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!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Emerald Coast Crazy Making

So, with a bushel of peaches between us, we meander down to Florida’s Gulf Coast.

We plan on spending a couple of days wandering along US Highway 98 starting at Panama City Beach all the way to Mobile, Alabama.  There are some fantastic state parks and a handful of beach towns that influenced me a great deal while growing up.

Destin Beach, was a family favorite for years, most of my summertime memories are split between my grandparents in Salt Lake City and our little beach condo in Destin.  We stayed at the Holidome for years, until they opened SunDestin  in 1985, where you could buy a condo and rent it out for most of the year to pay your mortgage while saving the prime dates for your own personal retreat, or you could rent aforementioned condo for a week or two at premium prices.

There wasn’t much to do in Destin back in those days, except play at the beach or at the tacky Big Kahuna water park across the street- not that we minded hanging out at the beach all day and all night. That was always perfectly fine by me.

Flash forward 27 years to major freneticism…

From Panama City Beach all the way to Gulf Shores, the summer crowds fill the newly paved and widened streets, which are flanked on both sides by brand new shopping malls and master planned inclusive communities, major resort hotel chains with architecture to rival that of Vegas. Anything and everything that one could want is crammed into every possible open space, all competing for your attention (and dollars), while crowding out the ocean views and powdery white sand.

There was not a single space at any RV park or campground to be had for sixty miles. It was hot and muggy and threatening to rain, which meant that, not only would we be hot, sticky and uncomfortable while boondocking (sleeping in your RV or camper in a spot- usually at a Walmart or truck stop- while not plugged into shore power. In other words, no A/C), but there was a likely chance that we would have to either close our windows and nearly suffocate if it started to rain, or risk soaking all of our bedding in the downpour.

So, while only the second day into our RV adventure, we gave in and found a shitty beach motel that had one vacancy (it was also Friday night- the third one of the summer- great timing) for the low, low price of $120.  When we pulled into our parking space, the neighbor in the next room, was sitting out on the sidewalk, drinking beer and throwing trash into the bay to see if he could make it from his seat to the water. He was also yelling at his girlfriend about pizza, and  he had a stack of cans  as a testament to how long he had been drinking.

The motel was shabby and run down, but, to it’s credit, the sheets and bedding were clean and new, if nothing else in the room was. There was also a large raptor feather tucked lovingly into the lights above the mirror- we don’t know to this day if some kid found a Pelican feather and forgot about it when they checked out, or if it was some kind of ritualistic symbolism. All I know is that it was the first time I ever slept in a hotel room with a pelican feather.
Shitty hotel room in Ft. Walton Beach

Eager to get the hell out of the craziness of the Gulf  Coast, we made a bee line for Gulf Shores and turned inland to Foley, AL in a bid to hit Mobile before dark. The heat and humidity were unbearable and between the terrible crowds and  stifling weather, we never once managed to put a toe to ocean. We just moved into survival mode and ran for solid ground.

We did enjoy some parts of the coast and I asked Katrina to allow us to visit again when the weather and the crowds were both more manageable.

We did notice that our coach A/C- which we had promised to use for only emergencies in a bid to save gas and keep us acclimated to the outside temperatures so that we could boondock more comfortably (a notion that lasted 36 hours into the trip)- was not as cold as it was earlier in the day. I remembered the previous owner warning me that the coach A/C needed to be charged once in a while. He had it checked out and swore that there was no leak, but we would need to get some XYZ123 (R134) once a summer to charge it. Since I never planned to use the A/C, because air conditioning is for wussies, I brushed aside the thought.

We found an auto parts store and ($50 later) had the XYZ123 (R134) canister and  doohickey (charging system) in hand, we charged the system all by ourselves. The helpful employee mentioned that the compressor was charged because the conduction hose (uh-huh?) was cold, but he noticed that the Schrader valve was leaking (yes, of course, the shredder bulb is leaking, yes…) and would just need to be replaced to stop the leak, which was very slow and nothing to worry about anyway.
Savvy Mechanic...
He also mentioned that we should have the A/C on Max setting  for the first few minutes to cool the cab down enough for the A/C not to labor… I have literally lived without A/C for the last four years and completely forgot about MAX. I had it on bi-level in 101 degree heat because I wanted it to blow on my feet to keep the cat under my driver’s seat cold- yes, I have a cat under my seat at all times while driving… and he needs to be cool… he’s fat and black and he pants when he gets too hot, so I have it on bi-level, dammit…

We decided (now that we were cool and comfortable) to catch up with US 98 again and drive around Point Clear, through Fairhope and into Mobile, AL.  Katrina was never really keen on the drive through Mobile, but after twenty-two years together, I wanted to share with her a part of my history from before we met. I know so much about her youth and childhood, simply because we’ve lived less than 30 miles from her childhood homes for most of our marriage, and I wanted those fragmented pieces of my life BK (my own take on the Greco-Roman calendar) to finally fall into place as shared experiences.
I am so glad that she agreed to see Fairhope and Mobile because, much to our mutual shock, she was enchanted by both communities.

Fairhope is a well-to-do, resort  style area in Baldwin County, across the bay from Mobile, and many of the elite live over there, in large homes with well-manicured lawns. But the town proper and the neighborhood surrounding it, are much like St. Augustine or Park City- clean, artsy shops set in a beautiful outdoor setting flanked by historic homes.

There are wide sidewalks and biking trails everywhere- which is weirdly one of Katrina’s most adamant requirements for our next city to settle in. There must be sidewalks and easy-to-use multi purpose paths around the city. It’s the one things that keeps Myrtle Beach from the top of her list and, as much as she loves it there, the lack of user-friendly (meaning, that the walkways go somewhere that you actually want to go) walkways are at the very top of her cons list for Myrtle Beach.
Mobile has changed a great deal in the last twenty-three years, but the historic district is still charming, if a bit more run-down than I remembered. I lived in four places in three years in Mobile, and we visited them all, one by one.
The house where I lived on Dauphin Street. it's now a law office.

The visit for me was surreal, because my memories were selective and established- meaning that, in my mind, nothing had changed in 23 years and the day-to-day details of life in Mobile had become hazy and indistinct. I knew that Mobile had changed- cities change drastically in as little as six months- but with no frame of reference, I had no concept for what that entailed.

Changing the neural pathways of memory is an uncomfortable, if fascinating experience. I kept marveling at things I had forgotten about or remembered incorrectly- or simply remembered differently at nineteen versus what I perceived at forty-two. The trip created a mental conundrum in my head that was kind of cool to witness, first-hand.  Feeling my mind sort and assimilate the new sensory information on such a large scale was titillating. I felt my perception change a little bit  and I am grateful to have shared that experience with Katrina.

Next episode: Chickasabogue; Instinct on the Atchafalaya, and the rest of the Gulf Coast… 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

As I write this, we are about four weeks into our trip, and I have only one measly blog post to my credit in the last month. 
I promised myself and you, our readers, an update at least once a week and I have been negligent in my duties.
In preparation for our trip, we spent 10 days at Jenn's mom's house near Asheville, North Carolina. 
During that time, we were able to prepare the van for the trip, check the tires again, put the jeep in storage, and properly outfit our feet for a summer of fun hiking.
Once we were ready to leave, we decided to stick to Shunpiking for as much of our route as possible. 
What is Shunpiking, you might ask?
Shunpiking is a method of travel in which you avoid major interstates and highways as much as possible during your trip. This method of travel allows for a richer experience and slower pace than typical travel involving interstate highways. 
Never having attempted a cross-country trip of this type using this method before, I was unprepared for how enjoyable traveling in this manner would be. I am now loathe to use the interstate even if it's convenient. 
When you carry your house on your back like a snail, taking the road less traveled becomes less of an inconvenience and more of a pleasure.
We fell in love with many small towns in South Carolina and Georgia, most notably was Greenwood, South Carolina – a town that I fervently hope to return to in the future.
The town is host to a myriad of creative topiary sculptures- ala' Edward Scissorhands. There's even a 3-D jeep topiary with plants inside on the bench seat.
We spent our first night Boondocking at the Walmart parking lot in Athens, GA. We were planning on turning south towards Macon, but the navigator wasn't accustomed to Shunpiking and either she or the driver missed a crucial step in the directions. We still had a lovely time and we're glad to have spent the night in the hometown of the B-52's. There's even a State Farm insurance agent named Rhett Butler in Georgia- which just tickled my funny bone. 
We got up fairly early (for us), laid out our yoga mats in the shaded parking space beside our van, and did our morning routine. Doing yoga in a Walmart parking lot was a first for us and I'm sure we ended up on someone's Twitter feed. 
We headed out on our first full day of travel, and before we had gone 10 miles, found a roadside stand selling Georgia peaches. We had bought a bag of peaches in Myrtle Beach that were hard as a rock, and were assured by the farmer that they would ripen nicely – which they never did before rotting completely. We bought a full bushel of peaches and a jar of mixed berry jam for peanut butter sandwiches every day for lunch. I think we each ate 4 to 6 peaches a day until they were all gone. Some days, we would eat the peaches for lunch and save the peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. Food is secondary to travel sometimes. Other times, they go together like a hand in a glove. 

Next post, Panama City Beach, Destin, and the frenetic energy of the Gulf Coast.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Van GoGo Dancing Duo????

The Van Goings?
The Van Gone's?

Well, we've gotten some feedback about our last blog post and some people loved the new proposed blog name while others have struggled with it because of the pronunciation. We've talked with some friends and we've discussed options privately and we have some additional proposals for the new blog before making an official change.
We are trying to keep in mind that we want the blog to reflect the lifestyle that we are currently trying to lead. We realized in undertaking this endeavor, that many dreams have an expiration date – something that I had not really thought about prior to this project.
Most of you know that we've been leaning towards this lifestyle for several years now- I loved the idea of van life life long before we really got into RVing. I always had my van and I thought it would be really neat to live and travel something that was so easy to get around with. Once we started talking about living in RV full-time, the idea of living in a van never really crossed either of our minds.  There's a general connotation associated with people who live in vans- either that they're homeless and don't have an alternative, or that there're fringe dwellers who live apart from the structure and normalcy of polite society, or lastly, that they're twenty-something skier/snowboarders/rock climbers/adrenaline junkies who are living this way for an undetermined period of time until they "grow up" a bit.

While we never really fit into any of the above categories- we realize that we really wanted something affordable, easy to maneuver, comfortable and (most importantly) paid for.
We realize that 10 years from now when we are in our early 50s, we're likely not going to want to continue traveling in this manner, so we realized that this dream had an expiration date that was fast approaching.

Not willing to sacrifice a dream such as this, we decided to take the plunge sooner rather than later. Since coming east we have not done as much traveling as we had initially hoped, and we really wanted to catch the travel fever before we settled into complacency.

Let us know what you think of the above proposed changes or message us with ideas of your own.

Two days until official lift off!!!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Well, we are eight weeks or so into our newest adventure in our smallest RV ever. In just a few short weeks we will be on the road beginning a trip that we've never attempted before. We have until the end of October to gallivant as slowly or quickly across the country as we'd like. Thus far, we have 14 states on our summer itinerary. We have no intention of utilizing interstate travel if we can avoid it, and we have limited schedules in mind. Our goal this summer is first and foremost to clean out our storage unit in Utah, so that we have one less tie to tell the rest. In addition to frame up our minds and our space, we would like to also focus on building our travel network. We intend to blog more regularly ( a vow that I have broken to myself more times than I care to admit), take more pictures, and have more adventurous than we have in the recent past. If you have something you would like to see, perhaps a video tour of our new space or if you have questions that you would like answered, please let us know.

Additionally, we are thinking of changing the name of our blog. Since we no longer reside in a "tin can", we feel that perhaps the blog title is inappropriate to our current lifestyle. We have come up with a blog name that is an appropriate haplology of words that we think are well-suited to our current lifestyle. The downside to our proposed blog name is that the primary word is not a common word in popular culture. Eleutheromania is the nearly obsessive pursuit of freedom which we feel is appropriate to our current mindset. Since we are also really lovey-dovey,  our idea for our new blog name is "The Eleutheromantics". It also looks really cool because it looks like an homage to Annie Lennox.
Let us know what you think of the proposed name change, we really value your feedback, and we promise to start posting more interesting content frequently.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

My friend Eric posted this to Facebook from a Robert Kirby archive in the Salt Lake Tribune:

For the uninitiated: Robert Kirby is a columnist for the SL Tribune, a practicing Mormon, and one of the few publicly VOCAL questioners of the Mormon faith from within the church fold. There are PLENTY of detractors outside of the LDS faith, but the church is (argue if you will) notorious for shaming and excommunicating members who too often publicly display “significantly questionable faith”.
 If you make it all the way to the end of this diatribe, I have an interesting personal tidbit on why EVERYONE of EVERY BELIEF should feel free and supported to question any doctrine respectfully.   

This is an edited version of the original article: 

Here's another important gospel question for people of "only one way" faiths.

How much does your unshakable faith comfort you in moments of genuine pain and uncertainty about eternity? A lot? Some? Only a little? Not a bit?

Now the question. Is your religious faith ever a major factor in causing that pain? Is there a time when what you believe isn't a comfort and, in fact, actually makes things worse?

For example, suppose a son — let's call him Buddy — you raised to be a devout Latter-day Saint, a superstar kid through Primary, Boy Scouts, a mission, etc., suddenly announces that he's an atheist? And he's not kidding.

Not only is Buddy now an atheist, so is his new wife. Furthermore, all of your grandchildren from them will be reared as atheists.

I'm not picking on atheists here. I could have used Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Democrats and anything else that puts a loved one crossways to your core beliefs.

I'm also not singling out sons. The person in question could be your father, your spouse, a sister, a daughter, a best friend or anyone else you hope to see in heaven when you get there.

In every other regard, Buddy is still the same kid you raised. He's happy, smart, loving and even respectful of your beliefs.

Does your faith make you feel better about him, or is your belief in your theology a constant source of worry and sorrow for you now?

Hey, Buddy's not following the plan. He's going to hell (or wherever true believers like you don't go). There, he'll either sulk forever that he's no longer welcome at eternal family reunions, or every morning his entrails will be torn out again and used to floss Satan's teeth. Anyway, it will be bad.

But let's not worry about forever. Let's stick with right now. Do you believe you're so right about Buddy's new godless situation that it detracts from a healthy and loving relationship in the here and now?

Every time you look at Buddy now does your unshakable faith automatically remind you that he's doomed, that this theological rift is so important that mostly you just feel sorry for him and sorrier for yourself?

Maybe you've decided to grudgingly accept this "lesser" Buddy for who he is now out of the goodness of your heart; that if you can't love him the way your faith mandates, you can at least tolerantly pity him in a Christ-like way.

If so, consider the very real possibility that you're an idiot. First for letting theology get in the way of love, and second for believing in a plan/god/spirit that would condemn Buddy for being a wonderful human being but unfortunately, not a believer.

This also applies to nonbelievers who so firmly suppose they're smarter than believers that they can't relate to their loved ones anymore either.

Religion (or whatever you choose to call it) isn't just divisive because we exclude and sometimes even kill one another over it. It's also great at silently torturing loving relationships to death. ~Robert Kirby~

Okay: So here is my juicy parable- It's known in Psychology as the Pot Roast Principle and the story goes something like this:

A young woman is preparing a pot roast while her friend looks on.  She cuts off both ends of the roast, prepares it and puts it in the pan.  “Why do you cut off the ends?” her friend asks.  “I don’t know”, she replies.  “My mother always did it that way and I learned how to cook it from her”.
Her friend’s question made her curious about her pot roast preparation.  During her next visit home, she asked her mother, “How do you cook a pot roast?”  Her mother proceeded to explain and added, “You cut off both ends, prepare it and put it in the pot and then in the oven”.    “Why do you cut off the ends?” the daughter asked.  Baffled, the mother offered, “That’s how my mother did it and I learned it from her!”
Her daughter’s inquiry made the mother think more about the pot roast preparation.   When she next visited her mother in the nursing home, she asked, “Mom, how do you cook a pot roast?”   The mother slowly answered, thinking between sentences.  “Well, you prepare it with spices, cut off both ends and put it in the pot”.     The mother asked, “But why do you cut off the ends?”     The grandmother’s eyes sparkled as she remembered.   “Well, the roasts were always bigger than the pot that we had back then.  I had to cut off the ends to fit it into the pot that I owned”.

If we never question doctrine, we may well find out that we've created already outdated gospel to address an ever-changing world. I know that there are those of you out there who believe that the word of the Bible is the end all, be all for time and eternity- and there are those who believe that God sent an updated version of the Bible 2.0 in the form of the LDS Scriptures.
Both of these beliefs are fine and dandy if they get you through the day- but even the Mormons believe that they can still receive 'updates', in the form of Divine Revelations, to further clarify ambiguous texts of the past as they apply to today's world.

 Frankly, the Mormons are far more forward thinking in my mind, than the religions that believe that the Bible holds every answer to every question that will ever be asked from the beginning of Humanity to present- yet still eat shellfish, wear Rayon and don't own slaves or beat their wives for back-talk. 

The Carl Sagan quote, “If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth", should absolutely hold true for any belief that a human dares to pin the entire context of his or her life upon.

Katrina and I were speaking on this subject the other day and discussing how many people (not all) spend this lifetime as holier than thou, sanctimonious assholes- in the belief that they are going to be Gods of their own worlds in the after-life (LDS belief), or sit on a golden cloud in a perpetual fit of bliss for eternity (general Christianity?.

They can be judgmental, condescending, homophobic, self-serving, misogynistic abusers of humanity and the environment, simply because they focus on an archaic text that tells them to look to the heavens and their eyes are on the spectral promise of an eternal afterlife.

But what if they're wrong?