Road Trip!

Growing up in a small town in the Midwest, we did not have the means to take exotic vacations, but even still I have fond memories of taking road trips. In our early years of marriage we carried on that trend, but as time marched on careers got in the way and the idea of road trips fell by the wayside.

Our need to get away this year grew exponentially as the “dog days of summer” wore on us, and as the end of August approached, space opened for us to take to the road. Since we both have family living in the Heartland, we decided a road trip might be in order, so we threw our bikes on the back of our vehicle, packed our camping gear (just in case), and headed out.

Our first stop was Boulder City, NV, where two of our buddies who we met on the road as RVers have thrown down a few more roots, buying a lovely home in this delightful town outside Las Vegas.

One of many beautiful lakes in the west – Lake Mohave

It’s a perfect location for these hard-core hikers and Jeepers, and although it was still quite warm outside to do much sightseeing, we had ample time to play catch-up, enjoying time in their lovely home and pool, thanks to their generosity.

The impressive Hoover Dam
Of course we had a bighorn sighting, thanks to our ‘bighorn whisperer’ friend Pam.
Bowl of Fire
Our gracious hosts and friends – Pam and John

Their’s is a relationship that can comfortably be “picked up just where we left off” last visit, the very best kind of friendship. We were thankful for some quality time together and left already looking forward to another winter visit.

Next stop was Corrales, NM, where another couple of RVing friends have settled. Located just outside Albuquerque, it has the perfect blending of Native American and Spanish traditions, stubbornly trying to hold onto its rural personality amid the expanding city of Albuquerque.

Their home was so cozy and charming.

Welcoming blue door
Labyrinth and relaxed seating area to enjoy bird life and the setting sun.
Wonderful mountain views from a side yard.
Our wonderful host and hostess – Hector & Brenda. I was having too much fun to take a photo while in Corrales.

And a river runs through it, the Rio Grande.

Two days flowed into four as we chatted away the days laughing, biking, sightseeing, and sitting out in their lovely gardens listening to the birds and catching the alpenglow on the mountains. We cannot thank Hector and Brenda enough for their generosity and look forward to seeing them again later this year.

Although not the travel year we had anticipated, having the time to reconnect with friendships developed across this country and beyond during our travels has been as rich an experience as the sights that have taken our breath away.

Join us as we visit the Heartland of this country, a region I am embarrassed to admit I wanted to escape as quickly as I could once I graduated high school. Hopefully time, and a bit more wisdom, have allowed my eyes to see beyond what I did as a teenager.

A Vanishing Act ~ Washoe Lake State Park, NV

It seemed that we were finally leaving behind the cold, wintry weather of the Eastern Sierras as we continued our journey, but unfortunately not the rain. As we pulled into Washoe Lake State Park, with raindrops falling, at least the weather did not chill us to the bone, and we had two fair-sized cities within reach for restocking supplies, Carson City and Reno.

Something that did warm us even before heading to Washoe was receiving an email from a couple we had recently met, letting us know where they were headed, and saying “but you are probably many days behind us”. My reply, “just one day”, and before we knew it we were reconnecting with Life’s Little Adventures Jim and Gayle at the park. Seems we had both decided that Washoe was a quiet destination for avoiding the crowds over the Memorial Day weekend.

Jim & Terry watching yet another storm roll in before dashing back to the campground
Jim & Terry watching yet another storm roll in before dashing back to the campground

During our last visit Washoe Lake was a mere shadow of itself, but this time it had managed a complete vanishing act, bone-dry due to the drought conditions in the west. Its reliance on snowpack and its normal 12’ depth has rendered it dry several times since the ‘70’s. Someday I would love to see it as an actual body of water, with pelicans bobbing on the surface and herons feeding on the shoreline.

Dry Washoe Lake today
Dry Washoe Lake today
Washoe Lake in its heyday, photo credit

Even without a drop of lake water, we still feel this is a great little find. The Carson and Virginia Mountain Ranges surround the campground, making for dramatic photos of mountaintops crowned with billowy clouds. Taking a walk through the desert right outside your door will reward you with sand dunes to explore, jackrabbits to watch racing across the sage-dotted landscape, and quail scurrying through the brush. Your cozy site will be large, level, and well paved, each with its own cabana, table, and fire ring.

The hillside trail where we finally managed a hike .
The hillside trail where we finally managed a hike

After three days of rain, with some short breaks for walks through the park, only to dash back to the warmth of our rigs when the rain fell again, the four of us finally awoke to a sunny day filled with birdsong. We quickly decided that a hike in the surrounding hills was in order to rid ourselves of the cabin fever that had cast its spell over us.

L-R:  Terry, Jim & Gayle clowning around
L-R: Terry, Jim & Gayle clowning around

Nights were reserved for getting to know each other better and for our ongoing lessons in craft brews from two of the “beer sommeliers” we had originally met at Jojoba Hills.

Heading home after a successful day of hiking
Heading home after a successful day of hiking

I felt a bit heavy-hearted as we left Washoe Lake State Park, sad to be saying goodbye to a couple who we knew that we wanted to get to know better. Before we left we were already contemplating our next rendezvous, such is the beauty of this lifestyle. And Jim sent us off with a list of craft beers that awaited us at the wine store in Reno. 🙂

Reflecting Back on 2012

This year is quickly coming to an end and what a whirlwind of a year it has been for us!  We were blessed with a myriad of new adventures, visits with family and friends, and had a few setbacks along the way, just to keep things real.  Our year has been chock-full of travel (just what we nomads need to feed our souls) and our landscape has been painted in broad brushstrokes of colors and textures, by way of deserts, mountains, a nice mix of big cities and cool little towns and jaw-droppingly gorgeous coastline.  Biking, hiking, kayaking and long strolls on the beach have filled our days and allowed spirits to take flight.

Our wandering took us through the western part of the US, where we feel the most fulfilled and the flames of our passions were brightly fanned.  A medical concern for Terry early in the year diverted us away from plans to re-visit Yellowstone National Park but we were able to hike through several other national parks in lieu of the granddaddy of them all.  A trip back to the midwest to visit family rounded out the mix for us, making for a most rewarding year.

We began our year in Arizona, where we spent many of our working years, then continued on to Southern California, camphosting at San Elijo State Beach for several months, into Northern California, then lazily making our way up the Oregon coast, which was beyond breathtaking.  We crossed over into the state of Washington to take a peek at Mount St. Helens, and on the way back down south spent a few days in Nevada.  As we continued south we drove highway 395 in California (amazing), stopping to revel in the beauty of the Eastern Sierras, searching for ghost towns and Methuselah.  We met up with friends who introduced us to boondocking and when the fiery reds and golden glow of fall moved into the pronounced chill of winter, we came full-circle and returned to San Elijo State Beach, where we will stay until the end of January.  It was so good to hook up with friends we had previously met on the road and wonderful to meet a few new folks.

I’ve had my camera by my side almost every step of the way so I thought I would provide a glimpse of some of the beauty we have seen along the way.  If you have never been, hopefully you will be inspired to check out the breathtaking vistas of the Wild West.  Enjoy!

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Symphony at Sunset ~ Washoe Lake State Park, NV

Washoe Lake at sunset

Welcome to Washoe Lake State Park, where the desert days are warm and the deepening shadows give way to stunning hues and a plethora of sounds.  Just prior to the sun bidding farewell, laughter and the pounding of horses’ hooves can be heard as campers enjoy a sunset ride along the lake.  Locusts, crickets, and all matter of creepy-crawly creatures move to the rhythms of the night.  Coyotes circle around, whether to howl at the full moon or to serenade us, who can know?  Their cadence quickens to a piercing cacophony of shrieks and howls (quite eerie).    Most likely they are banding together for the kill, hopefully not one of the shy jackrabbits we see bounding around our camp site.  Such is the symphony at sunset in these parts.

Mesmerizing clouds over the mountains

This is the Nevada desert and it could be Arizona as I admire our 360º view of mountain ranges, enormous billowing clouds and aromatic sagebrush.  Place a grouping of prickly cacti in this picture and I am transported back to our Arizona home.

We lucked upon site #8, a pull-through, facing out over Washoe Lake and the mountains – pretty sweet. The suggestion for this state park came from our RV buddies Nina and Paul of Wheeling It.  Not sure how we would have found our way this past year if not for their fabulous tips (lol).

Desert sky on fire!

Our favorite pastime while here has been to pull up a rocking chair with wineglass in hand (filled with a nice Zin of course) and watch the sky explode into a fireball of oranges and reds as the sun slips below the mountain peaks, only to transform itself a few moments later to cooler shades of pinks and purples.

Terry on Lake Tahoe shore

Lest you think we haven’t peeled ourselves out of our chairs the entire time we have been here, we did run some errands in Reno and take a day trip to Lake Tahoe, which we had never seen (can you believe it?!).  Beyond this, we have been most content to pour a glass of wine; pull up a chair;  point it west; and as the sun dips lower in the sky, marvel at our Creator’s stunning work, the constantly changing colors penetrating the clouds.  Tomorrow we head for the mountains, but for tonight, we await the symphony at sunset.

Inspiration Point ~ Lake Tahoe
Fannette Island on Lake Tahoe

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