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!

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…

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.

Indebted to the Internet

BREAKING NEWS: Three days at Kickapoo Cavern State Park in Brackettville, TX without cell service or WiFi signal…

“Really?”, I asked the ranger upon check-in, afraid of her confirmation.

“That’s right,” she responded. “Who’s your carrier?”

“Does it make a difference?” I didn’t want to belabor the point. “Verizon?”

“Then you’re screwed,” she said emphatically. “The only reason I asked,” she continued, “is if by chance you had AT&T, then maybe there’s a slight chance that if you hike to the ridge, you might get a weak signal.

“Great!” I conceded with resignation. I noticed a “FREE WiFi” sign by a monitor playing video of the park’s activities, and I think I felt a bit of a rush.

“What about WiFi?” I asked eagerly.

“Well, yeah, there’s WiFi here during the day when the ranger station is open and it’s not raining. Otherwise, you can probably pick up the signal at the bathhouse, and nowhere else,” she proclaimed.

My heart sank. The purpose behind this trip was to enjoy the outdoors when the weather allowed. But after learning that the park’s internet connection would be available at precisely the same time when I should be out experiencing nature, I am left to choose between which of the two necessaries is more meaningful. While not as devastating as “Sophie’s Choice”, I know I must surrender one for the benefit of the other.

I had psychologically prepared myself for this situation; it was inevitable. I knew that once we headed into wide-open spaces of rural Western states, there would be limited or no service. And where we are now certainly feels remote. After 40 miles on a winding road without traffic, we reached the park’s welcome sign. Another four miles in and we reached our true destination. This place is a rolling bust-line of shrub and sagebrush-covered hills. But best of all–for the first time in a month there is ABSOLUTELY NO SOUND OF TRAFFIC!

As I type this on my laptop on a picnic bench in view of the Airstream, I glance at the WiFi icon sitting on the left side of the task bar. As a lark, I position the cursor over the icon, and up pops the message, “WiFi connections available”. Incredulous, I click on it and sure enough, I have the option of opening a channel called “TPWD—PUBLIC”.

I waste little time activating the signal. I am immediately redirected to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Wireless Acceptable Use Policy (Effective date: December 15, 2005). I am ordered to read the entire policy before proceeding.

Accordingly, in order to utilize wireless services, I must hit the “I Agree” button at the bottom. Criteria to consider before agreeing are: Content Prohibitions, Content Harmful or Offensive to Third-Parties, Unlawful Content, Infringing Content Impersonation, Content Interference, Deceptive Content or Spam, Unapproved Promotions or Advertising of Goods or Services, Off-Topic Content, Content Harmful to Other Systems, Network Usage.

After perusing all the “CYA” jargon that Texan lawyers are obliged to disclose, I hold my breath and push the “I Agree” button. I figure if Trump can get elected, then surely I can get a connection to internet. By the way, wasn’t that part of his platform–improving infrastructure across America?

Behold! The clouds part, the planets align, the angels sing, and a faint and intermittent internet connection is born! Hallelujah!!

So what’s the point of this post if I no longer have to measure the merits of being cut-off from the main-streaming world?

A lot! I NOW HAVE CONTENT TO PUBLISH!!