Words of wisdom

Words of wisdom

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I hate flying! I remember when it used to be fun, you even got 'dressed up' to fly. And now they want to not only to charge you for your luggage, but when I asked if I could change my seat to an 'exit row', they said certainly, $39 please. (More leg room.) Every flight (4) back and forth from Tampa to Sacramento was packed. The only food was for sale and was ice cold. Every overhead bin was full and people were fighting for space. And you still ask why I chose to travel cross-country in my own movable home-on-wheels? Now you know!

But once I arrived, I had a fabulous visit. It was so nice to see my oldest and spend some quality time with him. It's been too long since we had time to just sit and talk with each other. I met my grandpuppy, Macy, and had so much fun with Tobin's girlfriend, Courtney, and her extended family.

We spent one full day in San Francisco and had perfect weather. I love this city - if only I would win the lottery, it would be where I would choose to live. We took the boat out to Alcatraz and had a really interesting tour of the old prison. Plus the view of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge is just breathe-taking from there. And of course, I just had to stop at Britex Fabrics and purchase a few pieces of delicious woolens that were begging to be made into a new coat & shirt.

On Christmas Eve we drove up to McCloud, CA. It's on the CA/OR border and directly under Mt. Shasta. This is the town where Courtney's parents are from, and where the relatives still gather - over 40 of them. We had a great 4-bedroom house for just our group and I enjoyed not cooking for the first time in years. From rack of lamb on the grill to deep fried turkey, plus every side dish imaginable, delicious cookies and homemade fudge, we ate, talked, and ate some more. As you can see, there was lots of snow on the mountain, but thankfully, none on the roads.

Tobin and I returned to Sacramento Saturday afternoon as we both had early flights Sunday morning. I to return to Tampa, and he to meet up with his brother and friends in Chicago for the annual Bears/Viking's game on Monday night. If you happened to catch the game, the good guys (da Bears) beat The Purple People Eaters and Mr. Farve in overtime!

It's now Wednesday and I'm back to work. My body-clock it totally screwed-up and I want to put my head on my desk and take a nap. The ladies are in the pool doing water aerobics (it's 62 degrees, sunny, and the pool temp is 87). The park is filled with lots of new RV's and life is back to 'normal.' In 2 weeks I head back to Tampa to attend the mega RV show for 3 days. It will be fun to see and tour all the new models.

I hope each of you had a wonderful Christmas and enjoy a happy & prosperous New Year!

Until next time....take care of each other.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Holidays

It's that time of year - to decorate your RV, enjoy holiday music blasting from every store speaker (since before Halloween), and envision snowflakes falling.

Though the snowflakes hopefully will not be seen, even in the northern parts of Florida, the temps are not warm - well, maybe in comparison to those of you in MN! We have had a few nights in the high 30's and today we won't get above 47 with clouds and rain. So don't envy me too much. This ain't Miami! We do have some crazy ladies who insist in doing water aerobics every day, no matter the outside temp, just as long as the pool remains the 86 degrees it's set to.

I'm getting excited about my trip to CA to visit with my oldest and his girlfriend in Sacramento. And no, Winnie, with her Christmas decorations, will stay in FL and this time I will hop a plane in Tampa and fly westward for a week. I've been told we are going to travel up to McCloud, CA, which is on the CA/OR border and 'under' Mt. Shasta. Snow is almost a given. T even said he wanted to take me snowmobiling. I tried to remind him that the only clothes I have with me are the ones I took to St. Kitts. That mean's shorts and flip flops - which aren't conducive to snow or cold! I have one pair of jeans and 1 sweatshirt, no winter coat or hat & mittens. I think I'll sit by the fireplace, inside, and let the rest enjoy the winter sports!

Life at Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort is in full holiday-mode. I helped decorate the clubhouse while the guys spent 2 days 'lighting' the outside. It's very festive! We have our gift exchange next week and of course, little elves keep leaving cookies and home-made fudge and peanut brittle on my desk. Saturday a group of us are going to St. Andrews Marina to be part of the holiday light boat parade. All the fishing boats, sail & power boats, and the large Betsy Ann Riverboat will be strung with 1000's of lights and 'parade' down the coastline. The Betsy Ann is open to the public to ride along. It should be fun!

I and the rest of the work/campers are already thinking about summer and where we would like spend the warmer months. I am seriously considering an offer to summer on the southern coast of Oregon. Take a look and tell me what you think. (http://www.turtlerockresorts.com) The RV resort is located right on the beach and since I have never been to this part of the country, it fit's the bill of where and why I am living this transient lifestyle. The only drawback is the 3000 mile cross-country drive to get there. But if anyone out there would like to 'hop on board' and ride along for a few miles, give me a holler!

Until next time, take care of each other....

And a very blessed Christmas and joyous New Year!


Monday, November 30, 2009


The sun was shinning and the skies were a bright blue on Thanksgiving Day, with temps in the mid-60's. My dear friends, Don & Carrie drove 518 miles up from Ft. Myers to spend the holiday with me.

Neighbors from the park arrived and we started the day at Winnie with Bloody Mary's, quiche, a strudel & fresh fruit - enough to tide us over until the big turkey dinner at 3p.m.

Emerald Coast provides the turkeys and mashed potatoes & gravy (all prepared by residents) and then everyone brings a dish to pass. Attendance was limited to 56 - and the trestle tables groaned under the many choices of salads, veggies & dressing. My desk was turned into the desert table. Pumpkin, apple & cherry pie; brownies, cookies and chocolate cake - Yum-Yum!

Of course football was also on the menu, as well a a Netflix movie to end the evening. Don & Carrie headed back south on Friday morning after breakfast and I went back to work.

Saturday one of the work/camping wife's and I headed over to Rosemary Beach and Seaside. These were two of the first completely 'designed communities' built on the beach. The houses are all beautiful pastels and each very unique. Common areas with gazebos and parks off-set the fact that they are built on zero-lot lines.

Rosemary Beach was having their outdoor holiday art fair, so we braked quickly, found a parking spot and wandered from booth-to-booth enjoying the beautiful day and finding some nice Christmas gifts. Once we arrived in Seaside, we parked in the little square and had a ball shopping at all the quaint little shops and enjoying a great lunch overlooking the water. The town, including their itty-bitty post office was decorated for the holidays. What I loved the most was a line-up of little Airstream's that were set up as coffee, sandwich & drink shops. This was so much more fun than running out at 4 a.m. on Black Friday to fight the crowds and find a bargain.

Sunday was spent cleaning, doing laundry and getting text messages from #1 son who loves it when "his Vikes" beat Mom's Bears.

Today I start the countdown to Christmas. I'm so excited to be going to California to spend the holidays with Tobin and Courtney and see their new home in Sacramento. The plan is to drive up the CA/OR border to the little town of McCloud, where Courtney's family is from. It's located right under Mt. Shasta and Tobin keeps telling me to bring winter clothes as there is likely to be large amounts of snow! I keep reminding him I haven't got one single item of winter clothing in my wardrobe - not a heavy coat or even closed-toed shoes! It should be a fun-filled, if chilly holiday.

Until next time....take care of each other. Wishing you and yours a blessed and joyous Christmas.


Monday, November 16, 2009

The Florida Keys & Hurricane Ida!

My friend John and I drove down to the Florida Keys last week for a few days of fun in the sun! Instead we found ourselves on the far side of Hurricane Ida as it came barreling into the Gulf of Mexico. Though we didn't have the rains, we had lots and lots of wind (look at the palm trees in the pic with the pool) and the sun was not seen for the entire time we were there. But the temps were in the mid 80's and we had a great time.

My dear friends, Laura & John Radke, from Chicago, were very generous and offered us their beautiful home on Colony Key Beach (Marathon) during our stay. How nice to be in a 'real house' for a change, with room to spread out and move around. Though I love my Winnie, I do miss the space of a house.

We ate some wonderful seafood, spent a whole day down on Key West wandering up and down Duval Street, and of course had pictures taken at Mile Marker "0" at the Southern most point in the US, ate some more seafood and drank a few rum punches, relaxed and got to the clubhouse and pool one afternoon to try and see the sun - not!

The only thing wrong with the entire trip was the distance. 718 miles from Panama City Beach - and Florida is a flat, boring state to drive through. We took the tollway down the East side and came back up the West. We decided to take the 'back road' home along the coast, even though it added another hour and a half in travel time. It was fun to drive through all the little seaside towns and villages, stopping along the way for...some great seafood!

Back home I was thrilled that my neighbors had rolled in Winnie's awning and took down my twinkle lights and wind chimes. Though Ida had been predicted to come ashore as a hurricane, it had dropped off to tropical storm level when it came in at Mobile. We got rain and some winds, but nothing that caused any damage. The Northeast got hit a whole lot harder than we did.

The day after I returned, I worked the Emerald Coast Cruzin' Antique, Street & Hot Rod Car Show, which we sponsor. Had a booth outside at Frank Brown Park for 3 full days. What a hoot! I was next to the registration booth and all the cars had to parade directly in front of our booth. Besides the cars, the people-watching was fantastic! So fun not to sit behind a desk and a computer all day. The weather cooperated and it was sunny and bright all 3 days.

Yesterday good friends Don & Carrie stopped in for lunch on their way to their winter home in Ft. Myers, and this morning John started his return trip to KS... and I came back to work!

So life continues here on the coast of Florida and I'm enjoying every minute of my time here.

Until next time...take care of each other.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009


It's almost Halloween and though we have decorated the clubhouse for the holiday and will have a big potluck dinner that night, there will be no little kiddies knocking on our doors wanting treats. Except for Spring Break and summer, this is truly an adult park and the gate is closed at 5 p.m.

I have been working my 40+ hours and still love my job. Calling Bingo is a hoot and I cannot believe how people really care about winning a $7 pot! This Friday is my last night in charge of "Movie Night." We're showing The Proposal which will be much funnier than last week's Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The 'snowbird' who has been in charge of this activity in the past returns November 1st and will take over.

Sunday Lorrie (GM's wife) and I drove to Destin, a hour away, for a fabulous arts & craft show which was held right on the beach. Beautiful day and wonderful, high-end art. We stopped for lunch and more shopping on the return - a perfect day and I forgot to take my camera! Sorry.

Friday I have a friend coming in to visit from KS. Good friends from WI will swing through for a day mid-month and then return for Thanksgiving and just heard that folks I met in Cody will be here for 4 nights the first week in December. I asked to work only my 'required site hours (24)' during the month of November so I can play!

There is a medium-sized probability that I will be back in Wilmington the first of the year. My renters, both of whom work in the home building business, are waiting to see if they get a big contract they bid on the end of November. If they don't, they will vacate the first of January. My property manager says the chance of finding another renter is going to be really hard, as everyone who would be trying to sell their house can't, and are renting instead. The market is glutted.

So I have the following options....Go back, get my furniture out of storage, give some to Son #2 who by then will be living in his very own home; leave some in the house and try and rent it again, partially furnished; or stage it and try to sell; or just move back to Wilmington for awhile. I would really hate to give up my RVing and traveling around the country. It has been so much fun. I've seen more of this beautiful country than I've ever seen and met some really wonderful people. Will just have to wait and see what happens.

Until next time....take care of each other!


Friday, October 16, 2009

Phew - I forgot how hard work is!

I've been here a month today - which doesn't seem possible - and still have yet to really go sightseeing. I'm also trying to remember that I'm retired and enjoying my free time while working a 40+ hour-a-week job. But I love it and the people here.

I've gotten involved with and now represent Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort as their 'face' at the local Chamber. I still over see the activities and in charge of a couple, including 'calling' Bingo! every Wednesday night. And on Sunday I'm cooking 'northern-style' brats in beer for the resort's Octoberfest celebration.

I finally got to see a sunset at the beach last night while listening to the fantastic Johnny Rawles play & sing great blues, Mississippi-style, at Pineapple Willy's Pier Bar & Grill.

My fellow work/campers are the nicest folks and come from all over the US. It's only the guys that are working as the resort is doing some major building projects this winter and advertised for carpenters, electricians and maintenance. I'm the only female they hired! Of course, can't make everyone happy and the heat and the oppressive humidity have gotten to a few and they decided not to stay.

But today it's perfect! We had heavy rains come through last night and this morning and as they departed so did the humidity and the heat. Right now the sky is a beautiful blue with big, puffy white clouds and the sun is shinning brightly with the temp hovering at around 77 degrees. It's even forecasted to get down to 49 on Saturday night. Brrr. Decided to buy a heated mattress pad to not have to run my furnace, which runs off propane, during the colder nights.

Only a couple of new photos to post, but thought you who are experiencing early snow and cold rains would really love to see what a typical day at the beach is like here!

Well, that's all my news for now. Until next time....take care of each other.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Meet My Neighbors

Thunder on the Beach (better known as Fall Bike Week) has come to an end. The majority of RV's towing multiple motorcycles, have pulled out of Emerald Coast this morning - phew! Quite time once again. But I must admit I was amazed at the beautiful bikes (the bikers washed and shined them every single day!) and the RV's were absolutely fabulous. Had to take a few pixs - especially the 3-wheelers! This particular rig, is a custom-painted huge pusher which had a matching toy hauler which was filled not only with 4 bikes, but a custom golf cart to drive around the park - just mouth-dropping. (A beautiful woman just drove by on her hot pink and white polka-dotted Harley - guess not everyone has gone yet.)

This weekend was also $1 day at Zooland, which houses all types of animals which have been injured or abused and can't be released back into the wild. Winnie borders a very high wood fence which separates Emerald Coast RV from this property. I and fellow work/camper Nancy I took advantage of the low entry fee (us and 100's of parents and children!) Of course I took my camera so I could document what's behind my fence. Really glad now for the height of that fence as I found that the very loud and scary growl I hear now and then is coming from the black leopard which is directly behind me. The black bear cage is next to it. The peacocks and macaws are all over and 'talk' loudly whenever they feel like it. And as you can see, quite a few others add their 'voices' to my neighborhood. Sidney, the very friendly giraffe, thank goodness, lives up on the front end of the zoo - far away from me. Sidney is a sweetie but when he urinates, which he does often, the smell overwhelms every other smell in the zoo!

We are expecting 20+ work/campers to arrive this week. Mostly it will be the male 1/2 of a couple who is working, as we advertised for licensed carpenters. They will be involved with constructing a new shower/laundry at the far end of the park (we'll then have 3), new fencing, huge landscaping projects around the lake, new RV sites also around the lake, and adding an addition to the clubhouse. Busy, busy! The owner flies in from California on Saturday which has everyone on edge. All I want is some of his $$ to enlarge the marketing program and buy highway signage for the park! The GM and his wife are hosting a party so he can meet all the work/campers, which should be fun. And now with the last, big, seasonal event over and traffic slowing down, I plan to go exploring and actually get to the beach this week!

Until next time....take care of each other.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Life's a Beach.....

...though I've been so busy working I haven't gotten there yet!

But this places is absolutely beautiful and the folks I'm working with are really, really nice. Right now, through the end of October, I'm working a 40-hour week just so I can get up-to-speed and thoroughly involved with all aspects of Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort.

I've already attended a Chamber of Commerce meeting, designed a new print ad, sent out an email-blast to previous guests and helped planned the October Activities calendar. I'll be calling Bingo on Wednesday night, leading the Tuesday and Thursday morning Fitness Walk and volunteered to cook the brats 'Wisconsin-style' for OctoberFest. The owner arrives next Saturday, but this week is wild! It's Thunder at the Beach - the Fall motorcycle rally and we're packed! Rumm...rummm. I am amazed at the size of the RV's the are coming in towing huge 'toy hauler's' that contain 2-4 bikes each! The amount of $$$ is amazing. Winnie sure looks little sitting in the midst of these Big-Rigs.

I thought I would make you all jealous with a photo I took sitting at my desk. What makes me jealous is when the pool is filled with our guests and I'm sitting behind a computer!

Like I said, I have yet to get to the beach - which is less than a mile away. And this week, with all the bikers, is not a time to even leave the resort. I've found WalMart, Pier Park (shopping and dining), the closest Publix grocery store, a branch of my bank and a good fresh, seafood store. For now, that's enough. Next week I'll venture forth and explore more. Oh - did 'cross the bridge' into Panama City proper and found TJ Maxx and the big mall. Just drove by - didn't stop!

I'm looking forward to my youngest coming for the Thanksgiving holiday. My friends Don & Carrie, who winter in Ft. Myers, will be here as well, along with Big John from KS. It will be so much fun to have family and good friends with me for a holiday. AND I booked my flights to Sacramento for Christmas with Tobin and Courtney in their new home. All-in-all, it's a great day! Hope you're enjoying yours as well.

Until next time....take care of each other!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kansas is Flat - really Flat! And Missouri is very Hilly!

I drove for 2 days to get to Lawrence, KS, which is located between Topeka and Kansas City, for a visit with my new friend John. Wheat, corn, and thousands of cows! Not the most exciting or eye-catching drive! But had a blast touring the area and taking pictures of Jayhawks everywhere! I even have one on the back of Winnie now. Met lots of wonderful new people, John's circle of friends were so welcoming and friendly. Had a great reunion lunch with old friends John and Joan Levin. I've know them for over 30 years and it was so fun catching up.

After 3 days in Lawrence, we packed up Winnie and John, I and 6 other couples headed off to Branson, MO - home of old, should-be-retired, once popular performers, of whom most have their own theater's named after themselves. But they have some great golf courses! We had 2 full days of hitting the little white ball around the courses, playing some fun games, and making new friends. We even went to the Andy William's Moon River Theater to see Paul Revere and the Raiders (Paul is 72!) and Bill Medley (of the Righteous Brother fame). It was an evening filled with songs I knew every word to - 50"s & 60"s rock & roll - it was like reliving my youth. A great evening, but sure was funny seeing old men, dressed in tight pants and wiggling their bottoms and try to stop giggling.

On Sunday morning I packed up and headed on the last leg eastward that will take me to my 'winter home.' Two very long days of driving through 4 states one day and 3 the next, though horrid thunderstorms that exploded the minute you drove into a massive road construction site in downtown 'big city' USA! Not pleasant and driving 10 hours a day is never fun.

But late Monday night, in pouring rain and pitch black, I made it to the Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort in Panama City Beach, FL. What a SPECTACULAR place. I woke up to the sun shinning and palm trees outside my window. What a big change from the high desert landscape of Wyoming and Utah. I'm a 1/2 mile from the beach, the folks who run the resort are fabulous and I started my new job as Director of Public Relations today. Unfortunately it's been raining every day and is forecasted to continue doing so till the weekend, so pictures will have to wait.

But I've settled in, unpacked everything, even have the awning open for the first time in 3 months. Tonight the 'park worker-ladies' are coming over for drinks so gotta spiff up Winnie a bit. Pictures coming and will also share with you whom my 'neighbors' are over the back fence.

Until next time....take care of each other.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Madrid, Taos, Santa Fe, Great Hotels & Yucky RV Parks!

Ellen winged her way home on Sunday, 9/6, after a fantastic week of sightseeing. I told her I would never have seen as much without her egging me on to go see this and that! She didn't tell you about seeing the Caldera, driving through snow on the top of the Jemez Mountains, touring the pueblos at Bandalier National Park or stopping at a 1900's hot springs bath house and indulging in 184 degree waters and a massage - heaven.

We left the very deserted Big Sky RV resort in Acoma, NM on Sunday morning, 8/30, and decided we would take The Turquoise Trail (very wiggly Hwy 14) UP to Santa Fe. This road takes you through the old ghost mining towns of Golden & Cerillio, and brings you right downtown Madrid (pronounced Mah-drid). Porta-potties line the street as they have no sewer system, fantastic boutiques and bars abound and this is where the last half of the movie "Wild Hogs" was filmed (John Travolta, Bill Macy, etc.) And it really is a 'bikers' town with great people-watching. Ellen and I spent 5 hours wandering the streets, meeting and even having lunch with one of the local jewelry makers at Mama Leesa's wonderful restaurant, before heading UP further to Santa Fe.

We had done our research and by location and description, we were parking Winnie at Santa Fe's #1 RV Park - Los Campos RV Resort - NOT! Very low-class, lots of long-termers, no WiFi, pool was cinder block and overlooked the highway, even the parking spaces weren't level. Not worth the top dollar we paid to just park Winnie here for 5 nights. But we locked up, unhooked the Jeep, and headed to Taos and what a wonderful place it still is.

We took the 'low road' up, driving along the the Rio Grande River (which gets it's start just above Taos at the NM/CO border). We stopped to watch some rafters float down and just gaze at the beautiful mountains. Drove into downtown Taos and found our hotel, the El Monte Seragdo (check out the picture of the bar!). Marvelous, glorious piece of property. We had cow-hide covered armour doors, a turquoise-nugget covered pillow on the bed that took both hands to lift, a fabulous spa tub and rain-shower, with a balcony overlooking the mountains! I never wanted to leave.

But we did - leave - and wander into the Village to enjoy another fabulous lunch at a well-know local joint and then through the all the galleries and shops lining the winding streets of this very quaint and beautiful little town. Exhausted, martini's in that fab bar seemed in order before heading out for a late dinner at the best pizza joint in town.

The next morning we arose to sun shinning and we were anxious to go explore the surrounding countryside. Since Taos is a huge ski destination, the scenery, even in summer, is massive. We decided to skip a visit to the pueblo as we had seen a bunch already, and instead went to see the bridge that crosses the Rio Grande at the Royal Gorge. This structure, built in 1964, really opened up northern Mexico, as it was the first and only way to cross this very deep, wide schism in the landscape.

After viewing the gorge we drove to a little town north of Taos and toward the ski area called Arroyo Seco. We had been told this was the 'newest, up-and-coming arts community.' And they were right! We ate in the neatest little place who had just been ranked by Bon Appetite as one of the 10 best hand-packed ice cream shops in America! They also do a great breakfast! We then wandered in and out of some great galleries, shops and stores, talking to the locals, learning abou the recent dedication of their 200-year-old church, how they handle the winters, etc. Both Ellen and I were thinking this would be a great place to live!

Next we drove out of Taos in headed DOWN the High Road back to Santa Fe. What a beautiful drive - weaving, winding, through tiny villages (most with galleries or 200-year old churches) clinging to the side of mountains, huge thunder clouds coming in over the mountains - it was spectacular. We arrived back at Winnie and spent the night and the next morning we packed up and 'moved' to The Inn of the Governor's in downtown Santa Fe for 2 nights. FYI, Cody the Cat, is not happy, has not been happy and continues to not be happy with all the extra people, being deserted and being left for days on end. I won't go into detail as to how he is showing his displeasure, but he's almost ready to find himself another home!

Back to Santa Fe - lovely. First time I had been there in 16 years and it was great. We wandered out and had a delicious breakfast at one of the best-known restaurant's - Pasquale's. Then we wandered around town, in and out of museum, churches, etc. (The Bascillica, The Georgia O'Keefe, The Loretto Chapel) and more art galleries than we could count. Then it was time to get 'gussied-up' and head to the Santa Fe Opera to hear Roberta Flack & Shawn Colvin preform. What a stunning venue, perched on the hill overlooking the mountains. Shawn Colvin really was good - and a wonderful guitar player. But Roberta Flack was a hoot! She's 72 (we had to look it up on Wikipedia when we got back to the hotel). At first we thought she was 'flyin' as she was just acting really strange and her hair was all over her face and she really had the most awful outfit on. Her sound system was off, she would wander around the stage 'directing' her band and singers, and then just stop in mid-song and start again because it was 'too fast'. But she can still sing! She sounds exactly like she did during the 70's & 80's and put on an hour and a 1/2 show that was really good.

The next day we visited with Bryan & Artie, a wonderful couple who live in Santa Fe we had met when I was living in Mexico. They gave us a tour of their beautiful home and fantastic Mexican art collection. We had dinner our last night at a tiny, Italian restaurant and then a good night's sleep before Ellen headed to the airport and I started the next leg of my trip - to Kansas!

To be continued - Until then, take care of each other.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Guest Blogger Says....The Adventure Begins

ReAnn is on vacation this week, so I volunteered to be her guest blogger. My name is Ellen, and my qualifications for this honor are that am her good friend and am sitting in Winnie...having spent the last six days with ReAnn exploring central and northeast New Mexico. It's called the "Land of Enchantment" and for good reason. But get ahead of myself...

Our adventure began last Saturday when ReAnn picked me up at the Albuquerque airport in her Jeep, and we immediately drove to Old Town for some exploring and lunch. Great introduction to the area...restored adobe buildings...beautiful jewelry in every Southwest style imaginable...and a tantalizing introduction to the fine art the for which the area is so famous. Then, off we went on the west-bound interstate (where old Route 66 used to be) -- to where ReAnn had parked Winnie the evening before -- for my very first night in an RV. While Re and I have travelled together many times, I wondered if Winnie's close quarters would test our proximity tolerance. But so far, so good. We seem to have learned the dance-of-close quarters.

As you can see in the picture, the RV park was rather barren. No picnic tables...no landscaping...no personality at all, in fact. The place was tucked behind the semi lot behind a small casino just off the busy interstate. Must confess, a tad disappointing after ReAnn's tales of luxury parks with lakes and golf courses. But the view certainly was beautiful. To give you an idea of how generous ReAnn is, I'll share that she gave me her own queen-sized bed for sleeping and moved herself to the pull-out bed in the front. But neither of us slept particularly well that first night. Many late arrivals to the park. Too much ambient light from the truck stop and casino. And, I'm sure, a bit of anticipation of the week's adventures ahead.

But we agreed the park was good for location, at least, since early the next morning we ventured out to visit the ancient Acoma pueblo just to the south. The drive took us through the modern pueblo where most in the Acoma tribe live today. A rather typical rural community with homes of many styles, a modern school, community center, etc. Then, we crossed open desert and headed into some winding mountain roads. I cannot adequately describe the vista that unfolded as we came around the highest curve. Stretching out before us was a deep desert valley tucked between two mountain ranges. All oranges, golds and reds emitting almost an incandescent glow. And there, across the valley, was a high plateau with the pueblo buildings only slightly discernible from the mesa's natural stone. We crossed the valley past other-worldly rock formations jutting from the flat valley floor, and as we approached, the pueblo took more certain form. Amazing. The questions began... How did they build up there? Why did they build up there? And on and on.

From the visitor's center, a mini-coach took us up the mesa's side. Our walking tour of the site was led by a member of the tribe. A gentle man whose love of his ancestral home, his family, his Tewa-speaking neighbors, his religion and the history of his people he wore as a spiritual cloak that virtually glowed like an aura around him. He shared much about the pueblo, including showing us the many sacred kivas -- or places of ceremonies, learning and worship -- throughout the site. This picture shows just one of the kivas with a spectacular ladder providing access to the ceiling entrance. We were told that the ladder's vertical poles symbolically point toward the heavens and the arrow at the top provides protection. To this day, only men of the tribe are allowed in kivas. And while our guide also shared that only men serve on the governing council, he also said that they live in a matriarchal culture where women own all the land and possessions and control much else of the tribe including lineage. Very interesting balance that has served the culture beautifully for hundreds and hundreds of years. In fact, the pueblo has been continually inhabited for at least a thousand years. Those who live there today do so without running water, electricity or indoor plumbing. Their motivations are different. Some elders, because it's the only life they know. Some male tribe members because it is their responsibility to serve a period taking care of the ancient city. As our tour wound down, the guide showed us his family's ceremonial home and invited us back to join them for a huge festival to be held the following Wednesday. Music. Dancing. And tons of food. Very sorry we couldn't make it. I'm quite certain his invitation was genuine.

Sorry, no pictures to share of the valley. On our way down, we were not allowed to take any as you must have a permit to capture images within the pueblo environs, and upon our return -- with permit tag hanging on ReAnn's camera -- its batteries died. I have pictures emblazoned in my head...but none committed digitally to share. You'll just have to visit this spectacular and wondrous place yourself.

As it was our first day together, we had ambitious plans for more adventure so then, headed further afield and west to an area called The Badlands (but, generally, referred to by its Spanish name which escapes me at this late hour). From atop sandstone bluffs -- as far as the eye can see -- simply miles and miles of craggy, volcanic rock. This sea of intimidation lies along the major trade route between the Acoma and Zuni people, so they certainly blazed a trail through the rocky blackness to ensure they could exchange valuables and wares. A rugged land of stunning contrasts. And the light...again, the amazing impact of the sun of this spectacular landscape is not to be believed. Everything stands out in brilliant contrast.

After that, we headed out to one last sight even further west. We had begun to rely on our trusty Frommer's guide on New Mexico and called to see if there were any chance that the specially noted roadside restaurant was -- contrary to published details -- open on Sunday. Yeah! It was. Happily, when we were only a mile from our last site of the day, we stopped for a very late lunch at The Ancient Way Cafe. What fun. Sat on the porch and enjoyed freshly made Chicken Pesto. Chatted with the Native American waitress...and then, the chef. A most interesting fellow. Former potter. But someone who definitely never wanted to work for "the man". At dessert time, we wanted to try their famous Berry Cobbler with Green Chili...but, alas, it was sold out for the day. Just HAD to suffer through the blackberry cobbler with ice cream. Sugar is a great re-energizer. So, off we went with only an hour before the gates closed on our next and final stop for the day.

And what a site it was. The huge, almost white mesa face soaring over 200 feet above the high valley floor has captured the history of dozens of people who passed by...from the ancients who left hieroglyphics to the early Spanish who tried to conquer the native inhabitants...from professional soldiers testing the use of camels to cross to California to simple pioneers making their way west to start new lives. Historic graffiti carved in stone with antler and chisel alike.

While we didn't have time before park closure to take the trail to the mesa top, we certainly enjoyed picturing the ancestors who spent a night or two resting at "Inscription Rock's" base, quenching their thirst at the mesa's cool-water pool and preparing to move on bravely -- though not always with a cause as righteous as they thought. This site is also called El Moro, if you're looking for it on a New Mexico map.

After that, it was a rather long drive home to Winnie (thank you, ReAnn...because I never learned to drive a stick) and preparation to hook up the Jeep, unplug Winnie and head east and north toward the mountain and Santa Fe.

(More later in Part II.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


On Sunday I drove to Cortez, CO, a 2-hour trip, to explore Mesa Verde National Park. First, I love my Park Pass! Once you are 62, for only $10, you can purchase a lifetime pass to all our national parks! What a great thing and I have used my extensively since arriving out West.

Mesa Verde is not only a national park, but a designated World Heritage site. The pueblos were built and lived in by the' ancient ones during 1200 a.d. These peoples occupied these cities built of sandstone and into the overhangs of high cliffs for approximately 200 years before moving on top of the mesas. They built these cities with only the rudest of tools. As you can see from the pictures, their houses and storage builders were several stories high. They are expertly chinked with wattle, bits of rock and the hard woods of the trees that still grow on these high desert plains, and are still strong and sturdy today. Deep kivas (fire pits) were dug deep into the rock, vented and had curved ceilings which protected the occupants when the rains and snows came.

Getting in and out of the pueblos was, and still is, extremely strenuous. Hand and toe holds were carved out of the rock and ladders were built to access the different levels in the pueblos. It is amazing what these ancient ones could accomplish and do. I signed up to take 2 tours, each guided by a park ranger, down into Cliff Palace and Balcony House. These are just 2 of the dozens of pueblos you see tucked into the overhangs ringing the canyon walls. When they described the 30' ladders (bolted to the rocks but offering no 'catch if you fall off' system and the tiny 12' rock tunnels you must scurry through, feet first, I wondered if I could face my fears of heights and closed-in places and actually do it. But how can you not when offered the opportunity to see up close how these people lived?

I was so happy that it was much cooler in Colorado that day. Large clouds kept the sun from beating down and temperatures rising into the 90's, as they do daily in Moab. A nice breeze was blowing and the sun peaked out enough to make it a perfect day to be scampering over rocks and cliffs. So I locked everything in the Jeep, slung my camera over my neck, took a deep breath and said 'I CAN do this' - and did. And I had a blast! I ended up spending 7 hours touring the park, it's museum, enjoying a picnic lunch and finally heading back to Moab as the sun was setting.

The route to Cortez is the same I will take this Friday when I wheels-up and head to Albuquerque to pick up my friend, Ellen at the airport. I got to drive over the rather steep grades that take you out of Moab; through Monticello where they have literally torn up the entire highway all the way through town; see where I will turn south on the infamous Hwy. 666 out of Cortez that will take me through the Navajo nation reservation and drop me onto I-40 in Gallup, NM. It will be an interesting drive in Winnie, towing the Jeep, and in some places very slow-going. This highway is the main trucker route from Phoenix up to I-70 and Salt Lake City, so there are lots of 'passing lanes' for trucks and RV's to move into while climbing, allowing those who drive 'normal vehicles' to get around us.

Sue, the wonderful owner of Moab Rim Campark, asked me again this morning when I was returning next year. It's so nice to be wanted:) I can't promise her anything, as who knows where or what I will be doing next summer? But if you are ever in this part of the country, and even if you don't own an RV, their little cabins and cottages are the perfect place to stay for a night or more while you explore all the fabulous sites in and around this area. And their gracious hospitality cannot be beat! I will miss them.

Now don't get upset and send emails about me not posting as once I get to Albuquerque, I'm 'on vacation' for a week. Promise to take lots of pictures of Santa Fe and Taos but won't have the time or want to upload them while spending time with Ellen exploring! Once I'm back on the road, I'll share all we have seen and what we have done during the next 10 days.

Until then......take care of each other.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Moab - Continued

What a glorious place! Jim and Sue, the owners of the campground, let me take off and 'play' and explore whenever I want. Yesterday Sue invited me to go on her morning walk (think hike!) with her friends and all their dogs - 6 labs. Not only did we hike way back and up into the hills, I ended up with a pair of 'dyed' red rock socks. Now they sell T-shirts, etc. out here that have been colored with the red clay dirt for lots of money. I found you only need wear a new pair of white sock with your hiking boots and you got lovely pair you didn't have to pay a penny for! And no, the color doesn't wash out.

Late yesterday afternoon I drove the highly-recommended Manti-LaSal Loop which winds through the rugged Colorado River canyon, over the rolling Castle Valley flats and then high, high, high up into the LaSal mountains. I just loved the little, 2-lane road with switchbacks that were 90 degree turns, no curves, with over 1000 foot drop-offs and no guard rails! I only met a few other cars the entire 3-hour trip, so I hugged the mountain-side! But the views were worth it!

From kayak-ers frolicking in the river, to unbelievable towering rock formations, to a vista that takes your breath away - pictures can't begin to show you just how beautiful it was. But I think what got me the most was driving through the Manti-LaSal National Forest. Located high, high up on top of the mountain range, covered with pinion pines, it is the site of a recent major fire. And there, growing tall and straight amongst the blackened branches of the dead trees was one, lone sunflower. Many people have and can say it much better than me, but to find beauty in the midst of devastation, new life starting where the old had been destroyed - well, it makes you stop and think.

Until next time.....take care of each other.