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.

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Focus on a Story with Your Photos

Focus on a Story with Your Photos

We all have a story to share, and as bloggers, we love sharing our stories. Some of us tend to lean toward visual inspiration and share our tales via photographs while others are gifted with words and the ability to write. But when photographs and words come together, it’s pure magic. Well, in my book anyway!

Think about it … many of us have a favorite children’s book that is filled with a combination of images and words. I still have a few of those books from my childhood tucked away in storage. And then there’s my collection of cookbooks. I love cookbooks but rarely buy one without a healthy dose of tantalizing food photos to accompany the recipes. But my favorite is a beautiful coffee table book filled with stunning photography taking me on a visual adventure.

Storytelling with photographs is all about the images with just enough words to enhance the story.

This is the road to our summer/fall home.

Visual storytelling with photographs

The photographs we share depend largely on how we want to tell the story. As someone who enjoys travel in an RV, the majority of my photographs, and thus my stories, are centered around the places we visit along with my personal experiences and thoughts. There’s an excitement to traveling, to seeing new sights, meeting new people, having new experiences, and capturing those moments and memories is important to me. The ability to share them with you is a bonus! ūüėĀ

When I think about my adventures and how I want to preserve a memory and how I might want to share a story, I keep a few thoughts in mind …

5 Elements to help tell a story.

  • Idea: what, where, when?
  • Plan: execution, how?
  • Memory: preservation, what do I want to remember most?
  • Emotion: feeling, sentiment, how does it make me feel?
  • Narration: words to complement the images and help deliver the story.

It doesn’t matter what kind of camera we use to capture our story. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite recent fall photographs was taken quickly with my iPhone. Al and I had gone on a scenic drive and stopped to explore a national forest campground on Lake Namekagon in northern Wisconsin. It was a gorgeous fall day, and I was easily distracted by the beautiful autumn colors. While Al strolled back to the truck, I ventured down a trail.

Knowing Al would be waiting for me (patiently) and realizing we still had several more places to visit, I was rushed, but I felt compelled to capture snippets of my experience. Without much thought, I pointed the iPhone … click to the left, click to the right, click up high, click down low, time to go! Regrettably, my Panasonic stayed slung across my body.

Trust your instincts when capturing the moment. Try not to overthink the composition … unless your goal is for professional reasons or a wall hanger, in which case you’ll want to pull out the good camera, tripod, and spend some time composing. But for storytelling, go with your gut and capture what makes you happy at that moment … it’s your story.

hiking trail with fall leaves on the ground
This is one of my favorite photos taken this past September.

Memory / Emotion: The image above evokes a calming joy within me and that’s exactly how I felt strolling through those leaves, and for some reason, those leaves almost looked like rose petals guiding me further into the forest. Whenever I look at this photograph, I’m reminded of the wonderful autumn day that I shared with my husband. I realize the way the image impacts me is unique to me personally.

I’m curious though … how does the image make YOU feel? What does it say to you? Perhaps you don’t even care for the photo, and that’s ok, but the photograph is part of my visual story from that day.

Idea / Plan: The whole reason for us to remain in northern Wisconsin into October was so I could capture autumn foliage. So with that in mind, I set about planning where I wanted to go. For three weeks, starting in mid-September, whenever the weather was agreeable, I was off in search of color.

Scenery along the way!

I was rewarded with stunning colors in all directions. Sometimes I was able to pull off to the side of the road and snap some photos and other times I wasn’t so lucky, in which case I would have to savor those views in my memory. I knew when I planned these photo outings that I’d want to share my tales here on the blog. Therefore, I made mental notes and had an idea of what kind of images I wanted to capture to help tell my story … visual storytelling.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Narration: Years ago, long before personal computers, the internet, and digital photography ūüėĶ, I was into scrapbooking. I have about three large storage containers filled with photo albums. I treasure those albums, but when I recently started flipping through one, I noticed the lack of narration. Writing has never come easy to me and that was more apparent than ever when reviewing that photo album.

Oh, how I wish I had shared more information about the photographs, about the events, about the places and people. Even though a picture may be worth a thousand words, adding additional information via words will enhance any story. Besides, there’s a little storytelling in all of us.

Color was seen everywhere!

Hopefully, I’ve offered a few tips that might help you focus on your own storytelling via photography. If interested, here is one of my favorite tales where I take my readers on a hike at the incredible Kasha-Katuwee Tent Rocks.

Do you have a favorite visual story?

I loved the tiny island with the colorful trees in the distance.
blue and pink sunset over a lake with ducks
Beautiful ending to a beautiful day!

Photo Challenges: This week for Sunday Stills, Terri asks us to share photographs of leaves. Another photo challenge is from Patti – Lens-Artists #121 Focus on the Subject. As opposed to focusing my camera on something specific, I chose storytelling as my subject to focus on.

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A Season of Blooms

We arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, just in time to watch the desert come alive.¬† I don’t think there’s a better time to visit the Valley of the Sun, aka Phoenix, than in late winter, early spring when¬†the desert is¬†dressed in all her finery.Superstition Mountain

What I would refer to as spring around here, begins a little earlier in the desert southwest than in other parts of the country.  Having lived in places like northern Illinois and southern Colorado, I would never refer to February as spring, but around flowering desertthe Phoenix valley, signs of spring are visible everywhere by mid February.

Trails and roads are usually lined with clusters of yellow flowers, courtesy of the brittlebush.

Flowers equal spring in my book and thus the season for blooms…. blooms of all shapes, sizes, and colors.¬†¬†While¬†I hit the hiking trails,¬†I allow¬†my eyes to look and discover the finer details of the blooming desert…. the little things.¬† I’m¬†rarely disappointed.

After taking in the vast landscape, I narrow my focus discovering the little details
After taking in the vast landscape, I narrow my focus and discover little hidden surprises

desert flowers

Prickly pearAmongst the sharp cactus thorns grow delicate flowers.  The variety of foliage is an interesting collaboration of opposites; small, fine, delicate plants grow in harmony with large, hearty, thorned cacti.

Not wanting to be outdone by the other plants, the cacti produce their own flowers providing a profusion of colorful blooms dotting the landscape.

As many times as I’ve witnessed the¬†extraordinary beauty of the desert, her extremes continue to amaze me.cactus

It’s not just the flora that’s intriguing…. it’s also the birds and animals that survive in this harsh land of extremes that are fascinating to observe.¬†¬†Watching the¬†relationship between flora and fauna in the Sonoran Desert during the¬†blooming season is like watching a fine ballet ….¬†beauty and drama¬†are in abundance.

silhouette of an ocotillo cactus, but let's take a closer look at the bush lower right...
silhouette of an ocotillo cactus…. let’s take a closer look at the bush in the foreground…

I love the small delicate blooms
I love the small delicate blooms on this bush

The ocotillo cactus is one of my favorites. The leaves and flowers seem soft and delicate yet the thorns and sturdy bark make it one strong desert survivor. The ocotillo provides an excellent perch for birds and the orange flowers are very distinct.ocotilloocotillo

 

 

 

 

 

ocotillo

I¬†truly enjoy this time of year in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.¬† I’ll be spending the next six weeks immersing myself in her gorgeous and abundant flora.¬† In closing, I leave you with a photo of a Fairy Duster.Fairy Duster

BTW…¬†most of the¬†photos¬†in this post were¬†taken with a¬†Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 12.1 MP Digital Camera with CMOS Sensor and 24x Optical Zoom – Black.¬† Since it’s no longer in production, the price¬†has been¬†severely reduced.¬† So much so, I bought a back-up ūüôā

That’s a wrap!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fresh roasted coffee beans
Fresh roasted coffee beans

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

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

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

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

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

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Top 5 favorite Colorado mountain towns.

ColumbineHave 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 bend.

This summer we find ourselves once again hanging in Colorado.¬† We’ve done¬†a¬†bunch of serious exploring in this state over the past¬†two summers, but¬†I have a feeling we’ve¬†barely touched the surface of this beautiful slice of America.¬†¬†¬†Thus, yesterday I pulled out the Colorado atlas again to see what back road might pique my interest.

While scouring the map, I was met with a flood of fond memories.  After all, we did call Colorado home for over twenty years.  Could I pick a favorite mountain town?  BreckenridgeCould I pick a favorite scenic drive?  That would be a resounding, NO!  I do however have some favorites.

When we lived in Colorado Springs, we would bring the kids up to either Summit County or Grand County for winter fun. While the kids were enjoying the slopes, Al and I would stroll shops and go out to lunch in a quaint mountain town.  Charm and character abound.

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

Summit County is a great place to visit any time of year, but March and April are my least favorite due to slushy conditions as the snow melts, but that never stopped our kids from enjoying spring skiing.

Now a days, hubby 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 in the winter.

Keystone
Off Swan Mtn Road, between Breckenridge and Keystone, is a scenic overlook high above Dillon Reservoir. The chipmunks are used to folks bringing sunflower seeds and this little guy crawled on Al’s hand checking to see if he brought any such treats.

At the end of May, Al and I¬†found ourselves once again¬†camped at the shores¬†of Dillon Reservoir which of course included a little shop strolling in Breckenridge.¬†¬†¬†We always look forward to a¬†treat stop at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory plus¬†I believe someone purchased a T-shirt (or two) but I’m not telling considering there’s no more room in the RV closet.¬† I wonder if Al has noticed that I’m encroaching on his half of the closet…. ssshhh!

Colorado museumsAs much as I enjoy Breckenridge and think that it’s 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”.

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 four major ski resorts.¬† Main Street offers plenty of quaint shops, restaurants, and a historic park¬†with museum.Frisco museum Al and I grabbed a couple of Lattes at a local coffee shop and strolled over to the Frisco Historic Park & Museum.¬† This is a free, self guided museum preserving Frisco’s heritage.¬† Toward the rear of the park was a delightful sculpture that brought a smile to our faces.

After exploring the grounds, it was time for us to tour some of the buildings at the museum.  Each building offered a little something different and from various decades.red lipstick

Frisco musuemI was particularly entertained by the fashions on display as well as learning the importance of red lipstick during World War II.¬† Hubby and I aren’t huge museum goers, but we found this¬†historic park¬†to be quite entertaining and worth the stop.

Frisco also offers an Adventure Park as well as a marina on Dillon Reservoir. As many times as we’ve stopped in Frisco, each visit we discover some new shop, restaurant, or hiking trail.¬†¬†And the scenery ain’t too bad either.

Next up we’ll visit another favorite mountain town……maxine

FYI…. if I’m a little quiet these days, it’s because I’m still under the weather as well as¬†we’ve had some problems with our internet and excessive data usage which we’re trying to figure out where the problem lies.¬† Grrr….. this isn’t the adventure I signed up for LOL.¬†

Teva Women’s Kayenta Strappy Sandal, Vega Black, 9 M US
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Let’s talk dirty

We always enjoy our time in Moab, Utah, but there is a down side to this unique and beautiful place.¬† It isn’t always easy to find a place to camp, even the RV Parks can fill quickly on weekends.¬† In general, we usually¬†opt for a little more elbow room than most RV Parks offer and look for state parks, national forest campgrounds, or BLM land for boondocking…. all of which can present a¬†challenge around Moab.¬† This is a popular place and outside of RV Parks the BLM campgrounds can be difficult to find an open spot, especially for larger RV’s.Moab Utah

Moab UtahKen’s Lake is usually¬†our go-to campground in¬†Moab,¬†but our friends, Mike and Linda,¬†snagged a boondock spot on some state land twelve miles out-of-town and were saving room for us.¬† We camped there last year as well and it’s all about luck finding room to park.

And even when you do find a spot, you can expect to have lots of company on the weekends, whether you want it or not.  This area is super popular with the OHV (off-highway vehicle) crowd.  Last year we had a couple of tear-drop trailers join us and this year it was a bunch of tenters.

There’s no boondocking etiquette around here.¬† If there’s open ground, it’s game.

Moab Utah
Friday night we had a couple of tents pitched between us and the road and another one in the rear. The rear tenter remained for a couple of days. Shy guy who didn’t engage in conversation.

Moab Utah
If you don’t leave Moab covered in “Moab Red” you haven’t visited Moab

The Friday night of Mother’s Day weekend brought plenty of rain.¬† And with rain comes mud.¬† Lot’s of mud.¬† Thank goodness there were no plans to move¬†our RV’s because I’m not sure how far down the dirt mud¬†road we could’ve gone.¬†That mud gets slick and you sink easily.

The rain didn’t seem to deter anyone’s travel plans and there was a steady stream of traffic of folks looking for a place to camp. As the sun set, we were quickly surrounded by tents (well, that might be a slight exaggeration – at least 3 that we noticed in the dark).¬† All but one, broke camp the next morning.

Moab Utah
Al works on our broken generator. In the background you can see the campsite next to ours. Several tents and more dirt bikes and ATV’s than I could count. They had fun churning up the dirt…. regularly.

The rains on that Friday kept the four of us housebound and it was an entertaining feat just to walk from one RV to the other.  Once wet, the red dirt quickly turns to slick, thick mud.

Moab Utah
The mud is as slick as ice and all I could think about was not falling on my a*s…. not a pretty sight!

Moab red
My outdoor rug sunk into the mud when I stepped on it. I left a trail of mud on the steps. The bottom of my flip-flops were coated with thick red mud.

Paleo donuts
What do I do on rainy days? Bake! Paleo donuts, orange scones, and chocolate chip cookies

And when it dries, it turns to a concrete like substance.¬† Ever wonder how those ancient Pueblo ruins have survived so long?¬† Well, it’s pretty obvious to me – red Moab mud.

So as much as I love the open views and free campsite, it comes with a dirty price.¬† Once things dry out, it’s the dust devils you have to watch out for.

When the weather cleared, we took full advantage and enjoyed life around camp.  A campfire was built, drinks poured, and homemade treats were served.

Since the weather was so nice, we had our¬†RV windows open and Mike and Linda had their door open as well.¬† While sitting around the campfire, that’s when it happened…. before we¬†could process what was going on,¬†it was over.Moab Utah

Moab redWe were sitting under¬†our Laredo awning and watched a dust dirt devil swirl right past Mike and Linda’s RV open door.¬† Oh my gosh, talk about a trail of dirt left in its wake.

They had a thick layer of dirt covering the front half of their RV interior.¬† I think they’re still working on removing all that Moab red.

Moab Utah
Al, me, Linda, Mike

As much as we love our boondocking and admiring the views, it’s not perfect.¬† And although we didn’t have a dust devil enter our RV, we too continue to clean and find the fine red dirt in the strangest places.¬† But hey, with a camp like this, it’s worth a little dirt…. or in Mike and Linda’s case, a lot of dirt!Moab UtahMoab Utah

Moon Zion & Bryce: Including Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante & Moab (Moon Handbooks)

I recently started a food blog called Dally in the Galley.
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Don’t tell Miss Piggy

We ended up staying in Phoenix about 2 weeks longer than we originally planned.  That meant a slow lingering meander through Utah was shortened to a mere four days.  We had a reservation and appointment in Grand Junction, Colorado, that required us to maintain a travel schedule or I assure you we would have moved through Utah a lot slower.  I love this state.

Utah
driving through Monument Valley is always a treat

Utah
I never get tired of the scenery driving through Monument Valley, Utah

Al and I don’t usually like long travel days, but we were really looking forward to¬†some time in Moab.¬† Therefore, we drove from Phoenix to Moab in one day…. one very long day.¬† After an eight and a half hour drive, we pulled into a boondock spot¬†next to¬†our friends Linda and Mike.¬† They were thankfully saving room for us.Moab Utah

Moab UtahEven though Al and I split the driving, we arrived tired and were grateful to be greeted with hugs and chilled margaritas.  Thanks guys.

But their hospitality didn’t end there.

When Al went to start the generator, Honda EU2000i Super Quiet Portable Gas Powered Generator Power Inverter 2000, 120V, the cord ended up in his hand.¬† Yikes, four days of boondocking with no power would definitely drain our batteries.¬† Thus, the generator would need to be repaired.¬† Sounds like a project for two strapping young men to tackle (can I hear a little Tim Allen grunting?)¬† Fortunately for us,¬†last year Mike and Linda added a ton of solar to their RV …. so much so, that they not only powered their own RV, they powered ours as well.¬† Yes, wattage envy!

Moab Utah
note the orange electrical cord on the ground – we’re hooked up to the “Bear” for electric.

Our four day stay whizzed by and the weather was a mixed bag; cold, warm, cloudy, sunny, windy, calm.¬† We had a ton of fun on Mother’s Day starting with the guys serving their wives mimosa’s.mimosa

One mimosa down and another in hand, it was time for me to fix breakfast…. by choice, of course.¬† I wanted to fix everyone one of my nutritious skilletini’s, which I’ll feature on my Moab Utahfood blog in a couple of weeks.

We all got a big chuckle out of the fact Mike could not seem to remember the work skill-e-tini and instead referred to the breakfast as a spank-a-tini.

From that point on, the dish was referred to as a spankatini.

So what’s in the ‘spankatini’?¬† Italian pork sausage, butternut squash, mushrooms, peppers, onion, and cilantro…. topped with two eggs and a side of bacon.Moab UtahAs if sausage and bacon at breakfast wasn’t enough pork in our diet¬†for the¬†day, the guys took us out for a Mother’s Day dinner at the Blue Pig in Moab for some yummy barbeque.¬† I’m sure somewhere on our table was a slab of ribs ūüôā¬† Please don’t tell Miss Piggy that we started and ended our day eating pork.¬† It’s certainly not something the four of us do regularly, but we were in a rather celebratory mood – it was Mother’s Day after all.¬† With the exception of the champagne, I’m sure it was all Paleo approved ūüėČ

The next day, Al and I hit the road with Grand Junction, Colorado, as our destination.¬† But before we get to Grand Junction, we have a little dirt to share…..Moab Utah

Weber 50060001 Q 1000 Liquid Propane Grill

Three’s company, or not!

I Googled the meaning of adventure.¬† The word adventure could be used to describe an unusual and exciting, sometimes hazardous, experience or activity.¬† Hmm, I pondered that for a moment.¬† Quite frankly, I think life’s an adventure it’s just some days¬†are filled with more excitement than others.

hot air balloons
This photo was taken right out my RV door while still in my nighty!

It’s been an interesting couple of days around our little home.¬† One might even use the term adventurous to describe our exciting and unusual morning(s).

adventureIt was around 4:00 a.m.¬†Wednesday morning as I laid in bed.¬†¬†I wasn’t¬†in a deep sleep, but not necessarily awake.¬† I’m laying on my side with my back to hubby when I feel Al lightly drum his fingers down my arm.¬† Then he rested his hand before continuing the light drumming back up, then down, then gone.¬† As I laid their half asleep yet half awake, I thought to myself…. how strange.¬† He’s never done that before.¬† Oh well, and quickly fell into a deep slumber.

Around 5:30 a.m. I’m awakened by Al’s chuckling.¬† He says, “What are you doing?”¬† Groggily, I responded with a, “What are you talking about”.¬† He says, “You know… that light tickling drumming with your fingers down my arm”.¬† “Honey, I’m laying on my stomach and in this position even the most talented of contortionists wouldn’t be able to even touch your arm let alone¬†roll fingers”.

Say what?¬† Somewhat startled, we¬†quickly became WIDE awake.¬† We¬†swiftly sat up and looked around.¬† Apparently, we weren’t alone.¬†¬†It became obvious¬†I wouldn’t¬†be going back to sleep anytime soon, and¬†thus¬†I got up¬†to start the¬†coffee and frantically¬†looked around for¬†any unwanted¬†guest.

It was a particularly beautiful morning.¬† While looking out¬†the RV bedroom window,¬†I sat in bed having my coffee.¬†The lovely sight of colorful balloons temporarily eased any concerns of a third party in bed with us. It was the perfect day for an adventurous hot air balloon ride.¬†I watched as a dozen balloons¬†floated by. ¬†Ah, one day I’ll¬†go up in¬†one of those baskets.

adventure
the view out my bedroom window

While I was enjoying coffee with a view, Al continued the critter hunt to no avail and eventually we went about our day…. that is until it was time for lunch.¬†¬†Was it¬†the smell of food that finally lured Lorenzo out¬†into the open?¬† The next five minutes unfolded like a¬†scene out of¬†an episode¬†of the Three Stooges as Al and I escorted Mr. Lorenzo Lizard to the nearest exit.

lizard
“Hey, you could’ve at least fed me before kicking me out!”

With the bedroom mystery solved, that night we¬†were able to enjoy¬†a good nights sleep… that is¬†until about 3:00 a.m.¬† That’s when Donatella Donkey and her family decided to munch on the weeds next to our RV.

donkey
Dad on the left (yes that’s dad, I double checked – he’s just cold or shy at the moment), mom middle, child on the right

donkeyWith the beautiful spring weather we’ve enjoyed in Phoenix, we’ve slept with the windows open at night.¬† Therefore, the braying ….¬†hee-haw sound of the donkey right outside our window had Al and¬†me laughing.¬† We literally¬†could hear them pulling the grass and munching, but that braying sound was/is hysterical. And it’s loud.

If you’ve never heard a donkey bray, click here to be entertained.¬† Trust me, it’s worth the click to listen to these guys.

These donkeys aka wild burros casually roam about the desert in the northwest part of the Phoenix valley near Lake Pleasant.

Ah, but our little adventurous encounters didn’t end there.¬† We have the tale of Millie who was so brazenly bold as to mosey from behind my chair over to the slatted vent under the frig all the while¬†exchanging eye contact with hubby….. the hussy!

mouseOnce behind the vent, she continued looking at Al for another minute before disappearing.¬† Al found the encounter rather humorous but that didn’t stop him from setting a mouse trap that night.¬† It¬†remained empty the next morning.¬† Perhaps Miss Millie heeded the evacuation notice.

The next day it was time for me to bake.¬†¬†Since I’ve been following¬†a Paleo¬†based diet, I like to keep the freezer stocked with fresh-baked¬†scones or muffins¬†made from almond or coconut flour.¬† I recently purchased a special silicon bagel/donut mold and was looking forward to giving it a try.¬† In an RV, storage needs to be fully utilized.¬† I stow my cookie sheets and muffin pans including the new donut mold in the RV oven when not in use.¬† When I emptied the oven to lite the pilot light,¬†I excitedly reached for my new bagel mold….. “What’s this – crumbs?”¬† Miss Millie Mouse had nibbled on my brand new, never been used silicon donut mold and chewed a hole in one of the rings.fuming madTo say I was fuming is putting it mildly.¬†¬†Expletives¬†were flying out of my mouth.¬†¬†Words that would make a sailor blush.¬† Millie was immediately sentenced to death via the guillotine.¬† The next day, it was another very early morning wake up¬†for me when a¬†SNAP was heard!¬† Remember, adventure sometimes means hazardous?

So there you have it.¬† Adventure comes in many forms.¬† Just another day in the life of an RV’er and why do things always seem to happen in threes?

The Recipe Hacker: Comfort Foods without Soy, Dairy, Cane Sugar, Gluten, and Grain
Freshware SL-102RD 6-Cavity Savarin Silicone Mold for Donut, Cake, Bread, Cupcake, Cheesecake, Cornbread, Muffin, Brownie, and More

 

Blogging Lessons Learned

We all start blogs for different reasons.¬†¬†I started this blog a little over three years ago as a means to¬†personally¬†document our travels and keep family and friends up to date on our journey.¬† I’ll admit, it’s morphed into something much more than I ever expected.ButterfliesI never¬†anticipated the social aspect of blogging¬†and the making of some wonderful friends along the way…. what an amazing discovery. ¬†Some of those friendships will remain¬†cyber based¬†while others have and will develop into more.¬† Thus, I’m very¬†pleased I started the blog.

Botanical Garden
new friendships are forged – Nancy from Two Trails One Road and I enjoy a day at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ

The past couple of weeks, hubby and I have been doing some remodeling on our son’s home and having a lot of fun in the process.¬† I know, our son thinks we’re crazy too. While painting cabinets, my mind wandered as I thought about blog material.¬† “What ever shall I write about?”¬† I thought about how comfortable I’ve become with writing and sharing.¬† It sure wasn’t that way in the beginning.¬†¬†¬†It¬†took me awhile to find my style, my voice,¬†and learn some¬†lessons along the way.¬† So today I thought I’d share a few of MY personal thoughts and opinions on blogging and¬†a few¬†lessons learned.

blogging 1011.¬† First off, there’s no right or wrong way to blog.¬† Blogging is personal.¬† Some folks blog as an outlet to express themselves while others hope to monetize their¬†site.¬† Some of my favorite blog sites are the ones that are educational.¬† I’ve picked up great photography tips as well as discovered some ‘must see’ places to visit from other bloggers.

2.¬† Finding my voice.¬† It took me awhile to find my¬†voice and style.¬†¬†I really¬†struggled with this in the beginning.¬† I remember watching American Idol years ago and the judges would always tell the contestants to make the song their own.¬†That’s easier said than done, but in the end it’s all about being yourself, being honest, and¬†true to yourself.¬†There’s no need to¬†copy or plagiarise.

3.¬† Writing has never been easy for me.¬† I can’t tell you how many times I stare at¬†a blank computer screen with severe writers block.¬† It took me awhile to¬†find what works for me.¬† I need to visualize.

bloggingAl and I went on a fabulous hike several weeks ago and I couldn’t wait to write about it, but couldn’t seem to find the words.¬†¬†A friend of ours wanted to know all about¬†the trail¬†and whether or not¬†he and his wife should attempt the hike.

As soon as I envisioned myself sitting across the table having a drink with Gary, the story of that hike made it onto the blog in quick order.¬† So now whenever I get stuck with that blank computer screen, I¬†visualize I’m chatting over coffee with a dear¬†friend.

4.¬† White space.¬† It’s important to break up text with paragraphs and pictures.¬† By breaking up the text it’s easier to read and less overwhelming.

5.¬† Speaking of pictures – always, always include a photograph, cartoon, or graph of some sort to hold the reader’s attention.¬† Think of an ad in a newspaper.¬† All ads have some visual content that draws the reader’s eye in.¬†¬†It’s important to add that visual content even if your blog is writing based.¬† That visual aid will help tell the story and keep a reader’s attention.¬† It’s also extremely important to¬†display the photo or graph¬†large enough for readers to see it clearly.

Do not expect readers to click on an image¬†to enlarge it.¬†Most folks don’t have the time or inclination to enlarge individual photos.¬† I know I don’t.¬† I will however enlarge a gallery when it’s displayed in a slide show fashion, IF I have time.¬† In many of my earlier blog posts, my photos were¬†entered in the thumbnail or medium size format.¬† It was only after a couple of seasoned bloggers recommended that I post my photos in a larger format that I started doing just that.

wild donkey's
Are you listening? Yes, I’m all ears!

6.¬† Write an About page letting folks know what you and your blog are all about.¬† Before I decide to¬†“follow” a blog, I always read the About page.¬† Not everyone is

blogging tips
I’m not afraid to show you the real me!

comfortable posting a photo of themselves, but I find a photo along with general information of residency to be more engaging – more relatable.

7.¬† Editing is a biggie.¬† I’ve learned to edit and then re-edit…..¬†¬† proof read, reread,¬†and¬†spell check.

I try to do my homework on a subject by doing proper research before publishing.¬†I do get it wrong sometimes and am never insulted when a reader¬†enlightens me to my faux pas. ¬†I also like¬†linking to other sites giving my readers the option of more information if they’re interested.

Keeping my posts simple and under 1,000 words is my goal.  If I have a long story, I break it up into parts.

8.¬† And then there’s the social aspect of blogging;¬†this has been the most fun for me.¬† Make sure your Gravatar is linked properly or other bloggers can’t visit your site.¬†That is if you enjoy the social aspect of the blogosphere, and if not, that’s ok too.

I love receiving comments and responding, but every now and then a troll stops by…. you know, someone looking to pick a fight.¬† I can honestly say in the time I’ve been blogging I think I’ve only had 2 such encounters.¬† So embrace the positive comments and ignore the negative ones.lizard9.¬† Be a student….. as I read other blogs I pay attention to design, layout, ease of site navigation, and other details.¬† I also check to see how my blog shows up on different devices.¬† I use my hubby’s laptop to check how fast my site loads.¬† Some WordPress themes load faster than others.¬†¬†You don’t want a slow site or¬†you may not¬†have many readers.

Design –¬†Is¬†the site easy to navigate?¬† Can a visitor quickly tell what the blogs purpose is?¬† What color text to use?¬† Black with white text¬†versus white with black text? ¬†A lot of blogs specializing in photography use a black background with white text.¬† Supposedly the photos show better.¬† My aging eyes have difficulty with the black background.¬† Thus, I personally follow only one or two blogs that use black with white text.¬† Give me a nice white background any day whether the blog’s focus is photography or writing.garden photography10.¬† Write for yourself first.¬† Remember this is suppose to be fun and we don’t want to make¬†blogging feel like a job (unless that’s the intent).¬† Some say publish posts consistently and on a schedule. I say… post when you feel like it.

Oops, I’ve surpassed my 1,000 word count limit….. happy blogging!
BUT¬†one last thought, my cyber friend Sue and I had a telepathic moment…. check out her¬†recent post on “Getting more blog comments”¬†– click here¬†for more insightful suggestions.

WordPress For Dummies

Home with a view!

We’ve enjoyed the past four days camped at Goosenecks State Park in Utah, but the itch to move on has set in.  adventureWith Moab a mere two hours up Highway 191, hubby and I hit the road but not before taking one final look around camp.  We find ourselves doing a quick recap of our stay at Goosenecks State Park and what made our stay so enjoyable;Goosenecks State Park

Socializing with our RV neighbors, Linda and MikeValley of the Gods

Exploring Valley of the GodsTrail of the Ancients

Touring the Trail of the AncientsMexican Hat

Discovering how the town of Mexican Hat got its nameSan Juan River Utah

Fearlessly enjoying inclement weather and high winds camped on an open, exposed mesaGoosenecks State Park

Enjoying sunrises and sunsets with a view that stretches endlessly.

Adventure and DiscoveryIt was such a positive and fun experience that Al and I feel this may just become a regular stopping point as our travels take us between Colorado and Arizona.  I will add it is very remote country; perhaps some might even use the word desolate to describe it.  Thus, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.  However, it’s hard to dispute the beauty of the landscape.

After an uneventful scenic drive (we like uneventful), we arrived in Moab, Utah.  We originally planned to stay at Ken’s Lake Campground where we stayed last fall, but changed our minds wanting to explore new territory.  However, I would definitely recommend this BLM campground.  There are a bunch of sites that can accommodate almost any size RV and the internet connection was relatively good.

Hum, wherever shall we stay?¬† We found a large parking lot in Moab to park the RV¬†while hubby and I set out in my truck….the¬†‚Äúscout vehicle‚ÄĚ…..and scout we did.¬† We already knew we didn‚Äôt want to stay in any of the BLM campgrounds along Highway 128 and thus we didn‚Äôt even bother checking them out on this trip.

Hwy 128 meanders along the Colorado River in a canyon and is very scenic.¬† However, the campgrounds are designed more for tents, pop up trailers, or small RV’s.¬† Of course, there are always a few sites that might accommodate larger RV‚Äôs, but they first need to be available.¬† Spring and fall are very popular times to visit Moab, Utah, and the BLM campgrounds fill up fast.¬†¬† Finding an open site isn‚Äôt always easy.

Most of the campgrounds along Highway 128 are very tight and almost impossible for us to maneuver our truck pulling a 31 foot 5th wheel around.¬† That said, we skipped the BLM sites and ventured further north along U.S. 191 toward the Moab airport in search of a boondock spot.¬†I’m looking for a home with a view!¬†¬† FYI…….. Moab offers a ton of RV Parks with full hook-ups and lovely accommodation’s as well as plenty of hotels.¬† home with a view

We found a great spot about 15 miles north of town on state land with beautiful views in all directions.¬† This is popular Jeep and ATV country so one needs to embrace dirt, dust, and the vroom, vroom of engines to fully enjoy.¬† With amazing views and a nightly fee of nada, we were a couple of happy campers and most of the four-wheelers were rather respectful.¬† Yep, I found my home with a view and now it’s time to explore………camping in Moab

Off the Beaten Path: A Travel Guide to More Than 1000 Scenic and Interesting Places Still Uncrowded and Inviting

Woodall’s RV Owner’s Handbook, 4th Edition