Uncategorized

Inspiration in a Storm

image

Due to the trauma of losing my son, followed by months on medication and the natural passage of time, I’ve been having a very difficult (dare I say impossible) time getting back to writing. My first counselor suggested making writing three times a week a goal. Ha! I wrote one piece on my son, had a panic attack and deleted the whole thing. Turns out all those times I wrote “goal oriented” on applications and resumes was a big fat lie. I’m more nap oriented.

image

A funny thing happened this week though. My best friend, Angela, shared this photo.

image

It reminded me of her natural talent behind the lens and how we had always dreamed of traveling and writing someday.

Then I went to my Mom’s and along with Trey’s adopted sister, Cayce, made this awesome memorial tree for Trey.

image

A few days later Tim was painting a dining room table. Solid white per my request, which had turned a soft robins egg blue. Inspiration struck! I took over the painting job while Tim was out and did this:

image

It seemed I was surrounded by art and inspiration and creativity. On Wednesday, I started sessions with a new counselor. She said I should take my time and either the writing would come back or maybe I would discover a new creative outlet. Yay!!! Permission from a stranger won out over pressure from myself.

I found myself and Marvie laughing over my travel tales; running out of gas in the Mojave, getting pulled by a SWAT member in Atlanta, the dogs locking us out of the car. So here I sit two days later writing. Maybe I’ll write again tomorrow. Maybe I won’t. I’m okay either way. Its enough to know that the storm may never end but there are moments of calm in the middle.

Standard
travel

Extremely Colorful Colorado

Now that we are settled, not at home but nearby, and I have a little time to relax and reflect on our cross country journey, I find the horror and misery of the trip fading and being replaced with happy memories. I even look forward to travelling more. I cannot wait to visit Montana, my father’s family’s home. The Pacific Northwest beckons. And my next destination is absolutely Maine, home of my idol, Stephen King.

For now though, I am just going to look back on the memories I recently made and the one thing that stands out the most is Colorado.

a0204348_0191793

We woke on a Wednesday morning in Beaver, Utah and set that day’s goal for Denver, Colorado. According to the GPS we would arrive at 7:30 PM. Yeah. Not so much, but we will get to that. Since we had finally dropped our load and the roads in Utah were fantastic, I volunteered to drive. I crossed Utah without incident and made it exactly one mile into Colorado. The change in terrain was immediate and drastic. Suddenly we were on top of the world with no guard rails! I pulled over and let Tim take the wheel again and that was definitely the right decision. We wove our way through the Rockies for the rest of the day and late into the night. The GPS continuously readjusted its time frame. 8:30. 9:30. 10:30. Even Tim, who is a confident and experienced driver, was driving at about half the speed limit. We finally decided we needed to get a hotel room for the night but were unable to find a room, even in Vail! So we forged ahead. And that’s when it started to rain. We pulled into a rest area determined to just sleep in the car until dawn. So naturally, the rest area had an hour parking limit. Again, we forged ahead. Mostly it was a nightmare driving the Rockies at night, but there were highlights we enjoyed; the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel was especially enjoyable because when we emerged on the far side, we had left the rain behind us. Glenwood Springs was lovely and graced us with a beautiful rainbow. And it was really, really cool to cross the Continental Divide (especially since it meant we were halfway home!).

Loveland-Pass-Continental-Divide

We stopped for the last time around 11PM, ate dinner and forced ourselves into making the final push for Denver. This leg of the journey is when I learned that Colorado has quite the sense of humor. As we finally spotted the glittering lights of Denver laying ahead of us, we also spotted this:

truckers_fooled_i70_colorado

And then this:

sign02

It didn’t scare us though; we had finally reached our destination. At 12:30AM, a full five hours later than the GPS had originally indicated. We checked into the first Motel 6 we came across and passed out. We woke the next morning, bright, early and horribly ill. Now if you scroll back up and take another look at the Loveland Pass/Continental Divide sign, you will note that the elevation was near 12,000 feet. Turns out there is such a thing as altitude sickness. Who knew?! The symptoms were mostly flu like with awful headaches. It was tempting to take the day off and stay in bed, but there was something very special awaiting me in Denver.

lynne

Three years ago, my dear friend Lynne set off on a year long cross country trip (she’s tougher than me) and finally settled in Denver. So we forced ourselves up and out and headed downtown. Lynne is the only friend we had the opportunity to visit along the way and it was totally worth it. She took us on a walking tour of her very cool neighborhood; we saw a real life hooker (pretty shocking for this small town girl) and a cannabis dispensary. We spent the afternoon catching up and then headed back to our hotel to “nap”. That nap of course wound up lasting all night and we woke the next morning feeling even worse than we had the day before. So we chose to cut our Denver visit short, in favor of descending to a lower elevation and set our sites on Kansas. Before we left Colorado behind, though, the state surprised us with one more of their uniquely, hilarious signs.

milemarker

On I-70, the mile marker sign for mile 420 has been replaced by mile marker 419.99. The reason? 420 is an iconic number to the many potheads who have flocked to Colorado since they legalized marijuana in the state. After replacing the sign numerous times following thefts, they decided to eliminate it altogether and replaced it with 419.99. Hands down, Colorado has the most clever road signs in all of America. Thank you for that Colorado. Hopefully some day I will only remember Lynne and the signs, and forget the  horror of driving the Rockies at night in the rain and the misery of altitude sickness.

Standard
travel

Seeing America Without Losing Your Mind (Yes It Is Possible)

Five weeks ago, we set out in our RV for our first cross country trip. The destination was California; the point was to deliver a tow behind pizza oven and four cabinets to their new owners. Murphy’s Law ruled the trip from the get go. We broke down four times between our home base in South Carolina and Mississippi, where we finally blew the motor in our 1984 Winnebago. We regrouped in Tupelo, Mississippi, rented a truck, loaded up the dogs and set off again. The rental truck, a 2015 Tahoe, got us all the way to our destination and home again but that doesn’t mean the trip was without a hiccup or two. The following is a few of my best travel tips, guaranteed to keep any road weary travel from pulling out their hair.

Show Some Love for LOVE’S

0x600

With over 200 locations nationwide, Love’s truly is a traveler’s best friend. You can always count on Love’s for safe, quality fuel at reasonable prices. They always have a variety of food choices and a wide selection of incidentals essential for any successful road trip, from phone chargers to tampons. Many Love’s feature pet areas for your furry friends to stretch their legs and showers for filthy men who have spent hours under the RV. On more than one long, lonely stretch of road, the Love’s sign in the distance gave us the strength to push on a few more miles. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, the friendly staff at Love’s is more than happy to unlock your rental car, free of charge, after your furry family locks you out.

Get Off The Beaten Path

prairie-dog-town

Due to budget and time restrictions, the first half of our trip was spent strictly on America’s vast and awing interstate system. With a little more freedom, the trip back home allowed us to be tourists a bit. My first recommendation: stop at every scenic outlook! There’s a good reason the government chose to spend the money to provide these spots. They provided the most beautiful pictures from our trip and gave us a chance to see amazing landscapes not visible from the highway. My second recommendation: just go ahead and fall into the tourist trap!!! By far my favorite stop of the trip was at Prairie Dog Town in Kansas. We first saw the signs advertising the world’s largest prairie dog and six-legged cows about an hour before stumbling on this micro-zoo. Owned for 45 years by a Vietnam War veteran, this project is clearly a labor of love and just made me feel good about my fellow animal loving Americans. As a matter of fact, the place is for sale, but only to the “right person”, someone willing to love and care for these buffalo, peacocks, wolves and all their friends. So if anyone would like to invest $300,000 I will gladly pack my red shoes and change Violet’s name to Toto and head for Kansas!

Motel 6: They’ll Leave the Light on for You and for Fido, Too

5A26331CEF650024CBDF87D2972DE68D

Halfway through our journey in Los Angeles, sitting in the parking lot of the second hotel to reject us that night due to their pet policy, exhausted and hungry, I made the most thrilling discovery of the trip, possibly my life. With the exception of one location in New Jersey, all Motel 6’s take pets. For free. Seriously, pets stay free. I don’t really think there’s much more to say, but for those of you who need more convincing, I’ll continue. If it’s luxury amenities you’re after, just keep driving. But if you are looking for a clean, affordable place to catch a little shuteye and a shower, Motel 6 is your home away from home. Motel 6 consistently had the lowest prices all across America and we never experienced any problems like noisy neighbors or dirty rooms. As a pet owner I especially appreciated that many locations have forgone carpet in favor of easy to clean hard surfaces. As a traveler, I appreciated the comfortable beds and endless hot water. The killer sunset from the heated pool in Beaver, Utah didn’t hurt either, much like the cheapest room of our trip, which we found in Las Vegas just minutes of the strip.

Knowledge is Power

st-george-utah-real-estate-dinosaurs1

Opportunities to learn abound along the road. Welcome centers and rest areas often have educational postings and displays. We learned about plant and animal life indigenous to the Rockies while waiting out a late night storm. I got to say, ” hey honey, come look at this poop” while learning about animal scat in the ladies room of a welcome center in the Mojave desert. Tim was mortified; the park ranger amused. In Utah, we visited the St. George Dinosaur Discover site at Johnson Farm. We got to lay our hands on real dinosaur tracks perfectly preserved at this sadly underfunded historical treasure. I had a  close encounter with a vicious and beastly lizard on a roadside in Arizona when we stopped so I could see how the mountain felt.  

Every stop is a chance to gather a little knowledge and everyone knows knowledge is power.

 

 

 

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3…

After months of endless shopping, four weeks we purchased our first recreational vehicle. The rolling home we will use to visit 49 states and two foreign countries at least. She’s a 1984 Minnie Winnie and it was love at first sight.

image

To say this has been an educational process would be severely understating the situation. We needed to be sure our traveling home is safe to begin with. New tires are the first no brainer.  Easy enough, right? Nope! It turns out that the tires we need quit being manufactured long ago. For five long, fruitless days we searched along with Good Sam and countless tire shops. Finally, we drove an hour away from home to Savannah, Georgia and searched junkyards until we found 6 modern 8 lug 16 inch dualie wheels. Eureka! Problem solved. We got new tires on them and squished ourselves and all six giant wheels into our tiny two door Mercedes. We had a mobile repair service come put them on in our yard and finally felt safe to journey onward.

image

The Great Tire Hunter of 2014 wasn’t the only time and resource consuming project going on this last month. We’ve had fluids to change and belongings to sort through. We’ve never felt a joy so pure as the moment we fixed that closet door. And who could forget our first dump site (and the missing hose we must have lost along the way)? We’ve begun the process of moving in and made huge strides in the exterior overhaul. She’s black now and with some fun additions she will be ready to take on Armageddon. Check back for more on our renovation projects later.

image

All this hard work has led us to a rainy Sunday afternoon, at Hunting Island State Park in Beaufort, South Carolina. We are out in the Minnie Winnie with all three dogs for an overnight test run. We have marshmallows, we have power and water, we have board games. We were pleased to not encounter any issues either in transit or during set up. Everything we have loaded up thus far stayed where it was supposed to. The new tires vastly improved the smoothness of the ride resulting in a much quieter ride. We still have some kinks to work out, like how to work the hot water heater, but all in all we are feeling pretty confident we can handle whatever North America can throw at us.

image

Standard
Uncategorized

Fort Fremont, Security on the Sound

Fort Fremont, located on the Port Royal Sound in St. Helena, SC, is the ruins of a military installation on a lovely strip of beach.

image

Today, its a wonderful, historically educational spot to take the family for a picnic or swim. All that remains of the original fort is the hospital and the batteries.

image

When Fort Fremont was constructed, in 1899 during the Spanish-American war, it also included a mess hall, bakery, water tower, guardhouse, barracks, stable, commissary, post exchange, administrative building, and lavatory. These structures were built of wood and had all been demolished before the site was submitted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

image

The structures which remain on the site today are very well preserved and could be made inhabitable and armed  with relative ease. The batteries formerly manned three 10 inch disappearing guns (cannons) and two rapid fire guns.

image

A quick stop in historic downtown Beaufort on your way out to Fort Fremont to pick up a few cannons and you could be armed and ready for battle just like the fort was before its closure in 1921.

image

Sadly the fort has been vandalized, mostly by graffiti and litter, so you would have to do some serious clean up and all of the doors and windows would need to be replaced.

image

Graffiti and Litter mar the beauty of the ruins

However, any site you choose as home base in a dystopian world is going to require tons of hard work. Fort Fremont is an ideal location due to its proximity to the Port Royal Sound, literally just steps away, nestled in a maritime forest full of wildlife. The roof being designed to collect rainwater is another wonderful and vital feature of Fort Fremont.

image

The most interesting (and slightly scary) bit of Fort Fremont history is that no shot was ever fired from the fort. Despite this, we still believe the fort would make a fantastic base after the apocalypse and we are fairly confident this particular graffiti wouldn’t come true.

image

Standard
Uncategorized

You say we can make money on the road?!

A few weeks back we stopped into our local KOA to do a little research and wound up chatting with a couple of workampers. What’s a workamper you ask? So did we.

image

It turns out you can sign up with KOA, and tons of other sites, for these workamping opportunities. Basically, you do some work around the campground in exchange for your camp site and a little pocket cash. Genius! KOA and some of the other sites require a subscription to the service, but the fees are nominal. The couple we spoke with at our local KOA were working the check in desk and coffee/pizza shop. They also cleaned the pool and did light maintenance work.

image

Workamping isn’t the only money making prospect on the road, either. We have also signed up with a shipping website. You just search your route and see what people need delivered. Its amazing what people will pay to send a painting, boat or pet across country. The contract goes to the lowest bidder so we’ve gone ahead and bid numerous jobs going all over America.

image

We have just begun our search for travel work prospects and already run across these two seemingly awesome opportunities. Ideally we will be able use these options and save our monthly income. You know, to buy another RV. Fingers crossed.

Standard
Uncategorized

Alright, we’re going cross country…. Now how do we get there?

Logistics. Logistics are everything when it comes to planning a trip of this magnitude.

image

We suppose you could use the “fly by the seat of your pants” approach, but one of us is a bit of a princess so that wasn’t going to work for us.

image

The hardest question to start off with was where to start. We spent a month plotting courses in different directions. We have friends and family all over the country we are eager to visit. Myrenthia MUST be in Maine for Halloween. Tim is dying to see Colorado. We want to drive Route 66 and the borderlands along the Canadian border. Alaska has to be visited in summer.

image

Fortunately, salvation arrived in the form of two tiny humans. Myrenthia’s best friend’s children, who were spending the summer in South Carolina. We thought, “wouldn’t it be nice to take them home for her?!”, and the date and destination were chosen.

image

Now with an itinerary in place, its crunch time. How do we get there? No, seriously. How? Van towing a camper? Van with trailer for supplies and a tent? RV with scooter or motorcycle? Class A or C RV? What kind of motor? And fuel? We need plenty of space for our furry family. And we wouldn’t be adverse to be comfortable ourselves!

So that’s this weekend’s goal. Find the perfect home away from home for our family’s big journey. Wish us luck (or loan us your tour bus)!

Standard