“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it!” — John Irving
Continued from: 10 Years of Full-time RVing & Sailing – The Early Years…
When we ended our season of RV travels in the fall of 2013 and flew back to Marina Chiapas on the Mexico / Guatemala border, our sailboat Groovy was ready and waiting for us.
After a few days of getting acclimated to the stifling heat and getting the boat provisioned, we crossed the treacherous Gulf of Tehhuantepec, a 350 mile long voyage that required meticulous planning to avoid the ferocious winds that blow from the Gulf of Mexico and then pick up steam and become even more savage when they hit the Pacific ocean.
Anchored in stunning Tangolunda Bay in Hautulco, Mexico.
We arrived in the Bays of Huatulco and found ourselves in paradise. Even though we had been here the year before, knowing that this would be our last time sailing these waters made every moment precious — and tenderly bittersweet.
We loved the tropical flowers and birds that surrounded us.
We were in the tropics again!
A flock of wild parrots was hanging around the tiny fishing village of Santa Cruz and we loved watching their crazy antics in the trees above us as we drank our morning coffee or afternoon beers in the middle of town.
Wild parrots cuddling in the late afternoon sun in Huatulco.
We ended up staying in Huatulco for three months, going out for day sails in the bay every few days.
We took the boat out for a glorious daysail every few days.
What a life this was! We settled into a delicious routine anchored out in Huatulco’s various coves and bays.
Our dinghy was our commuter car in our cruising lifestyle.
One day a group of people came alongside our boat on paddleboards and kayaks. It turned out they owned a beautiful resort on a hilltop overlooking a secluded beach, and they invited us to come and spend a few nights.
Wow! We were there in a heartbeat. And what a romantic place Las Palmas Resort is. Every guest has their own private villa, and pretty swimming pools with exquisite views are situated all over the unusual and intimate property.
The owners of Las Palmas resort invited us to stay in their luxury villas for a few days. Incredible!
The engine alternator on our boat died unexpectedly one day, and shipping a replacement to Mexico was going to cost a small fortune. If maintaining a boat is expensive in the US, it can be doubly so in tropical foreign countries.
Fortunately, the owner of Las Palmas resort was flying back to the US for Christmas, so he carried our new alternator on the plane with him when he returned in January, saving us $1,000 in import taxes and fees.
Mark got the new alternator installed, and we eventually said goodbye to Huatulco, a little piece of heaven on Mexico’s southern Pacific that few people know about.
In the spring and summer of 2013 we covered 2,500 miles at 7 mph
sailing from Mexico’s Guatemala border to San Diego
We began our long journey north by sailing 450 miles to Zihuatanejo. We were now much more comfortable with overnight sailing, and this was a pleasant trip. With each familiar place we visited, it was like coming home, but it was hard then to leave them and all the memories surrounding them in our wake.
Fishermen repair their nets on the beach in Zihuatanejo.
Our inland trips to Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas, and Palenque in Chiapas the previous season had been so rewarding we decided to visit the colonial city of Morelia too. It was a straight shot inland from Zihuatanejo. This beautiful city has a fabulous antique aqueduct and a cathedral that is jaw-droppingly ornate on the inside.
The interior of Sanctuario de Guadelupe was like a jewel box!
Traveling by car with friends, we were able to get to two very out-of-the-way spots, first visiting a major Monarch butterfly migration stopover and then visiting a totally authentic farmer’s market in Pátzcuaro. We were the only gringos there, and what a delight it was to experience the earthy hustle and bustle of that marketplace.
Continuing our voyage north, we stopped in Manzanillo Bay to witness one of the most exotic sunrises we have ever seen. The pattern in the sky was spectacular.
Over the next few weeks we made our way very slowly up the Costalegre coast, living in bathing suits and sailing short distances.
View from the helm on Groovy.
There are several stunning and rarely visited coves on this coast that are challenging for sailors to anchor in. But our skills with setting a supplemental stern anchor had improved to the point where we were able to enjoy each one.
The sense of accomplishment at having come so far as sailors was immensely rewarding, and the little bays were charming.
In the “Secret Anchorage” of Cuastecomate we enjoyed beers on the beach along with exotic snacks.
Mangoes and other goodies on a stick!
In tiny Paraiso Bay we found unusually clear, jade colored water. A “reef” obstructing the area where we wanted to drop our anchor turned out to be a massive school of fish that gradually swam away, revealing pure sand underneath!
Swimming in a jade paradise.
In Careyes Bay we found a hillside filled with brightly colored homes. What a sight! We heard that the German model Heidi Klum has an estate there, but we never saw her.
Colorful Careyes was a spectacular anchorage, but it required a stern anchor, and we still rolled as the winds and current shifted!
As we made our final approach to Puerto Vallarta early one morning, we passed several breaching whales whose silver, barnacle encrusted bodies shimmered in the morning sun. And then we tied up at the docks of the luxurious Paradise Village Resort marina.
Groovy sidles up to the dock at Paradise Village Marina.
Paradise Village Resort is exactly that, an intimate resort community in Paradise. Our docking fee gave us full access to the entire resort complex which included not only fine dining, a spa, a gym and a fancy hotel, but hot tubs, swimming pools, water slides, indoor and outdoor bars and a huge and endless beach. This swank resort became our home for a memorable three months.
How often in life do you get to live at a high end resort?
Paradise Village has lots of wonderful entertainment for their guests.
After two months of pure vacation at Paradise Village Resort, we did a final bus trip inland to the colonial city of Guanajuato which quickly became our favorite of all the colonial cities we visited in Mexico.
Guanajuato is a silver mining town with a rich history that is truly magical.
It is colorful almost to a fault, with a vast valley and hillsides filled with colorfully painted homes.
Bands of minstrels sing in these alleys ever night.
It’s a town full of quirky charm. For starters, a group of men dressed in Medieval garb sing folk songs in the alleys every night.
One afternoon we saw a ballerina dancing on the balcony outside of one of the town’s several theaters. In the evenings, Mariachi musicians at the restaurants on the town square would take turns with the pops orchestra playing in the bandstand in the middle of the square, alternating traditional folk music with classical pops as they filled the whole town with music. We loved everything about this lively city.
We never knew what we’d see in Guanajuato!
Nearby is the equally beautiful but much more reserved city of San Miguel de Allende. We zipped over there to visit my childhood figure skating idol, Toller Cranston, who had made his home in San Miguel for several decades.
I had wanted to see him for almost 40 years, and the timing turned out to be perfect, as he died unexpectedly just two years later. How fortunate we were to be able to spend time with him before he was gone.
The cathedral in San Miguel de Allende.
Throughout our cruise in Mexico we always kept an eye out for RVs and RV parks. Lots of people take their RVs south of the border, and we spotted an Airstream trailer sitting under the palm trees. What a spot!
We also met the son of the first couple to take their RV on the train through Copper Canyon back in the 1980’s, and his story of growing up in an RV largely in Mexico was fascinating.
What a great place to camp!
At long last it was time to head back to San Diego.
The sailing voyage north along Mexico’s Pacific Baja coast is known as the “Baja Bash” because you are bucking the winds, currents and waves the whole way. During July, at the beginning of hurricane season, the winds change periodically as the storms blow through, blowing up from the south for a few days at a time. This makes the trip a little bit less of a bash, although it remains a bash nonetheless due to the waves and current.
The hurricanes roll up the Baja coast in July like bowling balls, one after another in relentless succession. Luckily, they are not as big and deadly as the hurricanes that occur later in the season.
We timed the two legs of our trip north from Puerto Vallarta to perfection, first jumping from Puerto Vallarta on the mainland to Cabo San Lucas at the bottom of the Baja peninsula, and then sailing from Cabo San Lucas all the way up the Baja coast to Ensenada just south of San Diego.
The hurricanes were coming so thick and fast that we couldn’t stop or we’d be overtaken by the next one. Instead, we found the sweet spot between two hurricanes and rode along with them as they moved north.
We stopped just long enough to fill up with diesel in Cabo and again half way up the Baja coast at Turtle Bay. If we had stopped any longer, we would have found ourselves in the eye of a storm.
We left tropical Mexico with tears in our eyes.
The Baja Bash was like our Final Exam in Seamanship Skills, and we were very proud to pass with flying colors despite several white knuckle moments along the way.
We made the 1,300 mile journey in an extremely fast 8 days and 7 hours. When we arrived in Ensenada, Mark got off the boat and kissed the dock. Literally!
We felt utterly triumphant — and very relieved.
Perhaps what made our homecoming even more poignant was that friends we had started our cruising adventure with in Ensenada nearly four years prior were there to greet us. They had fallen in love with Ensenada and had bought a house in town, and they welcomed us into their home like family.
As we unloaded all of our stories and emotions on them about the bitter sweeness of ending our cruise, the beauty we’d seen, the fear we’d felt and the truly mixed emotions we had about finishing our cruising dream, they understood exactly where we were coming from.
As sailors themselves, they knew just how beautiful the lifestyle can be and they also knew how incredibly challenging and frightening it can be and what very hard work it requires.
At the marina, down on the docks, a well dressed Mexican man walked up to our boat on afternoon and asked if he could have some photos taken of his daughter for her Quinceañera (15th birthday) on our boat. The Mexican quinceañera is like a wedding in size and scale and importance, and it was a total delight to see this beautiful young girl posing for both a professional photographer and a professional videographer aboard Groovy.
What a perfect end to our Mexico journey
— a Quinceañera photo shoot aboard Groovy!
In return, the dad invited us to sit at the head table for the festivities. What a blast to be guests of honor at this quintessentially Mexican (and Latin) celebration!!
A few weeks later, we sailed the final 70 miles of our nearly 7,000 mile voyage from Ensenada north to San Diego.
Kona Kai Marina in San Diego made a fabulous home as we transitioned to a life on land.
The crazy thing on that first day we woke up in San Diego — in the very quiet Kona Kai Marina on tranquil Shelter Island on the bay — was that we had become so accustomed to true peace and quiet and a relaxed way of life in Mexico that we weren’t at all prepared to be living in the middle of a huge American city.
Mark went out for a walk on the palm fringed waterfront paths at dawn and came running back to the boat and jumped in bed and pulled the covers over his head. The frantic pace of the joggers, walkers and bicyclists on Shelter Island was more than he could take.
“Where’s the fire?” He cried in disbelief from under the blankets!
But we gradually acclimated and did a few day sails in the bay. We even saw a dolphin leaping out of the water, but it was time to begin the very arduous task of stripping the boat, putting it up for sale, and somehow squeezing all of our belongings back into an already full fifth wheel trailer.
After living on Shelter Island for four months, we said goodbye to our beloved sailboat Groovy one last time, with tears in our eyes, and returned to our equally beloved buggy and were back in the RVing lifestyle in the Arizona desert by Christmas of 2013.
We had now spent nearly equal amounts of time RVing and sailing, and we had grown immeasurably as travelers and adventurers.
The pride we felt at having had a huge dream and of having gone for it and pulled it off and lived it to its fullest was immense. We had given our cruising dream everything we had, and it had given us the deep satisfaction of both accomplishment and confidence.
The unexpected bonus was that we fell in love with our neighbor south of the border.
We never ever would have traveled in Mexico if we hadn’t bought a boat. It just wasn’t on our bucket list of international destinations. Yet how much narrower and smaller our lives would have been if we hadn’t spent all those years living there.
We left to go cruising so we could play on the beach and swim and snorkel and live sunny lives on the water. But we had discovered that the far more meaningful side of our cruise was immersing ourselves in Mexico’s culture, making lasting friendships with Mexicans we met along the way, and discovering the true beauty of a country we knew absolutely nothing about.
A motocross jumper in Cave Creek, Arizona.
We were flying high. The experience of completing a very successful voyage and of returning to a lifestyle we loved and found so easy to live was exhilarating. We had dreamed a dream and we had lived it. And we still had so much more life to live!
We decided to make every effort going forward to spend as much time as possible doing only those things we really loved to do and spending as little time as possible doing the things we didn’t like. With boat maintenance and scary moments at sea behind us, this simple rule of thumb became our way of prioritizing our activities every day.
By early February of 2014 we were ready to head out on our RVing adventures, and we went to the beautiful red rock country of Sedona.
Sedona, Arizona — Home of the red rocks!
Further north we explored the wonderful Wire Pass Trail slot canyon.
Wire Pass Trail was an eye popping slot canyon hike.
Our target for the summer of 2014 was eastern Oregon, but we started by heading north and west through some of the most remote land I think there is in the continental US — northern Nevada and southern Oregon.
After driving for hundreds of miles through nothing, we found a cool little bar on the side of the road. A cartoon on a wall showed a man and woman in a car driving by a sign that said, “Entering the Middle.” She was studying a road map entitled “Nowhere.”
But soon we were at Crater Lake National Park where the water is a vivid royal blue.
Crater Lake is bluer than blue!
Continuing north, we headed to Bend Oregon and Smith Rock State Park.
One thing we had begun to notice now that we had seven years of travel in our back pockets, was that we often recognized the places where photos were taken. This happened not just with photos in magazines and online but with movies too.
One night about a year or so after our visit to Smith Rock State Park we were watching an old John Wayne movie and we kept saying to each other, “That sure looks like Oregon.” Well, a few scenes later our jaws dropped when we saw Smith Rock right there in the movie. Sure enough, John Wayne started talking about Fort Smith, and in the credits at the end the producers listed Smith Rock State Park.
Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.
This kind of thing happens frequently now as we see more and more places in our travels. It’s like our little database of knowledge about North America’s most beautiful places is getting filled in. The funny trade-off, though, is that we’ve forgotten a lot of other things we used to know so well, like how to get around town on the streets of our home towns!
One of Oregon’s most charming towns is Baker City where we watched a fantastic Tour de France style bicycle race.
Oregon’s Baker City Cycling Classic zooms past.
But the Wallowa Mountains and the cute town of Joseph (population 1,000) were what really took our breath away that summer.
The Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon.
Dropping south and east we visited Sun Valley, Idaho, a beautiful, trendy town that has wonderful bike trails and a unique car race right out on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway. We watched a Bugatti Veyron hit 244 mph!
Sun Valley Idaho is an outdoor lover’s paradise.
It’s also an artsy town where we came across a group of professional artists painting with oils on canvas out in the National Forest. We later saw this guy’s painting for sale in a local gallery for several thousand dollars!
“Plein Air” artists were bringing the Sawtooth National Forest to life on their canvases.
At Grand Teton National Park we saw gorgeous mountain scenery.
Grand Teton National Park.
As the summer came to an end we swung through Colorado’s rugged Black Canyon of the Gunnison and picturesque Maroon Bells.
Maroon Bells, Colorado.
Then we caught the stunning fall foliage season at the tiny town of Silverton high up the Million Dollar Highway on a mountaintop.
Fall colors on the San Juan Skyway in Colorado.
Silverton Colorado is so perfectly “authentic” it feels a little like a movie set!
Returning to Arizona for the winter of 2014-15, we got a distant glimpse of Monument Valley.
Monument Valley views from Arizona.
Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is lush and full of life, and we saw some wild (feral) peach faced lovebirds that have taken up residence in Phoenix in the nesting holes created by other birds in the saguaro cactus.
A peach faced lovebird peers out of a saguaro cactus in Arizona.
One afternoon a big thunderstorm whipped across the valley followed by a gorgeous rainbow that filled the sky above the cacti.
A rainbow and cactus — what a great mix!
As our travels expanded through the years, so did this website, and we had the crazy experience in Quartzsite of being recognized by a few people here and there. This surprised us and made us feel very special. But we faced a few bumps in the road as this website found its niche in cyber space too.
One day I got an email from a woman threatening me with legal action if I didn’t take down our website immediately. She had trademarked the phrase “Roads Less Traveled” and other variants of those words and felt our domain name violated her trademarks.
I was shocked, but luckily a knowledgeable friend of mine calmed me down. It turns out that domain names and trademarks are two very different things. Besides, there is a very popular book with a similar name and at the time there was a TV show as well.
Ironically, she had purchased several similar domain names a year or two before I purchased “RoadsLessTraveled.us,” and by the time she contacted me our two websites had been living amicably side by side on the internet for many years with nary a squabble between them. So I decided to take it as a compliment that our website was growing in popularity and getting noticed!
A few years later, as I researched the steepness gradient on a remote road in Utah for an article I was writing on the towing capability of our truck, I poured through everything I could find online about this particular road, as no one, not even the Utah Department of Transportation, seemed to know exactly how steep it was.
In the process, I bumped into an old news article about upcoming road construction on that exact road, published by an affiliate of USA Today. I gasped when I saw my own photo from our website being used in this news article! Oddly, the photo was attributed to a nonexistent website.
Needless to say, I contacted the top dogs in the editorial department using the word “plagiarism” in large letters, and they quickly responded by paying us for the photo, removing it from the old news story, and chastising the news reporter.
Wild horses on Arizona’s Salt River.
These little hiccups were few and far between, but the responsibility of managing a website and writing regularly for a loyal readership had become a significant part of our lives. Over the years, it also taught me volumes about the shadier side of the internet, something I valued learning.
We visited White Sands National Monument in early 2015.
It’s like a mammoth beach — with no water.
In our first years of RVing we had seen diesel prices climb from about $1.89 a gallon to over $5.00 a gallon. And when we returned to RVing from sailing, the prices were hovering in the high $3’s and low $4’s. But by early 2015 prices had dropped dramatically to the very low $2 range.
This was our cue to make a long trip for the 2015 summer season!
Swinging through Big Bend National Park in Texas on our way to get our trailer brakes upgraded to electric over hydraulic disc brakes (an upgrade we highly recommend to everyone that tows a large fifth wheel trailer), we dashed out to Florida where we plunked right down in the soft white sand.
We arrive on the beach in northern Florida.
One of our goals in Florida was to upgrade our electrical system while staying at a friend’s house, replacing our wet cell batteries with Trojan AGM batteries, upgrading to an Iota converter, and replacing all the wiring as well. We eventually upgraded our inverter from an 1100 watt pure sine wave inverter to 2000 watts as well.
In between working on the trailer, we visited The Ringling museum and saw some baby sandhill crane chicks hatch right by the side of the road!
The Ringling museum in Sarasota, Florida.
A parent sandhill crane checks on its newly hatched chick and yet-to-hatch egg.
During the spring of 2015 we worked our way north from Thomasville, Georgia, where the Big Oak tree dwarfed us with its immense branches.
Traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, we saw stunning wildflowers and many dramatic waterfalls.
Wildflowers in North Carolina.
Dugger’s Creek Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina.
Dashing across the very busy states of Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, we finally stopped on Mt. Desert Island in Maine. Wow. The classic little New England harbors were filled with lobster boats and sailboats, and they were just beautiful.
Downeast Maine harbor with lobster boats!
Sailboats moored in Maine.
We’ve never seen wildflowers as big and bright and hardy as the lupines in northern Maine. They blanketed the landscapes everywhere in stunning shades of purple and lavender.
But it was the rugged beauty of Acadia National Park that really impressed us. The Carriage Roads interconnecting the various parts of the park were a thrill to ride.
Cycling under an old stone bridge on Acadia National Park’s Carriage Roads.
Venturing further north along the coast we came to the “matching” Quoddy Head lighthouses in the waters around the American/Canadian border.
The West Quoddy Head lighthouse in Lubec, Maine, looks like Pippi Longstocking’s stocking, while the East Quoddy Head Lighthouse on the far north end of Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada, has a big bold red cross on it.
West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Maine.
East Quoddy Head Lighthouse on Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada
But our lighthouse magic reached its zenith when we went to Nova Scotia’s south shore and saw the most thrilling sunset burst into color all around classic Peggy’s Cove lighthouse.
Peggys Cove Lighthouse in southern Nova Scotia, Canada.
Peggy’s Cove was a sheer delight with a handful of brightly colored lobster boats crammed into a tiny harbor.
Peggys Cove, Nova Scotia.
Equally magical was the nearby town of Lunenburg which is as quaint as can be.
Lunenberg, Nova Scotia.
At the northeast end of Nova Scotia we drove the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island where the small harbors were equally charming but were backed by the rugged Highlands shoreline.
White Point on the Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
We had now traveled from Arizona to Florida to Nova Scotia, which definitely counted as a long trip that took advantage of the cheap diesel prices! On our way back we took a ride on the unique Cog Railway train that claws its way straight up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.
Mt Washington Cog Railway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire RV trip
Further west and south we fell in love with the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York where the old fashioned lifestyle of a large Amish community creates the very real image of what America looked like a century or more ago when everyone outside the cities lived on a small farm.
An Amish “courting” buggy for a young Amish man (open air seating for two).
Amish farmers at the Seneca Produce Auction in the NY Finger Lakes.
Wildlife abounds in some parts of the Finger Lakes, and we were stunned when we looked out the window and saw two fawns and a fox stop dead in their tracks to stare at us!
A once in a lifetime shot!
The Finger Lakes have many beautiful waterfalls, and at Watkins Glen State Park we found some of the best we’ve every seen.
Watkins Glen State Park, New York.
Beginning our journey back out west, we were lured across the Ohio River by an absolutely charming town on the Kentucky side of the river called Maysville.
Maysville, Kentucky, is a sweet town perched on the edge of the Ohio River.
To our utter astonishment, we were welcomed into the Maysville community like long lost family. We found kindred spirits of all kinds at the local watering hole, O’Rourke’s Neighborhood Pub.
Suddenly we found ourselves being taken on a personal tour of the tobacco fields during the harvest season, and we even became friends with the mayor. We did a 5k run, went to a church fair and hit a free concert at the opera house, and we learned the secrets behind the beautifully renovated Masonic temple which houses the visitors center and a gallery. To our complete surprise, we also ended up on the front page of the local newspaper!
Perhaps what impressed us most in Maysville was the resilience and spirit we found. Living with the seasonal threat of devastation from Ohio River floods, and with daily challenges caused by the demise of the tobacco industry, their flood wall keeps the water out and their warm and friendly community keeps the happiness in!
Maysville, Kentucky, will always have a special place in our hearts.
One of the many reasons we had left the sailing life behind was the incredible amount of work it takes to maintain a sailboat in the corrosive salt water environment. Keeping Groovy in good shape had been a full-time job for both of us.
Our trailer had never needed much of anything other than minor tweaks and small preventive maintenance projects here and there. But after we left Nova Scotia in the summer of 2015 we were hit with a series of major breakdowns.
The first was a bent spindle on one of our trailer axles, and we limped to Bangor Maine from Nova Scotia to have the entire axle replaced. Luckily, our extended warranty covered the repair!
Then, after leaving Maysville, our refrigerator died. This time we limped to the outskirts of Indianapolis to get a new RV refrigerator installed. Again, luckily, our extended warranty covered the repair.
Arizona has consistently beautiful sunrises, but this stunner was in Tuttle Creek Lake State Park, Kansas!
Then we had a slew of water leaks, ranging from a mysterious roof or window leak to several plumbing issues, and for those repairs we went to Chanute, Kansas, and again we were very grateful that our extended warranty covered the work.
Thinking that we were all done with major repairs, we headed west through New Mexico where we stopped at the town of Tatum which is decorated from head to toe with fantastic metal art work.
Tatum, New Mexico, has wonderful metal art all around town, thanks to two unique artisans.
But we had one more major repair in store when our trailer’s suspension failed all together. Once again, our extended warranty came to the rescue, but we had a hunch we were pushing our luck!
Back in Arizona once again at the end of 2015, we had the really fun experience of buying a new Dodge Ram 3500 dually truck that was sold with an electric guitar signed by Mark’s longtime rock idol, Alice Cooper. By a quirk of good luck we got to meet him too!
Which does this happy guy love more, the brand new truck or the Alice Cooper guitar??
Since we started traveling, we have collected the special “WPA” postcards at all of the National Parks we’ve visited, and we have them displayed on our trailer walls.
National Parks “WPA” Postcards.
There were quite a few National Parks we hadn’t been to yet, and diesel prices were still low when the winter of 2016 rolled into spring, so we planned another long trip for the year, this time to the National Parks in the Canadian Rockies. We hoped to hit a few other National Parks on our way there and back.
First up, though, was a visit to the glorious red rock country of Sedona, Arizona, once again.
It’s hard to keep your eyes on the trail while mountain biking in Sedona, Arizona.
Cathedral rock revels in a last minute burst of color during a gloomy sunset in Sedona.
Venturing north, we stayed with the red rocks through northern Arizona into southern Utah.
Canyonlands National Park – Needles District – Utah.
The area around Moab, Utah, is littered with National and State Parks, and we gorged on endless stunning vistas for a few weeks, visiting Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park along with many other fantastic locales.
The back side of Moab, Utah — This should really be the Front Door!
Arches National Park.
Leaving Moab and taking back roads through northern Utah and southern Idaho, we saw stunning snow-capped mountains and gorgeous rural scenery.
Snowy peaks in northern Utah.
Pushing further north, the charming town of Philipsburg, Montana, was a delight, and seeing a herd of elk dashing across a highway and over a fence into a meadow was a thrill.
Picturesque and inviting Philipsburg, Montana.
A herd of elk crosses the highway and bike path and then jumps the fence to safer pastures.
Even though our earlier travel years were filled with daily “firsts,” we still had plenty of new experiences on a regular basis even though we were now nine years into this lifestyle.
As a city girl, the only four legged creature I had ever ridden was at the church pony ride as a child, but special friends in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley made sure I got to know their horse Snipper, and I took a gorgeous ride across pastures and farm fields with my friend and mentor, Bob, under the watchful eye of the mountain peaks.
A horseback ride in Montana — What a place to ride a horse!
The most dramatic “firsts” of 2016 were the many jaw dropping vistas that greeted us day after day as we traveled through the Canadian Rockies. The Rocky Mountains in America are lovely, but the craggy, spiky peaks in Canada blew us away completely.
Kootenay National Park, Canada.
Visiting each of the four adjacent Canadian National Parks in the heart of this stunning mountain majesty, our eyes popped out of our heads repeatedly.
Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada.
Dawn at Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada.
Peyto Lake on the Icefields Parkway in Canada
This area is also home to lots of large animals whose presence isn’t a hidden mystery. We had to stop the truck for big horn sheep in the road on several occasions, and we saw a few bears quite close by too.
Large animals were common all over the Canadian Rockies.
But it was the vivid blue and turquoise water of the glacial lakes and rushing rivers that gave these places their truly majestic beauty.
Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park, Canada.
Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, Canada.
When we started traveling full-time in 2007, many people we met didn’t have an email address. We used a payphone card to make phone calls at outdoor phone booths whenever we needed to talk to someone at a distance, and we had already been on the road for a month when the iPhone was first introduced.
One of the crazy things over the past ten years has been the rise of the smartphone, and nowhere was this more noticeable than in the Canadian Rockies.
Canada’s National Parks are hugely popular with guests from every country in the world, and as we fought our way to the front of mobs of people at many of the overlooks, we were taken aback by the insane cell phone selfie mania that seemed to have overtaken the human race.
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Canada
When we returned home from our life afloat in Mexico we discovered that America was in love with smartphones. Folks had been just as obsessed in Mexico — our very special friend in Puerto Madero had two cell phones, one for his wife and one for his mistress — but we were so busy seeing the sights and trying to speak the language that we didn’t notice how much people were looking down at their phones.
On our RV trip during the 2016 season this phone obsession hit us like a ton of bricks. Everyone we saw in the National Parks on both sides of the American/Canadian border was either looking down at their phone or setting themselves up for a selfie portrait with a phone and a selfie stick. It was nuts!
We didn’t (and still don’t) have a phone, but I can’t say we didn’t join the crowd and take tons of selfies like everyone around us… of course we did!
Getting to the Canadian Rockies early enough in the season to see lots of snow meant there was still ice on the lakes at higher elevations!
One of the coolest and most unexpected delights in the Canadian Rockies was sitting in the naturally heated swimming pools that are filled with steaming water that pours out of the hot springs.
Banff Upper Hot Springs.
But for all the drama of the scenery at Banff, Yoho, Kootenay and Jasper National Parks, it was only when we rounded the bend and came south through the less visited Kananaskis Country to the Alberta/Montana border at Waterton Lakes National Park that we found both the charming intimacy of a small village and the breathtaking vistas of mother nature all in one place.
Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada
Waterton Shoreline Cruise from Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada to Glacier National Park in America.
Alberta’s Waterton Lakes borders Montana’s Glacier National Park, and the awe-inspiring views continued to fill our camera lenses.
Going to the Sun Road at Glacier National Park in Montana.
Kayaks on the beach at Two Medicine, Glacier National Park, Montana.
The summer of 2016 was in full swing, and we were delighted to find two fabulous beach towns nestled in Idaho’s mountains: Sandpoint and McCall.
Beach Town USA – McCall, Idaho!
After enjoying some beach time in Idaho, raging wildfires filled the air with smoke, so we drove all the way to southern Utah’s clear skies at Bryce Canyon National Park.
Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park’s Inspiration Point in Utah.
In late September, we drove the golden hued San Juan Skyway in southwestern Colorado where the aspens were showing off their vibrant cloaks of yellow and orange.
Reflections of autumn on the San Juan Skyway in Colorado.
Visiting the Colorado Rockies when fall begins to nudge winter is always a flirtation with very cold weather, and we soon found ourselves surrounded by snow.
What do you do when it snows unexpectedly? Build a snow man!
But what gorgeous views waited for us once the snow stopped falling!
Magic happens when Fall and Winter mix
in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
One of the cool things we’ve learned in our unusual outdoors oriented lifestyle over the years is the wonders of the night sky. We had never paid much attention to the phases of the moon in our former lives, and seeing the sky filled with stars wasn’t possible where we used to live our workaday lifestyle.
But living on the ocean had taught us about the moon. We relied on that beautiful orb in the sky to light our way on our overnight sailing passages in Mexico. Whenever we could, we timed our nighttime sailing voyages to coincide with a full moon or a moon that would be up there as our friend among the stars for as many hours of the night as possible.
The coast of Pacific Mexico is often too hazy and cloudy to give the stars much of a chance to show off their best sparkle, but now in our land based lives we could seek out dark moonless skies in hopes of seeing of the Milky Way.
Ironcially, after unhappily losing sleep on the ocean due to wild waves and swell, we now deliberately got out of our warm bed to chase both sunrises and the Milky Way all night long!
At Grand Canyon’s North Rim we got a good view of the Milky Way.
Hiking at night at Grand Canyon’s North Rim in Arizona.
Ultimately, improving our skills as photographers remained at the top of our “makes us happy” list, and we traveled both lesser known and well trodden paths to see America’s most sensational vistas as 2016 drew to a close.
Back when we moved off our sailboat, we vowed we would include lots of international travel in our mix of destinations. Yet in the three years since we’d left our sailing life hadn’t gotten on a single plane to go see a foreign country.
We changed all that in January and February of 2017 when we took a very long 24 hour flight with three legs to Bangkok Thailand.
Cruising the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand.
As soon as we landed, our foreign travel instincts from Mexico returned, and we traveled all over Thailand for a month.
Interestingly, before we left for Thailand we faced the same fears and concerns we had had before we started traveling in Mexico: Would we be safe? After all, southern Thailand has seen an awful lot of terrorist attacks. Would we like it? Would it be worth the time and money to go?
In the end, Thailand was surprisingly similar to Mexico. Thailand has the same climate and vegetation as Mexico and both have a similar “developing” economy and stature in the world. Except for the language and the Buddhist temples, being in Thailand felt very much like being in Mexico..
This was a huge surprise. We had thought Thailand would be dramatically different from anything we had ever experienced.
However, in Cambodia we found a world totally unlike our own in North America.
The ancient Khmer temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia were stunning.
Although the ancient Khmer temples at Angkor Wat were a lot like the Mayan ruins in Mexico, both in form and in their time period in history, and even though the locals in Cambodia were just as warm and friendly as the good people we had met in Mexico, our eyes were opened wide with a gut wrenching seriousness when we learned what happens to people when a totalitarian regime takes over a country — as happened in Cambodia in the 1970’s.
Mark shows his photos to an excited group of Cambodian kids.
While western countries flirt with the notion of massive government systems that “take care of” (control) their citizens from cradle to grave, enforcing political correctness, silencing dissenting views, and creating a kind of egalitarian serfdom for the populace, according to the world view, whims and needs of a ruling elite, everyday Cambodians have some hair raising stories to tell about their personal experiences living under such a regime.
I haven’t yet written about what we learned in Cambodia, but perhaps I will eventually. I also haven’t written about the very beautiful week we spent in Hawaii right after that!
An angel fish passes wtihin arm’s reach as we snorkel in Hawaii.
There are only so many hours in the day, and in an effort to fill those hours with the things we love — real life adventures and a lifelong photography learning curve — the storytelling sometimes has to be curtailed, or I’ll never get off my Lazy Boy chair!!
Photography is a hobby that will keep us engaged into old age. What fun!
This brings us to the present moment as we travel across New Mexico after an early spring spent in northeastern Arizona.
As always, we are entertaining many ideas for the future, some of which might come to pass and others of which will wait for another time.
Wherever we go in our next ten years of life, we will keep posting our tales, our discoveries, and our photos. We hope you will continue to come along too and that you’ll find inspiration to live life with gusto and pursue your own wildest dreams too.
Great words to live by!
An Overview of Our First 10 Years of Full-time Travel + Reflections after 9 Years!
Summaries of Each Year on the Road - All of our travel posts in chronological order:
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