Captains Log. Day 168.

We just rolled into Sedona via Tucson Arizona by way of Las Cruces New Mexico after pausing in Marfa Texas on our way out of Austin.

We’ve been traveling full time for 168 days. We’ve spent all of the major holidays on the road and we’ve had a birthday and are about to have another.

Without a doubt, second only to making a family with Becky, this has been the best thing I’ve ever done.

This is an interesting time in the trip because it’s time to think seriously about deciding when the mission is complete.

It’s come to my attention that I haven’t said out loud here what the mission is and that this whole trip started when we decided we were going to move to Austin, TX. First we thought we’d take some extra time to get there. That turned into maybe we’d take a lot of time to get there.

The challenge we were facing with extending the trip became the span between when school got out and when we’d have to land in a place in order to get them enrolled.

Once we decided that the school timeframe was artificial and not something we had to adhere to the sky was the limit. Our thinking expanded and instead of just driving to Texas we’d decided to discover America and see which places really spoke to us.

The only restrictions we had after that were weather and money. We’d have to get south fast enough to avoid difficult weather and we’d have to see if I could continue to earn while on the road.

Long story short, after we threw out the convention of public school and decided that we could do it ourselves we had no real limits on where we’d go and how long we’d take to get there.

The thinking was that, barring new information from the trip we’d move to Austin. Along the way we’ve found some places we love including Charlottesville and Asheville.

Which brings us back to our move to Austin.

We’re Not Moving to Austin.

We love Austin. Austin is all kinds of fun. We have very close friends in Austin and their introduction to the city was perfect.

During our stay my mother, brother, and college roommate and good friend all visited us. All that was a great time.

We stayed for seven weeks in what has been the down and dirtiest trailer park we’ve ever been in but with a location that is incomparable. Pecan Grove RV Park is central. You can get to Zilker, the Greenbelt, downtown, Congress St and south Austin in minutes. Matthew McConaughey and Lance Armstrong both had extended stints there. We wrapped up Austin in McKinney Falls State Park for 5 days. It was a welcome change.

mckinney-falls

Austin has fantastic parks and food and things to do.

Greenbelt

 

enzo-greenbelt

You can drink a beer in the grocery store.

beer-wholefoods

I saw the Cylcocross Nationals there.

We ate great food and beer at a ton of restaurants including Odd Duck  Hops and Grains, Jester King and a dozen others. We had an absinthe drip at Peche and dinner at Lenoir. We saw Chicken Shit Bingo at Ginny’s Little Longhorn. We ate fried chicken stuffed in a donut. We had tons of tacos.

chicken-donut

Lenoir

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We made full use of the urban transportation options. I used a Car2Go most of the time unless we were traveling as a family, where we’d require the van, or if there was drinking involved in which case we took Uber or Lyft. With the exception of one crazy surge the cost was always well worth the convenience. We had rides almost always within minutes.

Car2Go

I worked out of a co-working space called Vuka. Its in South Austin. Its a very cool space, minutes from Pecan Grove, and right next to some great lunch and coffee places and our friend’s house. PLUS it has stand up desks (hooray for not dying)

vuka vuka-sign

We went to the Thinkery a number of times, Zilker, the Butler Park splash pad. We saw the trail of lights.

Thinkery
Thinkery Recycled City

 

Trail of Lights Austin

I love all this about Austin.

Its a big and fast growing city.

I don’t think we want a big fast growing city.

We didn’t love the pace and the traffic and the lines.

I met a lot of people who had been there a long time and groaned about the pace of growth and what the city is becoming.

I worked a lot of the time I was there and I’m sure it didn’t help.

At any rate it… It’s great. We love it. It’s not for us at this stage in our game.

Had we simply moved there directly I’m sure we’d settle in and love it. But we didn’t. We sampled a number of places and along the way and we’ve begun to get a really good idea of exactly what we’re actually looking for.

So Now We Head West

We landed in Marfa at dusk with a mechanical. The jack that lifts the front of the Airstream wasn’t working. This had happened before but it was battery related. At the beginning of the trip I was in the habit of pulling out the brake stop while we’re parked. As it turns out even if you’re running on battery the brakes stay engaged and it sucks the battery down very very quickly.

That wasn’t the case this time. I had to open the jack, there’s no manual override, and we had to get it working or we couldn’t disconnect from the van.

I pulled it open and some gears and wires and switch parts came out…. I ended up spending some time with it and figured out how to bypass the broken switch which turned out to be the problem. So far we’ve had four mechanicals this trip. The first two were the result of user error, this one wasn’t.

Marfa is a cool place that we hit on the wrong day. If you’re going to go to Marfa make it on a weekend don’t go midweek. Marfa is in the middle nowhere near Big Bend and Mexico. Its a kind of an artist colony. There’s the Chinati Foundation and a number of other galleries.We ate at Padres which is a seedy place that I reckon hasn’t seen a lot of kids through the door but would be great for an intimate show.

There are a handful of weird restaurants like the Museum and Grilled Cheese place, Food Shark… alas… none of the shit was open.

Boo.

What was open is the El Cosmico. I heard about this place from our friends in Austin. Lance told me about it because I was explaining my vision of AirBnBing yurts and tee pees and containers and whatnot… somewhere… maybe Asheville… we’ll see.

On our way out of town we stopped at the Prada Store. Becky got a great picture of a chicken.

We stopped just for a couple of days in Las Cruces, NM in order to break up the drive. Vince and I rode around Tortugas Mountain. On our second day we visited the Farm and Ranch Museum, kids loved it. There’s a lot kids can learn on the road and through homeschooling that they’d never have the opportunity to learn in a traditional public school classroom setting.

From Las Cruces we made our way to Tucson, AZ. We had a lot of plans for Tucson that just didn’t work out. We ended up having to deal with a mechanical (cracked heat/ac drain pan) and Vince was sick for a day. We mostly went to Tucson for the weather truthfully. We needed some guaranteed sun. We spent a lot of time in the pool. We visited the desert a couple of times and made a trip to Old Tucson, the movie set for a lot of old westerns and now a bit of a tourist trap but fun nonetheless.

And now we’re in Sedona Arizona.

Where We Go From Here

From here we’ll head north to St. George UT and after that it gets a bit fuzzy.

There’s a LOT of the west we want to see the challenge now is timing. I have a hankering for Bend Oregon. I’ve never been there but I’ve heard about it for years in bike and other outdoor magazines. Its got a lot of breweries, skiing, riding, a river, just about 100,000 people which seems to be just about the size city we’re looking for. Big enough to have a few things going on. Small enough that you can get around easily and really know the place.

Who knows….

I do know this… even with the challenges and difficulties and even injuries on the trip (dislocated shoulders, cut the end of my thumb off with a mandolin) I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Its the best thing we’ve ever done.

We do want to settle in the not too distant future and get into a routine somewhere but that doesn’t mean we won’t schedule extended travel again. I can’t see how we wouldn’t. We’re aiming to wrap this up perhaps by the end of June.

A lot has changed. Our thinking on many of the conventions that we’d just accepted previously has changed. Where and when we work, how we prioritize our day, what education should look like, what comfortable living looks like, what we aspire to have be or do has all shifted for the better.

If you’ve considered doing some extended travel but something is holding you back I’d think real hard about if you’re stops are real. There are few challenges that can’t be overcome with some planning and a change in mindset.

I’m pretty sure you live about once. You could walk in front of a bus tomorrow. I think the sentiment that sums this up best is a quote I recently saw attributed to Tom Hiddleston but originally belonged to Confucius.

“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”

Confucius

Captains Log. Day 90.

Ok, actually its Day 128…. I wrote this post a while back and couldn’t publish it.

A lot has happened since I wrote this. I withheld it, if I’m to be honest, because I didn’t want my mother or my wife’s parents to know that I’d hurt myself because I didn’t want them to worry.

I’m better now… so here’s the story. The following post was written about a month ago.


 

We’ve been traveling, 5 of us, “living on the road” full time now for 3 months. This is… a lot of time and at the same time not nearly enough. Rather than waxing philosophical as I’m prone to do I’m going straight into updates.

Last week I dislocated both my shoulders to varying degrees and I’m pretty sure I cracked a rib.

The story of the dislocated arms unfolded thusly.

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We had just wrapped up about a week in Charleston SC, a fantastic place, and I had plans for us to stop at not 1 but 2 of the International Mountain Biking Associations “Epic Rides“, Bull Mountain in Dahlonega, GA and FATS (Forks Area Trail System) technically in SC but right on the border.

We had a fantastic campsite at on Stom Thurmond Lake – yes really Strom Thurmond Lake. Its amazing how many places are named after complete assholes. My joke is

“Strom Thurmond Lake is where they profess to hate the water but secretly love to take a dip.”

… anyway.

On this day I felt particularly strong. I’ve been riding a bunch and getting in more climbing and more elevation than I have in years. FATS is not technically challenging at least not like we have in New England and so I was wide open.

I came around a corner and there lay the decision that would end very badly for me. I could whip around this corner on the low side and continue bombing this twisty gorgeous single track on an exquisite 68 degree sunny day… or I could take the high side launch over this set of roots and dig in around the corner.

I chose the high line.

When my tires finally landed I was so much further down the trail than I expected that I was unable to stop before I ran directly into a small set of 2 trees 6 or 8 inches in diameter and about 5 inches apart.

I saw it coming but was moving much too fast to correct the course. I got high up on the bike in anticipation of the impact instead of laying it down. I hit the the trees with both forearms and crushed into it. I’m not sure what it looked like but if we had a video I’m sure I would have been in the air above the handlebars.

The first impact dislocated my right shoulder and since I had launched above my bike it also badly bruised my left thigh while taking a chunk out of my right shin and forearm.

I don’t know for sure but I think that the impact from falling is what dislocated my left shoulder.

I landed in the type of pain that allowed me to do nothing but yell between gasps. This is probably the most painful thing that’s ever happened.

I was a couple of miles into the wood, 15 miles from my family and a little more than 1,000 miles from “home”. I kind of rolled around for a while, tried to get up and realized that my arms weren’t functioning properly.

I used the leverage of legs to get myself on my ass. My hands and forearms were working fine but I couldn’t lift my arms from my body.

I started thinking all the things that you would think at a time like this. Is anything broken? How am I going to get back to Becky and the kids? Is this the end of the roadtrip? Do I need to go to the hospital?

Finally I moved one of my hands to the top of a tree that was broken and laid over at about waist height. I put my right hand on it with the help of my left and thought the thing to do would be to pull the arm back in like an action figure, I’d just pull it up and away form  my body to pop it in.

It worked.

The sound and pain of that is… a lot to take. I should note that I’ve come to find out that this isn’t the “right” way to do this however the way this joint is set if you’re healthy enough and you get the ball into the right area it will pop in.

I put the left one back in the same manner as the right. It was less painful coming out and going in then the right but it was still extreme and the sound… oh the sound…

There was immediate relief but at the same time I was now presented with hallmarks of passing out… blackness closing around the corners of my field of vision, “jelly” legs… I took very deep slow breaths and started walking then moving my arms a bit.

What happened next was pretty odd.

I think I was hopped up on adrenaline or endorphins or whatever happens at a time like this. I decided to ride out. I rode maybe 100 yards towards the exit and then was compelled instead to turn around and finish the ride.

I thought “I may never get back here… any damage I did is already done… right? I feel ok. I should just finish”

This is obviously insane but that’s what I decided. I turned back around and continued my ride. I carried on for more than 10 or 15 minutes before I came to my senses and realized that this is crazy.

I turned around again and headed back to the van. Thank God I did. By the time I got to the van the relief from whatever natural chemicals had fired was gone.

We had to leave the woods obviously.

It was time to go. We waited until the next morning and overnight I took a lot of Advil… and maybe some bourbon.

There’s a lot to do to pack all of us up in the van and hook our 6,000 some odd pound airstream to the ginormous van. I do most all of the heavy lifting typically. On this day Becky had to do more than her share.

I was useless.

We decided to head to Stone Mountain, GA which is just outside of Atlanta. I could get medical attention, there’s plenty of stuff for the kids to do etc.

Well, we made the drive and when we pulled up to register we found this.

IMG_2621

This is called a 7-Pole or 7-Plug connector and it’s what comes out of the Airstream and into the van. This controls the lights and brakes etc while we’re driving. This photo doesn’t show all the detail but it was shredded.

We managed to fix this with a bit of googling and an overnight Amazon delivery we installed a weather tight junction box and a new 4 foot plug. This was our first attempt at any real repairs and frankly it worked out beautifully.

The timing was, however, horrendous not only because I had these only semi-useful T-Rex arms but because we had the pressure on to get to Disney World for a bought and paid for vacation just a few days down the road.

I’m coming up on two weeks out now I’m still sore. I’m functional but sore.


A lot has happened since this post ↑

You’ll see more updates here soon. I’ll leave you here by saying 2 things.

  1. Life, it seems to me, is made up of a series of split second decisions and the ramifications thereafter. I’m ready to be wrong but I’ve got a developing theory. More about this later.
  2. Dislocating both shoulders at once is actually not the most painful thing you can do to yourself. I believe I’ve identified something more intense albeit quicker to heal.

More about Disney, holidays on the road, Austin and 11 hour drives with kids soon.

 

Captain’s Log. Day 73.

IMG_2523

Friday night was the first time that we were forced to make a split decision due to weather.

We had been in Asheville for the month of October. We have some fluid plans with two sets of friends in the Atlanta region but our next firm date isn’t until later in November with a giant mouse and some other questionable characters down in Orlando.

We’d been deliberating about staying longer in Asheville because we’d really been enjoying it and we’re considering it as a future home base. There’s so much more that we wanted to do there… so many more places I wanted to ride. You’d think that a month would be enough, but it wasn’t.

You could say that, after a month, we’d “settled in” a bit.

The forecast turned for the worst and Asheville was expecting several inches or more of snow.

What does that look like for a DPW in North Carolina? Not good we wagered and we’d heard that the city will shut down with a few inches of snow.

Where we’re from a few inches is just an appetizer but… did we really want to be driving a rear wheel drive 15 passenger van in a southern city shut down by snow? Or worse did we want to hunker down in our 240 square feet with the kids for several days?

Long story short, we had to get out of there.

We weren’t sure where we were going to go next and we didn’t have anything booked before Florida. We planned to go to Charleston, a little place called FATZ trail system north of Augusta, Bull Mountain in Chattahoochee and Atlanta are on our list for various reasons but other than that we’re flexible.

It took a few calls to find a place with an opening. There was nothing available in Augusta that we were amenable to and with a few more calls we had reservations in Charleston.

If you’re going to be on the road full-time you’ve got to be flexible… but shouldn’t you be regardless?

Our Ideas Are Evolving

If we can do this what else can we do?

What else should we do?

What else would we want to do?

I met a fellow cyclist at the Bent Creek parking lot named Andrew. Six months ago he quit his job.

He recently flew, by himself, to Calgary. He rode his bike from the Calgary airport to Banff in Alberta. Then he rode his bike down the continental divide to New Mexico over six weeks with two other guys he had just met on the ride his very first day.

Now he’s traveling full time.

That’s living.

He always wanted to do that ride… When was a boss going to give him 6 weeks off to do that?

Never.

The program we’re supposed to run goes… Get a safe job, earn, borrow, spend, invest a bit through a 401k, repeat…

Until what?

Well until we can earn enough to borrow enough to get bigger better stuff of course.

Then one day when you’ve done 20 or 30 or 40 years of that and you didn’t eat shit in the stock market and real estate has done just what its supposed to then, oh yes then, you can do what you want.

Then you’ll be living.

Fuck that.

I’m not advocating that everyone quit their jobs and drive around. Not at all. Its not what I’ve done.

I am however suggesting that the idea that if you follow that program and hope that someday all the stars are going to align and someday you’re going to finally do the things you want to do… it’s bullshit.

How many people do you know of who are at or near retirement age today who did that and have the money AND the health that they’d hoped for and now they’re finally going to live the dream?

They are few and far between.

The entire program is rubbish.

I’m not saying don’t work hard and I’m not saying don’t save. We do both.

I’m just saying that if you’ve been waiting to really live, stop it.

Oh snap… I ranted again… sorry.

We’re Planning to Live Smaller So We Can Live Bigger

The other day Becky took the 3 kids and drove an hour away from camp and hiked for an hour and a half on her own. You know how many times she did that when we were back in our very deep groove (er, rut)?

None.

I think being “light” and to keep it moving is the key and we’re talking a lot about that.

We’re thinking about what we would need to do to stay nimble and still build a

What if we had a little place… or multiple little places in a couple of places… and we AirBnB’d them when we weren’t there?

Why not?

I’m going to go ahead and proclaim that the traditional idea of success where you acquire ever larger places to store your stuff is bankrupt. I have no interest in it.

This isn’t to say that we don’t want money or security; we most definitely do. (If you’re a listener I know you know that’s true).

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with setting roots or feathering your nest or even doing so in a big way… if that’s truly where you’re finding your joy and that’s something that bring you real satisfaction.

Our plan going forward is to be more intentional about our lives and to optimize for what’s most fulfilling and important.

A bigger house and more stuff aint it.

Experience is.

Captains Log. Day 64.

stones
Some of the stones we found while mining in North Carolina

We’ve been on the road for just over 2 months and 3,870 miles. If it takes 21 days to form a habit… then we’re deep into the road trip habit.

For the month of October we’ve been stationed in Asheville, NC. Asheville is a small mountain town in Western North Carolina.

We first visited Asheville a few years ago (when we had just 2 kids) after I saw it listed as one of the “top mountain towns to live in”. At the time I was hot to get out of New England (sorry y’all) and we had visited Colorado and North Carolina to look at our options.

The last time we visited we were here for a total of 4 or 5 days I think.

Knowing what I know now the idea that we’d be able to fully evaluate a place in just 4 or 5 days is just plain silly. We’ve been here nearly a month and we still have a million questions.

Asheville has a lot of what we’re looking for.

I love the mountains. I’m a big mountain biker. Its been my main thing going on 25 years. The Asheville area is renowned for superior trails.

The weather, despite what the southerners we’ve met think, is mild. Each morning starts off a bit cool and by the afternoon the weather is gorgeous. Everyone we’ve spoken with who lives here seems to say the same thing – “its not too cold in the winter, not too hot in the summer”.

The food is fantastic. We’re amazed at the volume and quality of the restaurants… we could be accused of being foodies. There’s also definitely a “food consciousness” if you know what I mean… local, organic, etc. These things are important to us.

Downtown is basically franchise free. Its fairly unique in this way. The result is that there’s a real thriving independent business community. There’s a big “local” focus and we love that.

Its easy to get around. We can get about anywhere in 5 or 10 minutes any time of the day. We’ve parked downtown within just a few minutes  for just a few dollars even during the busiest times. Its a treat and a big change from what we’re used to.

There are a million things to do… all the time.

The co-working space here is fantastic. Complete with regular meetups, 1Million Cups of Coffee meetings, super fast Internet, 3D printer… pretty much everything you’d want in a co-working space.

Its a bit touristy. I get that. Oh well, they come here and spend money.

If you ask our kids what their favorite place is so far they’ll tell you Charlottesville. I can’t blame them. I left there thinking “what else would we be looking for”?

What Asheville doesn’t have is a core of close friends an family. MA/NH has this. Austin has this.

It doesn’t have a thriving tech startup scene. I feel like if I was around one “the sky’s the limit” business wise.

Priorities I guess… Well, we’ve got a lot of miles ahead of us to process it all.

 Reflections On Full Time Glamping After 2 Months on the Road

When its warm out the outside is your living area.

The fact that we’re in 230ish square feet isn’t that a big deal in warmer weather. We put the kids down for bed and head outside for a fire, a bottle of wine, some local cheese, pistachios for sure and whatever else we found on our adventures and we discuss the day the kids and what we’ll do the next day.

When its warm I’ll wake up and head outside with the dog and let him take care of business while I setup the coffee, bacon, etc on the outside burners, get everything going and then out come Becky and the kids.

It doesn’t work this way when its cold out and its definitely a bit chilly in the mountains first thing in the morning and at night.

Being shut in adds stress. In the morning it means we’re on top of each other trying to get ready. When you’re with all 3 kids all day every day you need some time to decompress at night. Its harder to do that when you’re shut in.

Disciplining children is more difficult. Where do you send them when they’re behavior is horrendous? What do you take away?

This is a whole other topic and we’ve come up with some solutions that we’ll write about in the future. Some have worked but we’re far from perfecting this.

The close quarters kiddie management is more than a post. Its a book. I don’t think we’re qualified to write it yet.

You can’t really know what you need until you’re actually doing it.

There are a number of things that we brought that we simply don’t need. We’ve let go of some of these things, in fact we made a pretty large salvation army donation all the way back in Pennsylvania.

The other challenge is with the things that we didn’t bring.

Its difficult because we only have so much space so we need to be careful about what we buy. Some of the things we’d like to have we know we stored or sold or gave away. So that’s a drag.

The challenge is that we don’t know what we’re going to need next as we head south (and west)… and so what we end up doing is simply going without.

Its fine.

I think we’re permanently changed.

Regardless of where we decide to set up a more permanent camp I can’t see not traveling regularly and I’m certain that we’ll be spending more time in Asheville.

Now that we’re light and mobile we want to stay that way. And, yes, I can speak for the both of us on this. The fact is that now that we have the equipment and we don’t have all that stuff… as long as I continue with the business like it is there’s no reason not to.

Time will tell.. my hope is that after we establish the next beachhead we feel the same way.

 

Captains Log. Day 28.

We’ve been traveling for 4 weeks. It seems like forever and it seems like we just started…if you know what I mean.

There are some real benefits and some real challenges to full-time travel that we’ve found in this first month.

This is, by far, the longest trip I’ve ever been on, even if we were to end it today. I think the next runner up would be our honeymoon which lasted a little less than 2 weeks (Europe) and I’m sure it was stressful as all hell by the end for all the work I was missing.

So that’s the thing right now that’s allowing us to do this, the “work”.

People have asked along the way how we’re affording to do this – are we broke and on the run?

Did we win the lottery?

Did my uncle leave me some cash?

Why do we have to live in a trailer (call it the Airstream please…)?

No. None of these.

I have a business and it’s online and that’s how we do it.

“Well don’t you have to be working to make money?”

No.

I have a business, not a practice, not a gig, not a job online, its a business. I don’t think I’d do a trip like this without one, too stressful.

I think its possible to save up enough money to hit the road for a while. I’m sure its possible to work a remote gig from the road and travel extensively but both of those options make me nervous. All these kids with mouths… the E350 with the big V8 drinking gas… What if I couldn’t work? What if I couldn’t get online? Nerve wracking.

The difference between having a business versus a gig or a job online is that it is working when I am not working. A business is built on systems that you put in place that allow it to operate whether or not you have your hands in it every day.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have to spend time driving it. I do.

I’ve had to completely reinvent what that means and how I approach work.

Work is no longer a thing that I punch in and out for and I’m satisfied when I’ve maintained a certain amount of time in a room or in front of a computer. It was before we left.

I’d like to think that it wasn’t and I worked on making it not be that way but the fact is that 9 out of 10 days I’d find enough “work” to keep me very busy from breakfast to dinner.

This trip has been a major escape from that.

I don’t have the luxury of sitting on my ass (or standing I was using a standing desk at home) whiling away the hours in the name of “productivity”.

Now I must do the most important, highest leverage, most productive things that I can each time I sit down to work. I have to be truly efficient and productive… not looking busy in the name of productivity.

If you work on a computer I challenge you to install RescueTime to see how much of your “work” time is meaningful.

Shit happens.

It’s not all peaches. This past weekend we were “wild camping” (sort of) with no cell service, no electric, no plumbing in the George Washington Forest at Todd Lake.

I went out for a sizable ride and just as I reached a peak I took out my phone to take a picture, saw a text message from my assistant “URGENT: the server is down” and my phone dies.

Strava Map, My phone died at the top of a mountain the moment I found out my server was down.
Strava Map, My phone died at the top of a mountain the moment I found out my server was down.

Anyway, I’ll talk more about work another time.

The point is I’m working in short focused sprints. I’m doing the most important things in the business that only I can do and I am offloading or ignoring everything that doesn’t absolutely have to be done by me.

I’m also rolling with the punches. Things I would have fixed in 2 minutes before now have to wait 2 hours.

Its worth it.

The Good

Our days are full.

There is always something we want to do. That means that we’re getting ready for it or getting back from it or doing it most of the day. Hence, my work has to be scheduled, compartmentalized and focused.

One thing about full-time travel is that you are never bored. We are never bored.

We are constantly discovering new places, trying new food (especially the kids), finding new adventures and new favorites and it is great.

At some point (very soon) we’ll start talking more in depth about the places.

Sometimes we’ll be somewhere doing something awesome and I’ll look at Becky and just say “We’re doing this!” half to extinguish my own disbelief and the other half… I think to make sure she’s still with me.

The Bad

Its hard to get a routine with so many variables. Kids like a routine.

I think we’re getting there but the first few weeks were anything but routine. We still eat at just about the same 3 times every single day. We all go to bed in the exact same places, even if we’ve moved 200 miles…but we haven’t found our “rhythm” yet exactly.

We’re moving too fast. We’re moving too slow. Its hard to tell.

We’re in Charlottesville right now, for example, and it is AWESOME. I think we’d stay for a month if we could. But why can’t we?  Maybe we should. Let’s extend. Wait then we have to cancel Richmond. No we can extend Richmond. But then we have to postpone Asheville. No we need to get to Asheville….

And it goes on like this.

I think we’ve done this with all but one stop. It can get a little frantic.

We have nowhere to be and yet we have to get somewhere all the time, all at once.

I think we’ll settle into this. I think we’ll stay much longer in key places and much shorter stints in the “layover stops” as we’re calling them (Copake for example).

The Ugly

We’ve had our first sickness rip through the camp. Enzo and Becky and Madeleine were hit the hardest with a fairly intense nose/throat type ordeal. Vince got it to a lesser degree and somehow I manage to dodge it (pretty sure it was the ColdEase zinc). Anyway, this is not great in a 230ish foot Airstream. Difficult to say the least. Mama is the nurse, not I.

We made it through though and we’re no worse for the wear.

We’re Booked

We’ve scheduled ourselves through mid-January.

We do have some flexibility and some weeks to fill in but its kind of nice to know that, for example, we’ll be in Asheville for October, at a resort in Pensacola on the beach for Thanksgiving, and in Austin for Christmas and New Years.

Kinda perfect now that I say it out loud…

More updates to come but let me say this.

Whatever you’re wanting to do… STOP wanting and START doing.

For real.

I’ve had a lot of folks reach out to me since we started this trip. A lot of people say that I’m “lucky” (some say fckn crazy).

It aint luck.

It didn’t happen by accident. We didn’t wake up one day and find we had flexible lives and income and mobility. It is by design.

No, we didn’t plan a giant road trip for years. We planned to be able to do whatever we wanted and then we happened to want to do a gigantic road trip.

It took 3 years of busting ass with 2 businesses, occasional massive face-plants, lots of work with no promise of a return then it took 2 more years of tweaking and testing and iteration.

And it took embracing some risks.

I’m going to get off the pulpit now but let me close by saying that if you’re the type of person who’s reading stuff like this and thinking “I want to do that, they’re so lucky” then shut your mouth and get to work… because its not luck, its work, and um.. “stones”. Neither of which we’ve cornered the market on.

Captains Log. Day 12.

I feel goood

I feel stronger.

dynamometer
Squeeze it and weep

My father has a dynamometer in his office and growing up in my late teens and through all of my 20s and even into the beginning of my 30s I could show up and pick the thing up and squeeze off 160…  damn near the top of the scale.

Over the past decade the number plummeted…130, 120, 110…

If you’ve never squeezed a dynamometer might mean nothing to you. Suffice it to say that it measures the force you deliver with your grip.

After 12 days on the road I can feel the strength returning to my hands (and body).

Over the last decade or more I’ve slowly moved into mouse/shoulder/wrist/hand issues. I’ve had persistent shoulder problems caused by shortened pectoral muscles caused by…. working all the friggin time at a desk with a mouse, typing.

If you’re working on a computer and you’re not actively fighting the same issues then I’d wager you’re suffering from them.

Now I’m moving much more and in more ways and I’m using more muscles than I have in a long time. I’m constantly turing a screw or lifting an awning or fixing a bike or carrying something heavy or just something… and actually, it feels good.

We’re doing a lot more manually, but it’s smaller.

There’s a lot more I can say about smaller and I will but removing all of the clutter and focusing on accomplishing the tasks at hand, the ones that you have to do every single day multiple times per day (eating, cleaning up, all of the kid related stuff) but with fewer things and fewer “conveniences” and objects and appliances… actually I think it takes less time overall.

It requires more forethought and process and involves you using your body way more. But (for the moment) its great.

We’re camping at Seven Points Campground outside of Huntingdon, PA and we’re on the Allegrippis trail system. I rode my mountain bike 3 times today for 40+ minutes a piece, once with the dog and once with each of the “big kids”.

I’m probably still in the honeymoon phase of this road trip, but despite the occasional crisis I love it.

Despite the challenges and uncertainty and everything else that goes along with liquidating most everything you have and driving off into the country without a final destination,  I’m running a NET positive in life-force and energy… if you know what I mean.

Its not that I haven’t been working over the past 12 days, in fact I have. I re-launched an online training program that I offer, launched a split test, sent emails to thousands of people, managed my ‘staff’. Had phone calls with customers, but I’m ONLY doing the most important things.

Work isn’t consuming me. I’m fitting in work around living and not the other way around. Because I have to. Its nice.

Seven Points so far has been much more the kind of ‘camping’ I enjoy. The people here are different than in the NY KOA, more active, here more for the outdoors than for parking and drinking.

Tomorrow we head to Gettysburg (which is only about 2.5 hours away) as a layover of sorts to get us to Virginia.

Captains Log. Day 11.

There’s a stark contrast in the aesthetics of eastern and central Pennsylvania. Central Pennsylvania is gorgeous. Eastern Pennsylvania is…. not.

We traversed PA via 87 to 84 to 80 and it is horrendous. Each state I’ve driven through I’ve thought to myself…

I’m going to write a post and award this state the F-U and Your Friggin Roads Award

But Pennsylvania takes the cake… hands down.

As we’re bouncing down the road we come to an enormous (single) sign (I wish I’d taken a picture) that was worded so poorly that I wasn’t able to tell if I must immediately get off on this exit if I was wider than 8′ 6″ or if I absolutely must not take that exit under any circumstances if I’m wider than 8′ 6″.

I think we’re 8′ on the nose. Becky has agreed to remind me to measure.

In retrospect I think it was the former.

What followed was what seemed like hours of 50 MPH white-knuckle horror that may as well have been 100.

The road was so narrow with Jersey barriers of an unusual height that I dared not even check my mirrors to see how close I was. To top this off it was wildly uneven and traffic was ridiculously fast. We were tossed about, up and down for honestly what seemed like days. I thought it would never end.

Pennsylvania has decided that instead of fixing some portion of the road and then moving on to the next, they’d rather lay waste to painfully long stretches and they’ve devised a system of periodic “Emergency Pull-Offs” where presumably you should go to have your heart attack.

Its no wonder that they’re fracking the shit out of Pennsylvania they obviously hate themselves. Why else do these things?

Anyway…

Getting through New York with a trailer and propane is nightmare.

We stayed in Copake, visited Great Barrington, and hiked to Bash Bish Falls and that was all great.

Leaving, not so much.

You can’t take any of the Parkways including the Taconic.

If we were any good at reading maps anymore (I have made it around the country several times with no GPS or smart phone, I can’t remember how) we might have made it sooner but try as we may Google insists that we take illegal roads and so we’re forced to select “Avoid Highways” to get past this.

All of this probably wouldn’t have been as difficult to deal with except that as we’re making our way across RTE 199 towards the bridge over the Hudson suddenly there’s a crunching noise. The entire 58′ of us is sort of shifting back and forth and the brakes feel like the anti-lock system is kicking in, crunching and sputtering, except there’s absolutely no reason for it… that I can tell.

I slowed down, started again and we got more of the same.

I pulled over on a much busier road than I would have liked with too small a shoulder and I inspected everything. None of the lug nuts were loose. The wheels weren’t loose. Nothing was inordinately hot (brakes, wheels, tires).

Before I left my father asked me if there were any tools I was missing. The only answer to that is "we'll find out". So far I need a 24mm socket.
Before I left my father asked me if there were any tools I was missing. The only answer to that is “we’ll find out”. So far I need a 24mm socket.

I called the Ford dealership that was 6 mies away, unsure that we’d even make it there. I was told they wouldn’t even look at what the problem was until Tuesday.

I decided that we’d start again and head towards another dealer and if a wheel fell off or if we we burst into flames we’re pretty well insured and I’ve got AAA. We’d rent a hotel while we sorted it out and we’d be fine.

Long story short after about an hour and a half diversion everything seemed to me to be operating normally and we pushed on.

I mentioned in my last post that we’ve become quite proficient at the setup even after just 2 rounds. The same cannot be said for the packing up.

We expected today’s drive to take about 6.5 hours and we’d land in Seven Points around 5PM. The computer said 5.5 hours but that’s obviously BS with the operation I’m running.

Add in avoiding highways for an hour and a half, an impromptu vehicle inspection, 3 bathroom breaks and we rolled into Seven Points Campground at about… 8:30PM or 9-ish hours later.

The problem is that the kids are no help. In fact quite the opposite.

After Becky got everyone together, got food and water and other accoutrements for the road and I spent the morning dealing with breaking the site down and packing up, flushing etc., of the Airstream I returned to the van ready to hitch up to find that Madeleine had taken all of Vince’s clothes off, including his shoes, with the exception of his underwear, and she had thrown it around, tied it to things, and was wearing some of it.

She climbed over the back seat when I arrived and started stomping all over our possessions with a maniacal laugh in some misguided attempt to recover the shoe and then I did one of these…

Which I’m not proud of and she did in fact catch a flip-flop in the face. It wasn’t hard enough to hurt her and it was after all a 5-year old’s flip flop not an Iraqi size 10. I believe she got the point… I’m not sure she cares.

We’re getting better at this I swear

There are a lot of things that went absolutely swimmingly and the kids handled the ride WAY better than we could have expected, even Enzo (20 months).

That’s all I can muster for now. I’m sure we’re going to do a real “How To” post and a tour of the vehicles, cooking apparatus, the mobile working setup (yes I’m working) etc. etc.

 

Captains Log. Day 7.

We’ve made it through one week.

Old Orchard Beach was a bit of an odd place to start. It was much more “Jersey Shore” for Quebecers than it was “camping” per se.

It was interesting that in the park we stayed it seemed French was the dominant language. In Maine mind you, south of Portland.

I had an opportunity to speak with a couple of Quebecers in the hot-tub (naturally) and I learned that they come to Old Orchard Beach because it’s only about a 5-6 hour drive. The other place they go is Virginia Beach. Apparently the closest Canadian beach is in New Brunswick and is some 15 hours for them (I haven’t verified that) and the water sucks because there are no waves and its cold… or so I’m told.

And so they come in droves to Old Orchard Beach.

This worked out just fine because it gave me an opportunity to butcher their language with my 1.5 years of high school French training from 25 years ago. We talked about the ‘petrol sands’ and traffic and jobs and the Internet and it was all very good.

My daughter made friends with a funny little French boy Jason (or Jessen depending on who you ask) who seemed hell bent on hurting Vince sometimes with sticks and other times with tiny little unarmed random quebecer outbursts.

About The Drive

The packing up and getting out of our site was vastly more time consuming than I had planned for. We ended up leaving late and feeling harried. Thankfully I didn’t smash anything or anyone and we set off around 1PM.

Google tells me that the drive should have been about 4 hours, actually on the nose.

We arrived at 7:30PM.

As we climbed the Berkshires today it occurred to me that we are slightly under-powered. Or else we’re over laden. I wonder how this caravan will perform as we get into more serious terrain. We have a V8 with a 13,400 GVWR with an 8800lb (dry and empty) Safari Airstream so I didn’t anticipate any trouble. We shall see.

What must it have been like for the first settlers?

The other thing that occurred to me, and not for the first time in my life, is that while I moaned over the obvious strain of pulling nearly 60 feet of steel and aluminum up the berkshires at 60 MPH … there were people who fought their way through that thicket by foot and horseback.

Just as we got into the “mountains” a fast moving storm came in and we had heavy rain and thunder and lightning, then a heavy misty fog.

Imagine there’s no trail, or not much of one, the trees and brush are so thick and wet that not only can you not see a damn thing but you’re probably getting scratched and bit to hell by mosquitoes and other bugs.

You’re no doubt carrying and dragging most of what you own.

You’ve got your family with you and your 7 year old is asking “when are we going to be there?” and you have absolutely no friggin idea because you barely know where you are let alone where you’re going.

I think you’re just hoping at that point that everybody lives.

I didn’t have any of that to deal with. So there’s that.

The Airstream is the Bomb

I’ll write more about this later. This thing is 9 years old and you would never know it. People wave and honk on the road, nudge each other and point, kinda cool.

But that’s not really the half of it. The thing is solid. Everything just works.

You can hear nothing outside when its closed up even when your 7-year-old daughter is raising holy hell inside and pushing her mother to the brink.

We can now setup, after just our 2nd try, in about 10 or 15 minutes.

Bang. There’s our tiny little home.

Pretty great for what we’re up to right now. I’m so glad we didn’t go with our original plan (at least today) which I’ll explain at some point in the future.

At any rate…

I’ll plan to periodically ramble on with a Captains Log as some sort of outlet or journal though not the official “blog” exactly.

Maybe I’m just practicing writing.

Perhaps my kids will read them some day.