Friends Old and New

“There are some people in life who make you laugh a little louder, smile a little bigger, and live just a little better.” ~ Anonymous

Wind turbines stand in the canola fields near Pincher Creek, en route to Cochrane
Wind turbines stand in the canola fields near Pincher Creek, en route to Cochrane

As we left Waterton Lakes National Park, our journey continued northward to Cochrane, one of the largest cities in the Alberta province and one of the fastest growing communities in all of Canada.  It’s Western, outdoorsy culture, with rolling hills, turquoise rivers, trails and paths, set against a Rocky Mountain backdrop, was divine.

Turquoise waters of the Ghost River
Turquoise waters of the Ghost River

Cochrane was on our radar, as we couldn’t pass an opportunity to reconnect with friends Jim and Barb.  We had met this lovely couple two years ago in Florida, where a quick introduction found us spending the rest of the evening and several days after talking like we had known each other our entire lives.  We have since caught up with them in So Cal and were now looking forward to seeing them on their home turf.

Wonderful friends Jim & Barb
Wonderful friends Jim & Barb

Jim and Barb graciously extended an invitation to stay in their beautiful home.  We couldn’t have had a lovelier experience had we stayed in the finest B&B.

The next several days we were treated to Barb’s scrumptious home-cooked meals and were the lucky recipients of Jim and Barb’s tour guide expertise, giving us a taste of Calgary (a beautiful city) and a full-day tour of Kananaskis Country, where the breathtaking Canadian Rockies surrounded us at every turn.

Our visit ended with an invitation to their annual block party, where 60+ neighbors warmly welcomed us into the fold.  I found myself wishing for someone to adopt us.  I was ready to pack my bags and head north.

And if that wasn’t enough, I had one more highly anticipated visit while in Cochrane.

When I was certain our travels were taking us to Cochrane, I reached out to a blogger friend in the hopes that she lived closed enough and was interested in meeting.  She did and she was and a plan was hatched. And now I can say that I have met one of my favorite bloggers, Sue Slaght of Travel Tales of Life.  If you aren’t already following her (and I’m sure many of you are) you really should check her out.  Funny, engaging, and chock-full of adventure, Sue’s is the consummate blog that all tourism boards would love to know.  Over coffee, both Sue and I agreed that meeting felt like reconnecting with an old friend.

Sue & me at Legacy Guitar House in Cochrane
Sue & me at Legacy Guitar House in Cochrane

I find meeting those who you can easily engage in conversation, yet find comfort in the silence, one of the most delightful pleasures in life.

We cannot thank Jim and Barb enough for their gracious hospitality, and hope to see them again next spring.  As for Sue, I would have been so disappointed had we been so close and our paths hadn’t crossed.  I hope this is just the first of many visits.

A sign outside a great restaurant, Anejo, in Calgary. Our crazy political scene is not lost on our friends north of the border.
A sign outside a great restaurant, Anejo, in Calgary. Our crazy political scene is not lost on our friends north of the border.

Idaho Connections

Friendship…I have spoken of it often.  We all have them, some deeper than others.  I find that the older I grow, the more I am touched by the special connections I make, the richer the experiences, the fuller my life.

Spending my career in the corporate world I didn’t take the time to reflect upon these special bonds.  I was too busy flying around the country or sitting behind a desk from the early morning well into the evening.  The corporate life can do that – demand all of you.

Reflective morning on Pend Orielle River
Reflective morning on Pend Orielle River

As I sit here writing, I am enveloped in a comforting cloak of gratitude.  This nomadic lifestyle, the ability to retire when we did, has given us many opportunities to make some amazing friends, those we know will last a lifetime.

We recently spent three days with just such a couple, two special people we met this past winter in Jojoba Hills…easy conversation, quick to laugh, great hugs.  You know the type.

Terry and Frank pairing up for a game of pickleball
Terry and Frank pairing up for a game of pickleball

When Frank and Margee learned of our summer travel plans, they generously extended an invitation to stay on their property in Idaho for a few days.  Wanting to get to know them better, we accepted.

Marina in Coeur d’Alene

Days were filled with hiking, great meals, and lots of laughs.  They carved three days out to taxi us around, showing us the sights.  We are so grateful for their incredible generosity and the time to better know this wonderful couple.

Terry learning to take a selfie with our new phone
On the Lakeview Mtn Trail overlooking Priest Lake.
Frank and Margee - a very special couple we are honored to call friends
Frank and Margee – a very special couple we are honored to call friends

With one last heartfelt thank you and hugs all around, Frank’s final comment still echoes – “you’re family.”  And that is what I am finding in this journey we call life, friendships that embody the best of family.

Touching Lives ~ Final Thoughts on Lopez Island

Our time on Lopez Island has passed, giving me time to reflect on this magical little island. Being camp hosts at Spencer Spit State Park for the past six weeks gave us time to get to know the island at a leisurely pace.  This is unlike what many of us are faced with when we pull into a new destination, having only a few days or a week to explore, and a list a page long of all we want to see.

Volunteering has given us that luxury, for which we are grateful.  For us it is not just about having more leisure time to explore or getting a free site in exchange for work, although that is pretty sweet.  It is important for us to give back in some way while on the road, as we feel so blessed to have the time and resources to travel this beautiful country of ours.  Lopez Island has been a wonderful place to give back, and staff and park visitors alike often expressed their appreciation for the work we did.

As I perused photos capturing the wonderful memories we made on Lopez, I felt compelled to write this short post.  Time and again we saw how one couple touched lives here on the island, both with the locals and park visitors alike.  That couple was Laurel and Eric, two people who we are pleased to call our friends.

Laurel and Eric acted as the park’s Interpretive Hosts, planning and facilitating the Junior Ranger Program and a program they developed called Coffee with the Birds, geared towards adults.  For those who have seen a child being sworn in as a Junior Ranger or watched as they ran around a park completing their workbooks, you know what a heartwarming experience it is.  They are fully engaged, serious about their assignment.

As I watched Laurel and Eric conducting their weekly programs, pure delight is what I saw on the faces.  These two touched lives each time they gathered visitors together around the tables.

And we saw first-hand the connection they’ve made with the local community as well, when we sat in on some of the jam sessions they had with other musicians on the island.  They have touched many lives, ours as well. We are so grateful our paths have crossed.

A Welcoming Vibe ~ Ashland, OR

Since we visited the Oregon coast three years ago we have dreamt of returning to explore more of what has become one of our favorite states. Ashland has long been a city on our must-see list, with several friends agreeing that it was a special place. Knowing that our RV buddies Laurel and Eric (Raven and Chickadee) were there when we arrived made it that much sweeter.

Emigrant Lake
Emigrant Lake

Once we settled into our site at Emigrant Lake Recreation Area, my first request was a visit to urgent care to ensure that Terry’s shortness of breath and near constant pain was nothing more than bruised ribs from an earlier fall. Thankfully that was the diagnosis so now we could move on to having some fun, albeit at a slower pace for a while. A lovely dinner that evening at Laurel and Eric’s home set the tone for a very relaxing week.

Although unexpected circumstances like bruised ribs and unseasonably hot weather that settled in later in the week changed our plans, as in no hiking or biking for several days, slowing things down a bit allowed us to become the typical tourists and enjoy some quality time with friends.

Laurel and Eric were gracious hosts to their home city, taking us on a lovely hike through Lithia Park, a beautiful city park that I would love to revisit in the fall when the maple trees are at their peak colors. Laurel also shared some of her longtime girlfriends with me, inviting me to a day of arts and crafts where I took away some colorful artwork to brighten up our little Fox.

Lovely Lithia Park
Lovely Lithia Park

First Friday found Terry and I wandering the downtown streets to explore interesting galleries, talk to the artists, and listen to the joyful music of Zimbabwe performed by Sonic Kaleidoscope…great fun! We enjoyed dinner and drinks at the Standing Stone Brewery, where Steel Cut Stout won for favorite brew.

We returned to downtown Ashland several more times, visiting the Saturday farmers’ market, the artisans’ market, and the Ashland Co-op. From the quaint coffee shops we visited in the Historic Railroad District, to the farmers’ market, the artisans’ market, and the wonderful Ashland Co-op, the welcoming nature of the locals confirmed our belief that there was something special about this lovely city. And the folks at Mix make some darn fine gelato. I loved the chocolate truffle and Terry the salted caramel but we both agreed that mixing the two was heaven in a cup!

Ashland may be best known for its Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which runs nine months of the year. We hoped for last minute tickets for the show Pericles, which we were told was a must-see, but unfortunately there were none to be had. What we enjoyed instead was a free performance at the Green Show, the last performance of the season by Sonic Kaleidoscope. It was a joy to watch these talented grade school and high school kids playing the marimba for their final performance of the season. The only downside was the temperature was hovering around 100°. One last stop to sample a flight at Caldera Brewery seemed to be what was needed to slake our thirst on a hot Ashland day. The Pilot Rock Porter seemed to win the taste-test for both of us.

The best part of our week, the gift that fed both body and soul, was enjoying a lovely dinner our last night in Ashland with Laurel and Eric, at friends Ted and Katherine’s home. We had met Ted and Kath at Anza Borrego this past winter and they are delightful.

Their fabulous home has breathtakingly expansive views, beautiful gardens, a lovely little vineyard, and some of the most spectacular sunset views right off the deck. Their generosity was so heartwarming, making our time in Ashland special indeed.

Making Connections ~ San Diego, CA

The beauty of being a full-time RVer is the ability to balance a healthy dose of solitude with lots of social gatherings.  Winter seems to be best for the latter, as many of us are stationary for longer stretches, giving ample time to catch up with those taking a respite from the road.  There are a handful of states where many RVers go to escape winter’s frigid nature:  California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida most notable.  So it should have come as no surprise that several couples we knew, via blog or previously met on the road, flocked to San Diego to bask in the sun and let the cool ocean breezes wash over them.

Being just a short distance away from the big city, we have been fortunate to visit several friends the past few weeks who were grooving to San Diego’s vibe.  I have spent many a summer vacation in San Diego so I was content to just spend time catching up with old friends and reveling in their exploits.

Balboa Park

After a few days of exploring Anza Borrego State Park with Eric and Laurel (Raven and Chickadee) in late February, we weren’t expecting to see them again so soon, but their travels took them to the North Park neighborhood of San Diego so we got together and wandered cultural Balboa Park with them.  If you have not been, this park is 1,200 acres of stunning architecture, graceful gardens, interesting museums, and a great artist colony.  Lunch on the patio at Prado was quite tasty and, as you can see below, Eric got his money’s worth.

We extended our visit into the evening over a yummy salad created  by Laurel from what we had scored at the farmers’ market earlier that day. What a lovely couple and how lucky we are to be seeing them again later this summer.

Tasty little flight

The infamous Nina and Paul (Wheelingit) also breezed into San Diego, landing at the popular Mission Bay RV Resort.  For those who follow Nina’s blog, and who doesn’t, they were on a mission to taste test their way through as many San Diego breweries as they could. So, where else would be meet them for lunch than a craft beer establishment, Stone Brewery at Liberty Station.  Although we did not have much time to catch up, as they had family in town, it was wonderful to see them again.  Mission Bay is where our paths first crossed three years ago and it is always a delight to see them again.

Terry, me, Paul, Nina & sweet pooch Polly

I’m sure we can all agree that Nina’s blog posts have enriched our lives and given us adventures we may not have anticipated.

Next up was Jim and Barb (Bounding the Borders), a charming couple we were introduced to last winter in Cedar Key, Florida, two whom we felt comfortable with from the moment we met.  They came to Jojoba Hills for a week this winter, after spending time at Mission Bay, giving us ample time to share good food, drink, and great conversation.  I can’t tell you how pleased we were to reconnect with them, and knowing we are planning to meet up again later this year puts a smile on my face.

I have found there is a sense of serendipity to this lifestyle.  We learned over a homemade meal that Jim and Barb had met the very couple we were planning to join for lunch later that week.  So the four of us wheeled our way back to San Diego to meet Hector and Brenda (Island Girl Walkabout) for lunch at the Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill, a knock-your-socks-off place to go for fish tacos.  We had lunched here with Hector and Brenda once already this winter but everyone seemed to need a taco fix so back to Blue Water.  With any luck we may see the Island Girl dwellers later this year as well.

The breeze off the ocean seemed just right for a stopover at Torrey Pines Gliderport, and by the looks of the skies, everyone with a passion for the sport thought so too.

When we began this nomadic adventure, I dreamt of all the magnificent vistas that awaited us.  What I have discovered is that this journey is made much more satisfying by the extraordinary people connections we’ve made along the way, those on the road, those whom we have met only through blogs, and those at our Jojoba Hills’ winter base.

I toast all who have enriched our lives and look forward to meeting many more of you as we renew our wandering ways in a couple of weeks.  I am eagerly counting down the days. 🙂