Hanging out in Lake Monroe, FL

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Ibises

We usually don’t make RV park reservations six months in advance, for doing so can mess up our flexibility (we call it “jello planning”) as we travel along.  But we were forewarned that snow birders from the northeast flock to Florida during the winter and parks fill up fast.  Now, six months later, we arrived at Lake Monroe, Florida for a month’s stay at Town And Country RV Resort.

Town and Country RV Resort

Even the golf carts are in the holiday spirit

We learned long ago not to be fooled by the “resort” designation, as it is often misused to make a park or campground sound like what it isn’t.  We chose this park for its proximity to Orlando Int’l Airport, from which we’ll be departing for our vacation.

Town and Country RV Resort

This place is not exactly the stuff you write home about.  In fact, the campground has been sold to a developer and in its place will be homes which will be constructed next year.  No wonder the park is not crowded; on the contrary we’ve seen several of the “perms” packing and moving elsewhere.  We feel bad for them, as many of them live in structures that cannot be moved and will have to start over.  But to our advantage there are fewer campers, no crowds, less noise and spacious surroundings.  We’ve kept ourselves busy – I with my household chores and reading, while Steve does maintenance and minor repairs.

We have a great site, an end spot under a huge oak tree with a canal view 🙂 (site #9).  The local “feathered residents” are so welcoming as they check us out daily – early in the morning, around noon and again in the early evening – showing off their plumage.

As you may know, Florida is teeming with birds and I don’t have to walk far from our site to observe these waterfowl quarry for food in the canal next to our site.

The weather here during the past week has been astounding – 80’s during the day and mid-60’s at night – as we leave our windows open while we sleep.  This, while most of the nation is suffering such a cold snap.  We almost feel guilty!  Our friend Marcy advised us that a “National Hate Florida Day” has been designated because of our fantastic weather break.

Lake Monroe Conservation Area

For our exercise, we drove to the nearby Lake Monroe Wildlife Conservation Area to tackle their yellow, red and blue blaze trails.  We went there twice and never encountered another human during our long walks (although we did chat with several cows).  Is that cool or what!

wpid19831-2013-12-04-FL-1220669.jpg

Gee, hope I don’t get a sunburn!

Lake Monroe Conservation Area

They must think we’re trespassing – we’ll just keep mooooving!

Sandhill Cranes

Lake Monroe Conservation Area

Ground Spider

~Thousands of these spider webs were all over
the dew-covered fields when we arrived.

The city of Sanford was only 10 miles away, so on another day we loaded up the bikes after deciding to ride along their “Riverwalk” – thinking it would be a nice a long path.  Well, it was actually quite short, but we enjoyed riding its length several times while checking out the abundant waterfowl that seemed quite comfortable in this urban setting.

Riverwalk, Sanford Florida

Wow, it’s really warm out here today!

Riverwalk, Sanford Florida

This woman is in “bird heaven”

Armed with a tip from Steve’s barber, we took another trip to a more promising bike path at Big Tree Park, which follows the Cross Seminole Trail.  Before our ride, we walked down the park’s boardwalk to see “The Senator”, an approximately 3,500 year old Bald Cypress Tree that was lost to an arson fire in January of 2012.  Steve angrily commented that he hoped whoever did that would himself burn when the time came.

About 40′ feet away is the Senator’s sister tree – “Lady Liberty” – another Bald Cypress Tree estimated at approximately 2,000 years old.

The Cross Seminole Trail was not one of our favorites, because a large section of it ran through residential areas and paralleled a heavy traffic road.  But part of it was nice as it passed through 3 miles of Big Tree Park and over U.S. Highway17/92 via a large overpass.  The signage was a bit confusing and we ended up stopping after 10 miles.

I know it seems like we are running around all the time, but yes we do take a break now and then to just sit around or read while waiting for our feathered friends to come and visit us.

Town and Country RV Park

Our afternoons at the site.  Did I mention how warm it is here?

I still have a post to write about our exciting visit to the Kennedy Space Center, but I’m running out of time.  By the time you read this Steve and I will be on our way to San Juan, Puerto Rico to hang out for a few days before hopping on a Royal Caribbean liner for a seven-day cruise in the southern Caribbean.  Steve calls this “a vacation from our vacation”, for he will not have to drive Betsy during this trip.  We’ll be back a few days before Christmas – happy holidays to all of you!

Lastly, just for laughs this holiday season, somebody does not know their spanish…

Funny Sign

Next up:  Touring the Kennedy Space Center, FL

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Quartzsite, AZ – A hub of activity

Comments 25 Standard

After visiting Quartzsite at the beginning of December to scope out the boondocking areas and upcoming show setup, we came back to actually attend the assortment of shows the town is known for, and to observe the madness firsthand.  During this time (Jan – Feb), Quartzsite is brimming with tens of thousands of visitors, vendors, winter residents, boondockers and snowbirders.  They come not only for the various shows and huge swap meets, but also to enjoy the scenery and to gather around a campfire with friends.  There were more than 10 shows ongoing while we were here.

Quartzsite Big Tent Show

The Quartzsite “Big Tent” Show

Although we were warned the traffic would be crazy during the various shows, it was not bad at all by our California Bay Area standards – just a few minute’s delay in the area south of town.  However, it was helpful that we had been here before so we knew a couple of routes around the worst of it, and also the general area where we wanted to set up camp. This time we actually dropped the car south of town so I could scout things out and report back via phone in advance of Betsy’s approach – it worked out well for us.

Big Tent, Quartzite, Arizona

As we entered the Dome Rock area to the west, I knew immediately we could not stay at the same spot we had before, since a group had already set up camp there.  But, I lucked out by finding another spot nearby that had only a small spot that was level, which kept other’s from parking near us.  So, we had our own little piece of desert paradise for a few days!

Dome Rock West

Our spot at Dome Rock West

Although there were thousands of RVrs descending into Quartzsite, we really did not feel cramped for in this vast desert one can park anywhere for FREE within the BLM areas. While here, we felt the festive mood in the air as everyone was having fun and were very friendly.  At night, not only were the stars aglow but the desert was filled with campfires and colorful lights as various clustered RVers were gathered around to party.  As newbies in the RV world, we came here to experience what its like to be in the midst of the biggest RV gathering on earth.  It was fun being a part of it.

RVs scattered around the desert

Just a few of the thousands of RV’s around Quartzsite – view to the east

Now that's a lot of RVs.

~Now that’s a lot of RVs, North View

The RV show itself, known officially as the Sports, Vacation and RV Show (Jan 19-27) was ok, but not the best we have ever attended.  Probably because admission to the show is FREE, there’s no money for printed materials or information booths that would have been helpful in locating the many vendors within the giant tent.  We had a plan outlining what we wanted to shop for and in what order, and we entered the tent at 9:00am sharp on the first day.  By 11:00am when it started getting extremely busy, we were done inside and continued our shopping around the outside of the tent.  By 1:00pm or so we were finished – mission accomplished!  People arriving late and just wanting to browse through had a rough time of it due to the crowds.

Steve dropped off our Blue Ox tow bar at their tent to take advantage of the $25 special to inspect and service their units.  We had to wait two days to get it back, but it was a good deal and gave us piece of mind that our car will stay firmly attached back there in the future.

In another part of town just a mile away from the RV Big Tent Show was the Desert Gardens Gem and Mineral Show (Jan 1-Feb 28).  Now this one was quite fascinating, for on display and for sale are various sizes, colors, shapes and rock formations from around the world.  I was overwhelmed and for a while wished I was a rockhound so I could collect all these amazing specimens.  Steve was underwhelmed and stayed home to install goodies into Betsy.  Every now and then he throws a rock, but that’s about it.

We’ve done the show now, but we’d definitely come back to meet up with friends again in the future.  You come here not only to shop but also to party.  And that’s just what we did.  Our friends Al and Ingrid of Live Laugh RV were nearby and invited us to join their group “Boomers” for a happy hour in the desert.  We met several seasoned RVrs at this gathering who shared their stories of being on the road.  It made us smile!

Happy Hour in the desert

One of many happy hours in the desert

As for hiking, we took a long walk up a trail toward Dome Rock, and at some point Steve got the idea to try for the top.  Well, he made it!  In the little logbook at the top, he wrote his name and some thoughts comparing the view to what we saw at the Picacho Peak summit that we climbed recently.  There are many miles of trails here for walking into the hills, or just make your own as your heart desires.

All in all, Quartzsite is a cool place to visit, party and shop till you drop.  Check this one off our bucket list!

What a year it was!

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The year 2012 was one of major endings and new beginnings for us.

Early this year, Steve and I fired ourselves from our jobs (retired early) and gave up our comfortable income. We terminated home ownership and divested ourselves of almost all of our earthly possessions.  All of this to pursue a dream and begin a new nomadic lifestyle.

We began our new life of living on the road with excitement, tempered with a dose of anxiety.  Now, eight months later, our measured decision has been rewarded with contentment and simple happiness.  As wanderers, we are blessed to discover, enjoy and explore so many places we’ve never seen.  We have been in awe of the natural beauty surrounding us.  The challenges we initially encountered were overcome.  We think we’re ready to face just about anything down the road.  We met new friends along the way, while staying connected with the old ones.  The places we’ve been and the experiences we’ve had so far are memorable and inspiring.

View Betsy’s 2012 Travels in a larger map

Our trek north to Alaska was easily the highlight of this year’s travels.  It was the ultimate adventure to the last frontier.

Above is Our Alaska Adventure Route, the red pins on our way in and the purple ones on our way out.

Living on the road was also the beginning for us to live in close quarters almost 24/7.  It was quite an adjustment initially, since we rarely saw each other during our working years due to opposing shift hours.   But as we journeyed on, our relationship became stronger and better.  For those of you planning to RV full time, make sure you actually like each other before proceeding!

The new year 2013 is upon us.  We are looking forward to 365 days of fun adventures, discoveries, sightseeing and more travel tales to tell as Betsy rolls down the road to take us someplace, somewhere.  So come on and ride along with us, we’ll try to take you to some places you may have never been, either.

We sincerely hope everyone closes 2012 and rings in the new year with gratefulness, peace, prosperity and good health.

~Steve and Mona Liza

Happy New Year

Where the heck is Quartzsite?

Comments 5 Standard
Dome Rock Mountain

QuartzsiteWe had heard about the “biggest RV gathering on the planet” in Quartzsite since way before we even hit the road.   Most RVers we’ve met either love or hate Quartzsite, some even tried to discourage us from going. So what and where is Quartzsite?  If you are a rock hound, gem collector, snowbirder, hobbyist or somewhere in between  you may have heard about Quartzsite.

Quartzsite is a small town in southwestern Arizona, at the junction of I-10 and US95.  It is known as “the mecca” of boondocking, attracting hundreds of thousands of RV’ers every winter.  AND it is also a rock hound’s paradise.  They say that millions of visitors attend the town’s annual two-month long show and swap meet during January and February.  But the biggest gathering happens between Jan 19-27, 2013 for the RV portion, and we will go back for it. Click here for more info about the shows.

Since Quartzsite was pretty much along our route of travel, we decided to go there for a few days to “scope it out” before the big show.  It was fairly quiet when we were there, but even in early December there were 100’s of RV’s boondocking out in the desert and some vendors selling their goods in town.  Whether you love or hate this place probably depends on how you feel about camping with wall-to-wall people all around you.  We suspect we won’t like it very much, but we will go for a few days to experience it, and besides Steve says he is not going to miss the massive vendor displays for anything.

Since we are doing the “Quartzsite BLM thing” for the first time, a bit of an orientation to the area was very  helpful.  With the help of Wheeling It’s GPS coordinates we found a spot in the Dome Rock Mountain area, one of the five BLM areas offering free camping.  We spent 3 nights there and we enjoyed the peace and quiet in the desert, just look at the pic where we were parked.  There were no ATVs driving around during our stay. We know its not gonna be like this when we come back.

Dome Rock Mountain

Our little spot at Dome Rock Mountain

Dome Rock mountain is located approximately 3.5 miles west of Quartzsite and we think it’s a good area far enough from the major madness that will happen in January.  After registering with the camp host near Exit 17, we set up camp and started exploring the surroundings.

While riding our bikes in the desert, we discovered endless trails winding through the landscape.  We were reminded how vast the open lands are in the southwestern U.S.  The hiking and biking opportunities are virtually unlimited!  However, we did find an unusual golf course that is completely natural with no landscaping at all.  Just a bunch of flags, benches and thick bushes throughout.  We’d like to see Tiger Woods play this course!

We also took a long walk from our site to the vendors near where the huge show will be next month.  We bought some great jerky and other products from a South Dakota-based company – hey, our new home state!  We purchased some other goodies and then trudged back home.  One thing that amazed us is that there are only a couple of small grocery stores and other businesses in this town.  How the heck do they support over 750,000 RV’ers during the big show?  I guess we’ll find out next month – stay tuned!

If you plan to come for the show and did not make reservations to one of the 60 private RV parks or just to stay here for a while, here are a few useful references :

Dome Rock Mountain Camping >>>http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/recreation/camping/dev_camps/dome-rock.html

Free RV Camping .org >>>http://www.rv-camping.org/QuartzsiteAZ.html

Free Quartzsite BLM Camping  >>>http://www.your-rv-lifestyle.com/quartzsite-blm.html

Where to dump >>>http://www.sanidumps.com/rvdumpscity.php?citynum=3375&city=Quartzsite&cityradius=1

We continue to enjoy incredible sunsets in the desert.

Quartzsite Sunset

Quartzsite-7