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.
Steven and Melanie