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Friday, May 31, 2019

Yeti 64oz. Insulated Container



It is time to switch from what didn’t work or I didn’t use to talk about something that did work and was worth the space to carry.

I was given the YETI Rambler 64oz Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Bottle with Cap as a gift for this year’s travels.

I had toyed with Nalgene water bottles in the past for making my cold tea.  I am an ice tea drinker now that I moved away from Diet Coke many years ago.  The 700ml Nalgene bottles do work but I drink so much cold tea that I was always making more tea.  Although I normally drink iced tea year round, on the road I’m good with cool tea.  During my 4 months on Travels it is generally cold to cool at night so the tea I make does not need refrigeration.



Before I left for my travels this year I did buy a neoprene sleeve for my YETI. I figured it would help regulate the temperature better. It was worth the purchase/addition to the YETI.  There are also other benefits to the sleeve in that it’s easier to grip the wide container, even with my large hands.  It’s also non slip and has a sling strap for ease of carrying.

I buy herbal tea in bulk to carry for my 4 months of travel.  I will discuss my tea in a separate blog post.  I also buy new cloth tea bags to put the herbal tea in.  The tea bags will also be a subject of a separate blog post.

I drink about 64oz. of the cold tea each day.  That means I’m making tea every day, well every night.  

The tea bag with herbal tea goes in the YETI each night and in the morning I take the tea bag out and I have my tea for the day.  I can fully wash up, including my hair on 32oz.  That means that planning my water consumption it is 1 gallon, with one quart for cooking.

The YETI was a success for making my herbal tea.

I have a 24 hour Thermos that maintains temperature better than the YETI, but the YETI does exactly what I want it to do.  I can even toss in ice when I have some through the wide mouth opening.

It was an excellent gift to receive and will travel with me next year.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com


Bonjour Coffee Press - Not Used



In an effort to share what I brought with me that worked and what didn’t work, this small (travel size) coffee press was not used on my travels.  In fact, I have carried it two years in a row in my FWC Camper and not used either year.

Yes I thought about not carrying it this past travels but it’s small and, I guess I should have put more thought into it.  It’s kind of a guest thing.  Someone may want coffee and since I don’t drink it.... well, I thought I’d be a good host.

The reality is that I hang with vandwellers and they have what they need to make their own drinks.  It’s often BYOB (bring your own beverage) when we gather.  So, after two years it’s not going again.

Just so you know, I don’t carry coffee and had thought if I wanted to use I would get some ground coffee, or make a hot tea, that I do carry.

It’s small and does not make enough tea for the copious amount of cold tea I drink.  I’ll cover cold tea under what worked.

I just gained a bit more space and saved some minuscule weight. But, it all adds up.

PS. The press is a nice size and works well with a glass cylinder and plastic sleeve. If your looking for a small press this is it.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Spiralife - Not Used Enough



I think all Vandwellers have great ideas that don’t work out, as we think they will.

I have a few items that were my great ideas that didn’t go as planned and since space, and weight is a premium, they will not take a ride with me next year.

This is a spiral cutter that you can make noodles from squash for example.  

Oh, I thought that I would be creative by making vegetable spaghetti, and although I did make it, it was more work and effort that I wished.  I did test it out at home before taking it but it still passed the I will take it as it’s small logic.

To use this device you have to have fresh squash, and you need to screw the squash into the tapered hole to start the spirals.  When you get close to the top with the end of the squash, there is a spiked cap that helps screw it farthet in.  The result is that you have a nub that doesn’t get cut into spirals.  

The Spiralife is not easy to clean either, as the squash my get stuck in the sharp holes that cut the squash.  Also, the squash noodles cook real fast so all you need to do is blanch them or they quickly over cook and wilt. I have a one burner stove so there is timing issues to cook all items.

I used it once to make pesto squash noodles and it was too much like work for the effort.  It was too hard to maintain the firmness if the squash noodles too.

It’s an ok tool but just not worth the space and time to use it on the road.  It will not be taking the cross country ride with me next year.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

End of 2019 Travels - Home in MA



Hi Folks,

I’m home.  All things come to an end, and that is true of my 2019 travels.

It’s hard to believe I have traveled for the past 6 winters.  It’s hard to believe all the places I’ve been and things I’ve seen.  All the people I’ve met and friends I’ve made.

I’ve driven over 90,000 miles in these 6 years.  

My first year was with a Chevrolet G30 Coachman campervan.  I totally disliked driving it!  Then 3 years in my Prius.  That was so fun.  The past two years in my Tacoma with Four Wheel Camper (FWC).  The truck got me places neither of the other two vehicles could get me.

This year I put on only 13,400 miles.  I say only as this is the lowest of all my yearly travels.  This reduction from 15,000 miles last year is mostly because of weather not allowing usgto travel more into the middle of Utah and that Joanne was so gracious to allow us to explore with her in her Jeep, covering so many miles.

So, what’s my plan.  I want to:

- Post about things I brought and used and didn’t use
- What worked well and what didn’t 
- What the difference is between my three travel vehicles
- What day to day life was like living in the FWC
- Review things I designed
- Discuss things I want to change.
- Yes, cover things I didn’t like - including how weather impacted the travels

Plans for next year?

I make it a policy not to say what I’ll do next year until I’m home.  I want to fully absorb the trip and decide what is next for me.  I figure one day I may be traveling in a van and I’ll come home to buying a van and doing a van build.

Well, I’m home and it’s my plan to travel again next year in my Tacoma/FWC.  I am not done checking out Southern Utah.  I just hope the weather is better next year. To let me go to higher elevations and further north.

My blog postings will be switching from regular intervals, as they are when on travels, to random, based on me pulling information together.  Summer is when I switch to focusing on maintaining the house.  Fall I start dreaming of my 2020 Travels again.

Many thanks to those that follow the blog.  Statistics show that my Prius Travel blog posts garnish the most interest by page views.  I will also review statistics so you can see which posts are the most popular of the over 170,000 page views I’ve had in 6 years.

Since blogspot may or may not allow me to answer posts please feel free to write me directly to my email address below.

I am grateful for my friends I travel with from time to time, and their wonderful company.  Of course I’m thankful to a few friends that inspire and positively challenge me.  

If you ever thought about solo travel, the first to remember is you have to be good with self first.  You can’t rely on others for happiness.  For me happiness comes in small ways.  Simple things.  

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Little Free Library- Complete!



My MD son asked me last summer, during the family visit to MA,  to work with my oldest granddaughter (GD) to build a Little Free Library (LFL).  So, my GD and I had a design meeting.  I found out she knew exactly what she wanted.  Right down to shape of building, one slot for large books, and the other side two slots.  One for small books and one for medium size books.



I have plenty of scrap wood at the house so we took her design and we built her Little Free Library.

I did have to buy the hinges and latches, as well as plexiglass for the window.

I brought it to MD and left it there last fall and my son had the two GDs sand and paint it this spring.

When I arrived the last week of my trip, I had already been asked to help mount it in their yard.



After a trip to Home Depot for building supplies, my son and I tackled the build of the post.  They live where the library loans tools for building things, so there was a library trip to get a post hole digger.



Putting the post in was a collaboration by both of us.

I reminded him of our family tradition of putting pennies in the setting concrete.  At my house in MA I had a project with cement when both son’s were young.  They put pennies in and handprints.

Here my son found pennies with dates of each family member’s birth year.



With my son at work and GD at school, I took the painted LFL and mounted it to the post, completing the project.



It’s done! Well, I anticipate my son will paint the post, but before I left for home on May 1, he had ordered and registered the MacAloney Little Free Library.

My GDs have donated books and others have as well.  

While visiting my youngest GD preschool they had a LFL I found some interesting wine travel books to browse while waiting to see my GD’s class.

For more information about the Little Free Library program please visit https://littlefreelibrary.org/

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Ridge Trail - Patapsco Valley State Park



Not far from my oldest son’s home in MD is Patapsco Valley State Park.  On my way home from my yearly travels, I stop and see the family for a week.  When the family are busy during the weekdays, I branch out to do some things in the area.  This state park is quick to get to and provides for an interesting hike.



Although I was on the Ridge Trail the hillside has a network of trails.



If you run out of gas don’t look to this pump in the woods. Once trash it now is probably an antique.



There are a couple old buildings in the woods along the trail too.



In the spring there are multiple streams but usually only one running down the hill in the summer.



This is the Patapsco River.  This river and upstream locations have flooded a few times in the past years.  The bent over trees indicate the height of the water.



This was a significant hike st 7.5 miles.  The elevation change wasn’t bad either.



Above is the trail route that I took.

It generally costs to get in the state park but they were doing construction on the road and were not collecting.

Note that there are no trash receptacles.  A purposeful decision by the State of Maryland.  I don't agree with no trash bins as I have to drop my trash off at McDonald’s when I get my iced tea after my hike.  

It’s still a good hike if your in the area.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com

Friday, May 10, 2019

Grayson Highlands State Park, VA


(Above is from a Google search)

After leaving Damascus, VA, LL from NC showed me Grayson Highlands State Park, not far away, still in VA.

I was pleasantly surprised by this visit.


(Google map capture)

We parked at the overnight backpackers parking area for a hike.  This is a wonderful spot to park a few days for lining this part of the Appalachian Trail.  In fact it is close enough to Damascus to leave a car at both ends to hike from one end to the other.

Note on the map above that the pin drop that says unnamed road is where the Appalachian Trail intersects the spur Trail.



As noted above we hiked the Appalachian Spur Trail up the mountain to where it intersects the Appalachian Trail.



The area is noted for having the look of the Scottish Highlands, and it does.



Here we meet up with the Appalachian Trail. 



We loop back down the mountain to the parking lot where we parked.  There were some nice spots along the trail to make overnight camp.

Since writing about the AT, I have had people tell me about friends and relatives that have through hiked the AT.  This State Park would be a great place to meet you support team that brings you new boots, food and a clean shirt and plan the next restocking point.

The scenery was so different here than in Damascus, and it is attributed to elevation.  Heading back to NC seemed like it was all down hill.

This ends my side adventure with LL from NC.  There was plenty to see and I didn’t capture everything on my 3 days 2 night tour.  Most of all, I got to see some of the North Carolina Appalachian Mou gains and the AT Trail in the Damascus area.  

You don’t have to be a through hiker to enjoy hikes where I have been.  It is worth the time to check out the area.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Art Inspired Church, Linville, NC



My friend LL from NC and I were headed from Linville Gorge to Damascus, VA and we decided to check out this uniquely built church in Linville, NC.

This was no ordinary church as it was built by a famous designer out of Chestnut.  It is also no ordinary photo.  After I took the picture with the rising, morning sun through the belfrie LL noticed the orb in the photo.

The following description is from: https://www.ecva.org/exhibition/acs/linville_1.html

“In the late 1880’s the town of Linville was created in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina as a resort. Several of the original buildings were designed by architect Henry Bacon, the designer of the Lincoln Memorial, and constructed of American chestnut in a simple style of natural, native materials. The last structure to be built of Bacon’s design was All Saints Episcopal Church.

Commissioned in 1910, the church was completed in 1913. It is basically a log structure laid out as a Roman cross. The roof beams of the open ceiling, the rood screen, and the altar rails are of unstripped logs and branches. The walls were covered inside and out with chestnut bark shingles. The style of All Saints Church and the other buildings by Henry Bacon became known as the "Linville Style" and is typical of the architecture in the area.”

It was built before Chestnut Blight.  

Description

“The pathogenic fungus Cryphonectria parasitica is a member of the Ascomycota taxon. It is native to South East Asia and was introduced into Europe and North America in the 1900s. The fungus spread rapidly and caused significant tree loss in both regions.” Wikipedia

Not stated here by Wikipedia is that; We have lost most of our North American Chestnut population and it is figured that we will have no more Chestnut at some point in our future.

The story about Chestnut Blight has been in the news lately.  After visiting this church there was a NPR podcast on “How GMOs Might Save The American Chestnut”

You can listen to this podcast in the following link.

https://www.wbur.org/npr/718391784/gmos-genetics-ethics-chestnut-tree

This proposal to save the American Chestnut doesn’t come without some controversy.  Researchers supported by Monsanto have been able to genetically alter the tree species to resist the blight.

Now the question is is this the right thing to do?  You decide after listening to the podcast.



From the picture above you can see the chestnut tree bark pieces for the siding.

The door has a wonderful ornate piece of hand-forged hinges.



Stained glass at the east end shines bright colors during morning services.



I’m able to get a picture of the front without the sun in the picture.

It’s things like this little church made from American Chestnut, over 100 years ago, gives beauty from choice of material and of simple design intrigue me and makes the suggestion by LL to stop to visit more than just seeing a church.

Little did we know at the time of our visit that a controversy about the future of our native Chestnut Trees was brewing.

I have to say that we all face so many issues about our environment.  Animals and plants brought between continents have created many problems.  In MA where I live, indigenous plants are being crowed out by invasive species.  We are using up natural resources faster than ever.  Pollution is ever growing and impacting us in many ways.  The ice caps are melting faster than ever. Recycling is not what it should be.  New UN report “One million species at risk of extinction, UN report warns” is the title by National Geographic https://www.google.com/amp/s/relay.nationalgeographic.com/proxy/distribution/public/amp/environment/2019/05/ipbes-un-biodiversity-report-warns-one-million-species-at-risk

We need to look for solutions and GMO of the Chestnut Tree is one attempt to solve the loss of one species.  I listened to the arguments on both sides of the issue on the podcast.  I don’t know the right answer but I do know we need to doing something to save our world for future generations.

Who would have thought that stopping at an Art inspired church would have yielded such a blog.  As you can tell I listen to a lot of podcasts.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com



Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Damascus, VA / Appalachian Trail


(Above photo from Google Maps)

I have wanted to stop and see Damascus, VA for a few years now after researching the Appalachian Trail and learning about the AT festival there.

In the picture above note the green pin drop for the AT headed south.  Then note the blue pin to the right for the AT headed north.

My NC friend made this stop on our tour of the northwest corner of NC.  Damascus is right over the state line in VA.  We took a brief hike from the green pin drop for the AT.

We saw a number of people that look like through AT hikers coming into town

The following is about the small town of Damascus for reference.

“Damascus is the home of the annual Trail Daysfestival, and is known as Trail Town USA due to the convergence of four scenic trails in the town, including the Appalachian TrailU.S. Bicycle Route 76, The Iron Mountain Trail, and the Virginia Creeper Trail. Damascus also is on the route of the Daniel Boone Heritage Trailand the Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail. The Trail Days festival is held around the middle of May each year and draws in excess of 20,000 tourists, making it the largest single gathering of Appalachian Trail hikers anywhere.[5]




After breakfast at a nice breakfast/lunch place we parked at the park next to the rail trail that cuts through town perpendicular to the north/south AT.

This am the following mural are along a railroad siding building that remains after the tracks were removed.



Here is the other mural.  With less than 1000 residents the town is small, but grows for their upcoming festival.



Here is the rail trail that is multi purpose.

The town has restaurants, small shops, B&B’s and stores that cater to hikers that pass though here.  

If your lucky enough to be able to attend Trail Days it is coming up on May 17, 18, 19.  Here is a link to the webpage.  http://www.traildays.us/

Happy Hiking,

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com


Sunday, May 5, 2019

Linville Gorge, NC Up Close



My NC friend was doing a great job of forestry road navigation in my Tacoma / FWC navigation on somevery rutted roads.  Some spots were so steep and although dry, I was slipping with the weight of my camper.  I put it in 4x4 and climbed the hills without slipping.

In the back of my head I thought I may break another FWC tie down bolt with the twisting and turning and transgressing bump/ruts, but in the end I didn’t.

We drove the Forest Service Ridge Road opposite Table Rock and The Chimneys to take these pictures and take the short hike to the river.




The walk to the river was quite busy with others for a weekday.  



If you look closely in the center of the picture above there is an orange cone.  Behind it the observation platform is cluttered with debris from one point in time when there was high water.

That must have been some high water.



Right after the last picture the water rushes down and around this rock.

In the pool up stream there were some folks in the water.  It wasn’t that warm!



A hike down stream and up the canyon wall you come to this view of the waterfall.

My NC friend and I only sampled the available hiking trails in the area.  There are a lot more to explore.

The area of Linville Gorge is worth a longer stay in the future.  I could see at least 2 more days.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina



I’ve had a mild fascination with the lower Appalachian Mountains and the Appalachian Trail (AT).  I have been to the southern end of the AT to see it.  I have camped at a National Park Campground in Bryson City, NC.

The problem I faced was I really didn’t know where to go and what to see.  This year I was going to do more looking in NC, and then I met a vandweller that lives in NC who offered to show me areas they knew I would like.

I had planned a few days between leaving Alabama and arriving in Maryland.  The timing couldn’t have been better.



We went to Pisgah National Forest to hike from Table Rock to The Chimneys along the ridge.  The weather had cleared and it couldn’t be better for a hike.



Above is the parking lot with Table Rock in the background.  The road up here was very rough from the winter weather.  4x4 was helpful in places.



You can disburse camp on the ridge too.



The views along the hike were amazing.



Spring was everywhere with flowers lining the trail.  It was nice to catch this rhododendron with table rock in the background.



Wild irises were in full bloom.



More flowers with alThe Chimneys in the background.



The views looking off into the distance made for a pleasant view.



Looking south down the Linville Gorge..



Looking north in the Linville Gorge, and the Linville River shining in the center.

What a wonderful day with the drive, hike, touring the area with a new friend.

I’m so glad I had the time to stop to see and smell the spring flowers in NC.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com

Friday, May 3, 2019

Cathedral Caverns State Park, Woodville, AL



Another soggy day at the SE GTG and that makes it a great day to tour a cave just south of Scottsboro, AL.



I met my oldest son and family at the Cathedral Caverns State Park in Woodville, AL.  They are on vacation and we coordinated to meet here for an activity.




Of caves I have seen, this is a good cave with lots to see.



The tour takes you way into the cave and past many interesting formations.



My two granddaughters had a great time.



The concrete walkway makes thecwalk east, yet long.



There is well placed backlighting.



Plenty of pillars where stalagmites meet stalag tights.



Thousands of years of dripping.



Here are broken stalagmites.  Not only broken but also shifted indicating a possible earthquake.



They call this bacon for its color.

There are plenty of more pictures, so if you go you can’t say my blog showed everything that was there.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com