In the Loop

In the Cleveland National Forest

Today we hit the trail and revisit one of our favorite hikes from last year, the San Juan Loop off the Ortega Highway. It’s not a long trail, only 2.2 miles, but it’s a scenic circle that overlooks the Highway, descends into a green valley, and then winds back up again.

We begin ascending a rocky terrain with views of the surrounding mountains.

A few steps further, the Ortega Highway comes into view.


And it gets tricky navigating the rocks.


Notice the mountain bike tire tracks in the picture above. Two guys blow by us as we scurry to step aside and find some footing on the rocks. Correction… one biker seamlessly flies down the trail, while the other hesitates, bounces along and keeps saying, “Holy Cow!”

Up we go as the path narrows. We try to hug the mountain to our left while looking straight down the side of the mountain to our right. Below, the sun reflects the sky, coloring  a pool of water bright blue.


Water and rocks? Jeff stops at a viewpoint railing to throw rocks into the water. (He claims he is determining how deep the pools are!)


What goes up quickly begins to descend gradually. I stop and capture the beauty of the present moment.



Then the terrain becomes less rugged, more lush, and greener. We walk under the canopy of large trees as we approach the valley.



As we loop our way back, the Ortega Highway peeks through the trees.


After crossing through a campground, closed for the season, I am captivated by some rock formations



and the red berries on this tree.


It’s amazing how much more I noticed on the hike this time. But the best part is that Jeff’s bum leg didn’t give out on him, bolstering his confidence and reassuring him that he is healing.

Get Off Your Asphalt

Dirt’s for Racing

Jeff found a job as a temp in the restaurant biz. He works with @WORK Personnel Services out of Temecula, California. Most of the time he works banquets and buffets at Pechanga Casino, but his first 2 assignments were in Perris, California at the Perris Auto Speedway concession stands.

Today we attend the mid-day races for fun.



The Perris Auto Speedway (PAS) is a dirt track facility, a 1/2 mile clay oval with a raised edge straightaway for better viewing. The racing pits are in the middle of the oval. All types of cars race, from Sprint Cars to Stock Cars to Modifieds. (


The cars line up in the pit behind the pace car.


Today the pace car is a pickup truck with the American flag in its bed.


The racers follow the pace car for a few laps around the track before the race begins.

Jeff wants this orange car to win.


The flagman communicates with the drivers. A hurled yellow flag tells the racers that after one more lap with the pace car the race will begin.


And then the hurled green flag starts the race.




The curves of the track stir up all the action and dust as the cars spin and slide.


Most wrecks occur here. Notice the track marshal and pace car standing nearby.



When accidents and/or unsafe track conditions occur, the flagman will hold out the yellow flag, signaling a hazard and telling the drivers to slow down but remain in their racing order. In other words, cars cannot pass each other.


The repair in the upper portion of the screen, in the picture below, is a reminder of just how close to the grand stand wreckage can fly.


When debris and obstacles are removed and/or repaired, the flagman displays the green flag and the race resumes.

Finally, when the black and white checkered flag is waving at the start/finish line, the race is officially over.



What am I?

I am 4 letters long. I can be seen in the sky. I am the ocean and the sea. ?????





It’s a sunny, cloudless, 65 degree morning after 2 days of sputtering rain and whipping winds. We venture across the Santa Ana Mountains via the Ortega Highway through San Juan Capistrano, driving as far west as possible until we reach Doheny State Beach in Dana Point and…


arrive at the Pacific Ocean.

It’s quiet at the beach. The bamboo mat is rolled out like a red carpet beckoning us to make our grand entrance.


We reach the sandy pebble-packed “walk of fame”, emblazoned with the footprints large and small, of those who visited before us.




Surfers wait patiently to catch some waves to ride.




And I wait excitedly to capture the waves exploding on the rocks feeling their aftermath bathing my feet and pulling the sand beneath me…






…rendering me and the shore birds off balance as they retreat into the sea again.


The sea shore always looks, sounds, and smells different while still tasting salty and feeling the same between the toes. The sand here, however, is not soft on this rocky beach


and the only shells that wash up are the bits and pieces leftover from the shore birds’ crustacean dinners. Today lobster shells are left behind.





It’s a smelly beach today too with deposits of red and green seaweed and kelp washed ashore by the waves and wind.







Within an hour the waves die down and the tide goes out, revealing the rocky surface that was under the water when we first arrived.


The ocean inspires me to be present and fully alive in each moment. I walk quietly and wait for the waves to embrace me and then let me go. The waves erase my footprints reminding me that I can always start over and admonishing me to not take myself too seriously.

Dressed in sunlight, the water sparkles and the washed up pebbles shine like jewels. I am mesmerized by the brilliance around me and grateful for this gift from the sea.

But the ocean has a dark and angry side as well, which I fear and respect. It’s yin and yang personality tells us a story about nature, life, and earth… lessons we can take to heart.

And finally…


We Give Thanks

In Mt. San Jacinto State Park

Happy 🦃 Turkey Day, 2016! I am grateful to my family and friends for embracing my love and showering it back again. Thank you for giving my life a purpose and filling my ❤️ heart with loving memories and lots of laughter.

But there’s someone else I am so thankful for, and that is my husband, Jeff, who I so often take for granted. He is my best friend, my confidant, my sounding board, my cheerleader, and my yin to my yang.

Since family and friends are scattered in Ireland, Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Ohio, we aren’t gobbling turkey today. Instead we are headed for Palm Springs and the Aerial Tramway to spend the day together enjoying nature on a mountain. Sorry, Casey and Murph, only service dogs are allowed on this adventure.


Palm Springs is 70 miles from Lake Elsinore, our winter home, a little more than an hour away. Oh, but we’re in California so let’s add another 45 minutes!

We take Highway 74 northeast to D Street in Perris and


pick up the 215 North. Just outside of Riverside we take Highway 60 East through the Moreno Valley.



Highway 60 merges into the 10 and we exit onto Highway 111 where we follow the sign to 1 Tram Way.

We pay for parking in Lot F but once we find a space, we are discouraged by the long line of “parkees” waiting for the shuttle to transport them to the Valley Station to buy tickets and board the tram. So we decide to walk. A traffic attendant advises us that it is a 25 minute steep uphill route. Ten minutes later we arrive. Yes, we are out of breath. No, we did not hurry.  It’s 11:00 and we purchase tickets for the 11:20 tram.

We go upstairs and wait on the Tramview Patio. I get a glimpse of the first cable tower.


The 11:10 tram arrives for boarding.


And then it’s our turn to board a rotating tram car for a 10-minute, 2 1/2 mile trip up from 2,643 feet to an elevation of 8,516 feet, passing through 5 unique life zones, from Sonoran Desert to Alpine. (Tramway brochure)



It’s a long way down.



It’s a long, long way down!


When we enter the tram, the temperature outside is 75 degrees. When we depart the tram, it is 50 degrees, and, to the delight of kids around us, there is snow on the ground.

To get from the Mountain Station to the alpine trails and snow-patched play land below, there is a steep, downhill, switch-back paved pathway. (What goes down, must go back up, later…)

Jeff and I enjoy a scenic hike 8,400 feet above sea level surrounded by desert.




But before we encounter the desert views, we meet Jeff,


the butterscotch-smelling pine tree with reddish-brown bark.


Meanwhile this snowy, sandy, and rocky trail does not disappoint.


















Back down in the desert again, we take a spin through the main drag of Palm Springs




and head back to Lake Elsinore where we raid the refrigerator for dinner. Somehow pb and j doesn’t quite substitute for pumpkin pie.

Back in California

Lake Elsinore

Either you are wondering why my newest posts are still back in early September or you haven’t taken notice. For friends and family who know me well, you understand my need to research and add factoids to my posts from the road. I mean, if I am so awed at our country’s natural wonders, maybe you are too! But if my back-posting frustrates you, let me bring you up to date in real time…

On September 22nd we arrived in Jernigan Land in Colorado and spent 13 nights there. Jeff bonded with his sons, David and Andy. We watched Emjay, Jasley, Jace, and Eliska twice so Andy and Daisy could have a date-night. And we had so much fun taking the big girls to swimming lessons at Dolphinz!





(Sorry Emjay, I was too busy having fun playing chess and watching you create spaces on MineCraft to take a picture.)

We left Wednesday, October 5th, after another locked-in, locked-out episode with our newly replaced RV lock. We had to pay a locksmith to break the lock and screen door and dent the outer door. Then we ordered a new lock and waited 2 extra days to have it delivered. I will spare you the details now, but you know I am writing a letter to Forest River!


Jeff and I arrived back in Lake Elsinore on October 10th. After looking for other RV spots, we opted to return to Lake Elsinore West Marina for the winter. Our site, #124, is a corner lot with sweet views of the lake.



The picture below is from our inside kitchen table window.


Within 2 days Jeff found a temp agency and worked at a motor-cross event and was scheduled for banquet serving at the Pechanga Casino in Temecula.

On October18th I flew to Cincinnati to spend a week with my BFF, Marylee, and her so cute dog, Tinkerbell. I met, held, and loved on her almost 6 month-old granddaughter, Ellie.


We laughed, cooked, laughed, walked, laughed, relaxed, and laughed some more until we departed. I miss her so much!!!!!!

Marylee drove me halfway to Columbus where my daughter-in-law’s Mom, Susie, picked me up for the rest of the ride to Bexley. Grandma and Grammy L picked up Ollie from his Day Care. Oliver wasn’t sure about me yet.

I spent 11 happy days in Bexley. Ollie got used to me and remembered me.


Brian and I got haircuts at Great Clips.


We stayed up watching the World Series, rooting for the Indians and pantomiming our joy when they scored as Oliver was sleeping. Eventually we opted for going to bed as the Series continued to disappoint us.

Ollie had a play date with Amelia who lives down the street.


Ollie, Mom, Dad, cousin Caleb, Aunt Julie, and Uncle Brad went trick-or-treating.


I spent 2 days with Jen’s Mom, Susie, tracing and cutting patterns while she sewed incredible costumes for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz performed by the Artisan Ballet Company. Jen’s sister, Jessica, is owner, teacher, and creative director of the Artisan dance studio where dance is for everybody and every body. I attended the opening night performance on the Saturday before I left. Wow! I enjoyed every moment and am so proud of Jessica!

I took Faelan on long walks and won 2 games of Sorry in a row!! Brian and I took Ollie to the zoo.


On November 6th I flew from Columbus to Denver on Frontier Airlines before realizing that I had an 8 hour layover there! 8 hours! Yep!

Jeff’s son, David, his Mom, Patty, and his service dog, Ruby, drove out to meet me for lunch at the airport. Always great to see them and be in Jernigan Land again!

After going through security again I discovered my iPad was missing. Panic set in! A security guard directed me to the Info Center on each level of the concourses. The first one I went to told me to wait 24 hours and gave me a number to call. I called the number anyway and could not reach a person, only a choice of numbers to press and, of course, my situation was not a menu option. The next security guard had me call TSA and told me the number the Info person gave me was not the best one to call. Finally, yet another security guard suggested I return to the main terminal and check TSA again because they are often too busy to really look for a misplaced item. Also Lost and Found was around the corner and I should check there too.

Found it! Can you believe it? A kind soul saw me leave it behind and he turned it in. “YES!,” as Oliver would exclaim.

One last time through security. I was becoming a regular. But, hey, do I know how to kill 8 hours or what?

A few facts about Frontier Airlines…

img_4655 Matthew Staver Bloomberg News

Besides having cute animals on the tails of the planes, each one with its own name, the flights are inexpensive and if you check in ahead of time, you apparently get the preferred TSA security line. At least that is what happened to me. I stood in a much shorter line, went through security without having to remove my shoes, and I didn’t have to succumb to the full-body x-ray machine. I just walked through a non-invasive portal.

But wait! My cheap flight began adding up. Having a seat cost extra. Only one personal item can be carried on for free. Carry-ons stowed in the overhead compartments cost an extra $35. Checked bags cost $30 for the first one and I paid $40 for the second one. (Since I had an 8 hour layover I opted not to lug around a carry-on. As it was, I did a poor job of keeping track of my personal item and iPad!) Beverages and snacks were not complimentary. Oh, and for the first time on an airplane I wanted to recline my seat and take a nap. No can do! The seats do not recline.

After a long day I boarded my plane to Lake Elsinore, just one more time zone to enter. The sunset above sea-level is beautiful! I tried to capture the deep orange contrasts on the horizon and the twinkling city lights below as I landed in Orange County, Santa Ana/John Wayne Airport.



As I made my way to Baggage Claim, I descended some steps and recognized a pair of gray sneakers attached to khaki pants waiting for me. I was home again in Jeff’s arms!

I’m back walking again on my favorite River Walk route, out and back. My friend, Gene, who works for the city, recognized me, even without my red hair, and we greeted each other with a warm hug. My friend with the kidney transplant still walks everyday wearing dark gray sweat pants and a lighter gray hoodie no matter how warm the temperature. And the frail old man who drinks a large can of Budweiser for breakfast is still wandering around.

The Mojave Desert

Newberry Springs, CA

From Seligman, AZ it’s only 384 more miles to Lake Elsinore, CA. We can travel this distance in 1 day, but…

OMG, Jeezaloo, Holy Cow…  Jeff and I have been on the road since August 1st. We visited Oregon from Crater Lake, north to Mt. Hood National Forest, further north to Washington State’s Mt. St. Helen’s Johnson Ridge Observatory, and then traveled south on Highway 101 along the Pacific coast into California.

OMG, Jeezaloo, Holy Cow…  We spent a week in the northern and southern parts of the Redwoods National Park before traveling south to San Francisco.

OMG, Jeezaloo, Holy Cow…  From San Fran we headed east to Yosemite and south to Death Valley before crossing through Las Vegas on our way to Jernigan Land in Denver, CO.

OMG, Jeezaloo, Holy Cow…  We parked our RV at Cherry Creek State Park, visited family, baby-sat, took our grandkids, Emjay and Jasley to swimming lessons, laughed, hugged, and laughed, loved, and hugged all over again.

And then the Saturday before our site reservation expired, OMG, Jeezaloo, Holy Cow…  We got locked in/locked out of our RV for the 3rd time! We paid a locksmith to break the lock and screen door and dent the outer door. Then we ordered a new lock and waited 2 extra days to have it delivered.

…we are tired of pulling into, hooking up, unhooking, and pulling out… We are looking forward to settling down for the winter in Lake Elsinore, CA!

We opt to travel I-40  for 259 miles to Newberry Springs where we spend 2 nights in the Mojave Desert, unwinding from all the OMG, Jeezaloo, Holy Cow…


Yep, that’s us! Interstate 40 is in the background. We’re not the only ones here.



The second night we even have  2 neighbors!

The Mojave Desert is an arid region of southeastern California and parts of Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, occupying more than 25,000 square miles. (


Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and Mojave National Preserve are all located within the Mojave Desert.

img_4937National Park Service Map

As illustrated below, the Mojave Desert lies between the hot Sonoran Desert and the cooler Great Basin.


The Newberry Mountain RV & Motel Park




is conveniently located off I-40 on Historic Route 66 near the I-15 Interchange that will take us southwest into Lake Elsinore.

Their website,, describes the park as “a perfect desert oasis located within minutes of historic sites, towns, off-road riding and shopping,” although it looks and feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s a perfect place to debrief after 2 1/2 months on the road!

Newberry Springs, the unincorporated community with a population just shy of 3,000, is a typical desert oasis. According to, it’s original name was “Water” as the intermittent Mojave River, most of it flowing underground, provided the only source of watering holes on the Mojave Road. (

Okay, this is getting complicated, I know, but I think the history of the Mojave Road is kind of cool because it ends only 12 miles north of Newberry Springs and still exists today as a pair of tracks that crosses the middle of eastern California’s Mojave National Preserve.


This historic trail, bringing early wagon trains of settlers to California, is unique in that for most of its 138 mile stretch it remains in the same condition as the pioneers would have found it. Today, the Mojave Road is a 4-wheel drive trail, wandering from watering hole to watering hole, virtually unchanged since prehistoric times.

During and after the Civil War, the road became more of a supply route used by soldiers and freighters, until the railroads carved out an easier route from oasis to oasis through the bitter-dry desert. (Len Wilcox… Mojave Road, “An Adventure Through Time“) Read more at

Thank you for indulging my thoroughness and curiosity! As we leave Newberry Springs and head to Lake Elsinore, I leave you with a picture of the pink oleander tree blooming behind our RV site at Newberry Mountain RV & Motel Park:


Mexican Hat, Utah

And Monument Valley

We leave Goosenecks State Park and pick up Highway 163 again, traveling through the village of Mexican Hat.


This tiny town of some 100 people is named after a unique rock formation consisting of a large flat rock 60 feet in diameter perched precariously on a much smaller base on top of a small hill. (



Mexican Hat was originally named Goodridge after the family who first settled here in the 1800s. This small community has a historical legacy for once being a hub for sheep and cattle farming, the oldest oil producing field in Utah, a popular trading destination, and a tent city to some 1200 miners hauling ore out of the mountains for processing.

In the 1880s gold seekers arrived here to sluice the San Juan River. Unfortunately not enough gold was ever found to make this a profitable expedition.

Hollywood brought John Wayne here to ford the San Juan River in his movie, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and several others. (

We never see the “sombrero” rock, but “Oz” looms in the distance


as we cross the bridge over the San Juan River



and continue south on Highway 163.



Monument Valley is not a valley in the conventional sense, but rather a wide flat landscape interrupted by reddish rock formations rising hundreds of feet in the air. These buttes, part of the Colorado Plateau (, are the last vestiges of the sandstone layers that once covered this entire region. (

Highway 163, linking Kayenta, AZ to Highway 191 in UT, is the only main road through Monument Valley which occupies most of the Navajo Indian Reservation.

The iconic view below is from the long, straight, empty stretch approaching the AZ/UT border from the north.


You may recognize this scene from the movie, Forrest Gump. After running for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours Forrest (Tom Hanks) stops, turns around and says, “I’m pretty tired… I think I’ll go home now.”


Although many spectacular views can be appreciated from Highway 163, even more picture opportunities present themselves from Valley Drive, a 17 mile dirt road within Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. (

And so, we continue south on Highway 163 towards Kayenta. Jeff drives, the dogs sleep, and I take pictures from the passenger’s seat…








State Park

It’s not quite 1:30 when we arrive at the edge of solitude and beauty.


With our senior discount we pay $5 to stay overnight in a primitive campground with amazing views. We pull into a “deluxe site” complete with a table, fire pit, and garbage can.


We’re parked on the rim of an extraordinary canyon.


One thousand feet below is one of the most spectacular geological wonders.




The river we see below is the San Juan River originating in Colorado from the mountains with the same name. (plaque at State Park)

It loops about for 6 miles yet only advances 1.5 miles west on its journey to Lake Powell, 35 miles away.

The entrenched river meander below has a name that comes as no surprise. Geologists call it a gooseneck, hence the name for this State Park in the middle of nowhere. ( and


Several millions of years ago the San Juan River flowed through here on a flat plain, much like today’s Mississippi River. Slowly, the uplifting of the Colorado Plateau started entrenching the river downward as it cut through the rising canyons. (plaque at State Park)


These canyon walls are composed of shale and limestone over 300 million years old. (




Notice the ant-sized vehicles in the enlarged image of the same picture below. Our RV is among them.


After we are situated, settled, and “scenic-viewed”, I capture the landscape of the park around us.




Home-made fire pits…



A zen-like stone labyrinth…


Other campers and rock formations in the distance…





And my favorite… I call this rock formation, “Oz”.


One last picture (or 2) of the sinuous river meandering right below us…



After sitting around a campfire outside of our RV, I snap a pic at sunset with “Oz” in the background (and “Rabbit Ears” to its right)… And I think to myself, what a wonderful world!


Amazon Delivers

We Head South and West for the Winter

While in Jernigan Land we have a replacement seatbelt delivered and Jeff installs it. It’s not exactly the identical model but it works and I can now safely buckle up.

Meanwhile another locked-in and locked-out emergency occurs, making this the third time we have endured this and the first time since we had the original lock replaced.


Calls to Forest River customer service keep routing us to local authorized dealers who offer no help so we pay a locksmith to break the lock and we order a new one from Amazon.

We spend 2 extra nights at Cherry Creek State Park waiting delivery and the lock arrives in the late afternoon of day 2. Jeff successfully installs it and we are ready to go tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, per the advice of the locksmith, we decide to contact our insurance company and I begin composing a love letter to Forest River!

At last, we head back to Lake Elsinore on October 5th, deciding to postpone our National Parks’ adventures in Utah. We’re ready to settle in for the winter since we’ve been traveling non-stop since August 1st.

We take I-25 South out of Denver and cut over to Highway 160 for a beautiful drive through the Rio Grande National Forest.





We spend the night outside of Pagosa Springs, CO.



What is that towering rock in the background?


A close-up shot from my iPad…


The next day we enter Utah and the landscape changes.



Jeff finds a State Park near Mexican Hat where we plan to spend the night. We have potable water in the fresh water tank and the gray and black tanks are empty. State Parks provide electric hook-ups, at the most. Highway 160 becomes 163 in Utah. We drive toward, through, and beyond Bluff, Utah until






we turn north on 261 for about a mile,




and then turn west onto 361, the almost 4 mile paved access road to Gooseneck State Park.







And then we arrive at the edge of Amazement!