We're so glad you joined us!

Here we are – kids, dogs and all! Thanks for visiting our page! We're hoping that you will enjoy hearing about our travels and experiences as a family. We intend for this blog to share more than just travel journals, but also insights and lessons learned during our daily adventures. Please share your comments and come back often! * update * as of August 2010, we finished our journey, so new entries to this site will be rare. Linda's starting a new personal blog here. Enjoy!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ski Arizona

That's right...ski in Arizona! Part of our family Christmas present was to take some time and some of our vacation funds for some playing in the snow. Flagstaff has the Snow Bowl, but we decided to seek out something with easier access and hopefully fewer skiers and snowboarders. So we left sunny southern California and the beautiful Escapee Resort to drive long and hard across the Mojave Desert to Williams, AZ.

We did well on the drive, although it was at least 150 miles further than we normally tackle in a days' journey. We even left CA a day early to try to miss the forecasted high winds across the desert. We did miss the winds and skirted an eastern-bound front with rain. Nine miles from Williams, however, the light showers turned to a fairly dense snow. At first, it was no problem as the temperature (38 F) prevented any sticking. As we climbed in elevation, however, the snow began to stick and eventually we found ourselves in a huge traffic jam. A couple of trucks slid in the slushy snow on the incline and jack-knifed ahead of us on the highway. We were stuck in the mess for 2 1/2 hours and were beginning to wonder how we could fare overnight. The most beautiful big snowplow arrived and finally worked its' way to the front of the jammed trucks and made a wonderful path for all of us to work our way up the incline, past the stalled trucks and one broken down car. We arrived at the RV park only 10 minutes later, thankful to be in one piece and able to hook up our connections for a warm night's sleep! With our early arrival, we took a day to do laundry, clean house, review lessons and prepare our snow clothes for a day of skiing. We had spied the Elk Ridge Ski Area, just 3 miles south of Williams during the spring trip to the Grand Canyon. Because of it's proximity to the RV park, we could leave the dogs in the trailer and enjoy the day on the mountain. We knew nothing of the ski area other than it's location and that it advertised itself as a family friendly, beginner friendly ski facility - sounded great for us and it was! The first chore was getting our ski beginner into his boots while our older son tested snowboarding boots. We signed the kids up for lessons with their respective snow equipment and found ourselves to be almost alone on the mountain. We paid for group lessons, but received private instruction!Cory's snowboarding instructor, Erin, was a former snowboard racing champ.Will's ski instructor, Nancy, had only recently joined the staff, coming from Park City, Utah.Of course, learning has a few tumbles...But, as you can see, persistence and determination has it's rewards...We didn't know until we arrived that the ski area had only one lift and it was a rope tow. We had a few tumbles figuring that out, but eventually everyone was gliding smoothly up the slope.Linda got a little skiing in on the first two days, but did so carefully. Only one serious tumble and it was on the tow rope!Another feature of the area is a couple of tubing runs...And even football knee injury Craig could participate in that activity.As a matter of fact, he was the long distance champ on those runs - outdistancing even the boys!On the first day, the tow rope was broken down, so we all got extra exercise by hiking up the runs in order to come down. Because the ski area was not busy, near the end of the day when we were quite worn out from hiking, the manager gave each of us a ride to the top of the run on the SkiDoo. He even took Linda up to the top of the mountain beyond the tow rope lift to see the view and take photos of the Grand Canyon. That far line of blue is the north rim. Magnificent! The owners of the facility hope to have a chair lift in place by next season to have better access to the blue and black runs from the top. We considered this place to be a gem and absolutely perfect for our needs! We loved not having crowds of more advanced skiers and snowboarders having to put up with our beginners and the staff was the most friendly we've ever seen!
As a matter of fact, we extended our stay so that we can enjoy the mountain for another weekend. El Nino rains are bombarding the west coast in a series of storms. In order to travel safely, we either had to cut our time short in Williams and high-tail it for Albuquerque, or 'hunker down' to ride out the predicted heavy snowfall until the storms have passed. Having successfully kept ourselves warm in the previous snows in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, we feel confident we'll be OK. If not, we can always secure the trailer as best we can and take refuge in a local motel. Winter is not a big season for this little tourist town and the RV park obviously has availability....

We'll keep you posted on how this plan works out! Hopefully, it will be enough snow to have more fun with snow play but not so much that we can't make it to the slopes!

Sunday, January 17, 2010


When we travelled through California in May and June, we promised our son that we would come back to visit Los Angeles when the weather wasn't so hot! Craig was born in Santa Monica and remained in the LA area until his early teen years. He didn't have any sentimental memories of his childhood there and I (Linda) have grown to generally despise heavy traffic, crammed parking lots and shoe-horned buildings of big cities. We could have skipped a visit to the city with no regrets; however, Cory's well-made point was that if the purpose of travelling the country was to experience different aspects, we shouldn't skip the big cities along the way. So, we made a short list of 'hot spots' and made our way into the city on a Sunday, so as to avoid as much traffic as possible. First stop - Hollywood Boulevard! We found parking very easily at the Hollywood & Highland Center - a large shopping center with restaurants and a large parking garage. We called ahead and were advised to talk to the garage supervisor for an adequate space for the big dually truck. We did so and were placed in an area reserved for oversize vehicles - no problem! Once parked, we were within easy walking distance to Graumin's Chinese Theater, Kodak Theater, the Walk of Fame and could see the big HOLLYWOOD hillside sign from the centrally located open courtyard of the mall.
Cory found one of his favorite actor's prints - Robert Downey, Jr. next to the entrance. Apparently the premier for 'Sherlock Holmes' had been at the theater and the prints were made then. The HOLLYWOOD sign is waaay in the background to the left of Cory's head. Here...we'll zoom in with a cropped version.... We browsed the footprints and stars for the various famous performers, took in the sights of the various downtown theaters, sidewalk performers and tourist buses, then found a nice little shop serving crepes. The weather was perfect for sitting outside and leisurely enjoying some delicious crepes. The architectural features of the multi-level courtyard were quite spectacular and a large fountain added to the ambiance of the very uncrowded setting.
The cafe validated our parking stub, so with only an investment in breakfast and $2.00, we continued our LA tour. A short drive brought us to Universal City where we took in a movie in a large (19 theater) complex within the shopping area bordering Universal Studios. We had to invest more in parking at this stop, but it was worth it. In addition to the movie, the boys spent some time in the largest Game Stop store they had ever seen. Again, the timing of this visit made for a relaxing time to simply window shop and enjoy the pleasant weather and unique features of the area.

We completed our tour with a drive over to Manhattan Beach Pier. After a few trips around the blocks near the pier, we found a metered parking spot on the street and hoofed it over to the pier and beach. We watched a few surfers and beach volleyball games, let the guys entertain themselves in the edge of the surf (icy cold water) and watched the sunset.

A much more pleasant day with few traffic snarls and truly enjoyable stops along the way, we all contentedly headed back to the RV park.
Speaking of the RV park, we must invest some space here in featuring this very amazingly pleasant resort. The Escapee's Jojoba Hills Co-op was our first experience in an official Escapee park. We arrived on Sunday afternoon when the office was closed, so we had to park in the boondock area. Without a generator, we're not well-equipped for boondocking but the moderate temperatures allowed us to stay for overnight with no problems. When the office opened the following day, we were assigned to a very lovely spot that was nicely landscaped and offered terrific views of the hills and valleys surrounding the resort.
A side benefit for our family were the ponds that dotted the development. Our oldest son happened to need pond samples for a biology experiment and this one came in very handy!
He was able to obtain some terrific samples for his experiment and was even coached by one of the neighbors, a former zoologist! Here's a glimpse of our one room 'school house' with both guys busy with their studies.

The nicest feature of the resort is the clubhouse which includes a very large meeting room, several sewing/hobby rooms, a well stocked library with tons of dvd's, an exercise room, a billiard room, a card room (with several game tables), saunas in the restrooms and this lovely pool with two large spas.

We truly enjoyed spending a little extra time in this lovely spot and felt very welcome amongst the many full-time residents. Every evening offered spectacular sunsets and we enjoyed many bike rides along the driveways amongst the park.

We'll close with one of our favorite views which will explain why the chaise lounge chairs were facing away from the pool in the photo above!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Southern California - Great place to be in January!

On our trek to sunny southern California, we stopped overnight in Quartzite. We had no idea that Quartzite is a kind of RV mecca in January, but quickly caught on! We were early for the big RV show that was due to arrive a week or so after our stay, but many RV travellers were already settling in and also many spend the winter in the warm climate. Vendors were also setting up the huge flea market area and we couldn't resist browsing a little. One of our sons found a knife that he couldn't live without, but our minimal square footage made it easy for us to decline all other purchases, save a bag of kettle corn! Travelling on our way the next day, we were passed on the interstate by this big bus sporting Dallas Cowboys logos all around. We caught up with the bus at the next rest area and snapped a quick photo. The driver visited with us briefly and said that he was providing transportation and security to the Alabama football team at the upcoming BCS bowl. The Alabama quarterback is the son of the Dallas Cowboys marketing director - hmm...interesting connections!
Pressing on, we landed near Temecula, CA situated about midway between San Diego and Los Angeles. Our first touring destination was the San Diego Zoo - lovely as it's reputation. The landscaping accents the animal displays beautifully and we especially loved the ride in the aerial tram.

Two pandas were on display when we visited and we loved being close enough to get a good look!

The polar bear exhibit was closed for renovations, but we spied the bear from the upper level of the bus tour late in the day. For a polar creature, this guy seems to have adapted to basking in the California sunshine just fine!

We couldn't spot the females, but the king of the forest posed for us.

All babies are cute and this giraffe was no exception.

The koalas were mostly napping...look closely for this one just below the center of the photo.

We had a wonderful day blessed with gorgeous weather and no crowds!
The next day out was to see Point Loma.
The view of San Diego was terrific!

We toured the visitor center and took a stroll by the lighthouse.

While in the visitor center, we watched a video about the tidal pools and the creatures that thrive within them. We were able to enjoy visiting the tidal pools much more thoroughly equipped with a bit of information about those creatures, including this anemone.
And, of course, the Pacific was showing it's gorgeous blue color and active surf!

We hoped to catch a glimpse of whales, but only saw dolphins leaping around.
The point is home to Rosecrans National Cemetery. Over 90,000 military men and women are honored in these graves, having served in WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam and Gulf wars. We were moved to see the lovely tribute to our military men and women.

Next was a visit to Coronado Island and of course, the infamous hotel. We walked the grounds and had a terrific lunch at a nearby pizzeria.

Back through the Hotel Coronado grounds, we loved this entry to the beach.

From the beach, we gazed back toward Point Loma - being engulfed by low clouds coming in from the Pacific.

The boys donned their swimsuits, but never ventured further than knee deep in the icy water.

We lounged and played on the beach until late afternoon, caught a hint of the coming sunset and headed back to the RV park before peak hour traffic on the freeways....another lovely day in beautiful southern CA!