December 31, 2012

2012- The Year in Review

This year we have a lot to be thankful for. This year we finally realized a dream that had been in the making for over 5 years. That dream never had a clear and concise picture to it, but the main elements were freedom and adventure. I can honestly say this has been the most memorable year of my life and I am really happy that I got to spend it with my best friend. Over the twelve months we have made leaps on our understanding of each other, ourselves and the world. I feel that I have grown as a person. We have wondered if we will look back on this year years from now and say "remember that amazing year?". I actually kind of hope we don't. I hope next year will be just as exciting and that we will continue our adventures with the same sense of freedom and excitement as we have this year.

December 27, 2012

How We Spent Our Christmas

This year we added a new tradition to how we celebrate Christmas. For years my dad had dreamed about building a lake house on Beaver Lake and at the beginning of 2012 he finally found the perfect piece of land. Just as we set off on our adventures in February of this year, my family broke ground on their new home. After nine months of careful construction, the dacha (how we say weekend home in Russian) was complete. This year we ate Christmas dinner with this view:

December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

We have so much to be thankful this year! Soon I'm going to sit down and recount all the amazing adventures we've had the chance to explore this year. We have been truly lucky to have had the opportunity and each other.

This Christmas we received many wonderful presents, but there is one in particular that I am most excited about:

December 19, 2012

Born To Run

Over the last couple of years I've been told numerous times that I should read "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. For whatever reason I imagined it to be a boring and dry book about proper running posture and training techniques, and refused to give it a try. So recently, on my trip the to library, I was perusing the non-fiction section and accidentally came across the book. I figured I had the time, so why not finally give it a try, so I added it to my check-out basket. On my way home I stopped by a cafe and cozied up in the corner with a cup of coffee. I was immediately captivated by McDougall's writing style, and only when I looked up from the book to refill my coffee, did I realise that I had been completely zoned out of my environment for the last two hours.

December 15, 2012

Hiking at Lincoln Lake

There are many gorgeous places to hike around Northwest Arkansas. With the Ozark Mountains in our backyard and the Boston and Ouachita Mountains just down the road, we Fayettevillians have plenty to choose from in terms of places to roam for the day. One of the lesser known gems in the area is the set of hiking trails around Lincoln Lake, which can be found on the outskirts of the little town of Lincoln, just west of Fayetteville. One can get there from Fayetteville in under an hour. There are two single track trails there that go around the perimeter of the lake, through pretty forest. Hiking and mountain biking are both allowed, and I have also heard there is great bouldering to be found just off the paths.

December 13, 2012

Home Cooked Goodness!

Sky took advantage of having access to a fully stocked kitchen the other night to make us an awesome meal. We'd bought fresh brussel sprouts earlier in the week and he was excited about cooking with them for the first time. He sauteed them in a red wine, golden raisin and purple onion concoction, and then sprinkled the finished product with crispy bacon. He also cooked up quinoa and baked a filet of salmon. He kept the salmon simple by just squeezing some lemon juice and sprinkling dried dill on top. We served the meal with a fresh bottle of red wine and it was super yummy!

December 11, 2012

Biking Around

This week I picked the coldest day yet to bike to the local library. The average temperature hovered around 30 degrees all day. I wore a face mask to protect my face from the wind and probably looked like a goofball biking around downtown, but at least my cheeks were spared! The bike ride wasn't long, just 9 miles from my parents house, but by the time I arrived there my toes and fingers were nearly frozen solid.

December 08, 2012

Cool Runnings

The other day I met a fellow running buddy at Lake Fayetteville for an early morning trail run around the lake. She had somehow coerced me to meet her there at 7:30 in the morning. After waking up and drinking my cup of coffee though, I felt great! I remembered this great feeling of accomplishment that I used to get from early morning runs. Running 6 miles in the morning, before anyone is out of bed (well, we did used to run at 5:30 in the morning, it was more applicable then), is one of joys I get to myself from running. I wasn't even sure I'd be able to do the full lap around the lake, as most recently running 3.5 miles on the treadmill had all but killed me, but it went beautifully.

December 05, 2012

Swimming

We picked up a month long membership at the local athletic club while we're home for the holidays. The club is less than a mile from my parents house and offers something we've been dying to try- Hot Yoga classes. It also has a 25 yard, 6 lane swimming pool. I barely got to swim while we were on the road this year, so I was really looking forward to finally getting some laps in. Yesterday afternoon, after working on Christmas presents in the morning, I went to the club after lunch and had an amazing swim. I had the pool all to myself. It was EPIC.

December 02, 2012

The Comforts Of Home

Now that we're home, I'm finding all kinds of things I didn't even know I missed when we were living in the travel trailer (aside from the three I already knew I missed). The fact that I didn't miss them is probably a good thing, it made for a more content life on the road, but it sure is nice having these things accessible now. Here are some of the things that bring random happiness to my life right this moment:

November 30, 2012

Here's The Plan, Stan

After many, many long conversations we've finally come to some kind of a decision about how we will proceed from here. Without further ado, here it is:

- We have decided that ultimately we want to live in Portland, Oregon next.

November 24, 2012

Quick Fun Facts

While traveling the last 9 months, we've kept track of all of our spending. Down to the penny. (I'm a sucker for numbers, what can I say?) Each time we spent money, we recorded how much we spent, when we spent it, where we spent it, and what type of expense it was (restaurant, RV parking, pet care, etc). This was useful in terms of comparing how we were doing against budget and also just fun to look back on, in retrospect. WE SPENT HOW MUCH ON GAS????

And Then We Were Home

Monday morning we packed up our truck and trailer in Memphis and set sail for our hometown, Fayetteville, Arkansas. We'd driven this 320 mile stretch many, many times before from when we'd lived in Memphis and went to visit home. Sky could have probably driven it blind by now. We drove by downtown Memphis, crossed the bridge over the Mississippi River, and then traversed all the way across the state of Arkansas on Interstate 40. Forty five miles further north from there, on Interstate 540, and we were home. WHAT???

November 20, 2012

Memphis, TN- Almost Home

After Nashville we only had one more stop before going home for the holidays, and it was Memphis. We had lived in Memphis for 3.5 years, and had last been there when we moved back to Fayetteville over 2 years ago. Having lived in Memphis for so long we knew what we would find there, but were interested to see it from a visitor’s perspective. I wondered if Memphis would seem different to us now that we’d seen so many other cities around the US and had something to compare it to.

November 18, 2012

Nashville, TN- The Music City

Thursday we drove from Knoxville to Nashville in just under four hours. It was just getting dark as we were pulling in and Nashville was lit up by a gorgeous sunset. Just off the highway we found gas for under $3/gl, which is the cheapest we've been able to find on this whole trip! We booked a KOA campground on the northeast side of town, right by the Grand Ole Opry, and after settling in we decided to take it easy and start our city exploring on Friday morning.

November 16, 2012

Knoxville, TN

Tennessee was our 33rd state on this trip and the last state we visited before coming back to Arkansas. After visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park we got back on interstate 40 and drove into Knoxville for an evening. Since we had promised back home that we’d be back by Thanksgiving, we had a somewhat tight schedule to work with and after allotting our other destinations (Nashville and Memphis) their days, we only had one night left over for Knoxville.  It was good to be back in Tennessee, we were excited to be back in the South!

November 15, 2012

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. What’s funny is that we had lived in Memphis Tennessee for over three years and not once had ventured any further east than Nashville. We’d always heard great things about the Smokies and had the desire to go see them. But, like always, when you live close to something you always put off seeing it. I guess better late than never; we are glad we finally took the time to visit the park on this trip.

November 13, 2012

Asheville, NC via the Blue Ridge Pkwy

Saturday morning we joined the Blue Ridge Parkway just before the border with North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile long two lane stretch of scenic highway that runs along the Blue Ridge Mountains, a major chain of the Appalachian Mountains. The north end of the highway actually picks up where the Skyline Drive drops off. The road ends when it runs into the Smoky Mountains National Park, just west of Asheville. We’d done some reading on the Blue Ridge Pkwy and found out that the most scenic portion was right after crossing the North Carolina border, heading south. Since this road is narrow and quite hilly, we decided to skip the first 200 or so miles of it and jump on for the prettiest parts.

November 12, 2012

Boondocking: Wal-Mart vs. National Forest

On our way between Shenandoah National Park and Asheville we planned to drive a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We decided to stop just on the North Carolina border for the evening and then drive onto the Parkway in the morning from there. Our first thought had been to stay at an RV Park, but then we remembered that a long time ago (before the crazy days of New England) we had gotten away with free parking for the night by boondocking on backcountry forest roads and in Wal-Mart parking lots.

November 11, 2012

The Difference Between Sky and I

While hiking in the Shenandoah Valley the other day Sky and I had a funny moment. We were on the return portion of our out and back hike out to the waterfall overlook. At some point I realized that we hadn't spoken a word out loud in over twenty minutes. I had been thinking about our future plans, making mental to-do lists in my head. I had also been going over potential job interview questions, in the case that we decide to pursue jobs when we get back home. I was trying to remember the work vernacular, the jargon that I’d thrown around the last few years of my corporate career. Words like go-live date, supply chain optimization, forecast accuracy, and supply network planning were busy flying around in my head.

November 10, 2012

Shenandoah National Park

After all the cities we’d been to over the last month, getting back out into nature was a very welcome reprieve. Wednesday morning, after the elections, we packed up and went west of Washington DC to the entrance of Shenandoah National Park. The park is home to the famous 100 mile stretch of scenic byway called the Skyline Drive, and we had plans to drive that road from beginning to end.

November 08, 2012

Washington DC

We spent an awesome 6 days in Washington DC. While in the city we got to visit with three friends from back home (all three have made DC their new home), visit the nation’s Capital and the National Mall, and got the chance to meet back up with a new friend we’d made earlier on this trip. After Philadelphia we had originally planned to visit Baltimore for a couple of days and then make our way to DC just in time for our birthday. Then the apocalyptic storm of the century Sandy rolled in and we decided to scrap Baltimore and move further inland to wait it out. We drove to State College, in the middle of Pennsylvania, and spent three uneventful nights there. When the coast was clear (pun intended!), we drove directly into DC, having decided to save Baltimore for another time.

November 04, 2012

Life Choices

So here we are, in the home stretch, with just under three weeks until we're back home in Fayetteville, AR. We made the decision to be home for Thanksgiving several weeks ago, towards the end of our month long stay in Massachusetts. The decision to come home, instead of continuing to explore the East Coast, was mainly driven by impending winter and colder weather. With winter creeping in it has been hard to stay motivated about traveling and exploring. And while the East Coast has been entertaining and seeing our friends has been very rewarding, the constant city life experience has been taxing.

November 01, 2012

Our Birthday

Tuesday was Skyler and I's birthday. Yes, we share a birthday! Even though this was our 11th birthday to share with each other, the fact that its on exactly the same day delights me to no end. I grew up a single child, my parent's didn't have my sister until I was 18 and off to college. I grew up wondering what it would be like to share with someone else. Being a single child ensured that I very rarely had to share anything, and in the funny way that people with curly hair want straight hair and people with straight hair want curly hair, I wanted the opportunity to share.

October 29, 2012

Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday afternoon it was time for us to return the rental car. We had had the Fiat for almost a month, and it was a bit sad letting it go. We had kept a mileage total going for the duration of our rental, and when we dropped it off we had driven just under 2,550 miles. Also, according to the car log, we had gotten an average of 35.3 miles to the gallon. This, compared to the measly 13 miles to the gallon that the truck gets (when not towing, towing its closer to 10), was a huge improvement. If I just do the simple math of the better gas mileage, factoring an average price of gas in New England at being $4/gl, the savings in just gas comes to $495. So, this plus the added benefit of no extra wear and tear on the truck, we pretty much came out even after taking into account the actual cost of the rental car. (I’m pretty sure all the finance nerds are still with me here…and everyone else has dropped off from boredom…but I LOVE math, so sorries!) Driving the Fiat and parking it was a heck of a lot more enjoyable than driving and parking the truck, so either way, it was totally worth it.

October 27, 2012

New York City

On the last day of visiting Lindsay in Stamford, Skyler and I took the train back into New York City, this time to explore by ourselves. We had been to the city before several times so we didn't have a specific itinerary of must-see things. Instead we chose to just wonder around and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city streets. We walked from Grand Central station to Times Square, through the Fashion District, to Chelsea. We’d recently watched a documentary on Netflix about urbanization and one of the projects included in the video was the High Line park installation. Since we were in the city and were nearby, we decided to visit the new addition.

October 25, 2012

Visit With Friends in Stamford, CT

Remember Lindsay, who flew out to Seattle to go to British Columbia with us? Well, Ms. Lindsay permanently resides on the East Coast, just outside of New York City in the fine state of Connecticut. We had a week left on our rental car, and we were only 3 hours away, so we decided to drive down and visit Lindsay at her place in Stamford. Lindsay had recently moved to Stamford from Norwalk, and now had a brand new roommate that we were excited to meet. Kailee, the roommate, had also invited a friend of hers to town, and we had a sizable group for the night.

October 24, 2012

Boston, MA

Boston is one of our favorite cities in the United States. I first visited Boston with my parents, while on a college touring trip. The way my mother tells the story (which is most likely the true version...knowing teenagers) is that they showed me all the city had to offer, took me to the museums,  and the historic place markers  and all I wanted to do was go shopping at the Ann Taylor store. (What? we didn't have one back then in our little city in Arkansas...). I just remember walking away from the experience with a memory of how cool the city was. Its possible the newly purchased Ann Taylor dress had something to do with it, but even so, I remembered Boston being somewhere I'd want to visit again. Fast forward several years (of maturation) and I returned to the city,this time with Sky by my side. We've been back twice since, once on a trip two years ago, and then again on this trip. I'm pretty sure Boston is one of those cities that we will never grow tired of.

October 22, 2012

8 Month Tripaversary

Today is our 8 month anniversary of setting off on this Great American Road Trip of ours. It's hard to put into words how I feel about that number. In one sense it's as if we just left yesterday. In another sense it seems like We've Been Everywhere (Man!) and its about time to settle back down. All at the same time we find ourselves craving the stability and comforts of living in one place (a gym membership, running groups, a bath tub!) and then again we aren't necessarily ready to settle down in just one place.

October 18, 2012

Newport, RI

On the last day of Pattie’s visit we decided to go out for a nice seafood dinner. We had had already visited Boston, Plymouth, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, so we were brainstorming for a new place to go to explore. My friend Lindsay had suggested we give Newport, Rhode Island a try, and we figured why not? We made the hour long drive just after three and arrived in Newport a couple of hours before dark.

October 17, 2012

Martha's Vineyard

During Pattie’s visit we also visited Martha’s Vineyard. To reach the island we had to take an hour long ferry. Monday, when we made the voyage from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven (one of the six towns on the island), the ocean was really choppy and the ferry rocked back and forth on the waves. On the way out there I entertained myself by watching for lighthouses off of the back deck. We spotted the Nobska lighthouse, the West Chop and the East Chop lighthouses, as well as several fishing boats.

October 14, 2012

Cape Cod

When Pattie came to visit us, one of her biggest wishes was to visit the National Seashore on Cape Cod. The National Seashore is a coastal area that is designated by the federal government as being of natural or recreational significance as a preserved area. In other words, it’s a long stretch of pristine beach where you can walk for miles and never see any commercial or residential developments. There are currently ten protected areas known as National Seashores in the US. The Cape Cod National Seashore was established by JFK in 1961 and it encompasses 43,500 acres of land and has nearly 40 miles of beach.

October 11, 2012

Plymouth, MA

Skyler’s mom flew in from Fayetteville (our hometown) on Tuesday night. Her flight was due into Boston’s Logan Airport at 10:30 pm, but because of delays the flight didn't actually get in until just after midnight. Needless to say, all three of us were pretty pooped that night and slept in well into the morning on Wednesday. After a slow breakfast and a long walk with the pups around the beautiful RV park grounds we decided to make the 15 mile drive to Plymouth for the afternoon. On our way out there we drove by a few local cranberry bogs in hopes of showing Pattie the wet harvest.

October 08, 2012

Recipes From The Road- Cranberry turnovers

A few Thanksgivings ago Sky and I made too much cranberry sauce and had left overs sitting in our fridge well after the holiday. We had no idea what to do with it and we were tired of eating it with our left over mashed potatoes. Then we had an idea! What if we bought crescent rolls dough, smeared cranberry sauce in the middle of each roll, roll them up and bake them to make tiny cranberry turnovers? So we did, and it made for an awesome dessert!

October 07, 2012

Cranberry Harvest Festival

Saturday we were back to our "home" in Massachusetts, following our 6 day, 1000 mile journey through New England, and all we wanted was to stay home and relax. We were completely wiped out and really tired of being cooped up in our coupe. (ha!) BUT, we came home just in time for the Cranberry Harvest Festival and I really wanted to see a wet cranberry harvest in person.

October 06, 2012

A Fall Trip through New England: Part 2

One fact we quickly learned while driving around New England is that most highways here don’t have their exit numbers tied to mile markers. What is that about? Every other part of the US we've visited so far has followed this golden rule, why not here? In case you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about: most highways in the US tie their exit numbers to miles traveled on that highway, so for example, if you entered the highway just past exit 20, and went 40 miles, you’re going to be looking to get off on exit 60. This makes so much sense! Here we get on the highway around exit 10, and our directions say to get off on exit 14, and we go 50 miles in between. What happens when they need to add a new exit in between 10 and 11? Is that how we get 10a, 10b and 10c? Yuck!

October 03, 2012

A Fall Trip through New England: Part 1

Sunday early morning we woke up to the sound of rain. Although this put a damper in our plans, we were so excited about setting off to see fall in New England that we didn't let the rain get us down. We ate a quick warm breakfast of oatmeal and coffee and then started packing our stuff. We had a 1,000 mile trip planned for a loop through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, and we had set aside 6 days and 5 nights to do it in.

September 30, 2012

Water Fire in Providence, RI

Saturday morning we took a short 45 minute drive to Providence, the capitol of Rhode Island. Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States. It is only 48 miles tall and 37 miles long, with a total area of 1,214 square miles (just for comparison purposes, Arkansas is 53, 179 sq. miles!). And this TINY state was the 24th state for us to visit on this trip.

September 28, 2012

Hello New England!

We've made it to New England! It seems like we were just on the West Coast, and here we are in Massachusetts. Crazy.

The state line sign in Massachusetts on Interstate 90
Hello, home!

September 24, 2012

A Family Visit in Rochester, NY

Our last stop before arriving in New England was in Rochester, New York. Rochester was just an hour and a half hour drive from the Niagara Falls, so we were able to arrive just in time for dinner that Friday afternoon. The reason we chose to make a stop in Rochester, aside from the fact that its the third largest city in New York (after NYC and Buffalo), was because Skyler's aunt and uncle live there, and we wanted to visit them. The last time Sky had met up with them was on a skiing trip before he and I started dating, so I was excited about meeting them for the first time.

September 22, 2012

Niagara Falls, NY

After Detroit we were headed for the Niagara Falls. We had two options on how to get there: through Canada or by going south of Lake Erie on the American side. Since we still had the issue of having too much liquor on hand to cross the border (as well as our pneumatic pellet gun), we decided not to risk it and went the American route. We crossed into Ohio, our 20th state on this trip, under pouring rain.

September 20, 2012

Detroit and Ann Arbor

After a relaxing few days on the Lake Michigan shoreline, we drove inland, crossed the state of Michigan and found an RV park in the Ann Arbor outskirts. We were 40 minutes outside of Detroit and that was just fine with us.

The first night we drove into Ann Arbor to visit the University of Michigan campus and to walk the city itself. Ann Arbor did not disappoint. The town of just over 110,000 people was large enough to feel metropolitan, yet small enough to feel quaint. Ann Arbor had a feeling of old wealth to it, which was not surprising after the upscale communities we'd discovered on the western side of the state.The UM campus was bustling with student life when we walked through on the Diag, a diagonal sidewalk that crosses the campus. Ann Arbor itself was surprisingly busy for a Tuesday afternoon, and we saw lots of folks enjoying after work cocktails on outdoor patios on Main street.

September 18, 2012

Southern Michigan Shore

We had not heard much about the state of Michigan, and went into it with the thought that we’d drive through quickly, poke into Detroit and then be on our merry way. We wrongfully let our expectations for the state be driven by what we’d heard about Detroit. We went in expecting to see the state polluted with industry, along the lines of what we’d seen on the Indiana shore. What we actually found in Michigan was something very akin to what we’d found on the East Coast in previous trips. We found clean beaches and lighthouses reminiscent of the ones we’d seen in New England, and a long string of upscale lakeside communities that could easily rival Cape Cod.

September 17, 2012

Chicagoland

We opted to take public transportation into Chicago from Portage Indiana. This way we'd save ourselves the hassle of looking for parking in downtown. After calculating the cost of driving the truck the 40 miles one way, plus toll fees, plus parking fees, the $7.50 one way ticket on the train didn't sound so bad. The South Shore Line ran a pretty good schedule, with trains departing the Portage station almost every hour. We caught the 9:08 train in the morning, and after the hour and 20 minute commute, we were dropped off right in the middle of downtown at Millennium Station.

September 16, 2012

Indiana Dunes Nat'l Lakeshore

Our next destination was Portage, Indiana. Why Portage, you ask? Oh, because that’s the only place where we could find an RV park close enough to Chicago. There were several other options equally far from the city, but we picked Portage because it had easy access to the city via train, and because it was near the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. We drove 132 miles from Milwaukee to Portage, and managed to pay $26.20 in toll fees, $13.75 of which was paid for crossing one measly bridge. We also added two new states to our state count for this trip: Illinois and Indiana, states 17 and 18.

Favorite Photographs- New Page

Today (September 16, 2012) we have been on the road 207 days. My digital camera numbers every single picture I take and as of February 22, 2012 (the day we left) I have taken 6,329 pictures. Wow!

I enjoy photography for many reasons. One of them is to document the amazing places and things I have seen. The other is to hopefully share the photograph with someone in hopes of inspiring them to do something exciting, like visit the place in the picture or take a cool photograph themselves. It also makes me happy to think that a photograph of mine could inspire an emotion in someone. Maybe put a smile on their face.

September 11, 2012

Planning Our Trip East

Our last day in Minneapolis we sat down to plan our visit to New England. We had decided that after Chicago we would head all the way east to Maine and then drive down the coast hopefully chasing the fall leaf colors. Since New England is so heavily packed with big cities, most of which we want to visit, we decided that we would probably have to give up our cheap/free living and opt for mostly staying at RV parks. We hoped that paying the extra price would give us A) piece of mind that the dogs are OK while we're gone for extended amounts of time and B) closer location to the cities so that we could spend less time driving around and more time exploring.

September 10, 2012

Milwaukee, WI

There is only one RV park within the city limits of Milwaukee...that's right, only one. This park is located on the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds, and is pretty much a large parking lot with a little bit of grass. It's redeeming features included the fact that its only 6 miles from downtown and that a major bike path, the Hank Aaron Bike Trail, runs right through it on its way to downtown.

September 08, 2012

Madison, The Capitol Of The Cheese State

After Minneapolis we crossed into our 16th state, Wisconsin. We had planned to spend one night in Madison, the state capitol, but were so pleasantly surprised by the city that we ended up staying three nights. Madison is one of only two cities in North America that is located on an isthmus (the other is Seattle). Do you know what an isthmus is? I didn't either, so here goes: an isthmus is a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas, usually with water on either side. The city of Madison is banked on one side with Lake Monona and Lake Mendota on the other.

September 05, 2012

Minneapolis, MN

We spent Labor Day weekend in the city of Minneapolis. Minnesota was our 15th state to visit on this trip, and I’m happy to say that the scenery did indeed improve as soon as we crossed the border from South Dakota. We took the scenic back country road way into Minneapolis instead of the interstate and in doing so I think we caught the cuter side of the side. We passed some really picturesque farmlands with vibrant red barns. About 100 miles outside of the city the roadside views turned from farmlands to forest, and if I didn't know better, I would have said we were driving through Arkansas.

August 31, 2012

Good Times at the Badlands and Driving Through South Dakota

After Rapid City we began our long slog across the state of South Dakota. South Dakota turned to be exactly as boring as I had expected it to be, if not more so. Granted, we crossed the state on interstate 90, and did not take too many side country roads, so I can’t guarantee that the whole state is not one huge corn field, but it sure seemed that way. The excessively hot temperatures outside did not help make the drive any better either. It was so hot and dry that there were highway signs warning drivers to smoke only inside their cars and to empty all ashes into the ash tray. The chance of grass fire was very high.

August 29, 2012

Mr. Rushmore National Memorial

Sunday we crossed another state line on this trip, we hit state number 14, also known as South Dakota. That night we checked into an RV park just outside of Rapid City. Rapid City would put us close enough to the nearby attractions, and it was decent sized city so we figured we could explore some city along with seeing some nature. After parking the trailer we unhitched and drove into town to see what Rapid City had to offer.

Unfortunate Consequences of Living in Small Spaces

There are, of course, downfalls to living in such small quarters. I figured this poem and picture would give you an idea of what I'm talking about

The unfortunate smelly consequences of living in small spaces

August 28, 2012

The Wild, Wild West in Wyoming

To continue our trek east we headed north from our parking spot on Grassy Lake road, back through Yellowstone Park. When planning our drive we’d looked at the topographical map of the area on Google Maps and decided that if we headed north out of the park and back into Montana to get to I-90, that that would be the flattest way out. But, at the last moment, we rethought our plans and decided to instead venture directly east through Wyoming with hopes that the mountain passes wouldn't be that bad. I’m really glad we made the choice because we saw some really gorgeous parts of Wyoming that we would have missed otherwise.

August 27, 2012

Grand Teton National Park

The camping in Yellowstone Park was $28, which included two showers and dumping use, but did not include any hook-ups. After paying for two nights we were interested in finding a cheaper place to live, if not free. On our way down to the Tetons, we remembered that our friends at the Our Take on Freedom blog had been this way previously, and they had found a great boondocking spot between Yellowstone and the Grand Teton NP. We decided to check it out, and it turned out to be great!

August 26, 2012

Grizzly Encounters And Wild Traffic Jams in Yellowstone NP

If there is one way to describe Yellowstone National Park, it’s that it’s HUGE.  We spent two full days in the park, put in full eight hour days of exploring each day, and drove just over 240 miles. Yes, all of that within the park. We saved ourselves another $25 (car entry cost) by showing up with our Annual National Parks Pass. That awesome pass has paid for itself and then some, with all the national parks and monuments we've already been to this year!

August 25, 2012

Driving under the Big Sky in Montana

After Missoula we returned to our trek across Montana on I-90. While passing through the city of Butte, I happened to look up into the mountains and noticed a glint of white on a ridgeline. When I focused my camera on it, it appeared to be a massive white statue. WTF? Upon further Wikipedia research it turned out to be Our Lady of the Rockies, the second tallest statue in the United States, after the Statue of Liberty. How random and cool is that?

August 24, 2012

6 Months On The Road: Some Thoughts

On Wednesday we hit the six month mark for our travels. Thinking about what a monumental event this was for us, I started thinking about all that we have seen and what we have learned from our experiences so far. Sky and I got to reflecting on what our expectations for this trip had been, and we came up with several examples of where this trip has turned out to be not what we had expected of it. Not necessarily good or bad, just different.  I figured it might be interesting to share some of these thoughts with you in case you were considering going on an adventure like ours, or were just curious to hear about it.

August 19, 2012

Heading East

A while back I'd mentioned that we'd almost gotten to the end of our originally planned itinerary for this trip. When we'd sat down and thought about what we wanted to see on this trip, the West Coast was the main destination, with an end point in Yellowstone Park. Today we are finally headed to Yellowstone Park, and I am happy to say that we have decided to keep traveling afterwards. We have decided to cross the country, visiting multiple national parks along the way and several large cities. Our new destination is Chicago, just 10 hours north of our hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

August 16, 2012

Back In The USA, On To Seattle

Surprisingly we sailed through American customs, no questions asked, again! Looks like the trick is to A)pull an RV over the border, B)go at a busy time where there are lots of other cars in line and C)have Lindsay along for the ride.

On our way into Seattle we stopped on the outskirts and paid a visit to the Red Hook brewery. I'd read that they gave cheap tours, and since I'd recently enjoyed a six pack of their Wit ginger flavored beer, I figured we'd give them a try. The tour was indeed only $1, and included 6 generous samples and a commemorative glass, but I would have to say it was one of the more boring tours I've had in a brewery. Lindsay had noticed the Chateau Saint Michelle vineyards across the road on our way in, so we walked over there and also enjoyed that free tour.

August 12, 2012

Whistler Mountain

On Wednesday we made a day trip outside of Vancouver to visit the home of the 2010 winter Olympics, Whistler Mountain. That morning started off rainy and cloudy and we were afraid that our plans for a hike in the Garibaldi Provincial Park, just outside of Whistler, were ruined.

August 11, 2012

We Went To Canada! Cool, Eh?

So, late Sunday afternoon we decided to check the customs rules for entering Canada. The funny thing was that we were heading into Canada the following day. Come to find out, our BB gun was probably not allowed, neither was our somewhat large stash of liquor we'd been dragging around for the last 10 years (no seriously..I don't know why we don't just throw this stuff away, or just have a party, we could be the cool kids on the block!), and fresh potatoes and certain other fruits and vegetables were questionable. And because we still couldn't bring ourselves to trash the liquor, and didn't want to part with the gun, we decided to ask the nice folks at the RV park to hold it for us, packaged up in a nice box of course. Surprisingly, they agreed. With the perishables we just made a huge pot of mashed taters and stir fried a random mix of the veggies. Phew! One crisis averted.

August 10, 2012

Aberdeen, WA

After driving up the Oregon coast, we crossed the highway 101 bridge from Astoria into Washington, and followed the highway north into Aberdeen.

Driving along the Washington coast

August 09, 2012

Recipes From The Road- Homemade Salsa

When Sky was working in the corporate world, he had a Mexican co-worker who made amazing salsa. She refused to share the recipe until the day we finally announced we were leaving the company, and then she emailed it him. Technically this recipe requires a blender, and we don't have one with us...but because we were staying at a well equipped RV park we had access to great resources and we made use of them.

August 04, 2012

West of Portland: The Oregon Coast Part 2

We finally made it to Seaside and settled in at our Couch Surfing hosts's home. In Seaside we had another great Couch Surfing experience (I know...but I promise I'm not being paid to say all of this...although if Couch Surfing did want to chip in, that would be OK too). When looking for someone to couch surf with, we decided to try out the "display my travel plans to local couch hosts" option. Neal, a very kind host from Seaside, contacted us and let us know that we were welcome at his house.

August 03, 2012

West of Portland: The Oregon Coast Part 1

After spending a month in Portland, we tore ourselves away and drove to the coast. Our first stop was in Tillamook, famous for the Tillamook cheese factory.We found easy street parking for the night, and in the morning decided to bike a portion of the Three Capes Scenic Route. I say a portion because the total ride is over 30 miles long, and very hilly, and after running 8 miles the day before and Sky playing 2 hours of soccer, we only had 23 miles of hills in us (on mountain bikes no less!).

July 31, 2012

What To See and Do in Portland

Portland was such an unexpected treat for us! We had heard very little of Portland before we came here and had almost no expectations. We spent a month here, and now Portland is one of our most favorite cities in the US. I posted here on the numerous reasons why Portland is so cool. In case you decide to check out Portland for yourself, here is where we'd recommend you visit (most of the items are free!). I'm grouping the places by neighborhood, in case you don't have time to visit them all.

July 30, 2012

Oregon Brewer's Festival, Drink Up!

We started the day by biking around Portland on the greenbelt trails, along the river and to Gresham and back. I like to start my tastings at a negative calorie count, that way there is no guilt involved. :o) During our time here in Portland there have been three beer festivals: North American Organic Brewer's Festival, Portland International Beerfest and now the Oregon's Brewer's Festival. We were too cheap to participate in the first two, but when the Brewer's Fest rolled around, we finally figured "why not?".

July 28, 2012

How to Make Friends in New Places

One of the disadvantages of traveling is not being able to bring your friend circle with you. Friday and Saturday nights can be a bit lonely sometimes when its just the two of us walking around a new city. We see big groups of friends walk by and remember what it was like to be the ones part of a big group heading out to dinner and drinks, looking to cause some trouble.

The other Friday we were poking around trying to decide what to do when I remembered seeing a link on the Couch Surfing website that I had meant to check out before. If you're a member, you will find the following links in the banner at the top: Surf, Host, Activities and Groups. I clicked on Activities, typed in Portland, and found a whole selection of events posted by local Couch Surfing members. One of the activities was an open invitation to a birthday party at a pizzeria in Southeast Portland. I RSVP'd yes, and all of a sudden we had plans for the evening!

July 27, 2012

East of Portland, Part 2: A Trip to the Hood

This entry is part 2 of our trip east of Portland (click here for Part 1).

Monday night we drove into the city of Hood River to eat dinner. We drove down to the waterfront park, and as we crested a hill, what seemed like a thousand kites and sails came into our view of the Columbia River. Since Hood River is known as the Windsurfing Capitol of the World, I was not overly surprised at the number of surfers we saw. There were so many people out on the river that I'm not sure how they all didn't crash into each other though. Their boards were going in every which way and direction, at high speeds!

July 26, 2012

East of Portland, Part 1: Columbia River Gorge and the Waterfalls

Monday we left the trailer parked at the RV park, packed up the tent and our pups and headed out to explore east of Portland. We decided to do a three day, two night loop, starting along the Columbia River Gorge, driving along the waterfalls route, an overnight stop in Hood River, then through the Fruit Loop to Mt. Hood, with one more overnight stay on the mountain. I had originally planned to make this one big post, but we saw so many amazing things that it was not possible to squeeze everything into one. I decided on the two part approach, so hence, this is Part 1.

July 20, 2012

Dental Hygiene in the Trailer

Now wait a minute...just 'cause we live in a trailer don't mean we don't brush our teeths. (All said with a heavy drawl). We brush and floss daily. Its almost a necessity since we don't currently have dental insurance. Chloe and Sammy on the other hand, yeah they talk so much trash that they have the smelliest breath around. So we finally decided to do something about it.

A Visit to Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens is an active volcano in Washington state. In 1980 there was a 5.1 magnitude earthquake that caused the largest landslide in recorded history, which caused the eruption. The eruption of Mt. St. Helens is now known as the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the US history. The mountain used to be shaped in the normal triangular fashion, but the landslide and eruption broke the peak, and caused the mountain to cave in on itself, leaving a massive crater site on the north face of the mountain. The landslide that flowed from the mountain also completely changed the landscape of the valley below. It wiped away old growth forests and left behind charred and barren fields and newly formed low points, that later became new ponds and lakes.

July 18, 2012

Down Days in Vancouver, WA

We have been here in Vancouver Washington (just outside of Portland) for just over two weeks now. Living somewhere stationary has been a very nice change, and it has lived up to what we were hoping it would be. Portland being the very cool city that it is has certainly helped, but Vancouver has really turned out to be very nice as well.

July 08, 2012

Why Portland Rocks

On our trip we have come across two cities that we had no expectations for, and but where we came away very pleasantly surprised: Austin and now Portland. Portland has smitten us with its waterfronts, bridges, expansive downtown and multitude of walkable city districts. We have been here just over a week, and have put only a small dent in the long list of things we want to explore in this city.

July 02, 2012

Portland, Our Home For The Next Month

Our home for the next month is not actually in Portland, but across the Columbia River, in Vancouver Washington (our 10th state on this trip!) We figured we would have no problem booking an RV park in Portland proper. A few days before leaving Eugene we started to call around to the numerous RV parks in the area, and found nothing in the near vicinity! Turns out there was a Barber Shop Harmony Society convention going on, and those folks had everything booked solid. 

July 01, 2012

Recipes From The Road- Panini Sandwiches

There are a million ways to make a panini sandwich. If you think about it, a grilled cheese sandwich qualifies as a panini, so really, we've all been making panini sandwiches since we were children. There is nothing new about this recipe, I just really enjoyed making this set of sandwiches the other day, so I thought I would share it with you.

June 30, 2012

New Friends and Fellow Travelers

We recently had the pleasure of being introduced to more fellow travelers. Heading into Portland, I contacted Kim, from So Many Places, on what to see and do there. She and her husband Brian had lived there for the last five years and she had written very positive things about Portland in her blog. I say this all in the past tense because she and Brian recently left Portland, to start their own awesome round-the-world adventure! (Check out their blog to see what they are up to now)

June 29, 2012

Cottage Grove and the Covered Bridges Tour

Before we left the Eugene area, we decided to check out the historic district of Cottage Grove, a little town just south of Eugene, and the area's famous Covered Bridges Tour. Since we were headed that way, we also decided to add on a hike on the Brice Creek Trail, in the Umpqua National Forest.Oregon has turned out to be very dog friendly (as opposed to California, where dogs were not allowed in most parks, state and national), and we brought Chloe and Sammy along for the day.

June 28, 2012

The Olympic Trials in Eugene!

While doing research on what to see and do in Eugene I stumbled on an amazing fact...the 2012 US Olympic Trials were not only going on in Eugene, but they would be going on the same time we'd planned to be in the city! The trials are awesome for so many reasons: a visit to any of the events is all the inspiration I need to get out there and do some exercise myself; the atmosphere among the fans and athletes is super exciting, full of energy; you get to see/possibly meet world class athletes, and share the air with them; and finally, we know one of the competing athletes, Wallace Spearmon, we went to school with him! I even tried to sign up to be a volunteer at the trials, but I think it was too late, and I'm sure five million other folks like me wanted to be there.

June 27, 2012

Fail #4

Here is another Fail we're going to add to our collection. So here is something we found at a Eugene Goodwill store:

Pick your next lottery number and win!
Yes folks...this is The Lucky Number Lottery Machine. Forget randomly picking your next lotto number...buy this and let it give you the next winning number! This is what it says on the packaging:

Did You Know? Oregon Addition

Here are some interesting facts we've discovered about Oregon so far:

- Oregon is one of only two states in the US that offer full service gas stations only. (The other state is New Jersey). What this means is that there are gas station attendants at all the gas stations, and you can't pump your own gas, not even if you wanted to. Tipping the attendant is not required, or even expected. We figured this would translate into higher gas prices, but what we've actually found is that gas is cheaper, much cheaper, than it was in California.

June 21, 2012

Oregon, Our 9th State!

Tuesday morning we packed up, and drove our last portion of highway 101 in California. We turned off on highway 199 at mile marker 794. What a long state California is! An hour later we crossed the border into our ninth state, Oregon!

Welcome to Oregon!

June 20, 2012

Crescent City and the Jedediah Smith Redwoods

We had found street parking in Arcata, right by campus, and it was convenient to walking to downtown for the festival, but unfortunately, it was only good until Monday morning at 6am. Since we're not the best at waking up at such early hours (at least not anymore...), we chose to leave town on Sunday, after we hiked around the awesome city park.

June 17, 2012

A Drive Through the Avenue of the Giants And The Arcata Oyster Fest

We continued up the California coast via highway 1 from Fort Bragg. Chris, our Couch Surfing host, had suggested that we drive down the Avenue of the Giants. The Avenue is a 31 mile long scenic road that used to be the old highway 101. The reason its world famous is that the two lane highway takes you deep in the forest, through redwood groves of giant trees. To get there we took highway 1 until it merged with 101, and then got off on the town of Miranda exit. There are signs for the Avenue closer in, but Chris though that Miranda was where all the true Giants started.

June 16, 2012

Recipes From The Road- Thai Spicy Basil Chicken

This is one of our favorite Thai recipes that we make anytime we get a nice fresh bunch of basil. We'd picked up some basil at the San Rafael farmer's market, a huge bunch of it for 75 cents, so it was time to make the meal! Its not a recipe we came up with, so I will share with you the recipe that is listed on thaifood.about.com 

Ft. Bragg, CA

Tuesday morning we said goodbye to Marin County and headed north on highway 101. We debated on whether to stay inland on 101 or head to the coast, and after doing a bit of research on gocalifornia.about.com we decided to head to the beach via highway 128. Another reason we chose to head to the beach was that the temperature inland was nearing mid-90s, while the coast was at a mellow low 60s. We figured the dogs would appreciate the lower temps.

June 11, 2012

Marin County- A Perfect Blend of California

So we've spent the last week in Marin County, in an RV park in Larkspur. Larkspur is a small town that is on the water, and is known for its Larkspur Landing, where the commuters can catch the ferry to San Francisco.

The Larkspur Landing

June 10, 2012

Crazy San Francisco

You know you're in Northern California when...

when you're asking for directions, and someone tells you to "go past the nude beach, turn right on Front Rd, then make a left on...." WAIT WHAT? "Did you say NEW beach?" "No, I said nude beach, as in N,U,D,E. You know you're in Northern California, are you not from around here?"

Who knew there were nude beaches right in San Fran? Not me. I'm not prude, its just I'm not used to nude beaches being right by civilization. I'm used to nude beaches being off the beaten path, a long hike away, tucked in a pocket or a cove. So that's interesting.

June 09, 2012

A Perfect Day in California

This Friday turned out to be one of those perfect days. Sky woke up early and joined a team of local road bikers for a 40 mile ride from Larkspur (the town we're currently in), to the beach, along highway 1, and then back through the mountains. He woke up at 5 am, excited to ride. He hadn't ridden on his road bike since Fredericksburg, and that was ages ago. While he rode, I slept in.

June 06, 2012

Petaluma and a Small High School Reunion

After dropping off my parents at the airport at 5am on Saturday, we drove into San Fran and spent the morning wondering around Golden Gate Park. The park is over 3 miles long and just under half a mile wide, and is 20% larger than Central Park. According to Wikipedia, this is the third most visited city park in the US, after Chicago's Lincoln Park and New York's Central Park. There are so many things to do in this park, its easy to see why its so popular.

June 04, 2012

Recipes From The Road- Garlic Shrimp w/Spaghetti

One of our favorite dishes to make for a special occasion is shrimp saut√©ed with olive oil and garlic, served over spaghetti. This is a super easy to make meal that takes all of 15 minutes, but tastes super gourmet, especially when served with a chilled bottle of Chardonnay. I’m sure there are lots of ways to make this meal, but the way we like to make it is like this:

You buy a pound of fresh raw shrimp. We have found some very reasonable prices on shrimp here on the West Coast, usually in the 5 dollar range for a pound. Taking into account the super low cost of spaghetti and the almost no cost of garlic and olive oil, this meal ends up costing well under $10 for the both of us.

June 02, 2012

Marin County and San Fran Exploring

Tuesday morning we packed up the family, put the dogs in their cage in the back of the truck, attached the trailer and drove to San Francisco! We had an RV park booked in Novato, about 20 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. There were not many RV park choices around San Fran, it was kind of surprising.

May 31, 2012

My Mom, The Runner!

My mom recently discovered an interest for running. In March, she signed up for a Women Run Arkansas, a free training program with training groups in cities around the state. In this program she trained up from never having ran before to running up to 3 miles. And in May, on Mother’s Day weekend, she ran her very first 5k!

May 30, 2012

My Parents Flew Out to Visit!

My parents flew into Reno on Sunday morning, and we drove to pick them up. Our first stop on the vacation itinerary was a stop at the local Thai restaurant in South Lake Tahoe. Although Sky always whines that I only want to eat Thai food, and poor him, he has to enjoy it with me, my mom is just as big fan of Thai food as me, so we had two solid votes for the cuisine! Dad decided to show off by ordering a dish with a spiciness level of 4.5 out of 5, 5 being Thai Spicy Hot, and cried through most of his meal. :o)

May 26, 2012

Lake Tahoe Under Snow

We were greeted with snow at Lake Tahoe. Who knew it could snow, and be so cold, in late May in California? Well, not us. The snow storm was due to start on Friday, so we decided to drive most of the way on Thursday, stopping for an overnight boondocking spot in the El Dorado National Forest, just outside of the town of Kyburz. It took a few tries to situate ourselves of the road properly, but it was well worth the quietness and the beauty that we woke up to the next morning.

May 25, 2012

A Drive Through The Salad Bowl of the World

We left Morro Bay after a full day of biking and sunning on the beach. On our way out we passed large avocado tree groves, and stopped at a road side stand to pick up some freshly picked Haas avocados.

Avocado stand

May 23, 2012

Montana de Oro State Park Mountain Biking

Tuesday morning Maria and I rode from Los Osos to Montana De Oro State Park. Riding in to the park from Los Osos is perfectly doable, but be aware that there are a couple of stout hill climbs on the road to get you into the park.

Biking to the park

May 22, 2012

Morro Bay, CA

We've spent the last two days thoroughly sightseeing the Morro Bay. To get there, we had to drive 10 miles west off of highway 101 from San Luis Obispo. We parked at the Trinity United Methodist Church in the city of Los Osos, just south of Morro Bay. If you imagine the bay as being a cresent moon, pointing to the left, Los Osos would be on the bottom and the city of Morro Bay would be on the top.

Views off of hwy 101

Pismo Beach, CA

From Santa Ynez Valley, we got back on highway 101 and headed further north. I was surprised to see how many vineyards we passed on the stretch from the valley to Pismo Beach, our next stop. I had read about the portion further north of Pismo as having a large congregation of vineyards, especially near Paso Robles, but this region we drove through was packed with vines. It appeared as though every viable acre had been planted on; we drove through seas of green.

May 21, 2012

Santa Ynez Valley, CA

After spending the afternoon in Santa Barbara, we relaxed for a bit in the trailer, and then continued our drive to the Santa Ynez Valley. To get there, we chose to get off of highway 101 for a bit, and take highway 154. Highway 154 leads a steep and quick ascent into the mountains, climbing from sea level to around 4000 feet. We made the drive right around sunset, so we were only able to catch the last light on the beautiful valley views from the top of La Cumbre Peak.

May 20, 2012

Santa Barbara, CA

We woke up with a plan to drive straight to Santa Ynez Valley, without stopping in Santa Barbara, as we had been there before on our drive down highway 1. But, as we were driving by, it was just about lunch time, and we decided at the last moment to pull in and spend the afternoon. Santa Barbara is not horribly RV friendly, it is mostly tight streets, hilly and almost all the blocks around downtown have big signs that say “No RV parking anytime”. Boo! We finally found a spot five blocks off of State St. (the main street in Santa Barbara), and parked there.

May 19, 2012

Ventura, CA

Departing Malibu, we were sad to leave LA, but excited about exploring new areas of California. We had traveled highway 1 between San Francisco and Los Angeles on a previous trip, and decided to drive up 101 this time. Route 1 can be described with two words, epic and perilous (at least to those pulling a travel trailer…). The two lane road basically hugs sea side cliffs, with amazing views of the ocean and beaches. This two lane road also has lots of sharp turns, is pretty hilly and is best enjoyed in a little car, preferably a convertible. Highway 101 is a highway that runs parallel to highway 1, but several miles inland. In some places the two roads are apart as much as 50 miles and in some as little as zero (they meld together in spots).

May 18, 2012

Los Angeles, CA

After boondocking for 9 days straight (our new record!), we found a full hook-up RV park in Malibu, right on the beach. Their in-season pricing didn't start until next week, so the spot was only $40 a night (since when is $40 an only? Las Vegas really set the bar…) It’s a bit of a drive from LA, but the location and views couldn't be beat. Also, there wasn’t much to choose from in the LA area…there might be a business idea in there somewhere.

May 13, 2012

Orange County Beaches

The last few days we’ve been lucky enough to be parked about 3 miles from the beach in Orange County, and at no cost! We contacted the Jewish Community Center of Orange County, and they were very nice to let us park in their shady parking lot for Friday and Saturday. Sunday night we’ll be moving to the Mariner’s church across the street. We are located right in the middle of Orange County, with Newport and Huntington Beach just north of us, and Laguna and San Clemente Beach just south, on Pacific Coast Highway 1. We have spent the last few days thoroughly exploring the beaches and soaking in the golden sunshine here on the coast.

May 12, 2012

CALIFORNIA and the San Bernardino National Forest

We spent a miserable night camped outside of the Hacienda Casino. The daily high temperature had been over 100 degrees, and at night, the coolest temperature we saw was somewhere in the mid-80s, and that was at 4 in the morning. Because we were boondocking, we had no outside electricity source, and couldn’t run the AC (oh the joys of boondocking sometimes!) We also decided to wake up early so that we would make the drive through the Mojave Desert as early as possible. Waking up at 5am wasn’t hard, mostly because I never went to sleep to begin with. Thankfully, around 4am, some strong winds picked up and it cooled the trailer down somewhat (yes, to that wonderfully cool 80 degrees, things are relative).

May 10, 2012

The Hoover Dam

Skyler, being a bit of a history buff, couldn't pass up a visit to the Hoover Dam. The dam is located right between Arizona and Nevada, on the Colorado River, and creates the little piece of heaven we’d been enjoying for the last few days, Lake Mead. The dam generates power for Nevada, Arizona and California.

May 09, 2012

A Free Piece of Heaven on Lake Mead

After Las Vegas, we couldn't decide whether to go straight to Los Angeles (CALIFORNIA!!!) or to visit the Hoover Dam. We flipped a coin and decided on Hoover Dam. On a whim, we also decided to visit Lake Mead, since its a National Recreational Area, and we've got the America the Beautiful Pass.

Speaking of which! The America the Beautiful Pass has now paid for itself. The initial cost of $80 was finally recovered with our visit to Zion National Park! From now, its all awesomely free access to the some of the prettiest places in America! Thank you, National Pass!

May 08, 2012

Two Awesome Entries From Fellow Bloggers

I stay current on my fellow traveler's blogs, and recently, two of them wrote some great entries. Here is a link to Yair's entry from Our Take on Freedom. And a link to Kim's eye opening entry as well, from her So Many Places blog .

Enjoy!

Happy Reading,

M.

Email me

May 07, 2012

A Lesson Learned in Las Vegas

Another painful lesson I learned in Las Vegas (aside from always having a plan for where we're going to stay for the night BEFORE we get somewhere) was to always wear comfortable shoes. We ended up walking over 6 miles up and down the Las Vegas Blvd, and I, not wanting to wear my tennis shoes to one of the most fashionable destinations in the world, decided to wear the most comfortable pair of sandals that I had with me. Well, I earned two HUGE blisters on the bottoms of my feet, and my knight in shining armor had to carry me piggy-back the mile to our RV park! I'll do better next time...

Viva Las Vegas!

We made the mistake of not planning ahead for Las Vegas. We ended up driving into Las Vegas after dark, with no place to stay for the night. It was Saturday, and all the church offices I called were closed for the week. We decided to drive by several churches with hopes of just parking for the night and then asking for permission in the morning, but the churches we drove by all had gates at their entrances, gates that were locked. We called all the Wal-Marts, and no go there; the Wal-Marts in Las Vegas do not allow overnight parking. So there we were, 9pm at night with nowhere to go. We gave up and called an RV park, and coughed up $60 to park at the KOA RV campground at the Circus Circus Casino. Ugg!

May 06, 2012

The Arizona Corridor

There is a stretch of highway 15 that goes from Utah to Nevada, with about 20 miles of Arizona in between. This portion that goes through Arizona is really spectacular. Imagine, you’re driving through rolling, hot desert, and after you cross the border into Arizona, all of a sudden you drive into a canyon. A really deep canyon. There are signs saying “Steep downhill grades ahead”, “Watch for strong crosswinds”, “Watch for falling rock”, and “Mountainous curves next 10 miles”, on top of a “Rough road ahead” sign. But even all these aspects don’t put a damper on this jaw dropping drive. I can’t quite put it all down on paper properly, but basically I’d say the scenery was as good as driving through Big Bend and the canyon of Grand Canyon combined. Yah. :o)

St. George Ironman

No we didn’t compete… nor would we want to… right now anyway ;-)

On our way toward Las Vegas, we saw signs for the St. George Ironman that was going on May 5th.  Of course we had to stop in and marvel at these amazing athletes.  If you aren’t exactly sure of the iron distance, it consists of a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 110 mile bike, then finished off with a 26.2 (marathon!) run.  Pro athletes can finish this in around 8 hours, while “normal” folks finished more in the 10 – 15 hour timeframe.  Many of these athletes train for 20 – 40 hours (a part time to full time job) a week for months leading up to iron distance events, in addition to the $700 price tag to participate in this event, so it takes a real commitment to do one of these race.

The JEM Trail Loop Mountain Biking Outside Zion NP

After visiting the Zion National Park I decided to give Utah's low desert mountain biking a go. I asked around at the local biking shops and heard a unanimous recommendation to bike on the JEM trail, just minutes outside of Springdale, Utah. I did some research, loaded the map onto my IPhone and then set off to explore. Here is my experience:

The Trail Map

Zion National Park

Of the major national parks we have been to so far (Yosemite and Grand Canyon), Zion struck us as having the most scenic beauty. Zion National Park offers gorgeous views no matter which direction you are looking at, and has a serene and quiet quality about it that just puts your mind to rest. The red cliffs, green canyons and blue skies make for a beautiful combination.

The Zion Valley

May 05, 2012

Another Great CouchSurfing Experience

There are two Couchsurfing hosts in Springdale, UT, the little town right outside of Zion National Park. We had contacted both before we left Grand Canyon, and heard back from one. She apologized that she could not host us because she lives in a condo right off Main St and had no room for us to park our travel trailer. She did give us her cell phone number though, so we could call her to brainstorm on places to park. When we got to Springdale, we tried parking at a local church, but there were signs everywhere about no overnight parking, so we gave her a call. While waiting on her to call us back, we went ahead and booked a night at an RV park. We should have waited 30 more minutes, because she messaged almost immediately back saying she’d called up the other host, and that he definitely had a place for us to stay.

May 02, 2012

The Scenic Road From Grand Canyon to Zion NP

To get from one amazing park to another we decided to take the scenic route. Basically, there is hwy 89 that crosses into Utah early on, and then cuts west through the Grand Staircase National Monument. If you take that highway to Zion National Park, you need to ensure that you meet the Mount Carmel Tunnel vehicle width requirements; otherwise you need to pay for a $15 escort to help you through. Since Lucy is a wide girl, and we didn't feel like coughing up $15 for a 1 mile tunnel ride, we decided to take the steeper and more scenic way, highway 89A. This route stays in Arizona for most of the drive, cuts through Kaibab National Forest, goes by the West Rim entrance to Grand Canyon, and then crosses into Utah just before you reach the Zion NP vicinity.

May 01, 2012

A visit to the Grand Canyon National Park

We said our goodbyes to Humphrey’s peak and headed to the South Rim at the Grand Canyon National Park. On our way in we stopped in the only town between Flagstaff and the park, Tusayan. Tusayan is not even really a town, just a collection of hotels and fast food restaurants just 5 miles outside the park entrance that catch all the tourists that are looking for the comforts of home. We stopped at a McDonalds for a quick treat, and saw 20 brand new Harley's parked outside, all the exact same body style. When we went inside, we saw the bikers, and they were all wearing matching jackets. I asked one of them where they were from. Turns out they are Harley enthusiasts from Marseilles, France that flew into Los Angeles, rented the Harleys, and are now on a 12 day driving trip around the SouthWest. They were going to the Grand Canyon, then onto Moab, Grand Staircase National Monument, Bryce National Park, and ending their trip in Las Vegas. Too cool!

April 28, 2012

Third Time Is The Charm, Right? Probably…

So today we attempted to hike to the top of the world in Arizona, also known as Humphrey’s Peak. The trail head is located at one of the Arizona Snowbowl ski area parking lots, 14 miles outside of Flagstaff. To get there, you head north on highway 180 out of Flagstaff for 7 miles, then make a right turn on the Snowbowl Road, and drive 7 more miles until you arrive at the ski resort parking lots. Flagstaff is located at around 7,000 feet elevation, the 7 mile stretch you drive to get to the ski area gains another 2,000 feet, so you start the hike at just over 9,000 feet of elevation.

April 27, 2012

Flagstaff, AZ

Flagstaff was our “chill out” place. We’d seen so many national parks and monuments and visited two large cities in two weeks’ time, we needed a place to park the trailer and just do nothing for a bit. We also needed a place to plug in the trailer and charge everything back up, as we’d been living off the grid for 5 nights straight. We picked Flagstaff because it was on the way to the Grand Canyon, and offered some decent hiking/biking opportunities.

April 26, 2012

Arizona Craziness

Did you know that the state of Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings? No? Neither did we. (Or did we miss the memo?) We were thoroughly confused when, after crossing the border into Arizona, the clocks on our phones went back another hour. I conferred the US map, and made sure that I wasn’t wrong on where the next time zone was supposed to be (between Arizona and California), and when I determined that yes, all of Arizona was indeed still in the Mountain Time Zone, I googled it and realized that the whole state had chosen to not participate in the Daylight Savings. What? That’s crazy and horribly confusing to poor travelers like us. But the upside is now we’re on California time! :o)

April 25, 2012

Arizona, and the Petrified Forest National Park

We crossed the Continental Divide on highway 40. There is a labeled exit off the highway that you can take, that places you right on the divide. There you will find this sign:

The Continental Divide in New Mexico on I-40 

April 24, 2012

El Malpais National Monument

After winning our big money at the Sandia Casino, we packed up our things and hit interstate 40 west to El Malpais National Monument. We’d called the park service earlier in the week asking about camping opportunities, and they recommended that we stop at the free BLM campground off of highway 117.

We drove in just before sunset, with enough time to find the brightly colored yellow cattle guard that marks the entrance to the Joe Skeen BLM campground. After a short drive down a bumpy gravel road, we circled the grounds and picked out our spot. This campground is very well developed for  its “primitive” status, although there is no water or other amenities.

April 23, 2012

We Paid a Visit to Albuquerque, Oh Wait, We Got Paid!

While visiting Albuquerque, we stayed at the Sandia Casino. The casino is located just north of town, right off of interstate 25. It’s a very large resort, with golf course, swimming pool, multiple restaurants and hotel, and a very spacious parking lot. We were instructed to park in the upper level, and when we pulled up, we were not alone. There were at least 10 other RVs already parked on the lot.

April 22, 2012

Two Months On The Road Today!

Today is the 2 month anniversary of us leaving Fayetteville, AR! Lets wish for many more anniversaries and happy times. Thanks for reading and following along!

Happy anniversary!

M.

Email me

Exploring Santa Fe and Bandelier National Monument

After all the excitement of the last few days, we decided to take a day off. We booked another day at the RV park in Alamogordo and chilled in the air conditioning watching unending episodes of Weeds. (We have a bad habit of finding a new show on Netflix and then loosing whole weekends to watching season after season…). It was awesome.

Thursday afternoon we packed up, dumped and refilled, and then hit the road. Our original plan was to head straight to Albuquerque, but at the last moment we decided to check out Santa Fe.

April 21, 2012

Recipes From The Road- Chicken Salad

This is a simple chicken salad that I like to make to mix up the boring ham and cheese routine with. I'm not going to list how much of everything is needed, its all up to your discretion and taste.

First you boil an egg or two. Every time I go to boil an egg, I swear its like tying a tie, I have to look up directions on the internet. Here is a link I like to use in case you need some help as well. While the egg is boiling, open a can of canned chicken (or use baked chicken breast if you have some laying around), and finely chop it.

April 19, 2012

Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing has been around for ages, and almost everyone has done it to some extent.  Nowadays though, there are numerous forums to meet up with complete strangers and couchsurf or just meet up over some coffee and exchange stories.  Through these new websites it is more formalized, standardized, and has some safety features added.  We have used Couchsurfing.org a number of times and have had great experiences.

You start out by creating a profile about yourself, where you've been, where you want to go, and what you are looking to get out of couchsuring (CS).

White Sands National Monument

Today we visited the White Sands National Monument. Thanks to our America the Beautiful pass, we saved $6 on the entrance fees. I can't believe they only charge $3 to see this gorgeous place!!

Welcome to White Sands!

April 18, 2012

Our First Visitors!!!

A couple we made friends with while living in Memphis happened to be on their own cross-country tour, and were nearby, visiting the Carlsbad Caverns, just as we were pulling into Alamogordo. We happily invited them to be our very first visitors in the trailer!

Carolina and Jeremy

April 17, 2012

Off to Roswell to Visit the Aliens

After visiting the Carlsbad Caverns, we drove another 50 miles to the Alien capitol of the USA,  Roswell, NM. We stayed the night with an awesome Couchsurfing host, Nadia.

Roswell is a quirky town of 50k people, the center for dairy farming, but most famously known for the Roswell UFO incident.

April 16, 2012

Carlsbad (BadASS!) Caverns National Park

Monday we left the Guadalupe Mountains National Park and crossed the border into New Mexico! This is our fourth state on this trip, after Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. We drove 50 miles through the Chihuahua desert to our next destination, the Carlsbad Caverns.

A visit to the caverns costs $6 a person, so we saved another $12 with our America the Beautiful pass. The entrance fee allows for self guided tours through most of the caves, but you can also sign up for a ranger guided tour through some of the more "decorated" rooms. These tours range from $7-$20. We decided to try out the free self-guided tours first and then if we felt like we hadn't seen enough, we would sign up for a guided tour.

On the Road Again and the Highest Peak in the World (in Texas)

Saturday morning we woke up bright and early and started off the day by eating a great breakfast with Brett and his grandma at the Old German Bakery. Afterwards, we drove the trailer to the nearest dumping station (Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park, only $3 if you’re in the area!), and then to Wal-Mart to get the new tires put on the trailer. We also had the tires rotated on the truck, and threw in a new air filter.

April 09, 2012

Fail #3

Here is another Fail to add to our list. On our way back from Big Bend we were looking for somewhere to grab some dinner. After searching high and low for a place that A)wasn't out of business on the lonely I-10 route and B)wasn't closed on Easter Sunday, we finally found a Sonic in Ozona, TX. So much for America's Drive-In.....

America's drive-in?
Turns out this used to be a McDonalds...there was no drive-in to speak of.

Fail!

M.

Email me

A Visit to Big Bend National Park

This weekend we visited one of the largest, yet least visited, national parks in the US: Big Bend National Park. The park is located in the southwest corner of Texas, and is extremely isolated. To get there from El Paso is 330 miles and 470 miles from Austin. If you decide to visit Big Bend (or make any trip through west Texas), be prepared. Even on I-10, the highway exits are spaced so far apart that if you run out of gas, you might have to call a service to bring you some. Of the exits we passed, only 3 major towns had gas stations, and by major towns I mean towns with a population of 3k. Also, our ATT phone service was spotty at best, so if you did run out of gas, you might not be able to call your service...

April 06, 2012

A Soundtrack for the Texan Road Trip

Our time in Texas has brought us around to enjoying Country Music. Yes friends, before coming here we did not know the joys of a simple twang on the radio, as well as a good story from Johnny Cash. Well, better late then never! So to ensure that we have a proper musical variety for our trip to Big Bend, we put together a CD for our trip. Here is the list of what we put on there:

March 30, 2012

Willow City Loop Bike Ride

Yesterday we were talking to some road bikers that are staying at the hotel we are parked at, and they casually mentioned that we should try the Willow City Loop. One of them said that it was the "best bike ride" he'd ever done. So, this morning we decided to give it a go. We woke up nice and early (8:30... that's pretty early for us recently), ate a hearty breakfast, packed the bikes up in the car and drove to Willow City. We chose to drive there instead of bike there because it was 16 miles from Fredericksburg and I didn't feel up to doing a 56 mile ride (not sure if I could do it even if I wanted to...). We parked our car across the street from the Willow City post office and set off. I'm not really sure why they call it a Loop, as its really an out and back, you start from Willow City, bike the road until it T's into highway 16 and then turn around and come back.

March 28, 2012

Some Down Time in Texas

We've taken some downtime here in Fredericksburg. Sky found a soccer league he can play with (he must have a nose for soccer..)

Sky playing soccer with a pick-up group

March 27, 2012

Cooking in a Travel Trailer

We've had several questions on what we eat in the trailer. The answer? Pretty much what we used to eat back home. We have a three burner gas stove, an oven and a medium sized refrigerator, so we have access to the same ingredients and preparation methods. Generally breakfast is oatmeal, cream of wheat or cereal (with coffee! got to have the coffee!). Lunch is mostly packed up sandwiches, chips and fresh fruit for site-seeing picnics. Dinner is always hot, and made on the stove. Since the refrigerator space is somewhat limited, and we don't have a microwave, we stay away from making large portions, we generally eat everything we make. Our favorites are Thai dishes, soups and taco salads. Here is some Thai Spicy Basil Chicken we made using this recipe:

March 24, 2012

Under the Texan Sun

Today we went hiking at Lost Maples State Park. This park is supposed to be spectacular in the fall when the leaves on the maple trees change, but I bet it would be pretty spectacular any time of the year. First of all, the drive out there was super scenic. We drove from Fredericksburg through Kerrville to Medina, then made a right on Ranch Road 337. There we encountered a group of 50 motorcyclists, and for good reason. This road is like a roller coaster with its constant rolling hills and steep curves. It offers sweeping gorgeous views of the Hill Country, plenty of creeks and lakes and lots of wildflowers, not to mention the plentiful picturesque ranches and country homes you pass along the way.