Zane Grey RV Village

Zane Grey RV Village

We discovered a shaded gem in the Verde Valley to park our fifth-wheel for two months this summer. It’s not a secret gem, as the park was bustling all season with short term guests as well as monthly residents who call Zane Grey RV Village home for half the year. Several of the long term residents created magical spaces with plants and rugs and laser lights that shine up into the trees at night. It makes the park truly enchanting.
Zane Grey RV Village sign

Zane Grey RV Village Camp Host

Zane Grey RV Village is sporting a new sign at its entrance to reflect new ownership just last year. The meticulous managers and camp hosts work hard daily to groom each site and to meet the campers’ needs. They sell propane, camping supplies, even quarters for the laundry room. Every Saturday they host a coffee and donut social and potlucks on special occasions. Friendly folks stop often to chat about anything. We felt at home here from day one.

Zane Grey RV Village Campsites

The Zane Grey’s location at about 3,200 feet elevation is surrounded by mountains. On most days, the temperature here was about 10 degrees cooler than in the Phoenix Valley. The greatest relief came from the afternoon rains of the monsoon season. On warmer days, it was easy to relax in the shade of giant sycamore trees that line the center of the park. Coveted shade provided by huge black walnut trees, red alder, and pines, create a serene beauty.

Sundown on the West Clear Creek Trail

Our parked RV nestled next to a row of mature mulberry trees providing us afternoon shade from about 2pm on. I found my favorite method of relaxation at Zane Grey was to watch the tall cottonwood trees rustle in the afternoon breezes. Its hypnotic effect allowed us to enjoy what we termed, “full camp mode.” In this mode we often strolled along the trail by the West Clear Creek disturbing the lizards from their perch.

Americana at Zane Grey RV Village

On our first early morning walk we came upon a half a dozen deer having breakfast in the field. Several evenings we cooked on the BBQ at the ramada and played a few games of corn hole. Full camp mode also allowed us to have long conversations with other campers creating friendships that will last long after we go home.

Moon rise on the West Clear Creek trail

Verde Valley bursts with a variety of places to explore. We toured several of the valley’s wineries and discovered wonderful varieties of wine as well as a few friendly locals who love where they live. We uncovered the nightlife of Old Town Cottonwood where motorcycle riders cruise the streets with their goggle-wearing dogs riding on the back in a basket.


Merkin Italian RestaurantMotorcycle Dog wearing goggles


Day trips to Sedona and Prescott filled our weekends along with surprising discoveries such as the little town of Cherry and Mortimer Farms. We even had time to take in a couple games at the bowling alley in Cliff Castle Casino called Shake, Rattle, and Bowl. We listened to the tales of Park Ranger Brian, a man passionate about the history of Fort Verde and its preservation. On several occasions, we traveled less than an hour to Flagstaff to visit some of our favorite pubs. Our adventures only scratched the surface of many more places to go begging us to return here again soon.

Mortimer Farms gardenMortimer Farms sunflower

The park’s name sake wrote several descriptive western novels reflecting his love for Arizona’s magnificent geography. During the 1920s, the American author spent time fishing and hunting around his family’s cabin located in a remote area on the Mogollon Rim. Outdoorsy folks continue to visit this area to hunt and fish as well as hike and ride their ATVs which makes Zane Grey RV Village the perfect base camp.


Our Surprising Discovery of Bluff, Utah

Our Surprising Discovery of Bluff, Utah

The Cottonwood RV Park sits on the edge in the small community of Bluff, Utah. This quaint 12 acre park with 22 full hook-up spaces is rustic but well cared for. The location makes it easy to get in and out of including several extra large and wide pull-through sites. We were given a choice of sites and chose space C7 because it is flanked by two large trees on each side providing us with some relief from the summer sun.

5th wheel trailer at Cottonwood RV Park in Bluff, Utah

This charming park is nestled at the bottom of a colorful sandstone bluff that runs along the San Juan River, lush with trees. The beautiful landscape of southwestern Utah entices you to go on a photo shoot with your camera. Quiet nights are dark with an amazing star show in a clear sky. In the morning when you pull up the shades you feel as if you just woke up on the ranch.

Bluffs surround the Cottonwood RV Park in Bluff, Utah

I have driven through Bluff about a dozen times in the past decade always noting its charm but never stopping. Last night we pulled into the Cottonwood RV Park and immediately settled into the peace and quiet of the small historic community. Our long drive up from Arizona was rewarded with a fabulous roast beef sandwich assembled on warm fry bread served up at the Twin Rocks Cafe. This meal was big enough to share. 

Twin Rocks Cafe and Trading Post in Bluff, Utah

Before we continued on our road trip the next morning, we drove up the street to tour the free museum of Bluff Fort. Our experience at the fort left an indelible impression of the Mormon pioneers that settled in Bluff in 1880. Their tenacity, bravery, and commitment have been well represented by the local residents who created a experience that immerses you into the past.

Fort Bluff Cabin in Bluff, Utah


Fort Bluff pioneer cabin and bed

Although our stay in Bluff was short, it enhanced our Ramble Dog experiences and has been logged as a place to visit again.


Related links:

The Cottonwood RV Park:

Bluff Fort Museum:

Bluff Community:

Twin Rocks Cafe: 913 East, Navajo Twins Drive Bluff, UT


View Ramble Dog Photos of Bluff, Utah


Tramping Around Nelson, New Zealand

Tramping Around Nelson, New Zealand

Trails in New Zealand are called tracks. Several tracks surround the Nelson area and most of them climb a hill. What amazes us the most is the vegetation along these tracks. One moment we seem to be walking through a rain forest where cicadas buzz loudly, and then around the corner we will be wandering in a grove of Monterey Pine.  During our hikes we go through several stiles and gates, through sheep pastures, and then find ourselves among a variety of deciduous trees. Silver ferns, a New Zealand symbol, grow as tall as trees and provide needed shade along the way with their broad fronds. It always surprises us when we come across historic redwood trees towering as tall as any you might see in the redwood forests of California.

Totaranui Campground backpacking the Abel Tasman
Taking a break along the Abel Tasman trail in New Zealand

Original settlers to Nelson found this area a difficult place to settle because it had very little arable land. Many of the original settlers that came from England with the New Zealand Company in the 1840s ended up leaving the Tasman Bay area because they were unable to establish a farm. Eventually, as Nelson grew, so did the public spaces. Beautiful parks dot the town like the Queen’s Garden, the Botanical Hill, and the Miyazu Japanese Garden. Each of these is a short walk from our cottage and also provides serenity as well as spectacular floral displays. We picked up a little book from the city council titled, Walk Nelson. It describes 56 walking trails around the area. Our favorite after dinner stroll is the walk along the Maitai River path.  Longer walks take us around the marina and Tahunanui Beach. We have learned to value outdoor spaces as the do Nelsonians.

Riuwaka Resurgence
Riuwaka Resurgence near Nelson, New Zealand

Just up the hill from us is the beginning of the Grampian Reserve. Nelson nestles at sea level and when tramping up to the summit of the Grampian Track, we climb a steep 1,240 feet and rest while taking in the spectacular views from the lookout. Tomorrow we will zigzag to the top for the third time, and once there, we will have several tracks to choose from for our decline. We must always consult the map wisely or we could end up in the next town of Stoke looking for a bus stop.

Stoke, New Zealand at night
Looking down on the town of Stoke from the hills of Nelson, New Zealand

An iconc walk for locals and visitors, the Centre of New Zealand, is on Botanical Hill. Its name comes from being a geological reference point when first sectioning off land. The track starts at a landmark park which is the site of the first ever rugby game played in New Zealand. Although tramping up this hill is not as long or steep as the Grampain, it does provide us with a stunning view of Nelson and the Tasman Bay. Once again we can choose from a variety of descents taking us either across the ridge through gum trees and sheep pastures, or through variegated vegetation and down to the floor of the Maitai Valley.

Collingwood Street Nelson New Zealand


So what’s up with the sheep? Livestock graze in the reserves as an environmentally friendly way of maintaining them. Sheep love to graze on a weed that can smother native plants. Managed grazing reduces fire risk as well as hugely reduces the costs to taxpayers. A few sheep have balked at us tramping through their pasture, but most of the livestock just keep on munching as we pass. We just have to watch where we step.

Sheep in New Zealand

We walk just about every day with a purpose. In two weeks we set off on a five-day backpacking trip on the Coastal Track of the Abel Tasman National Forest. It’s a 60 km track along the coast of one of the most beautiful places in the world.  We look forward to sharing our experience with you on our return.


View Ramble Dog Photos of New Zealand.



Rabbit Island

Rabbit Island


We spent the afternoon on Rabbit Island today.  A twenty-minute drive from Nelson is the a lovely park along the beach. Campsites are simple with grass pull-ins, a picnic table, and a large barbeque. We chose a site along the beach. This beach is along the Tasman Bay, named after New Zealand’s first European discoverer in 1642.  Abel Tasman was a Dutch explorer on a trading ship from Indonesia, but that is another story.

The tide was high as we played in the water with our new friends, Tressa, her daughter Emily, and parents, Nelly and Ricky Nelligna (Maryann and Roger made friends with this family on a previous trip to NZ). Compared to the Pacific Ocean water in northern California, the water here is warm. It was a midweek summer day, and the beach was not that crowded.

When it was time to light the barbeque, we first gathered firewood from the wooded area around our site (an act that is usually restricted at parks in the states).  I learned later from Peter that the park often allows people to come and collect firewood for their home fireplaces. Our hosts loaded up the large BBQ with burgers, sausages, and onions. The spread was an amazing collection of foods from both homes. We had fresh fruit like apricots, pineapple, grapes, and berries pick from the side of the road, hard-boiled eggs from the Tressa’s chickens, olives, and fixings for the delicious meats. How wonderfully delicious and oh, so very filling.

After that meal from heaven, we strolled barefoot along the beach. A strong breeze, the warm summer sun, and our feet in the ocean water made the perfect combination for comfort.  What a blissful time we had at the beach. An event we plan to repeat again while we are here.

La Petite Maison

La Petite Maison

Cottage on Collingwood Street

I had seen a picture of the purple cottage with its fuchsia doors, blackberry-colored trim, and mauve wisteria growing around the front door. We even “drove” by it on Google Earth, but nothing prepared me for the instant attraction I had when I walked in the front door. It’s a darling little house, perfectly decorated with eclectic French country elements. The home, built in the 1980s, is a replica of an 1867 cottage and was first named La Petite Maison in 1888. The simple design represents an almost forgotten glimpse of the past.    Dining room in the Collingwood Cottage

Cottage Living Room

I love the postage-size kitchen. The copper sink sits under a window and is the center of a horseshoe butcher-block countertop. There are no cabinets or drawers but utensils are stored in pitchers and vases, an eclectic collection of dishes and glassware sit stacked on shelves, and pots hang from hooks. Dried flowers hang from an herb rack in the corner over a microwave. A small front-loading washing machine as well as an even smaller refrigerator rest under the counter. Baskets hold dish towels and cleaning supplies. The gas stove is fueled by a propane tank under the counter. The kind you would usually find with a gas barbeque. There are plenty of shelves to store food, although we can’t all reach the ones at the top. All three of us may be able to fit in this kitchen at the same time, but actually preparing a meal is a one-woman show, or a one-man show when it’s John’s turn to cook.

Cottage Kitchen

Lined up along the back wall of the cottage are three French doors that open outdoors to a handkerchief-sized courtyard. It’s more of a private patio oasis. An L-shaped planter box fills up the corner containing long-stem hydrangeas, camellia, magnolia, ivy, and something with a purple flower that we don’t recognize. Various copper-colored, clay containers are scattered around on the hexagonal pavers. They grow herbs, small flowers, roses and fuchsia. We often sit around the small table with our morning coffee. Maryann enjoys sitting out there soaking up the warm afternoon sun while knitting. We all agree, it’s our favorite place to be surrounded by plants that seclude us from the world around us.

Carole Warren in backyard of the Cottage on Collingwood

Only moments after walking into the lilac cottage did I comment that I felt as if I was walking through the pages of a country living magazine.  Annette Hollis, the owner and decorator was quoted in the December 2011 New Zealand Home and Garden article saying she feels most comfortable in a shabby-chic French style. Black and white furniture surround an also black and white cowhide area rug in the living room, and dusty rose silk curtains accent the leaded-glass windows that were crafted by a previous artist-owner of the home. The sofa is an antique daybed and the only bedroom is separated with an ivory gauze curtain. Oversized vases with silk and dried flower arrangements are place throughout the cottage so on our first walk around town, I picked daisies to place in a small vase on the dining table. Every inch of this cottage is darling.

We have spent a full week in La Petite Maison already, and it truly feels as if we live the simple life. It’s a slice of heaven and oh, so very New Zealand.

San Francisco

San Francisco


Our trip to San Francisco seems like ages ago now, but it remains the highlight of our stay in Loomis, California. The weather granted us beautiful clear skies and perfect temperatures all day. What an adventure we had walking along the shore at Fisherman’s Wharf and out to the end of the Aquatic Park Pier before heading to the cable car turntable. It was the first time John and I walked on an ocean beach together.  The Cable Car resembled an amusement ride, climbing up and down the steep hills of downtown.

San Francisco Cable Car
Carole riding the Cable Car in San Francisco

John led me on a tour of his old stomping grounds from his Academy of Art days in the early 90’s. This walk through the old neighborhood ended at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, where we enjoyed cucumber sandwiches, cookies and jasmine tea. Other food delights included chocolate samples in Ghirardelli Square topped off with clam chowder in a bread bowl at Boudin’s right on the wharf…yummy!

Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco
Ghirardelli Square
Pond in the Japanese Tea Garden
Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park
Boudin Bakery in San Francisco
Boudin’s Bakery at Fisherman’s Wharf

San Francisco doesn’t seem like that big of a city until you have to cross town jam-packed on a city bus among the locals. Boy did we walk. Despite using several modes of transportation throughout the day, we also walked several miles.

San Francisco vintage trollies
Vintage Cable Cars

Just when Carole thought her feet were about to give up, we were forced to walk from Ghirardelli Square, passed Pier 39, all the way to the Ferry Building located after Pier 1. One-by-one, the electric trains would pass us, unable to stop because they were already packed like sardines cans with tourists who also had sore feet. Lucky us, we ran up the dock to our ferry, heading back to Vallejo, with only one minute to spare.

San Francisco Ferry Building
Ferry Building

We spent the last of our cash on a couple of beers and enjoyed the hour ride watching the sunset on the trip back to the East Bay. What a memorable day!


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