Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Oh, wow! Churchill

My super amazing adventure to Churchill, Canada
May 28 to June 27, 2016


The real 'juice' of life is...setting goals and the journey toward fulfilling the dream. That's the part where we get to truly experience feeling alive. ” – Shawn Anderson, Extra Mile America.

I've known about and been interested in Churchill – Polar Bear Capital of the World and Beluga Whale Capital of the World – since the 1980s! It is Canada's only sub-artic seaport.


I decided it was time to make this adventure happen.

The travel choice

There are two ways to get to tiny Churchill (located in Manitoba Province – on the southeast coast of Hudson Bay) – by airplane or by train. By air is boring to me – by train it is about the journey. You know I chose the train!

During the planning, I mentioned my trip to RV friends Essie and Richard MacCloskey. She called the next day asking if they could tag along. Of course – they are super to travel with.

Travel logistics
The trip does not start with boarding the train; it begins with the planning. Logistically it would be a challenge – while Amtrak runs daily, VIA Rail (Canada's train system) is less frequent. Between Vancouver and Winnipeg the train runs every three days; between Winnipeg and Churchill, the train runs twice a week. Armed with train schedules, I plotted the trip:

We would travel Flagstaff to Los Angeles, to Seattle, to the Canadian cities of Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Churchill. Then reverse to go back home. Total of 8,000+ miles by Amtrak and Canada's VIA Rail.

Timetables showed that due to VIA scheduling we would have an overnight stay in Vancouver and three nights in Winnipeg before we could go north to Churchill. Then once in Churchill it would be four days before the return trip to Winnipeg. No problem! This was an adventure after all! And we had a reservation at BlueSky Bed and Sled in Churchill!

Packing would not be simple
While it is early summer and pretty hot at home, Churchill is significantly colder and in fact was getting snow the week before the trip. So, warm scarf, gloves, down jacket, sweaters, and such would be needed. My clothing took up two small suitcases; a tote bag, backpack and a fanny-pack carried other must-have stuff, including Canadian cash. Knowing that trains are notorious for being cold at night and I would be traveling in the coach (sitting) cars, I also took a small travel pillow and an afghan.

Why coach travel and not sleeping car?
Those who know me well know I am a thrifty person and sleeping cars are costly. Besides, by traveling by coach, I could probably take three coach trips for the cost of one sleeping car trip. Coach is not the ideal for a good night's sleep – I think of it as a rolling camping trip – but that's OK with me.

I love train travel – no maps to read, no traffic to deal with – just sit back and enjoy the views from the large windows. It is a “social” ride - there are plenty of folks to chat with and train personnel are kind and helpful.

The first train-change was in Los Angeles' Union Station. In Seattle, we transferred to a bus for the drive across the border and through Customs to Vancouver, Canada. And after a night in a hotel, we boarded VIA Rail, traveling east. This route was a beautiful ride through the Rocky Mountains and a stop in Jasper to wander this small town before continuing on to Winnipeg.

Here we are having Happy Hour in VIA's observation car.


Three days in Winnipeg
This is a large, busy city – slightly more than 700,000 people. We had a three day stay in Winnipeg at the Fairmont Hotel before continuing north. Our hotel was in downtown, giving us lots of places to explore on foot. There was no problem filling these days. We took a boat tour of the city's riverfront and crossed the Assiniboine River to walk around Old St. Boniface, a French community.

Winnipeg to Churchill
VIA makes this trip twice a week. It is a three day/two night train trip to Churchill, stopping at La Pas and Thompson and also at other tiny towns as needed. There was a two-hour layover in Thompson (Wolf Capital of the World) and we got off to explore. Thompson is the closest shopping area for Churchill – it has a Safeway, a small Walmart and a small mall – about 500 miles reached only by train or airplane!

Churchill – Polar Bear Capital of the World and Beluga Whale Capital of the World!
This is a tiny town, about 2,000 population, on the barren, rocky coast of Hudson Bay. The area was first explored by Henry Hudson in 1668.

Churchill has been called “one of the world's most phenomenal settlements.”  There are 15 B&B's and small hotels for overnight stays, three churches and a few small restaurants. It has a sprawling huge community complex with library, high school, pharmacy, hospital, cafeteria, town offices, movie theater, curling rink, hockey arena, basketball courts, and indoor playground, all under one roof.

Churchill's economy is mostly driven by tourism, with most people coming August through October – polar bear and northern lights season. I was there for the "three Bs time - Belugas, bears and bugs!  By choosing to be in Churchill before the main tourist time, it was a more relaxing time for me. 

Across the river lies Fort Prince of Wales, a huge star-shaped stone fort built by the English in the 1700s to protect their interest in the fur trade.   

BlueSky Bed and Sled – breakfast, too

We had a four-day reservation at BlueSky Bed and Sled. The owners, Gerald and Jenafor Azure made our stay extra special.


Jenafor served super breakfasts that included her specialty – bannock. This a bread that she makes with wild cranberries and wild blueberries. Yum! (Also in the photo below is Nico, a young German who helps with the dogs.)

Jenafor and Gerald have 32 sled dogs. My words seem inadequate to describe them. Each dog has a dog house. Here are some of the many photos I took.









 
The dogs love to run!
Winter guests at BlueSky get to have a dog sled ride. But because there is no snow this time of the year, the sled ride becomes a cart ride. Six dogs pull the sled/cart.



It is a real kick when we drive up to the dogs' area – they are leaping, barking and running around their houses. It is like they are begging, “Pick me! Pick me!”

My cart ride

Gerald, the 'musher' only has voice control of the dogs - gee and haw. They need no encouraging to run!

My favorite parking sign

Churchill is more than dogs
The town is on Hudson Bay – and when I arrived it had lots of ice. Daytime temps were in the 40s and 50s, nights in 30s. And speaking of daytime – there was lots of it! Sunset was after 10 p.m. And sunrise was about 4 a.m. It never really got pitch dark – thus no Northern Light displays. During winter there is lots of darkness.

Nico and ice on Hudson Bay


Zodiak ride
One afternoon I took a two-hour Zodiak ride on Hudson Bay – wearing a warm flotation suit.

The ice had been melting/breaking up. Here is a photo of my favorite iceberg – look carefully to see icicles. 
 

Photos of vehicles taken on my walks around town


Eskimo Museum
This facility, established in the 1940s, includes historic and contemporary sculptures of stone, bone and ivory. And I appreciated the displays of local wildlife - a stuffed polar bear, musk ox, wolf, and caribou (aka reindeer).

Polar bears
It's OK that I didn't get to see any polar bears up close and personal. Bears come ashore in mid-to-late July when the ice on Hudson Bay melts - and they are very hungry! They are true predators and can view humans as a potential food! These extremely powerful, agile and fast critters can weigh as much as 1,500 pounds and can reach up to 13 feet when standing on hind feet. They are extremely powerful, agile and fast. They stay on land until the bay ices over in winter. It is said as many as 150 bears pass close to, and occasionally through, the town during their migration season.

The Bear Alert Line and members of the Alert Staff are available. When a bear is spotted within or near the town limits, outlying residential areas or businesses, the goal is to get the bear back to unpopulated areas. Officers use noisemakers: air horns, paint balls, pistol and pen-launched bear bangers. Stubborn bears are captured and placed in the Polar Bear Holding Facility (bear jail). After a time, they are either relocated by helicopter or released directly onto Hudson Bay once the ice has formed.

I was cautioned to be observant as I walked around Churchill and stay away from the coast - “the rogue bear just might have come to land sooner than expected” was the warning. These white bears are the only marine bears; most males weigh about 880 pounds. Reportedly, they have a strong navigational sense, an extremely good sense of smell and are unusually clever at solving problems in order to obtain food. They eat seals, walruses and white whales. They also feed on berries, mussels and kelp.

With no live polar bears to pose for me, I took a photo of the stuffed one at the Eskimo Museum.

Beluga whales
It is estimated that more than 3,000 whales congregate and feed in the Churchill River estuary. A friend drove me to the beach to watch them. They are much too quick to take any photos. I was there when these white, snub-nosed creatures first arrived to calf, feed and splash about.

Whiskey Jacks
A name given to the grey jays that live in the area. The ones living near BlueSky's dog compound would fly down to snatch hand-held dog kibble. And speaking of birds – the area is a birder's paradise! In addition to the birds that nest here, hundreds more pass through on annual migrations. 

Icelandic Horses
A Churchill resident has these horses stabled near the main street. 

Big Change in Plans

On Friday, the day before our scheduled Saturday morning departure from Churchill, VIA sent a text message saying their 'employees were threatening to strike at midnight on Saturday'. If we gambled and kept to our original plan and if there was a strike, we would be stranded in a small town between Churchill and Winnipeg until the strike was settled.

Jenafor and Gerald, owners of BlueSky, said we could stay there – at No charge! Hmmm – keep my original plan and risk being temporarily stranded along the way or stay longer at BlueSky...a no-brainer for me; I chose to stay. Friends Essie and Richard chose to gamble. I had a bonus week in Churchill. (Note, it turned out that the strike was averted.)

After my bonus week in Churchill, I rescheduled my return home - I would return to Winnipeg, spend one night there at historic Fort Garry Hotel, then go east on VIA to Toronto, then to Chicago and finally return to Flagstaff and home.

I happened to be in Winnipeg for Aboriginal Week - and wandered around the many pow-wow events. The dancers were dressed in their native costumes 




WOW!
In all It was a 29-day adventure – 12 nights on trains, one night on a bus, 6 nights in hotels and the remaining at BlueSky Bed and Sled

Do take this trip! It is amazing. 

SIGN IN OCEANSIDE, CALIFORNIA:
"Life does not come with a remote - 
get up and change it yourself!" 

Monday, September 07, 2015

It's been a wonderful adventure! But now it's time for a different chapter in my life! Keep Reading!

In the book “Adventures of Slim and Howdy”, the author writes:

People seem to settle for so many things in life. They settled for things that were easy and adequate but not perfect – and told themselves they loved it because perfect took too much work and even then there were no guarantees. And all too often they end up one day looking back at a decision and thinking, 'why didn't I hold out for something better than that'? Many people are miserable and have no one to blame but themselves, because they settled for something less than what they really wanted.”


Sumner Lake State Park
With three weeks before a commitment in Rio Rancho, New Mexico State Park Volunteer Coordinator asked for my services at Sumner Lake State Park, a 2-hour drive away. Always happy to help out, I loaded Jeremiah with groceries and headed east and a bit south. The Pecos River feeds this lake and thanks to rain and runoff, the lake is pleasantly full of water and boaters. It is a popular lake.

The park rangers and summer seasonal workers do a great job there, leaving not a whole lot of stuff for me to do but greet and chit-chat with campers. And what interesting people I met. A single lady and her hairless cat were there in a small trailer.

A variety of wildlife entertained me including, deer, turkeys, lizards, gopher-snakes, rattlesnakes, ground squirrels, toads, cottontails, and jackrabbits. Birds included barn swallow, western kingbird, mockingbird, curve-bill thrasher, lesser goldfinch and towhee. The barn swallows and western kingbirds were actively sitting on just-made nests during the time I was there.

Those three weeks flew by and I drove back to Rio Rancho to house/dog sit for my friends Jesse and Sylvia while they traveled. Max the Dog is no trouble at all. He sleeps in the house; I sleep in Jeremiah. In the morning, I give his a dog biscuit and let him out in the large fenced backyard. At dusk, I get Max in the house – bribing him with another dog biscuit and giving him his daily meal. Done and done. The days are for reading, shopping, visiting friends, going out to lunch – basically loafing.

When Jesse and Sylvia returned, I drove to Santa Rosa Lake State Park to continue my serious loafing/reading there. I was there a week and then returned to Rio Rancho to house/dog sit Snoopy, daughter Sue's dog. They will be gone two weeks – out on a brief sailing adventure and a well-deserved vacation from work. It will be more reading, loafing and time with friends. One activity with friend Hilda was the Unser Racing Museum.

Books I've read include: The Thief and Polar Shift (Clyde Cussler), Clarence Thomas' Memoirs, Walk Across America (Peter Jenkins), Telegraph Days (Larry McMurtry), Uh-Oh (Robert Fulghum), Sycamore Road (John Grisham), Walking with the Wild Wind (Stoltz), Adventures of Slim and Howdy (Brooks and Dunn), Calico Joe (John Grisham), and Highway Signs and Wonders (Cobb). I am currently reading Cussler's Bootleggers.

Planning my next adventure
The last week of July was time spent at home in Prescott Valley – eye checkup with my ophthalmologist, lunch with sisters Elaine and Susan, and visiting neighbors and my card-playing friends. And I studied maps for an upcoming 6-7 week adventure in Jeremiah. With loose, flexible ideas, I would travel in Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and ???.

Flexibility rules this trip – changes galore!

On August 3, I headed north.
I like the serenity and solitude of driving on little-traveled two-lane roads. Highways 89, 160 and 163 were delightful, taking me through Navajo lands and into Utah. What beauty! Colorful reddish hills and open spaces.

Goosenecks State Park – southern Utah – August 3
With a goal of staying in state parks, I located Goosenecks about 20 miles over the Utah border. As I drove I wondered how/why the park name was chosen. As I drove up to what initially appeared to be the 'edge of the world', found a campsite, and got close to look over the edge – wooo! My stomach did flip-flops and I quickly backed up several steps. It was a long WAY down and I don't do heights!

I was able to see the San Juan River winding its way below. Not just one or two curves – a lot of them. In fact, the park brochure said that six miles of river is compressed into 1½ miles as it flows west into Lake Powell.

It was a busy park during daylight and deserted at night. I was a long way from any civilization and the park is not staffed over night. And on top of this, the night I was there it was stormy – lots of lightning, thunder, rain and wind! A restless night for me. Sure was glad when daylight arrived and I continued on my way.

'Oh Wow'
My initial plans were to drive north on Highway 261 – that was before I read that this northbound highway would include almost a dozen miles of gravel switchbacks with up to 10% grades! That sounded like too much adventure for me. Instead I took Highway 191 to Blanding and then headed northwest on highway 95.

The 'Oh Wow' increased. I was driving in canyons with tall, tall, tall rocky land – reddish with cliffs and huge boulders above me that looked like they could crash down at any time! Those “watch for rocks on highway” and “falling rocks” signs did nothing to comfort me. The road was well-deserving of the scenic designation. I crossed the Colorado River. The nature of the roads and the fact that no photo I could take would or could really show the beauty of the drive, means no photos for you today.

August 4. At Hanksville, I took highway 24 west into Capitol Reef National Park. Enough driving for today. I located the camping area and settled in to a primitive campsite. No Internet, no telephone, no utilities. And I slept well!

Ho Hum”
August 5. Today's drive was on highways 24, 28, 89 and ended at Deer Creek State Park just north of Provo, Utah. This basically goes through a fertile valley with farms and small towns along the way. My trusty Garmin took me through Provo - right down University Avenue and past the University. I was glad to have electric hookup after two nights of primitive camping. A pleasant drive but hardly with the 'wow' factor.

This state park is a nice campground with lousy showers – absolutely no dry place inside this tiny room with a s-l-o-w drain. Sure enjoyed the magpies and their distinctive call.

A short driving day turns into a long one – August 6
My goal was Bear Lake State Park in northeast Utah. Good thing I am flexible! Arrived at Bear Lake camping area to discover they had no open spaces! The reason? It was Raspberry Festival weekend. As I continued into the Idaho portion of the lake on the one-and-only road, I found out that a parade would take place later and the small towns were crowded with people. I was glad to get through the festival area before it became congested.

I continued into Idaho, keeping an eye out for an RV park. After a few tries, I lucked out and found Massacre Rocks State Park just off I-86. It is Thursday. I had full hookups and got the old-lady weekday deal of $19!

Aug. 7. With the weekend here, I needed to settle down early on Friday in order to get a campsite. After a short drive, I arrived at Three Island Crossing State Park at Glenns Ferry. And no deals this time – Friday and Saturday nights came to $68 with electric and water hookups. Finally an entire day off after five driving days. The park is nice – lots of tall trees and green grass – and full of families enjoying nature. The park is near the Snake River.

Time for solitude and reading Current book is “Uh-Oh” by Robert Fulchum. A passage that grabbed my attention said, “Not everything can be the way we like it all the time. Criticism and harsh words rarely bring about a lasting and peaceful cooperation or fulfillment of our desires. Patience and kindness on the other hand do.”

While there, I had a text from friend Newell (co-host at McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Phoenix). He was in mid-Oregon and I was headed sort of in that direction. We made plans to meet up at Bully Creek Reservoir in western Oregon on Sunday, Aug. 9. This camping park was mostly deserted – peaceful and lots of green grass and trees. We enjoyed getting caught up on travels, mutual friends. We went into the nearby small town of Vale, hoping for place to eat; but nothing was open that Sunday evening.

August 10. Monday morning we went separate ways – Newell went east; I went north and drove Idaho highway 95 to Ponderosa State Park (Idaho). As its name says, the large and popular camping park sits amid ponderosa trees. Being a popular/busy park, they do not give senior discounts at all. Reading John Grisham's “The Appeal”.

August 11. Continuing north, I found Winchester State Park in western Idaho – a good two-night place.
Was awakened the next morning by three siren wails – a call to firemen to report to the station to fight a wildfire in a canyon east of the park. No need to leave the park, according to the ranger. As always, I'm glad I fill Jeremiah's gas tank before arriving at a park; can make a quick get-away if needed.

August 13. Two days later I was on the road again, this time north in Washington and settled into Peaceful Pines RV Park. This morning's reading included, “Some people complain that God put thorns on roses; while other praise Him for putting roses among the thorns.”

August 14-15. Two delightful days with nephew Peter and his wife Carlene in Spokane. Always a pleasure visiting them. Smoke from the Idaho fires was in the air.

August 16 – 21. Drove south and west, spending the night at an RV park in Vantage, Washington. Then a night near Yakima and three nights at Maryhill State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia River. Interesting “wildlife” – thought this was just a dry leaf; looked closer and saw it was a moth!

Loved this park – day and night train traffic on both sides of the river (Yes, I love trains) and barge traffic on the huge river. And more smoky air!

August 21 – 23. A super weekend with niece Kim and her husband Andy in Portland. They showed me around the area and we took a short road trip to Multnomah Falls.



Aug. 23 – Get me out of this smoky air!
My original trip plans were to head back through the top of Idaho after visiting Kim and Andy. Then I would drive into Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and back to New Mexico.

Getting “out” meant driving south to Lakeview, Oregon near the Nevada border. I spent three super nights at Junipers RV Park – in the midst of a working cattle ranch. I was serenaded by a herd of black cattle who hung out along the fence not too far from my campsite. This is one of my favorite campgrounds – I've been here three times. It is clean, tidy and has wonderful restrooms and showers. No push-buttons or slots for quarters for wonderful showers. And no smoky air!

Aug. 26 to 29 – awesome days with sister Linda and her three boys in Gardnerville, Nevada. Great visiting included a drive to South Lake Tahoe and a family dinner at nephew Tim's home. Linda's three boys – Richard, Tim and David (and David's four children) made for sweet family time.

On August 30, with a goal of arriving at Navajo Lake State Park on Sept 1, I boogied my way east across Nevada (Highway 50), Utah (Highways 50 and 70), south through western Colorado (Hwy 550) and into northwestern New Mexico. It was drive – camp a night in Delta, UT, drive – camp a night near Ouray, Colorado, drive to NLSP.

And now – THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT

With lots of solitary driving time, as usual I did a lot of thinking – and that led me to my big life change – time to sell Jeremiah. Time for a new chapter in Carol's Adventurous Life! Time to live where I don't have to make out a couch/bed each night, shower without having to push buttons or feed quarters into a water meter. I have been motorhoming 10 years and have traveled a bit more than 100,000 miles! I've seen lots of the USA and connected with a lot of people – family and friends, and made new friends, also. It's time! Jeremiah is still raring to go – so I will sell this magic carpet and let someone else enjoy the travel. INTERESTED? Call and leave a message or text; or email carolinarizona2@aol.com and put “Jeremiah” in the subject line.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

2015 May Anderson Sisters' Trip

With the goal of visiting family and friends, my sister Linda and I planned a trip. Then we planned it again – and again – and again to accommodate the schedules of those we want to visit, reminding ourselves of the need to be flexible.

The resulting trip took us from Albuquerque, New Mexico, through Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, back through Colorado and then returned to New Mexico. It was just short of four weeks on the road.

In our rented car – a Nissan Rogue – we went north through Colorado, east through Nebraska and on into northwestern Iowa. Linda has a granddaughter and great-granddaughter in the tiny, dying town of Anthon. With no motels within range, we rented a sweet cottage on a quiet street and next door to the Lutheran Church. $30/night and fully furnished; even with a coffee pot and coffee!


Next stop was backtracking west to Columbus, Nebraska. We visited Aunt Maxine (95 and still has all her 'marbles') and two of her sons – Don and Gary Anderson and their wives, Connie and Barbara. Connie has a super 'green thumb' and we enjoyed all the lovely plants and flowers. Three dogs provided additional entertainment.

From Columbus, we headed northeast to Owatonna and Medford in southern Minnesota to visit our mom's cousins: Gloria, Laura, Alton and his wife Marcella. Our mom had plenty of stories about visiting them at the family farm and home as a child. Gloria's daughter and her family live at the farm complex growing corn and beans (soybeans) and raising hogs for Hormel. Besides family time, we always look forward to playing lots of cards – mostly progressive rummy.

Marshalltown, in central Iowa, was the next stop. Our family lived here for a while in the early 40s – first in a small house, then on the second story of a chicken hatchery (Dad ran the hatchery) and then on a farm near town. We spent two nights and wandered around the area reminding ourselves of the times there.

The next Iowa stop was to visit friends Sharon and Jim Price and their cat Lucky. Here is Lucky in his favorite napping spot:


I met the Prices when I volunteered at McDowell Mountain Regional Park in the Phoenix-area. In the summer, the Prices return to their hometown just north of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a volunteer at Pinicon Ridge County Park. Not traveling in my motorhome, I was bemoaning the fact that we couldn't visit them at the park – and then Jim told me the park has a few cottages for rent. And that is where we stayed for four nights. We visited Amish communities and enjoyed the solitude of the cabin.

As we were leaving Iowa, Linda was feeling terrible – having coughing spells. Heading back west, we arrived in the Kansas City area to visit another cousin – Steve Anderson (Aunt Max's third son) and his wife Ellen. We only stayed one night since Linda was sick.

We split the rest of the drive into two days – spent a night in Dodge City, Kansas. We were both settled in for the night when an “app” on Linda's phone woke her up announcing a tornado warning! She woke me up, we dressed and went to the hotel lobby. The storm brought serious rain and lots of hail – but thankfully the tornado did not touch down until it was a bit east and south Whew! Seems like we had rain in each of the states we visited.

When in Iowa – enjoy breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches
And enjoy I did – five of them as we traveled around the state.

PHOTOS – pork sandwiches




Whew! Thanks to helpful friends, blog has finally been posted!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Comings and goings in February and March 2015

A life without adventure is likely to be unsatisfying. Bertrand Russell 

Pancho Villa State Park
Lucky me! I happen to be at this New Mexico location in early February when the Pink Store hosted its annual 'customer appreciation' party. The place starts hopping at about 9 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m. Featuring free food and free drinks – and interesting entertainment. There was seating in the large restaurant area and in the huge outdoor patio. I heard various attendance numbers, but it was several hundred.

Two friends tracked me down while at PVSP: Newell a co-volunteer at McDowell Mountain Regional Park and Jeff a co-volunteer at City of Rocks State Park.

Most days I spent 2-3 hours work raking up dead cactus. In appreciation for our dead cactus and weed work, Managing Ranger John Read took three of us to lunch. It was time to head toward home. I turned in my tools and the key to the John Deere Gator in mid February.

Traveling home via Tucson and Tempe
First stop was at friend Ann Martin's home a bit south and east of Tucson. Then on to my brother Ed's home in Tempe where I parked Jeremiah at the front curb. Ed and Debbie prepared a lovely meal for local family and we celebrated baby sister Alice's birthday.

Then out of the Valley of the Sun and up the hill to home in Prescott Valley. I quickly reloaded Jeremiah, had a wonderful massage, lunch with sisters Elaine and Susan – and then headed west to North San Diego County.

North San Diego County – Lots of 'memory-lane' time, friends

There are moments in life that fade from memory so quickly they are gone almost before they are over. Then there are those that stick, the ones we carry with us through the years like precious parcels of clarity stitched close to our hearts, becoming part of who we are. –John Grogan, author

Husband Rick, children Ricky and Susie and I moved to Del Mar, California in 1975; I lived in the area for many years, making lots of friends there.

While spending time with friend Irene, we went to San Diego's Safari Park (formerly known as Wild Animal Park), drove to Valley Center to see the 'smallest post office' (see photo) and had lunch at the Yellow Deli (delicious food). Also visiting time was happily spent with friends Annette, Norma, Renee and Pat and Russ Vollman.

Lilac Post Office
I camped at the Vista Elks Lodge for several nights. The Lodge has Bingo once a week and I popped in to observe. Wow! This is a serious thing – a far cry from when I played Bingo using buttons to mark numbers called.

And of course I had sweet time with my Son Rick and his wife Dianne. Granddaughter Danielle, who is a hair dresser, gave me a super haircut.

The thrill of the Los Angeles Marathon
And then the biggest event – going to Los Angeles to be there for the Marathon – specifically because granddaughter Melody and her guy David would be running in this event! They joined 26,000 others for this major marathon! I went with granddaughter Christine.

Our vantage point was at the 30K (about 18 miles) point. What a thrill to watch Melody run by! And a bigger thrill to get the text message saying she had completed the event! David finished also.


Briefly back home – reloading again
When I left home and headed to New Mexico, I knew I wouldn't be back until late summer or so. I am now at Navajo Lake State Park to volunteer for a month. At the end of April, I will meet my sister Linda in Albuquerque and we will set out on a May trip to visit family and friends in the midwest.

Navajo Lake State Park
Even though I have earned my lifetime camping pass for New Mexico State Parks, I realized that I missed volunteering – helping the rangers and the campers. So I've made myself available to parks who find themselves short of help. When the ranger at Navajo Lake called a month or so ago, I gladly said I could help.

In every season, there is a reason to rejoice and an opportunity to do good. The challenge for each of us every day is to find something to rejoice about and some good to do—and then to do both. —Julie Ackerman Link

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Carol's Adventure Update

We come this way but once. We can either tiptoe through life and hope that we get to death without being too badly bruised or we can live a full, complete life achieving our goals and realizing our wildest dreams. ...-Bob Proctor, self-made millionaire, radio and TV personality, and success trainer.

I'm not the “tip-toe” type. This mobile adventure life suits me well – traveling in my magic carpet, meeting folks of all sorts – of which 99.9% of them are cheerful, optimistic, and interesting. If a grumpy camper appears, it is good to know that either he/she or I will be moving on soon. My days are delightful and nights restful. And thankfully, warm weather is here. But not before a last-gasp of winter when I woke one morning in late January to nearly two inches of snow! And for the two days following the snow night temps were 32 degrees and day temps were 33 degrees! Good days to stay in and read.





































Another bonus to the New Mexico winters are the stunning sunsets. Here are two sunset photos taken about 20 minutes apart.



















Bird update – the White-wing dove have figured out how to get in the window bird feeder! Being an early-riser – an hour or so before sunrise – I've been hearing owls and seeing so many stars.

Highway 9 provides interesting traffic
This east-west two-lane highway that passes in front of Pancho Villa State Park is used by vehicles that transport over-sized objects that can't use the Interstate highways. This week's amazing sight was a caravan of three huge trailers and their escort vehicles transporting three airplanes from Mesa, Arizona, to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. The planes were ones that had been flown on and off aircraft carriers years ago. According to one of the truck drivers, upon arrival at Lackland, the planes will be renovated and engines rebuilt for forest-fire fighting.

An RV from Holland
Campers from Canada are regular sights here, so it was a surprise to see an RV from Holland. The owners had chosen to have their RV shipped over for their multi-month tour of the USA. The visitors were very interesting and liked learning more about southern New Mexico.

Promotion” or “demotion”
The past few weeks I've had the pleasure – and help – on the weeding and dead-cactus removal project of a retired park volunteer from Heron Lake State Park. Wendy is delightful and a huge help. One morning last week, we were working and making piles for Hector, the seasonal laborer, to pick up. Rangers John (in a park truck) and Martin (in the park John Deere Gator) drove up. As they handed the Gator's key to me, they explained that we could now pick up our own piles since Hector's “season” was over. Wow! Another new Gator. Was this a Promotion or a Demotion?


This project has been a lot of fun and the results are most satisfying. And the Rangers are pleased to have our help. The personal satisfaction it gives me reminded me of something I read recently in Ben Bradlee's memoir, “A Good Life”:

A child looks for compliments. (You picked up your toys, good boy!)
As an adult, I look for evidence of effectiveness. That is personal satisfaction, and whether or not anyone compliments me is not important.

Upcoming
I will leave Pancho Villa Park next Tuesday or Wednesday, heading west for a short visit with RV friend Ann Martin who lives a bit southeast of Tucson, Arizona. Then a short stop in Tempe, Arizona, to help baby sister Alice celebrate her birthday. I will be home in Prescott Valley February 23 to 27: long enough to reload Jeremiah for a two-week visit with friends and family in southern California. That and a midwest trip in May and June (details yet to be finalized). 

After that? I have no idea. Some people thrive on not knowing exactly what the future holds. That is part of the excitement of my mobile lifestyle.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Woo-Hoo! 2015 – A new year for adventures!

Once a campground host, always a campground host
I may not be the official campground host here at Pancho Villa State Park, but with Christmas just two days away and a fair number of campers that would be here over the holiday, I had the brainstorm to organize and host a social get-to-know-each-other time. With permission from the managing ranger, I had a key to the park's recreation hall and permission to use it. Next I went from RV to RV introducing myself and inviting them to come. It was simple – no food. Just an hour the afternoon of Christmas Eve to socialize. 18 campers came and we had a good time. I did the same thing the afternoon of New Years Eve and had 24 folks mingling and enjoying the time.

Tackling the weeds and dead cactus
The park happily loaned me some rakes when I offered to do some weeding in campsites. So, since I
enjoy doing it, I've been raking up weeds and removing unsightly dead cactus. Guess I made this task look like fun because I also enlisted another camper to help. And I do enjoy being outside when it is nice – and the results are rewarding.

Window feeder provides seeds for the birds and enjoyment for me
One Red-Wing Blackbird, numerous House Finches, Cactus Wrens, Curve-bill Thrashers, Gambel's Quail, Lark Bunting and several kinds of sparrows eating seeds from my window bird feeder keep me entertained when I'm in Jeremiah. We also have a pair of roadrunners. White-winged Doves would like to join them, but none have figured out how to get in. They perch precariously on top of the feeder – most likely frustrated at the smaller birds that get inside the feeder.

Among the House Finches are "Clumsy" who has a deformed foot and "Stubby" who has part of her upper beak missing, making shelling the sunflower seeds a challenge. And at first I mis-identified the Lark Buntings – because of their brown-tan feather coloring, I thought they were just well-fed sparrows. Then I checked my bird book and was reminded that later in the year the male Lark Buntings' feathers are all black with a splash of white on the leading wing feathers.

Not all-work – plenty of play
Since I don't watch any TV, I do enjoy reading. The park has a large 'free book exchange' and the town library has shelves of books for sale ($1 for a grocery bag full). Paying little for books and having access to free ones, I explore different authors and also manage to find books from my favorite authors.
So far I've read:
An Unexpected Grace by Von Kreisler
The Tombs by Clive Cussler
and I re-read Dragon, also by Clive Cussler
Mean Streak by Sandra Brown
And reading The Confession by John Grisham

Interesting campers and plenty of dogs and cats to pet
What a pleasure to meet campers – we've had a couple from Australia and several Canadians. I find people interesting and like sharing ideas for future camping trips. The various dogs and cats help fill my longing for my former traveling companion – Cat. I would get another cat except there just isn't enough room in my tiny RV. A recent camper had seven cats! Another camper makes jewelry and gave me a beautiful necklace.




















It IS winter, I keep telling myself
We've had it all – rain, snow, wind and sun. Nights for the past few weeks have been in the high 20s. And we've had a couple of cold days with no sun. But on sunny days, I've been enjoying temps in the 60s. Of course, when the wind blows, all temps seem cold to me. The bonus has been gorgeous sunrises and sunsets.

 Camping Clubs enjoy his park
In past years this park has hosted numerous RV camping clubs. The park layout with its large sites, most with electric hookups, has made these group events pleasurable. Another 'plus' is the nearby neighbor of Palomas, Mexico, and its famous Pink Store for its shopping and dining. And, yes I feel safe to go the three miles south to enjoy it. Our most recent club has been the Three Crosses Campers from Las Cruces. In mid December we also hosted the Elks Lodges from Silver City and Alamogordo.

Dental checkup - “Look, Mom, no cavities!”
Besides the Pink Store, many campers also get dental checkups and work done by Palomas' dentists. These dentists are trained in the US and from what I've seen they have highly advanced equipment – and much lower costs.

The parks long-awaited rebuilt restrooms are a disappointment !
The previous “comfort stations” (park name for bathrooms) were old, but everything in them worked just fine. The architect planning the new ones had some good ideas that were expected to lower utility costs. I won't go into specifics, but unfortunately the construction job was given to the lowest bidder who did sloppy and careless work resulting in less than wonderful results.

What's next?
I'll stick around here enjoying the New Mexico winter sunshine and this super park. Each day brings new surprises and blessings.