West Virginia with John and Christal

So, part two of our West Virginia trip was a visit with John and Christal, Nicky, Nathan, and big brother Victor.  Victor and Ada were born just about a month apart, so Christal and I had our first pregnancies together, three kabillion miles apart, and we have seen ridiculously little of each other in the mean time.  This was our big opportunity to meet each others’ two youngest children (each).

We began by exploring the totally cool sciencey (what’s the matter, spell-check, am I too playful for you?) stuff at the Clay Center in Charleston where the kids had lots of hands-on fun:

Water Balls at the Clay Center

Barton Boys at work

Clay Center Fun

Ada on the chairs at the Clay Center

Riding the chairs at the Clay Center

Giant Bubble at Clay Center

Then we followed our friends almost home, but detoured to an RV park instead where they very graciously paid our way for the night, and spent hours hanging out, eating, and playing with us.  It was perfect.  There was a creek yards away that we fully intended to investigate, but somehow forgot because we were too busy running around in the grass and making burgers.  Here’s my dear friend with my dear daughter:

Christal and Annabelle

And we couldn’t leave without running around somewhere wet, right?  Check out the super cool dragon at this park!

West Virginia Spray Park

We love and miss this family, and hold you in our hearts as we go:

Our Families

On the road again in gorgeous West Virginia, en route for Ohio:

West Virginia Road

One Week Deep

Last time I posted we were one week out, and now we’re one week in.  No blogs because that last week was SO CRAZY BUSY and this past week, well, we haven’t quite worked out traveling fulltime, parenting fulltime, being a fulltime touring musician and baby wrap retailer AND getting onto the computer.  I think we’re starting to get into a groove, though.  Because here I am, blogging at last!

Can I say that I am in love with traveling?  I love being by David’s side day in and out, I love the mountains we finally reached, I love having no money or time for restaurants…

Since we left home we have visited:

  • Athens, Georgia, which is an entirely charming place and I quite fancied it.  David played at a lovely Farmers Market and I missed it and got no pictures because we were in desperate need of a laundromat and I took the girls to a very nice one except that they make children quite welcome so long as they sat quietly in chairs with their hands folded meekly in their laps.  Luckily, we had our home with us, and hung out in the living room instead.  (It is the living room when you read books in it, and the kitchen when you are cooking and eating in it.  At night it is the girls’ bedroom).  David played again that day in a cozy bar with comfortable furniture, deep colors, and a couple of noisy kids in the back (mine).  It would have been a beautiful place to photograph but I left my camera in Benny, and I couldn’t wrestle all those kids in and out of there by myself!
  • Waynesville, North Carolina, where we visited our dear friends who are really family, the Porters.  A couple of long-haired parents, a bright and calculating eleven year old boy, and quickly-moving, largely-grinning seven year old twin girls are the Porters.  What a fun visit!  What a beautiful town, and a perfect farmhouse home with fields of crops, herb gardens and chickens.
  • Asheville, North Carolina, where David played on the street for the disinterested and interested alike, and befriended other local street performers.
  • Horseshoe, North Carolina, where we visited the Ewok villiage that is really an intentional community of yurts where our wonderful friends Dana, Eric, and Jocelyn have recently relocated themselves, and for whom we are really happy because this place was like a fairytale, only muddy and with less certain cell phone reception.
  • Beckley, West Virginia, where lives Robby with a Y, who let us live in Benny in the driveway of his house that is spilling art out the windows and trickling it through the amazing and beautiful yarden where we played and cooked out and made smores.  He took us on adventures every day, and also introduced Annabelle to her first horse and where we also saw other old and dear friends from when I was in college, and found my old house in Princeton and the children played on a grassy knoll on my old campus in Athens.

North Carolina

Our family in the hills, on a farm, chickens and sometimes cattle or a little donkey.  Two girls (seven years), one up and coming gentleman in a dollar bow-tie and two long-haired parents with a sense of humor.  Shouts and grins and home cooking and a flowering garden in a Blue Ridge Mountain frame.  We had such a good time and miss you already and are so happy for the spot you found and the life you’re making and all the dancing, fun, and frolic–and thanks for lending us your hat:

Busking for our daily bread in daily Asheville, rippling with street performers and they invite you to join their guild for one evening only and families are out wandering and the streets are lined with shops.

Visiting with Dana and Eric and Jocelyn in their intentional village where they live like Ewoks in the trees and up the hillside in round huts using ancient Mongolian technology and intentional innovations.  Stone steps set in the hills, bunnies hopping, shaped clay and clay-clad feet, a creek leading the way to their front door, beautiful wooden patterns in lattice like a pie, and a kitchen decked out with functional art:

Back to Waynesville for an evening gig in comfortable Blue Ridge Books, while attendees dine and candles flicker:

And a Waynesville tradition, the four times a year clog and dance and everyone joins in:

Lake Junaluska and the geese and ducks and swans and Porters:

Rose lined walk with my beautiful blossom, scent of Summer wafting over the lake, enticing bees:

Swinging way up in the children’s weeping willow:

And just because Waynesville is small enough to find your family at the lake on the way home from errands, you can sneak onto the path ahead of them and hide on the hillside to surprise them:

Athens, Georgia

Outdoor Farmers Market, long skirts and necklaces made of holy seeds, playing in the sun, then a drizzle, paid in tips and the farmers’ bounty:

Athens Bounty

Back room in a hip bar, orange curtains and stuffed animals that used to be alive.  Cool college cats in overstuffed furniture that was loosing its stuffing, noisy kids (mine) in a carved wooden booth, David’s intense lyrics and chords and an atmosphere that seemed smoky but wasn’t.  Wish I had my camera to capture the music and the laughter…this is after:

Kids Crashed

One week to takeoff!

Counting Down!

  • Roof vent cover replaced.
  • Roof painted (twice) with sealant.
  • Benny checked out with mechanic.
  • Benny checked out again with electrical mechanic.
  • Birth certificates acquired for everyone.
  • Passport sent for.
  • Drivers license renewed.
  • Car sold.
  • Work van sold.
  • Utilities canceled as of 17 June.

Still to do:

  • pack every last thing in Benny except for…
  • things taken to charity thrift store and…
  • things stored with friends and family.
  • Give away pantry items that don’t fit in Benny.
  • Clean house.
  • Test roof for leaks.
  • Replace spare tire.
  • Fix kids’ window.
  • Replace one light fixture with fan/light combo.
  • Change oil.
  • Find vegetable oil to fill both tanks to capacity.
  • Install toilet lock and oven lock for Annabelle’s benefit!
  • Get box made to fit on hitch haul with veggie oil tank.
  • Pack tools in box.
  • Post things for sale on Craigslist and if they don’t sell by next week…
  • Add things to pile for charity.
  • Find farms to stay at en route.
  • Plan visits with friends along route.
  • Locate state and national parks and forests to camp in.
  • Locate good, cheap RV parks to stay in once a week for recharging batteries and dumping tanks.
  • Identify attractions to see along route.
  • Find books to read with Ada about the places we’ll be visiting.
  • Send posters and other promotional material to venues.
  • Continue booking shows farther North and then along return route.
  • Get PA speakers fixed.
  • Install Quickbooks on laptop and set up two businesses.
  • Copy CDs onto computer and store CDs.
  • Scan copies of birth certificates and other documents into computer and…
  • sell scanner.
  • Transfer contents of computer to laptop and…
  • Sell computer.
  • Change address of LLC.
  • Register new address with City of Clearwater, bank, and other business entities.
  • File change of address with post office.
  • Supply parents with several postage paid envelopes to send us our mail in monthly.
  • Pay insurance and phone/internet up through October.
  • Bring beloved kitty Throckmorton to new (wonderful) family—our dear friends who will love and feed her until we come back for her.

Why is my second list so much longer? And only a week left—yikes!

Everything but the kitchen sink!

This is our last week.  Way too much to do.  I’m waiting for David to get home from his last day of work (!) and then I’m hoping he can post a bunch of stuff on Craigslist WHILE watching the kids so I can make dinner and simultaneously pack our kitchen into Benny.

Our Kitchen in the house
A picture of our kitchen from this one time when it was clean.

Once I’ve packed our kitchen into Benny, I’ll know what’s left.  Pantry items will be donated to our parents or thrown away.  Fridge items will stay in the fridge until we leave, and then anything left will probably be thrown away.  I hope to use it all.  Dishes, pans and containers that don’t go in Benny will be donated.

Theoretically I could get the whole kitchen done tonight (I’ve been working on it for months, so it’s not THAT impressive), but only if David comes home soon because it’s almost 6pm at 8pm, I start getting kids to bed . . .

June 17th…

…is the day we leave Clearwater!  We’re getting really excited and have way too much to do!

So, come June 17th, what will be doing, exactly?

We will be following David’s gigs in our motorhome, as that’s our purpose for going on the road.  But I plan to make a list of things I really want us to do and see on the way so we can plan the tour to allow for those things, which will include but not be limited to:

  • visiting Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg
  • exploring some caverns complete with stalagmites and stalactites
  • day trip to NYC
  • day trip to Washington DC
  • going through the Athens/Princeton WV area
  • visiting a whole bunch of precious people who are scattered along our general route

We have a museum membership that has an excellent reciprocal program around the nation, meaning that we get in free to kids museums and science museums in all the states we’re traveling through.

We also plan to spend our days learning about the unique culture of the different states, cities and towns we traverse, visiting their tourist highlights, participating in their festivals and events, and finding examples of their industry (such as fishing piers or maple syrup taps). I’m also very interested in taking Ada (my 6 year old) to sites of historical significance, such as Gettysburg.

We plan to spend most of our time outside of the RV when we’re not driving or sleeping. We’ll cook meals ourselves, but that can be done outside, or else one of us can take the kids outside while the other does food prep. Nights spent at Walmart may find us parked at a public playground while dinner is made, retiring to the parking lot only at bed time. I could even make dinner while David and the kids buy groceries, and then we could eat in Benny in the parking lot… Other than cooking, our days will be split up by periods of driving as well as errands in new towns and fun explorations. I anticipate keeping very busy.

We plan to visit family and friends all along our route and we plan to make new friends, too!

Yes, between waking up, eating breakfast, driving, doing errands/exploring the town, having lunch, driving, doing a fun thing (museum/hike/playground/farm/statue of liberty), having dinner, playing music, working (blogging/customer correspondence/booking gigs/playing gigs/logging sales/facebook), and daily chores (dishes/laundry/bathing everyone), I expect us to have busy days and fall into bed with loud plops each night.

Planning: electricity

Solar Shower

We want solar panels, but we want to leave even more.  No more waiting for things!  So it looks like this first trip will be sans solar power.  So what will we use for power?

Occasionally we will pay to park at a campground with hookups, but mostly not.  Occasionally we may stay in the driveway of a friend or relative who lets us plug into their home, but mostly not.

Our stove and oven run on propane.  We will see how little propane usage we can get away with. We will barbecue when we can, using wood where available.  I’ll have to use propane (and the generator) to make my daily smoothies with an electric hand blender, and I’ll need propane to bake our staples like granola and bread.  I should probably invest in (or learn to make) a solar oven for such things… Cooking outside would also help us cut down on the heat in the motorhome and so cut down on our AC needs.

Speaking of heat, we will park in the shade, keep the curtains closed (or windows open), and hopefully spend more time in the more Northerly states to cut down on cooling costs. We’ll be getting some kind of fan or fans to help us through.  Fan recommendations are welcome.  We really need one for while we’re driving, too, as the dash AC doesn’t quite blow on the kids in the back.  Maybe one cigarette-lighter fan for driving, and one battery 0pperated for when we’re parked?  I wonder if we can charge AA batteries by plugging our battery charger into our little cigarette-lighter inverter while driving.  Hmmm…

That inverter will hopefully supply all of our cell phone and laptop charging needs while we drive.  We have one like this.

Water heater?  Cold showers are difficult to luxuriate in and would certainly help us keep the water usage down!  And anyway, we have my nifty solar shower that will heat 5 gallons for free on a sunny day.  The girls and I tested it out recently in our yard and it was a hit.  We started the project late in the day and it didn’t have time to get warm, but it was Florida in April, and a cold shower outside was perfect.  I’m thinking about getting an inflatable pool so the girls can use the shower outside when we’re camping and splash in the pool, too.

Laundry?  I’ve already posted about my non-electric washing machine.  The dryer is electric, but as it only takes one or two minutes, it is minimal.  Laundromats will be available if we decide we need them.

Don’t worry about how we’ll have to rough it, though.  The truth is that if it’s too rough, we can always run the generator more.  We won’t know for sure how much electricity we’ll demand until we try it!

Planning: overnights

Then there’s the question of camping/rent.  Leaving David’s job means living on a lot less.

As such, we’ll be looking for free camping as often as we can.  Our preference is to find lovely forests to camp in, because that’s where we’d like to be anyway.  Sometimes public lands can be found where you can camp for free in the wilderness (sans hookups and amenities) and this is called boondocking.  As in, you’re out in the boondocks.  The government calls it “dispersed camping.”

We’ll do that whenever we can, and it may be a whole lot easier to find such lands when we go west.  I’m not sure how often we’ll score a forest on our trip up the East Coast.

We will also be looking for family farms that will allow us to overnight free and we will happily purchase fresh food from them in the morning. Isn’t this a great idea: Harvest Hosts As much as we will enjoy waking up in forests and going for hikes, we will also enjoy waking up on a family owned working farm!

Sometimes there’s no forest and no farm, and we will be liberally using Walmart, Cracker Barrel, and other such establishments for their free RV parking.  These will not provide a bucolic playland outside our door, but we’ll not spend much time there, perhaps spending dinner at a playground (I can cook while David watches the kids on the swings) and retiring to the giant chain parking lot only when we’re ready to sleep!

Planning: the Drive

We’ll drive 2 – 4 hours per day, but probably not in longer than a 2 hour block. I think this is realistic with the kids. We can drive for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple in the afternoon without anyone feeling like they’ve been in the car all day. In between we’ll go to the park, the library, the grocery store, the laundromat, the zoo, the museum, or Monticello, and any one of those will be an adventure because it’ll never be the same grocery store twice.

We plan to move every day, not staying anywhere more than one night, but because we might move only two hours down the road, I hope that we will still find ourselves feeling unhurried and getting a good feel for the places we pass through.  This maiden voyage will last just a few months, after which we will undoubtedly have learned a lot about:

  • whether we like living in an RV
  • how far we’re comfortable moving at a time
  • how often we want to move
  • what kind of roads we’re interested in traveling on
  • what kind of campgrounds we prefer
  • how to find campgrounds
  • how to find vegetable oil
  • what kind of foods/style of cooking lend themselves to our lifestyle

After learning all those things, we will be able to plan our next trip accordingly!