Saturday, May 28, 2011

Frericks Fab Five: Cities/Attractions

When Ken and I went back through our Southwest trip, we started out with a separate list of our favorite towns/cities and our favorite attractions. It soon became apparent that it was really very difficult to separate the two. So, we re-calibrated and, instead, are giving you one list of our top five cities that includes our favorite attractions in those areas.

We realize, more than ever, that by putting the time and effort in to studying our potential destinations in advance, asking for advice from fellow RVers and then talking to local residents once there, we get a really great combination of classic ‘must see’ stops along with some unique finds along the way.

One of the best parts about taking a breather from travel and spending some of that time reviewing the last adventure is that we find, through this exercise of choosing our favorites, we are getting to relive some of those marvelous times together.

It reminds me of the rules for writing a good paper, 1) Tell me what your going to tell me 2) tell me 3) Tell me what you told me. For us it appears the most enjoyment in travel comes from: 1) Finding out all we can about where to travel 2) Travel 3) Review the trip.

Ken and I really wrestled with the list for this post to the point that I thought I’d mention some of the contenders that didn’t quite make the cut:

Note: where city names are highlighted you can link to our original trip posts for that location. Usually there are several posts for each location so click ‘Newer Post’ at bottom of blog to page. I didn’t do hyperlinks to attractions, national parks, etc., in this blog since you can find those in the original posts.

  • Oklahoma City, OK- Alfred P Murrah Memorial, Bricktown, some great bbq! (Link to original post here).

  • Rodeo, NM – wonderful place to kick back in the middle of nowhere, enjoy jeep trips in to the mountains (right through ‘Paradise’!), and enjoy the small town café and tavern

  • Palo Duro Canyon – it’s this kind of place that makes us want to buy a smaller rig that we’d be comfortable in taking in to more of the national parks.

  • Quartzsite, AZ– RVers gotta go once just to experience it! We really loved our side trips 4-wheeling with other Escapee jeeps and visiting the Desert Bar. Best of all we met many

  • El Centro, CA – we liked it so much here we went back again mostly because of the perfect weather, great Italian restaurant and laid back atmosphere. I also loved meeting Leonard Knight at Salvation Mountain on one of our day trips, and watching the harvests in the huge fields of vegetables across the Imperial Valley.

Ok, so here’s the final cut…the top 5….

#5 Roswell, NM – UFO Museum, Bitter Creek Wildlife Refuge

Granted, you really have to have the right mindset for Roswell ! To some it would be downright tacky. But, we found it to be wacky fun.


Lamp posts still decorated for Christmas in Roswell

The museum hasn’t been updated in many decades which, to us, adds to its quirky charm. If you go in knowing its not going to ‘wow’ you and take the time to read a lot of the information, it’s really pretty interesting. In fact, we’ve agreed that if we get by this way again, we will take the time to go to the museum again and sit through the hours of low-budget films about Roswell. You can spend the who day just watching films! Ken and I always enjoy attractions where we come away with lots to talk about and this definitely fits that bill. I can’t say that either of us were any more or less convinced that aliens actually crashed but we certainly have a much better understanding of the whole event and spent a lot of time talking about what did and didn’t make sense to us.

We didn’t know anything about the nearby Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge until we arrived in Roswell. Our timing was quite good to catch the thousands of sand cranes coming in. This is one of those ‘take your breath away experiences’ at sunset, the lines of cranes all across the glowing sky, the sounds of nothing but nature all around you. I’ve had folks say that with HD Discovery Channel you don’t need to leave your armchair for this kind of experience. Well, it’s just totally different being there for us.


Bitter Lake was definitely a Top 5 for Ditka and Sox


Cranes arriving at sunset

We found the smalltown atmosphere we love in Roswell with friendly folks, decent restaurants and comfortable weather for exploring. It was where we really started feeling we reached our general ‘Southwest’ destination after days of travelling through Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

Our timing was wrong to hit the wine-tasting room in downtown Roswell called Pecos Flavors Winery as they were closed the day we planned to visit. This place is actually rated the #1 attraction in Roswell and another reason we’d probably go back.

In fact, next time in Roswell, while we were comfortable at the RV park in town, we’ll probably go to nearly Bottomless Lake State Park which we now understand to be a major attraction in itself.

So, I guess, in a way, part of our attraction to Roswell is that it’s a place we definitely want to visit again, now that we have even more things we want to do there.

#4, Sedona/Oak Creek Canyon/Jerome/Camp Verde, AZ

Staying in the Camp Verde area, we were in easy driving distance to a huge variety of attractions.

Our timing was just right to make a trip to the Sedona Film Festival to get in on a showing of the winning film, The First Grader, and get to participate in the post-showing discussion with the film’s producer.

Sedona’s Red Rock area is just gorgeous and we had the unique opportunity to see it during the deepest snowfall they’d had in 20 years.


Snowy Sunday Morning – Red Rocks of Sedona

Oak Creek Canyon was one of our favorite driving trips followed closely by our day-trip up to Jerome, AZ.


Scenic overlook above Jerome, AZ

Our hike in search of the vortex near Cathedral Rock was also one of our favorite days.


In front of Cathedral Rock, Sedona

While we weren’t particularly blown away by the Montezuma Castle Monument, we found the Montezuma Well site intriguing.

Camp Verde turned out to be a perfect center of operations for us, with things to do in many different directions while we could still come ‘home’ to a really nice RV site, and head across the highway to wonderful meals at great prices in ‘The Gathering’ restaurant at the casino. Every night, this restaurant had a top-notch unique special for under $10. After long days of adventure, a quiet evening with a nice dinner that we didn’t have to prepare just added to our enjoyment of this location.

#3 Borrego Springs, CA

We had no idea when we started our winter adventures that we would end up boondocking in Borrego Springs. In fact, if you would have asked us where is the Anza Borrego Desert, if we would have answered right, it would have been a guess!

One of the absolute best parts of this lifestyle is its flexibility. Our RV friend, JoAnn, called and asked if we wanted to join them boondocking in Borrego Springs and next thing you know we’ve got the map out and the good ol’ GPS is calling out: ‘Rerouting’!


Our Rockhouse Road boondocking site with JoAnn and Doug

We probably would not have enjoyed this location so much had it not been for Joann and Doug.


Doug admiring one of the newer sculptures

This is one of their favorite places and they knew all the great attractions, hikes and drives for us to make the most of our experience, including hikes through slot canyons, driving tours to visit all the gorgeous Galleta Meadows sculptures, daytrips to mountaintop Julian for their famous pie and west to Temecula to see the Jojoba SKP Co-op. There were sunsets and sunrises at Font’s point, and jeep adventures getting lost out in the Borrego Badlands.


Sunrise at Font’s Point

Of course, it was this time with Joann and Doug when we got to meet other great RVing friends such as Richard and Marlene and JoAnn and Fred, not to mention, had no end to the number of great dining adventures they all knew about.

Borrego Springs itself is a really neat little town with a farmer’s market and a rather upscale, artsy feel without the stuffiness that sometimes goes along with that. We were glad we’d been forewarned that the grocery shopping was limited and a bit pricey.

While Ken is not convinced he enjoys the actual boondocking experience, we would love to go back to Borrego, especially to take in more of the hiking. They also have a wide variety of programs, such as birding and astronomy workshops that operate out of the museum/visitors center along with unique little community get-togethers where winter residents are made to feel welcome.

Unless we go to boondock with other couples, we will probably stay in the very nice RV sites at Anza Borrego State Park. This will require some pre-planning since they take reservations and the nice sites for big rigs tend to fill early. You can read Laurie and Odel’s rave review on that park here --- again, one of the awesome parts of getting to know fellow RVers, especially those with such informative travel blogs!

#2 Ajo/Why, AZ – Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

We found the Ajo/Why area to be at the top of our list for the most naturally beautiful and diverse desert area we found on our trip.


Hiking Alamo Canyon, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

I also found it interesting that we both rated it so high considering that other than the hiking and beautiful natural surroundings, you’re pretty isolated here – our Sprint cell phones didn’t work, there aren’t a lot of choices in dining or attractions.

We really loved driving and walking this national park. They’ve done a wonderful job of making the visitor’s center and the driving tour very informative. I’d suggest you take a picnic lunch and plan to make a full day of the 21 mile driving tour.


Variety of cacti on Ajo Mountain Drive: ocotillo, saguaro, organ pipe, teddy bear choila, buckhorn choila, prickly pear

While we drove down to Lukeville to see the infamous border fence, we probably wouldn’t do that again. Not much to see at the border and the café that was recommended there was nothing special.

I thought the campground in the national park was absolutely beautiful and it would be my pick for our next stay even though it is essentially bookdocking. They have showers and a dump station and with Ken’s ‘geezer pass’ we could stay for only $6 per night. Sights are available for rigs up to 40 feet. Ken thought the roads were really tight for a big rig and prefers the rather drab but full hookup campground we used on the Indian reservation where we were serenaded by burros every evening and he could sit outside with the other men shooting the breeze over coffee every morning.

Despite the reputation for problems this close to the Mexican border, we experienced no issues and saw nothing else to indicate there were any issues while we were there. Of course, we did see an abundance of border patrol and regularly came across impromptu security checkpoints along the highways in this area.

#1 Tucson/Benson, AZ

It might be cheating a bit to put Benson and Tucson together since they are about 40 minutes apart but if we had to pick any of the areas we visited to stay for an extended period it would be in this area.

We include Benson because we not only found the SKP Co-op there to have a really homey and welcoming feel but Benson itself has a comfortable small town feel still with the conveniences of a nice grocery store and a Walmart. Of course, the Horseshoe Café and the ice cream shop with 44 flavors of soft serve were some of our favorite Benson stops. The other attraction to Benson is its close proximity for day trips to the quaint little town of Bisbee, AZ or the drive in to the Coronado National Monument.

We really had all the best of the best here: some of the best scenery, best attractions, best dining and best RV sites. We had the special conveniences of the big city (ie., Trader Joe’s!) alongside some of the absolute best desert landscape (ie Saguaro National Park).

And, in fact, if we had to pick one attraction that most represented this trip it would be the Desert Museum. I think if I lived in Tucson I could visit that museum--which is really more of a sanctuary of living desert plants and animals—once a week and never tire of it.


Yes he’s alive!! Captured this shot of a coyote among his natural desert surroundings in the Desert Museum


It’s great that they have all the plants labeled for us desert newbies!

We also found a beautiful place to stay in the Tucson Mountain Park. I think being happy with your RV site makes the general surroundings feel more attractive.


First rain we’d seen since leaving the Midwest approaches our site at Tucson Mountain Park

I could sit for hours in that area of West Tucson amidst those majestic Saguaro’s as they seem to reach up in worship to the sun and moon.


Saguaro National Park

Sadly, our visit to this area was just shortly after the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabbie Gifford who was still in the hospital there with well wishers still standing vigil when we happened to drive through that part of town. This will always be on of those ‘do you remember where you were when’ times for us.

There’s another reason, I think we both remember the Tucson area as a highlight. It seems that in Tucson we really finally got out of vacation mode. We didn’t try to plan too much in one day and enjoyed several down days hanging close to the campground. We just kept extending our stay.


I might mention what could be a downside to doing these reviews. When I talk to Ken about our next snowbird adventure and whether it will be Florida or Texas next, his answer is the Southwest, again! We’ll have to weigh our passion for experiencing new places against having fallen in love with New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California.

We have one more Fab Five to finish this review. That will be on RV Parks and we are arguing over ….oops, I mean discussing which will make the Top 5 cut.

Stay tuned!

Hugs, C

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May Brings Baby Showers

This past weekend, there was a baby shower for Leah in Quincy.

Jenni and Kyle arrived Friday evening and Leah and her mother drove down from Chicago Saturday afternoon.  We treated them to some old-fashioned home cookin’ Saturday evening with pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted carrots, fried apples and peach cobbler for dessert.

The shower was a luncheon at the Pier Restaurant which has a nice view of the river and Quincy bridges.

Here’s Leah outside the restaurant with shower hostesses Lois (Trevor’s godmother), Cousin Erin, and sister-in-law Jenni.


The tables were beautifully decorated with fresh fruits and flowers and lots of pretty ‘baby boy blue’ touches.


Jenni provided some very nicely decorated and tasty cupcakes.


Jenni had put together a nice little scrapbook with slots for cards from the guests where they could each provide a note of baby advice.  As usual the Pier provided a very nice lunch and our family provided lots of chatter!

Here’s Erin seated with Aunt’s Mary, Cindy, Kay and Jean.


And, the ‘Duesterhaus side of the family (clockwise from 7:00) Aunt Betty, cousin Peggy, Aunt Judy, cousin Laurie, cousin Sheila, cousin Darlene, Aunt Kathleen and cousin Deanna.


Leah ready to dig in to her gifts.


These showers are a real education for me.  For example, one of the gifts was an Angel Care Breathing Monitor.  I never knew such a thing existed.   What a great idea!    This little guys is going to be one decked out little man with all the awesome clothes and gadgets.  Of course, I’m sure one of Leah’s favorites was the baby bib that say “My Mom is Hot”!

Thanks to the hostesses!  Everyone seemed to have a really nice time.

Hugs, C

Monday, May 23, 2011

Graduation Weekend, Fox Ridge State Park

Although we’ve been staying in Illinois recently, we’ve still been able to enjoy the lovely spring weather in our state parks.

We spent 5 days at Fox Ridge State Park to see our newest daughter-in-law, Leah, receive her bachelor’s degree at Eastern Illinois University.

We made it an extended celebration weekend, with Trevor coming in to Charleston on Thursday evening and then he and Leah spending time with us at the park on Friday.

One of our gifts to Leah was a pocket-book size photo book of their wedding.


Trev and Leah brought me a very thoughtful Mother’s Day gift--A beautiful geranium planter that folds and travels easily in the motorhome.


We did some grilling out.  Ken showed off his enthusiasm her for being ‘head bottle washer’.


The weather was quite nice for a campfire.


Leah and Trev brought fixin’s for S’mores so Ken got to show off to Leah his high tech marshmallow roasting sticks.  She’s obviously impressed!


On Saturday, Leah’s mom hosted us at the Firefly in Effingham for a luncheon to celebrate Leah’s graduation.


We took a group picture on the deck outside the restaurant.  From left: Ken, me, Trevor, Leah, Amy, Leah’s Mom, Chris, Leah’s brother, Jenna, Chris’ girlfriend and Angela, a Sobut family friend.


Trev and Leah have traded in Leah’s little VW bug convertible for a vehicle that will be safely carry a carseat in the backseat, this Infiniti FX.


The business college had the third round of graduations that day at 6pm.


Leah was at the end of the aisle directly in front of us where Trevor could take lots of pictures of her.


Then it was time for Leah and her roommate Marie to say good-bye to their house.   Trev had borrow his friend Chris’ truck and within a few hours they had her packed up on her way back to Palos Park, the college years and many happy years at EIU that both she and Trev spent on campus now just happy memories.

Hugs, C

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Frericks Fab 5: Restaurants

Continuing our breakdown on the best of our Southwest, I'll cover here our top 5 finds in restaurants.

As readers are well aware, eating out is a big part of the FrerxAdventure.  We go out of our way to try to find local favorites and to try restaurant specialties.   We only do chain restaurants when there something we haven’t tried before such as ‘Beer and Burgers’  in El Centro, or when nothing else is open like when we hit the Pizza Hut in Meade, KS. 

Looking back over my records, we ate ate out at restaurants 63 times during our 71 day Southwest trip, usually based on local recommendations or searching online reviews.   There were only a very few restaurants we really didn’t like.   I attribute our good luck to Ken’s penchant for talking and finding out from folks what restaurants to go to and then getting friendly with waitresses to find out what’s best to order once we got there.  Ken’s standard line is usually “So what’s your favorite item on the menu”.  I also attribute it to my love for tracking down the unique hometown favorites based on online reviews.  I think we can all really help others improve their adventures by taking the time to do honest online reviews—of course, I’m still working to get caught up on all of mine!

I did find that restaurant owners are beginning to catch on to the importance of online reviews.  In fact, the top rated restaurant in the Sedona area, the Red Rock Café, hands out little business cards with instructions on how to review them on TripAdvisor.

With restaurants, once again, Ken and I had a really tough time trimming down our list to a favorite 5.   Actually the list could easily have been at 15 top picks, but in sticking to our format here you go…

#5 Bisbee Breakfast Club, Bisbee, AZ


The Bisbee Breakfast Club is a favorite meeting spot and destination restaurant for full-time RVers so that is how we found out about it.

I’m sure part of the appeal of this restaurant for us was sharing the experience with 8 other RV friends.  You can find that original block here.

The menu has wonderful variety with a blend of the old breakfast and lunch standards such as pancakes and burgers along with special Southwestern touches such as the Sonoran burger with Santa Fe seasoning, guacamole and chilies.  While you can find plenty of upscale touches in the menu such as stuffed avocados and unique omelet combos, their prices are very reasonable.  Despite having to deal with a group of ten, the service was good and, most important of all, everyone’s food was VERY good. 

Beware, while Bisbee Breakfast Club is open 7 days a week, they are only open until 2pm.

This is one of the few restaurants that we actually drove to in our RV and were thrilled to find a place to park within a block of the restaurant.  The quaint little town of Bisbee was not a planned stop for us but we intend to plan a longer visit there in the future and will return to the BBC for sure!

#4 OPA!, Tucson, AZ











OPA! was found via a last minute check of the TripAdvisor and Urbanspoon apps I have on my phone.   We had planned some shopping in Tucson at lunchtime so I used both apps to find choices close to Trader Joe’s which was our next stop.

We were so not expecting to have a ‘top 5’ meal that we hadn’t even brought our camera.  That said, I used the phone to get a few shots!  You can find our blog for that day here.

So what was special about OPA!  Well first, Ken and I really like authentic Greek food and there were over 80 different items to select from on the menu so we could try something new which is always a way to catch our interest.  The meats were absolutely cooked to perfection and the vegetables were so fresh and wonderfully seasoned.  There service was perfect, the ambiance was a perfect lunchtime retreat from shopping with linen table clothes and tasteful décor with an open kitchen area.  While it was slightly more than we usually spend for lunch, the $10-$13 an entrée was definitely a good value.

Access to this kind of restaurant in a very nice easily accessible area of Tucson is part of what will bring us back to this city.

#3 Courtney’s Place, Toronto, KS


We might list Courtney’s Place as one of our most pleasant surprises on the trip.

It was a driving day and we had a terrible time getting set up because of electrical problems at multiple sites in the state park.  Based on the way the day had been going I did not have high hopes of finding a place to eat in the tiny little town of Toronto, KS, but Ken and I were both just too tired to cook.   You can get back to that day’s blog here.

Driving through Toronto you could easily miss the little sign over the door marking Courtney’s Place, and it certainly does not look like anything special from the outside.

When we walked in we were greeted by a friendly lady who asked if we were there for pizza or wanted to be seated in the more formal Italian restaurant.  We looked at each other, and after the day we had, quickly agreed we deserved the nicer dining experience.  It was Thursday night and the restaurant was deserted except for one of table of diners.  The lady who had seated us turned out to be Courtney who, in fact, was also our cook and waitress that evening since she had given her chef the evening off to handle some personal affairs.

The menu was very limited but changes nightly so that Courtney can offer different Italian favorites on different nights of the week each recipe tuned to her specifications.  Every course served was absolutely outstanding.  It was then that we questioned Courtney about being able to run this kind of restaurant in such a small town. (Toronto has a population of 269!).  She told us that, in fact, her restaurant is so popular as a ‘destination’ restaurant on Friday and Saturday night’s that she has had to start taking reservations charging for cancellations and no-shows because she regularly has all tables reserved.  She has been written up in several Kansas magazines and newspapers.  There are links on her website to some of those articles as well as the interesting story of how she ended up owning an upscale restaurant in such an unlikely place.

Everything was homemade, the dining room décor was very tasteful, and Courtney did an amazing job as hostess, waitress and cook!

While we only paid a higher tab at one other restaurant on our trip, this restaurant was definitely worth the $70 we laid out for the two of us with appetizers, drinks and dessert.

We were very pleased with our decision to take Highway 54 across Kansas versus staying on Interstates and will definitely give this route preference when in that part of the country again to insure we get to stop by again to visit Courtney!

#2 Los Nopales, Tucson, AZ

Cindy:  Wow, did you realize I didn’t take any pictures of our two favorite restaurants from the trip, even though we ate at both multiple times??

Ken:  Understandable…you were too busy eating.  Winking smile


This photo courtesy of Dani R. on the Yelp website.

Stuck in the corner of a strip mall behind the laundromat, you could drive by Los Nopales many times and not realize there was a restaurant there.  In fact, we had a little bit of trouble figuring out where the door was.  I guess that would definitely qualify this place as what we tend to call a ‘hole in the wall’!   Unlike our other selections, they don’t even have their own website I can use as a link here, although there are no shortage of rave reviews on Tripadvisor.

The internet is, in fact, once again, how I found this restaurant.  I had heard mention there was something served in some Mexican restaurants called a ‘cheese crisp’ that was quite unique to the Tucson area.  After doing a fair amount of googling, I determined that these cheese crisps were  the signature item at Los Nopales which was only a few miles from our RV site in Tucson Mountain Park.

Both times we visited this restaurant, the place was packed, mostly the patrons appear to be snowbirds who had crossed from the large RV park across the street.  The location is also very convenient for Tucson visitors as its not far from the Desert Museum, a definite ‘must see’ in the area.

They serve very good Mexican food, cheap, and the Dos Equis Amber beer nice and cold.  What more can I say!  This is a real ‘diamond in the rough’ with no curb appeal, no atmosphere and truly good authentic Mexican.

If you’ve never had a Mexican crisp, give it a try, but be forewarned they are huge!

This photo of a chicken cheese crisp courtesy of April G. on the Yelp website.

It’s a homemade fried tortilla the size of a large pizza topped with melted cheese and optionally, carne asada, chilies, etc.,  and is only about $4.50 depending on toppings.  Although the tortilla is homemade and fried, it is not greasy at all but very crisp and tasty.  Our first trip, we ordered the crisp as an appetizer. I liked the crisp so much I ordered it again on our return visit, trying a different combination of toppings, but knew not to order anything else with it that time!

We’d also recommend the fish tacos, and the steak fajitas and the 3 cheese burro.  We didn’t have anything  at Los Nopales that we wouldn’t recommend!

Be forewarned, though, while this restaurant did not have an open table either evening we visited, they are not open very late in to the evening, so don’t try to beat the crowd by going 7:30 or later.

If Ken and I lived in Tucson, I’m sure we would be Los Nopales regulars!

#1 Cicinelli’s, El Centro, CA

What was it about Cicinelli’s that put it at the top of our list?

I can best describe it as ‘the whole package’.  This is not a fancy dining experience but a small 3rd generation restaurant, with red and white checker tableclothes,  and pictures of local teams they support on the wall.  Like Courtney’s, the owner was our waiter and cook both times we dined there.   He said most of the recipes were handed down from his grandmother.  In fact, some of her recipes from during the Depression are displayed on the wall.  Although they serve some great looking pizzas, Ken and I could never get past the awesome salads, soups and pasta dishes.  They have a decent beer and wine selection and some luscious looking homemade desserts, although we could never get that far.

This is casual dining, in a comfortable, unrushed environment, with great authentic Italian dishes.  The prices are a bit high for just a ‘pizza joint’ but then that’s not how we viewed it or the way the food tasted.  And, hey, want to save money? Go Friday night’s when the beer is half price!

If we lived in this area, we would definitely be regulars at Cicinelli’s.  In fact, we actually visited El Centro twice on this trip and one of the first places Ken wanted to visit on our return trip was this restaurant.

We had gotten the recommendation for this restaurant from one of the ‘winter resident’s at the RV park who had spent many prior winters sampling the various dining opportunities around the city.   I’m really amazed I can find so few online reviews (and no pictures!!) for this little gem, so I’ll have to make a special effort to get something out on Tripadvisor and Urbanspoon.


Ok, well, now I’ve made myself hungry….and it’s half-price pizza night at one of our hometown regular haunts, Tower of Pizza!!

Happy eating!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Frericks Fab Five Fotos

As mentioned in the previous post, I thought it  a good time to review our longest adventure yet, our trip to the Southwest.

Part of who I am is keenly entrenched in Socrates statement “An unexamined life is not worth living”.

While Socrates was applying that statement at a very deep level, I have found most satisfaction and success in life when I can apply it to everyday life.  As a project leader, it means a constant observation and evaluation of what works and what doesn’t in given situations and using that knowledge for continuous improvement.  In our travels, it’s a similar observation and evaluation of what brought the most pleasure, satisfaction and meaning to us in our adventures and how to make more of that in those adventures that come.

In reviewing the pictures, I learned a lot about what parts of the trip really stood out as special for me.  In fact, if I were to focus on pictures from moments that gave us most pleasure and satisfaction, I would be boring you, my beloved readers with a lot of similar pictures of folks  sitting around the table enjoying getting to know each other better over good food.  While those pictures bring back treasured memories for Ken and me, they don’t mean much to those who weren’t present.

We also got great satisfaction from getting to know the plants and animals of the region and have many photos of these.  Of course, these tend to me more ‘factual’ pictures.  We have enough pictures like that that I could do a lengthy instructional slideshow just on Southwest plants and animals.  These photos seem to be pretty much of what you’d pull from a field guide, so again, they mean a lot to us, but pretty boring to the reader.

Our hikes and our jeep trips stood out as well, but our photos of those days didn’t really catch the essence of the adventure.

So please understand that our Fab Five Fotos were picked not based on what we observed to be our favorite times but instead based on the photos that we think capture the essence of what we enjoyed in this adventure, capturing the beauty and diversity of what we saw along the way, in a way that we think might help share the feeling in the photo. 

That said, we actually have about 20 photos that really bring back the feeling of this gorgeous part of the country so while I’m showing five today, tomorrow I’d probably pick a different five that fit my mood!

Fab Five No. 5:  Diversity in the Desert, Why, AZ


No. 4:  Saguaro reaching toward the full moon at our boondocking site outside Quartzsite, AZ


No. 3:  Red Rocks of Sedona 


No. 2: Sunset from our site in Rodeo, NM


No. 1:  My ‘cowboy’ taking in the view across the Borrego Badlands.


Hugs, C

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Southwest Trip–Recap

Rushing through the adventures and challenges in life, be they major projects at work or major life events, I’ve noticed that we seldom take the time, after the fact, to reflect on those events and understand more deeply what we enjoyed most, what we’ve learned and how we can add more quality to our work and our lives as a result.  After I added a ‘lessons learned’ phase to my project methodology at work, it proved to be extremely enlightening and seems like it could provide similar advantage in our ‘adventure’ projects.  In that light, I’ve decided to provide a recap of our first ‘snowbird’ adventure to the Southwest.  Best case, this exercise will help Ken and I mold even greater future adventures based on what we saw and learned, also perhaps help family and friends get to know us a bit better by understanding what stands out to us, and last but not least maybe provide a reader or two some ideas of how to add to the quality of their own adventures.

Route - 2011 Southwest Trip

View Larger Map

To add structure to the recap, I’ve developed a series of ‘Fab Fives’ in the areas of:

  • Locations visited
  • Attractions
  • Camping sites
  • Restaurants
  • Photos

To be sure that you got both Ken and my picks, I made a list of each category and then independently Ken and I listed our top 10. I then did an average of his picks and mine to come out with our top 5 picks.  Yes, very anal and analytical but that’s not a habit I’ll probably ever break!

But, first here I thought I’d include a few general statistics.

. Days on the road – 71

. Miles travelled in motorhome – 4111

. Miles travelled in jeep – 2000, swag based on gas used…we forgot to track

. Estimated mpg motorhome – 9 mpg

. Estimated mpg jeep – 16 mpg (swag based on past history…we forgot to track)

. Average price of diesel (motorhome) -  470 gallons used averaging $3.59, lowest paid $3.09, highest paid $3.90

.Average price of gasoline (jeep) – 116 gallons averaging $3.28, lowest paid $2.95, highest paid $3.59

.Number of different sites we camped overnight - 18

.Number of nights boondocking - 13

.Average cost per night of RV site (includes free boondock nights) – $17

.Most paid for an RV site – $33.33

.Number of blogs posted – 53

Overall Cost of Trip

$1183            RV sites

$1685            Motorhome fuel

$382               Jeep fuel

$1400            Grocery Store/Walmart – includes non-food items such as soaps, paper goods, sundries, batteries, over-counter drugs, beer/wine, stamps, etc.,

$1736            Eating out

$128               Entertainment/Entrance fees

$195               Clothing/laundry – tennies for hiking, new spring coat, Ken new hat, T-shirts, plus laundry

$362               RV/Jeep maintenance-Hot Water Heater repair, wiper blades, waterless RV wash and brush with extension, water filter replacements, water regulator gauge, parts for hubcap when hit cone on highway, door clip replacement

$56                 Propane

$220              Gifts for volunteers handling mail, snow removal, watching house

$199               Miscellaneous - $19.50 Oklahoma Turnpike; $22 Collapsible cooler; new ceramic heater $42; Southwest cookbook $15; New Vacuum Cleaner $40; dog grooming $60

$7546            TOTAL

There were certain expenses that we have set up in such a way that we can easily move between home and RV such as phone, internet and satellite TV.  Since we pay the same whether on the road or home, they are not included here.

With the exception of the RV site costs,  motorhome fuel, and having people watch the house, we spend about the same amount on the other categories whether at home or on the road so the true ADDED cost of being on the road was only in the $3000 range…..and of course, the ‘adventures’…..PRICELESS!!

Stay tuned for our ‘Fab Five’ posts!

Hugs, C

Monday, May 2, 2011

‘Anytimer’ Travelling Garden Experiment

One down-side to extended travel is that it makes it difficult for me to play in the dirt.

As a young child I grew up on a farm and then at age eight was transplanted to town-life after my father died while our home and farm were under one of the major Mississippi floods.   Even in town, I found a place to start digging and planted my small patch of flowers and vegetables.

In the twenty-plus years at our home, Ken and I have attempted to minimize the work required in our yard by planting hardy annuals such as hostas, iris, lily of the valley, various ferns, ivies and other perennials.  In fact, Ken has gradually arranged the lawn so that everything can be quickly mowed on the riding mower.  This means that we can be gone in the motorhome for extended periods with little attention needed outdoors except for the lawn mowing.

But, that certainly doesn’t quench my thirst for garden time and my love for picking and eating things fresh from my own garden. 

Since we have determined that we do not want to become full-timers without a home-base, we are able to keep a few more garden tools around since things like potting soil, pots, and tools don’t have to travel with us in winter months.  However, since we tend to be on the road a lot more than most part-timers, maintaining a garden at a home-base just isn’t practical. As Anytimers, we need a more flexible solution.

So, this year I’m trying a low-cost experiment.  I’ve just finished filling  five matching pots with some of my favorite garden items: Better boy tomatoes, green peppers, sweet red peppers, sweet yellow peppers, and one pot devoted to herbs: oregano, rosemary, basil and stevia. The pots were only $1.98 each and are made with built-in drainage trays.


I usually would fill the bottoms with gravel for good drainage, but this time we are trying styrofoam packing peanuts so that there is less weight to transport.  Yes, gardeners, I know these plants are probably packed too tight but I’m hoping to offset that by using Miracle-grow moisture control potting soil.  I’m also expecting that there may be some loss simply due to the stress of transport.


We plan to move my garden with us as we travel.  This is one more benefit of towing the jeep.  Since it is the ‘unlimited’ version, it has plenty of room for storage in back that we currently don’t use for much and can handle a little dirt- IT’S A JEEP.  I plan to store the plants there when we are ready to head out, set them out at the campsite and then repack them into the jeep last thing before we leave. 

At home the pots will decorate our back deck and on the road we’ll be able to place them outside where they get appropriate sunshine.  I had considered using the new upside down hangers with shepherds hooks but decided those would be harder to transport and not everywhere we’ve stayed has ground conducive for punching those hooks deep enough in to the ground.  This also turns out to be a much cheaper experiment.

While we have seen campground hosts with a lot of live plants and even small vegetable gardens, and almost all the full-timers we’ve met have a few favorite plants they transport, I haven’t seen many who actually travel with their garden.  I’d love to hear from any of you RVing readers who may have already tried this experiment, especially if you have any lessons learned to share.

Will it work?  Stay tuned!

Hugs, C

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Another Mrs. Frericks!

Last week, our son, Trevor, married the beautiful love of his life, Leah Sobut, at her home  in Palos Park, IL.


Here’s our new family of six. 6 months ago we were only 4 so our world is changing quickly.


We had a lovely dinner after the ceremony.  Trev provided the food and drink for immediate family, and a few close friends.  Leah’s Mom, Amy, provided the location in their lovely family home.


Grandma Sobut, at 94 years old, is thrilled to have Trevor in her family and they have become very attached.


There was a really elegant wedding cake from a local Polish bakery.  It was absolutely the best tasting wedding cake I’ve ever tasted with a wonderful strawberry filling.


Leah’s ring is gorgeous.  Trevor had a setting custom designed to show off the 2.4 carat diamond handed down from Leah’s great-grandmother. It has an equal number of carats spread in smaller diamonds around the band.


It does a heart good to see our baby boy so happy!


Hugs, C