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.

Bapu
Bean
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!

Arizona
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.

Curveballs
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

Bapu
Bean

Marlboro, VT

Bella
Lexus
Hannah

Hull, MA

Anabelle

Isabelle

Point of Rocks, MD

Nutmeg, Rosie and Maggie Mae

Lake Oswego, OR

Keegan

Vancouver, BC

Ribbon
Gracie

Scottsdale, AZ

Moka

Bella

Panama City, FL

Lizzie

Beverly Hills, CA

Rooster and Lamont

Monday, December 5, 2016

Chapter 18 - Fall 2016

Panama City, FL

If you’re looking for white sand beaches, ridiculously gorgeous sunsets and flawless weather, then Panama City is the place to go. Nearly every evening of the 5 or so weeks we were there, we ate our dinner watching the sunset at either a nearby beach on the Gulf of Mexico, or on a dock overlooking East Bay.

Table for 2 please
Lizzie loves the sunsets

And, because Charli doesn’t believe in sleeping, many of our mornings started with sunrise coffees on the other side of East Bay.


By the way, if anybody is interested, I would be happy to send you a thousand or so sunrise/sunset pictures… you know, in case you’ve never seen one before.

I’ve always loved the Florida gulf coast and Panama City did not disappoint. From snorkeling in the nearby St. Andrews State Park or Cape San Blas peninsula, to jet-skiing with the dolphins by Shell Island, we had an amazing time.


Road Trip 2

After an extremely pleasant 6 weeks of caring for three of the sweetest animals ever (1 adorable yellow lab and 2 beautiful cats), the owners came back from their vacation and we had to leave. We didn’t want to leave but for some reason they decided they preferred to live in their house alone. Whatever.

Anyway, we had another house to get to in Scottsdale, AZ so another road trip was under way! A few highlights from this trip were:

A dolphin-watching tour in Pensacola Florida

Camping with the alligators in Sam Houston Jones State Park near Lake Charles, LA.
Yes, use caution while sleeping in a nylon tent next to alligators


and frolicking in White Sands National Monument by El Paso, TX.

She was having so much fun, I didn't have the heart to tell her that you're supposed to do jumping jacks standing up.

Scottsdale, AZ

Which leads us to here… house sitting a few yards from the 13th tee of the gorgeous Troon North Golf Course with these two lovable characters.
Bella
Moka
Even though we could literally walk 50 steps and be on the nicest golf course in Arizona, we won’t… because:
a. we don’t even know how to swing a golf stick

b. that should be good enough answer

Fortunately, there are many other awesome things to do around here, including our most favorite thing of all… hiking! And even though sweet little Moka can’t hike as far as we can, we don’t let that stop us.

The best part of hiking with Moka is how many people giggle when they walk past us.

They must think she is awfully cute.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Chapter 17 – Summer 2016 - Part 2

Vancouver, BC
As mentioned in my last post, our next destination was the ever-beautiful hillside of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, North America, Earth (the official mailing address). But I must say, I was a bit disappointed when we got there and found NO mention of these guys. Nor did we hear any references to hosers, toques, or someone telling us to “take off eh.”

What we did find however, was a very friendly and socially diverse community of some of the nicest people we’ve ever met, an incredibly beautiful country/seaside and a seemingly endless supply of things to do and see.

With Rosie at the Gastown Steam Clock

The view from our deck in North Vancouver

Horseshoe Bay as seen from atop Bowen Lookout in West Vancouver

The remains of an ancient Stargate portal at English Bay Beach.
(the Canadians keep very quiet about this)

Chillin' with Ribbon
Not too shabby eh? I give Vancouver a hardy 5 stars! Or if you convert it... 6.7 Canadian stars.


Oh, one other thing I really liked about Vancouver. It was the only time we’ve ever had our Prius up to 100.



Evergreen, CO
No sooner had we spent our last water-colored dollar then it was time to hit the dusty trail for the rugged mountains of Colorado, and Evergreen was where we landed.

Living in a place like Evergreen takes a little getting used to, especially if you’re accustomed to oxygen. And being as how the house we were at sat at 7800 feet, just heading upstairs to bed required two rest stops along the way. But eventually we became acclimated, which is a Midwestern term for “able to breath,” and really enjoyed our stay.

This area of Colorado has everything John Denver told us it does… unbelievably beautiful mountains, abundant wildlife, impossible fields of wild flowers and endless sunshine on our shoulders. Every day we were treated to herds of elk, often roaming through our yard – including this magnificent creature!

What'chu lookin at!
Because this house sit had no pets, we were able to really get out and explore the vast expanses of the Colorado Front Range, which includes Golden, Boulder, Estes Park and of course Denver. Here are a few things we did and saw:

Insanely beautiful wildflowers on the way up to Devil's Thumb

A mountain meadow at the beginning of the Devil's Thumb hike
Us, literally chillin' (in August) at the top of Mount Evans
Baby deer in Evergreen Lake...
...and baby mountain goats at Waterton Canyon!
A crisp mountain Lake on the way up to Mount Evans summit

Road Trip to Florida
One of the aspects of house sitting that we enjoy a lot is the actual traveling between the cities. Whenever possible, we find national or state parks and set up our little red tent with the mesh ceiling (so we can see the stars), and rough it like the pioneers did hundreds of years ago. That is if you agree that “roughing it” includes a queen-sized air bed.

Here’s our trusty hotel-on-the-go that has provided shelter many times over the last two years.




Camping definitely has its benefits, such as being much cheaper than a hotel, and you are embedded right within the beautiful nature. But it also has its risks. For instance, in one campsite next to a bayou in Louisiana, Charli woke up to hear an alligator trying to attack a possum just across the yard! It was either that or my snoring, it’s hard to tell the difference. But that’s not nearly as creepy as the time we woke up to find this guy at the end our driveway!


And in case this picture isn’t clear… yes… this is a full-grown tarantula. And that same morning a ring-tailed cat (of the racoon family) chewed my sandals to shreds just outside our tent. See, I wasn’t kidding when I said we were roughing it like the pioneers.

Despite the deadly beasts at our campsites, the trip from Colorado to Florida was tons of fun.  The Rocky Mountain colors were epic,



the mountain rivers were refreshing,

Inks Lake State Park near Austin, TX

the food in Austin was unbelievable, and the street jazz in New Orleans was perfect!


And there you have it... some of our crazy antics from July through September. Of course nothing was quite as crazy as the night we tore up Bourbon Street in New Orleans. I understand they're still talking about it today.

TOTALLY unleashed
So cheers to all the new friends we've met along the way, and our old friends back home. We are having the time of our lives zig-zagging across the country like a couple of high school graduates taking a gap year... except ours is more like a gap decade. We may not know where we're headed just yet but it doesn't seem to matter, we're just having fun doing it. And as the bumper sticker on our car says, "Not all those who wander are lost... just us."