Monday, October 5, 2015

St. George, Utah with Dear Friends

Said goodbye to Las Vegas after our week of training with Fantasy RV Tours, and drove to St. George, Utah, for a wonderful weekend visit with our dear friends, Sue Ann and Jim.  Trisha and Sue Ann have been besties since the second grade, growing up in Kingsport, TN, and Sue Ann was the maid of honor in our wedding.  She and Jim were high school sweethearts, and Jim and Trisha's Dad used to go waterskiing all the time together, even in the cold of winter when they had to wear wetsuits!  Trisha's Dad was a Presbyterian minister and he married them a couple years before he married us, so we all have a lot in common, and have all kept in touch ever since.  It's so wonderful to have lifelong friends with whom you've been able to share so many of the times of your lives, just great!  They were also full time RVers for 8 years, so they've been so helpful to us as we were deciding what sort of motorhome to get, and have given us so much good advice on places to go and see.  After finally coming off the road, they've settled into a wonderful life for themselves in St. George, finding a great community where the focus is very much on physical activity.  They
play pickle ball about 25 hours a day--LOL--and spend lots of time hiking in the beautiful red rocks of southern Utah.  Beyond all the outdoor stuff they love to do, they are the driving force behind the community soup kitchen through their church and are also active with the homeless shelter--such big hearted folks!  Since we started RVing, we've been able to visit them every summer and it's always such fun to be with them, not only to relive fond memories, but to keep up with what's going on currently.  They always plan such interesting things to do, so we know we're in for a treat every time!

Jim had just had a complete knee replacement 5 weeks before we got there, so he's still in the recuperation mode--not able to do his usual high level of strenuous activity, but we still did some great hiking!  When we got there we spent a wonderful afternoon just relaxing on their back patio, overlooking the mountains.  What a fantastic view they have!  The landscape in southern Utah is so unique, with the gorgeous red rocks and the many shades of beige and brown.  When we first visited this area of the country it was hard to imagine how beige and brown could be so beautiful, but the setting that seems so much like desert, but yet holds so many colors and hues, just took hold of us.  We always love being here, and the changing skies, with sunrises and sunsets from their patio are just magnificent.  Enjoyed a lovely dinner topped off with Sue Ann's scrumptious apple cake!  She's such a wonderful cook, and the source of the recipe for our favorite vegan chocolate cake--yum yum!

The next day we had breakfast at a fabulous garden restaurant in a spa setting--called the Secret Garden of Breakfast at Tiffany's--just a delightful setting under the trellis, and delicious food to boot. Later they drove us up to Kolob Mountain, where we got to see some of the lovely fall colors, with the aspens showing off their gorgeous golden leaves.  We also saw a big flock of sheep being driven across a pasture by some cowgirls or cowboys, couldn't tell for sure since we were so far away.  Brought back memories of when we were in New Mexico near Taos a couple of years ago and encountered a trio of cowgirls driving 1500 sheep along the highway, on their way to higher ground for the summer.  Here, even though we were quite far away, we could see the sheepdogs working to keep the strays in line, such an intriguing thing to watch.

After we got back we went for an early supper at a wonderful organic, natural food cafe, with wonderful quinoa and kale salads--still working on Jim to entice him to become a fan of kale, but he's still a holdout--LOL!  One of these days, though, Jim, gonna slip it in on you while you're not looking and you'll see how wonderful it is!!  Anyway, it's a delightful little place, relatively new, and Jim had earlier helped the owner work on a business plan through an organization that helps mentor new businesses, so it's great to see a place like this doing so well.

Then it was off to Saturday evening worship at their church, Grace Episcopal.  When they first arrived in St. George and started going to this church, it was a very small congregation, but now, largely through their leadership, the church has grown by leaps and bounds.  They have also taken the Community Soup Kitchen to new levels, bringing in other churches and volunteers to broaden its support base, especially working with the LDS church to make it a real ecumenical ministry.  They serve hot lunches all week, right in the back of the sanctuary, but are now working on housing the ministry in a separate facility, since it has grown so much.  Anyway, the Saturday evening service is very casual, but very inspirational, and we really enjoyed meeting a lot of their friends there.

The next day it was off to do some hiking!  They took us to a place that's close to the border of Zion National Park and, though we started out on the edge of a residential neighborhood, soon we were far away from signs of civilization and into the lovely red rocks!  Hiking with Jim and Sue Ann is not your typical hiking--no confining yourself to set trails for these two!  For years when they were full time RVers they led hikes in and around Zion, mapping out new routes all the time.  Jim just pulls out his GPS and off he goes, and today was no exception.  They led us up through a wash and before you know it we were into Zion.  It was a beautiful hike, and, though not as long as we typically hike with them, Jim was so happy that he was able to do two and a half miles with his new knee!  Yeah!!!

That afternoon we went to the health and fitness center in their neighborhood where Trisha and Sue Ann did some water aerobics--Trisha showed her the routine she'll be using when she's leading the class at the RV park in Sarasota when we return in January--and I got to spend some quality time on the rowing machine!  Had a lovely dinner out on the patio of the restaurant in their development, and ended the last night with them watching the blood moon from the back patio of their home.  Just a wonderful visit with these dear friends!

Leaving Las Vegas
Love the way they have decorated the sound barriers along the city's highways
Passing by downtown Vegas one last time

These gorgeous mountains!

Though St. George is only a couple hours from Las Vegas, you go through a little bit of Arizona on the way

The different colors in these layers just never cease to fascinate us!
And now into Utah,
And the beautiful red rocks!

Looking out the kitchen window of their house

Out on their back patio

Breakfast at Tiffany's!  Look at all these luscious dishes!

This picture of Sue Ann and Jim is from an article in a local magazine about their work with the Community Soup Kitchen.

Driving up to Kolob Mountain

Beautiful colors!

We stopped to walk up this little rise and saw this old boiler of some sort, likely used in earlier mining efforts

So great to see these fall colors!

And the beautiful aspens!

Some sheep finding a place to take a drink!

And a larger flock

These two somehow had gotten outside the fence--hope they find their way back!
Saw these up on a ridge as we drove along

Just lovely!!


And here's the big flock, being herded up across this ridge

Sue Ann, always with a smile on her face!

Coming down the mountain

Starting out on our hike on Sunday morning

I'm just fascinated by the swirl patterns on these rock formations--formed over millions of years from sand dunes that were swept into the area where oceans once were

And I love these holes in the rocks, and different ledges and layers!

Just thinking of how long it took for the forces of nature--water, wind--to shape these formations is mind boggling!

Trisha's favorite plant--cactus!

And she found a jawbone with some teeth!

The view of the LDS Temple from our RV park

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