Final stays in Arizona

After leaving Desert Shadows in Phoenix we headed only about an hour away to Usery Mountain Park in Apache Junction/Mesa area. What a difference to where we had been in the city. It was a great desert campground. Very rustic and natural with shrubs, tons of Chollo and Saguaro cactus and lots of open space. We really liked the area and the layout, but the views were icing on the cake. The mountain range close by was nice and the waxing moon made every night so enjoyable to be outside. The stars were fighting to be seen in the bright moonlight and were doing a good job of it. The park is part of the Arizona Maricopa county park system, which is the largest in the country with 120,000 acres. They have a top rated archery range, about 60 picnic areas, Camping (of course), horse trails, hiking trails and a really good activity schedule. We went to one talk by Ranger B on roadrunners which was interesting and fun and sure did come in handy later in the week. We also went on a moonlight walk with a group led by him. That was nice because we might not have gone into the desert on our own at night, but it was odd to hike with 50 other people.

The thing about being there was the people we met. When we first started our trip we met Lee and Tracy at a rally and we followed their blog ever since, but one night while we were in CA we talked with Tracy to see if we could help each other out with some questions. We found out we were going to be in the Phoenix area at the same time and it just all came together that we could actually meet up and even meet some of their friends. What a great group! We had a lot of laughs and shared experiences and now we can put faces with their blogs. It was really good to be around others who understand your lifestyle’s challenges- for me when I hear someone say they’ve got toget their blog done in the morning before they go out- I can relate! I don’t always do it, obviously or you would have read this a long time ago, but I do feel the nagging need to get it done. We picked up some good ideas on how to make our lives easier, like reading other people’s blogs to get ideas for campgrounds, look closer at google maps of campgrounds or maybe just reach out and ask. It was amazing how small of a world it seemed when we talked about where everyone had been and where they were going. It helped us immediately with our next stop. Thanks guys!

So, here are a few more blogs you can read if you are enjoying ours:
Tracy and Lee: Camper chronicles
Deb and Steve: Down the road with Steve and Debbie
Cori and Greg: The Restless Youngs

Along with great food, lots of drinks and fun times we also did some other things like we all went to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum together one morning and another morning we hiked up to Wind Cave in the park with Deb and Steve. The Arboretum/Botanical garden was nicely laid out.  It had different areas which showed vegetation that went with it and the surrounding rock formations really added to the scenery.  I liked the succulent garden section full of different types of cactus.  So many desert plant varieties and so little time!  The hike we went on was only 1 1/2 miles with an 800 foot increase in elevation. We left early to beat the heat and it really wasn’t too hard, plus the views were great. We actually met up with Deb and Steve on our next stop when we both left on Monday to head to Catalina State Park just outside of Tucson.

Yep, we are headed to the top right, where the wind cave is.

From up high you can see our campground.. the white spots in the middle way down there.

Almost there.

Well, here we are. Not too much of a cave, but the hike was fun.

Time to head back down.

Rock formations in the Botanical garden.

Hummingbird in its nest.

Fat, juicy lizard.

Sure grow them big out here.

 

We had a good weekend with the family before we left when we attended my nephew-Kyle and his wife Abbey’s gender reveal party. Food, drinks, games and the announcement of a baby girl to be added to the family! It was sad to say goodbye because it was so fun to spend time with them all, but we hope to be back later in the year and we are very happy we got to see them for as long as we did.

Ready, set…

GO!

Its going to be a girl!

Mystery is over.

The whole crew.

Sunday we headed back to the camper after spending the night with at my niece Alli’s house. We don’t need a lot of prep time to get ready for a move the next day, but just wanted to relax before we had to move again. I also needed a nap! Monday we left for Catalina State Park- 14 miles outside of Tucson. It was an easy drive and we were impressed by the number of RV’s on the roads. They all seemed to be headed to Phoenix and we were wondering what was going on. We don’t usually travel on Mondays so we were thinking it may be normal and we were happy we don’t usually do that. HAHA- joke was on us. As we got further down the road we saw signs for a special event causing delays. Well, it turned out to be the site for the Country Thunder concert that had been held over the weekend and where obviously they allowed RV’s. Traffic thinned out after that.

When we got to the campground and I was backing into the site we had a roadrunner as our audience (and an old guy across the road- not unusual). I took seeing that roadrunner as a good sign that this would be a nice campground. It was not as rustic as Usery, but you know for sure you are in the desert. The mountains around us again were beautiful. Not so many cactus as before, but more shrubs and trees. The camping areas were pretty spacious and we were happy with our decision to stay here. Very rarely have we ever regretted staying somewhere (once for sure somewhere in Missouri.)

Such different vegetation from Usery mountain.

Taking home a lizard.

Great views..

 

That night we met up with Deb and Steve for dinner and we all had plans the next day, so we made plans for a breakfast goodbye on Wednesday since they were leaving that day. We were leaving Thursday. Tuesday morning Deb and I ended up going for a bike ride around the campground. If you go down each road to the picnic, group area, equestrian area, both campging loop and to the trail head you can get in about 5 miles. I did do an extra loop after she went home to grt in a few more miles. Later that day Kat and I went into Tucson to check out the downtown and University area. It was hot and Kat wasn’t feeling great due to some stomach pains and so we just walked down 4th Avenue and drove around the downtown area. Seems like it could be fun to spend some time there in the evening for happy hour and dinner, but it will have to wait for next time for us. We had a nice dinner and took a walk around the campground while enjoying the sunset views.

Wednesday after breakfast we planned on either going to the museum of the living desert, which we heard was fantastic, or going to the Biosphere 2. Both sounded like we would enjoy them, but Kat just looked miserable and had no energy, so I was cool with hanging around. Maybe I could get caught up on my blogging—Haha, didn’t happen. But, I did have a very exciting nature day. I was sitting outside reading and the roadrunner and his partner kept running right by me and going out to find lizards. One would go out, be gone for a few minutes and then come racing back with a lizard. Then the other one would do the same. They did it like 5 times each. I was so excited to be seeing this. I knew lots about roadrunners after the talk by Ranger B at Usery. They mate for life and both take care of the babies. They eat lizard s and snakes, but will usually just walk around with them in their mouths nibbling until they are gone. The fact that they kept going to get more and more led me to believe they must have babies somewhere. I did see where I think they had their nest by watching the dad take a lizard home. I didn’t go check too closely because I didn’t want to cause problems.

Hello

I just spotted dinner, no time for a picture.

Holding sill for one good picture.

I’m busy fixing up my nest with this dried grass.

Action photo.

 

As I sat there I was also watching the little ground squirrels in between roadrunners. They are fun to watch and more than once I would look down and see one stretched out under the camper right next to me with his belly on the cool dirt. So cute and so much easier to get pictures of them. Those roadrunners are fast! After awhile the roadrunner activity stopped and I got hot, so i went inside and asked Kat if she felt up for a ride. She is a trooper and said yes, so we headed out to check out Saguaro National Forest. No hiking involved, you can just drive through on an 8 mile loop and check out the scenery. I am happy they are making the effort to preserve these cactus and the land that supports them, but we had seen a quite impressive growth of the Saguaro’s just outside of Phoenix on the way to Sedona. It was still worth it. It didn’t cost anything except gas money to get there, but that also allowed us to check out Tucson a little more as we drove to the park. We both agree that the National Parks Pass we bought in August of 2016 was the best purchase ever and we have definitely gotten our moneys worth out of it. When you enter a National park it can cost you 20 bucks to enter. Well, not us…after our inital investment of 80 dollars we can go in for free. We haven’t added it up, but we know we have made out by having it and have gone places we normally wouldn’t because it costs too much. So happy that Carol and Sue told us how good it was to have one!

 

And our day got even better when we got back to the campground. As we came into the park we saw coyotes! One caught my eye as it crossed the road and when we approached and looked where it went we saw two others. Ok, call me crazy, but I got excited because we hear them a lot in different campgrounds, sometimes quite close, but I have never seen them. We were in no danger being protected by Fat Henry and all, so Kat was able to get some pictures. What a nice day after all, except for Kat not feeling 100%. We had an early evening planned t so we could leave early in the morning to head into NM and try to get a good site at City of Rocks State Park just outside of Deming, NM. Goodbye Arizona! Until next time, thanks for good memories.

Posted in Arizona, States | 8 Comments

More in Phoenix

It’s weird but kind of nice at the same time being in the same place for so long. We have days when we are just antsy and don’t know what to do with ourselves. We have tried to be productive and get some of our jobs done around the camper. For example we finally put in the bathroom fan and got started on the inverter installation. Those took quite a few trips to Home Depot. There were also a lot of breaks to chat with people walking by and commenting on our work. It’s amazing how seeing a woman working on a camper with tools all around her brings so much attention. I think Kat enjoyed it and I teased her that she was just sitting out there looking productive.  We bought and put up our map showing the states we have traveled through and have done a lot of other little jobs. We have even done our taxes! I have never gotten too excited when I got a refund, but this year it makes a difference. I feel more relieved to get them done than I thought. Turbo Tax took barely an hour!


We did go out and do volunteering at St Mary’s foodbank. St Marys was the very first food bank in the world apparently. Who knew? It was a little more exciting than just sorting food items because we were working with female prison inmates. I almost made a joke when we first got there and a woman in her orange jumpsuit showed us where the sign in office was located, I am so happy I kept my mouth shut. The big letters ADC (Arizona Department of Corrections) was a tip off. It was probably and hopefully the closest I will ever get to Orange is the new Black. Everyone was really nice. We found a couple of other opportunities, but they were bad times for us because they were always on days we wanted to spend with the kids. We almost signed up to work at the Final Four basketball tournament, but even the orientation was a long commitment. I hate to think we are picky volunteers, but it was not really helping anyone in need, except us needing to go to the tournament.

Our herb garden is going well now that we have everything up on a table where the rabbits can’t eat everything. We have been able to enjoy cilantro, rosemary, basil and lettuce without a trip to the store. I miss having a big garden and a yard to go out to and putter around. No doubt we would be at the farmers market every weekend if we were home. Kat met one of the neighbors who lives here permanently and he told us we could pick as many of his grapefruit as we want. So, we had a second night with Alli and Logan where we enjoyed fresh squeezed grapefruit cocktails. We even got Alli to try some green curry. We think she liked it enough to at least eat it without making a face of disgust. The Asian market was the cleanest one we have ever been in and they had everything we needed, which is rare because those Kaffir lime leaves are hard to find. I am still searching for a Thai Basil plant or at least a pack of seeds to start growing my own.


We took a drive up to Sedona Wednesday and that was a pretty trip even though it was almost a two hour drive. Just outside of Phoenix there were so many Saguaro cactus it looked like a forest. I am looking forward to Saguaro national park outside of Tucson. The red rock formations around Sedona were amazing and I can see why it is famous for its views around the city. Our camera gave out and so I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked to, but it was still nice. We stopped at Montezuma’s castle on the way there and at Tuzigoot monument and ruins on the way home. Both very cool to see. In Sedona we just went for a walk and had lunch. We hadn’t planned on a hike, but that would have been good to do and I bet it would have been really pretty.

Montezuma’s Castle

Tuzigoot ruins


Thursday night we all went out to dinner for steak at Lonestar steakhouse. It was nice to have everyone sit down together. We were able to put our gift cards to good use and enjoy them in a great way. We convert credit card points to restaurant gift cards and that way we kind of get a free meal. When we feel we need to go out we can do it guilt free with no worries about breaking the budget. Our budget the month of March was pretty much shot, but this didn’t affect it at all. It’s a great way to make use of money we had spent anyway. I used to get I-tunes cards to rent movies to watch when I traveled, but I like this much better. I like this life much better period!

At dinner my niece told us about a walk to raise money for Oral Cancer awareness on Saturday that she might attend and Kat thought it would be cool for us to volunteer at the event, so with a couple of emails to the coordinator we were in. We showed up at 5 am on Saturday morning and helped get the tables, banners and other displays set up. By 9 am everything was wrapped up and we were finished. The event was at the Zoo and we got free passes to go in along with a t-shirt. We walked around for a little bit, but were so tired we didn’t stay too long. The rest of the day included a nap and a whole lot of nothing.

It sounds as though we stayed busy and were having a good time and we kind of were, but we were also in funky moods for a few days late in the week. Luckily earlier in the week when I went out shooting with Kyle I was in a good mood.  We shot his AR-15, shotgun and 9 mm.  I am no sharpshooter, but it was fun to do that together.  I can’t pinpoint the exact cause for our moods, but I was a little restless and I think Kat is having to get used to not working. I went through that a long time ago and am usually pretty good with not having too much to do. When you live in such close quarters and spend almost every minute together 24/7 your moods feed off of each others. Think about it, if your spouse or a close co worker is in a bad or even good mood you pick up on it and it can affect your own mood. I like the good mood transfer much better and was done being in those moods, so on Sunday when I went out to Walmart on my own I decided to shape things up and get us back on track. I proposed a couple of activities and in the end we went out to Lake Pleasant for a picnic lunch. We packed up some leftover bratwurst and nibbles along with our postcards and headed out. Of course it was a sunny nice day because most days are in Phoenix. We checked out the campgrounds around the lake to see if they are somewhere we would stay when we return later in the year. Yes, we would stay out there even though it is a little far from family. It was really beautiful and I guess the 6 dollar fee was worth it. Later we bought a roasted chicken and had Kyle and his wife Abbey over with Alli too. Eric was busy with a friend of his who was in the hospital. It was a nice visit and by the end of the day we were feeling much happier. It does seem like whenever we get together we just eat and hang out, but it’s a good time to talk and I guess really that is what happens at family get-togethers. We really do need to get back on our simple little meals and feel fit and healthy again. Oh well, we will.


Our month stay here at Desert shadows is done today and we are moving a bit further away to Usery Mountain Park. We want to stay in the Phoenix area a little longer so we can attend my Nephew-Kyle and his wife Abbey’s gender reveal party. I had a few ideas on party games and although they provided a good laugh, they were nixed. A little nudity was involved and so I kind of understand, but I thought it was pretty funny and would do it if I were having a baby. ( Haha-not gonna happen.) We also have friends who we want to see that are going to stay there too. Tracy and Lee are couple who we met at the RV rally in Tennessee during our first week of our trip. They have a great blog that we follow: http://camperchronicles.com.  As Rv full timers they are full of good advice and we hope to learn some new tips and tricks from them about living on the road as well as having some good laughs. Although we are doing quite well it never hurts to learn from other people’s experiences. And it is so nice to see people you know when on the road who live the same lifestyle. I even feel connected just by sending postcards that let people know I am thinking of them. Dare I say I am getting a bit homesick? Maybe its just being stationary that has given me too much time to reflect. Geez, I am even thinking about getting my resume updated and about what I will do in my next life stage. I think I need to go for a walk and get these things out of my head!

Goodbye to Desert Shadows

Posted in Arizona, States, Volunteer | 3 Comments

Family fun in Phoenix

The campground we are at in Phoenix is called Desert Shadows. It’s a really big campground with about 600 spaces. However, there are some camper sites and a lot of permanent spaces. A lot of the permanent ones have nice porches and patios. No one really has much of a yard though. When I called originally to make the reservation we were given a spot right across from the office on a corner. The lady called me back and said it was getting booked as were speaking, so it was her mistake, but we couldn’t take that spot, but they had another one. The only problem was that the second spot was next to the gate, the dog park and the dumpster, so it could get loud and busy. We discussed it and said we would go ahead and give it a shot. We are pretty happy in our spot because we DO have a lovely little back yard off of our patio and throughout the day there is always a shady spot to sit. There are a group of quail that wander around and so cute to watch. We also get to chat with all the people at the dog park and it is super easy to take out the trash! The best part is that we are across the street from Costco and since we renewed our membership while in Simi Valley we can go over for free samples or cheap yogurt as often as we want! It does get busy sometimes with people going in and out and taking the trash, but it hasn’t bothered us really. We enjoy checking out everyones spaces as we go on walks and it’s fun to see groups of people having cocktails in the evening and I even saw a big breakfast gathering today.

There are quite a few amenities here to keep the snow birds busy during their winter stays: there is a hot tub and swimming pool ( it’s indoors, so kinda useless in the summer if you ask me), shuffleboard courts, bocci ball courts, a card room, a billiards room, a library, an exercise room and a very lame and useless computer room. We have each gone to the exercise room once and I used the rowing machine for 30 minutes and lifted some weights then couldn’t walk right for 3 days and that was it for me. I would rather walk outside and get my exercise that way. The best thing other than the library is all of the grapefruit trees! People leave out boxes of them and we get them that way or we just grab them off of trees (we usually ask first).

It was pretty nice for the first few days we were here and then it got HOT, HOT, HOT. After almost a week of temperatures in the 90’s we found the refrigerator wouldn’t keep things very cold, so we borrowed a blow dryer from Alli and defrosted it. Took about 1/2 hour, but helped a lot. Also bought a fan to put inside and keep the air circulating. The fridge is directly in the sun until late afternoon, so we are thinking of getting some sun protectant fabric. It’s just hard to figure how to attach it to the outside.

We need to wash and wax the camper, so we got two estimates from companies who come onsite here in the park. Both made us really regret not getting it done in Quartzsite. One was for 280.00 and the other was 850.00! When the guy said 25 bucks per foot, we almost broke out laughing, thinking he was joking. Nope, he was serious. We tossed around the idea of going to Yuma and getting it done, but that is going backwards quite a ways, so maybe we will look in Tuscon since we are headed there next. Or, we could wait to get to Texas and maybe if we stay with our friends Laura and Miriam they will be ok with us washing and waxing it in their driveway. That is cheapest, but a lot of work!

A few days after we first got here Kat told me she felt like she was truly on vacation. Haha- took almost a year for her to feel that way, but then again she has had periodic spurts of work. We haven’t done anything super exciting or amazing since we have gotten here. We do a lot of running around to visit everyone and run errands, buy things we need to fix little things around the camper. We have been hiking a couple of times early in the mornings and the desert blooms are beautiful. We were also lucky enough to get to see an Owl sitting on its nest. You definitely need to get out there early before it gets too hot and also wear sunscreen! One afternoon we played disc golf with Alli’s boyfriend, Logan. That was almost like hiking, but with a purpose. We really liked it and I could see us possibly even playing on our own. We do as much walking around the campsite as we can when we are home, but usually we either have company in the evening or are out.  The desert trails are really pretty right now and the sunsets are amazing too.

It has been terrific visiting with my niece and nephews and their dad. We have had tried to have some time alone with each of them and we have had really fun and delicious family meals too. I’ve always tried to visit when I was traveling for work and so have seen them pretty much at least once a year since they were little, but getting to know them as adults is really cool. I like learning more about them and their lives. Their happiness, troubles and worries are interesting to hear about and discuss. They are great young adults and I am very happy to be in Phoenix visiting with them. My heart is happy and my feet are warm. Life is good.

 

 

Posted in Arizona, States | 5 Comments

CA stops on the way to Phoenix

After leaving Lake Casitas we did get a good spot in Tapo Canyon of the Simi Valley. It was a pretty tiny campground, but really nice. It was almost at the end of a road up the canyon, so it was really quiet and the Canyons were beautiful and green. The weather was decent, but there was no convenient hiking or biking trails leaving directly from the campground. We had only planned on a couple of nights, but stayed two extra just because we liked it. One reason we stayed there was to go to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. We had never been to one and don’t let the name fool you, it is really more of a museum or historical information center all about Ronald Reagan’s life and the things he did while in office. It was interesting and we got to go on Air Force One. Also, the views from the back window looking out at the valley were amazing. At the campground we were also really close to town and it was easy to go shopping. We found our favorite grocery store (Aldi) and we spent time at Home depot where we bought some herbs to start our potted herb garden of Basil, Rosemary, Cilantro and Thai basil. It was a nice stay, but nothing terribly eventful happened except for getting out of the rain. Well, we did have an unexpected visitor that just wouldn’t go away…7 O’clock Charlie. He was a little mouse who would pop out and run around the camper between 7 and 8 pm every night. He freaked Kat out because she was afraid he would run up her legs. He feasted on apples, tortillas and some chocolate biscuits (cookies). He traveled to Tapo Canyon from Lake Casitas and was with us for 3 days and then, well, you know what we had to do…Sorry Charlie!

From there we had two stops before we got to Phoenix. From Tapo we headed to La Quinta, California which is just past Palm Springs. We cruised past LA with no major traffic, but the roads were pretty messed up and bumpy. We also neglected to check the weather and about half way through it got super rainy and I could barely see. It was not a nice drive, but when we arrived it was just a sprinkle, so it turned out ok. We camped at Lake Cahuilla. Not much of a lake since it is a man made reservoir, but a good place to camp. There are 91 sites for RV’s and an equestrian camp area, along with a primitive camping area. The primitive area was really popular with tenters and RV’s too. In the primitive area you pull up right next to the water, but you have no hookups. They looked like nice spots for a few nights. I really like the desert and being next to a lake with mountains and palm trees all around you is just beautiful. There are some good hiking trails around and we did get in a nice 6 mile hike one morning. We got a little sunburned on that hike because we forgot what the sun was like and didn’t put on any sunscreen. It was a good hiking trail through the hills and desert and we saw a beautiful big horned sheep on the way back. We also took a day to go to Palm Springs and have lunch even though we had both been there for work trade shows in the past. Visiting nice places like that is much more fun when you don’t have to work! The campground was packed with Canadian campers who winter in the area or further south and we met a very nice couple who we enjoyed sharing stories with one evening. They pointed us to our next campground in Quartzsite, AZ.

Rainy upon arrival

So much nicer the next day.

Gotta love a lake in the desert.

That’s a big cactus!

Our campsite.

Yum, tasty.

 

We just had to go to Quartzsite before getting to Phoenix because not only was it perfect for our driving distance limit of about 120 miles, but it is known as an RV mecca. It wasn’t even peak season for Rvers, but I have never even imagined seeing so many RV’s! It was amazing. We were excited for being there even though we were showing up at the end of the season and also to get our first BLM camping experience under our belts. BLM lands are free camping with no organized sites, you just drive into the designated land area and park wherever. We stayed in the Scaddan Wash section. We really like that remote camping. It was very nice to just park in an open area and have no nearby neighbors. We could see other campers around, but not many and no one was very close. The desert was really beautiful after all the recent rain and the stars at night were incredible and so were the sunsets. I can’t say it was super quiet because we were about 1 1/2 miles from Interstate 10 and you can hear the hum of traffic all day and night. I still wonder why traffic noise always seems louder at night? There has to be a reason.

Hello little Quail.

We were only there two nights and the first was uneventful. The second day we went into town and did some shopping/looking around, got fueled up and went back to camp. There is a lot to buy at the flea market tents if you are into flea market stuff and there are lots of places to buy all types of rocks. It makes sense why it is named Quartzsite. After lunch I went for a bike ride on the trails into the desert and enjoyed the views and quiet of the desert then when I got back we decided to go to the bookstore, but instead I talked Kat into going to a little local outdoor bar…Beer Belly’s. We had gone by there earlier in the day and it looked interesting, but when we went back later it was jamming! The place was packed, there was a band and some interesting people dancing and flashing body parts. We showed up just in time.

The desert gets cold as soon as the sun goes down and we figured it would be a great time to use our firewood up so we don’t keep dragging it around with us. It was easy to gather up some sticks to get it started and we had a nice fire going for quite awhile. That all came to an end when I was sitting outside letting it burn out and a coyote started “talking” super close by. Well, that wasn’t the scariest part of our night because barely 10 minutes later someone was knocking on our door. We are in the middle of nowhere with no neighbors….what the heck? We had gotten good advice from our friends Breck and Cheri earlier on in our trip to NOT answer the door. This was some guy saying he was our neighbor, but was lost. I told him the road was just to the right of us and follow it to the highway. Then he asked for water and said he would back up 10 feet if I would give him some. I had turned the outside light on and Kat was looking out the window. She didn’t think he even had shoes on and had a beer bottle in his hand. The area is very rocky and you would be in a lot of pain walking with no shoes! I told him I would call the ranger and get him some help and they would bring water and at that he said he was leaving. Hmmmm…. very fishy and I am really glad we didn’t open the door. Who knows what could have happened. We did hear an ATV driving around after that, so maybe he found someone to help him find his camp? We hope he was ok in the end if he really was lost. Thanks Breck and Cheri for having that conversation and giving us that advice! I didn’t think I would sleep well that night, but I did and we woke up ok. Nothing was disturbed outside and no sign of our “neighbor”.

Next Stop Phoenix!!

Posted in Arizona, States | 6 Comments

Rainy Southern California

I remembered as we drove from Paso Robles to Lake Casitas how much I really enjoy driving, it was a beautiful day and a fantastic drive through green rolling hills. That drive brought back memories from my childhood/teenager years. In my younger years my dad was in the military and although I don’t remember why, we traveled a lot and it was always him carrying us to the car in the dark while we were asleep and then when we woke up in the car we would be ready to stop for breakfast. Yes, we had the wood paneled station wagon with the seats in the back. My youngest Melissa and I were always in those back seats. When we got older you could find me on the floor of the middle seats with my sister’s feet on me. I got carsick, so they drugged me with dramamine and then rolled me on the floor and used me as a footrest. I had no idea what was going on until we stopped and then I didn’t care because I was able to get out of the car and use the bathroom and get a drink and snack. I never even noticed the hump in the middle of the floor or how hot it really was down there. Later, when we were a little older and it was just Melissa and I at home my mom and Stepdad would take us for drives on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. We were sometimes annoyed we couldn’t stay at home, but for the most part we didn’t want to miss anything so we went along with minimal resistance. We also always got to get a drink and snacks at a convenience store before we left for whatever new place we were driving to explore and that was a bonus. Driving with a drink of soda or water with something to snack on always makes me feel less carsick. You can’t always have a window open, but living in New Mexico it was usually pretty good weather and a fresh breeze was nice. I don’t get carsick when I drive, but was too young at that point to be driving, but sometimes I did get to sit in the front seat. Later, when I was taking trips in the 12 passenger vans for Future Farmer of America or Basktetball trips I would either get to sit in front or just suck it up and dream while looking out the window. I loved those drives. What was I dreaming about? Mostly about how someday I could be driving anywhere I wanted. I recently realized that dream has come true. I wonder how many people can look back at childhood dreams and see that they have become real?

Now, that would be a dream come true for sure!

 

Back to current events. Monday we went ahead and left Anthony Chabot and headed to Paso Robles. We were tired from the weekend and didn’t really want to go at all, but we had used up our days there and it was time. Dumping the tanks took forever at our site, it kept backing up (but not overflowing) and so when we got the hose emptied after I finally got fed up with the back and forth of it all we went to the waste station near the park exit. There were signs telling us to only open the valves half way and it was so true! We almost always never want to leave a good place, but the next campground always holds the possibility of being as good or better. I like to go new places, If I stay too long I get lazy about leaving and we never do all the things we want to in any place we stay. I guess it could be a good reason to go back?

We arrived in Paso Robles on Monday afternoon and it was more beautiful than Napa. It is less touristy and more spread out and really just beautiful with the rolling green hills and the ocean only 30 minutes or so away. We stayed at Tobin James winery just about 6 miles West of downtown using our Harvest Host membership and they put us in the parking lot because of the recent rain instead of the little field they normally use. We were the only ones there the first night. Typically you only get to stay one night, but they had no problem with us being there two nights. We would have never asked to stay more than one night, but on the phone the lady asked how many nights, so I said two. There are no hookups, no water, power or anything, so two nights was enough. The tasting was free and they were super nice. We bought a bottle of Port because we felt that would be cheaper than us paying for a campground and we have been wanting one anyway. The owl who lived in the nearby tree made it seem like we were in the woods again.

Tobin James winery

Our spot in the lot.

 

Tuesday we had a trip planned to the coast since it was a sunny day and more rain was headed our way. It was only about 30 minutes away and I was really looking forward to some seafood on the beach. We had some good references from the people at the winery, so after a stop at Starbucks to research our next stop off we went. It was a beautiful drive through the wineries covering the hillsides. The coastal drive was amazing too. We were just so happy to see the sun and get out of the rain that it all just made it more amazing. We decided to go a little North to see Hearst Castle because the last time we drove down from San Francisco we didn’t go that far. It was a short drive, but we didn’t go all the way to the top because we just weren’t feeling touristy. Our goal was lunch on a restaurant on the beach. We hit the ultimate jackpot when we went to Morro Bay and had lunch of a shared platter of seafood at Dockside too. Oh man, it was great. We sat outside and shared the fried shrimp, oysters, scallops, fish and calamari. The huge dome was in view along with all the fishing boats and a large seal just floating around. After lunch we walked around and enjoyed the awesome views before heading back to the camper. We saw baby seals with their mothers! The drive back was great and we stopped at a J. Lohr winery before going to our winery for another tasting (both were free). Then a quick stop at Walmart and an easy dinner so we didn’t have to do any dishes. How can you spend a valentines day any better than going to Walmart in the evening?! xxoo We found we had neighbors in the parking lot whose truck had some issues and the owner just told them to feel free and stay until they got everything worked out. See, told you they were nice. Later we found out their truck computer just had a glitch and nothing was really wrong, so they would go pick it up and get on their way back home to Fresno.

Hearst Castle- someday we will actually go to the top.

I think he is wishing he could surf.

So cute!

Wake up momma.

 

Again, we hated to leave the area, but the weather wasn’t looking good on Thursday and we wanted to get moving away from the rain and closer to Phoenix. We had spent the morning at Starbucks, but came to no conclusions about where to stay because a lot of the places we wanted to go were first come first serve. Other places were showing full for the weekend and we figured it was because it was a long weekend for some with it being Presidents day on Monday. We pulled the trigger late that night for a reservation which showed as the last available spot at Lake Casitas just above Ventura, CA. That is a good spot for us because it does get us closer South to Phoenix and it is not far from the beach if the weather turns out nice. I have a lot of good memories of Ventura from days spent working close by in Thousand Oaks, so I am feeling good about the area. There seem to be good reviews of biking and hiking trails too.

I love this campground so far. When we first arrived I was a bit skeptical because of the size (400 sites) and when we first arrived it seemed pretty impersonal with the huge check in gate. It may get crazy with locals camping this weekend, but it is pretty quiet tonight and I don’t really think it will because it is supposed to rain like crazy starting Thursday all the way thru Saturday night. The frogs are super loud, but there is no traffic to be heard, no airplanes, nothing but nature. We went for a walk after dinner and it is really dark which means the stars are really bright. I am feeling happy after my bike ride through the campground and looking forward to another one tomorrow before the rain. Kat went with me for a bike ride in the evening too, so I got in two rides! I was also still a bit thrilled with myself that I had backed the camper into our site with no issues. I went right in on the first try! It always bothers me that I am not very good at it, so I really want to feel confident and the only way is just to keep trying and getting it done.

Front gate at Lake Casitas.

 

We got in another bike ride on Thursday before the rain started and i was hoping it would help my mood, but nope. I was blah all day, but luckily (for Kat) not grumpy. I don’t know why, maybe I was starting to get down about the upcoming rain. I really need some sunshine. I know I keep mentioning rain, but it is surrounding us constantly! Friday we went down to Ventura for some sushi at lunch and then to the Starbucks so we could figure out our next stops. We could have done that at home, but it rained all night and was supposed to all day- (which it did!), so we thought it might be good to get out for awhile. The sushi was good, but Starbucks was like being in a homeless shelter. I have nothing against homeless people and they need to get out of the rain too, but I didn’t expect that. One couple had all their stuff piled on the table and their dog sleeping underneath. That was a new one for me. They all had computers and phones and stuff too. Hey, we use Starbucks for the free wifi and power too, so whatever.

Friday was rain all day so we went down to Ventura for a Sushi lunch and to run a few errands. We didn’t run any errands, we just came home. But, on the way home we wanted to see what damage had been done in the area and what the town up the hill , Ojai, CA looked like. We never made it because after getting through one mudslide the road was blocked with down trees. Oh well. Saturday it wasn’t too bad, the rain stopped in the morning so we went for a walk and checked out the creek, which had definitely overflowed. We hung out around the camper and made a plan to go out on Sunday to Ojai and check out the farmers market and a great looking little outdoor bookstore (Bart’s books). The campground was getting much more full.

The farmers market was almost exclusively organic and I don’t really care about that from a buying perspective, I am not into that. It was also expensive. I like cheap farmers markets or fairly priced items that help farmers sell their produce. It was fun anyway. The bookstore was awesome! It is really pretty much all outdoors. The bookshelves are covered, but there are nice little open air outdoor spaces. The books are all mostly used books and priced ok. Most were 3-6$. A huge variety of subjects too and so we spent quite a bit of time browsing, but didn’t buy anything. We don’t have the storage space and we read mostly Ebooks that we borrow from our library or get from various sites online. We could read all day everyday if there weren’t other things to see and do. I only wish I could read faster to get through all the amazing books out there to learn more and experience more. For now, I will just read and enjoy it and travel to experience everything I can in real life. I hope the rain stops soon, but whatever. We move on tomorrow and are one step forward in our trek to Phoenix. I hope the new campground hasn’t washed away, no one here in the offices seems to know. We will just go see what’s up and there is a KOA down the road if it is unavailable. Once again we are winging it…fingers crossed.

Posted in California | 6 Comments

Exiting Napa and Anthony Chabot

I didn’t really finish my blogging about Napa and there were a few so a few things I need to go back and mention before I return to Anthony Chabot. As always when it wasn’t raining we had a nice time exploring and just enjoying the sun. On one of our walks we stopped and picked some oranges and then in the campground I was able to get some grapefruit and lemons right off the trees. I had permission from the camp host, so it wasn’t stealing. There are so many trees around with fruit that people don’t seem to pick that I would have had no problem asking someone if we could pick our own anyway. I guess if you get so much fresh fruit like that all the time you just get sick of it, or sell it. I loved it and think it is awesome to have your own fruit right outside your door. I do miss my garden and being able to just go outside and pick green beans and things for dinner.

 

I also wanted to mention my volunteering in Napa. Napa has a great bike trail – The Napa Vine trail. When Kat was away on MLK day I went and helped plant Red Oaks along the trail. There were about 65 volunteers and we had over 35 trees to plant. We broke into groups and planted all of the trees in about 2 hours. It was really well organized with the holes already being dug by the city and all the trees and tools laid out. It was a really nice day and a lot of super nice people to work with. It was followed by a delicious free burrito lunch too. Bonus!

 

Back to Anthony Chabot:

Wow, the other night, weds- at about 4am I woke up and heard crazy animal noises, the kind you hear on the animal planet or a nature show. I thought it would be coyotes or wolves because of the barking, but the screeching and scream like noises were really freaking me out. It was like the sounds while watching a zombie movie- haha, I think? I haven’t watched many. I have been thinking about it a lot though. When we went for a walk the other day we saw a lot of animal poop (scat for nature or science people) and I wondered what animals were out in these woods. One of the piles of poop had a lot of little bones in it so I am pretty sure it wasn’t someone’s dog. It’s quite remote and a refuge for animals even though just about 6 miles away there are plenty of houses. We have seen turkeys right out the back window, heard them from a distance, and seen them around the campground. I like hearing them, but it is all exciting to sit and watch them while they are unaware of us. I was able to do that this morning. As for other animal sightings there have been none. We hear owls and see lots of poop on the trails, but that and the noise are the only evidence.

 

I told Kat if I heard the wolf/coyote, whatever noises again, I would wake her up so she could hear it and she said “Why?” She doesn’t want me too, but I already had her skip the owls because she didn’t want me to wake her up. Ok, but I hate for her to miss out. I think she should hear it and I bet she could go back to sleep ( no guarantees on the quality of the dreams though). I will let you know how this works out, but if you don’t hear from me…find Fat Henry!

The rain was relentless and we got out a few times so we didn’t go crazy. We went down to Alameda to meet one of Kat’s coworkers from Switzerland for sushi (Thomas). The drive back that night was treacherous. It was super foggy and I missed the turn, so we had to go quite a way down the road to find a decent place to turn around. It is a very windy, hilly road. And it sure gets dark out there!

Thursday we went down to West Oakland to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity Playhouse workshop. The job was to help build playhouses for donation to community services for children with Blue Star Moms (mothers with children whose fathers are serving overseas in the military). The shop was really well organized and had the wonderful smell of fresh sawdust. It was noisy with the other two volunteers using saws and other tools to build all the pieces that go into a playhouse. We were assigned to painting the sides and some of the roofing. After all the pieces are ready they get put together by other volunteers. A lot of corporations come in and use the opportunity as team building or just to help out raising money. The houses also sometimes get sold and the revenue goes for houses to be built by the Habitat organization. It was a good day of work and the shop manager, Gus, was super nice and super nice to look at as well. We both agreed on that!

 

After all the rain the weekend was beautiful so we had some friends over to eat and drink. It was fun meeting new people. I can see why Kat likes coming out here to work. Well, there are also lots of good places to eat too. As usual we didn’t really want to leave, but wanted to get moving a little further south and we had used up our allotted time in that campground.

 

Posted in California, Volunteer | 3 Comments

2016 Summary – all the numbers you ever wanted!

It’s what you’ve all been waiting for – only slightly less rare than the “Guest Post by Melissa” spot – it’s an unusual sighting of the Lesser Spotted Statistics edition.

So we have lots and lots of numbers.  In fact, it is veritable numbers porn.  If you like that sort of stuff.  If not, look away now…..

Number of places we’ve camped – 40 campsites, ranging from State Parks, to KOAs, to National Parks, to a casino, to an Indian reservation, to the US Forest Service land, to driveways, to a wine lodge carpark.  Actually, by far the thing I dislike about the lifestyle is the research into working out where to stay all the time…… its tedious, time consuming and a little stressful.  But we’ve found some fantastic places to stay, and in those 40, there’s really only one place that we wouldn’t go back to.  Not a bad hit rate!

Number of states we’ve stopped in:  17 – NC, TN, KY, IN, IL, MO, KS, NE, CO, WY, MT, ND, SD, ID, UT, NV, CA.   And as a follow on – our shortest stay in a state is our foray into Illinois with 1 night, and the longest time we’ve spent in a state is 36 nights – Tennessee.  And – as a bonus – we visited a Walmart in every one of those 17 states.

Number of states we’ve volunteered in: 15 – we missed 2, IL and ND.  IL we were only in for a night and couldn’t organize something in time.  ND we just messed up and didn’t get our act together.  So of course we have to go back.  And yes, we have a spreadsheet of this (of course!), so here’s the quick run-down:

Oakland, CA Habitat for Humanity Building playhouses
Napa, CA Napa Valley Wine Trail Planting Trees
Denver, CO Rocky Mountain Food Bank Packing individual boxes for distribution
Idaho Falls, ID ReStore Dusting, Vacuuming, Mopping, Pricing
Idaho Falls, ID Idaho Falls Food Bank Stocking shelves and making food bags
Corydon, IN O’Bannon State Park Trail scouting
Topeka, KS Habitat for Humanity Help building a house – siding, caulking
St Louis, MO Campus Kitchen Cooking bulk meals for people
Billings, MT Billings Food Bank Distributing food to people who come in
Omaha, NE Open Door Mission Christmas in July, distributing donated goods
Omaha, NE Keep Omaha Beautiful Picked up trash around the lake
McCarran, NV Northern Nevada Food Bank Filling boxes with donated food
Rapid City, SD ReStore Mixing and disposing of paint
Rapid City, SD Habitat for Humanity Replacing windows – Brush with Kindness
Salt Lake City, UT Salvation Army Food pantry handout

 

Volunteering is one of those things that takes a lot of time to find an opportunity in the specific area that fits in with our dates and with our limitations (as we’re not around for too long we can’t do anything that needs a weekly commitment, or needs clearance or training (for example, can’t usually volunteer with children (need police vetting (which is different than police petting – that’s another website entirely)) or hospice (need training and a commitment to be around)).  But it’s also one of those things that we’re so glad we managed to each time we do it.

Number of miles Fat Henry has towed The Shady Lady around the country –   and the total number of miles we’ve driven – 13221.  Here’s a little map of where we went on our trip in 2016.  I didn’t add in the practice trip down to see Diane and Frank in Florida, but that’s because it was just a practice!

The number of times we’ve been glad for Fat Henrys heated seats – too many to count.  Even when it’s not cold out, it’s nice to have a hot bottom.  It’s sort of like a slow release warm fart, but less smelly.

Number of gallons of diesel Fat Henry has drunk – 1012 gallons, at an average cost per gallon of $2.323.  That sounds super cheap now, as diesel has gone up – not too sure if its because we’re over on the West Coast, or if it’s gone up everywhere.

The cheapest diesel we got was in Sevierville, TN at $1.779 (which was incredibly cheap even for that area), and the most expensive in 2016 was in Wells, NV at $2.709.  We use the app Gas Buddy, which has saved us a lot of money and driving around (but also caused more driving around, seeking the holy grail of low fuel prices).  Now we’re in CA, it’s gone up even more, but you’ll find that out in February 2018 when I publish the 2017 stats.

Number of blinds mended/rethreaded – 5.  Number of blinds broken that have to be mended – 1.  Number left to break – 5.  We finally gave in and instead of buying the blind repair kits, we just bought 100m of nylon cord to use to restring the blinds.  So if there’s anyone else in the area who needs some 1.4mm nylon cord – we have 98.2m left.

Number of times Berts mended the bathroom sink – 4.  And I think this time it’s actually worked!  We had a slow drip from when Bert put a new mixer tap in in TN way back when (May, I think), and luckily we have a couple of plastic bins under the sink to store things in/catch any drips that might happen.

Number of repair/upgrade projects to do – again, too many.  It’s a never ending list of things to do – rather like owning a house, but most things can’t be procrastinated for as long as when you own a house.  Apart from the bathroom fan – that bad boy has been waiting for me to repair him since June.  Oops.

Here’s the final financial numbers tally from the end of April (when we got on the road) to the end of the year

Total 2016 Monthly Average
Campsite $4,099 $512.40
Gas $1,998 $249.74
Grocery $2,584 $323.02
Restaurant $1,562 $195.26
Alcohol $953 $119.15
Household $308 $38.50
Camper $1,436 $179.52
Equipment $236 $29.51
Truck $350 $43.76
Parking $42 $5.21
Entertainment $637 $79.65
Gifts $302 $37.81
Fixed Costs $356 $44.56
Laundry $106 $13.24
Miscellaneous $930 $116.22
Membership/ club/ education $430 $53.75
Total $16,330 $2,041

 

As I look at this, the one number that jumps out at me is $106 doing laundry.  What!  The other number that I didn’t track is how long we spent in laundromats/launderettes (depending on your nationality and propensity to talk funny).  Maybe that’ll be the next thing tracked.

So, although we were ‘on the road’ for 247 days in 2016, 47 of those we were away from the camper and did not have any campsite expenses.  We had other expenses though – vacation isn’t cheap – but I tracked those separately (of course -why not put another tab in the spreadsheet!).  We spent about $2800 for those 47 days, including food, flights to/from Europe, across the US and between countries in Europe, groceries, gifts, food, train travel, restaurants, rental car, food, hotels, snacks and did I mention – food?

As you can see from the list above, I didn’t include either health insurance or phones (we pay for those individually) and also truck/camper/umbrella insurance, which is an annual thing and we paid for before we got on the road.  But in case any of you out there are interested in doing this full time, this is how much we paid for Health and Phones since we got on the road, and the insurance is for the whole year, not just 247 days.  (Health includes insurance and medications, but no psych counselling over our inability to reverse in less than 38 minutes and 127 back and forth movements):

Health $3,801
Phones $1,191
Insurance $1,542

 

And here’s a pretty little pie chart that shows the above data in picture form, for you more visually oriented folks:

 

Of course, none of this includes the costs of buying the Shady Lady and Fat Henry in the first place, or the costs of getting kitted out to go on the road or getting our home ready to rent.  But it gives us a good idea of how much it should cost in 2017 (extrapolating 8 months to 12 months) for us to live, if we keep doing the things we’re doing and without any major work needing to be done on the equipment.  However, the one thing to note is that we have more control over our costs than often possible in a sticks and brick house.  We can choose to stay stationary more (lower fuel costs).  We can try to stay in more free campsites (email me if you have a long driveway………).  We can eat rice and beans more (and that will give the added benefit of heating up the camper too!).  We can drink less (Ha!).  Or if we come into a small windfall we can choose to spend more money which means that we’ll be able to stay at nicer places (or even in San Francisco), and eat out more (and then have to join a gym to counteract that) or be able to visit Hawaii and Alaska (to finish off Berts 50 states).

 

In the flavor of Berts more ruminative posts, I will endeavour to add some personal feelings to go along with the Spock-like statistics.  It’s been a great year, with a lot of ups and a couple of downs.  Did I get out of my comfort zone this year – yes, definitely.  Did the magic happen – yes to that one too.

This lifestyle is definitely not for everybody, but I’ve been surprised on how easy it has been for me/us to adapt.  At first there was so much new information to know, and things to learn (what to do to avoid the ‘Pyramid of Poo’, for example – something you don’t get in a house with a proper toilet) that it seemed……. well, not overwhelming as such, but daunting.  As a typical overthinker, there was so much to process, so many ways that so many things could go wrong or different things happen.  But, as with a lot of things that seem ‘big’ when you first look at them, when broken down into bite sized chunks they’re a lot more digestible (like a brownie) and not really a big deal at all.  Something that needed 30 or 40 written step by step instructions becomes second nature in no time at all.  Experiences like this reinforce the notion that most things really aren’t that difficult if you dissect them into manageable chunks and spend time doing it.  Even quantum physics – just break it down into quark sized bits (nerd joke alert).

But its funny – no matter whether we’re in a house or a trailer, life is just life.  We still have to do all the same things – wash, do laundry, cook food, go food shopping etc..  Don’t have to mow the grass, but then in a house we don’t have to empty the crapper either….

I love going around the country spending longer with friends and family than we would have otherwise, and getting to know them a bit better.  I was very thankful for the time we spent in TN, MO, CO, NV and CA.  However, on that note, it also means that we didn’t spend any time with our friends in NC since being on the road (apart from a guest appearance from Tracy, which made South Dakota more special), and that’s the part of the lifestyle I suppose.  We have fleeting conversations and meetings with a lot of different new people, but no depth of conversation that you get with well-established friends (note I didn’t say ‘old’ friends), so it can be somewhat isolating after a time.  Usually the times we get into ‘meaningful’ conversation the most with new people is when we’re doing volunteer work, and we’ve met some lovely people, but we still have no roots in a community like we did in NC.  Not meaning to sound morose – it’s been an amazing trip.  But for me, that’s the one drawback of a nomadic lifestyle.  It’s good for a season, and for this time in our lives, but if we were to do this permanently I’d have to make way more effort in keeping up with friendships remotely than I have done……… and I know how crap I am at that.  Sorry everyone for my lack of communication skills.

That said – we’re not done exploring yet – like Bert has said before, it’s the trip of a lifetime and we’re going to make the most of it.  There’s still more places to go, friends and family to meet up with and new friends to make.  And a lot more food to eat.  We are very grateful for the support from everyone, and love you all. xxx

Posted in Statistics | 8 Comments

Happy Travels home by Melissa

Melissa wanted one last blog documenting her trip home, so here she is again:
Saturday was my long day of traveling to get home after my week of RV adventure living! My flight was at 7:30 am out of Oakland going to Las Vegas for an hour and a half layover then onward to Philly. I had finally gotten used to the time change (3 hours) and was not looking forward to losing it on the way home. Got dropped off at a little after 6am and has TSA pre-check which means you don’t have to take off shoes, belt or light jackets. No need to have liquids out of bag or laptops either so you get through fairly quickly. I walked around a little to check out the airport- boy it is all spread out which was a weird layout to me. It’s always fun to people watch people at airports. We were delayed about 20 minutes as one of the flight crew had been on another flight that was late coming in. This flight was only 1 hour and 20 minutes and I had a long enough layover so I decided to sit in the back of the plane. For those who haven’t flown Southwest Airlines, you have no assigned seats instead you board by letter and number. I was C4 so I was in the last group. It was not a full flight but as always, people were crammed in the front of the plane like Sardines! I sat in the very last row aisle seat. I had a National Guard guy in the window seat and his co- worker was across the aisle in the window seat. They were cool guys and had been in California for training. My seat mate had very interesting stories about places he has been. He said he likes helping people which is why he got into the Guard. Across from me was a lady with her dog-Jasper going to Michigan to visit her 101 year old Mom. She said her mom was finally ready to leave this earth. She was sad about it, but also very grateful her mom lived such a long, prosperous life. Put things in perspective when you sit next to people and hear what they are going through.

The rest of the flight was awesome! The group of passengers in the back of the plane were rambunctious and the stewardesses had fun with us! I don’t think I have ever laughed so much while on a flight! Jasper got tons of attention from all of us. He was a great traveler and has been across the country 5 times now! Bert had given me a drink coupon so I had a coffee with Baileys which I finished in plenty of time for landing. Time to check out Vegas airport!

Got off the plane and my next flight about 20 steps away! A few fun facts for those who haven’t been to the airport in Vegas. 1. You can walk around with a beer in your hand! 2. Slot machines are a good way to pass some time. 3. They have a smoking/slot lounge!! 4. The have plenty of water bottle filling stations as well as lots of charging stations.

I decided to have a cocktail or two (I am still on vacation remember) and found a nice bar where you could stand as they have no stools. I got to talking to the bartender Katherine and we had plenty of laughs. It was time to get on board for the next leg of my journey. This time I was A group and wanted to sit closer to the front of the plane so I could get off quicker once we landed. I lucked out and got an aisle seat in row 8 but alas this group of passengers were not the chatty kind. I had plenty of books so I settled in and used my last drink coupon. The flight was uneventful and we got in early to boot! Got off and went to the shuttle to pick up my car.

The last bit of my trip was just me driving home from the airport. Felt good to be back in my tiny Honda compared to Fat Henry! Not a bad drive home which I figured since it was early enough on a Saturday night. The best part of coming home was seeing my cat Mittens! He was so happy to see me! He ran around, meowed a lot, jumped on me and was super snuggly.

Looking back on my vacation, it was a perfect mix of relaxing, exploring, being adventurous, trying new foods and making two of my dreams come true-wine tasting in Napa and visiting AT&T ballpark!

I can’t see myself living in an RV, but I will happily visit Bert & Kat anytime they invite me so we can create more memories ( and I could blog again! ).

Until my next visit,

Melissa.
Bert- I am really happy we had pretty nice weather while Melissa visited because we had only one more nice day before the rain started again. It has rained almost all day everyday since she left. Saturday was a nice day and that worked out well for us because we had some local people over that Kat works with here in the area when she comes out for work. What a nice group of people. They were great and even brought delicious food, wine and chocolate. We really enjoyed that visit and are looking forward to meeting up with them again later this week for lunch. We had hoped to take our bikes with us when we go for lunch so we could get some fresh air and exercise, but the forecast doesn’t look good. It hasn’t been too bad hanging out we watched the superbowl, saw some turkeys and heard some trees crashing down in the woods. Maybe we will get some postcards out soon too. We are now hoping that the creek down the hill doesn’t flood and that Fat Henry doesn’t have a tree fall on him and turn into FLAT Henry!

Posted in California | 3 Comments

Goodbye California by Melissa

We just dropped Melissa off at the airport for her long day of flying to get home. It was really fun to spend time with her and let her get a taste of what our life really is like. Other than the last step on the stairs going outside and not having her own private suite, I think it was well received. We kept her happily entertained, fed and full of wine. She was a great guest blogger and here is her last little bit that she wrote before she left. Hopefully Kat will blog next and then it’s back to regular business by me.

Here’s Melissa:

Wow I can’t believe my time in California is almost over! The week has sure flown by. I left off with Wednesday being a day of rest with the Shady Lady at Anthony Chabot Campground. It sure is a beautiful area. It was nice to have a day of downtime to just read, relax, play games and unwind.

Thursday Bert drove me around to see the Coast of California with notable areas of Half Moon Bay through to Santa Cruz and came back inland through to San Jose. It was an overcast & drizzly day, but I still enjoyed the scenery and lovely views! The beach and coastline here are so different from what I am used to in New Jersey. Of course, there is no denying the majestic beauty of either coast. We got back and I continued adventuring by eating Thai Green Curry that Bert cooked. I have never had Thai food, but I think I like it.

See how overcast and drizzly it was? Still beautiful as we drove by.

Lights out.

Today is Friday and we decided to go back into San Fran. We were going to take the BART, but we ended up driving Fat Henry (well Bert drove and Kat navigated) into the City. Hard to find parking for an over sized truck ( his clearance is 7ft) so most garages have pretty low clearances. It all worked out as I got a driving tour of the city! Kat dropped Bert & I off to explore the Russian Hill Bookstore ( I had gone onto Pinterest and looked up bookstores as I love to read and explore bookstores). It was smaller than I thought it would be, but it had gotten great reviews as a place to find unique cards and I could have spent hours looking at them. A large selection of cool gifts, San Fran items and a small room with used books. Next we headed to Chronicle Books which I went into and it was a fantastic little gem. They had a wide variety of books-from cats to cooking to travel and a nice kids section. It was bright and airy and had the heady scent of new books!!!!!

Just a quick snapshot.

Chinatown as we drove through.

I then went to the Papyrus Card Store a few doors down. It was very cool. They had all sorts of cards (I did used to work at a Hallmark store thus the obsession with cards!) and I could not resist buying one for a friends’ upcoming birthday.

I made my way back to the truck where Bert & Kat let me know we would go to AT&T Ball Park!!!!! I have been NY Yankees fan for years, but had watched Tim Lincecum pitch 2 no hitters a few years back and was amazed at how young he looked ( like a 12 year old!) and started to pay attention to the Giants. I know he was traded, but I do still keep track of the team. This was a very unexpected and super pleasant surprise for me!!!! A spot was found to park Fat Henry in and off we went for some lunch which naturally included beers. After a nice bite to eat, off we went to the ball park. It was so neat to be able to walk around and see the views of the bay and even some of the ballfield as we walked around. It is a popular spot and with a marina right there, too! There was also a public fishing pier which I did not go out onto as it was quite windy and brisk by the water. It was really cool to be able to see the ball park and I of course bought a shirt for a souvenir!

Checking in on FB.

We are back at the Shady Lady settled in for the night. Kat is making us a delicious smelling dinner of Spaghetti Bolognese. A few observations from my trip: California sure has a lot of highways and traffic! I thought nothing could be worse than NYC, but I was wrong! They also have so much to see-wineries, the coast, the cities, the State Parks, etc. If you are considering visiting friends with an RV, be sure to listen to your hosts as far as types of clothes as they won’t lead you astray. Be aware that there are space restrictions-don’t pack the biggest suitcase you own as having a spot to keep it in could be problematic. I had borrowed a very small suitcase which fit everything I needed clothes wise. I have a CPAP machine which travels with me & one other bag as my carry-on. Bert was very surprised to see just how little my suitcase was! The photos are proof of that. Your hosts also have limited space and likely have a routine in the kitchen so offering to help is appreciated but probably wont be accepted. If you do decide to take the trash or recycles out, watch out for that third step-missing it WILL cause you to crash to the ground I can assure you. Overall, it is an experience I am glad I took advantage of for my vacation.

Tomorrow I am flying back home to New Jersey and still have Sunday as my last official day at which time it’s back to real life for this bricks and sticks babe( what non-RV’s are apparently called?! Breck says so.).

I look forward to reading more of Bert’s & Kat’s adventures via the blog as they continue their travels.

For now I am signing off as Melissa the guest blogger.

Bert here:

I am pretty sure Melissa had a good time and she is a great houseguest, but the best part for me was to see her realize she has dreams of travel and adventure. One dream of hers is to go to baseball parks and although it is in the back of her mind she didn’t really think or plan of doing it here in San Francisco, or she didn’t say so. Really, what happened is we should have taken the BART in and not tried to park the truck in the city, but it all worked out really well with that visit to ATT&T park as a last ditch effort to make the day fun and memorable. Kat did a good job suggesting that (parking options helped her create that idea, but she gets full credit and we had a good time in the end.) I hope Melissa will take the easy steps to really start following her dream of going to different ball parks. Seriously, she lives in an area that is easy to go to many baseball games, Mets, Philis, Baltimore, Yankees (been there a few times) and Boston. Start there we said and when opportunities for other places pop up, find a way to go! People always say how much they wish they could do what we are doing or that their dreams have to wait. Well, talking to Melissa made me think about her situation and say why not take baby steps towards your big dream? Short trips or excursions if it’s about travel. For many, a dream may just be a dream. Or they may just have something they really like and have a thought about doing more with it, but it is just considered a goal or big idea or plan. It may not even be considered a dream. You may have dreams and not even realize it because you don’t call it that. I think they can all be lumped together, big plans, dreams, ideas, goals. They can get sub-categorized individually based on how achievable or realistic it is. They may be built up in your mind with no realistic expectations. What if you don’t really like it when you actually do it? It is always possible that something just sounded good at the time. That happens on a regular basis to lots of people when attempting to have an adventure or fulfill a dream (or just do something foolish to begin with). You need to try it and little steps is a great way to do it. With our decision to change our lives we got lucky and it is working out well. We wouldn’t have known that it would until we tried. We had pretty realistic expectations though and a back up plan.

Melissa, Thanks for your blogs and I hope you get busy on those goals and dreams.

 

Posted in California | 2 Comments

My First RV Experience (Guest blog by Melissa)

Today I’ve given over the keyboard to my sister Melissa who is visiting us this week and learning about life in the road in an RV.  She wanted to share some of her experiences with you.  Enjoy.

 

Hello! I was invited to come and visit Bert & Kat for my vacation so I can check out RV life and do some sightseeing on the West Coast. With an offer like that, I could not wait to come spend a week with them! As many of you may know, I was born on an Air Force Base in California and my last memory of being in California prior to this visit, was right after high school graduation in 1987.

So this is an opportunity I was happy to have come my way.

I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised at how normal life is for being in an RV. You do have to plan where you want to stay, for how long, if reservations are required, cost of site and if you are looking for full hook-ups (Water, electricity etc.) It is an adjustment as far as setting up at the RV, knowing voltage for each appliance or device, being aware of sewage use, etc. It is just like anything else in life- you have a daily routine and before you know it, don’t even think about it.

I have flown a lot to visit Bert & Kat over the years, so flying is not a big deal to me. My adventures started once I arrived at the Oakland Airport. I walked out from my terminal and there were Bert & Kat with Fat Henry(the truck’s name) to pick me up. It was sunny and warm to my delight! It was a little bit over an hour from the airport back to the campsite. They had been in Skyline Park which is open during the day to the public for hiking, biking, running and Frisbee golf (that is HUGE in this area!) and after hours is only accessible to campers. It was funny that I had no idea of what to expect at an RV site. This particular site had maybe 30 spots and it was odd to me how most of them were kind of right next to each other and there were a lot of empty sites. It was interesting to be able to hear wolves, owls and then the sound of kids playing, dogs barking and no traffic! Dinner was Bert burgers with avocado and wine! A great dinner and I found myself very tired before long and ended up in bed very early(I did manage to lose 3 hours due to the time change!)

Up early with the time change, so a good picture of the sunrise.

They had super nice neighbors at Skyline and it was amazing to learn that the guy right next to us maintains pizza ovens and he goes to Ocean City, NJ Manco & Manco which has the best pizza at the shore in my opinion as I have been there many times with family over the years. Here I was way on the West Coast and found a “Six Degrees of Separation” connection!

Our awesome neighbors!

Sunday was wine tasting in Napa Valley!!! We all know I love my Cabernet!!! We had a list of 5 wineries to visit and Kat was our designated driver which was awesome as she is a great navigator and driver. We had our plan ready and Kat mapped out our trip and off we went ( we made Melissa take a short hike before we went out drinking for the day).

Just to prove we were really there.

Early morning hike to offset the drinking for the day.

The first stop was to Sequoia Grove where we had a 2 for 1 coupon for our tasting of $20.00. Our tasting consisted of 4 wines and our host was a guy named Eric and I liked the ambiance and personality of our host here the best of all the wineries we visited. He was sociable, funny, knowledgeable and fun to talk to. I am not a huge fan of white wines, but the Chardonnay was nice. My favorite of the day was Rebellious Red-what a delicious, delightful blend! Next was a Syrah which I usually like, but did not enjoy. Last was the Cabernet which was nice. There was no pressure to buy anything which was nice.

Next stop was Beauliue Vineyard which we also had a 2 for 1 coupon for! The Maestro Menu cost was $25.00 and you got to choose from 9 wines. I started with a Pinot Gris which I would totally enjoy in the summer as it was light and refreshing; it would make a great sangria! Next was the Zinfandel-red with quite the berry flavor with a peppery finish. I love black pepper so this was a great taste for me! I moved on to Beauzeaux “a mistake” which I would say was the best wine making mistake ever! It was a wonderful blend of different spices and berries with a very smooth finish. Last was the Tapestry Reserve which was a blend of 65% Cabernet and 35% Syrah and what a great way to finish this tasting. It was an earthy flavor that was silky and sinful.

The 3rd stop was at Sutter Homes at it was totally FREE! My favorite thing about this winery was the beautiful area outside-a lemon and 2 orange trees with a nice little fountain and pond with a turtle and fish. The best wine here was the Red Blend which we purchased as for about $6.00 how could you resist? It was not very busy here and I am sure many a wine snob would not be caught dead in there, but again it was free and I did start my love of wine with Sutter Home White Zinfandel so I was happy to go here! The hosts were also very nice and as Kat was the DD, they gave her bottled water!

Next on our list was the Napa Cellars which makes Menage A Trois- a favorite of mine that my friend Tara introduced me to years ago. They had a gorgeous outdoor seating area which I imagine is super busy in the summer! I started with a Chardonnay which was ok. Then I had a Gold Chardonnay which was better as it had a pineapple finish and I do love pineapple! Next I had Midnight-WOW what a perfect blend of blackberry, plum and mocha. It was so good I talked the guy next to me into tasting it and then he bought a bottle! I finished with a Cabernet but found that I did like the Midnight the best!

We couldn’t lift the barrel, so we had to leave without it.

Our last stop was Nicheline which was up a twisty, curvy road with very limited parking, but boy was it worth the drive! Our host was Scott and he was very personable and humorous! We also met a couple from Australia who we ran into again in San Francisco! The winery has the option to let you keep your 2 for 1 coupon if you decide to make even a one bottle purchase! The tasting here is a set menu but how can you go wrong with 5 different wines? First was Old Vine Muscadelle which I enjoyed. The Primitivo was our favorite and we ended up getting a bottle and will have it with dinner Friday night which will be a great wine to end my journey with! Next was Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel which I thought was smooth. The next selection was Cabernet which was very tasty! The last one was Syrah but Scott let me pick anything on the menu I really liked so of course I had more Primitivo! It was an awesome day and once we got back to the campsite, I naturally drank more wine!!!! Was happy to wake up Monday without a wine hangover!

Monday we moved from Skyline to Anthony Chabot Campground which is much more rural.  (Full of eucalyptus trees and lots of hiking and biking trails).  The drive was a bit scary as I have never experienced riding in a truck pulling an RV ( called a 5th wheel) so again, I had no clue what to expect. I don’t think I would be good at driving or trying to park this whole contraption! I can barely parallel park my Honda as it is! Anyway, we made it up the big twisting, turning road to our destination and I again was happy to stay out of the way as Bert & Kat got the Shady Lady set up for our stay. It is very, very quiet and dark here at night. We had a campfire on Monday night which was very nice. I could hear the hum of traffic on the highway miles below, airplanes flying overhead, woodpeckers pecking, birds chattering, frogs singing and music from a camper down the road and our neighbors having a good time with some friends who came up for the night. It was a delightful blend of sounds for someone who is accustomed to only hearing traffic at home. We took a short walk and then I came back to relax while Bert & Kat went exploring. Had a delicious dinner of London Broil and of course some red wine!

Watching Bert and Kat hike up the hill (safely from my chair of course.)

 

Tuesday was Explore San Fran day We took the Ferry over which was neat as we passed by the big cargo ships being loaded up. The one ship had about 3 guys who waved to us and blew kisses. When we got the dock, we went right to see the Sea Lions at Pier 39. They are so funny- grunting and pushing each other off the floating docks, soaking up the sun and sleeping while all huddled together! While looking for souvenirs ( I usually like to get a zippered sweatshirt and postcards) we ran across the couple we had seen on Sunday. We chatted with them and off we went to get some lunch. We ate and then it was time to go sightseeing.

 

My bucket list was to get to the Golden Gate Bridge which we did!!!I would highly recommend renting bikes to make the trip there and returning on a ferry! A lot of people did this. I attempted to make the walk, but it was about 4 miles from the Pier to the GGB and hills, hills, hills!!!! We ended up getting an Uber to make it to GGB and them bought a bus ticket to get back to Fisherman’s Wharf. I was so happy to get to the Bridge and have photos taken there. It is quite windy and chilly so if you plan to come to SF, make sure you have a hooded jacket or scarf. I saw a lot of people with gloves on too! On the way back to the ferry, we stopped off and two different bars to have some cocktails and get a nibble before heading back to camp. The ride back on the Ferry seemed warmer to me even though the sun had set. It was neat to be on the water at night. Great view of the Bay Bridge with the LCD lights glowing on the water. It was and adventurous day and one I am grateful for!

Yay! I made it.

Good times.

Older sister, but not always more mature…

You never escape the torture of being the youngest sibling.

Its Wednesday and we are just relaxing today. I got up late- almost 8am! Bert got a fire started and we sat outside and enjoyed the sights before the rain and wind come again. It is getting windy out and is supposed to rain starting this afternoon. We will be going into the city again tomorrow to do a little more sightseeing. Friday we will drive the Pacific Coast Highway and then I fly out Saturday.

It is easy to see why so many people choose this way of life. You can choose to be in an urban or rural area, visit so many great places (National Parks, cities, zoos, etc.), meet new people, visit family or friends while staying in your own space and last but not least- have the freedom to move around as much as you want!!

I hope I didn’t bore you with my long, detailed blog! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!

Melissa

 

Posted in California | 7 Comments