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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Less than a month to 2015 travels

I have been getting ready for Christmas and my trip that is less than a mint away. Getting the Prius ready has been no small task even though it's a small car.  

My hardest job is to become a minimalist by thinking about the least amount of things to bring at the smallest form factor possible.  Even with the rear seats removed space will be a premium.  

Utilization of space available is the game plan.  Finding square items that use less space has been interesting, but accomplished.

I look forward to showing everyone the conversion with no holes being drilled in the Prius, that was also a goal.  I did not want to change the Prius in any way that would be permanate, unless I really had to.  So far so good.

How to have privacy in the rear was another chalange that I only solved this past weekend with some clips I made for the curtains.

I needed to buy some cooking things to save space.  This saved a lot as another goal is to keep from moving things from my sleeping area to my sitting area each time I move.  This is not what I wanted to do for 3 months.  I think I have a good handle on this although not totally resolved yet.

I was asked about a trailer hitch carrier or roof carrier and yes these would be possible, I didn't want to do it as a crutch to carry stuff I use once or twice, or like last year when I shipped things home to make space in the campervan.  My Priusvan will be much leaner but in se ways better.  As a woman who has been using her Prius to do this for years, if a backpacker can carry what they need we in a Prius should be able to figure it out.

Now to packing everything and see what doesn't fit and then the decision on what goes and what stays.

There will be some pictures soon with my solutions.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Plan for 2015 Travels

Hi all,

Well I have a plan for my 2015 Travels.  Having sold my 1994 Campervan to a broker in Canada, this only ended one chapter of my travels.  With over $5,000 in gasoline costs for my 13K+ mile trip I needed to make a change for cost reasons alone.

I loved my Campervan trip and have no regrets about the cost, but the cost was a concern and with 10 mpg I made decisions on where I went after awhile due to ever increasing fuel costs.  It was a fun trip that had a lot of fabulous memories, so I decided to take the opposite extreme by buying a Prius in July.  It is a 2011 that only had 8700 miles on it.  Since purchasing it I have driven to MD twice and only using a tank of gas each way (440 miles) costing me $26.50 to fill up and having 100 miles I could still go on the 11 gallon tank.  That's 56+ mpg!

This will be my new Campervan with the many of the same comforts I had but space is not one of them.  The one thing that the Prius has is a climate controlled system that runs off the high voltage drive battery (hybrid).  This means that I can leave the Prius in ready mode and the A/C will run off the battery (not the engine).  The engine only turns on when the battery needs a charge.

I will be camping from time to time in a 2 man tent as well as sleeping in the mini-Campervan along the way.  Oh yes a few motels too.  I am not a pioneer doing this with a Prius, following others that have done it before me.  I hope to have the most technological one of them all.  I have many things planned for the vehicle that I will share over time.

My vehicle fuel estimate for costs to make a similar trip to FL to drop off mom & head to CA and southwest is $1500.  A big difference to the 1994 Campervan!

In addition to the 2 man tent I bought I bought a rectangular sleeping bag and 2.5" Thermorest pad.  My mummy bag would be too restrictive for 3 months.  I also bought a single burner butane/propane stove.  An advanced lead acid battery charger.  To charges wet cells, AGM, & sealed lead acid batteries.  This way when I am at a campground I can charge the vehicle 12 volt battery & sealed lead acid batteries that I will use for accessories when I don't want the vehicle to run.  I will be able to charge the sealed lead acid from the vehicle charging system while driving & possibly solar too.

Well more on all the technology later.

Stay tuned to future updates and then my travels.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Trip Learning 12 - Trailer Hitch Extensions

I'm still traveling since getting home in the beginning of May.  Two trips to VT to the camp, one trip to MD to build the shed, and now I am on the Cape at the Cape house, having come down for the night to fix a bed, replace, add new smoke detectors, & meet the home inspector for the insurance company.

All this travel is about another 1000 miles.

I took the trailer hitch extension and bike rack that I had purchased for the camper and it fit perfictly.  The 14" hitch extension gets the bike rack far enough back so I can still lower the truck's talegate.  The extension also worked great on the camper to get the bike rack past the big spare tire on the back of the campervan.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Trip Learning 11 - AT&T Coverage

Some years ago I had trouble with maintaining a connection to Verizon on the Fire Department laptop as I went yo my came in northern Vermont.  What I didn't know, and now I do from my trip is that both Verizon and AT&T have coverage gaps handled by other carriers that are not their network.  When you are in one of these spots you can make and keep phone calls as well as text but you can't use data or you are limited to some very small amount of data.

I ran into this problem on my trip when my niece Brianna was with me and we were at the Grand Canyon.  My phone had a hard time downloading data.  My phone said AT&T and I got a text message from AT&T saying I reached my limit for data for being out of network.  My phone still said AT&T so I kept downloading.  I then got a text from AT&T saying that I would be shut off if I kept using data and that they would charge me for more usage than out of network allows.  They shut off my data and downloaded something to my phone to change AT&T to out of network.  Thsts right they changed what I see to out of network after it said AT&T.

They allowed me to make and perceive phone calls and text but no web surfing or downloads.  With this change to my phone, when I drive through Troy, NH my phone switches to out of network and back to AT&T when I get to Swansea, NH.

So, when you view either Verizon or AT&T's coverage maps the map doesn't show all their networks, and for the partner networks that you can't see, you do not have all the benefits of your home plan even though you are in the USA.

Since they changed my phone I now see out of network where you all still see your carrier name.

They didn't charge me extra and I think for good reason as if it says AT&T then I should expect the service I pay for.

Now I know why Verizon data didn't work in some areas on my way to Vermont.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Trip Learning 10 - People Without Medical Insurance

During my trip I watched a TV and listened to podcasts about Obama Care.  There was much to do about the number of people that had signed up.  When I had returned the number was 8M.  Listening to my podcasts I learned that 5M of the 8M were people that had lost their insurance when their plans were found to not meet the new requirements of Obama Care.  So it was told that there were 3M that were newly insured that previously were not insured.  Of the 8M that signed up there was no report how many paid their premiums.  So, some number of the 8M were not insured.

Regardless of the number and information mentioned above being true or not, I met many people that were not insured and many that would not be insured under Obama Care.

The reason is mainly financial.  Some people that I met on my trip didn't have the income to live and pay for any insurance.  These people live on the fringe of society.  Food and a place to sleep is the only thing that matters to them.  You have to have sufficient income to buy the insurance and these people who live in vehicles do not show up on census reports.  They do not file taxes and get buy on what money they get and are happy.  They don't read newspapers or listen to the radio.  

So what do they do when they need medical help?  Veterans go to the veterans medical center for assistance if they live near one and can get there.  Nonveterans use free clinics.  

Together they do not feel there is even a need to get a job and make money to pay for medical insurance when they get what they need elsewhere.

One man I met was happy to spend his little money on 24 packs of beer and spends his time drinking.  When I asked him about his future he told me that he was hoping to just die.  He was far from having anything that would cause his death soon and when I pointed this out to him and asked what happens if you live and don't die, he had no answers.

These are people that do not look to tomorrow and only look at today. What was interesting is that they were all nice people.  They were generally happy with their exixtance, just above being homeless.  They all didn't see a need for more of anything. They are generally truthful, polite, caring, and respect others.  They just don't have health insurance.  

If they go to the hospital the hospital provides care to them and the hospital will never be paid.  We all pay for them in our rates to the hospital.  You can't get money from people that don't have it or ever will have it.  Since they don't have an address they can't be found if a bill was sent.

I don't see Obama Care addressing this segment of our society and I wonder how many of these people there are in the U.S.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Trip Learning 9 - Choosing Not To Insulate Myself

Being on the Fire Department for 46 years gave me the chance to see lots of good and some bad in our society.  There is something in seeing both the good and bad that grounded me to a level of appreciation of what I have in life.

During my trip I also got the same exposure from my visit to "The Villages" in FL where no blades of grass was out of place to the poor sections of cities I visited.  What is appealing to many about "The Villages" was unappealing to me.  Yes the houses, neighborhoods, and yards were immaculate and beautiful, but it reminded me of the movie Stepford Wives.  It was a bit too perfect.  

Since my visit to "The Villages" was early in my trip this impression stuck with me and it was well into my trip that it came to me that I wouldn't like to live there.  There is no diversity!

I have always looked for veriety in life and I like being around all kinds of people including children (youth).  I remember being in Geniva, Switzerland sitting in a restaurant one evening on a layover for a flight home in the morning and a young lady was obviously excited and with a bunch of friends.  She went from table to table giving a kiss to everyone saying it was her birthday in French.  When she was finished with all the tables she and her friends left.  I was excited for her birthday happiness and I was also glad to have had the experience.  I have had experiences on my travels all my life and my campervan trip was no different meeting all walks of life, economic levels, people of all ages, and people happy and sad. I wanted to experience as much as I could and I did.  

I do appreciate that there are 55 and older places to live, but at least for now they are not for me.  I want all that life has to offer.  I don't want to block out certain segments.  Instead I want to embrace it all just like I always have.  My choice for a place to live is a small town with a community spirit with all the problems and challenges that society has in store for us now and what it will give us to deal with in the future.  I want to be part of this community and travel to expand my world so I don't get a false sense of what reality is.

Trip Learning 8 - Medical Needs When Traveling

I once flew 75,000 miles a year when working for Digital Equipment Corporation.  

Travel, especially overseas, can be a cause for consern for travelers, but with medical benefits being cut over the years by employers and employees who have had to choose medical plans with limited benefits seeking medical help while traveling in the U.S. Can be troubling.

I am lucky to have good medical coverage but I choose to use caution when accessing the medical system as this drives costs for everyone.

Just a few years ago while visiting the in-laws in Mesa, AZ, I was injured while hiking with Denise on a backcountry hike.

We were climbing a mountain and we let a woman and a man pass us as we approached the peak. With them out of sight I was leading and I was faced be a rock about a foot in diameter bouncing down the V shaped trail at me.

Since it was going back and forth I didn't know what way it would go and I jumped to the right as it passed to the left.  It hit a rock next to me and shatters a pice of rock off and as my leg was in the air the large shad hit my right leg calf taking a hunk of meat off my leg.  

We were two hours out on this hike and I examed my wound and tied it up with my handkerchief and turned to Denise and said we have to go now.

We hiked out of the mountain as I blead through my temporary bandage, down my leg with my sock absorbing the blood.

I knew I needed stitches so I looked up a local urgent care and had Denise drive me there.

A doctor sewed me up and in the end it cost $800.00.

My insurance didn't want to pay as I didn't go to an emergency room.  I appealed their decision with the logic that they waned me to take an ambulance at $1K, ER with X-ray $3K, and Dr fee of $1.5K and they would have paid when my cost to them was $800.  I told them that they were driving up the cost of insurance and I should be the example on how to control health costs.

They paid!

So, I have this and more experiences on the road that I have needed medical attention.  My 3.5 month travels was not that bad but I did need medical support.

It was early on my trip while in FL that I had a sore throat that didn't go away after 5 days and I feared that I had strep throat soi called my Dr. and he sent a prescription to a local CVS and I took the meds and cleared up the problem,  

I don't take medicines and avoid the Dr. but I needed to understand that I need a medical support system.  Later on the trip I had a common cold and related problems and I picked up over the counter medicine.  I had minor cuts and blisters from hiking and again I picked up what I needed.

I use the logic that if I can get buy without a Dr I will, but if I need one I will call mine or go to urgent care places like I had an ear infection on another trip.  I will use an emergency room when this is the appropriate level of care.

Shed Building Day 6

Yesterday (Sunday) we were done with the shed less the double doors.  I was to drove home Sunday but decided to stay to finish the roof and set Brent up with all the parts for the door.

I was going to drive home first thing this am, but decided I would leave by noon and surprise Brent by working on the doors for him.  He was planning together out of work early to work on the doors but I knew there wasn't enough time for him to finish today by himself.

Well,  I worked on the doors and got the frames hung.  Denise, who flew down Friday helped me and painted the frames and the panels that get screwed to the back of them. They are the painted gray textured plywood left over from cutting the door openings.

The doors have 3 hinges and I mortised them in the jam and doors that took extra time.

I sent this picture to Brent as we left to drive home.  He was happy and when he came home he put on the panels and door hardware so he can now lock it up and get rid of his old plastic storage shed.

We got back to Westminster at 10:00 tonight having to drive to Manchester Airport to drop off Denise to pick up her car that she left there Friday when she flew down. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Shed Building Day 5

I didn't leave Maryland today.  

My plan was to get up and get shingling early.  Before we could shingle though, we needed to install the trim on the gable ends.  This required more time than expected.  

After the trim we needed to install the drip edge on the gable ends too.  That went well, but the design of the slope ends for the shed didn't have an extended overhang so I needed to come up with a drip edge. 

The drip edge that we used on the gable ends was only a couple of inches wide not leaving much for nailing and way to little for the side drip edges.  We experimented with a plastic drip but this didn't work so I sent Brent to Lowes to get the drip that we used before but he came back with a wider right angled piece of aluminum.  

It didn't work as is but with Brent's suggestion of bending the L shape to fit, I tried it and it proved to be an excellent drip edge.  It made a great edge to set our shingles to and gets the water that comes off the roof a few inches off the side of the shed.

Then it was time to put tarpaper on the roof while Brent worked on the lower trim.

Lastly as time was ticking away and wanting to leave for home by 3:00 pm, Brent and Manina had a party to go to and the roof was not yet done.  

The decision was made not to leave Brent with the roof unfinished knowing he doesn't like heights and wouldn't have a solution of getting the roof completed if I left, so I stayed and decided to go home Monday.

I worked into the evening trimming the door frame and making the door parts.  I didn't get a chance to assemble the door and hang it, so I left Brent the parts for him to do.  Went out for pizza at 8:00 pm.

Back then at Brent's house to pack the pickup for travel home tomorrow.

Shed Building Day 4

With all the individual rafters ready to go up from yesterday I finished adding the studs to the back of the front.  Each stud is notched to fit around the rafter taking time. 

We added the rafters from the back forward using a piece of strapping to hold the top of the rafters in place.

When we got to the end at the front above the door, we put two temporary 2x4's up to keep the heavy assembly from tipping and falling off the top.

As we added the rafters from the back we also added the loft joists and then added the floor for the loft giving us a place to work off of and that helped.

Then on to sheathing the roof.  Here Brent is putting in the screws we used to hold the roof to the rafters.

Below the roofline we put the tr board up which also gives a place to rest the plywood when putting up the lower shhts on both sides.

While Brent is screwing down the roof, I am cutting the trim boards for the gable ends that need to go up before the tar paper and drip edges.

By end of today we are not done with the project.  We are about one day behind schedule, so I will be extending my stay and working on Sunday and driving home later than expected.

We need to get the trim and shingles on and hopefully the doors and the Brent can finish up the rest.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Shed Building Day 3

 Heavy rain came down over night and this morning it was still pouring.  The good news was that rain should be over by noon and we should be able to work this afternoon.

We went to Rainbow Play Structures to allow Avery and her friend AJ time to play inside due to the rain.  Rainbow gets $6.00 per child for 2 hours of play on their large sales floor.  

After lunch at Jersey Mike's, Brent and I were pulling out the tools and uncovering the lumber to work this afternoon.

Today we put siding on the front, built the rafters and layed out the from gambrel and started making and installing the the studs to it.

Overall we were glad for the sunny warmer weather this afternoon and the opportunity to stage to put up the rafters tomorrow, roof sheathing, and hopefly some shingles.

In addition to the roof I need to build the double doors and hang them.  Brent has to install the trim boards and do the remainder of the painting after I leave, and he may need to do the shingles or finish them if we get started.  We would have had plenty of time to complete this in 4 days if we hadent run into rebuilding the block foundation that took 3 extra hours and lost a half of a day today.

Tonight we all went out to eat Mexican and then a ice cream before Brent and I went to Lowes for the last of the 2x4's we need and the roof sheathing.

When I come back in August I will be helping with power for the shed.

Day 4 of shed building tomorrow.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Trip Learning 7 - Safety On The Trip

One of the more common questions I received on and after the trip were related to my safety.

I never worried about my safety on the trip except for the time I was hiking Finger Rock Trail in Tucson and I was so far up and out that I didn't see anyone for 4 hours.  I wondered if something happened if I could have found a way to get out as there was no cell service for a good part of the trip.

As for camping, boondocking in BLM Lands, or staying over in casino parking lots, truck stops, Walmart parking lots and rest areas.  I never worried about my safety or even thought of it.  

A question I got more than once was did I lock the campervan doors all the time.  The answer was no.  In fact I would generally lock my doors but there were times when I woke up in the morning and noticed I didn't lock the doors the night before.

Although I didn't worry or concern myself about safety, should not be construed that I didn't think safety was important.  

For example I would only go to ATM's during the mid-day and only to a large bank like Bank of America & Wells Fargo.  I minimized my chances of brewing a victim on how I conducted myself.

I didn't typically go out at night other than malls to attend a movie and even this I would go in the afternoon.

I don't wear expensive clothing or Jewelery and my 1994 camper didn't leave the image that I had money.  There were plenty if people I met on the road that obviously had money.

I always hiked trails by myself.  From time to time I would meet up with someone else and hike with them if they were going the same way.  I would be asked aren't you afraid to hike by myself?  My answer was no.  I thought about the question but I felt I would never hike if I waited to find someone else to do it with.  Heck I was on the trip by myself and I needed to be willing to do everything if I expected to do what I wanted to do on the trip.

There is a blog at Zcheap RV Living that offers tips on safety  

I recommend that anyone that travels as I did alone should take what precautions as they see fit to stay comfortable and safe.  

I had a woman I met in Florida on the first month that told me that I should bring a handgun with me and I told her my gins were at home.  She made sound that my failure to bring on of my guns was a mistake.  I told her that I didn't to feel it necessary to have a gun to feel safe.  It is very rare that such situations occur that one needs a gun.  Yes it is possible but I actually felt that there was a greater risk for being found out that I was carrying a gun in a state without proper licensing.

One of my major goals on the trip was to meet all kinds of people.  That includes all walks of life and economic ability.

I met people with little to nothing for income.  How I looked, conducted myself and what and how i said what I wanted, all gave a modest appearance.  I was approached by many looking for money and for the ones I helped by giving money, I would only give the max of $5.00.  I would always say that I hoped what I gave them would help their circumstances.

I believe my modist appearance, mostly in shorts and tee shirt each day, was my best safety defense.  It als helped not going out at night much,  and staying out of known bad neighborhoods. 

Even with what I did, I was still a victim of crime when my bicycle on the back of my campervan was stolen in a commuter parking lot at a community college in Phoenix.

Shed Building Day 2

This morning Brent & I got started at 7:45 as we didn't want to make noise too early and disturb his neighbors.  Brent & Manina live in a housing development where houses are close together.

Since the shed is going to be about a foot from the house we needed to complete that entire side before lifting it into place.

Building the shed this way required some creativity.  After making the first rafter assembly I needed to make the wall studs to overlap the rafter with a notch.  Lots of angles and special cuts, and a few spots with chisel work.  Brent painted 3 sheets of siding yesterday for use today, as once this wall is up painting is a poor option in the narrow space.

Brent is cleaning up the sawdust after dressing the T1-11 and putting in the vent.

The wall went up with just the two of us and a couple of 2x4's as braces until the side walls that I already framed were put up to hold the end.

Here is how far we got today.  There is actually more work that has been done as prep for tomorrow.  For example I cut all the remaining rafter pieces.

The siding formed the looseness of the structure up nicely.  It also squared up the whole unit.

Tomorrow it is expected to rain all day, so  it may be a wash of a day.  We have planned to possibly assemble the rafters to get a jump on Saturday.

As of right now I am doubtful that we can complete everything on Saturday.  If not Brent will need to finish what remains.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shed Building Day 1

This shed project was planned before I left in my 3.5 month trip across the U.S.  Brent 2 has a plastic 5'x8' shed and we are replacing it with an 8'x8' gambrel shed with a twist.  Normally gambrel sheds are just over 6' high with the door fitting in the attic space.  

Brent wanted a 6' high walk-in shed with the gambrel roof on top if that.  This makes the height of the shed 10' tall. 

I took a standard 8x8 shed plan with a pitched roof and then took the 8'x8' gambrel plans and made a new set of plans that combined the features if both.

Brent & Manina started the process by joining in the community yard sale last week to reduce what is in the current shed.

Today was day 1 and we are looking at a washout on Friday we pushed ourselves today.

The first thing we did was remove everything from the plastic shed and we got inside and with the floor removed we walked it off the current location.  

We planned to reuse the current blocking to rest the new shed on but the blocks were not level and wouldn't have properly support the new shed.  This meant redoing the patio blocks to prepare for the new foundation.

The resetting of the pateo blocks to be level and spaced correctly took us at least 3 hours that delayed our building start until this afternoon.  Brent & I did split up and I formed the pressure treated foundation while he leveled the blocks

Splitting up the work was the right thing to do to make up for lost time.  I did finish befor Brent so I went to help him level blocks.

Once the blocks were level we moved the pressure treated frame in it and squared it and put the two 4'x8' sheets if pressure treated 3/4" plywood on.

Now back to lowes for the third time today for the wall framing material.  We got started with the framing before dark getting the two sides framed and piled off to the side and I laid out the rear wall while Brent stained 3 sheets if Textired 1-11 plywood siding as the shed is so close to the house to do a good job later.

Back to Lowes for the 4th time for 2x4's for the rafters tomorrow.

Tomorrow I will finish the rear framing with rafters.  Then we will put on the two rear sheets of. T1-11 and add the end rafters to it and finish the rear and then lift it into space.  With the two side walls ready to go up they will be put into place immediately.  

Then I will frame the front, add the rafters, then the roof plywood.  We will be ready for a tarp tomorrow night & rain on Friday.  Saturday we will then do the roofing and make and hang the door.

Sunday I will be on the way home to do more yard work waiting for me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

On The Road Again - Building a Shed

I am on the road traveling again until next week.  Last weekend was an overnight trip to Vermont to check and open the Camp for the season.  That trip is sbout 180 miles each way.  Today I drove to Maryland to son Brent, wife Manina & daughter Avery's house to work with him to build a 8'x8' shed.  It is 400 miles each way to his house and I am now driving my Tacoma pick up truck.

Today I arrived at 3:30 pm and after Brent's gourmet burger for dinner he was out to his brew club meeting and I got quality time with granddaughter Avery and daughter in-law Manina with a trip to the park.  Finally, reading 2 books before Avery's bedtime.

By now I am sure you can tell that I enjoy travel and driving.  In the am it will be a trip to the home center for our first trip fot supplies.  The first trip will be for the floor materials.  Later another trip for the wall material.  The day after tomorrow we should be picking up the roof and trim materials to finish the project.

This is the general plan but we will be making it with higher walls to allow for more storage.  We will also be using 16" on center vs 24" on center to strengthen the structure.

I will try to remember to take photos as we go to show the progress.

Rain is expected Friday so we will have to work hard on Wednesday & Thursday to allow for slack time Friday.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Trip Learning 6 - One Economy

When I was in in California in February the conversation there was on the prolonged drought they were having.  Cattle ranchers were selling off their cattle and vineyards were expected very low crop yields or possibly none.

We on the east coast don't generally see this as our problem.  We are removed from the daily news of it.  Some people feel a sense of so what.  They chose to live in that state.

The reality is we have one economy and when a significant segment of our economy is doing poorly we all suffer.  This is more true when it comes to food as we all have to eat and eating is a large part of our family budget.

When there is a large scale problem like the drought in CA we sre all impacted by their disaster as all, yes all our food prices go up.  Small scale problems are generally absorbed by the economy without a significant issue.  

So we are all paying for the drought in CA and will for the foreseeable future.  We can't look at problems such as this as not our problem.  

There are also secondary impacts to the economy from these farms not buying the same things,  they can't employ local and migrant workers.  These people then can't buy the way they normally do resulting in micro economies having difficulties.

Now let me toss out there the question of this drought being possibly caused by global warming.  What if this problem presists for some time to come or what if the weather never recovers and we have a permanent change.  

I learned on my trip that we are all economically linked in some way and what is bad for one it is bad for another.  Even if the Fedeal Government steps in to help the farmers, the help comes from us in the form of taxes.

The other thing we must remember is that the people that are impacted are real people with all the things in their lives that  we have.

So, when you see or read about the continuing drought out west remember we are all affected by it even if it is raining here.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Trip Learning 5 - Thank The Farmers

As I drove by so many farms in every state, I became very thankful for what farmers provide all of us and was very happy that they do it.

From farms that were big or small and all the variety that they provide, farmers don't get the gratitude  they deserve for what they do.  

As a society, we are so far removed from our food chain that it scares me to think what would happen if we don't keep our farms.  

Denise and I support our Farmer's Market that they hold across the street on the Town Common.  When we are in Vermont at our camp we visit both the Hardwick and Montpelier Farmer's Markets on Friday and Saturday, respectively.  After my trip I have even a greater appreciation for the food products that our Nation's farmers bring to the market.  Buying local produce may be a few more pennies than the grocery store, it is generally a better quality product.  Who doesn't like the garden grown tomato vs the tasteless hothouse ones in the grocery chain.  Quality!  Not only quality but what about the car on footprint of the hothouse tomato.  How much fuel did it take to get to the store.  

It's Farmers Market season and you have a choice on what you buy and where you buy it.  

This is not to take away from the farmers that mass produce our food as this is necessary in cities and all of us in other seasons.  

While sitting in a restaurant in Illinois farm country, near where I took the picture above, a farm family came in for a Friday night meal out.  They sat a few booths from me and they seemed to be regulars based on the conversation they had with the waitress.  My mind began to drift as I sat by myself with my dinner thinking of what their life was like.  What time did they get up this morning?  What kind of produce comes from their farm? What was their day like?  What work still needs to be done when they get home tonight?  And so on.

My mind began to shift to placing myself in their shoes and would I have opted for this way of life?  Even if I had been brought up farming, would I have stayed to help manage the family farm?  My mind said no but I wanted to say yes, but I knew that this farm life isn't for everyone.  I then thought what if we didn't have enough young people to keep the farms going?  What would happen?  

Then I thought how loosely organized the systems of getting farm products to the store and then to the plate on the table.  Somehow food gets from the farm to the distributor to the store to the customer.  There is no source organizing food delivery systems.  It has grown from the local markets to large farms to large distribution systems to grocery stores everywhere.  Somehow it all happens!

Oh, I am so glad that we have farmers that put their hearts and souls into their work. This is an appreciation that grew from my trip.

The next time you have a chance go to a farmer's market and talk to the people that sell the products. Ask them about their life as a farmer and find out about their produce.  Many are more than willing to have you as a regular customer.  Some farmers these days sell shares (CSA) to their farm to help stabilize their  income.  Denise and I can't take advantage of weekly produce for a one time fee due to our schedules but we would if we could.

We all need to be a little bit closer to where our food comes from to respect how much work goes into getting it to your table.

This link helps explains about CSA's.

Check out Westminster's Farmers Market webpage.


Massachusetts Grown...and Fresher!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Trip Learning 4 - Managing Varying Prices

When I left on my trip back in January gasoline prices were relatively low and by the time I returned 3.5 months later prices had risen substantially.  From past experience I know not to buy gas in Connecticut and to limit buying gas in California.  Connecticut is a relatively small state so I didn't have to buy gas there, but my travel route in California I wasn't so lucky.  

I have been asked what the cheapest gas was and what the most expensive was.  The cheapest was South Carolina at $2.98 in late January on my way to Florida.  The most expensive was in California at $4.69 later in my trip.  

Traveling back and forth to CA from AZ I would stop for fuel in AZ before crossing into CA and hold off buying gas until back in AZ.  It can easily be $.50 per gallon difference.

After I got my Good Sam card I planned my fuel stops at Pilot and Flying-J truck stops.  Truck stops are generally cheaper, so stopping at one of these sruch stops was a better deal.

In the San Diego, CA area I found gas at $4.17 when other stations were much higher.

I would use the Poynt Application to search for lower gas prices within a reasonable distance or by planning my route to allowing fill up at lower costs.  I would have to make the decision on how much it would cost to save a few cents per gallon.  In CA the difference could be large enough.

Most of my trip I bought and cooked my food in the camper.  Food prices did not have large fluctuations but Arazona has the lower food costs.

Generally speaking campgrounds that have the word resort in its name are higher in cost than those that don't.  I was not looking for resort locations but did try a couple.  The problem is that campground pricing are not generally listed on the internet with the exception of state, county, and National Parks.  This makes it hard to plan ahead unless you call and ask what their pricing was.  In FL I was tired and called and their pricing was over $40.00 and when I got there I negotiated a lower price to stay in an overflow area.  Most campers are not like me staying just a day and they are seasonals or weekly to get better rates.  Camping costs need planning.

I used the application AllStays to locate campgrounds, casinos, and truck stops to stay at.

As expected, gasoline is the largest variable of the trip followed by campgrounds.

AllStays gives costs using $ signs for each location.  This gives you an idea on costs but the key was seldom accurate.  It is best to call ahead.  During the winter in southern FL and AZ many state and federal campgrounds are booked way in advance and my leave you going to more expensive private campgrounds.  

What many places do not tell you is that if they are full they may have overflow available, so if the website shows full call to see if they have overflow.  I did this in Havesu City, AZ and Mesa, AZ State Parks and got in at a lower rate I just didn't have hookups.  Since I didn't need hookups it worked for me and I didn't mind paying less.

Key Details

$ 1-11   = $
$12-20  = $$
$21-30  = $$$
$31-40  = $$$$
$41+up = $$$$$

Friday, May 9, 2014

Trip Learning 3 - Recycling

When I am at home I recycle as much as I can, even though I know some recycling that the town does ends up in the landfill due to the lack of a market for the recycled product from time to time.

What disappointed me on the trip was the lack of overall recycling around the country.  I had glass, plastic, and paper but when I stopped at rest areas it was extremely rare to see any separation of trash for recycling, in one case that there was a second container it was for plastic bottles only.

Recycling was evident in one private campground in Casa Grande, AZ.  McDonalds no recycling anywhere. None at grocery stores. None at casinos.  None at gas stations/truck stops. In fact the places with large amounts of trash generally don't have recycling.

It bothered me that regardless of the attitudes of people about recycling there weren't options to recycle.

I am a firm believer of recycling as it takes less energy to reuse a commodity than making it again from raw materials.  Even if the cost of handling recycled materials off sets any gains.  The less raw materials used and less energy that produces greenhouse gasses, the better off the earth is and the better off we are in the long run.

When I visited Oceano and Monterey, CA they have banned using plastic bags at grocery stores.  This messed me up as I reused the plastic grocery bags for trash bags in the camper.  I mentioned this to Denise's cousins in Oceano and they had been doing the same and now need to buy plastic bags.

I had reusable bags in the camper but I would never remember to bring them in to the store with me and when I went to check out it was too late.  I need to start to bring in bag/s with me in all stores to try to reduce my usage even if I have to buy trash bags.  Someone must have done the numbers to show it is better for the environment.

There is so much going into our landfills that could be recycled.  I feel we are misusing our natural resources and this will only come back to bite us some day.  I I vision that there will be a day when natural resources get scarce that we will end up mining landfills for items.

A few years ago I read an article about Nantucket mining their dump.  They were doing it for space and sand.  Nantucket being an island they don't have room to just expand the landfill and with landfill operations requiring the landfill to be covered with sand it was costing the for sand they had to bring to the island from the mainland at a heavy cost.  Solution was to mine the dump and recycle what they could including the sand.  When they did this they only returned a portion of what was there and they had sufficient sand to use to cover the new landfill dumpings.

On the other hand Pembroke, MA gave up mining their landfill as it was too costly.  Someday this cost benefit will switch to being cost effective.

There is only one earth and with the current population growth rate in the world it is predicted by some that the world will reach maximum population sustainability this Centry.  Although we may be only one in the total population, saving this one earth is the key to our grand children's future.

Are you doing all you can?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Trip Learning 2 - Toll Systems

There are too many toll systems in the U.S.  E-Z Pass is good from Illinois east to Massachusetts and South through Washington D.C.  Clearly this is the largest system and having a E-Z Pass already I didn't have to do anything.

Florida's Sun Pass tolls was the most confusing.  You can get on a FL toll road and end up having to pay a toll with coin and there you sit at the toll gate looking for change not being prepared.  I went out and got a Sun Pass at CVS and it only confirmed tolls twice.  The rest of the time I drove through and I gather it didn't work.  They threaten to send a bill to your address and none came.  I was wondering if they only had rear cameras and with my bicycle off the back it couldn't read my plate.  I don't care.  It's a messed up system to say the least.

In Oaklahoma I avoided the toll road from Tulsa to Missiouri except for the last 20 miles.  I got tired of RT 66 and on to the toll road and encountered a toll booth that required $.75 for entry going east.  They have a pass system but also collect money.

My list can go on but the point is that when traveling across the country using interstate roads you run into toll roads and some give tickets or passes, others have passes, envelopes to keep track of the amount for each toll and mail the money in, others want money but you have no way of knowing the amount in advance.

The toll systems in the US are messed up.  Some interstate roads have tolls and others don't.  I didn't even know that OK had toll roads until just as I was at the road.  In FL it was worse as you get on the toll road and there was no sign to opt out of getting on the road if you didn't want to be on it.

I'm glad that most of my travels take me in one system (E-Z Pass) and you don't have to deal with the various systems that are out there.

In my view Interstates shouldn't even be toll roads.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Trip Learning 1 - I Brought Too Much Stuff

This is the first in my series of leanings on my trip.  I will continue to post each learning from the trip until I have no more to post.

Learning: I brought too much "stuff" with me.  Nearing the time when I was going to leave on the trip, I got to the point when I just tossed in items thinking that I may use them.  For example, had ordered the bike rack for the trailer hitch that met up with me in FL.  I took the trailer ball insert with me in an under seat compartment.  Why? I have no clue.  I carried this heavy item on the 13+K miles.  I'm sure it didn't help my gas Milage .

I brought too much clothing.  Shirts (polo, short sleeve, long sleeve), shoes, tee shirts, etc., fishing equipment, small blankets, and coat.

When I was in Phoenix waiting for Brianna to meet me on the trip I bought a large box from Home Depot and stuffed in stuff I had not used and shipped it home via UPS.  This was a approx. $75 expense that wasn't necessary if I had planned better.

I also brought other items that I didn't send back and never used.  

The reality was that once I got west of El Paso, TX I wore shorts, tee shirts and sandals every day I was in the warmth.  Yes every day!  Well, unless I was hiking and I wore hiking shoes in place of sandals.

I thought I was a good planner and I wasn't.

Trip Milage

Hi all,

I have been trying to settle into being at home for the last week and I am now ready to start writing my follow up blog posts.

The Milage on the trip is one of the most commonly asked questions in the last week.

I left town at 42,252.9 on the odometer 

and returned at 55,966.5 

for a total traveled during my 3.5 month trip of 13,713.6

I have to tally the fuel usage as I finalize the spreadsheet I had during the trip.

There was 105 days of travel that results in an average of 130.6 miles per day that I covered.

That's a lot of driving!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Day 102 - Part 2 - 4/28/14 Auburn,IN - More Cars

The man in the Studenaker Museum suggested that I visit Shipshewana, IN since I told him that I was headed east in US20 to see the countryside.  Shipshewana is Armish country.

I stopped at an Armish Deli to bring something home for Denise.

The man at the Studebaker Museum and I talk for nearly a half hour and he also suggested that when I get to I39 on US20 I should head south to Auburn, IN and visit the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg Automobile Museum.  I was in aware of the museum and since I don't have a schedule I added it to my day and just shortened my final destination for the day from Michigan to Indiana near the border.

This is another top notch auto museum.  Housed in the original Auburn/Cord showroom used dorvdealers to come in and not for sales.  Built in an Art Deco style it is 3 floors of automobiles, mostly the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg cars but also others.

This chart is an education by itself.  The lighting was not good for a photo but my purpose of showing is that this is the state map of Indiana showing where all the automobile manufactures were located.  Amazing!


Cord with supercharger - note the exhaust pipes out of the engine cowling.


There are so many more cars and pictures that I took but opted to give you a flavor of what was there.  I don't have time or care to take the time to elaborate the history of the cars.

They have a big car auction and gathering that takes over the small town every Lanor Day.

If you like cars also add this stop to your list.  It is about a half hour south of I80/I90.

Behind this museum is yet another one that is for trucks.  I didn't have the time to check it out.

Close up pictures.

Note the shifter on this Auburn.  It goes through the dash.  It connects in front of the engine for shifting the transmission as this was a front wheel drive.

After my dose of car nestaliga for the day it's time for dinner.  I found this diner with two young waitress.  They are clearly different and the shorter one at 22 with dark hair and small retangar glasses was quick to tell me that she didn't get along with the other in high school and stayed away from her.  She quickly replaces the image saying they are now best friends.

The other young woman is taller and light hair and 6 months pregnate seems more worldly and this was confirmed when her friend stepped outside for a cigarette and she told me of her recent travel to South Carolina.

They used to date two brothers but the dark haired one broke off her relationship, but the light hair one is still dating hers.