A family on the road living fulltime in an RV.

Category: On the Road

Friendly Fairhope, Alabama

There is no doubt that what we lack in in familiarity we make up with adventure. Yet there is a part of me that longs for familiarity. Longs to run into…

There is no doubt that what we lack in in familiarity we make up with adventure.

Yet there is a part of me that longs for familiarity. Longs to run into someone in the grocery store who knows my name. Longs to sit with friends and “remember when” which partially explains why parking in my sister’s mother-in-law’s driveway in Fairhope, Alabama, for three nights felt like a family gathering. The other explanation is that Jerri, my sister’s mother-in-law, is just cool. And she’s a great cook. And she’s not afraid of the rattlesnakes that she found hanging out on her doorstep. Oh and she folds towels like a pro. Seriously, she puts the military to shame.

Not only did we feel blessed by Jerri’s hospitality, we got to have lunch with two of her sons and their families when our visits overlapped by a few hours. How refreshing to talk with people who know a little about us even if it was just through my sister. We are hoping to be able to visit Jake and Emily later this year in Pennsylvania.

Our time in Fairhope was mostly spent doing school and catching up on work. Despite what it may seem like on our blog, our life isn’t a “vacation”. Since it was raining it worked out well to catch up.

Our last day in Fairhope, the sun decided to come out and shine. We ventured into the downtown area where we discovered quaint architecture, the lovely Mobile Bay, majestic oak tree lined bluffs, charming shops, and many friendly faces.  As we were walking down Fairhope Avenue we passed an art gallery. In the window was a lazy Persian kitty on a mini wrought iron bed with a sign that read, “Please do not beat on the window, it gives me a headache. Thank you for your continued admiration. Love, Matisse”.

A Persian cat. A Persian cat on a miniature wrought iron bed? A Persian cat named MATISSE!

I’m not a cat lover. Oh no not all.

Of course, when the owner of the gallery, Christine Linson, said we could come into to pet him I ran in full speed like a crazed woman we couldn’t refuse. (Don’t tell Meow Cow.) After admiring Matisse, we met her other rescued Persian, Toulouse Lautrec and we spent some time chatting with Christine. In 1998, she visited Fairhope and fell in love with the town. Not long after she decided she wanted to start a new life in Fairhope. She now owns the Christine Linson Gallery where she also does all her work. If you are in the area stop in to say hi and pet the cats.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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New Memories in New Orleans, Louisiana

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and after four marvelous days in New Orleans I could write thousands and thousands of words. I could write… About the…

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and after four marvelous days in New Orleans I could write thousands and thousands of words.

I could write…

About the artists, musicians, and street performers like the funny robot man or the homemade Transformer at Jackson Square.

About muffalettas, mules, meltdowns, and Mississippi River sunsets.

About beignets and the mounds of powered sugar that stuck to our finger tips. Our favorite was Cafe Beignet. (Thanks Lynn!) The atmosphere was quaint and the beignets delicious. Cafe du Monde was good but overrated in comparison.

About how much fun it was to sit in the more than a century old building of the Napoleon House for lunch. It didn’t even matter that the food was mediocre.

About, despite what you might think, New Orleans is great for kids as long as you steer clear of Bourbon StreetTrust me, you won’t truly enjoy a whimsical street performer until you enjoy him or her with a child.

About the WWII museum and how Thing Two was dressed ready for “battle” the moment he heard we were leaving. I learned more about WWII in three hours than in all my years of school combined. You don’t want to miss the movie Beyond All Boundaries.

About walking on sidewalks cracked from tree roots in the Garden District where houses that have as much history as beauty line the streets.

About how an all day Jazzy pass for the streetcars is the best $3 you’ll spend. Make sure to ride the St. Charles line to the end and back.

About how after a long day of walking, the streetcar we were riding broke down. So we walked back to the ferry only to be passed by the trolly at our would-have-been-stop. Thing One and Thing Two were troopers that night.

About the pralines and how eating a freshly made praline from The New Orleans School of Cooking is nearly ecstasy and the ones we bought from a lady in the Algiers terminal come in at a close second.

About how our boys practiced haggling in the French Market. Thing One bought a clarinet was a man wearing a beret.

About how Jambalya and pizza should always be served together.

About how much fun it was taking the Algiers Ferry (it’s free!) everyday from Algiers Point to The French Quarter

About the Hurricane Katrina exhibit in the Louisiana State Museum.

About the music but my words would could never express the magic that filled the streets.

About the armadillos that waddled through our campground every night bringing huge smiles to two boy’s faces.

About how our campground, Bayou Segnette, was a perfect place to stay. It was close enough to the city to be convenient but far enough away to experience a different side of Louisiana. A bit of beautiful bayou, bustling city and free laundry. Yes, FREE, laundry.

About how I will never forget our family trip to The Big Easy.

New Orleans, thank you for the wonderful memories.

I’ll leave it at that and 80 pictures.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Charm and Carousel Horses in Meridian, Mississippi

When I think of the south I think of plantations, sweet tea, and alligators. I also think of southern charm. And Missy. Missy is a sweet charming southern girl who…

When I think of the south I think of plantations, sweet tea, and alligators.

I also think of southern charm. And Missy.

Missy is a sweet charming southern girl who I met through blogging. When Missy heard we were in the south she gave us some suggestions of what to see. It was Missy who recommended Tannehill Historical State Park. She also recommended we stop in Tuscaloosa Alabama for Dreamland BBQ and to see the devastation left by the tornado.

I was delighted when I found out her town, Meridian,  Mississippi, was on our route to New Orleans and we would get to meet in person. Our budget stretched tight, we stayed at beautiful Lake Okatibbee for $7 a night using our Passport America membership. We spent the first part of our day following our typical morning routine, school. Then in afternoon, the boys and I ventured out to downtown Meridian to meet Missy and explore the town. Missy treated us to drinks and dessert at Jen’s Place. Afterwards, we walked around the downtown getting a quick peek into the Meridian Railroad Museum and enjoying the many carousel horses scattered around the city as part of public art project. The proceeds from the Around the Town Carousel project benefit Hope Village for Children. Why carousel horses? Meridian is home to the last remaining Dentzel Carousel House, a national landmark, located in Highland Park.

The next morning, we decided to visit Highland Park before hitting the road. Unfortunately, the carousel is closed on weekdays during the winter but Missy called the park just to be sure. Much to our delight, the carousel was being shown to someone who was planning an event there and the planner said we could come on down for a peek. The peek turned into a private tour and ride! Talk about southern hospitality! The carousel is beautiful and as we spun around I couldn’t help but think of the generations who had ridden before me. It is definitely worth a stop for those traveling through Meridian.

Thanks Missy for your hospitality and recommendations. Thankful you could be a part of our adventure!

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Days 86-89: Old MacDonald had a farm

And on that farm he had a miniature mule. Rainy days. Fresh eggs. Curious goats. Stoic horses. Few things make me as happy as the smell and velvety touch of…

And on that farm he had a miniature mule.

Rainy days. Fresh eggs. Curious goats. Stoic horses.

Few things make me as happy as the smell and velvety touch of a horse’s muzzle. As I was struggling with depression, 5 days on a farm was just what my soul needed to be able to soar again

My uncle works at a small farm at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains in Maryville, Tennessee. We played with the goats, gathered colorful eggs, stroked the horses’ woolly winter coats, hiked in the quiet wood, and cuddled, book in hand, as the rain poured outside.

Every morning, Thing 2 rushed for his boots the minute he heard the rumble of my uncle’s truck coming to feed the horses. Thing 1 got into “shoving matches” with Julie the goat. Nico and Nigel met new friends and enemies when Julie decided to give them a friendly headbutt. I think Brent was the only one to escape Julie. I have never met a more ornery goat. (Not that I’ve met a lot of goats.) She headbutted me into the wall within 2 minutes of our introduction.

I felt free. I felt alive. I felt at home.

Yet, the clouds move and I’m caught in their shadow dance. Being at the farm reminds me at how at heart I’m a country girl who ended up in a beach town. A girl who feels more comfortable in a saddle than on the sand. I’m all too aware that as long as we live in Ventura we will not be able to have goats, chickens, and horses.

Thing 2 keeps asking with excitement in his eyes, “Mama, can we live on a farm?” My little animal boy. How I want to gather him in my arms and say, “Yes we’ll have goats, chickens, and Arabian horses!” When God chiseled horses I’m certain his first was an Arabian.

Not now.

Now the road is our home but only time will tell where it will take us.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Days 82-85: Franklin and Nashville Tennessee

We woke up this morning knowing we were headed to Nashville. We didn’t know that we would be spending the night with old friends. We didn’t know that we would…

We woke up this morning knowing we were headed to Nashville. We didn’t know that we would be spending the night with old friends. We didn’t know that we would be having dinner with new friends. We didn’t know that Franklin Tennesee was much more than a little suburb of Nashville.  We didn’t know that we would get to go on a date. We didn’t know Smoked Tea with Plum ice cream could be so good.

Old Friends – Mike and Jen moved to Franklin from Ventura 10 years ago. We parked our RV in their driveway on a quiet cul-de-sac next to a lake. We felt right at home. They showed around Franklin and took us to Leiper’s Fork. They made us dinner and we stayed up late sharing stories and laughter.

New Friends – We had just got settled when we got an invitation for dinner from friends of one of Brent’s clients. Brent had told his client that we were going to be in Franklin and much to our surprise and delight they called us. Dinner that with strangers ended as dinner with friends.

Date Night – Mike watched the boys one night so Brent and I could spend some time alone. Being the adventurers we are we went to Trader Joe’s. Romantic, huh? Afterwards, we drove around Nashville and spotted a little pizza and kebab place called PizzeReal.  As we waited for our food we decided to check the Yelp reviews. Not a good idea. The restaurant had poor reviews. We hoped for the best and weren’t disappointed with the Tusan Garden, pizza topped with kale, mushrooms, garlic, mozzarella, and labne.  Sooo good. It just happens that an ice cream place, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, we wanted to try was around the corner. We got a Black and Tan sundae made with Salted Carmel and Smoked Tea and Plum. Splendid, indeed. Do not miss Jeni’s if you are in Nashville.

Franklin – Franklin takes pride in her history. The downtown is lovely, clean, and quaint. The visitor center provides a plethora of maps and brochures. One is a historic downtown Franklin self guided walking tour map. There are six tours routes to choose from: the Great American Main Street, Art & Antique, Haunts a & Headstones, History Homs of Hincheyville, Battle of Franklin, and Margin to Main. Unfortunately due to rainy weather and time constraints, we didn’t complete any of the walks but we did see many places on the walks. One of which was the The Carter House grounds. The Carter House, a National Landmark, served at a command post during the Battle of Franklin and was the home of the Carter family who sought safety with their slaves in the basement during the battle. One of their sons, Todd Carter, had joined the confederacy. He was mortally wounded during battle and was brought to boyhood home to die.

Adventure Science Center – Our last day in Franklin was a rainy one a perfect day to visit the Adventure Science Center. It’s part of the ACST Passport Program which means free admission and I like free. The boys played giant instruments, zapped germs with lazers, and experienced what it would be like to walk in 1/6 gravity. Fun times for all.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Days 58-78: Hoosier at Heart

Traveling with our work and home in tow like a turtle time has allowed us an unusual amount of time to visit with family and friends. Our adventure started in…

Traveling with our work and home in tow like a turtle time has allowed us an unusual amount of time to visit with family and friends. Our adventure started in Santa Maria when we spent 10 days with Brent’s family. Afterwards, with short visits with friends and family in between, we traveled to Austin to spent 10 days at my best friend’s house. Now in the dead of winter, we just spent three weeks in Indiana.

Our visit in Indiana felt like we did so much and yet so little at the same time. We’ve been there many times so the pressure to “see things” wasn’t there and our first priority was family.

My parents still live in the same house I grew up in. The house sits on a hill that borders a wood, “the bottom ground”, that, as a child ,was everything from wild jungles to dangerous battlefields. It’s a strange and happy sensation watching our boys drive my mom’s golf cart through the paths just as, if I was lucky, I did with my brother in his golf cart.

Among the days hanging out “at home” we also…

Visited the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Always fun. Always magical. It’s a “must see” if you have kids and are in the Indianapolis area.

Visited the Indianapolis Zoo. I haven’t been in years and was excited to go on an oddly warm January day. I was especially excited to see the gibbons. Funny funky monkeys!

Visited Brookwood Farms. This is the stable where I spent showerless endless days grooming, feeding, water, cleaning, and riding horses. I used to happily sleep outside of my horses stall on a folding lawn chair. Brookwood is run by Rosie, a woman who has spend her life loving animals and kids. Every visit to Indiana includes a visit with Rosie at Brookwood.

“Visited” Slackers Toys R’Us and Walmart after midnight on December 24th in search of Harry Potter legos. Do not do this. Ever.

Ate at Roscoe’s Tacos. Possibly the least Mexican Mexican food ever. In a good way.

Ate at PapaRoux. Po-boys and cajun food in Indianapolis. Don’t judge. It’s good…really GOOD good! Don’t believe me? There was a line out the door in January.

Oh and I spent New Years squealing over pictures of hairless cats hoping Brent might change his mind about another pet. Yeah, I’m loads of fun. Loads.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Days 56-57: Walking in Memphis

The drive from Arkansas to Memphis was uneventful. At sundown, we settled into T.O. Fuller State Park. In the morning, we visited Graceland. I’ve never been a huge Elvis fan…

The drive from Arkansas to Memphis was uneventful. At sundown, we settled into T.O. Fuller State Park.

In the morning, we visited Graceland. I’ve never been a huge Elvis fan but it was fascinating nevertheless. What struck me was his charisma and charm not only in his Hollywood movies but in his home movies. What a playful force of nature. Not sure why I never noticed it before but this was the first time I saw the soul behind the icon. It was the first time I saw the playful boyish grin that won hearts the world over. His house was decorated for Christmas with his original decorations. It’s strange place…a mixture of homeyness, hoopla, museum, and shrine.

In stark contrast to the commercialization and glitz of Elvis, we walked in the rain along the concrete shore where the Wolf River and Mississippi rivers merge. It was here where Jeff Buckely, an artist less famous although no less talented, drew his last breaths before being swallowed by the river’s current. It’s a spot Brent had been wanting to visit for years. I lingered back so Brent could walk ahead of me to spend time in his own thoughts. Brent introduced me to Jeff Buckley. In our 13 years together, his hauntingly beautiful voice has been a part of many our memories. If you have never listened to Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah you must. It’s an amazing song (It was a sad day when I heard such a beautiful song had been forever attached to an ogre.) on it’s own but no one sings it like Jeff Buckley.

Beale Street

We ended our day in Memphis with a warm drink at the Peabody Hotel where everyday at 11 am and 5:o0 pm the famous Peabody ducks, lead by the “duck master”, waddle down a red carpet like celebrities as they have been since 1933.

Oh humans…what strange creatures we are!

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 56: Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

We didn’t know what to expect when we decided to go to Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs Arkansas. All I knew was I getting the cancellation stamp in…

We didn’t know what to expect when we decided to go to Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs Arkansas. All I knew was I getting the cancellation stamp in my National Park Passport.

Hot Springs National Park is the smallest national park and was the first federal reserve in the United States. For hundreds of years people have come to Hot Springs seeking health in the warm waters. Over time an industry of bath houses grew up around the hot springs. The heyday of bathing has passed and today most bathhouse are no longer in operation. However you can still tour the Fordyce bathhouse, now the park visitor center, for a peek back into history and take baths at one of two operating bathhouses, the Buckstaff or Quapaw.

You can also do the Jr. Ranger program. Hopefully with more enthusiasm than Thing 1 or 2. Try as I might, I couldn’t convince them that the “Ladies Cooling Room” was a spectacular place to fill out their Jr. Ranger activity books. Although the movie about traditional bathing held their attention with it’s 1980’s aesthetic.  Apparently, it was so cheesy it was funny.

After touring the Fordyce Bathhouse, we ventured out back to put our hands in the last remaining open hot spring and stroll the paths above the bathhouses. Then we drove up through the park to watch the sunset over Hot Springs before returning to our campground, Gulpha Gorge.

Gulpha Gorge may be one of our favorite campgrounds yet. As the name suggests, the sites run through a gorge along a creek. It was lovely in December and I can only imagine its beauty during warmer months. The sites are large with many of them along the creek with full hookups.  I loved hearing the sound of the creek when we stepped outside in the morning. Full hookup sites are $24 or $12 if you have the  National Parks Membership Card, a fantastic deal considering the beauty, spaciousness, and condition of the sites.

Two months ago we had not even heard of Hot Springs National Park and today not only it is a treasured place in our National Park system but a treasured family memory.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 55: Watch Out for Them Biten Dogs

Last night we arrived at our campsite at Lake Eufaula State Park in Oklahoma before dark. No small miracle. The campground was nearly empty and deer were roaming. I’m loving the…

Last night we arrived at our campsite at Lake Eufaula State Park in Oklahoma before dark. No small miracle.

The campground was nearly empty and deer were roaming. I’m loving the off season. The campground was lovely with large sites, many overlooking Lake Eufaula, the largest lake in Oklahoma.

Unfortunately, we discovered the panel that holds in the insulation on the bottom of the trailer had come loose. We also realized that was why a guy was honking and pointing to our trailer earlier that day. When we stopped we couldn’t find whatever it was he was making such a fuss over. Now we know. Just dragging insulation. No biggie. :-/

After dinner we drove off the curb around the campground to look at the Christmas light display. The display was impressive and included a giant brontosaurus. Like I said, impressive. It was cozy in the cab of our truck with four people up front listening to bad pop renditions of classic Christmas songs on the radio.

In the morning, we went to the nature center and I drilled asked the ranger about venomous snakes. I have a habit of drilling asking anyone who might know anything about snakes everything there is to know. It’s neurotic charming.

Then it was time to hit the road and head to Arkansas. It feels like we didn’t really give Oklahoma a chance. After talking to the ranger about the geography of Oklahoma I was wishing we had more time to stay and explore the state.

The drive to Hot Springs was loooong. Brent may or may not have insisted on stopping for Starbucks at the busiest strip center in all of Arkansas.

That evening we had dinner at a small restaurant in Y City. I picked up a paper and began browsing the real estate ads.  A four bedroom house on 20 acres for 155K?  The prices of real estate are unbelievable when you are used to California prices. Do we have any California friends who want to move to Arkansas with us?

I was ready to move until…

…we stopped for a bathroom break.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 54: “Visiting with” Longhorns

We made it out of Texas. Almost. First we had to find some Texas Longhorn cattle. You see the other day Thing 2 and I decided we wanted to see…

We made it out of Texas.

Almost.

First we had to find some Texas Longhorn cattle.

You see the other day Thing 2 and I decided we wanted to see some Texas Longhorn cattle close up. So I went online to look for nearby ranches.  We started calling around asking if the ranches allowed visitors. One phone call (from Brent) went like this.

“Hi. My family and I are from California and we are looking some longhorn cattle. Do you have any that we could come and visit with?”

Pause.

“You don’t do anything like that? Oh okay. Well thanks.”

Mistake #1 – “from California”, i.e., weirdos

Mistake #2 – “visit with“, i.e., WEIRDOS

Who visits with cows? Weird Californians who live in a RV that’s who. He might as well asked if we could have tea time with the Longhorns. ” Oh but it’s organic green tea full of antioxidants.”

However, as it turned out, there was a quaint Longhorn ranch right next to our campground. It was a bed and breakfast, Front 30 Ranch Guest House, run by the friendliest retired couple. They even smiled politely when I asked if they minded if I did a workout with the Longhorns because working out with longhorns is much more acceptable than visiting with longhorns. Very gracious folks indeed. They walked us out to the pasture while the boys made friends with their dog, Abbey. We didn’t get to pet the Longhorns (Abbey made them nervous) but we got closer than we had ever been and had a nice “visit”. We also enjoyed visiting with the owners who shared how they had built and cultivated the ranch themselves.

Front 30 Ranch is lovely, almost as lovely as the couple who runs it. Large rolling meadows stretch into the surrounding cedar forests. The guest house with its inviting porch overlooks the serene pastures of the Texas Longhorns. It almost makes me wish we didn’t have our RV. This would be the perfect place to come and relax at Lake Texoma. Our boys would have happily stayed all day and so would have we had we not had to get on the road to Oklahoma.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

 

 

 

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