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Go West, (Not-So) Young Man!

Westward Ho!

Tonight, Frank and I are enjoying a quiet campsite at the PA Dutch Country RV Campground outside of Manheim, PA. That wasn’t the original plan. We were supposed to be sitting in a Walmart parking lot somewhere in Ohio about now. But we both woke up this morning a bit groggy. Frank gave me a look that said, “Do we have to spend the entire day in the car again?” We’ve gotten to the point where we can read each other’s minds now, by the way. His sense of humor isn’t quite as dry as I first thought it was. He’s more of a practical joker. But that’s a story for another post.

Anyhow, we are still recovering from a weekend of revelry followed by 10 hours in the car on Sunday. So we decided to spend one more night here. Tomorrow morning, we’ll head out pretty early. I don’t know that will make it all the way to our campground in Kentucky, but I called ahead and they were okay with us coming in a day later … just so long as we let them know in the early afternoon whether we’re going to make it tomorrow or not.

I’m really kind of embarrassed about feeling exhausted. I mean, we’re really not doing anything to feel exhausted about! I guess the only defense I can put up as it we’ve been moving around a lot more frequently of late. In a fit of self-justification, I looked back at our itinerary this afternoon and sure enough -From January 1st until mid-June, we moved 13 times. But over the last two months, we’ve moved 10! That’s a lot of driving, setups and teardowns compared to what we had been used to. So I’ll take that excuse, even if it’s only a pretty weak one. : o)

Unfortunately though, Frank is going to have to suck it up because those frequent moves aren’t going to stop anytime soon. In actuality, we’ve got at least 9-10 more moves will have to go through between now and October 15th! It won’t be until then that we finally reach a place with a month-long stay to look forward to.

Not only that, we’ll be driving halfway across the country, with a couple of north/south zigzags thrown in to boot! Who came up with this itinerary, anyhow? That’s rhetorical, by the way … and don’t let on to my Chief Navigator who it was, please. He’s already asleep in the Nutshell and I’m not sure what he would do with the information.

But anyhow, back to this past weekend …

Frank and I left Massachusetts about 10:30 Friday morning. But not before some sad goodbyes. We’ve been camping next to a cabin where a family had been staying for the last week. We had a little girl that for whatever reason was just infatuated by Frank and me.

Most mornings, she would come out and say hello to us before breakfast; one morning, she hollered down from her upstairs bedroom window and offered to read me her story book. She was absolutely precious! But she had a hard time saying goodbye.

She and her brother came over with their father as we were leaving and it was obvious she didn’t want Frank to leave!  As soon as Frank saw her come up to the driver’s window, he jumped on top of me and was straining to get out to give her one final goodbye. They were at equal eye level, and as soon as Frank noticed the tears in her eyes, he just started licking away!

After that, she broke the news – “In 5 more days, I’m going to be 6 years old, and I told my mommy and daddy that I want a dog just like Frank!”  I took her father’s rolling eyes as a good signal that it was time to leave, so I just wished her a happy birthday, told her it was time for us to get on the road and mouthed, “Sorry,” to her dad. He just grinned and said that she had been asking for a dog for a while. I’m grateful he let us off the hook a little bit.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at Ross Hill Park, near Lisbon, CT. I have to say, this was a magnificent campground! Compared to the last couple of campgrounds we were at, our space was ginormous! We had a beautiful view of a river about 75 yards away and could see a number of other teardrops that had already arrived for the annual get-together of the Tearjerkers’ New England chapter.

We were sitting at the picnic table, getting our bearings when Barry and Nancy, the chapter chairpersons, stopped by to say hello. Talk about being made to feel welcome! They knew who we were just by way of Frank’s smile. But then, pretty much everyone knows Frank by now. We were greeted with warm hugs and handshakes and spent about 15 minutes with them talking about our journey.

We finished setting up and relaxed for a little while before dinner. We had been invited over to have dinner with Theresa, another of the chapter’s organizers. I have to say, I don’t go all out on my cooking. I do what I need to do. And the chicken fajitas that Theresa prepared were beyond delicious! I’m going to have to step up my game a little bit.

After dinner, we all gathered around the community campfire. As stories were being swapped, I joined in a little guitar picking session with Darrell and Rory. Meanwhile, I noticed Frank, whose lead was connected to my chair, going from person to person. He would sit directly in front of them and give them a look that was akin to Oliver begging for more food. He was trying to convince anyone who would look at him that it had been eons since he’d received any attention! Fortunately for him, everyone was more than happy to oblige. He was pretty funny –  as they would reach down to pet him, he would lower his head so that they could scratch the back of his neck. And I would catch him grinning as he was getting stroked. “Heh, heh, heh, bagged another one!”  What a conniver he can be at times!

The next day, we all got together for breakfast, with Frank following up his with a brief dip in the river. And after that came the famous Tearjerker crawl, where everyone went from campsite to campsite to learn about everyone else’s rides. There were some very cool trailers in camp, I have to say. A pretty good combination of manufactured, home-built, antique restorations and the like.

Later on, we all got back together for a pot-luck dinner and more time around the campfire. There was a group photo and an awards ceremony, too. People were recognized for things like “best home-built teardrop,” “best galley,” “best decorated campsite,” and the like.

Frank and I received an award for coming the furthest distance to attend the gathering. I tried to convince them that we’d only just come from Massachusetts, but they wouldn’t hear it. So as a result, I have a beautiful plaque that will be displayed prominently in all my future campsites.

Unfortunately, we had to leave the campfire a bit early. There was rain in the air and Frank had one of his uncontrollable shaking sessions. So we hurried back to our campsite so that Frank could get under his magic blanket in the Nutshell and feel some relief.

Our Sunday was spent entirely in the car. We started out fairly early, but I wanted to stop somewhere in New Jersey to pick up some corn and tomatoes. Now those of you who aren’t familiar with Jersey corn or Jersey tomatoes might think that’s crazy, but if you haven’t tasted them, you have no idea what you’re missing!  they are incredibly sweet, almost like eating candy!

I found a farm stand off I-87 but didn’t have any place to park, except to pull off on the side of a narrow road. I was able to catch the eye of a high school kid that was working there and he came over to the car and was more than happy to pick out some produce for us. A really nice kid – he even protested when I told him to keep the change from the $15 I had given him. But he laughed and relented when I told him that I’d sic my vicious dog on him if he said anything else. Of course, Frank was just looking at him with a big grin on his face.  : o)

We wound up with four ears of corn, three tomatoes, and a pint of blueberries. I wish I could have figured out how to bring back 4 dozen ears! Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be.

After that, I made a quick phone call to make sure he was home and then stopped to see an old friend, Eric, with whom I had worked for a few years while living in New Jersey. Eric had tried to come up to our campground in the Poconos in late May, but just couldn’t work it into his schedule. So we stopped by for a quick visit so he could meet Frank … then we were on our way.

We arrived at our Campground just before 6 p.m. and it was all I could do to empty the trailer so that we could get inside to sleep. And this is where we’ve been for the last couple of days.

This blog post was started kind of late and it needs to get it posted before heading to bed. There won’t be any photos in this one, but I have a number of them to share from the weekend and our short stay here. But we’ve got a long day of driving ahead of us tomorrow, so I want to hit the sack as soon as I can. I’ll post those in the next couple of days.

Good night everyone!

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2017 in Travels

 

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A Little Late …

I’ve never been good at accepting accolades. They’ve come at times in the past … at work, at church, as a volunteer with a few charitable organizations, etc.  

A good portion of my uneasiness his had to do with unrealistic expectations I put on myself. After all, how can you accept kudos for doing what you are supposed to be doing in the first place? Whatever you do, you are supposed to excel. It’s expected!

The other part of my reluctance has had to do with guilt, and what someone sees when they look at themselves in the mirror. If you’re of a mind that none of the good you do will make up for all your shortcomings and mistakes, then you’re always fighting the urge to say, “Yeah, but …,” when someone acknowledges something good you’ve done.

Quite honestly, I thought I had come to terms with all that stuff. After all, I’m finally happy and at peace. I’m enjoying the time Frank and I have spent on the road way more than I ever expected to. And I’m grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to touch other people’s lives.

So I was pretty surprised by the anxiety that came to the surface a couple of months ago by a comment that was left on our blog … something that came completely out of the blue!

In the time since, I’ve struggled to make a few blog posts. I guess it’s sort of like what happens when a batter, who has been in a groove, suddenly starts thinking too much. He starts second-guessing pitches, or worrying about whether he’s dropping his shoulder, or bringing his hips out too early. And all of a sudden, the hits aren’t coming anymore.

In any event, I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks in meditation. I’ve even brought the old workbooks out and have spent time back doing some writing therapy. Funny thing though … I was working on the wrong thing! Instead of focusing on getting back in the groove, I should have been working on my manners!

In the middle of this morning’s meditation, a sudden realization interrupted the silence. An epiphany! “Dude! How rude!”

Yes … I’ve been rude to someone who went out of their way to acknowledge our blog. Irrespective of groove, or blog updates, or whatever, that needs to be addressed.  NOW!!! So …

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Back in June, “Frank and Jeff – Two Old Vagabonds” was nominated for a Blogger Recognition Award. My manners to the contrary, I’m shocked and humbled by this recognition. Quite frankly, I’m just happy people have decided to follow along on our little journey! I never really expected anyone to actually like our story!

What is the Blogger Recognition Award?

Here are the rules;

  • Thank the Blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Write a post to show your award
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started
  • Give some pieces of advice to new bloggers
  • Select other bloggers you want to give this award to
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

The Thanks

Our nomination came by way of vagabonds-to-be Kelley and Michael. They made the decision a while ago to follow their dream of traveling around North America in an RV. In between shake-out trips here and there, they’ve been working on renovating and selling their home; downsizing their stuff; and planning their Adventure. So far so good – they are on target for lift off at the end of this month.

They’ve been chronicling all of their preparations at 2heartsand2wheels.wordpress.com.  I encourage you to visit their blog and sign on to follow them as they hit the open road!

Kelley and Michael, I’m sorry that it took so long to thank you. I’m touched that you have enjoyed reading about Frank and my travels and look forward to the chance of meeting somewhere on the open road! Thank you for our nomination, from the bottom of my heart!

Brief Story

The vast majority of you know our story. If you don’t, you can learn about where we started, and how far we’ve traveled … in terms of both geography and psyche … by visiting our “About Us” page.

I used to think that I was the brains of this outfit and Frank had the good looks. I’ve since come to realize that he only lets me think I’m the brains. I had help with that from an unexpected source.

A little boy, whose family camped next to us at Myrtle Beach State Park this past spring, probably did the best job explaining my role as it stands today. He had been talking excitedly back at his campsite about playing with Frank that afternoon. His mother noted that he knew Frank’s name, but wanted to know, “ who does Frank live with?”

Oh, he’s just the man that takes care of Frank!”

Yep. That’s me.

New Blogger Advice

If you’ve already decided on a format, great! Stick with it! People aren’t visiting you because of bells and whistles or fancy widgets on your page (unless, of course, your blog is all about bells and whistles and fancy widgets!) Put your energy into telling your story.

Second, work on consistency. Try not to go for long periods of time between posts. For what it’s worth, I’m telling this to myself as much as you. It’s easy to get sidetracked. Don’t let that happen!

Lastly, write from your heart! That doesn’t mean you open up your editor and just start writing free flow. Rambling is never good. Write from your heart … whatever your topic, let the passion you feel for it come through the story. The rest will follow.

My Nominations

https://storyshucker.wordpress.com

I’ve been following Stuart Perkins for. about 3 years now.  In all honesty,  his blog is the standard by which I measure my own storytelling. From tales about his grandmother; to life lessons learned through encounters with everyday people; to stories about his friends and children, Stuart offers a wonderful perspective on finding the extra ordinary in daily life.

Stuart’s blog is one of my “must-reads”! Just seeing a notification that he’s made another post brings a smile to my face and I usually stop what I’m doing to go read whatever wisdom he is imparting.

https://travellingtheworldsolo.com

Ellen is a young Australian midwife who also happens to be a world Traveler. Her goal for 2017 is to report from all seven continents! Her blog includes some great travel stories and the most amazing photography.

https://theblondecoyote.com

As she notes on her “About Me” page, “The Blonde Coyote is my trail name, which I use to sign trail logs and summit registers. Like most good trail names, mine was given to me by a fellow hiker after many long, hard miles. The Blonde Coyote also pays tribute to one of my favorite non-human traveling companions: a deaf coyote-cattledog hybrid named Freckles who was a great ally in my desert wanderings around rural New Mexico.”

Mary has been living the nomadic lifestyle as a correspondent for Earth magazine for over 10 years and has the stories to prove it. Simply put, Mary is doing what I would do if I have the stones and the stamina! LOL

https://rvchickadee.com

Kelly has been on the road for about the same amount of time as Frank and me. She is one of the growing number of young people who have decided not to wait until retirement to see the country … while embracing a lifestyle that’s become known as “minimalism”. If only I would have understood, as she has, what things are important in life when I was her age!

Kelly works in the digital world and is accompanied by her four-legged companions, Trixie and Gizmo. You have any questions about the boondocking lifestyle? Well, odds are Kelly and crew will have an answer for you.


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Our new campsite flag

Frank and I haven’t really done that much since our last post. We’ve hung around the campsite for most of the last couple of weeks.

We’ve taken a couple of trips out to see the ocean. The last one was a little disappointing – a couple of days ago, we drove out to what was advertised on the web as a dog friendly beach. But on arriving after a 1+ hour drive, we discovered that wasn’t the case! So we had to be satisfied with smelling the salt air while sitting in the car for a while.

What we have been doing is getting ready for our trek westward.  On Sunday, we’ll be leaving the East Coast and won’t be back for quite a while. We’ve spent our days taking care of chores.

The Nutshell’s cabin is cleaner than when we arrived. We’ve done some preliminary testing on the power pack for our WiFi device and phone in preparation of a little bit of boondocking this fall. That’s gone pretty well. We’ve replaced the car battery, that was showing signs of dying.

We also had to replace our canopy. As it turns out, we can get about 7 – 8 months use out of one before the constant exposure to the sun weakens the material to the point that it becomes unusable. In setting up at our last campground in Sturbridge, the canopy split wide open along one of the sheaths holding a leg in place. Fortunately, we had a temporary solution until our new canopy was delivered to  our present location.

While we were staying in Maine at the end of June, I picked up a big sheet of thin drop cloth … something like 20’×12’.  With Frank’s supervision, I cut it so that we now have sheeting that covers the opening between the bottom of the canopy and the canopy insert. We no longer have to worry about rain seeping through and on to our camp table.

The leftover portion of drop cloth sure came in handy after that big tear in the overhead. We had enough remaining to simply drape it over the hole and then fasten it down with some clothes pins. It came in handy – we did have rain. What else is new, right?  : o)

Since arriving here, I cut another piece out of the remnantd to cover the opening between the canopy and the top of the Nutshell, where it angles over the door. So Frank and I are now more fully protected from the elements. If only I would have remembered to save the extra insert from the old canopy before tossing it in Sturbridge! That wasn’t very smart. Not one of my better moves!  : o)

This weekend, we will have a short stay in Connecticut with the New England Tearjerker chapter, after which we will immediately depart for Pennsylvania. Our plan is to arrive in Park City, KY on Wednesday, August 16th.

That’s it for now. Look for another post on Monday, our next down day. Over the month-and-a-half, I had two occasions to gain some closure on past chapters in my life, one of which happened last week. They’re worth talking about. Until then …

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2017 in Musings, Travels

 

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New England Discoveries

So much for regularly scheduled programming resuming the next day. Sorry about that! I realized this afternoon that this is the last day of July and I couldn’t let the month go by without filling everyone in on what’s been going on. It’s been a month-and-a-half of discovery that has open my eyes to some new possibilities. More on that towards the end of the post.

Unfortunately, my mantra of late has become, “I can’t believe how fast this year is going!”  I mentioned something on Facebook the other day about how it seems impossible to believe that it’s n eight months since Frank and I arrived in Florida the day before New Year’s Eve. And now, we’re less than two weeks away from ending our time  on the East Coast and beginning our  trip westward to Southern California for the winter. Oh, well…

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As you can see, things were tight in Wells

Since that last post, we have visited five campgrounds, with our time split mostly between Maine and Massachusetts after a little bit of time winding things up in New York. We also had a short … but very meaningful … stay in New Hampshire.

Four of the places we’ve stayed at have been Thousand Trails campgrounds: two in Maine, in Bar Harbor and Wells; with the other two located in Massachusetts, in Sturbridge and Rochester (very close to where Cape Cod begins to curl out into the Atlantic).

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Highway humor … “Uh, no. You can’t!”

Real quick, I’ll say that the two campgrounds in Maine were so-so in my opinion. Both campsites were incredibly small. Frank and I felt a little bit like sardines pressed together in a can. The saving grace was that we were close to the ocean! Frank and I took a few visits down to the beach to stare into the Atlantic. If only the weather would have cooperated more! We were back in long periods of rain and cool weather.

The other saving grace relative to our time in the state were our friends, both new and old. We got to visit twice with old friends from Pompton Lakes, Jon and Susan. They each moved up to Maine with their spouses about 30 years ago and have loved the area. They came out to the campsite in Wells just before the 4th of July for our first visit and we had a marvelous time reminiscing about many of our other friends and what it was like to grow up in Pompton.

Our second visit with Jon and Susan came on our way out of the state and back in the Massachusetts – Jon and his wife Christy invited us to stay in their home in Lee, NH, just north of the Massachusetts state line. It was the perfect stopping over point, cutting the long drive we would have had from Bar Harbor to Sturbridge in half! They also invited Sue, her husband Jerry, and another couple over for an evening of great conversation and fun times.

Frank got a special treat, too. Jon has three big dogs and Frank had an absolute blast playing with them. In all honesty, I have never seen Frank play like he had that night. Whenever he’s been around big dogs at dog parks, he always stays on the perimeter of the action. It’s almost like he wants to join in, but it’s just a little bit too worried about getting hurt or something. Well, it certainly wasn’t the case that night. Frank was right in the middle of everything, giving as well as taking when it came to the wrestling and roughhousing.

Later on, I was actually able to sleep in a real bed. And let me tell you – it was fantastic! The last time I was in a real bed was last September, when I stayed in a motel after my heart procedure. In all honesty, that wasn’t all that memorable. The last time I had had a really comfortable sleep in a real bed was over a year ago, when Keith, another old friend from Pompton, opened his home up to us in Pagosa Springs, CO. That’s a pretty long time between!

Our Maine visit with new friends came courtesy of Dianne and her significant other, Don. Dianne and I both belong to a Facebook group – full-time living in an RV. But they’ve been relatively stationary for a while, planning to go on the road sometime next year. Dianne had asked if they might be able to spend some time with me asking questions about my experiences on the road and I was more than happy to oblige. We spent a wonderful afternoon sitting outside at their campsite about 45 minutes west of Wells.

Dianne prepared a fantastic dinner of spaghetti with bolognese sauce that was overflowing with Italian sausage and ground beef, sending me home with a huge amount of leftovers. They even gifted a coffee maker they weren’t using after I said something about the heating element on mine not keeping the coffee very warm. I certainly hope our paths cross again once they go out on the road full time.

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Our pond in Stockbridge

I don’t know if it’s a function of land prices or what, but both the Massachusetts campsites have been tiny, too. I  didn’t mind it as much in Sturbridge though, because we were right on a wonderful pond and away from most of the activity across the water.

Right now, we’re still at the campground in Rochester – the Gateway to Cape Cod RV campground. We’re surrounded by wonderful trees … which offset to some degree the fact that we’re nestled in amongst a couple of cabins. I wouldn’t mind it as much but there’s a couple staying full time in a cabin across the way and they spend most evenings arguing in voices that make it seem like they’re sitting right next to us under the canopy!

I will say this: it’s caused me to recognize the growth I’ve had over the last couple of years. With these two, I’m able to just shake my head and think, “this too shall pass.”  I remember some loud, obnoxious folks that camped next to us at our first campsite on leaving Charleston, Georgia Veterans State Park. They weren’t anywhere near as intrusive as these two now … and yet back then, I let them bother me so much that I didn’t gain my composure until probably three days after they had left! So that’s some progress for which I’ll give myself some credit.  : o)

We’ve been able to make some new friends in Massachusetts, too. In Sturbridge, we met Daryl and his wife Marian, who work in a boarding school for troubled youth in Hershey, PA. We had a couple of very nice visits with them. And here in Rochester, we met Doug, his wife Amy, and their son John. They own one of the nearby cabins. Doug stop by our first weekend here to take a look at our setup and we will end up visiting for nearly an hour. We spend another couple of hours visiting yesterday, when they were back in Camp after returning home for the work week. I’m really looking forward to seeing them again on Friday.

I just wish the weather was being more cooperative! Like I said, we’ve been back in with a fair amount of rain and cooler temps. It’s supposed to be warmer this week. Knock on wood. Please, knock on wood!

That pretty much sums up where all we’ve been since leaving Lake George, with one exception … our stay in east-central New Hampshire with fellow vagabond Michael.

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Michael and me,

If you’ve been following the blog since early this year, you know I’ve mentioned Michael numerous times. How we met Etta Campground in Florida and how our paths have continued to cross at various other Thousand Trails campgrounds up the East Coast. You know that Michael invited Frank and me to spend sometime around the 4th of July camped alongside him next to his aunt and uncle’s Farm in East Conway, NH. Well, let me say that the five days we spent there were one of the most memorable (and enjoyable) campground experiences we’ve had over the last two-plus years!

First off, Michael was an incredible host! He took us all around his little area of the world. We visited Mountain tops where we look down on the Saco river valley; we swim in a nearby lake where his uncle on some other property, and then drove all through the backwoods around Conway.

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Michael’s campsite labyrinth

We also had a chance to accompany him down to a small fair a couple of hours away, to watch him at work. I’ve mentioned how during the winter months, Michael goes on the road down to Florida. He sets up a huge labyrinth at fairs and festivals, using it as a teaching tool for meditation and centering work.

I have to say it was really cool to see people respond when he would explain how to hold an “intention” – an idea in your mind as you entered the labyrinth. It might be a problem you’re dealing with. Or it might be an impending choice you have to make, where you’re looking for guidance. He would then direct them to open their minds as they proceeded down the path, being receptive to whatever thoughts might come to them relative to that intention. And how, when they reached the center, it was then time to Express gratitude for the opportunity to be totally in the present with their intention.

I think it’s a wonderful meditation technique! Back at camp, I had set up the Nutshell right next to a labyrinth Michael had made out of rocks he had pulled from the field. I walked that Labyrinth a couple of times while there, and it helped me focus on some of the discoveries made in that short time spent camping next to him.

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Boondocking in New Hampshire

In between our car tours, we spent most afternoons sitting in our camp chairs looking out over the Saco River, about a hundred yards down an old road from the campsite. We would spend the time shooting the breeze, talking about everything from the insignificant to the important; sharing memories from our respective pasts; and laughing. Lots of laughing! From my perspective, Michael and I are kindred souls. We share similar outlooks on life, politics, spirituality, and relationships.

While there, we ate like kings! A couple of his sons are chefs and it’s easy to see that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree! And everything was cooked over an open fire in a pit Michael guilt for when he is backup in the area every summer to look after his aunt and uncle.

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Who needs electricity? We ate like kings!

I mentioned at the beginning of the post about discoveries. One of them came about as a direct result of OurTime Camp next to Michael. The other one developed over the previous month but was solidified while walking the Labyrinth.

Discovery #1: I have what it takes to boondock! For those of you not familiar with the term, boondocking is essentially free range camping, where you are not staying in an organized Campground as Frank and I have done since the beginning of our vagabond journey.

It’s an important realization, especially as we head West. We’re going to be spending at least a couple of months in a part of the country where Thousand Trails has no campgrounds! And because of my purchase arrangement, I am on the hook for a monthly payment whether I stay in their campgrounds or not. A certain level of anxiety was building up about how I could afford to pay for both my Thousand Trails membership and additional campground fees during those two months when I would have to find other places to stay. Well, with boondocking, those additional Campground fees go away!

During the period where we will be away from Thousand Trails campgrounds, we will be spending our time mostly in Utah and New Mexico. Both states have plenty of public land where one can Boondock for up to two weeks at a time before having to relocate.

I was dealing with a different anxiety at the same time, though. Sort of a double-edged sword. Yes, there was the anxiety about how to afford additional campsite fees. But I was also anxious about the whole idea of boondocking. I’ve been totally reliant on electrical power the whole time we’ve been on the road – every place we’ve stayed has offered electrical hookups. And I was worried about how we manage otherwise.

That’s been put the bed now. The time we spend boondocking with Michael made me realize that I had most of what I needed already. I’ve been carrying a propane stove with us since the beginning, but if never had to use it. I also have a small charcoal grill. Both of those will easily replace the hot plate and crockpot we’ve been using to prepare meals up to now. At some point over the next month or so, I’ll pick up a French press for making coffee. I have never seen one used and from the explanation, it seemed somewhat messy. All I could picture was the time we spent camping before getting the coffee maker, where I was trying to meet single cups of coffee with a drip system. But when I saw … and tasted … the coffee Michael made with his French press, I knew that was going to be the perfect solution.

When it comes down to it, the only power issue I had was how to keep my wifi device and cell phone charged. It wasn’t going to be practical to rely on my car because a car charger won’t work in my Hyundai unless it’s running. And while people had suggested different configurations of solar panels and Deep Cell marine batteries, that was going to run into more than several hundred dollars of investment.

The solution came by way of a suggestion from a former coworker who is still a Facebook friend. Pen had read one of my post talking about solar power Investments and she sent me a website link to a small portable phone charger. That led me down a path to the solution I ultimately bought … for only slightly over $100! It’s a larger portable powerpack and separate 21W solar panel that integrate with each other. The powerpack will probably provide three days of wifi/phone charges, and with the solar panel, I can recharge the powerpack with about 8-10 hours of sunlight.

Worst-case, once we actually get to the point of having to rely on it, I might need to buy a second powerpack and alternate between the two, keeping one charging via the solar panel while using the other one too keep as charged up. That would only require another $60 investment! A far cry from the $500 I was looking at having to spend free capacity that, as it turns out, I really don’t need!

So, all that anxiety has been addressed. I feel ready to Boondock and am really looking forward to the experience.

Discovery #2: Actually, it’s more of a realization. And it has to do with being open to possibilities.

I’ve mentioned before how part of the long-term game plan for our vagabond journey was to ultimately find a place where Frank and I can light when it becomes obvious that we can’t maintain our life on the road. Up to now, I’ve pretty much ruled out any place in the country where we would cross paths with my old nemesis. It’s a four-letter word: S-N-O-W!!!

You folks have been following us since the beginning of the blog already know that while I fell in love with La Veta, CO, I wrote it off because it’s in the middle of snow country. But as we’ve seen more of the country, I’ve realized that the places that have really “spoken” to me are all in snow country!

Driving from Lake George to Wells, I again fell in love with New England! The quaint little towns we passed through in Vermont and New Hampshire all looked so inviting. The Maine coastline that I remembered from visits I made when I was younger once again said, “Hey! Couldn’t you see yourself living here?” like I mentioned in a couple of other posts over the last months, I love the woods in the Northeast. But I had completely written them off as a possible place to settle down. Until now.

A friend of Michael’s joined us one afternoon while we sat looking over the river. We were talking about how beautiful that part of the country was. And the whole time we were talking the question kept getting louder in my head. So I finally asked him … “But how do you deal with the snow???”

He looked at me like I had suddenly grown a second head. “What do you mean? What’s to deal with? It snows!”

“But what do you do?” I continued. “Do you just stay aware of the weather and stock up groceries and stuff? I mean, how do you get around? Do you just stay indoors?”

Again, he gave me a weird look. “You realize that we have snow plows up here, right? I mean, we had a light winter this past year, but the year before that it snowed quite a bit. And for the most part, the roads were clear the next day. I don’t know what you’re trying to ask me. It’s not that big a deal!”

I know some of you, especially my northeastern friends, are chuckling as you read this. But seriously, this was something that I really hadn’t considered. Was it possible that I was creating a problem where one didn’t necessarily exist?

I’ve not made any decisions on that, obviously. But I’ve realized that I’ve been eliminating potential landing sites out of hand … places that, with the exception of the snow aspect, seem to have spoken to my soul.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m opening myself up to possibilities. Instead of holding onto a rigid mindset, I’m letting the process run its course, wherever that may take us.

And that’s a good thing. Especially given that only a couple of years ago, the only possibility I saw was driving off a cliff at Big Sur! : o)

That’s it for now. It’s only slightly more than an hour until midnight and I promised myself we’d have a July post. Time’s a-wasting!

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2017 in Travels

 

Meet Pollyanna’s Brother

Sometimes your best Facebook post is the one you don’t make.

I just deleted a lengthy tome – a response to something a friend posted on Facebook. In thinking about it, I thought it was more appropriate to post here on the blog instead.

On starting this blog, I made a conscious decision that I was going to refrain from any political statements. There have been a few posts  … a very few … where I alluded to things there were going on in the country while being very careful not to point fingers or take an outright political stand on things. I’m going to follow that rule to some degree today, but given the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise a couple of days ago, there’s something I need to get off my chest. And it has to do with the political climate we are all living in.

Like Will McAvoy of “The Newsroom”, I remember a time when we didn’t identify ourselves “by who we voted for in the last election.” When disagreements with other people’s viewpoints didn’t escalate to estrangement from one another. And when we didn’t think that those we disagreed with were evil!

I have good friends … dear friends, with political viewpoints that range pretty much all the way up and down the “conservative – liberal” spectrum. So I’m deeply troubled and saddened when those friends post things on Facebook like, “Guns don’t kill people. Leftists kill people,” or “It’s okay that 26 kids get killed at Sandy Hook, but let one Republican Congressman get shot and all hell breaks loose.”

Given how vilification is the norm these days, is it any wonder that someone has taken a pot shot at elected officials? Quite frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before now. And it doesn’t really matter that this time it turned out to be a guy with a liberal bent who shot a conservative congressman. It could just have easily been the other way around. Next time, If there is a next time, it could be. Hatred isn’t confined to one side or the other. Neither is violence. There are people on both sides who are extreme enough to listen to all the hate being expressed in politics today and decide to act on it.

I don’t care what your political beliefs are. From my perspective, we all have valid concerns about the problems in this country. And for the most part, they are all legitimate concerns, whether you personally share specific ones or not.

But also for the most part, when you get down to the basics, we all want the same thing – a decent place to live where you don’t have to worry about stepping outside your door; meaningful work, whether it’s in a job or as a stay-at-home parent; the ability to put food on our tables; and a chance at a better life … ideally, for ourselves, but most definitely for our kids. I’m pretty sure those are universal wants and desires and it doesn’t matter who you are or who you voted for!

After that, I’m pretty sure most of us would like to see some ongoing problems in our country addressed, too – a reduction in child poverty and suffering; adequate and affordable health care; a reduction in violence; the right to practice one’s faith, or to live without having someone else’s belief system forced on them. There are others, but that’s not the focus here.

Unfortunately, none of those things are going to happen … basic or otherwise …  if we continue to vilify those we disagree with. Or see them as incapable of rational thought. Or think of them as evil!

We have to establish a give and take. A middle ground, a place where we can agree. And be willing to compromise. Even on things for which we feel there is no room for compromise.

Some people are saying that the divisiveness in our country is the fault of “the media”, or the current makeup of Congress. In reality though, we really can’t do anything about “the media” … CNN and Fox News aren’t going to change, and we’re always going to have the New York Times and the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world.  The odds that most of Congress will be re-elected are greater than the odds that the New England Patriots will make the playoffs each year, too. So it doesn’t seem like we can do much about them, either. We’re not going to see an end to money influencing our lawmakers (or the election process itself), nor are we going to see term limits. At least for the foreseeable future. We can only take full responsibility for ourselves.

We can take responsibility for how we see each other. How we talk to each other. And how we act towards each other. Even if “they” live an entirely different way of life than we do! Even if “they” have an entirely  different political perspective than we do.

I work very hard to do that myself. That wasn’t always the case – I’ve been guilty of my share of vitriol (and I’m ashamed to say that I had lapses this past November). But a few years ago, something happened.

I made a generalized statement one day that attached all sorts of vile reasons to why someone would vote opposite of how I believed. And a good friend “Joe” (not his real name) pointed out to me that if I felt that way, then I must feel that about him, because he was going to vote differently than I was in the election.

That was a moment of epiphany. I knew that none of those vile reasons applied to him. And yet he was making a political choice different from mine. And I was embarrassed about it! I owned up to it, told him that was wrong of me, and aplogized. But it still weighed on me. If I could be wrong about him, what did it mean about others. Could I be wrong about them as well? And the simple answer was “yes”.

That was tough to acknowledge. It was a negative reflection on me. It caused even more turmoil as I continued to be caught up in political chat threads and Facebook posts by people who were as adamant in their opposing beliefs as I was in mine. Other friends posted nasty generalizations about people who held different political beliefs than they did … and whether they knew it or not, they were indirectly aiming those accusations at me! And I felt the same sting that Joe did. I still feel those stings when I see them posted nowadays.

I continued to struggle because I was still embroiled in those political discussions. I hated those people that were posting stuff I disagreed with. Hate! And at the same time, my experience with Joe was causing all sorts of conflict.

When you add all of that to the ongoing depression and anxiety I was feeling, it put me into a horrible downward spiral. I got to the point where I had basically lost faith in mankind. And I lost faith in myself and my ability to deal with people. In retrospect, it was probably a major factor in why I became reclusive. Why my hands would shake as I reached for the door knob. I’ve mentioned that before in earlier posts, how difficult it was to leave my apartment, even to let Frank out to do his business. I could barely make it to the grocery store and started having take out food more and more.

I won’t recite all the stuff you can read on the “About” page. I made the decision to leave my consultancy practice, get rid of my apartment, and go on the road. And those of you that have followed the blog for awhile now know the transformative impact that had on my life.

Those of you who have followed Frank and me for a while have also read the stories about how my faith in mankind has been restored. You might remember Len, the guy who was managing the campground down in La Feria, TX, who let the young veteran and his family stay in a no kids, 55+ RV park because “it was the right thing to do.” Or the guy who simply said, “Pay It Forward,” as he put $20 of gas in my car early one morning when my debit card wasn’t working because, unbeknownst to me, I had to make special arrangements to have it accepted in Texas. Or the women who insisted that they were going to bring me dinner a few nights around Christmas, just wanting to show kindness to an old guy who was traveling alone with his dog.

Nobody asked what anybody’s political persuasions were. Or what religion they were. Or if they were gay or straight. Or why they were in their particular situation.  They were just doing good! And those were just a very, very few examples of all I’ve seen and experienced on the road.

So why can’t that goodness and respect for one another extend to politics? Why can’t we see other people as human first and put aside whatever other differences there might be. And. Just. Talk. Civilly. To. One. Another.

Are you a staunch conservative? Are you a staunch liberal? I’ve got news for both of you. You are not 100% right on everything and you don’t have all the answers that are needed to solve this country’s problems. And the people you oppose? They’re not 100% wrong … and they are not the source of all those problems!

The simple fact is that we need each other to move forward. We need to get back to a point where we used to be, when the majority of us could be civil, and compromise, and be satisfied that we got some of what we wanted in a negotiation, but not everything. Instead of getting the best of what each side has to offer, we’re getting nothing of benefit. All we’re getting is further apart.

Liberals are not going to destroy this country. Conservatives are not going to destroy this country. They won’t, you know. Rush and Rachel be damned.

You know what will? Hatred, divisiveness, and incalcitrance will. It’s happening. Now!

If you can’t accept that, then you’ve wasted whatever time you’ve taken to read this post. You will continue to be a part of the problem, in my opinion. And we will all suffer as a result. Go back to the news source that tells you what you want to hear. And I wish you well.

If you accept it though, and you also see in yourself what I recognized in myself back when Joe called me out from my hatred, divisiveness, and incalcitrance, then I pray that you use this post as your epiphany. And that you simply stop before you think of the “other guy” the way you have been. And see them as just another person who wants what you do … but has different ideas how to get there. Someone who is worthy of respect. Someone who is worthy of being listened to. Someone who is human.

Quixotic?  Yeah, sure. Pollyannaish? Most definitely! But at this point, it’s all I got.

Who knows? If I can do it, then you can do it. And if the few hundred of you that follow this blog will tell somebody else, then maybe they can do it. And sooner than later, our representatives can do it … after all, we elect them. And if they figure out they’re not going to get reelected by dividing us, maybe they’ll start focusing on governing instead of what we have now. And what will the media have to say about that?

Regular programming on this blog will resume tomorrow. I promise. Thank you for indulging me. And for those of you wandered over because of the title, neither Hayley Mills nor Kevin Corcoran will be making a guest appearance today.   : o)

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2017 in Musings

 

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“Rock” On

Frank and I are finally close to Nirvana. Actually, we’re on the outskirts of Warrensburg, NY … but as of about 2 p.m. this afternoon, I’d be willing to bet you could send a letter to Buddha using Warrensburg’s zip code and it would find its way to the man. But let me back up a bit.

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Still covered in fleece!!

It never really did warm up at our last campsite. During our last week there, Frank spent most of his time inside the Nutshell asleep. And I spent most of my time in the camp chair with a fleece over my lap. There were some mornings where I also wrapped a blanket around my back, too. I was managing, but I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t getting to me a little bit.

I did get a couple of things done, though. Summer doesn’t start until June 22nd, you know. So technically, it wasn’t too late for me to get some spring cleaning done. And I’m pretty happy with the results.

First off, I went through a bunch of old paperwork I had been carrying. Not all of what I’ve amassed, probably about a third of it. Most of it was old mail – receipts, some magazines, some invoices for things that are automatically paid online, and what have you. I burned it in the fire ring one night with a couple of logs on top to make sure embers didn’t escape into the atmosphere. I figure I’ll do a little bit more at each stop and eventually I’ll have it down to nothing.

Next, I went through two of the bins I’ve been carrying around since day one. One of them had become a repository for stuff that I just needed to throw into the Nutshell when it was moving day. You know – “I’ll get to it later” stuff. In reality, it should have been named the, “What the hell was I thinking?” bin. Isn’t it funny how, in the heat of the moment, something seems important enough to keep for later? Then later comes. And reality hits.

With that in mind, I found the following items in the “WTHWIT?” bin …

  • Four cans of stale beer for which there was no room in the cooler when I packed up back in November
  • Two shirts that needed to go in the laundry after my laundry bag was already in the trunk of the car … I have no idea how long they’ve been there, but I had been missing them
  • A dirty dish rag, probably thrown in there at the same time the shirts were
  • A bottle of ketchup which, if shaken with all my might 15 times, might yield enough ketchup to cover half a sandwich
  • My mallet, that I have been looking for for at least a year … I’ve been using my hammer on the outer stake for the canopy and cringe with every loud clang of metal-on-metal.
  • A rock. A big, flat, 20 pound rock that I saw one day and thought, “this would be really good to hold down the canopy insert” … which of course, never happened because I forgot it was in there. And it never dawned on me to look with every campsite move, even though I would always think, “GEEZUS, what the hell is in here?” when I picked it up because it was so damned heavy!
  • Three crushed packages of ramen noodles. Yes, they were right under the rock.

That is what I had been hauling around for months. Needless to say, the bin is now empty. One less thing I have to worry about on move day. I don’t know what it originally contained. It must have been something that was consumed along the way, like paper towels or canned goods or something. I kept the rock …  I think it might be a good thing to use to hold down the canopy insert someday.  : o)

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The newly cleaned out galley, ready for use

Next came the cooler. I hadn’t been using it that much as of late because I had gotten into the habit of eating out of cans. I took out the few things that were there and gave the inside a good scrubbing with bleach and hot water. It’s now as good as new and packed with eggs, hamburger meat, hot dogs, and 4 beers of the homemade variety. More on that to follow.

Finally, I tackled the galley. I haven’t been using it. Not at all! When I bought food, I just left it out on the camp table. And when I moved, I just threw whatever was on the table into the cabin of the Nutshell, loose.

That’s not the case now. I organized the galley … which in reality is nothing more than two shelves for storage … so that I don’t have to just throw things into the cabin on move day. The top shelf has my one pot and frying pan, the electric skillet, and hot plate, some bowls and plates. The lower shelf, which has more height than the upper one, was divided in half. I put appliances on the left, including the coffee maker, electric kettle, heater and fan. The right hand side holds all my non-perishable food. Right now it has cans of beans and pasta; some packages of rice; soup, both canned and boxed; condiments; and a glass measuring cup with my cooking utensils and miscellaneous other things in it. Like a cheese slicer. A cheese slicer that I bought new two years ago in Charleston and have never. Once. Used.

Larry suggested that since we just passed our 2-year anniversary, a good topic for a blog post would be, “Things I didn’t know that I didn’t know.” In other words, things that I would have done differently had I the benefit of foreknowledge. One of the biggest things I would have done different is I would have packed a hell of a lot less than what I did! Like a cheese slicer. Seriously – I’m going to dirty up a cheese slicer, that is a pain in the ass to clean even in a kitchen, instead of just using my paring knife to cut off a hunk of cheese to eat? Or the set of 16 Tupperware knock-offs that are now down to three, with only two lids? Don’t even ask! There. I just eliminated the need for that post! I’m on a mission to minimalize! LOL

Anyhow, I got all that done towards the end of my last full week at Timothy Lake South,PA. Just in time for some company.

On Sunday, an old classmate from Pompton Lakes came out to the campground. Actually, John lives less than 15 minutes away, in the Poconos. And when I say old classmate, I mean the “original” classmate for all intent and purposes. When I moved to Pompton Lakes in the middle of second grade, John was the first kid I spoke with. He asked me if I knew where the cafeteria was and walked me down there come lunch time. At recess, he showed me the ropes, per se. Where everybody hung out. Who in his estimation the good guys were and who weren’t. We sat and visited for a few hours before he had to leave. While he was there, though, he told me that at one point he and his wife had an RV. That they were avid campers, although most of it was in tents when his kids were in the Scouts. And that when he retires, he and his wife have talked about doing what Frank and I are doing. John, if that happens, I hope you let me know. I’d love to camp next to you and the Mrs!

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The Cornerstone guys: Front, Bob and Lou; Back, Tom, me, and Gary

The next day brought a visit that I was really looking forward to with a lot of anticipation. I don’t mean that as a slight to the other friends we’ve seen along the way. It’s just that this one was special in a different way.

Back when I lived in Wayne, I belong to a men’s group at my Parish. It was called Cornerstone and there were six of us that more or less formed a core group. Four of them made it out to camp on Monday for dinner. (Ed, we missed you! Hopefully I make it back for another stop in or near New Jersey and we can all have another visit when you can attend.)

You know how you can identify good friends? You can be apart from each other for years and when you get back together, you just start back into conversing as if you had never been separated at all! That’s the way it was with Gary, Lou, Bob, and Tom. We talked about everything from our vagabond journey, to the Yankees and Red Sox, to a little bit of Parish news, and I don’t know what else. It was fantastic! They even brought some bottles of the beer they all get together and brew at a do-it-yourself place in New Jersey. I have to admit, it’s pretty damn good beer!

That was it for all the visits. Frank and I packed up on Wednesday morning and drove 4 hours north to the Lake George Escape Campground. We’re not actually on the lake itself … that’s a few miles away. Instead, we’re on the Shroon River. Plus, there’s a little stocked pond that is right behind our campsite. Haven’t done any fishing yet and I’m not sure if I will right now. We’ll see how it goes.

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Our set-up at Lake George Escape Campground (after escaping the Bogs of Mordor)

We had a little bit of an issue coming into the camp. This is one of the Encore parks that I was given as a spiff when we signed the Thousand Trails contract. I didn’t think anything of it, but what I’ve learned is that the Encore Parks set aside a limited number of campsites for the Thousand Trails clients. And when I got to mine, I wondered if there was a feud going on between the two companies. My campsite look like the bogs that Gollum led Frodo and Sam through on the way to Mordor!

Half the campsite was covered with standing water and almost another quarter of it was mud. And as I sat there looking at the other nearby campsites, I realize that there was standing water everywhere!

When I returned to the office to let them know this wasn’t going to work, the woman’s response was, “Yes, we’ve had quite a bit of rain” … said with a sympathetic shrug and grimace, but from her standpoint, that was the extent of what she was going to offer as a conciliatory gesture!

That’s when I found out that they expected me to stay in that one little water-logged area because that’s where all the Thousand Trails campsites were. It took about a half-hour discussion before someone finally agreed to let me stay in another area of the park.

Frank and I have a great campsite now! It’s relatively nice size, and we’re backed up to the pond I mentioned earlier. There’s a little bit of an issue with mosquitoes here right now. I went out and bought a couple of citronella torches along with some citronella pots for the table. They seem to be doing the trick – it doesn’t seem to be as bad as it was before we picked up the citronella stuff. I also have some Deep Woods Off, but I don’t want to use that until I absolutely have to. As an aside, I can only imagine with the mosquitoes would have been like over in the bogs of Mordor. I’m grateful that someone had the wherewithal to allow us to move.

(Take a listen to what it sounds like around here when there aren’t any motorcycles)

Unbeknownst to Frank and me, we picked a hell of a time to visit the Lake George area. This week, it played host to The Americade motorcycle rally! Now any other day of the year, Warrensburg’s population is a little under 4,500. Not this week – they estimated over 30,000 bikers came in for the rally. And this was everything from your John Travolta / Tim Allen weekender “Road Hogs” to hardcore clubbers. For the last few nights, the only thing louder than the toads and birds at the campsite was the roar of the motorcycle engines during the “Let’s see who can rev their engine the loudest” contest. One thing I’m grateful for – everyone here pretty much obeyed the rules. At about 10:30, everything died down and by 11:00, all I could hear were those toads and birds.

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As of this afternoon, our loop is completely empty!

And today? Everybody’s gone! Literally. Frank and I are the only campers on this loop. I haven’t ventured out to see what the other loops are like. It’ll be interesting to see what’s what when Frank and I visit the dog park at the other end of the camp tomorrow morning.

Oh yeah. At the beginning of this post, I referenced Nirvana. For the last three days, the weather has been absolutely magnificent! Today is the best so far! Temps in the low 80s, with a little bit of a wind … just enough where I didn’t have to get the fan out to cool down a bit. And there hasn’t been a cloud in the sky all day until right now, about 7:30 p.m. but even now, it’s nice out. No need for a fleece. (Now  would be a good time to bring up that rock again … except as rocks go, it wasn’t all that grungy.)

Frank has been enjoying the sun, too. He’s been outside most afternoons, either sunning or lying next to me under the canopy. I’ll take a few more days like this, thank you very much. Before we know it, we’re going to be in the middle of the sweltering heat of a New England summer. So I’m grateful for days like today.

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Frank missed an opportunity to say hello to the butterfly that was scoping him out.

So that’s it for now. Oh yeah except for one other thing. I finally had some mail delivered and it was waiting when we arrived here on Wednesday. And what was in it? My ordination papers! I am now a certified Dudeist priest in the Church of the Latter-Day Dude! More on that in our next blog entry.

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Connecting with my inner Dude

Suffice it to say, Frank and I are abiding quite well. Even the occasional nihilist has done little to affect our serenity. About the only thing I’m missing is a rug to really tie everything together. This worn-out old tent carpet we’ve been using is … well, pretty close to worn out!

And for any of you who might cast a bit of negativity towards the life philosophy we’ve come to embrace, all I can say is, “Well, that’s like, your opinion man!”      : o)

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2017 in Musings, Travels

 

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Happy Anniversary!

Two years.

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Launch day, 5/31/2015

Two years ago today, Frank and I left everything behind and drove away from our apartment in Charleston, SC.  I was despondent, wracked with anxiety, and totally unsure as to how long it would be before I would give up and chuck this life into the ocean off Big Sur.

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect what what was going to happen next! What has happened.

Since putting Charleston in our rear-view mirror, here’s what’s happened to my Chief Navigator and me – we have:

  • Stayed at 43 campgrounds in 18 states
  • Visited a total of 24 states
  • Put a total of about 34,000 miles on the car
  • Lost two tents to storms
  • Acquired the Nutshell, the teardrop trailer that’s our current home on the road
  • Visited three emergency rooms for diverticulitis, a leg infection, and a crushed finger
  • Returned to Texas for what was feared to be a heart problem and got a clean bill of health
  • Dealt with extreme weather conditions from oppressive heat to freezing cold to floods, thunder, lightning, hail, tornadoes, and hurricane-force winds
  • Had memorable encounters with deer, squirrel, rabbits, ducks, a bobcat, owls, hair-stealing birds, lizards, snakes, armadillo, and an East Texas toad
  • Been mistaken for Santa Claus and a biker named Danny Hoffler
  • Witnessed an untold number of people helping out their fellow man

(Our second tent  in the process of being damaged, December 2015)

Frank had his little escapade as well. While I was in a hospital having a test, he decided he was going to go looking for me and did his best MacGyver impersonation to escape his kennel. He somehow unlocked his crate, climbed a chair and a couple of boxes, pushed out a piece of plywood next to a window air conditioning unit, and escaped through a hole in a fence that none of the other dogs would normally be able to get to. Nearly two days later, he and I were reunited when he miraculously stepped out of some scrub brush and sat down on the side of the road like he was waiting for a bus … just as I happened to be driving down that road, heading back to camp after giving up searching for him that day. Oh yeah, over 12 miles away from the kennel … in the opposite direction from our camp site.  That was just one of the more memorable experiences over the past two years. But that’s not the only miracle we were blessed with.

Along the way, I was also able to shed a lifetime of depression and anxiety. It took a whole lot of writing therapy, prayer, meditation, encouragement and support from friends … and a little sign that stayed on my dashboard for about six months that read simply, “It’s all worked out before. Trust it to work out again.”  I’ve written about a good portion of the process involved in my healing.

Through the blog, we’ve shared each of these experiences with you all, pretty much in real time as they were happening.

We’ve also included a bit of travelog; campground reviews;  and stories about some of the people we’ve encountered, ranging from funny to poignant to downright spiritual! And I’ve appreciated your forbearance as I’ve reflected on a few current events while trying to put them into the perspective of our travels.

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You’re spending  too much time on my laptop, Frank!

Frank’s been a big part of this, too. If you’ve been here from the beginning, then you’re familiar with our daily fights over sleeping accommodations. You know about his penchant for picnic tables, his love for Blood Sweat and Tears and his hatred of emergency sirens (funny how he expresses both love and hate the same way: howling). And you’ve seen the degree of sneakiness he can muster when it comes to grabbing $7 chicken breasts off the camp table when I’m not looking. You even know his picks in the last three NCAA basketball tourneys.

This Vagabond Journey would not be even remotely enjoyable if Frank hadn’t come along for the ride. It wouldn’t have been possible without the loving support of dear friends all along the way, too. And it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fulfilling if it wasn’t for the folks that have been reading along on the blog and sharing their comments with us. I’m so very grateful that we have touched some of your lives in a meaningful way.

It’s nowhere near done, by the way. The road trip, I mean. Any thought of driving off a cliff at Big Sur has long since gone. We haven’t even seen half the country yet! Hell, even after we finish up our planned travels along the west coast next year, there’s still the northern Rockies, the Plains states, and the Great Lakes region that we haven’t come anywhere near. So I hope you continue to follow along on the continuing Adventures of Frank and Jeff.

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Keep on Smilin’

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As mentioned in our last post, Frank and I are staying at Timothy Lake North Campground, right next to the Delaware Water Gap, on the Pennsylvania side. We’ve been here about a week and a half now, and have another week to go before we continue to head north.

It was a little bit crazy over Memorial Day weekend, with a lot of rowdy neighbors. To be honest, I’m proud of myself that I was able to refrain from approaching a couple of them about some of their late night partying. But I was able to let it go.

Frank had a good time. There was a family from New York that camped next to us, with two boys age 9 and 14. Chris and Greg spent almost all their time over here playing with Frank. And he loved every minute of it! They left early Sunday afternoon and Frank spent the next three hours lying under the Nutshell, staring wistfully at the place where their tent had been.

We had a chance to visit with old friends in the area, too. We spent last Thursday morning and afternoon in Pompton Lakes, having lunch with some dear classmates from long ago. We have more visits on tap between now and when we leave next Wednesday.

About the only downside has been the weather. It just isn’t cooperating! Today is the first day since shortly after we arrived that we haven’t had to deal with rain and cold temps. I sort of thought by now that we’d at least be out of the cold. I know from our experiences over the last 2 years that we’re not going to escape rain. But the cold? Give me a freakin’ break! I’m close to becoming a climate change denier. Where’s this global warming everyone keeps talking about?  : o)

That’s it for now. Frank and I will touch back in before we head out to Lake George, NY, our next stop. I cannot pbelieve how fast this year has gone by.

 

And I’ve come to roam the forest past the village
With a dozen lazy horses and my cart
I’ve come here to get high
To do more than just get by
I’ve come to test the timbre of my heart
Oh, I’ve come to test the timber of my heart

And I’ve come to be untroubled in my seeking
And I’ve come to see that nothin is for naught
I’ve come to reach out blind
To reach forward and behind
For the more I seek, the more I’m sought
Yeah, the more I seek, the more I’m sought

Joe Pugg, Hymn 101

 

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Musings, Travels

 

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Pennsylvania, Round Two

When we made our last post, Frank and I were about to head into Pennsylvania. We’ve actually moved on to our second campground in the Keystone State. We are now at the Timothy Lake North RV campground, on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware Water Gap.

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Our setup at Timothy Lake North RV Campground

This wasn’t quite where we intended to be. We had reservations at the other Thousand Trails campground on Timothy Lake. But when we got there, it seemed that none of the sites were really going to work for our little setup. They were more geared towards bigger RVs, long and narrow. They were so narrow in fact,  that we would have had a hard time setting up the canopy while leaving enough room to walk around it without stepping out into bushes in overgrowth. Fortunately, the staff was really cool and when I told them about my concern, they suggested I try the other campground located just a mile or so up the road.  if we found a site up there that we liked,  we could simply switch her reservation without any impact on our departure date.

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Our view of the sunset through the woods

Sure enough, we found a great site at the top of a hill … a corner site where two roads intersect. We’ve got plenty of room here and we were able to set things up where, instead of looking at other RVs, we’re looking at woods.

Woods. I love them! And I’m not talking about forestland. Unless you have spent time in the Northeast, you and I probably have a different idea of what that word represents. There’s something different about the woods where I grew up compared to other places I’ve lived like Texas, Colorado, or California.

There aren’t a lot of pine trees like in the west, nor is there a lot of scrub like what you see in the south. It was a conglomeration of oak and tulip trees, maple and birch.  You can pick your way through the woods without feeling pressed in, like I sometimes felt walking through coastal redwood forests where I used to camp in California or the pine forests in Colorado. There’s an open canopy that lets light through, but it’s more dense and higher than woodlands I’ve seen in the Texas.

When I was growing up in New Jersey, I lived in two towns that had woods. In Waldwick, where we lived until I was halfway through second grade, our house was surrounded by them until builders started to develop the neighborhood. And in Pompton Lakes, the whole southern edge of town was woods until developers came in and tore them down, too.

I used to enjoy them quite a bit as a kid. They provided an escape. I could walk back in the woods and before you knew it, it was if I had left everything behind. In Waldwick, I could take 100 steps out my backdoor and I wouldn’t even be able to see our house! In retrospect, everything seems bigger when you’re a kid, so going “deep into the woods” was probably the equivalent of walking a couple of blocks. But that didn’t matter. Perspective, right?

In Pompton Lakes, there were woods a half block away from the house. All you had to do was walk to the end of the block, cut through the side yards of a couple of neighbors and there you were. They stretched all the way along the river and ended across the street from my elementary school.

There was a path ride along the river that we sometimes took as a shortcut to school, but I used to like to get off the path and head into the trees. When I was nine or ten, I built a fort back in there. Nothing fancy – I had found a place where there was a stand of trees real close together with a single opening. I found some big limbs that still had leaves on them and propped them up to form a sort of door. And once I got in there, people could … and did … walk right by me and without knowing I was there.

I used that fort many times as an escape. Especially when my father was on one of his whiskey binges, or just in one of his moods, where I knew that if I hung around, it would just be a matter of time before I did something to piss him off and I’d get beaten. I’d take comics or Hardy Boy books in there and spend entire afternoons reading. When I wasn’t reading, I would imagine that I was a pioneer and this was my fortress from the Indians. I made a chair out of an old stump and fixed up a table using fallen branches I had gathered.

So I guess I have some romantic attachment to woods. And the couple of times we’ve come to Pennsylvania on this vagabond journey, I think I felt that same sense of familiarity. Of security. Funny how it was last year, sitting riverside at the campground in Lancaster, looking out into the woods across the water, that I finally found a sense of peace.

I think Frank likes it here, too. Whereas most days he spends his time sleeping in the Nutshell, he’s been outside every afternoon since we arrived, even when it’s been sprinkling a bit. His nose is always going. Plus, instead of just sitting in front of me doing his watchguard thing, he’ll test the limit of his lead when it’s not been raining. Sometimes he’s oblivious to me watching him … he’ll go as far as he can, walk around to the other side of the canopy, sit down, and then just start turning his head in all directions. His nose will be up in the air and it’s just going a mile a minute! I’ve taken him on a couple of walks since we arrived … between raindrops. It doesn’t matter where we are, we just don’t seem to be able to escape rain!

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Gettysburg Farm RV Campground

Frank had a closing counter with nature at our last stop, Gettysburg Farm RV campground in Dover, PA, about 25 minutes north of the battlefield. We were only there for 5 days – it was a timing thing in order to set our reservations up for the summer holidays. Long story – suffice it to say that Thousand Trails has some restrictions on the number of your open holiday reservations at any one time, and the 5-day stopover solved a problem I thought I was going to have between Memorial Day and the 4th of July. As it turns out, the problem went away when I accepted an invitation from Michael, another Thousand Trails camper who we met in Florida. I’ve mentioned before. He spends his summers in New Hampshire and we’ll be staying with him for a few days over the 4th of July holiday.

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Gettysburg Farm, where city kids can spend Summer vacationworking their asses off! LOL

Nevertheless, I’m glad we stopped at Gettysburg Farm. It’s an actual farm, where kids get to work with animals during the summer. We had a really nice campsite there, too. It was more open than where we’re at now, but we still had plenty of trees around us. Plus we had some really great neighbors. There were some nice visits with a number of folks that would stop by. I’m not sure if the draw is the Nutshell, which stands out as being unique amongst all the big RVs; Frank, who charms everyone wherever he goes; or the sight of the old guy with the beard relaxing in his camp chair with his four-legged companion sitting on his lap. The beard is gone by the way. I had it shaved at a barber shop while I was there. I have to admit that I’m not wild about how I look clean shaven. But I’m pretty sure it’s the right thing to do going into the Summer heat and humidity. Besides, it’ll be back at full length by the time Fall rolls around.

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Yep … sans my beard of 2 1/2 years

Anyhow, back to Frank and his Close Encounter of the Nature Kind …

The Nutshell was set up right underneath a tree at Gettysburg Farm. And an owl decided that tree was an ideal place from which to signal his friends. And with his first screech, around 8 pm on our second night there, Frank lunged out of the Nutshell’s cabin and with one bound was at the end of his lead, looking all around. It was the exact same reaction he had to the emergency signals we heard from NAS Oceana while at First Landing State Park in Virginia. Only this time, the screech had stopped by the time he was out there to look.

I have to say it’s the best 4-legged Vincent LaGuardia Gambini impersonation I have ever seen! Frank came back and jumped up on my lap with a look that screamed, “What the f**k was THAT!?!?!?” The only things that were missing was a woof with a Brooklyn accent and a pistol in his right paw!

Then the owl went off again. And Frank nearly did a somersault trying to vault off my lap. He couldn’t get out there fast enough! And it went on two more times. It was almost as if the owl was telling his buddies, “Hey, watch what I can do to this four-legged thing on the ground!”

Frank finally camped out under the tree, realizing that the sound was coming from somewhere above him. And as soon as he heard it … and saw where it was coming from … he started howling!

We didn’t hear the owl after that. I hollered out to Frank, “Way to go, buddy! You scared that thing off. Good dog!”

And with that, Frank came running back and jumped up on my lap, grinning and feeling like he was every bit the hot shit he thinks he is. I couldn’t help but laugh and every time I did, Frank would turn around and start licking my face. Pretty funny. I think that’s the happiest I’ve seen him since that day at Flagler Beach when he had such a good time playing in the surf.

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Flagler Beach, FL back in March …  I love this photo of French so much that I had to share it again!

I take that back. Frank had a really good time a couple of nights later. I got a call from Rena, a friend we made through the Teardrop Camper Group on Facebook. She lives in Delaware and came out to visit us last year when we were camped in Lancaster. Anyhow, the Tearjerker chapters from Pennsylvania and Maryland were holding a joint get together at a state park about 30 minutes away from where we were camping. Rena was attending and invited the two of us over for the Saturday evening potluck. It was our chance to meet the new addition to her family – Tucker, a cute little 1 year old puppy.

Frank and Tucker got along great! Tucker would stand on his back legs and put his front paws on Frank’s shoulders. Frank would then get down on his belly and do a quick roll to throw Tucker off. And they did that over and over. He loves being around dogs that are close to his size. There were two other beagles at the potluck, too, so Frank had quite the little get together. And I had a chance to visit with Rena again while making some new friends. Good times, all around.

Up here it Timothy Lake, I had my own close encounter with nature. Well, not quite so close, but it was close enough as far as I was concerned. I’ve gotten up a little earlier than usual the last two mornings – about 4:30, where I normally get up between 5:00 and 5:15. And this whippoorwill was going at it non-stop. I mean he was making what seemed like 50 calls a minute, nonstop for over an hour and a half. I had to delay my meditation time both mornings because he was so intrusive. Being one with nature is one thing. But this? I posted on my Facebook wall …

“I’m pretty close to finding out what Whippoorwill stew taste like!”

Imagine 5,000 of these calls in a row. I kid you not!

That’s it for now. Later this morning, we’re driving into Pompton Lakes to have lunch with a few old friends from high school, before which I’ll stop by the school and make a small cast donation to a scholarship fund that was set up in the name of one of our classmates, who passed away suddenly a few months ago. Sam returned to Pompton after graduating from college and became a beloved English teacher. He was one of the good guys. And while I don’t have a lot, I want to at least give something of what I do have as a way of remembering him.


One last thing – you all have touched me very deeply over the last week or so. We received an outpouring of comments, private messages, and Facebook posts, expressing appreciation for the last blog entry “The Prison Sentence.” I am so very grateful to have been able to share something that was so well-received. I know you all have been entertained by our stories from the road, and that gladdens me to no end. But they’re just stories …  it’s an entirely different thing to have offered something that helped others as they bring themselves back from the pit of depression and guilt. It means that something good came out of the suffering that I’ve had to endure during my lifetime. That’s a blessing I wasn’t expecting. And it means more than I can adequately express in words. Thank you for that.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Musings, Travels

 

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