It's cool this morning after yesterday's rain. 59 degrees when I glance at the weather when I'm awake at nearly 5:00 a.m. Why am I seemingly wide awake at this hour anyway? Luckily, I fall back asleep and stay in bed until nearly 8:00 a.m.
After a brief round of coffee, we ready the van for a short trip into Little Falls, MA. Melanie has work calls through out the day and internet service has been uneven for us at the campground in Herkimer, MA.
I also want to ride a section of the Erie Canalway Trail that begins in Little Falls. I situate us next to Burke Park on E Gansevoort Street and finish journaling for the week past. Time to ride.
I ride through a portion of downtown Little Falls and pick up the Canalway at Danube Street headed east. My goal is to ride out towards Albany, NY for 20 miles or so, turn around and come back for about a 40 mile ride.
The beginning of the trail is asphalt paved which turns into finely crushed and hard packed gravel. Trees cover most of this section of the trail. The ambient temperatures during my ride are perfect.
There are a large number of cyclists traveling in the opposite direction of my ride. I'm uncertain whether they may be together or just a goodly number of different groups. But I'm a little surprised to see so many people on a Wednesday afternoon.
Everything goes as I planned. I ride 20 miles out past Fort Plain, turn around and head back. I'm making good time and ride behind a group of three riders for awhile until they stop at what appears to be a sag wagon station at an intersection.
I continue on at a good clip until I round a curve in the trail. My rear tire suddenly goes flat. Damn.
I take a look, but can't discern what may have punctured the tire. I check to see how far away from Little Falls and Miranda I am. 8 miles. Damn. I'm now about 3 miles away from the last intersection with a roadway where the sag wagon station was and at least 6+ miles from another intersection where Melanie could possibly pick me up. I'm basically in the middle of nowhere along the trail. Damn.
I made the decision when I purchased the bike to forego carrying any way to fix a flat should one occur. That means I have no tire tools, no spare tube, no pump. I realized what this meant every time I set out for a ride. It meant I was playing the odds hoping I wouldn't have a flat, at least not where I couldn't get help, if needed.
The tires are wide and substantial and I've only had three flats in nearly 3 years of ownership, all occurring in places where I could get assistance immediately. The last time I had a flat was in Las Cruces, New Mexico back in February.
The gentleman who fixed the flat in Las Cruces sold me foam inserts which line the tire and prevent most punctures of the tubes. But not today. C'est la vie.
He mentioned I could ride the bike, at least for a short distance after a tire becomes flat. I try this and succeed in riding for a few hundred yards before it becomes unmanagable and I stop and start pushing.
I walk maybe a few hundred yards along the trail and see something lying in the trail ahead of me. When I get close enough, I see it's..., wait for it..., a pump. My first thought is, great karmic taunting. I have a flat tire and a pump, but not even a patch or any tools to get the tire off the bike.
But what the hell, I'll give putting air into the tire a shot. I pump and pump and finally get enough air into the tire. I hop on the bike and within a hundred yards the tire is flat. I stop and begin pushing the bike along again.
The people who I'd passed at the sag station catch up to me and one of them stops and asks if he can help. I tell him thanks and explain my situation, but no there's really nothing to be done. I'm good.
I walk another couple hundred yards and I'm thinking it's going to be getting close to dark by the time I can get somewhere Melanie can pick me up so I stop and try the pump again. I take my time and put more air into the tire this time around, hop on the bike and ride off. Slowly.
Miraculously this time, the tire pressure holds and after a few miles, I pick up speed and, after a few more miles, I'm once again cruising along 15-20 mph thinking, how is it possible?
All's well..., eh? But randomly finding a pump like that. Seriously?
I make it back to the van, load the bike, we make a quick trip to the liquor store for gin, a market for limes and then drive back to camp for adult beverages. But first, on our way in to camp, we empty our black and gray tanks at the campground dump station as they are nearly full after 4 days.
After drinks, I walk over to the shower house and get cleaned up. Melanie has a work-related call going on and afterward we walk across the street to The Miners Table, a restaurant attached to the campground, and have dinner.
After a bit of sitting outside enjoying the coolness of a northern summer evening, we retire to the back of the van for some streaming and sleep.
July 29, 2021
We're awake around 7:30 a.m. After coffee and breakfast, Melanie goes for a shower at the campground bathhouse and I begin to get the van ready for travel.
Our zero-gravity chairs and mat are put away, the griddle has to be cleaned and stored away, and I fill the van with water. Lastly, I unhook us from the water and electricity. Melanie has gotten the inside of the van ready and we leave the Herkimer Diamond KOA Resort.
We're on our way to Ithaca, NY for a rendezvous with two of Melanie's girlfriends she know since college days at Birmingham Southern. They are to spend a long weekend at a Bed & Breakfast there.
We travel in the direction of Syracuse, NY where Melanie finds lunch for us at a Chinese restaurant. It's good and afterwards I find a local bike shop, Gorges Cycles, to take my bike to have the rear tire repaired after yesterday's ride and we're back on the highway traveling to Ithaca. I'm grateful, Thomas Steffie, the owner of the shop, agrees to take me in on short notice.
I unload the bike and spend a few minutes with Thomas, who owns the shop and recommends I replace the rear tire and, of course, the tube. He trues the tire rim and begins work on replacing the tube. He finds a staple in the tire that, because of the foam insert in the tire, barely punctured the tube which may explain why I was able to make it back to the van. He has a barely used tire he says came from a new bike he sold, but the owner came back in a week after the purchase and replaced the tires with a different kind of tire. He sells me for the used tire for 10 dollars.
About this time, Melanie calls from the van and wants me to take her to the B & B where she'll be staying. We arrive, unload her bike and suitcase, say our goodbyes and I'm back in the van headed back to pick up my bike at Gorges Cycles. Thomas has finished the tire repair and he helps me load the bike and I'm off to Auburn, New York.
I've booked a stay at Prison City Pub & Brewery, a Harvest Hosts location in Auburn, New York. I take a bit of a circuitous route taking me along the eastern side of Owasco Lake. It's a beautiful drive up Highway 38A through mostly farm land with corn, cows and huge pastures.
I arrive and check in. The nice bartender tells me where to park Miranda. I'll be located around back of the location that has a small pond and a picnic table she says is there for my exclusive use. Nice touch.
It's then I discover Miranda's macerator toilet is not working. I think about it for a moment, realize it's after hours for most businesses. It can wait though I'm not pleased with my future prospects since I'm also boondocking for two more nights until I pick Melanie up in Ithaca.
I return to the Pub to think on it and order their double IPA and a charcuterie plate which turns out to be large enough for me and several others, but will be my dinner. I finish my beer and snack and return to the van to give the toilet thing more thought.
I text Dan Dwyer, our salesman and go-to guy when it comes to problem solving, and let him know what I've done to try and make it work. We text back and forth a few times before he says I will need to have someone look at it. I do a quick search for mobile mechanics in the area, watch a movie and sleep a fitful sleep, waking up periodically thinking about the damn toilet and consequences of not having a working toilet in the van for God knows how long.
July 30, 2021
I'm up a little later than normal as I didn't sleep very well. First things, coffee and breakfast. I spend I bit of time on social media and a newspaper, but I'm soon thinking again about a solution for my offline toilet.
I'm fortunate, by the by, to have access to the restroom at the brewery. I explain my situation to them and they are most accommodating.
I send an email to Leisure Travel Vans in Canada explaining my problem, telling the what I've tried and hoping against hope they have a solution. I contact a local RV dealer, The Great Outdoors RV Superstore, and speak to someone in service about the problem. He says his service manager will have to make the decision, but one of their employees is also a mobile mechanic and, if they can't take me in, he most likely can help me after 5 p.m. I I leave a voice mail with the service manager, but don't hear from him immediately. I decide not to wait on a response from him and drive over to the RV dealer.
I go into the Superstore when I arrive and speak with the service manager who says, yes, they can have a look at it after employees get back from lunch. It may be a while. That's fine. My home is parked in your lot and I'll be there when you can see me.
After returning to the van, I check email and find out I have a response from Wanda Wolfe in Customer Service at Leisure Travel Vans. Of course, I do.
I've mentioned checking the connect that goes directly into the control panel and found it was okay. She tells me about another one located just below it in the cabinet under the sink and I should check that one. It sometimes gets jostled and may be loose.
I find it and, as suspected, it's loose. I plug it back in and I have a working toilet. I walk back into the Superstore and thank them profusely explaining the problem is solved. I'm once again grateful for such great customer service from Leisure Travel Vans and also grateful for the Superstore for their willingness to take me, a fulltime traveler, in on short notice.
Problem solved, I have some time to ride another section of the Erie Canalway Trail. The trailhead is only 8 miles away from my location in Auburn at Port Byron, NY.
Arriving in Port Byron, it's now after noon and I'm a bit hungry. I have leftover pizza in the fridge and, while I almost never eat leftover pizza cold, I eat these cold.
I get the bike out and decide I'll ride out 10 miles and back. It's a really nice ride mainly because the temperature in the 60's is more like Spring or Fall.
Once I'm back at the van, I contact my Boondockers Welcome hosts and let them know when I'll show up at their place. The drive south on Highway 34 is another great one, very little traffic for a Friday afternoon.
I arrive and one of my hosts comes out and greets me. We're talking about travel and the van when her husband arrives and I give them a tour, then choose a spot for Miranda to be for the time I'm with them.
They tell me it's Friday night and that means pizza (and wine from the vineyard where Dave works) for them and would I like to join them. I would and spend a most wonderful evening talking politics, film and a number of other things. I have to say it's one of the best, maybe the best, and most interesting time I've spent with a Boondockers Welcome family.
I probably overstayed my welcome as it's after 10 p.m. when we call it a night. I stumble back to the van and I'm asleep shortly thereafter.
July 31, 2021
It was 49 degrees when I woke up briefly this morning. 49 degrees in July. I fell back asleep and woke at almost 8:30 a.m. which qualifies as sleeping in for us/me.
Not much to report about today. I spent a fair amount of time catching up on the past few days of journaling. I read and checked social media while I woke up and had breakfast.
I spent a fair amount of time taking everything out of our water closet in the van and giving that space a good summer cleaning, including polishing the wood. The toilet had stains from a natural treatment we use for our black tank that couldn't be flushed for about 24 hours when the toilet wasn't operational. Note to self, flush immediately.
I ate cold leftovers because no generator use and no electricity at my Boondockers Welcome location. Electricity was offered, but I chose a spot without it and I forgot about their no generator policy.
Regardless, it was a very pleasant day which ended with me watching Bill Maher and turning in. Tomorrow I pick up Melanie in Ithaca and we'll continue on down the road together.
August 1, 2021
I set and alarm for 6:00 a.m. and when it goes off, I hit snooze, but I'm up before the alarm can sound again. I make coffee and return to the back of the van to sip coffee and read.
About 8:30, I rise and prepare the van for travel. I pick Melanie up in Ithaca at 9:30 a.m. from the B&B where's she spent the weekend.
I arrive on time and catch up briefly with Connie and Diana and Melanie and I part ways with them, travel a few blocks to Gimme! Coffee Ithaca. This is the second time I've purchased beans from this location. We were here almost two years ago.
Afterwards, we move the van about a block and park next to Triangle Park. Melanie has a big Zoom call meeting this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. and connectivity is good here in town. It begins to rain about an hour after we're parked.
We had a bit of trauma about 30 minutes before her meeting was to begin. Melanie's computer had a hiccup which caused her to not have access to Zoom and email and documents. We were able to reset and get her on the meeting. That's all pretty much understating the high tension and drama, but..., moving on.
After the Zoom meeting and rain almost over, we remember we skipped lunch. I have no idea why, but at any rate, we needed food and a glass of wine. I'd found a lake-side restaurant and we drive the van there and engage in some minor postmortem Zoom discussion. I assure her the meeting we much better than she imagines. But she keeps imagining.
We drive the 8 miles or so to our campsite at the very beautiful Taughannock Falls State Park and, because they have an express checkin procedure via email, we drive in a park at our site. It begins to rain again, but ever so briefly.
We set up the inside of the van and retire to the back for a bit of streaming and then sleep. A stressful afternoon now behind us, it's cool out this evening.
August 2, 2021
We're up around 7:00 a.m. If you've read any one day of this traveling journal, you know the drill. Coffee, breakfast, start the day. Today it's coffee, a shower for me at the campground bathhouse, as Melanie gets dressed and readies the van for travel.
The bank we've been using for years doesn't have many branches in the northeast, at least not where we need them so we've decided to open a new account for use when we're traveling in this region of the country.
We travel into Ithaca and find the branch of the bank we've chosen. It takes us around an hour to accomplish opening the account. Afterwards, we make a brief stop to deposit mail at a local postoffice branch and then make our way into downtown Ithaca for lunch somewhere on the commons. Moosewood, whose cookbook I've used over the years, is, unfortunately, closed on Monday and Tuesday so we find another spot, Mahogany Grill.
It's an amazing day in Ithaca, New York. Temps are in the mid 70's and we grab the last table outside the restaurant which is on the street the city has closed to traffic forming a commons area. There are a good number of people on the streets today. We have a very nice lunch.
Melanie has a Mahogany Burger and a salad, I have a cup of Clam Chowder and the Spaghetti & Colossal American Wagyu Meatball. Recommended.
After lunch we drive back to our go-to place next to Triangle Park and I take a look at Melanie's email problem from yesterday. It takes me about 45 minutes to read about and then perform a few corrective maneuvers before all email addresses are back online.
We then drive back to our campsite where we're scheduled to have a FaceTime call with close friends in Kentucky, but Melanie is still consumed with work-related matters and it's such a fine, fine afternoon that I get Red Ranger out for an afternoon ride.
The Black Diamond Trail has an endpoint in Taughannock State Park where we're camped. Our van is located just about a mile+ from that endpoint. It's all uphill to the trailhead, but, you know, electric assist bike gets me up the hill with little effort.
The ride into Ithaca is another pastural ride through the countryside along a ridge overlooking Cayuga Lake. It's a rail trail so riding is relatively easy in the direction of Ithaca. I ride the entire length of the trail which ends near Cass Park and Ithaca Children's Garden, a roughly 10 mile ride.
I sit on a handy bench and have a drink of water and a protein bar then head back to camp. The ride back, while up hill, is not too taxing being a rail trail.
I stop at the Taughannock Overlook and take a moment to photograph the falls. They are spectacular.
I arrive back at camp as Melanie is finishing a work-related call. We sit for a while outside and have an adult beverage. She moves into the van and I put my bike and the chairs away.
Since we had a late lunch, we skip dinner and enjoy streaming before retiring. Tonight's low temp will be in the low 50's. It's August, y'all.
August 3, 2021
We're up at nearly 8:00 a.m. this brisk (for August) morning. 55 degrees and sunny. It's a travel day and Melanie has a Zoom meeting at 11:00 a.m.
So, after coffee is made and a cup or so is consumed, Melanie goes to the bathhouse for a shower, I begin to get the van ready for travel and we leave the campground at around 9:30 a.m.
We travel into town and set up once again at Triangle Park. I catch up on journaling while she conducts her Zoom meeting.
After Zoom has taken off, we drive a very short distance, park Miranda and find lunch at Luna Inspired Street Food.
Then it's a trip to a local market for a few grocery items, a stop for diesel fuel and a liquor store for wine and gin.
We then travel to friends' home in Richford, NY which is south and east of Ithaca. Melanie works with Linda who is convener for the Palestine Israel Network within EPF.
Linda makes a delightful dinner for us which we take outside as the day cools. It's nearly 10:00 p,m. when we return to the van, parked in their rural driveway for sleep.
July 21, 2021
It's foggy, but much cooler this morning as we wake. There's still rain in the forecast, but a much diminished one. We have coffee and breakfast in the back of the van.
Tomorrow we leave our campsite and travel to... Good question. We'll need to be within striking distance of Ithaca, New York as Melanie will meet up with friends there at the end of next week. I've been looking around, do we stay in Vermont or leave and go to Massachusetts or New York?
We discuss our possibilities and Melanie reminds me of the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. There's a campground nearby, but it's not one that's received a review in my go-to app, Campendium. I decide after searching a bit further to take a chance and give 'em a call as they don't have online reservations, something I tend not to like too much, but only because it's generally slightly more difficult.
I will still need to get us within a relatively easy travel day of Ithaca after that so there's more searching to do.
Melanie decides to take a walk into Arlington, Vermont for a postoffice there and that 10,000 step thing she's gotten into a habit of performing most every day. We check the forecast again before she leaves and it looks like she's good to walk with little chance of rain. She leaves and I continue my logistical task.
She calls to ask if I need anything, to tell me she's on the way back to the van from Arlington and there is no shoulder along the road on which she can walk. Shortly afterwards it begins to rain here in camp. I wonder if she's walking down the highway in the rain. She is.
She parks herself under a tree in hopes of avoiding getting soaked in the brief downpour. Paul, a local farmer, comes out of his home nearby and asks if she's stuck. She tells him she's just sheltering under the tree to avoid getting wet and he offers her a ride which she initially declines, but then, as the rain intensifies, she accepts. She soon back at camp and we're grateful for the kindness of a stranger.
We're both hungry and I make us breakfast for lunch and get back at figuring out where we are going to be tomorrow as Melanie cleans up dishes.
Places eventually fall into place and we're now booked for places to park Miranda through August 3rd. I'm reasonably happy with my choices, but as is usual, we'll just have to wait and experience the places to see if I've made good choices.
We take a walk around camp, skip dinner and walk over to the camp shower house for cleansing. We retire for a bit of streaming. Tomorrow we travel.
July 22, 2021
We're up around 7:00 a.m. We're leaving Vermont today heading south and east to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.
Facebook has a private group of which we are members. Leisure Travel Van Enthusiasts. It's a helpful and sometimes humorous resource for all things Leisure Travel Vans including travel tips. One of the members saw my recent post about Vermont, saw where we were currently and suggested we not miss Manchester and Dorset, Vermont.
Melanie found breakfast for us in Manchester and so, after a brief time of coffee drinking, we pack it in and head north from Arlington, Vermont to Manchester. We arrive just after 10:00 a.m. and are fortunate enough to grab the last 2 top table in the restaurant Melanie's chosen, Up For Breakfast.
There's double entendre in play as the restaurant is upstairs in its location. Here's what the New York Times says in their 36 Hours in Manchester, Vermont:
Vermont night life conjures an image of tie-dye-clad locals grooving in a bar with gravy fries on the menu. But after-hours in Manchester is a more genteel and toned-down affair — Burlington or Bennington this is not. Many of its best restaurants double as bars, the busiest of which is the Perfect Wife. The Wife, as some call it, offers fine dining downstairs and a raucous tavern upstairs. Filled with foosball tables and flat screens, the Other Woman (as the tavern is called) can get loud and fratty at times.
Another recommended place for breakfast.
I've since heard from the nice person who recommended we see Manchester and Dorset saying she saw us pass through Dorset as she was at the post office there. Timing is everything. We've decided to make another pass through and, hopefully, land a spot at a campground in Dorset on our way back east after Melanie's weekend with longtime friends in Ithaca.
Leaving Dorset and Manchester we head south and into Massachusetts for a few days. One of the things I've come to appreciate about Vermont highways is a dearth of commercial billboards along their highways. Not sure if that's intentional or coincidental. Regardless, it's refreshing to be able to take in the great mountain vistas and beautiful farms with distinctive (red) barns without the clutter of commercial interests trying to sell me on the next roadside attraction.
We arrive at our campground around 1:30 p.m. and attempt to check in only to find someone in the check in area broken down and another camper ahead of us waiting to be able to check in. We decide quickly to run a couple of errands, first traveling into downtown Shelburne Falls to locate the Bridge of Flowers and then on to a roadside farmers' market and a roadside coffee roaster.
Before Melanie leaves the van at the Farmers Market, I see a woman leave the market with a soft serve ice cream cone. I quickly see a sign outside the market indicating they have "maple soft serve ice cream." Yes, please, I tell Melanie. And thank you.
Daaaaammmmmnnnnn that ice cream was so very good and I was so very sorry when I reach the bottom of my cup. That's one dangerous treat, y'all.
We return to camp and this time no waiting to quickly check in. Our pull-through campsite is large and, since we're here for 3 days, I get out the mat and zero-gravity chairs. I'll be grilling a steak this evening so the Blackstone griddle comes out of the pass through.
More campers arrive and we quickly discover this is at least one of the places to camp if you want to ride your Harley. RV's and trucks with trailered Harleys abound. And there are children, lots of children here. There's likely a definite correlation between riding a motorcycle and having lots of children. You heard it here first.
Now go get vaccinated and consider a vasectomy. 😎
Melanie has a couple of work-related Zoom calls before and after we eat dinner. I get dishes cleaned up before the second call and then sit outside (with a light jacket on) to enjoy the cacophony in the gloaming.
I decide after a minute my AirPods are a better way to spend some time and I take in the scene and listen to a variety of tunes.
Melanie finishes her last call and joins me for a bit. We retire to the back of the van and stream and sleep.
An aside. As we lie down for sleep, it's about 10:30 p.m. RV parks almost always (maybe always) have what they will call in various iterations, "Quiet Hours." The time periods, varying generally depending on the day of the week, longer periods for weekend days, shorter times for weekdays.
Generally speaking Quiet Hours are when everyone should be either thinking about sleep or have migrated into their respective RV or, if still outside, using their inside voices to communicate. We can count on one hand the number of times since we began traveling someone or a group of people have been too loud after Quiet Hours begin. Last night was another time, but luckily they weren't disruptive much beyond 11:00 p.m.
July 23, 2021
An alarm on Melanie's phone sounds at 7:00 a.m. Okay, but I'm not quite ready to be up. After a few more prompts by the alarm and a next door neighbor's dogs barking, I'm up and making coffee. It's 62 degrees this morning when I move towards the front of the van and, for the end of July..., I'm smiling.
After coffee and breakfast, Melanie moves her office outside and I tag along, park myself in a zero-gravity chair and sip coffee a bit more.
We coordinate having some mail forwarded which requires contacting a third party and getting the correct addresses and making sure two pieces of mail, arriving separately at the same location, but related to each other, are handled properly. Such is the life of nomads.
We need to ride into Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts to snail mail a few other things too. Melanie is our on-the-road emissary of good tidings keeping us connected with those we know and love by composing and mail various postcards from wherever we happen to be camping.
After Melanie's finished her work day and our bike batteries are fully charged. We get our bikes ready for a shortish ride into Shelburne Falls. We ride along Massachusetts 2 which parallels the Deerfield River. Highway 2 has been recently resurfaced and the "bike lane" is both wide enough and smooth making our ride pleasant and relatively safe. The speed limit on Highway 2 is 50 miles and hour and every passing motorist gives us the courtesy of the proper distance (3 feet or greater) between them and us.
We ride into Shelburne Falls, make a quick stop to put post office directions into one of our phones and we're then riding onto Bridge Street, crossing the Deerfield River and into downtown. We easily find the post office off of Main Street and I deposit our snail mail into the outside receptacle. We leave headed back to the Bridge of Flowers.
But first, we spot a Farmers Market on Main Street, stop briefly and buy Kale, cucumber, squash and an heirloom tomato from a local farmer.
We make our way back across the Deerfield River and the entrance to Bridge of Flowers. There are no bike racks close by (an oversight, I'm sure) so we lock our bikes to a street sign and take in the bridge. There are new plantings with each season. The summer season is spectacular with the river and nearby mountains as backdrop. Visiting the bridge is a winner.
We linger a bit making images of familiar and unusual offerings in bloom. Then..., where's my adult beverage? Melanie makes a quick trip into a bookstore picking up more postcards to mail.
The West End Pub at the Bridge of Flowers is located on State Street next to an entrance to the bridge. We're initially only in search of a cocktail, but once we're seated overlooking the Deerfield River and a beautiful view of the bridge out our table's window, cocktails in hand, we decide an early dinner is also something to consider. It's a good decision.
Melanie has Chicken Lemongrass Dumplings and I opt for the Local Beef Meatloaf. Both are quite tasty. I have a nice glass of Cote du Rhone and Melanie has a glass of white with dinner.
The bonus is the two motorcyclists from Rhode Island who we chat with during dinner. Our tables are close making conversation easy and they are really nice guys out for a weekend ride. One of the guys bright orange fingernail polish matches a flower Melanie found on the bridge and she shows him the flower. Those nice people you meet along the way thing.
After dinner we make our way back to camp as the sun begins descending behind the tall trees surrounding the open field that is the campground. We sit outside and listen and enjoy the very pleasant evening coolness.
I lock up the bikes, put the recharged batteries back on the bikes for tomorrow's ride and take a short walk over to the campground showers to check them out. It's chilly now and we both put on light outer wear.
Not too long afterwards, it's time for retiring to the back of the van for streaming and sleeping. Movie night is happening across the way from our spot, but they're relatively quiet tonight. I don't remember dozing off.
July 24, 2021
It's 59 degrees this morning when I awake around 8:00 a.m. Nice.
There's coffee and breakfast as Melanie begins her work day and I get to spend some time reading newspapers and checking social media. We turn on the fans mid morning as the day heats up and Melanie moves outside to work.
I finish up in the back of the van, move forward and clean up a few dishes from last evening and this morning. Motorcycles crank next door and our neighbors move away from camp for a day's riding somewhere out there. We're planning another foray into Shelburne Falls on our bikes at some point.
Melanie decides to give the campground showers a try and comes back satisfied with the results. I defer and will shower after our ride this afternoon. Today will be warmer than yesterday, but not by much. Highs are predicted to be in the high 70's.
Melanie finishes work (for now) and we ready ourselves to ride. The ride into town is another great one. Temps are nearly perfect and the sky couldn't be bluer.
We hit the post office first then bike back over to Bridge of Flowers where Melanie wants to get a photo of a plaque on the bridge.
As I'm standing waiting on Melanie to make her photo, a couple walks ups and he asks about our Ebikes. I answer questions mentioning at some point we are full-time travelers.
Craig and his wife, Joan, are retired and live in Shelburne nearby. Craig worked for the CDC in Atlanta before retiring. We chat for a while, exchange contact information and they invite us to come stay with them next pass through the area. Before we part ways they tell us of another restaurant we should try in Shelburne Falls. You meet the nicest folks.
We bike to have a look at the falls in town, then make a grocery store run, have a drink and a snack at West End Pub, sitting at the same table we had yesterday afternoon, and then make our way over to The Blue Rock Restaurant for a light dinner.
We couldn't get a table, so we sit at the bar. It's a pleasant experience, drinks and food are good.
Afterwards, we bike back to camp. Since tomorrow is a travel day, I put away the bikes, the Blackstone grill needs cleaning and stowing and then I go for a shower.
While I'm gone, Melanie folds up our mat we've been lounging on for days. I stow that when I get back and then also stow the zero-gravity chairs and disconnect the water hose and store it too.
I'm making sure when we leave tomorrow morning, relatively early, I don't have much to do. Disconnect the electric chord and store it, pull up the levelers, and empty the grey and black tanks on our way out. Rain is predicted so, if raining, I'm minimally wet.
We retire to the back of the van and stream and sleep.
July 25, 2021
My alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. and that's too early. I doze for not quite 10 minutes before I'm up to make coffee. Travel days are like that sometimes.
We have over a hundred miles to travel before we arrive at our next campground, but Melanie is scheduled to attend church services at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Bennington, Vermont so we sip coffee for a few minutes, wake up enough and prepare the van for travel.
We're moving within 10 minutes as there's not too much aside from stowing electric chord, unleveling the van and moving a few miscellaneous items that live in the front of the van when we're parked. We move to the dump station and I quickly empty black and grey tanks.
Our trip to Bennington is uneventful and we're parked across the street from the church more than an hour before church services begin. Melanie reads and I move to the back of the van and take a nap. Rising too early has consequences.
After services we head back west towards Albany, New York. The roads are busy and cloudy skies give way to a mostly sunny and warm day.
Melanie finds The Whistling Kettle in downtown Troy, New York for our lunch. There's a small downtown market going on with live music as we arrive. The lunch is good and afterwards we make our way over to the Hudson River for peek. There's new construction across the way, but many of the buildings downtown are empty. There's nice architecture here and great potential for a revival.
We move along to Target in the East Greenbush section of Rensselaer, NY. I need a need bath towel and our small Shark vacuum needs an update. On to Whole Foods in Albany, NY for items we can't get at other markets. We forget the wine. Drat.
The afternoon drive west on Interstate 90 parallels the Mohawk River. It's a beautiful drive skirting Amsterdam, Fultonville, and Fort Plain. I imagine in the Fall colors are spectacular. But.
It's hotter than I remember the forecast predicting. After our Target shopping, I start the generator and the van air conditioner. We're much cooler than we would be without it, but the sun beats in on us through the front windshield.
By the time we reach the town of Little Falls, I'm ready for this travel day to end. We stop briefly when I spot a liquor store. Melanie buys the wine we forgot and it's a short 9 miles to our campground in Herkimer, NY.
Late lunch equals skipping dinner and tonight we tired enough streaming doesn't happen either. We're asleep by 9:30 and, unlike our previous campground, Quiet Hours are just that, quiet.
July 26, 2021
We sleep for 9+ hours and wake around 6:30 a.m. Coffee and a muffin for breakfast then Melanie goes for a shower and a walk. She gathers our two weeks worth of our laundry including bedding. It takes most of the morning and into the afternoon to accomplish the laundry as 3 of the 6 washing machines at the campground are not working.
I flip the mattress and vacuum underneath it. I also get out the screw driver and tighten up screws I see are loose. We have storage underneath the bed when the foot of the bed is raised and screws in the hinge loosen.
After a nice salad Melanie makes us for lunch, I work on my July 25th post and, when finished, we walk over to the campground pool for maybe a swim. Having grown up swimming in pools and visiting the Gulf for summer vacations, the waters in many of the rivers, streams and pools in the northern latitudes of the U.S. are..., well, they're mostly cold. On a warm summer day cooler water has its place, but when the ambient temps are in the 70's, not so much.
But. If I'm going in, I'm going to need at least a synthetic shirt to wear instead of the cotton tee I have on. Really that's just an excuse to walk back to the van and make an afternoon gin and tonic.
Accomplished, we enjoy our drinks and then take the plunge. As expected it's pretty chilly in the water, but after a few minutes, not really bad at all. Refreshing and lowers the body temp too.
We return to the van, continue the cocktail hour(s) and begin preparations for dinner. I get out the griddle to make pork tenderloin, Melanie furnishes the sides. Tonight, corn on the cob and a side of spinach soufflé. We dine al fresco in the cooling evening air.
I clean up dinner dishes and we decide to take an evening walk around the campground. There are a good many folks walking, riding bikes and playing various games like on a large chess and checkers boards. There's corn hole being played.
After we're back at the van and sit for a few minutes as the sun sets, we decide to move inside, stream a bit, then we're asleep by just after 10:00 p.m.
July 27, 2021
Today we're up around 7:00 a.m. Our usual coffee and breakfast follow.
Many of the people who've occupied this campground are packing up and leaving, by early afternoon about half of the spaces are empty, but by the evening many of them have been replaced. It's quieter today because of fewer people, not nearly as many children running and bicycling around. You can clearly hear West Canada Creek from our spot when you're outside.
Melanie works most of the day, but takes some time for the pool and takes a few walks around camp. I read and check social media from the van. After lunch I watch a Netflix film Melanie has no interest in watching. She continues to work and take walks.
For a while we're under a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, but that fizzles at our location and we only get the sound of thunder and moderate rainfall at the campground.
We FaceTime with our son, Tate, who's in the process of moving from a rental house to an apartment closer into downtown Nashville. All seems well with he and his girlfriend, Zoe.
We decide, since it's still raining a bit off and on, we'll eat a couple of Lean Cusines we have in the freezer. We'd planned to use our griddle outside, but you know, rain. After dinner we take a walk around camp, take in the sights and enjoy the cooling evening.
Afterwards, we move to the back of the van for our usual evening streaming. We're asleep by 10:45.
July 14, 2021
It rained some last night and as I rise this morning rain is beginning to subside. I'm up around 7:30 a.m. to make coffee and, since Melanie has the day off, we plan to take a walk on the Appalachian Trail which runs through Gifford Woods State Park.
After coffee and breakfast, Melanie sits outside and reads while I finish up a post from yesterday. Afterwards, we head out of camp and north on the AT. In 2019 we hiked south out of camp.
Because of all the rain recently, the trail is pretty muddy in spots and we pick our way on the trail avoiding as much of the mud as possible. The trail skirts Kent Pond and crosses Thundering Brook Road where we decide to try and make a loop out of our hike by going around Kent Pond in counter-clockwise fashion.
After walking a ways on the road, we pick a trail that seems like it might work (can't find any references to what we're trying to do on various maps). We're walking a trail called Betty's Loop when we come across a gentleman out walking. After conferring with him, we decide to double back and walk to camp the same way we came out.
We get back to camp in time for Melanie to phone her brother, Scott, to wish him a happy birthday as I clean up breakfast dishes and clean the bathroom sink and toilet. Melanie makes a salad for lunch and afterwards cleans the dishes as a thunderstorm rolls into camp. It rains for about 30 minutes.
We spend most of the afternoon reading and streaming. We decide no dinner this evening.
The generator must be run as there's been little sun to charge our batteries today. It runs for about an hour and a half. We have all devices that need a charge plugged in. We'll be good power wise for the evening.
We travel again tomorrow. We head south to Fort Dummer State Park near Brattleboro, Vermont. Since we've heard good things about Brattleboro and there are rail trails to be ridden in the vicinity, we'll be there for five days.
July 15, 2021
We up around 6:00 a.m. and I make coffee. We've decided since it's a travel day we'll go out for breakfast to a place Melanie found along our route. We don't have too far to travel, about 75 miles south and east of where we're located in Killington.
We leave Gifford Woods State Park at around 9:30 a.m. for Sugar and Spice Restaurant. Breakfast is what I'd call good without really recommending it to you. I found it better than Cracker Barrel. Coffee's good, too.
We make our way south, stopping shortly in Rutland to make another post office run. Melanie needs to mail a few items and she needs stamps.
The trip south is pleasant, good roads and, as usual, scenic small towns, green, green mountain vistas, and the occasional ski slope. We drive through a town where we stopped for Melanie to make a call and I did laundry in 2019. I'd know that strip shopping center anywhere.
Not too far after getting on Interstate 91 heading south, I stop at a rest area and turn on our generator and the RV air conditioner. It's approaching 85 degrees outside and just about to get warm in the van.
Arriving in Brattleboro, we go out to Fort Dummer State Park and check in. We're too early to be in our camp spot, but we check in and find our spot for future reference. We go to the grocery store for a few items we need, find Saxtons River Distillery for future reference, but not for rum Melanie wanted, though she did find another Jack Rudy's Tonic. Elderberry. And a lead on where we can buy our other go-to tonic, Fever-Tree.
Melanie finds lunch at Whetstone Station along the Connecticut River on the New Hampshire border.
We have a moments difficulty finding proper parking for Miranda. It happens. Not frequently, but sometimes parking a 25' van is momentarily challenging. We leave our generator running for the RV air conditioner to keep us cool. I don't necessarily like leaving the generator running, but on a day like today, it's almost a necessity. Keeping the inside cool is better for the van fridge too.
We walk to lunch and opt to sit inside even though there's a nice deck overlooking the Connecticut River. I know I mentioned it's a warm day for Vermont. Lunch is good.
We leave the restaurant to look for a local rum and a return to that local afternoon libation station. After fetching our tonic and Melanie's rum, we end up back at Saxtons River Distillery for an afternoon cocktail underneath (for me) a nice spot just outside the distillery (inside off limits due to an immunocompromised employee).
It's enjoyable and we're the only ones at the distillery in the middle of a Thursday afternoon. That works.
We travel back to Fort Dummer State Park and our campsite. Set up this time includes our outside mat and our zero-gravity chairs. We're not leaving this spot for 5 days.
The afternoon is pleasant and we sit out for a while and enjoy how quickly the ambient temp seems to be dropping.
We skip dinner since we had a late lunch and towards sundown we walk the short distance to take showers. $.75 for a nice clean and hot shower though not too hot tonight. I use the shower to bring my core temp down a bit and return to the van.
Tonight we continue to watch season 2 of End of the Fucking World on Netflix. We're sorry to have binged it the day before and now it's over. Sigh.
It's quiet here and temps are pleasant during the night for sleeping.
July 16, 2021
We're up around 7:00 a.m. I'm pretty excited about the day ahead as there are two different rail trails in the area, one connecting me to a third. After coffee and breakfast, Melanie begins her work day and I finish reading a newspaper.
It's a nice morning and I ready my bicycle for checking first the Fort Hill Recreational Rail Trail and then possibly the West River Trail. As is the case sometimes, best laid plans are somewhat disappointing to expectations.
I ride from our spot at Fort Dummer State Park into downtown Brattleboro and Bridge Street, then cross the bridge into New Hampshire. Looking at the TrailLink map the end point should be within a mile of my bridge crossing. It's not at all clear where one can access the end point of the trail from Highway 119 so I check the next possible access point, this time one that has a parking area and keep riding 119 for about 4-5 miles.
The access parking is also a bit of a bust. Yes, you could park a few cars there, but the area is not maintained and I had to push my bike up over a hill through the woods and then down a fairly step hill to the trail. Much to my chagrin the trail is not very well maintained and would be much more conducive to mountain biking. My ride takes me a few more miles south until I reach what appears to be a road/trail.
This portion of the trail contains numerous pot holes and is quite rough. Again, mountain bike, yes, road bike miserable ride. I turn around after about 100 yards of this and return to 119 headed back north. Maybe the West River Trail.
Arriving back in Brattleboro, I make my way through town and across the West River, make a turn off the Main Street and ride to the trail head. The trail heads north along the West River and eventually finishes at Rice Farm Road. It's a pleasant enough ride, but this trail is really a walking path and, if the intention is for people to ride bikes on it, the trail needs a lot of work. Mountain bike, yes, road bike, not really.
The best part of this ride comes when you cross the West River on the Iron Bridge and make your way to Highway 30 (West River Road). The view from the bridge of the West River is great and the ride along the West River Road back into town is a scenic road ride. The shoulder is wide and nicely paved and there are numerous views of the river.
So, riding was not a complete bust, but not what I'd anticipated coming off of great rail trail rides of the past week or so.
When I return, Melanie is out for a walk and I find her as I'm checking out another part of our campground I'd not visited. She's looking for one of the trails off the campground, but can't seem to locate it. I find it shortly after we part ways and we meet back at the van.
I have a late lunch salad and relax a bit outside as she finishes up her work day. We move into the van to run our generator for a while to both cool the van down and charge our house batteries for evening use.
After a Zoom call Melanie has at 5:00 p.m., we eat and I clean up while she goes back outside for bit to enjoy the cooling evening. We walk the short distance to shower, stream a bit and sleep.
July 17, 2021
We're up just before 8:00 a.m. and after coffee and breakfast, we prepare the van to move. We're heading south into Massachusetts today to check out a couple of places and pick up provisions we can't get close by.
It's really just an excuse to take a nice day trip. We drive to Southampton, Mass, to the grocery store in Hadley, Mass., and then on to South Hadley for lunch. The day is pleasant enough, but again another warmish day. We run our generator and the RV air conditioner to keep us cool.
After lunch Melanie wants to travel to Mount Holyoke college, a place she visited as a 14 year old with her beloved Aunt Myra and Melanie's mother. Melanie's aunt graduated from Mount Holyoke and wanted Melanie to consider attending.
We drive through campus and it is a lovely place, but then it's time to head back north as we have made planes to visit friends who live just north of Brattleboro in Townshend.
As we headed north we take a brief detour to see Townshend State Park which appears to be for tent campers only. A quick look at the website as I type provides confirmation this park is tents only with a couple of lean-to-sites.
We arrive in Townshend and discover we have no cell service. Pulling over I quickly put our friends' address into our van GPS and we make our way to their home.
We met Matt Deen and Ella Kinsman through my brother-from-another-mother, John. Matt worked with John at John's coffee shop in Columbus, Georgia before John retired and sold the shop. Matt has since attended seminary and has a church in Marlboro, Vermont.
Matt has a funeral service to officiate and is not yet home when we arrive. We visit with Ella and soon after Matt's home. We spend a couple of hours on their screened porch enjoying fresh local bread and items Ella has made to accompanying the bread. Matt provides the local beer for us.
We part ways as we have a dinner reservation at Peter Havens in Brattleboro at 8:15 p.m. It rains pretty hard on us traveling back to Brattleboro and after driving around for a few minutes looking for parking once we're back in Brattleboro, we find a spot a few blocks away on Main Street.
Our dinner is good and we have a nice time. It's after 10 p.m. when we leave Peter Havens to travel back to our campsite. And it's raining pretty hard (again). It's very dark and upon arriving, I pull into our site instead of trying to back in.
Shortly afterwards, we're in bed listening to the rain beat hard on the roof of the van. I wonder if I'm going to be able to sleep through the din, but not for long.
July 18, 2021
I'm pretty sure Melanie mentioned setting an alarm for 7:00 a.m. when we retired last night, but when I'm finally awake enough to check the time, it's 7:30ish. I'm up almost immediately because it's Sunday and Sunday post-pandemic most always means church for Melanie.
I make coffee and we enjoy a few cups before Melanie goes for a shower. I'm up afterwards and we prepare the van to move into Brattleboro where she'll attend church.
After services, she texts telling me to prepare for visitors to the van. I move a few things around and vacuum the floor.
We do indeed have visitors who come and view the van and ask questions about our travels. They're a very nice lot of folks and in their midst are children. It's nice to see children among the Episcopalians since that has been rare in our travels. It's the second time we've seen a number of young ones in Vermont.
We turn the van around and head into downtown looking for lunch afterwards. Brattleboro is hopping on this late Sunday morning and we end up at Whetstone Station again. This time we take a table outside. The West and Connecticut Rivers come together here and the West River is raging through town as it empties into the Connecticut.
It's pleasant out today in the low 70's, overcast and a very, very light mist falls periodically.
After lunch we walk back to the van and go into several shops along the way. Melanie buys postcards, I look for Steely Dan vinyl in several shops. Nope, no Steely Dan.
Once we're back at the van, I suggest we drive into New Hampshire and down to near Hinsdale so I can check out the southern terminus of the Ashuelot Recreation Rail Trail. The southern terminus has a large parking lot nearby, but my reconnaissance is a bit of bust as I can't really tell if the trail is worth riding.
The Ashuelot River, on the other hand, is raging through Hinsdale. As we pass back through town, we turn into town and make a stop at a city park where the river can be viewed. As you can see from the video above, the river is out of its banks.
A friend from Melanie's church service who happens to pull up and park behind us says it's generally pretty much a trickle compared to the torrent we're witnessing. It's a great experience watching it from a safe distance.
We're now back at camp and here for the afternoon.
Cocktails consumed and lite snacks for dinner, we retire to the back of the van for a bit of streaming and sleep. It's raining and raining.
July 19, 2021
I'm typing this while located in Keene, New Hampshire which is about 20 miles or so from our campsite in Brattleboro, Vermont.
We were up this morning just after 7:00 a.m. Neither of us wanted to be awake. It was still rainy and rain dripped from the trees overhead onto Miranda with an erratic cadence. Rain for days now. Local rivers are overflowing. Too much rain.
We have coffee and Melanie eats a carton of Yogurt before we ready the van for travel. Melanie has a hair cutting appointment at 10:00 a.m. which was accomplished while I checked our generator oil level as per the prompt from the keypad. Oil level is fine. Melanie's hair is looking good when she returns.
The good news is we get a break in the rain today which is the reason we're here in Keene. On the way in, Melanie has us stop at Monadnock View Cemetery to pay respects at the gravesite of Civil Rights Martyr, Jonathan Myrick Daniels.
We parked downtown next to a rail trail and Melanie can take a break in her work day and walk around downtown Keene and I can get Red Ranger out and ride south on the Ashuelot Recreational Rail Trail. Yesterday I checked out the southern terminus of the trail near Hinsdale.
The trail crosses the Ashuelot River a few times which should prove to be great given that it's waters are running extremely high now.
I ride the Ashuelot Recreational Rail Trail out of town for about 6 miles. The trail is very wet to say the least. I have nice ride, the surface is hard-packed and there are very few spots where water is standing, but on either side of the trail for miles the Ashuelot has flooded farm fields and athletic fields and much of wooded areas next to the trail. More rain to follow it seems.
The trail continues farther out than I rode, but becomes single track and better traversed on a mountain bike or on foot. Before I head back into town, I ride over to a campground on the river where camped two years ago. It's under new management and seems to be in slightly better shape than when we stayed there.
I ride back into town and stop a few times to eat an apple, protein bars and drink water. Once I'm back, I ride around downtown Keene hoping to see Melanie, but she's not to be seen. I ride out a ways on the Cheshire Rail Trail until I come to a road and can't seem to find where the trail continues so turn around and ride back into town. Still no Melanie.
I text her and find out she's headed over to the Jonathan Daniels Trail which begins in Ashuelot River Park nearby. We find each other and sit along the river and trail for a time. It's beautiful.
I'd sent my doctor, Stuart Cohen, a message earlier in the day mentioning I needed a renewal of the only prescription medication I take, a Statin. I get confirmation the renewal has been sent to a local Keene Walgreens and then Walgreens texts to tell me I can pick it up. Sweet.
We decide to walk from our parking place to Main Street and an early dinner before we head back to Brattleboro. We settle on Luca's Mediterranean Cafe across from Central Square. We have a nice table outside and it's a really pleasant evening temperature wise. The food and wine are good.
We make our way back to Miranda and the shortish drive back to Brattleboro and our camp. Sitting outside we enjoy another glass of wine as the sun sets. Melanie moves into the van and I gather my shower stuff and walk the short distance to the campground shower.
We stream a bit before sleep. No rain in the forecast and tomorrow we travel to a new campsite in another part of Vermont.
July 20, 2021
Today's a travel day. Not too far, but we need to be out of our campsite by 11:00 a.m. so I'm up and after a round or two of coffee, Melanie and I are up and preparing to move the van.
My outside chores this morning include putting away our zero gravity chairs which reside on our van ladder which has a carrier attached to it. Once those are secured to the carrier and ladder, I clean and fold our mat and put it away. I check tire pressure in all 6 tires, a once a week job (we have an extensive checklist we go through each time we move Miranda).
Once we're underway, we stop once in West Brattleboro for restocking of our favorite tonic at a local 802 and then we're off to Bennington for lunch. As luck would have it, we park for lunch across from the Episcopal Church, St. Peter's, in Bennington and Melanie goes across the street to take a look.
She soon texts me she's making new friends and I wait in the van while she finishes. She will now attend church services at St. Peter's this coming Sunday.
We find lunch at Your Belly's Deli. Catchy name for a restaurant. I have a really tasty, if messy, Turkey melt pesto sandwich special, Melanie a Turkey brie and apple sandwich. We're both pleased with lunch and would eat there again.
We arrive at our campsite, Camping On The Battenkill, in Arlington, Vermont early afternoon and, after a quick set up, Melanie migrates outside to work and I migrate to the back of the van for a quick nap and reading I missed during the morning.
We're located along the Battenkill River which, like many rivers in Vermont now, is very high. Later in the day, we take a walk around camp walking along the river and take in the scene. A good many families with children tent camping, a good many season sites with all kinds of RV's parked in them and the rest of us.
We skip dinner again and, after sitting outside enjoying the cooling evening, we move inside. There's a "Severe Thunderstorm Warning" out and we're in the path.
The storm hits as we're streaming in the back of the van and initially, we're hit with a few, what sound like, very large hail stones. A very few. But then the rain and lightening. It's loud in the van I after monitoring the situation for a few minutes as the leading edge passes us, we resort to headphones for streaming.
The rain has all but stopped as we turn in for the night and the ambient temps are nice.
July 7, 2021
We've traveled north and east from Burlington to Mill Pond Campground near (very near) the Canadian border in East Franklin, Vermont. Sixty plus miles from Montreal. It's a relatively small campground that's been here a minute.
There are many "seasonal" spots here. Places where folks park an RV or tiny home and use them during the summer months. There are people living here full time.
I was up before the alarm I'd set for 6:00 a.m. this morning. It was cool in the low 60's as I got up to make coffee for us. It's one of Melanie's days off and she continued to sleep while I make coffee and come back to bed with it.
After a while she too's up and we sip and have breakfast and read. Today we meet friends from Burlington and Essex Junction to ride the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail.
I get on my computer and pull up the map of the trail on TrailLink. I get a screen shot of it and place that in PhotoShop. I give our friends our location via a red arrow and indicate where we might meet them to ride.
I call John and we decide on which of the two options works for them. We leave the campground at around 9:00 and travel the 9+ miles to the parking area beside the trail. I get our bikes out and busy myself with finding a spot for the end of the month when Melanie will meet friends in Ithaca, New York for the weekend.
This rail trail is yet another great ride and the weather (for July) couldn't have been better. Cloudy and low 60's. We ride about 5 miles past Enosburg Falls then back to Enosburg Falls and have lunch. We take our lunch, bike to the falls and eat on a bridge overlooking the river.
Afterwards, I stop by the local State Store to restock gin and then it's back to Miranda. We part ways with our friends and head back to camp. Melanie's got an EPF Zoom (day off?) and I retire to the back of the van to read, listen to music and compose this.
It's fresh tuna off the Blackstone griddle tonight and I should get to it.
July 8, 2021
Thursday morning and another day off for Melanie. We have managed to sleep in and when I finally get up to make coffee at around 8:15 a.m., the temperature is in the high 50's. I slip on a light jacket, fill up the hot water pot and turn it on thinking slippers might be in order.
We sip coffee, Melanie works and we have breakfast in bed. She asks about the weather and I check to make sure we can get in another rail trail bike ride before it rains. The weather will cooperate and we make preparations to leave our campsite around 10:00 to travel the 9+ miles to the terminus of the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail in Richford, Vermont.
The road to Richford is bucolic with great views of the mountains to our east. There are numerous dairy farms along the way with lots of "ice cream cows" as Melanie has dubbed them. That distinct odor though.
We reach our trailhead parking and I begin getting our bikes out for the ride. A fellow rides up on his bike and begins to ask about ours. I engage in some back in forth with him about our bikes, asking if he's from Richford. He is. He says he's homeless and is looking to trade some electronic equipment for water he needs. Melanie goes back into the truck and gets him a few bottles of water for which he's grateful.
Before he leaves he tells me that the government ran experiments on him some time back. They were very concerned because he is able to make himself invisible. I've got nothing. We part ways, him thanking us for the water. I can see him ride off and I'm grateful he doesn't disappear before getting out of my sight line. I'm going with "invisible" as metaphor. We meet the nicest folks. People in Vermont are some of the nicest.
Our ride is another great one with temps in the low 60's and cloudy skies. We ride for about 4+ miles before we are retracing our ride of yesterday. We continue into Enosburg Falls and find a grocery store for tonic and limes. Adult staples.
There's a McDonald's close at hand and we have a light lunch on sitting outside on the cement in front of the location. For some reason, this location is not permitting dine-in. Our lunch spot yesterday in Enosburg Falls didn't either. We have no idea why. Abundance of caution comes to mind.
The return ride to Richford is windy, but uneventful and nice.
We decide on the way back to check out a Lake Carmi State Park close by our current campsite. We do a drive through of all the campground loops. It's another very nice Vermont State Park we would definitely consider on our next pass through.
Once we're back at camp, I search for our next campsite. It's a Boondockers Welcome location southeast of us. Nothing from them yet. I'm hoping to position us for riding on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.
I also make plans to be relatively near Ithaca, New York the last three days of this month. I'll be at both Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome spots for three nights while Melanie is with her friends in Ithaca.
Tonight's dinner is a nice salad topped with left-over tuna, then streaming.
July 9, 2021
We're up around 6:00 a.m. this morning. Temperature is 64 degrees. It's cloudy and will remain so during the day with highs reaching into the low 70's. Pretty much perfect for a nice Vermont summer day.
We don't need to check out of our spot here until 12:00 noon today. Our travels will take us about 70 miles southeast to Danville, Vermont.
After sipping coffee for a while, Melanie leaves for the campground shower. The first day we were at this campground we both went for showers after dinner. Let me say again, this is an older campground. It's not too large and there are seasonal rentals around situated on a lily pad covered pond. It's quiet and is not without a certain charm. The structures, such as they are, have been around for years. The bath house is no exception. When we arrive, I discover quarters are needed to take a shower.
When I exit to got back to the van to get them, Melanie comes out of the shower and declares there's no way she can shower in the women's side of things. She says it's like a Stephen King novel in there with women's hair hanging from the shower, the floors dirty, trash not emptied. We go back to the van and get our van shower ready for her. I return to the men's shower and, while the men's side is nearly equal to the description Melanie has given of the women's side, I take a shower and return. Though I must admit I've felt better taking a Sunshower shower in wilderness areas while backpacking.
Before we left out to meet our friends on Wednesday, Melanie stopped by the campground office and told the person in charge about her bath house experience. To their credit, the bath house was cleaned and acceptable for use. Squeaky wheel.
We're in a Boondockers Welcome spot for a few days starting today. I'm hoping to be in relative proximity to a section of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail near Danville, Vermont where our hosts live.
It's Friday, Melanie's Monday for work purposes. She is conducting a Zoom call. The van is basically ready for travel so all I need to do is fill the van with water, disconnect from electric and water and travel a short distance to the campground dump station to empty grey and black tanks.
We'll need to make a brief trip to market and a drug store before settling in at our new location.
Our drive is yet another great pastural journey with farms and mountains as we go. We stop briefly in Morristown, Vermont for a CVS run and it's there that Laurie drives up and tells me she and her husband are Unity owns and live close by. We exchange phone numbers and tells me we might consider staying in their driveway for a night. She thinks her husband, Steve, may like to talk to us about fulltime travel.
Just a short way farther south we stop in Hardwick. Melanie figures we need to set up in a municipal parking lot for a Zoom call she has in an hour or so and she's hungry.
I fetch lunch at a local Pizza, bar and grill place, but by the time I'm back, she's on her call. Melanie finishes her call and eats some of her lunch and we drive farther south and into St. Johnsbury for a few grocery items we need.
We double back to Danbury and find our Boondockers Welcome hosts location. They meet us as we pull up and soon thereafter we having wine and cheese from their front porch overlooking the mountains east of us in New Hampshire. It's partly cloudy and 65 degrees, y'all, going down to 56 overnight.
Retiring back to the van, I nosh on humus and carrots and finish my last glass of wine. We change into our lounging wear and retire to the back of the van.
I'm up and making coffee at around 7:30 this morning. It's cool at 56 degrees, but the skies are mostly clear.
After breakfast and coffee, we ready the van for traveling to a spot along the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. Melanie will work and walk and I will ride at least a portion of the trail.
We first try a location in West Danville, Vermont near Joe's Pond, but connectivity for Melanie's work is poor. After another try east of Danville along highway 2, we decide to go into St. Johnsbury to the terminus of the trail. And the parking lot is full when we arrive. We try one more spot that proves to have no parking before ending up on the street in downtown St. Johnsbury near the post office.
Melanie leaves the van for the local Farmers Market and I get Red Ranger out for my ride. I've located the van about a mile from the terminus of the trail. It's an easy ride through part of downtown St. Johsbury.
My ride on the trail takes me through more of rural pastural Vermont. It's railroad grade, but the way out of town is steady up hill. In talking with our Boondocker hosts, I discover the gain in altitude is just under a thousand feet over just over 16 miles. My ride back into town is great fun and much faster than the ride out.
Melanie texts and asks if I want to meet her at the van or a local distillery. Distillery on this fine, fine Saturday afternoon, of course. She texts again as I'm approaching downtown St. Johnsbury informing me she's found live music at the Welcome Center. The string band is playing Burning Down The House.
As I arrive, the band's still playing and I find gelato and Melanie. We eat gelato, listen to music and watch the locals dance to a Grateful Dead tune. Afterwards, we walk a block or so to St. Johnsbury Distillery for a cocktail on their front porch. Recommended.
We decide to have dinner at a restaurant next door and after our drinks, go back to the van so I can put the bike away, clean up and change into shorts and a tee shirt. We make our way back to dinner.
When we arrive back at our Boondockers spot in Danville, we sit for minute on our hosts front porch and take in the mountains to our east before retiring to the van for a Zoom call with friends from Birmingham.
Connectivity is good, but not great. We stream for a while, then sleep.
Boondockers Welcome continues to be one of our favorite way to find places for Miranda and for meeting interesting people. Spending time with Dick and Nancy Diefenbach was great and we look forward to seeing them again.
July 11, 2021
I'm awake at 5:30 a.m. Not sure why, but I do know it's chilly. I reach for my phone and quickly take a look at the Weather Channel. It's 49 degrees in Danville, Vermont. Yes! I turn over and spoon Melanie for few more minutes.
I get up to make coffee around 6:00 a.m. and turn on the furnace to knock the chill off. It's 55 degrees inside.
It's a travel day and Melanie has found a place to worship in St. Johnsbury. We have coffee and breakfast and, after speaking with our hosts, Dick and Nancy, thanking them for a great few days with them on their farm, we depart for St. Johnsbury to find the park where services will be held.
After lunch in the van we'll stop by a local market and pick up a few things we need before traveling back west and south to Allis State Park.
We decide enroute to Allis to drive through Montpelier, Vermont, the state's capitol. We luck out and find a parking spot on the street in front of the capitol building. There's live music happening on the lawn of the capitol and listen in as we make our way towards the capitol and up the stairs to see the marble statue of Ethan Allen.
We wander the streets of downtown and buy coffee beans, chocolate and finally sit outside and enjoy a drink before getting back on the road to Allis State Park.
Allis is a smallish State Park with campsites nicely spaced and not very many people camped on a Sunday. We check out the bathhouse (acceptable) on the way up to a vantage point/picnic area that has a fire tower. The climb up into the fire tower is worth the effort providing great 360 views and a sketch above each of four observation windows with identifying mountains and places on each.
It's very pleasant outside so we decide to grill a steak and have drinks outside during the evening hours. Melanie washes dishes and takes the trash to the front of the park. Afterwards we stream a show we're watching and turn in around 10.
July 12, 2021
It's 59 degrees this morning when I awake at 7:30 a.m. I'm up and make coffee boiling water on the stove top this morning since we have no electric connection. Dry camping for a few days.
Melanie has work and I need to find places for us to park. After coffee and breakfast, Melanie works outside for a while and I begin looking for new campsites. It appears the temps are trending up for the next little bit so we decide to not to travel too far south in Vermont at least for a few days.
We have a salad for lunch and Melanie goes out for a walk and upon returning moves her work day outside. I continue my bookings in the back of the van. The private campgrounds I'd like to book have no vacancies on the upcoming weekend so we'll stay in Vermont State Parks for the near future. Not a problem as they've all been nice especially for dry camping spots.
I make sure we have a place to be just after Melanie meets up with girlfriends for a weekend at the end of the month in Ithaca, New York. I've previously booked a brewery and a Boondockers Welcome location for my three days while she's away.
Dinner is pork tenderloin on the campground grill with a couple of sides Melanie prepares. More rain is forecast overnight so I store our chairs and make sure everything outside is put away. Tomorrow morning all we will need to do to move is retract the auto-leveling/stabilizers and move along.
We walk the campground loop to take trash and then retire to the back of the van for a bit of streaming and sleep.
July 13, 2021
It's raining when the alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. Nope. Turn that sucker off and roll over for a few more nice hours of sleep with rain falling nicely on Miranda's roof.
I'm up around 8:00 a.m. and make coffee. Rain has subsided somewhat. It's misty out.
We take our time over coffee and breakfast, then ready the van for travel. We need to dump our black and grey tanks and fill the fresh water before we leave Allis. It's sprinkling rain pretty steady as we accomplish both with relative ease. There's no one but us at the dump/water station.
We don't have too far to travel today. We are moving south and east towards Killington, Vermont and Gifford Woods State Park. Melanie has Identified Rutland, Vermont as a city we should check out before going to our Gifford.
We follow along the White river on Highway 107 movie through small towns along the way and pass Gifford Woods as we move through the outskirts of Killington and head west for Rutland.
Melanie finds lunch for us and we park within a block of the restaurant, Roots. We procure a table outside under their awning. The rain stopped before we got to Killington so it's now cloudy and a cool 68 degrees as we eat our lunch. There are marble statues in a courtyard-like setting. Rutland is known for its high-quality marble deposits.
We take a brief walking tour of downtown Rutland after lunch, pick up a few grocery items we need then travel the short 13 miles back to our home for a few days, Gifford Woods.
We have our weekly FaceTime with Tate. All's well in Nashville.
I text a photo of an Appalachian Trail marker to my brother-from-another-mother, John and mention he must have hiked this portion of the AT since it goes right through Gifford Woods. He had and related his memory of staying in the Ski Patrol shack at the top of the mountain, free rides on the gondola to an all you can eat breakfast, a big thunderstorm during the night that provided a great light show, and the great sunrise the next morning.
We have a salad with added protein for dinner, I clean up the dishes, and we go for showers. The bath house has received an upgrade, at least the one we are using this time around, since our appearance here in 2019. The facility is very nice and relatively clean considering it's wet outside and the campground has a number of others in residence.
We retire to the back of the van and watch a movie before sleep. Tomorrow we hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail.
As of today, May 27, we are a little more than one month away from having been full-time-on-the-road travelers for two and a half years. I've avoided posting too much of the details about our life traveling because much of what happens with us daily is just the kind of mundane everyday happenings experienced while living the stationary bricks and mortar life.
Recently, I've mostly posted photographs taken in some pretty scenic places like National Parks we visited. I think these photos should be easily digested and should generally fall easy on pandemic-stressed, stuck at home eyes of a viewer. My hope was the photos would give the stay-at-home quarantined a view of the outside world and maybe lend some ideas for post-pandemic vacation places. They mark our journey as punctuations in our day-to-day living while on the move.
Life during the pandemic has been mostly great for us. I'm not oblivious to the fact that for many people life stuck at home with family, while a great notion in theory, has sometimes been a struggle not foreseen. Between child care and work obligations life became suddenly a bit more real and complicated. That's understatement, I'm sure.
For many, the thought of life going back to normal is not something they desire now that priorities have been adjusted. This partially explains why employers are having a difficult time filling positions or the take-your-low-paying-job-and-shove it mentality.
Most who read this will come to it thinking Melanie's and my life is a perpetual vacation. Considering only the reviews of restaurants, campgrounds, and National Parks, etc., that dominate my postings, why wouldn't anyone think that? Granted, traveling does provide us with (mostly) a constant stream of new and varied experiences one typically attributes to a vacation.
And though we have more opportunities to experience more frequent vacation-like experiences in our lives, we, like many of you, are not on vacation. Yes, many, many times we skip the roadside attraction(s) we know are there or that have been graciously suggested to us by friends both old and new. Sometimes you are up for an attraction, many times we note the attraction for a next pass through the area. Sometimes there's grocery shopping to do (where's the market in this location?) or laundry, or van cleaning, or just planning our next move(s) etc.
With this post I hope to begin an accounting of our day-to-day living for a little over a month leading up to our July 6th anniversary of two and half years living this life of travel after leaving Birmingham. I hope not to bore the reader too much with the more mundane aspects of our lives, but everyday life on the road, as you will see, does have its more mundane elements as well as, at times, more opportunities for peak experiences we all relish. I hope it gives you an idea of what life has been/is like for us.
May 27, 2021
Every day for us begins when I get up and make our morning coffee, a large pot, pour over style. I've been doing this for us for many years. It's one of the "blue jobs" we quip about periodically. As I make coffee, and Melanie sometimes dozes for a few more minutes, I read emails, check Instagram and Facebook or begin reading either the New York Times or Washington Post newspapers. I almost always read Professor Heather Cox Richardson's daily posting on Substack.
Our van has an almost queen bed in the back. This is where our coffee is consumed and our day really begins. Melanie most always begins her work day as Director of Episcopal Peace Fellowship as she sips coffee.
While we sometimes set an alarm depending on whether we have a travel day and how far we intend to travel, we mostly wake up between five and seven a.m. without alarm. We recently crossed over into Eastern Daylight Savings Time which has thrown me off a bit and I was up around 7:00 a.m. EDST.
Breakfast varies for us. Cold cereal, granola with fruit and yogurt is a favorite of mine. Sometimes I eat a protein bar, especially on a travel day that's close to 200+ miles. We try to keep those days to a minimum and usually opt for travel days ranging from 100-150 miles.
We both picked up a few "COVID pounds" over the winter months so we've been eating a more healthy diet and picking up our exercise routines. Melanie has been getting in her 10,000 steps each day, I sometimes walk with her, but often opt for a bike ride to check out our surroundings.
Today, after leaving our campsite in Bluffton, Indiana, Melanie worked and walked the Rivergreenway Trail and I rode a portion of the trail into downtown Fort Wayne. We parked Miranda at Lawton Park, a very nice park just off of downtown Fort Wayne.
Afterwards, we drove to downtown Fort Wayne for a late lunch at a local Irish Pub and then traveled 140 miles to the Shelby/Mansfield KOA. I am composing this from the KOA.
Upon arrival to a campsite, depending on which hookups are available, I level and stabilize Miranda with the push of a few buttons on an app I have on my phone, we close up the front of Miranda with built-in shades, and I connect us to electricity and water, if available. Melanie readies the inside of Miranda for us. We've now done this so many times it takes only minutes for us to be ready to enjoy our newest spot.
Melanie took another walk around our campground. I made a cocktail and spoke to a friend from Birmingham I'd not caught up with in a while. After I ate a very light snack for dinner, we walked together around the camp which bills itself as a KOA resort, a destination KOA, if you will. Pool, hot tub, miniature golf, huge trampoline, bicycles, etc., you get the idea. They have number of sites here that appear to be occupied by seasonal campers, most likely people who live not too far away and come here for what was called "lake season" by someone we met in Fort Wayne.
Our evenings are usually spent watching something via one of the platforms to which we subscribe. We are able to stream via a now discontinued plan through Verizon Wireless and we subscribe to a number of platforms that allow us a wide variety of entertainment. Rare is the evening we don't have good enough connectivity for streaming something of interest.
Tonight, we watched the HBO Series, Six Feet Under. We're asleep close to 10:00 p.m.
May 28, 2021
We generally try not to travel on consecutive days, but today's another exception. We're drifting ever so slowly east and Melanie has meetings scheduled in Cleveland and the area around Cleveland coming up so we're moving closer to there. We want to be close because of the holiday weekend that's about to happen.
It rained most of the night and was raining when we got up at just before 6:00. Coffee, breakfast, then we both showered using the KOA camp showers. We've become accustomed to using camp showers most of the time. Our van's shower is certainly very usable for us, but our shower also serves as storage for shoes and a few other items we use regularly so it's easier to use the campground showers when they're good, clean and available.
With light rain continuing late morning, we ready the van for travel. Melanie arranges the inside of the van and opens up the shades in the front. Since we are headed to a Boondockers Welcome location over the Memorial Day weekend for three days, I make sure our holding tanks (black and grey) are emptied and our fresh water tank is as full as possible. We have a macerator pump which makes emptying our tanks very easy. The whole process takes less than ten minutes to accomplish.
We can generally be off grid for up to five days if the black and grey tanks are empty and we have our full complement of water. This time we only need three days and we'll have a thirty amp electrical hook up at our host's location so the mostly cloudy weather we'll have for a few more days isn't a factor since our solar panels won't be necessary to recharge the house batteries during the day.
The distance for travel today is only 65 miles so we left our campsite later than we normally might. The route is mostly rural secondary roads with small towns and scenic farms along the route.
We stop in the smallish town of Wadsworth, Ohio, population 24,000+/-. I go into the Valley Cafe and get a couple of salads to go while Melanie sets up the van for both lunch and a Zoom call she has for work.
We're then within 8 miles of our destination after the Zoom call is done and the drive is an easy one.
Since we know where we're to be located at our hosts property on a concrete pad with electricity offered, it's easy to go ahead and park in the obvious spot once we arrive. Our host arrives as soon as we're parked and verifies we're in the correct spot. Since it's still raining we exchange pleasantries, he leaves and I level and stabilize the van and hook us up to electricity.
Cocktails in the van followed by dinner that consists of left over Costco ribs with a simple spinach salad and creamed cauliflower that Melanie prepares for us. Afterwards, I do the cleanup and we're then ready for bed and more Six Feet Under on HBO.
The rain stopped sometime last night and it's cloudy and unseasonably cool this morning. It was 43 outside when I got up to make coffee, 51 in the van. Time to crank up the furnace while the water boils for coffee.
Since there's no real reason to move Miranda today, we take our time drinking coffee, checking social media and reading the papers. Late morning Melanie suggests we go out for a saunter in the neighborhoods close by our location,
We take a three and a half mile walk in two different neighborhoods separated by the very busy four-lane Highway 18 out in front of our hosts property. Nothing remarkable really except the Rhododendron are blooming and they're spectacular here. There are wild flowers blooming too, It's a nice walk in what was most likely recently farm land. We're just northwest of Akron and almost due south of Cleveland, Ohio.
Lunch today is a nice salad Melanie makes for us with left-over fat-assed Costco chicken. It's healthy and yummy too.
After lunch, Melanie gets in a few more steps in the neighborhood and I read and relax in the van.
Drinks, then dinner consists of frozen Wild Caught Salmon from Whole Foods that I prepare by placing it in the microwave a al David Chang's Instagram preparation tip and left over cauliflower. After clean up, we retire to the back of the van for HBO's Bill Maher and another episode of Six Feet Under.
We're asleep early as we have to get up early on Sunday morning.
All Along The Watchtower (Playing For Change)
I'm up early at 5:30 a.m. this Sunday morning. Melanie is scheduled to attend church services in Euclid, Ohio just outside of Cleveland and we're located 40 miles away. After a few days of clouds and off and on rain, today is partly cloudy and cool, but we'll see the sun again.
After a few cups of coffee, Melanie is ready to move towards a local Planet Fitness for a shower before we travel on to Euclid. We have Planet Fitness' Black Membership we use exclusively at this point for showers when we've been boondocking for a few days. We hardly ever shower on a daily basis, especially when the weather is cool and we've not been too active. The one in Copley, Ohio is only 2.5 miles away from our Boondockers Welcome location.
After showering, we head for Euclid which is an easy drive up Interstate 90. We arrive early before services and spend some time reading before Melanie goes in when friends, and EPF members, she knows arrive. Church service at Church of the Epiphany is Melanie's second church service since we've been fully vaccinated and since churches closed after the pandemic hit last year. She was also excited to visit with the priest, Roselind Hughes, who is the author of Whom Shall I Fear, Urgent Questions for Christians In An Age Of Violence.
I nap in the van for a time after she leaves. Five-thirty was apparently too early for me this morning.
After church services, Melanie finds us a Chinese restaurant in Cleveland for lunch. Han Chinese Kabob and Grill is only open for takeout. We order and I wait for our food while Melanie prepares the van for eating lunch there. While not as good as our beloved Red Pearl in Birmingham, Alabama, our takeout lunch satisfies our cravings for Chinese cuisine for another week.
We've discussed a visit to Ohio's only National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, for a few days. Melanie, wanting to get in a good walk and me wanting to get out on Red Ranger, my bike, travel to a spot within the park where we can park Miranda.
Melanie walked almost six miles along the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail that has become a multi-use path running through the park and beyond. I rode from our location at the Brecksville Rail Station 15 miles south and back. It's a stellar day with high temp at 65 degrees and blue bird skies. Since it's the Memorial Day weekend, many people are out walking, running and riding bikes.
We make a quick trip into Akron for groceries at Whole Foods and then travel back to our Boondockers Welcome location in Copley.
We skipped dinner and opt for healthy (mostly) snacks and drinks outside, then retired for our evening streaming.
Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath
May 31, 2021
We're up around 7:00 a.m. this morning. It's a travel day, but we're not in a hurry because we're only moving about 25 miles away to a KOA in Streetsboro, Ohio.
Melanie has her coffee and gets out for a morning walk while I wash up dishes and begin to get us ready too move.
We decide to travel back into Cuyahoga Valley National Park so Melanie can walk and I can get another bike ride in. I do a 10 mile out and back and she walks 3.0 miles.
Melanie makes us a salad for lunch and we eat in the parking lot near the trail in the park.
Afterwards, we travel to Streetsboro, Ohio and check in at our KOA campground. We take showers and get ready to travel to Akron for an afternoon with Bruce and Jane Freeman. Bruce is one of Melanie's EPF board members.
We spend the afternoon talking with Bruce and Jane in their backyard. It's another splendid Spring day in Ohio. Bruce and Jane feed us a wonderful dinner outside and afterwards we make our way back to Streetsboro and this time set up camp.
Tonight's streaming is the finale of a series we've been watching on HBO.
June 1, 2021
It's a new month and we're up at around 7:00 a.m.
Melanie is meeting the Bishop of Ohio, Rt. Rev. Hollingsworth, Jr. at Bellwether Farm in Wakeman, Ohio. We travel from Streetsboro, Ohio KOA, about 70 miles, to the farm.
When we arrive, Melanie makes us a lunch salad and afterwards I take out my bike and ride down State Route 60 a short distance to the North Coast Inland Trail and Oberlin Trail and ride 12 miles to Oberlin, Ohio and then back.
We grab a bite at a local Streetsboro establishment on the way back. Our KOA is only about a mile and a half away afterward. I try (again) to refill our propane tank, but it's close to closing time at the KOA and the young folks there tell me there's no one capable of filling the tank. I'm not out of propane so, okay.
Melanie takes another walk about the campground before we retire for the evening to stream a bit.
North Coast Inland Trail
June 2, 2021
It's another rainy (off and on) day in Ohio. We're up at 7:00ish and I've been reading and checking social media, while finishing up on yesterday's posting. Melanie has been working steady all day, except for a brief walk to the KOA office between showers.
We will FaceTime with friends at 4:00 EDST and with our son, Tate, sometime afterwards.
The down time is good, we've been out and about over the past three plus days and I've taken some great bike rides and ridden 70+ miles. I glanced at my bike odometer yesterday and as we approach 2.5 years on the road, I've put nearly 6,000 miles on my bike. While I've mentioned what a great choice it was to have electric assist bikes instead of towing a car, I've been meaning to extol the virtues of having those bikes generally for a while.
As I mentioned, yesterday, while Melanie had her meeting with the Bishop of Ohio, I rode 24 miles in the country side of Ohio on a rail trail. Bike riding provides us with that kind of exercise, a great way to check out the towns and cities to which we travel, and a way to run errands like going to market. More and more, we're seeing towns and cities decide well-marked bike lanes and dedicated multi-use paths are a great idea.
Since the pandemic, there's been a renewed interest in bike riding generally, but ebikes are becoming a real sensation. Sales are way up over the past year. So much so that manufacturers are having a hard time keeping up with demand. Supply chains have been disrupted and will need the passage of time in order for normal operations to resume.
I really like finding great rail trails and they are most everywhere we go. Just since April I've ridden portions of, sometimes multiple times, the following trails:
Colorado Riverfront Trail, Cherry Creek Regional Trail, Riverway trail, Bison Trail, Jamaica North Trail, MoPac Trail East, Neil Smith Trail, Great Western Trail, Rivergreenway, Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and North Coast Inland Trail (Lorain County).
Here's my reading this morning on the subject:
Portugal's Bike Boom: How the Country is Meeting the Demand, New York Times
If You Build It, They Will Bike: Pop-Up Lanes Increased Cycling During Pandemic, New York Times
Farther, Faster and No Sweat: Bike-Sharing and the E-bike Boom, New York Times
We left camp around 6:00ish to run a few errands in Hudson, Ohio close by and had dinner while we were out. It was nearly 10:00 p.m. when we returned to camp and, since Thursday is a travel day with more errands to run before we camp, we turned in. Plus, which is rarely the case, our connectivity wasn't great, possibly rainy weather related.
June 3, 2021
I didn't sleep well last night for whatever reason, but I'm up at 6:30ish and making coffee. We don't linger too long over coffee before Melanie is up and gone to get showered using the campground shower. I finish a breakfast bar and go outside to get the truck ready for travel.
After Melanie is back and prepares the inside for takeoff, we leave our spot at the KOA and travel to a local UHaul to fill our propane tank. We get there only to find that, for some reason unknown before this time around, we need some identification number for our propane tank before the attendant will fill our tank. We leave without propane.
We leave, I'm a bit disgruntled having driven somewhat out of my way, and travel to Kamper City in Peninsula, Ohio about 8 miles away and get our tank filled without incident or trouble. Nice folks.
After a relatively quick stop for provisions at Costco in Boston Heights, Ohio, we travel to our spot at the cathedral in Cleveland and set up in the same spot as the time before that's been thoughtfully reserved for us.
Melanie has a meeting with the Rev. Adrienne Koch, Priest Associate, at Trinity Cathedral. This will make our second time boondocking in the parking lot at Trinity. We were here almost two years ago. We'll camp here this time for four days.
We go for lunch very close by after Melanie's meeting with Rev. Koch and then walk a ways toward the Indian's stadium in search of coffee. As sometimes happens, the coffee shop near the stadium has closed. The closest one within walking distance is..., you guessed it, Starbucks. That'll do, I suppose.
We hear from friends we met several years ago in a campground just outside of Brevard, North Carolina asking how close we are to them and if we'd consider paying them a visit. I give Rand McNally a quick look and we make the decision to head towards Northern West Virginia after we leave Cleveland. Looking forward to catching up with our friends, Rebecca and IB.
There are many perks to be found in full time travel. Making new friends ranks high on the list.
Melanie takes her afternoon walkabout in downtown Cleveland. Nap sounds good to me.
We still need a few items from a market so we walk to Heinen's of Downtown Cleveland from Trinity. It's about .75 miles away. Hungry, we see Betts located at the Kimpton Schofield and before shopping have a nice dinner. I'd recommend Heinen's to you if only for the fact it's located in the Cleveland Trust Company Building. It's spectacular.
Home with our groceries around 8:00 p.m. and time for a bit of streaming.
June 4, 2021
I was up around 7:00 a.m. this morning, but didn't leave the back of the van and bed until around 10:00 a.m. I read most everything in the NYT I wanted before Melanie, who'd gone out to the downtown post office returned.
I got our bikes out and we proceeded to the Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway and rode east until we came to its end. At that point, it was well after lunch and we decided to ride to Cleveland's Little Italy and have lunch.
I was having trouble remembering where we'd eaten when we were here in 2019, but upon arriving in Little Italy, we quickly remembered it was Mama Santa's (Saint Mama). But the time we finished lunch it was after 3:00 p.m. and we headed back to camp at Trinity Commons, Trinity Cathedral.
We rode 26 miles around town on what turned out to be a glorious late Spring day.
After I had locked up the bikes for the evening, Melanie took off on foot to make a Heinen's run, another 3.5 miles for her toward the 10k steps goal she's set for herself each day she can.
Since we had such a late lunch, we are skipping dinner and opting for a snack and a gin and tonic or two. Friday night streaming to follow.
June 5, 2021
It's Saturday in Cleveland, Ohio and we're up around 7:00 a.m., lingering over our coffees. Melanie decides, around 9:00ish she'll walk to the downtown post office about 1.5 miles away.
She gets there only to discover it's closed and there are no outside boxes to deposit her mail. She's not pleased, but quickly finds an alternative.
While she's gone I wash the few dishes we used, make the bed, plug our bike batteries in, and do a bit of personal maintenance.
When I was a semi-regular backpacker, one of the items we carried with us was baby wipes. Yes, the ones you use to clean up a baby's bottom can, as you may imagine, be used for an adult's too. Let's just say they are a great assist especially when trying to save water while boondocking. A corollary to those are cleansing wipes which are larger and can be used to take a moderately decent dry bath. These are staples and well-known items among full-time travelers.
Generally speaking, we 'Mericans bath far too much anyhow. I know, I know, you just don't feel right if you haven't showered. Trust me that's only stating a personal preference and has nothing much to do with hygiene. The question almost always becomes how much are you willing to compromise in order to travel comfortably and in the way we do it. After almost 2.5 years, we believe we know what works for us. User experiences may differ. I know this too.
Today Melanie has an appointment to have her hair cut after about 17 months. She made the appointment on advice from Rev. Koch at Prime + Process in Lakewood, Ohio just west of downtown Cleveland.
After a brief stop in downtown Cleveland for postcards, we ride west over the Cuyahoga River bridge and on into Lakewood where we have lunch at a local bar and grill, check out a recommended chocolate shop, then ride around Lakewood before Melania's hair appointment.
I sit and read in the salon while Melanie gets her hair cut. She looks great after her cut and says it feels much better than her longish hair. Things continue to take on a post-pandemic air.
We decide it's the right time of day for a cocktail. We ride over to a distillery we saw on the way to lunch and arrive at Western Reserve Distillers in time to give their in-house gin and vodka a try in a couple of drinks. We decide to have a light dinner snack at the Distillers in the form of a small pepperoni and hot honey pizza. We take away a couple of 4 packs of our current favorite tonic water.
We're both pretty tired when we get back to camp at Trinity and opt for staying in our lovely air-conditioned van for the evening. I watch Bill Maher from Friday's show, Melanie reads and checks social and because she's going to a church service tomorrow, we turn in.
June 6, 2021
I'm up at 5:30 a.m. after the alarm goes off at 5:00. Too early's my initial thought. But we have coffee and I eat a protein bar then prepare the van to move.
There's a Planet Fitness within a few miles of our location downtown and we travel there to both get showers.
We then travel to St. Lukes Episcopal Church in Cleveland. We're early so Melanie continues to get ready for church. She's wearing orange to recognize National Gun Violence Awareness.
Our Dometic refrigerator is beeping telling me there's something awry so after Melanie leaves for church, I pull out the manual and then remember how to reset the refrigerator. All is well.
After church services, Melanie and I are invited to brunch with EPF membership. It's a great time and, again, life is beginning to feel much as it did before the pandemic.
It's warm in Cleveland today. We have the air conditioning in the van running. Melanie works for a while after we return to our spot at Trinity Cathedral. Around 4ish we head out on our bikes traveling to the northern terminus of the Erie & Ohio Canal Towpath and ride south for about 11 miles.
Returning to downtown Cleveland we decide, since it's our last evening in Cleveland, to have drinks and dinner downtown. We choose Barrio (reminding us of Birmingham). Margaritas and dinner follow. Temperatures drop as the sun recedes behind the buildings downtown and it's pleasant sitting outside. Turns out the Barrio is not our beloved El Barrio of Birmingham. Not even close.
Tomorrow's a 200+ mile travel day.
June 7, 2021
We're awakened at just before 6:00 a.m. by the sound of machinery beeping as it backs up. That's okay. It's traveling day. We're headed into Pennsylvania and a town called Farmington. We'll be staying in a campground there for a few days.
We have breakfast in the van. I discover our Truma hot water heater is not working giving me a blinking error message. I quickly look at the manual provided us, but don't get a quick fix answer. I try the Leisure Travel Vans Facebook page for an answer, try something suggested which resets the device, but again with the blinking and no hot water. Sigh. I learn later our propane was still off from when we filled it several days past. Thankful that was the problem.
Melanie wants to do a short video for the Ohio Chapter of EPF so we go inside Trinity Commons and make the video in a conference room there.
Not too far down the road, I stop so I can start the generator and run the air conditioner on our roof. The temperature has reached 85 degrees and it's beginning to warm up in the front of the van. The Mercedes air conditioner can't cool the front when the back is too warm. It eventually reaches the low 90's.
We leave midmorning and stop for lunch along the Pennsylvania Turnpike at a rest area. Melanie makes us a salad, we eat, then I quickly clean up the dishes and we're back on the road.
Once we're off the turnpike we begin to see remnants of the presidential campaign in the form of old Trump signs and flags and new Trump 2024 signs. We could be in Alabama.
Once we're at our campground and check in, we travel to Uniontown, a small town nearby, for a few items we need. It's a really pleasant trip with some great vistas.
Upon our return, I make a cocktail and Melanie gets in a few steps and checks out the campground. I make her a drink upon her return.
We make dinner in the van and, after clean up, retire to the back of the van, watch Jon Oliver and retire for the night. The temperature has dropped into the low 70's.
June 8, 2021
I'm awake around 5:00 a.m., but that's okay because we were asleep just after 9:00 p.m. last night and before it was dark. It had been raining off and on since around 4:00 a.m., the rain mostly dripping loudly on the rooftop of the van from the trees above us. I stay in bed until around 6:00 dozing.
After coffee, Melanie works and I process the video we made in Cleveland yesterday and send that along to her for approval. She approves with minor changes and I post the video to our Vimeo site.
Melanie finishes her second walk of the morning, comes in and makes lunch for us. We're still eating (mostly) salads for lunch which, at this point, seems like a great thing to keep up. Today's salad has a portion of breast meat from the fat-assed chicken we purchased from Costco a few days ago. I love those chickens.
Our black tank needs emptying so after lunch I go out and empty it and do a once every few weeks cleansing of said tank. This takes about 15-20 minutes. We're good to go now for another few weeks.
Tomorrow we'll be traveling to spend time with friends we met in Brevard, North Carolina camping in a National Forest Campground there. So, I'll empty grey and black tanks again in the morning and fill our water supply for parking in their driveway for 5 days.
The campground we're currently in has a pool and Melanie and I go over and spend some time around it after I clean lunch dishes and perform the aforementioned black tank thing. She takes a dip, but I'm not there today. I haven't showered since Sunday, so I'm off to shower at the campground showers.
Melanie has a Zoom meeting at 5:00 p.m.
Tate calls and I FaceTime with him for an hour or so while Melanie Zooms. It's nice to catch up with him once a week. Technology is the shit when you're traveling.
After dinner we take the trash up the road a bit to dump it.
We encounter what has become ubiquitous for us in small town after small town, an American flag accompanied by a Trump flag. I have to tell you this more than concerns me. First, I now have a a quite visceral reaction to the site of an American flag. It symbolizes for me a growing and/or enduring fascistic tendency in America and the world.
I am as concerned as many are for what this means for our democracy and the rule of law.
Upon returning to the van, we close it down and retire to stream a series we've been watching.
June 9, 2021
We slept in a bit this morning. I wasn't up to make coffee until almost 8:00. We lingered a bit in the back of the van in bed, Melanie working and me reading social media and newspapers.
Today's a travel day, but we don't have to rush away from our current campsite as we're only about 40 miles away from our next destination in Morgantown, West Virginia at the home of our friends Rebecca and IB.
I'll empty our grey and black tanks and fill our water to capacity as we'll be without a way to empty the tanks for 5 days going forward. We'll have access to our friends' home for showers and bathroom breaks most of the time we're visiting, but it's good to be prepared for further travels starting Monday next.
Melanie's planning on getting showered as we leave here. The showers are about a 100 yards away from us so we'll get the van ready to travel and drive closer on the way out.
Shower out of the way, we travel to Morgantown, West Virginia, a short 35 miles or so south and east of our location.
We've got a few errands to run before we travel to see our friends, Rebecca and IB. First stop in Morgantown is for coffee, then we have a nice lunch down by Monongahela River, a stop for wine, fuel and finally, a few grocery items.
We arrive at our friends' home at around 4:00 p.m. and have a great evening with them catching up over wine and a nice dinner prepared by Rebecca.
June 10, 2021
It's a lazy Thursday morning, for me anyway, It's pleasant here in Morgantown this morning. We have coffee and read, Melanie works from the back of the van, then goes across the street to take a walk on a trail.
We're trying to decide whether we can get in a bike ride this afternoon before anticipated rain.
We have lunch in the van and spend the afternoon reading and relaxing in the van. Melanie takes another walk. I begin doing our laundry.
I also schedule an appointment in Buffalo, New York to have our diesel generator serviced and arrange places to park Miranda in Buffalo and Rochester, New York. We now are booked through June 17th.
We meet our hosts for drinks around 5:00 and and IB and Rebecca begin to make dinner for us afterwards.
While dinner is cooking, we're introduced to VR by IB and Rebecca. Melanie and I take turns BASE jumping. It's a very cool experience, one that I most likely will revisit once we're off the road.
After dinner I continue with my laundry task, return the sheets to our bed and, bid out hosts good night. We're in bed and going to sleep around 10:00.
June 11, 2021
It's cloudy and pleasant this morning in Morgantown. We have coffee then go inside where IB is putting the finishing touches on a great breakfast for us.
Afterwards, Melanie works, takes her morning walk, and I read and listen to a pod cast of an Ezra Klein interview with Sam Altman on A.I. which I recommend to you.
Late morning I take a shower and IB and I go for about a 3 mile saunter in Snake Hill Wildlife Management Area. It's still pretty cool, if humid, in the forest as we walk and IB shows me a few great overlook areas of the Cheat River with views of Coopers Rock State Forest across the way.
Great walk and the first time this year I've broken a real sweat while out walking or biking.
After another shower and some down time in the van, we have drinks with our friends and Melanie, IB and I make dinner. Salmon, rice and a salad with a nice bottle or two of wine.
We all enjoy the Browning's hot tub to end the evening.
June 12, 2021
It's much more sunny than cloudy this morning, less humid and cooler. We awake at around 8:00 a.m. and I make our usual pot of coffee. Melanie works, we eat in the van and I check social media and read a bit.
Melanie goes inside the Browning's for a shower. She and Rebecca are going to the local botanical gardens in Morgantown. I stay in the van, work on photographs from yesterday and finish yesterday's posting.
Later on today we've planned to take a bike ride on Deckers Creek Trail into Morgantown then, for those of us up for it, a farther ride on the Mon River Trail. We've also planned to have dinner in town.
After lunch in the van of our go-to salad of late, we load all our bikes onto Rebecca's Subaru and travel to a trailhead along Deckers Creek Trail. There's a parking area at Masontown Trailhead about 13 miles from town. IB and I unload 3 of our 4 bikes for me, Rebecca and Melanie to ride. He will take the car to town and start his ride back towards us.
Deckers Creek Trail is a rail-trail running along Deckers Creek. It drops around a 1000 feet in elevation over the 13 miles into town, making for a super easy ride through a great (mostly) forested trail.
We meet IB about 4 miles from town and all ride to the Deckers' Trail intersection with the Mon River Trail. After a brief discussion, we travel north on the trail through town next to the river for about 2 miles before turning back.
We travel just past our intersection with the Deckers trail head and to Mountain State Brewing Company. We have a short wait before drinks and early dinner follow.
Afterwards, IB, Melanie and Rebecca go in search of postcards and stickers for Melanie. I ride the 13 miles back to Masontown Trailhead and arrive just as IB and company drive up in the Subaru.
Because the ride into town was so easy, I didn't use much of my bike's power which made the ride back gaining 1000 feet all the more enjoyable. The last 5 miles were a fast 5 miles averaging between 20 and 25 mph. What a joyful experience!
IB and I watch the sunset from one of their outdoor balconies, Melanie and Rebecca enjoy a dip in the hot tub. We turn in afterwards.
June 13, 2021
We're up and have our coffee and breakfast in the van. It's a post-pandemic kind of Sunday for Melanie so she goes into the Browning's home, showers and readies herself for a local church service she will attend.
There's a market stop for her after church for a couple of things we'll need for dinner later. I start another couple loads of laundry, not necessarily needed since we did laundry a few days back, but we're in places coming up that may or may not have access to a good laundry facility. Why not begin that will mostly clean laundry is my thinging? Right?
Tomorrow is a travel day. We're headed 200+ miles almost directly north of our current location in Morgantown to Erie State Park in New York State.
We'll spend some of this afternoon making sure Miranda's ready for travel which includes making sure everything that left her is returned to its place. We will have spent 5 great days in Morgantown with our friends cooking, doing laundry, showering in their home, so some attention to what's been taken inside is required.
We finish our last evening with the Brownings having "Taco Tuesday" for dinner. It's been a really nice 5 days.
June 14, 2021
We're up at around 7:00 a.m., have coffee and, while Melanie goes into the Brownings' for a shower, I begin to ready the van for travel. We're headed north to Lake Erie State Park where we'll be for a few days. We're about 250 miles away. A little farther than our less-than-200-mile goal for a day we set for ourselves, but the route is mostly interstate highway.
IB makes a great breakfast for us, we eat and say our goodbyes.
As you can see from the photo above, Miranda hit 60,000 miles on our way to the state park.
We run through a thunderstorm on the way with high winds, lighting and torrential rain. Lucky for us it lasts only a few minutes and as the photo tells, temperatures drop from a high of 78 to 66 degrees.
After a quick trip to a market in Westfield, New York, we find Calarco's Italian Restaurant, 81 years in existence. We have a pleasant late lunch then walk around Westfield which happens to be the heart of Concord grape juice processing along Lake Erie. There's also a marker indicating President Lincoln's visit to Westfield and his meeting with Grace Bedell.
We then leave Westfield and travel the relatively short distance to Lake Erie State Park. It takes us a short time to set up and afterwards we take a nice walk around the park, sit for a while on a bench overlooking Lake Erie and return to Miranda for cocktails with a view of the lake.
Rain moves in and we retire to the van and then to the back for an evening of streaming.
June 15, 2021
We sleep until around 7:00 a.m. It's 62 degrees this morning with about 65% relative humidity. Very nice.
Because our internet service is not as good as it really needs to be at our campsite, we travel to Jamestown, New York to find connectivity for Melanie to work.
I chose Jamestown because they have a rail trail there and we park right next to a portion of the trail.
While Melanie works, I make a salad for our lunch. We eat and she goes back to work and I get out my bike and ride portions of the Jamestown River Trail and some of downtown Jamestown.
Later, after driving Miranda into downtown Jamestown for something to eat and an adult cocktail, we travel back to Lake Erie State Park.
We quickly set up, make another adult cocktail and sit for a while as the sun goes down. Our neighbors, Bob and Sandra from Ohio come over and we sit and talk with them for a while. It's nice to be vaccinated and feel comfortable being able to get together with other campers again.
We part ways with our neighbors and move into the van and begin to stream a show. We're asleep relatively early since we'll be up to get Miranda to Buffalo for generator service.
June 16, 2021
We've made it to the Buffalo, New York area for service on Miranda's generator. The generator is just short of having 250 hours on it. I'm glad to have the service done as summer approaches.
I'm sitting in the lounge of the Cummins dealer awaiting service to finish. Looks like we'll be done here in about an hour.
It was cool when we got up this morning at 6:00 a.m. The temperature in the van was 57. It was 55 outside on the shores of Lake Erie. Temperatures should remain in the low to mid 70's highs and mid 50's for lows for the foreseeable future. It's the temperatures we've been looking for.
The afternoon found us in downtown Buffalo. Melanie worked some and took a walk along a trail that was near a marina. I got my bike out and rode over on the a portion of the Erie Canalway Trail. I made it just past the Peace Bridge before encountering road construction and heavy road traffic that made me rethink going any farther.
We had a nice dinner in downtown Buffalo, took a shortish walk afterwards and then went to our Boondockers Welcome host location and spent a quiet, restful night in their driveway. Another travel day tomorrow.
June 17, 2021
After a nice restful night in Buffalo, we take a short drive to Rochester, New York where we'll have dinner with Tom who is a member of EPF.
We put in directions to a trail head along the Irondequoit Lakeside Multi-Use Trail and park Miranda there. We take a shortish walk of about 1.2 miles to lunch along the trail at Parkside Diner. Temperature is around 70 degrees with a light breeze off Lake Ontario as we walk back to Miranda.
Melanie decides she will walk in the opposite direction on the trail and I get out my bike for a bit of exploration. I ride portions of the Irondequoit Lakeside Multi-Use Trail and the Genesee River Trail.
We travel to Planet Fitness for a quick shower then on to our latest Boondockers Welcome location in Rochester.
We meet Tom at his home in Rochester, park Miranda in the driveway of his home and he drives us to a nice dinner in downtown Rochester. He and Melanie talk shop and we have a really pleasant and good dinner.
Afterwards we drive back to the Boondockers location and shortly afterwards we're asleep. We like Rochester and will definitely return for a longer stay. Travel day (again) tomorrow.
June 18, 2021
I've got an alarm set for 6:00 a.m. as we have a 175 mile trip ahead of us today. Regardless, I don't rise until around 6:45. Some days.
After coffee and breakfast in the van, we leave our nice driveway location and travel towards downtown Rochester to a coffee roasters I've located and I buy a couple pounds of coffee.
We then head towards our location in Alexandria Bay, New York.
After stopping for fuel in Cicero, New York, we travel a short distance to Parish, New York and find a place where Melanie can be on a Zoom Call for work. The call is scheduled to last 2.5 hours so I begin today's travel journal entry and finish yesterday's entry.
We nosh on left over pizza as she gets on the call.
After Zoom's over, we continue our journey to our home for a few, 1000 Islands Campground and check in, ride around to our site, then go into Alexandria Bay for an early dinner at Cavallarios.
It's a rainy Friday evening so after dinner we travel back to our campsite, set up and retire to the back of the van for a bit of streaming before retiring.
If Friday was rainy, Saturday dawns with bright blue skies and cool temps. We have coffee and breakfast, check social media and I read a newspaper.
Melanie goes for a morning walk over to Grass Point State Park. Even though I've only recently cleaned the screens in the van, living in a perpetual Spring season has its downsides. The screens have a great deal of detritus from blooming plants and need another cleaning. I finish the screens and then also mop the floors.
I get the bikes out and we ride from our campsite to Clayton, New York, a small town on the St. Lawrence River and Seaway. After riding through town and generally checking out the lay of it, we settle on lunch at The Hops Spot. We enjoy a really good lunch outside on an amazing late Spring day.
Afterwards, we ride to Keewaydin State Park. We're mostly interested in the two state parks for future camping spots. The location of Grass Point and Keewaydin is great for access to Canada and we're sorry the border is only open for essential traffic. At this point there will be no non-essential crossings for at least another month. Sigh.
Since we had a late lunch, we skip dinner and retire early for reading and streaming.
June 20, 2021
It's another bright, bright sunshiny day on the Summer Solstice and Father's Day here in Alexandria Bay (ABay). I make our coffee and Melanie has decided which of the three Episcopal Churches she will attend. The one she chooses, Church of St. Lawrence.
Services are not until 11:15 a.m. so we enjoy our morning coffee and leave camp on our bikes at around 10:15 a.m. We arrive at around 11:45, ride around ABay for a bit and then settle on the bench in front of the church to await services.
Melanie and I part ways when she goes into church. I'm tasked with finding lunch while she's finding Jesus.
I find a lunch spot quickly after leaving her and spend the rest of my time cruising around the small village of ABay. Like Clayton, New York, ABay has largely escaped the gross commercialism found in many coastal areas of the south. Quaint it is.
Melanie takes a walkabout in ABay after services while I sit on the church bench and listen to tunes with a nice view of the St. Lawrence.
Our lunch spot, The Kitchen at the Captain Visger House proves to be a really good one. Melanie had the Fish & Chips, I enjoyed Duck Confit Omelette with English Muffin. She had a glass of nice Rose Wine, I had a Bloody Mary. We recommend you try The Kitchen.
We ride back to our campground and FaceTime with our son Tate. Melanie and I open our Mother's and Father's Day gifts, Bomba Socks, and have a nice chat with T. Afterwards, Melanie strikes out on another of her walks and I take the big dog Father's Day nap.
We have dinner and cocktails outside, go for showers and then retire for the evening. Another grand day in the books.
June 21, 2021
It's the day after the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice, and a travel day for us. We awake at around 7:00ish, have coffee and it begins a light rain that turns into a thunderstorm of relatively short duration. We'd headed for Meadowbrook Campground just outside of Lake Placid, home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.
So. We make it to Lake Placid where the temperature is 84 degrees. 84 degrees. WTF? The good news is the high tomorrow is 58 degrees, the low tomorrow night is 38 degrees. Sweet.
We check out our digs for the next few days. Acceptable, but definitely nothing to write about. Meadowbrook Campground needs some TLC. We'll be fine and it's located between the towns of Saranac Lake and Lake Placid making for easy bike rides into both.
And there's a bunch of road construction going on downtown which makes driving Miranda a bit of a challenge. After a few choice words due to road closures, we find a parking spot next to a park, next to Lake Placid. Melanie finds lunch for us.
Since Melanie believes our internet connection isn't great back at camp, we sit next to Lake Placid while she works.
We travel back to our campsite as storms move into the area. Downtown Lake Placid is not very navicable at the moment due to major construction on the roads, but we slowly progress and make it as rains move in.
Since we've had a late lunch, we opt for no dinner and after a cocktail, move to the back of the van for evening streaming and sleep.
June 22, 2021
We awake in Meadowbrook Campground to much cooler temperatures and cloudy skies. Yesterday reached into the mid 80's in downtown Lake Placid, but today promises to stay pretty much in the mid 50's. Nice for the end of Julne, at least for we southerners living in a 25' van.
After our coffee we take a saunter on the Scarface Trail. From our campsite, we walk down to what will be a new rail-trail pathway, The Adirondack Rail Trail. A very good reason to travel back to this area.
Lunch follows sometime thereafter. Melanie works pretty much all afternoon, but towards the end of the day we walk over to a local brewhouse for drinks and dinner. She's able to use their WiFi to schedule EPF's weekly newsletter.
I return to the van before she finishes a glass of wine as time is running short for us to run our generator to charge batteries for evening power usage. We run the generator about 45 minutes, something we don't really like to do, but when you're in a heavily shaded campsite and there's been no solar generated power during the day, it becomes a near necessity if any power's to be used at night.
We're expecting temps in the high 30's/low 40's during the evening so running our furnace in the morning is most likely a thing we'll need to do to knock the chill off in the morning.
We retire for an evening of streaming and sleep.
June 23, 2021
When we awoke this morning the local temp was 44 degrees outside. Melanie got up and turned on the furnace for us. The van quickly warmed and I got up and made coffee for us.
About 9:00 a.m., after breakfast and coffee time expires, Melanie leaves the van for a morning walk and I leave the back of the van and begin to ready us for moving to a post office, grocery store, wine store, and Melanie has a call at 12:45 a.m.
We park in downtown Lake Placid where we have good connectivity and Melanie conducts her Zoom call before we head out for lunch.
Our lunch spot in downtown Lake Placid is a .75 mile walk. After lunch, as we begin our walk back to the van, we check out a bit more of downtown. It's not really a time to be on Main Street as there's a great deal of disruption due to infrastructure improvements. Streets and sidewalks are torn up. There are still a good number of tourists on the streets though.
We find a nice chocolate shop and I buy a nice variety. Melanie shops for postcards she'll send to our friends and family. She's prone to buying stickers and postcards at nearly every stop we make. Melanie has become our emisary of good will and keeping in touch while we travel. Flor that I'm most grateful.
Once we make our way back to the van we travel back to our campsite and settle in for the evening. Shortish travel day tomorrow.
June 24, 2021
Another cool morning for us. We have our coffee, Melanie goes out for a walk and I get the van ready for travel.
We leave around 10:00 a.m. for Lake George, New York. The drive there is less than a 100 miles and beautiful. We travel through small towns and stop along the way for fuel. There's some traffic, but most of it is headed in the opposite direction.
Melanie has the day off and we plan to have lunch somewhere on the lake. She finds us a great spot overlooking Lake George and we have a nice lunch at a spot called Lake George Beach Club.
After lunch Melanie finds a place for postcards and we travel to and check into our campsite at Ledgeview Village RV Park. We quickly set up for our three day stay, take the bikes out and head out for a ride back into town on the Warren County Bikeway. Recommended.
We make our way into town and back to our lunch spot for an afternoon adult beverage before making our way back to the van and a bit of relaxing outside. It's the perfect end to an otherwise perfect day all around.
We retire to the back of the van for a bit of streaming.
June 25, 2021
After a quiet restful night in our newest spot, we up and having coffee around 7:30 a.m. We take a good long while reading and sipping our coffees before Melanie is up and out for a walk.
Since our internet connectivity back in Lake Placid was sketchy, I spend some time catching up on my 30-day project.
Melanie has work today. I'll head back out on my bike to explore more of the Warren County Bikeway. Looks to be another stellar day.
I leave camp as Melanie is making herself lunch. Traveling the mile or so to the Warren County Bikeway, I head south towards its terminus in Glen Falls hoping I can find the Champlain Canalway Trail: Glen Falls Feeder Canal. It's nice to have good digital maps on my iPhone. Thank you TrailLink.
The Warren County Bikeway is well marked even when off the dedicated portion of the trail and on the road portions. I falter only momentarily when looking for the Glen Falls Feeder Canal trail, but quickly find the terminus and ride south for about three miles before turning back to camp.
Once I'm back, Melanie finishes her work day and we both ride into Lake George for dinner and adult beverages. We take a short walk along the shore afterwards, then ride back to camp and relax in our chairs on what can only be described as a near perfect evening.
We retire and don't make it through a show we've been watching before nodding off for the night.
June 26, 2021
We're up around 7:00 a.m. Melanie starts work while I make the morning's brew. After breakfast, I'm still in the back of the van reading when she comes back in from her morning walk at around 10:15 a.m.
It's hard to believe I've been making notes of our daily happenings for nearly a month. Tomorrow marks 2 years and 8 months we've been living in Miranda. July 6th will mark our 2.5 year anniversary of full time travel and leaving Birmingham, Alabama.
If you've made it this far reading my post of 30 days in the life, you have more stamina for the mundane than I might have. Though, as I type those words I can remember when the first kernels of the idea of full-time travel was passed between Melanie and me. Exciting is an understatement.
Watching videos of people who were already out here traveling, telling of their experiences, making a living on the road by telling us of their experiences, including the day to day, grocery shopping doing laundry, cleaning and servicing their homes on wheels, etc. All the peak experiences and the more mundane aspects of life.
I remember somehow finding the van we now live in and recognizing it as being a few steps removed and above the quality of anything I'd seen or experienced to date. Telling Melanie we'd travel to Missouri or North Carolina to a dealership to view one. Making contact with a Leisure Travel Van representative who told me when he'd be in Missouri for a show and I could test drive the one in which he was traveling.
Life has a way of passing you by when you're not paying attention. If there's one thing life on the road doesn't allow, it's not paying attention. Almost by definition one is every day forced to view things anew as many days venues and people in front of you are just that, totally and completely new.
We mark our days with notes and photos of the places and people we meet because, after a fashion, the days can be full of experience and all begin to bleed into each other. Every day, especially after the pandemic, was like, is it Saturday or is it Monday? Wednesday?
As ours and your lives begin to resemble "normal" again, the days will begin to be marked by the work week or, as tomorrow will ours, by Sunday. I will take Melanie to the Episcopal church in Wells, Vermont for services. It's Sunday worship for her, but also an opportunity to make an additional contact for EPF. We're slowly getting back talking social justice face to face.
I'll stop this for now and get ready for another day out riding and exploring on Red Ranger, that Ferrari of a bike I have. What a real privilege it is to be able to explore our country like this.
I ride south again today into Glens Falls and onto the Canalway Trail. I ride out a bit over 13 miles altogether, turn around and head back to camp. It's cloudy today and in the high 70's by the time I get back to camp. Another great ride.
Melanie finishes work, I have a snack before we head into town for dinner. This is our last evening at Lake George and it's windy out, but pleasant.
Once we're back I begin to prepare to travel tomorrow. I put bikes away, roll up the sun screens that cover the Mercedes windshield and side windows. I clean the windshield. I empty the grey and black tanks and fill the water tank. I check tire pressure. Finally, the zero-gravity lounge chairs are folded and put on the rank located on the ladder on the rear of the van.
All that will be left to do in the morning is to bring up the levelers, roll up electric chord and water hose and put them away, put the charged bike batteries away, and go through our check list. Less than 15 minutes and we're moving.
We each get showered and then stream a bit before bed.
June 27, 2021
June 27 marks 2 years and 8 months living in Miranda. July 6th will officially mark 2.5 years since leaving Birmingham or living full time on the road.
My phone alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m this morning. It's a travel day and Melanie is attending church services in Wells, Vermont at 9:00 a.m., about 30 miles away from us. I'm finally up at 5:30 to make our coffee.
We drink coffee until around 7:00 a.m., dress and I go outside to prepare us for travel. We're gone from our campsite around 7:20 a.m. and make it to Wells a little past 8:00.
After services, we'll travel north through Burlington to South Hero and Apple Island Resort RV Park for the night. Tomorrow we'll travel to Essex Junction, Vermont just outside Burlington for a few days visit with friends.
Church services end with Melanie sending me a text saying we have church folks who want to come and see Miranda. I figure there may be a few who will come, but a few turns into more than 10, including something we don't often experience with Episcopal Churches, children. Seems the Episcopal church in Wells has a good many young folks and they seem to be a very close knit community of worshipers.
We leave after some time and travel a winding road to Middlebury, Vermont where Melanie has found lunch for us. It's an interesting place with all sorts of memorabilia on the walls and a okay lunch.
We make it to South Hero early afternoon and Melanie goes out for a walk to check things out. It's hot outside and I opt for a nap in the back.
We both walk to the pool and take a nice dip early evening, then return to prepare dinner at the van. I get out the Blackstone griddle and make pork tenderloin while Melanie makes the sides.
We end the night with some streaming and keep the air conditioning on since, as mentioned, it's warm outside.
June 30, 2021
We've been parked in the driveway of friends in Essex Junction, Vermont for 2 days. Today is our last day with them as we'll move to Rock Point Center, the Episcopal Camp on Lake Champlain tomorrow. John is a member of EPF and he and his wife, Cec, hosted us in September of 2019. It's been nice catching up with them.
John took us to he and Cec's ski chalet not far from Essex Junction yesterday. It was a nice drive and they have offered their place there as a future place to park Miranda for a few days. We'll likely add it to the list next pass through Vermont.
The weather has been on the hot side of things for the last few days beginning with our travel day Sunday past, but we're looking for a break in the temps tomorrow when highs are forecasted to be in the high 70's. By Saturday the low's will be in the 50's again. Melanie has been out walking everyday, I've been living in the air-conditioned van, not moving too much.
The National Weather Service has issued a Special Weather Statement which predicts that a "very unstable air mass will lead to strong to severe thunderstorm development." We're just north of the predicted impact area. Melanie has gone out for her second walk of the day. The air conditioning cycles on and off in the heat of the day. Hopefully, we'll miss most of the torrential rain and large hail they mention is possible.
July 6, 2021
Today's the day. It's been 2.5 years since we left St. Andrew's parking lot in Birmingham, Alabama for life on the road in Miranda. I'm typing this from our spot at Rock Point, an Episcopal Center just outside Burlington, Vermont where we've been living for the past 5 days.
Melanie is currently meeting with the Bishop of Vermont, Rt. Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown over coffee at her residence here. Afterwards, another travel day for us. Not far today, just 50 miles or so north and east of Burlington.
For those of you who happen on this and who also own a Leisure Travel Van, we've been operating for the past 8 days on 30 gallons of fresh water and for 5 of those days without electricity. Most of the days were either cloudy or at best (yesterday notwithstanding) mostly cloudy. We did not use our shower during this time and we ate out a fair amount so water was not nearly the issue it might have been. But I'm very impressed with the ability of our solar panels to generate enough power to keep our batteries at least 60% charged even on those mostly cloudy days.
We turned off everything, including the inverter and excluding one of our ceiling fans, every night before going to sleep. While the weather hasn't fully cooperated as it's rained a fair amount the past 8 days, the temperature has been mild never reaching any higher than the low 80's and a few nights getting down into the high 50's.
We've been fortunate while in Burlington and the surrounding area to catch up with old friends who traveled from Alabama to meet us here, make new friends, attend a protest rally, and check out some of what Burlington has to offer. Burlington is certainly in the running as a place Melanie and I could, some time in the future, live.
If you've read this far or skipped to this post, I hope you come away with an idea of what life for us is like while we travel. I also hope I didn't bore you too much with the mundane details. Today's a laundry day when we arrive at our new spot. We, of course, need to empty tanks, fill fresh water, but we'll have full hook ups for a few days so all that will be very easy to accomplish.
We have no idea when we may begin to seriously consider getting off the road. It's a great life full of great experiences and all the problems of a bricks and mortar residence. We're still learning, but we've mostly got this life figured out. Not too far, not too fast. Slow down a bit and enjoy the ride.
And the good news for us today is we're off to see more of beautiful Vermont. Cheers, y'all.
We left the Zion National Park area via the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway traveling from Hurricane, Utah to the Springdale, Utah entrance. I wanted to do this mainly so we could travel through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel out of the park.
Construction of the 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel began in the late 1920's and was completed in 1930. At the time that the tunnel was dedicated, on July 4, 1930, it was the longest tunnel of its type in the United States. The purpose of the building the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel (and the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway) was to create direct access to Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon from Zion National Park.-NPS
Here's what we saw on our way to Bryce Canyon National Park.
January 6, 2021 marks the beginning of our third year of full-time travel (we began living in Miranda on the 27th of October 2018). I'm writing this from Ocean Springs, Mississippi where we are camped in the Davis Bayou Campground in Gulf Islands National Seashore. Tomorrow, New Orleans for a night. Heading ever westward at the moment.
We awoke to great news (for us, anyway) out of Georgia. Seems people in my home state didn't buy all the QAnon conspiracy theories, etc. of the incumbent senators and 45 and, from all indications, the incumbents will be packing for home. Purple Georgia. Who'd a thunk it?
The bullshit happening in D.C., notwithstanding, it's another new day and there's much work to be done by the new administration going forward.
Like many of you, the year past has been full of challenges for us. Many of our challenges definitely are not the same magnitude as others had and continue to experience. Traveling has been largely a great experience even during the pandemic. Looking back we're grateful for the many people who we've been able to meet and spend time with both before and after the virus became a problem.
Winter in Southern California cannot be beat, and Randy and Doni Heyn-Lamb made sure we found connections and hospitality all over San Diego and Los Angeles and points in between. January and February were spent happily occupied with Melanie's nonprofit work in Episcopal churches all over Southern California. The Heyn-Lambs opened doors and created opportunities and made the winter our most productive and heartening season. We are indebted to them for their gracious support.
In March of last year as the pandemic began, we planned to travel into San Francisco. Melanie had preaching engagements and meetings tied to Episcopal Peace Fellowship. But it soon became clear to us, as San Francisco quickly became a "hot spot" for the virus, all plans needed to be cancelled and we needed to take some time to reassess next moves.
Which brings to mind the many people over the past few years for which we owe a large debt of gratitude for being there for us before and during the pandemic.
In March 2020, our friends in Carmel, California, Arleen and Bill Tarantino, who had contacted us earlier to invite us to visit with them, told us to come and stay a few days with them. This invitation came as little was known about how contagious was the virus, nor much about how it was transmitted. We had our last lunch in a restaurant in Carmel just before arriving for our stay with them. Looking back, probably not the wisest choice, but then, we didn't know what we didn't know at the time.
Our few days with them were great. We hiked and had meals together and I was able to begin assessing our next moves only beginning to understand how serious was the situation in the U.S.
We quickly moved north through San Francisco to Berkley, California to pick up mail we had forwarded to our friend Rev. Ann Coburn. At this point there were very few people on the streets in San Francisco and Berkley. It was eerie. Ann knew a restaurant close by that was providing physically distanced take-out service and she bought us lunch and we took it back to her apartment and caught up with her for a few hours.
We remained in California for a few more days positioned just southwest of Sacamento as I made a determination of where the hot spots were and trying to decide whether we could continue to travel and avoid the virus. At that point many of the federal and state campgrounds were beginning to close with only private campgrounds remaining open. But for how long?
Our friend, and my brother from another mother, Trip Tomlinson, contacted us and told us we were welcome to stay at his home in North Georgia. He and his wife, Teresa, hosted us the previous year for a week or so and knowing we had a place to land immediately gave us great solace. While we weren't keen on the few thousand miles travel across country to get there, it gave us a nice baseline for considering our next move.
Jack and Christy Close Erskine, with whom Melanie traveled to Palestine in 2019, had invited us to come to Sisters, Oregon for a visit as we traveled north last Spring. But as the seriousness of the virus became apparent, they renewed their invite towards the end of March and told Melanie we could come and quarantine with them for as long as need be. They mentioned their children were all out of the house and we could live downstairs in their home which also had a separate entrance and separate bath. While it was still bordering on too cold for Miranda to be in Sisters, we made the decision to travel north from Nevada and begin our quarantine with the Erskines.
The decision to quarantine in Sisters was a great one and we are so very grateful for the Erskine's kindness and generosity during our nearly two month stay with them. I did much of the grocery shopping and running errands and we all pitched in for family meals in the evening, a powerful experience Melanie and I will cherish always.
After we left Sisters we traveled around in Oregon and California then Washington State where we met new friends, Nancy Crowell and Mike Carlisle in La Conner. We spent a pleasant few days getting to know them and look forward to visiting with them again. Nancy is a wonderful photographer and my only regret is we didn't get to shoot together.
My longtime friend and another brother from another mother, John Woodward, happened to be traveling too and arranged for us to meet him just outside Boise, Idaho in the summer. John rented a ski chalet and we were able to park Miranda nearby for free. It was 90+ degrees in Boise 25 miles away, but only in the mid 70's where we were. John then traveled ahead and made sure we had a spot in a great National Forest Service campground for a week in the Sawtooth Mountains. We had a great time catching up and are grateful for his friendship and help in procuring a couple of great camp spots.
It was in Stanley, Idaho we met fellow full time travelers, Karen and Martin, whose travels we now follow. We hope to see them on the road again.
Aida and John Havel own a beautiful Air B & B in Salvo, NC, on Hatteras Island. They are the perfect hosts and always welcome us to their little slice of heaven. We've retreated to be with them twice now on this journey and we treasure their support, friendship and generous hospitality.
We've spent a fair amount of time with our friends, Jen and Wade Anderson and family, in Birmingham, Alabama when we have been home. They have the perfect spot to park Miranda along the side of their home in Mountain Brook. We are grateful for the spot and their continued support of our travels.
We were glad to visit with Ginny and Bill Pierson in Asheville, North Carolina in 2019, and sorry because of COVID to miss seeing them in 2020. Kathy and Gary Moore allowed us to park at their home in Charlevoix, Michigan for a couple of nights in September past and while we didn't get to visit with them, we hope to see them in 2021. Bill and Frances Nolan gave me and Miranda a place to be for a time while Melanie was in Palestine. IB and Rebecca Browning who we met in North Carolina and who gave us refuge at their home in Morgantown, West Virginia.
We've done a bit of house sitting in the past two years. Recently, we're parked in our son, Tate's, driveway in Nashville where we spent the Christmas holiday house sitting while he and his girlfriend, Zoe, traveled to Florida.
We had the good fortune to spend a few great days with our friends, Keith and Beth and their son, Eric, and his girlfriend, Nina. They traveled to Florida to meet with us over the New Year's holiday. I've known the Johns since Eric and our son, Tate, were in preschool at the Waldorf School in Birmingham. Always great to spend time with them and we treasure their friendship.
There are, of course, many others we've met and spent time with over the course of these past two years, some old friends we hadn't seen for a time and many new friends we've made along the way. They make the journey interesting and worthwhile. We value the support of many with whom we keep in semi-regular contact, including Pif and Chip Hicks, Melanie's Dad, her host of EPF connections, and friends from St. Andrew's-Birmingham. Our biggest grief for the year includes the deaths of our dear friends, Martha Jane Patton and Ewan Tytler. We have no words to speak of the huge holes in our hearts left in the wake of their deaths. Both were incredibly supportive of us on this journey, and we carry their influence and love with us wherever we go.
We'd planned to be out west by this time, but with COVID rates through the roof in many places and a vaccine (hopefully) just around the corner, we decided to delay heading west until now. We still feel fortunate to be traveling full time. Being agile provides us with opportunities like I've mentioned. We're looking forward to more great adventures.
Our friends John and Aida Havel who own and operate a 5 star rated Airbnb, Sunrise Over Salvo, on Hatteras Island have agreed to offer the spot you see above exclusively to Leisure Travel Van owners who would like to explore the Outer Banks in the off season.
From October 15 through March 15, you can get this premium spot (one available) only about a block away from beach access. For $50.00 a night (comparable to local commercial campgrounds nearby), you get water and (20 amp) electric, cement parking pad, access to private laundry, pool, hot tub, gas grill, andl picnic table.
Or, you can book a stay at the Airbnb and enjoy one of their nicely appointed rooms at Sunrise Over Salvo with your van parked and plugged in while you're in residence.
John and Aida are great hosts and knowledgeable about what's happening locally. Contact Aida at (919) 740-7031 for details.
Well we know where we're going
But we don't know where we've been
And we know what we're knowing
But we can't say what we've seen
And we're not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out...--D. Byrne
Melanie and I will mark two years of living in Miranda on the 27th of October. Today is October 18th and we're sitting in a Missouri State Park just outside Macon, Missouri on an overcast and chilly afternoon watching as the campground slowly empties of weekend campers. Campers on weekend leave. What follows will be random thoughts between now and the 27th on what it means for us to travel full-time in a 25' van after a couple of years.
In a few days we'll be close to St. Louis where Miranda will have some warranty work performed before her two-year warranty expires. Then it's onward towards a visit with our son, Tate, and his girlfriend, Zoe, for a few days.
We've got a working title for our travel book in progress, It's Alabama Everywhere, Y'all: That looks like a good place for a weed store
It's my sincerely held belief that what the United States really needs is, in part, legal weed everywhere, especially in the designated fly over areas, and a little time for people to sit down with one another, get high and discuss the issues, ratcheted down a notch or two, certainly a few decibels lower volume. We'd get some real shit done and end up loving each other like we should anyhow. Jus' sayin'.
I'm smiling as I entertain myself with thoughts of legalization. There are, however, kernels of truth to be found in legalizing the weed. On the plus side, we could free all the political prisoners who received sentences for possession, a disproportionate number who are people of color. Maybe what would follow is the end to our failed and stupid "war on drugs." Money spent on fruitless enforcement strategies might be redirected for assisting people with real world problems of coping with an insane world.
Teaching civics in secondary school again would help immensely. That will involve good people who aren't predisposed to magical thinking and white privilege and racism getting elected to local and state offices to begin making sound policy based on science and the common good. That includes making our political economy more progressive through tax policies more like those of the 1950's and '60's. I'm not holding my breath, but it could happen with some due diligence on the part of a majority of citizens who, thanks to the pandemic, have had a chance to reevaluate what's valuable to them. Hint, it's not all the stuff they've accumulated over a life time of conspicuous consumption.
Remember. We're out here traveling the country in our tiny home on wheels so y'all don't have to bother. No thanks necessary. 😎
We're traveling today moving farther south from the St. Louis area where Miranda had some work performed on her which took the better part of yesterday (20th). I had a moment to look at last year's places and new states and found we will have been in 120 unique places and traveled to 13 new-to-Miranda states during our 2019-20 year. The only states remaining for us are Utah, Nebraska and Alaska. Hawaii too, but not realistically. 120 unique places is only 3 fewer than 2018-19 and a little surprising considering we were quarantined in Sisters, Oregon for almost two months. We're traveling about 30,000 miles a year on average.
We're in Wappapello, Missouri at an Army Corp of Engineers campground until tomorrow. I'm looking at our 2019-20 yearly average monthly costs today. We spent an average of $688.00 monthly on campgrounds during this past year. We spend our time camping between private campgrounds, public campgrounds and "free" places we stay through services for which we pay a yearly fee, Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Hosts. We also driveway surf with our friends and family.
We spent an average of $313.00 monthly on fuel costs, including propane. We have benefited from lower diesel prices since March of 2020 due to, I assume, the pandemic. Our propane costs averaged 31.00 a month.
We spent an average of $1,386. 00 a month on groceries. We spent an average of $1,293.00 a month eating out. We ate out regularly before travel and, while the pandemic has slowed our eating in restaurants, we still seek out good food in places where physical distancing is adhered to and where safety is promoted for guests.
We spent $2,070 on RV maintenance which averages to $173.00 a month. That figure includes service for the Mercedes Sprinter, new water hoses, a trickle charger for the Mercedes cab battery (used when we are in place more than 3 or 4 days), black tank treatment, DEF, oil, replacing propane regulator (warranty covered most of this cost), and mobile service related to a problem we had with our leveling system. We spent $1,216.00 on new tires. We spend an average of $65.00 monthly on items related to mail and for our mail service in Florida, where we are domiciled, that holds, forwards and/or scans mail for us.
Sorta of like magic at the end of our Leisure Travel Van warranty period (October 27), Miranda has experienced a few ailments. In Fort Collins, Colorado back in July someone in a KOA camp smelled propane around our vehicle. Our propane regulator had failed. Leisure Travel Vans stepped up and, even though the regulator was out of warranty, the one LTV installed on Miranda was failing regularly, they paid for the regulator and a portion of the labor expense to have it replaced.
Our four point leveling system pump started to fail in Michigan. We were fortunate to be within 250 miles of Equalizer in Elkhart, Indiana and they were able to replace the pump under warranty.
A couple of days ago, I checked tire pressure before leaving our COE camp and found one of our dually tires was flat. The tires were new in May. I was able to put air into it for a 15 mile trip to have it repaired. One flat in nearly two years travel works for me.
Yesterday marked two years. We're in Nashville visiting our son and his girlfriend for about a week. We're fortunate they have a driveway that's large enough and flat enough for Miranda. It's a nice way to begin our third year of travels.
Watch this space and, if you haven't already, vote.
“History is important. If you don't know history it is as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it.”
― Howard Zinn
So, maybe it's because I grew up during a time when people of color had had enough and had no stake in much of anything except trying to eek out an existence among white folks who (mostly) didn't give a good damn about people of color, except as they knew their place and provided services making their white and privileged lives comfortable. Those people of color, descendants of slaves, victims of lynchings and Jim Crow laws and myriad of other shameless horrendous acts, decided to burn it down and arm themselves and white folks in power had no choice but to pay attention because, you know, private property and their stuff. Maybe it's because some things then changed, but some white people and their descendants didn't. Not really. Maybe it's because I grew up working class, but with the help of many people along the way, including government grants to pay for some of my education, I eventually was able to get a legal education. Maybe it's because I've never really made enough money to keep me in line, at least not for too long a stretch of time. Maybe it's because I saw early on in my Christian inculcation my fellow "Christians" weren't really all that serious about following the teachings of Jesus causing me to want badly to opt out of that charade. Bless their hearts. Maybe following Jesus for many has mostly always been form over substance because, consciously or not, most know in their heart of hearts, capitalism, especially crony capitalism, the political economy since Reagan and Christianity were never really a good mix, at least not for the majority of people. No, not ever.
And now, here we are at yet another seemingly insurmountable precipice before we will surely tumble off into the abyss of authoritarianism, fascism or some other "ism," but God, please don't let it be Socialism, much like we were during those tumultuous '60's. But this time, we, the people, elected, mostly through benign neglect (not showing up to vote will cost you, my precious) a demagogue to serve as our president and he's up for re-election in a little over a month. We who have opposed much of what can only be described as the most chaotic and crooked presidency of modern times, are often baffled by his cult-like followers' undying love of all things happening under his rule. We search for ways to make sense of why anyone can objectively look at what's happening day after day, we rationalize and ruminate, ruminate and rationalize and come up with nothing short of one frustrating exercise after frustrating exercise. And then, pandemic. And now Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And we're all bearing witness to just how fragile is our democracy and the rule of law, not to mention our very sanity.
I've struggled with what to say to people about all of this. I'm tired of the memes and the endless gnashing of teeth and apocalyptic speculations. Weary, actually.
Because we travel full-time, we experience different communities on a regular. Many of our fellow citizens living in other states strike us as just like the ones we find in our home state of Alabama. I used to respond when people would say, well, there're rednecks everywhere. Yes, but not everywhere are they elected to office and allowed to make the laws for everyone else like in Alabama. I'm learning that's not necessarily so now. And I don't mean in just the old confederate states either.
I've come to the conclusion, like many of you, that all we have left is our numbers. We must show up in sufficient numbers and take back the government from those who are not capable, would destroy it by various means and have only their self-interest and the profit motive in mind.
That's a monumental task given we are currently not all operating with the same facts. Which brings to mind a Netflix documentary we watched a few days ago entitled, The Social Dilemma. A must watch. Here's a synopsis by Andrew Sullivan in his weekly newsletter:
[We] will be lucky if the country doesn’t erupt in large-scale civil violence by the end of [this election cycle].
And the reason this dystopian scenario is so credible is not just the fault of these political actors. It’s ours too — thanks to the impact of social media. I think we’ve under-estimated just how deep the psychological damage has been in the Trump era — rewiring the minds of everyone, including your faithful correspondent, in ways that make democratic discourse harder and harder and harder to model. The new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, is, for that reason, a true must-watch. It doesn’t say anything shockingly new, but it persuasively weaves together a whole bunch of points to reveal just how deeply and thoroughly fucked we are. Seriously, take a look.
The doc effectively shows how the information system necessary for democratic deliberation has, in effect, been jerry-rigged in the last decade to prevent any reasoning at all. It’s all about the feels, and the irrationality, and the moment, which is why Trump is so perfectly attuned to his time. And what’s smart about the documentary is that it shows no evil genius behind this unspooling, no sinister plot deliberately to destroy our system of government. One of the more basic motives in American life — making money — is all you now need, the documentary shows, to detonate American democracy at its foundation.
For Facebook and Google and Instagram and Twitter, the business goal quickly became maximizing and monetizing human attention via addictive dopamine hits. Attention, they meticulously found, is correlated with emotional intensity, outrage, shock and provocation. Give artificial intelligence this simple knowledge about what distracts and compels humans, let the algorithms do their work, and the profits snowball. The cumulative effect — and it’s always in the same incendiary direction — is mass detachment from reality, and immersion in tribal fever.
With each passing second online, news stories, graphic videos, incendiary quotes, and outrages demonstrate their stunning utility to advertisers as attention seizers, are endlessly tweaked and finessed by AI to be even more effective, and thereby prime our brains for more of the same. They literally restructure our minds. They pickle us in propaganda. They use sophisticated psychological models to trap, beguile, outrage, and prompt us to seek more of the same.
Alternative views, unpleasant facts, discomforting arguments, contextualizing statistics, are, with ever-greater efficiency, filtered out of what our eyes can see and our minds absorb. And what we therefore believe becomes more fixed, axiomatic, self-reinforcing, and self-affirming. We become siloed into two affective tribes, with dehumanization of each other deepening with every news cycle. And we know what happens when dehumanization through social media is fully exploited. Ask the Rohingya of Burma, whose horrifying persecution was a function almost entirely of a Facebook disinformation campaign, seeded by a few in government and then unleashed by the masses in a spasm of genocidal violence.
And finally, I'll leave you with one of the best explanations I've read recently about why, given everything our president does on a regular basis that would seemingly make any sane and rational person want to run screaming from the building, his followers still support him. Stop trying to make sense of their madness and show up and vote in November.
The question was asked why people continue supporting Trump no matter what he does.
“You all don't get it. I live in Trump country, in the Ozarks in southern Missouri, one of the last places where the KKK still has a relatively strong established presence. They don't give a shit what he does. He's just something to rally around and hate liberals, that's it, period. He absolutely realizes that and plays it up. They love it. He knows they love it. The fact that people act like it's anything other than that proves to them that liberals are idiots, all the more reason for high fives all around.
If you keep getting caught up in "why do they not realize this problem" and "how can they still back Trump after this scandal," then you do not understand what the underlying motivating factor of his support is. It's fuck liberals, that's pretty much it.
Have you noticed he can do pretty much anything imaginable, and they'll explain some way that rationalizes it that makes zero logical sense? Because they're not even keeping track of any coherent narrative, it's irrelevant. Fuck liberals is the only relevant thing. Trust me; I know firsthand what I'm talking about. That's why they just laugh at it all because you all don't even realize they truly don't give a fuck about whatever the conversation is about. It's just a side mission story that doesn't matter anyway. That's all just trivial details - the economy, health care, whatever. Fuck liberals.
Look at the issue with not wearing the masks. I can tell you what that's about. It's about exposing fear. They're playing chicken with nature, and whoever flinches just moved down their internal pecking order, one step closer to being a liberal.
You got to understand the one core value that they hold above all others is hatred for what they consider weakness because that's what they believe strength is, hatred of weakness. And I mean passionate, sadistic hatred. And I'm not exaggerating. Believe me. Sadistic, passionate hatred, and that's what proves they're strong, their passionate hatred for weakness. Sometimes they will lump vulnerability in with weakness. They do that because people tend to start humbling themselves when they're in some compromising or overwhelming circumstance, and to them, that's an obvious sign of weakness.
Kindness=weakness. Honesty=weakness. Compromise=weakness.
They consider their very existence to be superior in every way to anyone who doesn't hate weakness as much as they do. They consider liberals to be weak people that are inferior, almost a different species, and the fact that liberals are so weak is why they have to unite in large numbers, which they find disgusting, but it's that disgust that is a true expression of their natural superiority."
Dunning-Kruger all up in your face.
Well it's all right, even when push comes to shove
Well it's all right, if you got someone to love
Well it's all right, everything'll work out fine
Well it's all right, we're going to the end of the line
Steven and Melanie