Thursday, 24 May 2018

Alaska is Calling!

We are off!!  This is the last post in the blog until we return. We will have hit-or-miss access to internet, and we'd rather not stress over this... BUT:

We will post photos as we are able to Instagram - we are "theeggcellence" there too :-) Follow us or just check in through this link if you are not an instagrammer. Or, of course, just wait until we get back... we'll try not to overwhelm you with the awesomeness all at once. We plan to take notes for the book and blog posts the whole time we are away.

If you'd like a postcard from Alaska, go to our Eggellence store. You can order as many as you like at $2 each plus a one time shipping charge of $3. You can purchase other things on our store, but there could be a bit of a delay in shipping CDs, earrings and books until we get home... However, the one time shipping charge would still apply!

Before we go, a few last words of gratitude:
Thank you to Pat for taking such great care of Stoli while we are gone.
Thank you to Theresa, Carol, and our watchful-eye neighbors for keeping up with our home.
Thank you to Postwoman Diana for going above and beyond with all our packages and mail holds.
Thank you to Anne's dad for the final send-off.
Thank you to Abby's dad for doing so much of the research and planning for this trip.
Thank you to Abby's mom for putting up with all the chaos.
Thank you to our readers & followers, especially those who leave comments here on the blog (hint hint)!!

All of this support is invaluable. We could not do this journey without y'all!!

Thursday, 17 May 2018

From Here to There

Let’s face it, if you’re from Texas, you already know, IT’S HOT!!  If you are not from Texas, it is likely that you have been experiencing other weather issues far worse, like rain and storms that we wouldn’t be too sad about around here.  Rain...what is that?
What the grasshoppers look like when it's hot!

 The good news is, all of this hot weather is taking much of the angst out of an upcoming trip to the north!  Oh, and also there is less guilt over a spoonful of ice-cream when it is 90 something by noon.  Anyway, I would be a ball of jitters right now over being all packed up tight and one foot out the door, but instead - Every time I walk outside to deliver kitchen detritus to the compost waaaay over yonder, I hear myself whisper, knowingly…”thank you baby cheezus...for….Alaska…”  See, as a personal trainer, I didn’t eat much cheese before, but Abby has done what no other could, and shown me the path and now I hold much regard for cheese and consider it a force in my subconscious.
Texas Summer = the battle of the wasps

So after stalls and starts and more stalls and starts last week, Abby has worked her tail off and outfitted the Eggcellence with items of necessity for the “safe travels” I keep having bestowed upon us from friends and family.  As a reward for all of her hard work but apparently had the reverse effect of causing her to want to put more work into the outdoor kitchen, we drove to Port Aransas for a daytrip Monday.  She had never been, I needed to get out of town for a day and we were curious how it is doing since the storm, less than a year ago.  It is true, Rockport clearly got the worst of the damage; Port Aransas didn’t look too much different to me, but at The Brewery, our host told us that they had had eighteen inches of water and had only re-opened two months ago.  After the storytelling, we shared a delicious hamburger, for which they are well known there at the Brewery and followed it with a small gelato at Coffee Waves, a local coffee house, that also seemed perfectly intact but sounded like it had had some remodeling since the storm. 
Tile for the counters on this side of the outdoor kitchen!

Since then, we came home and Abby shared her expertise in tile work while finishing the counter tops in the outdoor kitchen.  She just couldn’t help herself with all of this other drama going on of apparently leaving for Alaska, but I jest, because she too needs to settle her nerves and what better way to do it than laying a little grout.  She is so good at tile work, I am thinking that maybe we need to sabbatical next winter in Mexico and learn a little specialized tile art. But that is another story.  Hopefully a true one!!
I stole this picture from a client, he'll probably notice and yell at me...

So here it is in black and white.  We are on our way to Alaska and soon.  So soon, that I have had to partition out my underwear for the time we will be here and pick last minute laundry-mow-clean everything day, on the short list.  That is soon!!  I am sorry if I am going and you are not, but I encourage the day trip idea to get through this miserable summer, also drinking lots of cold beverages if you live in Texas, mostly water of course.  Walks in the morning are always nice and good books in the hot afternoon before a siesta.  I will be wearing an eye mask to get my winks and probably looking for hot beverages to drink with my FISH!  Check out the latest book we've read in the books tab; IT was a good one...

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Planning Anxiety

This week has seen the return of nearly-summer temperatures, temperatures that make it very difficult to feel as if you could possibly accomplish anything, temperatures that physically drain and exhaust you. These days built up until yesterday peaked in a roar of frustration that led to today blossoming into a day of getting all-the-things DONE! At least, MANY things done.

Alaska is pretty much planned. The trip up through the lower forty-eight, through Canada, around an Alaska loop, and back down through Canada, all done. What we lack is the route coming home through the lower 48. We know we will be tired. It will be August when it is the most dry and hot in the American mid-west. We know we will most likely want to just GO HOME after overdosing on the amazing Alaskan scenery and cool air chill. BUT... It's hard to book single nights to bee-line home when we may never be through certain states again. It's hard to drive full-tilt though states that have amazing people and hidden treasures. What if we miss something?!?!
2018 travel fridge magnets including the upcoming Alaska trip!
Here is travel hint number ONE... The hint I am currently reminding myself over and over: Enjoy the journey. There is simply no possible way to see every detail. Enjoy what you do get to see and experience. When I went to Ireland, this was essentially my mantra. There was a reason to stop the car every 10 kilometers, but if you do that, you will miss the overall journey. Stop when the muse strikes, when the color hits you, or the hunger grabs you...  don't regret passing these things or those things. See what you can see and truly enjoy those that you did choose. No regrets.

We know we will be exhausted, and we will have seen some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. It will be time to GO HOME, collect our thoughts, and write. Stopping in Nebraska simply because we fear missing something will not benefit the journey. If something there catches our eye, it deserves its own adventure, and we will make that in the future.

Woo! Excited!!

Friday, 4 May 2018


What the camper looks like in "black out mode" for Alaska trip
….Two wood stoves indeed….and a truck full of other things accompanied us back to Texas.  Everything from a 25 cent library book, a five dollar cutting board (a replica of the kind my parents and probably everyone else’s had when I was growing up), some ceramic turtle magnets (five for $5, a real bargain) found at an office supply store in Yellow Springs on the drag, a copy of ‘The Lynne Truss Treasury: Columns and three Comic Novels’, a $6.50 investment toward my education, from a bookstore on the same Y.S. drag….hmmmm, what else….oh, some firewood offered to us poor helpless girls at our very first camp spot along with lighter fluid (real girls don’t use lighter fluid to start their fires, but I took it anyway, because I am miserly and don’t say “no” to free lighter fluid).  We came home with $7.95 worth of spices from Maplewood and I got a necessary new backpack from the import store in Yellow Springs for $25. Also came in with a dozen beautiful eggs from the Lucy and Shawn farm in St. Louis...those were free.  As were some meaningful bracelets from a good friend of Abby’s and new friend of mine.  In all, we may have blown a hundred dollars on “stuff” during this trip, including several trips to Walmart for items of clothing not brought, thanks to the unpredictable weather.  I know this, because the receipts are leaving my hands next, to the fire pit in today's fire as I clean out my desk drawer.  Not bad for being gone three plus weeks.  Included are beers we brought home.  A smattering of beers from grocery or liquor stores that were from a different land than our own and therefore have prized possession status on the ranch.  Those brews have a very special place at home and are dolled out like treats at Christmas time...or sometimes well deserved paychecks after a super hard day of work.
Stoli and Macy helping us survey and pick dewberries

Speaking of….that is all we have really known since being home, hard days of work.  The ranch never stops.  The grass grows tall, the wildflowers, gorgeous when we got here have slowly withered in just a week; both grass and wildflowers needed to be mowed into control and the ranch resume it’s park-like ambiance.  As promised to ourselves, this past trip was in anticipation of the next, bringing home a laundry list of tweaks and improvements to the Eggcellence.  Abby has not stopped modifying the Eggcellence from front to back from the inventory of items we felt needed an upgrade for our big trip to Alaska.  Secondly, she has been working on my outdoor kitchen.  That is not a huge priority right now, but something she finds fun and I am certainly excited about.  Will I actually get to use it before we leave again????  Everytime we are home, we make things better for the next time we leave and come back.  Next year, travelling may be minimal and we sure had better like our home!  Stoli is home from his faithful and trusty sitter, getting into everything and antagonizing the dog who is all to easy.  They pick up right where they left off, prodding each other like little kids in the back seat on the way to grandma’s house.  It never ends.  It’s love, I am sure.  And everything resumes….
Macy in her new camper cave ready for Alaska

I laughed the other day while in my “tall boots”, mowing grass that easily held a varmint or two and all of wildlife I have seen since arriving home.  Once again, it seems home is more interesting in that way, than most of our camping has been.  When I was recently chided (understandably) about our comfortable desire for electricity, running water and occasional internet while camping, I returned fire with a little chagrin as if we indeed are not truly camping the wild outdoors on these ventures.  Well, in retrospect as the trips come and go and upon returning home each time I learn….home is where the REAL camping takes place.  The trips are the easy part.  Home is where we see snakes daily ( *Abby’s mom, please disregard), scorpions, interesting migrating birds, have an outdoor shower, a walk to the bathroom, the coyotes howl and the cows moo outrageous calls all night to harmonize in the morning with the roosters.  The hogs compete with the armadillos for hole digging rights and the racoons won’t stay away from my bird feeders.  The silent possum wanders by with babies on her back, seemingly the most harmless of the bunch, lumbering over the mole trails. The hummingbirds are almost bee-like in their aggressiveness and the threat of lovebugs looms in the air, making wasps and mud daubers seem non-existent.  The deer are out, not just in the morning and at dusk, but now all times of the day. There are large and dangerous projects a plenty and no lying around in the hammock looking out at the lake.  Occasionally we take time out at the pond to sit and watch the turtles or as last week spy an unusual bird on his way to somewhere else, stopping for a fish dinner.  Fortunately there is plenty of running water and electricity, but there is no Netflix...and limited internet.  We eat mostly from the single local grocery store seventeen miles away and as of late collect dewberries for our fruit cup with breakfast. There are no breweries or eclectic restaurants to try something new.  Just whatever the butcher saw fit to provide and the produce manager ordered.  Whatever overstocked items got handed down for the humble little grocery store, to fill the end of the isle as a special weekly treat.  Read the marquis at the roadside to see what’s on sale in the meat department.
Stoli helping with electrical plans for outdoor kitchen

Gratitude is created at home, and manifested on the road.  After this year, travelling will be done with a great deal of intention and slightly less mediocrity.  So far, I have learned that I want to visit with my family and friends more in the future.  But for this year, we still have mountains to conquer so….now, on to ALASKA!!

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Home via Tulsa

We came home a wee bit early not because we weren't enjoying the journey but because spring at our home in Texas was calling to us really loudly. Tennessee and Ohio had been COLD. St. Louis was better but with newly budding trees, we knew home would be bursting with new growth by now. I've never been a victim of home-sickness. I love the journey. I love the road. I love the next destination. Now, I share a home with someone who has helped to make our home truly a home. We have gardens, parks areas with swings, and bird sanctuary areas with feeders and birdbaths. Our home is somewhere we both want to relax and watch grow.

Home, warm, sunny, home.

Flowers in full bloom here at one of Anne's park spaces.
Upon leaving St. Louis, we were on our way home. Keystone State Park outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma was our mid-way point to home. We chose the place for a few reasons: I was born in Tulsa, my dear best friend from high school now lives there, and the location worked for our route.

Keystone State Park is a large park offering cabins, RV camping, and semi-primitive tent camping. Bathrooms with showers are located throughout the camping areas. In the RV area, where we were, there were only two showers, but luckily, most RVers have their own enclosed facilities. There were a few small trails and we created hikes out of the roads to other areas of the park. According to online sources, there is a great place to hike that is only open to visitors on Saturday. Sadly, we were not here on Saturday.
Hammocks at our campsite.
The evening we arrived, we went into the nearby town of Mannford. We chose Freddie's Lebanese Steakhouse because there were more cars in their parking lot than any other place. We walked in and were immediately asked if we were there for the crawfish boil, an all you can eat deal for $15.99. We passed on this and sat down with menus. This off-the-beaten-path restaurant had a menu that was indicative of a place that enjoys to serve these specific dishes. It was difficult to decide what to order. There wasn't a list of the usual steakhouse offerings. Anne asked the waitress what Freddie's was known for. She told us their Lebanese offerings were the most sought out - tabouli, fresh hummus, and cabbage rolls. I decided to go with one of the specials, quail and a side of cabbage roll and tabouli for my salad. An odd combination, but all the parts sounded amazing. Tabouli came first - delicious. Cabbage roll came next - heavy and delicious. Two quails in a lemon pepper sauce on a bed of lettuces arrived finally. This was my first quail and I was glad I trusted this chef to my tastebuds. The birds were very tasty. I didn't mind all the work it took to eat around the tiny bones.

We met with Amy at Prairie Brewpub in Downtown Tulsa. It was great to meet up with an old friend who looks absolutely exactly like she did in 1993. We enjoyed beers and salad lunches with our catching up. When we left to return to our truck, we found a surprise. A snake had probably hitched a ride from the campground and was now hanging out on the step just below the back seat passenger side door. A big snake. We aren't specifically terrified of snakes, but not knowing exactly what kind he was, we opted to let him figure out things while we went back to the Brewpub and enjoyed an extra beer. When we returned again, it appeared the snake had found better places to go.
Hitchhiker snake.
Up early in the morning, we started the drive home. First stop, our favorite home-town Mexican food restaurant, Los Cabos. We have not stopped working on things, making lists and plans since we parked the Eggcellence in its new home under the big roof.

It smells like dinner is just about ready, so I'll let Anne tell you about the plans and changes that are brewing here at home and for our next journey.

OH! I almost forgot. Anne told y'all that I'd tell you about the awesome treasure we acquired in St. Louis. While at that second hand outdoor store, I stood looking at a cast iron potbelly stove and said how much I loved those things, but never managed to pick one up for my container house. Lucy looked at me and said, "I have one in the backyard. You want it?" It was like she was offering me a cookie.... except this was not a cookie, it was a heavy, big, old cast iron stove. I sorta thought she was merely making conversation or the beginning of a future plan, but the conversation continued and she amended her offer to TWO cast iron stoves. We got back to Lucy and Shawn's. Lucy told Shawn about the offer and he was only too eager to put some muscle into getting rid of the two pieces - he had been in favor of re-homing them for some time. I rearranged the back of the truck. Shawn and neighbor loaded them up!
The larger stove in its temporary work home.
Anne and I unloaded them with some careful maneuvering. I have ideas and plans for both. First, they need a little bit of love. I can't wait to show them off when I get them up and running! What an exciting surprise gift. Thank you, Lucy & Shawn!!

Friday, 20 April 2018

Visiting St. Louis, Maplewood Style....

The day we leave the Yellow Springs Ohio area, is the same day we arrive in good ol’ St. Louis, Missouri. How lucky for us to go from one cool spot to another.  I have a friend that lives there.  I think it is now safe to say, WE have FRIENDS there.  So, no camping on this leg of the trip, but no rest for the weary Eggcellence as it was quite a hit with the locals there. The last time I was in St. Louis, my people lived in a different part of the city.  Now my friend and her husband and three of her four children, reside in Maplewood.  Maplewood, I learned rather quickly, is a segment of route 66 from the 1920’s via Manchester road and represents itself as a resilient self sustaining  borough of St. Louis that doesn’t much require one to stray far beyond.  Although we did a tiny bit, but I will get to that in a minute.
Nighttime at Schlafly
I have always been fascinated by the lore of “route 66”.  Unlike reading about wars, it isn’t historically laden with death and dishevelment, but a little upheaval does exist I suppose.  I get grouchy and I don’t “understand” why such an interesting and beautiful stretch of highway disappeared. The Natchez Trace, that so much of my family traversed back and forth across America when establishing their roots, is an example of trying to do the right thing in memorializing 400 miles of history,  but also falls short of maintaining the true characteristics and nuance of what these roads once meant. So when we arrived in Maplewood, St. Louis, MO. and I realized that it was home to several blocks of the famed route 66, I was pleased and annoyed all over again.

But about Maplewood.  What a cool little section of St. Louis.  I think Abby mentioned when we got there, we went rather directly to a brewery with a bit of history.  The Schlafly Brewery  has the  distinction of being one of the oldest craft breweries and brewpub in history as well as having become somewhat of an anchor for the community of Maplewood, hosting not only a myriad of functions but is even home to the local farmer’s market as well.  We began and ended our stay at Schlafly while in Maplewood and brought home some of their wares thankfully found in the local grocery store.  Their presence is hard to miss, as the success of the brewery is profound and a definite must see while in Maplewood.
Macy post-air-mattress-launch... air mattresses are not made for dogs.
After our hosts provided a bonfire complete with neighborhood friends and St. Louis style Imo's Pizza, Abby and I crashed after a long day of driving, believe it or not, in more snow and wind.  We needed our strength for the next day, which began with a walk to a local coffee shop and music venue called Stone Spiral Coffee.  Small and quaint; the perfect setting for a little writing and reflection.  We had a lazy day which included a tour style walk with our host and her two dogs and Macy as well as lots of sitting around “catching up”.  That night, we were taken to a new and innovative establishment called The Side Project Cellar.  This is an amazing place that requires a bulging pocket book and lots of time (like days) to investigate the amazing and tantalizing list of concoctions.  If you are into libations, deity or sans, this is a place to go while visiting Maplewood...or Missouri for that matter.  The evening was capped with a casual patio dinner at The Crow's Nest, local neighborhood dive and a swing by the neighborhood bar Foley's on the walk home.  It would take more than one night to feel like a regular at a good old loud neighborhood Irish bar in St. Louis, but the bartender did his best.  It was later I was told they have a really good burger at Foley's. Next time, for sure…. Have I mentioned the trains yet?  Thirty yards from our host’s house on a corner lot, is a railway that caters to several train lines and provided me with MUCH happiness during our stay.  Outside of Foley's (just down the street), are these very same tracks that provide a sort of ambience that would be hard to manufacture on a set of even the most expensive Hollywood production.  I love trains and the sound all night from their comings and goings, as well as being able to sit on the back porch and watch them go by.

But wait, we aren’t done yet!  The next morning, Abby and I decided to do laundry at a brand new laundromat just blocks away.  Look folks, it was a laundromat, so not much to say, but that ‘The Wash House’ was clean and efficient.  But after that, we wandered over to Tiffany's Original Diner for a quick counter breakfast.  Open since the 60’s, it doesn’t get much more simple or real at this “cash only” diner with a menu that get straight to the point.  Kind of like, “do you want this...or that?”.  I wanted and got, the most delicious, can’t tell you why, flattop hashbrowns I have ever had in my life, along with...I can’t even remember; there might as well have only been the hash browns.  Also located on that route 66 section of Manchester road, are a number of shops and a fabulous looking bookstore, The Book House we unfortunately never got to, knowing we would be there all day.  We did however duck into Penzeys Spices where I grabbed a few necessities for the ever revolving spice drawer. We finished up the day at home with a family dinner of grilled pork, brussel sprouts and sweet potato goodness.  Also, my first inocent experience with the evil little game of ‘Cards Against Humanity”...never again. I think there is incriminating video.   

After amazing biscuits and gravy the next morning, my friend took us on a little tour.  We hit Old Mountain Gear Exchange where Greg provides hikers and climbers and outdoors persons with exchanged good for sale.  I could safely say that, that particular day, save for a couple of “wanted items”, there were no “needed items”.  However, the inventory at OMGE is always moving, so if I lived nearby, I would hit that place at least once a week!   Next we headed over to Laumeier Sculpture Park for a little hike around the property, where I learned a few things about outdoor art...until it started raining and the weather turned us into heading for a suburb of St. Louis referred to as “The Grove”.   A quick drive around and Abby and I started talking real estate, as in…”if we had a few coins to rub together, what a great investment…”.  We talked about it some more while visiting a huge biergarten style brewery called Urban Chestnut Brewing and Beirhall.  My friend’s husband joined us and we waited out the turning weather ,partaking in a variety of brews, comparing notes, people watching and feeding our peckishness on fresh in-house pork rinds, pretzels and deviled eggs.  Back at Schlafly for dinner and the end of our stay, we enjoyed a pleasant night of feasting and tummy rubbing.
Our Hosts and some grub @Urban Chestnut
Our hosts saw us off bright and early the next morning with donuts from Strange Donuts in Maplewood as well as some homemade sandwiches for our drive.  I can not tell you all of the other things we left St. Louis with.  I will leave to Abby in her next tale.  But, if you are thinking by now that you would like to go to Maplewood, St. Louis, MO… you may be on the right track.  If you are thinking we had some great hosts...we might be able to hook you up!
Truckload of TREASURES!

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Snow, wind, rain, SUNSHINE!

This week has been action-packed. We made it to Ohio through a light snowy drive. The cold did not stop us from enjoying Yellow Springs, Ohio. We have now made our way to sunny St. Louis, MO. Is St. Louis known for its sunshine? It is now... It's funny how first impressions make or break a place, or at least create a lasting picture.
Macy might be exhausted. (Camp in TN)
Highlights by category.

Grillin' on the fire: Anne shines, as usual, as our dinner chef. We found pok loin medalions at the grocery store. She created amazing kabobs that we had over rice. Simple and absolutely delicious.

Simple breakfast at camp: Breakfast is my job. Sometimes we find avocado which makes a great simple avocado toast breakfast on bagels or English muffins. One morning we had enough avocado for half of our breakfast. The other half was peanut butter. One of us put the two sides together making an avocado peanut butter sandwhich. The other kept the two apart for two distinct flavors.
Who ate which one?!?
Sunrise Cafe, Yellow Springs, OH: This restaurant is worth a drive. The dishes are unique, well thought out, and prepared individually. This is a high quality, real food place with prices that are more affordable than the plate warrants. Sunrise also offers a wide variety of beers, wines and cocktails. All around, an absolutely lovely experience.
Young's Dairy, Yellow Springs, OH: Ice cream... This dairy allows visitors to hang out with the goats and cows, play mini-golf, eat a complete meal, and/or just eat ice cream! It was, sadly, too cold to play mini-golf. The goats were dog-like friendly, cows less interested, and the ice cream was deliecious.
The cold did not stop us from eating ice cream!
Calypso Grill and Smokehouse, Yellow Springs, OH: Brand new Caribbean restaurant by the same folks that own and opperate the Sunrise. The food was delicious, and they offer a flight of rum tasters which was fun to share.
Nick's in Xenia, OH: We drove by this place driving to and from our camp and Yellow Springs. It looks unassuming and like the sort of place that might be exclusively local. Turns out, it IS very local, but also very welcoming. Nick's is a very well established staple of this town, and the food and beer selection was great.

Flywheel Brewing, Elizabethtown, KY: We stopped on our journey from TN to OH right about noon which is often a slow time for breweries. We were served some great beer and joined in the silly conversation and soccer-game watching. Elizabethtown doesn't have much, but this brewery is a good start to the growing fun-side of this town.
Yellow Springs Brewery, OH: Anne has been drinking their Show Boat all over town. It has become a popular beer for them. They had nothing dark for me to try, but they offered a few other local beers on tap as well as soda and some wine for the non-beer folk.
Devil Wind Brewing, Xenia, OH: As we sat drinking our beers, we heard someone say that this place has only been open for a week and a half. We thought we must have mis-heard. Nope, it's that new. We enjoyed our beers enough to hang out for a second round. The staff was super friendly and enthusiastic. Best luck wishes go out to these guys!!

Terre Haute Brewing, IN: This was our midway stop between OH and MO. We had a grilled cheese with fries and barbacoa tacos. We shared our plates; everything was more delicious than we expected. We both enjoyed our beers. Recommended stop if you're ever in the area.
Schlafly Brewery, St. Louis, MO: We are staying within walking distance of this brewery. They have twelve bottle variety packs in stores which contain more beers than they serve at the brewery. The twelve pack of stouts is like a dozen dessert beers... we may need to rent a trailer to haul some home.

Caesar Creek State Park, OH: The spillway is an area where fossils can be found. This area is near the trailhead for the rope bridge and waterfalls. The falls are small, but the hike is lovely, fairly short and easy. It was really nice to just get out and breath the air.

The town of Yellow Springs, OH: This is a great town to "hike." The bookshop, toy store, hardware store, grocery store, second hand store... fun unique shops. Several shops include their own pets.
The Maplewood, MO neighborhood: I love neighborhoods that are walkable. This one (we're still here) is turning out to be a great find. Coffee shops, shopping, beer, food... My kind of casual city hiking.

Life is good! So good it's hard to keep up with it all!!

Friday, 6 April 2018

The First Leg...kind of nice, really.

Oh hell...oh!  Hi again and here we are, back on the road.  Me, slightly huddled on the tailgate of the truck soaking up the sun on my back through several layers of clothes, using the rest of the truck as protection from the wind.  Yes, we have made it back to cold.  After an amazing three days at Millwood lake in Arkansas, we mosied our way over to Tennessee to this here Natchez Trace State Park, before we make our way on to our next destination...over there yonder.  Abby, Macy and I have been practicing our accents and nuances to fit right in, wherever we are.  I have noticed Abby’s saying more often “God bless America” as an expletive, followed shortly behind by Macy’s “well just dig a hole and roll me in...I’ve seen it all…”.  Those two...
A beautiful night on an Arkansas lake (Millwood)

Despite, so far, being located next to nothing at our destinations, we have still had an abundance of gratitude.  Millwood Lake, is a haven for fisher-folks and anyone just wanting to sit around and be perfectly lazy.  I prefer the former, but practiced the later, having brought no fishing gear on this trip (not sure why not).  We prefer to hike a trail, but alas, due to heavy rains before our arrival, our trails were mostly washed out.  So I had to learn to just “be”.  Nearly impossible.  Abby relieved some of my pain by finally locating a brewery for us to visit.  Fantastic!  Except it put us BACK in Texas.  Pecan Point Brewing in Texarkana, promotes itself as brewery and gastropub.  While plenty enjoyable, these points are arguable, having (at the time) no in-house brews and my hamburger was well out performed by one a few days later at a bait shop within a mile of our campsite….still thinking about it….that was a damn good burger and can be found at ‘Hooked Up’ Bait and More in Ashdown, Arkansas if you ever, for any reason, which I can not think of other than fishing on Millwood Lake, find your way in that neck of the woods.  When we got home, Abby furthered my R&R experience by introducing me to a contraption called a “hammock”.  Lying in a hammock, in the sunshine, on the lake, with a cool breeze, watching people fish...ain’t a bad way to kill a few hours.  Education, absorbed.
camp at Millwood Lake, Ashdown, Arkasas

Now we are in Tennessee, experiencing Natchez Trace State Park.  I am freezing my butt off….but not really.  I know how to wrangle the sunshine like a dream catcher processes dreams.  We arrived in a storm last night.  The frogs calling out the discourse while we set up camp.  The storm escorted a cold front, which left our weather perfectly beautiful, but chilly about five hours later.  We still got a good hike in this morning and another planned for tomorrow.  Arriving in a storm was worth the couple of stops we made getting here.
Abby, sportin' an aqueduct on our hike

My first trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas was bountiful.  While it did not consist of any experience of hot springs (which I have enjoyed near our property in Colorado) or cigar smoking like a gangsta’, it did consist of a brewery renovated from one of the original bathhouses. Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery not only had a pleasant vibe which left me not really wanting to leave, but yet another introduction.  Abby ordered a giant pretzel that came with a horseradish sauce (“horsey sauce” we Walkers have always called it), a delicious grainy mustard and of course a beer induced cheese sauce that was not thick and gooey, but rather light and oh my gosh delicious.  How well did this snack of giant pretzel thingy go with my beer flight? Amazingly!  I could do that every day.  Out with high tea -  In with giant pretzel and good beer o’clock!  What a great break from the road trip to Tennessee from south-east Arkansas.  Arriving near our park in Tennessee, we stopped in Jackson, Tennessee for local brew and pizza from a place called ‘Rock'n Dough Pizza’ and Brewery. The beer was great (I had the “Strong Silent Type Blonde...well, just because) and the pizza was spot on..  We stopped off next door at the little local grocery store for salad makings tonight.  I am looking forward to it. Evening snack popcorn has already been popped….dinner of antipasto style salad and hot showers on the way… the book we’re reading in queue.  Looking forward to a peaceful night.
Superior Bathhouse Brewery, Hot Springs, Arkansas

We are a different style of camper… the kind that leaves plenty of room for gratitude, as we are likely going to go looking for it, rather than sitting around complaining.  No, we are not 3rd world travelers doing good works and not posh seekers of every amenity.  Just your average persons, reporting on the typical experience across America as we come to find it from one simple camp spot to the next, hoping to encourage others to get back into it also. The camping I remember from childhood, on steroids. How else do you get in touch with an owl up close and personal that is rehabbing from an injury?  Or learn about how our country developed through travel and colonization?
Antipasto Salad in the Eggcellence

That being said, I am now writing within the walls of the Jackson, Tennessee Public Library.  I have so much research to do from our simple travels so far, plus of course, publishing this blog.  We had a delightful meal last night of pork shish-kabob with lots of good grilled veggies and Abby turned the leftover grilled veggies into yet another amazing breakfast.  A rainy forecast for us the remainder of the day; tomorrow we head on to our next destination.  I am looking forward to my research this morning in this library.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Travel Prep

In the last few days we have done some pretty big things.

We have finished moving the garage into an entirely new and improved space. We took the old piece of junk container with its rusty roof and rotted floor, and we made it a beautifully organized garage with space left to be made into an outdoor kitchen when we get home.

Anne de-rust-ifying.
Gutted and ready to start over.
New deck floor.
Shelving unit for garage defines the space for the kitchen.
Garage gets a wee deck with bus-stop bench.
Garage completely organized and moved.
I took Stoli to Austin to stay with his Auntie Pat. Pat calls him her "time-share cat" because his stays are often very long. He'll be there the whole summer while we go to Alaska. He hates car rides but is completely fine as soon as he is there or here.

Prisoner transport.
Anne has pretty much turned this ten acre property into a park complete with trails and bird viewing sanctuaries. Photos don't do it justice. Neighbors have certainly noticed and make comments about how nice it looks. You'll just have to visit and see for yourself.
Backyard: Birdhouses, bird feeder, birdbath, and St. Francis to watch over them all.
Herb garden!
Vegetable garden with auto-watering.
Front yard: bird bath & feeder under my favorite trees.
New tree addition, Wally (a black walnut twig), and the trailhead is in this picture too.
Today, we are completing all the little things that it takes to actually leave home for a few weeks.

Stuff that is done because it can't wait until the day before:
  • Mow entire property.
  • Finish projects to a tidy state.
  • Pack clothes.
  • Pack toiletries.
  • Clean camper, truck, and all accessories.
  • Prep all bills that will be due while away.
  • Transport cat to his vacation home.
  • Shop for initial groceries and supplies.
  • Pack Macy's stuff.
Just before we leave:
  • Confirm with neighbors to check on the property.
  • Confirm with mail-lady about the mail hold.
  • Clean both cabins, bedding, all laundry, dishes, and porches.
  • Fill bird feeders.
  • Turn off all unnecessary water.
  • Turn off all unnecessary electricity at breaker box.
  • Don't forget the little things: phone charger, travel mugs, books, reading glasses, etc.
  • Eat all the ice cream.
We might have gone overboard.

And so, the day is busy. We leave soon. Anne gets to post next week with lots of fun travel stuff... or at least, that's what we hope!

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Let's GO!

No, not trouble in paradise, just ANOTHER busy week.  Disclaimer: reading a book - Eats, Shoots and Leaves - on “punctuation” so this little ditty, is riddled for exercise…

Getting ready to go ANYWHERE is always the undoing of all my coolness.  I have wrestled the blog back from the Eggcellence, with only a few minor scrapes and bruises and a whole lot of pissing and moaning on its part, as well as a gesture that denoted “more selfies to come”.  Left to answer emails or "fan mail" as suggested.  Huh…

We depart for the trip that Abby characterized last week, soon.  The timing could not be more perfect as we are worn to the bones from all of our projects and the idea of “fleeing” for perspective seems apropo.  While the birds are enchantingly gay, the gardens are striving for one on one time with the sky and Abby’s symbiotic relationship with the container project is humming along at cruising altitude, the taxes are paid, vehicles registered, 'Wally', the little tree that could is, well, still believing it can. I am getting nervous.  We are going on to places I have never been, or have not been in a super long time.  No big deal, right?  This isn’t the big one... just the one before the big one with an itsy, bitsy, teensy, weensy break in between. Tiny.

Abby working her tail off...

My trail I cut while waiting for Abby to finish working her tail off...

little Wally, with a wonderful story..
 Oh...and we may have mentioned to Master Stoli that his time to vacay (*te the premises) is coming near.
Stoli's reaction to "we're leaving again"
My neurosis has me imagining all of the most emergency response type needs.  In my head, it sounds quite similar to the station weather alert.  I am pulling things apart and putting them back together.  Do I have enough shoes?  After inspection of my well worn travel shoes and the holes that opened like donuts after our last trip (except for a great pair of hiking boots; thanks N.T.!), I had to invest.  Shoes...check.  Underwear?  I like to pretend like we will never, ever, ever have the capacity to wash clothes, ever, at all, anywhere.  Therefore, one can never, ever, ever have enough underwear.  Oh yeah, need a new laundry bag.  Apparently last trip, I wasn’t expecting to have dirty laundry.  Toiletries; acckkk!!  Think, think, think...what went wrong/right last time… Which mosquito repellent works in the mid-Eastern states in the raging spring? Is hypo-allergenic really a thing??

The Eggcellence.  It’s true.  Abandoned in crime scene fashion, it feels almost ghostly (but not quite ghastly) in there.  Abby made some small situational type modifications after we got home.  Anything that grows on it’s own came out on arrival weeks ago; C’mon people, we’re not slobs!! I am just now getting in clean up mode.  It’s okay, everything will be extricated, washed and reloaded soon.  The Eggcellence will stop whining and I will stop hyperventilating at 3 AM.
Whaaat??  It's fine, just a little housekeeping needed...
FOOD!!  I hate to go hungry, so this is always my first panic.  What will we eat? Will we starve?  What did we do last time?  We usually grab a bite on our arrival night, if lucky at one of our sought out local breweries, then hit a store nearby for daily groceries.  Was that sentence too long [Lynne Truss]?  That is what we did.  With healthy eating in mind, we shop veggies, fruits and cheese, anything fresh, delicious and unusual is always fun.  This is the best part of travel, if you ask me.  I would tell some of my other food prep/travel secrets...but then we wouldn’t have anything to talk about at our next dinner party.

The truth is, we are always ready to go.  Abby and I work together so well as a team, we could outrun a tornado on a moments notice if warned by that blasted weather warning system that causes me angst, even on a sunny day when it wants me to “get outside!”.  As I finish this, she is outside sawing and hammering madly in preparation for a Lowe’s delivery tomorrow and I have just cleaned the kitchen from our ‘Hanger Steak Salad’ and roasting some nuts in the oven.  It was salad week.  We ate lots and lots of salads...and maybe a little ice cream.  I lost three pounds.  I am a professional, don’t try this at home...without supervision...and sustainable inner peace.  Just kidding.
does any of this stuff work?
 Anyway… let’s go already!!!