I’d Love your input!  Please share tested recipes, ideas, hints and hacks for lunches at camp that have worked for you (and include photos if you’d like).  These blogs are ongoing and will be updated regularly.




Lunchtime on a road trip will find you in 1 of 2 places.  That’s right.  You’re either at camp, or…somewhere else.  If you are spending lunchtime at camp, you are probably taking it easy for the day and just relaxing.  You could also be just getting there and getting set up, or having a quick bite before heading off for the evening.  Whatever your agenda is, here are some great ideas for ‘lunch beyond the sandwich’ that are still easy but without the fuss – and the fire.

Okay!  To get started with ideas for lunches at camp, we’ll look at 7 different meal options


1). Camping Mac & Cheese, Celery and Carrot Sticks & Drink

2). 3 Bean Salad, Hard Boiled Eggs, Crackers, Fruit & Drink

3). Street Tacos, Fruit & Drink

4). Beef, Bacon & Bean Casserole, Marinated Cucumbers , Fruit & Drink

5). Sloppy Joes, Bagged Cabbage Salad (from grocery store), Fruit & Drink

6). Asian Skillet Stir Fry with Rice, Fruit & Drink

7). Chicken Pot Pie, Fruit & Drink

piles of fruit options for a camping trip
2-cup drink holder on a stick for camping

Fruit Options are endless!  Use fresh, canned, frozen, or visit the local Farmer’s Market!

Drinks are usually simple at lunch.  We always have our water bottles, but sometimes switch it up with tea or soda.


                                 So sit back, relax, or head out… but enjoy your day!  

                                                                 And don’t forget to send in your recipes HERE!

To read more about Health on the road, click HERE

To get to the Homepage for Road Trips and Tiny Trailers, click HERE


Baffled by the confusion concerning Little Guy and nuCamp trailers?

Here’s the scoop:

Once upon a time there was a camping enthusiast from North Canton, Ohio.  The love of his life was the little teardrop style camper from the 1930’s & 1940’s.


The idea to recreate, update and make affordable the teardrop camper trailer was presented to a couple brothers in Elkhart, Indiana in 2002.  There they began prototyping a 4×8 Retro trailer in their garage.

showroom-nc-300x225As the demand for these little gems increased. The construction moved out of the garage and into a manufacturing facility in Sugarcreek, OH.  Little Guy Trailers handled the designs, distribution and sales. Pleasant Valley Teardrop Trailers did the manufacturing.  Over the next couple years, production gradually and consistently grew from 2-3 trailers a week to a 3-4 a day.

Twenty or so trailers were produced that first year, but now thousands are  out on road trips with new travel enthusiasts! Teardrop Camper Trailers are the most identifiable, economical and modern trailers on the road today!

In 2016, as the contract between the companies ended.  As a result, the two teardrop entities went their separate ways. Pleasant Valley became nuCamp and is now headquartered in Sugarcreek, OH, while Little Guy continues its operation from Uniontown, OH.  Both companies have dealerships around the country.

(If you speak with reps from either company, you will get different stories of why there was a split, so we’ll just go with the reason being that it was the best decision for everyone.)

With the separation came the division of the different models. If you are looking at a used trailer that was manufactured before the fall of 2016, it will be a Little Guy Brand.  After the fall of 2016, the models fell into independent hands.

Little Guy Trailers now has:

nuCamp RV now has:

It gets more complicated…

The nuCamp T@G also comes with the Boondock Edge & Boondock lite off-road packages, as well as the Sofital  luxury package.

Also, models such as: the Silver Shadow, the Q-Max, the 5-Wide, the Tailgater, the 6-Wide, the Rascal, the Joey, and the Rough Rider (and probably a few others) are no longer being manufactured, even though they show up on the used market.

…and now it gets even worse

Both Little Guy and nuCamp will allow you to customize, modify or even design your own trailer!

Remember, too that most all major RV companies have their version of a mini or teardrop style model.   No wonder the sales lots are complicated!

Whether you choose nuCamp or Little Guy, know that they are both excellent in quality.cute_rv_vintage_teardrop_camper_travel_trailer_postcard-ra4f2474b8b484c698e79d332c217a3f6_vgbaq_8byvr_540.jpg The features you find vary from forced air and radiant heat, air-conditioning, window shades and screens, stoves, microwaves, on-demand hot water, refrigerators, entertainment systems, large beds, and lots of storage. The only way to really appreciate all they have to offer is to get down to your local dealership and take a look.  You’ll find new and used models at most RV sales centers, so stop in and see what the fuss is all about!


For a look at the new Little Guy models, click HERE.

For an look at the new nuCamp models, click HERE.


Welcome Teardrop Travel Lovers, Roadtrippers and Empty-Nesters……and Thanks for checking out my blog!  I am Janelle Brian. My husband Eddie and I are travel addicts from Colorado, and this is how we went from empty-nesters to teardrop lovers.13067392 (1)

We Cruise, we backpack Europe, and we especially enjoy seeing this big, diverse and wonderful country in our tiny trailer.

Eventually we decided that it was time to start sharing our experiences, mishaps and some of the travel hints and hacks we’ve learned out on the road.

Let me start with our personal story (I’ll try and keep it short!):

Dismantleing the camper (1)Like many Teardrop Travel Lovers & Roadtrippers, we took our time trying to decide which mode of travel would be best for our budget andcamper1 circumstances.  After seeing 5 kids fly the coop , Eddie and I are now ‘empty-nesters’ and have let go of the 5th wheel RV. We also sadly dismantled my dad’s homemade pop-up trailer.  It’s time now to be on our own!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe started with our experimental adventure to the rainforests of Washington State.  We packed up all the tent camping gear we had, and headed out in a rented Ford Fusion.  I doOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA carry some guilt for getting a used car salesman all excited when we went looking for a Fusion.  I can only imagine what he feared he had on his hands when we folded down the back seats and crawled into the trunk!  We had to explain that we wanted to see how sleeping in the car would work. We were considering some sort of a ‘bed-on-wheels’ to camp in.

Our time in the rainforest was perfect (and dry!). Sleeping in our rental car convinced us that we could get by with something really minimal.  We thought about converting a van, building something ourselves or maybe just putting a bed in our truck……and then we saw it.  A teardrop 20160313_150730trailer by Little Guy.  It had a queen sized bed and ample storage. There was also the ability to stand outside at a little ‘open-up’ kitchen in the rear.  It was truly ‘Love at First Sight’!  After some time and some serious searching to find a good used one (we decided against a new one), we finally found our first ‘Little Guy’ teardrop trailer.  It came complete with the “I Go Where I’m Towed To” sticker on the back.  I knew I’d never want another trailer.

We put over 25,000 miles on that first little trailer. It saw as much of the U.S. and Canada as our time and money would allow.  We got our ‘Set Up / Tear Down’ routine down to a science and I slept like a baby in our little nest.  At least, that is, until we found ourselves in Salem, MA.

Day 8 SALEM PORTSMOUTH(105)We were staying at the Winter Island RV Park in Salem.  After a full day in town we were strollingDay 8 SALEM FT MCCLARY(60) around camp enjoying the sights, and seeing who we could meet.  Eddie loves to meet new people and he  could visit with Day 9 SALEM (40)a stump.  So while I plan the next day’s events, he strolls.  On this occasion however, we were strolling together.  As I droned on about the Salem Witch Trials, Eddie stopped dead in his tracks, flung out his arm against my chest as if to protect me from sailing through some imaginary windshield and exclaimed, “WHAT IS THAT?!!!”

We found ourselves trespassing on another camper’s spot checking out his lovely T@B trailer. Although it was only 3’ longer than ours, one could stand up in it.  For the next 2 days Eddie literally stalked this camp sight waiting for the owner – who eventually did show up.  Not only did he not get out his shotgun, but Eddie’s new friend was excited to meet another teardrop owner! He came over to our site for a visit and to check out our rig.  After the grand tour of this gentleman’s T@B trailer, Eddie decided that we must indeed have one.  I was not so sure.P1030360

After we got home, Eddie began the search for our next teardrop trailer.  After several months of dedicated searching, LOTS of conversation (ok…probably nagging) and several thousand photos from a sales rep at the T@B factory in Ohio, Donny (the most patient rep ever) shipped us our gently-used-but-deeply-discounted T@B right to our door! (Read more about different types of trailers HERE).

Unloading was indeed a neighborhood event, and Eddie and I lived in our new trailer for the next 2 days.  I cried when the new owner of our first Little Guy drove off with our Logo: Eddie & Janelle with T@Bbaby in tow, but then I stepped back into our new home-away-from-home and I once again knew I’d never want another trailer!

Although this blog is primarily geared toward those on Road Trips with a tiny trailer, there will be tidbits for all travel enthusiasts.  We’ll tackle everything from choosing a trailer, to how to pack, how to plan a trip, what to eat, where to stay, how to preserve your memories, etc…etc… and just how to make the most of your travel.

I’ll also share info as we cruise and backpack across the World.

Stay with us as we share our tips, tricks, and experiences!

For the Homepage of this Website, Click HERE, & remember to subscribe and leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!



And then there was one……..


P1110229 (2)


Key Verse: Hebrews 5:11-14

Key Passage: The Book of I John

I love going back to Italy.  Having lived there, it’s always a ‘homecoming’ of sorts when I get the privilege of returning – especially to the northern areas.

This time, my husband Eddie and I were headed into Italy’s Lake District to see its largest lake, Lago di Garda.  This time I had chosen the little town of Malcesine (just a stone’s throw from where I had learned to windsurf) as our stopping point.  This lovely, small town sports a castle, and a bird’s-eye view of the lake from Mt Baldo, which is serviced by its funicular (a mountainside cable car).  Away from the ‘touristy’ area of the lake, I thought it would be a great place to spend a warm, sunny afternoon & evening.

Clearly, so did everyone else.

We had boarded the boat-taxi from the port town of Peschiera early, and had hoped to get in front of the tourist crowds.  It had been a good plan, but we stepped off our boat into a sea of people, and the dock was too crowded to even navigate across.

I was crushed.

My dream of having a quiet, peaceful afternoon sipping something yummy on the shore while the sun glistened on the waves, was absolutely dashed.  So much for smelling the lemon groves in the air, and watching the brilliantly colored sailboats glide by.Lake Garda from Castle window

The crowd pushed in on every side as we made our way to the castle.  As we waited in line to pay the ridiculous fee to see the castle ruins (from the inside), I took a breath and tried to adjust my attitude.  Eddie was in a much better mood, and he encouraged me to enjoy taking some pictures as he savored the breathtaking views of the lake.  I probably would have done better if I hadn’t had to wait in more lines for the best viewing and photo taking spots…

I then decided I would be happier above the crowd on the top of Mt Baldo, so off to the funicular that would take us there, we went.

We dove back into the mobs of tourists that were cramming the streets.  What caught my attention – and did absolutely nothing for my worsening mood – was the number of people yelling, complaining, and more concerned with their ‘selfies’ than what they could gain from their vacation.  Sadly, you don’t need to know a person’s language to know when they are not happy campers.

For a brief moment, I decided that these ‘tourists’ were frivolous and shallow, without a purpose for being here, and well, just needed to go home.

I took a little boastful pride in the fact that at least I was keeping my thoughts and my current disposition to myself.  I was also feeling a tad cocky about the fact that I like to travel intentionally, and consider myself a ‘traveler’ and not a ‘tourist’ (Eddie disagrees).  I do my research.  I’m prepared with all kinds of information of what I’m seeing and doing.  Rick Steves (the famed ‘Europe Through the Backdoor’ guy) would be proud.  I know what I want to get out of an experience and why I’m there, but mostly I look to know my God better.  I love getting to know Him more intimately through history, art, architecture, and on this day… the beauty of nature.

After getting my feet stepped on, and bumped into repeatedly, we finally arrived at the back of the line for the cable car to Mt. Baldo.  It was then that I noticed the sign that flashed a 3 hour wait time to board the funicular.  I’m not normally prone to open displays of temper, but everything inside of me wanted to jump up onto the nearest boulder and command every tourist there to “GET OUT OF MY CITY!”.

Not fully understanding how I didn’t see myself as a tourist, Eddie in his calm but firm way, took note of the steam exploding from my reddening ears and carried me by the arm back through the crowd, back out onto the dock, and onto the next boat headed north.

Sunset at Lake Garda

I was informed that we were going to enjoy the lake from the topside of the boat as we sailed the entire perimeter of the lake.  We made a couple of short but strategic ice cream stops, and it turned out to be a wonderful rest of the day.

After being given a chance to compose myself, I did have to explore the reason for such intense emotion.  I also took a deep breath and let God remind me that I’m in the wrong when I give myself over to a bad attitude.    I’m also out of line to label other tourists as ‘shallow’, and remember that we did, after all, take a selfie or two.  I felt humbled and repentant.

But I was also encouraged to remember that, although it’s contrary to His will to be judgmental,  it is right to have purpose with what I’m doing in my life and travels, and it is especially right to be ‘growing deeper’ in my relationship to Him.

Which brings us to our key passage for this week:

“11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”  Hebrew 5:11-14

To be growing deeper in our faith should be a daily prayer – an every moment striving. As we grow, we come to realize that God’s teaching and training takes place in the smallest details of everyday life, as well as the big events He doesn’t let us miss.

For this next week, take a look at the areas of your relationship with Christ that need some growing.  They will probably be related to the areas of the rest of your life that need a little of the same.


So, just what does it mean to be growing deeper with Him?  Let’s take a look at this little book of 1 John.  In 5 short chapters, John describes what ‘going deeper’ really means for the Christian.  He is simple and direct.

He also emphasizes that depth in Christ centers around:

 Right doctrine (truth); Right living (obedience); and Right relationships (love).

So…let’s get going.  Let’s grow a little deeper!



I John 4:3 sums it up: “but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.

In the age of ’whatever works for you’, God makes clear that there is only one way, one path that leads to eternity and relationship with God. That way is knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and God.  Jesus, the God-in-flesh who was without sin, died to rescue us from sin, was resurrected, and has ascended back to the Father.  Nothing else works.  Nothing else can restore what was lost through sin.  Nothing else is truth.

Are there any ‘truths’ that have you ensnared?  Time to weed them out!


            I John 5:11-12 gives us confidence: And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Now that’s a truth to hang your hat on!  There is so much un-truth that the world would have you believe.  But hang on to this one simple truth and it will be a foundational stone on which the rest of your life can be built.  A measuring stick that any other ‘truth’ can be set up against.  The divining rod that exposes lies.  Crawl up into the arms of Jesus where this truth not only sets you free, but gives you ultimately security!

It’s so easy to get caught up with trying to do ‘right’ things and avoid ‘wrong things’, that sometimes it’s easy to forget that the Savior just wants to be together with you and make you feel safe.


I John 1:1-4 ends with: “and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.  And these things we write to you that your joy may be full...

So how’s the JOY in your life?  Not the happiness, mind you, that comes and goes with your circumstances, but the joy that comes despite your circumstances.  Focusing on deeper intimacy with Christ brings joy to all parts of your life, because growing more intimate with Him means hearing His voice better.  When you begin to discern the voice of God, He will begin to work out His will for your life.  He will guide your choices and decisions, and joy comes from that intimacy.

This week, examine how you define joy.  Make sure it is the same definition as God’s.


I John 1:6-2:2 tells us that even though we are not without sin, He is.  And He gives His forgiveness freely.

Yikes.  We live in a world that doesn’t like to hear the word sin.  We make ‘mistakes’ and have ‘issues’.  We give sin labels and claim that it’s not our fault.  But here in our passage we find that we deceive ourselves when we refuse to call a sin a sin.  Depth in Christ requires living in Truth and right doctrine.  Fortunately, God forgives willingly.  His only requirements are for us to be in agreement with Him that our sin is indeed…a sin, and then asking for forgiveness.

Take a look this week at areas you might be unwilling to admit are wrong.  Let God ‘deep clean’ you from the inside out.  Submit to some internal ‘scrubbing’, and your intimacy with God will flourish.




In 1 John 1:5-7; 2:3-6; 3:7-10, we learn that we were made to live substantive lives in Jesus Christ.

The dictionary defines substantive as: ‘having a firm basis in reality and therefore important, meaningful, or considerable.  Having substance.’

This verse tells us that God intends our lives to be significant.  And not just our spiritual lives, but our whole lives.  From our home life and family relationships, to our careers and friends, hobbies, and even with our travels we are meant to live with substance.  With meaning and value.  When Christ is what everything in our lives revolves around, then everything has a purpose and life makes sense.  It’s an ongoing process, this thing of giving everything over to God, but the journey is a great one!


I John 2:28 gives us the ability to live with great hope and anticipation: And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before “Him at His coming”

That’s Right!  He’s coming again to gather up His own to be with Him forever!  What can be better than that?  There is no better way to live than with hope, security and anticipation in knowing that what we have now is not all there is.  How beautiful to live in the confidence that God has everything in His hands.  For your life, for the future of the world, for all that is, He is in control.

Are there things that have left you afraid? Insecure? Hopeless?  Time to leave them at the cross and cling to the truth that Christ offers you.


I John 3: 7-10 makes us understand that there is no room for compromise.  “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”

Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the idea that sin is fun, and therefore hard to completely let go of.  While it’s true that we will fall, it’s important to receive forgiveness and get right back up and onto the right road.  Giving in to sin and continuing in its evil path is not in the nature of someone who is on an intimate journey with Christ.  It’s a lie straight from the pit of hell, that sin is fun and the narrow road with Christ is hard and unfulfilling.   The pull comes from our sin nature, but the more we resist it, the more the spirit-filled life will feel abundant and full.  Remember, too, that the world judges God by what they see in us.  So let’s live lives that are meaningful, abundant and authentic.

Are there some things that are not in line with God’s first best for you?  Something that you think God might ‘understand’ about?  Pray about the things God is asking you to surrender.



I John 2:15-17 gives us a glimpse into the Father’s heart:  “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

God knows that we battle our sin nature, and He is forgiving.  What we don’t think about, though, is how much He is in love with us.  Just as we would be hurt if our spouse battled the desire for someone else, so does our Savior hurt when our desire is not first for Him.  Sometimes, just letting this truth sink in makes all the difference.  Let’s not be like the church of Laodicea who had lost their ‘first love’.  Let’s value and nurture our relationship with the Lord.  Let’s work at keeping Him in first position.  Let Him help you learn how to truly love Him.  He is the author of Love, after all…


I John 3:18-20 makes clear that when we have a right relationship with Him, it’ll show in our relationships with others:  “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence”.

God is all about relationships.  Love relationships.  God-honoring connections with other people – especially with those also in the body of Christ.  I love the way the Message version of the Scriptures translates this passage:

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves”

This translation makes me understand that it’s not only God’s will that we love others, it’s actually in my best interest!  It can make me more emotionally healthy.  Yes, God really does know what’s best for us, and He uses relationships to carry out His work and His will.

He also uses love and relationships to further the Gospel, and reveal Himself to others.  In verses 16-17 of this 3rd chapter of I John, the Message translation says,

This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.”

Wow.  That’s pretty intense.  Can we really make God’s love disappear?  For someone else’s perception, I guess the answer is, “yes”.

I guess it’s time to understand that going ‘deep’ with God means going deep with other people.  This also means that the reverse is true.  When we truly love others, our intimacy with God grows.

I hope that your week will be full and rich as you seek to ‘Grow Deeper’ in Christ.


“Travel is more than seeing the sights.  It is a change that goes on, deep and five-prayers-god-always-answers-mojjgvas-c39603704b0bd283a73c61cc05982808permanent, in the ideas of living.”  –Miriam Beard

“There is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God.  When you truly know God, you have energy to serve Him, boldness to share Him, and contentment in Him.” –J.I. Packer

For comments, go HERE.  I’d love to hear from you!!

For the Homepage of this Website, visit HERE


If you’ve read any of my other Photography blogs, you’ll know that I have been a committed point-and-shoot camera disciple.

Well… life has changed.

Don’t get me wrong…I will still sing the praises of traveling with a point-and-shoot.  In fact, I will always have my trusty little Lumix in my pocket for those times when I just don’t want to miss something by fiddling with lenses and settings.

But recently my husband Eddie, bought me a Sony A7II, stuffed it in my hand, loaded meKEY PHOTO CAMERAS AND LENSES up with a few lenses and accessories in a photo backpack and told me we were going to Hawaii.

I must admit that, now that I’ve ‘taken the plunge’ I might be a little cash poor, but I’m also enjoyment rich!

So this blog is for any of you who, like me, are delving into the world of DSLR with fear, trepidation and almost no knowledge.  Here you will find a few tips with choosing your camera, and a few of the basic pieces of information that you’ll need to get started.  So now let’s get going!


a). My best two pieces of advice are:

  1.     Get yourself a go-to ‘Photo Person’ (PP). This could be a friend, relative, neighbor etc…, but its probably better to choose someone who works for a reputable camera store.  Whoever you choose, just make sure that really know what they are talking about.  Our ‘go-to’ PP is Carl from Mike’s Camera.  He helps us with ourPHOTO BASICS GUY WITH CAMERA understanding, and keeps us updated with new products.  It would be hard for me to list all the things Carl does for us, so I’ll tell you what he doesn’t do.  Carl doesn’t up-sell, or try and talk us into what we really don’t need or can’t afford.  He is also SO patient with all our questions and info, and he never gets irritated (at least not in a way that shows) when he sees us coming in the door.  So get yourself a Carl…or a Carla.  And try not to wear them out…
  2.    Know that the world is full of answers to all your questions, and resources like YouTube videos, online classes, actual classes and books are in full abundance.  Know, too, that most of these resources are not ‘fact-checked’.  When I go looking for information, I like to see the same advice from at least 3-5 sources.  Then I ask Carl.  And yes. You should ‘fact-check’ this blog as well!

b). There are SO many options for your first camera!  Just know that the quality of lenses you are working with probably make more difference in your final photos than the actual camera body does. There are, however, a couple of main things about camera bodies you should know at least a little about:

  1. Mirrors or no Mirrors:  A DSLR camera has a Digital Single Lens with a Reflex mirror to bend the light path to the optical viewfinder for framing.  With a Mirrorless camera, there is no reflex mirror. Instead, the imaging sensor is exposed to light directly.  There are pluses and minuses to both types of cameras, so ask your PP for more info.  To get you started, here are a few key comparisons to take note of:

                        DSLR cameras: are bigger and heavier, and so are their lenses.  The view finder is slightly more accurate, and there are more lenses and accessories available.  There is a little more ‘real feel’ of using a more traditional DSLR, and you can use your knowledge of settings a little more effectively.


                        Mirrorless cameras: are smaller, lighter weight and a little more versatile.  The viewfinder is electronic and displays directly from the sensor. You’ll find more info & tools shown on the screen to help you with your settings, and the lenses and accessories are smaller and lighter weight.  Mirrorless cameras are a tad more ‘beginner friendly’, and these are better for video or fast moving subjects.   Mirrorless seems to be the wave of the future as most manufacturers are making their version of a mirrorless option.


  1. Full Frame or Crop Sensor:  To understand the difference, think of cropping a photo on your computer with your version’s photo program.  Maybe you don’t want your neighbor waving at the camera in the family shot that was taken in your backyard. You select the part of the image that you want to keep, (cropping out your photo-bomber) and it brings the image in closer.  This end result is basically what a crop sensor in your camera does. There are different sizes of sensors, so the smaller the sensor, the more zoom effect you get.  It can however, potentially lessen the quality of your photo.  Here are a few of the differences:

                                Full Frame Cameras:  These cameras have more and larger pixels, so more light is let into the photo, potentially resulting in better quality.  This also means that there is more information for every photo you take, and more ability to alter the image later  with your photo program.  The sensor is 35mm, the same size as a film negative. (35mm has been accepted as the standard since 1909.  35mm film gave the best quality for the best price, and was the closest to what the naked eye actually saw.)  Full frame cameras perform better in low light and usually have less ‘noise’ (those discolored and distorted grainy spots on your photo).  Not all lenses work with a full frame camera, so be careful when purchasing lenses.

                                Crop Sensor Cameras:  These cameras have smaller and fewer pixels.  The smaller the sensor, the smaller you need to keep the final image for it to look good.  Cellphone cameras have the smallest sensors, so although they look great on your phone, you’ll never want to blow any of these shots up to frame as a wall hanging.  Using any sensor smaller than that 35mm area of the full frame, means that your sensor is simulating changing the focal length of the lens by cropping out the edges of the photo in your frame and bringing the subject closer.  A crop sensor can be great for sports photography and wildlife where you want more telephoto ability without having to change the lens.  These cameras are usually less expensive.

I hope this information has been helpful for you, and hopefully you won’t be completely overwhelmed in your first conversation with a camera salesman!


I also hope that you will take a little time and assess what your goals and needs are, as well as your budget.  There is really no ‘wrong’ choice…only a ‘wrong for you’ one.

I’d love to hear from you when you’ve purchased your camera!  You can let me know what you decided on and why HERE.  Once your new investment is in hand, it’ll be time to move on to this next section…so let’s dive in!



A photo is called an exposure.  An exposure is comprised of 3 primary settings: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO.  All these settings control light and have to work in balance with each other.


a).  ISO Setting:

ISO is basically the camera’s sensitivity to light.  The higher quality the camera, the more sensitive it can become.  The more sensitive it is, the more ‘noise’ you will have. (once again, ‘Noise‘ is a term used to describe visual distortion. It looks like grainy splotches of discoloration).  The most important things to know are:


  1. Levels of sensitivity are measured in stops: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, & up.
  2. Each stop doubles the camera’s sensitivity.
  3. The higher the quality of camera, the more stops there will be.
  4. The higher the stop number, the more light is let in.
  5. The more light that is let in, the more noise there will be.
  6. Make it easy on yourself: Use the lowest ISO stop possible to get the shot you desire.


b). Aperture Setting:



Aperture controls the opening of the iris in the lens, or depth-of-field, and determines how much of your picture is in focus.  The camera sees in 3-D, so it sees the depth of your shot. The wider you open the iris, the more of your shot will be in focus (for greater the depth of field).  The smaller you open the iris, the less of your shot will be in focus (for shallower the depth of field).  This is how you get those lovely, soft blurry backgrounds.  The most important things to know are:


  1.  The opening of the iris is measured in F-stops: F32, F22, F16, F11, F8, F5.6, F4, F2.8 F2, F1.4,F1.8BASIC APERTURE ILLUSTRATION AS PHOTO KEY
  2. The larger the F-stop number the smaller the opening, and greater the depth of field. The smaller the F-stop number, the larger the opening and the shallower the depth of field.
  3. The larger depth of field means more of the photo is in focus -The shallower the depth of field, the more parts of the photo are blurry.
  4. The larger the depth of field, the more light is allowed in.
  5. Max F-Stop settings available will depend on the lens you’re using.
  6. Make sure that what you want in focus is inside the focal brackets in the view finder.
  7. Make it easy on yourself: The More you want in focus the Bigger the number.  The Less you want in focus, the Smaller the number.


c). Shutter Speed Setting:


 Shutter Speed controls how fast the shutters in the camera open & close.  The faster the speed, the less light is let in, making the photo in sharper focus.  The slower the shutter speed, the more light is let in creating motion blurr.  This is how you get that soft, ‘cotton candy’ look to waterfalls and water in motion.  The most important things to know are:

  1. The speed of the shutter is measured in stops or fractions of 1 second: 1/2; 1/4; 1/8; 1/15; 1/30; 1/60; 1/125; 1/250; 1/500; 1/1000…
  2. Each stop halves the amount of each second of time.BASIC SHUTTER SPEED ILLUSTRATION
  3. Minimum and Maximum settings available will depend on the lens you’re using.
  4. Motion blurr begins between 1/50 and 1/125.
  5. Whatever focal length your lens is set to, the photo’s max clarity will probably be around 1/that focal length number – unless your focal length is under 50mm. Motion blurr begins around 1/50.  At this point, you’ll probably need a tripod.
  6. Make it easy on yourself: The Faster the stop, the Clearer the photo will be.  The Slower the stop, the more Blurry the photo becomes.



All three sides of the Exposure Triangle has its own unique part of the final exposure, and all 3 affect light. If you alter one setting, the other 2 need to be altered as well.  The most important things to know are:

A. Aperture and Shutter Speed are the two settings you’ll probably work with the most.

B. After setting your Aperture and Shutter Speed to where you want them, check and make sure the ISO is as low as possible.

C. All 3 settings will show on your screen or in your viewfinder.

D. If you’re working in Manual mode, and you alter either your Aperture or Shutter Speed, then adjust the other the same number of stops. Then make sure the ISO is as low as possible.


There are also 3 other settings or tools that can have a big effect on your photo:

E. There is a Composition Dial (+/- 0.0) to take note of, and you’ll find this on your screen or in your viewfinder.  This number will tell you if your shot is over or under exposed.  If the number is red, adjust the dial to where it reads 0.0.

WHITE BALANCE PHOTO ILLUSTRATION AS KEY BASICF. The other setting you’ll want to look at is the White Balance.  It can make a huge difference with your exposure.  You might need to check your camera’s manual to see where its located.  Start by looking in your menu.  Look for these symbols:

Then check this out:











G. The last tool to take note of (at least for now) is the Histogram. A histogram is a graph representing the pixels exposed in your image.  The left side of the graph represents the blacks or shadows, the right side represents the highlights or bright areas and the middle section is mid-tones.  How high the peaks reach represent the number of pixels in that particular tone.  Each tone is from 0-255 (o=black and 255=white) is one pixel wide on the graph.  You will also find this graph, too on your screen.  It looks like this:


You’ll learn more how to use this tool as you learn, but to start with just know that you want the spikes to be in the center of the graph, and be as smooth as possible .



Although it is definitely a goal to become proficient in full manual mode, if you start with a partially manual mode you can learn a lot about how to make your settings all work together.  The most important things to know are:

A.  MODES are found on a dial on top of your camera.  Dials vary with the brandBASIC CAMERA MODE DIAL PHOTO name, but they all do basically the same thing.  The camera’s manual will help you learn all the settings.

B. Start in AUTO mode in any given situation, and pay attention to the settings your camera selects. This is a good ‘jumping off point’ for you to figure out where to start with choosing your settings in a particular lighting situation.  Then jump to a partially manual mode.

C. The best 2 modes to start with are A & S.  You’ll probably use A most of the time.

D. Select A if the subject of your exposure is still and/or you want to control the background or foreground around your subject.

E. Select S if the subject of your exposure is in motion, or the point of the shot features something or someone in motion.

F. The A on the mode dial sets the camera to allow you the Aperture setting you want, and then self-adjusts the Shutter Speed and ISO.

G. The S on the mode dial sets the camera to allow you to choose the Shutter Speed you want and then self-adjusts the Aperture and ISO.

H. Pay attention to the settings that your camera chooses. Understanding this ratio or combination of settings will help you when you move on to full (M) manual mode.



When you look at the end of your lens, you’ll see  3 main pieces of information.  The Focal Length, the Lens Ratio (or Aperture opening range) and the Lens Ring Size of the filter that will fit the lens.

A. FOCAL LENGTH: Represented by ‘mm’.  It is the distance between where all FOCAL LENGTH ILLUSTRATION the light comes together inside the lens, and the sensor of the camera.  This matters because the focal length will tell you how much of the scene will be captured and how large a subject will appear.  The lower the number, the wider the field of view and the lower the magnification.  The higher the number, the narrower the field of view, and the greater the magnification.  The size of the sensor in your camera can affect these numbers.

B. MAX APERTURE or LENS RATIO: The range of numbers (often decimals) that tell you how small to how wide your aperture setting can go.  A single number means that there is only 1 setting that your aperture will do. This is a Prime lens.APERTURE EXPOSURE BASICS

C. LENS RING SIZE: A single number with a symbol (varies with the brand) that tell you the size you’ll need if you want to attach filters.



Most likely your camera came with a lens (just an FYI…your ‘kit’ lens is probably the bottom of the line. I just traded in the 28-70 lens that came with my set and upgraded it).  But as you develop your skills, you’ll want to add lenses to your collection that you’ll need for specific scenarios.  Here’s a basic idea of lens categories:

A. WIDE ANGLE LENSES: Typically, these lenses run between 24mm-35mm. (If the mm is lower than 24, then you’ll get distortion and that fun ‘fish-eye’ effect.).  It’s good to have a wide-angle lens for landscapes and tall / large architecture.

B. STANDARD LENSES: The 35mm-70mm lenses are very versatile and are the best ‘go-to’s for a beginner.  These lenses will produce photos that are the closest to what our eye see.  The lens that came with your camera is probably a 28-70 or similar.

C. TELEPHOTO LENSES: These usually come in the 70mm-400mm range. The lower number ranges are good for portraits and the larger numbers are for capturing things far away.  (If you have one lens from each of these first 3 categories, you’ll be able to do most anything as you get started).

D. EXTREME TELEPHOTO LENSES: With a focal length of more than 400mm, these are what you would choose for wildlife, birds, and where you need extreme magnification.

E. MACRO LENSES: Also called Micro lenses, these are for photographing tiny things or doing extreme close ups. They range in focal length from 40mm-around 110mm.  Be careful, though. A true Macro lens has a 1:1 ratio.  This means that the actual object you’re photographing is the same size as the image that shows up on the sensor.

F. PRIME LENSES: Prime means that the focal length is fixed and there is no adjustment. These lenses are usually better quality than zoom lenses, and although they are less versatile, they are cheaper.

G. ZOOM LENSES: With a Zoom, you have a more versatile lens with focal length options. They are like having several prime lenses in one.  Quality is diminished some due to their complexity, and the cost is much higher.

*One thing to note is that the Tamron manufacturer of lenses usually can offer you a lens for your camera that is less expensive and of equal or better quality.

   Lenses (and their prices!) can be overwhelming. Just stick to the basics and go slowww..


A. All the Lenses you will purchase come with hoods. You’ll learn when and when not to use it as you become a more experienced photographer.  As a beginner, though, just use it all the time.

B. If you are interested in macro photography,  (capturing bug’s eyes, flower petals, and water droplets etc…) check out Extension Tubes.  For a wayyyy smaller price tag than a macro lens, they can turn a lens that you already have into a macro lens by changing its focal length.  Check it out!

C. Filters:  There are some creative and fun filters out there, but I recommend getting a UV filter for each lens.  These filters protect the lens from getting scratched or broken, and can be exchanged for new ones when they get damaged.  It’s much better than having to buy a new lens!

D. Be careful to protect your camera’s sensor.  Get a good cleaning kit for it, and don’t touch it with your finger.  Anything that is on the sensor (dirt, fuzz, your fingerprint…) will show up on every picture, so don’t switch out lenses in the wind!  Also, many dealers offer once-a-year cleaning / inspection with your purchase.  Take them up on it.

E. If you decide to switch out or upgrade a lens or a camera body, check with the dealer you purchased it from.  Often they will give you a trade-in credit toward your next purchase if your item is in good shape and not damaged.

F. Always keep your point-and-shoot camera with your gear, so that you won’t miss special moments because your fiddling with your settings.


Well, from one beginner to another, this is my best advice on getting started with a DSLR or Mirrorless camera.  Make sure you get these basics down…because there’s lots more learning to do!  C’mon now…we can do this!



The digital age is sure a fun one for those of us who enjoy photography!


And because I’ve helped myself to so many online images for this website, I felt that it was only right to give some back.

I know I haven’t even made it to amateur status -yet-, but I now have a few photos available online as Photostock.

You can check out my Portfolio HERE !


  Thanks for taking a look…I will enjoy the feedback (I least I think I will)!

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A quick drive west on I-285 S from the Denver suburbs will take you right to the Compassionate Dharma Cloud Buddhist Monastery.  And a stop at this beautiful facility is even more rewarding than being able to pronounce their name!

Take a left off of I-285 S at Settlers drive and park at the fire department.  Follow the dirt pathway up the hill to the Monastery.  The restrooms are in the Blue building on the ground floor with an outside entrance.  Don’t judge at first glance…

Keep walking back and you’ll find the common area used for services and presentations.  It’s a lovely red brick platform with benches made from tree logs, and a statue of Buddha himself.

Even if you are not Buddhist, this retreat center is a great place to take a break, get some fresh mountain air, and enjoy a little peaceful quiet time.  The monks are very nice, and are happy to answer any questions you might have.  This monastery is home to a great many events and have regularly scheduled ‘Days of Mindfulness’ that are open to anyone of any faith.  Buddhist or not, mindfulness is a great thing!  You can take a look at their website HERE.

2 lion statues on pedestals along stone walkwayContinue on up behind the Buddha statue until youmountain stone walkway with white hanging ornament see a stone walkway.  It is flanked by two white marble lion statues.  Your trek up the stone pathway will reward you with a grassy, well landscaped, stone terrace that provides a stunning view of the valley below.  This is a great place for a picnic lunch, but be respectful and don’t leave any trash. scenic overlook from stone platform in mountains

Take some quiet time here and just walk around.  Ponder the Heart of Perfect Understanding statue, and be grateful to be in such a tranquil and peaceful place.  Enjoy the beauty of the terrace and the mountains around you, and don’t forget to be ‘mindful’!

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          tall white marble statue of Buddhist woman   stone platform in the mountains  grassy area in mountain retreat with flower filled wagon  stone walkway in the mountains




Visiting the whole town of Fairplay is far from a ’20 min’ stop along I-285, but having a picnic along the river and enjoying Front Street certainly is not!

Main street of Fairplay CO Black and White historic photo

view of South Platte River from Front St Fairplay CO

As you enter the town of Fairplay, take a right turn onto Main street.  Look to you left for 8th Street, and turn left.  Follow 8th until it turns into Front Street.picnic bench and flower pot high in mountain area

mining area in mountain town


Along Front Street in Fairplay, you’ll find gravel areas to rest your car and trailer.  Front Street runs along the Middle Fork of the South Platte River.  There are picnic areas here, places to use the restroom and quaint restaurants for a quick lunch.  After lunch, enjoy walking the tiny Olde Town and take a peek into historic South Park City.


Iron statue of a burro by mining cart in mountain town            Storyboard for town walking tour of Fairplay CO Grave site of Prunes the Burro in Fairplay CO

South Park City entrance sign Fairplay CO(If you have a few extra hours, get a $10 ticket  from the Library and see South Park City.  There are 40 buildings and over 600 artifacts to enjoy if you have the time!)


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COMO ROUNDHOUSE: I-285 S at Boreas Pass Rd

Just minutes off of I-285 S at Boreas Pass Rd, you will find the not-really-there-anymore Como Roundhouse.

Train roundhouse at Como CO

Once a repair shop for the Denver-South Park-Pacific narrow gauge Railroad, this 6 bay old decaying train carstone Roundhouse served the town of Como Colorado from 1881 to 1938.

There’s not much to see here now, but despite offering no picnic area or restroom, its worth a pause on your journey. This site has made it onto the National Register of Historic Places!  It’s a quick 10 minute stop.

The tracks leading from here carried people and goods to Denver via Kenosha Pass, to Leadville and Breckenridge via the Boreas Pass, and to Gunnison via South Park & the Alpine Tunnel.

railroad map Fairplay CO

By 1910, the town of Como and the Roundhouse had reached their peak, and theold train yard in high mountain valley Roundhouse had been expanded to a 13 bay facility.  The Alpine Tunnel connecting Como with Gunnison by train caved-in that year, crippling the Railroad’s use of the area.

By 1918, the Roundhouse was down to just 3 bays, and in 1935 those bays burned to the ground.

DSC01042 (2)The last train pulled out of Como taking up the wooden tracks behind it in 1938, and Como’s life as a railroad town was over.

All that survives of the Roundhouse today is it’s stone section, but work to restore the site began inold train car behind pine trees 1985.  I can’t say that there’s much to see at this point, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye on in the future!


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view of the Collegiate Peaks mountain range with green fields in the foreground and cloudy skies

Just before Johnson Village on I-285 S, you’ll find the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Overlook.  Its a great ’20 min’ stop with the best view of the Collegiate Peaks in the state.  Take a right onto Rd 304.  There is a $1 day use fee, but the views and clean restrooms are well worth it!

At the Collegiate Peaks Overlook you’ll also find picnic tables, a restroom, and a great place to walkview of the Collegiate Peaks mountain range with greenery in the foreground and stormy skies around.  Stretch your legs and admire the views.  view of the Collegiate Peaks mountain range with greenery in the foreground and cloudy skiesFrom here you can also see the Chalk Mountains.  These ranges are beautiful in any weather, but we got to see them with storm clouds!

Read about the Peaks HERE.


Although this stop is for day-use only, there is the nearby Buena Vista KOA Journey campground if you need a place to stay overnight.  If you do stay, you can take advantage of the Cottonwood Hot Springs, west of Buena Vista on County Road 306.  It’s about 15 minutes away, and is a great place to soak with pools, sauna, private spas, and a cold plunge.


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ST ELMO: Near Nathrop

The St Elmo Ghost Town is not actually a ’20 min’ stop, but it was so much fun to pokeDSC01145 (2) around in, I decided to include it anyway!

You’ll need about 1 1/2-2 hrs for this excursion.

From I-285 S you’ll take the Chalk Creek / flowing stream with mountains in backgroundRd 162 exit toward St. Elmo.  The drive will be about 35 minutes to the town, but will take you through the scenic Mt Princeton Hot Springs Resort along Chalk Creek.  With a great view of Mt Princeton on your right, and the Cascade Falls Viewpoint (get out your cameras), the drive alone is worth your time!white chalk mountains with green pine trees in foreground

When you reach the outskirts of St Elmo, there will be a place to park your car and tiny trailer. You’ll see the bathroom facilities here. The General Store is still available for a little shopping, but you won’t find any food. Explore the town on foot.  Enjoy being nestled in amongst the Collegiate Peaks, the Sawatch Range & the Chalk Mountains.

Try and imagine what St Elmo was like in it’s heyday.  Built in 1878 as a gold mining camp, St Elmo’s population peaked at more than 2,000.  It took on saloons, dance halls, and bawdy houses.  In 1881, the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad came through the area, and a station was built in St. Elmo. From here, the tracks continued through the historic Alpine Tunnel.  You can read more about St Elmo and the railroad HERE.

      DSC01150 (2)     DSC01144 (2)     DSC01139 (2)      DSC01135 (2)

There are a number of surviving ghost stories here in St Elmo, and exploring the locations of these sightings is entertaining.  Read about Annabelle Stark and other ghost stories HERE.

B&W photo CO mining town 1800's

Retrace your route to return to I-285.


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high mountain plains and rain clouds

Just before you arrive in Poncha Springs along I-285 S, you will find the Christmas 1806 Picnic Ground.  It’s a ‘don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it’ spot, but a significant one nonetheless.

views of highway going through high plain valley with rain clouds

It was pouring rain when we arrived at the Christmas 1806 Picnic Ground, so we decided to eat in Salida.  In good weather, however, its a great ’20 min’ stop for a picnic on a covered table, even though there’s no covered picnic table in high plainsbathroom available.

Zebulon Pike and his party of 15 attempted to climb Pike’s Peak on November 27, 1806.  They failed, but trudged on through South Park.  They were looking for the Red River, which was the southern boundary of the Louisiana Purchase.  The explorers eventually made their way past the Arkansas River, but with little food, they stopped near here to send out hunting parties.  They managed to shoot eight buffalo, and Christmas Day in 1806 was spent feasting on buffalo and repairing equipment.

So, take a quick breather, stretch your legs, read a little history, and enjoy theChristmas 1806 information sign high mountain plains and rain cloudsbeautiful views of this far western corner of the Arkansas Valley!

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I-285 travels right through the town of Saguache.  While your there, take a quick ’20 min detour’ to see Robertson’s Flour Mill.  It is the only U.S. water powered grist mill still left standing!

(If you have the time, you might want to take an organized tour.  To arrange for an appointment, call:  719-221-3869)

wooden grist mill in front of stream

As I-285 enters the town of Saguache, it will intersect with Denver Ave/ Z road.  Turn right heading west on Denver Ave.  Follow the road as it turns to Z road for 1.4 miles, and then turn left heading south on road 46.  In a few minutes you’ll be at the Flour Mill.  Here’s the tricky part:  You’ll need to leave your rig on the side of the road and walk up to the Mill.  It’s a very short walk and you can keep an eye on your vehicle.

grey grist stone on wooden chairGrains are ground into flour at a Grist Mill.  The Robertson Flour Mill (aka the Saguache Grist Mill) was water powered, and initially provided flour for the Indian Agency and settlers in the northern part of the San Luis Valley.

The original mill was built by famous Colorado railroad builder, Otto Mears, in the late 1860’s. Prospector brothers, Enos and Preston Hotchkiss, then replaced it with a three-story mill in 1873.  It later sold it to the Robertson Family, who ran the operation for many years.wooden grist mill

        The San Luis Valley is filled with fascinating history.   To learn more, click HERE.

Retrace your steps to return to I-285 South, and keep on truckin’!

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Just under 1 1/2 miles off of I-285 you will find the High Valley Mennonite Church.

Front face of church building with rust colored brick and tan siding

I must admit that I was excited to see this stop off of I-285.  I come from a Mennonite background, and most of the churches I knew are no longer in existence.  This particular church was a bit different from what I knew growing up, so it was fun for me to get to visit!

A quick 1 1/2 mi turn off of I-285 on Co Rd E led us through some beautiful San Luis Valley farmland, and right to the parking lot of the High Valley Mennonite Church.  The building isplayground equipment at church, gravel road and farmland brand new, and the rust colored brick with taupe siding made it look modern and updated.  The church also has a small connected school with playground equipment.

We parked the car and ventured in to the open building.  There we met Janice, the pastor’s wife, along with her little ones.  In between all of her responsibilities, Janice manages to keep the building in tip-top shape by cleaning up and doing small repairs.  She was very nice, and more than gracious with answering my questions. She even allowed us to use the restroom.  Janice also said that it would be find for someone to stop in, say ‘Hi’, side face of church building with rust colored brick and tan sidingand have a tailgate picnic.

Also called the ‘Church of God in Christ’, his particular church is of the Holdeman Branch of Mennonites.  The summary of their beliefs says, ‘We believe that all people can have salvation through Jesus Christ, who died to wash our sins away.’  You can read more about their beliefs HERE


Next time through we’ll make a point to be here on a Sunday, and possibly enjoy a service.  There is no instrumentation here, and the idea of listening to A Cappella hymns in 4-part harmony sounds like ‘music to my ears’! 

High Valley Mennonite Church Sign on building

After enjoying this delightful ’20 min’ stop, we were once again heading south on I-285, and “on the road again…”

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UFO WATCHTOWER: Hwy 17 at Hooper

Welcome to “The Bermuda Triangle of the West.”

metal watchtower with platform on top

The San Luis Valley boasts more UFO sightings than anywhere else in the country, and the area’s UFO Watchtower records sightings nearing the hundreds.  As a result, it receives anywhere from 2,000- 5,000 visitors each year.

To get to the UFO Watchtower from I-285, watch for Hwy 112 near Center. Turn left aliens at play sign near watchtower with mountains in backgroundheading east for about 16 miles.  At Hwy 17, make another left hand turn going north for 3 miles. Turn right into the parking lot, but don’t go over 10 mph!  They are serious…

man standing in area filled with memorabiliaThanks to owner, Judy Messoline, you’ll find camping spots, picnic tables, outdoor restrooms, a gift shop, and who knows what else might appear!  Since 2000, Judy has been capitalizing on the land that she owns, but that gets used by UFO Spotters, Extraterrestrial Enthusiasts and UFOlogists. She has also built a ‘watchtower’ that features a rock garden and healing garden, buffered by two “energy vortexes.” Here visitors can leave offerings, which include everything from children’s toys and garden tools, to shoes and Bibles.  You’ll find the gardens guarded by statues of aliens.

alien statue covered in memorabilia 2 alien statues under UFO craft      dome shaped igloo covered in white tiles    alien statue covered in memorabilia     
night sky with stars over mountains

Perhaps the most impressive sight of all, however, is the beautiful desert landscape.  The San Luis Valley contains the largest aquifer in the country as well as the largest basin.  This valley is beautiful by day, and even more impressive at night.  The night skies are dark purple and filled with bright twinkling stars. They’ll take your breath away, UFOs or not.

Read More


Maybe not a ’20 min’ stop off of I-285, but the Colorado Gator and Reptile Park is more than worth the effort if you have an hour or so and an extra $20 per person (discount tickets are sold at the UFO Watchtower)!

man feeding an alligator

Traveling south on I-285, watch for CO 112.  When you arrive at the turn off, go left and head east on CO 112 for 14 miles (about 20 min).  Then turn right going south on CO 17 for 3 miles.  You can’t miss the signs for the Colorado Gator and Reptile Park, and the parking is great!

Large group of alligators in a pond

The Gator Park was initially established in 1977 as a tilapia fish farm.  They brought in the gators as garbage disposals for the dead fish, which now number over 100.  Since then the park has adopted many reptiles, birds and other critters, and has also acquired a number of rare albino gators.  The park has also become home to Morris the Movie Star Gator from ‘Happy Gilmore’!  Owners Erwin and Lynne Young take on unwanted exotic pets, teach the public about owning these types of reptiles, and take them to schools for educational purposes.

iguana on a branch      ostrich with black hair looking straight ahead      albino alligator in a pond      cockatoo in a cage  

There are picnic tables, a restroom and a gift shop here.  There is even a food truck that comes by on Wednesdays.  I might forego eating here as it is a little smelly.  The smell was only a little bit of a deterrent for me, though. I am a reptile lover and am disturbingly fascinated by gators.

tortoise eating a green branchEnjoy a little time wandering around the park, andwoman holding a caymen maybe you’ll get a chance to feed a tortoise.  If you hold a Caiman, you will be presented with a Bravery Certificate complete with a ‘stamp’ from the Caiman itself!caymen biting a certificate

To return to I-285, just re-trace your steps.  It’s best to go back the way you came so that you don’t miss the next stop!

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A quick detour from I-285 S in the town of Monte Vista leads you into the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.

flying Sandhill Cranes with mountains in the background

As you enter the town of Monte Vista along I-285, stay on the Hiwy and watch as it turnsWelcome sign at Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge into Broadway, Gunbarrel and finally into Highway 15 South.  In approx 6.5 miles (from when you past 1st St), you will find yourself at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.  Watch for the sign at the parking lot.

At the parking lot there is information posted about the Refuge and the San Luis Valley.  There is also a restroom.  Take a few minutes for a tailgate picnic and then head into the Refuge.

moss covered lake on PlainsThe Wildlife Refuge is a 2.5 mi loop, along signs about water fowl in San Luis Valleywhich you’ll enjoy lakes, marshes, and many different kinds of waterfowl.  The are informational signs posted throughout where you can learn about this unique area.  Make sure to have your camera ready!


If you happen to be passing through in spring between mid-February and mid-April or in mid-October, check online for the Sandhill Crane Migration.  It is a sight you will never forget!!

     To return to I-285, continue on 15 South until you get to Hiwy 370 East.  Go Left on 370 E for 14 miles, and you’ll be right back on I-285 just south of Alamosa. 

Clouds reflected in water of a lake with yellow flower in foregroundmoss covered lake with ducks on PlainsTo use the “20 min in Colorado” Category, read HERE

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Although it’s far from being a ‘little-known site’, no trip through Antonito is complete without a stop at Cano’s Castle.

castle built with beer cans and aluminum scrapsBorn Dominic (Donald) Espinosa, the Castle’s architect & builder now goes by ‘Cano’ which is the Native American term for ‘reborn’.  Just like his new name suggests, Cano – a Vietnam Vet – has a new mission in life.scrap metal castle with aluminum front door and stone fence

Cano is looking for the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for a meeting with the President.  He wants to address the injustices done to his family.  He claims that the U.S. should give him the chunk of southern Colorado/ northern New Mexico land that was stolen from his family in 1921. He believes it was a gift from God to Cano’s uncle (who was murdered), and Cano wants it back.

'Jesus Lord of Kings' scrap metal entrance gateAs a ‘Thanks’ to God for sparing his life in Vietnam, Cano has built this castle for Jesus (who, incidently, has been living there since 1987).  Actually, Cano (pronounced CAH-no) will credit God for the building of his castle.  Evidently God is a master re-cycler, as this castle is built with countless forms of aluminum scraps.  It is, in fact, four structures in one: “The king”, “the queen”, “the palace” and “the rook”.  The four story “king” house, covered in glistening beer cans and hubcaps, is his crowning architectural achievement.castle built with beer cans and aluminum scraps

Cano says his main sources of inspiration for the Castle are “Vitamin Mary Jane” and Jesus.



As you leave the castle and are heading south out of town, there is a small, but cute park at the corner of 3rd and Highway 285.  The Water Spray park offers green grass, picnic tables and a port-a-potty.  There is also the opportunity to cool yourself off in the water features.


Cumbres & Toltec Railroad signAfter leaving the park, don’t forget to grab a look at the Cumbres & Toltec Train Depot.  There you will find the Narrow Gauge steam train that travels between Antonito & Chama, NM.  It crosses the border eight times during one of the most scenic train rides in the country!  Maybe next time you pass through, you’ll take a day and ride the rails. If you do, start (and stay) in Chama – it’s much prettier there.  For more info click HERE.

         Engine 495 of Cumbres & Toltec train       Cumbres & Toltec train

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Built in 1863, Our Lady of Guadalupe is the oldest and first permanent church in Colorado.

Catholic church with red brick in a Southwestern style

Heading south on I-285, this site is a quick one to see.  Look to the west at 8th street in Antonito and you can’t miss it. Turn west and you’ll find ample parking.

Ms. Guadalupe (read her story HERE) Our lady of Guadalupe statue holding flowersbecame the patron saint of this church first built by John B. stone signage cemented in rockLamy, the first bishop of Santa Fe. The first building was dedicated on Dec 12, 1863, and was under the Jesuit Fathers from 1871-1920. Since 1920, it has been under the Theatine Fathers.

The church was destroyed by fire on Ash Wednesday in 1926, leading to a rebuild. The current church was dedicated Dec 12, 1927.  The towers that you see (and a section in the back) were added in 1948.

The Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish is dedicated to the Catholic Faith and to the dead.  There are signs for you to read on the grounds.  This Parish is still being used today.

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Goodbye…goodbye…parting is such sweet sorrow

roadside chapel with grafitti

Heading out of Antonito on S-285, it is about time to exit the beautiful and ‘Colorful’ state of Colorado.  Before you cross the border into New Mexico however, there is a roadside chapel worth dropping in on.  Maybe you don’t need a full “20 mins” for this stop, but drop in anyway and reflect on your time in this ‘not-to-be-missed’ state.small painted chapel front with cross on top


There’s not a restroom or picnic area here, but this is a nice place to say a prayer, or enjoy a quiet moment of reflection – regardless of your personal beliefs .


story of 'Our Lady of Guadalupe' painted on plaster wallThere is also the opportunity to get to know ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’ as you read her story here on the walls just outside the little chapel.  This is the Lady to whom this chapel (and SO many others) is dedicated. Although it is homemade and crude, the chapel has been lovingly used for years. Go inside and check out all the mementos that have been left behind, and feel the prayers said here. Maybe there is something you’d like to leave behind as well.                                                        
relics and figurines in roadside chapel

plaster wall of roadside chapel with christian symbolsAnd now it’s on into the Land of Enchantment!

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Tayler Water Wheel

Many visitors to the state of Colorado who make their way from Denver into the RockyP1070291.JPG Mountains find themselves traveling on I-70.  This highway makes its way into the heart of the Rockies.  Here you can learn about the Gold Rush, the Narrow Gauge Railroad and Buffalo Bill along with all that lives and has lived above 8,000 feet.

Along the way, only about 30-35 miles west of Denver, you’ll pass by the little town of Idaho Springs. If you do your homework, there is much to see and do here. There is also much history to be discovered.  If you are only passing through however, and have a few extra minutes, you can get a close up view of the famous (well sort-of famous) Tayler Water Wheel. It is a Scenic Lookout and Historical Landmark.

Take exit 241, head west to 17th St and then turn left.  At the end of the street you’ll be able to park your car and trailer right across the street from the tiny Anderson Park. There you can see Engine #60 and coach #70 built by the Union Pacific Railroad for use on the Narrow Gauge Line.  From the park, it’s a ¼ mile paved stroll along Clear Creek, where you’ll see the Charles Tayler Water Wheel.

The Water Wheel was initially built by Charles Tayler.  Charlie attributed his good health to the fact that he ‘never kissed women or took baths’. It powered his stamp mill in 1893.  It was moved to its present site in 1946 as a gift to the people of Idaho Springs from his estate.

This little excursion is a nice side trip along I-70. It is definitively worth the 20 minutes that it takes to see the water wheel. As an added bonus, see the lovely waterfall and enjoy the short stroll.

While you’re in Idaho Springs have lunch at historic Beau Jo’s Pizza!

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Are Colorado’s Bighorn Sheep calling your name?

big horn sheep looking at you

Iman fishing at lakef so, then pull off I-70 W at exit 232 and follow Alvarado Rd W until it becomes Argentine St.  You’ll find yourself at the Wildlife Viewing Area in Georgetown.  Here at the Viewing Area, you can relax on the shores of Georgetown lake. Here the fishing is good, the views are spectacular, and the dark-green waters of this mountain lake are even better.  Georgetown is home to one of the largest herds of Bighorn Sheep in Colorado, and they are protected here.  There is an observation deck where you can (hopefully) see them in their natural home.  There are information signs around where you can learn about the Bighorn and the other wildlife in the area.

So, use the restroom, have a picnic and just enjoy the Wildlife Viewing Area & the beauty of Georgetown Lake!

Lake with a family fishing

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Oooo…you’re in for a treat!

Green mountainside with snow covered peaks behind, reflected in a dark blue lakeDeep blue lake with green mountain sides and a bridge into the water for fishingAs you approach Exit 190, You’ll see signs for Shrine Pass Rd.  Exit there.

The Black Lakes Picnic Site is the reward you’ll find waiting for you just a few minutes off the highway!



Colorado roadside sign with rock frameContinue on to Black Lakes on Bighorn Rd/Ten mile Canyon Nat’l Recreation Trail.  It’ll take you about 5 mins or so to reach the Ten Mile Canyon Trail Parking – which you’ll find as you veer to the left.  Here’s where you can stretch your legs and use the restroom.  You can also read a little about Vail Country and the Mount of the Holy Cross.  You will find picnic tables, but I recommend pressing on.

From here, head back North toward the Black Lakes Picnic Site along ten Mile Canyon Trail Rd.  On your left you’ll come first to Black Lake Number 1.  Drive to the north end of the lake for theman fishing in mountain lake in blue inner tube boat parking lot.  This is a great place for a tailgate picnic!  Lake number 2 is just walking distance up the road, but it’s hard to get to the water’s edge.  I would spend my ’20 mins’ at Lake Number 1. This is a great place to hike around, do some quick fishing, or just enjoy the deep blue water, mossy green hill sides and the surrounding mountain peaks.  These photos were taken in mid summer, and snow was still visible on the more distant peaks. Deep blue lake with green mountain sides and a bridge into the water for fishing


Don’t be fooled though, by the path to the little out building…it’s not a restroom!

Deep blue lake with green mountain sides and a bridge into the water for fishing      mountain path to old outbuilding

Enjoy your stop here at Black Lakes, and take lots of pictures!

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Ah… A clear blue mountain pond on a sunny day in Colorado is always a feast for the eyes, but Gypsum Ponds are much more!

Gypsum Ponds is a State Wildlife Area, and an enjoyable “20 min” stop.  Here you can enjoy not only the pretty moss-topped ponds, but a variety of birds and other Colorado critters.  This area is home to Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Western Kingbird and other bird species.  At certain times of the year you might even catch sight of an Osprey or Bald Eagle. This area is included on the Colorado Birding Trail.

pond in grassy meadow with nearby hills                       mountain reflection in clear mossy pond

To find the Gypsum Ponds, take exit 140 off I-70 and head south.  Follow the traffic circle around to Trail Gulch Road.  (It’ll be parallel to I-70).  If you need to use the restroom, you can stop off at the Hi-Way 6 Store.  Better yet, spend a few minutes at the 10th Mountain Whisky & Spirits.  You can do a tasting of some of the best whiskey  or spirits around.  Because Colorado has such great water, distilleries & wineries thrive here! (10th Mountain is closed Mondays & Tuesdays).

From your bathroom stop, continue on Trail Gulch road until it stops.  There you can leave the vehicle (yes there are spots for turning around), and walk down the river to the Ponds.  You’ll find benches for a picnic-on-your-lap, and trails to walk around and take some photos.

Gypsum mine behinds trees and bushes

In the background you’ll see a Gypsum Fishing from a raft on the Eagle River near the Gypsum minemine.  Gypsum is the key ingredient in drywall and is a type of salt. It’s known to mineral collectors as selenite or desert roses; to sculptors as alabaster; and to kids everywhere as “Plaster of Paris.” Gypsum has some unusual properties that make it like ‘mother nature’s reusable glue’.  If you heat gypsum, it easily bonds  to water and cures to a solid state.

Next time you’re at Home Depot or Lowe’s, take a peek in the drywall section.  More than 80 percent of their drywall is made here in Colorado! We produce so much drywall that it’s exported by truck and by rail to many western and Midwestern states. The American Gypsum Company produces it so fast that it could pave a lane of I-70 from downtown Denver to Glenwood Springs in 24 hours!

Enjoy your stop, and make sure to do a little bird watching!

clear mountain pond reflecting trees and blue sky

mountain pond with floating moss  clear blue mountain pond reflecting sky, clouds and green landscapeTo use the “20 min in Colorado” Category, read HERE

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The Sopris Alpaca Farm, “Where Heaven and Nature Humm”

alpaca showing his teeth

Just off I-70 at exit 105 is where you will find that slice of heaven, at the Sopris Alpaca Farm!  From Exit 105, Follow Hiwy 6 for about 10 min and watch for the sign on your right.

Owned by Cory and Kim Wesson, Alpacas here on the farm are bred, shown, sheared andlog cabin in the trees with a man sitting on front porch LOVED.  Cory and Kim live here on the farm and have been enjoying the ‘Alpaca Lifestyle’ since 2012.  Check out their website HERE.

Dryer Balls made of alpaca wool on display in a gift shop  display of colored alpaca wool

In addition to caring for the Alpacas, Cory & Kim also run a small campground (with restroom facilities) that they advertise with Airbnb, and a gift shop/boutique featuring items made with Alpaca wool.


backs of 2 chairs in grass

view of mesas from grassy yard

So stop in, have a picnic, and spend some time with these adorable animals.  Then take a seat and enjoy the views and a visit with the Wessons!

  brown alpaca and white alpaca kissing


It’ll be a “20 min in CO” stop that you won’t forget!  group of resting alpaca near a teepee


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DSC00764 (2)      Field of Dreams      DSC00757 (2)

Dedicated to the men and women who served in the United States of America Armed Forces during the Vietnam War 1959-1975

At Exit 19 in Fruita you will find the Western Slope Vietnam Memorial, along with theDSC00760b Colorado Welcome Center.    Overlooking the memorial, is a TUH-1H Huey helicopter from Camp Robinson in Arkansas. The Huey is the symbol of the Vietnam Era, and the United States Army donated it for display.  You can read more about the helicopter and how is was transported HERE.

TaDSC00770 (2)ke the ‘Walk of Honor’ around the site. See the names, branches and other information about those who served, and those who were lost during the Vietnam Era.  The names of the men from the Western Slope who were lost have a special representation incorporated into the memorial.  Enjoy the ‘Welcome Home’ bronze sculpture, along with American & Colorado Flags, and Vietnam Service Ribbon displays. Check out the Park’s website HERE.

  DSC00775 (2)          DSC00771 (2)          DSC00761 (2).JPG         DSC00756 (2)

Across the parking lot, you’ll fine the Colorado Visitor’s Center where you can have aDSC00777b picnic, use the restroom and run through the sprinklers (at least that’s what we did!).  There is also a number of placards with interesting info about Grand County and Butch Cassidy.

DSC00782 (2)    DSC00773bb      DSC00778 (2)

Enjoy your ’20 min’ stop, and pay respects to those who served during the Vietnam Era.

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Take a walk on the ancient side…

DSC00742 (2)

Just before you hit the Utah border, pull off of I-70 at exit 2 into Rabbit Valley.  Follow theDSC00703 (2) exit road until you get to Rabbit Valley Rd, and  turn right.  You will end up in the parking lot where the trail head is well marked.

If you have the time, the Trail Through Time is a 1.5 mi loop hike.  It is easy and will only take you about 40 minutes.  If you only have 20 minutes, then grab a quick tailgate picnic, and do a little exploring around the area.

DSC00719 (2)The Trail Through Time area contains an active dinosaur quarry.  It is still being excavated occasionally in the summer months.  The Mygatt-Moore quarry is worked and maintained by the Museum of Western Colorado and has produced a large variety of dinosaur bones. These bones include the Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus and Allosaurus. You can read more about this on their website HERE.

The trail itself is an easy loop that has signs along the way describing the landscape andDSC00717 (2) DSC00713 (2)history as well as pointing out various dinosaur bones.  If you don’t have time to hike the loop, there are signs available at the parking lot and just a few steps up the trail, that give you information about the surrounding areas and the Jurassic Period.

So stretch your legs, climb a few rocks, and enjoy this last ’20 min’ stop before you leave Colorful Colorado!

DSC00274 (2)    hiking trail leading into rocky mesa    rocky hiking trail    DSC00730b    DSC00748 (2)

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BEYOND THE PHOTO: Other memory Makers


Display photos, memories and souvenirs in creative & useful ways!


I’d love your input! Please share the unique and creative ways you use to preserve your memories (and include photos if you’d like).  This blog is ongoing and will be updated regularly.  You might even see your idea here!


Besides taking photos and making photo albums, there are other ways to preserve your travel moments.  Here we’ll explore a few ways to be creative with your memories:Cartoon about preserving memories and cooking breakfast with pancake batter


1). Make a Travel Pin or Wall Display Map:

Travel Pin Maps are great fun.  You can use a smaller size that fits with your decor, or use an entire of wall of your basement or travel room (doesn’t everyone have a travel room?).usa_map_pins

2). Collect something:20181025_125537.jpg

I like refrigerator magnets because they are easy to store in a backpack and won’t break (I ended up with a giant magnet board after we got a stainless fridge because magnets won’t stick).  Others I know collect things like key chains, shot glasses, thimbles, postcards, hats, placemats… the choices are endless.  The hard part is knowing what to do with all the stuff.  My suggestion is to choose something that you can get creative with!

3). Create a Scrapbook:

Scrapbooks are great.  You can keep everything in them from photos, coins, opera tickets, metro passes etc… They take time and can be a little messy, but in the end make a great conversation starter on your coffee table!

4). Make your own travel blog:

Why not?  It’s like having an online travel journal that all your friends can follow!  The Post-As-You-Go plan makes it nice to come home and not have to organize photos on your phone to show your people, or tell your stories repeatedly.  It’s super easy to create a blog.  Try: WORDPRESS; WIX; BLOGGER; or GODADDY to get started!

5). Keep a journal:

On the Road Again Travel Journal with wood-look coverAh…the Journal.  A writer’s best friend.

Whether on a laptop or in traditional book, Journaling can be a relaxing and therapeutic way to unwind at the end of your day on the road.  I journal while sitting in front of a campfire…

6). Make a Calendar:

There are countless online sites (like Shutterfly) that offer you the ability to create a calendar (and lots of other stuff) using your own pictures.  We have even used our local ‘office print & ship’ store.  Calendars make great souvenirs, and we give them as Christmas gifts.

7). Frame It; Display It:

From a simple rotating picture frame, to collages full of mementos, you can frame or display anything!

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Do a little digging online to get the latest ideas on how to frame your memories.  These projects will make nice additions to your ‘travel room’, or ANY room!

However you choose to preserve your memories, you can’t go wrong with making the effort to display photos, memories and souvenirs in creative & useful ways .


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Oh, the Eternal Question…

d4ce3862965e72e535ee580487c8d484--funny-photography-photography-gear“Do I really want to lug around a bunch of equipment on my next trip and therefore risk getting G.A.S (“Gadget Acquisition Syndrome”)?


“Do I want to settle for lesser quality photos?”0-shutterstock_233356582_1






For those of us who want to make the best of our compact camera, there is so much we can do to make the most of our travel photos!



Here is a shot taken by my husband, Eddie, with his fancy DSLR in Little Rock, which really made me want to upgrade…


But then here are 2 shots I took on the same trip with my Panasonic Lumix!procsimple   Day 4 CHICAGO PORT HURON LAKE MICHIGAN(43).JPG

Although a compact camera (no matter what you paid) can’t really compare with the quality of an DSLR, with a few pointers and some basic Photoshop skills, there’s no reason to be unhappy with the photos you bring back with you from your road trips!

Follow these simple guidelines, and you’ll be surprised at how good your photos can be!

(All the example photos shown here were taken with my Lumix point-and-shoot.)


                                      Before we start, though, let’s first understand the ‘3-legged stool’ of digital photography:                                           ISO * APERTURE * SHUTTER SPEED

This stuff gets very confusing, but a compact user can rest with knowing just the basics:

ISO = Measures the sensitivity of the image sensor.  Simply put, higher numbers mean your sensor becomes more sensitive to light which allows you to use your camera in darker situations. The cost of doing so could be more grain or noise.  An ISO number of 100-200 is considered ‘normal’.

APERTURE = The size of the opening in the lens that is created when the camera takes it’s picture.  The opening is measured in F-Stops and ranges from approx 1.4 to around 22.  The larger the F-Stop number, the smaller the opening is, the less light is let in and the clearer the background will be.  The smaller the F-Stop number, the larger the opening, the more light is let in and the blurrier the background becomes.

SHUTTER SPEED = The amount of time that the camera’s shutter stays open.  A ‘normal’ speed is around 1/60th or more.  Anything slower and you’ll need a tripod. The faster your subject is moving, the higher your shutter speed needs to be. A bird’s wing will probably need about 1/1000th shutter speed to catch it without a blur, and a really slow shutter speed, say 1/3rd will give you that velvet look as water flows.

For the most part, a compact camera is pretty limited here, and AUTO is a great mode to work in (It picks all 3 settings for you).  If you do want to get a little creative, look at your camera’s dial. The ‘A’ setting will give you control of the Aperture (F-Stop) and automatically control the ISO & Shutter Speed for you. The ‘S’ setting will give you control of the Shutter speed while automatically controlling the ISO & Aperture.

If you go to ‘M’ (Manual) or ‘P’ (Programmed) mode and get good at that those you really need to get yourself a DSLR….


Ok! So here we go…


         *The image sensor in a compact is considerably smaller than the ones in a DSLR, therefore you’ll never get the same image quality as with a DSLR. So, Keep your expectations reasonable and don’t try and blow your photos up too much.  For an online photo album, or photo storage on your computer, you won’t need to blow the photo up to a poster size, so quality difference is not that big of a deal. But keep reading…

        Rialto Beach (35).JPG *Digital noise is a major thing to think about when taking a picture regardless of what type of camera you use, but a compact always has a bigger problem.  (This photo shows a lot of ‘noise’.  See the mottled colors in the sky and water?)  A good rule of thumb is to use the lowest practical ISO setting you can.  The lower the ISO, the less ‘noise’ you’ll have. If it’s too low,  then you’ll get a blurry shot because the shutter is moving too slow to handle camera shake. Experiment to see how low you can go.  You might find that using a tripod and  your camera’s timer will make a big difference.

If you want to bring a subject in as far as possible, you will most likely need your tripod.  If the light is low then the closer you bring your subject in with the telephoto, the more ‘noise’ you’ll have.

         *Sun & Moon photos will never look like what you can get with a DSLR.  That’s ok if you know the limitations you have and make the most of the shot.  You’ll need to avoid pulling the subject in too much.  See how much nicer the 2nd shot is?

P1110238       VS    P1110240

         *Although you can get really close to a subject with a compact, there is a reason that the Macro lens was invented.  It’s better to physically get close to your subject than try and use your telephoto for close up shots.Red Rocks Matthew Winters Park (54)a

         *Action Shots are a little harder with a compact.  Use your ‘burst’ mode and keep the ISO high (400-800).  Also, the further away you are, the better.

         *Shutter lag (the time between you pushing the button and when the photo is actually taken) is one of the biggest complaints of compact users.  (If your looking to purchase a camera, remember that the higher the price, the faster the shutter speed).  Try and pre-plan and set up your photo shoots as much as you can.

         Make sure to really read your manual and learn your particular camera’s limitations.  Spend some time taking photos.  Really focus on a subject or scene and take a mental picture.  Then take the shot with your camera and evaluate what your eye sees compared to the camera’s eye. And make sure that you spend time working with your camera before you leave on a trip!

         Remember, too that there are so many advantages of having a compact camera besides the convenience.  They are fun, easy, creative and can get into small places.  Even pros keep one handy!


*Light is the compact camera user’s best friend.  Our eyes have a brightness range equivalent to about 11 F-stops.  Compact Cameras see only about 5 F-stops.  Look for photo ops that have fairly low light-to-dark contrasts.  Here’s what I mean:

Day 16 JAMESTOWNE YORKTOWNE (10)                                                                                              Day 16 JAMESTOWNE YORKTOWNE (9)

In this 1st photo, the contrast is stark and we lose this soldier’s eyes and half of his face and hat, while the 2nd one shows a full-featured face.




*Set the ISO low when shooting in bright conditions, and higher when shooting in lower light.  The lower the light, the more you’ll need a tripod.  Check out a ‘Gorilla’ tripod for compact cameras.

*Get to know your camera’s EV (exposure compensation) control when your shooting in the Automatic mode.  It’s usually a button or wheel with a +/- symbol.  Here you can increase or decrease the light to avoid under/over exposure.  Roll toward the + setting if your at the beach on a sunny day, or in bright snow.  Roll toward the – if you need to increase your lighting, say, if your photographing a person’s face and there are too many shadows.

*Remember that light has Color.  Maximize the ‘Golden Hours’ (just after sunrise and just before sunset) to create images with a warm hue.  During the day, be sensitive to the color of light and make the most of it.  You can control the color of light by using your White Balance adjustment setting. White Balance tells the camera how white you want your whites, and then the other colors record properly.  Play with your settings to see what I mean.  Look for the Sunny (or Daylight), Florescent, Tungsten, Shade, Overcast etc.. settings.

Hallway of museum lined with statues with light streaming in from the door

*Light has Direction.  Be aware of where your light is coming from and make proper adjustments – usually where you are standing and the angle that your holding your camera in.

It’s usually easy to see which direction the light is coming from, so use it to your advantage.P1020981 (2).jpg

*Light has Quality.  Poor quality light will produce poor quality photos.  Look to shoot your photos in the earlier and later parts of the day, and in dramatic weather situations like fog, mist, intense clouds and skies.  If you need to take photos in the middle of the day because, well, your on a road trip, then make the best use of your Rules for Watching Shadows, and make sure your shots are fun and memorable.

*Light also Moves.  Light moves when it reflects off of a moving subject, such as your kiddo playing soccer or at a dance recital, a waterfall, and everything I take out of my car window because Eddie is tired of stopping for ‘photo ops’.  You control the outcome with your Shutter Speed.  Use the ‘Burst’ setting (which usually has a picture of multiple squares), and don’t use too much telephoto.  For a dramatic effect set your ISO low, use a tripod and the camera’s timer.


*If you look on your camera’s dial you’ll see a SCN option.  Here’s where you can let your camera know the kind of situation that you are in (nighttime, bright light, landscape, sports etc…).  Play around with these options as they can help you maximize your circumstances.

*On that same dial you’ll (generally – depending on your camera) see an artistic setting option.  Its most likely identified with an artist’s paint palette. This is a really fun setting with a number of artistist options that give you lots of creative ideas.  Pick one subject and then see what each of the different effects look like with your subject.  This is a great tool to be proficient with, especially for those midday boring-light photos!


*This subject is covered in greater detail in the blog, BASIC PHOTO COMPOSITION TIPS, but for now just remember these things:

          –Rule of 3rds: See your screen divided into 9 windows.  Put your main subject in 1-3 of those windows, but not in the center.

          -Keep the horizon line straight

          -Have an identifiable subject of each photo

          -Try to avoid backgrounds that are too busy or distracting

          -Put something or someone in a photo to show perspective if your doing landscape or buildings.

          -Watch your shadows – especially with photos of people.  Midday sun can really create ‘racoon eyes’

          -Have Fun, Know your camera & be Creative!


Every computer as well as most laptops & tablets have a photo program.  The names are different depending on your device and it’s version.  However, here are a few elements of any program that you should know how to utilize.  Upload any photo to your device, open with the photo program, and get to know the buttons.  It’s amazing how you can turn a so-so (or even blah) photo into a work of art.  So play around and get to know your (always user friendly) built in program.  You can always purchase a photoshop program, but that’s for another blog…or…actual Class.


*Crop: This allows you to make your subject larger and get rid of P1110034busy background




Day 7 BURLINGTON (2)   Day 7 BURLINGTON (56)

*Straighten: Is where you fix that crooked horizon line


*Red Eye: This one’s a no-brainer

*Light: Where you’ll find the buttons that allow you to lighten or darken, contrast (make the difference between the lights and darks more intense), and bring out or soften your shadows and highlights.

*Color: These buttons give you control of the temperature (warm or cool) and the tint. You can also saturate your colors and make the photo pop.

*Effects: To get a little more creative check out your effects options.  You can put a vignette (darker edges) around the photo or even blur the edges.

Pick a few photos and play with all the options to become good at some simple and basic photoshop techniques.  They can make all the difference!

Well, we’re off to a good start.  the more you work with your camera, the more you’ll know just how far you’ll want to go.  Despite my initial opposition, I have gone ahead and invested in a DSLR and a few lenses.  No matter what I learn, though, or how proficient I become with my new ‘toys’, I will ALWAYS have with me my little Lumix Point-and-Shoot camera.

If you are in the markets for any kind of camera, make sure to talk to a knowledgeable travel-meme-captain-picard-palmface1salesperson and get help with making an informed decision!

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I’d Love your input!  Please share tested recipes, ideas, hints and hacks that have worked for you (and include photos if you’d like) for quick breakfasts on the go.  These blogs are ongoing and will be updated regularly, so maybe you’ll find your recipes here!




On any given road trip, there are always mornings when we leave REALLY early, and we’ve probably done most of the packing up the night before.  Obviously there’s not time to cook or prepare even quick breakfasts, much less do dishes and pack the kitchen stuff.  Besides, Eddie won’t eat until he’s been up for awhile.

downloadAs I’ve mentioned before, we have a small lunchbox cooler. It stays in the truck, plugs into the cigarette lighter and can keep things cool. This can  sometimes be helpful.  (See about coolers and items to pack in your trailer and vehicle HERE).  I usually have items for a quick breakfast that are cold, but if you need a microwave you can always pop in to a gas station that also has a convenience store and use theirs.  Make sure you purchase fuel though, otherwise that’s just… well… tacky.

Generally I have individual items ready for the morning, and I try to include a protein, a carb and a fruit.  Most of the time we eat in the truck, but it’s always possible to stop for a tailgate-type quick breakfast.

Proteins For Quick Breakfasts:

-Hard boiled eggs (I keep the little S&P packets from restaurants in the lunch cooler) 

-Jerky (I make my own because store bought ones are loaded with salt and sugar).  Click for some recipes HERE

-Cold Bacon

-Trail Mix loaded with Nuts: 

                       For my High Protein Favorite, Click HERE

                       Click HERE for some great recipes

                       And to get started with making your own, Click HERE

-Pre-made Protein Cookies: Get Recipe HERE

-English Muffins topped with Cheese; Deli Meat or Peanut/ Nut Butter



Carbs For Quick Breakfasts:

-Pre-made Breakfast cookies

                      Click HERE for a list of my favorite recipes

-Pre-made Muffins

                       Anything by Taste of Home is good by me!  Here are some ideas: Breakfast Muffins

Fruits For Quick Breakfasts:

Ok.  This is really a no brain-er.  We like to stop at Farmer’s Markets and load up on Veggies and FRUITS!  For a quick breakfast I’ll pack 1 piece of fruit for each of us, although I’ll stick to the ones that won’t get easily ‘smushed’ or need to be cut up. 

So that gets us started!  If you have an early morning quick breakfast idea or recipe you’d like to share, please contact me HERE.

If your idea is to stop at a fast food place, then…don’t.download (1)




To read the Intro for the MEALS category, Click HERE

To Get to the Homepage of this Website, Click HERE





I’d Love your input!  Please share tested recipes, ideas, hints and hacks that have worked for you (and include photos if you’d like) for fast camp breakfasts.  These blogs are ongoing and will be updated regularly, so maybe you’ll find your recipes here!




There are mornings at camp, when you are not packing up or checking out, but you are getting a fairly early start to your day. A fast camp breakfast involves minimal preparation, very little clean up, and no need for a morning fire. To speed things up even more, use paper/plastic ware.

I am assuming that you have a stove – either in your trailer or under your ‘cook tent’. I am also assuming you have a microwave.


Little Guy 5-wide



If you are lacking a microwave, GET ONE! I paid $40 for a small travel sized one that I plugged in to a power source when we had our ‘clam-shell’ teardrop trailer.


Coffee over a campfire for a Camping breakfast





We don’t always have a hot drink in the morning, but I like to have the option. Our hot drink choices are: Tang, Coffee, Hot Chocolate, Cider & Herbal Tea. (Use only the dry varieties that come in packets and only require adding hot water). You’ll notice that I totally violate my ‘let’s stay healthy on a road triprule and use Tang in place of juice (and yes, we like it hot). It’s one of the exceptions I make for a vacation (hot Tang has always been a ‘camping treat’ for me), and I justify it because the sugar content is about the same as juice anyway. At least that’s my story. If you are a juice lover, by all means…bring it along!


To get started with this blog, I’m offering 7 meal ideas with recipes (where needed) for fast camp breakfasts. For more variety, you can always mix and match!


1: Pre-prepared Breakfast Burritos, Fruit & Drink

2: Store bought or Pre-prepared Cinnamon Rolls, microwave Bacon, Fruit & Drink

3: Smoked Salmon Bagels, Fruit & Drink

4: Pre-Prepared Breakfast Sandwiches, Fruit & Drink

5: Cereal, Yogurt, Cold Ham & Drink (I bring Almond milk in a small container rather than regular milk because it won’t go bad)

6: Over night Mason Jar Breakfast Oats, microwave Sausage & Drink

7: Huevos & Bacon Rancheros, Refried Beans & Drink

To read the Intro for the MEALS category, Click HERE

To Go to the Homepage of this Website, Click HERE

cartoon scout troop with no microwave

Well, we’re off to a great start!