Living the dream, just what is that anyway?


We did it our way!

So we finally pulled the plug! This boomer has flown the coop, I gave up the life that every boomer my age strives for the house and all that goes with it.   The American Dream or NOT.   If you had asked me 2 years ago if I thought I would have sold most of my possessions I would have said MAYBE. I know you were thinking she would have said no, but I can’t really say that.   I have never been one to fit into any mold, at least for any solid time frame.  I think that is a little of the 60’s style boomer mentality that wore off on me.

It’s normal for the X, Y, and other geners to fly away and sell everything they own, but not really so for my generation. We were born to work, raised kids, and retire to a nice little place in the country; Yuppieville. Maybe buy the 5th wheel and become weekend warrior types. That is the last of the American Boomer’s dream right?  What I mean is I am on that cusp.  The last of the boomers.  I came in at the tail end.  I missed the 60’s as I was born them.

So, I figured I would change it up a little and I have been working on the idea of less is more. Less in the aspect of possessions means a little more freedom.  Freedom was definitely calling me.  Not in the way of some younger people, that translates into a way of no responsibilities, and travel light ect.  I mean I still have a lot of the boomer in me, I still have a dividend portfolio, and I still like the feeling of security.  Ok, ok; even it it’s a little false.   I still like comfort.  Freedom in the aspect of being able to do more and not be tied down to a house, bills, things, and such.  That is why I say “we did it our way”.


For over a year now we have been downsizing and getting rid of a lot of crap. I mean a lot!   I never realize how much stuff I had accumulated. That was until I started departing with some of it.   With Paul’s retirement from the Marine Corps we chose Southwestern Colorado to call home.  It just seemed every year during this time we had more stuff. We have been here 12 years this July which translates into a lot of crap.

Maybe it was my husband’s years in the Corp and my wanderlust, but after the loss of our youngest daughter, priorities changed and we desired a change.   I felt I needed to be a little freer, a little lighter, the things that were important before maybe weren’t so important anymore.

It was like I had been in a cocoon but now I needed to emerge into something else, I had been transformed, but not really by choice.   So what did that mean? For me it meant, I wanted to spend time not with things but with people. I wanted to see more, do more, experience. I wanted to journey and see everything that my daughter was not able too. I wanted to LIVE! I wanted to discover places and create memories which would last a lifetime.

It’s not that I had never experienced that travel bug, I have had it almost all my life. Now it just seemed to be entering into warp speed. So at the same time we started selling our possessions we started to travel a little more. This was when we decided to place the house up for sale too. After mulling over our options everything from retiring overseas to placing ourselves in our little rental in North Carolina we through caution to the wind and went out and bought a 5th wheel. We decided we were going to live full time in the RV and go from there.

Redwood-Desk  My work area.

That is how this crazy little journey started and we have tried to turn our tragedy into a story of survival and growth. A story of how one family found a way to move past the all-encompassing grief, and pain and become something their child could not.  That is the place I found myself when we decided to purchase the 5th wheel and then become full time residents in it.


I laugh and tell my husband we have become minimalist except we are luxury minimalist. I mean after all I would not want to give up my wine. I still am civilized after all! So I hope you enjoy our journey as we discover different destinations in this little thing we call life.


Traveling the Desert Highway: Destination Alcantara Vineyards and Winery


Arid, dry, and barren are some of the ideas that come to mind when you think of the desert.   As you drive through Cottonwood for the very first time nothing spectacular seems to catch your eye.   It is not the beauty of the red rock mountains of somewhere like Sedona.  Yet, it is not the barren landscape of somewhere like 29 Palms either.  It’s somewhat in between and its here just outside of Cottonwood you will find, a little Italian or Spanish inspired Villa which is home to Alcantara Vineyards and Winery.  A picturesque, piece of artistry in an otherwise barren, desert area.

A dirt road to wine


Situated in what is know as the Verde Valley this little gem of a winery is at the confluence of two rivers the Verde and the Oak Creek.  Not far from the popular, trendy, and incredibly beautiful Sedona.   Alcantara is one of the largest vineyards in Central and Northern Arizona. Very unassuming, with a laid back style, and with wine that is every bit as surprising as the area it is grown in.  I once heard that wine must suffer on the vine to be good and I am guessing that in 100 degree temperatures it is doing some suffering.


It is the brain child of Barbara Predmore the owner, she states “the rocky limestone soil and sunny climate in the Verde Valley is very similar to the wine making regions of France and Italy and after two years of experimentation the results are everything we hoped for and then some.”  I can only imagine she is only talking soil as temps here can be well over 100 plus degrees in the summer.  She does back up her statement though with some wonderful wines.  Some of Alcantara wines are medal winners and from my own pleasant experience very good.


Now, I am not a wine connoisseur or professional of any sort.  I just enjoy a good wine and I have to say I enjoyed the 2013 Petite Sirah.  It contains notes of black  currants, blackberries, black  pepper, and leather it is a Silver Medal  Winner at  the  Fingerlakes  International Wine  Competition.

Alcantara is not the only winery in the area but the only one we had a chance to stop in that afternoon.  We were greeted by a nice woman Kerry who explained how everything worked.  They do have a tasting fee but you are allowed to take home a glass unfortunately empty.  For 15.00 you are presented with your stem styled wine glass and a tasting of 5 of their wines.  You are able to choose your preference.  I am not much of a white wine drinker so I made my choice from the reds.  I also ordered an nicely presented appetizer plate of cheeses, breads, and olives.  A perfect snack before an afternoon lunch we were having in Sedona.

Travel with T

When we arrived at around one we were the only people there.  When we left close to 3 the place was starting to fill up.  If you have a chance to pop in on your way the Sedona it is a perfect break from your Phoenix drive.  A pleasant afternoon day trip or if you have some time you can do the wine trail.  I hope to be going back soon, perhaps I will see you.  As always the Destination is part of the discovery and it’s always better with wine.


Treasure in the Desert: Destination Chapel of the Holy Cross

Holy Cross Church

Jutting out from the Red Rock Buttes of Sedona is the epitome of architectural genius. Many try and achieve this stunning crown but few will master what sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude inspired with the help of Richard Hein and August K Strotz in 1956.

Commissioned over a half a century ago it’s hard to imagine this awe inspiring contemporary design style came out of that period.

Holy Cross Church 2

The approach is designed in a way that you spiral up from around base.   This creates an awareness of the forms of the site and building.  It appears everything is done to achieve the tranquility of the area.

Marguerite described her commission as “Through the Catholic in faith, as a work of art the chapel has a universal appeal. It’s doors will ever be open to one and all, regardless of creed, that God may come to life in the souls of all men and be a living reality.”  It is truly not hard to see God in this place

Candles Holy Cross Church

As I toured I was inspired that people from all over the world, and of all faiths came to see this incredible witness to some of the beauty within Catholicism.  Built on solid rock it not only is beautiful but it figuratively ties to the Catholic faith.  The giant cross within the structure stands out across the lower valley as a symbol of faith and beauty and it inspires awe in our Creator.

The Chapel holds no regular services as it once did and now it is intended to be a place of reflection and meditation. The sign upon entering simply states “Peace to all who enter”.

Christ Statue

Upon entering you are presented with a simplistic design style.   It has some pews and unique artwork but really nothing competing with the architectural element meant to inspire peace. Truly you can see the inspiration she had of “Finding God through Art”.


St. Michael

There was some debate over the Corpus that originally was hung in the chapel but that is a tale for another time. It has been replaced with the face of Christ a somewhat subtle but thought provoking piece appropriately placed above the tabernacle.


I left the Chapel of the Holy Cross with a sense of peace but also with a beautiful reflection of the many people that came each finding beauty in the Catholic faith through Art.  It reminded me of a quote from St. Francis “Preach the Gospel always.  If necessary, use words.”

Lighting a candle across the world for "B"

Lighting a candle across the world for “B”

The World of Points: Destination Germany Christmas Markets

Germany Christmas Markets

The world is an oyster for those in the points game and it contains a pearl of great price in the end.

It’s the smell of chestnuts roasting, spices of ginger and cinnamon permeating throughout the market as you head (if your me) straight for the spiced wine.   Everything is lite up and the Christmas spirit is in full swing.  People are mulling around sipping, tasting, and perusing the Christmas wares.   Where?  At the German Christmas Markets of course.

I can now hear the background noise of all the clamoring about travel is expensive and I don’t have the money.  I am here to share with you, yeah sometimes it is expensive, but it is so worth it.   I love the quote “Travel is the only thing that you buy, that  makes you richer.”

Yet, for those who need to go as expensively as possible I have something else.  I want to share that you can do it for very little of your own money if you are will to play a game.  It’s all about the points.  If you have not heard about the points game definitely keep reading.  Because you are missing out on some of the best deals for travel with very little of your own money.  it’s time to read some blogs and learn how to take advantage of those big bad companies people are always talking about.    There are free flights out there for those willing to put in a little work.  How much depends on you.


My travel style is varied and I use a lot of methods to do it.  A lot of the time it’s plain hard cash.  Sometimes,  I use those wonderful little methods of accumulating points for travel like sign on bonuses for credit cards. You need to be responsible and you need to have good credit to do this.

There are many out there who live and breath points, and travel for pennies.  People like the Points Guy have made a career out of traveling using points. There are great blogs out there that will show you exactly how to do it.   People like Ben who blog at One Mile at a Time and travel the world using this method all the while making it look so easy.

I use a variety of different methods and I try and make the most of what I do.   My goal is to come out getting more for less.   I usually don’t have the time to travel full time as I am still working and my husband is finishing up a masters.  I just do what I can, when I can.

So, it was here at this juncture I found myself.   I knew I had been sitting on lots of points and I was dying to use them.    While traversing the blog world is one of my favorite past times it is often dangerous for me.  I was doing this and was also perusing the amazing world of Avalon Cruises when I discovered Germany and it’s Christmas Markets.  I was amazed and delighted at the beauty and culture and I wanted to immerse myself into it immediately.  That is once I got past the aspect of being cold.  It took only a few seconds and I was off to dreaming of sleigh rides, roaring fires, and warm spiced wine.  I started to warm up quickly, I grabbed a glass of wine myself and began.

After the dreaming process for me, starts what my husband refers to as the scheming process.  I like to refer to it as strategically planning which then leads to the execution of said plan.  I figured I had more than enough points for a flight in and out of Europe with points left for another jaunt at a later time if I should decide.

I have been sitting on close to 200K Barclay world arrival points.  Barclay also just came out with new rules for utilization and now they are redeemable in 10k increments.  This aspect is perfect for someone like me sitting on lot of them. Not so good if you are only trying to redeem a few.

I try to only maintain a few cards at a time.  That way I don’t lose track and then waste points I have accumulated by not using them.  I try and keep enough just for the near future.  When I have utilized them I start on the next series.  This keeps me current and I never have to worry I will lose them or heaven forbid they become devalued at some point.  I am a earn them and burn them strategist.

When using points for flights if it’s somewhere you really want to go start early.  This gives you the best options.  I started in June knowing I wanted to book over Thanksgiving weekend.   After a hour maybe longer of checking and rechecking I decided on a flight out of Salt Lake City into Paris on Delta for both my husband and I coming in at a whopping 5.00 dollars.  I was on a roll.  I decided to upgrade us to premium economy which includes drinks for a little over 200.00   This is how I use my points in a way that works for me.  I don’t mind throwing in some cash for an upgrade.  I am sure the professional point travelers can do better but for myself I just want to gain some benefits without a lot of effort.


For hotels the options are varied for me.   I have 100K plus Marriott points which can get me either a couple of nights at a higher end Marriott or a week or more of nights at a lower tier property.  I think I am going for the higher end this time. I have to admit I am a little bit of a hotel snob.  So I do enjoy a little better hotel.  Since I will be flying into Paris and spending two days, I will use them there.

From Paris we will be taking a train into Germany stopping a few places like Nuremberg and Heidelberg before we continue on to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  We have reserved a place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen using our military benefits so we will be staying at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort .   You will need to be prior military to do this and being my husband is a retired Marine we qualify.  Listed as one of the most desirable destinations in the Bavarian Alps, the Edelweiss Lodge is in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area and is an idyllic location nestled at the foot of sweeping alpine vistas.


All my details are not completely worked out yet and of course I will be blogging about the journey itself.  I do know we will be leaving out of Austria and with taxes this cost me a little more than the flight in.  I believed it rounded out at a little over 200.00 per person.  Still not bad for air out of Europe. and yes you can get it cheaper if you put in more work.    If you have not stepped into the world of points you are missing out.  The whole world awaits you.

Maybe I will see you in Germany at the Christmas markets.  We can share a mug of warm spiced wine.   Because the world is definitely waiting to be discovered.

A Year with Marriott Gold: Destination Goodyear Arizona

Towneplace Suites Marriott

Towneplace Suites Marriott

A Year with Marriott Gold: Destination Goodyear Arizona,

As my journey continues though “A Year with Marriott Gold, my next trip was to Goodyear, AZ.  Where I was determined to be present for the birth of our 5th grandchild.  My choices in the area are a Courtyard where I have already stayed, and the TownePlace Suites Marriott was a perfect fit for us.  The hotel was on the western side of Phoenix area and located next to Avondale where we needed to be.  They are across the street from the Cancer Center of Phoenix and convenient to various shopping areas.   They are quietly tucked away in a little spot not too far off the freeway.   It is not a pretty location itself but that is where the least appealing aspect of the hotel ends.

From the moment I walked in this Marriott property is doing it right.  The front desk agent greeted us with a great smile and a warm welcome.   We were thanked for being Marriott Gold.  The front desk agent informed me that they were out of the 1 bedroom suite we requested and she explained we were upgraded to a 2 bedroom suite.  This was actually perfect for us as we will be bring our grandchildren over.  We were checked in easily and quickly with no problem.  A nice touch was the little gold chocolates.  What a great little touch that is very simple and provides a pleasant aspect to your stay.  It makes you think that yes they do appreciate me for being gold.

The hotel is decorated in the simplistic stylish Towneplace suite style.  Nicely appointed and designed for the long stay traveler.  Things at Towneplace are streamlined for efficiency and for the business minded or longer term stay professional.  They have a kitchen where if you care too you can prepare your own meals.  Making your stay seem more like home.


The positive experience at this property continues for our morning breakfast where the motto is “simple, quick, and delicious” and we again are greeted with a warm smile and a good morning.   I cannot begin to tell you how this little simple gesture is so important in customer service.  It seemed from the hallway to the front desk everyone at this property took a moment to greet us somehow.  For those who travel only while chasing points and such it might not make a difference.  My family and I travel doing a combination of both and I look for not only service but also comfort.  This little hotel made my stay quite enjoyable.    I felt my gold status was appreciated by small little gestures and they created a great experience for me.

For our housekeeping service we gave the pleasant young woman off.  We really only required a change of towels and the trash to be emptied.  Each time we requested towels the attendant responded with a nice warm smile and accommodated our request.  Thank you for continuing your hotels consistent service of excellence!

I would recommend anyone to this property it is one of the Marriott Brands and is great for budget travel also.   If you have a chance stop by and tell the assistant GM Bethany Deprey “Travel with T” sent you.  Better yet book it from my site!  I am looking forward to my next discovery destination I have on the books next week Steamboat Springs, where I will be checking in to my first Fairfield Inn this year.

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey

Holy Cross1a  “Wine to me is passion, its family and friends.  It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.”, by Robert Mondavi “Harvest of Joy”.    This passion is tucked away in a peacefully serene place which was once host to a Benedictine Monastery.  It’s not Sonoma or in other well-known area of wines and wineries.  It happens to be situated in the backdrop of the always spectacular Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

If you are in Canon City and if by chance you see the large beautiful Gothic Revival style building before you reach the main part of town take a moment and stop in.   It’s The Holy Cross Abbey.   The abbey was a once a vibrant community of Benedictine’s a monastic order of the Catholic Church.  The monks arrived in the late 1800’s when it was still frontier territory. They established a community and founded a boy’s home.  The community there lasted for roughly 100 years throughout various hardships, growth, and finally, dissolution.  It is now the home of The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey.

Holy Cross 2In the beginning there were only two monks, but as the community grew so did the grounds and of course the Abbey was built.   It fell into a little financial trouble during the depression era.  It then came under the care of an abbot who helped to restore its financial situation.  The boy’s home at its height housed roughly 250 young men.  They came from all over the US and the world.  The thriving community was at its height during the 50’s and 60’s and then started a gradual decline.

Holy Cross 3In the 2000’s, there were about 20 monks left in the community, mostly elderly.   It is during this time that they founded an effort to provide income for themselves with an idea of planting a vineyard.  They enlisted the help of a viticulturist for the production and then began producing wine the following year.  The Benedictines opened The Winery at Holy Cross Abby with winemaker Matt Cookson.   Not long after the abbey was sold to businessman Larry Oddo from the East Coast.   The monks were resettled in other communities although Cookson remained as the winemaker.

It is here in the backdrop of monastic history and nestled next to the Wet Mountains, you will find The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey of today. What was started by the Monks was brought to fruition by the winery.  The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey was originally started in July, 2002, and then went through transition to private ownership.  Today it is a vibrant little winery.

The winery currently makes about 12,000 cases of wine per year.  It still provides some financial returns for the monks who are paid for their initial vision and investments.   Most of the fruit is purchased from the Western Slope of Colorado and some from Washington and California.  A unique side note, though not surprising, is the purchase of grapes from a prison.  The monks just followed a long history of Catholic tradition with its work in prison ministry programs.    The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey developed a partnership with the Colorado Department of Corrections (CCI) Juniper Valley Farms in 2002.  Part of of this program was the growing of grapes.  This is not new to corrections, its agricultural practices began all the way back in 1874.   It was set up as part of a program called Colorado Territorial Penitentiary inmate work program.  Today it is reported that more than  130 years after the fact, CCI’s agricultural activities include dairies, farmlands, fisheries, goats, green houses, honey processing, recycling, and of course vineyards.  The Winery at Holy Cross is the programs largest buyer to this day.

On the grounds of the abbey you will find a little building off to the left.  It is here the winery has its tasting room.  This beautiful little tasting room is filled with many things to catch the eye and wet the taste buds.  The tasting room is open daily.  The staff is excellent and most wines can be tasted complimentary.  The reserve, which are some of the finest have a cost of one dollar to taste.  They also offer a VIP wine and cheese tasting in the park, or my favorite, the tasting room terrace and the fee is 25.00 per person.  This option needs to be reserved in advance.

The winery gets a wide variety of visitors, locals and numerous people coming through from out of the area.  During my visit I managed to catch a Marine who was visiting with his wife.  My husband is retired from the Marine Corps so I am always on the look out to thank those who have served.  Semper Fi!

You can find those Marines everywhere

You can find those Marines everywhere

Shopping in the tasting room is a kaleidoscope of colors that remind you of Provence and Italy.  Your senses are swept away by the exquisite wine you are tasting as well as the relaxing atmosphere of the tasting room.  Both times I have been in the spring and weather has been beautiful but they do have a fireplace for the winter months.

What did I end up with?  The 2012 Colorado Revelation.  An excellent full bodied red Bordeaux style wine.   The wine is aged in new American oak for 22 months and the winery reports it is one of the “biggest red wines they have ever made”.   The winery suggest it needs some cellar time and you should enjoy it with a nice big steak.   I will definitely have to try that.

Besides the winery and the tasting room there is a gift shop and tours are available of the Abbey.  The annual Harvest Festival is held the last week of September.  It celebrates with wine of course and the year’s grape harvest.  Music, food, and the arts are all part of the celebration.

From its humble beginnings as a monastic community, to the inception of the Abbey, to the first grapes planted and pressed The Winery at Holy Cross is a unique and colorful part of the landscape of Colorado.  Whether you are a history buff, a tourist, or a wine enthusiast you will enjoy The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey.  The Passion of family and friends and spirit of generosity lives on at The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey.  If you stop by tell them “Travel with T” sent you.

A Year with Marriott Gold: Destination Pueblo, CO

IMG_0324[1]A year with Marriott Gold destination: Pueblo, Colorado

Pueblo is a larger city in Southwest Colorado and was next on my year with Marriott Gold.  I stopped here overnight on a visit for a friend’s celebration and then it was on my way to Gunnison to visit Black Canyon National Park.   My stay was at the Spring Hill Suites and I should get a new badge on my profile for this stay.  It will be my first stay during gold with Spring Hill Suites.  I am looking forward to see what the hotel features for Marriott Gold members.

Springhill Suites is right off the 25 freeway in downtown Pueblo, it’s conveniently located near the river walk area and local attractions.  It was a perfect location for my evening visit to the Cathedral which is about 5 minutes away.   They are apparently in the middle of a remodel or some type of construction as they have signs stating “pardon their dust”.  They do a really good job right now working around it and I hardly even noticed.

My reservation was placed several weeks ago through Travel with T and I’m happy I had the foresight to do it.  When we arrived they had only 2-3 rooms left.   Apparently they were completely booked.    The hotel itself looks beautiful.  A couple of minor little issues with maintenance I noticed but this could just be because they were in the middle of an upgrade.

We checked in at the front desk because for some reason my app for check in never works.  We were greeted by a nice young woman at the front desk.  She had a good smile and a nice welcome.  No thank you for being gold though.  I am beginning to think this is not always done.  Check in goes smooth she directs us to our room and we are on our way.

We were placed on the 4th floor so I assumed we were upgraded to a higher floor but no mention was made.  The rooms are very nice, spacious, and the décor is set in a comfortable but modern sleek style.  The Springhill Suites are designed with the longer stay in mind so they are larger and definitely more comfortable.  I have a tv in my separate bedroom and a tv in the living area.  Maybe 5-10 minutes after check in we receive a call asking if our room was ok and if everything was to our satisfaction.   Nice touch Springhill I liked this and appreciated it.

The hotel is nicely appointed with a café and bar in the center.  They have a breakfast buffet for the morning including in the price of the room so Gold does not matter.   The buffet is just so so, no different than say a Quality Inn or Comfort Suites.  Basic, nothing stands out.   The service was ok, not great, not good, just ok.  The items were refilled and there were quite a lot of people so the gal was busy but not friendly.

At one point I engaged her for a coffee urn that had run out, other than that moment she would not have even made eye contact.  Now this may be due to the morning rush but I find that a smile and engagement with people make a difference between an ok stay or a great stay.  I hate to make a discernment at this point on Marriott’s food venues but I am almost seeing a pattern.   I have yet to experience that great service I had come to know from them.

I do have a Kudo’s to the Front Desk gal who I saw on the floor often making sure everything was ok.  She appeared to take pride in her job and care that everything looked good.  She was attentive to the area surrounding her including the expansive lobby area checking and rechecking during the morning rush.

As for being a gold member, high speed internet was available in my room and for Marriott Gold it is free.  Good perk but not great.  Maybe a room on a higher floor ok but again not great.  Room had a little view of the pool area but it was slightly obstructed.  All in all a good hotel, decent rate, and nicely appointed spacious room.  Linen was excellent as usual and it makes for a comfortable sleep.  Gold status not much benefit as far as I can see here.  I still prefer Marriott most of the time as I can depend on getting a consistent stay.

Take a glimpse into ancient culture; destination: Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Dwellings

Mesa verde 12                                                                  Mesa Verde National Park is an incredible adventure into the past and a vast area of beautiful wilderness where you can hike, bike, and camp.   You can step into the world of the Ancestral Pueblo people at this amazing archeological site.   Discover and experience their world of 550 AD, where the pueblo people lived for over 700 years throughout this area.  Mesa Verde (Spanish for the Green Table)  is a spectacular site to visit.  Named rightly because its appears to be a large green table flat on the top typical of a Mesa.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in Montezuma County, Colorado, United States.   The park was created in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.   It is the largest archeological preserve in the U.S.  The park itself occupies 52,485 acres near the Four Corners and features some 600 cliff dwellings a numerous ruins of homes and villages.

mesa verde 4Mesa Verde 7Mesa Verde 8

Just the drive up to the ruins and you are gifted with incredible views of the whole county.  The winding road to the top will present you with vast skyline views of the Four Corners, wild flowers, and various wildlife along the way.  We were lucky enough to catch the local herd of wild horses in the park.  These animals are actually up for debate as to whether or not they are actually wild or feral from local reservation.

mesa verde 16Mesa Verde 15

Mesa Verde is better seen in various trips or a longer period of time.  We have decided to make several day trips to enable us to enjoy the expansive park properly.

mesa verde 5Today we opted for a trip with a short hike to one of the quieter parts of the park. The Wetherill Mesa is open from May through September.  We only made one stop to one of the self guided ruins known as the Step House.  It features an alcove, pit houses, and cliff dwelling.  There are rangers on site for questions.  The hike was fairly easy and about a 1 mile round trip.  The rangers will tell you to plan for about an hour.   There are two ways in, one features several levels of stairs and the other is flat with no stairs.  We opted for the longer way around using the stairs and are happy we did.  We were able to get some great views of the whole alcove as we hiked it.

Mesa Verde 7

Once in the dwelling site you are very close and are able to walk around the whole area.  They don’t allow standing on the walls but you are basically right inside the alcove in the historical site.  It’s pretty incredible to imagine the pueblo ancestral people living here.  You get to experience a little of what it might feel like as you walk in and around the Step House.   The Step House is named for the steps that are located next to the courtyard and dwellings.

step house 4

Between 1190 and 1270 most of the cliff dwellings were built.  There are community centers which have about 150 rooms to one room houses, kivas and courtyards. The structures are often built just fitting them in where they could with no real building plan.  The walls are single courses of stone.   To protect the walls and roof from weather erosion they are a limited height.   The Ancestral Pueblo only lived in the cliff dwellings for about 100 years.  Archeology study suggest that about the 1300’s Mesa Verde was abandoned.   Why they left is still being debated.   Where did they go?   They joined thousands of other ancestral people moving from what is today’s New Mexico and Arizona

step house 2 step house 8 step house 3 step house 5 step house 9

Mesa Verde is definitely a site to see, live, and experience.  You find incredible outdoor hikes, fantastic scenery, and a glimpse into the past of this great people and their history here in the southwestern United States.  National Parks are our treasure and should be trips on everyone’s bucket list.  You can’t beat them for incredible beauty, history and learning opportunities.  So for your next discovery destination try Mesa Verde National Park.



Alta Lakes Destination: Ghost Towns

High in a mystical alpine setting reminiscent of the book “The Mist of Avalon” you will find Alta Lakes and Alta Ghost Town.   This peaceful, quiet, and serene area is located on the back side of Telluride Ski Resort and Palmyra Peak.  On an easy day trip from Telluride, Dolores, or Cortez, you are able to enjoy camping, fly fishing, hiking, and a little history on a visit to this incredible Lake in the summertime   I have never been in the winter but they say it’s one of the prettiest places to go snowmobiling in the Telluride area.


Your journey begins as you detour off the highway 145 towards a clearly marked sign that says Alta.  You might want to have a 4 wheel drive or at least a high profile vehicle as the roads up to the lake are pretty rough. We did not have to place our vehicle in 4 wheel drive but the high profile helped.   The lakes are past Alta’s Ghost town which is an old mining town with many buildings still standing. It’s is said the first place alternating current was used. (Think Tesla)   There are many old historic buildings you can not only photograph but get really close too.  The have reinforced the boarding house but many others are in various stages of dilapidation.   There has been an ongoing battle on whether or not to let the buildings be destroyed for residential purposes or try and save them for a beautiful piece of Colorado’s mining history.  Right now the town is on the side of Alta and it looks like they will be kept. 


Travel a little farther up the mountain at the elevation of 10,000 plus you will find Alta Lakes. These are alpine mountain lakes at their finest.    It is here Colorado shines as its ruggedness and pristine beauty will capture your imagination with the sensation of time standing still.   The awe inspiring 10,000 feet views are some of the best the world has to offer.   We arrived when a fine mist was falling over the lake and the water was as still as glass.  There was a slight chill in the air as this mist fell upon us.  It seem to create a surreal feeling that while we were in this Mountain Alpine forest we were in a world of the past and present all at the same time.

Alta Lakes 3

Alta Lakes and Ghost town provides you much in the way of things to do.  You can pitch a tent, and spend the time exploring this area as there is plenty of camping.  For the budget minded camping spots are free and some even have grills next to them and they are all surrounding the Lake.   This is a great visit if you are in the area.  Something slightly out of the way but well worth the detour.   Alta Lakes where you can camp, fly fish, paddle board, and hike and experience the pristine beauty in the incredible Colorado mountains.


Travel with T

Travel with T

Travel with T

A Year with Marriott Gold destination: JW Scottsdale Camelback Inn and Resort

May 22, 2015 We are traveling through the Southwest today on our way to Phoenix. The desert is filled with wildflowers from the recent rains to our area. We are booked at the JW Marriott Scottsdale/Camelback Resort. It’s a AAA 5 Five Diamond Resort and has been for 25 consecutive years.   This is a significant achievement for a hotel.

We made a reservation using our military government rate. Which came in at 113.00 plus taxes and resort fees and or course parking. A great rate for this property and not often found.  They do make it up with all the other fees built in after you arrive though.  The resort is at summer rates which are very economical due to the temps being pretty warm in Phoenix at this time of year. I have never stayed at this JW so it will be interesting to learn what they offer.

There own description of the property is “Vibrant and serene, bold and enchanting, the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa embraces the future and welcomes the next generation of guests into its harmonious blend of creature comforts with a storied history.”

From my research it looks like they have a hiking trail right off the resort, a golf course near the property, a spa and several pools.

As we arrive in Scottsdale it’s absolutely beautiful weather.  It’s May but it’s about 81 degrees.  It’s typically well into the 90’s and 100’s.  Coming from Colorado where it’s in the 30’s to 40’s in the morning, I really don’t mind.   When you walk into the JW, Marriott or Ritz you are given a welcome and a thanks for being a gold member this simple little touch is nice.

The Marriott is at the base of the Scottsdale Mountains it is a fantastic property. The property features separate bungalows and they are by no means little bungalows. Each with it’s own private entrance.

The landscape is desert influenced with water features and simulated dry creek beds. It is definitely a little oasis in the desert. Our room is spacious and has it’s own outdoor patio. We arrived using our Gold status and military rate versus travel agent benefits. They were very busy and we were given a standard room, no upgrade that we can see. We did ask for a different room on Sunday evening as we will be having our children join us. We were offered a one bedroom suite at no rate increase. Being a Gold Member has it’s perks but it takes 50 stays to do it. So far this is our second amazing upgrade, the first being the fantastic JW Miami.

We settled into our room.  The bungalows seem very large, almost similar to stay a larger studio apartment.  The bathroom is in a separate area and features beautiful tile work in a modern updated style including a glass shower enclosure.  A separate area is adjacent with a make up area and a large closet.  The room features large southwestern style furniture.

We arrived later in the afternoon, so by the time we got settled, it was close to dinner.  We opted for drinks and dinner at the outdoor venue adjacent to the lobby and restaurants. It was very crowded and took us a while to be served. Having been in the industry it was definitely justified as the place was completely packed. Everything just seemed to take a little longer. Once we were served the food was excellent.  We had their appetizer Queso Fundido and a signature Blood Orange Margarita brought in a bucket style glass. Both were delicious. Paul enjoyed their Signature Fajitas and the grand kids pizza.

After dinner, we opted for a trip to the pool.   It was late so it was pretty empty.  The area is very large yet had an intimate setting.   It’s perfectly designed with rock features complementing the desert scenery.  The pool has views of the surrounding mountains which are stunning in the evening.  After the pool it was off to sleep after our long day.

I was up before 6:00 A.M. and went back to the courtyard area to watch the early the morning sun rising over what I presume is Camelback Mountain. They have the standard Starbucks on site so I sat as I waited for it to open at 6 am. Only one other gentleman besides myself waiting to feel up our senses with the aroma and taste of coffee.   The wait staff were good and the coffee was just what I needed to continue on with my blogging for the morning.

JW does it right again with this Southwestern property. It’s absolutely gorgeous with just the right amount and balance of eco friendly zeroscaping and a touch of the oasis in the center of the property with it’s delightful water features.

It’s definitely family friendly with much to do in the way of children, putt-putt golf, a pool that provides water toys such as floating pads and noodles, and a small park. For the adults it has romantic southwestern style large rooms with adjacent outdoor patios. A large ample outdoor seating area to imbibe in some wonderful spirits such as signature margaritas, a steakhouse, a casual dining experience, and the jack rabbit pool bar.

My overall impression is…. I loved it.  The property is fantastic and the description of being serene hits the mark.   I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it and I will be going back.  Also, thanks for the Sunday upgrade to the one bedroom loft, it was just what we needed for the grandkids to join us for the evening.

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