One magical Christmas, when our Baby was as new as the freshly fallen snow. My latest contribution to the Yahoo network. Enjoy and Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Day 1 Trip Home:
Smooth sailing most of the way. Only lost once per T.J.’s directions, so we stuck to the map from then on out. Stopped in Homestead, FL., for gas and rest-stop (diaper change, etc.) and quickly realized that it’s a BIG produce, vineyard, garden/greenhouse town. Agriculture everywhere!
Finally got on the right track on Hwy 41–Tamiami Trail–throught Miccosukee Indian Reservation Territory. *Neat adobe houses of bright ‘earth tone’ colors, with tiki style thatch roofing. They were hard to see because of the stockade fencing surrounding the villages. We wanted to stop and visit.*
Instead, stopped at a little wayside park for a bit of a rest and saw first Alligator on this entire trip. Many more swam up when Nico brought Baby up and she started to squeal a bit from excitement. I think the gators thought she was lunch; an injured animal or something. Lunch…either way! Talk about scary…freaky! It was eery to say the least! **SEE Video Below**
We quickly escaped ‘gator park’ and made our way to a Motel 6 in Fort Myers for the night. Exhaustion had set in, but it had been a good day trekking from the Keys…across Florida on the Tamiami Trail (Gator Ville, USA) back West to the Gulf Coast.
Take it from me. Keep Your Baby or Toddler AWAY from the Gators! Far…FAR away! We shot this from waaay up on a overlook, enclosed with fencing and thick gage protective barnyard wire-mesh fencing. Even though we were at least 8 feet above the water, this still sent chills up my spine just to see how these gators responded to our little girl’s screams. We high-tailed it outta there as fast as we could. I had seen enough of the gators to last me a lifetime!
Party at Mangrove Mama’s:
There are a few things I know I’ll never forget about our 3 weeks in the Florida Keys, and the Party we attended at Mangrove Mama’s on Sugarloaf Key is definitely one of them. We’d been invited by the owner earlier in the week, when Nico just happened to be introduced to him at the KOA Bar…in the campground next to LL. He’d gone to the store for something and, as luck would have it, ran into a few friends from LL, who were enjoying their 4 o’clock refreshments.
Needless to say, Nico and the owner of Mangrove’s hit it off and we were accepted into the rather tight-knit circle of friends/acquaintances on Sugarloaf Key. According to Nico, the party would be a benefit auction for a friend of Mangrove’s owner…who’d just-recently passed away. He was an artist…and so, they’d be auctioning off his works to raise cash for this, that, and the other. Either way, it was for a good cause, and the food and drinks were ‘on the house’. How could we refuse?
No…really! Since Mangrove Mama’s was classified more as a restaurant than a bar, we felt it was safe to take Baby, and lo-and-behold, she wasn’t the only kid there. I was a bit worried we might be walking into an environment not suited for our little one. But in the end, it all turned out to be a fun night…minus a few mis-haps and misgivings on the part of a few drunks and loud-mouths. It seems…there’s always one (or two) in every crowd.
All in all, we danced to a bongo band called the ‘Margarejects’…laughed with new-found friends, and made it safely home at a reasonable hour…across Overseas Highway and back to Lazy Lakes. In the end, Nico and I both had to admit “They really do know how to party in The Florida Keys!” What a blast we had with the local Conchs! I hope we can see them again…someday soon.
..V. ~~ www.gypsyvinrose.com
Okay, so we’d been lingering a lot on Sugarloaf Key and not had too much time for Key West until… Until we decided we had to know more of the island that our friend T.J. swore to us was ‘much better than we’d so far experienced’. *not word for word* We knew we’d have to make a day of it and, once and for all, see it for ourselves; Duval Street…Southernmost Point and everything in between.
In no time at all, Peniki was blaring down Overseas Highway at 55 mph and we were once again on Key West. This time, we’d left our bikes back at Lazy Lakes and opted to go afoot. We tried to think like the local Conchs and check out the ‘not so touristy’ spots where, in our opinions, the local-focal were likely to frequent. In our search, we ended up at a little outdoor bistro with a tropical setting like no other we’d seen anywhere near Duval…complete with talking birds. One Mango Daquiri later, I was sure we’d made the right decision by choosing to take a more intimate look at Key West and Duval Street. We were fast becoming friends with the Florida Keys.
Day 2 on Sugarloaf Key:
For us…this morning was a new beginning. The light of day had brought with it a better view of Lazy Lakes Campground and the clear water lake beside us. More of our new neighbors stopped for a friendly ‘hello’ and to tell a few tales of their younger days when they either owned or knew someone who’d owned a Hippie Van like Peniki. Still, we seemed to be frowned-down-upon by the more ‘uppity’ clan of big-riggers; the ‘old codgers’ I call them.
All in all, the folks at LL are turning out to be a pretty warm bunch of retirees, part time beach bums, or full time ‘conchs’ as they so lovingly refer to native residents or transplant natives of The Florida Keys. Again, our new friend T.J. happened by on his bicycle…on his way down to a little store called Kickin Back, a mile or so down Overseas Highway. Being the nice person he is, he asked if we needed anything while he was there. Lucky for us, we were well packed, and at that time only needed to buy more ice for our ice box. The campground office sells ice and is really laid back on when campers pay. Like I said, Lazy Lakes is just the place to go for a relaxing vaca in the Keys.
For most of our first full day on Sugarloaf Key, we’ve lolly-gagged about on our bikes with baby in tow, met a few more nice locals, and relaxed for the first time in days; got a little fishin’ in too. We ended our day with a few brewskies by our trusty old VW Van, overlooking the myriad of fish from the ‘backyard’ of our new place in the Keys; however temporary it might be.
Tomorrow will be a busy day when, in addition to the barbecue we’ve been invited to at T.J.’s, we will head in to check out Key West, pick up a few more groceries and supplies…and see how the local ‘Conchs’ live. I can hardly wait!
Day 22 In the Florida Keys:
Woke up….packed up a partially set-up camp, deciding to leave and explore Key Largo. Gotta find a WiFi signal soon. A little while later, stopped at a little sandwhich shop near the Publix Market and used the internet there. We met a few nice folks–Kim the shop clerk and Brent the owner of the shop. I got Kim’s FB info and we decided to keep in touch.
Had initially planned on heading to Big Pine Key to camp for a few days; at least until we went and checked the only available spot at Breezy Pines RV Campground. It was a ‘no go’ there! Bad energy and too many shady looking characters. We ventured further down…closer to Key West, even though it was late in the day. I’m glad to say, after much fear we would end up w/o a spot for the night, we landed at Lazy Lakes on Sugarloaf Key. This is a happy and peaceful place to be. Love it here!
Day 21: Leaving Sebastian Inlet, Headin’ to the Florida Keys–
Up by 8:30 or 9ish, ‘did laundry and packed up the van for the final stretch of our Peniki adventure road trip. ‘Got on the road late b/c we had hot dogs and good conversation with our neighbors Eddy and Suzanne. Nice People! We’ll have to keep in touch.
‘Thinking we’d head straight for Key Largo today; per a tip from Eddy, we decided to take the Toll Road straight on down and by-pass Miami this time around. I had really had my heart set on seeing Hollywood Florida, but our new friend Eddy said it’s just a lot of hype, souvenir shops and the like. Still, I want to see it…someday.
Visited the ATM, bought diapers and wipes, fueled up the van and we went in search of Florida’s Toll Road. In the end, the toll road proved to be way too fast-paced for our old classic VW. I was a mess when it came to nerves, but Captain Nic kept it steady and calm; even when we thought we might get mowed down by the crazy drivers who aren’t still stuck in the 70’s…goin’ 55 mph. : ) The left side service station exits, right off the ‘fast lane’ really didn’t help our case any at all. At one point, some flaming idiot came past in a fury, yelling some stupid shit! I wanted to catch up to him and put the Whoopass on him….but the van never could catch the maniac. LMAO
Finally, after hours and many miles of chaos on the toll road, we rolled in to Key Largo at about 9 pm or so, quickly found a campsite (as fast as we possibly could anyway), and ended up at The Key Largo Campground and Marina…just off Overseas Highway and within walking distance to Publix. We paid WAY too much for the lot w/ a water view, but at last….we had arrived. A BIG sigh of relief fell over our camp and ourselves as we went about constructing a partial set-up for the night.
Camp was finally put together and we were more than ready for bed by about midnight. Luckily, the baby slept through it all. ‘Will see tomorrow what this place looks like; if it is worth the $$$ we spent, though I doubt it is.
All in all, it had been a pretty good day’s travels. Peniki had taken us all the way to the Florida Keys and God had blessed us in so many ways.
*Remembering* Nico met a nice man from Haiti who was working at the Key Largo Burger King. I remember thinking of how much farther he had traveled to a new land, by comparison to our own travels. I thought to myself: If this brave man can come all this way and make it work, we should be able to as well. I dared to dream.
Day 20–Mother’s Day: Flagler Beach to Sebastian Inlet SP
Mother’s Day today! Woke up around 9:00 or so to a beautiful sunny day on Florida’s East Coast. Lovely ocean waves in the distance; I can barely hear them from our campsite at Flagler Beach’ Gamble Rogers State Rec Area. We really do like it here. The facilities are nice, with clean restrooms right across from us, and a laundry facility as well. I can see the Atlantic Ocean from our temporary front yard. ; )
Nico cooked breakfast, made some coffee and fed Baby too. Flagler is a very inviting place, but I think we’ve decided to press onward. We were up and gone by noon, but in our travels, we’ve discovered that A1A Highway along the Atlantic Coastline, is NOT a friendly road! We were going the speed limit of 55 mph, but cars were still idiotically passing on the wrong side of a skinny two lane road…with no shoulder to pull over if needed. Crazy Drivers! We escaped A1A as quickly as possible, and opted to take Highway 1 on down from Ormond Beach. The SP there was nice, but still not the best we’ve seen.
Stopped near Daytona for drinks/ice/gas, and decided to head for Sabastian Inlet SRA. [Note to Self: Daytona…YUK! No Go There Again!] A little while later, there we were at a nice campsite across from the Gulf side of Florida, watching the sun set over the water. ‘Met a nice couple from Jacksonville–Eddy and Suzanne Shores–camped out next to us at Sebastian Inlet. But we quickly realized that the Park Hosts really ‘STINK’ there!
We travel for up to 6 months out of the year, and more often if we’re lucky. Part-time living/traveling with our little one in Peniki, our Vintage VW Westfalia, is what life is all about for our family. For us…it’s the way to go!
Here’s a little story that was recently published on Green RV Living, about how we roll…and live PT Off the Grid. God Bless and Happy Travels!
Day 18: Econfina River State Park from St. George Island
Pulled out of St. George at around 12:30 PM on Friday. We said goodbye to Rob West; our nice camphost from Pennsylvania. ‘Found an island grocery market and a ATM, then stopped-off at a little roadside seafood stand and bought the day’s catch directly from the fisherman who’d caught it that morning. What we bought:
1 lb shrimp, 2 lbs red snapper filets, 2 crab cakes. Yum! I’d be cooking the cakes later on down the road, along with the shrimp, and the fish I planned to save and cook the next day since it was frozen.
While at the seafood stand, we met a nice man, a retired college professor. He loved the van! : )) We love St. George Island! …hate to leave. We both agree we could live quite happily on Saint George Island. Never know…maybe some day!
*Beautiful drive along coastal 98 headed East, as we were leaving the long bridge to/from St. George.*
We stopped at an IGA in Carrabelle, FL for groceries and stuff. The ladies at the store were really nice and helpful. You don’t see that everyday! *Cute little town, that Carrabelle! I took pics of a kewl wooden boat-bar. Love it!! We wanted to stop, but we had to forge ahead.
Refueled in Pancea while down the road, and had every intention of going on to our desired destination, but considering the time-of-day and how tired we were, we decided to camp for the night at Econfina River State Park. Come to find out, there were no campsites at the park, so we found a rural spot at a private compground up the road and secured a spot for $17. Not too bad! And the primitive site was very secluded and lush with Palmettos and Palms…and that scary Spagnum Moss hanging from the trees. It reminds me of the Scooby-Doo mysteries every time I see it. Lol This trip, we’ve seen it a lot too.
*Nice old bald man (The ‘old bald man’ part…his words, not mine. lol) named Ron, who we met back at Econfina while asking for directions, loaned me some sunblock/bug repellent called ‘Cactus Juice’. It comes from Texas! hahaha Good stuff! We used a little then returned it to the store nearby, per his request, the next day before we pulled out. He said he knew the folks there at the store and they’d hold it til he came in the next fishin trip…that next weekend more than likely. : )
We cooked the shrimp from St. George on the open fire-pit that night. It was delicious! Once we turned in, we had a bit of a scare when we heard some goings-on outside our camp. Blanca had been fixated by something out in the woods all day since we’d arrived. Nico went out (I begged him not to, but…you know men) to see what it was, but seemed rather spooked when he came back in. He said what ever it was, it was circling our campsite, was very heavy…and very fast. Needless to say, he stayed in after that. ; )
Obviously we made it through the night, or I guess you wouldn’t be reading this. Haha It had been a good day…all in all. Many…many Blessings!
An Opinion Piece on How Facebook Disrupts Lives and What You Can Do to Avoid Getting Sucked into Social Media Networks.
Had breakfast and got ready for a nice day at St. George Island Beach. ‘Loaded up the bike trailer to the limit, and we were off! Fun…fun day! ‘Found a Pirate’s Booty of seashells! Yayahhhh!!!
Headed back to camp and started a campfire to grill Bratwurst sausages. While the fire was stoking, I headed out to buy ice from the camp-hosts and ended up meeting Rob’s wife Anne. Nice lady! We ended up chatting for over an hour and meeting other passersby out walking their dogs.
Later that night, Nico played guitar for Nixi and we settled in…after showers. It had been a good…good day. Lovin’ every minute of St. George Isle! No words to describe…
Met a nice couple from Gainesville, FL this morning who bought a copy of our CD (First one sold!! Yay!!!). Huck told us that he’s a native of New York State and his wife Leah is from Colorado. They had two sons, and they were there at Grayton Beach SP on a family camping trip. Nice people! I hope they keep in touch.
We finally hit the road at around 2 PM (Ugh!!), leaving Grayton Beach headed East on 98. It was a nice drive with no complications. Yay!! ‘Arrived at St. George Island State Park after passing over a three-mile-long bridge and snapping a few pics of the lighthouse there on St. George. While we were stopped at the Ice Machine, an older couple pulled up in a golf cart wanting to snap a pic of us; the Hippies in the VW Van. Too Kewl!
Arriving at SGI SP, we paid for a couple nights and set to work on camp. ‘Met camp-host Rob West from Pennsylvania while buying firewood for our campfire-to-be. Settled in for the night after setting up rig and cooked a bit on the fire. Turned in at a reasonable time…for a change, but didn’t get much sleep (for a good reason, this time). Nico and I made up for lost time. Yayah!
Not bad for a day’s work! We were lovin’ St. George Island so far.
Finally…time to sit still and enjoy the beach. We paid for 2 nights, and boy…was I ever glad we did. Nico loved it at Grayton as well. The beach was a wonder of white sand and perfect waves. We surfed as much as we possibly could on a surfboard with ‘no wax’! Whoooaaa! Slippery when wet! Lemme tell ya! But…even still, we had a blast being kids again! It seems having a little one in our forties has brought a bit more of the kid out in the both of us. Gotta love that!
Even though this particular day was rather a blur of fun, surfing, exploring, biking to the beach and around the park and such; even a bit of foraging for wild blackberries…growing beside the park road, it was just what the doc ordered. By day’s end, I actually felt fulfilled and rested…all in one. And while Nico had gone to take a shower, and baby slept soundly beside me, I found my Zen and wrote a song; singing the tune into my Zoom recorder…just so I wouldn’t forget what had come to me. It’s an upbeat…beachy…reggae-ish kind of islandy sound. I can hardly wait to get the music right on it so we can record. The day was a success…if only for that reason, though there were so many more reasons for a girl/Mom/Wife to feel blessed.
Happy…Happy Day at Grayton Beach State Park. A wonderful place to see on Florida’s Gulf Coast. I know we will visit again.
Had brekkie on Dauphin Island, picked up camp and was gone by noon. We had to catch the Ferry across the bay. Sitting in line to load the boat, we figured it would take forever, but were pleasantly surprised after waiting only 5 to 10 minutes. Lucky for us, we were the last one’s allowed onboard.
So, there we were…cutting through the waves on The Mobile Bay Ferry. I had decided to stand upfront to take pics while Nico sat in the van with baby. Little could I have known that I’d end up soaked all down the front from the splashes of the boat ripping through the tide. I loved it! Nice and refreshing; much-needed on such a hot day.
As we pulled off the ferry, my heart anticipated our next stop–we were closing in on Florida. I could hardly wait! A little while later and a few miles down the road, we crossed into Florabama (Party Town!! Jimmy Buffett style!) and over the state line. It was around 2 pm and we were ready to sink our toes in the Florida sand. After passing through Florabama, we stopped at Perdido Key State Park day use area, for some fun-in-the-sun, a pit-stop and a picnic (not necessarily in that order).
After munching down some lunch, we headed down to the lofty white-sand beach and played in the crystal clear…aqua green-blue water. Love it! We splashed around like children and never wanted to leave, though we knew we must. There was a campsite calling our names a little ways down the road at Big Lagoon State Rec Area. It was getting late…we were tired…Peniki was tired, so we parted with the lovely beach and headed out.
A short bit later, we were settling in at Big Lagoon and quickly making friends with the campground hosts Butch and Ronnie; brothers with great hospitality and a bucket of laughs. What wonderful people to know! We enjoyed every minute of conversation with our new friends. Super nice people!
At that point, we’d already decided to stay another night…having already been made to feel so welcome there. So…we settled in and relaxed to the music of Bob Marley on the player while I fried some yummy fish and enjoyed a bit of refreshment. I tell ya–It just doesn’t get much better than that! No siree!!!
‘Woke up early and got down to the matter at hand. Breakfast! While we were leisurely eating our grub, ‘decided to go for a nice ride around the island. I had seen miles of bike trails on the way in that night before, and I could hardly wait to venture out.
We headed in the direction we had yet to travel and soon discovered Historic Fort Gaines, right on the waters’ edge. Then…we rolled down to the beach nearby and saw Dolphins leaping and dancing in the water. What a sight! I only wish I had been able to snap the pic in time.
Baby had fallen fast-asleep; soothed by the motion of the bicycle and the cool ocean breeze on her face. So…after enjoying the breeze and introducing our toes to Alabama sand, we headed back towards the campground…but didn’t stop there. Our destination? The Fish Market! I was gonna cook some shrimp on the Bar B later. Yum!!
A little while later, we were pullin’ out of the market with a couple ‘pounds of freshly caught shrimp, a few pounds of catfish, and some crab-stuffed jalapeno pepper-poppers. Needless to say, by the time we left the only grocery store on the island to pick up some other groceries and libations, I couldn’t pedal fast enough…just thinkin’ of getting back to cook those peppers.
Fast-forward a few hours later: In our efforts to work off the crab-peppers, we set out to explore Dauphin Island Campground and get to know our immediate surrounding a bit better. To our pleasant surprise, we discovered a shade riddled trail into the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Treasure!!! A long walk later, and a gazillion pics too, we made it back to camp to ready the skewers and get an early start on dinner.
Later that night, we sparked the campfire and grilled mango/chipotle marinated shrimp & pineapple skewers. Man…! I really out-did myself this time! *patting myself on the back* This….was what posh-camping was meant to be. Simple pleasures by the sea, and good company.
Priceless! : )
I finally had a chance to drive my Westy this past weekend. Even though it is technically my van, I rarely get the chance to drive her because of problems with the fuel tank.
Anyone who has ever owned one of these vintage Campmobiles knows that if-ever it is left to sit (the gas in the tank) for very long, it either turns to muck if left full, or rusts if left empty. So…that is the ‘next’ problem we are aiming to tackle; or Hubby is that is. All I do is track down the parts and purchase them; Hubby installs and fine-tunes when the parts arrive. We work in shifts around here. ; )
But, needless to say, it gets REALLY frustrating that I can’t drive the van as often as I’d like to because, like most ‘mothers of toddlers’, I do not wish to get out in this crazy-city traffic and stall-out in the middle of the road. Yes, it happens to us all the time lately; a regular part of our weekend outings.
‘Not a problem for Hubby; he gets back there and just fixes whatever’s wrong, and we’re back on the road in no time at all. Me…? I haven’t-a-clue what to do when/if the van kills-over on me. And being out and about with little Nixi is not good if I break down in the middle of crazy traffic with her in the van. Not safe….not at all! So, I just leave the driving to Hubby…and eagerly await the day when the fuel tank isn’t full of muck-muck, and I can safely drive my van.
This week…I’m searching for a new/after-market fuel tank for our 71 Campmobile. So far…no luck! But, I’m kinda stubborn, so I won’t be giving up anytime soon. Never will I let a little thing like a fuel tank come between me and my van. No Siree! This Hippie Chick loves her Westy waaaaay too much to give up that easily.
Times a wasting…so I’d better get to it. Happy Travels to All!! Ching Ching!!! ; )
September 8th 2010:
Nico is 41 today, and, so far, his birthday is starting out better than mine did yesterday. No matter, I guess my day ended pretty well. So…today we plan on walking to Market Center first, then to the River Walk to find some excitement: restaurants, waterfalls, cool refreshment; filming all the while with our Zoom recorder I bought off of Ebay. It’s great for video, though we’re not sure about recording our music on it just yet.
We finally found the tourist-loop of the River Walk and decided to hang out at The Hard Rock Cafe for a bit; Nico’s choice. I filmed a short clip of our time there. About an hour…’two beers for Nico…one beer for me’ later, we headed back to the hotel to ready for our cook-out at Chris’s later that night. I wish we could have strolled along the river for a while longer. I’ve always loved the river walk in SA, minus the bad smells in some spots. I swear—one strip under one of the bridges smelled like raw sewage. Not good! Oh well, you take the good with the bad. Right?
So…there we were, using the GPS…again, for directions to Chris’s. This time it actually took us to the right destination. I say… “It’s about time!” After several wrong turns and one wrong address, we were there: hungry, thirsty, and ready to relax. And so…we did!
One meal of barbecue chicken, with all the fixin’s, and a few drinks later, the guys broke out the guitars and we all succumbed to our passion: music. Nico and Chris played for a while and I listened, enjoying every minute of seeing two old friends catch up; picking up right where they’d seemed to left off. Then…I chimed in; singing a song that Nico and I wrote a few years back. It was a lot of fun. But, soon, it was time to head back to our hotel-home.
We knew we had another busy day ahead of us, since we’d already decided to head back to the river walk for a longer, more leisurely tour. We would also be filming again for a video I’ve been planning for one of our songs. I am also working my way towards documenting our travels in the Westy, though I find juggling the baby while navigating on our road trips a full time job in and of itself; never mind trying to enter filming into that equation. I guess time will tell.
If only we could have known what surprise we’d find when we arrived back at our room. I guess we should have known better than to leave Blanca, our little schnauzer, all alone in the room. But, at the time, we really had no choice; since she was ‘on her monthly’…in diapers…and couldn’t go along with us because Chris’s dogs are male and so on…and so forth. Either way, we thought we were doing the right thing at the time, and felt Blanca would be fine since she’d been alright with it earlier that day when we’d gone to the river walk. But…she wasn’t, not this time around. She’d torn through the bathroom door, which was brand new…though made only of paperboard, and also nibbled on the corner of the other door. Needless to say, we’d be paying for the damages.
*What I Learned By This Little ‘Event*:
-Leave the dog at the pet-sitters
-Get your dog ‘fixed’ asap—don’t put it off ‘til you have to diaper the little brat
-It is better (in case you can’t leave your pet behind or at a sitters) to leave your little K9 in your van-home, where she/he is familiar with the surroundings, than to shell-out travel money for damages to hotel rooms. Ugh!!!
-Pay for the damages and become a very welcomed, and trusted, guest at your fave hotel
September 7th 2010:
Just as we feared, the weather made a turn for the worst this morning. Happy Birthday to me! Instead of just a drizzle, the rain is pouring and we have to evacuate the river…before we’ve even had a chance to set up our drive-away tent. ‘Satisfaction of knowing how it will serve us in our travels eludes me still. Dammit!
We talked to the campground host before we left; his name is Marty…he loves our van. He told us of how his parents traveled with him in their VW Van, back when they moved from South Carolina to Texas. It makes us a lot of fast-friends; this old Westy. She’s a definite ice-breaker when it comes to conversation with strangers and making friends. Still, we had to evacuate the river because, according to Marty, the camp-site we’d chosen would soon be under water. So…we packed up…again, and headed out. To where, we had no idea!
The wind was gusting so swiftly we could barely keep Peniki on the road, and the rain made visibility less than safe, so we decided to stop a while…in a Taco Cabana parking lot, of all places. Hence the reason one should always pack a lunch and plenty of food. It doesn’t hurt to make a plan B when it comes to your destination as well. On any trip, long or short, Mother Nature is the real driver and we are only passengers. Anyone who knows Texas weather knows how flaky it is at any-given time of year.
So…there we were, contemplating plan B. A few stormy hours later, we headed south to San Antonio. The river walk was our next stop. Nico phoned his best friend to let him know we were in town, and we all made plans for drinks later that evening. The welcoming sign of our favorite ‘pet-friendly’ hotel, Motel 6, was a grand site after such a day. The trendy contemporary décor of our remodeled room was the icing on the cake, a hot shower…even more of a treat. We commenced to cleaning ourselves up for our soon-to-arrive guest. It had been too many years since Nico had seen his oldest friend Chris, though they still keep in touch on a regular basis.
The weather cooperated enough for us all to take a stroll to the river walk, about a mile or so away. We never did find the touristy part of the Riverwalk, so we gave up…from exhaustion, and headed back to the hotel. Following the GPS was the last thing we should’ve done, since it took us so far out of the way that we ended up in a ‘not so safe’ part of SA. No blame on anyone, but next time we went out touring, we carried a map and our compass. So much for technology!
What did we learn from all of this…?
*Carry a good map of the city and a compass. A flashlight at night helps immensely too.
*Take plenty of extra cash, just in case your thrifty camping adventure has to be traded for an uptown excursion.
*Carry some mace in a strange city; especially if you’re a woman.
*A shoulder tote or backpack always helps if you have to bring water and other items, such as baby necessities.
September 6th 2010:
‘Woke up late today, even though we swore we’d get up and get going down the road like early birds. No matter—we are like the tortoise: slow as hell. Still, we managed to make it out of Dallas before noon-ish. We’d been spending some time with my oldest daughter Mia, there in the West End of Big D.
It had been a very enjoyable week for me, Mia, and Nixi. ‘Not for Nico: he’d been taking the six o’clock Dart Rail to the TRE train to Fort Worth, then The T bus to work; an all day journey that landed him back in Dallas no sooner than 9 PM each night. I hated him being gone for the entire day…before sunrise ‘til post-sunset. But we made it through the week…I spent some very valuable time with my Mia…and all systems were pointing to ‘go’ for our longest road-trip in Peniki to-date.
A bit nervous and excited all in one, we looked forward to a new adventure in our Westy. Although we did a bit better in our preparations this time, our plans to head out early were steadily curbed. But what can one expect from a couple of turtles. After all, it is quite a task driving to storage for our camping gear, loading or unloading, gassing-up, ice…food…drinks…traffic until we are out of the city; it just seems to be one thing after another. And, before we know it, we’ve spent half the day and almost $200 before we ever get going. It sucks…yes. But…it is the path we’ve chosen…for now. I remain hopeful that we will find the place to set some roots. Soon, perhaps…? One never really knows.
So…there we were, finally losing the hub-bub…rat-race…congestion of the city, finally reaching the peacefulness of the path less traveled; a state highway after Labor Day, headed for New Braunfels. My 42nd birthday was the next day, Nico’s 41st birthday would be the day after mine, and he had planned a river-camping trip for our big days. I was excited because we were actually going to be able to set up our drive-away tent…more than two months after purchasing it on Ebay. I’d been anticipating how much room we’d add to our tiny van-quarters. Turns out…I was right! But I’ll get to that eventually…in a future post.
A long…slow time later—around 2 AM the next morning—we finally arrived at River Road on the Guadalupe River; a place Nico had visited more than 20 years prior and now wanted to share with me and little Nixi…Blanca too. So, there we were; exhausted…road-weary, and it began to drizzle just before we fell in for some much-needed rest. We could only hope that the next sunrise would bring a more enjoyable day on our first lengthy road trip. A sunny, cloudless day for my birthday would be a welcoming surprise…no doubt. If only that had happened…it would have been femmetastique! But…as most of us know, life usually doesn’t turn out that way.
What did I learn from all of this?
*Do all prep-work (storage, packing the van, food/drink purchases, gassing up, etc) the day before you’re set to leave.
*Research, research, research the weather before you set your destination.
*If you’re slow-going (Peniki topped speeds of around 55 on level ground and 45 up hill), divide a trip of 300 or more miles into two trips of 150 miles…coming or going.
*Buy Ice before you get out of the city, or you’ll be paying double…more than likely.
*Pack a weeks’ worth (no more, due to weight) of canned goods, dry goods, fruits and veggies; things you don’t have to keep cold…just in case.
*Make sandwiches before-hand and pack in a cold pack or cooler, so you won’t spend money on unhealthy fast-food.
*Pack plenty of water…no matter what.
*If you carry a portable potty, make sure it is very clean…first, then if there is room in your van or travel vehicle (and privacy), keep it inside where you can use it in case of emergencies. **Not recommended for all travelers…believe me!**
*Try not to pack too much inside the van/RV/camper cabin so you can move around and be comfortable…and safe on the road.
*Always carry tools and a spare tire. **We had a flat in the middle of ‘nowhere’ on the way back.**
*Relax…have fun…meet new people, but, don’t drink too much. Too much of a good thing is usually…not.
- Another week, a few more parts, quite a bit of dough later…and we’re still getting ready to hit the road. No one said it would be easy, and believe me, it hasn’t been. We just keep doing what feels right, all the signs are pointing in the direction we’re steadily working towards. A little voice inside me keeps saying just to “Keep on keeping on! Nothing in life worth having is ever easy.”, so I just take my own advice, suck it all in…and try harder to reach my goal.
- The Westy is getting closer to road-ready; one brake/caliper/line installed…one more to go. Then, Hubby will check the two front brakes to make sure no servicing is needed there. Ugh! I feel like a cavewoman these days. All I can say is “Ugh!”. *chuckle* In reality, we’ve come a long way with our little campmobile in a short month-and-a-half (Has it really been that long?), but I remain hopeful that we will be heading down the road in no time. *crossing fingers…toes…legs…arms* I feel like a child who’s anticipating the last day of school, but it keeps getting pushed back. I feel like a kid who’s been waiting for my mom or dad to come play a while with me, but they keep finding better things to do with their time; yet again, I have to wait.
- I know there is really no one at fault here, any more than my own self, for buying a 39 year-old classic vehicle that had been sitting for years before we came along and rescued her. She (Peniki) is a true classic, she deserved the name plate stating such status. The sad thing is…she is just like me: she doesn’t have alot of mileage, and I suspect she’s never been any place too far, but she desperately needs to wander and see the creations of God…of nature…of man…of the world.
- I feel like a caged lion at times; like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life — I feel like if I don’t get away…I’ll just bust! So…here I sit, writing this blog post, hoping that someone…anyone, might feel compelled to read my words and comment their words of understanding and perhaps share some feelings of the same sort.
- TGIF! We’ll see what the weekend brings. God Bless and Happy Travels to one and all! : )
Okay…so we’re feeling a little ‘stuck in the mud’ these days, dealing with the layover-limbo kind of waiting game. What are we waiting for…you ask? Well, we are still waiting on parts to make the VW Westy road-ready.
First it was one thing…the permanent plates for the van, then the title, then…we discovered we’d need to replace a few parts to get the Westy inspected. Ugh!! Now, we are waiting on parts to fix the brakes on our ‘Yes we do still love her’ campmobile. I’ve received notification that our parts are on the way. A glimmer of hope is still in my eyes.
So now I sit writing this post in my blog that I barely have time to keep up with lately. Even though we are waiting…we are very busy getting ready for the road trip. I’ve also been researching work, places to go, things to do, so on and so forth.
Where we are headed first is anyone’s guess; and believe me, everyone keeps asking. “Where are ya’ll? Where are you going? You still in town?” Exhausting…completely! I know they all mean well, or perhaps they are just being a bit ‘nosy’. I’m sure I could guess, but I won’t say.
Either way, and even after some drama on our first outing–mean-spirited RV park snobs looking down their noses at our lifestyle, at us, at our a-little-rough-around-the-edges camper van. None of it–they, rather– just doesn’t matter to us.
We see our baby growing so fast and so strong…she is so happy; we know we are doing the right thing…bringing her up in a modest, low-key lifestyle. We see that she doesn’t need all of the stuff that people tend to lavish on their children, simply trying to make up for the time they do not spend; too busy working, shopping, whatever!
Hubby and I might not be agreeable to many ‘conventional robots-wage slaves’ but we are spending the most valuable commodity ever available on our baby. We are spending time. Priceless!
June 11th 2010:
So…it’s been almost a whole month since we went and picked up our 1971 VW Westfalia Campmobile Van, and I still cannot believe she is ours! Anyone who knows me, knows how long I’ve wanted one of these classic, none-other-like-them-in-the-world camper vans.
I ‘m in love with my car! Is that a little odd? I don’t think so in the least. You see…? She–Peniki–as we have named her–is our passport outta the rat race. Sorry to say, we are waiting on a few loose ends before we can hit the road. But, all in all, it’s been a great adjustment time; getting used to cohabitation in a camper van as opposed to a traditional house, like we had been living in for the past several years.
‘Glad to say, we have taken that first BIG step out of the conventional lifestyle (the one everyone thinks they are ‘supposed’ to live) and already sold everything we own…cars and all. Now, we are left with each other (our MOST valuable…no, priceless possessions ever), our Super Cool Hippie Van, the belongings we’ll need on the road, and a half-full storage unit of the stuff we had to keep. ‘Always a few strands of ‘red tape’ we can’t cut through…no matter how hard we try.
So…we are waiting…and waiting…and waiting for the loose ends to be knotted, then…just like that breeze that’s calling, we’ll be chuggin down the road. A couple (and a half) of Nomads…we are! I’m lovin’ every minute of it. Who was it who said that nothing in life worth having is ever easy? I wish I could remember. But, no matter really. This adventure, so far, has been an exhausting undertaking–definitely ‘not’ for the faint-of-heart. I sure am glad that I inherited my hard-headed ways from my daddy. Any time anyone has ever told me something might be impossible, or a bad idea, well…that’s the very thing I’d do. My parents always told me that curiosity killed the cat. I sure am glad I’m not feline. : )
There’ll be more to come…
Our adventure has just begun!
So…I never thought I’d be able to say this so soon, but…”We Found It!!!” “We found the Westy for Us!”. Now, we just gotta save a bit more, and the puppy is ours! YAYA!!