Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas without Snow?

Mary and I finally took a day trip. It has been awhile as we have been around the stick building since returing from our maiden voyage in July.
We traveled to McAdenville North Carolina which is just west of Charlotte. Our destnation was Christmas Town USA. It waa a great trip. We left the 5er at home since it was a short trip. The town has something like 3 million bulbs and 500 decorated trees!
If you drive, beware it is a LONG line of cars. We entered from the I85 side of town. You can also come from the NC 74 side and the line can be equally as long. The road is a 2 mile drive into downtown McAdenville and winds past the "lake" and out through a newer development of homes. The elementary school is also decked out as the children have EVERY window facing the road decorated.
We had dinner at the Hillbilly BBQ in Lowell just the otherside of I 85 from McAdenville. They had some great prices and excdellent smoked pork with tomato / molasses sauce that is popular in western North Carolina.
Our advice is to walk Christmas Town USA, if nothing else than for the ambiance of the season.
But as good as Christmas Ton USA is, a little snow would have been nice...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Winterized and holed up

We have been doing the hibernation thing here in North Carolina. Though the temperatures have been above 50° most days and the overnight temps have stoppes at 35° or so, it hasn't really felt like winter.
Our transition to less is an ongoing operation. We have hauled nearly 8 boxes of stuff to the Western Harnett Thrift Store in Olivia, North Carolina. We will take another 5 boxes this Saturday. We thought of selling the stuff (books, knic-knacks and more books) but the chore of listing on Amazon, dealing with cheap shipping and packaging just wasn't worth the effort. And garage sales here are about as much fun as root canals.
Besides, there is a deeper cleansing to be found in donating a lifetime worth of stuff. It is a type of ultimate acceptance that the stuff is nothing more than that---stuff. Somethings you had for awhile, enjoyed them and finally set them free.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Trying to Save



Posted by Heriberto Fuentes


We’ve been trying to save money everywhere we can ever since my husband’s hours got cut and it’s harder than you’d think. We did a bunch of stuff upfront to help like selling the third car and taking the kids out of private school but you know, even things like looking into special Amigo Energy rates and bartering for things like braces for the kids (my husband is a contractor) have been helpful. I feel like we’ve reached a point though where there’s not a lot else we can do other than start giving up some of the things we really need. I know that at the end of the day my husband and I would like to have more savings in the bank and I think we’re probably going to have to start using coupons and rationing food like we’ve seen people doing on TV. It’s amazing we’ve ended up here but the construction industry just isn’t what it used to be and it’s going to be an adjustment. There’s nothing we can do!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Remember when plans actually panned out?

Has it been almost 2 months since we wrote? We do know it feels like an eternity. Sometimes we just have to be patient and listen. Since we completed out madien voyage this summer, we have been planning and dreaming. Our intitial plans were Christmas in New Orleans, a visit to the Crossroads in Clarksdale Mississippi and across to Montgomery, Alabama before coming home to North Carolina. Then our plans took an unexpected turn. Mary has been given an opportunity to work with her sister and nieces in the family real estate appraisal business. This will mean relocating BACK to Michigan this summer. When we left Michigan in 2009, it wasn't on very good terms--definately not on our terms. I am still not sure if I was more disappointed or angry about our departure. I believe Mary was shocked, but realized the economy left us with little choice. Now we are returning and I am just a bit nervous. Though we were both born and raised in Michigan, I believe we both dislike what the state has become. The poster-state for unemployment, the target for union bashing ( I am a UNION THUG), and the city no ones knows what to do with--Detroit. But we will be able to access the midwest on a regular basis. Mary wants to see South Dakota and parts west and a Michigan base will allow us the opportunity to do that next summer. We still have our hearts set on the road. Being grounded theses last few months have been difficult. With our new plan of moving back north, we have postponed many of our weekend travels here in North Carolina. But we will be on the road heading throughout Michigan and surrounding areas this summer.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Experiencing The Lion King on Broadway

While we are putting the finaL upgrades on the Dodge, Patty Clarkson has contributed a guest blog!! Thanks Patty. Guest post written by Patty Clarkson I can count the number of musicals that I've ever seen on stage on one hand, but I've loved each and every one of them. There's just something about musicals that just seem magical and I have so much time watching. So when I heard that The Lion King would be coming near me on a national tour, I knew that I would have to go and see it. I told my kids about it and they got equally excited over it and we've been looking up ticket prices and dates for it to try and figure out when we can go that will work for all of our schedules. While I was online looking up some info on what exactly I could choose for a date and how much it would cost for tickets then, I ran across some info on hearing aids. I looked through it some and after that I decided to go and get a hearing aid test done to see if I need some. I haven't gone to take the test yet but I did find some tickets that were a bit cheaper than I expected on the date that we chose to go. Now we just have to wait around for the big day!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Finding a resting spot

We will be the first to tell you, sitting round is hard work. We have all heard about the folks who work 30, or 40 years before they retire. Or the person who is released from prison after 15 or 20 years. In a way they are so very similar. Both have a lot in common.
No, they aren't criminals. We would like to think that after being incarcerated for 20 years the majority of people would not readily jump back into a life of crime. Nor would retirees look at criminal activities as a means of supplementing their income.
Rather, both groups have left one environment in which they were so very familar and entered into new and unknown world. A world that is suddenly full of unstructured time and wide open space. After years of doing what had been expected and demanded they now have choices. After serving authority, they are now faced with being the master of their own destiny, no longer seeking approval or the consent of another.
The question before these people is "What should I do now?"
We imagine there is some degree of fear involved. Such uncertainty, that it paralyzes a person. This may be the metaphor that best describes our current status.
For us, being on the road is as close as we will ever come to looking at the world from space. That feeling of awe and inspiration one gets when you realize the world is so much bigger than any fears you could ever have. That people are so insignificant, when the "diversity" is the answer to the age old question "Why am I here?"
SO while we wait out the days until 2013, we try to take in the wonder that makes life worth appreciating. We have the time to realize (again) that life is indeed more than the sum of our own existence.
This is the 10th anniversary of the taking down of the Twin Towers on 9-11. This weekend will be full of memorials to those who died, both civilians and those who fought to rescue others. Rememberance of the passengers on Flight 93 that went down in Pennsylvania before it could get to its final destination. We try not to see this as a time for mourning, but as a time of celebration. A celebration of love, dedication and honor. A time when we hold up life as a precious moment we experience in too short a period when it is measured against the infinity of time.
Someone once said that if you wanted to measure the span of anything against the concept of time, take a roll of toliet paper and have a friend hold one end and you walk as the roll is unraveled. Now look at the roll of toliet paper stretched across the ground. As you consider its length and you compare it to other objects, realize this---That time is infinately longer than that roll--that the roll would only represent a mere fraction of time as we know it. So to is the length of pour lives--compared to infinity--our exsistence isn't even a blip on the map.
So we need to get over ourselves and accept the fact we are not important enough for the world to bother with us. We need not be concerned with what others think of us, and the best we can hope for is to be content in all we do and love one another.

For all those whose dreams have ended prematurely, we remember you and honor your contributions.

The Lokomotiv ice hockey team

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What drought?

WOW...so it is R A I N I N G. Downpours for 10-20 minutes and nothing. Another hour, more rain. Reminds me of the Portland Oregon Rain Festival held every year from January 01--December 31. So this month is focused on finances. How can we generate the most money, with the least effort and time. Yeah, the American Dream huh? But we seem to be moving closer to just that situation. Remember we want to "retire," not from working, but from working for others. We know some will argue that any work is done for others, there is no such thing as truly being self-employed. But we are determined to be the masters of our own financial destiny. Mary has completed her online classes for grant writing and will be starting her real estate appraisal classes this week. She will be going to Michigan in October to start working on her required 2000 hours of training and gaining field experience. I will be ready to start the copywriting by the summer. This timeline will allow us 1 year to get our new careers off the ground. Not exactly what we were thinking when we first posed the question HOW DO YOU PAY FOR FULLTIMING? back in early 2009. Then we were looking for some enterprise we could do on the road and while staying at various campgrounds. We considered tutoring / science camps for kids and adults, building different crafts items we could sell, and we even thought about the idea of doing presentations on topics from the educational to the entertaining--a type of story telling. I guess that is why we started asking questions back in 2009. We knew we wouldn't have a pension, and were too youbg for social security (if it is still around in 2025) so we need reliable income. We have not worked out the logistics of how a real estate appraiser can be full time, but we can do that in the next 18 months. In the meantime, we are headed into new careers--now that we are both the otherside of 50--and ready to be on the road. Frighteningly exciting, isn't it? Yes --- FRIGHTENINGLY seems to be a real word

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day calm

Watching ABC's THE SIXTH SENSE when we hear a noise outside. Think nothing of it, until there is pounding at the front door. I think for a moment about grabbng my pistol that is on the bookcase, but go on to open the door with the dogs at the storm door. I walk outside to see folks with flashlights and what looks like a sheriff car behind another car in the street. Two depuities standing in the driveway with flashligts want to know where MICHAEL JOHNSON is...not here I tell them, never has lived here...The two deputies head back to their cars and leave... Am I back in Detroit? So we are spending an otherwise quite holiday weekend at the home base. I wanted to install the #10 fuel plate, but the fuel pressure gauge and the lift pump are on back order... Instead I removed the Dodge's interior--seats and flooring--to do a complete cleaning. The floor on the underside of the rubber mat was filled with Florida sand. The orginal owner spent way too much time on the beaches at St. Augustine. I pulled the flooring and scrubbed it with comet and vacuumed the sand out. There is something to be said about a clean truck--just as there is something about a dirty truck--if it is your dirt. One positive note, I came away with close to $4.00 in change!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The lost three day holday

We had planned a get away over the Labor Day weekend. Now we aren't sure if we will be on the road. Generally, Mary and I travel towards the coast this time of year. Many of the tourists are gone and North Carolina beaches are nearly deserted. The ocean is quite nice and typically stays warm into the first few weeks of October.

We have been going to the Blue Ridge by the third or fourth week of October. The first year we went to Asheville it was October 20. We left Raleigh and 80° temperatures on a Friday afternoon. When we arrived in Asheville it was close to 55° and dropping. In fact, that night was the season's first snowfall. Temperatures were in he mid-20s that night. That was pre-Coachmen and pre Dodge diesel. We still had the Chevrolet 5.7 gasser and the 7K pound Holiday Rambler tt. Knowing the Chevrolet was on its last hoorah, we opted to tent it...and were quite COLD that night.

But this weekend just feels like a home bound weekend. May be it was Hurricane Irene. Fortunately Irene didn't weild monumental force, as far as hurrican potential goes, but it did enough damage (last count there were close to10 dead) that it seems to have deflated the urge to get out for the last adventure of summer.

IT could also be Mary and I need the down time to just be still. Mary is completing her on-lone classes, I am getting the Dodge ready for new modifications, and there is also the new job opportunity that was given to Mary this week. If there were such a thing as the perfect end run play, that news would be a metaphoric example of how it would play out in real life. In a way, I think we are just beginning to appreciate our options.

It does look like the weather will be great this weekend--an almost perfect North Carolinian holiday. The Coachmen is setting right outside. We just might have to unroll the awning, set out the new pink flamingo patio lights and load up the grill with some briquettes. Three years ago, Mary and I were in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina on a cold Saturday afternoon in March sitting in Awful Arthur's Seafood. Mary ordered her first rock fish sandwich and a beer, I had the peel-and-eat pound of shrimp and a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Led Zeppelin was playing on the radio. I looked over at Mary, she was smiling, I was grinning ear to ear and I said these words---

"It don't get any better than this!"

I think that is what this weekend will feel like--what could be any better?


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reservations create Chaos

Are you like us? You plan, organize and strategize for a future adventure only to be blind sided by the unknown variable. That is what this week has been for us.
First Hurricane Irene blows in and the trip to DC for the MLK memorial is cancelled. Then Iren blows out of town and the notion of spending Labor Day at the OBX and Cape Hatteras is scratched from the agenda. Today I read that tropical storm Katina, still west of Jamaica, will be a Hurricane by Saturday as it goes past Puerto Rico coming north...
Then this week, Mary is offered an opportunity to work with her sisters back in Michigan as a real estate appraiser. Becoming a licensed appraiser is a 2 year process. There are classes to take, an exam and an apprenticeship Mary will have to do before applying to take the exam for her license.
This is a great opportunity as it is extremely difficult to get a licensed appraiser to even work with a trainee. So our summers may be spent "on the road" in Michigan and our winters either in New Mexico or North Carolina.
Mary hasn't been to New Mexico and she keeps asking and wondering if she is going to "fall in love" with it once she sees the area. I tell her that no matter how beautiful an area is, the next one will be even better.
When I rode through the Rockies on a bicycle, it was so different from the car drive back in 1976 with my parents when the family went to Las Vegas in a travel trailer. The Rockies are majestic no matter what you see them from. But seeing them on a bicycle and actually riding up to the summit of Hoosier Pass is not to be compared to a car ride.
Perhaps the nice part of Mary going into appraisal, when we are traveling the off months (September / October through March) we will not be as focused on working. This will allow us to interact more with the communities we come to and seriously enjoy the road as opposed to squeezing in a dedicated 8 hour work day.

Above my desk I have a 12X8 inch wall plaque I had bought from a mail order catalogue from public broadcasting. In the center is a Chinese symbol for CHAOS. UNder that it reads---

WHERE BRILLIANT DREAMS ARE BORN---

Before the beginning of great brilliance, there must be chaos.
Before a brilliant person begins something great, they must look foolish to the crowd.

Monday, August 29, 2011

All summer North Carolina has temps at or just above 100 degrees. Not sure id the rain is really much needed relief or just weather that will keep us stationary.
We started organizing papers we have collected from our trips. Documents like maps, campground passes and tickets for attractions we have experienced.
This will inevitably become another cluster, but for now it makes a great scrapbook.
I took on this task after I found my scrapbook in the back of the closet. Way back in the EARLY 1980s, I bought a giant "scrapbook" on the local public television station in Detroit. I have never seen another like it since. It has the pictures from the TransAmerica bicycle tour, favorite news articles I have collected over the years and a great assortment of bumber stickers I collected during various bicycle tours.
The book weighs close to 25 pounds and probably won't find its way into the Coachmen as a permanent fixture.
Which gives rise to the notion of having a very good quality scanner. It would make sense to scan these teasures, there by allowing us to always have them with us. The actual books can be placed in the hand of our family members for safe keeping.

Everything has weight, and that must be a consideration when we finalize our manifest in 2013.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Looking forward to cooler weather---mid-80s.

Seems the fall might have arrived in our part of North Carolina. Mostly mid-80s during the day and low 70s at night.
We are straightening and cleaning as we anxiously await our next trip. Due to Hurricane Irene, the MLK dedication scheduled for August 28 has been rescheduled to September or October of this year.
I am always looking at what we need to organize and have in the Coachmen for our comfort. Other than the basic utensils and plates, what will we need to really enjoy being out on the road.
I have this Compass metal detector I bought back in 1983. It is a great machine and I would really like to include it as part of our gear. Other than being banned from many federal and state areas, I think it would be a worth while gadget to carry around.
I also want to add a three burner coleman stove to our kitchen. However, I am investigating the Rocket stove that has been engineered for use in Africa and other third world countries. It burns wood and other combustibles but is so effecient it uses hardly any wood.
We feel most of our cooking will be outdoors, on a stove or over an open fire when weather conditions permit.
I am still arguing with myself about the tools I think I need to carry. I am sure I have too many, but I am also obsessed with those what if scenarios. Maybe if I have a can of black paint and spary the handle of the tools I use over the next year and dump the ones that aren't painted?

I am also debatingthe 5th wheel hitch situation. We are currently using a goose-neck adapter to connect the Coachmen in the Dodge. Mostly beacuse I have the ball already welded to a humongous channel that in turn is welded to the truck frame. I just think that a traditional hitch will be easier to connect and disconnect, particularly whe the Dodge is angled differntly from the Coachmen. I have ONE rail and the 15K Reese hitch. I will probably have to buy a new set of rails and the installation brackets to mount the rails in the bed and to the frame.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Irene didn't keep us in all day....

We saw Iren come into the Fayetteville area around 7:00 A.M. Some rain and 20-30 mph winds. By noon, Mary and I were restless and wanting to get outside.
We headed out towards Fayetteville, as I was thinking about stopping at Weymouth Woods. BUT my directions were off. I had the correct address and stree--WRONG town. Weymouth Woods is in Southern Pines. Fortunately we were able to us the EVO to check the address on the web.
We were looking for Longleaf Pine needles. Though we have an abundance of Loblolly pines, their needles are 6-8 inches. Longleaf pines are minimum 8 inches and as long as 18--probably on a GIANT Longleaf. We didn't see any needles that long at Weymouth (which was closed due to Irene).
Mary is going to do some basket making with the Longleaf needles. Hopefully the needles will cooperate.
Located just south of Sanford, Southern Pines is a beautiful town. Nearly all the streets are lined with pines and hardwoods. Many of the homes (outside the downtown area of the city proper)sit on at least an 1/2 acre lot. Even in the downtown area it looks like they build around the trees.
Next week we will have a few more upgrades for the Dodge--weather being in agreement. We ordered the #10 fuel plate, so that means we will also be modifying the AFC and starwheel. If UPS is in sync with us we will also have the new lift pump and fuel pressure gauge this weekend as well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Less than 1/2 inches of rain?

Is that ALL Irene is good for? OK, we will take it, but NOT one inch more.

Mary and I are discussing fit-it boxes. There is a company that sells Dodge Diesel parts (Geno's Garage) and the have a BOONIE BOX. Stuff that breaks when no o ne else is around and the nearest auto parts store is at least 25 miles back the other way.
Right now we are shopping for fishing tackle boxes. Plano makes a model that is soft sided and has removeable boxes. Inside the boxes you can move the dividers around to create different sized compartments.
We want to make one for the Coachmen to carry our screws, nuts and bolts. The ironic thing is, the fix-it box will probably be used for crafts and NOT repairs. I see us stuffing the box with crafty stuff, like string and small screws to attach pieces to other pieces.
We might find the duct tape useful one day. We might even have need for the 90° angle brackets to install something in the Coachmen. But the box will be most benificial as a craft supply box. At least that is my expectation.
We just have to decide on a color...

What hurricane?

SOOOOOOOOOOO Irene is going to pass us bye. She is heading for the OBX and might miss that as well...
There is still rain to deal with. They (weather forecasters) sa rain Saturday and sunshine Sunday.
Mary is finishing her online classes for grant writing and I am busy with copywriting and writing in general.
Today Amazon delivered a new book. Since we are here in north Carolina, and there are zillions of BIG pine trees, we are investigating pine needle art. Specifically, pine needle baskets. We have gone throug about 100 different ideas for creating income on the road. I suppose that is the real reason we started planning and preparing for full time in 2013. We need the time to organize our employment (though I am still planning on Amazon the fall of 2013) checkout the truck (because we ain't buying new) and finally to be familar with the Coachmen 5th wheel.
As soon as I can find one more rail I am going to install the traditional 5th wheel hitch. Mary has a hard time alighingthe gooseneck ball with the vertical coupler. I believe the 5th wheel hitch will be so much easier to align.
We are also assembling fix it boxes for the Doage and the Coachmen. The Dodge will contain extra oil and fuel filters, radiator hoses, serpentine belt, starter contacts, 5-40w oil, antifreeze, and other parts and pieces that can keep the Dodge running if we find ourselves in a stituation like Green Bay again. If I had the fix it box then, I could have just replaced the contacts and the solenoid in the starte and been road ready in 30 minutes.
The fix it box for the Coachmen will be a tackel box with removable drawers. In it we will keep a variety of screws, hooks, nuts, wiring, fuses and other pieces and parts we use to keep the Coachmen up and running.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Irene is heading this way

We are preparing for the possibility that Irene will make land somewhere between Charleston SC and Myrtle Beach. It could be in SC by Saturday. With that trajectory it is possible it will track very close to us here in the Fayetteville area. The standard joke is to stock up on Milk and bread or you could die. Actually, this far inland, the worse case scenario would be no electric for a week or two. Though the possibility of severe damage is a concern, so we are not thinking we are in the clear by any means.
We continue to map out NOLA for Christmas as the Category 2 (might be Cat 3 by landfall)storm hovers just south of Florida. Mary is also researching areas in southwest Michigan for a homebase / domicile.
We are watching the forecast and waiting.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mapping and planning

We were shut down last night when a loud thunderstorm blew through the area. I am fearing the PC I am using is ready to crash.
We are spending our days palnning. Mart has sent requests for travel guides from Mississippi and Louisiana. We have a general idea what we are doing in New Orleans. We have been given serval attractions from people that sound super. We are less familar with Mississippi. We would love to see the "Crossroads" in Clarksdale Mississippi. But that means traveling to the NorthWest corner of the state. Unfortunately, we are under time restraints (until we are officially fulltime in 2013) and need to be back in NC Januaruy 01, 2012.
We have also installed the NEW dash in the Dodge. It actually looks new again. Next week we are replacing the lift pump (aka fuel pump to all you gassers) and installing a fuel pressure gauge as well.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Blue Road Publishing

This is just one ideas we have developed in the past 3 days. Along with the internet, using writing as a means of weaving our income web. We know that at this pount it still sounds disjointed. It really is just organized rambling. As Mary and I go through the brainstorming phases of income development.
Our vision is slowly taking shape.
As we explore this "inter"-net environment more, we are realizing that such potential has yet to be, for lack of a better word at the moment, harnessed. So many people are using the web as a way to attract customers and build their business. Website promote, sell, entice, and convince others that they can benefit from the service being promoted. All too often the web ignores that concept that others just want to consume time. This does not lump those online games or other forms of amusement people log into with the customer driven businesses. Those gaming sites are providing a service for a very specific ninche`.
Rather we are pointing at the forums and merchandise for sale sites that rely on some marketing strategy to attrack followers. It can and does work as witnessed by the huge success some websites and forums have become. But, such success has taken time, sometimes years before they are profitable.
We want to build a "web," what some in the business world may think of as a monopoly, based on the written word.
It is not our intention to be vague or avoid vivid imagery of our aspirations. But as we sit around (waiting for our next road trip Labor Day weekend) we have the opportunity to allow our minds to wander. Some ideas may very well be sheer lunacy. Other, with some clarity, might become viable. Hopefully, you will take time from your busy schedule to touch base with us as we work through the cacophony rining in our minds.

Where was I?

Oh, talking about using the internet to generate income. Even with just a few months of developing internet "income" it is all too obvious that blogging for dollars isn't working for us. Possibly if we devoted another 5-10 years we would be rolling some cash. But since we don't want to wait 5-10 years, we have to work the web, much as we discussed using time. The web is there waiting for us to exploit it. Kind of like the idea of being a great sales person--if you can sell an Eskimo a refridgerator, you can be successful selling anything.
As with any endeavor that is intended to generate income, it has to be "branded." This is now the crossroads at which Mary and I stand. Just because we know it has to be done, we still need to figure out what it is that we want to brand.
So while we work on that dilemma, we can say what we want the branding to become, besides just income.
Perhaps it is just a dream? But we do know that up to this point every step we have taken has led us to where we are right now.
We are looking at creating a brand centered around the written word. Words that go beyond just a page of our website. Words that reach outside the blogger's box. We believe the power of the word can be defined in a song written by McElroy, Thomas Derrick/Foster, Denzil/King, Jay A and I belive first sang by David Allen Coe--

The Ride

Well, I was thumbin' from Montgomery
I had my guitar on my back
When a stranger stopped beside me in an antique Cadillac
Well he was dressed like 1950
Half drunk and hollow-eyed
He said "Its a long walk to Nashville
Would you like a ride, son?"
And well I sat down in the front seat, he turned on the radio
Them sad old songs comin' out of them speakers was solid country gold
And I noticed the stranger was ghost-white pale
When he asked me for a light
And I knew there was something strange about this ride

(Chorus)
He said "Drifter can ya make folks cry when you play and sing?
Have you paid your dues, can you moan the blues?
Can you bend them guitar strings?"
He said "Boy, can you make folks feel what you feel inside?
Cause if you're big star bound let me warn ya, its a long, hard ride"


Then he cried just south of Nashville
And he turned that car around
He said "This is where you get off boy,
Cause I'm goin' back to Alabam'"
As I stepped out of that Cadillac
I said "Mister, many thanks"
He said "You don't have to call me Mister, Mister.,
The whole world called me Hank

Chorus x2

If you're big star bound
Let me warn ya its a long, hard ride

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Work is indeed the curse of the middle class

Perhaps there is nothing worse than time. While time is generally a rather nice thing to have a round when you want it, there is either never enough when you need it or way too much when you cannot do what you want to.
The proverbial case in point is being at home base and thinking about the road. As nice as home is, and despite what Dorothy thought as she clicked the ruby red slippers three times, waiting at home is mondane and lonely.
Realizing we need to be prepared for traveling, Mary and I are starting to investigate new avenues for generating an income. We are looking for the ones that can be done regardless of our location. Careers that will allow us to establish relationships, not just throughout the immediate area, but possible across the state or region where we are at any given moment.
As we have mentioned previously, that means it has to be internet dependent. At least using the internet as a means of communication. We had initially toyed with doing sales on eBay or Craigslist. We quickly realized that probably wasn't a workable concept. Too much to carry around, and we would be tethered to a post office--not to mention the packaging and shipping material required to send items.
We also thought that we could make money just off the content we posted on the internet. We read several bloggers were making high 5 low 6 figures from blogging. We would draw advertisers to our site(s) and and watch the money accumulate over time with page views and clicks. While this approach might get a few dollars, in the long run it is nothing more than a a small supplement and probably cannot be relied on for paying the bills. Those who do either have multiple blogs or developed a regular following of subscribers that convince advertisers to pay sizeable fees every month.
In the past few weeks, we have started to see the internet differently. Rather than the internet being the cash cow we hoped for, we see it as a means to create income.

We are busy busy busy...

Mary

We are busy getting ourselves organized. As Tim said, we are going through our stuff and deciding what we really want. It is somewhat a cathartic process. Each item we look at has some kind of history to it. Even going through the stacks of papers that tend to accumulate have a history. The campsite tag from Savannah or the no longer used casino token. The Super 8 motel from our first trip together.

Treasures are another story. Tim and I love the hunt. Going to a garage sale, or flea markets and finding that one thing that is the deal of the century. Tim takes the hunt to the highest levels. He really does not want to buy anything unless it was hunted and bagged in the most basic primal way. For him, I think, the value of something is in the acquisition not in the actual item.

An example of this is the new dash cover he got in the mail yesterday. There are about 4 companies that sell replacement dash covers for the Dodge. He spent about 3 months researching each company and choosing the one with the best over all performance for the money. It was the hunt for the best deal. Which was a good thing since the old dash crumbled into chunks when it was removed.

Getting back to treasures and the emotional freedom of tossing treasures into the trash or giving them to a local charity. This is a little tough on Tim. For me, we really are attached to only a few items and the rest can go. We are working on a happy medium. One where we can both function in a positive environment and respect each others needs and wants.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Start Of The Year

Mary

For us it is the beginning of the year. As educators our seasons go with the school year. Tim starts back to work officially tomorrow. I will be starting a new career from home. I was hit by the State of North Carolina budget cuts. As a result I will be unemployed until I find another career. I have been taking online classes for grant writing. I am also looking into Copy writing. Not to be confused with copy rights.

I am a little bit out of sorts. I just realized today that there are going to be a lot of lonely days in front of me. I will not have my work friends to banter with during the week. I am 12 hours from my daughters and grandkids. There is so much more to losing a job then just losing a paycheck. It is losing contact with that energy that is human interaction. I was too busy and too tired to be too home sick when I was working 10 hour days.

I am not sure how I am going to battle being lonely except to put in just as many hours on my new career and hope I become successful so that Tim and I can venture on the next phase of our adventure.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Almost organized!

Mary and I are back on track.. almost. We have cleaned out the third bedroom for Mary's office space. She is starting two more on-line classes for grant writing. She also has space to start some crafty projects that we will sell while on the road.
My space is now neater. There is still much we need to sell via eBay or Craigslist. There are collectibles from NASCAR, Danbury Mint and three shoe boxes of sports cards. Once we have photos, we will start posting on-line.
We are also going through past editions of OUR STATE
href="http://www.ourstate.com/"> magazine. We are saving the reciepes and some of the destinations we haven't been to yet. We have plans for Labor Day in Asheboro, NC at Holly Bluffs Campground. We are going to Statesville, NC for the Balloon Festival and Lexington, NC for the East vs. West href="http://www.barbecuefestival.com/"> Lexington BBQ Festival. BUT the Balloon Festival is the same weekend; October 21-23. We will have to drive the 85 mile round trip to Lexington and back on the 22 of October...
There is still a lot for us to see here in North Carolina before we go full time in 2013. We will take our extended trips over Christmas and summer so we have time to see more of our current home state. Remember it is still warm here up until Thanksgiving. It tends to be in the 30s & 40s December through March. Come April we will be back touring North Carolina until June 13, 2012 when we start our big summer trip.
This summer we will research and choose a domicile while we are full timing. Actually we are kind of set on Michigan, what with having family and all there.
We are looking forward to our new found organization, and the ability to start doing more with the website and our means of earning our keep while full timing.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Discounts and memberships

Slow morning. School starts for me on the 17. Mary and I stayed up watching "Storage Wars" until the wee hours. Breakfast this morning is a hodge-podge of potatoes, onions and peppers with some mystery containers I found in the fridge. I was very tempted to chop a few cherries, but the pits made them more trouble than the added flavor would be worth?

As we start scheduling and making reservations for Christmas in New Orleans, we are thinking budget. It is a given that a week in NOLA will be expensive. Not many ways to avoid that. Mary's brother has been 3-4 times in the past 5 years. We know the French Quarter will cost $ for almost everything we want to see or do. We have heard the restaurants / bars all have a one drink minimum at $6.50 each. Some are said to have one drink per set where there are bands playing.
The Fires on the Levees will be just under $100 each, as will the riverboat dinner cruise. But sometimes you just have to go along with the establishment if you want the experience.
Then there's the fees for overnighting in NOLA. As much as I would like to hang out at a Wally World, Mary is insistant on staying at a "real" facility with hook-ups. The closer to the French Quarters the better.
We have a Good Sam card, but that only gets us a 10% discount. We have read about other discount membership groups that get you up to 50% for 1-10 day stays. We had made a mental note, and saved to favorites on our browser, several of these groups. It wasn't until this morning, while reading a post about membership clubs on RVNetwork that we realized one of these memberships MIGHT get us a discount while we are traveling this Christmas.
There are several campgrounds in NOLA that participate in different discount clubs. Two campgrounds are affiliated with the Camp Club membership offered through Camping World. The campground closer to the French Quater (French Quarter RV Park) accepts the Camp Club card for a 1 day at 50%. There is another RV park just off Lake Pontchatrain that accepts Passport America and they honor the 50% discount for up to a week stay (except holidays and special events). We are hoping holidays mean just the specific day the holiday falls on and not the entire week of the holiday. We called and left a message and hope to hear from the RV park by Monday regarding the terms of acceptance.
The balancing act of waiting to go full-time and actually being full-time on the road is delicate and fraught with financial decisions that you need to prioritize. These decisions and the list is constantly changing. The discount membership clubs are a perfect example. We knew they were there. We believe they can be very useful. But if we immediately think they do not apply to our PRESENT situation, we forget about them and miss out on the benefits.
We are learning that our preparation list has to be dynamic and evolving. Once we become complasiant about the list, the list becomes just a bunch of ideas we tend to overlook and soon we are doing another list that will face the identical fate--left for dead along the roadside.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Another cycle is beginning

Isn't that the way of life? Every moment is another opportunity to begin anew. When Mary and I look around where we are currently living, we realize there is so much more that what we actually see.
We are currently painting several rooms of our rented house. We have been here since January and feel it is time to make it "ours" in so much as it can be done cheaply. The previous tenants painted it some shade of green--not a nice green like cactus or meadow--rather it was a cross between LIME--CHARTRUSE--and MARGARITA obnoxious kind of green. Some people just don't see the small details.
That was the point of our discussion yesterday. MAry and I went to a big box home improvement store in Erwin, North Carolina. It is a small town, one where the original downtown has been by-passed by a new divided highway. This creates two towns out of one. The old town where businesses struggle and the "new" town where all the big franchises and chain stores are built.
You can tell a city that has been invaded by these chain stores because it is hard to fin the mom and pops retailers. Generally they are the store fronts with FOR RENT signs in the windows, or they are off the main drag, hidden 2-3 blocks away.
Anyway, after our big box store purchase, we went in search of a place to eat that wasn't fast food or franchised. The Garmn has a points of interst button and one choice is FOOD----> find all. Not sure where Garmin gets the lists, but usually 50% of places listed are out of business. So was the case as we went looking for Ron's Sandwich Shop in Dunn, North Carolina. 2 blocks off US 421 (Main Street) on Broad was supposed to Ron's. What we found at 325 Braos Street was Noah's Pizza and Grill. It looke kind of gimmicky, but there were no other places that were opened.
We walked in and the place is empty. Despite the 15 cars parked outside? Mary asked if they were open, and we were told yes. We sat down and took a few minutes to order. Mary had the Chicago Style Gyros and I the Philadelphia Steak & Cheese. Considering we are in Dunn, North Carolina,it was quite a risk. After we ordered the waitress, who we later found out was starting her junior year in high school, stood at our table chatting for 15-20 minutes about all kinds of things. We started off talking about some food that had been on the Food Channel--Deep Fried Greatness of teh South or something. That led to a talk about the fryers at Noah's going up in smoke one night after closing. That was precipitated by a conversation about Holt Lake BBQ in Johnston County that had burned last year and has since been rebuilt.
That was when we were once again remind that there are so many stories, so many places we haven't experierenced. To go somewhere and "see" it, like going to the Grand Canyon, is shallow and superficial if we haven't experienced the actual community surrounding the place.
Right now we are feeling overwhelmed. There is so much we want to see. So many people we want to talk with. So much to learn about life and living.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Memories contained in stuff

So it has started. What hopefully will be the final dispersal of our stuff. We have boxes for trash--did we really haul 3 boxes of just trash stuff around since 2009?? There is a shred / burn destroy all "evidence of" box. There is only one of those--may be because we still have some papers we think are important? And we have the box of "shouldn't we keep this" stuff. Papers from our hound dogs adoptions, marriage, diviorce, and some school papers from 1995 that for some reason seem important.
Then we have the chotzky boxes. Those items we hold on too for so long we forget we had them. The salt and peper shakers my grandmother had. The shakers that look like pheasants, ducks and other assorted animals. Old bumper stickers of radio stations now gone and forgotten. The original sales receipt for my "THIS END UP" corner shelf unit I bought in 1983. I still have the shelf, as well as a file cabinet and the large bookcase. All made from Carolina pine. We have boxes of trinkets we had at one time set out around the house.
Mary found several CD-roms that had some great stuff. One had a lot of genealogical stuff related to my great-grandmother, a full blood Cherokee and her people--HIGHTOWER. Another CD had 600 pictures we had downloaded off the computers before we left Michigan. On ot are pictures of our house when we first moved in. Then the interior after we had lived in it 3 months and ripped the walls, flooring, plumbing and electrical out. We lived in it while we were renovating the entire house. We literally removed 5 walls and eliminated 3 rooms. When we were finished all we had left on the main floor was a bathroom and wide open space from the kitchen to the livingroom. We had to add 3 lam-beams where we tookout support walls--one beam was 24 foot across and supported the entire upstairs!
Then there were pictures of our dogs. Kramer (2004) and Lola (2006)came along when we thought the restored Craftsman house was our forever home. As we looked through the recently discovered pictures, we found pictures of our first rescue dog--Darla. She was a Australian Shepherd-Husky mix. We had seen another dog on the adopt a pet segment of the morning news and Mary wanted to see if "Jake" was still available. As it happened, so did 20 other people. I guess people want to adopt the dog that was on televison so they can tell all their friends? Anyways, we saw Darla and that was all she wrote. 8 months later Darla was taken sick and died. 3 months later the contaminated dog food story broke. We had been feeding her Iams diet--which was number one on the list of contaminated food...
But I suppose that is why pictures are important. The one regret I have related to my TransAmerica bicycle trip is that I didn't take a camera. Perhaps the thing to do is track down the other 11 riders and see what pictures they have. It would be a great excuse for a reunion huh?
One of the last pictures on the CD is of Mary and me with my siblings and their wives and kids taken with my mom at Yogi Bear at Lake Barton Indiana.
That was the year before she passed and the last time we were all together.
There is stuff we just cannot afford to lose.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Returning to our STUFF

As I fend off the desire to scratch and Mary is searching the web for potential domiciles, we are reminded that there is still a room of stuff that we need to address.
Actually one full room, a closet and a storage shed out back that are all full of stuff. We did haul about 400 pounds to Michgan this summer for the girls. As we get closer to full timing, the stuff is now seen in terms of weight.
The back room has most of our Christmas decorations and left over books from our Amazon store. The Amazon store became too time consuming as we were selling 1 or 2 books a month and trying to upload new stock. Amazon charges like 10% when it sells and only allows $3.99 for shipping--which works out 75% of the time.
We will be donating the books this coming week to our local PTA Thrift Store. The remaing items will have to go in an end of summer yard sale or face being donated as well.
This year we will also have to unload some of our household stuff like dinnerware, silverware and furniture. If we don't do it soon, it will still be waiting in May 2013 for us to deal with.
Hopefully I will be over this poison ivy and able to get somethings started before I return to school on the 17 of this month..

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Using time to focus

We are once again busy with planning. The internet is way too fast and easy to locate information. We managed to schedule our Christmas Eve on the levees, after Christmas Cruise on the Mississippi, a walking tour of the French Quarter and an old cemetary and know where we will go on the trolley via the Jazzy Pass to the Oaks. All that is left is our departure date of December 16.
We have revised our schedule and will now leave on the 16 at 4:00 pm and asphalt dock at the Cracker Barrel in Columbia, SC. From there we will make it to Atlanta the night of the 17--another asphalt dock. Our third and fourth nights are in Mobile, AL. From there we will drive to The Shed. We will spend the rest of our stay touring Mobile and the coast.
We have yet to draft our budget form for the month of September. It will be a work in progress as we look to minimize our expenses both for our homebase and travel.
The Dodge is running and awaiting its new dash. I have few other repairs to start this week including the AFC and I want to remove the power seat and verify the wiring. May be I can get the saftey belt light to go off when I snap the buckle.
I am off to nurse this case of poison ivy I picke up doing some yard work last week.
We2 need a few more suggestion on what to see in New Orleans. We wanted to see a Saints football game, but tickest start at $114 each...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Our next big adventure

While we are looking forward to a few weekend trips here in North Carolina, we are also planning our next extended adventure.
With 2 weeks to travel during Christmas break (December 17-January 01, 2012) we have targeted New Orleans as our next great destination. As of now, we will be staying at the KOA West--given location and costs, KOA is close to a best of.
We are currently mapping our trop from Lillingyon, North Carolina to New Orleans. We want to be in New Orleans on December 21 or 22. That allows 5-6 days travel to New Orleans. Departing December 26 gives us 4-5 days in the city.

On our way down we are looking at an overnight near Columbia, South Carolina and a visit to the art museum. Another over night between Augusta, Georgia and Atlanta--possibly an hour past Atlanta. The third night we wold like to be in Montgomery, Alabama to tour the city and see its history. Our 4th night in either Mobile, Alabama or Biloxi, Mississippi before pulling into New Orleans for 4 days of adventure.
Coming back home, we are stopping in Hattiesburg, Mississippi along I-59 on to Birmingham, Alabama.

Any suggestions on what we should see along our route? Any road houses in Mississippi?



On a side, we are planning to be in Washington D.C for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on August 28, 2011 at 11:00 A.M.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Maintenance and upkeep duty

So if you read the previous posts, you know we are starting the "found the problem, now fix it" mode of our preparations for going full time in 2013. This week the focus is mainly on the Dodge 2500. I pulled out what was left of the original dash and the lower support piece as well. I thought I could fix the lower support piece (plastic) with some JB Weld. WRONG. It didn't hold under the slightest pressure. I have NEVER had any luck with these epoxy bonds and super glues. Fortunaely all the "fixes" are hidden from sight and I was just hoping to strengthen the support.
This morning before the heat, I reassembled the lower dash and installed the switches and air ducts so the Dodge can be driven. There are some plugs that didn't go to anything so I am reviewing the Factory Service Manual (FSM) I ordered from Geno's Garage on CD-rom. It is so much quicker that the paper edition. Wonder if I can up load it on the Kindle? I do have it on the laptop so that is probably easier to search than the Kindle.
Now all I have to do os order the dash from LMC Truck. I might just get the bezel piece as well. On the cummins forum there are pictures of the Dodge with a NEW dash and it really is quite amazing how good they look.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Is it really coming to an end?

Mary is feeling better. The congestion is just about gone. The Dodge is coming together and should be up and running tomorrow. We still have to order the dash from LMC. This weekend I will pull the AFC and swap the fuel plate and dial up the star wheel.
Meanwhile, I have to divide my time between the Dodge, the Coachmen, and now work. That dreaded 4-letter word. Teachers are back on August 17, but I have some in services to attend before that.
We really want to get to Asheboro and get a look at Holly Bluff Campground before it gets cold here in North Carolina. They do have seasonal sites and storage available. Not that we are considering the option of storing the Coachmen, it is a service provided by the camp.
We have yet to go through the Coachmen and do an analysis of its performance during the maiden voyage. We will need to rework the cabinets to keep contents from sliding. We are also developing a design to mount the yet to be purchased television hat will be mounted above the window on the curb side.
Mary is searching for a public camp near Statesville that has water and power for our stay during the North Carolina Balloon Festival October 21--23, 2011. We would prefer a county park or fairgrounds, but we might be able to find a national or state forest area to set up even if it means boondocking with our power and carrying our water with us.

We should have a budget sheet done on Excel this week and will post the draft for any comments or suggestions.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

First week back

We returned to home base a week ago yesterday (Saturday). The week has been mostly spent catching up on things gone undone since we left on June 13.
We had to stop at the post office to pick up mail and tell them to resume delivery. Yard work was a big part of the week. Even though the area has had record temperatures and little rain, the grass still managed to grow. Then there was putting the house in order and grocery shopping. I also started removing and replacing the wiring harness and dash in the Dodge.
But mostly we have been staying out of the heat and doing what needs to be done inside.
Today that meant HTML and organizing the website and adding new pages. We added pictures to our Dodge 2500 page about the dash removal. We also added a yet to be completed Monthly Budget page.
Since we are constantly reviewing our finances, we thought a pre-launch budget would help with showing how much it really takes to be ready to go on the road. Starting with September 2011, we will keep a running total of our income from all sources and expenses primarily related to full time preparation. We expect to be able to save $1000 a month for the next 10 months. That will be used to upgrade the Dodge, make any repairs / improvements on the Coachmen and pay for several trips--including our summer June--July excursion to Yellowstone in 2012. We will be saving the same amount in 2012-2013 that will be added to our "retirement fund."
I am also contributing $240 a month to a retirement fund that we will liquidate when we leave in 2013.
We will have an Excel spreadsheet uploaded to the Blue Road Blogger site detailing how we are doing.
The only variable expenses we have are groceries and fuel. Everything else is fixed to within +/- $10.
You may have also noticed on the blog and the website we have added a "DONATE" button. This is via PayPal and is connected directly to our Great_stuff_4_Collectors account. This is the name we use on eBay. If people feel comfortable donating, the money will be deposited in our PayPal and will then be documented on our Monthly Budget sheet. All donated funds will be used for fuel expense unless the donor designates another use such as for overnight stay, truck repair, or that occasional night out.
When we begin our full time journey in 2013, we will be doing so with the idea that we will continue to work for the source of most of our income. We will not have a six-figure nest egg. We will barely have a low five-figure start-up fund to get us through the first year.
Is this crazy? Possibly. But we have decided that it is no crazier than staying in one place, working paycheck to paycheck, and knowing we will never get ahead enough to retire comfortably. So we might as well increase the chances we can come out ahead financially by going on the road and working several seasonal jobs each year, while cutting our overhead and cost of living as much as possible.

We are figuring that being on the road will reduce our housing costs from $700 month to $500 or less. This would include utilities like water and power. If we can find work with a site included (a $700 monthly savings!) or nearby, this will reduce our fuel cost to near zero--except for the fuel we use to get to the next work site. We are currently spending close to $250 each month for our two vehicles during the school year. That means we will be starting off saving nearly $500 each month just by going on the road full time.
SO even as we sit and re-energize from our maiden voyage, there seems to just as much to do now as there was in May as we prepared for our trip.

Tim and Mary

Friday, July 29, 2011

Starting upgrades for the Dodge

If we are to be on the road, the Dodge will have to be up to the challenge. Tuesday I started upgrading the interior. I am replacing the wiring harness and the upper dash itself.

Here is the Dodge from the driver's side.





The upper dash was just shattered pieces held in place with black duct tape. It bounced around as the screws along the windshield were removed prior to buying the Dodge.



This is the lower dash and support for the instrument cluster and switches for headlights, heater, and radio. The highlighted boxes represent missing pieces of the lower dash.


I have found a full replacement at LMC Truck out of Kansas for under $200. As soon as I can get the harness connected and the fractures / breaks in the lower dash fixed with JB weld, I am going to order the upper dash replacement. I will post pix of the finished job when it is whole again.

Meanwhile, we are planning our engine modifications that will include a new fuel plate, lift (fuel) pump, AFC / p-pump tune, advance the timing from current setting (should be 14*) to 15 1/2*. We are also going to be replacing the OEM injectors with Stage 2 (5X.012) 90 HP injectors.
The fuel plate should give us 50-100HP.
The AFC will be good for a few more.
Timing will get an additional 25 HP.
and the 90 HP gain from the injectors should be a total improvement of nearly 200 hp.
But first we will need to add gauges prior to the engine mods. It is highly recommended you have a fuel pressure, boost and EGT (exhaust gas temperature) gauges. We will also add a transmission temperature, oil tem and oil pressure as well.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What is priority while full-timing?

Mary and I ask this question everyday. Why are we going on the road? Why not stay in a stick structure and be content? Common sense tells us if we can create a means of income on the road, we should be able to do so from a permanent location as well.
While there are some great points about staying in one location--you can have a garden, people can come by to visit, you have regular mail service, and you can have STUFF around you.
All this is great, we have done this. When we were married in 2003, we bought a nice little farm house in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. (Does Detroit really need to be identified as being in Michigan? Like Cher, it is able to stand on one name, isn't it?) We remodeled it from the studs out. New dry wall, 3/4 inch copper plumbing, 12 gauge wiring, 200 amp service, and the interior was Craftsman style / Frank Lloyd Wright.
We removed 2 rooms from downstairs and made it an open floor plan. We had a wonderful veggie garden and Irises that were the envy of the town. Life was good. But when it all fell as the economic bubble burst, we realized it was just stuff. It wasn't easy to accept at first. Then a few friends all commented on how they would live to pack up and move, to see new places and people--but they wouldn't part with their stuff or comfort of being in a permanent location. Mary would tell them it was actually quite easy--all you had to do was LOOSE everything--and that the choice was really quite obvious.
But there are many positive things about being on the road full time as well.
Since we have to do some type of work to earn money, and we could do it here, we feel by being on the road we will have the benefit of seeing how the other half lives. We will have less responsibility pieces to care for. Our home will be paid for. We will have more control over our expenses. We can choose our climate.
I suppose what we really really want to do is experience the way other people live in this country. We want to be a witness to the diverse traditions and cultures that exist within our state, and country.
The hard part will be deciding where we stay and how much time we want to use to experience that environment. Then there will be the process of how and what we document since there will be so much to see. Every stop is a potential treasure trove of life.
We want to be travelers. We want to be tourists. We want to be photographers. We want to feel history.

In short---

WE WANT TO LIVE....

Tim and Mary

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Developing a new syllabus for traveling

As Mary and I are catching our breath here in North Carolina, we continue to ruminate over our maiden voyage. Not so much what went well and what was frustrating necessarily, but what do we have to be more aware of when living on the road.
Obviously, after completing 3400 miles in just over 13 days is something not to be repeated, at least not often. There has to be a comfortable pace that will allow time to smell the roses and not coss the line of becoming bored. Our concept of time will have to be different than what many people are used to. Most people see time as a reference point to be somewhere or a box in which you are limited in the time you have to complete an activity. Time is a unit of measurement that controls our pace. Instead we have to use time. We will need to see time as a rate of exchange, if that makes sense. How much time do we want to use--not how much time do we have to use. This may be just simple semantics, but it is a great difference in perspective.
During our maiden voyage, we were constantly caught up in how much time we had left. This is a point of frustration as what little time we had, we seemed to always be thinking about what was left. At some point this becomes a philosophical debate--do you say "toe-may-toe" or "toe-ma-toe?" So whatever others think or however they rationalize their "time," we are going to make a conscious effort to use our time, not to be controlled by time.
Ever notice how music canbe the greatest influence on our thinking?

Tim and Mary


Pink Floyd

Time Lyrics

Songwriters: WASHINGTON, JUSTINE


Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
And you are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

BREATHE REPRISE
Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
And when I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Adjusting our expectations to fit our expectations.

As we mentioned yesterday, we have completed our maiden voyage and survived. But, there are still some housekeeping details to address between now and 2013. As great as it was to be on the road, by last week we were both ready to be at home base again. Part of this angst is due to the tempo of our trip.
We went at it full-speed with the intent of looking for things to break or go wrong. Not that this is the "wrong" thing to do--it is just wearing on a person. We didn't really get into the full time frame of mind. We wanted to be tourists as badly as we wanted to try on the full-time lifestyle.
We knew this going out. We weren't going to fool ourselves by saying this trip was a full-time practice run. That would have been a sure disaster. Instead we looked at it as a trial by fire road trip to get the ants out of our pants. We had been waiting since March to get out and experience our Coachmen, and to tell the truth it was driving Mary and I crazy.
For those of you considering full-time, remember it doesn't have to be an "all-or-nothing" venture. It takes time to ease yourself into a new and unknown world. Someone wrote that there are campers and there are RV'ers, and that the two are neither mutually exclusive nor are they all inclusive. On any given day we can switch from one group to the other.
We have to allow ourselves to accept that change in status and not feel one or the other is off-limits. May be that is the problem with labeling people and actions? We create a stigma that causes us to be in denial and feel ostracized from one group for fear of being ridiculed. If we travel, whether full time or just on the weekends, we all have a common bond. I believe the majority of full timers started out as weekenders. If even for a short time, somewhere they were out in the environment and that made an impact that lasted their whole lives.
When we were sitting in the private parks in Shipshewana and the one in Wisconsin, Dells, we noticed how quiet the parks were. They are both great places, we would highly recommend them to anyone, but there was hardly any life after 8:00 P.M.
The public campgrounds on the other hand were noisy (not loud) and busy into the wee hours of the night—11:00 P.M. or so—and people were walking with their dogs, cleaning out their boat or ATV. Music was playing—mostly at an acceptable level—as folks sat outside their trailers, grilling hamburgers or steaks.
Though we loved both settings, we found ourselves relating to the public parks and appreciating the atmosphere that existed in the public parks. Does that mean we are not ready for full time on the road? Probably not. It does mean we enjoy being out where people are having a great time away from work. Where they aren't just living another day just like the day before.
Mary and I are making plans to stay at a local campground just outside of Asheboro, North Carolina in a few weeks. It looks like it is somewhat of a “resort” as it is near the NC Zoo and has seasonal sites available. Wouldn't it be nice to find a group of people who enjoy living as much as you do?
If you travel—by any means necessary—camp in anything—hostel—even if you hotel / motel your way around the state or country, you are experiencing your WANDERLUST—and we salute you!

NOT ALL WHO WANDER ARE LOST!!!


Tim and Mary

Re-energizing in Bunnlevel, NC

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The madien voyage--may you see it all.

Perhaps our maiden voyage was a bit involved. Traveling 3400 miles to get the bugs out may well be excessive. It leaves you vulnerable and open to frustration.
When you break down, and you WILL break down, you will always be in the least convenient location. You will be in the most unreachable area and assistance will not be found via tow truck or dealership. Rest assured you will be in a county park campground, a Mickey D's parking lot or half way through a 5 mile climb of a 4% grade. If you are fortunate, you will get to experience these and other catastrophic events on your shake down trip.

Now before you go looking for a voodoo doll of BRB and posting our pix on your dart board, instead of cursing us the next time your tire blows in the middle of northern Montana or your refrigerator is warmer than your bath water, think of the positives this event has brought into your lives.

Not that you needed to master tire changing or finding tech info on the web about fixing that Dometic product, rather it is the opportunity to solve yet one more problem that stands in the way of your independence. And there will be problems.

When problems and difficulties arise, you will have to face them. You can either curse, pout and stomp--or you can solve the crisis. Sometimes you are lucky enough to have a shop, mechanic or repair facility near by. Most of the time it is just the problem and you.

And even if you are not successful in "fixing" the problem, just by investigating and making it work in the moment will be a statement to your fortitude and determination NOT to allow this crisis to set you back.
Make no mistake, you will want to head for the nearest airport and fly away. You will swear better than any sailor or rapper ever has. You might even consider selling your rig to the first person to walk by and give you taxi fare to town.

Then, after all the frustration has passed, and it will indeed pass if you seriously consider your situation, you get to work to solve your current dilemma.

So it was on our shake down cruise. Climbing out of North Carolina that Monday afternoon, I realized the Dodge would need some improvements if we were to ever get over the Rockies next summer. So while we were climbing those 4 mile long 5% grades in the Appalachians, I was busy thinking about all the cool modifications I could do this fall to make the Dodge Cummins more of a towing force and not the little engine who thought he could.
When the Coachmen started throwing sparks from a wire on the underside of the frame, I went to work and approached it as if I were doing electrical on a stick structure. Found the fuse box, analyzed the wire and soon it was good to go.
Sitting in the Mickey D's parking lot with a dead starter was the worse. No cables and the few folks we asked didn't have cables either. Call road aid? That is always a possibility. Wait a few minutes and try again? Have lunch and do some grocery shopping at the Piggly Wiggly, sure why not. Thirty minutes later the truck turned over and we were off towards Green Bay
When the starter went in Green Bay, I got busy looking for a solution. I went to Craig’s list and several other Dodge forums I am active on. Eventually, I was able to get the part to me and installed.


Through it all, we had doubts and anxiety so high we could have passed out from the altitude. With patience and perseverance, we worked on finding a solution and avoiding the "I told you so" syndrome.
And we have made a VERY big list of things to try and avoid the same problems, because as you know, problems are here to stay, so you will need a plan.

SO the next time your travels literally come apart at the seams, remember where you are and why you are there. It is a choice and everyday we decide if we want to continue and stay the course. This is true whether you been the road or in a stick house. You wake up everyday and ask yourself,

"WHAT AM I GOING TO DO TODAY?"

And no matter where you are in life, the answer is always the same---

WHAT EVER I CHOOSE TO DO...

Please choose wisely and with patience.


Tim and Mary

Maiden Voyage Complete

Bunnlevel, North Carolina

Friday, July 22, 2011

Too hot to drive, too hot to blog?

July 22, 2011

The heat will make a person do strange things. If you are on the road today, you know it is HOT. We pulled off the road at 10:42 am and set up at the Washington County Fair Grounds here in Marietta, Ohio. We weren’t sure where to set up so we went towards the rear so the dogs would have some room.
It’s too hot for the dogs to go out! I went for a walk with Lola and Kramer and I thought Lola wasn’t going to make it back. Seriously, she was panting and stopped in every shaded area and refused to move for a few minutes.
We should have stayed up front on the circle as I found it has ONE spot that is shades for a few hours anyways. Remember the scout rule, set up near a tree and you will have shade for at least part of the day.

We will wait until sunset to take to the road again. Being out of the sun will make driving more bearable.

We also realize the need for awnings on ALL the windows. We have two of the 5 original. The other three were damaged before we bought the 5er. The previous owners opted for the Colorado Care Free slide awnings where the other 3 awnings had been—All on the street side with one on the bedroom window and one on each of the sofa / dinette windows.

We read a post on the Escapees Forum about using the sun shade material for the awnings. Blocks the sun and heat while allowing you to see some of your surroundings. It is the same material you use on your main awning if you do not have a room attached. We might just add that to the existing window awnings and the new replacement ones as well.

Stay cool. If you are on the road in the Eastern USA, drive early and find shade before 11:00 am.

Tim and Mary

On the road in Marietta, Ohio

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The heat is influencing more than our drinking

We are rethinking our travel plans this week. With temperatures close to 100 on Thursday, we are looking at doing some night traveling. We had planned on leaving at 3:00 a.m. Thursday and driving to Marietta Ohio by 10:00 a.m. But since Thursday is HOT HOT we will wait and leave 3:00 a.m Friday.

So while we are dealing with the heat, here are some pictures of cooler temperatures when we were in the Upper Peninsula---




Coming up on the bridge.


The only freighter we saw come through the locks that day.


An excellent lunch. The best chowder we have had in forever..


We ended up following the Circle Tour from Green Bay, Wisconsin to the bridge.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Reflections of the voyage.

July 19, 2011 (Tuesday night)


There is so much to think about. We left North Carolina on June 13, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. Undoubtedly we left some things behind. We had a schedule we had to meet for Mary’s youngest daughter’s wedding on June 18. Special occasions always seem to set time in fast-forward mode. Then, just like Christmas, by noon the anticipation of the event has passed and you wonder what you will do with the rest of the time.

Our first day out was a boondock at Cracker Barrel in Wytheville, Virginia. It seemed we couldn’t get enough miles behind us fast enough. We had hoped Cracker Barrel had Wi-Fi, but not so. Dinner there is still pretty good though.

We made it through the mountains on I-77 in one piece and had a late lunch that second day in Dover, Ohio at the Shoney’s. A GREAT buffet. Wonderful folks there in Dover. They are seriously lacking a decent fueling station for big rigs. Winesburg, Ohio was our destination for our second night. The Amish Country Camp Ground is a very nice place. $25 for water and electric (20 / 30 amp) makes it a great lay over.

Upon leaving the next morning, our trailer brakes were not working. We drove a bit down the road to a larger parking lot and figured out the brake light switch was malfunctioning. After some fiddling, it was once again working and we were heading to Michigan.

The wedding was great and we spent the next two weeks remodeling the 5er before starting our circle tour of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior via Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula.

We have been keeping a me3ntallist of what we need to include or improve upon for our next extended trip before full timing in 2013.

We must have a quality air compressor. Preferably a 12-volt model.
A nice set of wheel chocks.
Extra fuel in 5 gallon cans.
Jumper cables.
Some vital replacement parts like a fuel pump, shut off solenoid, and various nuts and bolts.
Should also have a jack and lug wrench I suppose.
Extra antifreeze, brake fluid, and oil—just in case.
Oil filter.

Things we need to address in the 5er include securing items in the cupboards. The dishes and glasses are being tossed everywhere.
Reducing the number of utensils like forks and knives
A USEABLE manual can opener.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Returning to the real world

So we are preparing to return. We will be adding a transmission cooler to the Dodge Wednesday morning. It may be like closing the barn after the horses are out, but it may still be enough to help the trans on those long climbs. Before 2013 we will have the trans upgraded with better clutches, torque converter and a valve body set up for towing. The 3.73 gearing seems to be adequate for towing the 12K pound 5er. On level roads, the dodge slips into overdrive and wants to cruise at 65-70 MPH.
We also need to see if we can squeeze another 1-3 MPG out of the cummins. It will get 17-18 mpg empty on the backroads of NC. We appreciate the fact it does get 11-12 mpg now. The old Silverado was getting 7-8 mpg towing a travel trailer and barely 15 mpg on the roads of NC.
We will also be replacing the dash. Dodge did not use quality material in their dash boards for the Ram truck. While we are replacing the shattered dash, we will also replace the wiring harness under the dash. The original owner had some electrical difficulties and left the wiring a spliced mess of wires and melted connections.
The cab is also uncomfortably HOT. We will be adding a sound deadener and a heat shield to the floor under the vinyl floor covering. This should give us some quiet and cool the inside considerably.
As soon as we get our pictures web ready we will have our MADIEN VOYAGE page up on our WEBSITE.

The Kids and I

Post contributed by Josue Durham

It’s tough living in this tiny house with three kids but until our budget goes up I just don’t think we’re going to be able to until my husband gets that promotion they’ve been promising him forever. I can’t believe we’ve got all 5 of us living in this tiny 1000 square foot place! We’re actually saving a lot of money by being here and although it’s tight it’s worth it in the long run. Our utility bills aren’t that bad, especially since going to and even our lawn maintenance is nothing because we don’t really have a lawn! It’s a really responsible thing for us to stay here for now but I swear if we don’t move sometime soon I’m going to lose my mind. I love my family to death but there’s nothing worse than being on top of each other when all we really want is more space to move around. Bonding is one thing but I think this has gotten a bit ridiculous at this point!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mackinac Bridge and Otsego Lake State Park

We crossed over the Big Mac around 2:30 yesterday afternoon. Traffic was light and the temperature was noticeably warmer. We couldn't get into Soaring Eagle's RV Park so Mary found Otsego Lake State Park. We are going to use our $29 passport as much as we can. The Trailer Life book listed laundry as an available feature alongt with showers, grocery, and a few others. Turns out all they have is showers--on site. Laundry and grocery are 7 miles back in the town of Otsego Lake. If we could find an efficient washer / dryer combo we would pick one up. Most of the units designed for RVs only wash a few items at a time, and we really don't want an apartment size stacker unit--besides many state parks here in Michigan do not have water connections--though we can fill the holding tanks.
We passed on several major attractions as we came into Otsego Lake. Just before you come to the bridge from the north, there is the "World Famous" Castle Rock. A tpourist stop for trinkets and the chance to climb a rock tower for the price of admission.
We also passed Call Of The Wild Museum that houses various animals found past and present in Michigan. The museum also has a Bavarian Falls Park that offers mini-golf, go carts and bumper car...We might stop next time we come through?
Otsego Lake State Park is probably the final frontier for suburban folks. Many of the people here are from the Detroit Metro area and seem to stay a week or two. This is not a transient park. It is a place where 3-4 families come out to enjoy the summer. Otsego Lake is an all sports lake meaning all forms of watercraft are allowed. Like most of Michigan's state parks, people here sit up late into the night around the campfire enjoying the company and surroundings.

Tim and Mary

On the road in Otsego Lake State Park

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sault Ste Marie and the Soo Locks

We headed out to Sault Ste Marie (Rapids of the St. Mary's river I am told) to see the Locks. If you have never seen a lock in operation, it is something else. To see a 800 foot freighter raised 21 feet in a matter of 2-4 minutes is unbelievable. That 21 feet is the difference in height between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
Of course the Portage Street in front of the Locks is tourist central. We had a great lunch at the LockView Restaurant and Motel. When in the UP you either have pasty (PASS-TEE) or Whitefish. And like Bubba Gump's shrimp, you can do whitefish a million and one ways---and it is all good. I had the fillets and Mary had some wonderful whitefish chowder and a whitefish sandwhich.

This afternoon we also stopped by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The museum is located at Whitefish Point. There you can see the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald and other artifacts raised from Lake Superior.

Again we have a million pictures. These digital cameras are just great. We can take hundreds of pictures and not worry about running out of film.

Tomorrow we cross over the Big Mac--Mackinaw Bridge--and re-enter the land of the trolls (folks who live under the bridge, also known as FUDGIES).

We will be staying at the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant. We are going to try and get into the RV park if it is possible. Monday we will be back in Brighton--coming full-circle--from where we started on July 05, 2011. We will leave Brighton Wednesday for North Carolina...

WOW, is summer really almost over? This has been an excellent madien voyage for the Coachmen and the Dodge. I believe that when we pull into the driveway in Bunnlevel, NC we will have traveled nearly 2800 miles. We have traveled more often than we plan to as full-timers,but we wanted to see how the equipment and ourselves, would stand up to rigorous use. We have learned so much from our voyage.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tahquemenon Falls State Park

July 13 & 14

We rested for awhile at Van Riper State Park in Champion,Michigan--about 14 miles west of Ispheming. It is a great park, but we had trouble locating water? Most Michigan State Parks do not have on site water and you need a 2-5 gallon container if you holding tanks are not filled.

We left Van Riper at 10:30 A.M. and headed for Pictured Rocks. We wanted to stay at the Munising Community Park but they were booked. So rather than staying at a private park, we opted to head for Tahquemenon Falls State Park between Newberry and Paradise, Michigan. We are glad we did. Munising is a nice park, but more open than we like. The state park is nicely wooded and generally more entertaining.

We are going to Sault Ste. Marie in the morning. There are cruise boats that take you through the locks for $21 per person.

We are going off to make dinner and then showers before we review the pictures we took today. Being on the road 24/7 definitely requires a new mind set from touring.

Tim and Mary

On the road in Tahquemenon Falls State Park

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

There no such thing as a bad Pasty...

Mary


We are finally in the Keweenaw, or the Wolf’s Mouth as native Yoopers call it. We Michiganders like to name the different parts of our state. There has been summer heat in North Carolina since early April. I know that is nothing to cry about, but I was craving some cooler weather. We had to drive above the 48th parallel to find it.

Our maiden voyage is going pretty good. So far no major arguments and the only major problem was the starter going out. That was not fun, but we fixed it and all is good. Today did feel like we were on a dream vacation. It was a beautiful day. The temps were about 60 degrees and great for walking.




We started out in the town of Copper Harbor. Its just about a mile from Fort Wilkins State Part where we are staying. We had a great lunch, fresh white fish for me and a pasty for Tim. A patsy is like a pot pie but not. Most Yoopers drink about a six pack of beer with their pasty, it’s a local seven course meal. After lunch we walked down to the shore line of Lake Superior. There really is something about this lake. I almost feel like I could look up and see one of the characters from Last Of The Mohicans canoeing across the water. It is very pristine.



From there we drove back to Fort Wilkins State Park. We visited the fort. It is on Lake Fanny Hooe. I am not sure if Hooe is pronounced like “hoe” or “who.” Either way the name is just to much fun to care. The fort had been restored to museum condition. 19 of the original 24 buildings are still standing. 12 of those are original to the fort.



When we left the fort Tim decided to drive to the END of the Keweenaw. About three miles from the state park, hwy 41 ends after about 2000 miles. The other end of hwy 41 is in Miami Florida. Someday we are going to have to get a snap shot there too.



From there on its dirt road. About 7 miles of jaw crunching, kidney popping dirt road. I do not think there is a way to get there in a car. The dodge 2500 was in 4 wheel drive most of the way and that was with the roads in good condition.




Going in we didn’t know if we were going to even get to see what we hoped was a once in a life time view.




The drive was worth it.


There is something absolutely magical about this place at the end of nowhere.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Way off the beaten path, eh?

Leaving Green Bay is a bit more hilly than I anticipated. It is also a LONG drive. Houghton is a great town. Across the river is HAncock. Leaving Hancock is the beginning of wilderness...almost absoulte WILDERNESS. There are bits and pieces of the old mining industry everywhere. Small miner camps, and even a few old miner towns. Half way between Copper HArbor and Houghton is Calumet. This town is still thriving in the wilderness of Keewanaw. Mary counted 6-7 churches--dating back to the 1900s. Most looked to have been abandoned.

Coming into Fort Wilkins, it is a 25 mile drive from Calumet. The LAST stop for diesel is a small intersection of a town called Alleouz. There MIGHT be diesel at the Phoenix Store. There is gasoline available in Copper Harbor in the morniong hours between 9:00 A.M. and 1:00 P.M or upon request by calling the owner at the telephone number listed on the door.

We are having lunch at the Tamarack Inn where there is Wi-Fi. Copper Harbor is also home to the Presque Isle ferry to the NAtional Park.

Too much to see and photograph. Will be posting again...

Tim and Mary

In the final frontier of Michigan

Copper Harbor...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Returning to vacation mode

We had a brief thunderstorm come through Green Bay last night. I slept through it. Our Lola the Plott hound is terrified this morning, as she always is after a storm.
After some blueberry and cherry pancakes, we are packing and heading to Copper Harbor this morning. The storms we had here in Green Bay are supposed to meet us in the Upper Peninsula by noon or so.
We are going out 41 / 141 from Green Bay. We would really love to stop before crossing the border and pick up some FRESH cheese curds.

Road ready warriors heading to Copper Harbor

Thanks goes out to Farm and Fleet In the Dells. Obviously they thought it would be best for mre to climb under the Dodge and replace the starter rather than one of their 2o something technicans>?

The Dodge is back up and running....we will be heading to Copper Harbor Michigan tomorrow morning.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Arrived at Bayshore PArk....finally

Well, the Dodge started after cooling down in Omro. We are set up here at Bayshore Park north of Green Bay. It is a great park. We plan to stay for 2 night (we have reservations in Copper Harbor Michigan for Monday night).

We are going to look for an autoparts store here in Green Bay / Door County and probably have to replace the starter ourselves on Monday. Good thing check out is 3:00 P.M.


Tom and Mary

Settled at Bayshore County Park in Green Bay, Wisconsin

Can we get just a little luck?

We picked up the Dodge at Farm and Fleet yesterday evening. They said it was all good and eveything checked out--including the starter. Hmmmmmm.
It started a little slow when I took it out of the parking lot but shrugged it off as being a low charge.

It started right up this morning as we left the Dells. After driving 130 miles to Omro, we are stopped for lunch. As soon as we turned off the Dodge I tried to start it and the starter refused to turn more than a groan. Guess the techs at Farm and Fleet were wrong? So we are finishing luch here at the Mickey D's (free Wi-Fi) trying to find a mechanic in Appleton or Green BAy that can replace the starter today or tomorrow. So far Craigslist has been little help. We did get in touch with a guy in Pulaski (NW of Green Bay) and he wasn't sure if he would be of much help beings he is 20-30 miles out of GB.

Mary is using this time to shop at the Piggly Wiggly next door. I am getting ready to make a few phone calls to try and get a mechanic who might be able to do this today--which is doubful as it is already 1:39 CMT....


Tim and Mary


Off the road in Omro, Wisconsin