Yes we are still on the road. It’s been a while since I wrote, but believe it or not in the land of constant connection we’ve been staying in a house with no wifi for the last month or so helping my niece and her family finish up a self-build project they entered into a while ago but now are making the push to move indoors. So we stayed in North and South Carolina over a month catching up with family, swimming in the warm Atlantic waters two weeks before Hurricane Matthew visited the same area, and helped put windows and doors in a house, all part of the adventure!
It’s been nice to be disconnected with only the occasional connection instead of the other way around. That being said, sometimes we find ourselves in establishments we normally wouldn’t frequent to get our ether fix! For example I wrote this in a Subway sandwich place having a drink with Louis and Francesca while we catch up on some emails as well. (Chessie on Instagram and Louis watching bike videos and catching up with the biking news actually). Janey-Rae took us happily from North Carolina to the Arkansas Delta (pronounced Arkansaw) where Chessie spotted a dead alligator on the roadside, but Janey had some small sniffles and needed another appointment with a mechanic. Nothing too serious as we met the right guy to sort it all out of course!
Now nearly a week later we are sitting in a gas station with wifi along the Nimrod River in the hillier and green Ozark/Ouchita Mountains regions of Arkansas. (Still don’t know why it doesn’t end in a ‘w’, we’ve asked the locals and they don’t seem to know either). Anyhow trying to keep the blog updated is proving harder than I thought it would be.
The last month or so in brief reads like this. Janey-Rae got sorted out and was rolling nicely. Louis did a race in Pisgah National Forest where he caught up with some friends we made in Marshall, another family looking like they’ll be hitting the road in a year or so on a voyage of their own, we were glad to share some time with them on our parting weekend in North Carolina. Louis and Chessie also did lots of Mountain Biking with a local shop owner in Marshall North Carolina while we were there reconnecting with my niece and her family getting a sample of the different life path they chose for themselves. Constantly making more friends to add to an ever-growing list!
As we rolled out of North Carolina we headed into Tennesee and stayed in our first Walmart in Franklin Tennesee. It’s quite handy actually, free camping, 24 hour toilets and a quiet parking lot where the kids did lots of video making and riding. Also occasionally meeting other campers doing the same. The free camping in Walmart is of a different variety, but it allows us to roll on spending money on other things. We’ve been sticking to the smaller byways of rural America and what a great season for traveling. The colors are changing in some areas of higher elevation, and the weather isn’t stifling hot.
Too much has transpired and I need to glance at some journals to refresh the memory banks, but we also briefly drove on the ‘Trail of Tears’ where thousands of Native Americans were moved to a reservation in Oklahoma in the 1800’s, many dying along the way. A reminder of the sad history of this country, but being an American myself it is difficult to condemn those living here now as we have met so many living lives and just being caring human beings to us fellow travelers. It is definitely a conundrum of life on planet earth. We visited the birth town of David Crocket, who fought in the Alamo in Texas, but history has also changed its mind on the exact history of that battle over the years, but I will not get into that here.
Tennesee gave way to Alabama on the Natchez Trace Parkway, it’s an old trail from the early 1800’s where settlers floated their wares to the outpost of Trace Mississippi from Natchez Tennessee then had to hoof it home on the trail with loads of money in their pockets. Lots of outlaws profited by this, and the history of the parkway is rich in folklore, but in 2016 it is rich in beauty, and thankfully void of outlaws. We stayed for free on TVA land (Tennessee Valley Authority) where you can stay up to 14 days at no cost as long as you leave it as you found it. We stayed a night having the place to ourselves along the river bank, wonderful!
The RV life is definitely a way to meet people and traveling with a family makes others very open to have a chat, invite you to stay and more. Now Janey was running beautifully and even those small mechanicals allowed us to meet nice folks who ran garages, gave us a place to park up for the night and meet the locals who were intrigued as to why we were in their small town parked up at a gas station. One guy saw the kids riding around on their bicycles and came by with a unicycle to see if any of them could ride it. Louis jumped on and pedaled around. The old boy was impressed and told us tales of his adolescence riding unicycles long distances, or at least attempting to, with all his mates. It was so nice to get a glimpse into happy childhoods in a part of the world we were just passing through and looking at it all from visitor’s eyes asking ourselves, ‘Who would want to live in the Mississsippi Delta in rural Arkansas, especially with the possible alligator lurking around?’ (Plus they spell their state name weirdly;-)!
So after a brief foray into the deeper south of Alabama and Mississippi we experienced southern hospitality in many ways, free camping, showers, coffee and home-made cookies at a welcome center, free orange juice fill ups for the kids at a small diner in Alabama where we treated ourselves to a few pancakes! The list goes on, but west we were headed and snuck back into Tennessee to hit Memphis and see the the home of Elvis and walk on Beale Street taking in the Blues, but not getting them.
We were rolling along the Nimrod River enjoying the sunny day and lovely views. We stopped for a small walk in the woods, and later on at a place near a dam in the valley. It was there we met some nice folks. One was a guy named Jake riding his Harley. We talked about my motorcycle days and he wanted to hear more, so I gave him a card and he bought a copy of my book online I just found out through an email, and in that brief meeting I have the feeling we’ll meet again. As we were enjoying the view Angie met a couple working for the campsite. They were caretakers and we got to talking. Turns out he was an ex Ford mechanic, amongst many other things in his life. So he offered to take a look at a few other small niggles Janey was having. So needless to say once again Janey-Rae introduced us to our next adventure. We wound up camping with them all weekend, eating lovely food, sharing great moments, and sorting out Janey’s cruise-control and alternator. We also came up with a few clever ideas for getting Janey to be even more efficient.
On the way out from our wonderful weekend discussing everything from Tesla energy to Spirituality, Donald Trump, aliens, and more, we were on a high. Janey purring down the road, the sunlight coming through the windshield, and once again this state with the weird spelling threw lots of surprises our way. (I had the same surprises years ago on my motorcycle voyages). There was still another one to come in the shape of an 80 year old basket weaver named John. We stopped at a small roadside souvenir shop on the tiny road we were driving on to look at the map and check out the local crafts. John wouldn’t have it, he pulled us into his workshop, and together Angie Chessie and Louis wove a basket in about a half an hour. I was the photographer and spoke to his wife about the upcoming road choices. We walked out buying a jar of local honey, and were still a bit in shock at our whirlwind basket making course complete with finished basket.
I forgot to mention in North Carolina we took out Janey-Rae’s generator and heating system which both took up valuable space, added lots of weight and were not very sustainable in their use. So now with the solar panels we bought back in NY we are running cleaner energy and a bit of a lighter rig. Let’s see where she’ll be taking us next!!!
We couldn’t get this song out of our heads in Memphis.
Enjoy. Peace, Joe