Center Lake

Bill and I are winding down our time here in beautiful Custer State Park, South Dakota. We have only two more three day work shifts, then we will be leaving here on 9/24/19 to make our four day trip back to Arizona. We’ve spent the past five months here, and are thankful we had this opportunity to visit this magical place. While we really enjoyed all the things we saw and did on our days off, there were an equal amount of things we didn’t like about our stay. Like our ever changing work schedules. We worked at four different Visitor Centers, but not together. One day we would open a Visitor Center, and the next day we would be closing a Visitor Center. When we had to close, we had to work until 8:00 p.m. which did not suit us at all. Both Bill and I are very much early morning people and don’t like sitting around half the day waiting to go to work. And the campground we live in is a complete disaster. We changed campsites three times since we’ve been here, and still never got our coach level. The problem is most of the sites in this campground are on a slant. Somehow these things were not mentioned to us when we had our telephone interview and accepted the positions… We are so ready to get back to our level site at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, and work the Visitor Center schedules we have enjoyed for the past four years there. We already talked to our new Supervisor, and she said she would love for us to keep the same schedules we had for the past four years.

One good thing that did happen as the result of our ever changing work schedules, was that we were assigned to work “special project” last Friday with the maintenance lead, Darin. Darin is a really great guy, and he needed help loading up canoe’s that were used over the summer by the Naturalist’s to teach free canoeing basics. Darin told us to meet him at Center Lake ,and Bill could help him load the canoe’s onto his truck so he could deliver them to the storage garage where they will stay until they are needed again next summer.

While we were waiting for Darin to arrive at our meeting place at Center Lake, we had the opportunity to walk around, and take in how beautiful Center Lake is.

When Darin arrived, he told us that Center Lake is the lake that is also used for the “Hook em and Cook em” program the Naturalists teach over the summer. Hook em and Cook em is a free fishing program, where families can go fishing, without a fishing license, and the park supplies the fishing poles, bait, and the Naturalists will even clean, and cook the fish the families catch. What a deal!

Darin also told us that because Center Lake is stocked with three kinds of trout for the Hook em and Cook em program, it’s also the lake all the local folks come to fish. Yes, sign us up!

Center Lake also has a beautiful campground surrounding the lake. It is the only campground, in Custer State Park, that makes same day camping reservations. All other campgrounds must be booked in advance. Bill and I really enjoyed visiting Center Lake. It is so, so, peaceful and beautiful.

While loading up the canoe’s, Darin found this pretty little baby doll under one of the canoe’s. He sat it on the lock box that is used to store the life vests and canoe paddles. When we got ready to leave, I asked Darin if he was just going to leave, and abandon, this pretty little doll baby with her cute pink, teddy bear outfit on, and cute pink hat…? He smiled and said “put her in my truck and I’ll find a way to play a trick on the Park Manager, Lydia”. Lydia, I had nothing to do with whatever “trick” Darin is planning to do…

We were scheduled to work the full day with Darin, and we were ready to do just that. But that morning, when we met up with him, I mentioned that that day was our anniversary. And guess what? After we got the canoe’s unloaded back at the storage garage, which only took three hours, Darin said “I think I’m just going to cut you folks loose now ,so go and enjoy the rest of your day… “Thanks Darin!

Looking back over the past five months, we would not take anything for the experience we’ve had here in South Dakota. But, after five months of buffalo’s coming and going at will in and around our campsite, knocking over our outside ovens, scratching our motorhome, grunting, sniffing females to see if they are ready to mate, and fighting for the right to mate with her right outside our motorhome, keeping us trapped inside..,

after five months of all that… , we no longer say with excitement “oh look, the buffalo are coming.” NO!! Now we say “OH S##T, the buffalo are coming!! But oh, what stories we have to tell… ¬†ūüôā ūüôā

Stay Tuned!

The Grand Mesa Colorado

Yesterday our daughter Katie Roden, took us on a lovely drive to visit the Grand Mesa. This was our second weekend out and about seeing all the beautiful fall colors,

and we were amazed at how much the colors have changed in just one week.

The Grand Mesa is “known as the largest flattop mountain in the world, encompassing hundreds of square miles and standing more than 10,000 feet above sea level. The Grand Mesa scenic byway leads through old-growth forests, aspens, meadows and so many lakes you’ll lose track”.

We drove out to what is called Lands End Observatory, a ranger observatory on the rim of the Grand Mesa. The views from Lands End Observatory are spectacular, and there are lots of little critters running all over the rocks (look closely in the middle of the rock below) looking for special treats that visitors might put out for them.

Some visitors bring huge sunflower pods filled with sunflower seeds, and leave them out for the critters to find and enjoy.

We had a special treat at Lands End Observatory too. Katie packed a wonderful picnic lunch that we all enjoyed while taking in the million dollar views.

Thank-you Katie Roden, for treating us to such a beautiful, fun-filled day.

Our time here in Colorado is quickly coming to an end. We leave Saturday to make our way back to Arizona, where we are excited to see our family and friends there, and enjoy another exciting season hosting at the Visitor Center at McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

Stay Tuned!


That’s what this whole Questa and Taos area is, Shantel, just awesome!

Yesterday, papa and I drove a loop that took us to through the Village of Red River which is a lovely snow ski resort area, Eagle’s Nest which is a beautiful drive, and where we stopped to visit a Vietnam Memorial, which was very emotional, especially for papa, since he is a Vietnam Vet himself, and we finished our trip in Taos, which is a little Village with lots of shops and places to eat so that is where we decided to have lunch.

The first stop along our was at the church we will attend while we are here. St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. We wanted to make sure we know where it is, and what time Sunday Mass is. We liked it right off as they seem to have a sense of humor. There were three signs in the parking lot, one said parking for the Priest, one said parking for the Deacon, and there was a sign in between those two signs that said Thou shalt not park here. Ha! The church is also a historic building and listed on the things to see in Questa. More on that later.

The landscape in this area is just amazing with lots of high soaring mountains covered with trees and all sorts of rock formations.

As we were driving along, all of a sudden, a group of Big Horn Sheep came out of the trees, and stood right along the side of the road. They stood there long enough for me to be able to snap a quick picture, then they were off again.

The little Village of Red River is small, but of course it has lots of shops and places to eat. Right behind the Village is the ski lift that takes folks up the mountain so they can ski back down the snow-covered mountains in the winter. It’s a big attraction for the Village in the winter months, and attracts visitors from all over the world.

The Vietnam Memorial had a heart touching sign right at the entrance that reads “welcome home veterans.” So touching because, like papa has said many times, those veterans never got a hero’s welcome, or for many, no welcome home at all. I read a sign that said the Vietnam war was a young man’s war, and that the average age of boys that went to fight that war was 19. Sadly, war is decided by old men and women, and fought by young men and women. Not all , but a lot of the men that fought that war were drafted and felt they were doing what they had to do.

There were pictures of veterans all around the grounds,

and a full size Huey helicopter, that was used to carry troops in and out of the battlefields.

Inside the Huey helicopter was a plaque of the same kind of helicopter sitting beside the pilot’s seat.

They have a lovely mediation chapel. Just as you enter the chapel there were three rows of padded seats with boxes of kleenex spaced appropriately apart. So touching, and needed, because it is a very emotional experience.

As you move further into the chapel you see wreaths of flowers, and candles, and personal effects people have placed in memory of their loved ones.

As you are leaving the chapel you pass the American flag, and a Prisoner of War (POW) flag that says “you are not forgotten.” Oh, Shantel, I know if you could see the vastness of the world we live in, you would say, what are we fighting about, isn’t this world big enough for all of us to share, without boundaries, and just live in peace…?

When we left the memorial, we made our way to the Village of Taos, and had a wonderful lunch at Michael’s Kitchen which was highly recommended by the locals. It is a restaurant, and they have their own on-site bakery.

I had the Derek’s special, not sure how Derek got into Michael’s kitchen, but what he made is his take on a cheese steak sandwich. It had thinly sliced steak, red bell peppers, mushrooms, green chili’s, onions, all covered with provolone cheese and wrapped in a fresh, homemade, flour tortilla. It wasn’t paleo, but it sure was delicious! It came with fries but I didn’t eat them. The wrap was enough for me.

The bakery section of Michael’s has cinnamon rolls, and other sweet rolls, that are as big as a baby’s head. We didn’t partake in any of those, but I thought about you, and how much you would have loved picking out one of them.

It was a wonderful first outing, and we are very excited to continue to explore and enjoy this AWESOME state of New Mexico.

Papa and I love and miss you.

Stay Tuned!

Having An Adventure

Well, Shantel, we finally made it to Questa, New Mexico. When I researched the area this is part of what I read. “Questa is a small village in Taos county, New Mexico. Renowned for the beautiful scenery surrounding the small historic village. The village offers rare trails into the Rio Grande Gorge, and mountain lakes with trails that access the highest reaches of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, overlooking the area. Located on the Enchanted Circle Byway, near the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Red River”.

Papa and I just can’t hardly wait to begin exploring all there is to see here. You know we love hiking, so this area is a dreamland adventure for us. But getting here was an “adventure” of its own. You know how when things don’t go as planned Papa always says “it’s an adventure”? Well somewhere between Gallup, New Mexico, and Questa, we stopped for lunch at a rest area. That’s where we found out the steps that are supposed to come out when we open the door and retract when we are ready to drive down the road failed to operate properly. They were stuck halfway. Not all the way out, and not all the way in. So Papa had his first “adventure” crawling under the rig and tying the steps up with a rope. That worked well enough to get us going on down the road. However, let me tell you, it is not easy, or a pretty sight, getting in and out of the rig with no steps. Needless to say, Papa is ordering the part needed to fix the problem.

The next time we made a pit stop, I noticed something brown on the counter just under the spice cabinet. Upon further inspection, I found out a bottle of liquid smoke didn’t have the top closed securely, and spilled out all over the spice cabinet and onto the countertop below. Thus, I had my first little “adventure” as I cleaned it all up.

When we finally arrived at our RV Park in Questa, and I started checking to see if anything shifted around in the cabinets while we were traveling down the road, and what do I find but my second little “adventure”. A bottle of honey, that was on the top shelf in the spice cabinet, tipped over and apparently the flip top came up and lots of sticky honey spilled out all over most of the spice jars on the lower shelf, and of course, all over the lower shelf itself… That was not fun to clean up, but I did it, and all is well again. ūüôā

Finally, after a long “adventurous” day, Papa and I cooked fresh salmon and saut√©ed leeks for our dinner, and settled in for the night. It was raining when I went to bed and rained off and on throughout the night. When I got up in the morning and was having my coffee, I looked out the window, and just across the street is a beautiful mountain that was blanketed in snow, and it was only 33 degrees. You well know how much I don’t like to be cold…But the sun is shining as I write this, and the weather channel says it is supposed to be in the mid 80’s by the end of the week. Now I can handle that. ūüôā

Today I spent the day getting the rig back in order on the inside while Papa got everything settled on the outside.

Tomorrow, we are heading out on our first day trip. We are going to go towards the Red River area to see what all we can find there.

We love and miss you Shantel.

Stay tuned for more of our expeditions/adventures.

Zane Grey Tour

Well, here we are, safely tucked away in our temporary new home for the next four weeks, and what an adorable place to be tucked away in.

Welcome to Zane Grey RV Park in Camp Verde Arizona.

I am loving all the beautiful trees and shade here.

All the spaces are nice and large with lots and lots of trees and shade..

Two paths take you around the outside of the park and down to the creek.

Just beyond these trees is the creek. I will be exploring that very soon.


They have a nice Ramada here in the park, complete with a dinner bell, where they welcome guests to free donuts, fresh fruit, and coffee every Saturday at 10:00 a.m. How nice is that?

They also have a community fire pit because they encourage folks to get to know each other in the evenings around a campfire. No, that is not snow on the ground, it’s from the cottonwood trees. I love it because it’s pretty, but not cold..

Everywhere you look around the park grounds is something interesting to see…

Even the laundry room is decorated.

And check out this adorable little outdoor phone station for guests to make local calls.

This is our little slice of this beautiful RV Park for the next four weeks

This is where I am happy to fluff my feathers, and settle into this beautiful little nesting area…

Hope you enjoyed the tour.

Stay Tuned!

What A Difference

As in life, what a difference a few days can make in the desert.

With about 22 thousand acres, and over 80 miles of trails here at McDowell Mountain Park, Bill and I love  getting out and hiking three to four days a week.

This first picture below was taken just last week when the desert was lush and green after the unusual amount of rain we had over the winter months.

However, summer is fast approaching, and today Bill and I noticed most of the lush green is turning brown and drying up as shown in this picture.

The dryness makes it easy to spot areas all around like this, where the grass is matted down due to what we think are¬†places where some of our desert animals bed down for the night. But, I’m going to ask our park ranger if she agrees with that thought process or not..

There are still some signs of spring left to be found, like this blooming creosote bush. A pretty desert bush with yellow and white flowers.

I read up on the creosote bush on About Travel by Phil Persson, and here are some interesting things I found out. “Creosote leaves are coated with a resin to prevent water loss in the hot desert. The resin of the creosote bush also protests the plant from being eaten by most mammals and insects. It is believed that the bush produces a toxic substance to keep other nearby plants from growing thus ensuring its own survival. The creosote leaves give off a very unique and peculiar odor when it rains. Although some refer to the odor as¬†heavenly essence of the desert, the Spanish word for the plant, hediondilla, means little stinker, signifying that not everyone considers the odor heavenly to the senses (I like the smell of the creosote plant). The plant was a virtual pharmacy for Native Americans. It was used in a tea to cure such things as flu, stomach cramps, cancer, coughs, colds, etc.”. Well, who knew all that could come out of one desert plant!

Bill and I don’t know what the little red berries on this thorny bush are, but we think they must not be edible or the birds, and other desert critters, wound have picked the bush¬†clean by now. Another question we need to ask our park ranger. So much to see and learn here in our beautiful Arizona desert..

Our time here for this season is quickly winding down.¬†Bill and I¬†are¬†leaving on April 26th to spend a month in Camp Verde Arizona, where we will just rest and relax until we head out to Oregon¬†for the summer months. We will return to McDowell Mountain Park in October.¬†We¬†will be looking forward to¬†another fun-filled hosting season, and reuniting with¬†all the new friends we’ve made here.

Stay tuned for postings of our summer adventures!

A New Friend!

Bill and I have met so many wonderful people since we have been here at McDowell Mountain Regional Park. All of the staff, and hosts, are so welcoming and friendly. But I want to dedicate this post to my new “huggie” girlfriend, Bonnie.

Bonnie, and her husband, Craig, have been hosts here for about 10 years. They are both very friendly and willing to help in any way they can. Craig always stops by the visitor center when Bill and I are working and asks if we need anything, and always tells us to call him if/when we do need anything. He is really a great guy and we appreciate all he does.

Bonnie is one of those people you meet, and immediately feel a connection, and just know it won’t be long before you become friends. Bonnie is beautiful inside and out, and she has a personality that just lights up any room she enters.

Bonnie trained me to make camping reservations and/or changes to reservations for our guests that visit our park. She has the patience of a saint and never seemed to mind the endless questions I had while I was being trained.

Bill and I were scheduled to work Christmas Eve. We didn’t mind because we are one of the new host couples here and we know we all need to “pay our dues” and take our turn working holiday’s… However, Bonnie knew Bill and I were going to spend Christmas Eve at our daughter, Shantel’s home, in Phoenix, and a big storm, with heavy rain, was predicted to arrive in our area within a few hours of the time we would finish our shift at 4:00. The problem with big storms with heavy rain in this area is that we have three washes to go through to get out of the park and make our way to the highway to get to Phoenix.

Bonnie and her husband were not planning to leave the park on Christmas Eve, they were going to have a little after hours gathering at the visitor center with some of the other park hosts. Bonnie had already worked her scheduled hours for the week. But, Bonnie knew Bill and I were a bit worried about getting out of the park before the heavy rains came that could flood the washes we needed to cross. So, Bonnie, being Bonnie, sent me a text around 11:30 yesterday morning letting me know that she was going to come in around 3:15 and take over so Bill and I could leave and get to Shantel’s home to start our Christmas celebration!

Both Bill and I were very happy to be getting off a little early. Now, imagine our surprise when Bonnie walks in at about 2:00 and said she had finished up the things she wanted to get done and decided she would just come on in and let us go even earlier!! OMG, both Bill and I were so surprised, happy, and very appreciative. We both hugged Bonnie, and told her how much we appreciate her, and wanted her to know what a great person we think she is. I mean how many folks do you know that would give up their Christmas Eve afternoon off to go and let people they just recently met get off early…? I’m sure there are a few folks out there like Bonnie that would do that, but let me just say, Bill and I have found that those kind of people are few, and sometimes hard to find… And when we meet people like Bonnie and become friends, we never for one minute that that friendship for granted!

So, a BIG shout out to my new girlfriend, Bonnie. THANK-YOU for being the beautiful, fun-loving, kind-hearted person you are. We were blessed the day we met you, and we look forward to many years of friendship.

Merry Christmas!

Previous Older Entries

Wheeling It

On the Road Since 2010, Traveling Across USA & Europe With 12 Paws

The Brantley Blog

In the eyes of the law, we reach adulthood the day we turn 18 years old. God help anyone who actually believes that.

the next few years

family life..with a unique perspective of motherhood

Gotham Girl Chronicles

a mixture of random in

Blooming Burgh Boomer

Living An Active Full Life

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