Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Great National Park Tour - Part 1

September 2017

As I mentioned in the last post, while in the midst of our 3-year house sitting adventure, one of life's unexpected curveballs was thrown our way. Yes, the time had come for us to take a break from house sitting and help take care of my mom. BUT, before we moved into my boyhood bedroom still decorated with teen posters, we had to finish up our last house sit in North Vancouver, BC and drive back to MN. The way we saw it we could either blast our way across the states and get home in four days, or take our time and hit up some national parks along the route. And since we had family that could help take care of mom, we chose option 2.

Our rough plan was simple... drive from Vancouver to Duluth and visit as many national parks as possible along the way. The only rule we had was that there was to be no rules. Well one... we wanted to keep the trip under four weeks, but other than that we would simply go where the wind blew us and spend as much time at each place as we wanted. There would be no "schedule," no reserved hotels and no worries. Just hit the road and enjoy the ride.

Wait... you said no hotel reservations. Where did you sleep? Good question, fictitious reader! Because we carry a full set of camping gear, our goal was to stay at as many campgrounds as possible... which, by the way, we did about 95% of the trip.

And so we began our 23-day journey across the United States, experiencing some of the most beautiful landscape on the planet. We had an amazing time and were fortunate to be able to capture a few pictures of it along the way. Ok, maybe more like thousands. But since I can't put thousands of pictures on this blog I decided instead to pick a few dozen of my favorites and post them over 5 or 6 posts. Enjoy!

(click on any picture to enlarge)

Day 1 - Vancouver, BC. We've been here several times before and hiked many of the trails in the area, but we've never seen it by water... until now.

Day 2 - Tofino, BC. Whenever we ask someone from Vancouver where we should visit, we ALWAYS hear that should NOT miss Tofino. And they are right. It's a truly beautiful place.

Day 3 - Victoria, BC. What's a trip through British Columbia without stopping at the capital?

Day 4 - Port Angeles, WA. Just because we were traveling doesn't mean we didn't have to work. Here's an example of one of the glamorous ways we get it done. At our campsite picnic shelter along the way.

Day 5 - Portland, OR. One of the benefits of house sitting is that you make friends along the way. We met two of our very best friends in Portland while house sitting for them and taking care of their beautiful great dane Duke a few years ago.

Sadly, Duke passed away last year, but we were honored to share the special moment with Nancy and Marty on the day they sprinkled his ashes on their property.

Rest in peace you big lovable boy
Day 6 - Crater Lake, OR. The first of the national parks we stopped at. Most of the area around this park was on fire, but we were very lucky that the wind gave us a break one of the days we were there. In the evening when the wind shifted back toward the park you couldn't even see the lake because of the smoke.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Chapter 20 - Spring/Summer 2017

2017 has been an interesting year for us so far. Not that living in other people's houses isn't interesting in itself, but this one has had some additional twists and turns. Here's a summary of what we've been up to for the last 6 months.

Santa Fe
It started off in one of our favorite places in the U.S... Santa Fe! I can't say enough good things about this beautiful area.

Santa Fe is surrounded by amazing landscapes and hiking trails in all directions, has great restaurants and grocery stores and is a major art center in the US. As well, the climate is mild in the winter (compared to MN at least) and, like other southwest states... THERE ARE NO BUGS! This last point alone should qualify it as a prime travel destination.

One of our favorite benefits of house sitting is becoming friends with the home owners, which we have in Santa Fe. Really good friends.  We love them like family and love their dogs the same way. So coming back again in 2017 to take care of sweet Bapu and Bean was a no-brainer.

We pretty much had this return visit booked on the way out the door last year. But this year, we were joined by this sweet little angel - Chispa!

Poor little Chispa had led a hard life as a kenneled puppy for most of her first 6 years. Until our friends found her, she had never even been off leash outside or able to run free. Now she is living with a loving family and is free to run to her heart's content in the beautiful trails of New Mexico. She is one lucky dog.

Here she is at the huge Frank Ortiz dog park in Santa Fe with her brother Bapu and sister Bean.

Chispa, Bapu and Bean
One side note about the Frank Ortiz dog park. This amazing city park is 135 acres of off-leash doggie heaven. Not only are there dozens (sometimes over 100 I'm sure) canine friends to play with at any given time, but there are miles of trails that go up and down and all around. You can easily spend 2 hours there just walking around and meeting other people and their dogs. It was a daily ritual for us to either walk there (about a mile from the house) or drive there, so the dogs could run a little longer inside the park itself.

Here's a small sample of what it's like at this pup-o-riffic place...

As fun socially for us as it is for them!

Puppies, puppies everywhere!

March was a very special month for us. First, AZ in March is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Every blooming thing possible is bursting with flowers, and the temperatures are absolutely perfect. Here's a little of what you can see in this area this time of year.
But MORE importantly...  our son Brandon and his fiance Allyson got married! And the timing of their wedding was impeccable. Not only was the weather perfect, but the outdoor ceremony they held at a local ranch was incredibly beautiful.
The new bride and groom!
The Rose Garden ceremony
The whole family together again!
From a house sitting perspective it couldn't have worked out better. During the month before the wedding we were very fortunate to be able to return to a beautiful house in Scottsdale, about 45 minutes away. This allowed us to help the happy couple prepare for their big day as needed, without being in their faces every minute. Which is helpful if you don't want your kids to hate you on their wedding day. It was a beautiful wedding and family and friends from all over the country joined us for a weekend of joyous celebration. Sigh... our "baby" is married. Milestones indeed.

One of the risks of house sitting is unexpected circumstances that may require you to have to be somewhere else that wasn't planned. This poses a special challenge because the home owners and their pets are relying on you to be there. All the time. Every day. For example, last October when my 89 year old father's health started to fail I went home to be with him, but Charli stayed behind to mind the household. Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a bad thing, but it demonstrates one of the more serious commitments house sitters need to consider when signing up for this lifestyle. You can't just "take off" whenever things get tough. You have to compromise and work it out. That's what you do.

Not unexpectedly my father passed away this February, which left my 87 year old mom a widow, alone in her home in Duluth, MN. In the past this wouldn't have been an issue from a physical standpoint, but she has an arthritic hip which is getting progressively worse all the time. When we stayed at her house in May (actually the same house I was born in - and in my boyhood bedroom), we found that she was really struggling to get around, even with the aid of her walker. In fact, during the 4 weeks we were there she fell 5 different times (not seriously) and was unable to get back up without assistance. After witnessing that, it was obvious that she needed live-in help, and low and behold, we were just the people who could do that! And so it was settled, we would move in with mom right away and make sure she was safe, comfortable and attended to. Except we still had one minor detail to sort out... our existing house sitting commitments.
Fortunately the remaining sits we had on our schedule were all return visits and the owners were fine with our plan. Charli would take them alone and I would stay with mom until they were complete, which is exactly what we're doing until September when she'll come back to mom's house.

So... to wrap up this already too long novel, what we will do is push the "pause button" on future house sits indefinitely until it no longer makes sense for mom to live here, at which time we will reevaluate our options and forge ahead again. This, as the section heading reads, is one of the curveballs of house sitting.

In the long run, we have been fortunate to have established a long list of glowing reviews which will allow us to pick right up where we left off someday and hit the road running again. But for now, we are just thankful that we have a lifestyle that allows us to return the care to a very special person... a person who cared for us her whole life.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Chapter 19 - Pets of 2016

Well folks, today is our 2nd anniversary as house sitters and we couldn't be happier with our decision to take a chance and hit the road back in 2014. There is no question we love the travel, the excitement and for sure all the new friends we have made, but our main mission is to care for their pets, and for that we are grateful. So in honor of all the beautiful animals we have had the privilege of serving, here is our tribute to "our" pets of 2016.

Santa Fe, NM


Marlboro, VT


Hull, MA



Point of Rocks, MD

Nutmeg, Rosie and Maggie Mae

Lake Oswego, OR


Vancouver, BC


Scottsdale, AZ



Panama City, FL


Beverly Hills, CA

Rooster and Lamont