"When I get to a place
for the first time and know it like home, this is when I know my journey
will be over"
"There are always two
people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer."
"I was born lost, and take no
pleasure in being found"
"The strongest reason for the people to retain
the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect
themselves against tyranny in
- Thomas Jefferson
"If I am fortunate, I will live 80 years on this amazing planet, so I will throw caution to the wind, strive to make a difference, and seek out adventure with every breath, as I am far more afraid of regret than failure!"
- Scott Brady
"A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history - with the possible exceptions of 4x4's, handguns and tequila."
- Joaquin Suave
"I have a photographic memory, just wish I'd remember to take the lens cap off more often!"
"A tourist does not know where they have been, a traveler does not know where they are going."
"Determine never to be idle...It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing."
- Thomas Jefferson
Pat's February 2009 Blog
If this is your first time here, you might want to start from the beginning of our fulltime RV Journey with our Past Blogs
Camper Check List - A list of things we do before leaving camp. Again, this isn't gospel, but its a good start for those who might not already have a list made up.
Monday January 26th, 2009 My First Post of 2009
Ok, I know, I've been absent without a good excuse for some time now and I apologize. I feel terrible and have been thinking, stressing and worrying about the blogs and the website almost every day.
I'll give you a quick update and get you caught up to speed very quickly on what's going on and where we're at with the adventure, oh, and dont forget to check out our 2008 Year in Review page we made to recap last year. It does a bit of explaining why we were sitting still for so long.
Cindy has done an amazing job with the condo. I wish I could post all the pictures of it as she has it staged and it looks so inviting. I'm not sure why anyone would hesitate to buy it for the miniscule cost she's giving it away at.
Even our realtor asked why we're selling it so inexpensive. But we've had it up to here with this cold weather, and need to get back on the road ASAP! My blood has thinned out waaayyyy too much for this Michigan weather.
That picture at the top of the page is me out hiking in the snow...LOL
I've been on the phone making appointments with General RV to get the bearings packed on the axles of the camper. We had the truck in at Ford a few weeks back for routine maintenance and had our fluids and filters changed, had a bunch of suspension components on the front end replaced, all under warranty, but fixed none-the-less, and everything is in order to get back on the road.
Some how while we were were sitting still in the driveway, one of the bowls in the kitchen sink cracked in the camper. Not sure what happened, or if the -20° temperatures just didn't get along with the plastic sink. So we need to have that replaced before we head out, but that should be an easy fix.
After weeks of trying to figure out a new approach to the motorcycle carrier on the back of the camper, we've just decided to let it be and figured if it's stayed back there this long, we might as well not change something that's working.
I really wanted to have it rebuilt out of aluminum and have dual mounts tied into the frame rails to secure it better, but after talking with a few different welders, I realized I went into the wrong profession with photography and should be a welder. One guy wanted a few thousand dollars just to torch off what was back there, re-weld a new hitch mount that would have dual receivers and make a new carrier. That's just way out of our budget till we find that tree that sprouts out $100 bills and we plant a forest of them.
Last week I had the chance to go down to the Detroit Zoo with another friend of mine who is into photography. Cindy was the one who had come up with the idea, then when it came time to go, she couldn't come with us due to other plans that arose, so just Joe (my friend not my brother) and I went for the day.
What an awesome time we had. Normally you wouldn't think to go spend the day outdoors in 30° weather taking pictures, but dressed properly, we were both actually sweating because of the mild temperatures. This is also when I know I've been in Michigan too long when I think 30° weather is mild.
What Joe and I found was the cold weather allowed the Polar Bears to be very active which is something I've never seen before. Normally we check out zoo's in nice warm temperatures and any artic animal is sitting in the water trying to keep their body temperatures down. But visit the zoo on a cold blustery day and these monstrous animals were non-stop activity.
The Detroit Zoo also has a habitat built for the polar bears that has a big pool with a glass tube through it. Seals are on one side of the pool and the polar bear habitat is on the other. I'm not sure if this is to drive the polar bears insane, as they can see the seals swimming on the other side, separated by a thick glass wall, but cant get to them.
You can sit in the glass tube watching the polar bear swim over top of you which is comparable to scuba diving, only without the dangers of doing it in Artic conditions.
For anyone who has a Zoo in their area, and might be sitting inside like us waiting out the cold weather, a day spent at the local zoo in the winter was a surprising treat to ward off the winter doldrums.
We also went up to Flint last weekend, yes the Murder Capitol of the United States for a Indoor Ice Race I was taking pictures at. This is some good fun and watching the riders hurl their bikes around a hockey rink at warp speeds is a great way to spend a cold winter night.
The pro racers are just down right fast, but the young children are the most entertaining. They just crack me up how hard they try, many wiping out and banging into the boards pretty hard, yet getting right back up to get back in the race.
I've went once before back in December, but this time I brought Cindy along who was sure she wasn't going to have a good time. I mean why would she want to sit in a hockey arena and watch motorcycle races all night long? By the end of the night even she was having a blast and thanked me for bringing her.
Check out the Ice Race Gallery if you want to see some fun times.
One thing that has boggled my mind while we've been home these past few months has been how easy it is to fall back into the swing of things and before you know it, you're back to living a normal hectic life.
I mean I don't know how or why most people go about their daily lives as stressed out as they are. Running errands from the time you wake up till the time you pass out, working long hours and getting home too tired to do much of anything is no way to spend your time, yet here I was just like every other red blooded American punching that time clock and fighting rush hour traffic.
I know I've spoken of this in my last months blogs, but that crap is for the birds. I'd rather throw on a backpack and walk the back roads of America than have to work to furnish my fancy house and put fuel in my SUV. No Thanks. Once you get that taste of freedom, I'm not sure if I could ever settle down again.
Now I know we're going to be sitting still this summer while working in Yellowstone, but come on, do you honestly think that is going to be sitting still? I mean we have a few million acres of the most beautiful landscape that people travel from all over the world to visit and we only have 5 short months to see as much as we can.
We'll have Jackson Hole, the Teton's, Cody which is the Rodeo Capitol of the World and so many other places to visit all in our area. Like I told the woman when she interviewed us for our positions, "I was surprised to hear that you were going to be paying us to work there as I would probably pay you for this opportunity if I had to!"
For those of you who followed along with the blogs on a daily basis, from here on out I'll do my best to keep them updated at least weekly. I know I'll be busy all day tomorrow getting the camper worked on, and tearing out the back seat to the truck. I'm planning on having some storage bins put in place of our back seat with a platform on top for the dogs to sit. This should keep the camera gear from being infiltrated with dog hair and locked up from harms way.
I'll post pictures when we get them finished, and hopefully, if all goes as planned, we should be on the road in a week or so. Keep your fingers crossed.
Man does it feel good to be updating this and I can already feel the excitement of the next part of this adventure starting to build. Oh, and I said I would post a picture of the new lens we got each other for Christmas, so here is a picture of me standing in front of it...LOL
Thursday January 29th 2009 Bad News With the Camper
Planning on leaving within the next week or so, I brought the Coach into General RV to have them give it a once over. I really wanted them to check the brakes and repack the bearings before we got back on the road.
We've traveled quite a few miles, and we still have the stock brakes on the camper. They've been turned once, but I knew with 50,000 miles on the camper, they had to be on their last leg.
We also needed to get new tires on one side because they were still the original tires. Talking with Donny, the shop manager at General, he told me he had a set of tires that had been ordered and never picked up and he would give me a great deal on them if I was interested.
I really only needed two tires, but he made me such a deal, that I took all four and will just keep my other two as a backup set incase we get another blowout along the travels.
So now we have 4 brand spanking new Goodyear 225/75/R15 'D' rated tire. This is moving up from the stock 205/75/R15 'C' rated tires. It will help having the tires rated a bit higher to not have to worry about sidewall blowouts because the 'D' rated tires are 8 ply compared to the 5 ply of the stock.
Then came the bad news. When JR, the technician in the shop had the brakes pulled apart, he noticed that the Soft Ride Axles had some hairline cracks on the mounting brackets and the frame was tweaked right where the axles were welded to it. This is not a good thing to hear at any time, but I guess it's much better to hear it when we're at home and not on the road or worse yet, find out the hard way with a total axle failure while barreling down the road.
So, the last few days have been spent on the phone with the insurance company, (they wont cover it because it falls under the Wear & Tear clause) and the axle company, who is going to have to wait till they get the cracked axles before they can see if it is something they can cover.
Luckily it's been snowing the last few nights, so I've been working 12 hour shifts pushing snow and making a bit of money to help pay for this new found repair we've had flopped in our laps.
I guess even a well built Sunline Travel Trailer cant keep up with the amount of miles we log on the camper. Wade, the General Manager at General RV keeps joking with me saying that we are such an exception to the normal full timers that he cant think of too many pieces of equipment that could hold up to our non-stop movement. He was telling me they have 10 year old trailers that come in for service that don't have half the amount of miles we have logged on ours.
Weighing out the options on Axle fixes, we can swap out the axles with the traditional leaf sprung type, but I love the fact that our Sunline rides so smoothly. If you remember the time that we pulled over for a bathroom break and I cracked open a can of Coke leaving it on the kitchen table.
About an hour later I remembered that I had left the Coke in the camper and thought of the mess I was going to have to clean up after this long of letting it bounce around in there. To my surprise, when I pulled over and went to start the clean up process, the can was still sitting in the same spot I had left it and not a drop had spilled. That should say something for the Al-Ko Axles and their amazing ride quality. Something we didn't want to lose with swapping to a Leaf Sprung ride.
So I'll keep you posted on what we decide and see what we might be able to do. I'm headed to General RV right now and going to get some detailed pictures to post and document what is going on for my records and so I can post some up here on the site.
Wednesday February 4th - Getting Ready to Leave
We have the axle situation resolved and they are almost fixed 100%, better than they ever were. After much deliberation with the guys over at General RV, the rep from Al-Ko and laying on the floor under the camper with the fabricator, we've come to an easy fix.
Well easy for me, but quite a bit of work for the fabricator over at General RV. The axles themselves are fine. All the cracks were on the perches that connect the axles to the frame.
In talking with Al-Ko, I found out that they build the axles without the perches welded on and in our case, Lippert (Sunline's frame manufacturer) was who welded the two together. So Al-Ko couldn't warranty them anyway as the perches were ordered "Per Sunline's specifications."
When I told him what the problem was, he suggested rather than drop the axles and drive them back to Indiana, which was one of my options; I should find a welder and have him weld on some stronger, beefier, perches to help with the rugged nature of our RV lifestyle.
Just to set the record straight, I take full responsibility for these cracks and the break-down of the parts. Nothing on the Sunline has broken, nor were the axles themselves cracked and the frame was bent a tad, but I don't blame Lippert for any faulty craftsmanship. I know full well that we put this camper through way more than the normal RVer and the amount of miles we've logged are more then usual.
When I had originally called Al-Ko, I was explaining that we have around 50,000 miles on our axles and they have hairline cracks all around them. The rep said "Well you know that we only warranty our axles for 5 years."
I laughed and said "Yeah, I understand that, but our camper is just over 2 years old."
There was a long pause to which he sort of stumbled with his words and said "Oh, well we've been in business since 1913, and DON'T have calls about our axles failing or cracking."
After seeing the perches were what was cracking and NOT the axles themselves, I called the Al-Ko rep back and explained what was wrong. You could tell he let out a big sigh and sort of relaxed a bit. We then talked for about an hour on the phone and what I came away with was assurance that we made the right decision in paying a little extra in the beginning to have these soft-ride axles installed.
In a day in age where most companies will try to get you to upgrade or replace a part that might be able to be fixed easily, Dave from Al-Ko made sure I was comfortable with not replacing the axles completely before we ended the call. This saved us a substantial amount of money and made me a believer in customer service again.
This past weekend was supposed to be our time to pack up the camper, re-organize our gear and be on the road by the middle of this week. But I'm sure everything happens for a reason.
I busted out one last photo shoot with a girl I've done numerous shoots with. Tammy is probably one of my favorite models to photograph as she knows her way around the front of a camera, isn't one of the girls who is constantly worried about how she looks, and is just really easy to shoot and have the images come out like I want them. We work good together in other words.
Between editing photos for Tammy, my sisters kids spent the weekend over at Grandma and Grandpa's so we could all have some time together before we leave. These kids are a riot to be around, and I think of all the things I will miss, it will tear me apart to leave them.
Adults are easier to say goodbye to because you've usually spent so much time with them, or know you will keep in touch over emails or the phone. Children change so much each time you see them, that I hate to miss their youth.
We've had so much snow this winter and I've been in charge of plowing the driveway at my parents house. There are these giant piles of snow at the bottom of the big hill they live on top of. For a 11 year old who is addicted to snowboarding, this only equates to one thing, BIG AIR.
Austin invited over some friends and we spent the afternoon on Saturday building huge jumps with the John Deere for them to hurl themselves off of. I love to snowboard, but these hellions are just a bit to wild for me and my bones. I don't bounce off the hard, frozen ground like I used to. So I was in charge of documenting it so they could show off and brag to their friends about clearing STOP signs and clearing a 20' gap jump.
Sunday night was spent at our cousins house watching the Super Bowl with a few friends and catching up on years of hilarious stories we love to drag out of the closet. I think my stomach hurt the next day from all the laughing. I'm not that big of a football fan anyway, so watching the game wasn't that big of a deal to me. As a man, I'm almost embarrassed to admit it was the first game of the NFL season that I watched this season.
But then again, we're from Detroit and with a 0-16 team, who could really be a football fan?
Monday night the entire family came over for a shove off dinner so we could all say our last goodbyes. Although I know we'll say it a few more times before we actually leave, this was sort of the official Goodbye dinner so Cindy and I could spend the rest of the week getting ready to leave and not feel like we were neglecting any family.
Monday and Tuesday during the day, I've been working on a new project in the truck that I've been wanting to do since we left the first time back in January of 2007.
Even though we have a 4 door truck, we've carried passengers in the back seat maybe twice the entire time we've been on the road. So this huge back seat is just for the dogs and to me, is a ton of wasted space.
What I did was remove the back seat, and start on the construction of a box that will hold all the camera gear in one place, out of sight and now be lockable. To save on money, I've just about built it all from scrap wood we've salvaged from local construction sites.
I had originally talked with the guy who installed our cabinets at the condo about building one and covering it in Formica so it would be easy to wipe down and clean up, but once the deal with the axles started, the money tree got chopped down like a tropical rain forest in the Amazon.
If there is one thing I hate about myself, it's that I'm the biggest procrastinator when it comes to getting things like this done. If it has to involve someone else, I'm right on top of it and I will usually finish the task way ahead of schedule. But if I'm doing one of my own projects, I always wait till the last minute and in this case, be working outside in single digit temperatures.
This is the story of my life it seams. When we owned the bar, I gave most of our employee's keys to the place because I was always late. But when I'm working for someone else, I'll always be the first one to arrive on the jobsite. I've never understood that about myself and I'll be lucky if I don't lose my finger tips to frostbite from working outside in these stupid temperatures.
Then last night we headed out to a local restaurant to have dinner with some of our best friends. These are the type of people that you can be apart from for months, yet you see them again and pick right back up like you've never left.
Bob and Sandy have traveled all over the globe on safari's, retreats and trips I'll only dream of taking in my lifetime. They are both amazing story tellers and Sandy is a fantastic photographer who has their house lined with images you'd imagine in global travel magazines. I can and usually do sit and listen to their stories with baited breath hoping one day to follow in their footsteps.
But first we have to tackle North America!
Shawn and Julie are another couple we've done many weekend trips with and they're also a joy to be around. Nights spent with this group is like a giant counseling session and I usually come away feeling much better and relaxed. Amazing part about it was, there was no alcohol involved, just stimulating conversation and admiration all around the table. No pompous attitudes or trying to one-up each other, just casual talk, and plenty of gut busting laughs.
So this leaves me to this morning. Today Cindy is going to get our 2008 taxes done, something that is a very sore subject with the two of us. I'm at the point that I think paying taxes is ridicules when you hear of our politicians who don't have to.
You have California who is giving out I.O.U. checks to their tax payers, but I bet if anyone was to not pay their taxes, they'd be fined or locked up. So why is it 'OK' for them to get away with it, yet you have us, the average Joe who has to pay taxes or else.
I know I almost never talk about political stuff on my blogs, but this economic situation has got me boiling over inside. I'm at a loss for words, and pretty happy that Cindy and I don't have jobs, have payments and are completely self-sufficient when it comes to living. Something tells me that we are going to see some serious actions taking place in the next few years if states start doling out I.O.U. checks come tax time.
I just read that the state of New Hampshire has already threatened to declare Civil War against the government and walk away from Constitution if they don't do something to change their ways. Who knows if it's true!?
While Cindy is meeting with our accountant, I'm going to go start taking out the furniture from the condo now that we've signed the lease paperwork. Funny part is the nice couple that is going to be leasing it follow along with our blogs and knew us from when we used to own the Red Dog. I swear this world gets smaller and smaller the longer we live in it.
And all you bastards who live in the warm climates can stop emailing me your weather reports...LMAO I keep getting emails from friends and readers who think it's funny to send me their local weather report. Don from Arizona even copies the weather report for Phoenix and Milford and pastes them into the email a few times a week.
You don't need to remind me that you're sitting there with highs in the 80's while we're trying to pack up in bone cracking cold weather. Funny guys, but not funny!! Believe me I know how stupid I am right now.
Tuesday February 10th 2009 - WE'RE BACK ON THE ROAD!!
You don't know how ecstatic I am right now to be updating the blog from a Flying J parking lot in Mid-Ohio. You know what that means don't you? It means we've left Michigan and are back on the road!
Sorry for not updating the blogs the past few days, but I'll do my best to explain my absence.
Last Friday was supposed to be our walk-thru for the condo so Thursday was spent from early morning till late into the evening taking out all the furniture, returning it to my beloved sister who let us borrow it, patch all the holes in the walls from hanging artwork and such, repainting and getting things in tip-top shape.
We realized late Friday night we werent going to finish in time, so Cindy called the realtor and asked if we could have the walk-thru pushed back till Saturday. Plus on Friday, General RV called to let us know the camper was 100% and ready for pick up.
It killed me to go pick it up, but only be able to tow it home, unhook, and head back over to the condo for last minute touch-ups. Finally by Friday evening, we were finished and we headed home to start working on the camper.
Our original plans were to be on the road by Sunday afternoon. Like everything in life, plans NEVER work out like they're supposed to.
While the camper was in at General RV, I had ordered a sink to replace our kitchen sink that had a crack down the center in one of the bowls. Cindy had told me just to save time and have the guys at General RV replace it for us, but looking through their parts book, we could only find one that was much larger, and they said they didn't feel comfortable cutting into the counter and fabricating all new parts to mount the sink. I don't blame them on that one.
So I found one online and ordered it and thought "It's just a kitchen sink, I've changed out a few over the years, how hard could it be?"
Looking back, I'd rather have my fingernails pulled out with a set of rusty pliers than tackle this job again.
When I got the sink, one of the bowls was a few inches deeper than the original one that came with the camper. At first, I thought "Oh good, this will give us more room to stack dishes." Wrong!!
What it meant was it changed all the plumbing under the sink, and I don't know if you know this (I didn't), but RV plumbing is entirely different than residential plumbing.
To add insult to injury, I spent the entire day on Saturday building a box for the bed of the truck to ease the burden of loading and unloading our gear, and finishing the storage box in the back seat; all the time thinking that the sink would be a quick half hour job.
I will say that Mother Nature helped us out tremendously with a nice warm front to aid in working outdoors in early February. Remember one of my earlier posts this month cussing myself out for waiting till winter to work on the truck, well ol' Mother Nature must have heard a few of my prayers and threw some spring-like weather our way.
So I thought working outside in the nice weather, saving the inside work for once the sun went down was a fantastic idea. That was till I put away the tools and grabbed some pipe wrenches to climb under the sink.
First let me tell you that if General RV would have charged us $500 to change out this sink, knowing now what I went through the last few days, I would have paid them with a smile on my face and considered it money well spent.
The working space under a RV sink is nothing like being able to fit under your kitchen sink in the house. Lucky for me, I'm pretty limber and was able to contort my body into positions that I never imagined it would be able to bend into to reach a few of the sink mounts.
I got the sink taken out of the counter with only a few four letter words being thrown around the inside of the coach. This was when the serious cussing started and I found out that the new sink was about two inches deeper than the stock one and wasn't going to be as easy to mount as I had first thought.
Now I was going to have to cut out a few inches of the counter. No big deal, but each step was opening up a new can of worms.
I grabbed the scroll saw, and made the cut with Cindy swearing that if I ruined our counters, she was going to leave me at home this time around.
Next I dropped in the new sink, thinking how nicely it fit into the new, larger hole in the counter. Then the terror struck. Because the one bowl was deeper than the stock sink, it meant I had to rearrange the plumbing under the counter. Not too hard if you have a big open space and can create a new P-Trap and all the connections that run to it.
Well under our sink, we have about a half inch of extra space between the stock sink drains, and the top of the first drawer. Not something I had thought about when ordering a new sink with a deeper bowl. (Hey, no one ever said I was intelligent, especially when it comes to plumbing)
I figured if I ran a couple of 90° elbows off the drains and directed the drains behind the drawers, I'd have some room to play with and all would be good. So I loaded up the old sink, so I'd have a reference, and the new sink and brought along the old ABS plastic drain pipe just incase I had to explain to a salesman what I was trying to accomplish, and headed to Lowe's.
Sitting in the plumbing isle, I sat in front of a endless array of bins with every coupling imaginable trying to build something that would work. Finally a sales associate came over, probably noticing the smoke coming out my ears and asked if I needed some help.
I explained what I was trying to do, and he looked at me and said "You know we don't carry ABS pipe. That's for RV's and mobile homes only."
I told him that I had found this out, but was planning on being on the road by tomorrow and thought if I just used normal residential plumbing PVC, if I ever needed to fix something along the road, the parts would be more readily available.
When it came to connecting the PVC to the ABS where it drops down to the gray tank, I was planning on using a rubber connection piece or what is known as a Fernco in the plumbing world.
I thought I was so smart and had it all figured out, if only he could help me figure out the mess of moving the drain line back a few inches to miss the drawers.
He sort of looked at me funny, I'm sure wanting to tell me how stupid I was, and said "That cant be done!"
He then proceeded to explain when I cant run a 90° elbow and add a few more 90's on a drain line just to work around a tight space.
Acting like a dumb kid, I thanked him for his help, and figured if I bought a few extra pieces, I'd figure it out once I got back home and could build it in the camper.
I'll try to make this as short as possible, but I spent the next few hours sitting in front of the sink just holding up various pieces like I was trying to put together a puzzle of PVC pipe.
I got so frustrated, I finally called it quits and figured I'd head over to General RV in the morning and grab a few pieces of ABS pipe to redo what came from the factory and we'd be good to go.
Fast forward a day and I realize General RV is closed on Sunday and no where else in town had this kind of pipe. We're not leaving on Sunday!
So Sunday was spent fixing and buttoning up a few other things around the camper and truck.
We had another Good-bye dinner with the family like we had last week thinking we'd be on the road by Monday afternoon. Monday came and I was at General RV first thing rummaging through their ABS plastic bin. Problem was, they had a part or two to fix someone's broken piece, but not enough to rebuild an entire drain line, and especially the pieces I need to pull off my miracle fix.
I made one last stop at a local plumbing supply house that would have any and ever piece I needed, problem was, even these experts looked at me in disbelief wondering how I was going to make something that wasn't possible.
I came home one last time thinking I'd fix it quick and we'd be on the road. At one point, Cindy walked in the camper and asked in her angelic voice, "How are things going honey?"
To which I replied with some demonic snarl "DO NOT TALK TO ME RIGHT NOW!"
She just turned and walked out and left me with my steaming anger. A few hours later, I finally threw up the white flag, took all the new stuff apart, and started putting the OLD sink back in. In full disclosure, I've now sat in front of the sink for about 10 hours, have spent a few hundred dollars between trips to the various plumbing stores and amounted a stock pile of ABS and PVC parts to rival any plumbing warehouse, not to mention a new sink that I now cant use.
My parents called from the hardware store asking if I needed anything and I asked them to pick me up some 2-part marine epoxy. By the time they got home, I had piled all my plumbing parts back into various bags to be returned, and got to epoxying the crack.
WHY OH WHY HADN'T I THOUGHT OF THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE?
I know your next question is going to be "But what about the larger hole you made in the counter?" Luckily the old sink fit with a half inch to spare all the way around.
I installed the old sink, not once, but twice as the first time I thought I was finished but found a much needed washer that went on the bottom of the faucet that was still sitting in the pile of tools on the floor.
Are you starting to see my frustration with this whole sink ordeal!?!
By Monday night, everything was in the camper and we spent the rest of the night organizing clothes, computers and re-arranging all the gear.
With the new storage unit in the truck bed and the back seat, we were both ecstatic with our new found space.
Tuesday morning rolls around, and we spend the day loading up the motorcycle, last minute items and saying good-bye to our parents and my brother who stopped by for lunch.
Believe it or not, by the time we rolled out of the driveway, it was 4:30pm and my Mom was saying "Why not just stay one more night and leave early in the morning?"
But Cindy told me "I don't care if we stop at the Michigan/Ohio border and sleep in a rest area, we're leaving today!"
When I was checking the tire pressure, I noticed one of our bearing caps on the hubs was missing, so I called up Dave at General RV and told him I'd be there in a few minutes. When we pulled in, I wasn't even out of the truck and he was waiting in the parking lot with one in his hand.
We got that taken care of, said one last good-bye to everyone at General RV who has been so amazing with all their help, and finally got on the road, 7 months after we returned home for just a short family emergency.
As I would have expected it, we didn't make it but 20 minutes down the road and Cindy reclined the seat saying "Wake me when we get there."
Now here we are just North of Cincinnati in a Flying J parking lot listening to the hum of diesel motors and the attendant letting truckers know the showers are ready by number. Ahh the comforts of life on the road.
Wait, the sink ordeal isn't over yet. When we pulled in, we filled up the fresh water tank. Cindy didn't want to fill up the tank with water from my parents house as they live on a well and have a bit of rust in the water from those good ol' country wells.
As I was filling the tank, I told her to turn the pump on to pressurize the system and listen under the sink for any leaks. She didn't need to listen too closely as one of the water lines was cross threaded and spraying like a fire hose.
Luckily she was inside and I was outside so she couldn't hear my long train of expletives I let loose at the plumbing Gods.
The next hour was spent mopping up water inside the camper and re-attaching the water line making sure the threads were tightened correctly this time.
First night on the road, and the adventure is already chalking up to be a fun one.
Wednesday February 11th 2009 - Waking to Rain and Wind
Despite the hum of diesels, I slept like a log last night and don't think I rolled over even once.
Around 6am, I woke to Michael Flatly and his merry band of Irish cloggers dancing on the plastic roof vents.
Rain had moved in and it was pounding the roof top. Not a light drizzle, no this was a downpour. I got dressed and went into the Flying J to see what the weather report was.
She told me "The winds were going to pick up something fierce around noon, and by this afternoon it was going to turn cold with a chance of this rain turning to ice!"
So right now we're eating breakfast and going to drive through this rain storm hoping to get South of the cold weather. Hopefully nothing like the disaster that happened a few weeks back when the ice storm wreaked havoc on Kentucky and Virginia.
Wish us luck and hopefully we'll be making our evening post from some place warm and sunny.
UPDATE: Long day of driving with the temperatures creeping up the thermometer with each mile we crawled south.
Passing through Charleston West Virginia, Cindy commented on the dark sky to the north. I replied back with a "Yeah, but we're headed South, so hopefully we'll skate past it."
We're now pulled over in a Lowe's parking lot holding on for dear life. I'm not lying at all when I say this is the strongest winds we've ever sat through. The camper feels like it is going to blow over at any second and the radio is saying there are power outages and downed trees all over town.
Hopefully, we wont blow away, but I know the dogs and Cindy are all freaking out right now.
To top everything off, something is wrong with the inverter and it wont kick on 100%.
If I can figure it all out, I'll post a longer blog as I have a bunch of new stuff I wanted to talk about, but for now, I'm gonna go strap myself down just to be safe.
Couple of other things I wanted to share while I'm on here. Everyone knows how addicted to Photography I am, but a good buddy of mine sent me this link, and after watching it a few hundred times, I'll let everyone know that if I could take up this sport, or fly like this I would sell all my camera gear and agree not to take another picture for a long time.
Do yourself a favor, and watch that video! It's amazing!
Thursday February 12th 2009 - If The Campers A Rockin, Don't Come-a-Knocking
What a night last night was. I wish I could say the camper was shaking and rocking from all the wild partying and bedroom antics going on, but in all reality, our small Sunline felt like it was going to get lifted off the ground at many times with these strong winds.
There were a few times that Cindy and I would both just start laughing due to how fierce the winds were trying to knock us over. I mean, what else can you do at a point like that?
I haven't gone up there yet, still trying to warm up a bit from the chilly morning air, but one of the roof vents must be a bit loose, and at times would be flapping like someone was knocking on the door!
Yesterday was spent just driving through beautiful rolling landscapes, scenic little towns and dirty coal mining areas that have a grungy look to the whole town. Even the houses in the coal mining towns have black soot on the siding. I wonder how long it takes before you don't notice the grime and soot covering everything?
One thing I hate about traveling when the weather is nasty like this, is we really don't get to stop and see any of the beautiful country side. I've heard so many good things about West Virginia, but with rain, snow and heavy winds, we're too worried about getting stuck in this weather, so we're just blowing through this time.
There were a few exciting things we've found since being back on the road. For one, letting a RV sit for any length of time results in dozens of things not wanting to start back up properly.
Of course Cindy and I didn't do a full systems check because we were so eager to get on the road, and just figured that everything worked fine when we brought it home, it'll work just fine when we pull it out of here....WRONG!
I take full responsibility for the little sink mis-hap the other night, and know that was my fault for not tightening the threads properly. But last night, Cindy decided she was going to shower after dinner, and after having a bit of trouble getting the pilot light to ignite on the water heater (It wouldn't light probably due to the winds and heavy rains) I hooked up the generator to use the electric element in the heater.
She turned on the shower and water started spraying all over the bathroom from the handle area of the shower! Now I have no idea what or why this would happen, and after looking over a few different things in the shower, Cindy just said "Get out of my way, I'll just sit on the floor of the shower and pour some warm water over myself!"
Then the inverter started acting up and not charging our batteries properly so I did what I figured needed to be done, sort of an ALT>CTRL>DELETE button for the RV, and shut the main switch down that powers the camper. Let it sit for a few minutes to loose any residual power in the lines, then kicked it back on.
It was still saying the batteries were a bit low which was strange, so we just let the generator run for a few hours. It's not like anyone could hear it anyway, I mean it is a Honda EU series and with the crazy winds and rain, Cindy asked at one point if it was even still running from inside the camper.
Now we're trying to decide if we want to drive today in these winds? They're gusting something awful, and driving along at 50mph with a crosswind of 40-50 mph makes for some dangerous conditions. I think we'll let it warm up a bit and decide if the afternoon becomes nicer or worsens.
One thing I should talk about before we start posting pictures, is the items we left at home this time.
When you see a picture of the truck, you'll notice there are no kayaks on the roof this time. Cindy and I have been looking at a few different models of Sit-on-tops and both want to make the switch to smaller, more user friendly models.
So we figured why have that wind drag hurting our mileage while driving. If we want to go paddling, we'll either rent some, or buy some new ones if we see a deal we cant pass up. If anyone knows any kayak distributors who would love to have their models showcased around the country, PLEASE send them our contact information! I'm really looking at the Wilderness Systems Tarpon model and have been looking on Craig's List for some used models to save some dough.
We did bring the saddles to mount them on the roof, our life jackets, paddles and all the gear that goes along with the lifestyle, we just have it all sitting in a storage bin in the bed of the truck. We both agree that a sit-on-top will be much more stable for photography and also be easier to get in and out of while trying to paddle in rough water (Remember the Baja incident!)
The bed of the truck seems so spacious now with the big 35 gallon fresh water tank out of it. And with the new storage bin for the Weber grill, everything just seems to fit much nicer.
Cindy tried her hardest to get me to leave the motorcycle at home, but this was one area that I had to put my foot down and say "No!" This past summer I logged way too many miles on the thing and got so used to riding it on a daily basis, that once we get to warm enough weather to start using it again, I cant wait to get it down and go for a ride.
With the new storage bin in the back seat keeping all the camera gear secure, the inside of the camper seems larger already.
I cant believe how much time I wasted this summer. When we went home, we had a few things we wanted to accomplish. Get rid of the couch in the living room of the Sunline and build a more user friendly space to sit. Something that could allow a flip up shelf for when Cindy is cooking.
Replace the very uncomfortable chair in the living room with some sort of recliner that would also be more user friendly, and our last item we wanted to accomplish was to re-build the motorcycle carrier.
Something lighter and more sturdy that wouldn't compress the suspension of the motorcycle while we're driving down the road.
I met with a few different fabricators about building something new, but all wanted way too much for our budget, so the bike is sitting on the same carrier we've used all this time.
Just angry with myself that we had 3 main things we wanted to accomplish, and none of them were completed. But I guess we completed a few other items, so no need to cry over something so little.
I did make a little flip-up shelf for Cindy in the kitchen that more than doubles her counter space. We also had General RV install a few 12 volt fans in various spots of the camper so we could move some air around without having to run the inverter to run a normal fan.
Sorry for such boring talk, but I knew as soon as I took some pictures of the truck without the kayaks on top, or spoke of any of these other items, we would get questions as to when or where they came from. And besides, I'm sitting in a parking lot right now waiting out a wind storm, I've got to do something to keep myself busy!
One other goal we're going to try to accomplish with this leg of the adventure is to do it as inexpensive as possible. You don't know how excited I am to be filling up the diesel tank for a mere $60 rather than the almost $200 price tag it cost last spring while in California.
We have no problem spending nights in parking lots or on the side of the road to save on Camp Ground fee's and except for entrance fee's to events or roadside attractions, everything else we're going to be doing is going to be free or next to no expense.
We had planned on selling the Condo and having that money to support us till we got out to Yellowstone and had a steady income, but now with only leasing it, we're sort of riding on a very limited budget. Think shoe-string.
UPDATE: After sitting in the Lowe's parking lot for too long, or long enough for Cindy to update her blog, which was a long time coming, we finally got back on the road.
The winds hadn't died down any, if anything they had picked up, but we figured if we took some really small back roads, we'd be protected by trees and houses and besides the scenery would be much better than anything we could find along any interstate.
We found a little two lane road that changed between HWY 3 and HWY 12 on the GPS and the map. It followed along the Greenbrier River and snaked its way through the steep mountain sides of Eastern, West Virginia. Boy this country sure is pretty out this way.
The small, historic towns are so cool to roll through. We were having trouble fitting down some of the streets, I'm sure which were originally designed for horse and buggy, not a Ford F-250 with a 25' camper being towed behind it, but we squeezed our way through without a scratch.
The Eastern history is so much different than the Western style. The wild west is just that, long forgotten with so many empty towns, left behind buildings and forgotten mining camps. But the Eastern towns go out of their way to restore their heritage and preserve the past.
Very cool in its own way, but a complete contrast to the wild west.
It also cracks me up to see billboards lining the road ways around these parts claiming to use 'Clean Coal'. What a crock of shit!
How can you even use the word Clean, and Coal in the same sentence? I mean come on now, do they just think we're that stupid?
Anyway, we made our way to Roanoke Virginia before we pulled over because it was too dark to see anything, and we really don't want to miss anything, even if we're just passing through.
I promise within a few days, everything will get back to routine, it's just these first few days of non-stop travel before we start slowing down to smell the roses.
Tomorrow we're going to stop and visit with a couple that contacted us back in the Spring time saying "If you ever come through Virginia again, make sure to look us up."
We'll I sent them an email asking if the offer was still on the table, and Marc said they'd love to have us camp out in their yard for a bonfire and some beers.
So tomorrow night will be spent with fellow RV'ers who we've never met, much like our good friends out in California, Jeff and his family who brought us into their house like we were best friends and treated us like royalty. I swear, people are so nice in this day in age. It just boggles my mind when I hear people warn you to watch out for bad people. We've yet to find any!
Friday February 13th - Friday the 13th - Ooohh Watch Out!
Virginia is a very beautiful state and driving through it is a joy as long as you stay on the back country roads. Rolling hills, forgotten farms and black water rivers meandering through the valleys.
We made pretty good time today, and only had to stop once for fuel. I about fell over when I saw the price at only $1.97 per gallon! WOW!! Have prices come down or what!
While driving, we were listening to N.P.R. (I know, imagine that) when we heard a segment on getting closer to your mate and becoming one being with them. It was a about a couple that works for Slate Magazine who tried to never be apart from one another, no more than 15' apart, for a full 24 hours.
Afterwards, they interviewed the couple and we found the comments they were making hysterical. At the end of the interview, the host asked the couple if they would do this experiment again, and the wife said "No, because it was too overwhelming and un-enjoyable."
Here you have Cindy and I, who live in 200 square feet of camper space, and are never more than 20' apart from one another for years on end, and we don't even seem to notice it.
This couple tries it as an experiment for 24 hours and says they wouldn't try it again. I guess we really are different. Probably one of the most asked questions we get is "Don't you two fight alot?"
Really we don't have too much to fight about, because we're together all the time. Most couples fight because they're apart from one another and don't have enough time to talk out their differences. Cindy and I cant do anything other than talk out our differences, if we even have different outlooks on a subject.
Although I threw a temper tantrum the other day when I asked her for the beef jerky while we were driving, and she said she couldn't find it. I mean, how can you not find it? We're in a 4 door truck, and you have nothing to do but look for it. She just looked at me and said "I cant find it and I'm not going to keep looking for it."
So I blew my top and pulled the truck over to find it in all of about 2 seconds. It was right under the seat! But a mile down the road, we were both over it and back to listening to some satellite radio. That's about the extent of our fights.
We pulled into Marc & Cathy's place around 4:30 in the afternoon, and spent the next few hours getting to know one another. They live on this very cool piece of property out in the woods, secluded from any noise, neighbors or city life. Just the way we like it! I mean, this is exactly like what we're used to when we would go on vacation up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Marc had a big bon-fire going and we spent the evening huddled around its warmth, sipping some cold beers while laughing at various stories of past adventures. What a great couple they are, and how nice of them to invite us over and show such hospitality. I've always said that RV'ers are the nicest people, and each mile traveled only drives the feeling closer to home.
Saturday February 14th - Happy Valentines Day Everyone Y
Marc and I got up early this morning to make a trip into town to get our propane tanks refilled. He also drove me to a RV Center so I could get the part to fix the shower that is spraying water everywhere.
Once we took it apart, we saw that there is a crack in the plastic probably from some water sitting in there and freezing while we left the camper sit in Michigan.
This was an easy fix, and now I can finally clean myself without using wet-wipes!
While at the RV Center, I asked if they had a bike cover so we could protect our mountain bikes, but like General RV, they said it was a 'special order.'
He recommended a bike store here in town, so without even asking, Marc drove over to the bike store.
They didn't have one either, but I was able to get a new set of tires for my bike. While home, I split the sidewalls on my bike tires because they're so dry rotted from sitting in the sun on the rack for so long.
I replaced Cindy's tires with a extra set we had in the barn while at home, but figured I'd pick some up for my bike. I don't really want to put them on till we find a cover, so I'll keep my eye out for one.
Once back at Marc's house, I fixed up the shower and we're good to go. We're going to stick around here for another night and go into town with Marc & Cathy to see some of their stomping grounds. I'm excited to meet new people and see what Virginia Night life is like. Especially having a couple of tour guides like Marc & Cathy.
Here is the Valentine's Card I made for Cindy today. Aren't I such a loving husband?
Sunday February 15th 2009
All I can say about last night is "I cant remember that last time we had that much fun!"
After wasting away much of the day fixing things around the camper, nursing a headache from the long bonfire the night before, we finally sparked up the fire pit and sat around enjoying the warm Virginia sunset.
Once it got dark and we burned up much of Marc's wood, he got a call from some friends who said they were celebrating around a giant bonfire of their own and they invited us all over.
We loaded up the truck with a cooler, some beers and piled in. Pulling up to Bill's house, you could see the smoke from the front of the house. Marc pulled his truck right into the back yard where a group of people we gathered around a giant fire pit that was roaring with flames.
Country music blared from one of the trucks parked in the yard, and this looked like we had found ourselves quite the rowdy party.
Marc didn't tell us much about his friends other than "I'll warn ya' right now, they're a rowdy bunch, but I'll let you draw your own conclusions."
I'm thinking that Marc and Cathy thought their friends might be a bit much for us, but I'll tell ya' right now that these are the types of parties Cindy and I are used to and seek out. It didn't take long before we were all toasting beers with new friends and hearing some of the best stories I've heard in years.
Bill, the owner of the house was a Good Ol' Boy who was loud, funny and kept threatening to throw a tire on the fire to really get the party going. When I asked if that was his 'Wife' when talking about the woman feeding giant logs onto the fire pit, he boasted "I've been divorced 4 times, so she's just my girlfriend, but she sure knows how to feed a fire doesn't she!"
I would have been happy just staying here for the rest of the night, but this group had a bit of a head start on the drinking thing. Unless the 4 of us were to start passing around the almost empty bottle of Old Crow Whiskey that was lying in the dirt, something tells us we would never catch up.
We said our goodbyes, and piled back in the truck so Marc could show us the watering hole where he used to work, met Cathy and liked to shoot some pool.
The Happy Horse is like drinking in someone's basement back home. The bar has maybe 8 stools, 2 pool tables, a well stocked jukebox and some pool sharks that know how to play the game.
The owner of the establishment, Wayne, is a 77 year old fella' was bellied up to the bar beside a 4'10" spitfire named Karen. This little lady was making up for her limited height with an attitude and wild streak that was more suited for a 7' Amazon woman.
It didn't take long before Karen was up on the bar dancing and carrying on like she had done it a few times before. Wayne looked at us laughing and said, "We let her do this, because she's the only one short enough who can stand on the top of the bar and not hit her head on the ceiling."
As the crazy dwarf danced the night away on the bar, Marc, Cindy and Cathy played some pool, I got to talking with a very nice woman at the bar who was home on leave from the Merchant Marines.
Kim sat telling me of her travels all over the globe and her favorite places in foreign countries. I was loving her descriptions of the beaches in Dubai, the way she talked about the Island of Malta and her favorite ports they stopped at to supply our Military Troops in foreign countries.
Kim has the same beliefs that Cindy and I have about this world we live on. Earth is so big, and our time spent on it is so short, why not see as much as possible and enjoy every minute of it while you're alive. Finding people like her, and being able to connect with them, is what this adventure is all about.
I could have sat in the Happy Horse till last call just like we could have spent the entire night over at Bill's Bonfire, but Cathy wanted to show us one more bar that was closer to home.
Randy's reminded me more of the Red Dog Saloon back home. With a filled dance floor bouncing to the beats of the live band, patrons 3 deep at the bar and a line of hustlers at the pool tables trying to make enough money to pay their bar tab, we felt right at home here.
Randy himself was at the door collecting the entrance fee, but Marc talked him into letting us slide in for free and it didn't take long before we lost Cindy and Cathy to the dance floor.
As Marc and I sat people watching and sipping on a few ice cold Coors, I witnessed one of the funniest things I've ever seen. This young scrawny guy was shooting pool with a great looking blond girlfriend sitting beside the table watching.
When ever his opponent was shooting, the little guy would slide back on the knee of his girlfriend with her leg tucked between his thighs. Sitting on a bar stool beside them was some big, burly, bearded old timer. Well after the young kid missed a shot, without looking, he slid back to reposition his girls knee between his legs, only this time he slid right up on the old dudes leg thinking it was his girls.
Not until he turned to give his lady a kiss did he get the shock of his life when he almost kissed the bearded guy. The old dude was in such a shock, that I don't think he had time to hit him, and the look on the young guys face was so priceless, I wish I could have caught the whole thing on film.
I walked over to the 3 of them saying "Ok, I just watched that from across the bar, and it was probably one of the funniest things I've ever seen." They all were laughing so hard, the young kid had tears in his eyes, and hopefully it broke some of the tension with the burly guy wanting to knock his lights out.
Around last call, we headed for home so I could hit the sac. Marc had gotten a call from his work asking if he could come in at 6am to load a few trucks with pallets. He asked me if I knew how to drive a Hi-Lo (Forklift) and if I wanted to go earn some money for a few hours work.
So this morning we were up and on our way at 5:30am. Slight headache and all, but money is money and no hangover will keep me from earning a few tanks of fuel.
Marc gave me a quick run down on what pallets needed to be brought out to the loading dock, and as I fed him pallets, he loaded them onto the trucks with another Hi-Lo.
In a few hours, we were back home and I crawled back into bed where the dogs were keeping my side of the bed warm for me.
I'd like to say such a huge "Thank You" to both Marc and Cathy for their hospitality and showing us such a good time. Marc drove me around getting supplies for the camper, gave me an opportunity to earn some money and allowed us to camp in their yard for a few days now. High class people, with first class memories to be remembered by.
Cindy and I are shoving off, heading down towards the Outer Banks to see what those empty beaches offer this time of year, void of the millions of tourists that flock to them come summer time. But Marc and Cathy will hold a spot in our memories for years to come. Thanks guys!
By the time we left Marc and Cathy's, it was around 2 in the afternoon and we headed towards town to find a dump station. We know this time of year the Outer Banks are pretty much shut down, so we wanted to make sure everything was empty and our fresh water was topped off.
We found a nice campground just down the street from their house that let us complete our tasks for $12. I'm sure the guy just put it in his pocket, but since we're planning on only drycamping for as long as possible, I figure from here on out, unless we can find truck stops that have dump stations, we'll have to pay for these services at campgrounds.
Once we were finished with that task, we headed down HWY 32 South which is a nice two lane road Marc recommended that would suit our style of travel. He sure hit the nail on the head with that road.
Great little towns, historic homes lining the roadway and plenty to see except for any other vehicles or traffic. We did pass the Great Dismal Swamp, but for some reason, that name just didn't sound too appealing to either of us for us to stop and check it out.
It didn't take but a few hours before we were crossing the Intercoastal Waterway and entering into the upper regions of the Outer Banks Seashore. Call me crazy, but the temperatures felt like they were dropping, even though we were heading further south?
By the time we made it to Kitty Hawk, it was dark and Cindy was ready for some dinner. We found a Wal-Mart and threw it in park for the night. The winds were whipping something awful, so it was an early night to bed with us all fighting over the covers.
Monday February 16th 2008 Driving the Outer Banks
We were up early this morning and after some quick breakfast, we shoved off heading down HWY 12 South which is the only main road that snakes its way down through the Outer Banks.
The Outer Banks is a very small ribbon of land that acts as a shore break from Atlantic Ocean waves crushing the main land of Eastern North Carolina. To our right was Pamlico Sound which looks much larger than it really is considering we couldn't see mainland at any point.
We both thought we'd spend a few days exploring this area and photographing the wildlife, since February is Prime Birding month for the migrating bird population.
That was till we tried to spend some time outside. First the winds were whipping around 30 mph. And we're not talking just gusting, no we're talking a constant 30 mph wind with gusts much stronger than that.
On top of this, the temperatures were only topping out in the mid 40's and the forecast was for a cold front to be moving in.
We got a email from Marc & Cathy telling us we got out of dodge just in the nick of time as they woke up to a light dusting of snow on the ground this morning.
Our day was spent driving the 70 something miles down HWY 12 South with me stopping at the light houses to snap some pictures real quick, while Cindy and the dogs stayed in the warmth of the truck.
I did talk Cindy into getting out with me at one point, but it only took a matter of minutes before she yelled over the roaring wind "Screw this, I'm going back in the truck!"
Once we made it to the southern most point on Cape Hatteras Island, we hopped on the ferry that took us over to Ocracoke Island. This was pretty cool to be in the camper while the boat brought us across a small section of the Atlantic.
If we thought the winds were strong and temps were cool on Hatteras, we should have know that Ocracoke Island, a very thin 16 mile long island was going to be much worse.
At many times, we could see the water on both sides of us with maybe 3-400 yards of land separating the two sides of the island. It didn't take but a half hour to drive from one end of the island to the other, and as we reached the southern end, we either had to board the 2.5 hour ferry that would bring us back to the main land at Cedar Island, or spend the night.
We really hadn't seen anything, so we just parked the rig in the ferry parking lot, grabbed some camera gear, and went for a long sunset walk around the little fishing town of Ocracoke.
Nothing really opens here in the Outer Banks till mid-March, so the place seemed eerily quiet. You have these beautiful homes with big wrap around front porches with aged Cedar Shake shingles covering the exterior, quaint little shops and boutiques around each bend, but in the few hours we wandered around the town, we might have seen two other people.
Cindy said to me while we were admiring the architecture of one home "It's like a really rich ghost town here."
But from everything that we've read and the pictures that we looked at in the visitors center of high season, I'll take the strong winds and bone chilling cold weather over traffic jams and the few million people that flock to the Outer Banks come summer time.
Once the sun was down, the temps dropped even further. I tried to park the nose of the truck and camper into the wind to take the brunt of the cold, but in the middle of the night the winds must have shifted as the camper started to shake from the force of the winds hitting us broadside and I'm not sure how many times the heater shut off, even though we only had it set on 50°.
I know our thermometer records the coldest and hottest temperature of the day, and when we woke, it said it was a nipply 51° in the camper last night. Its no wonder the dogs were fighting for the blankets even stronger than Cindy was.
Tuesday February 17th 2009 - Crossing the Atlantic by Ferry
We knew we werent going to take the earliest ferry over to Cedar Island which left at 7:30am, but we wanted to make the 10:30am ferry crossing for sure.
There was only one item we didn't have time to see last night because it got dark too early for us, so we were up bright and early to walk across the little fishing village to see the British Cemetery.
Throughout the years, the waters off Ocracoke Island have witnessed the sinking of many ships. During the height of the German submarine campaign on May 14, 1942, the HMS Bedfordshire was torpedoed and sunk with all hands lost.
of the crew were found washed ashore and buried on Ocracoke. Two of the
gravesites are marked "unknown" and the other two bear the remains of
Thomas Cunningham and Stanley R. Craig.
We both bundled up like we were going ice skating and headed out. When I spoke to one of the attendants at the ferry station, I asked "Is it always this windy here?"
He looked at me saying "Ah this is nothing, you should have been here last week!"
I'm confused why the coast isn't lined with wind turbines to energize the East Coast with electrical power? But then again, that seems too smart doesn't it!
We wandered over to the cemetery finding a few other family grave yards along the way. By the looks of the small cemeteries on the island, there are only a handful of families that are buried here. Something tells me they keep the property pretty close knit.
Once we had our fill of the little grave yards, something we have both always been very fond of, we found our way back to the camper, and got in line for the ferry. The ride across the Atlantic on the Ferry was $45, but well worth it if you look at a map and see how far we would have had to travel out of our way just to skirt down the coast.
Plus, the ferry ride was a 2.5 hour crossing. This would give us both time to shower, clean the camper, eat some lunch, and Cindy even took a nap. In my book, it was well worth the $45.
When we finally pulled up to Cedar Island, I felt like a new man. Freshly shaven, clean clothes on, a full belly and a slight uneasiness to my step from the motion sickness. Nothing a few hours behind the wheel wouldn't take care of.
Once we pulled onto the main land, Cindy had me stop at a laundry mat so we could catch up on a weeks worth of laundry, something that adds up quick when its this cold out and you're wearing a few layers all day long.
Then we headed down HWY 17 South along the North Carolina coast towards Cindy's brothers house which is in Myrtle Beach. We're both hoping it might be a bit warmer there. I'm sick of being bundled up.
Check out this cool link. If anyone wants to build something like this on a Jeep chassis, I'll plop down some money tomorrow.
Friday February 20th 2009 - Spending time with Family
When we had left Ocracoke Island, we had planned on exploring the Cape Fear area thinking it might be a tad bit warmer and not so windy once we got off the Outer Banks and their unprotected shorelines.
Well we camped in some parking lot behind a Pizza Hut, and found it ironic that Cindy made some homemade pizza for dinner that 100 times better than anything you could buy in a store.
We woke Wednesday morning to pouring rain that never let up the entire day. After sitting in the camper for a few hours checking emails and trying to find something to do, we decided that we were only 80 miles from Cindy's brothers house down in Myrtle Beach, we might as well just head down there and get some quality family visits in.
Ron and Cindy are probably some of my favorite family members to visit with and we always enjoy time spent with them. They are great to be around, have a awesome outlook on life and their children are adorable to be around.
Wednesday night, we went with Ron & Cindy to Ron's bible group where he is the preacher, if you want to call it that. He is the one who talks and tries to enlighten the other attendee's on various verses from the Bible.
I know I've said it before, I'm not one to talk too much on religion in my blogs, but I find any and all religion fascinating and like to see and learn as much as I can about them all.
Even though I was raised Catholic, and my parents are still devout Catholics, I don't follow that denomination anymore and call myself a recovering Catholic. I guess I'm just turned off by any organized religion and choose to follow my own path with God.
He and I have a fantastic relationship. I know that I believe in him, and don't feel the need to push my beliefs on anyone else or talk too much about my beliefs.
But I sure do like to learn about others and what their beliefs are so I can get a bigger picture of this whole religion thing. I find it very fascinating and almost find it comical how heated it can turn a conversation to bring up ones religious beliefs. One reason why I don't talk too much about it on here or in public.
I guess it was too many years spent behind a bar with a few simple rules
1. Never talk politics behind the bar
2. Never talk religion behind the bar
3. Always compliment the ladies, and keep a smile for the really cute ones
Its really that simple.
So this hasn't been the adventure seeking start to the trip we planned, but we've got some fun planned down the road. Something about camping in cold weather just doesn't make for too much fun.
We're thinking we might head South from here and visit Charleston South Carolina before we head a bit further South into Northern Florida or Southern Georgia.
Does anyone have any cool places that we shouldn't miss along this route? Would love to hear from some others who have traveled in these areas before.
Shoot us an email at everymilesamemory @ gmail dot com and let us know if you have any insider places to see.
Monday February 23rd - Leaving Myrtle Beach for Charleston
This past weekend has be so fun. I feel guilty for Cindy when we spend so much time with my family and rarely ever see hers. My family all lives within a few minutes drive of one another, so when home in Michigan, we're usually visiting with one or more family members daily.
Cindy's family is scattered all over the South East, so its usually only on holidays or special occasions when we get to visit.
Ron and his family are a joy to be around, and the two 4 year old children they've adopted from China are down right hysterical.
When we first got here last week, they kept asking me what my name was as they couldn't seem to remember Uncle Pat. I asked them if they watched Sponge Bob, and if they knew what Sponge Bob's best friend was named?
They both lit up and said "Yes, Sponge Bob has a friend named Patrick!"
So I said "Ok, every time you forget my name, just think of Sponge Bob, and think of his friend and you'll know my name."
Well who could imagine the mind of a 4 year old? For the last week, they've had no problem remembering my name, but Aunt Cindy has now become Sponge Bob. I honestly don't think they know her name, she has just become Sponge Bob to them.
Our Nephew Avery took Cindy and I along with his sister Katie to a local State Park just South of Myrtle Beach on Saturday. Avery is a up and coming photographer who is working on a top notch portfolio. It was cool to spend the afternoon with another like minded person who loves nature and all its beauty.
Huntington Beach State Park is only a few minutes South of Myrtle Beach, and home to the Spanish-style castle Atalaya, former winter home and studio of noted American sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington.
We spent the afternoon wandering around this Spanish style mansion all talking about how jail like the house seemed. The structure was built like a walled in fortress and void of any furnishings, it seemed quite cold and jail like.
I'm sure when it was lived in and decorated with lavish furnishings, it was beautiful, but now it seemed empty, cold and lonely.
Avery had told me about the migrating birds and how this marsh area held a wealth of birding photos just waiting to be captured. We could see some flocks of Snowy Egrets off in the distance, but with the cool winds and chilly temperatures we've been experiencing, I think we were out of luck today.
We did get a chance to see a deer walking along the edge of the marsh, and had a great afternoon spent with family, so the day was time well spent in my book.
Make sure you check out the Atalaya Castle Gallery
That night we stayed up late into the morning playing Euchre with Ron and Cindy (Ron's wife).
Sunday morning we attended Ron's church and had a fun time in his Bible study class that follows the morning church service. Listening to someone teach who makes it humorous and relatable is such a refreshing way to learn. I really enjoyed all of this and accomplished what I had planned with this visit.
When we pulled into Myrtle Beach, I told Cindy that I really wanted to attend Ron's church like we had on our last visit.
After our Sunday morning church service, we spent the rest of the afternoon taking pictures of Chloe and Joshua. Chloe is so pretty and her mom wants to see if she has what it takes to do some modeling.
A fellow camping friend also sent us some great information on Charleston. This is why I love the RV'ers we meet along our travels. They're so helpful and have no problem sharing their experiences with others. Here is what she told us.
Hi Pat &
Cindy, Since we were just in Charleston and you asked if there's
anything cool to do along the route...Well I really don't know about
that 'along the route' thing except I'd get off of 17 around Myrtle
Beach, that was a traffic nightmare. But in and around Charleston I can
make some suggestions.
ton more stuff to do that we want to do next year...but those were the
highlights from this year. The campground is beautiful, and has miles of
paved bicycle trails, and a cool climbing wall, and the most amazing
So in one reply from my simple question of "anything to do in Charleston", Pam gave us enough stuff to do to keep us busy for a week.
Thanks Pam and Steve, and I'll be sure to post as much stuff as we can from Charleston.
Tuesday February 24th - Our First Real Day of Adventure in South Carolina
I know we've been on the road for a few weeks now, but today was the first day that I've felt like we were back on a real adventure. Spending time with Marc and Cathy and visiting with Ron and Cindy almost made the journey feel like a vacation.
Well today I felt like that swing was moving in harmony with our adventurous lifestyle from the moment we woke up. While Cindy was making breakfast, I looked up the address to Middleton Place Plantation where we planned on spending our day.
We stopped at a recycling center to empty the items we've used along our journey so far, and pulled into the well manicured grounds of this historic plantation well before noon.
As we pulled in, a flock of sheep was running across the front lawn which made the scenic grounds seem almost story book like.
While Cindy tended to the dogs, I situated the camera gear, and we headed out for a day of experiencing history at its best.
The Middleton Plantation is America's oldest landscaped gardens and a National historic Landmark. It's been around since long before the Civil War, and if you've ever seen the movie "The Notebook", (Cindy's favorite movie EVER) then you'll recognize some of the pictures in the gallery.
We started the day in the garden area, and spent the next few hours wandering around manicured English style gardens bordered with beautiful ponds, exotic bamboo forests and giant live oaks that have been around for centuries.
The home and stables are such a small part of the plantation, that I would recommend anyone visiting to try and schedule their visit around the peak of the spring bloom. We're a bit early with it only being late February, but the amount of blooms we saw today was enough to tide me over for an entire year. I cant imagine how intoxicating the aromas would smell to be in the gardens during the height of the spring bloom.
After hours spent enjoying the plantation and with the sun getting lower on the horizon, Cindy and I kept talking about how nice it would be to have some food to quiet the noise coming from our stomachs. We made our way across the grounds to the camper and Cindy made some lunch while I took the dogs for a short walk.
Another reason I love traveling in an RV! You have everything with you when you're hungry, and can stop at any point to eat if the need arises and if you feel tired after you've eaten, take a short nap in your own bed.
Once our bellies were full, we headed into downtown Charleston to explore the historic port town and kill a few hours time. We had contacted a old friend who we knew lived in the Charleston area about meeting up for dinner tonight.
Make sure to check out the Gallery from Middleton Place Plantation
Dan Wright used to play in one of our favorite blues bands when we owned the Red Dog. When ever Coyote Bone played at the Saloon, there would be a line out the door and we would be filled to capacity. Even if Cindy or I had the night off, we would come up to the bar to enjoy Dan's amazing guitar work and soulful melodies his band was known for.
He started playing at the Red Dog when he was only 17 years old and Cindy and I watched him grow up behind a microphone on the stage of our little bar; that was 10 years ago. Dan is also probably one of the most talented guitar players I've ever heard. Think Johnny Lang or Stevie Ray Vaughn and you'll know what I'm talking about. Coyote Bone recorded their first CD live at the Red Dog Saloon, and it stayed on the jukebox for years afterwards.
So when I called him yesterday to say we were going to be passing through the Charleston area and wanted to see if he had some free time, when he told us that he was hosting a Blues Jam on Tuesday nights at a local club, both of us were as excited as you could imagine.
Dan had said the Blues Jam started around 8pm at a little bar called A Dough Re Mi which was right across the bridge in the neighboring town of Mt. Pleasant. We had a few hours to kill so we thought we'd wander around downtown Charleston to see some of the sights.
First let me warn anyone traveling in an RV or large vehicle, DO NOT pull into the Visitor Center parking lot in downtown Charleston.
Somehow the guard missed our 25' camper pulling up to the gate and me getting out of the truck and pulling the ticket on the machine that raises the entry arm. But once I was in the parking lot and realized there was no way for me to pull out of the narrow exit with two right angle turns to make, she had to have me pull back out the entrance.
Lucky for us it was late in the afternoon and the parking lot wasn't full, or we would have been screwed as there would have been no way for me to turn around. Charleston does have a parking garage for RV's and oversized vehicles, it's just a block over from the Visitor Center.
Once we found this parking spot, we locked up the camper and headed for the downtown streets of Charleston. It only took about two blocks before we realized once the sun goes down, the temperatures drop drastically and the winds were biting right through us.
We only wandered around a few minutes before we were headed back to the warmth and protection of the camper. We'll have to wait till the sun comes back out tomorrow before we go scouting around these city streets.
By this time, it was 6ish, and we asked Dan if he wanted to meet us at the bar a little early so we could catch up on ol' times before he had to get up on stage.
We headed back over the bridge to Mt. Pleasant and found the restaurant and pulled up a bar stool.
It has been way too long since I've heard some good blues music and if I want to hear some of the best, Dan is just the guy I want to hear. First we caught ourselves up on some fond memories of wild times spent at the Red Dog, after hours parties back at our house after a packed performance and what we've all been up to since we last saw one another a few years ago.
I should also mention that A Dough Re Mi is a little deceiving from the outside. It's situated in a little strip mall in a nice neighborhood. You'd never guess from the outside you'd be able to hear such outstanding blues coming from such a clean looking restaurant..
The sounds coming from the stage were sounds you'd expect to hear in a dark, smoke filled hole-in-the-wall club on Beale Street in Memphis or in some corner bar in New Orleans. Oh, by the way, Happy Fat Tuesday!
Dan is the host of the Tuesday night gig at A Dough Re Mi, but musicians come from all around to get on stage and perform for the crowd.
What impressed me most, was a group of teenagers, and I'm talking 13, 14 and 15 year olds, who got up on stage and performed right along side some veteran die-hards. If you were to close your eyes and not know you were listening to a teenager, you'd swear there was some bleary eyed, 300lb black woman singing on stage, not a 15 year old Junior High student who knows how to sing like the best of them.
Beth, the owner of A Dough Re Mi was also waiting tables and kept our drinks filled all night long and filled our bellies with some tasty pizza. Nothing like a full belly and a slight buzz to blend in with the smooth sounds coming from the mic's on the stage.
Like I said earlier, today was a great day on our adventure! Exactly the way I like it. Take in some history, spend some time with the cameras and the enjoyment of my beautiful wife, and end the night in a small club with some old friends jamming to amazing sounds.
I know I've mentioned how much I enjoy Country music (The sadder the better) but my love for the fiddles and mandolins is nothing compared to the love I have for a harmonica, some slide guitar and a raspy blues voice. This to me is heaven and tonight I was loving every note!
Thanks Dan for an amazing night, the great stories you brought back from years gone by, and new memories to add to the ever growing stock pile we continue to collect.
Saturday February 28th - Sitting in the Rain in Northern Georgia
Sorry about not updating for a few days now but I'll try and catch you up real quick.
The night we spent with Dan back in the Charleston area we had slept in the parking lot of the plaza that A Dough Re Mi was located in. We were parked in front of a bank, and probably taking up most of their parking. But when we had pulled in at night, the lot was empty since the bank was closed.
Fast forward to the next morning and it was pretty early, probably 7am, when we could hear a woman standing beside the camper talking with another woman. She didn't sound too happy, and you could tell she was thinking about calling the police by her tone of voice and the comments she was making about our camper.
We got up, threw some clothes on and I think I scared the poop out of the woman as she was sitting there yelling to the other woman about this giant camper taking up all their parking area. When I walked out the door, said 'Good morning' with a big smile on my face and started up the truck, she just sort of stared blankly at me.
She probably thought someone had just left it parked there, and didn't think anyone would be stupid enough to be sleeping inside while she sat yelling right outside the thin walls of the camper.
We pulled the camper back across the bridge into downtown Charleston and found a parking spot right along the waters edge. Cindy spent an hour or so updating her blog, and I worked on some galleries from the past few days.
Once we finished up with our computer work, we spent the rest of the morning wandering around downtown Charleston just soaking up the history and beautiful architecture. This place is amazing and the homes are some of the most preserved I've ever seen.
We're talking homes from the birth of our country, and they're still standing strong! Much of the architecture reminded me of New Orleans, maybe mixed with styles we've seen in Pennsylvania. Say a touch of French with some English, Colonial.
By the time we got back to the camper, we were both ready for some lunch and a short break. While we were filling the stomachs, we sat talking about what our next move was going to be.
Cindy had been talking with some friends of ours she had recently gotten in touch with after almost 10 years of no contact. Fonda and Juergen had been very close friends of ours while we lived in Florida.
Their two boys were right around the same age as our daughter Donielle, and we all got along great. We had spent years partying together, trick-or-treating with the kids and just doing what good friends do while living life as young parents.
Fonda even flew to Michigan to stand up as one of Cindy's bridesmaids in our wedding when we got married some 11 years ago.
It wasn't too long after that time when our kids were to move up to Junior High and neither of us wanted to send them to the school district we were living in. Fonda and Juergen moved up to North Florida at about the same time we moved up to Michigan.
For the first year or two, we kept in touch through Christmas cards and phone calls, but life took hold as it always seems to do, and through the years we just lost touch with one another.
Well this Christmas, Cindy got a phone call from Fonda and ever since, they've been talking weekly on the phone. It seems that they had moved further north to Northern Georgia right along the South Carolina/North Carolina border. We had planned on stopping by their place on our route South, but when we left Michigan a few weeks back, they were still experiencing some wintry weather, so we headed over to South Carolina first to visit Cindy's brother.
While Cindy and I were sitting in Charleston, she asked "Do you want to drive across the state and go visit Fonda and Juergen for the weekend?" I couldn't think of a better idea, so we loaded their address into the GPS, and headed North by Northwest.
That evening, we pulled over only a few hours from their house because the scenery in Northern South Carolina was way too pretty to be missing by driving in the dark.
While driving on Thursday, I also had a strange experience happen to me, and something that was a FIRST after all these miles we've driven.
While passing through some random small town (we pass through soo many, I've stopped remembering their names) I was just rolling along when a Pot Bellied Pig ran out in front of me. I let out a screech which I'm not sure if it was due to shock, or the humor in the situation, but it was loud enough to wake Cindy from her cat nap in the passenger seat.
As her feet jumped up off the dashboard, and she yelled out "What is it?" I yelled back, "Look at that Pig! I almost ran it over!" We were both laughing pretty hard thinking how we would have explained that to the insurance company. It was then that we knew we were in the South and things were going to start getting fun.
When Cindy had mentioned to Fonda that we were going to come visit, she told her that we could park the camper at a friends house because her driveway was pretty steep.
I figured we would be able to get the camper up it, I mean we've taken it down some pretty steep inclines in the past few years. But we agreed to meet at the local Wal-Mart and jump in their vehicle so we could go see the house and decide if we could make it up the hill or not.
It only took one turn off the main road and I knew I wouldn't even attempt it. They drive a Toyota Forerunner and it was scrapping brush on the sides of the driveway. The hill they were talking about was so steep, that once they left the pavement, they switched it into 4-High just to make it up to their house!
Then once we reached the top of the hill, I knew that if we did try and get the camper up here, once at the top, there would be no way to turn it around to make the decent. Our inclinometer told us their driveway is a 20% grade!!
So we brought the camper over to a friends house and dumped it off in their pasture. It would stay safe there for the next few days with a horse and a mule watching over it.
Normally when we stay with friends, we never want to impose and sleep in their house when we have our camper along. But this is one time when I'm glad we've not had to be in the camper. We've been here for 3 days now and it's never stopped raining.
The first few days, we never even noticed as we had so much to catch up on, that we just sat talking and getting reacquainted after all this lost time. Their two young boys are now grown men. Tyler is two years younger than our daughter and has moved out of the house attending college about an hour away. Dylan is a senior in high school and is not the little guy I remember oh so many years ago back in Florida.
Both boys have grown to perfect gentleman and it was really cool to be able to see them again. Tyler even came home for one night and we had a chance to visit with him which was great.
But after the first few days of sitting around shooting pool, throwing darts and talking our voice boxes raw, today we all agreed that rain or no rain, we were going to venture out and see some of the sights this area has to offer.
First Fonda and Juergen took us on a short hike that ended at the base of a beautiful waterfall. It didn't even matter that it was still pouring rain, and the damp mountain air was trying its best to creep under our rain coats, we were ready to exercise those muscles that have been sitting dormant all winter long.
From the Mini Ha Ha waterfall, we headed over to the Tallulah Gorge which is only a few minutes from their house. This was a serious shock to the leg muscles as we hiked to the bottom of the gorge. Seeing the sign that stated "Hikers should be in strong physical shape due to strenuous conditions" for some reason didn't stop us.
But thankfully I brought my tripod for the camera, because when we reached the bottom of the gorge, some 600 steps from the visitors center, my legs were shaking so bad, I could barely hold the camera steady.
By this point, it didn't matter that it was still pouring rain. I couldn't tell whether I was soaking wet due to the sweat on the inside, or the rain drops on the outside. We did get to cross a suspension bridge that spanned the gorge, and I was really surprised Cindy walked right across it with no problem!
If I thought my legs were shaking from the hike down, by the time we reached the top and made our way back to the visitor center, I thought I could feel my heart beat in my earlobes.
Something tells me we need to get out a bit more and get ourselves back into shape. Round is not the shape I want to be in for this upcoming hiking/travel season.
After changing out of our wet clothes and getting ready for another fun filled evening, Fonda and Juergen treated Cindy and myself to a great local Mexican restaurant in their little town.
After dinner, we came home and relaxed in front of the TV and unwound from the days activities watching a movie. We had planned on spending most of the week here, but watching the weather channel, there is some crazy winter storm headed our way tomorrow that is supposed to drop 2-4" of snow on this area! I know, "You've got to be kidding me!" It's the same thing we're all saying.
So Cindy and I decided we are going to pack things up and head out first thing in the morning. We hope we can make it far enough south tomorrow to miss this snow storm. Stay Tuned!
I know we've been slacking on the Expense Report Page, but that is a pain in the butt, and I cant figure out a way to copy and paste a graph from an excel doc. into Front Page without it looking stupid like it does now?
From now on, I'm going to list something like this at the end of each months blog.
Total Miles Traveled for the month of February = 2046.8
Total Water Used in Coach = 118 Gallons
Total Fuel Used in Truck = 222.99 Gallons @ a Cost of $464.78
One Propane Tank Used @ a Cost of $2.79 per gallon or $18.80 total
That is probably our cheapest month for fuel to date! The least expensive fuel we found was $1.83 in Northern South Carolina, and the most expensive we found was $2.59 in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I know it wasn't a full month with us leaving Michigan on the 10th, and February only having 28 days, but it's still a very cheap month for us.
We figure if we can keep our costs more around this range, we should be able to stretch out the adventure quite a bit longer.