While we haven't yet reached the longest period of time we've spent in one place while full time traveling, we are fast approaching critical mass in that respect. And Summer.
The weather on San Juan Island has been nothing short of spectacular. Well, spectacular depending on your idea of what that means exactly. If you are looking to sunbathe, take leisurely swims in the ocean and spend your days in 90+ degree temps with high relative humidity, then prolly not so much.
While we've had days in the 70's and reached low 80's maybe once or twice, the temperatures here have, generally speaking, been pleasantly in the 60's during the day and low 50's at night with the occasion low reaching into the upper 40's. For us those temps are pretty amazing, especially for May and June.
Days may begin with a marine layer of clouds, but by mid to late morning those clouds burn off and blue skies prevail. We've had only 3 days where rain showed up since we arrived on May 2. The "dry" season is upon us.
We'll be in the 60's for the next two weeks, low tonight, 49 degrees. This is our new normal.
We've settled into our volunteer positions here working at American Camp three days a week and at English Camp one day each week, leaving us three days to relax and explore the island(s).
Our days in American Camp are generally divided between the great relatively new Visitors' Center and roving the park engaging visitors as we meet them on the trails or at the wildlife viewing station we set up overlooking the protected prairie.
I also spend time assisting our landscape maintenance crew with keeping the Visitor Center looking great.
We're also quickly finding out how truly wonderful spending an extended period of time in a National Park is for living with wild creatures who inhabit the area.
Our resident Red Foxes are a big draw for visitors to the park. Many of our visitors have never seen a fox in the wild and our open prairie affords them an opportunity to see them hunting the plentiful rabbits, voles, snakes, insects and mice, among the items on the local menu for these omnivores.
Many days photographers from places all over the world can be seen with their long lenses focused on the prairie. While the foxes are not protected by San Juan National Historical Park, the native prairie and grasslands are protected and visitors are no longer allowed to walk over it, with the added advantage of giving the foxes enough space to remain wild and raise their kits in relative peace.
That's not to say there are no opportunities to hike. There are at least 7 trails offering wonderful vistas of the prairie and grasslands along with the Salish Sea and Olympic Mountain range.
Melanie and I roved the Mount Finlayson Loop Trail a few days back where you can experience a walk through a really nice second growth forest of Douglas Fir. While most all trees were logged when the Lime Kilns were operating into the early 1900's, the Finlayson Loop Trail offers a great example of how some of these forests are making a comeback.
On our hike we saw a Pileated Woodpecker and Black Tailed Deer. The trail offers great vistas of the prairie, grasslands, Salish Sea, and Olympic Mountains.
Melanie has asked me several times within the past few days when we might publish again. Life happens, volunteer duties happen and time slips by when you're enjoying island time.
Since my last attempt at catching us up on our joint journaling of our time here on San Juan Island, two weeks have passed.
We've made the conscious decision to remain on island, with one forced exception, during that time choosing to explore additional parts of the island and familiarizing ourselves with Friday Harbor. We regularly ride the 5 miles into Friday Harbor for light grocery shopping, a meal or a beer. More on our favorite places to eat and drink later.
We traveled to Tacoma, Washington just over a week ago to finish background check requirements for the National Park Service. Being late hires for this season has complicated the onboarding process, but hopefully all of that is behind us now. Besides, the ferry ride to Anacortes, Washington is a treat and we picked up fresh strawberries and scones in La Conner on the way. Costco happened to be within a few miles of our destination in Tacoma so we resupplied there too.
Turns out we were fortunate our returning ferry made it back to Friday Harbor. It was out of service after it reached the island. Seems the ferries have been inconsistent at best this season. There are various explanations for this, but as you may imagine, both visitors and residents aren't happy when plans are ruined or delayed because the ferry isn't on time or operating at all.
Finally, what would a small mostly rural island community be without a bit of controversy?
While I don't know all the nuances of the issue, a multi-use trail has been proposed and funding procured that will take people from Friday Harbor to Zylstra Lake Preserve about 3 miles out of town.
Much of the land is agricultural and while money is appropriated for purchase of the right-of-way and construction of the trail, landowners are pretty much unanimous in their opposition.
I've taken to asking residents about the "No Trail" signs along San Juan Valley Road that landowners have posted a few miles before the Preserve that advocate against the trail. Suffice it to say I've gotten mostly inconsistent answers to my question. Few know much about the trail, where it will be located or why exactly residents along the road oppose it. Word on the street is there's a compromise in the works.
We are learning so much, and making new friends who are quite generous with their wisdom and resources. Ranger Jeff brought us watermelon for lunch one day while we picnicked at English Camp; Superintendent Lex brought us lettuces she'd grown in her garden and fresh eggs just brought in from her chicken coop; Ranger Cyrus has given us home baked goods (many made with berries and stone fruits he has foraged on the island) almost every day we have worked with him; and Ranger Allison has plied us with brownies. It's not enough that they show us this hospitality and their gratitude with such offerings, but they demonstrate their deep love of this island, our Park, and all of the creatures who live here with us by teaching us about all of it so we can share with the visitors we come into contact with. The enthusiasm is contagious, and I'm grateful every day for the chance to understand more and to give it away to fellow seekers.
And, it is a very small world. One day last week as I was swearing in a new Junior Ranger named Gabe down at English Camp, Gabe's father asked me what I knew about the church services that would have been held there during the occupation. He explained that he was an Episcopalian, and that he figured they had Anglican services somewhere at the Camp. I told him that I did not know, but as I reached for our resource book to look for an answer to his question, I told him that my immediate past work had been as Executive Director of Episcopal Peace Fellowship. He said, "Well, perhaps you know my father, the Rev. Bob Davidson, who is retired as National Chair of EPF". At that I jumped up and ran around the desk to hug this stranger's neck. I said, "Know him? Father Bob hired me as ED of EPF!" I had, happily and unwittingly, just made Bob's grandson, Gabe, a Junior Ranger. We took photos and visited and made plans to try to see one another again in August when Fr. Bob and his wife, Linda, as well as Kyle's family (who live in Bellingham), return to the San Juans for vacation. I never did answer Kyle's question about the church services, but I will find the answer and write him next time I am at English Camp.
We are, all of us, creatures. We belong to this gorgeous world in all the same ways that the [foxes on the prairie] belong to this world. In all the same ways that the fog-shrouded trees belong to this world. You may come someday to feel trapped in asphalt and concrete, but you are not trapped. When you are restless or lonely or afraid, go for a walk in the park or a hike in the woods. Plant a little garden, if only in pots on the sidewalk. Being in the wild world will make you feel better. Get your hands dirty. I promise you will feel better.
And merely by falling in love with the world, you will begin to make it better. Human beings will work to their dying breath to save something they love. Fall in love with the wild world, and you are taking the first step toward saving it.
The world is beautiful. People are good.--Margaret Renkl, New York Times
Good morning from American Camp, San Juan Island National Historical Park, where we've now been in residence for two weeks. Melanie and I are truly fortunate that the National Park Service has, in exchange for our volunteer services, provided us with a great spot to camp with a spectacular view of the Salish Sea and Olympic Mountain Range to our west.
So much has happened in our two weeks here that it's a bit difficult to know where to start.
We officially opened American Camp visitors' center on Saturday, May 13th. English Camp will officially open this coming Saturday, May 20th.
We had two more days of training for V.I.P.s the beginning of last week before we began work Saturday past. The dedication of and the depth and breadth of our park service rangers' knowledge about San Juan Island National Historical Park is humbling. There are historians, biologists, botanists, geologists, and tribal liaison between the park and Coast Salish peoples, among other specialists.
While I'm not sure how much of what was presented I've retained (I'm definitely the weak link between me and Melanie in that regard), I'm certain as our season here progresses, we'll be able to use much of the information provided us to assist park visitors in their enjoyment of this national park treasure.
The Pig War and an emphasis on the value of negotiation over war in resolving conflict is the reason the park was established in 1966, but our Superintendent, Elexis (Lex) Fredy, was clear in sharing with us volunteers that the indigenous peoples -- the Coast Salish tribes -- are an integral part of the park's and the island's history. The new visitor's center at American Camp contains thoughtful exhibits to this end.
At English Camp, a Reefnet Captain Pole and two Salmon Story Boards are there to remind visitors that indigenous people lived on the land for centuries before the English set up camp there. The Captain Pole was carved by Temosen Charles Elliott, Tsartlip, and the Story Boards by Jewell Praying Wolf James, Lummi.
Our volunteer days have been divided thus far between the American Camp visitors center and a wildlife viewing station we will set up on Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week. The brainchild of Ranger Allison Herkey, the viewing station allows visitors to view wildlife in the park at a proper distance and, if visitors own an iPhone, connect via hotspot to make images and movies in real time as keepsakes. On days the viewing station is not set up we'll rove the park trails for half of each work day, interacting with visitors as interpretive rangers.
I'm so, so grateful for the National Park Service. San Juan Island National Historical Park commemorates "Peace Over War" in the telling of the peaceful resolution of the "crisis" around the establishment of the final boundary between the U. S. and Canada. The so called "Pig War" is remembered and is held out as a splendid example of successful diplomacy. However, the true heart of this Park is its interpretation of the indigenous peoples who inhabited this land since time immemorial, and the stunning and diverse flora and fauna of the land and sea found in this Eden.
The new Visitors' Center at American Camp is but two years old, and it is thoughtfully curated in collaboration with leadership from the various Coast Salish peoples. In fact, you could fairly say that it is indigenous-centric.
My love affair with the National Park Service began in my youth when I first visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When I started working and traveling for Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Steven and I began visiting the National Parks in earnest, and I firmly believe that the Park system is one of the few ways our federal government effectively demonstrates its love for the American people and her resources. In 2019, we had the life-changing opportunity to be at Fort Monroe National Historical Park for the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship landing at Point Comfort, and I wrote a short love note about the experience HERE.
The image above captures a gesture of welcome which I have experienced first hand at a gathering of the Swinomish over near what we call LaConner, WA last month. I was thrilled to find the raised hands of gratitude and honor as one of the first things visitors to American Camp see -- signaling to all who come in that this is a National Park which celebrates all the lives which have been nurtured here, have thrived here, and still have connection to this holy paradise.
Our work this summer will include supporting the rangers who are protecting the endangered Island Marble Butterfly, educating visitors about the rare prairie at American Camp and the animals who call it home, and, of course, more broadly helping a new generation of visitors to fall in love with the National Park Service and its mission.
Greetings from San Juan Island National Historical Park. We've been located in American Camp since traveling over from Anacortes, Washington to Friday Harbor, Washington via ferry on the 2nd.
Arriving early afternoon, we spent most to the rest of the day setting up camp in a more permanent fashion than we would normally.
I purchased wheel covers for the sprinter and a bike cover for our electric assist bikes anticipating we'd want easier access to the bikes than storing them in our KOMO carrier gives us.
Ranger Jeff gave me the code to the tool storage shed and I was able to rake and clean up debris from both our campsite, our neighbors' site (they'd not yet arrived) and our driveway. We even swept the porch of the rearing lab for the endangered Island Marble Butterfly that sits adjacent to our campsite.
Afterwards, Melanie and I enjoyed an adult beverage and our view of the Salish Sea and the Olympic Mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I believe we're going to like our five months here.
On the 3rd Melanie walked down to nearby Grandma's Cove to check it out while I continued to set up camp. She came back excited at having had a seal sighting and brought a shell and a piece of sea glass for our table.
We then got on the bikes and headed north along the west coast of the island. Taking False Bay Drive we took our time stopping along the way to take in the views of the Salish Sea and wild flowers.
We stopped briefly at Westside Preserve and spoke with a woman from Bellingham whose daughter was visiting from North Carolina. They were watching seals.
We then stopped briefly at Lime Kiln Point State Park for a restroom break. Our friend, Nancy Crowell, took us to Lime Kiln when we visited the island with her a few weeks back. That time we hiked down to the lighthouse located there and she told us the park was a great spot for Orcas sightings.
Continuing on the Westside Road we rode past San Juan County Park eventually connecting with West Valley Road. From there we rode past San Juan National Historical Park (English Camp) where we will be volunteering one day a week and then on into Roche Harbor where we had lunch on the pier.
After lunch we stopped briefly at San Juan Islands Sculpture Park Nature Reserve then we chose the shortest route back to American Camp (15 miles) and proceeded with our ride back home enjoying another nice spring Pacific Northwest evening. Our total ride for the day was 36 miles.
Yesterday morning Melanie wanted to show me Grandma's Cove so we hiked over to the Visitor's Center at American Camp and just past it to the trail head. The trail is a half mile out and back and moderate. We saw seals, an otter and met a few local folks along the way, The wild flowers are nice and we located a spot for future sunset views this summer.
We then got on our bikes and rode on Cattle Point Road south towards the Cattle Point Lighthouse, stopping along the way for a great view of the prairie where we spotted a few foxes meandering.
Stopping at the trailhead of the lighthouse, we walked in towards it immediately spotting a fox who appeared to be on the hunt for something. We met a nice couple from Ann Arbor, Michigan and talked to them briefly then made our way on to the lighthouse where a bald eagle was perched on the top of it.
We then cycled into Friday Harbor for lunch, picked up a few grocery items we needed and cycled back to camp. Temperatures were dropping as we approached camp so we secured things outside in anticipation of a rainy day today and moved inside for the evening.
Today's been mostly a rest day as rain moved into the area after midnight and has been pretty steady throughout the morning and afternoon.
We had our monthly phone call with family back east in Kentucky, something to which we always look forward. It's a good day for a bit of journaling and down time.
We are eager to have a few more days to explore before we engage in more work training the first of next week. We begin our volunteer duties on the 15th.
So much gratitude comes with us to this place. Our dear Nancy Crowell sent us the job listing for our VIP position back in March, and if she had not thought of us, and acted swiftly, we would not even be here. As a nature photographer, Nancy's love for this place and its creatures is all the endorsement we needed to leap with trust towards this new opportunity. She has generously shared her deep knowledge of the plants and animals of the Pacific Northwest with us -- even drove us out here for a little sneak peek a few weeks ago -- introducing us to the foxes, rabbits and bald eagles which are now our nearest neighbors. Her friendship is grace to us. It will probably take me some time before I stop thinking about her every single time I locate a red fox with the binoculars, wanting to share the moment with her and wishing I had her talent with a camera. I'm just lucky enough to be married to a very talented photographer of my own. I hope that by the end of the summer, I won't need her beside me to name the blooming things that dot the landscape. (Nancy is also a master gardener, and a patient teacher!) I'm also quite grateful that she and her husband, Michael, are just across the Sound in La Conner, WA, so we can work in some visits over the summer, perhaps even a kayak adventure to see the resident orcas.
The morning of the 23rd of last month (March), our friend, Nancy who resides in La Conner, Washington sent Steven a Facebook Messenger message with a link to a Facebook posting that was recruiting for a volunteer couple for San Juan Island National Historical Park.
Your intrepid wandering couple, sipping their morning brew in the back of Miranda, pondered the offer for a few minutes, talked about postponing their much anticipated summer adventure to Alaska for at least another year, and agreed the offer might just be a great way to spend five months assisting the National Park Service, exploring a part of the country they love, and spending more time with those they love in the PNW.
So we each got online, filled out the required application, and sent them on their way. Neither of us expected to hear back from the Park Service. I mean it was March, only two months before the starting time for the positions in May. We chatted about what it would be like to live on an Island, San Juan Island in Puget Sound, exploring the nearby islands too.
Fifteen minutes after both applications were sent, Steven's cell phone rang. It was Ranger Jeff inquiring if we were serious about taking the position and could we be available the next day for a Microsoft Teams' interview. Yes and yes.
To say we were joyful about the then real possibility of getting the positions is an understatement. We were preparing to go out for the day on a bike ride to the California coast when the call came and for most of the remainder of the day we talked intermittently about the "what ifs" should Ranger Jeff tell us we were chosen.
The next day we spoke with Jeff, and yada yada yada, we got the job!
We've already made our reservations for both the ferry ride across from Anacortes, Washington to Friday Harbor on May 2nd and reserved time at La Conner Marina and RV Park for a few weeks prior.
Currently we're on the Oregon coast working our way north. It's still cool and rainy along the Pacific Coast and looks to remain that way for a bit yet. We'll have stops along the way at a few favorite places of ours, a stop in Oregon wine country and a maintenance stop in Salem, Oregon for Sprinter service before we arrive in La Conner the middle of April.
We've decided this will be the start of some regular journaling, not just by Steven. We hope our combined efforts will be informative and engaging. Watch this space.
Good afternoon from our free campsite in Borrego Springs, California on Avenue Nordeste off Christmas Circle. We'll be parked here for three days before heading over the mountains to Escondido, California and Dixon Lake Campground.
If you've been following us around the country for the past 4+ years, you know part of what's happening is we chase favorable weather conditions. In winter that means finding warmer places hopefully above freezing, but preferably mild with little rain too.
For many who travel like us, Florida is the place to be in winter. Florida doesn't interest us because there are so many more interesting places (at least in our humble opinions) to spend winter. We both know Florida because we grew up vacationing there.
While familiarity allegedly breeds contempt, where Florida's concerned that may understate our current feelings for the state in which we're currently domiciled. Apparently, we jumped out of the Alabama frying pan into the Florida fire.
Come December after catching up with friends and family in Georgia and Alabama and Tennessee, we begin drifting west. By the time we reach west Texas, generally speaking, warmer temps have found us and from there until we reach California the weather in past years has been most agreeable. Sure there are days when it's cool and the nights are cool, especially in high desert places (above 4,000 feet), but moderate temps have been the rule.
Not this year. This year there have been very few days that couldn't be defined as winter days. From San Antonio, Texas to our present location in Borrego Springs, California, we've had winter. Snow, sleet, rain, and high winds. Wind out west is usual, but we've experienced a few travel days when wind was nearly a problem.
A few days back we left Faywood, New Mexico headed west into Arizona. While we had breakfast in Silver City, New Mexico the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning affecting the path I'd chosen to travel through to arrive in Safford, Arizona.
We quickly pivoted south and were met with sustained winds of 35-40 miles an hour with gusts much higher than that. We've never seen so many tumbleweeds coming out of the surrounding desert crossing our path or crashing into the van.
We were mostly fine until we had to change direction and move in a northwesterly direction. The Mercedes Sprinter stabilization system quickly shut down and suggested I travel to a shop. After a while we hit rain which turned to sleet and then snow. It was beautiful to see the surrounding high desert covered in snow, but also a bit concerning.
The storm front passed us as we neared our Bureau of Land Management campsite for the night, but we decided to keep going because of continued high winds and we were uncertain about our chosen location in the very wet and cold desert.
The next day we woke to light snow in Globe, Arizona where we'd stayed for the night, but that quickly gave way to pleasant weather as we left the mountains and traveled into Phoenix where we had breakfast and ran a few errands, including having Miranda washed at a Blue Beacon truck wash, before heading farther west.
Most everyone we've spoken with about the weather agree it has been much cooler and wet in the southwest this winter. While I may sound like I'm complaining a bit about winter weather, I'm not. We could have moved farther south in some cases and been warmer, but we chose to explore places we'd not seen before and linger in places we knew would be cooler.
We'll be in San Diego the first of March and as I look at the forecast we should have highs in the 60's and low's in the 40's, a nice change for sure.
I mentioned in January Melanie was stepping away as executive director of Episcopal Peace Fellowship. While she's continuing to train new personnel in February to perform various jobs she performed as director and will be doing so until everyone feels comfortable, she's officially unemployed.
Yes, we're officially traveling full time and as close to on vacation as we'll get living our lives out here on the road.
What that means for us this summer is planning a trip to Alaska. We've wanted to travel there since we began full time travel, but since Melanie, while employed, had to be connected to the internet most days, we put off thinking about remote Alaska.
We'll stay south until Spring and then head north towards Oregon and Washington state. Our plan is to visit friends (really new-found family) in La Conner, Washington and stage our trip from there. Depending on weather, we may be able to head north into Canada sometime in May.
My initial thought is to head northeast towards Calgary and connect with the Alaska highway at Dawson Creek in Canada. We're excited about starting to plan the trip, but we're also pleased to be spending more time the PNW. Watch this space.
I'll leave y'all with a few iPhone shots from my walk around Borrego Springs this morning after leaving Melanie at Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church.
Drive from Salton City to Borrego Springs through Anza-Borrego State Park and ending at Christmas Circle, Borrego Springs, California
Good morning from beautiful, sunny and mild San Antonio, Texas and a happy New Year to all who happen on this, my first post of 2023. We will have been traveling full time in Miranda for 4 years on the 6th.
As many of you who have been following us around for the past 4 years know, I started keeping tabs of all our expenditures when we started living in Miranda full time. For those of you out there who may aspire to the van life, living in a van down by the river, I hope this glimpse into what our costs are this year provides an assist.
I offer this disclaimer. You may experience traveling full time differently. Variables include your means, your interests, whether you're working or retired, how often you like to move, etc. Use this as a very general guide for the related costs. Costs reflect our way of traveling. The world is, indeed, your oyster.
In 2022 we traveled 21,491 miles. If I'm feeling industrious later on, I may check to see how many states we camped in, but at this juncture, not feeling it. Suffice it to say at this point in our travels we continue to chase those ideal temps and climate from state to state, sometimes succeeding, sometimes, not so much.
[Edit: 1/9/23: We camped in 25 different states last year, spending the most time in Washington followed by Vermont. In those various states we camped in 127 unique spots.]
For example, we experienced our warmest temps to date in August 2022 in South Dakota while traveling towards a conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. Being in either of those states in summer living in a van is not advisable. The Mercedes thermometer read 109 degrees Fahrenheit moving east through South Dakota and just before Thanksgiving and then at Christmas the mercury reached lows of 20 and 16 degrees respectively in Louisville, Kentucky and Faunsdale, Alabama (of all places). Neither temperature extreme is recommended and should be avoided when possible.
We spent 26.8 % of our flexible costs budget dining out and 20.7% on groceries. We spent less in 2022 on dining out and a bit more on groceries than in 2021.
Campground fees this year were $10,380.65, an average of $865. a month. In 2021 we spent $9,980.58, a difference of $400.07 more in 2022.
Our time is divided between staying at private campgrounds like the one we're in currently in San Antonio, National Parks, State Parks, and County and City Parks. We also have the Harvest Hosts service which provides us a data base of businesses and private individuals who will allow us to stay for free for up to 5 nights. We stay on BLM land too.
Every now and again we park and sleep on a city street for a few days. That generally happens when we are visiting a friend or family. We also have a few friends with summer homes in great places that offer us refuge when we visit them.
I could, of course, get off in the weeds here and tell you precisely how the Campground category is broken down by location, but not feeling that one either this morning.
Campendium is my go to application for finding campgrounds. While the service is generally free, we support their efforts and receive a few perks for our donations.
Diesel fuel cost us $6,484.08 or an average of $540.34 a month in 2022 an increase of $1,911.69 over 2021. No mystery here.
We're glad to see prices continuing to drop, but are not anticipating any great reductions in 2023. We paid a high of $6.50 a gallon in California in 2022 and recently paid $3.94 in Texas.
We use Gas Buddy sometimes to find fuel, but generally just to give us an idea of what prices are like in the area. Prices along major highways are generally anywhere from $.20 to $1.00 more per gallon than prices sometimes only a few miles off the major highway.
Also, be aware that using Gas Buddy doesn't always mean the price you see listed is the price you'll pay. Not sure what is going on, but increasingly I've found that the price is inaccurate when I get to pump. Not always, but enough to give me pause. It's a bit frustrating especially when you've traveled a bit out of the way to get the price you believe is a substantial savings.
Mercedes scheduled maintenance cost $2,924.99. We had a B service done in the Spring and a brake job done in the Summer. The brakes were replaced at 85,000 miles.
We spent $1,774.91 on miscellaneous maintenance items such as dumping tanks, tank treatment, DEF, replacing LED lights in van (my fault), front end alignment, water filters, repair levelers (leaking), repair Island Bed (my fault), and other miscellaneous items we needed.
The holiday season and the time leading up to it were good to us in 2022.
We were able to visit our friends Chip and Pif Hicks in Louisville, Kentucky for a few (very cold) days. They welcomed us with meals and great conversation. It was very fun catching up with them.
We then traveled to Nashville, Tennessee and spent a week with our son Tate and his girlfriend, Zoe, during the Thanksgiving holiday. We parked Miranda on the street just down from their apartment, temperatures moderated, we slept in the van and had an outstanding time and are grateful for their hosting us and other extended family for Thanksgiving lunch.
We ate at a few of our favorite Nashville spots and were introduced to a new bakery.
Birmingham, Alabama was fun. We camped in Wade and Jennifer Anderson's driveway again for an extended period of time and, as always, are most grateful for their kind and generous hospitality.
Brooks Adams and his wife, Carol, invited us to have a beer at Birmingham District Brewing and talk about our travels. We each put up an invitation to come to the brewery and about 10 folks showed up. It was great to see Keith and Beth Johns, Wade Anderson, Tim and Carla Hamilton, who also have (two) vans, Lee Beyer, and Michelle and Rod Reisner.
I came down with the seasonal crud a few days later and was sick for about a week. Two COVID tests (because that's what you do) were both negative.
Our great friends (extended family) Keith and Beth hosted us at their home for an evening of catching up and then we met them downtown Birmingham for lunch at Tasty Town.
While we didn't get in any bike rides while in Birmingham, there were some good walks taken downtown and in Mountain Brook.
We left Birmingham for Columbus, Georgia where our friends Teresa and Trip were gracious enough to host us for a couple of days.
We had lunch in downtown Columbus, Georgia at Agave with our friends Mike Venable, Jill Tigner, and Marquette and Rick McKnight. Teresa and Trip joined us too.
Michael and Allison Owen treated us to a great dinner and we had fun meeting Katy, their new-to-them beagle.
Leaving Columbus we headed towards Melanie's hometown growing up, Faunsdale, Alabama where we had Christmas at Merkle Manor with her father and friend, Janie Stockman. Melanie cooked for us and we withstood the brutal cold for a few days. Great spending time with those folks again.
Finally, we begin our 5th year with a bit of news. Melanie has decided to step away from her position as Executive Director of Episcopal Peace Fellowship. The last day of this month will be her last day as director.
She's planning on taking a sabbatical with no definite plans at this time to return to work.
We've enjoyed touring the country in support of all the social justice issues EPF supports and are grateful for all the new friends we made along the way. We look forward to catching up with many of them as we continue our travels.
With Melanie no longer needing to be connected for work, we're freed up to spend more time off grid. And, since we'll be in the Southwest for winter, we'll have plenty of remote spots to choose from as BLM lands are plentiful.
We look forward to another great year on the road. Cheers, y'all.
Good morning from Tate City, Georgia where Melanie and I have been "camped" since November 2nd. We're currently staying at the home of our friends, Teresa and Trip, located at the headwaters of the Tallulah River. We'll be here through the end of this week.
We've been very fortunate indeed to be able to come to Tate City each Fall since we began traveling to catch up with our long-time friends. Our friend, John, has been living here on the property for three years and does a really nice job making sure all things are as they should be.
John and I have been walking the Tate City Road which dead ends into the Southern Nantahala Wilderness about 3.5 miles north each day, with one exception, since our arrival. The 7 miles round trip from our location makes for a nice time to catch up. 42 miles and counting as of today.
There's no underestimating the value of being able to spend an extended amount of time catching up those who are essentially close extended family. We have a very similar situation developing in Vermont with our friend Diana who has recently purchased a home near Burlington. And we experience the same in Birmingham at our friends, Wade and Jen's home this time of year.
Looks as though this time through other of our friends will make the pilgrimage to Tate City and we'll be able to visit with John's friend, Cate, from Asheville, Wade's coming in from Birmingham, and Steve and Beth from Columbus. As John put it this morning, "Big weekend coming up!
I camped with the Heermans in Essex Junction, Vermont early in October and Melanie came back through and spent time with them again just before we left Vermont. We're always grateful for our spot in front of their barn, for the great meals, campfires in their backyard, and for our developing friendship. We look forward to seeing them each year.
Bonus this year was time with Gabby and Ben, the Heermans' children. Ben was home on holiday from Botswana where he consults local farming communities on how to better coexist with the wildlife found there.
And after spending an additional weekend at our friend, Diana's new spot, we headed south and east, first to Plattekill, New York, then Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.
While camped in Duncansville, Pennsylvania, we spent an afternoon riding a very nice Rail Trail out of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania over to Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. The Buffalo Valley Rail Trail is a great ride through rural Amish Pennsylvania with a bonus brewery located at the end of the trail in Mifflinburg a real plus.
After Duncansville, Pennsylvania we spent a few days with friends, Rebecca and IB, in Morgantown, West Virginia. Great meals and good times catching up with them.
We rode the Deckers Creek Trail from the Masontown, WV trailhead to the Monongahela River in Morgantown where lunch was had at Mountain State Brewing something we'd done two years before. Rebecca got to test drive a pull behind for her cats she'd designed for Lyra Cat.
We were in Milton, West Virginia outside Charleston, West Virginia for a few days, then Staffordsville, Kentucky at a very nice Kentucky State Park, Paintsville Lake State Park.
We rode a portion of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail starting at Jenny's Creek Trail head and traveling to Gun Creek Tunnel and back while at Paintsville Lake.
We spent a couple of days in Big Stone Gap, Virginia at Jessie Lea RV Park and Campground and had a great spot overlooking the river. There is a town trail that runs in a loop from the campground into downtown Big Stone Gap. We rode into town and had lunch on a Saturday and I was able to get my flu shot and COVID booster at the Walgreens.
Asheville, North Carolina was our next stop where we were able to meet up with John and Cate for dinners out a few nights. We also caught up with Kathy and John at their home in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
Get out and vote, if you haven't already.
We arrived in Saint Johnsbury this morning after traveling back to Lake Willoughby (we did a short day trip a few days back) via Vermont 5A. The leaves appear to be peaking around the lake and we lucked out this time through and had a nice cloud cover the filter the light a bit, making the leaf color pop a bit.
We'll be in Saints Johnsbury a few days before moving a bit farther south to Brattleboro, Vermont for the remainder of the holiday weekend. We lucked out and got the last spot at Moose River Campground. The people in our spot, who were seasonal, decided to leave early. The campground isn't full now, but campers have been trickling in for the few hours we've been here.
The Indigenous Peoples' Day holiday slipped up on me and a few campgrounds were already booked when I began making reservations a few days back.
After Melanie's event in Ithaca, NY, we spent a few days late September in Lake George, New York where our campground, Whippoorwill Motel and Campsites, was largely empty.
We rode our bikes into Lake George on the Warren County Bikeway and had lunch one day. The trail runs just behind Whippoorwill campsites.
We've been in Vermont since the 28th of September. We'll be here until around the 16th of October. Our love for most things Vermont has only grown this time through. And the weather has mostly cooperated with seasonal temps and little rain to thwart our adventures.
Watching the leaves turn has been a treat.
We camped on the banks of Otter Creek at Rivers Bend Campground north of Middlebury, Vermont for a few days and rode our bikes into Middlebury one day to explore. I purchased Bill McKibben's new book, The Flag, The Cross, and the Station Wagon, had lunch and a beer at a local watering hole. Middlebury is nice college town.
We traveled to Burlington, Vermont from there and Melanie and I parted ways for a few days while she retreated with girlfriends, Diana and Connie, at Diana's new place in Milton, Vermont. I spent my time camped in from of our friends the Heermans barn in Essex Junction.
We both saw Dr. Cornel West speak at the Flynn Theater on a Saturday evening, Melanie with Connie and Diana, me with the Heermans.
I managed to get in a few nice bike rides into downtown Burlington which has gotten a bit easier since our last visit. I rode portions of the Island Line Rail Trail on a couple of different days.
I picked Melanie up on a Monday and we spent the night in Diana's driveway in Milton before traveling to one of our favorite spots, Newport, Vermont. We spent three really glorious days enjoying the Fall weather and riding the Beebe Spur Rail Trail which runs south through the campground and into downtown Newport.
The trail runs north to very near the Canadian border. A short road ride from there gets you to the border. The road is very lightly traveled and scenic.
Melanie and I rode to the border yesterday and, because she doesn't have a current passport, I passed through Customs without her and rode another portion of the trail, the Sentier Nature Tomifobia. It's one of the nicest rides I've made in a while.
I took my Nikon along, which is somewhat rare these days, and made numerous photographs along the ride going out and coming back.
When I downloaded my photos from this morning along Lake Willoughby to my computer after we arrived in Saint Johnsbury, I discovered in my haste I didn't remember I'd not downloaded the Tomifobia photos from yesterday and, that's right, I formatted the memory card and the ride is now just a pleasant memory without images. Damn shame. No, really.
The Past Week Plus A Few Days
Steven and Melanie