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Month: December 2011

Happy Memories of Fire and Ice in Anchorage

December 31, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Anchorage Skyline How does your town celebrate the New Year? When we lived in Anchorage, Alaska, six years ago, I was enchanted by the city’s New Year’s Fire and Ice Extravaganza. Early in the evening on December 31st, we headed into downtown Anchorage. Sporting parkas, gloves, hats, boots, and snowpants, we headed for the center of town and watched as the residents simultaneously celebrated life in the midst of darkness, ice, and snow! In reality, the whole experience shocked me. I had only been a resident of Alaska for about three weeks at that time. I was amazed at how everyone, both young and old, skated, sang, juggled, sculpted, and celebrated. I was particularly fascinated by the live ice sculpture carving. It was amazingly uplifting to see the artists creating beautiful sculptures on such a cold dark evening. The whole event culminated with a fabulous fireworks display at 8 pm. After that, we went home and celebrated the new year while sitting by the fire!  Happy... [Read more...]

The Gorgeous Red Rock Canyon, NV…

December 30, 2011 by · 5 Comments 

The Gorgeous Red Rock Canyon, NV…

While we were staying in Las Vegas, Nevada, this past week, we took a little drive out of town to visit the beautiful Red Rock Canyon.  RRC is a National Conservation Area (the land is managed by BLM) so we were able to get in for free with our National Parks Access Pass; otherwise, admittance for your vehicle is $7. We first made a stop at the modern visitor’s center, where the younger kids did a scavenger hunt – RRC is working on a Jr. Ranger program but is is not completed yet.  At the visitor’s center there were a few fun, interactive activities like making rubbings off of (reproduction) petroglyphs, and looking at pollen and insect wings through microscopes.  Outside of the visitor’s center is an easy, handicap accessible walk through a very nice courtyard full of displays and statues (in the courtyard were all the animals that the kids had to find for their scavenger hunt).   While we were at the visitor’s center, we also picked up a NV state... [Read more...]

Tip of Texas

December 29, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Tip of Texas

The Lower Rio Grande Valley rolls out the red carpet for snowbirds. This is Shangri-la, a subtropical paradise, where the average annual T-shirt and shorts temperature is 74 degrees with an average rainfall of only 23.2 inches. The Tip of Texas along the Rio Grande River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved This area of extreme deep-south Texas is actually more of a delta than a valley. There are no hills and mountains to define it and its southern border forms the present-day wide, sweeping flatlands of the once mighty Rio Grande River. It is rich agricultural land, on which the fertile alluvial soils foster a diverse variety of crops, including 56 types of fruits and vegetables. Most visitors are astonished at this diversity of Valley farm products. Fields of peas, cabbage, spinach, onions, and carrots are easily recognized, but there are less common vegetables too—daikon, kohlrabi, and aloe vera. This is the original area of aloe vera, whose marvelous natural cream has become popular... [Read more...]

A News Flash on Alaska’s National Parks

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Exit Glacier, Alaska When I checked my electronic inbox yesterday, I found an informative news release from John Quinley, who is the Assistant Regional Director, Communications and Partnerships, of the Alaska Regional National Park Service. In his release, Mr. Quinley reported that the Alaska region of the National Park Service saw about 2.32 million recreational visits in 2011. This was an increase of about 2% from 2010. The two parks with the largest increases for 2011 were Kenai Fjords National Park, which is headquartered in Seward, and Denali National Park.  Both of these parks are on the road system in Alaska so they are fairly easy to access with a car, trailer, or RV. I have had the good fortune of visiting both of these parks with my children at my side. I first visited them during the summer of 2006.  Our family camping trip to Denali was a highlight that summer and indeed my children still talk about it.  Last July, we returned to Alaska and while we were staying in Anchorage,... [Read more...]

A Really Nasty Bug

December 28, 2011 by · 6 Comments 

A Really Nasty Bug

A winter-night’s dream finds me walking through the middle of a tall grassy field ablaze with warm sunshine, songbirds singing, and butterflies darting about.  Nearby is a brook overflowing with large rainbow trout hungry for the fly on the end of my line.  As the sun sets, we will dine on trout cooked over glowing campfire embers. . My dream excludes the reality of chiggers, ticks, mosquitoes, gnats, wasps, spiders, and biting flies also enjoying the habitat and dining on me as I reach out for my dream. Like it or not, we share the world with bugs and their presence can make our real life experiences a lot less pleasant if control measures are not taken. Adult EAB with wings open One insect, or bug, that has recently changed the landscape of at least fifteen eastern states and parts of Canada is the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire – an exotic beetle that was first discovered in southeastern Michigan near Detroit in the summer of 2002.  By exotic, I mean... [Read more...]

Where the Summer Spends the Winter: Ajo

December 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Where the Summer Spends the Winter: Ajo

The tiny town of Ajo (ahh-ho) is situated deep in the Sonoran Desert, 42 miles south of Gila Bend and 37 miles north of the Mexican border. For many snowbirds, as it was for us, Ajo is merely a stopping-off point on the way to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. For others, especially Spring Breakers, it’s a town to pass through on their way to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point). The beautiful tree-shaded Spanish Colonial plaza in downtown Ajo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved However, Ajo just might be the “best kept secret in Arizona.” This is the place where the “Summer spends the Winter”, according to the local Chamber of Commerce. The town of Ajo reflects its one time wealth to this day. Glistening white churches and a well-designed plaza are so inviting. Ajo today is a retirement community and snowbird haven along with an increasing number of artists. Ajo’s gorgeous mountain views and charming Old World architecture are enchanting and we soon fell in love with this friendly... [Read more...]

A Gift for the Difficult to Buy For…

December 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A Gift for the Difficult to Buy For…

On our way to our Chavez Canyon hike this summer, we happened to pass through the town of Abiquiu, NM and subsequently Ghost Ranch, NM. Ghost Ranch was the estate of Georgia O’Keeffe, the famous artist and painter. She found great inspiration in the red rock topography of the area and the nearby mountain, Pedernal.  It was easy to understand that inspiration, even for us non-artist types, as we traveled through the area on the way to our hike. I had been a Georgia O’Keeffe fan long before ever setting foot in northern New Mexico. But like O’Keeffe, the first time I got a glimpse of Pedernal back in 2000 as we were traveling through the state for the first time, I was hooked. Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center consists of 21,000 acres of red rock canyons, majestic mesas and amazing skies. Situated at 6,500 feet above sea level, the terrain offers much to the artist, writer and nature enthusiast alike. Currently operated by the Presbyterian Church, Ghost Ranch has as its mission... [Read more...]

Blessed to spend CHRISTmas in our RV…

December 22, 2011 by · 7 Comments 

Blessed to spend CHRISTmas in our RV…

Christmas in an RV can be a greatl experience!  We wondered, that first year that we were traveling, if Christmas would be as wonderful and as meaningful as it always was to us in the house.  This year will be our 3rd Christmas ‘houseless’; and we have found that we may just enjoy Christmas all the more without the house!    Granted, there are some ‘sacrifices’ that we have had to adjust to in this smaller space – we don’t decorate quite as much; while we keep a small artificial tree and a few ornaments, all our other decorations are made by the kids, and renewed each year.  We also don’t bake quite as much as we did while we were in the house.  And we do have to put more consideration into gifts for our family – no trampolines, gun safes, or big doll houses anymore – there just isn’t room for them in our RV. But we have also found that we tend to pick up more and more of our ‘old’ traditions each year –... [Read more...]

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

December 21, 2011 by · 3 Comments 

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

It’s that time of year again. The Christmas countdown has begun! While the holidays bring with it lots of love, time spent with family and friends, good food, and more, it can also bring stress—most from the gift exchange. Trying to find the perfect gift for someone can get frustrating. But if you’re still looking for gifts for the RVer in your life, you are in luck! To keep this manageable, it’s been parted out into two posts—each with five items.  These are in no particular order, with no favoritism or affiliation to the actual products or vendors. So, without further ado here are five gifts that keep on giving: The National Parks: Our American Landscape A collection of over 200 stunning images depicting America’s national parks is a perfect gift for any RVer or lover of the outdoors. The book was originally released in 2010, but was released this year in a more affordable paperback version ($16.47 on Amazon.com). Texas State Parks Pass The Texas State Parks Pass is an annual... [Read more...]

More Miracles in Wisconsin…

December 18, 2011 by · 3 Comments 

More Miracles in Wisconsin…

My previous post concerned the visions occurring in 1859 at the location that has become the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Hope, located one mile east of the town of Champion, WI. Many healings and miracles are reported to have occurred at the site of this vision. About 17 miles northeast of Green Bay, the grounds now consist of the chapel, rebuilt and enlarged again in 1942, as well as the convent, school, gift shop and  an area know as “the crypt.” It is in the crypt area that a small altar is located, upon which a statue of Mary is situated. This is the exact location of the two trees between which Mary appeared. Also in the crypt is a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the body of the lifeless Jesus encased in glass. Behind the statue are numerous crutches, braces and canes visitors have left at the shrine, no longer needed. The statue in the crypt--at the location of the two trees Some of the more common reports include: –In 1954 a gentleman wearing a hearing aid participated... [Read more...]

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