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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California Dreamin’

We made it across the vast North American continent, and are 5 months into our family adventure. What a trip it has been. Since Utah we have explored, camped, hiked and biked in some of the most beautiful natural surroundings the high desert of the USA threw at us.

Janey-Rae has been a champ. Now she is getting spoiled in California sunshine, and we are having a nice break at our cousin’s house. We had a lovely bike ride around the hills in Copperopolis California, not too far from Yosemite National Park, and a scenic drive and short walk in the snow blanketed Sierra mountains which bodes well for the ongoing dry years this part of the world has suffered for nearly half a decade. Now we’ll get spoiled too; good company other than ourselves, big beds, central heating, big spacious rooms and staying put for a few days. All this will refuel our tanks as much as Janey’s tune up and transmission fluid change will prepare her for the next leg of the journey, which at this point in time is all uncertain as a return journey across the northern USA is out of the question at the moment as winter settles in and has covered the mountains and roads with snow. Somehow or another we’ll be staying put out here in the west to see in the new year and wait for the Spring thaw. For now though we’ll enjoy the area of Central California with our cousins Joe & Judy as our guides and kind hosts.

As a family we have survived the small confines of living in an RV. Even though our motorized home is 9 meters (29 feet) long, it still throws up challenges to a family of four living in such tight quarters. Luckily Louis & Francesca get along well and have mountain biking in common. They have biked in some of the most beautiful and challenging landscapes America boasts along the southern corridor of the country.

Angie & I have done some biking as well, but with a set of walkie talkies shared between us and the kids we happily go off hiking most of the time while they search out trails for their bikes. A few handy apps help us to find hidden and otherwise unknown places to explore on foot and two wheels. So with the help of some modern technology combined with our 1989 internal combustion engine we have been able to marry the two to keep it all interesting.

Visiting family and catching up with an old neighborhood friend in Las Vegas was an interesting interlude along the way. A surprise meeting up with now 90 year old Aunt Mary in Arizona the day before Thanksgiving also was an added bonus. Little surprises and meetings with familiar faces is always nice for all of us. The backdrops of Las Vegas and the beauty of southern Arizona just adds a little bit more icing on an already tasty cake!

Meeting the right people at the perfect moments helping us navigate the unknown has continued as well. We picked up two hitch-hikers who just happened to be a French couple on their year-long journey. We camped together for the night and had a good practice with our (my) dormant French language skills.

America is so vast and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands that abound out here in the west has helped keep our sleeping costs to a bare minimum. We never stay in RV parks as they are way too expensive and with our needs being met by constantly charged batteries, a clever shower set up, BLM lands and the occasional State parks we have managed to sleep well and stay sorta clean and showered! With a few family and friends dotted along the way throwing intermittent luxury at us, we have crossed the continent in a certain style only Janey-Rae and creativity could give us.

WIFI has been intermittent, but when we get it it is nice to receive news from friends and family. It’s always good knowing that the world is still turning elsewhere than on our wiggly trajectory course across America.

No matter what you hear out there, life is going on, people are both helpful and hopeful. Yes the world is throwing up lots of challenges to us all at the moment, but we gotta keep those dreams alive, and know deep down collectively we are all better than any political process or what the main stream media want us to believe. Take a page from the words of the song below. Although dreaming shouldn’t only be focused on this diverse wonderful state skirting the Pacific Coast in America, why not share a bit of that California dream with us for the moment!

Enjoy the journey. Peace, Joe

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High in The Rockies!

BRRRRR!! It’s cold up here. Just a few weeks ago we were much warmer……. but now from where I write it is much warmer again in the high desert!

Our last few days in Arkansas found us in a quiet campground by a small lake on the outskirts of a town called Eureka Springs. The small town was somewhat of a focal point for us since someone told us about it in North Carolina so we wanted to check out the ‘Hippy Drop-Out’ town and see if the mystique fit the reality. In many ways it had, but in others it seemed to go the way many of these ‘Artsy’ places go after the money has sniffed them out and changed the vibe. Eureka Springs straddled both worlds well, and coupled with the wonderful surroundings it didn’t disappoint. Friendliness seemed to be the catchword to describe Arkansas and the people who ran Leatherwood City Park fit well into that category, as did the fellow campers we met. One couple were from Chicago, but they had recently moved to the Dallas area. They were traveling with their nine year old daughter because they took her out of school for a week to come back to one of their favorite campsites which was where we met. Late night chats at their campfire were interesting and with the looming presidential elections it’s not hard to guess what subject crept up every once in a while. Johnny, Sue and Cecilia were a welcome addition to our last nights in Arkansas.

Just before crossing to Oklahoma, a visit to Bentonville, Arkansas found us in an art museum called Crystal Bridges. For those of you who don’t know it, Bentonville is where Walmart’s corporate headquarters are located (and a Walmart museum, which we skipped) the art museum was free to enter thanks to Walmart. I am not becoming a Walmart convert, but with the occasional free camping, and now a free museum, it seems like it is a hard multi-national to ignore in the hinterland of America. I recount in my book, Cycles of a Traveler, my first glimpse of a Walmart in little Rock Arkansas in 1987 thinking wow, this business model will leave people little choice for shopping anywhere else in 40 years. Well they beat my timeline by a decade, but it some places that random thought has become a reality. Oh yes, back to the voyage.

With the plains behind us now we are surrounded by the beauty of the Rockies. The road from Arkansas flattened out, so to spice it up a bit we zigged and zagged through a few different plain states; Oklahoma, Kansas, back into Oklahoma, then the panhandle of Texas. We have stayed off the big Interstates, which to those non-Americans reading this, are the big highways which cross America in North-South and East-West directions. Sticking to the sometimes scenic byways has brought us through small town America which does still exist, and we stayed in interesting named places such as Attica, Oklahoma, and Las Vegas, New Mexico. The latter actually historically being an important town and one of the largest in the west for nearly one hundred years. The ‘other’ Las Vegas as referred to by some of the locals, was actually founded after Las Vegas, New Mexico. Las Vegas, we also learned, means, The Meadows.

The roads in New Mexico also led us to Taos, which is another one of those famed places for communes, hippies, the birthplace of solar technology, as one local informed us, and home to Mike Reynold’s original earth ship communities. Earth Ships being interesting houses made from old car tires, bottles, earth, and all sorts of interesting re-used materials. The sustainable off-grid living actually got Mike stricken from the USA Architectural board in the eighties I believe, to be asked back in again after his stellar work rebuilding devastated communities creatively in the wake of the tsunami devastation in Asia  back in 2004. Watch this movie if his work piques your interest. The Garbage Warrior.

The alternative vibe in Taos found us receiving free food for our family after being beckoned to park near a Thrift store by a woman holding up a big sign stating FREE FOOD HERE!  While waiting on line we met another woman who told us of a Hindi Temple in Taos. We found the Hanuman Temple and Ashram where Angie and I ate a small lunch as the kids were out riding the South Boundary Trail, known as one of the top off-road mountain bike trails in the country! They were riding with the local bike shop owner’s son. We met the family as Louis sniffed out a bike shop for us to find out about some local rides. The owner of the ‘Gearing Up’ bike shop had a thirteen year old son named Aidan whom he took out of school the next day so he could shuttle Louis, Chessie and his son to the top of the two hour plus downhill ride. The previous night we met the owner just before closing and he generously let us park up Janey-Rae in his parking lot warning us that there would be early-morning traffic as one of the best burrito stands in Taos did a brisk morning business selling breakfast burritos. Yes, the burritos were delicious! The night ahead would hold a whole different vibe for us to experience.

After the kids got down the mountain we all said our goodbyes to our friendly hosts and headed back to the Ashram where we shared an evening meal with the community and volunteers running the Temple, small farm and occasional in-season campground for those who would seek it out. We spent an enchanted night under the stars in a Hindi Ashram in the middle of New Mexico. We woke up to warm chai made with fresh cow’s milk and a light breakfast of Indian fare as well. Did I forget to mention we were able to make use of the hot showers too? We met such welcoming an interesting people living or volunteering in the community in some capacity. All these lovely connections were making Taos a hard place to turn the key in the ignition and head further west, but in the end we did.

On the road towards Colorful Colorado we were in full stride; Janey-Rae’s lights were now working properly thanks to meeting the right people once again, her engine was roaring like a lion up the mountains and Angie’s tooth was sorted as well (a small niggle taken care of in Taos). Next stop Pagosa Springs, Colorado where I knew a guy that Louis and I met on the bicycle path in Toulouse back in 2012. We helped him pick glass out of his touring bike tire, and remained friends ever since. It took two days from Taos to get there which was perfect because he and his wife were getting back on the Friday from visiting family in Denver, and we would be arriving on that same Friday. Val assured us that wouldn’t be a problem arriving so close to their arrival. When they said they lived a little out of town it was an understatement. Twelve miles up a dirt road later, nestled in a small enclave of wooden houses over 9,000 feet up in The San Juan mountains of The Rocky range, we had a reunion with our friend Val whom we last saw in Toulouse, France. Terry, his wife, was there to greet us as Val was still en-route. I must say the surroundings were quite dramatic. Val’s dad was a WWII vet and we met Val on a tour where part of his journey included following the route of his dad in 1944-45. So when we arrived and saw the American and French flag in front of his house we knew it would be a nice weekend ahead of reminiscence.

I turned 55 years old with my family, Val and Terry, “High up in The Rockies, under the evergreens”, as Billy Joel once sang in his famed song, ‘New York State of Mind’. What a journey it has all been. Did it all really start out on those streets in The Bronx? Yes it did, and to have had the absolute privilege to spend most of my adult life mingling with the good people of our world amongst the physical beauty of our planet thrown in, I just want to remind all of you reading this, that no matter what kind of craziness is going on in the political world right now, (today is election day here) please read my blogs and pass them on to spread the word that at least 95% of the people out here are just looking to be kind and to share wonderful moments with others on this big wonderful journey we call life.

It’s hard updating the blog with occasional wifi. I fall behind and want to say how wonderful it all has been. So much has happened since our time in The Rockies. We keep meeting such interesting young people out here living life differently, creatively and with a passion for the outdoors; hikers, cyclists, rock climbers, just out and out folks on the road exploring. We have been in the Moab area of Utah with so many wonderful National and State parks to ride in, hike in, camp in, etc.. We have stayed in free BLM (Bureau of Land Management) campsites mostly.

They say pictures speak a 1,000 words, well I’ll end with these wonderful photos of the areas we have been in. They don’t do justice to the spectacular scenery. The crowds are gone, but the weather has been perfect. Enjoy this wonderful eye candy.

See ya up the road.

Peace, Joe

Sing it Billy!

 

Posted in a town, adventure, camping, Children & Parenting, Cycling, diversity, Education, Health & Well-being, home education, Life on planet earth., Natural resources, RV travel, small village or countryside?, The City, The City, a town, small village or countryside?, Transportation, travel, U.S.A. | 1 Comment

Why doesn’t Arkansas end in a ‘w’?

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

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Carolina in my mind.

James Taylor wrote the song while homesick in Spain, so we’ve turned the tables a bit and are in the part of the world he loved so much as we think about our home near the border of Spain.

Let’s roll it back to New Jersey. The last month has seen quite a few ups and downs. Mostly on the undulating roads from New England to North Carolina. West Virginia mountain-top race venues to lovely campsites in the Shenandoah National Forest to the Beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. Janey-Rae handled it all so well, but we have decided to finally get the small exhaust leak fixed, more on that later. From the rivers of New England to a heat wave in New Jersey we have been drenched in summer thunderstorms and covered in sweat in 100 degree temperatures with humidity approaching 95%, but a long and winding road it has been. (I’ll try to stop quoting songs from my youth;-)!

After leaving New Jersey catching up with our friends Steve, Alisa and their kids, then a brief stop to see how being 90 has settled in with my Aunt Mary, we rolled through Mennonite Country touching Lancaster Pennsylvania as well – home to The Amish. We asked a local woman in her horse and buggy if we could camp up at a Mennonite church and she told us it wouldn’t be a problem. From there we went on through Gettysburg where Lincoln made his famous speech, but also a place where many lost their lives in the brutal Civil War which was anything but civil. Battlements, cemeteries and reminders of that bloodshed followed us through amazing beautiful countryside which always brings the mind back to the age-old question of why can’t we all get along just a bit better surrounded by such breathtaking natural beauty.

As we continued in our southerly direction Janey-Rae’s leak was getting a bit noisier. We needed to get to West Virginia for one of Louis’ last races, so we soldiered on and I got used to where I needed to power up the hills, and even the mountains. We made it to Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia where we caught up for the final time Louis would be racing with his friends from the Northeast. Chessie opted out of racing as it was quite steep and a bit out of her league. We got there a day early and were given free passes to walk the mountain and take the ski lift back up and to zipline across the top of the small ski village. It was a fun weekend of banter, beauty, roaming deer and lots of mud on the racers.

After the weekend as we glided down Snowshoe Mountain Janey-Rae’s engine was much quieter without the strain of going up. We decided it would be better to get it fixed because we have a long road ahead and the noise was getting  bit louder. True the fumes coming in from the exhaust leak made it easier to take naps, but we decided we’d forego that mid day luxury!! All joking aside, we made it to my niece’s house who is in the middle of a self-build house project. So we installed ourselves on the outskirts of a small village called Marshall N.C. which has a similar vibe to a certain Montbrun-Bocage with alternative people getting together to tread a different path through life. A small breath of fresh air as the backdrop of the craziness of the current Presidential election lays heavily on some of the American People’s minds. As election day approaches and we nestle into our nomadic lifestyle for the moment, Angie and I find ourselves once again being part of a lovely self-build house project for another short snippet of time. Familiar ground a world away from home.

Another chapter ends as we are now at my sister’s house near Charlotte N.C. a world away from the mountains of western N.C. both in distance and vibration, but still a nice place for us to share in the lives of my family and enjoy the small and sometimes large lifestyle differences in this the multi-faceted country we are here to explore. As Janey-Rae gets her surgery we will be heading to my nephew’s beach house in North Myrtle Beach South Carolina. The weather is perfect for it, and it’ll be our last (and actually first) dip in the Atlantic before we point Janey-Rae’s new quieted engine towards the Pacific and break the bonds with the east coast of this vast continent.

Hope you are all well. See ya up the road!

Peace, Joe

Oh, here’s a link to that James Taylor song. Enjoy!!

 

 

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