Traveling West 2017-Texas Hill Country

Our journey continued on from Colorado, except this time instead of going farther west, we pointed the rig south. Our next destination, after a brief overnight in Oklahoma (by the way, a very scenic state, who knew?), was Texas Hill country.  We parked the rig in Cedar Park, Texas for a couple weeks, and set out to explore the area.

Welcome to Hill Country

Hill country is more or less anchored by Austin, the capital of Texas, and the fastest growing large city in the United States. I neglected to do my homework, and assumed Austin was a mid-sized city similar to Ann Arbor or Lansing. It’s not. It is not only heavily populated within the city limits, with around a million citizens, but the outlying “small” towns amount to another million. Large cities and metropolitan areas are not our favorite place to reside, but we made the best of managing the traffic, found several good hiking areas, and took a trip to the city one day.

A day in Austin

Downtown Austin, at least the area we were in, was a hotbed of activity. Countless bars and restaurants, and like every large city,  many homeless people.  It was Saturday, and the Texas Longhorns were playing. It may as well been the only college game in the nation that particular day. Every TV was tuned into the game, even if there were multiple TV’s in the room. Burnt orange jerseys dotted the landscape. The mood was jolly and raucous although it was early in the day.

We spent a few hours downtown. I had really looked forward to Austin. But I gotta tell you, I was a bit disappointed. I am guessing the real beauty of this city lies within the nightlife, and I am not a nightlife sort of person (anymore that is, I had my day!) Perhaps it was due to the football game, but I expected more music and less people. Although no more than 18 miles from Cedar Park, it took a good hour to get there. Traffic is pretty rough in the area. It was our only journey into Austin. We chose to spend the remainder of our time in the suburbs.

Don’t fall in Bruce

On the other hand, Lake Travis and the surrounding area were quite spectacular. Like many lakes in the west, Lake Travis is actually a reservoir on the Colorado River. It is a large lake spanning over 60 miles, and is used for flood control, water supply, recreation, and electrical power.

The area is called Hill Country for a reason. It’s not what one envisions when thinking of Texas, I think most of us midwestern types think of it as very flat land, and, yes indeed, much of Texas is flat as a pancake. We took several drives through the pretty rolling hills. I even saw a bit of fall color here and there. It would be a great place to ride a motorcycle if you are so inclined.

We found several good hiking areas around the area, and I got to see my very first tarantula in the wild. It wasn’t the least bit scary to me. I rather like the way it looked, all fuzzy and moving slowly. I am not a spider fan, but this guy was in no way creepy.

A sighting!

Should you travel to Hill Country, be sure and check out the Oasis on Lake Travis. Our son spent a summer in Austin training for work, and recommended we check it out. Go around sunset for optimal views. We were there during the afternoon, enjoying a cold brew, and from the view, it seemed we were in Italy somewhere under the Tuscan sun. Yeah, it’s that scenic.

The Oasis

A shot from the Oasis

The city of Cedar Park was a typical ‘burb city with all the malls, stores, chain restaurants, that tend to reside in those type of areas. We found some great city parks with nice paved trails perfect for urban hikes.

Nearby Georgetown TX is very charming with a sweet town square, and the largest police presence I have seen in any town. In fact, the whole area of metro Austin had a very large police presence.

At first, I was feeling well-protected. Then, I wondered why they need so many cops and maybe it wasn’t as safe as it appears, or maybe this is just the way they do things in Texas. It’s not, the rest of Texas, at least the other parts I have been in, have about the same amount of police patrols as we do at home in Michigan.

Pretty wildflowers in bloom

Over 2000 steps on this hike

Quiet pools to reflect upon

Lots of steps!

I certainly enjoyed my time in Texas Hill Country. It probably isn’t fair to compare it to Colorado Springs from which we had just departed. Colorado has a beauty all of it’s own. However, I just can’t help comparing one place to another.

I will say, my life is much richer from having been to this area of the Lone Star State. This is the way I feel anywhere we travel. Which is why we do it. To enrich our lives with many as new places and experiences as possible. To us, that is what life is about.

After about 6 weeks spent on the road, living in a half-packed up house (I don’t put everything away in it’s “just so” spot until we land somewhere for a few months), and putting a whole lot of miles on the Silverado, I think we were both becoming a bit road weary, and were once again yearning to be settled and find a sense of community once again to enjoy the winter months.

Next stop, Portland Texas. Our home for the season. See you there!

Why Your Workout Isn’t Working

I had to call uncle and join a gym.

I couldn’t seem to find the “just right” place to run here in Texas. My home-on-wheels is not steady enough to do high-intensity boot-camp type routines which involve jumping moves like jacks and burpees.

I can’t function properly without regular exercise, and walking everyday doesn’t quite fulfill the need for me.

What’s an old fitness junkie to do?

I did some research and found a terrific community center-based gym near our winter home in Portland. This is only the second gym I have ever paid to join in my 20+ years of  professional fitness/wellness training. It has proved a nice change of pace from my previous routine.
I have worked in a fair share of fitness facilities. Some were budget fitness centers, some were high-end. All of them had one thing in common. I was reminded of this today while people-watching  during my training session.

Here’s the common denominator:

A whole bunch of people who show up regularly, but can’t seem to get the results they are looking for.

If this describes you, check out my list of common fitness mistakes that may be standing in your way whether you are an at-home exerciser or a gym-rat type.

  1. You lack a plan– this person shows up religiously, does a quick warm up, or not, wanders into the weight room randomly picking up weights, does a set of bicep curls, a couple squats, a few chest presses, and out the door they go. Dude, you forgot most of your major muscle groups. No sense training those biceps if you are gonna ignore your triceps. They work as a team. Working only your biceps is going to set you up for a muscle imbalance. This is the case for most major muscle groups. Go armed with your action plan, so you don’t leave areas of your body out of the fun. Don’t forget to stretch!

    Always go in with a plan to avoid downtime

  2. Too much idle time– This is a big pet peeve of mine. You get to the gym, chat up the front desk person, wander to the locker room, get dressed, flip around the TV in the cardio room. By the time you start your warm-up you have already eaten into 15 minutes of time. You get off the machine of choice, mosey to the weight room hit a set of bicep curls, check your phone, perform another set of bicep curls, check your look in the mirror, crank out one more set and grab a leisurely drink of water. Too much downtime. You are here to work out. Get on it already! Get in, get dressed, and don’t forget your plan. Be efficient, in between bicep sets, get after some jumping jacks or alternate it with your leg or core work. I love doing upper body, lower body, core sets. No time is wasted while you rest the part you just worked. If you take a break, keep it a break, NOT a vacation.
  3. Machine leaning- pet peeve #2. If you have to lean on the treadmill or hang on to it for dear life, you are working beyond your current capabilities. SLOW DOWN. If balance is an issue, perhaps a walking around the track or a riding stationary bike may be a better idea for you until your balance and stamina improve.

    Too much incline damages your form. Walk tall and proud

    If you have to hang on you lose 20% of your results. Swing those arms!

  4. Your form sucks- exercises are designed to work a certain area, and to target the muscle group correctly you must have proper form. The mirror is there for reasons other than checking out your spiffy new gym outfit, check that form!  And quit lifting at warp speed. A steady 2 counts up 2 counts down or even slower will achieve the effect you are after. Save the speed for the cardio room. If you are unsure of proper form you can take a class from a certified group fitness instructor or schedule a few sessions with a personal trainer, who can also help you create a balanced plan, and get your form straightened out.
  5. Your trainer or group exercise instructor has no nationally recognized certification-Just being a long-term gym rat or attending a week long training program focused on mainly sales techniques does not a CERTIFIED trainer or instructor make. Certified trainers, such as myself, have studied very hard to become familiar with the human body and the effect fitness has on it. We are trained to do assessments and create balanced programs which get results. The exams are not easy, and we are required to take continuing education credits and CPR classes every two years to renew our certifications. Independent contractors, like me, carry professional liability insurance, something an uncertified trainer cannot obtain. Ask your trainer for proof of certification. You wouldn’t go to a doctor without any credentials, and the same rules should apply to your trainer. Most states do not require fitness instructors or personal trainers to be certified. Do not assume just because your gym has trainers, they are certified.

    Double certified I am, and proud of it!

  6. You are inconsistent-You can’t just show up every 6 days one week and one the next week. You must be consistent. Exercise must be regular to be effective. You can store fat, but not fitness. Make a plan of action and stick to it.
  7. You are too consistent– if you only do cardio or only do weight-training, you are doing your body a disservice. A balanced program needs 4 components; cardio, strength, flexibility, and balance. Yoga is a great workout for flexibility, strength, and balance, but lacks cardio. Weight training can cover strength, balance, and even cardio if you stay on it, but lacks flexibility. Walking and running are great, but only for cardio benefits. A good group exercise class will generally cover all these aspects. Slogging through same workout day after day is boring and stalls result. Nothing will kill a plan quicker than boredom.
  8. Your diet sucks- there is not a trainer around who doesn’t deal with this issue on a daily basis. You lie to us about what you eat and drink. You lie to yourself about what you eat and drink. And yet you wonder why you are not achieving results. Keep a food (and drink) log if you expect to see change. Most of us underestimate the amount of food we consume, as well as overestimate how many calories we burn while exercising. Do not believe your device. Or exercise infomercials which claim to burn 1000 calories. If it sounds too good to be true, it certainly is. Some of us like to reward our hard workout with a special treat. Or we get so wrapped up in protein shakes and supplements we forget to enjoy a whole food, clean diet. Or we eat decently during the week, then totally blow it up on the weekend with food and booze. (Hey, me too!) Losing weight and maintaining weight are 70% food-related and 30% exercise-related. And don’t forget to hydrate with plain old water. Most of us are not working out long or hard enough to require a sports drink.

    Lots of produce and lots of water=a healthy you

  9. No scheduled rest days– even professional athletes need to give their bodies a break. You are no different. I prefer active rest days, I crave movement most days, so my rest days are usually spent taking a walk and doing light stretching. But certainly feel free to take a full rest day and delight in how your body is responding to those previous workouts. And then you can really get it on when your next workout day arrives, feeling fresh and rested.
  10. You don’t like working out– I know, I am a oddball, I adore working out. Almost nothing I’d rather do. It’s probably why I am quite successful in this business. I will try any class. And if I really like it, I will train to teach it. I know many of you do not feel this way. You simply must find a form of exercise you enjoy. Exercise should not feel like torture, it should be fun! There are numerous forms of fitness from yoga, dance fitness like Zumba and barre classes, boot camps utilizing all the fun gym equipment like bosus and brightly colored fitness bands. Old school stuff like aerobics and calisthenics are making a comeback. The options are endless, and there is a workout that is perfect for you. Many of my regular class participants, claim they hate exercise (hey Denise and Judy!) but they love the relationships they have developed and it helps to keep them motivated when I enthusiastically announce yet another set of glute-lifters, and they collectively groan and roll their eyes. You don’t have to love the movements, but find something that keeps you coming back. And when you try a class new to you, let the instructor know. She or he can fill you in on what’s about to happen and offer modifications where needed.


    Power Hour Participants. Almost 20 years strong. Make it fun and they will return!

So there’s a bit of free advice straight from the trainer’s mind. Do you find yourself making any of these common mistakes? By making some simple changes you will begin achieving the results you deserve.

Work it baby, and work it right!


America Under Siege

I have procrastinated in every way possible today to avoid writing this post. I took a run, called my mom, my dad, horsed around the internet, but I just can’t seem to get the latest mass shooting in Sutherland Springs Texas out of my mind.

Maybe it is the fact that the incident occurred 2 hours north of my winter Texas home in Corpus Christi.

Maybe it’s the fact it happened in a house of worship.

Maybe it’s the fact that small children were shot at point blank range.

Maybe it’s the fact that I am very angry that very little is being done to prevent it.

Every mass shooting is a senseless tragedy. Every mass shooting leaves in it’s wake a trail of devastation for the families, friends, the community-at-large, and the entire country is called, yet again, to mourn.

And still nothing changes.

We keep hearing it is not the time to discuss gun control.

Please tell me American leaders, when exactly is the right time?

I do not hunt or target practice, nor do I live fearfully and feel I need to be protected in my home. I feel no desire to invoke my right to bear arms. I shot a gun one time in my youth with my uncle close at hand to teach me how to correctly do so. I didn’t enjoy the feel of the gun in my hand nor the jolt it gave me when I shot it. So I really never gave guns too much thought til the last few years.

Now I think about guns a lot. More than I ever wanted to. I should not be sitting here on a rainy and gloomy Texas afternoon writing about mass shootings. I should be writing about light-hearted subjects such as travel, cooking, wellness, things I love and enjoy.

Instead I sit here writing about yet another mass shooting, directly on the heels of the Las Vegas event, hoping it will release and heal the horrendous thoughts swirling through my brain. I am sickened by this cycle of violence.

My only weapon against the war on “homegrown terrorists” are my words. So with my words as my sword, let me slice through a few statistics for you.

According to the website

  • on an average day 93 Americans are killed with guns
  • On an average year there are 12,000 gun homicides
  • for every one person killed with guns, 2 more are injured
  • 62% of firearms deaths in the U.S. are suicides
  • In an average month 50 women are shot to death by intimate partners in the U.S.
  • America’s gun homicide rate is 25 times the average of other developed countries
  • background checks have blocked the sale of nearly 3 million gun sales in America

And here’s a troubling one, according to CNN, the 5 deadliest shootings in the US history have occurred in the last 10 years.

We need some answers, and we do not need to wait for more shooting to occur so we can again claim, “It’s just not the proper time.” That is pure bullshit, and the wimpiest response I have ever heard.

Waiting for a break in the action will not work because the mass shootings are becoming more common, and if we continue to wait until it is politically correct, there will be no break in the action.

I should let it be known, I am not anti-gun. Many of my friends and family own and enjoy guns responsibly. The are well aware of how to govern themselves around firearms. They enjoy hunting. I enjoy eating the fruits of their labor. The older folks teach the younger ones how to use the guns, care for the guns, and how to be safe with the guns. I am sure this is the way of most of our gun-loving citizens.

What I am, is anti-gun violence of any form be it gang violence, mass shootings, crimes of passion, or accidental shootings.

So you tell me America, when is the right time to discuss gun control? When the next mass shooting takes place? two weeks after? A month? Until it happens in your community? Your school or work place? (the two most likeliest places for mass shootings to occur), Your mom? your kid?

It’s not a comfortable topic, but we can no longer wring our collective hands, and say how horrible it is, and continue to do not a damn thing about it.

What is the answer? I am a common woman, I don’t own guns, I don’t pretend to know.  I certainly wish the people who are so adamant on protecting the right to bear arms would at least start to come up with some dialogue, hopefully, leading to solutions.

Burying our heads in the sand is no longer an option.

Because it is infringing on our collective right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And most recently, our right to worship as we wish.

Statistically speaking, during the composing of this essay which took me a couple hours with research and writing, 8 people in the US have lost their lives due to gun violence.

Are you ready to talk America?

I lay my sword down.


Traveling West-2017 Colorado Springs 

Have you ever built up a destination so big in your mind, planning, dreaming, traveling, only to find when you arrive, you are completely disappointed?

Colorado Springs is not one of those places. It was simply love at first sight for me.

Located around 60 miles south of Denver, at the eastern foot of the Rockies, it ranks as the 2nd post populated area in Colorado with around 500,000 people. It is home to several military facilities which account for about 40% of the economy. I found the people very warm and friendly. And as seems to be the case around the United States, most do not hail from the area, but have chosen to make it their home.

We arrived in Colorado Springs on a cool, sunny Sunday afternoon. Our new home, because home is where you park it, was Goldfield RV Park. The park was basically a city gravel parking lot outfitted with electric and sewer hook-ups located directly behind Highway 24, a heavily traveled local road. The place was a nice mix of America’s mobile workforce, young people on a grand adventure, and nomads such as ourselves. What this place lacked in amenities, it made up for in location. We quickly set up our city RV site and set out to explore the area.

Old Colorado City

We were just 2 blocks away from Old Colorado City, a section of Colorado Springs. As seen in many revived American towns, Old Colorado City has a very vibrant and artsy feel to it. We found many fine eating establishments, eclectic shops, and fun drinkatoriums.

When you first arrive in a new location, you really have no idea what you are looking for. Our usual plan is to drive in, park (free parking in Old Colorado City!), wander around, and see what’s going on. We always talk to the locals to see what’s really happening beyond all the usual touristy stuff, and discover what they do in their free time. We did just that and started formulating our plan for the visit.

Garden of the Gods

The next morning we awoke to a bright blue sky just demanding some adventure. We set off to explore one of the area’s biggest attractions, Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods is a 480 acre plot of land that holds within it’s confines  huge 300 foot sandstone formations of all sort of shapes, the most famous being Balancing Rock. The land was donated by the children of Charles Elliot Perkins in 1909 with the stipulation that it always remain free to the public.

Balancing Rock

What a gift to the area and it’s people and visitors. We packed a lunch and spent a good portion of the day wandering around in awe. So much to look at my eyes could barely take it all in.

It is a very congested area, lots of visitors everyday, so if you go, bring your patience, and your walking shoes. You can drive the area, but really, this is one of those places you want to get up close and personal.

Some days you just feel like escaping from the crowds and hiking a bit more remotely. The next day was one of those days for me. We decided to visit the Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Red Rocks is another free recreation area, a 789 acre city park. The park contains a number of reclaimed industrial sites, old quarries, gravel pits, a gold refining mine, and small landfill. Other than the quarries, none of this was visible to the eye. Just more glorious views.

I call this peek-a-boo rock

I thought this one resembled a dinosaur

Lakes are a rarity here

Red Rocks was just a few blocks from our site well within walking distance, and soon became our favorite place to catch a hike. There are numerous trails some easy, some tough, to choose from. I think by the time we left we had done nearly all of them. If I were a local, I would be there all the time!

Pulpit Rock

Another nice area to hike on the other side of town is a place called Pulpit Rock Park. There is a series of small trails with the highlight being a climb to Pulpit Rock Ridge.

When they say small trails, they mean it. Trails going every which way. No signage, it’s a guessing game. We worked our way up a trail which seemed to be a main one. Winding higher and higher, the rocks became more loose and unstable. Sometimes heights get to me. They did on this day, and I had to call Uncle and turn around before I reached the summit. I later discovered we were on the most difficult trail up. Now I have another reason to return and reach that ridge!

Found the easy trail!

Heck yeah!

Speaking of heights, Have you ever heard of a mountain named Pikes Peak? It’s so popular it is nicknamed America’s Mountain. And what a hill it is. It is the 2nd most visited peak in the world, coming in right behind Japan’s Mt. Fuji.

Standing tall at 14,115 feet, Pikes Peak is the 31st tallest peak in Colorado. The summit can be reached in one of three ways. You could hike it from the Barr Trail at the base, a climb of about 13 or so miles, drive the Pikes Peak Highway,a 19 mile twisty road, or take the Cog Railway with an average grade of 45%.

Piles Peak in the distance

I am a decent hiker, but would in no way attempt this climb without the proper training. Driving is out since my encounter with Forest Road #69 in the Great Smokey Mountains (never again!)

Train at the summit

We opted to spend the money, $40 per person, to ride the rail. I am so happy we did. It is about a 3:40 round trip from base to summit. The guide was wonderful in giving us bits of information and history. Seating is tight, and you are faced toward another set of seats, so you get to know your seatmates in a quick hurry. We faced a lovely older couple who had taken the trip previously, and filled us in with some more tidbits of information.

A shot from the train

Almost past the tree line

Upon reaching the summit, if you’ve never felt the effects of a high altitude, you certainly will here. The minute the door opens and you step out, your breath is literally taken away. By the thin air and scenery. Woozy, is what I would call it. I rather liked the feeling, I felt euphoric. On top of the world.

Throwing snowballs at 14,000+ feet


What a view

I could see many people were not enjoying it, or the cold, it was about 25 degrees with the wind chill. I am a Michigander. I look at weather regularly and dress accordingly. I am guessing the folks in their shorts and flip-flops did not. It was around 80 degrees in Manitou Springs.

Euphoria and me

I had such fun floating around that summit. I could see others were as well. A young lady twirling a hula hoop, a guy meditating into the open space, people like me giggly with lack of air, and literally stoned from the views. I am sure this is where the term “high” originated.

However all good things must end. After about 30 minutes at the top, the train’s bell rang and we had to prepare for departure. Some people feel the effects more than others, and altitude sickness may set in after 30-40 minutes at the summit.

We had a young couple join us on the return trip who had just completed the hike, and opted to take the train back to base. They started their trek at 4:30 AM and finished 11 hours later. They were exhausted, oxygen deprived, elated, and looking forward to a steak dinner and a cold brew to celebrate their success. Maybe I should attempt that hike someday.

Cliff dwelling

Another place of note on our tour of the area were the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. The dwellings are are a group of relocated Anasazi ruined cliff dwellings that were moved to Manitou Springs, reassembled, and has been open to the public since 1907. There is a bit of controversy to the place. Is it real or a kitchy tourist trap? A bit of both it seems, due to the fact they were not the original dwellings, but rather a reconstruction. In any case, I always find ancient civilizations fascinating, and there is an attached museum which holds many artifacts.

Plants were used for food and medicine by the ancients

I see you Bruce!

One of the highlights of our journey was a trip to Aurora, a suburb of Denver to meet up with my BFF’s son, Tyler, who had recently moved there himself, embarking upon an adventure of his own. He and his roommates had relocated to the area in search of a different way of life and a taste of something new. The 4 roomies from Michigan share a house and are all gainfully employed and completely engaged with life. And, hey Janet, Tyler’s room was very clean! We hung out at their house for a bit, went to dinner, and once again had to say some goodbyes. It’s always so nice to see familiar faces. And to see young people pursuing their dreams, well that’s just a bonus!img_8861

We spent the majority of our time outside, doing what we enjoy best. Hiking in new areas, enjoying the company of the locals, trying out a few new restaurants (Rudy’s and their luscious brisket, sadly I have no picture, I ate it way too fast), a couple brew pubs, and, of course, basking in the joy that travel and adventure bring to us.

Until we meet again…

I have to say, Colorado Springs currently tops the list of places in the continental U.S. that I have had the pleasure of traveling to. And yes, I will be back…

…Meanwhile, I’ll see you in Austin, TX. The next stop on our journey.

Thoughts from the Road-America’s Mobile Workforce. 

Home of some of the mobile workforce

Not all fulltime RVer’s are the carefree retired types or pre-retirement adventurers like myself.

Many of our mobile community are gainfully employed and travel the country following their jobs. Lots of oil workers, road construction crews, mobile health-care professionals, and IT techs have rigs and will travel. Some stay put for a month, some for years. And when the job is finished, they pull up stakes and move on down the road to the next assignment. 

In warm climates like Texas, you may find many covered RV sites to keep the heat at bay, and give the AC units a break. Some in cold climates, such as Minnesota, live in big pole barn-types buildings to keep the furnace happy. I have never actually seen one of those in person, having no desire to travel in the cold, but I witnessed these covered sites pictured above while taking a stroll last night through the park we stopped to overnight in.

I have done the math. Even when figuring a monthly rig payment+lot rent+electricity bill, it still works out to less money than you could rent an apartment for, and when following the work, a house with a mortgage is out of the question. Mobile life is the perfect solution for housing.

Many have families, and some rigs have 2 separate sleeping spaces, a bath and a half or sometimes 2, dishwasher, washer and dryer, all the amenities one might find in a sticks and bricks home.

Bruce and I do NOT live in this type of rig, although many of our retiree/adventurer friends do. We do just fine with our simple Flying Dutchman.

The Flying Dutchman

Some enroll their kids in the local school system and some choose to homeschool their kids. I find this lifestyle extremely fascinating, and wish it had been an option when I was working and raising a family.

So to all of you folks yearning for the mobile lifestyle, but think you are limited to RV living on the weekends because of your job constraints, this may be something to consider.

See you on the road!

Traveling West 2017 Part 2-Nebraska 

The rig and it’s occupants departed Iowa on a bright sunny morning; destination North Platte, Nebraska. 

The city is located in the southwest corner of Nebraska, situated along the I-80 corridor, where the North and South Platte Rivers converge. The population is around 25,000, and it appeared to me to be the only decent sized town for miles. There were the typical Walmart, Target, Applebees, etc that one expects to find in any mid-sized town.

North Platte has two claims to fame. First it was the home of Buffalo Bill Cody. Second it has the largest rail yard in the world.

Scout’s Rest Ranch

We toured both and rapidly ran out of things to do. Not being shoppers, cruising the stores was not an option.

Buffalo Bill

The rail yard

Referred by a local gal, we attempted a hike. The area near the North Platte river was little more than a horse path, and was quite over grown, and could be in no means be termed a hiking trail. Hiking denied!

This is about as much Nature as I could muster up

One evening we decided to try the only brewery in the area, Pals Brewery. The brews were good and the nachos were delicious. I was surprised they were not busy, it was Friday night prime time and business was sluggish despite the good food and drink and decent prices. I guess the brew pub craze has not yet reached the area.


Great nachos!


As I reflect upon my stay a few things come to mind. I did not find the residents to be overly friendly or  upbeat. This town seems to me to be kind of stuck in the 1990’s or something. There is a vibe of boredom or dullness that permeates the area.

If you are a person who pines for the past, don’t need much entertainment, and are not outdoorsy, this may be just the place for you.

I, for one, and I am sure Bruce will agree, find no need to return. I have been there, done that, and am ready to travel west to Colorado.

Catch me if you can!

Fall 2017 Traveling West- Part 1 Iowa

Did you know a young fellow named Grinnell, was once told  “Go west young man?”

He did, found Iowa, settled, and named a town and a liberal arts college after himself.

I can see why he stayed and made it his home.

Iowa is one of those quiet and unpretentious states.

You know, the kind that don’t get a lot of attention despite being quite charming.  I believe the Iowans like it that way, and prefer it stays just as it is.

Corn forever

Iowa has a population of around 3,100,000. It is neither a red or a blue state in their political leanings, but rather a purple one. I got the feeling the inhabitants have a kind of “you do your thing, I’ll do mine, and we will all be happy.” Meet in the middle and all that good stuff. Solid, friendly people in small town settings were what I found.

The landscape is much hillier than I thought. Beautiful rolling fields of corn and soy beans dominate the view. I cannot possibly see how anyone could think it was less than magnificent with the John Deere green tractors pulling in the harvest.

John Deere rules here

We spent about 3 days in the state. I could have easily stayed longer.

Upon arrival at a small RV park in Kellogg IA, directly off from I 80, we quickly set up camp in order to get to the local sports pub to catch the Lions game. All TV’s were occupied when we got there, but one kind Iowan relinquished his game so we could watch ours with another Michigan couple who were also traveling through the area. The Lions lost, but it was a good game with a couple cold beers and a pizza to accompany it.

Post game antics

Beautiful location for a sunrise right in front of the rig

The next morning we enjoyed a great sunrise and set out to explore the area. We drove a few miles to Rock Creek State Park to get our hike on.

Mother Nature had other plans.

After 20 minutes out we determined it was too buggy, hot, and sticky to continue, dang!

We sat by the lake and enjoyed the drama the geese we creating instead. Afterward we left for nearby the nearby town of Newton for a less buggy urban hike on one of the towns greenways, lunch, and a trip to Walmart for supplies.

Come back Bruce!


The following day we opted for a 30 minute drive to Des Moines, the state capital, to see what it had to offer. With a population of around 100,000 it reminded me of my hometown, Kalamazoo MI, with it’s expanding downtown and funky vibe in the East Village area. 

The capitol building was stunning. I made a mental note to check out all capitol buildings when I am in their towns to see if any could possibly compare to this one.

Can you find all 5 domes?

The library

The only 5 domed capitol building in the US, it is filled with stained glass ceilings, marbles stairs and columns, shiny polished staircases, and artwork. There was so much to look at my eyes could barely take it all in. We saw the Senate chambers, however the senators were not working for whatever reason that day.  We were permitted to see the House chambers also, some folks were working, but it appeared to be lunch time and not many were present.

After exploring all 3 floors and receiving a personal tour of the Secretary of State office, we were becoming quite hungry and thirsty. Sightseeing can be tough work!

After a great tip from one of the workers in the office, we walked out of the capitol and straight onto Locust Street and the East Village. Travel tip, always check with the locals to find out where they enjoy eating, drinking, and recreating.

Go west!

East Village and downtown

Like most mid-sized American cities Des Moines had an area that is undergoing a revival of sorts. Old buildings full of history were scheduled to be demolished, but a group of  civic-minded citizens set about saving them, and luckily for all of us were successful in their venture.

Many eateries, drinkatoriums, and shops were available to choose from, and with a bit of help from google we found the Iowa Taproom which features only Iowa brews and also some tasty lunch specials.

Yummy food and drink

After lunch we decided on a riverwalk stroll, but to our disappointment, it was also under renovation, so we opted for a walk to another establishment for a cold beer before we left town for the day.

Sheryle is bullish on Iowa

The next morning dawned bright and clear.

Beautiful weather for another spectacular sunrise compliments of Mother Nature. We readied the rig for travel, and set about leaving the fine state of Iowa to continue our journey west. Next stop Nebraska!

Goodbye Iowa, you will always hold a special place in our thoughts and memories.

Until we meet again…