Home Sweet Home

Damn, it’s been a crazy past week or so. The last couple of stops on our cross-country journey found us with no wifi and extremely limited cell service so I wasn’t able to write much. And then, after just one day in Santa Fe, we had a scare with one of the dogs which, coupled with the fact that we were exhausted, led us to decide to cut the trip short a few days and just head to our new home. It sucked because Santa Fe, and New Mexico as a whole really, was the number one reason we took the route we did but it’s only a five hour drive so we will plan a vacation, sans pups, in a couple months.

We got to Evergreen Friday evening — At least I think it was Friday. It’s all a tad bit of a blur — And I’m already in love with this town. And it’s not just because I’m already wearing sweat shirts and keeping windows open! It’s just quaint enough that I don’t feel like we’re in the boonies and close enough to Denver should we feel a need for city lights and nights. We already found what may become “our bar”, at least one of them, and today I definitely found what will be our grocery store. Good God the vegan options and Kambucha sections alone were enough to make me giddy. There’s still so much to see and figure out and I’m probably the most impatient person ever but I seriously can’t wait for this all to feel real!

To start, we are renting a basement apartment from friends. Though I don’t doubt we did, we want to be sure we picked the right town plus we kinda’ need to decide what we want to be when we grow up and we’re not 100 percent where exactly that may land us. But until then, we couldn’t ask for a more perfect place to call home. Great friends. A large apartment. Five acres. A pool. Horses. Hell, if they aren’t careful we may just rent this place for the rest of our lives! lol.

We’re still pretty much living off of camper supplies. The rest of our stuff doesn’t get here until Wednesday. But it’s nice to be on solid ground and be connected to reality again. We’ve got a hell of a lot of cool stuff coming up in the next week or so; The Dam Duck Derby, the Evergreen 10k and the teenager flying out to join us plus I have some serious trail exploring to do!

Welcome home to us!

 

 

Palo Dura Canyon

We’re just outside of Amarillo Texas tonight at a place called Palo Dura Canyon. It’s the second largest canyon in the country and we are in awe of the natural beauty. It’s 104 degrees out still (at 8pm) and we drove 500 miles today but we couldn’t resist pulling over and hiking up to a small cave and taking in sunset. Cell signal is spotty at best so I may not post a lot over the next couple of days but I simply had to share some pictures. 

Lake Fort Smith

Holy hell it’s hot! Not that we expected frigid weather traveling across the mid-west in July but go figure we pick the summer of record temps. Today’s high was 107 with a feels like heat index of 110! Makes getting outside to enjoy the gorgeous places we’re finding a little sticky and gross.

Today was by far our shortest day in the car. From one side of Arkansas to the other. We’ve been on the road for 11 days and we’ve gone way more than half way so it’s time to start driving less and enjoying more. Not that we aren’t loving this adventure but we’ve got plenty of time to savor. We’re pretty much right on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border at a place called Lake Fort Smith State Park and it’s gorgeous here! I have to say that I am super impressed with Arkansas state parks. With Arkansas as a whole for that matter. Whodathunk!? It’s one of those states I’ve just never heard much about but it’s beautiful and everyone is really friendly!

We set up camp, a process we are getting so much better and faster at, then ventured into the nearest semi-decent-sized town. A few days ago Ellie started scratching at the side of her face a lot and by yesterday she was sneezing constantly. Add to my dog-mom worry, I found a tick on her neck last night that, though I know hadn’t been there long, was fat and happy. So first task for today was a trip to the vet which resulted in allergy meds for her and tick prevention for the whole pack. We have to keep an eye on her just in case she starts developing symptoms of a tick borne illness but hopefully we got the little bugger out in time. We never had to worry about ticks in Florida so I never even considered getting them on a preventative before we hit the road.

When we got back to camp, Don and I couldn’t resist the lure of the park swimming pool. We even played in the kid area since it had the coldest water. It felt so damn good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After dinner, we took a walk around the campground. In one short evening stroll we saw three deer, an armadillo, lots of fireflies and a weasel-looking thing that ran across the road. Excuse the crappy picture of the deer but it’s not easy “sneeking” up on bambi with three crazy dogs that want to give chase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re putting the pack in doggie daycare again tomorrow so we can have a human play day. In fact they’re going to have a sleepover! It will be weird not having them with us but we need a little life outside the forest.

 

Lake Life

A couple hours out of Memphis and deep into Arkansas, Don announced that he really wanted our next destination to be on a lake. We both love the lake life and a few days of water play sounded heavenly. We knew that leaving Florida wasn’t going to mysteriously grant us better weather but damn it’s been hot as hell. In fact we passed a church sign the other day that read “Satan called. He wants his weather back.”

As Don drove, I searched central Arkansas camp sites and wasn’t having much luck. Almost everything I found was booked or was first-come, first-served and we were a bit nervous to drive off the beaten path only to find full parks. But a last ditch Google search found us Lake Ouachita State Park and one site remaining. Crossing our fingers it would be all we hoped it would, I booked for three nights.

Lake Ouachita is the largest lake completely in Arkansas with more than 690 miles of shoreline and 66,324 acres of water. The state park is buried deep in the Ouachita National Forest and the campground has running trails (my want) and a marina with boat rentals (Don’s want). And it doesn’t disappoint at all!

It was a little unnerving when, soon after arriving, we realized we have no cell service (seriously they have three dots on the park map on where to walk if you need to make a call) and the only wi-fi is at the visitor’s center. With a company in Florida and roles we still have to play, zero ability to work was not something we were prepared for. I hung out in the visitor’s center for a bit, sent off a few emails and texts then decided to trust the team we’ve trained. They’ve got this. We know they do. And being mostly off-line for a few days is a rarity we really should know how to not just survive but enjoy.

Our first night here, was mostly quiet. That is with the exception of a weird storm system that surrounded us but never really hit and a visit with a big group of campsite kids and their parents who insisted they meet all of the dogs … including Ellie who struggles with the energy of children. She had a few moments but overall did ok and I know it’s good for her to be exposed to things that freak her out. It’s just not often you find a group of kids, nonetheless parents, that are willing to sacrifice themselves to the potential.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, we got up and headed out for a long morning walk. A short trail and then the road up through the park. After a mile or so, Ellie and I continued on for a little walk/run while the rest of the pack turned to head back to our home on wheels. I haven’t really run in a couple of weeks and the hills and heat made for a rough time but just as we crested a steep hill, a fox ran across the road in front of us. It’s simple moments like that I find such blissful pleasure in. Nature. Life. Beauty. I was bummed Don hadn’t been with us but turned out as he walked back to the camper with Hendrix and Quesa, they crossed path with a fox of their own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that morning we packed up the pups and headed out on the water. None of our dogs have ever been on a boat and we weren’t sure how they were going to do but goal was to find private areas around the lake where they could swim and play off leash. Boy did we score

Hendrix and Quesa both took to the boat with curiosity and ease. Ellie, on the other hand, looked like she wanted to vomit! We cruised for a bit then found a small deserted island. The dogs were in heaven!  Quesa even went in for her first swim. Granted it was accidentally as she chased a stone Don skipped but it was a swim nonetheless. She got more and more comfortable in the water as the day went on and eventually seemed to love it though she never really let her feet come off the ground again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent nearly seven hours on the lake exploring, swimming and enjoying the beauty of the solitude. Who knew Arkansas was so beautiful!?

Food for thought … Why is Kansas pronounced “can-zass” and Arkansas pronounced “are-can-saw”?

 

Walking In Memphis

After we rolled out of Nashville Sunday morning, the thought was to head to the Memphis area. We don’t have campsites reserved anywhere. Reservations mean plans and a set timeline which is exactly what we want to avoid but we are trying to find interesting places along the way without exceeding more than a few hours in the car each day. The only thing we knew about Memphis was that it’s home to Graceland. Can’t say that either of us are huge Elvis fans but the distance and direction were right and we figured it was one of those places that would be worth seeing once in a lifetime.

The Nashville KOA pretty much left us wanting something a little more remote and oddly enough we found a state park, right smack in the middle of the city. It was small, it was simple but there were trees and there were trails. After setting up camp, Don stayed with the dogs while I made a quick trip to the nearby Walmart to grab a few things we needed.

Right outside the park limits, I started to feel a little on edge. Run down houses and boarded up project housing were at every turn. Trash littered every roadway. I figured I’d out run it at some point. I grew up in a major city and I’m well aware of the “other side of the tracks”. But I never found the tracks to cross back over. It was depressing and heart breaking and in all honesty made me feel a little nervous and insecure with where we were staying.

The next day Don and I opted to simply hide away in our little city oasis. Partly due to the city I had seen and partly because the heat index was at 110 degrees and we really didn’t feel like doing much of anything. We took the dogs for walks in the woods. Napped. And got a few camper honey-do things done.

I had no idea that in 2017 Memphis was ranked the poorest large metro in the nation. According to The University of Memphis, the city has a poverty rate of 26.9 percent and child poverty is 44.7 percent. Well above the national average. There’s so much America out there that I’ve never seen. Places and things and ways of life I never have to consider. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own little worlds and forget that there are people struggling just to get through the average day. I’m sure there’s more to Memphis than what we saw but what we did see left us little desire to delve deeper.

How Do You Take Your Steak

Grilling. It’s pretty much a camping requirement Not only does food seem to taste better when grilled, it’s healthier and it makes for a hell of an easier clean up which, when you’re living in a camper, can save valuable resources. Some people swear by charcoal while others opt for the ease of gas. Die hards may even take it a step further with the open flame of a camp fire. But whatever your preferred method, there really is little better than perfect grill marks across your dinner.

Grilling conjures up images of big juicy burgers, hearty steaks and barbeque chicken. But what about grilling as a vegetarian or vegan. As still relatively new vegans (well Don is vegan, I’m vegetarian mostly vegan), I wasn’t sure how we’d make grilling our primary camping cooking method. We have an awesome little portable Coleman gas grill we bought for this journey and I knew I wanted to play around with new things beyond the typical veggie burger. We love the Gardein meatless meats and of course, grilled veggies. Onions and zucchini are probably our favorites. But I knew there had to be other options.

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight we made what is probably my new favorite thing ever; cauliflower steaks! Cauliflower is one of my recent favs. Buffalo cauliflower tacos, smashed cauliflower, raw cauliflower. But I had never done steaks. I admit I failed drastically on the slicing. I managed to get two steaks but the rest kind of fell apart into smaller florets. No worry though. Those will make for another meal later this week!

We pre-seasoned them. A little olive oil and mild season salt on mine and deadly scorpion powder on Don’s and cooked them for about five minutes each side on our grill. We paired them with Bubba Burger veggie burgers (those things are seriously delicious) and asparagus done in foil on the grill. Fifteen minutes total. Prep to table. As hearty and filling as a real steak … and no animals died in the making. Do you have any other vegan grill recipes? Feel free to comment or share with ideas we can try!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Behind The Yellow Sign

I grew up camping. Single mom. Three kids. We didn’t have a lot of discretionary vacation cash yet my mom still managed to show us just about every state in the continental U.S. and the campgrounds in them. We traveled by station wagon; a beat up brown Volare that sometimes got us where we were going without breaking down and sometimes didn’t. There were no cell phones back then of course but the CB that rode in the center console connected us to long distance truckers that knew the roads and helped us navigate accidents and speed traps. “Breaker one nine, breaker one nine. There’s three smokies rolling south at mile marker 84.” Yup, mom spoke trucker and so did I.

As a kid, I remember seeing KOA Parks everywhere. We never went in one. God knows we couldn’t afford them. I heard they had swimming pools and playgrounds and I eyed them with envy as we flew by on the highways they were built beside. But then, miles later, we would turn down some bumpy old dirt road, pull into a hidden oasis and I’d forget to wonder what lay behind the bright yellow signs. After tents were pitched, my brothers and I would tear off on our bikes looking for other campground kids to play with. From sun up to firefly-filled sun down, my tom boy days were filled with swimming, hiking, fishing and snake hunting. Nights were eel fishing and s’mores around a raging fire with mom strumming at her guitar. To this day, those vacations are some of my favorite.

When we decided to buy a camper and experience our move rather than rush through it, I worried I might feel a little pretentious. I’m a trail runner. Still a bit of a tom boy. I can pitch a tent like a pro. Is it still camping if I have ac and running water? But it didn’t take long before I had to admit this is the way to go! We have a few luxuries of home but can still enjoy the outdoors. When we mapped out our rough route to get to Colorado, we knew that we wanted some remote but also to take advantage of the chance to visit a couple cities we have never been to. And city camping likely meant a KOA.

Today we rolled into Nashville. As a musician, Don was eager to check out the scene. After a beautiful backroad drive leading into the city we navigated through traffic to a frontage road. Yogi Bear’s Yellowstone RV Park was first, then next door Camping World and finally the yellow sign of our KOA.

As a kid, I had no idea what I wasn’t missing. I don’t know though. Maybe back then I would have felt like a princess in the game halls and clean bathrooms. But to me a campground shouldn’t be a concrete jungle. We shouldn’t be row after row after row of RVs and campers within spitting distance of one another. Ice cream socials by the pool and giant inflatables for the kids do a huge injustice to my childhood days in the woods. I get it. There’s a difference between camping and living the RV lifestyle and I am no doubt still a camper.

We’re one night here. Don is out exploring Music Row. HOA rules, oops I mean KOA rules are no dogs left unattended so I’m happily hanging with the pups living vicariously through the pictures and videos he’s sending.

 

 

Pit Falls

Call us nuts, but we’re traveling in a 27-foot camper for three weeks with three large dogs who we, lovingly, call the Brat Pack. They have their quirks (what dog trainer’s dogs don’t) but we adore them.

Hendrix is an 8 year old White Swiss Shepherd mix. He’s an ornery old dude at times, he’s got a bit of anxiety and he prefers to chill with his humans than other dogs. He gets along with everyone, two legged and four, and anyone who meets him loves him. Seriously we get threats to steal him at least a few times a week from friends and strangers who can’t help but instantly adore him.

Ellie, the black and white, is a six year old Border Collie mix who has an insanely high drive and no ability to control it. She can be reactive and dog selective and will likely always be our problem child. She’s my running partner and though I have to choose my routes wisely to minimize bikes, skateboards, and even other runners, having her with me on trail gives me added security. Her bark is far worse than her bite but I have no doubt this dog would do anything to protect me if the situation arose.

Then there’s Quesa. She’s our new one. A six month old American Bulldog mix who was supposed to be a foster but won us over with the cutest face ever. She’s all puppy and it’s fun watching her navigate everything new.

One of the things we knew we would do throughout this trip is occasionally take the pack to doggie daycare …  for them as much as for us. Though we’re only a few days in, Blue Ridge is gorgeous and we were itching for a day on the lake. And no doubt these guys needed to burn off some energy. So last night we called around and found a place that could take them today.

As soon as we walked in we could sense some apprehension. I started filling out the new dog paperwork as we watched the Brat Pack dart around the open room. There was a small dog pen off to one side with a few little dogs, a larger fenced pen housing a boxer, and a wooden gate keeping a few other mouthy mutts in a hallway.

Hendrix, social butterfly that he is, was roaming the room sniffing at every dog. Ellie, true to her charming personality was being an ass to the barrier reactive boxer (yes, the boxer started it) and Quesa was in puppy heaven trying to figure out who to play with first. Though the energy was high, there was nothing concerning about anyone’s behavior and I was floored when we heard the daycare owner ask “do they all have pit in them?” And then, a few minutes later declare “this isn’t going to work. You should take them to K9 Encounters because they take your type of dog”. Seriously? Our type of dog?

For a minute I just stood there confused. It’s no secret breed discrimination runs rampant but rarely have I seen it in a human with a dog oriented business. I had no desire to stand there and listen to this woman stereotype my dogs so I went to the car to call other area daycares (not before watching Quesa take a big old shit on the woman’s floor though). Don stayed inside collecting the dogs and pushing the owner on why she was turning us away at which point she turned and pointed at Hendrix and said “That one there! He’s AGGRESSIVE!”

Now if she had pointed to Ellie, I might have cut her some slack. But Hendrix?!? I’m not kidding when I say that he is the ultimate lover. We use him in puppy training. We use him with aggressive dogs because we know 100 percent that if a dog goes at him he simply turns and saunters off. That dog couldn’t hurt a fly. Well actually I’ve seen him eat a couple of those but flies are really annoying so I get it.

I wish I had stayed inside because Don apparently turned angry dog daddy and went off on the woman before storming out with them. By then I had called a couple other places and we found a real dog business that had no issue with “our type of dogs”.

The day ended up being amazing. Don and I broke in our new inflatable kayak on the lake then wandered around downtown for a late lunch and a little window shopping. This evening we picked up three very tired and very happy pups from daycare.

Hopefully we won’t have this type of experience again. Sadly I know there are a lot of people out there who choose to hate based on stereotypes and misconceptions but I also know there are plenty of humans who understand that it’s not ok to judge a dog by their breed.

Georgia On My Mind

One of the best parts of this cross county adventure is that we have no real plan. With a Colorado ETA of August 2nd … or 3rd … maybe 4th, we have more than three weeks to spend where ever and how ever we want. We have a rough route planned but no timeline around it so if we find a place we love we’ll stay a few days. If we don’t connect with where we are, we won’t.

Our first stop after leaving Tampa was actually the last of my goodbyes. Given I’m not sure when I’ll be back east, I wanted a stop in Macon to see my friend Melissa. We spent two nights boondocking in her front yard indulging in food, fun and a little too much patron.

Spending our first two nights in a driveway had ulterior motive as well. It allowed us to feel out an average day in the camper. Though we did a couple trial runs in Maeve (Westworld fans will appreciate why this became the name of our Winnebago Minnie), the longer drives and added company of three dogs was sure to throw a wrench in things. Surprisingly the dogs did great. Far better than we expected them to do right off the bat. But we did have a couple minor camper glitches; a loose trim along the front sides and a broken sway bar pin. But we managed to get both fixed and focus on our visit.

Originally our next destination was Nashville but we decided to detour to something a little deeper into nature and we set our sights on Blue Ridge Georgia. We opted to take the scenic route and avoid Atlanta. It added another hour to the hour drive time but but we welcomed the feeling of knowing we didn’t have to rush. The drive was beautiful. We skirted the Oconee National Forest and into the cute college town of Athens. But as we dropped down a small hill at the edge of town, there was a low bridge at the bottom. The damage from countless vehicles ramming it over the years left permanent scars on the concrete beams. Don has years of experience driving big rigs so he quickly determined that it was better to pull into the oncoming traffic lane as it looked to have more room. We started slowly inching our way under the bridge with the windows down to listen for sounds of trouble … we heard it quickly. Not enough room. The top of the AC unit on the roof began to scrape the bridge. Thankfully, Don was able to back up the hill and get us turned around with little more than a 15 minute delay. We will need to replace the plastic cover on the AC at some point but thankfully we suffered no permanent damage.

A few phone calls and web searches left us with fading hope as every state park campground we called in Blue Ridge was booked solid but we stumbled upon a private RV lodge with space; The Blue Ridge Lodge and RV Park. A small park with only a dozen or so RV sites, it’s run by a super nice couple who made us feel right at home. Though we had really hoped to find a place on Blue Ridge lake, we’re only a couple miles or so from it and plan to spend tomorrow on and in the water. Best part … there are no alligators!

As we sit outside tonight listening to the chorus of crickets coming from the surrounding woods and watching the lightning bugs, I finally feel as though I’m disconnecting from the day to day routine of life.

Today is Someday

 “Someday sounds a lot like the things people say when they mean never.”
-Dolores Abernathy (Westworld)

Some people spend their whole lives living in a constant state of repetition. Wake up. Go to work. Come home. Cook. Clean. Take care of the kids. The house. The dog. Go to bed. Wake up. Lather Rinse Repeat. Over and over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, the day in and day out of life can gift us some pretty incredible moments and memories but too often we find ourselves slipping into routine ruts that unconsciously become traps we can’t escape and we swear that someday we’ll break free of the chains and follow our dreams.

As a single mom I always felt like had to play it safe. I had the career, the house, the hobbies, the routine. But I felt stuck and I knew that as soon as my daughter was off to college, I would make that my someday no matter what.

Four years ago I found a partner who didn’t just humor my desire to leave Florida but actually embraced it with me. He is, no doubt, the dare-to-follow-your dreams type and he found a way to make me feel secure in the insecurity of stepping outside the box. Together we scouted, we planned, we laid the groundwork and yesterday we started our adventure; two humans and three dogs moving from Tampa Florida to Evergreen Colorado in a new-to-us 27-foot Winnebago Minnie camper.

We aren’t moving for a job. In fact we have no idea what we’re going to do when we get there. Granted we (well he) owns a company in Florida so we’ll still be working from the road, but the sky’s the limit when it comes to what we may create. We leave behind amazing friends and family but there are others awaiting us at our destination, some known, some unknown.

The next three weeks will be an adventure. The only definitive is our destination but the rest we’re deciding as we go. This is our someday!