If we wait for it to work itself out, it will never be worked out! Freedom only comes through persistent revolt, through persistent agitation, through persistently rising up against the system of evil...
The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliaiton.-- M. L. King, Birth of a New Nation
Good afternoon from Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where we and Miranda are parked for a few days.
I'm writing for the sole purpose of giving you the benefit of my experience in church on Sunday in Pasadena, California at All Saints Episcopal. Those who know me well know I'm not a regular in the pews. That's pretty much overstating the case. I'm generally not in church on Sundays.
Here's the but. There are times when not showing up to a church service is tantamount to proving just how intransigent a fool could be left to his own prejudgments. This is especially true when your church lady wife gives you the heads up that something extraordinary may just happen, so suit yourself.
All Saints Pasadena is known for their activism. Their "Mission Statement" includes walking with a revolutionary Jesus, loving without judgment, doing justice courageously, embracing life joyfully.
Sunday's service began with the words of Dr. King, spoken by Dr. King over the church's public address system. It was as if we were all right there with him. Powerful. After a moment of silence, and a hymn, Andre Henry, (artist, writer, and speaker contending for the world that ought to be) gave the morning's sermon. And, lucky you, all you have to do is click right here.
I'll add. If you listen to nothing more, Mr. Henry's opening is pure grace.
Good afternoon from Castaic Lake State Recreation Area, Castaic, California. We're here for a few days before we travel to Pasadena, California so Melanie can worship at All Saints Episcopal Church and meet with fellow EPF members there.
The question that is the title of this post was posed by a friend as a comment to an Instagram post of mine. Probably posed because our Instagram posts are the window dressing of travel. Surely there must be some downside not pictured. Right?
The question is one Melanie and I talk casually about periodically, but not one for which we have ready answers because, so far, at least for us anyway, full-time travel has been almost without exception, great. We're just getting started on this great adventure even after over a year's time.
Whenever Melanie and I try to discuss any downsides or drawbacks of what we're doing, Melanie's first answer is she misses having a cat around. Sure, because of her part-time job, we are able to sometimes interact with the pets of those we meet, but, for her at least, it's not the same as having one of our own to care for and pet and love on. I like animals, but have not missed our cats as much as she has, maybe because I still see them on a regular basis via social media and know they're well cared for. And no cat box or cat yak to clean up in a while has not been a bad thing.
I think the answer to the are there any drawbacks question has to be, almost by definition, answered individually. The answers involve personal preferences in living. What are you willing to compromise so this kind of travel is possible? What is your comfort level with uncertainty? Do you enjoy logistics? How much of a financial buffer will you have for unexpected emergencies? Is it possible for you to work from the road?
Many before us have tried to generally answer the question and you can find their answers online, one reason I've avoided trying to give any list of pros and cons from the Missing Persons' perspective. I think you'll find their answers mostly expressing personal preferences about their own travel issues. Some of the people I followed as we prepared to travel are listed on our resource page and perusing their sites is a good exercise.
Here are some of my random thoughts this afternoon that may help provide you with your own answers.
Have you, during your life, camped out? Backpacked? What are your memories of the experience? Were you intimately involved in the preparations when you went camping or did your parents or a significant other do the prep work and then you got to experience a wonderful time and venue without any worries about what was needed to make it happen? Do you enjoy time outside?
Do you like to drive or travel in general? Do you enjoy the journey or do you really just wanna jump on a plane and pay someone to get you there? Someone who just bought a van told me yesterday she couldn't believe she turned 66, had agreed to stop flying from place to place so she could travel in a camper van. She was joking. Sort of. She and her husband were days into their travels and I believe she was enjoying it, but she was still a bit skeptical. And they aren't going to be living full-time in their van.
While the state of the art for our 25' Leisure Travel Van is pretty amazing and we enjoy many of the comforts of a brick and mortar home, we are camping. I choose options to make our life as easy as possible, but, like living in a bricks and mortar home, there are things that must be done regularly. Some of those things are just a bit different than when you're stationary. I don't miss yard work nor my small kitchen garden.
I have to regularly empty the black and grey water tanks in the van and replenise fresh water. Emptying the black and grey tanks is sometimes a bit smelly, but the tanks fill up and must be emptied. The black tank has to be flushed periodically too. It's not an onerous task, but must be done for the system to function properly.
Do you think you can be comfortable living in a small space with your significant other? People jokingly point out Melanie and I haven't killed each other yet, so things must be going well. It's hard enough to live with someone in a home with several thousand square feet, what about 100 square feet? We like spending time with each other, we enjoy each others company but not everyone is like that. Knowing how to disagree and come to closure is paramount.
The kitchen area in our van is small. There's a two-burner stove top and a microwave/convection oven. There's a nice size refrigerator (that must be defrosted). I believed initially I might adapt the space and prepare great meals for us, but, honestly between the space being small and washing dishes by hand afterwards in a small space, we've opted for now to not cook as much. We have a small grill and I have an InstaPot I use occasionally.
We buy prepared foods when they look good and supplement with fresh fruits and vegetables. We eat out a fair amount too. Since in the past we have enjoyed sampling the local cuisine of places to which we've traveled, that hasn't really been a drawback. But mostly, food is not the point.
Will you miss the social network you've developed in your hometown? Social media has made it possible to soften the distance you will create with travel, but doesn't replace face to face socializing. We're fortunate that Melanie has a part-time job that offers us opportunities for making new friends and meet interesting people who are passionate about the issues for which travel in support.
We're also fortunate the Leisure Travel Van we drive is a sexy house car (a four year old recently dubbed Miranda our "house car"). I can't tell you how many times people have approached me on the street to ask about Miranda. You can meet interesting people who sometimes become friends.
What about your children? We are fortunate ours had, or were about to, finish university. There are no grandchildren on the way. At any rate our boys had been away from home for a while and it was not likely we'd have seen them much even if we'd stayed in Birmingham. FaceTime is a great way to catch up and offers the opportunity to actually see them once a week. What other person to person ties might make full-time travel difficult?
Before we began travel, I was walking about 4-8 miles a day and worked out in our apartment gym about three times a week. I've fallen away from the walking and haven't done strength training in about a year now. That's about to change, but it's harder to maintain good habits when you travel. Not impossible, just more difficult. We do have great bicycles we use regularly and that has kept us moving too.
I think as long as you don't deceive yourself or glamorize what full-time travel is or should look like, and make sure you do your due diligence in preparation, then it can provide an over the top experience. But. It's camping. Even if it is at the Ritz, so to speak. 😎
Good afternoon from Hemet, California, where the skies are blue, there's snow on the surrounding mountains, the temperature is mid 70's, and our Verizon service is not what it should be. One of a handful of times where when we should have good service, we don't. I had planned on uploading some recent photos taken in Tucson and Joshua Tree National Park along with this, but that would only be an exercise in frustration.
Today, January 6th, marks our one year anniversary on the road. We left Saint Andrews Episcopal Church this day (Epiphany) last year shortly after Reverend Tommie Lee Watkins blessed Miranda and many of our friends gave us a great send off.
Suffice it to say, for now, our life on the road is nothing short of great. We continue to find amazing places and people along the way and we look forward to what 2020 brings us.
We're in our 35th state, California, and plan to spend much of our winter wandering around the Golden State. As weather permits, we'll begin to move ever so slowly northward, hopefully, landing in Washington in Spring as the tulips are in bloom in the Skagit Valley. January and much of February will be in California.
Watch this space.
Photos from yesterday's trip to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Saguaro National Park and the drive through Tucson Mountain Park.
We were in Las Cruces, New Mexico a few days back, then made the drive to Bisbee, Arizona where we stayed a night. I shot a series of point and shoot photos as I drove south/southwest on AZ-80. These photos represent the stretch of that highway between I-10 and Douglas, Arizona. Set the camera. Point and shoot. Not shown, the chip in Miranda's windshield on the drivers' side she received a few days before. Thanks, PhotoShop.
It was my 66th birthday and a fine blue skies day, after 3 days of almost constant rain, to get out and explore a bit of Charleston, South Carolina. I'd never been to historic downtown Charleston, but skirted it once while visiting friends vacationing on Isle of Palms nearby.
We parked Miranda in a lot near the United States Customs building near the harbor and began our walk about. There's a lot of new construction, renovations continue apace, and one can't help but marvel at the magnificent homes located in the historic section of downtown.
I suppose Melanie and I spent about 3 hours or more walking through Live Oak covered parks and making our way through narrow streets and alleyways. And, while it was a great way to spend my birthday, I have to admit it was somewhat tainted by, well, history.
Fort Sumter was visible on our walk and we heard tour guides discussing it and the Civil War with their paid patrons. I wondered aloud what kind of pablum might they be consuming, was it white washed history, Gone with the Wind-styled to assuage delicate white folks sensibilities or were they getting a history that included a discussion of how enslaved labor built many of the magnificent structures that surrounded us, how enslaved peoples made opulent life-styles possible?
There's also the neo-Nazi, Dylann Roof, who murdered 9 people in a bible study in Charleston. One doesn't necessarily have to be from the south to understand how the narrative of root causes of the Civil War got away from factual and was repackaged into the mythical and how much of that mythical southern "heritage" still exists in the telling as I'm typing. We have a white supremacist president in the White House.
Yet for all its appeal, Charleston also evokes a brutal chapter of American life, a city built on and sustained by slave labor for nearly two centuries. Beneath the stately facade of this prosperous city is a savage narrative of Jim Crow and Ku Klux Klan violence, right through the civil rights movement.
One doesn’t have to reach that far back to understand what makes Charleston a haunting place to explore (an estimated 40 to 60 percent of African-Americans can trace their roots here). Only in 2015 did the Confederate flag come down from the state capitol in Columbia, prompted by a young neo-Nazi, Dylann S. Roof, who brandished a handgun and massacred nine people during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the nation’s oldest black churches and hallowed ground of the civil rights movement. That one of the casualties, Cynthia Hurd, was the sister of a close colleague only hardened my sense that the so-called Holy City, nicknamed as such after its abundance of churches, was holding fast to its legacy of racial hatred.- In Charleston, Coming to Terms With the Past
There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There's too much confusion
I can't get no relief
Business men, they drink my wine
Plowman dig my earth
None were level on the mind
Nobody up at his word
No reason to get excited
The thief he kindly spoke
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But, uh, but you and I, we've been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us stop talkin' falsely now
The hour's getting late...-All Along the Watch Tower, Dylan
Good morning from Charleston, South Carolina where we've been in residence for a few days. We succeeded in escaping the unseasonably cold weather bearing down on us in Providence, Rhode Island where we were for 5 days. After traveling over a 1,000 miles in 3 days (not recommended), some stationary time has been good. Yesterday was our wedding anniversary and today, my birthday. Dinner last evening in Charleston to celebrate both was yummy.
We were in Providence last week celebrating the 80th anniversary of Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) with EPF board members and members of the Episcopal Church, Province One. Rt. Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown from Vermont preached. The theme of the gathering was racial reconciliation.
I discussed my surprise and chagrin at seeing confederate battle flags during our travels in Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and New York with Bishop MacVean-Brown as we shuttled from Providence to Bristol for an Evensong where she was to preach. She related a story to me of a time she felt unsafe in rural Indiana only to find out later the location was one where lynchings took place.
The fellow running a campground at which we stayed in New Hampshire told me matter-of-factly that the Civil War was not about race about the time his helper showed up with a confederate battle flag do-rag on his head. There's a jewish white supremacist in the White House in case you missed that. Aside from scratching my head, warding off despair for our nation is difficult at times but for all the great people we continue to meet on the road who are passionate about the issues facing us. I also relish the idea we are helping build an enduring coalition for peace and justice.
A few of the folks we were with in Providence.
Looking back at Richford, New York
Back in late October we were in Richford, New York, just outside Ithaca and were hosted by Linda and Michael who graciously allowed us to park in their driveway for the night. We are grateful for the time spent with them. They fed us dinner and breakfast and Michael took us along for a tour of a working steam-powered engine machine shop. Michael also restores vintage British motorcycles.
We spend one more night here in Charleston, explore a bit and then we head farther south tomorrow, keeping close to the Atlantic coast in search of fair weather and some place to get outside. Watch this space. Peace.
Wherein, on this day, our one year anniversary, your intrepid travelers dispense with the niceties of traveling full-time and give you the benefit of their experiences in short, easy to digest, thoughts about van life. "Van Life" is used loosely here, please don't mistake us for those lovely model types you may have come across who post on Instagram (#vanlife) and appear to be straight out of central casting for an Abercrombie and Fitch ad, have svelte physiques, and appear to lead extremely charmed existences on the road. We're pretty, just not that pretty and yes, it's a pretty charmed existence, if you're realistic about expectations. 😎
This is where folks with disposable income who have stars in their eyes about what it might be like to travel full-time in a luxury vehicle like the Leisure Travel Van, meet two people who have actually been doing it for a year. Make no mistake, full-time travel in the LTV is over-the-top great, if you first do your due diligence and then wrap your privileged head around what you're actually about to do.
We have no home base, that is, no physical place to which we return after yet another great adventure on the road seeing all the sights. Our only home is Miranda, our 2019 Unity Island Bed. We don't yet know where we may end up when our travels end, but for us, that's part of the appeal. We do have a 5x20 storage unit with stuff we increasingly can live without.
Our children, our two sons, who have just recently graduated university, had two quite different reactions when we announced our intentions to hit the road. One thought it was a very cool idea and was jealous. The other, "Well, that's the craziest fucking idea I've heard recently." (Please note, we don't condone that kind of negative review regarding our very adult intentions, but as a parent, whaddaya gonna do, right?)
While the crazy fucking idea son is the only person who actually voiced that opinion about our impending travels aloud, you can bet he wasn't the only person we told who thought it so. You may view their two very different reactions as two ends of the a continuum regarding full-time travel, as in, yes please, traveling full-time sounds like a great dream to me. The other end being, no, you both are surely out of your fucking minds and, by the way, which one of you conjured up that particular brand of craziness. I need to know in case it's contagious or hereditary.
Use what you will, ignore what you will. Let common sense prevail.
1. Living in an LTV is camping. You're not going to be living in a condo or apartment on wheels, you are going to be camping. I have likened it to backpacking in the Ritz, but at the end of the day, it's camping. If you want all the comforts and security of a bricks and mortar home, stay home. It's actually that simple. You spent all that money so you can camp in style, but make no mistake, you're still going to be camping.
2. Consider the limitations of living in a small space before you buy. Melanie likens living in the LTV to her dorm room in college. She slept and sometimes ate in her dorm room, but she lived outside the dorm space on campus and elsewhere. Consider whether you actually like the outdoors and all the kinds of weather that entails. Melanie walked to church in the rain today.
3. If organization is your thing, living in a small space on the road shouldn't be too much of a stretch. For example, our clothes are in packing cubes and we basically know what's in each cube, dishes are washed and put away within a reasonable period of time each and every time they are used, avoiding a cluttered sink and galley/living area. I have a list of what's in each bin in our pass-through and basement storage areas on my laptop computer making it easy for me to locate anything I need easily, though I pretty much know where things are now. You need far less than you believe you do. Far less.
4. If you think washing your cloths in a laundromat is below your pay grade, reconsider living on the road. We were staying at an RV Park in Fredericksburg, Texas and I was doing our laundry in their laundry room. A woman who was there with me doing her clothes quipped that she sure missed her washer and dryer. I told her my take on it was that the life I was able to live on the road made the few hours I might spend in a laundry room every few weeks worth it. Well, if you look at it that way, she said. Indeed.
5. Make sure all food that needs to be and/or should be stored is properly packaged. Empty your trash regularly to avoid uninvited varmints. No, really. Dispose of the trash daily and properly. Vacuum the floor, too.
6. Put maintenance reminders on your smart phone. Check the batteries, if you have ones that require maintenance, lubricate the steps, flush the black tank, etc. Know all the regular maintenance schedules required and just do what is required or have someone do it for you. The refrigerator won't defrost itself.
7. Consider ditching the tow car and getting electric assist bicycles. The state of the art of amazing. I consider our bicycles one of the best decisions we made before we started traveling. I can easily run errands and we really like checking out new places on our bikes. Many cities are bicycle friendly with great bike lanes. Try to be in reasonable physical shape when you begin travel and exercise regularly.
8. Set a reasonable number of miles per day for traveling and stay at least two days in any given location. For us, that's no more than 200 miles. That's not etched in stone. We've traveled 500 miles in a day to avoid staying in 95 degree temperatures with no electrical hook up and a generator that needed service before. We've gotten to a campground and immediately decided one night was maybe too many. If you travel every day, you'll soon begin to wear yourself out.
9. Wrap your head around conservation and you're on your way towards being happy camping in the LTV. Learn to use less water, less electricity. Use public restroom facilities and campground showers when possible. I didn't pay all that money to do what your talking about, you might think. Yes. Yes you did. That may not suit you, but if not, stay home and take that nice long shower, use the dishwasher and your own washing machine, just don't kid yourself about what's being promised you by LTV. It's camping, high-end camping, but it's a very different lifestyle than living in a bricks and mortar home.
10. We chase weather. What that means is we try not to be in locations where the outside temperatures are either too hot or too cold. During the past year we experienced both. If we have to choose, we prefer too cold. When it's too hot, you can't take off enough clothes to be comfortable, too cold, layering clothing works just fine for comfort.
When it's hot, you're forced to run the air conditioner, even when traveling down the highway. Once the ambient temperature outside reaches around 85 degrees Fahrenheit, you might as well stop the van, crank up the generator, and turn on the air conditioner. Running the air conditioner is not a bad thing per se, it works very well, especially during daylight hours, but sleeping while the AC is running is challenging, at least for us, because of the noise.
Too cold presents another set of problems. LTV will tell you the vans are 3 season vehicles and that's pretty much the case, notwithstanding, what I just mentioned about the heat. When the temperatures begin to drop below freezing, the van becomes vulnerable to freezing pipes and tanks.
We have heated black and grey water tanks, the fresh water tank is located beneath the bed (which doesn't make it completely safe when it freezes, but helps), but there are at least two additional areas that are vulnerable to freezing temperatures, the service bay and macerator pump. We spent a few nights where the temperatures dipped just below freezing and one night when the temperature dropped to 19 degrees. I keep a shop lamp in the van with a 60 watt incandescent bulb in it. I placed the shop lamp in the service area where the outside shower is located. The shop lamp kept the ambient temperature in the service bay in the 40's Fahrenheit all night.
Any problems you may have with freezing temperatures will most likely occur should the temperature not move above freezing after a reasonable amount of time the next day. I am not, however, advocating you not be concerned with freezing temperatures and/or avoid them. LTV's are 3 season vehicles.
11. Consider a Planet Fitness Black membership. We use it for both exercise and, more often, showers.
12. Peruse our resources page. Follow people who have been traveling full-time and have blogs and YouTube Channels that will give you some really valuable insights. Due diligence is important before you jump.
13. Be mindful of connectivity issues. Because Melanie has part-time job we, travel in support of her non-profit organization and she needs to be connected via the internet. Check out Technomadia before you buy anything related to being connected on the road, including options offered by LTV. The Technomadia folks make a living assisting people with connectivity issues.
Composed with all the seriousness and sarcasm I could muster. See you on the road.