Texas Hill Country…BBQ, History and Wine – Part 2

My last post was all about Texas BBQ which has its own unique history and believe it to not, this whole series of posts about BBQ, history and wine ties together, really I promise!!!

If you are as much of a food geek as I am, here is a great website where you can read about the history of Texas BBQ. I have added a few more recipes on the Epicurious page of side dishes that I think go great with BBQ Brisket or Ribs.

So this is the perfect segue way to talk about some of the cool historical aspects of Texas Hill Country. I am not even sure where to start as far as all the historical events that have occurred in Texas so I am just going to dive in and tell you about the things we did and saw. There is so much more to see and do so this may just whet your appetite for a trip to Texas.

 

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Hill Country people love their gates…I could have spent the whole trip just photographing gates.

 

Battles have been fought, heroes born, and pivotal laws passed in the Hill Country. The state’s capital hums in the northeast corner of the region, and legendary names echo throughout. It’s no wonder that this region acts as a magnet for history buffs. Personally, I wouldn’t classify myself as a history buff but more of an interested learner and avid questioner. My poor Mother can attest to my need to know…geez, I about drove her crazy with my “why does” questions.

One thing I found fascinating was the strong German influence which is still alive and well in Texas Hill Country today. Our visit to Fredericksburg helped answer some questions about why (yep, a why question) so many Germans immigrated to Texas and why Hill Country?

 

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Historical old town Fredericksburg.

 

The downtown historical area is a charming step back in time and the city’s German heritage is on display at the Pioneer Museum, which features settlers’ homesteads and artifacts. In the nearby town square, Marktplatz, the Vereins Kirche is a replica of a 19th-century German church that once stood in the city.

 

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The square at the Vereins Kirche (in the background) was quite festive.

 

German immigrants came in search of what we call the “American Dream,” but they didn’t come to America. They came to The Republic of Texas which was newly independent from Mexico, but the dream and promise of a new way of life they sought still rings true here in the US, well at least for now! The reason that these immigrants came to Texas was to start a new life away from the social and economic problems of their mother country. In the 1840s, a group of noblemen called the Verein got a land grant in the Republic of Texas that promised settlers large quantities of land, transportation across the sea to the land, a home, furnishings, utensils, farming equipment, churches, hospitals, roads, and provisions. These German-Texans came by the hundreds for a chance at this new life.

In towns like Fredericksburg, many people still speak German. One very famous Texan, Chester Nimitz, who was of German descent on both sides was born in Fredericksburg. Nimitz was an important Commander in Chief in the military during World War II. While my German heritage friend Laurie and I combed the German historical sites and yes, the retail shops, the guys visited the vast National Museum of the Pacific War featuring WWII exhibits, including a recreated combat zone.

The other cool thing I learned was that Texas BBQ, yes we are looping back now, like Texas itself, has many origins. South Texas is influenced by Mexico, especially in the barbacoa realm. German and Czech butchers built the most famous style of barbecue in Central Texas’s meat markets, and in the Hill Country they still use what they refer to as “Dutch” or “German” pits lit by coals directly under the meat.

We took a day trip to San Antonio to visit the Alamo and the Riverwalk. Best I can tell there is nothing significantly historical about the Riverwalk itself but we really enjoyed the vibe with great restaurants and killer Christmas lights! The River Walk winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks lined with restaurants and shops, connecting the major tourist draws from the Shops at Rivercenter, to the Arneson River Theatre, to Marriage Island, to La Villita, to HemisFair Park, to the Tower Life Building, to the San Antonio Museum of Art, to the Pearl and the city’s five Spanish colonial missions, which have been named a World Heritage Site.

 

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The river cruises was fun and informative.

 

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The Alamo however is significant in Texas History. It is a world heritage site and has quite a brutal history so all you history buffs …this is where you start groovin!

 

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The Battle of the Alamo (February 23 – March 6, 1836) was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar (modern-day San Antonio, Texas, United States), killing all of the Texan defenders. Santa Anna’s cruelty during the battle inspired many Texans—both Texas settlers and adventurers from the United States—to join the Texan Army. Buoyed by a desire for revenge, the Texans defeated the Mexican Army at the Battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836, ending the revolution.

The grounds at the Alamo are beautiful and so peaceful. It’s hard to imagine all the brutality that happened here. The museum inside is well worth an hour and is well done.

 

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The Alamo was sold to a grocer who used it as a warehouse before it changed hands in 1882. The new proprietors nearly sold the property to a hotel before it was acquired by the DRT, whose efforts helped restore the Alamo to its present state.

 

 

The highlight of the trip for me was our visit was to the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site near Johnson City. President Johnson created the Great Society programs which included antipoverty programs, civil rights legislation, the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the passage of some environmental protection acts, and the creation of laws to help protect consumers. Unfortunately, some of this important legislation is being challenged by our current administration.
While many people remember him for the US’s controversial involvement in the Vietnam War, I was so impressed with his humble beginnings, his work ethic and how his struggle to getting an advanced education shaped much of the social programs we now have in place. A great example is the Head Start Program, which promotes school readiness of children under 5 from low-income families through education, health, social and other services.

 

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President Johnson had a deep attachment for place and heritage. The LBJ Ranch was where he was born, lived, died, and was buried. After the President’s death in 1973, Mrs. Johnson continued to live at the Ranch part-time until her death in 2007.

 

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After a stop at the Visitor’s Center, we took the guided tour of the Texas White House and then toured the rest of the Ranch at our own pace in the car, stopping at sites along the way such as the President’s birthplace, Johnson family cemetery, and the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead. Apparently, Johnson worked long hours, slept little and felt his best when he was on the ranch  – which was often so that’s how the ranch got dubbed the Texas White House.

 

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So much pivotal political work happened here at the Texas White House. Believe me, it wasn’t fancy.

 

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President Johnson loved the Pernales River.

 

The guided ranch house tour was great as the docents were very knowledgeable and the tour size was limited to 10 people. The tour left you with a strong sense of how dedicated President and Lady Bird Johnson were to the administration, social change and leaving a historical legacy. Soon after President Johnson retired from office, the National Park Service, with funds donated by the former President, purchased the Johnson Settlement area. Four of the original buildings were still standing. Besides the cabin, they included a barn and cooler house built by James Polk Johnson, Samuel Ealy Johnson’s nephew and namesake of Johnson City.

We also really enjoyed touring the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead which is inside the park. Another brainchild of the Johnson’s, this living history farm is presented as it was in 1918. Volunteer interpreters wear period clothing, do the farm and household chores as they were done at that time, and conduct tours for the visitors. Volunteers and park staff operate the farm, harvesting and preserving vegetables from the garden, raising livestock and feed. The smokehouse is still in use and the Victorian style house and barns are open to the public as well.

 

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Don’t worry, the big boy turkey is a farm mascot!

 

We happened to be there when the “cook” was in the cook house making lunch for the staff and volunteers, using foods raised and harvested on the farm. It was a cozy place to be that day as it was 45 degrees outside but we didn’t stay for lunch (okay, we weren’t  really invited) because we had the Salt Lick BBQ in our sights and some wineries to visit…but that is a whole other post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Texas Hill Country… BBQ, History and Wine – Part 1

BBQ, History and Wine…What a trifecta of fun. Yes, perhaps a strange combination but in Texas it just worked. I am going to break this trip into three parts because everything is bigger in Texas so there is no way to cover it all in one sitting!

 

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Yep, everything is bigger in Texas!!!

 

Our recent road trip sans the Road House took us from Palm Springs, CA to Austin TX and back. In just over a week, we traveled over 2,500 miles round trip not counting all the day trips around Hill Country. I can tell you this for sure, it is way easier and more comfortable traveling in our RV. On the other hand, there is no way we would have done the long distance drives to get to Texas in the RV that we did in the car.

 

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It’s totally friendly to drive 80 mph on the freeway – YAHOO!

 

Given my ridiculous attraction to good food, let me just start by saying I ate more BBQ Brisket during our week in Texas than I did in the last few years. There was one day we had BBQ for lunch and dinner… it is just that good!!! We did have some other terrific meals so never fear there were some vegetables in my diet too.

 

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Pork ribs, sausage, turkey, beef ribs, and pulled pork typically round out a menu, but no plate of Texas barbecue is complete without brisket. Brisket is king and how it’s cooked is considered the true measure of a pit master’s skill. If Texas had a list of barbecue commandments, Thou Shalt Order Brisket would be No. 1.

Want to get the best serving of brisket every time? Make sure you know what to ask for. Here are some pointers on how to order at any BBQ joint worth their salt…

The brisket is essentially broken down into two areas, which are most commonly referred to as the lean and the moist. This can vary regionally and even how the brisket is sliced varies, but if you say lean or moist that should make sense to any brisket slicer.

Brisket is cut from the breast section just below the chuck (there are two per carcass), and consists of two distinct areas separated by a layer of fat. The point (also called the deckle) is the richly marbled, fatty section that sits on top of the flat, the bigger, leaner bottom section.

Lean (flat, dry, bottom) – This is the typical brisket slice most people think of when it comes to brisket. These slices are typically long and skinny and have the nice ring of smoke around the edges. If done properly it should still be plenty moist, but little if any noticeable fat.

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That’s some good lookin lean brisket

 

Moist (point, top, wet, loose) – This part of the brisket has a lot more fat marbled into the meat. Most if not all should be rendered into the meat, but you may still see some of the fat streaks in the meat. Obviously, this will be much juicier and have more flavor.

 

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Moist brisket…now can you see the difference?

 

In Texas they don’t typically serve a little of both on every order but do ask what your preference is – moist or lean? Me, I am a moist girl, every dang time. Maybe it’s my southern roots?

Another good thing to know…white bread, onions, and pickles are free. Condiment stations are always loaded with quartered white onions, pickles, and cheap white bread. There might occasionally be a charge for more premium bread or fancy pickles, but the standards should definitely come for free. Oh, don’t forget the pickled jalapeños to really kick things up a notch.

Finally, thanks to exorbitant licensing fees and a complicated labyrinth of laws that govern how establishments in Texas can serve and sell alcohol, many Texas BBQ joints are BYOB. Bring a six pack or a full cooler, they won’t bat an eye!

Once we crossed the Texas border, something happened, a vortex if you will, pulling us closer to the BBQ mecca. Fort Stockton, best I can tell isn’t the mecca for anything but we had to stop for BBQ because yes, there was a BBQ joint listed on Google. Practically dying of boredom as the drive from El Paso to Fort Stockton was flat, dull and mind numbing, Dickey’s BBQ was just what we needed to breathe some life back in to all of us.

 

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West Texas certainly is flat…

 

The place wasn’t much to look at from the outside, but you could smell the smoke when you stepped out of the car. Inside, it was just what a BBQ joint should look like and it smelled like delicious BBQ heaven. Granted Dickey’s is a chain but the BBQ was damn good and it gave us the will to keep driving on for another 5 hours!

 

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The parking lot was full when we got there so that was a good sign!!

 

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Quintessential BBQ joint.

 

Our next BBQ fix came the day after Christmas, after reading this quote about the Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood…I knew we had to go. According to Scott Roberts, owner of Texas’ famous Salt Lick BBQ restaurant, “The United States is the best damn country in the world, and Texas is the best damn state in the country – doesn’t that just logically mean that we would have the best damn barbecue?” Well, your damn right on all counts Scott!!!

When the Salt Lick opened in 1967, it was just a limestone pit built into the Roberts’ family land. Over the more than 50 years since then, they’ve built an entire restaurant around the original pit, adding indoor lighting, running water, and all of the other amenities necessary to a functional restaurant.

 

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A Q pit right in the middle of the restaurant, isn’t that a beautiful thing!!!

 

What a place… a big sprawling outdoor seating area with mega smokers billowing and cavernous indoor family style seating plus a honest the goodness BBQ pit burning away. This time I went big (it’s Texas right) and had the moist brisket with BBQ bison ribs followed by a slice of Pecan Pie. Whoa, howdy was that delicious.

 

 

Our other favorite BBQ was San Marcos BBQ. Not only was it exceptionally good food, it was so good we had lunch and brought more Q for dinner. The owner, Justin Pearson is a great guy and I really enjoyed chatting with him after lunch. Working hard and good food are two things this young man takes very seriously. His website write-up really spoke to me:

“I was born and raised in Luling, Texas, where we take two things very seriously: good BBQ and watermelon. I spent my summers working with the watermelon farmers, where I learned the value of working hard. I also worked alongside my grandfather at his restaurant, Chisolm Trail BBQ, where I learned the passion that goes into creating truly good food.

After graduating from Texas State University, I decided to bring my passion for great BBQ to the amazing city of San Marcos. That is how San Marcos BBQ and Catering came to be.

Great BBQ brings people together. It requires hard work and dedication. It allows for innovation and creativity. The mission of my restaurant is to bring joy to as many people as possible, through excellent food, friendly service, and a family atmosphere. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the smile on a customer’s face. That’s the best part of working hard and making good food.”

 

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Great BBQ Justin!!!

 

Many thanks to Justin and all the great BBQ Pit Master’s out there…I am definitely feeling joyful and smiling at the thought of more good brisket. Being around this much good BBQ has us wanting to up our Pit Master skills. So, we don’t actually have a BBQ pit but we do have an awesome Traeger Smoker which we use for grilling and smoking just about everything.

I have also been wanting to add a recipe section to the blog and was inspired by the work ethic of all those amazing pit master’s. So in their honor, please check out my new page  – Epicurious where you will find my favorite home BBQ brisket recipe ~ Bon Appétit.

 

 

 

Borrego Springs.. a Love Hate Experience

Have you ever been somewhere that you don’t really like but you still enjoy being there. Well, for me that’s Borrego Springs.

We drove there specifically to see the outdoor sculptures by Ricardo Breceda and I can unequivocally say it was not the most scenic drive. Brown, barren, dry mountainous landscape …mile after mile of it. Not a tree or plant to be seen, okay… maybe a few half dead cholla cactus.

 

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It looks like a lunarscape

 

The Chamber of Commence touts this description on their website “In Borrego Springs we are completely surrounded by nature, set in the midst of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Enjoy our nature on your own terms, hike a desert canyon or just relax by the pool, play some golf or watch the roadrunners, and always amaze yourself with our dark night sky. There is no hustle-bustle here. Borrego Springs is a small town and we’re proud of that, a small town that will seem like home as soon as you get here.”

Well, yeah…there’s no hustle bustle because there isn’t anything there! Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh but it didn’t seem like home when I got there, so whatever. To be fair, there was vegetation once we got to Borrego Springs.

Since we were on a mission to see the sculptures, it seemed prudent to have lunch first and then go exploring. A quick search of restaurants revealed the Red Ocotillo as the top choice in town so off we went to check it out.

 

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Lunch at the Red Ocotillo was fun…we sat outside on the patio with another couple from San Diego. Charming inside too and boy were people pouring in. I was humming the lyrics from the old Jim Croce song “ Don’t mess with Jim” as our feisty waitress ( I think her name was Slim!!!) bombed around the place telling everyone she was helping people in the order that they came in… thankfully we were number two!!!

Well, we surely didn’t mess with Slim…we had our order ready to go when she swung by our table and our credit card ready when we were finished. She was genuinely pleased that we were so easy to serve!! Yep, we aim to please.

You don’t tug on superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind
You don’t pull the mask off that old lone ranger
And you don’t mess around with Slim

Okay, back to the sculptures…130 of them to be exact. Scattered over hundreds of acres outside the thriving metropolis of Borrego Springs. Ricardo Breceda, the accidental artist has created many of the sculptures based on prehistoric fossils that have been found in this area.

 

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The creatures pop up alongside Borrego Springs Road: prehistoric elephants, a saber-tooth cat, an ancient camel, a T. rex and a giant bird of prey. Not the flesh-and-blood kind, but remarkable art pieces—sometimes whimsical, sometimes haunting. While some creatures are ambitious fantasies, such as a 350-foot-long serpent arcing across the playa, many of the sculptures represent real-life creatures that once roamed this land.

 

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If you are wondering what the inspiration was behind these amazing sculptures, seems Breceda started this journey just trying to do something for his daughter. When seven-year-old Lianna asked her father to make her a life-size dinosaur like those in Jurassic Park, Ricardo Breceda couldn’t have dreamed how it would change his life. Having experienced a devastating construction accident, the Mexico-born Ricardo had persevered and was now operating a thriving boot business in California. Yet, wanting to please his daughter, he began what would become his artistic awakening.

True, he had been experimenting with scrap metal and a welder he had snatched up in a trade, but with no previous art training, he wasn’t sure how to begin. After a year of cutting, hammering, welding, and numerous scraped knuckles, what emerged from his efforts was a seventeen-foot-tall Tyrannosaurs Rex, much to the delight of Lianna.

 

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In 2008, Breceda was originally commissioned by local philanthropist Dennis Avery to make sculptures for his extensive desert property known as Galleta Meadows, but the creatures seem to have multiplied around town. To find Breceda’s 130 or so rust-red, scrap-metal sculptures, we picked up a detailed map at the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association bookstore in Borrego Springs and started driving.

 

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It was fun to look across the desert and see these giant creatures looming in the distance. Often when we got closer, we would discover smaller creatures like these turtles or ground sloths.

 

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Breceda also makes statues of people, most of which are based on people from the old west such as cowboys and Native American figures. One of Breceda’s most notable sculptures is a 350-foot serpent found in Borrego Springs whose head and body pops out of the sand.

 

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Other notable examples of Breceda’s work includes fighting dinosaur statues and a series of wild horse sculptures  which can be seen from Highway 79 South. His daughter Lianna now assists in the sculpting of his statues so the artistic passion has come full circle.

 

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After exploring the sculptures in the desert it was time for some exploration below ground. I have come to love slot canyons so any opportunity to explore one on a clear day with no threat of rain is a GO! Simply named The Slot, this narrow siltstone canyon provides a fun hike in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This 0.8-mike trek is capped off with a passage beneath a gravity-defying rock span. This short hike has just 100 feet of elevation loss, but the memory will be much more profound especially if the light peeking into the canyon provides its own show.

 

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The Slot lacks a defined trail marker. From the parking area, look for footprints leading down into the ravine below. Left of the trailhead, just to the right of a dirt road continuing east, is a wide path that appears to descend into the canyon. This is not the way. The winding trail cliffs out above a dry falls in a side canyon above The Slot. The correct route is the narrow steep-looking track that drops right off the rim of the ravine, straight ahead from the parking area.

Slowly descend into the trench. The trail is steep, but not nearly as steep as it looks from above, dropping less than fifty feet. There are no more optical illusions from here, just eye-popping natural wonders.

 

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Turn left and venture down to The Slot. The siltstone walls grow taller and closer together. About a tenth of a mile from the start, the canyon becomes quite narrow. Hmm, maybe we shouldn’t have had those burgers for lunch as it made it harder to squeeze through the coarse walls that are shoulder width apart, and less in some places.

 

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The shaded slot provides cool relief from the desert above. We continued on through the narrows for 0.3 miles to the highlight of the trek, a slanted rock slab bridging a narrow gap in the canyon. This scepter-shaped block appears to have broken off one wall and come to a comfortable resting place between the two. If that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable …well, it should! The precarious feature looks like it could fall at any moment, but it remains lodged overhead, trapped in some loophole of the earth’s gravitational pull.

 

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Too soon the fun is over and we exited The Slot into the barren, brown desert and continued the hike along the wide river bed. After finding an exit trail that felt like a 100% uphill climb we followed  loose path lot along the edge of the canyon that took us back to the parking. What a hoot, so glad we found The Slot and all in all we had a great day in Borrego Springs.

 

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Holy Moley has it really been a year???

WOW…over a year has passed since we retired, sold all our “stuff” and started our mobile lifestyle. It‘s been a great year traveling in the Road House and cruising in the Beach House. We have seen and done so much, logging over 6,000 miles on land and over 100 hours on the Beach House engines.

 

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Living on the edge.

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Yep, we’ve seen some crazy geography!

 

Any regrets you may ask???
None, as far as the life style change is concerned. Having the time and flexibility to explore this beautiful country is a gift for sure. Not having to huddle up all winter long in the gray, rainy PNW – bonus points! The mobile lifestyle is very conducive to meeting people but the downside of that is it harder to maintain and build friendships as people are generally not in one place for long. It is a little weird to have to put yourself “out there” and work at making new friends. The biggest downside is truly that we miss seeing our Portland Pals and the spontaneity of seeing them when we lived nearby.

 

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It’s been awesome to meet up with some of our Portland Pals and share another adventure.

 

Do we miss working???
Not so much…No matter how much you love your work or the company you work for, there is a certain amount of stress that you just learn to adapt to. For me, the weight of the responsibility that came with my role as the Operations Director for a very successful non-profit animal shelter was literally gone when I retired. Sleeping better – you betcha! Yes, there are times that I do miss the mission and creativity that came with the responsibility but after a year I am not yearning to go back to work. These days I take my new role as the Director of Operations for the Road House and Beach House very seriously.

 

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It’s seriously hard work finding all the great brew pubs across the US!

 

I know for a fact that Wally does miss the creative side of his work as well but not the corporate politics. He is finding ways to channel his creativity, working on a few technology patent ideas and doing projects for the coach or boat. He has done some really nice improvements such as the lift bed storage area he designed and installed on the boat and the big screen TV lift compartment for the coach. Love having a handy guy!!!

 

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Lift TV project almost completed.

 

What about living together in such a small space???
I think we have adapted well because no one has been smothered in their sleep. That seems like a low bar and yes, we do get on each other nerves once in a while but hey…what 25 year plus married couple doesn’t. The biggest downside is the amazing collection of pet hair that I am constantly removing from both the Road House and the Beach House. I know it was in our house too but the hair had 2,500 sq foot to coat everything. A more creative person would be using all that soft fur for slippers, purses or who knows what!

Do you miss all the “stuff” you got rid of?
I don’t miss the stuff per se but it is a pain sometimes rearranging what stuff we have just to get to the stuff we want. I did miss my aging food processor that I sold in a garage sale so I recently got a new one. Woo-Hoo, yes I am a cooking geek!

Okay, I do miss our hot tub too 🙂

 

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Oh how I love my new kitchen toy!!!

 

Now the million dollar question…isn’t this costing you a fortune??? 
This may surprise some of you but our mobile lifestyle isn’t more expensive. We have certainly made some changes to our budget since we are no longer working and not having a house to take care of most definitely helps the bottom line. We have been good savers, mostly in our company 401K programs but are certainly not rolling in dough by any means. I have been the keeper of our budget for years and to be truthful, when were working we did not think too hard about buying what we wanted, when we wanted. That mentality has definitely changed now that we are living on our savings. We did exceed our budget overall for the first year on the road but we have a better idea now where we can tighten the belt a bit. The mobile lifestyle can be anything you want it to be as can the costs associated with it, so budgets are different for different people. Suffice to say, we are way more careful with our cash theses days plus when you have nowhere to put new stuff, you just don’t buy new stuff.

What about the pets???
They love being with us and most of the time we love being with them (except when I am in the middle of the daily pet hair removal exercise). Bentley isn’t the easiest dog to travel with as he is so wary of strangers and is afraid of other dogs. Ever since he was attacked by an off leash dog this summer, he positively doesn’t want to be around other dogs. At least with people, he does warm up and will greet you with a nub wag after he has accepted that you are not the scary, evil person he thought you were. He does love laying in the sun, running free in the desert (when we know other dogs aren’t around), a good camp fire or playing ball so life is good for him.

 

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Who doesn’t love a roaring campfire???

 

Sucia had a rough first 5 months in the coach when we left Portland last December and it seemed like she was comatose most of the time. Jumpy, scared of all the new sounds and all the change was overload for her. She ended her stay in Santa Fe last spring with a inflamed bladder and a trip to teh vet. The vet got her feeling better and thanks to rescue remedy and calming collars she made the transition to the boat this summer very well. I think she actually likes being on the boat more than the coach as there are more levels which she can perch and see outside plus the rear cockpit is like an enclosed sun porch. She spent many hours this past summer laying out there watching birds, swirly light on the water and zenning out. The good news is that she seems to have adapted well now that we are back on the coach for the winter.

 

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Sucia loves the sun beams on the Beach House

 

What about lessons learned???
Well, I know we had way to much “stuff” on board the coach when we rolled out of Portland last December. Believe it or not, too many clothes…specifically jackets, shoes and socks…yes, you can have too many pairs of socks and seriously how much do you really wear them when the weather is 70 degrees! Too many pairs of jeans and long pants. We really had to pare it down when we transitioned onto the boat for the summer as there is so much less storage on the boat. Also, way to many towels and dog toys! Yes, even Bentley had to do some purging.

 

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Really, he wanted to bring it all! I told him to choose 10.

 

This fall, we did another big reorg of our stuff and definitely rolled out of Anacortes a bit lighter. Since we first rolled, I have add a Instant Pot and a Cuisinart Food Processor to the small arsenal of kitchen tools I have. Since I love to cook and was able to make room for them both, I felt justified buying them both!!

Checklists. We are big believers now in check lists…seems we tend to forget things or where we put things or what things we even have. We do have a small 5×10 ft storage space near Anacortes Washington where we keep all the stuff that we couldn’t part with or things we use seasonally on either the boat or the coach like the pressure washer or carpet cleaner. Some very, very good friends in Anacortes who have an amazing storage area under their garage also let us store some of our nicer wines – thanks Millers!!!

The other reason…the really big reason we have checklists for the coach and boat is it is easy to forget how to actually run, start or set up after we have been off the coach or boat for a season. Yikes, is it an age thing??? I keep telling myself, no..its because we aren’t doing it actively…you know use it or lose it!

One boneheaded example of why I needed a check list for getting Ernie hooked up to the coach came the day we were heading out of Anacortes in October. We each have our departure/arrival chores when it comes to the coach and the boat. In addition to getting the inside of coach secure for travel, I also help Wally get Ernie (our Chevy Equinox) hooked up to the tow bar. Specifically, I connect the air brake inside the car and make sure everything is set correctly so that Ernie rolls along behind the coach. It’s really not that complicated but…forget one step and well, Ernie doesn’t roll so well.

ROADHOUSE ERNIE CHECK LIST

Once car is hooked to tow bar:
1. Attach brake bar
2. Plug in air link
3. Pump the brakes a few times
4. Release parking brake
5. Put car in neutral
6. Turn key 1 click
7. Put on sun visor
8. Double check again

Despite our checking each other’s work…some how step 5 didn’t happen (notice it is in bold now). What was our first clue?? Well, the coach didn’t seem to be going forward easily…is there something wrong with the transmission?? What is that skidding noise behind the coach??? After a few failed attempts to move the coach away from the curb and checking the tow bar set up, I stood on the sidewalk and watched as Wally tried to pull forward…WHOA, poor Ernie was skidding across the concrete, tires locked, resisting with all his 3,400 pound might. Dummy Girl…I was yelling DUMMY GIRL when Wally came out to see what was going on. Yes, I forgot to actually put the car in neutral…DUMMY GIRL, jeez, did I feel like an idiot. Wally being the nice guy he is reminded me he didn’t check my work either so technically is wasnt all my fault. Okay, that’s why those check lists are really important!!

Another lesson learned was….DON’T ALWAYS TRUST GOOGLE MAPS!!! Shit, Damn, Hell did we learn that one the hard way, more than once. We are just under 60 feet long with Ernie on the tow bar behind us.  It isn’t easy turning the coach around and we can’t back up at all with Ernie being towed so our maneuverability is limited. Best I can tell, Google maps does give a damn about that little but important factoid! Shortest or fastest route, sure thing.  I also have to research fuel stops to make sure we can get in and out without an embarrassing incident, uh like being stuck, having to unhitch Ernie and slink away while all the other pissed off customers have to wait. So it turns out my new job as does have some stress after all!

 

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We barely fit…I held my breath so that’s why we were able to make it across.

 

So what are we going to do this winter???
We arrived in gloriously warm Palm Springs almost 4 weeks ago and settled in very quickly to our beautiful site at the Outdoor Resort Palm Springs. This winter we are splitting our time between two RV resorts in California and Arizona. Last winter we tried a variety of different places, a variety of different state/regional parks and RV resorts to get a feel for what we might like.

 

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Warm, balmy and all set up to dine alfresco.

 

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Our view of the San  Joaquin Mountains.

 

The conclusion was actually surprising to us.  Thanksfully we agreed that we liked the amenities that a true 55 plus RV resort offers (yes, dammit we are old enough to qualify) and that we did not want to be moving around every two weeks all winter long. Since this is a lifestyle not a vacation, moving frequently all winter long actually got tiresome (I know, you are thinking what a whiner I am). Being in one place longer in the winter also means we can enjoy the new friends we are making.

Another other perk of being in one place a bit longer is that we can seek out volunteer opportunities. I fell in love with the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior AZ when we visited there last February. I am interested in becoming a volunteer. Woohoo, maybe they will let me get my hands in the dirt!

 

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The desertscape at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum with the mountains in the background is just spectacular.

 

Don’t get me wrong, we love to do road trips and there is so much of the US we want to explore but really who wants to do that in the cold of winter! November through March is a great time to be hanging in a warmer climate but that sure rules out a whole lot of the US especially December – February. Perhaps in future winters, we will explore Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and over as far as Florida…well, once hurricane season is over. Our migration back and forth to the boat will be when we do our short hops, 1-2 weeks stops to explore other states like Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada.

 

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Attending the Albuquerque Balloon Festival is on the calendar for 2018!

 

So your going to continue the mobile lifestyle???
Yes sir’ee Bob we sure are…no plans to settle down anywhere at this point. North American is a big continent and best I can tell, we are not getting any younger so Carpe Diem…

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An A Plus Plus Week in Palm Springs

We arrived in gloriously warm Palm Springs about two weeks ago and settled in very quickly to our beautiful site at the Outdoor Resort Palm Springs. Our outdoor living space here is really awesome with lots of shade and privacy. Love, Love, Love sitting outside on the patio in the mornings with a steaming cup of java and listening to all the birds. The hummingbirds seem to love our flowering hedge so I got out my feeders and set them up so Sucia could bird watch too.

 

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Wally and Bentley relaxing on our quiet patio.

 

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Sucia is an avid bird watcher…like me, she loves hummingbirds.

 

My cousin June and her hubby Matt were arriving on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and staying at our nearby timeshare condo. So excited to be spending Thanksgiving with them and took my duties as official tour guide very seriously!!! The weather forecast for Thanksgiving day indicated that yes, we would be dining Alfresco – YAY!!! As a matter of fact, it seems the entire week was going to be toasty – 90 degrees of toasty.

There is so much to see and do in Palm Springs plus the dining scene here is outstanding. Everything from super casual to fine dining and every ethic option you could ask for. I do a lot of research on restaurants because I LOVE to eat and as much as I LOVE to cook, I really enjoy a great meal that someone else fixes and no dishes!!

After getting June and Matt checked into the condo on Sunday, we all headed to the Purple Palm Restaurant in Palm Springs for a late lunch. This place is the real meal deal, so totally quintessential Palm Springs. The restaurant is located in the Colony Palms Hotel  which is known as one of Palm Springs’ iconic and luxurious downtown hotels. Just one block off of the city’s main design district and built in the 1930s, this 57-room resort retains many charming features of its original Spanish colonial architecture, from arched entryways and covered ceilings to original ceramic floor tiles.

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We were seated outside in an intimate sanctuary with lush greenery with the pool as a backdrop behind us. What a great introduction to Palm Springs…the Purple Palm menu is casual, approachable and the Bloody Marys are buzz worthy!! In addition to a great meal, we experienced warm personalized service. This was a great place for us to have a long, lingering lunch and catch up as it had been years since we were all together.

 

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We were sitting at the four top on the far right.

 

Monday was going to be toasty so it seemed like the perfect day to head up The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. This crazy ride is the world’s largest rotating tram car, traveling over two-and-one-half miles along the breathtaking cliffs of Chino Canyon and transports riders to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park. During our approximately ten-minute journey, the tram car rotated slowly, offering picturesque and spectacular vistas of the valley floor below. We departed the tram at elevation 8,516 feet and at least 25 degrees cooler than the valley floor.

 

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All aboard….

 

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WOW…what a view!

 

After a casual lunch at The Peaks Restaurant we enjoyed the observation decks, the natural history museum and an easy hike through the long valley and back, stopping at the five scenic notches that gave different but spectacular views out over the valley below.

 

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Can you see the windmills off in the valley below?

 

The tram was the dream of a young electrical engineer, Francis Crocker, that began in 1935 while he was on a trip to Banning, California, with newspaper publisher Carl Barkow. Mopping his brow in the heat of the day, Crocker gazed at the still snow-capped peak of Mount San Jacinto 10,834 feet elevation and longed to “go up there where it’s nice and cool”. At that moment, “Crocker’s Folly,” as it was soon dubbed by one newspaper woman, was born – a tramway up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon. The tramway project stalled several times over the years but because of sheer determination by Crocker was finished in 1963. No small feat to build, the first tower is the only one that can be reached by road. The helicopters flew some 23,000 missions during the 26 months of construction, hauling men and materials needed to erect the four other towers and the 35,000 sq. ft. Mountain Station.

 

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The winter months change the whole dynamic at the top and hiking gives way to snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snow camping. There was no threat of snow when we were there but I can certainly imagine the transition of dry, pine forests to winter wonderland.

 

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Can you imagine how beautiful this area will be with a dusting of snow?

 

The next day our exploring took us on a drive across the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway. This beautiful drive from Palm Springs to Banning shows a different side of southern California. Palm trees give way to pines and firs as the byway climbs into the San Bernardino National Forest.

 

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Leaving the Coachella Valley on winding Hwy 74.

 

Idyllwild was the perfect lunch stop and we had another great meal at the Mile High Café. This family owned restaurant is a gem, offering an eclectic menu with a decidedly Korean influence. The Whiskey Bacon Jam was to die for!!! While definitely cooler than the Coachella Valley, sitting at over 5,000 ft elevation it was still a great day to enjoy the outdoor, dog friendly patio.

 

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Idyllwild has an eclectic mix of shops but is not really an artist community experience.

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A beautiful fall day!

 

Besides the great lunch, a stroll through Idyllwild and all the jaw dropping views along the way, I think the big highlight of the day was the short hike around Lake Fulmor. The fall colors were just spectacular, making the area a photographers nirvana. All of our cameras got a work out and I can only imagine how many MB of digital storage were used.

 

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The fall colors made Lake Filmor extra  photogenic.

 

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Bentley enjoyed the hike the most and wasn’t super thrilled about the rest of the winding, curvy ride.

 

The final experience of the day was on the drive back to Palm Springs with a detour of Hwy 10 through the windmill farms and a date shake at the funky Windmill Market. Dates are actually grown in the Coachella Valley and there are several places you can buy the local varietals. Date shakes are pretty dang good but I still prefer my dates wrapped in proscuttio…wink, wink!!

 

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The thanksgiving shopping was all done and the menu planned so we were able to spend the day before the big feast in Old Town Palm Springs wandering the shops, people watching, sipping coffee and doing a driving tour to see some amazing homes built in the era of mid-century architecture. We saw Marilyn Monroes house, the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway – can you say funky, the Kaufmann Desert House, Ann Miller’s House and the Liberace House. Driving the area where these houses are located is a feast to the eyes for those mid-century modern architecture lovers. Only wish we had been able to get inside some of those beauties.

 

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The Kaufmann Desert home is a stunning peice of architecture. The 5 bedroom, 5 bath property recently sold for $12.5 million. I would love to see the inside.

 

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Thanksgiving day was warm so we relaxed and enjoyed our outdoor living room at the RV Resort. I was a cooking crazy-woman and with some help turned out a pretty amazing Thanksgiving feast. I was so into the cooking that I completely forgot to take any pictures – lame – but it was a delicious feast, even the store bought pie, a “real” pecan pie from Claim Jumpers. Thanksfully, Matt took a few nice pictures 🙂

 

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The spatchcocked turkey is smoking nicely!!!

 

The menu below was written by my very creative cousin June…

To Quaf….
Monsuier Byer’s Cardboard-Cellared, Aged Vino:
A. Rafanelli, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Valley Zinfandel, 2014

Macchia Old Vine Zinfandel ‘Mischevious’ 2016 With Notes of Berries and Soft Vanilla

In The Beginning…
Tender Kale-Radicchio-Shaved Brussels Sprout, Sea Salt-Sprinkled Salad With Dried Cranberries & Garlic-Vinagarette

In The Middle….
Apple Wood, Tragar-Smoked, Spatchcocked Turkey with Citrus-Herb Butter

Southern Fried Corn with Crunchy Smoked Bacon Crumbles

Gruyered Gratin de Sweet Potato, Yam & Red Potatoes With Herb Cream Sauce

Slow-Simmered Turkey Giblet Gravy With Simon & Garfunkle Deconstructed Herb Garni of Sage, Rosemary & Thyme.

Rosemary-Balsamic-Maple Glazed, Roasted & Caramelized Carrots drizzled with Herb de Provence Olive Oil
In The End….
Claim Jumper’s Signature Southern Pecan Pie, With Extra Flaky Crust & Real (Not Fake) Pecans

Idyllwyld Ethiopian Organic, Tangy City-Roasted Coffee With Hints of Blueberry

Truly, the best part of the day was being together with my BCF’s from Kentucky, playing games, sipping wine and being silly. If you have never played the board game Redneck Life, be prepared to laugh until almost you pee your pants! I won because I actually accumulated enough money to have all my missing teeth fixed!!! So very thankfully they made the trip to Palm Springs to be with us.

Our week together was a busy whirlwind and our last night we went on a strange adventure to see Robo Lights. This fantastical, four acre winter-wonderland-meets-sci-fi art installation that lights up the upscale Movie Colony East neighborhood is the life-long work of is Kenny Irwin Jr. He is quoted as saying “The display features a life time’s worth of monumental and variety complex art that spanning nearly thirty five years from the time I was very little where I made my first large outdoor found art robot at the age of nine. Of course, I have been creating art in one form or another since I was practically born”.

 

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Kenny, is this is a self portrait?

 

This is one of the most amazingly, bizarre places I have ever been. Outrageous wonderland flies out of whacky artist’s mind into 3-D manifestation like that gory creature out of Kane’s chest in Alien. Only this one’s done in full trashion with exploded microwaves, hot pink foam , lawn chair fences, telephone christmas wreaths and so much more.

 

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Enter at your own risk …

 

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Wow, there is some really old technology in that wreath.

 

Watch out reindeer, these kinetic mannequins and bunnies are taking alien black Santa for the sleigh ride of the century! I wondered if the parents who brought children evaluated their child’s sensitivities and future propensity toward weirdness first! The level of detail in these mind-blowing recycled sculptures really must be seen to be believed.

 

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Now, that doesn’t look any any teddy bear I ever had???

 

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It’s really is all made with recycled treasures.

 

The only possible downside to all of this creepy brilliance is that it’s all SO MUCH. It’s hard to get your head around everything, and it’s honestly a little overwhelming. But hey, it is a lifetime of artistry, right!!!

 

 

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It was an unanimous decision to celebrate our fabulous week together over lunch again at the Purple Palm..it has been decided that this is our place. All good things must come to an end and somehow our week together just flew by. Seems I scored very high marks as a Palm Springs Tour Guide, A Plus Plus!!!!

 

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Ya’ll come back anytime!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rendezvous in Santa Fe

Santa Fe was not on the itinerary for this fall but that is the beauty of this mobile lifestyle – you can truly go whenever and wherever you want! So when our full-time RV friends Joe and Sharon texted me and mentioned they would be in Santa Fe for a month in Oct/Nov we decided to detour for 10 days and meet up with them.

 

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Beautiful Loretto Chapel near the Plaza

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Built in 1879, the staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support

 

The RVing lifestyle lends itself to meeting new people and there is a certain camaraderie amongst travelers in general. I met Joe and Sharon last February in Gold Canyon AZ when I spotted them walking a beautiful white Boxer. Of course, I pulled my bike over in the RV Resort to chat with them and meet Cooper. I remember telling Wally about these nice folks I met from Texas and gushing about Cooper. I guess we were destined to be friends so it was serendipity when we ran into them again in Santa Fe New Mexico in April.

We had a very warm welcome when we arrived last week and were really grateful to have a homemade meal and wine waiting after our long drive from Moab Utah. Our stay at the Santa Fe Skies RV Resort was spent catching up, long walks with the dogs, cocktails in front of the blazing courtyard chimenea in the evenings, wandering the Plaza, long lunches in charming Santa Fe with many margaritas (made with Patron Silver by the way) and hiking at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Park.

 

They really do look like Tent Rocks!

 

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This is really fun hike with a slot canyon to shimmy through and a steep climb to spectacular views

 

Santa Fe is a very livable city and boast the cleanest air in the US. At 7,000 feet, Santa Fe sits in the Sangre de Cristo foothills renowned for its Pueblo-style architecture and as a creative arts hotbed. Founded as a Spanish colony in 1610, it has at its heart the traditional Plaza. The surrounding historic district’s crooked streets wind past adobe landmarks including the Palace of the Governors, now home to the New Mexico History Museum.

We are always looking at places we visit through the lens of “would we ever want to live here”.

Known as the “Land of Enchantment,” New Mexico offers residents breathtaking views, colorful scenery and vibrant culture. Millions of acres of land in New Mexico fall under the protection of the National Forest and National Park Services which mean there are abundant outdoor recreational opportunities. The more than 300 days of sunshine each year is pretty darn enticing too!

Santa Fe in particular has a nice vibe and loads of yummy dining places – definitely a foodie city, great roads and hiking areas. Services like shopping are plentiful and they have a Trader Joe’s – score!

 

Sucia gives Santa Fe a four paw rating for bird watching

 

The biggest downsides for me is that it is high desert which means things get a bit dusty and gritty plus the housing prices in Santa Fe are definitely higher than the national average.

 

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Oh, but the sunsets are so beautiful!

 

None of these things would be deal breakers, so Santa Fe stays on the list of possibilities for the distant future when we get tired of our mobile lifestyle. For now, we look forward to more exploration of the US, making new friends and all the adventures that our nomadic lifestyle brings.

 

What cute boys!!

What Really Happened to Cisco

I was so intrigued with the ghost town of Cisco that we visited on our Scenic Byway 128 drive near Moab that I thought it deserved its own post. The “town” doesn’t look like much and what remains is a bit creepy with an unwelcoming vibe but fun exploring none the less.

 

 

Seems creepy is good when it comes to some movies and Cisco has been featured in movies like Vanishing Point, Don’t Come Knocking, Thelma and Louise as well as the Johnny Cash song, “Cisco Clifton’s Filling Station”.

 

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What I learned from searching the internet is that the town started in the 1880s as a saloon and water-refilling station for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. As work crews and, later, travelers came through, stores, hotels and restaurants sprang up to accommodate them. Nearby cattle ranchers and sheep herders in the Book Cliffs north of town began using Cisco as a livestock and provisioning center. Around the turn of the 20th century, over 100,000 sheep were sheared at Cisco before being shipped to market.

In 1924, oil and natural gas were discovered in the region which gave a boost to the town. At one time, Cisco was the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the state. After World War II, when Americans began a love affair with the automobile and began to travel as never before, Cisco was a welcome respite for thirsty travelers headed through the arid desert. Situated on the main highway through the region at the time (US 6/50), a number of businesses sprouted up to serve those passing through, including restaurants, gas stations, and saloons.

 

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In the 1950’s, when the railroad began to use diesel engines, replacing the coal powered steam engines and the need for water stops, Cisco became a candidate for a ghost town. However, the small town was saved by the discovery of uranium and vanadium in the area that drew prospectors by the thousands. Cisco catered to the desert prospectors for several years, until the mining “craze” fizzled and the prospectors moved on.

 

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In the 1940’s the town was home to about 200 people.. I can understand why they left the chair!

 

Two decades later however, Cisco would not be so lucky when I-70 barreled through the region, completely bypassing Cisco and its businesses. The economy immediately declined and people moved away.

 

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I think this may have been the general store

 

The town site contains many relics of a typical old west railroad town. Cisco survived long enough into the 20th century to be assigned a ZIP Code, 84515. Unfortunately for history and railroad buffs, the ghost town’s easy access and proximity to the freeway have lured vandals; the relics are heavily damaged and the town is littered with abandoned vehicles now.

 

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According to Legends of America, one of the last businesses in Cisco was a gas station/restaurant, whose owner went to jail for shooting a man who drove off without paying for his gas. The gas station owner’s wife took over the business and ran it poorly, allegedly keeping the door locked and only serving customers when she felt like it. She had a large bad-tempered dog that frequently bit customers. It is said that if the customer got upset or kicked the dog, she turned them away, but if they kept a cool head, she would serve them.

 

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One of Cisco’s most notable landmarks is the tiny post office. It is really small and contains only a desk and a chair

 

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This is the filling station featured in the Johnny Cash song

 

Though the railroad tracks continue to be used by the Union Pacific Railroad and the California Zephyr still “flies” through, the train hasn’t stopped here in decades. Allegedly, there are still a few people who live in this desolate town, but during our quick visit we saw nary a soul, not even a roaming dog.

Apparently the state of Utah is home to over 100 ghost towns…another reason for me to come back and do some more exploring!

 

Visiting The Mighty Five

The Mighty 5 national parks in Utah draw several million visitors from around the world each year to marvel at surreal scenery and experience amazing outdoor activities. A trip to The Mighty 5 means watching the sunrise over the towering depths of Canyonlands National Park, then watching the sunset through an impossibly delicate rock bow in Arches National Park. It means standing nose-to-nose with ancient petroglyphs in Capitol Reef National Park, then lying on your back as a beautiful meteor shower streaks across the Milky Way. It means gazing down at coral-hued rock hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park, then gazing upward at the steep walls of slot canyon trails in Zion National Park.

 

I feel fortunate to have been able to visit all of the Mighty 5 this year. We have been hiking, biking, picnicking, walking, exploring, stargazing and generally just marveling at how much natural beauty there is in the state of Utah.  This past spring we visited Bryce, Zion and Capitol Reef National Parks and planned our fall migration south to take in the other two of the Mighty Five.

 

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Looks like a mask! Landscape Arch in Arches National Park

 

Our week in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks were a bit of a whirl wind.  Thanks to our unplanned stay in Twin Falls Idaho we broke our own rule about spending at least one week exploring each park. Our stay in Moab was just over a week long but was really the perfect place to base ourself to see both parks. On this trip we mainly hiked and did scenic drives so the bikes never made it off the back of the coach. Oh, well, next time!

 

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Arches was captivating and yes, there were so many arches. Most hikes and viewpoints in the park are centered around seeing these huge natural rock formations. Located just 5 miles north of Moab is Arches National Park, which contains the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. Although over 2,000 arches are located within the park’s 76,518 acres, the park also contains an astounding variety of other geological formations. Colossal sandstone fins, massive balanced rocks, soaring pinnacles and spires dwarf visitors as they explore the park’s viewpoints and hiking trails. A newly paved scenic drive takes visitors to many of the major viewpoints within the park. As hikers, we had a variety of trails to choose from. Some are short twenty minute walks leading right up to many of the largest arches and others are half or full day adventures.

 

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Love this dwarf dome

 

When we have a week or more to spend exploring, we generally don’t spend time inside the parks on the weekends when it is busier. Those are great days for scenic drives such as the one we did on Byway 128. Late October was the perfect time to visit as the day time temps are near perfect for hiking and both parks felt empty. Don’t get me wrong, there were always people at the viewpoints and easy trail heads but when we got off the beaten path, we often had the trail to ourselves.

 

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The desert colors are just spectacular

 

Our first hike in Arches was Devils Garden Trail Loop, which is the longest of the maintained trails in the park and leads to eight awe-inspiring arches. We hiked over 7 miles, traversed narrow ledges with rocky surfaces and did plenty of scrambling on slickrock but lucky for us it was very dry so none of the surfaces were slippery.

 

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So cool to be able to hike across this huge rock fin

 

One of my favorite hikes, Tower Arch was even more off the beaten path and begins at the end of the four-wheel-drive road at the west side of the park. This unpaved road washes out quickly in rainstorms but again we had perfect conditions to get into the backcountry. While it was only 3.5 miles, the trail climbs a steep rock wall, then cuts across a valley and then meanders through sandstone fins and sand dunes. We literally didn’t see anyone for most of the hike and had a quiet picnic lunch under the arch with our friends Tom and Laurie.

 

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Tower Arch, the perfect picnic spot

 

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Yes, there is a tower behind the arch!

 

We decided to do some real off roading after leaving Tower Arches and were hoping to get to Anniversary Arch. The Trails Off Road website describes the technical rating as easy. Here is their Jeep trail description:
“Dirt road. Rutted, washes, or gulches. Water crossings up to 6″ depth. Passable mud. Grades up to 10 degrees. Small rocks or holes. 4WD recommended but 2WD possible under good conditions and with adequate ground clearance and skill. No width problems for any normal vehicle”,

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This is what the park map describes as a primitive road

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Even with a small Jeep, about 4 miles into the drive we decided to turn around…good idea!!

 

Park Avenue was another fun, short, 2 mile in and out hike. The trail descends steeply into a spectacular canyon and continues down the wash to the Courthouse Towers. There is a beautiful natural amphitheater there when I could image a concert being held. Unfortunately, the sun was all wrong for a picture so you will have to just explore it yourselves!

 

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Park Avenue

 

Our day at Canyonlands National Park was spent mainly driving through the park and doing short hikes at the viewpoints. Canyonlands is the largest national park in Utah, and its diversity staggers the imagination. The park is divided into four districts, each having distinct geographic differences. The easiest way to see the park is to visit the Island in the Sky district which is only 32 miles from Moab.
The Island in the Sky district sits atop a massive 1500 foot mesa, quite literally creating a visual Island in the Sky. Twenty miles of paved roads lead to many of the most spectacular views in Canyon Country. From these lofty viewpoints visitors can often see over 100 miles in any given direction and take in panoramic views that encompass thousands of square miles of canyon country.

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Canyonlands is literally canyons within canyons

 

Our first short 2 mile hike was to Upheaval Dome lookout where you have a great view into the crater. Upheaval Dome is an impact structure so you are seeing the deeply eroded bottom-most remnants of an impact crater. The crater is clearly visible on the surface as bright brown and black concentric rings. Approximately 3 miles in diameter, the crater is known to be less than 170 million years old. YAY,  I am just a youngster in comparison to this crater.

 

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The layers of color in Upheaval Dome are like a desert rainbow

 

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Zooming in with the camera I could see craters within craters and giant fin rock formations

 

Grand View Point and the 2 mile round trip trail along the rims edge was my favorite hike of the day. We sat right on the rim and ogled the panoramic vistas. I could have dangled my legs right over the rims edge but that was too much for this slightly height challenged gal.

 

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That’s a long ways down…my heart was pounding!

 

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Shafer Canyon…I need that big boy Jeep to drive the road that you can see snaking along the canyon floor

 

There are plenty of great picnic sites within the park and again, it was a relatively quiet day in the park so we feasted on the views and our lunch in solitude.

Our week in Moab went way to quickly and soon it was time to hit the road for Santa Fe NM where we will meet up with fellow full time RV friends. Knowing we have only barely scratched the surface of things to explore in the area, I think that Moab will remain on our list of places to visit again.

 

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Another shot of Double Arch

 

 

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Mesa Arch in Canyonlands

 

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