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Who are these gypsies?

We are a retired couple who enjoy travel.  We love meeting new people, new cultures, and exploring unique experiences.  We will share our discoveries on our blog and photo album as we wander about our wonderful world.

Check out our (almost) daily blog that follows below.

When we’re traveling we blog nearly daily.  When we’re home and not planning a trip, this blog may go quiet for weeks or months.  Check out or DailyBlog for a sense of our day to day life when we’re not travelling

Categories

Use the categories filter on the right side to select the blog entries that interest you. Alternately you can scroll back “in time” through our blog.

International Travel

We love to visit Europe, Italy in particular.  Spring 2015 we took our inaugural “Retirement Celebration”  trip to Europe.  We visited the Galapagos Islands on the National Geographic Islander with Safari Experts & Tim Lapage in the spring of 2016. In 2017 we visited Vietnam with Gate1 Travel and took two months out to travel Italy with six weeks living in Florence. 2018 has been a quiet year with trips to visit friends and family.  We have an extended motor home trip to Yellowstone NP visiting Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and some of BC. Departing in 2018 we will visit Scandinavia for two weeks to see the northern lights and the Ice Hotel. In 2019 we will visit Central Europe. We have a long “wish list”.

Our International Trips:

  1. Seabourn Cruise of the Greek Islands, Rome, Istanbul, Venice, and Florence, 2015
  2. The Galapagos, 2016
  3. Vietnam, February 2017
  4. Italy for two months, spring 2017
  5. Pacific North West, Montana, Yellowstone RV trip Fall 2018
  6. Northern Lights trip to Norway & Sweden spring  2018-2019
  7. Eastern & Central Europe trip spring 2019
  8. Around the World Cruise, 4 months 2020.
  9. Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, and the Amazon, future
  10. Alaska, future
  11. Antarctica, future
  12. Africa: Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, future
  13. Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, future

Road Trips

We purchased a 2015 Winnebago View in February of that year in Connecticut and drove it back to California in some of the coldest weather that winter.  We have since taken a number of trips in “The Beast”, as we call “him”.  We’ve taken to calling him “Li’l Beast”.  As large as our 24′ RV is, it is dwarfed by some of the 44 footer’s.

  1. return trip from Connecticut, 17 days
  2. San Diego, 1 week
  3. Napa Valley, 2 days
  4. Whidbey Island, Washington state, 2 weeks
  5. New England, 9 weeks
  6. Thanksgiving, San Diego, 2 weeks
  7. Springdale, Utah 1 week (Tesla S)
  8. Next: Nevada,Wyoming,Yellowstone NP, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon (8 weeks)

Notes from each of these trips can be found on our blog.  We are now enjoying a week in San Diego during a heat wave summer 2018.  We’ll take our RV to Washington State, Canada, Idaho, and Montana this fall.  Over thanksgiving we’ll visit Joshua Tree.

The photos that rotate through in the top banner capture memorable events in our travels.  They are not necessarily related to the day’s blog.

“Track our Travels” (on the top menu) will show you where we have been today.  You can also access our photo albums or other nooks in this website. If we’re not traveling, TrackOurTravels will not be operable.

Enjoy!

<last updated, 9/8/18>

Elko Nv on the way to Yellowstone NP

 

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Tesla Superchargers at LoveLock Nv, Who Knew?

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Ellen at Rawlins Lake, Ca

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Rawlins Lake Late Season FIshing

After some delay due to hurricane Florence, we departed on our extended trip through the North West.  Ellen had flown to South Carolina the week before to visit with Jessie and Arianna.  Ryan, Jessie’s fiance, had taken his boat and few friends on a fishing expedition to Tampa.  Jessie asked if Ellen could come visit.  “Sure,”  and she was off.  I’m relieved that Florence did no damage in the Bluffton and Hilton Head area.  We left for Yellowstone NP and points North on Wednesday.

Today is day three of our motorhome trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  We stayed overnight at Iron Horse RV Resort on the west side of Elko.  Yesterday was a 6 1/2 hour drive through most of Nevada.  We left Long Ravine at Rawlins Lake just west of Colfax Ca.  The two RV “campgrounds” are quite different.  Long Ravine is located near a lake in the trees.  It is idyllic with few campers in the off season.  Iron Horse does have trees, though it feels more like a parking lot and it is full of campers.  The bath rooms at Long Ravine are primitive, old, and do not feel clean.  At Iron Horse, the opposite is true.  Personally I’d give up the amenities for that backwoods feeling.

I was not certain we would make it to Elko yesterday.  That’s a long drive though with little to see in Nevada, it made sense to push on through.  Next time we’ll search for ghost towns.  On our way from Colfax to Elko, we stopped for gas at Lovelock.  There I backed up to access the free diesel pump and backed into a huge rock.  No damage was done to our bicycle rack or (more importantly) to Ellen’s trike.  The right rack tail light had it’s bottom edge taken off.  I’ve repaired it with clear silicon; no major damage done except to my ego perhaps.  Next time I’ll have a spotter backing up.

Campgrounds (I use that term loosely, for years I was an avid backpacker), campgrounds thus far have been reasonably priced.  Both Long Ravine and Iron Horse were around $35.  Funny, Long Ravine charges extra per pet!

The weather these past two days has been perfect. Clear bright skies over the Sierra as we drove through and into the vast valleys of Nevada with their surrounding desolate peaks.  I had a surprise this morning.  It was cool last night.  The outside temperature in the shade was 29 F! Daytime temperatures are in the mid to high 70’s.  It was not below freezing long enough to drop our tank’s water temperature to freezing, though that will be a concern going forward.

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Transporting Ellen’s New Catrike

RV Norcold Refrigerator SNAFU

 

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A while ago the refrigerator in our Winnebago view developed a problem.  We noticed while driving along that the ‘fridge’s red error light was on.  The 12V supply, which is what we typically run with, was not providing voltage; shore power was clearly unavailable; and we run with the propane valve off.  We switched manually to propane, opened the valve, and the refrigerator hummed along like nothing was wrong.

When we stopped I checked all the fuses I could find and they all seemed ok.  What’s going on?  We stored “Li’l Beast” with this problem unsolved a while ago.  In preparation for a upcoming trip, I pulled “the beast” out and checked everything for operation.  Yup, the 12V issue is still there.

So where would the Norcold’s 12v fuse be?  I searched the web for information on our Winnebago View’s wiring, on the sprinter van wiring, and on the refrigerator.  There’s so much bogus information a search dredges up: Winnies for sale, Samsung refrigerators for sale, Mercedes wiring diagrams for C models.  There’s just so much to wade through.  Then I found this:

N3104 N3150 Wiring

www.arprv.com

They sell a circuit to “defend” your motorhome refrigerator.  I’m not buying the ARP defender, but I was really pleased to find this description of the Norcold control unit and the location of the 20amp fuse.  Interesting the ARP people recommend replacing that fuse with an in-line spade fuse that can be moved outside the control unit for easy replacement.  Sounds good to me.  Now I’ll just verify that the fuse is the issue.  Since both 110VAC and the propane source work, that 20amp fuse is the most likely culprit.

I have one other issue that requires research.  The passenger side lock/unlock fails to actuate.  The driver’s side works just fine. This is most likely an issue with a wiring harness between the door lock controller and the passenger door.  I read somewhere that the control unit is located under the driver’s seat.  We’ll see.

Motorhome Tour of the North West and Yellowstone

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We’re setting up for our next motorhome trip to Yellowstone National Park and points of interest in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.  The 12v input to our RV’s refrigerator is out. It is probably a fuse on the refrigerator itself.  It will be good to have that repaired before we leave.

We have a new addition to our toys, a Catrike Dumont for Ellen.  It folds, though it is too cumbersome folded to go inside “Little Beast”.  A rack for a bicycle and a trike will arrive tomorrow.  I’ll set it up then.

 

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Dumont Catrike, Folded

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Ellen, no longer concerned about falling

I am exploring methods of covering the rack to protect the cycles from weather and stone debris.

Ellen is headed to Hilton Head to visit Jessie and Ariana tomorrow.  We’ll head out in Li’l Beast when she returns in a week’s time.

My plan is to stop along the American River near Sacramento to do some biking there (maybe).  We’ll stop for the night someplace comfortable near Reno, then buzz through Nevada.  Nevada has some remarkable scenery that just goes on and on for miles and miles. We’ll drive through and stop when we leave Nevada’s desolation.  Here’’s my plan for the trip out:

From To Est. Travel Time (hr)
1163 Earnest Street Sacramento, ca 1:05
Sacramento, ca Truckee, ca 1:40
Truckee, ca Reno, nv 0:35
Reno, nv Winnemucca, nv 2:30
Winnemucca, nv Spring Creek, nv 2:00
Spring Creek, nv Twin Falls, id 3:00
Twin Falls, id Idaho Falls, id 2:15
Idaho Falls, id West Yellowstone 1:45
West Yellowstone Yellowstone Park Village 1:45
Yellowstone Park Village Livingston, mt 1:00
Livingston, mt Garryown, mt 2:30
Garryown, mt Bozeman Mt 2:45
Bozeman Mt Butte, Mt 1:15
Butte, Mt Helena, Mt 1:00
Helena, Mt drummond, Mt 1:00
drummond, Mt missoula, Mt 0:45
missoula, Mt Cour d’Alene, Id 2:30
Cour d’Alene, Id spokane, Wa 0:45
spokane, Wa Ellensburg, Wa 2:45
Ellensburg, Wa Leavenworth, Wa 1:15
Leavenworth, Wa Poulsbo, Wa 3:00
Poulsbo, Wa Port Townsend, Wa 1:00
Port Townsend, Wa Port Angeles, Wa 1:15
Port Angeles, Wa Victoria, Bc 2:00
Victoria, Bc Anacortes,Wa 3:45
Anacortes,Wa Coupeville, Wa 0:45
Coupeville, Wa
45:50
Daily drive target (hours) 4
Days Driving 12

Pague to Montenegro

One leg of our proposed trip next spring had me puzzled.  How do we get from Prague to Belgrade efficiently.  I’ve seen flights that go through Rome and even Paris.  There is no direct connection.  The most common path is through Budapest, but we start in Budapest and would prefer visiting a “new” city.

Looking at a map of central and eastern Europe, there are two cities to the east that look interesting: Bucharest, Romania and Sofia, Bulgaria.

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Bucharest, Romania

Tarom, Romanian Airlines, has a direct flight from Prague to Bucharest! It’s a two hour flight at a reasonable price.  Air Serbia has a direct flight from Bucharest to Belgrade at a reasonable price.  What about a hop to Sofia? There are direct flight Bucharest to Sofia and Sofia to Belgrade.  A stop over in both Bucharest and Sofia is possible.

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Sofia, Bulgaria

I know nothing about either Serbian Airlines or Tarom.  Time to get informed.

From Belgrade we plan to take the train to Podgorica, Montenegro and rent a car.

Europe 2019

Historical city hall of Bamberg on the bridge across the river Regnitz, along the Castle Road

City Hall, Bamberg on the river Regnitz

The more I study our alternatives for Spring 2019, the more I am convinced we will have a fantastic time.  The only certain piece of this puzzle is our river cruise from Budapest to Prague.  I’ve been juggling what to do when before and/or after the cruise.  I know we want to visit Berlin, Croatia, and Slovenia.  Then there’s Germany’s Castle Route which is a drive through Germany’s castle region. 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Franconia, Bavaria | © Canadastock/Shutterstock

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Franconia, Bavaria

To the extent that I can, I hope to keep our costs for connections to a minimum while balancing travel time.  One train route caught my attention, the Balkan Express that runs from Belgrade, Serbia to Bar, Montenegro with the option of cutting out at Podgorica.  I’m having some difficulty finding an “easy” connection between Prague and Belgrade.  RyanAir does not service the Dalmatian Coast countries at all.  Most flights connect through another city (some as far as Paris!).  There are no direct trains, though a connection through Budapest is possible.   Next up is seeing if there are direct connections from a city closer to Prague.   RyanAir does service Bari, Italy with ferry connections to Albania, Montenegro, and Croatia, but the ferry is a 10 hour trip.

The view from the Belgrade-Bar train as it passes through Montenegro’s mountains

The train skirts the Lesendro Fortress ruins on Lake Skadar on its way to the Adriatic

Stock Images, The Balkan Express

If you search images for Montenegro, you cannot help marveling at the picturesque small island, Sveti Stefan.  The island is owned by Aman Resorts.  It is private and open to guests only. A one night stay on the island is pricey at $1000.00.  We will marvel at when we stop by on our way to Kotor Bay.  I have found lovely romantic bay side apartments right on the water near old town Kotor that are reasonably priced at $35 per night!  Granted we will not have a pair of 60 minute spa treatments included, but that’s OK.

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Orthodox Church Saint Jovan Vladimir, Bar, Montenegro

 

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Stock Image Kotor, Montenegro

Europe 2019

 

We are changing our focus from Ireland/Spain/Portugal to Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia perhaps with a jaunt to Berlin.  For some reason I find it much easier to be excited planning for the Dalmatian Coast than I did for Ireland and Spain.  I have no idea why; clearly I would like to visit Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Morocco.   It could be the passing familiarity with Croatia we have from our retirement cruise that included the Adriatic Sea that’s luring us back.

We’re now thinking of flying round trip to Budapest and making a grand loop or flying into Berlin, and flying out from Ljubljana, Slovenia.  This change of plans came about when Ron suggested we join him and Christ on a 12 day Danube River cruise from Budapest to Prague. Sure, we’d love to.  We enjoyed their company in Florence; we travel well together.

We’ll either fly into Berlin then get to Budapest for the cruise or head to Berlin after Prague.  In either case we expect to spend a few days in Budapest, Prague, and Berlin before flying to Podgorica, Montenegro.  We plan to rent a car (probably a Citroen) and drive the coast from Montenegro to Slovenia with inland excursions here and there.   After a few weeks exploring Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia; we’ll fly back from either Ljubljana or Budapest.

I considered a Gate 1 tour of Croatia and Slovenia, but I know I would rather follow my nose through these countries.  I’ll look into private tours here and there along the way.  We met fellow who manages a bespoke shoe shop in Florence who is Slovenian and “would love to show us around his country”.   That could be and adventure, assuming he was serious and has the time.  Italians are well known for their graciousness, and sometimes less follow through.  I fondly reminisce over our time in Florence.  Having a screensaver with random photo popups feeds my nostalgia.

I’ll post a single image.

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The Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

Norway & Sweden

 

Reservations for our trip to the Norwegian Fjords and Sweden are complete.  I am certain that January will be cold.  We plan to dress accordingly with no plans to freeze.  I hope the Northern Lights are aglow for us.  We loaded up on cruise ship daytime excursions and we’ll take two activities while at the Ice Hotel: a night-time Northern Lights photography outing and a visit with reindeer (thanks to Cynthia for this suggestion)

Now I can “relax” and “simply” plan an RV excursion to Yellowstone NP, Montana, Idaho, Washington State, and an excursion into Canada for this fall.  At some point ahead of our RV trip, I do need to plan out our trip to Europe in the Spring.  With the Blue Danube river cruise prepaid, we’ll shift our attention to Eastern Europe and book-end the cruise with time in Croatia, Slovenia, and perhaps Berlin.

Travel 2018-2019, Norway, Sweden, Northern Lights, and the Ice Hotel

 

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This year (2018) we installed a solar system and that put a crimp in our travel plans.  We’ve talked about an RV trip to Montana, Washington, and Victoria BC, but have no solid plans as yet.  I have to get that planned out or it may not happen.

Bergen

Bergen, Norway

Last year we took a very inexpensive trip to Vietnam through Gate 1 Travel.  To our surprise, we thoroughly enjoyed that trip.  Since then Gate1 has regularly sent teaser brochures advertising their “specials” for the week or the quarter.  Most times we glance through them thinking some would be fun to do in the future.  Last week Ellen pointed out a Northern Lights cruise offered by Gate1 in Norway.  It is unusual for Ellen to get excited about trip planning in the early stages.  Further research was in order!

Trondheim, the docks

Trondheim, Norway

The “Gate 1” cruise would be on either MS Richard With, MS Nordlys, MS Nordkapp, or MS troljiford in a standard inside cabin.  Look up any of these ships and you’ll find they are operated by Hurtigruten.  Hurtigruten is a Norwegian cruise line that operates a fleet of ferries that plies the Norwegian Fjords.  All are working ferries that make numerous stops up and down the coast.  They feature stops at a few ports of call with excursions.  A few of their cruises are billed as “Adventure”,  “Northern Lights”, or “Astronomy”.

I got all excited that I could book directly with Hurtigruten, get an outside berth, and opt for excursions at some of the destinations.  Great.  Now for the logistics: which destination city should we fly into: Bergen, Oslo or Stockholm?   What time of year is best to go? Some research showed that Stockholm is located on islands and is much more picturesque than Oslo.  Bergen is the port of departure and a direct flight there with an overnight might be preferable.  There are regular flights from Stockholm, Sweden to Bergen, Norway where we would board a Hurtigruten ship.  There is also a flight from Oakland Ca to Bergen with a stop over in Paris.  Cool.

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Northernmost Tram Ride in the World, Trondheim Norway

During my research Ellen mentioned wanting to visit the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden.  This complicates things.  We now have three legs of a potential “Northern Lights” vacation: 1. Stockholm, 2. Hurtigruten Cruise, 3. Ice Hotel.   In which order do we do this and during which month?  If we save the Ice Hotel for the last “leg”, do we fly to Bergen and do the cruise first or fly to Stockholm and spend a few days there before taking the cruise.  Do we do a round trip cruise.

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Arctic Ice Park, Kirkenes, Norway

Initially I thought we’d visit the IceHotel in November and actually booked a warm and cold room and a few excursions. Then I realized that there would be little snow on the ground for dog sled rides and a November cruise would push our return up against  our prior plans for Thanksgiving.  On Monday of this week (6/25) I called the Ice Hotel and cancelled our reservations with no penalty.  The fellow I spoke with was most gracious stating because I called within the two week window after booking there would be no problem with a full refund.

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The Northernmost Town in the World, Hammerfest, Norway

My thinking now is to book the Ice Hotel in January after our “Astronomy” cruise on Hurtigruten and either before or after spending a few days in Stockholm. Also of interest is a side trip to lulea, Sweden.  Lulea is the most northern city in Sweden.  It lies on the coast and is becoming a tech hub for the country.  We’ll most likely fly from Stockholm to Lulea and take a train from Lulea to Kiruna and the Ice Hotel the following day.

Art Suite 365, Ice Hotel Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

Today it looks like a round trip flight Oakland to Bergen, overnight Bergen, take a 12 day Norwegian Fjord cruise with a zodiac trip in the arctic for the Northern Lights. Then we’ll fly from Bergen to Stockholm and tour Stockholm for a few days before flying on to the Ice Hotel.  We’ll stay first in a warm room, then in an “Art Suite 365”, a new addition to the hotel.  It is a cold room with an attached warm bathroom and seating area. A warm room right off the Ice Room?  It seems far to civilized!

All arrangements are now booked except a hotel for an overnight in Bergen and one in Stockholm for two nights.  We’ll be in Trondheim on new years day!