Tag Archives: scenic views

A Review of 2016 on the Road

We left Atlanta in April of 2015 for a life on the road.  Over the past nearly 2 years, we have enjoyed lots of great sights, met lots of fun people and experienced living in a 400 square foot “tiny home” with 2 dogs and one bathroom.

And this is just the beginning!

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Santa Fe, NM

We get asked a lot if we will ever settle down again in a regular home.  At this point in time, we have no plans for that.  We have absolutely no regrets.  We love our new roaming lifestyle and the fact that as we work-camp across the country, we get to actually experience each area as the locals do.

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Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX

With the year 2017 on the horizon, I wanted to do a review of the past year on the road along with some of the trials and tribulations that went along with it.

Many ask about our financials, so I will go into that a bit, along with a few things we have learned and experienced as we traveled this year.

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Total Mileage this year

We began our year working in St. Petersburg, FL at the St. Petersburg KOA.  Our job ended there near the end of March.  Our next job would begin around May 1 in Williams, AZ, but we needed to make an extended stop in Atlanta due to health issues with our dog, Ralph.

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Our route took us to Orlando, a short pit stop in our favorite campground on Tybee Island, then onto Atlanta for a total of 633 miles.

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We then traveled westward through Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and finally Williams, AZ, right near the Grand Canyon.  This was a total of  1,798 miles.

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Our job in Williams ended on October 31 and our job in Tucson began on November 15.  We took the long way with a detour through Laughlin, NV and Lake Havasu City, AZ, adding another     520 miles.

Grand total miles on the coach for 2016 was 2,951 miles.

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Only in Arizona- The Tumbleweed Christmas Tree!

Yes, at first glance it looks like a normal Christmas tree in the center of town.  But Chandler, Arizona creates something unique and beautiful each year.  Something that you can find nowhere else in the country…

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This beautiful tree is made up of thousands of tumbleweeds!

Yes, thousands of them!  It takes around 1,000 of these tumbling dead bushes to create the massive 30″ tall tree each year.

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Local tradition holds that Chandler’s Tumbleweed Tree was the brainchild of Earle Barnum.  He came up with the idea for the tumbleweed tree after seeing a tree built with local pine boughs in his hometown in Indiana.

How do they make a Tumbleweed Tree?

Starting in the fall, the tumbleweeds are gathered and then placed around a chicken wire frame.  They are then sprayed with flame retardant white paint, sprinkled with over 65 pounds of glitter, and strung with lights.

This wonderfully unique tradition has been carried on for over 60 years in the town of Chandler.

Of course, once we heard about it, we had to see it!

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There was lots to see and do in the town area surrounding the Tumbleweed Tree including great little shops and restaurants.  Naturally, we had to try out one of the restaurants.

The sacrifices we make for this website.  LOL!

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We decided to check out Crust Restaurant, a local Italian eatery.  From inside, we could watch the tree as darkness began to fall and the lights were lit.

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We had some amazing pasta dishes at Crust.  We enjoyed a fresh board of Tomato, Basil and Parmesan Bruschetta, along with our main course of Grandma’s Pasta- a yummy mix of pasta, meatballs, sausage, ricotta and marinara!

Definitely worth a return visit!

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And as darkness fell, the Tumbleweed Tree grew even more beautiful!

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We really enjoyed the lights in the square.

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After all, it is pretty hard to decorate an RV.   The lights in the streets were amazing.

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This is our second Christmas living full time in our coach.  And one of the things I love about that is that we can experience Christmas just a bit differently each year.

Last year, we were on the beaches of Florida, and this year we are enjoying a Tumbleweed Christmas tree!

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And back at the campground, the doggies are settling in just fine.  Faith and Ralph have decided that the campground was pretty nice about supplying them with an official “doggie sidewalk”.

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We brought a few more of the old traditions back to our coach including whipping up a big batch of Old Fashioned Potato Candy.  (You can find the full recipe on my other website, Suzy’s Sitcom).

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Faith and Ralph (and both of us) wish you all an amazing, happy and healthy holiday season!

Next week, I plan on doing a review of our past year on the road!  Stay tuned!

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A visit to Saguaro National Park

First things first: it’s pronounced “suh-wahr-oh.”  Do you know how many years I have mispronounced this cactus?  Yep, I am ridiculously southern and can’t seem to shake it.

Anyway, we decided to make the short drive out to Saguaro National Park to see what all the fuss was about.

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And there you have it.  Cactus as far as you can see.

Since 1933 this extraordinary giant cactus has been protected within Saguaro National Park. There are two sections of the park, one on the west side of Tucson and one on the east side.  Our visit this week was to the west.

The Sonoran Desert is one of the hottest and driest regions on the continent. In the summer, it is common for the temperatures to climb over 100 degrees and it gets less than 12 inches of rain in a typical year.

With that in mind, it was surprisingly lush and beautiful!

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The plants and animals are able to survive this environment with adaptations specially designed for desert survival.  At first glance, desert life seems rather unfriendly.

Talk about a bunch of defense mechanisms!  It would not be a great thing to trip and fall while hiking around this part of the country!

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But in an extreme environment such as this, I imagine a great defense is necessary.

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Even the local wildlife is extreme.  The Sonoran Desert is home to 18 species of rattlesnakes.  There are also poisonous Gila Monsters,  and Coyotes, and Javelinas.

Not a lot of friendly in this part of the country, that’s for sure.

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The star of the show is the Saguaro Cactus.  It is not only the state symbol of Arizona, but a universally recognized image of the Southwest!

It is the largest and slowest growing of all cacti.  The shorter ones to the left of me in the photo above are about 75 years old.  The one to the right of me could be as old as 200 years.

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These amazing cacti can weigh up to 8 tons, partly because of the large amount of water the stems can hold. Giant saguaro cacti, unique to the Sonoran Desert, sometimes reach a height of 50 feet.

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A little break from the real world at Lake Havasu

Our contract at the Williams Circle Pines KOA ended on Oct 31, and our new job at the KOA in Tucson began on Nov 15.  That gave us about 2 weeks to take a break as we make our way down to Tucson.

Bet you wondered what happened to us.  I’m a bit behind on my posting!

Over the summer, many of our guests had come from southern Nevada, Laughlin and Lake Havasu.  They had come to Williams to get a break from the heat as that area of the country sees triple digits all summer.  We decided that we would check out that area of the country in a round about way to Tucson.

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Our first stop was the Laughlin Avi Casino KOA in Laughlin, Nevada.   Laughlin is located on the southernmost tip of Nevada along the Colorado river where Nevada, California and Arizona meet.   The town is known as a fun casino town.

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It is about a half day drive from Williams.  And all down hill.  We went from over 7000 feet above sea level in Williams to about 500 feet above sea level in Laughlin.

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While we missed the heat of the summer, it was still nice and warm there.  I enjoyed sitting under the palm trees and working on my laptop in my beautiful new back yard.

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On our second day there, we took the London Bridge Jet Boat tour down the Colorado River from Laughlin to the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City.

This is a great way to see the area from the water.  The trip takes about 2 hours to get to Lake Havasu City, you get a 2 hour break there to check out the bridge and grab a lunch, and then take the 2 hour ride back up the river.

And best of all, it was very affordable at about $70 a person.

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We really enjoyed the boat tour and our tour guide was incredibly informative.  Check out the green tint of the water behind Dave.  It was really that green!  Apparently from minerals in the water.

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Leaving Circle Pines and heading to new Adventures!

We have been on the road now about a year and a half.  And the adventure has just begun.  Selling the house and nearly everything that we owned was difficult.  Leaving our friends and family behind was too.   But I have to tell you that we have absolutely no regrets.

Life on the road is everything we thought it would be.

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We often are asked how we can support ourselves on the road and I have to say that fortunately for us, we are able to handle most of our bills with income from my websites.

However, we do need a buffer.  And that is where KOA has come in.  We are doing seasonal work at various campgrounds in order to supplement our income while we see the country.

Last week we left Circle Pines KOA in Williams, AZ and I have to say that it was a sad farewell.  We not only loved this surprisingly beautiful area of the country, but made a bunch of new friends in the process that we definitely will miss.

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And we absolutely loved working for Bruce and Lori.  They made campground work an adventure.

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Our cool shady spot underneath the tall pines is now just a memory.  I would have loved to stay through the winter, but our coach does not love cold weather.  So it is onto to warmer regions.

We are currently at Lake Havasu for a brief vacation and then moving onto our winter job in Tucson, AZ.

But as I like to do, I’ve created a video of our memories from this beautiful campground on the high plains of Arizona.

Next week as a final chapter, I will be posting the top 10 Things to do in Williams, AZ.

Want more videos?

If you would like to see a bit about the parts of the country that we have visited so far, you can see our other videos here:

Our Season working at the St. Petersburg KOA

A Compilation Video of our Summer at Bar Harbor!

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Autumn in Northern Arizona

We we planned our move to Arizona for the summer, the last thing I was expecting was to see beautiful leaves in the fall!  It’s a desert, right?

Wrong.

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Depending upon the altitude, Northern Arizona is a mix of tall pines and hardwoods such as Aspens.  So with Fall in full bloom, we took advantage of a few days off and checked out the local foliage at the San Francisco Peaks.

A perfect way to say goodbye to this beautiful part of the country.

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You see, we will be heading out of Williams this week and on to our next destination.  Time flies when you are having fun, right?

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And there appears to be bears in the vicinity!  Who knew?

All this time we have been here, the only wildlife that we have come across besides those animals at Bearizona and the petting zoo was the occasional Abert Squirrel!

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Luck was with us and we actually got photo bombed!

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But seriously.  It has been an amazing experience here.

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Lot’s of things are happening at the Circle Pines KOA as we finish out the season.  They erected  a new huge sign for the entranceway.  Pretty impressive, isn’t it?

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We spent this past week telling all of our friends and coworkers goodbye.  Starting a season can be exciting, but finishing one out can be sad. We may run into some of our friends again along the road.  It is a small world after all.

But part of being a seasonal worker is making new friends along the way.

So what have we been doing these past few weeks besides checking out leaves and saying goodbye to our friends?

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Well, there were plumbing issues.  Seems that we should have named our coach “Always Something”.  Fortunately, Dave and Ralph had it handled in no time.

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And speaking of Ralph.  His diabetes has not been under control. About 3 months ago, he suddenly lost his vision.  The local vet recommended a specialist down in Phoenix.  We had to mull it over a bit as the cost was pretty high.

One of Ralph’s favorite past times is sitting in the window watching the squirrels.  When his eyesight deteriorated, not only was he running into things, but his demeanor changed.  He became depressed and not his normal self.

We were told that we had to get the diabetes in check before they could do anything about his eyes.  So, we spent the last few months keeping him on a strict prescription diet and having his glucose levels checked weekly.

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On October 5, we finally were able to get the surgery done.  Ralph had two new lenses put in his eyes.

Yep.  We bit the bullet and spent the money.  Ralph is one of the family after all.

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Recovery from the surgery takes about 6 weeks total.  And for many of those weeks, we had to keep him in the “cone of shame” full time.  This meant that I had to hand feed him.  And he had to learn how to get around with that huge cone on his head.

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A few weeks ago, we finally got to see his big brown eyes again.  I think he is really enjoying the fact that he can see his old nemesis  the Abert Squirrel.

He has a few more weeks of recovery, but he can already see better than I can.

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So that has been our last month in Williams.  Saying goodbye, fixing problems with the coach and helping Ralph recover from surgery. Oh, and I’m putting together a video of our season here.  I should have it ready this week.  So stay tuned.

We will be leaving the area this week and heading onto Laughlin, NV and Lake Havasu City for a short break before we go to our next job in Tucson, AZ.  I have to say that we will both miss the Williams area.

And who knows, maybe we will come back one day!  It totally could happen.

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Local Secrets of Northern Arizona!

Work camping jobs are normally around six months long.  One of the things we love about being able to stay in an area for a while is the fact that eventually, we get to check out some of the things that the locals know about, but the average tourist never gets to experience.

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Here are three of our favorite “local secrets” that we have enjoyed over the past few months…

Bill Williams Mountain

The tiny town of Williams is surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks.  These are part of the San Francisco volcanic field.  Now dormant, these beautiful peaks used to be active volcanos!

Bill Williams Mountain is the tallest of those peaks surrounding Williams and is named after Old Bill Williams, a scout, guide and mountain man who lived in the 1800s.

We heard that there was a dirt road available to get to the top.  At 9,256 feet above sea level at the peak, it was sure to be an amazing view.  So we set out to find it!

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Instructions to get to this local secret are as follows:

Take 4th street out of town toward Dogtown lake.  Go 4.7 miles from downtown and turn at the first dirt road on the right, just after the speed limit drops to 35 miles per hour.

Yep, it isn’t marked very well.  Hence the local secret, right?

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Warning- do not try to take this road in inclement weather, right after a rain, or in a vehicle that sits very low to the ground.

It is a total of 6.9 miles from the main road to the top of the mountain.  The road is in relatively good shape, but is steep and full of many switch backs and hairpin turns.

Oh, and there is no guard rail.

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The view is well worth it.  Our little KIA “I-think-I-canned” the whole way up.  We were glad we traded the VW bug in.  It sat so low to the ground that it never would have made it.

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At the very top of the mountain you will find a large antenna farm.  We were careful to respect any no trespassing signs as we took in the view from the top.

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Here we were at 9,256 feet above sea level and we could literally see for miles!

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Want to go a little higher?  Well, there is a fire tower on the top of the mountain too!

Dave refused to climb it, but I decided to brave it and climbed about half way up.

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From there I had an amazing, unblocked view of all directions.  Down below I was able to make out the campground.

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Fall is in the air this time of year and the journey to the top of Bill Williams Mountain was full of beautiful photo opportunities.

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The ride to the top and back down is full of beautiful scenery and definitely worth the effort.  For those that enjoy a good strenuous hike, there are some great trails that also go to the top of this mountain.  Just be aware of changing weather, and local wildlife.

And true to most local secrets, we didn’t run into a single person the entire trip.  I love these kind of secrets!

Click here for secret #2!

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Two Guns; A Ghost Town with a haunted past…

We decided to drive out to see the Petrified Forest and the town of Winslow.  Because we felt the need to get a photo on the corner, right?

But just west of Winslow, we took a detour when we noticed some amazing looking ruins along side of the interstate.  And I’m so glad we did.  We stumbled upon the ghost town of Two Guns; a town with a sad and terrible past.

We were not aware of the history behind this place as we were exploring, but I managed to do some research and found out some very interesting things!

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The Death Cave

The area that became Two Guns was originally Navajo and Apache territory.  In the late 1800’s, a total of forty-two Apaches lost their lives in a show down with the Navajos.  The Apaches were burned to death in a cave in the canyon located on this property.

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After this terrible incident, the Apaches and the Navajos never returned to this area.  To this day, the Navajo believe the Two Guns area is possessed by Chindiis, their term for “ghosts of the dead”.

And the history of the area after the massacre is curiously dark.  Enough so that I was glad we did not stumble upon the Death cave or go anywhere near it.

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Two Guns and Route 66

In the early 1900’s, taking advantage of the traffic along the newly named Route 66, a local resident named Henry Miller created the town of Two Guns.

He added a gas station, over night accommodations, a cafe, souvenir shop and even a zoo.

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The zoo housed mountain lions, panthers, bobcats, gila monsters and more.

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Taking a ski lift up into the clouds…

We work five days a week with two days off right now.  So on those two days, we like to become tourists and visit something fun in the area.

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I mean, who wants to stay in the RV all day?

Fortunately, there is so much to choose from around here that I doubt we will have a single weekend without some place new to see.

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This photo was taken in May, shortly after we got here.  We were very surprised to see snow capped mountains right in our back yard. This mountain range is called The San Francisco Peaks.

The tallest mountain in the range, Humphreys Peak, is the highest point in the state of Arizona at 12,633 feet in elevation.

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We took a ride out to the Arizona Snowbowl, a ski resort located on the San Francisco Peaks.   Opened in 1938, the Arizona Snowbowl is one of the longest running resorts in the West having been open for 75 years.

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You see, we heard that they will take you up on the ski lift for a nominal fee.

And we totally couldn’t pass that up!
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The chair lift officially opened for the summer right after Memorial Day.  We were very excited to check it out.

Dave and I were skiers in our younger days.  We choose not to break any bones at this stage in our lives, so we have to settle for a summer ski lift.  But I have to tell you, that it brought back great memories!

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Of hail storms, tumbleweeds and crazy looking squirrels…

We have been here in the high desert about three months now.  Time is certainly flying by!  We are half way through our season at the Circle Pines KOA in Williams, AZ already.

I want to talk about a few unusual things that we have discovered here in this beautiful place.  Things like extreme weather,  tumbleweeds and funky squirrels.

Oh my!

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Northern Arizona was really not what we were expecting.  Having never been to Arizona before, I figured we would be living in a desert.  And true to form, much of Arizona is just that.  But the towns of Williams and the Flagstaff area sit at about 7300 feet above sea level.

And that makes all the difference in the world!

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At such high altitude, we often have folks showing up at the campground with altitude sickness.  It takes at least three days for your body to adjust.

You also have to think about things such as adding flour to your baking recipes and the fact that water boils much slower.

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But I’d have to say that the biggest thing to get used to was the quick and dramatic changes of weather that are so common here in the high desert.

Monsoon Season

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When visiting the town of Sedona a few weeks ago, we took a bunch of photos of the beautiful rock formations and the gathering clouds behind them.  It was in the 80’s that day.  Sunny and warm.

And then we went into a restaurant to have lunch.

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We came out to several inches of pea sized hail and temperatures in the 60’s!  Freak storm?  Hardly.

It seems that at this altitude, these types of storms are quite common.

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Especially during the Monsoon season of mid July through August.  Most days are sunny and temperate.  Most afternoons are full of interesting surprises.

We are right in the clouds.  Thunderstorms can be very dangerous.  The weather here can kill those that do not properly respect it.

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