Monday, May 22, 2017

Catch-Up Post # 4: Winter #2 & Spring in Arizona & Nevada

I got back to Arizona on January 3rd to pick up Zelda from her "Spa".  I think she was happy (& relieved) to see Grania and I again.  I think she was getting worried we weren't coming back for her!
Zelda looking relieved that we came back for her!

It was great to have the whole crew back together for more traveling!  It was really nice to just have Grania when driving across country, but I missed having Zelda to sleep in.  I like the easy simplicity of having just 1 vehicle when traveling, but then love having the luxury of not taking my whole house with me when I have to run errands.  Never seems to be "THE PERFECT" rig that is perfect for every situation.  They all have plusses and minuses.  

I had wanted to get back to Arizona early January so I could attend the entire RTR (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous) this year in Quartzsite.  It started on January 10th and my timing was perfect.  I got there the first day and it was already packed!  There ended up being more than 500 rigs there this year someone said.  I know the guy doing the permits said I was #300-something and people just kept coming and coming after that!  It was a bit overwhelming this year - me not being big on crowds - but it was fun to see all the cool rigs people lived in and I met some wonderful people this year.  (If you want to see some arial views, many youtubers were there this year shooting drone footage - just do a search for 2017 RTR on youtube and I'm sure you will find lots!)  I still highly recommend attending if you have any interest in going full-time (or even part-time), or just want to see what it's like to camp with a group of fun people in the middle of the desert!  The seminars were great and everyone has unique ideas to contribute to living this lifestyle.  
Moonrise over RTR

After the RTR, I headed back to Lake Havasu for a few weeks and hook back up with my friends from last winter.  It was fun catching up with them.  The weather was better this winter - still had some cold and windy days while in Q, but actually had some warmer and sunnier ones too.  I even got sunburned!  Camping in Lake Havasu, I like to be in Craggy Wash, it is so beautiful there, but having mountains all around means earlier sunsets and the earlier the cold creeps back in for the night.  But hey, it was SO MUCH better than last winter!  And by February, it really did start to warm up and be lovely! 

After a few weeks back in LHC, I was ready to hit the road again and go experience the desert and nomad life the way I had always been imaging.  So I headed back south, my destination was going to be Ajo, but when I got to Quartzsite, I decided to stop and stay a couple of days first.  I went back to where we had the RTR and it was pretty much abandoned!  What a difference it was!  I loved it!  A couple of friends I met were still camped there, so I had some fabulous neighbors.  I found a lovely little spot and made camp.  I sat there and just let the peace and solitude wash over me and took in the beauty that was all around me.
Zelda and Grania in our lovely little desert camp spot.

My "window" view of the desert.
The palo verde tree was the only thing that provided me any type of shade - of course it doesn't grow leaves, so the shade was spotty.  But the view was wonderful.

That was where I was sitting and what I was feeling when my dad passed away.  I know I was meant to be in this special place for this huge change in my life.  The desert has always been a place for major changes in my life.  I am grateful I was here and had my dear friends close by.  The next day, my friends invited me over for a delicious solar-cooked dinner and this was the sunset - my dad's sunset as I like to call it.
Dad's Sunset
I ended up flying back to Ohio to help my stepmom with whatever she needed help with and just be there for her and my sister.  We already knew we were going to have a Celebration of Life party for my dad later in the spring, so we could just have this time to be together.  When I flew back to Arizona, I decided to stay in Q for a little while and just take in what had happened.  My friends had already headed back home to slightly higher elevations, but it was just starting to get nice and warm for me in Q and the desert was starting to blossom all around me.  It was where I needed to be right then.  Another friend from RTR that was still in the area stopped by and I had fun trying to come up with new recipes to cook for us on Zelda's little butt kitchen.  I actually got really good at whipping up healthy, inexpensive meals.  It helps when you have a dinner companion that will eat anything!  I spent my time walking around the desert, inventing & eating healthy meals and laughing when I had company.  It was just what I needed then, to be taking good care of myself for a change and having fun.  

Some photos of my walks and time in the desert around Quartzsite.

Happy little flowers sunning themselves.

I love the patterns in trees and wood.  I'm like my dad on that one!
Do you see the bird heads in this photo?

Saguaro sentries guarding the moon.

E.T. pointing to home?

Sunny morning in bed!  Yes, it was WARM out finally!  I got to have my pop-up open all night!
(Please excuse the mess on my front counter.  I have to move everything off the bed at night.)

Full moon rise.

 By the second week of March, it was getting HOT at my little camp spot.  The palo verde tree did it's best to try to keep me cool, but it was no match for the heat wave that had come.  It was getting too hot during the day to do much of anything but sweat!  However, the nights were PERFECT!  My friends had invited me to come up to the Sedona area where the daytime temps were more tolerable.  So, I said goodbye to my little spot, my lizard friends - Nubbin and Mac (Nubbin caught and ate a couple of bees!  She's one bad-ass, tailless lizard!), perfect warm nights, and headed off to someplace new.

The Sedona area is GORGEOUS!!  I got to the area my friends had suggested for camping, after dark (so typical of me), but found a spot in a parking lot type of boondock for the night.  I had planned to leave and find a better place the next day.  But when I woke up and stepped out of Zelda, this is what greeted me that morning!

There ended up being 7 that I could see.

Red rocks of the Sedona area.

I stood there and thought to myself - "I so LOVE what I'm doing with my life.  Most everyone I know is fighting traffic to get to work, is stressed and probably didn't even stop to hear the birds singing this morning.  But I get to start my day with this view and amazing sight.  I am so glad I made this decision, as hard as it is somedays.".  Every nice morning, hot air balloons sailed overhead and around us.  One morning, one came up behind me and let out the hot air and I jerked up and exclaimed "WHALE!!"  It sounded just like a whale blow!  Then I turned around and there was a balloon right behind me.  Then I cracked up.  I am so weird.  

The other thing I love so much about this life I've chosen is the people I meet along the way.  Some come into my life for a short time to teach me things - about myself, about life - and then go.  Others come into my life and take root and become dear friends.  Both are important, but the amazing friends I've made have touched my heart in so many ways.  This place I stopped at just for the night ended up becoming a home for me for the next couple of weeks.  I met a small group of people who became a family there.  We looked out for each other, had campfires and evening gatherings together, and one day, after a mock football game in the parking lot, I invited everyone over to Zelda for a Taco Party!  My first dinner party thrown from Zelda's butt-kitchen!  Someone brought a table, others brought things to contribute, and at the end of the evening, I had fed a group of about 10!  What fun!  I love cooking for others and throwing parties.  I never expected to be able to ever throw a party out of Zelda.  I had been having so much fun cooking for someone else for a change, coming up with new meals and making elaborate presentations of the meals, that I often had an audience when I was cooking!  I was amazed at what I could put together on my measly budget, in my tiny kitchen, with 1 burner, and an ice cooler for my refrig.  I turned my frypan into an oven and made biscuits and even chocolate chip cookies (though those didn't turn out wonderfully, still tasty, but a little crunchy).  I wish I had gotten photos of some of the meals, but I was too busy trying to get the food on the table and I was usually a mess and didn't have my phone on me to get a picture.  But here is a list of some of the things I made for meals: quinoa veggie tacos (my Old Mother Hubbard creation), veggie pizzas, portabella mushroom cheese steak sandwiches, ham steak with roasted garlic asparagus and mashed potatoes (friend's request), tomato-avacado-mushroom salad with homemade vinaigrette dressing arranged as a flower on a plate, eggs and bacon, omelets, french toast, fresh fruit salad, sausage gravy over biscuits (friend's request), stir-fry with homemade stir-fry sauce.  I'm getting hungry just writing them all down!  

One day I went to Jerome.  It is a tiny town built on the side of a mountain.  I was told it was a ghost town.  I'm thinking, O.K., a ghost town, I'm in the west, I know what a ghost town is!  So I go driving up the mountain looking for a town of old abandoned buildings.  But instead, I came to this town of old buildings, but they aren't abandoned, they are bustling and full of quaint shops and restaurants.  I later find out it is a "Ghost" town, as in haunted!  How fun!  One of my favorite places I saw was this restaurant - a very popular place!
Someone had fun with the decor!
Sign I saw at a store in Jerome.
I can concur.
Eventually, we all had to head out for new places.  Most of the group was headed to Lake Mead, and they invited me to join them, but I had to head back to Lake Havasu to take care of a few things first. On my way, I stopped at the "Pie Place" in Williams again - I needed to make a toast to my dad and my friend's dad with a piece of pie.  

This time I ordered Blueberry Cream Cheese.
My dad's favorite pie was blueberry.  Turns out my friend's dad loved blueberries too.
The pie selections this trip.
After my time in Lake Havasu, I decided to head up to Lake Mead to meet up with my new friends before I had to head back to Ohio.  I had never been to Lake Mead before, so I didn't want to pass up the chance to go and hang with friends.  Glad I went.  I had a fun time, except for there being super high winds and blowing dust all the time.  It was making all of us sick.  That is something I don't like about the desert, and it never seems to be windless (probably when it is swelteringly hot and you need the wind!).  There is a young family that was part of this awesome group.  I had a blast teaching the kids how to fold origami (which they picked up amazingly well!), giving them minute mysteries to solve (which they exhausted my supply of), teaching astronomy and doing nighttime activities, and doing some of my environmental education lessons with them.  They did great with everything, except the flea jump - they didn't even come close to the distance they had to jump for their height. ;0)   It was so much fun to get to use my "bag of tricks" again.  It's been a long time!  I've missed teaching.
Lake Mead

You can see how low the water level is here.
Where we were camped used to be under water.  There is a what was once a boat launch and parking lot probably a mile inland and way up high from the current water level.  It is sad how little water is left.  With Las Vegas being only a few miles away, I'm not surprised.  I remember what Lake Powell looked like 30 years ago and what it looks like now.  I imagine the same is true of Lake Mead.

Full moon rise.
Another view of Lake Mead
Surrounding hills
Morning moon set over Lake Mead
Some of the group I met up with had moved to one of the campgrounds to escape the high winds and blowing dust.  I went over to visit them a couple of times, but us "young ones" who didn't get the senior discount at the campground had to slum it out in the dust and wind.  This is all of us camped together.  The wind was terrible that day as I came back and tried to get this picture.
Poor Zelda, she looks so tiny and forlorn amongst the giants.

Soon, I had to say my good-byes till we meet again out there on the road, and start my trip back to Ohio.  My dad's Celebration of Life party was scheduled for the end of April and I wanted to stop and visit friends along the way first.  I was looking forward to seeing old friends again - especially because I was rocking a killer tan!!! - but was also sad to leave my traveling life on the road for a time.  I had to find a job for the summer so I could afford to head back west for next winter.  So, Ohio bound I was.  To say good-bye to my dad, find a job for the summer, and try to get going on my business ideas so I can have money coming in all year long.  It was a sad journey east I have to say, even with everyone I looked forward to seeing again.  Everything was weighing heavily on me.  But I was excited to finally get this photo!  I went this way my first trip west and was bummed to not have any pictures of this town.

Next time I drive through, I'm going to get a picture of the Hooker Chamber of Commerce! :0)

Next post will be about where I landed for the summer.  Once again, it is a summer of no internet or cell service where I'm camped - not even texting!!  So I am actually writing this from Panera's in the closest big town.  But I have FINALLY got caught up!  YAY ME!!!  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Catch Up Post #3 - Eastern Sierra's & Fall Trip Back East

Wow, I really am SO behind here!  I knew I should have written this post just after I finished my last one.  Things rarely go as I plan - often because of pleasant surprises, but a few unpleasant ones sneak in sometimes too.

So, I left off in the Redwoods and my tearful farewell to the ocean.

Do you think he was using the Call Box to order pizza for his herd?  
Hope he had a few bucks to pay for it! 😆

From the Redwoods, I headed inland along Hwy 299 - a scenic drive, but very curvy and hilly.  I was trying to be consciencous of my braking along the way, but with all the slowing for curves as well as hills, I could tell they were getting overheated, so I had to stop to let them cool down and make a call to a friend to see how to tell if I killed them or not.  I do know about downshifting, but having driven a manual transmission car for years, I am always uncomfortable with messing up downshifting on an automatic transmission - fearing I will do it wrong and kill my transmission.  My friend set me straight on automatic shifting do's and don'ts, so after an hour or so of letting my brakes cool, I was good to continue on my way (and I can say that no brakes were harmed during that drive - i've had them checked out several times since and they got a gold star).  From Redding, I continued on to Susanville, CA on the eastern side of the Sierra's for my first Walmart camping experience.

Not sure how I'd feel about having him as my attorney.  Guess it depends on what I was hiring him for.

When I got to Walmart, I was unsure how the whole camping-in-the-parking-lot thing worked, but there were a few others already there so I did something I usually try to never do - I pulled in somewhat close to another trailer.  My main reason being that Zelda is tiny.  I didn't want to be sticking out in the middle of the parking lot where it would be easy for someone to hit her with me sleeping inside!  So, I cozied up to a medium-sized R-Pod and it turned out to be a great decision.  The occupants were 2 delightful English ladies, Ester and Pat, who were finishing up their camping trip together.  They were best friends growing up in England, and as adults, Ester moved to the U. S. and Pat stayed in England.  Both were widows, but got together as often as possible, and for Pat's visit this time to the U.S., they went camping around the Southwest.  They were on their way back to Portland, then Pat back to England.  We all agreed to be Walmart Camping Buddies and lookout for each other.  I have to say, traveling as a single female, I get to meet some of the most awesome and amazing people.  It is one of my favorite things about my nomad life.

People leaving their mark at the scenic pull-out just above Mono Lake

The next morning, we said our good-byes and they headed north and I south along the nomad-famous Hwy 395 along the eastern Sierra's.  I, being the wimp that I am when it comes to driving through big cities, skirted around Reno to the east, then made my way back to Hwy 395 south and California.  I have heard from many people how beautiful the drive along the eastern side of the Sierra's is, and they weren't kidding.  It really is amazing.  It is the dry side of the range, so not green and lush like the western side, but beautiful in it's own way.  I knew Mono Lake was my first big sight to see, but coming from the north it surprises you in a most jaw-dropping way!  As I was heading down one of the big passes, I came around a curve and there it was!  WOW!!

Mono Lake

Of course soon after I got out of the car to take pictures, it started to rain lightly and I got the first of many rainbows I would see between that day and my trip back east.  I think this one was the best rainbow of all however.

Rainbow over Mono Lake

My friends told me about a great boondock spot not too far from Mono Lake where they had experienced endless "perfect" weather.  Of course I was eager to not only camp there, but to get some "perfect" weather for myself.  (If you've followed along with me, you know where this is heading). That little rain I just mentioned?  Well it brought in a big cold front for the rest of the day and night, dropping the temperature considerably and dumping snow on the mountains just above me.  I awoke to a thin sheet of ice on the collected rainwater on my tongue box.  Yes, it was a VERY COLD night!!  But it did warm up as the day progressed and I moved farther south, so that was good.  But first I stopped at the Mono Lake Visitor Center to learn more about this unique lake.

Rainbow over my campsite as the cold front moves in.

The history of Mono Lake is fascinating.  I watched a short movie about it.  This lake and it's surrounding area have had a very turbulent volcanic history, with one eruption 760,000 years ago that was 2,500 times greater than the Mt. St. Helens eruption, burying the region in hundreds of feet of ash and causing the earth's crust to collapse more than a mile!  YEE-OW-ZA!  Mono Lake is a remnant of an ancient ice age inland sea that was along the western edge of the Great Basin (which had all it's valleys filled with water forming inland seas and lakes at that time).  As the climate changed to a drier, warmer climate, these inland seas and lakes shrunk and many dried up completely.  The lakes have no outlets, so the concentration of salt in the remaining lakes varies with water levels; Mono Lake sometimes reaching almost 3x that of the ocean when it's water levels are low.  But the lake is a major migratory stop for millions of birds and critical habitat for California Gulls, Eared Grebes and Western Phalaropes, providing a rich food source for them in the form of Alkali Flies and Brine Shrimp.
Mono Lake

Do you know what brine shrimp are???

SEA MONKEYS!!!!  Did you ever get one of those kits as a kid?  I loved them, though I was always disappointed that my Sea Monkeys never looked like the ones on the package, and mine didn't have wardrobes either.  When I worked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we had two huge vats of sea monkeys - I was so excited when I first saw them!  Yeah, like my slugs, I love the weird, unloved and unappreciated critters of the world.

Now you can be WOW'ed by sea monkeys too!  Next time you go to the doctor and they take your weight, request that they record it in Sea Monkeys!  I should have had them do that on my driver's license that I just renewed.  Bummer that I didn't think of it sooner.

From Mono Lake, I continued south, touring around the June Lake Loop . . .

That snow is from the night before!

and then south towards Lone Pine and camping at the Alabama Hills.  I have heard so much about  Alabama Hills, I couldn't wait to see them.  I found the whole area to be quite unique and with an otherworldly beauty to it.  It also has a rich history of being in over 300 Hollywood movies, mostly Westerns, but also scenes from Star Trek movies, Gladiator, Tremors, and Dinosaurs.  The rock formations looked like Native American faces to me, making me feel like I was in a very sacred place.  I can't wait to go back and explore.

The Alabama Hills

Face rock at Alabama Hills

Rock formations at Alabama Hills

After leaving the Alabama Hills, I was headed back to Lake Havasu to meet up with some friends for a couple of days before I had to head east.  As I headed eastward, I encountered MORE rainbows and also stopped at Pine County Restaurant in William, AZ for pie!!  When I first came west the previous fall, I stopped there on recommendation of my friend Mary, who is from Arizona, but I opted for a hot meal that visit, though I was entranced by the large display case of their pies!  I promised myself, the next trip through the area I would stop for a piece of pie; and so I did.  Chocolate covered cherry to be precise!  YUM!

The only downside to stopping here for pie, is that it is just me, so I only get to try one kind.  I tried to get a group together to go with me this spring so we could all get different kinds and pass them around to try, but it ended up falling through (but I stopped anyway).

Anyone want to go on a pie tasting outing with me??

For my fall trip back east, I decided to leave Zelda in Arizona since I wouldn't need to live in her and had no place to park her.  I found a wonderful storage place for her and tucked her into her "spa".  It was sad to leave her behind, but she seemed O.K. with the decision.  Grania then became my home on wheels, and I got to try out the platform bed my friend and I built the previous winter.  It worked pretty well.

Employing safe traveling practices with my bucket, 😜

My time back east ended up being longer than I expected, but it was for good reasons.  Besides doing my regular rounds of appointments, I wanted to spend as much time at my sister's as I could.  I hadn't seen my little niece since April when she was just 1 month old, and she turned 8 months in October!  I missed out on so much, but after a couple of days, we were buds and I just fell deeper in love with her.  She and my nephew bring me so much joy and laughter, I wish they weren't so far away from where I need to live.

Another rainbow while on my trip east.
I was starting to feel a little green and having strange cravings for flies.  🐸

The other reason for my trip back east was to house and kitty sit for some friends.  I will admit it was really nice to be in a stick and brick house again with all the conveniences, like running HOT water, indoor kitchen with a refrigerator, and heat!, but I didn't like being back in"civilization".  I could feel my stress level rising and I became kind of zombie-like - unable to focus and mentally lethargic.  I didn't get anything done that I had wanted to do while I had the indoor space and unlimited high speed internet, but I did get my dad and step-mom moved to a new house . . . Again!  I teased them that I wasn't coming back to visit because every time I did, I had to move them!  But we got them moved and settled in just a couple of days before Christmas, then I took one more visit to my sister's before I headed west again for the winter.  The timing seemed to be just right, I stayed with a friend  New Year's Eve, then started my journey westward the first day of the new year.

Sign at the pie place!

Well, I managed to get us to January 2017 finally!  Unfortunately, it is already May.  😩

Another sign at the pie place!