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
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.
Cute and photogenic Oscar
Very high “cuddle factor”
Soaking up the sun.
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.
Afternoon hike with our host family
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.
The parking lot at the tramway is already pretty high.
Time to buy tickets, and wait in the long line! You can see the long cue outside.
Ready to board this tram car
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
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.
We are currently caring for a comfortable adobe home with plants, but no pets, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Continue reading
Yosemite NP is one of the most impressive national parks in the United States, if not the world. Mark and I visited Yosemite Valley once before with my parents, in 2005, but we had mostly forgotten about its allure. That being said, when we returned to California in mid-October, the park regained a spot on our mental “things-to-do” list. We considered a weekend getaway there during our three-month house sit in Rocklin, but winter was upon us and the dog we were taking care of did not get along well with others, so we pushed Yosemite into a corner of our brains. That was until my cousin Griet and her husband Wim decided to fly in from Belgium for a 10-day vacation in Northern California. They generously treated us and Lola to a weekend in Yosemite.
The family at Tunnel View
Mark and I never go on vacations. We do travel a lot between places with our car, but the last time we had a real holiday together, as in taking a plane to a destination solely for sightseeing or vacationing, was back in… never actually. For me, it must have been when I was still living in Belgium, working as a teacher, before 2003. If you don’t count the city trip I did with my mom to St. Petersburg, Russia a year and a half ago. Yes, we do fly to the East Coast or Belgium once in a while to visit friends and family and we went on a five-day camping trip in 2015, but it is not the same. I hear some of you scoff, when silently mumbling something like “How about those eight years you were sailing in the Caribbean and the South Pacific?” or “What about that yearlong of gallivanting by RV in Central America?” Again: not the same. Leading a certain lifestyle, when working many hours a day at our computers does not equal vacation. 🙂
There are three reasons we never buy a plane ticket to go have fun in a new country. Continue reading
While this past weekend the weather was not as enjoyable as the previous one, Mark, Lola and I still had a nice time together. At least that’s what she told her loved ones in Mexico with the following letter. I couldn’t have phrased it better myself! 🙂
“Hi mom and dad,
I hope you are having a good time in Mexico. While I miss you a lot, I am happy to have remained in my own comfy house. I can lay in my favorite spots, play with my favorite toys, stroll in my favorite yard, bark at my favorite deer, and each time we come back from a car ride or a walk, I am so happy to be home. Sometimes, I don’t even want to leave, because I like it here so much. Last week, when it was so warm, I lagged behind on walks and panted a lot. I can’t believe that these two drag me out into the hills every day! Well, it is kind of nice, but sometimes, I just want to nap.
Grabbing balls at the dog park
It has been a while since I created a Wordless Wednesday post. Spring is arriving at our current two-month house sit in Sebastopol, Northern California and I am loving it. The blue sky, the warmer temperatures, the sweet blossoms and the colorful flowers… I never realized I loved the visual appearance of spring this much. Must be because we lived in the tropics, void of seasons, for a decade and, really, are not too fond of winter. Which is why we “moved” to California this fall. Compared to last year, when I posted a similar blog in June and left for Belgium to experience spring, we have no complaints about the change of seasons this year! 🙂
Stillwater Cove Regional Park
Magnolia tree in the front yard
Lola smelling the flowers
Pinnacle Gulch Trail
Wildflowers along the trail
Has spring sprung yet where you live?
Horse and carriage with “new Sacramento” in the background
Mark and I drove across the country and temporarily moved to California to enjoy a warmer winter than last year in New England. So far, we cannot complain. It is not as hot here as in Southern California or Florida (or French Polynesia :-)), but the 70 degree daytime temperatures (20s Celsius) have been very pleasant.
Because it will get colder and rainier soon, we take advantage of the sunny days by going on long walks and hikes with Herk (the cute rescue dog we are currently caring for), even during the week. Continue reading