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Four Months on the Road and our Epic RV Adventure is Still Going Strong!

Since my last blog post, we spent a magical couple of weeks in the Sedona area, took a day trip to the Grand Canyon, visited one more time with our daughter and her hubby, and began our slow, meandering trek back to the East Coast. Our EPIC RV Adventure is now in its fourth month! We’ve got just a little over a month to go, and neither of us is particularly excited to return to our sticks and bricks home. We still love the RV life (and each other!), and we are already dreaming about our next big trip for the Winter of 2024/25. But, we’re here, now, and loving it, so let’s share where we’ve been making our home since our last post on our map update.



Before we delve into some of the amazing stops we’ve made in the last few weeks, I must acknowledge the day of this posting by wishing you a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Yes, my husband’s last name is O’Hanlon, but my mother’s maiden name is O’Brien, so the luck of the Irish runs through both of us.


We don’t do the usual sort of celebrating (no bar crawls for us!), but I do have a St. Patrick’s Day tradition. I speak in a (poorly imitated, tbh) Irish brogue for the day. It drove my kiddos nuts when they were young; now, I hope they look upon it as one of my endearing little quirks!


So, top of the mornin’ to you! And whether you’re reading this on St. Patrick’s Day or not, here’s my own little blessing for you and yours:


May your days be filled with light, love and peace;

May you feel the vitality of Mother Earth in all you experience, today and always;

May you know the joy of living true to yourself in this brief moment gifted to you;

Always and forever, may you breathe easy, laugh heartily, and love deeply.


Now that we’ve dispensed with that order of business, let’s return to our normally scheduled blog programming.


Aside from spending time with Faye and Zach (and their pups), and my Christmas surprise visit from Stevie and Jules, I think many of my favorite memories of this trip will center around our time spent in the Sedona area. We had never been before, and if you haven’t, I highly recommend it!


There’s something magical about the Sedona region. A feeling of well-being, vitality, and a deep connection to nature (past and present) permeated our visit there. I was inspired by the magnificent red rock formations and stimulated by the energy vortexes. It’s easy to understand why the area is referred to as a cathedral without walls, because I literally felt the presence of a higher power as we hiked the incredible trail system in and around the area. We were blessed with some of the best weather of our trip for the two weeks we spent in the region, so we spent a lot of time outdoors. I took hundreds of photos, and selecting my favorites to share with you here was no small feat, but here are a few of them:



As always, photos just don’t do Mother Nature justice, but I hope these photos give you some idea of how truly spectacular this little piece of our earth is!


On our first hike in the area, I was paying far too much attention to the sights around me and not enough to the rocks on the path, resulting in an ungraceful faceplant maneuver that aggravated an old injury to my right knee. This was a bummer, because we were forced to lay low for a couple of days while the swelling subsided, and to curtail my plans for some of the more ambitious hikes I had hoped to do in the area. In hindsight, the universe was watching out for me, because we had plenty of gorgeous, not-so-dangerous hiking opportunities during our visit, and we weren’t that couple who needed a helicopter rescue because the climb down is often so much trickier than the hike up!


While we waited for my knee to improve, we had an excuse to take a road trip to the Grand Canyon, another site neither of us had visited before. We drove along the South rim from the East entrance, stopping at most of the vistas and taking short walks to see some of the sights. Ten hours as a passenger with occasional short hikes was just what the doctor ordered, and my knee began to heal quickly after that. Here are a few photos from our road trip to the Grand Canyon, including a selfie by the “Duck on a Rock” formation (left photo, second row). It does kinda’ look like a duck on a rock, don’t you think?



When my knee was feeling a little better, we drove into Sedona and attempted to navigate the trailheads with Irving. This was not one of my better ideas! We quickly learned that many of the trailheads are not suited to a 24’ Class A motorhome, so we abandoned that day’s plans and instead drove around to see some of the sights and took a leisurely stroll along Oak Creek at Red Rocks State Park.



On our next foray into Sedona, we selected a trailhead with a larger parking area and arrived early enough at Bell Rock to score an RV spot for Irving. My knee was feeling pretty good that morning, so we climbed partway up Bell Rock and circled back between Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte on the Rector trail. The scenery was incredible, and the energy from the Bell Rock Vortex emanated throughout the area.



We returned to spend the weekend at camp following this hike, and my creative juices practically exploded from me as I immersed myself in creating designs and the first pieces of a new series of jewelry. Here I am in my happy place (which is essentially anywhere that I can create), one of my first pieces in this series, and the photo that encapsulates the inspiration behind my Red Rock Collection of jewelry pieces. Notice the twisted juniper tree in the foreground of this photo (more on that later).



This collection features beads in one of my experimental clay bodies. I made and polished them well before our trip, not knowing that they’d be perfectly suited for this series of work. The clay has a shimmery, almost opalescent quality to it that I feel captures the magic of Sedona, as well as the colors of both the red rock formations, the burnt umber pathways, and the dark green foliage. I’m so glad I brought them with me!


Throughout the Sedona area, juniper trees growing in the vicinity of the energy vortexes exhibit a twisting, upward growth pattern. I referenced this phenomenon in my jewelry pieces with copper spiral components, which flew from my fingertips over this three-day respite while I nursed my knee again and immersed myself in a burst of creativity.


Most of the pieces also have some sort of kinetic energy built into them. Some of them have beads you can twirl, others have dangles that move when you do, and most of them have a spiral of some sort or another. I love them, and I hope you will, too!


Here are some of my favorite pieces that emerged from our magical time in Sedona:







In all, there are 22 pendants, 3 bracelets, and over 30 pairs of earrings in this collection. (I did mention that I was inspired, right?) Making the work was effortless; getting each piece photographed and listed is a more cumbersome process, but I’ve been steadily chipping away at that task as we start our journey home.


I just released the listings I’ve completed this morning in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll continue to add the remaining items over the next few days, but I’ll wait to post about their release on social media for another few days. That means that you, my faithful blog readers, will get first dibs on any of the pieces listed! As my way of thanking you for keeping us company on the road, I’m also offering my blog readers an exclusive 20% discount on any piece in my Red Rocks or Moonrise collections on purchases made from March 17 through March 31, 2024. (Enter Coupon Code EPICBLOG20 at checkout for your discount.) We will be moving frequently as we make our way back home, so shipping should happen within about 5-7days.



While in the Sedona area, we also hiked around Cathedral Rock and in the hills along Oak Creek north of the city, and visited nearby Montezuma’s Well and Montezuma’s Castle (Steve was disappointed that he couldn’t explore the castle). While hiking in the vicinity of the Cathedral Rock vortex, the hair on our arms felt energized (a feeling akin to static electricity, but not exactly the same). It was surreal!


Here are a few more photos of those excursions. To me, the middle tower of Cathedral Rock in the first photo below looks like pots stacked atop one another waiting to be fired. Is it just me, pining away for my studio and wheel, or do you see it, too? (Tip: If you click on any photo, you should be able to see an enlarged version.)



Our next stop was a small, private campground in downtown Sedona, from which we could walk into Sedona to experience the downtown area. The galleries were wonderful and I enjoyed meeting several artisans and shop owners. I met a lovely potter who creates agateware pieces sprinkled with dust from Sedona (check out Debby’s work @SedonaSwirlPottery), and I discovered another Sedona jewelry and fabric artist who crafts gorgeous silk ribbons that pair beautifully with my new Red Rocks Collection. I picked up a few of Melissa Iaquilino’s beautiful ribbons (@CaravanaJewelry) to offer my customers who enjoy that Bohemian styling (as I do!). They also pair beautifully with my Tree of Life pendants, and (BONUS!) the campground where we stayed offered up both a massive tree trunk and a huge red rock boulder perfect for photo backdrops. I spent my “down time”on the banks of Oak Creek, listening to the babble of the water behind me as I photographed the finished pieces in my Red Rocks Collection. How’s that for a water feature in the studio, right? (These ribbons will be listed soon on my website, as will an assortment of chains and beaded necklaces for you to pair with your favorite pendant.)



The scenery around Sedona was spectacular and the people were wonderful, but we personally found the town of Sedona to be a bit too commercial for our tastes. The exception was the taste of the ice cream we enjoyed at one of the local shops: half scoops of blueberry lemon cheesecake and decadent chocolate for Steve, and a bourbon chocolate and malted chocolate chip cookie dough for me). Yum!



There’s still so much more for us to explore in the region. We both would love to return to Rancho Sedona RV Park in town again, primarily for easy access to the hiking trails of the region. They offer reasonable monthly rates, so we’re adding that to our bucket list for when we next visit the area. If you’re traveling here in an RV, I recommend a tow vehicle or a rental car if you want unlimited access to those tricky trailheads!


After leaving Sedona, we spent one more night parked in our daughter’s driveway before heading south out of town. We’re sure going to miss them! Here’s another couple of photos of our grand dogs, including our new grandpuppy.



Left to right: Clark, Martha, and Roscoe. Martha is the boss, Clark is a chill love bug, and Roscoe is all kinds of adorable. It’s no wonder she is among the fastest foster failures ever — just look at that face! She is growing so fast! Faye and Zach are doing a great job of training her, and she’s obviously incredibly smart as she’s already mastered several commands. They submitted her DNA for testing and learned that she is a mix of several Mastiff breads, so she’s going to be a big, big girl!


On our way south, I had planned to stop at the Desert Museum near Tuscon, where Steve was going to graciously hang out in the parking area with the pups while I toured the grounds. But I was feeling a bit melancholy after leaving Faye, so instead we stopped at Picacho Peak State Park because I saw scatterings of wildflowers blooming along the highway as we approached. My intuition was spot on, and I’m so glad I listened! Sitting on the trail among the lupines and poppies, listening to the bees buzzing, and watching the butterflies flitter about was exactly what my soul needed in that moment.



My soul (somewhat) restored, we headed south beyond Tuscon to our first quick stop of the trip home at Kartchner Caverns State Park. There, I resumed my work in clay and made my first few (failed) attempts at creating a woven tessellation pattern in colored clay for a new series I’m envisioning. I know what not to do now, and I’m hoping for another go at this tricky pattern at an upcoming stop.


Kartchner Caverns is home to Arizona’s largest “living cave,” ranked in the top ten caves worldwide for its unique mineralogy. We took a tour of the “Big Room” cave (which was indeed HUGE!). The underground rock formations filled me with even more ideas for colored porcelain work, especially the “wave” structures hanging from the ceiling). Since photography is not permitted on the standard tour, I have no pictures to share. If you’re a fan of caves, rock formations and underground exploration, I highly recommend exploring Kartchner Caverns either virtually or in person! Here’s a link for a good starting point in your own journey of discovery: https://azstateparks.com/kartchner/explore/science


Our next short stop was at New Mexico’s Rockhound State Park, a small park nestled at the base of hills rich in deposits of minerals and semi-precious stones, and where (to my utter delight!) visitors are encouraged to forage off-path for rocks and to take them home with them! Steve and I went on two rock-hunting expeditions while there, and I collected a number of rocks that I’ll tumble when I get home. Our finds included jasper in many colors, obsidian, and a rock with an iridescent vein running through it that I think might be opal. I searched and searched for a geode or a thunder egg to no avail, but I’m super psyched about the treasures I did find! Here are a few photos I took at Rockhound State Park, including some night sky photographs.



I particularly love this nighttime photo of Irving, taken from the botanical garden path just below our campsite. It’s similar to the first photo above, without the light.



My regular readers know that I have been obsessed with finding the perfect saguaro cactus to photograph in silhouette against a vibrant southwest desert sky sunset. My quest has been met with mixed success, and we seem to have left the range where saguaros thrive (at least for now). However, our visit to Rockhound State Park coincided with the new moon, and the night skies were beautiful! In the collage above, you can see one of the night sky photographs I took with the lights from the town of Deming, NM in the distance.


On one of my evening expeditions with my digital SLR in hand, I started experimenting with a prickly pear cactus. My silhouette shots didn’t do the plant justice, so I experimented with lighting up a prickly pear cactus against the nearly nighttime sky, and I was quite pleased with the results.



These photos were taken using the same extended shutter release I’ve been using for sunset images, but I opened up the aperture a bit to blur the background. My flashlight was placed on the ground angled upwards onto the cactus plant. When the opportunity presents itself in the future, I will play a bit more with this technique.


Our next stop was Elephant Butte State Park (also in New Mexico), where we had a site right on a reservoir along the Rio Grande River.



The weather during these few days was not conducive to exploration, but we acquired a newfound appreciation for how rain and wind gusts upwards of 50 mph travel through the vast openness of the New Mexico landscape. We left Elephant Butte just as the sun was rising on a day that promised partly sunny skies, so I took the photo below from the highway as we made our way to our current stop at Bottomless Lakes State Park in Roswell, NM. (In hindsight, I realize I should have opened my window to take the photograph; please forgive the dusty raindrop markings on my window!)



As we made our way east through the Lincoln National Forest, it felt as if the landscape was changing from desert to grassland. Trees grew taller than any we’ve seen outside of Sedona and Northern Arizona, and my feet are starting to itch to plant themselves in a nice patch of thick, lush, luxurious green grass!


Steve loves the “Men in Black” movie series, and he’s excited about Roswell for the whole alien thing; sadly, we didn’t encounter any extraterrestrial beings during our stops at the post office, the laundromat, the gas station, and the grocery store. But we were greeted by this one when we drove into our campground.



I don’t know much about this area or even about the park where we’re staying, because we weren’t originally planning to come this way. We re-routed a portion of our return trip a few weeks back when I was feeling a little anxious about two of our scheduled stops located in close proximity to the border of the Smokehouse Fire. We’ll be at Bottomless Lakes for just a few days, and we’re hoping the weather allows us to hike and explore. After being couped up in Irving with the rain and high winds at our last stop, the pups need a good long, tail-wagging walk, and we do, too!


I expect to post once more on our journey, probably after the eclipse in April. We’ll be camping in the path of totality for this event, and if there are clear skies for just those four minutes, I’ll be able to forget all about the cold, rain and wind that has plagued us for so much of our journey. If you’ve got any meteorological pull, please send out vibes for fair skies at Lake Charles State Park in Powhatan, AR on April 8th between 2:54pm (EST) and 2:58pm (EST).


Until then, it’s been so great sharing our journey with you. Thanks for riding along with us!



Steve & Susan


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3月17日

The photos are beautiful, your blessing excellent and as always the narrative fabulous. You could/would be a great writer. Be safe!!

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