Archive for November, 2014

One-Month Report!

I’m writing my one-month into the journey blog from cozy Jacksonville, FL. My intentions are still pretty much the same as my original SE route with a few additions (Trinka’s pop’s place in Paisley, oldest restaurant of Florida in Ybor City, the oldest one in Georgia in Thomasville, as well as my sister-in-law’s sister!). But enough about the future…what has happened in the last 10 days?

Keeping pretty much to my route so far. Atlanta to Congaree to Charleston to Savannah to Jacksonville to St. Augustines to Flagler Beach to Paisley

I left my buddy’s house in Georgia headed to Congaree National Park, my first of the “national park” series. My days are getting all mixed up, but I think it was the day after the elections were held that I packed everything up in my van and headed east (Wednesday the 5th)

Beautiful drive through the foothills of North Georgia and the Chattahoochee National Forest with my high school buddy Paula.

It should have just been a 5-hour trip max. I have been taking the back roads on the journey and there I was toddling down 378 through the Sumter National Forest listening to Helen Keller’s “The Story of My Life,” when I started to hear a whistle. I discounted it thinking it was from the hose clamps I used to secure the solar panels. But once the book was over (about 10 minutes), and all was quiet save the whistling…it became more apparent that something was amiss! I pulled over off the deserted road into lots of green. Lo…I had a flat front passenger tire.

The beautiful roads of South Carolina heading to Congaree National Park.

How to get that crazy spare tire from underneath the vehicle? My Chiltons did say one word about it. Google it and oddly nothing. Finally, I looked on the back of the panel that hides my jack and there was the hint I was looking for. I just had to turn a nut on the floor of the van in the rear center. Sounds simple…and usually it is in most cases, but I have flooring over the whole back of the van! Subfloor and flooring! Which has my whole life on top of it!

A picture of the nut that lowers the spare tire after Cicilia cut an access hole to it at Perez Tire Shop!

The scene was alive with sound, and my imagination was more alive yet with swamp images from Princess Bride! But I put on my brave face and took everything out of the van and lifted the floor and found that key nut to get the whole thing going. As I was taking most things out, one by one, I was struck by just how much I have to be thankful for. Nearly all I have, has been given. Here is a snap shot from the flat tire scene, but with the addition of what I was thankful for while working on the situation.

Broken down on the side of the road I was just struck with great gratitude! For so many reasons!

Very few vehichles passed by but as I was finishing up airing up my spare tire, a white jeep came rolling up with his very own personal cloud inside of it. He stopped right smack dab in the middle of the road (that is how little traffic there was) and rolled down the passenger window, letting all the smoke out as well as a holler whether I needed help. I told him I was pretty well set up but needed to find a nearby tire shop. He told me that “in the next town of Saluda and you get to the first stop light take a right and then…blah blah blah” on he went with the directions. But I paid heed to every word he said. He bid me adieu and I put all my belongings back in the van and followed his directions exactly…into the “questionable” side of town! But of course, it was exactly where I needed to go!

Perez Tire Shop…not exactly the discount tire store I was expecting…but it was exactly what I needed!

I pulled up to Perez’s Tire service of Saluda. First thing I did was ask to use the lady room. After ducking down under a fallen beam and a toppled stack of old tires, I managed to find a black covered toilet with no seat! I thot I had better use my five gallon bucket (which, as an fyi, I haven’t had to use yet!). I began to doubt whether I came to right the place or not.

But after talking to Saul and Cicilia in my broken Spanish, but animated gesturing, and their limited English vocabulary I discovered it was a God-send. They fixed me up with a great tire for $35 dollars and then they highly recommended I change out my brittle spare tire. I asked how much? $20 they said. So two tires for $55! If that weren’t enough…I showed them the place I had to get to to put the spare tire back on (btw: they were VERY impressed with my mobile home!) and they got out a hack saw and a wee baby circular saw to cut a hole in the floor to get future access to it. His guess as to where to cut the hole was a bit off so we basically went with a square section! When we were able to gain access to it and put everything back in the van, they let out such a loud whoop that any language could have understood the satisfaction of it all! It was definitely the exact tire store I needed to be at!

My two knights in shining armor! They were very impressed with my rolling castle!

I may have to do a part two to this blog because I still have to share about Congaree National Park and the incredible canopy of flood plains that was. Then, there is Billy Sheppard, my very own chuck wagon gourmet chef who I spent three nights with unexpectedly. So hopefully I’ll write more. But now that I have a phone that takes pictures I hope to try instagramming or facebook posting from there. I’ll keep you posted!

Second 10 Days

Welp, I’m another thousand miles into my trip, having worked my way back down from the DC area to spend another weekend with my high school buddy Paula and her family near the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’ve listened to several books and lectures in this 2,000 miles so far…

James Herriot’s Favourite Dog Stories…a delightful way to hasten time on the road!

Jake (aka Buster) making my hat look mighty fine!

My prepper friends were VERY generous in so very many ways….hospitality, fine food, cozy beds, hot showers, fellowship, freezer usage and washing machines, and incredibly fun play times with their 3 & 6 year olds! But added to all that was…

Solar Panels given by Duane and Heather…don’t worry…they lie down on the roof when I drive!! Going to have to find an alternative spot for my veggie/herb garden!

My 197k-mile-Chrysler is now suited up with solar panels, modulator, 12v battery, battery charger and inverter which allow for me to have electricity while off the grid (so long as the sun comes out a few hours a day!) I mean, how many people have a few extra solar panels lying around with a couple of modulators collecting dust on the shelves? Oh, and an old battery that they could part with. I’m confident that the material itself is over $1000 not to even mention the labor of setting the whole thing up for me!

A modulator controlling the input from the solar panels to my deep cycle leisure battery on the driver floor board. And an accompanying inverter and bose speaker! I’m feeling mighty materialistic with such a nice setup!

Not only all that (as if that weren’t enough) but I will be borrowing their zero gravity lounge chair for a year. What sweet relief for the lower back to be able to star gaze and feel absolutely no pressure points. And amazingly, it folds up small enough to store in the van with no problem.

Zero Gravity Chair…great place to watch the stars!

And one last thing (though I’m sure I’m forgetting many other niceties), Duane fixed my driver door handle. I started off on this journey with no way to open the driver door from the inside so that meant somehow getting my hand to the outside handle. Well, he took an old broken bolt that he had pulled from his Ducati and managed to transform it into my new handle. Would it be a lie for me to say now that “I am driving around the USA with a Ducati?” Ah, probably, but to me, Big Blue and the handle that now allows me to open the door from the inside, is far superior to any old two-wheeled beast!!

This is a great time of the decade to start a 25,000 mile trip…every fill up so far has been less than $3 a gallon! Here’s the fill up in Chantilly, VA price!

After a very delightful time was had in Fredericksburg, VA with the Fleeger crew, I meandered on up closer to Washington DC to meet my boss at InvoiceIQ, a telecom expense management and translation firm (don’t ask! It’s more complicated than it sounds!).

Glow in the Dark fingernail polish with Hailey and Katelyn

I stayed with his family (more delightful children—even got my nails done with glow-in-the-dark polish) and was able to meet the folks at the office and confirm that they have a year’s worth of work for me to do. Enough to pay for this trip, to pay the IRS for last year and this year, and finish off some car payments.

I thought I was going to be able to gloat while my Redskin-fan boss and I watched the Cowboys game together…but alas!

Eric, my boss, then took me to Verizon to procure a MiFi JetPack which will allow me internet access when I’m not near wifi connectivity. He purchased the JetPack and a 2-year plan to go along with it. We are starting off with the 6G data plan and see how we do with that package. I’ve been stopping by libraries often to use their internet connection, but when I start camping in the van deeper in the parks, this gadget will come in handy dandy!

WiFi access even when I’m not in a library! Straight from my van parked in the middle of nowhere (in between big cities!) Thanks InvoiceIQ!

The weather started to turn cold so I headed south back to Paula’s house near Atlanta just in time for Halloween and my birthday. Homemade apple pie and Chipotle lunch…yummy! I head out on Tuesday to start living in my van fulltime until I get to Houston for Christmas, DV.

2014 proposed route trip…from Atlanta, GA to Houston, TX. Hopefully hit some warm weather in the Everglades and Key West!

My agenda for the remainder of 2014 is a 3,000 mile journey starting in Canton, GA…

I have no clue if I’ll be able to keep that agenda and still get some work done, but that is the tentative schedule of things!

Ivation Battery-operated portable shower came in the mail on my birthday. I tested it indoors where it is warm, and I can testify…I think this is going to work out real nice…when I have hot water to put in the bucket!!

My car is ready to go with electricity, internet connectivity, shower capability, washing machine capability, cooking capability,

My washing machine!

Today is laundry day and a day’s hike of exploring 4 local little lakes here in Cherokee County to see if we can discover any hidden jewels nearby Paula’s house. Then tomorrow I hit the road with no where specifically to go! I just may go see the World’s Largest Peanut!

Time to go solo for a couple of months in my 25 sq ft home!

Look forward to seeing what the next ten days hold in store for me!

Christ’s peace,