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!

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!!!