After a Few False Starts – Lake Havasu

I’m sitting at the kitchen table gazing out the window and beyond the deck. In the far distance, Pikes Peak is covered in a low shroud of gray cloud cover. The chill in the air serves as another reminder that more snow is on the way. I’m feeling down! Even the dog seems depressed.

November 2011 – “Okay, time to snap out of it, Ingrid”, I mutter to myself. I allow my fingers to quickly move over the keyboard on my laptop. I Google everything I can think of with those two letters; R V. I come across some interesting articles and dive a little deeper. Blogs? Hmm, I think I heard that word once before on one of Paula Deen’s cooking shows on the Food Network. She had a guest on her show who wrote a very popular cooking blog called the Pioneer Woman. Prior to that, I’m not sure I’d ever heard the term before, and I still wasn’t sure exactly what it was.

Pueblo West, Colorado with a snow covered Pikes Peak in the background.

For years I was so busy working, being a wife, mother, and business owner that I rarely had enough time for myself let alone have the ability to just linger on the internet. But that all changed with the Great Recession, a poor housing economy, and an empty nest. I now found myself with more time on my hands than ever before. Time to daydream about RV travels. I gobbled up as much information as I could find and began reading RVing blogs, blogs all about RV travel.

I was green with envy as I read travel tale after travel tale accompanied by beautiful photographs. I wanted in. I wanted to be a part of the RV lifestyle. My poor RV had been sitting on the side of our house neglected for almost a year. It’s as if I could feel my mom’s presence as she stood over me saying, “What are you waiting for? If that’s what you want, go for it”.

There were many times in my life where I wished I had listened to my mom more often, and now that she was no longer physically here, I thought it would be a great idea to at least listen to her spirit or those voices in my head. Before long, I was studying Google Maps. I had to keep winter weather and winter driving conditions in mind while planning a trip.

Sitting on the side of the house hooked up and ready to go. We just need a break in the winter weather!

The makings of a plan

Where to go? I knew I wanted to go west and include a visit with our son in Phoenix. As I scour the map, two words jump out at me like a red beacon; Death Valley. Oh my gosh! I have wanted to visit Death Valley National Park for as long as I can remember. It sounds so foreboding, so mysterious, and fits my current gloomy mood.

I run the RV trip idea past Al. In September, just two months earlier, Al found himself flying back to Illinois to attend his mother’s funeral. He wasn’t in any better of a mood than I was and was rather indifferent to a getaway. Basically, his response was, “Go ahead and plan a trip and just let me know what direction I need to point the RV and when. AND don’t get us into a pickle, a situation that may damage the RV”.

Alrighty then! Let the planning commence. Oh, and I think I’ll start my own blog in the process. The blog will serve as my personal journal documenting this trip.

Darn weather!

It was now January 2012. With holiday decorations packed away after enjoying a very low key Christmas holiday with both children joining us in our new house in Pueblo West, it was finally time to set a timeline for that RV getaway. We were in the thick of winter weather in Colorado, and we’d have to plan our drive strategically to avoid icy roads. The previous winter, we had spun out in my little red Toyota Tacoma on some black ice near Trinidad, Colorado, and we certainly didn’t want to experience anything similar with the RV in tow.

After a few false starts due to snowstorms, we finally had a big enough break in the weather and were on the road in mid-February 2012. Two days later we arrived in Phoenix, and once again, we stayed at the Desert’s Edge RV Park on the north side of the valley for a couple of nights so we could get in a quick visit with our son.

Arizona Highway 95 near the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge

Next stop; Lake Havasu City

We were traveling in footloose and fancy-free fashion with no reservations, no real timeline, or a definite destination in mind other than Death Valley. We meandered along our route taking in the new sights and pulling over whenever we felt like it. Eventually, we arrived in Lake Havasu City and drove around looking for a camping option. The state park was full. The first private RV park we pulled into was also full. After a little more driving around, we pulled into the Crazy Horse Campground which was also booked up, but they had a large parcel of land outside of the RV Park where they allowed RVers to boondock for a fee which included the use of the restrooms/bath house located within the RV park.

Lake Havasu State Park Arizona
Exploring Lake Havasu City – looking for a place to camp!

We were fortunate the campground was booked.  The RV spots in the campground were tight and RVs were packed in like sardines. There was hardly enough elbow room between units. This was not what this newbie RVer had in mind when we set out on this journey. It’s all about being in nature for me and having a view out my window.

I loved our view and distance away from other RVers on this dirt parcel of land.  This overflow lot overlooks the lake and there’s plenty of room for everyone. We even had a fire ring for real campfires of which we took full advantage.

Even Bear enjoyed our boondocking campsite.
We loved our nightly campfires
The view from our campsite.

We loved staying at the overflow lot at the Crazy Horse Campground. It is located on an island, thus requiring us to cross the London Bridge for access.  It is within walking distance of the bridge, shops, restaurants, and lakeshore. The shoreline offers a lovely park setting with walking trails, a dog park, a marina, beaches, playgrounds, and picnic areas.  We took full advantage of this location and explored via foot every day.

Unbeknownst to us, we happened to pick the busiest and most popular weekend out of the year to visit Lake Havasu. The annual Winterfest is held every President’s Day Weekend in February. It’s a weekend filled with festivals, a car show, Rockabilly Concert, and Winter Blast. Winter Blast is a fireworks extravaganza. Spectacular fireworks are displayed by firework professionals who are testing the latest advances in the industry, culminating in a huge pyrotechnic show in the evenings.

Lake Havasu City was developed by Robert McCulloch in 1963 on the eastern shore of Lake Havasu. He later purchased the London Bridge, which was dismantled brick by brick and numbered and then shipped to Lake Havasu City from England.  It was reassembled and completed in 1971 and connects the island to the mainland and serves as a popular tourist attraction.

Interesting tidbit: After Robert McCulloch developed Lake Havasu City, he went on to develop Fountain Hills (1970), just east of Phoenix, as well as Pueblo West, Colorado (1969) – our home town from 2000-2013. All three communities were designed in a similar fashion and share many of the same street names.

The London Bridge

Lake Havasu City is a playground mecca for adults. The large lake offers visitors a host of water activities, and the land offers an endless amount of trails for off-roading and hiking. If you don’t have your own toys, there are dozens of places to rent the toy of choice; boats, wave runners, kayaks, ATVs, and more.

One unique and rather popular hobby around here is power gliding. At our campsite, we were buzzed regularly by what I liked to call flying lawnmowers.  Al was totally infatuated by the sight and ready to return to the skies. My initial thoughts were I don’t think so!  Although Al does not miss his commercial aviation days, he does occasionally miss those daring Naval aviation missions overseas. I left Al to his thoughts while he builds us another campfire and contemplates going up in a power glider.

Al and I did our best to explore as much as possible during our five-day stay in Lake Havasu City. We also befriended fellow campers/neighbors who had been visiting the area regularly over the years. These seasoned RVers were a wealth of information, and we gobbled up as much info as they were willing to share.

Just another gorgeous sunset over Lake Havasu

Funny campfire story!

One evening, our group of befriended neighbors were away attending the pyrotechnics show at Sara Park. They had invited us to join them, but we opted to avoid the big crowds by staying home and enjoying a quiet evening around the campfire. As we were doing just that, we noticed a man walking around in the dark, sometimes in circles. He seemed lost in his thoughts. We invited him over to our campfire.

We asked him if he was okay? “Not really”, he responded. As he continued to sip on his beer, he hesitantly began telling us his situation. His girlfriend was back at the RV having a heated phone conversation with his wife who was currently living with the girlfriend’s husband. Say what? I guess these two couples met years ago while boondocking at the magic circle in Quartzsite. The magic circle is just a small section of land in an otherwise massively large parcel of property managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM – Federal Government) located in Quartzsite, Arizona, and is a clothing-optional area.

Every winter, Quartzsite is inundated with thousands of RVers boondocking in this large sparsely vegetated desert. Many folks return year after year rendezvousing with friends and other like-minded RVers. Such was the case with these two couples, and as their friendship grew, they began swapping spouses. Once it was time to move on, each normally left with their legal spouses, but not after this most recent Quartzsite visit. The couples agreed to leave with the others’ spouses and reunite a few weeks later. But when a few weeks later rolled around, both women wanted to stay with the same guy, leaving our campfire friend feeling at a loss. He wanted his wife back, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to return. Thus, his conundrum.

Al and Ingrid at their campsite in Lake Havasu City

The next day, our campfire acquaintance and his girlfriend packed up and pulled out of camp leaving Al and me wondering what the outcome would be. Would they return to the magic circle and reunite with their fellow nudists? Would any of them remain married? We are left to our own imaginations.

A couple of days later, it was our turn to leave. We had new territory to explore. We left Lake Havasu a little wiser and definitely more enlightened. There were a lot of facets to this new RV life that we never imagined.

Lake Havasu State Park
Lake Havasu State Park

This post is part of my “Blog to Book” series where I step back in time and share our journey to full-time RV living, share the RV lifestyle, and the places we visit. As I rewrite older posts, I plan to add more details and personal content … new tales never shared before. For more information about my goal for this blog series, please visit this post. And if you’d like to start from the beginning of the story, you’ll want to start with this post. I share new posts every Sunday morning and occasionally Wednesdays.

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First Real RV Trip

With the RV shakedown under our belt, warranty repair on the landing jacks complete, and our long to-do list checked off one by one, it was time to take the RV on a real road trip. Plans were made for a Christmas getaway. The date: December 2010.

Our son had moved to Phoenix, Arizona, immediately after graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder and our daughter was currently attending Colorado State University in Fort Collins. We coordinated dates with Ashton on her winter break, and when we had the perfect winter weather window, we hit the road bound for Phoenix.

The three of us along with the dog spent our first night at the Sandia Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We arrived just before dark, and once comfortably parked at the far end of the parking lot, we entered the casino and enjoyed burgers and drinks at one of the restaurants. The next morning, we were rolling before the sun came up.

Spending the night in the Sandia Casino parking lot, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Sandia Mountains in the background. It was a cold night!

Two days and 800 miles later, we arrived at our destination; Desert’s Edge RV Park located on the far north side of Phoenix, a convenient location to enjoy visits with our son. Upon check-in, I asked the gal behind the counter for an easy site to get into because we were newbies and my husband still wasn’t great at maneuvering the RV. She responded, “This site should be relatively easy, but if your husband has any problems, just ask my husband for help. We’re in the site across the street from you.” This was also the first time I’d heard the term workamper.

Sure enough, Al struggled to back into the site. The guy across the street (husband to the gal in the office) had been entertained by our struggles and eventually walked over to see if Al could use some help. In the end, the neighbor parked the RV for us, and Al and I were no longer on speaking terms, at least for the next couple of hours. Apparently, Al didn’t understand my hand signals, and I didn’t understand what he was trying to do. Thank goodness, our daughter had taken the dog for a walk and didn’t witness our little spousal episode. Ah, this RVing thing isn’t as easy as it looks.

The happy couple! Al and Ingrid with Bear. Note to self, pay attention to the background when taking a photograph. Poinsettia head?

Celebrating Christmas in Phoenix, Arizona, for the first time.

With the parking situation quickly forgotten, we set about enjoying the beautiful winter weather and indulging in the abundance of citrus trees covered with ripening fruit located throughout the park. We were loving it! This RV park fit our needs and was the perfect place to spend a week over the Christmas holiday. It was super dog friendly and conveniently located to our son’s apartment. During our stay, Ashton chose to sleep at Logan’s place which offered her more room to spread out than the RV did and allowed for some sibling bonding.

On Christmas day, our family of four exchanged gifts, stuffed our tummies with delicious food, and generally enjoyed a relaxing day. Holiday phone calls were made to family members several states away. Well wishes all around.

Al and Ingrid in the background, Logan in the foreground, and Ashton on the far right
Ashton and Logan playing mini-golf in Scottsdale on Christmas Eve

I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention, I too joined the kids in playing mini-golf. Golf of any kind is not my forte. Actually, I’m really bad and provided a great deal of entertainment that day. I also learned a lesson that day, a lesson that at my tender years, I should have learned long ago. Be careful of what one says.

As Logan and Ashton each took their turn at the Par 1 hole. I mock what a wasted obstacle this was. “Seriously, how easy is this?” Each kid made it on the first try. Of course, naturally logic would have me making a hole-in-one also. NOT! My ball did not drop into the hole until the eighth attempt and by then Ashton and Logan were laughing so hard that we garnered the attention of other players. Oh well, it was a fun and memorable day filled with lots of laughter.

I’m so embarrassed!

Trouble strikes again

Our week was going well, and we were loving this RV lifestyle. We learned the ins and outs of “Workamping”. The term and spelling is actually a trademarked company that helps RVers find temporary work in exchange for a free place to camp, or in some situations, provides income in addition to a campsite. We also ran into quite a few couples and families that lived in their RV’s full-time. What an interesting concept! I’m sure I had heard about full-time RVing from my parents, who were part-time RVers, but the thought never really sunk in until now.

Anyway, all was going fine until the toilet stopped working. Seriously? We only had two more days to savor before returning home to Colorado. Al fiddled with the toilet to no avail. He walked across the street and asked his new buddy, the seasoned RVer who parked the RV for us, to look at our toilet. After looking at it, he suggested we talk to the RV Dealership just down the road.

I’m not sure if it was the panicked tone in my voice or the begging on my knees (just kidding), but the extremely booked service department at Little Dealer Little Prices agreed to look at our toilet first thing in the morning. Awesome … well not really. That would require these RV newbies to quickly hitch up and pull out bright and early and maneuver around a jam-packed dealership lot. Not something Al was looking forward to doing.

The following day, after a three-hour dealership visit, we returned to the RV park repaired – complete with a new under warranty toilet. Although replacing the toilet didn’t require three hours, the service department did their best to fit our fix in in-between other service orders. We were grateful and also learned our RV Vin number was associated with a travel trailer and not a 5th Wheel. That would make it interesting when ordering parts in the future.

Fortunately, I had made arrangements for a pull-thru site upon our return from service. Thus, no need to back-in and no spousal discord. (snicker) It was perfect for our last night in Phoenix.

A nice easy pull-thru site at Desert’s Edge RV Park. No hand signals required.

Ingrid takes the wheel

We hated saying good-bye to Logan, but Al and I needed to return to work and Ashton needed to return to college. Our little vacation had come to an end … sadly. All things considered, it was a great first trip, plus we learned a lot.

Before we knew it, the sun was rising and we were on the road heading north toward Flagstaff then east via Interstate 40. Over eight hours and 475 miles later, we once again pulled into the Sandia Casino parking lot in Albequerque where we enjoyed burgers, drinks, and a good, but cold, night’s sleep.

The following morning, I decided it was time to take my place behind the wheel. No time like the present time to learn how to handle the truck and RV. Al and Ashton stood side by side in the casino parking lot and with praying hands, they looked skyward …. “Dear Lord yadda yadda yadda Amen”. They ended their verbiage by making the Catholic sign of the cross. A few jabs and laughs later, I had an hour of truck-RV driving under my belt.

A = Pueblo West, Colorado B = Sandia Resort & Casino, Albuquerque C = Desert’s Edge RV Park, Phoenix

I successfully navigated in and out of a gas station and continued driving all morning. There were a couple of white knuckle moments for me along Interstate 25. First was going up and over Raton Pass at the Colorado-New Mexico border. With an elevation of less than 8,000 feet, this is a pretty mild and easy pass in comparison to other mountain passes in Colorado, but it’s still up and down with turns. The second was major construction on the Interstate through the town of Trinidad … single lane with concrete barriers on both sides. There didn’t appear to be a lot of room between the barriers and certainly no room for error, but one of us had to drive this stretch. Why not me?

That day, I drove the entire five-hour drive home, and not only impressed Al and Ashton, but myself. I’m not sure why any of us felt impressed. I’ve always had the opinion that if a man can do it, a woman can too. After all, I was a licensed General Contractor working in a predominantly male-oriented position. I guess it boiled down to the fact that this was something new, a new experience, and new equipment that I’d need to get comfortable driving. There’s always a learning curve when doing something you’ve never done before.

And there would be many more learning curves to be had …

Logan graduates from the University of Colorado then moves to Phoenix. Thus, our regular RV jaunts to Arizona begin. Left to right – Ingrid, Logan, Ashton, Al

This post is part of my “Blog to Book” series where I step back in time and share our journey to full-time RV living, share the RV lifestyle, and the places we visit. As I rewrite older posts, I plan to add more details and personal content … new tales never shared before. For more information about my goal for this blog series, please visit this post. And if you’d like to start from the beginning of the story, you’ll want to start with this post. I share new posts every Sunday morning and occasionally Wednesdays.

Arizona’s Scenic Roads and Hikes: Unforgettable Journeys in the Grand Canyon State
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It all started …

July 2010 – With my signature complete, I slide the paperwork back over to the salesman. It’s official. Al and I just bought a new RV. Since it’s still on the Keystone assembly line in Elkhart, Indiana, we’ll have to wait a couple of months to take it home. Perfect, that’ll give us a great opportunity to get in one or two more trips with our underutilized truck camper before trading it in.

Ingrid in front of the truck camper Taos, New Mexico.
Boondocking in Westcliff, Colorado

September 2010, we make the one-hour drive from our home in Pueblo West, Colorado, to the RV Dealership located in the quaint Colorado mountain town of Poncha Springs. We drop off our beloved truck camper and return home with a new 2011 Keystone Laredo 5th wheel in tow.

The drive between Pueblo West and Poncha Springs is a beautiful scenic drive. However, Highway 50 just west of Canon City, turns into a two-lane road that meanders along the Arkansas River. There are lots of curves, rock walls, and narrow spots with no shoulder and no room for error. Al was a little nervous navigating this stretch of road while pulling something as large as our new thirty-one-foot 5th wheel for the very first time. There was no opportunity for him to practice or get a feel for the RV on a wider or more open road before taking our new toy home.

Little did we know what RV adventures awaited. A mere two years later, driving this same stretch of highway was no longer a big deal and just another typical travel route in our RVing world.

Our shake down trip

In the RVing community, it’s highly recommended that owners of a new (or new to them) RV take their RV on a “shakedown” outing. This means camping near home at the nearest RV Park or campground and staying for at least a couple of nights to try out all the mechanics. This is a great opportunity to get comfortable with how everything works, make a punch list for warranty issues, and review gear.

Fortunately for us, at the time, we lived just three miles from the Lake Pueblo State Park making our first trip conveniently close to home and perfect in the event we needed any tools or forgot to pack something. With that said, it should’ve been uneventful. It wasn’t.

Our first overnight in our new RV – Lake Pueblo State Park

On our second day of camping, I accidentally locked myself out of the RV. While Al went to one of our job sites, I took the dog for a short walk. (We ran our own custom home building business.) Since I wouldn’t be gone long, I left my phone and keys in the RV. When I returned from the stroll, I was unable to open the door. Fortunately, one of the neighbors noticed my distress and came over to see if I needed help. He lent me his phone so I could call Al, only to find out, he too had left his set of RV keys on the dinette table.

Turns out, this helpful neighbor had spent twenty years working in the RV industry. He suggested two choices; call a pricey locksmith or this seasoned RVer could grab his tools and pry the door open. However, he first looked around the campground for any other Keystone brand RV. Why? Because various brands are usually keyed the same. Unfortunately, he owned a Forest River Wildcat, but had there been another Keystone in camp, chances are those keys might have opened our door. Crazy, huh! (Note to self – change the locks.)

After about 15 minutes, our Good Samaritan had pried open our door leaving behind a little bent metal door frame which only Al and I notice. Serves as a reminder to never fiddle with the door lock lever on the inside prior to exiting which caused the door to lock behind me.

The education continues …

The rest of our Pueblo Reservoir stay was uneventful and enjoyable … kind of. Lists were made. Al needed tools and I needed to outfit the kitchen better. We both needed more practice hitching, unhitching, and leveling the RV, but that would come with time.

Eventually, our stay came to an end, and we headed off to the campground dump station. Al unpackaged the new sewer hose and prepared to connect it to the RV pipe. With a slight hesitation, he unscrewed the pipe cap and was immediately met with a flood of “yellow-tinged water” spilling everywhere and soaking his tennis shoes. Apparently, our new RV was delivered to us with the tank valves open, and being such a newbie, Al failed to double-check the tank valves were closed before unscrewing the cap.

After a few choice words, Al and I busted out laughing. Thank goodness no one else was around to witness this nasty mistake. Oh well, nothing a bunch of soap and water couldn’t fix. No harm done. Another lesson learned with plenty of more lessons to come.

No walls yet, just the floor of our new home under construction with our sold custom home in the background. Yep, moving across the street.

Back to Storage

After our short camping trip, it was time to return the RV to storage. Three months earlier, we had sold our large custom home and moved into a rental while we built a smaller home. Our friends were kind enough to offer us a place to store the RV until our new home on an acre of land was finished, complete with a place to park the RV.

Our friends also recently purchased a new RV. With the RVs comfortably stored alongside each other, the four of us discussed plans for future Colorado RV adventures together with our new toys.

A couple of weeks later, our friends wanted to reposition the RVs on their land. No problem! Al and I headed over to their place. While the wife and I sat in the house talking about places we wanted to camp, the guys were outside dealing with the two RVs. About an hour later, the guys walked into the house, and with a dejected look, Al glances at me and says, “I’m sorry, but I crunched the RV.” Say what? “What exactly does crunch mean?”

Seems the landing jacks wouldn’t engage meaning the RV could not be raised up in order to hitch it to the truck. These two handy MacGyvers made a critical error on where to place the car jack while manually jacking up the RV resulting in a little accordion-style body damage. Oops! And she’s less than thirty days old.

Okay, now that’s she’s broken in with a little bent metal from the lock situation and a slightly smooshed front corner from the faulty jacks, let’s take this less than new RV out on the road and have some fun with it. Adventure awaits!

This post is part of my “Blog to Book” series where I step back in time and share our journey to full-time RV living, share the RV lifestyle, and the places we visit. As I rewrite older posts, I plan to add more details and personal content … new tales never shared before. For more information about my goal for this blog series, please visit this post. And if you’d like to start from the beginning of the story, you’ll want to start with this post. I share new posts every Sunday morning and occasionally Wednesdays.

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Thank you for using my affiliate links. ❤As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

My Blog Plan for 2021

My Blog Plan for 2021

Are you new to blogging or do you consider yourself a seasoned blogger? No doubt, I fall into the latter group. I started this little blog of mine nine years ago – January 2012. On one hand, it seems like just yesterday and on the other hand, it feels like a lifetime ago. Time can be strange!

We all have our own individual reasons for starting a blog. Mine started out strictly for personal reasons as a means of documenting our travels and keeping family and friends up to date on all our new happenings. What transpired was the building of a community and a group of new friends. Friendships were forged and physical meetups were arranged.

Many of my original blogging friends have since sold their RV’s and found new places to settle and call home. Most have stopped blogging altogether. Some connections were strong enough that our friendship continues to this day while others have moved on. Life continues as new chapters are started, and as I reflect on the past nine years, I cherish the friendships and memories created.

How to preserve those memories?

What will happen to all our blog posts … our tales … our stories when we decide to deactivate our accounts? Say it isn’t so! No, I don’t plan on shutting down my site anytime soon. I still plan on being around here for a while and I hope you will be as well. I truly appreciate you stopping by, reading, liking, and leaving comments, and for that, I thank you. I love this blogging community and every time I take a break, I miss it … I miss you.

I know there will come a time when I will deactivate this account, but not before I find a way to preserve some of these memories and tales documented here on my blog. This has been my online journal, and I’d sure like to preserve it in some structured way. Thus, the idea of a “blog to book”. What a great concept. The first time I heard about this possibility was several years ago, and since then, there are now numerous platforms to choose from to do just that … turn my blog posts into physical books … books that are intended for my purposes only.

Cringe worthy writing!

I love the idea of creating a hard copy of select blog posts that I’ve written. BUT have you ever gone back and reread some of your original posts? Eek! I don’t know about you, but mine make me cringe. I mean, I literally want to hang my head in my hands in an embarrassing kind of cringe. However, if I look on the bright side, over the years my writing and my photographs have improved… at least I hope. I guess that would be known as progress. I’ll take it!

As much as my early posts make me cringe, I’m still very glad I jumped in and just wrote. My original intent, which continues to this day, is to write as I speak … minus my Chicago accent.😆 I want my blog posts to sound as if you and I are having a cup of coffee, or happy hour cocktail, together. My goal has always been to sound casual and inviting but without grammatical mistakes. Thank goodness for Grammarly. Where were you when I started this blog?

With that said, I’m not comfortable archiving many of my posts into a book format. Ah, what’s a gal to do?

My solution!

Since Al and I aren’t traveling like we used to and with this virus still hanging around, I find myself at a loss of blog material, a loss of inspiration, and at a loss of what to write about. Thus, I have decided to repurpose AND rewrite older blog posts, posts about our earlier travels with the RV. I also plan to add some new content to these tales … personal content and memories that I’d like to pass down to the next generation. After all, the whole point of turning my blog posts into a book is for the preservation of our travel memories … our life in an RV.

Hopefully, my images and writing will be somewhat less cringe-worthy and acceptable … acceptable to the level that I’ll feel comfortable turning those pages into a physical book; a book that will only be found on my shelf. Notice, I didn’t use the word professional. Yeah, I’m a realist and have no inclination to try and write professionally. Even my rewrites will still contain enough faux pas for an English teacher to have plenty to redline, and I’m ok with that.

So that’s my blog writing plan for the new year … to take you back in time and relive some of our travel tales and adventures. I hope you’ll stick around as I go down memory lane.

A Visit to Scottsdale

A Visit to Scottsdale

We were off to an early start. It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and I was on a mission. I was in desperate need of blog material and photogenic subjects. I needed some inspiration and knew Scottsdale, Arizona, was just the place to visit.

sunrise in the desert southwest
We’re off to an early start! Sunrise in the desert southwest.

I enlisted the company of my daughter and husband. Although I’ll admit, neither were particularly eager to join me on my photographic outing. I remember there being some eye rolls and me being the subject of their amusement, but when I bribed them with mouth-watering treats found at the Scottsdale farmers market, they quickly jumped on board …. and they didn’t even complain when I told them I wanted an early start to the day …. much to my surprise, I might add. (This walk was taken 11/2018 when life was normal ).

(To enlarge photos in a gallery, simple click on any image. To return to the post, click on the x found at the top right corner)

After we were fueled with coffee and filled with sustenance purchased from local vendors at the farmers market, I consulted my little map of downtown Scottsdale. We would be going on a walking tour visiting seven of Scottsdale’s most beloved public art sculptures.

Sculptures in Historic Old Town Scottsdale

It’s impossible to visit Old Town Scottsdale and not walk by our first sculpture on the tour; The Yearlings by George-Ann Tognoni. This is a monument to wild horses and depicts three bronze yearlings galloping in full stride.

The Yearlings Scottsdale Arizona
The Yearlings sculpture

This sculpture serves as a backdrop to family photo shoots and is especially popular during the holiday season when the sleigh and Christmas tree are set up.

Another popular photo shoot spot is at the LOVE sculpture. LOVE by Robert Indiana was conceived when the United States was involved with the Vietnam War and became a symbol for peace. This famous sculpture is one of the most celebrated works within the pop art movement.

Love sculpture in Scottsdale Arizona
The Scottsdale “LOVE” sculpture sitting at a temporary site near the library.

Robert Indiana created the first version of LOVE with stacked capital letters for a personal Christmas card designed for friends in 1964. In 1965, the Museum of Modern Art selected Indiana’s LOVE design for its official Christmas card.

The original sculptural rendition of LOVE was fabricated from Cor-ten steel in 1970. It can be seen at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Dozens of other LOVE sculptures are now on display around the world.

Scottsdale LOVE sculpture
Al and me at the Scottsdale LOVE sculpture 12/17

Our walk takes us into Scottsdale’s Art District

With two sculptures checked off the list, we continued our walking tour which found us venturing into Scottsdale’s Art District. The Jack Knife sculpture serves as the center of attention for the art district and sits in the middle of the road.

Jack Knife by Ed Mell is a giant bronze sculpture of a cowboy on a bucking bronco giving a nod to Scottsdale’s Western heritage and the city’s official seal.

On to the Fifth Avenue Shopping District

Who knew Scottsdale had a “Fifth Avenue” shopping district! Now for those of us that have actually shopped at the real 5th Avenue …. as in New York City’s Fifth Avenue, this Fifth Avenue is quite a bit different, but still fun. It’s kitschy, small, and is a long-time favorite with tourists boasting dozens of unique shops, award-winning restaurants, and the famous Bronze Horse Fountain.

The Bronze Horse Fountain was created by Bob Parks, who owned an art gallery in town. This piece showcases the beauty of five Arabian horses as they play in the fountain. I love how they were decorated for the holiday season with wreaths.

Bronze Horse Fountain Scottsdale Arizona
Bronze Horse Fountain

The Scottsdale Water District

We continued our trek. Not far from the Bronze Horse Fountain, we rounded a corner and walked up some stairs. We found ourselves along the Arizona Canal and noticed the bronze sculpture on the other side of a bridge.

Colorado Artist Herb Mignery is a noted western artist and sculptor. He gained early recognition for his classic and humorous western cartoons and rose to fame when he started sculpting scenes from his early Nebraska farm and ranch days.

In Passing the Legacy, a vintage 1860s horse and rider represent the original Pony Express. The lead rider reaches back to grasp the passing legacy, ready to plunge forward into a new era. It took twelve months for the artist and fabricators to refine and create the life-and-a-quarter size bronze monument, which is 20’ long.

Scottsdale Arizona Canal

As we continued our walking tour along the canal and amongst a beautiful park setting, we took great pleasure in the wonderful winter weather that Phoenix is known for.

Water is a precious commodity in a desert and controlling flood water is crucial, especially in a high density urban environment. Phoenix and her surrounding suburbs do a great job in beautifying these man-made waterways. More efforts are ongoing toward waterside recreation and beautification along these canals.

This Scottsdale section of the Arizona Canal is particularly attractive and popular with cyclists and pedestrians alike. Lighted art over and in the water are changed up regularly and the picturesque park setting serves as a great spot for festivals.

The Soleri Bridge & Plaza was designed by the late Italian architect Paolo Soleri. The bridge was designed to demonstrate the importance of solar movement.

The bridge is anchored by two 64-foot pylons and is twenty-seven feet wide on the south side narrowing to eighteen feet on the north.  Situated at a true north axis, the bridge is intended to mark solar events produced by the sun’s shadow.  The six-inch gap between both sets of pylons allows the sun to create a shaft of light as the earth moves.

Most Entertaining Sculpture

The Doors by Donald Lipski is an interesting and entertaining work of art. The structure consists of three 28 foot tall doors that lean against one another on an angle. They are made of Brazilian hardwood, mirror polished stainless steel, and thousands of hand forged steel rivets and strapping.

The Doors sculpture in Scottsdale Arizona
Approaching the “Doors” sculpture in Scottsdale, AZ

When we stepped in between the doors, we were met with a kaleidoscope effect that shines from sunlight during the day and LED lights at night. We were entertained by multiple reflections of ourselves. The experience is enhanced with sound … various sounds of bells, chimes, swooshing, and flute can be heard in and around the sculpture.

A kaleidoscope self-portrait visiting The Doors in Scottsdale Arizona
A self-portrait inside the “The Doors” – a kaleidoscope

I’d have to say, we found this sculpture rather entertaining and found ourselves lingering in and around it. I’d love to go back at night to see what it looks like all lit up from the LED lights.

End of our walking Tour of Scottsdale

Our Scottsdale walking tour visiting the most popular art sculptures in the area took us less than 2 hours full-circle and accounts for all the photo-op stopping and playing around that we did. The sculptures gave us purpose to meander down streets that we had never ventured down before. What a fun and special excuse to explore this entertaining desert southwest city!

This leisurely city walk allowed us the opportunity to see interesting sights and take note of eating establishments for future visits. There’s no shortage of fantastic eateries in Scottsdale. The biggest problem is deciding where to eat when given so many choices.

Okay … time to plan our next adventure!

Additional Scottsdale Information

For more information and downloadable maps – click here.

Being Too Busy

Being Too Busy

Although I’m still dreaming about vibrant fall colors, Al and I have been back in the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix, Arizona) for a little over a month now. I can’t figure out where the time has gone. Well actually, I do know … our days have been filled with predominantly obligations sprinkled in with a little fun here and there. I wish it were the other way around. You know, more fun and fewer obligations. Ah, such is life!

Both trucks have been in the shop for routine maintenance and then some. My little red Toyota Tacoma was in storage all summer. So basically, all she needed was an oil change and tire rotation along with a good cleaning. The Ford, on the other hand, needed a little more attention, especially after a 6,000-mile workout. (1,900 miles each direction and then all my exploring in Wisconsin and Minnesota.)

Truck trouble!

We are so grateful and lucky that our F-250 held up on our 1,900-mile journey back to Phoenix, Arizona. After a wonderful summer and fall spent in northern Wisconsin, we made it all the way to Arizona before encountering a problem. Once in Arizona, during the ever-changing terrain on Interstate 17 between Flagstaff and Phoenix, the truck came very close to overheating and not making it at the steepest grade just south of Camp Verde. According to our Mountain Directory (a must-have), the grade is about 6%, but anyone who drives this stretch of road regularly will tell you it feels much greater.

Turns out, the F-250 water pump was leaking and probably had this slow leak all summer long. Thus, the engine had trouble cooling, especially pulling the hills with the RV. Considering we were in mostly flat country all summer long with moderate temperatures and not pulling the RV regularly, we never noticed a problem with the truck until we hit Arizona and the ever-changing elevation. Whew! We dodged a close call of getting stuck on the side of the road.

All he needs now is a little exterior TLC, aka wash, wax, and vacuum. The Ford is almost ready for his next trip and is running like a champ and easily passed the Maricopa County (Phoenix) emission test … keeping the air clean – our truck is registered here since this is our legal domicile.

Our overnight stop just north of Des Moines, Iowa
Spent the night in a Cabela’s parking lot. Almost ready to hit the road as the sun was rising.

More appointments!

Along with tending to vehicle appointments, there have been Doctor, Dentist, and Vision appointments. Drilling, poking, prodding, x-rays, tests, scans, and follow-up visits have ensued. Al’s mouth and body are good to go for another year and I’m getting closer. Geez … this getting old stuff ain’t for sissies.🤣

Oh and I can’t forget to add in the water leak and a few other attention grabbing tidbits on the RV. So much for me and my remodeling ideas. That will be taking a backseat for a while, much to Al’s delight and my disappointment.

Family fun!

At least we’ve been able to add in a few fun family visits on a small scale. A Thanksgiving get together this Thursday is still up in the air. The eight of us are all trying to be Covid cautious. Thus, we’ll all check with one another at the last minute, and then if we do get together, we’ll probably eat outside. Fortunately, the weather in Phoenix, Arizona has been beautiful. Perhaps even a tad too warm with record highs being broken. It has been a hot year around here, and I’m glad Al and I were in northern Wisconsin for the worst of the heat.

wild turkey crossing the road
Why did the turkey cross the road? To get to the other side! Wild turkeys in Wisconsin. I found myself needing to stop regularly so I wouldn’t hit one.
turkey's crossing the road
Wild turkeys crossing the road. Dinner, anyone? Run, turkey, run!

Along with getting together with family back here in Arizona, we’re enjoying reconnecting with our RV Park friends (on a limited and socially distanced scenario, of course). We’ve chosen not to engage in any of the park’s social functions even though they are trying to do their best with Covid guidelines. I’ve dealt with my fair share of illnesses the past several years (including flu, Valley Fever, and mononucleosis), so I’d really prefer to avoid this nasty virus.

My to-do list seems to be growing instead of dwindling. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say, I’d really prefer being less busy. I guess you could say, I’ve been a little too busy lately and am looking forward to life slowing down soon. Ah, but with the holiday season in full swing, I don’t think that’ll happen anytime soon. On that note, excuse me if I’m a little less active here in the blogosphere. Life!

What a change from my relaxing summer. Calgon, take me away!

Photo Challenges:

As I was putting this post together, I couldn’t help but think about the differences between our summer home and winter home and it’s not just the drastic contrast between the two landscapes. It’s about our mindset. When we visit family property in northern Wisconsin, we’re more in vacation mode and tend to think less of life’s responsibilities, unless we’re talking about an RV tank leak, then it’s all business, in more ways than one 🤣

When we return to AZ, it’s like returning home after being on vacation. It’s time to think about responsibilities and get back to being an adult. Phoenix is our home base where we have an annual RV site. It’s our place of residence and the place we spend the most amount of time. So I guess it’s safe to say, Phoenix, Arizona is our main home, and Hayward, Wisconsin is our second home.

I’m so incredibly thankful to still be able to travel via our RV and enjoy two such beautiful worlds while spending time with people we love in both places. With that said, enjoy a few images showcasing how different our two homes are.

Sunday Stills: Terri’s theme this week is Thankful. Amy’s theme: Lens-Artist photo challenge #124: Now and Then.

Then: northern Wisconsin.

Early summer morning at the lake in WI
A crisp fall morning at the lake .
Lush vegetation abounds in the northern Midwest.

Now: Phoenix, Arizona

Lake Pleasant
Sunset over Lake Pleasant, Phoenix Arizona
Hiking in the desert
Golf anyone? Quintaro Golf Course.

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Small Town America

Small Town America

We hit the road last Monday, but before we got those RV wheels rolling again, there was one more place I needed to visit. Ok, maybe I didn’t need to visit, but I certainly wanted to visit Bayfield, Wisconsin. My goals were apple picking and photographing fall foliage.

It was the first week in October, and at 6:00 in the morning, it was only 27 degrees Fahrenheit outside. It was definitely cold and I was very grateful the furnace in the RV was running like a champ. When I looked outside everything was coated in a thick layer of white frost. And when I stepped outside, I could actually see my breath 🥶

A frosty cold morning – Oct. 4th – 27 degrees F

Al questioned my Bayfield excursion, but I knew it would be a mostly sunny day with light winds. I had to get out and enjoy the day. The prior couple of weeks, the weather had been gloomy and depressing … typical Midwestern weather that I always hated. Thus, I was grateful for a day of sunshine and planned on taking full advantage of the nice weather.

So on a brisk fall morning, I bundled up in layers, set upon scraping the frost off the truck windshield, loaded up a picnic lunch and an extra coat, and jumped in the truck for the 90 minute drive.

A beach along Lake Superior with fall colors

Visiting Bayfield, Wisconsin

I fell in love with this captivating small American town last summer. Picturesque Bayfield, with a population of less than 500, is the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It’s located at the far northern edge of Wisconsin along the southern shores of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. The rolling hills, lush vegetation, and beautiful Lake Superior shoreline make visiting this part of northern Wisconsin well worth the out of the way drive. It’s the perfect place for me to escape everyday life and enjoy a little solitude while taking in the lovely landscape.

Blue Vista Farm

There are over a dozen orchards and fruit farms surrounding the town. My go-to orchard is the Blue Vista Farm. Considering my daughter and I had such a fun time picking blueberries here at the end of July, I was really looking forward to re-visiting and picking apples. Unfortunately, due to circumstances surrounding the 2020 pandemic, the Bayfield Apple Festival was canceled, and therefore, the owners of Blue Vista Farms decided to press their harvest of apples this season.

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

Oh well, not all was lost. I had a wonderful time walking around the property with my camera and then purchased some freshly pressed apple cider before heading off to my next stop. (BTW … I should’ve purchased more apple cider. It was incredibly delicious and fresh.)

Gil Larsen Nature Trail

On the north end of town, across the street from the library, is the trailhead to the Iron Bridge and Nature Trail. This was a new find for me. I absolutely loved hiking this ravine and was definitely in my happy place. It’s an out and back trail that’s less than two miles roundtrip. So it’s not a long trail but certainly worthwhile and gorgeous.

The trail meanders along a creek and passes under the historic Old Iron Bridge. The trail is a variety of wooden bridges, dirt ground, wood boardwalks, steps, and rocky creek crossings. Fortunately, my visit was during the beginning of October when the creek was merely trickling with water making the creek crossings easy-peasy. And no bugs to contend with … a huge bonus. I would imagine springtime could present a different kind of experience and challenge.

Along the way are benches for visitors to sit for a moment to admire the surroundings and take in the sights and sounds. I was thrilled to photograph the woodpecker and listen to it pecking away at a tree. The thick canopy of trees and tall earthen walls blocked much of the blue skies giving a sense of mystery to my surroundings. The cool damp air added to the unique experience.

This trail felt somewhat reminiscent to me … possibly similar to a western slot canyon. Perhaps this ravine is the Midwestern version of a slot canyon. Did I already tell you how much I loved exploring this nature trail?

Walking across the historic Old Iron Bridge – Rice Avenue

Once I completed walking the nature trail, I decided to walk around town a little bit and eventually walked over the Old Iron Bridge. The bridge towers pretty high above the nature trail as it crosses the ravine. Looking down, it was difficult to spot the trail that I had just hiked due to the dense tree foliage. The autumn colors were vibrant and I was awed by the overall beauty.

small town America along the shores of Lake Superior dotted with fall colors

Beyond downtown

Should you ever find yourself visiting charming Bayfield, Wisconsin, be sure to venture beyond the main street (Rittenhouse Avenue). I was undoubtedly in my happy place as I explored. I was delighted with the architecture, the tree-lined hilly streets, hiking a magical trail, and strolling the friendly quaint town. Basically, I loved the overall atmosphere and landscape that embodies this small American town in northern Wisconsin.

Bayfield is one of those places that has captured my heart. So I guess, it’s safe to say, I plan on returning next season. 🤞 “God willing and the creek don’t rise!”

Photo Challenges – Sunday Stills. This week, Terri asks us to share images of “Your Happy Place”. Whenever I’m out and about in nature with my camera, I’m in my happy place. Not only was I in my happy place this past summer, but northern Wisconsin also served as a great “Hideaway”. During our four-month stay, Al and I pretty much kept ourselves isolated either on remote private property or out in nature. Lens Artists Photo Challenge #119 – My Hideaway – alone in nature!

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Autumn in the North

Autumn in the North

With each impending day, winter is inching closer and closer here in northern Wisconsin which is our cue to ready the RV and start our journey to the desert southwest. Although 2020 has presented all of us with a lot of interesting challenges, Al and I are fortunate to have enjoyed a great summer and fall on lakefront property with family.

Challenges

But speaking of challenges, this is my first post using the new WordPress editor. Like anything new, there’s a bit of a learning curve, and it has taken me a tad longer than normal putting a post together, but I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. Anyway, I’ll keep this post short and sweet.

Also, we’ll be hitting the road bright and early in the morning and need to continue getting the RV ready to roll. After sitting in one location for four months, it’s always a little nerve-racking preparing the RV and ourselves for the 1,900 mile journey.

a cabin and boat docks on a reflective lake in Wisconsin

Time to roll

The weather is certainly changing and getting a little too cold for a couple of desert dwellers. Ok, we haven’t always been desert dwellers. We actually grew up in the Midwest and then lived in Colorado, but after spending the past eight years in the south during the winter months, we’ve become accustomed to more moderate temperatures. Seems we have lost the ability or rather the desire to deal with cold and freezing temperatures.

Additionally, the skies have been gloomy and overcast the past few weeks with intermittent rain. Those depressing skies are one of the reasons I’ve rarely missed living in the Midwest. One gets easily accustomed to climates offering 290 days of sunshine a year.

Funny how a few short months can change our mindset. When we first arrived in Wisconsin in early June, the overcast sky and occasional rain were a welcome change from the continuous sunshine we experience in Phoenix, but now, those grey skies are getting old, and I once again long for that western sunshine.

Ah and those temps … the temperatures around here have been way too cold for tin can RV living. Overnights have been in the 20 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit range and the days have struggled to get into the 50’s F … brrr. So yeah, it’s time to head south. I’m longing to feel warm again. Will I ever feel warm again? 😎

Photo Challenge – Sunday Stills. For today’s photo challenge, Terri asks us to share images of fall colors, particularly ‘ochre’. Fortunately, autumn in northern Wisconsin made this challenge easy for me!

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Going for a Walk

Going for a Walk

It was the third week in September when I was finally able to explore a couple of Duluth parks on my must-see list. Since Duluth, Minnesota is almost a two-hour drive north of my summer home base in Wisconsin, I was really hoping that the fall colors would be popping more than they were. Oh well, the parks were lovely all the same.

Even though I was slightly disappointed with the fall colors, I was very impressed with the trails. Folks around here love their outdoor recreation. Unfortunately, I was in Duluth just for the day and my time was somewhat limited, but at least I was able to take in an overview and walk the trails a little bit.

Lester Park, Duluth, MN

Located on the east side of Duluth, Lester park offers over nine miles of hiking and biking trails and sits along a creek. This is a popular park with locals since it offers picnic tables, a children’s playground, access to a great trail system, and a refreshing river complete with waterfalls. I spent almost two hours meandering trails, crossing bridges, and giving my camera a workout.

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

The Lakewalk Trail – Congdon Park, Duluth, MN

Also on the east side of Duluth and along the Tischer Creek is Congdon Park. The park was once part of the Glensheen Estate. Owner, Chester Congdon donated the land to the city of Duluth and paid for its development on the condition that the city would stop using the creek as an open sewer.  We thank you, Mr. Congdon!🦨

The park offers beautiful hiking trails, unique bridges, and lovely waterfalls begging to be explored. However, after having spent a couple of hours at Lester Park, I found myself short on time and was only able to walk about 15 minutes out and back on The Lakewalk Trail and never did make it into the heart of Congdon Park.

Although there’s a nice size parking lot near London Road and 26th Ave, I ended up parking the truck on a side street on 32nd Ave so I could view the Tischer Creek and bridges. The Lakewalk Trail is a beautifully paved trail perfect for cyclists, moms with strollers,  or anyone wanting to go on a walk and take in nature. I know I’ll be back next summer for further explorations.

Goodbye for now!

Unfortunately, with winter inching closer, my visits to Duluth have come to an end … temporarily anyway, and I’m already formulating a list of things to do and places to see next season. Hopefully, I’ll do a better job of planning for next summer by making some Duluth RV reservations well in advance. This year, my last-minute planning didn’t work in my favor. Guess my luck had to run out sometime. 😏

For Duluth lodging recommendations, you can check out this post.

Photography Challenge … Lens-Artists #117: A Photo Walk. For this week’s photo challenge, Amy asks us to share photos taken while on a walk. She encourages us to pause for a moment and observe our surroundings. Fun time!

No Words Necessary!

No Words Necessary!

Fall is definitely in the air and the trees are popping with more color every day. I’m loving it and have been out exploring at every opportunity. No words are necessary to describe the beauty of autumn found here in northern Wisconsin.

These photos were taken this past week when colors were said to be 30-50%. Every day, more leaves are changing and peak color around here should be the first week in October. Hopefully the weather will cooperate in which case, I’ll be one happy photographer, and if the weather doesn’t agree, I’ll still be a happy camper surrounded by such a beautiful landscape.

Fall colors in northern Wisconsin.

a boat on a lake with fall colors

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” – Aristotle

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Time spent amongst trees is never wasted time.” – Katrina Mayer

“Colors are the smiles of nature.” – Leigh Hunt

“My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature.” – Claude Monet

 

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #116 – Symmetry

I haven’t engaged in a photo challenge in a very long time and I miss participating. So for this week’s challenge, Patti asks us to focus on images that represent symmetry. The above image has that feel of symmetry.