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A Life Less Ordinary

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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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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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Completed House Sits: Sebastopol, CA – July 23rd to August 15th, 2017

Mark and I have been house and pet sitting for almost two years and this was the first time we returned to a home and a dog we took care of previously. We have often been asked by home owners to come back, but never have, either because the climate was too cold for our liking, the period too short or we found ourselves on the other side of the country. Some of you might remember sweet Lola and the heaps of activities Sonoma County in California has to offer from my earlier blogs, so it is probably no surprise that we agreed to do this repeat sit for three weeks. And, it fit our short-term plans.

Lola was incredibly happy to see us again. Continue reading

Weekend Adventures in the Area – Sonoma County

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

Autumn Weekend at Lake Tahoe

One of the exciting things about our life as house and pet sitters, other than living in comfortable houses for free, being in the company of the most amazing dogs and experiencing different neighborhoods, is the opportunity we have to explore different areas of the United States. Wherever you live in this country, there are always a lot of places to go for a hike or impressive sites to discover within driving distance.

Lake Tahoe seen from the town of South Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe seen from the town of South Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe, located on the border of California and Nevada is the third deepest lake in North America. It has a remarkable water clarity and is surrounded by boulders, sand and snow-capped mountains. To say it is picturesque is stating the obvious. Continue reading

Wordless Wednesday – Local

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.  Also, I can’t manage “completely wordless”, but I’ll try my best at “almost wordless”. 🙂

I have archived thousands of photos over the years and can’t easily pick what to post, so I use the weekly prompt of the Daily Post to inspire my Wordless Wednesdays. This week’s Daily Post photography theme is “local“.

Since Mark and I don’t own or rent a house, our location changes with every trip we make or house sit we take. Therefore what’s local to us depends on which place we call home for the time being. For over a decade we have been roaming about, by truck camper, by sailboat and by car. “Local” has been areas in Belgium, Mexico, Central America, Texas, Maryland, the Bahamas, the Caribbean islands, Panama, the Galapagos, most archipelagos of French Polynesia, New England, and now Northern California. Home is, literally, where we are. This website and my older It’s Irie website have an incredible amount of photos of our ever changing backyard. Here are a few of them:

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Hiking the Precipice Trail in Acadia NP, Maine

A couple of weeks ago, I briefly featured parts of this hike for the Daily Post theme “edge”. Mark and I chose to hike the very strenuous Precipice Trail on the last morning of our five-day vacation in Acadia National Park for two reasons: it promised to be a sunny day, so the views would be amazing (they were!) and we could rest up afterwards in the car on the long drive home (we did!). The trail was one of the toughest hikes we have ever done, but all the sweat and effort led to a fun climb and a reward of incredible views.

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Biking the Carriage Roads in Acadia NP, Maine


Mark, not on a castle, but on a carriage road bridge

Mark, not on a castle, but on a carriage road bridge

There is a lot to see and do in Acadia National Park. Without the “distraction” of work and internet, I was amazed at how much one can pack into a five-day vacation! After a little reconnaissance of the park on our first day, we decided to rent bikes on the second one. For $25 per bike per day, we each picked a suitable model of the ones presented in the store and soon thereafter, we were proud bike owners for the day. Our starting point was the town center of Bar Harbor and our goal was to ride the park’s carriage roads. I expected a very relaxing day, coasting along flat roads. I was wrong.

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WW – Gorham Mountain Trail in Acadia NP, Maine

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 manage completely “wordless”, but I try my best at “almost wordless”. 🙂

Start of the trail

Start of the trail

There is no photo challenge at the Daily Post this week, so I’m diving head first into the Acadia experience with a photo gallery of the Gorham Mountain Trail. If there is only one hike you can do in Acadia National Park, I highly recommend this one. The views are spectacular and get better with each step you take towards the top. It is a short, but moderate hike that involves climbing over rocks and boulders and that combines the right dose of exercise and beauty. Continue reading

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