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? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

American Muscle, Detroit Gold & Saying Goodbye

My family made a very difficult decision a few weeks ago to say goodbye to a long-cherished 'family member'.
Daisy has been in my family since 1965, when she was purchased new by my eldest aunt in New York in 1966. She is a 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible.
 

 She lived in California for many years and she is the vehicle that I first saw the original Muppet Movie in at a San Diego drive-in during the summer of 1979 with my cousin Ernie Scholz- we were six years old at the time.
She came to live with my dad in Texas about a dozen years ago, as we wanted her to remain in the family.
My dad and I have worked on her carburetor, washed her, waxed her and enjoyed long drives in her. She was intended to be an early inheritance at some point, as she held many fond memories and is a gorgeous piece of industrial art.
Several months ago, my dad asked me if I was ready for my inheritance and could I make the necessary accommodations for her. We discussed options back and forth and Katrina and I decided that our present lifestyle was not the most suitable situation for maintaining a classic car and that the storage and maintenance expense would be significant and would likely require us to go back to a more traditional lifestyle that we no longer desire and possibly couldn't afford comfortably long-term.
We shared our concerns with Dad, who was very supportive and understanding and we decided to pursue other options for Daisy.

This week, Daisy joined the extensive Gullo Ford Family Museum collection, where she will be on display for the enjoyment of many for decades to come. If you ever have a chance to visit the collection, please say hello to her from us. It's not often that a family heirloom finds its way to a museum in your lifetime.
As sad as it is to see Daisy go, we know she is well cared for and loved.
'Hippie Van' now takes the lead as the patriarchal vehicle in the Holt family as he enters his fortieth year and possibly the half-a-million mile mark one day soon. He has not been driven much in the last fifteen years and his newly rebuilt engine and transmission should help to change that very soon.

In the meantime, I am keeping up the family tradition with Molly (Jeep), as she prepares to celebrate her 25th year this July. My dad and I drove to my hometown of Cocoa Beach, Florida on July 14th, 1990 to pick her up. I was seventeen.

I am reminded in writing this that many of my fondest memories with my dad revolve around these and other vehicles. His passion for collecting and maintaining his very own 'pieces of industrial art' have always been a part of our relationship, and washing the cars every Saturday was a childhood ritual that I will never forget. He taught me how to change my own oil and tires, lube a chassis and gap a spark plug.
 He knows the answer to any and every mechanical question there is to ask about any internal combustion or nuclear powered engine ever manufactured.  He can look at four square inches of a fender, bumper or tail fin and tell you the year make and model of any car built after 1950. He owns every issue of Car and Driver and Motor Trend since 1969. He has one hobby and one passion and he’s dedicated a lifetime to honing his expertise because he is simply overcome with curiosity about all things automotive.
We bought my first car before I was even old enough for a driving permit- a neglected '78 T-bird that had sat for years in a field in Virginia. We spent two years rebuilding the engine (using the onion skin manual that my dad ordered from Ford for $100) and polishing off the oxidation until she shone. I owned that T-bird for fourteen years and more than 260,000 miles. She drove from Texas to Alabama, Oklahoma, all over Florida and the southeast, and she towed my worldly possessions from Alabama to Utah as I fled an abusive relationship and a case of bronchitis so severe that my dad ended up driving me from Houston to Salt Lake City at a moment’s notice while I slept fitfully and heavily medicated most of the way.

My own Detroit fascination is homage to him and a continuing tribute to the amazing man who has skillfully shaped and continues to influence my life today. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

One More Reason That My Wife Is Totally Awesome

This morning before work, I was goofing around on the computer and trying to clean out my email and FB notifications. I subscribe to several deal sites like Brad's Deals and Living Social, and I saw an intriguing ad for a waterproof wireless shower speaker with a really funny video ad.

Basically, this dorky guy is trying to be studly and sexy in the video (and he knows that he isn't), and is talking about how many and heavy metal this speaker is... Cut to a silhouette of him laying in the tub with candles and bubbles listening to "On the Wings of Love" while turning on the water with his big toe. It was fairly amusing.

Anyway, Katrina is flitting around making our breakfast shakes and lemon tea and isn't really paying attention to me. About 20 minutes later, while I am washing dishes, I start belting out a comedically off-key rendition of 'On the Wings of Love', to which Katrina stops short and gives me this really odd look.

"What's wrong?" I say, genuinely concerned that she, after all these years, suddenly thinks this is my real singing voice.

"That's SO weird. I was JUST thinking that song in my head." She sort of tilts her head speculatively.

"What are you thinking?" I ask.

"Well, I knew that is was just a matter of time before I developed super powers", she replies with a straight face, "I just sort of hoped that it would be either magic or the ability to fly, but I guess mind control is pretty good, too."

 She laughs and then says, "Please tell me that we recently heard that song before I think that we're now sharing one brain or something..."

And THAT is one of the many reasons that my wife is freaking awesome. Super powers- her totally rational explanation for the not-easily-explainable. That, or a Vulcan mind meld...

God, I love this girl!