Bathrooms On the Road

restroom sign

When I was in India, a roadtrip involved stops at stores on the side of the highway with outdoor bathrooms: concrete stalls with a concrete floor with a drain in the middle, and a faucet (like the one you hook your hose up to on the side of your house) in one wall.  Toilet paper is strictly bring-your-own (and only bother if you’re a silly Westerner). That’s really all you need.

Life in Benny is not quite so . . . um, exotic.  Benny has a bathroom with a flushing toilet and a sink with running water.  We can stop and use it any time.  The catch is that when our black water tank nears full, we have to find a dump station and we pay to empty it.  So in the interest of budgeting, we try to use public facilities as available and save our toilet for when we have no other options (and for one year old Annabelle who uses a potty seat on Benny’s toilet, and is not inspired in public restrooms).

We grocery shop almost every day, so that’s a good place to use a bathroom. If we stay overnight in a campground, there are usually public restrooms.  And of course the Walmart overnight comes with a bathroom, too.

Hardest place to find a toilet?  New York City, where we didn’t have Benny with us so couldn’t exercise that option at all.  “There’s a playground,” I naively piped up.  “There’s always a bathroom near a playground!”  Not in NYC.  And shops don’t let you use theirs, either.  Suddenly we understood why George Costanza got rich by designing an app to find the nearest toilet.  Where do you find a toilet in New York City.  At the Port Authority where you catch the Staten Island Ferry.

If you ever need to find a dump station, however, there are apps for that, and a couple of helpful websites:

http://www.rvdumps.com/dumpstations/

http://www.sanidumps.com/

Columbus Ohio

We went to Columbus to see people we love: Zach (and his new bride Bethany) and Michael. We were only there for two days. We sat together in parks, barbecued in Mike’s yard, withstood a power outage, played music in the Short North, and visited Bethany’s family farm.  It was short and sweet. It was a wonderful benefit to living the nomadic life, because its something we couldn’t do before and lifetime friends are more important to us than routine and stability.

Zach serenades Bethany in the park

David Rosenfield busking in Columbus.
Annabelle took it upon herself to sell Son of Ojito CDs on the street.

Son of Ojito CDs

Mike and Cassidy

Ada’s Birthday

Birthday girl with seven candles

Ada is seven years old and we had such an amazing time celebrating her birthday last night with family and this morning with friends!

This is what we love about being back and what we missed when we were away. It is what makes us continue to call Clearwater home even when we don’t mean to.

Boston

David Rosenfield in Boston MA

Boston was fantastic. The city has a strong and endearing personality and we quite fancied each other. Firstly, these New England cities are not really built for Rvs. The lanes are skinny, the quarters cramped, little parking, few lots, low clearance underpasses, one way streets up and down steep hills with the parked cars on either side threatening at every moment to encroach upon the bit of pavement in between which calls itself a driving lane. Side mirrors beware!

Yet do-able. David drove us to Cambridge the first day and we found a parking spot on the street right away. But after a dead battery, the discovery that AAA in Massachuesetts does not cover Recreational Vehicles (and what’s the point of having a membership that doesn’t cover an RV if an RV is your only vehicle?), paying out of our very slim pocket for a jump start, hurrying up and waiting for the tow truck to arrive to do the jump start so we can then drive Benny to an AutoZone to charge up our batteries before they close in—yikes, 12 minutes!

After all that, and nightfall, David was soured on Boston. Please, I say, we have to at least see where the police and the traffic made way for ducklings! And, sucker for good literature that he is, David agreed and drove us to the Boston Public Gardens and we loved Boston!

Again, we found street parking. It took driving up and down the streets for a few minutes but when we found it, it was just across the street from the entrance with the ducklings—the very corner illustrated in the book. So we enjoyed our day, and drove quite a ways out to find a Kmart we could park in that night because Boston is not the sort of place to have stores with big parking lots and when we did pause in the big parking lot of the grocery store we patronized, signs were posted limiting our stay to two hours, and only because we were customers.

And, while Boston was do-able, we decided to take a bus the next day. We left Benny at Kmart in the prestigious company of Rihanna’s tourbus which had also found refuge in this outskirt of Boston after her performance in the city the night before. And the rest of us hopped a bus into Boston and hopped off in the historical district. It may be worth noting that this was our first family bus ride.

parking with Rihanna
parking with Rihanna

We gave ourselves a tour of sites with historical significance, listened in on some tour guides, read some gravestones, and ate lunch on the grass. A well dressed, older couple were full and gave their last piece of pizza to us and we took it (David and Annabelle split it). How is this different, David wondered, from when the scuzzy guy at a concert offered us the rest of his popcorn and we declined? It just was different, that’s all.

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Sitting on Paul Revere's doorstep
Sitting on Paul Revere's doorstep

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Old North Church
Old North Church
Garden outside the Old North Church
Garden outside the Old North Church
Ada and Annabelle with Paul Revere
Ada and Annabelle with Paul Revere

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Balcony from which the Declaration of Independence was Read
Boston first heard the Declaration of Independence read from this balcony. Can you imagine the chills running up and down their spines?
lunch on the grass in Boston
Ada took our picture

And after all that history, we were ready for the Boston Public Gardens again so we walked to the Gardens and David whisked out his guitar and busked in a thoroughfare while the rest of us played on the adjacent playground and a drizzle joined us. Then we made our way through the drizzle back to the bus stop where we rode the bus the wrong way to the end of the line and back again, safe and sound, to Benny. Rhianna was gone, but we spent a second night, hit Trader Joe’s in the morning, and bid adieu to Boston.

David Rosenfield busking at the Boston Public Gardens
David busking at the Boston Public Gardens

playing at the Boston Public Gardens

playing at the Boston Public Gardens

Coast of Maine

David wearing Annabelle, with Ada in Maine
We loved Maine, and the Wonderland Trail in Acadia National Park was all we had hoped Maine would be:

A trail through the woods is dotted with wild berry bushes but you have to keep a sharp eye out to spot the tiny raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. It isn’t a feast, but it is a sweet taste, and Annabelle learns a lot about which berries we eat and which are “not for picking.”

I tell her that some of the berries “aren’t good for us, they’re for the birds to eat.” Reliable Ada pipes up with “And the fairies!”

As we get closer to the beach (but don’t yet know it), wild rose bushes become abundant with plump and healthy rosehips mimicking the form of your local innkeeper’s shy but buxom daughter. The bushes are everywhere, as are their hips, and the remaining roses nestle in their leafy nests like pink jewels in a wildwood crown.

And suddenly the woods fall back and you’re on a pebbly beach and the pebbles grow until they are flat slabs and round boulders couching sparkling pools that each forms a whole universe to the seaweed and snails and coral growing there…

Ada builds stone alters while Annabelle climbs, sometimes two-legged, sometimes four-legged, and peers into the pools Pooh Bear style: knees bent, bottom stuck out, leaning too far forward until inevitably becoming a part of the wet landscapes she is observing with a splash and cute red lips making the letter “o” with surprise.  This happens enough times that her clothes are soaking wet and we lay them out on the rocks to dry.

My shoes and socks become equally soggy after the third time ending up in the ocean up to my ankles to snatch at the naked and speedy little imp whose mission has become losing herself in the untamed ocean waves.  So Ada and I take off our shoes and socks, leaving them high enough up on the beach to dry out, only when we come back for them, we’re lucky they haven’t floated away in the rising tide.

David and Cassidy are far off on the rocks that jutt out into the ocean.  I send the girls after them and we’re lucky when our speed reaches snail pace in a forwardly direction, but whenever we’re close enough to shout, David urges me to come see the tremendously beautiful view just around the next bend that outdoes the one I’ve just accomplished.  So we press onward, careful on the wet rocks, and the girls don’t care what’s ahead because they’re loving it where we are.

Plenty of rocks to choose from when I sit down to nurse and when David takes Cassidy out of the wrap, Annabelle is suddenly done exploring and wants to be wrapped up and since we only brought one wrap, we’re just as happy to have the heavy one wrapped, and she stays that way all the way back along the rocks, through the woods, and right into our livingroom parked in the parking lot that is really just a wide shoulder of the road.

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beautiful Maine coast

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nursing on a rock in Maine

my family on the rocks in Maine

Up With the Sun

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We wanted to be on Cadillac Mountain at 5:32am when the sun would rise and hit that point before any other place in the US. Cadillac Mountain is in Acadia National Park in Maine. We, however, were outside Acadia National Park, spending the night in a Walmart 45 minutes away.

So, we woke at 4am, moved the children out of their bed and into ours so that we could dis-assemble their bed to install car seats.

We used the bathroom, nursed the baby, and took down the curtains that cover the windshield at night.

We placed the children in their two carseats and one booster seat, and started the engine before their peeps could become wails.

45 minutes to the park and15 minutes up the mountain, throw on socks and layers and pull our hoods over our ears, everybody grab a child or two and wrap them in your warm arms and out Benny’s door to climb the rocks that jutted toward the rosy sky.

Silhouettes before sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, Maine

If you’d told me there would be 200 people there, I probably would have skipped it. I had pictured a remote and personal moment communing with the wilder, less reasonable elements of nature. Just my family, and maybe a few others, champions facing the goliath of the rising sun, ambassadors representing our species in the greater arena of our solar system.

Instead, as Benny pulled in we saw a rocky mountainside lined with human silhouettes and instead of feeling let down, the sight was welcoming: like coming home to your family, like discovering travelers speaking your mother tongue in a foreign land, or discovering unexpected company at a remote oasis on a wide and empty desert.

And we weren’t champions or ambassadors, but pilgrims, both deserving of and privileged to witness what was both miraculous and mundane and to do so in the company of others who might be making the same discoveries or totally different ones, and without the presence of whom we might not have recognized the magic in the moment. Some stumbled out of cars, some jogged up the mountain. Someone sat on a rocky wall making reverent chords on a guitar, and we could have been gathered on a beach around a bonfire, but we were on a mountain at morning twilight.

So we saw the day begin, and there were families, like us, clutching each other for warmth, and many people were in pajamas, several with blankets wrapped around them, forming peaks over their heads and transforming them into unspecified native people, all natives of earth, all stardust (million year old carbon).

Acadia National Park, Cadillac Mountain twilight

First Sun, Cadillac Mountain

Sunrise!

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Cincinnati with Friends

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Amanda and Gwydion are two of my closest and dearest friends from college, and now they have spawned a third to create a lovely triumvirate who I wish I could hug daily, but currently don’t.  I was, however, thrilled to get to hug them for a few days, to slip into the old familiarity, banter and laughter, and our families are perfect for each other.  They should get married.  And have children.

Speaking of which, Amanda is going to do that soon, which makes me wonder what the four person version of a triumvirate is?

We were there over the Fourth of July, so of course we did that:

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And the park and playground:

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And best of all the creek, and our friends Becky and Steve joined us, too:

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Cincinnati Zoo

Thank you, John and Christal for the wonderful gift: tickets to the zoo!  Annabelle hasn’t been to a zoo since she was a baby and she LOVED it! We all loved it, but it was Annabelle’s first time seeing animals bigger that a pet–can you say rhinoceros?

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And the best part? Ada found flowers named Serena (her best friend)!

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I Know Why the Gypsies Dance

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This morning I stepped out of Benny to sunshine sparkling on the line of energetic automobiles motoring along the highway and behind them, the less energetic treeline of a Northern Forest. We played outside on the grass at the Saturday parking lot of the Warren County Municipal Center where the police let us overnight.

When Cassidy fell asleep, I brought out my washing: a small blue bucket of water, my equally blue rapid washer (which is the general size and shape of a plunger), and a small satchet of dried soapnut berries. Laundry was pleasant with all the sunshine and the air was neither warm nor cool, and the girls collected acorns and dandelions and fashioned acorn cap bowls and plates from wide leaves for their fairy picnic.

I washed every wet diaper we had, and then the three shirts in our laundry bag, laying the articles on the sunny grass and hanging some on our side mirrors to blow gently and effortlessly dry.

And as I enjoyed my morning activity, I realized that we are gypsies. Without contrivance, we have assumed the role. And I feel like I understand something about gypsies now. We are nomadic because we want to be. We have few possessions for the freedom of it. We don’t want your jobs or your storage units. We don’t want a place to call home because we have a family to call home and everywhere we go we set out our things and make that spot our home.

I hope we don’t look like a bigger version of every city’s shopping cart ladies, because we’re not down on our luck or homeless. We are so lucky that the whole world is our home. We’re not in a laundromat because we prefer it this way, where the sunshine sparkles and recent rains have left mushrooms. I’m enjoying washing diapers in the parking lot of the New York State Supreme Court. Everywhere we go, our dashboard is lined with drying diapers because it works perfectly, and if we change our minds, we’ll quick get a job and a mortgage and a high efficiency dryer.

Some might not want us stopping on the side of their road, hanging clothes to dry in front of God and everybody. They might think we’re dirty, or uneducated but I’ve memorized my formulae, my As, and Bs and Cs, but what I learned came long ago and not from such as these…(Buffy St Marie) and the Western habit of daily showering is slightly ridiculous anyway.

So if you stumble upon our camp in a living or paved forest, and peek at us doing our washing to the beat of our tambourines, you can tiptoe past for fear of being cursed, or you can come say hello and we’ll become temporary friends as we have with others who stop to admire our vintage rig and regale us with their own tales of travels, frugality, self-sufficiency, music, camping and searching through this country.

Ada

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She’ll be seven years old in just one month and she is the most kind, thoughtful, sweet and caring girl I could have hoped for. When I ask her if she will get my sandals, hold my purse, or hold her brother, she responds with a sweet, “Of course!”

Annabelle adores her sister and chats with her and calls to her constantly, and Ada is nearly always willing to answer her, play with her, or read to her. In fact, she loves having Annabelle as a playmate and spends a lot of her time describing to me the very detailed make-believe that the two of them are engaged in, what roles they are playing, how their outfits are appropriate, etc.

Ada’s world is better than ours because it is so heavily decorated with imagination. Her fantasies are charming and important to her. They came with her when we left the home for the motorhome.

You know how noteworthy people, when they relate their childhood stories, always say of their extraordinary childhoods that they just thought it was normal because it was all they knew? Well, I have a new theory that kids will think what they are doing is normal, even if they have known something else. Ada lived in the same house her whole life until now, but this fulltime RV business hasn’t tripped her up in the least. I think that at her age, she is still living in the NOW. Whatever is happening now is normal, even if it never happened before and it’s not happening to anyone else.

Maybe it’s because a young child’s world is so often out of their control. What is a mundane trip to the bank for me, comes out of the blue when I announce we’re going, and suddenly she’s swept up in putting away books, putting on shoes, and getting in her booster seat. Just like when I announce it’s time to get out and see Niagara Falls. What seemed obvious and predictable to me isn’t to her because I don’t always remember to share my plans and thoughts with her. So in a way, unpredictable is normal.

Ada has been looking forward to our getting on the road, and now she is enjoying the millions of stars in the black night on the Catskills, the Tansies on a Vermont roadside, the people we are visiting and those we are meeting everywhere, and every yellow car we see on the way. She is writing letters to friends and family about the highlights, which are never the ones I expect, and she is planning with eager anticipation a reunion with her best friend again when we go through Florida.