We've been in San Antonio for a week. During that time I've used their walking and bike path along the San Antonio River to access parts of the city and just for kicks (I really love my bike). The best part for me has been access to downtown from where we're parked south of San Antonio's downtown. When in San Antonio, if you're a bike rider or runner or love a good walk, the river walk is a must.
Traveler's World RV park, where we took up residence for the week, is located just off the river walk and about half way of the stretch of the riverwalk that runs south of town. There are three missions located south of the RV park and easily accessed via bicycle along the trail. I visited two of the three and Melanie accompanied me on one of those jaunts.
Melanie Atha - the Peacemaking Potential of Collaborative Dispute Resolution (Click link to hear hear the podcast)
"In this first episode of the two-part podcast, we discussed:
I hope you enjoy this episode on the purpose in the process of collaborative resolution!"
It's Friday here in San Antonio, Texas and we're currently located inTraveler's World, an RV park about 5 miles down the San Antonio Walk, Hike and Bike Path south of downtown. There's an entrance to the path about 50 feet from where we're parked.
We may leave next Wednesday. But before San Antonio, there was Austin, Texas. And we liked Austin very much.
We arrived in Austin on Saturday afternoon (January 19th) and spent the evening in the RV park we'd booked south of town. Oak Forest has an eclectic mix of travelers and vehicles and the right amenities. You know, heated pool, hot tub, showers, laundry facility. But what made Oak Forest unique is that it's also a tiny home community.
They offer a variety of tiny homes for sale and offer lots for lease on which you may locate them. Melanie and I have discussed living in a tiny home when we leave our travels whenever that may be so it was fun to take a tour of what Oak Grove had to offer. I suppose because we live in about 100 square feet now, these homes seemed voluminous.
Texas has a magazine called Eater I discovered while looking for places my lovely bride and I might dine while traveling in Texas. They haven't led me astray yet and I've used them both in Dallas and in Austin to good effect.
So, after checking out Eater we started our Sunday exploration of Austin with a brunch at Easy Tiger in downtown. We both enjoyed our brunch and our gregarious server gave up some great advice for further explorations, starting with Austins relatively new library.
The new Central Library in downtown Austin overlooks the Colorado River and offers a rooftop garden area for reading and taking in the sites below. Melanie and I parked Miranda a few blocks away on the street and made our way to the library on foot. Like many cities in the U.S., Austin is seeing a lot of new construction happening in their downtown. There are lots of new condos and high rise apartments going up and great places to eat and shop. We parked across from Whole Foods flagship store and in front of a Starbucks. Google has a presence.
Like many cities, Austin has taken advantage of having a river, the Colorado, running through it. There's small damn just below downtown that forms the reservoir, Lady Bird Lake. Created in 1960 as a cooling pond for the cities power plant, it now serves as mainly a site for recreation and flood control. The Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail runs around portions of the lake and the Colorado. We walked and rode our bicycles along the trail on several days.
Melanie wanted to see the University of Texas tower where, in 1966, a former Marine killed 16 and wounded 31 before being shot to death by an Austin police officer. Mass shootings. Not a new thing.
Our visit to Austin was great and we look forward to traveling back there at some point. Next up, San Antonio.
Melanie and I will travel into Dallas this afternoon to take in an exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art. Tomorrow we travel to Austin, Texas. We've had a great week here in Carrollton in Country Place community where we've been in residence at the home of Sherrie Abney. Sherrie is a most gracious hostess and we've enjoyed great conversation and meals around her kitchen table. Sherrie too, has a bit of the wanderlust and has traveled extensively. Melanie and I are grateful as we prepare to leave and look forward to future visits with Sherrie in Carrollton.
From a bio of Sherrie:
Sherrie R. Abney is a collaborative lawyer, mediator, collaborative trainer and former adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. She is past chair of the ADR Section and co-chair of the Juvenile Justice Committee as well as co-founder and first chair of the Collaborative Law Section of the Dallas Bar Association. Currently she is past chair of the Collaborative Law Section of the State Bar of Texas and serves on the Advisory Council of the Section. She has also served on the advisory council of the ADR Section of the State Bar. She is currently on the Collaborative Law Committee of the DR Section of the American Bar Association. Sherrie is a founding director and past President of the Global Collaborative Law Council and member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and Divorce Texas. She has presented and trained at dispute resolution conferences in Ireland, Australia, England, Uganda, Argentina, Brazil, and Canada, as well as a number of cities in the United States. Sherrie is the author of Avoiding Litigation, A Guide to Civil Collaborative Law, and Civil Collaborative Law, the road less traveled, as well as numerous articles on the use of Collaborative Law in resolving civil dispute.
The photos below are from a morning walk around the community where Sherrie lives.
Our week here is coming to a close as we leave for Austin, Texas early on Saturday. Melanie had a full week of work with both GCLC and EPF. Miranda and I have shuttled her around Carrollton and beyond for meetings and meet ups. And I/we've also had some time to check out a few bike trails.
One of the decisions we made fairly early in the process was to not tow a car as we travel. We played around with the idea, we shopped for the right car to tow behind the van and researched the right method to tow it. Mostly, however, the thought of towing gave me pause and not a little trepidation about keeping watch while traveling on such a vehicle.
There was also the additional cost in time, and maybe money, trading in our Honda Accord (can't be towed) for a suitable vehicle, the additional costs of fuel, insurance and upkeep of the TOAD (towed vehicle). Ultimately, I came across the idea of having two electric assist bicycles on a rack behind the van which then morphed into storing them in a KOMO Creations Multi-purpose chest.
My search for the right bicycles ended up with us buying two Trek electric assist bicycles from Cahaba Cycles Homewood. I'm grateful to the staff there for all their help including allowing me to test ride a Commuter + 8s (my bike) for a week before deciding whether to purchase it. Special shout out to Abby for all her assistance.
While Melanie worked yesterday, I scouted out the White Rock Creek Trail and the White Rock Lake Park Loop Trail. I started at the northern end of the White Rock Creek Trail headed toward White Rock Lake. The trail follows the creek for 8.4 miles and, frankly, isn't much by way of a scenic tour. I'm certain I've never seen as many plastic bags and multifarious debris in a creek before. The creek floods on a semi-regular basis and apparently trash from North Dallas businesses and homes along this drainage flows into the creek to great deleterious effect.
The day was gray and cold and it made me not a little sad to see the effects of such human negligence on what could be a really scenic walking and cycling trail.
One of the things saving the ride yesterday was the White Rock Lake Park Loop Trail, 9.4 miles of joy, which intersects with the White Rock Creek Trail at its southern terminus. Melanie and I left Carrollton around 8:30 this morning and headed for the southwestern parking lot of the park. If the White Rock Creek Trail lacks in aesthetics, the Park Loop Trail makes up for it.
While the weather could have been just a bit warmer and sunnier and the wind a bit calmer, Melanie and I had a great morning ride around the lake, stopping along the way for breaks and to take in the scenery.
Good morning from Texas. Richardson, Texas just outside of Dallas,Texas on a chilly, cloudy January Friday. I'm sitting in Miranda currently located on the Tophill Lane and outside the home of Larry Maxwell and his lovely bride where Melanie is working at being trained to become the executive director of Global Collaborative Law Council.
We've had a great almost first week on the road.
Leaving Birmingham Sunday afternoon (6th) we traveled to Memphis, Tennessee and parked Miranda under the I-40 bridge in the Pinch District and in front of the Bass Pro Shop. We liked the location and the price of admission (free). A bit noisy, as you may imagine, being under an interstate, but very well-kept and safe (guards come by regularly 24-7).
On Monday during the day we rode around downtown Memphis on our bicycles, checked out the National Civil Rights Museum, had lunch at McEwen's (recommended) and coffee at Keough's (gingersnaps) downtown. Memphis has many streets with designated bike lanes and drivers are very respectful of cyclists, suffice it to say we felt safe tooling around taking in the downtown.
Before some of the other maybe more important details of our Memphis stay, allow me a moment to tell you of my short visit to my very first Bass Pro Shop. Since I have nothing to compare it to, your reaction to what I'm about to type may legitimately be, meh, they're all alike, but this one, located next to the mighty Mississippi River, seemed, at least to this observer, to be slightly over the top in many ways.
The entrance is fashioned after the old National Park lodges with giant beams and high ceiling and wood paneling. Once inside the Pyramid itself soars above you 32 stories. There's an elevator located roughly in the center that will take you (for a fee) to a restaurant and observation deck.
Ponds located throughout the main floor contain native fish swimming and boats for sale floating. The place is also a taxidermist's feast for the eyes. There are all manner of stuffed game for the hunter in you to dream about murdering..., I mean, killing for sport, if that's your thing. The shop contains everything you may need for hunting and fishing outdoor activities. And yes, there's even a duck museum, closed while I was there, but I could see from the outside antique decoys and antique boxes of shotgun shells and antique duck calls, hundreds of duck calls line the shelves.
But after all my distracted wandering and gawking and mouth-breathing-like gazing, alas, they did not have stocked that for which I had come. Black tank treatment. I was directed to several places in the store where I might find black tank treatment, but after several inquiries made to helpful employees, I finally was connected to someone who knew what black tank treatment was and knew, matter-of-factly, Bass Pro Shops did not carry any products to treat my black tank.
Funny, I mused aloud, you'll allow me to park my rig in your parking lot (for free, thank you very much), but it appears there's no RV section in your store. No sir, he said, we don't have an RV section. You're missing out, I told him. Missing out on some cash you could be taking in. Yes, sir, we are, he said, giving me the slightly annoyed look of someone who obviously knows more about the profitability of outdoor stuff than a van dwelling freeloader.
I left reasonable happy for the experience and my further understanding of a subculture I'd long attempted to forget about, but with no black tank treatment. The product wouldn't even take up much space on a shelf, y'all. Jus' sayin'.
Returning to Miranda, empty handed, Melanie and I retrieved our bikes from the rear compartment and cycled from our van along a promenade next to the Mississippi River and towards the National Civil Rights Museum which Melanie had suggested we visit. I should note there appear to be several points of interest along this promenade, including a pier-like structure high above the river with what appeared to be an observation deck overlooking the river. There's also a museum all about Elvis and B. B. King. I got nothing by way of further explanation or experience regarding those places.
Our trip to the National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM) turned out to be a bit of bust. I know what you're thinking. Damn you Donald Trump, and your government shutdown. But no, the museum was open to the general public. We didn't go in for another reason, a reason I'll allow Melanie to explain at some point, if she chooses. You see (minor hint) there's protest that's been going on for some time now out in front of the museum and, me and Melanie, we ain't no scabs.
From the NCRM we had a banking errand to run some mile and a half away. Along the way we ran into a treasure trove of murals causing Melanie to dub Memphis the mural capital of world. I'm really liking what seems to be a trend for cities to allow artists to paint murals around on large urban canvases. Memphis has talented mural artists.
We took Uber in to South Main Arts District on Monday evening for dinner, hoping to find our spot for watching the national championship game between our Tide and those other Tigers from South Carolina. I'd seen a restaurant that looked promising during our brief pass by the NCRM earlier and we took a chance we wouldn't need a reservation.
We didn't need a reservation, had dinner and finished just as the game was beginning. We relocated to the bar area of the restaurant where a number of locals were eating and didn't seem much interested in the game that we'd requested be put on the television. Fine. The highlight of the evening was meeting some of the local folks and great conversations that ensued. The football, not so much. So, after the first half, foreseeing the Tide's demise, Melanie and I decided since Tuesday was a travel day, we'd make our way back to Miranda for a good night's sleep.
Little Rock, Arkansas
We left Memphis early on Tuesday morning headed for Hot Springs National Park. On the way we stopped in Little Rock, home to the Clinton Presidential Center. I know what you're thinking, damn that Donald Trump and his government shutdown. Poor Steven and Melanie, all they wanted to do was visit a presidential landmark. This time you'd be right. Closed..., well, except for the restaurant inside the center.
While Melanie worked, I made my way around the grounds of the center. The grounds are nice and, if we're ever back through Little Rock, I'll stop by for an inside perusal.
Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Melanie and I decided, before we began our travels, we'd do our research/due diligence for the particular area in which we wanted to park Miranda for work and/or exploring, but we'd try to refrain from making a reservation, keeping our options open as much as possible. This, as long was we were both comfortable with winging it.
Hot Springs National Park was no different. I looked at the National Park campground, found out, as best I could, that the park was open and the campground was open, but was not providing services. That means, in this case, what would have been a full hook up situation for us (water, electric and sewer) was not be available because of Trump's unnecessary government shutdown. Gulpha Gorge, regardless, doesn't take reservations, so we were taking a chance we'd have a spot to park Miranda anyway. I also knew what was available nearby, if Gulpha Gorge didn't work for us.
Upon arrival, we first went into Hot Springs, because we missed the turnoff for the campground, and did a minor bit of driving around and checking to see if the park offices were closed (yes, yes they were). Luckily, Melanie needed a post office visit and fortunately the town has RV parking near the National Park offices and the post office so we parked Miranda and got out.
Directly in front of our parking space was one of several places where the public can fill containers with mineral water from the springs. This particular outlet was warm water from one of the hot springs. The town's folk come to the spring outlets to get mineral water to take home and drink. I carry a 5 litre bag for filling up our RV water tank so I dug it out and made several trips back and forth and filled our fresh water tank up to about half full (15 gallons).
It was a great experience chatting with local folks and fortuitous for us since we needed a bit of water for our stay. I also carry a backpacking water filter for filtering drinking water from nearby creeks and rivers in case the campground has no potable water available via the tap.
We made our way to the campground and to our delight, there were only three other campers besides us and the campground volunteers. We were able to get a choice spot next to Gulpha Creek.
After a quiet night along Gulpha Creek and a relaxed morning drinking coffee, Melanie had some work related things to do so I took out my bike and rode into town to check out the scene a bit more intimately. The road into town can be a bit dicey on bike as it is at time busy with local traffic, but doable with all the proper cautions.
My morning ride took me up Hot Springs Mountain Drive to several observation points. There's also an observation tower at the top of the drive and it happened to be open. But, because of high winds and very cool temperatures, I opted not to go up. I met nice folks from Arizona, New York state and Texas who come to check out the views.
I rode back to Miranda at the campground, got Melanie's bike out and we went back into town for lunch at a local brewery and former bath house, Superior Bath House Brewery. After a nice lunch and a double IPA, we inquired of our server which of the bath houses in town she would recommend. One of her recommendations and her favorite, Quapaw, was closed for renovations, but she also suggested the spa at the Arlington Hotel and Buckstaff Baths. After inquiry at both, we decided on Buckstaff Baths.
Buckstaff is located in a great old renovated 1912 structure and offers traditional hot mineral springs bathing services. Melanie and I opted for the basic services and really enjoyed the experience. Recommended.
We took an easy Uber ride into town for dinner and then retired early as Thursday was a travel day for us. We made a brief stop in Hope, Arkansas for breakfast and a quick look at William Jefferson Clinton's birthplace. Then onward toward Carrollton, Texas where we will be all this week before heading to Austin next Saturday.
Happy New Year to y'all.
Sitting once again sipping a nice pour over at Revelator downtown Birmingham. Melanie and I are scheduled, so to speak, to leave Birmingham on this Sunday, January 6, 2019. We'll leave after coffee hour at St. Andrew's Episcopal where Father Tommie has graciously agreed to bless our new home on wheels. We hope all who may be interested and/or attending services will come and bid us farewell and see Miranda as she departs Birmingham.
As you may imagine, Christmas living in an RV was very different and that's no understatement. We were on the road for the holiday, traveling to Seale, Alabama, Columbus, Georgia (briefly) Lumpkin, Georgia, to Prairie Creek campground along the Alabama River, and finally to Melanie's hometown, Faunsdale, Alabama. The only Christmas decoration we put up this year was provided by one of Melanie's law partners, an ornament in the shape of an RV trailer which is still hanging from the rearview mirror. Perfect.
Our friends in Seale, Alabama, Mike and Jill Venable, were very gracious in giving us a send off party from their lovely home amid the pecan trees. Mike and Jill invited some long-time mutual friends to join us for a great evening of visiting and dinner. It was really nice to catch up with friends I've known since my high school days and their spouses. As we continue to grow old together, I am reminded of how precious are these friendships and of the fleeting time we get to spend in each other's company. We spent the night in a lovely spot in Mike and Jill's pecan orchard in front of their home and then made our way into Columbus, Georgia the next morning.
We stopped in Columbus briefly to meet and share a moment in Miranda in the Target parking lot with Allison Kennedy with whom Melanie and I are Facebook friends. While it may not happen often, meeting new friends from Facebook in person can really be a treat. Meeting Allison and talking with her was great for both of us and I hope when we are back through Columbus we can coax her husband, Mike, off the couch and out for dinner and a beer.
We were then off to Lumpkin, Georgia and a great moochdocking spot at the farm (Lynchburg) of friends, John Woodward and Gail Lynch for a few days. John placed our home on wheels in a prime spot out in front of their home which is located in a wonderful pastural setting.
John Woodward and I have been friends for many years. We've done our share of backpacking and hiking across this country (along with our friend, Trip, who was unfortunately under the weather and couldn't make it to Lynchburg this time around). He and his wife, Gail are family and it's always nice to catch up with them and spend time.
We all enjoy eating great meals together and, since I'd mentioned the addition of our InstaPot to the van and a favorite recipe out of Melissa Clark's Cookbook, Dinner in an Instant, we tried the barbecue recipe that can be found therein one evening. The barbecue is great on the brioche hamburger-style buns found at Whole Foods market. Simple-made dinner with a few sides and great wine and champagne.
Since we expected a vegetarian to be in our midst the following evening, I brought along Frank Stitt's recipe for Lentil Soup out of his Bottega Favorita cookbook. Melanie and I also brought along bread we purchased from Carol Griffin at Continental Bakery in Birmingham.
The weather cooperated reasonably well while we were in Lumpkin and we got a few days without rain, even if the temperatures were a bit on the nipply side. Melanie and I rode about 8 miles on a backroad that runs in front of the farm on Saturday. Sunday I rode most of a loop that is used for the annual Fair on the Square Bicycle Ride that Gail helps put on and which took me, as an aside, to Providence Canyon State Park. John and I used to rappel close by when we were much younger and I still resided in Columbus, Georgia.
The annual Christmas cookie bake-off happened at Lynchburg while we were there too. Gail and John's niece, Sarah Layne, and her high school-aged friends, came over and designed Christmas cookies Sunday night. While John had mentioned the tradition to me before, this was our first time getting to witness the joy.
Melanie and I left Lynchburg on Christmas Eve morning heading toward Alabama and an Army Corp of Engineers campground on the Alabama River. Prairie Creek is a great campground at which we stayed once before back in November 2018 when we traveled to Mobile on a work-related trip. There were at least 20 other camper vehicles in the park on Christmas Eve. It was a quiet night and Melanie and I were able to stream Christmas Vacation in the van after a nice dinner of left-over Lentil soup.
We headed to Faunsdale, Alabama, Melanie's hometown, the next morning with Christmas lunch for Melanie's dad, Dr. B. C. Merkle. We parked Miranda at the local Presbyterian church and walked the short distance to Merkle Manor for a great visit with Dr. Merkle. Before his recent retirement, Dr. Merkle was the only doctor available in this rural black belt community for miles around.
During many of our visits to see him over the years, it was not uncommon for him to either make a house call or have someone show up at Merkle Manor for care. He's a well-respected and beloved figure in the Faunsdale/Union Town community and I'm sure his practice is missed by those who now must travel great distances for medical care.
New Year's was spent with our great friends, Wade and Jen Anderson at their home in Mountain Brook, another great moochdocking spot. The Andersons have been truly gracious hosts and have gone out of their way in allowing us to stay in their driveway from time to time over the past couple of months. Melanie and I are grateful for their hospitality and generosity. We will miss them as we begin our travels this coming Sunday.
We'll be reporting to you from the road in a few days. Cheers.
Steven and Melanie