Lake, Prescott, Arizona – this lake reminds me of northern Minnesota
Gunflint Lake Minnesota
Al paddling in northern Minnesota – 1988

Once we moved west, that dream became even more elusive considering lake front property in the western United States is a rarity. Most lakes are used for water storage … reservoirs. Maintaining a clean water source is top priority in a land where water is a precious commodity. Considering water is not taken for granted in Arizona, it makes a body of water that much more special and appreciated.

Because of our love of water, lakes in particular, Al and I enjoy exploring and searching out those bodies of water whenever we have the opportunity.

Lakes around Prescott, Arizona

Within a thirty minute drive or less from our RV Park here in Prescott Valley, we have access to four lovely little lakes. All allow kayaking as well as offer picnic areas and a great trail system. I used to think Watson Lake was my favorite lake around here until I discovered the other lakes in the area.

Watson Lake Prescott Arizona
Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona

Last summer I spent a great deal of time hiking around the unique boulder laden landscape titled Granite Dells. Willow Lake and Watson Lake are both man-made reservoirs located within the Granite Dells area of Prescott and the scenery is so unique that it calls for regular visits.

Watson Lake Prescott Arizona
Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona

I loved hiking around this fascinating landscape – up and down the various trails, exploring all the nooks and crannies around every boulder until …. until the¬†snake encounter. Yeah, the sound of a rattle from a Diamondback can get the heart pounding and quickly take the joy out of any hike. After that experience, it was time for me to search out a few different trail options.

Once I discovered Lynx Lake and Goldwater Lake, I became smitten with them. Talk about a contrast of landscapes. Where as Watson Lake and Willow Lake are surrounded by a mostly barren, lumpy rock landscape, Lynx Lake and Goldwater Lake are nestled in a forest of wonderfully scented tall pine trees providing some nice cooling shade.

Goldwater Lake Prescott Arizona

Once again these are man-made reservoirs serving as water storage, but also offer some nice recreation for the public’s enjoyment.

Lynx Lake was the perfect spot for my friend, Rachael, and me to meet for lunch and catch up on our travels. I met Rachael a couple of years ago up in Arco, Idaho. She was on a one year solo RV adventure, and we had an immediate connection once we started talking cameras, which then lead to a couple of photographic outings together. Ever since our Idaho connection, we’ve stayed in touch. Rachael has since given up the RV life and now lives full-time in Sedona, Arizona … not too far from me which made meeting in Prescott easily doable.

picnic at Lynx Lake Prescott Arizona
enjoying a picnic lunch at Lynx Lake with a friend

During our Idaho time together, Rachael had made lunch for me, and now this was the perfect opportunity for me to reciprocate. Once again, our cameras were brought along for the outing and plenty of shutter time was shared after our tummies were filled. Even Rachael was pleasantly surprised with the beautiful lakes seen around Prescott.

Although these four little lakes might not be impressive to the average Midwesterner, they are a treasure to an Arizonan. I for one appreciate it when these reservoirs are full of water and pristine. I make it a point to take full advantage of their beauty while they’re in my current backyard … okay, I’m not saying they’re literally in my backyard considering it takes me at least twenty minutes to drive to any one of them, but hey, in Arizona I’ll take whatever kind of water front I can. The short drive is worth those water views any day.

Lake Pleasant Phoenix Arizona
Lake Pleasant, northwest of Phoenix, Arizona

More Arizona Lakes worth noting …

Since our children live in Phoenix, Arizona, we spend several months every year during the winter hanging around the Phoenix valley. That has given us the perfect opportunity to search out and explore many of the scenic lakes (rather reservoirs) in the area.

Lake Pleasant is located on the far northwest side of the valley and used to be a regular camping spot for us. The sunsets here are some of the most spectacular that I’ve ever seen. Absolutely stunning!

Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, and Roosevelt Lake are all located on the far east side of the valley in the Tonto National Forest. This string of reservoirs are all connected via the Salt River and each body of water offers unique scenery and plenty of boating recreation.

Salt River Arizona
The Salt River – photographed below Saguaro Lake.

Bartlett Reservoir¬†is located to the far northeast of Scottsdale and also within the Tonto National Forest. This lovely body of water takes a little longer to get to from the heart of Phoenix but so worth the drive, and if you don’t need internet connection, you can enjoy camping right along her beautiful shores.

Eastern Arizona –

We still have yet to spend much time in Arizona’s White Mountains. We enjoyed a brief taste last August during a short visit with our friends in Pinetop. This eastern side of the state reminds me of parts of Colorado. No, you won’t find any tall majestic mountains here, but you will find a landscape of large hills or little mountains surrounded by pine forests and dotted with lakes. Yep, there are lakes all over and stocked with enough fish to satisfy most anglers.

White Mountains in eastern Arizona
White Mountains – eastern Arizona

This is a beautiful part of Arizona that should not be missed and begs for more exploring on our part. But do note, this is a summer destination for RVers and plan on sharing this landscape with lots of desert dwellers who like to spend weekends in the White Mountains. The mountains serve as the perfect escape from the extreme summer heat found in the Phoenix valley.

Northern Arizona –

In the northern section of Arizona, you’ll find the city of Flagstaff and the Coconino National Forest. Once again, the forested landscape offers a bunch of little lakes, some of which I’d say are more like an over-sized pond than a lake, but hey it’s Arizona and water is water …. don’t dis the body of water. We’ll take it any which way we can … pond, lake, river, creek … water is life!

Lake Powell
Lake Powell at the Arizona – Utah border

But if size matters to you, than it’s time to head to the Arizona-Utah border and the shores of Lake Powell. Here you can boat to your heart’s content or until you run out of gas, which happens to boaters all the time. Yeah, it’ll literally take you days to boat the length of Lake Powell and a boat load of gasoline too.

Lake Havasu Arizona
boating with friends on Lake Havasu, Arizona

Western Arizona –

If Lake Powell’s a little too big for your taste, then Lake Havasu on the Arizona-California border might be more to your liking. We’re fortunate to have friends that live in Lake Havasu City and own a pontoon boat. Oh yeah – loved getting out on the water.

Lake Havasu
Yep, I’m a happy camper out boating on Lake Havasu.¬† Photo taken mid February. So while folks in the east were shoveling snow, I was enjoying a day on the water… no coat needed!

Southern Arizona –

Oh my goodness, I haven’t even touched on the southern half of the state where we really enjoyed Patagonia State Park and the lovely water setting seen there. So many more lakes to discover!

Hot and Dusty …

In a state where the words hot and dusty are used often, it’s no wonder the diverse landscape and fresh bodies of water are such a delightful surprise to many a visitor. I know all these picturesque lakes have been a fun and fantastic adventure discovering during our travels throughout the state.

No surprise our wheels have barely rolled across the Arizona state line this past year with so much picturesque scenery to discover and still so much more to see. Now if only I could figure out a way to fold up that pontoon boat and store it in the belly of the RV …¬† then I’d really be in tall cotton!

Lake Powell
Camping near water is the next best thing to owning lake front property – oh yeah, a gal could get used to a lake front yard like this!

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What’s in a Name?

The other day I was asked by a non RV’er how we decide on our¬†travel destinations and how we choose where to camp?¬† It actually took me a few minutes to think about this and I couldn’t come up with just one simple answer.¬† Sometimes¬†our decision-making is¬†easy and other times it can be down right challenging.

Stylish Chicks!
Which way should we go?

I tried to¬†simplify my answer ….. Our interest in an area is usually¬†from a good old-fashioned road atlas/map, or someone’s blog post, or¬†brochures we¬†pick up¬†at a Visitor Center.¬† Once we have a¬†basic idea of where we think we’d¬†like to go and what sights there are to see, we peruse several websites to find camping¬†options in¬†that areas’¬†general vicinity.¬†¬†Our two favorite websites¬†are RV Park Reviews and Campendium.

When we first arrived in Idaho last May, I managed to visit a very nice Visitor Center in the town of Idaho Falls.  It was there that I picked up a ton of information covering some highlights and must see attractions in this beautiful and diverse State.

After glancing through a few brochures, I was reminded that I had read¬†a blog Beaver Dickpost¬†about Yellowstone Bear World, and quickly added it¬†to my list of Idaho¬†places I wanted¬†to see.¬† Since we¬†prefer camping¬†as close to¬†an attraction as possible, I started doing my research……

and that’s when I stumbled across the Beaver Dick County Park.¬† Come on, with a name like that, we had to overnight there.

Say it with me…. “Beaver Dick”.¬† Doesn’t that just want to make you giggle like a silly school child?¬† I know every time I say Beaver Dick, I chuckle.¬†¬† This was an easy camping decision and¬†a decision¬†based purely on¬†the name….¬† ūüėĄ

Camping at Beaver Dick Park
Camping at Beaver Dick Park

The Beaver Dick Park is a¬†small¬†nine acre¬†county park popular with the locals.¬† It’s located about 5 miles west of the town of Rexburg, Idaho¬†off Highway 33, and situated on the west bank of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River.

Plenty of hiking trails
Plenty of hiking trails

It also backs up to 400 acres of BLM Land available for hiking and hunting (during hunting season that is).

The park was named after Richard Leigh, a widely known and liked outfitter, guide, and trapper of beaver – thus, the nickname, Beaver Dick.

He married a Shoshone Indian named Jenny.  Did you know, Leigh Lake and Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons were named after these two?  I love stumbling upon this kind of whimsical history.

Our relaxing campsite at Beaver Dick Park
Our relaxing campsite at Beaver Dick Park

The park offers picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets, fifteen dry campsites, and a boat ramp.¬† We stayed for five nights for a total cost of $15.¬† Whoohoo!¬† With that kind of price, the¬†wine fun budget for the month was increased ūüėČ

July 2016 – Beaver Dick Park turned into a great place not only for us to relax but¬†also to explore eastern Idaho. First order of business¬†…. a visit to Yellowstone Bear World, a drive-thru wildlife park.

Yellowstone Bear World
Yellowstone Bear World

After paying admission, I was given firm directions (verbal and written) to leave my windows on the truck UP, drive slowly, and not to let a bear climb into the bed of the truck ūü§Ē¬†Huh? ¬†The road first meanders past free roaming bison, elk, and deer.¬†¬†Eventually,¬†I approached another gate where I was stopped by an attendant who¬†once again reminded me to keep my windows up, then I entered the Bear area….

Bear roam freely at Yellowstone Bear World
Bear roam freely at Yellowstone Bear World

Yellowstone Bear WorldI encountered Bear walking in front of me, to the side of me, and behind me.¬† Although, I did keep the windows in the truck rolled up, the bears quite frankly could’ve cared less about the vehicles driving past and not one wanted to hitch a ride.¬†I’m sure they’re thinking, “Just another day of¬†crazy tourists taking photos”.

cute bear cubs at play
cute bear cubs at play

Yellowstone Bear WorldAfter¬†the¬†drive, I parked at the visitor center and browsed the gift shop before venturing into the petting zoo.¬† Upon exiting the building, I was greeted by the cub habitat …. a great little fenced island that was home to three very active bear cubs. Watching these little cubs wrestling with one another was worth the price of admission.¬† For an additional¬†fee, you can sign up to actually bottle feed a bear cub.

For an additional fee, you can bottle feed a bear cub
For an additional fee, you can bottle feed a bear cub
Teething?
Teething?

The little¬†cubs were so darn cute, but the cuteness didn’t end with them …..

This little fawn was adorable
This little fawn was adorable
The petting zoo was fun - watch out for t-shirt nibbling deer!
Watch out for T-shirt nibbling deer!
Goats are such characters!
Goats are such characters!
This guy liked nibbling on peoples clothing.
This guy liked nibbling on peoples clothing.

Petting zoo

Although the petting zoo itself is extremely entertaining, I found a special treat just beyond …..¬†in an enclosed area.¬† This little lady (moose are anything but little) was lounging¬†on the other side of the¬†fence at the far end of the petting zoo. I was but a mere¬†twenty feet away from her.MooseWhat a treat to see this magnificent animal¬†up close.¬† A very tall chain link fence separated¬†me and Ms. Moose,¬†but I was able to shoot this photo between the links.

Yellowstone Bear World is a relatively small attraction and can easily be explored in 2-3 hours.  I thoroughly enjoyed my morning visit in early July, and would definitely return should I find myself near Rexburg, Idaho again.

Let’s see, communing with animals while camped at a relaxing county park – so far, so good.¬† Next up, we wrap up our Idaho visit with a few more interesting places worth mentioning.

Re-calculating mid stream

canadian geese It‚Äôs an early Saturday morning as we wind our way through Denver. We‚Äôre perplexed by the amount of traffic on the roads at seven in the morning on a weekend. Don‚Äôt you people ever sleep in? Ah, with so much beauty and recreation out their front door, it‚Äôs obvious, it’s time to play….. that’s what we do!

A mere thirty minutes east of Denver, we practically have the road to ourselves. With the RV pointing east, there’s no longer a view of any mountains, just a long stretch of openness in front of us. As we pass sprawling ranch land and cattle feed lots, our emotions about this excursion are mixed. That’s kind of the norm for us as we rarely relish trips back east even though we do look forward to reconnecting with family.

As we enter Nebraska, the land gets flatter Рabout as flat as a Monopoly board and the agricultural land is divided off into similar parcels. America’s Great Plains can be harsh and unforgiving land. There’s nothing to stop the winds from blowing snow in a sideways direction or a spring storm turning into a deadly twister, not to mention the extreme temperatures.Interstate 80

While we meander down the road, we take in our surroundings. We appreciate our comfy cushioned leather seats versus a hard saddle. We appreciate the climate
covered wagoncontrolled truck cab versus the open air exposed seating of a covered wagon.

The air is thick with 90% humidity and an equally hot temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius). Yep, we appreciate the modern-day comforts of air conditioning along with our version of horse and wagon.¬† I can’t imagine the perils encountered while crossing this land a hundred years ago.

The¬†route from Colorado to Illinois is a drive Al and I have made more times than we can count.¬† However, this is the first time we’re making the¬†trip with the RV in tow.¬† Past trips were always done¬†with just the¬†vehicle and most times the 1,100 mile (1771 km) journey was driven in one very long day.¬† We’d hit the road around 5:00 a.m. in the morning and arrive¬†at our destination¬†at about 10:00 or 11:00 at night. We always dreaded these days.corn fields

Today was different.¬† We didn’t dread the drive or the day.¬† I found myself snapping photos out of the truck (the majority of photos turned out blurry, of course… love that delete button).¬† The plan all along was to make it to Omaha for the night, with a backup of stopping sooner if we weren’t up to driving 550 miles (885 km).¬† There’s comfort in knowing we can stop anytime we want and take a nap in our own bed.¬† Comfort in knowing we have a well stocked fridge and freezer for healthy meals.¬† Comfort in knowing we don’t have a schedule to maintain.¬† And comfort in knowing we are foot loose and fancy free.¬† Ah, the freedom of the open road.field of corn

We find ourselves engulfed with a sense of calm and adventure and enjoying the scenery unfolding in front of us.¬† This isn’t the in your face jaw dropping beauty we see in the Rocky Mountains.¬† Discovering this beauty requires a little digging…. figuratively and literally.¬† This is America’s heartland.¬† This land feeds people around the world.¬† Images of backyard barbeques, apple pie, and little kids running around are conjured.¬† It evokes a sense of home.

The nearly nine-hour, 550 mile drive to Omaha was pleasant and uneventful.  The two new audio books purchased for the drive remain sealed.  Al and I found ourselves talking about our plans for the next seven weeks instead of listening to books or music.  In so doing, we changed our mind about our journey about as many times as a teenage girl changes her outfit.  To say we were re-calculating is an understatement.

Cabela's
Our horse and covered wagon. We spend the night at the Cabela’s in Omaha, Nebraska

Before pulling into our parking spot in Omaha for the night we finally decided once we’re in Illinois, we’ll visit a state park for a couple of nights not far from where Al grew up.¬† As a matter of fact, the last time Al visited Starved Rock State Park¬† was during an¬†elementary school field trip.

Next up we’ll share whether or not Starved Rock State Park lives up to all the hype; voted number one attraction in the state of Illinois.corn fieldsInfo on our overnight stop in Omaha, Nebraska.¬† When Al and I are hightailing it from point A to point B, we usually look for a quick, safe place to overnight.¬† For such a¬†short stay, we usually won’t bother with a campground or RV Park.¬† We’re self-contained and comfortable dry camping¬†/ boondocking.¬† Wal-Mart of course is a popular option that we’ve taken advantage of many a time especially when we need to stock up on supplies anyway.¬†¬†Another option, one¬†we¬†prefer¬†is a¬†Cabela’s¬† store parking lot.¬† Although few and far between, we’ll check¬†anywhere along our route and make notes as to¬†any possible stores.¬† Many of the newer stores not only have a designated RV and truck parking area, they also offer a dump station and fresh water.

32 BridgeAl was once a preferred Cabela’s shopper receiving this sporting goods stores’ hard cover catalog.¬† So it may be free overnighting for most people, but for us???¬† ūüėܬ† Even our daughter wore her Cabela’s hat to the Luke Bryan Concert, which I initially thought was inappropriate until I realized Luke Bryan is not only a Cabela’s spokesperson, he has his own brand of product line sold at Cabela’s; 32 Bridge.

As we pull into the Cabela’s in Omaha, we quickly look for the sign pointing us in the direction of “RV Parking”.¬† It doesn’t take long and we realize this is a popular spot with semi-truckers.¬† We find a spot off to the side, away from the rumbling truck engines, and are quickly joined by two more RV’s.¬† Of course, an in store purchase was made before calling it a night.¬† The Omaha Cabela’s does not have a dump station but does have fresh water and has super easy access on and off Interstate 80.

Cabela’s in Colorado – along Interstate 25 (easy on, easy off), there is a new Cabela’s north of Denver and another to the south.¬† Both have dump stations, fresh water, and designated RV parking, all free of charge ….. unless wife buys a new pair of shoes!
Teva Women’s Kayenta Strappy Sandal, Vega Purple, 9 M US
Browning Men’s Buckmark Gold And T-Shirt Black X-Large

It’s Tough Being a Dog

Brittany Spaniel
Bear

We’re out-of-town¬†on an adventure without internet service.¬† Yep, left the technology behind.¬† So during our absence,¬†I thought I’d leave you with a few images about why it’s tough being a dog….¬† from Bear’s point of view !

Monarch Pass
another darn photo-op

Mom is always stopping to take pictures.¬† I don’t know why she insists I be in her photos.¬† She says Brittany Spaniels are super cute.¬† Can’t I just stay in the car and sleep?

Then there’s the sleeping.

Brittany Spaniel
sleeping in a tent….roughing it !

On our last camping trip to Crested Butte, we actually slept in a tent.¬† Hey, what’s wrong with the RV?¬† And although it was fun sleeping next to mom in the tent, it got super cold at 10,000 feet in elevation and the pillow case was a mere 250 thread count.¬† Certainly not what this Brittany Spaniel is accustomed to.

Brittany Spaniel
this leather couch is great for naps !

At home, the leather sofa is always comfy.¬† Mom even helps my back-end¬†up since I am no longer able to jump up on my own.¬† You know, I was never allowed on the furniture until I got older.¬† Yep, that’s right.¬† I used to get on the furniture when they weren’t home and immediately jump off when they returned.¬† Then one day I figured, what the heck, what Brittany Spanielare they gonna do about it?¬† All I have to do is bat my puppy dog eyes and mom and dad melt.¬† They’re such push overs.¬† There are benefits to getting old !

However, my eyesight ain’t what it used to be.

But my nose still works great !  I have to really insist and try hard to get dad to share his sandwich with me.  With persistence, I always win in the end.

Brittany Spaniel
having difficulty getting dad to share….¬† When I was younger, this kind of behavior was never tolerated.¬† Now that I’m an old guy, they let me get away with being a bad dog….fun times!

Mom and dad rely on me to be on guard at all times.¬† It’s a tough job, but someone around here has to do it.

Lake Irwin
Who goes there ?  Not worthy of getting up !
Crested Butte
Hey, wait for me…

Dad keeps me on a leash.¬† I don’t know why I can’t walk the streets of Crested Butte freely like Pork Chop the Golden Retriever.¬† We’re bud’s ya know !

Well, we’re off on another adventure.¬† This time we’re traveling in luxury and taking the RV.¬† My nose will be working overtime.¬† Yes, it’s a dog’s life……

Brittany Spaniel
here ducky, ducky…just a little closer

Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore…

From Mesquite, Nevada, we decide to head south toward Bullhead City, AZ.  Folks we ran into recommended a Davis County Park along the Colorado River.  We find Davis Camp just below the Davis Damn and find a level, dry camping spot right at the shore of the Colorado River.  This neat little spot costs a whopping $16 a night (2012 price).  Not bad!

Davis Camp County Park

Al and I decide on our spot.¬† I stand at the rear of the site to help direct Al as he backs the Rig up.¬† I sometimes think he doesn’t even pay attention to me and my direction other than when to stop.¬† Maybe I should get some of those orange wands used to direct pilots.¬† So, Mr. former Airline Pilot, would orange wands give dear wife more credibility?¬† Probably not.¬† I’ll just continue with my “original” hand gestures, or as Al calls it “my song and dance routine”!

The wind is horrible and the Rig sways from side to side.¬† I hate the wind.¬† This Illinois gal has seen first hand the devastating, destruction wind can cause.¬† I immediately have a concern of our Rig being flipped over by a gust and look around for other campsite alternatives…..none.¬† My next priority is to put out the slides asap.¬† Perhaps the slides will act as outriggers.¬† You know, the kind they use on ocean-going canoes.¬† Yes, that was my thought.¬† Feel free to laugh, but please not as hard as Al did.¬† In my defense, the Rig did sway less with the slides extended, and we did have a great little camp spot here, wind and all considered.¬† And no, we never came close to toppling over.

We’re undecided as to how long we wish to stay¬†here at Davis Camp and decide to pay for one night and can always extend.¬† The Laughlin Casinos are practically¬†within walking distance and Bullhead City seems bigger than I originally thought.¬† It even has a Sam’s Club, not that I need one.¬† Smaller quarters, require smaller packages.

The weather here in Bullhead City is warm, but if the wind persists, we won’t stay long.¬† Since our Mesquite stay, Al and I have promised each other we won’t commit immediately to staying in one place.¬† We committed to staying a full week in Mesquite and were ready to hit the road after three days.¬† Lesson learned.

Laughlin Casino to the right

So our stay in Davis Camp will be determined by the winds.¬† Did I already mention, “I hate wind”?¬† Breezes are nice, but high winds are for Dorothy and Toto!

Staying an Extra Day…

We’ve been enjoying our stay here at Desert’s Edge RV Village and decide to stay an extra day.¬† This has given Al the time to take the truck to the mechanic in Camp Verde to check things out, which turned out to be a very good idea.¬† The fuel control module was going bad.¬† Once replaced, she’s running better.

mimosas in my future?

The week has flown by.¬† We had a chance to visit long time friends in Gilbert and Al was able to get in a couple of days of shooting¬†at Ben Avery.¬† He’s a happy camper as is our little Bear.¬† Bear is enjoying¬†numerous walks and visits with the other four-legged guests.

Al & Son shooting

I on the other hand,¬†have stayed busy¬†catching up on some reading and getting some meals and groceries¬†together for boondocking.¬† I made a bunch of breakfast Burritos, which is a super big deal for this midwestern, German gal who didn’t even know what Mexican food was until the age of sixteen.

So the frig and pantry are packed, dog and RV are cleaned, trucks running good, and Al and I are formulating¬†a game plan.¬† We were hoping to head to McDowell or Usery¬†Regional Park for a few days, but it’s President’s Day weekend and everything in the area appears to be all booked up.¬† Plan B, point the Rig west and see where we end.

Hwy 95, north of Parker, AZ

Green with Envy…

Oh, Mother Nature!¬† Today we awake to four inches of snow cover. Wednesday we¬†had a beautiful, sunny day in the mid sixties here in southern Colorado.¬† We were able to enjoy a nice¬†hike in¬†Lake Pueblo State Park¬†and get some much-needed¬†fresh air.¬†¬†We also spent time cleaning and reorganizing the Rig for our trip to AZ next week.¬† We’ll leave it winterized for now.

cove, Pueblo Reservoir

Yesterday¬†around noon the weather front started rolling in and by late afternoon the ground was white.¬† Why, oh why aren’t we in AZ already?

It continues to snow lightly and temps are around 25 degrees.¬† The satellite¬†dish¬†did not work last night due to¬†freezing rain and snow blocking the¬†transmission.¬† ¬†As I check my emails this morning and look for updates from fellow bloggers, I become green with envy at all the lovely photos posted……desert sunsets, desert sunrises, desert hikes, desert cactus, desert mountains, AND desert warmth.¬† Oh,¬†how I need to¬†remind myself just a few more days and we’ll be on our way.

I’m also very inspired by the personal stories I read on blogs and thankful for the inspiration.¬† Perhaps today I can muster up some ambition to go through¬†a few¬†boxes in the garage.¬† The purging must start……again.¬† I did a great job last year unloading lots of “stuff”, but find myself left with still plenty.¬† The problem is, I like my “stuff”.¬† Al and I are thinking,¬†once we return from this road trip, he and I will be more ready to unload more things.¬† AND next winter, we’ll be enjoying a glass of wine around a campfire in the southwest and I too will be posting desert photos on my blog.¬† Until then, I remain green with envy!

P.S. South Texas and Florida are on the short list as well.  I continue to take notes from fellow bloggers and already have plans for winter 2012.

Green Desert Sunset
Green Desert Sunset (Photo credit: nebarnix)