Category Archives: Donna’s Posts

Overnighting near Omaha

Donna here, standing in for Mike. He woke up feeling pretty good this morning, but the good feeling didn’t last. He’s resting again.

We’ve been parked at Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa these last two nights. It’s a nice, clean casino and hotel with several restaurants. The casino itself is housed on a real riverboat.

Ameristar Casino, Council Bluffs, Iowa

As it turns out, there’s a bike path that goes right by here. Lucky me! On the first day, I walked the path about 2 miles to the pedestrian bridge that goes over the Missouri into Omaha. The border between Iowa and Nebraska is in the middle of the river.

Then yesterday, I went out for bike ride that took me north along the river on the Iowa side to the Lewis & Clark Monument – quite a climb but worth it for the views.

View from Lewis & Clark Monument

There’s a fence at the monument lookout that is covered with padlocks. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that some had been engraved with names. I posted a photo to Facebook and my friends told me that people do this all over the world as a symbol of their love. Apparently there’s a movie called Love Locks. Have you seen it?

Love locks on the fence

I enjoyed the downhill ride from the monument to the pedestrian bridge and crossed over into Nebraska for some Omaha sightseeing.

My destination was Old Market, Omaha’s most historic area. I had to get off my bike when I arrived as the streets are cobblestone, making for bumpy ride. I locked up my bike and walked around for about 45 minutes, exploring the many shops and restaurants.

Old Market Passageway

Then I wandered into Upstream Brewing for a Boom! Chocolaka milk stout. If I had wanted, I could have had it served over vanilla ice cream as a milk stout float. Yes, really.

Boom! Chocolaka milk stout

I snapped this photo on the way back over the bridge from Omaha to Council Bluffs.

My bike in two states at the same time!

We’re going to try to snag a site today at Walnut Creek Recreation Area in Papillion which is just southwest of Omaha. I chose this park for its easy access to miles of bike paths and to Prairie Lane Park where the locals play pickleball. It’s a first-come, first-serve park so hopefully, we’ll get lucky since it’s Monday.

Speaking of cycling, I had a blast doing the ride across Iowa. I was afraid I hadn’t trained enough. I mean, how do you train to ride 60 miles a day except to ride 60 miles a day? I got in about 650 miles over the 7 weeks leading up to the ride. It was enough. My legs were tired by the end of every day but felt just fine each morning.

Call me crazy, but I just signed up to ride a century (100 miles) in Longmont, CO on August 26. It’s a benefit ride to raise money for scholarships that go to high-achieving students from low-income families. If you feel so inclined to support me (I committed to raising $250 by August 13), click here. Thank you!

When we get to Walnut Creek, Mike will unload the Spyder and I’ll go get some groceries. I have not been grocery shopping in 18 days and our cupboards are bare!





Tour de Hives

Donna had an interesting day yesterday. This is her story – and she’s sticking to it. 

I pledged to ride 250 miles on my bike this month in the Great Cycle Challenge to raise money for children’s cancer research. So I was excited to learn that Pedalpalooza was in full swing here in Portland. This is an annual event with three weeks of bike fun and nearly 300 rides on the calendar. Portland is a very bikeable city with well-marked bike lanes, routes and trails, making bicycles a popular mode of personal transport.

On Friday, I checked the Pedalpalooza calendar and lo and behold discovered that there were five Naked Rides on the schedule for Saturday. These rides were all part of The World Naked Bike Ride, a worldwide event that highlights the vulnerability of cyclists on our streets and highways and dependence on pollution-based transport. Dress code is “bare as you dare.”

Anyway, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I opted instead for the Tour de Hives ride on Sunday, a guided tour of area backyard apiaries and fundraiser for Portland Urban Beekeepers. (Bee suits not required, but nakedness not encouraged.) The ride started about 8-9 miles south of our temporary home at the Columbia River RV Park. It turned out to be an excellent ride with a wide bike lane all the way down Vancouver Avenue through shady residential neighborhoods to the Eastside Esplanade.

Esplanade bridge

Eastbank Esplanade bridge

I was one of many runners, walkers and cyclists enjoying a beautiful, sunny day on the Willamette River. I was surprised to see a houseboat on the river. I think I’d like to live on a houseboat someday – just not this one.

River life

River life

Had I wished, I could have crossed over the Hawthorne Bridge to downtown Portland. Instead I headed east to Bee Thinking for the start of the Tour de Hives ride. Bee Thinking sells bee hives, beekeeping gear and “all things bees.” You may have seen their line of products featured on Shark Tank last year.

About 10 riders showed up for the tour and we got started about 1:30. Our first stop was a tree just around the corner in the beautiful Ladd Circle neighborhood. There are a number of old maple and elm trees here, many with cavities large enough to accommodate a colony of feral honey bees. One of the property owners came out to see what we were looking at – he had no idea that the tree just 50 yards from his front door was the home of neighbors he’d never met!

We rode a short distance to the first of several homes with backyard bee hives. It was interesting to discover that urban beekeepers tend to keep hens and roosters as well.


Urban farmyard

All of the lovely backyards we visited were planted with flowers that attract honey bees including California poppies, borage and milkweed.

One beekeeper's garden

One beekeeper’s garden

Beekeepers encourage planting flowers

Beekeepers encourage planting bee flowers

The bees were busy doing their thing.

Top bar hive

Top bar hive

One beekeeper explained how worker bees, which make up 98% of the colony, take on various roles over the course of their lifetimes. These roles include cleaning house, feeding the brood, caring for the queen, comb building, ventilation (they use their wings to circulate air),  honey conversion and packing, guarding the colony and collecting nectar.

Apartments available

Apartments available

Though bees were flying around the hives, we were able to walk freely through the backyards without getting stung. Honey bees don’t sting unless they have to because once they do, they die. That said, bees defending their hives might sting. In the presence of bees, you should not wave your hands or attempt to brush them off – this is a sure way to trigger a stinging reflex. Instead, you should step calmly away from the hive or the swarm. Most of the time, the bees will fly away without incident. Oh, and I learned that you should never blow on a honey bee as CO2 can trigger aggressive behavior. Good to know.

Almost forgot to mention: one beekeeper we met is also an author. She wrote a novel with beekeeping references called Juliet’s Nurse.

Written by a beekeeper

Written by a beekeeper

Our final stop was Zenger Farm, an urban farm practicing organic and sustainable agriculture. Zenger is the home of the bee hives for Portland Urban Beekeepers.

Some interesting facts that impact us all:

Honey bees and other pollinating insects provide humankind with more than just honey; 35% of all the foods we eat rely on pollination, which is how plants reproduce and survive. In the past few years, there has been a worldwide increase in the deaths of entire colonies of bees, which is reason for concern. Pesticide use, mites, and disease are all contributing factors. 

After three and a half hours of the bee tour, I was done in. It was hot and I still had a 14-mile ride home. I texted Mike to give him my ETA. I had to fight a strong headwind on the way back. Mike had pizza waiting for me. I needed that. Total distance: 31.3 miles. I’m not sure if I’ll hit my goal of 250 miles for the month, but I’m giving it my best shot!


*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!



Wahweap Bay

Donna went hiking yesterday morning up on the mesa overlooking Lone Rock Beach. Here are a few photos she took.

Sand dune and rock

Sand dune and rock

Wahweap Bay

Wahweap Bay

Sand dunes and Lone Rock

Sand dunes and Lone Rock

On her way back, she stopped and met our neighbors. Rob and Bettea are from the Netherlands. They are on a five and half month tour of the USA in their 4-wheel drive Toyota camper.

Rob and Betty

Rob and Betty

After lunch, we took the scooter down US89 to the Wahweap Bay Resort and Marina. This is more of the Glen Canyon Recreational Area.  We were able to enter with our annual pass, otherwise we would have had to pay a daily use fee of $15.

They have an RV park there with full hook-ups. Full hook-up sites are expensive though – $48/night. We checked out the RV sites. Very nice, but our $10/night site is working for us.

They also have a marina dedicated for houseboat rentals. Cars can be parked for up to 14 days while you cruise the 180-mile length of Lake Powell in a houseboat. Sounds like a good time!

View from road to Wahweap

View from road to Wahweap

Another view from the road to Wahweap

Another view from the road to Wahweap

Last night, while Donna was hoop dancing, I managed to get one last shot of Lone Rock. As the sun was setting, the rock was lit perfectly.

Sunset on Lone Rock

Sunset on Lone Rock

This morning, we’re packing up and moving on. We’ll head back to Page and stock up at Walmart. Then we’ll take BIA 98 over to  US160 east. At US19, we’ll head north to Bluff, Utah.

Back to Business

Donna here. I’m really happy to be in San Diego. It took eight weeks to get here and I enjoyed every mile of the way. What a beautiful country we live in! And San Diego is one of America’s most beautiful cities. I’m really enjoying the sunshine. And I’m loving that we both have family and friends here.

Last night, we joined my youngest sister, Sheila Connor, and her friend, Dr. Jeff Sandler, for an amazing dinner. Sheila whipped up Grilled Salmon with Orzo, Feta and Red Wine Vinaigrette. I have the recipe if you want it. For an appetizer, she made heirloom tomatoes with buratta which is a super creamy mozzarella. Yum.

Sheila is also a good cook!

My sister loves cooking, too!

Our plan is to stay in San Diego for a few months, which feels odd because we’ve been on the go ever since we left Michigan and that’s become the norm. So far, this full-time RVing thing has felt like a very long vacation. But now it’s time for me to get back to work.

I have a book manuscript due to my publisher by the end of the month. I worked on it some while we were on the road, but didn’t make much progress. Fortunately, I had a pretty good head start on it before heading out.

The working title of my book is The One-Minute Organizer’s Guide to a Cleaner, Happier Home. Scheduled for publication in October 2014, it will include my favorite organizing and cleaning tips, which brings me to the gist of this post. I want to share a few tips for RVers.

We purchased a Dyson DC44 Animal rechargeable vacuum cleaner for our motorhome and I highly recommend it. It’s portable, easy to store and runs up to 20 minutes on a charge, so we can use it even when we don’t have an electrical hook-up. And it works great, especially for cleaning in tight spaces like around the toilet and under the driver and passenger seats. It’s not cheap though. We paid $300 for it on sale, but the regular price is more like $350.

Vinegar is my go-to cleaner. To clean the toilet, let out the water and then pour in 2 cups of vinegar and let it sit for at least five minutes. Then brush and flush. To clean countertops, mix equal parts of water and vinegar in a spray bottle, then spray and wipe with a microfiber cloth or paper towel. To remove stains from Corian countertops and sinks, just rub with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponge. It really does work like magic!

To clean a spill on your carpet, blot the excess with a clean, white towel. Then pour a little hydrogen peroxide on it and continue blotting until the stain is gone (or almost gone). Cover the area with a clean, white cloth and step on it to blot up as much moisture as you can. Then set something heavy like a skillet on top of the cloth and leave it overnight. I spilled red wine on our upholstered dinette bench the other night and following these directions, I got it out with no trouble at all.

One of the benefits of living in a small space is that it’s so much quicker to clean. I can clean my entire home now in less than 15 minutes. The trick to keeping it clean is to clean often. I wipe countertops daily, clean spills immediately, and vacuum three times a week. And I am always amazed how much dirt that little vacuum cleaner picks up! If you have pets, you’ll want to vacuum more often.

I promised in an earlier post that I would show you how I re-purposed clear plastic shoe boxes as storage containers. In the front of our coach, on each side, we have long, narrow, horizontal bins. I used three shoeboxes to organize and store various household items such as batteries, envelopes and stamps, tape, scissors, stapler, etc.

Front overhead storage

Front overhead storage

I used more shoeboxes in the bathroom in our medicine cabinet (the one on the center shelf in the photo below is labeled “First Aid”) and under the sink.

Center bathroom cabinet

Center bathroom cabinet

In the bedroom, I store all of my undergarments and socks in two fabric bins I bought at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I use a Clever Container hanging jewelry organizer to store all of my earrings, pendants, and bracelets. And my necklaces are hung on the inside of the closet wall using 3M Command Adhesive hooks. I originally hung them on the back side of a cabinet door, but they banged around as we drove down the road – and every time I opened the door – so I moved them.

Jewelery storage

Jewelry storage (hanging organizer is pulled out so you can see it better)

Fabric storage bins

Fabric storage bins for undergarments

Also in the closet, we each have a tiered pants hanger. There is a bar that holds each pair in place that lifts up for easy removal and hanging. I like it. I also like the slim, grippy hangers I bought to replace all the plastic hangers I was using before. They do a great job of keeping clothes in place. And they don’t take up as much space.

Tiered pants hanger

Tiered pants hanger

What are some of your favorite cleaning and organizing tips for your RV or motorhome (or small house or apartment)?




East Glacier – Bees and Bears

Yesterday I wrote my blog post first thing. This is my usual habit. Donna went for a walk while I wrote. It was overcast and windy, the temperature was around 50 degrees.

Our plan was to take the scooter up highway 89 to Babb. There’s another entrance to Glacier National Park at Babb. We were told that we were more likely to see wildlife there than on the Going – to – the – Sun – Road.

Donna packed a picnic lunch for us. While she was doing that, it began to rain. After her walk, she talked to one of the attendants at the campground and was told it was likely to rain in the afternoon. It seemed like this morning we only had passing showers with intermittent raindrops.

We decided to stay the course and go to Babb. As we rode up the highway, it started to rain a little harder. The raindrops were stinging my hands as we rode along at 60mph.

The entrance to the park is unmarked at Babb. The village of Babb isn’t much. A small store, cafe and gas station. I wasn’t sure where we were supposed to turn off of the highway. We saw a tour bus enter the highway from  a road on the left. We made the turn onto that road.

Donna was certain we were on the right road. Me, well, not so much. The only sign I saw said “Road Ends in 12 Miles.” The road was rough and uneven. It had ruts in places that made riding the scooter difficult. The uneven surface and ruts pulled at the front end. I had to be alert and make corrections to our course.

About four miles in, there was a sign on the side of the road that said we were entering Glacier National Park. It still seemed a little weird. The road quality was still poor and I didn’t see any viewpoints or other park signs. After two more miles, we came to the park toll gate.

Lower Lake St Mary

Scooter with picnic bag at Lower Lake St Mary

From here the road quality improved and it looked like a national park. There were trailhead signs, turnouts for viewing and a picnic area. It stopped raining as we rode to the end of the road. At the end, there was a large parking lot with a gift shop and restaurant.

We turned back and rode to a picnic area we saw on the way in. Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we sat down for lunch, it started to rain. It didn’t rain too hard though, so we sat at a table under a tree and enjoyed our egg salad wraps.

On the way back, we stopped at a few scenic areas and pulled in to the Many Glacier Hotel. It’s on the east side of Swiftcurrent Lake. It looks very stately. We were wet and cold at this point, otherwise we might have stopped in to take a look around.

(photo taken from internet)

The only encounter with wildlife in the park happened on the way out. A wasp flew inside my helmet. I made a panic stop on the side of the road and flicked it away from the mouth guard of my helmet. A few minutes later, as we were riding along, I realized I hadn’t ejected the wasp when he crawled across my eyeglasses. I opened my face shield and he flew away. I was relieved to say the least.

Donna, on the other hand had her encounter with wildlife while on her morning walk. I’ll let her tell the tale.

Yesterday morning , I decided to go for a hike. I told Mike I would probably be back in about 45 minutes.

I headed down through the campground toward the lake. I came to a sign that said “Lake Trail” and followed it a short distance to a small beach dotted with kayaks. I recalled reading that the campground rented kayaks and I wanted to run up to the office and get a paddle because the lake was like glass. I could just picture myself out there paddling through the morning mist.

We already had plans though to scooter up to Babb and then to Glacier National Park through the Many Glacier entrance. It might be nicer to go kayaking in the afternoon anyway when it warmed up. So I continued on my walk.

I hiked the long way around the park to the road that leads to the highway. I decided to walk to Route 89 and back, which is about one mile in each direction.  The road crosses the St. Mary River – a  shallow, rocky creek. I wondered if there might be a path along the river, so I crossed to the other side of the road for a look. No path. But it was a pretty river.

As I turned around, I saw a black bear come out of the woods about 50 feet in front of me. I stood still. He never even glanced in my direction. I watched him cross the road that I had just crossed and head into the bushes. I bet he had watched me walk down the road. Figuring I was safe, I continued on.

Just then, a pickup truck was coming down the road behind me and I pointed in the direction of the bear. The truck slowed and then stopped as the driver and passenger looked in the direction in which I had pointed. After a few minutes, they continued on and slowed again as they approached me.

“Did you see the bear?” I asked.  They did.

Laughing, the driver asked, “Do you want a ride?”

“Nah,” I said. “I’ll be fine.”

Prior to crossing to the river, I did notice what I thought was fairly fresh bear scat on the side of the road.  And I had heard a rustling in the trees across the road, but just figured it was some birds. As Mike would say, “Doh!”

Anyway, I walked to the highway and back with no further incident, though you can be sure I was keeping eyes and ears directed on the woods on either side of the road. This IS bear country after all.

When I told the desk clerk at the KOA Campground that I saw a bear, she said, “Yeah, you should carry bear spray if you’re going to go for a walk.” Hello? Now you tell me!

“So how does that work?” I asked. “Is it like mace?”

“Yes,” she replied. “But you have to spray it in the bear’s face. You can’t be running and spray it behind you.”

Hopefully, I’ll never need to do that.

After we returned to the coach Donna took a hot shower to warm up. It stopped raining during the ride back and began to clear up. Within half an hour of our return, the skies were clear and sunny!

I’ve needed to wash the coach for a while. I haven’t cleaned the exterior, except for removing bugs from the front cap and windshield, since we were in Minnesota. I got the ladder and cleaning supplies and hooked up a hose. Many campgrounds forbid washing RVs. The rules and regulations for this KOA made no mention of it. I took that mean it was okay and spent the afternoon washing the coach and trailer.

I put everything away about two and half hours later. At 5pm, Donna and I rented two kayaks. We paddled across lower St. Mary Lake near the river feeding it from the upper lake. It was windy. The wind made it hard to hold a steady course. After half an hour, we’d had all the fun we could stand and paddled back in.

Donna fixed an outstanding meal for dinner. We had Beef Ragu over spaghetti squash with Stuffed Zucchini. It was very tasty. She picked up the zucchini for free from a basket in a liquor store. The store clerk had a garden that supplied more than she could use.

Today we’ll pack up and head west. Our route will take us back down highway 89. We’ll cut over to Highway 2, then make our way to Route 200. This route will avoid most of the high passes into Idaho. I have no idea where we’ll stop for the night. I hope we can find a nice boondocking spot in the forest.

Beef Ragu with Stuffed Zucchini

Beef Ragu with Stuffed Zucchini

Organizing and Eating Well

Donna here. Long before we left our “sticks-and-bricks” home, I ponied up to the challenge of organizing our motorhome for full-time living. We have about 300 square feet of living space in our coach – about the size of large hotel room or small hotel suite.

My first priority as chief cook was to organize our food storage. We have a pull-out pantry which is great, except that the low sides of the pantry baskets only allowed room to store a single layer of cans, leaving a lot of wasted space. So I got the idea to place two plastic magazine racks in one of the baskets which tripled the canned storage space on that “shelf.” In the organizing profession, we call that “re-purposing.” I was planning to get rid of the magazine racks, but instead put them to good use.

Pull out pantry

Pull-out pantry

On the floor under the pantry, I have a small Clever Container folding cube where I store things like extra bottles of sparkling water. I also claimed the two cupboards over the kitchen table for food storage, plus a small storage area under the clock and the back half of a drawer under one of the kitchen bench seats where I store sugar, flour and other baking supplies (because I rarely use those items). I store spices on a two-tiered carousel in our one large kitchen cabinet that has two doors for access.

Overhead cabinet

Overhead cabinet

Cabinet below clock

Cabinet below clock

Kitchen cabinet

Kitchen cabinet

Visitors are often surprised to see that we have a fairly good size refrigerator/freezer. Still, it’s smaller than the average home refrigerator/freezer and lacks the compartmentalized storage of a larger unit. On my next trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond, I may buy one or two Fridge Bins to help organize the shelves. I did buy a pack of reusable GreenBags. I’m glad I did because I love fresh veggies, fruit and herbs and our refrigerator has just two tiny crispers. I had a few peaches go bad (I prefer not to refrigerate them) and wish I had thought to put them in a GreenBag in the fruit basket (yes, you can use them for countertop storage also).

When we first hit the road, I had the freezer packed with meat. Now I’m using more of the freezer space for frozen fruits and vegetables. I prefer fresh, but frozen fruits and veggies are still highly nutritious and sometimes, our only option.

At this point in our journey, shopping for groceries is catch-as-catch-can. If I have an opportunity to shop, I do because I don’t know when I’ll have an opportunity again. If we overnight at a Walmart Supercenter, then I can wheel a cart of groceries back to the motorhome. But if we’re camped at an RV park, then we’re limited to what we can carry on our scooter. Where we are now in Salem, SD, the nearest decent grocery store is 30 miles away in Madison. I’m looking forward to being within easy walking, cycling or scooting distance of Trader Joe’s when we get to San Diego!

I love grocery shopping actually; it’s my preferred form of retail therapy. I do have to be more careful now though not to overbuy, because we have limited storage space. This morning, I planned our meals for the upcoming week which includes a couple of nights of dry camping where we probably won’t be able to run the generator. That means we can’t reheat leftovers in the microwave. And because we don’t level the coach or put the slides out, it’s a bit cramped for cooking. So one night, I’ll thaw some shrimp for shrimp cocktail and serve it with a salad plus leftover chilled cucumber soup that I made this morning for tonight’s dinner.  (If you want the recipe, leave a message below with your email address and I will be happy to send it to you. I scanned all of my favorite recipes.)

For meal planning purposes – and to reduce spoilage – I made a list of what’s in the freezer as well as a list of the fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs in the refrigerator and posted these lists on the inside of the pantry door. I also keep a running grocery list in a Post-It Pocket that I mounted to the inside of a kitchen cabinet door. So when I have a chance to shop, I know exactly what I need and can get in and out of the store pretty fast and we can be on our way.

In the process of moving, I decided to let go of things like my Pampered Chef mandoline (which I never got the hang of using), but was not leaving without my Keurig Platinum Brewing System, Vitamix, Cuisinart Food Processor, and crockpot – all of which I use frequently. I used the Vitamix today to make the chilled cucumber soup. Tomorrow, I’ll make hummus in my Cuisinart. And on Friday this week (after sightseeing at Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument) I plan to try out a new crockpot recipe for Balsamic Chicken.

For dinner tonight, we’re having Blackened Tilapia with Cumin and Cayenne and a generous helping of sauteed spinach. We’ll start with the cucumber soup and end with a fresh peach for dessert. I haven’t been exercising as much as I usually do and snacking more than I should, so I’ve been fasting on leek soup (from the French Women Don’t Get Fat cookbook) since yesterday morning and I’m really looking forward to dinner!

Kitchen counter and refrigerator

Stay tuned for more small-space organizing tips. I can’t wait to show you how I re-purposed a set of clear plastic shoe boxes!