Time to play catch up here.
I’ve been quite busy lately, so in an effort to catch up here a bit, I will just play a little lightning round question and answer game.
Question: “What has kept you so busy lately?”
Answer: Helping my oldest nephew get my sister and brother-in-law (his mother and father) moved to a new mobile home on his property.. and a very nice one at that. Let’s just say we have all learned *a lot* about mobile homes over the past few weeks! Interesting stuff, and I’m glad to know a lot more about them now.
Question: “Why the rush to move them?”
Answer: My brother-in-law was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease a few months ago, and my sister’s health (both physical and mental) continues to decline, not improve. She has fallen twice recently and broke her elbow and a toe. Neither of them can adequately care for the other now, it seems, and moving them to a home on their oldest son’s farm will make it easier for him and his large family to care for them when needed.
My nephew and his family are going to earn lots of gold stars in their Heavenly crowns for taking this responsibility on, too. I’ve been trying to help where I can to make this happen as quickly as possible because it’s been a huge task, and other family members aren’t helping much, if at all.
Question: “Have you been anywhere in the RV lately?”
Yes, we went on a great little five day trip to Lake Mineral Wells State Park (Prairies and Lakes region) and Fort Richardson State Park (Panhandle-Plains region) a couple of weeks ago to use Hubby’s last three vacation days before they expired the first week of March. It was our first time to visit these two state parks, and we really liked both of them and the lovely RV sites.
Fort Richardson was a nice surprise and nicer than we thought it would be, too. The fort site itself was so interesting to see, and our campsite sat right on a little spring-fed creek that was just delightful. The spring was only about 50 yards upstream, so the water was crystal clear.
This was a bit of a landmark trip for us. By finally visiting Fort Richardson State Park, we’ve now visited every state park in the Panhandle-Plains region except one, Possum Kingdom, since we started traveling by RV 5 1/2 years ago. When you look at how large this region is geographically, I think that’s a decent milestone because we only vacation by RV. (We probably won’t go to Possum Kingdom anytime soon, unfortunately, because a terrible fire struck there a few years ago, but maybe we can just make a day visit there to sometime to check it off our list.)
Of course, we’ve visited other parks outside the region, including state parks in the Big Bend region, the Hill Country region and the Prairies and Lakes region. But, it’s great that we’ve finally made it to all the parks in our home region now that we want to see at this time. Lake Mineral Wells is in the Prairies and Lakes Region, and we certainly enjoyed our beautiful lakeside campsite. Hubby also caught a catfish but threw it back. I enjoyed just sitting by the lake while he fished, and the dogs joined us lakeside a few times, too.
We both needed a nice, relaxing trip, and this whole trip was great for us for that very reason.
Some day, we hope to actually visit every state park in Texas, so this is a good start for now.
Question: “How’s the weather been lately?”
Pretty good, nice actually, except for two wild and windy West Texas dust storms that were just hideous. We had to come home early from our stay at Lake Mineral Wells State Park to avoid driving the next day in one of those two wind storms, too. When the weather alert mentions “Flaming Tumbleweeds” in the forecast, it’s best to just avoid traveling in a high profile vehicle, I think!
Question: “Have you been doing anything else?”
Yes, cleaning out *that* closet in the back bedroom. I got interrupted in the middle of that big project to help move my sister, so everything is just a disaster back there right now. Ugh.
Question: “Anything else of interest you want to share before you get back to your urgent tasks?”
Yes, one more thing. Since my sister is downsizing her home, I worked a trade with her. I bought them a new bed set for their new home in exchange for all of china and crystal she had from both of our grandmothers. If I didn’t do that, she was going to sell it off to strangers, and I couldn’t bear the thought of her doing that. I absolutely did not need any of this, but I wanted to keep it in the family.
I now have FIVE SETS OF CHINA. Five of them. Cinco conjuntos de. My husband just rolled his eyes when I shared this tidbit with him. Bless his heart. But when I get *that* closet cleaned out, we will have plenty of room to store all of them for awhile. At some point, I will have to decide who gets what between immediate and extended family members, but not anytime soon.
I also have a set of Christmas dishes, too… in addition to the four smaller sets of dishes we use regularly. And what about a few of those interesting depression glass pieces? Lead crystal bowls? (Thankfully, I only have one little set of cute Corelle dishes in the RV.)
I may or may not have a dish problem.
I may need to even write a post soon with photos of all the dishes in my life, as well as the crystal sets, three nice sets of stainless and one very nice set of silver. Oh yes, I have silver service pieces, too, all pieces that belonged to family members, and I’m determined to make sure they all stay with family members that will not sell them off, if possible. And speaking of those silver pieces, it’s time for a good polish.
Yes, as one dear friend put it, I am now the family museum. I know these treasures will only be mine for a little while, so I will enjoy them while I can and do my best to keep them safe in the process. They are just stuff, but they all bring such special memories with them, and that’s what is most important to me.
That’s it for today’s lightning round! It’s time to get busy again on this Monday when the wind is supposed to once again roar with flaming tumbleweeds!
Proper planning is important in many things, including vacations.
It’s that time of year again for me to put some thought and effort into travel planning for the coming vacation year that begins again for us on March 1. As always, I feel so blessed that Hubby has four weeks of paid vacation each year, and that we are both healthy enough to travel regularly.
In years past, prior to the time we purchased our first RV five years ago, I must confess that travel planning was not something we focused on in our lives to a large extent. We have always been blessed to take at least one lovely vacation each year for the most part, but we mostly planned our time away more at the last minute and certainly never considered trying to plan on a larger scale… a full year at a time. Our lack of planning caused us to actually lose some vacation days each year because we did not find a way to take them in the twelve month period when Hubby was permitted to use them… a sad situation, to be sure.
We planned for so many things in our lives… retirement planning, meal planning, budget planning and health planning (doctor appointments, etc.). So, why didn’t we put a little more emphasis on our special time away together? I have a feeling we were/are not the only ones that have come to this realization at the empty nest stage of life, but I’m grateful we realized how this could change for the better before too many years went by.
At this stage of life as we approach our 60th birthdays, I consider travel planning to be one of my jobs, but it is a labor of love to be sure. Hubby works (and travels) hard throughout the year to earn his time away from work, and he does not have time to spend on travel planning. He even has a travel agent that books his work travels, so my job is to plan our vacation days to use them all and use them in ways we would like to do within our budget. And if I say so, I think I do a pretty good job now.
I’m also challenged to be creative in our travel plans each year. Five years ago, I would have never dreamed that my little family would spend Christmas in our RV, but we just loved it! I enjoy the challenge of creative RV camping a lot, something that might be a good topic for another post sometime.
These days, it is necessary for us to plan our personal trips ahead of time so Hubby will know when he can travel for work without any conflicts. A few years ago, we had to find a way to “be on the same page” as far as overall travel planning, so I created a shared Google calendar for travel planning purposes. I take care of updating the shared calendar in a timely manner so Hubby can see both his own business travel dates and our personal vacation dates and a few other events all in one place.
Before we had this shared online calendar as a reference, we encountered some issues with date conflicts. The shared calendar has helped to largely alleviate those issues, as long as he sends me his business travel dates in a timely manner. I highly recommend this shared calendar solution if this is an issue for anyone else. How to share a Google Calendar
Purchasing our first RV five years ago was our first deliberate effort to try to change the status quo and to keep from losing vacation days each year, which happened all too regularly because we did not actually plan our time away like we do now. We stepped out of our comfort zone just a bit, mostly with our RV financial investment, but we both knew RV travel might actually be something we would love, making it an investment in ourselves and our time together. We always enjoyed camping in the early years of our marriage, and we were ready to start camping again.
Our desire to travel more conveniently and affordably was another reason for our RV purchase, and yet another reason was Hubby’s desire to not travel by plane for some of our vacations, since he has to do so regularly on business. Our reasons all proved to be good reasons to make the change, and we are most definitely happy with our decision and plan to continue traveling by RV for years to come. We both enjoy a nice trip by plane now, too, since we have another great option to do something different. Those trips are now a little more special for us.
I ran the numbers last week, and we actually spent 60 days away from home in our RV in 2016, something we certainly couldn’t reasonably afford to do without the RV. We did not take any non-RV trips last year, which was a little unusual for us but something we chose to do since we upgraded to a newer and larger RV back in May. We didn’t even miss a non-RV trip either.
Hubby was quite surprised to learn that we spent 60 days out in the RV last year… pleasantly surprised… just as I was after running the numbers. We had some great times alone and with family and friends, and we are once again grateful for the freedom the RV has given us to get away more often in such a comfortable and convenient way. We love having our sweet pups along for the fun, and it almost feels at times like we are semi-retired and enjoying life in ways some retired folks do on a regular basis, even though Hubby is still very much employed full-time.
Getting out-of-town once a month continues to be one of our travel goals, even if it is just for a quick weekend away nearby, and we also strive to have two full-week vacations each year. Getting away regularly to some beautiful state parks has helped both of us to “recharge our batteries” regularly and has also helped to keep us healthier, since we do a lot of walking and hiking when we are out. We have always loved camping together, and having a few nice amenities now just makes it all the more enjoyable for us, especially sleeping on our custom mattress that is so comfy!
Having planned travels for a full year in advance for five years now, we have found a basic travel schedule that works well for us. Planning our travels each year now actually requires a little less effort on my part, since I have a basic template to use as a starting point.
We tend to travel in the non-summer months to avoid the extreme heat of summer, even though we still venture out a bit in those months at times, too. We’ve also learned how far in advance we need to reserve most of the places we like to visit because without a site reservation for our RV these days, chances are we won’t be able to secure one closer to our date of travel because more people are traveling by RV, even more than what we saw five years ago. I continue to be amazed at how many of our friends have hopped on the RV bandwagon now, too.
This year, we are adding one non-RV trip… a special one indeed!
Over the next three years, we have three big celebrations that are worthy of commemorating in a memorable way….
…Hubby’s 60th birthday later this year,
…my 60th birthday next year, and
…our 40th wedding anniversary in 2019.
I hope we can make each of these occasions special and memorable, so I spent some time last week planning Hubby’s big bad birthday celebration… a non-RV trip that we will take in October. How blessed we are to have airline miles and hotel points to use for a special trip such as this, putting the total cost of the airfare and hotel with a full breakfast each morning at only $260 for six days and five nights.
I’m excited to finally take Hubby to a special place that I have visited three times in my lifetime but one that he has never visited. We may also be joined by some long-time friends, if they can arrange their work schedules to do so. In fact, this trip should be so special and so much fun that I may be fine calling it my 60th birthday celebration, too, allowing us to save up a bit for a special anniversary trip in mid-2019.
If our present travel plans hold for 2017, we will spend about 65 days away from home, with most of those days spent in our RV. Hubby has ten paid holidays this year, a few more paid days off than in previous years, bringing his total paid days off each year to 30 days. We certainly plan to schedule those new paid days off into our trips, too.
I’m ready to get this show on the road again… literally! 😀 Hopefully our advance planning will once again help to make this yet another memorable and fun travel year.
A camping Christmas trip with our family ended 2016 in a delightful way!
2016 is now in the “books,” and 2017 has already seen our first snow of the winter season and of the new year. Thankfully, it was nothing like the mega storm that introduced 2016 to us, and we only received about an inch this time. My back starts hurting just looking again at some of the photos from last January and remembering all the snow Hubby and I shoveled for three straight days. Ugh!
It’s been several weeks since my last post, but all is well, good in fact. I just took a little break to enjoy the Christmas season and take a few things “off my plate” for a bit. I also had more holiday prep work to do this year, due to our ten day Christmas and New Years trip to the mountains of far West Texas.
All our kids joined us for a long Christmas weekend in the Davis Mountains, and they all departed for home on Tuesday afternoon after lunch, driving to El Paso together then catching their respective flights. It was a most enjoyable holiday for me, and I think for all of us. After all, what mama doesn’t like to have all her kiddos with her for the holidays?
We secured our daughter and son-in-law a room at the historic Indian Lodge (see photos below) during their stay, which was just a mile away from our RV in the state park, and our son stayed with us in the RV. With all the additional space inside now, as compared to our previous RV, we were all quite comfortable, even with the dogs who slept on their nice, new beds next to him.
By cooking some dishes ahead of time, I was able to serve all our favorite holiday foods in the RV… tamales for Christmas Eve, sausage toasts and eggs for Christmas morning, and ham, turkey, cornbread dressing, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and yeast rolls for Christmas dinner. We even enjoyed a Christmas morning picnic together at our site for breakfast, which was a real treat! Truly, the weather was gorgeous the entire week we were there.
Following our picnic breakfast, we opened gifts inside the RV in our comfortable living area, which was so much fun. As usual, the dogs each had a gift of their own to start things off, and I can say that we all received some very nice gifts. My family was especially good to me, but the real treat for me was just having everyone together for a few days of fun.
The weather was gorgeous in far West Texas the entire week we were there, which certainly helped make our trip more manageable and truly enjoyable. We even ran our air conditioner for a bit on a few afternoons, too. I’m sure some friends may think we’ve lost our minds spending the holidays in our RV, but we enjoyed our time in the Davis Mountains with our family more than anything we’ve done for the holidays in many years. With all the cooking done ahead of time, meals were easy and tasty with minimal clean-up needed afterward, leaving quality time for visiting, hiking and playing games together.
After the kids left, Hubby and I enjoyed a few days all by ourselves, followed by two days with two friends who made their first trip to the area for the New Year’s weekend in their RV, the same friends we’ve started traveling with a bit over the past year. We enjoyed showing them around, and they also spent some time on their own at the McDonald Observatory, which we have seen many times on previous trips. Hubby and the friends hiked from the state park to the national park, and I picked them up there after we all toured the fort area together on New Years Eve.
Our holiday trip was pretty much perfect for us, spending time both with family and friends, as well as quality time alone. We even made new friends, a couple close to our age that just recently started their full-time RV journey, and we exchanged contact information with them. It was delightful to visit with them off and on all during our vacation week.
Hubby and I opted to dine out a little more on this trip because there are some really good restaurants in town. Rumor has it we dined at our favorite Mexican food restaurant three times during our week in the area and that our waitress knew what we wanted to order as soon as we sat down on our second and third visits. We dined there on the evening we arrived with our son, for lunch with all the kids on Tuesday before they left, and again with our friends on New Year’s Eve.
We also dined at three other restaurants in town during our stay, which was a nice treat for us. All were very good, and two were new to us.
(On a side note, I couldn’t disagree more with the Trip Advisor restaurant ratings for Fort Davis restaurants, especially the #1 pick listed right now. We’ve tried that place twice and are not at all impressed with it. We won’t try again. In our opinion, after many trips to the area, Cueva De Leon is by far the best in town.)
Hubby and I also drove to both Alpine and Marfa on separate drives. We had to make a quick trip to Alpine with our son on Christmas Eve morning in search of a new coffee pot, after ours unexpectedly died on us. Thankfully, we found one at the big hardware store, the last one on the shelf, because we would have had a crisis on our hands without a coffee pot!
Our scenic drive to Marfa on an overcast day after the kids left was nice, and we saw the pretty courthouse there, along with the historic Hotel Paisano and the whimsical El Cosmico campground south of town. On their drive back to El Paso, the kids stopped for photos at Prada Marfa, too.
Hubby and I also enjoyed a Thursday evening presentation at Indian Lodge where the hotel manager told us all about the history of the lodge from the CCC era to date, and she also pointed out several of the original furniture pieces from that time period, marked by the metal strappings at the bottom of each one. It was a nice evening with other hotel guests and campers, complete with hot cider and cookies by a warm fire inside.
She also shared that Indian Lodge will close in September 2017 for four months for exterior resurfacing, just in case anyone is planning a trip to the area and would like to stay there.
The week prior to our trip was a fun and busy week, too.
Prior to Christmas, I also hosted my second annual cookie swap on the Monday evening before Christmas. It was a big success once again, with two new participants this year, in addition to those returning from last year’s swap. This year, we actually decorated cookies together for the first time, and it was so much fun, even though it was more prep work for me. I think we will have to keep doing this in future years, if only for the laughs… which were many! Those ladies pretty much destroyed my kitchen decorating cookies, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
After the cookie swap, I was able to provide some awesome cookie platters to my elderly neighbor, to Hubby’s side of the family during our evening together the next night and to the state park staff on Christmas Eve morning, while also saving lots of cookies for my family to enjoy during our trip, too.
Just before we departed on our Christmas trip, we spent a delightful evening with Hubby’s side of the family on Tuesday evening, including some family members from the Dallas area. The big home-cooked meal was a real treat for all of us during those last busy days before Christmas, with meatloaf served as the main entrée. It was our first opportunity to gather together in our nephew’s new home with his precious wife and girls, and they were good sports to host everyone while still in the process of moving in. They wouldn’t have it any other way.
I didn’t have an opportunity to celebrate a friends Christmas with my two special friends here before we left on our trip, but we are hoping to finally get together one evening this week. I have grown accustomed to this fun tradition over more recent years and definitely missed our fun gathering.
I trust you all had a wonderful Christmas and wish you all the best in 2017!
My favorite season of the year
Autumn is flying by for me, and it’s been a most enjoyable season at home and for traveling in the RV. The leaves are just beginning to turn, nighttime temperatures are flirting with the freezing mark but not yet giving in, regular fall activities returned, and my favorite farmer’s market vendor has closed for the season after another good run this year. This is by far my favorite season of the year, and we now consider it to be our “summer,” since it is our preferred season for travel and outdoor fun now.
Since returning from our week-long vacation to the Enchanted Circle area in early September, we’ve made three more shorter trips in the RV, all to state parks closer to home. We’ve also enjoyed some nice times right here at home, including our annual visit to the fair and enjoying the great food there on opening night, none of which was on my diet, but hey, it’s a tradition… right?
At the fair, we once again dined at the same place I used to take my mom for lunch each year, a charitable organization’s restaurant that I’ve always enjoyed supporting and one that also serves reliably good food. I guess I will always have my mom on my mind every time I go to the fair now, remembering how much she enjoying it, and that’s ok. Those are good memories, but it still gets to me each time I go now.
In late September, Hubby and I returned to Lake Brownwood State Park with another couple who also joined us in their RV for four days and three nights, the same couple we met at Caprock Canyons State Park in August on a weekend that was cooler than normal. It was our first time to visit Lake Brownwood in September, and we managed to get adjacent sites with awesome lake views in the Council Bluff campground.
We enjoyed acquainting our friends with the park, and we also had fun hiking and geocaching together, dining outside in the evenings, watching college football on Saturday evening outside on their RV television and driving into Brownwood to dine at one of our all time favorite places to eat, Underwood’s BBQ.
We also celebrated Hubby’s birthday with our traditional family birthday cake, a Texas chocolate sheet cake that I made, and we even made him blow out candles. Once again, I ate that yummy cake, even though it wasn’t on my diet, a most familiar tale this fall.
In late October, we made a quick weekend trip to Lake Colorado City State Park to just get away and relax. Hubby’s nephew surprised us and met us there in his big, new pop-up camper on Saturday afternoon. The guys had fun checking everything out on it a little more, and we all enjoyed a great visit around the campfire together on Saturday night and even made Nutella s’mores. (Yes, we used Nutella instead of chocolate bars!) We had the campground mostly to ourselves, which was so nice for a peaceful weekend away.
Last week, Lake Colorado City finally received some significant rains, and the lake is now up at least eight feet since we were there. We have never seen this lake with that much water in it because we started traveling by RV during the big drought in 2011. This lake was hit hard and has been very slow in recovering. Hopefully, it’s made some nice progress now, and I’m anxious to return soon to see it.
Our most recent long-weekend trip took us to Palo Duro Canyon State Park in early November for three days and nights. We’ve visited this well-known state park off and on for most of our lives, but this particular trip was by far our best one to date.
I plan to write a separate post soon to share more about that trip and some of the pictures I took. Palo Duro Canyon State Park just keeps getting better and better, especially since it was named the top state park in the nation a couple of years ago, and I’ll try to share more soon about the most recent improvements and expansions in the park, which are newsworthy, especially to campers!
The state park system has definitely spent some money on this great park in recent years to improve the roads and add campsites, both of which were sorely needed. Now, if they could just figure out a way to make that 10% grade road going down into the canyon not so steep and narrow! 😉
Since our last trip, we have been cleaning and sprucing up the RV as we begin to transition it for colder weather camping. Hubby wanted to do some exterior caulking, and I opted to rent a Rug Doctor and clean the carpet while the weather was nice.
Even though we began winterizing in late October at our campsites before heading home, we also started switching out some supplies to prepare for winter camping… loading our heated water hose, electric blankets for us and a guest, extra blankets for us and the dogs’ beds and our good space heater with a thermostat. Right now, though, the weather is still very nice and looks to stay that way, at least for the near future. We’re hoping it stays that way next week for Thanksgiving, too.
We finally paid this unique and scenic place a personal visit!
Over the past five years, we have traveled regularly to northeast New Mexico in the summer to escape the heat at home a bit. However, on our drives to and from the area, we have never had time to stop at a rather prominent national monument along the way. We have always enjoyed seeing it as we drove by and always remarked that we needed to make the time for a quick visit in the future. So, on our week-long trip to the area back in early September by ourselves, we finally decided to take a little time to make the short drive from our route to check it out in person.
Capulin Volcano National Monument is definitely worth a quick (or even longer) visit when driving on Highway 87 between Clayton and Raton. Since we started visiting this area each summer a few years ago, I have truly loved the beautiful and unique scenery in this remote area that is comprised of extinct volcanoes and grasslands because is it so unique, unlike any other area we have visited.
Highway 87 cuts across the Raton-Clayton volcano field, and Capulin Volcano is actually one of the youngest cones in this area, listed as *probably* extinct, which I find a little fascinating. It last erupted 56,000 to 62,000 years ago, and there are about 125 cinder cones in this field. If this area in northeast New Mexico has been blessed with good rains, this entire area is truly a spectacular sight to see, but I find it spectacular pretty much every time we make the trip, it seems.
Our side trip to the monument only took us a little over an hour, but it was an hour well-spent just to drive up the volcano to see the amazing views.
The visitor center sits at the base of the volcano and has a small gift shop where we bought our traditional souvenirs when visiting state and national parks, a magnet for me and a hiking stick medallion for Hubby. His wooden hiking stick, made from an old broom handle that his father had, is really an impressive thing now. He did such a great job staining it and adding some thin green rope accents, and it is displays his many medallions in a most impressive way. He used to use it as his regular hiking stick, but now, it is primarily a display piece in our RV. My magnets just sit on our refrigerator at home, not nearly as impressive, but I enjoy seeing them everyday and letting them remind me of so many beautiful places and fond memories.
After parking the RV in the visitor center parking lot, we loaded up in the car with the dogs for the drive up the volcano. The drive to the upper lot was not a long one, but it was pretty curvy in parts while also offering some great views, at least for the passengers. 😉
Even though the park allows some folks to drive their RVs to the top, after stopping two-way traffic on both ends to allow the RV sufficient room to make the drive up and back down, there is absolutely no way we could recommend anyone doing that! The parking lot at the top has very little room for cars, much less RVs. Just leave the RV in the lot at the bottom and drive the car to the top… and save some aggravation to others by not inconveniencing them on their own drives up and down the volcano.
We were slightly disappointed that the parking lot at the top wasn’t actually very close to the top of the volcano, as we hoped it would be. It was still a pretty steep hike on a long sidewalk to the top of the volcano, and we couldn’t take the dogs along on any trails up there. I walked up the very steep sidewalk just a bit to grab a few photos, but it wasn’t a good plan to go too far, since I was wearing my flip flops.
Nevertheless, the views of the extinct volcanoes in every direction from this vantage point were fabulous! Taking in the views of the area while driving on Highway 87 is great, but taking a little time to see these ancient volcanoes from on high was even better.
I’m glad we finally made this little side trip to see Capulin Volcano, and I certainly encourage others to do the same when in this area. (Just leave the RV at the visitor center.) The views are spectacular, especially on a clear day.
There is also a small, privately-owned RV park (Good Sam rated) nearby in Capulin just a few miles away, that would probably be nice for a night or two.
Also, be sure to check the park hours of operation before planning your visit, as they shorten their operating hours at the park in the off season.
We certainly enjoyed our nice vacation week in northern New Mexico and the Enchanted Circle, but it’s always good to come home again, too. After all, there’s no place like home and our always magnificent sunsets.
Our own personal “summer” of RV travel was finally beginning after our long, hot actual summer months at home, and little did we know how much fun we would have on our shorter trips in the coming weeks with a family member, with some friends and also on our own. More to come.