A Week in the Life

Wild Wednesday

I got a bit of a late start today. My internal clock has not yet adjusted to the time change. I don’t usually set an alarm, I try to wake up naturally when it gets light. Once it’s light outside I can no longer sleep. But it is still early in the year and it’s dark until about 7:45 here and that seems a bit late to start my day. Especially with my long run scheduled for this morning.

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letters from the grandkids make us happy

I rushed a bit through my morning routine, before the day got away from me. It was one of those weird Florida mornings where the air is cool and the sun is hot. So in the shade it’s chilly, hot in the sun. What to wear? Winter running short and standard capris for today. Which turned out to be overkill along about mile 5 out of 6. All in all a nice, easy run.

I finished my run and came home to prepare my smoothie, and my neighbors were having big fun playing with some bubbles, and I got to watch them frolic and laugh while I did the dishes.

None of our neighbors are from Michigan. The bubble folks hail from Rhode Island and have really cool northeastern accents. They live in a nice class A rig and are currently building a house here in Florida. Their son is a county sheriff officer, and keeps us informed on what’s happening around the area.

On the other side of us are a retired military couple with a sweet, I mean sweet class A with all the bells and whistles. They, like us are full-timers although they still own a home in Louisiana, which they rent while they travel. Her elderly parents are located in the area, and they help look after them in the winter months.

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Behind us, in a big 5th wheel, is a younger couple from Indiana (by young I mean younger, 40ish) who work-travel, following the husband’s work which involves something with IT and airports. She works from home as a corporate head hunter and has designed a cozy little office in a corner of her bedroom. With a computer and good internet, she is set. They are here for a couple years, then…who knows where his work will take them.

Behind the military couple, and rounding out our little corner of the RV park is another 5th wheel which houses a couple of snowbirds from New York State. Like most of the snowbirds, they will be departing at then end of the month. Snowbird season is around Jan-March. Snowbirds are a segment of the retired RVers, who own their homes, but enjoy escaping the snow, cold, and general sloppiness of the winter season.

The type of RVing we do is called full-timing. A fulltimer’s RV is their home. And there are a few subsets of fulltimers. Some like the neighbors, are working FTers, some are retired folks like Bruce with a SAHW (stay at home wife) who needed to breathe some different air, and there are some people have had to downsize due to financial reasons, and this type of living is what they can afford at the moment.

There are also some FTers who live an off-the -grid lifestyle, dry -camping (meaning they are not hooked up to a water supply)  and utilizing solar panels for power. These folks can be found mainly in the southwest where they can set up camp on anywhere on some huge spaces of government land for a minimal fee.

Then there is the weekend warrior RV crowd. This used to be us. We loved it so much, we had often dreamt of making FTing our life, and now our dream is a reality. I am so happy on Sundays when I don’t have to pack up and go home.

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RVer’s are a pretty relaxed and happy crowd. And here in the back row we all get along. Once in awhile the permanents (people who live in park models year round-sunbirds) and the RVer’s get in a tif, but it is pretty unusual.

In our community the small rigs and permanents are mainly located at the front of the park. The big rigs are toward the back with the 50amp power. We have a mid-sized rig, the smallest , and probably oldest, on the block. But no one cares. That is the beauty of RVing. Doesn’t matter if you are in a tent, pop-up, travel trailer, 5th wheel, class A. There is no status mongering here. We all are after the same goal. A bit of that freedom our American heritage promises us.

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Oh Canada

We are an international park though, and many Canadians also reside here in the winter. Most are from Ontario, and I would venture a guess there are more Canadians here than Michiganders. Some speak French, some just have that cool Canadian accent, eh? And to put an end to the rumor that Canadians dislike their healthcare system. Untrue, every Canadian I have talked to likes and is happy with their healthcare system. I have heard no talk of long wait times, and not getting into doctors promptly. So either the Canadians are either much more healthy than Americans and don’t go to the doctor as much, or somebody is pulling your leg…

After breakfast, and my bubble watching, I got on a few household chores. Housework is done on a daily basis here. If you don’t keep on top of the organization of a tiny house you will have a mess. It doesn’t take long to get it all done, but I am currently procrastinating on cleaning my blinds which appear to be holding a lot of dust. There is just no good way to clean them properly except slat by slat. Oh monotonous work….

Then it’s lunchtime, a bit of salad, and a bike ride. We were going to take a nice gentleman from Canada to see the big alligator today, but he forgot he had previous plans with his wife.

We ventured on to see if we could find the smaller alligators in the pond, we did see one, but the babies are skittish and like to stay under the water so it is hard to get a good pic.

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Spanish moss adorns the live oak tree

We left the babies to their swimming, and rode the Old Fort King Trail over to Wilderness County park, and sat among the ancient oak trees while we took a break and drank some water. The oak trees here are magnificent. The perfect type of tree to climb. I have not yet climbed one, but I am tempted.

Following the ride, we returned home to prepare dinner. Thursday’s are weigh-in day, so fish will be on the menu for dinner. Always good to have a light meal the night before you step on the scale.

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grilled flounder marinated in lemon vinaigrette-delish

We are not militant or obsessive about checking the scale, but I am a believer in a once-per-week weigh in. It’s just easier to deal with a pound or two over 5 or 10. And make little adjustments over large-scale changes. Anymore, for me, it is a health, over a vanity issue. I have a range and as long as I am in the range I am happy. If not, I adjust. Simple as that…weight control is not complicated. It just needs attention.

After dinner, another one of those walks, (oh that blood sugar has got to be looking pretty!), some TV watching, reading, and lights out for me. See you tomorrow….

Bangor Maine

We were darn happy to see Maine was still open for business as we crossed the state line. The fall colors at the state line were fairly green, but as we traveled farther north, we began to see more shades of red and orange begin to dot the landscape.

Our original plan was to go all the way north to the top of Maine, but the lure of staying in Bangor Maine, the setting of many a Steven King novel, proved to be too much to resist for this Steven King fan. Bangor, coupled with all the fun one can have in Acadia National Park, about an hour away, seemed like a great place to land for a couple weeks.

We pulled the rig into Holden Family Campground located in Holden ME, just a few minutes from Bangor. The campground has some seasonal sites, and many pull-through sites for the overnight and visiting travelers. Our stay there was pleasant, but as is our norm on vacation, we didn’t hang around the park too much.

the colors the day we arrived at Holden Family Campground

and the day we left!

Although we expected to do a bit of  hiking in Acadia, we were pleasantly surprised, while enjoying a cold draft at a local watering hole, when the the bartender told us about the Bangor City Forest which had 3 great trails, as well as  connections to several other trails, creating miles and miles of scenic, in-town trails.

looks like magical place

trail #2

the unimproved trail, the road less traveled

We hiked at the Forest several times, trying all 3 trails that basically follow the same route. One is a hard dirt trail, another that is a bit more rocky, and one unimproved trail which was very rocky. They were all fairly easy trails, not too many hills, and well-marked with the exception of the unimproved trail. Each time we went the colors got more spectacular. Parking is free, so it makes for a nice, inexpensive outing.
The city of Bangor itself it a really nice town. I did not have any paranormal, Steven King-type experiences happen to me while I was there, but I could imagine it in my mind. The rolling streets, pretty churches, old buildings, the shadows as the sun went down, oh yeah, I could picture it.

the city of Bangor

some of the churches

and the steeples, so pretty

Bangor is located in Penobscot County in the southeastern section of the state, and has a population of around 33,000. It was established in 1791, long before Maine was a state, and was a lumber and shipbuilding community. These days their economy is a diverse one with manufacturing, retail, healthcare, banking, and tourism being the main sources of employment.

We found the people to be very friendly and helpful. I am not sure why New Englander’s have the reputation of being somewhat cold and unfriendly, because I sure didn’t get that impression.

We went into Bar Harbor a couple of times, but we found it pretty touristy, crowded, and over-priced. Bangor suited us much better.

golfing the city course, lots of sandtraps, I found them all

Bangor has a nice Riverwalk area with a couple of eating/drinking establishments nearby. We found the staff at the Sea Dog Brewing company to be a lot of fun. (A shout out to Jason And Liz who rapidly became our favorite bartenders!!) And everyday at the Sea Dog they feature a happy hour from 3-6 sporting $3 craft beers and $4 house wines.

kudos to the Sea Dog staff!

Another good place for food and drink was Geaghans Pub and Craft Brewery. We had some tasty soup and sandwiches there, and their craft brews weren’t too shabby either.

While in Maine, one should eat some lobster. So I did. I had 2 lobster rolls, one very good, one not so much.

the good lobster roll

the univeral all-American meal

We never did get a lobster dinner. We either could not find the right place at the right time, or didn’t want to spend the money (contrary to popular belief, it is not cheap in Maine, cheaper, but not cheap, unless you buy it and cook it yourself) or just didn’t feel like fussing over what to do when presented with a whole lobster. So we kinda blew it off, and enjoyed the rest of what Maine has to offer.

Acadia!

One thing Maine has to offer in a big way is Acadia National Park. Acadia encompasses over 50,000 acres of pristine land. It is the first eastern national park and the first ever donated entirely by a private citizen. The vast majority of Acadia is situated on Mount Desert Island where the city of Bar Harbor and a couple of smaller towns are located.
We spent one day in Acadia hiking around the Ocean Path Trail, which runs parallel to part of the Park Loop Road ,which as it’s name suggests,  loops the park. It is a 3.6 trail which was an easy stroll, but quite crowded. After lunch we hiked a couple of the lesser known trails, and to get a better feel of the area away from the crowds.

We took a drive up to Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the island at 1530 feet. You can also hike or bike up to the summit, but they are both listed as very strenuous, and well beyond our current ability level.

a few views from Cadillac Mountain

The view from the summit was breathtaking. On our second trip there were two cruise ships nestled in the harbor and it was fun to see the big ships from that vantage point.

Sand Beach

the Ocean Path

rock climbing on Otter Cliffs, no that’s not me!

pretty purple and yellow flowers and some bright red berries

While hiking we discovered a great bike trail. Before cars were the main source of transportation, carriages were the ride of choice. And winding through Acadia are some old, very well-maintained carriage roads made of crushed rock that made it superb for biking. You can also ride the Park Loop road, but then you are dealing with cars, traffic, and all that sort of madness.

Adventure strikes at funny times, and as we began our ride, Bruce discovered his bike gears were not working correctly and he could only get 3 gears out of 24. I offered to opt out of the ride, and hike instead, but he said, “No, let’s go for it” so we did. Right up a big, big hill. We ended up walking our bikes partly up. I had visions the whole ride would be like this, and fortunately it was not, but it was a pretty strenuous ride for a couple of flatlanders like us as it was. We walked our bikes a couple times, and we saw several people really struggling up some of the hills. It pays to know your terrain before you set out!

We took our lunch with us that day. Bruce was very hungry, but I made him wait until I found the perfect area to dine. Cheese and crackers,boiled eggs, carrots, and apples never tasted so good!

Once we refreshed with a bit of food and relaxation in the warm sun we finished our ride. It was a truly memorable day.

Bruce before the discovery of only 3 gears

this merganzer gave us a nice show and liked to pose

Yummy!

the perfect spot

We did not eat much lobster on our trip to Maine, but we sure saw some vibrant red and orange leaves, unlike ones we have seen before. We hail from Michigan, and get some pretty decent leaves, particularly up north, but the red hues were much brighter to my eyes. Leaves were late this year in Maine, and we didn’t get to see them at peak, but it sure was pretty!

oh the colors!

Of course pictures never do justice to Mother Nature’s creations. To really get the full impression, one must view the autumn magnificence with one’s own eyes.

The people, the landscape, the history make it the state of Maine a very worthwhile travel destination. And because I didn’t get to see those leaves at peak, well,  I guess I’ll just plan on coming back someday.

til we meet again

The Finger Lakes Region-New York

the city of Watkins Glen at the south end of Seneca Lake

Following our somewhat adventurous drive to Sunset in Seneca RV Park, we proceeded to set up the rig well enough to live in for a week. Sunset on Seneca RV Park was a mainly seasonal park with a few open spaces for travelers passing through. The staff was very friendly and helpful, the sites were decent-sized with fire pits and a picnic table, and an onsite laundry was available which is always a plus for us. We did not get any TV reception at all. This was the first time since we started Fulltime RVing that this had happened. It was good and bad. I did not miss the hearing about school/racial shootings, politics, or the breakup of Brad and Angelina. I did miss my evening relax shows, but we made do with DVDs.

The park was mainly empty during the week, but many seasonal campers arrived on Friday to enjoy the weekend. There was live music one evening, and it seems like something they do often. We did not join in the festivities that night though. Most times when we are traveling vs stationary, we are also exploring the area, and have a pretty full agenda on any given day.

Sunset on Seneca RV park

park greeter

The Finger Lakes are a group of eleven lakes, (named so due to early map makers thinking they resembled fingers)  in Central New York State. We stayed on Seneca Lake, the deepest of the lakes with a depth of 618 ft. It is the second longest at 36 miles. Neighboring Cayuga Lake is the longest at 38 miles, and nearly as deep.

The area is obviously known as a lake recreation and tourist area, but the other claim to fame it holds is it’s 300+ wineries. New York wine country specializes in Reisling grapes, although many types of wine are available and quite good in their own right, the Reisling is thought to be the best. Breweries and brew pubs, much like everywhere lately, are starting to pop up all over, and many savvy wineries have added house breweries as well. We found the food in the area mainly average, but decent portions and ok-priced. Lots of gourmet type pizza and sandwiches. We don’t eat out too much, mainly appetizers and that sort of thing. I am a pretty fair cook and most of the time can create tastier and, for sure, healthier meals at home. This approach saves us both money and calories. Those craft beers ain’t cheap or low cal. Gotta save calories and dollars somehow!

city of Geneva at the north end of Seneca Lake

 

a true sunset on Seneca

Most days I used my culinary skills to whip up a P,B, and J sandwich or two, some baby carrots, apples, and trail mix for lunch, then shortly after breakfast we got moving to check out the area. By checking with the locals we are able to find the really worthwhile things to see and do in any area. Wendy, the gal who checked us in when we arrived, and has lived in the area all of her life, was a wealth of info on wineries, distilleries, and sights to see.

One of those places she mentioned was located in Watkins Glen (also known as a big auto racing town) at Watkins Glen State Park. Most of the state parks in the area are free of charge after Labor Day.  This particular park is a huge tourist attraction, so there is a charge for parking. Wendy lived nearby and said we could park at her house and walk in. Bonus!

the entrance to the gorge trail

me and the mr.

one of many falls in the gorge

The trail was amazing. And crowded, at least for most trails I have been on. There were literally busloads of tourists being dropped off. The trail is a mile out and a mile back. We took the gorge trail out, and another trail back. The hike is listed as moderate, although I found it to be on the easier side. Perhaps it is rated this because it is somewhat damp, rocky and a bit slippery in spots if wearing the wrong shoes which it appeared many were. And there was an uphill aspect, but not an overly challenging one.

There are several gorge trails in the area. One day we drove to Ithaca on nearby Cayuga Lake to the Robert H Treman State Park to check out the  gorge trail. This trail was much less crowded and also listed as moderate, and this one was truly moderate. Also a bit longer at 4 miles and some change. This trail was more to my liking, Bruce thought the opposite, but we greatly enjoyed both.

some nice uphill climbs at this park

more waterfalls

the wall

great view

There is also the Finger Lakes National Forest which has some good trails. Never one to miss an opportunity to hop on one of the big national trails we opted for a trail that would have us on the Appalachian Trail (spanning Maine to Georgia, about 2,200 miles long) for a short while. It was an moderate, but on the easier side, type trail with more great views.

perfect day for a hike

Appalachian Trail in NY

Seneca State Park is located at the north end of the lake near the city of Geneva. There is a nice paved walkway around the north tip of the lake. It made for a nice walk on a cloudy day, and lead directly into Geneva where we stopped for lunch at a great little Irish Pub, but oops, I can’t recall the name.

big, big trees

now thats’s an easy trail

cloudy day on the lake

Hiking is not the only outdoorsy fun thing to around the area though. There are all those wonderful lakes! One beautiful sunny morning we decided to rent kayaks. The RV park rented them to guests and others, and gave us a nice discount for staying there. The attendant, Toni, told us of a local legend called the drums of Seneca and how if conditions were just right one could hear the drums of the Seneca Indian tribes who originally inhabited the area. I love a good legend.  And I love an afternoon of kayaking around a nice lake.

ready to launch

Bruce likes it

land/water rig, interesting

We did not spend a lot of time on wine tours during our stay. For a couple of reasons. One, nearly all of them closed by 5pm, and we would rather use the earlier afternoon hours for adventuring, and second,  after 6 or so tastes, it all starts tasting the same to me. I may as well be drinking from a box at that point.  Many times when we would stop for a drink or food I would order the local reislings, and try them in that matter. My palette is not very sophisticated, but I do enjoy craft beer tastings.

We did one tasting at Wagner’s Vineyard. The wine was good, the view spectacular, and they had a brewery as well.

wine tasting at Wagner’s

the entrance to Wagner’s

Another nice winery we stopped at was Starkey’s Lookout which also had a brewery. The I tried a reisling, Bruce had a beer, and the view was even more amazing than Wagner’s, looking out over the vineyards.

oh the beauty, I could have stayed all afternoon

Another watering hole, and our personal favorite, was a great brew pub with good food called the Grist Iron. The Grist Iron also had an Inn on the property. On the weekends they have music on a large deck with picnic tables and pub tables. We would often stop in on our way home from our daytime outing. It was just a bit down the road from our park, and that made it quite handy for a quick, or leisurely, stop on the way home.

the sign says it all!

just another sunset on Seneca at the Grist Iron

i wish i could have stayed for the class. lots of good artwork at the Grist


Our stay in the Finger Lakes area was a wonderful one, and I wouldn’t not hesitate to go back again. There is plenty to do and see. But our time in New York was soon spent, and it was time to move on. Maine was calling our name loudly, and tempting us with  thoughts of leaves and lobster.

look out Maine, here come the Sages

Adventures in Travel

pretty rig, but not ours

We departed Michigan on a dreary rainy day. Fortunately  we had done all our pre-travel prep-the-trailer work the day before so it did not have to be done in the rain and mud. Full-time RVing is not always the carefree lifestyle some would envision. We are methodical folk, like to do it right, it IS our home after all, and the tear down process takes awhile, so we do ours the day before. All we really needed to do that particular  morning was hook up, and drive away. Apparently  Mother Nature had other plans and wanted us to stay in the mitten a couple hours longer. So we watched some TV while we waited for the rain to stop.

The drive to Erie PA, where we were planning on holing up for the night, was equally as dreary . However, being fueled by the energy of new adventures and vistas, we didn’t give the weather too much thought. No rain, no rainbows right?
We reached Erie and the Walmart we were staying at around 5PM. We parked the rig and stepped out to inspect the trailer and it’s contents. It is rather amazing how little everything moves while traveling.  All was well with the rig with exception of a small leak around the front kitchen window, which for some reason, in our type of travel trailer leaks when it rains and we are moving. We (meaning Bruce) have been working on finding this leak, but until we nail it down, we keep towels around the window, and it works for now.

Leaks are an RVers enemy, and nearly everyone we know who RVs has dealt with with them. And my superhero hubby has managed to find and repair almost all of them. Except that mystery spot leak. It’s just a matter of time for that leaky spot.

We ran into the Walmart to let the service desk know we were there (please do this if you overnight in their parking lots, many of us want to continue to do so), and pick up a few items. It was lightly sprinkling when we left the store, but by the time we made it to the rig, it was a very heavy rain. We rushed in, laughing, and put our items away.

While doing this I heard some water flowing. We were parked over a drain, and I assumed that was what the noise was. It got a bit louder, I peeked around the corner of our slide room, and lo and behold, I got to see my first waterfall of the trip. Water was  flowing nicely down the inside corner of the slide! I am not sure what I said to Bruce at that point, but you can bet it had some hearty swear words mixed in.

Luckily, for us, the water traveled straight down and out a small hole near the bottom corner of the slide area, so the carpet and flooring were minimally affected. But there was still a good amount of water on the top of the slide. We grabbed several towels and Bruce began the process soaking the water up, while I began wringing them out.

And the rain kept coming. Generally if it rains that hard it stops within a few minutes, but not that day. It rained around 30 minutes solid. Once it slowed down, Bruce ran  out, got the ladder, and did a quick patch job (we could definitely see where this leak was!) with some handy dandy duct tape.

By now we were pretty well spent with the day of travel and a waterfall event. We quickly changed from our wet clothes, threw the wet towels into a trash bag to be dealt with later, and headed across the parking lot to a nearby watering hole where we found some food, well-earned drinks, and the Michigan State vs Notre Dame game on the big screen.

Finally some of the relaxing that everyone thinks we do all the time. Let me tell you, the next waterfall I see better look like this….

that’s more like it!

Other than the waterfall incident, as we have termed it, the Walmart stay was a good one. Erie PA quiets down nicely at nightfall. We enjoyed a good night’s rest, found some hot coffee at the Steak and Shake, and hit the road to Lodi, NY and the Finger Lakes region.

The drive was uneventful for the most part. We GPSed our way around Seneca Lake in search of Sunset on Seneca Campground. Now for some reason, our Garmin does not realize we are towing 10,000 lbs behind us. And it does not always give us the best route for that towing situation.

looks easy enough

The landscape was fairly hilly, but pulling through hills is not a problem for us. We have traveled mountains with no issue. What we didn’t know, is there are 2 ways to access the campground. And yeah, our Garmin sent us in the exact opposite way we should have gone. Shaw Road got narrower and narrower. The tiny road had a nice good tight downhill grade. Bruce put the Silverado in low gear, and down the steep skinny hill we went. All was good (?) until we approached a sharp curve at the bottom with another car speeding around the tree-lined curve.  Bruce hit the brakes, we skidded to a stop with the trailer lurching somewhat behind us. I am pretty darn pleased we started the trip with brand new trailer brakes!

The car went around us (I bet that driver uses a bit more caution around that curve now!), we turned and found our campground. Home for a week. I couldn’t hardly wait to get out and explore the area.

Usually I write of our sightseeing, but I thought the crazy trip to Lodi deserved a post of it’s  very own.


The moral of this story is to always check with the park or campground to see if there is more than one way in. And if so, which one is it? Lesson learned.

Desert Hot Springs, CA

Another beautiful sunset at Sam's Family Spa

Another beautiful sunset at Sam’s Family Spa

We departed Anthony, NM on a beautiful sunny morning heading west on I-10, traveling through New Mexico and Arizona, stopping for the evening at an extremely noisy truck stop and enjoyed a very truck stop-like dinner of country-fried steak at Denny’s. But hey, at least it was not tacos! We awoke early and continued through the Arizona desert to the California desert. After several hours of driving we approached the top of our final mountain, and were delighted with the view of the green vistas of Coachella Valley.

As we approached the valley, signs of the desert began to appear intermingled with areas of trees and vegetation. We continued on to our home for the next several weeks, Sam’s Family Spa on the outskirts of the city of Desert Hot Springs. DHS, as it is known around here, is located in Riverside County and has a population of around 26,000 which tends to swell in the winter as the western snowbirds, both American and Canadian, swarm the area in their RV’s to enjoy both the mild temps and natural hot springs. DHS has two separate aquifers divided by the Mission Creek Fault, part of the San Andreas Fault Line. One has several natural hot springs, and the other is a cold water aquifer which provides the city and neighboring areas with their drinking water. Being located on a fault line makes the area susceptible to earthquakes, but the last serious one here was in 1948 with a magnitude of 6.3 on the Richter Scale. The shock was felt from the central coast of California to the Baja Peninsula in south. Damage was not severe, but some serious injuries did occur, there was a landslide in the nearby town of Indio, and aftershocks continued until 1957.

Thousand Palms Preserve

Thousand Palms Preserve

During our stay here we have enjoyed several hikes in the area, the most notable located in the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve. The preserve has around 20,000 acres of desert wilderness, wildlife, and trails. The San Andreas Fault runs through it, and it has a bona fide oasis with water smack in the middle of the desert wilderness. The trail system is vast and we hope to get a few more hikes in the area before we depart this desert wonderland.

Rocks in my shoe!

Rocks in my shoe!

Another cool spot we visited during our stay was Joshua Tree National Park. Here two desert ecosystems, the Mojave and Colorado come together. It is immense, nearly 800,000 acres. Rainfall, as in DHS, is sparse and unpredictable. (although oddly enough, it IS raining as I compose this post!). In the higher, slightly cooler, and wetter portion, the Mojave, is where the Joshua Tree grows. The lower, dry Colorado has several forms of cactus plants. There are also five fan palm oases in the park where water occurs naturally at the surfaces or close below supporting the trees and wildlife. The hike we chose on that day was deemed moderate, but I would have stated it moderate to difficult. Oddly enough, as we stopped to converse with some fellow hikers we were surprised to discover, they too were from Michigan, and a couple of them went to Western Michigan University located in our hometown of Kalamazoo. It is indeed a small world!

Rock climbers and the Joshua Trees. These folks are much braver than me.

Rock climbers and the Joshua Trees. These folks are much braver than me.

Hey, those people are from Michigan...

Hey, those people are from Michigan…

We have also ventured into the neighboring community of Palm Springs, a former hot spot for the Hollywood elite, and it names many of it’s roads after the likes of Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, and Kirk Douglas. Palm Springs has it’s own Walk of Stars downtown, and hosts an annual International Film Festival, but I find it’s glamour somewhat faded in contrast to the times when the Rat Pack would tear up the town.

Hey, that's no palm tree!

Hey, that’s no palm tree!

Tons of windmills power the Coachella Valley

Tons of windmills power the Coachella Valley

Mary Pickford where are you???

Mary Pickford where are you???

Speaking of celebrities, I have to mention the local VFW where we often stop for refreshment. It seems the building and several of the surrounding bungalows were owned by silent film star Mary Pickford. The building housing the VFW was the gathering spot she and her cronies would gather to get their party on when away from Hollywood. History is everywhere!

The grandsons enjoying a game

The grandsons enjoying a game

NC family travels to CA for the holidays :)

NC family travels to CA for the holidays 🙂

One of the reasons we are here in sunny California, is the fact that our son Travis, daughter-in-law Jami, and grandson Asher are just a couple hours away over in Culver City near Los Angeles. We have traveled to their house a few times,(our NC kids came in around the holidays as well!) enjoying some good dining, bike rides, hikes, beach time, and just good old-fashioned hang with the family time. They ventured out here one weekend, and although it was chilly they managed some pool time, Travis and Bruce tore up the links, Jami and I hit a movie, then we enjoyed dinner at a great Palm Springs upscale pizza place. The next day we met up at a pub adorned in our Detroit Lions gear to watch the game and enjoy wings and beer, but alas, despite our support the Lions were defeated by Green Bay. Asher was on winter break at this time so we stole him away for a couple days in the desert where we enjoyed some pool time and a trip to the Living Desert Zoo. We met back up in San Diego on New Years Eve, and took a nice walk along the coast where we got to see some seals and sea lions. We spent the night nearby, and watched the NY Eve shows on TV. None of us stayed awake to actually see the NY in, but we had a great time.

New Years Eve in San Diego

New Years Eve in San Diego

The Living Desert in Palm Springs

The Living Desert in Palm Springs

Representing in California

Representing in California

Grandpa and Asher in the pool. Brr in was only 49 degrees, but pool is heated by hot springs

Grandpa and Asher in the pool. Brr in was only 49 degrees, but pool is heated by hot springs

New career as a street performer in Venice?

New career as a street performer in Venice?

Biking along the beach in Santa Monica with the family. C'mon guys catch up already!

Biking along the beach in Santa Monica with the family. C’mon guys catch up already!

We only have a couple weeks left here in Cali. Time for a couple more family visits, a few hikes,  a baseball game with some newfound Canadian friends, and maybe a drink or two at that VFW where the ghosts of long dead Hollywood legends still roam.

See you next time...

See you next time…

Anthony, New Mexico

Anthony NM

Anthony NM

Wow, I can’t believe it has been over a month since I have posted. No, that’s a lie. I have been procrastinating. Like any writer worth their weight in paper, or rather computer, I have been practicing the great art of avoidance. But it is time to get to it before I find myself back in Michigan with a whole lot of catching up to do.

As I stated in my previous post, we were outrunning the polar vortex, which happened to land us in Anthony, New Mexico. Anthony is a sleepy little agricultural village, population 9,360, located in the Dona Ana County, in the Upper Mesilla Valley. There are many cattle ranches, pecan groves, and quite a few cotton fields. Mainly surrounded by desert, we were surprised it had such a large agricultural economy. I am quite unsure where they found water because I really did not see any! It did rain a couple days we were there, but we drove by many sections of the Rio Grande River, and it was nothing but a dry bed. One of the bartenders we ran into told us water is only released a couple months of the year in the summer from the dams north of the area.

Rain! Windy too

Rain! Windy too

one of my favorite photographs of NM.

One of my favorite photographs of NM.

I found myself in somewhat of a depressed state during much of our visit. Far away from friends and family, nearing the holidays, the drab landscape, coupled with a lack of physical activity began to wear upon me. Even a wellness expert may be prone to finding the un-well state, fortunately my training and education helps me to understand how to counteract this! Toward the end of our stay, I resorted to the one thing that is sure to improve my mental state. I forced myself to schedule regular exercise sessions, set some personal goals, and soon I began to emerge from the blue funk.

Desert drab

Desert drab

But I do not want to leave the impression that it was a bad experience. Sometimes one just needs to have this sort of downtime to rediscover what is important, and perhaps draft a new plan. There were many things I enjoyed about this area. Here’s a few:

#1) The people. As in all locations it is the people of the land which are most interesting. Anthony and the surrounding area is populated largely by a Mexican-American population. For the first time in my life that I can recall, I was a minority. It is rather disconcerting at first, but we were treated very well by all the folks we encountered. When shopping at a local Mexican style grocery store, a little boy in a shopping cart kept pointing at Bruce. Bruce with his light skin and eyes, grey hair, tall build, did not resemble the local population in any manner! The boy’s dad kept trying to get him to stop pointing, and I found it to be just hilarious! Being a minority can be a humbling experience (when one has never been in the minority), and I  am quite grateful for it.  Sometimes we live in a cocoon, and if we wish to be a butterfly and fly freely we should experience what many others do. Be kind to all you meet.

#2) West El Paso RV park. We stayed 3 weeks in this nice little park. I think it had about 60 sites. It was spotlessly clean with wonderful bathrooms, a tree on every lot, and a gentleman who would come and rake your sand (yes they do this in the desert!) every day.  Most of the people were semi-permanent types who were working in the area, but not from the area. Many full-time RVer’s are working folks who careers require them to move from place to place. Maybe they stay a month, maybe a few years. But living in a RV they always have their home and things with them. We enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with about 30 other people, who for whatever reason, were not able to be with their loved ones. The food was fabulous with all the important items such as turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and pies. All that for $5/person, and I did not have to cook OR clean up!

Enjoying some company at Thanksgiving Dinner

Enjoying some company at Thanksgiving Dinner

#3) The local VFW Post #4384. The VFW’s are a great place to socialize when you have no social life in the area. You are always welcome, everyone is curious about you, and everyone has a story to tell. And the drinks are reasonable too. And at this post, a great couple named Rudy and Nellie serve 50 cent tacos on Wednesday nights, and  they are delicious! The post was located just across the street from our rv park. Now that’s handy! Just a note here; if you are looking to make a charitable contribution, the money donated to VFW’s is 100% charity, spent on assisting veterans . 0% is spent on “administrative” fees. Money well spent. God bless our veterans.

A full moon on our last evening at the VFW

A full moon on our last evening at the VFW

#4) And ya know, there is always hiking! We found a couple good hikes. One was near Las Cruces, NM. A nice park called Dripping Springs. There are a couple trails throughout this park, and one leads you back to an old hotel ruin frequented by the likes of Pancho Villa, Billy the Kid, and other various outlaws. When you close your eyes you can almost feel the Old West around you. We also visited White Sands National Monument, a place of ongoing sand dunes, 275 miles of soft white sand. The dunes are composed of gypsum crystals and it is the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Although none of the creatures who inhabit the dunes were out (they are mostly nocturnal) we found out through the informative film at the headquarters, they have all evolved from their natural state to a whitish color to blend in with the sand. It is truly a spectacular sight to behold. It was a beautiful, sunny day the day we were there, and there were many families gathered to picnic and slide on sledding disks down the dunes.

Dripping Springs hike

Dripping Springs hike

White Sands. Don't forget your shades!

White Sands. Don’t forget your shades!

#5) Old Mesilla NM. Mesilla is a historic village. During the Wild West era the town was known for it’s cantinas and festivals. It is also the place where Billy the Kid was tried and executed. It is a town rich in history with many original adobe structures still standing, the most famous of which is La Posta. Originally built in the 1840’s it was an important stop on the Butterfield Stage Line. Today it houses a few shops and a nice restaurant with an impressive tequila menu, one bottle of which sells for $300 a shot. Yeah, you read that right! I opted for a cold beer instead.

So colorful

So colorful

A mural in Mesilla

A mural in Mesilla

La Posta decorated for the holidays

La Posta decorated for the holidays

And there is always a downside. A few things I did not enjoy:

#1) The odor! Beef smells great on the grill, but when you have ranches with literally hundreds, maybe thousands of cattle, and the wind is blowing in the right direction, oh man!

#2) The water. It’s bad. There are water kiosks set up everywhere so you can purchase purified water, but it still didn’t taste right to me, and my digestive system was messed up due to this and the gallons of salsa I consumed during my stay. Chips and salsa are the popcorn of New Mexico.

#3) The litter. Lots of it. Depressing.

#4) Endless sun. Anthony has 300 sunny days a year. Hey, I am a Michigander and I need some gray days to settle my head. Maybe I had the opposite of seasonal depressive disorder. The sun is piercingly bright, and brought on a few headaches for me.

All in all, like most experiences, Anthony NM was a good one. I will always remember the people I met, and the sights I saw. But as we drove away headed farther west, I can say, I was ready to move on….

….to Desert Hot Springs California. I love it here, but more on that at a later date. Time to go get my exercise therapy!

Our current location in Desert Hot Springs, CA

Our current location in Desert Hot Springs, CA

 

 

 

Franklin, North Carolina

Our time in Franklin NC is coming to an end. Monday we head west and south eventually landing in Desert Hot Springs CA. We are hoping to spend a few days in Shreveport LA, but with the impending Polar Vortex threatening to invade most of the country, we may just continue southwest til we find some sun and heat.

Outrunning the Polar Vortex. Hurry up Bruce!

Outrunning the Polar Vortex. Hurry up Bruce!

 

We will be spending a few weeks in several locations, and I thought I might share my likes/dislikes of the areas I visit. Our plan is to travel until we find an area we find interesting, and spend some time picking up the local flavor before we head on. Staying longer allows one to get a better feel of the location, and provides a well-needed break from the rigors of the wrestling the rig down the freeway!

Our daughter Shauna has lived in the Franklin area  for about nine years, and we have spent a fair amount of time visiting.  But this is the first time we have been able to spend more than a week’s time. We decided to stay six weeks visiting and exploring. It was a good choice!

one of the many beautiful waterfalls in the area

one of the many beautiful waterfalls in the area

Franklin is a mountain community located in western NC within the Nantahala National Forest, and is also the county seat of Macon County. It is a small town, population around 3800, and is known locally as the “gem capital of the world.” Although from my experience I might call it “the hiking capital of the world.” The climate is generally mild, however this was not our experience! Average highs in October are 69 degrees with the lows around 42. I did find the highs to be right around 65, but it has been 32 or below many nights of our stay, causing us to utilize both the electric and propane heaters. We stayed toasty warm (not counting the times the propane ran out forcing Dear Hubby out to switch tanks in the middle of the night), and have yet to use the electric blanket my Mom gave us. Bless her heart, she still worries about me getting cold! Rightly or wrongly so, when folks find out we are from Michigan, they blame us for the cold weather. I believe we may hear this sentiment repeated wherever we may land this winter!

It is hard for me to be objective. I love this town, if non-other than the fact we have family here. But aside from family there are many things Franklin offered us during our stay. Here’s a few:

Our hiking partners Shauna and Josh

Our hiking partners Shauna and Josh

#1) The Great Smoky Mountains and it’s numerous trails including a good stretch of the Appalachian Trail. Bruce and I logged a total hiking time of 20 hours and 25 minutes during our stay. Although every hike was beautiful and ranged from easy to difficult, the most notable, as always, was Pinnacle Point.IMG_2045 Technically the trail is not in Franklin, but located in the neighboring town of Sylva, and is a must-do most times we visit. The elevation is just over 5000 feet, very steep and rocky terrain, mainly a switch-back style trail. And wouldn’t you know, the day we tackled the Point this visit, it was snowing making for a difficult trek with very soggy sneakers.

wet sneakers and gloves!

wet sneakers and gloves!

Although I did not walk out to the actual point itself (my hands were frozen and I was afraid if I slipped I would not catch myself) which is accessed via a small rock ledge, Josh and Shauna braved the ledge and shot some wonderful pics. IMG_2063 Simply amazing! And when you have finished your hike, and are in need of sustenance there is a wonderful No Name Bar (yeah, that’s what it is called!) just down the road which has a warm, inviting interior, cold beer, and great nachos to revive weary hikers. Round trip on hike is about 7 miles and took us 3.5 hours. I have a love/hate relationship with this particular trail!

#2) Deal Farms. When one is hiking, one needs to be properly nourished. To my delight, just down the road from our campsite on Highway 64 is a family-owned farm where we were able to purchase reasonably priced produce. Fresh green peppers and tomatoes in October, yes!!! They had a great selection, and I planned our meals around what was available. And I even got some free-range eggs which were beyond good. The woman who runs the stand was very friendly and helpful, and I look forward to returning in the spring.

Farm fresh eggs. Yum!

Farm fresh eggs. Yum!

#3) Speaking of friendly…We had a wonderful time meeting new friends at the local VFW post and the American Legion post. So both deserve a spot on my list. Everyone was so kind and made us feel more than welcome. These types of clubs are great places to meet some locals and enjoy a cocktail that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Most Thursdays found us cozied up around the bar playing a few rousing games of bar bingo. We never won a game, but Bruce did score a free drink! We even met a movie star. Okay, he wasn’t a star, but did have a bit part in the 80’s movie “Ordinary People.” And he had some great stories about his experiences on the set. Hats off to bartenders Dickie and Mike who really treated us well. We look forward to catching up with our newfound friends in the spring.

small town festivals are the best!

small town festivals are the best!

#4) Franklin Proper. The town is an awesome place with all the Americana only a small town can deliver. Despite it’s small population, it boasts a unique downtown area with some great shops and restaurants. And in fine small -town fashion we attended the Fall Pumpkin Festival complete with a pumpkin roll down a very large hill. The day was bright and sunny with a beautiful blue sky. There are several festivals, including one in the springtime aptly named “The Airing of the Quilts Festival.” Now that sounds interesting!

roll those pumpkins...

roll those pumpkins…

#5) Vito’s Pizza and Italian Tavern. Located at 607 Highlands Rd, Vito’s has a nice menu selection, but quite honestly, I can never get beyond the pizza. As any pizza lover can attest to, the crust and the sauce make the pizza. And Vito has it down! Word has it the recipes have been in the family for 50 years. We will be there tomorrow evening with our family to break bread and say our “see ya laters.” I am going to order a giant pie so I can enjoy the leftovers as we travel!

oh my, that's a pie!

oh my, that’s a pie!

But ya know, with the good, is the not-so-good, and here are a few of my dislikes of my stay here:

#1) Japanese Beetles. Or as they are known here, stink-bugs. When the sun is out they are everywhere, sneaking into tiny crevasses, and impossible to keep out. I keep thinking they will die in the freezing nights, but they don’t. We cannot even have our doors or windows open because they will invade. Bruce has enjoyed many hours hunting them down and squishing them in our travel trailer. The locals say they will stink if allowed to survive. Stupid fake ladybugs. In the heat of the day I cannot even sit outside without them landing all over me.  Which leads me to my next point…

The Greenway

3 PM

#2) Extreme temperature changes. Now I am from Michigan, and we have all types of weather, sometimes all in one day. But not everyday. Two things here hot and cold. Hot when the sun is out, cold when it goes away. I literally shut off the heat in late morning and turn on the air an hour later. Because I cannot open my windows due to the stupid stink bugs. When I shut off the air in late afternoon, an hour later, on comes the heat. Really, you never know what to wear in these parts! Dress in layers for sure.

5PM

5PM

#3) Music. We get one radio station; country. Now I can listen to some country, but not all the time! I even watched the CMA awards, and knew all the artists and songs. (we also get 4 tv stations compared to 22 at our last campground, I miss ME TV!) I would kill to hear some Motown or metal at this point. Load your ipod before you arrive.

#4) And don’t forget to stock up on some supplies before you arrive as well. Food is very expensive here, and I wish I had loaded up on some of my staples before I left Michigan. I am missing Aldi’s. I realize the goods must be trucked over the mountains to get here, and I respect that, but my frugal and nutritionally-minded self does not like it one bit. My big box of Earthbound Farms organic spinach, which I purchase in Michigan for $4.99 is $7.99 here. I still need my green smoothies, so I compromised and choose a big bag of UN-organic spinach instead.

#5) Forest Service Roads. In a word…terrifying. We traveled on FS Road 69 back in July to reach Wayah Bald. I planned to go there to hike. By the time Bruce maneuvered our giant truck up this scary mountain road, complete with increasingly smaller lanes and sheer-drop offs, my anxiety levels were so high, I could not function. Everyone else traveling this FS road seemed to be driving Honda’s or Kia’s, not us, oh no. Let’s take that big-ass  2500 Chevy Silverado up that road. Hiking was replaced on that particular day with self-medication at the local pub! No more FS roads for this gal!

A view atop Wayah Bald.

A view atop Wayah Bald.

So there you have it. My top 5 likes and dislikes. Our time here has been wonderful, and it is always great to see our NC family (and friends now too!), but as they say, I am getting “hitch-itch” and it is time for this gypsy to move on. Being a flatlander, the mountains are beginning to close in on me. So until next spring; Franklin I bid you a fond farewell….IMG_2071