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!

 

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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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The Adventure Continues!

We are still moving slowly along in our 6 wheeled camping car that we have christened Janey-Rae. As we roll along the small bi-ways of the Northeast at 40-50 mph (64-80 kph) she doesn’t guzzle the gas too badly. We recently added some solar panels to recharge our evening energy needs. So although she is big, it is our house on wheels for the next 11 months, and we’re trying to be as energy efficient as possible.

After leaving Vermont we headed to a friend’s house where Angie had a go at cutting and dyeing the kids hair. It was a fun few days and we played mini golf, kickball, had a barbecue and a full weekend of Americana was had by all. As the house was situated perfectly between two race venues in Vermont then Massachusetts we made two visits. Our kind friends/hosts didn’t mind at all because we made it so much easier arriving with our own guest house.

At a recent race venue in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts Janey-Rae sits amongst the other campervans. Another Joe helps me sort out a small niggle with the vacuum hose box. Janey looks small in comparison to some of the others out there on the road.

The long freight trains of New England trundled past our campsite, the blow of the whistle happening a few times a day followed by the low grumble of steel on steel as the half mile long beast wound through the countryside on the tracks laid down many years gone by. The tracks bordered the beautiful Mohawk Trail. Another throwback to a different time in America’s history. The river valley was a great place for all of us to cool off and have a swim (and wash) after the long days of racing and riding for Louis and Chessie. Angie and I haven’t done any proper mountain biking as of yet, but we have two town bikes so we can explore on two wheels after our mobile home is parked for a few days.

The racing bug has bitten Chessie as well, although not as infected as Louis, she is enjoying it with her new bike thanks to Danny’s Cycles Racing team for the more than generous hand-me-down.

We sit right now up The Hudson River Valley not far from a town called Hudson. It is a beautiful area and we are here emjoying the hospitality of Dan, a banjo-playing friend of ours we met at La Grangette in Montbrun. He is gigging in Austria and his parents are sunning in Greece, but we are sharing some time with the neighbours who live in the attached house next door, a couple from Brazil. So the international feeling from Montbrun still follows us here in America.

We all survived the family reunions and had an Italian food fest which followed us around for days in the form of left-overs.

The adventure continues, small niggles from Janey-Rae pop up once in a while, but we get through them and continue down the road. It’s all part of the bigger picture, I just need to keep that feeling alive while in the middle of a frustrating mechanical problem. Next stop is New Jersey to see some friends and break the bonds with the Northeast as we head towards The Carolinas with a stop in West Virginia first for another mountain-top race venue.

See ya up the road.

Peace, Joe

 

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Get Your Kicks on Route 66 (or elsewhwere;-)!

The Dexit (Diomede exit) took place on July 1st. It didn’t cause as much a fuss as the Brexit did, but there was a certain amount of upheaval involved.

Two days after we arrived my brother had a BBQ with some old college friends. I hadn’t seen some of them in 25 – 30 years. It’s always nice catching up with old friends, I mean that as in friends for a long time, not at all in reference to age;-)! The night included a walk to the beach to watch some fireworks. (The 4th of July was the next day).

On the way we to the beach we walked through a neighborhood which reminded me of well, reminded me where we were, a well-to-do suburb of NYC. Check out these houses and vehicles, although they pale in comparison to our current beast which combines both!!

Shortly after arriving I went grocery shopping with my brother in a store the size of Montbrun, even I got a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. I’m glad Angie wasn’t there, because I would have had to purchase a ten year supply of smelling salts. (The smallest package they would have sold;-)!

Times were busy in the first week, I found and bought an RV (Recreational Vehicle) otherwise known as a motorhome, camping car, house on wheels, etc… It’s all a bit overwhelming at first driving a 29 foot (9 meter or so) vehicle, but then the American roads are built for big. The gas mileage isn’t great, but we’ll been living in it, cooking in it, getting around with it, etc.. so payback will be pretty quick we hope!!! Even though the gas mileage is about a third as good as our van in France, the price of gas (petrol, essence) here is nearly a fourth cheaper so it’s a bit better than a wash. We are working out a few small glitches, but little by little settling in to the new lifestyle on the road.

I met up with a friend I met last year who works in a camping shop. He took us out on his dingy and we did some paddling on his paddleboard. It was a stinking hot day out on The Long Island Sound. Very beautiful despite the 90% humidity.

Louis has done some racing – he came in second in Vermont, and ripped off his derailleur in Upstate NY so did the whole race chainless running up the hills and flying down without pedaling. Yikes. (and he still came in 7th out of 9 in his category)!

We have caught up with friends and family, and have invaded the house of my brother and sister-in-law. I expect they are glad we can now sleep in the RV, although they have been very welcoming.

We went to Harlem last week to meet up with Angie’s cousin who is an actress. She was acting in an all female cast of Othello in the park. (Morningside Park, not Central Park). A few friends came along with us and a good time was had by everyone. Angie even got pulled up on stage, onto the grass, for her NY acting debut. ‘She done good,’ as they say in these parts!

We went to a Jazz club on 116th street in Harlem to eat afterwards. Meandering through Harlem to catch the train back up to Connecticut is always a fun experience, what a blast walking the streets of NY in the heat of summer, such an interesting juxtaposition to our life in Montbrun. “Vive la difference!!”

This weekend will be a weekend of reunions, so we’ll catch up with lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. The kids, and Angie I expect, will be overwhelmed, they never usually see 80 people they know all at once in Montbrun (except a good night at La Grangette;-), this weekend they’ll be meeting upwards of 80 people each day from both sides of the family, so not only will they see lots of folk, they’ll be related to them all!! Mostly Italian Americans as well, so food will be flowing and the volume will be up. Yee Hah!!!

My cousins Joe and Judy, whom I used to stay with in the 80’s when I rode my motorcycle to their house every year in what seems another lifetime ago, are coming in from California for one of the reunions. They have kindly bought Yankee tickets for a bunch of us, so we’ll be in The South Bronx watching the Yankees play live on Friday evening.

I hope you are all well. Although our journey is beginning joyously with family and friends all around us, our good friend Iain, had a terrible accident just about the same time we landed on our feet in America. He is in the hospital paralysed at the moment. So please keep him in your thoughts and prayers. He and his partner were just about to head into an adventure of their own, and a loose plank and an awkward fall changed the course of their lives, possibly for ever. We think of them every day, and know that life is precious, every single moment. So if any of you are reading this blog and get inspired in any way to make a change or take a journey of your own, no matter how short or long, live those dreams because we never know what waits for us in the next moment.

I do truly wish everyone of you reading this blog, health, happiness, and a wonderful journey of your own.

Much Peace, Joe.

Posted in a town, Children & Parenting, diversity, Education, Health & Well-being, life and death, Life on planet earth., small village or countryside?, The City, The City, a town, small village or countryside?, Transportation, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Protected Beauty Spot – Planet Earth

 

earth

Earth, our tiny planet, from space.

When we look at our tiny planet in our mind’s eye as a giant inexhaustible resource  that we can constantly drain on all it gives, and throw our waste onto its surface with no thought of the consequences of such actions, that tiny earth, the third planet from the sun, starts to look big and blurry like above. All we need to do is focus and realise the planet we live on is nothing more than a small village in the wider universe we are a part of then it all starts to come into sharper focus like below.

wind-energy

Wind energy.

 

This was all brought home to me recently, in the middle of all places, a secondary school mountain bike competition. How did this setting bring it into focus you might ask? It all happened when we sat down to eat.

We were all fortunate enough to be spending three days in The Mont Ventoux area of France. When a few hundred of us – competitors, teachers and families – all arrived we were told how the area was an area of outstanding beauty and  a natural park so we should treat it with respect and be careful to leave the area as we found it, clean, pristine and green. We all looked around in agreement and made sure to hammer home those sentiments to the adolescents all around us. After all these kids were mountain bikers and used to being in natural settings doing what they loved, so not despoiling the area came more naturally to them then maybe it would to others who aren’t as fortunate to participate in a sport that often finds them in the middle of our world’s vast natural beauty.

After the first day checking out the downhill and trials courses before the competition began we were yet again reminded that the area is a nature reserve and should be respected. As we sat down to dinner on that first evening though, handed to all of us were two disposable plastic plates, a throw-away plastic bottle and a wrapped plastic knife fork and spoon set with two paper packets inside – salt and pepper. I immediately thought to myself oh no, what a mixed message to be sending. Unfortunately it wasn’t just for the first meal that the plastic arrived for the well over 400 of us gathered for the French National Secondary School level competition, it continued in the same manner for all five meals over the next two days of competition.

Everyone respected the request of the organisers and dutifully scraped plates, sorted out uneaten food, and put the rubbish in the proper receptacles so it could be hauled off to somewhere else.

It wouldn’t have been a huge stretch to have given a more solid message to all of those young people over those three days that the protected beauty spot we were in is actually planet Earth, to respect one area only is not the answer.

landfill

We wouldn’t want to race here.

Yes it may have taken a bit more organising, but as my wife said after I returned with our son from the competition and we discussed the dilemma over dinner as a family, “All it would have taken was one person at the organising meeting to bring up the matter of plastic waste and a discussion hopefully would have ensued.”

The UNSS (Union Nationale du Sport Scolaire) like many extra-curricular activities in the school system here, is run on a tight budget, but I do not think the cost of just a bit more forethought and finding a way around the throw away plastic plates, bottles and cutlery would have broken the bank. In life we have to make tough decisions. To send such a mixed message to our youth on a planet with mounting environmental problems is much more costly. If the UNSS organisers of that event and all future ones can save thousands of plates over a three day period from heading to landfill and give a clear message to those who will be the future caretakers of the natural beauty spot we all inhabit, that would have been priceless!

Well done to all the young kids who were out there enjoying the beauty while pushing yourselves to your physical and mental limits. I also want to congratulate the organisers for putting on such an event encompassing competitors from all over France. I just hope that the youth of today will change the mindset that we have cultivated over too many years and know that this wonderful planet can and will keep on giving, but like any symbiotic relationship it needs to be treated just as kindly in return everywhere not only in certain regions or areas.

Ride on!

Peace, Joe

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Climate, crisis, Cycling, diversity, Education, Energy Consumption, Food, Health & Well-being, Life on planet earth., Natural resources, Recycle - Reuse - Rethink | 6 Comments