It’s all Nuclear

Nuclear Museum Entrance
Nuclear Museum Entrance

Whether you agree or disagree about dropping two bombs on Japan in 1945, there is no disputing New Mexico has a rich history in the development of Nuclear Technology. The Nuclear Museum in Albuquerque is on federal land near Sandia labs.  (The museum was moved from its original location on the air force base after September 11 when it was closed to civilian traffic.) The museum guides you back in time to the beginnings of atomic fusion development.  Los Alamos was a secret city filled with amazing scientific minds with the intent to stop World War II. This secret city was housing the infamous Manhattan Project. History of Los Alamos and Manhattan Project

East View
East View
US AIR FORCE
US AIR FORCE
Being Refurbished
Being Refurbished

As you travel through the museum you are taken from war to more peaceful uses of atomic energy.  There were inventions to use glow in the dark watches, MRI machines for medical uses, to powering our homes.

So I admit there was one “invention” that creeped me out. In the early 1900’s the invention was the radioactive ceramic water jar. It was believed since Radon naturally occurs in spring water, that water soaked overnight in a radioactive ceramic water jar would create health benefits.  However, it just caused cancer. Duh, right?  Seriously disturbing! toxic water jar (national geographic)

The museum seemed really small when we walked in. Honestly, we spent a few hours there.  It was overflowing with information and hands on science for the kids or the kids at heart. It is well worth the trip. If you are New Mexico residents, don’t forget to ask for your discount! http://www.nuclearmuseum.org/

-Mara

Saguaro

Phoenix area
Phoenix area

What can be more iconic than the Saguaro cactus to the Sonoran Desert of Arizona? OK, some quick facts about the Saguaro:

1. The Saguaro can only be found in Arizona and western Sonora, Mexico known as the Sonoran Desert.

2. The Saguaro can grow to be 150-200 years old and grow very (I mean very) slowly.

3. After the cactus dies, it become woody. Native Americans used this to gather water before the canteen.

saguaro cactus
saguaro cactus
saguaro cactus wood
saguaro cactus wood

So where is a great place to see not only the Saguaro but a ton of great species found in the Phoenix area?  Get in the car and rush over to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ.  Link can be found here  http://www.dbg.org/.  You can wind your way around the trails or take a tour.  The DBG was the highlight of our trip to Phoenix. I saw rabbits, dove and wild quail scurrying around, seemingly oblivious to park visitors. The lizards were a hoot, but got a bit cranky when we asked to see their ticket to the exhibit.

Botanical Garden Phoenix
Botanical Garden Phoenix
Holy Cacti!
Holy Cacti!
It's a big one!!
It’s a big one!!

What a unique landscape! With my Irish inherited complexion, I remind others to make sure you wear a ton of sunscreen, a hat, and some sunglasses.  It can burn you quickly even on a cloudy day (which are few and far between). Almost forgot to mention, they do have classes about the area as well as some photography classes at the garden. Might be worth a look.

After all of that walking at the Desert Botanical Garden, might be time for a bite to eat. We stopped for some Chicago style Greek food at Z’s Greek on Indian School Rd, Phoenix http://www.zsgreek.com/.  Sit down for a Gyro or Souvlaki! Mouth watering and absolutely delish!  Personally, I give it high recommendations.

-Mara

Meanwhile Outside of Scottsdale

Home and Studio
Home and Studio

August or early September is the perfect time of year to vacation the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. No crowds…got right into tours. Of course, it was ridiculously hot! The hot tub at the hotel was even cooler than the air temperature and the pool felt downright cold.  We had to wonder why we were the only ones in the pool in the afternoon’s blazing sun. Hmmm…OK, so maybe not the best time of year to enjoy the great outdoors in Arizona, but we did see some breathtaking views and saw a plethora of things that said I would come back…just perhaps the winter would be better.

If you don’t know by now, I love experiencing cultures and how people live.  Experiencing the past leads us to understand what brought folks to live how they do today. Architecture is one way I notice how times have changed. Victorian times split houses into compartments or separate rooms. Today, many prefer an open floor plan based on entertaining and how people use the space in their homes. Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the first people to design an open floor plan as we know it today.

Taliesin West
Taliesin West

Frank Lloyd Wright was a architect before his time. We can see that in his architecture all over the country. Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ is different. It was a winter home, studio and is still an architecture school / museum. As quoted from franklloydwright.org, “Taliesin West’s monumental masonry feels as much an ancient ruin unearthed from the Sonoran desert, as the twentieth-century icon of modern architecture that it has become.” The grounds are breathtaking with views strategically placed out of every window. The home has many quirky features to discover (like the window with a hole to the outside).

Taliesin West main
Taliesin West main
Taliesin Petrogyphs
Taliesin Petrogyphs

Check FLW Taliesin West for ticket times and hours. Check it out!

Taliesin West view near Scottsdale, AZ
Taliesin West view near Scottsdale, AZ

After a long super hot day at Taliesin, we got a fun recommendation for dinner. Since 1957, a casual place called Pinnacle Peak Patio. If you wear a necktie to this place, they will take a pair of scissors and cut it off! To top it all off … they will hang your cut off necktie from the ceiling! You really need to experience this place. Feels like the old west with fabulous cowboy style food! See times and a menu here: Pinnacle Peak

Outside Pinnacle Peak Patio
Outside Pinnacle Peak Patio
Inside Pinnacle Peak AZ
Inside Pinnacle Peak AZ

Today’s and tomorrows posts are just going to scratch the surface of the Scottsdale/Phoenix area. So much more to see and we plan to go back with the RV in the winter. Can’t wait to see more of the Sonoran desert and the lure of Sedona.

-Mara

Destination Old Town

San Felipe de Neri Church
San Felipe de Neri Church

I fell in love with New Mexico architecture the first time I came here 24 years ago.  There are so many textures and details from adobe, to brick, to carved wood. It is so very different than what I grew up with in the Chicago area where modern, revival, and Prairie style (Frank Lloyd Wright) architecture was prevalent.

Living in Albuquerque, there are some absolutely amazing examples of New Mexico Pueblo/Spanish style architecture.  You don’t have to go far to see the beauty of Old Town Albuquerque, NM. Ten blocks of history, shopping, and dining. What we call old town now was the original plaza for the city started in 1706. Sitting proudly on the plaza since it was built in 1793 is the San Felipe de Neri Church. Talk about living history!

Cozy courtyards with handcrafted details. Makes you wonder what is around the next corner.

San Felipe de Neri Church Courtyard sign
San Felipe de Neri Church Courtyard sign
San Felipe de Neri Church Front Door
San Felipe de Neri Church Front Door

Smack dab in the middle of the plaza is a little green space which is a great place to picnic or stop to listen to some music. It is a peaceful spot to reflect for a moment.  Interesting to ponder how the area may have looked and changed over a few hundred years.

Old Town ABQ Gazebo
Old Town ABQ Gazebo

Here is a great tip! Not sure how long this will be going on (make sure you call for details). If you love frozen yogurt and delicious toppings, we were able to snag a cone, toppings and frozen yogurt for $1 on Mondays! It was delicious and a great treat for a hot summer evening! http://yayyogurt.com/

If you are a Breaking Bad or Better call Saul fan, try to catch a local tour on a trolly or even in an RV like Walter & Jessie used in Breaking Bad. It could be a great way to see filming locations. TV Tours

Breaking Bad Tours
Breaking Bad Tours

There are so many must see shops and dining experiences all over the city. New Mexico has some of the best and most unique foods in the country. So many choices! Try some red and green chile…munch on some sopapillas…you will not be sorry!

There are some fabulous historic photos and history. Old Town History and Tourism  So go head and take a look at the website for old town and come and experience what Old Town Albuquerque has to offer!

-Mara

Little Toad

Smart Car Photo Shoot New Mexico Desert
Smart Car Photo Shoot New Mexico Desert

For the past few years, we needed to choose our destinations carefully. When we arrive and set up the RV we had no other transportation.  We were limited with renting a car or walking everywhere we go unless we wanted to uproot the RV and unhook all of the utilities. We usually packed carefully and had all of our groceries planed. Basically, we packed everything we needed for arrival at our destination. So with the Beetle ailing and needing so much repair, we decided to start shopping and thinking about a replacement that could double as a tow car behind Thor.  For some reason, I have never (I mean never) been coordinated enough to feel comfortable driving a manual transmission.

Enter the Smart Car design…

New Tow Vehicle Smart Car for Two Pure
New Tow Vehicle Smart Car for Two Pure

As quoted from the Smart Car website: “You get the best of both worlds: 5-speed smartshift® transmission with automatic mode (for ease) and manual mode (for fun), hill start assist, and it’s packed with lots of standard safety features such as 8 full-size airbags. Engineered with Mercedes-Benz, it’s the perfect blend of design and dazzle.”  There is even a roll cage due to it’s small size.  The car is less than 1800 pounds so it is super light weight. Due to it’s extremely small stature and weight you can’t even feel it being towed.

The dealer installed the tow package.  The package included a Blue ox model tow bar and safety accessories, the tow bar attaches to the front of the car frame, and extra tail lights that harvest the power from the RV not the Smart car. Super sturdy and easy to attach!

All you have to do to put the car into tow mode then turn the key on….put car into neutral… then turn the key off.  No miles are put on the car and no accessories/battery power are being used. Great way to flat tow and not have to mess around with a dolly!

Ready to hit the gravel road desert New Mexico
Ready to hit the gravel road desert New Mexico
All hooked up Smart
All hooked up Smart

We are all set for the next adventure! I can’t wait!

-Mara

To the Beach!

Pensacola Beach Florida
Pensacola Beach Florida

When you think of the seashore…what do you dream of?  Is it sandy beaches, warm surf, and the hot sun? What a great way to get out and explore. Certainly perfect to get out of a winter fog! I love sandy beaches for relaxing or perhaps a bit of a nap. However, I am completely in love with a jagged beach. A shore that is covered in stones, wood, and cold water creatures that have come ashore.

Orcas Island  Washington State
Orcas Island Washington State
Sea Glass
Sea Glass

So here is why I am smitten with the rocky beach.  It is all about the activities that accompany a rugged beach.  I am not someone who fishes or is a swimmer. So, I have a sport. That sport is ….drum roll ….Sea Glass hunting. Sea glass is left over from a boat wreck or from bottles that have been tumbled around in the surf.  It is like finding a gem.  Walking along the shore and then over there…you see the glimmer of glass in the sunlight.

Do you know what makes the most amazing wood items for your home?  Driftwood. Some of you may know we really like to make stuff. We create everything from clocks to pens to jewelry. The lines and minerals that have deposited into the wood make for some stunning pieces. So here is a shout out to mother nature!

Driftwood
Driftwood

So, the bottom line is that a rocky beach is just sand but bigger.

What do you prefer? Let your voice be heard…Let me know below!

– Mara

Russian River area Califoria
Russian River area California

Exit 83

You may say camping in the New Mexico desert is hot and dry with limited recreation. I say not so! There is so much diversity in New Mexico. There is almost everything in this state from high desert to mountain to a place to park your boat. I submit Elephant Butte State park in central New Mexico right off the I-25 corridor at Exit 83.

Elephant Butte State Park, NM is the largest lake/reservoir in the state. Bring your jet ski (I am talking to you Stacy), boat, and/or kayak! There is dry camping along the lakeside and electrical hookups with dump station for your RV with truly amazing views. Here are some photos from our trip in May.

Elephant Butte State Park, NM 2015
Elephant Butte State Park, NM 2015
Elephant Butte State Park, NM 2015
Elephant Butte State Park, NM 2015

Camping in New Mexico state parks is relatively cheap (in my opinion). Here is the cost break down: $8 per night no hookups $14 per night with electrical.  However, there are annual camping passes available: $180 with includes tent camping or your RV plus tow vehicle for in state residents and $225 annually for out of state residents (lower if you are a senior or disabled). This is unlimited as much as you want for that price! Now for sites with hookups, you pay the difference daily of the no hookup fee. So you have the annual pass…you pay $6 per night at the time of camping if you choose a site with electrical. OH and did I mention there is free WIFI?  There are WIFI towers all over the areas that have site numbers. You may need a WIFI booster depending on what site you choose and you do have a 14 day limit at some campgrounds.

OK so there is the good…Now for some gritty realities…We did have some reservation problems with the annual pass.  When we went to book online, it would not recognize the annual pass.  I called the park and was told to go ahead and make a reservation and they would refund me the difference in a matter of two days.  Ummm well, it took about a month to get the money back to my account. So, there are some improvements that could happen with the reserve america system and the New Mexico annual pass.  Hopefully, this will get fixed soon.  But if you go to reserve and it doesn’t show the discount… BEWARE… it is a known problem. Ways around this? I would go directly to the park for reservations or gamble on a boondocking adventure near the lake.

Campsite 8 View
Campsite 8 View

Here is the view from our campsite number 8. There are quail everywhere and they wander around like they own the place.  The campsite was huge.  Certainly large enough to have a vehicle and a boat or truck and trailer or even a large RV. The weather can be unpredictable so be prepared!

Let’s talk stars for a moment. I almost cried the first night we were there. Very little if any light pollution.  I felt like I was surrounded in stars and could actually see where the earth’s curve was.  I have never seen so many stars in my life! It made the trip for me and I couldn’t wait to see more. I needed to see more!

Very close to the park is something that you definitely need to experience! The town of Truth or Consequences, NM has natural mineral Hot Springs! Go experience some of the Baths and Spas in town. T or C has one of the highest natural mineral counts in the USA. I am not sure it is a cure for anything but who cares? Still awesome and not to be missed!

– Mara

Thor and The Five Travelers

Our Motorhome Thor
Our Motorhome Thor

Everyone names their vehicles right?  So introducing our 2013 – 30 foot Thor Hurricane Motor home…keeping with the theme (because this motor home is obviously a dude) his name is Thor.  Here is bobble head Thor on our dashboard leading us on our adventures. He stays pretty quiet with the exception of that silver hammer or when he decides to pop off the base and go sliding across the dashboard.

Thor Bobble Head cropped

So about the travelers…

We consider ourselves super lucky since David (the hubby) currently works remotely for his job as long as we have really good internet connection we can work from the road. We stay in one place during the time he needs to complete work then we seek out fun and excitement when he is done for the day or on days off. We are not full timers. We travel for weeks and hopefully soon a few months at a time before returning to our sticks and bricks home in Albuquerque, NM. (Please see yesterday’s blog post for my information)

Then there are the furry travelers. Jack and Juno (lynx point Siamese cats and a mini Australian Shepard named Kuma (means Bear in Japanese). All great adoptions!

Jack and Juno Under blanket Kuma with Fork edit

We have purchased a four down tow-able vehicle to use behind Thor. It is currently at the dealership getting ready for the road. Stay tuned for more information in upcoming posts.

-Mara

Who is the Fireside Traveler?

Elephant Butte State Park, NM
Elephant Butte State Park, NM

My name is Mara Lisauskas. Growing up my parents were both English teachers which gave our family the opportunity to see the great outdoors during the summer months.  We camped all over the Midwest and eastern portions of the United States and Canada. We saw Shakespeare plays in Canada (where my brother broke his nose) and experienced Colonial Williamsburg (where decided I wanted to learn every historic trade from fiber arts to blacksmithing) to taking a canoe (I now try to travel with my kayak) to explore caves in the Ozarks. We deciphered shapes of the native american mounds in Wisconsin.  This is where my wanderlust began. I wanted to see every state and then branch out to the rest of the world.

So, the story starts in the western suburbs of Chicago then to college to study Psychology and Anthropology at the University of New Mexico to Seattle to Silicon Valley to Albuquerque, NM.

I love living history and culture. If you have never seen Taos (1000 years of living history http://taospueblo.com/) … just go …add it to your bucket list. Every city, small town, park, open field, and person has a history and future just waiting to be discovered. Close your cell phone and stop to see what is around you.  Talk to people.  Everyone has a story! My goal is not to just show you places I have been or where I want to go but to show you the stories of people along the way. Come with me to explore, dream, and discover the wonderful world we live in.

– Mara