Archive for the 'travel' Category

Southwest US RV Trip, Part Seven

We spent two days relaxing in Amado at the De Anza RV Resort. Immediately after arriving and setting up the RV, we went swimming in the indoor pool. I don’t understand the attraction of all the indoor pools. The sun is glorious and I love to sit next to the pool, but indoors it just doesn’t have the same appeal. I suppose in the summer, an indoor pool in the desert is doubly refreshing, and it keeps the water on the cooler side.

Our View at De Anza

Our View at De Anza

They had a “Happy Hour, Free Margarita” social event at 4pm, so you know where we went after that! We met some very nice people there, and there was a group of about 15 from the same RV club. I’m pretty sure we were the youngest people there, hehe! One couple showed us their drivers’ licenses. They were from Oregon but lived in their RV, so the address on their license was “Continuous Traveler”, which I thought was pretty cool.

My friend Jennifer, who lives in Tuscon, drove down to visit for the evening. I haven’t seen her in about 13 years, so it was a fantastic evening of catching up. She left early the next day, New Year’s Eve, to celebrate in Phoenix with her boyfriend.

We didn’t do much on NYE. Sat around, relaxed, did some laundry, played ping pong, played shuffleboard, and just about nothing else.

The next day we packed up and drove north on I-10. WE stopped in Casa Grande for gas and continued along Hwy 238 to the Sonoran Desert. The plan was to free camp somewhere, anywhere, in the desert. As we drove through the desert, the right side of the road was all fenced off with signs prohibiting motorized vehicles. The right side of the road had open roads/spots in the fence, but there were train tracks that you couldn’t drive over. We finally stopped at one of the spots on the right and there was a sign indicating the entire north section of the Sonoran Desert was closed due to damage from ATV’s and other motorized vehicles.

We didn’t give up hope, though! We kept driving and just a few miles before the western boundary of the desert, we found a road we could traverse with the RV. We drove in, found a spot we were able to navigate turning around in, and set up camp!

Panorama - Sonoran Desert

Panorama - Sonoran Desert

We made a fire ring and sat around it to watch the sun set. Jake made a delicious hamburger/macaroni dinner and a kick-ass fire. The three of us relaxed around the fire for a few hours before turning in.

Sunset in the Sonoran Desert

Sunset in the Sonoran Desert

The wind picked up sometime around 1 or 2am, and it was nuts. I don’t think it was as bad as it was as our first night in Tecopa Hot Springs, but it was close. We left our camping chairs outside and we thought one of them blew away, but somehow it ended up under one of the others, and they were all bunched in a pile from the wind. I didn’t get any sleep, but I did “wake up” and make coffee and watch the sun rise. (I’m getting to see a lot of sunsets and sunrises on this trip!)

Sunrise in the Sonoran Desert

Sunrise in the Sonoran Desert

We drove through Gila Bend and north on Hwy 85 to Buckeye. We had to backtrack a couple of miles on I-10 to get to a store so we could plan food for the next couple of days. We were quickly back on the road (we’re getting this shopping thing down to a science!) and heading for Quartzsite. There is absolutely nothing between Buckeye and Quartzsite, except for a couple of typical beautiful Arizonian rest stops and 90 miles.

Jake originally planned to stay in Quartzsite for a couple of days. Quartzsite has the largest gem/rock/stone tradeshow in the world in January and February. Apparently, an estimated 750,000 to 1,000,000 people visit Quartzsite in a year! We stopped at the Chamber of Commerce for info, since this is the only place we didn’t have a plan of attack for visiting beforehand, and drove around a bit. We were a little disappointed. The town is pretty much one giant RV park and flea market. Not exactly the kind of place we felt like spending two days in, so we left. Well, after stopping in to a place called Gem World so Bruce could see some cool rocks and stuff.

We drove just a few miles down the road west to Ehrenberg, which had an RV park listed in the AAA guide. The first few we passed were kind of dodgy, but when we drove up to the River Breeze RV park, we were happy to see that it looked great! The office was closed but the owner met us at the entrance and showed us where we could park. It’s on the Colorado River, and there is a nice breeze coming up the length of the park from the river…so it’s aptly named. Hehe!

We swam in the outdoor pool (yay!) which was the perfect temperature, and the afternoon temp was around 80F, and went back and forth between the pool and hot tub a couple of times. Bruce and I wandered down to the end of the park to check out the river, horseshoes, and I showed Bruce how to play tetherball. I finally got to play with someone shorter than me! ;-)

Jake made onion-crusted baked chicken for dinner (Yum!) and we ate outside. I’m really going to miss this warmth when I get back to Ontario!

Today we decided that we’ll stay here in Ehrenburg for another day. We have about five more nights of camping plus another couple of days in Vegas, which means we have lots of time to make it back to Vegas because we’re pretty close. We’re thinking of staying around Lake Havasu for a day or two, and in Mohave for a night, before going back to Vegas.

(Bruce and Jake just finished playing a board game and have gone for a swim. I’m actually trying to help a client remotely on a SLOW internet connection right now, so I figured I’d get this blog post in while I’m doing that. Windows Live Writer is fantastic for this sort of thing! Unfortunately I’ll have to wait to upload this post because I’m tethering my phone and the connection keeps timing out when uploading pics. Sigh.)

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Southwest US RV Trip, Part Six

We drove to Tombstone and spent the day there playing tourist. It was a pretty neat little town. We watched a re-enactment of the fight at the O.K. Corral, then went back to the RV for lunch. We walked around, bought some stuff, and took a ride on a coach that was used on the to carry people back and forth from somewhere 24 days away. California I think. Anyway, apparently Mark Twain actually caught a ride in it. They took us on a tour of the town, which was kinda neat. We also took a tour of the Good Enough Mine, which really impressed the little guy. The lady that runs the shooting gallery let us in even though she had just closed, and Jake and B got to shoot some real guns (not real bullets!). We ate at the Longhorn restaurant in town (I suggest the Tombstone, an open faced Angus burger with chili. YUM.) and went back to the RV for the night. Oh, the weather was awesome. Hot and sunny!

Jake and B

Jake and B

The Good Enough Mine

The Good Enough Mine

The Earps, and the Stagecoach we rode in

The Earps, and the Stagecoach we rode in

B on the Stagecoach

B on the Stagecoach

This morning we got up as early as we could and went to Nogales. The McDonald’s there is walking distance from the border and you can park there all day for $4. Not bad! In hindsight, we would have saved our appetites for after we crossed the border, man that food smelled delicious!

Crossing the border on foot was super easy, we had no problems at all. After getting to the other side, we went into a little shop to buy some stuff. The guy was very much a salesman, but he was really nice too. He showed us where to get some Mexican Coke and tequila. :) We bought a blanket from him, plus a small toy dragon for B (which B has been playing with all day).

We walked around for a bit more before deciding we were done and wanted to head back. Jake loaded up on Mexican Coke before we left — I think the vendor thought Jake was a little nuts, which was pretty funny.

Our purchases in Mexico

Our purchases in Mexico

It was still pretty early in the day, but that meant driving to our next destination, which was an hour away, would be a pleasant drive. We checked in at De Anza RV Resort around 1pm or so, leaving the rest of the day to chill.  We went swimming, played ping pong, ate lunch, and took part in the Free Margarita Happy Hour from 4-5pm. I’m pretty sure Jake and I are the youngest people at the park, aside from the kids. ;)

One of my friends that lives in Tuscon is coming to hang out, catch up, and have a few drinks this evening. What a nice surprise!

The adventure continues!

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Southwest US RV Trip, Part Five

The next day after the Grand Canyon was relatively uneventful. We made a few hours drive through Tuscon to get to Apache Junction. There was a KOA there we had picked out to stay at for the night, mostly because it had an outdoor swimming pool, although we ended up not swimming because I accidentally left Jake’s swimming trunks in Laughlin. :/

The next morning we intended to stop in Walmart in Benson, AZ and then to an RV park between Huachucha City and Tombstone. On our way out of Tuscon we passed by the Pima Air and Space Museum, which was on our list of things to see, but we forgot about it! We got to Benson, filled up on supplies, and decided to stay in Benson at the Butterfield RV Resort and go back to Tuscon to the museum in the morning.

The park in Benson was really nice, great facilities. This time we actually did go for a swim (thankfully the Benson store had two pairs of trunks available, one of which was Jake’s size!) before turning in for the night. Jake and I have been catching up on Breaking Bad, which is kind of funny since we’re in an RV in the Southwest US. Hehehe!

The park also had an actual observatory! They had a Meade LX200 GPS 16-inch telescope with an observatory dome. That night they had a “show”, which consisted of a nice older gentleman who volunteered to show visitors the stars. We saw open clusters, binary stars, nebulas (Orion nebula was one), the Andromeda galaxy, and Jupiter. You could see the rings on Jupiter and four of it’s moons. It was really, really, awesome.

We tried to go to a local restaurant called Megaly’s for dinner, but they close at 8pm. What the heck?! It was 8:30. The restaurant next door was open and I really wanted some Mexican food. So we went next door to Pablo’s. Mmmm, chicken tacos and fajitas!

The only downside to that RV park was the trains. It must be a very active train throughway because every single hour a train would come barreling through, honking it’s horn the whole way. I dreamed about trails all night, hehehe!

The next morning we went to the Pima Museum. They have the largest airplane graveyard in the world. They offer a bus tour of the Davis-Monthan AFB graveyard as well, which of course we did! We saw lots of different military planes at the AFB and at the museum, plus some really cool old commercial planes too.

I love this!

I love this!

I used to work on this plane!

I used to work on this plane!

Love the retro.

Love the retro.

Jake and the Peacemaker

Jake and the Peacemaker

We drove down Hwy 83 out of Tuscon, then Hwy 82 through Huachuca City, to the Tombstone Territories RV Park. Which is where we are now! It’s very secluded, and a pretty nicely laid out park. They kind of mislead their “wifi” advertising. Sure, it’s free, but in the rec building. That’s ok.

I got a couple of pics of the beautiful sunset just after we arrived.

Sunset near Tombstone, AZ

Sunset near Tombstone, AZ

Just After Sunset

Just After Sunset

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Southwest US RV Trip, Part Four

Not too much to report from today, which is kind of good because while I’m writing this, I’m also uploading the last two posts!

We got up early this morning, made breakfast, and got on the road to drive to Phoenix. We took the scenic route from Grand Canyon Village to Flagstaff, which was absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately, I’m too lazy to upload pics because they’re on my camera SD card. Maybe later.

When we got to Flagstaff we filled up and found the local Walmart for supplies. It is worth mentioning that it is definitely the nicest and Walmart I have ever been in! Not only was the scenery beautiful, but the parking lot wasn’t massive and it wasn’t overcrowded with people. That said, Flagstaff itself looks like a very nice town to live in.

Most Scenic Walmart Ever, Flagstaff

Most Scenic Walmart Ever, Flagstaff



We drove to Phoenix, and then all the way through it to Apache Junction.

Jake and I made a delicious meal in the RV oven. The damn smoke detector goes off if you look at it, which is always amusing because we forget that it does that.

We’re now parked at the Mesa Apache Junction KOA. We haven’t decided if we’re going to head out tomorrow but I think we will because the next campground we’re going to is more secluded and has a lot more things to do. Tonight we were all just lazy, which is totally cool with me!

Chillin' at the KOA

Chillin' at the KOA

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Southwest US RV Trip, Part Three

We left Laughlin a little on the later side of the morning. It was the first time since the start of the trip that we actually slept in. It helps that hotel curtains cut out most of the light. Winking smile

We have been using Gas Buddy to plan our gas purchases. It has come in quite handy, especially considering the RV has a 55 gallon tank. We hopped over the bridge to Bullhead City to get gas before starting the next leg of the journey.

We stopped in Kingman for groceries and supplies. When we pulled in to the parking lot at Walmart, it took us about half a second to realize why it was so freaking busy…Christmas Eve! We managed to find a place to park, thankfully!

After filling up on supplies, we hit the road. We had planned on stopping in Williams, AZ for the night at what we hoped was a cute little RV park before the turnoff to the Grand Canyon National Park.

We saw another beautiful sunset on the road, but it was otherwise an uneventful trip.

We arrived at the Canyon Motel and RV Park just after sunset. The park was totally adorable! Very very well signed, the owner was happy and super friendly. We quickly set up the RV and had dinner. Jake bought cider and spiced rum, so it was a very yummy treat for the cold evening.

We noticed that the temperature swings are huge in the area. Low 20’s at night and it was getting up to 60 during the day. Crazy! Due to this, we had to drain all the water out of the RV so the lines wouldn’t freeze at night. This means living without water, which is why we picked a campground with showers and other convenient amenities. I would have loved to stay there another night and just relax, but we really wanted to continue riding the “heat wave” of unseasonably warm weather and visit the Grand Canyon while we could.

So, the next morning we had a quick breakfast, shower, and broke down the RV, jumped on 180/64 north. The drive to the canyon is not what I expected. We sort of left mountains and were presented with elevated plains. It was really flat for a long while, and you wouldn’t even know you were coming up on a supremely huge canyon if you didn’t already know it was there. It made me think of what it must have been like for people a long time ago to be surprised by it when travelling.

On kind of a whim, we stopped off at the airports that are just before the park entrance to look at availability and pricing of helicopter tours of the canyon. It’s something I would love to do, but it’s a little price inhibitive. Then again, how many times to do you go to the Grand Canyon?

Unfortunately (or fortunately!) helicopters were not running because it was Christmas. They did have flights coming in from Vegas but that was it. they did have airplane tours available, so after deciding which of the three time slots they had available, we were booked! The lady said she would much rather do the airplane tours anyway, because you get a better view. And she gave us all window seats.  In classic Jake style, he got the seat on the plane with the best leg room. Hehehe!

Jake, on a plane!

Jake, on a plane!

The flight over the canyon was about 45 minutes long. I have no other words than “wow”. Seriously, it was worth the price. I was worried B wasn’t having a good time, but I realized that he was just as awestruck as we were! We flew over a vast amount of the canyon.  The airplane had headphones with informative descriptions and cute music, but I was actually so taken with the view, I couldn’t pay attention.

Aerial view of the Grand Canyon

Aerial view of the Grand Canyon

Another Aerial View of the Grand Canyon

Another Aerial View of the Grand Canyon

Us

Us



We got to the park, easily found Trailer Village, and caught the shuttle bus (yes, there is a shuttle bus system) to the Shrine of Ages. The plan was to walk backwards “in time” along the Trail of Time from there to Yavapai Point. If we had time, we would continue on to Mather Point, but either way we would need to catch a shuttle bus back to the campground before it got too dark…and cold!

I can’t wait to post some of the photos I took during that walk! All three of us had our cameras and I got some great panoramas with my phone, have some panoramas ready to stitch from my Leica, and lot more photos! Jake took a few family photos, and although they involved testing fear of heights (don’t worry, it was safe) they turned out amazing.

We got to Yavapai point just a few minutes before sunset, which wasn’t even planned, but it was wonderful that it turned out that way. The canyon colors and view from that area at that time of day are breathtaking.

Sunset, Grand Canyon South Rim

Sunset, Grand Canyon South Rim

Yavapai Point, Grand Canyon

Yavapai Point, Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon South Rim

Grand Canyon South Rim



We caught a shuttle bus, switched to another, and then decided to walk the rest of the short distance rather than catching two more shuttles. We actually made it to our original bus stop about 30 seconds before the bus. Heh.

We have yet to plan our next stop. All we know as of right now is that we’ll head toward Flagstaff tomorrow and I would like to stop at the meteor crater near Winslow, which is on the way to the Petrified Forest.

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Southwest US RV Trip, Part Two

I’m actually writing this the same day as the last post, but as we have modified our original “basic” itinerary, I may not have internet access for the next few days and want to get this saved while I can. :) I stupidly left my camera in the RV so I’ll post it as soon as I get internet access and can add the pics.

We stopped in Rhyolite, Nevada and WOW, it was really cool. I’ve only been to a handful of ghost towns, but this place actually fit my definition of what “ghost town” means. They built the buildings with stone, not like many other ghost towns, because although they were a mining town, they wanted Rhyolite to last. It seems it only lasted about 15 years or so. The school, the bank and the general store are the most notable structures still standing in the town. There is a “casino” as well, but it looks like it was actually the train station, later renovated to function as a casino. I got lots of great pictures here!

School, Rhyolite

School, Rhyolite

General Store, Rhyolite

General Store, Rhyolite

Train

Train

Train Window

Train Window

After spending some time in Ryholite, we had to double back to Beatty and catch 95 back down through Vegas. We passed the Nellis Test Site on the way, and the Amargosa Desert, but other than that it was just a very scenic drive.

Amargosa Desert

Amargosa Desert

It was a little nerve-wracking navigating through Vegas in a huge RV, but we made it through without incident, thankfully. We quickly made our way down to Laughlin. Once we got to Laughlin, we drove around the many parking lots at Harrah’s trying to find where to park and eventually ended up in the main parking lot. When we checked in, the girl told us we should park in the “bus lot” on the west side of the casino. Okay…so we moved. It appeared to be a very popular, albeit small, parking lot and we were lucky to get one of the allotted “long” spaces for oversized vehicles.

Jake and B made chicken alfredo for dinner in the RV. We toyed with the idea of going to one of the local places, but ultimately decided eating in was preferable. We’re getting into the groove of RVing!

We finished dinner and had packed for the hotel room when there was an authoritative knock on the door. Apparently we were NOT parked in the right place and needed to move. The security guard was very nice though, and told us where we should park. (It would be nice if they would have signed this, and we would have done it right the first time!)

We drove out the resort, across the street, and parked in the RV lot. The security guard alerted the valet and had a van meet us to take us to our tower, which was also nice.

First order of business was to freeze our butts off and enjoy the outdoor heated pool. We got our suits on and went down to the pool. Jake went to look for towels and B and I got cold so we decided to skip the heated pool and go for the spa pool instead. Unfortunately there were no towels for Jake to actually find, so when he came back and we were already in…we were kind of screwed for and would definitely be cold when we got out. The low in Laughlin for the night was 41F. That’s okay though…we swam, and enjoyed the water and the heat, and some very nice people that were there already (with towels) shared towels and left us a few to dry off with.

We have decided to take advantage of the warm front and go towards the Grand Canyon next before heading south again. If we don’t, then we might not get to go there. There are some cool things to see along the way, too.

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Southwest US RV Trip – Part One

We had an uneventful trip to Vegas, which was great considering it’s winter and we nearly always end up facing flight delays and other problems due to weather. We grabbed a cab to go to Road Bear RV and pick up our RV. The lady there was very nice and after giving us a tour of the RV and how to work everything, she gave us some extra pillows and camping chairs.

We originally planned to go to Pahrump, get supplies, and then go to the first RV campground we picked out, and cook there. But we didn’t anticipate being hungry when we go to Pahrump, Jake likes Sonic (we don’t have them in Ontario), and there was one in the Walmart parking lot, so off we went to grab food! Jake stayed behind at Sonic to pay for the food and Bruce and I started back toward the RV. I watched an SUV pull up next to the RV and for some reason I felt it was very suspicious-looking. I walked a little slower and toward the back of the SUV and sure enough, a lady got out and went directly to the back storage unit of the RV, where our suitcases were. I confronted her, and she basically panicked and played dumb, saying she needed help. I told her she needed to GTFO. We reported her to security but he said we should call the police and make a report. I fully intended to, but ended up not calling them. If I didn’t have to be conservative with my US cell phone minutes, I probably would have.

We went shopping, tried not to kill each other while crossing things off our list (we were super tired at this point!) and loaded the RV and started off for the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort. Check-in was quick and easy, and Angie, the owner I think, was very accommodating and pleasant. We parked and pretty much went to bed…we were exhausted. The park was very very windy. Like crazy winds. Jake and I didn’t really get much sleep because we were both worried about the water pipes freezing and the wind was rocking the RV like mad. And loud. And I was worried about B not being warm enough, so I checked on him a couple of times. Needless to say, this was not a good thing after being exhausted and up all day! I got up early and thought it might be a good idea to try to catch the sunrise. We all got up and ventured out up the hill…it didn’t work out so well. Where we were wasn’t a good place for watching the sunrise, and the wind was almost unbearably cold.

B had slept amazingly well, considering. Little munchkin.

Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

I wish we had time to enjoy the place, but honestly we were just so tired, and anxious to “get going” we even skipped using the baths. If we did this again, we might stay in Vegas the first night and then make Tecopa a first destination after shopping the next morning.

We deliberated over our next stop over breakfast. We decided that we would like to go into Death Valley and B especially wanted to “go to the middle of nowhere”. Hehehe!

We drove into Death Valley by way of the Shoshone entrance and drove north through the park. We stopped at Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in the US at 282 feet below sea level. Continuing on up the road we wanted to take Artist’s Drive and see Artist’s Palette, but the RV is longer than 25 feet so we weren’t allowed. (Mental note for the next trip to Death Valley!) Then we headed east a few miles to Zibriskie Point…which was amazingly beautiful. I also got to test the panoramic photo feature of my new phone here. I think it worked great!

B at Badwater Basin

B at Badwater Basin

Panorama of Zibriskie Point

Panorama of Zibriskie Point

We doubled back and went north again and stopped in at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. The staff there were so friendly! Ranger Ray Snow gave B a quick lesson on desert turtles, where they’re located, how and why they’re endangered, etc. B was impressed, I think. We were trying to decide whether to go west out of the park toward Panamint Springs, or go north. The rangers unanimously recommended staying at Mesquite Springs, but we needed to decide what our next destination after that would be so we could take an optimal path. Mesquite Springs sure did sound nice, but going there meant a long drive back through Vegas or doubling back and exiting the west side of the park.

We kept going north and stopped in at Stovepipe Wells to get gas, which was about 60 cents cheaper than Furnace Creek at $4.18 a gallon. EEP. We also had a problem with the Amex and the gas pump there. It was capping our charge at $50 so Jake had to do that twice, then it wouldn’t authorize anymore. They said they had new gas pumps and a call to Amex cleared up the problem, for us anyway. We were able to get some firewood and they were nice enough to give us a couple of coffee filters. Yeah, we were running on empty with no coffee, too. Still, I was having an awesome time.

We parked and went over the maps and decided that we would go to Mesquite Springs for the night. So, back on the road, we went up to Mesquite and picked out our RV spot. Since it was going to go below freezing overnight, we had to empty all the water out of the RV. This was, um, an experience. First, we pulled up next to the dump station and decided it would probably be a good idea for all of us to shower before dumping the water. While Jake was showering, Ranger Dick (wait for it) came to tell me that we were too far away and needed to move closer to the dump station so a big rig could get by. Okay, no problem. I moved the RV closer. Then, after we showered, we started emptying out the water. We really weren’t prepared for how long this would take. (When we rented a much smaller campervan in New Zealand, we had to be very conservative with water.) After about 20 minutes, Ranger Dick came back and told us we needed to move because someone else might need to use the station. Might. There was no one there. We pulled around and into the camp site we had picked out and let the water run. The gray water tank filled up and while I wasn’t looking, the shower filled almost to the brim. After we finally got the rest of the water emptied into the black water tank, Jake had to drive back around to the dump station… I had to shut the shower door, and with B’s help, hold a towel up to the half inch crack at the bottom to hold the water in while the water bounced around. Fun! …Okay, not really amusing at all. ;)

There were maybe 6-7 campers/RVs by the time we got settled in. Mesquite is very remote, but absolutely beautiful. Jake made kafta and corn on the fire, but it was too cold to eat outside, so we went in to eat. YUMMY! We went back out to look at the stars and enjoy the fire. You could see thousands and thousands of stars. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sight like that in my life. I pointed out some of my favorite constellations to B and Jake. I went all techie and broke out Star Walk on the iPad so I could discover some new constellations, which was actually pretty awesome.

Again, we went to bed on the early side, but we all slept really, really well. Thank goodness.

I woke up around 6:40 and jumped out of bed. I knew sunrise was at 6:29 or so, and I didn’t want to miss it coming up over the mountains. Jake and B got up with me. It was probably another half hour or so before the sun came up enough to start lighting up the mountains around us. It was breathtaking. I climbed up to the top of a hill and just watched. It’s a memory I’ll keep forever, it was just beautiful.

Sunrise at Mesquite Springs in Death Valley

Sunrise at Mesquite Springs in Death Valley

Jake made breakfast (B helped) of sausage and eggs…on the stove this time. The smoke alarm didn’t like that too much. Heehee!

After breakfast, and packing up, and refilling the RV, we headed north to the Ubehebe Crater. As we drove toward it, you see a lot of volcanic rock. The road takes you around and up to the top of the crater, and you don’t even realize you’re on a crater until you’re at the parking lot. It was pretty cool. There was a couple there that had just hiked down and back up the crater. They said it took about 10 minutes to get down, but 30 minutes to get back up. B is a little afraid of heights, which I don’t mind because that means he doesn’t go close to the edge. ;)

Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley

Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley

We drove out of the park by way of the north entrance by Scotty’s Castle. We didn’t stop there, but we continued on and stopped in Beatty for gas ($3.12/gallon, much more reasonable). Jake spied a BBQ restaurant and, well, the temptation was great. So we stopped there to eat lunch, it was a place called Death Valley Firepit BBQ and we ordered hot BBQ sauce. They warned us that it was really hot, but we always hear that in Canada and it’s never hot. At all. More like, spicy with some pepper, or if you’re really lucky, Tobasco sauce. So when we got our food, we were pleasantly surprised that it was actually really hot. Not only that, but it was mild at first, and then after a few bites, it really built up. It was deliciously, painfully, lip-smackingly hot.

So we’re about to leave Beatty, and that’s where we are right now as I’m writing this.

Next stop, the ghost town of Rhyolite and then a push to Laughlin.

**All the photos on this post were taken with my phone’s camera. I’ll have an entire “real” Flickr update soon.

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Hitting the road!

This is actually a test post to make sure it works before I hit the road….but, we are leaving in just a few hours for our trip!

image?

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Cruising by Helsinke, Finland

We didn’t spend long Helsinke today. In fact, we stayed in bed until Noon before deciding to go into town. We knew that most places would be closed because it’s Sunday, and we were still pretty worn out from the 2-day-marathon tour of Russia.

We grabbed a cab and had him drive us to two camera shops we were hoping were open – no go. Jake had bought a 35mm film camera in Russia and we were looking for film for it. He’s particular about his film, Kodak won’t do. The driver dropped us off in a large shopping district.

L1000244

It was supposed to be mostly cloudy and a high of 61F today and I’m very glad we brought our rain coats. We ended up getting rained on for much of the walk, but the cool air felt great.

We managed to find some film for the camera. Bruce was very excited! He was going to be using it. He has taken so many digital pictures, but hearing Jake talk about film has made him interested in trying it. He wanted to use black and white film, but we got him color too.  Black and white was loaded before we left the store.  So we continued to walk randomly and let him take pictures.

L1000251

We happened upon a train station and grabbed a cab back to the boat, then spent the next several hours lounging around.

Today was pretty relaxing. :)

Tomorrow we’ll be in Stockholm. I sure hope the Ice Bar is open!

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Day two in St. Petersburg

Note: I wrote this and didn’t have time to post it, so it’s a day late. But hey, I’m on vacation. :)

We didn’t have to get up as early, which was nice. We were meeting our guide and driver at 9am and immigration/customs was going to be quicker. We had a new guide as our other guide was requested by a group of art historians (which she knows a ton about) but our new guide was just as friendly.  Christina was a little easier to understand, too.

We went to a church (no pictures) and took a ride on the world-famous Metro. No pictures are allowed on the metro either, as it’s still considered a state secret. Kinda funny, if you think about it — it’s public.

Our next stop was at the Church of St. Paul on the way to the Peterhof. Bruce got his Russian hat that he had been asking for from a vendor next to it, and it was camouflage (his emphasis).

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We drove to the palace and got our tickets.  The “tickets” looked like a certificate, it was kind of cute.  We wandered into the palace grounds towards the fountains and waited for them to turn on. They were scheduled to come on at 11. I wondered what all the fuss was about, but when they were turned on, it was quite fabulous!

IMG_1109 We saw a few more fountains, including a “trick” fountain (which apparently there were a lot of) that Peter the Great built to play tricks on his guests. A hidden rock or something would make the fountain come on.

We toured the bath house, which is the first that was ever built in Russia. Again, no pictures allowed in here –  not sure why.

Next to the bath house was a Japanese garden that was quite beautiful. The vases in the picture are Japanese porcelain and are from the 17th century.

IMG_1133Then we rode a boat (hydrofoil) back to St. Petersburg and were going to the highlight of our trip (okay, one of them!) – lunch with a Russian family.

It wasn’t an actual family, it was a Russian woman. Her apartment was on the fourth floor and was just as I imagined it would be. She had lived there her entire life (she’s probably in her late 50’s) and her mother had lived there since she was seven. She was also born in the house, as was her son and daughter.

She made an incredible lunch for us: appetizers of crab salad (delicious!), vegetables, salami, borscht for a soup, chicken and boiled potatoes for the main, and cookies  and tea for dessert. We were stuffed. Oh, and candies with dessert too. Bruce tried one and it was chocolate covered marmalade…hahahaha! He doesn’t like marmalade. ;-) He had ice cream though, always a crowd pleaser.

Jake did most of the talking and our guide interpreted for us. When asked about what it was like to live during Soviet times, she said she actually preferred it to how it is now because she never really wanted for anything. She had a job in manufacturing and could get or do anything she wanted. Now, not so much. Our guide thinks the opposite – it’s better now for her family than it was back then.

There is also quite a rivalry between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Each city inhabitants think theirs is the best, and the best AT everything too.  The best theater, the best chocolates, the best cookies, the best buildings, etc. It was really interesting to talk to them about the history of their city – it’s a perspective you just can’t get from a history book! Too soon, we had to go.

We stopped at a souvenir shop. We had actually asked to go shopping, so I guess that’s what they thought we meant. We were pressed for time however, so probably couldn’t SHOP shop. I got an absolutely gorgeous jewelry box. It’s hand painted and truly amazing.

Jake and Bruce toured the Cruiser Aurora. We didn’t have much time and it was raining and very windy so I stayed in the car. I picked the wrong day to wear a skirt – yesterday was much warmer! Bruce was thrilled, however, and thought it was the coolest.  :)

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We had just enough time to stop at the mosque that Jake wanted to take pictures of. It’s the (second?) largest in the world. We made it back to the boat in plenty of time.

Bruce and I grabbed a bite to eat and hung out for a while. Then Jake and I hit the tables at the casino. We played some blackjack and got decimated, so he went to play poker and I played Pai Gow.

Oh, and I made a cruise-friend, Carolina. We went up to the Spinnaker lounge and danced for a while before chatting on the deck. She’s on the cruise with her family.

Tomorrow, Helsinke!

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