Good morning from just outside Asheville, North Carolina where we are currently staying with my long-time friend, Ginny, a high school classmate of mine, and her husband, Bill at their wonderful home. Miranda has a great spot in their driveway and Ginny and Bill have graciously allowed us to stay in their "free" B&B for a few days. See Also: Peaceful Hollow, Asheville destination weddings and John and Jill Elopement
Because Melanie and I are approaching 6 months on the road, I figure now is as good a time as any to begin to commence to start a recap of the pros and cons of full-time traveling. I mentioned the idea to Melanie a few days ago and, initially off the top of our heads, we were having a difficult time coming up with the cons.
My first thought was doing laundry on the road. But I decided having to do laundry in a campground laundromat or finding one in any given town we may be passing through, seems like only a minor inconvenience, not really a truly negative experience. And we do laundry now about every other week, so really, not much of a negative. Then there's the people who populate laundromats and the sometimes interesting exchanges I have with them.
So, trying to discern the cons aside for the moment, I'll begin with, at least for me, what is maybe "the" most positive aspect of full-time travel, that being all the great people we get to meet and/or reconnect with along the way.
Maybe there's never been a better example of how just showing up and being willing to have an experience is about 95% of task at hand. The rest, pretty much pure grace. When the experts try to tell you it's not about all the cool stuff you can buy with your discretionary income and you might want to consider purchasing experiences, pay attention.
While our itinerary for travel changed radically when Melanie took the position as Executive Director of EPF, after traveling to mostly cities in support of EPF for nearly 6 months now, the richness of that experience far outweighs all the ideas I had about mostly camping in Miranda in remote wilderness spots and other exotic locations.
Of course, there's plenty of time in between for a fair amount of beautiful, and sometimes remote, spots along the way and, I'm sure, many more down the road.
But the point is I've found the connections with all kinds of interesting people, both associated with Melanie's work and the everyday connections with people we meet along the way, to be the dark chocolate filling in the truffle that makes traveling full-time more than worth the price of admission. Sorry, when in Asheville, The Chocolate Fetish. Jus' sayin'.
We are both grateful for folks along the way who've allowed us to stay in their driveways, their homes or even their B&B for a night or two. Because I enjoy preparing a good meal for friends, I'm grateful for the use of friends', both old and new, kitchens, for the great, often engaging and interesting conversations had after a meal sometimes over a libation, and sometimes staying up later than usual on a "school night."
I certainly should thank Leisure Travel Vans and Komo Creations (not a paid spokesperson) for the great eye-catching design of our Unity IB van and our bike storage chest respectively. Almost daily when we're actively traveling someone will approach us and ask about the van or storage chest which often leads to questions about our travel which, at least in one instance, led to staying overnight at a nice Vineyard in Texas, preparing dinner for their friends and family, and making new friends.
Human connection, one of the big pros of full-time travel.
Boone, Denver, Blue Ridge Parkway, Hendersonville, Asheville
Good afternoon from beautiful downtown Brevard, North Carolina where we are in the parking lot of a local park near the library. Melanie and I have been camped just out of town for a few days enjoying much appreciated cool the mountains have to offer us. Not rubbing it in too much, it was 58 degrees F. this morning when we awoke. 😎
After leaving Tate City, Georgia last week, we briefly traveled south to get our Onan generator serviced in Gainesville, Georgia before traveling to Long Creek, South Carolina to a Harvest Host location, Chattooga Belle Farm. We spent a quiet and cool night on Horseshoe Lake on the farm after enjoying a good lunch at their Bistro.
Using another of our services, Boondockers Welcome, we traveled to Sunset, South Carolina for the evening and spent the night on a nice family farm with a vineyard and great pond in which we were graciously allowed to swim. The highlight of our secluded campsite was in being able to use our outside shower for an actual shower instead of just washing off my feet with it.
Then it was on to Brevard where we spent our first night on the North Fork of the French Broad River. There have been few times in the past five months we've both agreed that one night might be too many nights, but this was one of them. The hostess was really nice and helpful, but the campground itself, not so much. So we moved on the next day to our present location on the Davidson River at a National Forest Campground, Davidson River Campground.
We're headed towards Winston-Salem, North Carolina tomorrow and then, sometime after that, on to Asheville, North Carolina.
Nashville, Florence, Birmingham, Montgomery, Faunsdale, Green Cove Springs, St. Augustine, Tate City, Georgia (and points in between)
Good morning from Tate City, Georgia where we've been avoiding the heat and catching up with our good friends, Trip and John, since last Friday evening.
It's been a while since I've posted mainly due to a busier-than-usual travel schedule and, being back east in our home territory lends itself to catching up with friends and family, not necessarily writing and documenting. We've also had some maintenance type items to take care of during this time.
Our son, Tate, graduated from Vanderbilt on May 10. It was a wonderful time of celebration, meeting new friends and catching up with family who'd been absent for too long. We experienced the last moving out day at Vandy on the 11th, a few great dinners were had in Nashville and then back to Birmingham to retrieve furnishings out of storage for Tate to set up housekeeping back in Nashville. Tate is now pretty much settled into his new apartment. He'll start work as a Civil Engineer I on June 3rd.
Leaving Nashville after graduation festivities and on our way to Birmingham, we traveled to Florence, Alabama and spent the night with our friends, Robyn and Hank Sherrod. Always nice to see and visit with them and we're especially grateful for a great dinner out at Odette and being able to catch up on our laundry.
It was nice to visit Birmingham and catch up our friends and eat in a few of our favorite restaurants. Special note goes to our friends the Nolans and the Andersons who were very gracious in allowing us to, among other things, park Miranda in their driveways for periods of time.
On Sunday the 19th we were in Montgomery to attend March for Reproductive Freedom at the state capitol. The next day we traveled to Faunsdale, Alabama and spent the day with Melanie's dad. We then made our way into Florida to register Miranda and change our domicile to Green Cove Springs, Florida. We stayed in our first Florida State Park, Suwannee River State Park and spend a couple of days in St. Augustine too.
We experienced enough hot weather in Florida to know Miranda needs to be in a cooler climate when possible. Our trip to Florida was productive, even if it was too damn hot. And also discovered traveling 500 miles in one day when the temps are too hot is something to avoid. While we were scheduled to stop in Athens, Georgia for the night on our way out of Florida and before making our way to Tate City, Georgia, temperatures in the mid 90's in Athens upon our arrival there made the decision to press on to the cooler temperatures of the north Georgia mountains a no brainer.
We're in Tate City until tomorrow morning, then briefly south to Gainesville, Georgia to have the oil in Miranda's generator changed for the first time, then we head back north again chasing cooler temperatures staying in Long Creek, South Carolina at Chattooga Belle Farm and Distillery Thursday evening.
Our week here in Tate City has been great especially after the above average number of travel days we experienced over the last few weeks. We are grateful for the hospitality shown to us and the great times we've had with Trip and John. Long-time friends are indeed the best friends to have. They will be missed until the next time around.
Good afternoon, from Perry, Oklahoma and Perry Lake Campground, a pretty nice city-operated full-hookup campsite overlooking Perry Lake. Oklahoma is our 14th state since acquiring Miranda in late October of 2018. Perry Lake is just off I-35. We're headed south at the moment as we have obligations in the direction of Little Rock, Arkansas, Memphis, Tennessee and ultimately (short-term) Nashville for our son, Tate's, graduation from Vanderbilt University.
We are traveling a few hundred miles each day. Not something we have done, at least not on a daily basis, since we began traveling some four months ago.
We're coming off a very sobering experience in Denver the last week or so. The massacre of 12 at Columbine High School happened 20 years ago on April 20, 1999. Melanie participated in a number of gun violence related events culminating in several memorial services at various locations around the Denver area.
I wish I could assure you that the citizens of Littleton, Colorado where Columbine High is located, had their consciousness raised the day the massacre happened. I wish I could tell you they are all advocates for reasonable and sensible gun laws that would assist in preventing future mass shootings. I wish. Unfortunately, what they have done is harden Columbine High School making it a prison-like fortress. What they do is spend millions on security for the school system hoping to prevent another massacre.
We are both still processing all that happened. Melanie's taking a little down time after her busy schedule of events last week as we travel east.
Good afternoon from near Littleton, Colorado where we are located in Chatfield State Park. Chatfield is our third Colorado State Park in the past week or so and is another beauty. We're here for a few days before moving on to nearer downtown Denver for EPF meetings Melanie has this coming weekend.
Those who know me well, know one of my favorite genres of photography is photojournalism. The appeal, in part, is being there, having an opportunity to immerse myself in an event, attempting to see, through the lens, what's happening and to capture for others through images the moments I experience. Couple that with my love of portrait photography and sometimes magic happens.
Such was the case when I took some time to find out what was going on in Civic Center Park downtown Denver on April 20. After our obligatory trip to Voodoo Donuts for decadent breakfast, we made our way downtown, first coming across some protesters in front of Colorado's beautiful state capital. Nice folks out to make a statement on a sunny April day, just as several thousand folks were doing only a block away in Civic Center Park.
As you may expect, Denver's 420 celebration of ganja, weed, pot, marijuana, or whatever you call the green stuff of sweet dreams, was all about peace, love and the art of being high, some of the participants being very, very high. But you can judge that one for yourself. I'm only providing photo evidence for what, for me, was about as eclectic an experience of humans having fun and being themselves I've seen in some time.
April 20 marked 20 years since the 12 students and a faculty member were killed at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Melanie and I attended a memorial service in Clement Park.
Two things. I remembered little about the details surrounding the mass shooting that took place at Columbine High School 20 years ago and I knew nothing about Littleton, Colorado.
As the time drew near to begin the service, I remarked to Melanie that the crowd was..., how shall I put this..., white. Very Caucasian. This came in stark contrast to many, many places we've been on our travels thus far. And because the whiteness of it all caused such a visceral reaction in me, I thought it prudent before I wrote a single word, to do some research into Littleton and into the details of the Columbine massacre.
Littleton is indeed a very white suburb of Denver. They are 93% white. So, for comparison, using familiar territory, not quite as white as Mountain Brook, Alabama, but close. The median income is $67,133.00, or working class compared with Mountain Brook. Their population of just over 45,000 is more than double that of Mountain Brook.
The memorial service was, in essence, a pep rally. It's been twenty years, we're still standing, we feel stronger, healing is on going, but Columbine, hell, yeah.
While we were there, no one mentioned the "g" word. Not once, not in passing, not at all. The word "gun" was not uttered. Not by the preacher from the local mega-church, not the principal, nor the former principal at the time, now the superintendent of schools, and not the current student body president. I remembered, "Guns don't kill people..."
No one talked about the epidemic of gun violence in the U.S. since Columbine and what may need to happen to stop it. Nothing to see here, we're doing okay. Columbine, hell, yeah. Nice place to raise a family too.
So, how have they succeeded in making Columbine safer? By investing 3.5 million dollars a year in security for the school district. This includes a staff of 127 people.
In a nation always awaiting the news of another school shooting, no community may be braced for that threat quite like the one surrounding Columbine High, a place forever defined by the 1999 attack that killed 13 people, wounded 24 more and ushered in an Internet-fueled era of mass violence. Twenty years later — the anniversary of the shooting is April 20 — Columbine is constantly invoked as the first name in the ever-growing list of campuses turned into crime scenes. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Santa Fe — each addition a reminder that this could happen anywhere, any time. Almost as if it were impossible to stop.
But all the while, Columbine has been figuring out how to do just that.
Here in the Denver suburbs, the district has built what is likely the most sophisticated school security system in the country: installing locks that can be remotely controlled and cameras that track suspicious people; setting up a 24-hour dispatch center and a team of armed patrol officers; monitoring troubled students and their social media; getting training from world-renowned psychologists and former SWAT commanders; researching and investing, practicing and re-practicing, all to ensure that when the next significant threat comes, it is stopped before the worst happens again.
And to be fair, the crowd was not really an all white crowd. I fibbed a bit on that. There was one person of color, a man who many in the crowd felt very strongly about and rose to give him a standing ovation when he came up on stage. He then proceeded to lead us all in a cheer, a long and raucous cheer. Columbine, hell yeah.
Least we forget the real import here. We all continue to live in a murder lottery. Every day.
Petroglyph National Monument just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Boca Negra Canyon
Good morning from Santa Fe, New Mexico and greetings from Los Sueños de Santa Fe RV Park and Campground. Nothing too special at this RV park except location. The Santa Fe Rail-Trail is just out our back gate and leads to downtown Santa Fe about seven miles away.
Melanie and I have ridden our bikes into town several times since our arrival from Albuquerque, New Mexico on Monday where we spent last week. We stopped our bikes just a few blocks off the trail at Iconik Coffee Roasters and then rode on into downtown the first day, stopping off at REI to replace a worn backpack of Melanie's.
March 6th marks our third month on the road. We have been living full-time in Miranda for five months. With few exceptions, the experience has been far better than I imagined it. Melanie is settling into her role as Executive Director of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and I'm becoming more comfortable in my roles as logistics and navigator person on the fly.
We continue to meet interesting people along the way, especially, thanks to Melanie's contacts with people in various Episcopal parishes interested in and wanting to participate in what EPF is about. We're also finding most people who travel this way are kind and willing to talk and share their experiences. And, of course, we have enjoyed talking to the locals as we are out and about.
Since neither of us had traveled in an RV before, our planning necessarily depended somewhat on what we could glean from those who were out there doing it before us. We crafted a budget based on research I did obtained from published numbers of people who had been out here living on the road and had blogs offering help and advice.
We have held pretty fast to our rule about traveling no more than two hundred miles in a day and staying no less than two days in a place. That way we don't wear ourselves out driving all the time. There have been exceptions, mostly due to arriving at a location and knowing almost immediately there's no reason to stay for more than one night. We laugh now, for example, about Van Horn, Texas, but it wasn't funny then. I wasn't well and neither of us liked the place I chose for us to stay. Luckily, we'd just come off an extraordinary experience at Big Bend National Park.
We cook less than I imagined we would. That's still an evolving process, but the Leisure Travel Van kitchen is small and a two burner cook stove is not as conducive to the kind of cooking I enjoyed in Birmingham. We have generally bought prepared meats and entrees and supplemented those with fresh fruits and vegetables. We love a good Costco chicken and some of their prepared soups and chili and lasagna works well too. I'm still adjusting to the Microwave/Convection Oven in the LTV too. The microwave and oven work well, but the times for various items is still a learning curve.
Maybe because we cook less, we tend to also eat out more than I believed we would. I'm not sure why I thought eating out would not be the case since trying new places to dine and sharing a meal together in a great place is one of the pleasures Melanie and I have always enjoyed.
Our fuel bill for the RV (diesel and propane) has been slightly higher than I budgeted. The LTV gets great gas mileage (averaging between 15-18 mpg). The higher fuel figure is mainly due to our using more propane than I believed we'd need due to a winter season that was, apparently by all information we could gather, colder than normal in most places to which we traveled. It's chilly (47 degrees F) here in Santa Fe today (April 11), but we're cozy inside Miranda.
Chasing the right weather is a thing with RV travel, not too hot, not too cold. The vehicle is essentially for use in three seasons and winter isn't one of those seasons. The lowest temperature we experienced was at El Morro National Monument Campground. There were snow flurries, the temperature went down to around 20 degrees and we were dry camping (no hookups) too. Though we made it through the night with no damage to Miranda, I didn't sleep too well waking to check the battery level (running the furnace using battery power and keeping a sixty watt bulb in the shop light I located in a bay burning). The bay contains the fresh water fill and an outside shower and is the low point for the fresh water so freezing isn't allowed.
We have come in under budget on campground fees. Since I'm an old guy and have a National Parks Senior pass, we both get into the parks for no charge and campground fees are half price. There have been free nights with friends (thanks EPF folks) along the way too. While we haven't sought out free camping spots (like Bureau of Land Management spots) as much as I believed we might, and there's a plethora of them our here in the west, we've still managed to spend less than I thought we would. Part of the reason we are staying in campgrounds more often is connectivity. Because of Melanie's work, most of the time we need internet access. For us that means having cell service for our hot spot and that translates into being located near a cell tower.
Three months on the road and Melanie and I agree the traveling life-style has much to offer. We look forward many days to exploring our new environs (travel days are especially exciting), just hanging out around camp and meeting new people along the way. We've really enjoyed the National Parks and National Monuments we've visited and some of our favorite camping spots are run by the Army Corp of Engineers.
We pretty much have down the everyday running of our new household too. While we have a check list, a must before moving Miranda, we also know the "jobs" each of us needs to do each time we set up or take down. Operating Miranda has become the proverbial well oiled machine.
Finally, we really like Miranda (our Leisure Travel Van). She has performed as promised with very few (really) minor problems along the way. It's comfortable for the two of us, easy to set up and take down and easy to drive. We can easily find parking in most places we take her so that's rarely ever a consideration. In short, we're quite happy to be out here on the road.
And Santa Fe..., yes.
Good afternoon from just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. We're here for a week before traveling on north to Santa Fe.
After leaving Winslow, Arizona and Homolovi State Park, we traveled through Navajo Indian Reservation to the Cottonwood Campground and a visit to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The drive through Navajo lands was beautiful and, as you may imagine, a bit disconcerting. Many of the roadways within the reservation are in need of repairs and, while there are signs asking people not to litter, litter abounds. No photos of the litter, no photos of the apparent poverty, you'll have to trust me on that.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument