Beautiful Rocks

Who knew rocks could be so beautiful???

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We left Phoenix yesterday to explore a bit of northern Arizona before picking up Mike’s kids for their spring break vacation tomorrow. Ideally I tried to get us into a campground in Sedona but I stumbled on this gem in Prescott, AZ. Point of Rocks Campground is an unassuming campground nested in the most gorgeous rocks I’ve not seen since the Flat Irons of the Red Rocks Amphitheater outside of Denver, Colorado. I haven’t discovered the geologic history yet but it’s next on my list!

Point of Rocks a Good Sam park, so the 10% discount applies. I was skeptical, but our rig actually DID fit! When you drive in and see all the sites squeezed in between the rock formations you might not believe it either. There’s more room than you think. Our site (#56) isn’t even tight. Not only are the rocks breathtaking here but there is a path leading directly to Watson Lake. There are no words. Perfect photography opportunities!

We were able to immediately meet our two sociable neighbors. Both couples are full-timing it. One younger couple, from Montana, with two youngsters just started not long ago. It was great as we both traded blogging cards!!! How fun!!! It’s great to meet like-minded people on the road! This is the RVing experience I was looking forward to!

I finally feel like a genuine full timer now!

Call Me Grease Monkey *wink*

Living out of an RV has it’s own list of unique challenges. And I’m here to keep all my family and friends informed of our day-to-day living situation. Partly to help ease the jealously we instill when posting pictures of sunny Florida or Arizona while the rest of you are buried under 4 feet of heavy, wet, disgusting snow.

Currently in Phoenix it has been hot as hades. Well, for March, anyways. I’ve been told it’s typically in the 70’s this time of year. But the two weeks we’ve been here it’s been in the 80’s and 90’s. The nights get a lovely temperature of cool that is perfect to sleep with the windows and screens open. But in the late part of the day? Whew! The heat builds up in here and I keep checking the dog and cat to be sure we don’t have animal jerky.

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The cat wilts so easily.

We haven’t bothered to turn on the A/C much. We have a little window fan and then we switch on a bigger fan in the “garage” to pull out the heat out through the ceiling. That’s been working but we finally broke down and flipped the generator on to run the A/C a few times. (We’re currently plugged into my friend’s regular ‘ol house plug. We need plugged into 50amp in order to run our heavy users, like our A/C.) However, our generator has been sounding a bit sick lately.

The number one rule of a generator – USE IT! We suspect the previous owners didn’t use it much. Based on the rough idle it was clear the carburetor needed cleaned out.

Thank god for YouTube!!!

I found this awesome video based on our model of generator. It walks you through how to clean the carburetor! Michael has been exceptionally busy with work lately so I was on my own. It sounded a million times better after I cleaned it. I will admit to cleaning it again the next day and letting the cleaning solution sit a lot longer. Just to be sure…

But then it would stall out.

I wonder when was the last time anyone checked the oil… or changed it…..

Ugh, it was low and so, so dark and dirty. I used the manual to do this one. But I did need Mike’s help in getting the oil filter loose. Stupid, tight filter. I couldn’t get it to budge. But seeing how hard of a time Mike had trying to unscrew it, I didn’t feel so helpless.

So now it’s running MUCH better. I’ll admit to a hiccup here and there so I’m having “a guy” come and look at it anyway. When you live in this thing you need to be sure it’s running in top condition. We might need something replaced, not just cleaned. But it is nice to know that I can figure out some easy engine “stuff” too!!

I Caved

I have a few friends who are professional photographers. Weddings, newborns, families and general artistic endeavors. I love what they do. I’ve thought about dropping some cash and tooling around it as a hobby, like so many millions of people already do. But as we set out on this grand RVing adventure I thought, “Self, do you really need another hobby? Especially an expensive one??”

I’m the first one to admit taking up photography while living a life on the road seems pretty obvious. But sometimes I can be a bit obtuse. Since I had to crate and store my piano in order to live this lifestyle I brought along my guitar. The difference? I know how to play the piano. I’ve been doing it since I was about 6 or 7. The guitar is a new instrument to me – a whole 5 or so lessons under my belt. Which explains why I haven’t touched it since we left New York. My reasoning with not getting a “nice camera” was, “Don’t start something new when you have something right here to keep you occupied!”

Granted, both are artistic outlets. Clearly this is something I presently feel lacking my in life. But there was something that struck me as we drove across barren west Texas and New Mexico on our way here to Phoenix. Beautiful landscape has always interested me. Ansel Adams has continually captivated me. Give me a realistic photograph of breath-taking scenery to hang on my wall over a painting any day.

For those of you who may not know, my dad is a high school art teacher. What’s so neat about his classes is that in his advance art classes he teaches neat stuff, like pottery, silk screening, casting jewelry and many years ago, photography. (back in the 80’s when the arts were properly funded!) He taught the basics of using a 33mm camera and how to develop the film. I was too young to be in his classes in those days but I remember him trying to teach me the basic of the camera and taking photographs: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. (The perks of being an art teacher’s kid!) We even had a dark room in our basement. When he wasn’t developing pictures I like to built forts in there. Gimme a break, I was about 10.

I was tentative to snap pictures back then. I was shooting on expensive 35mm FILM. *GASP* Plus, you couldn’t tell if you were doing it right until you developed said expensive film. And I was 10!!! Or maybe 11… But I still remember holding the huge camera in my hands and fumbling with all the levers and buttons. Winding the film after every shot. It made me feel very important and adult-like. Much more grown-up than my Polaroid!

Cameras on our phones have come so far these days, as have the filters and what-nots that are accessible. But I accidentally got a big tax refund this year and decided to just go for it. All my other hobbies, expensive or not (piano, big power tools to build things with wood, gardening, beer making, sewing) are packed up in storage. Might as well start a new one!

At the advice of a friend and long-time photographer, I purchased a Canon EOS Rebel T5i bundle. (Danelle, as a side note, on your advice I did buy an extra battery!) It came with a bunch of lenses and bells and whistle extras. I’ll eventually get to it but right now I’m focused on learning how to shoot it in manual mode. I want to learn my camera like my dad taught me how to drive: I was only allowed to drive the family minivan after I was proficient driving his manual truck. If you can drive a stick you can drive anything.

As tempted as I might be to set this amazing piece of technology to “auto” and start snapping, that defeats the purpose of buying this particular camera. Otherwise I would have bought a really nice, expensive point and shoot. But that’s not what I wanted, so I didn’t. But it takes practice and perseverance.  My friend suggested I buy 2 books with the camera (which I did!!)  The first is camera-specific, Canon EOS Rebel T5i/700D Digital Field Guide and the second is a general book on exposure, Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition. I have found both of these exceptionally helpful and enlightening!

Am I going to start flooding the blog with pictures from my new camera? Probably not. At least not yet. I still have a long way to go before I feel like I’m taking half-way decent images. But hey, isn’t that what learning a new hobby is about?

Orange Blossoms are My New Favorite!

We made it to Arizona! My best friend, Christy from grad school, lives here and has graciously allowed us to park on her property for the month of March. It was a little dicey getting backed it. The conversations leading up to our arrival had our eyes swimming with sugarplums. “HUGE concrete pad”, ” fully gated yard where Indy can run with our dogs too”, “12 foot wide fence to back in through” and “clear, nothing hanging overhead”.

PERFECTION!

But that’s also from the perspective of someone who has never been in nor dirven a 5th wheel.

Michael is the world’s best driver and backer, if I do say so. I may be biased, but it’s the truth. He threaded this beast under the tree, through the fence and onto the concrete pad without hitting the metal clothes line that was perched at the end of the concrete pad. (It has since been removed. Apparently it was the plan all along.) All while being under the stress of holding up traffic on a busy, major street. This man is a cool customer under pressure!

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But once we were in it was exactly as described, on a concrete pad, within the fence so Indy could run free, clear overhead. They have a tangelo and lemon tree in their yard. We got here just as the citrus blossoms are releasing the most intoxicating fragrance I have ever experienced! Pure bliss!

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Christy and Ellen’s (her partner) lemon tree is still a baby and not yet producing fruit. But their neighbor brings them lemons off of her tree. Here is the latest gift from next door.

Orange, lemon, grapefruit…. they are EVERYWHERE! I actually LOVE running here solely because of the sweet smells wafting through the wind as we run. Even through busy streets! I can’t begin to describe it. I don’t have the words. Just come to Phoenix in March. You won’t be disappointed!

There are many reasons I’m excited to be staying at Christy and Ellen’s. First and foremost, I actually get to see my best friend of 16 years for a while! Not just a quick yearly weekend visit or so that we’ve managed for the past 12+ years. I also get to spend time with Ellen and get to know her more. I’m of the mind that you should really get to know your best friends’ significant other. Or at least be friends with them. It’s so much more fun to all hang out together and share experiences.

I was also excited that Indy would have the opportunity to run free in a fenced-in yard. However that has not turned out as expected. Christy and Ellen have three little dogs and a Greyhound. They also have an apartment on their property they rent out and the renters have two little multi-poos. The first day we arrived we let all the dogs out together and Oliver, an old, deaf small poodle mix (I think) went all ankle-biter on Indy. Indy did not like it. As a matter of fact he was terrified and traumatized by the experience.

My 80 pound Great Dane/ hound mix will no longer go outside the camper unless we put his harness on him and take him for a walk. Outside the fence. If he has to go bad enough I’ll open the door and he’ll stand there, look out to see if he sees any ankle biters. Only if he feels the coast is clear will he come out on his own. Sissy.

Another plus to staying here is the use of a full-sized kitchen!!! It’s funny how you get used to what you’ve got. I made dinner for us and one of their friends the other night.They have a big kitchen and I almost got overwhelmed! Funny, isn’t it, that I’m now so used to a teeny tiny space, that running around their vast kitchen was almost too much. It also doesn’t help when you cook in an unfamiliar place. But I think I pulled it off alright.

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We had Orange and Fennel Salad and then I grilled simple kabobs and served them over Black Bean and Wild Rice Salad. However, I made it with black rice instead of wild rice. And for dessert, Grilled Pineapple with Honey-Cinnamon Glaze. I used honey from a family friend who raises bees in South Carolina. I think dinner went over pretty well!

And the final reason I love it here…. did I mention the orange blossoms???

A little harder than it looks

Blogging on the road is a little harder than I thought it would be. Right now we’re stopped in the middle of “nowhere west Texas” at a rest stop, interestingly, the only place we could find with a strong 4G cell signal. We left New Orleans a few days ago and are on our way to Phoenix. We were in NOLA for Mike’s birthday and boy did we have a blast!

We decided to stay at the very expensive (to us) French Quarter RV Resort. It’s normally $96/ night but was $90/night with our Good Sam’s discount. Prices are even more expensive during festival and game times. But looking at taxi fare to and from one of the state parks and it really did make sense. The park is on the northern edge of the FQ and we could walk to and from wherever and whenever we wanted. Breakfast beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde in the morning and then back again at night… It’s also right beside the Louis Armstrong park which was a great place to walk Indy!

20150302_075610 Mike’s first beignet!!

And of course, our first morning in NOLA started with beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde with an 8am Hurricane chaser!!

20150302_081833 All while walking through the streets and parks of New Orleans!!

We definitely took advantage of everything the city had to offer. *wink*wink* There’s really no place “funner” to be than right here on your birthday!

It started with lunch, on a beautiful balcony at Royal House Oyster Bar listening to live jazz drifting up from the street below. A scene right out of the movies!

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Then to make sure everyone knows Mike is a birthday boy!!

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A little later, a drink stop at the bar at Bourbon Orleans Hotel. Steven Lemley is bartender of the year!! DELICIOUS, fancy concoctions!!

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And here’s one more I’ll tease you with of the crazy night….

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Ok, well, it’s not even night here. But this is where I stop documenting our deviant behavior for public consumption. What happens in NOLA stays in NOLA.

But if you’re heading here we would definitely recommend splurging on French Quarter RV Resort due to proximity to the action. But be sure to check their website to see if you’ll be there during a “special occasion” that will run you more money.

We’ll be back New Orleans!!!