Sometimes I fear that my blog paints an ideal and perhaps inaccurate picture of the daily reality of our lives. What you see every couple of weeks is simply our “highlight reel” but that isn’t what every day looks like for us. As I look back on the many incredibly busy and way too stressful days since we left South Carolina, I sometimes have to take a deep breath (and look out the window to see where we are) and force myself to just close my eyes for a second and slow down. The past couple of months have been even more stressful than usual as Greg is working like crazy and more often than not is downright exhausted. He is under more stress and pressure with his work than he’s been under in several years. He’s trying to figure out how to balance his workload with actually getting the exercise and the mental breaks that he needs in order to be able to keep up the pace and it’s a hard balance to find. He’s still looking for it. Elijah and I are fully entrenched in homeschooling his first year of high school, which is a full load in itself. As for me, it seems like (and feels like) I am always working and rarely take/have the time to slow down and just enjoy this life. Between keeping up our personal and business bookkeeping, ongoing homeschool planning and grading duties, cooking 2-3 meals every day, grocery shopping (always at different stores), weekly laundromat visits, being a full-time travel agent (researching and booking our upcoming destinations, which is not nearly as fast nor easy as you might think), making sure we don’t miss out on any of the educational (preferably free) things to do in whatever area we are at any given time, and… I could go on… and on…. I too crawl into bed every night good and tired. Although I would consider Greg exhausted lately, I only consider myself good and tired. The truth is, I wake up each morning with more energy than I’ve had in years. More on that in a second…
My point is, even though it may appear by reading my blog and seeing all the pretty pictures that we are just out having fun and on some sort of a permanent vacation 24/7; The truth is, as much as we’d LOVE that to be the case, it isn’t. Do you know why? Because we are not on vacation and we are NOT retired! This is our lifestyle… by choice! We gave up A LOT to be here. Our house, our stability, being physically close and easily able to spend time with our friends and family, especially our adult children and our soon to be FIVE grandchildren (thank God for FaceTime!), and so much more. We went from a very comfortable, cushy, stable and predictable life in 2,600 square feet with a nice sailboat on the lake, surrounded by familiarity; to an ever changing, never sure what tomorrow is going to bring, more expensive then we ever imagined it would be, unpredictable life in 410 square feet. We chose this lifestyle, knowing it wouldn’t be easy. Nothing worth having ever is. We are adamant about making it a priority to go, see, do, and learn as much as we can (especially Elijah and I) everywhere we go. We have to do this often because we are moving 250-300 miles to a different location every 2-3 weeks. We do all of this exploring IN ADDITION TO all of our daily duties of life. I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t say (either to myself or someone else) we are NOT retired! We’d love to be retired, but we aren’t and won’t be anytime soon. Greg and I are only fifty years old and we have many more working years ahead of us. Greg absolutely must put in the hours to keep this boat afloat. Speaking of boats, some days it feels like we are sailing right along and other days we seem to be sinking fast, but we are all three in this boat for the long haul and are happy to be on the journey, even if we do have to do some bailing every now and then.
Honestly, the workload (for both Greg and myself) is actually heavier than it was back in our S&B house. But, we aren’t complaining and are very grateful that God has blessed us with all the necessary components to make this lifestyle not only a possibility, but a reality. We chose this life for so many reasons and I simply can’t imagine going back. I love this life beyond words, and I am confident in saying that both Greg and Elijah share my sentiments. (Although I truly think I love it the most!) Although I certainly am busier than ever, I am also much healthier and happier than I have been in many years. With the lack of humidity, the increase in Vitamin D, the hiking, the nature, the constant new sights and sounds, and spending so much time exploring God’s gorgeous creation, I am in less pain and have more energy than I have had in over 16 years… since we lived out here in California years ago to be precise! Thank you, Jesus!
And now for our highlight reel….
Elijah and I took a day trip to Carson City, Nevada. Check it out…
Elijah loves wildlife, so he’s beary happy that we are on bear territory now.
We are now staying at Tahoe Valley Campground , which is an Encore resort that I had them include in our Thousand Trails (TT) membership. (It’s not normally included.) We upgraded our TT Membership to Elite during our stay so we are staying here three weeks now instead of just two. We now can stay three weeks at each TT park and go directly from one park to the next and we don’t have to pay any daily fees, it’s all included in our membership. Our upgraded TT membership will save us major money on campground fees in the end. Upgrading was a no-brainer for us. Here are some pictures of Tahoe Valley.
And now for a funny story… When we were staying at Ponderosa RV Campground, we drove up to the Dutch Flat area to check out our next campground and make sure it had a good cell signal. Greg and I went, just the two of us for a “date”. Afterwards, we drove on down south on I-80 and found this restaurant “Joe Caribe Bistro & Cafe” in Auburn in my GF Finder App. (See picture below). It got 12 – 5 star ratings, and a “Celiac Friendly” rating. So we decided to give it a try. It was an inexpensive, small restaurant and their food was absolutely delicious. We ate there and loved it. Their claim to fame is their fish tacos, which is one of my absolute FAVORITE dishes. About 3 weeks later, when we were staying up at Dutch Flat Campground, Greg and I were in dire need of a date night. On our way south on I-80 (there are no GF friendly restaurants in Dutch Flat) I opened up my GF Finder app and found this brand new restaurant. I didn’t even recognize the name of it. So I said to Greg, “Let’s check this out. It’s called Joe Caribe Bistro & Cafe. It has great ratings and only two dollar signs, so it should be reasonably priced.” We drove there, pulled up and looked at each other. “What?!?!?!” We both cracked up when we realized it was the exact same restaurant we went to three weeks ago! Still laughing we went in and I enjoyed MORE fish tacos! We even had the same waiter (he remembered us) and we sat in exact same booth. Our meal was once again excellent. Too Funny!!!!!
Finally, here are some miscellaneous shots including our fall decorations. I call these “disposable” fall decorations since I spent all of $10 on everything at the Dollar store. I didn’t bring any of my seasonal decorations with me, so I just bought some leaves and picks, etc. and then I used bowls and my vase and other stuff that I already had, in addition to pine cones that we scavenged here locally. Works for me!!!
That’s the end of our highlight reel and I have to go jump in the shower and return to our daily reality. Go enjoy YOUR daily reality and thank God for His many blessings.
When we first started out, our #1 agenda was to show Elijah his “home” state of California. Well… we are here! Why California? We used to live out here (in three different areas) but more important, Elijah was born out here! It has to have been at least three years ago, if not longer, when Elijah started becoming intense and adamant about wanting to “go to California so he could learn more about his heritage.” He was born in our woodsy mountain home up in the pines of Shingletown, which is in Northern California close to Lassen National Park. He was actually born in Redding since there was no hospital in Shingletown, but we lived in Shingletown. This was the first home that we bought (as opposed to renting/leasing) and it was our dream home on… wait for it…. “Goose Chase Lane”. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Elijah was born only two months after 9/11 which radically changed so many lives in America, including ours. To make a very long story short, Greg was employed as a software developer for a company in Silicon Valley (he worked remotely/telecommuted) working on travel related software. After 9/11 nobody wanted to (nor felt safe to) travel anymore and within a VERY short time, the travel industry tanked. Greg’s entire department was eliminated and Greg was laid off. This occurred just a few weeks after Elijah was born… right before Christmas. As a one income, homeschooling family of six, Greg had to find another good paying software development position but there was none to be had (that allowed telecommuting) even somewhat close to Shingletown. He ended up being blessed with a contract gig in Ohio, so we had to sell our “dream house in the pines” and move back east. Here are some pictures from way back then…
So, although Elijah was born in California, we had to move away when he was just a baby so he doesn’t remember anything about it. We moved to Ohio and a year and a half later we moved again to Illinois before we finally relocated back to our previous home state of South Carolina due to my health issues (multiple sclerosis) which is where we remained for tge rest of Elijah’s childhood up until 7 months ago. We had our ranch home built in 2005 in Simpsonville, SC to accommodate my mobility issues at the time. (I’m wonderful now, but was either 2 canes, a walker or a wheelchair back then… until I was paralyzed in 2007, but all that I’ll save for another blog!) We lived in that same house until we became full time travelers in February of this year, so that is all Elijah has ever known or remembers. Thus his desire to head west to California was strong.
Although we have had some disappointments since our arrivals (it turns out a lot has changed in fifteen years and A LOT more people have moved out here so everything is more crowded than it used to be.) we are just getting started with our California adventures.
We have not even been here a full three weeks and yet we have already been to the Mohave Desert, Sequoia National Park, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, and Sacramento… and we have only just begun! Let’s start with the Mohave Desert. We made sure our first leg of the trip was a short one so we could drive through the Mohave desert in the coolest time of day. These are pictures of the Mohave Desert as we were driving through it en route to our campsite near Sequoia National Park. The day we drove through it didn’t even get out of the 80’s until after we had passed by, so although it still looked like the desert we remembered, we were glad that it didn’t feel like it.
We also encountered the highest diesel prices yet (by far!) in the Mohave Desert. The lowest we paid for diesel was $1.83 in Prescott but typically we pay anywhere from $2.19-$2.59/gallon on average. There was only ONE gas station that had diesel in the Mohave Desert and it’s such a long stretch that if you are overly caution types (like us) and want to make sure you don’t even come close to running low you pretty much have to top off here. When pulling a 41′ 5th Wheel you can’t always count on having a gas station with diesel that will accommodate your entire rig when towing. It’s more than just finding a gas station with diesel. We have to find one that not only has to have enough space for all 60 feet of us, but also one that has a high enough clearance (12.5′) for us to safely pull under the canopy without being beheaded. So, we never take any chances. Our motto is always, better safe than sorry. How much do you think we had to pay for diesel in the desert? See for yourself…
We wanted to go to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks so we stayed for three nights at a Corps of Engineers park called Tule Campground which is off Success Lake in the Sierra Nevada foothills just 8 miles east of Porterville, California. With my discount it was only $15 per night for a 50 amp site with water. No sewer, but no biggie as we can easily go even longer without dumping (5-6 days if we are in water conservation mode) so we just dumped on the way out. After being in an RV Park for two months I was practically giddy to be back in a campground again. Check out our campsite and the park:
We spent the entire next day going to and exploring Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. These two parks lie side by side in the southern Sierra Nevada east of the San Joaquin Valley and according to their website they contain huge mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, and the world’s largest trees. We left our campsite at 10am and didn’t return until just after 10pm so we saw about as much as we possibly could in our one day visit. Both of these parks are connected and are HUGE! We entered at the south end at the Sequoia National Park entrance and drove on the Generals Highway which runs nearly 50 miles from Sequoia National Park’s Ash Mountain Entrance to Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park, passing through the Giant Forest, home of the world’s largest sequoia trees. The visitor’s guide says it takes 2-3 days just to drive through all the areas of the park so 1 day simply wasn’t enough! We had to turn around just after Grant Grove area. To drive further into Kings Canyon National Park, is another 35 miles. For part of that journey, called Kings Canyon Highway, it is high above the Kings River, which that drive is said to offer breathtaking vistas of the canyon which we were unable to see during this visit. We simply ran out of time! We are going to drop down and visit it again focusing on Kings Canyon and coming in from the north side in the near future. Here are some pictures from Sequoia and the southern end of Kings Canyon:
After leaving this area we went to our next destination which was a Thousand Trails park called Ponderosa RV Resort in the Lotus/Coloma area. Greg and I took advantage of Thousand Trails “Buy one Camping Zone, Get One Free” offer and for $545 we purchased a membership for the Southwest and Northwest Camping Zones which covers campgrounds in Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington. I had them throw in the South Lake Tahoe Encore Resort as well. They have 18 campgrounds in the NW zone and 18 (19 including the South Lake Tahoe one Resort) in the SW Zone, so that gives us 37 campgrounds that we can stay in for free our first 30 nights, then it only cost us $3/night. Ponderosa was the first TT campground we’ve stayed in (other than one in Advance, NC that we stayed in while visiting the grandkiddos last March and we paid “retail” rates as they only reserve a very small portion of their sites for non-members) and we were very happy with it. Thousand Trails is like a time share option for RV’ers. For full-timers like us, it’s a no brainer. The basic membership we got allows us two weeks at any TT campground (in our zones) then we have to be out of a TT campground for one week before we can do another two weeks in the same or any other TT campground in our zones. This means we will only be “paying” for one week out of every five weeks. It’s a little confusing, but it works. They have upgrades which are a LOT more costly but allow you to stay in TT campgrounds for three weeks and then go directly to another one for three weeks with no “out of TT park” time required. After staying in Ponderosa (and wishing we could have stayed longer!) and loving the campground aspect (versus RV Parks) of their resorts, Greg and I already decided that we will definitely be upgrading soon. Anyway… TT’s Ponderosa RV Resort is located on the South Fork of the American River, which is the most popular whitewater river in the western United States! This is also the very river where gold was first discovered in 1849 and what sparked the Gold Rush! Here is our site and some pictures from around the campground:
Greg turned 50 shortly after we arrived here and he ended up having a very busy and somewhat stressful day of work on his birthday. He was not in the greatest of moods and needed a pick me up, so after he finished his work, we took a very last minute (and very late!) trip to Lake Tahoe, which was about an hour and a half away from this campsite. We are going to be staying on South Lake Tahoe in a few weeks, so we will spend more time there then, but we did get to quickly show it to Elijah on our whirlwind evening tour.
Speaking of Labor Day, we decided to “head out to San Francisco, for the Labor Day weekend show” on Sunday, September 4th. That ended up being a huge mistake! It took us 4.5 hours to get to Muir Woods National Monument, which should have taken about 2 hours. We really wanted to show Elijah the tall redwoods. The park was so crowded that there was no parking available and even worse, there was a line of literally hundreds of people just waiting to get into the park entrance! By this time we already had almost 5 hours invested so we left having seen nothing and headed down into San Francisco with big plans to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and get pictures from the overlook, take Elijah to Pier 39 to see the seals, and maybe even catch a ride on the trolley. Well… crowded was the word of the day. We crossed the bridge and drove to three different overlooks, all of which were super crowded and took forever just to drive a few feet and NONE of which had a single open parking spot to take any pictures or even be able to stop and enjoy the view. Let’s just say the rest of our day followed suit. So although Elijah “saw” San Francisco, he was unimpressed to say the least. He was quite bummed actually as this being his first impression was quite a letdown. It was one of the things he was most excited about experiencing. It turned out to be a very long, stressful day with hardly any opportunities to even get out of the truck! Needless to say, we will be visiting San Francisco again, but not until we are staying in a campground close to there (next month most likely) and can go during a weekday! Here are just a few pics we took… from the truck window.
When we were en route to Muir Woods, our GPS redirected us (due to heavy traffic) and took us right through Napa Valley Wine Country. A few hours later (when we we were still in traffic) Greg and I wished we had stopped at a winery instead of driving straight through! Seriously though, here are just a few pictures of Napa Valley Wine Country.
Before we lived in the house I showed you above, we lived in El Dorado Hills for one year. We were close enough to go visit El Dorado Hills and the Folsom area. The area looked great. Only one exit down from our old house is a Costco and a Whole Foods across of each other! It was more dense with homes than I remembered it being, but a pretty area nonetheless. Very close to El Dorado Hills is Folsom, including Folsom Lake where we used to go to bike and to camp, etc. We have many fond memories of Folsom Lake. Wait until you see it now…
Sacramento was less than an hour away from where we were staying in Lotus, so Elijah and I decided to take a Field Trip to the Sacramento Zoo and to Old Sacramento. We both love zoos and with our zoo membership from SC we can visit reciprocal zoos for free or half price, depending on the zoo. We always check and go to any and all zoos that are even remotely close to us. The Sacramento Zoo was a relatively small one, but lots of nice shade trees and plenty of animals with nicely done habitats so we both enjoyed it. Don’t worry… I’m not going to overwhelm you with tons of animals pictures, but here are some pictures from our field trip day:
We left Ponderosa RV Resort on Sunday, 9/11, and make a relatively short trek (it was only a couple of hours taking the long – mostly highway route) to stay at Dutch Rv Resort in the tiny town of Dutch Flat for our one week “out” of a TT park. Dutch Flat is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains off of I-80 about halfway between Auburn and Truckee. Amazingly, even though we are more out in the boonies than usual, we have screaming fast 4G LTE on all of our T-Mobile phones, and an absolutely ADORABLE little grocery store with organics and gluten free stuff just a few exits down in Colfax. Pleasantly surprised is the word for the week. Okay, fine…. two words. Anyway, check it out:
And just in case you haven’t already seen enough pictures for one blog… Here are just a few more of what I will call “around the house”…
We are only here for one week and then we are going to Tahoe Valley RV Resort & Campground on South Lake Tahoe for two weeks. Of course, I’ll blog all about it so stay tuned!