Posted in Arizona

Our first Boondocking Experience – below Sedona, Arizona

I have to admit, I was pumped to head up to Sedona after flitting back and forth trying to decide if the weather was going to permit us to go more northerly on our way home, as we had originally planned. As it turned out the weather WAS warming up, and it looked as though we would be able to sleep without fear that our pipes were going to freeze. What a relief!

The next thing we had to do was secure a campsite for the next few days. The problem was, most of the suitable campgrounds were full with Snowbirds heading home, or the campgrounds hadn’t opened for the Spring yet. It was a learning curve moment – many of the campgrounds and forestry areas around Sedona and more north didn’t open up until mid April at least.

To solve this problem, the first stop was the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Office in Phoenix, who would shed some light on free camping spots in the area(or so we had hoped!). As it turns out, it is the Forestry area in the Sedona Region that has jurisdiction (and thus more information )on that.

As luck would have it, the Ranger for the BLM area closest to the area we wanted to go was in his land office while we were there, and he strongly encouraged us to at least go for a hike at Badger Spring off of Highway 17 heading north from Phoenix toward Sedona. We were sure glad we took his advice. After a 30 minute easy hike in along a dry creek bed, we were rewarded with petroglyphs and a gorgeous, bubbling stream with no-one in sight. It was a prized afternoon for both of us, and Oakley loved chasing a stick and paddling about in the cold, spring run off in the river.

Easy hike in on Badger Spring Trail
Oakley is rewarded with a cool play in the river
Our first petroglyph sighting – up close and personal

After we had had a quick picnic, we headed about 5 minutes farther up the highway to the Ranger’s second recommendation, and our first real boondocking experience, on Bloody Basin Road. Hopefully the name wasn’t foreshadowing the experience we were about to have!

Our first boondocking road – Bloody Basin Road
Sunset from our boondocking site
Another lovely evening at Bloody Basin Road
Gorgeous evenings all around our site

We used a BLM map to locate a legitimate campsite (rocks that formed a campsite ring was a dead give away too!). It felt a little strange to just pull up anywhere that looked like a campsite and pull in for the night. There is a 14 night limit on the sites, and it does take a little getting used to with both the quiet and the sense of “am I safe out here”?? Admittedly, though we didn’t have vehicles passing us often on the road next to us, every time one did (particularly during the dark, night hours), I would hold my breath until I knew they had gone. To think that there a many people who boondock as a way of life!

We stayed four nights out in the middle of nowhere in this boondocking experience, enjoying the views, the rocks and the adventure of it all. Obviously it didn’t take long to feel comfortable in our remote surroundings!

Cheap little solar worked just fine

Thankfully, we had bought an inexpensive solar panel that assisted in boosting our electrical availability, and we rationed our water and bought water for drinking. We made out just fine in that area.

Waking up to another glorious day – typical day planning

One day we drove way, way further down Bloody Basin Road in our 4×4 Tundra to view a small working ranch (who lives so far in the middle of nowhere?!), and to see if we could find the remains of an ancient Pueblo . It was such an interesting experience visiting our first Pueblo where some of the ancient Sinaguan Indians lived around 1400. Just thinking that these ancient peoples fished, hunted, grew crops and lived on the same land in this apparent desert that we were walking on was an incredible feeling. There were remnants of the rooms of the pueblo and shards of red clay pots that had been used outside the pueblo for cooking. Historians don’t know why the people left this region around 1450 but it appears that all of the Pueblos in the area became deserted around the same time.

One unfortunate incident that seemed to be occurring during the time we boondocked on Bloody Basin was an active search by the local Rescue Team for a missing hiker. Early in the morning and late in the evening we would see about 10 -15 Ranger trucks and 4×4’s come barreling down our road in search of a missing man who had not reported back to where he was to be picked up. Hopefully the search was unneeded and the hiker was located safe and sound. At the time that we left, he had still not been located.

Montezumas Castle National Monument – cliff dwelling
Another room in the cliff dwelling

On our final day on Bloody Basin, we took a day trip to Montezuma’s Castle National Monument where we saw Cliff Dwellings. AMAZING! The ingenuity that these people had was unreal. There was a stone castle built into the cave in the rock wall, presumably for those with higher status in the tribe, and a number of other rooms within the holes in the wall of the cliff, accessed by ladders. It was a perfect location with a nearby river for water, fishing and hunting of animals who came to the river for a drink. The people also farmed the flat area at the base of the cliffs.

A second interesting viewing for that day was at VbarV Heritage Site. It was an older ranch that had been built with a large cattle operation for its day, but with the drought surrounding the Great Depression, the market for its cattle collapsed and so did the ranch. However, it had a wonderful petroglyph area on a rock wall on its property. Again the Sinaguan Indians lived in this area because it was near to a river for their sustenance.

The name speaks for itself!
Remnants of homestead
Amazing ancient petroglyph showing use of Lunar calendar through shadowing

Hello Red Rock Area

On yet another day, we drove north to the Red Rock Scenic Byway toward Sedona and were stunned by the vision of the Red Rock Mountains as we approached Sedona. Being the daytrippers that we are, we continued along to the town of Prescott and wandered its centre square viewing all of the shops and restaurants. It was a great stop off point that allowed us to have a super dog friendly patio lunch at the Barley Hound. Since it was International Dog Day – Oakley even got rewarded with a special treat of steak and rice served on a frisbee. Somebody is spoiled!

The Barley Hound – Prescott, AZ
Who’s a spoiled doggie?
Sedona here we come!

After the daytripping, the exploring and the taste of the red rocks that we had seen, we all the more eagerly looked forward to arriving in Sedona at our reservations the next day, showering up and hitting the trail running. Look out Sedona, here we come!

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Posted in Arizona

Next Stop – Sunny Phoenix, Arizona

We were sorry to leave our temporary but comfortable “home” in Tucson, Arizona, but, alas, we felt we deserved to explore a bit more of Arizona before we declared we had found our favourite winter area. So – onwards and upwards to Phoenix (or rather Mesa – a suburb) we went. We appreciated that we had made some new friends to correspond with throughout the remainder of our trip so that those who went ahead of us could highlight things we should be sure to do and those to avoid. It seems we RVers are all on this trek together in one way or another.

We had been able to book ourselves in for 8 nights at one of Maricopa County’s Regional Parks called Usery Regional Park, in Mesa. On first entering the park, it appeared as though a landscape crew had come in and purposely designed it to show a huge variety of desert flora and fauna. While it was gorgeous to the eye, it was a challenge for Oakley to stay away from so many different cacti, so we had to be careful to stick to the roads on his walks.

Sitting pretty for the camera at Queen Creek Olive Mill
Who doesn’t like a glass of wine and charcuterie board?!
Yet another craft beer at Barnone in Agritopia

Mesa provided plenty of opportunities for us to be kept busy throughout our time there. True to form, we visited the Visitor Centre early on in our stay and picked out things we wanted to see and do. We spent a day on the Fresh Foodie Trail, which is made up of businesses that aim to market fresh farm to table wares. Our favourites, of those we went to, were The Porkshop , where we purchased some AMAZING bacon and garlic brats, the Queen Creek Olive Mill, where we enjoyed a lovely charcuterie board and a glass of wine in their garden, and Agritopia where we listened to a guitarist while Jeff had an organic, local beer. There are many other venues on the Fresh Foodie Trail, but by the time we had done these and travelled around, we were full, tired and looked forward to yet another glorious sunset back at Usery Park.

Feastival of Food Trucks – the lit up park. So pretty!

Another fun and unique experience was going to the Feastival of Food Trucks held in a sparkling city park at night. There were several unique Food Truck offerings and of course we had to try a famous Sonoran Hotdog (a hotdog wrapped in bacon). I know, I know- not very nutritious! However, to counteract all the treats we had been having, we also had our daily grapefruit from the free bag of ripe grapefruit we got when we entered the park – someone had picked and left bags of grapefruit for the campers. Apparently, its citrus area here!

A unique highlight for us was watching the huge WWII B-17G Bomber fly over us on weekends. The old girl had an amazing roar and she sure got your attention with her four engines and shiny, metal body. We never got to the Commemorative Air Force Base in Mesa where the Bomber and several other working, large historical aircraft are housed, but it would be a recommendation for another visit.

Just a screen shot of Jeff’s biking app

Our stay here provided lots more opportunities to road and mountain bike for Jeff, and again he used the ratings on his Trailforks app to guide him in trails to try out. We also spent a day at McDowell – another of Maricopa County’s Regional Parks, known for its mountain biking.

Phoenix is made up of several large suburbs and we tried to get a bit of a taste of several of them. We made a day trip over to visit friends in Sun City West on the far side of Phoenix (which is a marvellous mostly golfing community for 55 plus). We visited the artsy, upscale stereotypical Scottsdale, though time didn’t permit us to take a tram or to spend big bucks on a day spa as I had dreamt about (don’t worry, I have a promise for next time!). In the burb of Tempe, we visited Sleepy Dog Brewery to have the unique Sleepy Dog Peanut Butter Stout that Jeff had enjoyed in Tucson. There, yet again – Oakley was the hit of the Brewhouse.

Finally, no matter where you go – its important to have date night. So, we left our furry son at home in the comfort of the air conditioned trailer and his bed, and off we went to Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix to watch the Phoenix Suns vs Detroit Pistons. We laughed at how rotten our seats were, but it was the experience that counted!

All in all, Phoenix provided a great opportunity to explore, eat, play , exercise, rest and read. There is so much more to see from this huge city. Anytime you go, Phoenix will be happy to oblige.

Posted in Arizona

Tucson – A Great Surprise

We had been approaching this circle of the “States” with a “let’s just go with the flow” attitude. Naively, we thought we would just travel – and when it felt like time to move, we would pick up, and on we would go, with the plan to land wherever our tired bones took us. Boy, were we wrong!

Apparently, whether you are booking a condo, rental home OR a campground – you need to plan out your route ahead of time, and book well in advance. And, when I say well in advance, I mean – State Parks at the crack of 1 year in advance, and Regional Parks 6 months in advance. Private RV parks seem to have more availability, and there are a great many more RV parks to chose from, but we have learned that State and Regional parks are our preferred accommodations. They provide good space between trailers, good facilities and most often have both good hiking and biking. Two things that have been drawing cards for us.

By a seeming miracle, we found ourselves 4 nights in a row at Catalina State Park just on the outskirts of Tucson. It was a miracle in more ways than one. First, we had been travelling so much that we were craving a spot to “nest” and just rest from travelling. Second – we no sooner arrived that the surrounding neighbours came over to greet us (as many of the friendly campers we have met so often do), and low and behold one of them had a friend who would be needing to cancel his upcoming reservation. We ended up taking that reservation as well, and would spend 13 nights at Catalina in the next couple of weeks. Ahhh relief, we had our home base squared away!

Upon entering Catalina State Park, you quickly become enamoured with the surrounding mountains and some of your first up close encounters with saguaro cacti. One of the strengths of Catalina is the proximity to hiking, and both mountain and road biking availability. Jeff enjoyed all of the above, and I joined him on some of the hikes and hopped on my bike for some of the shorter rides. He happily joined in with many of the other riders in the park for daily rides.

There are a variety of types of hiking trails available.

Speaking of riding…. we had been warned of rattle snakes in the vicinity, but hadn’t seen any during our time at the park, that is, of course – until Jeff ran over one with his bike when we were out on a bike path ride!

Tucson itself just kept adding to the strength of our experience here. We hiked in Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, which provides countless days of hiking to anyone who cares to day hike there. We drove up the 30 miles to reach the top of Mount Lemmon on one somewhat overcast day. There we were rewarded with snow on the hills at Mount Lemmon Ski Valley at the peak, and felt just a little bit more at home, having left the snow behind us in Ontario. It was incredible to watch the road bikers training on the switchbacks as they climbed the mountain and then went racing toward the bottom on their descent.

We visited several Farmer’s Markets and could purchase organic vegetables and all sorts of locally produced unique items to bring back home as gifts. We ate at a number of inexpensive Mexican restaurants and tasted some more popular Mexican food. Green Chile Verde gets my vote! Oh, and we visited breweries for Jeff and shopped some for me. The city seems to have it all covered!

Last but certainly not least, did I mention – Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods? We visited each of these spots at least two times and marvelled at the inexpensive, quality foods at Trader Joe’s (and their cheap, but good wine), and the healthy options available at Whole Foods. Would you believe you can get a beer and eat at a bar right in the grocery store, or even bring that same beer with you while you grocery shop? What is this world coming to?! Needless to say, with all this good fun, we booked Catalina State Park for two weeks NEXT winter…

$3.99 Trader Joe’s wine.
Jeff enjoying a beer at Whole Food’s !
Posted in Arizona

On the Road again… Arizona Here We Come!

After a great week (give or take!) at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park in southern New Mexico, we decided to follow a southern route and then come North into Arizona. That route along Hwy 80 brought us through a couple of interesting historically significant towns that had to be seen while we were in the area.

The first of the towns was Bisbee. Before we could get there though, we passed through Douglas, Arizona. I, for one, couldn’t get through it fast enough. It houses a major centre for Border Patrols, and it was the first time that we felt uncomfortable. We sometimes felt that there were just a few too many Border Patrol cars surrounding us for our liking. We even started looking for “the wall”. Thankfully, it didn’t appear.

Bisbee was a former booming copper mining town that had some absolutely gorgeous old buildings built into the side of hill where the town was centered. We passed an old brewery, bank, a theatre and quite a number of other old buildings that are currently housing coffee shops, boutiques, coffee roasters, restaurants and bars. It’ s population is largely made up of artistic types who appreciate the close knit community of like minded individuals provided to them there. We enjoyed a good meal, a wander, made friends with the coffee roaster (Jeff’s passion being different types of coffee), and slept in a crappy gravel parking lot (for $35) overlooking the old mine. That was the only downside of the pitstop.

The next day brought us through Tombstone. We watched the 1993 version of the movie with the same name (in the camper at our gravel parking lot site), the night before, so we had some inkling about what Tombstone even was. It was a good thing we did, because otherwise it would have seemed like we’d just spent some time at Pioneer Village back home. It was crawling with people dressed up like Tombstone citizens in the good ‘ole days, tourists, and fake stage coaches giving tours. Blek!! Not my idea of a good time, but it was interesting to see the spots that Wyatt Earp and his brothers lived and died. The movie was filmed here, and the “Tombstonites” take their history very seriously!

Before you knew it we were on to Tucson and our reservations for the next few nights. Catalina State Park is a beauty and Jeff is totally excited to get on both of his bikes – I’m looking foward to all that Tucson offers, including Trader Joes and the 100 mile bicycle path around the river!

Posted in New Mexico

Oliver Lee Memorial Park, New Mexico

Oliver Lee was the complete opposite of anything we had camped at before. While Gulf State Park, in Alabama, was relatively flat and good for road and hybrid biking and swimming at a glorious white sand beach – Oliver Lee was nestled at the base of a ragged mountain range, and the views we woke to and went to sleep to, were spectacular. I think THIS is what people remember New Mexico for.

It was cold while we were here and we experienced -4C at our coldest (during the night), and that meant we had our little electric heater on all evening and throughout the night, to ensure our water pipes wouldn’t freeze. We woke to ice on the awning where it was rolled up, and thankfully it thawed as the day warmed. As it turned out, this was another one of those spots that we had booked for only a couple of days and decided to stay for 4.

While here, we made the most of the area around us. We did a short, rocky hike together at the park, Jeff did a long and strenuous hike (yes, I’m pouting because I can’t join him with this darned pinched nerve), we spent a morning at the recommended White Sands National Monument (not to be missed !!), drove up to Ruidoso, got groceries and ate our fill of pistachios and pecans in Alamogardo, and went to Las Cruces and Mesilla.

White Sands was an “otherworldly” experience. For miles there was nothing but pure white gypsum sand. They even plow the road with a “snowplow” . We borrowed two sliding discs (and waxed them as they do!), and had fun walking the dunes and sliding down. Oakley even enjoyed it, and we were so happy to see a bit of the old Oakley frolicking about that day. A word to the wise – wear cheap sunglasses to keep the sand out of your eyes, and shut your mouth going down!

That afternoon, we showered the sand off and out of our hair, and headed in for a “dogless date” to Ruidoso, about an hour away. On our way, we stopped and tried every kind of flavoured pistachio you could imagine, and bought some trail mix (that ended up being so spicy would could hardly eat it), and some dill flavoured pistachios, already shelled. I had to buy something given the amount of times Jeff stood at the feed trough!

Ruidoso is quite a large winter ski/summer outdoors “haven”, up in the mountains. Besides a wine and cheese tasting spot, there are many shops to browse, have a meal or a coffee, stores for groceries, medical facilities, schools, etc . It was a very happening place that still maintained it’s mountain village atmosphere.

Las Cruces was a lovely, surprisingly large city with everything anyone could ever need at it. It had medical facilities, a university, industry, gorgeous housing and a surprisingly vibrant arts scene. All this while being surrounded by mountains. We visited on Saturday morning, when they have a downtown Farmer’s Market. I picked up a few trinkets for home and some lovely organic vegetables. It had a definite artsy, healthy, organic feel to it. We totally enjoyed the experience.

Three miles south of Las Cruces was Mesilla. Mesilla was very similar in nature and was a continuation of history and art. We had a yummy Mexican lunch and browsed through the many boutiques that lined the old town square. A wonderful spot to spend an afternoon wandering and being tempted to purchase good turquoise and silver jewellry.

To top off the day, on the way home we toured around through Organ Mountains State Park. We did a short hike and questioned ourselves if we could actually spend a night at one of the BLM sites within the park. Bureau of Land Management sites are those that are free – first come first served, no security – real wilderness camping. Pretty nice, but risky??

In our limited time in New Mexico we found that it is definitely a place we need to visit again. Spas, natural hot springs, and maybe even skiing in the mountains…. the possibilities are endless!

Posted in New Mexico

New Mexico to Arizona -Quick and Dirty

Brrrrr …. What a strange winter it has been. While we surely aren’t complaining about the weather during this trip, it certainly will go down as one of the most unusual winters the US has had in many years.

We left Texas and chose to slow down our travels to Arizona because of the unseasonably cold weather. Looking at the bright side of things, that is one of the bonuses of not planning anything ahead of time and following a nomadic lifestyle. We spent a long day (7 hours) travelling from Garner State Park in Texas, through Pecos to Carlsbad, NM. As we drove that stretch of highway around Pecos, we vowed never to go there again. For hours we passed nothing but pipeline companies, mobiles for the workers and dirt and garbage. Sorry “Pecoites” but you live in a hell hole!

Finally, we arrived in Carlsbad at the KOA and we stayed there for two nights. Jeff took the Carlsbad Caverns Tour where he went over 800 feet underground to see the formations. Thank the good Lord he wasn’t claustrophobic! He had hoped to get in to the Lower Cave Tour, which is another 80 feet below and required the use of ladders and ropes, but alas – it was sold out when he got there. He and another hippie were there at 7 am (park opened at 8) and Jeff let the guy have the last spot as the poor guy had camped out at the side of the road to get it. It wasn’t my cup of tea, so I happily finished my last post, walked Oak out in the freezing cold wind, and kept our little electric heater going so our pipes didn’t freeze.

We were happy to move along in New Mexico to our next stop, which was near Alamogardo. The day’s journey was the complete opposite of that to Carlsbad, and it was absolutely gorgeous. We travelled through the towns of Artesia and Cloudcroft and even brought the trailer through a short tunnel. Artesia is a very little town near Carlsbad that was established when oil was found in the area. The highlight of this wee town was the brass sculptures throughout it, delineating important people and events in its history. My favourite was the one shown here called “Woman’s Intuition”. The story goes that two men owned the most profitable oil wells and companies working in the area. When they became unprofitable, they couldn’t figure out where to try another well. As a result, one of the partners asked his wife where she would drill. The rest was history – as it became the foundation of the oil industry in that area, and has employed many people in the area for years.

Our next stop was Cloudcroft. It was a gorgeous little skiing and hiking town. It is unlike anything I have ever been to, and very much out of a book. We passed snow, mountain goats (or maybe they were elk…), and stopped to use the little bank and get a coffee. Note the snow on the ground around our trailer as it was parked there.

Our final destination for the day was Alamogardo, New Mexico. We were very lucky to be able to reserve a site at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, as they only have 5 reservable electric sites. We are learning that we love the State Parks, and we stay away from RV Parks whenever possible. A good many State Parks are small and you need to reserve as soon as the reservation opening date occurs if at all possible.

As we reflect on our travels, Oliver Lee is going to be one of our fond memories – so much so that I’ve decided it needs a post of its own! Stay tuned.

Posted in Texas

Texas Hill Country

Just a short blog entry tonight as I sit listening to the howling wind and rain outside my kitchen (such that it is) table.

Firstly, not to confuse you, we spent two different periods of time in Texas Hill Country during this venture around the state of Texas. Had we not been following the nomadic lifestyle, we likely would have planned to hit both of these locations at the same time – but, true to form, we didn’t plan and we had to do some backtracking. Note to self: be sure to do them together next time.

After San Antonio, Texas, we headed an hour north to the little hamlet of Fredericksburg. We had some good Mexican food that was recommended on Trip Advisor (Hilda’s), walked the main street and browsed it’s many shops and stopped for Jeff’s prized pecan pie (he has been wanting one since he has been South, and since his Mama isn’t here to make one for him). Fredericksburg is of German ancestry, and while you will find German things there, it really reminded us of Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario. We had a great afternoon there, and travelled down the road to another Harvest Host property where we could spend the night for free based on our membership. Messina Hof Winery is one of many wineries on the wine trail around Fredericksburg, and we supported the winery by doing some wine tasting and enjoying the evening on their heated patio as we watched the sun go down.

Trip two to Texas Hills Country was after we left Llano Resort deep in Texas. We needed to make our way across to New Mexico and decided not to go to Big Bend this year (on the Texas-Mexico border), because we had Oakley with us, and it would be a better trip when we were able to devote ourselves to hiking. Dogs are not allowed on the trails in the park. That meant we had to travel almost all the way back up to San Antonio. This time we stayed at Garner State Park, just west of San Antonio. The park was smack in the hills, and in the summer, the highlight of the area is hiking and tubing the Frio River that runs through the park. Yes, Frio means cold!

We had an amazing site that backed on to the river, and luckily, though out of season, we were able to walk the side of the river and see some tubers enjoying the cold water. Jeff also hiked “Old Baldy”. I’ll just leave it at that…

On this trip through the states, we are noticing a great many things that are different. For example, as we travelled out of the Hill Country, we passed many different ranches, some of which were purpose built big game reserves for hunters to “get their hunt on” for profit. We saw ostriches, a variety of mountain goats, and other species that we didn’t know. While it is easy to criticize the process, I was aware that perhaps because it was different than what we would typically see in Ontario, it turned my stomach more than a little. But then again, travelling is supposed to expose you to new things and challenge your belief system. The jury is still out on this one for sure. Having said that – don’t let this little segway deter you from travelling the Texas Hills. They are another lovely drive through Texas.

Posted in Llano Grande Lake Park Resort and Country Club

Rio Grande Valley You Were Good to Us

Our accommodation for the last three weeks was at Llano Grande Resort and Country Club. It was the only RV park (if I can call it that), on our trip to date that we had reservations at. Llano (pronounced Yano to hillbilly Canadians like us) was where we were to visit extended family, meet friends of family and meet new friends. Oh, and update the trailer with a little bit of home and a new mattress! It was like Christmas!

We stayed for three weeks, and I took a rest from blogging during the time so I could just enjoy our every day events. Llano Grande Resort provided all sorts of things to keep us busy. There was walking around the large RV park, swimming, sunbathing (yes, it reached 31 degrees C at one point!), going to exercise class, participating in shuffles tournaments, and too many other daily scheduled events to mention. Always, there was food. Always there was drinking.

Admittedly, the first week of our time at LLano was difficult for me. I felt my Mom breathing here as though she were still alive. While it broke my heart, I also took comfort knowing she would have just been thrilled that we were visiting. She loved LLano, and all that it represented. She spent many retired winters here with her husband, and made many friends (many whom I met), and helped many people in the park through her volunteer efforts here and in Progresso, Mexico. She loved to birdwatch and developed that hobby in her years here. The Rio Grande Valley is known for birdwatching opportunities and while we didn’t go out on any tours, we could spot different birds right from our site, and from our daily walks along the rusaca that lined the levy. Here we marvelled at pelicans swimming and eating in unison. It was Oakley’s favourite spot for his morning walks.

One of Oakley’s many daily walks throughout the park and on the rusaca.

As our time went on and we became more entrenched in every day life at Llano, we made trips to Progresso to buy beautiful pottery, have inexpensive haircuts and shaves (Jeff) and a pedicure. This, along with eating some inexpensive but wonderful Mexican food and of course, the required margaritas!

Not bad for under $10
Whoops too much fun and too many margaritas again!

It was a bit of a hoot to go to the highly anticipated “Snowbird Extravaganza” put on by a number of associations – one of which is the Canadian Snowbird Association. Like all other Snowbirds (can we actually call ourselves that??), the big draw was that it was free and included some pretty darn good entertainment. We heard John McDermott and Valdy before we packed it in. We laughed at ourselves for joining in though – maybe we are just a little too young for this!

We also had dinner at Stephano’s twice because we like it so much. It was great to celebrate Valentines with old and new friends and have a good meal, inexpensive drinks (at $7 a bottle who buys a glass??), and dance to a great duo. We also experienced a fun night with new friends at the famous Nana’s for lonchos and ponchos and a great Mariachi band from the local college.

Nana’s near the park.

We had the good fortune of attending a fundraiser meat raffle one night up at the park’s large Event Centre and we were almost embarrassed to win so many times. We came away with huge packages of steak, chicken and pork chops and it enabled us to have a great final potluck with our friends and family before we left, and still come away with some meat to barbecue on our travels.

As our time grew close to leave the park, it was tempting to stay a little longer because the weather was changing (negatively!) where we were headed, but we decided to push on and adventure some more to see New Mexico and Arizona. Will we be back? This trip is designed to tell us where our loves lie in the US. Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, we are thankful for the experience and the time we spent in this beautiful region with these lovely people.

Posted in Texas

San Antonio You Were a Great Stop

Winding our way into Texas, the next big stop on the “Bucket List” was San Antonio. So many people have asked us in the past if we had been to San Antonio? We hadn’t, so we knew that if time permitted we wanted to add it to the agenda.

We didn’t have anything planned to do there except the Riverwalk and the Alamo. We had no idea what they really were, or what the big deal was about them – but we were about to find out.

We spent three nights there at the KOA San Antonio. It was a super location because it was just outside of the main congestion of the city (which allowed for a bit more space to roam), yet it had the convenience of having city transit available right at their door. From there, one bus took you downtown for all you wanted to do – and easily dropped you back. And what a deal! $2.75 per person for as many rides as you wanted throughout the city on a day.

The first night we arrived we went in to visit the Pearl and wander that area of town. The Pearl is a former brewery turned hotel/shop area. It was gorgeous, in a “steampunk” kind of way. The “Hotel Emma”, as it is now called, has a beautiful foyer, bar, library and business area. We are told that each of the guest rooms are unique. The architecture included pieces of the left over brewery. There were wood fireplaces throughout and it was definitely upscale. The remainder of the district was very urban – turf to walk your dog on, condos etc. Definitely the kind of area that you just spend a couple of hours at, at most – unless having dinner there.

From there, we drove down to the Riverwalk (just to get our bearings for the next day), and we had a drink at Boudro’s. It is well regarded on Trip Advisor for its Prickley Pear Margaritas, and its guacamole made table side. So, in good researcher fashion, of course- that was what we ordered. I’d have to say – I’ll stick to the cheap margaritas we are used to. Sorry, Boudro’s! No complaints about the unique setting right at the river side though!

Day two was totally devoted to the Riverwalk and the Alamo. We took the bus right into the downtown area and walked just a block to the Alamo and took it in and read the plaques that described its history. There were a fair number of group tours going on around us and really, I think I might suggest doing that as an option to anyone going. The Alamo is part of a larger history of Mexico and Texas, and it takes some research if someone isn’t there to provide the “Reader’s Digest Version”. Beautiful stonework that is for sure!

Next we walked a block to the Riverwalk and walked the main length of it containing many shops and restaurants. It’s a hidden gem in the midst of the downtown. During the daytime (through the week) there isn’t much going on, and we decided we would like to visit again during a weekend. We couldn’t even easily find a Happy Hour to attend on the Riverwalk… and you know how we Canadians like our Happy Hour! We bussed back to the KOA in time for dinner.

Day three, our final day in San Antonio, we had planned to begin our morning at the second mission (having done the Alamo the day before). There were four other missions we wanted to explore, and San Antonio has done a brilliant job of enabling people to bike to each of them on a paved “Mission Trail”. Each of the Missions are accessible by a trail that is mostly along the river and takes visitors to each of the missions. It is roughly 2.5 miles between each mission. A bus goes to each mission as well, so our plan had been to bike to each mission and throw our bikes on the front of the bus to return to our truck if we had had enough of cycling for the day. Unfortunately, we had to rejig this plan because Oakley had been sick all night the night before, so we brought him along in the truck and took turns walking him while one or the other of us visited a mission ground. Each of the missions have information to read about it’s history and they are not long to visit, nor are they huge. Thus, we didn’t find them to be overwhelming for a short attention span.

Bottom line – San Antonio is lovely – an exceptional Riverwalk and interesting history. This is another city we would recommend for a long weekend – and definitely take your bikes to San Antonio!

Posted in Miscellaneous

Practical Things -Part One

You gotta love it. I’m sitting on the floor of a free rest area outside of San Antonio , Texas, on the I10, listening to the sounds of the incessant truck brakes. Ooooh goodie! We are in for a long night. Thank goodness I remembered some of my Dad’s advice regarding insomnia, and bought myself some “SleepEze” type stuff for tonight. Looking forward to a solid sleep!

Getting a stiff butt on the floor for the sake of the blog!

Truth be told, I’m here, all alone, charging my iPhone and my computer so I can put my earphones in tonight and listen to NETFLIX on the free WIFI at the rest area. It has been a long travel day, due to a sick dog – but we have reservations in San Antonio for the next three nights and we “cheaped out ” and decided to “boondock”. If others can do it, we can too, right??

On to some of the feedback I’m receiving:

  • loving the blog but can you put in some more pictures? Absolutely, I just didn’t want to bore you with super long blog posts . It’s hard to know how long the right length is without being a marketing major!
  • loving the blog…but maybe a few less pictures of food (I’ll try, but we love to eat the specialties of the new regions we are going to. After all, I can’t get beignets and crawfish in Northern Ontario). No guarantees though!

And then there are the practical questions :

  • how have you decided where to stay?
  • did you book ahead?
  • what are YOU doing while Jeff is road riding?
  • what are you using for a phone?
  • how are you taking care of your house and utilities while you are away?

Answers:

  • We use mainly the apps Campendium (free) and Allstays (paid) to selectively decide on campgrounds. You can filter for State Parks, KOA’s and other memberships you have already purchased, and what utilities you want. You can also check reviews. That’s a biggie for us. We seem to look up (strike that – I seem to look up, camp spots for a location that will suit us). Jeff does the driving and I tell him where to go to lay our heads for the night. We do sit down and plan the route first though. Based on our route, I figure out what look to be good spots within our price range, and that take a dog.
  • We sometimes book ahead – if so, it’s usually when we know there is a spot we definitely want to got to. If we want to plant ourselves somewhere, we book. Otherwise, if we are on the road, we use the above apps and book as we go or the day before. Harvest Host has not let us down yet. Have a look at @harvest hosts on Instagram or on the web.
  • What do I do when Jeff is road riding and is gone for a length of time? To date, because it has been cold, and because we have been travelling frequently, it hasn’t happened often. However, when he does go, I blog. Or I figure out how to blog, and I spend the 10 minutes I need to clean this trailer. Sometimes I use my yoga mat and my bands to substitute for weights. I get some second looks, but I think they likely think its a good idea!
  • After a lot of research regarding phones and phone plans and a visit to both Verizon and AT&T in the US, I decided on a prepaid AT &T phone plan. Firstly, I use my own iPhone. I have a Rogers mobile phone plan in Canada and wouldn’t work on Verizon. I can use it for whatever number of months I am on this trip south, I pay for it automatically, and it gives me unlimited text, calling to the US and to Canada, and unlimited Data. It also gives me 10G hot spotting for Jeff’s phone or any of our other devices. We haven’t even come close to that yet, and its great to be able to use Data whenever I want to. It is also great to be able to call friends and businesses as needed back in Canada without any concern. I wanted to just have the peace of mind while we were travelling to be able to find locations and research absolutely anything we wanted to. We only have the one phone plan, so Jeff hot spots off my phone if he needs to. Bottom line, there may be better (and cheaper) plans out there, but for $65.00 a month I was willing to pay for the peace of mind and convenience of having life basically as we would normally live it in a permanent home.
This is a screenshot of my main camping apps that I use.

Next question – How do we take care of our permanent home? First, let me just say there are amazing bloggers who take handing out this advice super seriously (and thus very thoroughly) because it is their income. You can find them all over the internet and on Pinterest. These are just a few basics to answer some questions we have been asked:

  1. We have our driveway plowed while we are away.
  2. We have someone look after our house to meet insurance needs (and pick up any remnants of mail).
  3. We have as many bills as possible set to automatic payment.
  4. We have all of our bills sent to us on line for payment that we have chosen not to have set to automatic payment (ie; VISA).
  5. We have mobile apps (or online banking) for each of our bank accounts.
  6. We have a US Visa Card – Thus, we pay for everything that we can on VISA, and then pay for the VISA bill directly on line from our US Account (previously set up at the bank). We are able to withdraw US money as required from our US account through RBC VIP Banking. We chose NOT to have RBC crossborder banking. This is a trial run, so we will see how this goes.
  7. We spent some time ensuring our wills, pensions and all pertinent personal documents and information were up to date and available if required.
  8. We brought proper documentation for Oakley for crossing the border, and brought copies of his health records with us.
  9. We made sure had purchased and printed out documentation for Health Insurance to cover us while away.

We have much more to learn, hence the title “Part One”. If there are other questions that come to mind that you want answered, please drop me a line in the contact section or in the comments. Have a GlazzHalffull Day!