Taos New Mexico

So, let me begin by saying we arrived in Taos, NM on May 3rd and the overnight low was 31 degrees. Come mentally prepared for this. We were not, as we left New Orleans with balmy 89 degree days.

We stayed for just one night before heading to boondock in Pagosa Springs, Colorado so we wanted hookups to dump and add a little fresh water.

We found Taos Valley RV Park to be clean, comfortable, easy to find, and a great location with lovely views. I highly recommend it for short or long stays in Taos. Just down the block from the RV Park on the main highway there is a restaurant called Guadalajara Grill with yummy tacos. My husband was tickled that he got to eat “Tacos in Taos”.

We hooked up and then took an Uber into the downtown area for dinner at the famous Taos Inn. They have a great bar, a fabulous restaurant, and live music most nights in the lobby. We had the Cowboy Buddha margarita and it was well made with no shortcuts on the ingredients or the tequila.

We slept well as the RV Park was quiet and woke up the next morning to head to Pagosa Springs. We planned four morning stops: Carson National Forest headquarters for a map, Albertsons on the main highway for Starbucks coffee, a boutique called Substance of Taos to sample their Vapour organic beauty products, and the historic Taos Pueblos.

We nixed the Pueblo because it was 40 degrees and we didn’t want to be outside. Our southern skin wasn’t acclimated enough to the cold yet.

We got maps for the trails because next time we come this way we will boondock in Carson NF.

Coffee in hand we found Substance and waited for them to open as 10am. It was SO worth the wait. Monica was very knowledgeable about Vapour organic cosmetics and they had a great sample display so I could test out the colors and shades. I’ve been interested in this cosmetic company because they are organic, mineral based with not a lot of water in the products so bacteria doesn’t grow as fast. They have natural-looking buildable multi-use pigmented products that I think would be great for a travel beauty routine. I was not wrong! Monica walked me though their primers, their “multi-use stick” colors, their foundations (which I ended up buying even though I usually don’t wear makeup), and their lip glosses.

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I bought a multi-use stick in the color called “Lure”, a velvet lip gloss, and a soft-focus foundation. Monica threw in a few freebie samples for me to try on our trip.

The boutique was amazing in other ways, too. They sold other bath soak salts, soaps, lotions, jewelry, clothing, and hair salon services. If you visit Taos do stop in. You won’t regret it. It’s on the corner of La Placita and Rancheritos.

Leaving Taos and heading north on US 64 you cross the Rio Grande River Gorge and Rest Area. Make plans to stop.

 

 

The gorge views are SPECTACULAR.

 

After the rest area there is the world headquarters of Earthship Biotecture and you can tour their off-grid sustainable homes.

An Unlikely Hiker?

Challenging the image of an average hiker!

“The switchbacks repeated themselves so many times I couldn’t tell what progress I’d made, but there it was, the last one before the crest…”

I really identify with Bruso, who calls herself and “unlikely hiker”. In her 20s she was wholly uninterested in the outdoors. In the years since, she’s has become an avid hiker who works tirelessly to challenge the mainstream’s idea of who recreates outside.

Like Bruso, CityGirl did not grow up recreating in national parks and forests. “We didn’t like the dirt, the bugs or feeling uncomfortable,” she says. “We would much rather watch TV or ride our bikes around the neighborhood.”

At 40 I hiked Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park. I echo Bruso’s sentiments: “As tough of a time as I was having, I was not immune to how beautiful things were and how they sort of sunk into me”. She marveled at the smell of the forest in the summer sun, the sight of fiery wild rhododendrons. On every hike I take I feel the same way.

I’m still learning my limits and building up the stamina and strength it takes to hike strenuous trails. I’ve had two ACL surgeries so my hamstring muscles and tendons are weak and I suffer from Semimembranosus Tendinitis (due to a previous ACL repair surgery). That means I have to pay special attention to my body telling me I’ve done enough.

I’ve read up on and made investments in proper gear. I educate myself on the trails I want to do ahead of time so I know what to expect. Most of all I enjoy reaping the benefits of being an unlikely hiker. My spirituality and mental health both benefit from being out in the wild outdoors surrounded by creation.

AllStays Camp & RV App

This is a must have for those interested in boondocking and/or saving money while RVing across the USA.

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After two years of part-time travel we have been consistently impressed with one of our Top 10 Apps for RVing, the AllStays Camp & RV app. It’s a jewel of an app for full or part-time RVers. This app is great for planning, saves you money, and reduces the stress of finding anything from overnight accommodations to free dump stations.At 9.99 it pays for itself the first two times you use it. It’s our #1 must have app for RV traveling.

Main Features

When you launch the app, it shows where you are and displays the services in that area on a scalable map. You can zoom in/out, move the map and choose from standard, satellite, or hybrid map views. Here standard view of me searching for Amarillo, TX.

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There are some of the display categories on the map:

– Camping (e.g. State/National Parks, Casinos, BLM Land, Army Corps, National Forests)

– RV related businesses (e.g. dealerships)

– Rest areas

– Stores (e.g. Camping World, Costco, REI, Walmart)

– Truck Stops (e.g. Pilot & Flying J)

This is what you see when you tap on any of the icons to bring up a quick overview.

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To see additional information, tap on the info banner. In this example, you can see the Cracker Barrel has a overnight parking and a phone number plus reviews and a stay within the past year.

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Usually this page shows extra info like phone number, website, images, reviews, rating, weather, map. There is an “Update” section where users can submit information if there is an issue or change in status for the spot. User submitted information is displayed below the address and GPS coordinates. When you come across outdated information, you can send an update.

Filters

The main categories can be filtered by tapping the options you want to see on the map. To access the filters, tap on “Filter” in the main screen.

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Advanced Filters

From the filter screen, tap on the advanced filters option to search for specific things like free campgrounds.

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Offline Access

The offline access feature is very handy when there’s no cell service.

Save Money with thisApp?

Well…

  • Free dump stations
  • Free RV camping
  • Verified free overnight spots
  • Filter campsites by price

New Orleans to Washington State 2018

Our 2018 TransAmerican road trip in our R-pod 180 HRE will take us from New Orleans to the Pacific Northwest (PNW) again. We loved it up there last year and have decided to become reverse snowbirds this year from May to October 🙂

On the way to the PNW we will stop along this route:

  • Dallas
  • Albuquerque
  • Zion National Park
  • Salt Lake City
  • Yakima
  • Olympia
  • Anacortes (San Juan Islands)

Follow us @countryboy_citygirl on Instagram for photos of our travels and tips on free camping spots.

Ferrara WAS New York

During my trip a trusted Ferrarese told me about a graffiti artist in her city who spray-painted the phrase:

Ferrara 500 anni fa era New York!

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It means ‘500 years ago Ferrara was New York”. So…. maybe not New York, but…. during the Renaissance Ferrara was a cultural and economic mecca. The 15th-century “Herculean Addition”, begun at the behest of Ercole I d’Este and designed by Biagio Rosseti, made her one of the first modernly planned cities of Europe. Lucrezia Borgia lived here, binding the city to Roman politics and intrigue, and the Este court grew or drew in scholars and artists such as Ludovico Ariosto, Dosso Dossi, Torquato Tasso, Pietro Bembo, Ercole Strozzi, and many others.

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Although now surpassed in tourism my Rome, Venice, and Florence I think Ferrara still offers quite a bit to the traveler looking for an Italian experience. It is situated in a couple hours train ride from Mantua, Verona, Venice, Milan, Bologna, and Florence. Oh, and did I mention the entire city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

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The thing I love most about Ferrara is that it is walkable. More than that, it is also a city of bicycles (citta delle biciclette). I can leave home, from a house right outside the city walls (le mura), ride into the ancient city center (centro) in a matter of minutes, and sit alongside the Este Castle (Castello Estense) while drinking a machiatto or prosecco at a cafe (caffetteria).

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This is my favorite thing about Ferrara. The freedom of movement on a bicycle in a city where it is safe for bikes is lovely. Bikes have the right-of-way in most areas, their own street signals for traffic control, and are the best way to get around the historic areas of the city where cars are not allowed.

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The warm Italian sun, brisk air of October, cobblestones, medieval cathedrals at every turn, zipping by of scooters, and bumbling by of the other bikes, cars, and buses make for a comforting din.

My favorite spots over the past #40daysinItaly are:

Piazza Ariostea (eat lunch at Ludovico here, they have great salads and wine)

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Biking and walking along Le Mura (the walls) of this ancient city which look amazing in panorama from the side but have lovely tree-lined walkways on top, too.

The centro (city center) where Piazza Savonarola is (try Osteria Savonarola for dinner and Al Brindisi for drinks after dinner)

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The amazing Castello Estense in the centro

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Via delle Volte, an old merchanting and storage street way

Palazzo Schifanoia, a palace for the Este family to escape the boredom of noble life in a castle, also home to amazing frescos!

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I only have three days left here in Italy. I miss my husband and my dog very much. So, I’m ready to return home. But, I know that when I leave it won’t be long before I have the stirrings of a different type of homesickness. A homesickness for my Italian family, and my Italian routine, and my Italian life.

Italy: What to know before you go

Italy has Western Europe’s richest, craziest culture. This is perhaps why I feel so at home there. It is also very diverse, stretching from their German- flavored Alps through hill towns to sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches. It was the cradle of the Roman Empire, bringing “civilization” to Europe by way of Africa, India, and Greece.

Here are CityGirl’s tips for having an amazing Italian vacation:

  • Go with an eye open to both the Italies of the past and Italy of the present. I say “Italies” because until the 19th century the peninsula was made up of independent city-states. So each region has its own distinct character and history.
  • Engage with locals. Italians are very social and want to connect with others. Show warmth even when you don’t understand everything and you’ll get a lot further. Embrace the melodramatic, go with it, use your hands when you talk. I live in New Orleans so this is a natural thing for me to fall into.
  • Exhibit la bella figura, a positive public persona/ appearance. Dress elegantly, miss the bus instead of getting sweaty running for it, always order the bottled water, never take a doggy bag, skip packing shorts or graphic tees unless you’re going to the beach.
  • Take part in the ritual evening stroll, the passaggiata. Put on a sophisticated outfit, dazzling accessories, gorgeous shoes, and go out… not for the destination, but for the journey.
  • Nowhere in Italy is more than a day’s journey away. There are 12,000+ miles of train lines and 4,000+ miles of autostrada, their expressway. Go explore.
  • Typical daily diet here includes two servings of pasta, a half pound of bread, and two glasses of wine. Just so you know the norm. You’ll be walking a lot, thank goodness.
  • Food here is not fast food, it’s slow food. Bought daily, prepared with love, enjoyed with friends and family. In season foods are the centerpiece and a three-hour meal is common. First comes the aperitivo (prosecco is a perfect choice), then the antipasto plate of cold sliced meats and veggies, then pasta (primo), then the meat entree dish (secondo), then salad, then dessert with coffee or a digestif. Pace yourself!
  • Italy is the number one wine producer of the world. Find out which wines are from the specific region you’re visiting, drink them. I love Lambrusco in Emilia-Romagna, Soave in the Veneto, Chianti in Tuscany, and Frascati in Lazio. Don’t order French wine!
  • Italians take a siesta called reposo or riposo. It’s a three-hour break from about 1pm. Shops will be closed, especially in small towns. Yes, even the post office. Use this time to do as they do; have lunch, socialize with friends and family, enjoy window shopping or walking the area.
  • Embrace il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing).
  • Savor your cappuccino, walk aimlessly, imagine the past, ramble through the countryside in a rented Alfa-Romeo, dangle your feet over the ancient waters of the Venetian canals or interior rivers of Florence, Rome, or Milan.
  • Accept Italy as Italy. Savor the fine points. Don’t dwell on the problems. Enjoy!

 

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Montana Hi-Line: Highway 2 Across MT & ND

From Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs we traveled east on Hwy 2. After Hinsdale, MT look on left for dinosaur figure statues by Buck Samuelson.

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Next is Glasgow where you can get gas, fast food, or shop at Albertsons. Glasgow and west on Hwy 2 is called the Montana Hi-Line. Glasgow begins gentle rolling hill country.

Wolf Point, MT has Exxon gas, McDonald’s, Carquest, and Homestead Inn. It gets hilly and lovely after Wolf Point. About that time the sun set so it was too dark to see. Really, though, I wouldn’t recommend driving at night.

The names of the waterways along this Highway were fun. For instance, there was Big Muddy Creek and Little Muddy Creek 🙂

Highway 2 gets bumpy after Culbertson.

This is about where we started listening to the radio. 101.1 out of Williston played an eclectic mix of music that I really enjoyed. within a couple hours I heard Kenny Chesney, Garbage, Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi, the Black Eyed Peas, R.E.M., Billy Joel, Collective Soul, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Eric Clapton, ZZ Top, and Gnarls Barkly. Crazy, right? I loved it!

We crossed the state line into South Dakota and Hwy 2 became a 4-lane highway with a large median. I still would refrain from driving at night due to poor visibility (It gets super dark).

Williston, ND is officially the city of the truck… I saw like 1 car. We stayed overnight, or in RV lingo we boondocked overnight, at the Williston Walmart. A security guard patrolled the parking lot all night, which was nice. We also boondocked overnight at the Walmart in Grand Forks, ND.

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“Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end”

Next up, Minnesota!

 

Avenue of the Saints

Avenue of the Saints is a highway system that goes from Saint Paul, Minnesota to Saint Louis, Missouri.
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When we left the Chippewa National Forest from Walker, Minnesota we headed towards Waterloo, Iowa. We didn’t know if we would make it in one day of driving but in our haste to get back home to Louisiana so our dog could get treated for the ACL tear he suffered while in Sleeping Buffalo, Montana we had to try.
Heading to Waterloo our trip meter read 7289 miles (on 7/21/17). So 7,000 miles in less than 3 months for the #transamericanroadtrip !!
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The Mississippi “Great River Road National Route” is what we drove for a bit of the way after Saint Louis. The “Great River Road” is a well-marked series of different roads and highways that roughly follow the winding course of the Mississippi River. All along the Great River Road, travelers will find white signs displaying the green pilot’s wheel logo. The familiar pilot’s wheel symbol denotes which roads are part of the designated route. The route has been selected for its natural, cultural, historical, recreational and scenic properties.
Illinois River Road was marked from about from Quincy, Illinois to Hannibal, MO. We could see corn and bean crops everywhere along the routes in Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois. On July 22 we hit 7550 miles!
From Hannibal, MO to St. Louis, MO on Hwy 61 there is a Mark Twain Cave and Campground. We will likely visit there next time we drive that route.
We stopped at Cozy C Campground in Bowling Green MO. It was good for overnight. Clean restrooms/ showers, plus ice cream in the office.
We had to make a pit stop in Ste Genevieve, MO to visit The Cave Winery and it was worth it. They have seating for 100 down below the main buidling in a cool cave.
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Escape PTSD With Travel?

Escape? Well… maybe. Not escape, exactly, but just like literal medicine helps lessen or alleviate physical symptoms of an illness, travel can help with mental health. Just being outdoors among the trees (a Japanese public health practice called forest bathing or shinrin-yoku) has been shown to lower the heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of well-being. Mind and body are connected, so when one benefits the other does, too!

In this post, I want to share a how we use travel, spirituality, and mental healthcare to deal with our PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Both my husband and I have felt the words in the graphic below and we have begun to rise above them with the help of our new lifestyle.

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Travel – I don’t have as many panic attacks, flashbacks, or nightmares when I’m traveling. It doesn’t cure me but it serves as a very effective grounding tool. I’m not in my own head when I’m hiking Mount Ranier, walking the streets of Venice, planning our next RV Campground stop in the US, or navigating the intricacies of a different culture or language. It’s mindfulness in action and I love it. It refreshes and recharges me in both an intellectual and spiritual way to see magnificent sights whether in the US or abroad. Spiritually I see the wonder of Jehovah God’s creation and it solidifies my faith that there is a source of life and love bigger than anything I can imagine. Intellectually it challenges me to understand and push myself to go outside my American CityGirl comfort zone.

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Spirituality – Many addiction programs ask you to work with the concept of a higher power. There is a strong correlation between addiction and trauma. So those who suffer from trauma based disorders like PTSD can also benefit from asking their higher power for help. I can attest to the fact that developing a relationship with my creator, living according to His standards, and communicating in prayer with him regularly helps me greatly with the ups and downs of life. To read more on how the Bible can help you if you are depressed, read this article for some encouraging scriptures.

The references below (1, 2) on spirituality and mental health affirm that “aspects of spirituality are associated with positive outcomes, even when trauma survivors develop psychiatric difficulties such as PTSD or depression. Research also indicates that healthy spirituality is often associated with lower levels of symptoms and clinical problems in some trauma populations. For example, anger, rage, and a desire for revenge following trauma may be tempered by forgiveness, spiritual beliefs, or spiritual practices.”

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Sunset over mountain range, Colorado, USA

Mental health maintenance – I have and use a medical team for my depression and anxiety. So does my husband, who suffers from combat-related PTSD. Just like you need treatment for diabetes or heart disease you need treatment for mental health disorders. Sometimes that means treatment in hospital. In general, a good daily routine of positive self-talk or affirmations, grounding/ mindfulness techniques, and using adaptive coping responses like journaling when needed. When the fear overtakes me, even before I realize I’m having an anxiety attack, I start grounding, try a coping response, and then take medicine if needed – in that order. Sometimes I still succumb to the overwhelming fear, sometimes I cry, sometimes I dissociate. But, as soon as I’m able to get myself grounded again I utilize the skills I’ve learned in treatment to keep moving forward.

Mental Health

 

 

REFERENCES

  1. Hood, R.W., Hill, P.C. & Spilka, B. (2009). The psychology of religion: An empirical approach. New York, NY: The Guilford Press, p. 179.
  2. VA National Center For PTSD. “Spirituality and Trauma”. (Website). https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/provider-type/community/fs-spirituality.asp
 love is greater than ptsd cbcg