Panguitch, Utah

“There’s nothing to prove anymore, all that’s left to do is enjoy”     

                                                                                                                  Unknown

 

I have been on the road for five months now and the time has flown by.  Most of that time  has been with family (Yuma), at an RV rally (Tucson), camping with new friends (Casa Grande), and having a few road queens (Sandy and Jane) travel with me. Up until now, I haven’t actually spent that much time by myself.  It’s been interesting being totally alone.  I find myself being lazy or maybe I’m just tired from all the activity since leaving Sacramento!  I certainly was not this active at home.  I’m trying to make the transition from a “perpetual vacation” to regular life, just in a home on wheels.  In my regular life I wasn’t going and doing all the time. When in the RV, I feel like I’m wasting time when I’m not going somewhere or doing somewhere. I’ve read that it takes six to nine months to fully adjust to this lifestyle.

During my travels I’m  getting a good dose of small town America.  As you can imagine, I’ve had some interesting conversations with people that are not my peeps.  I’ve been taking an observer position and trying to understand the Trump supporter mind set.  It’s almost exclusively men that bring it up.  My response is, “I have a personal policy of not discussing politics or religion”, yet they  still  feel it necessary to continue defending Trump.  Short of getting up to leave, I cannot get them to shut up.  (What’s new, right?) I guess I’m still a city girl and I definitely live in the right state.  There’s no doubt that I will return to California when I am finished with this adventure. I miss California very much!

Panguitch, Utah

I stayed in Panguitch for two weeks.  In 2006, Panguitch was listed as a historic district in the National Register of Historic Places. The history of Panguitch is interesting.  Panguitch is a Native America word meaning big fish.  Mormons settled the area in March, 1864.  The first winter was exceptionally cold and hard.  Crops had failed and people were hungry.  Seven men braved the elements to get flour in Parowan, another Mormon settlement about 40 miles away, over what is now Highway 20.  The snow was so deep they had to abandon their oxen and wagon.  They were able to reach Parowan by placing a quilt on the snow, walking to the end of the quilt,  placing another down, and retrieving the first.  This became known as the Panguitch Quilt Walk and is still celebrated today. 

I was able to attend the weekend celebration that included many activities, a quilt show and a dinner theatre telling the story of the quilt walk.  I was touched by the celebration of the townspeople’s ancestors.  There were descendants of the original settlers in the play.  What a wonderful tradition!

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Ralph and I stayed in Panguitch when we took the RV and motorcycle on the Grand Circle  four years ago.    I stayed at the same campground, the Hitch N Post in beautiful downtown Panguitch.  I’ve started to rate these small towns by whether there is a Walmart or not.  You know a town is really small if they do not have a Walmart.  I don’t like shopping at Walmart due to their employment policies.  However, I do understand that

in some areas Walmart is the best employer and the best shopping.  As with everything in life, it’s a tradeoff. 

I chose Panguitch because it is a good basecamp for visiting Bryce Canyon NP, Red Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Kodachrome State Park, Cedar Breaks NM and Willis Creek Canyon.   Zion NP is within driving distance too.  I have been to Zion before so I chose not to visit on this trip.

The weather has been extremely hot and summer camping season is in full swing so it’s getting harder to find campgrounds. State parks are fully booked.  I’ve read how full-timers hate summer because it is much more difficult to find last minute campsite availability.  Part of the appeal of this lifestyle is that you can navigate by serendipity.  If you have to plan and reserve campsites months in advance…well… that’s the exact opposite of serendipity!    I haven’t been able to boondock without hookups because I need to have electricity for air conditioning.  So, that means RV parks that are more expensive than national forest campgrounds and dispersed camping in the wild.

Panguitch is located near the intersection of Hwy 89 and Hwy 12.  Scenic Byway 12 is 124 miles  long and travels through some of the most diverse, remote and ruggedly beautiful landscapes in the country. It is home to two national parks, three state parks, a national recreation area, a national monument and a national forest.  I saw rolling slickrock, colorful buttes and mesas, snaking canyons and rock walls varnished with mineral stains.  I traveled the scenic byway from Panguitch to the summit at Powell Point Overlook and The Blues. 

The Blues

The Blues is a badland of gray-green shales deposited some 80 million years ago when the area was covered by an inland ocean. The Blues is one of the best and most continuous records of late Cretaceous life on the planet and has yielded an abundance of dinosaur fossils, including a dozen new species. 

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The Blues
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The Blues and the top of the Grand Staircase Escalante

My first hike was Red Canyon. I cannot seem to get enough of those red rocks! Red Canyon is made of Claron limestone on the Paunsaugunt Plateau.  It is a variety of weirdly sculpted forms described as turrets, hoodoos, pinnacles or spires.  They extend nearly four miles on top of the plateau edge.  There are great trails to hike, bike and ATV.  Here’s a few photos of Red Canyon and the Arches Trail.

This is Dixie National Forest territory and the Sevier River runs through the area. The landscape is varied and beautiful!  Of course, Bryce Canyon National Park is the crowning jewel of the Panguitch area. 

Bryce Canyon

Ralph and I visited Bryce Canyon before and I wanted to return and hike into the canyon. Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon, but is a series of amphitheaters etched into the pink Claron limestone of the Paunsaugunt Plateau (same as the Red  Canyon). I picked the coolest day of the week, left very early and hiked to the bottom of the canyon.  I loved walking among the giant rocks, pinnacles and hoodoos and soaking in the environment.  It was approximately 3.5 miles; pretty much downhill and, of course, uphill most of the hike. It was a bit challenging, but totally worth it!

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The Amphitheatre
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Bryce Canyon
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The Trail Down
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Hoodoo that voodoo like you do?
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Red Power!
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Through the Rabbit Hole
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The Welcoming Committee
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The Dangerous Wildlife
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At the Bottom
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And Back Up We Go!
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Up, Up, Up!
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I Made It!!!

Grand Staircase – Escalante

Scenic Byway 12 boarders the top of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Grand Staircase is the flagship unit of the National Landscape Conservation System, one of our nation’s newest conservation initiatives, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  It is 1.9 million acres set aside in 1996 to preserve the wide-open spaces and intact ecosystems. The Grand Staircase is a series of massive geological steps that descend toward the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  The five cliff formations – pink, gray, white, vermillion and chocolate- each different chapters of geologic history spanning 100 million years.  This region of silence, space and scenery defies description! I found a great blog post that explains the Grand Staircase better than I ever could.  This is one of the photos from the blog.

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Grand Staircase – Photo Credit Dr. Jack Share
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My Grand Staircase Photo

Kodachrome Basin State Park

There is a Utah state park in the area too. Kodachrome Basin State Park that is definitely worth visiting. The Paul  Simon song, Kodachrome, ran through my mind a hundred times over a few days.  I could not get that song out of my head!  Yes, the park was named after the revolutionary Kodak film that was celebrated for its color accuracy. The park has a series of upright cylindrical chimneys called sandpipes.  More than 160 sandpipes ranging in height from six to 170 feet have been identified in the park.  I took the 3 mile Panorama Trail through the most spectacular scenery. On my hike I ran into a couple that I met on the trail in Bryce.  Small hiking world!  People are very friendly on the trails and I acquire a lot of good information from people I have a ten minute relationship!

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Kodachrome Basin State Park
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Matter of Perspective – That’s a tent nestled in the rocks
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A Closer Look at Kodachrome
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View From Top of Trail
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View On The Trail
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The Trail Up! Yes, that rock is in my way!
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Another View from the Top
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Doggy With Hiking Booties – What a great idea!

The couple I met in Bryce told me not to miss the Willis Creek hike. They said It was worth the long drive down a dirt road to the trailhead. It certainly was!  The creek has carved its way through the rocks, creating a slot canyon.  At certain times of the year you must wade through the creek.  This time of year the creek is barely flowing and you can use the rocks in the creek to cross from one side to the other to make your way through the slot canyon.  I love slot canyons but don’t hike them very often because access is either way off the beaten path, or a hard hike to get to them.  This one was accessible and  an awesome hike.  

Willis Creek Trail

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Sometimes Wet
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Sometimes Dry
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Always Narrow!
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Interesting What the Water Does to the Rock
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Erosion From the Water

Cedar Breaks

I took the 60 mile drive to Cedar Breaks National Monument. This great natural rock amphitheater of extraordinary forms wrapped in brilliant colors is a must see.  The Cedar Breaks amphitheater is a result of many of the same forces that created other great Southwestern landscapes, including the Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon, and the Bryce amphitheater. Cedar Breaks is like a mini Bryce Canyon.

Shaped like a huge coliseum, the amphitheater is over 2,000 feet deep and over three miles in diameter. Millions of years of deposition, uplift, and erosion carved this huge bowl in the steep west-facing side of the 10,000-foot-high Markagunt Plateau. Stone spires stand like statues in a gallery alongside columns, arches, and canyons. These intricate formations are the result of erosion by rain, ice, and wind. Saturating the rock is a color scheme as striking as any on the Colorado Plateau. Varying combinations of iron and manganese give the rock its different reds, yellows, and purples.

According to the park brochure, “Among the region’s original residents are the Southern Paiutes, who called Cedar Breaks u-map-wich, “the place where the rocks are sliding down all the time.” Later settlers named it Cedar Breaks, misidentifying the area’s juniper trees as cedars. Breaks, another word for badlands, is a geologic term describing heavily eroded, inhospitable terrain. President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Cedar Breaks National Monument in 1933, calling nationwide attention to its spectacular amphitheater.” 

The day I visited Cedar Breaks it was 58 degrees (high) with 50 mph winds and the elevation was over 10,000 ft.  I decided not to hike.  Too cold for me! 

Cedar Breaks
Cedar Breaks

Southern Utah is a unique place and if you haven’t been to this area, you should put it on your list!

My next home will be 70 miles north of Panguitch in the small town of Richfield, Utah.  I’ll stay there until July 10.  And this town is big enough to have a Home Depot and a Walmart.  Yipee!

Flagstaff, Page, AZ and Kanab, Utah

Back to Flagstaff

As much as I love the Sedona area, it was getting very warm there and I was finished with the Elks Lodge camping.  I decided to head to Flagstaff and the Bonito National Campground.  The elevation in Flagstaff is 7000 feet and the temperature is cooler than Sedona.  The Bonito campground offers only dry camping and is located at the entrance of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. The campground is 12 miles north of Flagstaff and is nestled in the pine trees with nice separation between the sites.  Since the weather is cooler there was no need for electricity for air conditioning. 

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Bonito Campground Site

My new friend, Malia Lane, drove up from Sedona for the day and we toured the Sunset Crater Volcano and the Wuatki Ruins. Malia has been full-time RVing for 16 years as a solo.  I’ve read her blog for a few years and actually she is the one that inspired me to travel solo.  We are the same age, drive similar sized rigs and tow a vehicle.  She answered many of my questions and I decided, “If she can do it, so can I!”  Malia is a wonderful writer and you can read her blog, Malia’s Miles here.   I met Malia for the first time in Sedona and we really connected. We are both independent, new age women who came of age in the 1960s.   We also have the same touring style: slow and stop a lot to investigate things. I loved the time we spent together and I know we will meet up sometime in the future. Malia is staying in Sedona for the summer to complete a book she is writing.

Sunset Crater Volcano and the Wuatki Pueblo

According to Wiki Sunset Crater Volcano Sunset Crater is a cinder cone and is the youngest in a string of volcanoes (the San Francisco volcanic field) that is related to the nearby San Francisco Peaks.

The date of the eruptions that formed the 1,120 foot-high cone  was initially derived from tree-ring dates, suggesting the eruption began between the growing seasons of A.D. 1064–1065. However, more recent geologic and archaeological evidence places the eruption around A.D. 1085. The largest vent of the eruption, Sunset Crater itself, was the source of the Bonito and Kana-a lava flows that extended about 1.6 mi NW and 6 mi NE, respectively. The Sunset Crater eruption produced a blanket of ash covering an area of more than 810 sq miles and forced the temporary abandonment of settlements of the local Sinagua people. The volcano has partially revegetated, with pines and wildflowers. Since the last eruption of the volcano is a recent occurrence, it is considered dormant by volcanologists.

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Sunset Crater Lava Field
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Sunset Crater Lava Field
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Malia at Sunset Crater
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Sunset Crater Lava Field

The remains of masonry pueblos are still in the area.  In the 1100s Puebloan peoples came together to build a vast farming community.  By 1180, thousands of people were farming the Wupatki area.  By 1250, the people had moved on and the pueblos were abandoned. In 1930, President Hoover established Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.  Wupaki ruins are well preserved and include two round ball courts and a blow hole where cold air flows out of the earth.  It was fascinating and we could feel the energy of those that came before us. Well worth the visit.

While in Flagstaff I was able to take care of some errands, shopping and visiting with a friend I knew from Rancho Murieta. I finally bit the bullet and bought a new iPad.  I still had an iPad 2 with 16 gig of memory and 3G cellular.  That’s practically an antique!  I purchased the newest iPad with 128 gig and WIFI.  It’s blazing fast compared to my old iPad. Now I have plenty of room for all my travel apps, TV shows and movies for when I dry camp and cannot use my Dish satellite. So far I’m very happy with my purchase.

I met my friend, Sandy, at the Continental Country Club for lunch.  Sandy and I lived in Rancho Murieta at the same time.  Sandy reminded me they left Rancho Murieta 15 years ago!  I couldn’t believe it had been that long.  It was great to catch up and compare retirement.  Sandy and her husband Bob have two homes in Arizona; one in Cottonwood and one in Flagstaff.  They are only 80 miles from each other, but a world apart in climate and temperature due to the difference in elevation.

I stayed in Flagstaff for one week and then I headed to Page, Arizona where Jane, one of my BFFs, joined me for ten days to celebrate her 60th birthday.

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The San Francisco Peaks in my mirror as I head north from Flagstaff

Page, Arizona and Lake Powell

I drove the 130 miles from Flagstaff to Page and settled at the Wahweep Campground on Lake Powell before picking Jane up at the airport. We were celebrating her 60th birthday. 

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The Road Queens

 

The Wahweep Campground is a great campground located on the shores of Lake Powell.  The sites are $44.00 per night and well worth it.  The view from our campground was beautiful. There is also a hotel, restaurant and marina nearby.

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View of Lake Powell from campsite

While at Lake Powell, we visited the Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend, Marble Canyon, Lee’s Ferry and took a boat tour of three canyons. We also hung out with a couple locals one night and had a memorable time.

You can thank the Glen Canyon Dam for the making of Lake Powell.  According to Wiki, Glen Canyon Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam on the Colorado River in northern Arizona. The 710-foot high dam was built from 1956 to 1966 and forms Lake Powell, one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the U.S. The dam is named for Glen Canyon, a series of deep sandstone gorges now flooded by the reservoir. Lake Powell is named for John Wesley Powell, who in 1869 led the first expedition to traverse the Colorado’s Grand Canyon by boat. Learn more about it here.  Lake Powell is 450 deep in some areas.  The Glen Canyon Recreation Area is very popular, especially with boaters.

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Glen Canyon Dam

We took a lake boat tour and explored three canyons; Glen, Navajo and Antelope canyons. The boat we took had an entirely female crew and the first female Navajo boat captain in the US.  This entire area is in the Navajo Nation. Learn more about the Navajo Nation here. 

One of the crew invited us to have sushi with her the next evening.  Believe it or not, the sushi was fantastic at the Blue Buddha and Joe, the bartender, made the best Cosmo I’ve ever tasted.  After dinner we went bar hopping in Page. I haven’t been kicked out of a bar in many years. One of us had a little too much to drink (and no, I’m not going to say who), and our little group of four was asked to leave the bar.  We were definitely the minority in Navajo country and had a great time mixing with the locals. We laughed about it for several days afterwards.

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Early in the evening at the Blue Buddha

I was also able to check off a bucket list item by visiting Horseshoe Bend.  This is an area where the Colorado River curves around an island in horseshoe fashion.  I’m sure you’ve probably seen photos of it.  If not, here you go.

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Horseshoe Bend – Colorado River.  Those little dots on the left are rafters.

 We did some site seeing by driving to Lee’s Ferry and Marble Canyon. Lee’s Ferry is named for its notorious settler, John D. Lee, who established a ferry at the site in the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The ferry shut down in the 1920s when the steel span of the Navajo Bridge replaced it providing a breathtaking view of the canyon below. Lee’s Ferry is the put-in point for those rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.  It is the only place for 100 miles where you can access the Colorado River.  We dipped our toes in the river and it was very cold.  I was told it was 46 degrees.  I thought there was a town there, but alas, there was not. 

Nearby is Marble Canyon with a resort and restaurant where we had a delicious lunch.  Marble Canyon, so named for its colorful rocks and cliff walls, is just below Glen Canyon Dam. Along with Lee’s Ferry, Marble Canyon marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon at its most eastern point.

After spending a week in our great camping site at Wahweep, it was time to head to Kanab, Utah so we could visit the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

 Kanab, Utah

The scenic drive north on Hwy 89 was a short 75 miles.  We stayed at the Kanab RV Corral for three days. It was an 80 mile drive through forest to the north rim of the Grand Canyon for Jane’s 60th birthday.  We took the short, but strenuous, hike along the ridge overlooking the canyon. On the hike we met a man who had bicycled from Oklahoma!  I can’t even imagine. We reserved the best seat at the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge and had a delicious dinner overlooking the canyon. We reminisced about Jane’s 50th birthday in Venice, Italy when we spent a week there and had a costume ball the day of her birthday. Where will be celebrate her 70th???

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North Rim Grand Canyon
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Grand Canyon
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Grand Canyon
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Grand Canyon Lodge on right.
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Grand Canyon

We had  such a great time.  I love having my friends visit. The next day I drove Jane back to Page to fly home.  When I returned to the rig, I prepared to leave the next day for Panguitch, Utah just outside Bryce Canyon.

Ajijic, Morelia, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico April 22 – May 6

How did I end up in Mexico?  That’s a good question!

First of all, I did not drive my motorhome to Mexico (yet).  I flew from Phoenix to Guadalajara.

The idea for the trip was hatched the night of the election.   I was at the Placer County Democratic election gathering and the night started out well.  But as you well know, it didn’t turn out well for us Hillary supporters. After the election,  one of my bookies (book club friend),  Jean decided to go to Mexico.  When she mentioned it to me I said, “I’m in!”  Turns out the trip was to San Miguel de Allende.

I have been toying with the idea of moving to Mexico for a couple of years (even before the election).  I have been researching different places, reading blogs and Facebook groups and trying to learn as much as I could about the realities of living in Mexico as an ex pat.  I was particularly interested in Ajijic, on Lake Chapala and  San Miguel de Allende.  Another bookie, Lynn and her friend Jean joined in and before we knew it,  seven of us were going for a week in San Miguel.  Lynn, Jean, Jean (yes two Jeans!)  and I decided to take another week and visit Lake Chapala and Morelia.  A work associate and friend, Michael has lived in Morelia for 13 years .  I have enjoyed reading his Facebook posts and his wonderful photography and he made Morelia look like a place I wanted to visit.

The plan came together.  Ajijic for three days, Morelia for four days, and San Miguel for one week.

 

Mexico trip map
Our trip route

Ajijic (ah-he-heek)

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The two towns on Lake Chapala with large ex pat populations are Ajijic and Chapala. There are 20,000 English-speaking ex pats living in the area. Learn more about Ajijic here. We chose Ajijic to visit and I found a small, boutique hotel on the lake.  La Nueva Posada, owned by a Canadian was a lovely hotel with an excellent restaurant.  A large breakfast was included and the price was $65 USD per night. We were very happy with our home base while visiting Ajijic.  The hotel also has long-term rentals that include housekeeping every day and breakfast.  You can also order food from the restaurant for delivery. We met a woman at the ATM who is one of those long-term renters.  She invited us over to see her one bedroom apartment ($800 USD/month) and another woman let us see her two-bedroom apartment ($950 USD/month). They were quite nice.

Lake Chapala is the largest fresh water lake in Mexico and the elevation is around 6,000 feet, making the weather nice all year long.  The “rainy” season generally runs from May-Oct and the mountains surrounding Lake Chapala become green. 

 

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Beautiful Lake Chapala

 

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The view from our hotel room in Ajijic

We could walk everywhere and we did our bit to simulate the economy in this lovely small town.  I like the city centers because they give you the feel of being in Mexico.  There are numerous modern housing developments surrounding the city center.  These gated communities could be anywhere in the US (where is weather is nice all year round).  These developments are full of Canadians and Americans.  Not where I would want to live. Two reasons people move to places like Ajijic; the great weather and it’s inexpensive!  About one-half the price of goods and services in the US.  You can live very well on just a decent social security income.  Many do!

Here are some of the sites around Ajijic.

 

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Masks to honor Ajijic citizens
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Everything is colorful in Mexico!

Even though we only spent three days in Ajijic, we got a good feel for the area.  We met several women in our age group that were visiting, or lived in Ajijic. We felt making friends would be easy, if indeed, we did live in Ajijic.

While in Ajijic, we went horseback riding along the lake and on the streets in town. Let’s just say it wasn’t the fantasy of riding a beautiful horse along the shoreline with our long blond hair dancing in the breeze.  But, it was pretty cool.   And I was reminded of why I gave up my horses 20 years ago.  My butt hurt, my knees hurt, and I was grateful to get off!

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We took the opportunity to investigate real estate in the area.  Prices are very reasonable compared to California.  However, it is probably a better idea to rent for a year or two before investing in real estate in Mexico.

Morelia

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Before we knew it, it was time to leave for Morelia. We hired a car and driver to take us to Morelia, a beautiful colonial city in Southern Mexico in the state of Michoacán.  A friend moved here 13 years ago and was our tour guide and translator for the four days.  Morelia reminded me so much of Madrid.  Dah!  The Spanish colonized (a nice word for stole, pillaged and enslaved the natives) the area.  The upside of the colonialization is the beautiful buildings and churches left behind.  My friend, Michael Dunham is retired now and is a very talented photographer and is connected to the music scene in Morelia.  You can view his photos on his website.  Michael recommended a friend’s B&B, Casa Xola and we were able to get three rooms.  Arliegh, our host, was a delightful Canadian woman and we loved her beautiful house.  Arleigh and Michael took two of us to neighboring villages to see their artesian wares.  Jeannie and I were under the weather and couldn’t go.  They had a fantastic time and did their best to stimulate the Michoacán economy.

We visited the local merchado.  So colorful!

Michael took us to many  great restaurants and again, unbelievably low prices.

There are ten universities in Morelia and thus, the city is teaming with young people.  Morelia is home to the largest music school in Mexico.   As we walked along the cobblestone streets of Morelia, music was pouring out into the streets from the many bars and restaurants. Of course we did some shopping and stocked up on Retin A, which you can buy over the counter in Mexico. I was able to get three more tiaras for crowning future road queens too! I bought a local designed and made purse for $40. 

 

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Many old buildings-just beautiful!
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The four amigos!
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The Pope did visit Morelia.
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Dianne Bretz- Even Mary Kay is sold here!
 

We needed much more time to take in all the sites and museums in Morelia.  I predict this won’t be my last time in Morelia.  Hear that Michael?  🙂

 

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Dinner and Jazz in Morelia

San Miguel de Allende

We decided to take the first class bus from Morelia to San Miguel de Allende.  The bus system in Mexico is excellent!  We even got half price senior rates.  A 4-hour bus ride in an air-conditioned bus with WIFI and movies was $139 pesos.  That’s $7.30 USD!  We keep picking our jaws up off the ground when we realize how inexpensive things are here.

San Miguel de Allende also has a large ex pat community of around 12,000. San Miguel is a small, mountain town at about 7,000 feet.  Learn more about San Miguel here.

We rented a three bedroom house up in the hills above the city center. Here is a link to the VRBO listing with photos of the house.  It was a fairly easy (considering the cobblestones) walk down to the center, however, the walk back up the hill to get home was another story, mostly due to the heat in the afternoon.  We liked getting the exercise, but I the highest heat of the day, it was not good. 

 

 

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Iconic Parroquia San Miguel de Allende

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View from our rooftop terrace
More beautiful site in San Miguel

 

One of the many street celebrations.  Mexicans have a celebration every other day!

When we first arrived, we hired a driver to take us to a grocery store for supplies for the week.  It’s quite a guessing game reading the labels and figuring out what we were buying. Of course, some things are obvious.  Others, like laundry detergent, etc. was not so easy.  Thank goodness for Google Translate!  I used that several times to communicate with non-English speaking people. We did accomplish our goal and had plenty to eat and drink at the house.  We ate one meal a day at a restaurant; from the street vendors to very nice restuarants.  We found San Miguel more expensive than Ajijic and Morelia.  It was also more crowded and less friendly than Ajijic.  Of course, we did our best to stimulate the local economy, yet again!

We visited the Toy Museum and marveled at all the hand made toys! Yes!  All handmade. 

 

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Handmade popup book

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While dining at Hank’s Cajun Restaurant we ran into Pauline and Michael who had stayed at Casa Xola in Morelia. Pauline moved to Miami from Great Brittan in the early 70s.  Michael lives in Marbella, Spain.  We enjoyed their company in Morelia and even more so in San Miguel.  They invited us to join them on their hotel roof-top terrace, (very common in Mexico) for wine and cheese after dinner.  We had a great time getting to know them better and I know I’ll see Pauline again on my next visit to Florida. 

 

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Pauline and Michael

 

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Carol, Jean and me!

It was a wonderful trip and I’m so glad I was able to check out the places I’ve been reading about for so long.  Will I be moving to Mexico anytime in the near future?  Probably not.  Will I visit again, maybe every for an extended stay?  I will probably go back to Ajijic again.

 

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Me after two weeks in Mexico

 

Here are a few things I learned on this trip

  • The charm of cobblestone streets and sidewalks wears off quickly when you walk everywhere.
  • Mexico could sure use an EPA. The air is polluted, dusty and smoky in some areas.
  • I like regulations that provide for safe walking and driving.
  • In spite of having an offensive, incompetent,  con man for a President that has insulted an entire country because of a few “bad hombres”, the people in Mexico were welcoming, extremely nice, and helpful. 

I returned to the Sedona area of another couple of weeks before heading north.  I just cannot seem to get enough of Sedona.

Until next time…

 

Cottonwood, Sedona, Jerome and Flagstaff, Arizona

After leaving Benson I headed up to Casa Grande which is half way between Tucson and Phoenix.  I decided to stay in the Escapee’s Rover’s Roost park to wait for my Michigan/Florida friend, Sandy’s arrival.  The Rover’s Roost is the first Escapee’s Co-op in the extensive co-op system.  Friends I made at the Escapade in Tucson are members of Rover’s Roost and told me about the park.  This is the second time in a month I found myself in Casa Grande, a town I never even heard of before.  I had a few days before Sandy arrived and I made good use of the time before my first two-week guest arrived.  I drove up to the Phoenix airport to pick up Sandy and we spent a few more days in Casa Grande before taking off for our new destination near Cottonwood, AZ. My book club friend was in the area and stopped by for the night.

 

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Lynn and I

It’s about 180 miles from Casa Grande to Cottonwood and required driving though the middle of Phoenix. I’ll admit that was a bit of a white knuckle drive for me.  There is SO much traffic in Phoenix.  Once you get through Phoenix on Hwy 17, you climb into the mountains for pretty much the next 90 miles. We decided to boondock in a popular spot off Hwy 260 and Thousand Trails Road.  I didn’t realize how popular it was until we arrived and could barely find a spot to park.  As luck would have it, (bad luck?) the Wondering Individual’s Network (WINs) were there for a gathering.  This brought an additional 20 or so rigs to the area.  Sandy’s keen eye found a spot for us and it turned out to be a wonderful site with great views.  The original plan was to stay for a few days and then move somewhere else or to a campground.  But, as luck (bad luck again!) would have it, it was Easter week and all the campgrounds were booked.  I was told that Easter week is their busiest week of the year! I have to keep better track of the holidays. This isn’t the first time holiday camping has caused a problem.  So we settled in for the duration.  It turned out to be a great site.  We were able to go 15 days on the holding tanks and still had water and a little room left in the gray and black tanks.  That’s saying something for two women who have to pee every hour!  This location was perfect for exploring Sedona, Cottonwood and Jerome.

 

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The view from our boondocking site

This was my first boondocking since I left and it felt great to be back in the wild. When we set up camp we didn’t realize there were cows grazing in the area.  Our first clue was a mooing alarm clock the next morning. I looked out the bedroom window and there was a cow right under my window.  There were about eight cows surrounding the few rigs in the immediate area.  When we went outside we found muddy footprints on the outdoor mat and nose prints on the portable solar panel.

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My alarm clock
We gave ourselves the name Sister’s of the Travelling T-shirt. Let me explain.  Sandy’s sister-in-law’s father (did you follow that?) has an outdoor store in Pinconning, Michigan and had t-shirts made.  Sandy had the great idea of taking pictures of the t-shirt (with her in it) at the various places we visited, so, that’s just what we did! Every time we went out the door I asked, “Do you have the t-shirt?” Here are a few of the photos.

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The travelling t-shirt

We kept busy while in the area.  Another Escapade friend, Rick and his rescue, wonder dog Nola, were camping in the area.  We went to dinner and celebrated Sandy and Mike Sikora’s wedding anniversary. Thanks Mike for buying a wonderful dinner for us, even though you weren’t there! At least we knew where we were 31 years ago…at their beautiful wedding in downtown Detroit. Rick took us for a jeep ride on the Red Rock Canyon Loop. While on the loop we stumbled upon the Pataki ruins.

 

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Etchings from ancient people

We also discovered another boondocking area on FR 525 and if you go about five miles from 89A you have stunning views of the red rocks.  We even ran into Rick at the Safeway while grocery shopping.  I seem to have a much busier social life on the road than I did at home!

 

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Rick and Sandy

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Red Rock Canyon

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The three amigos

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Sandy and the wonder dog Nola
 

We were parked closer to Cottonwood than Sedona so we went there to explore.  I’ve been to Cottonwood three years ago (as Facebook reminded me) with my friend Dianne.  Dianne has a timeshare just outside Sedona and we spent a week there.  Cottonwood is much smaller and less crowded than Sedona.  We stopped to eat at The Red Rooster, which quickly became our go to restaurant in Cottonwood.  On the way into Cottonwood I saw a sign for a Drag show. Drag show in Cottonwood, AZ, you say !?!  That should have been my first clue. We went to the show that evening.  First, the show started over 1.5 hours late.  Then, when the performers finally came out we couldn’t see well from where we were sitting and the stage was poorly lit.  By this time I was really annoyed so we decided to leave.  After seeing professional drag shows in San Francisco and Key West, this was a real disappointment.  Oh well…nothing ventured, nothing gained!

We visited some of the archeological sites in the area:  Montezuma’s Castle and Well.  Here’s the thing…Montezuma was never there. It’s not a castle, nor is it a well.  WTH?  Montezuma’s Castle is a cliff dwelling built into the side of a rock mountain.  I couldn’t help but think who looks at the side of a mountain and says, “That’s a good place to build an apartment building?” I am always amazed at human ingenuity.

Montezuma’s Well is actually a sinkhole with water.  The archeologists are still trying to figure out where the water is coming from.  Every time they put cameras down into the water they get sucked down into the water spouts.  Interesting places.  Of course we got pictures of the t-shirt!

 

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Montezuma’s Well

Because Sedona was a big traffic jam all week, we decided to go shopping early one morning before the crowds.  That was a good plan.  I always find something different to buy in Sedona, and this trip was no exception.  Sandy and I both found a few things we couldn’t live without.

We also drove Hwy 89A from Sedona to Flagstaff and visited Flagstaff for the day. This scenic drive goes through Oak Canyon and indeed, it was very scenic! I had driven through Flagstaff before, but never stopped.  We purchased a few items from the Navajo artists set up at the Oak Canyon stop. We found the Lumberyard Brewery for lunch  and toured the Riordian Mansion  The Riordian Family was some of the first settlers of Flagstaff and provided lumber for the railroad as it moved west. We learned a lot about the history of Flagstaff.  I will return to Flag (as the locals call it) after my trip to Mexico.  It is much cooler there due to the higher elevation.  There are several sites in the area to explore before moving further north in search of a cooler climate and other adventures.

 

Sandy and I drove to Jerome for late Easter Dinner at the Asylum Restaurant. The restaurant is at the top of the hill with great views.  The Asylum got great reviews on Yelp, but we found the food mediocre at best.  It was Easter and the kitchen was slammed, so maybe that is why our food came out lukewarm twice!  The view from the restaurant was spectacular! Sandy was in Jerome twenty years ago and said the town has really grown.

 

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Easter Flowers

The night before we were pulling out to move to the Jerome Elks Lodge, I noticed a very small Class A motorhome pull in looking for a spot to camp.  It’s very unusual to see a small Class A and I was curious about its size and configuration.  Sandy noticed two younger women get out and set up their outside sitting area lickity split.  So off I went to say hi and find out about the rig.  It’s only 26 feet and nicely configured.  Shortcoming, not enough storage room.  Vanessa (36) and Carley (30) invited us to have some wine and of course we accepted! 

I found both women inspirational and they gave me hope for the future!  They are intelligent, strong, fearless women and impressed both Sandy and me.  After a painful breakup and leaving unsatisfying jobs, they decided to rent an RV and hit the road.  They had no experience operating an RV, but that didn’t stop them.  I assume they got the 30 minute overview from the rental company and off they went in search of their future!  They had a lot of questions for me and I answered as honestly as I could.  They said they felt like Sandy and I were sent from the future and they could see their future standing (or sitting, as it were), before them.  We talked about everything…jobs, travel, relationships…everything.

They were definitely worthy of being crowned as Road Queens with the travelling tiaras.  So I went back to my rig, fetched the tiaras and came back for the crowning ceremony.  I wish I had extra tiaras so I could have given the tiaras to them.  But alas, I couldn’t leave my only tiaras.  They seemed very moved by it. We loved meeting these women and I surely do hope our paths cross again.

 

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26 foot class A Motorhome-  Cute!

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Vanessa and Carley
 

 

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The newly crowned Road Queens

I spent my remaining time at the Jerome Elks Lodge until it was time for me to depart for Mexico.  I’m stored the rig at the Elks Lodge while I was away.

I took this video for Sandy to send to her nephews and thought maybe some of you would like to see it.  So here is a short, unprofessional video of my little home on wheels. 

Now I’m off to Mexico for two weeks with the girls.  When I return from I’ll move up to Flagstaff and see the North rim of the Grand Canyon  and then head north to Page.

Till next time…

 

Benson, Bisbee, and Tombstone, AZ

After the Escapade 57 RV Rally in Tucson, I travelled a whopping 30 miles south on I10 to Benson, Arizona.  Benson was my home base for exploring the small towns of Benson, Bisbee, Tombstone and the Chiricahua National Monument.  I also become a member of the Willcox Elks!

Benson

Benson is a city in Cochise County east-southeast of Tucson. It was founded as a rail terminal for the area, and still serves as such. The population of the city is around 5,105.  There is an Escapees Park in Benson: Saguaro RV Park.  The Escapees have many RV parks around the country.  The parks offer co-op ownership for seasonal (or permanent) parking and open sites for temporary stays.  The fee for a first time visitor is $50 for a week with full hookups.  That is an incredible price!  The park is located just a couple miles south of Benson.  Most people here are fellow Escapees and are very welcoming and friendly.

 

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View of the Dragoon Mountains from the RV Park

 

I’m an Elk!

The first item on my agenda was to attend the induction ceremony at the Willcox Elk’s Lodge.  Many of you are wondering why I would join the Elks.  Well…here’s why.  Most Elks Lodges offer RV sites with hook ups and a built in network of people that can recommend places in the area and provide help if needed.  The lodges are safe, friendly places for solo woman RVers.  The lodge was recruiting new members at the Escapade 57 so I jumped on the opportunity.  Fifty-six Escapees where inducted on Monday night.  As the ceremony began, I couldn’t help thinking back to my time as a Rainbow girl.  The induction was very similar.  Joining Rainbows was one of the smartest moves I made as a 12 year old!  I learned so much about networking, giving to the community, making friends, public speaking and of course memorizing the rituals.  I’ll never forget the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, blue, green, indigo and violet.   Now that I’m literally a card carrying member of the Elk’s Lodge, in the future I will take advantage of their RV sites. Especially the Lodges located in cities that I want to visit.

 

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The Elk and I are one!

Bisbee

Tuesday I headed 45 miles south to Bisbee.  Bisbee is a small former mining town turned tourist area.  It reminded me of Jerome, Arizona near Sedona. 

“In 1877, a reconnaissance detail of U.S. army scouts and cavalrymen was sent to the Mule Mountains to search the area for renegade Apaches. What civilian tracker Jack Dunn found instead were signs of mineralization indicating the presence of lead, copper and possibly silver. The first mining claim was staked in what would later become the City of Bisbee. The filing of this claim, and a multitude of others sent prospectors and speculators scurrying to the Mule Mountains in hopes of striking it rich. Numerous ore bodies were located, and Bisbee soon became known as the Queen of the Copper Camps.”  Thanks DiscoverBisbee.com.

I visited the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. With a history deserving of National Landmark status, the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum joined forces with the Smithsonian’s Affiliation Program. Once known as The Queen of the Copper Camps, Bisbee is located in the Mule Mountains, and known for its diverse minerals and wealth of copper. The first floor of the museum contains exhibits on Bisbee’s colorful history and the second floor provides information on mining and the various minerals found in the mines. Here is just a few of the “rocks” found in the mines.

On the second floor you enter through a changehouse (where the miners changed into their mining clothes) before winding through an underground mine with minerals, a crystal cave, and the history of hard-rock miners who blasted, drilled, and mucked more than 2,000 miles of tunnels through the surrounding mountains. The invention and implementation of electricity in homes and workplaces increased the demand for copper, a great conductor of electricity. You then segue into today’s world of open-pit mining, where new technologies address challenges posed by a high-demand marketplace and low-grade ore.

To learn more about the museum click here.  If you find yourself in Bisbee, do not miss the museum.  It is time well spent. 

 After lunch, a visit to the Bisbee Brewing Company was in order. I find myself sampling flights of craft beers and discovering I like a wider variety of beer.  I explain to the bartender my taste in beer (smooth taste, not hoppy and slightly sweet).  The bartender picks the samples for me and the tasting begins. It is fun, tasty and supports small beer businesses.  An all-around win!

 Chiricahua National Monument

Thursday I drove to Chiricahua National Monument to explore.  It is an isolated mountain range rising above the surrounding grassland sea.  The Chiricahua Apache call the pinnacles “standing up rocks”.  The rocks are the results of eruptions of the Turkey Creek Volcano 26 million years ago and 1200 square miles of spewed ash.  The super-heated ash melted together, forming layers of gray rock called rhyolite.  Cooling and uplifting created joints and cracks in the rhyolite.  Years of weathering and ice wedging and erosion by water enlarged the cracks.  Weaker material washed away leaving an endless variety of spires, balanced rocks and other shapes.  The national monument was established in 1924.  I took the eight-mile drive to the summit at Massai Point for the bird’s eye view of the area.  This, out of the way, national monument is definitely worth a visit. For more info on Chiricahua National Monument click here.

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It’s hard to capture the uniqueness and beauty with a camera

 

Tombstone

What do I have to say about Tombstone?  Everyone probably knows a little about this old west town. Tombstone is a historic city in Cochise County, founded in 1879. It was one of the last wide-open frontier boomtowns in the American Old West. The town prospered from about 1877 to 1890, during which time the town’s mines produced $40 to $85 million in silver bullion, the largest productive silver district in Arizona. Its population grew from 100 to around 14,000 in less than seven years. It is best known as the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and now draws most of its revenue from tourism.

I’ll be leaving Benson tomorrow to head back up to Casa Grande to wait for my dear friend Sandy Sikora to fly in from Michigan. We will be Queens of the Road (tiaras and all, thanks to Jane)  for two weeks.  Don’t know where we will travel.  But, rest assured, it will be an adventure!

 

Tucson AZ and the Escapade 57 RV Rally

I spent a week at the Pima County Fairgrounds for the Escapees’ 57th Escapade RV rally. The Escapade is held every year and as luck would have it this one was in Tucson.  It was just me and 950 other RVs-everything from tents to mega-rigs.  The Escapade is a chance to connect with other RVers, learn about the latest RV products and attend workshops on various subjects. I learned about RVing in Mexico, how to make my propane refrigerator safe from fire, and how to exit my rig in an emergency.  I purchased some software to document my travels. You can learn more about the Escapees here.

 

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I lucked out with parking on the polo field.  Most people were parked in the dirt!

 

I took care of RV related items while at the Escapade.   Good news!  I’m underweight!  Well…not me…my rig.  I had the rig weighed and found out I’m 450 lbs under my weight limit.  Knowing  the weight of each axle allows for proper inflation of the tires.  That’s very important because a tire blow out can ruin your day, at best,  and cost a lot of money to fix the damage.  I purchased a steering stabilizer to minimize steering wheel movement when it is windy and when large semi-trucks pass me on the highways.   I also added a temperature controller and fan for the refrigerator.  Refrigerator fires are in the top two insurance claims for RVs.  I’ve always been concerned about this issue.  The controller monitors the temperature of the boiler in the cooling unit and shuts off the propane for ten minutes if it gets too hot, thereby preventing a fire. I’m happy with both purchases.  And probably the most important fix was my emergency exit window. It wasn’t functioning properly. That has always concerned me.  Now it works easily and I can escape in a emergency.  (Thanks Joel and his assistant Owen!) 

 

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Surgery on my emergency exit window

 

People of all ages attended the rally.  There were full-time families with children, full-time working people and of course retirees. The social aspect was a blast!  I joined in on the Solo’s happy hours and met some great solos.     I met a 92-year-old man who stills travels full-time in his new Airstream Trailer. Now that’s optimistic!  Inspirational or scary, not sure which.

 

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92 and still RVing and dancing!

 

The closing party included a 90th birthday celebration for the founder of the Escapees club.  She founded the club  in the 1970s.  There was a dance and the 92 year old asked me to dance.  See folks…I still got it!

It was a great week and I’m so glad I planned ahead to attend the rally.  I had no idea how much I would learn, how much fun I would have, and the great people I would meet.  What a wonderful group of people out here on the road.

I made new friends at the rally and I hope to see them on the road in the future.

I’m really loving this lifestyle!

Next stop Benson, Tombstone and Bisbee.

 

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Another desert sunset.  This never gets old!

 

Yuma, AZ and Family

I arrived in Yuma on February 6 and left March 17.  The time passed so quickly with the highlight being the birth of Kyle Furtah, 7 lbs, 7 ozs, 21 inches.  He arrived via emergency c-section because the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck three times!  Mother and baby are doing great!  We’re all so happy everything turned out fine.

Now I know what the phrase “bundle of joy” really means.  Ky, as we call him, pretty much sleeps all the time with short bouts of feeding and eliminating.  I understand that is what newborns do. I’ve never experienced a newborn before or held such a small baby.  He’s so light!  It’s been a joy to be here with Kevin, Mariya and Mason, and now Ky to share the experience of welcoming a new member of our family.  We will be doubly blessed because my other nephew, Michael, and his wife, Lauren, are expecting the next little Furtah in August.  We are all thrilled for Michael and Lauren. 

I’ve been helping out where I can and loving every minute.  Mariya and Kevin are such good parents.  Mason is adjusting and is very loving and gentle to “his baby”.  I had to remind him, “He’s our baby too”.

 

My niece, Theresa visited from Florida.  She flew into Phoenix so I was able to go a day early and visit with a book club friend, Lynn, in Surprise and my friends Mary and Gerard in Apache Junction at an RV park.

Unbeknownst to me, it is baseball spring training in Phoenix for the SF Giants and the LA Dodgers. It was so crowded! Hotels in the area were double and triple the normal prices.

Lynn was staying with a friend in a beautiful RV resort.   It had RVs and park models. The resort had many amenities including a large pool and many activity and craft rooms, a full woodworking shop, ceramics and glass workshops, sewing rooms, and painting and craft rooms, etc.  Plus they had many physical activity areas and rooms.  I think the monthly dues are around $600.  It looked like fun and you sure wouldn’t be bored. 

The second day I drove out to Apache Junction to visit with Mary and Gerard.  We drove the Apache Trail in the Superstition Mountains. “The Superstitions are the largest of the mountain ranges surrounding Phoenix, visible from many miles away along the straight roads through the suburbs east of Mesa. They rise steeply above the flat desert to a high point of 5,024 feet, and are characterized by sheer-sided, jagged, volcanic peaks and ridges separated by boulder-filled canyons, all covered by saguaro at low elevations, with other cacti and bushes higher up. Trees are found only at scattered locations, at springs or beside streamways. Early settlers named the hills on account of the many myths and stories told by the local Pima/Apache Indians about the mountains, and tales such as the fabled Lost Dutchman gold mine.”  Americansouthwest.net   .Click here for more info.

For more than 120 years, the legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine has haunted the minds and souls of treasure seekers throughout the world. Said to be the most famous lost mine of all time, it continues to draw prospectors to the Superstition Mountains of Arizona in search of its rich gold. Read more here.

The Supersition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum is worth a stop. Formerly the Apacheland Movie Ranch, it was the shooting site of many Western television series, movies and commercials.  Many famous celebrities and movie stars have graced the grounds.  This list includes: Elvis Presley, Steve McQueen, Will Rogers, Jr, John Wayne, Audie Murphy, Linda Evans, Stella Stevens, Ida Lupino,  Rosemary DeCamp, and many, many more!

We also stopped at the Lost Dutchman State Park to take photos of the beautiful desert landscape.  They let you stay for 30 minutes to take photos for free.  We didn’t have time to hike, so the 30 minutes was plenty of time.  To learn more about the park, click here.

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Here’s an idea of the height of a Saguaro
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Mary Ann and Gerard
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Superstition Mountains

 

I’m so happy I had a chance to meet up with my friends and see the sites and see my favorite niece! 

On the way back to Yuma, Theresa and I stopped at the Painted Rocks.  I had a little trouble finding the right exit off I 10, but finally did.  I’ve camped here in the past. 

Painted Rocks near Gila Bend, AZ

For one week it was a Furtah frenzy!  This was a wonderful opportunity to hang with family.  I miss them all so much!

I think having a home on wheels will afford me the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family located around the US.

My next stop is Tucson for the Escapees’ Escapade 57, an RV Rally.  Read about it soon!

 

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Good words to live by!