Greetings from the rainy coast of Washington on Puget Sound at Fort Casey State Park. We'll be in residence here for a few days before moving farther south on Whidbey Island. Melanie has been invited to preach this coming Sunday in Freeland, Washington at St. Augustine-in-the-Woods.
We've just finished spending a week in La Conner, Washington where our friends, Nancy and Mike, live. We were in residence at the La Conner Marine Resort within walking distance of their home and the village center of La Conner.
The week was filled with lots of fun trips around the area and lots of tulips. It was a privilege to spend colorful mornings and evenings walking around various tulip fields (including Roozengaard) making photographs with Nancy. We're grateful for their wonderful hospitality, friendship and for including us in celebrating Mike at his birthday party this Saturday past.
We made new acquaintances, ate great local cusine and look forward to more time in La Conner over the next few months we'll be in the PNW.
April 27 marks 3.5 years of living that van life. Life on the road continues to be a truly great adventure for us.
We spent most of the winter months this year traveling in California. I know Florida seems to be a preferred destination for those like us who travel full time, but meh. While we are domiciled in Florida and vote there, the state has begun to remind us of Alabama politically. The Christianists seem to be running the guv'ment there too.
California has an incredible diversity of climate and terrain and Southern California in winter is like perpetual spring. I'm thinking, despite the higher costs there, California will be one of our default destinations for winters to come. Southern New Mexico and Arizona need to get a consolation mention though as both provide great places to spend time and we are certain to spend some of future winters in those states too. We love the desert in winter.
Diesel prices slowed us up a bit recently, meaning we stayed in place a bit longer than we might ordinarily. When a day trip costs $75.00 in fuel, you consider if maybe you could include the destination on your way to the next spot you're traveling. We paid a high price of $6.50 a gallon in the mountains of Northern California and most recently $4.89 a gallon in Mount Vernon, Washington. Fuel tax is high in California, but the roads are, generally speaking, well maintained. Gas Buddy is your and the RVer's friend.
Inflation has made one of our favorite on-the-road treats, feasting on the local cuisine, noticeably more expensive. Groceries, of course, are up in price too. And yet, not a day goes by that one of us doesn't express how great this traveling life is for us and how fortunate we are to be able to do it, especially during the pandemic.
There are no sage revelations to convey at this juncture. Everyone who lives full time on the road will have different experiences depending on their finances and tolerance for risk. You learn quickly how malleable you are, being able to pivot quickly is a plus. Anticipating what you may need or want is also a plus though, you know, even the best laid plans at times require revision.
Having backpacked all my adult life has proven to be a plus. It put me in the mindset of thinking about necessities and then, if there's room, considering the lagniappe. It is surprising how little one needs to be happy.
Checklists are essential. If my backpacking brothers read this, they are sure to get a chuckle. I was notorious for carrying too much stuff and, sometimes, suffering the consequences. I swear I've repented. Mostly. We still have too much stuff in the van.
Most of our everyday life has now become routine.
After a few days off grid (without hookups), I can pretty much tell you how much fresh water we have without checking. I know how long we can be off grid, based on what we've done, before we need to empty grey and black tanks.
Set up and take down are generally seamless operations. Most times I make sure when we're finished using something, it's stowed away, especially on the night before our next departure. That way we're underway in very little time and I can enjoy my morning coffee and breakfast without having to think much about breaking camp. It's a preference.
From time to time people send us articles about people out here living the life. We really like hearing from people back home and new friends we've made. A few days ago we got this piece out of the New York Times. It reminded me of Bill Bryson's book, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. While Caity's piece in the Times is humorous and well written and worth a read, believe me, like her, there are people out here who are doing it with little thought of what the experience may actually be like. #vanlife #indeed
I'm not inclined to bore you with the minutia of our version of #vanlife. If I did, I think most people would say, no, no thanks, there's no way I'm routinely doing "x" in order to see or do "y." We understand. It's a big, beautiful, interesting world out here. We live like this so you may seriously consider not doing it. #joking #maybe
Greetings from Porterville, California in the San Joaquin Valley. We're currently located on Lake Success at an Army Corp of Engineers campground called Tule Recreation Area.
The past month found us doing what we do, especially this time of year, chasing agreeable weather. We encountered a small amount of rain along our way and the temperatures have been generally moderate. We've not experienced any of the extremes of last year, temp wise, unless you count the 80 degree temps we experienced in San Diego and Pasadena.
We stayed in 10 different places during February, only 4 of them new to us. This is our third winter season to be in SoCal. We'd considered meeting a friend we met in Vermont in Mexico this year, but COVID and, since our passports were due to expire on the 6th of February and we had to send them in for renewal, Mexico will have to wait until, hopefully, next year.
Friends from Birmingham, Tom and John, vacationing in Arizona paid us a visit to what has become one of our favorite spots to camp Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. We took a hike through the desert on the Lost Cabin Trail to an old silver mine and back.
Our intention is to keep drifting slowly north in March moving into Oregon before April. There are a few National Parks in California we'd like to visit, but a visit will be weather dependent.
Good afternoon from Desert Hot Springs where we'e been in residence for a few days at a 55+ resort, Caliente Springs. We are currently trending south and west. We will be in San Diego at the San Diego Metro KOA for a week at the end of this week.
While we rarely plan too far in advance, the month of February has been booked. We'll travel east again after San Diego and into Arizona before traveling back to a favorite campground in Orange, California at the end of the month.
We moved more in January 2022 than we generally would trying to make our way to the Pacific Time Zone as quickly as possible. We camped in 15 different places over the month traveling from Georgia on the 5th of January and ending the month in Kingman, Arizona. In January of 2021 we camped in 9 different places.
As a result, we spent more than we generally spend eating out, on campgrounds and on fuel.
I began making a note of how much per gallon we spent on diesel fuel in New Orleans as we headed west. Diesel there was $3.12 a gallon on January 9th. On January 10th we payed $2.95 a gallon in Conroe, Texas and on the 15th we payed $2.89 a gallon in San Antonio. We paid $3.67 in Chino City, Arizona and most recently we paid $3.69 in Las Vegas. Fuel in California is always more expensive. The lowest price nearby our current location, according to Gas Buddy, is $4.63 a gallon.
A general observation about fuel costs. We, you and I, are being royally screwed if we fill our tanks along interstates and major highways. The prices are $.40-$.60 higher per gallon.
We're pleased to be back in SoCal where the temperatures in February are mild during the day and well above freezing at night. I believe I saw where San Diego will have temps in the low 90's next week while we're in residence there. I've purchased a new pair of shorts in anticipation of all the balminess. 😎
We had LED lights in our water closet and bedroom area replaced in Las Vegas last week. On the way in to Vegas we stopped and checked out the Hoover Dam. There's a great vantage point on the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge which is about a 1,000 feet above the dam.
We lucked out and spotted Big Horn Sheep on the cliffs above where we parked Miranda. That was a real treat. The dam itself is worth the stop. We didn't take a tour though tours are offered.
Just an aside. The last time water flowed through the spillway you'll see in the photos below was 1983. As you can see, the water level is down considerably.
Once our repairs were done is Las Vegas, we made our way to Mojave National Preserve. We camped at Kelso Dunes Mine for a few days. The preserve is worth a drive through and the campsite is about 5 miles off the main road and abuts the Kelso Dunes. Sunsets were wonderful, as were the night skies, and the dunes are spectacular.
A few facts and figures from 2021.
Miles traveled: 20,564.8
Number of unique places we parked: 139 or an average of just over 11 different places per month
Number of States in which we traveled: 29
Cost of Campgrounds: $832.00 monthly (includes periodic stays at Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome and the places of friends and family)
RV Diesel Costs: $4,350.66 or $362.56 monthly average
RV Propane Costs: $221.73 or $18.48 monthly average
Sprinter Mileage per gallon average: 16.4 (never drive more than 60 mph)
Dining out represented 28.5% of our flexible costs budget. Groceries 19.2% of flexible costs.
Health Care was 34.5% of our fixed costs budget. Connectivity (phone and hotspot) represents 17.2% of fixed costs. RV Insurance 7.3% of fixed costs. 15.3 % of our fixed costs are from Subscriptions (Hulu, HBO, New York Times, Washington Post, ITunes, Costco, Netlix, etc.)
We spent $1,480.00 for Periodic Maintenance on the Sprinter which included transmission service.
Our windshield was cracked and we had it replaced at no cost to us because insurance paid.
We replaced our lead acid batteries with lithium batteries. We replaced our step motor and our side door locking mechanism (for the second time). We had our black and grey tanks cleaned so our gauges would read accurately (beware the hard waters of the west). The black tank is still squirrelly on occasion.
A good afternoon and Happy New Year to all from our spot for a few days in Huntsville State Park in Waverly, Texas. The park is north of Houston, Texas and a place Melanie and I camped in December of 2019.
I'd planned on posting a kind of retrospective of our travels and began curating photos from our three years as nomads back in December 2021. When I opened our Travel Journal this afternoon, I saw I'd only progressed through a few months beginning when we began living in Miranda on October 27, 2018 and then began traveling full time on January 6, 2019.
Today posting highlights from three years of traveling the country strikes me as too time consuming and isn't something I want to spend time doing. At least not at this juncture in our travels.
Instead, as we move into our 4th year of full time travel, I give you links to our Instagram and Missingpersonsrv websites. Peruse if you've time, skim at will.
While we are both vaccinated and boosted and the new variant of the COVID virus has us taking all precautions we feel are necessary to avoid becoming infected, we continue to enjoy traveling the country. At the moment we have no plans to find permanent bricks and mortar housing. We love this life.
Our New Year's plans were changed when our dear friends from Birmingham who were to meet us at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park texted bad news that one of them tested positive with COVID.
We missed catching up and spending time with them, but found ourselves battling ants we'd picked up at a campsite along the Alabama River just prior to our arrival at Topsail where we'd met and camped with friends from Florence, Alabama. While I found a few more in a storage bay recently, we think the ants are well under control now.
The past years have found us heading west after being at Topsail during New Year's, but this year we traveled to Atlanta for the funeral service of one of our extended family's father who passed away during December 2021. While we were saddened by his loss, the service enabled us to see family again before we are hopefully able to see them once again in the Fall.
After Topsail, we stayed in Pine Mountain Valley, Georgia a couple of nights before the funeral camping at F. D. Roosevelt State Park. We made a trip into Warm Springs and visited Roosevelt's Little White House one day.
I grew up in Columbus, Georgia and made many trips to Callaway Gardens nearby. I'm also sure we visited the Little White House, but I had no recollection of the museum or the buildings there. The museum is worth a visit as are the grounds.
Our intention then was to travel back through Birmingham, Alabama, after the funeral, stay a few days, see a few more people we know and love, and then make our way towards the southwest.
We received news the day of funeral from Birmingham more extended family members had tested positive for COVID and we quickly made the decision to pick up mail forwarded there and move along. I would say after almost two years this feels almost normal, but while it may indeed be the new normal, it still doesn't feel good to miss spending time with people we now so rarely get to see.
Moving through Birmingham, we stayed in a travel park in Tuscaloosa, Alabama overnight, moved relatively early the next morning and got Miranda washed at a nearby truck wash before traveling south to Spanish Fort, Alabama just outside Mobile, Alabama.
In Spanish Fort, we stayed in Meaher State Park. Meaher is the nicest Alabama State Park at which we've stayed. It offers concrete pads and full hook ups for RV'ers. Meaher also has several nice piers and walking paths. It's very convenient to I-10 and Mobile.
One of the highlights of staying at Meaher was spotting a newly rehabilitated and released Bald Eagle that kept flying around the area.
We missed out on dining at Southern National. We received a voice mail from Chef Reginald Washington giving us the bad news. While the message didn't elaborate, we surmised their closing and cancellation was most likely COVID related.
Next up was our annual pass through New Orleans, Louisiana. The past few years we've come from the beach at Topsail to NOLA, staying one night in the Basin Street Visitor Center parking lot.
The French Quarter is about a half block from where we park and a police precinct is just across the street from the parking area. The parking this year cost us $20.35 for a 24 hour period.
The past few years we've made a reservation in NOLA to eat dinner at Bayona, but because we weren't sure when we'd be traveling through NOLA, we had to wait and could not get a reservation this time.
We arrived in NOLA mid-morning, made a stop for groceries at Whole Foods Market, traveled to our parking spot and began an afternoon trek into the Quarter. We quickly decided to find lunch first. Melanie spotted Antoine's a restaurant I'd not visited in many years.
Lunch was quite good. Melanie had gumbo that was honestly the best I've tasted in recent memory. I chose their 3 course winter lunch consisting of Soup du jour, Soft Shell Crab and Bread Pudding. Very nice.
Afterwards, we walked around the Quarter and took in the scene for a time before walking back to Miranda for an afternoon nap.
I found a dinner reservation at La Petite Grocery. Chef Justin Devillier was the James Beard Best Chef South in 2016. Dinner there did not disappoint. Recommended.
We were up early the next morning and after coffee was made and a few cups consumed, we headed west to Sulfur, Louisiana. Sulfur is just beyond Lake Charles, Louisiana where a number of refineries are located.
We stayed a night at A+ Motel and RV Park in Sulfur. A heavy rain was falling as we arrived, but was soon gone and we parked temporarily near their laundry facilities. I did our laundry while Melanie worked.
Not too far off of I-10, A+ is one of the nicer parks we've stayed in recently. I'm not sure what one does in Sulfur, but the park made for a nice evening's rest.
We got a pretty early start yesterday, traveling first to Costco in Conroe, Texas for a few items we needed and then on to our current location in Huntsville State Park. We'll be here another day before traveling on the San Antonio, Texas, another of our favorite spots.
Good morning from our friends' home in Mountain Brook, Alabama where we'll be (off and on) until the end of the December.
I've not posted since the middle of last month when we were also located here.
Shortly after posting last month we traveled to Faunsdale, Alabama, where Melanie grew up and where her father still resides. We spent a couple of very pleasant and mild days there for the Thanksgiving holiday.
In past few years when in Faunsdale we've been able to park Miranda in a local church parking lot (thanks, George McKee) located behind the church sanctuary off the main highway and where we also had access to electricity. This year, thanks to overhanging limbs removed by the power company, we were able to drive Miranda down her father's driveway and park beside the home in which Melanie grew up.
Melanie pre-ordered the Thanksgiving meal to be picked up in Birmingham at Whole Foods. We got Dreamland BBQ to be eaten the day before and a few subsequent days afterwards.
After the holiday we left Faunsdale on Friday afternoon headed East towards the city where I grew up, Columbus, Georgia.
Friday night was spent about halfway to Columbus in one of our favorite campgrounds near Montgomery, Gunter Hill Campground. It was chilly, but we got a nice walk in after our arrival. The campground is located on the backwaters of the Alabama River and, as with most all Corp of Engineers campgrounds, the spots are nicely spaced and well maintained. Gunter Hill even offers full hooks ups.
I ordered lithium replacement batteries for our van from Costco just before thanksgiving and was able to place our remote thermometer in the battery bay to check the temp inside the bay when the ambient temps outside dip below freezing. The temp inside the battery bay was 45 degrees the next morning at around 6:00 a.m. That works for lithium battery performance and I was then even more excited about replacing Miranda's batteries.
We arrived in Columbus, Georgia on Saturday (11/27) morning. We'd made arrangements to stay in the parking lot of St. Thomas Episcopal Church for the weekend, but after I reminded our friends, the Tomlinsons, we'd be in Columbus for the weekend, they offered to allow us to park Miranda in front of their home and stay with them.
I was in touch with our friend Allison Kennedy Owen on Friday evening about the possibility of a bike ride on Saturday. She'd said she was available and so once we were parked at the Tomlinsons, I texted her, she was close by and within a few minutes we were cycling off headed towards Columbus' fine Chattahoochee River Walk Trail.
Saturday started out below freezing, but by the time we got to the river walk it had warmed to the 50's. We rode out to the a Dog Park along the trail and then back to the Tomlinson's house. Round trip 20 miles. Very nice ride along the river with Allison.
On Sunday morning, Melanie was at St. Thomas for Adult Formation telling those in attendance about peace and peace-making and giving folks an overview of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.
After the morning services, St. Thomas' Rector, Reverend Grace Burton Edwards, Parish Theologian Denny Clark, his wife, Toni, took Melanie and me to lunch in downtown Columbus at The Animal Farm. It was great to break bread, make new friends and find out more about St. Thomas while eating some very tasty lunch. We recommend The Animal Farm.
During the evening hours, we were in St. Thomas' fellowship hall for a soup supper where Melanie discussed gun violence prevention. The fellowship and supper were outstanding and the discussion was very interesting.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Rick and Marquette McRae McKnight for introducing us to the folks at St. Thomas. Rick and Marquette make things happen in Columbus. We hope to catch up with them again over the New Year.
We left Columbus early afternoon on Monday and headed south to Eufaula, Alabama. It had been years since I'd been to or through Eufaula. We found a very nice Corp of Engineers Campground, White Oak Creek.
Most of White Oak Creek is closed during the off-season, but we were able to get a great afternoon walk in and enjoyed our Lake Eufaula campsite for adult beverages.
We'd booked two nights there but decided another day at the beach would be better so we headed out the next morning for Top Sail Hill Preserve State Park, one of our very favorite campgrounds along the Gulf of Mexico.
We got to Topsail relatively early and before official check in time so we made our way to Destin and the Whole Foods market for a few items we needed.
Making our way back to Topsail and after we set up in our campsite, Melanie took a walk to the beach and I got our bikes out. I rode to the Timpoochee Trail which begins directly across from Topsail and made my way towards Seaside, Florida. Due to bridge construction ongoing as I type, the trail and road are blocked off about 7 miles along. A 14 mile round trip was fine for my first time out.
Day two found us walking down to the beach in the morning hours. In the afternoon, Melanie worked while I took my bike out once again on the Timpoochee Trail intending to make my way to Seaside via the detour around bridge construction.
I made my way away from the trail along 30A on Old Blue Mountain Road and out to Highway 98, along 98 to County Road 283 South and into Grayton Beach. There's a nice bike trail along County Road 283 South that connects with the Timpoochee Trail at Highway 30A in Grayton.
From there I rode into Watercolor stopping at Happy Beach Cafe for an IPA before making my way back to Topsail. Round trip just over 30 miles.
We drove to one of our favorite local restaurants for dinner during the early evening. Dinner, while fine, wasn't what we were used to experiencing gauged by our past dining experiences there. The pandemic has closed many restaurants, those that remain open sometimes struggle to achieve their former greatness.
Thursday found Melanie and me riding into Seaside along the same route. We stopped in at Bud and Alley's for an afternoon glass of rose' and made a purchase of wine at the Modica Market there.
Friday was a travel day as we made our way back to Mountain Brook, Alabama to our friends' home.
Saturday, the 4th, was Melanie's birthday and she spent some of the day celebrating at the home of a long-time friend who invited other friends of theirs for a nice bit of celebrating.
We watched the SEC Championship game during mid-afternoon.
Our lithium batteries arrived while we were away at the beach and my friend Wade and I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to install them.
Without going into too much detail about the install, my takeaway from the idea that the lithium batteries which replaced our deep-cell lead acid batteries are "drop in" is somewhat misleading.
But the important point for me is I should pay attention when I've asked for advice in an online forum about the install and then promptly forgotten the advice given.
I'm fortunate more damage wasn't done to the electrical system and components when we initially set the batteries up in parallel instead of in series like our old batteries. As of now, the only items I know of that were damaged are LED lights and our WIFI booster.
Now that installation is complete and up and running a few days, I can report the effort was worth the trouble. From all appearances we'll have much more capacity with the two new lithium batteries and I won't have to check water in the batteries periodically and the batteries should outlast our use of the van.
Saturday we'll drive Miranda to the Mercedes-Benz dealer in Hoover, Alabama to have our wheel sensors replaced. Our van is part of a recall for the sensors.
Thursday (hopefully) we'll get our cracked windshield replaced at Safelite in Homewood, Alabama.
We'll be traveling again Tuesday next headed east for a few days towards Savannah, Georgia before returning to Birmingham for another stay leading up to Christmas.
Happy Holidays, y'all.
November 18, 2021
Good afternoon from Mountain Brook, Alabama where we've been in residence for the past few days. Since we arrived, we've celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary (16th) and my 68th birthday (17th). The weather has been stellar and we've gotten to catch up with old friends and eaten in a few of our favorite restaurants.
It's been nearly a month since my last posting while we were in Columbus, Georgia for my 50th high school reunion.
There's not much to report about the reunion. Those responsible for organizing and making it happen during these pandemic times deserve much praise and thanks for making the gathering of classmates happen. The venues and weather could not have been nicer or more appropriate for the times.
I was very pleased with all the in person contacts made with old friends and acquaintances which, while fewer than I may have wanted, were nice nevertheless. I had no real expectations of what would happen and had a nice time catching up with folks.
Because of the pandemic we'd been unable to visit with our longtime friends, part of our extended family, Trip and Teresa Tomlinson and John Woodward. We're very grateful for the Tomlinsons hosting us in the mountains of North Georgia and their home in Columbus during the reunion festivities.
John is currently living in North Georgia so we were able to spend some extended time with him too.
Trip, John and I have a long and rich history and it was more than great having some extended time to be with them again. It always feels like being home to me when I'm in the mountains of North Georgia at Trip and Teresa's home.
As we moved south out of Vermont in September, I admit to doing some spoiled-camper-traveler pouting about missing Fall in New England where we'd spent our summer, but getting to see Fall happen in the mountains of North Georgia more than made up for what ever lingering entitlement I was experiencing.
One of the many benefits of this life on the road is the extended seasonal changes we often experience as we move about. Moving from the southwest, for example, where we spend winters to more northern climes, we get what seems like a never ending Spring. Likewise, moving from northern climes where we spend summers south we get an extended Fall or leaf peeping on steroids.
Leaving the Tomlinson's home, we traveled towards Nashville to spend some time with one of our sons, Tate, and his girlfriend, Zoe. Melanie also had a work obligation in Baltimore so she flew from Nashville and spent a few days working with fellow EPF'ers.
Another benefit of full-time travel is being able to spend extended time with friends and family without being in their space for too long.
We spent some time in a campground not too far away from Tate and Zoe and even spent a few nights sleeping in Miranda on the street outside their apartment in Hillsboro Village. We were able to house sit for Tate and Zoe this time through and get some great time with our/their beloved Gus (and Poppy). We'll pivot back to Nashville for a continuation of my birthday season tomorrow.
We are fortunate to have a most wonderful place to park Miranda while visiting Birmingham. Another part of our extended family, Jennifer and Wade Anderson (Drury and Martha), have the perfect driveway space in Mountain Brook and they are gracious and generous in allowing us to spend time with them while we're in and about Birmingham.
We'll leave Nashville this coming Monday and travel back here for a few days before spending some time with Melanie's father for Thanksgiving.
We have work in Columbus, Georgia and are looking forward to again connecting with some of my high school classmates and their wives and, as most always happens, making new friends at St. Thomas Episcopal Church there. Thanks to Rick McKnight for making that happen for us.
October 13-22, 2021
After leaving Wilmington, North Carolina, we landed in South Carolina at Dreher Island State Park and spent a great few days there.
The park is located on an Island within Lake Murray a 50,000 acre man-made lake. We walked our immediate campground and to the one located a few miles away on the other end of the State Park. If you like fishing and have a boat, this is your kind of place. Also a great spot to just relax for a few days.
From Dreher Island we traveled to our friends' home, The Lodge At Shook Branch, in Tate City, Georgia, located in the mountains of North Georgia near the headwaters of the Tallulah River.
We spent a week there enjoying really nice Fall weather, taking nice walks along the Tallulah River on the Tate City Road and even hiking the Holden Cove trail to the Appalachian Trail one day. We had lunch at the Muskrat Creek Shelter along the AT and then made our way back.
While we're currently located in Columbus Georgia for my (Steven) 50th High School class reunion tonight and tomorrow, Miranda remains in the mountains at our friends' home under the watchful eye of our friend, John. We'll return for a few more days in Tate City after the reunion is finished.
I'll pick up our day-to-day nomadic existence once we're moving again. Cheers.
October 6-7, 2021
We spend three days with our friends at their great spot Sunrise Over Salvo before heading off Hatteras and south again.
During our time on Hatteras I'm able to bike ride from Salvo to Avon one day and our friends took us on a ferry ride to Ocracoke Island for a day trip.
October 8-9, 2021
We're awake around 6:00 a.m. or so. I'm up, gather a few items to take with me to the van and then I'm out the backdoor of our friends' home and down the stairs to Miranda to make coffee.
Back in our room we sip a bit of coffee before more packing up ensues. It's a travel day for us and we have a 160 miles ahead of us.
After we're packed up, we find breakfast in Nag's Head at Grits Grill. It's a popular place with the locals and there's a wait for a table so we choose the no-wait-bar in front of the griddle. Breakfast is good and we're on the way in good time.
We arrive at our campsite at New Bern KOA, set up and go for a walk down to the Neuse River and enjoy some of the afternoon there.
Returning to the van, we prepare to move again. We're going into New Bern for dinner at Captain Ratty's. There's a Mum Festival going on in New Bern and we're glad to find parking relatively easily.
Dinner is as good as we remember when we ate at Ratty's years ago now. We were dropping off our son, Richard, for an Outer Banks kayaking adventure then.
We make it back to our campsite and set up the van, stream some and sleep.
Saturday morning finds us up around 7:00 a.m. We sip coffee, have breakfast and Melanie begins her work day.
Saturday is full of college football for me and intermittently, for Melanie after work.
I manage enough energy to clean and empty the grey and black tanks in anticipation of further travel tomorrow.
Melanie is asleep at about the half of the Alabama football game with Texas A&M. I'm finally asleep just after midnight.
October 10-11, 2021
Melanie is awake before me, but I'm up at around 7:00 a.m. Not enough sleep, but I'm feeling pretty good as I'm up to make coffee. We're traveling again today headed farther south to Wilmington, NC.
We drink our coffee, eat breakfast and read some. Melanie begins her work day.
I leave for a bit to get a shower using the campground facilities.
Shortly afterwards we've prepared the van and are on our way. We've got about 90 miles of travel today. I mistakenly put in wrong geo-coordinates and we travel about 20 miles out of our way before stopping to make a correction.
The trip is otherwise uneventful and arriving in Wilmington decide to go for lunch at Wrightsville Beach. We ate at Oceanic located there the last time through Wilmington and found it good. The last time the weather was very rainy, this time cloudy and windy, but pleasant.
Lunch is good again and we take a walk out on the pier to watch surfers catch a few waves afterwards.
We travel to our campsite at the Wilmington KOA and check in. We quickly set up and Melanie works a bit and we get a bit of exercise walking around the camp.
I've made a dinner reservation at PinPoint for 6:00 p.m. We take our first Uber ride in a while to downtown Wilmington. We realize that despite being in Wilmington a few times before, we've never been downtown.
We have a nice dinner. Melanie starts with Raw Oysters on the half shell, I have the Local Lettuces. Melanie's entree is a bone-in Pork Chop, mine Softshell Crab Carbonara.
We Uber back to the van, stream a bit and sleep.
It's Monday and Columbus Day for some, Indigenous Peoples' Day for some. It's a work day for Melanie.
We sip our coffees and have breakfast. Afterwards we both take a walk around the campground. Many folks are leaving this morning.
We make a grocery run to the local Publix late morning and then we make our way to lunch nearby at Cape Fear Seafood Company. Lunch is fine and we're back to our campsite around 2:30.
I spend most of the afternoon catching up on my journaling and photo processing. Melanie gets a walk in and works a bit more.
We both walk in the evening and snack a bit before more streaming and sleep.
October 12, 2021
The alarm sounds at 6:00 a.m. For whatever reason, I was awake for a time during the night and so the alarm is unwelcome. I snooze through a couple of intervals and then I'm up making coffee.
Travel Day. We'll move 250 miles to our south and east today to Dreher Island State Park in South Carolina. We'll be positioning ourselves to then move into the mountains of North Georgia and our friends' home in Tate City.
I have a bit of breakfast and Melanie goes for a shower in the campground. I finish and move outside to empty and clean the black tank and empty the grey tank.
We leave our KOA before 9:00 a.m. There's a bit of traffic moving into downtown Wilmington, but we're out of that soon enough and head west.
We stop after a while a get breakfast for Melanie (and me too). We eat fast food biscuits and hash browns in the van and are moving in about 30 minutes.
Highway 74 intersects with I-95 going south and we don't get very far until we reach roadwork and traffic that has us stopped. Traffic is merging into one lane down the way and we're delayed about an hour getting to the other side.
We decide to wait until Columbia, South Carolina for lunch.
Miranda also needs fuel and all the places along major roads are selling diesel in the $3.50+ range. I check my Gas Buddy App and see prices at $3.19 and lower, but all of the places are well off the interstate and not worth the extra time and expense involved getting to them.
I've been getting 17+ MPG the past few times we've moved and doing some calculations I figure I most likely will be able to wait until we are in Columbia for lunch.
Melanie finds us BBQ in Columbia at The Pot Smoker BBQ. By the time we arrive it's nearly the middle of the afternoon. We order at the counter and find a nice spot on their porch. We're the only ones eating.
Lunch is good and we're soon on our way again. We still need fuel and I'd spotted a place not too far away as we looked for our lunch spot. The price on the marquee was $3.11 a gallon. That, however, is the cash price. I forgo the cash price and pay $3.19 a gallon still $.30 less than along the interstate.
Miranda, like most vehicles, has an indicator when she's using "reserve" fuel. A light and "reserve fuel" readout comes on when there's about a quarter of a tank left. You can track how many miles of travel you can make, but when the fuel level gets down to about 2 gallons remaining, the indicator stops giving a reading for the number of miles you can travel and simply says you need to get yo' ass to the nearest place for fuel. Now would be the time.
The only other time that's happened was when we were traveling to a campsite on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. We'd left our camp in Fort Collins very early (5:00 a.m.) so we didn't have to have a reservation to get into the national park. You could enter without a reservation before 6:00 a.m.
Very early meant no filling stations were open around Fort Collins and I made the decision to try and make it through the park. We were just about half way up on our climb to 12,000 feet in the park when the reserve light came on. We hadn't quite stopped climbing when the readout no longer allow me to gauge how many miles of travel remained.
It was beautiful that time of day, but it was stressful not knowing if we'd run out of fuel.
We made it to fuel in Grand Lake as we had a very long downhill run on the western side of the park. Two times of being close to empty in nearly three years.
We get to our campsite before 5:00 p.m. and I get us hooked up while Melanie has a work call. She sets up the inside afterwards and we sip an adult beverage and enjoy the cooling evening with a nice view of the Lake Murray.
We walk around the campground and retire to the back of the van for streaming and sleep.
September 29, 2021
We're up around 7:00 or so, can't remember even though it's just yesterday now. Travel Day again. This time we'll move east and south for just over a 100 miles.
Melanie gets out for a brief walk around the campground then readies the inside while I move out to unhook us. I won't empty the tanks this morning, they're still relatively empty as we were living outside Miranda for three days. Our fresh water is also reading 100%.
We move and on the way out encounter another couple from Iowa driving an Leisure Travel Van (LTV). They're headed to Virginia to visit a son who lives there. Nice to see fellow LTV owners. We're a precious lot. 😜😎
Melanie finds breakfast for us at a local Milton, West Virginia haunt. Shonet's comes with all the "patriotic" decor one can muster. Flags and remembrances of those who have served in various conflicts and wars.
Breakfast is fine and we're on our way.
Melanie suggests we travel a few miles past Little Beaver State Park to New River Gorge National Park and Preserve to check out our newest National Park.
We arrive at the Sandstone Falls Visitor Center and check out the displays there. We get directions to Sandstone Falls that, much to Melanie's chagrin, are 20 miles away when, looking at the map, they appear to be within rock throwing distance of our current location.
We drive the 20 scenic miles to the falls and enjoy a nice walk along a boardwalk the park service has constructed there. A nice diversion it is.
We drive back towards our campsite at Little Beaver State Park, check in and set up. Melanie goes for a walk and I follow her after a bit. We both enjoy a nice walk around Little Beaver Lake as the sun heads for another setting.
She's snacking when I return, breakfast apparently left her some time ago. I make a cocktail and snack a bit. Tate texts and suggests he'll be ready for our weekly FaceTime as soon as he showers.
FaceTime happens and I make dinner while Melanie enters a Zoom Call for one of her board members who is being ordained a Deacon in the Episcopal Church.
We have a nice, if simple, dinner of short rib ravioli we purchased in Summit and a salad.
Once the dishes are clean, we stream and sleep.
September 30, 2021
After a very nice sleep in Little Beaver State Park I'm up just before 7:00 to make coffee. It's 49 degrees outside so I close our windows and crank up the furnace to knock the chill off.
We enjoy a beautiful morning sipping coffee. We decide to get the bikes out and ride 7+ miles to the Main Overlook at Grandview in New River Gorge National Park.
Late morning I get our bikes out and ready them for the short run up the road to the overlook. The ride is scenic and the road not too busy. We arrive at the overlook and find there are not too many folks around.
Locking up the bikes we walk the 100 or so yards to the spectacular overlook which gives us a view of the New River and the new National Park. Grandview, indeed.
We're hungry and options in the van are slim so we decide to try the diner on the way back to the state park. Note to self. Have better options in the van. I sometimes get lazy when it comes to grocery shopping between camp spots and should have stopped along the way to Beaver. 😐
We return to the van and take an afternoon walk around Little Beaver Lake. We get back to the van and enjoy the evening a bit before walking 50 yards up the hill to the very nice and very clean bathhouse for showers.
Since lunch was later in the day, we snack a bit, stream and sleep.
October 1, 2021
The alarm is set for 6:30 a.m., but I'm awake before it goes off. I'm up making coffee, closing windows and again cranking up the furnace. It's 45 degrees this morning. We've another travel day ahead of us. We'll be traveling 229 miles to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to a Boondockers Welcome location in the city. Lucky us.
Our campsite in Little Beaver State Park is a water electric so, since we've been camped for a few days and we'll be off grid for a the next few days, I fill our fresh water before unhooking. We travel the short distance to the park dump station and I empty our black and grey water tanks.
We sip coffee and move along. Melanie will find breakfast for us off the interstate.
It's a beautiful drive along I-77 through the mountains. There's fog in the lower lying areas. Breakfast this morning is Bojangles. Melanie likes their chicken biscuits. I opt for a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit. Meh.
Miranda hasn't had a bath since the middle of August when I hand washed her in Maine at our friends home in Georgetown. She's not too dirty, but could use a good wash nevertheless.
I find a Blue Beacon truck wash off I-77 in Fort Chriswell, Virginia. We arrive and are 13th in line. They have two bays going. Melanie has a work call and I read as we inch our way forward. Even with two bays it takes about two hours to get Miranda washed and back on the road.
We decide to eat in Winston Salem, North Carolina. One of our favorite restaurants, Mooney's is closed permanently, another casualty of COVID.
Melanie finds another spot nearby, Mojito Latin Soul Food. We secure a table outside on a really beautiful day. Lunch is outstanding. I have a Cuban Deluxe sandwich and Melanie has Steak Sandwich. I have Red Beans and Rice as a side, Melanie has Mashed Plantains. Recommended.
Moving along we briefly stop by the downtown postoffice.
Melanie has a poster she intends to use for the Women's March protesting the Texas Abortion Law in Durham, NC on Saturday afternoon to pick up in Chapel Hill. It's busy in downtown Chapel Hill when we arrive at the FedEx location for her poster, but I manage to luck out and find a temporary spot close by to park Miranda while Melanie goes in for the poster. She quickly returns with her prize.
We move along to our Boondockers Welcome spot about 2.5 miles away. We're greeted by our hosts and give a quick tour of Miranda to them and then we're parked near one of their horse pastures.
Late lunch means a snack for dinner. We stream and sleep.
October 2, 2021
I awake, look out Miranda's window and can't believe we've landed only a few miles from downtown Chapel Hill, N.C. We're staying on 8 acres inside the city limits where horses once roamed. There's a barn and the pastures are nicely fenced. We're only a few short miles from downtown Chapel Hill.
I make our coffee and we eat breakfast. Melanie gets into her work day.
Two deer run by and I catch the briefest of glimpse of them.
We get the van ready for travel. Melanie will march with one of the members of the Palestine Israel Network, Donna, and other women in Durham to protest the Texas abortion law. While she's at the protest, I'll ride a portion of the American Tobacco Trail (ATT).
We drive into downtown Durham and find a great spot with plenty of sunshine for our solar panels to use.
Melanie leaves me to grab a bite to eat and I get out my bike travel a short distance to the terminus of the ATT near the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The ATT runs 22.2 miles south out of Durham. It's an asphalt surface until New Hope Church Road. I ride out for 15 miles, sit and eat a protein bar, drink some water and make my way back to the van.
I arrive to find Melanie giving Donna a Miranda tour. They move outside and chat for bit while I settle into the van to watch a bit of football and drink more water. It's a warm Fall afternoon in Durham.
I eventually turn the van around facing the opposite direction on the other side the street so we can sit in the shade outside and watch the first half of the Alabama game.
Game well in hand we decide to make reservations for dinner at Jujube in Chapel Hill near where we're camped. Jujube is located in a strip shopping center and we find a convenient spot in the back of the shopping center where we feel comfortable leaving our generator running and air conditioner on. It's still a bit warm out.
We enjoy a great dinner outside on their patio. We started with Pan-Fried Chicken and Shittake Mushroom Dumplings and Vietnamese Salad Rolls. Melanie's entrée was Crispy Chicken, I had Jujube Bolognese. Great service, friendly folks. Highly recommended.
We make our way back to our spot next to the pasture, stream a bit and sleep.
October 3, 2021
We're up around 8:00 this morning..., well, I'm up around 8:00. Melanie is awake before me and tells me she's seen a couple of foxes pass the van. She shows me the very grainy images of them taken through Miranda's window.
Coffee gets made and we skip breakfast and get the van ready to move. Travel day.
We'll move Southeast to just outside Washington, North Carolina. We'll stay in Goose Creek State Park tonight. We camped at Goose Creek last year in December on our way to the Outer Banks. So, less than a year has passed.
We make a stop in Chapel Hill at Whole Foods where I shop for food that'll get us to Salvo, N.C.
We decide to eat lunch around noon and Melanie finds Marty's BBQ in Wilson, North Carolina.
We drive off the main road for what seems like an inordinate amount of miles. I'm thinking (to myself) this better be good and trying to remind myself traveling is not always a linear experience so stop with the thinking we're too far off the beaten path business.
We arrive at Marty's and find there's a line of cars all the way around the building and for several blocks down the street. Damn. This must be the place. There's overflow parking around the back of the building and we park Miranda there and crank up the generator and the AC. It's getting warm.
We walk in and make a to-go order, wait maybe 10 minutes and go back to the van to eat. Several people in the line of cars queuing up for BBQ ask about our van. She is, after all, a beaut. I ask if the line of cars is always this way. I'm told on Saturday and Sundays, yep, it is.
The BBQ is worth driving a few miles out of the way. Recommended, if you find yourself in Wilson, North Carolina.
We decide to travel to Washington, North Carolina, close to our evening camp, and park on the street in downtown. Melanie has a work Zoom call at 4:00 and we're unsure of connectivity at our campsite.
Washington is located on the Pamlico River and Pamlico Sound.
Melanie gets on her Zoom Call and after a few minutes I exit the van and walk around downtown Washington eventually finding Two Rivers Alehouse. I drink a beer and watch a bit of Sunday football, then make my way back to the van as Melanie is finishing her call.
We travel the 12+ miles to our campsite at Goose Creek, set up and take a walk out into the marsh on a boardwalk nearby. I'd been looking forward to this all day, but much to my chagrin, the boardwalk has not been repaired from damage suffered last year during hurricane season. Drat! It's a nice walk regardless.
We walk back to the van and snack a bit before moving to the back of the van, stream and sleep.
We're up just before 7:00 a.m. There's a nice sunrise out Miranda's window this morning. It's not as cool, but nice regardless. We're in the low 60's with highs today reaching the low 80's on Hatteras where we'll be this evening.
We have breakfast and I go for a shower. Melanie prepares the inside of the van and I top off the fresh water tank, empty and clean the black tank, and empty the grey tank.
We're camped at Oregon Inlet on Cape Hatteras tonight. Dry camping (no water, electric or sewer).
We find a good price for diesel in Plymouth, NC on our way and make a quick stop at the post office there.
Melanie finds lunch for us in Kitty Hawk, NC, I've Got Your Crabs Shellfish Market and Oyster Bar. Food's good and it appears to be a favorite for locals.
We travel south after lunch and make a quick stop at Publix for a few items.
We reach Oregon Inlet Campground around 2:00 p.m. There's a momentary pause as we try to figure out why our connectivity is not what it should be when all indicators are we should have good Verizon service.
Melanie is able to get online to do some financial work for EPF and I sit and look at the NYT which tells me Facebook is having problems. That's what we checked for our connectivity when we arrived. All other sites are good.
We FaceTime with our friends, the Hicks, at 3:00 p.m. and have a nice chat catching up. We've only been away from Louisville a week since a memorial service for their daughter. It is still an emotional time for them and for us.
Melanie has a work call at 4:30 p.m. and I journal and process photographs.
We enjoy a couple of adult beverages and walk out to the beach to see what's up. There are a number of vehicles on the beach with fisher persons near them. The temps are now pleasant.
Back at the van, Melanie makes us a nice dinner salad complete with left-over shrimp she had from her lunch. We eat outside.
I clean up the dishes and take the trash to the camp dumpster.
We stream and sleep.
October 5, 2021
We're awake at 6:00 a.m. in hopes of catching a sunrise at our beach location. Alas, it's not to be as a line of rain showers and accompanying clouds has moved off the coast and blocked the sun.
After coffee and breakfast, we prepare the van for our next move.
We don't have far to go to our friends' spot in Salvo, NC, but Melanie wants to first take a tour of Duck, NC and eat lunch before we go to Salvo. We crank up the generator, turn on the AC in the van and travel to Duck.
We make a brief stop at a grocery store for toilet paper and milk.
Just north of Duck we turn back and arrive at The Village Table and Tavern as they are opening for lunch. We'd eaten here in December of last year before vaccines and in the off-season. Today we enjoy lunch outside on a pleasant Fall afternoon.
We then make our way south to Salvo and park in our friends' driveway. They have a great AirBnB, Sunrise Over Salvo. Highly recommended.
We're here between guests for a few days to catch up and enjoy their great space.
We enjoy a nice light snack "dinner" with them in their home upstairs and catch up over the evening hours.
Melanie and I go to our room and stream and sleep.
Steven and Melanie