Reflections of Life

With summer coming to an end, I find myself in a reflective mood. Maybe its the overnight crisp cool air that’s reminding me that summer will soon be coming to an end. Perhaps I’m not relishing the change of season that has me feeling rather melancholy today. The summer seemed to have whizzed by, and now fall is just around the corner… sigh! Although, looking on the bright side, who doesn’t love fall colors? But clearly, I’m not ready for the change … just yet, anyway!

Reflections at Steamboat Lake Colorado
Steamboat Lake, Colorado

Perhaps it’s this nasty summer cold that I can’t seem to shake that has brought about my somber mood, or perhaps it’s a combination of a bunch of things happening in my life right now. I guess today, I’m feeling more like a Debbie Downer than an inspiring Ingrid, and for that, I apologize, but we all have our down days, don’t we?

See, I’ve told you before, this RVing gig isn’t all rainbows and unicorns! Nope, it’s still life with all its normal ups and downs.

Grand Tetons National Park
Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

And right now, life is a little on the down side for me. Quite frankly, I haven’t felt like myself all summer, and have barely touched my camera which is, of course, uncharacteristic of me. But life happens, things change, and we all get older. This too shall pass, and witnessing beautiful scenery always helps improve my mood.

Corpus Christi Texas
Corpus Christi, Texas

The month of August brought about some major changes in my life … some good and some not. My son got married (which was good, considering everyone couldn’t stop smiling the entire evening), I had a milestone birthday (which I prefer not to be reminded of considering I stopped having birthdays years ago ūüėĀ), and I lost a sweet RVing friend (loss is always sad). But the most difficult moment for me this month was loosing a beloved family member. I’m still processing that one!

San Diego California
San Diego, California

Although I’m feeling rather somber and down today, I can’t help but smile as I gaze upon these images. Each photograph evokes a fond memory and reminds me of some of the amazing places AND people that I’ve been blessed to have encountered, and that makes me happy. Beautiful photographs and memories always lift my spirits.

reflections at Watson Lake Prescott Arizona
Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona

I love landscape images with water reflections. It’s probably one of my most favorite things to capture on film (rather on media card, but that just doesn’t sound right, does it?) Yep, there’s something about a calm body of water reflecting the landscape that captivates my attention, refreshes me, and reminds me that life is good!

reflections at Steamboat Lake Colorado
Steamboat Lake, Colorado

For this weeks photo prompt, I’ve chosen the theme “reflections“.¬†Feel free to share a link in the comments below or link back to this page on your own post.

The word¬†reflection¬†pertains to more than a reflective image. It also means serious thought or consideration. Perhaps there’s a fond memory you’d like to share along with a reflective photograph. We all have our moments in life where we need to slow down, take a deep breath, and reflect on life … reflect on what’s important and what isn’t. I warned ya, I was in a reflective mood today ūüėŹ

Beach Living along the Gulf of Mexico
Fulton Beach, Texas

I’m sure as my head clears from this annoying cold, my state of mind will improve, and eventually, I might even share a photo or two of my son’s wedding which turned out beautifully by the way. Until next time … happy shooting!

Oh, and I promise to be in a better mood next week ūüėĀ¬†After all, next weeks photo theme is Sunrise. How could I not be in a good mood looking at inspiring photographs?

reflection

Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Inspirations

Each Wednesday I post a different photo theme as a way for bloggers to share their love of photography and engage with other like minded bloggers. Maybe you just need a little inspiration to pick up the camera in search of a composition or a reason to go through your photo archives. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR or something in-between, don’t be shy,¬†share and connect! ūü§ó

Next weeks photo theme is Sunrise …. get out and shoot or peruse those archives!

(affiliate links)
It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss
Zen Reflections Juniper Bonsai

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.

***********************************

Guess who got a new camera for her birthday ūüėé (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

Trouble with the Dream

Whenever I hear the phrase ‘your living the dream’, I do a slight cringe. Dream? Hmm! Living full-time in a RV was never a dream of mine. Al and I decided to move into the RV full-time on a whim four years ago with the intent of traveling for a year or two before finding a home base. And here we are, into year five of full-time RV living and still rolling along. We haven’t found that home base just yet, but we’re still searching and getting closer every day in narrowing down our choices.

south rim Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park – south rim

I have to admit, full-time RVing is an adventurous lifestyle that is filled with highs as well as lows. And the highs are indeed like a dream …. gorgeous scenery, beautiful weather, birdingand the forging of new friendships makes this lifestyle somewhat addictive.

What’s not to love? Perhaps that’s why we haven’t looked too hard for that home base.

But those lows? Ah, yes …. those lows sure don’t feel like I’m living a dream. Feels more like a nightmare and not one where I’ll wake up thankfully realizing all is well.

Nope, no waking up from a bad travel day. Instead, we find ourselves digging deep for the energy and wherewithal to deal with life’s mishaps, and we try our best to keep a sense of humor about us …. remembering this too shall pass!

Let’s take a step back… We spent four months this past summer camped in Prescott, Arizona. It was a very enjoyable summer with very little vehicle or RV maintenance mishaps. Al did have an issue with the F-250 back in May, but after some service it pulling a fifth wheelworked great all summer long which included a bunch of trips back and forth to Phoenix in the excessive heat to visit our children.

Tidbit – there’s about a 3,000 foot elevation change between Prescott and Phoenix, Arizona, meaning there’s quite the hill climbing necessary heading north on Interstate 17 from Phoenix. When temperatures exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit, overheating vehicle engines are quite common. Thus, we were thrilled the Big Dog handled those drives without incident, but remember, we weren’t pulling the RV during those Phoenix excursions.

camping near the Grand Canyon
Our son joined us for a few days. Good times around a campfire!

Once the calendar flipped to September 1st, it was time to lift the jacks and get the wheels rolling. We moved up to the Kaibab National Forest located just south of the Grand Canyon and enjoyed a near perfect week camped in a pine forest surrounded by wildlife. Our son even drove up from Phoenix to spend a few days with us.

bull elk
one of our neighbors strolling by our campsite
Coyote
This neighbor serenaded us at two in the morning. Al and I were amused – son not so much!

Considering it was the Labor Day Weekend, we were pleasantly surprised with the lack of crowds (that is, in comparison to other times of the year) and we considered ourselves lucky to snag such a beautiful campsite.

If it hadn’t been for Al’s dental appointment back in Prescott, we would’ve stayed another week, that’s how much we loved our little spot in the Kaibab National Forest.

squirrel
Don’t be dissing one of my relatives!

But alas, Al needed a tooth dealt with. A week earlier, he woke up with an abscess which made him look like he was storing nuts for the winter. His name quickly changed from Al to Alvin … as in, Alvin and the chipmunks ūüėÜ

With a round of antibiotics completed, it was time for a root canal and crown … I’m sure you can imagine Al jumping for joy!

Medical emergencies of any kind while living a mobile lifestyle is always stressful. Will we find a Doctor or Dentist who can see us right away? What kind of care and follow-up can we expect, not to mention the cost? In my opinion, this is the biggest concern about full-time RVing. I can deal with the maintenance issues much easier than medical issues. And don’t even get me started on the problems with insurance!

Speaking of maintenance issues … so after our glorious week near the Grand Canyon, it was time to hitch up and take what should’ve been an easy non-eventful two and a half hour drive back to Prescott.

Grand Canyon camping

Travel day morning, I noticed a tire on my little red truck looked low. This was the perfect scenario for Al to try out his new air compressor – Viair 450P Automatic Function Portable Compressor. I bought this Viair compressor last spring for Al’s birthday. Fortunately, at the time Amazon was doing a Prime deal on it. This was the first time we took the compressor out of the package.

portable air compressor

We had a bit of a Frick and Frack moment when we failed to remove the red plug for air intake. Duh! But in our defense, the instructions made no mention of removing the plug. So what should’ve taken five minutes to add ten pounds of pressure to my low tire, took a tad over thirty minutes.

portable Viair air compressor

After a good laugh, it was time to hitch up the 5th wheel. Al positioned the truck and slowly backed toward the hitch. I flipped or rather tried to flip the switch to raise the front landing jacks. Hmm! The switch wouldn’t move. With my nifty little hand singles, I stopped Al from backing any further and walked up to the driver’s side door. I proceeded to tell Al the switch wouldn’t work.

Al begins to tell me how the switch works. SERIOUSLY, dude dear husband!!!  We’ve only owned this RV for the past seven years and hooked and unhooked this RV a few hundred times. I think by now, I know how the dang switch works. Not in a mood to argue, in my sweetest voice I ask, “I’m sorry honey, but I’m just not sure how it works. Could you please show me?” My man to the rescue. Al walks over to the RV and tries to move the switch. “Ugh, the switch won’t move”, he says in a rather perplexed tone. “Ya think”, I declared in a less than amused tone!

5th wheel landing jacks
Me getting in an upper body workout hand cranking the front landing jacks up!

Like a couple of RVing newbies, we stared at the switch then at the round hole in the side of the RV. “Isn’t there a hand crank that fits in that hole?”

Coyote
Hey, you guys need any help?

Kaibab National Forest

We were an hour and a half behind our self-imposed schedule, but still smiling as we waved goodbye to our neighbors and campsite. A few deep breaths and fifteen miles later, we had settled nicely into the drive heading south on route 64 toward the town of Williams. Since we were traveling with two vehicles, we used our walkie talkies to stay in regular communication. Midland GXT1000VP4 36-Mile 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio (Pair) (Black/Silver)

Arizona state route 64

Just when I thought all our troubles were behind us, Al radios me and says the truck stalled and he’ll be coming to a stop ūüė® Let’s turn on our flashers/hazard lights!

Let me explain a little something about Arizona State Route 64. It’s a busy two-lane road with virtually no shoulder, and it’s the only route to or from the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Thus, one can expect lots of RV’s, large tour buses, and plenty of traffic on this road.

sitting ducks
sitting ducks – stalled on Arizona State Route 64

Al pulled over as much as possible and I did the same, keeping a fair distance between the two of us. We were sitting ducks and I prayed traffic would see us sitting there and slow down.  The fear of being rear ended was a constant concern. We were also concerned about oncoming traffic knowing that southbound traffic would need to go around us and there wasn’t enough space for us and the two-way traffic. In essence, we had shut down the southbound lane.

coyoteA few days earlier while Al and Logan (son) were exploring some of the back roads in the Kaibab National Forest, the truck had stalled necessitating Al call our mechanic in Prescott.

After a few wire jiggles on an internal temperature sensor, the truck started up.

So there we were stalled on route 64 in a very precarious situation waiting for the truck engine to cool a tad all the while Al jiggled the wires. After 15 minutes, the Big Dog started up and kept running all the way to Prescott.

Suffice it to say, by the time we arrived at our destination, we were a bit frazzled but okay plus Al was not looking forward to the next day – a morning spent in the dental chair. Good news, Al had a positive experience with Highland Dental (Dr. Bennett) and his mouth is doing just fine these days… no more Alvin and we’ve found a dental office in Arizona that we like.

But ‘living the dream‘ didn’t end here. After Al’s dental appointment, we spent the rest of our week in Prescott doing a deep interior cleaning of the RV along with taking care of the necessary truck and RV maintenance.

RV mice
We eventually found a SOS pad to wrap around our electrical cord.

Along with Mr. Elk and Wiley Coyote stopping by our boondock campsite in the Kaibab National Forest, Mickey and Minnie Mouse decided to stop by and dine on some peanut butter.

Apparently, we left the door open (electrical cord opening) and the welcome mat out (interior electrical cover plate off) for Mickey and Minnie’s easy entry. Al normally wraps steel wool around our exterior electrical cord but he misplaced it and eventually we used a SOS pad. I also forgot about the interior electrical cover plate that had fallen off the wall (hiding behind my camera bag). Anyway, this combination provided the perfect entry for the little field mice.

Boondocking and mice are a pretty common occurrence and one we’ve come to expect, but once we get back to full hookups, it’s time for some deep cleaning and making sure our unwanted guests haven’t taken up residency.

Whew! It was an eventful and busy week which was anything but dream living. A week we’re glad is over. And now we’re onto a new location and working on living the dream. So far, so good!

south rim Grand Canyon

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

A Zen of a Day

After a wonderful visit in the Chicago suburbs, it was time for us to move on.  The drive took about an hour and a half and put us closer to the Wisconsin border.  Shortly after our arrival, we met our new neighbor.

Rockford, Illinois
Trooper coming to check out that big white box near his barn.

We set up house¬†at¬†Al’s sister’s place, which is¬†located a few miles north of Rockford, Illinois, and less than ten miles from the Wisconsin line.¬† His sister owns a lovely seven acre piece of property complete with a beautiful home, large barn, some out buildings, plenty of room for us to park, and Trooper.

boondocking
Barn on the right and tack room/out building behind the truck.

The next ten days were filled with lots of visiting with sister(s)¬†– Al’s other sister lives nearby as well.¬† There was no shortage of food, drink,¬†or laughter.Japanese Tea GardenI did sneak off for a day, allowing the siblings the time to reminisce and me to have a little time to myself.¬† I called it my Zen day.Japanese Garden

With camera in hand, I set off for the Anderson Japanese Gardens.¬† One of the first lines used on their website says, “Inspires the mind and energizes the soul”.¬† Sounded perfect and exactly what I was¬†looking for to enjoy a Zen kind of day.Japanese Garden

The three essential elements used to create a Japanese garden are;
* stone = structure of the landscape
* water = represents life-giving force
* plants = provide the color and changes throughout the seasonJapanese Garden

Secondary elements include; lanterns, water basins, pagodas, arbors, and bridges.Japanese Garden

Japanese Gardens

The Founder and History:
Construction of Anderson Japanese Gardens began in 1978, when Rockford businessman John Anderson was inspired by a visit to the Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon. With the ongoing assistance of renowned Master Craftsman and designer Hoichi Kurisu, the Andersons’ swampy backyard along Rockford’s Spring Creek was transformed into a Japanese-style landscape. From groundbreaking to today, the placement of every rock, alignment of every tree, and layout of all paths has been made with careful consideration by Mr. Kurisu. In 1998, John and Linda Anderson donated the Gardens as a supported organization to the Rockford Rotary Charitable Association. It now exists as a not-for-profit entity and continues to grow and change to this day.Japanese Gardens

Japanese gardens are very carefully designed and patiently pruned according to aesthetic principles to create a work of natural art that inspires calm, renewal, discovery, and an invigorated soul.Japanese Gardens

I spent several¬†hours strolling the gardens and snapping lots of photographs.¬† I was a little disappointed that they don’t allow tripods, but with many of the trails narrow, I can understand why.Japanese Garden

However, that didn’t stop me from playing around with the shutter speed on my camera.¬† I was bound and determined to finally capture flowing water in a soft way.Japanese GardensThe slow shutter speed would¬†require me to stabilize the camera somehow.¬† With a little thought, I found boulders to¬†aid me¬†in my quest.¬†Japanese Garden

I set my camera on an uneven boulder with the strap securely wound around my wrist (having the camera topple into the water was not part of the plan).  I then set the 2 second timer and hoped for the best.Japanese GardenUnfortunately, without the assistance of a tripod the boulders dictated the angle of the composition.  Overall, it was fun experimenting with the different settings on my camera and using a neutral density filter for the first time.Japanese Garden

If it hadn’t been for the temperature approaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit with 80% plus humidity, I would’ve spent the entire day exploring every inch of this 12 acre Japanese Garden (which I may have done anyway).¬† Regardless of the August heat, it was still a¬†Zen of a day.Japanese Garden

Today was a good Day РWordPress Photo Challenge
Creating Your Own Japanese Garden
Kenroy Home Waterdrop Natural Slate Tabletop Fountain