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A Life Less Ordinary

Category: Places (page 1 of 8)

Southern Utah’s National Parks – 12-Day Adventure between House Sits

Between our month-long house sit in Rollinsville, Colorado and the next, three-month one in San Diego, California, Mark and I faced a gap of two weeks. Initially, we were on the look-out for a short pet sit, but pretty soon, we realized this would be the perfect opportunity to really test the van life. Longer than one weekend, and for fun, instead of as a means of transportation to get from point A to B. It was an attractive plan for many reasons, including these four: we have always wanted to visit some of Utah’s incredible National Parks, they happened to be en route, we could use a break from our computers (when not?), and, coincidentally, our business partner appeared to have a scheduled vacation within the exact dates we’d be on the road. Now, if that wasn’t the ideal time to relax The Wirie work a bit ourselves!

A window to Delicate Arch

Arches National Park

Not much planning and anticipation went into this camping trip. I checked the map, saw Canyonlands, thought “I guess we stop there,” then noticed a green spot called “Arches” along the way and yelled: “Oh yeah, that’s the famous one in Utah, not Canyonlands. We have to go there!” Now, I don’t know whether you have ever looked at Southern Utah on a map… it is one national park after the next! How exciting! All we had to do was pick and choose, be happy about not doing it all, and not feel rushed! Oh, did I mention that the two biggies, Bryce Canyon and Zion are here as well?

Our selection of Utah National Parks

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Completed House Sits: Rollinsville, Colorado – September 16th to October 14th, 2017

On September 16th, Mark and I left our previous house sit in Santa Fe, New Mexico early in the morning for a decent drive to northern Colorado. While taking care of a pet-less home for one month provided us with more flexibility, we were both looking forward to furry company again. Arriving in Rollinsville, 40 minutes west (and up) of Boulder, we were immediately greeted by Oscar, a big and fluffy Golden Retriever. At eight years old, he is a ball of energy with a very high cuddle factor. The owners gave us a warm welcome as well, quite appreciated in the chilly air of our new home at 8500ft of elevation.

The contrast with New Mexico was grand – temperature, scenery and activity-wise. Our new neighborhood was very picturesque. After unloading Zesty, the camper van, we spent the next 24 hours with Oscar and his “parents”, getting to know them, the area, the schedule and the house. Then, we settled for a month in the mountains.

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Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The third weekend was the charm. On the first one, we arrived at our current house sit in Colorado and spent time with the owners and their dog. On the second one, it was raining and cold. And, the fourth one is when we are leaving again. So, it was all or nothing on that third weekend. The weather predictions for the Estes Park region were alright, we packed Zesty the camper, loaded up Oscar the dog, and headed north on Saturday morning. From the moment we left the house, the scenery opened up and entertained.

As in many national parks, dogs are not allowed on any of the trails in Rocky Mountain NP, so it was eminent that we gave Oscar – who is used to a lot of exercise – a decent walk, before hitting the scenic road. In the town of Estes Park, we planned to walk him around the lake on leash. Before we arrived at the water’s edge, we stumbled upon a dog park. Even better! Continue reading

Completed House Sits: Santa Fe, New Mexico – August 18th to September 16th, 2017

As of this month, Mark and I have been house sitting full-time for two years. It all started with a wonderful dog named Zyla in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and the positive experiences of this new lifestyle continued ever-after, bringing us to our current sit in the mountains of Colorado. More about that later, as I have been trying to catch up on all the adventures we had in Santa Fe, New Mexico, finishing that period with a summary of our one-month house sit there.

Our adobe-style home for one month

A few weeks ago, I mentioned briefly how stressful our life as house and pet sitters can be. Besides not knowing where we will lay our heads to rest in the future, keeping a constant eye on new listings, communicating with home owners, arranging Skype interviews, and patiently waiting for the verdict, sometimes unexpected developments occur. Like when we left Northern California mid-August to undertake yet another long road trip of 1200 miles from Sebastopol, CA to Santa Fe, New Mexico for our next house sit. We had planned three days for this, to avoid repeating the craziness of driving Zesty back from Arkansas in July, having a restricted amount of time while needing to work along the way. Three days should do it, we figured: two long ones and then, on Friday, a shorter trip and catching up on work stuff before departure.

Our new neighborhood

On the morning of day two, however, the result of prior miscommunications had us awake with a start: the home owners expected us to arrive in Santa Fe that very day, at 5pm, instead of the following one. Continue reading

Weekend Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Taos and Surroundings

Throughout our one-month house sit in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Mark and I were extremely busy. During the week with work and over the weekends with excursions. There is so much to do and see in the Santa Fe area (we barely even set foot in the town itself), that four weekends do not suffice. That being said, we did our best, and hope to return. While our previous weekends of explorations are doable as day trips, our last weekend required a longer drive. Still, people do visit Taos on a day excursion from Santa Fe. We decided to take the long way there and not rush. The focus was more on driving than on hiking this time.

We planned to take the “high road” to Taos. This is a scenic drive of about 2.5 hours, without stopping. It brought us through some amazing New Mexico scenery and a few spiritual places.

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Day Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque

During the weekends, Mark and I always face a dilemma: do we take it slow and enjoy our precious time off relaxing, or do we take advantage of being in an incredible area and go sightseeing? Usually, we opt for a combination if the weather cooperates. So, this particular Sunday morning, we took our time getting up, making breakfast, packing lunch and storing the bed and the table in our camper. Then, around 10:30am or so, we backed out of our free campsite in the woods near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and drove the 20 minutes to the base of the Sandia Mountains. We anticipated a big hike and – once the wheels were rolling – were antsy to get started.

The plan: take the tramway to Sandia Crest and hike down for 10 miles. Usually, we don’t like spending money on things like ski lifts or trams when we can get to places on foot, so this proved a special, yet pricey occasion. It was Labor Day weekend, the weather was beautiful, and, apparently, we were not the only ones having a tram ride in mind. Our late start soon bit us in the butt. The line to buy tickets was immense and doubts about our grand plan almost made us abandon it. But, what was the alternative? Strolling around hot and busy Albuquerque? We had both looked forward to this hike in nature, so we hoped for the best. After an hour of waiting (luckily mostly in the shade), it was our turn to join 48 other visitors in the tram car.

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Day Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque

So little time and so many excursions to blog about! Since Mark and I were only in Santa Fe, New Mexico for one month, we had to fully utilize our weekends to explore the area. We did this by leaving the house mid-morning on Saturday and returning late afternoon on Sunday. All the sites we visited can be done as day trips from Santa Fe, since our driving time was usually between one and one and a half hours each way. Going for the whole weekend allowed us to relax some, do less driving and spend the nights in nature – quiet and peaceful. We always find free camping spots to sleep in Zesty, our Westfalia (Westy) camper van.

Albuquerque is located at a lower elevation than Santa Fe. This means that it is usually quite a bit warmer, something we did not account for. My plan, before setting out, was to visit all four areas of Petroglyph National Monument and do most of the hikes, about 7 miles in total. It seemed feasible. We had all day. There are over 24,000 images pecked in stone. We would not have to search hard to see some.

Too many carvings to count!

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Day Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Los Alamos

The evening Mark and I arrived at our current house sit in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the owner pointed at a blotch on the mountain side to the northwest. As a cluster of lights started to come on in the distance, he said, with importance in his voice, “That is the infamous site of Los Alamos.” The generation growing up in the 60s might raise an eyebrow of recognition right now – my parents did, all the way in Belgium, when I told them about it – but I gave him a blank stare. Mark nodded his head. The man looked at me and poked, “You know, where they built the atomic bombs that ended the war.” I knew about that world and history-altering event, of course, but still had never heard of Los Alamos. We had to check out what the fuss was all about.

The day after Mark and I did our hot hikes in Bandelier National Monument, we woke up to a beautiful morning and had our Sunday breakfast in the camper. I was feeling better, but we decided on taking it easy that day. The downhill drive to Los Alamos town was short and the parking lot in front of the visitor center empty.

Where are all the other tourists?

A few sites are scattered around the heart of the sleepy town. We walked by all of them, reading the historic signs and the brochure we picked up at the visitor center. We were surprised by the time range of the historic artifacts (from the ancestral pueblo site of the 1200s to the statue of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie R. Groves, erected in 2011) in this small area and by the lack of visitors. Continue reading

Day Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Bandelier National Monument

New Mexico state has so many natural and cultural treasures, that when the weekend approaches, Mark and I are filled with excitement and the promise of wonderful excursions. We pack our camper van up and only have to drive an hour or two to reach enough sites to fill days. Of course, we only have two of those a week, and, after a tiring work week, immediately getting on the road Friday night is not the way we like to approach our time off. Instead, we have a glass of wine and a snack, make an ever-pleasing vegetarian pizza, and put a few things in the camper before picking up the mail or in between watering the plants.

On Saturday, we have a not-to-early start and depart to our destination, in this case, Bandelier National Monument, NW of Santa Fe. Continue reading

Day Trips around Santa Fe, NM: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Mark and I have been extremely busy this year and, to be honest, our alternative lifestyle doesn’t help. I often wonder whether it wouldn’t be healthier for us to settle somewhere indefinitely, while we attend to our full-time but low-paying careers. It would certainly cause less stress. But, then we might as well get “real” jobs… On the other hand, doing these house and pet sits all over the United States, allows us to explore certain regions in depth, turning the weekends into mini-vacations.

Tent rocks!

We are currently caring for a comfortable adobe home with plants, but no pets, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Continue reading

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