Have VW Hippie Van…Will Travel!
*Click on Pic for more…*
I guess when you have no where to be at any given time, you lose all track of the hours, days, weeks…months. That’s pretty much how we had been until we drove back across the Texas state line. Even if we did enjoy our drive on the biways of Tejas, we realized with each mile we came closer to home, that our journey would soon be ending and we’d once again be back in the rat-race.
Some years back, I finally realized that me and the rat race…don’t mix. People are always in a hurry, they cut you off; even flip you off at times, and they really have no good reason to race to the finish line. We’ll all have our day at the finish line. I’m in no hurry to get there. Which is why our old girl Peniki is the perfect mode of transportation for our little family.
I swear, that old VW can get around town just fine, but she has to go at her own speed. Being a classic Volkswagen Westfalia, I’d like to think our van has earned seniority in mileage. Either way, she got us back home…safe and sound.
So many miles we had traveled, and by the end of the day…we were pulling into Fort Worth. I could hardly wait to see my kids, even though I was already missing the travel…and the next destination; knowing we’d no longer be spending our nights in Peniki. I was sad for that.
It wasn’t long after our return that we settled back into the old routine, but our journey was still fresh on our minds. We knew we would have to go again, but we didn’t know quite when.
Here we are, almost 2 years later, and the wanderlust is swelling up inside of us both, though we realize we have responsibilities and Baby is now older with a mind of her own. It was so easy when she was in her playpen. We could set up camp while she played safely in her space.
Now, she wanders everywhere and is like a little octopus with too many hands in too many things. But, she comes by that honestly. Nico and I are both exploring spirits with curious minds as well. And there is still so much more to explore.
*Live The Life You Love*
‘Took off early–7:30 am–for once. Heading back to Hwy 84 from 65 Interstate; hoping to make it to Mississippi today. *NOTE * There are No places to camp along 84 East to West in Alabama! Only one State Park and one National Forest…that we’ve come across.
We managed to make it down to Natchez Trace Parkway to Rocky Springs Campground. This drive was one of the best of our trip! The speed limit was 55 all the way, no big trucks allowed, and the scenery left me in awe. I look forward to making this drive in it’s entirety someday.
Also, for the record, Rocky Springs Campground is one of the best, cleanest, most peaceful places we’ve camped. Besides being a FREE SPOT (Yes…I said Free) where you can stay put for up to 2 weeks, it is peaceful, roomy, and has plenty of room to set up camp, ride bikes, hike the rough terrain within the grounds, or just build a fire in the ring. Being surrounded by wilderness, it’s hard to believe the Ranger Station is within walking distance, and the restrooms provide showers and sufficient toilets. The water spigot by the restrooms might be the only place to draw water nearby (since there aren’t spigots by the campspots) but at least you can’t beat the price or the serenity of nature.
We loved, loved. LOVED Rocky Springs Campground on the Natchez Trace Parkway. Highly recommended!!!
‘Pulled out of St. Joseph’s Peninsula at around 1:30 or so, headed West on Scenic 98 to 71 North. We’re planning to visit the Southern Tip of Georgia before we head home on El Camino 84 to Texas 287. That’s the plan anyway.
We ended up at a rest stop off of Interstate Highway 65 at 1 AM in the morning. Ugh! ‘Drove all night, but we didn’t want to pay the $$$ on a room for just a few hours of sleep. So…after stopping numerous times at various motels–and trekking out to the ONLY (what seemed like it) National Forest in Alabama, we settle for a nice…much safer, rest stop. It was the best choice, and one we should’ve made much earlier in the evening.
*What I Learned* Sleeping at rest stops isn’t half as bad as I suspected. Guess it pays to listen to Nico sometimes; as much as I hate to admit it. lol
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!
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.
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!!
Just when I thought I could see the finish line, I’m right back in the gate. Thus are the thoughts of a forty-something pregnant woman. With one adult child and one teenage child, I had been busy as a bee planning a wonderful and carefree year for two love-birds: me and my husband Nico.
Imagine my shock and his surprise when I suspected something wasn’t quite right. The nausea had me worried because it’s one of the signs of heart trouble in women. Never in a million years did I actually think it could be ‘morning sickness’; though it did pass through my mind a time or two. Several dry months later–no swimming the red sea–I felt compelled to mention it to hubby. He was ecstatic, elated, you name it! He loved the idea of a little ‘us’ growing inside of me; his never having had children and being almost 40.
Me…? I was on a different end of the spectrum. I had been through years and years of single-mom-syndrome. Needless to say, it hadn’t been easy for me or my kids. So, I guess with the whole thought-association process thing, I was happy…and bummed at the same time. I would never be so selfish as to ‘not’ want our baby; I love any little life my husband and I create. But, it’s hard to explain really, I was just seeing some light at the end of the tunnel of rearing two kids…mostly alone with no help, and pouring dollar after dollar of money I never seemed to have, into countless wants and needs. I guess I was gearing up for some ‘me’ time…or just getting used to the easy, low-key life my husband and I have gotten used to as a couple.
It has taken some adjusting of my thoughts to realize that this time…I won’t be going it alone; my husband will be a wonderful father, of that I am sure. And I’ve begun to realize that just because we are bringing a little life into the world, I know I am much more prepared now than I ever was then. I feel blessed more than shocked and dismayed these days. I’ve already felt movement (not sure whether or not it was gas), and my baby-clock has already started to kick in, getting up at least once a night to pee…visiting the fridge in the middle of the night. I have to laugh at how funny life can be.
As for the travelling we’d planned on doing: that’s where the VW Westy we plan to buy comes into the picture. I am a lucky woman to have a mechanically inclined man whose profession is auto paint & body. Because when we get our Camper Van, however old and shabby it might be, we plan on turning it into a shiny-new hippie traveler; complete with a ‘baby on board’ sticker plastered right across the back window.
I can hardly wait!