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.
       

Campground Review: Victoria Bryant State Park, Georgia.

When we saw the sign on I-85 pointing left for Victoria Bryant State park we were exhausted and hoping for a restful nights sleep. I have seen several state parks in my life, some of them don't even have gravel in the campsites. We were exhausted and this seemed to be the closest place to stay for a night before we entered Atlanta.

We had to drive about twelve miles off of the interstate to find this hidden treasure. We arrived right before the office closed and the office attendant was ever so helpful. She gave us a map that included hiking trails and pointed out the spots where we would have the best views of the natural springs running through the park.

As this was our very first experience ever in a campground we found the directions for picking your spot and setting up camp to be super simple.

This park did have a lot of hills, but the roads were all paved and there were plenty of spaces big enough to maneuver a motor-home. We saw a few 40 footers and fifth wheel campers driving around.

We chose a spot directly across from the bath house, which was very clean, and were able to back right in to our home for the night.


Our space was huge, we were nestled into a cozy space and because of the way the spots were angled felt like we had plenty of privacy.

Cell phone signal is limited, and state parks are known for not having free wifi. We enjoyed the time un-plugged from the world and settled in for the night with long chats and cuddles.

We woke up in the morning feeling totally refreshed and ready to tackle the traffic around Atlanta.

The only thing I regret about this park was how short our stay was, if we were in the area we would definitely stay again!

Overall, I would rate this state park with five out of five stars!

Check out the wiki page for more info!

Maiden Voyage: Part two

Thursday, October 9, 2014


We awoke to the gentle sounds of Mother Nature. The birds were singing, the wind rustled through the leaves of the trees, and the squirrels hunted for their morning nuts. The first thing that came to my mind was where am I? After a few moments of disorientated panic I remembered we were in Georgia. I have come to find that I have woken up like that every morning in the camper. I wonder if that will ever go away.
Our second day on the road promised to be better than the first. I had much more rest then I had the night before our maiden voyage. I was also much more confident in my driving; after all I had gotten us this far without running over anyone.
We decided before we got back on the road we would walk the cats for a bit. We had them out on the leash the night before in the park and Judzia seemed to do well. Tig on the other hand cried the whole time. Still we wanted them to stretch their legs and maybe work of some energy before we kept them cooped up on our long drive to Tennessee.
As soon as I got Tig outside the camper though he started pulling like he knew he was getting out of his harness. I reigned him back in and he acted like he would cooperate. A few birds were playing in the woods next to our camp site and Tig wanted to explore. I thought there would be no harm in letting him walk along the tree line. I was wrong.
As soon as I let my guard down a bit Tig had hopped over the little border between us and a hill and was tumbling down. I tried to catch him but he was too quick and before I could pull him back up he was out of his harness, off and running.
Tig loves the woods and would spend most of his time in them back home. It did not take long before he was out of sight and the little bugger is quiet as a mouse when he wants to be. I was all over the woods next to our spot. I knew he would not go past the road that circled the area we were in. He is a scaredy cat and any sign of other people would keep him at bay, but still that was a large area.
I was hesitant to call out his name as we were told not to have our cats running around the park besides he never comes when I call him any way. I had gone from one road to the other chasing noises that turned out to be birds or squirrels but no sign of Tig. I was mad at the cat but at the same time I was glad to be exploring the woods. Had he not gone out in them I would not have taken the time to enjoy them myself. Still we had a schedule to keep that we were well behind and check out time was fast approaching. I feared it was a fruitless search as he has never let me find him in the woods back home.
I was starting to wonder if it would not be best to just leave him there in the woods. I felt like maybe he just tagged along so he could be here in this wonderful park. I started to feel selfish for making him ride with us closed up in that little RV. Tig likes the woods and maybe he likes them more then he likes me. I thought about how much I would miss him if he was gone. As annoying as he can be I love the little fur ball. I was about in tears as I thought about giving up my search when I heard a little cry from the other end of the woods.
I ran to were the meows had come from and there in a lying in a gully without a care in the world was Tig. He did not run as I got close like he normally would. When I was in grabbing distance he just rolled around one last time in the dirt like he knew he would not be able to for a while; and when I went to pick him up he let me. I pulled him in close like I would never let go and he hugged me back. That is so not like Tig who would usually run from affection.
We had played this hide and seek game a lot before back home and he always won. Never before had he cried out for me to find him. It makes me wonder if he felt the sadness building in me as I feared I had lost my feline friend. He did not fight me as I carried him back. When we made it back to the Defiant I dropped him in the door and he hoped up to his perch above the cab and licked his paws like business as usual.
We quickly broke camp as it was close to the time for us to be out of the park. I made extra certain to not let the cats out as I put things away and got the Defiant ready to disembark. Tig did not make for the door once though, seemingly content with the outing he had that morning. It did not take long for everything to be ready and we were back out on the road.

I was thankful for my chance to explore some of that beautiful park and thankful too that Tig decided to join us on our journey. The park was well off the highway and we got to enjoy the sites as we drove back country roads on our way to the interstate. All that we passed seemed similar to home but still different enough to make it all feel very new.
Before too long we were out of the slow and sleepy woods of quiet country Georgia, and back on the interstate heading towards Atlanta. I had hoped that the afternoon traffic would not be so bad and we would be lonely as we headed down the high way. I was wrong about that one. It seemed as if everyone was headed to Atlanta and they were all in a hurry to get there.
It did not take long before I was sitting up straight with my hands at ten and two on the wheel. My grip was not as tight as it had been the day before but my focus was still all on the road and none on the sights as we found our way on and through the beltway past Atlanta.
 I did try to pay more attention to what we drove past this time though and the little bit of the city I did see made me understand why so many people wanted to be there. I made a mental note that one day when time was not a care we would come back and see the city in full. I must say though I felt relief when I saw the city on the backup camera and the traffic with it. It was time we saw Tennessee.
The highway that brought us into Tennessee bordered the two states and brought us in then back out and in again.  That was nice as we were so busy looking at all there was to see that we passed the welcome to Tennessee sign the first time so the picture we have is the second sign we came across.
The view was amazing as we passed the lakes and the mountains that lined them. a few times I wanted to pull over just so I could stand and look, but the big rigs that rushed passed us reminded me why that would not be a good idea.  Before long though we were at another welcome center and I was happy for a chance to get more coffee and an opportunity to stretch my legs.
While we were there I decided to flip through some pamphlets on the touristy things to do while in Tennessee and to my surprise I did not see one thing on the only attraction I really cared to see. I did find a list of campgrounds to stay at though. One they had advertised had go-cart tracks and spelunking but we had past that one already and had no time for back tracking, so we decided on another that had a little advertisement but promised a lot of charm. So we plugged in the address in our GPS and off we were again.
The trip from the rest area to the camp grounds was uneventful. The traffic was light, the scenery nice, and the cats well behaved… until we got just outside of Nashville. The closer we got the more congested it became and we reached our destination right at rush hour. We stopped at the first gas station we saw to fill up our gas tank and our bellies. It was a tight squeeze to the pump and out again. The string of curse words I let lose as we fought traffic to the camp ground would have made a sailor blush. I cannot tell you how relieved I was when I saw the sign for the campground.
The park was quieter then I had expected seeing as it was in the middle of a city. We may not have been in Nashville but this place was a lot busier than sleepy little Lexington. Though it was quite and safe and I was wore out from another day behind the wheel I had a hard time falling asleep knowing thet the next day I would be face to face with the goddess Athena.

Our Maiden Voyage

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

                When you have a dream you build up an image in your head of what it will be like when you finally get to live it out.
                When I dreamed about our RV life I had visions of sing-alongs as we rolled down the road, pleasant chats with diner patrons, beautiful landscapes, and the feel of real freedom. Things are not always as you imagine them.
                Now I don’t want you to think I am not having fun. This has been a lot of fun and I am sure it will only get better. It is just things are not exactly as I had dreamed they would be. After our tearful goodbye that you can read all about in my last post I realized something. I had never driven anything this large that far.
                When we got the Defiant it was not far from where we were living. When I drove it home it was on back country roads that I knew well and we did not see many other drivers on them. After that she sat parked in the yard while we worked on her and raised money to start our adventures. We took her a few places locally, like the inspection station and Mammaw’s house, but again all back roads I knew well.
                Our first trip was 1000 miles to Kansas and most of it was interstate and driving on the interstate was a little different then country roads in NC. The defiant has a strong motor and I know that, but still a piece of me was worried that she might not

make it up to 70 and I would be in the way on the highway. Before I even got on the highway I realized another mistake I had made, I never properly adjusted my mirrors.         
                Merging on the interstate was a bit of a trick. I could see out the mirror but I had to contort into a most uncomfortable position to do so. Thank goodness for the backup camera. Once we got on though it was a smooth ride, and we easily made it up to 70 MPH. Then a thought popped in my head “I am going 70 MPH down the highway in my house” I had not really thought about that 'till I was doing it.
All the way through NC was all white knuckles and oh shit moments. The Defiant ran fine, and I think I stayed in my lane, and looking back on it everything was okay; but like I said it was everything I own streaming down the road with an inexperienced driver at the wheel.      One of the first things I noticed after driving our RV is it felt like sometimes it had a mind of its own. Whenever a big rig would pass us on the highway (and a lot of them did) she would move over away from it as it got near the back end and pull towards it as it passed us. 
                After a few miles, well almost SC, I thought a little radio would help me relax but I am the kind of guy who turns down the music while I am looking for an address, so that did not last long. It was hard to pay attention to the news as I glanced from the road to the mirrors, to the road, to the gages, to the road, to the backup cam. The whole time I was trying not to let on that I was a nervous wreck so Kayla could enjoy the ride. She had her own distractions though as our cats were as high strung as I was and her job was to tend to them.
                When we finally got to the visitor center in SC I was more than ready to pull over and catch my breath.  I tried to pass off my wobbly legged walk as exhaustion. It was nice to get out so we could walk around and the visitor center was cool. They have a two hour parking limit and I took advantage of it and sprawled out on the bed and took a nice little nap. I was awoken by a knock on the window. It was a nice surprise to see a familiar face on the other side of the window.
                Kayla’s uncle Dave is a truck driver and he said he thought he saw us. So he stopped to chat and gave us a little travel advice while suggesting a few places we might like to stop on our journey. His visit was short but pleasant, I was rested, and it was time to get back on the road.
                I felt a little more at ease on the interstate this time and I did not hold on to the steering wheel with the same death grip I had at first. I still was not ready to listen to the radio and I could not enjoy the scenery as I was laser focused on my driving. The time flew by and before I knew it we had made it to Georgia. Again I was ready to stop at the visitor center.
                While we were at the visitor center we ran in to a couple who have been full timing for ten years. It helped a lot to talk with someone who had been through this before. They told us stories of their favorite camp grounds, where they liked to work, and what we could expect for our upcoming work at Amazon. They were full of advice on what groups to join, what camps were nice, and some general rules for RVing.
                We said our good byes to Bub and Tinker, exchanged cards so we could keep in touch and we were on the road again. 
                The hour was getting late and we were not far from reaching Atlanta. I really did not want my first big city driving experience to be in Atlanta during rush hour so we started to look for a place to call home for the night.
                We had thought at first to go with KOA just because the signs are everywhere and we knew what to expect but after our chat with Bub and Tinker we decided to be a little more adventures and look for other options. We soon came to a sign that pointed to Victoria Bryant state park. The name made us think of the queen Vic (an Eastender's reference) so we decided to give it a try.
                I'll leave it to Kayla to tell you all about the beautiful park (click here to read her review) but I will tell you it was so nice to pull in to that little secluded spot surrounded by trees to rest for the night. There was no internet or cell service and that was just fine with me. I needed the time for just us to decompress after all the tension from driving.
                The night air was cool, just right for cuddling, and the park was quiet and peaceful just right for sleeping. We stayed up for a while talking and enjoying the park but it did not take long before we both found ourselves in the bed. I think the ride was even taxing for the cats as we did not hear a peep out of them all night. I remember lying there in bed listening to the crickets wondering if this was the right decision, after all this was so unlike anything we had ever done before.
                I know this is all a little scary but this is our dream. There is too much country out there to confine ourselves to that little familiar corner of NC.
                I know that with Kayla by my side and the Defiant to get us there, we can handle whatever comes our way. So I fell asleep that night content in the knowledge that were doing the right thing and making our dreams come true.

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