Wordless Wednesday – “Little Ferdinand”

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Memorial Day Weekend Recap

We visited our two beautiful canyon state parks in one day!

First, my heart is breaking for my fellow Texans downstate today.  Devastating floods have hit many areas, and there is so much hurt right now.  Of course, the much-needed rain will be very welcome once this crisis is over, but many are paying a heavy price for it right now.  The dam on the lake at Bastrop State Park failed, and the lake water has now mostly run out.  This is the same state park that was hit by a devastating wild-fire a few years ago, too.  Scenic little Wimberly in the hill country, which is a huge tourist town, saw a flood of epic proportions over the weekend, with the Blanco River rising 30 feet overnight.  Many cities and state parks have been impacted or shut down.  To have such a devastating situation hit on a holiday weekend just made it all the more challenging for those trying to keep people safe through it all.  I honestly don’t know right now how many people are missing or have lost their lives.  Please pray for those impacted by floods in Texas today. 

Texas Flooding Photos – The Boston Globe

Our decision to forego a long weekend camping trip due to the weather was a good one.  Storms hit our general area, but nothing like the unbelievable storms that hit downstate.  Hubby and I made a long Sunday drive instead, visiting both Caprock Canyons State Park and award-winning Palo Duro Canyon State Park in one day by car with the dogs and a picnic lunch on a beautiful little outing while the weather was nice, and I will share some pictures of our “grand canyons” adventure soon.  Visiting both of the canyon state parks in the Panhandle in one day is always a great scenic drive and a fairly easy one for us.  After all the recent rains, it was beautiful in a way we’ve not seen until now.  We did not start visiting the state parks regularly until 2011 when we bought our RV, the first year of the drought, and it is only getting better and better as more rain falls and renews our land at last.  I also took some great photos of the baby bison at Caprock Canyons.  (I am loving the new camera and lenses!)

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Later on, I will also share a few suggestions for anyone that is interested in visiting the canyon parks, as we learned some new information on this little outing that opens up new options, especially for anyone that would like to see Palo Duro Canyon but not take their RV down that fairly scary mile-long 10% grade road (with no shoulder and lots of people on bicycles at times) into and out of the park.  We were quite surprised to see a number of improvements in the park, which will make visiting an even better, and more reliable, experience in the canyon.  If we are “experts” on any state parks, it would be these two.  We have been visiting Palo Duro Canyon for five decades and have watched its popularity absolutely skyrocket with visitors from all over the world.  However, we actually prefer taking our RV to Caprock Canyons most of the time.  More to come on these wonderful parks!

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Wide-angle view of a portion of the 10% road into Palo Duro Canyon State Park, as shot from a pull-out on the road.

On Monday, we just relaxed at home and enjoyed a nice dinner at home with our son.  I definitely missed Mom joining us for this little family time, but we had a wonderful time together.  Hubby finally showed our son his pictures from his most recent trips to China and Europe, and we had a tasty dinner of spicy sausage and cabbage, which is quite possibly their favorite dish ever.  Son requested it, and Hubby prepared it.  My kind of meal!

I have so much to write about from our “grand canyons” adventure and also our week-long trip to Maui.  Unfortunately, I also have quite a bit to do right now at home, but I will eventually catch up on writing and sharing pictures here.  I’ve also committed to editing pictures for a friend and her hubby, who just returned from Kauai for their 40th wedding anniversary.  It is my little anniversary gift to them.

We don’t have any more vacations firmly planned at this time, but we will likely make a trip north somewhere over 4th of July week/weekend.  Hubby will be on the road for business more than usual over the next couple of months, and I hope to finally make some real progress on catching up on chores at home, in addition to writing and sharing photos of our most recent trips.  I have some great photos to share!

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Upgraded Camera Equipment

My new Canon T5i and new image stabilized lenses

One reason I’ve put down my photography over the past few months, in addition to dealing with the general upheaval in our lives, was my frustration in not being able to shoot “up close and personal” in a reliable manner.  As we all discover our own photographic styles, I’ve known this one has been missing for me.  I’ve worked around it at times with my cheaper zoom lens and tripod, but shooting with a tripod typically doesn’t fit our lifestyle when traveling.  When you know you really can’t capture many of the shots you want, it’s hard to even pick up the camera, or at least that’s how I’ve felt.

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The frustration of poor equipment. Another great shot missed due to blur while on vacation.

I’ve opted to share a fairly lengthy post today about my equipment upgrades for anyone that might be considering such an upgrade themselves, especially hobby photographers like me.  Writing about some of the finer details has also helped me to come to know my new equipment in more detail, a good learning tool.  While I opted for the Canon T5i, it is worth noting that the new T6s and T6i are now out and worthy of consideration.  My decision between the T6s and the T5i was primarily “bang for the buck.”  I also was not interested in switching brands from my previous camera.  I considered finally upgrading to a professional model camera and would be willing to spend the money for one right now.  However, the sheer size of carrying a larger camera would be problematic for me on many occasions, especially while traveling by airplane.  Again, as only a hobby photographer, it is hard to justify making that move right now.

I went to our specialty camera store and shared my desire to upgrade my telephoto lens and possibly make some other upgrades, and we looked at several options, including a fabulous Canon lens, the EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM.  However, at a price of $650, it would be the only real upgrade I could do at this time.  As we continued to look at other lenses, the salesman made a suggestion that I look at purchasing a camera package that would upgrade my camera, my kit lens and also get me a good telephoto lens for just slightly more money than the other telephoto lens by itself.  He brought up the fact that I probably struggled in low-light situations with my present equipment, which was absolutely correct.  Canon has a $300 rebate on this particular camera package, and the store could file the rebate for me, saving me that money upfront and leaving the price to me at only $799 plus tax.  I suspect this deal is to help Canon move their existing stock of T5i cameras to now focus on the newer T6 models.  He also explained that the higher ISO capability, paired with the better performing IS lenses, would result in significant improvement in lower light situations, something that was most definitely an issue for me with my XTi with the highest ISO of 1600 and no image stabilization available.  I would also gain a good quality telephoto lens in the package, even though it is not the original lens I looked at.  This slightly smaller lens will significantly improve my telephoto capability and will take less room to pack in a suitcase when traveling by plane.  I can’t use a lens on vacation if I don’t have room to carry it.  My wide-angle lens already takes a lot of room, too.

I left the store and looked at a few more options elsewhere that were no better than this one, so I returned and purchased the camera package.  It is a pleasure to trade with this locally owned store for my equipment purchases because they typically are no more expensive and offer more personal service, which is always important to a hobby photographer like me.  I can always use help and good advice when it is offered, and I will have the opportunity to take a free two-day class with them at some point, as they offer them every other month for people who purchase cameras in their store.

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My new Canon 700D (X5i) with the 50-250mm f/4-5.6 IS-STM lens attached.

The package included a Canon 700D (T5i) and two IS-STM lenses.  This offer was pretty much the same no matter where I looked, either in stores or online.  Not only did I get a good telephoto lens, I also got a greatly upgraded camera and an IS-STM kit lens, too.  I already own a Tokina AT-X Pro SD 12-24mm wide-angle lens, which cost about $800 when Hubby bought it for me a few years ago, so wide-angle shots have been no problem with that great lens.  My weakest link has always been my ability to shoot decent telephoto shots and decent low-light shots, and after several years of frustration, I am quite happy to have upgraded capability in these areas.

Digital Photography Review of Canon 700D (T5i) and STM Lenses

The kit lens is a EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, and the telephoto lens is a EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM.  STM stands for “(Smooth Transitions for Motion) Stepping Motor design for quieter Autofocus, with improvements in Aperture Design, Lens Coatings, Minimum Focus Distance, Build Quality and more,” according to a recent news release about another STM lens release this month.  I am definitely no expert on these particular details, but the STM lenses seem to be good options, even though using Live View can apparently inhibit their performance somewhat.  The detailed review above tells about both the camera and the lenses in this package, and it is a multi-page review.  Just look toward the bottom and navigate through the pages.

Canon also has information on their STM lenses.

Here are the top features of the 700D (X5i) camera for me.

– Shoots 18mp photos as compared to 10mp with my previous camera.  While that size is truly getting on up there, it will provide better results when needing to crop an image.  I can always downsize photos when needed, too.  FYI – the new T6 models are now up to 24mp.

– Shoots 1080p video.  I do not anticipate using this feature often, but I have come to appreciate the value of shooting an occasional video when in a situation that cannot be fully experienced with only a photograph.  A sunset experience in Old Lahaina Town in Maui recently is a great example.  While the photo is lovely, the little video I took of the waves crashing and a fiddle player nearby “playing the sunset away” just preserved the experience beautifully.  Videos will be more for personal enjoyment and memories, and the fact that the camera has a built-in stereo microphone is especially nice.

– Maximum ISO of 12800, and 25600 expanded, which is going to be a nice feature when attempting shots in lower light, for sure, especially when combined with the IS lens capability.  This is a huge upgrade over my previous equipment.

– Ability to select different aspect ratios (3:2, 4:3, 16:9 or 1:1).  There are times that will come in handy, even though with 18mp, there is plenty of room to crop, too.

– Uses SD cards instead of compact flash cards.  I purchased a San Disk 32G Extreme Pro SD Card for only $35 that will hold over 1000 raw images or over 3500 highest-quality JPEG images.

– HDR (High Dynamic Range) capability by setting to HDR mode via “SCN” on the dial, then selecting the HDR option as a default.  The camera physically shoots three rapid photos, then merges them into one.  I know the limitations of shooting in HDR, especially the possibility of ghosting, but there are times it can be a great tool.  I use it often on my phone with pretty amazing results at times.  We’ll see how well it works on the T5i.  Unlike my phone’s HDR mode, I can hear and feel the camera snapping the three photos.

– The dial also rotates 360 degrees with no hard stop now.  It’s just the little things like this that are nice to have for a change.

– Rear LCD display screen can be rotated inside when not in use and can also rotate out and at different angles when being used.  I like that the screen can fold inside to keep it from getting scratched, and the ability to position the display in other spots may help with glare a bit.  It can also help when holding the camera higher or lower, especially if shooting in Live View.

– The LCD screen can optionally be enabled as a touchscreen in the menu settings.  A button on the back of the camera must first be pressed to enable the use as a touchscreen or the equivalent function in the lower corner must be touched, minimizing the risk of inadvertently pressing a function on the touchscreen and changing a setting unknowingly.  This seems much more user-friendly than navigating through the buttons, and I’m already putting this feature to good use.

– Textured finish on the camera body is a really nice change from my XTi with a smooth finish.  I am surprised how much difference this makes when holding the camera, too.

– Live View falls in the “I may or may not like and/or use this feature” category.  It’s too early to tell, but in this mode, a “curtain” falls over the viewfinder and the camera can be used in a manner more similar to a smart phone –  touch focus, etc.  I think I will likely stay with my traditional viewfinder, as it seems to be a more stable shooting mode.  I can envision times, however, when this might be a good feature to use, probably in video mode and when using the Creative Filters that are now available, since Live View is the only way to see them in-camera.  Again, it just won’t be a feature that I use all that often, I think.

– The IS-STM lenses use a slightly different size lens hood, which is a better petal style lens hood.  My previous lens hood for my smaller lenses was a non-petal style that only helped on a few occasions.  The petal style is similar to the hood that I use on my wide-angle lens.  I purchased this lens hood separately for $29, along with two good Hoya UV filters for the new lenses.

I shared my first photos from the new camera on my previous Wordless Wednesday post.  I did no editing other than to crop them just a bit, and I am thrilled at the results of these handheld shots.

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 The only thing I’ve discovered that is problematic for now is that my Photoshop Elements 9 will not work with the raw files from this camera.  It does not have an available plug-in for the newer raw files.  Apparently the only option is to upgrade to Elements 13 that has the plug-in for the files from this camera.  I’m going to look at all available options for editing software, but I suspect I will just go ahead and upgrade to Elements 13 for now.  I own Lightroom 1 but seldom use it these days.  I’ve used Photoshop Elements since it first came out, though, and I love some features in it, too.  More than anything, I just want to edit photos less and spend more time with the camera shooting, hopefully improving my skills in this area.

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Welcome to Seattle, Ya’ll!

Enjoying the unseasonal cloudy and cool weather and an update on the wonderful rains!

We enjoyed a glorious, relaxing and fun week in Maui.  But more on that later when I get the pictures done.

 You may recall that it started raining in Texas well before we left on our trip and a series of thunderstorms *quickly* filled up the reservoir that supplies some of our water.  It hasn’t stopped raining since then except for a few periods lasting no more than about three days at a time.  While we were in Maui, I kept getting severe weather alerts on my phone for our home area, and several friends shared about the downpours we were receiving.

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As I’m typing this post this morning after my first cup of coffee, it is 47 degrees with 90% humidity, and the high today will struggle to reach 60.  Normally, the average high for late May should be around 85 degrees, but it’s not uncommon for the temperature to go well above that, too.  So, I decided to check the average weather in the Pacific Northwest this time of year, and it seems we are right on track with Seattle’s weather in May!

So, if I never visit Seattle, at least I now what it feels like to be there in May.  And it is “loverly!” 

With more severe storms in our forecast for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, we have decided to scrap some tentative plans to go out in the RV for a little getaway, hopefully with our son coming along.  I’m not into camping during super-cell storms at all, and we are having an epic load of them these days.  Some friends of ours went to Copper Breaks State Park two weekends ago with their trailer in tow, and not long after they arrived that evening and set up, they found themselves running to the bathroom/shower building nearby to dodge an oncoming tornado.  Apparently, it absolutely rained buckets of water during that storm, along with some small hail.  We were flying out to Hawaii that day and receiving regular text updates about what “dogs” we were while they were trying to not die at Copper Breaks!  It is funny now…  😉  Glad they, along with their trailer and truck, are fine most of all.

You have to be tough to camp in Texas in May and June at times, and there are lots of tough people out there.  I’m just not sure I’m one of them, but kudos to them for being brave souls!

More lakes are rising dramatically, and it’s an amazing thing to witness.  “All droughts end with a flood” seems completely spot-on at this time.  Just check out a few of the lakes that have seen a dramatic increase over the past few days and weeks, especially the first one.

Lake Alan Henry

Lake Arrowhead

Lake Brownwood

It’s amazing what the rain has done for the spirits of the people in our area.  It’s like hope has finally returned and the doom and gloom of the drought may actually be behind us, at least for a while.  And right along with the lifting of spirits with the return of rain, it seems my own spirit is finally on the rise after several long, depressing months following my mother’s death.  I swear she is up there levying God to make some good things happen for me and for this area that was her home for 93 years because everything just seems to be making a 180 degree turn right now in so many ways.  It would be so like her to do that.  Always thinking of others.

I enjoyed several hours alone at a lovely spa in Hawaii while Hubby played golf, and it was a great time of reflection and peace for me.  God felt so very close as I had the unique opportunity to spend time with him in this gorgeous place.  The various health treatments must have helped the blood start flowing to my brain again, literally, and I have felt so much better physically since that day, and walking quite a bit while we were gone certainly helped, too.  The quiet time with God helped me to realize that it’s time to start moving on while remembering Mom and our good times together.  I had one teary time as I sat alone amid the beauty, but I have not cried a single tear since then.

There is too much of life left to live, and it’s time to quit wasting it on being sad.  I’m not sure what all that will mean for me going forward, but I’m ready to see what life has to bring my way.

One thing that became clear was that it is time to pursue my photography hobby once again.  I’ve put it away for too long, and the passion that God has given me for photography is going to waste in some way.  This happened *before* I even mentioned this small revelation to my Hubby.  When he told me on my birthday, the day we flew home from Hawaii, that he wanted to upgrade my camera equipment when we got home, it confirmed my earlier revelation.  God works in mysterious and glorious ways, and the blessings are flowing all around right now, for sure.  The new camera and lenses are already in hand, and I’m looking forward to new photographic experiences with them and hopefully improving my skills significantly.

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The drought is finally over.  Spring has returned in so many ways, and my heart is grateful for the sustaining power that saw me through it all once again. ❤

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Wordless Wednesday – New Camera and Lenses

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Birds, Bunnies, Butterflies, Bicycles and Beauty

Our visit to Lake Colorado City State Park

Just over three years ago, we purchased our first RV with the hope that we could get away more often and allow Hubby to quit losing vacation days each year.  We wanted a way to be able to leave town on short notice with our dogs, get some good exercise and re-charge our “batteries” without breaking the bank in the process.  Being long-weekend RV warriors has been all we wanted and even more.

Recently, we made such a trip in the RV once again when we realized on a Thursday evening that the weekend weather was going to be beautiful and would be a nice time to go out.  All of the regular state parks that we visit were already booked, so we decided to check out a “new-to-us” state park in the RV for the first time.  We had discussed camping at this particular state park for the past couple of years, wanting to pick a good time to visit.  This was actually a perfect time to make that trip, so off we went.

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Lake Colorado City as seen at the day use area close to the boat dock

Lake Colorado City State Park is a state recreation area on the banks of Lake Colorado City.  Unfortunately, the drought of 2011 brought the lake level down, as it did so many lakes in this part of the state, and RV camping is less popular here than most state parks now for that reason.  The park sits only ten miles from I-20, a very busy interstate, so I’ve found it a bit odd that more RV travelers don’t check it out for an overnight stay.  Overnight RV sites in the nearby Permian Basin area are practically impossible to find these days due to the oil boom there, which would only seem to potentially increase some RV traffic here.  After visiting the park, there are probably more RV campers than advance reservations would suggest, with many probably just pulling in without a reservation, since they are not needed right now for the most part.

We made a quick trip in the car to check out the RV sites back in February, and we were pleasantly surprised at how nice this RV park was.  Of course, the trees are primarily mesquite trees and are lower profile for the most part, so spending time at this park in the heat of summer would not be something we would do unless the weather was cooler than normal.

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Interesting mesquite at our campsite

The weather was quite beautiful while we were there on this most recent trip in the RV.  The entire area was so wonderfully green, and wildflowers were everywhere, putting on a nice show for us all over the park.  We even saw a few patches of bluebonnets, which was quite unexpected.

Here is my “Top Ten List” for reasons to camp at Lake Colorado City State Park right now, not in any particular order.  Make a special note of #10, since this is a nice option that is unique to this park from what we’ve seen.

1.  We would most definitely drive ten miles from the interstate to overnight camp here if we were traveling.  Most commercial RV parks in this general area honestly leave a lot to be desired while this one is quite nice with good spacing between sites.  Some sites are back-in and some are pull-through.  We had a water and electric pull-through site for $22 per night.  All tables have covers, and the sites are mostly level, too.  If arriving after office hours, there is a phone number to call to gain admittance, as the park is actually locked after hours.  We were given the code to the lock when we checked in, just in case we needed to leave after hours.  The park personnel are very friendly, too.

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Sunrise across the lake at our campsite
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View looking north from our campsite to the adjacent sites

2.  This park is a popular birding park, and over 300 species of birds have been documented here.  It is a little oasis in this area.  Even in the RV campground, there are birds everywhere, and they were quite loud in the mornings due to the sheer number of them chirping.  On one quick morning walk, I saw two roadrunners, numerous scissortails, two different kinds of quail, cardinals and several others I couldn’t identify right away.  A professional photographer and his wife were camped near us in their RV, and he was out just after sunrise taking photos of the birds and took photos for quite a while.  The park staff also conducts periodic bird watching and counting events, inviting the public to join in the day-long fun.

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Roadrunner on our morning walk in the campground

3.  If you like bunnies, this is your park.  In fact, there were so many cottontail rabbits in the campground that our dogs would go a little nuts every time we took them outside for a walk.  I have never seen so many bunnies in one place.  They were so cute.

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Girly Girl watching one of the many bunnies
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Cottontail bunny being very quiet nearby as I took the dogs on a walk around the campground
Bunny in the Road
Bunny in the road at the campground

4.  We saw many pretty butterflies.  It made me realize that I really don’t see them too often at home anymore.  Seeing them was a real treat, even though I didn’t get a photo of them on this trip.

5.  This is a great place to ride bicycles, at least for us.  We prefer a mostly flat area to ride with only gentle hills, and this was perfect for us throughout the park and gave us a good consistent workout.  In fact, our long morning ride was one of the nicest bicycle rides we have had since we bought our new touring bikes a couple of years ago.

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Getting ready to ride bikes at our pretty pull-through site with the lake in the distance

6.  The real treat for us on this trip was the beautiful wildflowers and prickly pear cactus which were all over the park and in the campground areas.  It was a delight to once again see beautiful flowers, just as we did on our visit last month to Lake Brownwood State Park.

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7.  I suspect that most RV campers here these days are couples who are traveling and might just want a quiet place to camp for a brief stay, which keeps this park a pretty low-key place for now.  There is really no recreation on the lake except fishing and kayaking right now, and those activities take place in a different area of the park.  (The park will host a new guided kayaking program this summer, which could be a lot of fun, especially in the mornings.  They even provide the kayaks.  We may give it a try at some point, too.)  The couple camped closest to us was on a cross-country route headed to Yosemite from Florida and stopped overnight here when other state parks were full.  I suspect this is a common tale for this park.

8.  The town of Colorado City sits right on I-20 and has a big Affiliated grocery store.  It would be a great place to affordably restock groceries, whether you camp at the state park or not.  There are other places to eat in town, although we saw mostly fast food places closer to the interstate.  We are always good for a stop at Dairy Queen when traveling, though, and there is also a Sonic in town for ice cream.  No, that is not on my diet, but perhaps you could indulge for me.

9.  This is a uncrowded park and is very peaceful and quiet.  Most state parks these days cannot boast that fact on weekends, and it was a welcome respite for us, to be sure.  Peace and quiet is always a bonus for us, and I believe others would also enjoy this peaceful place in good weather conditions when it’s not too hot and not too cold.  It’s just a great place to relax and get away from it all.

Girly Girl Lounging in the RV
Girly Girl lounging in the RV on her horse blanket, since it was Kentucky Derby day

10.  Small cabins with attached RV sites are available that front the lake, and they are quite nice.  While we camped at a regular RV site on our trip, we are considering going back sometime and renting a cabin with the RV hookups next to it.  Our dogs could stay in the RV, since they are not allowed in the cabins, and we could enjoy the extra air-conditioned space, the nice shaded patio in front and also have quick access to the lake to fish or swim.  Each cabin has a tall grill outside and a fire pit on the ground.

Cabin 1
Cabins face the lake

The cost is only $60 per night, plus tax, including the hookups for the RV. Guests could come along and have their own place to sleep in the cabin, along with air conditioning, a small fridge and a microwave oven.  Each cabin can sleep six but would comfortably sleep four people in separate beds consisting of two sets of bunk beds.  No linens are provided.

Cabin 2
View of the lake from cabin porch
Cabin 3
View inside a cabin
Cabin 4
RV site right behind the cabin. Some RV pads are wider than this one.

 If we go back to kayak sometime, I think we will opt for this arrangement, since the kayak tours take place in summer months.  We would appreciate the extra air-conditioned space in summer months, since it can get quite hot here.  In fact, Hubby would be quite content to camp with this particular set-up for more than a weekend, too.

After the miracle rains of the past week in our area, I’m certainly not discounting the fact that this smaller lake could quickly fill up once again, and we are hoping and praying for that to happen.  We’ve seen just such an event take place with another area lake this week.  Lake Colorado City was down even before the 2011 drought, though, and motor boaters have not been able to get their boats in the lake for about ten years now.  I’m sure if the lake comes back up, the summer boating crowd will quickly return.

In summary, this state park may not necessarily be a destination park for most people, but it has some definite benefits to visitors, especially to those traveling by RV.  We will definitely be returning to this park, along with several others in our travel rotation, for weekend trips.

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Running Away For Mother’s Day

May always brings Mother’s Day and my birthday about a week later, and May also seems to be a good time for Hubby to take off from work, and we’ve definitely learned that it is advantageous to visit popular summer destinations in May before vacation crowds hit.  Taking a long trip in May, then again around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, works well for us these days, and we use our remaining vacation days with weekends and holidays in the RV the rest of the year.  Combining days off with weekends and holidays has helped us to really maximize our travel opportunities and keep Hubby from losing so many vacation days each year.

As we discussed where to go and what to do for our week of vacation in May this year, I told Hubby that all I wanted to do was be gone on Mother’s Day weekend and hopefully the following week, if possible.  I didn’t care where we went, as long as I didn’t have to spend that weekend at home for my first Mother’s Day without my mom.  I suspected that this would be a hard time, and I was correct in that assumption.  I probably even underestimated how hard it is right now leading up to this first Mother’s Day without Mom.  The closer we get to Mother’s Day, the harder it is for me.  I swear that Mother’s Day ads are everywhere!  Mom’s marker was finally updated with her date of death last week, and that only seemed to really drive home the point that she is truly gone in my mind.  It was really hard to drive out to the cemetery to take the updated photos, and I bawled like a baby while I was there.  Fortunately, no one else was around to watch.

As we discussed travel options for our May trip a few weeks ago, we were looking forward to possibly finding yet another new RV destination to explore.  We started discussing some options to visit a new Texas state park or two in the RV or even fly back to Denver and see Rocky Mountain National Park again, as well as more of the Denver area.  We even talked about booking a cruise.  There were pros and cons of each option.  Then, out of the blue, Hubby suggested a Hawaii do-over.

I first thought Hubby was kidding, and I reminded him that we just went to Kauai last year.  After my mom fell early last year and fractured her hip, we completely cancelled our initial plans for a 35th anniversary trip consisting of a week in Kauai, followed by a weekend in the bay area to see the kids.  A few months later, though, after she healed faster and better than expected, we re-booked a trip fairly last-minute in May, but we were only able to spend two days in Kauai before heading to the San Francisco area for the weekend and touring Big Sur with the kids.  It was a great trip, especially our weekend with the kids when I felt much better, but we were both a little disappointed to not have spent more time in Hawaii as we originally planned.  In addition to only having two days there, I was sick at my stomach for the entire five-hour flight from Los Angeles, that first night in Kauai, and part of our first day on the island.

Still, despite everything, we truly enjoyed our brief time in Kauai and even dined at one of our favorite little restaurants on our last night on the island after my stomach settled down for good.

Welcome to Kauai

Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge 3
Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai
Kalalau Lookout at Kokee State Park
Famous Kalalau Lookout at Kokee State Park

Even though we adore Kauai, we decided to look at another island destination this time, since we visited Kauai last year, as brief as it was.  Our second favorite island is Maui, so we looked at some lodging options and found what we believe will be a great one-bedroom condo for us for the week.  We prefer condos when visiting Hawaii, and this should be a nice resort experience, suitable for the anniversary trip we really wanted last year.  We have not visited Maui in about twenty years, when we took the kids on an island-hopping trip and saw Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii.  What a fun trip that was, too.

We’ve both had a pretty rough year so far, and it will be good to just get away and hopefully decompress.  I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as far as estate matters are concerned and closed my part on the rent house on Tuesday afternoon.  After some out-of-town family members sign their documents and return them to the title company, the house will finally be mine.  Hubby is nearing the completion of some extra job duties he temporarily inherited last year when another manager quit unexpectedly.  The timing for that development was just terrible for him, but he made the most of it and did a great job, cleaning up a huge mess that the manager left behind, all while we dealt with Mom’s illness and passing.

I think I’ve underestimated what Mom’s passing has been like for my hubby, too.  His mother passed away over a decade ago, so my Mom was our Mom for all that time.  She spent all of her holidays with us, not just me, and I think he wants to just run away somewhere for the week like I do.  We know what the first year is like after losing a parent, since we’ve done it three times before this year.  It is just hard, so hard.  I have also learned that after the first year, it does seem to get better, or at least be more tolerable, since all of the “first times without the parent” are finally over.  New routines will have time to start developing, estate matters will be done, and life can go on.  I know it’s going to be much different this year, though, since we no longer have any living parents.  It is very different so far, to be perfectly honest, and it may take both of us longer to adapt this time.  We’ll see.

Anyway, we are going to disappear for a week to paradise, leaving on the Saturday before Mother’s Day.  I am so grateful that we can go back to Hawaii, especially right now.  I have much to be thankful for these days, especially my hubby and my little family that I love with all my heart.  While I wish we could all be together this week, just like we did a few years ago in Kauai in this same week, but perhaps we will find a way to make it happen sometime in the future.  Our goal for this trip is to just relax and have some fun.

Leaving Kauai

I never expected to return to Hawaii this year.  Hawaii is a trip we only make every five years or so, if not longer.  Hubby outdid himself this year by suggesting we go back, and I’m looking forward to a special week with him, for sure.  Kauai (and Hawaii in general) is one of my all-time favorite “happy” places, and Hubby loves it there, too.  It’s pretty much impossible to not be happy while in Hawaii, and I hope that proves to be true once again on this trip.

I have scheduled one post for next week about our most recent RV trip to Lake Colorado City State Park, but I will most likely be offline until we return to moderate comments and read posts by others.  See you in a week, and Happy Mother’s Day!

D
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