Melancholy

Grief knows no calendar.

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I guess I will always feel a little melancholy in January.

I lost my mom two years ago this month, and I continue to be surprised at just how much harder it is to move on from her death than what I’ve experienced after losing our other parents.  I don’t know if it was the fact that she was our last living parent, if it is because I was closer to her than any of our other parents, or if it’s something else.  Without a doubt, though, grief is taking it’s sweet time with me, it seems.

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I think most people tend to give a lot of leeway to family members and friends in the first year after the loss of a close loved one.  Tackling all those “firsts” can be so, so hard, and I certainly found that to be true after losing my mother, just as it was after we lost our other parents.  I had quite a bit of support, especially from my closest friends, and I’m grateful for the love shown that truly helped me through that first year.

Grief didn’t care about that calendar, though.  Not one bit.

Last year was my second full year without Mom, and I swear it was just as hard on many occasions as it was in year one.  Understandably, most people assume that after that first year, all is fine… or at least better, so I started to just keep my feelings to myself and not burden others with my continuing feelings.  Friends have other interests in their lives and suffer their own heartaches.

Life moves on for all of us.

But, as Shelby’s mom said in Steel Magnolias after the graveside service for her sweet Shelby…

“I’ll tell you what I wish. … That’s what my mind says, I just wish somebody would explain it to my heart.”  (Steel Magnolias… 1989)

Oh, how very true that statement is.  So, so true.  (I’m not sure a movie ever truly captured such a true manifestation of grief as this particular scene at the cemetery.)

I have no sage wisdom to share today, except to simply acknowledge that grief doesn’t stick to a one-year calendar, despite that conventional viewpoint these days.  Acknowledging the ongoing grief helps a bit, and that’s why I’m writing today.  Simple acknowledgement.

I hope this lesson sticks with me and reminds me to have a tender heart toward others in the future, perhaps by simply marking my calendar and letting them know that I’m thinking of them and offering a heart-felt, sympathetic prayer for them on their own hard anniversaries.

I want to make it count, this often hard path I continue to find myself on without my Mom in my life.  (The article linked is absolutely fabulous.)

During this anniversary month of Mom’s passing, I’m reading The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, and so far, it is quietly speaking to my broken heart.  Ann’s writings are best savored slowly and deliberately, and every day, I’m slowly “getting it.”  Perhaps if you find yourself with a broken heart right now, this book might offer some insight to you, too.  If not right now, perhaps make a note of this great book for a time you might need it in the future?

Ann is “explaining it to my heart,” and I am grateful.

 

Around Angel Fire

So much fun, so little time!

In my previous posts, I’ve shared some of our adventures in the Enchanted Circle area of New Mexico.  Most of these were places that we visited on day trips away from our RV base camp at Angel Fire, but today, I want to share about our fun time in Angel Fire.  I previously shared about our visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is located just outside Angel Fire, too.

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New Mexico’s Famous Enchanted Circle

We stayed six days and five nights at Angel Fire RV Resort, which is part of Angel Fire Resort properties.  This year-round RV park opened in May 2015, and it sits a few miles away from town, just off Highway 64.  We were referred to this park by another RV friend who was quite impressed by it on a previous trip, and we opted to stay here because it was also centrally located for day trips to Taos, Eagle Nest and Red River.

The best option for us to drive to the area was Highway 64 from Cimarron, and the pass between Cimarron and Eagle Nest was very do-able in the RV, although *very* crowded with traffic on Labor Day with many people leaving the Enchanted Circle area to go home.

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Angel Fire RV Resort – one of the pretty paths in the park

Angel Fire RV Resort guests are granted full access to all resort amenities, no matter where they are located in the area.

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Angel Fire Resort Hotel at the ski area. RV Resort guests are permitted to use all resort facilities, even at the hotel.

Hubby played golf at the resort on our first day in the area and received a discount, and we were also given two free passes to ride the chairlift to the top of the ski mountain, compliments of the resort, worth $24.  It’s definitely worth taking these free and discounted items into account when deciding where to park the RV in this area.

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Gorgeous flowers were all around the RV park, and we felt that we were camping in a flower garden.

RVs older than ten years must be pre-approved to stay at Angel Fire RV Resort.  Since ours is more than ten years old, I sent a few photos to the RV resort office by email, and we were immediately approved for our stay.  I will also share that this is definitely the most expensive RV park we have ever stayed in at about $70 per night, but after our awesome experience there, we would do it again in a heartbeat for a special vacation week such as this.  If we took a nice vacation, stayed in a hotel and boarded the dogs, we would spend almost $60 per night just on boarding, so being able to bring them along on a nice vacation helped to justify this nightly rate.  Plus, we had them along for the fun!  After all, we are dog people.

We truly loved the spectacular views from the park, especially on the surreal foggy mornings we enjoyed our first few days there.

All the RV park amenities can be found on their website.  What we enjoyed the most was the pad site itself (long and level), nice views of the area, gated security (since it is just off a busy road), outdoor hot tub, gorgeous landscaping everywhere in the park and the big, grassy “Bark Park” to let our dogs run off-leash a few times each day, which was a lot of fun for all of us.

While this is already a beautiful RV park with amazing landscaping and flowers, it’s going to be even more beautiful in a few years as the trees grow taller.  There are a lot of trees in the park, and it should be a stunning place, for sure.

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View of Angel Fire Ski Area from our RV site, slightly zoomed in
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Evenings were just beautiful as the sun set with a mostly unobstructed view of the brilliant colors

The large conference center on property is really nice.  It also houses another camper restroom/shower facility with an outside entrance.  This was the closest restroom/shower facility for us, and we opted to shower there on two days, just because it was so very nice!  Just outside the center, we also enjoyed simply rocking in the nice wooden rockers in the evening after the campfire was lit.

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Conference center in the RV park for gatherings and concerts

To say the pups were happy at the “Bark Park” is an understatement!  Next time, I will bring their Frisbee along.  Having this nice dog park made us realize how much we wish other RV parks would consider adding one, too.

On the food front, there is a nice, well-stocked grocery store in Angel Fire, which is good to know since we discovered that there are only a few restaurants in the area.  On the morning we departed for home, we also filled the RV with gas at a pump at the grocery store, too.

We dined out twice in Angel Fire and certainly enjoyed our food both times.  We enjoyed a good pizza at Angel Fired Pizza for lunch.  This restaurant is located on the second floor of a shopping center next to the grocery store, and we had a great view of the ski mountain as we dined.  We also ate breakfast at The Bakery and Café at Angel Fire on our last full day in the area, and it was so good!  I had a huge breakfast burrito, and it was almost more than I could eat, but somehow, I managed to eat the whole thing.  They are not open for dinner, just breakfast and lunch.

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My huge breakfast burrito at Angel Fire Bakery and Café with green chile gravy and salsa on the side.  I. Ate. Every. Bite!

Trails in the Angel Fire area allow dogs, something that is actually a bit rare for many areas in New Mexico.

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Deer Trail in Angel Fire
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Trailhead in Angel Fire

We really enjoyed hiking one of the resort trails with the dogs one cool morning, and this trailhead is located just behind the Angel Fire Visitor’s Center in town.

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Hiking on a clear, cool morning with the dogs

The resort golf course is very pretty and is located just outside town.  Hubby enjoyed playing the course, even though some brief rain showers interrupted play for a bit.

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Angel Fire Country Club
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Driving range

The resort lake, which is just past the golf course, is also a pretty place to visit, picnic, fish or rent a paddle boat.

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Monte Verde Lake – Angel Fire Resort

One of the highlights of our trip was using our complimentary tickets from the resort and riding the chair lift to the top of the ski area.  In years gone by, we brought our kids skiing here on a few occasions with other families from our church, so it was a bit surreal to ride the chairlift with no snow on the ground below us.  It was even more awesome to ride it back down with the fabulous views of Angel Fire below us, growing closer and closer as we approached the base of the lift.  Truly, the views riding back down were just fabulous!

In the warmer months, Angel Fire Ski Resort transitions to Angel Fire Bike Park, offering a large selection of downhill bike trails.

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Big map at the top of the mountain

On the Friday we visited, there were several cyclists riding the chair lift up with their special bikes to ride the trails back to the bottom, and I admit that it looked like a lot of fun, too.  The trails are rated by difficulty, just like the ski trails in winter.  We could probably ride the green trails and may have to give this a try before we get much older.  If we opt to do that, we will rent our bikes and other gear at one of the local shops nearby.

We dined at the outdoor grill at the top of the mountain for lunch.  On the day we were there is was not too crowded, so it was a pleasant experience for us with great views.

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View of Eagle Nest Lake and the town of Eagle Nest from the top of the ski mountain
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Lunch cooked outside at the top of the mountain made for a great dining experience

At the top of the mountain resides an 18-hole disc golf course.  We walked over to the first two holes after lunch, and it looks like a lot of fun.  Just be aware that the altitude might take a bit to get used to.  I started to feel pretty lightheaded while we were there, so we decided to forego any further exploration and head back down the mountain.

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Map of the 18 hole disc golf course at the top of the mountain
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Look at the rough on this Frisbee golf course!

The resort also offers a zip line at the top of the mountain for those inclined to even more adventure.  I’m not sure I’m ready for something like this, but I might could be talked into it, too.

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Zip Line at Angel Fire Ski Resort – It’s straight down the mountain from here!

We also made a quick afternoon drive to check out Coyote Creek State Park to the south of Angel Fire.  This state park is remote, very pretty and has some hookups, but I doubt we ever take our RV there, since RVs are not permitted on the road between the park and Angel Fire… and for good reason.  Vehicles over ten feet are not permitted on this road that is quite narrow in one stretch.  Visitors to this state park must drive their RVs in from the south instead.

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Entrance to Coyote Creek State Park, south of Angel Fire
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A few RV sites on the river at Coyote Creek State Park

The drive to and from the state park was beautiful on a narrow and winding road through the tall trees, and we even stopped at one pullout to let the dogs get in the creek.

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Old abandoned log cabins on our drive

Girly Girl jumped right in the water, but Big Red wanted none of it.  Fortunately, we brought along some old towels on the drive.  Carry old towels is something we actually do most of the time when on vacation, especially when bringing the dogs with us.

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Big Red wouldn’t get in the water
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Girly Girl has always loved playing in the water and jumped right in

We had a great time re-visiting this area after many years and look forward to returning again in the future.  Our experience with Angel Fire RV Resort was so good that I suspect we will continue to base camp there, even if we stop over at Cimarron Canyon State Park for a night or two and maybe a night at Eagle Nest Lake State Park on the way next time.  I also hope to spend a little more time in Taos and Red River next time, if possible, especially Taos.

We didn’t actually drive the Enchanted Circle highway between Taos and Questa, and that was our plan for this trip due to time constraints.  On a future trip, we hope to complete the circle and visit that area, too.

I have one more post to share to complete my posts on this great trip, sharing some sights we saw on our drive to this area, especially Capulin Volcano National Monument in northern New Mexico.  Look for that one soon!

For more good, detailed information on visiting the Enchanted Circle, please check out the article below.

Legends of America – Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

Roaming in Red River

A fun and scenic day trip with the dogs

On our recent trip to the Enchanted Circle area in New Mexico, we opted to load up ourselves and the dogs for a day trip to Red River on Thursday.  The clouds had finally melted away, and the sun was shining, so it was a great day for a scenic drive to a beautiful area.

As we approached the base of Bobcat Pass, though, we encountered a long delay of twenty minutes due to road construction that resulted in only one lane of traffic across the entire pass. In fact, the wait was so long that several cars finally gave up and turned around toward Eagle Nest.  We considered doing the same, but I’m glad we waited it out.

Finally, the lead pickup escorted our very long line of cars across the steep pass (9820 ft.) and back down into Red River, taking it very slow the entire way.  We were certainly glad that we were not in our motor home for this drive on this day, and we smelled hot brakes from other cars as we arrived in town.  Fortunately, our brakes were fine.  Hubby did a good job to not ride the brake as we came down off the pass.

FYI – Bobcat Pass is the highest mountain pass in New Mexico.

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On the road to Red River for the day with the pups

The dogs dearly love to go anywhere at any time, whether on a walk, a car ride or a RV trip.  We only have to say “let’s go in the car” one time, and they are off to the car!  😀

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Following the lead truck through road construction down Bobcat Pass into Red River
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Red River ahead as we drove down from Bobcat Pass

As we approached Red River ahead of us, I remembered the words to the chorus of “Red River Valley” that I learned as a kid, and it made me smile.  I almost broke out in song… almost.  Hubby didn’t need any distractions on this particular drive, so I’ll just share it here.

Then come sit by my side if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
Just remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy that’s loved you so true

Once we approached the edge of town, we were finally free from the long line of cars and were ready to do some exploring!

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Entering Red River, New Mexico (8671 ft.)

This is a truly beautiful area with lots of tall trees, and quaint little Red River is a cute, touristy town with an Alpine theme.  It offers year-round fun with snow skiing in the winter and outdoor fun in the warmer months, especially in summer when so many people are looking for a cool area to escape the heat at home.  The ski lifts are located in the middle of town and are easily accessed by walking from several lodges nearby and just a short drive from all the other lodges in town.

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Ski lift in Red River
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Lift house at Red River ski area

 

Throwback:  Hubby and I skied the slopes in Red River many years ago with a group of friends before any of us had children, and we have some great memories of that particular trip.  Our group rented a large cabin for two nights, and the heater struggled to keep us warm.  It also sounded something like a 747 taking off, too.  It wasn’t too much fun at the time, but we certainly laugh about now.  Good times, fun memories!

We carried a picnic lunch with us on this day trip, since we had the dogs along for the ride, and we found a perfect picnic spot right in the middle of town at a pretty park in front of the Red River Conference Center.  It was just a short walk over to the river just behind the conference center, and we enjoyed a quick walk there after lunch with the dogs.

I wish we would have had more time to just walk around town and along the river, but we were also on a little mission to check out RV campgrounds in the area.  We certainly enjoyed the hour or so we spent eating our picnic lunch and walking along the scenic river, though.

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Pretty park in Red River
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Our picnic spot
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Toni Woerndle Memorial River Park on the Red River behind the conference center
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A nice walk along the river
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A ray of sunshine as we crossed the bridge
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Crystal-clear water in the Red River
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Lodges along the river would provide a nice, scenic stay in the area
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Another secluded picnic spot on the river
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Such a nice walk along the river
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Red River Conference Center on the Red River

 

After our picnic and walk along the river, we got back in the car and proceeded to check out the RV parks and national forest campgrounds in this area.  Well, I should say we tried to check out the national forest campgrounds, but just like the ones at Cloudcroft, most of them were already closed for the year, even though it was only the week after Labor Day.  It looked like there might be some nice ones, but once again, they are not made available to the public as they should be, a continuing gripe of ours concerning the national forest campgrounds in New Mexico.

There are some decent options in the private RV parks in or near town, so if we ever opt to take the RV over steep Bobcat Pass into Red River, we will likely stay at one of them if we can actually secure a reservation.  For the record, our first choice of the private RV parks would be Road Runner RV Resort, and our second choice would be River Ranch RV Park.  We were especially impressed by the staff and facilities at Road Runner RV Resort, too.  I honestly don’t think we would consider any other RV parks in this area, but summer time visitors would certainly want to check out the national forest options, too.  I wish we could have seen them.

Based on our experience on this day, though, we will likely base camp elsewhere in the RV and make a day trip to Red River instead.  It is such a popular tourist town, especially in the summer months, so it is generally not easy to secure reservations due to the many RVers who reserve far ahead of time and stay in this area for the entire season to escape the summer heat.

We might also consider reserving a pet-friendly room in Red River overnight if we want to have a bit more time there on future trips while leaving the RV elsewhere in the area.  Several motels and lodges there are pet-friendly and can be found at the link below.  Most are also in town within walking distance to most everything we would want to see, which is not the case with the RV parks.

Red River Pet-Friendly Lodging

Red River is such a beautiful, delightful area in the Enchanted Circle, and it most definitely worth a visit.  I’m ready to go back again!

Memorial and Memories

The very first memorial honoring Vietnam War veterans is in New Mexico

In early September, we were fortunate to be able to spend a lovely week in the Enchanted Circle area of northern New Mexico, and one of the most memorable sights we saw during that week sits atop a hill near the small community of Angel Fire.  In fact, we could see it off in the distance from the RV park where we stayed during the week.  When I researched sites to visit in this area ahead of time, this one stood out as a “must-see” spot, so we planned our visit for Wednesday.

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Sign at the highway entrance to the memorial

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park at Angel Fire is actually the very first memorial to honor Vietnam Veterans and was also the inspiration for the large memorial that now resides in Washington D.C.  Over time, people have placed red bricks here to honor family members and other loved ones that served, and they border the sidewalks throughout the memorial.

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Memorial bricks

I have always had a personal connection to this war because my brother served in it for two consecutive years.  My brother was fourteen years older than me, and I was a young child while he served.  I remember writing letters to him regularly, and we also put together a box of goodies for him every other week and sent it by mail.  In later years, he often shared how much he looked forward to receiving those care packages, too.  I lost my dear brother back in 2007 to diabetes and congestive heart failure, but this visit brought back so many memories of him and this time period in history.

Many specific memories of my brother’s service came flooding back to mind as I toured this beautiful memorial.  It’s amazing how things like this can go dormant in our minds until something prods them back to the forefront so vividly.  As I looked at the various exhibits in the small museum, the memories continued to return, especially seeing those red, white and blue air mail envelopes that we always used to mail our letters to my brother.

The story of how this memorial came to be is so special and so touching, and I encourage anyone to read more about it on the memorial’s website.  I won’t take the time to try to share it here, but it is well worth the time to read about it.  You can also make a contribution to help support the memorial, if you would like to do so.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, David Westphall Foundation

The weather was overcast on the day of our visit, and while the conditions kept me from capturing better quality photos, it provided the perfect setting to match my rather somber mood while I toured the facility.  Before we finished our tour, I also made the decision to order a brick to honor my brother and have it placed there in his honor and memory.  I look forward to returning to the memorial again someday to see his name and service honored along with so many other veterans.

I’ll just let my photos share the rest of the story about this touching place, and I’ve opted to share quite a number of them today because this placed touched me so much.

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Main entrance
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Main entrance
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Blue Star Memorial Garden
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Entering the memorial
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Touching tribute – please read
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Fountain features provide a feeling of serenity
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View of the mountains from the amphitheater
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View of the mountains from the amphitheater
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Huey helicopter that was flown in the war
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New Mexico, United States and POW/MIA flags
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Flags
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Angel Fire Ski Resort in the distance
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Entrance to the museum
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The RV resort where we stayed in the distance
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The views from that meditation bench are amazing.
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The tall tree honoring the founder’s son was very small when the memorial was built but stands tall now, a striking reminder of a life lost.
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Another view of the memorial tree
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The architecture and sweeping lines are beautiful.
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Native flowers adorn the landscape.
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The small and simple chapel is an amazing sight.
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Another view of the Huey
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Burial site of the memorial founders
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One of many small memorial flags along the walkways

I would highly encourage anyone visiting this area to visit this beautiful memorial for an hour or two or even longer if you want to explore the museum in more detail.  I’m so glad we took the time to visit this special, yet somber, place.  It is free to visit.  Donations are accepted from those that would like to make a contribution to help with upkeep of the memorial.

 

Making Memories

“Life is all about making memories”

Five years ago this month, shortly after we purchased our first motorhome, I found this “making memories” canvas at a local home store and knew it would be a perfect addition to our new cabin on wheels.  It has hung in the bedrooms of our two RVs ever since, and I suspect that no matter what RV we have in the future, we will always have this picture hanging somewhere inside to commemorate the spirit of our RV adventures.

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However, “making memories” is a phrase we used in our travels decades before we ever purchased our first RV.  In fact, we have a very long history of referring to “making memories” when we travel.  For that reason, I immediately knew this canvas would be a great fit as we began our RV travels.

“Today’s moments are tomorrow’s memories.”
— Unknown

My earliest recollection of hearing the “making memories” phrase when traveling dates back to a week-long vacation with some good friends and all five of our combined very young children for a week of vacation at a lake in East Texas one summer in the late 1980s.  To say that this trip was laden with unexpected events would be an understatement.

Here are just a couple of “memories” from that fateful trip.

We took my father’s 1960s era red and white Larson Lapline outboard boat with us, and late one evening while taking a cruise on the lake with all nine of us on board, the motor shut down.  We never could get it started again and had to use the water skis and an oar on board to paddle back to the dock, which fortunately wasn’t too terribly far away but still far enough that it took a while to get there.

We adults were exhausted from paddling and there was some brief talk of a ruined vacation.  Then…

… my sweet friend, who remains one of my very best friends today and has a great sense of humor, reminded us all that we were just “making memories,” and from that point forward, that phrase stuck like glue to our vacation escapades.

On that same trip, we all dined out at a nearby seafood restaurant one evening.  As we arrived, a big summer thunderstorm blew up, and before we knew it, a tornado was headed our way.  The restaurant staff warned everyone to stay inside and take cover, and panic quickly set in among the guests.  All we could safely do was follow their advice to stay put and take cover, and fortunately, the small tornado veered off in a different direction and did very little damage.  As we resumed our meal and the talk at the table immediately went to the many unfortunate circumstances of our trip, my friend reminded us that we were just “making memories.” 

And she was so right.  To this day, we enjoy recounting that trip with those dear friends and the “series of unfortunate events” that we encountered.  Without all those memories, we might not remember that trip at all now.

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Ever since that memorable trip, we’ve continued to use the phrase “making memories” when unexpected things come up while traveling, both the good things and especially the challenging things.  We’ve had our fair share of “making memories” on vacations over time, for sure, including our RV vacations over the past five years.

Goldeneyes at Davis Mountains State Park
We’ve taken many friends and family members to far West Texas over the past five years to introduce them to the glorious scenery that is far West Texas at Davis Mountains State Park, and we look forward to showing it off to even more people in the future, including the small town of Fort Davis and the McDonald Observatory star parties.

 

Some of our fondest RV travel memories to date are the times we have traveled with family members and friends.  When we bought our first RV five years ago, we never anticipated that others we knew would soon follow our lead and buy their first RVs.  Now, it seems that we have found, quite unexpectedly, a great balance of traveling by ourselves with the dogs and occasionally traveling with others, and at this point, it is a perfect fit for us.  And what great memories we’ve made with all of these great people over the past five years, too.

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Caprock Canyons State Park continues to be a go-to RV park for us to share with family members and friends.  Once we take someone here and show them the park and its treasures, people always want to go back again.  We have so many fond memories with loved ones here and look forward to “making memories” with our favorite people and on our own over the coming years in our “home” park.

 

There is just something so special about traveling with those you love the most and getting away from everyday routines, even if only for a weekend, taking time to connect and enjoy each other’s company.  Young parents today would be wise to remember this, too, even if a staycation is more appropriate financially.

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Lake Brownwood State Park, with its rich CCC history, continues to be another favorite place to visit in our RV, especially in the spring when the bluebonnets are in bloom.

 

It’s really all about spending uninterrupted time together, and most of us have to plan our schedules carefully to actually achieve it these days.  It needs to be a priority in our lives on a regular basis.

“We didn’t realize we were making memories.  We just knew we were having fun.”
— Unknown

A group of guys on Hubby’s side of the family has decided to resume yearly tent camping trips together, something they used to do as a family group as they were all growing up when tent camping was all they could afford.  Now, they can bring along the next generation of sons with them, and their first trip is scheduled for late September.  Even though Hubby is a little spoiled to the RV, he is looking forward to resuming this fun tradition with our son for the first time… in a tent.

I can only imagine the memories those guys will make together, including a few I will probably never hear about.  They all have busy lives and careers now, but I’m so glad they are once again taking time to be together and continue a long time family tradition.  Good for them.the-best-thing-about-memories-is-making-them

We are looking forward to “making memories” in our new-to-us RV very soon as we are finally ready to resume travels this fall as the weather cools off.  Our long, hot summer is hopefully winding down, schools are back in session and our travel plans are mostly in place with our inaugural long trip scheduled to begin on Labor Day weekend.  I’m glad we had the summer to really put the RV through some paces here at home, as well as making a couple of quick test trips.

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Northern New Mexico is quickly becoming one of our favorite RV destinations in the summer months, especially when family and friends join us as they did over 4th of July this year.

 

Now, it’s finally time to get this RV show on the road once again… and start “making [even more] memories!”  😀

 

46 Years Ago Today

Remembering “Tornado Day”

46 years ago tonight, we survived this monster with only minor damage at my parents’ house.  Twenty-six fellow citizens lost their lives, though, and I knew one woman that died.  I was in the sixth grade, and she made regular visits to my school as a volunteer.

My mother, father and I tried to get to a neighbor’s storm cellar across the street as the storm hit, but the fierce wind actually blew my father back into the house when he attempted to walk out the front door to the south.  We took shelter in an interior closet and heard the trademark “train” sound outside as the storm roared over us and blew over our massive maple tree in the back yard, narrowly missing hitting our house.  The wooden fence didn’t stand a chance either.

To this day, I have never been as scared as I was that night.

We had no advance warning until the local news folks broke into the Carol Burnett Show right before the storm hit, showing the simple black/white radar with a “hook echo” on it.  Shortly afterward, the electricity went off, and we listened to a local radio station for news updates on our battery-powered radio from that point and over the next couple of days.  We had no city services until later the next day, a first for me, and it was my first experience in living amid a truly chaotic situation for the first time.

I will never, ever, ever forget that night.  Ever.

It’s still hard to think back on it and talk about it even today, and, like my mother, it’s why I am a fierce “weather bird” just about any time during severe weather season.  I still miss her calls to make sure we are aware of impending weather, too.

If you do not own a NOAA weather radio, please get one and keep it on over the coming weeks. We nearly always have a weather radio on in our RV when camping, and we generally avoid camping during the months of May and June unless we feel that the weather forecast will work for us just prior to our departure day.  That includes forecasted winds, since driving an RV in high winds is not a good plan.  We have good friends that encountered  high winds on their drive home from their RV trip last week, and it certainly played havoc with their plans, not to mention their nerves.

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The massive storm that spawned the deadly El Reno tornado in 2013, as seen behind us after we left the OKC area early, thanks to the early warning from the NWS in Norman.

 

I’ve also found that following the NWS offices directly on Twitter is a fabulous idea, too.  Following the NWS Norman Twitter feed may have saved my life, as well as my nephew’s life, a few years ago on a trip to Oklahoma City when we heeded a early predictive warning about what was likely to come just prior to the tragic El Reno tornado that struck the area where we were a short time later.  We saw that massive storm in our rear view mirror after we departed the area earlier than planned, missing it my about an hour.

What are the chances that I would be in two separate locations where massive tornadoes struck in my lifetime anyway?  I truly hope there are no more, but living in “Tornado Alley” means the chance is always there.

Please remain “weather aware” during storm season.  I’m thankful that we have the opportunity to be informed so much more today than in years gone by.

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Another Loss

We just lost yet another loved one in our life, this time very suddenly and definitely unexpected.

Late last October, we spent a very quick weekend camping with some friends.  We all needed a little break from our everyday lives, and I really needed a couple of nights away to refresh a bit as we were dealing with the hard situation of slowly losing my sweet cousin.  These long-time friends gladly joined us, as they had just purchased a brand new fifth wheel, and we shared their happiness as they took their new trailer on an inaugural trip with us.

Hubby worked with this man for thirty years, and they were good friends.  Sadly, we just lost this dear friend to a tragic accident.  One day, this friend was at work with Hubby, and the next day, he was gone.  He did not survive but a few brief minutes after the horrible crash.

Over three decades, this friend and Hubby grew very close.  They had a lot in common and helped and supported each other in ways other friends could not at times.  He and his wife were looking forward to their retirement years very soon, and they were especially looking forward to camping regularly with family and friends and even meeting new people on the road.  We were looking forward to being a part of that with them in coming years, too.

My heart is truly breaking following this tragic news that we received while on a drive around sunset with the dogs in the car.  Hubby completely broke down in tears, and it was all I could do to keep some composure myself to try to comfort him.   I drove us home as he wept and called other friends to share the sad news, and I remember seeing one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in some time as I drove.

We memorialized and buried our friend, along with many others who loved him.  He ended his life well, after many years of heartache, and for that healing, I am very grateful today.  He will most definitely be missed.  So many times in situations like this, I struggle to see how his family will go on without him, but I also know that in every situation I’ve known in the past, they always find a way, even though it is seldom easy for them.

I’m sure I will remember our friend every time we revisit the places we camped with him and his wife and enjoyed their company in some beautiful scenic spots, and I hope that over time, I can remember in gratitude and not in sadness.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
– Marcel Proust

The photos shared in today’s post are from our last trip with our friends back in October, a trip that I remember so fondly.  We had a great time acquainting them with this particular park a little more, and these photos represent some memorable moments we shared together.  It was a lovely time enjoying good friends, beautiful scenery and more than a few much needed laughs.  We also loaned him an extra HDMI cable to use, since he forgot to buy one, and Hubby had great fun teasing him about it.

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Memorable sunsets
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Hidden lake that few people know about
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Beautiful fall colors

 

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Seeing lots of bison and their young up close
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Hiking around the lake

I am feeling fairly guilty right now as I mourn the fact that this is the fifth loved one we have lost in the past fifteen months.  We lost three family members and a good friend last year, and now we’ve lost another friend.  The more I think about being a little resentful of this fact, the more guilty I feel.  Perhaps it is time to quit looking at death in this way and start being more grateful for the blessing of having these people in my life for the time they were here.  As we grow older, we will no doubt continue to lose loved ones like this, and I don’t want the pity party to only grow within me.

This is a very hard loss for many of us, and if you are a praying person, please say a prayer for his family and friends.

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