Friday, March 21, 2014

A New Era

Since returning from my SC-GA-FL trip 3 weeks ago, I’ve been bulldozing my way through some final home projects. 

We moved into our condo in June 2012.  Since then, we have steadily tackled one project after another.  After many relocations, I’ve found that it takes about 2 years to get things just right after a move.  Minus my time on the road in 2013 and 2014, we are on schedule.

I desperately wanted to complete the process before my next road trip.  I’ve put everything else off so I can leave home knowing that no big projects await my return. 

Here’s just a partial list of what's been accomplished.

  • Complete kitchen renovation

  • New living room carpet
  • New drapes throughout

  • New living room cabinet
  • Dry wall repair
  • New decor
  • New interior paint throughout.  Thank you, Jamie!

Jamie and Cole

  • Replacements: garbage disposal, toilet, interior and exterior light fixtures, patio door glass.
  • Exterior: planting flowers, herbs, and rehabbing existing plants


After the glass replacement next week, I rather optimistically believe that all the home-improvement projects are behind us.  Then I can focus on travel, work, and routine home maintenance.  In that order (she said hopefully).

It feels like the beginning of a new era!   

As a reward, I’ll probably take a one-week trip up to North Alabama - where my family is from, a place I love.  I try to go up at least once a year. 

Then it will be time to plan my next big road trip.  The biggest one yet!    

Details to follow.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Aren't You Scared?

Or, more specifically: Aren’t you afraid to spend the night alone in a parking lot?

Houston, TX 

As a solo traveler who happens also to be female, I get this question a lot.  My answer is No, not since I started doing it.   

But I understand the question because it’s the precise one I asked before I hit the road. Considering the sad reality of violent crime against women, we have to think about the dangers of spending the night in a vehicle in an unfamiliar parking lot in an unfamiliar place. 

My first Wal-Mart overnight in Layfayette, LA

Can you tell I was nervous?  I knocked on this neighbor's door to ask about the safety factor.  He assured me it was a safe area and I could let him know if I ran into trouble.  

In this post, I’d like to take a cold logical look at the issue of overnighting in a parking lot.
I know violent crime is a reality.  I’m not unaware, nor am I fearless.  I just play the odds. 

According to the FBI, there were over a million violent crimes reported in the U.S. in 2012.  That’s a lot.  But the numbers from the U.S. Department of Commerce (2009) tell us that there were over 10 million vehicle accidents in the U.S.  That’s a lot more. 

Consider, though, that the U.S. is home to about 318 million people (2010 U.S. Census). Do the math and you will see that the probability of being the target of an assault is pretty small.  Stay in a low-crime area and the risk drops further.  Much less than the risk of being involved in a vehicle accident.  But we confidently drive every day.  We play the odds.

And, frankly, if violence is going to occur, it’s as likely to happen at home as on the road.

Even more likely is a mechanical break-down.  In my experience, the fear of this occurring - especially in a remote location - is a common one for women traveling alone.   In the past 18 months, this has happened to me.  Three times.  One failed transmission, one bent rotor, and one flat tire.    

The transmission went out here, on one of the loneliest and remote stretches of road I've ever driven.  I had just left Devil's Tower National Monument in sparsely populated northeastern Wyoming.

But each time I received the help I needed from good people.  If you get stranded on the side of the road, call for help. If you can’t call, someone will come along who can.  Just keep the doors locked and stay inside.  And, for god’s sake, never leave home without a trusted roadside assistance plan!

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I have had an intruder.  One who crept into the van while I was sleeping in this Ft. Davis parking lot.  

                                       Eeeek!  A mouse in the house!  
           The next 48 hours were unpleasant for both of us.  I still have flashbacks.

So, back to blacktop boondocking.  Following is my patented overnight parking calculated risk appraisal in 3 easy steps.      

1.  As the numbers above indicate, it probably won’t happen. 

The media unceasingly creates an atmosphere of fear in order to sell airtime and newspapers. Crime reporting reminds me of  all those times as a kid when my older brother loved to jump out of the shadows just to see me startle.     

The Media

I’ve also learned that everyone, for some reason, automatically assumes you are part of a couple.  I get this a lot: Where are you guys from?  How long have y’all been on the road?  I consider this is a good thing.

2. If you are targeted by a sinister someone, never forget that you have the advantage.  

Most people imagine a scenario where someone breaks into your RV while you are sleeping. 

My reasoning: if someone decides to forcefully enter your home-on-wheels, it won’t go far.  First of all, don’t stay in isolated areas.  My overnight stops are well-lit, with plenty of witnesses around, often other RVers.

Deming, NM

If you don't have neighbors, sleep next to a security camera or two.  

The view out my window - St. Louis, MO

But, even with all that advantage, if someone still wants to get to you in your RV, he will make noise.  This will wake you up.

I always sleep with my cell phone and keys in the same place, within easy reach.  Hit the panic button on your key remote, then call 911.   If you don’t have a key alarm, use an air horn or anything else that makes a racket.  Shining a light in the intruder’s eyes is also effective.

3. If all else fails …. drive away from the trouble.

I hope this exploration of an emotional issue will help someone who really wants to travel but doesn’t because she fears for her safety. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Office - New Blog Page

Because I often get questions about working on the road, I decided to dedicate a blog page to document the inner workings of my Office-On-Wheels.

Little Schoolhouse in the Rockies

Click the tab at the top if you are so inclined.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Albany, GA

All good roadtrips must come to an end.  And so I took my last beach walk this morning before leaving Amelia Island.

I found the best beach access yet - a short boardwalk away from the parking space above.

This county-owned lot also allows overnight parking.  I've filed it under 'next time'.

And you know I wasn't leaving without packing the fridge with shrimp bisque for lunch.

Drove about 4 hours to Albany.  The weather was good for driving and it was four-lane US highways through rural towns all the way.  Just like I like it!

After getting to Albany, I was a little stiff and wishing there was somewhere nice nearby to walk the kinks out.

I look up and experience a little road magic.  A golf course!  Right behind Wal-Mart!


Back home tomorrow in time for lunch.  And now that I've left the coast, I'm ready to get there!

Thanks everyone for coming along on another successful roadtrip.  I've got another short journey planned for March.  More about that later as I work out the details.  

See you soon!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fernandina Beach, FL

Well, the forecast was for 100% chance of rain today, so no big surprise to awake to the distinctive pitter-pat on the van roof.  Maybe the Universe knows I had some course work to catch up on? 

Not much to blog about due to the rain.  I’m writing this from Peter’s Point Beach where the GDB is the only vehicle.  Quite a change from yesterday.  

I’m parked in an elevated spot overlooking the dunes and watching the waves in the rain.  I just love having my little house with me wherever I go!  

After work this AM, I headed to this nearby restaurant for you-know-what. 



This is how they shuck ‘em.  That metal rod is forced down and breaks the shells open.  Probably a bit safer than the knife method.

Then it was on to the lovely town of Fernandina Beach.

I strolled about, ducking in and out of shops and staying mostly dry.

The town grew up around this port.

Later I drove to the beach and attempted a walk, but only lasted about 10 minutes.  It’s much more pleasant from inside the GDB.   

I’ll start heading home tomorrow.  After lunch, of course!  That gives me one last shot at some more seafood.  Hmmm …. I’m thinking bisque. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

More Amelia Island

To be entirely at leisure for one day is to be immortal                                                                           Chinese Proverb

Today was one of those days.  The weather could not have been better.  And my gratitude for living like this could not be deeper.

I spent the day strolling, peering at shells, working a crossword, and watching the always-entertaining canine parade at Peter's Point Beach.

Doris would love this!

By lunchtime, I was ravenous and drove the few short miles to Fernandina Beach.  I spied this burger joint that I remembered from its rave reviews on Trip Advisor.  I think the GDB brakes might have squealed.

The specialty?  Charbroiled burgers.  OK .... where's the entrance and where does the line start?

Al fresco dining on burger and fries for $6.  I'm happy.  

After lunch, I strolled about town and ducked into a few antique shops.

It was fun to browse but ...  with this weather, I was eager to return to the beach.

I stayed until the sun got low and the tide high, soaking up every moment of my immortal day.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Day at the Beach(es)

The forecast for another day of rain did not come to pass.  I’ve been told that this group of islands has its own weather system and the 24-hour forecast means nothing.  So …. yay!!!  In fact, the sun came out in late morning and temps reached the low 70s. 

Before the fun started, I had a few household chores to accomplish at my Little Talbot Island State Park site.

What you would expect after 7 days on the road – filling the water tanks (more on that later), dumping the waste tanks, and even an interior cleaning.  The GDB is sand-free.  At least for a short while. 

To-do list accomplished, I drove the 5 miles to Big Talbot Island on the advice of 2 state park rangers.  This beach has unique features.

I don’t know why erosion deposits this endless tangle of petrified wood here, and not on other beaches.  It’s a singular place.  You hike ½ miles through this dense forest to get to the shore. 

Then it was on to Amelia Island State Park which consists of a narrow strand of beach; today it was staked-out by surf fishermen.  Sorry, no photos of the beach.  But here's one of me and the GDB!

Feeling the urge to find the perfect beach for the perfect afternoon, I moved on to Peter’s Point Beach, located just off Amelia Island Parkway.  This is a county-owned park recommended by a county employee that I met yesterday.  I was thinking this morning how I wish I had pumped him for some local info when he drove right up to me on the beach in his ATV!  Wish I'd had the camera handy.

Had some lunch and got some grading done.  Then it was time for some beachcombing.  

The ranger who checked me in yesterday gave me a shell guide to the islands.  I had fun trying to identify specimens.  

A lady stopped and asked me what I was looking for.  I replied 'my left contact'.  She looked horrified until I told her I was kidding.   

A glorious afternoon!  

Gull's day out

As darkness approached, I headed to a Fernandina Beach Wal-Mart.  It is a quiet location listed in the overnight parking database.  Then it was Skype with John & Doris and now it’s almost time for dinner.

RV Stuff

Read further only if you are interested in my latest RV gadget.  One that will make taking on water so very much easier.

Traveling solo with tiny water tanks can be a challenge when it’s time to refill.  Especially in a Roadtrek.  The RT has a 2-tank (interior and exterior) system.   The fill-ups take place here next to the driver’s seat and in the cargo area where you see the orange plugs.

You only know when the tanks are full from the backflow.  This backflow of water always becomes a fountain and inevitably everything nearby gets wet.  Including you.  Without a partner at the water source to start or stop the flow, you run from water source to input and back again.  Not very efficient.  

Notice in the above photo that one of my home-stereo speakers is in a vulnerable position.  The speaker gets wet along with everything else.  I’m constantly wiping everything down with a towel that I keep just for that purpose.    

One of the contributors to a Roadtrek forum – Robert – blogged about a solution that is both effective and inexpensive.  Voila!

Thanks to the stop-cock, I can turn the water on and off without running a mad dash and getting a bath in the process.

Note: this isn’t the first time Robert has come to the rescue and made my life infinitely easier. Robert, if you are reading this – THANKS AGAIN!!!