Sunday, January 31, 2016

2016 - Already Playing Catch-Up

Welcome back and happy 2016 everyone! It has been a 6 week holiday hiatus from the blog - have you been as busy as we have?!  In the meantime, we have loved spending Christmas time with my parents & sister on the gulf side of FL, then meandering across to the Atlantic side to see some of J’s family.  On New Years day we found out that our friend John Nelson passed away in Singapore.  In the early hours of Christmas Eve, Nels stepped in to protect a female friend who was getting punched by some Malay guys. He sustained a head injury and after 1 week in the ICU, he slipped away. It’s been a really sad time for our waterski & stunt show fam… Nels loved to travel, and he could’ve filled a book with the cool places he’s been.  So I dedicate this humble, rambling tale today to him. 

So where did J leave off in our tales? I think we had just arrived to Ocean City, MD.  I was so excited because we had decided to have our first “Hotel Holiday”. One night of blissfully large beds and hot showers booked with our United Airlines Miles, at The Dunes Manor Hotel.  The Dunes was right on the beach, and the main strip of Ocean City. They kindly let us check in at 11am and gave us a room on the top floor looking out at the beach.  We enjoyed the beautiful beach views for a few excited minutes, before heading back to the truck. We were meeting Ron, one of the owners of Walk On Water SUP, also the man behind Evolve SUPs. Through Instagram, I’d gotten a big crush on their yoga board.  The deck was a bamboo veneer, with pink or teal rails, lime accents, and best of all, an all-natural cork deckpad. Completely obsessed! And Ron was kind enough to sit down with me and tell me all about it.  We hung out at the shop for a couple hours. I think J really enjoyed hearing about how the boards are designed, their composition, and what that meant for performance. Ron is local to Ocean City area and it sounds like he has lived in the Atlantic his whole life. A surfer, shop owner, and SUP designer he was a real wealth of knowledge.  And interestingly enough, the cork deckpads are made by Yoloha Yoga - a company (also from Ocean City) that makes beautifully printed cork yoga mats.  They are seriously a work of art - another of my IG-yoga-crushes! Check @yolohayoga on IG if you wanna oogle for yourself.  After mentally adding the Evolve SUP Yoga board to my wish-list, Ron asked us if we wanted to go for a paddle.  Of course we said yes, but not before having one of the best lunches of our trip from a vibrant Peruvian restaurant Ron sent us to.  We then met him at his place on the water in Berlin, a little ways out of Ocean City.  There was some wind to contend with, but exploring by water is always a good time. We had fun dipping the SUPs into little inlets, and looking at the waterfront homes & boats. And I couldn’t resist doing some yoga… In the name of market research of course!  
On the Evolve SUP Yoga board, Ocean City, MD

We got back to the Dunes at happy hour, and J headed to the bar, while I went upstairs to put on some jeans and freshen up.  I met him afterwards, and had a glass of wine.  When happy hour ended at 7pm, we were chatting with a woman our parents age. Her husband was next to her, talking with a man next to him. He had been a professor, they had lived all over the U.S. They had 4 grown children, and grandchildren.  Their house was just down the road from the Dunes, and I assumed they came for this happy hour often - they were on a first name basis with everyone.  She talked wistfully about how they met (in college), and told us about the different places they had lived and moved to over the years.Turns out he has Alzheimers now, and it seems to be progressing rapidly.  I understand that this is life, and these things happen sometimes… but it is still saddening to hear that he had only just retired before his diagnosis. Their plans for this part of their lives suddenly crumpled and ruined. The resignation in her voice as she reminds him one more time the name of the friend he is talking to. They paid their tab and made their way out through the lobby… and I am grateful for the fun and traveling J and I are doing. Enjoying now… This moment is really all that we certainly have. 

One of the famous wild ponies on Assateague Island, MD
In the morning we ask ask for a late check out. I trim my bangs. Take a really long shower. We go out to Rhonda to make breakfast - this probably sounds really weird of us.  But we have really nice dark coffee, and organic bread. Pasture-raised “happy” eggs.  Organic greek yogurt, and farmer’s market honey. Breakfast is sort of our thing, and we like “our” stuff! Back in the hotel we lounge around some more before packing up and checking out.  We are booked for the night in the state park on nearby Assateague Island.  Assateague is famous for it’s wild horses.  We hear that in summer they herd them all together and the horses swim from Assateague to the next island.  That would be a sight! Anyways, we pull in and find our spot after 3 (one way) loops around the place. We are on the ocean-side of the park, and right on the beach. There are only a handful of other RVs in the whole park, and none near us. It’s such a great time to travel! A lot of these places would be so busy in-season that it would take away from their beauty (and our enjoyment). We had our eyes peeled for the famous horses, but hadn’t seen any yet. From the amount of  “evidence” everywhere you would’ve thought they’d be easier to spot! Lets just say that J’s new Sanuks did not escape unsullied. 

Rhonda loving the sunrise on Assateague Island, MD
We had a very chill afternoon - trying to catch up on the blog, I was writing about Massachusetts. After the sun set, we decided to pop into Burley Oak, a brewery in Berlin (outside Ocean City) that Ron had recommended the day before. On the way out we spot two wild horses on the side of the road. I make J pull over, so I can hop out for a pic (from a safe distance). They are ruggedly shaggy, and for a horse, they look pretty cuddly.  Arriving at the brewery, walking into the taproom, it’s a great big industrial looking place with high ceilings, concrete floors, and a long wooden bar. It has some standing barrels, dark, chunky leather couches, thick & low oak coffee tables, darts, a pool table, and a merchandise corner.  It is dog-friendly and I’ve already spotted a cute chocolate lab at the end of the bar I’m dying to meet.  We order some beers, pick a leather couch, and I open up my laptop to wrap up the post.  I get J to read it, and help check-double-check facts and dates - that Massachusetts post was very history-heavy!  We mock up a timeline on some paper towel with a sharpie - this unexpectedly turned into a pretty fun pub-project and a perfect way to synthesize our MA stops in one place.  It also made for a fun & creative header pic for the blog! I love taking pics and the creative part of the social media and blogging - my phone has a daunting 7000 pics on it (covering my eyes shamefully)! Back at Rhonda that night, probably eating soup for dinner, we made plans to see the sunrise. At dawn we layered on some clothes before heading over the sand dune.  The wind was whipping and crisp, but the sky was pretty clear and we set up to film and capture the start of the day. I am no sunrise expert, but this was just magical. Each moment more beautiful than the last.  Back to Rhonda we put up the solar panels, and headed inside to make some breakfast.  Eventually packed up, we hoped that the “bayside” of Assateague might be calm enough for a paddle.  We drove to two possible launch-spots with no luck, and decided to walk a few of the nature trails instead.  It is a beautiful area, with a neat mix of forest, marshland, and beach. We decide it’s time to get a move-on.  Our plans is for 2-3 days in Virginia Beach.  Our drive will take us to the point of Assateague Island, where we cross into Virginia, and down the Delmarva Peninsula.  Then we will take the impressive Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel 37kms over and under the Chesapeake Bay.  To quote wikipedia - “The bridge-tunnel originally combined 19kms of trestle, two 1.6km long tunnels, four artificial islands, four high-level bridges, appox. 3.2kms of causeway, and 8.9kms of approach roads” - what a mouthful! Essentially you go over 3 bridges, and through 2 underwater tunnels (bridge-tunnel-bridge-tunnel-bridge) before landing in Virginia Beach.  This impressively allows road traffic to cross the Chesapeake Bay, while allowing boat traffic & shipping channels to remain open. Clever, clever. 

With no real plans in Virginia Beach, we were winging it for the night. After a fair bit of driving up and down the deserted main drag, we found a parking lot at the docks for ~10$ a night. Turns out a local favorite restaurant is right next door.  It is packed, but we manage to sneak 2 spots at the bar for some yummy fresh seafood.  I never seem to fully relax the nights we boondocks in parking lots. Always getting up to check the SUPs are still on the truck, I feel vulnerable and wake up a lot.  I gave up wrestling with sleep at dawn and rolled out my yoga mat on the dock to do yoga as the sun came up.  Back in Rhonda, we decided we would push further south later today.  Virginia Beach felt much like Ocean City and both kind of reminded me of Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast - probably uncomfortably hustling & bustling during peak season and with the hard influx of tourists the main strips are a tacky collection of gift shops, restaurants, and bars, all lacking any real personality or flavor. We are sure there must be some nice surrounding areas, but without recommendations, we were at a loss for their discovery at this point in time.  But we did find a rad cafe that had a big garden space to grow some of their veggies in. Eventually, Rhonda in their parking lot turned out to be a problem, so we wrapped up and pulled into a large vacant parking lot down the road to make our “North Carolina” plan. 

Sitting in the truck, windows down, computer out…. and doesn’t a man approach us and ask “Do you like crabs? Cause I caught a whole bunch! I’m Carleton, what’s your names?” Now we weren’t hungry, Carleton was possibly homeless, and it was apparent that he wanted us to buy these crabs. We were politely saying “Nah, thanks man”. But he persisted and said “You got a kitchen in there, right?” pointing at Rhonda.  “Cause I could cook ‘em in there, and leave you some. Like a a barter!” …More awkward “Umms” on our behalf… Then he said “But I am so hungry, and it would really help me out”.  Well next thing you know, we are steaming crabs in Rhonda. Our precious 15 foot camper fills with the overwhelming smell only cooking seafood can create. And I’m none too happy about it! Clambering over our bikes to open any window I can reach. Pedestrians are now commenting on the smell as they pass on the side walk some 30 feet away… Carleton casually crosses the parking lot to talk to a lady with a baby stroller…. and then we lose sight of him all together. The crabs are very “done”, and I’m getting irate… “What if he doesn’t come back? Where the heck is he???!!!”.  We decided to double bag the crabs and leave them for him with a note saying how rude it was to just piss off on us while we tried to help him out.  I’m about two lines into said note, when Carleton come bounding back across the parking lot. Carrying a huge box. My first thought was he thinks he’s moving in with us LOL, won’t that be cozy! Turns out the box was full of packaged white collared shirts, toothpaste & deodorant packets, blankets, bars of soap… He wants us to take a few of everything - and he is pushing each item into Rhonda after presenting how “awesome” it was. We are pleading - “Thanks man, but we don’t need it”, “we don’t have room for extra stuff”, “someone else needs this more than us ”. Nothing slowed him down. My frustration peaked and my politeness promptly vanished: “WE DON’T WANT ANY OF IT” I said angrily. At which point he replied “The women!!! They always get crazy”. Grrr! I was so mad!!! We quickly pulled away, with all of Rhonda’s windows open - not caring! A few blocks away we pulled over to close up properly.  So much for our good deed of the day, smh. 

That evening we rolled Rhonda over the North Carolina border….. We had a lot to see and the countdown to Thanksgiving in Wilmington, NC had ticked down to T-4 days already… To have more time I would’ve loved to explore more around the VA/NC border - seems like there are loads of lakes that way… But that will have to be another time!

Thanks again for reading! 

S. xx

Thursday, December 10, 2015


New Jersey, the land of jug handles, defying all left turns, and some right turns. Causing me to break out into countless fits of road rage. I was, I am sad to admit, excited to experience these wonders of driving. Which only exist, I believe, in this one, lolly, state. Which is about there best quality. That feeling of anticipation was short lived, after about, the first 2. Jug handles are a lose to me, and a waste of modern technology. NJ none the less was fun, we stayed a few nights with friends, enjoying a Bears win and a couple nights of drinking, good food and laughs. We left the state and leaving with it the rain of the last 3 days. On through to Maryland! With sunny skies, and warm weather in our forecast.

So as we have moved from state to state we have started to notice State flags, mottos and other ’stately’ things. Maryland, some of yours are, shall we say, interesting. Lets start with your state motto: "Fatti maschil, parole femine". An Italian proverb loosely translated to: Manly deeds, womanly words. Which apparently was largely used as a sexist statement. The history of it is complicated and riddled with speculation. An article going into a bit more detail about it all here.

Also a state flag that is, well, disgusting. Sorry, Marylanders but any goggle search of “worst state flags” will tell you that.
Also a state song that calls Lincoln a “despot” and a “tyrant”, and Union forces “Northern Scum”. 

“Traditions can become embarrassing. Sometimes they need be changed; or tolerated with a smile.”- Anthony Shugar. Haha. All of this however is, by NO means, a preface of how our time spent in Maryland was. We had a splendid time in the Old Line State! Great times and great people!!

Our first night was spent with Bob and Caroll on their farm just south of Frederick, in a small village called Adamstown. We arrived in the dark, which seems to be our MO. Directed by the flashlights of Steph and Bob I maneuvered around trucks and tractors, down to a grassy patch between an old RV and a chicken coop. Chatted with Bob for a bit and heard the sound of goats emerging from the darkness. We had a wander and had a brief encounter with them before we headed back to Rhonda to get warm and head to bed.

The wind HOWLED and shook Rhonda all night long. Temps dropped a bit that night as well. We have managed to find a fairly good system of blankets and sheets to layer, when in need of a bit more warmth through the night. We woke up to a beautiful sunny friday morning. Dropped the shades to find we were indeed surrounded by animals. Goats to the rights, chickens behind us, and beagle dogs to the way back corner, with a few more goats next to them. I got out to go and see if any of the chickens wanted come live in Rhonda and lay eggs for us for the next 6 months. Doubtful. Bob and Carol emerged from the house for the morning feeding of them all. We came out for an explore, and an introduction to Carol as well. They showed us around and we got to meet everyone, they also gave us a bunch of chard. (which we used in a delicious recipe later that week).

We decided against breakfast in Rhonda, more to do with our lack of groceries, then our desire to eat. Packed the car for the day, which included putting the bike rack on the back of the car. Side note— we hadn't done that before as we had the spare tire attached to the bike rack and it wouldn't all fit on the car that way. Also we had driven nearly all this way with Steph's bike in the camper, because, if some of you remember, the first hour into our trip we realized the bike rack, with the weight of the 2 bikes was bending the bumper of Rhonda, in an unsightly and unsafe way. After NJ it was decide that my bike would join Steph's, inside. It was surprising how much lighter Rhonda feels without all the weight out her backside. Ok. So, spare tire off the bike rack and inside Rhonda for now. All bikes and SUPs on the truck and off we go to Frederick for the day!

Frederick was an awesome city! Might have been my favorite thus far. We discovered upon arrival that its Sister City is: Schifferstadt, Germany, very close to Ha├čloch, where we lived while skiing at Holiday Park. (I think if we had to choose a place overseas to live permanently  it would be Germany). Frederick is full of trees, parks and water. Lots of old row houses with cool looking courtyards. A few blocks and street with much larger, brick, beautiful, stately homes. The city also has a great canal through the center of it. Which is surrounded by shops and restaurants. It finishes into a large park with an outdoor amphitheater at the west end of town. We went to the visitors center where they were a huge help in finding fun stuff for us to do and see. We biked the path they suggested, spotting lots of cool shops and places to eat and drink. The one thing we didn't see much of was the people. It was friday, so I’m sure most were at work or school but it was a beautiful fall day and there weren't many people out walking or shopping. I dont know, I just found it interesting.

Bob and Carol’s was about a 20 min drive out of town so we had thought maybe of finding a place to stay in town so we could enjoy some food and adult beverages. We rode around in search of our first, ‘Urban Boondoking' spot, since our failed one in Bar Harbor. We found a couple spots. Got back to the car and left to check out the Flying Dog Brewery just outside of town. Then to head back and grab Rhonda for a night in Frederick.

The Flying Dog Brewery, has a great brew pub area, a large indoor pub with bar seats all around, and a large outside deck area with space heaters and some “corn hole” games set up. We got a flight each. They were running a winter special that had them pairing: 3 of their beers with a local bakeries 3 cookies. The bakery was also making a new cookie to pair with one of Flying Dog's beers. So needless to say, someone was happy to have cookies with her beers! Everything was delicious and we decided to push off after one round and head back to Rhonda, pack up and head back to downtown to find our home for the night. We decided on a small side street with high ‘backyard fences’ on either side. No, ‘No Parking’ signs anywhere to be seen. We leveled off and got ready for dinner.

We rode around a bit and decided on an Italian place on the outskirts of downtown recommend to us by the lovely ladies at the visitors center, also with great yelp reviews. This night we were on a mission, it seemed, to consume some carbs. We decided to go with an order of their “pane”(bread), basically a large lump of warm, just out of the oven, moist, buttery, slightly toasted on the outside, gift from God! Not without a side of oil and balsamic for dipping. Next was an order of, fist-sized-meatballs, smothered in delicious marinara. In our attempt to consume some form of vegetables we decide on the roasted cauliflower. Then to top it all off, a pizza, with prischuittio, artichoke hearts and goat cheese. Amazing! Possibly a bottle of wine too; only seemed fair. We chatted with the lovely bar tender who helped direct us to a few good wineries for tomorrows trip up to Thurmont. 

We got back to Rhonda climbed into bed, Steph was going for a Yoga class in the morning and I was gonna to be moving us to a different spot as to not push our luck with where we were parked. We woke to a cloudy and cold morning. I moved us up to the visitors center lot, made breakfast and when Steph got back we packed up and headed out. Wishing to stay another night but in much need of a Blackwater dump and a fresh water top up, we headed north up to Thurmont, in search of a campground and some wineries. Finding both, we pulled into the campsite, which was, like pulling into a different world. Travel trailers, Rvs and trucks, from all eras were strewn about the campgrounds. The place would have been beautiful about 20 years ago. Now it was an over grown mess of old vehicles, garbage, weeds, and more garbage. We circled around until finding another person. Asked if we could stay a night. He made up a number in his head which was agreeable to us, we paid and parked Rhonda. She needs to go poo badly and we had some newly purchased parts for her to try out. A successful blackwater dump and fully hooked up to power and water we made our move to the winery for a bit more of a refined activity, like wine and spirit tasting! 

We landed at Springfield Manor Winery and Distillery. Beautiful estate, a old restored farm house and a large barn transitioned into a venue area and bar, with both wine and spirit tastings going on. Now I’m no expert, but, this was the first tasting I have ever been to where we had to pay to taste. Im not talking, “Ok you pay a one time fee and can taste as much as you want.” No. Maybe its Maryland law I don't know. We could only taste x amount of wines for a certain price. Not cheap by the way. So we split it up, she tasted half and I tasted half, stealing sips from each others glasses along the way. Good, but not much of a variety to choose from. Next the Spirits. Again same thing, you could only choose 3 and were paying for each. Again not cheap. But you only live once right, and they had some really cool spirits. A few apple and pear schnapps. European schnapps, bringing us right back to Germany! A white rum, a smokey rum, a sweet rum and a smokey/sweet rum. Next a gin, a lavender gin. The lavender field was right out front of the house. Delicious. They also had a corn whiskey and a Grappa, an Italian after dinner drink.  After, we went up to enjoy one drink from the ones we had tried. We would have bought a bottle I’m sure, if we weren't charged for the tastings. Oh well. Im sure they have a reason for it. It was a beautiful ambiance in the venue area. The barn was all open with all the lofts taken out, leaving us with a giant open area up to the rafters, with only the large timber framing exposed, which were lit up with white fairy lights. A small band playing some good tunes, a few oldtimers cutting up the dance floor. We sat and watched, ending up chatting with the couple next to us, who we found out were the owners. Cool couple with a very cool family. They have done an amazing job restoring the old farm house and retrofitting the old barn to a bar/entertainment area. There was a wedding being held outside which looked lovely with the fall tree colors and mountains in the background. Great end to the day.

The next day was “shower day”. In desperate need of showers we attempted to go to the bath house at the campground. Horrible idea. It was like something out of the first Saw movie. Dimly lit, flickering florescent lights. Stains, dirt and grime on the wall, as if the janitor packed up his mop and brushes 15 years ago and management went. “Well, we’re never gonna be able to find someone to do that job again. Fuck it, it'll clean its self.”. Disgusting. We passed. Went for a hike up to Cunningham Falls. Climbed to the top, had a great outdoors morning. One we haven't had in a while! Got back to Rhonda, packed up for our next stop on the east coast of the Chesapeake Bay area and another Boondockers Welcome house. We stopped at a truck stop along the way for a shower; no luck. Just as bad as the campsite. We were driving through Annapolis hadn't planned on stopping, but it was getting close to sunset and had heard there was great paddling there. We couldn't find an easy spot to launch and the sun was setting quicker then we had anticipated. We didn't paddle but were able to drive through downtown. It looked really cool and we kinda wished we had planned a night or 2 there after seeing it. Toyed with the idea of coming back tomorrow as our Boondockers was only a 30 minute drive away over “The Bay Bridge”. However the $8 toll one way made it seem less inticing. We opted not to come back. Some day though, hopefully.

We stayed in Queenstown on the Eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay. The house was great, tucked way back from the main road, down a dusty dirt road, the property backed up to a fishery lake. A bit too swampy around the edges to get the boards in. (We found a great spot for paddling later though.) The shower saga still continues, and we needed some laundry done as well, just towels. Easy, if you can find an open laundry mat on a Sunday evening. Google found one that didn't exist any more, so Steph ran into an Irish pub, hoping the Irish knew where we could get some laundry done. They did, and even offered to let us come to there house if the place was closed, for a few drinks and to do our laundry there. The laundry mat was open but we had only 35 min. Ok! Laundry in, I will run to the store for some food and wine. Back to load up the dryer and finish just at 7. We were lucky there was another gentlemens laundry in the dryer that wouldn't be done till after ours so we got a couple extra minutes of drying time. Showers; where are you? Its always nice to go to bed clean. We would not tonight. Went and tried another truck stop. They had only one working shower, which was in use when we arrived. By the looks of the bathroom; I was out. Steph was desperate and was willing to wait. Although, we ultimately decided that the gym, which was open tomorrow, which had a yoga class in the morning would be the better option for us. For 10 bucks each we got a yoga class and full service: showers, sauna, steam room. Those showers have been the best so far. (and Im writing this; 3 states and about 3 weeks later.) Oh how I miss them.... I think if you could plan it right, a gym membership to a large chain of gyms along your route would be the way to go…Depending on cost of membership. Anyways we were showered and clean the next morning after yoga. Onto our day trip down the Chesapeake Bay east coast. To Oxford, St. Michaels, and some paddle boarding for an amazing sunset over the Bay!

Oxford was sleepy and VERY quiet. We did manage to meet a nice lady running a gift shop that was from Wheaton, IL. The next town over from where I grew up. Small world. Her and her husband spend the better part of their marriage sailing up and down the east coast of the states. After years of that, they finally stepped back onto land and settled there in Oxford. We walked around a bit, nice homes but not really anything at all going on. Time to go. St. Michales was a bit more lively. Still a very touristy, seasonal town. Had a maritime museum, a large marina and a long Main St. full of shops, bars and restaurants which were mostly closed or closing for the season. Would be a cool place to spend a weekend during the summer when it was in full swing. We headed out to find a spot to catch the sunset and a paddle. We wandered down a dirt road that looked like it would head us to a spot on the coast following signs for Lowes Warf, hoping it was facing the right direction, uninterrupted by islands or peninsulas. It was a great spot to launch from and looked like it would be a really cool restaurant/bar to hang at in the summer. They were closed for the season but were nice and let us park and launch for our paddle. The bay; calm and shallow, let us be able to spot lots of crabs and horeshoe crabs on our paddle out. The sunset was unreal. Had a blast just hanging out on the water. As the sun dropped, so did the temps, we made our way back, packed up and headed home.

 We spent the next day doing, home things. A bit of blog writing, a few errands, some cleaning, yoga and repairs. We were leaving the next day for Ocean City and Assateague Island, and our “Points Vacation”!! More on all that later. Whew. I feel like I have been typing for days! Sorry if I have rambled on, on this one. Maryland was really a great time. Such beautiful state. We really got to see a lot that it had to offer. A bit of the inland, hills and mountains, the Chesapeake Bay area which has so much history and beauty to it. And there is still more to come, with Ocean City and Assateague Island. I will let my better half fill you in on all that. With an interesting little event from Virginia Beach as well. Till next time, Fatti maschil, parole femine. 


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Seasons of Change

Morning walk musings near Lake Wylie, SC...

I've been thinking a lot about change. Maybe not even thinking - to say I've been "feeling" a lot about change, would be better. Feeling a thrill and curiosity with exploring each new place... along with an underlying anxiety when faced with the thought of having to pick "just one" and "settle down". This whole East Coast "#theroadtohome" excursion we've been on has been the very symbol and experience of change. A changing point in our relationship and in our careers. Looking for a completely new place to live, which will mean a new way of life for J and I.  I know a lot of performers go through feelings like this.  And all against the backdrop of the Atlantic coast autumn - making change seem  breathtaking, colourful, and even effortless. Oh Mother Nature - you have so much to teach me! 

For sure, at times out on the road, J and I are wondering what the hell we are doing and if we are even going in the "right" direction. Whatever "right" means ↔️↕️.  I'm grateful that we both have a very natural understanding that what is "right" for others/society isn't necessarily what will work for us. Our lives to this point have been so far away from the norm that we know that we must march to the beat of our own (organic) drum. Not that there aren't heaps of pressures from many directions (mainly our own struggling minds) to do one thing or another. 

Maple saplings
Anyways, I went for a walk this morning. It was early and J was still snuggled in bed. A few walking paths through a big open field, bordered with bits of forest and small peeks at the lake in the distance. And I noticed the ground was covered in tiny little maple trees. Not ones planted by humans, but ones growing by their own will. Just little 8-10" saplings with their leaves red and orange and yellow, making the paling yellow grass look brighter with their presence. I wonder if many of them will survive the winter... then I remembered that we are in South Carolina and that this is probably about as much chill as they will have to weather. Lucky lil maples. 

Learning a thing or two 
And then I came across a grandfather tree. Big and strong; I have no doubt his roots run deep. A thriving member of his field-community, thick vines climb high on his trunk, and soft green mosses snuggle his base. And it hits me. Change takes time. Sometimes A LOT of time. It's so easy to forget it in this society of instant connection to everything and everyone. We are not just accustomed, but expecting that everything in our lives should happen fast. But reality just isn't so, and it's so easy to forget it! Those saplings will not be giants in the spring... Or for many springs to come. And watching the saplings grow, we may not notice changes day to day or week to week. Just as we won't "figure out" life with one big decision. But, over time, looking back at a season, a year, or a decade....The changes and transformations will be outstanding, sometimes impossible to conceive where we began, or where we were along the way.  It will be possible to see our progress; to notice the growth we have gained from even our biggest setbacks, or especially from our biggest setbacks! With a keen eye we will see where the magic was unfolding, unbeknownst to us at the time.  

Today's lessons? Change is inevitable. Patience is golden... The seasons they will come and go. And me? I will strive to grow wherever I am. 

With love, 
 Steph xx

"For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, it's insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction."
~ Cynthia Occelli

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sunrise and Giving Thanks

Its the day before Thanksgiving and we are off to my brothers for a week or so to enjoy some much needed family time! Maybe a quiet turkey as well! ;) Cant wait to see our little (or maybe not so little anymore) niece and nephew!

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family or friends or whomever you get to spend it with. We are always giving thanks for each and every day we get to spend together. We had an amazing sunrise at Assateague Island National Seashore in MD. So enjoy the pictures and give thanks for all that we have!

Happy Thanksgiving!


All photos unedited

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Follow the Sun

                                                           Two Become One

How showksiers "put up" the solar panels :p The panels can angle either way (when we are stationary) to get the most sun. This is especially helpful to make the most of the low winter sun and the short daylight hours. Now that we've been on the road a few weeks we know we can rely on the panels for enough power for the lights, charging phones, computers, speakers & cameras, running the water pump, and the toaster :)
We don't have enough to run our small 1500Watts heater. But the independence the panels afford us is amazing! Our happy lil hippy camper ❤️

Sunrise Time-Lapse (35 sec)

November sunrise on Assateague Island, Maryland... It was nearly 7am, and very windy.  But beautiful and worth rising for! The National Park on Assateague has beautiful oceanside and bayside campsites. We stayed oceanside, so we could have a true mid-atlantic East Coast sunrise.  Loving being here in the off-season and just having the whole place to ourselves! Hashtag private island.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Massachussetts - Bumping Along the Colonial Timeline

We left Maine, and in 45 short minutes had also covered New Hampshire’s short coastline and pushed our way into Massachussetts right as the sun was setting.  It was pretty amazing how in such a short period on the clock, the landscape around us had changed so completely. From Maine’s jagged edges and crisp beauty to a much mellower, flatter, coast.  The Massachusetts coast was marshy and the sunset reflected oranges and yellows in the water inlets around us.  Many small water-way-tunnels reached like golden buttery fingers through the tall beachgrass of the Massachusetts coastline. It was incredibly beautiful.  We were on our way to the Beach Rose RV Campground in Salisbury for 2 nights.  At $45 a night it was a little pricey but after winging it in Bar Harbor, one night at a truck stop, and a few days parked in Larry & Jean’s driveway in Brunswick, ME, Rhonda needed a couple nights plugged in to power & water… We needed laundry & shower facilities… And J and Rhonda were still battling it out over the grey-water tank leak. Our little pod needed a some down time.  We arrived just after sunset, set up, and were ready for some glorious shower time…. at $0.25 per 2-minute increment. Much to my excitement, the showers were big and spotless. In I went, with my towel, shower kit, a roll of quarters, and big plans to wash, rinse, repeat.  The water for the shower was powered just like a 25c ride at the super-market, and there was no timer. It would be a big guessing game once you hopped in as to when your time would be up.  I momentarily paused, devising a plan of action. It was chilly in the bathroom, so I placed all my little travel-bottles in the shower, hung my towel, pre-set extra quarters near the machine. Feeling satisfied, I threw in a generous 6 quarters, tossed off my clothes, and hopped under the warm water…. Only to realize I had everything except my bar of soap!  Cursing, my mind quickly weighs my options: no soap & wash body with shampoo, or, grab my towel and make a dash through the dark campground for the soap. It’s my first shower in 3 days and my mind won’t compromise on the bar of soap so I grab my towel and streak through the campground, dripping and hopefully very stealth-like, grab a new bar of Ivory and race my goosebumps back to the warm water.  I throw in about  4 more quarters and get to work. 

The no-so-regular-showering ‘thing’ on the road has been one of my biggest hurdles.  I’ve set my goal to 1 shower every +/-3 days, with washing at the sink in Rhonda as needed in between.  But achieving my shower-goal can take serious planning, and can def be an inconvenience.  My tolerance for feeling ‘dirty’ is pretty low compared to J’s, and I get grouchy when I feel dirty, so plan we must!! Believe it or not, there’s an app for that (AllStays), and we use it often! 

Getting lost in the golden Massachusetts sunset... Om Shanti
We wake up to a beautiful morning in Salisbury and we get up and get right to it - J is to and from Home Depot, arming himself with epoxy and fiberglass for the ‘grey-water battle’.  I’m heading up about 4 loads of the laundry, and giving Rhonda her “Vintage Teal” make-over. At 3:30pm I hop on my bike - the shore is nearby and I want to take advantage of the warm weather for some outdoor, sunset, oceanside yoga. The sun goes down at 4:30pm  so the days feel short. With a few directions I find my way to a state park, with stunning sunset views. I start to breath & move, trying to find my way to the ‘here & now’. Trying to quiet my mind for an hour. Figuring out our life on the road, finding our new ‘normal’ has been a massive rollercoaster so far. My time on the mat is less soul-searching and more sanity-grasping that day.  Inhale, exhale, repeat. 

Exploring by water - our first paddle of the trip
The continuous planning, searching, and deciding is exhausting. All that uncertainty added to the pressure of planning, seeing, and picking the best spots has been the source of some major struggles. That, and since we want to see ‘everything’, we didn’t really plan ‘anything’. Planning, it seems, will take some of the pressure off, and allow us to relax as we follow the plan for a few days. This seems obvious, I suppose, but we’re learning as we go. So our last day in Salisbury we spend a few hours mapping out our next week - Salem, Boston, Plymouth, and Cape Cod, followed by New Jersey. Feeling good with our new plan, we dropped the SUPs at the State Park.  It was our first paddle of the trip and exploring by water for a few hours was a treat. Deep blue skies and a warm autumn sun made up for the chilly water, and only our feet and ankles got wet anyways.  We waved goodbye to the gals at the Beach Rose RV grounds - they were running a good operation there - and they even had recycling.  It has been near impossible to recycle on the road.  It’s hard to believe, in this day and age.  How do gas stations not have recycling bins? (I wonder this in Canada all the time too btw).  It’s 2015 people! 

Well we drove a few hours south, got close to Salem…  And then we had a trip first - our first night in a Walmart parking lot.  One of those moments where you can’t really believe you are actually going to spend the night “camping” in a Walmart parking lot, lol. And believe me, we absolutely prefer to stay in woodsier, beachy-er, more nature-like locations. But they don’t mind, we were arriving late and leaving early, and it’s free. We had fresh water in the tank (read “drinking, teeth brushing, dish-washing, toilet flushing”); solar power to run lights, water pump, charge phones, run the toaster; and propane for the fridge & stove. Feeling self-sufficient, and with a couple other RVs nearby, we had a pretty good night sleep. And we were even getting solar power from Walmart lampposts. Ha! 

'The Burying Point, Salem. I've fallen in like with the eerie colonial graveyards...
In the morning, we visited Salem, ‘The City Of Witches’. This town’s identity is wrapped around it’s role in the 1692 Salem witch trials that resulted in the hanging of 19, and the pressing-to-death of 1 (mostly, but not all, women).  Previous to the trials, 12 other women were executed on ‘witch’ charges and the last North American witch execution was as late at 1878 (in Salem actually). It’s crazy to think about what it must’ve been like in a very Puritan New England 350 years ago. A lot of the accused were convicted because they were a little bit different/outcasts, or less involved in the church, or voiced objections/doubts in regards to other witch accusations. 
We had Rhonda in tow, so parking was a bit of a mission. Even a police officer was no help with suggestions on where we might park. So we found a residential area with no visible “No parking” signs, and left a note… “Just visiting, and don’t fit in your Visitor Center parking garage. Please call us if there is a problem and we will come straight back.” When in doubt, leave a note! We hopped on our bikes and got some advice from the Salem Visitor Center, then made our way to the House of Seven Gables for a tour. It is a colonial mansion (built 1668), all wood, the largest of it’s type still standing.  The different rooms are made to portray how they would’ve looked at one era or another of the mansion’s history.  This house was made famous by the book of the same title by famous author Nathaniel Hathorne (also author of The Scarlet Letter) published in 1851. Funnily enough, Mr. Hathorne went to Bowdoin College which was down the street from our last boondocking spot in Brunswick, ME. The tour was interesting, but no talk of witches at all.  Back on our bikes, we stop at a Ye Olde Pepper Companie (the first candy store in North America!) where we pay almost $9 for two turtles. Oprah herself recommended them, and my mother probably wouldn’t forgive me if I didn't oblige to Ms.Winfrey's recommendations! They were pretty awesome. Then we visited the Salem Witch Trial Memorial - 20 granite benches inscribed with the names of the accused, and the means & date of execution. This is next to “The Burying Point”, the oldest graveyard of the town. Salem was a really cool town, and would’ve loved a proper tour had there been any going.  It was a great town to discover by bike, and the waterfront is beautiful too. We collected Rhonda, and drove out to Gloucester for a look. The sun was already setting, so we set out for the south side of Boston where we had another Boondockers Welcome spot lined up.  

Fancy night photography in our 'Autumn Wonderland'
We battled rush-hour traffic for over 2 hours to the south side of Boston.  This was plenty of time for us to determine that Massachussanites mustn’t pay any sort of road maintenance taxes as we bounced our way through massive potholes and giant cracks, cringing every time, silently pleading with Rhonda to just hold on…  We finally made it to Hingham. Even in the dark Hingham looked stately, and our next hosts had a 1850s farmhouse.  After a warm welcome, we parked out in the yard. Rhonda nestled in on a thick blanket of leaves, between the house and the stream. Surrounded by large oak and maple trees with spiraled strings of fairy lights wrapped around their trunks!  It was an autumn wonderland. We spent loads of time playing in the leaves and taking night photos… J adjusting the shutter speed, me trying to figure out backwards cursive writing with a flashlight, lol. The mood was a lot lighter than in Salisbury… and we were excited to take the ferry into Boston the next morning. 

Fresh off the ferry, ready to bike the Freedom Trail in Boston, MA

Boston - wow! Well, taking the ferry over was the way to do it! We just biked 20 minutes to the Hingham marina and hopped on the commuter ferry for $17 (each, round-trip fare). Feeling especially light & unencumbered  without Rhonda and Ruby for the day, we planned to tackle the Freedom Trail.  The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile (4km) path through downtown Boston comprising of 16 or 17  historic stops from the Boston Common to the U.S.S. Constitution (a ship) in Charlestown. Well, wouldn’t you guess, there’s an app for that! With the free Freedom Trail app downloaded, we could easily play our own tour-guide.  From the cemetery with John Hancock, Sam Adams, Paul Revere, and Mother Goose; to the Old North Church where Paul Revere displayed the famous signal “one if by land, two if by sea”, we stopped and read each entry on the app. Pausing at Faneuil Hall for the most delicious coffee I’ve had all year - a Blueberry roast, with half & half cream….. and culminating in a climb up the Bunker Hill Monument, 294 steps spiraling up the inside an enormous obelisk to peer out it’s tiny windows. It was a lot sweaty and a little anti-climactic, so we sprawled in the grass at the bottom of Bunker Hill as our “Trail Finale” to contemplate our lack of fitness. It was 3pm, and we thought we should spend the rest of the afternoon tackling recommendations from friends. First stop: Mike’s Pastries in the North End for cannoli & tiramisu to replace any calories we might've lost biking and climbing the insides of obelisks! We actually looked up an article online about which cannoli to order - they have 18 different kinds and they are massive, so it seemed important to choose wisely. The shop is packed with people pushing cash across the counter and yelling their orders.  We make off with our treats, to some picnic tables a few blocks away to get our sugar fix, plastic forks shoveling one sweet mouthful after another…. With guilty smiles, we start perusing Yelp for a dinner spot. There is an Italian spot right around the corner with rave food reviews, apparently always has a line, and opens in 45mins. We decide to walk past… and there is already a line - it must be good, right??!! Well… here we are 4pm with sugar-high giggles, waiting in line for dinner at Giacomo’s Ristorante. The servers at Giacomo’s don’t mess around. They came out early to get our party numbers, and as soon as the restaurant opened, they pointed each party to their perfectly set spot. ‘Newbies’ were given a run-down of how to order, we shared our table of 4 with another couple. Needing an extra minute with the menu was clearly frowned upon, so I didn’t dare ask for a substitution when our server came back. We ordered a bottle of wine. She filled our glasses within a centimeter (1/2 inch) of the top. She may have said “bottoms up” under her breath, I’m not really sure. Our seafood pastas were generous, and as delicious as the Yelp-ees led us to believe they would be…It was an impressive 5:45pm and we were completely done dinner (and the whole bottle of wine!) and ushered out the door where the line had since tripled in length! We stumbled upon a wine shop having cider tastings, then we rode past “The Bell In Hand” which had a band and claimed to be the first pub in North America. We had a couple drinks there, before stopping to checked out the bar that was the original inspiration for the famous TV series Cheers. Laughing at how we somehow managed to do it all backwards - dessert, dinner, drinks - we hopped on the ferry back to Hingham.  I had a very swervy bike ride back to our home base.... haha, I'm apparently a bit out of practice drunk bike riding.  The next morning we left our ‘Autumn Wonderland’ home.  I can’t tell you how grateful we have been to the ‘Boondockers Welcome’ network.  We have met the loveliest, kindest people - a true reminder of the goodness that is out there! We have gotten in the habit of leaving each host a thank you note and a polaroid pic with our contact info. 

Our next stop would be another Boondockers host in Wareham, Mass, from where we could explore Cape Cod. On the way, we stopped in Plymouth to see the pilgrim sights.  We saw Plymouth rock & the Mayflower ll, a to-scale recreation of the Mayflower. The Mayflower was the  110-foot dutch cargo fluyt that in 1620 sailed 102 men, women and children (plus 30 crew) 66 days to “the New World”.  Two women gave birth en-route; one youth died just 3 days before they spotted land. Some migrated to avoid religious persecution, some for business opportunities. Plymouth Rock was on the beach as the  passengers disembarked.  It may have been their first step on land in a strange new world.  I’m sure after 66 days at sea they would’ve been kissing this rock, grateful to be alive.  The poor rock has an interesting history. It’s top half was cut off and moved around a little, here and there, on display in town during one era or another. It has since been reunited with it’s base, back on the beach, and they have built a big protective shrine around it, that looks kind of like a prison. The rock also bears the time-stamp ‘1620’.  And our pilgrims? Well 1/2 of them didn’t survive their first winter.  But it was the start of what would become the USA, and with here and Boston I feel like I’ve learned so much about the start of ‘Merica. 

We arrived in Wareham, late afternoon and were greeted by Linda and her 3 small pups.  She helps us fill our water tank and get plugged in.  We do some groceries and call it a night.  The next day is gorgeous and sunny, and we are off to Provincetown - the very last town on the Cape Cod “hook”. There are still some bright oranges and reds in the trees, and it feels like we could spend 3-4 days looking around the towns of Cape Cod.  Seems like there would be tons of paddling spots too.  But, we only have one day, so we pick Provincetown where we park the car. We decide to go our separate ways for a couple hours. Me to walk the pier & beach and do yoga, J to take photos.  Another post-card-perfect sunset, and we drive 2 hours back to our home-base.  In the morning, Linda generously sends us off with freshly baked whole-wheat bread.  We have a big driving day ahead of us: leaving the bumpy roads of Mass to cross tiny Rhode Island, then Connecticut, and NY at rush hour (we really must work on our timing!), before finally reaching the Jersey Shore and big hugs from my acro yoga friend Sandy! I can’t tell you how great it is to see a familiar face, and spend some time in a lovely beach house…. But this edition has gone on long enough, so we will continue next time! 

Massachusetts has been chock-full of facts and history. J has loved visiting places he learned about over and over in school. I loved learning the stories of how America came to be, always trying to imagine what life would’ve been like in those times, for those people. If you made it to the end, THANK YOU for reading as I ramble on…. as I  sip a yummy ‘Raspberries of the Lost Tart” a dark session sour beer from Burley Oaks Brewery in a location yet to be disclosed to our blog…… 

Big love, 

A little S&J 'pub history' timeline - some of the MA history we covered this leg... Plus some of our own <3

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Deuce 5000

Lets talk about Poo….

Anyone who knows us, knows it comes up from time to time. Poo does. So if your squeamish and dont wanna talk about it, best to close the page now, or check out another post (they're good I promise). Cause its about to get real.

 So were running on our first month in Rhonda. We have a toilet. Which we ‘had’ to have.  However, one of us, I wont say who, doesn't like the idea of us “carrying around” our poos. I dont share this sentiment. If I gotta go, I gotta go. Where I run into a problem is; is the actual act of doing it. Our ‘bathroom’, is also the size of a box of wine. I am, however not. We finally got the ceiling vent actuator working, which has been an added bonus. There is also a small fart fan working as hard is it can to remove the delightful aromas that reside in the wine box. Before, it was a small chamber of death, in which you felt like you were choking on a poison you had given yourself purposefully. 

The bathroom is literally a 2ft X 3ft space, thats about 60x90cm for all the others out there, just enough room for me to feel as though I am part of some 3rd world torture chamber. Not enough room to do anything properly, but just big enough to think you can, every time. But hey, its there and I can ‘use’ it. Barely.

Breakfast is an exciting, Russian roulette game, of how much, if any, coffee do you dare to drink. Lets face it, we aren't the best morning people. We have however been rising fairly early, and for me, its more comfortable to just get out of bed and sit, then it is to remain curled in some sort of cruel yoga position, in a bed made for a hobbit. So drinking some coffee or tea is a normal morning task to start the day. Its a delightful pleasure, much like drinking, and, much like drinking you are rewarded with a painful endeavor at the end of it all. A hangover; or, having to poo, when you can't go comfortably. Still not sure which is worse. So this is the dilemma you face every morning. Coffee/tea and the uncontrollable bodily function that follows.

So picture me, climbing into a phone booth and having to do all the required tasks involved with evacuating the bowels. Beauty image, I'm sure. Hope you're not having that morning coffee right about now. Its not fun, but on the other hand its one of the most gratifying experience by the end of it all. It turns into a whole new day! Man, you climb out of that box - hopefully no more wet then you came in, as you never know when some plumbing might have its morning burp, another fun possibility. Nothing like a little blackwater in your eye to start the day. Or maybe the grey water tank is full and since the bathroom shower drain is the lowest, it is conveniently the first one to back up. So you very well might step barefooted into last nights dirty dish water. Fucking cute. Rhonda trying to defeat us at every turn. In the end you can wipe up (or down, depending on how you like it) everything you need to, with very little room to spare and doing it all a little more gently and precisely then ever before. Emerging with an even more satisfied and conquering persona then you would otherwise. As you flush however, and have a last glance down that black tunnel of bodily excrement and realize, shit, its time to dump this shit.

So then, for any avid “RVers” out there. What do you do about black water dumps??? Our first one was the definition of a disaster. Black water everywhere. …. a shower in bleach was about the only thing that could have cleaned us. AND, that one, was part ours and part the last owners. UGH. Its one thing when some of your own stuff gets on you, but someone else's.…? Makes you not feel too bad about cutting a limb off. I can learn to write lefty, my brother does it, can't be that hard…. ;) But really whats the protocol? Gloves, what kind?? I feel bad using latex gloves and throwing them out every time. So if you use reusable thick ones, where/how do you store them??? Its not like I have a utility sink at my disposal to quarantine and clean the biohazard off them. So a ziplock has worked, kinda, but you can't just throw the whole glove in there, cause what if something infects the inside? Then they're useless…. you also you have feces on you hands and rechecking your life choices up till now. 

The saga will continue. Learning as we go. In fact, one of us has “learned to go”, just today, again I wont mention names. But she did a great job, even if I was banished to the car for the duration of it. As for me, I will still keep trying to avoid the dish water, making myself as small as possible, and having a couple wines to forget about it all.

Heres to pooping where its comfortable!