Heidi (in front) - The Staff to Rylie

Heidi (in front) - The Staff to Rylie
Heidi (in front) - The Staff to Rylie

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bad Habit

Okay, I’ll confess. I’ve picked up a bad habit recently. No, I’m not smoking, doing drugs, or chewing tobacco. However, the last two times I’ve gotten a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Caramel Fudge ice cream (the absolute best Ben & Jerry’s flavor), I’ve eaten some RIGHT OUT OF THE CARTON. Yes, you read that correctly. Then I put it back in the freezer and the next time I wanted some, I ate it RIGHT OUT OF THE CARTON AGAIN! And so on. Please don’t tell my mother. Or my daughter.

Now mind you, I have been traveling on my own for about eight months, but I only recently descended to this life in the gutter behavior. I feel guilty every time I do it, as though any minute Miss Manners is going to storm into my motorhome with sirens wailing, slap the handcuffs on me, and drag me off to faux pas prison.

Is there a twelve step program for out-of-the-carton eaters? I think I need help. If I don’t get help, I could slither down to even lower forms of delinquency, like letting the dog lick my plate. But don’t worry; you’re still welcome to come over. You just might want to bring your own ice cream. And your own plate.

Rylie’s Notes:

What’s your point?

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Unfortunately, there are many forms of discrimination alive and running rampant in our world today, some of which are hateful and life threatening. That's not what this post is about. I thought I would write instead about my recent experience with legalized discrimination in the RV world.

Prior to my recent trip to Phoenix I was looking for a campground or RV park to stay in that would be convenient to where various family members were located and that provided electrical hookups, but I didn't want to stay in a high-priced RV resort. I located a number of RV parks listed in my Passport America directory, but nearly every one said that guests needed to be at least 55 years of age in order to stay there. I even tested this requirement to see if making a personal appearance would make any difference in this rule. It did not. I was turned away because I wasn't old enough. I didn't have a passel of screaming brats with me and I didn't want to move into the park, I just wanted a place to stay for a few days. It's amazing to me that legally we are not allowed to discriminate against "people of a mature age" when it comes to employment and other matters, but they are allowed to discriminate against "people of a less mature age" when it comes to a place to park for the night. What's even more amazing is that the so-called Fair Housing Act is the legal authority on this matter. It doesn't sound like Fair Housing to me.

I've heard of another form of discrimination from other RVers, although I have not encountered it myself. It's a rule that certain campgrounds -- RV parks have that won't allow you to stay if your RV is a "more mature" model. That is the equivalent of discriminating against a person based on their appearance. "Sorry ma'am, but you just have too many wrinkles to frequent our fine establishment. Go have a facelift and then well talk." Well, I guess Hollywood has been doing this for a long time, hasn't it?

Okay, that's it from my soap box today.

Rylie's Notes:

Rylie has a day off from being clever today.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It's Off to Work I Go

I really wasn’t planning on working until after my year of traveling was up, but now that I’ve been on the road for eight months, I realize that a year of travel won’t be nearly enough. I decided a summer workcamping job might be a good idea, and a job sort of fell into my lap. It will help to get me back to Baja next winter, hopefully for a longer stay. I get a free place to park for the summer plus wages for all hours worked, and it’s a very nice RV resort.

So I accepted a job with the Jojoba Hills SKP Resort in Southern California. I’ll only be working three days a week, so it’s not like going back to the ratrace fulltime. I’ll still have four days off when I can do some short trips, so hopefully that will prevent me from getting restless. If any of you Escapees members stay here, be sure to stop by and say hello. Friends and family, come visit me!

Am I having a hard time coming to terms with being anchored to a job before my year is up? Yes! But if it will help me travel longer, I guess I can do it. Besides, my friend Tami is working here too and the people are really nice, so it could be fun. My internet access will be limited until they install the Verizon tower here in July, so my blog posts may be a little less frequent for awhile. I’ll do my best to keep the content coming.

Rylie’s Notes:

The Staff will be working three days a week, so I guess that means three long napping days for me. I’ll really be ready for action after that.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Body Worlds 3

I had a fun evening on Mother's Day. Amy, Nate and I met up with my sister Julie's friend, Susan, who lives in Phoenix. We had dinner and went to the Arizona Science Museum to see the Body Worlds 3 exhibit. In case you haven't heard of it, this exhibit features human bodies and organs that have been preserved by plastination and are displayed in an artistic and educational manner. I found it very interesting to see what the body looks like on the inside, and how certain conditions like tumors or heart disease affect the organs. Unfortunately, they don't allow you to take pictures, so I have no photos of the exhibit to show you, so I'll post one of us instead. Nate took the picture.

Me, Amy and Susan

Rylie's Notes:

Thank God for air conditioning. Get me out of Phoenix!

Supporting Our Friends

It's important for us to support our friends, especially when they do something extraordinary. My friend Marianne and I have been friends for a long time. We've seen each other through various relationships, career changes, and moves to other states. In other words, we've grown a lot since we've known each other. When I heard that Marianne is involved with Team in Training and is planning to bicycle 100 miles to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of the anniversary of her father's death, I wanted to do something to support her in this very worthy cause.

I am posting the information below from Marianne in case any of you would also like to make a tax deductible donation. If you would like to contribute, you can do what I did and follow the link to Marianne's page and donate online. Unfortunately, I was unable to make the links live in Blogger, so please copy and paste the link in a fresh browser page. If you prefer to mail a donation, please email me to obtain Marianne's address. When I donated online I received a letter from the Society thanking me for my donation and serving as my receipt. Even if you choose not to make a donation, please join me in wishing Marianne the best of luck as she takes on this challenge. Marianne, you're awesome!

Dear Friends, May 1, 2007
I am taking on one of the biggest commitments of my life. In honor of the 30th Anniversary of my dad’s death to Leukemia, I am raising $30,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and training to ride 100 mi. around Lake Tahoe on June 3rd with Team in Training. This letter is inviting you to donate money in support of people all over the country suffering with these diseases.
Life changed forever the day my dad, Tom Hale, died of Leukemia. It went from being a 7 year olds life of love, fun & security to one of sadness, fear & uncertainty of what was around the next corner. At the time, in 1976, they did not know much about Leukemia. There wasn’t a second chance, nor was there a remission. It was swift & shocking. In a nutshell, it changed our lives forever.
Years later, I would once again be touched by Leukemia. I would watch my uncle, Shanon Hugenot, only 3 years older than I, deal with not being able to hold his newborn son in his hands because of the burns from the chemotherapy that he was enduring beginning his battle with Leukemia. A year later, Shanon died and I sat with his wife, Lori, and cried because I knew how a child who loses their parent to Leukemia feels, as she so strongly started to raise their two boys, Drew & Aaron, on her own.
Looking back, I now know, that life changes forever, everyday. Things happen in every life that move us, shape us, and give us our lives – for better or for worse. I have learned about what I am passionate about through my life experiences.
My dad’s death at such a young age was the single most important moment in my life, which I can now say with gratitude. It set me on a lifelong path of discovery, healing, and ultimately, a life of purpose and service.
Since saying “yes” to Team in Training, an organization that raises funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through volunteers fundraising and participation in an endurance event, in my case, riding a 100 mi., Century ride around Lake Tahoe on June 3rd, I have learned of 2 more people in my life currently affected by Leukemia or Lymphoma.
Please join me in raising $30,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I’ve chosen to raise $30,000 in honor of the 30th anniversary of my dad’s death. Out of my enduring love for him, I am compelled to raise this money for the research and cure of Leukemia & Lymphoma.
If you like you can go directly to my fundraising page and donate online at:


Please feel free to copy this letter and share it with anyone that you feel would be touched and would like to raise money in support of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Please ask about your company’s matching gifts and send that information with your donation.
I have also included some links that may be of value to you:
• Team in Training website: www.teamintraining.org

• The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website: www.leukemia-lymphoma.org/hm_lls

And last, but not least, THANK YOU for letting me share my story and passion with you and asking for your participation & donation. It truly makes a difference! I will be in touch with updates along the way.

With love & gratitude,


Monday, May 14, 2007

Phoenix and Phamily

Having just spent a week in the 105 F temperatures of Phoenix, I think I can safely rule that out as my future place of residence. At least in the spring and summer – it’s hot there! I guess it’s okay for people who don’t need to be outside, but Rylie and I need our daily walks.

Although I’m happy to be out of the concrete forest, I did have a lot of fun meeting up with family and friends there. My sister, Amy, flew in from Duluth and we met up with her son, Nate, and his girlfriend, Desiree, who recently moved to Phoenix. Amy had a birthday while we were there, so of course we had to whoop it up for her birthday. We did the over-consumption of food and wine that often happens with family get-togethers, and we had some good laughs.

Desiree, Me, Amy and Nate

For Amy’s birthday we had dinner at The Bamboo Club, which had very good Vietnamese/Thai food. We also sampled some other restaurants in town during the week. One night we met up with our cousin, Randy, who moved to Phoenix from San Francisco a couple of years ago. That was a fun trip down memory lane as we talked about the good times we had as kids, when our families went to the four cabins we had on Big Hanging Horn Lake in Minnesota. My family spent a lot of summer weekends at the log cabin built by my Grandpa. The other three cabins were owned by my Grandpa’s brothers and his oldest daughter, but we often had other family members there too. Many of my happiest childhood memories are of those times.

I caught my first fish from Big Hanging Horn Lake when I was four years old. I caught it with a bamboo pole, a safety pin, and a piece of bread. My Grandpa had a pontoon boat and we would occasionally cruise around the lake, but we didn’t like to swim in front of our property. There were leeches there. We called them bloodsuckers. I still remember when I was a young tot running up the hill to the cabin screaming for someone to get the bloodsucker off my foot. My uncle Carl thought it was very funny and suggested pouring salt on it and waiting for it to come off by itself. I convinced him to try the express method of leech removal and he pulled it off, but that was probably the last time I went swimming in the lake in that spot.

None of the kids wanted to swim with the bloodsuckers, so we used to beg the adults to drive us to Moose Lake, which was about five miles away. Moose Lake had a great swimming beach, a dock to jump off, and a slide into the water. During the July Fourth celebration they always had a carnival with rides. I remember many happy spins on the Tilt-O-Whirl.

The adults weren’t too keen on hauling us over to Moose Lake all of the time, so we sometimes had to resort to desperate measures. I remember one time we decided we would go on strike, and even created picket signs with our pleas to go to Moose Lake. I’m not sure what we were striking from (tantrums and refusing to eat vegetables?), but it kept us busy for awhile. Unfortunately, the adults were not impressed enough to cart us over to the lake.

Randy reminded us that in the evenings the adults would often be in one cabin playing cards, and the kids would be in another cabin playing cards, Monopoly, or my favorite board game, Billionaire. I guess you could do that with your kids back in the 1960’s. We were safe and we didn’t get into trouble.

I really got off on a tangent there with my trip down memory lane. Those were the good ol’ days. Actually, the days now are pretty good too. I think I’m having even more fun now than I did back then, and I don't have to wait for someone else to drive me around.

Rylie’s Notes:

No good walks in Phoenix, but I saw two cats and one rabbit I would have chased if I could have gotten The Staff off leash. She drove me up into the hills one morning, but it was even too hot to walk there. We saw a coyote, and he looked hot too.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Grand Canyon - Below the Rim

It takes two days to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up, so I couldn’t do that on this trip. I couldn’t leave Rylie, and he wasn’t allowed to come with me. But I really want to do that hike someday. I think it would be an incredible experience. Maybe I’ll do it when I turn 50, if not before.

Although I didn’t go to the bottom of the canyon, I did some hiking below the rim. One day I went down the Bright Angel trail, and the next day I went down the South Kaibab trail. The Kaibab trail is steeper than the Bright Angel trail, but there are a lot less people on it, which is nice. It’s also narrower than the Bright Angel trail, and I know that makes a difference to some people who don’t like heights. I met mules coming up when I was going down both trails, so they both have fragrant patches where you need to watch your step. Which one had the better views, you might be asking? I’ll let you judge for yourself.

From Bright Angel Trail

Mules Going up Bright Angel Trail

That Trail You See Zigzagging from the Left is the Bright Angel Trail

From Bright Angel Trail

I met some interesting people while hiking. When you’re hiking back out of the canyon, you tend to keep running into the same people over and over as you each stop to sit on a rock and catch your breath. I was definitely huffing and puffing, and I could feel the muscles in my calves a little bit the following day. It’s funny what a small world it is. One guy I met was from my home state of Minnesota, and had also just been to Zion and Bryce. Susan, a woman I met the next day, has been hiking to the bottom of the canyon every year for 20 years. She used to live in Walnut Creek, CA before moving to Portland in recent years. I lived in Walnut Creek for ten years before buying my house in Concord, so we lived in Walnut Creek at the same time.

From Kaibab Trail

From Kaibab Trail

From Kaibab Trail

Mules Coming Up Kaibab Trail

Susan on Kaibab Trail

Rylie’s Notes:

I’m still thinking about that chipmunk.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Grand Canyon - Above the Rim

Rylie and I made it our habit while we were in the Grand Canyon to get up early every morning and go walking along the rim trail. We both really enjoyed this, and I miss it now. We saw numerous deer while we were in the park, and of course rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks. There weren’t as many people out at that time of the morning, so we often had large chunks of the trail to ourselves.

These guys in the photo below are much braver then me, especially because it was very windy on the day they climbed out on this cliff.

The tree below looked like it was clawing its way up over the edge of the rim, trying to gain solid purchase. You can see its root in the lower right corner.

I love going out for breakfast, it's probably my favorite meal. I hardly ever do it anymore since I've been fulltiming, but I did go out for brunch my last day in the park. I ate in the Arizona Room of the Bright Angel Lodge. I had a booth by a window looking out over the canyon. That made the food taste even better.

It snowed on my last evening in the park. Having spent half of my life living in the snow and cold of Minnesota, I really don’t get excited about snow. I will admit that it looked pretty, though. There were still some remnants of it on the ground and in the trees when we left the following morning.

Rylie's Notes:

I didn't see any doggy bag coming back from that brunch.

Grand Canyon - First Glimpse

My First Look at the Grand Canyon

The day I was to drive to the Grand Canyon, I woke up excited. It is another dream come true for me – I’ve been eager to see it for a very long time.

When I stopped at the overlook just inside the park to get my first glimpse of the canyon, I was practically dragging Rylie along in my haste to get there. It was almost an emotional moment for me when I first saw the distant ribbon of the Colorado River lacing the canyon. My heart felt very full of wonder and awe at the vastness and beauty of it all. For you Grand Canyon veterans, you’ll just have to bear with me; it was a very moving moment. I had to sit on a bench for a bit to take it all in. I can see why the Native Americans consider it a very sacred place.

I had a similar feeling when I first walked along the rim trail. I had to keep stopping and snapping pictures, or simply just drinking it all in. In my excitement to see the canyon, I didn’t realize that Rylie might also be excited to see it. He jumped up onto one of the low, rock walls that they have in some places to separate the trail from the very long drop to the canyon below. That scared me enough that I picked him up so that he could have a good look. He looked pretty interested in it for a minute or two, and then he was done.

That wasn’t the worst scare with Rylie, however. The following morning we were walking a different portion of the rim trail, when a chipmunk darted across the trail toward the canyon. Rylie took off after it like a shot. I was holding tightly onto the leash, but the leash was not holding tightly onto his collar. I found myself holding an empty leash. I have seen those chipmunks run right over the edge of the canyon. I don’t know how they survive it, but a dog would not.

Rylie, who had been deprived of chasing dozens of rabbits and squirrels on this trip, finally found himself free to race after this escaping prey, and it took several shouted commands to get him to stop. My heart was doing triple time, since he was not far from the edge. I guess I’ll be getting a different leash. Shouldn’t they work better than that?

Rylie’s Notes:

I could have gotten that one.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Homesick Day

I finally have an internet connection again in my motorhome. The past couple of weeks I've had to scramble to find one nearby. I guess I'm back in civilization. So now I'm catching up on my blog posts, but just had to post this little note about homesickness. People sometimes ask me if I get homesick or miss having my house, and I like to keep people informed. I have to say that today is the first day of my travel life that I'm really experiencing homesickness. Maybe it's because I've been without a cell phone connection and handy internet connection for so long, or maybe it's just time for me to experience this. After all, it has been more than eight months since I said goodbye to my little home.

That's not to say that I haven't missed people. I have definitely missed my daughter, the rest of my family members and friends. But today was the first time I missed having that home base. I'm not sure what brought it on. I was driving through the mountains of Arizona and came to a very green, little town that had homes in a style that reminded me of growing up in Duluth. A little bit later I passed a garden store, and I thought about how much I enjoyed buying and planting new flowers in the spring for my pretty little yard in Concord. I bet my lilacs are blooming now. I looked forward to that every year.

It didn't help that every time I tried to call someone today or someone called me, my cell phone connection faded out and I couldn't complete a conversation. I guess I'm not totally back to civilization. Lucky for me, I'll be getting a good dose of family and friends this week in Phoenix. That will chase away the homesickness.

Rylie's Notes:

Sometimes I miss chasing squirrels in the back yard.

Arches National Park

North Window (that's a person standing beneath)

As if Zion and Bryce weren’t enough beauty for one trip, I stopped next at Arches. I would have liked to visit Canyonlands and Capital Reef as well, but I had plans to meet up with my sister Amy in Arizona for her birthday celebration, and I needed to see the Grand Canyon on my way. I was on a mission.

I drove from Bryce and Kodachrome to Arches along Highway 12. That has got to be one of the most beautiful drives I’ve been on in the U.S. It’s amazing how quickly the scenery changes, and it’s all so dramatic. No mousy landscapes here. Utah really is the red, wild West.

Courthouse Towers

Anyway, back to Arches. Silly me, I thought I could waltz into the park and the campground would welcome me with open arms. I didn’t realize that people were lining up at 6:00 a.m. to get the few campsites that became available. There was an antique car show going on in nearby Moab, plus some sort of four wheeling convention, so nearly all of the campgrounds in the area were full. I was very lucky to nab one of the last sites that could accommodate an RV in the Big Bend campground on the Colorado River, just outside of Arches. This is a BLM campground and there are no hookups, but it’s only $10 per night. It’s also in a really pretty canyon. I could hear the river gurgling as I lay in bed at night, and there’s no better lullaby than that.

Landscape Arch Hike

Skyline Arch

I did a series of short hikes including Landscape Arch, Skyline Arch, The Windows, and Balanced Rock. The weather here was quite a contrast to the weather in Bryce. It was hot! I had to take Rylie for a drive in the car with the air conditioning blasting to cool him off. He looked miserable. I really don’t like to use my generator when I’m around a lot of people camping in tents. I’m sure they must find it very annoying.

Colorado River Canyon (I know it's dark, but I like the contrast)

The morning that we were leaving, there were two little black and white birds sitting in the branches of the tree that were up against one of my motorhome windows. One of the birds was knocking on the window with his beak, and I was sitting right next to the window. I thought he wanted to come with me, until Rylie jumped up in the driver’s seat and scared him away. Okay, so he was probably pecking at his own reflection, but he sure was cute. I couldn’t find him in my bird book, so have no idea what he was.

Rylie’s Notes:

No fun here. Too hot and not enough room to roam.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Kodachrome Basin State Park - Utah

I really liked this park, and it is so much less crowded than the national parks. As its name implies, it is a very colorful place with its striped mountains and interesting rock formations. Another nice thing for me is that dogs are allowed on the trails, unlike most of the national parks trails, so Rylie got to go hiking with me. We did the Shakespeare’s Arch and Angels Palace trails, and although I loved the scenery, Rylie just wanted to chase the many, many rabbits in this park. They’re everywhere.

Kodachrome from Angels Palace Trail

From the top of Angels Palace Trail

While we were staying here we also drove to Grosvenor’s Arch in Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. This is a HUGE area, and you drive for miles without seeing another soul or signs of civilization. This is another place for further exploration on the next trip.

Rylie’s Notes:

I really, really, really want to chase rabbits. They taste like chicken, you know. The Staff has no prey instinct whatsoever.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bryce Canyon National Park

I thought Zion was pretty, but Bryce is really spectacular. Of the three national parks that I saw in Utah, this was my favorite. Only the North campground was open when I arrived, and there was still a lot of snow on the ground. It was also cold and windy, so I decided to head on down the highway and stay instead at Kodachrome Basin State Park. It's a lower elevation than Bryce, and therefore warmer (no snow when I was there), plus I think the campground is much prettier. Kodachrome is about 30 miles from Bryce, but I could get there pretty quickly in the car. More on Kodachrome later.

Bryce Point

The first day I drove the length of the park, stopping at many of the view points. It seemed each was more incredible than the last. The rock formations, or hoodoos, are so dramatic with their goblin shapes and cinnamon to salmon colors.

The best part of my visit to this park was a hike that I did to Queen's Garden. As wonderful as the rock formations look from the rim, they are even more astonishing once you get down among them. The hike was only about three miles, but it was pretty steep climbing back out of the canyon. My timing of this hike was near perfect. It was sunny as I descended into the canyon, but as I was climbing back out it started to rain and the wind picked up. By the time I reached my car, the rain had turned to sleet, and as I drove out of the parking lot, it turned to snow. Weather changes quickly there.

Doorway on Queen's Garden Trail

Me on Queen's Garden Trail

Hike Out of Canyon on Two Bridges Trail

I definitely want to return to this park and spend more time. I really would like to hike through the slot canyons, which I didn't get to do this trip.

Rylie's Notes:

No dogs allowed on the trails in this park, so you know what I was doing while The Staff was traipsing up and down the canyon. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.