Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Countdown Continues....



Is it that time again? When it is Abby’s post week, I always get jealous and have a million things to write about, then comes my turn, it always seems, where life on the little ranch is just a bit less exciting. But wait! There was snow!! Most people all over the world know, snow in south Texas is a pretty rare thing. The way I see it, now we don’t have to drive all the way to Alaska, because now we have done the snow, right?? I have to say, in my...err, maybe 11 times ever seeing snow in the flesh (including the time I almost died in it!), this light powder that lasted the dawn of the morning and nigh into the day, here in Abbyville, was probably the most beautiful display I have ever seen. Had it been the actual day of Christmas, oh my gosh… it would have been surreal.





Today (Wed, the 13th) is my brother Brian’s birthday. Like my mom, he no longer walks among us here on earth, at least not to my knowledge. He passed away eight years ago, which though it almost seems a lifetime, will ever be fresh in my mind in the same lessons and paying attention sort of way, as my mother and the other dozen or so people I have lost near and dear to me in the past 10 years. Losing people is never easy, but it does start to make more and more sense the older I get. Or, maybe the justifications become more strongly rooted as time goes by. Who knows. By next year I may have an entirely different perspective. What I do know is that he and Abby would have gotten on well together. They are both very likeable people with a few oddities in common, like intelligence and a tolerance and propensity for things the rest of the world struggle with.

Oh yes, and speaking of the past, I know Abby alluded to a bit of an adventure I had on our trip to Galveston. It is family tradition, as for many I suppose, to sort of spill by the house in Galveston where so much growing up and history took place. One never drives directly there, but more or less meanders the street surrounding, taking in landmarks and their change or insistence of no change over the years. Then, “oh… and this is our street”....”this house and that house and… well, what do you know, there is OUR house”.... Sort of like that, it just kind of shows up in the middle of the street. Since the storm IKE, things have changed so much on the island and it is hard not to be surprised by the lack of foliage, heck, giant oak trees and for us in particular, a beautiful magnolia tree that once lived outside the living room window. Then, without fail, a drive down the alley which haunts me to my core each time, I have no idea why I do it. Then a turn left over by the elementary school and park I knew as my very own for my youngest years and all of the childhood drama that took place there. There was plenty; a short book of stories I am sure that would make any bullied adolescent feel at home.

On this particular trip, however, driving down my childhood street and past the old house, Abby and I notice a sign in the yard. Is it for sale? Can I look inside the windows? I park on the other side of the street in front of a house that was everything from a small family, whose baby both my siblings and I all had turns sitting (none of us were carried the torch very well, not in our DNA)...ugh...to a small abode that housed medical students off and on. I didn’t even bother to wonder who lives there now as I walked over to the sign to read what it said. It was a homes tour sign for that very night! Hearing noise inside the house and noticing the front door was open, I couldn’t resist climbing the brick stairs I watched getting laid when I was very young and knocking on the double screen door I once painted every summer.

At this very moment, I am experiencing a little emotion as I did that day when someone came around the corner and after I identified myself, knew exactly who I was and had hoped to make my acquaintance some day. The short version of this story is that Abby and I got our very own private tour of the home I spent from my birth until the day I left for college and smatterings afterwards. There were remembered spaces and scars and ghost stories that all jumped out at me with every step we took. I wish we had had more time, but there was work to be done to prepare for the evening. On a different occasion, I would have insisted we stay and help!!

Meanwhile, I made new friends of the people that now live there, who I am very proud to get to know. Also, I have encountered a new writing assignment and project altogether that I am looking forward to. Abby and I will return to Galveston very shortly and that will keep the fire under my britches on that one.

So!! Ast the title states… THE COUNTDOWN CONTINUES!! We are on our way out of 2017 which is still packed with projects and excitement as only Abby can provide and on to the big travel and chock full of things to do and get done 2018!! Hopefully you will join us in all of our adventure and share yours with us as well!



Thursday, 7 December 2017

Vacation

Weeks were like this: Monday, Anne goes to Georgetown to camp and work with clients. Anne comes home on Thursday afternoon. Abby and Anne become regulars at Los Cabos Mexican restaurant every Thursday afternoon. Friday evening, Abby leaves for The Texas Renaissance Festival. Abby returns Sunday night where Anne has a lovely dinner waiting. And the next day, Monday, Anne leaves again.

This was exhausting. We knew this would be exhausting before this set of 9 weeks began, so we wanted to reward ourselves with a little weekend getaway of some kind. I had a credit with AirBnB for hosting over a whole year. Anne grew up in Galveston. Dickens on the Strand in Galveston is the first weekend of December and seemed the perfect combination of timing, location, and fun. I reserved and AirBnB that called itself quirky, wrote it on the calendar, and referred to this wee vacation every time we felt too tired to continue this crazy work pattern.

Thanksgiving weekend was my final weekend working at the Texas Renaissance Festival. We spent a little time recovering, unpacking, cleaning a million things, and then we packed for a different purpose. Macy, Anne, and I hopped in the car and drove a backroads way to Galveston.


We stopped at The Brick House to get our bearings and have a beer and snack of chips with white queso and crumbles of blue cheese. Our bartender told us about Stuttgarden Tavern with many more beers on tap, and she raved about their pretzels. We had a few minutes to kill and it was in the direction we wanted to go, so we decided to go there. They had a great outdoor seating area. I had some sort of peanut butter milk stout thing. It was dessert in a glass.

Stuttgarden Tavern.
As we sat in their outdoor area, we noticed women would leave the lady's room...  but we never saw them enter. We decided there must be a secret underground entrance or maybe this was part of a Dr. Who episode where humans were being created right inside that very room. Or maybe we were too busy drinking our beers to notice people coming and going... naw.

The thing that happened next is Anne's story to tell, plus, this post is getting long and I have a lot more to tell you. Just remember I said she grew up in Galveston. Maybe she'll tell you this part or maybe you'll have to wait for THE BOOK.
Random picture of the dog. She obviously hates travel.
About that quirky AirBnB. We arrived after a lovely evening of adventure and talk with a dear old family friend. One does not choose AirBnB for the perfect cookie-cutter rooms you could get at Motel 6 or the Hilton. One chooses AirBnB for the unique experience. And we got that. I could easily use the word quirky to describe my home. My home is also thought out, comfortable, cozy, cute and in good repair. This place needed WORK! The bathroom floor was the worst part with a feeling like you could fall through with any step. There were various sheets and chunks of fabric tacked or draped over windows. A simple straight stitch and cut them to the same length throughout would have made a HUGE difference even if the variety of fabrics didn't match. Quirky implies an element of cute, fun, and creativity. On top of it all, the only available coffee was instant. Hmmmmmm... Better luck next time.
OUR house is quirky! This is our cabin, not the AirBnB
We visited the beach in the morning. It was lovely. Macy pranced around in the sand like a puppy. Then, off to Dickens.
The beach at sunrise.
We found parking close enough that would be in the shade so we could come walk Macy every couple of hours. The entire festival is about 6 blocks long with main stages set up, but other groups perform in the street as they wish. Many many people dressed in Victorian clothing. The Strand is lined with good shops and food. The festival adds even more food and shopping booths. On one of our return trips to walk the dog, we stopped for lunch at Olympia Grill. We sat on their deck with a view of the water, ordered a salad with grilled salmon to split and my friends Therese and Joe showed up and shared our table. It was a gorgeous day and this was a fantastic way to spend our first non-working weekend.
Enjoying a beer on the curb in our souvenir mugs.
When we got tired, which was early, we went back to our AirBnB. We woke the next morning hungry for breakfast tacos. We searched our phone and found Habanero's Taco Co. They wouldn't serve me a bean, bacon and cheese taco because a) he would have to charge 50 cents extra for making it special, b) it's not authentic without eggs, c) he'd really rather sell me a day-time taco instead. Our cashier made himself sound like the owner (I think he was), and he really said all of these things even when I told him 50 cents was fine. So, I ordered 2 tacos from the regular menu, and they were indeed quite good. They have a pot of beans for helping yourself. Those were also very tasty with good spices and ham bits. With our tummies full, we drove away toward home.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

What's next?...will not be learned here..

Well, thank gosh Thanksgiving is over!!  I guess you heard it was pretty low key around here.  It was an in and out scene with a pork chop, gravy, some purple potatoes and an apple-brussel sprout-asparagus saute.  The meal had no chance at looking good on a plate, but Abby snapped a quick shot before she ate and headed back to her last weekend at TRF.  Woohoo… something else to be thankful for.  Abby looks a little thankful here, if you ask me...or is that exhaustion?



I can say that with at least a smattering of authority, as that is where we had come from, before super fast Thanksgiving dinner.  That was my first Texas Renaissance Festival ever.  I know right?  I have lived in Texas my entire life and I guess my parent didn’t see it as an interesting thing to do for their kids’ education growing up.  I concur.  It was only slightly educational as an adult, in that I learned lots about festival food and how many thousands of people can eat it at the same time.  That time being...ALL damn day.  Don’t misinterpret my tone, the festival was interesting, lots to do and see, performers to watch, characters to witness their behavior.  Abby and her group were fantastic.  I found it a little frustrating that some of the smaller venues had the best raw talent.  This talent somewhat overwhelmed by the loudness of nearby stages, crowds of people yelling above them and my very favorite, people talking on their cell phones.  Seriously?  How much did you pay to get in here?  I was there for two days, the duration of the weekend basically, except when I went back to our campground at Cagle State Park about 40 minutes away to check on her majesty, not the camper, the dog.  I highly recommend the campground if you have a boat and like to fish, or have smallish children you would like to introduce to camping.  It an excellent setup for that with a gorgeous lake and small, inclusive campgrounds.  For us, it was a good place to let Macy sleep away the hours in the Eggcellence, while Abby worked her tail off and I learned even more about human nature.  

We are now in chill out or rev up mode, I don’t even know.  I spent 24 hours visiting Fredericksburg, that went by so fast that I didn’t even get a chance to do the “quiet time” things I wanted to get done. I took this crappy picture while Macy and I were on a sunrise walk towards Main street. Fredericksburg, lit up for the season.... or that's what it looks like if you're a little "lit up".


Oh well, here I am now, sun streaming in the windows through a poinsettia plant and onto an empty plate that once briefly held a Queen Anne cordial cherry.  My first QACC ever.  I have had several FIRSTS lately.  Seems “retirement” comes with some responsibilities…. Next week, begin the workouts again!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!! I have an amazing number of things for which I am incredibly grateful.

First, food. You should see the amount of food we have CRAMMED in our tiny trailer fridge. I'm writing this on Tuesday, the day I went to buy our Thanksgiving feast. There are about five pounds of pork chops (they were on sale), asparagus, Brussel sprouts, red and green onions, smoked chicken (one of Anne's clients gave that to us), apples, brie, tomatoes, avocado, hot dogs & chili, half n half, half of a lime, capers, and 3 beers. We eat well and I am forever excited and grateful about that. Never take food for granted!
Porkchops, PURPLE mashed potatoes & gravy, asparagus & Brussels sprouts!!!
Second, travel. I never get tired of a city or nature hike no matter the climate, views or if I've seen the place before. It amazes me how many different things I notice and how I adapt to terrain, temperature, hunger, all in the name of enjoying a day of different opportunities.

Third, my "work." The downside to my work is that I enjoy it too much. I charge too little and volunteer too often and then wonder why I'm so tired. I love music and the challenge of arranging things for different instruments and voices. I love researching music history. I also love organizing stuff. I just did a day of reclaiming a client's guest bedroom. From storage of stuff that we didn't even remember she owned (I helped this client move into this home, so the location of this stuff was entirely my own doing!), to a peaceful, spacious bedroom with room for her guests to hang their clothes. I love this process. I love the way clients seem to think I possess some sort of magic wand. I love the variety in what I do and I love helping people smile or find peace either in music or organizing.

Fourth, my partnership. Yeah, yeah, cliche. Fine, skip this one if you want to! Anne and I have been writing thousands and thousands of words per month for five and a half years. The amount of information and the development of respect for each other's individual self is a puzzle piece that I have been missing. Accepting another person for who she is, letting her live and make decisions for herself even if I don't agree one hundred percent and knowing she offers me the same is refreshing and necessary for these independent 40-somethings. Also, we have a chosen set of goals and ideas for our upcoming years of adventures. As life shifts and changes, so will our together-goals.
Venn diagram of our relationship for those of us with visual sensibilities!
Fifth, and finally, for purposes of keeping this blogpost a readable length, technology. I keep in touch with you through technology that did not exist when I was in high school. I love being able to communicate to the world and I love even more that the world can communicate with me. So please, please stay in touch. Write comments and share your stories with us.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Oops

While I do consider myself a bit of a storyteller, I stop just short of ever being a liar.  Except this time, but I would rather just humble myself and say, perhaps I was mistaken, which almost never happens, of course.  In making my transition out of work in Georgetown as personal trainer and into work as a virtual coach, I ended up getting myself a few extra weeks off before the new year. So, I have to now backpedal and admit, my last day at work in Georgetown is Wednesday the 22nd, the day before Thanksgiving.  So, not four more weeks as earlier predicted.  As much as I have loved working and living in Georgetown for the past six years, I am going to spend this year’s Thanksgiving being grateful for my new digs and plans for 2018.  It truly is a new beginning.  


AND TRAVEL!!  I will honor my thankfulness on Thanksgiving for the ability to travel.  I am so very glad that Abby got that map up, because I was getting exhausted by the “where are you traveling?” question.  This query is always followed by the “oh, you are staying in the U.S.” remark, which feels a bit like an immediate letdown for some reason.  Yes, we are staying in the United States, well mostly..considering the fact that Canada is kind of in the way if we want to drive to Alaska.  But no, it has nothing to do with my horrible dislike of flying to the point of panic and tears if I don’t get the requisite 3 strong drinks in me first, or the current consternation of the world, or any disdain for foreign places.  It’s just that isn’t what the focus is right now.  The focus is on showcasing the United States and what it has to offer, whether it is barren roads, desert sunsets, fall foliage, good or possibly even bad eats, or interesting people and their places.  


In case you missed this in the previous post - our 'travel loops' plan.
Besides, here is the real truth, almost embarrassing to admit.  I have only been to less than several states in this country.  A few to the left, a few to the right...not talking politics here...and a few over that direction.  For the most part, I can honestly say that I have never been to the places we are going.  Isn’t that exciting?  Macy, has definitely not been to any of the places and will be very enthusiastic about her travels in the time machine.  Oh, that is what she calls the spot that she sinks into and falls asleep for the entirety of any  trip from point A to B, transporting her magically into a new environment.  Must be nice… although I somewhat enjoy the driving part myself, SOMETIMES it would be nice to just...show up somewhere...BOO!  


Macy in her self-imposed time-capsule (AKA the floor board of the truck!)
Can’t wait for Abby’s and my non-traditional holidays coming up...should be interesting...

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Travel plans

Most frequently asked questions about this project involve where we are going. I quickly want to reply, "Everywhere!" but I realize that is less descriptive than it seems in my own mind. I decided to make a map. This map is not precise. We don't want stalkers or even too many family members knowing exactly where we are. Haha, just kidding, Family! (Mom and Dad are meeting us in Alaska, so they know I'm kidding :-) )


The white dot is approximately where we live. And the loops are approximately where we plan to go. See? EVERYWHERE!

Loop 1: The Great Southwest will include the Fort Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park, Tucson, San Diego, the Grand Canyon, Albuquerque and Ruidoso, NM. 

Loop 2: Colorado. This loop seems small but it is mighty. We both love Colorado. There is much to see and do there, and there are many many small breweries that need our opinions of their beers.

Loop 3: ALASKA! We will make our way though part of the middle of the lower 48, up through Canada and meet up with my parents in Alaska. Our return trip will take us down the west coast. This will be our biggest craziest loop and the main reason I have worked so hard to make our travel pod comfortable.

Loop 4: Center of the USA will include Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Oklahoma.... This whole loop is so far into the future that we don't have exact plans yet, but a loop has definitely formed in our minds with friends and family members scattered all over this area.

Loop 5: The Maine loop includes the east coast all the way to Maine. We are sure to include Niagara Falls, and come back some cattywompus* route that might make more of a figure 8 depending on what we decide. 

*I just looked up the word "cattywompus" to see how it should be spelled. Blogger underlines it for me as if it's misspelled. Guess what! There is a Cattywompus beer made by Devil's Backbone Brewing in Virginia... which is within the very loop I was talking about. I guess this means we have to visit. We'll let you know what we think!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Paying Attention


Travel has always been inspired by my mother. It always starts with, "where do you want to go?" Then out comes the big tattered, worn atlas that has solved many mysteries of where things are in the United States and the next thing you know the route is getting planned. Being a big fan of driving to the point of wandering down dirt roads just to see what's there, is where half the fun lies in any travel plans with mom. She has given me the gift of curiosity and love of travel. Three days ago, was my mom’s 78th birthday.  A bitter-sweet affair, because it reminds me of a wonderful, kind, thoughtful, generous woman and mother...but she passed away almost two and a half years ago. That isn’t intended to be sad or morose, but just the same reminder I share with all of my clients. Life is short and fleeting, unpredictable and squirrelly.  Beyond anniversaries, I don’t spend too much time looking back.  It is painful and unproductive.  Instead, as a lifestyle trainer and coach on random things (very official title indeed), I just plead with my audience to always look forward. Don’t let your special people die in vain, pick up on the message they were here to impart, look for cues and tokens, pennies from heaven; they exist..I found one today...and carry it forward.


Looking down, I found this penny.  No big deal...just a penny.  It wasn’t free of course.  It came at the cost of walking to the “beach” at Russell park in Georgetown.  That’s right...I spent so much time talking up Cedar Breaks that I decided to spend a few chilly nights at Russell park, just to be fair.  It too, is wonderful and a bit more quiet camping, being tent only.  There is a somewhat beach, less the kind with sand you bury your toes in for a free foot buffing, more like crushed shells, not quite as inviting.  One can swim if so inspired, but more importantly I discovered, it has beautiful views of the sunrise and set, my two favorite times of day.  No back lighting from the great metropolis of Georgetown, means gorgeous panoramic displays of colors. Those hues lost by most of us in their subtlety while we are wrapped up in the stranglehold of our daily lives.  The millions of stars are pretty amazing too.


Back to the penny.  A penny found these days is somewhat unremarkable, rarely noticed in fact because the value of a penny is whatever was memorably placed on it when we were “doing away with it’s annoying existence” ten years ago or so.  Most pennies these days are disregarded equally as trash or a cigarette butt in a parking lot, even heads up and begging for attention.  Except I watch out for such things.  This penny was exactly that, heads up and begging for attention.  Something about it made me take a picture, because it seemed lonely, like a remarkable painting on a wall, all alone.


The date on the penny...Bingo.  1976.  I was eight years old that year.  That was the big time, I was a third grader…. lots going on, in the world and in my heart.  Jimmy Carter was president,  crushes on teachers, new neighbors moving in, the streets alive with energy.  Who knew then to invest in Steve Jobs and Apple computer, unless they were paying attention.


I look forward to the next year on the road with Abby and the Eggcellence and all of the opportunities to pay attention to things that I may not have been ready before.  Next year will be a bounty of learning and seeing and doing simple things and appreciating those things, because I will be focused on the lessons and messages.  I will take time to remember basic things forgotten, ignored or lost as well as people I might not have gotten the message they were intending to deliver.  I am very excited to witness and hear nature and people in action.  I thank Abby for being my new inspiration and partner for travel as I continue to grow in this next season of my life. Dang it, I just wish she would tell me where we're going!!

Happy Birthday mom!

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Camper Customization

We will be traveling in "The Eggcellence" our EggCamper. We found ours by chance here in Texas. EggCampers are made in Michigan whereas Casitas are made in Texas. I have been searching for a Casita and luckily the seller of this EggCamper used 'Casita' in their description. It turns out, I like the EggCamper better than the Casita. There are pros and cons to each point.
1. The Egg doesn't utilize propane at all. I am GREAT with that. Every trailer I have ever had leaked propane. Likely a simple fix most of the time, but honestly, the smell of gas scares me. The EggCamper is entirely electric. Plug it in, done. The downside is that if we camp someplace that does not offer electricity, we will be without the use of any of our appliances...  but don't worry! I have a solution... see kitchen improvements later in this article.
2. The interior of the Egg is entirely fiberglass. The seats and counter, everything is smooth and clean.  Even the cabinets are rounded fiberglass. Good for cleaning but this does make the cabinet small and awkward. Still, I have found plenty of space for everything we need.
3. The Egg is a little taller and a wee bit wider. Casitas are 5'10' or 6'1" tall on the interior. The Egg is 6'6". The difference makes it feel really spacious. A Casita is 76" wide on the interior and the Egg is 84" on the interior. This makes a difference with the bed. A standard bed will fit in the Casita, but in the Egg there is extra head and foot room, again making it feel much more comfortable. The downside to this extra space is that the Egg is tall enough and wide enough that I need mirror extensions on my truck to see around and behind us while driving down the road.

Now for improvements!

The kitchen:
before.
after.
Water is problematic. The connections break loose with heat, cold, or too much pressure. For me, it's just not worth the pain and risk of destruction. To solve this "problem" and the problem of potentially being somewhere without electricity, we plan to have an outdoor kitchen. Almost all camps have water spigots or some sort of wash station. I removed the sink in favor of a removable wash pan and drying rack for dishes. We have a full screened-in kitchen tent. And we have a tiny propane tank single burner stove which I have used for years on the road. Also, in the kitchen, I added containers for silverware and cooking utensils. There are no drawers for such things in the EggCamper. The fiberglass counter top was easy to drill through to secure the containers. I also added hooks for miscellaneous kitchen things and pots and pans.

The bathroom:
before.
After.
In such a tiny space, sewage is also an issue that neither of us want to deal with. I removed the toilet and shower sprayer. I left all of the connections in case we decide to sell this camper some day (not likely - haha). I sealed off the toilet drain and turned the shower into a clothing closet. My shelves are made of PVC pipes extended one side to the other because no screws can go through the back wall of the shower because it is an exterior wall and could create a leak risk, but screws through interior walls are fine. Plastic storage bins sit on top of these PVC pipes. I added one more PVC pipe for hanging coats and sweatshirts.

The work table:
before.
after.
I made a larger table! We will be needing a place to set up our computers for writing and that tiny table was not going to cut it. I made it 8 inches deeper and a foot wider to overlap the seats a bit. I also added stadium folding seats to the fiberglass seats. The right seat has a closet as a back with a door latch that cuts right into your shoulder. The left seat has zero back support, just the mattress. These stadium seats fit perfectly and we can take them elsewhere if we want. You will also notice the baskets I installed for quick-grab stuff like binoculars and a bird book.

The decor:
before.
after.
I decorated the place all in black, white, and red. Nearly all of it is from IKEA. The decal on the back wall was easy-ish to install. The fiberglass makes for a great surface... that decal specifically with all the branches took some patience, but it was worth it.

Finally, on the exterior, I added a step stool, which I spray painted red, and I removed "EggCamper" and added "www.theEggcellence.com."
Now, it's ALL ours! It fits our needs, our style, and we will be super comfy and ready to hit the road!!

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Ten Weeks Left!!

What?? It was Abby’s birthday?  That ice cream situation had nothing to do with her birthday.  I was just working on a current recipe (still working on it).  Quick, I need a last minute, wait...I mean perfect, belated birthday present!!  Just kidding, we did okay I think.  We camped, we ate, she got a massage, I got to work, we ate some more, we did all of the good things except get a good hike in.  Next time.  Hopefully it will not take a full year.  This just in….she has polished off the ice cream...


What is the 10 weeks left, you ask?  Ten is the number of weeks I have left driving back and forth to Georgetown, Texas to work for my clients in the personal training industry.  No, not the end of my personal training career, just the end of the recent travel and camping portion.  I am bridging the gap with my clients to continue helping them (more later), even on the road as Abby has described much of our next year will be. Meanwhile, Abby has made me a cool paper chain that hangs in the window tantalizingly.  Each week, I get to tear off another link of the chain. If we have a fire going, it goes directly in the fire.  If no fire, it just goes in the trash after I stare at it’s crumpled lifeless body for a day or two.  On a good day, it becomes a cat toy first.  As the links get higher towards their destination, I get stronger and more excited for our upcoming adventure!  Soon enough, it will seem like a downhill slide that probably, I won’t feel heels digging in.  


So, I want to thank the good people at Cedar Breaks Park.  They are a group of wonderful people that work a beautiful space on Lake Georgetown.  Look it up, stay if you are in the area, and enjoy the beautiful views.  They have put me up, or put up with me, week after week for a mere $26 per night.  


Meanwhile, my contribution to our travel blog will be lots of sharing.  Good places, good eats, good beer, good fitness and nutrition advice and my latest favorites, in whatever context.  Most recently is an addition to my podcast subscriptions, this one a “short”.  I am enjoying NPR’s Texas Standard: Stories from Texas, specifically from W.F. Strong.  If you are from Texas, this is a TEN.  If you are not from Texas, Strong pokes enough fun at Texans that you just might enjoy it anyway.  What Abby and I are currently reading is Fannie Flagg’s ‘Standing in the Rainbow’ and independently I am reading ‘True Grit’ by Charles Portis.


So here we go… With Abby, through empathy, communication and responsibility and lots of good writing, I expect a wonderful next year...just starting several weeks early, ‘cause really, I can not wait. Oh...let’s see…. “The Eggcellence: We hate runny yolks, but not running jokes” (obviously).

Thursday, 12 October 2017

My Birthday

I have so much to tell you all! First, this blog. Anne and I have a huge travel schedule planned for 2018. Part of the purpose is to write a travelogue type book together. This blog will keep everyone updated on our travels as we go along, and hopefully, you will just have to have a copy of the book when we are done! We have decided to write weekly posts here publishing every Thursday, so that if you subscribe via email, you can look forward to an interesting update in a timely once a week manner. We will be taking turns. I may post some video while Anne may post a great recipe. Every week will be different. You should "follow by email" or click the "follow" button if you do google-type things... right over there in the right hand margin :-)

Second, yesterday was my birthday! I'm 43 now. Isn't this the traditional year of adventure? Doesn't this mean I'm wise and ready to share my wisdom? Seems like the perfect recipe for travel and book writing. I have a habit of creating goals and projects in my life that last three to six years each. I feel a bit like a cat with nine lives. There were teacher related years followed by animal care related years. The music years could be split into a few different phases. I'm not done with music entirely, but this travel writing project is going to put a large portion of the music making on hold. I am very excited to introduce you to this side of my creative self. Yay, 43!

EggCamper the day we found and bought it.
Third, this project, named "The Eggcellence." The name came about because our camper is an "EggCamper." As I understand it, the company is currently not making them. This makes me super glad we found this one when we did! For our Texas friends who know the "Casita" name, it is very similar only taller, slightly wider, quite a bit lighter, and everything on the interior is fiberglass meaning super easy to wipe down clean. Because Anne and I really don't care for eggs all that much, we have been trying to come up with a tag line for our project that will let people know it's not actually about EGGS. This week's tagline test run: "The Eggcellence: It has nothing to do with eggs." I hope Anne can offer something better in next week's post, or maybe you can in the comments.

My parents brought home this cute baby 43 years ago!
Fourth, yesterday was my birthday!! What? I already said that? OK, well, I didn't tell you that Anne made this amazing lime ice cream pie thing. She doesn't usually make sweet stuff, but she made an exception for my birthday, and it turned out incredible. Also, we camped in Georgetown, TX at Cedar Breaks Park. A cold front came through giving us fantastic Texas hiking weather. If you find yourself in the Austin, Texas area, this is a great camping place. Great for tents and RVs, it is a fairly small park right on Lake Georgetown. The views are lovely and there are plenty of trees. Happy birthday to me! Did you subscribe? You could do that as a birthday present to me. Heehee :-)

Monday, 25 September 2017

Shiner, Texas

by Anne Walker

I like a good car ride.  I am crazier than my dog Macy that way.  I can wag my tail just as well as her when it comes to staring out the window and eyeballing the passing scenery, trying not to drool on the windows. “This road eventually takes you to San Antonio” Abby explained.  I wasn’t really listening as much as fantasizing about the taco she promised from the hole in the wall Mexican restaurant we were heading.  “What?”  A brewery tour, Shiner being the biggest and oldest brewery in Texas with a fascinating story of being a little player growing up in a big world and a breakfast taco??  Madness!!!! Abby also recalled a fried chicken place called Fridays in town.  Imagining a brewery tour, preempted by a breakfast taco and followed by a crispy bite of fried chicken, is how my day started.


Driving into Shiner, we acknowledge a beautiful Catholic church,  literally impossible to miss and warrants a second look in the future.  A couple of blocks later, we are turning into our hole in the wall. Hole in the wall places, are anything I don’t like to look outside of my blinders, but this place was open, airy, bright and most importantly, safe.  I scan the menu.  Abby announces her usual bacon, bean and cheese.  Ohhh, I see they have machacado, my favorite for breakfast taco.  I took a chance on a great decision.  We hadn’t had much to say while consuming our tacos.  Enough for me, was watching Abby enjoy her food.  I gave her a bite of my breakfast, almost feeling that I should charge her for it’s absence from my mouth.  Instead, I let her buy breakfast.  Happy and satiated, we left for the next leg of our giant mini road trip, a couple of streets away.


Here is where I realized the downtown tour, two blocks of mostly vacant building surprising me given the amount of tourism the brewery must bring.  Out Abby’s window, I spy a giant factory that begged the question.  “What is that?...a giant water treatment plant?”...making no sense for this tiny town.  Abby replies politely because she easily could have tacked the word “stupid” to the end of her sentence…”that’s the brewery!”  She knew to park on the back side of the brewery for our tour.  I figure, it was just a low key operation and a simple way to park.  Wrong.  We were in tour group TWO for the initial tour of the day, despite our being there a half hour early.  The entire guest parking area was full.  I have been on tours before at breweries and a couple of distilleries, all different because of the different products and production size, but similar in the processes involving fermentation and packaging.  The most impressive thing about the Shiner brewery is the volume of its production and well, there is a pretty cool lab you get to see.  I couldn’t help wondering if it was real or just for show.


Giant dark clouds threatened in the background as Abby and I finish our last samples of beer and made our way back over the bridge to her secret parking spot.  I tease about storm napping in the back of the truck. Abby, kills the mood, stating that our destination for good fried chicken was less than three blocks away (of course), “we could easily walk”.  We split a two piece meal and side of mash potatoes and token gravy.  What can I say?  It was good ol’, spot hitting fried chicken. I will sneak out for it again.  I made dessert out of my side of the mashed potatoes.  My beer and fried chicken induced coma, made for a great ride home and the rest of my Friday off duty, back in our now seemingly huge town of Hallettsville.   

Shiner, Texas

by Abby Green

“That’s perfect! We’ll go on a miniature vacation!” Anne had just pointed out the fact that she lived here now and had never gone to one of my favorite tour-guide spots, Shiner, Texas.
There was a strangely great amount of excitement waking up that morning. We fed the dog, put the cat out and had our morning dose of French Pressed coffee. At 9:30, it was time to hit the road. The plan was to start the tour of Shiner at La Terraza De Jalisco. We walked into a building with a front door that did not close behind us. Anne paused to pull the door shut and turned back around to see the simple, plainly decorated, but clearly popularly patronized restaurant. Here, a simple diner type coffee, not bad, not great, not burnt, this time. I knew what I wanted. It’s not that I’m not adventurous. It’s easy to compare or judge a place when the order is simple and familiar. Mine would be one bean, cheese and bacon taco, NO EGGS. Anne was going with adventure. Chorizo or machacado. Both of these were frequently scrambled into the eggs. Some places made them too eggy. Anne isn’t a huge egg fan either. Funny that we chose an “EggCamper” to make our big journeys next year. In the end, she chose the machacado and the waitress noted to go light on the egg. She’s a good one, that waitress.


We continued up this main road and turned right just after the train tracks. Anne asks, “Is that an old water treatment plant?” I laugh and reply, “no, that’s the brewery.” The gift shop and hospitality suite is where the journey begins. The hospitality part means free beer! Each guest can try any four beers they like for free and take a tour of the brewery for free. The most impressive part of the brewery is the machinery. Most people were so mesmerized by “Fred” that not much else needed to be said. The tourists watched through the glass as “Fred” hugged two kegs at a time, lifting them with such precise force, placing them exactly and gently onto the pallet that would eventually be wrapped and shipped out. “Fred” did this in a strangely human set of movements, but with robotic precision that awed the onlookers.


Just a few blocks away, there is Friday’s fried chicken. There is a glass pastry counter filled with whole pies and pie and cake pieces and a dozen different types of cookies. Order at the cash register and your cashier will bring your order by memory of your face. This is the very definition of comfort food, but one really doesn’t need any more than one piece of crunchy greasy fried chicken and a few spoonfuls of mashed potatoes with cream gravy.


As we left town we drove by an old Catholic church with amazing brick work. This church would give us reason to return and explore the town some more… and maybe stop in for more free beer! This concluded the Shiner mini-vacation adventure.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Dog

by Anne Walker

Mr. Magoo is a character.  Mr. Magoo, if you can remember back, is a character from the 70/80’s presented in slow moving, poorly edited cartoon form on Saturday morning.  The show didn’t get a great deal of air time at our house because frankly, we were only allowed a certain amount of air time and we all agreed, it was kind of stupid and a terrible waste of those precious minutes.  Goofy old blind guy befuddles his way through life’s quirky ups and downs, married to same, only one tic more intelligent female character.. If you have never seen the show or ironically can’t remember it...you can probably look it up on YouTube.  Wait, I’ll save you the trouble <insert M.M. vid here>.


It was recently that the older model, blind, ambling, forgetful character has come back to mind. See, I have this dog Macy.  You already know don’t you?  Macy is an older model, blind,  ambling, forgetful character.  She arrived at my door a two or four, we’ll just say three year old, mostly well behaved but unpredictable terrier.  A “squirl” dog.  The kind where all you have to say is “SQUIRL!” and she will take off in whatever direction she remembers her most recent chase.  Good entertainment for sure, but she treats every moving object this way, especially people.  People and wheels are especially a very bad combination.  Amazingly and despite many close calls with animal welfare, she has survived to what must be at least thirteen.  That’s like 90 something in people years...sounds about right.  <Note to self, look up reverse people years>.  

So nowadays, Mr. Macy Magoo gets a grain of salt.  I have to keep looking back to make sure the one and a half foot, mostly white dog with black spots is with me..a new level of learning not to be codependent with my dog.  Will it hurt her if she takes the long way? Likely not, so don’t worry about it, she find us somehow.  Or else she will smell her way off to pasture one day and there won’t be too many of these sort of stories from our traveling dog, newly named Mr. Magoo.  Exact age and birthday unknown, but who cares, she’s entertaining.  

Who is Macy?

by Abby Green


Macy wearing flowers, not that she needs any more cute.
Macy smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. I’ve never actually seen her do this, but I know she does. Every morning she hacks just like every smoker I’ve ever known. If she could speak, she would sound like Phyllis Diller. Macy is a terrier mix, and as expected is feisty and protective even though she’s old and her back legs don’t seem to be fully attached any more. We sometimes call her Mr. Magoo because her sight and hearing leave her wandering toward sounds or things frequently in the wrong direction. Since leaving the big city, she seems younger. She runs across the yard and frolics. Yes, she frolics and smiles, practically giggling. She loves to run across the yard sometimes rushing the cat who does not think very highly of her.

Monday, 18 September 2017

The Cat

by Anne Walker

Stoli as some of us know, is the name of a vodka, but also the name of Abby’s cat.  Way to give away your drinking problem Abby...just kidding, she doesn’t have a cat...just kidding again, she has a cat, not a drinking problem and definitely not a problem cat.   Rather, Stoli is a handsome, kind and gentle cat that likes mostly to roam via a schedule you could document in your iPhone.  Six am….time to get roaming.  He naps in places unseen, then naps more back in the container home.  He eats in the middle of the night it seems, then idles around the bed until he decides with whom he will grace his presence and in what form.  Stoli, wrapped in his charcoal soft fur, is a most luxurious sleeping mate.  He stays perfectly still for hours only pressing slightly against you enough to let you know there is a bond, but nothing too contagious.   


Cats definitely belong to their owners and Abby begot Stoli, so there are things an outsider doesn’t know.  I know that I miss Stoli when he is not around and am genuinely glad to see him when he isn’t being cross about something.  He isn’t usually cross but is the same bad days as the rest of us…..

Who is Stoli?

by Abby Green

Stoli's favorite mode: coma.
If Stoli was a human, he’d be a toddler who runs around wearing a teddy bear costume screaming, “look at me!” all the time. He’s a 16 pound butterball of snuggly kitty sweetness. He talks back in a high pitched, squeaky voice whenever anyone speaks to him. He announces his arrival even in the middle of the night. “Hi…  I’m here… you awake?… Is there space over here?” Whether there is space or not, he will flop in a full body throw down and go to sleep. He’s the best night cat I’ve ever had. Except for the occasional announcement or walking across our bellies to get from one place to another, he sleeps curled up beside one of us or between both of us. During the day, he can go outside to catch grasshoppers, or usually, he just curls up and sleeps some more on the couch or bed. He has an exciting life.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Our Home

by Anne Walker

Our home is where we live.  That seems kind of obvious, but may not be the case for everyone, but certainly me.  Home, is where I spend the most time and I am pretty happy there as long as Abby is with me.  She makes home, home.  The BIG home is a 10 acre ranch in Texas that requires lots of love and care, as well as patience and ingenuity.  There is a cabin where I spend a great deal of time, because that is where the kitchen is.  I like the kitchen in the cabin because the floor plan is open and it is just one big room, much like the house I rented before Abby and I got engaged.  Shhhhh...she doesn’t know we are engaged yet...back to the story about home.  We also spend much of our writing time in the cabin.  The property also has a container home that Abby poured many sweat and tears over in it’s creation and eventual deliverance.  The container home is where we sleep mostly, but is fully furnished and very comfortable.  


Home is also the Eggcellence.  The Egg camper we have chosen for our travels is given a proper name to ensure it’s entity.  Also, if we lose it we have something to call it when we are walking around aimlessly…. “Has anyone seen  the Eggcellence??....oh Eggcellence...where art thou?!?”..... The Eggcellence is also fully furnished and very comfortable.  There is a bed, my favorite part, and a writing table and a nifty kitchen with a coffee maker that makes coffee while you are waking up and you don’t even have to get out of bed to pour it….although it is safer if you do.  My dog has her own condo under the bed where she spends most of her time when we aren’t out doing something like a giant walk Abby insists upon.  

But mostly home is wherever I live with Abby.  Whatever adventure we are on, we are definitely on it together, creating what I hope to be...the greatest story on earth.

Our Home(s)

by Abby Green

The container house.
Our Home: Each morning we wake to the sun coming through a large oak tree outside our window. We live on a 10 acre property with two cabins and a variety of mature oak trees. One cabin is a container house built out of a high ceiling 45 foot long shipping container. Abby built this cabin over the course of about 3 years with the help of friends and family, and this is where we wake up and start our day. The other cabin was already here. It is made of three storage sheds under a huge industrial roof like you might find at a county fair grounds. About an acre and a half is fenced off for people, cars, and cabins, and the rest is left open and mostly wild with brush for animals and hiking should we ever get around to establishing trails or keeping animals. We have future plans to build our own designated author’s studio. Life is ever growing and evolving out here.


The Eggecellence EggCamper.
Home number 2: The project, The Eggcellence, is named for the EggCamper we bought for our 2018 travels. It is an adorable fiberglass pod that came sleek and white except for the red and black plaid curtains. I made a quick IKEA run and a hundred dollars later, outfitted the entire thing in black, red, and white. I installed some shelves, the dog made herself at home under the bed - it is a large cave under there, and we added some stadium folding chairs for back support at the table. The goal is to make this space as comfortable as possible, inviting writing opportunities, especially for that long adventure to Alaska.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Abby Green

by Anne Walker

Oh boy….Abby.  I have known Abby for….acckkkk, correction…. I have come to know Abby over the past five, well...going on, six years.  All I have to do is say Abby, or write it in this case and my body starts doing all sorts of things I can not control.  She gets me excitable.  I can’t explain it because it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  I don’t really have any experience with this before in any of my relationships to humans.  Abby and I began our writing relationship online five years and haven’t stopped writing.  Obviously, over time, she has become much more to me than that.  I knew she would, she swore it wouldn’t.  What can I say….I knew how I felt about this human I could not see or feel or touch pretty much from the beginning and I wasn’t going to give up.  


One day, we will get married.  We will be two people married to each other and I will still be a lifestyle trainer and writer and she will still be an Irish singer and instrumentalist.  We will have our animals and our ranch and the Eggcellence and our property in Colorado to fulfill.  She will make breakfasts dujour and I will try to hold up my end and give her new delights to try at the dinner table.  We will grow and learn together and share those things whenever possible.

Who is Abby?

by Abby Green

Abby, Anne, and Macy out for a walk. Life is good.
I work as a musician and in-home organizer. I am highly organized toward goals and I move on decisions when I make them. Sometimes I am so one-tracked in my thinking toward these goals that it frankly never occurs to me that there is any other path toward success at all. This is the thing that seems to annoy Anne the most. I am a 5 foot 9 redhead with pale skin and blue eyes. I am the main breakfast cook using leftovers and whatever happens to be in the fridge to create breakfast taco surprise. No two tacos are ever the same, but somehow, they’re always good… mostly because starting with delicious dinner leftovers that Anne made is an excellent way to start. I am currently not performing solo, but I’m not finished with music. I have several projects in the works with other musicians and a multitude of CD ideas just waiting to be recorded.