Fall River Balloon Festival in Hot Springs, South Dakota

One of the more unusual types of sightings we’ve enjoyed in our RV travels is hot air balloons flying overhead.

Early one morning last summer while camping in South Dakota’s Black Hills we awoke to the roar of a balloon heater’s flame and we dashed outside to see a balloon floating over our trailer. A few weeks later at the end of August we saw the Fall River Balloon Festival in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

The balloon glow at Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota-min

Balloon Glow at Fall River Balloon Festival in Hot Springs, South Dakota

This was a small balloon festival with just a dozen or so balloons, but the evening balloon glow was a true delight. The balloonists slowly heated the air in their balloons and raised them to an upright position while holding them down to the ground with tethers.

Inflating a hot air balloon at the balloon glow Fall River Balloon Festival South Dakota-min

During the Balloon Glow the balloons were tethered to the ground so they wouldn’t drift away.
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!.”

Then, on cue from the announcer on a loudspeaker, they all turned on their heater flames at the same time, lighting up the balloons in the dark.

Balloon Glow Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota RV trip-min

The “Glow” is created by turning on the flame that heats up the air in the balloon.

Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota RV trip-min

Balloon Glow!

Unfortunately, the wind picked up and the balloon glow had to be cut short. The balloonists did a quick “twinkle” where each balloon turned its heater on and off repeatedly, making the group of balloons appear to twinkle, and then they brought their balloons down.

Fall River Balloon Festival Balloon Glow Hot Springs South Dakota RV trip-min

In a “Balloon Twinkle” each balloonist randomly turns their flame on and off, making the balloons appear to twinkle in the dark.

But the next morning the balloonists were at it again, bright and early, out by the small Hot Springs Airport air strip.

Filling the hot air balloons-min

The next morning the balloonists inflated their balloons for a group ride.

The balloonists arrived before dawn and started laying out the balloons on the ground. Once each huge balloon was stretched out on the grass like an enormous blanket, the balloonist team then began to inflate it with hot air.

Sunrise under a hot air balloon-min

Each balloon was slowly inflated as the sun began to peek over the horizon.

Before long, all the balloons were inflated and sitting on the ground ready to launch.

Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota RV Trip-min

The balloons were inflated, all in a row, and tethered to the ground.

Then, one escaped.

Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota-min

A balloon slips away into the sky.

and then another.

Balloon lift-off Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota RV trip-min

The balloons floated up into the sky one at a time.

And soon they were all in the air, drifting across the open field and following the air currents.

Hot air balloons at Hot Springs airport South Dakota-min

The balloons slowly glide by.

Flying balloons at Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota-min

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We ran across the field, our cameras clicking away. The folks in the baskets waved down at us and seemed to be having a ball.

Up Up and Away in my beauttiful balloon-min

“Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon…”

Fall River Balloon Festival balloons fly over landscape-min

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The sun crested the horizon and cast a golden glow across the sky.

Dawn balloon ride Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota RV trip-min

Beautiful…!

Balloons at Hot Springs airport in South Dakota-min

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Before long the balloons were out of sight, and the little handful of spectators began to fold up their chairs and head home.

Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota RV travels-min

A small group of spectators watched the balloons vanish from sight.

If you have never been to a balloon festival and you are in Arizona now, there is a fun one going on at Lake Havasu this weekend (Jan 19-21, 2018). We saw it, along with the Buses at the Bridge VW Microbus festival a few years back (blog post here).

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Balloon festivals popular with RVers:

Balloon Events and Flyovers we’ve seen in our travels:

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2017 Travels – RVing the West and Flying to Thailand & Cambodia

2017 was filled with incredible travel adventures for us, from exploring the backroads of eastern Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota in our RV to flying overseas to Southeast Asia and Hawaii. Here’s a quick look back with links to every travel story we published on this blog in 2017!

2017 RV trips and international travel adventures-min

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Before the year had even gotten out of the starting gate, we put our trailer in storage in Arizona and flew to Bangkok, Thailand, for a month of extraordinary and eye opening experiences (all our SE Asia adventures can be found here).

Boat on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand copy-min

2017 began with us putting the RV in storage and flying to Thailand and Cambodia for a month!

Ministry of Defence Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand copy-min

We had never been to Southeast Asia before — what an adventure!

Not only was the architecture dramatically different than anything we’d seen before, the language itself was new to our ears and eyes. It was utterly exotic, and beautiful (and incomprehensible) in written form.

Thai menu copy-min

The Thai language not only sounded exotic, it looked exotic too!

We found it nearly impossible to know what to order on a menu, but when we took a boat ride through a floating market, most of the fruits and vegetables were familiar even though the method of selling them was like nothing we’d seen before!

Fruit for sale damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand copy-min

A floating market on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, was a fascinating excursion.

We took a train ride to Kanchanaburi and hiked in caves where shrines to Buddha adorned the entrances.

Buddha statue in Lawa Cave Kanchanaburi Thailand copy-min

Shrines to Buddha — and to the recently deceased king — were everywhere, including in entrances to caves!

And we saw young monks walking along the tracks of the Death Railway where we learned of the atrocities that took place during WWII along the River Kwai.

Buddhist monks on train tracks Death Railway Kanchanaburi Thailand copy-min

Monks walk the train tracks at the somber Death Railway.

In the heart of Thailand at Cheow Lan Lake we stayed in a floating raft house at the base of towering limestone cliffs. The hosts took us on longtail boat tours around the lake in the early morning mist and after dark under the stars.

Longtail boat Greenery Panvaree Resort Chiewlarn Lake Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand copy-min

One of many highlights was taking longtail boat rides and staying in a floating raft house on Cheow Lan Lake.

We also visited two stunning and very exotic waterfalls, one in Erawan National Park and another in Sri Nakarin Dam National Park.

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand copy-min

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall in Sri Nakarin Dam National Park, Kanchanaburi Thailand
(That’s a mouthful!)

At the south end of Thailand we stayed on the beach in Ko Lanta and snorkeled reefs that were teeming with unusual and colorful sea life, from giant purple clams to huge prickly blue starfish to Nemo’s cousins living among the sea anenome.

Ko Lanta Beach in Thailand-min

We relaxed on the beach on the Thai island of Ko Lanta.

Purple Sea Star Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand copy-min

Snorkeling the reefs we saw giant purple clams, spiky blue starfish and we found both Nemo and Dora too.

We decided to visit Thailand on the urging and invitation of one of our blog readers, and when we finally decided to fly halfway around the world to visit Southeast Asia, he wrote to us with great passion about the ancient Khmer ruins in Angkor Wat next to the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Are we ever glad that he took the time to write such a colorful description of the area and suggest we visit there too. Thank you, Dave!

Cambodia touched our us deeply and has found a place in our hearts forever.

Angkor Thom gate at Angkor Wat Cambodia travel-min

The massive, vast and expansive ancient Khmer ruins in Cambodia were awe-inspiring

Whereas Thailand felt like an Asian version of Mexico — a Second World country coming into its own with lots of bustling and profitable industry and a fairly sophisticated tourist infrastructure — next door Cambodia was a world apart.

Tuk-tuk with heavy load Siem Reap Cambodia copy-min

We found that Thailand was very similar to Mexico in many ways, but Cambodia was unlike anything we had ever experienced before.

There was an innocence and joy in everyone we met that surprised us.

Cambodian school children playing in Siem Reap copy-min

Cambodian schoolkids swing on the vines on their way home from school.

The many miles wide sprawl of endless ancient Khmer temple ruins around Angkor Wat were breathtaking, both for their mystery and because of their toppled condition. The stories we heard of the roles the ruins and their riches played in the conflicts during the latter quarter of the last century were mind boggling.

Angkor Wat ruins in Cambodia-min

The ancient Khmer ruins hold the mysteries of an ancient and sophisticated world.

We even found one temple ruin that was reminiscent of the Mayan step pyramids an ocean away in southern Mexico. The ruins dated from about the same time period too.

Step pyramid Angkor Wat temple Cambodia-min

One ancient Khmer ruin is shaped like the step pyramids of Meso-America.

We spent several days crawling all over these fascinating ruins, many of which are an hour’s drive from the central complex.

Face in the ruins at Angkor Wat Cambodia travel-min

This face is dozens of feet tall.

Faces at the gate Angkor Wat temple Cambodia travel-min

Guards at the gate of an Angkor Wat temple palace.

The jungle is a living being, though, and it has spread its roots across many of the temple ruins, often covering them up completely.

Trees growing over Angkor Wat temple ruins Cambodia-min

The jungle engulfs the ancient Khmer ruins!

We had noticed that modern Cambodian writing and Thai writing are nothing like each other, but we were astonished when our Cambodian guide pointed out the many inscriptions carved on the arches and lintels of the Angkor Wat temple ruins and revealed that he couldn’t read them at all either!

Ancient Khmer Inscription at Angkor Wat temple district Cambodia-min

Ancient Khmer inscriptions carved into the temple door jams and lintels.
The language has roots in Sanskrit.

However, aside from the mysteries of the ancients, it was the tales we were told of recent Cambodian history that left us reeling.

We didn’t know anything about Cambodia before we got there, and our jaws hung open as we heard horrifying stories first-hand from our guides and drivers about what they, their parents and their families had lived through during the same years that Mark and I had been young adults getting our lives started in a country where basic freedoms and extraordinary abundance are easily and often taken for granted.

A day spent visiting a Cambodian family in their home left a moving and long lasting impression on both of us.

Adventure travel in Cambodia-min

We enjoyed a priceless day trip to the home of a Cambodian family where the kids, cousins and friends got a kick out of hamming it up and photo-bombing each other for our cameras.

When we returned to America we stayed around Arizona for a while in our buggy, relaxing in the beautiful Sonoran desert along its waterways and camping amid the rock art petroglyphs of Gila Bend.

Rippling water in Horseshoe Lake Arizona-min

Water ripples in our wake in the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaro cactus in Arizona-min

Saguaro cactus.

Cactus flowers in Arizona-min

Blandly colored cactus have the most brilliantly colorful flowers each spring.

When family members said they were going to Hawaii in a few weeks, we couldn’t pass up the special and very rare opportunity for a reunion with loved ones in the tropics, so we found ourselves at the airport once again!

Honolulu Hawaii travel adventure-min

At the last second we parked our trailer and flew to Hawaii for a fabulous week with family in the tropics.

Back in our trailer “for good” this time, we traveled through Winslow and Holbrook, Arizona, and got our kicks on Route 66.

Winslow Arizona Route 66 RV trip-min

Winslow and Holbrook Arizona are highlights on Route 66.

We did a few hikes in Petrified Forest National Park, scrambling around the magical Jasper Forest and hiking between the vivid white and lavender striped mounds of Blue Mesa Trail.

Petrified Forest National Park RV trip-min

Stone “logs” at the magical Jasper Forest at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park RV trip-min

Blue Mesa Trail at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

At Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona we peered over the edges of the sheer walls to the green valley below and watched a brilliant sunset erupt over Spider Rock.

Canyon de Chelly RV trip-min

Spider Rock at sunset in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona.

Continuing east and north, we stopped by Bisti Badlands in New Mexico where another glorious sunset showed off the famous alien eggs at our feet.

Bisti Badlands cracked eggs-min

Pink skies above the alien eggs at Bisti Badlands, New Mexico.

We were now in Indian pueblo country and we explored both the Aztec National Monument ruins, which are a massive ancient collection of adjoining rooms, and the ruins at Bandelier National Monument, an ancient cliff dwelling community built into natural rock holes.

Aztec National Monument Arizona RV trip-min

The Kiva at the ancient Indian ruins of Aztec National Monument in New Mexico.

Bandelier National Monument New Mexico RV trip-min

Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico has wonderful ladders for visitors to climb up and see the cliff dwellings.

Visiting nearby Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico, we hiked through a slot canyon and then up a steep climb to the sky where rock formations are lined up like a series of tents.

Slot canyon at Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico-min

Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico — the slot canyon.

Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico RV trip-min

Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico — the tents.

The new Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico had recently opened to visitors, and while we were camped nearby we found ourselves in a spring blizzard. But we descended from the 10,000′ altitude to find warmth again outside Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Snow on spring flowers New Mexico RV trip-min

Snow on spring flowers near Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Beautiful sky near Sand Dunes National Monument Colorado-min

The heavens open up near Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

The end of May marked our 10th year of traveling full-time, and in celebration we published two posts giving an overview of all we’ve seen and done: Part 1 and Part 2. What an unbelievable decade it has been!

We found plenty of snow when we climbed back up into Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, however, and we joined our friends on a Porsche 356 rally where we tucked ourselves into the backs of cute bathtub Porshe roadster convertibles and took photos of the beautiful snowy peaks!

Porsche Rally in Colorado Rocky Mountains-min

What a way to see the Colorado Rocky Mountains — in a Porsche roadster rally!

We made our way to the Black Hills of South Dakota where we explored the beautiful town of Custer and nearby Custer State Park. The Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park is home to all kinds of critters, and we saw prairie dogs, pronghorn antelope and buffalo at close range.

Prairie Dogs in Custer State Park on a South Dakota RV trip-min

Custer State Park has several big prairie dog communities.

A herd of wild burros entertains visitors at Custer State Park, and they have been fed by tourists for so many years and have become so tame that they now think nothing of poking their heads inside the car window to see what kinds of snacks you brought for them!

Wild burro looks in car window Custer State Park South Dakota RV tirp-min

A wild burro peers in a car window at Custer State Park in South Dakota.

Wild burro at Custer State Park South Dakota on an RV trip-min

Some of the wild burros had adorable babies.
This one leaned against me and almost fell asleep!

We had ventured to South Dakota’s Custer State Park to meet up with professional wildlife photographer Steve Perry, and our cameras clicked animal images non-stop for a few days.

Pronghorn antelope in Wyoming-min

Pronghorn antelope.

Buffalo in Black Hills South Dakota-min

A buffalo walks towards us.

Western Tanager in Black Hills South Dakota RV trip-min

A western tanager in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Songbird in South Dakota.

A meadowlarks sings his heart out.

This part of the world is distant enough from big cities that the Milky Way is easily visible, and we enjoyed some night photography in Custer, South Dakota, too.

Milky Way reflects in a lake in Black Hills South Dakota RV trip-min

The Milky Way reflects in still water near Custer, South Dakota.

Custer, South Dakota, was also an ideal place to enjoy an old fashioned small town 4th of July celebration, complete with a parade and fireworks.

Fireworks on the 4th of July Custer South Dakota-min

Fireworks were a highlight of the small town 4th of July celebration in Custer, South Dakota.

We then made our way to Buffalo, Wyoming, and the Big Horn Mountains where we bumped into two weekend-long celebrations, the first one honoring the Longmire TV series and the second one honoring the Basque sheepherding heritage of many of the families in the area.

Buffalo Wyoming RV trip-min

Buffalo, Wyoming, is a wonderful small town near the Big Horn Mountains.

Horse riders in the Big Horn Mountains Wyoming RV trip-min

Horseback riders enjoy a trail ride in Wyoming’s BIg Horn mountains.

Although we had visited the western side of Wyoming (home of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks) several times in the past, this was our first trip to the eastern half of the state, and we loved the quiet towns and less touristy feeling of the area.

Moonrise in Wyoming-min

Moonrise in Wyoming.

Herd of deer Big Horn Mountains Wyoming-min

Spotting a deer is always special, but having a group stop and stare at us was truly fabulous!

The dark night skies drew us outside in the wee hours of the morning for more shots of the Milky Way.

Milky Way at midnight in Wyoming-min

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Looping back through South Dakota’s Black Hills, we stopped in at the famous Sturgis Bike Week motorcycle rally and explored Spearfish Canyon and its lovely waterfall.

Bikini Bike Wash Sturgis Bike Week in South Dakota-min

The Sturgis Bike Week motorcycle rally is an over-the-top testosterone fest that was a blast to see.

Spearfish Canyon waterfall South Dakota RV trip-min

Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota

After a pit stop at Wall Drug, South Dakota, the once unknown small town drug store that now boasts billboard advertising worldwide, we visited Badlands National Park where we saw lots of big horn sheep. We were very close to the path of the total solar eclipse that crossed the country in August, and we got a kick out of doing time-lapse videos as the sky darkened and lightened again.

Wall Drug billboard on South Dakota RV trip-min

The funny Wall Drug billboards can now be found far from Wall, South Dakota, and the coffee really is 5 cents!

Big horn sheep in Badlands South Dakota-min

Big horn sheep in Badlands National Park, South Dakota.

Big horn sheep at dusk Badlands National Park South Dakota RV trip-min

A big horn sheep at sunset.

Making a beeline westward, we took a brief time-out to climb up on the Continental Divide in Colorado and then settled into Las Vegas, Nevada, where we saw the most amazing nighttime light show when Mother Nature filled the sky with lightning bolts.

Continental Divide near Buena Vista Colorado-min

Hiking the Continental Divide in Colorado.

Lightning in Las Vegas Nevada-min

Las Vegas is known for big shows, and Mother Nature’s lightning show during our stay was just stunning.

While Mark attended the Interbike bicycle trade show in Las Vegas, I hopped on a plane to visit my mother in Paris. From the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame to ballet and opera performances galore, she took me on a memorable tour of the City of Light.

Eiffel Tower in Paris France-min

The Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Notre Dame Paris France travel-min

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

We took a quick train ride beyond the Paris city limits to spend a day exploring the medieval town of Moret sur Loing. The charming architecture resembled a fairy tale, and I was astonished to read a tourist sign outlining the town’s history and see the first date on the sign was from the year 1045!

Moret Sur Loing medieval castle Paris France travel-min

Fairytale medieval buildings in the village of Moret-sur-Loing just outside of Paris, France.

Back in our buggy in the southwest, we resumed our travels with excursions around the town of Kanab, Utah, first on the scenic road leading to Zion National Park and then to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

Starburst and red rocks in Zion National Park Utah-min

Zion National Park Utah scenery along the road into the Park…!

Coral Pink Sand Dunes RV trip-min

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah

We were blessed with another fabulous wildlife sighting when a roadrunner posed for us within just a few feet, and we had a fun a nighttime adventure in an old movie set where the ghosts and goblins roamed free at Halloween.

Roadrunner in Utah-min

A roadrunner let us take lots of close-up shots in Utah.

Johnson Canyon movie set near Kanab Utah-min

Johnson Canyon movie set near Kanab, Utah.

Just a short distance west of there, Sand Hollow State Park gave us a beautiful waterfront adventure as we camped on the beach enjoying mountain views and glorious sunrises and moonrises.

Lake view Sand Hollow State Park RV camping-min

Sand Hollow State Park reservoir and mountain views.

Full moon at sunset Sand Hollow State Park Utah RV trip-min

A full moon rises at Sand Hollow in Utah.

A side-by-side rally capped off our stay in the orange sand dunes, and then we took a spectacular scenic drive down the west side of Lake Mead in Nevada.

Side-by-side rally at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

We tried out lots of side-by-side buggies at a rally.

Lake Mead scenic drive Nevada RV trip-min

A little traveled road west of Lake Mead offered some wonderful scenery.

Back in Arizona we found ourselves by water once again as we hiked along the Salt River, one of Arizona’s waterways that brings moisture and life to the Sonoran Desert. We attended a “ranch sorting” cowboy and horsemanship competition in Phoenix to cap off our year of travel adventures during the Christmas week.

Spring flowers Roosevelt Lake RV camping Arizona-min

Central Arizona’s Sonoran Desert boasts many lovely waterways.

Saguaro cactus in Arizona sunset-min

Arizona’s iconic saguaro cactus at sunset.

2017 was an incredible year that brought us endless beautiful photo ops and lots of new and precious life experiences. Here’s hoping for lots more exciting adventures in 2018!!

Fifth wheel RV under the Milky Way-min

Goodbye 2017 — Thanks for the great memories!!

Happy New Year and Happy Travels to all!!

In 2017 we also published several blog articles of RV lifestyle and tech tips. In addition, we organized all of this site’s pages of RV tips into easy to navigate indexes (accessible from the menu as well):

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More summaries of our travels through the years:

An Overview of Our First 10 Years of Full-time Travel + Reflections after 9 Years!

Summaries of Each Year on the Road - All of our travel posts in chronological order:

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 and check out our GEAR STORE!!

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2017 Travel Post Recap in chronological order:

Ranch Sorting Competition – Cowboy Adventures in Phoenix Arizona

December 2017 – On the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona, we’ve found not only beautiful waterways and fall color in the National Forest, but fun western cowboy ranching traditions in the outer suburbs too. Phoenix is home to lots of “horse properties” and small ranches, and our friends took us to a cool ranch sorting competition last week. This fairly new kind of cowboy ranching event is also known as “cattle sorting” or “cow sorting.”

As we walked over to the cow pens, a cute goat stuck his nose through the fence and gave us a smile!

Goat watches a cowboy cattle sorting event-min

A goat welcomes us to the ranch sorting competition.

There were about twenty competitors, both cowboys and cowgirls, sitting astride their horses and waiting for the games to begin. In the competition they paired up in teams of two in round robin fashion so every rider had a chance to team up with the others.

Cowboy cattle sorting event in Phoenix Arizona ranch-min

Riders line up before the competition begins.

There were several pens of ten calves each, and as the competition progressed, each group of calves had a few chances to get sorted. Every calf had a big number on his back, from one to ten.

The calves all turned to look at me when I stuck my camera lens between the bars of the pen to get their portrait!

Calves waiting to be sorted by cowboys-min

Calves wait to be sorted.

Numbered calves waiting to be sorted-min

Each calf has a big number on its back so they’re easy to spot and isolate from the herd.

Ranch sorting mimics the process that cowboys use to separate a single calf or cow from the herd so they can inspect it or administer medication or isolate it for some other reason.

In the cattle sorting competition, a pair of cowboys / cowgirls enters the pen with the calves and waits to hear the number of the first calf they’re assigned to isolate. For the next sixty seconds they chase after the calves in numerical order, starting with the first number they were given and then isolating each successive calf and sending it into an adjoining pen.

Calf sorting event with cowgirl on horseback-min

Our young friend Autumn rides into the herd in search of her target calf.

Cowgirl sorting calves on horseback in Arizona ranch-min

Ranch sorting is a fun way for riders to hone their horsemanship skills.

Working together, one cowboy (or cowgirl) chases the target calf towards the gate to force it into the adjoining pen while the other cowboy or girl blocks the rest of the calves from running into the pen along with it.

Calf sorting on horse in Arizona-min

First the calf is isolated from the herd…

Cowgirl sorting cattle on a horse in Arizona-min

Then it is chased through the gate…

We really enjoyed watching the action. The riders skillfully maneuvered their horses among the calves to find the one they were after and then chased it into the pen next door.

Getting the horse and calves to do what you want looks easy from the sidelines but takes a lot of focus and knowledge. The rider’s body position in the saddle and the way they hold the reins and touch the horse with their feet is the language they use to tell the horse what to do. A wrong hand position or posture in the saddle can give the wrong command to the horse!

Concentrating while riding a horse-min

Autumn concentrates and the horse sticks his tongue out too!

The cowboys and cowgirls were scored based on how many calves they managed to get into the adjoining pen in the 60 second time period. If a calf sneaked into the pen out of numerical order, then the score for that round was 0!

Cattle sorting riding a horse in Phoenix Arizona ranch-min

The distance between the pens is short. Once the calf is isolated, it’s a quick sprint from one to the other.

Sorting cattle riding a horse in Phoenix Arizona-min

Going after number 9.

The biggest challenge in each round was the first calf because cows are herd animals and they don’t like to be alone. When the first calf found itself isolated from the herd and being chased towards the empty pen next door, it would try to return to the herd rather than go into the empty pen by itself.

However, once a calf or two was in the adjoining pen, the next calves were a lot less reluctant to go in there because they saw there was company waiting for them. On rare occasions two sequentially numbered calves would be running alongside each other and would go into the pen one right after the other. A two-for-one!

Calves running in cattle sorting cowboy event on Arizona Ranch-min

Sometimes the rider got lucky and a pair of cows with sequential numbers went through the gate together.

The cowboy life, horses, barns and hay aren’t in my blood the same way sea breezes and hiking trails in nature are, but we had a wonderful time watching this classic western event.

Cowboy resting with his horse at cattle sorting on Arizona ranch-min

Cowboy culture is rich and widely celebrated across the western states. We have loved learning about it in our travels.

Of course, not everyone at the ranch sorting competition was quite as enthralled as we were. One little cowgirl was so tuckered out by the action that she suddenly dropped into the dirt next to the referee (her mom) to relax with her feet up on the fence.

Tired cowgirl lies on the ground at cattle sorting in Arizona ranch-min

All tuckered out…

When we researched the sport of ranch sorting after the event was over, we learned that these cattle sorting competitions are fairly new to the ranching scene and the first Nationals was held in 2007. But they are becoming extremely popular.

Cowboy sorting calves on a ranch in Phoenix Arizona-min

A friend of ours suggested that knowing tackle angles from football would be helpful with anticipating which direction a calf will run.

Cowboy chasing calf in cattle sorting event on Phoenix Arizona ranch-min

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The folks that were at this particular ranch sorting competition were extremely enthusiastic, and they attend events all over Arizona.

Calf running away in cattle sorting event-min

Calf #3 says, “I’m outta here!” while #2 heads through the gate.

Cowboy sorting cattle on a ranch in Arizona-min

The riders told us #8 was particularly feisty!

For us there were lots of neat photo ops and we got a kick out of roaming among the spectators, spouses, parents and loyal dogs.

Cattle dog with horse and cowboy on Arizona ranch-min

Spectators were treated to a fun event.

Horse eye closeup-min

What do the animals think of all this? The horses seemed to love it and the calves got some good exercise and worked up an appetite for grazing later.

Unlike the big rodeo events like roping, ranch sorting is something newer riders can enjoy. For us watching, it was easy to understand what was going on and to root for the cowboys and cowgirls as they whooped and hollered and worked to make both their horses and the calves do what they wanted.

Cowgirl chases calf in Phoenix Arizona cattle sorting event-min

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Cattle sorting event with cowgirl chasing calves in Phoenix Arizona-min

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Cattle sorting event with cowgirl chasing calves-min

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If you are spending the winter in Arizona and want to experience a brief immersion in some of the western traditions of horses and cowboys, look for a ranch sorting competition! We’d never heard of this kind of event until last week, but we got a huge kick out of it!

Cowboy walks horse back to horse trailer-min

What a fun few hours spent in the midst of cowboy culture!

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More info about Ranch Sorting:

Cowgirl Magazine article explaining what Ranch Sorting is

Other blog posts about our adventures with cowboys:

Central Arizona RV travel article index and more from our trips in the whole state of Arizona.

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 and check out our GEAR STORE!!

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Lake Mead Scenic Drive + A Great RV Pit Stop at “Redstone” NV!

December 2017 – We try to avoid interstate highways and big cities in our RV lifestyle, and when we began our trek south from southern Utah towards Arizona a few weeks ago, we wanted to limit our time on I-15 and avoid the congestion and traffic of Las Vegas.

Fifth wheel RV trip to Lake Mead Nevada-min

We found a delightful scenic drive that skirts around Las Vegas!

We took a jog south off of I-15 onto Nevada Route 169 and followed the contours of Lake Mead all the way around to the southeastern side of Las Vegas. What a beautiful and delightful RV trip!

Lake Mead Nevada RV scenic drive-min

The road takes a wonderful journey through rocky and colorful terrain.

The road rose and dipped and swerved left and right, revealing gorgeous scenery all along the way.

RV scenic drive along Lake Mead Nevada shoreline-min

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Even though we didn’t have a great day weather-wise, the scenery was fantastic!

As we drove along, happily chatting away about this and that, we passed the turn-off for Valley of Fire State Park. We LOVE this stunning park and have visited it several times (blog posts here and here), but with a bit of regret we passed it up this time.

Suddenly, we saw a sign for the Redstone Picnic Area. We needed to take a break and get a little lunch, so we pulled in.

RV parking Redstone Picnic Area Lake Mead Nevada-min

Redstone Picnic Area – A fun RV pit stop!

What a wonderful surprise this little jewel was! It’s like a little mini taste of Valley of Fire! There were pretty picnic ramadas scattered about the edges of the parking lot.

Redstone Trail picnic area Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

Picnic ramadas with grills!

Redstone Picnic Area Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

A nice place to take a breather from driving.

Never mind lunch, we had photos to take!

We jumped out of our truck and began snapping away. The red rock formations were so cool we both even took photos of the rocks framing the vault toilets. It’s gotta be a pretty spot when two photographers both feel inspired to take pics of a vault toilet building!!

Redstone Picnic Area Lake Mead Nevada vault toilets-min

We were loving the scenery so much we both took pics of the vault toilet building!

The Redstone Picnic Area has a short hiking trail that leaves the picnic tables behind and ventures out into the red rocks on a lovely loop around a huge red rock mound. I headed out on the trail for pics there while Mark moved in close to the red rock hill and got some great shots of the formations.

Arches on Redstone Trail picnic area Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

Arches…

Window view Redstone Trail Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

Views through windows…

Red rocks at Redstone Picnic Area on a Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

Tumbled slabs…

Hiking at Redstone Trail on Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

The weather was overcast, but what fun we had scrambling around on the rocks.

One of the things that always baffles me about the big rock and mountain formations in the west is the various “uplifts” that have occurred where wide flat expanses of rock have been upended by natural forces long ago.

Uplift in red rocks at Redstone Trail on Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

An “uplift” !!

We also loved the various hollows and rounded alcoves and windows we found in the rocks.

Holes in rocks at Nevada Redstone Trail Lake Mead RV trip-min

Natures built-in shelves.

Rock formations on Redstone Trail Lake Mead Nevada-min

Window to the heavens.

Red rock formations Redstone Trail picnic area Nevada Lake Mead RV trip-min

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A car or two pulled up during our stay but they moved right along after using the facilities. We were having so much fun crawling around on these beautiful red rocks. We didn’t want to rush our visit!

Huge red rock formations Redstone Trail Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

Big rocks, small guy!!

The hiking trail revealed some wonderful views on the far side.

Views on Redstone Trail picnic area Lake Mead RV trip-min

As the hiking trail rounded a bend, we could see far off into the distance.

And the gods painted the skies with fantastic patterns of sun and clouds just for our photos.

Redstone Trail picnic area Lake Mead RV trip-min

The sun played hide-and-seek and cast cool colors across the lens.

Redstone Trail picnic area Lake Mead RV trip-min

The clouds lined up for a photo op.

When we finally got back to our trailer, we got out our lunch goodies and sat down to yummy sandwiches.

Fifth wheel RV trip Redstone Trailhead Lake Mead Nevada-min

What a nice break this was!

Back out on the road we saw more wide open expanses and lovely views.

Scenic RV driving on by Lake Mead Nevada-min

The Lake Mead scenic drive continues.

The colors in the distant rocks and hills were wonderful earth tones — real earth tones — that reminded us of our trip to Death Valley years ago.

Colorful hills Lake Mead Nevada RV scenic drive-min

Reminiscent of Death Valley, California.

Rock formations on Lake Mead Nevada Scenic Drive by RV-min

The brown crus peels off to reveal crimson rocks underneath.

At times we saw pockets of red rocks poking through.

Scenic RV driving on by Lake Mead Nevada-min

Vibrant red rocks add a splash of color to the landscape.

And then we finally arrived at the shores of Lake Mead. We stopped at a big parking area and wandered out to the edge of the overlook. Beautiful!

Lake Mead RV trip in Nevada-min

Lake Mead.

Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

From red rocks to lake views – what a drive!

If you are headed south on I-15 with your RV to get to Arizona and other parts of the southwest for the winter, or if you plan to take your RV back up north via that route in the spring, plan a detour around Las Vegas and check out this lovely scenic drive on the back side of Lake Mead!

Some resources:

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A few posts from Nevada too!

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Zion National Park’s Hidden Jewels – Off the Beaten Path in an RV!

December 2017 – Last year we took our RV to Zion National Park during the incredible fall foliage season in late October, and we were blown away by the beauty. We had visited Zion National Park several times before, but never when the leaves were turning.

We published two posts with pics and stories of our travel adventures at the time (here and here), and I had photos all ready to go for a third post, but by the time I was able to sit down and turn those photos into a blog post, it was January and our other more recent travel adventures were taking precedence.

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

The scenic drives in and around Zion National Park are spectacular!

But I’ve got a window of time now, so here are our photos from “Hidden Zion,” the back roads that wander through the lesser known parts of Zion National Park and the surrounding area.

Zion Canyon National Park Kolob Canyons-min

We will never tire of visiting Zion National Park. It is one of America’s best!

The “front side” of Zion National Park is accessible from the village of Springdale and is visited by massive numbers of tourists every year. 4.3 million people jammed themselves into Zion Canyon in 2016, a 50% increase over 2014 which had been the busiest year until then. 2017 is surpassing that record by another 5%!!

Zion Canyon — the major canyon in Zion National Park — is without doubt the most dramatic part of the Park, but isn’t all there is to see…

Zion Canyon National Park Kolob Canyons view-min

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As I noted a few weeks back, just stopping the car along Route 9 on the east side of Zion National Park and walking 100 yards in from the highway can be a fabulous experience (blog post here).

View on Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

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Cattle grazing Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

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Over on the west side of the Zion National Park lies “Kolob Canyon,” a wonderful area full of towering red rocks and home to a few excellent (and little traveled) hiking trails.

Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

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Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

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There are roads leading towards the Park from several directions, and we poked our truck’s nose down a few to see what we’d find. After climbing for a long way, we were suddenly in the middle of an aspen grove.

Golden aspen Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

Aspen trees light up in fall!

The yellow trees were shedding their leaves in showers of gold, and we walked down a small road deep into the heart of the aspen grove, bewitched by the leaves swirling in the autumn breezes around us.

Yellow Aspen lane Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

An inviting road for a golden stroll…

We love aspen trees. There’s something about the way the leaves shimmer on the branches and the the way the white trunks grow in thick crowds, many adorned with little eyes, that we find very endearing.

Aspen Trees Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

White aspen tree trunks.

What better time for a selfie?!

Aspen Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

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We roamed around some more and came across an unexpected pond. The sky was alive with fantastic patterns of clouds high above.

Kolob Reservoir Zion National Park Utah-min

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We started back down again and were enchanted by the golden glow of the fields of gently swaying grass.

Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

Kolob Canyon at Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons View Zion National Park Utah-min

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We passed a rancher on horseback moving among his cattle. What a place to graze your herd!!

Cattle Drive Zion National Park Utah-min

Just another day at the office for this cowboy!

In the late afternoon light, the Kolob Canyon views were truly jaw dropping. I was very busy in the passenger’s seat snapping pics!

Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Kolob Canyon is knock-your-socks-off gorgeous!

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

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Every bend in the road yielded another stunning image.

Kolob Canyons Drive Zion National Park Utah-min

These views kept my shutter finger very busy!!

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Breathtaking!


Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Talk about a scenic drive!

Zion National Park is one of those places that offers layer upon layer of wonder and is worthy of much leisurely wandering.

Hiking Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

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We thought we’d “been there and done that” years ago on a tent camping trip when we zipped through Zion on our way from Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon. On our next visit during our first year of full-timing we saw just a little bit more. Finally, on our RV trip to Zion last year, we hung around the area long enough to start exploring the nooks and crannies in depth.

Yet we still haven’t done any of the iconic hikes that make Zion National Park so famous, so it is still rock solid in its position at the top of our bucket list of “must see” places!!

Zion National Park Kolob Canyons RV Trip-min

Zion National Park is worthy of many return RV trips!

When I was in Paris a few months ago, a new friend asked me if we still find new places to go even after ten years of traveling around North America full-time. I had to laugh because we still feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of seeing anything.

What a beautiful life we are blessed to be living that we can go back to a place like Zion National Park again and again and still find ourselves awe-struck by the scenery and curious to find out what lies around the next bend.

Full moon Zion National Park Utah RV trip-min

A nearly full moon rises at Zion National Park.

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More info about Zion National Park:

Blog posts from our RV trips to Zion National Park:

Blog posts from the area near Zion National Park:

Blog posts from all our travels to National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites in North America

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Sand Hollow Side-by-Side UTV/ATV Adventure Rally – Test Drives in the Dunes!

November 2017 – During our stay at Sand Hollow State Park in Utah, we woke up one morning to the sound of rolling thunder. We peeked out the windows just in time to see a super souped up truck go flying by. In a split second all we could see was the cloud of dust he left behind.

Bilstein Shock photo shoot Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A roaring truck engine woke us up.

A few minutes later, the truck circled back, idled for a while behind some bushes and then roared to life once again and zoomed through the sand, leaving another wake of cloudy dust behind.

What the heck?

We grabbed our cameras and ran outside to see what was going on.

Bilstein Shock photo shoot Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

This little souped up truck was thundering through the sand dunes.

Suddenly a really exotic looking Baja style dune buggy appeared right in front of us, its engine idling loudly like a growling beast ready to pounce.

UTV with Bilstein Shock photo shoot Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Hear me roar!

As we stood there taking pics of this crazy scene, another RVer showed up, and then a drone pulled into view just above us and settled in the air hovering and waiting. All eyes were on this wild dune buggy as the driver revved up the engine.

Photographing the Bilstein Shock photo shoot Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A drone hovers with its red light on waiting to catch the shot too!

And then, with a huge spray of sand flying off the spinning tires, the dune buggy was off. Holy smokes! The noise was so intense I instinctively wanted to cover my ears, but I wanted to get pics too and didn’t have enough hands to do both!!

Bilstein Shock photo shoot UTV at Sand Hollow State Park Utah 1-min

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Bilstein Shock photo shoot UTV at Sand Hollow State Park Utah 2-min

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Bilstein Shock photo shoot UTV at Sand Hollow State Park Utah 3-min

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Bilstein Shock photo shoot UTV at Sand Hollow State Park Utah 5-min

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The truck and Baja buggy circled around again, rumbling loudly as they passed us, and they took their positions once again. What was going on?

As the dune buggy sat there growling and roaring, Mark walked over and leaned his head in towards the driver and asked him if this was a photo shoot. Yup!! Who for? Bilstein shocks!

How cool is that?

I have no idea where the video and still shots from this photo shoot might appear, but keep an eye out for a Bilstein Shocks ad with this truck and Baja buggy at Sand Hollow!!

We had come to Sand Hollow State Park to participate in a side-by-side Jamboree that was open to the public. Even though we’d never ridden in a side-by-side (or any kind of ATV) before, we’ve seen them all over the place in our travels and we were darn curious about them.

Soon, the rally participants began to show up at Sand Hollow, filling the campgrounds and zooming all over the sand trails surrounding the reservoir.

Polaris RZR 4-seater UTV with RV camping at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

The rally participants began to swarm around us!

We had seen tons of side-by-sides in Buffalo, Wyoming, and Custer, South Dakota, over the summer, and we had been looking into renting a side-by-side somewhere to see what they’re like. In the course of looking for a place to rent one, Mark came across the Sand Hollow SxS Adventure Rally.

This is a marketing event for the industry and the local power sports dealerships, and several of the major vendors of side-by-sides would be showing off their products and leading rally participants on the trails surrounding and criss-crossing the park.

Toy hauler fifth wheel and Polaris RZR UTV RV camping-min

A sand storm indeed!

The previously quiet Sand Hollow State Park suddenly swelled with campers, and the whine of side-by-sides filled the air.

Buggies of every possible description were parked all over the place, and toy haulers, big utility trailers and flat bed trailers were strewn everywhere.

Sand Hollow Jamboree Side by Side UTV test drives-min

Side-by-sides line up for the trail rides.
The flags make them visible even when they dip into the valleys of the dunes.

Local power sports dealer Moto Zoo from nearby St. George, Utah, joined the manufacturers in the rally and invited the public to do test rides.

We were the first ones at the Moto Zoo booth to sign up for morning test drives on their Polaris models. This was gonna be fun!

Polaris General test ride Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

We suited up with helmets to take our first test drive.

There were three Polaris models available for test drives: the RZR 570, the General, and the RZR 1000.

We hopped into the RZR 570 and were given a quick run-down from our guide on how the thing worked, which buttons did what, and how to drive it.

Polaris RZR 570 Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Our first test drive was on a Polaris RZR 570, the smallest of the lineup.

And then we were off!

We were suited up with helmets, so it was a little awkward to see each other or talk a whole lot, but I could tell Mark was grinning from ear to ear and having a ball behind the wheel.

Test drive Polaris RZR 570 Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Happy driver!

As we climbed up into the sand dunes to a perch high on the top, all I could think was, “Wow, you sure get to see a lot of back country stuff when you ride in one of these things!”

There was no way our mountain bikes could have handled that deep sand, and the trails were off-limits to trucks.

And what a view we had on the way down!

Polaris RZR 570 test drive Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Sand Hollow State Park is a great place for test drives!

Our next test drive was on the new Polaris General that debuted in 2016. This side-by-side is a cross between the racy joy riding RZR series and the more utilitarian ranch and farm oriented Ranger series of Polaris side-by-sides. It’s got great shocks like the RZR but also has a nice big storage area in the back for hauling stuff like the Ranger.

When we’d been camping near Kanab, Utah, a few days earlier, we’d seen lots of people using their side-by-sides to go hunting. One big group in particular had bought both a big four seater Polaris RZR 1000 and a four seater Polaris General.

We were intrigued that they chose to use the General every single day while the RZR stayed parked when they went out hunting. We asked them why, and they said, “Because it rides like a Cadillac!”

Hmmm….

Polaris General at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

“Rides like a Cadillac.”
Our second test drive was on the Polaris General, a new model that is sporty yet practical at the same time.

Sure enough, our first ride on the small Polaris RZR 570 was a jaw rattler compared to our second ride on the Polaris General. The stutter bumps in the washboard areas on the trail were much less noticeable in the General than they had been in the RZR 570.

And being a much fancier model, the dashboard on the General had all kinds of goodies too, including a complete navigation system. For folks who ride in groups, their cell phones can be tied into the navigation system so each side-by-side can keep track of where all the others are. Pretty slick!

Polaris General side by side test drive Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

The Polaris General had a fancy navigation display and other goodies on the dashboard.

We followed the same loop as before and climbed up the soft orange sand dunes to a beautiful grove of red rock formations at the top of the hill and then drove back down towards the lake.

I was completely hooked, and Mark’s grin was even bigger than before!

Driving Polaris side-by-side buggies at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Back down the hill to the staging area. Can’t get enough of this view!

As expected, on our next test drive we found that the Polaris RZR 1000 was similar to the Polaris General, but was slightly more powerful (both are 1000 cc engines). But there was something about the practicality and smooth ride of the General that kept singing in the backs of our minds.

We were getting a huge kick out of doing these test rides, so when we were finished with Polaris we wandered over to the Yamaha booth to check out what they had on offer for test drives.

Polaris General and Yamaha sales booth at Sand Hollow Jamboree in Utah-min

The Polaris General slips by the Yamaha booth.

They had brought a fleet of Yamaha Wolverine X4 four seaters. These were more of a utility side-by-side than the Polaris RZR series, but didn’t have the sex appeal of the Polaris General.

After a very elaborate safety briefing, we climbed into a Wolverine X4 four seater and joined a line of other test drivers who were sandwiched between our leader in the front and a sweeper guy at the back.

Unfortunately for Yamaha — whose portable gas generator we absolutely love — the Wolverine X4 in front of us promptly got stuck in the sand. The two leaders got out a tow strap and hooked it to the lead side-by-side and pulled it out.

Yamaha Wolverine side by side test drive Sand Hollow Jamboree Utah-min

Out on the trail with the Yamaha Wolverine X4, the one in front of us got stuck.

If there was one feature that really stood out about the Wolverine X4, it was that everything on it rattled so much we were waiting for the buggy to fall apart right there on the trail. This seems odd for a Yamaha product, but so it goes.

Yamaha Wolverine X4 side by side test drive Utah Sand Hollow State Park-min

Yamaha Wolverine X4

Yamaha Wolverine X4 side by side test drive Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Taking a break — This test driving stuff is hard work! (…just kidding…it’s a blast!)

On our way down, we passed one of the many SxS Rally trail rides that was heading out for a day of fun on in the sand and red rocks. The rally was offering rides of various levels, from beginner to intermediate to advanced. So, if you wanted just to see the scenery or preferred to tackle some insanely challenging rock climbs, there were guided trails ride for you!

Sand Hollow Jamboree of side-by-side UTV models-min

Rally-goers round the bed on their way out on a trail ride.

But the rally goers were all happy UTV owners, while we were total newbies, so we were busy doing test drives. And this test driving thing was proving to be a blast!

Once we’d finished our Yamaha ride and were back at the staging area with all the vendor booths, we walked over to Can-Am to check out the Can-Am Maverick X3.

By now the jamboree was in full swing and there were lots of people milling around signing up to test drive the side-by-sides.

A long line of Can-Am Maverick X3 buggies snaked past their booth, and we joined an excited crowd to get a quick safety briefing and overview of the various Maverick X3 models we would be testing before we each chose a model to begin our ride.

We started in a four seater. Oh my, what a smooth ride!! We blasted over some badly washboarded sections of trail and barely felt a thing. That long wheel base makes a massive difference going over rugged terrain!

Can-Am Maverick X3 side by side UTV Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

The Can-Am Maverick X3 is a rocket ship, and the test drive was done at lightning speed!

Unlike the other manufacturers’ test drives, the Can-Am test drive was a totally testosterone filled speed fest.

We were at the back of the line, and within minutes after the start, we were left trailing far behind. The guys up front were going full bore, but we held back to stay out of their dust and to keep life and limb intact! Mark struggled to keep the next guy in line within sight!!

At a rest stop we swapped to a two seater Can-Am Maverick X3, and when the group got away from us once again, Mark floored it to catch back up. I hung on for dear life as we tore through the dunes at a breakneck speed.

Wow. Those things are rocket ships!!

They are powered by 3 inline cylinders, as compared to the Polaris RZR V-twin, and they are turbo charged too. So even though the Can-Am Mavericks are 900 cc engines as compared to the Polaris RZR 1000 cc engine, they have a faster top end.

However, at slow speeds the Polaris has more torque, so like everything, it all comes down to what you want to do with your side-by-side — climb rocks or fly on a rocket or just tool around and enjoy the views!

Can-Am Maverick X3 side by side UTV Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

I was so busy hanging onto the rails on this test drive that I took only a few pics.
In finally got a shot at the end of the ride as we were heading back to the staging area!

When I climbed out of the Can-Am Maverick X3 I shaking from that crazy wild ride. What a rush!

Eventually I calmed down and was ready for another test drive. By now our sweet ride in the Polaris General was a faint memory, but we were both pretty sure it was our favorite.

Luckily, the line for it wasn’t long at all, so we signed up to take it for another spin. How fun! This time we were given a private guided tour that showed how well it performed in rocky, challenging terrain.

Ready for a test drive at Sand Hollow Jamboree in Polaris General UTV-min

Back in the Polaris General, our favorite of the group.

Our guide was in a four seater Polaris RZR 1000, and he took us over all kinds of craggy stuff.

Rough terrain RZR 1000 4-seater UTV in Utah-min

We tested the Polaris General following a Polaris RZR 1000 4-seater over some rough terrain.

Rugged rock climber Polaris RZR 1000 4-seater-min

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At one point the trail took a turn and we were suddenly staring up at a steep rock climb. I hung on tight as Mark followed the guide up the hill. Yikes!!

Polaris RZR 1000 4-seater climbing rocks-min

Rock climbing.

We were both amazed at how easy it was.

Then we drove over a few big rocks. No problem!!

Polaris RZR 1000 4-seater on sand trail-min

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Polaris RZR 1000 4-seater climbs rocks-min

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All too soon the test drive was over, and we were heading back down the sandy hillside. What a total blast this had been.

Sand Hollow Jamboree UTV side by side test drives-min

Our last trip down towards the lake. What a fabulous day this was!

There were other vendors at the rally selling all kinds of goodies for side-by-sides, from after market shocks to special lighting systems to unusual tow strap lines and even extra rugged mobile device charging systems.

The problem with going to any big marketing trade show type of event is that you can easily fall in love with whatever it is they’re hawking. We were ready to pick up a shiny new Polaris General right there on the spot! But we don’t exactly have an appropriate place to store it between awesome rides in the back country.

Sand Hollow State Park RV camping on the beach-min

We aren’t set up for a side-by-side just yet, but this fun day of test drives sure got our minds turning!

What a super fun eye opener this was into a hobby we know nothing about. Some of the vendors told us there are jamborees like this one all over the country. How cool — we’ll be there!

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More info about the Side-by-Side Adventure Rally and SxS brands :

Other blog posts where we took fun rides:

Other blog posts where we attended (or bumped into) cool rallies:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
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Sand Hollow State Park, Utah – An Oasis in the Desert!

November 2017 – Sand Hollow State Park is another jewel in southwestern Utah‘s stunningly beautiful crown of red rock scenery. Situated just 30 miles from Zion National Park, it is a newer state park that opened in 2003, and it boasts a beautiful blue reservoir, vivid orange beaches and a spectacular mountain backdrop.

RV camping Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Sand Hollow State Park in Utah

Just like nearby Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Sand Hollow is a lesser known gem in an area that is overflowing with beautiful National Parks.

As we noted in our post about Kanab, Utah, with Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon so close by, many RVers and other travelers have no idea there is even more to see in the area.

Boating at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A beautiful reservoir is at the heart of Sand Hollow State Park.

The man-made lake is bordered at one end by a dam which captures the flow of the Virgin River. At the other end there’s an inviting collection of red rocks. The beaches surrounding the reservoir are filled with vivid orange sand. The overall effect of blue sky, blue water, red rocks and sand is very dramatic and makes for a fun time wandering around with a camera.

Photography at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Bright orange beaches and rocks – a great spot for photography!

The lake at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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The reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park is beloved by people who like to play outside in nature. Out on the water in the distance, we saw some folks in a canoe making their way from shore to shore. The mountains rose behind them in awesome colors as the sun played hide and seek, casting shadows across the hilly contours.

Kayaking Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

What a backdrop for canoeing!

We no longer have our inflatable Hobie kayak, but being here on the water’s edge watching kayakers out on the reservoir got our minds turning. It sure looked like fun out there!

Kayaking Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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Down at our feet, the water was extremely clear. Tiny wavelets lapped the shore, and we could see every detail of the rocks under the water.

Clear water Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

The water is extremely clear.

Sunlight in water Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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There are several RV campgrounds and camping options within Sand Hollow State Park. Westside Campground has full hookups, paved loops, big sites and wonderful views.

RV camping Westside Campground Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Westside Campground.

RV camping Westside Campground Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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What we loved, though, was being down by the water where the reeds grow thick and tall.

Dramatic light Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Tall reeds hug the lake along the shore.

Wonderfully dark storm clouds hung over the mountains late one afternoon, but just as the sun started its final descent into the horizon behind us, it lit up the red rocks on the far shore as if pointing them out with a spot light.

Reeds and light at dusk Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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Light and shadow Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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At dawn pastel pinks filled the sky and water.

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Soft light at dawn.

The orange sand beaches set aside for day use and picnics are endless. Deep soft sand dunes run down to the lake, and big groups of seagulls pierce the air with their haunting calls.

In one spot I caught a reflection of the distant mountains in a mirror-like pool in front of me.

Dramatic Light Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Reflections.

We were blessed to have been able to live on the water in our sailboat for a few years, and I’ve been lucky enough to live on the water in other boats and in a beach house for a few years in previous lives before that.

There is something about a large expanse of water filling a landscape that makes it come alive. It is ever changing, going from placid to fierce, from white to dark blue, and at Sand Hollow it even turns shades of pink, red and orange by the shore.

Rippling waves at RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Small waves ripple across the reservoir’s red sand bottom.

Sand Hollow State Park has a second campground with paved loops, gravel campsites and hookup options ranging from dry camping to water/electric. There’s also a spiffy toilet and shower building. It’s called Sand Pit Campground, which is a little unfair, because it isn’t a pit and it isn’t any sandier than anywhere else in the park.

I mean, if you go to Sand Hollow, you go to play in the sand and on the beach, right?!

There is also open boondocking (“primitive camping”) too, but you’ve got to scout it out very carefully and evaluate whether your RV can make it down and back on the soft sand trails that lead there. We gave it a shot with our buggy and were glad we have our new truck with its limited slip differential and rock solid four wheel drive.

RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Home Sweet Home.

The view out our door was breathtaking. And what we loved was the way the view was constantly changing.

View out RV door Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A beautiful sunny view right out our door.

View out RV door Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A beautiful cloudy view right out the door!

Claude Monet is famous for his series of impressionist paintings of haystacks. Each painting is unique, and the series shows how the light playing on the haystacks totally changed their look and feel, morning, noon and night.

For the same reasons, we became enraptured by the picnic table at our campsite.

Following Monet’s infinite simplicity in choosing the name “Haystacks,” we call our series of photos “Picnic Table.”

RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A photo series called “Picnic Table” 🙂

RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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During our stay, not only did the sun and clouds chase each other around the sky, leaving a continuous trail of beautiful artwork behind, but the moon played her part too. During sunset one evening, we caught her silent ascent as she peeked between the clouds and winked at us over the mountains.

Full moon rising Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A rising full moon smiles down on Sand Hollow State Park.

If your RV travels take you to the southwestern part of Utah, drop by Sand Hollow State Park and dig your toes in the sand!

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The beach and sand are wonderful to play in at Sand Hollow, but we did see notices posted about what to do if you go swimming and end up with “Swimmer’s Itch.” Read up a bit on this before you jump in for a dip!

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Kanab – Hub for the National Parks + Gorgeous Canyons Nearby!

November 2017 – Southern Utah is loaded with eye-popping scenic drives. From the stunning and famous Scenic Highway 12 to the little known Burr Trail to the dramatic Bicentennial Highway (Utah Route 95) and Scenic Byway 24 through Capitol Reef Country, almost every road in southern Utah is impossible to drive without stopping every few miles to take a photo!

RV trip to Zion National Park Utah-min

There are loads of gorgeous scenic drives in southern Utah!

Driving through the red rocks near Kanab Utah-min

Whether it’s a freeway or a back country byway, almost every road in southern Utah is a stunner!

Scenic drive on the way to Zion National Park Utah-min

Typical southern Utah scenery at dusk.

Scenic road near Kanab Utah-min

Southern Utah inspires us every time we visit!

We’ve loved our travels in southern Utah so much that I’ve had to split our Utah travel page to list southwestern Utah and southeastern Utah blog posts separately. Looking them over, it’s impossible to say which area we love most!

But our travels this year focused on the area around Kanab, a little town that is within easy striking distance of the Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon, three of America’s most popular and awe-inspiring National Parks.

Like many western towns, a hillside on the edge of town sports Kanab’s first initial.

Red rock mountain in Kanab Utah-min

The letter “K” for “Kanab” on a nearby hillside.

Kanab, Utah, has a long history of hosting Hollywood movie crews whenever they descended on the area to film scenes set in the dramatic landscapes nearby.

Not only are there movie sets to visit, both renovated and dilapidated, but there’s a historic motel in the center of town that has lots of photos of the various celebrities who have used their facilities as a home base while making their films.

Sign at Historic Parry Lodge in Kanab Utah-min

Historic Parry Lodge was the motel of choice for visiting Hollywood stars.

But our favorite aspect of Kanab is getting out into those landscapes and exploring. The amazing thing is that simply driving towards the big name destinations automatically becomes a trip through gorgeous scenery.

Taking Route 89 a few miles north of town in the direction of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon, we found a stunning red rock wall that was throwing fabulous reflections across the water.

We’ve driven this road dozens of times and barely noticed this gem passing by at 60 mph. This time we stopped to take photos!

Red rock reflections Kanab Utah RV trip-min

Just north of town on Route 89 thousands of people zip past this beautiful spot!

Red rock reflections Kanab Utah RV trip-min

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Heading east of Kanab we drove into Johnson Canyon where, again, the views were breathtaking.

Johnson Canyon scenery Kanab Utah RV trip-min

Johnson Canyon offers some gorgeous views.

We spotted an exotic looking rig camping among the towering rocks. At first we thought it was an EarthRoamer, a very expensive go-anywhere type of ultra rugged motorhome. But it turned out to be a work truck front end with a small travel trailer perched in the bed! Now there’s a creative way to go…!!

Unusual RV near Kanab Utah-min

An EarthRoamer? No, a utility truck with a travel trailer on the back!

Johnson Canyon Road veers off onto various dirt roads that can take you on a very long back country adventure through Grand Staircase Escalante before returning you to one of the distant highways. There isn’t a whole lot back there, but we were thrilled when we spotted a roadrunner that wasn’t sprinting away as they usually do.

Roadrunner Kanab Utah-min

This roadrunner stopped running just long enough for a portrait.

This little guy wasn’t in a hurry to go anywhere.

Roadrunner Kanab Utah-min

He wasn’t too worried about ut.

He sat on his perch and looked this way and that, letting us get incredibly close.

Roadrunner in Kanab Utah_-2-min

“Here’s my better side.”

Roadrunner in Kanab Utah-min

Did you know roadrunners have that cool patch of bright orange behind their eyes?

Then he hopped to face the other way, and after showing off his tail, he took off.

Roadrunner's tail Kanab Utah-min

A final tail shot gave us a view of the color patches almost meeting in the back of his head.

This is ranching country, and cattle grazed peacefully in the fields. We noticed a crowd of cows and a huge flock of mockingbirds were grouped in one spot. We slowed to get a closer look and were floored to see a lone coyote standing over a dead deer in the middle of them all.

As we approached, all but a few mockingbirds (which look like flying saddle shoes) scattered to the winds. The cows swayed and turned their attention to us. But the coyote didn’t budge. He stood over his kill and even licked his chops.

Coyote protects deer kill Kanab Utah-min

Dinner.

We often hear coyotes yipping at night. They hunt in groups and let out a whoop and holler of excitement when they get a kill. But this guy appeared to have taken down the deer by himself, as there were no other coyotes around. It is astonishing that a coyote could take down a deer, but we did a little research later and found that it is not that unusual, although several friends think he was just an opportunist who came along at the right moment!

It was strange, though, to look at the big herd of cows standing around and realize that they had witnessed the whole thing. What did they think as they watched the coyote chasing that deer down?

Coyote and cow Kanab Utah RV trip-min

What did the cows think of the grisly slaughter that became a banquet feast for dozens of creatures?
Five days later we drove by again and only a few bare bones were left.

There are some red rock walls in Johnson Canyon that sport petroglyphs left by the ancients. Not far from the familiar rock art images of hundreds of years ago there are also some scratchings that were left more recently.

Kids from the class of 1941 made a few etchings, and a “Store and Garage” owned by Jensen and a partner which sold Eastman Kodak film had something of an advertisement pecked out on one rock wall.

We saw this funny kind of antique advertising at Montezuma’s Well in Arizona too. Those wily proprietors knew that tourists were out searching the landscape for petroglyphs. What better way to lure them to your store back in town than to put an ad right alongside?!

Old sign on red rocks near Kanab Utah-min

Petroglyphs from 1941

Kanab is quite a hub for RV travelers, especially international travelers, and rental RVs are as common as privately owned rigs. One year we saw several rental RVs with flags from the tourists’ home countries, and another year, while we were waiting to use the RV dump station in town, we met a couple from Germany who had taken their rig around the world.

South of town lie the mysterious sand dunes of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah-min

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

But without doubt, the most popular destination for folks that swing through Kanab is Zion National Park. Before reaching the incredible scenery that lies in the main canyon or the stunning vistas that lie in the western section of the Park at Kolob Canyon, tourists coming into Zion from the east end up driving one of the most dramatic roads we’ve ever seen.

Welcome to Zion National Park Utah-min

Entering Zion National Park, a world of wonder!

Route 9 between Zion’s hometown of Springdale, Utah, and the intersection with Route 89 travels through a kaleidescope of color and a series of switchbacks that are mind boggling. I will never forget our first trip on this road with a minivan years ago. Unfortunately, part of the road goes through a low and narrow tunnel, and dually trucks and larger vehicles can’t go through the tunnel without paying a fee for a pilot because traffic must be shut down in the opposite direction.

Old truck Zion National Park east entrance Utah RV trip-min

Right next to the entrance sign there’s an old truck. Maybe the owner is waiting for the tunnel to be widened!

We weren’t traveling to the main part of Zion this year, so we didn’t go through the tunnel to the dramatic switchbacks on the other side, but we still enjoyed a glorious few hours exploring the scenic drive east of there.

Driving Route 9 to Zion National Park on Utah RV trip-min

It’s hard to keep your eyes on the road!

Airstream trailer drives scenic road to Zion National Park Utah-min

RVs drive this road but must pay a fee at the tunnel.

Since we had plenty of time and just a few miles of distance to cover, we made a point to get out of the truck a bunch of times and wander way back into the exotic landscape, far from the road.

This little excursion was well worth doing because everyone on the road was whipping past at high speeds on their way to the main part of the park, but there was nobody out in the red rocks.

Scenic route 9 to Zion National Park Utah-min

Just a few steps from Route 9 we were enveloped by some of Mother Nature’s best handiwork.

Exotic rock formations Route 9 Zion National Park Utah-min

Exotic swirling patterns in the rocks.

The Fall foliage season was in full swing, and quite a few trees were bursting with yellow, orange and red colors.

Fall foliage Zion National Park scenic drive Route 9-min

Fall color comes to Zion.

The peace and tranquility out on these unique rocks was delicious, and we just soaked it all in.

It was fascinating to run our hands on the exotic swirls of rock and imagine the days eons ago when these exotic mounds were sand dunes. The sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes flies so freely in the wind…

Enjoying the view at Zion National Park-min

Back here, 100 yards from the road, you’d never know there was a road!

Stone dunes Zion National Park RV trip-min

These colorful, striated mounds were once sand dunes, not unlike the ones over at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park a few miles away.

Star burst and stone sand dunes Zion National Park Utah RV trip-min

Wow!

Looking at the rock patterns up close, it seemed very similar to wood grain. I love the way the different grains intersect and criss-cross each other.

Red rock veins look like wood-min

Up close the rock looks an awful lot like wood!

We made our way back to the road and the traffic had intensified. Zion National Park is extremely popular, and the road leading to it from the east was becoming non-stop cars and RVs.

RV on scenic Route 9 Zion National Park Utah-min

Scenic Route 9 heading into Zion.

if your RV travels take you through Kanab, there are wonders to see in all directions. But some of the greatest beauty and quietest spots can be found along the roads leading to the big name destinations, so take your time getting there!

RV camping under the Milky Way near Kanab Utah-min

I couldn’t resist posting another awesome Milky Way shot with our rig… 🙂

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Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park – Shape Shifting in the Sand!

October, 2017 – During our stay in the area around Kanab, Utah, we took a day trip to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Just like the name of the park, this is an area that is filled with sand dunes that are vibrant hues of orange, pink and coral, depending on the light.

Shadows on Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah

In the distance there were soft, gentle mounds of sand that caught the late afternoon shadows in their grasp.

Rolling dunes Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

Rolling dunes.

On the edges of the dunes lots of determined vegetation clung to life in the arid land.

Sand patterns Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

Ragged plants eek out a life in the sand.

Weed Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

A tiny plant is half buried by sand.

We even spotted a beautiful yellow wildflower that was blooming on a scraggly bush. The wind was whipping and the flower was dancing all around, but for a split second the wind stopped and we got a photo of this one lone flower.

Wildflowers Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

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As we looked down at the orange sand, we saw footprints from all kinds of creatures.

Bird tracks Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

Who went there?

Then the dunes opened up before us and they were virgin and pure, showing only the traces of the wind that had left the sand rippled.

Ripples in sand Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

Virgin sand.

This is dune buggy and side-by-side heaven, and the tracks from these machines were visible here and there.

Wheel tracks Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

Lots of folks come here to ride their buggies in the dunes.

But it was the naturally patterned sand that caught our eyes. We felt like we were the first explorers on the moon as we looked back and saw our tracks in the wind kissed sand.

Footprints Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

First footprints.

Walking into the dunes Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

Big wide dunes.

If you enjoy photography, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is a great place to roam around and take pics!

Photography Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

Capturing the scene on camera.

Waves of sand Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min-min

Waves of sand.

There’s something about a huge open expanse of sand that just begs for a personal imprint. This sand is very light and airy, so the best way to draw was with our feet. I looked up, and Mark was busy drawing something in the distance.

Drawing a heart Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

Mark creates a picture…

Drawing a heart in the sand Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

…and then walks on.

As I got closer I saw what it was…

Heart in the sand Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

A heart. How sweet!

The amazing thing about these dunes is that the wind never quits and the canvas landscape is forever being erased and made virgin once again.

One particular sweeping crest in the dunes had been attracting us since we first looked out on the vast sandscape.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

Light and shadow on rolling hills of soft sand.

As we approached we could see that the wind was continually blowing its top off.

Blowing sand Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

The wind blows the sand off the top of the dune’s crest.

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes are continually shifting and moving as the wind pushes them, grain by grain, this way and that. The end result is persistent soft mounds and curves that can be tread by feet and wheels every day without ever bearing a permanent mark.

Blowing sand Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

A gust of wind blows a veil of sand off the dune.

Even as we walked back out of the dunes, we saw our own footprints had already begun to disappear. One grain at a time, the entire playground of dunes was shape shifting.

Soft sand dunes Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

Ever-changing dunes.

There is a ton to see and do near this part of Utah, including stunning Zion National Park, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Cedar Breaks National Park, Red Canyon, the slot canyon at Wire Pass Trail, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Old Western Movie Sets and even watching the release of a golden eagle back into the wild.

Sand blows at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah RV trip-min

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So when you see the sign for Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park whip by on the freeway, it can be all too easy to keep going and skip it, as we have many times. But if you are planning an RV trip to southern Utah, it’s very worthwhile to make the turn and go romp around in the dunes for a while!

RV motorhome drives through red rock scenery near Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah

When RVing in Southern Utah, don’t miss Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park!

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Picturesque Medieval Charm an Hour from Paris – Moret sur Loing

September 2017 – While visiting Paris we took an easy train ride out to the beautiful town of Moret sur Loing. With architecture dating back to the Middle Ages, complete with arches and town gates, it is utterly charming and makes for a very fun excursion and change of pace from the big city.

Roman gate at Moret sur Loing France-min

Moret sur Loing is a very cool Medieval town.

Small towns are my favorite places to visit, and English woman Annabel Simms has written two books describing the many pretty towns a short train ride from Paris that are worthy of a day trip.

Moret sur Loing (officially renamed Moret-Loing-et-Orvanne in 2016) is filled with tiny streets. The homes and businesses are built right to the edge of the sidewalk.

Village street Moret sur Loing France-min

Cute streets.

We strolled the streets of town, marveling at the many antique buildings that are centuries old.

Medieval buildings Moret sur Loing France-min

Architecture from a fairy tale!

The detail in their decorations is wonderful. Doorways aren’t just an opening to get through a wall. Instead they are elaborately decorated. One doorway featured ornately carved wooden scenes and scroll work.

Carved wooden doorway Moret sur Loing France-min

An ornate doorway…

Wooden carving Moret sur Loing France-min

A closer look at the wood carvings above the door.

There were arches through buildings on several streets. They were barely wide enough for a car, although I did see a bus squeeze through the taller ones!

Medieval arch and buildings in Moret sur Loing France-min

An arch under a clock tower!

The early fall air was warm and clear. Flowers in window boxes gave the stone architecture a colorful flair.

Stone building and windows Moret sur Loing France-min

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We had gone to the town to enjoy the intimacy, tranquility and history of an antique village, but this place isn’t just a museum piece, and even though the architecture is old, that doesn’t mean it can’t still be used. I had to smile when a fellow rode up on a bike to use a modern day ATM built into the wall of a very old building.

ATM in antique building Moret sur Loing France-min

A modern ATM in an antique building.

A tall archway leads to a bridge over the Loing River. Looking back at the arch, I half expected to see a row of knights on horseback coming through, their lances raised and colors flying!

Medieval entrance gate Moret sur Loing France-min

Looking back at the arch tower from the cobblestone bridge.

Next to the tower was a very cute restaurant overlooking the river. It was the ideal spot for lunch.

Medieval gate and restaurant on the river Moret sur Loing France-min

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The seats on the deck were all full, so we thought we’d walk around for an hour and try again later. Unfortunately, the restaurant is open strictly for lunch, so when we returned it was closed!

Restaurant on the river Moret sur Loing France-min

Lunch with a view. How fun. But don’t be late or they’ll be closed!

Our walk down to the river’s edge was well worth missing a fancy lunch, however. We just grabbed a baguette sandwich at a boulangerie and had a picnic by the water watching the ducks and geese playing in the currents.

Medieval stone arch Moret sur Loing France-min

A cobblestone path under a stone arch leads to the riverbank.

Moret sur Loing France-min

OMG! Is this right out of a picture book, or what?!

A small walking path goes along the edge of the river, and we walked along it to the next village. Rivers and canals connect all of Europe, and we passed lots of barges tied up along the shore that looked like they could really go the distance.

Loing River scene Moret sur Loing France-min

A picturesque mirrored view of homes and barges along the river.

Barge and riverside buildings Moret sur Loing France-min

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A barge can make a spacious and fun floating home, and many of them looked very inviting to live in!

River barge Moret sur Loing France-min

What a cool lifestyle!

One thing that is really apparent in France, and especially Paris, is how well people dress. The men are dapper and the women are chic. There is a love of tailored fashion we just don’t see in our travels elsewhere, and as we would wait for the Metro or walk the city streets it was a true delight to see one handsome and impeccably dressed Parisian after another going past.

Well, Parisian chic extends into the countryside too, and French people aren’t the only ones in France who have a true sense of style.

As we strolled along the banks of the Loing River, I looked down to see the most unusual and smartly dressed cat I’ve ever seen. What a coat!

Exotic cat Moret sur Loing France-min

Feline Parisian chic.

Rivers and canals don’t all have the same water level as each other, so they are often joined together by lock systems where boats can be raised or lowered, allowing them to float from one canal to another.

As we crossed a bridge, we saw a barge coming towards us and noticed that there was a lock system on one side of the bridge right below our feet.

Barge approaches locks Moret sur Loing France-min

A barge chugs up to the lock.

The captain of the barge brought the boat into the lock and quickly tied the boat to the big cleats on the concrete walls of the lock.

Captain ties up barge at locks Moret sur Loing France-min

The captain secured the barge inside the lock.

He hopped off the barge and greeted the woman controlling the locks with the traditional French kiss on both cheeks. He obviously came through this lock on a regular basis!

As the doors closed behind the barge it was amazing what a tight fit the boat was inside the lock.

Barge in the locks Moret sur Loing France-min

The gates closed behind the barge. It was now in its own little bathtub and could be raised to the level of the next canal.

For the next few minutes the lock filled with water while the captain chatted with the lady controlling the lock and then with another fellow who rode up on a bike to say hello. Then he climbed back aboard, the lock gates swung open, and he sailed the barge out of the lock.

There was something very heartwarming about the whole thing. There are thousands of locks worldwide, and we’ve read many accounts of sailors taking their boats through the Panama Canal and we’ve watched the huge barges going through the Soo Locks in Michigan.

But this was a little lock in a scenic small French town, and there was something quite delightful about the simple traditions and conventions of moving a barge through the lock that were all in a day’s work for these people.

Barge leaves the locks Moret sur Loing France-min

After being raised to the water level in the next canal, the barge sails onward.
It might be really fun to be the captain of a barge in these waterways!

As we walked along the opposite shore back to town, the Medieval glory of Moret-sur-Loing came into view once again.

Moret sur Loing cathedral view from river France_-min

Moret sur Loing.

In between taking photos, I came across a plaque that told the town’s history. The first date on the plaque describing the earliest recorded events in this place was 1045. Wow!!

That predates many of the ancient Indian ruins and rock art we see in the American West, and it is fairly close to the timeframe that the Mayans were building Palenque in Mexico and the Khmer at Ankor Wat in Cambodia were erecting their massive stone temples.

Cathedral Moret sur Loing France-min

The cathedral in Moret sur Loing.

We made our way back to Paris and decided to catch sunset at the Eiffel Tower. There is a huge plaza overlooking the Eiffel Tower where vendors sell all kinds of trinkets on blankets spread out in front of them.

Vendors at the Eiffel Tower Paris France-min

Vendors sell trinkets at the plaza overlooking the Eiffel Tower.

When the Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World’s Fair it was the tallest building in the world. The base of the tower is enormous!

Eiffel Tower Paris France-min

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Base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris France-min 2

The Eiffel Tower has a huge base.

As the golden hour just before sunset came, the gold leaf dome of Les Invalides where Napoleon is entombed glinted in the setting sun.

Sunset on Les Invalides Paris France-min

The golden dome of Les Invalides (site of Napoleon’s tomb) glows at sunset.

And then, as darkness fell, the Eiffel Tower lit up. How magical!!

Eiffel Tower lit up at night Paris France-min

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Paris is as enchanting by night as it is by day, and we walked around town late into the evening.

Hotel de Ville at night Paris France-min

Hotel de Ville and all the antique buildings of Paris are lit up beautifully at night.

The Seine River in Paris France at Night-min

The Seine River.

The banks of the Seine River are as full of people at night as they are during the daytime. What a fun surprise it was to come across a group of people dancing Argentine Tango right on the riverbanks.

Talk about romantic!!

Dancing on the Seine River Paris France-min

What could be more romantic that dancing under the stars on the banks of the Seine?

As we made our way back to the Metro, we passed Notre Dame cathedral. She was aglow with lights.

Notre Dame Cathedral at night Paris France-min

Notre Dame Cathedral.

And the river boats on the Seine kept plying the water long after dark.

Notre Dame Cathedral and river boats on the Seine River Paris France-min

Boats take tourists along the Seine past Notre Dame well into the night.

My visit to Paris was capped off in the most charming way I could possibly imagine. On our last ride on the Paris Metro, while standing in the aisle hanging onto a strap, I suddenly heard the sound of an accordion. I looked up to see a young man coming through the doors connecting the train cars. He stared right at me and smiled as he played a classic tune.

Oh my!

I grabbed my camera and threw it into video mode as fast as I could. What an absolutely perfect way to bid goodbye to an elegant and inviting city.

So, here it is — a 30 second video from an accordion player on the Metro along with the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower shimmering in the dark and dancers on the Seine:

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