Milestones and Memories

Sunday, December 28, 2014

We left Oklahoma refreshed and optimistic. Sure I did not win my millions at the Casino like I had wanted but there would be other chances in our future. Besides, you do not need to be a millionaire to enjoy the warm weather out west.

It was Christmas eve and we had hopped that we would be settled somewhere warm by now. I had accepted the fact that Santa would not know were to find us. If we couldn't be at Mamaw's house it didn't matter to us that we didn't celebrate. We just wanted to be sitting somewhere safe after hearing so many horror stories about Christmas travel.

You really would not have known it was Christmas eve though. We did not turn on the radio the entire day, every where we stopped was open, we did not see many decorations, and we got very few phone calls.

This photo was taken from the campground we were in.
We did not get far before we were ready to stop though. I wanted to check in some place early so we would not run into any trouble. I know people want to go home early on Christmas eve. Just outside the Texas border we pulled off the interstate to a little RV park with a big sign in a tiny border town known as Texola.

It was just a gravel circle with no-frills lots down the middle set up in front of one of the oldest gas stations we had ever seen. The place only took cash and it is good we got checked in when we did because this place did not have a night check in and they were about to close.

They did not have much else either. Water, power, and a place to dump your tank. Two other campers were parked there but it looked as if they had lived there for a while. A long while. They did have restrooms with showers and laundry. I really wanted a shower but I was never able to find one.

We were told they were behind the restaurant that sat on the side of the campground facing the interstate. It did not look like that place had served a meal in a long time. The back side was much worse than the front side and that is were the bathrooms were. The first door I went to was the laundry. The lid was off the washer and someones wash was still in it. The room looked like it had a lot of the outside environment inside. I feel like I would have had to wash my clothes a second time if I would have put them in that dryer.

The next door I came to was a supply room that looked like a scene in resident evil. The last door was at the other end of a broken walkway sandwiched between a dilapidated shack and the restaurant. It looked like nature was trying to reclaim the place and I would let her have it.

So we spent another night cuddled up in front of Eastenders, which really is a good way to spend the night. After we settled in though we got a few phone calls and made a few phone calls and said our Happy Christmases. We did not stay up late that night and before too long we both had visions of sugar plumbs dancing in our head. 

I was up early and ready to go before our neighbors had time to open their presents. It was Christmas day and we had a lot of ground to cover. The trip was rather uneventful and that was very nice. The roads were not so deserted that we felt alone or so crowded that the traffic was unbearable.

We turned on the radio to look for carol's but mostly just listened to classic rock that we could sing along with. Texas was flat and easy driving . You could see Americas largest free standing cross from miles away and as much as I wanted to stop I thought it would likely be over crowded with pilgrims.

I loved the scenery through the pan handle, which was mostly nothing dotted by billboards. It seemed like every other one was for a truck stop in New Mexico. The scenery seemed to change to more of what we think of when we think about the wild west after we left the sprawling city of Amarillo.  Before we realized it we were out of Texas and in New Mexico.

We stopped at the first gas station we came up on in New Mexico. We had both heard that you do not want to pass up a chance to get gas in New Mexico. The first place we came to was a full out convenience center. Complete with a route 66 museum and an arcade room.  On our way out of the store I noticed we lost the service vent cover to our refrigerator. We must have lost it somewhere in the panhandle, but we were not going back for it.

We were not far from where we had planed to stop for the night. We were headed for Tucumcari. From what we found on the internet we would have a chance to stay at an inexpensive, clean place with full amenities. We were wrong.

This route 66 ghost town was not at all as it seemed on the internet. After the 3rd RV park we decided it would best to continue on. We prefer to find our spot for the night as early as possible, good friends told us before three in the afternoon was best... but we were not staying in this town.
This photo was not taken in Tucumcari, it was taken in NM.

After we got out of Oklahoma we started seeing billboards for a truck stop in New Mexico. We saw more and more after we left Amarillo. By the time we made it to NM it seamed as if every other sign was for this place. They would have everything; Souvenirs, cheap gas, food, and free WiFi. When we finally got to the place I just had to stop. It was closed. We still had free WiFi so we looked for a place to stop for the night. We called RV parks until we found one that answered; it was Christmas day after all.
Making sure we filled up at the rustic little gas station on I-40

We knew we did not have far to go but I told you earlier in this post how we felt about making sure we stopped for gas. So we pulled off one more time before we got to Tijeras.This was a rustic place with an awesome view. A plateau was not far off in the distance and train tracks ran at its base. I imagined painted warriors lining the rim with bows in hand, or cowboys in bandanas with rifles drawn. The rest of our trip out west often inspires such daydreams.

It was nice to stop for gas at a place and not have to prepay to fill up. You had to go inside though these pumps could not read a card. I would not have wanted to pay at the pump here and miss the chance to talk with the friendly locals. The place felt like a southwestern Corner Gas.

We arrived at RT 66 RV Park a little later then I like to, so I was kind of cranky when we got there. After we played a few rounds of musical parking spot we made it to the top of the hill in the back of the park.

This place was in the mountains and it had one hell of a view. I spent a long time in the palatial shower enjoying the warmth. This was a nice place to stay for the night. The night couldn't have been better, and then it started to snow. I was dreaming of a white Christmas after all.

As I said we were in a mountain in the back of the park on a hill. We went to sleep that night as a gentle blanket of snow covered the Defiant hoping we would be able to drive out in the morning.
  
When we got up it was still snowing. It stopped about ten with a total of around six inches of snow and we thought we would brave the snowy roads and head on our westward way. The roads were fine and the trip was an easy one. I was in a hurry to get to warm weather and our friend out west. We had planned one last stop before we got to Bullhead City at a nice little RV park.

It was clean and had all the things you want in a RV park. We had a chance to wash laundry and clean up the camper some. It was a quiet place and I think we could have had a a few restful days there. Still it was hard to relax so close to where we really wanted to be. We stayed at OK RV Park only long enough to rest and get ready to be back on the road.


Arizona was beautiful. The drive through this state was one of the times I wished I was sitting in the passenger seat. We got to see more than just the interstate though as my famous sense of direction led us on a long ride through a small town. We even passed by a school house that looked like on old red barn near Flagstaff.


The closer we got to Bullhead City the harder it was to sit still. When we started to see signs I felt my spirits rising and when we made it to the infamous mountain pass we had to go through to get to Bullhead I felt like I could get out and push us up that hill faster then our engine could pull us.


After that long slow assent up the mountain it was a fast twisting ride on the way down, at a 6% downgrade that was twelve miles long, and then we were there. The traffic was thick but not hard to navigate. This place had the feel of a tourist trap and I loved it. Lots of lights, lots of people, and I was excited to explore.

Not today though. Today we just wanted to settle in at the RV park. I was worn out. When we left home we said we had no real destination for our journey but we did. Way back in the summer while enjoying sandwiches in the gazebo with our friend Anna we decided we wanted to go to the Silverview RV Resort. A goal of ours was accomplished this day, we had driven across the country.

When I started this post I had intended to mention that this is our 100th post*. That is kind of a milestone for us. When we started this blog it was going to be about our homestead in North Carolina. Now we are way out west and not a chicken in sight. Funny how things change.

We knew we wanted to get here to Bullhead City and we had our trip all planed out. Not one mile went the way we had planed. Life seems to go like that sometimes. I do not know if you read our first post but I'm sure glad you read this one. I plan to write a lot more for you. This city is full of inspiration for writing.

*This is the 100th post we have published on the blog, however some of our posts are hidden from public view because of recent affiliate-ships we took on.

Free Casino Parking and Beginners Luck

Thursday, December 25, 2014

I assume you all know by now we ran in to a little engine trouble. We had planed to head out west to warmer weather. We have a friend  we missed very much and who we were in a hurry to see. To top it all off by the time we completed our assignment with Amazon we had saved up enough cash to do some repairs, get new tires, and take some time off.

After our detour at Wade's though our schedule was a week off and our budget was a lot less. We still had a friend to visit with and the weather is warmer out west. At least we would not see snow right?

I could not make up time so we decided that we were going to have to skip our tour of Oklahoma. We had not seen a sunny day the whole time we were there so I was okay with that. We headed west from Wade's.

I was so looking forward to this trip out west but as the last week passed I deleted activities from my to do list with the passing of every hour. It was hard for me to watch my beach trip go down the drain. Then Quartzite, and RV world. I think it was on the trip back to the mechanic when the fuel pump broke that we decided to take Vegas off the list. That one hurt a little bit more then the others.

Dear Wifey though, always the improviser, set the GPS for a casino in Oklahoma. Some new friends in Kansas recommended some places. Some of them even have free RV parking and hookups. We have been pretty lucky thus far and the sign by the interstate said millions were won there every day.

I decided I wanted one of those millions. What you think about you bring about, right? We are the creators of our reality. I decided I was going to win it big.

When I said GPS it was kind of metaphorically speaking; we had a map and signs on the high way to guide us. We had no address for the casino and no service on the cell phone. We felt as if we were living as true pioneers.

We took a wrong turn as we like to do. That gave us the chance to see a cute old route 66 town. The kind of place with a 20 MPH speed limit. We only drove in circles for a little while before we made it back on track.

I kind of expected a lot of flashy lights and a real glitzy place with a parking lot filled with limos. It was kind of plain and kind of dark and the shuttle bus looked like it might have played bumper cars in the parking lot. I just hoped this place had enough cash on hand to handle my winnings.

The spots were level and we had our pick. There was only one other camper there. There were full hook-ups (water, power, and sewer) with a sign that read free 24 hour camping, please see security. The only amenity we didn't find anywhere near the place was WiFi. We were alright with an internet free night though. We were also given $10.00 per person to use in the casino!

We fought the wind as we ran inside. I had imagined it would look like the Luxor but when I got there it looked like the place from Raindeer Games. As soon as we got inside though it felt like I was in Vegas.

The place had tall ceilings flashy lights and row after row of video slots. The air was filled with smoke and the buzzing of the machines. The center of the main room was full with game tables. People from all walks of life mingled and I felt we could have spent a lot of time just people watching.      

But I was here to make my millions so we went to the far wall to walk the place and feel out the luck jackpot. We tried our luck with a Sex in the City machine. The game was not at all like the last slot I played. The thing had a lot of light up buttons and a high-def flat screen. I hit max bet the first time and half the money I put in the game was gone with a flash of light and electronic cheer.

At this rate we would be broke in no time. So we both lowered our bets and and watched those digital dimwitted women slowly take our money. This was not the right game for us. As I said before I am lucky with the slots so we went walking looking for a better game.

As this was her first time in a casino Kayla thought the place reminded her of an arcade. Row after row of all sorts of games with more themes then you could think of. There was fruit, fishing, show girls, celebrities, pirates, and mermaids even. I got a lucky feeling from a 3D fruit machine that just happened to have a duplicate machine right next to it.

We sat down at our machines and went about winning a million dollars. The game was cool with 3D images that interacted with each other as we spun small win after small win. We did not sit there long before I had almost doubled my money and Kayla had almost lost hers. We cashed out when my hot streak had cooled off. We wondered around the large place stopping when I felt lucky and moving on when it went away.

We played for over an hour and I was still far from my million dollar mark. Kayla was getting thirsty and they had a video poker game at the bar. She got her drink and I thought this is were I needed to play. Slots are all luck but poker requires a bit of skill.

It did not take long before I was up. Before she could finish her drink I was up big. By the time she was done, so was I. I had spent my whole budget. It was exciting how the game itself would sing as you won and changed to a sad tune as it mocked you when you lost. We liked the fancy games but I still lamented not playing a spin on an old fashion one armed bandit. On our way out the door we spotted one.

I gave DW a look that plainly read that is this one I have been looking for. She gave me the change from her drink at the bar and I knew this was it. I fed the money into the machine and went to pull down on the handle only to realize it was just decoration. It still seemed simple enough though. Just line up three bars and win the jackpot. It buzzed as it whirled and as each wheel stopped the bells rung louder. One bar, two bar, then three.

This was not the million dollar machine so I am not a rich man but it did pay out all we had gambled away and payed for our drinks. I always wanted that TV moment when coins fall from the slot like rain but I was still happy with a print out slip that had my winnings on it. We quickly cashed out and left before that place got it's money back.

We needed a fun night out ofter the stress of the last week. We didn't win our millions but I did have a free nights stay and a little more money then we started the night with.

That night in the RV we cuddled up from the cold and watched Eastenders. Just FYI we love Eastenders. Then when the excitement of the day finally over took us the wind rocked us to sleep, off to sweet dreams of new adventures. Content in a feeling of how lucky we are.

*The photo at the top of the post was a picture of the view we had from the west side of the parking lot looking out over the city below the casino.

RV Repairs: The good and the bad.

Monday, December 22, 2014

When your home is sitting on top of a vehicle your home will require maintenance. Our motor-home is an old one and we knew we would have some repairs in the future. What we didn't realize was that we would end up spending more on repairs than we did on the entire motor-home...
Somewhere in Tennessee our temperature gauge quit working. Then one night in Kansas during our weekly runs to the grocery store in the RV we noticed The Defiant leaking a huge puddle of coolant onto the parking lot. 


Luckily one of the friends we made while working for Amazon was a skilled mechanic and he was able to take a look under our hood for us. He was ever so helpful, wanting to ensure we were safe to drive before we left Coffeyville. We started the repairs by changing the thermostat itself, while doing the repairs our friend noticed the water pump was leaking. This was not good news.

Since our job with the rainforest was over and we had reservations to meet in Arizona we headed to Tulsa which was the nearest big city. We stayed at Mingo RV park for two nights while we made phone calls and did our research.

We found an RV dealership with a full repair shop just south of Tulsa. We were able to schedule the water pump repairs for the next day which was great because Christmas was fast approaching and most mechanics were fully booked.

We had white smoke pouring out of the RV as we turned into Wade's RV Clinic and left The Defiant in the hands of their mechanics while we waited for the repairs to be completed in the comfy waiting room.
The waiting room at Wade's complete with fireplace.

Within the first thirty minutes the mechanics had pressurized our coolant system and found out that we had a cracked intake manifold. I knew from my research that the part itself was an expensive one, but I didn't know that Ford quit making the part ten years ago.

We agreed with the mechanics that we had to replace this part before we tried the seventeen hour drive to Arizona. They immediately began searching high and low for a 1988 intake manifold that matched the make of our RV. Luckily they had a friend an hour away who found one. This was the only intake manifold for our RV that they could find anywhere close to Tulsa. It took them the rest of that first day to locate the part, drive it to the RV Clinic, and make sure it was the right part for our RV. The guys in the office set us up with power, water, WiFi and we spent the night parked next to the shop.

The next morning we awoke to the sound of garage doors opening and RV's moving; it took us a minute to realize where we were. So far in our travels this night was the quietest nights sleep we had had.
Our view during the day.

As I said earlier, our RV is old, so as the mechanics took the dog house out and started pulling apart the engine so they could get to the intake manifold more problems surfaced.

After more than fifty man hours they had replaced part of the fuel rail, the timing chain cover, intake manifold, water pump, fuel pump, and per our request they gave The Defiant a full tune up which included replacing the serpentine belt, spark plugs, oil, and filters. Which was a good call because the spark plugs turned out to be original. Most of the bolts holding our engine together had become welded/ rusted together and many hours were spent trying to break the bolts free without damaging the housing they were in.

We spent six nights at Wade's and while we were stressing about the big bill each night was racking up for us, we slept soundly and were very comfortable at the Clinic. The staff were so helpful and personable. We became really close with Jay, one of the managers and spent time discussing philosophy with him while the mechanics were working after hours.

They had a full kitchen which gave Robert a chance to bake four dozen of his famous cookies. They also had a shower in the women's bathroom, I just so happened to be the first person to ever use it and I was so glad it was available.They had a sweet guard cat that liked to snuggle on the rustic front porch with me, pet therapy is not a part of the usual mechanic experience.

Sweetie the cat cuddling up on Robert.
Several meals were bought for us and the staff were always asking if we needed a ride to the store or anything in general. We have never felt this comfortable at a mechanics shop; the staff and the state of the art establishment made this stressful time a little easier to swallow for us.

The owner, Wade, was out of town for the holidays with his family. I hate that we didn't get to meet him and thank him for the hospitality. While we were parked next to the million dollar mobile mansions this business is used to working on we were never made to feel less than, and we really appreciated that.

If we are ever in the area again we will for sure stop by, bake some cookies, and have a tune up done. We hope to buy a brand new RV from Wade's in the future as well.

When you live in an RV the community you meet on the road becomes your family, even the folks at the repair shop!

If you are on Facebook give Wade's a like for us, and if you are ever near Tulsa stop on by their shop and tell them WinterStead sent ya!

Hello friends and family!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A photo of our Camperforce T-Shirt.
If we have been quiet on the blogoshpere lately its because we are busting our butts at work and busy on our days off. We are so glad that the time is passing quickly, we only have 5 weeks and 2 days left here in Coffeyville.


We have had mandatory overtime, and will stay on that schedule for the next several weeks. With Amazon work, web design work, school work, RV repairs, errands (groceries, laundry, etc) and sleep our schedules have been totally slam packed.

We have managed to squeeze in a little bit of time for hanging out with new friends, but I'm telling you that is imperative to our mental health!!

We still have several blog posts to write about the places we have been, things we have seen, work at Amazon, our minimalistic life in the RV, and #bloglife updates.

We just wanted to touch base and say hello, we miss you all back in NC, and that we are still loving life in the RV!

Until next time,
Live long and prosper!
Love: Rob and Kay

What did WinterStead do for Halloween?

Friday, October 31, 2014

In 2013 we went as the Queen of Hearts and Mad Hatter.
We are usually known for mixing store bought, thrift store, and DIY pieces for stellar costumes and because our place of employment had spirit week last week we would have been allowed to wear costumes but...

My mind has been so wrapped around work, and doing my job right that I didn't want to show up in costume, and be more focused on everything staying in place and mascara running from sweat, than my job.

We heard all of our co-workers talking about their costume plans at breaks and we were excited to see them. However...
A nasty stomach bug was going around the job and we were not able to make it in on Halloween. We were really excited to see everyone and we already knew what we wanted to dress up as if we went anywhere this year but, this year Halloween past unnoticed.

We did end up walking to the grocery store and got to see all of the goblins and dead cheerleaders walking around downtown in Coffeyville!

We decided since we were laying around feeling bad we should watch a scary movie.. we chose Pulp Fiction since neither one of
us had ever seen this iconic film. We don't have the stomachs for horror films on a normal day and for anyone who has seen Pulp Fiction you should agree that there are a few scary parts.. as in what the crap am I watching moments!!

We were also looking forward to going to a local festival called Neewollah (Halloween backwards) but because we were sick we didn't think we were up for it. We were hoping to take lots of pictures and blog about our experience with some of our new friends.

Sometimes in life you have to stop everything and focus on healing. Usually this comes during times when you have a million other things you would rather be doing. I'm just glad that I have an arsenal of essential oil remedies to help my body and mind heal quickly. 

There is a song that goes "you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes.. you just might find.. you get what you need." I think our body needed a few days of self-care. I hate that we missed our favorite holiday but I'm glad that I saw photos of friends and family in my Facebook timeline.

Next year.. we will rock out on Halloween and have a whole year to make our costumes just right! ;)

Did you do anything fun for Halloween? Tell us about your weekend in the comments section and remember to set your clocks back!

Beginners guide to making soap.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Do you enjoy the pleasures of homemade soap? So do I!

I have been making my own health and beauty products for almost two years now and I always wanted to make my own soap, but I was afraid of working with Lye. My first tip in this post: Don't let Lye scare you away from making soap.

We have made two different batches now and while there is a science to it, there is also a special sequence of events needed to make the perfect apple pie.

The rewards of making soap are many, and I knew I would love being able to customize my soap with different ingredients and textures but I was so afraid of the Lye. I had my bottle of Lye for at least four months before I attempted making soap. It sat high on the shelf mawking my fears... Okay so it wasn't that bad. We were busy and I knew making soap for the first time would require my full attention and a bit of research.

I am by no means a soap making expert, I wanted to write this blog post though to share the information that helped me when making soap as a beginner.

The first thing you should do is read over this post. It tells you which tools you will need and has a step by step guide for the process. This post does recommend to open plenty of windows for proper ventilation when using Lye but we prefer to take it outside until the fumes die down.

Once you have a good grip on the tools and basic steps you can dive right in to the fun part: choosing ingredients!!

You can use a plethora of ingredients in soap making but you have to start with a few basics. You will need to use a good base oil such as hemp, coconut, or extra virgin olive oil in any recipe you make. My preference of course is hemp and coconut oils but when we left North Carolina I left my hemp oil in my mother's refrigerator so we used coconut and extra virgin olive oil this time. In our first batch of soap we used hemp and coconut oil.

I suggest using this calculator when choosing your base oils to ensure you get the right outcome. This calculator helps you figure out exactly how much Lye and water to use based off of the oils you choose.

You can choose to make a plain, unscented batch of soap and then grate it down later to melt and add scents or you can go all out and add dried herbs, exfoliates, essential oils, and colorants.

I forgot to take photos when we made our first batch of soap, but this time I took some throughout the entire process. For our first batch of soap I used only patchouli essential oil because I wanted to make sure I had the process down pat before I started adding the fun stuff! We wanted to make sure if there were any problems we could easily replicate the recipe and figure out what went wrong.

When I say we I mean my husband and myself. My husband has helped me both times and I strongly suggest having a friend help you as well. Its always nice to have an extra set of hands and someone who can help measure the temperatures when you get to that point.

This time when we made soap, after doing research, I decided to replace water with organic green tea (make sure it has reached room temperature before mixing with Lye). I also chose to add used coffee grounds as a light exfoliant and we used patchouli, ylang ylang, and clary sage essential oils.

One variability that we didn't account for was the temperature differences we go through on any given day while living in an RV. While our soap did set up in the end it took longer than normal and I'm guessing it may take a little longer to cure as well.

Yes, that's right we made soap while living in an RV so if we can do it in our tiny-home you can too!



This is the exact recipe we used:

6 oz Extra Virgin Olive Oil

5 oz Coconut Oil

3.7 oz Green tea

1.7 Lye

20 drops Patchouli

3 drops Clary Sage

3 drops Ylang Ylang

1 teaspoon Vitamin E Oil

1/2 Cup used coffee grounds

When choosing essential oils for soap I like to look at their properties before I decide on the scents that I like. That may seem a little backwards but the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of the soap are amazing in the long run.

Once I chose the oils for their properties I took care to blend them properly and make sure I would like the scent. When blending oils you should not just add 10 drops of each oil, you need to blend them in a precise manor.

For essential oil reference I suggest these books: Modern Essentials and Emotions & Essential oils. Modern Essentials is my essential oil bible and I was just recently introduced to the Emotions & Essential Oils book, I love it already.

The soap we made from the recipe above has the physical benefits of healthy cell growth, balance of skin and scalp (helps with healing skin including wrinkles, stretch marks, and dandruff on the scalp), soothes nervous tension, and hormonal balance (men and women).

Along with the physical benefits of the essential oils in this blend there are emotional benefits as well.

Patchouli "supports individuals in becoming fully present in their physical body... patchouli brings confidence in the body, as well as grace, poise and physical strength" (1).

Ylang Ylang is the oil of the inner child. Emotions & Essential Oils says: "Ylang Ylang reconnects an individual with the child self and the pure, simple ways of the heart... this oils allows emotional healing to flow naturally, nurturing the heart through the process" (1).

According to that book Clary Sage "assists in opening creative channels and clearing creative blocks. It eliminates distractions from the mind and assists individuals in finding a state of emptiness where creative forces may be realized" (1).

So... if you are thinking about creating a home made product that can help to restore your mind and body soap should be at the top of your list. Again, there is a science to it and you should make sure you plan research time and adequate prep time.

Making soap on your own is very rewarding and a useful way to be creative. Let me know in the comments below if you have made soap before and which ingredients you like to use!

Looking for essential oils? Send me an email, I can give you all the details!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my DIY pH perfect shampoo!

 Sources:
1:Emotions & Essential Oils (Second ed.). (2013). American Fork, Utah: Enlighten.

RV Life and Perspective

Thursday, October 23, 2014

We have been living in our motor-home for almost a month now, each day we are faced with a new set of challenges and most days we learn valuable lessons. So far everything has been really great, even the parts that have been a little scary.

When you move out of a sticks and bricks home and into a motor-home you learn a-lot about needs versus wants and you experience more in one day than you would in one week. There have been times that I have missed living in a brick home away from the sounds of neighbors and with loads of space.


Photo taken by fellow camper Dorri,
you can see The Defiant next to the workshop.
This photo was taken when only 2 of 6 inches
of rain had fallen.

Our first storm in Kansas brought over six inches of rain and Robert had to climb on top of The Defiant with lightning all around to secure the tarp. So many leaks, most of them we thought we had contained, burst open and we had water coming in through the lights or else he wouldn't have had to cover the RV.

We are parked right next to the work shop in this RV park so we hear the saws running while we are trying to sleep; mind you we work at night so we are sleeping during the day. These things would have never been a concern if we were back home in North Carolina. We were staying in a rock solid brick house and couldn't even see our neighbors.

The cats, who were used to frolicking in the woods all day, have been going stir crazy. I feel like they bother us as payback from taking them from the land they loved so much and I feel guilty that I can't let them explore as they once did. The water bottle is used more often and tails are stepped on sometimes.

However, even with all of these nuisances and lessons we have had to learn there are so many perks to this lifestyle.

For instance; we are living the life of minimalists.

If you had told me eight years ago that I would be going on a life-changing journey but I would have to give up all of my designer bags I would laugh at you. I wouldn't just laugh, I would also cry because I was laughing so hard. I now have a drawer for bags. Any bag that wouldn't fit, didn't come with us. Getting rid of all of the stuff that once made my life meaningful has allowed me to shed a lot of mental weight. I no longer have room for compulsive consumerism in my life and I am able to spend money on experiences versus things. We did bring most of our library though, and my collection of non-GMO heirloom seeds... just in case!

Yes, we still have things. We have bright, cheery, useful things. I made a rule that unless it was clothing it should have at least two uses. Even our propane oven has two uses.

1. We set up my desktop computer on the top so we could stream Star Trek from a device other than my laptop (which I need for work and school).
2. We store pots and pans inside of it.

Notice, there was no mention of cooking on it because we are probably going to take it out in the near future. I'm sure it works but I have a mental block about using propane inside of such a small space and because of how well everything else has worked in our 1988 RV I would hate to see everything I own go up in flames.

Living in a small space with significantly less stuff also means cleaning is a breeze. We can clean our entire home in less time than it took me to vacuum our old living room. We do have to keep on top of clutter, with the amount of space we have and the fact that cats don't obey commands things tend to get knocked over.

When we left North Carolina I thought I had slimmed down my clothing to the bare minimum. As it turns out I will probably be going through my wardrobe again donating items to Salvation Army and buying clothes that are more versatile for weather changes.

Speaking of weather changes, when living in a sticks and bricks home we had a heating and air unit that kept our indoors temperature nice and cozy. In our RV we go to sleep cuddled up under two layers of blankets and wake up sweating. We have seen RV's with sophisticated heating and air units but we are stubborn and refuse to set up the heater until we have to.

We pay more attention to nature and weather patterns now than we did before and that makes us feel more in-tune with the weather cycles. We also spend a lot more time outside, since we decided to learn the road in the RV without a tow-car we walk a lot more which is great. When you walk around you see and experience so much more than you would driving through a place.

Being without a car is something I personally haven't had to endure (except for a month or two) since I got my license at sixteen. We do live in a vehicle so if we need to go somewhere we can, but thankfully we have met some amazing people who let us carpool with them to and from work.

Friends. While we miss our best buddies from North Carolina and are eager to see them all again in May, I have to say I am extremely surprised at how many awesome people we have met on the road. From our first day in a rest stop talking with Bub and Tinker to the folks in our team at work. We have been very fortunate to meet people like Nancy who is so genuine and welcoming, I feel like I have known her forever. We have been invited to taco night and learned tips and tricks about RV life from Dorri and her husband Chris. We are going to a local festival in Independence, KS called Neewollah this weekend with our new friends Josh and Vanessa. There are so many awesome people that we have met I could write an entire post about them.
Care package complete with
Bart Simpson key chain and clappy
hand. We love you Sleydar bug!
Care packages from home filled with sweet snacks, cat toys, and toys for Robert (pictured to the left) make us miss my mom and little brother. I've never been this far from home and it is so weird to know that I can't just drive thirty minutes to see my family. We are looking forward to seeing Mom and Sleydar when they visit us in a few months! We speak to our family often over the phone and fill them in with all of the details. It feels like I talk to them more now than I did before.

We have also learned a lot about water conservation and how much water a person really needs.  Robert spent all of our renovation time making The Defiant as pretty as I pleased but we didn't think to check the plumbing until the week before we left. We have plans for major renovations come January and figured we should wait until then, when we rearrange the kitchen, to fix the plumbing. We are at campgrounds so we can shower and wash laundry in the bath house.

We can use the toilet and pour water down the sinks but we can't use the pipes to bring water into the motor-home. In a normal home every time you use the toilet you flush between 2 and 7 gallons of water.  When we flush it may take 2 cups of water, when we wash dishes it takes one gallon of water. The biggest consumption of water in our home is the amount we drink which is around two gallons a day. While this may seem barbaric to some it feels simple to us. Even if we did have running water we would still use only a small fraction of what we did in our sticks and bricks home.

We have learned so much about making conscious choices and problem solving. Together we are a very resourceful team.

Our perspective has changed so much in one month it is amazing, but this change in perspective is what its all about for us. It's not the destination but the journey that excites us. We still have several posts to write about our trip to Kansas but I wanted to share a little about our day to day life!

Thank you all for reading and following our journey! We are glad you are a part of it!

Forgotten Treasure's USA: Coffeyville, KS

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A while back we decided we would start a blog series called forgotten treasures. Put simply this series would highlight the places or things that were at one time sought after, then obtained, and eventually left to rust. So much of the modern American life centers around consumerism. I find myself asking this question often: "How much is enough?"

Recently we had the chance to spend a few months in Coffeyville Kansas. This town reminds me so much of home. With a population of around 10,000 people Coffeyville is a proud town with a rich history and so many locals trying to hold on to their own American dream. However, unlike my hometown that sits in the middle of several metropolitan areas Coffeyville is in the middle of no-where Kansas. Right off of highways only used by truckers and locals.

We spoke with a local shop owner, who is a full-time employee of the local hospital and works full-time as the owner of Chatter Box Gifts. She said her husband and herself moved to Coffeyville a while back and would love to see downtown return to its former glory. Her shop sits on a prominent corner of historic downtown Coffeyville, yet business is still slow.

Since national chains have moved into town with large parking lots and unmatched prices it is hard for any of the mom and pop shops to keep up. We love small shops, and prefer to shop locally whenever possible.

Coffeyville was founded by Colonel James Coffey as a trading post, for commerce with the Osage Indians in 1869. Coffeyville was also a railroad stop, and the downtown area is nestled right up to the historic tracks.

Coffeyville became popular because it was rich in natural gas and clay. The brick companies in Coffeyville became famous worldwide for the impressions they made onto the bricks. Some of the bricks say Coffeyville Brick & Shale, others highlight the popular don't spit on the sidewalk campaign of the time. According to the Official Coffeyville website:

"When Coffeyville's brick factories were operating to capacity, about 765,500 bricks were made every day. Today these bricks can be seen literally throughout the world and have become a collector's item to many"(1).


Today Coffeyville is home to refineries, the railroad, Sherwin-Williams plant, and other raw mineral processing facilities.

A huge flood in 2007 left the citizens of this small town in despair, and forced many local shop owners to close their businesses. You can still find the mark the flood left on the town through the disheveled pavement and brown water stains up to six feet high that remain on some buildings.

Overall I feel that Coffeyville was a safe place for us to learn about living full-time in an RV, and I instantly felt connected with the town. We were welcomed into this community with open arms and made many friends that we plan to stay in touch with.

One of the best times to visit Coffeyville is during the Dalton Gang Festivities (Robert is working on a post about our experience now). The small town of Coffeyville attracts thousands of people during this festival and the locals really enjoy celebrating their history with travelers.

Coffeyville is only an example of the small towns across America that press on in times of great recession and natural disasters. When we say that Coffeyville falls into the Forgotten Treasures category we are not implying that this is a ghost town; rather a treasure that many have overlooked.

1:Official Coffeyville Website: Coffeyville.com



Step back in time at the Dalton Defenders Day!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It has taken longer I had thought it would to write this post. Every time I get started something comes up. Sorry to have kept you waiting. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

When we made plans to head out and see this great country of ours we were not sure where we would start. The issue was settled for us when we received an E-mail about a job in Kansas. Still, our trip was supposed to be about more than just work it was supposed to be about writing and what is there to write about in Kansas? Aunty Em and tornadoes. One is not real and the other I had hoped not to see.

We posted on Facebook that we were headed to Kansas and a friend of ours told us about something worth going to. It just happened to be in the same town we were going to for work. We were going to see the Dalton Gang.

Not the real Dalton Gang, they have been dead for over a 100 years. But every year in the little town of Coffeyville Kansas the towns folk reenact the shoot-out that brought an end to the infamous bank robbers.

I will not bore you with a history lesson (you can find out all you want to with a quick Google search) but to sum it up a gang of bank robbers planed to rob two banks in Coffeyville but the towns people would have none of that and five of the six desperadoes died that day so did four of the towns defenders.

We had done a little research on the subject before we got there and realized that there was a lot going on for the Dalton day festival. There would be music, shopping, eating contests and all other sorts of festival activities. The thing I was looking forward to the most though was the shoot-out reenactment.       

I had hoped to be in Coffeyville first thing in the morning so we could spend the day and see all that the festival had to offer. Unfortunately we got there late in the day and missed most of the activities. We did get to see the part that I wanted to see the most, the shoot-out. 

When we found our way downtown we had a hard time finding a place to park. It would have been hard in a compact car and driving the Defiant made it even worse. We finally found a spot not far from the town square and the walk gave us a chance to see some of the town. We passed a lot of classic cars and a lot of people in old-timey western wear.

We arrived just in time to see the last reenactment. It was hard to find a place to see the show though as the crowd around the square was thick. It looked like people from all over had made their way to Coffeyville to see the show, and what a show it was.

It started off with a woman who stood in the square to tell the story of what had happened there. Towns folk in costumes walked around as the gunmen took up positions to start the shoot out. Soon the air was filled with smoke and the smell of sulfur as the defenders and the desperadoes began to fight.

The show did not last long but it did make you fell like you were there the day the Dalton gang died. After the show we walked around the town and found our way to a little museum dedicated to the Dalton gang. As much as I enjoyed the show I think I liked the museum even better. It has a cool little mockup of an old western town inside. Though it was no Smithsonian it did make you feel like you went back in time.

After we left the museum we walked around the town and enjoyed the music and the costumes. The town itself felt like it was frozen in time. There was a lot of empty store fronts and you can see that it has fallen a bit in to disrepair. Still the locals were friendly and the place felt safe and warm.

All in all we had a lot of fun that day. I hate I missed the turtle race. If ever I find my self near South-East Kansas in early October I will make sure to stop by Coffeyville to enjoy the Dalton Defenders Days again.

We stood at the feet of a Goddess

Saturday, October 11, 2014

        I have always thought about how cool it would be to hit the road and see America. One of the things I was most looking forward to was road side attractions. My wife who knows me so well kept this in mind as she mapped out our ride. She plotted our route using Google Maps and a neat little feature to point out the sights along the way. She told me that a classic looking icon caught her eye.
        Anyone who knows me knows I have a love of classical culture. Nashville has a piece of classic culture reborn in America. A remake of the Parthenon in Athens. It has been there for over 100 years and I am just hearing about it now.

        I do not want to go in to a history lesson right now but I think about anyone who sees it will at least recognize the structure, even if you do not remember its name. It is the the icon of the classical age. Just it's silhouette has the power to conjure up memories of long forgotten Gods and legends.
         The original structure sits in ruins on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. In it's prime it was the height of Greek architecture. A testament to the love the Athenians held for there patron Goddess Athena. As the years passed it was taken over and re-purposed to house what ever deity conquered the city.
        I truly hope to find my way there one day. To see and feel the history that has been etched in to the stone with the passing of time. Till' then though the replica in Tennessee will have to do.
        I did not say all that to belittle what I found when I made it to Centennial Park. The replica was just as imposing as the original must have been. My heart raced a little as I walked around the lake between my parking spot and my destination and the true size of the monument was revealed. I felt rather small as I stood at it's base. 
        The American version looks more like the original would have in it's hay-day. It was easy for me to imagine that I was back in time. Lucky for me though, I was still here in the 21st century because without the assistance from the zoom lens on my camera I would not have been able to see all the details up close.
One would think that a 7 &1/2 ton door
would require a massive key. We thought
the tiny keyhole was amusing.

        Atop the awesome columns sits a cadre of classic Gods and Goddess carved in to the pediment. Below them are the largest set of brass doors in the world. I would have loved to had thrown them open and strode boldly in the main chamber. I knew the entrance was in the basement though and I am not sure I would have been able to open them if I tried.  
        The bottom floor of the building was dedicated to a museum that chronicle's the history of the Parthenon and a little souvenir shop. The 2nd floor is a little art gallery that sadly had little to do with Greek history but still was worth looking at. The main show was on the 3rd floor. Sitting in the back of a huge chamber is the largest indoor statue in the western hemisphere.
        The golden goddess is is even more beautiful that I had thought she would be. Her massive shield in one hand and her spear propped up in the crook of her arm. In her other arm she holds Nike as he crowns her with the golden laurels.
        To help you realize the true size of it all the god Nike is as tall as I am and she stands in her out stretched hand. At her feet and under the protection of her shield slithers a giant serpent. If her size is not impressive enough for you then the fact that she is covered in gold might.
        If you can pull your self from the goddess in the main room to go around to the backroom, there is a collection of plaster casts from the remains of some statues from the old Parthenon in Athens. They are impressive for what they are and it does help make you fell more like you were in the original.
Kayla had ten seconds to run across the basketball court sized room after setting up the camera to take this pic.
Sleydo Potato
        This place is a fun destination whether you are in to Classic history, American history, or just a park to play in. I have read good things about the park but the day I came they were preparing for a festival the next next day so the park was more of a mess. No one was playing in the park that day. We did not have time to stay for the festival though. Maybe next year.
        I say next year like I know it was an annual event. I do not know if it is or not but I can tell you that if I happen to find myself in Tennessee I would definitely stop there again. I might even know a potato who would like to go.
         
                 

Maiden Voyage: Last Leg

Friday, October 10, 2014

Heading into Nashville
Thursday night was our first thunderstorm in the Defiant. I would like to say that it passed unnoticed but that would be a lie. The thunder seemed to shake the whole camper and the lightning lit up the sky like it was mid-day. Though the storm did not last long it was enough to jolt us from our sleep and keep us awake for more hours then I would have liked. The good news was there were no leaks.  

We got up much later than we had wanted and I wasted no time getting everything ready for the road. I had hoped that we would have made it to the Parthenon by the time we were just getting out of bed.

It was a lot easier getting out of Smyrna then it was getting in it was but we were still not going as fast as I would have liked. As much as I did not want to my hunger demanded that we stop.  When we stopped for breakfast I finely decided to fix my mirrors. I know that is something I should have done a lot earlier but better late then never. Anyway, I wanted to make sure that I was ready for driving through the middle of Nashville.

The idea of driving our RV through city streets put my stomach in knots. Back country roads I had down pat. Interstates, no sweat; I can even handle outer city beltways. Skinny city streets though… that made me nervous.

It was not as bad as I thought though. The streets were wide, the traffic slow and the other drivers courteous.  It was a good thing too as there was a lot to see in Nashville. I may not like city living but I like city touring and this place was full of eye candy that kept our head on a swivel. Even our cats seemed focused on the views of the city.     

The visitor center we stopped at had quite the selection of pamphlets on things to do in Nashville and I could see that this city lived up to the hype. It was mid-day on a Friday and the place was hopping. The sound of music and the smell of food filled the air. As exciting as it seemed though I had my eye on one destination only: The Parthenon. When we finally made it there it was worth all the trouble.

I plan to write all about the Parthenon later so until then I will just continue on with our journey. Our GPS did not take us out of Nashville the same way it took us in so we got a chance to see even more of the city. The area we drove through seemed like a trendy arts district and we imagined we could spend a lot of time and money there. 

Before long we were out of the city and back on the interstate headed for Coffeyville. It did not take long before we were out of Tennessee and into Kentucky. We stopped at the visitor center as we like to do and the people there were very friendly and helpful. While we were looking at the map comparing it to what our GPS was saying one of the attendants asked us where we were headed.

We told her we were headed to Coffeyville Kansas and she said that a trucker had just come through heading the same direction. We showed her our route and she said she knew a way that would cut quite a few miles off of our trip. So we took her directions said thank you and hit the road.

Now the road she said we should take was supposed to be highway and I guess it was but it was the thinnest most middle-of-nowhere highway I had ever been on. The whole time we were on that road I felt like I had one tire on both lines. If that was not bad enough the wind was blowing really hard and it moved The Defiant around like it was a toy. To the right it was often a ditch and to the left it was oncoming traffic. This was a very busy road for the middle-of-no-where.

I know I was driving under the speed limit and I was passed on more than one occasion. That was fine with me as this so far had been the most unnerving leg of our journey. It felt like this twisty, hilly, windy highway would go on forever. The whole time we had no cell service so I could not tell how much farther we had to go.

To make things worse we were running low on gas and not a station in sight. It would have been really bad to have run out of gas out here with no room to pull off the road and no service to call for help. After what felt like a 1000 miles we finally came up on a little gas station and I was quick to pull in. 

This place was country, more so then even the most out of the way spot in NC. Even the gas pumps were antique. When I walked inside the whole place seemed to stop and all eyes were on me. The gas station was also a little diner and the place was filled with men in overalls and flies. A thick cloud of cigarette smoke hung in the air but it still could not block out the smell of whatever that road kill stew was they were serving.

The cashier had an accent so thick I could barely understand what she said when she asked me what I needed. Apparently she had the same problem understanding me, as she only put $15 on the pump when I had asked for $50. I was willing to let it go though and just take the gas I had paid for as I felt so unnerved by my surroundings. We drove through a small town that looked like it had been passed over by the flow of time. The road became wider and the wind died down and I thought the worst was over... I was wrong.
Missouri State Line sign
Up ahead was bridge that looked as old as the town we just drove through. It was a little less narrow then the road we had just driven, but not wide enough to make me feel comfortable. It was also tall and very long. Not that I have a fear of heights or anything but this bridge did not look friendly. As soon as we got off of that one there was another even taller than the last.

Looking back I know that there was no reason to be worried. That bridge had been there for a long time and it was not likely to fall down while I was on it, but fear is not a rational thing. Still, I will likely find another way when we head back east. The sun was setting and it was right in my eyes as we came to a Flying J with a Huddle House so we decided to stop.

We both went with a big breakfast meal and we had a chance to watch The Middle as we ate. A friendly trucker at the next table told us about the road ahead and warned of some weather coming our way. It was getting late and I was tired but it was a long way to the nearest campsite and I did not really want to sleep at the Flying J.


We were just in Missouri and the only campground that would answer the phone was in Springfield. It would be a long ride till we got there. Our GPS gave us an ETA of 11 PM. We were both already sleepy but if we wanted to make it to Coffeyville in time for the Dalton Defenders Day we would have to press on.

The road we took shared the highway number as the road we just got off of in Kentucky but that is the only thing they had in common. This road was wider, flatter, and the best part empty. This turned out to be the most boring leg of our trip. It was dark the entire time, too dark to see anything but the road.

The only thing I can tell you about the eastern part of Missouri is the gas stations all seemed modern and clean. The first one we stopped at was nothing like any gas station we had seen before. When you first walk in the counter was full of liquor bottles. Off to the left of the counter was a room with a row of electric gambling machines. If I did not know I was in Missouri I would have thought I was in Las Vegas.

There is not much to talk about on this part of the trip. It was dark and cold and I drank a lot of coffee. It felt like this long empty stretch would go on forever then finally, an hour later then our GPS predicted, we made it to Springfield.

I did not expect much from this city I had assumed it would be a little spot on the map but I was wrong. The city was lit up and made the night feel like day. The streets were lined with stores of all types and restaurants to fit any taste. It seemed like large glowing billboards stood on every corner. Had I not been so sleepy I might have appreciated it more. As it was though the only thing I wanted to see was the KOA.

Our GPS took us down a bunch of back roads after we drove through the heart of the city. When we finally made it to the KOA and found an empty spot we crawled into bed and I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. It did not feel like I had slept 5 minutes before we got a knock at the door. It was almost checkout time and we had to get out of the spot. It was not a bad thing though I was in a rush to get to Coffeyville before the show started.

I do not know why the GPS took us through the city and on all of those back roads when the KOA was right off the high way. We pulled into the first truck stop we came across for breakfast and again we sat next to a friendly trucker who was happy to tell us about the road ahead and shared a few stories about his life on the road.

Kansas state line sign.
We did not have far to go and there was not much left of Missouri but what we had seen of it was beautiful. Still my eyes were focused more on what was in front of me rather then what was around me and as beautiful as Missouri might be I only had eyes for Kansas.
The flat landscape of Kansas is drastically different than anything Kayla had ever seen, she also saw her first mirage
(look closely at the road in the distance in this photo).
It did not take long before we crossed the border in to Kansas, our new home for the next 3 months. There was not much between the border and Coffeyville but what we saw of Kansas was welcoming. It did not take long before we saw the sign for Coffeyville. We pulled off the highway and drove into town. We were eager to explore our new home.
We arrived in Coffeyville on its busiest day of the year, Dalton Defenders Day.
       

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