Sunday, February 28, 2016

Skiing Safari

I did a post of all the places we've stayed in the camper here which I try to keep updated as we travel, so I thought I would do a similar one for skiing. I'll try and add some comments about what we've learned about skiing at these ski areas, especially as it applies to staying in a RV.

  • Feb 2 Taos Ski Valley, NM  
    • This was our first day skiing and the day after a big snow dump at in the Southwest. Taos is one of the few ski areas I've been to that welcomes overnight RV camping for FREE. We naively thought it would be fun to stay the night. However, after a full day of skiing we were disappointed to find our batteries almost dead, our pipes frozen, and the weather too cold to run our generator. It was one VERY cold night.
      Our first day of skiing in 2016, and our first day at elevation
  • Feb 3 Taos Ski Valley, NM
    • After the previous night, we HAD to ski!
      Frozen up at Taos Ski Valley
  • Feb 6 Ski Santa Fe, NM
    •  We headed south with the hopes of slightly warmer weather (night time lows of -17 are a bit too cold). We stayed at an awesome RV park that was about a hour drive from the ski area.
      Beautiful views at Ski Santa Fe
  • Feb 7 Ski Santa Fe, NM
  • Feb 11 Angle Fire, NM
    • After Santa Fe we headed up to the family cabin which was about 30 minutes from Angle Fire. Angle Fire is very much beginner to intermediate ski area, but a fun little resort. So Kathy and I explored the ski area while the girls took a full day snowboard lesson, something they had been begging to do for some time.
      The girls learning to snowboard at Angle Fire
  • Feb 13 Angel Fire, NM
    • This was our first day skiing with our friends Brandon and Sabrina who flew in from Seattle over President's Weekend to ski with us. 
      Skiing with friends Brandon and Sabrina
  • Feb 14 Taos Ski Valley, NM
    • For the second day of skiing with Brandon and Sabrina we went to the much more challenging resort, Taos Ski Valley.
  • Feb 18 Wolf Creek Ski Area, CO
    • It took us a couple days to close up the and re-winterize the cabin, but it was time to head North for some Colorado skiing. Our first ski resort was Wolf Creek. They are one of the very few Colorado ski resorts that allow overnight camping in an RV. The catch to staying at Wolf Creek overnight is that if it snows, and they have to plow the lots, they will wake you up in the middle of the night and ask you to move your vehicle. With this in mind we decided not to stay the night, and instead headed a couple hours to Durango where we stayed in a Holiday Inn. 
      This is clearly where our camper belongs
  • Feb 19 Purgatory, CO
    • Purgatory was our first true Colorado Ski resort. It definitely didn't disappoint, and it was a short drive from Durango.
      Enjoying Purgatory Ski Resort
  • Feb 22,  23, 24 Telluride Ski Resort, CO 
    • Telluride is a place that more or less shuns people in RVs. RVs are only allowed to park in the town park, and there is no where that you are allowed to stay in your RV near the ski resort, so we decided to stay in a ski in ski out resort. The excellent resort we stayed in was The Peaks Resort and Spa, and they were more than happy to find safe parking for our camper.
      Loving Telluride

  • Feb 29 Powder Horn, Colorado
    • Powder Horn was a fun area just outside of Grand Junction, Colorado. It only has two main lifts, but also has nearly as much acreage as Purgatory.
      Quite the view from Powderhorn.

  • Mar 2, 3 Steamboat Springs, Colorado
    • Steamboat Springs was our first busy Colorado ski resort. Unlike Telluride, Steamboat Springs is relatively close to Denver at a little over a 3 hour drive. So even though we skied it on a Wednesday and Thursday it was pretty busy. The nice thing about the town of Steamboat is that there is free bus service throughout the town, so we were able to take the bus from the KOA we were staying at to the the ski resort every morning.
      Getting the Colorado big resort experience.
  • Mar 7 Alta, Utah
    • Our first real powder day! The night before our visit to Alta it snowed nearly a foot. This made for great skiing conditions, but it also caused nearly everyone in Salt Lake City to call in sick for the day. From the moment we got on the road that leads up Little Cottonwood Canyon we were in a line of slow moving cars heading up to the ski area.
      Kathy seeking out the fresh snow at Alta

  • Mar 9 Solitude, Utah
    • Solitude got 7" of new snow on March 6, then another 3" or snow on March 8, so we there were some great conditions, and Solitude lived up to it's name. Despite the great ski conditions the area was largely empty with no lines at any of the chairs.
      loving all the untouched fresh snow at Solitude!

  • Mar 11, 12 Snowbird, Utah
    • Our first day at Snowbird the snow was a bit heavy, but we followed my brother's good friend Bob (who grew up skiing at Snowbird) around the mountain to all the best snow. The next day it was just our group and Alex, but it was quite a bit warmer and so the snow softened up all over the mountain making for great spring corn snow everywhere.
      skiing with my brother Alex and his friend Bob at Snowbird
  • Mar 16, 17 Squaw Valley Ski Resort, California
    • With the hopes of more snow we headed west to the Sierra Nevada's. We chose Squaw Valley because they allowed overnight camping in your RV (unlike most other ski resorts we visited). We enjoyed two amazing days of warm sun and incredible Spring corn snow. On both days, the mountain warmed up enough by 1pm that you couldn't find any ice anywhere.
      finding the steeps on KT-22 at Squaw Valley

  • Apri 1 Mount Bachelor, Oregon

Thanks to Sabrina and Jarred for introducing me to this piece of truly great music...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

My Daughters are Awesome

The title of this blog was what I was thinking yesterday as I was skiing at Purgatory Ski Resort near Durango, Colorado. Before I get to why I was thinking "My Daughters are Awesome" at that particular moment, I need to talk a little bit about skiing. Anyone who knows me, knows that skiing is a big part of who I am. It could probably be safely argued that skiing is the only sport I've always loved. I would guess that in my 45 years of life, I've probably skied at least one day a year (if not many many more) in 40 of my 45 years. It was my father who introduced me and my brothers to skiing at a very young age (back when skiing was affordable and my father didn't realize what kind of debt this addiction would place on his children). Today my brothers and I are still into skiing (in varying degrees), and although I might not be the best skier in the family (yes, I'm giving that one to you Alex), I would argue that I was always a fan of the sport (unlike Alex when he was little).

When my daughters were old enough (I arbitrarily decided that was 4 years old), I introduced them to skiing. For both of my daughters it wasn't always their favorite activity. The west snow of the Pacific Northwest is not necessarily the best conditions to introduce a four year old to skiing, let alone anyone. Having taught skiing on and off over a period of 13 years, I knew that it was possible, with enough patience and perseverance, to take a four year old child with some degree of coordination, and have them confidently skiing down a beginner run in a single season. I also knew that the parent isn't always the best person to be the ski instructor (I'm also learning that the parent isn't always the best person to be the school teacher, but that's a story for another blog post).
Alex helping teach Siena learn to ski
A younger Nadia and Siena enjoying apr├Ęs-ski with uncle Nick
After a few weeks of skiing, first in New Mexico and now in Colorado, it really struck me how much of a family activity skiing has become for me. Both my daughters are now able to ski most any named ski run at any ski resort, and my oldest daughter can probably ski any run at any resort (I'm just afraid to take her on runs with 'no fall zones'). However, Purgatory was a different kind of resort than what we had previously skied. It had these super long, super steep, completely groomed runs. In some cases they were runs that I thought were too steep to be groomed (I would have loved to watch the cat try and groom a couple of these runs). These are the type of runs just beg to be flown down taking your skis to their limits. Skiing with my family, I have generally taken runs in sections, where I'd ski a ways, then wait for everyone to catch back up. By mid afternoon, I just needed to really open it up, so on a particular fun, long, steep, run I opened it up. I was enjoying myself so much that it took me a while to realize I need to stop and figure out if I still had a family somewhere on the mountain. I  quickly slowed to a stop, and not more than 10 seconds behind me was Siena, and not more than another 20 seconds behind her was Nadia. The two of them had been tearing down the mountain just on my heels, laughing and loving the run they had just finished. The only reason they hadn't passed me was because they weigh less, they have far shorter skies, and I asked them to follow me. This is when the thought popped in my head "My Daughters are Awesome". Sure it is always true that they are awesome (although sometimes I'm not necessarily thinking it), but at that moment, that was the one thing that popped in my head, and I made sure to tell them that.

Nadia at Ski Santa Fe
Brandon, Siena and I are about to explore the steeps at Taos Ski Valley
The girls ripping it up at Purgatory
Kathy is awesome too, but that is something else that will get it's own blog post.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Finally Skiing!

One thing that our whole family has been looking forward to on this trip was that part of the trip that we get to ski. Of course Nadia was most excited about our time at Disney and spending time in the sun and at the beach, but we also love our seasons and the season we all truly love is winter which means ski season. I have to admit, it was tough for me to watch all my friends during November and December enjoying their ski vacations while we were enjoying the sun and beach of Flordia, as I have mentioned before we can't have it all, but now we are finally in our ski season and I have to say I truly enjoy this part of the trip so very much. Although it is definetly a haul getting our gear on and squeezing into tight, uncomfortable boots, despite the uncomfortable wardrobe hassles, I love being in nature, I love being active and I love that we are getting closer to home. 

            Ski Day at Wolf Creek, CO

Our last blog post we shared how we were frozen solid in Taos, but even though we were totally frozen we still had an awesome ski day. After Taos, we headed to lower elevation and spent some time in Santa Fe and enjoyed a super fun ski area for a couple days there and then we made our way to the family cabin in the mountains of New Mexico, in Eagle Nest. Although our first day or two was bit rough at the cabin - specifically thawing out the cabin and managing without power for a few hours, we got into the swing of things. We were able to spread out, hike in the snowy woods, read by the fireplace, bake cookies, cook dinners in an oven and just be a family in a house, which is something we haven't done in a long time. And for the long President's Day Weekend we got to have our great friends Brandon & Sabrina come to visit and stay at the cabin with us. 

Nadia wrote a little blog post about our weekend, here it is: 

We are at the cabin in New Mexico. We have been skiing with our friends Bebe (aka Sabrina) and Bando (aka Brandon). We had so much fun, Siena and I made dinner on Saturday. We went to a really good restaurant (on Sunday) and we made Rainbow Loom bracelets. We skied black diamonds. Siena, Bando and Daddy went on a 2 Black Diamond while Bebe, Me and Mommy went on a Blue. Before that I fell on Kachina Peak and I got a bloody nose, so I went to the lodge with Bando. 

                                       Ski Day at Taos with Bando & SaBebe 

Over the weekend, we skied at Angel Fire the first day and at Taos the next. Our girls even made dinner for the grown ups on Saturday night. Overall, it was a super fun weekend with blue bird ski days and fun dinners with our friends. 

                                     Girls making and serving dinner at the cabin 

After Bando & SaBebe left we started getting ready for our departure, packing up our gear which we had spread out around the cabin and then another full day of closing the cabin for the winter. After leaving the cabin we made our way to Pagosa Springs, a good spot to camp out before heading to the Wolf Creek Ski Area. Unfortunately, the one place we could find to stay for the night was The Last Resort Campground. Although the woman who helped us was super friendly and very helpful, we nearly got stuck in the mud in our parking spot and the girls and I agreed that bath house was a little weird. Needless to say, we only stayed there one night. Now, after skiing a fun day at Wolf Creek we made our way to Durango. We decided to splurge for a hotel since we were being lazy and didn't research a campground near Purgatory, CO. Tomorrow we will ski at Purgatory and then see where the road takes us, likely we will do our homework and find a campground and then next week we will be skiing in Telluride. We are all so happy to be skiing again, although, like Andrew said tonight, it does make us miss home a little bit more. Although we do a lot of skiing and camping at home, the difference is that we always have our home to come back to and spread out after a day of skiing, these days we just have our small little box on the back for our truck to come home to. But we definetly are making the best of it and giving ourselves a little leeway here and there. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Frozen in New Mexico

Cold conditions in New Mexico
The part of the trip where we would get to start skiing had finally arrived. So after five hours of dullest driving we have yet made this trip we arrived in New Mexico on January 30th. We took my cousin Jon’s advice and camped out that night in Cimarron Canyon State Park near Eagle Nest, New Mexico. We had the park to ourselves, and the girls were glad to see and play in their first snow of 2016. The next morning we made a somewhat harrowing drive on a thin layer of fresh snow from the state park to Eagle Nest, New Mexico and up to the family cabin. At the cabin we loaded all of our ski gear that we had stashed the previous summer and dumped off as much non-essential-for-skiing gear as we could, then headed out. We didn’t even get the camper turned around before it got stuck with all four wheels spinning in the snow, but 20 minutes of digging got us turned around and headed out.
Nadia's first snowman of 2016
We arrived at the cabin to find it quite cold
With a big snow storm coming, we decided to change our original plans of driving over a couple mountain passes in order to go skiing at Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado, instead opting to stay relatively near the cabin until the storm passed. Our first choice was to stay at an RV resort near the ski area of Angel Fire, New Mexico, but despite being open they didn’t seem prepared for anyone actually wanting to stay there. Our second choice Taos Valley RV park which I thought would be near Taos Valley Ski Resort, but it turned out to be several miles outside of Taos in the opposite direction of Taos Valley Ski Resort. Taos Valley RV park was nice, had all the amenities we needed and had at least 20 other folks staying through the winter in the RVs.
Taos Valley RV weather center
We woke the next morning at Taos Valley RV to find the promised monster winter storm had not yet hit so we prepared to head up to Taos Valley Ski Resort for a day of skiing. However it was cold enough that night to freeze our camper door shut. At the moment this was a rather large problem as there are certain morning activities that we have agreed will not be done in the camper, so with no way out things were starting to get desperate. After numerous attempts at vigorously trying to open the door, I briefly considered calling someone at the RV park’s office to help us, but then thought better of it and decided to place our one space heater on the door which quickly unfroze enough for the door to be opened. By the time we were ready to head out to the ski resort the blizzard conditions had hit Taos. With snow dumping, and plows unable to keep up, we made it maybe 3 miles before we ran into police stopping all traffic through the center of town on highway 68. Something had happened in the center of town that warranted closing the road, and bringing in fire trucks, ambulances, and multiple police cars. We turned around and attempted to make it around the roadblock using highway 585, but that road was unplowed and extremely slick with cars spinning out all over the place. I finally decided that if it’s this bad in town, it probably wasn’t worth it to risk trying to drive all the way up to the ski area. So much to everyone's disappointment we returned to the Taos Valley RV for the day. By noon much of the snow had melted and the roads were fairly safe, but it was too late to try and make it up to the ski area.
Not ideal conditions in Taos for driving
Siena's snowmen she built on the cancelled ski day
The next morning we checked out of Taos Valley RV and headed up to Taos Valley Ski Resort with the plans of camping out in their parking lot, just like we had done so many times at Alpental. When we arrived at the ski resort we had to deal with some gear problems, so we didn’t manage to start skiing until noon. Despite the late start, and very cold conditions we skied until the area closed, then enjoyed a little Apre Ski and an early dinner, finally making it back to the camper after dark. That is when I began to realized that Taos Valley Ski Resort is not like Alpental at all; I don’t recall temperatures in the Alpental parking lot ever getting to the negative double digits.
We finally made it onto the ski slopes but we couldn't breathe
Back in the camper we found the RV batteries nearly dead. The furnace had been running all day to keep the holding tanks from freezing solid and potentially bursting. That combined with sub-freezing temperatures and a solar panel that was completely covered with snow had taken its toll on the batteries. When I went to start up the generator I found I couldn’t start it, again a combination of high elevation and sub-freezing temperatures was too much for the propane generator. I knew that night we had to run the furnace to keep the campers pipes and holding tanks from bursting, which would pretty much put an end to the trip. I knew the furnace fans draw more power from the campers batteries than anything else in the camper. If the batteries did get too low not only would we risk all of our pipes and holding tanks freezing and bursting but the camper's propane leak sensor would go off warning us of low power, making it impossible to sleep. Nothing that would kill us, but there was a very real fear that I would have to find a place for my family to sleep at 2 am while staying at a very quiet ski resort with the knowledge that our camper might be permanently damaged. My stress combined with me not letting anyone turn on anything electric in the camper caused both girls to get quite worried. With the furnace straining to provide any warmth in the camper, none of us slept well that night.

The next morning I was relieved to find our furnace was still working, but a frozen pipe was preventing our pump from providing water to the camper. I climbed to the roof of the camper and cleared off the solar panel as soon as there was enough light for the solar panels to start charging the batteries. Then repeated that process every 30 minutes until the morning snow stopped and the sun came out and we went out skiing for the day. As Kathy put it, with the night we went though, there is no way we would miss out on skiing, we earned it! We had an incredible day skiing at a largely empty Taos Valley Ski Resort. Despite the wonderful day of skiing we knew we couldn’t stay in the lot another night, we needed to go back to the RV park where we had power and could run a space heater. Since we didn't have water it was difficult to cook and we were completely wiped out so on our way home from skiing and stopped at the Trading Post for dinner, a great Italian restaurant my mother recommended which was featuring MANGIA FESTA! a 3 course meal for $12!
Day 2 of skiing at Taos Ski Valley with near bluebird conditions
Kathy and I about to ski down off of 12,450' Kachina Peak
By the next morning our pipes were still frozen, so Siena and I walked to a nearby hardware store and purchased two more space heaters. The lady at the checkout counter told me I was the third person in that morning trying to thaw out frozen pipes in an RV. After running 3 space heaters in the camper the entire morning almost all the ice that had formed on the inside walls had melted, we got the interior temperature of the camper up to 90 degrees with the outside temperature in the high teens.
Kathy and 2 space heaters trying to melt ice inside the camper
Nadia and Siena with a space heater trying to thaw frozen pipes
As of this moment right now, our pipe is still frozen somewhere near or at where it draws water from the holding tank. All I can hope is that continuing to put warm air on the holding tank from space heaters set on their lowest setting will eventually thaw out the tank before night comes and it gets too cold to thaw anything out. Stay tuned to find out if we thaw the pipes, or if the frozen tank caused damage beyond what it's worth to repair.

UPDATE: Friday February 5, 2016

Late last night, after running a space heater on low pointed down at the fresh water holding tank for nearly 18 hours, our plumbing finally started working. The pipe appears to have been frozen beneath the fresh water holding tank where the pump draws fresh water into the camper. It's impossible to see down there without cutting a hole in the side of my camper, but based on what I can tell by putting my hand down there, nothing appears to be wet so hopefully it's not leaking (and based on the way my hand felt after pulling it out, thankfully, the insulation doesn't appear to be fiberglass based).

With this frozen experience behind us we decided to head south to Ski Santa Fe rather than north to Wolf Creek in Colorado. Ski Santa Fe is a relatively small ski area, but worth checking out for a day or two. Ski Santa Fe received around 26" in the past storm (but nothing in the past 48 hours), and tomorrow should be warm bluebird conditions.

Our friends Brandon and Sabrina arrive on Friday for a weekend at the cabin (not the camper) where we will probably ski Angel Fire and then return to Taos for a day. After that it will be time to start planning our ski adventures in Colorado and Utah and beyond!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Good Times on the Ranch

As Andrew reported in his last blog, we thoroughly enjoyed our time visiting with friends and family over the last few weeks. We caught up with our friend Ron in New Orleans and toured the amazing city with him. After that we made our way to Dallas and had lots of fun with all our Texas cousins. On our way out we got to stay with my highschool friend Kerry and her family in Ft. Worth. After Ft. Worth we made our way up north to the small town of Canadian, Texas where Andrew's family owns a ranch in Lipscomb County. Andrew's cousin Chaz and his wife Lori and their adorable daughter Milly live on the ranch in the same house that Andrew's mom grew up in. We visit the ranch regularly, usually about once per year, but we never stay on the ranch, (the last time Andrew stayed on the ranch was easily over 20 years ago when he spent a summer helping his uncle on the ranch). Usually when we visit we generally stay in town which is about 20 miles away which makes our visits shorter, but this year because we were in the camper we got to share "3 squares" (meals -as Chaz called them) with our cousins, we also got to experience feeding the cattle and even got to drive out to the Locus Grove fire department where Chaz volunteers on a call that ended up being taken care of by the time we got there, so Chaz didn't need to go off to fight any fires, that day. Overall, the time on the ranch was relaxing and rejuvenating. We had wonderful meals, a fun backyard fire, woke to the sound of roosters and greeted each moment we stepped outside by the cutest dogs we have ever met (we are hoping to adopt one of these puppies too when the time comes!). The weather was unseasonably warm and clear while we were there too, which allowed us to get outside and take walks, shoot the bow and arrow and swing over the pond on the rope swing. We all agreed that we truly loved the time on the ranch and can't wait for the next time we get to go back, and hopefully our time will allow us to drive again so that we can stay on the ranch again and take it all in once more. 

              The camper fits right in on the ranch!

The girls loved the ranch just as much as Andrew and I, if not more. Siena is determined to get a Mars & Quigly puppy (and we are going to do our best to make that happen) and Nadia loved her tractor ride with Chaz, getting pushed on the rope swing and of course playing with Cousin Milly! 

Here are their highlights of the time on the ranch as well... 

I went to our family ranch in Canadian, Texas. It was fun, I played with my cousin Milly. We also went on the rope swing over the pond and Chaz and Daddy pushed Siena and me. Lori made such good breakfast every morning for us. We went to a museum and there was a display of the Water’s family, what I thought was so cool about it is that it is all about my grandma’s (Baba) family. We went to feed the cattle and we got to hand feed the cows their tongues felt  like sand paper. On the last day we went on the tractor and we went on the front of it.:) I'd like to go back there again it was so fun. On the drive to New Mexico it was snowy on the mountain in our campground there was no one else there but on the other side we built snowman. Next stop SKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Whoohoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                     Nadia on the rope swing

On the ranch we had a lot of fun and this blog post is to tell you about all the fun we had. When we got to the ranch we saw Chaz and Lori and Milly, Nadia and my third cousin (I think). They got a new dog her name is Mars they also have a dog that was there before and his name is Quigly. He and Mars are Australian Shepherds they are so fun. The night we arrived we had dinner at the Cattle Exchange it is a nice restaurant and we go there every time we visit the ranch. The next morning we got up at the crack of dawn to see the sunrise NOT. I slept in pretty late, then we had breakfast and then we fed the cows which was fun then we saw the fire station beacause Chaz is a volunteer fireman. The next day we went to see Holleen and Jerry they had lots of animals they even had peacocks then we went to a museum that had a display of our grandma Baba’s family, unfortunately we were not on the display :( but it was still cool. The morning we had to leave we got to ride in a plow in the front of the tractor which was fun, then we left. 


                           Siena with Mars & Quigly

Monday, February 1, 2016

Picking Favorites

So I just finished up a week with family in Texas; first in Dallas, then in the panhandle. It was a wonderful reunion. Some family members I had seen less than a year ago, others it had been over 20 years. It reminded me of why I was doing this trip. However, when spending this much time around family I find myself answering questions about this trip. One question that I pretty much consistently get asked is "What is your favorite place that you've visited?". When I can't answer that question, it is often followed up by, "What's your least favorite place you've visited?". I can usually come up with an answer that is somewhat in jest for the second question, but the first always stumps me.

There really hasn't been a favorite place. It's all different and all of it has it's plusses and minuses (or as Kathy and the girls would say, roses and thorns). However, I spent some time thinking about it and I can provide some general comments to the question about "What is my favorite place that I've visited?".

There is more to a place than just it's geographic location, and with this in mind I've loved visiting the places that are so steeped in history: Quebec City, Gettysburg, Savanah, St. Augustine, Kennedy Space Center, and so many others. History from a book is fine, but then to actually set foot on those places makes that moment in history so much more real. Even better is discovering a piece of history related to some place that you really didn't know much or anything about such as the history of Quebec City and it's founder Samuel Champlain.
Enjoying Quebec City
I love the ocean, so I love the places we have visited that put us next to salt water. Whether it's the quiet fjord leading to the town of Hyder, Alaska, or the cold rocky coast of Maine, or a busy port in Massachusetts and Norfolk, or the sandy beaches of Delaware or Florida, all of our stays on or near the coast have been wonderful!
Enjoying the salt water in the Bahamas
I really loved the opportunities to spend time on the open road, but not the interstate. Interstates are a necessary evil for getting from one place to another quickly, but other than that they are for the most part terribly boring. It's those two lane roads connecting two places that require passing though tiny towns that I really love. I could drive all day on roads like that (and I have). When you aren't in a rush to get somewhere it's kind of fun to drive nowhere.
not enjoying the interstate highways in New York
Just as the history of a place can help increase it's value in your memory, the strangers you meet along the way can also make the place important to you. I have really enjoyed getting to meet people we've met along the way. Bart and Judy at Whistler who gave us the fidget toy (a few links of bicycle chain attached to a key chain), Peter at the RV park Prince Rupert, Clem at Younity Winery, Chris the whittling guy we met at the Amish farm, Martha at Mocking Bird Hill Farm, and the many countless others we've met along the way.

I love a good view. It might be looking from the coast towards the end of the horizon or from some high mountain pass off into the hills and valleys below, or looking down to a town from a view point on an incredible hike, or even just reaching the top of the high point on some road that wanders up and down over rolling hills. Whenever I can look into the distance with my family, I've been happy.

I especially love the mountains, whether it's from below looking up to the mountains that tower around me in the Canadian Rockies, or from some mountain top that we hiked to. This is one reason I'm particularly excited for the current leg of our trip as we have left behind the lowlands of the southeast and headed into the Rockies Mountains of New Mexico and Colorado.
celebrating a mountain top on Acadia National Park in Maine
Most of all I love visiting family and friends. There are friends I have gotten to visit with and spend time with that before this trip I thought wouldn't see again (other than on the internet). There is family that I've gotten to see on this trip that I haven't seen in at least 20 years. In the past few years, when I do get to visit with family, it often seems like it is for just a short time. With several family members on this trip I've gotten to spend several days (hopefully we weren't too much of a burden). With all of the family members who invited us into their house we are extremely grateful and hope to have you visit with us in the future.
hanging out with Baba on the St Lawrence River
hanging out with cousin Jennie Ruth on the USS Wisconsin
hanging out with friend Sophia in Nashville
hanging out with sis-in-law in Va Beach
hanging out way too long with the Micheli clan on a monorail at Disney World
hanging out with a brother
literally hanging out with cousin Hayden off Key West

hanging out with the cousins Warren, Barry and John in Dallas
hanging out with cousin Milly in Locust Grove
(Extreme apologies to all friends and family who are not represented with a picture in this section of this blog post, you are still loved just as much as those who I could find a picture of.)

There are a ton of places we've visited which I've really enjoyed, which I would otherwise never have gotten to see, either because they were so far away (even if I flew to the nearest airport then drove) or they were just not anywhere in my imagination of places in the world that I wanted to visit or they were located in what I previously considered flyover states.

This trip which is just over halfway over has been incredible. I am surprised that in 9 months of travel I feel like we are only getting the smallest of tastes of what there is to see in the USA and Canada.