Friday, December 27, 2019

End of another year...

Here it is almost the end of December, another year gone, another decade really.  We are about to enter 2020...and I for one, am ready!  How about you?  This has been an interesting year for me...a transitioning one, and one of a number of personal "happenings" that makes one take a step back.

This is our first full year of being a "part-time" RVer.  Six months on the road and six months here in Arizona.  I like it, but it takes some getting used to after being on the road full-time for over seven years.  Once again it's a different life style.  For one thing, you've got the "packing & un-packing" thing to deal with.  How much double "stuff" to you keep in the RV and in the house?  It seemed to take days to load, as I was always remembering one more thing to load...and even then as we traveled, I would discover something I left at home!  Once we arrived home, I'm forever trapezing back over to the RV for something that's still in the RV!  Thank goodness it's parked right next to us!

Even planning the trip was different, as it was for only six months instead of a year.  Where to go and how long to stay at each location?  We had decided to go to an RV Rally this year as we hadn't been to a Tiffin one in years, so that became our focal point, from there we determined the rest of the trip.  We then decided to head to Canada, and since we've only really visited the area around Calgary, we decided to explore further east, then head on over to Calgary to visit our friends again before coming back down into Washington to spend time with family.

Looking back over the summer, I have to say that the highlight of the trip, for me was our time in Canada, especially the last part through the Okanagan Valley.  I really had no idea that Canada had a "wine valley" and that it was so good!  It was such a delightful experience, one I hope to repeat someday.  Spraining my ankle early on made sight-seeing difficult for most of the summer, but this little surprise at the end our our Canadian visit made up for it!

Since we've been back home, we've been BUSY!

I have been trying to finish putting my house in order by completing the "change-over" from the Southwestern look it came with to my Country look I want.  I started by repainting a couple of patio chairs I had purchased last spring, to match the other turquoise ones I already have.  Then I also repainted a window frame I had, to turquoise and filled it with some of my photos and hung it on the porch wall, added a couple of pillows, completing the porch!

While we were outside...we got tired of being poked!  All around the yard were very large Agave plants (these people loved the Southwest, I'm telling you!).  Well, after so many pokes, we said "enough already!"  So, we dug them all up, and went to our friendly nursery and bought "pretty plants"!  Two purple fountain grasses that are kind to the legs when we walk by the RV and two Texas Sage (Salvia) with a Tecoma Stans Yellow Bells in between.  So much nicer now.  Yea!

I then moved into the house...I have been collecting a variety of old style wood chairs to go around our butcher block dining table, so now I needed to sand and paint them, along with matching seat pillows (of course!)  I wanted each one to be different, and to go along with my Fiesta ware dishes!  That turned out to be quite a job, but looks really cool.  Once that was done (4 chairs later), on to our built-in buffet.  It had a Southwest color scheme...ugh, had to go!  Now, it's white (like the walls, with blue edging to match the opposite wall.  Phew!

Jack has joined a couple of HOA committees, along with a couple of fun clubs, so that is keeping him out of trouble too!

We also were able to fit in a couple of fast to Las Vegas for the Thanksgiving holiday to my niece's.  My sister flew down, and now Jack's nephew and family has also moved there, so now along with my cousin, we have quite a gathering living in Las Vegas!  We stayed for four days and had a lovely time...even got in a little hiking into the Red Rock Canyon Park!

My most favorite boss ever, the CEO of the San Diego Zoo Global retired recently and they gave him a couple of surprise send-offs (one at the Zoo and another at the Safari Park).  I couldn't pass up the opportunity to say good-bye and get one last hug from him, so we drove down that morning and attended the afternoon one at the Safari Park in Escondido.  It was a happy/sad occasion.  He is one of the finest gentlemen I have ever had the privilege of knowing...and will be greatly missed by many.

The Theater Group has already started for the season, and I've been assigned one lead number, six back-up numbers, and two all cast numbers!  I'm either going to be exhausted and thin or dead by the end of February!!  Wish me luck! 

I've even managed to decorate for the holidays this year!  Drug out all our decorations from the shed, rummaged through them and figured out what I could scale down to fit into our tiny house (from our large house we used to have), and not look to "over done"!  Having another "tradition" too...our Annual Holiday Soup Party!  We used to hold one every year for our friends when we lived in Escondido.  I would make about five different soups and about eight different breads and have around forty to fifty family and friends over for the evening.  It was quite festive.  It will never, ever get that big here, my tiny house could never, ever hold so many!  I'm starting out with a dozen people and two soups and four breads!  We shall see how that goes!

As I always do, on my last blog of the year, here are the stats from our travels....

We stayed at 36 campgrounds, for a total of 138 nights on the road
Total campground fees: $5,238.02 (including the rally and Colorado State Park Pass for the year)
(That averages about $37.96 a night, which is pretty typical for us.  We stayed a week with our friends in Calgary and another one in Washington with family, which is also typical.  If you factor those in, that would raise the per night stay up to $42.24.  But for being in Canada most of the time, you have to also adjust the dollar rate too, back down that comes!  ;-) 

Mileage for the RV: 7,000
Mileage for the toad: 8,687 (all of 2019)
Gasoline for the RV: $3,480
Gasoline for the toad: $1,256
Propane: $24

...kicking back in sunny Arizona,  Marie

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Checking Off a Bucket List!

I'm not sure when I first learned about the Horseshoe Bend in Page Arizona, or why it has taken me so long to finally get to it, but all I know is it's a place I've yearned to go see for myself for a long time.  I've seen tons of pictures of it; it seems like "everyone" has been there - done that" but me!  How on earth have I not??

I know I've been to the Page area a number of times, I guess I just didn't realize it was there!  "Best kept secret"?  Wow, anyway, when we started our trek back towards home, I told Jack I had one last request - to swing by Page in route so we could see Horseshoe Bend.  I tried to book us into an RV Park in Page, but no such luck, all full.  So he suggested Kanab, "its only an hour and half away, no big deal, we can drive it in the truck".  So, I booked us four days in Kanab to be on the safe side, weather-wise (and we love this town).

We picked the day and set out early.  We got there around 9:00 a.m.  and already the parking lot was half full.  Grabbed our water and camera and began the hike.  They warn you it's 3/4 mile each way, but they don't tell you it's up and down a steep hill in soft sand!  It was already about 80 degrees by the time we got to the Bend.  Looking over the edge, half of it was still in shadow.  I took some pictures but began climbing (like all the other kids) along the rocks for better views.  Once we found the area best we could, we waited for the sun to move to get the best shot with the least shadow.  People watching was also fun. Lots of "selfies" of all kinds, different languages, several tour groups, all ages from infants to late eighties and every clothing style from mini to long dresses and suites!  Fun to sit back and watch it all.

my "selfie"
Finally we decided that the sun was about as far as it was going to recede with the rock overhang and I snapped as many shots as I thought I could get with the lens I had with me, and back we went.

By now the temperature was probably around 85-90 degrees, so we took it slowly, and when we reached the top, was grateful for the shaded bench!  It had a nice cool breeze as well, which was much appreciated.

I had made a picnic lunch, but it was still to early to eat it, so we just brought it back home and had it here!  What a glorious trip it was, the drive wasn't long at all because all along the way you see red rock hoodoos and canyons that is Utah's beauty!

This was our last stop before "home for the winter"...I dare say, we saved the best for last!

Catching up in Arizona,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Pink and Red all over

Utah is one of my most favorite states and the Kanab area especially as it is central to the views I love the best.  All the red rock formations and canyons to climb and photograph that just draw me in like a magnet.  Each time I'm here I find new areas to explore.

This time was the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.  After seeing the Sand Dunes in Colorado, I was curious to compare them and to see if they were indeed "pink".  Well, I wasn't disappointed, they indeed were pink, and depending on the sun, they can go from light to a dark red.  The biggest difference I found, was how soft the sand was - almost like baby powder!  I just wanted to run my hands through it all the time, but it sure made walking through it quite a challenge I can say!  ;-)

The other difference too, is this is for dune buggy and motorbike riding, while the Colorado Sand Dunes were not.  There were areas here where people slide down as well, but not like in Colorado.  These are not nearly as high and more suited for the driving sports.  They were fun to watch.  I was envious and wished I was 30 years younger and out there with them!  Good for them...

While driving back from the sand dunes, we spotted a fenced in spot that caught my eye, that I just had to stop and see what all was in there!  It looked like a small totem was standing guard over an enclosed pond area.  Very cool looking.  I did a little internet snooping and found out that this used to be a campground once, but got closed down by the fish & game due to some ducks on the pond eating a snail (Amber Snail/endangered species).  The totem is actually made of cement...but sure looks like it's carved out of local stone, even after all these years...sure was a pretty little area, maybe it paid to fence it all off!

Catching up in Arizona,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

It pays to be flexable...

When we were at my niece's, her husband asked me if we had ever been to the Painted Hills in Eastern Oregon.  I had never heard of them.  He likes to look up places to go hiking and came across images of them on his iPad, so showed them to me.  We checked out where they were and figured out it wasn't that much out of our way to go check them out - so we decided "why not?"   Adjusted out route, a jig and a jog,  and found a campground about 45 minutes from where they seemed to be and made reservations!

Once settled in, off we went!  Wow, it was worth the the trip!  They truly are beautiful.  Sometimes places don't live up to the pictures people post because they are seasonal, or it's after the rain, or the time of day, or what have you .  We were there at probably the worst possible time one could be - late summer, mid-day, full sun, and still the colors were outstanding!  I can only imagine how incredible it would be in springtime when the wildflowers would all be in bloom as well.

The town of Mitchell - isn't really.  It's about six buildings, one being a cafe of sorts, but I wouldn't count on it.  I was glad we had made a picnic lunch and ate it at the small ranger station.  All that actually is, is a small picnic area with trees and a few picnic tables along with a couple of bathrooms.  So bring your own water, food and plenty of gas for the day if you come!

Its little reminders like this, when people tell you about a place, or you hear about it, that I'm so glad we are flexible and can just adjust our schedule and our route, because you just never know what wonderful treasures are just around the corner!

Catching up in Arizona,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Friday, October 25, 2019

Serendipity, It's a wonderful thing!

We have a "tradition" when it comes to going to Portland...we try and stay near the city, for about three days.  The first day is to go to park and settle in the campground. The second is to go to  Powell's City of Books for several hours to stock up on books for us, for Christmas and birthday presents and then to go to Old Town Pizza for a late lunch  with donuts at Voodoo Donuts after wards for a treat.  The third day we usually visit with family or friends in the area.

That usually was the plan.  I called first choice, they were booked up, so I called our second, they had availability, so I booked the three nights.  I didn't call any family or friends to say we were coming, something in me just said "to wait", so I did.

We settled in.  Later that day we noticed a group of campers across from us pulling out all of their belongings and washing everything.  There were three couples in the group.  All afternoon and evening they were at it.  In the morning, I told Jack "I think they must have encountered a bad dust storm, only thing that could have gotten that badly into every single nook and cranny!"  He thought it might be "beach sand" since we were in Oregon, and not that far from the ocean.  As he was outside, he went over to them and talked with them.  He came back and said "you called it sweetheart!  They were at Burning Man!  They are all from Holland and have just spent ten days at Burning Man!"

We then went  into Powell's and did our shopping, then to Old Town Pizza for our late lunch.  While there, we had a nice talk with the young man serving us about donuts.  We had heard about Blue Star Donuts, so asked him "Blue Star or Voodoo?"  He said "Blue Star, definitely!"  He said "Blue Star is quality, Voodoo is novelty".  So, we went to Blue Star.  Wow, what an experience!  It was like walking into a jewelry store and being shown precious pieces (and so were the prices).  But, the quality was really there.  We decided to splurge and buy a dozen and take them back to the Holland group!
So, box in hand, we marched over to their campsite and asked if they were ready for a break?  And did they they like donuts?  YES!  We all sat down and everyone introduced each many names to remember...but we all sat around for more than an hour and talked and talked.  What fun!

I ended up spending time with Fred, who turned out to be a photographer, and as would have it we exchanged emails and Flickr accounts.  We met a couple more times to chat, but they had to finish cleaning as they were going store their RV with family and fly back to Holland on Thursday.  It was such a short visit, but we all got so much fun out of it.  It just "clicked".  Fred said more than once that he would stay in touch, read my blog, etc.  I hope so.  Life is full of surprises.

We opened up our door Thursday morning and a lovely bottle of Jonge Bols Graan Jenever was left on our door step.  ;-)

Catching up in Arizona,  Marie

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Family Time

Back in Washington...It's always good to be back in the US and to see family again.  Canada is a beautiful Country, but it's good to "be home".  (As we were leaving Canada, we did pass through a town with a few more murals I couldn't help capture though!)

We first camped a couple of days in eastern Washington and noticed that Ellensburg had Barn Quilts noted in the area, so one day Jack and I took a drive and photographed a few of them.  Many of the barns themselves here quite old (and lovely!)  The brochure that the Visitor Center gives out has a nice little history about each place along with a map, which is really nice.

My niece has a great spot right beside her home with full hookups that she always makes room for us to park our rig.  So nice.  We lucked out too on the weather and the sun shone for us the whole ten days we were there!  A record for us!  It sure made the time fly.

While we were there, Jack and I celebrated our twenty-third wedding anniversary.  One of my nephews gave me the idea to surprise Jack with a special evening at a dinner show called Teatro Zinzanni -"Decadent Delight" .  He has gone several times, taking my sister, his wife, his son and is planning on taking his daughter for her thirtieth birthday.  It sounded like just the ticket, so I made the reservations and told Jack "just be ready by 4:00 p.m. on Sunday".

What a fun night we had!  It's a little bit cabaret, a little circus, a little comedy, a dinner show, a little magic, all wrapped up in three plus hours!  Wonderful entertainment and  good food.  Jack loved it and complimented me on my choice.  I told him next year he had to choose!

We also caught the Washington State Fair while we were there.  That was fun too.  Being from San Diego, we've enjoyed the Del Mar Fair for years as one of the largest and best we've been to across the US.  This one comes in close.  The one thing I was disappointed in though was that it didn't have a big garden section!  That's the one thing I always loved  about the Del Mar Fair.  But as my niece explained..."Aunt Marie, we don't have a growing season here like San Diego, so no reason to showcase flowers and lawns!"  Guess not...oh well.  They had lots of farm equipment though!

Well, lots of laughter, long chats, wonderful meals and hugs, it was time to say our good byes and head on down the road once again.

Catching up in Arizona, Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

From the Mountains to the Valleys…

After we left the Canadian Rockies we drove down to they beautiful valleys where they grow all their fabulous fruit, veggies and wine grapes! 

Okanagan Valley BC was truly a hidden gem to me.  I had no idea it even existed, let alone how truly magnificent it’s riches are! 

The Valley itself reaches from Vernon to the boarder of Osoyoos.  We stayed in the middle in Kelowna, with our campground in West Kelowna, making it easy to visit up and down the Valley.  We were told that they have over 280 wineries, but we saw more going in and I would venture that that is a low number. 

Now I wouldn’t say I’m a “wine snob”, but I am very picky in what I drink.  For one thing, wine with tannins  and sulfates give me migraines, so I try and stay away from them.  I’ve also found that California and Oregon whites have gotten either very “oaky” in their Chardonnay wines, or overly dry, and overly “fruity” in their Riesling wines.  So, I have stopped buying anything from North America all together.  To be honest, I didn’t even know Canada made wine (sorry Canada). 

But, here we were, five days in what was touted to be “the best wine country ever” - so I thought “why not spend a day tasting?””  Wow, was I blown away!!  Let me share here, I used to be in the event business, and I have had my share of wine tastings from all over the world.  Lovely wines, at all price levels.  But when I was served a Chardonnay here - it wasn’t dry, or “oaky” it was light, clean, crisp, smooth and buttery - the way a Chardonnay should be - in my opinion, anyway.   My biggest surprise was a Riesling from a winery called Spearhead.  Rieslings are usually to sweet - not this one.  Beautiful - light, gentle, yet crisp, clear, smooth with just the right amount of soft fruit.   So good.   I had to buy several bottles!  Truly amazing.

Another fun wine from The View, a sparkling wine in a can.  Kind of like a wine cooler without having to mix it.  Fun and refreshing.  They had both red and white.  They sold it in a six-pack like beer!

Because of the climate, Kelowna can make Ice Wine, and one winery does, Kalala.  We had a very informative visit there, learning all about how that is done.  It's an arduous process, and expensive.  I had to have a taste.  Because it sits on the vine so long, it's rather sweet, like Brandy.
The last tasting we ventured to was at the Indigenous World Winery.  The only Native American (or First Nation People, as the Canadians prefer) Winery.  They had a beautiful restaurant (that’s why we saved it for last) that we went to afterward for lunch.  We were intrigued  by the write-ups  describing how the chief was committed to indigenous flavors  using local ingredients.  When the waitress seated us, she shared that the sandwiches were made with bannock (a thick bread) and the portions were large).  The menu was indeed intriguing  and sounded wonderful.  We weren’t disappointed!

On Saturdays Kelowna has a huge (over 200 vendors) Farmer’s Market that I was so anxious to go to.  I had been holding off shopping for fruits and veggies knowing I would find it all here.  I was right!  We brought our own coffee with us, and started out with freshly made danish and cinnamon rolls and slowly walked row after row of beautiful fruits, veggies, honey and hand crafted items.  All wonderful.  I had hoped the Goat Cheese Farm folks would be there, but no such luck, so I stocked up on my goodies and Jack and I headed out to the Goat Farm on our own.  Interesting drive, but well worth it.  Wow, such wonderful cheeses!  After I left, I kept kicking myself for not buying more.

Our last day there, we decided to make it a fun, lazy day and “go floating”!  About an hour away, in Penticton, they have a company that will rent you floats and then a bus brings you back.  You float down a five mile river channel from the mouth of Okanagan Lake to Skaha Lake.  It was a bright sunny day, the water was cool and refreshing, about waist deep and tons of people of all ages were doing it!  So fun.  We were on it for about three hours, and at mid-point we decided we had enough, so we took the bus back.  Good thing too, as we discovered later, we were both sunburned, me more than Jack.  ;-)

We drove around the cute little town a bit and had lunch along the beach watching everyone enjoying the beautiful day, then came back to relax some more. Such a lovely way to end our stay in Canada.

Monday, October 21, 2019

R & R in Calgary...

Oops, pardon my backtracking...I forgot to put this blog in before we ventured onto Jasper!

Everyone needs time to take a break and spend time with friends… and that’s what we did in Calgary. 

Touring, seeing new places and doing new things is all fun and good, but every now and then it’s just nice to sit back with wonderful friends and do - nothing…and that’s what we did.   Talked, drank good wine, ate wonderful food, laughed, played games and enjoyed each other.  

We all met several years ago when we were at the same campground for a month and became fast friends.  Since then we have made it a point to meet up either camping or vacationing together, or at their home in Calgary.  We’ve met most of their family over the years and they’ve made us feel part of it now.  Such a warm feeling…

It was a great respite and good for my ankle, to be off of it, as it seems to be taking it’s time healing.  Old age isn’t for the impatient, that’s for sure! 

We did take one day and go for a jaunt to see The Days of Yore Festival in Didsbury, AB.  A cute little thing with reenactors from Vikings all the way to WWII.  They had mini battles from sword fights to cannons going off at various times.  All across the field were the various encampments set up by century.  Vendors (food and merchandise) were there, of course, as well as crafts etc. for the little ones.  All in all, quite amusing, really.  It was fairly small, as these things go, but so is Didsbury, I’m told, as we had a nice chat with one of the characters during a lunch break.  They have only been doing this festival a couple of years, so kudos to them!

Back on the road, we headed off to get as close to Jasper National Park as we could.  Being the “high season” I knew our chances would be slim getting a camping site in the park, but after many, many phone calls, we were finally able to get one in Valemount BC, about an hour or so outside the park.  We took it!  A couple of one night stays to get there, then through the park to the other side, and then we would be there for four days.  We were looking forward to it! 

Hugs all around to our friends and off we went to more adventures - Canadian style!

Catching up in Arizona,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Glittering Glaciers and Flowing Falls...That's Jasper National Park!

When you enter Jasper National Park you actually get Banff National Park as a bonus as it sides right up next to it.  And if that wasn't enough, there are four more in the range, and that's not counting beautiful Mt. Robson, the most grand and highest of the Rockies!  It's no wonder it takes all day just to drive through Jasper and Banff, stopping at just a few of the "scenic spots".

We took two days to enjoy the scenery and still didn't see everything.  Lots of great waterfalls; the most powerful one being Athabasca Falls.  These fall over quartzite forming an impressive canyon.  Standing above them you could almost feel their power as they pounded the rocks below and felt the mist spray against your face, it was truly amazing. And to think this was in mid-August, so, what must it be like just as it begins to thaw from the winter?  Wow!

Another short walk to a footbridge takes visitors to view the Sunwapta Falls plunging water below you.

All along the roadside were lakes, so big and beautiful, many seemed to be rivers.  Most, the beautiful teal color created by the glaciers.  Some though, a milkier color created by sand being tumbled by rushing waters.  Each so different and unique.

The Rockies themselves were awe inspiring we rounded each corner the sun would shift and the mountains would take on a different look, a different view.  We both were constantly saying "wow, look at them now!,  isn't that beautiful?"

As we moved on from there, we spotted a couple of local animals…first a very healthy Elk munching some grasses along side the road.  He was causing quite a stir as several of us stopped to take a picture of him.  He didn’t give any of us any mind at all, never even glancing our way, much to the chagrin of the photographers, I’m sure!  ;-)

Another bonus was a handsome black bear greedily foraging for berries.  A number of drivers stopped for him and were quite excited to see him so close to the roadside!  He couldn’t care less either that we were all enthralled to watch him have his lunch!  Once he cleaned out the bush in front of us, he quickly scampered off to the bushes deeper in the forest for more.

But, all that aside, the biggest wow factor of the parks is the Columbia Icefield and the Athabasca Glacier.  To see this massive glacier up close is amazing. Now, we had seen glaciers in Alaska, you expect them there.  Glaciers are big, but when they are surrounded by snow and ice, you don’t really get a sense of how big, or not, as it may be.  But when they are not surrounded by ice or snow, when they are a white chunk, so to speak, you can't  really get a feel for how big they really are.  It was surreal to see this here - not in Alaska.  All alone, surrounded by earth, rock and shrubs.  Pictures just don't do it justice.  Then, to see the markers as to where it "used to be" from 1908, or 1918, 1928, etc.  and where it is now, really hits home as to how much it is melting.  It puts all those rushing waters we were looking at earlier into perspective...

We came back again and again and just enjoyed the weather, the views and beauty of this great national park.  Such a treasure they have here…

...catching up in Arizona,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at: