Custer State Park – South Dakota

June 9 – 15

Our journey takes us to Wyoming and South Dakota.  This week long trip started as we headed North and spent a night at Glendo State Park in Wyoming.  Ross was looking for a halfway stop on our way to Custer State Park and so we ended up camping at Glendo which was a really nice surprise.  The campgrounds were fairly empty and on our evening walk we were treated to a beautiful sunset over Lake Glendo.  What was a really nice surprise was that there were lots of mountain biking trails of all different levels through out the park.  Ross and I are not technically mountain bikers but would like to do a bit more of it.  So it is on our list of places to return for short getaways.

We moved on to Custer State Park in South Dakota.  We weren’t sure what to expect but were told that it was great.  It is one of the largest State Parks in the US and feels like a National Park. It has a lot to offer.  It is reasonably close to Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial and has lots of wildlife and hiking and amazing rock formations.

After setting up the Airstream we decided to go for an afternoon hike.  Sadly, what we found were that the with hiking trail map was very inaccurate and the trails were not well marked or maintained.  So we ended up making our own trail the first evening.

On our second day in the morning we drove up to a beautiful lookout point to get our bearings.  We attempted to go for a hike but once again found it frustrating.  We drove to the trailhead, started our hike and got to an impassable (for us) river crossing.  So what was supposed to be a big hike turned into a short hike along the French Creek.  The weather was turning a little iffy so we decided to drive out to see The Crazy Horse Memorial (the world’s largest stone carving).  It is a massive undertaking and hard to imagine that it will ever be finished. The face of the Indian Chief has been completed but there is much much more to go and watching the video of them jack hammering the stone makes one realize how tedious this project is.  I can’t even imagine how they go about something of that scale.

From Crazy Horse we drove over to Mount Rushmore.  It is spectacular and something worth seeing.

After making the long drive and having dinner we took advantage of the long days and went for an evening hike.  Again, we were challenged to find the trailhead and felt that the hike was not well marked but beautiful.  We started off at lake level where the sun was out and the lake was still which made for a stunning view.  We climbed up to summit one of the hills nearby and had gorgeous views of the Needles (rock formations) in the park.  It was a prefect way to end the day.

Day three we decided to drive Iron Mountain Road which was written up as a must see. It is an amazing road with narrow tunnels blasted out of the rocks with views that focus your eyes on Mount Rushmore. 

With Buddy in tow we stopped along the way to do a hike but once again were stopped by a river crossing that seemed a bit too much for us. The hike was cut short and we continued the drive.  After passing by Mount Rushmore again we dropped down to Sylvan Lake and had a picnic lunch and a hike around that area.  Sylvan Lake was a beautiful area with rock formations but the area itself did seem to be a little bit too commercialized and busy for our liking.  Continuing on the drive down the Needles Highway was breathtaking.  Needle spire rock formations and more blasted out tunnels amazed us.

The Needles Highway

On our last full day at Custer State Park we did two amazing hikes.  The first was to the Catherdral Spires which are amazing granite rock formations that rise straight up and really are ethereal.  They are famous for rock climbing and we watched with awe as several people climbed these formations.  From there we continued on to the Devils Tower which climbed above the Catherdral Spires to the top of a granite rock that we needed to scramble/climb up which was challenging but exciting. These two hikes were both of our favorites from this trip.  If you get to Custer State Park we would highly recommend it.

Video from the Top of Devils Tower

After a trip back to the Airstream and a relaxing BBQ dinner we headed out at dusk on the Wildlife Loop Road.  This state park has one of the largest Bison heard in the US as well as lots of other wildlife.  The drive was beautiful and we did see a fair amount of wildlife including Bison, Pronghorns, White tailed deer and burros.  The highlight though was seeing a new born deer.  Neither of us have ever seen one this small that were guessing that it wa most likely just born since it could barely walk.  Unfortunately it moved into the high grasses near its mother before we could get a photo.

On the way back to Boulder we decided to stay at Guernsey State Park in Wyoming.  What we are finding is that the State Park campgrounds are amazing in their own right.  We have been so impressed that we bought a book on all the best state parks in the US and are hoping to incorporate those into our travels.  But back to Guernsey….we found a magical campspot on a spit of land overlooking the lake and had the spot to ourselves for the time that we were there. It was the first time that we set up our awning on the Airstream which was fantastic and gave us a beautiful outdoor living room to enjoy the view and be in the shade.  The day ended with a magical sunset.

One of my biggest challenges continues to be getting enough time to paint.  Each day I set out with all my supplies but with sightseeing, hiking and daily activities there never seems to be enough time.  Somehow I’m going to have to figure out how to squeeze more time out of the day.  I did paint two paintings, one of the Cathedral Spires and the other at Guernsey Lake.

The painting of Guernsey wasn’t too successful in my eyes but  the Cathedral Spires I think captures the feeling for the hike so here it is.

Watercolor of Cathedral Spires

Our next adventure will be in mid July….stay tuned.

Official Naming and Plein Air Painting

April 28-May 3

This post is not about any exotic trips but is all about painting and the naming of the trailer. 

Ross and I have been trying to figure out a good name for the Airstream and his new truck for the past few months.  We wanted names that are inspirational, loving, adventurous, and strong.  We have searched through lots of options including famous married couples, and artists etc.. After much consideration we decided the truck should be named Bob and the Airstream should be Josette (Jo for short).  Bob and Jo are my “French Parents” that I spent some time with when I lived in Italy, and they were good friends of my parents.  Ross was able to meet them on one of our trips to Europe and of course they loved each other.

Bob was a strong man who loved to travel, loved maps, and was extremely bright.  Josette (Jo)  is a beautiful painter who loves to travel, enthusiastic about learning and always growing intellectually and is a go getter.  According to the web Josette means: inspirational, and a powerful force to all whose lives they touch.  Bob and Josette also had a strong, beautiful loving relationship that could be a role model for all of us.  It is a perfect fit.

Springtime at the Golf Course (Painted in a sheltered area in high winds)
Wonderland Lake – Painted on a cold day and completed at home after the snow started to fall

After our quick trip to Australia I returned home just in time for the Boulder Plein Air Festival.  Although I was  painting in Boulder County and not traveling, this experience is going to be pivotal in my painting while traveling. From April 28-May 3, I was one of the 26 Juried Artist for this festival and needed to paint outside over the four days and complete 7 paintings, one of which was timed and needed to be completed in 2 hours. 

Playful Pearl St – painting completed in 2 hours…I’d love to add some people and trees.

This was a first for me in many ways.  I have never painted that many paintings in that short of a duration, and the weather that week in Boulder was crazy.  The first day was hot and windy. The next two days were literally freezing cold and went between rain and snow.  The last day was perfect 😊. That is spring time in the Rockies.

After a Spring Snow at Boulder Valley Ranch
Early Spring at Boulder Valley Ranch

What did I learn from this experience?  A lot!  First of all, I learned that I need to keep things simpler especially in the 2 hour painting (called a quick draw).  In the future I would also like to loosen up my style and become a bit more stylized.  I felt as if my paintings leaned more towards the “realistic” side and those who won the competition had a definitive style.  I don’t want my painting to be all about trying to win a competition, however I do want to continue growing and have felt for awhile that I could improve in that realm. 

Stormy Skies over Coot Lake

Next I learned a few things about setting up my easel in various conditions. In one instance I had my easel facing right into the sun.  I had a really hard time seeing the various paint colors and lost the contrast in colors.  I also learned that on windy days I should hang a weight from a bungy cord from the center of my easel to prevent it from blowing over.

Tranquility at Coot Lake (we finally had some sunshine)

Lastly, I learned that I should try a few different kinds of Plein Air Frames.  I forgot to mention that on top of having the 7 paintings completed, they also had to be framed for the exhibition.  I have been using a frame that I like but I learned of many others that I am going to look into. 

I have been leaning towards painting in Acrylics for the outdoors because I thought it would be easier to deal with in regards to framing since they do not need glass.  But what I learned from a few other water colorists is that there are options. Additionally I learned about a new watercolor board that I can paint on while outside (in lieu of having to tape my paper to a board.  So although I did not win any awards (however Ross thinks I was the best), I feel like I learned a lot and on the next go around will be much better prepared.  This experience reinforced why Plein Air Painting is so difficult but I am anxious to get back out there and experiment a bit more with some of my new thoughts.

Melbourne, Australia

Our latest journey had us Streaming via the air to Australia.  This was an unexpected journey for a sad occasion but we tried to make the best of it.

Our first few days were spent walking around Melbourne hitting some of our favorite spots.  The weather was absolutely beautiful and there is nothing like a long walk after a really long flight. Ross and I generally stay at the same hotel each time we visit so it feels a bit like a second home.  We choose that location because it is an easy tram ride into the Downtown area but also really close to some great walks and green spaces.  We started our days with walks around Albert Park Lake, The Tan, the Botanical Gardens and along the Yarra River.  It was really nice for me since on a few occasions I took advantage of that beauty and was able to paint some Plein Air paintings while Ross attended to some family duties.

Melbourne is a beautiful city with a lot of European flavor.  The markets are amazing and remind me so much of when I lived in Florence, Italy.  The specialty stores and the quality of food makes me want to eat my way though the markets.  The city is also filled with a lot of diversity and has many neighborhoods to reflect each culture.

As I mentioned our trip down under was for a sad reason.  Ross’ niece Lilly passed away.  She was a special girl who had some struggles.  I always felt a connection to her even from my first meeting of her many years ago. This water lily is painted to honor her life.

After the funeral and burial we were able to have a few nice days hiking at Pt. Nepean near Sorrento/Portsea where Ross’ family spent a lot of time as a child.  We go to that area every time that we visit since it is a beautiful spot. 

On our way back to Melbourne we were able to do a few new hikes including the Bush Rangers Bay track at Cape Schanck and the Kokoda Memorial track (also known as the 1000 steps track) .  The Bush Rangers Bay walk is a beautiful walk along the coast with magnificent views  and ends at an old lighthouse. 

The Kokoda Memorial track is a steep hike up 1000 stairs which is supposed to be a small replica of the climb that the Australian military made to stop the Japanese advance on Papua New Guinea in World War 2.

Needless to say we also spent a great deal of time with family.  It was nice to see everyone even though it was a sad occasion.

We are now back in Boulder and I am getting ready for the Boulder Plein Air Festival.  I will be one of the 26 juried artist and this will be my first time participating  in something like this. After I finish the week of Plein Air painting I will blog about the experience and share my thoughts.  Feel free to come and see me during the week at the paint outs or at the opening night exhibition.  The link to the event is:

Skiing in Utah

Big Smiles on a new mountain

We departed Boulder on a beautiful spring like day and drove north to Wyoming. One of the quickest ways to get from Boulder to the Salt Lake City area of Utah is through Wyoming. While driving we discovered some beautiful areas that we will need to explore in the future. We had heard about Vedauwoo and as we drove past we could see why.  It will definitely be on our radar for a future short trip since it is not far from home.  We ended up spending the night at Rock Springs, Wyoming. We had no expectations, and it was really only a place to sleep.  However, while checking in we grabbed a booklet on things to do in the area and were pleasantly surprised to read about the Flaming Gorge nearby. We considered changing our plans to stay an extra day but instead will save it for another time when coming through in the future. 

We pushed on and got to Park City, Utah.  After setting up (which is starting to get a little easier and whole lot faster) we headed out for a long walk.  The area is beautiful, and the town and its buildings are done well and it feels pretty inviting. Our camper that we thought was big, felt dwarfed though by our neighbors. The one RV next to us had 10 foot ceilings, 2 bathrooms, a fireplace, laundry and a full size french door refrigerator etc.

Look how small we are!

We woke up to rain/snow showers which fortunately turned to snow showers as we headed up the hill to Deer Valley for a ski day.  We were blessed with some fresh powder and some great skiing with variable visibility.  Deer Valley has a reputation of being one of the best ski resorts in America and it did not disappoint in regards to customer service. It limits the number of skiers per day, also does not allow snow boarders which I did appreciate (sorry all you snowboarders!).  Their buildings are beautiful, and they have a few niceties like complimentary overnight ski/pole storage. For anyone who skies, they can appreciate that the biggest hassle of skiing is lugging your gear from the car to the lifts.

We left Buddy in Airsteam for the first time for 4+ hours and he did great.  We continue to be so thankful that he is such a good dog and happy to just be traveling with us.  He probably is thinking that traveling with us is fantastic.  He is getting 2 great walks a day, accidentally got two breakfasts the other morning and we took him to Petco to pick out a toy for his outstanding behavior.

The patient dog gets a new toy!

Our second and third day of skiing at Deer Valley was clear skies and warm temperatures which made for some definite spring skiing.  We spent both mornings enjoying the mountain and then called it quits as it got too warm and went back to Buddy and the Airstream. 

I wasn’t able to do any painting on this trip but I know there is plenty of it coming up.  April/May are going to be a big months of painting for me. I will be heading to San Francisco in late April for the Plein Air Painting Convention.  I am very excited about this opportunity where there will be classes all day long with some pretty amazing teachers and then paint outs in the afternoons around the City.  Right after the convention I will fly back to Boulder and will be one of the juried artist for the Boulder Plein Air Festival.  I will be painting in various locations in Boulder county over that next week and must have 7 completed paintings to turn into the competition.  This will be my first competition so I am very excited and a bit nervous. 

After 3 days in Park City we moved down to Salt Lake City to be closer to Brighton, and Solitude Ski Resorts.  I should mention that one of Ross’ goals is to ski all the different ski resorts on a newer ski pass that was available to us this year.  With the IKON pass we are able to ski at 38 different ski resorts so it has been fun trying out different mountains that neither of us have skied before.  We were able to try out 4 new mountains this year and look forward to next year’s ski journey.

Our ski day at Brighton was only okay.  Conditions were very spring like which didn’t allow for the variety and steepness of skiing that we like.  I think Brighton could be okay with good snow but with the conditions we had it was nothing to write home about.

Fortunately the next day at Solitude was an epic powder day with over 14 inches of fresh snow and very few people.  We skied our little hearts out and had endless powder until our legs gave out.  We had a a good chuckle because one of our sayings to each other on a powder day is “there is no such thing as a wife or husband on a powder day”.  Basically meaning that we aren’t waiting for each other on a fantastic day (but of course we do!).  However today’s saying was “there is no such thing as a dog on a powder day!”  Our little patient Buddy had a wait until later than normal because we just couldn’t stop enjoying ourselves.  The skiing was so fantastic that we decided to stay an extra day since the snow was still falling.  It meant that we had to make a beeline home over the next few days, but the joy of having the Airstream is that we can be somewhat flexible because we always have a place to call home.

Palo Duro Canyon and Cap Rocks Canyon, Texas (and getting Buddy settled)

Buddy adjusting to the back seat of the truck

Our plans for this trip changed a few times due to weather and sweet Buddy.  The things you do for your “children”!  A lot of people asked after our last trip how Buddy did with the new Airstream.  Well we didn’t feel that he was comfortable enough to leave in the trailer while we skied so we boarded him in Boulder and decided this next trip should be about making him comfortable.  So we headed South to Texas for some hiking.  Somehow Ross found out about Palo Duro Canyon State Park and read that it is the 2nd largest canyon in the US.  After having completed the Rim to Rim trail in the Grand Canyon a few years ago we were curious.  So off we went. To be honest I question how this canyon got it’s ranking as number 2.  It is beautiful and there is lots of hiking, but it doesn’t come close to the Grand Canyon.

The day we arrived it was a bit grey and thunderstorms were predicted but Ross, Buddy and I headed out for a beautiful 5 mile hike.  The rock and sandy paths are a glorious red and there are lots of dry river beds that we crossed.  Just as we were finishing the hike the thunderstorms came in.  We drove back up to the rim (where we were camping) and the fog was so thick we could barely see 10 feet in front of us.

Day two was a raining day so we decided to make the most of it and go into Amarillo to run errands and see what the city had to offer.  Let’s just say Amarillo TX is a place that is functional but lacks a bit in energy and charm.  The evening prediction was for severe thunderstorms and wind.  Well the predictions were accurate and we spent our first night riding out a storm.  The lightening was amazing to watch through our skylights and it is good to know that we can survive strong winds.  We were fortunate that no hail came through and we are still in one piece. We awoke to sun but the winds were ferocious.  We managed to get in a hike in a slightly sheltered section of the canyon with some beautiful views.  As we came out of the canyon we were greeted by winds like I have never experienced. 

We decided to go and see an art installation called The Cadillac Ranch which is located outside of Amarillo and is part of Route 66 tradition. It is a famous landmark where a group of artist have placed a row of Cadillacs buried into the farm land that are continuously being spray painted. If you want more information here is a link: .  We got to the site and the winds were so strong that Ross could barely open the car door.  Our walk to see the Cadillacs was an adventure. According to our phones the winds were about 60 miles an hour with gusts up to 80 miles an hour.  I’m glad we went to see the Cadillacs, and it was an experience to walk through wind gusts like that, but once is good enough.

Unfortunately due to the weather I haven’t been able to paint outside so once again I choose to paint a few watercolors inside.  One from our last trip at the Great Sand Dunes and one from our hike during the day.  I generally am painting these paintings in about an hour and using photos that I took from my phone.  It is has been a good exercise for me to work on getting the feeling of a location rather quickly. 

Because the wind continued and Ross and I felt like we did most of the hikes that we wanted to do at Palo Duro Canyon we decided to head a little bit further South to Caprocks State Park also in Texas.  We were both pleasantly surprised by this park.  It is a beautiful little canyon and the red cliffs were absolutely striking against the blue sky.  We did a long hike that started at the bottom of the canyon in the middle of amazing red cliff and rock formations.  We hiked through sights including the Dancing HooDoos,  The Fern Cave, and then up to the top of the cliffs for some wonderful scenic overlooks. 

Tired and content we headed back to the airstream for a nice BBQ and hot shower.  I should add that Buddy has been loving the hiking and seems to have settled into this new lifestyle.  At first he wasn’t sure what to make of all of this but he is adjusting just fine.

The next day of adventure was started off by a beautiful hike through the valley of the Canyon.  Surrounded again by glorious reds with beautiful blue sky backdrops, more hoo doo formations or as Ross and I started calling them, “Rockin art”.  And then it was time to hit the road and start heading back north to Colorado.  Our intention was to drive and camp in the Comanchee National Grassland which is about half way to Boulder.  But we soon found out the Grasslands are nothing but open fields along the side of the freeway.  So we ended up driving a bit farther and got to Lamar. 

After spending the night in Lamar we made a quick stop at the Sand Creek Massacre National Monument on our way home. Ross is a bit of a history buff so this was a stop that he enjoyed.  This is the site where in 1864 the Arapahoe and Cheyenne tribes were massacred by American troops which was a significant in US history. Not the most uplifting of stops but sometimes it is good to reflect on these events.

Overall it was a successful trip.  We got in some good hiking, saw some areas of the US that we had never been to and Buddy fell in love with the Airstream life. It wasn’t as successful on the art end, but I am realizing that that will come more with the good weather soon.

A few quotes to end this blog:

 “A Happy Dog is a Happy Wife and a Happy Wife is a Happy Life!” – Ross Gallagher

“A good Artist must first be a person – that is an individual with fine qualities” – Isabel Robinson (the Art School Teach at Palo Duro Canyon 1936

The Maiden Voyage

Taos, Ojo Caliente and The Great Sand Dunes National Park

Our plan was to leave Boulder early on the morning of the 23rd  and head to Taos, New Mexico, but that was quickly changed when a storm pulled in the night before and dumped snow.  Fortunately in Boulder, once the sun comes out, the roads quickly melt and so we departed later that day but the pass to New Mexico was closed. 

So we decided to stop in Pueblo and camp for the night at a KOA campground.  Not the most scenic, but it was extremely practical and the camp host was a savior for the Airstream Newbies!  We were pretty thankful that he was around since it would have taken us twice as long or more to get all set up.   Right now everything is a bit of a question mark while Ross and I try and figure out all the bells and whistles to this beauty.  The big challenge in the evening was trying to figure out why the heat and the AC were running at the same time.  Thank goodness for the internet and YouTube Videos.  The problem was solved and we were toasty warm.

Taos has an abundance of art and art galleries but also lots of scenic views and buildings to inspire creativity. The sunsets were pretty spectacular as well.  I took advantage of an evening to paint a glorious sunset.  The colors in the sky were breathtaking.  And lots of photos have been taken for potential paintings back in the studio.

Ross and I had several goals when we bought the Airstream and had the vision to go on these journeys.  Mine of course was to see more of the wonders of the US and translate those visions into art.  We also wanted to incorporate our love for the outdoors and being active.  Lastly we wanted to continue to learn new things.  One of those “things to learn” was another language.  So Ross and I are working on speaking Spanish by using audio downloads while driving.  It should be interesting to see how much we can accomplish and integrate in our travels.

Our outdoors/active events for this trip was skiing at Taos.  We were extremely impressed with the skiing and had a magical time.  The weather, snow conditions and terrain were fantastic.

We noticed an interesting housing complex as we were driving in to Taos and went back to visit it on one of the afternoons.  It is called Earthship Biotecture (you can see more at  The homes are all built off the grid and use lots of recycled materials for their building supplies.  We toured the visitor center and walked around some of the buildings.  It was fascinating and inspiring but we both felt like the overall aesthetic design could have been better. 

Another visual highlight of the area is the Rio Grande Gorge bridge.  It was spectacular to see the depth of the gorge in this extremely flat landscape.  Amazing what water can do when cutting through the land.

After a few amazing days skiing in Taos, we headed out to Ojo Caliente Spa for a couple of hours of relaxation in the natural hot springs and then it was back to the comfy cozy airstream. 

Our last stop was the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Both Ross and I were speechless and overwhelmed by the size and vastness of the Great Sand Dunes.  I had heard about them for years but nothing can explain them except by visiting them and hiking them.  It is so incredible that they exist in the middle of the Rocky Mountains.  They are the tallest sand dunes in North America (over 750 ft high) and cover about 30 square miles.  As we crossed the flat area of sand before the climb up, both Ross and I felt like  we could have been in the Sahara Dessert.  As we climbed up (which was a steep climb) through the strong winds (that are the cause of these sand dunes) we were so amazed by there immenseness and striking formations.  Once we got to the top we were awestruck  by the vastness of the sand dunes.  We had only reached the first wave of sand dunes and there were plenty more.  Fortunately the descent was easier and quite fun. 

It was the perfect way to end our trip especially with the views of our last camp site and the sunset.  Both of us are feeling very lucky to have had this experience.

Stay tuned for the next adventure!

If your eyes are open, isn’t every moment enough? Sean Murphy

Not so far from Home

Ross and I have been wanting to get out and test the Airstream locally before we go on a longer road trip to make sure that we get some of the wrinkles worked out.  A few plans have been changed due to weather and then finding out that we ordered the wrong Surge protector.  But two nights ago we spent the night at Flatirons Golf Course where Ross works (and given permission) to stay in the parking lot. If you haven’t been there the views are amazing and so beautiful that I spent an afternoon out there plein air painting a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately, the painting isn’t something that I love, so I won’t be posting it.  The reality is that there are often lots of not so great paintings between the fantastic paintings. I’ll be back out there when it warms up to try again, and maybe we will even camp there another night because the sunrise was amazing.

We hope to be out on the road soon with more exciting adventures and better paintings.  Stay tuned.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining Ross and Sue on their new adventure!  We are very excited to pick up our Airstream on Monday February 11th and to get the journey started.

We will be blogging about our travels, sharing the paintings created along the way and art tips and tricks as well. If you have any questions feel free to ask them here and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Once we get set up in the Airstream we will officially start blogging.  So check back soon for some updates.  In the meantime if you would like to see some of my paintings please see: Sue Cable Art Website


Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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