The Plan is No Plans

On the same day that we officially became “empty” nesters, the very day our youngest started college, we boarded a plane headed for Zürich. We didn’t really plan for the two events to happen on the same day, it just worked out that way.
What WAS planned was to… CONTINUE READING >>

Here is a look back at one of our very first posts. This was our philosophy when we first became empty nesters all those years ago.

On Our Way!On the same day that we officially became “empty” nesters, the very day our youngest started college, we boarded a plane headed for Zürich.

We didn’t really plan for the two events to happen on the same day, it just worked out that way.

What WAS planned was to spend time together and to do the things that obligations had previously pushed aside.

The three years between our older girls leaving the house and The Boy flapping his wings gave us plenty of time to decide
how we wanted to spend, or at least start, this new phase of our lives.

We spent the time before our nest completely emptied planning to have no plans. That may sound strange and contradictory, but we actually have planned to have no plans.

Child rearing is nothing BUT plans. Long range plans like providing a good home, saving for college, raising a solid adult. And the massive short term, everyday planning of ballet lessons, dentist appointments, baseball games… anyone who has kids gets the picture all too well.

So we set out ahead of time to have no set long term plans and let the short term, daily variety, be fluid and adaptable to each new day.

Sounds simple, but in reality it takes some serious planning to have no plans. We knew that we would need some income. After all, we still have The Boy in college and we’ve grown fond of food and shelter, so we took steps in that direction.

After squirreling away nuts in various holes for years, the time had come to dig a few up. We decided to sell our condo and buy some rental property for income, as well as providing a place for our youngest to live while in school.

It turns out that this is a fairly common method of providing housing for students, and it seems to work out well as long as they don’t go all Animal House on the place.

Our first encounter with the no plans plan popped up when the properties that we could get good deals on needed work. No problem, we simply became handymen for a couple of months and got to know a college town…. no plans and some new experiences to share.

We thought we ‘d be seeing the world from the deck of a catamaran by now, but new opportunities in Europe came up. So instead we are seeing Europe and North America from planes, trains and automobiles. That’s OK… no plans and new places to see.

At some point in the future, when we really aren’t expecting it, the boat idea might fall back into our laps. That’s the way life is. Certainly things come up, but now we take them as they come instead of worrying ahead of time, then we simply adjust our lack of plans.

This isn’t something that we started because The Spawn were leaving, we have been laying the groundwork for over twenty-nine years. Back when we had barely evolved into human beings ourselves, Veronica squeezed out a few yard apes (how did that happen?) and we had to become responsible adults.

While raising the kids, we always tried to remember that a huge part of being good parents is being a good couple. That way, when the time came to get back to just the two of us, it was easier to remember what brought us together in the first place.

After three years of embracing a “no plans” lifestyle we’ve learned a couple things. First, it’s working because Veronica and I are on the same page. We spend almost all of our time together, something that may not be right for everyone, but it works for us. In the eloquent words of Kurt Vonnegut, we are a nation of two.

Second, our stress level has plummeted. Travel can certainly take a toll these days, especially with kids or if there is a hard and fast deadline for being somewhere. But the no plans method has eliminated almost all of that. We do some of our traveling in a beat up old motorhome so our schedule is our own.

When we do fly, we try to leave enough leeway in our booking that a missed connection doesn’t destroy our trip. In fact, a missed connection can be a good thing, we’ve earned quite a few vouchers for free future travel by volunteering to take a later flight while everyone around us stresses out.

Part of the beauty of our new no plans plan is that now we get to be the kids for a change. We have found that it is very important for us to keep learning. To try new things together, things that neither of us have any previous experience with.

Explore. Examine. Investigate. Inquire. Enjoy.

That’s the plan.


National Parking through Utah

Since most National Parks have opened we are going to break our silence on travel blogging. This story is from a trip we took before the virus hit, but could easily be pulled off with masks and social distancing…

Since most National Parks have opened back up, we are going to break our silence on travel blogging. This story is from a trip we took before the virus hit, but could easily be pulled off with masks and social distancing.

On this recent road run to see David’s father and celebrate his ninetieth birthday we came up with a plan to get the most out of our National Parks pass while driving cross country from California to Kansas.

Taking a slightly longer route up Interstate 15 to I-70 took us through Utah and right through some of America’s most scenic landscapes, much of which has been set aside for protection as parkland.

It also happened that the areas along our way were all easily accessible by car, meaning that we could catch all of the major vistas without too much hiking, and no camping. This meant that our amazing visits only ended up adding about one day to our total travel time.

Our first stop was one of America’s most popular parks. It is also one of our oldest, created in 1909 when President William Howard Taft’s proclaimed it Mukuntuweap National Monument.

In 1917 the newly created National Park Service proposed changing the name to Zion, which was the name used by the local Mormon community for the fifteen mile long canyon. So in 1919 the monument officially became Zion National Park.

In keeping with our driving theme, we took the incredible Zion – Mount Carmel Highway, also known as Utah State Highway 9, across the southern portion of the park. Admittedly, doing this meant missing a lot along the Canyon Scenic Drive, but it kept us on track for our travels and still provided unbelievable views of the canyon and rock formations as we drove.

These were once old wagon roads, and then upgraded for automobiles beginning around 1910. No doubt they are better now, but they can still certainly be described as hair-raising.

Not wanting to miss out on the thrill of hiking at least a little bit in these mountains, we stopped just as we exited the eastern entrance to the famous single lane tunnel to walk the Canyon Overlook Trail.

This one mile hike is listed as moderate, and we would agree with that rating as long as you don’t have any issues with walking right on the edge of some pretty serious drop offs. At the top we were rewarded with a view of the entire canyon dropping down over half a mile deep.

From the hike we drove through the park to the eastern exit and then on to Bryce Canyon, a little over an hour’s drive to the north.

The name might be a tad misleading, since the big attraction of the park isn’t really a canyon in the classic sense. It is actually the weathered edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau which has been carved up by the forces of wind and water (both liquid and frozen) over the millennium.

Bryce began as an offshoot of Zion and didn’t become a separate national park until 1956, and like Zion it is also very drivable. One main road runs along the edge of the plateau and has just over a dozen pull offs for viewing and short hikes.

Moving in order from the entrance we first came to Sunrise Point and Sunset Points, which provide opposite views of the same group of aptly named hoodoos that stand like a choir of stone statues along the cliff faces.

These formations are caused by erosion, usually from multiple sources. At Bryce the hoodoos are mostly the result of freezing and thawing as much as two hundred times a year. This cracks away the softer rock, but leaves behind the harder layers that top off these pinnacles. Rain also adds to the carving, as does the wind.

At Inspiration Point we then found an even bigger band of these crazy characters filling what is known as the amphitheater. The scene struck us as fitting since they looked very much like a crowd gathered for a “rock” concert.

Moving on we drove through a large pine forest, where the deer and the antelope play, before stopping at another pull off for a look at Natural Bridge on our way to the huge panoramic view at Rainbow Point.

On our way out, just outside the confines of the park, Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forest gave us one last thrill.

Perhaps if it wasn’t so close to Bryce this would be a park in its own right, but even as it is the spectacular red sandstone spires and formations are said to be the “most photographed place in Utah.” It is easy to see why, with the brilliant red soil contrasted with the green pines made for a near perfect close to an amazing day.

After spending the night in Panguitch, Utah, we continued the next day on to Arches National Park. While these incredible sandstone structures have been federally protected for over one hundred years, it wasn’t until 1969 that this became a national park.

This is another very drivable park, but after the better part of three days in the car we were ready for a bit of hiking. It also happens that one of the park’s most famous features is not visible from any road. That would be Landscape Arch, which worked out well for us since the trailhead leading to it is at the very end of the road through the park.

That way we didn’t miss a thing, meaning we made stops at several other spectacular spans along the route. But let’s go back to the beginning. Soon after entering the park we discovered that many of Arches coolest formations aren’t actually arches after all.

Our first stop, The Courthouse Towers Viewpoint, didn’t have an arch anywhere in sight. Instead, we found ourselves among a gathering of stone figures resembling various people and objects. All of these were fun, in a gazing at clouds to see what we see sort of way, but the Thee Gossips was definitely our pick of the litter.

This is not to diminish the fun forms of Sheep Rock, The Organ, the Tower of Babel, and of course, the courthouse itself. Any of these would be massively impressive on its own, so the combined effect of the group is quite a sight to behold.

Crossing an alien looking landscape known as the Petrified Dunes we then came to the precariously positioned Balanced Rock.

There are a few of these improbable looking boulders scattered about the park, and no doubt have been many more through the ages that ultimately gave in to the forces of gravity, just as this one will sooner or later.

In fact, everything in the park is slowly disintegrating from the forces of the same erosion that created them.

Heading down a short spur off the main road, we detoured over to The Windows. These, along with the free standing Delicate Arch, rival Landscape Arch for the position of top icon in the park.

And speaking of Landscape Arch, it was time to forge ahead to the Devil’s Garden and the trailhead for our hike.

Landscape Arch certainly seems more delicate than the one with that name, the thin band of sandstone looks as though it will give way at almost any time. In fact it has.  In 1991, a 73-foot chunk came crashing down… and people were there to see it.

Guess that means it did make a sound.

It also means that you might want to hurry up to see it before the rest of it topples down.

David and Veronica,

Yellowstone – What a Gas Hole!

We continue our look at ways to travel during the Covid-19 pandemic with a look at Yellowstone.  National Parks are a good way to enjoy a getaway while still keeping our social distance.
Permanently set aside in 1872, Yellowstone is home to two-thirds of all the geysers in the world… 

We continue our look at ways to travel during the Covid-19 pandemic with a look at Yellowstone.  National Parks are a good way to enjoy a getaway while still keeping our social distance.

Buffalo at beautiful Yellowstone National Park

Vast expanses of open range stretch as far as the eye can see, the deer and the antelope really do play in America’s West.

The lack of a gold rush back in the 1800’s left Wyoming sparsely populated, with just over half a million cowpokes in all. Thirty-three cities in the U.S. are more populous than the entire state of Wyoming.

That’s a boatload of land per person.

Buffalo at Yellowstone National Park

We had come to Wyoming to see the world’s first National Park.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Permanently set aside in 1872, Yellowstone was named for the bright colors of the rocks on the walls of The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

The river flows north from Yellowstone Lake, cascades down over four hundred feet in two magnificent waterfalls before cutting a spectacular nine hundred foot deep gorge through yellow and orange volcanic rocks on its way to meeting up with The Missouri River.

Without a doubt this is the ultimate place for a traditional camping trip.

Wanting to see the colorful canyon from every angle possible, we gathered our hiking gear and traipsed the semi-strenuous trails along the rim and around the Upper Falls.

The jaunt took some time, and energy, so we were glad that we carried some snacks, and of course a good water bottle with us.

From the falls we discovered Uncle Tom’s Trail. This trail provided an absolutely mind-blowing view of the Lower Falls — we just scampered down a bit over three hundred metal steps along the sheer canyon cliffs.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Uncle Tom's Trail in Yellowstone National Park

Getting BACK up up the 300 steps, that was quite another story altogether.

Ah yes, feel the burn.

Uncle Tom was quite certainly a masochist, especially since back in his day they didn’t have the stairs!

The falls, canyon and lake would be more than enough to warrant setting aside this area as a National Park but — wait — there’s more!

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

As breathtaking as this portion of the Park was, at least we felt we had our feet solidly on planet Earth.

Things were about to take a most drastic change.

We were about to enter an other-worldly world, and it’s next to impossible to describe the bizarre sights, sounds and smells of the place.

Oh yes, the smells are a huge part of the Yellowstone experience.

Two-thirds of all the geysers in the world are within the borders of Yellowstone National Park

Two-thirds of all the geysers in the world are within the borders of Yellowstone.

Superheated water gushes hundreds of feet into the air from some while others spout tiny bursts of steam.

In some spots, boiling springs and pools of sulfur-rich water dwell next to pits of bubbling mud called paint pots, all reeking like rotten eggs.

See all of our adventures in America’s Wild West!

Two-thirds of all the geysers in the world are within the borders of Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

We mounted our trusty bikes for a ride through The Upper Geyser Basin, home to the most famous of Yellowstone’s geysers, Castle, Grand and of course, Old Faithful.

We waited with eager anticipation as a crowd gathered for the scheduled eruption of the ancient trustworthy fellow.

Right on time, he did not disappoint.

The Sapphire Pool at Yellowstone National Park

Cycling our way up the path from the visitors center to The Sapphire Pool, we were awed by the Mars-like terrain around us.

Eruptions by a couple of the less-than-faithful fountains, The Grotto and Spa Geysers made the out-of-this-world
experience even more present.

Geyser at Yellowstone National ParkAdditional snaps to The National Park Service for making the whole area remarkably handicapped-friendly.

The Emerald Pool at Yellowstone National Park

From the Upper Geyser Basin, we took an easy bike ride over to the Black Sand Basin.

The basin is named for the obsidian glass sand covering parts of the ground and is best known for its colorful hot springs, The Emerald Pool and Opalescent Pool.

It is also home to The Cliff Geyser, named for the wall of geyserite along edge of Iron Creek formed by its eruptions. We had the good fortune to experience one these eruptions with forty feet of boiling water shooting skyward and then splashing with a cloud of steam into the creek.

Bubbling mud in Yellowstone National Park

One of David’s most vivid memories from his childhood visit to Yellowstone was the simmering, colorful mud in the paint pots.

Small wonder that a giant boiling mud-puddle would stick in a kid’s mind. He had to see them again.

There are several examples of muddy geothermal pots in the park but the two standouts are The Fountain Paint Pot and The Artists Paint Pots. The Fountain is just a short hop north of Old Faithful in the Lower Geyser Basin so we hit it first.

Yellowstone National Park

There are two sounds that dominate this area, the thick bubbling splattering of boiling mud and the jet engine like roar of steam blasting through fissures in the ground.

The viscosity of the mud in the paint pots varies depending on the time of year. Thin and runny with the Spring rains and melt, thicker after a hot, dry summer. By our visit in Autumn, they were a gooey goop of gaseous gunk.

Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park

The Artists Paint Pots are up the road a little way in the Norris Geyser Basin.

Home to the world’s largest geyser, Steamboat Geyser, that can spray over three hundred feet in the air on the rare occasions that it erupts.

These were not as impressive as mudpits go, but the walk along the loop trail of the area was fantastic.

Let’s just say that walking beside a nearly boiling little mountain stream is not an everyday experience for us.

A geyser in Yellowstone National Park

Everywhere we looked on our jaunts through the geyser basins something was either boiling, bubbling or steaming.

The very ground was hot in many places because Yellowstone is actually a huge volcano, known as a supervolcano, one of the biggest in the world.

This massive caldera erupts catastrophically every six to nine hundred thousand years, covering the entire continent in darkness and ash — basically killing every living thing for thousands of miles around.

It won’t be pretty when it happens again and oh, by the way, the last time was around seven hundred thousand years ago soooo…

Retro geyser warning sign at Yellowstone National Park

Retro buffalo warning flyer at Yellowstone National Park

Warning signs are posted all along the trails in an attention grabbing effort to keep tourists on the safety of the paths and boardwalks so as not to get parboiled. Don’t be like this kid!

There were several other warnings to heed involving wild animals — avoiding getting gored by a buffalo, trampled by an elk or mauled by a bear.

Somehow we managed to avoid all these pitfalls and made our way to the relative safety of Montana.

David & Veronica,

See all of our adventures in America’s Wild West!

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Finding Funds for Self-Employed Business is Easier than Ever

David and I have been self-employed most of our adult lives. One thing we learned along the way was that writing self-employed on a loan application is definitely not a plus…

David and I have been self-employed most of our adult lives. David as a musician and I ran one of the first internet design companies in Nashville, Tennessee back in the early 90s. Then ten years ago, after our kids left home, we embarked on a new occupation together as travel bloggers and authors.

Through it all we managed to raise and put three children through college, pay off two mortgages, buy and sell countless cars, and travel to over fifty countries around the world. So we know first-hand that there can be challenges that come with being your own boss. Everything from health insurance to buying equipment and supplies to finding a work space is your responsibility.

You must learn to wear many hats because you will need to serve as your own accountant, sales person, designer, business manager, travel agent, equipment technician, personal assistant, chauffeur, and chief finance officer, all while doing the job you originally set out to accomplish.

One thing we learned early on was that writing self-employed on a loan application is definitely not a plus. Early in our careers we were even told by a bank officer that we had “no visible means of support.” A simple no would have been sufficient, thank you very much.

Even after we had some success and established credit banks would routinely reject us. That meant we either had to save enough to self-fund any business expenses that came up or, more often, we would end up using high interest credit cards to loan ourselves working capital.

Neither of those are very good options, but luckily times have changed. Now there are a number of lenders that specialize in self employed loans.  These institutions understand sole proprietors and have adjusted their lending process to fit our unique circumstances.

In fact, because so many people are self-employed these days, many lenders are opening up to offer individuals who fall within this category improved access to loans. They have realized that doing so can increase their overall business and revenue.

This means the application process has become streamlined, with no more requests for a seemingly never-ending list of documents.  Pretty much all that is necessary now is your credit history and tax returns.

Not only does this make the process a whole lot easier, it also helps to speed up the acceptance, and ultimately the delivery of those oh so important funds.

Another big advantage to going with these lenders is that you will retain full control of the business you have worked so hard to build. Unlike private investors, who often request to become a silent partner, these loans are not tied to any ownership percentage of your company.

That really seems to go against the spirit that brought most of the entrepreneurs we have known into business for themselves in the first place. No one we’ve met has wanted to give up a part of their work because they have poured so much of their lives into it that it is like one of their children.

We happy to say that our days of struggling to find funding look to be behind us, but we certainly wish these sources had been available back when we were first starting out.

David & Veronica,

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.

Venturing through Ventura on California’s Gold Coast

As the virus continues wreaking havoc on travel almost everywhere, biking close to home seems to be one of the best alternatives. With that in mind we revisit this story from a few years ago about pedaling around our hometown.
Southern California is extremely bike friendly, but some places are friendlier than others….


As the virus continues wreaking havoc on travel almost everywhere, biking close to home seems to be one of the best alternatives. With that in mind we revisit this story from a few years ago about pedaling around our hometown.

Over all Southern California is extremely bike friendly, but some places are friendlier than others.

We love Los Angeles, but aren’t big fans of fighting traffic on two wheels and feeling like we might wind up like a bug on a windshield at any given moment, so the urban sprawl isn’t our first choice when it comes to pedaling along the Pacific shore.

Luckily, just a few miles up the coast there is a very different story in the quaint beach town of San Buenaventura. The name even means good luck.

Known simply as Ventura, this is what California dreamin’ is all about, we could almost hear “let the sunshine in” playing on a loop while we rode along the promenade.

This section of the Pacific Coast Bike Route, which runs some two hundred miles from San Luis Obispo to Malibu, skirts right along the waterfront. No doubt all two hundred of those miles have a lot to offer, and we love to ride, but casually, not crazily. We were glad the city’s picturesque downtown is only a few blocks off the trail.

We certainly didn’t want to miss the sights, so we began with the mission, one of the earliest settlements in the state.  Mission San Buenaventura was founded by Franciscan Father Junípero Serra in 1782 as part of Spain’s colonization of North America.

Water from the nearby Ventura River was brought by aqueduct and soon a town grew around the mission compound. After becoming part of Mexico, and then the United States, Ventura was incorporated as a city in 1866.

Set on the hill above the mission, the stoic City Hall building overlooks Main Street below. Built as the courthouse over one hundred years ago, the majestic structure now stands as a landmark, especially after the incredibly close call it experienced during the catastrophic Thomas Fire late in 2017.

Everyone wasn’t so lucky, the hall survived, perhaps from a bit of the good fortune that the city’s name invokes, and Father Serra’s statue in front was also unscathed, along with the Municipal Art Collection, featuring one hundred works by seventy artists.

We found more local art on our way back to the beachfront while passing under the Highway 101 overpass on Figueroa Street. Murals on both sides of the bridge portray life in this neighborhood, known as Tortilla Flats, before the freeway was built after World War II.

In an effort to preserve the once vibrant community’s history, Marybeth Hanrahan and Moses Mora Hanrahan captured the stories and lives of people who were displaced by the road project.

Back at the seaside, we took the opportunity to actually get out over the water on the pier. The original Ventura Pier was built in 1872 but, like most everything that spends much time in the ocean, it has had to be rebuilt several times.

Once upon a time steam ships docked here, carrying passengers and cargo up and down the coast, but roads and rails made them obsolete. The current version (fourth or fifth depending on who’s counting) is purely for pleasure, and only dates back to 1995 when its predecessor was destroyed by a storm.

Following the bike route a few miles down the coast took us to Ventura Harbor. As we mentioned before, we love to ride our bikes, but we are not the intense, passionate sort of cyclists who deck out in lycra and go on epic, marathon rides.

That meant that after meandering many (Really? Many? OK, OK, a few.) miles we were ready for some refueling. One might say our cycling style could be described as bike to table.

That is one big reason why we were so excited to hear from prAna when they offered to provide clothing for our excursion. These pants and tops are not only more than comfortable enough for riding, they are good looking enough to get off and walk into a seaside café.

Another good reason is that prAna uses sustainable materials such as hemp, organic cotton, and recycled wool. This means way less energy, pesticides, and fertilizers go into creating every outfit.

Having consumed a bit of the bounty of the sea, we were ready to see some of how it got to us. The marina is the home port for about a thousand boats, many which comprise Ventura’s commercial fishing fleet.

Every day dozens of vessels head out in hopes of bringing back the delicacies we seafood lovers crave. But we were also reminded that this is sometimes dangerous work, so we paid our respects at the Fishermen’s Memorial Arch.

Artist Michel Petersen, known as Michellino, created the tribute by making plaster casts of real fishermen and incorporating them into her ceramic monument.  We were so intrigued that we looked it up and found this informative and fun article on the making of the monument.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to be aware of where our food, and clothing for that matter, comes from.

David & Veronica,

We’d like to send out a huge thank you to prAna for providing our outfits for this cycling adventure. Veronica was wearing a Coal colored Ostara Top and Shala Pants in Cargo Green. David had on Black Furrow Pants and a Long Sleeve Hoodie in Charcoal Heather when the beach breeze called for an extra layer.

We are thrilled that they have also offered our readers 15% off prAna products when you shop online. Just use the code: TRGNS18

All prAna products are made using recycled and organic materials and are Fair Trade Certified as well as Flouride and PFOA free.