NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Christmas Dream

All month long I've been thinking of Moab, Utah more than I've been thinking of Christmas. We visited Moab in the fall of 2009 and all last winter I'd close my eyes and daydream about all that red rock! We were only there a few days as part of our big loop through South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah, but it left a big impression on me. It's the only place I've ever visited that I felt like I only scratched the surface and that there is so much more to experience than I could possibly do in a single "vacation".
North Window

We stayed at Moab Valley RV Resort and really liked their facility. It is a security gated facility with a pool and a huge hot tub, an efficient staff and nice laundry facilities. The spots were close together but not tight or hard to get into. It's located 2 miles north of the center of Moab and 2 miles south of the entrance to Arches National Park and was perfect for all our day trips. We went into Arches a couple of times and really enjoyed hiking to the different formations, and even went back into the park at night to enjoy the incredible view of the stars.

My best memory is of getting up before sunrise and driving the truck by myself out to Arches. There were some clouds as the sun was coming up and I was certain that I wasn't going to get any of that glorious early light, but luck was with me and the clouds broke for a few minutes so that I could snap a couple of shots with the moody sky making the pictures even better.
Tower of Babel
Sheep Rock

We also drove out to Canyonlands National Park and did some exploring of the Island in the Sky District. We stopped at a few different areas and were happy that we had also checked out the visitor's center so that we knew a kangaroo rat when we saw one! Never thought a rat could be so cute!

As we peered into the canyon we noticed some jeeps down there and discovered that you could rent them locally and take them down into the canyon. We decided that was our plan for the following day, but not before taking that final stroll out to Mesa Arch, which I enjoyed photographing while Wayne enjoyed scooting out to the edge and looking down, inspiring other brave souls to join him.
Mesa Arch

When we returned to Canyonlands with our jeep we had quite a hair-rising ride down Shafer Road into the canyon.

It wasn't until we made it to the bottom that Wayne informed me he was certain we'd never make it!

 Once safely down we bumped our way along White Rim Road and enjoyed the scenery. We were in awe of the power of wind, water and uplift evident around us, but soon found the bumpiness tiresome and made our way out to Potash Road, relieved that we wouldn't have to go back up that set of switchbacks!

Potash Road is the site of some of the area's many petroglyphs. We took time to visit the panels there, and were also treated with an opportunity to chat with some rock climbers. The Moab Visitor's Center also recommended we search out the "birthing scene" which is depicted on a boulder and was a little more challenging to find, but well worth the effort. I can't wait to return and find more Native American rock art in the area, especially The Great Gallery in the Horseshoe Canyon Unit of Canyonlands.

So, as I scraped ice off my windshield on this chilly morning the day after Christmas, my thoughts were in Moab, where I hope the locals were treated to a dusting of snow on all that marvelous red rock. I'm hoping that one Christmas we'll be there with them, hiking one of the many trails through the Colorado Plateau. Happy Holidays, Everyone, wherever you happen to be!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Got a bike rack!

When we were at Blue Mound State Park we went to Camping World to see what options we had for carrying our bikes and our kayak. We never really found a solution for the kayak we were happy with, so we decided we'd continue just putting it inside the fifth wheel while traveling. However, we did purchase a rack for the bikes and Wayne immediately got to work setting it up.

We also walked to the back end of the campground and went up the hiking trail to the tower.

The view from the top of the tower was nice, and we enjoyed our walk. I think we'll be back to this Wisconsin State Park again, the only thing it was lacking was kayaking opportunities.  We were supposed to go to Lake Kegonsa State Park at the end of October for a quick weekend trip but had to cancel because of trouble with our landing legs on the fiver. Wayne ordered new ones, installed them, and now we're hoping the weather will cooperate so we can go out for 3 nights on Thanksgiving weekend at Kettle Moraine State Park before putting the fiver in storage for the winter. I am not looking forward to that!

Since we weren't able to go camping I decided to drive to Kettle Moraine State Park for a hike instead. I chose the Emma Carlin trails since I haven't been on those before. They are open for hikers and mountain bikers, and since the trail was so narrow it was quite inconvenient to have to keep hopping off into the underbrush to avoid getting run over. So, when the trail intersected with the National Ice Age Trail I switched to that one. Much quieter, much wider, and a better variety of things to see. I walked for about 3 miles before returning to the parking lot, and when I came out on the Ice Age Trail I was at the opposite end from where I parked. I was delighted to discover this little pond surrounded by wildflowers and spent about half an hour playing with my camera.


The last few days, thanks to a commercial on TV for Arizona, all I can think about is how great it would be to pack up and go south for the winter. Four years, 3 months and counting until we can consider that option!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Get Me to The Grumpy Troll!

On Tuesday we decided that since the forecast called for rain over the next 3 days we'd be better off moving closer to a big city so we could find some indoor entertainment if necessary. We picked Blue Mound State Park which is outside of Madison, Wisconsin, and once we arrived were happy to see the typical large and well-spaced sites we've come to expect from our Wisconsin State Parks. The area behind all the sites is nothing but deep woods since this campground is on the smaller side. Showers were pretty good but the buildings are looking a bit decrepit and insects are a little more comfortable in there than I prefer!

Fall color is definitely past its peak here now, and over half the trees are bare, but it's still very pretty. We took a bike ride around the campground after setting up and discovered Blue Mounds has quite a few bike trails, including access to Military Ridge State Trail.

First thing Wednesday morning we headed out for the State Trail and hoped we'd be back in time to miss the forecasted thunderstorms. We paid our $4 each to use the trail and headed for the nearby town of Mt. Horeb, where we knew from past experiences we could get the best root beer ever at The Grumpy Troll.

Military Ridge Trail itself is mostly level and used to be an old rail bed. When we got to Mt. Horeb we rode around a little bit and looked for trolls. For those uninitiated, Mt. Horeb is famous for its Trollway and sports a collection of trolls around town to seek out.

Those first guys look pretty cheerful, but that other was out in front of the visitor center with a big banner reading "Velkommen". He doesn't look too welcoming to me!

We rode around town awhile and then made our way back to The Grumpy Troll for lunch. Come for the root beer, folks, but stay for the food! They have a great menu, and even have a few vegetarian options. Wayne got the special of the day which was a beef stew with biscuits on the side, and I got black beans on a wheat pita with seasoned waffle fries. Those waffle fries were the best I've ever had!


But, all good things must end, and even though we only finished half of our meals we had to move on and leave the leftovers behind because we don't have any way to carry anything. Next on our to-do list!

By the time we got back to the campground our legs were jelly! We figured we rode about 12 miles, and I was so exhausted that I fell asleep for awhile. We missed the rain while biking, but it didn't take long for it to start once we got back. Eventually we forced ourselves out of the camper again and drove into Madison to the West Towne Mall. While in REI we looked into a bike/kayak rack system but still don't know what we're going to do. I think we need to figure out a way to attach them to the camper because it doesn't look like they're going to fit onto the top of the truck. Anybody have any suggestions??  I don't know how long we'll cope with throwing everything inside! We're going over to Camping World tomorrow to see if they have any ideas.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Broke it Already!

I'm always the first one to ding or scratch anything new, and it usually doesn't take very long. Yesterday we took the kayak out on the sloughs of the Mississippi River.

All was going well except for a little bickering about why I wasn't supposed to "help" when Wayne was steering. I was taking it personally until he told me that's just the way it is in a two person boat situation. Well, that's another story altogether! We settled into a rhythm and headed for the bald eagle in the top of the trees and had fun listening to his friend hiding in the bushes making quite a lot of noise. Just after we paddled away the two of them took wing for another part of the river.

We paddled around a little more, and my lower back was twinging, so Wayne offered to tighten up the straps for the seat a little bit...and crack! The buckle holding it together snapped and now one side of my seat was sagging. Okay, technically it wasn't me this time who took the tarnish off our new toy, but still I was a little worried  this would make him quite cranky and spoil our adventure. However, he took it in stride, stuck his feet in my lower back for support and we paddled around for another hour! Gotta love it when they can still surprise you after 22 years together!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hiking and Biking in Iowa

The more we travel, the more we realize how great our Wisconsin state parks system is. From the staffed gatehouse to the convenient dump station down to the meticulously labeled and perfectly laid out campsites. When we arrived at Pikes Peak state park in Iowa on Friday, it was nothing but confusion. We made reservations online ahead of time, but when we arrived there was a sign at the entrance saying first come first serve please self-register. So, we thought, this must be the non-reservable loop, keep driving until we find the other one. It was the only loop we soon discovered, so we came back, but there was no place to check in, and no site labeled camp host, no signs indicating whether the loop was one-way or two-way driving, no sign indicating anything! A woman noticed our confusion, came over and asked if she could help. I asked if she was the camp host and she said yes and directed us to our site after confirming we had reservations because the campground was full. We asked which road we should take in to our site and she said it didn't matter, go this way, but when we drove down the way she indicated it was the "wrong" way and we had to go back around in order to back in to our site. These are all small things, I know, but I just didn't realize how great we had it whenever we went to a Wisconsin state park! When we got to the site, I doubted we would fit, but we got in and set up.

The next morning we decided we'd start our day off with a bike ride down to the town of McGregor. The Great River Road was closed for construction just outside the park entrance road down to the town, but we figured that didn't mean closed to mountain bikes, right? The dirt was quite rutted, and it was an 8% grade so I pretty much rode the brakes the whole way down while trying to dodge bad spots. The fall color up here looks a bit dull, and folks have told us they've had a very dry summer, but it was still a pretty ride and there was no one but us and some turkey vultures on our ride.

When we got into town, we discovered they were having some sort of fall festival. Traffic was heavy and we decided it was probably better to ride on the street than on the crowded sidewalk, but I was pretty nervous zipping past motorcycles and wondering whether cars parked along the side wouldn't see us and open a door or pull out. The town has quite a few charming buildings from the 1800's that are in nice shape, including a former carriage makers. Wayne stopped to chat for a minute with the lady giving buggy rides.

It didn't take long for us to reach the Mississippi River and we were happy to discover a paved path we could get onto instead of the busy road. We weren't on it very long before it ran out though, and we crossed the road to investigate a National Wildlife Refuge sign. I ran across the road on foot and Wayne soon followed with both bikes. The visitors center was closed and there were no paths or access to anything due to the bluffs, so we turned around and went back through town to tackle that uphill ride. We didn't make it too far before having to hop off and push the bikes, and even then we were breathing pretty hard. After making lunch we drove over to Prairie du Chien in Wisconsin to check out the Cabela's and run some errands.

On Saturday we headed over to Effigy Mounds National Monument which was just a short drive north to the town of Marquette, Iowa. The rangers at the monument were very informative and in addition to information about the mounds we dug for details about area kayaking and good restaurants. The first section of the trail was pretty steep, and then there were a few switchbacks.

The woods were very pretty, but as those who've seen mounds before know, there really isn't much to see about the mounds themselves. The film was nice, and the museum in the visitor center was good also, and I'd recommend getting educated before heading out to any mound site. We just absorbed the peace of the woods and I thought about how different life was for the Native Americans than it is for us today. After our 3 mile round trip hike we went out to lunch at Fort Mulligan's Grill in Prairie du Chien on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi which was one of the places the ranger recommended. The food was good but not great, but the prices were reasonable and our waitress was very sweet and helpful.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Door County

We started our day on Wednesday by catching up on laundry, washing the truck, and stopping at the farmstand at the Mobil in Sturgeon Bay. They had the most scrumptious little yellow tomatoes! While driving around Sturgeon Bay we admired the "Sturgeon Around the Bay". This is the 11th year that artists have created these sturgeon that are auctioned during their annual Harvest Festival & Harvest Moon Celebration.

Our next stop was the Door County Coffee & Tea Company in Carlsville. I bought an assortment of their Decaf coffee one-pot packets, some artichoke pesto, a piece of pecan pie for me and some chocolate cream pie for Wayne. I've never had a better piece of pecan pie except at the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I had to force myself not to go back for more the next day. Wood Orchard Market was our next stop where I sampled pumpkin butter, jams, apples, peaches, cherry strudel, raspberry & cherry salsas and apple cider donuts. I bought everything but the salsas, and went back the next day for some cherry cider which was also fantastic.

After all that sampling I wasn't hungry, but Wayne was, so we stopped at the Gibralter Grille in Fish Creek. I got the Door County salad, which was chock full of dried cranberries and walnuts and had an incredible raspberry vinegrette, and Wayne got a burger with a side of their pasta salad which he said was very unique.

We walked up and down the docks at the marinas in Ephraim and in Sister Bay admiring all the boats to help walk off all our snacking.

On Thursday we went to the Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay. We thought that the Maritime Museum in Sault Ste Marie and the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point were both more informative and more worth the admission price. However, we did enjoy our optional tour of the John Purves tug boat which was given by the namesake's son.

We also walked on one of the lift bridges in Sturgeon Bay and enjoyed our view.

We left Door County on Friday and had our first RV mishap just north of Manitowoc. We didn't have our 4-way tire iron with us, but luckily were only a mile from a rest area where we met two other RV'ers who were helpful in getting us on our way.

After that was taken care of we used our handy GPS to find a Fleet Farm in Manitowoc and stopped in to replace our spare. While waiting we browsed in Fleet Farm and found a tandem kayak on sale! Next time we want to kayak we don't have to worry about rentals and can go for as long or as short a trip as we want!

Now we're home and devising ways to put the kayak to use before it's too cold. As soon as we have two coordinating consecutive days off we'll be able to take it out, probably on the Pecatonica River so we can stop at Irma's Kitchen in Argyle for some of her unbeatable pie!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Munising to Sturgeon Bay

The weather was quite cold and windy on Sunday and Monday in Munising, so we ended up not doing too much. We even missed the Rubber Ducky race because it was raining and the wind was at 30 mph! Thanks to the weather we never ended up taking that kayak ride, so I guess we'll have to do it another time. We did get a shot of Alger Falls while running errands when the rain cleared. The falls are right by the side of the road on M-28.

We also stopped at Horseshoe Falls to try to have a look, but they are privately owned and they wanted $3.75 each to view them so we moved on.

On Tuesday morning we packed everything up a few days early and moved on down the road. We stopped for breakfast in Escanaba, Michigan at Drifters Restaurant. We had eaten there when we did our Lake Michigan Circle Tour and found the food to be good and reasonably priced.

We continued on to Potawatomi State Park in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. This is a new WI state park for us, and we found it to be a pleasant surprise. It is very heavily wooded and we saw deer, squirrels, birds and even a rabbit while driving in our first night. The roads into the campground are a bit tight with our 37 foot fifth wheel, but we took our time and it was fine. We reserved site 41 in advance, and while it was a tight squeeze backing in, there is plenty of room in the site itself. While driving around we also found that sites 16, 22, 28 and 71 would have worked for our sized RV as well. The campground also rents bikes and canoes, but we will not be able to take advantage of this because the camp store is closed during the week after Labor Day weekend and we will be leaving on Friday morning.

 We had dinner at The Mill Supper Club because it advertised a fish boil, but they did not do the boil over with the kerosene and you could taste the difference in the food. Back at the campground we both sat outside and enjoyed the fire with a drink before going in for the night.