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.

 

top 5 travel recommendations from 2014

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Colonial Williamsburg Capitol travel blog

The Capitol building in Colonial Williamsburg.

Looking back on 2014, some of it is a little fuzzy. Change was definitely the word of the year. To recap, we put our house on the market in the spring, sold it in June and then had 40 days to cut our possessions in half, pack and move what we kept into storage. Scott and I headed out in the RV in early July with no plans other than to see a lot of the country and visit with friends and family. Road trip! Continue reading

month five: brrrrrr!

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Twenty-six states and more than 18,000 miles.

Twenty-six states and more than 18,000 miles since July.

Wow, the five-month mark has come…and gone. Since the beginning of November, we’ve stayed in Ashland, West Virginia; St. Charles and Grain Valley, Missouri; Castle Rock, Englewood and Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Deming, New Mexico; and San Tan Valley, Arizona. The tally since July 9: We’ve been to 26 states and traveled more than 18,000 miles. Whew! Continue reading

feeling thankful this holiday season

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Carriage Ride at Acadia National Park

Carriage Ride at Acadia National Park

‘Tis the season to be thankful, and I have a lot to be grateful for in my life. My family and our health are always top of the list. Here are a few more of the things for which I am thankful: Continue reading

month 2: getting the hang of it

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State map

We’ve visited seven states in our first two months on the road.

Wow, our second month on the road flew by! We covered a lot of ground, visited some wonderful places, learned some things and spent time with family. Seems like we’re getting the hang of this full-timing gig.

Here are the facts and figures, the highs and the lows, and some random fun stuff from our first two months on the road. We’ve… Continue reading

month one: the good, the bad and the ugly

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Taylor Park Reservoir

Our longest stay was at Taylor Park Reservoir in Colorado.

The first month of our year-long road trip has come and gone, and boy, oh boy, it was a busy one. Our schedule was dictated by some events that were already on the calendar, including getting to watch our daughter compete in a volleyball tournament in Steamboat Springs, a vacation with family and friends, visits to both kids, business meetings and doctors’ appointments. In short, we packed a lot into our first few weeks on the road. Continue reading

i am NEVER going camping again!

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Camping at Taylor

Roughing it at Taylor Park Reservoir

Oh, the irony. Sixteen years ago this month, we embarked upon our first family camping trip. Much like the Griswolds, we were ready enjoy the open road with the kids. Our destination? Taylor Park Reservoir, a dirt-bike-riding mecca that friends and family members have been enjoying since the 60s. The same spot where I’m sitting right now, writing in our camper.

This took place in 1998, so the kids were 4 and almost 6. The perfect ages to get them started on the joys of camping in the mountains, right? That was the plan. We lived just north of Kansas City at that time, in Smithville, Missouri. Escaping the heat sounded pretty good. Continue reading

home, home on the road

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Today, home is where the deer and the antelope play. We finished packing and moving on Tuesday, closed the sale on the house Wednesday and are spending day one of our new life on the road at Yampa River State Park, near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. There will be posts about downsizing, saying goodbye and life on the road soon. Stay tuned for more Tales From the Empty Nest!

this nest is going mobile!

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The empty nest is hitting the road!

The empty nest is hitting the road!

“Someday we’re going to sell everything and travel around the country in our RV.” That’s what we’ve been saying for years, and now it’s finally coming true. In about three weeks, we will head out for a year of travel and adventure. I’ll be chronicling the journey on this blog, so stay tuned here and follow me on Twitter (@EmptyNestTales) and Facebook.

In the meantime, here are answers to some questions that are probably starting to form. Continue reading

because I said so, that’s why

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Perfect weather for camping on Mother's Day.

Perfect weather for camping on Mother’s Day.

If you don’t think God has a sense of humor, explain to me why the teenage years and the first years of the empty nest so often coincide with peri-menopause. Talk about ups and downs. Face it: You’re going to make some illogical decisions based purely on emotions. Accept it, forgive yourself and move on.

I’m still working on that “forgive yourself” thing for a recent mandate that I was going to spend Mother’s Day with my kids, no matter what. We live in the mountains on Colorado’s Western Slope. Our kids are in Denver and Laramie. To save them the long drive home since both had been here at spring break, I decided that we would take the RV to Fort Collins, which is about halfway in between them. We booked the campsite and started planning. Continue reading