New Year’s Greetings from the Nest

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On the Pauite Trail

Riding the Paiute Trail

Happy 2017! Facebook has been quite diligent in reminding me weekly that the Tales From the Empty Nest page is woefully inactive, so I thought I’d start the year off with a blog post in hopes that I’m a little more consistent over the next 12 months. No promises, but I’m hoping to spend more time writing this year.

2016 was a good year for me. (Any year in which I’m alive and kicking on December 31 counts as a good year.) I have so many blessings for which I’m always grateful: family, health, friends, faith and jobs that allow us to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. Last year, as opposed to big chunks of 2014 and 2015, that roof only had wheels when we went camping.

Looking back and looking ahead, I see lots positives. Here are some of my favorite parts of 2016:

Our first wine tasting at the storeScott and I celebrated 30 years of love and marriage in August, surrounded by friends and family. We also celebrated our first full year as owners of New Castle Liquors in September. The business continues to grow and prosper, and it’s more fun with a year under our belts.

Our kids are happy and healthy, and that’s the best feeling in the world. Anna is teaching second grade in a high-needs charter school in Aurora and working on her master’s. Andy found his dream job and is restoring classic Mustangs at a shop in Castle Rock. I love that they’re both in Colorado. They’re close enough to each other to get together fairly often and to us to make visits easy on us all. Unless there’s ski traffic or snow, but that’s part of living in this spectacular part of the country.

I was able to visit family in Missouri several times. While the reason was tough to deal with — we cleaned out Mom’s house to put it on the market and moved her from assisted living in Kansas City to a nursing home in St. Louis — spending time with my family was wonderful. I especially enjoyed meeting my two great nephews, Kevin and EJ.

Thanks to a dedicated team of employees, Scott and I were able to travel quite a bit. We enjoyed weekend getaways to Denver, Colorado Springs, Ridgway, Palisade and Grand Lake, plus camping and riding trips to Rabbit Valley, Taylor Park and Marysvale, Utah.

0106fbdffdb94b45b3740d1e3ea8ac43424a254ba6In Marysvale, we explored the Paiute ATV Trail Network for the first time and fell in love with the area. We were adopted by a really nice group of firefighters and policemen and their wives from Las Vegas. They’ve been camping there for years and invited us to join them on their rides. We had so much fun, we all booked campsites together for next fall. The Paiute is the largest ATV trail network in the country, with more than 2,000 miles of RZR-friendly trails.

Volunteering in our community is another of my favorite parts of the year. After selling the house and hitting the road in 2014, then traveling and getting settled in a new house, new town and new business in 2015, my volunteering had been pretty hit and miss. The River Center provides vital services to New Castle, and I’ve enjoyed getting involved and making new friends.

Looking ahead, I think 2017 will bring us much love and happiness. We have a big trip planned to celebrate that 30th anniversary from last fall. I won’t give away too many details, but there’s a beach and a lot of fruity umbrella drinks involved.

I foresee good fortune as well. I bought some Powerball and Mega Millions tickets on New Year’s Eve. Haven’t checked the numbers yet. I’m just assuming that I won and enjoying dreaming about all of the good and the fun things I’ll do with my winnings. I sealed the luck deal this afternoon with a bowl of spicy black-eyed-pea soup.

Sending good thoughts to all of you from the empty nest. Thanks for reading!

 

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30 years go by, in the blink of an eye

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Rehearsal Dinner

Our rehearsal dinner

Thirty years ago today, I walked down the aisle with this handsome guy. We’d met less than a year earlier, and had a whirlwind romance that had me saying “I do” in the blink of an eye. I was so smitten; I just knew he was the one.

wedding pic

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Scott Gauldin!

Fast forward three decades, and it’s hard for me to comprehend the life that we’ve built, the adventures we’ve had and the family that we’ve created. I’m not sure what I imagined our life would be like, but I couldn’t imagine spending it with anyone else. What a wild and wonderful ride it has been! Continue reading

an ode to silly old papa

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Me and Dad at graduation

Me and Dad at my high school graduation.

Today would have been Dad’s 84th birthday. He’s been gone 18 years, and I still miss him every day.

It’s difficult to sum Dad up in a few hundred words. He was smart, kind, stubborn, ornery and funny. Very, very funny. He loved learning and was always studying something; the Civil War, philosophy, religion and politics were among his favorite topics. He also laughed until he cried watching the Three Stooges and Peter Sellers movies. Dad always had an opinion, and we always knew what it was. Anyone within hearing distance knew as well. Continue reading

months 10-11: back where we belong

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Are you “back back?” That’s the question we’re getting a lot these days when we run into friends in Glenwood Springs, and the answer is yes. Our life as vagabonds has come to an end, at least for now. We are settling into a house sans wheels in New Castle, Colorado, nine miles west of Glenwood.

Our original plan was to travel for a year, but we ended up cutting it a little shorter for several reasons. First, we noticed that houses in our price range were starting to sell very quickly. Our house was on the market less than 24 hours before we made an offer! Second, we wanted to be back for our daughter’s college graduation in June. And third, we were homesick. Continue reading

months 7, 8 and 9: recuperating in sunny Arizona

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Recuperating in sunny Arizona.

Recuperating in sunny Arizona.

I’ve been a bad blogger. My name is Mandy, and my last post was in January. The past three months have been a little rough and a lot busy. On the bright side, if all I did was write about beaches, lighthouses, mountains, wine and lobster, you’d get pretty sick of me.

Before and After

Before and After

We spent the winter in San Tan Valley, Arizona, which is between Phoenix and Tucson. On January 13, I had a total knee replacement. I’m not going to lie; that wasn’t a lot of fun. Recuperating in an RV can be challenging, but I was able to spend the first week after surgery at our Aunt Dawn’s house. It was perfect; we had our own room, there were no stairs and she spoiled me rotten with chicken soup, chocolate pudding and fresh grapefruit—right off the tree and into my breakfast. I’m a big fan of fresh grapefruit!

Knee replacements have come a long way, baby. Mine was an outpatient procedure. We arrived at the surgi-center at 6 a.m. By 11, I was wobbling around with a walker and at 1 p.m. we were settling in at Aunt Dawn’s place. An I.V. nurse, a home health nurse and a physical therapist came by frequently to take care of me. The outpatient option is fairly new; I was my surgeon’s 24th patient to try it. There were also no stitches or staples in my incision; it was glued together and covered with a single piece of gauze. You know it’s uncommon when the nurses are surprised.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

The first week went pretty smoothly until I had an allergic reaction to the glue. Hello, Prednisone, and all of its side effects. I became a little emotional. And by that I mean that I cried when we got back to our camper because the floor was dusty. Imagine that, a dusty floor in the desert. My husband is a saint.

The next few weeks were a blur of physical therapy and ice packs. We didn’t get out and about much to explore Arizona. When we did, we found some wonderful spots!

Our first outing was to the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. The Casa Grande, which means great house, dates back to around 1350 A.D. Aptly named, it’s one of the largest prehistoric structures ever built in North America, measuring 60 feet long and four stories tall. There’s a nice visitor center and museum. Two thumbs up for this historic site!

The Windmill Winery

The Windmill Winery

In nearby Florence, we visited the Windmill Winery. I know. You’re shocked that I found a winery. The real shocker is that we were just half an hour away and didn’t find it for three months. It’s located on the site of an old brick factory. They’ve used the bricks to make walkways and patios around the property, which is beautifully landscaped. It’s a popular wedding venue. Our favorites were the Dutchman’s Bold, which is made from the Norton grape, and the pomegranate wine, which neither of us expected to like but did.

Schnepf Farms and the Queen Creek Olive Mill are just across the street from each other. I recommend breakfast at Schnepf Farms—the cinnamon rolls are to die for. Burn some of the calories hiking around the farm. We were there at the tail end of the Peach Blossom Festival and enjoyed walking out to the orchard. You can pick your own fresh veggies and there’s a petting zoo with baby goats. I don’t know when the goat craze started, but count me in. Baby goats are just plain fun.

Goats at Schnepf Farms

It doesn’t get much cuter than this.

Next, head to the Queen Creek Olive Mill. There’s a large, outdoor seating area surrounded by olive trees where they hold a lot of special events like art festivals and wine tastings. You can take a tour to see how the olive oil is made, and the store sells more kinds of olives, olive oils, sauces and dressings than you can imagine. You’ll also find Arizona wines, lavender products, coffee, a bakery and a restaurant. We tried the pizza one evening and listened to live music. Good stuff.

Our home for the winter was a 55-plus RV park. They broke the age rule for us because Scott’s Dad has spent the past five winters there. We were definitely the young whippersnappers. I was actually told to slow down on my bicycle by one of the older residents. I almost fell off the bike looking around to see if he was talking to me! Then I felt like quite the rebel. Our neighbors were supportive and friendly. They cheered me on as I progressed from using the walker, to a cane, to limping and then eventually walking around the park.

Schnepf Farms

Schnepf Farms

Those retirees have a lot of fun. Many come back year after year and have developed close friendships. The cocktail hour is alive and well there, and groups gather around campfires most nights. There’s a lot of laughter, and you can occasionally hear snippets like, “and then he took off his swimsuit,” followed by even more laughter.

Our daughter came down for spring break during our last week in Arizona. She only had three days off from work, so we made the most of it and took her to some of our favorite places. She’s also a big fan of baby goats and petting zoos, so Schnepf Farms was a big hit. We walked around Old Town Scottsdale and loitered at the Poisoned Pen bookstore hoping that Diana Gabaldon would drop by. If you haven’t read the Outlander series, you should. We didn’t spot her, but we always love a good bookstore.

The Poisoned Pen

Looking for Diana Gabaldon in Scottsdale

Two days later, we packed up and hit the road back to Colorado. We had driven 23,146 miles since we started our road trip last July without any real car trouble. Notice the past tense. In Utah, we had to unload the Harley on the shoulder of I-70 so that Scott could ride back and forth to get the parts to get the truck running again. He had to go to five places to find a suitable replacement, but he found one and was able to make the repair.

All’s well that ends well, right? We arrived at Rifle Gap State Park about five hours later than planned, but we made it safe and sound and got set up right before the rain started. Whew!

My knee gets stronger every week and I’m pretty darn mobile, considering. What’s next for us? We’ll let you know when know for sure. Hint: It involves Colorado. Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more Tales From the Empty Nest.