Bartering for Toilet Paper

Bartering for Toilet Paper

Life is like a rollercoaster. It’s full of ups, downs, twists, and turns. Sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s not. There’s solace in knowing we’re all in this together … all in for a heck of a ride … a ride called life. Besides, how boring would it be if it was continuous smooth sailing? After all, couldn’t we all use a little excitement in our lives from time to time? But please, just not too much excitement, huh! Yeah, life has been a little too exciting lately and not in a good way. I’m sure you can agree!

I’ve always been entertained by a good rollercoaster ride at an amusement park despite my propensity for motion sickness. Rollercoasters usually don’t make me sick. However, don’t put me on a tilt-a-whirl. I guarantee motion sickness will rear its ugly head by that spinning dizzying motion, and let’s not even talk about the rolling of a sailboat. ūü§Ę Nope, no tilt-a-whirls or sailing for this gal. Did I ever tell you guys during my first day on the job as a Flight Attendant, I threw up eleven times? Ah, not a day I’d care to repeat, but those tales are for another day.

Today, let’s talk about viruses … okay, not just any virus … the Coronavirus aka COVID-19 and its nauseating, dizzying effect on everyday life.

Yellow poppies in a field

Dealing with a Pandemic

Illness of any kind isn’t fun, but add in the emotion of fear, and you’re dealing with a whole different animal. So many ups, downs, twists, and turns! Fear makes people panic and act and do things out of character. I understand the importance of getting ahead of the spread of this virus (it’s serious stuff) and containing it as much as possible is very critical. I truly do understand the importance!

And even though we are dealing with extreme matters and doing our part by practicing good hygiene and social distancing, I fail to understand the sudden hoarding of products specifically toilet paper. I guess the fear of running out of TP is on everyone’s mind ūüí©

purple flowers and a bee in flight

Finding humor in a non-humorous moment

Due to the rush and hoarding of toilet paper, most of us are seeing a shortage. Store shelves are void of this precious commodity and many (me included) are afraid of running out. There’s a couple of local grocery stores here in Phoenix, Arizona that are offering seniors (65 and older) their own special time to shop; from 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday mornings.

Taking full advantage of my husband’s old age ūü§ę, this past Wednesday I kicked him out of bed and loaded him into my little red truck before 5:00 a.m. I bribed him with the promise of a pastry! It was a dark, cold, drizzly morning. I was on a mission … a toilet paper mission. We stood in line outside the store in the drizzling rain with all the other seniors waiting for the doors to open.

a statue at the Arizona Biltmore in Scottsdale AZShopping crowds – so much for social distancing!¬†At exactly 5:00 a.m. we were given entrance. Initially, it seemed very calm and civilized until a few folks broke from the crowd into a gentle sprint. Clearly, they weren’t interested in grabbing a shopping cart but were focused on one thing … toilet paper.

Not one to be outrun by an oxygen tank totting eighty-year-old, Al’s 6’3″+ frame with long legs quickly outstepped his competition and took the lead.

Being one of the first to snag the largest package of toilet paper from the top shelf, Al quickly handed it off to me and then proceeded to help his sprinting competitor. Al’s height and large stature, in comparison to the other senior shoppers, drew attention.

Shortly after helping the oxygen totting gentleman, a frail woman taped Al with her cane and said, “Hey Sonny, can you grab me a package?” Next thing you know, Al was helping hand out packages of toilet paper and in just a few minutes the once well-stocked shelves were once again bare.

Several of us lingered near the aisle and looked at the barren shelves while holding our allotted one package of TP like a trophy and just shook our heads amusingly. “This is crazy”, several folks commented while another said, “I never imagined I would ever see anything like this in my lifetime”.

After our toilet paper mission was accomplished, Al and I picked up a few more staples and with our shopping cart less than half full, we paid for our purchases and headed to the truck. It was still dark, rainy, and cold, but in the truck, we each had a thermal container filled with hot coffee waiting accompanied by a newly purchased fresh pastry as a reward for a job well done.

After a few gulps of steaming coffee, we looked at each other and laughed. Al said, “I never thought I’d go grocery shopping at 5:00 in the morning, let alone have a good time doing so”. Al was thanked numerous times by folks who clearly could not have reached the top shelf or been able to bend over easily to pull from the bottom shelf. What an interesting morning, indeed!

RV Life

I’ll admit, I was relieved to snag that large package of toilet paper. I wasn’t feeling so confident two days earlier. You see, after living in the RV (less than 300 square feet) for the past seven years, I’ve developed a routine of sorts. Most RV refrigerator-freezers need to be defrosted routinely. I usually defrost mine about every three months and knowing this, I allow our frozen food supply to dwindle regularly. And with only a 6 cubic foot refrigerator, I’ve increased my Tetris skills drastically. Tetris skills are a prerequisite for RV living.

bee on a purple wildflowerLikewise, when it comes to keeping our little home on wheels (aka RV) organized and clean. I like to use up our provisions before restocking and I take full advantage of poorly stocked RV shelves and a near-empty fridge to clean, reorganize, and strategically plan out the restocking.

I promise you won’t find any packaged or canned food items in our RV that are close to the expiration date. I couldn’t promise that when we lived in our large custom sticks and bricks home with a huge walk-in pantry. My daughter loved pointing out the expired dates on some of the food items that I’d accumulated.

Yeah, when you have more room than you need, things get overlooked, but not so in our RV 5th wheel where storage space is a precious commodity.

With all that said, I was in the low on supplies process for some thorough spring cleaning when the coronavirus hit. I knew COVID-19 was serious, but I never anticipated the fear factor leading to barren shelves at the stores.

Fortunately, we still had three rolls of toilet paper and enough food for at least a couple of weeks. So, I didn’t panic … until I went to Walmart to pick up just a few things. I was smacked in the face with a new reality. I found myself asking, “What if we run out of toilet paper?”

I love my neighbors! It was a beautiful morning in the neighborhood and while my neighbor and I were chit-chatting about this new way of life, she informed me that she was so glad she stocked up on TP from Costco before this whole hoopla began. My ears perked up! Did she say she had lots of toilet paper? Before she could get out another sentence, I asked if I could buy a few rolls of TP from her. My urgency was knowing the fact that they decided to head back to their home in Michigan early and would be leaving soon. So, I didn’t feel I had time to waste.

“Of course”, she responded, “Isn’t that what neighbors do … help each other out?” She refused to take any money for the three rolls of toilet paper which didn’t sit well with me. So I gave her a bottle of hand soap from Bath & Body Works (I love their pump hand soaps). Yep, life has resorted to bartering for toilet paper. Talk about some interesting twists, turns, and ups and downs!

a little white church in a desert landscape

Stocked up

Well, after a few excursions to various stores, my cupboards are full, the fridge and freezer are full, and we pretty much have everything we need for the next month with the exception of fresh fruits and veggies which seem to be in adequate supply at the grocery stores … for now, anyway.

Adding a little levity

So what does one do in the event of no toilet paper? Use Bounce dryer sheets for a wrinkle-free, fresh-smelling bum that’ll put a bounce in your step! Okay, I’m only kidding. It won’t take the wrinkles out of your bum ūü§£

Let’s try and stay positive knowing this too shall pass. Sending good vibes and well wishes your way!
How are you dealing with current life?

think safety sign

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Gift Ideas for Him and Her Under $50

The holiday season is once again upon us and shopping for gifts is in full swing. I think I’m one of those rare people who enjoys the whole holiday shopping frenzy. It doesn’t matter if I’m strolling through stores or scrolling on the internet, I enjoy the Christmas gift shopping process.

Snow Mountain Ranch, renting a winter cabin in Colorado, #cabininthewoods
Are you in the holiday spirit? I am! When our children were young, this is where we used to spend Christmas – Granby, Colorado

This year, our small family has decided to keep Christmas gift-giving simple and stay within a budget-friendly range. As I was jotting down ideas and switching from my recipe search to gift idea search on the internet, I thought I’d share some products that I came across which I believe would make great gifts for him or her. Maybe you’ll find this post helpful with your own quest for the perfect holiday gift. (This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The cost is the same. I appreciate your support.)

Gift Ideas for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Whether I‚Äôm RVing in our 5th wheel with my husband or embarking on one of my crazy camping adventures with my daughter, there’s some equipment that I feel are an absolute must-have for any outdoor enthusiast. At the top of that list are a headlamp and flashlights. Tripping over a tree root in the dark is no fun ‚Ķ at least that‚Äôs what I’ve heardūüėČ And flashlights and headlamps make great stocking stuffers or box fillers.

A great gift idea for anyone, whether you RV or not, is an Emergency Weather Radio. You never know when a life-threatening storm will head our way. Weather conditions are definitely something we want to be kept up to date on and we can’t count on a Cell phone or WiFi signal working during those severe weather conditions. Another must-have and great gift idea for anyone is a multi-tool. My husband uses his regularly, and we gave both of our adult children one a few years ago for Christmas. My daughter used her multi-tool during our Zion camping trip … and maybe we used a few things from our first aid/survival kit as well, but I’ll never tell.

Gifts for enjoying the outdoors in comfort.

With the necessary stuff out of the way, let’s talk about some fun stuff. Although, these are still necessary in my book. I‚Äôd be lost without my outdoor camping chair and¬†throw blanket ‚Ķ gotta be comfy watching those sunsets during happy hour. We use and abuse our canvas chairs and end up replacing them every couple of years or so. Do you have a sports fan who loves tailgating? These chairs are perfect for camping, tailgating, and going to the beach.

And let‚Äôs not forget about quenching our thirst. I love these adventure enamel camping mugs for my morning coffee or campfire hot cocoa, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the stainless steel tumblers that are perfect for cold or hot beverages. Wine, anyone? These make the best wine glasses! But my most treasured beverage container is the large travel bottle that I take everywhere with me filled with hydrating water. When ya live in the desert half the year like I do (Phoenix, Arizona), staying hydrated is important.

Living in a tiny home like an RV where space is limited, storage is always an issue. It’s not like we have extra space to store multiple coolers. I found this collapsible cooler bag last year and absolutely love it. It came in super handy on Thanksgiving Day when we visited some fellow RVers and needed to bring/transport cold beer and deviled eggs.ūü¶ÉūüćļūüĆĶ

The cooler bag is also perfect for taking to the beach as are these versatile Turkish Bath and Beach Towels. Since these towels fold up small and dry fast, they are perfect for any traveler wanting to take their own towel along. Speaking of traveling, when my daughter and I visited Disneyland and she engaged in the Play Disney App, the app used up quite a bit of her phone battery. Fortunately, she had one of these External Cell Phone Battery packs to recharge her phone. Guess who put one of these on her Christmas list?

Gift ideas for air travelers

My son and his wife enjoy cruise ship vacations which usually require air travel and a little more forethought when it comes to packing. Here are some gift ideas I’ve gathered with them in mind.

Last-minute gift ideas

Ok, let’s face it, there are some people that are more challenging to shop for than others. When all else fails, I turn to food. Ah, but it’s a good idea to know the gift recipient’s tastes, dislikes, and potential food allergies.

Happy shopping!

Do you enjoy holiday shopping? Have you finished your shopping list? 

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Duluth – More than We Expected

Duluth – More than We Expected

Spending the summer in a place nowhere near a major city has its pluses and minuses. Our first ten days in Wisconsin’s Northwoods whizzed by. We had no trouble adjusting to small-town living or lake life … well, except for that annoying buzzing sound of Wisconsin’s state bird – the mosquito. ūü§£ Although, I think Minnesota shares that honor. Boy, they grow’em big up here, and there’s nothing more annoying than laying in bed at night hearing that buzzing sound around your ear.

But lake living is awesome. Yeah, living on lakefront property is pretty sweet, and we are most definitely enjoying every minute staying with family in this picturesque spot.

And speaking of family, upon our arrival the third week in June, Al’s sister asked for some suggestions in remodeling her kitchen. Well, suggestions turned into action and Al and I dove in with both feet. But finding materials and certain paint products would require a trip(s) to the big city of Duluth, Minnesota, a two-hour drive away from Hayward, Wisconsin.

A two-hour drive to an unfamiliar city is no problem for this traveling duo. Our shopping list was made, Google maps was reviewed, and the GPS was set up as a backup.

However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that this would not be our first time driving through Duluth. It would be our first time stopping. In years past, we drove through this city every summer on our way to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area located north of the little town of Grand Marais.

We’re having a great time this summer traveling down memory lane as we revisit sites from vacations past!

Exploring Duluth, Minnesota

At the westernmost tip of beautiful Lake Superior and along an international harbor sits Duluth, Minnesota. During the past six and a half weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to visit this historic city a few times, and with each visit, I’ve discovered this jewel of Minnesota offers more than we ever expected.

With each sojourn, we do our necessary shopping and then set off exploring. I won’t bore you with the shopping details. Let’s just say Home Depot, Menard’s, Sam’s Club, and Super One Foods usually has everything we’re looking for and then some. If errands take us longer than expected, I’m able to get my Chipotle fix for lunch. Oh, and we even managed to stop in at the Duluth Trading Company just so we can say we stopped and shopped.

The architecture and churches are amazing in Duluth. Parking was a challenge for us until we ventured further away from attractions which introduced us to more interesting sites.

Canal Park

Canal Park is the entertainment hub of Duluth. The old warehouse district has been converted into an attraction offering an array of restaurants, shops, cafes, and hotels. The building conversions began in the 1980s in an attempt to promote tourism. They did a great job and I’d say the project is a huge success if crowds are any indication. This is a must-see part of the city.

Some of Canal Park’s attractions include a 4.2-mile long lake walk, a lighthouse pier, the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, the Great Lakes Aquarium, a floating ship museum, and the famous Aerial Lift Bridge, Duluth’s landmark. Watching vessels from around the world enter/exit Duluth’s port is interesting to watch. You don’t realize how huge these ships/barges are until you stand near one.

I loved watching the Aerial Lift Bridge rise and then a 1,000-foot ship glide through the canal. Be warned … those horns are loud!

Parking near Canal Park can be a challenge for those of us driving big trucks. There are quite a few parking lots available for a modest fee of $3.00, but the lots are designed for regular size vehicles.

Leif Erikson Park

When I heard Duluth had a rose garden, I just had to see it for myself. I adore flowers!

Once again parking was an issue for us and we had to park several blocks away and walk. Ah, we needed the exercise anyway. The metered street parking was a bargain at twenty-five cents for 40 minutes. We loved the old buildings and partially brick-paved streets.

The garden did not disappoint. Unbeknownst to us, the blooms were at their peak according to locals (mid-July).

The Duluth Rose Garden is an extension of the Leif Erikson Park and offers a stunning arrangement of more than 3,000 rose bushes and other flowering plants.

Even my husband enjoyed walking around and reading the names of the various rose bushes. The park sits high above the lakeshore offering a beautiful view of Lake Superior and Canal Park in the distance.

Beyond the rose garden, we were even able to take a paved trail down to the shore of Lake Superior.

Enger Park

This park is a gem even though I had trouble finding it. I pride myself in my navigation skills, but feeling defeated, I resorted to the use of the GPS. In retrospect, I should’ve just followed the signs to the Enger Golf Course.

Ah, but once we arrived, it was all worth the getting turned around. Enger Park Tower and Gardens sits 600 feet above Lake Superior and provides a panoramic view of Duluth and the harbor. This park offers another stunning garden that planted a perpetual smile on my face.

Enger Park

Having spent the last twenty-some years living in either Colorado or Arizona where gardening is quite different than in the Midwest, I haven’t been around the shade-loving hostas in years. There are hundreds of hostas, perennials, and nearly 4,000 daffodils planted in Enger Park, plus a lovely Japanese garden.

The park and adjacent golf course were developed on land purchased with money donated by West End furniture dealer Bert Enger in 1921. His 1931 Will included more money for the park’s development, and in 1939 Enger Tower was built in the park in his honor. Today the park includes the American-Japanese Peace Bell, a gift from Duluth’s sister city of Ohara-Isumi, and serves as a popular location for weddings.

Al and I enjoyed sitting on a bench overlooking Duluth harbor and Canal Park. I wanted to stay for sunset, but alas, we had a two-hour drive to return home. So, home it was.

Next – a vacation from our vacation.

These visits to Duluth were never long enough. Thus, a plan was hatched. I’ll share more Northshore adventures in my next post.

I’ve missed gardens like these!

Trivia: Originally settled by the Sioux and Chippewa, French fur traders and explorers Radisson and Groseilliers were perhaps the first white men to see the present site of Duluth, Minnesota. Following them was Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Luth, the French adventurer for whom the city is named.

In 2014, Outdoor magazine held an online competition for the “best outdoor towns in America” and Duluth was the winner. Duluth topped 64 cities in a competition with six rounds of voting. Trailing second to Duluth was Provo, Utah. The 64 favorite towns ranged from mountain escapes to beachside getaways and powder hot spots with available outdoor recreation being the focus.

In Duluth, the summers are comfortable, and the winters are freezing, snowy, and windy. It’s partly cloudy year-round. Over the course of a year, the temperature varies from 7¬įF¬†to¬†78¬įF and can dip below -15¬įF¬†or above¬†88¬įF. Based on tourists, the best time of year to visit Duluth for warm-weather activities is from¬†early July¬†to¬†late August.

I’m sure driving these hilly streets during the winter can get dicey.

During our short visits, we didn’t have time to explore any of the fabulous hiking/biking trails available, but I have read about them. It’s all about outdoor recreation in Duluth all year long. Although the locals love their winter activities every bit as much as activities the rest of the year, I’ll stick to visiting during the summer months. Considering I’ve become a winter desert dweller with reptile-like blood, I can’t imagine enjoying the harsh winter weather around here let alone driving the ice-covered hilly roads. Yep, Duluth is a great place to visit … in the summer … and maybe even the fall, but I’ll leave the windy, snowy, icy, below zero degrees Fahrenheit temps to the hearty locals!

Since my posts are usually a month or two behind real-time, follow me on Instagram for the latest up to date happenings @ livelaughrv

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A Weekend in Sedona, Arizona

A geological marvel … one of America’s most beautiful places … multi-hued red rock formations jutting upwards from the high desert floor creating a mesmerizing setting … ah,yes … I’m talking about stunningly beautiful Sedona, Arizona.

Sedona Arizona
Sun faded prayer flags contrast against the red rocks

Red Rock Country is unique and exudes a sense of spirituality along with a mood that changes hourly with the light. It’s no wonder this majestic place attracts 2 to 4 million tourists a year. Surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest land, visitors to Sedona have easy access to plenty of outdoor recreation, but Sedona is equal parts rugged, equal parts resort.

With such an abundance of public land access, the availability of experiencing this amazing landscape is endless. There are trails for hiking and biking, along with plenty of 4×4 gravel/dirt roads perfect for scenic Jeep tours or ATV excursions. Meandering in the back country among red rock pinnacles, spires, buttes and domes is an absolute must for any visitor, and yet, you‚Äôre never far from the conveniences of town.

back country near Sedona Arizona
Exploring the back country near Sedona, Arizona

A birthday weekend …

It was the third weekend in September, and although a few weeks past my actual birth date, it was a great time of year to visit Sedona and celebrate my birthday together with family. This trip was actually all planned by my children as part of a gift … awe!

Since our daughter, son, and daughter-in-law all had to work that Friday in Phoenix, we didn’t check into our double-suite condo like lodging until 7:00 p.m., but that still left us a few hours for some socializing over cocktails and snacks before it was time to head off to bed.¬†Sedona is less than a two hours drive and about 116 miles north of Phoenix, Arizona. We stayed at a lovely resort called¬†Sedona Summit.

Saturday morning, my daughter and I were out the door by 8:00 a.m. with cameras in hand. As many times as we’ve visited Sedona, there’s always something new on our list that we look forward to exploring.

Sedona Arizona Spiritual journey
Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park, Sedona, Arizona

First stop, spiritual enlightenment

Located near the base of Thunder Mountain is a place for meditation and spiritual renewal.  Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park offers its visitors spiritual transformation and healing through the fascinating architecture and geometry of the stupa. Stupas are one of the oldest forms of sacred architecture and Buddhist practitioners have built them to promote spiritual deepening, healing, prosperity, and peace.

Filled with hundreds of prayers for peace, sacred relics and ritual offerings, the Amitabha Stupa is a vortex of enlightened presence and blessings.

Stupa Sedona Arizona Buddism

Ashton and I were fascinated with this Buddist park, but then again, anything associated with Nepal or the Himalayas seems to captivate our attention and that includes all the Prayer Flags. During her college days, Ashton and her roommate had prayer flags hung around their tiny dorm room. The prayer flags belonged to her roommate and were actually bought in Nepal during a family trip.

My daughter and I share a secret interest in someday traveling to Nepal – a land far away. In reality, I think this Sedona peace park or the time we went to Disney World and experienced Expedition Everest is the closest we’ll ever get to Kathmandu, and in reality, I’m okay with that … but shhh, don’t tell my daughter ūüėČ

(To enlarge photos, click on any image in the photo gallery)

Discovering ancient history

Next on our agenda was heading into the back country in search of ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs. We originally wanted to visit the Palatki Heritage Site, but hikes are done via a tour, and since Ashton and I were already running a little late, we opted to visit the less popular Honanki ruins where you’re able to stroll without a guide.

After the split in the road (one way to Palatki and another way to Honanki), the road to the Honanki Ruins gets a bit rough in spots, and I was glad to be driving a vehicle that handles these rough roads perfectly. We did see the occasional car, but we mostly saw¬†Jeep Tours or ATV’s. Here’s a quote from the National Park website about the road condition: “Those with high-clearance vehicles and/or a sense of adventure can turn ….. the compensation for abusing your motor vehicle are wonderful views of the red rock formations that Sedona is so famous for“. Alrighty then!

A final note on the road conditions. Older publications will tell you the route to the Palatki Site from Dry Creek Road is rough. Road conditions have improved substantially within the past year. The Enchantment Resort has brought new development to this end of Sedona and the road is now paved beyond Fay Canyon and Doe Mountain Trailheads. Once the pavement ends, the gravel road is still easily accessed by most vehicles all the way to the Palatki Heritage Site. However, you might want to check with the National Park Service for the latest up to date road conditions.

Once at the Honanki site, we enjoyed a short hike to the cliff dwellings and slowly toured the area taking in the ruins and interesting rock art. Could the ancient cliff dwellers be telling us that Yeti, the abominable snowman, did exist? Another connection to Nepal?

The Honanki cultural site is relatively small and my daughter and I spent less than an hour exploring the area, but we were glad we made the long, bumpy trek out to the site. The drive was all part of the adventure and taking in the beautiful landscape.

Retail Therapy and Dining

Once Ashton and I returned to our lodging, we grabbed a bite to eat with the rest of the family and then the five of us headed to the Tlaquepaque Shopping Village for a little retail therapy.

I love the architecture of this place and always find interesting shops and galleries to stroll through. During a previous visit, my daughter and I enjoyed a little wine tasting, but this time, we stumbled upon Spirits & Spice. This unique shop had the entire family engaged in tasting, and it did not disappoint. I assure you, none of us left the store empty-handed.

Dining … since we had a full kitchen at our accommodations, during this particular visit, we ate in most of the time, but we did enjoy a yummy Sunday breakfast with a great view at the Wildflower Bread Company. Another fun stop for us was at The Art of Wine for a little wine tasting. My daughter ended up buying some Arizona wine.

Restaurants we’ve eaten at in the past: The Coffee Pot Restaurant is ideal for a hearty breakfast and serves up some of the best coffee. I enjoyed the coffee so much that I even bought a bag of their beans to brew back at the RV. Javelina’s Cantina is one of Al’s favorite lunch spots. Oaxaca Restaurant is another tasty Mexican restaurant if you happen to be strolling Main Street. And for those looking for specialty foods, Chocola Tree is worth checking out. Their outdoor patio is very zen with a hippie vibe.

Final thoughts on Sedona

Sedona is most definitely a tourist town and on weekends traffic can be congested and challenging, but if you can get beyond the hoards of people, you’ll discover a sense of history, beauty, and well-being like non-other.

The history of this land goes way back to various Indian civilizations as evidenced by the Honanki ruins; AD 1150-1350. The first Europeans (Spanish) explored the Verde Valley in the mid 1500’s and the first Anglo settled in the area in 1876.

And we can’t ignore the energizing vortexes which attract believers from around the world to experience these mystical forces.¬†What is a vortex? They are thought to be swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. These are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy. Many people feel inspired, recharged or uplifted after visiting a vortex.

Whether you believe in the power of a vortex or not, I think we can all agree, Sedona is unique, and worth at least one visit. As for my family and I, we aren’t done exploring Sedona, Arizona, and are already planning our next visit. Yes Sedona, we’ll be back!

vortex energy Sedona Arizona

Top 7 things to do in Sedona

  1. Hike or bike the 300 plus miles of trails. You’ll find a trail for every level of ability, but do note, the trailhead parking lots fill up quickly.¬†Sedona’s secret 7 hiking trails.
  2. Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross and marvel at this unique structure built into the rock. For more spiritual enlightenment, visit the Amitabha Stupa & Peace Parkand enjoy the peaceful grounds of this 14-acre Buddhist park (open to all faiths)
  3. Dine at one of many restaurants. Finding quality food is not an issue around here, and most recently, Sedona has emerged as a destination for wine enthusiasts.
  4. Shop historical uptown Sedona (also known as Main Street) or at the architecturally pleasing Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. (pronounced: Tuh-locka-pa-key, I think)
  5. Take in the incredible red rock landscape by enjoying a Jeep or helicopter tour.
  6. Visit a vortex. Regarded by Native Americans as sacred, Sedona continues to be recognized as a place of healing and spiritual renewal. Many come to experience the vortex centers of Sedona to tap into spiritual energy.
  7. Or simply relax around a luxury resort. Sparkling pools and rejuvenating spas abound.

Sedona Arizona

Click here for a map of Sedona.

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Prayer Flags ‚Äď Traditional Five Elements Arizona: The Grand Canyon State (Exploring the States)

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 ūüė£

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¬†ūüėŹ

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‚Äôre 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 ūüėܬ† 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?

‚ÄúHappiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē 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 ūüėČ

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

Holiday Shopping Ideas

Tis the season!

The holiday decorations are in full twinkle mode and they’ve put me in the holiday spirit, and that means it’s time to go¬†shopping.¬†¬†When Black Friday rolled around, my daughter and I entered our first store before 8:00 a.m. … with coffee in hand, of course.

Gambels Quail

Our lists were short, and although we didn’t need to brave the masses on Black Friday, it’s kind of our mother – daughter tradition. I don’t enjoy shopping as much as I once did, but I still love strolling the stores around the holiday season, especially with my daughter.

Chili Chocolate Festival Desert Botanical Garden
Ashton buys some locally grown honey at the Chili and Chocolate Festival at the  Desert Botanical Garden

However, we did start our shopping a couple of weeks before Black Friday when we visited the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden. The garden was hosting a Chili and Chocolate Festival which was too intriguing to miss. Nothing like shopping with a glass of wine in hand while chocolate samples are being passed out. Oh yum! Note to self to attend next years event. Is there such a thing as too much chocolate? I think not!

Shop till you drop
Don’t shop till you drop!

All those extra calories were easily burned off on our Black Friday shopping excursion when Ashton and I walked over 6 miles and 13,000 steps. Between all those steps, we managed to squeeze in a tasty meal at the Yard House and eventually checked off most of the items on our lists.

We had a fun day and didn’t think the crowds here in Phoenix were too overwhelming. We’ve experienced a lot worse during earlier years while shopping near Denver on Black Friday. Hmm, wonder if more folks are choosing to shop online.

I do have a few more gifts to buy, but I too intend to make those purchases online. Yep, Black Friday was fun, but I’ll let my fingers do the walking while fulfilling the rest of my Christmas list. After all, I don’t intend to shop till I drop! Although, after cyber Monday, I may experience signs of carpal tunnel ūüėÜ

Have you started shopping yet? Do you need some help with ideas? I’ve put together a list of some of our favorite items. Please note, these are affiliate links.

Desert Botanical Garden Phoenix
This photo was taken mid November in Phoenix. Flowers bloom year round in the desert.

Camera Gear

Okay, for those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you know how much I love photography, but I have a hard time calling myself a photographer and refer to myself as a snap-shooter. Sure there are times I pull out the tripod and really focus on composition and camera settings, but that’s not the norm for me. Most of the time, I hand hold the camera, set it to auto or program, and snap away. I do have a ton of fun doing so and don’t take my photography too seriously. With that in mind, here are a few of my recommendations. Note – I do have an entire page dedicated to my camera gear.

If you want to take your photography up a notch but don’t want to be bothered with changing camera lenses, this Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ300K might be the perfect fit for you. I shoot with an earlier model and absolutely love my camera. My latest edition is a PANASONIC LUMIX DC-ZS70K.¬†This is a powerhouse of a camera in a little package. All of my photos shared on this post were taken with the PANASONIC LUMIX DC-ZS70K

I do travel with a couple of inexpensive tripods РVANGUARD  Tripod  and JOBY GorillaPod

I love gear bags. Thank goodness I don’t have extra storage space. When we moved into the RV full-time my handbag/purse addiction got purged along with everything else ūüė≤ But gotta have someplace to put the camera gear and keep it protected. Ah, so many cute camera bags these days.

In the Kitchen

We don’t go out to eat very often, much preferring to eat at home. However, having a small kitchen can present a few obstacles, one of which is storage. Thus, I’ve had to pick my priorities as to items I can’t live without …. BUT …¬†there are items we can live without, but oh so fun to have.

RV Related Gift Ideas …

And more gift ideas ….


Hope I’ve given you some gift ideas whether it be for a loved one or yourself. I know there’s a couple of items on this list that I’ll be ordering.

I’ve tried to add these links to pop up in a new tab, but not all cooperated ūü§Ē If you get taken away from my site, hit your back arrow to return.

Happy shopping and just a reminder,

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.

Wish me luck on cyber Monday ….

Salt River Arizona
My search for fall colors continues – not much luck for me this year.

Waterfalls and Jumping off a Bridge

Life has been anything but boring lately.¬† This summer, I find myself living in a small town with a population of less than 1,000.¬† Now keep in mind, I’ve been to plenty of small towns including the one my husband grew up in located in northern Illinois, but I’ve never spent this much time living in the hinterland.¬†craters of the moon

I’m not complaining, but I grew up in¬†the Chicago suburbs with excellent shopping mere minutes away and even our RV travels keep us somewhat near a major city (whether parked or driving by).¬†¬†So now here I am in Arco, Idaho, with the¬†nearest Walmart, Target, Kroger, Home Depot, etc. over an hours drive away which requires me to do a little better planning than I’m accustomed to.¬† I’m notorious for going to the store and coming home with everything but the one thing I went there for.¬† When we’re in Phoenix, Denver,¬†Corpus Christi or any of our other favorite places, running back to the store is no big deal.¬† It’s a big deal around here, especially when my drive to the store looks like this…

My drive to Walmart
My drive to go shopping!
Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?
Just a little further!
Just a little further!

The little town of Arco does offer a mom and pop grocery store and in a pinch I’m grateful they usually have what I’m looking for.¬† I do most of my major shopping about every seven to tens days.¬†¬† Since I have a six cubic foot refrigerator, stocking up has a¬†whole new¬†meaning¬†when compared¬†to¬†having the luxury of¬†a residential size refrigerator.¬† Some planning and adeptness with puzzles goes a long way when it comes to living in small spaces.

After ‘stocking up’, Al doesn’t even attempt to open the frig door for fear of one of those puzzle pieces falling out which usually leads to a domino effect¬†with half the frig items on the floor.¬† ¬†“Watch those toes!”¬† ¬†Nope, no dull moments around here.

Since I’d already shopped a couple of times in the¬†big city¬†of Idaho Falls (population 60,000), I thought I’d head in another direction – Twin Falls (population 46,000).¬† Not only did I have my long list of shopping items with me, I had directions to two sites I just HAD TO SEE.

BASE jumpers - Perrine Bridge
BASE jumpers – Perrine Bridge

To get to Twin Falls, I had to drive over the Perrine Bridge Рone of those must see sites on my list.  And oh, what a sight!  Yes, the bridge itself is a work of art, but the draw is the jumpers РBASE jumpers to be precise.

No, that is not me saying, "WEEEE!"
No, that is not me saying, “WEEEE!”

This landmark bridge spans the Snake River Canyon just north of the town of Twin Falls, Idaho.¬† It’s a four-lane truss arch span about 1,500 feet in length (457m) and sits 486 feet above the river (148m).¬† Folks from around the world (about 5,000 crazy people a year) visit the Perrine Bridge to literally jump off the bridge.¬† It’s legal, hassle free, and no permit required.

Two at a time!
Two at a time!
Everyone has their own style of jumping
Everyone has their own style of jumping

BASE jumping is similar to sky diving but instead of jumping out of a plane, a thrill seeker will jump off a fixed object like a bridge and deploy a parachute.¬† BASE is an acronym for buildings, antennas, spans, and Earth –¬† BASE jumpers practice their sport from any of these elevated places.

Note the jumper - black/green chute over the river.
Note the jumper – black/green chute over the river.

As I stood there watching, I wondered how does one go about practicing this sport?¬† It’s not as if you can jump right in (or rather off), go splat, and request a do over.¬† Yes, people do die doing this and I noticed at the landing point along the shore of the river that there does¬†appear to be a memorial, although I didn’t confirm.

Looks like a memorial near the landing site
Looks like a memorial near the landing site

There’s a beautiful, new visitor center¬†near the southwest end of the bridge with plenty of parking for any size vehicle.¬† The views of the bridge and canyon are spectacular and¬†there’s easy access to the trail along the canyon rim.¬† The trail goes under the bridge and there’s a pedestrian walk-way on both sides of the bridge to take in the amazing scenery.¬† The visitor center is a year-round launching point for those interested in parachuting to the canyon floor.¬†¬†So¬†are you ready¬†to jump¬†off¬†a bridge?¬† Schedule a jump with Tandem Base – I’ll watch ūüėÜ

WildflowersSince I had a long list of shopping to do, I parked by the Best Buy on the southeast side of the bridge instead of the visitor center and stopped to watch the jumpers in between my stops into TJ Maxx, Best Buy, and Sportsman’s Warehouse.

Soon¬†I was off to my other “must see” site.

The weather was so, so with storms rolling in and out and I¬†began to wonder if¬†it would be worth the stop.¬† I rolled down my window in the pouring rain for the attendant to collect the $3.00 entrance fee.¬† I’m pretty sure it should’ve been free when I showed him my National Parks Pass, but he said no, it was only the senior park pass for free admittance.¬† With both of us getting drenched¬†it¬†wasn’t¬†worth questioning any further and I handed over the three bucks and drove on.¬† The moment I had the truck parked, the storm clouds moved on and the falls presented¬†its visitors with a beautiful rainbow.

Shoshone Falls
Shoshone Falls

Shoshone Falls is quite often referred to as the Niagara of the West, and tumbles 212 feet to the canyon floor – 50 feet further than the famous Niagara.¬† Spring is the best time to visit Shoshone Falls.¬† Later in the year, cliffs may be nearly dry, as most of the river’s flow is diverted to produce hydroelectric power and irrigate Idaho’s fertile farmlands.¬† Here’s a link to a live webcam to see just how much water is flowing at any given time.Shoshone Falls

Shoshone FallsThere’s plenty of hiking opportunities along the canyon rim including a hike to the famous Evel Knievel jump site. ¬†Because of the weather,¬†I personally didn’t see the Knievel jump site or hike any of the trails. ¬†I understand the jump site is basically a dirt ramp remnant from¬†Knievel’s failed attempt to jump over the Snake River.¬†¬†I¬†was a little disappointed the weather was so inclement.¬† Once the¬†raindrops started falling again, accompanied by thunder,¬†I knew that¬†was my cue to¬† move on and run those errands.Shoshone FallsThis is when my day¬†got real¬†interesting.¬† Remember that long shopping list?¬† Well, I still needed to go to Walmart and Costco.¬† I had a general idea where they were located but for some reason I turned left when I should’ve turned right.¬† It was late afternoon on a Saturday.¬†¬†The rain was pouring and traffic was congested.¬† I drove through the historic downtown area and immediately realized my faux pas.¬†¬† “Hmm, where to turn, where to turn?”¬† There seemed to be a lot of traffic¬†heading north on¬†a particular road. Thus, I followed thinking it had to be a main¬†road that would¬†put me back in the right direction¬†and help lead¬†to the¬†general area I¬†was looking for.

MarmotOops, I was almost at the plant gate showing up for second shift.¬† I¬†quickly did a U-turn and then another turn.¬† I knew I needed to go in a northeast direction but with the heavy rain and dark skies, I couldn’t find the sun to verify my direction.

I usually have a great sense of direction, and¬† I did¬†feel I was traveling north, but the signs and poor visibility had me second guessing myself.¬† I kept thinking to myself…. I’ve successfully navigated cities two to three times larger than Twin Falls.¬† It can’t be that difficult to figure out where to go.

I soon found myself out in the country with the cows and critters¬†and no place to stop and ask for directions (not that I’m quick to ask for directions¬†– we definitely suffer from role reversal in this household).¬† I rarely admit to being lost.¬† I get turned around all the time, but not lost. In this instance I was truly uncomfortable and not sure where I was.¬† Yes, I was lost!¬† I pulled off on the side of the road to ask Siri for help only for her to respond with a “I’m sorry, I can’t connect.¬† Try again later”….¬† are you kidding me, no cell service!¬† And Hildi, our¬†annoying GPS, was back at the RV getting updated.

Shoshone FallsI pulled out the Atlas, which wasn’t much help either.¬† It¬†only confirmed I needed to go northeast.¬† ¬†I sure could’ve used an Idaho Benchmark Atlas which offers a lot more detail. (We have Benchmark’s for AZ and CO)

Finally, I turned around, retraced some steps, and pointed the truck east thinking I’d hit town eventually, which I did.¬† I finally made it to Walmart¬†although frazzled and tired.¬†I quickly filled the shopping cart with only the items on my list.¬† After all,¬†¬†I still needed to go¬†to Costco for the RV Park owner’s list.

Would you believe it took me over fifteen minutes to navigate the Costco parking lot?¬† Congestion was worse than I’ve ever seen in Phoenix.¬† I was so ready to head home and blow off this stop,¬†but¬†I made a commitment to pick up a list of items.¬† Don’t even get me started on the check out lines.¬†¬†With all¬†my errands and sightseeing complete, I hit the road for my nearly two hour drive home, and finally made it back to the RV¬†shortly after¬†7:00 p.m.

Let’s see….¬†I didn’t jump off a bridge.¬† I didn’t slide down a waterfall.¬† I managed to get myself un-lost without any help.¬† I didn’t go postal in Costco.¬† And I made it home in one piece without any road rage.¬† All in all,¬†I’d say it was¬†a great day!

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow! What a Ride!” – Hunter S. Thompson

Idaho Benchmark Road & Recreation Atlas

I finally found some good hiking socks!Thorlos Womens Lite Hiking Thin Padded Ankle – Low Cut Socks | LTHMXW

Computer Woes!

Change is an interesting subject.¬† Most times I embrace change whole heartedly.¬†¬† That shouldn’t be a surprise considering a mobile lifestyle is all about change.¬† But then there are times or situations that I resist change as much as possible.

Sunset over Lake Pleasant
Sunset over Lake Pleasant

I was resisting the thought of getting a new computer and learning Windows 10.  Just thinking about it had me walking, rather running, in another direction.  The mere thought of dealing with technology change almost had me breaking out in hives.  If there was a word depicting the opposite of Geek, that would describe me to a tee.  I am definitely not a techie.  With that said, the past month I chose to play ostrich and avoid the subject by leaving the computer off.  I must admit, the break from the internet allowed me to complete a bunch of projects around the RV as well as get in a fair amount of hiking.

flowers and beeI knew months ago¬†my laptop was slowly doing a death dance, but I loved the old gal.¬† She and I got along famously for years and I wasn’t interested in changing things up.¬† She loyally cared for my thousands of digital photos, put out hundreds of blog posts, and supported all my documents.

Her keys were worn to the point that half the letters were no longer legible making it impossible for Al to use my laptop (he’s never managed to memorize the keyboard and still pecks away at the keys ūüėÜ ).¬† She sported a huge crack along one side that seemed to be growing and her screen was no longer firmly attached, but we were a comfortable fit.

Day in and day out, she’d sit on my lap providing endless hours of entertainment. Perhaps too many hours.ButterflyI had no intention of replacing her.¬† Quite frankly, I didn’t want a new computer, but after months of babying her and refreshing her to factory status, she just wasn’t up to the task at hand.¬†¬†She was tired and wearing out, and when I could no longer upload my wildflowersphotos, I had to embrace the thought that change was necessary.¬† Plus, I was missing you guys!

I shopped, then shopped some more. I’m usually a very decisive shopper, but not this time.¬† Google became my best friend enlightening me on the differences between Intel’s i3, i5, and i7 processors.¬† A Mac was out of the question.¬†¬†First, it wasn’t within¬†my budget, and second I felt that would be too much of a change.¬† Although last year’s change from an Android to an iPhone was ezzie peezie and I love my iPhone 5, I just wasn’t going to¬†go from a PC to a Mac at this point and time.

Cowboy mounted shooting
navigating obstacles can be fun!

It’s been a week and my new HP Pavilion laptop and I are getting along swell.¬† Windows 10 wasn’t the navigation nightmare I thought it might be.¬† Yes, it’s different, and yes, the first few days I was Googling “how to”¬†a lot, but I haven’t broken out in sweats or hives due to the change.¬† I’ve even been having fun setting the new computer up.

We’re still closely monitoring our data usage considering we almost maxed out our 30 gigs last month and I was hardly on the internet.¬† Apparently, Al’s computer and my old computer¬†had programs running in the background that were gobbling up data.¬† Thus, my internet presence was throttled severely.¬† I’m hoping to be back blogging soon and am starting to catch up on all your latest posts.¬† I’m still a little slow with the new gal, but the more time we spend together, the more familiar we’ll get and I’ll soon be sharing¬†plenty of¬†photos¬†of the¬†desert blooming.¬† You’ve been warned!

sunset over Lake Pleasant, Peoria AZ
sunset over Lake Pleasant, Peoria AZ

For those of you curious, this is the laptop I ended up getting….
HP Pavilion 15t 15.6-Inch Touchscreen Laptop (6th Gen Intel Core i5-6200u Processor, 8GB DDR3L RAM, 1TB HDD, Windows 10), Natural Silver

Flexibility is key

I’ve discovered that there’s a major difference between going on vacation versus living a mobile lifestyle.¬† A vacation has a definitive beginning and ending with very little to no flexibility.¬† A mobile lifestyle¬†offers oodles of¬†flexibility.

"Life is a beautiful ride" I enjoyed window shopping at La Canterra
“Life is a beautiful ride” I enjoyed window shopping at La Cantera

As a matter of fact, flexibility is key to enjoying this full-time RVing lifestyle.¬† After all, we’re pulling/driving our home full-time and arriving to our next destination safely and fully intact is always the goal.¬† With that said, a key component to a long travel day is the weather.¬† The ability to change travel plans on a whim¬†based on¬†the weather is wonderful.

Al and I had allowed ourselves fourteen days to travel the 1,165 miles (1,872km) from Rockport, Texas to Phoenix, Arizona.¬† That gave us the flexibility to roll with the weather, as well as¬†give us¬†options; get to Phoenix a week early, or take our time Rockport egretmeandering along the way, or¬†extend our stay in Rockport, which we seriously thought about – considering¬†I wasn’t quite ready to bid farewell to the scenery¬†OR the birds.

But that weather…. winter weather at that, made the decision for us.¬† We hit the road while good road conditions prevailed.¬† Plus, we usually prefer driving through major cities on a Saturday or Sunday.¬† Sunday morning (January 31st) had us navigating through San Antonio, Texas¬†toward the¬†northwest part of town without issue.¬† We settled into the Elk’s Lodge for what we thought would be a quick overnight stay.

That evening, we easily made a change of plans while reviewing the weather and road conditions for Interstate 10.  High wind warnings accompanied by brown out conditions (blowing dirt) followed by freezing rain along Interstate 10 in west Texas and New Mexico had us hanging out in San Antonio for an extra night, then two.

Shops at La Cantera, San Antonio, Texas
Shops at La Cantera, San Antonio, Texas

Ah, what’s a gal to do parked in a less than scenic parking lot without a vehicle at her disposal?¬† How about¬†visit the Shops at La Canteraneighboring mall for a little retail therapy and architectural photography?¬† The Shops at La Cantera¬†did not disappoint.

The weather was gorgeous which allowed me to hike this beautiful outdoor mall a couple of times.  While strolling the mall, I enjoyed the window shopping, the trickling sounds of water features, and the fragrant smell of all the lush vegetation. Shops at La Cantera

Although the mall had all the usual stores, the architecture was anything but boring.¬† There was a unique feel – a combination of new, yet old.¬† I think it was the blending of materials and angles that attracted my attention.¬† One minute I was walking on concrete, then the next I¬†was¬†moseying across¬†cobblestone pavers, then it was on to ceramic tile, or stone, or slate…. and that’s what was happening just¬†under my feet.Shops at La Cantera

Overhead was another visual delight; a¬†combination of canopies, overhangs, or open blue sky adding another layer of ambiance.¬† Each store front had its own special detail, wall color, and finish.¬† Some of the stone used throughout the outdoor mall had a resemblance to that of the Alamo.shops at la canteraI must admit, for a split second I felt a little guilty about being in San Antonio and spending all my time at¬†the Shops at La Cantera.¬† This city offers so many fabulous things to see and do, but since we weren’t unhooking the truck from the 5th wheel, driving anywhere was not an option.¬† Plus, during shops at la canteraprevious visits to San Antonio, we’d already¬†visited the River Walk, Alamo, and Missions.

The Shops at La Cantera is a rather large mall, which allowed me to get in plenty of exercise, but lead to working up an appetite.  The day before departure, I retrieved hubby, and we were off to visit Penny at the Cheesecake Factory.  Their large size entrees are perfect for taking half the meal home providing lunch on the road the following day.  Yum!

Our flexible schedule allowed us¬†to avert inclement weather, and extend our¬†stay in San Antonio.¬† The delay¬†was indeed pleasurable and I might have even pulled out of town¬†with a few new items in my already full closet, but I’m not admitting anything ¬†ūüėČShops at La Cantera

With blue skies and dry roads, we were on the road again.  And for anyone who has ever driven across Texas knows, it goes on for what seems forever.  We try to avoid staying in Van Horn, Texas, but we were on a mission to head west as quickly as san antoniopossible in an attempt to avoid the next wave of weather expected to hit this part of the country.

It was a 6-7 hour travel day between San Antonio and Van Horn, Texas (431 miles or 694 km).¬† We found a less than memorable campground to overnight in since the Walmart is out of the question.¬† Yep, no overnighting at the Walmart allowed in this town.¬† Van Horn? – ¬†you know the saying, “if you can’t say anything nice……..”.

The next morning, we along with the rest of the RV’s were quick to exit Van Horn.¬† We made it through El Paso and into New Mexico and I was hugging rocks by early afternoon ……

Adios Texas - until we meet again!
Adios Texas – until we meet again!

 

That’s a wrap!

There’s a major up side to returning to familiar territory.¬† I think we can all relate; we¬†go on vacation to some new and exciting place and have such a wonderful time that we can’t wait to return again and again and again.¬† And although that¬†may mean¬†we’re not exploring¬†other exciting destinations, that doesn’t mean new discoveries aren’t made.Rockport Texas

To me, it’s kind of like watching a movie for the second or third time.¬† Character lines are heard that may have missed the first go around, or¬†there’s a¬†better understanding of a plot.¬† I feel, some movies are actually better the second time around.

I think the same can be said¬†about¬†traveling to a familiar place.¬† This was our third January spent in the Rockport, Texas, area and our best visit yet.¬†¬†I’ll be the first to admit, this is a place I probably wouldn’t recommend to most folks unless one’s interests are either birding,¬†photography, or sportsman activities¬†(fishing/hunting).¬† Considering Al and I enjoy that stuff, it works perfectly for us.Rockport

For those more interested in beaches, quaint shops, and plenty of dining options; Port Aransas on Mustang Island is the place to go.  I even found myself visiting the island three times during the month of January exploring some of my favorite places.

Mustang Island and the Corpus Christi area hold special memories for Al and me individually.¬† During Al’s¬†Navy days, he¬†was stationed in Corpus Christi and the aircraft carrier he was trained to land a plane¬†on has now been turned into a museum.¬† My memories center around my parents and their RVing days.¬† It was not uncommon for the kids and me¬†to visit my parents during their winter sojourn to Mustang Island.¬† Fond memories, indeed.Rockport Fulton Texas

Back to Rockport – Fulton and my new discoveries … these two quaint Texas coastal communities¬†offer plenty of options to keep me entertained (in addition to my birding, that is).¬† After a two-year renovation, the Fulton Mansion was once again open to the public and at the top of my list to visit.¬† This 1870’s French inspired home has been beautifully restored. (click on any photo to enlarge into a slide show)

 

I found the self-guided tour of the mansion interesting as I was transported back in time.¬† One of the rooms on the second¬†floor was left as original as possible showcasing damaged lath and plaster walls.¬† Parts of the ceiling and flooring were also left exposed to share some unique materials used in the construction.¬† I never would’ve thought¬†to use¬†sand and seashells as insulation between floors.¬† My Real Estate background had me reading each word displayed regarding ownership of the property and the prices each party paid.¬† Back in the 1960’s the front yard was actually an RV park and all the historical photos were extremely entertaining.

Touring the grounds alone is also worthwhile with its wind swept Oak Trees, manicured garden, and serene ocean view.Rockport Texas

There was more history for me to discover in downtown Rockport.¬† Since I didn’t have anything to shop for, I strolled the main street looking for things to photograph.¬† Architectural photography remains a challenge for me, so I’m always looking¬†for opportunities to practice.

Shopping in Rockport, Texas - quaint, unique shops and interesting structures
Shopping in Rockport, Texas – quaint, unique shops and interesting structures

No shortage here of things to photograph as all the buildings are unique and one of a kind.¬† And just because I didn’t have any knickknacks¬†to shop for doesn’t mean this former shopaholic didn’t step into a shop or two.

Most of the shops cater to the tourist crowd, even the local Ace Hardware store gets in on the action.¬† Aside from¬†exploring the little shops in the downtown area, I found myself visiting¬†stores throughout the community.¬† Stores I normally wouldn’t¬†visit if it hadn’t been for my quest to find a pair of rubber boots.¬† You see,¬†I was in dire need of a pair of rain boots if I was to go out on the boat with Dennis.¬† His funky little boat required that I board from the water and the temps were way to cold for my Keen’s, thus the need for boots.¬† But not just any old rubber boot would do.¬† Come on, they had to be somewhat fashionable after all.

Visiting the local Garden and Feed store had me longing for a home with a yard. That feeling was quickly passed though :-)
Visiting the local Garden – Feed store had me longing for a home with a yard. That thought quickly passed ūüôā

Finding rubber boots wasn’t an issue in this coastal community.¬† It was the fashionably cute part that was difficult.¬† I wound up running all over town, including the hardware store, feed store, stores an hour away in Corpus Christi, and eventually turned to Amazon.¬† Every time I found a pair of boots I liked, they didn’t have my size!BBQ

Whew…. all that shopping had me working up an appetite and this year’s new restaurant discovery was just five minutes up the road from our RV Park.¬† Stevie Lew’s is¬†a locally owned,¬†family run business with everything homemade.¬† My chicken BBQ sandwich was delicious as were the chicken tacos that I tested on visit number two.

Fresh roasted coffee beans
Fresh roasted coffee beans

They even¬†roast¬†their own coffee beans and it smelled wonderful.¬† I forgot to buy some coffee on my way out ūüė¶¬† Next time!¬† See, there’s always a reason to return.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful markets around here.¬† Texas is home to a grocery store chain called H.E.B.¬† I’m always able to find what I need at a reasonable price and the employees are usually¬†very helpful and friendly.¬† I’ve never had a bad experience at a H.E.B.¬† And then there are¬†all the local¬†seafood market’s which need to be explored.¬† We pulled out of Rockport, Texas,¬†with every square inch of our RV freezer filled with fresh shrimp and fish.photography

Our time along the Gulf Coast¬†flew by, and I’ll admit, we weren’t ready to leave.¬† That said, we’ve talked about¬†spending two months along the coast next winter, but then again, the desert has a strong pull.¬† Ah, we’ll need to sit down and do a little scheduling and time management.¬† There are worse¬†things to contemplate!vultures

Last year I did a post on the places we¬†camped in this part of Texas.¬† Click here if you’d like more information on camping options.

So, I think¬†I’ve about summed¬†up our time along the¬†Texas Gulf Coast –¬†shopping, museums, photography, fishing, hunting, birding, photography, eating, boating, sunsets, sunrises,¬†did I mention¬†photography.¬† That’s a wrap!¬†¬†Next up,¬†we’re back in the desert southwest .photography

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