By Valerie C. Coffey
Mitch and I have been so busy with work and exploring new places that I haven’t blogged in over two months – I hope you can forgive me, dear reader. I have at least been posting frequently to my accounts on Instagram and Facebook, so if you’re ever wondering what we’re up to, please check out the action there. This week finds us in Page, Arizona, at beautiful Lake Powell! It’s great to have been in Utah’s red-rock country for the past six weeks. While in Bryce Canyon, Utah, two weeks ago, we celebrated our two-year “nomadiversary!” It’s hard to believe we are now in our third year of living, traveling, and working from our RV full-time!
Our travel post this week comes to you from our visit to Colorado Springs in June. Mitch and I spent six weeks in Colorado from early June through mid-July. We left loving the state even more than we already did. Before our full-time RV adventure started in 2012, we had both spent time in Colorado – Mitch on vacations, skiing and RVing with his kids, and Valerie having lived in Grand Junction, Colorado, for six years in elementary and junior high school. But neither of us had ever spent much time in the city of Colorado Springs – our loss entirely.
Garden of the Gods RV Resort sounds nice, right? Well, the RV park is not as impressive as its name. Although the website claims “spectacular views of Pike’s Peak,” we noticed that the trees pretty much obscure the view throughout the campground. It wasn’t even worth a picture of the RV in its site. But the location near the mountainous west side of Colorado Springs (near the town of Manitou Springs) was perfect for exploring numerous sights. In fact, CO Springs had *so* much to do and see, that our ten days there were barely enough.
Each of the following “Things To Do” are “Must-Sees” in and around CO Springs. Each deserves its own blog post. But as time, metered data, and cellular connection are limited, I’ll stick to just the top few.
By Valerie C. Coffey
After spending the spring of 2016 RVing through the desert southwest, is it any surprise that I took at least 100 pictures of cactus? Doesn’t everyone take pictures of cactus? Maybe not, but perhaps it seems less nutty in light of the fact that Mitch and I were in several gorgeous state parks and national parks where cactus was in full bloom.
So with apologies to Sheldon Cooper (you know, the nerd on Big Bang Theory who does a “Fun With Flags” video series), allow me to present some amazing, informative and amusing facts about southwest cacti for the cause of cacti awareness. I bring you, Fun With Cactus.
I am by no means a cactus expert, I’m just an amateur nature enthusiast and a science writer. So I do know how to research things. And compared to Mitch, I’m a flora and fauna expert. So I’m just gonna go for it, but don’t quote me. And if you identify any mis-identifications, let me know!
By Valerie Coffey
We have not been posting as much to our blog as we’d like in 2016. I’ve only managed to write a blog post about once a month. Sorry! We’ve been so very busy! Let us fill you in!
Since I last posted about our travels, we’ve explored the entire southern border of the US with Mexico. We left from San Diego in mid-March, and have now gone all the way to South Padre Island at the tip of Texas!
Along the way we stopped in the Yuma area (near the border of AZ and CA) for a few days, where we visited with our friends Roger and Gail and I got the RV stuck in deep sand. (Yeah, I’m gonna cruise right past that embarrassing story and save it for another day.) Then we walked over the Mexican border at Los Algodones, a popular destination for retirees and RVers to get state-of-the art but inexpensive pharmaceuticals, eyeglasses, and dental check-ups! We saved a lot of money and enjoyed some margaritas in the sunshine while we were there.
We stayed in Tucson for two weeks, visiting our friends Keith and Nicole Davis and seeing everything we missed last year, including Old Tucson Studios, Tombstone, and Bisbee. We saw Val’s cousins in Las Cruces, NM, and hiked nearby Dripping Springs Natural Area.
(By the way, if you’re wondering where we are, or you feel like you’re missing some of our adventures, be sure to “like” our public Facebook page, RVLuckyOrWhat. I post a pantload of stuff there, and only by “liking” our page will our posts come up in your newsfeed. You can also follow us on Instagram at RVLuckyOrWhat.)
All of this repeating of previous destinations from last year was mostly just to get to Big Bend National Park in the southwestern elbow of Texas – one of the biggest national parks left on our list to visit in the RV, and one of the hardest to get to! With over 800,000 acres of protected area, Big Bend is BIG, but only a fraction the size of Death Valley National Park in CA with its 3.4 million acres.
And much like Death Valley, Big Bend is the most amazing park most people have never heard of, much less been to (unless of course, you live nearby or have already discovered it). Mitch had never heard of Big Bend before we started our trip, and I’d only seen pictures of it online but didn’t know much about it. We set our sights on it for year two, scheduling it for early April. (Be sure to read my article, Ten Reasons Death Valley is to Die For, if you haven’t already. I’ll wait.)
My expectations of our first long-awaited visit to Big Bend National Park included sweeping mountain vistas and hiking adventures. I also expected April in Big Bend to involve flowering cactus and extreme heat countered with cool views of the Rio Grande (the river that defines the border between Texas and Mexico). We were not disappointed. What I didn’t expect was how many amazing deep canyons it holds. Nor did I understand that Big Bend is an animal bonanza in the middle of the one of the most remote spots in the U.S.
By Valerie Coffey
In April of 2014, Mitch and I took our first RV trip together a few months before we purchased our new home on wheels. We thought a short trial voyage with a rental RV would be a good idea before we exchanged our sticks & bricks house in Massachusttes for full-time life on the road. (Um. Ya think!?) Mitch had some experience RVing on family vacations but me, not so much.
So we took a road trip, rented a 36′ Winnebago from a private owner in Pennslvania, and drove it to Virginia for a long weekend.
I was sold on the RV lifestyle immediately! What a rush to be riding high, looking out the big windshield at the view, angsting at every turn and at every overhead branch and cable, but every minute becoming more comfortable behind the wheel of a big rig.
But perhaps what *really* romanced me was the rental advertisement for the RV we rented. In the ad, the rig was pictured at a tropical waterfront site in Key West, Florida. The owner told us that he took this picture of his rig at Boyd’s Key West Campground, a popular RV destination in Key West that required booking months in advance. We couldn’t wait to get there!
Now that we’ve stayed for a longer period at numerous RV campgrounds in the Keys, we found Boyd’s was only the tip of the iceberg. The Keys are chock full of great places to camp or RV! We found some other sites we liked even better!
Here’s our take on several amazing RV parks in and around Key West…
By Valerie Coffey
Travel + Leisure voted Charleston the “Best City in America” for 2015 — for the third year in a row! My first visit to Charleston in October 2015 was long-anticipated. For years, I’ve heard people say how much they love this southern city on the South Carolina coast.
“What do you like about it?” I would ask.
A typical response would be maddeningly vague: “Oh, it’s wonderful! The history! The art galleries! The architecture! You have to visit!” But I wondered, what’s it really like? Would I like it as much as everyone says?
And does it really qualify as the Best City in America?
For decades I lived in Boston with its even longer history. I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t care for most Southern comfort food. And doesn’t Charleston get a lot of rain and even hurricanes there (like Boston)? Call me a skeptic. And we only had a week, during which Mitch had two days of business travel. But let me try and answer the question better than I’ve heard it answered … Why is Charleston so charming?
By Valerie Coffey
What does a year-plus of full-time traveling by RV around the US get you? 10,000 pictures and video totaling 60 GB of files!
Granted, we have two of us taking pictures — a LOT of pictures — using mostly a Samsung Galaxy S5 cell phone and a Canon EOS D60, occasionally a GoPro Hero4, and various other DSLR cameras.
And we are solidly amateurs dabbling in photography. But here on Google+ is a sampling of 31 photos that are my personal favorites from our amazing year, representing every region of the country, every month of our travels, and boatloads of smiles.
Click on the Google+ box below.
By Valerie C. Coffey
We left our sticks & bricks home in Massachusetts forever on August 14, 2014, driving away in our brand new Thor Tuscany 45-foot motorcoach for a year or more traveling the US.
We sold our homes, sold a lifetime of belongings, dropped of the kids at college, continued our jobs on the road, and have had the kick-ass adventure of a lifetime this past year, and have seen so much of the US! We have learned so much!
People commonly ask us — What’s the best thing you’ve seen? — an impossible thing to answer, because it’s entirely personal, based on our pre-RVing experiences, values, prevailing weather and our mood at the time. In one year, we have hit 42 states and have driven 25,000 miles in the RV with an additional 15,000 in the Hyundai Veloster tow car.
We have stayed at well over 100 different sites, including luxury RV resorts, campgrounds, RV parks that resemble parking lots, state parks, and national parks. We have managed to completely avoid an overnight stay in the parking lot of a 24-hr WalMart!
But we do have some answers!!
What is THE BEST THING we’ve seen??
By Valerie Coffey
When Mitch and I planned over a year ago to visit San Francisco on our year-(plus)-long RV trip, spending time in the city was not the goal. We were in the area to pick up a friend and abscond to enjoy Napa’s wine country on Memorial Day weekend. The City by the Bay on a holiday weekend is a crush of traffic and tourists, which should be avoided…by everyone.
But as we got closer, my friend had to cancel and we decided to see the City by the Bay. So we designated one day, Thursday, to spend exploring.
San Francisco is like a home of sorts to me; I’ve been there numerous times since middle school for field trips from my then-hometown of Reno, for business conferences, and visits to see a college friend. I can feel my way around the city fairly well.
Mitch had been to the city for business, but he never had time to see much. So, it was up to me (Valerie) to plan the perfect one-day SFO experience for Mitch. My plan can work for anyone. So here it is!
As we move along in nearly 9 months of full-time RV travel, Mitch and I are often asked whether we have made progress in one of our key missions of the trip: finding another place to live that is warmer and cheaper than New England. With palm trees. Within commuting distance of a major airport for Mitch’s work and our continued wanderlust. Big enough community to keep it entertaining and convenient. Far enough away from a big city so that we can afford a big backyard space with a pool. Proximity to skiing is a plus.
As a matter of fact, we have narrowed down our choices somewhat! Here’s a little recap of our favorite and not-so-favorites.