Grand Teton National Park – An American Treasure!

August 2022 – Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is one of our favorite National Parks because of its absolutely breathtaking mountain views. Since we’d been camping in Sun Valley, Idaho, we were more or less in the neighborhood, so we couldn’t resist stopping by the Tetons once again!

We’d gone to Sun Valley in an effort to escape the summer heat, but temps had been hitting the low 90s every afternoon and there wasn’t even a hint of rain. In contrast, the Tetons had been getting wonderful summer afternoon thunderstorms, so we hightailed it over there with hopes for spectacular vistas and cooler air. We got both!

Oxbow Bend Overlook Grand Teton National Park Wyoming Snake River

A full moon sets right before sunrise at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park and the greater Jackson Hole Valley area are located just below Yellowstone National Park, and they encompass a long skinny region that extends for about 50 miles from the north entrance of the Park to Teton Village in the south. Both the highway on the eastern edge of the Park (US-26) and the Teton Park Road, which runs parallel to the highway down the middle of the Park, have numerous named pullouts and overlooks where you can stop for a while to take in the extraordinary scenery.

The Snake River Overlook was made famous by Ansel Adams when he parked his station wagon in that spot in 1942, set up his tripod on the roof of his car, and took a photo of a bend in the Snake River backed by the mountains, an image that he called “The Tetons and the Snake River.” His photo sold for $988,000 in 2020! (Mark says he’d take half as much for any of his, and they’re in color!).

Unfortunately, the National Park Service has allowed lots of tall trees to grow to great heights at that overlook, totally obscuring the view that Ansel Adams captured. However, a similar view can be found nearby at the Oxbow Bend Overlook, and this pullout is a favorite among Park visitors today.

Oxbow Bend Overlook in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Day dawns at the Oxbow Bend overlook.

Grand Teton National Park is beloved by photographers, and as we drove to different stunning overlooks before dawn each morning in hopes of catching a glorious sunrise, we saw lots of headlights zooming here and there on the roads. We also had plenty of company as we stood shivering near other crazy photography buffs that had climbed out of their warm beds in the dark so they could stand outside in the cold and wait for the sun to do its magic.

900 Grand Teton National Park Wyoming sunrise

Crazy photographers climb out of their warm beds and drive all over Grand Teton National Park to catch the mountains waking up!

Bobtail Ponds Grand Teton National Park Wyoming 2

The pink hue slowly creeps down from the mountain peaks at Bobtail Ponds overlook.

Teton Point sunrise Grand Teton National Park Wyoming pink mountain peaks

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Schwabacker Landing is a popular gathering place for photographers before dawn because it offers not only a majestic view of the mountains as their tips turn pink, but a glimpse of their reflections in the glassy water below.

Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Schwabacker Landing is twice as much (mirrored) fun as all the other overlooks!

After sunrise, the sun and clouds played shadow games along the face of the mountains, creating wonderful stripes.

Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming Sun and Shadow

Sun and shadow games at Schwabacker Landing.

This is a great spot to take selfies, and we saw a young couple taking photos of themselves in romantic poses before the exquisite mountain backdrop.

Lovers at Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Romance in the Tetons!

We couldn’t resist getting some selfies ourselves during our stay either, and we found some fun spots to say “cheese” and memorialize our visit.

Happy Campers Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Trying to look our best at 6:30 in the morning!

Happy Campers at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Everyone gets Christmas card photos at these overlooks…what a perfect spot for it!

Grand Teton National Park is very spread out, and lots of people wander from one overlook to another all day long, enjoying a picnic lunch by the side of the road here and a late afternoon snack in a pullout over there. Most overlooks have parking spaces large enough for a few RVs to pull in along with the cars.

We met a German family enjoying a breakfast of meats and cheeses next to their rental RV. Suddenly, the son ran inside and hung out the RV window giving a thumbs up with a huge grin while the dad took a photo of him and the RV in front of the spectacular mountains.

On another morning, as we returned to our truck from where we’d been taking photos, we could swear we smelled a yummy egg breakfast cooking. Sure enough, a young couple had set up a camp stove kitchen on the trunk of their Honda, and they were making a tasty breakfast right there in the parking lot!

Breakfast cooking on the back of a car atGrand Teton National Park Wyoming

We smelled breakfast cooking on the trunk of this car long before we saw it!

Every pre-dawn outing was an adventure, but one adventure went slightly awry…

At the Cunningham Cabin historical site, Mark chose a spot with a great view of the very simple log cabin that had been owned by the homesteading rancher J. Pierce Cunningham in the 1880s while I looked for a spot that would incorporate the wonderful log fence with the mountains rising out of the morning mist.

Unsatisfied with my first composition near where Mark was standing, I decided to take the narrow dirt trail along the fence line a little further. Gawking at the mountains and carrying my tripod over my shoulder, camera attached, my foot suddenly sank into water up to my knees! I toppled over and crashed to the ground, camera first.

In shock, I realized my favorite “go to” lens, the Nikon 28-300, was now broken. It could no longer zoom in and out, and it was covered in mud.

Wiping myself off as best I could, tears stinging my eyes, I gathered my shattered wits together and noticed that the entire field alongside the trail I’d been following was full of irrigation ditches that were about a foot wide and knee deep, and they criss-crossed the trail every few yards.

Fortunately, Mark was happily shooting away, far from shouting distance, so his morning was still intact! After feeling very sorry for myself for a few minutes, I remembered that I’d brought another lens, the Nikon 18-35. Luckily, it was wrapped in a clean microfiber towel, so I was able to wipe down my muddy camera and replace the big broken lens with the smaller wide angle lens.

Throughout all this, the sky was silently turning pink in the distance. With a tear or two still staining my cheek, I reminded myself that even if I couldn’t get the variety of close-in and faraway images I’d wanted, I was still here in this incredible spot witnessing the magnificent awakening of the mountains. Muddy pants, broken lens and all, I was fortunate to be here, and this was a moment to remember for its beauty as much as for my mishap!

Sunrise at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

I thought the beautiful pink show would go on without me but a second lens in my bag let me participate!

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As a side note, a young newlywed couple in our extended family nearly lost their lives in a horrific house fire three weeks ago. I thought of them as I stood there. No amount of mud or broken gear could have taken away my gratitude for the blessing of witnessing this sunrise in this sensational setting.

The young woman has been fighting for her life in an induced coma since her husband courageously carried her unconscious body out of the house through the flames. She was just awoken the other day and she managed a smile. She will be in the ICU for another 6 or 7 weeks undergoing many skin graft surgeries. They lost everything in the fire, including their pets.

I know how much it meant to us when readers of this blog reached out to help us after Buddy’s extraordinary ordeal. This young couple has set up a GoFundMe to cover medical bills that aren’t covered by insurance and to try to piece their lives back together again.

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Dirty Little Orphan Annie finally came up off the muddy trail to where Mark was standing by the cabin. He was still nice and clean and dry

“Oh my, what happened to you?!” He asked as he rubbed a muddy smudge off my cheek and stared at my sodden shoes.

What could I say? My bedraggled looks were worth more than a thousand words. And so it goes in the wild world of outdoor photography!

Before dawn in the mountains

This was the pre-sunrise composition I didn’t like… But it probably would have been the better choice once the sky lit up and definitely would have saved me a bunch of dirty clothes and a beloved lens!

A while later, our friend and phenomenal wildlife photographer Steve Perry consoled me with stories of dunking his Sony A1 camera in the ocean while photographing baby turtles and dropping his Nikon 300 f/2.8 lens on the pavement at the airport. If you haven’t seen Steve’s channel or read his books or read his web page, they are all truly outstanding and inspiring. He has all the secrets! His latest video enumerates the skills, talents and techniques that the best photographers share.

It’s funny that I don’t recall him mentioning anything about accidents!!

Cunningham Cabin Grand Teton National Park Wyoming3

This tiny “double” cabin is the first building Mr. Cunningham erected on his 160 acres of Homestead land and is what Mark was busy photographing while I stumbled around in the irrigation ditches.

A while later we got another pic of a historic building when we stopped by the old barns and cabins that make up Mormon Row, yet another treasured spot for visitors to Grand Teton National Park.

Mormon Row Barn at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The barns and cabins on Mormon Row make classic pics!

One of the most astonishing things about Grand Teton National Park is the dramatic juxtaposition of the towering mountains and the many ponds, lakes and streams that dot the landscape. In a way, this National Park is as much a place of waterways as it is a place of mountains. Boating is a surprisingly popular activity and there are mooring fields and a marina available for people to keep their boats on Jackson Lake!

Jackscon Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming boats

Ponds, lakes and rivers are a huge part of Grand Teton National Park, and boating is a popular activity!

Powerboat on Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Not a bad spot for an outing on the water!

Boats on Jackson Lake at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

There were lots of boats waiting to be taken out.

There are a few places where you can swim, or at least enjoy a pebbly beach setting, and we found one of these on Jackson Lake one morning. The lake was perfectly still and puffy clouds made a pretty pattern in the sky.

Jackson Lake mirror reflections Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

What a beautiful little rocky beach!

When I got to the water’s edge, I noticed that the rounded beach stones were submerged just below the surface of the water, and the glassy water was bringing out their vibrant colors.

Submerged rocks Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The vivid colors of the beach stones came to life under the placid water.

Mark threw a large stone in the water, and we watched the ripples fan out across the lake.

Ripples at Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Making waves.

A group of people came down to the water with a slew of kayaks, and it appeared they were getting a lesson on how to paddle around. In no time they were all on the water in their kayaks and then, after paddling off across the lake, they landed on a distant shore. What a thrilling way to immerse yourself in the Tetons!

Kayak at Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

A group of people got a lesson in kayaking while we were there!

A power boat suddenly appeared, zooming across the lake at top speed, and we noticed there was someone water skiing behind it. What a blast!

Waterskier at Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

What a place to waterski!!

Glancing at the map one evening, we noticed there was a mountain summit you could reach by car, so the next day up we went. It is called Signal Mountain, although it’s not named for the huge cell tower that blasts a powerful signal at the top!

Wifi tower at Signal Mountain Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Cell tower at Signal Mountain

Signal Mountain was actually the site where a special smoke signal was sent out long ago by a search-and-rescue person to notify his team that he’d found the body of a man who’d fallen into the Snake River.

The view at the summit goes out across a valley, but the view just before the top looks back at the mountains across various inlets of Jackson Lake.

View from Signal Mountain Summit Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

View from just below the summit at Signal Mountain.

There are a million things to do in the Tetons, and one the best is cycling.

The paved bike path which had been only partially completed when we last visited now runs for miles and miles all through the Park, down to the town of Jackson and over the mountains from there to the town of Victor. Some of it is a rails-to-trails route and some has been purpose-built as a walking/biking trail. All of it is an outstanding way to see the Tetons.

Lots of people ride their bikes on the roads too.

RV and bicycle at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The Tetons are beloved by cyclists and hikers as well as photographers and boaters!

One theme in our summer travels this year has been the discovery of free outdoor summer concerts, and when we arrived in Grand Teton National Park we saw a notice for an upcoming free chamber music concert at the Murie Ranch in the Park. Score!

Back in the day, Olauf and Maddy Murie hosted many a long summer afternoon “conversation” with various illustrious visitors on the front porch of their cabin, and it had been the site of several concerts this summer already. All of the concerts were part of the Grand Teton Music Festival which presents performances by small groups and a big orchestra all around the town of Jackson and the Jackson Hole Resort and Grand Teton National Park all summer long!

Like Sun Valley, Jackson is a land of the ultra-wealthy, and like the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, the Grand Teton Music Festival is extremely well funded. After all, rumor has it that the billionaires pushed the millionaires out of Jackson a few decades ago! As something of a playground-while-working for the 0.2 percenters, the Federal Reserve holds an annual summer meeting in Jackson Hole, and it was about to get underway during our stay!

When we arrived at the surprisingly packed lawn in front of the Murie Cabin, it was no surprise to discover that the free concert included free wine and snacks! And this wasn’t just “Everything tastes better on a Ritz” types of snacks. This was stuffed grape leaves, a tray of exotic cheeses, and grapes served inside a pineapple!! The French couple sitting next to me was impressed by the Chardonnay too.

Free snacks at Grand Teton Music Festival in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

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The quartet played Dvorak’s “American Quartet” beautifully, but the highlight of the afternoon was the Q&A afterward.

The Music Festival hostess took questions from the audience that ranged from, “How did you learn to play so fast?” (by practicing syncopated rhythms) to “Where was your instrument made, and when?” (several were French and some dated to the 1800s) to “How many hours a day do you practice?” (8 to 10 when they were studying but less now that they are professionals and perform so much) to “How do you take your instrument on an airplane?” (the cello gets its own seat!) and more.

The musicians were delightful, and it gave the whole experience a very intimate feeling as the audience, hostess and musicians bantered back and forth.

Definitely check out the Grand Teton Music Festival schedule for a performance that suits your fancy when you visit the Park!

Grand Teton Music Festival Quartet Q&A Muries Cabin Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The musicians in the quartet fielded all kinds of questions from the audience after their performance.

As with our previous visits to Grand Teton National Park, we absolutely loved our stay.

Happy campers at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming boats

We have a blast here every time we visit.

And we know we’ll be back again because, in truth, we’ve barely scratched the surface!!

Teton Road Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Teton Park Road at dawn.

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Sun Valley, Idaho – A Joyful Return to a Favorite RV Destination!

As an escape from the searing summer heat in Washington, we took our RV towards the Rocky Mountains in Idaho. We stopped in McCall, a lakeside town we loved when we visited years ago. However, the heat was crazy there too, so we hustled down the road to one of our all time favorite destinations, Sun Valley, Idaho.

RV trip to Ketchum - Sun Valley Idaho

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Sun Valley is a resort town that literally grew up around Sun Valley Resort. This resort is a skier’s paradise that was built to lure tourists to take the train to the end of a railway line back in the 1930s, a common marketing gimmick among American and Canadian railroad barons of that era. The next door town of Ketchum has a history all its own with roots in silver mining and sheep herding.

For us, Sun Valley / Ketchum has always offered a fabulous mixture of outdoor pursuits in absolutely stunning mountain scenery plus artsy events, some of which are world class, topped off with small town intimacy. We keep coming back and we keep finding new things to savor each time.

Sunset in Sawtooth National Forest Idaho

Sunset in the Sawtooth Mountains.

Sunset in Sawtooth National Forest Idaho 2

Love this!

On our first foray into town, we were shocked by the extraordinary traffic. Every street was jam packed and there was gridlock at some intersections.

Later on, we discovered that a jazz band from New Orleans was in town and they had kicked off an afternoon and evening of music by playing in the town square. Then they walked through the downtown streets while they played until they came to another city park where they set up for the evening show. No wonder traffic was insane!

There was also a lot of construction. Several downtown roads were being resurfaced and a bunch of very fancy looking condo complexes were going up.

Sun Valley Resort itself was as peaceful as always, however, and we walked around taking in the beautiful architecture and landscaping of this iconic place.

Outdoor dining Sun Valley Resort in Idaho

Dining on a flowery patio at Sun Valley Resort.

Flower boxes at Sun Valley Inn in Idaho

Bountiful flower boxes adorn the Sun Valley Inn.

There are paved bike paths everywhere, not just in the resort but all over Sun Valley, Ketchum and even down to the town of Hailey ten miles away. We’ve ridden and loved these bike paths in the past. On this RV trip we noticed that the paths were a lot busier with bikes than in the past because of ease of riding up and down the hills on an e-bike. We saw e-bike rental outfits in several places!

Bike path Sun Valley Idaho

Walkers, joggers and bicyclists love the paved paths in and around Ketchum and Sun Valley, and in a few places the paths go under and over interesting things!

But it was the luscious gardens at every turn and the abundant colorful flowers throughout the resort property that really took our breath away.

Store front flower boxes Sun Valley Idaho

Colorful flower boxes dress up a Sun Valley store window.

Flower beds in Sun Valley Resort in Idaho

Flowers fill every nook and cranny of Sun Valley Resort’s landscaping!

Ketchum and Sun Valley are a special hideaway for the rich and famous, and plenty of A-list celebrities have palatial homes in the area. A quick Zillow search revealed 24 homes for sale for over $5 million in August 2022. Sun Valley and Ketchum have about 5,000 residents. There were two listings for under $400k, but they were under 400 square feet too.

Fortunately, the town is open to visitors of all stripes and the grounds of the resort are too. Families love vacationing here, and we saw some little girls feeding a pair of swans.

Swans and kids at Sun Valley Resort in Idaho

Two swans swim over to say, “Hi.”

The heat we’d been escaping had pursued us all the way to the Sawtooth Mountain Range that surrounds Sun Valley, so we spent the hottest part of one day watching the figure skaters over at the outdoor Sun Valley Ice Rink.

Every weekend during the summertime there is an evening figure skating show at the outdoor skating rink. You can get tickets for regular bleacher seats or enjoy a meal rinkside under a shade canopy. 2022 Olympic Champion Nathan Chen had performed in the show just a few weeks prior. Darn — we just missed it!

Rinkside dining at Sun Valley Ice Skating Rink in Idaho

You can take in a figure skating show while enjoying a tasty meal overlooking the ice!

If you don’t want to spring for show tickets, we were told that if you wander by the outdoor rink around noon when the rinkside restaurant serves lunch, you can catch the pros and coaches practicing (everyday but Sunday). So wander by we did — and there they were.

Skater at Sun Valley Ice Skating Rink in Idaho

We watched some skaters practicing on the outdoor rink.

As we hung out watching the skaters, we started chatting with a woman standing next to us. It turned out that she was a personal assistant for a very wealthy person in town and she was taking a break between errands to watch some skating. She’d been in this line of work since she’d immigrated from eastern Europe several decades ago. I was all ears as I listened to her describe some of her jobs over the years.

“I worked for Calvin Klein for 14 years,” she said at one point.

“You mean the family?”

“No, the man!”

Wow! That’s the kind of thing that pops up in casual conversation in Sun Valley. It’s a rare and rarified place. She loved her work and loved her various bosses over the years. But in how many places can you strike up a conversation with someone standing next to you and discover they’ve been a personal assistant to a big name celebrity?!

On another day, out on a hiking trail, we heard a snippet of conversation where one person was eagerly telling another, “They need a caretaker!” Caretaking of property and wealthy people’s day-to-day living and chores is a common occupation in these parts.

Skater at Sun Valley Resort Ice Skating Rink in Idaho

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As our conversation with Mr. Klein’s former assistant drew to a close, I noticed we weren’t the only ones watching the skaters practice. A group of kids watched intently as a pair team glided by doing a beautiful overhead lift.

Kids watch pairs skaters practice at Sun Valley Ice Rink in Sun Valley Resort Idaho

A pair teams cruised by doing a big overhead lift while a group of kids watched in awe.

Not only does Sun Valley have classy outdoor figure skating shows in July and August, they also have a world class orchestra that performs in a gorgeous indoor/outdoor concert hall — for free — a few nights a week from late July to mid-August.

You can sit in the theater seats inside the Sun Valley Pavillion (which was built from the same marble used to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome) or you can sit on the lawn and have a picnic. Huge loudspeakers bring the music from the Pavillion out onto the lawn and a large screen shows video closeups of the musicians as they play!

Sun Valley Symphony Lawn Party at Sun Valley Pavillion in Idaho

The Sun Valley Symphony performs free concerts several nights a week throughout the month of August
A popular place to enjoy the music is on the big grassy lawn next to the Pavilion.

As we wandered through the crowd on the lawn, we saw all kinds of enticing foods being shared among friends and family. This isn’t just a cold chicken and potato salad kind of affair. Fancy dips and crackers and bottles of wine were being passed around on one family blanket after another.

Some folks kept it simple, though, and brought their favorite pizza!

Dinner to go

A different kind of picnic basket!

The theater seating is first-come-first-serve (except for one section that’s reserved for donors), and the Pavillion cash bar and seating opens an hour before the concert begins. On our first concert night, we were surprised that not only the parking but the lawn and theater seats were nearly filled to capacity half an hour before the concert began! Thank goodness for the little Polaris RZR that can tuck into a small parking space!

Flowers at entrance to Sun Valley Pavillion in Idaho

A cascade of flowers pours down the Pavilion’s main entrance stairs.

I have loved Beethoven’s symphonies for all of my life, but after listening to this special concert, his Pastoral Symphony (the 6th) will be forever elevated to the ethereal realm for me.

Sitting in a seat near the top and back of the Pavillion, I had a perfect view of the aspen trees peeking under the canopy rooftop across the way. As the melody soared, the aspen trees began to shimmer and dance, and Beethoven’s vivid depiction of the beautiful sounds he heard on his beloved walks in the woods came to life. The orchestra sounded like one instrument as they played this truly angelic music, and a reverent hush came over the entire crowd both inside the Pavilion and out on the lawn. It was pure magic.

Sun Valley Symphony performs at Sun Valley Pavillion in Idaho

The distant aspens danced as Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony took flight around us.

Brahms is my favorite composer, though, and this summer the Sun Valley Symphony brought in one of the worlds finest pianists, Russian superstar Danil Trifanov. to play Brahms’ first concerto. Just gorgeous!

Danil Trifanov performs with Sun Valley Symphony performs at Sun Valley Pavillion in Idaho

Russian pianist Danil Trifanov gave a passionate performance of the 1st Piano Concerto by Brahms.

Sun Valley is a really musically oriented town, but classical music isn’t their only gig. Besides the jazz band from New Orleans that had brought traffic to a standstill, we also bumped into a fantastic free jazz festival in Forest Service Park. The place was going wild with people dancing to the tunes, kids jumping around, food vendors selling all kinds of goodies, and again, lots of people enjoying a picnic on a blanket in the grass!

It’s also a dog oriented place, and we were astonished at how many trails allowed dogs to be off leash. One of our favorites was the hilly and shady Corral Creek Trail, a perfect spot for a hike on a hot summer afternoon.

Mountain biking Corral Creek Trail Sun Valley Idaho

A mountain biker passed us on the Corral Creek trail.

Happy hikers in Sun Valley Idaho

This shady hike was a favorite for all three of us.

Buddy liked the shade and the soft crushed pine needle trail so much he just quit hiking and laid down for a little breather right in the in the middle of the trail. Another hiker caught him in the act on her cell phone.

Dog friendly Corral Creek Trail Sun Valley Idaho-2

Buddy was caught in the act resting in the middle of the trail!

Another shady trail we loved runs alongside Trail Creek. We did this hike a bunch of times and Buddy made a ton of new friends.

The creek has some nice big gravel beaches where dogs can play in the water or get a drink (this stream comes down from the mountains, so it’s safe). Lots of dogs we met were soaked through, and one dog owner was wet and muddy too!

Dog friendly Trail Creek Trail in Sun Valley Idaho

Hiking alongside Trail Creek is a favorite for both dogs and people.

Pretty wildflowers were blooming here and there.

Summer flowers in Idaho

Lavender smiles.

In many ways, though, just as Sun Valley is an outdoor lover’s and music lover’s and art lover’s paradise, it is a dog’s paradise too.

People we met kept asking us if we’d been to the Dog Park. No, of course we hadn’t been to the Dog Park. Why do that when you have all these wonderful off-leash trails you can hike on together?

Well, we finally went to the Dog Park and we found out WHY all these people had been asking us if we’d been yet.

Ketchum Dog Park or Warm Springs Preserve in Idaho 2

The 65 acre Ketchum Dog Park is like no other!

The whole Sun Valley area is swimming in money, and the residents love to give back to the community. Sun Valley Symphony is but one example of the wealthy folks funding something astronomically expensive and giving it to the residents and visitors for free.

The Ketchum Dog Park is another.

A former golf course, this 65 acre property has an intriguing history that we learned from a real estate appraiser who had lived in Sun Valley since 1969. While his dog played with Buddy, he told me the tale.

Ketchum Dog Park Warm Springs Preserve in Idaho

Wide grassy fields at the Dog Park are beloved by local dogs and lucky visiting dogs too.

Purchased for $13 million way back when, the owner at one time had the parcel up for sale for $50 million. He sold off a few lots at one end for a few mil apiece, but he wanted to do something special for the town since he’d already made more than enough money for himself during his life.

He offered the land to the town for $9 million with the idea that it would be a nature preserve for people, families and their dogs. Unsurprising for a very wealthy town that is full of dog and nature lovers, the $9 million was raised in just two months!

The property was set aside as the Warm Springs Preserve and is now a place where dogs can run free and people can play frisbee golf, have picnics, host family outings and generally relax in the outdoors.

Ketchum Dog Park or Warm Springs Preserve in Idaho 3

Residents of Ketchum / Sun Valley quickly raised the necessary $9 million to create the Warm Springs Preserve (aka Ketchum Dog Park).

There are vast open fields, towering pine trees, several trails, a stream, and lots of really happy dogs.

One thing that we noticed in Ketchum / Sun Valley is that because there are so many places for dogs to be off leash, there are tons of dogs that are very accustomed to being off leash. They behave well with other dogs and, for the most part, they come back to their owners when called.

The friendliness between the dogs and dog owners on the trails and in this park were very heartwarming. We really enjoyed the people we met, and Buddy was in seventh heaven and made all kinds of friends too.

A stream runs through the Ketchum Dog Park, and one day a group we’d joined up with went down to a sandy beach so the dogs could play in the water. These guys knew the territory well. In no time the dogs were lining up to jump into the water from a log! They were just like kids!

Dogs jumping off log at Ketchum Dog Park or Warm Springs Preserve in Idaho 3

The locals know how it’s done — run and leap off the log into the water!

Dogs jumping off log at Ketchum Dog Park or Warm Springs Preserve in Idaho

The dogs went round and round, leaping into the water, swimming to the beach, shaking vigorously, and getting back in line at the log!

Buddy watched all this with wonder in his eyes – as did we! He’s not a swimmer. He loves the water and eagerly wades in up to his armpits, but he doesn’t venture in beyond that!

The Shady Side Trail at Adam’s Gulch was another great spot for a cool stroll in hot weather, as was the Draper Wood River Preserve in nearby Hailey, Idaho. This is the town where Bruce Willis and Demi Moore raised their children and bought all the downtown buildings in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Rather than walking in the shade of tall pines like at Corral Creek Trail, we found ourselves under the delicate leaves of deciduous trees.

Hiking Draper Preserve Trail in Hailey Idaho

The Draper Wood River Preserve in Hailey is another lovely and shady hike.

Again, there were lots of friendly dogs and people. At one point we heard voices and then noticed a group of people floating down the river!

Cooling off at Draper Preserve in Hailey Idaho

When temperatures rise in Sun Valley, this is the best way to cool off!

One of the highlights of this trail is the unusual Bow Bridge that spans the Wood River. Definitely unique and photo-worthy!

Bow Bridge in Draper Preserve Hailey Idaho

The unusual Bow Bridge on the Draper Wood River Preserve trail offers an elegant way to cross the river!

This was our fourth RV trip to Ketchum / Sun Valley, and the area captivated us once again. We not only had a chance to enjoy some of our favorite Sun Valley activities from the past but we discovered a bunch of new ones too!

Sunset over RV in Sawtooth National Forest

Sun Valley is a fabulous destination.

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Chelan, Washington – Summertime Fun and Great Music!

July 2022 – Our first foray into the Lake Chelan area was our delightful ferry ride from the lake’s southern end to the hidden jewel of Stehekin at the northern tip. Where Stehekin is picturesque and intimate in the remote northern end, the town of Chelan on the lake’s southern shore spills over with a happy summertime beach vibe as locals and vacationing visitors play on the water and relax in the sun.

Lake Chelan in Chelan Washington - Summer fun!

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Lake Chelan is a huge lake, and when the sun is at the right angle it is a rich blue. Pretty homes line the shores.

Lake Chelan in Washington

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This is the heart of Washington’s fruit country. Apple and cherry orchards and beautiful vineyards dot the hillsides in every direction.

Orchards on the hillsides on Lake Chelan in Washington

There are fruit orchards and vineyards in the hillsides!

Lake Chelan with vineyard backdrop in Chelan Washington

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The historic district of Chelan was all dressed up with a summertime flare when we arrived. Flower baskets hung from the lamp posts, and popular restaurants offered outside dining.

Chelan Washington has many pretty buildings

The town of Chelan has a small historic district with pretty buildings.

Breakfast eatery in 00 481 Harpist Ellen Foster performs at Bach Fest 2022 in Chelan Washington

A breakfast bar on the patio – Nice!

Gorgeous hydrangeas were in full bloom, and we spotted the large bushes covered with enormous blue and lavender blossoms all around town.

Hydrangeas

These flowers are hug!

Down at the town beach we watched young girls doing cartwheels in the sand. But it was the Chelan Riverwalk Park that drew us back and back again.

Similar to the Idaho Falls River Walk, both sides of the Lake Chelan have been tamed with lovely landscaping in between two bridges, so you can walk a full loop on paved paths next to the water.

Lake Chelan in Chelan Washington

The Riverwalk meanders along the banks of Lake Chelan right above the dam.

River Walk and Riverwalk Pavilion Chelan Washington

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We came across lots of animals along Chelan’s Riverwalk. This is a great place to walk a dog or meet someone else’s a dog if you are dogless. A golden retriever was showered with love and pets from a group of kids he’d just met.

Kids pet a golden retriever Chelan Washington

Dog love.

There are Wild Animals on Chelan’s Riverwalk too. When I turned a corner I noticed a duck watching me closely. A few other ducks were lazing away the morning next to her. The water is so clear in this lake that I could easily see the rocks below the surface behind her.

Ducks on the edge of Lake Chelan in Chelan Washington

A duck checks me out.

Suddenly, an adorable duckling swam past. No wonder mom was keeping an eye on me!

Duckling on Lake Chelan in Chelan Washington

So that’s why mama duck was worried about me!

There’s another kind of animal that lurks on Lake Chelan — the Party Animal! These scantily clad animals were out in droves, cruising around on speedboats, jetskis, kayaks and paddle boards.

Hot bods on fast boat on Lake Chelan in Washington

Party Animals!

Paddleboards and dogs on Lake Chelan in Washington

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Chelan is a music lover’s town, and Mark soon found an electric guitar that was just begging to be played.

Chelan Washington is a musical town

Chelan has a musical streak.

As I was thumbing through the internet one day, wondering what kinds of organized activities might be going on in Chelan, I saw the words, “Bach Fest.”

Really? There was Bach music festival in a small rural lakeside town in Washington?!! As a total classical music junkie, this was right up my alley!

I dove in deeper and discovered that Bach Fest is a ten day long music festival that has been a beloved tradition in Chelan for 41 years, and we’d arrived in town right in the middle of it!

Throughout this ten day festival, musicians perform classical music (from baroque to modern) in all kinds of venues, all for free! Churches and courtyards host various chamber music groups during the mornings and noontime hour and vineyards showcase chamber music performances every evening.

The first event we saw was a noontime concert in a church that featured a chamber group and four vocalists performing a wonderful Bach Cantata.

Bachfest Bach Cantate Chelan Washington

Bach Fest is a 10 day classical music celebration that takes place in Chelan, Washington.

Another morning we took part in an unusual “Riverwalk Sip and Stroll” where music lovers wandered along the river paths and town streets, sipping their morning coffee and encountering lovely music being played in various spots along the way.

As we walked along the river banks, we heard a violin soloist playing with great passion in the Riverwalk Pavillion…

Chelan Washington Bach Fest violinist the Riverwalk Pavilion

During the Bach Fest “Riverwalk Sip and Stroll” a solo violinist chose a spot to play in the pavilion.

When we wandered up into the streets of town, we heard the melodic strains of a harp! We turned a corner and there was a harpist playing in a church courtyard.

How often do you walk around town with your morning coffee and come across a person playing the harp?

Harpist Ellen Foster performs at Bach Fest 2022 in Chelan Washington

We heard the sweet tones of the harp before we saw the harpist.
She was playing gorgeous melodies in the Episcopal Church courtyard.

The following evening we bumped into the harpist, Ellen Foster, at a picnic table. Chelan is that kind of place — friendly and easy going. She was having dinner with her husband, Melvin, who I immediately recognized as the tenor who had sung in the noontime church concert the day before. Fortunately, he had recognized me first — the crazy lady with the camera — and called me over to their table to chat.

This was their fourth year of participating in Bach Fest. Their home is in Georgia but she has family near Chelan, so it makes an ideal summer trip filled with musical fun and some income on the side!

Harpist Ellen Foster performs at Bach Fest 2022 in Chelan Washington

Bach Fest is so intimate that I ended up meeting the harpist, Ellen Foster, and her husband, Melvin, who I’d heard singing the day before.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize how important it is to pursue your passions in life. Even if your passion isn’t something that typically produces a big money-making career, many delightful and fulfilling experiences will fill your life if you love what you are doing.

Strolling back to the Riverwalk, we heard a brass group playing in the distance.

Bach Fest in Chelan Washington Sip and Stroll on the River Walk

In the middle of the Riverwalk Park we found a brass group playing in a circle.

This whole “Sip and Stroll” experience reminded us of the spontaneous music scene we’d witnessed at the city square in Guanajuato, Mexico, where groups of musicians had taken turns entertaining the folks who were eating and relaxing around the square.

In the center of the square, an orchestra had played pops music in a bandstand. At the dozen or two cafes that surrounded the bandstand, as many Mariachi bands had played traditional Mexican folk tunes.

Without any apparent organization, one band would begin playing a song or two as soon as another band finished, and it went on like that for several mesmerizing hours with lively songs and tunes suddenly popping up all around us and none of the bands ever stepping on each other’s toes!

As much as we were loving the stroll, the music, and the memories in Chelan’s Riverwalk Park, our furry friend, Buddy, had other interests. He had eyes and ears only for the squirrels in the trees. The squirrels were making their own music, which really got Buddy’s attention, and he was transfixed.

Pup has eyes for rabbits while brass quintet plays in Chelan Washington

While we took in the sights and sounds of Bach Fest all around us, Buddy noticed only the squirrels in the trees..

Sweet pup eyes a squirel in a tree

Buddy is all eyes and ears for Bach Fest’s squirrel music!

He wasn’t the only one grooving to the tunes of the chattering squirrels. A beautiful miniature Australian Shepherd was just as enchanted by their performance.

Austrailian Shepherd dog looks at squirrel in a tree.jpg

This mini Aussie was equally enthralled by the squirrels performing at Bach Fest.

On another day when we returned to the park, Buddy took us straight to that same tree so he could listen to the squirrels a little more!

The festival’s highlight, a big gala outdoor concert at the Riverwalk Pavilion, is held on the last day. The stage backs up to the water’s edge and a grassy hillside serves as the perfect theater seating for camp chairs and blankets and picnics. We found a nice spot in the shade.

The grassy hill in front of the Riverwalk Pavilion makes natural theater seating

As the sun dropped low in the sky, people began to arrive and stake out their claims to a piece of the lawn too. We discovered that the shade from the towering trees slowly creeps down this hillside and everyone wants to be in the shade. So the seating fills up from the back to the front!

Here’s a tip for you if you ever go to a concert at the Riverwalk Pavillion: be sure to arrive fairly late so you can snag a shady front row seat!

Before long, the hills were alive with the sound of music!

Gala concert at the Riverwalk Pavilion in Chelan Washington

As the concert began the sun was just beginning to fall from the sky.

Buddy put his head in my hand and fell asleep.

Pup asleep in my hand

When the concert began, Buddy fell asleep with his head in my hand.

The concert was full of beautiful music and the conductor gave us a brief explanation of each piece before it was played. We loved learning the context of what we were hearing.

In no time it was dark, and the orchestra began playing a rousing rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic followed by Stars and Stripes, and we all cheered them on with a standing ovation. What a great concert!

BachFest concert at the Riverwalk Pavillion in Chelan Washington

The concert ended with stirring performances of Battle Hymn of the Repuglic and Stars and Stripes.

As we made our way back to our truck, the streets of Chelan came alive with concert-goers carrying picnic baskets and camp chairs back to their cars as and chatting excitedly about the concert. Some went looking for some post-concert refreshments too.

We came away agreeing that Chelan is a really fun town, especially in the summertime. We’d never heard of it before we got here, and we’re so glad it wound up on our itinerary!

Downtown Chelan Washington at night

Chelan Washington – A vibrant town beloved by summer vacationers!

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Sun Valley Idaho – An RV Traveler’s Delight in Ketchum, ID!

August 2016 – Idaho is a gorgeous state that’s great for RV travel, and the National Forests offer up some stunning scenery. The folks that live in the beautiful communities of Sun Valley and Ketchum are very fortunate to have a playground of alpine glory right out their back door in the Sawtooth Mountains. We have been routing our summer travels to go through Sun Valley as often as possible since we started our full-time travels in our RV nine years ago.

00 721 RV camping in Sawtooth Mountains Idaho

Nature gave us summer peaches and blueberries in the sky.

In the summertime, the communities of Ketchum and Sun Valley spill out onto the sidewalks. Sun Valley, Idaho, is most famous for its ski resort, which gave the area its name, and it is loved for the fabled winter recreation that goes on in the surrounding mountains. But Sun Valley also thrives under the warm summer sun, and every eatery in town has tables with umbrellas out front.

Eating outside in Sun Valley Idaho

Sun Valley and the town of Ketchum are full of places to catch a bite under an umbrella in the sun!

Sun Valley is a relaxed community where life is lived at an easy pace. Yet what sets it apart from most small towns across the country is that it is a hideaway for the ultra rich and ultra famous. From Arnold Schwartzenegger to Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, lots of A-list celebrities have homes here, and they visit their alpine estates for a little down time.

Happy dog in Sun Valley Idaho

Sun Valley is a place where people (and dogs) come to relax.

For the rest of us, there’s no end of recreation opportunities around Sun Valley, even for those on a budget. Back when we first discovered Sun Valley for ourselves seven years ago, the Visitors Center published a booklet called 50 Fun Free Things To Do in Sun Valley. They were actually able to list 50 different things! We tried to tick them all off, and we made a good dent in the list, but there are still many things we haven’t yet done in the area!

Trail rides Sun Valley Idaho

There are loads of fun activities around town and in the mountains — and we haven’t exhausted them yet!!

From a trip to the historic Ore Wagon Museum to drinks at the stunning Sun Valley Resort to visiting Hemingway’s memorial to summer outdoor ice skating shows to enjoying the weekly Art Walk (with free wine offered at every gallery…watch your step!), it is impossible to get bored in this town. And when it’s time to slip away for some peace and quiet in the stunning Rocky Mountains out back, there are many wonderful ways to do that too…

Horseback riding in Sun Valley Idaho

Peace.

Because of the many celebrities who love this town, there is a lot of money floating around and lots of rich living going on. But somehow there is an inclusive grace to it that lets everyone share in the spoils.

Sure, it’s common to see a Porsche on the streets, or even a Bugatti Veyron when the Sun Valley Road Rally takes place in July, and it’s not like we ordinary folks can tap on the window and say, “Hey, can I have a ride?”

Ferarri in Sun Valley Idaho

My other car is…. a Ferarri.

But there are a few second hand stores in town that benefit the fabulous town library, and the cast-offs from the resident billionaires can make for some very interesting shopping!!

Sign at second hand store in Sun Valley Idhao

I loved this sign over the register in one of the second hand stores.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing that the very wealthy have given to Sun Valley and its summer tourists is the Sun Valley Symphony concert series that takes place each August.

Besides building an award winning performance Pavilion that is constructed of special travertine stone that was quarried from the same area in Italy as the stone used to build the Roman Colosseum, each summer for the last 32 years the wealthy of Sun Valley have funded a top notch symphony orchestra made up of musicians that are on summer break from the major orchestras across the country.

Best of all, the Sun Valley Symphony puts on a free concert almost every night for a few weeks each August.

Talk about a gift to the community!!

Sun Valley Symphony Summer Concert Idaho

From Pops to Classical, the Sun Valley Symphony keeps the music flowing for free almost every night in August.

The cool thing about these concerts is that you can grab any open seat in the Pavilion if you want to watch the performance in a traditional setting. Or you can bring a picnic and sit out on the enormous, lush, grassy lawn where rows of loudspeakers broadcast the music and a massive video screen shows close-ups of the musicians playing.

Sun Valley Symphony Free Concert

Outdoor summer concerts are a blast anywhere, but in Sun Valley they’ve been refined and perfected, thanks to the local gazillionaires.

We’ve enjoyed plenty of performances in the theater seats of the Pavilion over the years, but in reality, sitting out on the lawn is where the real action is!! For an hour or more before each concert begins, people show up with picnic blankets and get set up with their beverages of choice while the kids all run around on the grass.

Picnic at Sun Valley Symphony Summer Concert

Here’s how to unwind after a day of work on a Tuesday…

Although some of the picnic dinners are humble affairs in Tupperware, an awful lot of people go all out and bring a deluxe spread that makes the neighbors at the next blanket quite envious.

Picnic Basket at Sun Valley Symphony summer concert on the lawn

Cheddar cheese and Triscuits in Tupperware are fine for some, but others bring an elaborate spread in an elegant picnic basket.

Dog and picnic basket for Sun Valley Summer Symphony Concert

“Hmmm…. what are you having over there???”

The Sun Valley Symphony concerts are a very social affair, and friends enjoy each other’s company while the music plays in the background.

Kids playing on the lawn at Sun Valley Symphony Summer Concert

For the locals, these concerts are all about socializing.

While the dress code for these concerts is decidedly casual, some people prefer to dress up for the occasion, and there are lots of party dresses to be seen.

Little girl in party dress for Sun Valley Symphony summer concert on the lawn

For a night at The Symphony, some ladies wear their best gown and sparkly shoes!

Others just enjoy catching up with friends.

Kids playing at Sun Valley Symphony summer concert Idaho

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Still others take a load off on their nifty Thousand Trails picnic blanket and read the Symphony’s program notes that are published in a beautiful — and free — glossy book!!

Sun Valley Summer Symphony Concert on the lawn at the Pavilion Idaho

I would be doing cartwheels too, but the program notes were pretty interesting!

Throughout it all, the the orchestra’s melodies float across the lawn on the late afternoon breezes.

Sun Valley Symphony Summer Concert Series Idaho

The musicians hail from all the major orchestras and they love making music together in Idaho.

These nearly nightly concerts in August are enough to get our hearts singing, and when we were debating which way to head after we traveled down Idaho’s panhandle and basked on the beach in McCall, there was no doubt in our minds where to go: Sun Valley.

Unfortunately, despite wanting to stay in Sun Valley for a few weeks or more, with dreams of going mountain biking and hiking every afternoon, and sipping coffee on balmy summer mornings at the jaw-dropping Starbucks / visitors center in town, Nature had other plans.

Throughout our stay in northwestern Montana and Idaho this year, a wildfire called the Pioneer Fire had been burning near the town of Idaho City about 60 miles from Sun Valley as the eagle flies. It had started on July 18th and had been growing rapidly throughout July and August and proving difficult to tame.

While there was no risk of flames coming anywhere near us, the smoke blew in and out of Sun Valley and the Sawtooth Mountains on a regular basis, burning our eyes and making outdoor activities less than healthy.

Sunset through wildfire smoke

Sun sets through the smoke.

For those who don’t live or travel out west, the concept of wildfires can seem distant and unreal. But they are an integral part of every summer in the dry western states.

When we traveled to the eastern states last summer, we were amazed that we heard nothing in the news of any fires out west. Hadn’t there been any? Well, when we caught up with friends once we got back out west, we discovered it had been just as tough a fire season as any.

This year, as we dealt with smoke drifting into the valley so thickly that visibility was almost completely obscured at times, we followed the fire season’s progress on Inciweb. This government website tracks the hundreds of wildfires that are burning at any moment all summer long in the western states. Here’s a map of major fires that was on Inciweb in mid-August:

Map of wildfires burning in the US

It is alarming to see a map of America’s biggest active wildfires in mid-August.

Of course, particulates in the sky are the very fabric of stunning sunrises and sunsets, and we enjoyed a few during our stay.

Sunset Sawtooth Mountains Idaho

The smoke in the air created some beautiful sunrises and sunsets,
and this photo of Mark’s won “Photo of the Day” on Steve’s Digicam.

RV camping at sunset Sawtooth Mountains Idaho

Fire in the sky!!

But when the smoke rolled in and we could taste it on our tongues, we decided it was time to leave. Sigh.

Pioneer Wildfire Smoke Sun Valley Idaho

Heavy smoke rolled in and out of the valley every day, and we finally decided enough was enough.

Wildfires are reported in the news in terms of acres, and dividing by 640 yields the fire size in square miles (i.e., a fire that is 100,000 acres is 156 square miles).

The Pioneer Fire which made us flee Sun Valley this year was 42 square miles when we left in mid-August. As I write this blog post four weeks later in mid-September, that same fire is now 290 square miles and is 56% contained, although there are hopes it will be fully contained by September 15th. It is not known yet what caused the fire, and it will keep burning and smoldering right up until it is buried by snow this winter.

We did get our Sun Valley fix this year, but we didn’t have a chance to explore any new grounds. However, we will definitely be back, as it is a town that totally enchants us every time we visit.

I mean, who can’t love a town so classy that the man hole covers in the streets are stamped with artwork featuring a musical G-clef?!!

Classy Sun Valley Man Hole Cover

Sun Valley is a class act from head to toe.
Even their man hole covers are decorated with beautiful art work!!

We have enjoyed Sun Valley in the past so much that we have written articles about it for Trailer Life Magazine, Highways Magazine and the now defunct RV Journal! We hope you love it too, and to help with making plans for an RV trip there, we’ve got a few links below.

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More info about Sun Valley, Idaho:

Our blog posts from our RV travels to Sun Valley:

All of our RV travels in Idaho can be read by clicking HERE!

Other musical happenings that we’ve loved:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

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Alice Cooper Sells Us a New Truck!

He what??!!

Alice Cooper VIP Benefit Concert for Solid Rock Foundation

Would you buy a truck from this man?

December 2015 – When we bought our Dodge Ram 3500 single rear wheel truck brand new in 2007, we purchased it to tow our lightweight full-time home, a 7,000 lb. 2007 27′ Fleetwood Lynx travel trailer. For such a big, monster truck, that little trailer was a featherweight. But within a year, we had upgraded our year-round living quarters to a 36′ 2007 Hitchhiker Fifth Wheel trailer, a beast that weighs in at 14,000 lbs. fully loaded.

Dodge Ram 3500 truck with 36' Hitchhiker FIfth wheel trailer RV

Our ’07 Dodge Ram 3500 truck and 36′ Hitchhiker fifth wheel trailer — at home on the road!

This trailer was the absolute maximum size our truck could tow safely.

Over the years, our truck has valiantly lugged our home up and over 10,000′ mountain passes in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and other mountainous states and endured many a 7% or steeper grade in the process.

The truck’s GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) is 21,000 lbs., but our truck and trailer weigh 22,150 lbs. when hitched up and fully loaded. The truck’s GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) is 10,100 lbs., but the truck weighs 10,850 lbs. when the trailer is sitting on its back.

When it comes to safety on the road, we’ve been pushing it!

2007 Dodge Ram 3500 single rear wheel truck

Our big beautiful trailer maxed out our big beautiful one ton truck!

We gave our truck bigger lungs and stronger muscles by installing a K&N Cold Air Intake Filter and an Edge Evolution Engine Tuner (installation and review HERE). We also gave it broader shoulders to carry heavy loads by installing a Timbren Suspension Enhancement System.

These upgrades helped, but even though the truck was very happy towing our trailer on flat roads, it worked awfully hard when it was put to the test on mountain grades. Frankly, the transmission and modest rear end were not really 100% up to the task in the Rockies.

Edge Diesel Evolution Tuner

We gave the truck’s engine more horsepower and torque by installing an Edge Evolution Tuner

Back in 2013 when we moved off of our sailboat and said goodbye to the cruising lifestyle, and recommitted ourselves to living the RV lifestyle full-time, we began tossing around the idea of upgrading our rig.

The beauty of having a towable RV is that we could replace the RV’s engine and drivetrain independently without affecting our living quarters (and vice versa). A new truck would revolutionize our driving experience on the road but not cost nearly as much nor be nearly as chaotic as replacing our home at the same time.

We were also toying with the idea of getting a truck camper someday so we could travel to more remote places. The weight of many truck campers requires a dually truck (four rear wheels instead of two to support the weight), so we began flirting with the idea of buying a dually.

We had a lot to learn about the latest trucks, and we studied everything we could about the myriad of improvements that diesel trucks have undergone since we last paid attention in 2007.

2007 Dodge Ram 3500 with 2007 36' Hitchhiker Fifth wheel Trailer

Our ’07 Dodge Ram 3500 single rear wheel truck was great, but a stronger truck would be better.

We began test driving new trucks right away when we arrived back in San Diego after our Mexico sailing travels. 2013 models were on dealer lots at the time, and in the ensuing months, the 2014 models began to arrive at the dealerships.

Since then, we have taken Ford, Chevy and Dodge trucks on over 200 miles of test drives, and visited at least 25 dealerships across the country. Mark subscribes to Diesel Power Magazine, and he has studied the subject of diesel trucks endlessly.

After much deliberation, we finally decided that a Ram 3500 dually was our truck of choice.

When we saw that the centerfold for the 2016 Ram Trucks brochure mentioned Roads Less Traveled, we had to have a 2016!

Dodge RAM Brochure Cover

2016 Ram Trucks Brochure centerfold — It was meant to be!!

Diesel trucks improve every year, and this new one has a whopping best-in-class GCWR of 39,000 lbs as compared to the 21,000 lbs of our old truck. And that was just the first item on a long list of eye-popping stats.

Our only question was where it would be best to buy it. Because of our mobile lifestyle, we could buy it in any state at any dealership.

By the summer of 2015, Mark had come to know more about each option on the new Ram trucks than most of the salesmen we talked to. He also knew exactly which options he wanted and which ones he didn’t want. Unfortunately, this made it nearly impossible to find “the ideal truck” just sitting around somewhere on some random Dodge dealership lot.

Throughout our 2015 travels across 24 states, we checked in at almost every Dodge dealership in almost every town we visited to see if they had “our truck.” None did. We repeatedly searched online to see if a detour of 100 miles in this direction or that would bring us to our dream truck. No dice.

2014 Dodge Ram 5500 truck

We test drove Ford, Chevy and Dodge trucks all over the country for two years.
In Wyoming, we even test drove a custom 2014 Dodge Ram 5500. Very cool, but very stiff!

We soon realized that we would have to place an order for our truck in order to get the combination of options we wanted, and we would have to wait 8 weeks for it to be built and shipped to a dealership.

We were in perpetual motion driving from Arizona to Nova Scotia and back in 2015. Our favorite dealership was Marshall Motors in Salina, Kansas, where diesel truck salesman Alex Thatcher was the most knowledgeable of any we’d met. But we wanted to keep moving to get back to Arizona for the winter.

Logistically, ordering a truck in Arizona made the most sense for us because we were going to be there for a few months. But which dealership would be best?

2007 Dodge Ram 3500 truck with 2007 36' Hitchhiker Fifth Wheel Trailer RV

Mark LOVED our ’07 truck and worried he might not love a new one as much…

We got a tip that Airpark Dodge in Scottsdale, Arizona has an annual Christmas holiday “Buy a Car Get a Guitar” promotion where anyone that buys a new car also gets a glistening new electric guitar signed by rock star Alice Cooper as part of the deal.

When Mark heard that, he was sold — We were THERE!

Mark has been a huge Alice Cooper fan since the day the rock star exploded on the scene in 1971, and we listen to his music all the time. Mark turned 18 shortly after Alice Cooper’s clever and poignant song “I’m Eighteen” came out, and he graduated from high school the year Alice’s hit “School’s Out” soared to the top of the charts.

Alice Cooper and Mark were both born in Detroit, and both spent their adult lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Mark didn’t move across country just to be like the rock star, but he went to a ton of Alice Cooper concerts in both cities over the past four decades, and he dressed up as his idol on many a Halloween night!

Alice Cooper Wannabe Cooperstown Phoenix Arizona

Wild eyed fans love to dress up as Alice Cooper, even to this day.
Mark morphed into Alice Cooper for Halloween many times!

As a kid, Mark used to have a t-shirt decorated with Alice Cooper’s early trademark mascara eyelashes, and he wore it so much he wore it right through to rags. On the occasional day he didn’t wear it, a friend would ask him, “Where’s your Cooper shirt?”

Before we started traveling full-time, back when Mark and I were avid cyclists, we rode our bikes past Alice Cooper’s house all the time. Mark would always point it out, and we would wonder what life was like behind the huge front doors that had handles shaped like snakes.

There was no doubt that now, if Mark could lay his hands on a guitar that Alice Cooper had actually touched and signed, he would be totally beside himself. We knew exactly where we would be ordering our new truck!

Here’s the TV ad for the Airpark Dodge promo — check it out:

Buy a Car, Get a Guitar starts Dec. 10th.

Buy a Car, Get a Guitar starts Dec. 10th.

Posted by Airpark Dodge Chrysler Jeep on Tuesday, December 8, 2015

 

At the end of the ad, after passing out a slew of free guitars for car buyers, Alice asks: “I wonder what you get if you buy a truck?”

OMG — We sure found out!!

To begin with, when we got to Airpark Dodge to pick up our new baby, Mark was given his signed Alice Cooper electric guitar. He was in seventh heaven!

New Alice Cooper Guitar Giveaway for Dodge Ram 3500 dually truck

A new electric guitar signed by Alice Cooper – Wow!!
Oh…. and a new truck too.

As we admired the Alice Cooper memorabilia on the walls of the dealership, we discovered that the GM of Airpark Dodge is golf buddies with Alice Cooper. To our amazement — and dismay — we found out that the week before we got there, Alice had been hanging out at the dealership kick-starting the promotion.

Oh, man. How did we miss seeing him in person at the dealership?! We were so bummed!!

Alice Cooper's Office at Airpark Dodge Scottsdale Arizona

Alice Cooper hangs out at Airpark Dodge in Scottsdale Arizona so much he has his own office
(well, ummm… it’s a broom closet!!)

But then we found out that “Coop,” as his friends know him, was going to be performing at Talking Stick Arena in downtown Phoenix two nights later. Concert tickets were sold out, but afterwards he was going to host a special party at his bar/restaurant across the street (called Cooperstown) to benefit his teen rock center and rock music school in Phoenix called Solid Rock.

With that tid-bit of inside scoop, we dashed downtown on the appointed night, and before we knew it, we were mingling with a crowd of other fans at Cooperstown, waiting for the official concert across the street to end and for Coop to come on over and play at his bar.

Suddenly, a crazy Alice Cooper lookalike in a straight jacket and tall leopard boots grabbed Mark by the neck. Yikes!

Alice Cooper impersonator

Ya gotta watch out for those rabid fans!

He let Mark go, and we wandered around admiring the posters and wacky stage props and guitars and other memorabilia that cover the walls of Cooperstown.

Cooperstown Alice Cooper Restaurant Phoenix Arizona

There’s all kinds of cool stuff on the walls at Cooperstown in Phoenix

Suddenly, Alice Cooper appeared. He’d removed his stage makeup from the big concert across the street at the arena and was mingling with his fans around the restaurant. He knew some of them and recognized others from previous encounters.

Alice Cooper with a fan in Phoenix Arizona

Alice Cooper chats with a fan who’d brought him a special gift she’d made.

His son Dash got up on stage and performed with his band Co-op (“Coop” with a Dash !!). I had to smile as he leaned over the rail to watch his son in action.

Alice Cooper watches his son perform at Cooperstown Phoenix Arizona

Alice Cooper watches his son perform at Cooperstown

Moments later, he turned around, and we caught him just long enough to get some photos with him. He was very obliging, and oh lordy me, we were both totally star struck!

Alice Cooper up close and personal

From Mark’s lifetime bucket list of dreams – Meet Alice Cooper…
Check!

Moments after Dash’s band finished, Alice was up on stage with his own band, rocking out just steps from where we stood. Holy Smokes!

Alice Cooper band in concert Cooperstown Phoenix Arizona

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Alice Cooper Solid Rock benefit concert Cooperstown Phoenix Arizona

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We laughed and sang along and clapped and cheered with everyone else. This was AWESOME!!

Alice Cooper band at Cooperstown Phoenix AZ

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Alice Cooper in concert benefit Solid Rock_

Hot hot hot!

Between singing along, we both managed to snap some fun pics.

Alice Cooper in concert Solid Rock Foundation Benefit

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Alice Cooper VIP Benefit Concert for Solid Rock Teen Center

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Not only was Alice Cooper phenomenal, but his band was incredible too. His guitarist, Nita Strauss, is stunning in every way!

Alice Cooper bandmate Nita Strauss

Nita Strauss is a mind blowing guitarist in Alice Cooper’s band

All of a sudden, Alice Cooper’s son jumped back on stage and began singing with his dad. How cool is that?!

Alice Cooper and son Dash sing together

Alice Cooper sings with his son Dash

What a fantastic night this was. What fabulous memories!!

Alice Cooper sings at Cooperstown Phoenix

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Alice Cooper in Concert Phoenix Arizona

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Needless to say, we were gushingly excited. And we listened to Alice Cooper songs for the next week, nonstop.

Alice Cooper Solid Rock Benefit Concert Arizona

Looking down at the stage and crowd of fans in Cooperstown

Oh… and our new truck?

WE LOVE IT!!!

Here are the details explaining exactly what we ordered on our new truck and why:

2016 Ram 3500 Dually Diesel – Best RV Fifth Wheel Towing

Buying a new truck meant buying a new fifth wheel hitch. We got a B&W hitch that we installed ourselves in one hour!! Here’s more info…

B&W Companion OEM 5th Wheel Hitch – Step-by-step Installation Guide

Also, our new diesel truck requires the use of DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid), and we learned a bunch about where to get it cheaply and how to get it in the truck without spilling…

How to Put DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) in a Truck and Which Brand is Cheapest?

2016 Ram 3500 dually pickup truck

What a ride!!

If you are in the market for a truck, swing by Airpark Dodge in Scottsdale and see if the Coop is in! If he isn’t, talk to our salesman, Ed Kulas.

More Alice Cooper links below…

The hit song “I’m Eighteen” that has captured the hearts of 18 year olds for over 40 years:

“School’s Out” – This song, along with the drinking age dropping from 21 to 18 in most states and the draft ending nationwide — made 1972 a very special year for an entire graduating class of high school seniors:

“Elected” — Very appropriate for the 2016 election year, or for any election year for that matter. Alice Cooper wants to be elected, and he promises the formation of a New Party, a Wild Party… a Beer Party!!

Nowadays, Alice cooper is a pitchman for lots of companies. Here’s a super cute TV ad he did for Staples during the Back to School sales season:

Here’s a fun ad he did for Residence Inn:

And here’s a cute one for Service Arizona, the online vehicle registration service from Arizona’s Department of Transportation:

Wonder where this wacky rock star came from? Here’s a bio of how Vincent Furnier evolved into and then away from his alter ego Alice Cooper:

Here’s Alice Cooper talking a bit about his stage persona, his thoughts on Lady Gaga and music today. Skip 2:17 into the interview and you’ll hear him tell the TRUE story behind the urban myth that he killed a chicken on stage (I sure remember hearing THAT rumor circulating among my teeny-bop friends…yikes!):

Here’s a wonderful interview that gives insights into the now “lovable” and truly beloved Shock Rock star:

An interesting morsel we discovered in all of this was that Alice Cooper was approached and offered tons of money to do a reality TV show about his life today. But when the producers found out he’s a sober, drug-free family man who plays golf six days a week and goes to church every Sunday, they went with Ozzie Osbourne instead.

Here’s Alice Cooper, son of a pastor/evangelist, grandson of a pastor/evangelist and son-in-law of a Baptist minister…on Christianity:

Alice Cooper talks to golfers about how an addiction to golf saved him from an addiction to alcohol:

Here’s a little more from Alice Cooper about his faith and Christianity. Skip 6:05 minutes into it to hear about his foundation for at-risk teens, Solid Rock (the website given in the video has been replaced with www.alicecoopersolidrock.com):

Here’s a 2013 Arizona Republic newspaper article on Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Foundation

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Blue Ridge Parkway Highlights (Virginia) – Mills, Music & Farms!

May, 2015 – As our RV travels along the Blue Ridge Parkway took us north from North Carolina over the border into Virginia, we stopped at the Mabry Mill. This beautiful old mill was built by one Edwin Mabry who used it to grind corn and saw lumber for his neighbors in the early 1900’s.

RV and Mabry Mill Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

A motorhome passes the Mabry Mill in Virginia

We arrived in in the third week of May, just as the rhododendrons began blooming. There is something about an old wooden building like this with flowers and a paddle wheel outside that just begs to be photographed. Especially when water is splashing off the paddle wheel!

Mabry Mill Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

The rhododendrons were just coming into bloom

We found out that this mill is one of the most photographed buildings on the whole Blue Ridge Parkway! So, we we had to add ours to the mix…

Mabry Mill selfie Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

A serene setting…

Mabry Mill Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway

Inside the mill, an old fellow showed us how a very long lever arm is used to start and stop the flow of water over the paddle wheel. This effectively turns on and off the power that the wheel generates. It also explained why, when we were outside taking pics, the paddle wheel would periodically turn and dump some water and then stop spinning and sit still for a while. The guy inside was showing people how it turned on and off!

Inside Mabry Mill generating power

A long lever arm controls the water flow to the paddle wheel.

Edwin Mabry used the power from the mill to do all kinds of things that electricity would do today

Visiting places like this always makes me marvel at how easy so many things are today. What a huge effort it was to grow grains, harvest them, separate out the seeds to be ground, take a bag of them to your neighbor’s mill to get it ground, and then go home and bake some bread. I would cherish every slice of that loaf!

Mill saw inside Mabry Mill Virginia on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The old mill saw — powered by the paddle wheel!

As we drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we found that much like the Smoky Mountains a little further south, the views out across the mountains and valleys form layers that fade into the distance. “Smoky” and “Blue” are very apt names!

Blue Ridge Mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Blue RIdge Mountains

Just a bit south of the Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we visited the Blue Ridge Music Center. This fantastic little museum is maintained by the National Park Service, and it explains the history of bluegrass and mountain music. We discovered that bluegrass is an amalgam of all the musical traditions from the people that were living in these mountains over a century ago.

I had never known this, but the banjo is an instrument that was brought over from Africa! The lyrics, patter and general style of bluegrass music can be traced to traditional Irish folk songs. And the purely vocal harmonizing has its roots in German liturgical music. All of these different kinds of musical traditions blended together here in the Appalachian mountains, and over a period of time, bluegrass music emerged.

Old photo of blacks playing banjo and guitar

The banjo came from Africa!

The best part of the Blue Ridge Music Center is that it’s not just a museum. It’s a place for enjoying music! Every afternoon from noon until 4 pm, musicians perform for free in the breezeway which is a big open room right next to the museum. It has a large barn door that can be left open to make the room airy and breezy or can be closed. It’s very informal. Folding chairs are set up in front of the performers, and people come and go, enjoying the music all afternoon.

Live bluegrass music at Blue Ridge Music Center_

Scott Freeman & Willard Gayheart perform bluegrass music for tourists courtesy of the National Park Service. Different musicians play for free for 4 hours every day!!

We saw Scott Freeman & Willard Gayheart while we were there, and we were floored by their wonderful playing. For those who want more music, the Blue Ridge Music Center hosts a complete outdoor summer concert series that takes place on a stage in front of a big lawn.

Just 40 miles away in the town of Floyd, we found that there is all kinds of blue grass and old time music going on for free, or close to free, in the Floyd Country Store (blog post here) — and what a great time we had there!

Republic of Floyd Virginia

Quietly defiant Floyd Virginia hosts free bluegrass concerts. They sometimes spill out onto Main Street, even though it’s a major state thoroughfare!

We traveled on the Blue Ridge Parkway itself a little, but we did most of our driving on the roads that criss-cross the parkway and run parallel to it. This is an extraordinarily hilly area, and we found ourselves constantly driving either up a steep grade or down one, which made us very happy we had done the disc brake conversion upgrade on our trailer a few months ago in Texas.

It seemed to be a daily occurrence that Mark suddenly blurted out, “I love these new brakes!”

As we approached Hillsville, Virginia, on Memorial Day Weekend, we found ourselves not only in the hills but caught up in some really crazy traffic as the whole town put an enormous yard sale as part of their Memorial Day Flee Market!

Traffic and hills in Hillsville Virginia

Crazy traffic and steep hills on Memorial Day in Hillsville Virginia

But as we ventured north, taking in some of the highlights of the Blue Ridge Parkway, whenever we got away from the cities and towns, the countryside became wonderfully rural, and we passed one beautiful farm after another.

Farm in southwestern Virginia near Blue Ridge Parkway

We saw lots of farms as we drove around.

Virginia farms

Picturesque farms in the countryside

We even passed an old RV parked next to some very tidy rows of vegetables.

RV on a farm in Virginia

A vintage RV with new crops coming up.

This is a pretty part of the country!

10 771 Farm in southern Virginia

Virginia farm near the Blue Ridge Parkway

More lovely Virginia farms…

16 701 Blue RIdge Parkway area farm in Virginia

If you take your RV to the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll find mills, music, farms and much much more!

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Floyd Country Store Bluegrass Music Jam – So Much Fun!

A few days ago over Memorial Day Weekend, our RV travels took us to southwestern Virginia where we were treated to an absolutely terrific musical experience: the Sunday Music Jam at The Country Store in Floyd, Virginia.

It was a free bluegrass jam session in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains — what a thrill!

The Floyd Country Store Floyd Virginia

Where is this country store?

We had heard that there were fabulous free bluegrass music gigs at this unique store in the Virginia mountain town of Floyd. But when we walked down the main street under the storefront awnings, we weren’t quite sure where the store was!

We saw lots of people walking around with ice cream cones. I even saw a funny sign on a storefront that said “Loitering Allowed.” I snapped a pic with some folks sitting under the sign eating ice cream while Mark walked off in search of the country store.

The Country Store Floyd Virginia Loitering Allowed

Loitering allowed!

Where the heck was that country store? We just couldn’t find it — until we crossed the street and looked back and saw that The Country Store was that funny place where loitering was allowed. Silly us!! So, in we went.

Candy Aisle The Country Store in Floyd Virginia

Inside the Floyd Country Store.

Inside we found a classic old fashioned store, with creaky old oak floors that had been walked on by thousands of feet, an old embossed tile ceiling overhead, and big barrels of candy right in the middle with all kinds of interesting little trinkets for sale on wooden shelves on the walls.

They even had musical instruments for sale on the wall behind the cash register.

Musical Instrumnets at The Country Store Floyd Virginia

There were all kinds of things for sale.

On the other side of the store they were selling ice cream and desserts and coffee. Sales seemed very snappy behind that counter. I noticed that for every person that marched away from the register licking an ice cream cone, another one got in line!

The Jingle Tap in Floyd Virginia

The ice cream on the other side of the store was very popular!

But it was at the back of the store where the music action was happening. We didn’t hear anything at first, but when we walked back we saw rows of chairs filled with people, many with fiddles, banjos and guitars in their laps, and there were musical instrument cases of all sizes and shapes leaning against the walls.

Suddenly, without any announcement or fuss, they all began to play — and what an upbeat and happy sound that was!

The musicians sat in a huge circle, all facing each other, and the folks that weren’t playing sat in rows behind them.

Sunday Bluegrass Music Jam The Country Store Floyd VIrginia

Holy smokes — it’s a huge crowd of people making music together!

We stood against a wall with great big grins on our faces — what an absolute ball this was!

Suddenly, the song came to an end, and there was a little murmuring between a man and a woman up front. Then a new song began, and the whole group jumped right in again. No one had sheet music, yet they all played in perfect harmony. How cool is that!

A little girl started bouncing around in her seat, and her mom leaned over and explained to everyone around her that she was fidgeting because she wanted to dance. An energetic white haired lady sitting next to me hopped up, took the girl by the hands and danced with her, to the utter delight of everyone watching.

Dancing at the Sunday Music Jam Floyd Virginia Country Store

Happy feet!

The music went on, song after song, and even after the little girl and her gracious dance partner sat down, the rest of us toe tapped and bounced our heads in time to the music, jigging along with the carefree melodies.

We had just gotten warmed up when the music stopped and all the musicians began to pack it up. Oh no! But then a new group of musicians came in, sat down in those same chairs, and began to play.

Bluegrass musicians jam at Floyd Virginia Country Store

The bluegrass jam session begins. Host Ben Silcox is on the right.

This time the sound was a little different. The first group had been an old-time music jam, and this group was playing bluegrass songs with vocals. The host, Ben Silcox, asked each player in the circle to lead the group in a song. Lots of people in the audience knew the words and sang along under their breath.

The high spirits in this place were infectious, and we just couldn’t wipe those grins off our faces. The instruments were wonderful — mandolins and dobros along with fiddles, guitars and banjos — and these folks could all play really well. They made it seem effortless. Their fingers flew all over the place with ease!

Bluegrass music on a mandolin_

There were mandolins…

The host, Ben, told us that one member of the group was 86 years old. He was happily fiddling away.

Bluegrass music on a dobro and fiddle

…and there were dobros and fiddles. This fiddle player is 86!

Ben had a great sense of humor, and he loved joshing his friends between songs. He told the crowd that one of the banjo players was an expert luthier who makes beautiful fiddles. He held one up to show the crowd and then wise-cracked to the banjo player, “So how many of these have you made?”

“Oh, 15 of them,” his buddy responded.

“And how many are for sale now?”

“Um…15.” His friend shrugged.

Holding up a fiddle at a bluegrass jam session in Floyd Virginia

Ben teases his buddy about the fiddles he makes.

A few minutes later that same banjo player took off on a wild tune that was dizzyingly fast. Ben quipped afterwards, “If you liked that, this guy has blank CD’s for sale in the front of the store!”

The Country Store has been around since around 1910, but it was in the early 1980’s that it became a haven for music lovers.

At that time, two of the store’s owners were in a bluegrass band that used the store for band practice on Friday nights after the store was closed and locked up for the day. Folks walking by outside kept knocking on the door asking to be let in so they could listen, and after a while the store owners decided not to lock up but to keep the doors open so people could stop in and enjoy the music.

Bluegrass music on standup bass and guitar

The Friday Night Jamboree started in the early 1980’s!

A young store clerk told me she remembered going to those Friday Night Jamborees when she was a kid in the 1990’s, but that the store had been a bit run down. In 2007 new owners totally renovated the building, put lots of fun goodies on the shelves, began serving tasty snacks, and the crowds swelled.

On the big music nights now, she said, the store is often packed and is standing room only!

Banjos and guitars Sunday Music Jam Country Store Floyd Virginia

The old-time music jam was a hoot!

If your RV travels take you into southwestern Virginia and you want to hear some authentic bluegrass music played in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, check out the schedule of events at The Country Store in Floyd, Virginia. It is a rare treat. Many weekly music jams are free, some cost a few bucks — and the ice cream is delicious!

I had hoped we’d find some true mountain magic when we pointed our RV towards the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia, and when we got to the tiny town of Floyd, Virginia, we sure did!

I got a snippet on video — here it is:

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Blog posts from our RV travels in the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia:

The Artsy Side of Sun Valley, ID

Camping in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Ketchum Idaho

Pretty as a picture…or a painting!

August, 2014 – Sun Valley, Idaho, the “ski resort town,” has an artsy soul, and this is especially evident in the summertime.

While happily camped in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, we got on our mountain bikes one morning and began roaming around the dirt roads through the woods.

All of a sudden we came across an artist set up with oil paints and a palette, creating a painting on an easel.

Sun Valley Plein Air Artist Bart Walker paints in the Sawtooth Mountains

Bart Walker brings the landscape alive on his canvas.

What a great place to paint!

The artist introduced himself as Bart Walker, and we watched him quickly bringing the bucolic scenery around us to life on his canvas.

It turned out that he was making paintings for the upcoming “Plein Air” art exhibition held at the Kneeland Gallery in town in a few weeks.

Blurred water with trees at the Big Wood River in Ketchum Idaho

We were inspired to get artsy with our
cameras too!

Even though he is from Wyoming’s Teton Mountains area, he knows the Sawtooths well, and he suggested we go to a spot down on the Big Wood River where we might get some good photos.

Beautiful flowers in Sun Valley Idaho

We promptly followed his suggestion and had loads of fun on the riverbanks getting artsy shots with creamy water.

When the appointed weekend for the art exhibition came, we found ourselves surrounded by plein air artists in the woods recreating the stunning landscapes of the Sawtooth mountains.

We wandered from one easel to the next, intrigued by how differently each artist interpreted their natural surroundings.

Artist Lori McNee paints in oils "Plein Air" in Sun Valley Idaho

We loved being surrounded by these artists out in nature.

We discovered later that the 10 or so artists that are invited to show their work at the Kneeland Gallery’s Plein Air art exhibition each summer are all very accomplished and well known artists.

We were watching true pros painting around us in the woods, folks who make their living from their art!

A whole group of knowledgeable admirers were also roaming from one canvas to the next, and we fell right in step with them, getting the low down, in whispers, on who was who and who did what kind of art.

Sawtooth National Recreation Area plein air artist paints on canvas

Some of the artists were staying in their campers.

Robert Moore creates colorful paintings in the national forest of Idaho

Robert Moore’s unique style of painting is almost performance art!

“That’s Robert Moore over there,” a fellow told me in a low voice. “He’s one of the best.”

I looked aver at a guy with a huge palette of paints and a canvas spread out on the tailgate of a pickup truck.

“He’s color blind,” the guy went on.

What?!  I had to learn more.

Robert was extremely friendly and unassuming, and as we talked, he painted in brisk strokes with two brushes, one held in each hand.

 

Robert Moore shows off his unfinished painting

Robert shows me his unfinished painting.

He even dipped his rubber gloved fingers in the paints and squished them around on the canvas, like a kid finger painting!

“I can’t distinguish between greens and oranges,” he explained to me, gesturing to those colors on the palette.

“My assistant, Silas, helps me by arranging the colors on the palette so I know where each one is.” He worked very fast and with great self-assurance.

At the beginning, when the canvas was blank, he had started by squeezing paint from the tubes directly on the canvas.

Robert Moore Murdoch Creek Oil Painting

Finished, framed, and on the wall at Kneeland Gallery in Ketchum.

The lines of paint were still there, and as his brushes reached them, they blended the colors. Yet each brush stroke visibly retained all the colors that were in the mixture.

Miraculously, a beautiful painting of a stream was emerging.

“You can play Beethoven with one finger on the piano,” he explained to me quietly, “but it sounds so much richer if you play with all the fingers of both hands. That’s the way my painting is. You can see all the colors in every brushstroke. That’s how light is in real life.”

He held the painting up for me. Wow!

RV boondocking in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Ketchum Idaho

Audience on the lawn at the Sun Valley Pavilion

Families picnic and listen to beautiful music.

The next evening we went to the gallery open house. Little did we know that every Friday night in Sun Valley there is an Art Walk where all the galleries (and there are lots of them) open their doors and pour generous glasses of free wine for visitors.

With an increasingly wobbly gate, patrons and admirers of the arts wander from gallery to gallery, taking in beautiful works of modern impressionism, fine art photography, modern art, sculpture and more. After a few glasses of wine, even the most stark modern art makes total sense!

Sun Valley is also famous for its outstanding free summer symphony concert series.

Sun Valley Symphony free summer concert series

The Sun Valley Pavilion is a beautiful home for the symphony orchestra.

For three and a half weeks, the Sun Valley Pavilion comes alive almost every night with music played by the top notch Sun Valley Symphony.

 

Sun Valley Symphony plays Brahms' 2nd Symphone - ahh!

We are treated to a night of Brahms — sheer joy for me!

Outside the Pavilion, families and friends enjoy picnics on the lawn where the music is played over mammoth speakers. Inside, there is loads of free theater seating that is all first come first serve.

The Pavilion is a tens-of-millions-of-dollars architectural marvel and was a gift to the community from the owner of Sun Valley Resort. While waiting for Mark to get a beer, I happened to rest my hip on a low interior stone wall.

An usher came over to me and said politely that I shouldn’t sit on the wall.

Sun Valley Pavilion was built with stone from the same quarry as the Roman Colosseum

Don’t sit on the walls…this rock is special!

Slightly affronted, because I had been leaning on the wall, not sitting on it, I decided to joke a bit with him.

“Is there something special about this rock wall?” I asked, laughing.

“Well, as a matter of fact there is. The stones came from the same quarry in Italy as the stones that were used to build the Roman Colosseum.”

A young violinist plays her own concert in Sun Valley ID

A young violinist gives an impromptu
concert of her own.

Are you kidding?!!

I sprang away from the wall and then gingerly reached back and touched it in amazement.

After the concert was over, a little girl stood up amid her family’s picnic blanket and chairs and began an impromptu violin concert of her own, singing and playing some country tunes.

A small crowd gathered around her, and her smile got bigger and bigger as she performed for a rapt audience.

And that’s the way life is in Sun Valley, Idaho, where mega wealth and majestic natural beauty come together to make a playground for everyone that is full of fine art, exquisite music and outdoor fun. Best of all, most of it can be enjoyed for free!

Boondocking in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Ketchum Idaho

A sunrise worth leaping out of bed for!

Here are some links with more info for you about the Sun Valley, Idaho, area:

For more from our RV travels to Sun Valley, ID, both past and present, see these links:

Other musical happenings that we’ve loved:

 

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San Diego Treats – Balboa and Sunset Cliffs

Balboa Park Palm and Flowers

Flowers abound at Balboa Park

Fall, 2013 – Living on San Diego’s beautiful shores is a true delight, not only becuase there is always so much going on, but because it is so close to all that San Diego has to offer.

One of the prettiest places in the city is Balboa Park, and we enjoyed several wonderful excusrions there.

Balboa Park Lilly Pond

The Lilly Pond at Balboa Park

Balboa Park is a big city park filled with all kinds of flora and fauna along with several miles of hiking trails.

Balboa Pond Koi Fish

A koi fish swims past

Perhaps the most lovely area is around the koi fish pond where there are some beautiful old buildings and some very colorful koi fish swimming just below the surface.

This is a great place to take a stroll and soak in a little sunshine and relaxation.

Balboa Park Pond Reflections

Reflected beauty at Balboa Park

Balboa Park Flower

Of course, it is a city park and, on the day we were there, a fellow was spouting bible verses and personal philosophies at very high volume, echoing his thoughts about life off the walls of the stone building at the top of his lungs, pontificating to anyone that would stop and listen.

I listened for a few minutes but couldn’t make heads or tails out of what he was saying!

Lilies in lily pond

However, the water was utterly still, and as clear as could be, creating lovely reflections.

The pretty lilies floating between the pads seemed to smile up at the world.

A hummingbird flitting between the many flowers added his own buzz to the air.

A beautiful indoor botanical garden fills one of the buildings near the koi fish pond, and a meander through there took us past all kinds of exotic flowers.

 

Hummingbird

A hummingbird checks out the flowers too

This reminded us so much of our extraordinary visit to the orchards and gardens of Hagia Sofia near Huatulco, Mexico last winter.

We both contented ourselves for quite a while taking photos of the colorful display.

Heart shaped leaves

Bullseye hearts…

There is a kind of romance to the area, and we both had to laugh when we saw several plants that had leaves shaped like swirling hearts.

 

Em and M in flowers

Amid the orchids

We were happy when someone offered to take a picture of us amid the orchids!!

Other people hired professional photographers to take their portraits around the beautiful grounds of Balboa Park.

Portraits in Balboa Park

Professional photographers were taking portraits everywhere!

We admired more than a few professional camera setups, with big flashes, lighting umbrellas, enormous lenses and teams of assistants helping out.

Quniceanera

A young girl at her Quincenera

And more than once we turned a corner to see a portrait shot that would soon be framed.

We even saw a young Mexican girl in the midst of a Quinceañera photo shoot, all dressed up for her special 15th birthday party.  This was like so many others we had seen in Mexico, especially in Ensenada and Morelia.

12 Balboa Park Organ Concert 481

One of the most unusual attractions in Balboa Park is the enormous outdoor organ.

When the organ was donated to the park by John and Adolph Spreckels in 1914, the one stipulation was that it be played for outdoor concerts, and since 1917 San Diego has had a civic organist who performs free weekly concerts on Sundays.

While we were there a small audience gathered in front of the organ, taking shade under colorful umbrellas.  Before long, the enormous rolling door opened to reveal the huge organ pipes.  The 4500+ pipes range in size from as small as a pencil to as big as 32 feet high!

A woman walked out on stage and began an hour-long concert.

13 Ocean Beach Hippie Hostel 531

The hostel at Ocean Beach – Peace Baby!!

Wow.  That is quite a musical instrument!

Unfortunately, she chose some really chaotic sounding modern music to play, and as we walked away we could hear the cacophany of clashing chords far into the corners of the park.

Oh well.  We’ll have to return on another day when the performer chooses something a little more melodic and soothing!!

Balboa Park is situated right downtown.  To the north of the city there are several big beach communities, and one of the most notable is Ocean Beach, a hippie seaside town that has decided to remain firmly planted in the 1960’s.

The prominent hostel is painted a kaleidescope of groovy colors and sports a big peace sign on its rooftop.

14 Ocean Beach Tumblebug 431

A tumble bug!

Walking down the street, the smell of patchouli incense wafted out of the doorways of several head shops.

Oddly, this wasn’t a town of pony-tailed grey-hairs who used to be hippies in their youth, but instead was loaded with younger folks who are embracing the hippie way today.

Even though Starbucks has come to town, we noticed that the only identifying feature on the outside of the building was the circular green logo.

Down an allyway, Mark spotted a tumble bug.  Far out!

 

15 Woodie 451

You never know what you’ll see rolling down the street…

California has such a great car culture.  Something exotic always seems to be cruising past, and I just barely caught this low-riding woody as it sped by.

Mark on Stand-up paddleboard

Mark tries out a standup paddle board
at the Hobie open house

One day we had a chance to try out cruising of another kind.  The local Hobie dealership hosted an open house, and all their water toys were lined up at the docks. We could try out anything that seemed appealing!

We’d never tried standup paddle boarding before, and we both got a big kick out of it.

A few days later at nearby Torrey Pines we watched a really skilled stand-up paddle-boarder carve through the surf. So that’s how you do it!

Torrey Pines Surfing

A pro shows us how it’s done

Sunset Cliffs is a series of craggy cliffs nearby, and we scampered over these rugged rocks to check out the tidepools one afternoon.

This is a photogenic area, and there were photographers everywhere trying to capture the beauty.

Sunset Cliffs Staircase

The staircase down to the sea at Sunset Cliffs

As we climbed down the endless stairs at one viewpoint, a pair of young photographers with mammoth cameras and lighting gear were coming up the stairs towards us.

Tucked between the two of them was a young barefoot woman with a bare torso and bare legs. She was clutching a woolly sheepskin to her chest.

Sunset Cliffs Tidepools

Sunset Cliffs has some exquisite tidepools

As we got closer, it didn’t look like she had much clothing on besides this piece of sheepskin.  Sure enough, after she passed us we noticed there was nothing covering her backside!

I guess they were doing modeling shots at the water’s edge “au natural!”

Sunset Cliffs Rock Island

Surf at Sunset Cliffs

Pelicans in formation

Pelicans fly in formation

We stuck to photographing Nature itself and looked up to see a group of pelicans flying in formation overhead.

Well, not everything around here was pure nature. As the pelicans disappeared over the horizon, three Navy helicopters flew in formation in the opposite direction.

Helicopters in formation

Helicopters fly in formation

Sunset Cliffs is beautiful in broad daylight, but the place really comes to life as the sun begins to drop out of the sky.

The cliffs face west, and just before the sky begins to turn colors, cars begin to arrive and people begin to mill around the edges of the cliffs to take in the sunset.

Sunset at Sunset Cliffs

People gather to watch the sun disappear at Sunset Cliffs

Some couples bring chairs or stand close to each other and stare off at the horizon.  Some folks take out their cameras and wait for the magic moment.  And a few others do yoga and tai-chi moves.

However it is that they all say goodbye to the day, there is a shared awe and respect among everyone at the cliffs’ edge as they look out over the ocean to watch the sun’s light show and welcomes the arrival of night.

Sunset at Sunset Cliffs

We are rewarded with a humdinger of a sunset!

As fall slipped towards winter, we had been living in San Diego aboard our sailboat Groovy for four months. Much as this beautiful city and lifestyle enchanted us, our eyes were now turning towards our new land-based life that would soon begin 350 miles inland in Arizona.

 

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Our beloved sailboat Groovy is For Sale

Guanajuato – Full of Song and Spirit!

Guanjuato has colorful streets

We were captivated by Guanajuato’s beautiful streets.

Early June, 2013 – Guanajuato continued to enchant us. The beautiful cobbled streets wound in and out and up and down, and all were lined with colorful buildings.

There was a cheerfulness about the place that was infectious.

As we were walking down a crowded street one afternoon, it seemed everyone we passed either gave us a nod, or a smile, or was laughing in conversation with a friend.

Incredulous, I said to Mark, “It’s just a happy city!” Behind me I heard a man’s voice say, “Si” I turned around and he grinned at me.

 

A colorful hillside in Guanajuato Mexico

Every time we looked across at Guanajuato’s hills,
we were amazed — again — by the colors.

We couldn’t walk ten steps without stopping to photograph something, and we both kept wandering off, attracted by some fantastic image that took us down an alleyway or up a staircase.

Guanajuato is truly photogenic, and we had beautiful sunny days to enjoy it.

Street photography in Guanajuato

Guanajuato is really fun for photography!

 

 

 

 

 

I think it is the colors of Guanajuato that will stay in our memories forever. Primary colors and pastel colors — they’re all there, making the hillsides look like they’ve been spattered from a rainbow paint can.

Plaza de la Paz Guanajuato

Even plaza de La Paz is colorful.

Everywhere we turned, the buildings were done up in vivid shades.

University of Guanajuato

Spiky roofline of the University of Guanajuato

 

 

 

But one building stood out against the crowd: the enormous and rather grand University of Guanajuato in the very heart of town. Imposing, yet ornate, it is bright white and has a series of spiky decorations around the top.

Nuestra Senora de Guanjuato

Inside the Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato basilica.

The city’s most impressive architecture dates back to the 18th century when the region was the world’s leading silver producer.

Since the indigenous silver miners were slaves, there was plenty of profit for the mine owners to spend in whatever way they liked, and the ornamentation in the churches, mansions and former government buildings reflect that immense wealth.

Teatro Juarez in Guanajuato

Teatro Juarez – a lavish theater at the center of it all.

Silver production continued to support sumptuous lifestyles in Guanajuato into the 20th century, and the stunning Teatro Juarez theater is a central landmark dating from that time. It was a thrill fto watch it light up in the early evening.

In front of the theater, the Jardín de la Union is the local hangout. Most Mexican cities have a town square, or “Zócalo,” where everyone can kick back with a beverage and a book or enjoy a conversation with a friend or just sit and people watch.

Jardin de la Union Guanajuato

Shade trees and shiny tiles surround the Jardín de la Union
— thetown square (or triangle!).

But this square is unique. For one thing, it’s not a square. It’s a triangle! Also, rather than cobblestone or paved paths, the wide walkways that encircle it are made of shiny, decorative tile laid in pretty patterns.

A stand of trees arches over this waking path. The trees are planted so close together and their foliage is so thick that they make an incredible shade cover for the whole place.

They looked like ficus trees to us. We’ve kept ficus trees as houseplants, but for us they haven’t done very well in a pot. Their leaves always seem to begin to yellow and then slowly drop off, one by one, until the tree is nearly bare.

Vegetable sellers in the street

Selling vegetables street-side.

Not these trees! Their vibrant green leaves are so tightly packed that in mid-day the whole area is dark under their shade, and it makes a great place to escape from the heat of the sun. We kept coming back and back and back again — as did everyone else in town!

But daily life is always humming in the streets beyond the Jardín. And in this town, you just never know what you’ll see.

Scooter carrying lilies

Delivering flowers…

 

Wandering around, we came across the many scenes we’ve become accustomed to: juice vendors selling fruit juices from rollable carts and people offering veggies for sale on makeshift tables and chairs they’ve assembled from shipping pallets and plastic buckets, or whatever is handy.

But it was the unexpected and whimsical sightings that kept us on our toes and laughing. We just never knew when we might glance up and see something unique, like a scooter rolling past. loaded with bouquets of yellow lilies. What a fun way to deliver flowers!

Horses and donkey in the street

We look up and see these guys coming down the street!

Traffic on the streets can be quite heavy, especially at rush hour, so we were astonished when we were out looking for a bite to eat and suddenly saw a pair of horseback riders and a donkey clip-clopping towards us on the cobbled streets. Was this for real? Yes!

We followed them back towards the town square but quickly lost track of them in the throng of activity. The crowds in the square had grown so jam-packed that when we stood on tip-toe and looked down the street, all we saw was a sea of heads, hats and the occasional waving hand.

Ballerina on Teatro Juarez railing

There’s a ballerina dancing on the theater railing!

Looking past all that, Mark’s jaw suddenly dropped and he pointed, “There’s a ballet dancer on the railing up there!’ I followed his gaze, and sure enough, a dancer in a leotard and toe shoes was posing on the stone railing in front of the majestic columns of Teatro Juarez.

Balloons released above Teatro Juarez

A group of people release a bunch of white balloons from the theater steps.

We made our way through the crowd and discovered she was in the middle of a photo shoot of some kind.

A photographer was nearby, and she assumed one graceful pose after another on the railing while he took a stream of photos.

As this gal was dancing on the side rail of the theater, a gathering of people holding white balloons had assembled on the front steps. What could this be? Who knows!

All of a sudden, they all let go of their balloons at the same time, and we tipped our heads back to watch the little white bubbles disappear into the sky. Then the group of people on the stairs broke up and everyone vanished into the river of humanity flowing around us.

Mariachi band walking

Mariachis doing the Abbey Road walk.

Guanajuato is not just a visual delight. It’s soul is steeped in music too. Everywhere we went around town we heard music.

Mariachi trumpet player

Music is the heart and soul of Guanajuato.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Jardín, in the center of town, a myriad of outdoor cafes lines the square, and each boasts a mariachi band. These weren’t the little wandering three-piece bands we were used to seeing on the beach. These were full-on 8-member orchestras, complete with trumpets and violins in addition to the usual guitars.

The town square’s cafes are crammed together side by side, with no space in between. Music springs up from one cafe and then another, and frequently from a few of them at once. Periodically, a band takes a break, and the musicians take a load off and chat together under the shade of the trees.

Jardin de la Union bandstand

A band does a lively rendition of ?Stars and Stripes Forever.”

There is a bandstand at the center of the square, and one afternoon we noticed the crisp white shirts of a band sitting up there as they tuned their instruments to a clarinet’s A-note. Oooh – fun!!!

We found seats on a park bench and were amazed when the conductor tapped his baton on his music stand and the cacophony from the mariachi bands around the square suddenly stopped.

 

Kid running at the bandstand

Weeeee – two kids zoomed round and round the bandstand.

The band began to play a string of familiar pop tunes, and I found myself transported to my childhood when our town band would play in the bandstand on balmy summer nights. I started telling Mark about how all of us kids would get so wound up at these things, running round and round the bandstand, skipping and leaping and doing cart-wheels.

Suddenly, just as the band started a rousing rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” a little brother and sister began to tear around the band stand at top speed. They ran in opposite directions, and each time they met, they’d stop and high-five each other and then take off again, laughing giddily as they ran.

Street musician in Guanajuato

People make music in every corner of Guanajuato.

Out on the streets of Guanajuato the music continued to fill the air, day and night.

Street musician in Guanajuato

There were street musicians everywhere.

Street musicians of every variety strolled up and down, playing for themselves and playing for tips. It is hard to find a street corner in this city where you don’t hear music.

guitar player on the bus

We were even serenaded on the bus!

Even when we clamored onto a city bus, a guy suddenly broke into song behind us. We turned around to see him standing in the middle of the bus strumming his guitar.

Musician statue at Jardín de la Union

A sculpture depicting the famous Callejoneadas.

But the most famous musicians in Guanajuato aren’t the mariachi bands or the bandstand band or the street musicians. It is the Callejoneadas.

The what? When I first heard this word I had to have the person repeat it three times. “Cah-yay-hone-ay-ah-das.”

An alley is a “callejón” (cah-yay-hone), and although most cities in the world have lots of alleys, they are often kind of dark and scary places sandwiched between the good stuff. In Guanajuato, the alleys are celebrated, and they harbor the lively soul of the central neighborhoods.

We watched in amazement our first night Guanajuato as a collection of men in renaissance garb gathered in front of the Juarez Theater. Carrying lutes and mandolins and stringed instruments of all kinds, the men mingled with the crowd, urging them to sit on the stairs and watch them perform.

 

Callejoneadas de Guanajuato

A wandering minstrel.

Suddenly they began to engage the crowd with crazy antics and songs. We couldn’t really understand what stories were being told, but when they persuaded two couples to come in front of the crowd to dance, we laughed with all the rest.

As the couples swung about, everyone around ua began to sing along. Everyone knew all the words to all the songs! Sadly, we didn’t know any, but we sure wished we did.

The callejoneadas start their nightly song-walk through the alleys.

The callejoneadas start their nightly song-walk through the alleys.

After a few songs and stunts, the medieval men in black began to walk out of the town square, strumming their instruments and singing as they went. The crowd of people on the stairs got up and began to follow behind, singing heartily in their wake. Then they disappeared into the alleys.

Donkey carrying wine for Callejoneadas

A donkey carries bottles of wine.

After a short while, the space that this throng had cleared was taken up by another group of musicians and the whole thing began again. The groups of singers gathered in several different areas around the town square, and it seemed there were dozens of these groups.

As they all made there way out into the streets in the early evening, we could hear their songs faintly wafting back to us from various corners of the city.

Donkey with wine on his back

His load will be completely empty in a few hours!

Now we understood why we had been seeing so many men in tights around town. These guys were the Callejoneadas!

We also discovered what all the donkeys we had been seeing in the streets were for.

Wandering through the alleyways on our way back to our B&B, we came across a group of minstrels and followers in front of a neighborhood church.

Callejoneadas de Guanajuato at night

The callejoneadas entertain a group in front of a church.

The minstrels were performing a skit, and every so often a roar of laughter would go up. A donkey stood off to one side, and the pack on his back was quickly becoming lighter as the singers grabbed bottles from the pack and poured wine into special little flasks that the followers were carrying with them!

What a hoot!! We found out later that this whole thing started back in the 1970’s, when a group of people from the university occasionally gathered in the alleys and wandered up and down the streets in the evenings singing songs. Someone would bring along drinks to share, and the participants would contribute a few pesos to whoever did the buying.

Juarez Theater Guanajuato

The Juarez Theater looks very grand at night.

Nowadays, this once impromptu event is a regular nightly party, hosted by university students and faculty.

The whole thing is very well organized, so it is not as spontaneous (and unruly) as it probably was when it first started forty years ago.

A ticket to participate in the festivities is 100 pesos ($8 USD), and along with great memories, you get a very cool souvenir wine flask.

What we loved about all this, though, was that the little B&B where we stayed was right on one of the most popular Callejoneadas routes.

Don Quijote statue

There are statues of Don Quijote
all over the place.

Every evening, if we were back in our room, we’d hear the troupes come by. I don’t know who was singing with more gusto, the wandering minstrels or their followers!

Fortunately, there must be some kind of agreement between the singers and the neighborhood residents, because all the noise and mayhem stopped before 10:00 each night!

Don Quijote statue

Don Quijote, like Mr. Magoo, stumbled in and out of trouble, quite oblivious to it all.

We soon discovered that Guanajuato has an affection for medieval things that goes beyond (or was inspired by?) this nightly music event.

All around town we kept running into statues and references to the Spanish medieval author Cervantes and his famous hero, the rather misguided — and Mr. Magoo-like — Don Quijote (or as my little kid’s ears always heard it: Donkey Hotey).

 

Don Quijote impersonator

This Don Quijote impersonator mingled with the callejoneadas in the town square

Why Cervantes and Don Quijote? Well, around the time that the wandering minstrels started serenading folks in the alleys of Guanajuato in the 1970’s, another group of university students began doing spontaneous performances of Cervantes’ works in the same neighborhood squares and church steps.

This blossomed into an annual event, and now Guanajuato’s Festival Cervantino is known internationally and includes operas, drama productions, film showings and live music with invited guest luminaries from all over the world.

The festival wasn’t going on while we were there, but we did see a fellow dressed up as Don Quijjote who mixed it up every night with the callejoneadas singers.

We were loving the free spirit of Guanajuato, and our curiosity about its origins soon led us to the edge of town and down into the mines where the silver was — and still is — mined in abundance.

 

 

 

More adventures from our inland travels in Mexico:

Other musical happenings that we’ve loved:

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