Sunday, November 1, 2015

Blogger Fiesta

Our fourth Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
(By Karen)
I've confessed before that I am a RVing blog junkie. I have over 90 blogs on my tablet and smart phone that I read regularly. I am also on RVillage, Campendium, RV Happy Hour and on Facebook.

It is entertaining, keeps me focused on my goal, allows us to discover great campgrounds and boondocking spots and meet interesting people.

In October a lot of bloggers were converging in New Mexico. Some were here for the great weather, some en route to Arizona and others were here for Balloon Fiesta. We were chatting back and forth with different bloggers and arranged a few meet-ups. We recently joined Xscapers (part of Escapees RV Club). This newer group was having their first convergence.

SockMonkeyTrekkers met the RV Wanderlust buffalo 
We've been following RV Wanderlust for awhile now and have communicated through blog comments and on Facebook. They were staying in Santa Fe before heading to the Xscapers Balloon Fiesta Convergence. I contacted Brittany on Facebook and arranged to have dinner at one of our favorite locals restaurant in Santa Fe, The Pantry. We spent a really great evening taking a tour of Meriwether, their beautiful home on wheels, eating great food and sharing stories by their campfire. We really felt we had connected with kindred spirits. We made plans to see them again at the convergence.

Greg and Brittany at The Pantry
Eric and Karen at The Pantry
Another blog we enjoy reading is Evie and Her Mom. Evie and Joy were staying at Abiquiu Lake about 50 minutes from our home in Los Alamos. We invited Greg's mom Frances to come with us. She also loves Evie's blog.

It was a stormy Saturday when we drove up to see Evie and Joy. It was such a fun afternoon! We sat outside until the rain chased us indoors. We took a tour of their most excellent C class home. We loved all the little touches that make their place so comfy. Evie has added a lot of very clever storage solutions that we will try to copy. They shared great stories with us about some awesome adventures and one or two small mishaps. We laughed and had a wonderful time. Such an inspiration.  

Frances, Joy, Greg and Evie
Karen and Evie
The Moms
Evie and Joy in front of their home
The final event in our Blogger Fiesta week was to hook up with the Xscapers group gathered at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This was our fourth Balloon Fiesta but our first RV convergence. Since we only live less than a two hour drive away and I had to be at work the next day - we chose to drive down at 0'dark hundred arriving in time for the dawn patrol. We spent the morning watching the mass ascension which starts around 7 a.m. It is very hard to describe and the pictures just don't do the magic any justice. You are standing in the middle of a huge field with literally thousands of people watching crews prep and launch balloon after balloon after balloon. And not just your typical balloons. Albuquerque attracts the special shape balloons. It is an absolute, not-to-be missed event. 

We got to the park at 5:30 a.m. 

It was not only the first Xscapers Convergence, but it was our first time at a gathering of RVers. We went to Quartzsite a few years ago, which was fascinating. But, we weren't with a group and didn't know anyone. We walked around and saw lots of groups, but kept mostly to ourselves. 

This was the first weekend of Balloon Fiesta and the weather was very overcast and a little bit of rain in the morning. This wasn't the best scenario for picture taking. I love the bright, blue, New Mexico sky filled with colorful balloons. But, a cloudy sky filled with colorful balloons isn't half bad.  

Met up with a Storm Trooper while watching the prepping of the Darth Vader balloon.
I had no idea he was flashing bunny ears behind my head. Can't trust a storm trooper. 

I LOVE the special shape balloons. 

They symmetry was very interesting. 

Balloons and people are everywhere you look out on the flight field. 
After the morning mass ascension and breakfast burritos, we decided to walk over the camping lot and check out where the Escapees and Xscapers and a whole lot of other groups were gathered. We needed to get in our 10,000 steps. It was fun to walk around all the different types of RVs. We new we were at the Xscapers camp when we spotted the Technomadia bus.  We didn't expect to find anyone around, but we knew where we would be gathering for the evening pot luck.

After ogling all the RVs, we walked back to our camper van and took a very nice nap. In early afternoon, we woke up and decided we would head over to the gathering place with our homemade carrot raisin salad to share. As we were about half-way across the flight field, it began to rain. It was raining lightly at first and then the light rain became a deluge with thundering cracks of lightning. We ducked into the media tent and waited out the downpour. The Facebook messages from Xscapers said they were delaying the potluck until the rain stopped. Once the rain was just a light mist again, we got kicked out of the media tent.

Technomadia's home

Greg in the media tent waiting out the storm
We wandered over to the Xscapers gathering spot and folks were starting to come out of their campers. A couple of tables were set up for the pot luck and people began setting up their chairs in a large circle. I was a little bit star struck seeing bloggers I've been reading for several years.  It was a little bit surreal, but a lot of fun. Big thanks to Travis and Melanie Carr of Xscapers for organizing such a great event. The group stayed for the week and had lots more gatherings and classes.

Deb and Jeff Spencer held a drawing at the potluck and handed out a number of prizes. We got two packets of Dometic bowl cleaner/tank treatment and an awesome 12 volt fantastic fan. We've used it several times since the party and we LOVE IT!  We hope to get to many more Xscapers events. It was such an awesome, fun group of people.

Here are the bloggers who were there that first weekend, but I know I missed a few:
Wheeling It; Technomadia; RV Wanderlust; Drive, Dive Devour; Rolling RecessThe Roaming PintThe Kuhl Odyssey; RV OutlawzWanderWasi; Rolling Under the StarsThisawayz and Thatawayz

Deb and Jeff Spencer

Here is a link to the video that Travis Carr of Xscapers put together of the first convergence. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Breckenridge Chic

[By Karen]
I took off the week of Sept 21st and we headed north again to Colorado. But, this time we went to places we hadn't been before. The night we were packing to go, Greg suggested we buy tickets to see Duran, Duran on Sunday at Red Rocks Amphitheater. We've wanted to see a show there for years, but it has never worked out. So we redesigned our route and stops - and headed to Breckenridge.

Greg has recently been reading through Tioga George's posts and was inspired to do some stealth camping one or two of the nights. We left leisurely on Saturday and drove the 288 miles to Breckenridge thinking we would stay the night in the parking lot for the ski resort. We were passing the Sand Dunes Hot Springs and Pool off of Highway 285 and decided to stop for a late lunch/early dinner.
Our delicious burgers at the Sand Dunes Hot Springs and Pool
The fall colors on the way to Breckenridge were beautiful. When we first arrived, banners greeted us and let us know that the Film Festival was in full swing that weekend. The streets were teeming with visitors. We headed to the ski resort lot only to see signs NO OVERNIGHT PARKING and kindly providing the name and number of the towing company that would take your rig if you did try to camp.  We parked in the lot and decided to scope things out on foot. We also noticed along most of the streets signs that forbade parking between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Fall Beauty outside Breckenridge

Our stealth spot was to the right of this creek
Stealth spot for the night. Thank you Summit County
Tioga George would be proud. Next to the City Hall and a nice creek, was the Summit County Housing Authority. A number of film festival goers were parked in the lot. We noticed that the sign said permit parking between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Although it was surrounded by the No Parking from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. signs on the street and adjoining lots, this lot appeared to be okay after 5 p.m. and before 7 a.m. We picked an end parking spot. While Greg ran to get the camper, I stood in the middle of the spot - saving it. We needed to get in our 10,000 steps and wanted to explore more - so we set up the bed and went for a walk. We got back to our spot before the film festival ended that night. So, bonus - the bathrooms at City Hall were open until 10 p.m. and again early in the morning. We slept well and didn't get a middle of the night, knock on the camper. We set our alarms and moved from our stealth spot before 7 a.m. over to the ski resort lot. We got ready for our day at the ski lot, made up our bed and headed to an early and delicious breakfast at the Columbine Cafe. It was rather chilly when we got up - only 32 degrees.

After breakfast, we walked over to the Washington Trail for more exploring. It is a really nice trail that meanders through neighborhoods and next to some very fancy homes. Breckenridge has large ducks that are painted ala Painted Ponies. We really enjoyed checking them out, but didn't realize until the third duck that you aren't actually suppose to sit on them for a photo op. Oops!

Stopping to enjoy the flowers
We had a lovely morning walking around exploring Breckenridge. Amazing town. We drove the short distance to Frisco to see if we could get a camping spot at Dillon Reservoir. We wanted to make sure we could have a guaranteed place to stay that night since we would be driving back from Red Rocks late after the concert. Dillon is beautiful with awesome views of the surrounding mountains. As it turned out - there were lots of open spaces.
Breckenridge Ski Area from the Washington Trail
We wanted to get to Red Rocks early to do a little hiking and beat the crowds. We had plenty of time so we went around Dillon Reservoir and over Loveland Pass. It is a good thing we headed out early. Interstate 70 was a nightmare with construction and a huge traffic jam with forty minute delays.

Loveland Pass - if we had more time, we saw some enticing trails at the summit. Next time! 

It was REALLY hot when we finally arrived at Red Rocks. We were very happy we filled up on gas before the drive, given the traffic jam.  The parking for the concert was haphazard at best. But, we were close to the entrance and had plenty of room for a tailgate dinner after a nice hike.

There were two "warm up" bands before Duran, Duran. CHIC really got the crowd going. Lots of dancing and remembering the late 70's & 80's. Kinda shocked at how many songs band leader Nile Rogers collaborated on. The view and acoustics of the red rocks and the distant Denver skyline were amazing.

Humphrey provided shade for our tailgate, pre-concert meal. 

Denver skyline lights in the distance

We way exceeded our daily 10,000 steps. Duran, Duran put on a great show. When they sang their last song, but before the obligatory extra song - we hightailed it to beat the crowd and try to get back to Dillon Reservoir as close to midnight as possible. Good thing - trying to get out of the #@$%& parking lot was a nightmare. Many rows were boxed in and it took some creative driving to escape.

We found the first open site back at Peak One campground at Dillon Reservoir. Greg quickly and quietly set up our bed and we were asleep the second our heads hit the pillows. We slept in and had a wonderful breakfast of our special deluxe oatmeal and took a walk around the campground and down to the water. The camp host Jan Nichols was from NM and we had a nice chat. She told me about the Facebook group RVing fun - which is! We left by twelve and headed north to Steamboat Springs for our next adventure.

Dillon Reservoir

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Monkeying Around - Part II

Note: Some how this post went live after I added all my pictures but before I added any text. Darn those little internet gremlins.

Our weekend jaunts continued when we drove Greg's parents to Chama, New Mexico to ride the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad on August 15th. The four of us have taken this trip a number of times and were very excited to repeat the experience. But, this trip was extra special as it was the Saturday night train which stops at Cumbres pass for dinner and a concert by Chris Collins. Greg found out about the train and found a discount coupon online! Greg's mom LOVES, LOVES, LOVES John Denver. Always has and always will. She met him once and he kissed her on the cheek. A moment I don't think she will ever forget. Chris Collins does a John Denver tribute.

We loaded onto the train about 5:00 p.m. and started out of Chama, NM. But, after we crossed over the highway, with next to no explanation, we backed all the way back to the train station. There was a leak in the first engine so we had to wait while they tested it and eventually switched us to another engine. But, once we got started the second time, things went smoothly.

We had a great train ride at sunset. The dinner was delicious, plentiful and well organized. Chris Collins is a very good singer. The crowd enjoyed singing along and Greg's folks were thrilled when they got called up to join Chris in a song and dance number. Chris even sang the John Denver song that Greg and I got married to - "Annie's Song" and ended the evening with everyone's favorite Rocky Mountain High. It was dark when we got back to the station at about 9:30. Then it was a couple of hours back to our home in Los Alamos. Such a fun and memorable evening.

Going around the bend

The views from the train are amazing

Greg scored a seat right by Chris Collins and Greg's folks and another woman got
picked to dance and sing with faux JD. They had a blast!

One of the wonderful things about living in Northern New Mexico is that I can take off at 3 p.m. on a Friday and we can get to amazingly, wonderful places for a quick weekend getaway! We are so fortunate to live where we live since we can't take off full-timing just yet. So, on Friday the 21st, I left work a little early and we headed northwest through Gunnison to Ouray.

Blue Mesa Reservoir outside Gunnison, Colorado

We have stayed and soaked in the areas around Ouray, but this was our first time staying in Ouray. We had a nice dry camping spot at the 4 J + 1 +1 Trailer Park. It is in the perfect central location for having fun in Ouray. We asked about the name. The owners originally were the 4 J and then had their third and then fourth child. All six of their names begin with, you guessed it - the letter J.

The park has very nice amenities including a laundry room, large bathrooms with showers. It is located along the river. There are full hookups, but we chose to stay in one of the dry spots which was less expensive.

Our very nice campsite at 4 J + 1 + 1

Within walking distance of the campground is the downtown Ouray park and they have a gazebo

We had a wonderful time in Ouray. We walked around town, had an evening soak at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool and ate a delicious dinner at Buen Tiempo Restaurant and Cantina. 

But, the highlight of the trip was hiking the Ouray Perimeter Trail. The hike begins across the road from the Visitor's Center. It is about a 4 mile loop hike.

The hike start across the road from the Visitor's Center in Ouray

Great views from the hike of the town park, Ouray Hot Spring Swimming Pool
and beyond it the campground. 
Hey look - it's Box Canyon Blog Mark & Bobbie's house. We stopped to catch our breath toward the beginning of the climb up the trail and recognized the blue house from Life's Little Adventures' blog.
We resisted knocking on the door and simply admired their killer view from afar.

Trail's edge looking down at Ouray, Colorado

Awesome views from the narrow trail
Waterfall selfie

The hike starts on a cliffside and then moves into a beautiful forest

Loved the river sculpted rocks

Views along the Ouray Perimeter hike
As you loop back toward town, you can walk by the canyon that is a favorite for climbers in the winter. We noticed all the piping that clearly shoots water down the edge of the canyon to enhance the ice. I can't imagine the guts and skills it takes to ice climb down or up this awesome canyon.

Million Dollar Highway from Ouray to Silverton. Can you tell that one whole lane is literally gone? No idea how they will fix it since it is a sheer drop into a canyon with a rock wall on the other side. During the day this drive to Silverton and then on to Durango isn't so bad. You can see that you are on the edge. But, we have also done this drive many times VERY late at night. As you make the tight turns there are often a variety of animals around the corner. We've seen deer, elk, marmot and a skunk. I don't mind driving the million dollar highway, but I have to admit it is a little hair raising at night.

Greg and I sort of stayed home for Labor Day weekend, but not really. Greg's folks also live in Los Alamos about a 4 minute walk from our home. They were going up to the Jemez Mountains to camp at San Antonio campground. One of their favorite spots. During most of the summer, San Antonio is on a reservation only system and they usually are booked solid. They have a variety of electric/water, no electric and walk-in campsites. There is a short, paved trail along the river filled with wildflowers. We came up on Sunday, brought dinner to cook, went for a walk along the river and then had a campfire. We stayed the night and got up early the next morning to say our goodbyes and then drive to nearby La Cueva for breakfast at the Ridgeback Restaurant. We highly recommend it. Excellent food and a really good price. But, don't be in a hurry.

Karen, Jack and Frances. Jack is Greg's parent's Bishon
Yes, that is a dog stroller. Jack is totally blind and has trouble walking.

Greg and his parents on the trail. Jack loves his stroller. 

San Antonio campground

The boy never leaves the man

As with much of New Mexico and southern Colorado, we have had an interesting summer with more than our usual amount of rainfall. The normal monsoon season seemed to last all summer with beautiful days and late afternoon storms. I never get tired of our beautiful, New Mexico skies.

New Mexico is known for our amazing skies and sunsets. 

Storm rolling in to Los Alamos, NM making Pajarito Mountain look insignificant

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