Life Marches On

Hi folks, Hector here … it has been just over a year since our sweet Angel passed away and we fell off the wagon of posting on this blog.  We still miss her every day.

Sorry to just stop cold like that but life marches on and we’ve been busy with new projects that we’ll post about soon.  We are doing well and sure do appreciate the “where the heck are you” inquiries we’ve received!

Strange to say that it has been two years since the end of our extraordinary “walkabout”.  We planned and saved for it for five years.  It was supposed to be a three year trip and we stretched it to almost four before we decided to settle into the next Casa Lopez.  Even two years on, we still marvel at the experiences we had and the people we met.  Many of whom we are still happy and fortunate to call our friends.  Here are just some of the treasured friends we made along the way.

A quick recap of our adventures of the recent past.  In July of 2016 (time flies!) we bought a little adobe house in Corrales, NM. A beautiful little village adjacent to Albuquerque with a rural feel.  There are lots of horses, chickens, organic farms, wineries and a quiet pace that we love. To say nothing of the coyotes and road runners … beep beep!  It is a big change for us as we’ve usually been in-town types.

Last year we sold our beloved Island Girl to a young couple with three cute kids from Phoenix.  As comfortable as she was for full-time RVing, she was simply too big for occasional use.  It was bittersweet to see her go.  SO many special memories were made in that RV!  But she went to a good home and we’ve enjoyed the occasional updates the new owners have shared.

We’ve since purchased a 2009 Winnebago View 24J that we’ve taken on a few outings so far.  We’ve christened her “Island Time” and are loving the simplicity and versatility of the smaller rig.  More on those adventures in “Island Time” in future posts.

Brenda has returned to the travel business and is a Travel Advisor affiliated with one of the largest travel agencies in ABQ, All World Travel.  I’ve been developing my photography business and am STILL digesting the zillion images we captured while on our epic road trip.  Our future posts will touch on these endeavors as well.

So that’s the high level update on whats cooking at Casa Lopez of late.  The interactions we had with our readers of this blog meant a lot to us and frankly we’ve missed it.  So we have no idea where this will ultimately go but we do intend to bring this blog back to life.

Thanks again to all for your participation in our walkabout.  Writing this blog and your comments and feedback were a big part of what made it so great.  More to come!

Hector and Brenda

 

 

Driving Miss Angel


Her name is Angel … “Of course it is”. A response we heard more than once from the many people across North America when introduced to our wonderful dog Angel. Her sweet face and mellow disposition would draw them in. Especially the kids. So fluffy.

Today Angel is gone.  She crossed the Rainbow Bridge, her last journey in a well travelled life. We are beyond heartbroken. Many readers of this blog know she made it through some serious scrapes over the years but in the end, at the age of 15, she simply and quietly let us know it was time.She came into our lives in the spring of 2009 at the age of 7 along with her “brother” Rags.  Two wonderful furballs to enrich our lives.  We dreamt of our walkabout including them both but sadly Rags passed away too soon.  But Angel accompanied us faithfully all across North America for almost four years.

Angel made it to the four corners of the continent. When hiking with her in the touristy areas, especially in Canada, several different Asian groups asked if they could take a photo with her. We joked that she had become a sensation throughout Asia.

Dad, can i drive?

On the beach at St George Island

Boating in Everglades National Park

Being serenaded in Key West. “Angel, sweet Angel” was the refrain of the song

The Vermont farm animals were very interesting.  Her first piglets!

First mate on a whale watching boat off the north coast of Nova Scotia.

Chasing fallen leaves on the Buffalo River

She loved the car.

At the beach in San Diego

Autumn leaves in Portland

Hiking outside of Sedona

Its raining!

Trying on hats in Mexico

High in the Canadian Rockies

On the Alaska Highway

Hiking in the Yukon

Visiting her Husky cousins in Alaska

Deep in Denali National Park

Only sled dogs allowed here. Denali in the background.

Latitude 66.33  The Arctic Circle

Photographer’s assistant

At home in New Mexico

She was fierce until the very end.

We love you Angel, rest in peace.

 

Island Girl Seeks A New Home

Update: Island Girl found a new home with a young couple with three little boys!

No not THAT Island Girl, Brenda continues to put up with me. We are selling our beloved Island Girl the RV! We still plan on RVing part time but have decided that a smaller rig would be a better fit. So our thoroughly proven and reliable 2004 National Tropical T396 RV, “Island Girl” seeks a new home.

Since settling into our new home here in New Mexico, Island Girl has been meticulously cleaned and serviced from end to end. Every detail has been taken care of. Other than a few minor cosmetic beauty marks she is in much better condition today than the day we bought her in 2011.

Numerous upgrades, a thorough interior remodel, new roof, new tires (this week) mechanically perfect and drives great. She has just over 73k miles on her Freightliner XC chassis / Caterpillar engine / Allison transmission. We are asking $68K. Someone is going to get one great RV for not much moola.Below are detailed shots of Island Girl and her features as well as some of our favorite shots of her in action. Of course this entire blog is about her in action. We sincerely hope that her next owners are inspired by our Walkabout and have as much fun as we had.
In 2011 and 12 we completely remodeled and reupholstered the interior using Tommy Bahama fabrics, ultra-leather for the Captain’s chairs and stone for the backsplashes. We installed two new flat screen TVs, a Flexsteel sleeper (Queen mattress), a recliner, 25 LED bulbs/tubes and built a custom computer workstation. 

Solid cherry dinette table top

No RV should be without a Tiki Bar!

She has a spacious kitchen with a huge pantry cabinet (all cabinets are maple) and deep drawers. And a new GE Profile convection microwave, a 3-burner cooktop, and a Dometic side by side fridge with a new cooling unit and brain.

And a comfy custom built office with space for books, files, and a printer drawer.

A compact but functional bath. And a second sink in the bedroom. We replaced the plastic sinks with residential porcelain ones and installed new faucets, an Oxigenic shower head and a new toilet.

A spacious bedroom with a walk around standard size queen bed (new Sealy Posturepedic mattress in 2016), all new ceiling and sconce fixtures, vanity sink, laundry hamper, washer/ dryer combo unit, a large storage cabinet behind a new flat screen TV with a safe, and Elfa shelving in the closet.

She is very comfortable to drive and handles great.


Her exterior fiberglass is in great shape and has been regularly waxed. She has a Winegard satellite dish and an HD “Jack” TV antenna. There is some fading on the decals and a beauty mark or two but she is still quite shiny and good looking.  


 

After a hailstorm in 2013 we replaced the roof (not just the shell, but the underlayment too). It is sheet fiberglass not rubber. She also got a new 140W solar panel, a new skylight and new slide toppers.

She has tons of storage underneath as well.  Pass through central bays.

External SeeLevel II tank sensors that actually work!

New water pump

 

And large holding tanks for comfy boon docking.  95 gallons fresh water, 60 gallon grey tank and 40 gallon black tank and new SeeLevel tank sensors. A 100 gallon diesel fuel tank runs both the engine and the 7.5Kw Onan Quiet Diesel generator.

So that’s it.  A great coach in great shape at a great price.

But her most important feature is karma. Such wonderful memories of our amazing 3+ year walkabout. She delivered us safely and comfortably to many of the wonderful destinations across the continent.

Contact us through this link or a comment on this post if you’d like to discuss making her yours. She is ready for new adventures.

Hector

Four Corners and Friends

Continuing our catch up posts of our tour last year around the four corners, we could not resist a couple of stops on our way to our next destination just east of Durango to visit our friends, Mike and Linda, and their adorable pup, Lucy.

First on the way was the Four Corners Monument, the only place in the United States where four states – Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah –  intersect at a single point. It had rained recently, so the parking lot and park area, which are not paved, were quite muddy.

Interesting

The monument is a tribal park in the Navajo Nation. There is a granite and brass marker and a Demonstration Center with Navajo artisans and vendors who sell handmade jewelry, crafts and traditional Navajo foods. We managed to take the obligatory touristy photo “touching” all four states.

The next much more interesting side trip was to Mesa Verde National Park. We visited this park years ago, before we became fulltime RVers and knew that we could only make a very brief stop this time around.

So we took the 6-mile driving tour. With short paved trails to views of the Square Tower House, Sun Point Overlook and views of Cliff Palace, it was just enough to wet our appetite to return. Way too short a visit but fine for us at that moment.

There are several breathtaking overlooks of the various groups of ruins along the way.

Of course we ran quite late when arriving at Mike and Linda’s house, but they were completely unfazed (we do appreciate such flexibility!). This was our second experience “moochdocking” –  enjoying the comforts of the RV while parked at a friends’ house.

Linda had cooked a Cuban dish, picadillo, for dinner in honor of Hector and it was delicious. We met these two wonderful people while we were all fulltime RVers. They had sailed around the world prior to that and now they live in a lovely cabin in Colorado. It is a very pretty spot surrounded by big trees and frequented by lots of wildlife. Our kind of place.

We woke up the next morning to a big surprise: SNOW! One of those late spring snows that happens in Colorado. Big, fat, kind of wet snowflakes and just beautiful. Angel particularly appreciated the snow, although she slid around a bit on the wet porch.

If we had to encounter snow while RVing, this was the day to do it. With friends and a warm wood stove to sit by. We had a fun and relaxing time catching up and took a couple of drives including a drive out to dinner in Durango.

Durango is a fabulous town and the area has every possible outdoor activity opportunity (except the ocean). Mining and the railroad made this an important commercial center in the late 1800’s and the discovery and subsequent creation of a National Park at Mesa Verde made it an even more desirable location.

Nowadays, with Purgatory Ski Resort nearby, the town is a combination of a ski town with lots of restaurants and shops and a charming historic town with historic buildings and landmarks. And, nearby, the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad offers a really cool experience to another historic mining town.

But the focus of this trip was spending time with friends.  It was a perfect stop before our next stop in Albuquerque to look for a house once again.

~ Brenda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Bridges National Monument

As long as we were in this remote southeast corner of Utah we couldn’t resist a stop at another nearby National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument. This time we left Angel in Island Girl, knowing that they don’t allow pets on any of their trails.

Natural Bridges National Monument has three spectacular stone bridges that were sculpted by water, along with a very well-preserved ruin, Horse Collar Ruin.

The park has a loop road that goes by each of the Natural Bridges as well as Horse Collar Ruin, hiking trails to each of the Bridges and the ruins, as well as a full loop hiking trail (8.6mi) that goes to all of the Bridges. With Hector’s broken ankle, we planned to do very minimal hiking.

So we got started on the loop drive. The first stop on the drive is Sipapu Bridge, the second largest natural bridge in the world (Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon Utah is the largest).

The bridge is named after a gateway through which souls may pass to the spirit world in Hopi mythology.

Although the trail down to the bottom is fairly short it is the steepest one in the park, so we were happy that there was a pretty decent view from the side of the road.

The next stop on the loop drive is an easy trail (.6 mi) to the edge of White Canyon, where there is a view of Horse Collar Ruins in an alcove below.

Ancestral Puebloans moved here around A.D. 700 and left around the 1300s but rock art and stone tools in this area can be traced to people who came here as early as 7,000 B.C. Navajos and Paiutes lived in the area after the Ancestral Puebloans and some may have lived here alongside the Puebloans.

Even though these ruins were abandoned 700 years ago, they are very well-preserved. The most interesting is an undisturbed kiva that still has its original roof and interior, but there are also walls of two other structures, another barrel shaped structure and six or so rooms on the ledge. Although originally discovered in 1907, they seem to have been forgotten after President Theodore Roosevelt established the area as a National Monument (Utah’s first National Park service area) in 1908.

They sat undisturbed until 1936 when they were rediscovered, but this inaccessibility is thought to be one of the reasons that they are so well preserved. And as always, there are several mysteries about these ruins and their inhabitants, the most obvious one is why the structures were not built with their backs against the wall of the alcove.

After spending some time looking at and photographing the ruins we continued on the loop drive to the next Natural Bridge, Kachina Bridge, named after the Kachina dancers in the Hopi religion. This is considered the “youngest” of the three bridges because of the thickness of its span. Although there is not a great view from the overlook, the trail down is another steep one so we skipped it.

Our last stop was at Owachomo Bridge. Owachomo means “rock mound” in Hopi, named for a rock formation on one end of the bridge. This trail is the easiest of all, and .4 miles total, so it was the perfect one for nursing the broken ankle. It was really cool to stand under the bridge and wander around the slick rock that was all around.

The drive and two short hikes allowed us to get back to our RV without leaving Angel for too long.

We highly recommend this National Monument, check out details of the park, the loop drive and the trails here.

~ Brenda

 

Hovenweep National Monument

As we left Moab our plan was to explore a few more places in the four corners area (where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet). This is one of our favorite areas in the Southwest. Hector suggested we visit Hovenweep National Monument, which frankly I had never heard of, but I am always up for seeing another of our nationally protected sites.

We camped at Cadillac Ranch RV Park, which had been recommended by friends. Check out my review of the RV park here.

We headed out to Hovenweep National Monument in the afternoon after checking in at the park. It was a long drive across a remote corner of Utah, so I was becoming kind of dubious about the whole thing. But it was a really pretty landscape along the way and we continued.

The Visitor Center was closed by the time we arrived and the ruins are only viewable along trails. But we discovered that a couple of the shorter trails were open from sunrise to sunset. And a happy surprise – dogs were allowed on the trails! Yay!

Since Hector still had what he thought was a sprained ankle (which we later found out was actually broken) we decided to take the shortest trail – one mile. That also was best for Angel with her arthritis. Plus it was less than two hours before sunset.

We set out on the path, not fully knowing what to expect since we weren’t able to check out the Visitor Center. Luckily, trail guides were available at the entry to the trails. To my surprise, there were a number of different ruins on this short path. The ruins are situated in a canyon and along its rim. It was a much more interesting place than I had initially thought.

This area was said to have been inhabited over 10,000 years ago by people who moved according to the seasons. Ancestral Puebloans started to settle in the area year-round about A.D. 900, and by the late 1200s about 2,500 people lived here.

They built many types of structures at between A.D. 1200 and 1300 that are known for their careful construction and attention to detail. These include D-shaped dwellings and many kivas, which are ceremonial structures. Some structures that were built on irregular boulders remain standing after more than 700 years.

The Ancestral Puebloans prepared the land for cultivation by creating terraces on hillsides, forming catch basins to hold storm run-off, and building check dams to retain topsoil.

The square and circular towers that they built are particularly striking, but although archaeologists have found that most towers were associated with kivas, their function remains a mystery.

Theories about the purpose of the towers are many: they may have been celestial observatories, defensive structures, storage facilities, civil buildings, homes or a combination of some or all of those. Still a mystery.

The sites were thought to be abandoned when the Ancestral Puebloans migrated south to the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico and the Little Colorado River Basin in Arizona at the end of the 13th century. Although preceded by a prolonged drought, it is still not clear what different factors drove the migration. Another mystery.

As we took in the sights and read about the history, my husband the photographer was getting extremely excited about the fabulous ruins and the beautiful light. It always takes us much longer to cover ground than most other people, even when he doesn’t have any injuries. So it was slow going but very enjoyable.

We were enthralled by the towers and watched the sun set over some of the ruins that sat in the canyon. We only encountered a couple of people on the trail, and only one other this late in the day, another photographer that we spotted on the other side of the canyon. We stood still and enjoyed the beauty and quiet of the place.

Now we had two choices for returning to our car: turn around on the same path we walked out on, OR continue (adding ½ mile) and cross the canyon. Hector decided to go down the canyon. It was only an 80-foot descent, with mostly stone steps, but had some steep spots. So there we were, a guy with a broken ankle, an old dog with arthritis, and me – the only fully healthy one – descending into the canyon.

It was slow going and the light was dimming but we made it to the bottom. After a short walk came the climb back; up another 80 feet. Once back at the top, we just had a final, flat section of the trail back to the parking lot. No photos on this part since it was getting dark and we were focused on getting back.

We barely made it out to the parking area before total darkness. Not our wisest decision-making, but all turned out well. This National Monument is totally worth seeing, and we would definitely visit again to see more of the ruins.

~ Brenda

 

 

 

 

Fun with Friends in Moab, Utah

We made a few more stops after Bryce Canyon and before the end of our walkabout…After leaving the beautiful canyon, we headed east across the dramatic Utah landscape where we planned a brief stop for some fun with friends in Moab, Utah.

As was the case in many of our later travels, our route to Albuquerque from Tucson was turning out to be quite loopy. But since these were the last weeks of our walkabout, we could not pass up the opportunity to see some of our RVer friends once again.

We wanted to boondock in Moab, but weren’t sure about our options, so we reached out to our friend Amanda (WatsonsWander). She told us that several of the better known boondocking areas were pretty full, but suggested Klondike Bluff Road just up a couple of roads from where they were boondocking.

We found a great spot, with 360 degree views and 4 bars LTE signal no less. Check out my review of Klondike Bluff Road here.

Having contacts sure helps when looking for these special out of the way places.

We’ve been turned onto more than one killer (and FREE) campsite through the kindness of fellow RVers.

Thanks Amanda!

Our friend Mona Liza (The Lowe’s RV Adventures) had planned a get together with several folks that were staying in the area on the day after we were due to arrive, and since she knew we were on our way, invited us as well. So that evening we met up with friends for dinner at a restaurant in town.

Amanda and Tim were there with their parents, along with our friends Pam and John (Oh, the Places They Go!). And we met Susan and David (Beluga’s excellent adventure), whom we had heard about from several other RVer friends.  It was a fun time, as it always is with our RVer buddies.

The next day Hector and I took one of our sunrise drives over to Arches National Park. We visited this beautiful park a number of times when we lived in Colorado, but it is another of those places that you never get tired of.

Hector’s ankle was still not doing so well, so we just drove on the park road and stopped for short walks along the way.

Later that afternoon we returned to the park with Angel for a slightly longer drive. This time we drove over to Salt Valley Road which goes to a more remote area of the park. It’s a dirt road with very little traffic, so we had the place virtually to ourselves.