From the Rodeo to the Buffalo

We were worried that we had made a mistake in committing to 5 nights in Manti, Utah.  We didn’t realize that Temple Hill RV Park was actually right next to a large Mormon temple!  I thought that we would be in the ‘hills’ and have hiking trails, etc.  This is actually ranch land and unless you have an ATV, there didn’t seem to be much for us to do.  We went out to the movies a couple of times.  Tickets were a bargain at $4.50.  We saw the Bourne Legacy and The Odd Life of Timothy Green.  Haven’t been to the movies in quite a while, so that was fun.  Just wish I could have resisted the salty popcorn, but, hey, it was only a dollar!  Who could say no to that?

Then we found out the County Fair and Rodeo was taking place right across the street from us!  Woo-hoo, a rodeo!!  I must apologize for my poor quality photos.  I just couldn’t freeze the wild action of the bronco and bull riders.  Hopefully, you can get the idea of how much fun it was!

I’ll try to upload a 10-second video:

We had a fun evening at the rodeo.  It was the total small town experience.  The introduction with the horse drawn hay wagon full of local beauty queens, the men from the volunteer fire department walking into the arena through a smoke screen with dramatic background music, the 9-year-old cowgirl singing the National Anthem on horseback,…. all of it, good stuff.  In addition to the roping and riding events, we also watched the cow milking contest and an event where a little kid jumps on a mat being drug behind a horse and hangs on for dear life as they race to the finish line!  It was a riot!  They’ve got some tough little kids here!

Another interesting sight (for us), which is probably commonplace around here, was when we saw a man and his two young sons and a couple of dogs herding sheep along the side of the road.  It was a large herd (or would that be called a flock?).  Anyway, it was fun to watch these little boys who obviously knew what they were doing. Can you see how young they look?!  They were managing hundreds of sheep along this narrow strip between the road and the fence.

We moved north to Ogden for a couple of days, and I realized that I definitely need to get better at picking our RV sites.  I’ve selected our last few places based on price and amenities (like elect/water/wifi, etc).  In the future, I seriously need to research the location and determine if it’s pretty.  We haven’t even sat outside in our last 3 locations.  We’ve enjoyed driving to do things once we get set up, but we haven’t really enjoyed our RV spot, per se.  Nothing bad, … just not pretty.

One of our enjoyable outings was driving to Antelope Island which is one of the 12 islands on the Great Salt Lake.  We toured the historic Fielding Garr Ranch which operated from 1848 to 1981.  It functioned as one of the largest cattle operations in the state of Utah until the Antelope Island became a state park in 1981.  The ranch was responsible for introducing the buffalo (bison) to the island in 1893.

I was very excited to spot a Great Horned Owl on the ranch.

Lucy has been doing her midnight raids lately.  She ate a half loaf of bread the other night.  We bought a display board which keeps her off the kitchen counter now.  She’ll probably eat that next.  Well, enough pictures for now!  I’ll post this update and go to bed!  Mike’s already sawing logs in the other room.

ATVs, Wildlife and Jail

After my last post from Zion National Park, we headed north to explore Bryce Canyon and the Dixie National Forest. We got a good rate ($12) using our Passport America discount at the Hitch N Post RV Campground in the tiny little town of Panguitch, Utah. We met an interesting character who offered to take us out on a trail ride on his ATVs with him as our guide. He cable tied a basket on the front of ours so Lucy could go with us. We were out most of the day and covered over 40-50 miles of diverse terrain, from open fields to red rocks to moonscapes. Lucy was great even though it was a pretty bumpy ride. In fact, I think she enjoyed it!

As luck would have it, the County Fair was taking place in Panguitch while we were there.  We watched the kids catch trout with their hands, the pig races, and the demolition derby.  None of these activities were on my original agenda!  You just never know what entertainment life will offer you!  I’ve never seen a demolition derby.  It was crazy!

And if that’s not strange enough, we got the Bear washed and waxed for $60 by the prisoners at the County Jail while we were out having all this fun!

The mural on the side of the jail building was a hoot!  The Bear looks beautiful with her new wax.  They did an excellent job!  What a bargain.  They do cars (inside and out) for $10!

We hiked in Red Canyon and took a scenic drive through Bryce.  I just can’t get enough of the beautiful reds in the hoodoos (rock formations) and soil.

We were also lucky enough to spot pronghorn antelope, mule deer, black ravens, and a chipmunk to be included in my wildlife photo collection!

Lovin’ this life.  It seems to be easier than living on a boat.  Mike’s just pulling the steaks off the grill, so I gotta go now!

Back to Nature in Utah

Utah is so amazingly beautiful!  The red cliffs just take my breath away.  We’ve been doing a lot of hiking and I love it!  It takes me back to the early days of our marriage when we used to go backpacking.  I love natural surroundings and Utah hasn’t disappointed.  Cactus and pine trees, rocks and waterfalls, cliffs and canyons, hummingbirds and eagles.

Well, it might have been an eagle, … but it wasn’t.  It was a turkey vulture (which is common in Zion).  It was high overhead and I was using my long lens.  We were so excited to spot this beautiful sight at the top of the cliffs, soaring and circling overhead in Zion National Park.  I compared the zoomed-in silhouette with other pictures and realized that I had been photographing a vulture.  Oh well, I’ll keep looking for the eagle.

I did get other pics of wildlife while we were out on our hikes.  We spotted the mule deer many times, and big horn sheep.

I got a whole series on a squirrel love story.  The introduction, courtship, marriage proposal, kiss, and happily ever after shot.  Here’s just one of them.

To bring you up to date, after leaving St. George RV Park, we went to Snow Canyon State Park for a few days.  Even though we were the only RV here, our slip was very tight for a coach our size.  We squeezed in only inches from the covered cabana roof, so we could at least use the slide-outs on the driver side of the coach.  Those are the big ones, so we were totally comfortable with only one side of us popping out.  We pulled out our lawn chairs and enjoyed watching the setting sun change the colors on the red cliffs all around us.  Nice.  It’s so beautiful here that Mike woke me up at sunrise so we could have our coffee outside and watch the beautiful morning colors as the sun came up.

The weather here in the southwest corner of Utah has been very hot.  Over 100 degrees everyday.  So we’ve been hiking in the morning and napping in the afernoon.  On Saturday, we went to an arts and crafts fair at the Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins, Utah.  We admired the most beautiful Navajo hand carved vase we’d ever seen.  It had the eagle, the bear, the hummingbird and the turtle carved into the four sides.  So symbolic for us.  It was exquisite.  One of a kind.  It was very expensive, but we are still talking about it, so that means we should have bought it.  The eagle (our boat name) represents freedom and strength, the bear (our motor home) represents strength and courage, the hummingbird represents joy, and the turtle represents longevity and health.  When I think about how many times we go to Costco and drop hundreds of dollars on things we can’t even remember, I kick myself for not getting this piece of art that we would enjoy forever.  Mike would buy it in a heartbeat.  I’m the one who’s the penny-pincher.

That afternoon we went to the Performing Arts Theatre production of the Spelling Bee, a musical comedy.  We didn’t know what to expect, so we were pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be so entertaining!  Very funny and enjoyable.

While we were camping at Snow Canyon State Park, we met Ned, a ‘birder’ who arrived early one morning to capture and tag hummingbirds.  We spent over an hour with him learning about hummingbirds.  He caught, measured, weighed, logged, tagged, fed and released at least 2 dozen birds while we were with him.   It was fascinating!  He put one of the hummingbirds in my hand and I could feel the heartbeat before it flew away.  So fun!!!  Here is a picture of one in Mike’s hand.  She left a piddle on him as a souvenir.

We hiked the Hidden Pinyon and Three Ponds Trails while we were at Snow Canyon.  Great hikes!

 

Our next stop was Watchman Campground in Zion National Park.  Nice but very popular campground.  Lots of activities put on by the Park Rangers.  We attended a ranger presentation that evening called “What’s for Dinner?”  It was an entertaining and educational slideshow about what eats what .. you know, the circle of life.  A lot of “Eewwww!!!“ slides.  Mike had nightmares that night about bugs.  The next morning we took a 2-hour ride along with the ranger and learned about the geology, wildlife and water history of the park.  Very interesting stuff even though I hate those group type outings.

The hiking in Zion is fantastic.  On one of our days here we hiked over 9 miles, and saw the most amazing sights.  My pictures just can’t capture the enormity of these rock walls.  I might have been able to capture it on video, BUT …(here comes my first Lucy story) … Lucy ate my perfect camera bag the night before.  I was so angry!  I had looked forever for that perfect bag!  It cost $70!  It was brand new!  I loved it!  Lots of exclamation points because I’m very excited and agitated when I write about this fresh memory.  Lucy is known to wander during the night and eat whatever is accessible to her.  We always “Lucify” the house before bed and make sure nothing tempting is available to her.  She’ll destroy a purse to get at the tic-tacs, chew through pants pockets for a candy wrapper, etc.  But why my camera bag!!!  Why destroy both the outer zipper and the inside zipper????  Then I remembered that I had a baggie of trail mix in there the day before.  It was gone, but she went for the afterglow I guess.  A few nights prior, she ate an entire avocado that I left on the counter, including the peel (not the pit).  She barfed pieces of peel and pooped green for the next 2 days.  But while I’m talking about Lucy, I should add that she is mostly wonderful and playful.  She has taken to living in the motor home wonderfully.  She’s a great little traveler and we love her to pieces.  She gets out for walks many times a day, and we take her with us on our outings whenever we can.

Back to my camera bag story.  I didn’t have my video with me on that hike because I had to resort to my smaller camera bag.  Since then, we have jerry-rigged my perfect camera bag with Velcro strips.  Sigh.  It seems to be working.

When we left Zion National Park, we had to drive the Bear through a tunnel which required a special permit because of our size.  The tunnel is 1.1 miles and a vehicle our height needs to stay in the middle of the two lanes.  So oncoming traffic is stopped while we drive through.  We could not tow our car, so I drove the Cub behind the Bear, and took video.  I’m glad I wasn’t in the Bear with Mike because I’m still a stress case when we’re driving.  I must drive him nuts with all my backseat driving.  That tunnel looked so tight!!  It was scary.  Mike said he’s never felt so stressed.  But he did great.  He had to drive another 15 miles after the tunnel before we were out of the winding roads and found a place to pull over and hook up the Cub.  All in all, it was a beautiful drive through Zion.  Now we’re in Bryce Canyon with a full agenda of fun activities ahead of us.  I’ll write all about that next time.  Life is good.  We’re both enjoying this lifestyle a lot!

The Journey Begins!

I’m a little bit late creating this blog.  We’ve been on the road for a week already (since Aug. 1, 2012).  But the story actually begins back in April when we purchased “The Bear“.  We hadn’t planned on buying a motorhome until our boat was sold.  We had been living on a 49′ sailboat and cruising the world for the past 7 years.  I kept a website during those years with stories and pictures of our life aboard – www.svaquila.com.

We decided we were ready for a new adventure .. plus we missed our kids and grandkids.  We were too far away.  Touring the US in a motorhome sounded like fun to us.  So we sailed to Florida, put the boat up for sale, bought a car and made a leisurely drive back home to California, stopping at various RV sales lots along the way to acquaint ourselves with all the options.

We got as far as Arizona when ‘it happened’.  We were looking at a coach in our price range, when the sales guy asked us to look at another one that had just arrived.  We said no, that it was more than we wanted to spend.  He managed to get us inside it, and we, of course, fell in love with it.  It looked brand new but was being sold as used.  He told us to make an offer and we said they would laugh at our offer.  He said it was a bank owned repo and you never know what they’ll accept.  So we threw a ridiculously low number at him because we weren’t really serious about buying yet.  Fifteen minutes later, we were the proud new owners of a 2011 Monaco Cayman 40′ with 4 slide-outs!  Yikes!  We’d never even driven one before!  The mechanic took us out for a 30-minute driving lesson, and I began to question my desire to do this.  It’s so big and scary and noisy and rattley.  I’m used to the smooth silent motion of sailing!  I told myself I would get used to this (and I’m getting there).  But at that time, I really didn’t like the feeling of going so fast while squeezed between the white lines.  It was very frightening.

We ended up driving our car to our daughter Kimberly’s house in Moorpark, California, where we were staying for the next few months.  Then, Mike and his son Sean returned to Arizona a few days later to drive the RV home.  Glad I didn’t have to do that!  I wasn’t ready to do a long drive yet.

During the following 3 months, we took her out for several outings.  First, to San Diego for a weekend at an RV Resort so we could watch our granddaughter, Paige, play in a Softball All-Stars tournament.  Then, a day trip to the Pasadena Rose Bowl to watch the 4th of July fireworks show with all the kids.  The following week, we did a 4 day trip to Lake Casitas Campground with Kimberly, Lance, and the kids for a mini-vacation.  After that, we stayed 2 nights at the beach campground at Camp Pendleton with Sean and family.  And, finally, we took the Bear to Lake Elsinore for 3 days to watch Garrett play in an All Star Tournament in Ontario.

We were starting to get things figured out.  I wrote and re-wrote our Set-up and Departure checklists (it’s still a work in progress), and little by little decided where to put all our stuff.  We made many trips to Camping World, Walmart, Home Depot and Costco.  Then we decided we were ready to do it for real.

We planned a 3+ month route and took off on August 1.  Our first official ‘destination’ was Valley of Fire in Nevada.  We stopped for the night in Calico Ghost Town on the way there, just to break up the drive.  We learned the hard way that we should disconnect the cub (that’s what we’ve decided to call our towed Ford Edge), before driving deep into an unknown campground.

We found ourselves at the dead end of a skinny road and made the mistake of trying to turn around.  It quickly became obvious that we didn’t have enough turning radius, and would need to disconnect the cub, and back up the bear.  The problem was that we were in a jack knife position and the tow bars didn’t want to release.  It wasn’t easy, but we finally got the creatures separated.  We inched our way back to the road and headed straight to the KOA for the night.  Easy in, easy out.  Ate dinner at Peggy Sue’s 50’s diner.  Mike actually ordered meatloaf!  The wine list was short: Chablis, Rose or Burgundy.  We had fun listening to the 50’s and 60’s music and playing the trivia games in the little booklets at the table.

The View From Our Campsite in Valley of Fire NV

Arriving at the Valley of Fire in Nevada the next day was breathtaking.  THIS is what we envisioned for our road trip.  So beautiful!  The red rocks are amazing.  Nevada is so hot in August that the campground was almost empty.  We had our pick of spots all to ourselves.  Loved it!  Tonight we celebrated with champagne.  We sat in the shade of the Bear and watched the setting sun change the colors of the rocks.  THIS is the beginning of the journey.

We took a morning hike to see some of the interesting rock formations before it got too hot.  We wanted see the sights that we learned about in the Visitors Center.  Hiking through the red rock canyons and cliffs was absolutely beautiful, but it was very hot (over 100 degrees)!  We spotted a couple of big-horned sheep.  That was very cool!  On our final evening in the Valley of Fire, we saw lightning in the distance.  It went on for quite a long time, but we never heard thunder and it didn’t rain.

Before departing the Valley of Fire, Mike filled the water tank, added distilled water to the batteries and topped up the anti-freeze in the generator.  Then we stopped at the dump station and emptied the grey and black tanks.

We continued on to Interstate 15 and the Virgin River Gorge Recreation Area in Arizona.  This is a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) site with no hook-ups.  Again, the campground was empty.  It is sweltering hot here.  We took a site with a covered picnic table overlooking the Virgin River Gorge.  There is a tall red rock cliff on the other side of the gorge.  Very pretty, but hot, hot, hot.

Virgin River Gorge, AZ

We planned to monitor our generator voltage and find out how long we can last without running the generator.  The generator is used to charge the house batteries, and is also necessary to run the air conditioner, washer, dryer, and microwave (just like in the boat). The main draw on our house batteries is our residential refrigerator.  We wanted to see how long it would take for the refrigerator to pull our voltage down.  But it was too hot to ever turn off the generator because we needed the air conditioning!  This cheap $4 site was turning out to be very expensive … in diesel fuel!   We estimate that we burn about 1/2 gal per hr.

After enjoying an early morning hike into the gorge, we packed up and headed for Utah.  We found a Passport America campground called St. George’s RV Resort in Hurricane, Utah.  A full 50 amp hook-up, with free cable TV, and a swimming pool and spa was only $13.  The site is very tight, but it’s got some shade and our front window looks out at the vivid red rock cliffs on the other side of the highway.

We took a fun 2 1/2 mile hike in the Red Cliffs Recreation Area this morning before breakfast.  Saw dinosaur prints in the red rocks, which was very cool.  I’m really enjoying these little hikes we’ve been taking.  The exercise feels good and the views are spectacular.  But mostly we seem to be driving into St. George to shop or else we’re watching TV in the comfort of our air conditioned home!

I got a new camera lens for my Canon DSLR, so I’m excited about that.  Can’t wait to play with it.  Actually, I got two.  My camera was acting up, so it forced me to go to a camera store to work out my problem.  I had to replace my lens, and while we were there Mike encouraged me to get the other lens I’d been wanting.  So I did!  And now we have GOT to stop spending money!  We keep thinking of things we must have and finding little projects to do in the Bear.  Today Mike put handles on my cabinet doors (which I love).

I am still learning how to do this blog.  Hopefully, I will soon be able to get pictures posted the way I want.  And I need to learn about ‘widgets’ and all that.  I plan to create a category just for stuff that we are doing to the RV.  And another one with details about each campsite we stay at, for example the price, services, etc.  Anyway, this will be a work in progress and will hopefully provide value to somebody!  Good night for now!