Saturday, September 24, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy!!

Current Location: Cortez, CO

We've been so busy I haven't had time to blog! Yes, I know that's not much of an excuse so I'll also blame it on poor internet connections at several of our stops. I probably could have posted without pictures, but there is so much to share that I just decided to wait until I had time and better connections. We've done so much in the past couple of weeks it's hard to know where to begin, but I'll try to cover it all briefly.

As I've shared with you already, we spent our first week and a half after leaving Portland traveling around the state of Oregon. After some serious decompressing and waiting out the Labor Day crowds in Valley of the Rogue, we headed to the coast. While there, we had the pleasure of meeting Sue and Mo of The MoHo and Other Traveling Tales. I know I talked about this in my last post, but I wanted to share one of my favorite pictures. I feel like this is a great summary of our visit. Even though we had met less than an hour prior, it was like hooking up with old friends, full of chatter and lots of laughter. The 4 hours we spent together felt more like 4 minutes. We look forward to crossing paths again soon.
Abby (behind Sue), Sue, Mo, Tracy, Connie, Hunter on Harris Beach
From the coast, we headed back inland to visit Crater Lake. This was the one place that I wanted to visit before leaving the state so it was a must-stop, regardless of how much back-tracking it required. The lake is more awesome than I could imagine. It is so blue, it's hard to capture it in a photo. Tracy was still nursing a sprained ankle so we weren't able to hike down to the lakeshore (the only way to reach it is a 700 ft elevation drop/gain hike), but we were able to do several shorter hikes to get a little off the beaten path. We only had a couple of days there and since we didn't get to do everything that we wanted to, I guess we'll just have to go back! It is definitely worth a return visit.
Crater Lake - it is the most amazing color of blue
Connie & Tracy enjoying the moment

 Upon leaving Crater Lake, we headed south to meet up with some friends in the Mount Shasta area of northern California. We met Ron and Chris last summer. They were regular guests of North Shore Campground, where we worked. It's funny how you just have an instant connection with some people; Ron and Chris are two of those people. We didn't have the opportunity to spend a whole lot of time with them last summer as we were always working when they were there, but they were so easy to share a conversation with that we felt an instant bond. We kept in touch over the winter and were hoping to meet again someday. Fate stepped in and due to a change in plans, we were able to join them for a weekend camping trip. It was non-stop and before we realized it the weekend was over, but we knew as we parted ways that we had solidified a life-long friendship.
Ron & Chris at Middle McCloud (?) Falls
By now, it was really time for us to head eastward. We still had a couple of weeks left in our schedule before reaching Denver, but we had a lot we wanted to do along the way. From California we headed southeast for a quick overnight in Fernley, NV. The next day we started down the Loneliest Road in America, Highway 50. It is a long, fairly boring stretch of road, but there's something about the solitude that makes it very peaceful. Our next stop was a 2-night stay in Ely, NV. We had noticed that we would be driving right by Great Basin National Park and since one of our goals was to visit every National Park, we knew we had to stop.

Great Basin NP would not be a destination in and of itself, but if you're in the vicinity, it is well worth the stop. It is truly an oasis in the middle of the desert. The scenic drive takes you up to over 10,000 feet, more than 4000 feet above the valley floor. Once at the top, Tracy decided her ankle was feeling well enough for a longer hike, so we ventured down the alpine lake loop trail. It was a beautiful day and a wonderful break from driving.
Stella Lake with Wheeler Mountain and its glaciers in the background
Our next major stop was planned for Durango, CO, but Ron & Chris pointed out to us that our route would take us right by Capitol Reef National Park in Utah and they insisted it was worth the stop. So we adjusted our schedule slightly (after all, isn't that the beauty of this lifestyle?) and headed to Torrey, UT for another 2-night stay and a visit to another national park.

And they were was well worth the stop. With only a day to explore, we were up and at it early. We settled on a fairly strenuous hike, our favorite way to explore the parks. There were several hikes that piqued our interest, but we selected the one to the top of Cassidy Arch. Once again, we made a great choice. 
Tracy on top of Cassidy Arch
Just a note about the above picture. Tracy is not fond of bridges and doesn't like having nothing but air beneath her. So the fact that she is the one who wanted to walk out on top of the arch, a bridge of sorts, is truly amazing. I'm proud of her!

And for perspective...view from the trail down to the parking lot on the valley floor!
Tonight, we are sitting in Cortez, CO, just outside of Mesa Verde National Park. We have 2 days planned for exploring, not near enough time but it will have to do for now. We are packing a lot in in a short amount of time. We would much prefer a slower pace, spending several days at each stop, but we do have to get to Denver eventually.

The last 3 weeks have done wonders for our psyches. It has reawakened our souls. We have been reminded of the wonders of the road and the beauty of this lifestyle. THIS is the life we dreamed about. And we know now that we need to find a way to keep the dream alive.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Slow Internet and Comments Issues

Current Location: Joseph Stewart State Park, west of Crater Lake, OR

Just a quick update since it's been over a week. We've not had very good internet connection so I've delayed posting in hopes that I could include some pictures. There are lots to share. But that doesn't seem too likely so this'll have to do.

When last I wrote, we had just gotten to the coast. We spent several enjoyable days out there, although it was quite chilly. I think we picked the windiest point on the coast, Cape Blanco, which also happens to be the western most point in Oregon. Although we made a couple of trips to the beach, it wasn't all that pleasant and therefore didn't spend as much time as we would have liked walking on the sand.

We did, however, have a great beach day on the day we drove down to Brookings to visit Sue and Mo of The MoHo and Other Traveling Tales. They apparently know where to go, because it was sunny and warm, with virtually no wind. Sue wrote a wonderful post, along with some great pictures, on her blog, so since my access is limited, please check out her review. I couldn't have said it better!

On Monday, we left the coast and headed back inland towards Crater Lake. We've had a great time exploring the park and the area. As always seems the case, there is so much more we'd like to do, but just haven't had the time. Unfortunately, our hiking has been somewhat limited due to Tracy's recovery from a sprained ankle a couple of weeks ago. Each day is an improvement but it's still weak and we didn't want to push it. So we took it easy, tackled some of the easier trails, and did some sightseeing.

Tomorrow, we are heading to California for a couple of days to visit some friends we met last summer. Then it's time to head eastward. Hopefully, I'll have better access from here on out.

Also, I understand that my last post had some type of issue that resulted in the inability to leave comments. I'm not sure what happened or why, nor do I know how to resolve the problem. I'm hoping that by simply publishing a new post, the problem will be fixed. But if anyone has any ideas of what might have happened, please share.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Out Of The Frying Pan And Into The Freezer

Current Location: Cape Blanco State Park, southern Oregon coast

This morning we packed up and headed out to the coast. Perhaps we're used to settling for longer periods of time, but it didn't seem possible that it was already time to go. Our hitch hadn't even had time to start itchin.

We thoroughly enjoyed Valley of the Rogue SP and would stay there again in a heartbeat. It's easily accessible with big, well-spaced sites. They do have some full hook up sites, but most are just water and electric. But with a dump station on-site, that's no problem. They even have laundry facilities which I found surprising for a state park. If I had to state one negative, it is that it is very close to the interstate and you can't really get away from the road noise. But after having spent 5 months in a park that was right next to a very active train track and in the flight path of PDX, the sounds of traffic just seemed like steady white noise to us.

And although we could have easily enjoyed several more days there, we were ready to escape the heat. The temps in the valley had been hovering in the mid to upper 90's and the evening cooldown didn't seem to begin until well after 9:00 (as I write this at 8:45 pm it is still 85 degrees at the park). The coast usually promises cooler weather, so we were looking forward to that.

Be careful of what you wish for, right? OK, maybe we had just become accustomed to the warm weather, but when we stepped out of the truck...BRRR. With the wind blowing and the fog rolling in, t-shirt, shorts and sandals were not going to cut it. Time to dig out the jeans and sweatshirts. I don't think I've had long pants on since...June? And they sure feel weird. But it's a nice change of pace. The forecast for the week is low 60's, which is a little cooler than we'd prefer but certainly pleasant enough. And on the bright side, the cool temperatures will entice us to have more campfires!

We, or maybe it was more me, were a little nervous about our arrival. This campground is a first-come, first serve and it's rather small (about 50 sites). Most of the sites are decent size with probably over half being 45' or longer. We were hoping that by coming in mid-week after Labor Day there would be lots of availability, but knowing the coast is a popular destination, we really did know. It's a little more crowded than I would have thought, but we did find a vacancy in one of the longer sites. Phew! So now I can sit back and relax again. I guess I just do better when we have reservations.

This park seems very nice, just what we've come to expect from the Oregon State Park system. It has a very secluded feel, but it is easy to get to and has everything we need. We have 50 amp electric and water hookups. Unfortunately, the dump station is temporarily closed, but our next stop after this has a dump station so it's not a problem. The brochure promises several miles of hiking trails to ocean overlooks and beach access and we look forward to exploring those and the surrounding area in the coming days. The southern coast is the one section of the Oregon coast that we had yet to visit so it we're excited to venture into new territory.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Campfires n S'mores

Current Location: Valley of the Rogue State Park, OR

Campfires n Smore's...two of our favorite things. OK, maybe only one favorite. The other we appreciate on rare occasion.

Last night we had our first campfire in what seems like eons. And how we enjoyed it. We love relaxing around a campfire. Why is it so mesmerizing to watch those flames dance? Even though it was quite warm (still hovering around 90 well after 7pm), how could we camp without having a campfire?

And how could we have a campfire without making s'mores? S'mores always sound good, but in truth, they are really too sweet for us to indulge on very often. It is typical that we buy a bag of marshmallows, make one s'more each, and usually watch the rest of the bag go stale before we're ready for another one. But alas, we may have discovered a secret! Somehow we got talking about spreading a little peanut butter on the graham cracker...our justification is that the protein would make it a little healthier! :) And how could it not be good? Peanut butter and chocolate are a great combination. Peanut butter and graham crackers aren't too bad either. And as a kid, I sure enjoyed my fluff-a-nutter sandwiches. So why not put it all together? As expected, it was good. But what was an even better surprise, the peanut butter cuts the sweetness so we each had 2!

As a matter of fact, that was our dinner. Yes, seriously. Hey, we're adults here and we can eat what we want! We did have a healthy snack of hummus and veggies a little earlier along with our cocktails of moscow mules. We got turned on to moscow mules through Oprah, who shared them on her camping trip to Yosemite. If you're looking for a refreshing drink on a hot afternoon, give one of these a try. Although we've made them following her recipe, we've found that our simplified version tastes just as good: combine half a can of ginger ale, juice of 1 lime, and a shot (or 2) of vodka and serve over ice. Delish!

I know I said it before, but I'll say it again...we really miss camping. This is one of many conundrums we have with full-timing. While RV Parks have their time and place and we do enjoy the convenience of full hookups, getting away from civilization is the way of life we really prefer. Unfortunately, having a large rig significantly limits the type of camping we can do. Don't get me wrong, we love our rig. It is very comfortable to live in full-time, but it comes with limitations. There were many reasons that we ended up with something this large, some of which are justified and some of which I attribute to beginner's pitfalls. I recall when comparing rigs, saying several times 'a few feet longer won't really make any difference'. Well, we learned quickly that a few feet can make a huge difference, not only in the floorplans and storage, but also when it comes to parking. We also overestimated the space we would need. We have yet to fully fill every storage compartment. It's a nice luxury not to have it all crammed full, but there are times that I would gladly give up the space. We frequently talk about significantly downsizing, but most likely that won't happen until we're animal-free, which unfortunately is probably not that far away. So until then, we continue to learn what works and doesn't work for us. I think it is a continual adjustment process, but then again, so is life.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Long Overdue Update

Current Location: Valley of the Rogue State Park, OR

Hello! Is anyone still out there?? I know it's been a long time...too long. I won't be at all surprised if all my faithful followers have gone elsewhere, but in the event that at least one of you is still lurking, I thought I'd post an update.

So just a quick recap of the last several months. As planned, we did spend the summer in Portland. Tracy was able to extend her accounting contract until mid-August. Pretty good, considering it started out as a 6 week contract! They even asked her to stay permanently, and she went as far to inquire about it even though we agreed that it would have to be a pretty amazing offer to entice her to stay. It wasn't amazing enough, although she still stayed on several weeks after that to train her replacement.

My job at the RV park ended on Wednesday, August 31. Although I had originally planned to work through Labor Day, it turned out that a completion at the end of a pay period was preferable, so we agreed on the end of the month, which suited me just fine. I was more than ready, having hit that wall about mid-month. My role changed throughout the summer. I was originally hired for the front office, but it was clear from day 1 that they were overstaffed. I hoped that as summer arrived, it would be busy enough to keep us all entertained, but that was not to be. And I am not one that likes to be bored so I asked if there was any grounds work that I could help with. I started working one day a week outside, as weather permitted, helping with minor landscaping chores. That quickly grew to the point where I was asked if I wanted to move to grounds permanently and that's what I ended up doing most of the summer, with the occasional day in the office to fill an absence. Overall, I preferred the physical activity and fresh air. Most of my time was spent pushing a mower...4-5 days a week, 8 hours a day got pretty monotonous by the end of the season. Add to that some difficult attitudes and an ex-Marine boss ('nuf said) and I was glad to see the end.

We did finally experience the good weather of the Northwest. We had a great summer, with lots of sun and only a few days topping 90 degrees. We certainly had it better than a lot of the country, so no complaints here.

We stayed very busy through the summer, experiencing as much of Portland and the surroundings as we could fit in. Although we didn't do everything we wanted to (do you ever?), we were ready to leave. Ultimately, we still believe we made the right decision staying in Portland. We had some great experiences and we learned a lot. Will we return? Probably not, and that's ok. We still like the culture of Portland and for a city, it would be near the top of our list. And there's so much we like about Oregon, but we would certainly pick our dates differently!

Our hitch itch was getting strong, so we left Portland yesterday, September 1. Yep, less than 24 hours after my last shift, but with Tracy not working, she was able to prepare everything. Because we hadn't planned to leave this early until just a couple of weeks ago, our options for Labor Day weekend were somewhat limited. We were adamant that we wanted to camp (after spending so much time in RV parks) and pretty much focused on the Oregon State Parks, which we have come to love. We really wanted to head to the coast but getting reservations out there was not to be. So we headed south to a beautiful state park just south of Grants Pass, Valley of the Rogue. It sits right along the Rogue River and we have a beautiful, large site overlooking a huge meadow. The sites are spacious and although there are RVs nearby, we are on a corner lot so all we see from our front door is the meadow. We are back in our element...again! :)

We will stay here until mid next week, waiting until the holiday crowds are well gone. And then we're not sure where we'll go. Since we really wanted to spend some time on the beach, we may back track a little bit and head that direction. Or we may continue eastward toward Crater Lake, another must-stop destination on our list. Ultimately, we are making a slow trek back to Colorado for a while, planning to take about a month to get there.

So that's a quick, or maybe not so quick, update of the last several months. But I also wanted to share a little about why I quit writing and more or less dropped out of the blogging world for awhile. As many of you know, we were dealing with some emotional turmoil when I last wrote. To some extent that continued throughout the summer. I felt that my last several posts were all on the depressing side, and although I always want to write true to my heart, I didn't want to continue to be a downer. Sometimes, there comes a point where you just have to regress and work things out on your own and I think I was reaching that point. In addition, it was difficult to find inspiration to write so I just walked away. For those who were loyal followers, I'm sorry if it seemed abrupt. I appreciate the several of you who reached out to me directly to make sure I was ok. And for all of you I followed, I apologize for lapsing in my support. I hope to get back in the swing of blogging now that we are RVing once again!

Our long term plans are unknown at this time. We have questioned whether we will continue full-timing. We love it when we can live the lifestyle we dreamed of. But we continue to struggle with finding the balance of where we want to be with where we feel that we need to be in order support ourselves financially. We don't want to simply live in an RV in order to claim that we're full-timing. I think that you would all agree that there are certain sacrifices we make when living in an RV and most of those are well-worth what you get in return, namely the ability to travel. If we're not able to get the return we're seeking, then is the investment worth it? We do not yet have that answer, but we continue to seek it daily. We accept that our pace will be slower than most, but then again we're younger than most so perhaps that's ok. If we can only travel a couple months out of the year, like we are doing now, then is that enough? I don't know.

Upon returning to Colorado, we plan to settle for awhile and regroup. I have some dental issues which need to be attended to and could result in some lengthy recovery, so we want to stay nearby. We also feel that Denver offers us one of the better possibilities for jobs since we have a strong network there. We don't know how long we'll stay, but it will mostly depend on our employment situation. At this point, we're considering all our options and will make the necessary decisions as the times come. Although we're not seeking to settle back down permanently, if circumstances are such that that appears to be our best option, then we are willing to consider that. We realize that we don't have to make any long-term decisions today and we are just trying to let fate run its course. I do believe that if we're meant to stay, we'll know it; and likewise, we'll also know if we're meant to continue on.

But for now, we're just going to enjoy being back in our element and take full advantage of the next several weeks. Whether it is the end of our full-time journey, or just the start of our next phase, we'll find out soon enough! Until then, thanks for listening to me ramble once again! It feels good to be back! :)