Looking Back in Pictures

Leah and I are winding down our Great Lakes circumnavigation 200 miles south of Lake Erie, where a hundred or more local and distant celebrants have gathered in Ligonier, PA to party with Tiff and Jim on their 25th wedding anniversary.

Appropriately, it was Ligonier and the surrounding Laurel Highlands where Leah and I broke our Airstream cherry. It was the cusp of winter/spring; it was the day after Leah’s 60ish birthday; and it was my first day of retirement.

We dug ourselves out of a major New Jersey snowstorm, and loaded up the Airstream and the F-150 with a year’s worth of gear and courage. Our maiden voyage left us white-knuckled as we precariously cruised the backroads to find Tiff and Jim’s country house in darkness. That was 29 months ago.

Today, we are seasoned road warriors who have grown in confidence, and somehow avoid repeating our original mistakes. Instead, we make new mistakes, which keeps us on our toes.

Circling back to Ligonier after three months of Great Lakes coastal roads has also given me time to reflect on the places I traveled, the things I’ve seen, and the moments I captured.

What follows is a snapshot retrospective along our route:

Niagara Falls ON
Niagara Falls, Ontario–Victoria Avenue
Wawa ON
Wawa, Ontario–Young’s General Store
St. Ignace MI
St. Ignace, Michigan–Castle Rock
Ft. Williams, ON
Fort William, Ontario–Mount McKay
Duluth MN
Duluth, Minnesota–Canal Park
Duluth MN (2)
Eldes Corner, Minnesota–Jay Cooke State Park
Carlton MN
Carlton, Minnesota–Buffalo Valley RV Campground
Cloquet MN
Esko, Minnesota–East Highway 61
Bayfield WI
Bayfield, Wisconsin–Howl Adventure Center
LaPointe WI
Bayfield, Wisconsin–1st Street
Musining MI
Munising, Michigan–The Dogpatch
Sturgeon Bay WI
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin–N. 3rd Avenue
Ellison Bay WI
Ellison Bay, Wisconsin–WI-42
Egg Harbor WI
Egg Harbor, Wisconsin–WI-42
Devil's Doorway, WI.jpg
Baraboo, Wisconsin–Devil’s Doorway, Devil’s Lake State Park
Baraboo, WI
Baraboo, Wisconsin–Circus World
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Wisconsin Dell, Wisconsin–Broadway
Plain, WI
Plain, Wisconsin–Ederer Dairy Supply
Milwaukee WI
Milwaukee, Wisconsin–Lakefront Brewery
Stay Puft
Highland Park, Illinois–Ravinia Festival
Niles IL
Niles, Illinois–Leaning Tower of Niles
Grand Rapids MI
Grand Rapids, Michigan–Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Traverse City, MI
Traverse City, Michigan–Warehouse District
Dearborn, MI
Dearborn, Michigan–Ford Rouge Factory
Detroit, MI
Detroit, Michigan–Heidelberg Project
Detroit, MI1
Detroit, Michigan–Comerica Park
Long Live Rock Leah
Cleveland, Ohio–Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Bellefountaine, OH
Bellefontaine, Ohio–S. Main Street
Pittsburgh, PA 1
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania–Andy Warhol Museum (Keith Haring)
Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania–Mattress Factory (Yayoi Kusama)
Willie and Leah
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania–PNC Park (Willie “Pops” Stargell)
Ligonier PA
Ligonier, PA–Fort Ligonier

This is only the beginning for us. Stay tuned for more travel follies…

Duluth Cakewalk

After one month of travelling along Lake Ontario, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior in Canada, we crossed the border into Grand Portage, Minnesota to continue our Great Lakes circumnavigation through the States. We made Duluth our first stop.

Our reservations, made months ago, took us to Jay Cooke State Park–about 10 miles south of Duluth– where we planned to camp five nights through July 4th, but not without sacrifices.

RV enthuthiasts would agree that a level pull-through site with electric, water, and sewer is the norm for comfortability. But a site that also offers cable TV service with highspeed internet is the Holy Grail. Sadly, Jay Cooke was offering us a back-in site with 30 amp service only…for three nights. The other two nights, we were assigned to a primitive site inside the park with no amenities. This was the best Jay Cooke State Park could offer, considering the popularity of the park and high demand for the holiday week.

Originally, we called around to other area campgrounds and RV parks hoping for better accomodations, but found no availability anywhere else. By default, we accepted our fate and placement at Jay Cooke, and considered ourselves fortunate to find any place at all to park our Airstream during Independence Day festivities.

St. Louis River

We crossed the border into Central Time, and surrendered an extra hour of daylight in exchange for arriving at the park office during operating hours, and giving Leah one last chance to modify our reservation.

Not a chance; the park was completely booked! We were directed to site 38 for three nights, and redirected to site 66 for the balance of our time.

After 40 minutes of queueing to fill our tank with fresh water, we eventually found site 38 down a very narrow access road lined with crowded spruce trees. No matter how many times I tried, and I tried, I couldn’t swing 28 feet of Airstream plus bicycles into a shallow site without sacrificing my truck to the evergreens. Simple physics wouldn’t allow it.

Leah sought a refund, while I investigated last-hope possibilities, nearby.

As if by magic, I called Darren at Buffalo Valley RV Camping, only a few miles away, who minutes ago received news of a cancellation. And just like that, we had a new address…with electricity AND water.

Leah and buffalo

The following day, Leah and I strolled along the first two miles of Duluth’s 7.5 mile Lakewalk, stretching from Canal Park through Leif Erikson Park to Lester Park.

Duluth skyline

Starting out at Canal Park, I was drawn to Duluth’s iconic Aerial Lift Bridge that guards the entrance to Superior Bay,

Aerial Bridge

supported by two sentry lighthouses that jet out to meet Lake Superior.

Lighthouses

Originally conceived as America’s first transporter bridge in 1905, passengers and freight were ferried across in a large gondola.

Aerial_bridge_car,_Duluth,_Minn._c1908

In 1930, the bridge was reimagined with a vertical lift,

bridge elevator

Aerial Lift Bridge

and continues to operate much the same way to date.

bridge details

The warm air prompted scores of beachcombers to scramble across the rocks in search of beach glass,

coastline enjoyment

beach combers

while a few brave souls channeled their inner polar bear by swimming out to “the cribs” in frigid water.

the cribs

We followed the Lakewalk to Fitgers with a few notable detours along the way.

Canal Road bas relief brickwork

Free samples were irresistable at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and star-gazing at Duluth Trading Company…

Duluth Trading

proved to be enriching…

bullpen

and eye-opening.

customer

More on Duluth…

 

Rain or Shine…or Snow

It’s been two weeks since crossing over into Canada, and it’s been mostly cloudy and wet so far. I don’t know if this is a cause and effect circumstance, but locals are approaching me with snorkels and flippers.

The weather has put a damper on our outdoor time while extending our Airstream time. The mosquitoes have been hungry and swarming around the clock, turning mosquito swatting into a cabin past-time.

Nevertheless, it hasn’t been completely bleak and dismal. We had agreeable weather during a brief stay at Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, where we visited Georgian Bay National Park on an unusually clear day, and took a 15-minute ride on a Daytripper ferry…

daytripper.jpg

to explore the network of trails on Beausoleil Island, guiding us to Honeymoon Bay,

30,000 islands

Fairy Lake,

Fairy Lake

and a keyhole to the many island cottages that dot Chimney Bay.

island cottage

The weather also cooperated during a recent visit to Discovery Harbour, once a British naval and military base in Penetanguishene commissioned to secure back door access to Upper Canada after the War of 1812.

nautical history.jpg

Of the two warships safeguarding the King’s Wharf at the time,

skiff and Tecumeth

the H.M.S Tecumseth has been replicated to stand guard once again,

skiff hull.jpg

Yet the schooner has been deemed unseaworthy by authorities, and is destined to be a floating exhibit, much like the original.

Tecumseth replica

Because the Rush-Bagot agreement between Britain and the United States restricted the number of active warships on the Great Lakes, the H.M.S. Tecomseth was decommissioned in 1817, and kept in a state of readiness until it eventually rotted and was reportedly scuttled in 1828.

However, its 1815 hull was raised from Penetanguishene Bay in 1953, and placed in a climate-controlled museum inaugurated in 2014.

1815 hull.jpg

As day turned to twilight, the clouds began to thicken,

tree silhouette.jpg

providing a curtain call that few campers had seen in weeks.

Sunset over Lake Mindemoya

Moving our location to Manitoulin Island did little to change a now-familiar weather pattern. We pondered whether sandbagging the Airstream might become necessary, but that thought slipped our minds soon after being preoccupied with scratching our mosquito bites.

Working around the rain was challenging. Under cloudy skies, we hiked the trail leading to Bridal Veil Falls’ 35-foot drop near the town of Kagawong.

Bridal Veil Falls.jpg

And despite the threat of rain, we continued on, climbing the cliffs of M’Chigeeng on the Cup and Saucer Trail,

The Cup and Saucer Trail.jpg

for splendid views of the North Channel.

Cliffside overlook.jpg

But our luck ran out as we drove to Ten Mile Point for a stormy lookout of Georgian Bay…

10 Mile Point

and found similar blustery conditions at Providence Bay, on the edge of Lake Huron,

Lake Huron surf

before returning to the sanctuary of our Airstream.

The following day, our four-hour travel time to Sault Ste. Marie was compromised by a tire mishap (see Blowout!). And then it rained…a lot!

By now, mosquito bashing had turned into a bloodsport. There were a few brief intermissions that allowed us to explore Sault Ste Marie’s famed boardwalk, which carried us past a whimsical sculpture in Roberta Bondar Park,

Three Bears

on our way along St. Mary’s River…

Soo Locks Boat Tours

to Sault Ste. Marie Canal–transitioning between Lake Huron…

Sault Ste. Marie Canal (2)

and Lake Superior…

Lake locks

before continuing across to Whitefish Island, where the convergence of Lake Huron and Lake Superior forms St. Mary’s rapids.

St. Mary's Rapids

And then a ride through downtown Queen St. produced a completely different climate,

Queen St.

where traces of snow formed around a movie set,

Christman in June

looking much like fire foam…

Fire foam (2)

to create a wintery look…

Fire Foam

for a Hallmark Christmas production adapted from Kevin Major’s The House of Wooden Santas.

Lamp pole and steeple

The weather always sets the tone for the trip. At the moment, rain amounts are up 30% over past years, and lake levels continue to rise above one meter.

This is a time for the birds…

bird on bird

the mosquitoes, and black flies.

And while there’s little we can do to control or avoid the weather, at least we are now prepared.

netting

Falling for Waterfalls

Leah and I are back on the road again, touring in our Airstream and excited to explore and record our impressions.

Before mothballing the trailer in North Carolina for the past 11 months, we had traveled 44,000 miles, crossing 33 states, 4 Canadian Provinces, and 2 Mexican States in one-year’s time (see Epilogue).

Unfortunately, there were glaring omissions in our route that never took us through the Rust-Belt, so for our second act, we are circumnavigating the Great Lakes–visiting 8 States and 1 Province.

Our summer journey begins with a visit to historic Jim Thorpe, PA in the Pocono Mountains–
St. Mark's Episcapol Church
a famed destination for winter sports and whitewater rafting.

steeple

With water levels high, and water running fast, it was shoring up to be a high-water adventure.

Lehigh River1

Class II and III rapids would be the perfect way to jump-start this trip.
Danger sign
However, I scratched the raft ride after learning that only family floats were running the Lehigh River,
Lehigh River.jpg
with the earliest dam release scheduled for the following weekend.

Lehigh River whitewater.jpg

Nevertheless, Leah and I were content to take a leisurely, 26-mile cycling tour down the Lehigh Gorge Trail, where we followed an abandoned railroad grade-turned-trail, offering river view…

river view

copulating snakes…

copulating snakes

canal lock relics…

Lock wall

and several hillside trickles…

rushing water

culminating in captivating waterfalls by the Rockport Access, with fast water cascading 50 feet over flat rock and flora at Buttermilk Falls;

Buttermilk Falls

and Luke’s Falls, featuring 50-foot water flowing over mossy ledges;

Lehigh Gorge falls

and occasional Lehigh spillovers on the side of the trail.

Lehigh Falls

While in the White Haven neighborhood, we ventured to the Park Office at Lehigh Gorge State Park for information on hiking the fabled Glen Onoko Falls Trail, but were informed that effective May 1, the Game Commission had closed the trail indefinitely until all safety issues have been addressed.

Glen Onoko Falls warning

Apparently, the risky behavior of many irresponsible and inexperienced hikers ended with far too many serious consequences, necessitating aggressive action. It was disappointing being unable to experience the Niagara of Pennsylvania, on a hike dubbed by Outdoor Magazine as “one of the 10 best waterfall hikes in the Northeast.”

Instead, the rangers diverted us to Hickory Run State Park, where we walked upstream along the Shades of Death Trail…

above Stametz Dam

to Stametz Dam, culminating in a 25-foot splash.

Stametz Dam Falls

While not a disappointing hike, it was anti-climatic and not what we came for, requiring some forward thinking.

When we eventually crossed into Canada at Niagara Falls, we were ready for sweeping views of gushing water…and we were not disappointed!

Top of the Falls

As a basis of comparison, we observed the falls from multiple vantage points…

Hornblower to the Horseshoe

multiple perspectives…

into the falls

changing light…

Niagara Falls

varying focal lengths…

Niagara Falls--US & CA

and different dayparts.

Niagara Falls pm

And we both came to the same conclusion: that Victoria Falls was more spectacular than all other waterfalls combined.

horseshoe (4)

Now I fear that seeing the Holy Grail of waterfalls has tainted my impression of all other falls to come, and that’s okay for now.

Main Falls

Eventually, I will come around, and perhaps by that time the Glen Onoko Falls Trail will welcome us back in earnest.

On the Road Again…

It was an inauspicious beginning to our summer voyage. We pulled into the “secure” storage facility outside Charlotte, NC to awaken our beloved Airstream–asleep for the past 11 months–only to find a crush of aluminum along the top and bottom quarter deck of the frontside by the awning pillar.

Of course, there was no note–only a clue of “school bus yellow” paint left behind on the stainless steel stone guard. It was a devastating sight to behold that left us angry and bewildered.

The Huntersville police were called…

crushed aluminum

documentation of the damage was recorded…

documentation

and upon arrival, Officers May and Carter, filed the accident report, and attempted to recreate the incident.

side and truck

Fortunately, a spot opened for our silver bullet at Colonial Airstream in Lakewood, NJ, where it will spend the next three weeks being body-shaped by the experts for only $8,000. Meanwhile, Leah and I will be touring Capetown, traversing Botswana’s savanna in search of wild animals and photographic trophies, and taking in Victoria Falls at neighboring Zimbabwe.

Today, we are hitched and ready to roll up to Jersey to begin our newest adventure.

hitch2hitched 1

Upon our return to the States, we will reunite with our rejuvenated “Streaming 52” and chart a course around the Great Lakes for the following three months–filling a large gap from of our year-long American tour of 2017-2018–before streaming back to Florida.

Here’s where you will find us on the road should you wish to visit and say hello:

May 21: Jim Thorpe, PA
May 25: Cooperstown, NY
May 28: Niagara Falls, ON
May 31: Toronto, ON
June 4: Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, ON
June 8: Manitoulin Island, ON
June 11: Sault Ste Marie, ON and MI
June 15: St Ignacio, MI
June 20: Agawa Bay, ON
June 23: Neys Prov Park, ON
June 26: Thunder Bay, ON
June 30: Duluth, MN
July 5: Apostle Island National Lakeshore, WI
July 8: Munising, MI
July 11: Green Bay, WI
July 14: Wisconsin Dells, WI
July 18: Milwaukee, WI
July 21: Chicago, IL
July 23: Indiana Dunes NP, IN
July 25: Montague, MI
July 28: Traverse City, MI
July 31: Battle Creek/Kalamazoo, MI
Aug 2: Detroit, MI
Aug 6: Cleveland/Cuyahoga Valley NP, OH
August 10: Pittsburgh, PA
August 15: Ligonier, PA
August 19: Jersey Shore, NJ

Happy trails!

The Denim King

Starting from Shenandoah River State Park…

the Shenandoah

and completing the 105-mile drive through Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive from Front Royal to its southern terminus…

park map (2)

exposed us to more rain in 4 days than we had seen in all of one year on the road. There were moments when the deluge abated long enough to give us broken clouds and glimpses from some of the nearly seventy overlooks of the infinite Piedmont range to the east…

Thorton Hollow Overlook

and the Shenandoah Valley to the west.

green to blue infinity

But mostly, we held our breath as we rolled along the two-lane ribbon of asphalt that wound around the mountains and climbed through a fog and cloud cover so dense at times that Leah and I asked ourselves if our summary road trip on the way to retiring the Airstream could literally be a watershed event.

Our travel plans were non-negotiable, as campgrounds had been prepaid along Skyline Drive and the first 300 miles of the connecting Blue Ridge Parkway before we’d exit eastbound toward Charlotte. We had given ourselves this time aboard the Airstream as a last hurrah–a chance to enjoy one more trip and indulge in driving one of America’s great “scenic” byways.

A moving van brimming with our belongings was awaiting departure from New Jersey to Florida, and slated for delivery by the first Monday in June while we slogged through foul weather on our way to Huntersville, North Carolina where our Airstream was destined for dry dock until the following year, giving us ample time to put our St. Augustine house in order and acclimate to Florida living.

Meanwhile, current weather stats revealed that remnants from Alberto (the first official storm of the 2018 hurricane season) had dumped over eight inches of rain along our travel route, punishing nearby dams and washing out essential bridge footings ahead of us, but we dutifully soldiered on, imagining the glorious views that would be to our left and our right.

Every so often, we’d take a break from our mountain miasma, and venture into the valley to escape the cloudburst and capture some of the local color (see A Touch of Blue and Mount Airy, NC), only to return to the Airstream and listen to the downpour pelting the roof like a torrent of bullets.

At times, we’d have a moment of clarity, like when we reached Mabry Mill at Milepost 176 (see Favoritism) and stopped to gawk at red-tailed hawks as they danced atop the thermals,

dancing hawks (2)

but it would be another hundred miles of slogging through doomsday rain before we’d catch another break from the storm.

Eventually, we disengaged the Airstream at Price Park Campground near Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and backtracked to investigate Flat Top Manor, a 23-room, 13,000 square foot national historic landmark…

porch.jpg

and once the summer home of Moses Cone, son of German Jewish immigrants originally named Kane,

Cone manor.jpg

and aptly nick-named the The Denim King, for Moses and his closest brother Ceasar dominated the textile industry by acquiring and building manufacturing mills throughout the deep South, becoming the world leader in denim, flannel, and corduroy fabric production, and the sole supplier to Levi Strauss for its “501” brand jeans. Moses Cone, entrepeneur, conservationist and philanthropist had led the South to the Promised Land.

Moses and Bertha built their mansion at the turn of the 20th-century for $25,000 with every modern convenience of the time, despite their 20-mile distance from the nearest railhead, and the remoteness of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

storm brewing

The couple (they never had children) enjoyed central heating, indoor plumbing, telephone, and gaslight–for Bertha eschewed electric light–disliking its unnatural glow and how it affected her skin tone. However, years later, after the death of Moses in 1908, she allowed electricity into the house, replacing the blocks of ice once cut and carried from Bass Lake with a food refrigeration system supplemented by one light bulb in the basement pantry.

pantry

The house stands empty, and appears unfinished. No furniture accentuates its over-sized rooms, and cracks have ravaged once-smooth walls.

master bath

closet window

But there are notable wall decorations…

letter

and at one time, a treasure trove of avant-garde art adorned the mansion thanks to lasting friendships and patronage between two unwed Cone sisters, Dr. Claribel and Etta,

Cone sisters (2)
Dr Claribel & Miss Etta (Cone Sisters) by Ronald Brooks Kitaj, c. 1997-2000

and Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Their collection ultimately passed to the Baltimore Museum of Art, now recognized as the Cone Wing, and valued at over $1billion.

Today, the estate–managed by the National Park Service–services over 25 miles of carriage roads and trails.

cone sign

Leah and I dared the rain, and hiked five miles to the Observation Tower at the southeastern edge of the property, where we were rewarded with pastoral guests,

young head old ass

hare

intriguing butterflies feeding on unknown feces,

butterflies

and a breathtaking panorama of nearby Boone–home of Appalachian State University, endowed by Moses Cone–and the neighboring wilderness.

Observation tower view

Upon our return, we stopped to pay respects to Moses and Bertha, buried together under Flat Top Mountain,

grave stone

and overlooking 3,500 acres of his legacy, where an orchard of 35,000 apple trees once produced prized fruit for the gentleman farmer.

grave site

The rain returned during the brief drive back to Price Park, but abated just as quickly to capture a lasting moment of smoke wafting across Sim’s Pond.

smoke on the water

The next morning–our travel day to Charlotte–we awoke to blue skies and sunshine beaming across Grandfather Mountain.

Grandfather Mountain

The run-off from Price Lake was fierce, barreling down Bee Tree Creek.

overflow

Rangers alerted us that the Parkway heading south had been temporarily closed. Flash floods and mudslides had forced a partial shutdown of Interstate 40, necessitating a detour through rural America before we could connect with I-77 S.

Putting our Airstream on blocks in Huntersville was bittersweet. It marked the formal ending of Streaming thru America, but our future holds new surprises.

Already, we’re pre-planning a trip to circumnavigate the Great Lakes during the summer of 2019. Until then, we’ll have to settle for a journey of a different sort, and I hope to keep the world posted.

The Aftermath, or If I Could Be Anywhere Else Right Now

It’s been 48 hours since arriving home after one year of steadily moving about the country. However, now that I’m physically situated in one place, it seems my mind continues to wander, yearning for places I’ve been or yet to experience. I fear I’m going through wanderlust withdrawal.

The feeling is eerily reminiscent of adjusting to the constant sway aboard a boat–to where I’ve finally gotten my sea legs–yet after docking, the motion of the ocean has robbed me of my equilibrium. Nothing seems normal to me. I still feel adrift, like a bobbing buoy.

Perhaps it’s some sort of jet lag (without the jet), or some kind of Post-Travel Stress Disorder, where my internal GPS continues to send rerouting instructions with every step taken, redirecting my brain and body back to the Airstream presently parked in Lakewood.

Acclimating to everyday life has been challenging, as I’ve yet to re-establish my new old routine, or shake off unsettling circadian rhythms of disorientation. Already, I’ve forgotten which cabinet holds the coffee mugs, or where to find the bottle opener, or what it was like to sleep on a king-sized mattress. Even after unpacking, I’m likely to open the wrong dresser drawer to find my socks.

Of course, it’s only been two days since landing, so I’m certain the confusion will abate and I will eventually adjust to a different way to fill my day without hesitation. But in the meantime, I will travel to my favorite places through my photographs, and dream about the possibilities.

One special destination–among more than a hundred visited in the past year–that still resonates to my core is reliving the beauty of Banff.

Mount Victoria (2)
Mt. Victoria watching over Lake Louise

Epilogue

We pulled the Airstream onto Colonial Airstream’s parking lot in Lakewood NJ, on St. Patrick’s Day, ostensibly marking our one-year anniversary Streaming thru America, and my one-year anniversary of blogging with WordPress under the same moniker.

Colonial Airstream

This has been a journey of a lifetime after a lifetime of journeys. It seems that everything I’ve done up until last year’s departure has prepared me for this adventure: as a NYC taxi driver, I honed my driving skills; as a restaurateur, I learned to cook using simple ingredients to create meals with complex flavors; as a camper, I grew up with an appreciation of nature and an affinity for adventure; as a producer, I perfected a perspective for planning and budgeting; as a carpenter, I mastered my mechanical skills; and as a special educator, I learned how to gain acceptance with the many special people we’ve met along the way.

This has also been a trip of numbers. As road warriors, Leah and I have travelled to 127 destinations: covering a total of 44,600 miles (5,500 flying miles) to thirty-six U.S. States; one Mexican State (Quintana Roo); and four Canadian Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia).

Cost-wise, Leah acted as bursar for the trip, and took responsibility for all data entry into a categorized spreadsheet. Using round numbers, our largest expense was campground fees at nearly $13,000. We stayed at a smattering of National Parks (only because gaining online reservations are fiercely contested up to a year in advance), a few State Parks, a handful of Provincial Parks, some County and City Parks, predominantly private RV parks (many Good Sam and KOA affiliates), and an occasional Walmart parking lot when we were transitioning between longer distances. As a rule, we rarely travelled further than a tankful of gas, or the rough equivalent of 400 miles.

Entertainment was our second leading expense at approximately $10,000, which covered films, concerts, shows, tours, park fees, and ample opportunities for sampling the best food of the area, from fine dining to dive bars.

Next, we spent nearly $8,000 purchasing food and groceries–including paper products, personal hygiene, and liquor–with the lion’s share spent at Walmart and Costco.

And our last largest expense was for gasoline and liquid propane, which ran us close to $8000. We made 115 trips to the pump for 3300 gallons of gas, yielding an average of 11.8 miles per gallon from coast to coast to coast, while towing mileage topped out at 10.1 MPG.

Living aboard the Airstream for a year was also an exercise in living with less. At 240 square feet from stem to stern…

2017-airstream-flying-cloud-27fb-2-e1521351550640.png

and cargo limited to a folded rear seat and 52.8 cu. ft. of storage behind the cab of our Ford F-150 pickup…

2017-ford-f-150-carry-on-seats-folded (4)

we learned to live efficiently, but never uncomfortably.

Leah and I scaled down to a small wardrobe of layering, using a combination of casual sportswear, appropriate outerwear and a wide variety of outdoor footwear to address most weather conditions.

The galley held two pots, two pans, two mix bowls, and Corel for four; a drawer of utensils and a drawer full of cooking and kitchen gadgets; a traditional assortment of spices and herbs; one presspot (mine), one two-cup percolator (Leah’s) and two coffee mugs; a tiny toaster, a hand mixer, a built-in microwave, a compact vacuum, and a VitaMix–my biggest indulgence for emergency frozen margaritas.

Electronics included: two mounted LED TVs, two tablets, one laptop, a color compact HP printer, a Kindle, a pair of UE Booms, Jaybird wireless earbuds, a Lumix DMZ-FZ300 for photography, and a tangle of cables and charging accessories.

The truck bed was home to a couple of stadium chairs, a CLAM screen enclosure, a 2000-Watt Honda generator, a hefty tool chest, and a portable Weber grill.

Our bicycles clung to the backside of the Airstream, tied to a Fiamma rack.

bikes.jpg

Getting along for 365 days was our biggest experiment, and a wild card for this trip’s success. While there was no denying our compatibility, we would often joke if we would still be smiling and talking to each other by day 365.

Our roles were defined early on, seemingly divided along gender lines: I did the routing, navigation and driving, the setups and breakdowns at RV sites, and all the general maintenance; while Leah acted as cleaning commando (inside and out) and laundry lieutenant. Invariably, Leah prepared a simple breakfast and packed a light lunch, while I played chef de cuisine for dinner.

Although our living quarters were tight, our door usually opened onto something spectacular, from sunrises…

sunrise (2)

Grand Canyon sunrise (2)

to sunsets…

Mt. Pleasant, SC

sunset

sundown panorama (2)

so most of days were spent exploring the extraordinary.

We brought along a cribbage board and backgammon set, thinking that when our conversation ran dry, we could always resort to games, but when it was the two of us together lounging in our lair, we either stretched out along the dinette streaming Netflix when internet allowed, or sought alone time at opposite ends of the trailer, separated by a sliding screen or a swinging lavatory door.

Our queenish-sized platform bed was roomy and comfy. And the only times we slept apart was for five days when I was fighting the flu. Otherwise, our sleeping cycles alternated between retiring together, or more often than not, Leah retiring early while I night-owled to edit photography du jour, or posted to my blog.

Although this blog is by no means the end, it has been a means to an end. Streaming thru America has given me a springboard to dive into my desire to write consistently for a audience bigger than one, and a jump-start to reinvigorating my passion for photography. Combining my writing and photography in a travel blog has been reaffirming and therapeutic, and the motivation I needed to pump out 160 posts of 100,000 words and 2800 photos along the way.

What started as a forum for family and friends has grown organically to a following of 1900 plus fans through WordPress and social media, with viewers from 140 countries along for the ride. I am awed and humbled every day that people from all over world find value in my words and pictures. And I am determined to keep going.

Long before we started out, Leah had already decided on our exit strategy–that once we’d completed our trip, and our Airstream had served its purpose, we’d put it on the selling block. But I had a different vision–that this trip would lay the foundation for future trips around the continent. While it would never be as epic as this particular journey, I could nonetheless foresee regional trips to faraway fields and streams for a month or two or three.

However, after shoving off and putting hundreds of miles behind us, the new and scary gave way to familiar and fearless, and Leah was hooked.

As it happens, there were so many destinations that we short-changed in favor of keeping the whirlwind spinning (see An Olympian Apology), not to mention sections of the country that we bypassed all together, that today we feel compelled to prepare preliminary plans to patch the holes in our past itinerary.

For now, the Airstream sits in the dealer’s lot awaiting its spring maintenance, although the fourth nor’easter forecasted to hit this area in as many weeks makes us yearn for the Texas heat spell we endured last April (see “We’re on the Road to Nowhere”).

When we return to Towaco, we’ll have a house to sell and a household to pack away for our anticipated move to St. Augustine (see Finally!). Then, in a few months, we’ll recapture the glory of living as seasoned road warriors, as we savor the feeling of hauling our reconditioned Airstream through the Shenandoah Valley and over the Blue Ridge Mountains to a long-term storage solution in Charlotte NC.

And before too long, it will be time to hitch up the Airstream like old times, and follow the road on a new course and a new adventure.

Until next time,

streaming thru america

Happy Trails!

Titans of Industry

Every student of science, history and commerce knows the importance of Thomas Edison’s contributions (2332 worldwide patents),

Early-Light-Bulb (3)

and how through his imagination and industry…

patent schematic for kinetescope

kinetescope projector
Kinetoscope Projector

inside the phonograph

he single-handedly reshaped the 20th century.

No less famous and equally as successful, Henry Ford’s lifetime commitment to automotive innovation was without peer.

Edison's Ford

V-8 engine (2)

Now put the two titans together…

Historic Friendship

as next-door neighbors within their Ft. Myers, FL winter compound…

Eden

beside the Caloosahatchee River…

dock1

and the sum exceeds the parts. Adding John Burroughs, the nation’s leading naturalist and conservationist of his time to the party,

Edison_Burroughs_Ford (2)
Edison, Burroughs, Ford

resulted in the birth of the car-camping movement in America as we know it today: motoring across the country in search of fulfilling outdoor recreation and adventure.

camping caravan

Better known as The Vagabonds, the caravan later included tire magnate, Harvey Firestone, who would travel with the pack across America for the next ten years, taking vacations in an elaborate Packer and Ford motorcade that always included Edison’s battery of batteries to light the campsite,

batteries

a Ford chuckwagon attended by Firestone’s personal chef,

chuckwagon (2).jpg

and a pack of newspapermen and paparazzi who would record The Vagabond’s every step and conversation.

Edison’s inventions are presented in historical perspective in a comprehensive on-site museum space that credits Ft. Myers as an inspirational Eden for Edison’s genius.

There Is Only One Ft Myers

Additionally, by recreating his West Orange, NJ laboratory in Ft. Myers,

In the Lab

Edison's Lab

Lab2

office

Edison could work uninterrupted throughout the year, never missing an opportunity to tinker or embellish on an idea, while enjoying the comforts of a home…

Living Room

dining room.jpg

Pantry

bedroom

and grounds…

Edison home

Caretaker cottage

pool

the tree

that he designed in 1886,

Designing a Retreat

and Mina attended until his death in 1931.

Mina and Leah

Henry Ford acquired the neighboring bungalow known as The Mangoes in 1916,

Henry Ford and cottage

and the two titans drove each other to continuing heights of excellence in achievement.

But of all their noticeable accomplishments, their mutual love of country living coupled with the enormous publicity generated by their expeditions most certainly inspired an army of auto owners and outdoor enthusiasts to follow their example.

Thus, The Vagabonds paved the way for the popularity of motor camping, and gave rise to a recreational industry that advances the dream of this sojourner’s lifestyle: where the highway is my lifeline and my Airstream is my cradle.

Note: Historic photos courtesy of Edison and Ford Winter Estates collection.

 

 

Pictures of Home

For the past eleven months, I have suffered from an acute case of Restless Body Syndrome (RBS)–unable to stay in one place for more than an average of three to four days. And to my knowledge, there is no known antidote for this kind of wanderlust.

While there is much to be said for having a home with all the trappings of comfort and familiarity (for which I am grateful), I nevertheless feel a natural compulsion to feed my travel addiction–at times surrendering to the physical and psychological cravings of visiting someplace new on a regular basis.

Fortunately, there are hundreds of support groups around the country–known as RV parks and resorts–that are very accepting of those among us who are afflicted with RBS, and assuage us with electric, water and sewer, and occasionally, high-speed internet.

A ten-step program has been developed by self-help travel gurus to combat the irritation associated with RBS:

  1. Subscribe to Travel and Leisure, and National Geographic.
  2. Watch Amazing Race on CBS.
  3. Log on to Kayak, Trivago, or Travelocity.
  4. Smell a pine tree.
  5. Build a fire…outdoors.
  6. Eat a s’more.
  7. Lay in a hammock.
  8. Open and close a stadium chair.
  9. Take a brief cold-water shower.
  10. Follow Streaming thru America

Leading pharmaceutical firms have been quietly conducting cutting-edge research to advance a cure for RBS. And there is widespread speculation that a vaccine is being developed for the travel bug.

Additionally, Congress is contemplating passage of the Rio Grande Act, whereby an extremely narrow Wal-Mart will be built along the entire Texas-Mexico border for RBS out-patients to shop, duty-free.

Until then, I offer my services as your tour guide for a random retrospective of my many homes from March 2017 to present.

Towaco, NJ
Towaco, NJ
Ligoneer, PA
Ligonier, PA
Walmart, WV
Lewisburg, WV
New Orleans, LA
New Orleans, LA
San Antonio, TX
San Antonio, TX
Big Bend State Park, TX
Big Bend NP, TX
Grand Canyon, NP
Grand Canyon NP, AZ
Zion NP, UT
Zion NP, UT
Estes Park, CO
Estes Park, CO
West Yellowstone, MT
West Yellowstone, MT
Banff, Ca
Banff NP, Alberta, CAN
Corvallis, OR
Corvallis, OR
Klamath, CA
Klamath, CA
Hat Creek, CA
Hat Creek, CA
Quincy, CA
Quincy, CA
Las Vegas, NV massacre
Las Vegas Massacre, NV
Valley of Fire, NV
Valley of Fire, NV
Joshua Tree NP, CA
Joshua Tree, CA
Mt. Pleasant, SC
Mt. Pleasant, SC
Delray Beach, FL
Delray Beach, FL
Melborne, FL
Melbourne, FL
Bradenton, FL
Bradenton, FL

To be continued…

Designated Driver

Yesterday marked a historic moment in our personal timeline, given the 10-plus months since Leah and I have actively roamed the continent in search of new adventures and discovery in our Airstream. And yesterday’s achievement–seemingly overshadowing all previous accomplishments to date–will most likely define all others to come for the duration of our travels. While this statement smacks of grandstanding and hyperbole, the relative importance of this achievement cannot be overstated.

First some background and a confession. I never wanted a truck to pull our Airstream. Afterall, when the trailer is off-hitch, the truck would become our daily ride. And driving a truck around town wasn’t my style…er, I mean, I was somewhat intimidated by driving such a behemoth.

I fought the notion that only a truck could safely tow our 7200-pound capsule, and actively researched the specs of all late-model SUV’s that matched the appropriate torque and towing capacity for our trailer: I weighed in on internet forums to glean the best information relative to our Airstream size; I emailed with others who made similar trips, under similar conditions with equipment modifications; and we attended New York’s Auto Show in April 2016 with every intention of narrowing our options.

But browsing through so many choices in one place only muddied the motoring waters, and raised the level of my unawareness. There were so many considerations: fuel economy, gas vs. diesel, storage capacity, safety, reliability, comfort level, audio, GPS, and of course, price.

After test-driving a Grand Cherokee, Audi Q7, Infiniti QX-80, Nissan Armada, GMC Denali, VW Touareg, and Ford Expedition, I was beginning to have serious doubts about my original premise: SUV over truck.

When all was taken into consideration, I manned up, and went with the Ford F-150.

shiny and new

To me, it was the smartest choice of all available choices.

at the Jersey Shore

“I’m so excited for you, dear,” Leah pretended. “But you’ll never catch me behind the wheel of that thing. It’s huge. All I can say is, ‘You’re on your own.'”

If a man is measured by the size of his truck, then Leah unwittingly hit the jackpot. However, her driving abstinence left me blue.

Over time, the F-150 ride felt like any other ride. My reticence and apprehension soon melted away in favor of a solid understanding of the technology I relied on to negotiate the truck’s box-like bulkiness through traffic.

instrument panel

Or so I thought…

A close encounter with a concrete sidewall in a cramped Philadelphia parking lot while attempting to steer through a narrow exit ramp left me as crushed and broken as the aluminum door panel.

accident 1.jpg

While the front-end was willing, the back-end was not.

accident2

Fortunately, time, insurance, and $6,000 heals almost everything…except one’s memory and ego.

Even today, I believe that Leah delights in recounting my failure in Philly.

But that’s ancient history.

Time has lapsed, and 34,000 miles later–and true to Leah’s word–I can personally attest for every turn of the truck’s odometer. In the course of our travels, we have run into many couples who share the driving, and have discovered many women who drive exclusively for whatever reasons, but Leah seems to be the only one I know who tells me how to drive while never sitting behind the wheel, except to wipe the windshield…

…until now.

Having been incapacitated by a sinus infection and subsequent flu for the past two weeks, and with laundry by my bedside mounting to levels exceeding the ground elevation of the state of Florida, it was time to visit the washing machines. Normally, in all other instances, for convenience sake, I would schlep the top-heavy wire basket to the truck, and drive to the laundromat, whether down the road, or around the corner.

But yesterday, I was in no condition; I could barely move. While I was languishing in my delirium, I thought I’d heard the F-150 roaring awake. The 5-liter V-8 was growling through its idling phase, and maching on my migraine. I momentarily managed to pull myself from bed, and peered through the broken velcro bonds of the curtains just in time to see the F-150 cautiously backing out, and lunging forward into the lane.

truck thru window

In disbelief, I gathered my senses, and texted Leah, “I’m calling 9-1-1. The truck is gone.”

Twenty minutes later, I was stirred awake by the ping of my phone with Leah’s response, “Yup.”

“Thank goodness,” I noted to myself, before returning to my coma.

Hours later, Leah returned with a basket of folded laundry.

“You took the truck,” I asked/celebrated.

“I did,” she remarked. “No big deal.”

And that’s where I left things–not even a mention about the 300 feet distance from the Airstream to the facilities.

Today, when I awoke, there was little improvement in my health–all my original symptoms were still firing like a well-tuned sick machine (see: Quarantine Capsule). After more than two weeks of feeling lousy, I wondered if this was the new normal.

“We’re low on milk and you definitely need another box of tissues,” exclaimed Leah.

“Looks that way,” I managed.

Incredulous, “I can’t believe you went through a box of tissues in one day! Anyway, I guess I’m going to Publix on my own, since you sure don’t look like you’re up to driving me there,” Leah volunteered.

“So, are you thinking about taking the truck?” I posited.

“I don’t think I’m ready to take the truck out in traffic yet. So, maybe I’ll ride my bike to the store, or just walk,” she confessed.

And that’s what she did.

I suppose my role as the dominant driver is as secure as ever.

Notes:

WPC–Variations on a Theme

Quarantine Capsule

For the past couple of days, while the world continued spinning on the outside, our heads and stomachs were spinning on the inside, so Leah and I felt it only right to isolate ourselves inside our thin protective layer of Airstream aluminum. However, yesterday, we broke the seal of our quarantine capsule long enough to scoop up the provisions scattered across the lawn of our RV dock dropped by the Red Cross airlift (just kidding)–only to button up again, and shamelessly drift back to our TV bingeing (not kidding).

In actuality, we momentarily left the recycled air of the Airstream on Wednesday, to venture across the highway to the Urgent Care Center. My cold symptoms and sinus headaches were no better after a week in Mexico, so it was time for medical intervention. And Leah was now reporting symptoms of her own, and blaming me for sharing.

After taking a number and waiting patiently in a room full of sick people wearing yellow face-masks, it was my turn to to be treated…soon.

“Why are you here?” intoned Nurse Ratched, speaking through a yellow face-mask of her own.

“Congestion and sinus headache,” I coughed.

“May I see your ID and insurance card, please,” asked the intake operative.

I offered my Driver License and Medicare Card–my first time using it.

“Just so you know, you’re responsible for the $42 surcharge not covered by Medicare,” she alerted.

Offering another card, “But I have my supplemental insurance from EmblemHealth. This should cover it.”

“I’m sorry but your supplemental insurance is not valid for the balance,” she argued.

“No need for an apology. EmblemHealth is a bonafide payer. Trust me. They’re supposed to cover the Medicare balance,” I insisted.

Nurse Ratched seemed annoyed that she wasn’t collecting any money from me. She pecked some data into her computer monitor, and eventually provided me with a yellow mask and a pile of papers to fill out before being seen.

After an hour, Dr. B confirmed, “You’re got acute sinusitis. I’m treating it with a 6-day steroid pack, and an antibiotic, but only to be taken if symptoms continue after a week.”

“I guess I’m off the hook for your cold, since a sinus infection isn’t contagious,” I declared.

Usually, within the confines of a small park, there are self-appointed watchdogs who keep tabs on the comings and goings of all park residents with a perfunctory wave, but I don’t think anybody missed us, or even noticed when we returned from our brief encounter. We’ve survived here in relative obscurity since pulling into the Timberlane RV Park and Resort of Bradenton a few days ago.

Usually, after setting up camp, we’d walk among the giant coaches and 5th wheels to compare and contrast, wave to our fellow campers in arms, and find common ground: the office, the laundry, the social hall. But not here. And even if we were up to it, the freezing temperatures in central Florida have driven the most ardent RV residents into the hive of their own tiny houses, leaving us with little chance of introducing ourselves–all of us waiting for Florida’s Big Thaw and Saturday’s potluck dinner, scheduled for 4PM.

Thursday and Friday were true days of recovery. Leah lounged under blankets in the front of the Airstream (the bedroom), catching up on Shameless, while I stretched out in the rear of the Airstream (beside the dinette), streaming episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

2017 Airstream Flying Cloud 27FB (2).png Occasionally, there were moments of silence and relief, but more often than not, the reflexes between us were too strong to hold back, and the Airstream would erupt into uncontrollable and otherworldly jags of coughing, sneezing, hacking, expectorating and farting. I wondered if our noises echoed beyond our asylum, and if the neighbors suspected if something inhumane was going on under their noses, like the tragedy in Perris, CA.

But then the cabin would go quiet, and I figured we were safe from watchdog surveillance. As gross as it sounds, the hardest decision during those two days was figuring whether to swallow or spit.

Now it’s Saturday, and recovery is on the horizon. Residents are already parading to the social hall with specialty, home-made, wrapped dishes in hand, in eager anticipation of creating new best acquaintances for another snowbird season.

I hope they like supermarket chocolate chip cookies.

T Minus 3 Days and Holding

Leah and I had counted down to the last possible day when we could tour Kennedy Space Center (KSC) while still parked at Melbourne’s Land Yacht Harbor,

Land Yacht Harbor

an Airstream-only campground (with a sprinkling of some other brands–SOBs), mostly occupied by retirees and their vintage motorhomes,

Land Yacht (2)

and trailers.

vintage airstream

At first, the weather on the Space Coast was uncooperative–cold and rainy–but we were determined to time our visit in conjunction with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch–the first scheduled launch of the year, where the rocket’s reusable first stage would attempt a controlled landing back at Cape Canaveral Air Force base. Of course, we were departing for Playa del Carmen on Saturday, so we had also run out of time.

With a break in the weather, we would make a day of it at KSC,

rocket park

and apparently, so would thousands of other visitors. With the rest of the country seemingly paralyzed by meat locker temperatures the first week of 2018, we felt fortunate to feel the sun through brisk winds and crisp air.

Nasa ornament (7)

After mapping our itinerary for the day at the nearby Visitor Center, we filed past the admission gate…

explore

through a labyrinth of attractions dedicated to Mars exploration…

rover stats

Mars rover

Orion capsule

and a dedication to fallen explorers…

Heroes and Legends

in search of an Astronaut Encounter…

astronaut encounter1

with Heidi Piper…

Piper portrait (2)

a mission specialist, credited with flights aboard Atlantis in 2006 and Endeavor in 2008 to expand the systems and living quarters aboard the International Space Station. In addition to following her career from Navy to NASA, her presentation included factoids about the Shuttle and the shittle, detailing the water-recycling and freeze-drying properties of the squateroo.

Following a profound 3D IMAX film on space exploration–as only Captain Picard, aka Sir Patrick Stewart could narrate–we gravitated to the Orbit Cafe…

Saturn rocket and Orbit Cafe

where freeze-dried ice cream was not an option on the menu (albeit, available at the gift shop).

From there, it was an hour-long queue…

bus queue

with enlightening graphics along the way,

bus queue graphis

for the tour bus…

bus tour interior (2)

that carried us to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, with drive-by glimpses of the Vehicle Assembly Building,

rocket assembly

bus tour

and a launch pad along the way.

launch tower (2)

After experiencing a multimedia simulation of the Apollo 8 lift-off,

Apollo mission control

we were giddy with excitement to witness the technology that captured Kennedy’s imagination and took us to the moon. But nothing prepared us for the enormity of the Saturn V rocket stretching across a football stadium-sized hanger.

rocket oulets (2)

Measuring 111m/363 ft long,

stage 1

booster (2)

we slowly strolled the length of the boosters, making our way through the different stages suspended above our heads…

stage 2

stage 3

before approaching the grounded command module,

command module

which dwarfed the Apollo 13 L.E.M. hovering above us.

LEM (2)

Behind a bordering wall, the Apollo 14 capsule rested on a protected pedestal in a dimly lit room which seemed to heighten the drama.

Apollo capsule (2)

We transitioned to a multi-sensory surround presentation of a space shuttle launch, culminating in a dazzling, thunderous lift-off that shook our core. When the exhaust plume cleared, the projection scrim rose for the big reveal…

Atlantis shuttle (3)

giving all of us a true appreciation for the engineering wizardry that could shoot a glider strapped to a rocket into space,

shuttle belly

and have it safely return to earth…flying a total of 33 missions and over 126,000,000 miles before retiring!

shuttle tail

And how apropos, that the mission transport vehicle selected by NASA should feature an Airstream to introduce our astronauts into space?

mission transport (2)

Unfortunately, the SpaceX mission that we so wanted to witness was put off until Sunday, when a worthier weather window made the wonder more winsome.

This is how the launch looked to us from Mexico, where we streamed it in awe.

Airstream Albatross

Sometimes things don’t always go as planned. And sometimes there are insufficient numbers of military acronyms to express the frustration that Leah and I felt as we searched in vain for Airstream storage in anticipation of a spontaneous week away to Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

With the weather in central Florida turning colder by the day–not to mention the deep freeze that had tied up all the Northeastern states in an icy straight jacket–the thought of lounging on the Mayan Riviera, and sipping a Corona, while paying homage to Kinich Ahau left us as starry-eyed as Donald Trump during a total solar eclipse.

Trump squints and points (2)

All that we required was a place to drop the Airstream, although more easily said than done. Leah and I initially made a round of investigatory calls after strategically determining that the best place to leave our Airstream would be somewhere within the Palm Beach vicinity, since we were flying out of Ft. Lauderdale and relocating to Bradenton. From there, it would take under four hours to cross Alligator Alley to our last long-term residence before making our move North beyond the winter thaw.

“Sorry, but we’ve got nothing here!” or “Unfortunately, we’re completely full!” were recurring answers from facility reps who bothered to answer the phone or conveyed the common courtesy of returning our voice mail.

“So now what?” Leah lamented.

This was an unexpected SNAFU (Situation Normal, All Fucked Up).

“A small setback. I guess we should work our way South, and consider calling storage centers in Lake Worth,” I proposed.

After a time, Leah landed a reservation with Public Storage, the largest brand of self-storage services in the U.S., with more than 2200 storage rental facilities nationwide, and net sales of $2.5B. Like all short-term rentals, we would be charged a monthly rate despite needing only 10 days of parking for our Airstream.

Oh, well. At least we’ve secured a space!

Finally, a move-in reminder arrived to Leah’s e-mailbox:

 

From: “Public Storage” <DoNotReply@publicstorage.com>
Date: January 4, 2018 at 8:09:50 AM EST
To: leahandbon****@gmail.com
Subject: Move-in date reminder

A friendly reminder about your move-in date

Hi Leah,

We’re looking forward to seeing you on 01/05/2018, when you have a reservation for moving your stuff into storage.

Please be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before closing time on your move-in date to make sure you have enough time to complete your rental. The location’s office hours are:

MondayFriday: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
Saturday/Sunday: 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED AT MOVE-IN
A government-issued ID for paperwork
A copy of this email (recommended)
Reservation Details
Manage Your Reservation | Reserve Another Space
LEAH SCHWARTZ
PHONE: (201) 841-****
EMAIL: leahandbon****@gmail.com
RESERVATION #
716618871MOVE-IN DATE
01/05/2018
Add to CalendarSPACE DETAILS
10’x30′ Unit (300 Sq. Ft.)
Uncovered parking
Monthly Rate: $98.00
One-Time Admin Fee: $24.00
Total Move-In Cost: $122.00
LOCATION
2701 Lake Worth Road,
Lake Worth, FL, 33461
(561) 964-0261
Get Directions
OFFICE HOURS
MondayFriday: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
Saturday/Sunday: 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM
MOVE-IN TIPS
We’ve got all the packing supplies you’ll need, like boxes, tape, and locks.
Packing and storage checklists? We’ve got ‘em.
Plan the best way to use your space with our online Storage Size Guide.
Read our blog for ideas, inspiration, and organization from storage experts.
Looking forward to meeting you here,
Your Public Storage Team

We picked up I-95 South from Melbourne, Florida, and drove 120 miles to Lake Worth on the morning of January 5, until we arrived at Public Storage two hours later. Typically, like all other arrangements we’d made thus far, Leah entered the office to complete the transaction, while I waited in the F-150 with the trailer coupled behind me. Ten minutes later, I answered a call from Leah through the console.

“What’s up? I asked.

“You’re not going to believe this,” she began, “but we don’t have a storage space!”

“WHAT? Are you fucking kidding me?” I answered, incredulous of our situation.

“I know,” she blurted. I could hear the venom in her voice. “Just a minute, I’m not finished with them!” she fumed.

We were no longer engaged in conversation. Instead, with the call still open, I was now listening to Leah’s explosive exchange on the other side with the center’s manager.

“This is bullshit! You’re telling me after my husband drove two hours to get us here, that even though you issued me a confirmation for a parking space, you’re not gonna honor my reservation?”

Asorny, the regional supervisor, responded, “Technically, the reservation didn’t come from me; it came through the reservation center. But with our new system, the reservation center has no way of knowing the individual site’s inventory levels. That’s why we encourage our customers to always inspect the site first.”

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Leah levied. “How on earth can you promise something you don’t have? Well, you better find us something elsewhere, ’cause I’m not leaving until you do!” Leah asserted.

Now speaking to me, “I’ll call you back.” And the phone went dead.

For the moment, we were holding steady at SUSFU (Situation Unchanged: Still Fucked Up)

Another ten minutes passed, and Leah, dejected, climbed into the truck.

“Not good,” she announced. “They called around, and there was nothing.”

“What did they say?” I was curious, although it really didn’t matter anymore.

“They said, ‘Sorry ma’am, but you’re on your own.'” lamented Leah.

At that moment, we crossed over to TARFUN (Things Are Really Fucked Up Now). I seemed as if I was flying a silver albatross that had lost its landing gear, and it was getting late in the day.

Suddenly, a tap on the passenger window by a tiny, middle-aged Hispanic woman took us by surprise. Somehow she inferred that we were desperately in need of storage. She reiterated in broken English about another nearby facility on Congress St. that would have space for us, but she couldn’t recall the name.

Without the name of the place, we couldn’t call ahead; we would have to see for ourselves. Given our situation, it was too good a lead to ignore, so we followed her directions, and easily located Easy Storage a mile away…

But they were full, which now placed us in the TARFU (Totally and Royally Fucked Up) zone.

After another round of phone calls, we chased down two additional dead-ends which carried us to the far reaches of town, somewhere between Disheartened Drive and Discouraged Court.

Yet we soldiered on. A cold call to Storage Rentals of America at 7000 Military Trail in Riviera Beach seemed promising. Jim, the manager confirmed that a 10 x 30 foot parking space was presently available for a reasonable fee.

And so, back again, up I-95 North we trudged, only to discover that the available space beside the building would never permit the severe turning radius required to back up the Airstream. Jim knew it the moment he saw us drive past the office, but felt he had to break the news to us personally, despite my struggle to find a 50-foot parking spot on a nearby road away from traffic with limited turn-around access.

Not knowing what else to do at the moment, I assumed the BOHICA (Bend Over, Here It Comes Again) position.

Resuming our way back to nowhere in particular, we passed Life Storage, and called them on a lark. We were transferred to RJ at Delray Beach, who guaranteed us a 10 x 30 foot space near the security gate for $141.00. It was worth a shot. Like a pinball in search of an elusive target, we bounced back to I-95 South for a date with RJ, who’d be expecting us with open arms.

We eventually arrived at the location at 4 pm, only to discover the office locked with a hastily written note taped to the door, declaring: “Back at 5”.

Leah was on the edge of tears. “I’m about to lose it,” she confessed. “We were just on the phone with this guy. He was expecting us.”

“And who goes out to lunch at 4, anyway?” I chimed in.

Cautiously steering around the unsecured cramped lot without noticing without any discernible space for the Airstream left me limp. I knew at that moment that we were approaching FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition) status.

A last ditch call to the Life Storage reservation center revealed that we had inadvertently mapped the tertiary location, when the full-range storage center was a mere half-mile away. I took a deep breath, and u-turned across six lanes of rush hour traffic to finally arrive at the bonafide destination.

RJ was waiting for us, and escorted us to the space. To his credit, the space was open and available, but tight, requiring the skill set of a neurosurgeon to negotiate the pass. However, before I panicked and pushed the FUBUSH (Fucked Up Beyond Unbelievable: Situation Hellzone) button, I would give it my best effort, because this was our last chance to ditch the hitch.

I’m happy to report that the angel who whispered directions in my ear delivered me to the promised land–helping me to navigate the back end of the Airstream between the Isuzu on the right…

right side

and the Avenger on the left–

left side

despite limited swing clearance from the front of the F-150.

parked

When all the paperwork was finally completed, and the Airstream was left behind, Leah boarded the F-150, and we were on our way to visit a nearby friend in Delray Beach, who would listen to our recounted quest before awakening to an early morning departure the following day.

It was then that Leah shared the news:

“RJ wanted you to know,” she emphasized, “that what you did back there was some of the finest parking he had ever seen.”

That’s the moment I realized that we would never be selling this Airstream!

Moon Over Muddy Mountain

Now that Leah and I are nine months into Streaming thru America, a familiar question often arises from family, friends, and fellow bloggers: “What’s your favorite place, so far?” It still remains the most difficult question to answer. Here’s why:

We’ve covered over 32,000 miles to 104 distinct destinations–with amazing views of beaches, mountains, prairies, canyons, and deserts. We’ve toured cities and suburbs, villages and vicinities, parks and plantations, graveyards and ghost towns.

Thus far, we’ve crossed the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back; we’ve traveled as far north as Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada to the southern edge of Florida within the Everglades; We’ve ascended Trail Ridge Road to the Rocky Mountain tundra at 12,183 feet to the salt flats of Death Valley’s Badwater Road at 282 feet below sea level.

Having slogged through Los Angeles and Miami traffic, we’ve also driven hours through remote regions without a soul in sight. We’ve cursed the crowds at Yellowstone and Zion, and celebrated the isolation of Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks. We’ve witnessed numerous national monuments, and bore witness to monumental tragedy in Las Vegas.

While we’ve camped at some of the fanciest and most expensive RV parks in the country, we’ve also boondocked at Walmart parking lots, always meeting new people from around the world, yet reminiscing with old neighbors we discovered at a scenic overlook in North Dakota.

Despite having written over 80,000 words and shared over 2,500 photographs of our adventures this year, I feel compelled to answer that one nagging question, but forgive me if I pause for a moment longer to filter all the information collected to date…

The one location that stands out over all the others is Valley of Fire State Park–16-miles outside of Overton, Nevada–as much for the solace and cleansing it brought us after the Las Vegas massacre, as for it’s raw and natural beauty.

And from this experience, I’ve reluctantly selected one photograph that captured my imagination and exemplified my feelings–two days after the world grappled with senseless inhumanity.

sheep and moon (4)

May 2018 bring us closer together as we work to build bridges between communities, and discover a path to peace and tolerance.

 

 

 

Home Invasion!

As if straight out of a horror film, our Airstream has been overrun by ghost ants. This wasn’t the first time we’ve seen bugs in the trailer, because bugs are an undeniable consequence of living outdoors, and a way of life. However, while occasional spiders, love bugs, moths, gnats, no see-ums, and mosquitoes have all managed to infiltrate our home at one time or another, it’s not until recently, that so many unwelcomed six-legged insects have made themselves comfortable without an invitation.

Long considered a well-established resident of South Florida and other tropical and subtropical environs, Tapinoma melanocephalum workers are thought to have illegally immigrated from Asia or Africa–where to this day, as an affront to our democracy–they continue to worship their queen, while spreading their vermin and contaminating our food.

Despite their small stature, at 1.3 to 1.5 mm long, I’m certain that had there been a border wall to protect us from this infestation, these pests would never have gone on to infiltrate the foundation of our trailer, and rob us of our American dream.

And had the FBI taken notice and properly profiled these larvae from the beginning, none of this would have ever happened. To be sure:

They have 12-segmented antennae with the segments gradually thickening towards the tip. Antennal scapes surpass the occipital border. Head and thorax are a deep dark brown with gaster and legs opaque or milky white (Creighton 1950). The thorax is spineless.

The gaster (swollen part of abdomen) has a slit-like anal opening which is hairless. (Smith and Whitman 1992). The abdominal pedicel (stalk-like structure immediately anterior to the gaster) consists of one segment which is usually hidden from view dorsally by the gaster (Creighton 1950). Stingers are absent.

The small size, combined with the pale color, make ghost ant workers hard to see (Smith and Whitman 1992).

At the very least, these ants have been extremely annoying, invading every part of the Airstream in a matter of days. We discovered them in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the closet, in the bedroom, and ON MY PILLOW! EWW! Leah has been reflexively swatting phantom bugs from her arms and legs at the the very thought of our new colonists.

Quickly, ants were now to blame for every miscellaneous skin bump, itch, or irritation on her body.

While camping at John Dickinson State Park in Jupiter, it was hard to ignore the many ant hills throughout the sites. I backed the Airstream into stall #43, and soon located several small cones of sand with limited ant traffic. Being careful to not disturb them, I thought they might return the favor, but the ants had a different agenda.

“Oh my God!” shrieked Leah. “They’re everywhere! They have to be stopped!”

Leah laid into the ants like they were ISIS terrorists. Her flip-flop was a particularly effective weapon in her campaign to eradicate the enemy. WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!

“Gotcha!” she bellowed.

She came down hard on the ants, but there was no quit in their little legs as they they rebounded in their crazy dance, scurrying around in all directions at once, before darting into their hiding places–provoking her ire and igniting her wrath.

“We’ve got to do something!” she vowed.

A trip to the garden section of Home Depot offered several interesting choices that promised instant relief, but we opted for Raid. Somehow, the notion of killing ants with a lightning bolt stirred our sado-masochistic sensibilities.

retail bait

After returning to the Airstream, Leah tore into the packaging with a vengeance. Out popped eight plastic bait traps, looking like a mini Buster Keaton pork pie hats.

Declaring all-out war on ants, we strategically scattered them around the Airstream, often debating the locations of the most effective kill zones. For the most part, I acquiesced to Leah’s judgement, so long as I secured rights to wage war in the bathroom, which I considered my domain.

I closely observed the ants racing inside the aluminum channel along the wall, and knew exactly what I had to do. I wedged one of the little white poison pucks behind the soap dish, and waited for the feeding frenzy. After a minute or so, a curious ant came to inspect the trap, as if the Sirens were luring it to its certain death…

ant on a trap

…and swallowed it whole.

ant takes the bait

“Yes!” I exclaimed. “One by one, you will eat the poison and die!”

I launched into my end-zone victory dance with a firm belief that we were now winning the war on ghost ants like never before. And that there will be so much winning, that we will tire of winning so much.

**Feature Image: Ghost ant worker, lateral view. Drawing by Division of Plant Industry**

Eureka!

A stopover in Eureka Springs, AR along the way to Branson, MO produced some Eureka! moments and other assorted revelations.

For one, there are seventeen registered churches in Eureka Springs, ministering to two thousand healing hearts and souls around town, plus a Tibetan Buddhist temple and an integrated monastery of celibate brothers and sisters.

Religious overtones are also pervasive throughout town. Our Airstream was parked along Passion Play Rd., above the hallowed hollow where The Great Passion Play’s dramatic reenactment of the last week of Jesus Christ is the #1 tourist attraction in the area, and The Christ of the Ozarks rises nearby, hovering above the dense woods of Magnetic Mountain.

Jesus of the Ozarks

Christ sign

Big Jesus side view

Also looking down from town, the Crescent Hotel–recently added to the National Register of Historic Places–delivers luxurious living and salon services, in what’s billed as America’s Most Haunted Hotel.

Historic Crescent Hotel

Crescent Hotel

A fourth-floor lookout…

P1100279

provides familiar views in the distance,

Jesus over sunset

and an overlook of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church of Hungary–listed in Ripley’s Believe It or Not as the only church in America with entry through the bell tower.

St. Elizabeth Church1 (2)

Stunning religious “art-chitecture” can also be found at the Thorncrown Chapel, a jewel of glass and wood tucked into the hillside atop a ledge of flagstone.

Thorncrown Chapel1 (2)

Inside Eureka Springs’ Victorian historical district, the Byzantine-styled First Baptist Church stands at the corner of three intersecting streets with entrances at each of its four levels, giving it four distinct addresses and cause for another Ripley’s entry.

First Baptist Church

The charm of downtown carries through its narrow winding streets, acute corners, and graded roads of 30% or greater, routinely decorated with accents of fine art…

down the street

Steps to Spring St.

…and frivolity.

Humpty Dumpty gnome

horn orchestra (2)

Eureka Springs came by its name naturally, manifesting no less than sixty-two springs that gushed from the mountainside with so-called healing properties. Its establishment as a resort community during the 1870’s prompted visitors from near and far to “take the waters” by drinking up and soaking in its therapeutic juices.

civil war healing

90% cure rate

Today, over a dozen springs have been restored to former glory.

Magnetic Spring plaque

Magnetic Spring

And while the water is no longer potable, the park habitats have given the springs a new lease on life,

Harding Spring

Basin Spring

and have renewed the town’s reputation as a popular healing destination,

Eureka Healing (2)

with an emphasis on preserved charm.

County Courthouse

top floor (2)

ball and house

facade

facades.png

Palace Hotel gazebo

Perhaps the biggest paradox of Eureka Springs would have to be the town’s united commitment to all things ghosts and Halloween, given its adherence and roots in Christiandom, while billing itself as “the place” for the best Halloween party in America…

Grand Central Hotel

Chile Lily

…breathing spiritual relevance into Euripides’ quote: Money is the wise man’s religion.

Palo Duro Canyon Tailwinds

Wouldn’t you know it?! Texas has a Grand Canyon of its own in the middle of its panhandle called Palo Duro. And the best way to see it is from the saddle of a horse while riding at the bottom of the canyon floor.

We’d been wanting to go horseback riding for the past few months, but something always interfered with our plans, or time wouldn’t allow. But Leah was determined.

“If you can ride in a balloon, then I get to ride a horse,” she declared.

And true to her word, reservations made on Thursday got us an early ride time with Jennifer at Old West Stables inside the state park.

stables

stables1 (2)

We mounted Buster and Lloyd,

our ride

and rode along an unmapped equestrian trail that took us along the foothills of the canyon walls…

on the trail2

and through the hills and ravines of a basin carved by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River over one million years ago.

We passed colorful rock formations resulting from a geologic compression of four distinct periods layered over the course of 250 million years.

canyon wall.jpg

While I enjoyed the scenery, and the quiet of the canyon,

canyon peak

canyon strata

I had the disadvantage of riding behind Leah’s horse, Lloyd.

Leah and Lloyd

Lloyd was a farter who always positioned himself behind the lead horse.

on the trail3

And no matter how many times I tried to hold Buster back…

on the trail4

…we would always find our way back behind Lloyd’s swishing tail,

Buster follows too closely

where Buster was always greeted with a slow and steady current of foul wind, followed by an evacuation.

The hour passed as easily as Lloyd’s breakfast, and we found ourselves back at the stable, in time for Lloyd’s lunch.

back at the ranch

Once finished, we took a ride back to the lodge at the top of the canyon for a better perspective of the second largest canyon system in America,

canyon vista1

overview detail

before returning to the basin’s scenic road to explore the Big Cave,

BC trail

an opening in the red rock that’s not as big as it’s unusual.

cave entrance

cave mouth1

Big Cave inside out

cave opening (2)

The Texas panhandle is as flat as a cowpie, and wide as the open sky.

Airstream sunrise1

Thankfully, Palo Duro Canyon provides some variety to a linear landscape, and adds some color to a pale prairie palette.

 

Milestones

What started out as an intimate blog intended for sharing our cross-country adventures with family and friends has taken on higher meaning and greater dimension. After seven months of 100 posts, 10,000 views, 4000 visitors from over 150 countries, and a new family of nearly 1000 followers, this blog has eclipsed all that I could have imagined.

It has changed how I look through a lens and how I craft a story. It has transformed my posts from informative to entertaining. The discipline has made me a more fluent writer and sharper photographer, for which I am thankful.

Your collective thoughts and comments are a driving force to improve my content, and I am grateful for the feedback and acknowledgement.

I’d like to think that this evolution and subsequent statistics are because of my new and loyal audience, and I thank you dearly.

Additionally, my apologies to Leah, who must now contend with my newest obsession.