When Mark and I started our current three-month house sit in San Diego, we knew we couldn’t go on weekend trips with our camper van like other times. Frida and Elvis, the two Italian Greyhounds we are taking care of, are relatively old – 12 and 10 years respectively – and home buddies; their owner prefers them to remain nearby. In a city like San Diego, that is not a problem at all! There is so much to do and see in this area that we could spend many weekends exploring and discovering. Here is a selection of what we visited over the last six weeks.
San Diego skyline with moored boats
San Diego Safari Park
We contemplated a visit to the safari park in Escondido, about 20 minutes north of the city, for my birthday (November 28), when our friend Amy (who recently graduated as a zoologist) gave us four free tickets that expired within a week. So, one Saturday, Mark and I set out to the park earlier than planned and had a fantastic time. Not as fascinating as the real thing in Africa, of course, but not a bad alternative! We were especially intrigued about the relationship between cheetahs and dogs. Every young cheetah is paired up with a dog and they become buddies for life.
Expansive safari park
You can take a free “tram” ride around the park
Can you find the baby cheetah among the teddy bears?
Having a (pricey) drink overlooking the rhinos. Cheers!
Dog and cheetah: companions for life – the cheetah run was impressive to watch
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
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
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
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
For three weeks, Mark and I took care of a cute 7-month-old dog named Jaxx and a small apartment in Costa Mesa, California. I report on that sit here. We had never visited this area before and gladly drove the eight hours down from Northern California for some warmer, and hopefully sunnier, weather. Well, the weather was wishy-washy, but on the weekends and some late afternoons, we did our best to explore a few sites with our “happy go lucky” temporary pet. And, three times, the sun gloriously accompanied us with 70-degree weather (21°C). Here are the discoveries we made…
My personal discovery of one of Southern California’s missions
Sign at the park entrance, a few miles off Route 2 (Mohawk Trail)
A few months ago, I did some research about interesting sites in our current area of the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts. Tannery Falls in Savoy Mountain State Forest seemed like a great afternoon excursion. Especially after driving by the State Forest sign on Route 2 – also called the Mohawk Trail – frequently when running errands in North Adams, I moved the trip higher on my list of “Things I want to do before we leave Heath”.
Hail to the Sunrise
Mohawk park at the edge of Charlemont, the closest “town” to Heath
Our low-to-the-ground Prius in the Charlemont area
Mark and I decided to make the trip to Tannery Falls the day after we attended the annual reggae festival in Charlemont. Continue reading
One of the greatest perks about house and pet sitting in different states (or countries) is that you can explore new areas at will. If you decide to take on longer term sits, like us, these explorations can be done in-depth with destinations galore for weekends away. Mark and I only have about one month left of our 4.5-month house sit in Heath, MA and I feel that we are running out of time for my “to visit” list. Of course, this list is so extensive that it is humanly impossible to actually do it all, unless we could devote ourselves to our roaming ways every single day of the week, which we can’t, because of our business.
Town Hall in Great Barrington
I had a few “to do” things planned for our weekend in SW Massachusetts: climbing two mountains, Mt. Everett (partly) and Monument Mountain (wholly), strolling around two historical towns, Stockbridge and Great Barrington, hiking to three sets of waterfalls, Bash Bish Falls, Bear Rock and the cascades of Race Brook, visiting Guilder Pond and driving back from Great Barrington to Lee on a scenic road, before heading home on Sunday. Oh, and as a back-up or if we had extra time, I had more waterfall destinations up my sleeve.
View over the Berkshires
I have decided to post photos of past travels in general and our eight year sailing adventure on SV Irie in particular for Wordless Wednesdays. I hope you enjoy them. Also, I can’t do completely “wordless”, but I try my best with “almost wordless”. 🙂
My theme “Cherry on Top” for this week comes from The Daily Post. While I am totally passionate about traveling and enjoy many aspects of it, my highlights remain wildlife encounters. Therefore, “meeting” and interacting with animals is the cherry on top of my explorations, in the world or in the back yard!
The biggest cherry: swimming with wild manta rays next to our boat in the Marquesas, FP
Snorkeling with a spotted eagle ray nearby our boat
Really close (and startling) encounter with a nurse shark in the San Blas, Panama
Sloth in Panama
Visiting sea lion in the Galapagos
Monkey in Costa Rica
Black tip reef shark in Fakarava, Tuamotus, FP
Howler monkey in Costa Rica (or was it Panama?)
Dolphins in the anchorage love to play with the dinghy
Free dolphin show in an anchorage in Tahuata, Marquesas, FP
For more “Cherry on Top” shots of nature, check out this gallery post, which was part of my A-Z Blogging challenge this year.
Who or what is your cherry on top, in the day-to-day life or on vacation?
“We have to look for ghosts in the Hoosac Tunnel while we are in this area,” Mark said, out of the blue, during one of our drives to North Adams, the closest real city to us, about 40 minutes away. As we climbed Whitcomb Hill and mentally prepared for the steep descend, I gave him a puzzled look, “Ghosts? Where?” “Have you never heard of the haunted Hoosac Tunnel?” he asked. How would I? I am not familiar with local legends and folklore anywhere, let alone in Massachusetts. Of course, the notion peaked my curiosity. How could it not? So, yesterday, I added the tunnel to our sightseeing itinerary.
Approaching Hoosac Tunnel from the east
The digging of the 4.75 mile Hoosac Tunnel in the Berkshire Hills started in 1851 and wasn’t finished until 1875. At its completion, the railroad tunnel was the longest in North America and the second longest in the world, after the Mont Cenis Tunnel in the French Alps. To this day, it remains the longest active transportation tunnel (for freight) east of the Rocky Mountains and operates without a schedule. The building of the tunnel, however, was a nightmare of blood, sweat and tears. Continue reading