Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Our office space

June 29, 2011

We are almost finished with the office remodel. We started by removing the paneling on the dinette side from the divider. It is held on with those long narrow staples. Half came our with the paneling and the rest stayed stuck in the 1 x 1 framing.

We removed the square drive screws that held the divider in the floor, wall and ceiling.

Then we had to remove the balusters as they created a lot of pressure and we could not pull the divider out of its location.

There were also two blind screws that were installed prior to the paneling being stapled in place behind the sofa. See the red circles.

Here is the dinette space with table and chairs out and before we installed the office desk / dining table along the exterior wall.

Here is the almost completed office desk in stalled. We will complete the desk with a finish or laminate tomorrow. We will also add a paper file / shelf underneath center of the desk to organize our printing paper and to provide support for the overall desk.

Tim and Mary
On the road in Michigan

No where to rest

The biggest problem with remodeling the 5er you are living in is the lack of space when everything is torn apart. When we did our 1700 square foot home, it was easier to move around during construction. Yesterday we had the carpet coming out of thye slide and the divider between the sofa and dinette. There was no where to rest.
We are installing the desk where the dining table was. Along the wall under the window. We purchased two new office chairs from Staples yesterday.
We have pictures we will be posting as soon as we get Mary's computer up and running. Also, we found a home for the dinette set--Mary's sister-n-law knows some peole who would love to have the table and chairs.

Tim and Mary

On the road in Michigan

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tiling the slide

June 27, 2011

Our visitations are complete. Everyone has been seen and we have talked with those we need to say hello to. Our new departure date is July 5th when we leave for Shipshewana. That gives us one week to complete the slide remodel. We will start ripping out the rest of t he original blue carpet tomorrow.

We will have to remove the dinette set and the sofa / sleeper to the outside while the carpet is yanked out and a few thousand little brads and staples are pulled out. We are still examining how the removal of the divider in the slide will affect our remodel. Mostly we are concerned with what the ceiling will look like once the floor to ceiling divider is removed.

We will also be listing the sofa and dinette set on a few classified ad sites incase we find replacements while we are in Indiana wandering the RV salvage lots.

But first I have to cut the grass for my brother-n-law in the morning.

Tim and Mary

On the road in Michigan

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Where are we going?

June 26, 2011

We are beginning to appreciate the full time life. Since starting our journey, our travel plans have changed 3, may be 5 times. We are still heading towards Shipshewana, Indiana July 5th. Today Mary thought about heading west. She looked at the mileage to Black Hills, South Dakota and West Yellowstone, Montana. But, she decided a 4,500 mile round trip might be too much for a maiden voyage. Mary started looking at a 1,000 mile trip originating from Indiana and ending in the Detroit area by July 25th or there about. We have to be back in North Carolina for the new school year on August 16 and would like a few days to relax from our vacation.

After looking over several destinations / routes, Mary thought we could retrace our 2002-2003 route through Wisconsin. It didn’t actually take a year, but we did it over Christmas break 2002 and celebrated New Years 2003 in Escanaba, Michigan. We would stop at the Wisconsin Dells first. Mary hasn’t seen the Dells in the summer. We did see the Ringling, Barnum Bailey Circus Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin in 2002. Mary would also like to do a DUCK ride through the dells. Green Bay would be our next destination. We stopped briefly in 2002 and saw the stadium. We also did lunch just down the street at an old railroad depot converted to a restaurant. Neither of us has been to Door County. It is said to be the most beautiful pace on earth to spend an autumn day. From Green Bay we are heading into the Porcupine Mountains. It is just a short trip from there to Copper Harbor, Michigan. There we would get to explore Michigan’s rich mining history. Then it would be off to Mackinaw Island to see the Grand Hotel. Remember that crowd favorite movie Somewhere in time starring Christopher Reeves? It was filmed there. Mary’s youngest daughter was just there for her honeymoon. They told us it now costs $50 to sit on he porch of the Grand Hotel. There is always a big box of fudge to bring home as a souvenir. Not sure if it is cheaper than a Grand Hotel porch squat…

After the island, we would mosey on back south towards North Carolina and hopefully be there before August 01. That is if our plans don’t change again.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Personal perspectives.

June 25, 2011
A day with no rain! We used the morning to rework the Blue Road Blogger website. With the weeks prior to our trip here, we were caught up in preparations and that electrical short that plagued the Dodge for weeks. As a result the web site was sorely lacking in the development area.
We are in the process of adding pictures and some of our favorite places and people we have come across in out travels on the road and around North Carolina.
Many of the first links will be restaurants like the Shoney’s in Dover, Ohio; the White Horse in Carthage, North Carolina; Big Al’s in Pittsboro, North Carolina; and The Diner in Smithfield, North Carolina! There is a regional franchise in North Carolina that had breakfast called Biscuitville. But we found a place in Smithfield, North Carolina that has the BEST biscuits---THE BISCUIT STOP on Brightleaf Blvd.
It is our hope that the places we find to be outstanding in service and / or product will also provide the same for you. Unless some place is absolutely the worse, we will not go into details of businesses that come up short.
There will be times when Mary and I disagree on what separates the good from bad. An example would be the visit we took to THE HOUSE ON THE ROCK in Wisconsin. While I found it to be bizarre and entertaining, Mary saw it as MORBID and macabre. I would recommend it and Mary would highly suggest avoiding it at all costs.
We are also anxious to start posting pictures of various places we stop at. Mary has her Canon G2 Powershot and has a different perspective than I have. As we are also more settled, Mary is looking forward to writing more and sharing her voice regarding our travels.

Tim and Mary
On the road in Michigan

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rainy days and reflections

The weather folks say the rain will stop tomorrow. Saturday is supposed to have sunshine and low 80s. We spent the day updating our WEB SITE. We are using HTML to set up the site. We will have new pictures to go along with the text tomorrow evening.
5 days of rain is a great way to practice patience. It also tells us we will need a few books to read and more space to work with our computers. Mary and I are looking at changing a few pieces of furniture while we are on the road. Next to the entrance door is a new Lazy Boy ® recliner. It is really nice, but it may be in the wrong place for two reasons.
1. It is under the area we plan on mounting our 32 inch LED television.
2. It is in line with the proposed Murphy desk that will fold down in front of the window
The sellers had just bought the recliner to use as a selling point. As great as the recliners is, it might be more of an inconvenience than a comfort. We are going to consider the options as it is a wonderful brown and does match perfectly with the new floor.
Our other furniture change under consideration is the dining table and chairs. The chairs are bulky and heavy. The table is a small rectangular pedestal table. It is smaller than we would like and doesn’t fit the desk top computer securely. The table and chairs weigh about 75 pounds. We are looking at folding tables and possibly office type chairs on wheels. This will give us two comfortable chairs and a table we can also use outside.

We are planning on looking for new furniture pieces during our trip to the Shipshewana area next week.

Tim and Mary
On the road in Michigan

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Just like the road, our Possibilities are endless

June 23, 2011

Not having a schedule is weird feeling. Being able to sleep in, sit at the table and just look out the window, or watching the rain while deciding what you feel like doing, can be very terrifying. Some have said that responsibility is what drives a person to work. The lack of responsibility is what prevents a person from applying themselves to work. Now there may be some truths to this, as the greatest fear people seem to have is dying shortly after retirement. People, who spend large amounts of time in one setting, suddenly panic when they are turned out and exposed to a new environment without any structure—prisoners being released after years of incarceration, employees stepping into retirement. The same may apply to those who worked full-time going back into the home to care for a loved one.
If we do not have something or someone to be responsible for, we quickly begin to withdraw from our environment and avoid personal interactions which eventually lead us to be reclusive and depressed. Transitioning to full-time can create similar anxiety; particularly when such isn’t necessarily a complimentary move into retirement.
I felt the same back in 1981-1982 as I prepared for the TransAmerica Bicycle Tour (TAE 517). Long distance bicycle riding is pretty much a solitary act. It can be difficult to find other riders who look forward to 100 mile rides on a Saturday morning, unless you belong to a club. Then the folks in clubs tend to be speed riders and have a time frame in which to complete each segment of the ride. I rode primarily for distance, not speed. I did however try to maintain a 10-15 mph average for my rides. Initially I had no schedule or route for my rides. I had a general idea where I wanted to go, but sometimes I would ride 50 miles straight out from the starting point and 50 miles back, other times I would ride a circular route winding my way back to the beginning.
I took me awhile to grow comfortable with aimless wandering. By the time I left Williamsburg, Virginia in 1982, I was right at home with unstructured schedules.
I forget how great it feels to have no task master. Being able to set a destination based on route, events, or just to see something is very exciting. If it rains today, that’s ok, because we can just go tomorrow. If we need an extra hour because the attraction doesn’t open until 10:00 A.M. we can wait. The only obligation we are willing to accept will be for our own employment—setting up web sites, blogging, or photographing scenes for resale / publication. I suppose what we really want is the right to be flexible and ignore any and all time restraints in our lives ASAP!

Tim and Mary
On the road in Michigan

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Weather, it will be Michigan?

June 22, 2011

Some things never change—particularly when talking about Michigan weather. The week before we arrived, it had been high 90s and sunny. Since the wedding on Saturday, it has been thunderstorms, threat of hail, and tornado watches almost every day here in southeastern Michigan. Currently the worse weather is just north and northeast of us near Flint and Port Huron.
Before we moved to North Carolina from Michigan, it seemed that the sun would come out 3 days and the clouds and rain the other 4 days—and ALWAYS on the weekends. The chores I had planned this trip have been put on hold so long as the weather remains wet.
One of the things we did get to do today was to do a drive through of a local modular development. Mary’s sister had mentioned Sylvan Glenn as a possible residence after Mary’s niece purchased a vintage single wide in the development a few years ago. When Mary hand flown up over Easter break, she had done a preliminary look and talked with the park’s owners. It is really a nice park. It is laid out neatly and is mostly 1960s and 1970s single wide mobile homes. Most are 50 to 70 feet in length. The idea is to restore the vintage trailers with new windows and siding. Some may need interior work. Then you pay 50% lot rent for the first year. Most trailers cost $10,000 to buy and restore. Some are already complete, some sell for $2,000 and need another $6,000-$8,000 in repairs.
We have been looking at different states for a domicile once we leave the confines of out rented house in North Carolina. Most full timers seem to “move” to South Dakota, Texas, or Florida. But the more we look around we wonder why not Michigan? Plates for out 5er seem to cost $75-$125 year depending on which state we settle in. My truck plates will be more than I spend now in North Carolina ($52). In Michigan we can get permanent plates (which we already have paid for in 2009) for $300 and the truck will be around $65. The only real cost will be that no-fault auto insurance that runs about $150 a month just for liability coverage. The trade-off in trailer plates and not paying property tax on a rented lot, might be enough to give Michigan the edge.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Exterminating the bugs

June 21, 2011
We have replaced the exterior duplex. The duplex is wired parallel with the slide. We installed a new cover since the original did not have the seals for the outlet; we went with a complete replacement from the big box home repair store in New Hudson, Michigan.
Yesterday the holding tanks were leaking as we drove to the Brighton State Recreation Area to dump the black and grey tanks. We removed the protective covers from the underside of the 5er . The covers were made of 1/8 inch plywood and covered with a plastic material like a trap covering the exposed side. It appears to have been leaking for some time as the plywood is separating between the layers.
We are researching various replacement materials for the covers as this is being typed. Top on the list is an aluminum plate about 1/8 thick. Another possible replacement could be Plexiglas—but we question the durability and overall strength of the Plexiglas.
Each of the covers is 63 ¾ inches long and 35 ¾ inches wide. They slide into a rail on the underside and have one sheet metal screw that holds the panels in place. We need something that is both durable and strong enough to protect the tanks from the debris while driving down the road.
Our first day here, we noticed our brand new “drinking water safe” hose we purchased from Wally World had a giant bulge—looking a lot like a snake that swallowed the rat. It was the blue 25 foot hose made by Apex. We returned it today and will reconnect it this afternoon. We also bought an aqua color 35 foot drinking water safe hose as we are about 45 feet from the water source here at Mary’s brother Sunaire Windows shop in Brighton.

Monday, June 20, 2011

After one week and we are still in love

June 20, 2011
We are going through the getting acquainted phase of our relationship with our Coachmen Catalina. Like all relationships. We expected a certain amount of adjustment would be necessary,
At first every issue is like a national disaster. Feelings of why did we buy this, or you start thinking it really wasn’t such a great deal after all pop instantly into your mind. Then you realize it’s all good that this is just the preview of what is to come as you log a few more miles with each trip.
This first week has been the proverbial wind-whirl tour of friends and family. The wedding is done and we have seen most family members. We still have a few friends to see, but for the most part we can start our daily activities as if we are on the road full-time.
Aside from the chores I have put on a list, we have this time to develop our plan for working and earning money while on the road. As we have shared on previous writings, when we walk away from mainstream living, we will not have a pension, social security or any other source of income. So other than what we will have in savings, we will need to create a means of generating an income.
While we are here in Michigan, we are tossing around several ideas that could provide financial support. We will be expanding our web site and updating our travel pages. We are currently using our smart Phone with 3G hotspot to connect with the web. This is great so long as we are just browsing or uploading to our blog. We have used nearly .210 GB in the 30-45 minutes we have been on the web this week.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Working on the road

Since we have been on the road, we are always looking for ways to communiucate with friends and family. We are investigation various options and just found this Texingly. We will be looking more closely at this app as a possible means of staying in touch.

No RESERVATIONS or concerns

June 19, 2011

Our apologies to Anthony Bourdain..

Several things have become obvious since we have been on the road. Things will break. It is really nice to have FULL HOOK ups. And the most obvious is that the idea of having reservations is ludicrous.
We started our trip with the intention of staying here in Michigan for 3 weeks. We thought about going to Indiana before we headed east towards Pennsylvania around July 6 or 7. We then heard there may be another wedding on July 23, so we scratched the idea of making reservations in Indiana AND Pennsylvania; since we now were looking at a tour of Michigan to fill the time between weddings.
Then we were told the second wedding would be August or September. Again any thoughts of reservations and planning ahead were put aside as tentative schedules were changing daily. Let me go back to the original plans for a minute. Initially we had made plans to attend a family get-together at Mary’s brother summer cabin in northern Michigan. That was to have taken place the weekend of July 4. We started looking at reservations—only to hear the dates were changed to August 23. ARGH!! Reservations were just not the way to go. The family get-together is now scheduled for August 6-7.
With events that change daily, sometimes hourly, reservations on the road do not seem like a workable idea. Most reservations require a deposit of some type to hold the space. There are also more campgrounds that want Saturday and Sunday reservations on the weekend since the likelihood of having someone wanting a space for just Sunday is iffy at best.
Someone had asked about using reservations on a forum we frequent. We thought about this and wondered why one wouldn’t have reservations? Many places fill up during the tourist season, and it is always nice to have a place waiting for you, especially after driving all day.
But we have learned during our maiden trip how elusive it can be to make definite plans and reserve a place when you are on the road and have no solid itinerary. Suddenly, the idea of being on the road full time and having a schedule feels a lot like a full time job—too many expectations and obligations to be somewhere at a certain time.

Tim and Mary

On the road in Michigan

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Adjusting to the demands of the road

June 18, 2011

We are into our 6th day on the road. Thus far we have been pre-occupied with wedding details and unloading the items we brought to distribute amongst the kids. We haven’t time to really consider how the Coachmen is weathering the trip. This will be the big weekend for the family. The rehearsals were Friday and we all had a great dinner at a local Italian restaurant. Today everyone is hyped and anxious about the wedding. We will be getting ready early this morning to head out to see the girls by 11:30 a.m. The ceremony is set for 2:00 p.m. When there are three sisters involved, and one is the bride, time is of the essence as they say.
I sense tomorrow will be the proverbial day of rest for all of us. We have been in high gear since Monday when we left work to start summer vacation. We will seriously take to our chores list starting Monday as we also reconsider our time line for returning. Our original stay here in the Michigan area has been extended by almost 4 weeks. Because we have family members reading our blog, we cannot reveal the reason for our extended stay, but we are excited to stay for the additional time and wouldn’t miss it for the world!!
Between July 5 and July 15, we may get to see Shipshewana, Indiana area during this trip. My brothers have told us about several RV “junk” yards that deal in almost new parts and furniture. Since we have installed the new floor, we will be looking for a new taupe or beige sofa and possibly a television mount as we look to relocate the TV above the entrance door or the window next to it.
Our plans are to head back east by July 26. We will stop at Gettysburg for a few days then turn south to Richmond / Appomattox to see a few more sites.

Tim and Mary
Brighton, Michigan

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Taking time to rejuvenate.

Thursday June 16, 2011

Today is our second day being stationary. Last night after we leveled the 5er there was a shower of sparks from the rear of the trailer. We thought it was caused by the exterior plug on the side of the unit. The previous owner told us it would blow a fuse when it rained and water leaked in behind the cover.
This morning there was another showering of sparks from the rear near the bumper. I climbed under the 5er and saw there was an open power line. I had seen it earlier and wishfully thought it was a dead line. I taped it with electrical tape then I pulled the dual outlet from the side of the 5er. One outlet was cracked and the screws were rusted. Seemed it has been leaking for quite some time. Tomorrow I will replace the outlets with GFIC outlets and a new weather resistant cover.
We have the wedding rehearsal and dinner tomorrow afternoon—late afternoon. So I will have a few hours to complete the exterior outlet chore. I might also get to investigate the 12 volt system and possibly the radio in the bedroom.
There is another chore that has been discovered since our trip began. The hydraulic pump doesn’t seem to work on 120 volt. When we push the button, the pump clicks, but it doesn’t circulate the fluid to move the slides. We have to plug the 7-pin into the truck to open the slides.
It may be just as well we will be here an additional 3 weeks. We can use that time to check out the whole 5er.

Tim and Mary
Brighton, Michigan

Blue Road Adventures: Growing Pains

Tuesday June 14 and Wednesday June 15 2011

Thus far, the trip has been relatively smooth. Coming out of North Carolina you have a 7 mile climb into Virginia. It is great if you are coming from the north as it is a 7 mile descent into North Carolina. The Dodge started out great. After a few miles, it was apparent it wasn’t going over the mountain at 60 mph. It wasn’t even going to get 50 mph. Obviously, there are some modifications and tunes to be done to the Cummins 5.9.
First on the list will be to set the timing at 15.5. This should avoid the lad in power. I will also have to crank on the star-wheel to adjust the air / fuel flow. This adjustment will be accompanied by a fuel plate change. The stock plate is probably too restrictive. The Dodge will need a #10 plate to feed more fuel on a consistent basis.
The Dodge is hauling the Coachmen Catalina with a dry weight of 10K pounds and another 1800 pounds of cargo. Coupled with the truck that is 5800, and another 800 pounds of passengers and cargo, it is moving quite a bit of weight.
The Dodge also averaged 11-12 mpg through the mountains. It did very well on the level surfaces where it cruised at 70 mph without any laboring. We are hoping the remainder of the trip will yield upwards of 12-13 mpg.
Then there is the end result when we stopped for the day in Winesburg, Ohio. With all the items we loaded for distribution, there is bound to be some settling of the product during shipment. The dinette table took a tumble—no harm no foul. Then there was the slide fiasco. ALWAYS find a way to securely LATCH the door and cupboards when in motion. As I powered out the slides; the bedroom goes first then the dinette slide follows, the dinette experienced a slight hesitation. I stopped the slide when I noticed it was out of tilt with the walls. Seems the cupboard doors (behind the slide and out of direct line of my sight) were ajar enough to catch the edge of the slide and jam it. LESSON LEARNED and another chore to tend to this trip—securely fasten the cabinet doors when in motion.
Wednesday morning we are preparing to get on the road and say good-bye to Amish Country Campsites. At $25 a night it is a great deal, super location. They only have 30 amp services, but if you have the double 30 amp plugs that converge into a single 50 amp outlet if you really need to power all you’re A/C units in the sweltering northern heat.
As we are pulling out, I notice the truck is harder to stop when I brake. Looking at the controller, I see there are NO numbers on the digital readout. We have no brakes. ARGH!! Nothing has changed since yesterday so I begin to sweat just a little. Stopping down the road at a closed restaurant to check the problem we see a Catalina without the slides parked in the lot. This one looks like a 1998. We refocus on the brake situation. I move the manual brake and the readout show it is working. Depressing the brake pedal does nothing. It has to be the brake switch.
I begin moving wires on the switch and the controller shows signs of life. The problem lies in the connection—between the plug and the switch. Mary gets a few wooden matches from the 5er and I jam the sticks into the backside of the plug to tighten the wires and we are once again on the road.
Today the 5er feels easier to pull. It seems to roll better, like there is less resistance? I begin to wonder if the controller wiring was activating the 5er brakes coming through the mountains. When I refuel, I will be able to check the MPGs and see how much of a difference there is from yesterday and today’s trip.

Tim and Mary
Brighton, Michigan

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blue Road Adventures: The Madien Voyage

Blue Road Blogger Date----Monday June 13 & Tuesday June 14 2011---

We are on our way. We left Lillington, North Carolina around 4:00 p.m Monday. We took US 421 (it will take you to Harlan, Kentucky) to Greensboro than US 52 north to where it changes to I-74 just before the Virginia line. Since there aren't too many blue roads out of NC going north, we jumped the interstate (I-77) to our first destination--Cracker Barrel in Wythevile, Virgina.
We arrived at CB around 8:00 pm and had a very nice dinner. We spoke with the manager to clear our overnight with city or county regulations. We were sleeping (trying) by 9:30 pm. Around 2:30 am, something started buring somehere. We thought it was cigarettes, but when we stopped t the KAngaroo gas station for 4:30 am coffee, we were told it was out in the woods somewhere...

We continued on I-77 to Dover, Ohio. We were early, too early for the campground check-in, so I suggested we stop at the Shoney's in Dover at exit 83. I had been there back in April 2009 when I came back to Michigan after being in North Carolina since February 23. The place was wall-to-wall cars that April morning. Turns out there was a motocross competition that week and EVERYONE was at Shoney's for the breakfast buffet. As I found my way in, it was very clear why so many folks were there that morning. The buffet was excellent. It was one of the best I had ever patronized.
As I duggested it to Mary, I also cautioned it may have been great because so many people were there and the food was freash and quickly being replaced as it was being quickly chowed.

She was willing to go, as I had mentioned this Shoney's several times. Actually it was the Shoney's I compared all Shoney's to. We went in and were seated just before the breakfast buffet was closing (20-30 minutes. Our waiter told us we could do the breakfast buffet OR if we chose the lunch buffet we could have breakfast and switch to lunch if we wanted--but we had to pay the .50 cent lunch buffet premium. Sounded fair, so we took his advise and did lunch. As for a buffet, it was just as excellent as it was in 2009. Sour Kraut appeared to have been hand shredded, the mac-n-cheese was wonderful, and the salad bar was as fresh so fresh it had to have come straight from the farm to Shoney's. We took a moment to speak with the manager (Patrick) to let him know how impressed we were with the buffet. We left him a card with our blog and hopefully he will be stopping by to read this! THANK U Patrick, you have a great resurant there in Shoney's in Dover, Ohio

It is so great to be on the road and meeting folks like those at Shoney's. The entire team is great and seem to have great pride in their work and their resturant!

This is Mary's first real Blue Road type trip. We have made many runs between North Carolina and Michigan. We have covered the Blue Roads often, but there is a distinct difference in taking a Blue Road and driving one. The entire idea of being Blue Road Blogger is taking the blue roads and seeing, meeting and sharing with the people who live along the blue roads.

We are staying the night at Amish Country Campsites outside Winesburg, Ohio. It is a small CG, but quite beautiful. Trees and rolling hills surround the land. This is the Ohio we never see from the windows when driving 70 mph on I-75 or I-77. The interstates just turn nature's beauty into drab and ugly.
We met John Wile when we checked it. He and his wife Ruth, own and operate Amish Country Campsites. No pre planned frills, arcades, water slides or community room bingos here. Just a very nice place to hang your hat while you run about the Amish countryside exploring. John even gives you a coupon for free cheese back up the road in Sugar Creek--this may be a limited offer so if you stay the night, don't hold me to the cheese offer--

We are headed to Lehman's Hardware in Kindron, Ohio in the morning. When you get a chance, stop by one day and tell them Blue Road Blogger wanted you to say hello!

NOT that our trip hasn't been with out the traditional PIT FALLS of a madien voyage. Ther have been a few. We will share those tomorrow, after we have had a chance to process those moments and see them in a new light!

Tim and Mary

Amish Country Campsites
Dundee, Ohio
Near Winesburg)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Blue Road Adventures: Stop the clocks so we can have a few more minutes.

Are we the only ones who never seem to have enough time to pack? We have been planning this trip since we brought the Coachmen 5er home in March. We knew it needed tires. We didn't count on the Dodge being so tempermental, but that issue has been resolved for almost two weeks.
Today we transferred our travel items into the 5er. All the goodies we are going to redistribute amongst the offspring were carefully loaded and securely stored. Our personal items like clothing and Mary's guitars we all placed safely in their places. I managed to change the oil and get the rear seat covers in place for the hounds to ride comfortably in the quad cab. Tookout the old steamer trunk from the rubbermaid shed to be transported north. I even cut the lawn in back so it wouldn't be too high when we returned in August. Yet there was still so much to finish before we leave tomorrow.
Everytime we tell ourselves we will start loading sooner. Everytime we find ourselves loading uo to the last minute. Once we are on the road full time, I am sure we will be wrapping up our stuff at 10:00 a.m. to make the 10:30 a.m checkout...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dot Com

We want to thank everyone who is following our blog. We hope it is informative and provides some insight into how we have come to be in North Carolina and why we are committed to the full time RV lifestyle in 2013.
We are looking forward to several changes in our internet world starting MOnday evening.
First, we will be on the road heading north on I-77 from Winston-Salem North Carolina. We will be sharing our madien voyage right here in our blog. If you haven't driven I-77 from the North Carolina border to Charleston, West Virgnia, you will want to follow our trip as the Dodge 2500 CTD and 12K lbs of 5er roll up and out of North Carolina. Leaving North Carolina, the Dodge has a 5-7 mile climb right out of the gate. Our first destination will be Wytheville, Virginia. It is just a 3 1/2 hour trip, but we want to get an early start on Tuesday morning and get over Flat Top, West Viginia (Highest point on I-77) before 11:00 a.m. and be in Ohio by 3:00 p.m.

The other change we will be implementing will be with our web site. As many of you know, we are in desperate need of updating our pages. We have been so busy with closing up the classrooms for summer break, dealing with the Dodge electrical short and loading the 5er -- not to mention the search for tires -- that our web site has been terribly ignored. So too has our forum suffered from neglect.

Again we appreciate you taking the time to read and visit with us. Please come back next week to hear how our trip north is going. And if you have ANY questions, comments or suggestions about our blog / web site please leave them on our blog or catch us on facebook and drop us a note.


Tim and Mary

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sunday Drives


When I was a child my father would take my mother I on Sunday drives. I would sit in the back of his burgundy Ford LTD and feel like I was on a ship being taken to strange and unknown places. One of the things I liked most about these trips was the stories he used to tell me about when he was growing up. He told us that I 96 didn’t exist, Grand River was a dirt road, and going from Detroit to Brighton Lake was a major event that took over three hours. It’s less than one hour now. His summer cottage growing up was a one room shack on a pristine Michigan lake. When I was small and sailing in my daddy’s car the world was safe and good and simple. There were still a lot of dirt roads and a Sunday drive was still considered fun.
My father and I as a baby.

The attraction to Blue Roads started then. I have a curiosity about places I have not been. I still feel wonder and joy at seeing an oddity that I didn’t know existed. I am likely to ask a stream of questions when there is something new or different. That part of me has never changed. Taking time out to meet and care about the people I meet is another joy. I feel as though I need to thank them for being a part of my life, even if it is for a short time. Every person that crosses my path is another experience that I would not have had if I had not traveled the blue roads.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blue Road Adventures: Chasing down the past.

I last passed through Berea, Kentucky in 1982. I was on the TranAmerican Bicycle Trail (TAE 517) and we stayed at the college for 2 nights. As we drove into Berea, I had no clue where I was. There were no digital cameras in 1982, and I didn't take a film camera. I suggested to Mary that once we get on the road full time, we might follow the TransAmerican Trail periodically so she (and I ) could get an idea of what it was like to ride a bicycle 5000 miles across this country. Since this was enroute to Harlan, I wanted Mary to see a part of the TransAmerican Trail.

The last time I was in Harlan was 1968 or 1969. When the FX show Justified came on, Mary knew I would want to go to Harlan. It is also something I think happens to us when our parents die. Harlan was my father's hometown. Actually Loyall is his hometown. He was born in Harlan in August of 1929. His dad worked the coal mines during the 1920s through 1950s. It is said he assisted in building this monument. It has no inscription, other than a plaque that has been placed on the back side stating it was to honor the mining heritage. It was so much taller when I was just 8 years old.

In 1968 this bridge was the only way into Harlan. The new highway had not been built. It too was so much wider in the eyes of an 8 year old.

NOt sure if this has any role in the Justified show, but it is rather impressive. To the left is the library where I found a great gentleman who helped me locate a relative of my dad who still lives in Loyall.

Loyall isn't very big. The gas station, funeral home and a grocery store is about all there is. Behind the funeral home is a street than runs the length of Loyall. This is the street my aunt lived on, and where my current relative now resides.
Way UP at the top is the Wix Howard Cemetary. I believe this is where my uncle Billy is buried. My dad's brother died in 1937 when, according to family folklore, he was run down by a coal truck. I walked to the top and did a search, but it was hot and the dogs were in the car because there was a stray dog in the cemetary and we didn't want to have Kramer and Lola running after the dog. I would like to go back one day and do a more thorough search.

This trip to Harlan, which was on our way back from Michigan, was a chance for us to do more than drive the Blue Roads. It allowed us the opportunity to interact with the community. We visited the original Kentucky Fried Chicken, where I met the Colonel in 1968. Mary and I sat at what I thought was the same table I had in 1968. Then the resturant was still operating. Now there is a modern KFC built as an addition to the original where the food is cooked.
We had the chance to meet people, talk with some great folks who really helped us find what we were looking for in the way of names and contacts. Though it was just a one day stop-over, we left with the knowledge that being full-time on the raod and doing just this kind of research, is what we are really looking forward to doing in 2013.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blue Road Adventures: Treasures of the two lanes.

When we first relocated here to North Carolina, we spent every weekend traveling the state. In fact, when I moved here, Mary was still in Michigan. I would go out on the weekends and she was home in Michigan as we talked on the phone. She was my GPS as I told her where I was and she went to google maps and followed along. She was instrumental in helping me find my way home more than once.
After Mary moved here, we continued our country side tours. But now we had a dash mounted GPS. We would head out Saturday morning around 6:00 A.M. All we had was a county for a destination and our two hounds. We were always excited to come across a brown and white sign--a sure clue there was a point of interest we had to see. While touring the central part of North Carolina around Asheboro, we found this sign---
Pisgaha Covered Bridge
Naturally we had to see the bridge. We started following the signs and the directional arrows. Now had we a paper map, it was probably a little easier to get to than the signs had us go. But 20 some miles later we were driving right past the bridge. It is located off the two-lane. below road level and if you didn't know it was there--well you'd drive right on by.

You have to enter on a road that might be wide enough for 1 full size car and a smart car. You drive down along the roadway to where there is a cul-de-sac and there is the bridge and a pathway that takes you around the woods and across the semi-dry creek to the other side of the bridge. Of course you can just walk though the bridge and arrive in the same place.
Here in the middle of Blue Road Country, a late 1800s covered bridge stands in its original spot. It has been rebuilt and supported by the state through donations. When you walk in under the bridge, the beams are massive. Once your eyes adjust, you see the real reconstruction--

People actually carry the stuff with them to vandalize structures? When do they have the opportunity to do this? They must come back at night?

When we returned home, we found out there are just a few covered bridges in North Carolina in their original placements. There one named Bunker Hill Covered Bridge just the other side of Salisbury. Both are off the mainroad and were once the thoroughfare for the area. Both have also been rebuilt and names state historical landmarks.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Walking Sticks and Waterfalls


As you have read, we have been packing and loading our rig to leave on our maiden trip. We are very excited. There are a few things that we have decided to bring -- just because. One of those things is my walking stick. It is not one of those fancy ones that can be picked up at a welcome center or on the interstate at one of the Flying J’s for about $10 bucks. It is one that was picked up off the ground on a back woods trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was given to me.

Tim and I were exploring waterfalls in the Blue Ridge last fall. Some of these falls are off the road quite a ways. There are no tourist stands in the area. Roads to many of the waterfalls are unmarked. The only way many of them can be found is to make a turn at the next road after mile marker such and such.

The trails to the falls are well marked. The National Forest Service has done a wonderful job of making these treasures accessible, but not TOO accessible.
We were walking down one of these trails when we passed another couple coming the other way. They were done for the day. They were relaxed and happy to have made the trip to Courthouse Falls. I asked them if it was worth the hike down to the falls and they both said Ohh yaa.. She said I was gonna need her walking stick, it was just one she picked up on the ground. I still have it. To me the value comes from the memory it has of a generous and happy woman sharing something she enjoyed and of a great weekend trip.
It was worth the hike to the falls. It is a treasure hidden in the woods. There are over 300 waterfalls in North Carolina. There are about 250 in Transylvania County alone. We were able to get to about 5 of them in a quick weekend.
We are looking forward to many more weekends to come.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Peter Elbow and streams of consciousness

Remember when you brought that new-to-you car and you couldn't wait for morning to drive it? You would look for reasons and think of places to go just so you could get behind the wheel. That is kind of the way we have felt since we put new tires on the Coachmen. We are so anxious to get on the road. To try on the full-time lifestyle, if even for a few months. Just to experience that feeling, being on the road and no particular place to go (other than the wedding, then we have no schedule).

We will also have no existing concerns while traveling this summer. No worries about income. No thoughts about where we will go to make a dollar. Other than the truck being operational, this will be a realtively care-free excursion.

But, if this were an actual deployment towards full-time, finances would indeed be a very real concern. As we wrote earlier, we will take to the road with just $10K if all goes as planned. So this trip is not only a shake-down tour, but a financial viability test rum as well. Our blog is doing well. We are averaging 100 page views a day! But at this rate it will barely pay for a bundle of firewood. Mary has busied herself reading about various ventures that generate income for other folks on the road and assessing what variations we might be able to utililize.

There seems to be a multitude of writing opportunies across the internet. This summer we are hoping to find out if we are able to committ to a schedule and write, write, write pages of commentary. Years ago, while I was living in Madison, Wisconsin, I had a backpack that went everywhere. Since it was a college town, it was quite common to see folks with backpacks in grocery stores, coffee shops, resturants, and laundry mats. I had several spiral notebooks I carried, along with a variety of pens. I had several fountain pens which I was quite fond of using to write. I didn't have expensive pens. Though I did treat myself to one I found irrestible. I had walked through the Madison Modern Art Museum on State Street, and there I saw a beautiful teak wood fountain pen. It was a tiger stripped dyed green. It was $65, but I had never splurged for a pen before, and I had to allow myself this one extravagance. I tend to buy those Shaffer Calligraphy kits, the ones with 3 or 4 pens and different color ink, that I find at the warehouse clubs for $12-$15. I would load each pen with a different color ink to reflect the mood I was in as I wrote.

I would wander down to the Canterbury Book Store
for coffee and write for 2-3 hours. That is what Mary and I will need to do if we are to have our words work for us. Once we develop that "stream of consciousness" I believe we will be able to produce more worthwhile stories and interesting commentary.

We will also be trying out the smart phone as a modem. My Toshiba laptop has a wireless card already. We will be bringing Mary's desk top (which will need a wireless card) as we update our website(another story altogether) and continue our blog. This will give us real time experience in creating from the road.

June 13, 2011 seems so far off, yet is the habit with time, too close to relax.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Idle hands are the devil's tools.

We spent the weekend moving the stuff designated for family from its staging area in the livingroom into the Coachmen. We managed to transfer 85% of the items, including a pre-lighted Christmas tree we bought at a CVS for $10. We set the pictures we will be hanging, in the dinnette area. We even stacked boxes and bins on the queen bed. There is room still for our North CArolina Seafood Festival posters, and our clothes.

While Mary was arranging the stuff, I checked the Coachmen's batteries. I pulled both AC Delco marine batteries out of the hold. Both felt a little bulged at the ends. Not a good sign. Both are maintenance free and even if they needed water, no way to add it. They still have their original warranty tags, so it is safe to say they are OEM 1998 issue. I tried to test the voltage and one read 2.36 volts and the other 1.38 volts. Another sign that isn't very good to see.

I then re-installed the single step from the livingroom up to the bathroom / bedroom area. We are going to replace the rectangular step with a semi-circular design once we get to Michigan. The idea is to have a flip-top where we will store some 12 volt fuses and other equipment to test, and repair the 12 volt system.

Mary found a flat screen TV bracket online yesterday. It is $62 and will place the TV against the wall, probably above the window next to the entrance door. We will be assessing the placement of he TV above the window and might want to have it swing down to a more suitable viewing level.

One other project we are anticipating finishing while we are in Michigan will be a Murphy style fold down computer / work desk. It will mount on the outside of the pantry (next to the refridgerator)and fold towards the entrance door. I would sit at the desk looking out the window. The desk would also have a entension that would pivot out forming an "L" shape desk and Mary would be seated on the kitchen side looking towards the entertainment center.

Since we will be reworking the pantry wall, we are seriously considering revamping the pantry pull out wire shelving. Several folks have suggested replacing the wire rack with individual units that pull out like drawers. Some have told us that wire baskets will reduce the weight and that the baskets are functional in that they prevent items from tumbling out while in motion and when accessing the pantry.

Looks like I just created 5 or 6 chores to keep me busy. Hmmmmm...I was thinking this vacation was a time to get away and relax. Truth be told, having projects to complete is one of the things I really miss about owning a house. Taking a vacation to get away from it all is the perfect time to tinker and update the new residence. Besides, if we are going to haul 150 pounds of tools, why sit around and be idle? We all know what they say about that....

Saturday, June 4, 2011

You run and you run to catch up with the sun, but......

When thinking about going full-time, there are several thoughts that enter your mind. Some are obvious like, thinking you might just be crazy. Who in their right mind makes a conscious decision to walk away from normalcy and conformity and into potential instability? You begin to wonder if it just wouldn't be easier to be homeless in a large urban city.

Other thoughts are more rational. You wonder if you are preparing way too soon. When you make a committent to yourself to be on the road in 2013, there seems to be so much time, why bother doing much of anything until...say the summer 0f 2012? Then you fear you might get it all done too soon. Then what will you have to do but wait?

For us, we seriously wonder if we have enough time to get ready emotionally, financially, and socially.
Just like our college days, when we had to finish that 20 page thesis that was assigned 12 and a half weeks earlier, and the night before we are sitting at the computer banging the keyboard to have something to turn in at 8:00 A.M. the next morning. For the most part we have accepted the notion that we have to do something for ourselves. We have spent our lives in education doing for others and providing the foundation for many of our kids to be successful. We have also watched as education has been attacked by politicians, who feed fear to the public, declaring American education is the worse in the world. We are not sure what the true agenda is, but we suspect that there are some who would like nothing more than to see public education eliminated. But that is just our humble opinion. So we have been considering various means for doing for us--where we can control our destiny. After the markets crashed in 2008-2009, we realized it had to be something we could jump into on the run and take off with it. Fortunately, Mary was gravitating towards the travel trailer idea, it was easiy to expand on that and we were able to conceptualize that as our home. So emotionally we are already on the open road.

Financially, it is a bit more frightening. How much money do we really need? We are both under 62 by at least 10 years so social security is not a factor. In fact by the time we are 62, it may still not be a factor. The question becomes what do we need in savings to feel comfortable as we move about the country from job to job. Mary has said we need at least $10K when we roll out of North Carolina in 2013. Our first stop for employment will be Amazon (if all goes as planned) where we hope to work September through December. IF that happens we will have been able to earn enough money to get us to warmer climate and another job from January through April or May. By working 9 months and off 3 months, we will keep our routine we had as teachers. The summer we want to spend doing free-lance stuff like teaching science camps or story telling. So long as we can maintain the $10K in reserves, we believe we will be covered and this will also allow Mary to fly back to Michigan once or twice a year to see the grandkids at Christmas and Easter.

Social preparation will be another tough bone to chew. I do ok without having a group of folks around, but I can also find ways to be part of the crowd. Mary loves meeting people and having others stop by for an occasional cup of coffee or wine as we all share tales of the days events. I am a listener by nature. Mary is a talker. Our thoughts are to find ways that we can both adapt each others strengths, while developing a new network of friends on the road.

If you start too early, it can be frustrating. If you start too late it can be disappointing. Perhaps there is no good time, just the right attitude and a little prayer.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Following the Blue Roads

One list we are working on is our return route from Michigan. We are on a time schedule into Michigan for Mary's youngest daughter's wedding. But coming back we want to do the Blue Roads.
We know there is US 20 East from Perrysburg, Ohio to Akron. Then we can continue into Medina. Once we cross into Pennsylvania, the Blue Road route is a little tougher. The two interstates--I-80 east and I-76 into Pittsburgh--are about the only roads that will get you across Pennsylvania. There is US Hwy 15 South towards Lewisburg and Shamokin Dam. But, you have to travel I-80 to getthere. We took this same route north last year when we wanted to try I-95. It is a nice route, other than the section through Harrisburg. US 30 east will take us into Philadelphia.
Leaving Philly, we would be on US 301 south. This will parallel I-95 all the way to Dunn, North Carolina.
Hopefully this experience will provide us with the insight to avoid concrete super slabs altogether in the future. The next 2 years will be a learning curve as we fine tune our planning and expectations of what we want to see and places we hope will allow us to share our lives with the folks of the Blue Road and take a few great memories with us..

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What check lists are on our check list?

So we have started our final check list for the madien voyage of the Catalina. This will be the longest trip it has ever been on. The 600 miles from Florida was the Catalina's first real road experience. Now we are taking her on a 2,000 plus mile trip to Michigan and then east through Pennsylvania to Gettysburg then Philadelphia. But first the checklist has to be completed:

1. Weigh the WHOLE unit--truck and 5er. The local landfill said they can weigh it if I bring it by. Hoping it comes in under 20K lbs. The truck is titles at 5,800 lbs and the Catalina is supposed to be right around 12K lbs before we load out stuff. With a 3400 lbs cargo capacity, 20K would be good.

2. Organize our stuff that is going and get it in the Catalina.

3. Organize the things we "need" for the trip. That means clothes, toiletries, kitchen utensils (that means CAN OPENER!!) and the infamous garlic press. Years ago when I particpated in a leadership class through BikeCentennial, I met a guy named Miles who rode his bike EVERYWHERE everyday. He rode from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Mansfield, Ohio where the classes were being held in early April. When he left Michigan it was snowing...Anyway he said that he would NEVER travel without a garlic press, so since that day I have always had a garlic press in my travel kit...

4. Organize and check out the camera equipment. Mary has taken possession of the Canon G2 and I am using the D30. Both use the same battery (BP-511) which is very convenient. There are some batteries that are DOA. Which is understandable given they are 14 years old!!

5. I am taking a replacement wire harness for the Dodge--just in case the electrical shorts prove to be unstoppable..

6. SNACKS for the drive. We love to have our munchies when we are on the road. HOWEVER, we are dumping the chocolate and going green. Almonds, chex, and sunflower seeds supplemented with cranberries / raisins.

7. Organize our doggie supplies..water dish, water, and collars. We had a very terrifying moment when we were moving here in 2009. We had stopped at a rest area just south of Charleston WV on I-77. It was late, we were tired and probably stayed 45-60 minutes longer on the road than we should have. The rest area was jammed. I put the collar on Lola The Plott Hound and fooliskly let her out the driverside. The 18 wheelers were all running and Lola panicked. She tried pulling away and the collar slipped off and she just missed the front wheels of a Frieghtliner by a matter of centimeters...since then we are obsessed with having the Martingale Collars for both our hounds. It tightens and they pull and there is no way they will slip out of this collar.

8. Change the oil in the Dodge. I have to find a dealer that sells the Fleet Guard filters in the area. I was picking the filters up in Kenly, but now we are 45-50 miles from there.

9. Head out on the highway on JUne 13, 2011. We will be leaving here around 3:00 pm for our fist stop in Wytheville, Virginia.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Goin Home


Last night Tim talked about not being able to go home again. I understand that life goes on at home and that the time apart does have an impact on those left behind and those of us that have left. For me the difficulty is in my leaving the kids and grandkids. I am homesick for them. I deal with my homesickness by flying home every few months and by spending a little more time there in the summer. I plan to do this even after Tim and I convert to full time traveling. It makes me happier and as a result it makes Tim happier.

His blog got me thinking about our move to North Carolina. We both are from Michigan. I have never lived anyplace but southeast Michigan in my entire life. We left our house, most of our possessions and our loved ones. We loaded everything we had in a trailer and left for a new life. I knew I was moving to an unknown place, what I didn’t know was that I was leaving an entire STATE behind. Its kind of strange, I go back to see my kids and I am “visiting” what should be home.

But, I love my new state (North Carolina). I have made friends here and it is a beautiful place to live. I have opened myself up to living a more adventurous life and to more possibilities. I am excited about seeing the country and living in new and different places. I think I may live in Michigan again….….. It least part time.