The End is Only a New Beginning!

Winding down the journey has seen us ‘Stepping it up a Notch’ as for unknown adventures lurking around every corner. A friend of mine says in one his songs, “Born inside a cage you ain’t going far”, well this trip we brought our cage along with us and went very far. We didn’t let the RV bind us in any way at all. It took us from adventure to adventure, but I still feel the sentiment he sings about is so true, we can’t let ourselves be bound by circumstance. Especially if our circumstance comes from a place of health and we only let our minds limit our possibilities. We live in an era where we can let everything going on in the world get us down, or empower us to keep our beliefs and spirits running free to explore the endless possibilities that await us. If we choose the latter, life is one big adventure, and the earth a magical, natural, cultural wonderland.

Back to the journey of Janey-Rae & company. We finished up our projects in the Quebec countryside while enjoying some peaceful times on a small lake, a pleasant Sunday enjoying taking in Montreal, then it was back on the road.

 

Coming across the American border is always a bit intimidating. Borders have that way of making the innocent feel guilty. When we were told to pull over we knew we had done nothing wrong except lived life outside the box for the past year, but our border guard, although just a man doing his job, had the ability to make Angie squirm questioning how such an adventure was possible without her working illegally. She assured him that we had been creative in our spending and, although camping free on BLM land, Native American gambling casinos and Walmart parking lots is absolutely legal, we daren’t mention it, that guilty feeling rearing its head. Although with really nothing to hide I pulled out my computer to show him this blogsite (no free wifi at the border, so that didn’t work) and then a copy of my book to prove where we lived, and thankfully Angie was let back with us to wind down our journey together with a last visit with friends and family in the New York area before flying home.

 

Louis had some more mountain biking racing ahead of him, we had flights to book, a few friends to visit in upstate New York, and oh yes, Chessie had some unfinished business. She wanted to leave a small piece of herself in the land she had done so much traveling in for the past year, so while in the Albany area of New York State, we stopped in a local hospital so she could donate her appendix. Fortunately we had some friends to drive to not so far from the hospital for a tranquil recuperation. Frank and Christiana are the parents of our good musician friend Dan who we know from France. We stayed at their house last year in the beginning of our journey, but they were in Europe so it was so nice to finally meet them in person and share some quality time and eat some scrummy food together while listening to Dan’s excellent CD. Here’s a song from Dan’s CD. What a voice, and pretty good banjo strumming to boot!!

Catching up with their neighbors Bruno and Bruna, whom we met last year, felt like a nice way to wind down the trip. Meeting Bruno and Bruna’s one-month old baby brought home how long our journey had really been, wow!!

 

Now we are at my brother’s house, Chessie is on the mend, Louis is squeezing in as much riding and racing as he can – bagging a 1st place last weekend in Vermont – and we’re all getting ready for the new phase awaiting us back home. We are still managing to do some fun things here like seeing Sheila E in concert in New Haven for free with some old college friends. Angie, Kathy and the kids are at the beach now soaking up some Connecticut sun. I opted to stay back and chill out to write my blog. I split open my knee while mountain biking in Massachusettes, so am giving my wounded knee a rest.

 

We probably could have thought of a better way to wind down the journey than Chessie’s appendix wanting out, but hey, we were never in control of any of it from the beginning. Angie and Chessie will fly out first, Louis and I will tie up loose ends and try to sell Janey-Rae. It’s kind of sad, she feels like more a part of the family than just a vehicle. I hope someone who really appreciates what her possibilities are for adventure winds up purchasing her, but again, it’s out of our hands. The ending of this adventure will lead to the beginning of our next one, and I hope Janey-Rae will have lots more exciting miles exploring as well.

See ya up the road! Wanna buy an RV?

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Janey-Rae looking comfie.

Listen to the words of this song and get inspired for your next move.

Peace, Joe

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You who live on the road.

Taking a ride alone on a quiet country bike lane surrounded by farmland in a small French-speaking village just outside of Montreal was not in the game plan. Then again, everything that has happened since purchasing Janey-Rae a year ago was never part of a mapped out route fixed in stone. The plan was to buy an RV then explore the vast American continent come what may. 

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Cool artwork found in Asheville, NC.

The adventures found us soon enough. We have covered 18,000 miles (30,000 kms) and if I learned one thing from the journey to date, it is life is an adventure waiting to happen. Embrace the unknown and push yourself out of the comfort zone, if you don’t do it life will certainly make you squirm as its path will throw you some curves for sure. The latest curve, which found me cycling in a village named St. Roch de l’Achigan speaking French while my family were well-installed at our next helpx site, happened when Janey-Rae decided her alternator had reached the end of its charging days driving out of a traffic jam in a rainstorm on the outskirts of Montreal. We luckily made it to a gas station in a small village five kilometers off the highway, filled up, then turned the key to continue, and for the very first time on this journey, we were stranded – dead. After a jumpstart we made it a further 300 yards (meters) down the road. When the engine finally stalled we silently rolled Janey-Rae into a parking place across from a public park with toilet facilities and right in front of the volunteer firehouse with an outside electrical outlet for us to plug into. The timing was late Friday afternoon on the eve of Canada Day weekend. Nothing happening till Monday! Our friendly helpx hosts picked up Louis, Angie and Chessie Saturday after lunch, as I opted to stay with Janey-Rae for the weekend. I was invited to a barbecue, met some nice locals, and explored the local area on the bike path.

We are now all at Sylvie and Marcus’ lovely place set in a heavily wooded area surrounded by lakes and hungry mosquitos. Between walks in the forest, kayaking on the lake and sumptuous feasts we are fitting in some projects like rebuilding a terrace, making curtains and weeding the garden to earn our keep. Angie even snuck in yet another walk-in yoga class, notching up one more of many she has attended around the continent. Sylvie’s colorful career as a director of French documentaries and Marcus’s diverse career composing music for movies makes it all the more interesting. (I even learned he played guitar on this song from my childhood that he never got the credit for as he was an underpaid studio musician). Chessie and Louis’ budding interest in video editing has taken a giant leap forward while here, so yet another diverse experience for us all.

Our road towards the great white north found us re-exploring the beautiful mountains of North Carolina from Marshall to Beech Mountain. Enjoying traditional Appalachian music at the Bluff Mountain music festival to getting reacquainted with our friends in the downhill mountain biking world in Banner Elk. We had to say our sad goodbyes to my niece and her family once again, then we parked not too far away at Steven and Beverley’s, friends we went camping with last year when we started our journey. I even helped Steven build one of his commercial storage units this time around and we all enjoyed swimming in their small pond and basking in the good company.

Afterwards driving slowly up the Blue Ridge Parkway felt a bit like the adventure was ending in some ways, but we knew deep down every day would still throw something our way. We revisited Aunt Mary, still sprightly at 91. Cousins Jen and George, always welcoming, showed us their small bee hives and George showed us a hand-written formula by Einstein he had recently been entrusted to ship across the country from his UPS store in New Jersey. We walked to waterfalls near Albany, New York with our friends Patty, Rich, Jai and Maile with whom our adventure began a year previously while sorting out Janey-Rae for the upcoming year. We also visited the NY State museum with them- our second museum of the trip! Always fun catching up. Here’s a video Jai, Louis and Chessie put together to commemorate the journey. The music is a song recorded by another friend Duffy we helpxed with in California.

All these memories and adventures while also a very intriguing year in American history to say the least. To quote The Grateful Dead, “What a long strange trip it’s been!!”

Vermont saw us stopping at Ritchie and Dylan’s house, friends from the mountain bike world who have the pleasure of living in Stowe. Their house built in the 1800’s oozed character, and their surrounding fields pushed up fresh veggies as Ritchie and his partner Chandra strive to reach a modicum of self sufficiency in our quickly growing dependent society, be it on technology or supermarkets, so it was a breath of fresh air to sneak a quick glance at yet another path leading to a different way of life. Shortly after leaving Stowe we crossed the border heading into the latest leg of our adventure. 

Our gut feeling while driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway a few weeks ago that the adventure is not over yet, feels oh so very true!

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What next Janey-Rae?

Peace, Joe

Enjoy this version of a song I’m sure you know. Always inspired by this one!

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Holy smokes, that was fast!

I just looked at my last blog and realised that it was a whole continent ago. I write this on the east coast of America in North Carolina, haven’t made it to the Atlantic yet, but the state we are in touches it. I was a bit bummed the last time I wrote because I lost all my photos. I had the chance (and the patience) to re-insert lots of them back into the old blogs, so that was actually a fun(ish), sometimes frustrating way to revisit our trip.

Since leaving Spokane Washington, so much has happened. We re-crossed the Rockies in the north, saw lots of snow in Glacier National park in Montana and tons (literally) of wildlife in Yellowstone National park in Wyoming, rode our bikes in some amazing places, stayed in some creative camp spots on Indian reservations and camped on the front lawn of people who sold us eggs in Idaho. The mountain passes gave way to the Black Hills where we saw Mt. Rushmore then headed into the wonderful Badlands of South Dakota. Came across the flatlands of Nebraska and Kentucky until we started up and down back in the Ozarks, but this time in Missouri where we volunteered on a farm for a few days.

After leaving the farm we kinda felt the trip was winding down, and though there is still a lot to be seen in even what some would consider the less interesting places of America’s landscape, Janey-Rae was raring to put on some miles, and we were looking forward to seeing some familiar places. Another visit with our family and friends in North Carolina was imminent. There was grandma to say hi to and a river called the French Broad to raft down. Cousins to play with and Enduro mountain bike events to be ridden. So even though it seems like the trip was ending it surely wasn’t.

We still have to head to NY and maybe back into Canada. Soon enough Janey-Rae and our journey will all be a fond memory, but as for now we still have a month or two left of creating more of those wonderful brain synapses.

The song below became a sort of theme in the latter part of our journey. We came across it on one of the many country music stations we listened to in the hinterland. Just to clear it up now, a Yeti 110 is a cooler and silver bullets are the nickname for Coors beer, so he isn’t glorifying any kind of weird gun and a bunch of bullets that The Lone Ranger used to use!!!

See ya up the road.

Peace, Joe

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Here Comes The Sun!!

Last time I wrote we were nearly rusting over, fortunately Janey-Rae was water tight, but our waterproofs were letting the driving rain through, and our daily mileage was a bit higher than normal because when it is pouring rain, or driving sleet, getting out of Janey-Rae didn’t inspire us as much as it does when the sun is heating us up through the windshield. Fortunately we had friends both new and old, and family to visit or re-visit. Our sodden roads took us from California and up the west coast into a drenched Oregon where we managed to squeeze in some excellent camping and bike riding in between squeezing out soggy clothes. The weather didn’t dampen our enthusiasm too much, but we were thinking maybe we headed north a bit too early in the season.

The sun actually did manage to come out, and we did get on our bikes, enjoy a few towns and cities, and most of all continued northwards to Canada before we started to head eastward marking the beginning of the return home.

Oregon and Washington threw some beauty and color our way in many different forms, from green moss to black skies, shipwrecks on the beach, rainbows in the sky, spectacular displays of tulips to walls filled with chewing gum. More importantly we made some nice connections with friends some new some old, and the journey continues on with the sun in our eyes in the morning instead of the evening sunsets.

After Washington we made it to Canada and explored a small but wonderful section of British Colombia. So we drove from where The Colombia River empties into the ocean and creates the natural border between Washington and Oregon to crossing the lake on a small cable driven ferry near its headwaters in Canada. The Canadian accents and funny rubber money reminded us where we were, but the north American Beauty looked quite similar in a colder sort of way.

We’re now in Spokane and Spring is pushing its way through the clouds. We have met and continue to meet welcoming people and the scenery is still never letting us down.

I am a bit bummed about the blog today. I deleted lots of photos from my media library not knowing it would delete the photos from the blogs themselves, so now I have to sit down and put a lot of photos back in those blogs, it’ll give me a chance to revisit the blogs I guess. It’s at times like these I miss the non-digital world of photo albums and film!!

Hope everyone is well. Enjoy the Spring. We know as winter fades into a memory, the sun will be coming.

Peace, Joe

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It Never Rains in Southern California, REALLY?!

The song in the title of the blog is comparing a stormy relationship with an unusual deluge in the normally sunny ‘Sunshine State’. After wintering here, we can attest to the fact that yes, as the lyrics say, “It never rains in California, but girl don’t they warn ya, it pours, man it pours.” I must admit it feels kinda nice being part of the end of a five-year dry era in this diverse state. Record rain falls in the desert, dams nearly overflowing under the immense amount of water they can barely hold back, highways closed because of nearly 200% more snowfall in The Sierra’s compared to a normal year. When California exits from a drought, man it does it properly! All this rain and snow has kept us a bit longer on the west coast than we had planned. We just missed the Superbloom in Anza-Borrego State Park, but not to worry, we’ve seen so much beauty in the past 2 months that California (and Nevada) have on offer that this might have tipped us into beauty overload;)!

Since the last blog we haven’t moved much. The friends we made in Southern California in the Julian /Santa Ysabel area we will keep in touch with for a long time to come. The experiences we’ll surely carry forever as wonderful memories and life-changing experiences. I had the pleasure of giving a talk in the Julian library focusing on my book, Cycles of a Traveler, and touching on our current voyage. Louis met a young mountain biker named David while we were hiking near Vulcan Mountain and they got to share in their common enthusiasm of cycling in a few different surrounding areas, Chessie joining them on one occasion. Angie taught Yoga at the retreat center and also participated in a few Yoga classes where she met up with some like-minded souls. Francesca expanded her love of photography by befriending a fellow volunteer who runs a small film company and is a photographer. As another volunteer was selling his nearly brand new DSLR camera Chessie received an early 13th birthday gift so she could benefit from some lessons as well. Besides the volunteers at the center we also made friends with some people coming to various themed events varying from vegan cooking lessons to a philosophical-based retreat on ‘Finding your Secret Key’. Some fellow travelers we met in the Spiritual Retreat center in San Diego we have already met up with on the road north. Connecting with people has always been such an integral part to any great voyage, and these past six weeks have been a testament to how those connections just keep adding to the already colorful canvas of our trip to date. We had the pleasure to stay in our friend Kamal’s house eating exquisite Indian food every day to camping in the high desert of Nevada with our photographer buddy DuPre, or meeting a welder keeping our bike rack alive for a few more months, while expounding on all the freakish sightings he has seen over area 51 on the outskirts of Beatty, Nevada. In light of all this and more, the heavens occasional dumping down on us has been a infinitesimally small price to pay.

After a wonderful drive through the lowest point on the North American continent in Death Valley (282ft below sea level), some lovely quiet nights camping at Lake Walker in Nevada and driving up and over the high peaks surrounding Lake Tahoe, we are now back in Copperopolis, California, stopping in for a short stop with our cousins once again. It’s a beautiful part of the world where we camped a few days, met an enthusiastic man named David who is an avid runner, cyclist and newly-retired teacher who is now, and always has, enjoyed living and loving life to its fullest. Meeting folks like that always stokes up the fire of why I love getting out there and mixing with people in the great outdoors.

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Me & Dave, retired, loving it and going to read a good book!

Two days after we arrived at Joe and Judy’s house the skies once again opened up and dumped down rain on us and fluffy white stuff now covers the roads on the plus 6,000 foot passes we recently crossed from Lake Tahoe. So once again we just missed being snowbound, but as the rain pummels down outside we are indoors with family playing games and eating good food with good company.

Hope you are all enjoying similar wonderful journeys of your own. I know my brother and his family just got back from Tuscany, Italy, and our good friends David and Sue will be heading off to Japan soon. So to all of our friends staying local or journeying afar, we wish you good travels and wonderful meetings wherever life finds you on this great big grand adventure called life.

Peace, Joe & family.

Enjoy the song below, for some reason I can’t get it out of my head since we hit ‘The Sunshine State’;-)!

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Wintering in warmer climes.

Here we are month two of 2017, and what a beginning! Without focusing too much on the crazy politics of the world at the moment we are keeping sane in our rig Janey-Rae and wintering in the warmer climes of southern California. The challenges of living in such tight quarters for so long has not been nearly as tough as we thought. Sure there have been rough patches, but what is a journey without some uphills to enjoy freewheeling down the descents on the other side? I’m kinda looking at our world like that at the moment. Okay, the current uphill may have a headwind thrown in and a bit of ice on the road, but like some of the toughest winters I can remember growing up in New York, the springtime was that much sweeter, the flowers that more beautiful, and the people so much more appreciative. Let’s use this time as a wake-up call knowing a beautiful Spring awaits us, but unlike the change of the seasons that just happens naturally, we may need to work a bit to coax that first whiff of the Spring blossoms that do await us. Keep on smiling, and never lose faith.

 

We discovered California is the toughest state to find free creative camping in. I happened to read somewhere that certain casinos on Indian Reservations allow you to park up for 24 hours obviously hoping your deposits in their various machinery will be worth it. Not the gambling types though, the only deposits we made were in their warm bathrooms. It didn’t seem that the casinos were going broke without our input, it always amazes me how casinos never seem to be empty, day or night. We are currently in the beautiful mountains east of San Diego. The small fledgling spiritual retreat center we are volunteering in is quite the opposite to the casino a few miles away. Instead of people sitting blankly in front of machines slowly giving their life force and cash over to inanimate objects happily obliging in this soul-destroying relationship, this place is filled with young people communing with nature, navigating human relationships and basically living differently carving out their own unique paths through life. It makes my nose itchy already sensing that wonderful Spring around the corner.

Here is a clip of a bit of fun in a local pizzeria we shared the other night. You may recognize some of the folks banging the cups!

Before arriving here Louis broke in his new bicycle with two first place podium wins in the Fontana winter series mountain bike events. It was a rainy weekend, but that didn’t stop the riders from getting out there and enjoying a ride in the cool wetness. Chessie joined in on the drier practice day opting out of the wetter race day. I was with her on that one! California definitely needed some rain and snow in the higher altitudes after a five year-long drought. Far from being out of the woods, the welcomed wettest winter in years has seen us having to stay creatively below the snow line. So we have been helpxing to keep it all fresh and ourselves busy, warmish, and dry. We stayed in Oceanside California for a few weeks with Karen and Ari. We had some fun, went ice skating and did a few projects around the house. Louis and Chessie roped in another helpxer to help build a small bike trail on their property. Then along with Ari they edited a fun movie you can watch at the end of the blog.

A bit of exploring around these parts has been fun. It is a beautiful part of the world. The cooler weather at 3,200 feet in altitude keeps it fresh, and we have sniffed out some riding/hiking for all of us to keep busy when we are not doing some work around the retreat center.Snow still covers most of our route up north and back east, so we’ll be staying put in California in the meantime.

Hope you are all enjoying wherever you are as well. Keep smiling and never fear, Spring is around the corner.

Enjoy the vid.

Peace, Joe

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The Ventura Highway and beyond.

Our month in California has taken us from the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains and Yosemite National Park to the streets of Oakland and cable cars of San Francisco, wading through the money/technology-drenched valley of Silicon, to sharing the streets with homeless people living in RV’s in Santa Cruz. Did I forget to mention Hollywood premier movies in Malibu, sloshing through the streets of West Hollywood in a torrential downpour, riding our bikes on the Weirdwalk in Venice Beach, sipping a drink in my cousin’s new brewery in Costa Mesa, enjoying the salt air of Balboa Island on Christmas Day, staying in a posh RV park in Newport Beach where someone cut our lock and stole Louis’ bike the day after Christmas:-(!

Coming into California we were ‘California dreaming’, but now after a diverse month criss-crossing the state from The Bay Area to Orange County we have woken up to a pleasant reality. We have been immersed in so many different worlds that it is impossible to capture it all in a short blog. We caught up with friends and relatives, some not seen for decades others newly-met. The Ventura Highway saw us camped out on the beach above Malibu and took us towards the small city of Santa Monica which brought fond memories of my time living in the same area back in the 80’s.

All this and we haven’t even made it north of The Golden Gate Bridge yet. Needless to say our trip continues and so do the adventures, one we could have done without was Louis’ bike getting stolen in Newport Beach. Fortunately we had insurance on the RV which helped us recover the cost of replacing it. Louis without a bike on our expedition would have been comparable to Janey-Rae without wheels, basically a non-starter.

So here we sit on the first day of 2017, the southern California sun keeping us warm as we contemplate our next move. January 1st marks our 6th month on the road, so now the countdown to July 1st has begun. We won’t look towards endings though but try to keep focusing on the moment we’re in. As the group America ask in their song ‘Ventura Highway’, “How long you gonna stay here, Joe?” Can’t answer that one, we are still playing it all by ear and letting weather and circumstance pave the path to the unfolding exploration of this vast continent. In a world where everything seems a bit uncertain, the next move we make reflects that same quality. But just like every turn we took on the small byways heading west had something unexpected awaiting, we’ll still try to expect nothing and always hope for the best.

Here is wishing you a Happy New Year, and let’s all face the upcoming year with a smile on our collective faces and try to turn even the most sour tasting experience we think we may be facing into something better than expected. When we woke up and saw Louis’ bike was gone we were all pretty bummed, Louis took it well and we got through the day and made the reports we had to do and called the people we had to call. Instead of having to make do with an inferior bike or even worse no bike at all, not even five days after the theft in the middle of a holiday week Louis was putting together an updated 2017 model of the bike that was stolen, we were all pleasantly surprised to turn that small disaster into a good thing. So keep the faith everyone, good things can and still do happen. We just have to know the way to face the days that seem grim with a smile and call on those certain someones or belief systems which can help us navigate it all correctly. Who or what you call on in those times is what will make the difference.

As we drove down the Ventura Highway I couldn’t get this song out of my head, so enjoy a trip down that same highway with the fellas below. See ya up the road!

Peace, Joe

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