The Grand Tetons… Western States Tour Part 3

Teton National Park is home to some of the most stunning alpine scenery in the United States plus its teeming with wildlife and offers hiking galore. This trifecta of goodness made it a standout on the Western States Tour for the crew on the Road House. That and how it gots it’s name makes me giggling like a third grader.

While the Shoshone people who are believed to have lived in and around the range for as long as 10,000 years called the range “Teewinot,” which translates to “many pinnacles”, it’s also believed by some that the voyagers native to France who stumbled upon this eye popping scenery saw something else when they discovered the range. “Les trois tétons” became the name for the mountains, and, it stuck. Some people argue that the Grand Tetons were named for the Teton Sioux Native Americans who lived in the area, and that’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for how they got their name, however, that’s not what makes me giggle.

What I discovered is that “les trois tétons” translates from French to “the three teats” which led me to this story for how the Tetons got their name and got me giggling. The story goes like this: A group of French explorers came across the mountain range one day while trudging across the frozen tundra of western Wyoming. Naturally, they were experiencing quite the opposite of what life in France would have been like for them at the time and found themselves suffering a great deal in their efforts to explore the new world for previously untapped resources, possibilities, and opportunities. As they lurched across the wilderness day after day, covered in heavy furs and carrying heavy sacks full of provisions, with no place to lay their heads at night except the cold hard ground and no shelter except for their tents, they no doubt were thinking about the various comforts that they used to enjoy back home.

Comforts such as warm homes, filling and enjoyable meals, and the company of a woman had eluded them for a long time, and no doubt they were thinking quite a lot about those comforts and how much they missed them. So, when the mountain peaks that are now called the Tetons came into view, it’s only natural that their first thought was breasts. Thus the Tetons were christened by grizzled, worn out explorers from France whose first thought upon seeing the majesty of that beautiful mountain range was “Boobs!” The Grand Teton is the tallest of the three peaks and its name is literally translated from French to “the big tit.” Given this translation, one would conclude that the Grand Teton is the D cup of the formation, while the Middle Teton and the South Teton are the C cups – LOL!!! The French explorers who found the Teton mountain range have done a huge favor to all of us who enjoy third grade humor – Thanks Guys!!!

So for almost almost a week, we enjoyed the majestic boobs of Wyoming, saw loads of wildlife, hiked and of course had some great meals in Jackson. I scored a great camp site at the Gros Ventre Campground which is perfectly situated 12 miles from the town of Jackson and 11 miles from the south entrance to the park and the visitors center. Our site was spacious, had electricity and water and MOOSE. Well, not our own personal moose but every morning we had moose wandering through and behind our coach. Moose were not advertised as an amenity but they seem to be regulars at the campground. The sites at the Gros Ventre are huge, have a fire pit, picnic table and a ton of wood that the park staff thoughtfully piled up around the sites. We did our part to help clear the area with our ginormous fires at night. There was not a sewer hookup but there was a dump station right at the entrance/exit that we used before hitting the road again.

By the way, Gros Ventre translates from french to “big belly” – seriously! Yep, I am giggling as I get an image of what grizzled french explorers find attractive.

I love how easy and compact this NP is … it’s just 39 miles from the Moose Junction entrance to the top of the park. Hwy 191 actually runs through The Grand Teton National Park and is the connector to the south entrance of Yellowstone NP. Hypothetically, one can drive through the park on 191 and not pay an entrance fee. So if your short on time or just a cheapskate, that’s an option. Not one I’d recommend as there is so much more to see and do in the park along the scenic Teton Park Road.

We spent our first half day in the park getting the lay of the land by driving the loop. We packed a picnic lunch almost everyday as the lodges weren’t open yet making the food options inside the park limited. We did find an amazing wine shop inside the park on Teton Park Road. Dornan’s had a incredible selection of wines from all over the world.

Luckily for us Jackson Lake Lodge opened the day before we left so we were able to see the inside of this beautiful lodge and have lunch in the dining room. Breathtaking” does not begin to describe the view at Jackson Lake Lodge. The 60-foot floor to ceiling windows frame pristine Jackson Lake and the majestic Teton Range. For some, this view alone is the main reason to visit. I literally felt like I was looking out onto a vast savannah much like the ones I experienced in Botswana Africa. My pictures are not doing it justice.

If you are visiting the park but not traveling in an not RV, I would totally suggest you make the Jackson Lake Lodge your base camp in the park.  It is actually quite large, with 385 rooms some of which are stunning suites, main lodge hotel rooms, and quaint cottages. The lodge also includes a variety of dining options, outdoor excursions, meeting space, retail shops, a swimming pool, and an exhibit featuring Native American artifacts and Western art. A complimentary guest shuttle is also available to Colter Bay, Jenny Lake, and the town of Jackson. Dang, I just sold myself, definitely have to come back again and stay in the Lodge!

So about all that wildlife…The highlight of our time in Grand Teton NP was seeing so many animals. Specifically, bear mama 399 and her four cubs. 399 is a legend in the park and is probably the most photographed bear ever! Our wonderful friends the Ellers, who we visited while we were staying in Sun Valley Idaho gave us so many tips about what to see and do as they lived near the Tetons for years. I would have likely not known about Bear 399 if they hadn’t told me a bit of her story. Generally passive in nature, 399 has raised her broods by roadsides in view of groups of curious humans, including some who have exercised poor judgment by moving closer to take photographs of her and her cubs. The theory is that she does this to protect her offspring from aggressive male grizzlies who have been know to kill clubs to bring the female back in estrus. 399 is so beloved and has a huge international fan club including the renown Biologist and chimp expert Jane Goodall AND 399 has her own Wikipedia page (click on the 399 link above to read all about her)! This 25 year old gal emerged out of hibernation this year with FOUR cubs and we we luckily enough to see her, fairly up close as well. Yep, that made me uneasy and we eventually retreated back to our car when she and the kiddos tried to cross the road. They caused quite a bear jam the day we saw her and the park rangers somehow magically appear out of nowhere to stop traffic and keep all the camera carrying idiots who insist on getting too close from getting mauled. We have never experienced a bear jam and I have to say that people can be such asshats. Early on when we saw her and the kiddos, there weren’t many people there yet but holy shite within 10 minutes literally hundreds of cars appeared and people swarmed the road. We were so disgusted by how stupid some people were and how they swarmed so close to the bears. When the cubs got frantic trying to follow Mom across the road we went back to our car and tried to leave. Those same idiots had parked in the middle of the road to get closer and blocked everyone else from leaving. ARGHHH, the poor rangers were literally yelling at people to stand back and give the bears some room … uh, I may have yelled at a stupid, fat guy chasing behind the bears with his giant camera in hand. I though 399 showed considerable restraint, that dude would have fed the whole family! Spoiler alert, the photo of her standing with all four cubs around her is not mine… I borrowed it from an article written about 399 by the Guardian which BTW, is worth reading!

While seeing 399 and her cubs was definitely one of the the wildlife viewing highlights, we also saw so many other critters…moose, elk, deer, bison, coyotes, fox, badger, marmot, mountain goats, eagles, ospreys, ducks, geese and loads of other birds. Another great tip from our friends was to check out the road behind the elk refuge for mountain goats. Bam, saw them up close as well as a coyote being followed by a badger. Now that was odd!

The elks had all migrated from their winter home at the refuge but we did see them at Elk Flats – go figure! We also met a really neat couple while we were hanging out photographing the goats, Phil and Hope and hope to meet up with them again when we are in Mesa AZ in October.

The park is also home to big herds of bison and again we got to see them up close just off Hwy 191 near the Triangle X Ranch. They were on both sides of the road and at one point a big group of them ran from one area to another, crossing the road right in front of where we had pulled over. Like many of the animals we saw, the bison were shedding their heavy winter coast and looked a bit scrappy. We sat for quite a while just observing them, rolling in the dust and grazing. There were also so many birds around the herd…some of the birds were on the bisons backs catching a free lunch of insects that they attract. The bison created their own small ”bison jam“ but people seemed more respectful and less crazy than at the ”bear jam”. I didn’t even have to yell at anyone nor did we get to see anyone get gored…that was a bit disappointing.

For some reason, we are both taken with moose. They are such unusually looking creatures and seem like gentle giants. Did you know that they can keep their head completely underwater, often for more than a minute at a time? So why do they need to stick their heads underwater?? Well, apparently the aquatic veggies give them minerals they need, which they store in the summer for the hard winter ahead. Of course we were thrilled to see a moose right off the Gros Ventre Road the first day we were driving to our campground. Double thrilled to see moose just behind our coach the next morning but the funniest moose sighting we call “moose in a hot tub”! We spotted this dude, soaking in the Kelly Warms Spring Creek just off the Gros Ventre Road past Kelly. We were headed out to check out the Upper and Lower Slide Lakes area and there he was. I loved how happy he looked, poor dude looks so scrappy but his smile looked so happy, that warm water must have felt great. Another unplanned sighting!

Moose are solitary creatures so the ones we did see were often alone with the exception of the two young ones we saw near our campground everyday. I felt so lucky to have seen so many of them. We watched a female in a creek off the Snake River by Jackson Lake Dam. She was munching on willow and seemed to care very little about the people staring at her. It was so cool to see her sticking her head under water and pulling up big mouthfuls of creek grass.

Everyday was an opportunity for a new adventure and to see more critters. As much as we enjoy hiking, we spent more time exploring and less time on the trails in the Tetons. Honestly, it probably why we did see so much wildlife. There is also a picture in the next slide show of a old, rare, black boxer too.

Our days were really full and there was at least one planned and sometimes an unplanned adventure everyday…We really enjoyed hiking the Jenny Lake trail from the boat ramp area to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. This is one of the most popular trails in the park as you get spectacular views of Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole from Inspiration Point, as well as a 100ft cascading waterfall. The hike was about 3.3 miles total, mostly flat. Once on the west side of the lake, the trail gently sloped up 200ft in elevation towards Hidden Falls which was all snow packed. This gorgeous 100ft cascade fed by snowmelt was in its glory. We then went further up the trail another 0.5 mile to Inspiration Point. What a view and luckily the trail up which is steep, narrow and has a drop off one side was clear of snow and ice. I get a bit wiggy on these kinds of trails, maybe the fear of dying, so I hugged the rock wall and probably swore a little bit which belive it or not is very calming! Another great reason to go early in the season is there weren’t too many people and the snow melt makes for some spectacular waterfalls and raging rivers. This is a great picnic lunch spot. We also saw Mr. Marmot sunning himself on a rock on this hike. He looks quite please to be basking in the warm sun! The trail is actually a 7 mile loop around the lake but we opted to take the scenic boat ride back across the lake after the hike and lunch which was the perfect way to end that adventure.

Another fun adventure we had with Bentie was the drive to Lower Slide Lake. This area is outside of the park in the Bridger Teton National Forest. Its was a gorgeous drive, much of which was on a well graded gravel road and the bonus was seeing the moose in the hot tub. From the Gros Ventre Campground, its about 10 miles one way to Lower Slide Lake which is as far as we went. This area has some fascinating geological history as the Upper and Lower Slide Lakes were created when the massive the Gros Ventre landslide occured in 1925 and dammed the Gros Ventre River River. This massive slide on Sheep Mountain, hurling down the slope at 50 mph, a mile-wide carried, 50,000,000 cubic yards of debris down the mountain and then another 300 feet up the opposite slope. From the view point and info center high above Lower Slide Lake, you can still see when the slide ravaged the mountain and all the debris it left behind. There is also a rustic campground at Lower Slide Lake if you are up for the long drive in on a gravel forest service road!

The lake was once much larger, however part of the rock dam failed less than two years later, on May 18, 1927, causing deadly flooding downstream. The lake waters have natural and stocked fish including lake and Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout, and mountain whitefish.

Since we’ve been to Jackson and Jackson Hole Ski Mountain before we choose to spend most of our time on this trip in the park exploring. That said, we did have a great lunch and a follow up dinner a few days later at Hatch Taqueria and Tequila’s in Jackson. The food and Hatcharita’s were sooo good… I was particularly drawn back for the Spicy Hatch made with Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila and may have had several. We also found a pickle ball court in Jackson – WHAT!!!

Being early in the season meant less tourist and no lines to get into the park. I am not sure the Grand Teton National Park is as popular was its sister park Yellowstone but I suspect it gets a fair amount of over flow from Yellowstone during the crazy summer months.

Speaking of tourists, the western vibe town of Jackson and the area around Jackson Hole can be crowded and crazy with people in the summer. Apparently, this is not a new phenomenon. Tourists started coming to Jackson Hole not long after the first cattle ranches were settled. Some of the ranchers supplemented their income by catering to “dudes,” eastern tenderfoots yearning to experience a little slice of the Old West in the shadow of the stunning Tetons. The tourists began to raise the first concerns about preserving the natural beauty of the region. The vast acres of Yellowstone Park, America’s first national park founded in 1872, were just north of Jackson Hole. Surely, they asked, the spectacular Grand Tetons deserved similar protection.

In 1916, Horace M. Albright, the director of the National Park Service, was the first to seriously suggest that the region be incorporated into Yellowstone. The ranchers and businesses catering to tourists, however, strongly resisted the suggestion that they be pushed off their lands to make a “museum” of the Old West for eastern tourists.

Finally, after more than a decade of political maneuvering, Grand Teton National Park was created in 1929. As a concession to the ranchers and tourist operators, the park only encompassed the mountains and a narrow strip at their base. Jackson Hole itself was excluded from the park and designated merely as a scenic preserve. Albright, though, had persuaded the wealthy John D. Rockefeller to begin buying up land in the Jackson Hole area for possible future incorporation into the park. This semisecret, private means of enlarging the park inspired further resentment among the residents, and some complained that it was a typical example of how “eastern money interests” were dictating the future of the West.

By the late 1940s, however, local opposition to the inclusion of the Rockefeller lands in the park had diminished, in part because of the growing economic importance of tourism. In 1949, Rockefeller donated his land holdings in Jackson Hole to the federal government that then incorporated them into the national park. Today, Grand Teton National Park encompasses 309,993 acres. Working ranches still exist in Jackson Hole, but the local economy is increasingly dependent on services provided to tourists and the wealthy owners of vacation homes.

A big thanks to the vision of Albright and help of Rockefeller, the hours they spend scheming to preserve and create The Grand Teton National Park for us to all enjoy now. There is a short little walking path near the grand Jackson Lake Lodge that leads to Lunch Tree Hill that is only a great place to have a picnic and enjoy the amazing views but very historically significant in Albright’s efforts to see this area preserved.

Honestly, we could have stayed a couple of weeks and not run out of things to see and do. Spring was arriving during our stay but the mountains still had loads of snow on them. This made the scenery absolutely stunning but this also made many of the back country hiking trails inaccessible. Coming in the spring also gave us an opportunity to see loads of wildlife and some youngins. I loved being in the Tetons in the Spring and would definitely come back again in the fall to see a different perspective and hike some of the back country trails. This has turned into a very long post but I have are a few more pictures of places we visited to share below. Next stop on the Western States tour is Cody Wyoming so stay tuned for part four!!!

Spring in Sun Valley Idaho – Western States Tour Part 2

We have so many fond memories of ski trips we took to Sun Valley Idaho and all the silly debauchery that ensued while off the slopes… too many margaritas in the outdoor hot pool at the Sun Valley Inn, getting locked out of of our second floor condo while sitting on the deck, a freezing bus ride into town for dinner on New Years Eve, a romantic horse drawn sleigh ride… the list goes on and on. 

It only seemed fitting that we spend some time back in the area on our recent Western States T. our. When we arrived in early May, the ski mountain was closed for the season, all the snow was gone at the lower elevations leaving a lush green valley with a sprinkling of wildflowers. Rivers were flush with water and the Sawtooth Mountains looked majestic with their snow capped peaks.

We spent a week at the Meadows RV Park… which is the one and only RV park with full hook ups in the area. This is a basic FHU park with no amenities. The sites are tight and you are close to Hwy 75. That said, the area is beautiful, you can walk to the Wood Run paved walking/biking/running trail and the proximity to Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley is perfect.

The manager Perry was great and the staff were very friendly. They were working overtime to get the sites rehabbed from a long winter of snow. Since it was early spring, which is shoulder season, we had the whole end of the park to ourselves. Our big rig fit in the tight spot and we were happy there was no one nearby! We probably would have been less happy if they had been busier since sites share a small patch of grass and picnic table with another rig, but the end sites like 24 and 25 don’t share the common grass area. We did not use shower/bathrooms or laundry so no comments on those amenities. Overall, this park is pleasant and has some mountain views. We did hear some road noise during the day but it was very quiet at night. Bonus points for the Elk that were frequently in the mountains across the highway!

Spring is a great time to visit the Sun Valley area. It is shoulder season so some things might not be open and there is so little tourism that many merchants are able to take a break before the summer crowds roll in. This area is home to fish-rich rivers and lakes which draws avid fly fisher peeps from all over the world. Hiking and biking during the warm months are also very popular past times. Naturalists are drawn to volcanic fields, rolling hills and unusual geologic formations that cement Idaho’s reputation as a truly spectacular vacation destination.

Sun Valley itself is an affluent mountain ski town with expensive homes, lear jets parked at the airport and celebrities sightings aren’t unusual.  The sleepy, small towns just down the valley aren’t so sleepy anymore. Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue are now so expensive that most folks who actually work in Sun Valley are priced out of the area. I met a neat gal at the RV park who works at the post office in Sun Valley. She was just starting a full time RV life as her rental home in Hailey had been sold and even with her good income, she could not afford to buy or rent another house in the area for her and her fur-babies.

We found plenty to keep us busy during our visit including catching up with some friends in nearby Picabo. It was great fun to drive around the area and chuckle about all of our fun filled ski trips with friends and see the area in its spring glory.

Hiking trails in and around Sun Valley are limitless but can be hell on us sea level dwellers. We had been hiking for a week by then at altitude in Utah but one of the hikes in SV we did was killer. I didn’t pay much attention to the elevation gain over distance when I was looking at All Trails. The views and distance were perfect in the end but I thought my heart was going to burst on a couple of occasions. Holy Crapola, who planned that hike???

Great dining options abound in and around Sun Valley too. Since we happened to be in town during the shoulder season the restaurant scene was a bit sleepy. Many restauranteurs were taking a much deserved sabbatical in May. The neighboring town of Hailey, which used to be the ugly step sister of Sun Valley surprisingly had some of the best restaurants that we visited during our stay. CK’s Real Food was amazing, despite the odd name, as was Zou 75 where we feasted on some beautiful Asian-fusion sushi. 

So according to my internet search, “real food” is food that is as close to its natural state as possible. It is primarily: unprocessed, free of chemical additives, rich in nutrients. Okay, that makes sense, bonus points for CK’s as it was real delicious food and “The Thing 1” cocktail was killer.

We also dined at a long time favorite in Sun Valley, The Ketchum Grill. It was a bit of a weird experience as we had reservations for 7:00 pm but weren’t seated until almost 8 pm. Yes, it was busy and yes there weren’t many other restaurants open and yes, those that were open the were also completely booked as well but what was uber annoying was that we sat and watched some “locals” come in with no reservation or at the wrong time and they were seated almost immediately. Hmm, we felt a bit invisible and slightly pissed to be treated like tourist pond scum but the hostess did bring us a glass of complementary wine while we waited… and waited. Dinner was good, not great and this was certainly not the best experience we had in town but oh well, we got fed!

Besides eating our way around the valley and hiking, there is so much to see and do just outside the Sun Valley area. Just 66 miles from Sun Valley, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a great day trip. The “weird and scenic” landscape of lava and sagebrush really does just appear out of nowhere. Most visitors explore the trails, caves, and scenic overlooks along the park’s 7-mile loop road, but more opportunities abound in the park’s vast wilderness which we didn’t explore due to the “weird” weather. The 7 mile driving loop kept us busy and the added bonus of light snow really was a beautiful addition to this normally stark landscape. Our visit to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve was surreal… it snowed on us and was really damn cold. Phooey, we didn’t do much hiking and ate our picnic in the car but still totally worth the drive. 

Another great day trip is the 60 mile scenic drive to Stanley and Red Fish Lake which is in the Sawtooth Wilderness. The drive north of Sun Valley on HWY 75 was spectacular and we saw some great wildlife along the way as well as beautiful vistas.

Thanks to it being shoulder season, there was hardly a soul at Red Fish Lake. It was a picture perfect spring day and we had a ball hiking, exploring around the lake and bird watching. The Lodge was not open yet but some of areas of the campground were so we checked that out as well. I would highly recommend staying in this area, specifically the campground or cabins as it is just so beautiful. 

Beautiful Red Fish Lodge was built in 1929 by Idaho hero Robert Limbert and other than a couple of thoughtful renovations, the Lodge remains much the same as it was back in 1929. The staff was gearing up to open for the season, so we got to take a quick peek inside. Rustic and charming for sure…the main Lodge is all log construction and inside there is Limbert’s restaurant and a rustic lounge. The second level has 8 rooms for guests. Out on the property, there are 21 historic and modern cabins and 11 motel/suite style units. The General Store is next to the lodge and offers souvenirs, gifts and basic grocery and camping and fishing supplies. The Redfish Marina which sits directly in front of the Lodge provides boat rentals and a hiking shuttle into the  beautiful Sawtooth Wilderness Area.

Winters can be harsh in this part of Idaho… Stanley receives 5+ feet of snow and it can get to 30 below. Nope, too cold for this girl, sorry Robert! Watch the weather reports: Stanley is often mentioned as the coldest spot in the nation. The infrastructure at the resort is not able to withstand the harsh winters in Stanley so the lodge is only open seasonally. The windows and doors were just being un-boarded (is that a REAL word??). I sure wonder how Robert Limbert was able to live here in the winter or if he did??? These days in the winter there is a caretaker to check in on the lodge and some bears to patrol the grounds! Luckily for us, it was a gorgeous spring day, picture perfect for photography and bird watching. The bears must have been on sabbatical too as they were no where to be seen.

Speaking of bird watching, we spent the better part of another day at the the Silver Creek Preserve in Bellevue. The Silver Creek runs through the preserve and the creek is the holy grail of fly fishing. Renown for perfectly timed hatches and world class dry fly fishing, anglers from around the globe come here to test their skill. We were too early in the season to fish the creek but were more than happy to explore the preserve on foot.  I am impressed with the conservation vision of the community, the wonder of Silver Creek’s story comes from the people who came together to make the preserve a reality. It started in 1976 when the local community urged The Nature Conservancy to purchase 479-acres then called the Sun Valley Ranch and create its flagship preserve, Silver Creek. This launched a landowner conservation effort along the stream to protect an additional 12,000-acres through conservation easements, making this one of the most successful stream conservation efforts ever undertaken for public benefit and a model for community-based conservation.

Hey, where did you snag that trout?? Dogs aren’t allowed at the preserve!

Painters, photographers, bird watchers and hikers will find the Silver Creek Preserve to be a place that will leave you in awe of its natural beauty.  During our visit, the sky was a canvas of dark brooding colors that later gave way to bright blue skies with fluffy meandering clouds. The soft light and beauty of “The Creek” in the mornings makes this a photographers heaven. The preserved has been expanded to  881-acres now and a new visitors center is being built. The restored high-desert spring creek is home to a thriving ecosystem of abundance of wildlife including eagles, coyotes, bobcats, and moose. As many as 150 species of birds have been identified along the nature trail and its unique aquatic ecosystem features one of the highest densities of stream insects in North America.

Besides a plethora of birds, we were lucky to spot a female moose and her calf during our hike along the north side of the preserve. The mama high tailed it as soon as she saw us but her curious calf stopped to look as us strange two legged humans. 

All that exploring left us hungry, so we stopped at Lucy’s Breakfast Place in Bellevue for a delicious breakfast/lunch. Great recommendation by our friends Chris and Richard in Picabo. Yep, we continue to eat our way through the western states… notice I am in spandex ALOT!!!

Our week in the Sun Valley area was awesome and the next stop on the Western States Tour was Teton National Park. I am trying to get caught up, so stay tuned …

A Great Week in Torrey Utah

Utah is one of my favorite states from the scenic point of view. Five amazing National Parks, lush green valleys, vast plains and beautiful mountains. We finally made it to Capitol Reef National Park for more than a day and this was our last Utah NP to explore. CRNP did not fail to deliver and for hikers this national park provides some outstanding and strenuous hikes with amazing vistas. 

Chimney Rock in Capitol Reef National Park

We love traveling during the shoulder seasons despite the sometimes unpredictable weather. The last time we planned to visit CRNP in spring 2017 it snowed… heavily, so a quick change of plans were in order and we headed to sunny Lake Powell instead.  Despite Wallys emergency dental surgery in Arizona, this year the stars aligned and we made it there with no detours. 

Our hiking buddies Laurie and Tom Miller joined us for the week. They recently bought a Winnebago View RV so they too have now joined the ranks of us land-yacht owners! We have boating history as we met these two awesome humans at our marina in Anacortes many moons ago. We share a love of travel and exploring the world so many great adventures have ensued since!

The Thousand Lakes RV Park in Torrey Utah was our base camp for CRNP exploration. The red rock views from our site were amazing and the RV park itself was great. They have all the amenities you would expect plus a very quaint restaurant that served some mean BBQ and steaks. I recommend this RV Park over the other one in Torrey as many of the sites there back right up onto the road at a major intersection.. okay, its major for Torrey! The sites were all gravel and are decent sized plus they are set back off the road further so road noise in minimal.

Spoiler alert… there are no lakes in Torrey or near the RV park…With a name like thousand lakes, ones gotta assume right?  Well, after some pondering and and lots of joking about the lack of lakes, I figured it out. The nearby mountain range to the north of Torrey is the Thousand Lake Mountains… yep, there are lakes in them there mountains!

Torrey itself is a small town in a remote part of Utah but with the CRNP entrance just 5 miles away, the town definitely caters to visitors. All the essential services plus a few nice restaurants and eateries. We spent the week not only exploring the park but some eatery exploration as well. The Wild Rabbit Café is a great lunch or breakfast stop. With a great menu and coffee roasted on site, it became a quick habit to stop in the afternoon for a cold brew coffee after hiking in the park. We had a wonderful anniversary dinner at Hunt and Gather. Game and local mountain trout are featured on the menu so we definitely partook. They also had a very nice vintage of champagne on the wine list so of course that was ordered too! 

Another fun spot to eat is Paizlee’s Grass Fed Beef. It’s a bit odd, not really a meat market or a true restaurant but you can get both there. They have a very limited menu and two tables inside… its like they want you to come in but not really stay! While we were there having breakfast, our host (a fine looking young man in tight jeans and a cowboy hat) delivered a lot of take out to the curb. I am only guessing its take out, heck for all I know it it a front for nefarious drug activity! LOL… seriously, the small one butt kitchen cranked out a delicious Huervos Ranchero Tacos with coffee for a mere $9.99!

Our biggest dining adventure was out of town, in nearby Bickenell. Curry Pizza, yep you read that right! Come on people, with a name like that you have to try it. We had to convince Tom but once he heard from our waitress at Hunt Gather that it was good and Guy Fieri from the Food Network had been there, well that changed everything! The pizza was good but what I really wished we was that we had time to try was the Indian Food. It smelled incredible and the family who run the place are Indian of course – good combo!

Now, about Capitol Reef NP… Honestly it didn’t fail to deliver on incredible hiking and beautiful vistas. In between all that eating, we hiked or did scenic drives. Driving into the park, you immediately get a sense of how special this area is. The geology is fascinating and Mother Nature worked hard to create this marvelous canvas of color. The Navajo called it the land of the Sleeping Rainbow but some of these amazing, colorful formations are over 270 million years in the making. Click on the link above for a more in-depth geology lesson on CRNP. 

Or favorite hike hands down was Cohab Canyon –  From the Fruita trailhead, we climbed the steep Cohab Canyon trail switchbacks for about 25-30 minutes to where it tops out and drops into Cohab Canyon. The saddle here offers amazing views of Boulder Mountain, Fruita, and other areas west of the park.

Now that you have that grunt behind you, the trail now begins descending the very colorful and featured Cohab Canyon. The Wives, a series of short technical slot canyons come in on the right-hand side. Wandering up some of the side, slot canyons was a fun diversion.

15 or so minutes from the saddle, as Cohab Canyon becomes wide and open, is a trail junction. Left (north) makes a nice side trip to an overlook of Highway 24 and the Fruita area (20 minutes round trip) while right becomes the Frying Pan Trail and eventually reaches Cassidy Arch. We opted to climb some more, because the first grunt wasn’t enough – LOL.  It was worth the extra climb as the views up on the plateau were incredible. This hike is an out and back so from there we did the route in reverse back to the Fruita trailhead.

Other notable hikes were  Chimney Rock – amazing views and fun wandering along the ridge top. The Grand Wash is a great hike which features the pioneer registry on the canyon walls. We also met up with some beautiful Big Horn Sheep there. Hickman Arch is a beautiful hike to a natural stone arch and has pretty valley views as well.

There are also some great scenic drives from Torrey – Hwy 12 is simply spectacular and is a great car drive. It’s a bit hairy for large RV but doable if you have a low pucker factor! We choose to do it as a day drive in Tom’s Jeep and stopped at the Escalante River to check out the 100 Hands Petroglyphs. We may have gotten a bit lost and hiked a few miles the wrong direction but we finally found the trailhead just a few hundred feet from where we parked – LOL. It was worth the grunt up the hill, long past lunch time, in the hot sun. The petroglyphs were quite beautiful but sadly there has been some vandalism. I honestly can’t understand what makes people do this kind of crap… it’s a piece of history we can all enjoy from a distance….ARGHH!

Good news… we found the only open restaurant in Escalante and had a kick ass burger so the day ended well for everyone! Well, except our little pal the snow man!

Our week in Torrey exploring the CFNP just flew by… I can’t recommend this area enough and I am so glad we had such nice weather for exploring. The US is truly an amazing place to explore. Onward we roll, next stop Sun Valley Idaho.

The New and Improved Road House

Despite having all the time in the world to write during this weird pandemic I seem to be writing less. Call it writers block or perhaps feeling like I’ve got nothing interesting to write about, either or both maybe? While I was puzzling about what to write about the other day, it dawned on me that I promised to fill you in on the new Road House… yep, over a year ago… August 5th, 2019 to be exact…. okay, well over a year ago.

So the upside to this very tardy post is we have had plenty of time to travel in the new Road House and collect our thoughts on what we love about this coach and what we actually miss about the other coach.

Tada…here she is!!!

The new Road House is a 2013 43 ft Entegra DEQ, Class A Diesel Pusher with a 450HP Cummins engine and 4 slide outs. Similar to the original Road House but 5 ft longer, 10 years newer and a bigger engine – 120 hp more. She is definitely a plus size gal!

Woo-Hoo a king size bed!!!!

Like the Monaco, the Entegra coach is also a class A diesel pusher. What’s a Class A you might wonder or a diesel pusher… well, constructed on either a commercial truck chassis, a specially designed motor vehicle chassis, or a commercial bus chassis, a Class A motorhome resembles a bus in design and has a flat or vertical front end and large windows.

The Entegra is built on a Spartan Chassis which is considered to be the top of the line in big-ass RV’s. According to the Spartan website “Everything Rides on the Ride Chassis”. Guess that is considered catchy marketing in the truck world! They also claim that “At the bottom of it all is the Spartan chassis, American-made from the finest materials and engineered to give your luxury RV a safe, smooth, and reliable ride. Spartan makes steering, traversing changing terrain, and parking as easy and welcoming as a friendly campground”. So, I can tell you for sure, that’s not a false claim. The first time we test drove an Entegra, with this fancy pants chassis, Wally was grinning ear to ear. Quiet, smooth and it handled no differently than our car. Well, maybe you do need to plan on braking a bit sooner when your ride is 46K lbs! Plus, this coach has a passive tag axle which the Monaco did not. The tag axle is basically a third axle having single wheels at each side that resides behind the dual wheeled drive axle. It gives more stability in the ride and helps the big-ass coach to turn easier in tight conditions. Again, this made Wally grin from ear to ear.

A diesel pusher motorhome is typically a Class A that is powered by a diesel engine mounted in the rear of the RV. Why is all that important?? Because this style of coach is made to last with a high end truck chassis and motor. The Entegra weighs in at 46,600 lbs which is 16,600 lbs heavier than the Monaco and the diesel pusher Cummins engine has high torque for climbing hills and pulling our tow vehicle. This also means a quiet ride as the engine is in the back. All a matter of preference but we opted for this model in both coach’s and went for a older model Entegra with low mileage to get all the amenities we wanted but not have huge depreciation the minute we left the lot.

In 1989, the addition of slideouts dramatically changed the RV industry because they allow a wider living area, provided that the vehicle remains completely stationary during their extension outwards. Nope, its bad form to drive down the road with your slides out. The Monaco had 2 slides on the drivers side and the Entegra has four slides, two on each side. One could argue that it is two more motorized things to go wrong but the trade off is more interior living space. LOL, we probably got an additional 160 square in the new coach.

As an avid cook, I love the spacious kitchen and additional pantry space.

A full size, residential refrigerator is also nice!!!

Like the Monaco, the Entegra is a used, older coach with low miles. We are not typically buy new people. Sure we have splurged and bought new car’s on occasion before we retired but large luxury coaches are expensive – $500K to $950K plus expensive. Not only are they expensive but honestly, everyone we know who has bought new has ended up in the shop more than we ever have… getting things fixed under warranty. Yikes, hope I didn’t just jinx us!!! Great having a warranty but not so great having major things go wrong. If you are a weekend warrior or only use your coach occasionally maybe this isn’t such an issue. Since our coach is our home 8 months out of the year, this is not ideal and we don’t want to be frequent flyers at the repair facility. Not only do you have the warranty honeymoon period with a new coach but you also have serious depreciation the minute you drive a new coach off the lot. Sadly, most anything that is motorized never appreciates. So for us, buying an older, low mileage coach meant we were able to get most all the bells and whistles without the massive price tag of a new coach – aka, we could afford it and not drain the retirement savings account!

We are the second owners of new Road House (kept the same name) and found her sitting on a consignment lot in Poulsbo Washington. Her previously owner, who purchased her new had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and she had a big scrape down the passenger side. Could be why he wasn’t driving her anymore – very sad. The coach only had 14K miles and most of the appliances still had the original stickers on them. Honestly, the entire deal was a complete pain in the arse and took over 4 months to finalize (not fans of Poulsbo RV). The upside was that we had time, negotiated the price down and got the unsightly scape fixed. We did have a complete independent engine, chassis, interior and exterior inspections done. We also bought an extended warranty that has comprehensive coverage on all of the above so we felt very confident all was well when we finally rolled out of the dealership from hell.

We have enjoyed this mobile lifestyle so much, that we decided an upgrade was in order. The Monaco was a great coach – no regrets. I actually felt bad for selling it… I know, coaches are inanimate objects so that sound irrational but she got us where we wanted to go with very little problems. There wasn’t one thing wrong with her… so why did we want an even bigger big-ass coach??

Creature comforts… that really is the bottom line! The Entegra feels like a home inside… albeit a small studio apartment. The kitchen is bigger, there is a king sized bed, we have an L shaped couch that we can both stretch out on. We also have a dishwasher and stackable washer/dyer as opposed to the all in washer/dryer unit we installed on the Monaco. I love the residential sized refrigerator with an icemaker. The downside of that unit is that it vents into the coach. In cooler weather that’s actually nice but in a warmer climate, well not so much. I also hate the freezer layout but it does have more capacity than the Monaco. Hey, this fishing family needs freezer storage for all the crab we catch!!! The list goes on and on…

A complete list of all the bells and whistles

We love the on demand hot water system, the porcelain tile floors with a heating option, the fireplace, the outdoor TV and stereo system and all the newer technology . Honestly, we love just about everything about the coach.

Adding splashes of color around our brown abode!

There are a few things however that we liked better on the Monaco. The Entegra has frameless windows which asthechically look great but they allow much less air in as only a small portion of the window actually opens upward. The Monaco had the older style framed windows which slid open and allowed way more air flow in the coach.

The lighter exterior color on the Monaco, the ability to get more air inside and the three interior Maxx Power Fans meant we rarely had to turn on the AC when the weather heats up. Not sure why the Entegra only has one fan??? The kitchen fan over the cooktop does vent outside but it isn’t nearly as powerful as the Maxx Fan so we are going to have another one installed. The Monaco was a bit brighter inside…more windows and lighter interior colors. There is a lot of brown in the Entegra but fortunately I like brown!!! There are models with lighter colored interiors but with pets I was worried that light upholstery would show all the dog slobber and pet hair.

The other options we love are the full access pull out drawers in the basement. Like the Monaco, the storage under the Entegra coach is great. We have plenty of room for big things like our Traegar BBQ, The Uni Pizza Oven and the portable refrigerator/freezer.

When we bought the Entegra, the prior owner left a treasure trove of “stuff” in the lower storage areas. Honestly, how many chairs does a dude need? Sadly, there were so many duplicates of things I wonder if the treasure trove was a result of his Alzheimer’s. I also found a huge black garbage bag in the rear clothes closet full of spices and food from 2003 – Eww, Gross. I am here to tell you that decade old mayo isn’t a pretty sight. Not sure why the consignment lot didn’t toss that entire bag? Otherwise the coach was so clean… the convention oven and stove top had never been used. Boy, I sure put an end to that quick!

All this stuff was inside the lower storage compartments.

Wally likes driving the Entegra way more… it rides and drives like a luxury car, quiet and smooth. With the additional horse power the Entegra cruises effortlessly up and down steep mountain passes and really doesn’t burn much more fuel than the Monaco did. At 9+ MPG and an 88 gallon fuel tank, we have a decent fuel range too.

Overall we are thrilled with our upgraded home on wheels. While Covid has slowed down our travels a bit, 2021 and 2022 are going to be big travel years for us. This spring our plans are taking us through Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. If the Canadian/US border opens, we plan to be in Alaska for 2 months and then on to the Beach House for 3 months. The fall will see the Road House rolling south and east with a 2 month stay in Texas on the inter-coastal water way, then on to Alabama and Louisiana. Most of the winter will be spent in Florida, then in the spring we hope to cruise to the Carolinas, Tennessee and Kentucky before heading back to Anacortes Washington for the summer. Fingers crossed!!

Farewell 2020… You Won’t Be Missed!!!

We are close to saying farewell to the year 2020, a year in which many people will not look back on fondly. It’s been called a shit show by many and rightfully so. Many people suffer great losses, many people lost their jobs, many people’s relationships suffered, many people lost their homes, many people suffered great physical illness, many people lost a loved one… heartache abounded. I feel fortunate that all I really lost was my mind at times! I feel incredible grateful to be in this place in my journey when the pandemic hit. My heart goes out to everyone out there who have suffered big losses in 2020.

Our mobile lifestyle has actually been very conducive to saying healthy, staying sane and sheltering in place. My biggest frustration has been the unknown… well, that and so many people who haven’t taken this pandemic seriously. People who don’t have the decency to wear a mask, people who refuse to be unconvinced by simply being careful for the sake of others. For us and our lifestyle, the unknown, trip planning, knowing where and when to travel have been a constant consideration. Because we travel in our home on wheels or our home on the water we have been able to be very careful and hopefully not cause any duress to others. That said, we have had to have plan A and Plan B most of 2020. My magic 8 ball wasn’t very helpful either. Questions about COVID and travel planning were usually met with either a non-commital or negative answer – GO FIGURE!!!

● It is certain.
● It is decidedly so.
● Without a doubt.
● Yes – definitely.
● You may rely on it.
● As I see it, yes.
● Most likely.
● Outlook good.
● Yes.
● Signs point to yes.
● Reply hazy, try again.
● Ask again later.
● Better not tell you now.
● Cannot predict now.
● Concentrate and ask again.
● Don’t count on it.
● My reply is no.
● My sources say no.
● Outlook not so good.
● Very doubtful.
A standard Magic 8 Ball is capable of 10 affirmative answers (●), 5 non-committal answers (●), and 5 negative answers

We definitely didn’t travel as much in 2020 despite being in our rolling home. We spent the first four months of 2020 hunkered down in Palm Springs, three weeks in Bend Oregon, four months on the boat in the San Juan Islands, five weeks in Arizona and here we are back Palm Springs under another stay at home order. That said, I still feeling really grateful to be healthy and mostly sane.

We returned to our lot at the Outdoor Resort Palm Springs in late November after a difficult time in Arizona getting my mother moved into a memory care community. Somehow the timing actually worked out, we found a great community for her and I can breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing she is safe and actually thriving there.

Not long after our return to California, the Governor issued another stay at home order. Again, our lifestyle in Palm Springs is conducive to doing this and staying sane. We have sunshine almost everyday, warm temps and literally an adult playground that sits on 137 beautifully landscaped acres with 27 holes of executive golf, 13 Pickleball courts, 10 Tennis courts, 10 hot tubs and 8 swimming pools. It’s easy to socially distance here, sitting out in the evening by our firepit with a glass of wine with another couple feels safe.

I know it sounds dreamy but like most of you I am ready for the 2020 shit show to come to a conclusion. I asked the magic 8 ball if 2021 was going to be a better year for the world and I was told that “signs point to yes”…hmm, do you think a scientist had any input on this answer???

Fingers crossed and in the meantime, I am going to try and reflect on the struggles that are real out there in the world, be grateful for each healthy day and for all of the wonderful people in my life.

Happy New Year…Wishing you all the best and two doses of vaccine in 2021!!!

Sedona Arizona Again!!!

The last time I wrote about Sedona was two years ago and I still think it is just as magical. The annual southern migration led us there again and it’s a darn good thing we made the reservation at Rancho Sedona RV Park two years in advance because it was booked solid the entire three weeks we were there.

After our 5 day pedal to the metal road trip from Portland Oregon, it was good to put the jacks down and stay a while. It was also really spend time with our fellow full time RV friends Joe and Sharon. It was a different time, as they lost their beautiful boxer boy Cooper last year so our boxer boy Bentley tried hard to fill the empty void. He was so excited to see them and was not shy about barging right into their coach anytime!! Cooper was a sweet boy who sure did like to hike too. Bentley is not that into it, so the last time we met up with Joe, Sharon and Cooper, Bentley loaned Cooper is hiking booties…. we sure miss that sweet boy.

On our last stay we did a lot of touring around the area … there is so much to see and do in Sedona. This stay we spent more time locally, hiking almost everyday and just living like a local! Of course we had to hit some of our favorite restaurants that had patio seating.

Like our last stay, I got to spend my birthday in the land of red rocks. Wally and I had a delicious brunch on the zen patio at the Casa Sedona Inn. Bloody Mary’s, fresh corn muffins and huevos rancheros followed by locally roasted coffee had this gal almost purring!!! Not only is the dining 5 Star at the inn, Casa Sedona was voted # 6 in the US – most romantic places.

After our leisurely brunch, we headed out to do some birding and take a long walk at the Sedona Wetlands Preserve. The preserve is actually 27 acres in a effluent management area located south of the Sedona Wastewater Treatment Facility.  I know, sounds gross at first but honestly you would have no idea as you were walking around the numerous reed lined ponds.

The ponds range from very shallow to approximately 4 feet deep to accommodate a wide range of habitat. We saw loads of scat around the ponds so I know there are more than birds hanging out there. Wetland and upland plants are located within shallow water areas and above the water line to provide habitat, attract wildlife, and control erosion. Several islands are constructed within the ponds to provide safe habitat and breeding areas for birds and other wildlife.

According to the website “In addition to effluent management goals, the wetlands also provide habitat for numerous wetland species and serve as a public park with educational and recreational opportunities including bird watching and pedestrian trail walking”. Well, they might want to actually put up some signage on 89A because if you don’t know it’s there you will drive right on by.

We did not go at the optimum birding time but still saw plenty of feathery friends and a few turtles too! Guess they don’t care about effluent management!!! Our sightings included Cedar Waxwing, Phainapepala, Scrub Jay, Barn Swallow, White Striped Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, American Coots, Northern Flicker, and loads of Mallards.

We also took a scenic drive along the Red Rock Loop Road and stopped to gawk at the stunning vistas along the way. Sedona is undeniably one of the most beautiful locations in the state of Arizona. The towering red sandstone rock formations that surround the town are especially stunning during the golden hours around sunset.

The Birthday fun continued, after our birding adventure we joined Joe and Sharon for happy hour with their daughter and son-in-law who were visiting from Texas. RVing is great for social distancing… we sat outside with the warm afternoon sun on our backs and a cocktail in hand!

It was a great day and I truly appreciate all my friends, near and far who reached out to wish me a Happy Birthday!

Our next two weeks flew by, hiking … more friends visiting and general relaxing in this beautiful zen country. Sedona is just one photo opportunity after another.

Sedona’s population today is around 10,000 but that number is insignificant when compared to the three million tourists that flock to the area each year. Suffice to say, because of the large amount of tourism, Sedona is off our list of possible places to live long term but we will still enjoy visiting again.

The Start of the Southern Migration

It’s time…the weather is changing…fall will quickly turn into winter in the PNW and so we begin our southern migration. Eventually we will end up in Palm Springs California at the Outdoor Resort where we own a lot. But the trip in between will be filled with visiting family and friends.

We left Anacortes with heavy fog bidding us farewell. Our destination, Portland Oregon where we planned to spend 5 nights at Pheasant Ridge RV Park in Wilsonville. Those five days were spent catching up with our long time Portland friends and family. We were well fed…really well fed!!! That’s one common thread with all our friends…they are all amazing cooks, one actually being a Cordon Blue trained chef and they all like good food and wine. We managed to get in a few good walks to try and counter balance all the eating.

Goodbye fog…

Hello Oregon!!!

Our next five days would be back to back driving – something we normally don’t like to do but we were on a mission to get to Sedona where we would be staying for three weeks. Now, that’s civilized!!! We were super excited to be meeting up with fellow RV full timer friends Sharon and Joe there. The route we chose to Sedona would be remote state roads or highways through eastern Oregon and Nevada allowing us to avoid major interstates as long as possible. Interstates in generally suck… One would think they would be the cats meow, well paved and well traveled. Not always and the well traveled part is sometimes no fun in a big ass coach. Back roads can be a risk too but with all the internet rver info, I can totally figure out which roads to avoid. That said, I am here to tell you google maps is not always your friend in an RV. Fastest route, well that’s great except when it sends you down switchbacks with a 15% grade. Nope, don’t trust it and ALWAYS double check the route it recommends.

Leaving Portland, we headed over Mt. Hood on Hwy 26 and it was raining so no great views of the beautiful mountain. This road is great for big rigs, even with the big pass to climb. Thanks to our auxiliary braking system and cruise control, Wally’s driving stress is minimal. Hee-Hee, easy for me to say from my comfy reclining passenger seat. Hey, my job is to plan our route, navigate, look for sightseeing opportunities and good restaurants. I honestly tell myself that me driving would most likely be more stressful for Wally than him driving. That’s my story and I am sticking to it!!!

Love my reclining navigators seat!!!

Our a first night was spent near Burns Oregon…got in late, didn’t even unhitch the car or level the coach as we planned an early departure the next morning. I try to keep our drive days under 300 miles and this leg of our drive was the longest at 305 miles.

The second day was a beautiful drive with little to no traffic to Winnemuca Nevada where we stayed at the New Frontier RV Park. This RV park was in a great location and had large, level pull through sites – perfect for our one night stay. Again, we didn’t unhitch the car or level the coach.  As it turned out, a friend I know from Palm Springs was also on the way to Winnemucca and was also staying at the same RV place. Small world right? Sue is an amazing photographer and I have been enjoying her Facebook posts over the summer. Of course, we had to meet for happy hour!! 

On the road again early the next morning, our third stop was in Ely Nevada where we stayed at the Ely KOA. Again convenient and very okay for one night. Good thing we wanted to unhitch the car that night because the pull through site was just long enough for the coach but would have never worked with the car attached.

I was desperate for some exercise by then and had found a state park nearby to explore, so after a late lunch, off we went to the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park. I was intrigued by the charcoal ovens and wanted to take a look.

The 700-acre state park is a designated historic area and protects beehive-shaped charcoal ovens constructed in the latter half of the 19th century. Bonus points for having some flat hiking trails, a stream and cows to keep us company! Only saw one other couple there while we were exploring.

Our fourth day, again started early and was our last day on the awesome Nevada State Roads. The remote back roads gave way to the interstate near Las Vegas where we found ourselves back in traffic. EWWW DAVID!!!  Our destination for the night was Boulder City, where we stayed at the Lake Mead RV Village. I popped for a lake view site and it was worth the few extra dollars. This was the only stop along the way that I actually wished we had a few more days to explore. 

Lake Mead is huge but we only saw a small amount of it on this quick stopover.

Hoover Dam was closed to tourism but we had a great time at Hemenway Park in Boulder City. It was a Trip Advisor recommendation and boasted Big Horn Sheep that made frequent appearances. I was skeptical as we pulled in as it was in a fairly developed area but was quickly delighted to see a big herd of smelly sheep grazing happily on the luscious green park grass. Seriously, these sheep are no dummies…the area just outside the Park looked dry and barren. Not only were there sheep but sheep with a view. SCORE!!!

We also took a drive to the tiny historical downtown Boulder City where we enjoyed all the old neon signs and found an awesome brewpub with outdoor patio seating. The Road House tour guide had also scoped out a highly rated BBQ joint where we got take out and enjoyed a simple meal back at the RV Village overlooking the lake. Overall, the highlight so far of our pedal to the metal road trip.

The next morning we were up early again (okay don’t go getting all impressed… 7 am isn’t that early to some folks). For what ever reason, Sucia Kitty went on strike and hid under the couch. Apparently she doesn’t appreciate moving everyday either or getting up early!!! I had to use a broom to get her out… (not appreciated either) but managed to get her in her travel crate without much fuss. She is a bit of a timid kitty, so we always put her in a spacious travel crate with a litter pan when we are on the road. She is usually quite content to be in there and often just puts herself in it on mornings when she knows we are traveling. 

Our last leg of the trip was honestly the most stressful, kitty under the couch, a weird (am I going to Heaven) tunnel just out of the Lake Mead area, heavy traffic with road construction in Las Vegas, CRAPPY roads on I17 in AZ and more crappy traffic and road construction in Sedona. The final fun part was navigating five roundabouts in Sedona with the last one pushing us into some super tight areas where I almost had to get out and move the road construction signs. Traffic was backed up and we crawled along on 89a but finally made it to Rancho Sedona where we would put down the jacks, level up the coach and unhitch the car for three weeks – YAY!!!

Am I seeing the light????

Off to a weird, winding start just outside Lake Mead!!

We were all worn slick (a favorite Oklahoma saying I learned from my friend Joe) when we arrived at the Rancho Sedona RV Park but after lunch we rallied and later had a wonderful dinner and evening, sitting outside under the stars catching up with Joe and Sharon. Seems the Sedona vortex can heal even the most stressful drive days!!! 

Yep, worn slick!!!

Our Social Distancing Summer

Who would have thunk that there would be a pandemic when we planned for our nomadic lifestyle. The buzz words “social distancing” had never been uttered, the concept of staying 6 feet away from other people and wearing a mask – utterly silly. Fast forward to the hell year known as 2020…never imagined our nomadic lifestyle would actually become the envy of people who found themselves locked in there homes, afraid to travel or venture out of their safe bubble. Ironically, RV’s and boats have sold at record pace this year as many people sought a way to stay safe while getting out and seeing the US. It’s not like the rest of the world is welcoming US travelers …okay, and with good reason. But I won’t digress into a political rant at this point!!!

We easily transition onto the boat from the coach, continuing our newly learned social distancing skills and honestly had a great summer in the San Juan Islands. This year we used our marina in Anacortes as base camp so no big provisioning like prior years. Anacortes felt super safe…all summer events (no stupid Sturgis like events were allowed to happen) were cancelled so tourism was much lower than normal. People in Anacortes were diligent about wearing masks and we frequented several restaurants that had outdoor dining. 

Our first outing of the season was buddy boating with our friends Kristen and John. We had great weather and had fun showing them some of our favorite anchorages and marinas in the San Juans.

Our big boat project this year was the flybridge remodel, which I must say turned out great. All new seating, a second helm chair, new carpet and vinyl covers for all the storage areas. The biggest chore was getting the old, heavy wood based furniture off the flybridge. This was made way easier by hiring two young, energetic dudes to assist Wally who mainly just had to oversee them. Anymore, we write checks for anything that will require us to go to the chiropractor more than once!

Of course there were the unexpected repairs …it’s a boat! Luckily, none of them cost a boat unit this time, just a bit of frustration and sweat equity. Yep, that is one of our macerator toilets in the picture below …on the dock … getting a huge clog removed. This may be way too much information but never flush a macerator toilet when your water pump is turned off – oops poops!!! We also had a window break mysteriously in the galley but luckily we were not underway.

Staying in the San Juans (not by choice) meant we could host more guests and spend more time with local boating friends. Not sure if it is our age or ??? but our friends have been uber careful as well and we all felt comfortable spending time together.  

Oysters and clams at the Wescott Bay Shell Fish Farm.
Big crab feed with friends Darryl and Randy from Manzanita Oregon.

Out on the water we had several floating happy hours with friends. Sometimes rafted to the back of our boat and some days rafted to other friends boats – how’s that for proper distancing! The San Juans are full of great places to hike and with the kayaks we could get plenty of exercise. Despite the exercise,  I am pretty sure I still may have consumed more calories at happy hour than I expended on shore. 

Wally tried paddle boarding for the first time…we may need to add a new toy to the
Beach House!

June was a bit gloomy but in July the weather turned 100% San Juan Summer. We had a great time boating with a group of friends from Anacortes and crabbing with long-time boating friends from Portland. I added some serious amounts of sea glass to my collection from Sucia and Patos Islands. I also added a new favorite cocktail to the rotation – (thanks Ted and Marsha).

Kraken rum and ginger beer… ridiculously delicious.

We had a staycation with our friends Steve and Donna who came up from Portland in August. The gale force winds kept us in port for most of their stay but we had a great time anyway. Before the windstorm descended, we got in a day cruise around Lummi Island and lunched on the hook at Eagle Harbor. A big drama unfolded as we all took a walk, in the wind, from our marina over to the point by the port marina, Cap Sante. What we saw, were huge waves tossing boats like corks in Fildalgo Bay and two boats washed up on the breakwater rocks.

We were all mesmerized so we stopped back later in the day to see how the rescues were going. That was when we met the owner of the partially submerged powerboat…His boat was a total loss and was signed over to a salvage company who eventually got it off the rocks outside the break water entrance of Cap Sante Marina. He was devastated as he loved that boat and had worked so hard to buy it. Luckily, the sailboat (which ironically, was his father-in-laws boat) was rescued. I think the keel saved it from sinking as it got lodged into the breakwater rock wall, keeping it mostly upright.

The calm after the storm…

Stuart island has been a long time favorite and this year we spent several days with friends Howard and Susan who own a home on the island. The Beach House was tied up to their mooring buoy in the bay which is just below their house. The views are stunning from both their deck and from the water. We enjoyed dinner al fresco on their deck one evening and had a huge crab feed on the boat one night – no surprise right!! But the real treat was the “mule” tour of their end of the island. We piled into the mule – aka an ATV and Howard motored us all around on the rustic roads. Stuart Island is only assessable by private boat or small airplane so it was great fun to actually see the island from land. There are no stores, no electricity (homes have solar and/or generator power) and all water is via a private well.

Our last big hurrah was a week long buddy boat cruise in the smoke/fog/smog with friends Caety and Frank from Wyoming. Our mutual friend Jane was onboard the Beach House and it happened to be her birthday trip – can you say Jell-O shots!!!. Caety and Frank brought loads of food from their ranch and garden so boy, did we eat well. It was a bit of a surreal week as smoke from the Washington and Oregon wildfires blew into the islands. The combination of marine fog and smoke had us running the boats on radar when were were cruising from island to island. It did not stop us from crabbing and the guys dropped some lines for salmon too. The girls did a day trip in our boston whaler to Roche Harbor where we toured the sculpture garden.

The pets had a pretty darn good summer too. Crab is Sucia’s favorite food and she was always the first one at the table for a crab feed. She’s gotten to be such a PIA that we have had to lock her in our stateroom during dinner when we have friends onboard and are serving crab. Bad kitty….

Yep, she’s waiting…

Our 4 months in Anacortes flew by, in late September we had the Beach House hauled out for maintenance and we moved onto the Road House. Our last two weeks in Anacortes were spend closing up the boat for the winter, getting the coach ready to roll, doing routine doctors visits and yes, some happy hours and dinners with friends. We also got in a bit of local crabbing too before we pulled the boston whaler out for the winter. 

Despite COVID, summer 2020 was pretty darn enjoyable!!! Sedona, here we come…

Okay, a few more of my favorite pictures…

Time Flies…

Oopsie doodle…how time flies and how lazy have my fingers been, no post, no updates, nothing… Sorry …time just got away from me but all is well here in Anacortes Washington where we spend our summers.

We spent our first week in the coach at Pioneer Trails RV Resort moving onto the Beach House. The boat is mostly equipped with kitchen equipment, bedding and household items but there always seems to be plenty to move. Cleaning out the RV fridge, freezer and pantry is always a chore. We don’t leave much clothing onboard the boat – despite the heaters and dehumidifier we have running in our absence, boat funk smell seems to permeate fabrics – EWWW David!!! I always pack all of our freshly laundered bedding in big plastic, air tight storage bags when we are gone. So, while it is a bit of a chore getting the Beach House “opened” up for the season, I am not complaining!!!

Love these blue crates for moving days!!

Then, with a day onboard we took a short 2 day shake down cruise, trying to remember how to operate the boat and all its complex systems after almost 8 months on land. The poor pets didn’t even have a chance to get settled in before the engines were fired up and off we went – tough love baby!!!

Sucia is cautiously checking out the reflections on the water. Don’t worry, we always keep the door closed when we aren’t onboard!

Bentie found his favorite place by the heater vent!!!

Good news is, we kinda sorta remembered how to run the boat, nothing serious was broken or not working. And that my friends is very good news!! We had a short cruise to James Island where we met friends who were already tied up to the state park dock there. The current at that dock is wicked and getting on the dock when it is pushing you off isn’t always smooth or pretty. Luckily we had plenty of help and despite our lack of grace, our friends still let us raft on them!!!

She’s looking good!!!
Rafted at James Island State Park with our sister boat Chardonnay.

We enjoyed our brief reintroduction to the water and then headed back to our marina to get ready for our next adventure – Buddy Boating!!! Stay tuned for that update.

The view from our slip in the marina is actually Mt. Baker and the Cascade Mountains.

Back at the marina, Wally had a project list to get cracking on cause it’s a boat. Boat stands for “Break Out Another Thousand” which honestly is true and not always that funny!!! In this case, it was more time than money. Our diesel heater needed to be serviced and Wally wanted to reroute a vent to our cockpit. YAY – heat on the back porch!!

We do get some amazing sunsets right from our slip in the marina. This is a completely untouched photo.

Our other big project for the season is a flybridge remodel. Stay tuned for more on that too!!! What is a flybridge you may be wondering???  It is an open deck on a cabin cruiser located above the bridge on the cabin roof and usually having a duplicate set of navigating equipment. In our case, the flybridge is covered with a bimini and isenglass/canvas. While we do have controls inside the cabin of the boat, we always drive Beach House from the flybridge. Why?? Because she has a long bow and visibility is much better from the flybridge. 360 degree view to be exact…you would be surprised how often we have to dodge floating logs and debris in the water when we are cruising.

Yep, its does rain when we are out on the boat. This photo was taken from the flybridge looking out over the bow of the boat. This why our flybridge is completely enclosed!

It’s great to be back in our sleepy little Anacortes. More sleepy than usually this year thanks to COVID. Anacortes is the hub for people who want to see the San Juans Islands. Ferry are operating and things are starting to reopen but people for the most part, are being cautious. The city has also been very cautious and cancelled all the big summer events that usually drawn thousand of people to this sleepy island. Of course, there are always the Aholes, that refuse to wear a mask or openly declare it‘s all bullshit. Don’t even get me started on that topic!!!

My latest mask… thanks Kristen. Perhaps my next mask should read – “Be considerate you AHOLE”!!!

It Was A Long Week…

Our plan to stay a week in Bend morphed into three weeks… For no other reason than we just like it here! Plus, the weather up north in Anacortes still seem drippy so why not just stay put. Hiking, biking, and exploring the area have kept us busy. The Crown Villa RV Resort has been the perfect location with its easy access to the Old Mill District and Downtown. Great location, huge sites with brick pavers, patio sets and a storage shed certainly set this RV park apart from others we have stayed at. The other nice feature is that there is literally a grassy park behind all the RV sites and loads of mature ponderosa pine trees. Our only disappointment was that the pickleball court was closed due to COVID but I suspect it will be re-opening soon.

We have spent a lot of our time here in Bend just enjoying the outdoor life. Hiking, biking, walking and exploring the area have kept us plenty busy. There are no shortage of hiking trails nearby and we have especially enjoyed the extensive Deschutes River Trail system. Hiking along water – bonus points!!! Dillion Falls was one of our favorite hikes and the falls are just beautiful.

The bird watching on our hikes has been fun too. Colorful Western Tanagers, Black Headed Grosbeaks, copious amounts of Red Winged Black Birds, Finches of all kinds, Woodpeckers, loads of LBB’s, Nuthatches, Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures, Ospreys and Hawks but our best sighting was a Great Blue Heron contemplating how to fish the turbulent waters at Dillon Falls. Herons take a bit of effort to take flight and seriously, one false move and this dude would have been swept into the water and over the falls.

Yesterday (Friday), we took a walk through Drake Park and Downtown Bend. Shops, bars and restaurants are starting to re-open but there wasn’t much foot traffic for the beginning of a long weekend. Much as I would like to plop myself down in a restaurant with white table clothes and gleaming stemware, a cold tap beer on a mostly deserted pub patio was a daring step out. Man, did it feel good to sit outside by a big fire table , overlooking Drake Park with a cold brew, sun on my back, yep…it felt normal.

While we aren’t partaking of newly opened restaurants yet that doesn’t mean we haven’t been eating well. There is a great produce stand just a few miles away and I even braved a trip to Trader Joe’s. The line was kinda long to get in as they were only letting 20 people in the store at a time, masks mandatory. So it was a thirty minute wait but once inside it was really nice not to be elbow to elbow like it always was pre-COVID. Not sure why the gal in front of me needed to bring her kids but at least they had masks on.

We have had a wide range of meals and I made a batch of triple chocolate brownies with toasted coconut which we have been feasting on for the last week. Tomorrow night the Uuni Pizza Oven is getting fired up…there is homemade pizza dough rising as I type.

We have a few more days to enjoy Bend before the Road House rolls on Tuesday. Tomorrow we are headed out to Tumalo State Park to take a hike and look for a family of owls that someone told us about. Hope you are all sane, healthy and enjoying a bit of normal…what ever that is!!!