Good afternoon from Chewonki Campground on the coast of Maine.
We're here for a few days before heading south to Bath, Maine, we'll park Miranda in Georgetown, for an EPF event this coming Sunday.
Our recent time in Essex Junction, Vermont was a great experience thanks to our hosts John Heermans and Cecilia Polansky. They allowed us to park Miranda in front of their barn for a few days, showed us around Essex Junction and Burlington, Vermont, cooked for us, and took us out to their favorite local pub for dinner.
Melanie and I really enjoyed all our time in Vermont and are very grateful for time spent with John and Cec and for their generosity. We look forward to seeing them again in Bath.
Yesterday, while walking downtown, we happened on the Burlington Pride Parade. A few IPhone snaps later.
When fellow campers left a messy campsite and went out for the day, wild horses came through and checked out the leavings.
Assateague's horses are beautiful, tough, and wild. They have learned to survive in a harsh environment. Feeding and/or petting them is detrimental to both visitors and horses. Horses can get sick from human food. Those that learn to come up to the road to beg for food are often hit and killed by cars. Visitors are kicked, bitten and knocked down every year as a direct result of getting too close to the wild horses. Treating wild horses like tame animals takes away the wildness that makes them special. Protect your family by respecting theirs. Give the horses the space they need to be wild. (National Park Service)
Located on Virginia's Eastern Shore, Kiptopeke State Park is a gem. Older campground with adequate amenities. The drive over from Norfolk on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is worth the price of admission.
Good afternoon from Nags Head, North Carolina where Melanie and I have just finished a good lunch at a local seafood establishment. We're sitting in a parking lot near the restaurant. She's working Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) and I'm contemplating the universe for a few minutes before we drive south to our friends, Aida and John's, home Sunrise Over Salvo on Cape Hatteras.
Our visit home to Birmingham and subsequent travels to Montgomery and Hayneville and Selma have weighed on me a bit since we left.
I've now traveled to the The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum twice. Both times I was painfully reminded of how white washed (literally) was my understanding growing up in Columbus, Georgia of the treatment of black folks well before and after the Civil War. Visiting the memorial and museum should be mandatory, as a minimum, for all Alabama school children and those wanting a better understanding of slavery and its aftermath.
I grew up in the 50's and 60's living in an all white milieu where I rarely had any contact with people of color. My parents were high school graduates, both were democrats, that is, FDR democrats. They supported John F. Kennedy and were devastated when he was assassinated. They were not progressive or liberal in any sense we now understand those terms. They were raised up during the Great Depression and remembered jobs created by FDR's New Deal. My father's family was poor and he recalled being hungry at times.
My parents were racists. The "N" word was casually tossed around from time to time. My maternal grandmother sported one of those vanity tags on her car that had a confederate soldier holding a confederate flag. The tag read, "Hell no, I ain't forgettin'." You may have seen one of them. I don't doubt they're still a thing somewhere.
After I began practicing law, I left my parent's home in Georgia on one occasion shortly after arriving for a visit when my father casually inquired about my "N" word law partner. I remember saying before walking out the door that they hadn't raised me to think about people of color that way. But really, they had.
Somewhere along the way I escaped the gravity that is contained in bigotry and prejudice and realized many things I was taught and exposed to growing up regarding people of color were wrong and hurtful and, frankly, just ignorant.
Though my pastor was a kind and intelligent man who had a positive influence on my life, many in our small Baptist Church community were also racists. Certainly one of the messages I was taught in church came from that familiar song we sang;
Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children
Of the world.
One of my best neighborhood friends, Mark's, father, George, was also an influence. George, was a former seminarian turned atheist. He was a reader and a free thinker. I could, and did, converse with him about things on my young mind. He had very progressive ideas about many things, race relations being one.
I am the first, and only person, in my immediate family to attend university. My experience of being exposed to different ideas, like many before me in similar circumstances, was of feeling as though I'd removed my head from the sand, of being an alien in my own family. It's hard not to feel overwhelmed when realizing your socialization contained some pretty fucked up notions.
My experience tells me people are malleable especially when they are young. Myths regarding human nature are not easily dislodged from willing minds, even in the face of counter evidence of their falsity. Sometimes the lessons we learn as children are simply difficult to unlearn. We often don't know that we don't have good information. I am fortunate to have been shown the importance of critical independent thinking. And forgiveness.
I recently posted the following to my FaceBook page. It's from Michael Gerson, President George W. Bush's former chief speech writer. It's worth a repost here:
I had fully intended to ignore President Trump’s latest round of racially charged taunts against anAfrican American elected official, and an African American activist, and an African American journalist and a whole city with a lot of African Americans in it. I had every intention of walking past Trump’s latest outrages and writing about the self-destructive squabbling of the Democratic presidential field, which has chosen to shame former vice president Joe Biden for the sin of being an electable, moderate liberal.
But I made the mistake of pulling James Cone’s 'The Cross and the Lynching Tree' off my shelf — a book designed to shatter convenient complacency. Cone recounts the case of a white mob in Valdosta, Ga., in 1918 that lynched an innocent man named Haynes Turner.
Turner’s enraged wife, Mary, promised justice for the killers. The sheriff responded by arresting her and then turning her over to the mob, which included women and children. According to one source, Mary was 'stripped, hung upside down by the ankles, soaked with gasoline, and roasted to death. In the midst of this torment, a white man opened her swollen belly with a hunting knife and her infant fell to the ground and was stomped to death.'
God help us. It is hard to write the words. This evil — the evil of white supremacy, resulting in dehumanization, inhumanity and murder — is the worst stain, the greatest crime, of U.S. history. It is the thing that nearly broke the nation. It is the thing that proved generations of Christians to be vicious hypocrites. It is the thing that turned normal people into moral monsters, capable of burning a grieving widow to death and killing her child.
When the president of the United States plays with that fire or takes that beast out for a walk, it is not just another political event, not just a normal day in campaign 2020.
It is a cause for shame. It is the violation of martyrs’ graves. It is obscene graffiti on the Lincoln Memorial. It is, in the eyes of history, the betrayal — the re-betrayal — of Haynes and Mary Turner and their child. And all of this is being done by an ignorant and arrogant narcissist reviving racist tropes for political gain, indifferent to the wreckage he is leaving, the wounds he is ripping open.
Like, I suspect, many others, I am finding it hard to look at resurgent racism as just one in a series of presidential offenses or another in a series of Republican errors. Racism is not just another wrong. The Antietam battlefield is not just another plot of ground. The Edmund Pettus Bridge is not just another bridge. The balcony outside Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel is not just another balcony. As U.S. history hallows some causes, it magnifies some crimes.
What does all this mean politically? It means that Trump’s divisiveness is getting worse, not better. He makes racist comments, appeals to racist sentiments and inflames racist passions. The rationalization that he is not, deep down in his heart, really a racist is meaningless. Trump’s continued offenses mean that a large portion of his political base is energized by racist tropes and the language of white grievance. And it means — whatever their intent — that those who play down, or excuse, or try to walk past these offenses are enablers.
Some political choices are not just stupid or crude. They represent the return of our country’s cruelest, most dangerous passion. Such racism indicts Trump. Treating racism as a typical or minor matter indicts us.
I'm realizing more with each passing day just how important are the contacts Melanie and I make as we travel the country in support of EPF and the ideas and issues for which Melanie, EPF, all the Peace Parishes, and EPF membership advocate. In these troubled times we are both grateful for each and everyone who is willing.
We not only continue to make new friends along the way, but are helping build a coalition of like-minded people who themselves can actively assist in further raising consciousness in support of work being done. We are grateful for all the good works we discover being done and thankful for all the help with EPF's mission Melanie (and I) have gotten along the way.
We are currently enjoying some time at the beach with good friends John and Aida, but we'll be traveling on Saturday north from here towards National Monument, Fort Monroe, and the 400th anniversary commemorations of the first enslaved Africans brought to the shores of North America.
Sunrise on Cape Hatteras
Good afternoon from Army Corp of Engineers Petersburg Campground in Appling, Georgia. We arrived here yesterday after being in Birmingham, Alabama for a week. Our site overlooks beautiful J. Strom Thurmond lake. The irony of it all.
The past few weeks have been pretty busy for us.
Leaving Illinois, we dealt with minor warranty issues with our van in St. Louis, MO, visited with friends, Pif and Chip Hicks in Louisville, KY, dropped in on the new university grads, Tate and Zoe, in Nashville, TN, and finally parked Miranda at the home of Wade and Jennifer Anderson in Birmingham.
Melanie and I were in Birmingham specifically for another event connected to the 80th anniversary year of EPF. There was an event at St. Andrews on Thursday, we traveled to The National Memorial and Museum for Peace and Justice on Friday, then to Hayneville, Alabama for the annual Jonathan Daniels pilgrimage and Selma, Alabama to the National Voting Rights Museum.
Miranda's Mercedes Sprinter got her first service while we were in Birmingham. And, despite the heat, she got her first coat of wax. Solar panels, ceiling fans, skylights over the shower and galley area were cleaned. In short, Miranda is ready and looking good for further adventure. 😎😜
A few portraits from our week in Birmingham
Good morning from Barrington, Illinois just north and west of Chicago, Illinois. Melanie and I have been at the home of Ellen and Ric Lindeen for the past few days. Melanie spoke Thursday past at St. Michael's in Barrington, the parish of Ellen and Rick. Ellen is a board member of Episcopal Peace Fellowship.
We leave tomorrow morning heading south again. We have a stop in St. Louis for some minor warranty work on Miranda, then it's on the Birmingham, Alabama, with a few stops in between to see friends and family, for events including a pilgrimage to The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, The Legacy Museum, and the annual Jonathan Myrick Daniels Pilgrimage in Hayneville, Alabama.
Before arriving in the Chicago area we were in Traverse City, Michigan where Melanie preached at Grace Episcopal Church. Traverse City is situated on Grand Traverse Bay, Lake Michigan. We enjoyed great food and fellowship with the folks at Grace Episcopal Church.
We were also graciously invited to meet up and have lunch with Gary Moore and his wife Kathy who live Fairhope, Alabama. Gary is a representative of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast and co-sponsor of the upcoming Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage. Gary and Kathy summer, in part, in Charlevoix, Michigan, about an hour's drive away from Traverse, City. Melanie and I were honored they traveled our way to have lunch.
While we were in Traverse City, I was able to get out on Red Ranger one morning (Melanie rode with me another morning) and took a trip north towards Suttons Bay on the Leelanau Trail. Aside from morning temperatures in the 50's, Leelanau is one of the finest bike/waking trails I've experienced on our travels.
The 16.6 mile trail is well maintained and the asphalt surface is nearly flawless. One experiences lakes, farms and vineyards along the way with minimal road crossings. My only regret is not having enough time to make the entire trip to Suttons Bay. Next time. Highly recommended.
Leaving Traverse City, we headed south. Our first evening was spent in rural Mecosta, Michigan with our Boondockers Welcome hosts, Pat and Ray. They shared a spot they'd created for their close friends from Tennessee whom they'd met when they traveled extensively in their travel trailer. Aside from the very quiet rural site, they also offer us 30 amp electric hookup and water, something not required by Boondockers, but definitely appreciated from us. It didn't hurt that the low overnight was in the low 50's.
Next morning we drove towards South Bend, Indiana to another Boondockers site. On the way we made a short stop at Equalizer Systems to have a minor problem with our 4 point leveling system taken care of. I can't say enough good things about Equalizer. They took us in on short notice and had us fixed in less than an hour's time.
We spent the night in South Bend on the street in front of Tom and Miranda's (same name, different chick) home. We had a nice time getting to know them as they had dinner in their nice backyard. Miranda works at Notre Dame. We mentioned the possibility of checking out the campus and Tom graciously followed up with places of interest we might want to check out. We did.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to Ellen and Ric. They insisted we stay in a guest room in their historic home (1888) in Barrington, fed us, took us out for lunch and to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. They also insisted we remain at their home after they left to meet family for a vacation trip to Wisconsin Saturday past. We thank them profusely and will see them again when we are back through.
Melanie and I traveled into Chicago this past Saturday for the day. We took the train in from Barrington, where we had a Dim Sum lunch in China Town, spent a great afternoon at Art Institute of Chicago, then had dinner at the Rick Bayless Restaurant, Leña Brava. Chicago, what a great city.
Good afternoon from Ludington, Michigan. It's cloudy here, a bit rainy off and on, and it's 73 degrees. Later Melanie and I will ride the bicycles to the shores of Lake Michigan in hopes of seeing some high wave activity. There's a local weather alert predicting high waves and dangerous swimming conditions. I plan on drinking craft beer too. Jus' sayin'.
We've been in Michigan since the 8th of July and it has been glorious, if a bit warmer than I would have expected or desired at this latitude. The locals think it's too warm too. They also don't like the humidity just like we southerners don't. Yes, there's been humidity, but not like we experience in summer in the south. Nobody's dripping here.
We've been in a variety of settings and places since arriving in Michigan. We began in Monroe, Michigan when we left Cleveland. Then White Lake, Manchester, Kalamazoo, Grand Haven, and now Ludington. We were able to catch up with our niece, Isabel, in Adrian, Michigan and had dinner with her there. We'll head north to Traverse City on Saturday.
We spent the better part of a day in Detroit when we left Cleveland. Visiting the Episcopal Cathedral, then walking down the street to D.I.A. The Cathedral Church of Saint Paul is a magnificent structure well-worth the visit. The Detroit Institute of Art is also located in a great building and we enjoyed a number of nice exhibits.
The best part of Detroit, however, was getting a chance to meet up with our friend Keith from Birmingham. He was gracious enough to travel out of his way to meet us in White Lake where we were parked in the driveway of our Boondockers Welcome hosts, David and Joy. We had dinner together and then Joy and David took us out on their boat for a sunset cruise.
Kalamazoo may be our biggest surprise in Michigan though. The county park at which we stayed Markin Glen, a small campground just north of downtown, is a nice spot and well-maintained. The Kalamazoo River Valley Trail runs along the eastern side of the park and easily connects the campground to downtown Kalamazoo. We made numerous trips into town on our bikes to restaurants and a brewery.
The median age in Kalamazoo is 26.2. Couple that with the new cannabis legalization law and you've got potential for the makings of an interesting and progressive place to live and work. We found the same new construction going on in downtown Kalamazoo that we've seen in other similar-sized cities. Again, people seem to be moving back into cities to live and work.
Grand Haven and Ludington are both lakeside communities and tourist havens. They seem similar in size to Fairhope, Alabama. They may to some extent be bedroom communities to Grand Rapids, places where people summer and come to sail Lake Michigan. We've enjoyed both.
The best, however, may be yet to come. Traverse City, Michigan. Across the board when we've mentioned we're traveling there at the end of the week, people have had nothing but great things to say about it.
Good morning from Trinity Cathedral in downtown Cleveland, Ohio where we've been graciously allowed to stay for the past three days. Before you start with the wondering about why Cleveland, aside from surmising we're probably here for a reason connected to Melanie's EPF work, stop. I have to admit when Melanie suggested we'd go to Cleveland so she could meet with an EPF Chapter here, I was, of course, on board, but hoping beyond hope there was something there that might also interest the collective us. Is there a there there?
I've not been disappointed. Like many mid-sized cities we've encountered along the way, a good deal of construction is going on in downtown. People appear to be moving back into the city to live. The baseball All-Star Game begins festivities today.
Cleveland has a number of great attractions including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a very nice Museum of Art, Botanical Gardens, and good restaurants. That's the short list.
Downtown Cleveland is also pretty bike friendly. Melanie and I were able to get out on several occasions and ride around downtown with ease. The path following Martin Luther King Boulevard takes you through the Cleveland Cultural Gardens and leads down to Lake Erie. The ride along the lake is stellar. We've made new friends and we'll definitely be back to visit.
Yesterday marks our sixth month on the road. When we were in Asheville, I mentioned we were approaching this punctation in our journey and was hoping to give you, dear reader, a list of the pros and cons of full-time RV travel. After giving the idea more thought over the past few weeks and reading a bit of what others have to say, I have to admit I've got nothing that would, at least to my thinking, be of value to anyone pondering this life-style or otherwise explain what the hell possessed us to get out here.
Melanie would say one of the cons is she misses having our cats. I too, at times, miss having them around, but alternatively we've been able to spend time with them vicariously via the internet. The upside of that is no cat box in a small space and we don't have to worry about their welfare when we're away from Miranda. I loved having our cats. They are not, however, like our children and, besides, they have great homes now.
There's a Facebook group for those who own Leisure Travel Vans. We are members for, among other things, gaining continuing insight into this kind of travel and into potential problems and the solutions to those problems. But there are also posts from people who are considering purchase of a Leisure Travel Van for various reasons, downsizing from larger Class A motorhomes, those who are retiring and think travel sounds appealing etc. They generally have various concerns for which they seek answers from the forum.
Please don't misunderstand me, I take no small pleasure in stating that many (maybe most) of the their concerns sound like first-world whining and seem to be about retaining creature comforts many of us take for granted in stationary homes. By getting into the minutia, for example, will there be enough power for my coffee maker to work when I'm unplugged, people want to be reassured they will have all the comforts and benefits of a bricks and sticks home while rolling down America's highways. They seem to be saying please reassure me that life won't be too hard and I won't suffer too much should I do this.
Underlying all these questions and concerns is the element of risk. How risk averse are you? Are you willing to do the due diligence necessary on the front end of the travel experience such that once you've made the decision to live in a small space on the road, the quality of life remains good. Like stationary life, there are simply no guarantees. But, if you are too risk averse, if you are worried about creature comforts, my advice is, stay home.
Melanie and I anticipate the travel life will throw us curves, you know, just like those you have in a stationary home. So we plan, as best we can, for all the contingencies we can anticipate. Some things will likely fall through the cracks, just like they do when your home is located at 111 Ideal Lane.
At this juncture, my take on six months on the road is I could not have dreamed it any better. The experience has been much better than I anticipated and I anticipated it would be great.
Melanie and I make a great team. We have a good division of labor that makes traveling easy for us. We love our home. We love the new friends we make and the new experiences we continue to have while traveling. In the future, I'm sure there will be days when we may struggle a bit, but hopefully those days won't be too adverse or happen with such frequency they dampen an otherwise great experience.
And, with the Gods on our side, it's quite possible, Everything [Won't] Be Awful.
A few photographs from around Washington, DC
Good morning from just outside Asheville, North Carolina where we are currently staying with my long-time friend, Ginny, a high school classmate of mine, and her husband, Bill at their wonderful home. Miranda has a great spot in their driveway and Ginny and Bill have graciously allowed us to stay in their "free" B&B for a few days. See Also: Peaceful Hollow, Asheville destination weddings and John and Jill Elopement
Because Melanie and I are approaching 6 months on the road, I figure now is as good a time as any to begin to commence to start a recap of the pros and cons of full-time traveling. I mentioned the idea to Melanie a few days ago and, initially off the top of our heads, we were having a difficult time coming up with the cons.
My first thought was doing laundry on the road. But I decided having to do laundry in a campground laundromat or finding one in any given town we may be passing through, seems like only a minor inconvenience, not really a truly negative experience. And we do laundry now about every other week, so really, not much of a negative. Then there's the people who populate laundromats and the sometimes interesting exchanges I have with them.
So, trying to discern the cons aside for the moment, I'll begin with, at least for me, what is maybe "the" most positive aspect of full-time travel, that being all the great people we get to meet and/or reconnect with along the way.
Maybe there's never been a better example of how just showing up and being willing to have an experience is about 95% of task at hand. The rest, pretty much pure grace. When the experts try to tell you it's not about all the cool stuff you can buy with your discretionary income and you might want to consider purchasing experiences, pay attention.
While our itinerary for travel changed radically when Melanie took the position as Executive Director of EPF, after traveling to mostly cities in support of EPF for nearly 6 months now, the richness of that experience far outweighs all the ideas I had about mostly camping in Miranda in remote wilderness spots and other exotic locations.
Of course, there's plenty of time in between for a fair amount of beautiful, and sometimes remote, spots along the way and, I'm sure, many more down the road.
But the point is I've found the connections with all kinds of interesting people, both associated with Melanie's work and the everyday connections with people we meet along the way, to be the dark chocolate filling in the truffle that makes traveling full-time more than worth the price of admission. Sorry, when in Asheville, The Chocolate Fetish. Jus' sayin'.
We are both grateful for folks along the way who've allowed us to stay in their driveways, their homes or even their B&B for a night or two. Because I enjoy preparing a good meal for friends, I'm grateful for the use of friends', both old and new, kitchens, for the great, often engaging and interesting conversations had after a meal sometimes over a libation, and sometimes staying up later than usual on a "school night."
I certainly should thank Leisure Travel Vans and Komo Creations (not a paid spokesperson) for the great eye-catching design of our Unity IB van and our bike storage chest respectively. Almost daily when we're actively traveling someone will approach us and ask about the van or storage chest which often leads to questions about our travel which, at least in one instance, led to staying overnight at a nice Vineyard in Texas, preparing dinner for their friends and family, and making new friends.
Human connection, one of the big pros of full-time travel.
Boone, Denver, Blue Ridge Parkway, Hendersonville, Asheville