Tuesday, January 26, 2016

It takes all kinds...

Every January we return to San Diego CA for a few weeks to visit friends and family.  We lived in the area for many years, and after we retired, almost five years ago now, we sold "everything" and bought our sweet home on wheels, and hit the road!  Without a 'sticks and bricks' abode, we camp in Mission Bay when we return. 

San Diego proper has three campgrounds to choose from, kind of like a Goldilocks situation:  #1 Campland on the Bay - the most expensive; has all the bells & whistles with a restaurant, pool, clubhouse, store, planned actives, etc.  #2 Mission Bay RV Resort - next price down; still on the bay, but no bells & whistles, just a snack bar, and without all those "b & w", quieter.  #3 is Santa Fe Park RV Resort - the least expensive of the three and across the way, tucked into the hills, no bay view/traffic view instead (they do have a pool tho).  Probably less kids due to no bay (I'm guessing).  Like Goldilocks, it's whatever meets your needs (and pocketbook). 

We don't have any kids (or grand kids with us) and in January, no need for a pool, etc. so  no need for all the bells & whistles, so Mission Bay RV Resort meets our needs just fine.  We like the view of the bay and seeing the sunset (when it graces us with one!) and the quietness of the park...usually. 

Now, in these four plus years of constant travel (we don't season stay, we are 'on the move' all year long) we have camped at all kinds of parks and seen all kinds of people and all kinds of rigs.  People watching is part of the fun!  Getting to meet people, learning new things and ways to do things is part of the adventure.  But every now and then, you see someone or something that just makes you go hm mm...

On a walk around the campground one afternoon we came across what we considered a very ingenuous setup!  Someone had created a wonderful play area for their cats (or small dog) leading in & out of their rig through a small window through a series of screened tunnels into both shaded and sun areas.  Very nice and kind for the animals, and it looked fun too! 


On the other hand, we experienced our first "clean-freak" (I'm not sure what else to call him).  You see, he evidently didn't like dirt, dust or leaves to settle around his rig, as twice a day he would get out his large leaf blower and blow off every little thing all around his rig, his car and his neighbor's area!  Ah, the wonderful sound of a leaf blower while you are enjoying camping...nothing quite like it!  ;-)  Now I understand that Mission Bay RV Resort with it's tarmac sites, and bay views might attract the non-camping-type camper, but that does seem a bit excessive...


Oh well, it takes all kinds...  We were graced with a beautiful sunset before we left!  Thanks Mission Bay, we will be back again!

...on the road, Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Beach Life!

After what seemed like months of almost non-stop rain, a week of "the beach life" sure sounded like fun!  So, we continued our trek down Hwy 101, along the coast and pulled into Pismo Beach CA for a week.  It wasn't exactly full-bore sunshine, but it wasn't pouring down rain either...we'd take it!  60 degrees and the sun playing hide n' seek with the clouds was better than what we had been experiencing thus far!

One of the big draws in Pismo Beach is the Monarch Butterflies.  They come every year from late October through February and cluster in the limbs of the Eucalyptus and Monterey Pines in the area.  They travel over the Sierra Mountains and west of he Rockies, and some come from as far away as Canada to escape the colder temperatures of the north!  I was really excited to go see them, so that was the first thing on our list.  I was really expecting to see thousands fluttering around and the trees all golden from their clusters.  Well...it wasn't quite like that...We saw dozens flying very high above us, and we had to look into a telescope to see the clusters, which we could then, but only then.  The volunteers explained that it was still pretty cold for them - they like it well above 55 degrees, and it was still only hovering around 59-60, so they were keeping themselves pretty "closed up" for now.  They said their numbers (at best-guess count) was around 25,000.  I sure couldn't see how they did that from where I was standing, but guess they are better at it than I!  One of them took a picture for me through the telescope, not so great, but better than "nothing".  Sure not the "experience" I had been expecting, but, was fun anyway!



Our next adventure we thought we would try was to go out to the lighthouse in Avila Beach.  So, off we went!  Nice, long, long drive (why are so many, so far away and on long winding roads?)  Well, when we finally got to the beach, guess what?  You can only see it via a "tour" that only goes out on Wednesdays, by reservation...and, of course, it wasn't Wednesday!  Should of checked first...dang.  Oh well.  We had a nice walk along their pier and met some very cute seals sun bathing and even saw an adorable California sea otter swimming right next to us!  We had a delious lunch, then headed back again...as the rain started up once more.



If you know anything at all about California, you know that Father Juniper Serra began a chain of Franciscan Missions all along the coast.  San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is the fifth, and one we hadn't seen yet.  Between the rain drops, we ventured out and I was able to get some wonderful pictures of the beautiful old mission that was built in 1772.  The original padres' residence is now a museum and had some great artifacts with pictures from days gone by as well. 


We tootled around town a bit, and peeked into a few stores and galleries.  Even stopped to see "bubblegum alley" where people have stuck probably millions of chewed gum on the two alley walls over many years..."almost" art!  ;-)

We drove another day to Cambria, dodging more rain & sun & rain & sun.  Peeking in their various art galleries and shops.  My favorite was a piece made completely with 1960's flower pins! ("Peace" by Michael Courville)  Cute town, lovely lunch. 

We left Pismo Beach and spent the next night parked along side Rincon Beach just outside of Ventura for the night.  First day and night without any rain whatsoever!  We were given the most spectacular sunset we've seen in many months!  Such a lovely gift.  We were even able to built a little fire that night it was such a wonderful evening.  Next morning the tide came in full blast with waves splashing up against the rocks, pure beauty.  We hated to leave...but San Diego & our friends were waiting on us...


...kicking back in San Diego,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflections on a year well spent!

As always at this time of the year, I like to look back and see what we have done, where we've traveled and "tally up the year".  Each year is different (yea!) adding it's own adventures and it's own challenges into the mix.  This was "year 4" for us, so a bit more experienced, and a bit more wear & tear on the coach, (and us) as we found out.

I love flipping the calendar backward, looking at all the places we've gone, revisiting them, so to speak.  It's an extra little reminder of what a wonderful life we have...this vagabond adventure of ours.  Seeing this incredible country, visiting great landmarks, National Parks, fabulous beauty, meeting interesting people and seeing old friends... all of it. 

When I do my "tallies" at the end of the year, I'm always amazed at the numbers...they are never as low, or as high as I imagined them to be.  Keeping track of our campground receipts is done by "stuffing" them into a small plastic bag that I keep up at the front 'Co-Pilot's' seat with me.  I don't pay to much attention to it all year, just making sure to carefully add each receipt to the bag so that at the end of the year I have them all in one safe place for my year-end calculation and blog.  Additionally, I mark our calendar with each campground we stay at, so I know how many campgrounds/nights we've paid vs nights we've stayed with family or friends, or at our time share.

Jack keeps track of mileage, gasoline, propane and maintenance costs.  Having a 2007 RV, she has started "showing her age" a bit, so this year's maintenance and repair bills were higher than ever - but, I kept reminding myself, if we had a sticks and bricks house, it wouldn't be much different!

This year's travels took us from 'coast to coast' as we wanted to see our eastern grandchildren and spend some time with them.  We also had a nephew getting married in Baltimore MD, so what better time to check off one of my bucket list items: Washington DC, while we were so close!  That was something I had wanted to do for most my life, and was not disappointed one bit!  I had high expectations, and they were even exceeded!  Such a thrill to go up into the Washington Monument!  I love our country, and to spend days visiting so many of the Smithsonian Museums was truly a dream come true.  I even had one of my pictures published in the Humanities Magazine and got to meet their Art Director while I was there.  So cool.

Another change this year was meeting up with special friends.  Usually we travel pretty solo.  Not that this is our preference, it's just that this is the way it just seems to be.  In February, we were able to snag a large two-bedroom suite in Orlando in our time share, so we invited some friends to join us.  It turned out one couple could make it the first week, and another the second week!  Yea!  Then, later in March, we joined some friends in Arizona for a couple of days, then were able to meet up with others in Vegas in April, and visit with Colorado friends in May & then they joined us in NM in Oct for a few days!  We made a quick stop at our friends in Utah before heading to family in WA for the holiday.  That's more "company" than we've ever had, but not nearly enough!  Here's hoping 2016 brings even more!


The ups & downs of the year...I have to say that the ups have mostly been the people and the places we visited (I guess no surprise there) and the downs have been the amount of repairs to the RV (& to me).  We've also not had the best weather this year as well as we've run into some really nasty spots along the way, from freezing slush to flooding!


Besides what I've already shared, I'd say some of the highlights this year have been the Great Smoky Mountains and Tennessee in general.  I loved Chattanooga and visiting Ruby Falls and Rock City and even seeing Dollywood!  We love train trips, and taking the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR through NM was an absolute delight.  We stayed a month in Albuquerque NM, traveling all over the area, really enjoying our stay there.  Of course, starting the year off taking a Caribbean cruise is pretty wonderful, then coming back and discovering the two great towns of Ft Pierce and St Augustine FL was fun lead-in to meeting up with our friends.


Here's our stats for the year:

We stayed at 58 campgrounds, for a total of 302 nights
Total campground fees: $11,293.36
(That averages about $37.39 a night, which is about right...some places were really low,  but overall, most places averaged around $40 a night with discounts)
Mileage for the RV: 13,984
Mileage for the toad: 12,268
Gasoline for the RV: $5,427
Gasoline for the toad: $1,210
Propane: $338
Maintenance & Repairs RV: (oil change, roof sealing, skylight replacement, waste connector replacement, wind shield wipers & motors(twice), slideout fix,  2 tires, hot water heater, water pump) $6,822
Maintenance on the toad: (4 tires, wheel bearings, brakes, 60,000 mile check-up) $4,055

Well, here's to next year!  This will be year number 5 for us, and another exciting one, I'm sure!  I know we are looking forward to it, so hopefully we will see you...down the road!

...on the road in California,  Marie

Monday, December 21, 2015

Adventures in Santa Rosa...Two days can sure make a difference!

It was Saturday and sunny, so we thought we would take advantage of it and go see the Charles M Schulz Museum while we were in Santa Rosa for a few days.  Good Ole' Charlie Brown and Snoopy are my all time favorite comic strip characters, so there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to go see "Sparky's" memorabilia!  Seems he lived and worked the last 40 years of his life here in Santa Rosa.  He was a "regular man about town", building an ice rink, naming it Snoopy's Home Ice, so he could enjoy his passion of ice hockey, right here in California!  He grew up in St Paul MN, so was used to snow & ice, so to speak!  (we visited his home town back in Feb, 2013)  He would walk from his office (two blocks away) each day and have lunch in the adjoining cafe (Warm Puppy Cafe) and watch the local skaters, talk with friends, etc. then walk back and work until about 4pm each day.  He started his own hockey team for "seniors", people from 40 to 75 years!  From the looks of the pictures I saw, it appeared like they had a lot of fun.



His museum was wonderful, not only filled with fun statues and artwork, but some of the original comic strips from the 1950's when he began.  It was really fun to see the changes in his drawings.  I hadn't realized they "morphed" like they did!  It was also fun to read and learn the history behind the names of his characters and stories, like every one's name is an actual friend of his.  He said once in an interview, that to read his strip, is to know him, because everything he writes is about him, one way or another.  When he knew his days were numbered (he had colon cancer) he discussed the future of the strip with his family (5 kids/2nd wife) and they all felt very strongly that no one could/should carry it on.  That once he was gone, it was done.  HE was the only one who had ever written, drawn or created Peanuts, so no one else should ever even try.  (Merchandise, etc. however, was another thing!)  So, now we only have "reruns", and that's how it should be.




The following day we had planned to go see Point Reyes Lighthouse along the Pacific Seashore...and wouldn't you know it...it rained!  "Oh well", we thought, "we'll go anyway, how bad can it be?"  So, we drove the 2 hours out there, from the 101 to the 1 then along the bumpy Francis Drake Blvd.  All the while the rain kept coming down.  The scenery was nice, with lots of moss covered trees and historic ranches along the way, but the road was rough and long.  Well...we finally got there and found that you couldn't see the lighthouse from the parking lot (that would be to easy!), you had to walk another half mile, most of it up hill...in the pouring rain, to the lighthouse visitor center.  My good natured husband didn't send me out alone (after all, I'm the one into lighthouses, he's not!)  When we got to the visitor center, which was small, but warm, we found out that the lighthouse was still out and around and down several flights of stairs and down a path and out to a far point...in pouring rain and blowing wind!  Well...I went out and around and took a look and decided that my camera lens could capture it "just fine" from there!  We had done enough craziness already, we didn't need to do anymore!  So, back into the little visitor center I went to "thaw out" a bit, buy a souvenir post card & magnet and tuck my camera back into my coat and take a big breath and head on back to the car!




Once we made it back to the car, we peeled off our soaking wet jackets and sat and ate our picnic lunch while the car heater blasted full on to help warm us up and see if it could dry out our soaked pants.  While there, we had wonderful lunch entertainment watching couples drive in, park, start to get out, only to change their minds and get right back in again and drive away!  Smart people.  ;-)   Then, we drove another two hours all the way back to our campground in the pouring rain again...

Cows being moved across the street at the 1869 Historic E Ranch, Point Reyes National Seashore CA

Cypress lined pathway to the Historic RCA Building (c1929),Point Reyes National Seashore CA

Dare I say that we should have switched the two outings?  If only we had known... 

...kicking back in Santa Rosa CA,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip (I took much more at the museum!), you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

There's rain...and then there's TO MUCH RAIN!

We all have to put up with rain sometime...Traveling south along the Oregon coastline in December, one knows your just going to run into rain and fog sometime, it's inevitable.  Better that, than ice and snow we figure!  Last year, traveling south to California at this time, we took Highway 5 and did battle areas of ice and a little snow, so this year we decided that the coast would be a bit warmer, and a whole lot more scenic, to say the least. 

We started out in Portland, and headed south, with our first stop in Cannon Beach.  From the time we left Washington, it began to rain.  On and off, on and off.  But, the temperature crept up bit by bit as we headed south, so, we figured, that was an okay trade off. 

When we reached Cannon Beach, we decided to "hunker down" for a few days and see if the rain would lighten up enough for us to get out and see the area a little.   There were times when it would pour down so hard, you could hardly hear each other talk, then there were times it would stop for awhile...those times we dashed outside and went for it! 

We went to the tiny town of Cannon Beach and enjoyed some of the shops and had a wonderful late lunch then wandered down the beach a bit picking up a few pieces of driftwood.  There was only one other crazy couple and their dog out on the whole beach with us...




The following day, rain and all, we decided to venture out Hwy 26 and go see the Camp 18 Logging Museum.  It turned out to all be "outside" (not "inside" as we had hoped) so, we drove around it and looked around as much as we could.  The Loggers Memorial was closed, so we couldn't go in.  Their very large, and quit beautiful restaurant was open, but it was a bit early for us to eat, so we just looked around a bit, and I took a few pictures of their incredibly large chainsaw statues out front.  In spite of the rain, it was a fun stop. 


There's rain...and then there's TO MUCH RAIN...as we found when we finally left Cannon Beach after our three day stay there when we headed south.  We got about 45 minutes out from our campground on Hwy 101 and bang, stopped dead in our tracks - because the road was FLOODED OUT!  Not good.  Jack pulled over and went and talked with the Highway Patrolmen to ask them about which way we could go to get back to where we wanted to be, which was Florence Oregon.  They basically told him he couldn't.  The highway was flooded from here to Tillamook and parts were even caved in.  We needed to go all the way back north, the way we came, back by Portland to Eugene.  Bummer.  There went our three-day reservation in Florence.  I made the call to cancel.



So, back we went.  Guess who made an appearance the rest of the day?  The sun!  Wouldn't you just know it!  We made Eugene by 4:00 and called it a day.  One thing about traveling in an RV, the WEATHER is the one determining factor as to when and where we go, not us!  Oh well, another adventure awaits us tomorrow! 

...on the road in Oregon,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/ 


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Brrrr....

Brrrr....time to hit the road again and travel south!

Every year we spend the month of November in Tacoma Washington with part of my family.  The reason is two-fold.  You see, we got our most perfect coach by a "guardian angel" situation that just happen to take place in the month of November, so when it came time to register it, and knowing we were going to sell everything and move out of state, we had two choices:  we had family in California and in Washington.  With the cost of registration and taxes etc. it was a simple decision, Washington!  So, every November we make the trek to Washington, update our tags, see our doctors, visit family, enjoy Thanksgiving...and freeze our tushes off!  Then we hug everyone goodbye and promptly leave before the ice settles in!



Here it is December and we've only made it as far as Portland...but we always have to make a stop here for a couple of days!  After all...Powell's Bookstore is in Portland!  If you are any kind of a reader, you simply must stop at Powell's...there's just nothing like it anywhere!  We've been to bookstores all over the country, and none match this one.  A full city block square and four stories high, and 63,000 square feet!  Plus, a staff that really, really knows their stuff.  We love it (as if you can't tell...).  Then, of course there is always the little "reward" after going up and down all those stairs all day at Powell's, to Voodoo Donuts before we leave...



So, books in hand, we will head down the Coast Hwy 101 in search for the elusive sun in hopes that as each mile south the temperature rises bit by bit, because as the saying goes "you can take us out of California, but you can't take the California out of us"...or something like that, anyway....or..."once a sun-bunny, always a sun-bunny"?  Either way, all I know is that anything less than 70 degrees and it's to dang cold for me!  Brrrrrr

...on the road heading south,  Marie



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Through the eyes of friends...

Our style of full-timing is that we are "on the go" 365.  We travel all year long.  We stop for a few days, a week or two at the most, depending on what there is to see and do.  We don't "winter" or "summer" at any given campground anywhere.  That said, we haven't set down roots of any kind (yet), and the friends we've made, have been either the ones we had before we started this lifestyle, or ones we've made along the way.

Being nomads of sorts, we seldom get "company", so when we do, it's a real treat!  This past week, some dear friends of ours that still live in a sticks & bricks house in Denver, but have the same model RV as ours and venture out camping from time to time, joined us in Albuquerque for a few days.

We had spent some time there this past April, and Rich used to come here quite a bit for work about ten years ago, and Deb had been, but not the surrounding area so much.  We all like this area, was familiar with most of it, but still had some areas that some of us hadn't seen yet, so it would be fun to show each other our "finds".

The first day's adventure was to Socorro to show Deb the Very Large Array.  Rich used to come out this way for work quite often, so he was quite fond of the area.  In our last visit, we had found a great restaurant that we wanted to share with them as well.  When we got to the small town of Socorro, we had one hit and one miss...our restaurant, the Socorro Springs Brewing Co, the lunch didn't disappoint, it still was great, but a (great) nut & jerky place that Rich used to love going to, wasn't there any longer (and no one in town knew what happened to it), so he was greatly disappointed.

We did get to see one new thing in town though, which was fun for us, and that was the inside of the San Miguel Mission.  It was closed when we were here last time, so it was nice to see how beautiful the inside is.


Rich, knowing the area, drove us on into  Magdalena and all around it, giving me the opportunity to get some really fun pictures!  We even drove out to their old cemetery!  We tried getting to "Riley" which, per their posted sign, is now a ghost town 30 miles away, but the road pretty much just petered out, oh well, we gave it a good try! 


As we drove over to the VLA, range cows and antelope came out to greet us.  Deb had never been out there, so it was fun to show her just how big those things really are!


The following day our goal was to head to the tiny town of Cerrillos!  Deb's son-in-law had a relative who had come from there and still had someone who was living there!  It's one of the town's along the "Turquoise Trail".  We had been to Madrid, which is also along this trail and a really fun town, so would be fun to show them and stop there for lunch.

Cerrillos was a hoot!  "Tiny" it is!  It's true"claim to fame" is it's beautiful and unusual turquoise.  It's a really pretty greenish color that's mined here, and at one time it and gold & silver were heavily mined in these hills.  Now, it's pretty much just this pretty turquoise.  The other thing the town's been used for is several movies have been filmed here including Young Guns.  It also had a pretty interesting Turquoise Mining Museum that had all sorts of things!  While we were there, a group of YPO (Young Presidents Association) folks were having a scavenger hunt, and showed up.  It brought back some fun memories, as I used to handle those groups in my "old event coordinator days"!


Deb & Rich did indeed catch up with "relatives" at Mary's Bar, took lots of pictures, and then we were off to Madrid!  As usual, we had a great lunch at The Hollar while we listened to the band Cactus Slim play for us! 


As usual, we found some "goodies" we couldn't pass up, as there is always something really special in this art-filled town!

It is so much fun, seeing places you've been before, through the eyes of friends!  To soon our friends were on their way back home...and we are off on yet another unknown adventure!

 ...On the road to Washington,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/