Taking to the Road – Colorado Bound

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is scan-245-2-e1608667455316.jpg

We’re very thankful to have an RV. With the pandemic, there would have been no other way to safely see our grandson and his parents this fall. It was exciting taking Sam and Frodo on our first real road trip, about 900 miles away to Denver. The per-day mileage was approximately 425 miles each way for two days, which is at the upper limit for a day’s travel. A travel day pulling an RV is longer than one in a car. The truck and 5th wheel together move slower, for one thing – a great lumbering beast going down the highway – and it is tiresome for the driver. Every stop along the way takes a little more time, and there are more stops for gas, at approximately 14 miles per gallon. I’m still working, and allocating precious vacation days, so spreading the trip out over more days was impossible.

Road trippin’ in Kansas

The picture of Cherry Creek State Park at the top is not mine, but from a postcard. You’d have to sit in the middle of the lake on a very clear day to get that view! The dam obscures the the city behind it. Still, it’s a pretty park, a bubble of an oasis in the south-eastern suburbs of Denver. We were assigned one site for one night, and then we moved to another for the next six. After walking all the camping loops in the park, we decided we liked our site the best. Was that because we were in it?

Our site at Cherry Creek State Park

The park has so much to do. The big draw, of course, is the lake, and there is a large beach and also a marina. But in addition to that, there are numerous trails for biking, hiking, and strolling, and a natural wetlands preserve. We had been here for a Sunday afternoon hike before, but this time we honestly did not explore the park much. Our bikes never got off the rack, and it’s a perfect park for that. It’s unusual for us, but we were busy with our little grandson! Because of Covid-19, it had been 9 long months since we’d seen him, and he had just had his first birthday. We did get take a enjoyable walk outside of our campground one morning.

It was beginning to look like fall, for sure. This very bright tree was near our first site where we stayed only one night.
A view of Cherry Creek Lake and marina from the beach
Hazy mountains, because of forest fires to the west and north
Our resident turkey
Magpies are a common bird in the park

One morning, a cyclist stopped in front of our site and started talking about RV’s with Cal. I joined them for the end of the conversation after I saw our daughter and grandson off after a big breakfast. It was a encounter we may have forgotten about, until later in the morning our daughter said she had talked to this cyclist’s wife! She is a colleague of hers that she doesn’t know well and has hardly spoken to. They’d had a Zoom meeting that morning and there was a breakout session where she was paired with this woman, and they started chatting. Heather shared that her folks were staying in an RV in Cherry Creek SP, and the other woman thought that was interesting because her husband had just talked to some very nice RVers that morning at Cherry Creek! They were David and Kerry, who were in market for an RV and really wanted to look inside one. We invited them over one evening for a tour, socially distant with masks on of course, until we all took this picture together. It’s a small world, indeed! I hope by now they have made their purchase and we wish them well.

Of course, it was all about our grandson Teddy, and his Moms of course, for that week. Getting away from work in the RV was the extra bonus. We greatly enjoyed our time there with them and our stay at Cherry Creek.

The fireplace is so fascinating!
Teddy’s second picnic ever

RV Weekending in the Summer of 2020

Early morning at our city RV park

As Labor Day comes to a close, so does the summer of 2020. If you’ve followed the news through this historic summer, you know it hasn’t been exactly uplifting. So we must all try to stay uplifted in our own lives. Having Frodo and Sam has helped to do that for us. From June all the way through the end of last month, we were out in the RV just about every other weekend. When we’re not there, it gives us something to look forward to. When we’ve been out, we’ve found respite from the times we’ve been living in.

We’ve been to our local 370 Lakeside RV park three times and though not woodsy or particularly scenic, I’ve enjoyed the wetlands, the birds, and the bike trail around the lake. It’s close to home so it’s been a good place to learn our new RV’ing skills. We had epic rainstorms on two of our Saturday nights and on Sunday morning of the last one, the entire picnic pad at our site was a miniature lake–and the only one in the park to still be wet! We were really glad that our tenting days are over. The next pictures are from our various weekends there.

Geese at dawn
The early bird catches the rainbow
Blue heron in the wetlands
A goose in our backyard for the entire weekend
Seen on the bike trail

There was also an Onandaga State Park weekend with some friends of ours, Kris and Rusty Thompson, and their granddaughter, Alexandra. We were able to share a family site, thank you very much to them. When you have a kid around, it’s absolutely obligatory to have a campfire. When it’s 95 degrees out even at dusk, though, what do you do? Well, if you’re RV’ing, you have can use an electrical outlet to have your fan going!

Social distancing while enjoying the fire…and the fan.

Part of what made Onandaga fun was this manic cardinal who kept attacking our window. He returned often through the weekend. It wasn’t the first time we’ve seen this behavior in a cardinal, and I did feel a little sorry for the poor confused little guy.

Our family campsite at Onandaga

We stayed at another state park, Cuivre River, which is a park we had tented with our girls a couple of times back in the day. It was a different business altogether driving the long narrow road through the park with a 34 foot RV. Together with a tightly packed campground, it wasn’t our favorite stay of the summer, but we did enjoy two great hikes with trailheads just off the RV camping area. One was a prairie walk and the flowers were in bloom. These pictures are from those hikes, and the last picture is from the one commercial RV park we stayed at, Lazy Day.

Morning on the prairie
Hiking through the tall prairie grass
We were on a trail aptly called “Mossy Trail”.
Campsite at Cuivre River, a challenge for leveling..complete with a great big stump!
Here we are!

An Ozark fishing pond

Frodo and Sam

With our successful home sale and move to the apartment, all systems were go. I looked forward to starting to plan a trip to Hawaii and other international travel for the next year. We were all settled in for just two weeks when COVID 19 became a reality in everyone’s life. My company told everyone to go home, work remotely, and not come back to the office. The gym that I had just joined closed down. And it wasn’t long before Hawaii mandated a two week quarantine for anyone arriving. We enjoyed Saturday walks and bike rides in various parks which, Cal being retired, he was enjoying every day. With COVID isolation, getting outside was the only thing to do. I had started wondering if we were going to be able to travel over any ocean the following year. A flight to Denver to see our grandson was canceled. And so was our family reunion planned for Washington state in July.

After a few weeks, we noticed an RV motorhome in the parking lot behind us on Thursday afternoons. On Friday morning it was gone, only to return again on Sunday, and then disappear. An idea began to germinate. What if…?

I started seeing Cal spending a lot of time on his notepad researching RV’s and Ford trucks. We both came around to the idea, he sooner than I, that an RV would put us in our own little bubble so we could keep traveling. He did the research, took me out to see his favorites, we had endless “what if” discussions, and in May we found ourselves to be the proud owners of a Montana High Country 5th wheel and a Ford Super Duty 350 truck. Frodo is the truck, and Samwise Gamgee is the “5er” (RV lingo for our 5th wheel) following him along, just like in the Lord of the Rings ( We were fans of the book before the movie ever came out, by the way).

It may have seemed like a sudden, impetuous move. But it was an idea we had played around with for years. We used to go to one or two RV shows a year until we pretty much decided what we wanted. I have nine siblings and 3 of them have had RVs, two of them living the life full-time and now on the other side of it, so we’ve had many years to observe, discuss and plan. It just wasn’t supposed to happen this soon. Life has a way of planning things for you when you least expect it, right? And who could’ve expected the COVID pandemic?

Here are some views from the inside:

Our new living room/dining room/kitchen combo
Looking back towards the door and the bedroom
Straight ahead, that’s a picture window to the side of the king-size bed. But from the outside, it doesn’t look like a window. If you look at the picture of the RV, it’s where “Montana” is splashed across the front. At first it was a drawback for us, but now we think it’s awesome. We can sit on the bed and have a bird’s -eye view of the kingdom.
Our view from the living room window, which is even better in the back row of the park.

Right now there is no better feeling than getting Sam all set up and unhooked from Frodo, and stepping into that RV for the first time on a Friday afternoon. And we’re always sorry to leave on Sunday. There’s no place like Sam!

Downsizing and Stuff

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 16875.jpeg

Much of life has passed since my Guatemala blogs. They aren’t finished, and I would like to pick them up again…sometime. But for now, I’d like to catch up on my life because much has happened along the way.

In the beginning of February, as planned, we put our 4 bedroom home on the market. By the time the first weekend was up, we had a contract and by the beginning of March, we were starting a new chapter in our little two bedroom apartment. How does everything fit?? A year prior, the house was full of STUFF, which is the reason for the title of today’s blog. Literally, stuff.

Cal and I have been married for almost 41 years, and as late stage baby boomers, I’ve always been amazed at how, unintentionally, we fit into the demographics of our age. We accumulated in our 20’s and 30’s, aided by two 4 year (almost-) stints of living in Germany. I was delighted at all the things I could purchase while living in Europe. Not only that, but while there we did a lot of volksmarching. There were volksmarching clubs all over Europe, but especially Germany. One weekend a year, a club would sponsor a self-guided walk around their town with a distance of either 10 or 20 kilometers. There was an award for completing the walk, and they would publish a brochure giving particulars of the walk with a picture of the award. On any given weekend, there were several volksmarches to choose from. The walk was a great way to see the countryside, and the food waiting at the end was to die for. I still remember the times I tucked into a nice warm bowl of thick soup with a big fat sausage sticking out from the bowl, a hearty slice of rye bread, and a choice of home-made tortes for dessert…mmmm….but I’m digressing. The first time we were there, the awards were mainly decorative medals. By the second time, the awards morphed into plates, beer mugs, various souvenirs, often locally made. All total, we had over 100 beer mugs, countless decorative plates and other volksmarching trinkets, plus a cuckoo clock, Christmas pyramid, nutcrackers (2 of which were bar stools), other European tchotchkes, and a huge wall unit called a “schrank” to put it all in.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is all-ceramic-1.jpg

Other items up for downsizing: tons of books. Crafting and scrapbooking supplies. Cal had a whole garage full of stuff. We still had kid’s toys and games. Not to mention the fact that I started saving up stuff way before I needed to for a garage sale, instead of shedding along the way.

That whole thing about your kids not wanting your stuff? That was us as well. To give our girls credit, they did take some things. My older daughter pointed out that she did not possess many of the memories that came with the purchases of items that were so special to me and I thought should be special to her, too. She was right, of course. She doesn’t need my stuff, and like many people her age, she prefers to accumulate experiences. She took the useful things ( the schrank – yay!), and our other daughter was interested in a few of the funky, off-the-wall items (the sword I bought for Cal in Turkey, for instance). Last summer we sent a U-Haul truck out to Denver to put those items in storage for them.

Which left a whole lot of stuff for a 3 day garage sale. Deciding what to give up involved a lot of soul searching on my part. It all looked great in our big, 2400 square foot house, but so much of it was representative of a past that we were finished with. Admittedly, I had to give a long hard look at some things before parting with them. There were things I’d had since I was a child. I took some pictures and said goodbye.

If you have ever had a garage sale, you know it is an exhausting business. Some stuff sold, a lot of it didn’t. We could have set everything out for more weekends if we had wanted to. We sold some things on E-bay and Marketplace. Several boxes of books went to a church book sale. Cal made 8 trips to the thrift shop in our little Camry. Lots of stuff went for free. Most of our shelving units went to an elated young person for her first apartment. Hardly anyone was interested in our awesome beer mugs.

What is so amazing, here in our little apartment, is that the rest of it fits! We were lucky to find an apartment with a large 2nd bedroom. There are boxes stacked 2/3 of the way to the ceiling along one wall. I have a suspicion that some day, I will open some of those boxes, and I won’t even want those things either. Because there is another part to this story, and I will save it for next time.

Colorful Chichicastenango, Guatemala

The Sunday Market

We had a two and a half hour van ride to Chichicastenango (from now on, just Chichi!) from Antigua. Chichi has Guatemala’s largest “Sunday” market. On Sundays, everyone goes to church, and while they are at their church in town, they visit a Sunday market to do their weekly shopping. It is a festive occasion; besides worshipping and shopping, there is a whole lot of socializing going on. The ride to Chichi itself was pure entertainment. Whole families were out in their Sunday best, heading for churches and smaller Sunday markets in the towns we passed. They were out walking, waiting for – or crowded into – brilliantly painted school buses, or jammed into “tuktuks” – motorized covered bikes. Some men were in white shirts and black pants, women were wearing colorful embroidered shirts and skirts, and the little girls in their ribbons and braids were just too cute. You would not believe how many people can stand in the pack of a pickup.

All manner of things are sold at the Sunday market. There is not only produce, but raw chickens, dead and alive. Ladies making tortillas with white, yellow or black corn, and cooking them over a fire. Colorful booths full of traditional clothing, table covers, all kinds of woven fabric goods, home goods, anything you could imagine. And in the middle of a tightly packed crowd, there may be a religious procession making its way through the market. Guatemalans like processions.

When a vendor opens her cloth like this, she is trying to get you to buy it. And she doesn’t like to take “no” for an answer.
Everything momentarily stops for the procession.

Chichicastenango has one of the largest Mayan populations in Guatemala. Our guide for the day was a Mayan named Sebastian. He took us to the church of St. Thomas, which was part Catholic and part Mayan, built in the 1500’s. The Mayans had their candles lit on the floor down the center aisle. Outside, they would light fires for worship: sugar first, then bundles of sticks, corn, 4 eggs north south east and west, and candles stuck in the coals. Many market stalls were selling the necessities for the fires.

At Home in Antigua Guatemala

3a 20180910_065556Part of a week long stay while learning Spanish in Antigua is the stay with a Guatemalan family.  In the weeks leading up to the trip, I was questioning my sanity in deciding to do this:  would we have to use outside facilities?  What if we had to eat rice and beans all week?  What if the family wasn’t nice, or there were other students, young and more advanced, who would be conversing in rapid Spanish all the time?

I didn’t give too much ear to my worries, and I’m glad I did not: we were extremely lucky.  The owners of the home, who I’ll call Senor and Senora, were retired.  He had a little coffee farm to keep himself occupied, and went there every day while Senora kept the home.  One of their daughters lived with them together with her husband, a 7 year old boy, and their very adorable little one year old girl.  The only time we saw the family was at meal times.

The home, like most others, was behind a wall and two or three other residences.  It was built in what formerly was the open courtyard.

At night, everyone’s cars lined up in the driveway with only enough room to walk by.  I always wondered how they decided who was going to be first one out in the morning!

After you walked all the way down the long drive, a turn to the right took you to a small yard where the entrance to the kitchen and dining room was, and then steps up to two small rooms, each with a bathroom, so Linda and I each had our own rooms.  The view from our little concrete deck was amazing, as you can see in the top picture and in the others below.3a 20180910_164212

We were so excited to wake up and see a smoking volcano!  We took pictures of it every day because the view was always changing.  Our joy at this became tempered with the realization that this was none other than Fuego, the volcano that cost so many people their lives and did so much damage in June of this year.

3a IMG_19423a 20180914_073542

There were other things to look at off the deck, too, besides the ripening of the oranges that you see in the tree in the above picture.

3a IMG_1943
Our neighbor working in his little orchard

3a IMG_2038
An early morning visitor

3a IMG_0476
A cross-shaped garden

Our hosts, sometimes just Senora, would eat with us and converse through every meal. They were warm and welcoming. Yes, we most often had beans, rice and tortillas, but it was always served with other foods, deliciously prepared, never too much or too little.  We learned the names of the foods we were eating and all the fruit served at breakfast:  banana, watermelon, cantaloupe, papaya, mango and pineapple.  Most of it is available year round in Guatemala.  My sister enjoyed Senor’s coffee, fresh from his farm.

I will admit to one flaw in the whole thing:  I am a shower-in-the-morning person, and I like my showers HOT.  Most were tepid at best, cold at worst.  But everything else being what it was, and my little room so cozy, it was not much to complain about.  Except at 6AM!

3a 20180913_183936

Up Next:  A Day in Colorful Chichicastenango

Learning Spanish in Guatemala

img_0529.jpgWhat do you do when you decide to take your language learning to another level?  For me, the answer was to go learn it in another country, and I concentrated my search on Central America.  For the next part, I enlisted a companion traveler: my sister, who is also a learner of Spanish.

An Internet search led me to Don Pedro Spanish School in Antigua, Guatemala.  Two websites were great for this:  I found Don Pedro on Guatemala365.com.  And Trip Advisor verified for me that the school was legit. Lots of people had had a good learning experience. I also liked Don Pedro because they ran an after-school program for children as well, providing lunch, dinner, homework assistance and other activities. One of the first things we did upon arriving in Antigua was to locate the school, which turned out to be just a short walk from our “casa”, the house and the Guatamalan family with whom we were staying for the week.

2a-20180914_102351-2-e1540230818203.jpg
Whew! It exists!

The doors on the streets in Antigua generally opened to courtyards, and so it was at Don Pedro.  It was enclosed upon entering, but opened up onto a “courtyard”. There were tables and chairs on the sides under a tin roof, trees and vegetation in the open area, and several resident turtles.

For less than the cost of a round trip plane ticket, I could study at Don Pedro one-on-one with a teacher for 4 hours every morning for 5 days. There were activities in the afternoon that I could join if I wanted to. And I’m including in this cost the week’s stay with a family, which covered all meals except Sunday.

2a 20180914_080124
The view for my week of study, which included an avocado tree.

2a-img_0528-e1540233162979.jpgI learned much from my teacher Helida.  Besides reviewing everything I have learned so far, we also enjoyed good conversation about our lives.  I strained to translate as she spoke and also tried to watch my grammar as I conversed with her.  She quickly discerned my weak spots and reviewed everything I had learned (and should have remembered) to that point.  I received a blank notebook to write in, and there were no texts except from books she would pull from their office for specific learning exercises.  Unfortunately, a week is really only enough to get one’s feet wet.  By the end of the week, I felt like we were finally ready to move on to some new learning.  My sister, Linda, who is a faithful Duolingo student, also felt that her Spanish improved through the week. Over dinner conversation, our family told me that at my level, one month in Antigua would have been necessary for fluency.  For someone with no Spanish background, it would take 3 months.  And people do stay that long.

2a-img_0535.jpg
My teacher, Helida, and I

Linda and I volunteered one afternoon to work with the children in the after school program.  As part of that, we assisted in making the tortillas to go with their lunch. I turned out to be a pretty good tortilla pat-ter.  It maybe would be a super power for me, if I needed to make tortillas every day.

 

2a IMG_0450
Here’s Linda patting those tortillas.

After lunch, we both assisted students with their homework. I helped a young man with his English homework and also tried keeping a little girl focused on her writing project.  I was rewarded with a big grin when she had it completed.

2a 20180914_080145
The area where the children have their after-school program.  When they were there, all the tables were pushed together.

Antigua in particular, and Guatemala in general, is rife with Spanish learning schools.  Antigua was downplayed by many people for the fact that it is a tourist town, and you may not get a full immersion experience.  My experience was that if I wanted to speak Spanish all day long, I could.  And, if you’re not happy with a school, you can (and many people do) just go find another school in town, or travel to another town that has one.  I would love to return, and if I do, I would not hesitate to return to Don Pedro.

Stay tuned for next time:  A Stay with a Guatemalan family

 

 

 

 

 

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

I love the word journey.  It implies so many things.  Not only a real journey to some destination, but all the journeys we take in life on the paths we choose for ourselves.

This blog will be a record of the travels I and my husband, Cal will be taking in the years to come.  But we are also approaching those years when we will either slow or stop our working days.  What are we doing to plan for those days, while we enjoy each day that we are living right now?  We’re pretty sure that we will be selling our home and leaving the St. Louis area.  International slow travel, RV travel, or living in an apartment permanently or temporarily are some ideas we are kicking around. There are some vague plans, but how they are going to pan out is unknown–and we never really know what life is going to throw at us, right?

Why “Two’s Enough”? Besides being mainly about the two of us, it is also a play on the pronunciation of our last name.

Come along with us on our journey!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

post