epochs

This trip is comprised of epochs.

First, there was the California section. Then the cross-country section. That was followed by the Florida section, which is itself a subset of the American South section, the section we’re still in.

I did not plan the trip this way. Instead the segments define themselves as it becomes obvious that we’re transitioning out of something into something else. Not only are the transitions very apparent once they begin showing themselves, but they’re typically accompanied, at least for me, with a growing anticipation, and thus desire, to move on to “the next thing.”

You’ll remember, perhaps, how I yearned to finally breach the borders of California and move into the Southwest. Or how I looked forward to getting to Florida for Christmas as we headed east.

Now, I’m ready to be out of “The South™.” It’s not that I’ve disliked our time here, or anything, after all it was the best place to be this time of year, it’s just that I can feel our time here growing to a close and I’m looking forward to new places and things.

As we move out of Tennessee, into Kentucky, and later onto the Mid-Atlantic and New England, I can feel the transition. I mean, Kentucky was ultimately a Union state, right?

Anyway, ready to be past the y’alls and cellphone holsters and sweet tea and Confederate flags and gas station five-for-one sales on cans of dip. Ready to go some places we’ve not been and see some stuff we’ve not seen.

Peace.

beasts of burden

Opted to make the last two days “tweeners,” purposely not moving to the next state park or waterfall or whatever and instead putting down stakes in a couple Walmart parking lots for a two nights.

Did this mostly to be able to burn rainy days in a populated area where we had non-RV indoor options during the day, but also so we could hit a church on the way out of town Sunday.

Walmart camping is never the best camping, but it’s free and I have to admit that convenient access to any food or ware under the sun is nice, not to mention they usually have cheap gas attached. It’s not quiet or picturesque but it feels safe enough. Plus, you don’t feel the generator shame you do in the quieter picturesque places.

Everytime we go in, though, I can’t help but imagine us as a livestock… crowding up to the trough where our feed has been heaped for us. Conditioned to come here and restore our energy so we can go do another day’s work and earn another day’s food. Trapped.

Hugs.

thinking

Happy Friday from a Chattanooga Walmart parking lot. We crossed over the border and out of Georgia again, this time for the final time.

I’ve wanted to do a follow-up post to talk about what I’ve learned on the trip, a closer study on what exactly I like about the things I like about the trip, and how what I’ve learned is changing, or will change, me. But it’s hard. Below is a beginning, maybe. Let’s just start all sudden and jarring-like:

When talking about the “how will this year change you?” question with a good friend, she keeps asking me what qualities of family life on the road I want to ensure we continue to have upon our return-to-normal. The other morning I finally decided to spend some real time in consideration on this, and captured the following top three. Maybe they’re worded here more as desired changes that’ll bring about qualities, but like I said it’s a beginning:

  • More unscheduled time & a less hectic calendar
  • A better balance of “just us” family time & “with others” social time
  • Financial independence & early retirement

Underneatho those top-three I then thought about what I know about me and what that knowing means in terms of things I should be doing. I don’t know how this really fits with the above, but feel like they are some kind of qualifiers:

  • I emulate those whom I spend the most time with, so I should surround myself with those who act the way I want to act.
  • I give the majority of my attention to those whom I spend the most time with, so I should spend the most time with those who most need/deserve my attention.
  • I realize that the underlying “woes” driving the three desired-changes/qualities above are not solely environment-driven, but are driven by behaviors innate in me. I.e. I’ll tend to over-schedule and short the family on time because that’s how I do or how I’m conditioned. To fix this, I know I can’t simply change things (jobs, scenery, etc.), I also have to change me. That’s harder.

So, there’s that. The first three are maybe goals I think, the second three are things to be aware of in pursuit of the goals.

Until I have more time, goodnight.

southern hospitality

17° tonight. In bed already, not for sleep but because it’s warm and comfy.

This morning we broke camp early to drive half an hour into town for an appointment at the post office to renew the kids’ passports. I’d known that everyone’s but mine was set to expire before the trip would be over, but I wasn’t sure if I’d make our route through Canada or not. Being pretty certain now that, on the way West from Canada, we’ll go over the Great Lakes vs. under them, we needed everyone to be valid.

Anyway, we tried to walk in and do it in Charlotte a couple weeks ago, but the place was packed and we stood no chance. So I made an appointment near where I thought we’d be and just resolved to be there. Worked out well, got everything handled in less than an hour.

Since we were going to be in town, and out of the RV for a while, I made an appointment to get the oil changed at the same time. Through the power of Google Maps, I was able to find a shop within walking distance of the post office. We pulled the rig into the shop yard just after 8am, spoke briefly with the mechanic, and then set out in our heavy coats for the less than a mile morning walk.

On the way to the garage, we made sure to drive the route we planned on walking, just to make sure it wasn’t longer than Google thought and to see if it had sidewalks and crosswalks and was generally safe. All looked good, there was only one short stretch, maybe a hundred and fifty yards, where we’d be walking along the road without a sidewalk, in the grass shoulder.

And wouldn’t you know it, we were about halfway along that section when an oncoming car slowed, switched on its emergency flashers, and pulled over next to us. “Y’all need a ride?,” a young man asked from the passenger seat, a young woman driving. I politely said we were only going another block and were all good, but that I appreciated the offer. And I did, appreciate the offer. Very much.

People are good. Everywhere.

rideshare culture

Mountain town, north Georgia. Tourist town, but still, an out of the way place, two hours from the nearest international airport, nestled in the hills, formerly a lumber town, on the railway.

Not the place I’d expect to run into a Kenyan refugee author or former member of Nelson Mandela’s inner circle. But hey, what is this trip for if not too smash all my stupid “expectations,” read: biases, to stupid bits.

Gordon was an older white guy, sightly plump with a tinge of Georgia in his speech. The only Lyft driver I saw in the area, and even then a fifteen minute drive to get us for a ten minute ride into town. Like I always do, I began chatting. I almost always get around to, “So are you from this area?,” and when I did he mentioned spending most of his working years in South Africa.

So what’s next in conversation? I asked if he speaks Afrikaans. “No,” he chuckled, “My wife does better than me. I took lessons for six weeks but the teacher kicked me out. Said my accent was to thick and I talk too slow.” We laugh. “So,” I say, “What found you in South Africa?,” expecting him to perhaps talk about missionary work or business.

“I worked for Nelson Mandela, traveled all around with him. I was in charge of a project to try and create a black middle class. We’d get folks setup with seed money, get them a business started, and get them some custom. Or we’d lobby existing business to start South African branches and hire locally.”

Our Lyft driver in Helen Georgia… a member of Mandela’s cabinet, heading a key anti-apartheid initiative. He recounted whistle-stop international tours, meeting with celebrities and dignitaries. Sharaun and I got out of the car and just looked at each other. Wow. You never know.

Yakob came to the US from Kenya, where he lived as a refugee from some war torn country he didn’t name. An African Muslim, he speaks six languages and is a published author. His upcoming book is a theological study on the commonalities between the God worshipped by Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

He was spurred to write this book after his brother was killed in a religiously motivated terrorist attack. Specifically, his brother was murdered in the San Bernardino husband & wife mass shooting a while back. Yakob paused and thought out loud, “He came to this country for safety and peace and was in the end killed by terrorism.” Wow.

The world is out there, people have seen and done and been inspired and motivated by amazing things. We just have to encounter and learn from them.

Peace.

the comeback

I’ll just do the thing.

Tense and stretch every muscle into armor. Mentally align each fiber into hammered steel. Down to the gut, balled tight like a fist. Wield a thick shield of witty stories and broad smiles and questions to get them talking about them. Not betraying the steely underneath, a relaxed and easy body language, take up space, swing, be limber. In speech it’s kind softness and passionate excitement with a tinge of childlike wonder optimism, designed to both endear and engender the desire to protect.

Yes, a defensive masterpiece.

On the offense it’s knowing what you need to know, saying the right things in the right tone at the right times. Body language radiating confidence, swaggering with a dragon’s tail, eyes reinforcing. Throw the right switches at the right moments: be serious, be funny, be caring – you’re getting it now. Do it all with obvious humility, be vulnerable, have things to learn and know everyone is better than you at something.

But the best bit, the real gravy, is that the defense does most of the work. They’re gonna love you and look out for you. And then you can go home and sink into to softness of family and it’ll all be worth it.

Until next time, peace.

smooth sailing

I love it when an RV travel day goes right.

If you stop for gas there are wide lanes, roomy curves, and open islands with fast pumps that have high, or no, cut-off limits. You get out for under $100 and are back on the road quickly without scraping the bike rack on a steep driveway exit.

The propane fill place is easy to find and someone tends to you right away. They don’t make you shut off all the appliances and have everyone get out of the car. They run the pump at speed and you get your fifteen or so gallons fast and efficient…

Maybe you make a Walmart run. Wait who am I kidding, you absolutely make a Walmart run. You split up and knock items of the shared-in-the-cloud shopping list, meeting at the front for check out. The kids help unload and put-away without getting in the way.

Google Maps doesn’t take you on some stupid-tight, low-clearance side street to help you save 2min travel time, and the route is cruise control friendly.

Yeah, kick back and roll. Love you.