One Year Fulltiming!


Leaving Colorado 1

Leaving Colorado 2It’s true, we’ve now passed the one-year mark since we began our journey.  It has been a rich and full experience and yet time has passed very quickly.

Before I forget, I’ll answer a question that was asked just before we left:  What if we don’t like it?  Well, we love it.  Even though the first time I woke up in Island Girl knowing that I’d be living here for a while, my first thought was – What have I done? – I quickly came to love it and have never looked back.Isl Grl Redo  004

In fact, I was surprised at how easily I adjusted, particularly to the confined quarters. Hector and I decorated our new little 400 square foot home just as we had our other homes, and we really enjoy our interior space.

And we’re also really happy with our upgrades and our custom office space.   Hector is able to work on his Apple computer (the photographer gets the big computer) in our comfy chair by the desk, while I work on our laptop on our comfy couch simultaneously.halifax

Island Girl feels downright roomy with her 39’ length, and we have plenty of storage space.

And the journey has far exceeded our expectations. We’ve spent quality time with friends and family across the country, many of whom we’d not seen in waaay too long.  And other friends have come to visit.

Along the way we’ve also met lots of different people, learned new things, and just enjoyed spending quality time together.  We’ve visited a total of 14 states, including parts of the Midwest, South and Northeast.

We’ve experienced the lovely Arkansas autumn, Buffalo National River  024the fabulous gulf coast of Florida,Henderson Beach   080

the wild and subtle beauty of the Everglades,flower  024

and the wilder side of Florida in general. Ft Myers  056

We returned to the “black” waters of the Okefenokee Swamp,Swamp 011

and to the Great Smoky Mountains.Smokies  007

We visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina, OBX  055

and spent the beginning of our summer on the breathtaking coast of Maine.Penobscot  169

keys  021We traveled to extreme opposites; in Key West, Florida, we stood at the southernmost point of the U.S.sunset  027

And months later made it to the furthest northeast state of Maine.boothbay harbor  095

We spent just under 12 weeks in Canada, where we visited four provinces and learned a ton about our neighbor to the north.

There we saw the amazing tides of the Fundy Coast,New Brunswick117

the unique rock formations and the beautiful lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove,peggy 25

and the rugged beauty of Cape Breton Island.cape breton  030cape breton  011We traveled to the southern tip of Nova Scotia, brier 50along the gorgeous landscapes of Prince Edward Island,

PEI  161

and the spectacular Gaspé Peninsula,Perce  073

where we visited its Northern Gannet colony in Ile de Bonaventure.Perce  049

We saw the whales of the St. Lawrence River,st lawrence  115

and took many walks around beautiful Québec city  046

And Angel visited rivers, lakes, rocky and sandy beaches, forests, went boating on various boats and ferries, and even went whale watching.River Dog  006

In total, Island Girl traveled 8,534 miles this first year.

And Hector and I have grown even closer during this journey.  Living together in such tight quarters can bring out the best or the worst in couples and sometimes both.  We’ve been married for a very long time and are very comfortable spending lots of of our time together while traveling.  Even after all of that we had a few grumpy patches along the road, but ultimately found our groove.

And, interestingly, some of the working aspects of RVing helped us to strengthen our partnership.  I named a previous post about leaving and arriving at our destinations “The Departure Dance”.  And I really do believe that there is a choreography that you both create and “perform” on a regular basis.  But it’s important that the choreography feels right for both of you.

That extends to the day-to-day chores and responsibilities as well.  Learning to support each other in a way that takes into account each of your likes, dislikes, talents and skills can make the journey much more enjoyable.

Rv Repair SedaliaAnd, not surprising to any RVers out there, we’ve discovered that things tend to go wrong in the most inconvenient of times.

The first time was on the first week we were on the road, when our water inlet broke.  Another time, our refrigerator broke down on a Sunday, the day before we planned to cross the border into Canada.

The first Hector fixed himself, the second, we found someone who was able to fix it.  But we learned that when things go wrong (not if, but when), we should:

  • Stay calm
  • Ask for advice and/or help, there is a very helpful community out there
  • Be flexible
  • Have or make a plan B

footAt the same time, it’s been difficult to be away from most of our friends and family in Denver, and we really miss them.  But we can always visit and plan to soon.

And there have been other challenges along the way; minor medical issues and having to figure out which doctor to go to in unfamiliar places.  The same for finding veterinarians.

And, less critical challenges like not having access to cell phones, internet or TV (sometimes a good thing) in some places.

But right now we wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything else.  And we are continually learning and growing.  For me this blog has been a huge learning experience.  I’m not the most tech savvy person, and when we began this blog, we knew nothing about blogging.  But I took on the task of figuring out how to get started, and spent several frustrating weeks using the process of elimination to figure out certain aspects of the blog.

Well, we just passed the 100 post mark on the blog.  And it’s is another example of working as a team.  Hector is in charge of the photography, I write the posts.  Then we combine the two.  From organizing how to divide the subjects to creating the final product, we support each other.   Sometimes we collaborate from the beginning, other times we work independently and get together at the end. The blog is another choreography.

departures  009

When I started writing this post, Hector wrote me a little note with some numbers and fun facts from the year.  He ended the note with “i love you still”.  And I feel the same way.

And the journey continues.

~ Brenda

Taking the Waters

On our way to Hot Springs we stopped in Little Rock, Arkansas to visit the Clinton Presidential Center.  Another fascinating presidential library.  The Center contains a very detailed account of the Clinton presidency, including lots of displays, videos, logs, photos etc.  It definitely reflects President Clinton’s personality.  Little Rock looked like a pretty cute town, but we had to move on to get to our anniversary celebration.

(Clinton’s museum was like the man … noisy, cluttered, messy, brilliant ~ Hector)

The campsite next to Lake Catherine in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, was yet another gorgeous campsite.  This was our last stop in Arkansas, and we came here, like so many in the beginning of the century, to “take the waters”.  The city gets its name from the naturally thermal spring waters found here, which flow out of the ground at an average temperature of 143 °F and produce almost one million gallons of water each day.

Native Americans called this area “the Valley of the Vapors,” and it was said to have been a neutral territory where all tribes could enjoy its healing waters in peace. In 1832, President Andrew Jackson designated Hot Springs as the first federal reservation.  Hot Springs Reservation was essentially America’s first national park, predating Yellowstone National Park by 40 years.

In just a decade, the area changed from a rough frontier town to an elegant spa city centered on a row of attractive Victorian-style bathhouses, the last ones completed in 1888.  In 1921, when Congress established the National Park Service, Hot Springs Reservation became Hot Springs National Park.  Eight grand bathhouses thrived since their construction in the first three decades of the century but by the 1960s the bathing industry in the park and in the city had declined considerably.  By 1985 only one, the Buckstaff was still operating, and it still is.  In 2008, a second of the grand bathhouses, the Quapaw, reopened as the only local spa facility with communal bathing.  Others have been repurposed – one is about to open as a brewery, another is the visitor center, a third is a modern art museum.

On our 34th anniversary, Hector and I went to the Quapaw for the thermal waters – four soaking pools ranging from 98 to 104 degrees, deep tissue massages, and the steam cave – a small man built cave created during construction of the building.  It was relaxing and wonderful and highly recommended.



One evening we went to the Ohio Club, the oldest bar in Arkansas (opened in 1905), to listen to Blues.  The club is very interesting with lots of old time memorabilia and photos (Al Capone frequented this bar).  Although VERY smoky, it’s a very cool looking old timey bar with as Hector put it “a very atmospheric crowd” and pretty good music.

Ohio Club’s Interesting Bathroom Art

Angel in the driver’s seat … “where to Dad?”

Next up we have a few days to get to Florida, and plotted a path through Mississippi and Alabama.

~ Brenda

And yet Deeper into the Ozark Mountains

Driving on Beaver Dam

Another scary road on the way to our next stop, the Buffalo Point RV Campground at the Buffalo River National Park.  And another reward; a beautiful campsite, this one in the woods by a river.  It was a pretty remote location (no Wi-Fi or cell signal), and we liked that.    

Unfortunately, on the drive there, Hector broke a molar while chewing some jerky – I’m not kidding!  SO, I googled dentists in the area and found a bunch in Mountain Home, a nearby retiree town.

The next day, we visited Mountain View, another nearby town, which had been recommended at the tourist office.  A cute little town with lots of antiques, it’s also known as the Folk Music Capital of the U.S. (we missed the music, though). 

MORE Jelly

That stick is walking!!

The following day (actually Hector’s birthday) we headed to the dentist in Mountain Home.  Hector described the dentist’s officei as the “most luxurious dentist’s office he’d ever seen”.  Since he’d been squeezed in as an emergency appointment it took a little longer than we expected.  The good news was that even though he needs a crown he can wait to get the work done.  This gave him an opportunity to make an appointment in December with his favorite dentist in Miami. 

On our way back from the dentist we picked up some celebratory birthday ribs for Hector.

After that, we decided to take a down day and took our chairs down to the river located just below our campsite (which Hector christened “Lopez Beach”).  We set two chairs in a shallow part of the river and soaked our feet while Angel played in the water.  A perfect afternoon. 


We would have loved to stay here a little longer.  We really never thought about visiting Arkansas in the past.  The route through Arkansas just sort of developed as we heard about it from folks in MIssouri and the possibility of “leaf peeping” sealed the deal.  But the Ozark Mountains in northern Arkansas turned out to be beautiful and we’ve had a really rich experience there.  Not just the mountains and the fall colors, but the wonderful southern hospitality, interesting people, good music, fancy dentists:).  We hope to find many other unexpected gems during our journey. 

~ Brenda

More Ozark Fun

We wanted to explore more of the area and our timing coincided with the “biggest arts and crafts fair in Arkansas” in nearby Rogers, Arkansas.  This sounded like a fun activity even though we are not in the business of acquiring more “stuff”.   However, we did find some tie-dye t-shirts, more homemade jelly AND a really cute “Happy Campers” sign with an RV illustration that we were able to personalize with our name – “The Lopezes” which we now proudly display at each campsite.

No that is not Hector …






The fair was located in the War Eagle Mill, the only working mill in Arkansas.  The mill is powered by an eighteen-foot cypress waterwheel, very cool!  The mill store  sells many products made on site and, although we don’t really bake, we did buy a couple of the (easy to make) flour products.  I’m a sucker for natural, locally made food products.

We then traveled to nearby Bentonville, Arkansas to visit a relatively new museum, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, founded by Alice Walton, daughter of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-mart.  

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s main exhibition is “Celebrating the American Spirit”.  It’s a fine collection that conveys the evolution of American Art from the 1600’s to the present.  The museum is located amongst a number of beautiful walking trails.

Rosie the Riveter … in person!

Can you hear me now?

Great hat …






















While there, we took a quick tour of the center of Bentonville.  Sam Walton’s first store, Walton’s 5 and 10 was located in the town square and has been converted to a museum highlighting the store’s history.  And we stumbled upon a farmer’s market in the square.  Although small, this market had some great stuff, including some fabulous peach strudel, grass fed beef, free range chicken and eggs and MORE jelly.






We’re still trying to find a balance of “sightseeing” and time just spent outdoors – walking, hiking, bicycling and just sitting by the campfire.  This is important, as we want to make sure to take time to really appreciate the outdoors as well as some of the important sights in each place that we visit.  It does mean that we won’t necessarily get to see all of those “sights” as we are accustomed to during our vacations, and that’s okay.  This is not a vacation, this is a lifestyle.

~ Brenda

On the way to Bentonville we stopped briefly at the Pea Ridge National Military Park.  The first of no doubt many Civil War related places we’ll see along the way.  I’d never heard of it, and it wasn’t one of the most important battles, but a LOT of people died here.  Wonderful that our National Park Service preserves these places so simply and beautifully for us to enjoy and learn from.

Ironic how Wal-mart started as a small five and dime, and then became the retail behemoth that later killed so many small businesses including lots and lots of small town five and dimes!  Oh well, such is progress …



Love the small town charm and natural beauty of this area.  Totally get how it is such a popular vacation destination for folks from all the surrounding states.

~ Hector

Eureka Springs

Our first destination in Arkansas was Eureka Springs.  It’s been over twenty years since we’ve spent fall in the south.  We were really excited to see the autumn colors in the Ozark mountains, especially the reds, purples and oranges, which are not as prevalent in Colorado as the yellows.

Hector described the approach to Eureka Springs as a “white knuckle drive”.  All I know is I’m glad I wasn’t the one driving.  15 mile per hour turns were common and it was a scary, but spectacular road.  And we found the reds, oranges and purples.

Reaching our fabulous campsite on a peninsula on the Beaver Dam Site Lake was the reward for that tough driving.  It was a beautiful setting, further confirming our affinity for State Park campsites.

As part of an intentional effort to slow our pace, we decided to check out Eureka Springs on two short visits on two different days.  The town has tons of cute shops and many springs scattered throughout and walking up and down the hills was a lot of fun.  Many of the significant, historical springs are surrounded by elaborate gardens created by the community – so pretty.  More fall colors.

Another highlight of Eureka Springs was the Thorncrown Chapel, an exquisite non-denominational glass and wood chapel in the nearby woods, surrounded by trees.  Members of the American Institute of Architects placed Thorncrown Chapel fourth on its list of the top buildings of the twentieth century.  It’s an awesome place.

So far, the Ozark mountains did not disappoint.

~ Brenda