Tuesday, March 6, 2012


     This may come across like a rant, but that is only because it is in fact a rant. Living in the stick and bricks has its myriad of frustrations, but the road has the ones you never learned about growing up in your home town. You are often set up to feel like the new kid in the new school getting schooled by unfamiliar rules and traditions. In new cities and states you are expected to know how things work, and locals give you that patronizing look when you obviously do not. The United States is not set up to allow for traveling families, is made mostly of those who settle for one location and satisfy themselves with that. Government employees eye you suspiciously when they do not understand you may not see your "home address" for 6 plus months or more. They get more agitated when they learn you may not often even stay in a single location for more than two weeks straight. You start to ask yourself questions like, "How much truth can this one handle?" "How much can I not tell them and still accomplish what I need to?"   
     I have had a few frustrations lately, one is purchase of a car. I thought it might be cheaper to by an inexpensive auto for a couple months instead of renting. The State of Florida wants ungodly amounts for title and registration plus taxes, and local insurance. These fees must be paid or the car must be registered and insured in your home state which in some cases the state wants the car in the state to complete the registration process (2800 miles away). The lease option is difficult with no local address, a crafting business and as I shared in earlier posts, trashed credit. As I am sure  you have also experienced, DMV employees are not usually into helping with complex situations, they seem to prefer the simple stuff and will often try to pass the buck with anything that confuses them. 
     Americans are fat and lazy and prefer it that way. Practically no one rides bicycles and barely understand why anyone else would when they could drive. Cities do not generally provide any accommodating features for those who would rather choose to ride or walk even. Sidewalk and bike lanes are an afterthought if thought of at all. Drivers see cyclists and pedestrians as a annoyance or at best novel but still in the way. Why are you people always in such a hurry 24/7? By the way I hate to see all the litter you seem to scatter then ignore from you noisy smelly car. Stores have huge parking lots but often no bike racks. 
      Lastly, it is always difficult to balance the positive income with the negative income. Between craft shows and online sales (www.ittybittybettys.com), computer tuneups, jewelry making and other financial opportunities, juggling it all can be quite a headache. Especially when I want to continue my childrens' education and entertainment, get along with my wife, eat and exercise. The bus must have fuel, be parked in RV parks, State parks, National Parks, and yes Wal-mart. The family needs fuel/food, the crafting business has overhead, there are personal needs that must be met.
      Some of these loads are real, many I just have formed a habit of placing on myself, but either way it is a constant battle to not let them feel like a weight holding me down, and place a confident aura about me for my lovely children.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The traveling life.....

Our family got back on the road in the beginning of February. It was an emotional event for all involved. Amber always has some anxiety about road travel and this time so soon after our crash was especially traumatic. The children  had spent much time with grand parents, in fact more time than they had spent with them all together up to that point in their lives. For me, there was the somewhat self induced stress of feeling responsible for everything as driver and protector of the clan. Was it going to be safe? Was our new rig up to the task I needed it to complete? I had more than 2800 miles ahead of me and no idea how it was going to go.
Our MCI MC8 Challenger had not really gone anyplace since we picked it up in Anaheim almost 9 months earlier. We had completed the interior with donated materials and gifts from family; Cherry composite floors in the front, vinyl tile floors throughout the back, childrens' room in the back with three bunks, seating with seat-belts for all family members, trimmed in pine, redwood, teak and bamboo. Finally, we completed the conversion from Bus to Mobilehome/RV with the California Highway Patrol, then registered and insured. My 8V71 Detroit Diesel  was warming up and I was not even sure I could get it out of the driveway. Turned out I made it look easy.
The excitement continued to build as we headed for our first stop in Pismo Beach. The only really eventful part of this first leg was the fact that it was so uneventful, except for our Bus passing cars trucks and RV's with ease, I actually had to concentrate on keeping my speed down, something I never had to deal with in previous RVs.
The kids were delighted to be traveling again and were discovering animals all over our campground in Pismo. We met some family and even stayed some extra days while waiting for an appointment at camping world for an oil change for our MCI. They told us they needed a few days lead time to prepare for our older vehicle (1973) . We actually enjoyed this time and celebrated the fact that split second timing what once again not really a part of our lifestyle. I noticed a problem with one of our Tag-axle air bags and a mobile mechanic helped me work it out in the park.
Upon arrival at Camping World, we discovered that several days was not nearly enough lead time as they did not have the parts, oil or now-how to do an oil change on our bus, they also neglected to call and let us know, so we had wasted several days waiting for the appointment and actually showing up for it.
We next headed to Quartzite AZ, a destination we had missed the previous year due to the crash, to meet a couple traveling families. This was the kids first opportunity to make friends back on the road and they really made the most of it in the dry Arizona desert. The kids were flourishing, making friends, discovering new animals, and playing new games. We stayed 3 days in Quartzite making some great friends and discovering a new RV mecca to head back to in the future. There are literally thousands of RVs and opportunities for fulltimers open to them. You can even look it up online.
Our first day out of Quartzite had us passing the exact location of the crash and it was a moment we commemorated with candy for all, Lex suggested we make the same celebration every year and at each passing of the location, something which we all agreed to do. We decided our next true stop would be the South Llano River in Texas, since there really wasn't anything else we wanted to see in Arizona or New Mexico on this pass, so after Wally Docking a couple more nights that was our next stay.
We had stayed in South Llano River in the last year and looked forward to it with great anticipation. This is lovely little Texas State Park just a short distance off of the I10 in the Texas Hill Country. While there we saw Deer, Turkey, Cardinals, and Antelope. Getting back on our bikes after so many months of sedentary life in Watsonville reminded us of muscles we had almost forgotten we possessed. Our travel lifestyle was missed in mind, heart, and body, but welcoming it back did come with a few aches and pains. We also learned that our new ride was a very nice place to live on the road providing all the comforts we had gotten used to calling home.
I can't over state how huge Texas is. I mean, honestly that place goes on forever and ever unless you are crossing on the I40. Heading East once you pass San Antonio it is basically flat and straight for almost 800 miles and Houston is really just a huge Urban sprawl that takes hours to cross. As much as we love other parts of Texas we hate this part and only wanted to get to Louisiana.
Once in Louisiana we decided to stay in Lafayette at a KOA were we had before stayed for our Halloween, this time we made plans for our first Mardi Gras. After stuffing ourselves with Boudin and Cracklins' we dragged the slightly confused children to what we told them would be a surprising parade. We were not disappointed with their shock and delight at dozens and dozens of floats throwing them presents and so many beads they were brought to their knees several times each and were forced to remove and store their "Mr. T" starter kits and start over. After a fond farewell to LA and the Mardi Gras mess left by the revelers we Wally-Docked in Waveland Mississippi with plans for something all Travelers love, a "freebie."
If you have never visited Naval Air Station Pensacola, they have a spectacular admission free air museum that is not to be missed if you get the chance. It has both static and mountable exhibits for the kids, for homeschoolers this is also a great educational history opportunity. Plan to spend most of the day there as we spent a half day and only saw less than half of the exhibits.
The Bus still needed an oil change and it turned out a couple of air bags so we stayed at an awful Days Inn in Orlando right next to the "lovely" Orlando Jail while our bus was worked on at the MCI service center. The folks at MCI were spectacular, and I can't say enough good things about MCI and the helpfulness of their employees. I felt they did everything to stand behind the 39 year old MCI that we now owned.
A short drive from the MCI service center brought us to the Thousand Trails RV Resort near Orlando for a meeting of other Traveling Families in the area. The kids have made new friends, started their Florida tans, and Mom and Dad have genuinely started to get back into shape. I will make more updates as they come up and check out the pictures I will soon be posting.

Asphalt Dad

parking lot viewmy boysfearlessDay 14-365first merry-go-round ride
Daddies girlsMy boysmy boys, oh how i love theefather and sonfather's day 2009Photo0627.jpg
the perfect ridemy familiaDSCN0953everyone one must have a motto!a journey of lovecrossroads
safefirst smoresPhoto0510.jpg

Asphalt Dad, a set on Flickr.

Me and Mine

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why the road was taken.

        I have been asked recently what was the path in life that led us to a travel lifestyle. What was the point at which we decided, what happened to lead us and what did we do to step in a sense off the grid and out of our stick house? Was it just chance or was it somehow part of a grand plan? I have read of many stories of retirees, those who started or joined businesses that required travel, and still other of seekers of freedom of one sort or another. Our story reminds me of history, economics, timing and chance placing people in situations where they need to make choices for their family that they never expected to have to make. Of course many of the choices that were made suited something already inside us. This choice suited more needs for us than it did not, the same as in any ones life choices suit their life in their own way.
      I was working in the Technical Support Call Center industry and for a while business was good. I was moving through lower management on a fast track and starting to grow with the economy, building debt while building a family, larger car, and nicer things. A young son and twin daughters, everything was looking good or so it seemed. Then the economy turned and "Outsourcing" became a prime cost cutting measure. I was eventually laid off, with a small severance package. Now timing becomes more important, at first I could not except less than my unemployment insurance check due to bills and debt, the juggling began. No one was hiring anyhow. The phone continued not to ring for a year, except for offers of scams or "paid educational" or job training license positions. Odd jobs here and there floated us sometimes;  mostly I had time to be with family and realize how fat I had gotten from office work. The former was good, the latter not so much. One hot day we drove from Portland to the coast for some cooler weather. The drive reminded us how much travel inspired conversation and we talked about future plans and what we were going to do next in life. At the end of a nice day at the coast we were at the beach getting ready to head back to Portland and the dreaded heat, we noticed the folks in the Class-C parked next to us were preparing a dinner instead of the drive we were contemplating. That was a spark.
      Why couldn't we? Other families were doing it we discovered with a little research, and if they could so could we. It came down to the fact that things might not be better but it would be a learning experience and  an adventure. When would there be another chance to show my family around the world? Would I be able when I was older, would my wife? Would the kids still want to hang out with us? When the opportunity came to buy a $1500 1972 GMC Propane powered School bus, I did it. The Neighbors thought we were crazy as did our family and friends. Oddly enough there were others who had never given me a second look wanted to get to know me cause I was now "the guy converting a Skoolie." Too late I guess, my heart was in many ways already on the road. It took me 8 months to complete the interior with my young family. It wasn't much to start out with just enough to meet our needs of shelter and transportation.
       After our minivan was repossessed, debt ate our bank accounts and bills were missed. Our rental stick house of 5 years was purchased by another company with less patience than the previous, and the eviction process commenced.  The situation might have been able to have been rescued, but we thought, how long before it happened again? Instead we welcomed the path we saw before us stepped on to our bus Wayne and hit the road with rarely a look back.....

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Journey so far.....(Part 2)

Clearwater Florida is a interesting mix of people and environments. On the gulf of Mexico with beautiful sugar sand beaches it is a vacation destination not only for Floridians but for the world. Clearwater is also the home of the Church of Scientology. Locals claim this effects the community, some say for good some for bad. We have family in the Church and I do not really have a lot of good to say about it but not much bad either.
     But I will get back Clearwater later as at this point in the Journey our stay was short before we moved farther south to Hollywood Fl.
   The trip south included some of our tightest times when it came to fueling Wayne with propane. We found ourselves stopping for fuel at Feed and Seed stores, local propane suppliers, and we even had a drop tank delivered. We found our way through the Everglades and exited on fumes. 50 miles past where I thought we would run out of fuel and our only fuel option telling me over the phone they had no one who knew how to pump it so I would have to wait though the night, made it to our cousins home in Hollywood.
     Our cousin offered we stay in his home so we started spending time inside of a house, something we had not done as a family in quite some time, and eventually is was an adjustment that simply became too great to bear. It was actually an odd realization that we missed our bus when it came.
    Hollywood Florida is not bicycle friendly. Not in its layout, bicycle friendly features (bike lanes/paths etc) or people. Everyone, would stop and stare at our family of Mom and Dad on bikes pulling trailers filled with kids and or groceries. Some shouted and Amber even had a pen thrown at her once. People who do ride bikes in the area drive them to parks with paved paths for the "event." Some road that show on maps to have bike lanes abruptly end at freeways. We had ridden many miles through city and were taking a different route home. Many hours later lost and exhausted we had to call for a pick-up from our local family after one wrong turn too many. Hollywood is very much like Miami with the speed at which everyone there seems to live, rushing in their cars no time to talk to anyone because of all the time spent on their cellphones. Drive through everything including liquor stores. With everyone so worried about their image and our family so obviously not we tended to stand out in almost every situation. We met kind locals, fellow homeschoolers, and people near the start of their own road journey. The kids spent a subtropical Christmas that year enjoying their first thunderstorm in bathing suits, swam in the Atlantic for the new year and enjoyed some great close encounters with wildlife.
     Hollywood believe it or not has a large local population of wild Iguanas that living and around the canals with the other exotic flora and fauna. On one occasion when out for a trip to WalMart on the bikes we came along a 2.5 foot long bright green Iguana next to a canal, it did not run right away as many of the others had in our experience. We cautiously approached and it still did not run. I touched it and it only hissed lightly at me. So I carried it closer to the kids and each had a chance to pet it before we left it go go on its way. The kids have not looked at wild animals the same since, and while cautious they still want to investigate any wild animal sighting that catches their interest.
     At came to a point when we felt we needed to be back in our bus and to a place that would be more friendly to our bicycle needs as a family. It was mostly these needs that caused us to pack our bus and start the journey to Clearwater florida. We stayed in Clearwater for several months riding bicycles on the Pinellas trail and selling art at the pier 60 sunset festival. We loved our ocean and beach explorations and the pinellas trail is great for safe fun family riding. This is a place we are returning to for business and pleasure. For many reasons I will go into later we sold our schoolie Wayne and got a B250 conversion van and a 26ft Travel trailer that our children right away named "Vanny and Buster." After repairs to tierods and a leaky rv roof we embarked on another US crossing. Thos trip we planned to take I10 a choice we still have mixed feelings about. While the new mode of travel took a little happened on our trip untill we got to New Orleans. We there discovered the was weather we would rather miss and so shortened our stay by a night and missed the tornados by less than 48 hours. For those of you have crossed Texas you know it takes forever. Execpt this time we felt like we were racing fires that were burning across the I10 from the south. As we checked our progress on the internet we found the fires burned across our path no more than 24 hours behind us. After puting the fires behind us in the west Texas hills. We camped at a beautiful spot called South Llano state park. Great bird watching with a nice mix of other wildlife and really nice regulars. We made a quick trip across NM and after a couple uneventful dry stops we were leaving Phoenix looking forward to seeing friends in California. The Semi-truck hit us doing close to 70mph. We had the fortune to be both heading in the same direction, I just happened to be going 20mph slower than he was. I will go into more details in a later post. We walked away with mostly soft tissue damage as our TT and conversion van absorbed the impact and were both totalled. As you may want details I will get to them in time but to some bigger points, this did not end our Journey. We have been in Santa Cruz and Watsonville for many months with family and now have a 1973 MCI MC8 Challenger conversion bus . We love our new bus! Stay tuned!!