Saturday, May 12, 2018

Day Three: Natchez Trace Parkway, Sardis Dam

Tally: Days- 1.5, Girls-1.5

I know the tally above looks odd, and I’ll admit that today was off to a roaring good start at beating us into a flat quivering mass of girl colored goo, but late in the day a couple of things went right (in between moments of “Seriously, WTF already?”) so I decided that today was a draw... but since I don’t like math that doesn’t add up, I split the win instead of confusing myself or my readers later on with bad math. 

First of, let me say that Google Maps had an epic fail day, not once, but TWICE. 

Epic Fail Number One: we are headed from Gadsden, AL to Sardis, MS. 
  1. Google Maps are programmed with a destination 
  2. Mute is NOT on 
  3. Volume is turned up
  4. Google has been giving directions within this program
  5. I currently have two bars of LTE Verizon signal
Google Maps, somewhere around Muscle Schoals, AL-has stopped directing- and I happen to notice about fifteen miles into it that she hasn’t said anything in awhile. 
I look down at my phone and there’s no blue line to be seen. 
Now, if you ever use Google Maps, you know that if you stray from course, the program will reroute you immediately. I re-centered my map and I still had a blue line but I was not being recalculated. I have no earthly idea why. 
I exited the program and re-started it and was able to get back on course but I still don’t understand what happened. 

Epic Fail Number Two (same day): Detours... they happen to every one and we all know that summer is construction season. 
Google sent us down a country road in MS that said the road was “Closed in _ Miles”. No number of miles was listed on the sign. 
Whenever crews close a road they offer a detour, so we weren’t worried, but we were relieved when we saw a construction sign, a road patch and and end of construction sign. We were certain that they had finished up early for Mother’s Day weekend and we were in the clear. 
Imagine our surprise when we saw a close road, cold equipment and no way through- with no detour- twenty miles down the road with no cell service. 
We were forced to turn around and Google couldn’t re-route us. 
Fortunately, our map was still up on the phone, and we were able to backtrack about two miles to a small road, follow it north a few miles, then east on a dirt road about three miles, then south about four miles with our fingers crossed that it would come out somewhere behind the construction crew and where do you think we pulled out?
 Not fifty feet behind the crew! HaHa!! No detour, my patootie!!

Best of all, we saw the most spectacular field of wildflowers on one of the tiny roads that we never would have seen had we not gotten creative.  🌹

Even though Google failed us most of the day, we scored a couple of big wins on the Natchez Trace Parkway this afternoon after a brief heartbreak that was quickly mended. 
We followed the Trace for a few hours, certainly not the entire length, which I would like to do one day, but I couldn’t find the passport stamps anywhere and when we arrived at the visitors center at 4:03, we found out that the have all of the stamps and they close at 4pm. 
Two other girls were there as well, for the same reason. I did find a geocache and I decided to do the cache so the trip wouldn’t be a complete bust. Katrina and I sat on the bench and talked a little bit and we’re just about to get up to leave when the ranger came out with an ink pads and ALL the trace stamps!  They all had tomorrow’s date but I didn’t care! I was able to do the ones that I had and it totally made my day. 

It made me happy enough to deal with the hummus that leaked in the cooler and ruined all of our ice for drinking and also made the inside of my cooler smell and feel like a cheap, Greek discotheque. 

On the upside, Katrina made chips and guacamole again for dinner, and I bought extra avocados so we don’t have to stop again tomorrow 😋

Also a win for tonight, we had planned on staying at a state park here in Sardis that would have cost around $14 per night with my discount. We accidentally turned into the wrong campground and ended up staying at the Army Corps of Engineers Campground called Oak Grove (no clue why it’s called that- every tree in this place is a Loblolly Pine 🙃). Each site has water and electric for our fans and phones, a concrete picnic table and benches, a fire ring, barbecue grille with tall concrete bbq table and a lantern hook. With my National Park access pass we paid $9 to stay here tonight. 
$9 also gets us free use of the boat ramps at the dam (upper and Lower lakes), swim beaches and shower house (which we used more than our fair share of hot H2O). 
We sat in our free beach chairs on our paved pad, ate chips and guacamole, played with out cat and dog and had a grand old time. 
Not it’s bedtime and I’m being lulled to bed by the sound of my fans. 
Tomorrow, we hope to make it to Hot Springs, AR. 
We only seem to go there in the summertime. 
I’d love to go when we’d really enjoy hot water. 🙃

Friday, May 11, 2018

Day Two: Noccalula Falls- Gadsden, AL (Day 1, Girls 1)

Two days on the road and it’s already laundry day... we could have gone longer if the two parks we played in today didn’t smell so swampy. Our towels (including Callie’s) all smell like sweaty butt-crack. 

We are in the coolest park tonight and I can’t wait to get pics of the falls tomorrow. 

Our neighbors this evening are a lovely couple in the neatest old Warrior RV. They are a retired couple named Harold and Suzie from Boone, North Carolina and Suzie and I sat and talked forever. I love campgrounds!!  ⛺️ 

Katrina made dinner on the road this evening- homemade guacamole- and she was really excited about it, with ample reason. It was delicious!! We ate two avocados between the two of us (with chips) and I was stuffed. We are not eating out, cooking or buying prepared food (other than the odd rotisserie chicken or lunch meat) as much as possible while traveling. 

We stopped at a darling farm stand in Georgia today and bought two pints of peaches and a quart of the most delicious strawberries I’ve ever eaten, so for lunch we had sliced avocado with lime and pepper, peaches and strawberries and a small 100 calorie pack of raw almonds. 

We also fashioned a harness for Norm tonight ad he seemed to enjoy himself for awhile exploring our campy before deciding he’d rather spend the rest of the night hiding under the truck. 

Perhaps we will make an explorer kitty out of him, yet. 

As of now, we are showered, laundered and plumb tuckered. Tomorrow is another adventure to who-knows-where. Till morrow friends! 😴

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Day One: Ass-Kicker, (Day 1, Girls 0)

I’m forty-five years old and I’m lying on an air mattress in the back of a pickup truck under a canvas camper shell as  rain pours down outside. I’m with  my wife, our chihuahua, and our thirty pound black cat in the middle of the woods- by my own choice- and I’m already missing the home I left in Myrtle Beach. 

I’m ecstatic to be on this adventure and to see all of the incredible places we’re visiting, and all of the friends and family that we are finally going to see after two years of my being ill, but after being able to return to Myrtle Beach three months ago, we both realized that, though many of the people we adore are scattered across the country, and even the globe, our hearts and some of our dearest friends are right here in this tacky little beach town. 

So today is Day One of a fourteen-ish week countdown to our return home, and Day One whipped us both like a couple of wet noodles. 
Really, the last week was a frenetic orgy of panic, periodically interspersed with fun visits from friends and nightmare filled night of four-hour sleeps...

The RV is in storage for the next three-and-a-half months (Yes, we put a perfectly good camper in storage to travel the land in the back of a pickup. No, the irony is not lost on us) and the truck is full to overflowing with crap that we think we need for this adventure. 
I won’t be surprised if we make it to Utah and mail stuff to Houston for my Dad to put in the back of the Jeep for storage until August. 

We were supposed to leave MBSP at noon today. We left at 2pm. 
We called ahead yeasterday to make sure the storage place was ready for us. They were yesterday- but today, not so much. 
They fortunately found space for us and I, fortunately, previously drove eighteen wheelers for a living and am an accomplished backer, otherwise we would not have made it into the space the cleared for us. 

It took us about forty-five minutes to secure the camper and attach our hitch platform, cooler, gas can, porta potty and beach chairs to the truck. 
We were hot, hungry, tired and very grumpy.  Neither of us had eaten breakfast this morning and it was now 4:10. 
It was Bo-time! A little Bojangles fried chicken, biscuits and unsweetened iced tea (sweet tea beats all but I’d be as big as South Carolina if I drank it) and everyone was in a good mood again. 

On a separate note: I started sweating today! 

A short explanation- I haven’t sweated since my bone marrow transplant and they said it would take about two years. I’m around eighteen months- Yay! 
You may think not sweating is wonderful- if you live in places like Texas or South Carolina, I can assure you- it is not. It is dangerous and unbelievably limiting and uncomfortable. 
I’m only sweating in my forehead and scalp so far, and it’s not much to speak of, but as summer approaches, it’s a huge relief. 

We knew we wouldn’t make it too far today, so we focused on our South Carolina Ultimate Outsider goal, as we are rapidly approaching our goal and will be completing it before the end of the year.
We made it to Santee State Park around seven tonight and will assuredly be returning for a longer visit in the future. 
Not only are our friends Graylon and Debbie hosting there (we didn’t see them this trip), but this is a gorgeous park. 

Situated on the shores of the enormous 110,000 acre lake Marion, which boasts a mid-lake Cypress forest, it also has yurt-like cabins built out on piers  overlooking the lake. 
It’s absolutely breathtaking and the road into the park is nicer than any SC State Park road I’ve ever seen. I kept teasing Katrina that we must be lost and on the wrong road because this couldn’t possibly be a park road in SC. 

Our next stop, and where we knew we would end up spending the night tonight, was Aiken State Park and we made it here just about 9pm, coincidentally at the same time as the torrential downpour and lightning storm. 

So far, there are only a few things I can tell you about Aiken State Park, since it’s midnight and the rain has just recently stopped and I’m already in bed:

1. It smells like steer manure. I don’t know if it’s proximity to pastureland, a dairy or indicative of the park itself, but it’s awful. 
2. It’s very buggy. This can be said for most inland SC parks in mid-May, so no surprises there. 
3. The campsites are packed sand and are wooded and level.
4. In the dark, the campground slightly resembles Croft State Park in feeling, with a little less charm (I am biased, so please take that into account. 
5. Our site has electric and water, which is nice because we have fans for us and Norm for ventilation. 

Tomorrow, we go to the visitors center and get our stamp and then we will visit Hamilton Branch State Park. Score crossing the border into Georgia. Then we will have to wait until August to finish up our Ultimate Outsider. 

We did see a few interesting gems today in Orangeburg, SC:
  1.  Trumps Inn- Read the reviews online. Pretty funny. I’ll say no more. 
  2. Git-er-Done Tires- pretty unsurprising in the same town as above...
  3. Gagsta Auto Detailing- apparently a town divided. 
Best part of today was after dusk when we saw lightning bugs  in the fields and brush. Katrina calls them ground stars and we haven’t seen them for two years. It was as if they were saying goodbye and reminding us to come home soon.  

Trumps Inn in Orangeburg, SC

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Reclaiming Our Humanity...

This is an amazing story I read last year and, even more remarkably, the man who originally posted the 'so-called' humorous photo posted an eloquent and sincere apology to Balpreet and the Sikhs for his insensitivity.

The original story:

The apology:

EDB (Reddit poster and subsequent apologizer) notes that he sought internet kudos for the prank and that it was thoughtless and insensitive.

I realized as I was reading these stories that so much of our lives are lived online these days- it's an instant way to bridge the gap in miles and social structure- and it allows us a more immediate ( albeit sometimes edited) glimpse into each others' day-to-day lives.

For me personally, Facebook has been a remarkable tool to remain in touch with friends, family and 'framily' as we roam.

As happy as I am with my current lifestyle, the road (for me) is not always conducive to fresh human connection- and connections to other member of my species are nourishing to my soul and an integral part of my continued joy and happiness.

Because I am still tethered to a laptop for several hours each day, I am not as free to visit and explore as I would be if I was on vacation or retired, as many others are out here on the road.

I've stated before that I have each foot placed firmly in two vastly different worlds and my fellow occupants in each world find me a bit of an anomaly. I don't fit 'neatly' into a compartment and all humans (myself included) strive to make sense of the world by seeking to understand how each of us 'fits' into the grand scheme of things.

Balpreet, more noticeably than myself, challenges our social understanding- and her reason for doing so is beautiful, profound and elegant.
I admire her greatly, even as I am personally uncomfortable with her appearance- since my first western response is to 'fix' or hide what's an obviously simple hormonal imbalance.

In this day of internet trolling, flouncing and anonymous judgement- its so easy to lose our sense of humanity. We don't often  get the whole picture and we are constantly bombarded by external stimulus, so we touch even the stories that resonate with us very briefly before moving on.  

To be shown gentle humanity is a rare gift in this age and I am grateful for the reminders of how kind we can (and should) be to one another in this uncertain and scary (albeit glorious) world. To rise above the rhetoric and bare ones' soul is a rare talent.

Let's create joy and beauty. Unlike energy, which can neither be created or destroyed, happiness is not finite. There is not a quota that can be reached, upon which, no more happiness can be made.

Truly joyful people know this and understand that the law of averages works in their favor. They know that the more joy you create- the more joy is re-created as it moves forward- growing larger and infecting more people as it goes, until it eventually circles back around and touches you again. This is my kindergarten simile for Karma but it is a valid concept.

Here is a terrific example:  Have you eve been in a bad mood or even a 'blah' mood where you were just going through the motions of your day and then you saw a stranger smile at you, or a child run past with such  innocent/joyous laughter that you couldn't help but smile, too? Did someone 'pay it forward' for you and you felt an immediate desire to do the same?

Don't get me wrong- I have days (blessedly few and far between) where no amount of joy will erase my curmudgeon-ness until I am damn good and ready to be done with it.
But most of the time (since finding my sense of gratitude), a random act of kindness is enough to bouy my spirits and make me want to be a beacon of joy and happiness for my fellow humans.

Let's strive to create as much joy and happiness and peace as we can for our world. Pain and suffering won't cease to exist; society won't ever become a Utopia, but we are building a buffer against pain and sadness, loneliness and despair. We will all experience these things at some point in our lives, but creating abundant joy ensures that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. In most cases, just when we need to see it...

Peace & Love...  Jenn

Going With the Flow...

Meteorological Spring has almost sprung (a mere day away)- and  I am giddy with the rush of Serotonin and Vitamin D flooding my solar-starved pre-frontal cortex. I extend a warm welcome to my favorite blazing yellow, gaseous ball of  Happiness- Spring Fever is real...

The emergence of  warm weather signals the approaching end of our winter stay in Myrtle Beach. I've spent many blustery winter's nights researching all of the incredible places that we are going for our summer adventure and the itinerary has been tested and retested until it is a beautiful map of exciting destinations and memories.

I've planned every aspect of our trip from top to bottom- from hikes in Yellowstone to how many pairs of socks to pack- no detail, however minute, was left to chance. Except one...

Winter and spring are working months for both of us- Katrina works to provide our rent and utilities and I concentrate on growing my company's business as much as possible so that we can rely on continued revenue all summer as we travel. We scrimp, save and budget all winter so that summer is free from work other than my primary job- which is now on very shaky ground.

Many changes have come to our company and I am unsure how stable my employment may look for the long-term. The thought of being stranded somewhere in the middle of America with no income and no dress clothes makes the prospect of looking for another job quite daunting.
I truly don't want to look for another job- I like the work that I do and I adore the lifestyle in which I am fortunate to live, but that may all change in a moment if my company doesn't survive.

So, responsible adults that we are (stupid adulting...), we've decided to remain in South Carolina this summer. We have many dear friends up in Spartanburg, one of whom has made it possible for us to return to Croft State Park to host all summer and fall.
We will be among cherished friends and close family for six months and we will be stable and secure if the unpleasant occurs.

There is plenty of adventure nearby and short jaunts shouldn't be out of the questions. The van is readily outfitted for long weekends or whatever else we decide (all depends on Katrina's hosting schedule), so we will still be able to enjoy all that the Carolinas,  Georgia and Tennessee have to offer. I've filled many a Pinterest board with  things to do in Confederacy and I hope to have a few checked off by summer's end.

In the meantime, the big trailer beast isn't going into storage as planned- we've found a shipper to move it from Myrtle Beach to Spartanburg for a reasonable price and we will have a spare bedroom free for the taking this summer. We're be a mere four miles from downtown Spartanburg (whose skyline consists of the 'magnificent' Denny headquarters and about 631 two-story churches of various denominations), and we have free run of 7,000 acres of woods, lakes, Quonset huts, a soapstone quarry, a rocky river, cemeteries galore and a maze of various trails- including a mountain bike haven. Plus, all of our friends make excellent campfires...

Our apologies to all who were expecting a visit this summer- we are truly bummed by these lemons but we are trying to make as much ice-cold lemonade as possible. Please pray, meditate, light a candle or dance naked under a full moon (users' choice) for my job situation- whether that means new support internally or a new job altogether- whatever fate decrees.

We would love the company of any wayward adventurers and the beast sleeps eleven if need be. There are even bunks for the kiddos. Come join us under the stars, just don't forget your bug spray...

Sunday, November 1, 2015

157 Days

November 1st, 2015

Well, it's over..

Officially, totally, completely over.

Back in May, the summer lay before us like an endless sea of  days, stretched out past the horizon with no end in sight.
Some days, the excitement and anticipation over  the impending trek were almost too much to bear and we were anxious to get on the road, to be on the road, to hurry up and adventure already!

Now, 157 days have passed and the adventure is now just  a memory etched into our heads and hearts.
Who we are is a cumulation of where we've come from, where we've been, what we've been taught and what we've seen as we travel through the Life and Time we are given.
Who I am today is different from who I was 157 days ago, and profoundly different from who I was ten, fifteen, twenty years ago.

The last 157 days have been an incredible gift for me. I had the very unique experience of revisiting people and places from my past in a short span of time, but with a vastly different perspective.
I've learned how to not only take the road less traveled, but also how to really enjoy the beauty and tranquility of a more peaceful, simpler method of travel- not just on the road, but on the road of life, as well.

I am deeply grateful to everyone who shared this journey with us.
Many of you opened your homes (or at least your driveways) to us and helped to shape our memories and experiences.
You met us in parks and restaurants, diners and anywhere else where we could catch up and share a hug.
 You fed us and let us do our laundry and in  a few instances even clothed us (tip o' the nib to Robyn and her Aunt Hazel).

Together, we made memories and forged stronger kinships with one another and I want to thank each of you for making time and space in your lives for us this summer.

Special thanks to:

All of my family
My parents
Shawn & Angela Stewart
Lea Apodaca (thanks for the great advice about Santa Fe & Taos-changed our lives!)
Amy Pritchard & Deo (Centro Pizza, baby!)
Jeffrey Johnson   (and Ico for sharing him with us)
Tasha, Aiden and Dillon Lawson (our closest Framily)
Glenn & Trisia Pickett (and family, including Chupacabra)
Chad & Robyn Sly (and Family)
Martha Amundson (and Lisa the gardener)
Terrie Mathis ( and dear Karen- happy belated 21st)
Jerri Wolder
Lindsey Siebert & Jett Miller (Drive in!)
Cody & Joe (thanks for dinner- TWICE!)
The Crazy Brown Clan (especially those of the Ginger persuasion and their immediate kin)
The Garrison Family (Shirley, you crack me up)
Linda Luckey (with whom I will never eat ice cream or Mexican food ever again)
Katrina's Parents (thanks for the 5am wake ups)
Alex Brown (our most favorite beautiful witch)
Andy & Jay Amacher (some of our favorite neighbors)
Casey & Lacey Jones (for sharing a river and a lot of laughs)
Jimmy and Patricia Seacord and the Cootie Cousins (love you tons more than we will ever show)
Jay and Phyllis Reese (besties!)
Mitch and Dale Neslon-Wilson and darling family
Laura and Puddy ( thanks for the tow... love you two to bits and pieces)

If we missed you this trip, we will be back again next July- albeit for a much shorter visit, PM me if you would like to catch up.

In the meantime, we are home with our Myrtle Beach family and their warm welcome make us feel like total rock stars and warms our hearts. Glad to spend another winter at the beach with wonderful hosts, employees and friends.

I will be posting individual stories from our trip throughout the winter, so please stay tuned for my non sequitor, chronologically inaccurate ramblings from time to time.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fifty- Four Miles a Day

It's September 9th and the whole summer is behind us now- even Labor Day- and I haven't blogged a word again in months.

I have tons and tons to write about and I have stories galore just waiting to burst forth from my virtual quill, but I haven't written all summer.

Mostly because of work and family/chosen family obligations, but also because I am just having too much fun and I fear that if I stop to catch my breath, then the merriment will cease or I will miss something exciting.

I have all winter to peruse my summer memories and sort them out into fantastical tales to share with my readers. So, until we are firmly ensconced in our seaside winter hideaway, I will share with you some dates and numbers from my summer adventures. You can tell that summer is really at an end when Math again enters your day-to-day life...

Days since official departure: 103

Miles since official departure: 5,513

Average miles per day of trip: 53.52 

Total cost of fuel to date:  $1324 + $129 in fuel treatments (Keeps Vinnie in tip-top shape)

Total Repairs to Date (3/1/15-Present): $2600

Campground Costs:    $659 (including $120 rip-off for crappy hotel in Fort Walton Beach)

Free Camping (The best kind with family and chosen family: 

  • 14  nights with Jenn's Dad  (at the free camping pool & spa resort)
  • 2 nights with Amy & Deo
  • 5 Nights with Tasha, Aiden & Dillon
  • 1 night at Tony & Sheila's (traded babysitting for a tasty meal, favorite dessert and driveway surfing
  • 4 nights at Office (Shower, kitchen, shady willow tree and nosey-good-for-nothing-neighbors)
  • 4 nights at Katrina's parents' (5:30 am water aerobics every day- jury is still out on this one :-))
  • 3 nights at Echo Island Campground (Labor Day mini-cation courtesy of above in-laws)
  • 32 nights at Chad & Robyn's

Parked at Chad & Robyn's

That last number isn't a typo- we have such amazing friends, most of whom offered repeatedly for us to surf their drives (Glenn and Trisia- you're on our list for next year- we can't wait to hang out longer next time), but our dear chosen family of Chad and Robyn allowed us to surf their drive (plugged in most of the time) for a whopping month- in the middle of which we were gallivanting all over the Beehive visiting. 
They helped us clean our storage unit, store some tubs until next year and all- around just wanted to hang out with us and never got sick of us, the dog or even the cats. 
It's been the best summer of my life so far and I am so grateful to all of the folks who got to spend time with us. 

Parked in front of the In-Law's
If we missed you, please email me- I truly want to see everyone- all of my friends and the incredible people who make my life so colorful. I love seeing everyone on Facebook and watching your families grow and I want to catch up when we come back next July. 

Until next time... Ciao for now!