Renee Rastorfer

In 2017 Harry finally admitted that yes, he did want to travel for months in a very small trailer with his wife, Renee, and two dog pals, Jack and Sam. This blog recounts their trials (many) and their tribulations (even more!)
Living in: Ashfield, United States
  • Day52

    Destin Florida January 13 |Fernandina Beach, January 14

    There is no denying we are on our way home. I could stay on the road longer but Harry is ready to turn in his driving gloves. Thank goodness we stopped in at Henderson State Park in Destin, Florida (think western Florida panhandle) before we started heading north. My cousin Diane mentioned this as a great place when we were heading west, but we couldn’t get in. This park is awesome. I think it may be the nicest place to stay in Destin. The beach is very built up on both sides of the State Park so it has that Miami Beach feel. But in the State Park stretch of the beach, when you leave your camper you walk down a long sheltered path until you get to a boardwalk that meanders to the Gulf of Mexico. Also, the individual campsites have a lot of vegetation so you feel private. Some may not like the fact that you can hear road noises in the Park, but we don't mind -- and are thrilled to be near restaurants, donut shops, etc.

    This is the whitest beach I have ever seen but I haven’t been to the Caribbean. I think it’s okay to post these pictures of a white sandy beach because I believe it is colder here in Destin today than it is in Ashfield. One fly in the ointment - no dogs on the beach! What?

    Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, January 14

    We set out from Destin early on Sunday, 9:00 ish, and drove the whole day uneventfully on 10. Beautiful day. We rolled into the Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach, on Amelia Island at about 4:00 and we got a spot! This was the first time we didn’t have a reservation so we were feeling pretty lucky - this State Park is another great example of what I have said many times - check out the pictures below - you couldn’t stay in a nicer place than this on Amelia Island and it cost 28.00! We are going to go explore Fort Clinch shortly. If you come here, there's a tiny cuban breakfast/lunch place called Hola Cafe that has great media noches, Cuban coffee, empanadas, etc.

    But we are alas now in the eastern time zone, and when we hit the road tomorrow, we will be heading North.
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  • Day52

    Galveston Texas 1/10.

    We left Galveston this morning, January 11th, after spending one night at Galveston State Park. This State Park has both bay and ocean side camp sites and we went with ocean side which in this case is actually gulf side, as in the Gulf of Mexico. This Park was not as exciting to me as most of the others have been. I think when you opt for ocean side you are going to be out in the open, and steps from the ocean, so exposed. $25.00 a night though which you can not beat with a stick. We only stayed one night because we need to get serious about making our way back to the East coast and home. This was restaurant week in Galveston so we had a nice dinner (Red Fish - see dinner below) at Blvd. (That's the full name).

    We explored the old part of Galveston - The Strand - a little before heading for the ferry (free!) that connects Galveston to Port Bolivar and then Highway 87 heading east. Leaving the ferry we travelled over the smallest strip of land I’ve ever travelled over with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and Galveston Bay on the other connecting back to the Texas mainland at Gilchrist. Some of the pictures below are from along that strip with houses on top of stilts three stories high!

    We made our way to Lake Charles, Louisiana where we stopped for lunch. But before we got there we had our first super scary road event - a truck tire blew out right in front of us. Loud explosion, debris shooting out from the truck. I have to say Harry is one awesome driver. He did not freak out but drove around debris in the road and on we went. I was shaken up. This is why Harry is driving and I am writing.

    We had a lovely lunch at a Lake Charles restaurant called Luna Bar and Grill (see picture below). When we approached the restaurant we noticed they had a nice outside patio and asked if we could bring in Jack and Sam so all four were able to have a pleasant lunch and I broke my longstanding rule of not feeding dogs from the table. I’m hoping they will forget. I had shrimp scampi with gulf shrimp in a mustard sauce with sweet potato fries (do not know why they call it scampi), Harry had a hamburger with fries and we shared a crab cake. Crab cake got two enthusiastic thumbs up.

    Now we are on to Fountainbleu State Park in Louisiana where we will spend the night. This State Park is on the north banks of Lake Ponchatraine which I have always wanted to see.
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  • Day49

    We Left Las Cruces and headed to Davis Mountains State Park - deep in Western Texas. Why you might ask. One word - Marfa. We had heard of Marfa on our way to California earlier in December, and then our good friend Vince was going there - so we figured - better see it now because who knows when we’ll be this way again, etc etc. All we knew about Marfa was that it was a mecca for art installations and that “art installation” is sometimes considered a vulgar expression. We ended up going to Davis Mountains State Park because that is the closest state park to Marfa.

    I took some ordinary shots of landscape between Las Cruces and the Davis Mountains of Western Texas just trying to convey the vastness of Texas. Some are in my previous blog post and some I hope will be with this one. Beautiful light, beautiful expanses of land. Texas continues to amaze.

    We got to the State Park at a beautiful time of the day - the magic hour in movie parlance - and set up camp for the night. By the way, this State Park is beautiful and as usual, we paid about $25.00 a night to stay. The odd animal in this park is a Javalina, which looks like a boar but is called a peccary and is not in the pig family

    As we set up camp a family came by and told us about the McDonald Observatory which was just up the road, and something happening that night called a “Star Party.” The Observatory is affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin and is located at the top of one of the Davis Mountain Peaks. We went to an early twilight show, in addition to the “Star Party.” The earlier show was over my head, a grad student type talking about “plane of the ecliptic” and reporting there were actually 13 zodiac signs - the 13th one being Ophiuchus. I left the lecture and took the sunset picture below. At 7:00 we went to the Star Party and that was lovely. The Observatory takes light pollution very seriously - kids with those sneakers that make light had to get masking tape to put over their sneaks. Our lecturer was knowledgeable and accessible and we saw some great cosmic sites but the piece de resistance of the evening was going around to the various telescopes set up and seeing what was on the menu for this night. We went to two and saw nebulae and Uranus!

    The next morning we drove the twenty miles to explore Marfa. Marfa owes its fame to Donald Judd, an artist who worked from the forties to the beginning of the nineties. I thought I had read somewhere that Judd first became familiar with Marfa due to being stationed there, there used to be an Army base here, but have not been able to confirm that. He worked in many different mediums but what we went to see in Marfa were his concrete structures.

    I think Judd may have been one of the first artists to have others construct his work and he defended this practice arguing that methods should not matter as long as the results create art. He also advocated for permanent installations for his work and that of others believing that temporary exhibitions, being designed by curators for the public, “placed the art itself in the background, ultimately degrading it due to incompetency or incomprehension.” That’s a quote from Wikipedia! Judd rented his first house in Marfa, which is really truly in the middle of nowhere, in 1971 in part to have space for his art to be permanently displayed. Over the years he bought thousands of acres, some of them from the Army, and used all of them for various purposes related to his art, and of course, living space. Some of these lands are now managed by the the Chinati Foundation whose purpose is to keep art in the space in which it was created. Other artists are housed here as well, but we focused on Judd.

    A note on the town of Marfa itself: I don’t know what we expected but Marfa surprised us. It was on the whole very unprepossessing and hard to figure out. It is very underdeveloped except for some chichi hotels and stores which look crazily out of place. We did manage to find a really good place to have breakfast and I, of course, captured the food below.

    From Marfa we drove to Austin where we had mundane business things to take care of - car’s 12,000 mile checkup, etc. We did many of the same things we did in Austin on our first visit with the exception that we tried a different bbq place, The Salt Lick, located in Driftwood, Texas. You have to go to a place like that just because of the name, right? We left Austin after two nights to visit Galveston, a town that for some unclear reason I have aways wanted to see. Fortunately Harry agreed!
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  • Day45

    We left Malibu for Apache Junction, Arizona where we stayed at the Lost Dutchman State Park which abuts not only Superstition Mountain which you will see in the pictures below, but also the Tonto National Forest. This was a really great camping ground - steps away from trails that led into Superstition Mountain. Inexpensive at about $20.00, but you should be careful about checking where your campsite is because the bathrooms can be quite far -- in fact, we drove to them!

    The Park is named after a German immigrant - Jacob Waltz - who actually never really was lost, and wasn't Dutch either, but the goldmine he discovered (allegedly) was lost. How does that happen? People still look for it. The Town is called Apache Junction because it is a cross road between an Apache Trail that the Apache took through the Superstition Mountains and the junction with U. S. Route 80. Finally, the mountains are called Superstition Mountains because there are many Indian legends surrounding the mountains so Superstition Mountains became a somewhat dismissive name given by the white folk to the Mountains.

    The most challenging hike at Lost Dutchman Park is climbing to the Flat Iron peak of Superstition Mountain which takes about three hours to do one way and involves hard climbing at certain parts (bouldering?) Neither of us are really prone to accepting physical challenges, except for Harry's days of marathoning, but I took it into my head to climb to a lower part of Superstition Mountain. After much stopping and starting, we made it. I believe we were in excess of 4,500 feet there, but let's be clear, the camping area is at 4,000 feet. This State Park would be a great place to train and eventually do the more challenging Flat Iron hike. I'm pretty sure some of my friends (Tamara?) would be able to do it just right out of the box.

    We were lucky to meet up with some great friends on this segment of our trip. We had a lovely dinner with Harry's cousins, Russ and Edna, while here and that was awesome! They live 30 minutes from Apache Junction but were kind enough to join us in AJ since we had driven all day. Thanks Guys! The next night we drove 30 or so minutes to Fountain Hills to have dinner with Harry's old Peace Corps pals Kirby and Linda. That was really fun.

    After two nights in Apache Junction we set off for Las Cruces where we had another great dinner, again with Harry's friends from the Peace Corps, Linda and Dan. Great seeing you Linda and Dan! We didn't spend too much time in Las Cruces, just enough to explore the Mesilla area, which borders Las Cruces, and we added a goat, Billy, to our camping family. I'm sure you will see him in later pictures. Mesilla is an authentic part of the old West, having affiliations with Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett and Pancho Villa. I think these guys were interested in Mesilla because it served as a stage coach hub for many years. But then when the railroad came through this area, it went through neighboring Las Cruces rather than Mesilla (they wanted too much for the land), which resulted in Las Cruces becoming a booming town and Mesilla staying small and joining the National Historic Register.

    I am including some pictures of the terrain going deep into East Texas - destination Davis Mountains State Park -- where we planned on visiting Marfa, Texas!
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  • Day36

    We are creeping up to midnight as I write this from the coziness that is our camper. Harry and I spent all morning cleaning - Harry worked on the car which can get pretty gross with two dogs in it all the time and I washed clothes. We cleaned the inside of our camper and then we cleaned ourselves. I think we were getting ready for the New Year. Then we took the dogs to Leo Carillo State Park to romp. It was a drop dead beautiful day with very fresh air and people were just lying around basking in the sun on the last day of 2017. I'm not posting pictures because that seems unduly harsh for our many East coast friends - but the morning was deeply relaxing.

    We met dear friends for lunch, did some shopping for dinner, and then hustled back to our spot to ring in the New Year. And so picture us here on a bluff in a Malibu RV Park finishing our Moet & Chandon, sounds of disco from the Park's New Year's Eve party slicing through the air, the dogs curled against us in our bed, and us thinking of you and hoping that 2018 is good for all those we hold near and dear. Happy New Year!

    I am just going to add pictures that I took of my favorite park in Los Angeles, the Will Roger's State Park located in Pacific Palisades (and don't confuse it with the Will Roger's State Beach.) The Park has his house and his stables and the stable is gorgeous - I include pictures of it for my horse loving friends.
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  • Day36

    Here's something you probably don't know about us - we love Jack London Square in Oakland California! We've stayed at the Waterfront Hotel for the last four years or so around Christmas time and love it. The hotel is on the Oakland Estuary, and abuts the Port of Oakland, one of the five largest ports in the United States. There is also a ferry just steps from the Hotel that can take you to San Francisco. The Square itself is very lively with lots of restaurants and bars (none of which we go to), and a movie theater! For two people who live 40 minutes from a movie theater, this is very exciting.

    Jack London had a strong connection to Oakland and Berkeley and later moved further north to the Sonoma area. The Square has preserved the log tavern where he drank, and the Square has about 5 sculptures from different aspects of his life - including one of White Fang.

    So we had two lovely nights here, got to see more of Trianda and Gunther, and our other dear Berkeley friends, and then, Friday morning, we reunited with our dear Camper, and headed to our last port in California before heading east - Malibu!
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  • Day36

    These are shots that I took on our journey from Portland to Oakland - we stopped in Eureka, CA after a very long day of driving, and got up early the next morning to continue onto Oakland. But this coastline - it is unbelievable - we were breathless.

  • Day36

    We arrived in Portland on Thursday, December 21, in the late afternoon, under a grey lowering sky. On the following day, Friday, Harry and I took Stella, Dino and Ary to see "Cinderella" at the Northwest Children's Theater, again under lowering skies. This was the first time that all three kids were old enough to be totally focused on the performance. Stella and Ary met all of the cast members after the performance and had their programs autographed! That evening the sky gave way and we had freezing rain or snow from that moment forward. These days in Portland were family-centered and lovely and very rejuvenating. Thank you all for putting up with us and Jack and Sam - We had a great time! On Wednesday morning, December 27, we regretfully left everyone behind and headed out on the long slog back to Oakland, arriving at our favorite hotel - The Waterfront in Jack London Square - exhausted but in time for the evening sunset.Read more

  • Day29

    Up until Berkeley we had been in pretty amazing weather and we had gotten very very spoiled. But we learned that change was in the wind - freezing weather in Oregon. We had to unhitch in El Cerrito and leave our camper in front of Trianda and Gunther's house (Thanks Guys!) because the camper cannot be in freezing weather - remember the 10-hour drive from Austin to El Paso? So with mixed emotions (happy and happier) we set off for Portland, the end point of this first phase of our trip, with just the Subaru.

    Again, and I am grateful for this, we had a lovely drive to our chosen mid-way point, Ashland, Oregon. We chose Ashland solely for the fact that it divided the 10 hour drive to Portland nicely. One thing about the drive north was that neither of us had ever been on the northern parts of I-5 and it was interesting to see what the landscape was like up there - so that's what we have pictures of below - our drive from Oakland to Ashland, and then in my next post I will show you where we stayed in Ashland - which turned out to be awesome! stay tuned!
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  • Day28

    Hello out there! We had another uneventful trip (PTL) from the San Luis Obispo (Nipomo) area of California on upward to Trianda and Gunther's house in El Cerrito. We left Nipomo on Sunday, December 17 and arrived some 8 short hours later in time for a very lovely Sunday holiday dinner of chicken and squash and a beautiful grain salad prepared by T & G and my dear friend Jocelyn joined us.

    El Cerrito butts right up to the San Francisco Bay and next to the San Francisco Bay is the world's best dog park. It's acres and acres with lots of places for dogs to jump into the bay and swim if they are that kind of dog - we put in 2 miles with the dogs every morning we were there.

    The other great thing about this dog park -- its called Point Isabel Dog Park by the way -- is that right in the parking lot there is a dog grooming shop and a cafe where not only can your dog go but they are off leash! It was fun and Jack and Sam were in dogs' heaven.

    This was a lovely three-day stay where we got to catch up with Trianda and Gunther (who we hope is doing amazingly well after his surgery) and Jocelyn and Vince, and a few Christmas tasks. Our recommendations for Christmas shopping are the 4th Street Shops in Berkeley and the El Cerrito Plaza, and the food at Tacubaya is the best - do not pass up the fish tacos.

    Getting close to Christmas!
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