It’s the final countdown…

3…2…1… go!

On October 9, 2016, this little camper van FINALLY got on the road for a six month road trip!  Last minute adds…LED lighting strips inside the van (WOW! are they bright!), a new muffler and tailpipe, and then all new tires.  The engine sounds good, the interior is comfy and just how I wanted it (thanks to son, Sean, who worked many hours on the cabinets, floor, electrical, wood trim, etc.), and a sad goodbye to the New York family but excited to go see the Virginia family!

My little Ford camper van lit up at night with 4 little LED strips!
Interior – cabinet for kitchen unit with water and sink on top, and smaller cabinet to hold emergency porta-potty, and bed to the left. LOVE my wood floor!

Leaving Albany, New York area, I so enjoyed driving Route 88 through the Leatherstocking Region (south central NY) … especially with the beautiful autumn foliage! This area includes Cooperstown – a favorite place – I lived there for a couple of years and it is a wonderful area with wonderful people.  (Kim, I waved hi in your direction as I passed through!)  For those not familiar with the area, I love the Baseball Hall of Fame and the old Doubleday Field located in Cooperstown.  This is also where James Fenimore Cooper lived and wrote Last of the Mohicans, Pathfinder, and other amazing Leatherstocking Tales, novels whose locales are in the Cooperstown area.  Everyone should visit this region and enjoy the places Natty Bumpo traveled!

Switching to Route 81 out of Binghamton, I headed into the Endless Mountains region of Pennsylvania.  When I first traveled through this area back in 1969-70, it was SO painful to see the strip mines left bare and ugly all around, I was mortified!  Maybe some of you will remember Paradise, by John Prine, sung by Johnny Cash, John Fogerty, John Denver, and others…

“and daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County beside the Green River where Paradise lay?  Well, I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in asking, Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away”   –

The song was about the Western Kentucky coal mines, but I always pictured these stripped Pennsylvania hills when I heard the song. Now, several decades later, this region is back to beautiful forests on those same hills! How happy it made me to see all those trees…I was smiling all the way through Lackawanna County!

By the time I reached lower Pennsylvania, land of caverns and battlefields (Gettysburg, for one), I was ready to stop for the night.  Love’s Truck Stop outside of Lebanon was a great boondocking site!  One great part about traveling in a camper van is that I can park amongst the cars and not have to hear or smell diesel/generator fumes from the big RV rigs and trucks.  Just put up my Reflectix window coverings, pulled the pillow and quilt out of the pillow shams on my full size bed, and nighty-night!

My little camper van at night with interior LED lights on but Reflectix window coverings up – screen windows left uncovered for breeze

Refreshed after a great night’s sleep, I headed across the Mason-Dixon line into Maryland and then Virginia. Battlefield after battlefield, traveling this area always causes me to reflect on our country’s past and the many sacrifices made by previous generations! I can’t even acknowledge the current political debates in the face of such loss – neither Trump nor Clinton make me proud of America right now. With the millions of decent, hard-working Americans in this country, how on earth did we end up with these two as presidential candidates?!?!? Rhetorical question…I understand politics and elections and big money; just really sad to consider the results!

Well, on a happier note, I finally pulled off Route 81 at Lexington, VA and headed to the little town of Buena Vista where my oldest son lives with his family.  Am enjoying a couple of weeks with my five amazing grandchildren here, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Yesterday I walked through Lexington, and the Stonewall Jackson cemetery — I just love all the history here! The mountains all around us are just beautiful, and I encountered a deer just a block over from Jason’s house!  So much to see and experience – like the Natural Bridge (a favorite spot!), Virginia Military Institute, Robert E. Lee grave (and that of his horse!), etc.  History, nature, family…all a person could ask for in a vacation spot!

Loved this shop with baby cribs full of yarns, and this crocheted bicycle out front, in downtown Lexington, VA


What book are you reading now?

From my bookshelf:

“These people live hard lives by ancient values, and they’re proud of that.  They’ve developed a philosophy to deal with drought and death.  When we arrive from the outside and insist that they learn to read – books that, as it turns out, are mostly about very different places and concerns – we confuse them. Possibly even undermine them. I think Miss Sweeney will tell you that their young are as sharp as any. And their elders may be wiser.  Compared with them, after all, we of the settled, literate society have a kind of inflexibility.  So your project raises questions.  Do they want to be part of what you call the ‘larger world’? And who should be teaching whom?”

–The Camel Bookmobile   by Masha Hamilton, 2007

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And the renovation goes on…and on…and on

It is now the end of August and I am almost ready to hit the road full time in my little camper van.

It has been an exciting month, with tendering my resignation from my job, after taking my last “vacation” down at Assateague Island, Maryland, where the wild ponies live.  That was amazing, by the way, camping in the dunes and waking up to see hoof prints right outside my tent door…

Hoof prints just outside my tent door – the wild ponies love to visit!
The sky at Assateague Island, Maryland

It was sad yesterday to say farewell to my terrific coworkers and a job I truly enjoyed, but it is time for me to head out.  The van still needs the insulation and walls screwed back in, ceiling (tin) attached, and cabinets installed.  While I am overseas visiting my daughter in South Korea in September, my son promises the work will be completed…thanks, Sean!!!

As you can see from the photo below, the interior is coming along. That wood floor is amazing – so happy with it! I have my layout all set, and am very content living full time in this small space. Now that I am no longer working, I can drop off work clothes/shoes to a Goodwill and make even more space for the few winter-ish clothes I am taking.  (Not many – I plan to be somewhere warm and dry all winter!!!)

Sean is installing the wood floor in the van — love it!
The side wall getting a new aqua marine vinyl covering – me and my staple gun are busy!

So I am officially homeless and unemployed…YAY! This just means I have no ties or debts to thwart my dream of traveling as the wind blows.  My only tie is to the hearts of people I love and will be visiting!!!  Right now, the “plan” is vaguely to:

  1. Fly to visit youngest daughter in South Korea for two weeks in September (my first overseas trip!)
  2. Spend time with my oldest son and family in western Virginia for a few weeks
  3. Drop by brother-in-law and family, and possibly some other friends, in the Carolinas
  4. Enjoy the magical world of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Florida
  5. Head to Arkansas to visit a couple of brothers and family as well as an RV conference for worKamping at the end of October
  6. Travel slowly with lots of stops along the way over to Albuquerque, where my oldest daughter and her wife live
  7. Short trips to Taos and Santa Fe while staying in Albuquerque
  8. Thanksgiving with Tara and Morgan
  9. Start wintering in Quartzite, Arizona – living free on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands for a month or so
  10. Possibly fly back to New York for Christmas week
  11. Spending some time in the Austin, Texas area with all their great music and arts – and yes, visit Magnolia Store in Waco!
  12. Head towards Nashville to enjoy some more great music!

If anyone is at or close to any of these areas, send me a message and let me know if I may stop by for a visit on the way – so many folks I would love to see again!!!

As you can see, I tend to travel as I live – with a vague plan and destination, but definitely as “fly by the seat of your pants”!  If the traffic is busy to the left, I will turn to the right.  If there’s a storm brewing to the south, I will turn toward the north. If there’s no BML land or inexpensive campsite nearby, I will boondock at a truck stop, WalMart, or other such known boondocker site (Yes, I have an app for that!)

Thanks for joining me as I head out.  Will keep you posted with pictures and stories as I go along.  And hey, if you want to join me – well, grab some kind of vehicle and meet up with me anywhere…just remember, the passenger seat has been REMOVED from my van!! LOL

Scout — out!

What book are you reading now?

From the bookshelf…

“When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too….We should be choosing what to keep, not what we want to get rid of….Keep only those things that speak to your heart.  Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.”

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, 2014


Disclosure:  Amazon is my only affiliate link – I get commissions for purchases made through this link.  If you click on  “Search Amazon” below the following ad, my affiliate link is coded into that click. Thank you!

Van renovation – before

The Van Renovation

Spoiler alert: Oh, these first pictures are gonna gross you out!

The previous owners of the van were a couple of artistic young people who traveled extensively and had a great time – I know this because the van interior was worn… and stinky!!  Tobacco (and other un-named) smoking products made the carpet and fabrics REEK!  Black SHARPIE drawings and quotes were a delightful… cough, cough … break from the boring tan fabric of the ceilings and walls and seats and sun visors…

I could appreciate the lyrics to “I’ve been everywhere”, and the heart-tugging suggestion of “May the four winds blow you safely home” was nice, but I wasn’t a big fan of some other suggestions left in full color.  Someone’s mommy had taken another black Sharpie and covered some phrases and pictorials before it was sold to me.  Good thing, this was not what I wanted my young granddaughter to start reading! All in all, I decided boring tan with black Sharpie was not my creative style.

First job, ripping out the stinky carpet. After just pulling up the middle third, the van smelled soooo much nicer!  It was great when the urine areas were out, and I had a clean dry floor underneath.  I could actually breathe deeply again.  Disgusting work, but it was over quickly. (Will cover with a Pergo-type floor when I get to that step!  Fortunately my son has some left-over from when he refloored the master bedroom of his home – YAY!  Love that price!)

Then I started with the ceiling fabric and foam.  The ceiling was connected to boards all around the sides and windows, and each one had to be unscrewed, the fabric ripped off, and the piece re-screwed back in place before going to the next one.  I was tempted to just leave it all in pieces, but remembered past experiences with “Sure, I’ll remember how this goes back together – after all, I took it apart!”  Sure, and I will remember for about 2.5 minutes and then it’s all guesswork with random screws and boards left over! By this point, I had scratches and bruises all over my hands, my back and arms were aching, I was popping Aleve, and I had created “Ode to my Ratcheting Screwdriver” – will post that later.

Once I figured out how the window shades were configured, I took them all apart and let them soak for a few hours in a bathtub while I babysat my grandchildren for the afternoon. (NOTE TO ALL GRANDPARENTS:  Enjoy a grandchildren play date and let parental units have an adult-only date!  Best gift of the week!) The first bathtub drain after ten minutes of soaking left a dark ring that took half an hour to clean off the tub.  It was a few soak/rinse/soaks before the water stayed clear!  When the shades were thoroughly rinsed and I could see the lovely pattern of the fabric, I hung them back up on their window mounts to finish drying for a few hot days in a row.

I found some wonderful marine upholstery fabric on sale in my favorite color (aqua) to recover the ceiling and sides.  Will probably just purchase seat covers when nearing the end of the renovation.  After two months of work, the renovation is almost complete.

Scout — out!

What book are you reading now?

From the bookshelf…

“I have a feeling you’re going to do your ancestors proud. You know, that’s how the Chinese see it — your accomplishments bring glory not to your descendants, but to your ancestors, in recognition of the fact that it was their sacrifices that put you in a position to do what you do…”

–The Rowan Tree by Robert W. Fuller, 2013


Disclosure:  Amazon is my only affiliate link – I get commissions for purchases made through this link.  If you click on  “Search Amazon” below the following ad, my affiliate link is coded into that click. Thank you!