A Great Thanksgiving Weekend

We had a truly blessed Thanksgiving holiday.  Even though we had a small group of four for lunch at our home, it was a great meal and good company, for sure.  Our son and my mom joined us for lunch around 11:30 am, and we all had our fill of traditional food and pie, followed by watching a few recorded episodes of Duck Dynasty, which I thought might be a hit with our little group.  My hunch was correct, and my 92 year-young mom laughed until I thought she would make herself sick, especially over the episode about the RV road trip.  Who knew that RV stands for “Redneck Vacation” anyway?  😉  Seriously, we laughed more than we have laughed in a very long time, and it was wonderful.  We also went on a little walk around the neighborhood before taking my mom back home.  We also got to talk to our California daughter by phone for about an hour late in the afternoon, too.  I miss having my girl close by, but she and her hubby are doing well.  That is something to definitely be grateful for.

Speaking of pie, I made a new pie recipe, and it was so good!  It was a Caramel Apple Pie, and that recipe is most definitely a keeper.  Of course it is.  It is from The Pioneer Woman.  Here is the link to that recipe, and it is also in her new holiday cookbook, too.

The Pioneer Woman – Caramel Apple Pie Recipe

Around 5 pm on Thanksgiving Day, my husband and I left in our RV for a long weekend of camping at Caprock Canyons State Park.  The snow storm that hit earlier in the week apparently caused some other campers to cancel their holiday camping reservations there, so we were able to secure a reservation on Wednesday night for the holiday weekend, which was a big surprise for us.  We had just about given up hope of finding an open campsite for the holiday weekend, but when we checked online on Wednesday night, there was one 50 amp site available.  We reserved it right away and spent Wednesday evening loading a few more supplies for our trip.

Caprock Canyons is such a great state park, and fortunately, it is within a reasonable drive for us for a quick little getaway trip most any time of the year, as long as we can plan far enough ahead of time to secure a reservation for a water and electric site.  The more I go there, the more I love it, too.  It is a uniquely beautiful and secluded place, and it seems we learn more and see more with each return trip.  The park seems to be drawing more visitors from distant places now, as we note when we say “hello” and are greeted in a foreign language, which is always a treat for us.  One family greeted us in German on this trip, or at least we think it was German.

I will write a follow-up post with more details about Caprock Canyons sometime soon, but for now, I want to share some things about this particular trip that made it so special.  God surely knew how much I needed a sanity break right now, I think.  We camped next to a very nice family from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and we enjoyed visiting with them.  It’s always fun to have nice neighbors, and we’ve found this to be more the rule than the exception when we go camping, thank goodness.

We made two long hikes (for us), one that was three miles and another that was four miles, and on each hike, the scenery was just breathtaking.  Girly Girl loved hiking with us, as always.  Our first hike was along the Canyon Rim Trail near our campsite.

At our turnaround point on the Canyon Rim Trail
At our turnaround point on the Canyon Rim Trail

The view below is only a ten minute walk on an easy trail from where we camped in Honey Flat campground.  This panorama photo just does not do it justice either.

View on the Canyon Rim Trail
View on the Canyon Rim Trail. We call this “Hidden Canyon.” Breathtakingly beautiful!

We also hiked on Eagle Point trail for about a mile into the canyon for the first time.  Unlike the Canyon Rim Trail which is flat for about over a mile at the beginning, Eagle Point trail starts at the top of the canyon and goes down into it.  The weather was cool and wonderful, and we just kept going down and down into the canyon and enjoying the hike so much.  Of course, what goes down must come up when hiking, so the climb back out of the canyon took a little longer.  My legs “talked” to me a bit afterward, but it was totally worth it all to make that beautiful hike.

We also went on several shorter hikes, especially in the evenings just before sunset, and the stillness, the beauty, and the sounds of the birds and wildlife all around almost made me want to cry.  It was so very peaceful and good for the soul.  I took the photo below while taking a hike with Girly Girl while hubby was getting our fire ready to cook steaks on Saturday evening.  No one else was around, except a few birds and a coyote that was pretty far away but howling nonetheless in the distance.

On the Canyon Rim Trail just before sunset
On the Canyon Rim Trail just before sunset

We also enjoyed a nice, long motorcycle ride one afternoon, and we were even able to drive to another small town in the area for a quick visit with some friends that were there on their own holiday getaway.  As we rode back to the park, we made a quick detour to Monk’s Crossing to take a look at the “rail to trail” path there that leads to Clarity Tunnel.  This is an epic bike ride that we would like to make sometime, hopefully sooner rather than later, and it is also a part of the state park, even though it is several miles away.  On our way back to the park, we saw yet another amazing sunset.  Again, the photo doesn’t do it justice, but I had to give it a try.

Sunset near Quitaque
Sunset near Quitaque

Finally, on Friday night, a family with some children that were camped nearby built a campfire at their site, toasted marshmallows for s’mores, and sang Christmas carols around their campfire.  They sang very well, too.  We could see and hear them as we sat outside by our RV under the stars, which were amazing on that clear night with no moon.  We drank some hot apple cider as we star-gazed and listened to our wonderful carolers nearby, and it was as if God was saying that it was finally time to begin celebrating the Christmas season once again.  That was one of those special moments that I will likely remember for a very long time, too.

I also found myself missing our Big Ol’ Baby once again on this trip.  I will probably always remember him when we go camping, I guess.  I saved the last picture that I took of him and Girly Girl in the RV back in September when we camped in New Mexico, and I brought it up on my phone to look at it a couple of times as I sat inside and looked at the empty place on the sofa where he would usually sit.  Girly Girl is doing pretty good, but it is obvious that she is more insecure now, too.  This is the first time in her life that she has been alone, and we are not happy with how she is behaving since losing her buddy.  So, we will be getting a new puppy pal to join her in early January when he turns six weeks old.  We finalized the deal last week, and he will be our mutual Christmas gift.  Now, we just have to decide on a name for him, but fortunately we have five weeks to do it.  We are looking forward to adding another four-legged family member, too!  😀

This was our third consecutive year to go camping during Thanksgiving after our family meal, and I think it’s safe to say that this is probably now a new tradition for us.  I hope we can do this for many years to come.

D
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Buying Our First RV

After almost a year off from blogging, I guess it’s time to catch up a bit.  The past year has certainly brought some new adventures to our lives, and I mean that in a good way on what I’m about to share!

In September 2011, after several weeks of searching, we finally made a pretty monumental decision (for us) and bought a used motor home.  Even though we tried to find one in our area, we ended up in the Metroplex where there was a larger selection of good, used motor homes for sale.  We looked at two and bought the second one that we looked at – a low mileage 90’s model Tiffin Allegro.  It needed some work, so we made a deal with the owner that we all agreed was fair, signed the paperwork, paid him the cash, drove our new “toy” off the lot, and began our new adventure as RV owners.

Over the past eleven months since that purchase, repairing and updating the RV has been our little (and sometimes bigger) project to keep us busy in our spare time, but we have also made several great trips, too.  We started out with some overnight trips to a nearby lake that has good RV hookups to test everything out.  Sure enough, there were a few things that needed a little attention, but thankfully, all of the major things worked well except the generator – something we knew upfront and factored into the price.  That repair required some professional attention by an Onan certified mechanic, and it has worked perfectly since having that work done.  A couple of months ago, we also had a mechanic pretty much replace the entire braking system and shocks, and at this point, we honestly do not know of anything else major that needs to be done.  Even with the money we have put into the RV, we are still in good shape as far as value if we decide to sell it at some point, especially because of all the work we have done ourselves to fix it up, which has been pretty significant in labor but not so much in actual dollars out-of-pocket.

As we approach our one-year anniversary of being RV owners next month, I can safely say that we have not regretted our decision one bit.  RV travel enables us to pack up and get away for a night, a weekend, or a week with very little advance planning, and it also allows us to take our two dogs along as well, which is a big bonus for us and saves a lot of money in boarding fees.  Our RV doesn’t get the best or worst gas mileage, as it only gets about 10 mpg, but since this is a vehicle that seldom gets driven except to and from a vacation destination, we just factor in that cost with all the other vacations costs.   We can get away to a nice state park for a three-day weekend for about $200 in gas and camping fees.  Staying three nights in a hotel with gas and boarding fees would cost us right at $500 for that same long weekend trip.  We love camping and always have, and having the amenities of the RV now makes that experience even so much more enjoyable for us without losing the adventure of being in the great outdoors.  We are also discovering that we even save money at times, since we take our food along and avoid dining out at restaurants while we are gone, something we are far more likely to do when staying home on a long weekend.  We always carry our mountain bikes with us, but at this time, we have not taken another vehicle with us.  On one longer trip from home for a week, however, we did rent a small car to enable us to see the area a bit easier, and that was a great solution for us and no different from renting a car at a destination if we flew in like we used to do on longer trips.

The whole RV experience has just been great fun for us so far, even the trip preparations.  I’ve had to develop some new habits and procedures for RV camping that have been good for us overall, too, especially in meal planning and shopping.  It’s no fun to get to the campsite and realize that I’ve left some food at home in the refrigerator that I was supposed to bring.  So, I now regularly use checklists and plan our meals more efficiently for both home and RV travel, utilizing a great checklist app for my phone that is always with me.  We have spent quite a bit of time developing our checklists for everything RV, and those are serving us well.

Without a doubt, the thing we love most about RV travel is being able to really “get away from it all.”  We love being in nature for so many reasons, and it is a wonderful way to escape the rat race of everyday life for a brief time without breaking the bank.  There is really nothing I enjoy much more than just sitting out under the stars at night, far away from the city lights in a remote state or national park, and feeling that I’ve almost been transported to a different world.  It provides us a fun way to get some good exercise in hiking and biking more regularly, and as a hobby photographer, it has also provided me some new photographic adventures, although I try to balance that with leisure time to just relax and enjoy my time wherever we are.

We just love our new hobby and highly recommend it to anyone that is seriously interested.  I would recommend starting out with a good, used motor home or trailer if you are just beginning and are willing to do a few repairs to get it up to speed for travel.  There are some really great deals on used units, and we have found that those good ones, especially the motor homes, often sell quickly, too.  We missed out on more than one good RV when we started looking by taking too long to make our decision.  I think other people are discovering the same thing that we have discovered over the past year.  RV travel makes more and more sense as other travel costs continue to skyrocket, and it provides more options for travel, too.  I never met a kid that didn’t like to go camping either.  😉  Our only regret is that we did not do this a long time ago.

I will try to share more about our experiences and work that we have done on the RV as time goes on, so stay tuned!

D
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