Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bienvenidos a Baja!

(Welcome to Baja!)

After such a glorious introductory trip to Mexico last winter (see my blog posts from Dec 2013 thru Mar 2014 visiting the mainland’s west coast and central colonial cities), I wanted to check out the Baja peninsula this winter to see how it compares.

As luck would have it, my View friends from Denver (Hans and Ursula), were planning their first RV trip to Baja, and thus the idea of a “mini Skinny Winnie caravan” was hatched!  We would leave the U.S. in mid-December to hopefully get a jump-start on the post-holiday snowbirds.

Our rendezvous location was up in the very chilly hills about 40 miles east of San Diego, at Potrero County Park.  Less that 10 miles from the Tecate border crossing, it’s a popular meet-up spot for RVs headed to Baja. 

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Christmas Toys for Boondocking

There’s not a whole lot of things to go buy yourself for Christmas here in Baja, so I decided to buy my Christmas toys a few weeks early while I was still in the U.S.  After my extended boondocking experience in Nevada, I wanted to shore up a few deficiencies and make the Winnie an even better boondocking-mobile for hitting the beaches of Baja this winter.

The weakest link in my Winnie systems seemed to be my 3-year-old Sams Club Duracell AGM batteries.  I had really expected these to hold up longer than they did, but as this was now my second set of low-cost batteries to die an early death, I finally had to admit “you get what you paid for” and pony up to make a proper battery investment.   Just like all the cheap Windows laptops I once had to buy and toss before finally investing big bucks on my Macbook Pro laptop (which is now 3+ years old and still looks and runs like new!).

So my new battery decision was now a no-brainer to buy the “Apple” of the battery world – a pair of Lifeline 6-volt GPL-4CT AGM batteries.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Visiting Family & Friends in SoCal

After 10 days of blissful solitude at my Nevada boondocking site, it was time to head down to L.A. for a Thanksgiving weekend with family.  It had now been nearly 2 months since I’d been near a major metro area, and the transition was nothing short of extreme culture shock!

First, I had to navigate myself around the outskirts of “the capital of the absurd & bizarre,” (a.k.a Las Vegas).  Thankfully, I was able to avoid the most touristy parts of town and just admire the big casinos from a safe distance.  But not wanting to overload my already overloaded senses with 2 major metro areas in one day, I decided I would stop for the night out in Barstow, CA before attempting to navigate L.A. freeways.

As nightfall descended across the Mohave desert, I stopped at the Nevada state line for some dinner, one more tank of cheap gas, and one last glance at the larger-than-life lighted casino signs.  So long, Nevada!

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Nevada Jackpot!

After two weeks at a National Park campground (with electric hookups no less!), I was yearning to do some boondocking again and Millie was more than ready to find some wide open space where she could run around leash-free (the National Parks may be beautiful, but by their mandate, they cannot be as pet-friendly as other public lands).

So, with a family Thanksgiving on the horizon in Los Angeles, I decided to spend the 10 days before then at a spot headed towards that general direction-- exploring the area around Valley of Fire State Park at the north end of Lake Mead (about an hour northeast of Las Vegas). 

Jim & Gayle were headed to that area a couple days ahead of me and had just the perfect boondocking spot to recommend just down the dirt lane from their site a few miles south of Overton, NV.  Oh, yes!  This site will do quite nicely!

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Classic Scenes from Zion

It’s now been over a month since I completed my first visit to Zion National Park.  It feels almost a whole other world away now as Millie and I are currently enjoying our second winter in Mexico exploring the Baja peninsula.  But whenever I come across a decent WiFi connection here, I’ll keep trying to catch the blog up as quickly as I can!

Even after 2 full weeks in Zion, I felt like I had just barely scratched the surface.  Certainly, some of the “unofficial” hikes revealed a Zion that few tourists often get to see, but photographically speaking, I didn’t make it very far beyond the classic Zion scenes that, no doubt, many thousands of other tourists photograph each year as well.

So for those of you familiar with Zion and these scenes, forgive the repetition of same old-same old.  For others who have not yet experienced Zion for yourself, I hope these images give you a good taste of what this fabulous park has to offer!

Perhaps the most common scene is from the Canyon Junction bridge looking down the Virgin river as The Watchman looms in the background.  I first photographed this scene with about 20 other photographers—all of us standing along the bridge with our tripods vying for the best vantage point.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hiking Zion National Park

I spent 2 weeks at Zion National Park last month and got to meet up with a group of RV blogger-hikers who led me to some pretty incredible places (both on and off the beaten path). 

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The other bloggers posted their trip summaries weeks ago, so I won’t attempt to repeat all their terrific details here.  If you’ve not yet read them, I encourage you to check out Mark & Bobbie’s Box Canyon Blog, Jim & Gayle’s Life’s Little Adventures, and Suzanne’s Take to the Highway

I also greatly enjoyed meeting the non-bloggers of the group— John & Ellen, Debbie, Laurelee, John Q & Joallen.  Thank you all for the fun laughs and pleasant conversation both on and off the trail!

I’m still very much a novice hiker and, as such, spent most of my time huffing and puffing from the tail end of the pack focusing more on simply completing each hike than masterfully photographing them, but I did manage to snap a few shots to share now with you here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

It’s Here! Our 2015 Calendar

A few readers recently suggested that I should create a wall calendar of my landscape photography for 2015.  I’m totally inexperienced at this sort of thing, but figured that my recent photographs from Utah might provide a good theme—some of these images have already been featured in the blog, while others from Zion are still to come!

So, just in time for holiday gift-giving, I humbly announce the 2015 WinnieViews Calendar - Utah Rocks!

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Bryce’s Inspirational Farewell

While I wished I could stay longer to explore more of Bryce Canyon National Park, the weather forecast was to plunge into high winds and a deep freeze, and my propane tank was nearly empty after running the furnace running nearly non-stop for 3 below-freezing nights.

So, I decided to wake up early for a sunrise photo shoot on my final morning.  Now savvy enough to know that one should avoid Sunrise Point and Sunrise (and Sunset Point at Sunset) if trying to avoid the mob of other park tourists, I decided to drive down to the next overlook, Inspiration Point.

I got my tripod set up with only a few minutes to spare before sunrise, the clouds were showing some nice color, and I, incredibly, was the only person there!

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hiking Down Into Bryce Canyon

After seeing Bryce Canyon National Park from the rim at sunset, I was determined to get down into the canyon for a hike the following afternoon.  I reviewed the park handouts and maps and decided to do the moderate-rated Navajo Loop and combine it with an “out and back” jaunt over to the Queen’s Garden while I was down in the canyon.  The total distance would be just over 3 miles with an elevation gain/loss of 550 feet.  A bit of a workout, but very do-able!

Remember this shot from my last post?  A commenter said she was starting to realize the impact that good lighting has on a photograph (such as late afternoon/early morning light versus the mid-day sun).  Well, here’s a perfect example!  This first shot was taken at around 4:30pm, an hour before sunset, as the sun was reflecting incredible “glowing” light off the hoodoos.  Complete magic!

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Now, here’s the same scene the next day as I started my hike (around 1:00pm in the mid-day sun).  Certainly still a great scene with some nice glowing hoodoos, but surely not the magic as the first shot.   Yes, indeed, lighting is a crucial element for a great photo!

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Now, let’s get on with the hike!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

On to Bryce

While it was lovely to see the two National Parks in Moab again (Arches and Canyonlands), the true excitement about planning this year’s visit to Utah would be finally getting to see 2 new National Parks that had long been on my bucket list—Bryce Canyon and Zion. 

I originally thought I’d fit in visits to Capital Reef, Escalante, and drive the entire scenic Highway 12 byway all within the one week I had to get from Moab to Zion.  But, I quickly realized I’d made the classic “new full-timer” mistake of trying to cram simply way too much into too short a timeline.   So, most of those plans got tossed onto the “next time” list, and I focused solely on Bryce for the next few days (with a stop beforehand to “Camp Wally” in Richfield to take care of boring life stuff like grocery shopping and a hair cut!).

The last week of October at Bryce Canyon had a few sunny days forecasted in the low 60’s (with night temps dipping down below freezing).  But it was “now-or-never” as the following week’s temps would go even colder with some first snows predicted.  So, I topped off the propane tank, bundled up, and headed up to 8,000-feet!

As I turned onto Scenic Highway 12 towards Bryce, the sun was beginning to set onto Red Canyon.  The views were getting better and better!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My 1st Slot Canyon – Didn’t Make It Very Far!

Moab graced us with a final glorious sunrise as Suzanne and I prepared to pack up our Winnies and head off to separate canyons.

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Suzanne was headed back to her special place, Snow Canyon, near St. George.  While I had my compass pointed towards Bryce Canyon National Park before cold would make it unbearable.  But on the way, I was determined to visit a little canyon that Box Canyon Mark had once described as “a trip to Disneyland” (with the exception of their most recent ill-timed visit).  I had never hiked a slot canyon before, and was “chomping at the bit” to give Little Wild Horse a ride!

Monday, November 17, 2014

My “Skinnie” Solar System

I’ve added a new tab to my blog’s home page called “Skinnie Solar” which shows pictures and product links to the 300-watt MPPT rooftop bendable solar panel installation on my Skinnie Winnie’s roof.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Off-Roading to Canyonlands, Part II

Looking at Canyonlands National Park’s Island of the Sky District from the mesa-top is a breathtaking and frustrating experience all at the same time.  Breathtaking for the vast Colorado and Green river canyons that envelop the mesa from both sides—each a “canyon within a canyon”, and each appearing even larger than the Grand Canyon.

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But frustrating too—one never seems close enough to get a really good look at these canyons when looking at them from the mesa-top.  I remember that same feeling during my previous visit in 1998, and also remember watching with envy as Jeeps as small as Matchbox cars went crawling down a curvy, steep dirt road to get into the canyon.

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It may have taken me 16 years, but on this visit, I finally got to drive this road and experience Canyonlands below the mesa-top.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Off-Roading to Canyonlands, Part I

Moab is home to some of the most radical and difficult 4-wheel-drive Jeep trails in the U.S.  With trail names such as Cliff Hanger, Hell’s Revenge, and Metal Masher, it’s no wonder the trails provoke a rush of testosterone from every young male with a comically-oversized Jeep who reads about them, and more rational “forgeddaboutit” decision-making from everyone else. 

It had been over a year since my little yellow Tracker had done some off-roading, so I was eager to find a few easier (sane) trails to explore.  There looked to be a few around Canyonlands National Park, and since this was Suzanne’s next park to check off her bucket list, we decided to take a few trips to the park via dirt backroads rather than the paved highway.

First up was Gemini Bridges Trail, an easy 13 1/2 mile 4WD road that connects Moab’s main Hwy 191 to scenic Hwy 313 running through Canyonlands’ Island in the Sky district.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

13-year-olds For A Day

Suzanne and I are giddy with excitement as we stand alone in a small parking lot at Arches National Park.  We hold in our hands a golden ticket, perhaps as rare and coveted as the famous golden tickets to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory! 

For a hiker-addict like Suzanne, getting a pair of last-minute tickets to the ranger-led Fiery Furnace Hike (that sells out months in advance), indeed feels like a getting a guided tour of the candy factory.  We just happened to be at the Visitor’s Center the day before when a school group had turned back 5 of their excess tickets (that we and 3 other unsuspecting senior tourists were able quickly snatch up).  I had wanted to treat Suzanne to this hike for her birthday after she had treated me to such a wonderful Star Party at the McDonald Observatory in West Texas back in March for my birthday, but had been unsuccessful in getting tickets until we happened to be “in the right place at the right time” at the VC for fate to intervene.

We arrive to an empty parking lot 15 minutes before the tour is to begin.  Are we at the right place?  A trailhead sign confirms that we are:

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Soon, an “active elderly” couple arrive, jumping out of their car gleefully holding their prized golden ticket.  Then, another solo senior drives up with hers. 

The anticipation is now buzzing as a final group of cars and vans roll into the parking lot and a dozen 8th-graders begin bursting out of their vehicles with their 3 young teachers not far behind.  Somehow, when Suzanne and I heard “school group cancellation” at the VC yesterday, we thought the entire school group had cancelled.  Little did we know that we were now about to become honorary 8th grade students of Mr. Wiley’s for a day!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Awe-mazing Arches National Park

After our weekend in paradise, Millie and I had some social engagements to get to back in Moab.  Our friend Suzanne was coming to see the two national parks here, and after being in the Moab area for two whole weeks and not yet having set foot in either park, it was high time for me to pay each a few visits as well.

The nice BLM boondocking area north of town, Willow Springs Road, made a perfect base camp for the week as it sits right between both Arches and Canyonlands, has gorgeous views, great 4G cell service, and you sure can’t beat the price…free!

I found us a nice, large campsite big enough for 2 Views and 2 Trackers and set up to await Suzanne’s arrival.

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Our first sunset was quite a show..

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but our neighbors up the lane had an even better view of Arches NP and the La Sal mountains from their “patio” on a large mound of slickrock!

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Have I mentioned yet how much I am loving this free boondocking thing?!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Escape to Paradise

This time of year, it is usually still pitch black in the morning when Millie wakes me up for her nature’s call.  We stumble out of the rig into the expansive desert that is our boondock spot just outside of Canyonlands Needles District.

The sky is no longer awash with a carpet of stars, but rather, almost completely covered by clouds—all except the fringes along the horizon.  Could we be in for a fabulous sunrise today?  I head back to the RV for my camera and tripod and then set up to await the big show.

What a show it is (and a great way to start the day)!

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Walk in the Park

After spending the summer “sitting and selling,” and knowing I will soon be spending some time with much more accomplished hikers, I decide to tackle one of the Canyonlands Needles District’s strenuous hikes to see what this flabby body can and cannot do.  I hear the voice of my friend Suzanne in my head “you can hike just about anything if you do it slow enough!”

So, just after sunrise, even though it’s still rather chilly outside, I open all the windows and roof vents of the RV for Millie, fill up my new Camelbak water bladder, tuck it into my daypack with my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and away I go for the 10 minute drive over to the national park.

The Elephant Hill trailhead (where most of the hiking trails in the Needles start from), is not along the paved scenic road, but rather, down 3 miles of a 4-wheel drive road (fortunately, most cars can manage at least up to the parking lot—beyond that, though, the road becomes a hellishly difficult boulder-crawling Jeep road!). 

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Finding a Needle in a Haystack

On our second morning camped on the Edge of the Abyss at Goosenecks State Park, Millie starts getting a bit more curious to snoop over the edge…

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Edge of the Abyss

After spending a week in Moab, by Saturday, I had learned one important rule—get out of town on the weekends in the peak Spring and Fall tourist seasons!  The town had seemed to triple in size virtually overnight!  Rather than fight the crowds at the national parks nearby, I pulled up stakes and headed out for a 4-day road-trip to explore the areas along Hwy 191 south of Moab (down to Southeast Utah).

No plan other than that.  No campground reservations for a Saturday night, just trusting that my Allstays Camp & RV app and my Escapees Days End Directory would lead me to some great available campsites!

We meandered our way down Hwy 191 checking out a few camps along the way, but Goldilocks was not finding the “it” campsite just yet.  But as we reached Goosenecks State Park as the sun was setting, “it” had most certainly been found!

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Moab Behind the Scenes

Even if you’ve never been to Utah or have hiked Arches National Park, you likely have seen one of its most-famous destinations—Delicate Arch.  It’s image even adorns the Utah state license plate!

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(courtesy: Flickr.com – Romaine Guy)

After leaving Colorado, I had Moab, Utah in my sights.  Warm, sunny days in the upper 70s, pleasant nights in the low 50s, two amazing national parks (Arches & Canyonlands) to re-explore, and lots of brilliant red and orange Colorado River valley rocks to hike and photograph.  What’s not to love?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Weekend With the Aspens

Visiting the Vail Valley is always a bit of a challenge when driving an RV with a toad attached.  Fortunately, I arrived on Friday afternoon when most folks (and their cars!) were out and about.  I easily snagged a nice parking spot for the RV right in front of the house, but with overnight temps hovering around freezing, my brother’s fiance’ insisted Millie and I stay in the guest room in the house—so, I packed a little duffle bag and away we went for the weekend!

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Not-So-Skinnie Winnie Summits the Rockies!

A couple months ago, I decided to finally get my ‘07 Winnie weighed at the nearby truck stop’s CAT scale.  Many other owners of the 1st-generation Sprinter have reported on the Yahoo View-Navion forum that their rigs routinely run a few hundred pounds over the GVWR, so I braced myself as the clerk handed me the printed weight report.

Monday, October 6, 2014

3..2..1…LIFT OFF!

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It may have taken 6 months (rather than the 3 originally projected) to get every last item of my household either sold, donated, stored, or trashed, but the job finally, FINALLY got finished on the very last day of September.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to Set Your RV Shower Temp Perfectly Every Time

You’d think I would have figured this out sooner after taking showers in an RV for over 5 years now!  After hundreds and hundreds of gallons of water wasted, and subjecting my toes to either frigid cold or scalding hot waters when “testing” the first water out of the shower head (and then routinely spouting dozens of expletives during such testing!), I think I’ve finally figured out how to get my RV shower just right!

Of course, I’ve read the RVing forums of guys “MacGyver-ing” a wide variety of contraptions to install onto their RV plumbing systems (like expensive mixing valves), and others who have desperately marked up their faucets with a black Sharpie or nail polish to know how far to turn a handle.  Fortunately, this solution requires none of that!

I’m not sure if this works on every RV, or if it’s just specific to mine (or Winnie View-Navions), but give this a try next time and let me know in the comments below if it works for you too!

First, a few assumptions—1. that you have a basic two-handle hot & cold RV shower faucet,  2. that you have some kind of “dribbling” water shut-off switch (either on the showerhead itself or near the faucet handles like mine), and 3. that you’ve turned on your RV’s Hot Water Heater at least 10 minutes beforehand (ask me how many times I’ve forgotten this critical step!!!).

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Wrapping Up with Some Highs & One Big Low

The last couple weeks have been a flurry of activity—mostly good, positive stuff but mixed with one major setback.  We’ll start with the good news, though…. 

The storage garage is steadily being emptied!  Millie has quite enjoyed being a “junkyard dog” and watching me sift through boxes of stuff to scan, pitch, or sell.   We are on track to finish this job in about a week and be ready to hit the road.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Maybe I Won’t See You in September

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That old familiar song “See You in September” was one I imagined singing as I leisurely migrated my way across the Midwest to visit my brother in Colorado this month.  I thought I’d get there with plenty of time to spare to sit and admire the changing aspen leaves.

But, in the downsizing that seems to never end, here I am still in Chicago, still sorting, scanning, snapping,  selling, and shipping items out of the last stubborn group of a dozen boxes.

It’s not been all bad though.

I thoroughly enjoyed my 2 week stay at Burnidge Forest Preserve’s Paul Wolf Campground (near Elgin, IL) where I moved to a huge site right on the edge of the prairie to enjoy the last hurrah of sunflowers and summer cloud shows.

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But as Paul Wolf has a 2-week stay limit, I then had to move on to alternate locations.  The second-closest campground was Blackwell Forest Preserve in Wheaton, but they were only open 3 nights a week.  Still, the $20 county-resident rate looked appealing, so that’s where we headed next….what a mistake!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Home Improvements

Hard to believe that Millie and I have now been full-time RVers for 1 whole week!  I’m still at the lovely county park campground on the outskirts of Chicago enjoying a large campsite overlooking an oak savannah prairie, and soaking up some great sunrises and sunsets.

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While I’ve been spending most days working away at the remaining 20 boxes to be eBay’d, Craigslisted, scanned, or garaged sale’d from the storage garage, Millie has continued to be absolutely no help at all Smile--  She spends her days lounging in the cool grass, or when the sun’s too hot, she crawls under the motorhome to a favorite shady spot.

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On the rolling home front, I’ve been enjoying some new home improvements for TV watching, photo editing, vacuuming, storage, and lighting.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I’m a Full-Time RVer !!!

How many years have I waited to type that headline?!!!  My stepsister Carol asked me the other day just when I first started planning this life transition and I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but certainly at least 5 years ago.  At that point, I didn’t have a firm date in mind—just a desire to transition from a fixed location to a mobile one for the next phase of my life.

I’m still trying to sort out the mental and emotional transition of this life change, but for now, it feels GREAT to see the tunnel behind me rather than continually in front of me!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Final Big Purge

I’m now midway through my final “hell week” of getting all my remaining possessions sold, donated, or moved out of the house.  The priority for the first half of this week was a huge blow-out garage sale.

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I really lucked out as this final weekend before my move also happened to be the annual “town-wide garage sale” weekend, so lots of buyers were out roaming our streets!

Monday, August 11, 2014

T-minus 10 and Counting!

Just a quick update to let you all know that I’m still alive and kicking!  With so much house activity consuming my days, I’ve not had time to write many blog posts…but hopefully, those lazy carefree days are coming soon…very soon!

In just 10 days, Millie and I will be pulling the Winnie out of the driveway for the last time and leaving our house to the fabulous couple who will be renting it over the winter.  They were over on Saturday measuring rooms trying to decide how they’d downsize their house’s furnishings into this one, while I was out in the driveway trying to figure out how I’d get a 2-car garage filled with stuff into my 24’ Winnebago!  “Downsizing” is all relative it would appear!

It’s not all been excitement and CandyLand, though.  I finally had a bawling emotional melt-down about a week ago after what felt like being haggled down to a pulp by ruthless Craigslist bargain-hunters on some of my most-cherished possessions.  In reality, they were just buying items for the going rate, and I still had way too many emotions pent up needing to “let go.”

All the Craigslist sales up to this point had been easy and fun—looky here!  Cash for unused, uncared about stuff!  Yippee!!!   Now, I was down to the really hard stuff such as grandmother’s most-prized dining room set and bedroom set from the 1930’s.  

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why I Love/Hate Verizon Prepaid

My final Verizon 2-year contract is coming to an end in August – a $50/mo 5GB mobile jetpack data plan on Verizon’s fast and widespread 4G LTE network.  It’s been a fairly flexible plan and data speeds have been good too.  But, now that Millenicom is my primary internet provider (reselling me 20GB of Verizon 4G data/month), I don’t always need a full 5GB of additional data from Verizon directly.   It sure would be nice to just buy whatever amount of excess bandwidth I might need without having to buy a minimum of $50 worth.

Fortunately, as of July 17th, Verizon now has a solution – their Prepaid division now offers 4G LTE for not only phone calls & text, but hotspot-shareable 4G LTE data as well!

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Millie will be “Sofa-less” in 4 weeks!

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What an incredibly strange and amazing week this has been!  I started the week in complete stress mode trying to get my presentation finished for my first library speaking engagement, and was also worrying about all the work still left to do to get the house ready to list by my self-imposed deadline of Aug. 1st.  It turned a bit chilly here this week, and with that, the realization that snow will be flying here in Chicago again in just a few short months started to sink in.

What to do? What to do???

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Is This Still Illinois?

I’ve been visiting some great nature preserves around the Chicago area recently in preparation for my first Master Naturalist presentation next week at an area library.  I’ve been to most of them before, but one last weekend, was a first-time visit for me, and I must say…I was blown away!

When one thinks of Illinois natural landscapes, you likely think of something like this entrance to the Green River Wildlife area (surrounded by corn and soybean farm fields):

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Flat as a pancake…. boring…. get me out of this visually-depressing state!!!

Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll find a patch of tallgrass prairie…

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or a grove of bur oaks, a little creek, or even a sandy dune along Lake Michigan’s shores.  

One thing you would NOT expect to find this far south of Canada is a boreal bog surrounded by tamarack trees.  Yet, we’ve got one right here in northern Illinois-- Volo Bog!

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Yes, this is in Illinois!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

3 Great “Secret” Deals Uncovered

Now that I’m a happy, penny-pinching early retiree, I’ve got nothing better to do all day than search for great deals that will cost as few pennies as possible!  (when I’m not working away to prepare the house to sell and start full-time RVing, of course!).

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In the past few months, I’ve discovered quite a few good deals.  Most have been very obvious and easy to obtain, but a few have not been.  In fact, they’ve literally seemed buried deep within their popular corporate websites, needing some sort of secret handshake or top-secret NSA backdoor security clearance to unlock!

Well, I’m here to reveal 3 of these favorite “secret” deals for you now.  If you don’t see a new blog post from me within a couple of weeks….Putin may have put me on a plane to Siberia!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Finding My “Way” in the Dark

Ever since getting a bit of “dumb luck” in shooting this photo a few winters ago at Joshua Tree National Park, I’ve been fascinated by night photography, particularly night landscapes.

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Last year, I discovered the Into The Night group on Flickr (as well as its excellent companion blog by Royce Bair) which provided a never-ending source of inspiration and knowledge.  But it seemed every time I tried to plan a nighttime photo shoot, I was stymied by one thing or another—wrong camera, wrong lens, wrong exposure settings, wrong time of year, wrong moon phase, or wrong weather.  With each failed attempt, though, I learned a tiny bit more than I had known before, so “progress” none the less.

This year, I set a goal for myself to finally capture photos of the Milky Way.  It’s taken months of planning and waiting for just the right conditions, but finally (FINALLY!) two nights ago, I did it!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Craigslist Angel (and a few more)

So far, my experiences with selling nearly all of my worldly possessions on Craigslist have been better than expected.  In the past few weeks, I’ve sold 16 items for a net total just of over $3,000 in cash!  Now, mind you, I’m not thinking about how much I actually paid for all these items new—much too depressing to go there!   What I’ve not anticipated, though, is how interesting and varied each and every buyer has been.  

My very first sales transaction is this Thule bike rack, sold (after just one day!) to a guy named Lou with a long, unpronounceable last name who is driving out from the city to get it.

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My mind races with thoughts of all those well-worn Craigslist horror stories—He could be a mad rapist!  A burglar! A serial killer!!! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to Eat an Elephant (Making the Transition to Full-Time RVing)

Selling a house and moving is, no doubt, one of the biggest personal projects one can ever undertake.  No one likes to do it, but when the reward (moving) still seems to outweigh all of these monumental drawbacks, one pushes forward and does it.

My last house move was 12 years ago, and I remember it taking about 4 months to look for and buy the desired new house, get my current house spruced up, listed, and sold, and then get all my household “stuff” packed up, moved, and unpacked.

When I started planning my move to full-time RVing a few years ago,  I spent an eternity trying to find and buy the right new home (RV), and also had multiple major projects to do to the house to get it ready to sell – new roof, new driveway, new kitchen, etc.  Transitioning to full-time RVing was definitely going to take a lot longer than simply moving from one house to another!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rock Creek Revisited

If it’s June, it must be time to head back out to Iowa to reunite with my old camping buddies at the Midwest T@B Rally at Rock Creek State Park near Grinnell, IA.  Since selling my T@B in 2011, I think I’ve brought a different RV every time I’ve attended!

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

7 Ways To Lower Your RV Fuel Costs

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I’m getting ready to hit the road tomorrow to attend a camping rally.  Even though diesel prices are finally (delightfully) lower than gas, fuel is perhaps the largest item of any full-time RVer’s budget.  Now that I’m a retired penny-pincher, finding the best deal on fuel is increasingly important to me, so I thought I’d share some ways I’ve discovered to lower my fuel costs.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

My New Folding Bike

My inflatable kayak wasn’t the only thing to get upgraded lately—I’ve been on quite an “upgrade shopping spree” this past month!  Every item in the Winnie (yes, everything!) has been evaluated—have I used it enough to warrant keeping it? Is it the lightest, smallest, and/or best-quality item I can get?

Then, as I’ve been going through my house and garage, similar questions are being asked on a daily basis about those things—do I love it enough to keep it? If it’s small enough to bring in the Winnie, is it durable enough to withstand the highway rattles and rolls inside a “rolling home”?  If not, should I upgrade to something better?

So, after the kayak, the next area of focus was the bike.  My garage had a big, heavy hitch-mounted bike rack and 2 bikes—a small 20” folding Dahon, and a full-sized, heavy electric bike (which also had a big bike cargo trailer).

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Took my new kayak for a spin!

It was warm and sunny this morning—a perfect day to try out my new Sea Eagle!  A couple weeks ago, I decided to go ahead and upgrade my original 2011 FastTrack with the newer, lighter, slimmer FastTrack 385.

First, the unwrapping…
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