Shore Leave in Ladysmith BC

Part of the fun of boating is exploring new places and visiting marinas that allow us to get off the boat and see some sights. Bonus points if there is a nice restaurant or pub nearby. Ladysmith met all the criteria so we were excited to check out the area.

The cruise over from Princess Cove was short and uneventful…nothing wrong with that. I had called ahead and made reservations at the Ladysmith Maritime Community Dock a few days prior so we were expected.

The Ladysmith Maritime Society which runs the marina is a 280-member non-profit charitable organization that has been in continuous operation since 1985. It’s really unusual to find a non-profit community marina and so well run to boot. The facilities are clean, up to date and beautiful with the hanging flower baskets on all the pier posts. The Oyster Café is housed in the community building that has a great room, laundry and shower facilities. Very charming and a easy walk to town where the 49th Parallel Grocery Store serves boaters and non-boaters.

Ladysmith has gained a widespread reputation as a picturesque, seaside community with small town charm located at the 49th Parallel. It definitely lived up to its reputation and we thoroughly enjoyed the bakery, butcher shop and the great grocery store in addition to all the cute shops on the main drag.

Ladysmith’s past is rooted in logging and fishing are is so many of the coastal town on Vancouver Island. The Ladysmith Maritime Society supports two neat little museums dedicated to the working boat heritage.

The other draw to Ladysmith is the close prolixity to the little art community of Chemainus. Luckily for us, the BC Transit System has a bus from Ladysmith to Chemainus for a mere $5 CAD round trip.

Chemainus’ claim to fame are the numerous and beautiful outdoor murals that you’ll find all over town! Look for the ‘footprints’ on the sidewalks that guide you to them … although they’re easy to spot without following them. Even the local Subway shop has a mural! This small community also has a thriving theatre culture. The Chemainus Theatre has a great line up of plays every year that people travel from all over the west coast to attend.

We put on over 5 miles trekking around town checking out the murals and shops. Thankfully, there was a great taphouse on our route so starvation and thirst was not an issue!

For all you non-boaters, Chemainus and Ladysmith are on Vancouver Island in the Cowichan Valley which is just north of Victoria. You can easily ferry to Victoria in your car or RV and explore all the natural beauty on Vancouver Island. The ferry system will also take you to some of the Gulf Islands which are well worth exploring.

Mining, fishing and forestry were the original industries that gave work to a diverse collection of people from all over the world including Chinese, Japanese, East Indians, Scots, and Germans. Some came to find their fortunes in the mines and when that didn’t work out they stayed to work in the forestry and fishing industry.

Billy Thomas is a great example of the local heritage. He was the first male child of European ancestry born in the Chemainus Valley, and lived here for all of his 102 years.

Of course, the Cowichan Valley has been the home of the original first nations peoples and their ancestors for countless generations and their history and lives became intertwined with all the various settlers and laborers.

So glad we finally made it to this part of Vancouver Island. Shore leave was throughly enjoyed by all including Bentley. He had fun swimming and playing stick on the beach which are his absolute favorite things to do.

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A Lot of THIS, THAT and the OTHER THING!!!

Since we arrived back in Anacortes in early June, it has been just a lot of this, that and the other thing combined with a bit of boating. By this time last year we were hundreds of miles north in the Broughton Islands.

Oh Broughtons you were so amazing!!!

We knew this summer would be a bit different as one of us was having a significant birthday in late June and we had planned a river rafting trip with 15 friends on the Rogue River in Oregon. So THIS was planned and we had a amazing trip, more on that soon I promise.

Yep, thats me sitting in the middle, doing absolutely nothing in the class three rapid. Nope, its wasn’t my birthday…hee-hee!!!

The seemly hundred and one things on the boat that mysterious stopped working in our 8 month absence, well THAT was not planned.

There may have been swear words happening.
I honestly wouldn’t even know where to start!

Neither was getting a new coach…what!!! Nope, THAT wasn’t planned either but some how it just happened. More on that later…but if you are in the market for a pristine, well cared for older coach with low miles, we got just the just the coach for you.

Well, THAT led to the OTHER THING which is cleaning out the Road House and getting her ready for sale. Geeez Us, did we have a lot packed on that coach. A 5×10 storage unit lot of stuff to be exact. Why a storage unit you may ask and why not just move it from one coach to the other. THAT is yet another OTHER THING and a whole other post, I promise.

So, in between all this, that and the other things that have been going on, we, okay mostly Wally worked through the mysteries on the boat. We have actually gotten out of the marina three times now for 4-5 days jaunts around the islands with friends. Crabbing has been awesome…who needs a damn KETO Diet when you can eat fresh crab almost everyday. Crab cocktails, crab cakes, crab omelettes, crab enchiladas, crab with ginger ramen noodles, crab, shrimp and corn chowder, crab and avocado toast, crab tostadas, fresh steamed crab right off the cooker, crab cobb salads…I might have missed a few other ways we have had it but nope, not tired of it yet.

Ginger Scallion Ramen Noodles with …wait for it…CRAB!!!!
We often raft with friends when we anchor out. Makes cards, wine and general debauchery much safer!

Yes, we have some interesting guests on the Beach House.
Beautiful Turn Point Light House on Stuart Island.

Everyone on the Beach House has a very high crabatonian level right now!!! Sucia LOVES crab and has been feasting on it daily. She can smell crab in her sleep and magically appears whenever we are cooking, cleaning or eating crabbies. She has even been know to reach out and grab your hand and pull the crab towards her. How’s that for subtle!!! It’s cute and her begging is most often overlooked because I love crab as much as she does, so go girl!!!

Someone crashed after her big crabatonian spike!

Bentley loves crab too and who can resist those big brown eyes when he gives you the look, what about me??? These four legged crab aficionados are also happy to finish off any picked crab that lingers around here more than two days. No crab goes wasted or unappreciated on the Beach House!!!

Bentley loves going to check the crab pots as much as he loves eating crab.

Sorry, I have been such a dud on the blog …a friend and avid follower just chided me for being so lazy and inconsiderate! But really, the THIS, THAT and the OTHER THING have been all consuming.

27 Years But Who’s Counting??? Bandon Oregon…

The 6th leg of our Hwy 101 road trip took us from Klamath California to Bandon Oregon. 132 miles of wild, rugged coastline with big beautiful redwoods and narrow shoulders. We drove through a bit of road work but all in all, it was very big rig friendly and there were not too many places that I had to close my eyes. Thankfully doing this trip from south to north means we are always driving on the inside of the road as opposed to the outside that hugs the guardrails with steep drops into the ocean.

Just glad we got there before they started putting down the asphalt!

Since we have retired and been on the road, our anniversary has been celebrated in some interesting places. Being big foodies, we always seem to find a wonderful, intimate restaurant where we can raise a glass of bubbly and marvel how we continue to put up with each other. Yep, I am such a romantic!!!

This year when planning our Hwy 101 road trip, Bandon Oregon seems like a great place to spend our anniversary. Thanks to Yelp, Google and Trip Advisor I found the perfect restaurant to celebrate our 27th anniversary.

The Alloro Wine Bar was delightful as was the personable owner and all the staff. Knowing it was our anniversary, they started us with a complementary glass of sparkling wine. Our dinner was fabulous and the sunset that followed that evening was a spectacular gift to end the evening with.

Our home for the four day stay in Bandon was at the Bullard Beach State Park. Oregon knows how to do state parks right…plenty of spaces that accommodate big-ass RV’s, full hookups with sewer, nice natural landscaping between the large sites. All this for a mere $31 per night. Bonus points for a light house, horse camp and free-range, wild turkeys that visited us every day. The Oregon State Parks online reservation system is one of the better ones I haves used, very user friendly and intuitive.

Of course, Bentley loved the beach and the biking around the park was fun too. Well, except the day I decided to ride to the light house not knowing the wind was howling. The ride out was great with the wind at my back but coming back about killed me…I could barely make any head way except if I laid over the handle bars and petaled like a crazy woman. FYI, this light house isn’t operational anymore but it is fun to check out.

Speaking of light houses, if you are a fan, I highly recommend a visit to the Cape Blanco State Park in Port Orford. The light house there is fully operational, open for tours and has the original Fresnel lens. We had a great tour by a husband and wife volunteer team. The history of the light house is well documented and fascinating. It was a beautiful clear day and the view from the inside of the light tower was spectacular. Loved the reflections off the lens as it slowing rotated.

Erected in 1870, the lighthouse stands on Oregon’s farthest west point of land and is the oldest one continually operating in Oregon. It holds the record for having the longest serving Light House Keeper too: James Langlois worked here for 42 years. James Hughes, born on a nearby ranch, served at this light station for 37 years as well.

With only four days to explore, when we were not frolicking on the beach with Bentley, we did day trips north and south of Bandon. Loved the driving loop off Hwy 101 that takes you through historic Charleston which is very much a working coastal town. Part of that drive took us through some logged areas where you can see the scars and scabs that logging leaves behind. The only bright side of that is there is so much wood left behind so we gathered carloads for our evening bonfires. Hey, there weren’t any No Trespassing signs!!!

We also really enjoyed exploring Coos Bay and had a fun lunch sitting outside at the 7 Devils Brewery. After lunch we wandered around town and down to the waterfront where two old wooden sailing boats were on display.

Zoom in and check out the great map on the building.
Isn’t Teddy abandonment a felony???

Surrounded by the Pacific shoreline with its beautiful dunes and lovely beaches, Coos Bay is located between the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area on the North and Shore Acres State Park. The area features a variety of outdoor activities including boating, fishing, clamming, wildlife, bird watching, sea lion and whale watching, tours, cycling, and 4-wheel rides in the dunes.

The Oregon Dunes Natural area is starkly beautiful.

The light house in Coos Bay was a big disappointment however. It has an interesting history and is one of the only inland lighthouses on the Oregon Coast. It sits up above town with a chain link fence around it…so no, not as aesthetically appealing at all.

If you love oysters, Winchester Bay is a great place to stop. The triangle formed by the two southern jetties at Winchester Bay is home to Umpqua Triangle Oysters. These little beauties are suspended in the water, never touching the ground.

Umpqua Triangle Oysters are ridiculously delicious and where they are grown is really cool. Literally…fresh clean Oregon rainwater blends with cool crisp saltwater in just the right proportion – 20%/80% – at just the right temperature – 51 degrees F – in their protected growing area. That’s important because when oysters get too warm, they spawn. Spawning oysters develop an unappetizing, slightly grainy texture. Under consistently cool growing conditions, Umpqua Triangle Oysters never spawn; they produce clean, firm, slightly salty-tasting oyster meat year-round. 

Look at all those oyster beds!!!

North of Coos Bay near Reedsport is the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area. ELK…yes more ELK. This girl can’t see enough elk!!! The Bureau of Land Management maintains a series of pastures along Oregon Highway 38 that are a year-round residence for a herd of 60-100 Roosevelt elk. Elk are visible almost every day of the year, WOO-HOO!!!! The main viewing area, with an interpretive kiosk and restrooms, offers visitors the chance to learn about the elk and the site heritage. Several pull-outs along the highway offer excellent photo opportunities. Dean Creek is also a popular bird watching area, serving as a stop along the coastal migration route.

The elk were there when we went to visit and easy to spot with binoculars but not close enough to get any good pictures. How rude…don’t they know that you want to see them too!

Four days flew by…Great weather albeit a bit windy but we loved exploring this part of the southern Oregon Coast and as usual, could have easily spent a week or two here.

Redwoods Adventures…

Klamath California was our fifth stop on the Hwy 101 Road Trip from Palm Spring CA to Anacortes WA. There isn’t much going on in or around Klamath except raw, beautiful nature. The drive from Cloverdale to Klamath was about 250 miles of gorgeous scenery and pretty decent roads for a big ass coach.

Just a wee bit tight in places….but I love those concrete guard rails!

I was really psyched for this stopover having never explored this part of California nor hiked in the Redwoods. We had stocked the frig prior to rolling out of Cloverdale and didn’t plan to eat out much since Crescent City CA is about 23 miles away and is the only place that has restaurants or a sizable store.

There are plenty of RV Park options in this area and for this stopover I choose the Klamath River RV Park. Why you may ask…well, RIVER VIEW, RIVER VIEW, RIVER VIEW!!! Spectacular nature … I truly felt like we had stepped back in time, to a pristine area, unspoiled by nasty humans. The park doesn’t have big amenities like a pool or a hot tub but they do have a very nice little cafe that serves espresso drinks and pizza once the season is fully in swing. They also have big communal fire pits, horseshoe pits, a ping pong table and a great pet friendly walking trail. Want to fish the river…you can do that from there as well or launch a kayak or canoe or float down the river. I will say the river was high and moving very fast when we were there in late April so launching a kayak or canoe would have been an adventure!

There is so much to do in this area, we could have easily stayed for a week or more. Most everyday we packed a lunch, loaded up our backpacks and explored a different area each day.


Nothing like a back roads exploration! No water crossings on this adventure.

Our first day in the area we explored the Coastal Drive which starts just minutes up the road from the RV Park. This gorgeous six mile drive follows a 1890’s stagecoach road, winding through redwood and spruce forests, then hugs the Pacific Ocean with panoramic views of Golds Bluff Beach and Seal Split Rock.

Following the ocean road portion we came to a view point where we met a very interesting Native American man. Henry was sitting on a camp chair on the bluff, whale and bird watching, enjoying the views, the sun and being out in nature. He helped us spot the whales surfing just on the edge of the waves and explained about the fishermen we could see on the beach who were saltwater eel fishing. Not only were the humans fishing but so were the eagles and ospreys. It was amazing to see an eagle swoop down into the surf, snatch an eel and fly off. I wish I had captured a photo Henry and of what we saw on that bluff but sometimes you just have to be one with the moment and put your camera down.

Henry also shared some of his life with us we stood watching with wonder all that was going on around us. As a young man he moved out of the area, logged for years, married, raised a family, divorced and ended up back on his tribal lands. In poor health, he had better access to healthcare by living here in Klamath and enjoyed being back out in nature. Reluctantly, we left Henry on the bluff enjoying his day and continued on our drive. I truly enjoyed hearing his stories and was glad we happened upon him.

Further down the road we found this small piece of history hidden away in the forest. The Klamath River Radar Site B-71, is a rare survivor of a World War II early-warning radar station. Rather than using camouflage materials, the buildings of Radar Station B-71 were constructed to resemble farm buildings to disguise their true purpose. Isn’t that clever? The station consists of three buildings: a power building disguised as a farmhouse, an operations building disguised as a barn and a functional wood frame two-stall privy or outhouse, now a partially collapsed ruin. The two major buildings were constructed for the Army by a private contractor specifically for the early warning aircraft station, and consist of block walls roughly two feet thick covered with wood-framed gable roofs with wood shingle finish.

Its great to find these relics of our history and somewhat preserved as well.

There are a number of state redwoods parks as well as the national redwood park along the 60 mile stretch between Lagoon CA and Crescent City CA. We hiked in both Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks. The trail system in Prairie Creek is far better and more extensive so we found ourself returning there for further exploration and ELK watching.

Did I mention that we saw loads of ELK in this area…ELK!!! Yes, Elk! Okay, I am a bit crazy about elk. So stately and handsome they are. We saw some fairly close up but not as close as the deer that launched itself across the highway in front of the coach on our drive up. Luckily for us and the deer, he was fast, nimble and didn’t freak out and try to reverse course. Yes, our hearts were pounding too! I had a greater respect for the frequent elk crossing signs we saw along the way after that.

ELK!!! Blurry ELK…sorry!! We saw so many herds of elk in this area. I love just watching them and made poor Wally drive all over the place in hopes of seeing more.

The Newton B. Durey Scenic Parkway runs thru the center of the park and is well worth the detour off 101 if you have time for it. But really, you need to stop and smell the roses here..or the elk poop if you are lucky! In addition to camping, the park offers three scenic drives, 75 miles of hiking trails, and a 19-mile bike loop. A must do is some hiking and creek fording in Fern Canyon, which was used as a backdrop for the movie Jurassic Park. We had quite an adventure there, hiking the creek, trying not to fall in, using logs as a balance beam to get to the next dry spot.

We found loads of trilliums on one of our hikes in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

We took an afternoon to explore Crescent City and had a great lunch at Seaquake Brewing. After our bellies were full of pizza and craft beer we walked it off a bit with a visit to Battery Point Light House. The first oil lamp was lit on December 10, 1856 and the Lighthouse still serves as a private aid to navigation. Loved seeing a real operational lighthouse! Open for tours, you can climb to the lighthouse tower where a Fifth Order Drumm lens, still operational and maintained by keepers, is in use. The tour of the residence includes looks into each of the residence rooms where original furniture often crafted by keepers many years ago is still in use. Most of the artifacts on display are from Battery Point Lighthouse’s over 150-year history.

Bentley getting his ball and beach fix at the same time. Look at that smile..that’s a happy dude!
Sucia loves getting a sun fix on the dash of the coach. Doesn’t she know the river view is really pretty???

Wow, those are big damn trees!

The drive through and around Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park winds around the Smith River which has some beautiful glacier pools. We also found a fun short hike though a huge redwood grove. There were so many downed trees that were just mammoth.

The Smith River

Where’s Waldo???

Four nights were truly not enough time to fully explore this magnificent area. We didn’t have time to get into the Redwood National Park nor did we have time to backtrack and explore the Eureka area. So note to self, a week here minimum and if you love to hike or bike, maybe two weeks is in order!

Nice beach front property!
These buggers are hard to get a good photo of!!

Our Winter Paradise


There’s no doubt it has been a rainy, cool winter here in the desert. 3.49 inches of rain fell in one day on February 14th – Happy Valentines Day! The normally bone dry, arid mountains are a beautiful mossy green this season. Despite the cooler than normal weather, we have had a great winter here in Palm Springs at the Outdoor Resort. It feels like we have found a small slice of paradise at this beautiful RV resort.

Bentley loves the desert too!
Did I mention we have beautiful sunsets here too??

So what is a RV resort you may wonder? According to Wikipedia, a recreational vehicle park or caravan park is a place where people with recreational vehicles can stay overnight, or longer, in allotted spaces known as “sites” or “campsites”. An RV Resort infers a bit more luxury and amenities just like any typical vacation resort, right? The word “resort” means different things to different people and is loosely used, but if you have ever been to a real resort, the difference is quite clear.

Tennis anyone?
Lunch by the pool at Bella Roma?
In addtion to the two big club house pools there are 6 satellite pools and hot tubs

On our travels around the western US, we have stayed in all varieties of RV parks, resorts, state and regional campgrounds. From basic to very high-end, so when we happened to find the Outdoor Resort in Palm Springs, we knew it was a very special place. Not only does it have all of the amenities you would find at a five star vacation resort but as the name implies the lifestyle is all about being outdoors. That really sold us on coming back.

The view of hole number one on the Executive golf course with the El Saguaro Club House in the background.

2 golf courses, a tennis complex, a pickleball complex, 2 huge club houses, 8 swimming pools, a hair/nail salon, a restaurant, a fitness center…the list goes on and on. If that isn’t enough, the activities department keeps things interesting with concerts, comedy shows, dances, BBQ’s, food trucks …you name it.

Concert on the green


The Outdoor Resort is community just like any other and while most people that winter here are retired, we do have some families that winter here too. What’s great is that people are active, interesting and generally very friendly. It’s not the sort of place where people just drive into the garage and never come out again until they have to go someplace! Okay, so no one has a garage but just sayin!!!

Nope, its not all sunshine and lemons at the Outdoor Resort!


Our lemon tree has contributed to many recipes and drinks this season.

Happy Hour is probably the most common get together here…just take a walk around the resort around 4 or 5 and you will see loads of people, hanging out on their patios with friends, enjoying a beverage, watching a movie on their outdoor TV’s, playing cards or just catching up.


Our back patio is the perfect place to host Happy Hour!


The hummers agree too…

The biggest difference is that there is no house to take care of and all 1,213 lots have some sort of recreational vehicle parked on them. All of our 137 acres of beautiful landscaping is taken care of by someone else – score – that means more time to play. It’s tiny house living for sure but there is never a lack of things to do at the resort. Because the resort is a privately owned community, run by a non-profit Board of Directors, there is plenty of opportunity to volunteer as well. Some how I got sucked into being the Chair of the Dog Owners and Friends Committee – go figure!

Last year we rented a lot here for three months with absolutely no intention of buying but somehow by the end of the second month we were looking at lots. We bought a great site on the ninth hole of the smaller par three golf course. Not only is our back yard beautifully landscaped but our view out the coach windows and from our patio is of the rugged San Jacinto Mountains. Thanks to the higher than normal rainfall, the mountains have been snow capped for weeks so the view is just spectacular.

Our coffee spot on the back patio is sunny in the mornings and a quiet place to start the day.
Our backyard.

Beside the beautiful Outdoor Resort, why Palm Springs you may wonder… well, the winter climate lends itself to being outdoors. Beyond that, we just like the area, its more small town like but with a great diversity of people, restaurants and a plethora of shopping within a 5 mile radius, the airport has loads of direct flights, a dry climate means no bugs – yay and lots of great hiking and outdoor options. Clearly the resort is 5 star, we have met so many great people in the community and made so many new friends. So combine all that and you have a winter paradise!!!

Concerts and friends…


We are just starting to wrap up our winter stay in Palm Springs, the patio furniture will all go into storage next week and the Road House will be rolling again the first week of April. Our plan is to take two months to drive up Hwy 101…all the way to Port Townsend Washington where the Road House will will board a ferry – with all of us on board too, cross Admiralty Inlet and deposit us on Whidby Island which is just 34 miles from Anacortes on Hwy 20. The crossing is only 30 minutes and the COOL thing is it will enable us to get to Anacortes without ever getting on I5. As much as we have enjoyed our time in the desert and all of our fabulous friends here, we are looking forward to rolling into some new adventures.


A Red Rock Country Birthday

Sedona Arizona is simply put, magical. I can’t think of a better place to meet up with friends, hike and celebrate my birthday than this stunning area. The combination of red rocks, desert landscape and beautiful twisted juniper trees make the vistas a visual treat to behold. The colors are constantly changing on the red rock backdrop as the sun moves through the sky and the clouds cast shadows. The sunsets over these vista’s can look like a fire in the sky.

 

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It’s no wonder this area attracts photographers in droves and inspires artists from all over the world to visit, set up a canvas and paint. This area is often called “Red Rock Country” after these most famous, natural landscapes.

 

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Sedona is a four-seasons playground with something for everyone, from the spiritual and metaphysical to more hardcore pursuits such as mountain biking and hiking. It’s an incredibly beautiful place and surprisingly diverse. In less than an hour you can go from a lush zone by the river, into places with autumn foliage and places with open red rock that make you feel like you’re on another planet.

 

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I know I am waxing poetic about Sedona but wow do I love it here. The great thing about our mobile lifestyle is that it is possible to fall in love often, which I do. But the Sedona love bug has grabbed us both hard. Definitely on the short list for someday but for now we still aren’t ready to stop traveling and choose one place to call home.

 

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We came to Sedona to meet up with friends, celebrate birthdays and hike. On my birthday, we did a beautiful hike with Joe, Sharon and Cooper. We took the Little Horse Trail which took us out to Chicken Point where we were surrounded by red rock views.

 

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Later that day we hosted a big rib feed for a group of friends at our coach at the Rancho Sedona RV Park where we are staying. The spread of food was awesome as were the wines that everyone brought. Wally’s St. Louis Style Ribs smoked on the tragegar, Tom’s Famous Cowboy Beans, Kim’s Most Excellent Potato Salad, Birthday Brenda’s Zippy Cilantro Coleslaw, Sharon’s Smokey Traegar Roasted Vegetables and Kim’s Green Chile Cornbread followed by a TJ’s Pumpkin Cheesecake covered in Caheta, Pinenuts and Whipped cream. Did I mention that the wines were incredible??? WOW, did we feast, laugh and just have a fabulous night together!

 

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It was such a fun group…full-time RVers Sharon and Joe from Texas, who we met last year and have since become great friends. Laurie and Tom who we have hiked with, boated with and travel with for years. Tom’s birthday is just a few days after mine so we try to have a birthday meet up every year. Kim and Jim who are also full time Rvers who recently joined us at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and then just happened to be 30 miles away from us the next two weeks. Jim and Wally were colleagues at Intel so it has been fun to get to know them better. Besides a love for travel, we all share a passion for great food and wine – gee, is that a surprise???

It was great to spend time with friends but I also really appreciated hearing from so many friends around the country who called, texted, FB messaged, emailed and sent cards…It was like you were all here with me, XXOO …what a great Birthday!!!

 

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So You Want To Be Balloon Pilot??

Every balloon pilot that I talked to at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (AIBF) was passionate about the sport – not a surprise right? But passion isn’t going to get you up in the air, flying a hot air balloon. The Federal Aviation Administration requires a pilot’s license, or airman’s certificate, just as you would need for an airplane or any other aircraft.

 

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Mister Z, aka Naughy Zebra is a 105,000 cubic foot special shape balloon piloted by Thom Wight.

 

That license is earned after taking hours of instruction with a balloon pilot instructor, passing an FAA written test, making a solo flight, and passing a flight test with an FAA examiner. Open your check book…plan on spending $2,500 – $5,000 on training to get your license.

That’s a small drop in the basket (hee-hee pun intended) because by now you are probably hooked so you will want a balloon of your own. Of course, you can buy a used one but plan to spend about $25K for a small balloon. Want one of those special shaped, custom-made babies…Now you are really going to spend some serious money, $60K or more.

 

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 Lady Jester was one of Wally’s favorite special shape balloons. She is piloted by Robert and Sally Lupon and is 77.000 cubic feet.

 

Because the FAA regulates hot air balloons, if you need to have it repaired, the repair has to be done on a FAA licensed repair machine and you will need to get the balloon inspected annually or after any repair.

I had an opportunity to spend some time with the pilot of The Spirit of 76, Captain Jason Gabriel of Aurora Colorado. Jason has been flying for a number of years and started as crew for other balloon pilots. He loves flying, so evident by his big, infectious grin. As a matter of fact, his entire family loves ballooning too and they all crew for him.

 

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USAF Captain and Balloon Pilot Jason Gabriel (sitting) and his family/crew.

 

Jason estimates that most balloons have about a 600 hour flytime lifespan. The material, which is often nylon is really thin. The inside of the balloon is coated with wax that helps keep the air in and protect the fabric from the heat that hot air generates when the balloon is inflated. UV breaks down the outside of the material so with the combination of UV and the heat on the inside, the seams eventually give way and the material becomes too thin to hold hot air.

Jason flies The Spirit of 76 about 50 hours a year and also told me it costs roughly $120 an hour to fly – inexpensive, compared to owning a plane or a helicopter is his theory. Jason is an Air Force Captain so clearly he loves being in the air and gets his other flying fixes at work. Thanks Jason for your service and for doing the special demonstration for our Monaco Club Group at AIBF!!!

 

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The Spirit of 76 was in the first AIBF in 1976. Jason is her third owner.

 

Some of the special shaped balloons that we saw at the AIBF are corporate owned or sponsored but most balloon pilots in general are hobbyists. Google research revealed that there are careers in hot air ballooning but it is really a niche career path. Still curious about hot air ballooning…here is another link you can follow to read more.

 

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Sonrise piloted by John Rodden of Oklahoma, landed right in front of our coach. That is Wally in the blue shirt helping him.

 

I don’t think either Wally nor I are jonesing to be a balloon pilot but Wally had a ball being an impromptu crew member for Sonrise. It was an exciting morning when she landed right in front of us. I have a great video (thanks Jim for editing) of Wally in action as Sonrise comes in for a landing.

 

WOW, WOW AND MORE WOW…

 

I can’t even begin to describe the awe and wonder that seems to happen to people when they attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Dawn Patrol. So many smiling faces so early in the morning! Pinch me…I am one of those people!!!

 

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Our alarm awoke us at 5 am, which by my standards is just an indecent hour to be awake. That said, today I was eager to get up and get going. We were down on the balloon field before 6 am trying to figure out what the heck was going to happen. The program for the day gives an hourly breakout of events but having never been to AIBF we didn’t know what to expect.

 

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We wandered around the massive balloon field and ended up at the pilots briefing. We found out the morning event was a go – yay!!! Weather, especially the wind dictates a go-no- go event. We learned that wind over 15 mph usually means that the balloons won’t fly – it is just to dangerous. The Sunday prior it was 25-30 MPH all day so all the balloon events were cancelled which would be a big bummer if it was the only day you could have attended.

 

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The Dawn Patrol got started a bit late, but by 6:30 am balloons were inflating and by 7 am they were taking flight. WOW…WOW…WOW…it is so cool to stand right by the balloons while they are inflating and launching. Seeing the fully inflated balloons floating through the sky, burners firing in the dark is just magical.

 

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After the Dawn Patrol was in the air and it was daylight, hundreds more balloons got ready to inflate and launch. There are “zebras” on the field which are actually people dressed in an black and white striped shirts that coordinate each balloons launch so that they don’t all crash into each other.

 

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So many shapes and sizes

 

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I now have proof that pigs can fly!!

 

Rather than explain what each event is about in this and upcoming posts, I will provide you with links in each post to follow so you can read the details if you are interested (just click on the highlighted text to follow a link). Hence to say, I hope the pictures will awe and inspired you to put the International Balloon Fiesta on your bucket list.

 

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The balloons look amazing at every angle!

 

 

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A Beautiful Bounty and a Great Big Burger!!!

Since we left Kennewick Washington the Road House has rolled through Oregon, Idaho and into Utah. The landscape is dotted with fall foliage and we are now cruising in Utah red rock country.

We love 300 mile days and try not to push ourselves much harder than that. Although, we have made exceptions and put the petal to the metal more than once to get to some fabulous wineries!

The last two overnight stops have been too easy, just off the highway RV parks.  We spent one night in rural Caldwell Idaho at the Country Corners RV Park. I had planned a simple dinner of Picante Black Bean Soup with a Spicy Hatch Green Chili Slaw and Corn Bread so we could relax once we arrived (check out the Epicurious page for the recipe) I also knew there was really nothing around that area to do!

 

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The shady picnic area would be a great place to hang out on a hot summer day.

 

The owners at Country Corners RV Park are super nice and invited us to take a walk to the garden and help ourselves. That was an invite I immediately took up after we got all settled in our site.

 

 

 

The grounds around the RV park have started to show off their fall colors. The garden itself is still producing a bounty of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, melons and pumpkins. The corn had all been harvested but we left with our pockets and bag full…what a bounty. The overnight site only cost $37 and I think the veggies alone were worth that much.

 

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There were sooooo many ripe tomatoes that I could have picked for hours.

 

The following morning we rolled through the rest of mostly flat Idaho farm land that I84 travels along. I will say the area around Twin Falls is just stunning, especially when the Snake River Canyon comes into view. We had an unexpected layover last year in Twin Falls and really enjoyed touring around the area despite our RV woes.

 

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There is a lot to see and to in the Exploring the Snake River Caynon area.

 

Our stopover on Friday night was in Brigham City Utah at the Golden Spike RV Park. This small, family owner park is another place we have stayed before and also has easy access on and off the interstate.

On the counter when I checked in was a big basket of TOMATOES!!! Sandy told me to take as many as I wanted…turns out they have a small but productive tomato garden. Couldn’t refuse a few of her gorgeous heirlooms – SCORE bounty number two!!

 

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I already ate the beauty on the left. It was perfectly ripe…so good with some salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

After getting settled in site 3 and taking Bentley out for some exercise, I had high hopes of visiting the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge where we could get some exercise. The short 1.5 mile walking trail meanders through the wetland habitat just outside the visitors center.  Alas, we arrived to late, the visitor center was closed and the gates all locked. We considered driving the 12-mile Auto Tour Loop that is open everyday from sunrise to sunset but we were both starving so off to Brigham City we went.

The downtown historical area is very quaint and very walkable so we got in a few steps that way. This is Utah, so that means that every town has a very picturesque Mormon Tabernacle.

Brigham City is no exception and for such a small town we were surprised that they had two. The older tabernacle was built in 1865 and is set on a beautiful square at the edge of the historical district.

 

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Just across the street is the newer Brigham City Utah Temple which was completed in 2012. The evening light made for some beautiful photography.

 

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Love the warm glow shining through the stain glass.

 

By now, we were really jonesing to visit the Peach City Diner. This cool, old diner has been around since 1937, thanks to Bill Harris who had a dream of owning an original malt shop and branding his family recipes. We love funky, old diners and by the crowd that was here last night it seems there are lots of other folks who also can’t resist the lure of handmade ice cream, a big fresh burger and sweet potato fries!!

 

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I think the doggie was headed in to order the Big Joe Bacon Cheeseburger too!!

 

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The food was great and the milkshakes were huge so they are now in the Road House freezer, waiting to make a reappearance…maybe tonight!

 

 

 

 

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Of course I had the peach milkshake.

 

Curious about the name Peach City and thanks to Google, I learned that there is a stretch of U.S. 89 from Brigham City to Willard that has become known as “Fruit Way” because of the many seasonal produce stands that line the road. Baskets full of peaches in several varieties stock their tables right now, along with pears, onions, squash, peppers and even ruby-red popcorn kernels. Shoot, wish I had know that earlier so we could have stopped at one of the local fruit stands.

Turns out this area of Utah has a bounty of things to offer so if you are ever traveling Highway 15 be sure to add Brigham City to your list of places to slow down and explore.

 

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