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 – BlackSince it’s no longer in production, the price has been severely reduced.  So much so, I bought a back-up 🙂

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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 🙂

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 😦  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

amazon

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
Life is good Men’s Crusher Happy Camper Tee, Teal Blue, X-Large

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.
Feel free to stop byjust click here

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 🙂  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 😉

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 “scout vehicle”…..and scout we did.  We already knew we didn’t want to stay in any of the BLM campgrounds along Highway 128 and thus we didn’t 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’s, 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’t 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

Should’ve Stayed in Bed

flowering cactusThe sun was shining. There was a light breeze blowing off the lake. The desert plants seemed to have come alive after the drenching of rain the day before. Yep, it sure was a beautiful morning. Seemed like a great day to hit the road for our journey north.

Our stay in Phoenix was already longer than intended and we were definitely ready to move on. Normally I feel a sense of excitement on moving day. Not that day. Al and I both felt a sense of hesitation. Was it because we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Lake Pleasant or was it saying good-bye to our son? Neither one of us could pinpoint our lack of enthusiasm for those RV wheels rolling once again. But roll they did.

desert floraWe left Lake Pleasant in Phoenix, Arizona, shortly after 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 3rd. The first 145 mile, two-hour trek from Phoenix to Flagstaff required a 5,800 foot climb in elevation. Our F-250 pulls our 31 foot 5th wheel over mountain passes with ease. Al and I are accustomed to mountain driving and don’t shy away from steep grades (slope). As long as we stay on major highways or interstates, we’re comfortable and good to go.

In less than an hour, we’d climbed from 1,100 feet to 3,000 feet in elevation. Al’s bike fell part way off the bike rack dragging the hand grip and hand brake on the road pavement. Ok, the kind of damage that can easily be dealt with. With the bike secured, we continued our drive.trailer tires

It wasn’t but thirty minutes later and a trailer tire blew. Oh joy, what fun!!! Al pulls over and he and I assess the damage. I’m ready to call AAA or Good Sam Roadside Assistance, after all we do pay for these services, but Al stops me and informs me he’s going to change the tire himself. Really? After an hour and quite a few expletives later, we were on the road again. What a stud!

While he messes with the tire, I grab my packaging tape and begin to work my magic on the busted up wheel well fender.  We’re looking classy now!

Allow me to back track for a moment…… We had retrieved my little red truck from storing it for a couple of months in our son’s garage and thus that day we were traveling with two vehicles. Al and I were driving separately. As both trucks were parked along the very business Interstate 17, Al had sat in the passenger side seat of my truck while we discussed the plan. We needed air in the now mounted spare tire and the tire behind the one that blew before driving too far or we’d run into more problems and potentially blow another tire.

Since we’ve driven this stretch of I-17 more times than we can count, we’re very familiar with most of the exits and rest areas. Just ten minutes up the road is a Chevron gas station at the Camp Verde exit that we’ve used in the past. Al pulls up to the air pump. We plunk in 4 quarters for air.  It doesn’t even begin to inflate the tire. Those pay compressors rarely do. At this point, I can sense the slow simmer of frustration working up within Al. I recommend we grab a bite to eat.

desert lizardThere’s a Wendy’s attached to the Chevron gas station. We grab a meal, drinks, find a table, and proceed to eat in silence. Half way through our meal, a group of State Troopers entered the Wendy’s. Al lights up, excuses himself, and heads over to talk to one of the officers. Al returns to our table in better spirits and responds, “I know where to get air. There’s a tire store just up the road”.

The guys at Tire Pro Automotive in Camp Verde, Arizona, were awesome. The tech checked and filled all the tires on the 5th wheel, the F-250, and my Toyota Tacoma including our spares. The tech was also a wealth of information. We’ll be getting all new tires on the 5th wheel in a few weeks once we’re back in Colorado.

Whew…..finally on the road again. Al has me drive in the lead. I’m usually pretty good with directions and once I’ve driven a route I tend to remember it. To head up into Utah we need to take Highway 89 in Flagstaff. Well, there’s the 89 that goes through town and the bypass around town via I-40. The signs are clearly marked.

It’s now one o’clock in the afternoon. What should have been a two hour drive had taken us five hours. I had a brain fart fog and veered left onto business 89 and Al veered right to go around town. I called him on the two way radio and let him know I’ll figure it out and meet him on the other side. Once again that fog sets in and I get myself turned around and go to call Al on his cell phone to let him know not to worry. His phone rings under the passenger seat in my truck  #!?@!   Remember when he got in my vehicle to talk while dealing with the blown tire? Well his cell phone fell out of his pocket, down between the seats, and landed under the passenger seat. The two way radios are only good for 2 miles, and we were separated well beyond those 2 miles, thus he and I had lost communication with each other.free ranging cows

Could anything else go wrong? At this point, I’m saying to myself, “We should have stayed in bed”.

Al and I reconnected north of Flagstaff. Al was waiting for me at a pull-out and once I got closer the radios began to work again. We continued our trek to the town of Kayenta, Arizona, where we stopped for a quick dinner of sandwiches and a discussion on our destination.  We had originally planned on staying in Monument Valley and taking in the sights, but at this point we didn’t care about any red rock monoliths, spires, or buttes. They’ve been there a million years, they’ll still be there next year.  I just wanted to park my rear for a few days to decompress and I knew just the spot to do exactly that.

We first discovered Goosenecks State Park in southern Utah two years ago and decided that would be the perfect place to unwind. We pulled into Goosenecks after a very long eleven hour day. We left the rig and truck connected, put out the slides, grabbed a couple of margaritas, our chairs, and sat in silence as we watched the sunset over the expansive mesa.Goosenecks State Park

Oh, did I mention the two very close calls we experienced that day? First let me say, I hate the drive between Phoenix and Flagstaff via Interstate 17, but it’s the quickest and easiest route northbound; not a lot of other options. Since it’s the only north south interstate in northern Arizona it’s frequented by a lot of truck traffic, RV traffic, and traffic in general. Not all vehicles can handle the grades and thus travel 30 miles per hour (65 mph speed limit) as they slowly climb or descend the change in elevation…..I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.  This creates bottle necks.  And then there’s the impatient driver with an engine that has no problem with the grades who likes to weave in and out of traffic testing their vehicles performance……zoom, zoom.  Slow trucks, fast cars, add in a mix of RV’s, lots of changing of the lanes, and you’ve got yourself one interesting drive.

That said, while uncomfortably parked along the interstate changing that tire, one of those impatient drivers cut off a semi truck. As the situation unfolded before me, I thought, “This is it. We’re going to be plowed into and killed instantly”. Thankfully, the disaster was narrowly averted due to a skilled truck driver.Gooseneck State Park

Later that day on highway 160 between Tuba City and Keyanta, Arizona, I managed to avoid a head on collision. I saw the oncoming pick-up truck in my lane a little too close for comfort and hit my brakes slowing way down. If I had not slowed that drastically……..? Due to a guardrail, I was unable to move to the side of the road, thus slowing was my only option.  I had no where to go.  Needless to say, Al was following me far enough behind that my braking had little impact on him, but the close call he witnessed had his heart skip a beat.

And now for the topper…….the blown tire damaged our water line.  We get to enjoy two weeks of dry camping with a leaking water line.  All part of the adventure……living the dream.  Dream? Nightmare?  All the same, eh!  Such is life.

Yep, cocktails, sunset, and hitting the hay asap….. Tomorrows another day!Valley of the GodsFYI….  we’re currently in Moab, Utah, and heading up into Canyonlands National Park for a week.  I will be without internet connection while in Canyonlands.  Catch y’all when I get back to Colorado and I’m reconnected 🙂  The adventure continues……

A quirky Arizona town

From Tombstone, Arizona, we continued south on Highway 80 to the town of Bisbee.  I’d heard a lot of fun things about this former mining community and was really looking forward to exploring this quirky little town.  Al and I anticipated Bisbee being similar to the town of Jerome, which we loved thus we were excited to experience Bisbee.BisbeeThe previous four days my energy had been low and I had a scratchy throat.  I just wasn’t feeling like myself.  As opposed to my usual go go go enthusiasm, I found myself having to push just to get out the door for any explorations.  So as I share my thoughts on Bisbee, bear in mind my state of health.

During its heyday, Bisbee was a bustling mining community centered around the Queen Anne mine.  Today Bisbee is a tourist destination complete with art galleries, gift shops, museums, and mining memorabilia. Once the Queen Anne Mine ceased mining activity it was quickly turned into a tourist experience.  Each mine tour is guided by a former miner.

Bisbee stairs Santiago
Lots of stairs throughout town

We thought we’d take one of these interesting mine tours after lunch.  First we explore the town and shops.  I love the old buildings and architecture.  The town is also known for its abundance of stairs and even conducts a race every year.

Bisbee Arizona
And more stairs

Many of the shops were closed the day we visited and the ones that were open were vastly overpriced.  $95 for a cotton blouse seems a tad much to me.  Moving on, we couldn’t wait to have lunch at Santiagos and boy it did not disappoint.  The food was great.  I would consider going back to Bisbee just to eat at Santiagos.Santiagos Bisbee Arizona

After lunch we strolled around town a little more.  I wasn’t feeling up to touring the mining museum or doing the Queen Anne Mine tour.  We decided to hop in the truck and drive around…..I just wasn’t “getting it” and I was trying really hard to like this quirky Arizona town. What was I missing?architecture in Arizona

Driving Bisbee’s side streets in a F250 with extended bed proved to be a bit of a challenge and probably not the smartest decision we made that day.  At one extremely narrow point there was concern we’d be stuck between two buildings.  Thank goodness we’re not a dually because we definitely would not have fit.  I felt like we were driving through a small village in Europe…..tight squeeze.  The architecture was enjoyable.

Al and I were disappointed with Bisbee.  Was it because I wasn’t feeling well?  Was it because we didn’t tour the mine or museum?  I don’t know, but just because we weren’t ‘feeling the vibe’ doesn’t mean you won’t.  Check out Amanda‘s take on Bisbee.  She and Tim had a great time in Bisbee.

There’s so much more to see and do in southern Arizona and if I had been feeling better you bet I would’ve taken in more of the sights…sights I was really looking forward to seeing since last year.  Oh well, guess we’ll just have to catch some of these sights on the next time through.  We have an appointment in Phoenix on Feb. 19th we need to get to…….   (remember; due to illness I’m behind in my blog posts but catching up)

Pleasant Harbor
enjoying gorgeous sunsets every night from our campsite at Lake Pleasant near Phoenix AZ


Arizona Mining Towns

Bisbee (AZ) (Images of America)

Panasonic Lumix ZS20 14.1 MP High Sensitivity MOS Digital Camera with 20x Optical Zoom (Black)

Judgment Call: A Brady Novel of Suspense (Joanna Brady Mysteries)