Monday, December 26, 2011

Holiday Festivities

It's certainly been a busy holiday here in Valle de Juarez. On Thursday night Sal and Barb suggested dinner at a restaurant in town that serves incredibly good enchiladas. It was their 39th wedding anniversary and we were honored that they chose to share it with all of us. Sal gave Barb a special anniversary/Christmas gift, appropriately named Don Quixote (donkey-hotay). They rescued him and have given him a fine home at the Hacienda. Maybe now Sal can even put the lawnmower away.
After our dinner in town we took a walk around the plaza to burn up a few calories while looking at the lights and Christmas decorations. We were invited to stop at the church to listen to a Christmas concert. The musicians were quite good and it was nice to see everyone enjoying themselves.

Friday was tamale day. Tamales on Christmas are a Mexican tradition. Sal's mother Dona Theresa and Sal's sister Juana came over to the Hacienda to make them and show us how it's done. It's quite labor intensive so it was nice to have so many helping hands.

The process was begun early Friday morning when Juana took the corn that she had prepared to the mill to be ground. There was a huge bowl of it on the table it and we didn't really think we would use it all, but we did.

 Corn husks are lined with the corn mixture, stuffed with a pork/chili stew, then rolled and placed carefully in pots to be steamed. I didn't count but I think we made several hundred. I was also informed that since I now know how to make tamales, I'm prepared to be a proper wife.
Our Christmas Eve tamale fiesta was delicious and lots of fun. We spent Christmas Day relaxing and trying not to think about all of the calories we've consumed this week.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Valle de Juarez

It hasn't taken us long to get settled in. On Wednesday we took a nice hike up a hill overlooking the valley, lake and town. It was a beautiful day for it and the view was spectacular. That evening we had a delicious holiday dinner hosted by Barb and Sal - lots of great food and good company.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

San Carlos to Valle de Juarez

We had a few long days on our way to Valle de Juarez but it was worth it. Tilly's favorite stop was in Celestino which is about 40 miles north of Mazatlan. She got to run around on the beach, romp in the waves and roll in the sand.

We were continually amazed by the amount of traffic on the road. Most of the cars were from California and were loaded down with presents, ladders, bikes and just about anything that could fit. This is the first time we've traveled so close to Christmas and we were really happy that we hadn't waited any longer since the traffic will just get worse and the waits at the toll booths longer.

We were unable to pull into any of the rest areas to stop for the night so were very glad to find a few Pemex stations that were safe and secure places to overnight. We saw several cattle drives along the way that stopped traffic for a few minutes. Interesting to watch.

We pulled into Hacienda Contreras RV Park  in Valle de Juarez on Monday morning and are happy to be able to settle down here for a few weeks. This is a wonderful RV park with very welcoming hosts in a very charming area. When deciding where we wanted to be over the holidays we had no trouble choosing this as our destination. It's one of our favorites!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mexico 2011-2012

San Carlos
No pictures, just an update. We crossed at Nogales yesterday, stopped and got our visas and the permit for the car, and got to San Carlos late in the afternoon. There was quite a line getting visas and permits which is to be expected this close to Christmas. It took a little over an hour to get all of that accomplished so it wasn't too bad. No problems at all along the way. We hope to get to Telcel in Guaymas today to activate our phone and purchase an aircard for the internet. If that goes smoothly we'll proceed south, if not will spend another night here at Totonaka RV Park.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mexico Bound

We have spent the last month or two doing some renovations and repairs on the Bus in preparation for our winter season in Mexico. As usual, we don't have a definite itinerary. We hope to cross at Nogales and head down the West Coast, then inland, and from there we'll see what beckons.
I will try to post regularly and share our adventures along the way.

The Grand Canyon - North Rim

We toured the South Rim several years ago but wanted to visit the North Rim, which offers a different Grand Canyon experience. It is more remote and less developed than the South Rim, and so attracts far fewer tourists. Many people think its viewpoints are more spectacular and offer a better idea of the expanse of the canyon. We agree.  The elevation at the North Rim is approximately 8000 feet, about 1000 feet higher than the South Rim. It is more difficult to access due to road closures during the winter season and the limited campgrounds are typically closed from October to April. There are several viewpoint where we could see the South Rim, approximately 10 miles away.

The weather on our first day was foggy and cloudy which produced a rather spectral appearance - very cool.

The weather on our second day was sunny and bright which gave us a totally different experience. It was great that things worked out the way they did and we were able to see the canyon both ways.

The Grand Canyon is known for its visually overwhelming size and its intricate and colorful landscape. It is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and attains a depth of over a mile. There were several viewpoints where we could see the Colorado River far below.

We had several sightings of the Kaibab Squirrel. It lives in the ponderosa pine forest of the North Rim and the Kaibab Plateau near the town of Jacob Lake, where we stayed. I love the dark body and feathery white tail.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo land near Page, Arizona.  It is possibly the most photographed sandstone slot canyon in the Southwest. There are two sections, the upper canyon and lower canyon. On our first visit four years ago we toured the upper canyon and hoped to do the lower canyon this year. Due to recent rains the lower canyon was closed but we certainly weren't disappointed with touring the upper canyon again.
Navajo guides take visitors on a pretty wild ride out to the canyon in vehicles similar to one in the photo above. They share the history, culture and geology of the canyon. It is a sacred place to the Navajo and it is treated with reverence and respect.          
Antelope Canyon was formed by the erosion of Navajo Sandstone, primarily from flash flooding but from wind as well. Rainwater and wind run into the slot canyon, pick up speed and sand in the narrow passageways, and over time erode the passages. This gives the rock a characteristic flowing shape.  The walk  through Antelope Canyon is narrow, but easy. Light enters through the top, creating fantastic shapes and colors.

On our first visit I took 134 photographs and on this visit I took 155. The photos don't do it justice, but hopefully will give some idea of what it is like. We highly recommend this experience.

Utah - Arches and Canyonlands

 Arches National Park
Arches is located just outside of Moab, Utah. It has the world's largest concentration of natural stone arches, estimated at  2,000 in this park alone. 
There are a variety of unique geological formations such as the group below known as 'The Three Gossips."

There are many examples of balancing rocks as well as leaning rocks.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands is also close to Moab. It has a colorful landscape that has been eroded into countless canyons, mesas and buttes by the Colorado River, the Green River, and their respective tributaries. The majority of the park is viewed from on top of the Colorado Plateau. It  has been aptly described as "the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth—there is nothing else like it anywhere" by author Edward Abbey, a frequent visitor. We would have to agree.
The more remote trails and canyon floors can only be reached by hikers, backpackers, 4-wheel-drive vehicles and rafters. Brian took the 100-mile White Rim Road at one time and it took him two days. The road  loops around and below the mesa top.  I just look at the road amazement and wonder. The vehicles far below look like little toys.
The trip usually takes two or three days in 4-wheel-drive vehicles or three to four days by mountain bike.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Such a beautiful state and home for so many years.
We enjoyed visiting with all of our friends in the Boulder area and even found a nice park to stay in near Lyons which was below the bluffs next to the St. Vrain River.
After leaving the Boulder area we spent some time visiting Marlene and Dan who have a great place in the small mountain town of Beulah, which is near Pueblo. It's a welcome stop and a really enjoyable place just to slow down a bit and enjoy being with our good friends. Always lots of laughter, good food and drink, and fun.

Our next stop was the Gunnison/Crested Butte area which has some truly breathtaking scenery. We made a repeat visit to both the north and south rims of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Some of the steepest cliffs in the U.S. are located here and it's somewhat difficult to even look over the side in some areas. One of the incredible features of the canyon is called the Painted Wall. If two Empire State Building were placed on top of each other at the foot of the canyon they would just barely clear the top of the Painted Wall. Hard to convey the weak-kneed feeling when looking over the edge.
On our way out of Colorado we stopped in Grand Junction, a place where we usually visit some of the wineries. This year we toured Colorado National Monument, a first for me. I was very impressed with the scenery and views.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Minnesota and South Dakota

Since leaving Maine in early July we have been working our way west, stopping along the way to visit wth family and friends. We moved along pretty rapidly so that we could be in Minnesota for a blues festival.
One thing we hadn't anticipated was being at an outdoor concert when the heat index was 115 degrees. We waited until late afternoon to go, but it was still pretty intense. We saw the Lamont Cranston Band, Lukas Nelson (Willie's son), and Buddy Guy.
We got an invite to a Twins game from my brother and his wife. We're not big baseball fans but really enjoyed the evening. My brother had commented that whether you were a fan or not, being at a game was interesting and a lot of fun and he was right. It was great to see them and the rest of my family.
After leaving Minnesota we worked our way across South Dakota towards the Black Hills. We made stops at the Corn Palace and Wall Drug, big attractions for this area of the country. I had been to both places when I was a kid but Brian had never been to either one. I'm sure he's really glad I shared those childhood memories with him.
We spent a few days near Custer where we were fortunate to be invited to plug in at the home of our RV friends Rod and Marsha.

 A new place for us was Crazy Horse Memorial which has a very interesting story behind it. Crazy Horse Memorial  tells all about it. When finished it will be larger than Mt. Rushmore. 
Rod and Marsha loaded us into their convertible several times and showed us the sights. One evening we went into Custer State Park where we saw hundreds of buffalo, including some calves. On our way we had a friendly encounter with some burros who were looking for a snack.
These are just a few of them. They were very polite and waited patiently for their crackers.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Maine-ly Maine

This is the fourth time we have been to Maine in our motorhome. Brian was stationed near Acadia National Park while in the Navy and has shared his appreciation of this beautiful state with me.
Our first stop in Maine is usually to visit our friend Bici. She spends her summers at her home on the island of North Haven. Both Brian and I are fascinated by Bici's house, which she designed, and could probably write a book about all of its unique features and construction. Truly a marvel.
We leave the Bus at an RV park in Camden and take the ferry over to the island.
After a reunion of people and dogs we head up to Bici's house to continue our reunion and get caught up on each others' news. Bici is a gracious and fun friend who is also kind enough to supply us with fresh lobstah for a meal or two. Can't beat that.

After taking the ferry back to the mainland we take a short ride up to an RV park in Ellsworth. From there we have access to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor.

This view is from the top of the Bubbles in Acadia, overlooking Jordan Pond. A bit of a hike but well worth it.

We kept trying to catch the fog rolling in while on top of Cadillac Mountain and finally succeeded. Cadillac Mountain is the first place in the United States to be hit by the sun and also the tallest mountain on the East Coast.

Most of Acadia National Park is on Mount Desert Island. There are also several small towns on the island where working lobstermen as well as wealthy people live.
A small part of Acadia is on the Schoodic Peninsula near Winter Harbor. This area is where Brian lived and worked while stationed in the Navy. On the point there are huge rocks to walk and climb on. The ocean comes crashing into them as well as between them, creating some great blowholes.
Rustic carriage roads are a unique feature of Acadia.  These roads were commissioned by John D. Rockefeller Jr.  Their construction from 1913 to 1940 resulted in roads with sweeping vistas and close-up views of the landscape. There are 45 miles of level, 16 foot wide roads which weave around the mountains and valleys of Acadia National Park. There are no motorized vehicles allowed - pedestians, bikes, horses and carriages only. We took a carriage ride that was really informative and enjoyable. They even invited Tilly to ride along. We think she looks like the Budweiser dog up on the front seat with Brian.