The Southern Migration

The Road House rolled out of Ancortes Washington under bright, clear skies headed for Portland Oregon. The water in Padilla Bay sparkled as we rounded the corner on Hwy 20. I will miss the Beach House and all of our friends in Ancortes but it was exciting to finally hit the road in our new coach.

Our winter destination was Palm Springs but we planned to take a month to get there. Sure we could dead head, put the petal to the metal and get there in 4-5 days but why? Highways and byways can be a lot more fun for exploring rather than staying on the major interstates like I5. 

Our first and longest stop was Portland. We haven’t done a stop over there since May of 2018 and then we only stayed 5 nights. Pheasant Ridge RV Resort was our home for the two week visit and we found the location in Wilsonville to be better than expected despite the horrific traffic that has entangled the city of Portland. This pretty little 45 acre resort is not only incredibly dog friendly (the doggies have their own laundry room) but has great amenities which include paved full hookup, pull-thru and back-in sites, onsite grocery, L.P. gas, indoor pool and spa, Wi-Fi (wireless Internet access throughout park) and much more.

The fall colors in Portland were spectacular… the city was ablaze with deep golds, reds and brilliant oranges. It was great catching up with longtime friends and our dance ticket was full every day. Late nights and bountiful bottles of wine left me in need of some serious sleep-in time. Not only that but 5 of those nights I spent in Austin with a friend I haven’t seen in 8 years….more on that later!

I spent my birthday with our good friend Deb and my favorite husband! We couldn’t have had a more perfect day together… picnic lunch, hiking the Trail of 11 Falls at Silver Falls State Park, a gorgeous sunset and a fabulous dinner together. Blackened Hangar Steak, Chanterelle Mushroom Barley Risotto made with duck bone broth (thank you Sharon Harmon), Arugula Pomegranate Salad and a amazing Almond Cake for dessert. Thanks Deb for taking a day off work to hang with us and make my birthday so special!

From Portland, we headed to Eugene for two nights to spend time with dear friends and our god daughter Lucie who has just turned 21!!! It was family and alumni weekend at the University of Oregon so the town was abuzz. We were treated to a pre-game party and great seats in a box for the Ducks vs Cougars game – Thanks Brent and Wendy for a fun weekend!

Next stop was Medford for one night where we honestly just did laundry, went for a walk and ran some errands. I will say the Southern Oregon RV Park at the expo is a great stopover. Just three years old, the landscape has really matured since our first visit and the access to the 20 mile bike/running/walking trail between Medford and Ashland is a bonus.

Our plan was originally to go to Bend Oregon, spend a few days then head towards south on Hwy 97 and catch Hwy 395 which follows the Sierra Nevada’s. The stopover in Eugene, kinda put Bend off the itinerary as we had a deadline to be in Palm Springs by the 6th. Crapola, why would we have a deadline – we are retired right? Well, tickets to see comedian Wayne Brady with friends in Palm Springs were on the calendar so there ya go!

Weather was a concern on the Hwy 395 route as it is getting close to snow season but all the fires in Southern California definitely had us wanting to avoid I5 and the LA basin. As luck would have it, Mother Nature has been withholding rain so the route down the Sierra Nevada’s looked just fine. Not sure how lucky this was/is for Southern Cal – rain is much needed for sure. 

Our next planned stop was in Shingletown California as it was close to Lassen Volcanic National Park which has been on our list of places to see and hike. I didn’t make any reservations once we left Eugene as I  just didn’t know if the weather would hold. Turns out that was probably a good thing. The KOA we had planned to stay in had no electricity due to the massive PG&E shutdowns. High winds were expected again and the worries of lines sparking fires led to power being turned off all across parts of California. 

We can survive with out power as we have a generator but knowing how damn cold it was going to be at night, we decided that while we could run the generator to charge up the batteries neither of us wanted to have it running off and on all night to power our furnace. Thankfully, the Premier RV Resort in Redding had open sites and they aren’t part of the PG&E grid so power wasn’t an issue there. Also, we could still make our day trip to Lassen National Park from there. 

Redding is a nice town with loads of outdoor activities, good restaurants and plenty of services. Unfortunately, the rampant homeless/opioid issues are holding the city hostage according to some locals we talked to. This seems to be the number one issue we see and hear about in our travels. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any easy solutions.

Lassen Volcanic National Park was spectacular albeit a bit windy but that didn’t detour us from our day trip. It was a picture perfect day for the scenic 30 mile drive through the park. We had planned to renew our annual National Park Pass at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center  but when we arrived it was open but there was no power so no monies could be accepted. The rangers gave us some maps and said “just renew your pass at the next park you visit”. SCORE…so technically admission was free but unfortunately the visitors center audio and media shows weren’t operating and the museum and discovery center at the other end of the park were closed too.

Oh well, despite the wind we really wanted to do some hiking and one trail that caught our attention was Bumpass Hell.

Yep, that really was the trail name and it turned out to be the highlight of the day. Bumpass Hell Basin is the largest hydrothermal area in the park and marks the principal area of upflow of steams and discharge from the Lassen hydrothermal system. The temperature of high-velocity steam jetting from Big Boiler, the largest fumarole in the park, has been measured as high as 322°F, making it one of the hottest fumaroles in the world. A board walk that takes you through boiling, hissing, steaming pots of sulfuric mud…oh, hell yeah we wanted to see that.  

Distance wise the the trail was a easy 3 miles round trip but personally I was muttering “kickass hell” under my breath for parts of the hike that had elevation gain … my ocean level body wasn’t used to hiking at over 7,000 feet. The unworldly basin much like parts of Yellowstone National Park was worth the grunt in the wind…glad I had a hat and gloves. 

Picnicking on a windy, 40 degree day isn’t for the faint of heart but we found a sunny area out of the wind where we could enjoy our lunch. Bentley had accompanied us on the driving tour but like all National Parks he was relegated to parking lots …well, and this picnic area. Honestly, we maybe saw a dozen people all day so who was going to tattle if he was laying in the sun by our picnic table. 

Awesome day trip from Redding and only 144 miles round trip. I would love to go back and hike some more of the back country but really if you only have a day – do the driving tour and the Kickass Hell, Oops I meant the Bumpass Hell hike.

From Redding we headed east on Hwy 44 toward Susanville California where we picked up Hwy 395. There were some steep grades – 9% was the steepest but the new Road House handled them with ease. With six gears in the heavy duty Allision Transmission and the two stage Jake brake, windy hilly highways don’t bother my driver a bit! We were mostly driving on beautiful two lane highway with hardly another car on the road.

EEK…that was a bit tight!

Our next stop for three nights was the Carson City area. We ended up at a small, “boutique” RV park near Dayton that had full hooks ups so we could catch up in laundry. Small and cramped must be there definition of boutique but at least it was really quiet at night. Next time we do this route, I will definitely try to get into the Washoe State Park Campground. Situated on the edge of Washoe Lake, with hiking trails and a great wetlands area this campground is a winner.

After being on the road all day, we decided dinner out was in order and we really enjoyed the San Marco’s Grill in Carson City. Great Mexican food, not your typical big plate of bland beans and rice plus the margaritas were da’bomb!

After a good sleep in and lazy morning, Virginia City was our first stop for the day. Like many cities and towns in Nevada, Virginia City was a mining boomtown that developed virtually overnight as a result of miners rushing to the Comstock Lode silver strike of 1859. The riches of the Comstock Lode inspired men to hunt for silver mines throughout Nevada and other parts of the American West.

Once a booming town of 25,000, prospectors from all over the world funneled their millions back into the town by building mansions, hospitals, churches, opera houses and schools. They imported furniture, fashions and entertainment from Europe and the Orient.

With more than 100 mines in the Comstock area, seven million tons of silver ore were produced – equating to more than $600 million in both silver and gold in today’s money. Among many things, this money helped to build San Francisco to what it is today as well as finance the Union in the Civil War.

Today mining for silver is a thing of the past in Virginia City but the town is well preserved and well worth an afternoon of exploration. I will say that we were lucky as it is off season and I suspect that Virginia City could be a zoo in the summer months. 

After a very sad lunch at the Red Dog Saloon (highly rated but seriously crappy food), we continued on our loop back toward Carson City. Washoe State Park was on the agenda for a good walk in the wetlands preservation area. We knew it was too late in the season to see many of the migratory birds that fly through but we thought we would recon and check out Washoe State Park anyway.

I was surprised to learn that the number of recorded bird species visiting, breeding, or living in the state of Nevada is a whopping 488. During the spring and fall, hundreds of thousands of those birds following the north-to-south path from Alaska to Patagonia—the Pacific Flyway—can be seen throughout the Silver State. However, Nevada is rarely on a birder’s bucket list. In fact, according to the Great Basin Bird Observatory, a nonprofit science-based organization, Nevada is one of the most under-birded areas in the country. 

The Washoe wetlands are also an Audubon-designated Important Bird Area (IBA). This classification is used to “identify, monitor, and protect the most important places for birds” according to Audubon’s website. Dangola, guess we need to come back through here in the spring.

Another reason for the stop in Carson City was the close proximity to Lake Tahoe. No snow, meant all the roads around the lake were open. This gorgeous freshwater lake is the largest alpine lake in North American. Lying at 6,225 ft, it straddles the state line between California and Nevada, west of Carson City. Casino’s dot the Nevada side and there are two major ski areas. 

The lake was formed about two million years ago as part of the Lake Tahoe Basin, with the modern extent being shaped during the ice ages. It is known for the clarity of its water, cobalt in color and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides. More than 75% of the lake’s watershed is national forest land, so camping and hiking opportunities abound in this area. Since we were visiting in off season, most of the campgrounds were closed despite the fact there was no new snow. 

We spent the day driving the 72 mile loop around the lake and also took a side trip to Truckee, the Donner Pass Memorial and Donner Lake. Post card perfect weather made this a spectacular day to be on a drive. Bentley frolicked in the Truckee River and at Donner Lake…he would have been happy to spend the whole day there.

We did a short hike to Upper Kings Falls near Emerald Bay and had a great lunch at the Fire Sign Café near Tahoe City. The only disappointment was that the Heaven Valley Gondola was closed  – WAHHH, the views would have been amazing. We did however really enjoy a stopover at Sand Harbor (no dogs allowed, how rude). There is a great walking path and beautiful rock boulder formations at this end of the lake. 

There are no shortage of things to do or see in Lake Tahoe and if you are a casino lover, well you might never make it outside to see anything.

Our three days in the Carson City area flew by and soon it was time to hit the road again. Our next stopover was Mammoth Lakes and the drive between Cason City and Mammoth was spectacular. Late fall colors, beautiful blue lakes and towering mountains make this portion of the drive my favorite. Only one crazy deer almost ended its life by bounding out in front of our 48,000 lbs coach. Luckily, it saw us and changed course at the last minute. CARDIO BLAST for both of us and I bet the deer might have dropped a load of pellets too!

Mammoth Mountain RV Park was our home for the two day stopover. After a frustrating time initially trying to get parked in the treed campground, we eventually got settled into the spacious site under the towering pine trees. Again, since it was off season we were lucky to find any place to stay but the upside was this “resort” was virtually empty. The sites are much like being in a state or national park, except there are full hook ups and a big price tag. At $75 per night, I would say they think highly of the place. No off season rates here or any discounts like most RV parks or resorts. Oh well, the area was worth the visit and in addition to all the scenic beauty, Mammoth has great restaurants.

Our splurge meal was at the Mammoth Rock Brasserie…a well rated restaurant situated over the bowling alley. There were plenty of great restaurant choices but the menu caught my eye as did the funky location with the spectacular views of the Sherwin Range and Mammoth Mountain. The website noted that they did NOT offer a children’s menu and expected any children in the restaurant to be well behaved, to stay in their seats and to keep their voices to a normal speaking level. If a child is being loud or disruptive, they expect parents to instruct their children to act appropriately. AMEN to that I say.

We booked an early dinner reservation to take advantage of the views and were not disappointed. A gin martini and Ahi Poke tower to start. Our entrees were delicious and the wine list was first class. The restaurant was on the second floor of a newish, modern mountain building which you would never know housed a bowling alley and fine dining restaurant when you pull into the parking lot. I am also happy to report that there wasn’t a child to be seen or heard…guess all the other patrons took the website warning to heart!!!

After another well deserved sleep in day, we spent the day hiking at Convict Lake and touring the surrounding alpine lakes. There are a plethora of places to hike in this region but Convict Lake struck our fancy because the trail is a 3 mile loop around the lake, is relatively flat (no kickass hell here) which was important since the elevation was 8,438 feet. Plus it has cool history and spectacular views of the mountains. If you are an angler, bring a rod and reel as this lake is stocked with trout. As a matter of fact, bring your fishing gear and a kayak…so many places to use both around this basin. Curious how Convict Lake got its name? Click on the hyperlink and read on!

This trail can be really busy in peak season but on our sunny Sunday hike we saw far more people fishing than hiking. After a pleasant, easy hike complete with bald eagle sightings and fish jumping in the lake, we headed further up into the mountains to check out Lake Mary and Lake George. There is a great bike path and plenty of options to get off road or golf in this area as well. Of course, there is a the ski mountain…and we had a Good giggle recalling a weekend we spent in Mammoth with friends Eric and Carol many moons ago. We went to ski and ski we did but what we really remember is the Spanish Coffee induced clogging and craziness that happened one evening. I am pretty sure we didn’t ski the next day…or did we??? 

The Mammoth Lakes Basin is so diverse that it really deserves a longer stop over. One could tour Yosemite National Park from here but we opted not to try to do just a day drive to this massive national park. A return trip in the late spring to this area might just be on the agenda. 

Our last stop on the souther migration was merely a place to park and sleep. Mammoth Lake to Palm Springs is about 345 miles, totally doable but makes for a long day. We didn’t want to roll in after dark and have to get set up so we opted to spend the night in nowhere Ridgecrest CA. 

So many scenic vistas on this drive down Hwy 395.

$22.50 got us a self registration, full hookup and pull thought site with easy access off Hwy 395. After a tour of Ridgecrest we were in total agreement that this wasn’t a town to put on our “future paces to live someday” list. The Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake is the reason this nowhere desert town exists. 

China Lake is the United States Navy’s largest single landholding, representing 85% of the Navy’s land for weapons and armaments research, development, acquisition, testing and evaluation use and 38% of the Navy’s land holdings worldwide. In total, its two ranges and main site cover more than 1,100,000 acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. Well, that explains why a newish city of 27,000 plus people is thriving out in the middle of nowhere. 

The last 150 miles of our southern migration was uneventful desert driving on mostly two lane Hwy 395. The last stretch merged onto to Hwy 15 in Victorville where we dropped down into the San Bernadino Valley. Did I say uneventful..well yes, uneventful, until the front shade came unscrewed on the passenger side and dropped down obscuring the windshield. Of course that happen right as we were merging onto busy Hwy 15 but thankfully before were were headed down Cajon Pass. As luck would have it, we were able to safely pull over and engineer a temporary fix with gorilla tape and a mop handle.

We rolled into The Outdoor Resort Palm Springs in the early afternoon. Home again, home again!!!

What a awesome road trip in the new Road House, Hwy 395 is a great alternative to I5. We will definitely travel this route again and that my friends is no BS!

Girlfriend Getaway to Leavenworth WA

I love girlfriend getaways and am always up for one when the question is posed. Being on the road/water full time can make it more of a challenge but hey, I am retired and can do what ever the hell I want. It’s funny but that realization took some time to sink in after we left the 9-5 routine behind. Routine can be a real buzz kill when it comes to spontaneous travel so trust me, I have totally embraced the concept that if I want to do it – I do it!!!

Refuge Ranch is very bucolic.

My long time gardening companion, neighbor in another life, walking buddy and “sushi for wimps” eating friend Jane has been doing girlfriend getaways for her birthday for years. We have done some great ones and this year was no exception. While she didn’t actually invite me (to be fair she thought we were off the grid on the boat), I decided to crash her getaway with her sister Sharon in Leavenworth.

We traded some funny text messages about the VRBO rental…

Her: Just sent an email. Originally 4 adults going so there are more rooms or the owner has a warped sense of humor. Two of Sharon ‘s friends cancelled. I am sure 3 of us will fit. BTW… in case I am wrong you get the upper bunk. 😜

Me: Are you sure you have room? Looks like you only have one bedroom and a set of bunk beds?
Her: Scroll down. It says it sleeps 6.
Me: Not sure where the other two would sleep!!! From the website: “Inside the spacious 1500 sqft garden apartment, there is plenty of room for a family of four. The master bedroom offers a queen bed, and the second “bedroom”/cozy-nook, just off the kitchen, has bunk beds perfect for children.”
Her: If you are nervous, come on Saturday morning after we have scoped it out. I swear the woman knows that the original group was 4 adult females. The funny thing is that this was Sharon’s idea. I thought for just 2 nights we should do a hotel and she scoffed at me. The bottom of the site does say sleeps 6 so maybe there is a futon or something.
Me: Good thing they all cancelled!!! Maybe she thought you are all okay with sleeping together!!! Hey there are bunk beds so I am game if you are!!! LOL… thinking you and Sharon will be duking it out for the big queen bed.
Her: I am game. It will be like being on the Countess again (a yacht we chartered for a previous BD girls trip). I still think there must be another option but am game either way. If this place is a bust I get to rub Sharon ‘s nose in it so I still win. 😇
Me: Let the rubbing begin!!! Going to bring 5 Crowns – a card game I can actually play!!!
Her: Well we are bringing wine so it should all work out okay. I will try to remember the box of earplugs just in case you are correct about the number of sleeping spots. 😜
Me: Ear plugs are a girls best friend! And wine!!!

After the trip…

Her: Just looking at my bed makes me very happy. I might need to kiss my mattress.
Me: Happy times!!! (a gif of a goat jumping on the bed) https://youtu.be/AWns85BSSO4
Just another funny escapade to add to our long list!!!
Her: That goat would have a head injury where I was sleeping.

Yes…there were goats on the ranch! Bet they would have had no trouble getting up the rickety bunkbed ladder!

Well, yes there was only one bedroom and a set of bunk beds. Seriously, what Air BNB owner wants a 50 plus gal climbing a ladder on a rickety bunkbed to sleep on the top bunk. NOT, I repeat NOT happening. Ya think the owner would have mentioned that… she did know there was originally going to be four women on this stay.

Well, sure it is cute if you are 8 years old!
Now thats a bed!!! Just needed 2 more….

Well snap, my friend had the brilliant idea of pulling the mattress off the top bunk, which we drug into the front room. Five star it was not but I actually slept really well, especially after a trip to the hot tub each night and the 7 mile hike/city walk we did on Saturday. Uh, yeah, there was some wine involved as well.

So about Leavenworth…it is a Bavarian-styled village (aka tourist trap) in the Cascade Mountains, in central Washington State. Alpine- style buildings with restaurants serving German beer and food line Front Street.

There are some nice art gallery’s in town. Great wildlife photography at the Jones Gallery.

The Nutcracker Museum displays thousands of nutcrackers, some dating back centuries (nope, didn’t go). On the Wenatchee River, Waterfront Park is a habitat for ospreys and eagles. The village is a gateway to nearby ski areas and wineries. Gorgeous area, the village is situated in a really narrow valley so you are surrounded by mountain peaks.

Honestly, I am not a fan of German food…bland and boring to me for the most part but Leavenworth has something for everyone. We found a great cider tap room and had a delicious lunch at the Tumwater Bakery. We had a recommendation to try Yodelin for dinner, which is a stylish, rustic joint with mountain views offering bone broth soups, salads, burgers & craft beer but they had the nerve to be closed for a private party on Saturday night. Stay away from Gustavs…just not good food.

The Tumwater Bakery…so yummy!!!

The village itself is very cute but can get very crowded…especially on the weekends. I was surprised how many people were there but it was a gorgeous fall day and Leavenworth is a easy day trip from Seattle. A word of advice, visit during the week if you can and try for a cool fall day – the fall colors are awesome.

The area around Leavenworth is a hikers dream… so many great trails and so many scenic vistas. With only one day to explore, we opted to do the Icicle Gorge trail which was a pretty 12 mile drive from our bunkbeds. The 4 mile trail itself is rated as easy and only has a 120 ft elevation gain. Even after a “few” glasses of wine the night before this trail won’t hurt you a bit!

What’s great about it: you’ll be walking along the banks of one of the state’s prettiest creeks, with numerous places to stop, picnic and marvel at the alpine beauty.

We got a fairly early start which meant we didn’t see many hikers until the last part of the hike. We went counterclockwise but most people hike the trail clockwise, walking downstream first, then cross a footbridge in about 0.5 mile and head up the far bank. Either way you go it’s a fabulous hike…lots of photo ops.

A trip to Leavenworth wouldn’t be complete without visiting a few winery’s. There are several tasting rooms in town but we opted to get out of the crowds and headed to Eagle Creek Winery. Just a few miles out of town but an oasis of quiet with beautiful views off the decks where the tastings are set up. We had a great time sipping wine while the winery cat snagged a cute little chipmunk as the birthday girl looked on. Glad my back was to that action.

Not sure what the heck was going on but later that day as we sat sipping wine at the ranch another wildlife drama occurred. We were watch a hawk cause a stir amongst the small birds in a nearby tree. Guess he wasn’t satisfied with the prospect of such a small meal so he swooped out of the tree and picked off a poor robin in the field who had foolishly turned its back to the action. There might have been some shrieking from both of us that time.

Eagle Creek Winery

Time with friends, hot tubbing, hiking, beautiful mountain scenery, winery’s, great restaurants and not seeing the food chain in action make for a great girlfriends getaway. Only upgrade would be a real bed next time!

Let the Good Times Roll…

Our three week cruise in the Canadian Gulf Islands couldn’t have been better from a weather perspective. Lots of sunshine and very little rain make for a happy crew. We buddy boated with friends during most of the cruise and that was a blast too.

Our plans to head to Desolation Sound in BC were derailed when we finally got word that our new (to us) 2013 Entegra Aspire 42 DEQ coach was finally going to close. This deal had been 2 months in the waiting due to some issues on the sellers end and had been a source of frustration to us since June. That said, waiting wasn’t the big issue, it was the lack of communication from the dealer who had the coach on consignment. We held off leaving on the boat but finally decided that Fed-ex could get us documents somehow and maybe if we just took off it would finally happen.

Well damned if it didn’t!!! We finally got word the deal was ready to move forward just a day or two before we were going to make the crossing into the hinterlands of Desolation Sound. After some debate about how and where we could get the documents delivered (NO DOCUSIGN = LAME) we decided that returning to the US, signing the closing docs and taking possession of the coach was going to make us feel more settled. Plus, we were REALLY excited to get behind the wheel of our new rolling home, get her to Anacortes and start moving in.

We enjoyed visiting some anchorages that we hadn’t been to in years, some old favorites and some new places on the way back to the US. Pirates Cove is now on the list of favorites after a long hiatus.

I love the treasure chest…I think my glasses were a great addition!

A new favorite just over the Canadian border…Beaumont Marine Park. Great hiking, crabbing and fishing plus a mooring buoy field and amazing sunsets!!!

A deserted beach just waiting to be explored.
Exploring in the whaler…so much fun!!!

Another favorite we enjoyed was Sidney …great walking, shopping and restaurants. We had a great dinner at Sabhai Thai and a delicious lunch at Fish on Fifth. A day trip to Sidney Spit was very much enjoyed by Bentley who loves to frolick and play on the beach!!!

We ended the three week cruise with another night on a mooring buoy in Fossil Bay at Sucia Island. Crabbing was very good there so we came back to Anacortes with a full bucket of delicious crustaceans. I think they enjoyed the cruise back too!

Back on land, we quickly got possession of the coach which was in Poulsbo WA, got it settled into the storage lot in Anacortes and started moving all our stuff back in. We had boxed up and stored everything in the old coach so we could take it to consignment (not at the same dealer for sure). Holy Crapola, it sure is harder to move back in than it was to move out. I kept wondering out loud how we got all that stuff on the Cheetah. The new coach is five feet longer which in theory means there should be more storage …right? Not sure about that yet as it is all different storage inside and its like a puzzle figuring out where everything should go.

Yike…what a disaster!!!
So none of this was ours…it was all in the storage bays! 2 trips to the dumpsters, three trips to goodwill and a few things sold to make room for our stuff!

So you might be wondering why we “suddenly” decided to get a new coach…what was wrong with the other one and why this coach in particular. So honestly, there isn’t one thing that is wrong with the Cheetah…she has been a great starter coach for us. Our 2 month 101 road trip, in which we had a ball exploring the California, Oregon and Washington coast, re-enforced to us that we really love this lifestyle and hope to keep on exploring the US via coach and boat for many more years to come.
So that said, we just decided an upgrade to our home was in order.

So…TADA…behold the new Road House!!! Isn’t she pretty…

After spending three winters in the Cheetah Safari, we knew exactly the upgrades we wanted so that helped us narrow our choice to three models of coaches. The layouts were all similar but after driving the Entegra we were hooked. Entegra builds all of its coaches on a Spartan Chassis which is a totally different design than the Cheetah. Founded in 1975, Spartan has been a leading innovator in the industry. They engineer and build their chassis to feel like a luxury vehicle. Their innovations include the independent front suspension and the rear tag axle. These two features alone contribute so much to the ride and handling of the coach. Without them, you would experience harsher bumps, louder vibrations and significant drifting on the road. The rear tag axle was a huge selling point on a coach this size. What is a tag axle you might be wondering? A tag axle is a third axle located behind the rear drive axle of a motor home. It is a non-drive axle with one or two tires on each side. The main purpose of a tag axle is to increase the support of the chassis at the rear of the vehicle, allowing for greater carrying capacity and shock resistance. Since there is less overhang behind the rear axle, it makes for a more stable ride and an easier drive. Additionally, the tag helps stabilize the coach in strong cross winds plus when a huge tractor trailer rig passes us we do not even feel the effects of it.

We love the interior design of the Entegra which is significantly more spacious than the Cheetah as it has four slide outs and taller ceilings. The main living space has a L shaped couch we can both lay on, a gas fireplace and a stressless reclining chair which I have a feeling we will both be battling for.

In the kitchen, upgrades include a full size residential refrigerator and more counter space thanks to the pull out cabinet that makes the counter L shaped. There are so many accent lights inside the coach and I am still finding new ones.

Time to start personalizing our new home …adding some splashes of color!

In the back of the coach is the bathroom with two sinks and a bedroom with a king bed – YAY. No step up to the bed, which I grew to dislike very much. Since the bed sits lower, there is less storage underneath it – which is a bummer for sure. This coach also has a compact stacked washer and dryer as opposed to our all in one Splendide unit that we installed on the Cheetah. I liked the all in one just fine and the extra storage in the Cheetah where the dryer is now on the Aspire will be sorely missed.

Other upgrades – hydronic heated floors, a heat pump with three rooftop units for cooling and heating, side radiator, on demand hot water heater, loads of electronic upgrades, outdoor TV, heated storage bays underneath the coach with heavy duty pull out trays… the list goes on and on.

Like the Cheetah, we opted to purchase another gently used coach with very low miles. The prior owners bought it new, had all the bells and whistles added and sadly, due to health issues didn’t really get to enjoy it much. The interior still had original tags on some of the furniture, stickers on the fireplace and shades. In the kitchen, it was obvious that the convection microwave oven had never been used nor had the propane cooktop. Buying a good used coach means someone else takes the big hit on the depreciation and hopefully has worked out all the new coach glitches.

That said, we fully expect to have a few things to repair and know that we will need to replace the tires within a year. Low miles on RV tires doesn’t mean anything. With RV’s, it’s the age of the tires as large RV tires age out due to UV. The average life of a RV tire is five to seven years. If you drive a car every day, you’ll probably wear out the tread in less than five. RVs spend most of their time sitting still. So your tires will probably need to be replaced before the tread wears out. Maybe it’s cracks from the sun or maybe it’s sitting too long with too little air in them. When your RV tires hit five year in age, it’s time to think about replacing them. It’s even more important with the kind of weight and load that an RV puts on them. The Entegra is a big girl, weighing in at a whopping 46,600 lbs so she needs the best tires you can get to keep her safely rolling down the road. We anticipated spending a bloody fortune on new tires so that was factored in when we negotiated the price of the coach.

Despite the hassles with the dealership, we are thrilled with our new home and can’t wait to get on the road again. The sun is calling to us and like birds we will be starting our annual southern migration in early October. Most likely we will make a stopover in Portland Oregon to see friends and if the weather holds, we may hop over to Eastern Oregon and then drive down the Sierra Nevada/California route to Palm Springs. As a tribute to recently passed Ric Ocasek, we will be rocking out to the Cars …“Let the Good Times Roll” as we glide down the highways and byways in the new Road House.

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.

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.