Back in late February when we were staying in Wildwood, Florida, Elijah and I spent a day at this wonderful state park. To say that Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park was an unexpected surprise would be a major understatement. While there, we learned that the Florida State Park’s motto is The Real Florida and they weren’t kidding. I grew up in South Florida and this felt like stepping back in time to even before my childhood. Back to an era when there was more to Florida than mobs of people going to (or wanting to go to) Disney World or whatever other theme park hooked them in. That is the only Florida that most people visit… this is the Real Florida. These pictures show that The Real Florida is so much wilder, richer and breathtakingly beautiful than the Florida that most people see.
After spending time in the Orlando area (no, we didn’t do any theme parks this time around.) we have come to the conclusion that we really like the central Florida area. We were only here to see some friends and family while biding time and trying to stay warm for the last part of the winter. Having grown up in South Florida and having lived in the state a great portion of my life, the prospect of spending time in Florida didn’t excite me at all. Boy was I wrong. Although I’d been to Central Florida, I had never really spent any major time here (other than theme parks) and had no idea how pretty and full of wildlife The Real Florida was! We are already making plans to return. We have since left Florida and have now come full circle to end up back in South Carolina for some extended visits with friends and family, (no, we aren’t settling down – we are only here for 6 weeks, then North Carolina for another 6 weeks. Can you say “GRANDKIDDO TIME”?!?!?! (I know, I didn’t say it… I yelled it!)
Remember, not all who wander are lost. Until next time…
I’ve decided to do a special Second Anniversary Celebration Blog showing every single campsite that we have “lived” in since we began our journey on February 18, 2016. I originally thought this post wouldn’t be too difficult, until I counted my journal entries from my Home Site Diary. Do you realize that we have stayed in over 50 different campsites since we started? I sure didn’t. We’ve stayed at a total of 53 locations in the past 2 years, including our old driveway as the first one. Enough talk, let’s take a visual tour…. shall we?
Wow! In the two years since we set off, not only have we stayed at 52 different campsites (not including our old driveway), but we have stayed in a total of 18 different states! We had our oldest granddaughter, Saylor, living with us for a total of 7½ months of this time and our full-time college student son, J.Jay, for a total of 2 months. We were able to fly him to visit us during his college breaks on 3 different occasions to 3 different states: California, Arizona, and Texas. It’s been an amazing two years, but it’s not all perfection. Not by a long shot.
While this has been an exhilarating and wild ride, and one that we have no intention of getting off of anytime soon, we are finding it all a bit more bumpy and stressful (and expensive!) than we had originally anticipated. Looking back and realizing that we have averaged a new campground every 2 weeks for 2 whole years has been quite eye opening. We do not want to crash and burn, yet trying to continue at this pace while working and homeschooling may be a recipe for just that… burnout. To avoid that happening, we have made a conscious decision to be more intentional about relocating less often during our next two years, which is much easier said than done. We are still learning how to slow down a bit and enjoy the journey. If we were retired it would be different as we could go sightseeing every day or so, but that’s simply not the case. We are in this for the long haul and with Greg’s work and our homeschooling we really need to be more intentional about taking more time to explore God’s creation at a slower pace.
We have also confirmed what we anticipated when it comes to how the weather affects my health. The lack of humidity out west made an even bigger difference in how I felt and how well I functioned on a daily basis than even I realized. It’s recently becoming even more evident as my health slowly began deteriorating once again as soon as we hit the beautiful yet cold (at least it was this past winter) and humid state of Texas. Unfortunately, my overall health is back to being less than ideal more often than not as we continue to make our way back east. That said, we are past due for some some serious extended visits with our grown kids and grandkids as well as other family and friends, so I will just have to deal with it. Although I really should know better by now, I am still taken aback at how intensely and negatively something as simple as the weather can affect me. I’m already dreaming of returning to Arizona and doing some serious hiking!
Although this lifestyle has been a good and growing thing for the three of us as a family as well as for each of us individually, I must admit that I seem to like it the most of the three of us. Greg and Elijah like it as well, but they both on occasion fantasize about returning to the way things used to be when we didn’t relocate our entire house on such a regular basis. Thankfully, their fantasies are generally fleeting and tend to occur only during particularly stressful or down days. I, on the other hand, am quite addicted to this nomadic lifestyle and am praying that slowing down just a bit will make their occasional fantasies a thing of the past.
I’ve said it so many times before, but I do plan on blogging more frequently from here on out. Hopefully my plans will become a reality! Until then…
Happy Trails and Sunny Sails!
P.S. As I hope you’ve already noticed, I have completely revamped our blog/website. In addition to changing the overall look and feel, I also added more content in the main menus, especially the “Our Rig” section. If you’d like to see our sweet setup, including some pictures of the inside of our home, click on the “Our Rig” menu option above. Hope you enjoy the new look and feel!
It takes a lot of time and energy to live life to the fullest. This is the reason I haven’t written a blog entry since August! Part of me feels guilty for not blogging more often than I have this past year, but it’s only a tiny part. A teeny, tiny, teeniny (no, that’s not a typo… it’s my word!) part at that! It’s hard to feel guilt or regret when I realize that the reason I rarely blog is because I’m so busy living and enjoying each day. That is the story of my life lately, too busy to blog – I consider it a very good problem to have. I know I have said this a zillion times, but we are soooooooo not retired! In many ways we are busier living daily life in this lifestyle than we were before, but it’s a good busy and one that I truly enjoy. That said, I have been posting pictures and updates on our Wheels and Sails Facebook Page regularly as that is much easier and faster to just post in there each day rather than to take the time to sit down and write.
As you saw from my last post, we spent this past summer in the Pacific Northwest. Since my last post, we explored much of the state of Washington, spending a total of 8 weeks there in all. We then spent time in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and are now wintering in various areas of our “home” state of Texas until the end of January.
Though we have seen and done a lot of memorable things these past few months, some things are more memorable than others. One of the most memorable being our whale watching excursion in the San Juan Islands out of Anacortes, Washington. We saw two different pods of Orca’s (along with other wildlife) but were also blessed when three of them (a mom and her two calves) swam right up alongside our boat so we were able to enjoy them up close and personal. This was truly an experience that none of us will ever forget.
Another incredibly memorable experience for us was our visit to Yellowstone in September. This was a first for all three of us and again, something none of us will ever forget. We stayed just outside the park for a week so we went in several times. The first part of the week were were in short sleeves, but the end of the week brought their first snowfall of the season. This meant we got to enjoy the park as if it was summer (without the massive crowds) and as if it was winter! We couldn’t have planned it any better. We saw bison, mountain goats, elk, geysers, and more… all up close and personal. Yellowstone was one of our absolute favorite National Parks.
Since my last entry we also saw moose in Wyoming, spent time at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, and revisited Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, which is an old favorite from our first year on this adventure. We did so much more than I can possibly write here and all while working (Greg has been working even more hours than usual the past several months!), homeschooling, and all things that need to be done in everyday life in our tiny yet perfect-sized rolling home.
As I said above, we are spending the bulk of this winter in our home state of Texas. Elijah turned 16 less than a month ago so we were finally able to visit the DMV and get his learner’s permit. Our plan while in Texas is to take care of all those things like DMV, vet visits, and other such necessary appointments. We are currently staying about 1 hour east of Houston in a campground off the Colorado River. We spent Thanksgiving here and will have been here three weeks this coming Sunday. Our next “Scenery Swap Day” is Sunday and we are going to be relocating to a campground off Medina Lake which is 40 miles northwest of downtown San Antonio. This is where we will be for four weeks, to fly J.Jay in during his college Christmas break and to spend our Christmas here. Fun times are always ahead! The end of January we will start slowly making our way to Florida, and then to end up in the Carolinas for the Spring of ’18. The key word here is slowly. We are still learning (after our whirlwind fall trip from Washington down to Texas) that slower is better and definitely a great deal less stressful when it comes to this lifestyle.
If you haven’t already, like and follow our Wheels and Sails Facebook Page to follow us more closely on our journey. I will definitely continue blogging, but I’m not in a hurry about it. I’m quite sure that by the next time I write it will be 2018 – a brand new year!
Happy Trails, Sunny Sails and a Very Merry CHRISTmas!
Bryce Canyon is right up there as one of our absolute favorite national parks. Honestly, we love them all and they are all so different that it’s getting harder and harder to decide which ones we like best. The truth is, they are ALL on my list of favorites! That said, Bryce was definitely a top five. This was a day trip for us, so we left just after 9am and didn’t return to our tiny rolling home until almost midnight. We wanted to try to get some nighttime sky pictures, but it clouded up as the sun dropped so the stars were covered. We were able to get different lighting though. As you will see, the pictures towards the end were taken closer to dusk, so the lighting is different which changes the feel of the entire canyon. It was a beautiful place.
As you can see Utah was a major hit for all of us. We visited four different national parks during the three weeks that we stayed here and we thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them. We are now in Idaho and are again daily awed by the beauty of God’s creation. He really has blessed the U.S.A. more than most people realize. Stay tuned for my next post to see some Idaho beauty.
While in Delta, Utah, Elijah and I saw a couple of small museums in town. One was named “Topaz Museum” and I thought it was about gems and artifacts of the area. I decided to google it to see if it was worth a visit. Wow, was I glad (and sad) that I did! I found the website at www.topazmuseum.org and here is the first paragraph that I read about this unique little museum:
The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during WWII was one of the worst violations of civil rights against citizens in the history of the United States. The government and the US Army, falsely citing “military necessity,” locked up over 110,000 men, women and children in ten remote camps controlled by the War Relocation Administration and four male-only camps controlled by the Justice Department. These Americans were never convicted or even charged with any crime, yet were incarcerated for up to four years in prison camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.
This intrigued me. My dad fought in World War II thus the topic has always been very close to my heart. Elijah is very into the Japanese culture lately, he even wants to learn Japanese beginning next year as his high school foreign language. Due to both these things I knew this was a must do field trip for us. Elijah and I went and we were both blown away. Honestly, I had read and heard about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, but I had no idea the extent of it, nor the horrible conditions they were forced to live in. It was appalling to say the least. This is true history of what our government did to it’s very own citizens during the war. Yes, 2/3 of the Japanese-Americans locked up in these camps were actually American citizens! I thought I knew this aspect of history, but I didn’t know the truth. Now I do and as sad as it is, I want every single American citizen to learn this part of our country’s history. We are not exempt from mistreatment from our very own government. Only if we know the truth about history can we be better equipped to guard against history repeating itself. The internment camp in Delta was opened on September 11, 1942. It consisted of shoddy and only partially finished barracks barely fit for animals, certainly not humane for families, many of which included small children. Japanese-Americans families were forced to leave their homes, jobs, and most of their possessions, with the exception of only what they could carry in a suitcase. Each person was tagged (like animals) and sent in mass by train like cattle to various internment camps throughout the United States. As stated in the quote above, over 110,000 were locked up in these camps. Just over 11,000 in total were sent here to Topaz in Delta, Utah from it’s opening in 1942 to it’s closing on October 31, 1945, with the peak at one time being over 8,100. The ones sent to Topaz were all taken from the San Francisco Bay area. Just imagine, they left behind homes, businesses, jobs, friends and practically perfect California climate to be forced to to a desolate prison-like camp of partially unfinished and barely furnished barracks surrounded by barbed wire fencing and under the rule of armed guards. The climate in Delta made it even worse which exceeded 100 degrees in the summer and dipped below zero in winter. They had no air conditioning and only a coal stove per barrack room for heating. And they weren’t even completely finished so air came directly into the barracks with no insulation. The only furniture they were provided with were army cots, mattresses, and blankets. They were not allowed to cook in their barracks (had to line up at specific times for meals at the mess hall) and they had to go outside to communal latrines for the bathroom duties. Did I mention the majority of these Japanese Americans were U.S. citizens?!?!
After visiting the museum Elijah and I drove the 16 miles to the location of the actual camp itself. It was eerily desolate, yet haunting. By visiting the website I learned why it was so barren. “After Topaz closed in 1945, the U.S. government dismantled the camp. The wood from the buildings was either stripped for recycling or the buildings were sold. Half of a barrack was sold for $250 and half of a hospital wing for $500. Utility poles were removed as were the water pipes, leaving ditches where they once were. The original barbed wire fence remains, although the four strands of wire sag in places. Still, the area reminds visitors of what was once the fifth largest city in Utah. The camp still has the outlines of where the barracks stood, rock gardens, and pathways. The Topaz Museum Board owns 634 acres of the site which will be preserved for historic and educational purposes.” Here is what it looks like today.
After I returned home in a state of shock and sadness I took Greg back up to the museum so he could experience it as well. And an experience is what it is. He was equally moved. All this to say, please share this post. Show your kids, show your spouses, show your friends. Research where the other internment camps were and learn the stories behind each. This needs to be a topic of conversation and an event for us to all learn from. We must learn from history so as never to repeat it.
My next blog post will be about our visit to Bryce Canyon, so stay tuned for that. Our travels are to many beautiful places, many unique places, and many historical places. This museum and the camp itself was one of the most memorable of all the places we’ve visited. I want to dedicate this entire post to the plight of Japanese Americans. As I said above, please feel free to share this post. My heart is heavy to spread the word.
Happy Trails and Sunny Sails
P.S. One last fact, I kept wondering why it was named Topaz if it is located in Delta. I researched it more and learned that the original name of the camp was Central Utah Relocation Center. The name had to be changed to Topaz to accommodate the U.S. Post Office because the original name was too long to fit on their required forms. Since post office names could not be duplicates, the camp couldn’t be named after Delta.
Utah has welcomed us with open arms and has turned out to be an instant favorite for all of us. I know, I know… we have a lot of favorites. Seriously though, we really like Utah. It rocks…. literally! There are rocks everywhere, but I am pleasantly surprised that there is so much more here than just rocks. There is an abundance of farm lands, snow-capped mountains galore, forests with beautiful green deciduous trees, arches, canyons, gorges, lakes, and even waterfalls. And of course, rocks! But not just red rocks…, there are also white rocks, grey rocks, brown rocks, green rocks and black rocks! As far as wildlife, just having been here less than a week we’ve already seen several herds of both elk and deer, jack rabbits, squirrels, and some gorgeous birds. We even have a striking resident Black-billed Magpie who has a nest right here in our campground. Unfortunately, I have yet to be able to get a good picture of him. We really need a camera with an optical zoom so we can get some better pictures of all the amazing wildlife we get to see! Speaking of wildlife, we had no idea that there are moose that live all around here as well! How exciting is that?!?! We are now back to taking nightly drives (just like old times) on the hunt for wildlife. We really, REALLY want to see a Moose in the wild.
We are staying at Butch Cassidy RV Campground, which is in Salina, Utah. We are only staying here for two weeks as this is a RPI campground and that is our limit. RPI stands for Resort Parks International and is another campground membership that came with our Thousand Trails upgrade. We can stay in RPI affiliated resorts/campgrounds for $10/night. Some have a resort fee which can add $3-5 per night. So at most we would pay $15/night. Here at Butch Cassidy we have a huge 50 amp site with full hook ups (meaning sewer as well) and we are only paying $10/night. There is a limit of two weeks that we can stay at most RPI campgrounds at that rate, but that’s fine with us. Since there are no TT campgrounds anywhere in the states of Utah or Idaho, we are using our RPI membership as much as we can to still be able to stay at nice campgrounds for very little money. After we leave here, we are relocating to another RPI park for one more week before we head up to Idaho as we want to have three full weeks to explore Utah. Here are some pictures of our campsite and campground.
Salina (pronounced “Sa-line-ah” by the locals) is a small town with not a whole lot to offer except an adorable tiny grocery store, an excellent T-Mobile signal, and 360° of breathtaking scenery. Perfect. As I said above, we are back to taking nightly drives looking for wildlife and considering that 67% of the land in Utah is federally owned land, there is BLM land to drive on and explore galore! That was one of our favorite things about Arizona (which is 42% federally owned), but Utah has even more options for spotting wildlife in their natural habitat. Here are some shots from around this area.
And now I’ve saved the best for last. This campground is a good day trip distance from several National Parks. Since everyone really wants to go to Bryce before we leave and I really wanted a day to myself, I decided to drive to Capitol Reef National Park for my very own day drive. This was not one of the parks on the top of the list for neither Greg nor Elijah and it’s 81 miles away. With Zippy, that’s not only doable, but fun! This is the farthest away I’ve yet to venture on my own, and boy am I glad I did. What an amazing place! When I went into the museum, which is the old homestead house, I was talking to the volunteer there and it turns out that he is Dale Gifford, the grandson of the most recent owner! He grew up there and didn’t move away until he was in high school. He showed me a picture in the museum of himself when he was only about 4 or 5 years old. He showed me all the memorabilia and how and when they used it. He said this is the first and only day he’s ever volunteered there. What a privilege that I came on the very day that he was there! Check it out:
Just a couple more pictures that I want to share:
My next blog will be about a park we have been looking forward to for a long time and are VERY excited about… Bryce Canyon National Park! Stay tuned as that blog post will be coming soon. Until then….
Happy Trails and Sunny Sails from Moses, Exodus, Zipporah (aka Zippy), Greg, me (Pamela), Elijah, and Popeye.
This past month has been one of the most stressful ones yet, thus I haven’t written in a while. The stress hasn’t had to do with our travels as much as various family issues/events. Before I go into all of that though, let me get you caught up on our travels. After staying in Benson, Arizona for 5 weeks (which is a long time in one place for us!) we were able to get back into Verde Valley (my personal favorite Thousand Trails campground) in Cottonwood, Arizona for another 2 weeks to extend the warm temperatures a bit longer. We decided to stay here again for two reasons. First, to be closer to the Phoenix airport. Secondly, we were biding time in Arizona to allow for the states farther north of us to warm up a bit more. As I mentioned previously, Saylor has been very antsy to go back to her Mom, so we booked flights a few weeks ago out of the Phoenix airport for her and I to fly back east so she could be reunited with her mom the last week of March. We wanted to time it while we were staying in Cottonwood so we were still close enough to drive to the Phoenix airport. I also wanted to see my other grown kids, my new grandson, my mom & stepdad, sisters, a friend or two, etc. so we were thrilled that Cottonwood was able to get us back in there for two weeks during their busy season.
The week prior to our flight back east was a very stressful one with various events occurring in the life of my daughter which culminated in Saylor and Brittney (my daughter) not yet having a stable place to live. My son, Robby, graciously offered to open his home to them which was a major blessing that I hadn’t seen coming. Saylor and Brittney are now living with my oldest son and his wife along with their three kiddos in the Winston-Salem area for the time being. And when I said that was a major blessing, what I really meant was that is a MAJOR blessing!
Just before our flight took off, I got word that my stepdad in South Carolina had been rushed to the ER. By the time I arrived in North Carolina he had been admitted to the hospital and was not doing well… at all. He is 82 years old and his health had been slowly but surely going downhill for quite some time. On Tuesday, March 28th, the day of our flights, Greg drove Saylor and I the one hour and forty minutes from our campground in Cottonwood to the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Saylor and I then had a four and a half hour flight to Charlotte, where we were met at the airport by Robby, Brittney and my other granddaughter, Nai’a. From there Robby drove us another one and a half hours back to his house in Winston-Salem. To say that I was tired at that point was an understatement, but it turned out that this was only the beginning of a week of nonstop go-go-go for me. I got up early the next morning (the three hour time difference helped me pull that off!) to get in a little playing time with my grandkiddos; Nai’a, Sereia, and Fisher, before leaving just after 9am to drive the three hour trek to Greenville, South Carolina. (Robby let me drive his car down there… THANKS, ROBBY!) I drove straight to the hospital and then spent most of the day there visiting my mom and stepdad. I was blessed with an invitation by a special friend, Anna Lisa Haskell, to stay at “Hotel Haskell” for that night (Wednesday) and I was thrilled that although I was pushed for time I was still able to get in a nice visit with her and her family before I hit the hay. (Actually, it was not hay, but rather a very cool murphy bed and a comfy one at that!) I returned to the hospital the next day only to learn that they were releasing my stepdad (way prematurely, as he is back in the hospital again even as I write!) so I spent most of that day (Thursday) at their house trying to help out. He really needed (and still needs) twenty-four hour care that is impossible for any one person to pull off, much less my 79 year old Mom who deals with health issues of her own. That was an exhausting, back-breaking and stressful day in itself which l won’t go into, but one that left me with more empathy for my Mom than I ever imagined and more sadness for the state of health of my stepdad than I can even put into words. His name is Newberne and my mom is Lucille and they are both still in much need of prayer. Although I was not able to get in all the visits that I had planned on and wanted to while in South Carolina, I am grateful that I was able to see J.Jay at college (took him to dinner and visited his dorm room, unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of us!); all three of my sisters; and one of my nieces, Allyse, during my visit as well.
I drove the three hours back to Winston-Salem late that Thursday evening so I could spend some more time visiting with my grown kids and my granddaughters and my ‘still new’ grandson, Fisher, who had just turned four months old shortly before my arrival there. Finally, I flew back to Arizona early that same Sunday. To say that that was a very full five days is an understatement! Less than forty-eight hours after arriving home I came down with a nasty cold that unfortunately I have still to this day. Not a biggie, just a head cold with an ongoing sore throat and feeling more tired than usual. The only bummer is it’s now been almost two weeks and the annoying cold still lingers. All of that said, neither the extreme stress nor my immune system being compromised by this cold, has led to the typical result (for me) of a multiple sclerosis flare up. Looking back I realized that prior to this cold, I have not been sick at all for over six months! (A broken nose from my fall does not equal a sickness.) Being full-time travelers has enabled us to spend this entire winter in a dryer, warmer climate which resulted in the first winter in ten years (yes, I counted, TEN) that I have NOT had a single multiple sclerosis flare-up… not even one! I have had a few ms-y days and issues here and there, but not one true flare-up. As I deal with the recurring guilt of not living back east to be there as often physically for my grown kids and for my aging parents, I realize that if I was still living back there I would not be able to be much help anyway! I’d be spending most of my winter the same way I spent the last ten – down and out, in ongoing pain and miserable in flare-up after flare-up. The pull of the old is strong and the guilt of being so far away from loved ones as we travel is something that I personally deal with regularly. That said, I remember how miserable I felt each and every winter and I am honestly and selfishly grateful to be able to winter in warm, dry climates at least for the time being. I also pacify my guilt with continually reminding myself of the fact that I’ve flown or driven back east a total of four times since we left; and we’ve flown J.Jay, our son who’s a full-time college student, out to visit us two times just in the first year since we left! Although that frequency can’t possibly continue to be the case in the future (we simply can’t afford it!) that reality of this past year still has to count for something!
That was a great deal of detail having very little to do with our travels, but having everything to do with why I haven’t blogged in over a month! After my return ‘home’ we finally left the state of Arizona and are currently staying in Las Vegas, Nevada at Las Vegas RV Resort for two weeks. This is honestly not an area we like nor want to spend much time in (it is nicknamed Sin City, need I say more?!?!) but it is a sensible means to an end. There is a Thousand Trails RV park here that with our membership only costs us $3/night for a 50 amp site. After having spent so much money of flights and other family related issues (such as a new engine for J.Jay’s car!) the ability to utilize our TT membership whenever we can and spend less money on campgrounds is a blessing. Also, we are continuing to bide our time until the weather in Utah really does suit our soul. The temperatures are still a bit too low there for us to head there too soon. We needed to stay in Nevada as a good halfway point and to have a couple more weeks for Utah to warm up, for my health’s sake. While here we are mainly hunkering down to get some much needed work done (not only Greg, but me as well as after having had Saylor for six months I am behind on literally EVERYTHING!), we have ventured out a bit to explore some of the beautiful sights in Las Vegas and the surrounding areas. So far we’ve visited the Valley of Fire State Park as well as Lake Mead Recreation Area. Both of which were impressively beautiful, to say the least. Apparently there is more to Vegas than the strip. Check it out…
We did, of course, check out the strip. The area has been cleaned up a lot more than the last time we visited many years ago (17 years actually), especially during the daytime. It’s definitely a sight to see… just not my cup of tea. Here are a few pictures we took…
As I said above, we are staying here for only two weeks at Las Vegas RV Resort. It’s very tight and crowded, but it serves the purpose. Here are some pictures from our campground (if you can call it that) and the surrounding area:
I recently read an article in an RV magazine wherein someone answered the question as to why they like to travel often with, “I’m in love with the thrill of the new”. This resonated with me deep down to the depths of my being. Although we travel full time for several reasons, I realized right then and there that I too am completely and totally in love with “the thrill of the new”. This is one of the reasons why I am especially excited about our upcoming summer as most of it will be totally new territory and new adventures for all three of us. We are heading to Utah in one week and will stay there for a month, then we head to Idaho, then Oregon for June and part of July, and then we’ll round off our summer the end of July and August in the state of Washington. The thrill of the new is calling our names. Stay tuned as I promise to blog more and share our new adventures as we experience them. One state at a time…
Until then, from me (Pamela), Greg, and Elijah… Happy Trails and Sunny Sails!
We are very much enjoying a warm winter in Southern Arizona. We are staying at Valley Vista RV Resort in Benson, Arizona, which is about 45 miles east of Tucson, 22 miles north of the famous town of Tombstone, and less than 60 miles north of Mexico (as the crow flies). We are enjoying everything about this area, but especially the warm, dry temperatures! We are planning a trip down to Mexico before we leave, so I’ll show you that in a later post. We have only been here for less than two weeks, but we have already explored quite a bit. First though, here are some shots from around our campground:
The very next day after we arrived, Elijah insisted we go to Saguaro (sa-WAH-row) National Park. This park has been high on his “must see” list since we started our journey. We learned that Saguaro National Park actually has two districts embracing Tucson from the east and west. Rincon Mountain District is located east of the city, while Tucson Mountain District is located to the west. Since we are east of Tucson we decided to visit Rincon Mountain first. Check it out: Here are just a few of the sights we’ve seen…
Elijah also wanted to visit the famous Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum thinking it was more of a museum than a zoo. It turns out it was more of a zoo and a huge desert botanical garden and not really a museum at all. It was memorable nonetheless. Just outside of it was the west district of Saguaro National Park called Tucson Mountain District, so of course we had to check that out as well. Saylor was not at ALL interested in going (she was in fact quite opposed) so we left her home with Greg while just Elijah and I did this field trip.
Tombstone, Arizona, also known as “Town Too Tough To Die!” claims to be the most authentic western town left in the United States. We are only 20 minutes away and have already visited 3 times. They have gunfights, stage coach rides, and old western characters galore. Check it out:
Our latest find was an awesome park (that I had never even heard of prior to just a few days ago) called Chiricahua National Monument. I can NOT pronounce Chiricahua for the life of me, but this park is almost 12,000 acres of absolute beauty. With it’s abundant pinnacles, many liken it to Bryce Canyon in Utah. We were blown away! Pictures can not even begin to do this place justice. But I sure tried…
I hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse into our travels. Here are a few “around the house” shots as well as a “first time” picture. You’ll see…
Thanks for joining our journey. We will be here enjoying the warmth of Southern Arizona for another 5 weeks (3 more weeks here, then 2 weeks back in Cottonwood.) Stay tuned for future adventures…
Drum Roll…. As of February 18th, 2017, we have been living in our much loved rolling home, a 41 foot fifth wheel that we call “Exodus”, for exactly one year. Can you believe it?!?!?! In some ways it went by incredibly fast, yet in other ways it feels as if we’ve been doing this for years. This past year has been filled with much good, some bad, and a wee little bit of ugly, but I honestly cannot even imagine going back and not living this lifestyle. This nomadic journey and tiny home fits us all, especially me, better than we could have dreamed or imagined.
I have been ruminating for weeks about what I want to write in this momentous post, but the daily reality of my life these days has simply not provided me with the time or the clarity of mind to even take notes of my ruminations, much less actually sit down and write. So it is with much reflection that I sit here (under the awning of my Reflection, pardon the pun) on this beautiful, warm, sunny day in the high desert of Arizona, feeling physically healthy even though it’s the middle of February, and try to make the time to pen at least a few words while Saylor plays inside and I soak up some precious vitamin D.
I haven’t written anything in over a month so I am sitting here with my mind (and my iPhone) filled up with a whole boatload of pictures I want to post, tons of insights on full-timing that I would really love to share, gobs of amazing moments that I am having a hard time holding in, and unfortunately more woes and tough days than I can even count. Since it would be impossible and impractical for me to overwhelm you with all of the above, I am going to try my best to write what I can and leave the rest for another time… or not.
First of all, one of the primary reasons we began this journey is so that I myself would not have to endure (and suffer physically from) another cold, humid winter. I have two conditions that are greatly affected by the weather. Multiple sclerosis is one and the cold winters send my body reeling which always results in me having a M.S. flare-up. The other condition is spinal arthritis. I had back surgery at age 16 for scoliosis and have had rods in my back ever since. The rods have shifted over the years resulting not only in spinal arthritis and some disc degeneration, but also in two incomplete spinal cord injuries. One of my spinal cord injuries is quite precarious and came about after being thrown from my horse back in 2002. Blah, blah, blah… all that to explain why cold, humid weather is truly my nemesis. I hate it and it hates me! Winters have been more and more difficult for me as the years pass, and typically by February I am in excruciating pain 24/7, which then causes my M.S. to flare up as well resulting in absolutely everything being close to unbearable. For years, it has been right about now that I am miserable and vowing to move far, far away to somewhere perpetually warm and dry! That was not only one of the reasons we chose this lifestyle, but a HUGE reason! Here I sit, in an Arizona desert climate in the middle of February, warm and dry. Wow. I am almost in awe at the fact that we did it. We actually did it!
We spent the first half of our winter in Southern California and are now spending the remainder of it in the dry desert (PERFECT) climate of Arizona. Although other circumstances (which I’ll go into later) have left me emotionally and mentally exhausted, I am happy to report that physically I am holding up better than I can even explain. I haven’t had any issues with my spinal arthritis, nor have I had a single M.S. flare up this entire winter! Every time I begin to get discouraged, overwhelmed, or want to give in to the exhaustion (which occurs more often than I care to admit lately), I remind myself of this amazing reality. I am physically healthier than I have been since I was in my mid 20’s! I am so very thankful for the ability to “go where the weather suits my soul” and my body! This blessing alone is reason enough to endure the tough times. There is no perfect life on this earth, and I am very thankful for this imperfect life that I’ve been blessed with. The good far outweighs the bad.
This blog has been a couple of days in the making, but as I write, we are staying at Verde Valley RV Resort and Campground (a Thousand Trails park) in Cottonwood, Arizona. Cottonwood is about 20 minutes west of Sedona, and about 45 minutes east of Prescott. Although I have absolutely no intention of settling down anytime soon, if I did have to settle down, this is where it would be. This is the only place so far that I’ve seriously said to myself, “I could live here.” Just today, Greg said the exact same thing today during our hike in the Red Rocks of Sedona. (Pictures below) Neither one of us has felt that way about any other place we have visited yet. Cottonwood is a gorgeous high desert community with an elevation just under 3,500 ft. Its location and elevation provides for a mild, dry climate year-round. The coldest month of the year here is January with an average high of 58 degrees and average low of 28 (during the night). In February, the average Highs/Lows are 63/32. This is perfect hiking weather! The only months that the temps get up into the 90’s are June-August. Even then, it rarely reaches 100 degrees. Although that may seem too hot for some, remember it doesn’t feel as hot as it sounds because it’s dry heat! I love and thrive in dry heat, so for me those are awesome temps that I could live in and thrive on year round. This campground, Verde Valley, is beautiful as well with large shaded sites and views of the surrounding mountains. Since they have annual sites here, we may even settle down right here some day! But again, I can’t imagine settling down anytime soon. We still have lots of traveling to do, first by land and then by sea! We are still in Phase 1. Phase 2 in sailboat. Maybe Phase 3 will be to settle down here… who knows. For now life is too short to even think about settling down. Here are some pictures of this awesome campground:
The town of Cottonwood itself only has a population of 12,000 yet it offers a comprehensive array of shopping, restaurants, and even community services. There are two nice, large grocery stores: Safeway and Fry’s, both of which have a comprehensive selection of organic and gluten free options. There is also a Wal-Mart, a Home Depot, CVS, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, a couple of nice large pet stores, and more. They have quite a few restaurants with gluten free options not only in Cottonwood, but also in neighboring towns. Finally, their community services are amazing for such a small town. Their library is huge and offers screaming Wi-Fi and lots of areas for seating as well as a large separate children’s/youth area. They have several nice parks and there are more hiking trails and outdoor things to do here than we have the time to get in during our mere three week visit. We are on a waiting list to return here to Verde Valley after 4 weeks in the Tucson area, but I’m not sure if we’ll be able to get back in because this is the peak of their season and the campground is booked full. I’m praying that they will have some cancellations and we get back in! As you can tell, I really do love this area. The T-Mobile isn’t great here, but that’s par for the course in Arizona. With Greg’s recent installation of the weboost cell signal booster and between our T-Mobile, Cricket/AT&T, and Verizon plans, our connectivity has not been too big of an issue.
While we are the topic of Cottonwood, I absolutely must give a major shout out to Cork and Catch Restaurant. I don’t normally do restaurant reviews in my blogs, but this is a necessary exception. Greg and I discovered them on my GF Finder app and we had Elijah babysit Saylor so we could go out on a dinner date. We were told upon arrival that many of their items are marked GF for gluten free and they have GF buns and pasta as well. Furthermore, our waitress said if there was anything on the menu I wanted that wasn’t marked GF to let her know because they can probably make it gluten free. They even have GF panko and a dedicated GF fryer! We ordered two appetizers: Bangkok Shrimp and Bourbon Glazed Chicken Skewers as well as one entree, The Pinot Bleu. Greg and I split everything between us and it was AMAZING! Everything was excellent, but the Bangkok Shrimp was unbelievably good. It was honestly one of the most, if not THE most flavorful meals I have ever had. If you are ever close to Cottonwood, you MUST pay a visit to the Cork and Catch. You will be glad you did!
Back to our nomadiversary. Although many stressful/tough things have happened during this past year that we neither planned for nor predicted, this has still proven to have been an amazing year full of adventure and new experiences around every corner. Even with the unforeseen events that I will tell you about below, we have truly found our happy place in this lifestyle more than we could have imagined. Or at least I have. I can’t honestly speak for Greg or Elijah, but I simply can’t imagine going back to life as it was before we embarked on this journey. I would be bored out of my mind! This lifestyle is many things, but it is NEVER boring!
For over a year before we began this journey, we researched and read story after story of others’ experiences of this lifestyle. According to all accounts, we were led to expect to have tire blow-outs, rv repairs/mishaps, and maintenance issues on a regular basis. All of these issues and more were supposedly a “given” in this lifestyle. To our delight, this has not been the case, at least not yet. We have not even had to take Exodus, our Reflection 367BHS 5th wheel by Grand Design, back to the dealer a single time since we drove it off the lot and moved aboard one year ago. Even after a year of heavy use, living and traveling full time in our Exodus, we are still impressed with the quality, reliability, and lack of issues with our 5th wheel. We are so very glad we chose this exact brand and model for this journey. It fits our needs and wants perfectly and has felt like “home” since day one. The fact that we ended up getting this particular rig was a major God thing and thanks to Him, we can honestly say that we chose wisely. (More like He chose wisely!) Moses, our Ford F350 Turbo Diesel dually has proven to be very reliable as well. Although Exodus was brand new when we bought it, Moses is a 2008, so he has a few more white hairs and has required some more extensive (aka expensive) repairs and as is the case with all diesel trucks, maintenance is costly on these beasts. That said, the one time he broke down (not while towing, thank God!) the repairs (just over $2k) were made quickly and efficiently and he was back up and running in no time. He has continued to be a reliable work horse, pulling Exodus for thousands of miles without complaint. We bought him a wife in January so she could run errands and serve as our daily driver to allow Moses to spend more time resting. We named her Zipporah (After Moses’ wife in the Bible) and we call her Zippy. She is a 2013 Fiat 500c convertible and I think I love her even more than Moses does! Isn’t she cute? My favorite color is red and her interior as well as her convertible top are red. The best part is, she gets great gas milage! Our last relocation (aka Scenery Swap Day) she averaged 43 mpg on the highway! Check her out…
The unforeseen things that I keep referring to above were twofold. Let me explain,
Due to the delay and complications of our house not selling which resulted in us changing tactics and leasing it out the end of July, we ended up financially carrying both of our homes for the first 5 months of our travels. That entire process was expensive and stressful. Now that we have good tenants leasing the house, our expenses are nominal. Our old sticks and bricks house is now an investment for us and is (mostly) paying for itself as it continues to build equity. There are still some ongoing expenses associated with owning it, but the investment is well worth it. We anticipated being able to save money by living this lifestyle, but that has not been the case. Now that all the kinks are worked out and the house is in an annual lease (that hopefully our tenants will renew!) we are hoping that the saving money part will kick in next year. We’ll see…
All of our plans and research invested into the daily reality of living, working, and homeschooling while traveling full-time and living in 410 square feet was all based on the three of us. Greg (my hubby who is a self-employed software engineer who must put in the hours regardless of where we are to keep this whole ship afloat), Elijah (our 15 year old son, whom I am homeschooling), and myself (the homeschooling teacher, trip planner, cook, etc. who also does the bookkeeping for our business & our home.) So our plans were all based on two adults and one near adult. Due to some other unforeseen circumstances (I know I keep using that word “unforeseen” but it just fits!) we have unexpectedly had Saylor, our 6 year old granddaughter, for 5½ months of our first year. That’s almost half! We had her for 1½ months during the summer, and then we have had her again for 4 more months thus far, since October 2016. Although we love her more than words and have had a blast being able to show her so much of the country, adding a 4th person to the mix, especially an energetic 6 year old girl, has been very challenging and not something we planned for. Kudos to those many families I see out there traveling with young kids. It’s harder than it looks! Most of them have siblings as built in friends, and that’s a major plus. We have no such luxury. Young kids require not only more of a time and energy investment to homeschool, but they tend to get bored easily and get loud often. Neither of which makes a good environment for Greg to get work done in, or for Elijah to get his high school homeschool work done for that matter. Another funny thing is, even though she’s just a tiny little thing, our space has shrunk considerably with her living with us. Honestly, if we had known we would have her for so long we probably would have delayed our journey, as this isn’t an easy lifestyle for her or for us. I sure am glad that we didn’t know ahead of time! I have learned the hard way that 6 year old girls thrive best when they have friends their own age to play with, ongoing activities, lots of space for making tents and crafts, lots of “stuff” to do (toys, books, games, etc.), and an energetic person to entertain them and keep them happy and occupied 24/7. I am the person for the job, unfortunately the energetic part is waning lately. The other thing they need is stability. We have stability with the same home everywhere we go, but I didn’t anticipate the fact that the stability is lacking when it comes to her having friends, activities, same park to play in, etc. In this lifestyle everything changes regularly, even the stores where you do your shopping. Not a big deal for a grown up, but it can be a bit unsettling for a 6 year old. I’m not a spring chicken anymore and when you combine all that I “have” to do and then add in the responsibility of taking her somewhere almost every weekday afternoon to provide Greg some much needed quiet time to focus and be productive with his work, it is exhausting and is proving to be almost too much for me. Almost… we have been working it all out day by day, every day, with the grace of God. We also know that having her here living with us is only temporary. This too shall pass. Saylor has become very anxious just the past couple of weeks to go back to her mom. She seems to be a bit more antsy and impatient to go home every day. I think the small space and lack of friends and other things I mentioned above is starting to get to her. Although we will all miss her greatly, Greg, Elijah, and I are also anxious to be able to slow down and return to our family dynamic of the three of us, spending time together as a family. That may sound strange, but this is not something we can do easily at this point since most outside activities we have to do in small groups of two or at most three at a time, or it’s just too stressful. I am also looking forward to getting caught up on the many things I have fallen behind on and then maybe even being able to enjoy the relaxing aspects of this lifestyle once again.
On the bright side, in the past year we have stayed in 23 campgrounds, visited 11 states, and have visited more state and national parks and monuments than I have been able to keep track of. We’ve been from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and many points in between. I can’t even begin to list all of the beautiful and fun places that we’ve visited, but if you go back and read my previous posts there are pictures of most of them. Some of our favorite places, in no particular order, were: The Grand Canyon, Lobos Point, Monterey Bay & Monterey Bay Aquarium, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree N.P., Vasquez Rock Park, Myrtle Beach, Lake Tahoe, Sequoia N.P., Sedona, Prescott, Little Painted Desert, Painted Desert N.P., Walnut Canyon N.P., Sunset Crater Volcano N.P., Homolovi S.P., The corner in Winslow, Arizona, Meteor Crater, Wupatiki N.P., Bearizona, Henry Cowell Redwoods S.P., Santa Cruz Wharf, Lake Bruin S.P., Natchez Parkway, Carson City, Sandia Peak Tram, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Sadler’s Creek S.P., Paris Mountain S.P., Lee S.P., Margaritaville, Montezuma Castle N.P., and last but not least Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. (S.P. = State Park and N.P. = National Park. ) There are quite a few more but I’d be here all day if I try to list them all, these are just our favorites. We have also seen quite a bit of wildlife, especially in Arizona, and I’m talking true wildlife, not what we’ve seen in the many zoos we’ve visited. Some of which are elk (Elijah’s personal favorite), bear, pronghorn antelope, porcupine, deer, big horn sheep, jack rabbits, wild donkeys, wild horses, alligators, an incredible variety of birds including eagles and hawks, and I’m sure there are more that I can’t seem to recall at the moment. As you can see, it’s been a year full of adventure!
As I mentioned above, we are going to be staying in Arizona for the rest of this winter. We are leaving this campground on Sunday to head further south, staying just east of Tucson, for another 4 weeks. We are then on a waiting list to return here. If we are unable to get a space here, we have a backup reservation in Salome, Arizona for another couple of weeks. Either way we will be in Arizona through the beginning of April. Our goal for the winter has been “going (or rather staying) where the weather suits our soul.” As I said above, my soul, as well as my body, is best suited for warm temperatures, so we don’t want to head north too soon.
In April, we have reservations at the Las Vegas Thousand Trails Resort, then we are heading up to Utah, to spend some time there, then Idaho, and from Idaho we plan to be in Oregon sometime in June. We want to spend time exploring Oregon and then up to also explore Washington during the summer months. We plan on heading to Colorado for the fall, and most likely back down to Arizona or maybe Texas next winter. That’s the general plan as it currently stands. Man makes his plan, but God directs his steps, so we always keep our plans loose to allow for his intervention.
I have way too many photos I want to share with you, but this post it already ridiculously long. Here are just a few of the highlights from around this area.
We loved the little town of Jerome, which is know primarily as a ghost town. It is only about 20 minutes or so from our campground and is a fun day trip. Elijah and I went there once, then Greg and Elijah went back a couple of times after. We didn’t take Saylor into the Gold King Mine Ghost Town itself as it was just too dangerous for a 6 year old, and she had no desire to go there anyway. Here are some pictures…
Sedona is one of the most beautiful places on earth. We spent quite a bit of time here last summer as well, but due to the high temperatures we were unable to do any hiking around the area. Hiking here in the winter is PERFECTION! We found one trail, which I am showing you below, that is easily one of our top 3 hikes EVER! Greg and Elijah found this trail first, which is one of the Red Rock SW Trails. It’s called “Scorpion” and it is just past Red Rock State Park. Greg took me back to it so he and I could do some hiking on it as well. Gorgeous beyond words.
So there you have it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Life is full of it all, regardless of where you are. This past year has been one I wouldn’t trade for anything and the good has far exceeded the bad and the ugly combined!
Thanks for hanging in there all the way to the end of this long post. I am not even going to promise to blog again soon, because it’s a weak promise which I’ve failed to fulfill lately. I strongly desire to write more soon about some of the things I love most about full-timing. I’d love to do a pros and cons list as well. I still have some pictures and places to share that I haven’t even posted about. I really want to go back to blogging every 2 weeks as I was doing initially, but that’s easier said than done. I guess I’ll just have to leave you with, I’ll see ya when I see ya and not a minute before.
It has been six weeks since my last post and during that time we have experienced no less than six major life events. I hope to not go so long between posts from here on out, but as you will soon see, I’ve been a bit on the busy side.
If you read my most recent post (you know the one in which I promised to write a Part 2 – which is not gonna happen), I was in North Carolina for the birth of our fourth grandchild and our very first grandson, Fisher! That was actually the second event though. Before I get ahead of myself, here are the major events, in order of occurrence. Drumroll please….
EVENT #5 – We flew our third kiddo/middle son, J.Jay in from college for Christmas!
EVENT #6 – CHRISTmas!!!!! Our first full-timing Christmas in our 5th wheel.
Now you can see why I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been busy!!!! Greg took the boys to tour Los Angeles, Malibu, and Hollywood today and then they are staying at a hotel close to the airport so he can drop J.Jay off for his flight back to Furman University tomorrow. I stayed home with Saylor so they could get some serious sight seeing in before he flies back home as it would have been too much for a six year old. I guess that’s major event #7! I was sad to have to say goodbye to J.Jay, especially a day early. I miss him already.
I am going to attempt to write some shorter travel journal type posts of specific places that we have visited and/or stayed at and post them during the next week or so. Please note though that the keyword here is attempt. My exhaustion from the 24/7ness of raising my granddaughter, Saylor, coupled with my multiple sclerosis tendency to exhaustion anyway, does not do much for my attempts to blog lately… but I will attempt it nonetheless! I want to do one on Joshua Tree National Park; one on Soledad Canyon RV Resort, that we stayed in for 5 weeks in Acton, California before coming to Palm Springs; one on the Palm Springs area; probably one on Vasquez Rocks State Park… and more. My goal is to get caught up on some of what we’ve seen and done these past six weeks. Keep an eye out!