What I Love about RVing

There are lots of things that I love about RVing and near the top of that list is traveling with my home in tow. I sleep in my own bed, cook in my own kitchen, and have all my necessities within easy reach around me. All the comforts of home with an ever-changing yard, but that’s not the best part…

Our friend’s beautiful property near Cotopaxi, Colorado

Our journey continues

It was day two of our summer excursion. The day before was a long nine-hour drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’m grateful Al and I slept well and woke up with energy. Sleeping in our own bed makes a huge difference and the good night’s sleep had us ready to tackle another long day of driving.

It was a little before 6:00 a.m. when I put the kettle on the RV stove to heat the water for coffee. When we’re boondocking and other RVs are nearby, we won’t start our generator this early in the morning so that we could use our drip coffee maker. (This post contains affiliate links) So, when I don’t have the power for the Cuisinart coffee maker, I use the pour-over coffee brewing method … just as tasty.

After a quick breakfast and one cup down, we were once again rolling with our second cup of coffee in our travel mugs. We knew we had at least a six-hour drive in front of us and a destination that was new to us. Even though we were familiar with the general area, we weren’t familiar with the specific piece of private property where we’d be spending the week.

The best thing about RVing

If you follow other RV blogs, join any RVing Facebook groups, or read any RV Forums, then you’ve probably heard from others that as much as we all enjoy the freedom of the RV lifestyle, most of us will agree that the best thing about RVing is the people we meet and the friendships that are made. It’s the best, and it’s unlike any other lifestyle.

There’s something about the camaraderie of the RVing community that turns complete strangers into true friends in a short amount of time.

Al and I spent our winter in an RV Park in Phoenix. Many of our neighbors were doing the same while others were there for shorter time frames. One such neighbor, Dick and Steph, were only there for a couple of months. They were on a snowbird trial run to test out the desert southwest with their RV. (By the way, they loved it and will return to Phoenix next winter.)

Noticing their Colorado license plates, I was quick to stop and chat to see what part of Colorado they were from. Turns out they live just west of where we used to live in southern Colorado. During one of their last days in the park, we discussed our upcoming summer travel plans. When I made mention that we’d be in their neck of the woods near the beginning of June to tackle our storage units, they were quick to offer their property as a place for us to stay.

Seriously? These were folks we barely knew and yet they were offering us the opportunity to stay on their land for as long as we needed to. Well, twist my arm! This scenario was so much better than staying at the Lake Pueblo State Park where we’d need reservations to get us through the busy weekends. Dealing with those storage units would be stressful enough without adding in the stress of a time frame.

The only real downside was the distance. The state park was only a fifteen-minute drive to the storage facility while Dick and Steph’s place would be over an hours drive. We’ll take it!

Not a bad place to call home for a week!

An emotional, yet fun week

After getting settled in and getting acquainted with Dick and Steph’s beautiful home and property, it was time to take the hour and twenty-minute drive to the storage facility. We spent about five-hours that first-day pulling box by box out of the jam-packed unit on the left.

Whatever were we thinking? Obviously, we weren’t!

The next day, we spent four grueling hours going through more boxes. The task was a combination of tedious, grueling, and emotional which lead to a much-needed break on day three.

Our day off

Even though we had previously lived in southern Colorado and knew all about Bishop Castle, Al and I hadn’t personally visited. So Dick recommended the four of us enjoy a scenic drive to a castle.

Hmm … it’s an interesting structure surrounded by a lot of controversy. I don’t think it’s an attraction I would recommend driving out of the way to see, but since we were somewhat in the area, I found it to be a unique sight and fun day with our friends.

I do question the safety of the structure which is why government officials have tried to stop Mr. Bishop from keeping it open to the public. If you have even the slightest fear of heights, I wouldn’t recommend exploring the inside of the building. Nor would I recommend visiting with children even though we saw quite a few.

I don’t necessarily agree with some of the county’s tactics to close Mr. Bishop and his castle down, but I do understand the concerns. When we lived in Colorado, I remember watching our local news channel and hearing about Mr. Bishop’s problems with local law enforcement and county officials. Talk about an interesting story!

After our enjoyable day off, we had one more day at storage. Whew! We were sure glad when that task was done. We did widdle our stuff down to 1 1/2 units. Part of that half will be going to our children (at their request) which means we’ll be moving all our stuff to Phoenix. Nope, I’m not even going to talk about the plan to move everything from Pueblo to Phoenix this fall for fear of breaking out in hives from stress.

Perhaps I should do a blog post on How not to move into your RV full-time. Do as I say, not as I do!!! 🙄

More fun

Once the storage job was complete, we weren’t in any hurry to move on. After all, we had a full hook-up RV site and it was free … awesome! But the best part was hanging out with Dick and Steph and enjoying the amazing views. Our next few days were filled with laughs, good food, and great company. They even invited us to revisit anytime … always a good sign that we didn’t overstay our welcome.

Fun in the Colorado Rockies!

Moving on

We reluctantly bid farewell to our Cotopaxi, Colorado friends, and look forward to spending more time hanging out together this winter when all of us return to the Pioneer RV Park in Phoenix, Arizona.

Our next stop found us back in some familiar territory and making new friends. Once again, the common thread of RVing and this little blog of mine lead to a great overnight on private property just east of Colorado Springs. Kathy has been following my blog for a while even though she doesn’t write one herself. In the past, she has commented on various posts and we’ve even communicated via email.

She and her husband were full-time RVers for about a year. Their intent was always to purchase another home near Colorado Springs when their other house sold. Thus, while their new home was being built, they traveled around in their RV. Al and I knew very little about her and her husband, but to sum up our experience with our new friends, we enjoyed our visit so much so that we almost stayed another night, but we had plans which involved a time frame. By the way, their home and property are beautiful and we hope to reconnect with these fellow RVers sometime down the road.

Conclusion:

RVing is a great way to travel and see the country, and although the list of things I love about the RV lifestyle is long, at the top of my favorites list are the people we meet. However, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the fabulous friends I’ve made via this RV blog who have also offered up their property and friendship.

During our RVing journey, we’ve met so many fine people that we enjoy hanging out with, as well as have developed some really amazing friendships … the kind of friends that I know would drive out of their way to come help us if we asked and we would do the same. Those kinds of relationships are rare and special … thank you!

Next up – South Dakota and meeting blogging pals for the first time!

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The Perfect Travel Itinerary, or not

Our summer journey began at the end of May. We finally lifted the jacks on the RV and got those wheels rolling again. It felt great being back on the open road. After sitting stationary for nearly seven months, we felt like total RV newbies but after a couple of hours of driving, we quickly found our groove.

ATV in Colorado,

Never too old to change!

Aren’t most people creatures of habit? I know Al and I are. He and I have been doing this full-time RVing thing for over six years now (so much for a year or two), and as such, we have a basic routine when it comes to a day of travel which includes hitting the road in the morning usually around 8:00 a.m. … nine at the very latest and driving no more than five hours. A drive of three to four hours is preferable.

Our original plan was to start our summer excursion on the Wednesday after Memorial Day (May 29th). Over the long holiday weekend, we bid farewell to our children who both live in Phoenix which then gave us the flexibility to leave town when it best suited us. We were able to adjust the schedule if needed.

Although we had a well-planned itinerary, the plan kept changing at the last minute. Obviously, we were anxious to be on the road again with a firm destination in mind.

  • Plan A – Leave early Wednesday morning and take three days to get to Cotopaxi, CO.
  • Plan B – Leave late Tuesday afternoon, drive two hours and spend the night at the Twin Arrows Casino east of Flagstaff. This would shorten the next two days.
  • Plan C – Leave around noon on Tuesday and spend the first night near the Petrified Forest National Park and then spend the second night in Santa Fe, NM.
RVing at the Petrified National Park
Boondocking in the past at the Petrified Forest gift shop

And then there’s what we actually did, which is so out of character for us and something we’ve never done before, ever. Guess we aren’t too old to change things up a bit and step out of our comfort zone. We did end up leaving around noon on Tuesday, but once we neared the exit for the Petrified Forest, we weren’t ready to stop for the night. Plus, the Arizona / New Mexico border was just a little over an hour away. We figured, the more driving we did that day, the less we’d have to do the next two days.

In lieu of spending the night near the Petrified Forest, we decided to stop at any number of Indian Casinos along Interstate 40 in New Mexico, which we’ve done frequently in the past. As our day progressed and with each passing casino, Al and I would agree to keep on rolling. We eventually made it to the Route 66 Casino on the western edge of Albuquerque. The sun was about to set. It was around 8:30 p.m. We’d had a very long day of driving and were feeling ready to stop. We filled up with gas and began talking about spending the night. We planned to call it a day and boondock here, but then we discussed the next morning.

Grrr, we needed to think about morning rush hour traffic. We used to love overnighting at the beautiful Sandia Casino located on the north end of Albuquerque which would solve the problem of navigating rush hour traffic in the morning, but inconsiderate RVers ruined that privilege. We’ve noticed this ongoing theme as more and more companies are banning overnight RV parking. Some RVers don’t understand boondocking etiquette 😪. Ah, it is what it is and with the Sandia Casino not an option, we decided to go for it and continue driving another hour up the road to Santa Fe.

So much for the travel itinerary

485 miles / 775 km and nine hours later, we pulled into the parking lot at the Elks Lodge in Santa Fe (for members only). It was 10:00 p.m. with pitch dark skies. We were grateful that we had stayed here previously and knew the lay of the land. We quietly (well, as quietly as a diesel truck can be) pulled alongside a grassy area while trying not to disturb the other RVs already parked nearby. We didn’t disconnect, didn’t bother leveling, and didn’t put our slides out. We merely climbed into bed, clearly exhausted from the long day of driving, and quickly fell asleep. We both slept great. The next morning, with coffee in hand, we were once again rolling. This time, we were watching the sunrise.

So much for planning and putting together a perfect travel itinerary! We don’t normally make it a habit to drive after dark let alone put in a nine-hour day of driving, but Al and I stopped often and switched drivers regularly. Not that we were keeping track, but I believe I spent more time behind the wheel than Al did 😁

In the end, we both agree, it turned into the perfect travel day for us. Sure we were tired, but the beauty of traveling with your home in tow was we ate healthily and stayed hydrated … a must for any long day of travel. And of course, we took plenty of breaks to stretch our legs.

The main reason behind the quick travels was we had a goal and a mission to accomplish and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible so we could get on with our summer fun. The weight on our shoulders needed to be lifted asap. We had two storage units in southern Colorado full of crap momentoes that we needed to widdle down and eventually get moved to Phoenix.

Next up, moochdocking on a gorgeous property in Colorado while we tackle those storage units.

Our sweet spot on private property WITH a full hook-up. Did we score or what?

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The 5 Best RV Parks in New York

The 5 Best RV Parks in New York

Traveling can be enlightening, adventurous, exciting, yet sometimes boring, especially when the landscape we’re driving through is mundane. This past week while rolling through America’s Great Plains, Al and I found ourselves reminiscing about past travels and discussing future travels.

We’ve always enjoyed traveling. After all, Al and I met while working in the airline industry. These days we prefer RVing, but back then, we couldn’t wait to jump on an airplane and travel to some new to us location. One city we often visited was New York City. There were times, we’d hop on the first-morning flight out of Chicago, land at LaGuardia Airport and shop and explore the city before taking a late night flight back home. Ah, memories! There are times I’d love to go back and even explore more of New York State.

We recently enjoyed a lengthy conversation with new RV friends who travel predominantly in the east. They shared some of their favorite RV spots in New York …

Visiting New York in an RV

Traveling in an RV is a great way to bring a little piece of home with you while seeing everything the country has to offer, and there’s no destination more exciting than New York City (NYC). While Hello Big Apple reminds travelers that RVs aren’t allowed to park in NYC’s city spaces for more than 24 hours, there are ways to work around this rule if you want to see the Big Apple in your RV — especially as it is a cost-effective way to see the best of the U.S.

And when it comes to costs, it’s no surprise that NYC has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in the world. In fact, a feature by Yoreevo notes that the current average price of a Manhattan apartment is $2 million, a hefty price tag that trickles down to its hotels and restaurants, and makes it less accessible to some budget travelers. However, this reputation also means that tourists are now looking to what New York, as a state, also has to offer. Indeed, the number of natural parks and hiking paths within New York State make it a top travel destination even for those who prefer a more outdoorsy getaway. NYC’s accessible public transportation means that you can park your RV outside the city center and still be able to roam around the Big Apple before exploring the rest of the state. Meanwhile, these RV parks also offer lots of adventurous options. Here are some top recommendations:

Camp Gateway

You don’t have to travel very far from this RV park to get to NYC – Camp Gateway is located in Brooklyn. The park is set in a rustic, wooded area within the Gateway National Recreation Area. Since the park is located next to Jamaica Bay, you’re just a bus ride away from the epicenter of NYC.

Liberty Harbor RV Park

Located in Jersey City in nearby New Jersey, this particular park is the go-to for visitors who want to see as much of NYC as they can. The PATH train connects New Jersey to Manhattan and is a mere 15 minutes away from Liberty Harbor. The park also offers great amenities, with full electric, water, and sewage facilities alongside 24/7 security on the premises.

Nickerson Beach Campground

This is the RV park for those who want a relaxing beach escape after exploring NYC, as you can park your RV just 2 minutes away from the shore. The campgrounds are located by the South Shore of Long Island. Moreover, visitors have long hailed the camp’s serene atmosphere, which provides the perfect setting for watching the summer sunset with the city behind you.

Robert H. Treman State Park

While NYC might be your main destination, one of the best parts about traveling in an RV is exploring the greater area around your RV park. Save up one free day to go around the Robert H. Treman State Park on a bike or on foot, or venture on the more exciting side and tackle one of Robert H. Treman’s nine hiking trails. When you’re done exploring, take a dip in the many waterfalls that the park has to offer — there are twelve, to be exact.

Branches of Niagara Campground and Resort

This RV park offers the best of both worlds, with Buffalo, New York being 15 minutes away on one end and the Niagara falls being 10 minutes away on the other. This is a great option especially for families who prefer to have an outdoorsy vacation; the Buffalo Zoo and Buffalo Museum of Science are nearby options in case you want to see something else.

Thank you, Julie and Josh, for sharing your favorite New York RV Parks and beautiful images!

Visiting Steamboat Springs in the Summer

Visiting Steamboat Springs in the Summer

When I think about the high-altitude mountain town of Steamboat Springs, I think of picturesque ski slopes and stunning mountain views. Although this beautiful mountain town does indeed offer powdery slopes, there’s an abundance of summer activities not to be missed.

Steamboat Springs, Colorado offers an Old West vibe rich in history. It’s about a three-hour drive from Denver and a bit out of the way but so worth the drive.

Continuing with my Top 5 Must-Visit Colorado Mountain Towns

In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-visit Colorado Mountain Towns … towns that I have returned to time and again because they’re too much fun not to.

Steamboat Springs is last on my list partly because one of these mountain towns had to be last, and secondly, it’s the town we’ve visited the least. However, it is the first place in Colorado that we traveled to with our new 5th wheel back in 2012, and we have very fond memories of that trip … well, except for the RV flat tire on our return home, but that’s another story.

camping Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Steamboat Lake State Park, #visitSteamboat, #campinginColorado

15 Things to do this summer in Steamboat Springs

1. Camping – Camping options around here are awesome. We loved camping at Steamboat Lake State Park which is located 27 miles north of town. Not only were we surrounded by stunning views in all directions, but it also made a great home base to explore the neighboring area. Anytime I can park near the water, I am one happy camper.

This state park can accommodate most RVs and offers both dry and electric sites. Al and I chose to camp on the peninsula where the sites have no hookups, are definitely smaller, and there’s a large area designated for tents only.

Stagecoach State Park is another big RV friendly campground and is located 17 miles south of town and is a very popular boating lake. I recommend making a reservation for a campsite anywhere near Steamboat Springs. For a full list of campgrounds in the area, here’s a list with a breakdown of all the amenities offered.

Out of all the mountain towns we’ve visited, Steamboat Springs offers some of the best camping options. Frisco (around Lake Dillon) comes in at a close second.

RV camped at Steamboat Springs with mountains in the background

2. Go for a paddle – With numerous lakes in the area and the Yampa River running right through Steamboat Springs, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding are popular and fun activities. No problem if you don’t have your own water vessel, there’s plenty of rentals around.

Several outfitters even offer rental tubes, so you can relax and float on Steamboat’s natural waterway and then catch a shuttle back to your car.

3. Soak in hot springs – Looking for more relaxation? Old Town Hot Springs is in the heart of downtown Steamboat and is one of the reasons the town is here. Strawberry Park Hot Springs is a bit more of an adventure located on the edge of the Yampa Valley. Both offer a relaxing soak and a dip into Steamboat’s colorful history.

4. Alpine Slide – The first time I ever road an Alpine Slide was on a trip with my daughter to Winter Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I had never heard of an Alpine Slide before, and let’s just say, one ride is not enough. So much fun! Nothing like taking a chairlift up the mountain and then shooshing down it on a sled like contraption. It’s a thrill!

I’ll admit, I was a little scared and timid the first time, but you can control the speed of your sled as you fly down the mountain. Did I mention how much fun this is?

Steamboat offers two exhilarating slides. The Outlaw Mountain Coaster is the longest coaster in North America at more than 6,280 linear feet. The track near Christie Peak Express descends more than 400 vertical feet and features dips, waves, turns, and 360-degree circles. The Howler Alpine Slide will wind you down a 2,400-foot track through the bends and curves of the natural landscape of beautiful Howelsen Hill. You’ll love the scenic views of downtown Steamboat as you ride the chairlift to the top.

5. Take a hike – I fell in love with the alpine forests, open meadows, beautiful aspen groves, lakes and streams around Steamboat, and my favorite way to enjoy these surroundings was via hiking. Numerous options range from a pleasant stroll along the Yampa River Core Trail, a short jaunt up to roaring Fish Creek Falls, or a couple hours on the Spring Creek Trail. For those more adventurous, you’ll be able to hike a full day or multi-day adventure in the Mount Zirkel or Flat Tops wilderness areas.

A trail at Steamboat Lake State Park, Colorado

6. Mountain biking – The area boasts more than 500 miles of singletrack. There are so many different places to go biking that it can be hard to narrow down. For casual cruising, the Yampa River Core Trail is a 7.5-mile paved multi-use route connecting the mountain and downtown areas.

Scenic road-riding options range from easy pedaling along River Road or Twentymile Road to a challenging hill climb up Rabbit Ears Pass. Then there’s the Emerald Mountain trail system accessible from downtown or the Steamboat Bike Park, which boasts better than 50 miles of gondola-accessible trails on the ski mountain, with rentals available at the base. You can mix and match the area’s various trails to make the right length and challenge for your personal needs.

7. Fishing – The Steamboat Springs area is renowned for its world-class fly fishing. Beginners can take a lesson with any number of outfitters and learn about fly casting, knots, entomology and more. In addition to the Yampa River, there’s an abundance of streams, lakes, and reservoirs for the more experienced angler to check out.

fishing boats at a mountain Lake

8. Shopping, art galleries, concerts, and events – Browse fine art. Steamboat is a creative and artsy town. A leisurely stroll through shops and art galleries is always entertaining. You’ll find paintings, sculptures, blown glass, jewelry, and more. Usually, in early July there’s an art event set at the base of the ski area; Art on the Mountain.

The town is also host to events, concerts and theatrical performances.

9. Visit a museum – Steamboat Springs is known for its great appreciation of cultural heritage. The newly expanded and renovated Tread of Pioneers Museum offers something for everyone. The heart of the museum is a 1901 Queen Anne-style Victorian home with turn-of-the-century furnishings. The Western Heritage Exhibit, home of an extensive firearms collection, traces the areas agricultural history and the story of an infamous outlaw, Harry Tracy. The Tread of Pioneers Museum collects, preserves, exhibits, and shares the history and heritage of the Steamboat Springs area.

10. Golf, Mini Golf, Disc Golf or Sporting Clays – Steamboat Springs has three 18-hole golf courses that challenge every club in your bag. Then there’s mini golf, disc golf, and even golf with a gun aka Sporting Clays.

11. Visit the Yampa River Botanic Park – Go for a walk in the park while enjoying beautiful flowers, trees, and more.  Every garden has a different focus with a unique setting … its own slope, sun exposure, soil chemistry, trees and shrubs which determine what will grow. Since 1992 the Yampa River Botanic Park has grown from a flat, horse pasture into a six-acre gem of over 50 gardens with ponds, benches, and sculptures.

The Park is free and open to the public from May to October. It serves as a place of serenity, as a venue for a summer music and theater festivals, as a site for weddings and similar events, and a resource for individuals. The Park sits at 6,800 feet above sea level, but through the use of carefully developed microclimates supports plants from the entire Yampa River Basin, which runs from 12,000 feet in the Flattops Wilderness to 4,000 feet where it enters the Green River.

Colorado wildflowers #Bokeh #wildflowersinColorado

12. Horseback Riding – Single-day horseback trail rides and multi-day pack trips are an everyday event for local cowboys around here. Visit the Flat Tops Wilderness, Mount Zirkel Wilderness, Routt National Forest, or Howelsen Hill on horseback or ride for two hours or an all-day photo safari or dinner on the trail. You can even ride a horse-drawn wagon for dinner on a ranch.

13. Farmers Market – Fill up on food and fun when you shop, eat and browse at the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market. This will give you a great taste of the local culture and unique personality of Steamboat. The farmers market runs from 9 to 2 on Saturdays starting in early June through mid-September.

It’s also a great place to pick up a meaningful souvenir that’s not just regular tourist trap kitsch.

14. Go on a scenic drive

Al and I love exploring the backcountry. So, a scenic drive is a great way for us to take in the surrounding beauty. During our stay, we didn’t venture down any 4×4 roads but did explore the different lakes, campgrounds, and small towns.

One day, during our return to camp, we witnessed a sheepherder and his flock. I asked if it was okay for me to photograph him, but he spoke no English. If I had to guess, I’d say he was probably from South America. I did take a couple of quick snapshots and offered him a cold bottle of water which he seemed thrilled to receive.

You never know what you’ll see when you go off the beaten path exploring.

Shepard, sheep herder, herding sheep in Colorado

15. Dining – The dining options are endless. You’ll find everything from breweries to coffee shops to casual dining to fine dining.

Conclusion

This concludes my posts on my top 5 favorite mountain towns. I assure you, one visit to Colorado is not enough. The Centennial State’s crisp air, endless walking trails, inimitable Western culture, and stunning mountain beauty are just a few reasons to return time and again. I feel very fortunate that I was able to call Colorado home for over twenty years.

Do you have a favorite Colorado mountain town?

camping at Steamboat Lake, Colorado, #Coloradodreaming #RVingColorado #Steamboatliving

 


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Telluride | Everyone’s Favorite

Telluride | Everyone’s Favorite

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like Telluride, Colorado.  If I had to recommend one Colorado mountain town to visit, it would definitely be Telluride.  There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy. Besides, how could anyone resist a place where there’s usually a herd of elk in a meadow on the edge of town welcoming visitors to the area?

We’ve had the pleasure of visiting this charming mountain town a few times over the past several years, and we were never disappointed. First off, Telluride is beautiful. It sits in a canyon surrounded by steep forested mountains and cliffs with the impressive Bridal Veil Falls seen at the far end of the canyon.

Telluride was founded in 1878 as a mining settlement. By the 1970s, the extensive mining in the area was replaced by ski tourism, and by the mid-1990s, Colorado’s best-kept secret was discovered by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, and Oliver Stone.

Although Telluride is well-known for outstanding ski slopes, the summer months have become even more popular with tourists as the town hosts a variety of festivals all summer long, including film festivals and endurance events.

Telluride, Colorado
Looking down Colorado Ave (main street) in Telluride, CO

Continuing with our Top 5 Favorite Colorado Mountain Towns

In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-see Colorado Mountain Towns … towns that I have returned to time and again because they are just too much fun not to.

Telluride, Colorado

Telluride’s festival season kicks off at the end of May and is host to a variety of festivals held each weekend. The diversity of festivals range from Music to Brews to Wine, Yoga, Film, Sports, and more.

There’s also no shortage of summer activities available for individuals and families alike. One of my favorite things to do is hike to Bridal Veil Falls. There’s a hiking trail that takes hikers from town all the way out toward the falls. The trail allows me to admire the beautiful architecture along the way, which is a unique blend of old and new.

The colorful Victorian-era homes that I pass always captivate my attention. These Victorian-era homes help preserve Telluride’s historically significant architecture. The town of Telluride is just eight blocks wide and twelve blocks long and is designated a National Historic Landmark District due to its role in the history of the American West.

Tidbit:  The famous bank robber, Butch Cassidy, committed his first recorded major crime in Telluride by robbing the San Miguel Valley Bank in 1889 and exiting the bank with over $24,000.

One of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat is at the Smuggler’s Brew Pub.  Al particularly enjoys their brew called Debauchery. I think the name speaks for itself and considering its high alcohol content combined with Telluride’s high elevation, one drink is usually enough … that is, if your goal is to be able to still walk straight. Picking up a bite to eat at the Friday morning farmers market is also a fun option, and of course, we never head home without picking up a few fresh items. And I never miss the opportunity to take the gondola ride up and over to Mountain Village … a bonus not to be missed.

Mountain Village

Mountain Village, Colorado
Mountain Village

The Town of Mountain Village is a European-style village that was founded in 1987 and sits at an elevation of 9,500 feet.

The architecture and feel between the two towns of Telluride and Mountain Village are vastly different. Where Telluride offers that old town historical western feel, Mountain Village offers a feel of polish and elegance that reeks of money – in a good way. I absolutely love the architecture around here.

The two towns are connected by a 13-minute gondola ride that is the only free public transportation system of its kind in the U.S. This popular scenic attraction provides access to hiking and biking trails during the summer and the ski slopes during the winter.

But Telluride isn’t the only mountain town worth visiting in this part of Colorado.  Nestled in the San Juan Mountains are three more quaint and scenic towns, each with its own vibe and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them as a must-visit.

Other must-visit mountain towns near Telluride; Ouray, Silverton, and Ridgway

No visit to this part of Colorado and the San Juan Mountain range would be complete without visiting the beautiful little mountain towns of Ouray, Silverton, and Ridgway. As the crow flies, Ouray and Telluride are less than twenty miles apart, but taking the shortcut would require a four-wheel drive vehicle and a few hours to spare. The regular car route between Telluride and Ouray is around 50 miles and will take about an hour.

horses near Ridgway, Colorado

Ouray, Colorado

Not only is Ouray known as the Switzerland of America, but it’s also considered the Jeeping Capitol of the World with over 500 miles of accessible high country 4WD trails.

Tidbits: Ouray is pronounced ‘your-ray’ … hurrah for Ouray! I don’t recommend using a GPS in this part of Colorado. First, these three mountain towns are located along Highway 550 and as long as you stay on the paved road, you won’t need a map let alone a GPS to find your way around. Second, with miles and miles of former mining roads, some GPS view these roads as accessible, leading many a visitor astray. Don’t be fooled and turn off that GPS!

So, with all these former mining roads to explore, renting a 4×4 vehicle in Ouray won’t be a problem, but you’ll need to wait until the month of July before these roads are somewhat clear of snow. I highly recommend stopping in at the visitor center in Ouray and picking up a map of the backcountry roads and checking up to date road conditions.

During previous visits, Al and I have taken the Toyota Tacoma on a couple of the “easy” 4×4 roads.  The map info is very helpful in rating these roads and we wanted to start easy and work our way up.  We’ve taken Last Dollar Road to Telluride and Owl Creek Pass to Silver Jack Reservoir.  Both drives were enjoyable and neither road took us above tree line. During our explorations, with the exception of a couple of rutted areas, a Subaru or CRV could handle these two 4×4 roads. BUT please check recent road conditions before attempting. Weather can and will affect road conditions drastically.

This map might be a little fuzzy. You can Click here for a clearer image and more road information.

If hiking is more to your liking, Ouray has no shortage of trails to choose from. The most popular is the Perimeter Trail. It’s a five-mile well-marked trail that circles the town of Ouray. Al and I have hiked portions of this trail and look forward to returning to hike the total perimeter. May and June you’ll need to keep snowmelt in mind as all creeks and streams run dangerously fast and furious and trails can be muddy. July into August is stunning as the meadows are dotted with wildflowers. Then there’s September when gold can be seen … yellow Aspen leaves.

Box Canyon Falls
Box Canyon….the bottom of the falls can be seen in the lower part of the photo

One section of the Perimeter Trail that we loved is the hike to Box Canyon Falls. Box Canyon Falls is known as Ouray’s own wonder of the world.  The waterfall is created from the combination of Canyon Creek narrowing into a rock canyon and then plummeting 285 feet, spilling thousands of gallons of water per minute.  The word ‘dramatic’ sums it up nicely. As you hike further into the canyon, the roar of rushing water becomes more deafening and the dirt trail quickly turns into a slatted iron bridge complete with rails.  The temperature drops, the humidity rises, and the sun is hidden. Al and I both agree this is a unique find and experience not to be missed.

Silverton, Colorado – Is it worth the drive?

Hold on, as the only road to get to Silverton, Colorado from Ouray is not for the faint of heart. This stretch of Highway 550 is known as the Million Dollar Highway. The road twists, turns, bends, goes up, goes down, and meanders through the San Juan Mountain Range. It’ll help if you have some mountain driving experience and aren’t afraid of heights. There’s a notable lack of guardrails and you’ll want to plan on taking around 45 minutes to drive the twenty-five-mile distance between Ouray and Silverton.

Silverton, Colorado
Highway 550 aka the Million Dollar Highway

If driving mountain roads isn’t your thing and you happen to be near the town of Durango, consider taking the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  The rail route is even more scenic than the highway and the train pulls right into the town of Silverton.

Durango & Silverton Train

SilvertonOnce in Silverton, you’ll find the town has a natural beauty that’s steeped in Victorian charm and mining history.  Gold was discovered here in the 1860s.  The town was platted in 1874 and by the late 1800s, the main business section was built.

On the “other side of town”, is notorious Blair Street.  At one point, Blair Street was home to 40 saloons and brothels.  Many of the original buildings are still standing today and have been turned into quaint gift shops and restaurants.

Tidbit: During the mining boom, Silverton boasted a population surpassing 2,000. Today the year-round population is less than 700. Although tourism has replaced mining as the current economic engine, conjecture is someday mining will return.

Silverton is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the National Historic Landmark District.

Silverton, Colorado

With mining heavily ingrained in the area’s history, the backcountry is dotted with remnants of abandoned mines and ghost towns.  If you have a high clearance vehicle (or rent one), the old mining roads are great fun to explore.

Ridgway, Colorado

If you’re a John Wayne fan like my husband, then a stop in the little town of Ridgway is a must. During one of our day excursions from Ridgway State Park to Telluride, we took the Last Dollar Road. This gravel/dirt road takes travelers past the Ross Ranch, one of several film locations that took place in Ouray County from the movie True Grit. The road is accessed about 10 miles outside of Ridgway. Last Dollar Road is rated as an easy 4WD road. At the top of Dallas Divide, the road offers majestic views of the backcountry without traversing any extreme switchbacks or sheer drop-offs that are commonly found driving some of the more difficult backcountry roads.

historical western buildings in Ridgway Colorado

Camping and lodging

Camping:  Whenever we’ve visited Telluride, we love camping at Ridgway State Park, which is about a one-hour drive away.  The park offers sites accommodating tents and large RVs alike.  Ridgway State Park is one of our favorite campgrounds in Colorado.

camping at Ridgway State Park

For those interested in full hook-ups, the Centennial RV Park near Montrose is a consideration. When we weren’t able to find an available site at Ridgway State Park, we’ve stayed at the Montrose Elk’s Lodge (members only). There are also private campgrounds with full hook-ups in the town of Ouray, but they like to pack’em in tight … a little too close for our taste.

Tee PeeMuch closer to Telluride is a delightful National Forest Campground;  Sunshine Campground.  We would love to stay here due to its stunning views and near proximity to Telluride, but unfortunately, we might only fit into a couple of sites and the turning radius to navigate into and around this campground is tighter than what we think we could navigate. The campground is super close to Mountain Village where one can park and catch the free gondola taking you up and over the mountain into Telluride.

Further down the road is the Matterhorn Campground, also a National Forest Campground and this place has several sites that can accommodate just about anyone … that is IF you can snag an open site.

For those traveling with tents, vans, or small RV’s, the perfect place to camp and really immerse yourself into the Telluride lifestyle is the Telluride Town Park Campground.  Nestled in a grove of pine trees along a creek, it’s within walking distance to festival venues, restaurants, and shops.  Obviously, where there are trees, there are low branches and tight turning radius’.  Thus, we feel it’s not an option for us.  Once again, small RV’s have the advantage.  Note; during festivals, this campground is jam-packed making it difficult for even a Honda Civic to navigate.

And when it comes to other types of lodging, Telluride has it all.  Click here for more info and enjoy your own Rocky Mountain getaway. I promise you won’t be disappointed 🙂

four-wheeling
The view along Last Dollar Road

Western Colorado is definitely one of my favorite places to visit. You’ll take in some jaw-dropping beauty as you pass mountains, lakes, and streams.  And when the wildflowers are blooming in July and August or the Aspen tree leaves turn golden in September … oh … my … gosh!!!  Let’s just say, it’s a sight to behold and photographs rarely capture the enormity of such a spectacular and stunning sight.

Between the majestic San Juan Mountains and the small-town mountain lifestyle, it’s no wonder this area of Colorado is a favorite with many.

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5 Inspiring Tips for Traveling More in Your 50s

5 Inspiring Tips for Traveling More in Your 50s

Life begins at … life begins whenever you want it to. That’s why more and more people over 50 are seeking new travel adventures, new destinations, and jumping into RVs. After all, you’re kid-free, hopefully, financially stable and slowing down when it comes to work. You are in a prime position to travel extensively. Here are some inspiring tips to help you on your journey.

Relax and rejuvenate

According to a recent AARP survey, 50 plus-year-olds will take 4 to 5 trips a year. They take their trips for a range of reasons. Top of their list is simply to relax and feel rejuvenated. It makes sense. After years of working 40 plus hours a week at a job and being caregivers to loved ones 24/7, there’s definitely a sense that it’s time to make your needs a priority. It’s time for a break. Time to relax, rejuvenate, and rediscover yourself.

waterfall at the Japanese Tea Garden

Climb every mountain

Perhaps that’s a step too far but, as the song says, why not set yourself challenges and goals? There’s no point making a travel bucket list if it only remains a list. A recent Saga survey found that a third of over 50s felt far more adventurous than they did in their 40s. So, while your kids might raise their eyebrows at your plan to move into an RV full-time or trek the Great Wall of China, or simply learn a new skill, why shouldn’t you? Don’t allow other people to hold you back or second guess your dreams.

Being looked after

If adventure and RVing aren’t quite your thing, that’s OK. Perhaps, after years of looking after everyone else, it’s your turn to think about yourself and do something strictly for yourself? Cruises offer all-inclusive luxury and require very little planning effort. Your needs will be the priority. From entertainment to cuisine to port stops in places you dreamed of visiting, your every requirement is taken care of for you.

Prefer solid ground? There are lots of adult-only focused resorts. Companies have wised up to the fact that many 50+ do not necessarily wish to spend their vacations with screaming kids around. These places offer you a chance to unwind and meet like-minded people. You’ll feel pampered at one of these all-inclusive resorts.

Chicago skyline

Culture enthusiasts

It seems that the over 50s like more than just resorts and beaches. This age group cares about the impact of travel. They like to immerse themselves in the history and culture of a place. We bump into lots of fellow RVers who enjoy visiting cities for all the culture, museums, and activities found in a large metropolitan area.

If you’re about to join the roving 50s, then do some research before you go. If you plan on traveling abroad, learn a few words in the local language. Go on social media and find local groups that post events and information. I find a lot of my travel inspiration from fellow bloggers.

Plan a gap year

tips for traveling more in your 50s, photo of retired couple, inspirationGap years were not in fashion when the over 50s were students. It was all about getting qualified and starting work. Perhaps you deserve your gap year now? Before Al and I moved into our RV full-time, we tested the waters. One year we went on a 6-week road trip and loved it so much that the following year we went on a 4-month road trip.

So, don’t hesitate to ask your boss for a sabbatical or ask about working part-time location independently. Many employers won’t want to lose your years of experience and might be willing to be flexible. Look at your rainy day savings and think about investing in you. Travel remains a priority for many with 30% of workers saying they would accept lower salaries in exchange for more business trips.

Gone are the days when age was a barrier to work. Taking a year out is simply that. When you return, you’ll be refreshed and reinvigorated. Perhaps, your travels will inspire you to make further changes to your lifestyle.

Then your adventures have only just begun.

#travel inspiration #5 tips to travel more #travel more in your 50s

Top 5 Colorado Mountain Towns

Have you ever looked at a map and been so curious about a road or town that you just had to hop in the car and explore?  Well, that seems to happen to me a lot. First off, I love maps and have had an interest in geography as long as I can remember.  I’m always wondering what’s around the next bend in the road.

This summer we’ll be traveling to some familiar and some unfamiliar territory. As much as I love exploring new places, I equally enjoy returning to some old favorites. During the process of planning out our route and schedule for our summer excursion, I found my mind wandering …. squirrel. 😆

Columbine, Colorado, Colorado's State Flower, #columbine, #coloradostateflower
Colorado’s state flower – columbine

Hmm, where exactly did my mind wander off to? Colorado! Ah, the wonderful memories I have in that beautiful U.S. state. After all, Al and I called Colorado home for over twenty years and agree it was a great place to raise our children. These days, Arizona feels more like home to us, but a part of our hearts will always remain in Colorado.

So, while scouring the map, I was met with a flood of fond memories. Could I pick a favorite Colorado mountain town?  Could I pick a favorite scenic Colorado drive?  Absolutely NOT!  I do however have some favorites. And those favorites on my list are mostly due to the memories that were created in those locations. Of course, there are so many more amazing places to visit in Colorado than what I’ve listed here, but that would take me days to share. So, let’s start with these five for now.

Top 5 Must-Visit Colorado Mountain Towns

In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-see Colorado Mountain Towns; towns that I have returned to time and again because they’re just that lovely.

When we lived in Colorado Springs, we would take our children up to either Summit County or Grand County for winter fun.

While the kids were enjoying the slopes, Al and I would either sit by a roaring fire in the lodge or stroll the shops in a quaint mountain town.  There’s no shortage of charm and character AND amazing views in Colorado.

I’m a bona fide flatlander and the thought of shooshing down a mountain slope with mini sleds strapped to my feet never did appeal to me. Once was enough for me! But my children grew up in Colorado, and therefore, they are avid snow skiers. However, snowshoeing, sledding, and snowmobiling were always a fun adventure that I never shied away from.

These days, Al and I save our visits to the high country for summer.  As a matter of fact, some of these mountain communities have become even more popular during the summer months than they are during winter.

Frisco, Colorado

Summit County includes the towns of Frisco, Breckenridge, Dillon, Keystone, Silverthorne and the village of Copper Mountain, and is located about a two-hour drive from Denver’s International Airport.  So it’s super easy to get to and the area offers plenty to see and do.

As much as I enjoy visiting Breckenridge and think that it too is a must-see, I personally prefer the quaint mountain town of Frisco.  Frisco is much more low-key and less touristy than Breckenridge.  Thus, Frisco is our first stop on my “top 5 favorite Colorado mountain towns” tour.

Frisco has a population of less than 3,000, sits at over 9,000 feet in elevation, and was incorporated in 1880 during the mining boom.  Today it’s a gateway to several major ski resorts.  Main Street offers plenty of unique shops, restaurants, and a historical park with a museum. During one of our RVing visits to the area a few years ago, Al and I discovered the Frisco Historic Park & Museum.  This is a free, self-guided museum preserving Frisco’s heritage.

Just down Main Street is a local coffee shop we enjoy. After purchasing a couple of Lattes, we strolled over to the museum. Al and I aren’t huge museum-goers, but we found this historical park to be quite entertaining and worth the stop. I was particularly entertained by the fashions on display as well as learning the importance of red lipstick during World War II … boosting courage.

During WWII, women showed their support by wearing red lipstick. Popularized by the movie industry, women demonstrated their patriotism by wearing makeup, especially the red lipstick.  While mascara and rouge were rationed, lipstick was kept in production because of its benificial effect on morale.

We spent a couple of hours exploring the grounds and the buildings at the museum.  Each building offered a little something different enlightening us on the town and its history over the past century. We found it to be a worthwhile stop, and we’ll probably return someday.

Dillon Reservoir, Colorado scenic drive, friendly chipmunk #chipmunks, #scenic view in Colorado, #Dillon, CO
The chipmunk checks my hand for a treat and is disappointed.

Scenic Road – Swan Mtn Road

Off Swan Mountain Road, between Breckenridge and Keystone, is a scenic overlook high above the Dillon Reservoir. The views from the Sapphire Point overlook are stunning. There’s a short loop trail that can be accessed from the parking lot. We hiked this trail in winter conditions several years ago and I remember the views being very nice.

Aside from the stunning views, there’s the entertainment from the chipmunks to consider. These little guys are used to folks bringing them sunflower seeds and aren’t shy about begging.

Lots to do and see

Rainbow Lake Trail, Frisco, Colorado, #hikingColorado, #hikeFrisco
Rainbow Lake Trail

As many times as we’ve visited Frisco, we always discover some new shop, a new restaurant, or a new hiking trail.  And the scenery never disappoints. During one of our visits, we attended a bi-plane air show which was so much fun to see.

Shopping is not a problem around Summit County. Between the towns of Frisco, Dillon, and Silverthorne, you’ll find several groceries stores, including a Whole Foods. There’s also a Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, sporting good stores, and even an Outlet Mall.

My favorite is a little shop strolling in Breckenridge. We always look forward to picking up a treat at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and perhaps purchasing a T-shirt (or two) from a local store. I wonder if Al has noticed that I’m encroaching on his half of the closet…. ssshhh, that’ll be our secret!

The dining options are endless. You’ll find everything from fast food places, to chain restaurants, to independent breweries, to fine dining, and everything in-between. Our biggest problem was always deciding where to eat because of all the choices.

Lodging: When we would visit the area during the winter, we usually stayed at one of the chain motels in Dillon like the Comfort Inn. There are so many lodging options through-out Summit County. You’ll find motel chains, ski-in-ski-out condos, high-end resorts, and private properties available. Yep, no shortage of lodging, but keep in mind premium pricing on weekends … all those Front Range dwellers like to head up to the high country on weekends.

Camping: Parts of Summit County are within the White River National Forest (Dillon Ranger District). There are five different campgrounds located around the Dillon Reservoir, as well as some dispersed camping further into the national forest. We never found any boondocking sites that we felt would comfortably accommodate our 31′ Fifth Wheel. Thus, we’ve always stuck with one of the campgrounds. With several campgrounds to choose from, we’ve never had a problem showing up without a reservation, but that’s for dry camping, no hookups, and no dump station on-site. Weekends might be a problem though without a reservation.

Heaton Bay Campground, Dillon, Colorado, #campinginBreckenridge, #DillonResevoir, #WhiteRiverNationalForest
We barely fit into this dry site at the Heaton Bay CG. We loved our views! I think this is site E76, but don’t quote me.

The Heaton Bay Campground does have one loop that has electric, it’s big rig friendly, and the most popular campground in the area. You’ll definitely need a reservation to stay here. The Lowry Campground, least popular and least desirable, also has some electric sites.

Campgrounds Peak One and Prospector are both large campgrounds with a mixture of sites (small, large, level, unlevel) and dry only. For those of you with big RV’s and setup with solar, you might want to consider the Pine Cove Campground. This is nothing more than a paved parking lot style of place, but it sits right along the shores of the Dillon Reservoir with spectacular views. Because the RV’s are parked so close together, generator use is frowned upon at Pine Cove CG.

Prospector Campground, view of Dillon Reservoir and mountains. White River National Forest camping, #campingnearDenver, #DillonResevoir, #Breckenridge
The view from a campsite at the Prospector Campground.

For those interested in full-hookups and/or doing a little bit of winter camping, Tiger Run Resort might be worth checking out. Just be forewarned, it is pricey, but then again, it’s located in Breckenridge where everything is pricey.

Next up

In next Sunday’s post, we’ll move up the road to Grand Lake, Colorado … the west-end gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Heaton Bay Campground, Camping along the shores of Dillon Reservoir, mountain reflections in the lake, #DillonRes, #campingLakeDillon
Camping at Heaton Bay Campground, Dillon, CO. Can you spot our RV nestled in the trees? Hint, we’re on the right.

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6 Benefits of Driving Yourself while Traveling

Driving can be one of the most exciting and easiest ways to get around when traveling. Whether I’m traveling with our RV in tow or my daughter and I are off on one of our infamous road trips in her car, driving gives me that sense of freedom I relish.

Even on trips overseas, I enjoy renting a car or even a bike. Although my favorite would be renting an RV or camper van … renting a camper van in New Zealand remains on my bucket list. That freedom to simply hit the open road and explore as much ground as possible is absolutely the best. Traveling on our own terms, our own schedule, and off the beaten path can be an amazing adventure.

RV traveling down the road with scenic Moab, Utah in the background

Personal time

First, traveling anywhere is all about us. Adventure awaits! After all, we’ve set aside time to travel and do things with family, friends, our partner, or even just our self and organizing flights with potential tight schedules can be stressful and can get in the way of all our fun.

Gal taking a photo of a zebraWhen driving ourselves, we get to make our own schedule and if we don’t want to keep to it, we don’t have to. During the process of us driving, if we discover a pristine beach or find that perfect mountain meadow and we want to stay a little longer, we can.

Let’s not forget about photographic opportunities and the freedom to stop, snap, and stay. It’s all solely based on ourselves and how we want to spend our day.

Ah, doesn’t that sound wonderful? Yep, I’m looking forward to our summer excursion!

Ultimate freedom

The number of new things we can discover when driving ourselves is pretty amazing. We’re more likely to go off the beaten path with the freedom we have traveling with our own transportation.

I’ve never been one to enjoy taking public transportation unless I have no other option, and the thought of making plans around an airline schedule no longer appeals to me. And this coming from a former Flight Attendant. These days, air travel is the last resort for me, but necessary at times, especially if I ever want to rent that camper van in New Zealand. Yeah, it would be a necessity to take that long flight from America to New Zealand to check that adventure off my bucket list.

But once I’m in my own transportation, I try to set aside time to explore something new each day to make the most of that sense of freedom.

Road tripping, gal hangs hand and arm out window causing a sense of freedom

Cost efficient

Let’s face it, road trips are usually more cost effective. Flying can be expensive, and taxis can cost a lot of money if we rely on them regularly while on vacation. Sure, sometimes we’re left with no option. Yeah, I don’t think there’s an easy way for me to get my RV to Hawaii (or New Zealand). So, flying it is, and then I’ll rent a car.

By renting my own transportation, I can explore on my terms, stop at a grocery store for healthy eating options, and save some money from having to go out to eat all the time, especially when traveling with a family of four.

One of my families most memorable trips was to Hawaii several years ago. My family still likes to tease me about our day excursion to the top of Haleakala, dormant volcano on the island of Maui. There was a thick layer of low-lying clouds along with a slight drizzle of rain, and I was convinced that if we drove to the top, we’d be above the clouds. Wrong! Once at the top, the thick layer of fog made it nearly impossible to see anything. After a few laughs, we headed back down the mountain. Near the base of the volcano, we noticed a newly opened zipline venue and quickly turned in.

I had packed a picnic lunch that day. The money we saved by not eating out or not booking a guided tour to Haleakala National Park, allowed us to go ziplining for the first time. It was so much fun and made for great family memories.

Transporting luggage

One of the biggest benefits of driving is packing. This is probably my favorite benefit to road tripping. I have the extra room to take a few more frivolous items … you know, like that cute pair of shoes that I may not even wear.

Luggage in an airport can be a nightmare not to mention the fear of it getting lost. Therefore, I’ve always been a ‘carry-on’ only kind of traveler. Even when I’ve traveled to Europe for a week, it was just with my carry-on. So, those cute shoes were always left behind, sigh.

RV traveling down a deserted road in Utah

Comfort

There’s no better feeling than being comfortable when traveling, and with your own mode of transportation, it’s so much easier. I think we’ve all been on a flight or bus with screaming kids. That’s the worst!

With our own vehicle, we don’t have to worry about sitting next to strangers and we can come and go as we please. Yep, that’s the ultimate comfort while traveling.

Chance to be spontaneous

I love the spontaneity and freedom of driving. Spontaneity is an amazing luxury that I don’t take for granted.  A random day trip, a detour along the way, or even just the decision to go somewhere different for happy hour is all at my fingertips when I have my own vehicle.

Final thoughts

Whenever and wherever I travel, I always keep safety in mind. It’s also important to understand the rules and laws of the states or countries we visit.

Did you know there’s a law in France for having an unused breathalyzer in your vehicle? I guess it’s still a controversial law, but even so, I found that tidbit of information interesting.

Here in the U.S., we need to think about laws regarding cell phone usage while driving. Every community, county, and state has its own laws about talking or texting while driving.

As my daughter and I do more research and brainstorming on potential travel locations for our next mother/daughter adventure, we’re finding a lot of useful information. 1Cover’s The Secret Traveler offers tips on how to stay safe while on the road along with other helpful information and travel ideas. Hmm, our travel list seems to be getting longer instead of shorter!

Research and knowledge are the best ways to plan for any travel journey. Happy road tripping!

Benefits of a road trip, #roadtrip, #bestvacations, #drivingwhiletraveling
road tripping, benefits of driving, #lovetravel, #drivingonvacation

Rattlesnakes in Arizona

Spring in the desert southwest is always enjoyable. The weather is near perfect and the wildflowers are blooming. It’s so pretty and a great time of year to visit Phoenix, Arizona but as we get further into the month of April, the Phoenix desert starts heating up. We’ve already had some days exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Listening to the local weather report can be quite entertaining, especially when they talk about cold fronts. We have family members who live in northern Wisconsin. While our Wisconsin family remain bundled up in winter attire shoveling out from a recent snowstorm, we too suffered a cold front; gusty winds and a temperature high of only 75 degrees F. We almost couldn’t wear shorts. I guess, a cold front is a cold front, it’s all relative 😄

I assume that you aren’t exactly feeling sorry for me and my weather woes, but when I tell you who I’m likely to share the trail with while out hiking, you might feel differently. 🐍

What to do when you encounter a rattlesnake, diamondback, hiking in Phoenix, Arizona snakes

It’s snake season but also baby season

As much as I’m loving the warm sunny weather, so do the snakes. I’m not sure I’ll ever get comfortable coming face to face with a Diamondback rattlesnake, and each snake encounter causes me to stay off the trails for a while … and may be the cause of a few more grey hairs!

Being startled by a rattlesnake sure gets my heart pounding, and I feel quite rattled as I’m sure does the rattlesnake.

an horned owl nesting in a saguaro cactus in Phoenix Arizona
An owl’s nest in a saguaro cactus

Eventually, my apprehension to hike subsides, and I’m back out hiking but choosing trails that are wide and popular with plenty of other hikers out on the trail. I’ve also learned to keep my eyes down while scanning the trail.

By choosing a popular hiking trail, it’s my hope that the activity keeps the snakes away or that someone else spots her first, which was the case in my recent diamondback rattlesnake meet up.

Two weeks ago, Al and I decided to start our hike at the Desert Vista Trailhead which is part of the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve. I’ve hiked here before and knew about a Great Horned Owl’s nest. Her nest is huge and constructed between the arms of a large saguaro cactus. Really interesting to see.

I figured by early April, momma owl most likely would be caring for her offspring, and I wanted to see if I could photograph her, or at the very least, see a little owlet.

Great horned owl nesting in a saguaro cactus with an owlet
Great Horned Owl with an owlet.

Score! Ms. Owl was pretty far away and I had to zoom in as much as possible (600mm). I wish I could’ve captured a better image of her and her owlet, but it was still fun seeing mom and baby through my zoom lens.

After a few camera clicks, we continued on our hike.  As we rounded a corner, another couple hiking stopped us to warn us of a rattlesnake along the trail. Cool! I had fair warning, and therefore, wasn’t startled … this is the best scenario if you’re going to meet a rattlesnake on the trail.

What to do when you see a rattlesnake?

The first thing you do is grab your camera … okay, no you don’t. The first thing you do is step away slowly to not alarm the snake. The snake will strike if it feels threatened. If you are a safe distance away from the rattlesnake, then maybe you can take a photo or two. But keep in mind, a rattlesnake can strike about half its length and is fast. So, if you see a six-foot snake know that it can possibly strike a subject three-feet away. And when they’re coiled up, it’s hard to tell exactly how long that snake is. Always veer on the side of caution!

taking a photograph of a rattlesnake along the trail
We stopped these gals from walking past the rattlesnake. The snake is hidden in the shadow of the little bush-like cactus and coiled in strike position. Photo-op! Those Cholla cactus are also a danger.
diamondback rattlesnake in Phoenix, Arizona seen while hiking
Here she is up close. You can see her rattle and the beautiful diamond-shaped pattern on her skin. She blends in easily with the landscape.

Arizona is home to thirteen different species of rattlesnakes. Some may rattle before striking, but not always. So, they are definitely unpredictable. Each hiker, Al and I included, walked past her quickly … giving her a wide berth, but she did rattle with each passerby. As hikers, we not only had to worry about the snake striking but also not walking too close to the Teddy Bear Cholla cactus aka jumping cholla. If you get too close to one of these cactus, a needled segment will break off and fly at your body. Crazy, huh! And the thorns are like little fishhooks … ouch!

After our diamondback rattlesnake encounter, the rest of our hike was pleasant and uneventful. And these days, I’m sticking to trails that are wide and popular. This gal doesn’t like surprises!

A close up a diamondback rattlesnake with tongue hanging out

How to make your desert visit safe?

  • Watch your step and be on the lookout for snakes. Rattlesnakes are known to blend in with their environments. When traveling at night, carry a flashlight to make sure every step is the right one.
  • Think twice before walking through vegetation and never put your hands where you can’t see them. You could be reaching blindly into a shrub, bush, or rock where a snake may be hanging out.
  • Don’t approach or provoke a snake. More than half of all rattlesnake bites are caused by provoking or approaching a snake. Keep a close eye on children and pets.
  • Never make a snake feel threatened. It doesn’t want to strike you any more than you want to be bitten.

Phoenix diamondback rattlesnake coiled in grass

Tips if you’re bitten

DO:

  • Keep the bitten area still and stay calm.
  • Seek medical attention immediately.
  • Remove any jewelry near the affected area in case of swelling.
  • Elevate the wound area if possible.
  • If you’re hiking, call 911 and if possible slowly walk to a trailhead or the nearest trail marker. Do not run. Keep body activity to a minimum to avoid the spread of venom.

DON’T:

  • Don’t drive yourself to the hospital.
  • Don’t use ice to cool the bite.
  • Don’t cut open the wound and try to suck out the venom.
  • Don’t use a tourniquet. This will cut off blood flow and the limb may be lost.
  • Don’t attempt to administer your own first aid.

Most popular snakes found in the Phoenix area

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (venomous). This is the most commonly encountered rattlesnake in the Phoenix valley and can be found anywhere where neighborhoods are near native desert habitat. They are large, aggressive, and venomous, so keep your distance and let it move on. They can be identified by the rattle, white and black striped tail, and white-lined diamond pattern on the back. Coloration is usually drab shades of brown or grey.

Diamondback rattlesnake sunning itself on a rock

Sonoran Sidewinder (venomous). Sidewinders are small rattlesnakes that live in sandy desert areas. Most are 2 feet long or less and move with a distinctive side-winding motion. These are common in the outskirts of the Phoenix West Valley in washes or flat, open areas. They avoid rocky areas. They are easily identified by the horns that protrude over each eye, and the white and brown ribbon going down the back.

Speckled Rattlesnake (venomous). Speckled rattlesnakes live in rocky areas near mountains or hillsides. They vary in color, from a white/grey in the South Mountain and White Tanks areas, brown in North Phoenix, and orange and red going North into Cave Creek and the Anthem areas. They have a loosely banded pattern that is highly flecked to resemble granite. They’re most common in the South Mountain area.

Sonoran Gophersnake (harmless). The Sonoran Gophersnake is a large snake that can be found everywhere in the Phoenix area, even in alleyways and backyards in urban areas. These are very commonly mistaken for rattlesnakes due to a very good impersonation, which includes flattening the head, loud hissing, striking, and even a rattling tail. While they can become quite large and give a painful bite, they are otherwise completely harmless and great to have around for rodent control.

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Life through a Lens

Looking at life through the lens of my camera has helped enlighten my awareness of the world around me. I notice little things and details in my everyday activities that I may not have noticed if it weren’t for my interest in photography.

“Through the Lens”

The “through the lens” idiom came from philosophers who viewed life in a way that a lens can distort vision. The idea is that there are many dimensions and shades of life and everyone has their own reality.

Photographers like to borrow the phrase “through the lens” … a different lens with a different focus gives us a different view. We all have our own ‘lens’ that has us see things, events, landscapes, and ideas differently.

Chicago skyline

Perception

Gosh, even eyeglasses are lenses. We’ve all heard the expression of a person seeing things “through rose-colored glasses”. Our perception is completely unique to each of us and how we see the world around us.

When you look through a camera lens, that lens can make things look different. A telephoto lens makes things appear closer than they actually are while a wide-angle lens can make things appear further away.

A lens or a filter can change or transform what we see. It can also alter reality or distort a view. It might help us focus on special sights that we otherwise might not notice.

Watson Lake Prescott Arizona

Looking at life through the lens of my camera has taught me a few lessons ….

What photography has taught me!

  1. Slow down. I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy the journey. Life is not a race, and I need to stop and smell the roses along the way.
  2. Details. Beauty is in the details. Whether I’m confronted with in-your-face stunning beauty like the Grand Tetons or enjoying a taco at the local farmers market, I enjoy looking at not only the big picture but also the little stuff, the details.
  3. Patience. Photographing birds, other wildlife, and even people requires a certain amount of patience and observation. That patience has translated into other aspects of my daily life. Yep, my children will tell you that I’m a lot more patient these days than I used to be. I’m sure it has nothing to do with old age but rather photography.
  4. Control. I’m never in total control, no matter how much I try. I may have planned the perfect day, but if the weather doesn’t agree or there’s a mechanical problem with the truck, it’s time to rearrange the plans or as our GPS says, “Recalculating”. Life happens and recalculating is just part of it!
  5. Share. I love sharing my story, my adventures, and my photographs. Sharing has given me purpose and encourages me to search out new sights and meet new people.
  6. Be spontaneous. Changing plans or even direction on a whim has become my new norm. I’ve captured some of my favorite images with spur of the moment decisions.
  7. Learn. We are never too old to learn new things. I’m constantly reading articles on photography and trying out new settings on my camera. But when WordPress changes things up, I’m not interested in learning their new and improved system, but that’s another subject. 😏
  8. It’s okay to make mistakes. I try not to allow fear of failure to hold me back.
  9. Practice and improve. In order to improve on anything, it takes a great deal of practice. I shoot lots of photographs. Digital photography is the best. I’d be in serious trouble if I still had to buy film and have it developed.
  10. There are no shortcuts in life. Success at anything takes hard work.
  11. Finding myself. I love being creative. It makes me happy. Even though my creative skills may be average, it’s still a passion. I took a painting class not too long ago, and let’s just say, I need to stick with photography … canvas, a brush, and paint ain’t my thang unless I’m trying to humor folks. Yeah, that canvas painting of mine provided a few laughs before being tossed in the trash.
  12. Memories are important. Live in the moment. Life is short.

How about you? Has photography changed the way you look at things, your life, your perception, yourself?

seagulls walking

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