Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thomas Wolfe and Charles Bukowski

Preparing to travel back to Michigan conjures various emotions. Our families are still there, for the most part. There are several nieces and cousins that have moved out of state, but our siblings are all there. So too are our family homes and memories. I am always reminded of Wolfe's passage about never being able to go home again. Somehow, once we leave, home is never again the same. We have missed out on changes, if they be for the good or bad, and we are always stuck in yesterday--never quite able to reconcile our memory with present day reality.
Yet, like Bukowski, we never seem to be able to leave it completely behind. We torment ourselves with the past. It seems we are forever regretting what we did or did not choose; remorseful for the same reasons and clinging to the past we knew while denying the present.
We constantly run after an all elusive meaning, something that will provide a rational explanation of why we have taken the road we have. We find comfort in telling ourselves we wouldn't have done it any differently--but what if we had?
Would we then be regretting not doing this the first time? Would we have missed out experiencing what we are, who we are and where we are at this moment? What if we spent the next 10 years trying to answer such questions? Where would we be then? Perhaps in the same situation we are today? It has taken me many years to reach an understanding with the past. May be it was a silly bumper sticker (a truly great source of wisdom) or may be a combination of sources that lead to this agreement with Yesterday.
I have agreed to allow the past to hold the memories, but will not allow it to control the emotions. At the same time I will do my best to prevent the future from plagiarizing the past while demanding original material.
But like Bukowski, not everyone is successful at appreciating the past while respecting the future. This usually results in a conversation with family that attempts to draw out a confession about yesterday and an apology for today.
So I guess I am apprehensive about some aspects of family reunions, because each side of the coin wants the other side to be like them--to come back from the Dark Side...

Monday, May 30, 2011

GVWR--Weighing in

We are trying to determine weight limits and cargo capacity. We have posted before that our Coachmen Catalina is titled a 1997, yet there is no listing for a 320RKS model in 1997. The spec sheet in the kitchen is dated 09/23/1997. We have a sale receipt dated 1/12/1997 and a weight document in the closet dated 9/12/1996 for a 320 RKS.
The weight document states the trailer weighs 10128 lbs. NADA specs says it weighs 9815 lbs. The sheet tells us it has a cargo capacity of 3450 lbs. It then outlines the options and the weight of each. Our bedroom slide adds 600 lbs. The 50 amp service adds 5 lbs. The ducted air system is another 227 lbs. Total the Coachmen has nearly 1200 lbs of options. If the document is correct, we have 2200 lbs available for stuff.
Heading north in 13 days, we are probably carrying the weight we would once we go fulltime. No water, empty tanks and more tools than we really need. When we arrive in Michigan, we will unload the majority of stuff with family. I then will sort through the tools and leave any doubles or unique tools with my brother.
I am heading to the landfill tomorrow after school. They have a scale for those folks with mega trash who pay by weight. I am going to ask if I can have my trailer and truck weighed this week to get an acurate weight.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The calm before the storm

Sometimes it feels like we get all caught up in some drama, then there is calm. Last week we were in a panic about the Dodge. The electrical short was all consuming. Then we were frantic about tires. There really aren't many good used tires here in this area of North Carolina. So it became a matter of where we would buy new tires. Just one drama after another.
Fortunately the shocks for the Dodge were a no-brainer. Long past due, we were able to parlay a few vintage trailer parts on e-bay to purchase the skyjacker shocks. The Dodge is tight and responsive once again
As we are relaxed, ready to load the Coachmen Catalina with stuff to take north, we have time to take another look at the current drama that is always just under the surface--financial income on the road.
Our friend Nick has just published another Kindle book Work Your way Across the USA available on Amazon. For $2.99, it is a book we will be reading this summer. We will also be looking very closely at workamper opportunities like Amazon seasonal as well as a few other paid positions at various resorts / campgrounds.
We are exploring various ways we can have the internet work for us. There are on-line tutors, opinion polls, reviews / critical commentary and a host of writing for XXX. We believe that the majority of our income has to be derived from the internet while we are in the road. We have looked at several sites like Workamper and think there are some really great positions out there once we are full-time. But we are trying to be mobile as much as possible and be self-employed as our major source of income.
So as we enjoy the calm, or is it just the eye of the storm, we have time to search and be as diligent as possible about financing and employment.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tires, tires tires!!


I never thought I would be excited about tires. Its just not a girl thing. Tires are a necessary evil for many of us women. We know we must have them. We also know that every few years we have to go “tire shopping” as hubby drags out what is for him an event. As we left this morning for the hour drive to Discount Tire, I found myself excited. These tires were for our 5th wheel. The last major expense before we can hit the road for the summer.

The old tires looked new because they had only about 700 miles on them. But they were original from 1998. Not a pretty thing in the Florida sun. I had my fingers crossed that we would make it the last 50 miles to the tire store. We drove it 600 miles from Florida on luck alone.

We did make it and we now have new Carlisle trailer radial tires. Whatever that means, I just know we are good to go. We have to load up a few things for the girls and our dogs and off we go to Michigan when school is out in two weeks.

Why we have one choice.

I have written earlier about some of my previous travels. The fact that it seems second nature for me to be mobile. This personality quirk may be due in part to my parents, at least mom's, drive to take us to see the history and wonders of this country.
In 1995 I traveled Europe with my brother over Christmas break. As I meandered around Switzerland, Germany, Luxemborg, Belgium, Netherlands, and northern France I didn't have the same eagerness to explore. Maybe it was the disconnectedness to their culture and history? Don't get me wrong, it was beautiful, the people we met were wonderful and the sights were stunning. But, I cannot tell you with any clarity what I saw and where it was. There are highlights and things that standout like Canal Street in Holland, the Chunnel, the small streets through Bern.
Yet, even on my most insignificant travels through the USA, I have a very vivid memory of places and people. Like Dan. I met him in Oregon while on the TransAmerica bicycle trail, just outside of John Day. He was what many might think of as eccentric. A loner. Yet he shared with us his rock collection and gave each of us a special rock--which I still have today. June, the Cookie Lady, just outside of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. The folks at Naropa, where I spent the summer at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. The long hot road along the Mississippi River the summer of 1982 from Minneapolis to Madison.
There is a connection I have grown up with. A marvel at what this country really is. Not the economics, infrastructure, free enterprise capitalist system we have come to depend on--rather the free-will and spirit that this country was based on. The idea folks can relay on each other when times are bad, and hold each other when time are good. I guess it is the basic blue collar mentality that shapes my desire to be the captain of my own destiny.
Throughout my short but drawn out life, I have found this desire has led others to view me with suspicion and contempt. Like ordering a vegetarian pizza was a conspiracy to over throw the beef industry. I often heard "What if everyone wanted to do that?" from friends and family. Of course not everyone wants to load up their life possessions and travel the country, and those who do certainly are not advocating destruction of the Constitution. I would usually respond with something about not everyone will do it, and so what if they did? I was young then, and didn't fully appreciate my elders fear and concern.
It was a very different time then. People worked 40 hours a week, played on the weekends and vacationed in between. They retired with pensions and social security. Lived out their lives in a house they struggled to pay for so that their income in retirement would provide a comfortable existence. My comments were a threat to their stability. Their world wasn't going to be round anymore if I left their version of reality behind.
I tried the best I could to follow in those suburban footsteps. I fought for every success and staunchly defended every accomplishment. And it worked for almost 20 years. I am not sure how it worked the way it did, but I managed to construct an image of suburbia and convinced myself it was going to be doable. It probably would have been doable if bottoms hadn't fallen and bubbles started bursting.
Then again, maybe Mary recognized something. Possibly she acknowledged the light she had been carrying? Had it been my incessant commentary about how I had been there or seen that while watching the television? Whatever it is, I find myself again looking anxiously at the road. I know the super-slabs of concrete offer no satisfaction. Nor do I think it possible to re-create the TransAmerican Bicycle trip--at least not on a bike.

And yesterday's dinner along NC Hwy27 west, was the affirmation that answers the infamous question "Who shall I send?"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What is a Blue Road?

Tonight, Mary and I experienced an "in your face" event that really brought the Blue Road concept home.
As a special education teacher I have seen all too often the disfunctional environments many of my students have to survive in. Too many times I found the life being drained from me as I tried to find some way--any way-- to influence positive change in their lives.
Until 2009, I have always been teaching in what I laughingly refer to as "The Front Lines" of hell. The students in my classroom have always been just one step short of chaos, and one step shy of success. Generally I have been very instrumental with guiding the majority towards success. Not that it has always been applauded by the powers to be. Seems I was always overlooking the financial incentive for having kids in schools. Taking a student who needs 10 credits to graduate usually takes just over 1 1/2 school years, maybe two for a special education student. This translates into 1.5 FTE funding for a school--at the premium rate for a student with an IEP.
I have always looked at running a business from the QUANITY model. That is the more I can turn over, the more I make. My dad always used to say it is better to sell 100 widgets for .50 cents and make a .30 cent profit off each one than it was to sell 50 widgets for .80 cents each and make a profit of .60 cents each. Dad reasoned the consumer will be more likely to by the cheaper widget, your business looked good, and you had more leverage with your supplier to negotiate the price. So it made sense I looked at education in the same light.
I had students who were 17 and older, generally closer to 19 or 20. Most had 50% of their required credits to graduate and wanted to do so in an expeditious manner. So I went about arranging a program that would have the students graduating in less time than the charter school thought was necessary.
But I digress, my point is that here, in Lillington, North Carolina of all places, I have found some resemblance of reality. Where the ends justify the means if it is done in such a way people benefit. In a place where the nearest interstate highway is 40 miles in any direction, these people of the Blue Roads have an appreciation for life. This is exactly what Mary and I are wanting to encounter on the road. A place where folks understand life is more than McDonald's or Pizza Hut. Though there are franchises here, they are not the first choice. Life is tough here. There is no running to the mall to escape nor is there a downtown to fantasize about providing financial security via investments in commodities and futures. Here there is only determination and tradition.
This is the Blue Road Mary and I traveled tonight. At a dinner hosted by a local church, to recognize the teachers who provide that determination to their congregation's children. It was simple. Some would say blantantly simple. It was disheveled and chaotic. But it was important to the folks along this Blue Road, North Carolina Highway 27 West (NC Hwy 27 W). The county school superintendent was there. As was the county commissioner whose family has been part of Harnett county since the days King George signed the land deeds; which are still on file with the county clerk's office in many counties in North Carolina. North Carolina's Secretary of State even drove the 50 some miles south from Raleigh to attend the event. In the end, the event was as much a celebration of the children as it was the people who influence them. It was a night of community--some would say was one step from chaos, and one step shy of success. But this night, it sure felt like it was oh so much closer to success.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Do they make trailer tires anymore?

So the garage in Lillington passed the Dodge upon having the three deficits corrected. Had to pay an additional .85 cents for the "sticker." If it is all electronic, what sticker did I pay for?
While I was waiting for the Dodge to clear the last hurdle before new plates could be purchased, I inquired about tires for the Coachmen Catalina 5er. The guy showed me three options--all were truck tires and one had all-terrain tread. I asked him if the Grabbers all-terrain would make the 5er handle better in snow and mud.
"Probably not." he replied...
"No tire trailers?" I asked again.

"Not that size (245/75/16)." he stated.
"Hmmmmm," I stalled, "Nothing?"

I left for the DMV license plate office wondering how long the all-terrain tread would hold out on the Blue Roads in 90° heat and black-topped two-lanes..

I arrived home and started calling local (within 50 miles of our zip) tire stores. Appearently the guy was right...There are no "trailer" tires to be found in the Sandhills of North Carolina.
Finally I get a hold of this guy named Josh. He starts selling me some Falken and then a set of Cooper H/T--both road tread / all season tires. I try to remind Josh it is a trailer I need tires for and would like trailer tires with highway tread.
Carlisle or Goodyear? 10 ply, specifically for trailer use tires..do you sell this?
He stated they had Carlisle Highway radials for $146.78 and he also sees there are Goodyear Marathons--but only in a 235/80/16 size. Goodyears have the "BEST" insignia and Carlise have "GOOD." For the few dollars difference I go big and ask for the Marathons. Josh sets the phone down and when he returns a few minutes later tells me NO MARATHONS that size in North Carolina and he has to order / ship them from Missouri.
We really would like tires this weekend and have them installed and done so we can get serious about loading the stuff we have pawned off on family up north. Josh tells me the Carlisle tire might be available by Friday--they are shipping in from Hickory, North Carolina. OK...lets go with the Carlisle and plan to do this on Saturday.
So, if FedEx has the tires to Cary by Friday, the Coachmen Catalina will have new treads on Saturday. ACTUAL trailer tires and we will be waiting for June 13 to try the tires out on the highway.
We are still finalizing the route to Michigan, but it looks like this so far:
1. Leave Lillington Monday June, 13 by 5:00 pm
2. Arrive Wytheville, Virginia by 9:00 pm in time for LATE dinner(6/13)
3. Leave Wytheville, Virginia by 5:00 am in time for an EARLY breakfast.
4. Arrive Ripley, West Virginia by 10:00 am for snacks(6/14)
5. Continue to Wooster, Ohio by 1:00 pm and set up camp for lunch(6/14)
6. Leave Wooster, Ohio 6:00 am another EARLY breakfast(6/15)
7. Arrive Brighton, Michigan by 3:00 pm for dinner with FAMILY(6/15)
8. Wedding stuff all day 6/16
9. Final wedding stuff 6/17
10. WEDDING 6/18
11. 4 more weeks left of VACATION!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Countdown T minus 20 days

Finally, we are able to focus on the maiden voyage. After more than two weeks of hair-pulling-head-slapping frustration solving the electrical short in the Dodge--and $300 in parts all for a silly short caused by a loose front shock--we are beginning to relax. The Dodge is actually driving better that it ever has. The transmission feels strong and shifts like it is designed to. All we need to do is get tires for the Coachmen Catalina and get current tags for the Dodge--after a state inspection.
After work I stopped by a local garage here in Lillington for an inspection. North Carolina does not smog test diesels so it is just a routine equipment check. Everthing is good to go, but the three things I "forgot" to fix. In North Carolina you must have a rearview mirror dispite having two GIGANTIC door / trailer mirrors. Mine fell off three days after they installed the new windshield last July. I was meaning to get around to that. The license plate lights weren't working. I don't remember the last car I owned that had license plate lights that worked?? BUT I had picked up some replacement light sockets as I had heard I may need functional lights on the plate. I was meaning to get around to that too. Then there were the door windows. The truck is originally from Florida and the cab windows are DARK. The first month I owned the Dodge I had to turn the running lights on to see the dash gauges with the windows rolled up--during the day!. At night I had to roll the windows down to see if there was a car coming. So I knew they were dark. But they kept the interior cool. Seems they were a 7 on a scale of 100. The lower the number the darker the tint. By law North Carolina allows nothing lower than 34 on driver and passenger door windows. Fortunately the cab windows on the jump doors and slide glass -- which have to be every bit a 1 if not a ZERO--are permissible.
SO before dinner, I replaced the license plate lights, glued the rearview mirror tab to the windshield and peeled tha tint from the door glass. It was painful to do because the tint job had to cost $200-$300 as it looked like they pulled the glass from the door to apply the tint.
Mary is busy plotting our return route from Michigan in mid July. We are leaving North Carolina June 13 in the afternoon and plan to boondock up to Michigan to save time and money. Her youngest daughter in getting married June 18 and there are too many things a mother and daughter have to do before the wedding.
We are discussing the idea of doing the Upper Pennisula and coming around the Wisconsin side -- or --- we may just head to Indiana to a few RV parts outlets before heading west to Gettysburg Pennsylvania (The 150th anniversary year of the start of the Civil War) then to see Hershey and on to Philadelphia. Our last stop would be Washington DC.
Before any of that can happen, I have to take the truck up to complete the state inspection and get plates and then tires for the 5er. And while all this is going on, we have to load up some of our STUFF we have convinced family members to take...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Travel Bug


I was talking to my sister yesterday, she is in Michigan recovering from a really tough winter. I made a comment about not having been anywhere in awhile. She laughed and she didn’t want to hear it. That’s when I realized that my comment was really not true. Since last fall I have been to the Highlands hunting waterfalls. To Savannah and St Augustine over Christmas break, flown to Michigan in January to get a daughter and grandkids fix. Then in the beginning of March we tromped down to Daytona to get our 5th Wheel and last, over spring break I flew up to Michigan once again to my daughter’s wedding shower and another daughter and grandkids fix. I am impatiently waiting to get going again. I guess I have been bitten by the travel bug.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sweaty Palms


We are getting ready to take our 5th wheel on its and our maiden trip. The 5th wheel is a 1998 Coachman. It was never used as a travel trailer. It was always on a lot in Florida. It was babied and putzed with. We are doing a few things to make it our own. All of this is wonderful and fun. Going home to my daughters wedding in June is also wonderful. What is not so great is going over the mountains for the first time. My palms are sweating already. It does not help that my palms sweat in a car going over the mountains. Really its going down the mountains that gets me. As Tim says, I am hugging the dash board and stomping the imaginary break.

One of the things I didn’t think about when we moved to North Carolina was that it was on the other side of the mountains from most of the country. To get to Michigan we have to go over the mountain range. I know this, I have been on Google maps for days looking at different ways to get over them. The fastest way is to go straight up Interstate 77. It takes us through West Virginia. It’s not to bad as far as traffic. There are a lot of trucks, but that does not bother Tim.

Now I know what some people will think when they read this. If I think the Appalachian Mountains are bad, I will never make it in the Rockies. Tim has promised me something called a jake break. We wont be able to get it until next fall, but he said that he could go down pretty much any mountain at any speed I wanted him to. Something like 30 miles per hour would be good.

Until then my palms will be sweating and my imaginary break will be stomped on and I will do my best not to hyperventilate. I am still looking forward to our first adventure!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

To continue the story


In Michigan we have incredible falls. The hardwoods of the north never fail to deliver a spectacular show of crimson and gold. The fall in North Carolina is also glorious. I was not expecting the colors to be so vibrant or for the season to last as long as it does, from early October well through Thanksgiving.

Our first fall in North Carolina was a lesson on the state. We enjoyed the weather in the 70’s and 80’s in the Raleigh area where we live. Raleigh is located in the Piedmont on the eastern edge of the fall line. The coast is less than 2 hours away and the mountains are between 3 and 4 hours depending on where you go.

I had not been to the North Carolina portion of the Appalachian Mountains or on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Because the colors were so vibrant Tim and I decided to take a long weekend and go camping with our two dogs Kramer and Lola.

To tell the truth it was my idea to go to the mountains the last weekend of October. I could not wait to see the Smokies in full color. It was also my idea to stop at Walmart and pick up an inexpensive tent and an air mattress. Off we go, with the truck filled and over flowing and a reservation at the Swannoa KOA just outside Ashville and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
We get there, make camp and take off for the parkway and a late dinner. I feel a slight chill in the air and decide to take a light jacket.

As Tim said, the trip up the mountain that day was great. It was a magical event and I feel we would be lucky if we ever experience it again. Our dinner was great that night too.
We had barbecue at Moe’s Original Bar B Cue just off I-40. So far it was a weekend trip to remember.

There was a bite to the air by the time we left the restaurant. The dogs were comfortable and snoozing in the truck. When we opened the door to get in, they blinked at us with sleepy eyes and sniffed the air. They woke up quickly and became a little excited. I think it was the left over barbecue, literally our doggie bag.
After returning to camp and taking the dogs for a long walk, we attempted to light a fire. The wood was wet and we were getting cold, so we decided to make an early night. Our tent was small and the air mattress took up most of the interior. I anticipated a snug and warm night with 2 dogs and hubby. I have been never been more wrong!

Our tent was more like a screen room than a tent. I also found out that camping in cold weather with an air mattress is a no no. The cool ground and air around it pulls out any heat that comes in contact with it. In other words our body heat. The temperature dropped to about 28 degrees that night. It was not below zero, there was no blizzard, but we were cold. The dogs were shivering, we were shivering. Even my eyes were cold. Added to that the train going through every thirty minutes and blowing its lonely whistle. If we did doze off, it was not for long.

We were up early the next day and broke camp as fast as we could. I could smell coffee perking and bacon cooking in the air. I watched as rested couples, children and their dogs wandered out of their RV’s ready for a relaxing morning and then a fun filled day.

That was the day I knew beyond a doubt that I was an RV person. I love the trips and the experiences. I enjoy our dogs coming with us. They love it too. I also love my own bed. My own bathroom. My own warm home on wheels.

To continue the story......

Friday, May 20, 2011

Reminiscing about our new home state

We spent a lot of time on the road our first two years in North Carolina. Our logic was simple, and sensible to us. We had just uprooted ourselves from the only state we both had lived in since birth. Well at least for Mary it was a very deep uprooting. For me, I had lived in several other places, semi-temporarily anyways. I had lived in Honeybrook, Pennsylvania for a month or two, St. Micheal's, Maryland for a few weeks, Honor, Michigan for 4-5 months, Madison, Wisconsin for almost a year and Boulder, Colorado fro 4-5 months. So I wasn't as deeply rooted as Mary.
One of our more memorable trips was to Asheville, North Carolina in October 2009. We had been wandering around Johnston County in shorts and t-shirts the weekend before and thought it would be great to see the Blue Ridge Parkway as the leaves were changing..it was the start of PEEPER season in western North Carolina! The changing of the leaves was one thing we sorely missed about Michigan. We still had the 1995 Chevrolet Silverado with the gasser engine and didn't feel confident pulling the 1968 30 foot Holiday Rambler into the mountains. On a Friday afternoon, we picked up a Coleman tent at Sprawl Marts and headed west towards Asheville.
We arrived around 4:00 pm. that afternoon. We had decided to stay at the Asheville East KOA in Swannanoa, North Carolina. It is a beautiful campgrounds with a lake and full amenities.

UNFORTUNATELY, we learned too late that the peace and serenity of the KOA turned into the Hell Bound train once nightfall came. Between the campground and I-40, runs a train track. This night, the train started running around 8:00 pm. and continued throughout the night. Of course, the train also crossed a road directly in front of the KOA. This caused the train to blast the horn for 2-3 minutes--EVERY 30-40 minutes as it passed.

But before the trainful night, we were restless and thought we would do a short drive along the BRP just before the sun set to get a glimpse of color. We started at Asheville and headed north. Looking towards the mountains, we noticed white patches. It looked like giant broccoli growing in the distance. It took a minute to realize it was snowing at the higher elevations.

We came to the Craggy Rock Picnic area sign and turned left. Suddenly the evergreens were turning white. We picked the day of the first snowfall in the Blue Ridge Mountains for 2009. It was an excellent drive up to Craggy Rock and a once in a lifetime view of the mountains in all their splendor.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Seagrove North Carolina


Seagrove North Carolina

One of our favorite places to visit is Seagrove North Carolina. Seagrove is more an area than a major town. There is a crossroads with a few buildings on the four corners and the North Carolina Pottery Center. There are over 100 potters in the area. Their studios are down curving, ribbon banded roads that satisfy the curious with a surprising and often intimate look into the artists life.

Wandering into the artists studio gives their pottery an added dimension. A large number of potters live and create in the same place. Our first trip to Seagrove was on a Sunday. Most of the studios were closed. But we were happy just exploring the area. The names of the studios are nailed to up on old trees or hanging from rusting posts. There are curious names like Fat Beagle Pottery, DirtWorks and Blue Hen.

I asked the artists at Fat Beagle Pottery where he got the name for his studio. He said there was an old dog that wandered the neighborhood that looked kind of like a beagle. (In truth, when he said neighborhood I had to look out the door at the three houses I could see down the lane and through the trees. I guess this was his neighborhood). You could tell the time of day it was, he said, by which stoop the old dog was planted on. That Beagle is still wandering around telling time by the porch.

Another studio we visited that day was Caldwell-Hohl Artworks. They were closed but Hohl of Caldewll-Hohl was working in his whimsy filled garden. He welcomed us and we had the opportunity to personally explore the joy that is his art. It seemed that everywhere we looked there was something wonderful to see. From a small toad house hiding in a corner of the garden to the really really (did I say REALLY) cool log house he built for his wife and himself.
We went back last fall to their Kiln Opening. We had opportunity to view his new pottery first hand. It was a festive mood with other artists and their wares, live music and a personal tour of his REALLY COOL house. The free wine and cheese was a nice touch too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Movin To a New State


We Moved To North Carolina in 2009. Tim Moved here at the end of February. I arrived in July. The months between were spent with me packing and saying goodbye to my girls. Tim was working hard at a new school, in a new state.

Tim has always had a wandering heart and a passion for exploring new places. I found mine when I stepped out of my comfort zone and moved to a new place. The desire for travel and exploration was not natural for me. I am still am homesick most of the time. But I also learned that it was the people I have at home that I missed not so much the place itself.

One of the ways we battled my homesickness was to take day or weekend trips to explore our new state. We brought our cameras with us pretty much everywhere we went. There was something notable about every place we visited. There are still areas of the state we have not gotten to yet. Hopefully we will be visiting many of them this fall.

Here is a list of our favorite communities we have visited so far.

Big Towns:

Small towns:

Even Smaller Towns:
Moorhead City

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's like a cancer.

Edward Abbey wrote, "Growth for the sake of growth is the idealogy of the cancer cell." He wrote this in describing urban sprawl as it was taking wilderness / rural areas for commercial development.
Over the years I have tried to come up with something just as pithy to describe travel. "Travel for the sake of travel..."I still haven't written the punch line.
I still find myself wondering about the whole idea of travel. What ourpose does it really serve? Isit just a subversive activity some engage in to pass the time? Are folks who travel often, similar to the guys in the movie WILD HOGS, busting loose to sew the last of their wild oats?
I remember when I came out and told my parents I was converting to vegetarianism. Mom said I couldn't spend my life subverting the system. Dad said he would NEVER eat a pizza that didn't have meat! I went out to shop at Whole Foods when there were no BMWs, Lexus, Mercedes in the parking lot and customers either arrived by public transport, bicycle or foreign car that got great MPGs.
Though I have traveled often, I rarely took the time to wander the towns and communities I came across. Unlike TAE 517, car touring on the freeways was quick and impatient by nature. It was a pit stop here, restroom there and sometimes a local fast food place where I could get in some people watching.
I am hoping the Coachmen Catalina will change all that. We are intentionally going to seek out the back roads. We want to see the places Charles Kuralt shared with us with his ON THE ROAD series. We want to stop and meet the people. Eat the food and play in the parks.
We are rejecting agendas, schedules and reservations. If we cover 200 miles a day, or if we cover 25 miles a day, we are going to do it without regard for time.

The hardest part is waiting....

Monday, May 16, 2011

Destination unknown

I am not really sure when the idea of going on the road full-time came about. Not that I am against such a move.
In 1982 I loaded up my trusty Schwinn Voyager 11.2 road bicycle and headed to Williamsburg Virginia. My mom and brother drove me to the hostel I was staying at while others on the Trans America East (designated TAE 517)bicycle tour scheduled to leave Williamsburg on May 17, 1982, drifted into town over the next 3 days. We walked Williamsburg, went to Jamestown and other interesting places in the area.
On MAy 15, all the members of TAE 517 had arrived, and we spent the day getting aquainted. One member, Annie, had a sister graduating from William and Mary, so we all crashed the party. On May 16, we all rode our bicycles to Jamestown and placed our rear wheels in the Atlantic Ocean. In a little over three months, we would ride 5,000+ miles and place our front wheel in the Pacific ocean on the coast of Oregon. I am not really sure how this idea of riding cross country came about either.
Other than this inate desire I have to wonder, I mean wander. Seems I have always been on the road to someplace. If not on a bicycle, then in a car or by plane. Once I even went by train--Amtrak from Chicago to Detroit--round trip.
As I matured, not necessarily aged, I tried to convince myself I needed to be more stationary. More responsible and normal. (Actually it was the voice of friends and family around me saying this, I just accepted it as gospel.)
I initiated project "settle down and comform" in 1983. It lasted all of 3 years. I was half way there when I partnered up with my neighbor to do automotive body work. When that failed in 1984, I was determined to stay the course. I then signed on to work with a company that was owned by Huffy Bicycles. As a technician, I would go to area retail stores and assemble bicycles, power wheels, scooter, physical fitness equipment and ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture both for display and point of purchase.
It was a pretty good job. I traveled the southeast area of Michigan and serviced most major retailers. By 1985 I was traveling to western Michigan and northern Ohio. I knew traveling was my Archilles Heel, but staying close to home base kept me from straying too far for too long. Then I was asked to go to the east coast.
Like the gambler, I was sure I could handle just one road trip. I told myself I was in control, not the wander-lust. I spent 4 weeks in Delaware, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and along the highway 15 / 11 corridor in Shamokin Dam, Pennsylvania. Just like the gambler, I had fallen, from being settled down and responsible, into the abyss of wander-lust: I was swallowed whole.
I knew I shouldn't have done it, but I wanted more. The following year I was back on the road with Huffy heading for Philadelphia. I wanted to go to New York City. I would have continued to Maine or even Maryland if Huffy had asked. Knowing I had to feed the addiction, I eventually went to Oil City Pennsylvania (without Huffy) to work with adjudicated youth for a group called VisionQuest. Even while I was with VQ, I was able to move to Honeybrook, Pennsylvania, to St. Michael's, Maryland, to Ye Haw Junction, Florida before I left and returned north for operation "Settle Down, deux."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ounces and pounds

OMG...remember --DO NOT HIT THE ESC key when blogging--it erases everything and there is NO "control z" to restore 30 minute worth of blogging...ARGH!!

So we are loading the Coachmen 5er in preparation for taking to the road by June 14, 2011. Mary and I are looking at what we need or might need to have while we are traveling. That means we need a list. Maybe two lists. We begin writing down what we think is important to have and some things that could be nice to have with us as we transition to full-time RVing.
I am not sure how the list grew to the three or four pages, but it is taking on a life of its own. I was just starting to think we didn't own that much, but it is all too apparent we need to scale down---STILL.
We start with the heavier items first. It is probably easier for us to jettison the weight from the get go. We decide what will stay and either be sold or donated. The items we keep, will either go North to be redistributed to family or into storage with family. We will, at some point, return to claim our item from storage--sometime.
I look over the list and stop when I come to "tools." Having grown up working on cars, and later restoring our first home, tools are rather important. Yet I realize that there will have to be some sacrifices made. But today might not be the day those decisions are made.
Looking at the kitchen, we discuss our table settings. How many Corelle© settings do we need? There will be the two of us for the most part. Maybe an ocassiona friend will join us, but we can cary more acrylic or plastic place settings. Then we look at each other as we come to "coffee cups" on the list. Mary and I LOVE our coffee. We started collecting coffee mugs even before we were married. Our first collectible cups were from Bahama Breeze. We have since added cups from various places we have visited. Washington, North Carolina, The Sanitary seafood resturant in Morehead City, North Carolina, Skidaway State Park near Savannah, Georgia. At some point we will no longer have room for ALL the coffee mugs. For now we don't have to worry giving up any mugs, however if the cost of coffeee continues to rise, we may not be drinking any from the mugs anyway.
I think the clothing issue is straight forward--we will primarily be in warmer climates so we need a few shorts and t-shirts. Mary wants something for a night out or meet and greet. Also she reminds me of our Florida trip December 2010. 30* in St. Augustine for an overnight low and daily highs around 55*. We might not need the Carhart© but a sweater and jacket will probably be a good idea.

We will finish our list Monday or Tuesday. Sometime before next weekend we have to solve the mystery of the Dodge 2500 short...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Our current 7 stages

Someone once wrote there are seven stages we go through in dealing with grief. I would suggest there are jjst 7 stages we go through when dealing with life changing decisions. Our current life changing decision is going full-time in our 5th wheel come June 2013.
We wanted to share how each of the stages related to our choice.

Not just ours, bt friends and family. Particularly family. At first we wondered if this had ANY basis of reality. We knew it had been done. I had done somethng similar in 1982 when I rode the bicycle 5,000 miles cros country. Are we really considering this idea? Our children just laughed upon hearing the idea for the first time. As we become more comfortable with the notion, family became more nervous and denial was evident in their conversation and statements like, "You aren't going to take a chance like that..."

Mostly induced, again, by family. They are quick to remind us of al the family stuff we are going to miss. That there will be milestones in their lives and the lives of the grandchildren we will never be able to experience again. That we should consider how they will feel and what do they tell the rest of the family?

This is were we get angry and frustrated towards family for ignoring our dreams and needs. The kids start to bargin, saying they will come b and vist more if we lived near them. They were "planning" to visit us, but if we are moving why bother...

Again, the kids start to feel abandoned. COmments about being left, rejected and no longer caring are now being mumbled. We fight off feelings of depression and consider asking for more prozac or zoloft to get us through the complaints.

As we begin to finally feel comfortable with our decision, knowing there os really no other viable choice, the kids try to sound sincere and supportive. Inbetween the previous 4 stages, the kids let slip and "That's going to be great.." comment.

Our kids are almost here. Though the struggle with full support, they do their best to say positive comments. Mary and I have started writing out lists of what needs to be done and when it shold be done by.


Everyone in the family is still working on this. Even we have difficulties every once in awhile believing we have gotten through the other 6 stages.

Today we are facing an 8th stage.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Back to the Blog.

Technology always seems to do the unexpected when you are looking forward to its cooperation. SO after a day of blogger down, we are ready to update.
The transmission shop says the Dodge trans is good to go. Just changed the fluid and filter. All we need to do is swap out the TPS and possibly he solenoid in the trans. SO we are heading out in the morning to find and fix the short under the dash where the trailer brake controller was installed. Should all go as expected, all systems will be functional by Sunday.
With this good news about the transmission, we will be out-fitting the Coachmen Catalina for some road tires in the coming week. We had a brand new set in the Holiday Rambler travel trailer. We paid like $340 for 4 7.50 X 15 Carlisle tires back in Michigan the week before moving to North Carolina. Tires here are quite a bit higher, as the same tires, but 16 inch, will probably run closer to $500 installed. I have to remind myself that it is almost 3 years later and everything has gone up significantly.
Saving the $2000 we had budgeted for the transmission work will allow us to consider a few other needed items for the Dodge.
We might look at replacing the dash with a new one from Geno's Garage. If you have a Dodge Cummins, Geno's has many replacement parts at prices that are nearly half of other leading parts suppliers...
With the forecast calling for heavy rains tomorrow and possible thunder storms, it just might be a day for designing and organizing the interior of the 5er.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dreams and Visions

One thing we dearly miss about owning a house is the time we spent dreaming about how we would fix this or update that. We especially had some great visions as to how the yard was going to look. Sitting in our hot tub / jacuzzi we picked up for free, on the deck built from free wood, staring at the stockade fence we built with 1 X 5 deck wood (also free) we would map out our own secret garden.
Now that we are almost on the road (we have moved 4 times in 2 years) there is little opportunity for our garden. We are looking at ways we can still have our horticulture while traveling.
My plan, as yet unshared with Mary, is to attempt growing some select veggies in those small pots just as we set off down the road. Let the plants grow until we get situated at a destination we will be staying at for a few weeks or months if it is a WorKamper gig, then plant them out side in bigger containers so we will have some fresh veggies in a few weeks. Sounds like a great idea doesn't it? I am not sure if it will be feasible, but maybe we can work on the details and have a few tomatoes and green peppers started?
What kind of got me thinking about this botany on wheels idea are the Irises we just put in the ground yesterday. We brought them with us from Michigan, where we had Irises everywhere. White, purple, tiger, yellow, black. and even orange. When we first moved into our house in 2003, we were given 2-3 Irises from my mom. She had them planted along the drive way of the house where she and my dad raised us 5 kids. Soon our 2-3 Irises multiplied into hundreds. So when we had to leave the house, we took as many Irises as we could manage to dig uo in the July heat. Unfortunately, the problem with renting is we do not always have the time nor the appropriate conditions to plant a flower bed.
SO I am brainstorming how we can transport Irises. I see that there is a rolly polly trailer attachment that fits the bumpers of 5th wheels...it may be just perfect for a mobile greenhouse, IMHO...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Now that it feels like ours...

When we pick up our Coachmen Catalina 5er in Port Orange Florida, it had been used as a stationary residence its whole life. We bought it from the second owners, who had lived in it for 7 years. It was wonderfully maintained and very well kept. THey replaced the mattress, added a new LAzy Boy RV recliner chair and some new dedicated 110 outlets. As great as it was, it wasn't really ours. Like buying a used car or moving into a house, you love it deeply, but it stil has touches of the previous owners.
Our Coachmen was decorated in an ocean motiff. But not entirely Floridian. It had aspects of the New England coast with wall plaques that had gigantic pine trees. The shelf above the 14 foot slide was lined with sea captains and a few ship mates. Most notable was Captain Gordon of the seafood fame. The interior design was going to change.
We removed 90% of the ocean design and sold it in our short lived one day yard sale over a rained out weekend. We will be hanging our own "ocean art" we have picked up here in North Carolina. Every year, Morehead City hosts the NC Seafood Festival in the fall. The first year Mary was here in NC we attended and picked up the 2009 official seafood poster.
It will now hang in the 5er, near the spot we are considering the foldout work station. The new vinyl foor was another claim to ownership.
This week we will look at the idea of a customizing the entertainment center and possibly changing the slideout area by removing the divider betwenn the sofa and the dinette. Maybe a nice top cabinet will look nice?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Now For a Little Fun

Well, we have finally gotten rid of part of the old blue carpet. I have been trying to think back on when that color blue was ever something I would be excited about. I am still thinking....

I hope we will be able to finish the tiling this summer. It is almost impossible for two people to work in the rig at the same time. It is big enough for one of us to gofer while the other is on the floor crawling around.

This weekend we will be putting up a few pictures and finding places for some of the interior items we will be taking on our summer trip. I fully expect to weed out about half of what we bring in the rig this first trip.

We are getting excited as the end of the school year gets closer. We will be spending most of the summer living in our home on the road. During that time we will be figuring out where we will be putting our office. I have a few ideas. One of which is to make a Murphy desk type set up where the lazy boy recliner chair usually go. My thought is to have it pull down and split into two table tops in an L shape to accommodate both of us working at the computers.

The other issue we will be exploring is where to put our TV. The RV is in excellent condition for a 1997 Coachman. But in 1997 they did not have flat screen TV’s. We will be buying a LCD TV next fall for the rig. The problem is that the space for the TV is square and will not be long enough for a flat screen. So we will be looking at options this summer for the TV too possibly cutting and customizing the entertainment center.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Floor is tiled and looking great

It took most of the previous day to scrape the paper to this point. It seemed to air out after a few days and was easier to scrape as we finished this area in just under an hour. We tiled 80% of the floor before nightfall and started early Sunday to detail the edges and finish by the dinner bell.

Here is the new floor, It is a nice brown with hues / undertones of sage and black.

You can see the wonderful blue carpet on the right. When we removed the step into the bedroom, it was actually a very beautiful color blue--when it was new. We will be replacing the carpet on the slide-out with tile in the very near future.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

New floor adds new life to the 5er

We started this morning, rather late, but it was before noon! Seems the paper backing on the floor was a bit easier to scrape today. By 1:30 P.M. we were setting the first vinyl tile in place. We just completed a basic rectangle and will fill the edges tomorrow. We will have pictures of the floor pre-vinyl on Blue Road Blogger later this evening.
And about the truck. Eliminated the fuel solenoid shut-off as a problem as I wired the solenoid in the on position and the #9 engine fuse still blows. It could be the fuel heater as it is on the #9 curcuit. Looks like we will have the manual fuel cut off cable tomorrow. Then I will be able to get it to the transmission shop for a rebuild. Wouldn't it be great if it was the transmission and the rebuild fixed the problem?

Friday, May 6, 2011

FRIDAY and the rain has blown through

It is Friday again. Usually it is a good thing, but lately they seem to be coming a little faster. Rained for a few hours, mostly a drizzle, but here in North Carolina when the clouds roll in the temperature rolls down. It doesn't take long to realize how cold intolerant you are when it's 60* and you need a jacket to be comfortable outside.
Pictures and work on the floor tomorrow--gotta make it happen.
The truck diagnosis is back full circle as I know believe my original concern--the fuel solenoid being bad ---is probably correct. Time to remove one piece of electronic and replace it with good old fashion MANUAL technology. Going to the parts store for a choke cable and turn the fuel shut-off to a push-pull system.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Is it tiled yet?

Still looking at the paper backing on the floor of the 5er. It's already Friday and I would love to see tile on it this Saturday. Like the Little Engine that Could, I think I can still see the floor tiled by Saturday---sometime.
Our other concern is having the 5er washed. Sitting out side in the North Carolina elemens, weather can take its toll. Between the rain and the pine pollen (eveything goes green between March 12 and April 21), exteriors of vehicles and trailers begin to look a little dull and moldy. Along the way we will be looking for a cover..Yeah another thing to store and carry.-Then there is getting it to the roof and putting it on.
I'd share some news aboutthe Dodge 2500 and dead-pedal syndrome, but there really is no news. I did tighten the ABS system mounting bolts. It appears the trailer idiot technicians at the shop loosened the mounts, left out a bolt and that was causing the the unit to jump around resulting in an unsttable ground situation and then poser surges that bkew the #9 engine fuse. I tightened the mounts so any improvement is yet to be noted...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Too many projects

Preparing to go full time, getting the website going, the blogs, the reduction of stuff, and now the Dodge 2500 wants attention.
A while back the ABS and Brake lights came on. They would go out after awile, come onlater...then the speedometer quit...now the #9 engine fuse blows whenever it feels the neeed.
We have the speedometer working now. The lights are out TEMPORARILY. Seem to come back when the truck bounces just so on the road and WHAM--the #9 engine fuse blows..
Less time to do more stuff. Banging around under the hood while the truck is running, I get the lights to come on when I whack the ABS controller. Now I have to remember where I saw it for $112....what website was that?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Auctions and Educational Shows

Written by my friend Melvin Strong

I can't believe that my blog has been going for fifteen months already. This is my anniversary blog and I have a special show I want to talk about. The show is called "Auction Kings" on the Discovery Channel and it is my favorite educational show. Someday, when I graduate high school, I want to own my own auction house in Nevada and sell high dollar materials to all of the gangsters in the area. This show has helped me to understand how the auction process works and what to look for from antique collectors. My dad will sometimes change the channel to a show about direct TV and I learned so much from it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A cruise to Australia

Thanks for the article from Glenda Hanson

My family loves to go on cruises. We always make sure to go on one at least once a year. Our favorite destination is Australia. We have been twice so far. In fact, we are planning to take another cruise there sometime in the near future. This time, we are also going to take some friends with us. My husband and I have two kids, so we are going to allow them to each take a friend as well. This way, they will have others to hang out with once we are on the ship.
Before we head out for our cruise, we always make sure to set the home
security alarm. Then, it is all about having a carefree, good time. Australia is our fav! orite destination for a number of reasons. The main reason is due to the beautiful scenery. It is an amazing place and the water is so clear. Not only that, but there is a lot to do. There are really cool excursions that you can take once you arrive at the country. My favorite is when we go snorkeling.

Check list for out of doors activities

We have been in several places during the past year when we realized the need for good footwear. One place in particular was when we were doing the water falls tour in Western North Carolina. Though a pair of boots would have been great, we wondered if Asics Sneakers would have been better than the 4 year old shoes we were wearing.

Years ago when I rode my bicycle cross country--from Virginia to Oregon--I had a very good pair of cycling shoes. The problem was after riding, I needed to change out of the cycling shoes thta had cleats into something I could walk in. I generally wore something similiar to Nike Lunar Glide when I was going to be chilling or walking on packed ground for any period of time.
If I find I am going to be doing more than just walking; if I am jumping or playing with our dogs Lola and Kramer, I remember there are shoes like the Nike Shox Turbo 10 that provide the extra cushion my feet need when chasing Lola to get the frisbee she refuses to drop. Kramer is much better at playing catch the frisbee, whereas Lola turns it into a game of keep away just to see me run.