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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