Travel Tidbits

While traveling I’m always on the lookout for interesting places and things. Place names are especially fun. Did you know there is a Hot Coffee, Mississippi?  It’s actually an abandoned hamlet that used to be a rest stop for travelers going from Natchez to Mobile. It has lots of signs still and is a roadside attraction/photo opportunity.

There is one person I met who I want to mention. I have never found the courage to go up to someone who looks like they might be a fellow nomad until this trip. I was at a rest stop somewhere in New Mexico. There was a woman in the car in front of me who was rearranging things in the car. Looked like she had a whole home in there. So I took a deep breath, walked over and said hello to her dog. (Always a great conversation starter) We chatted a bit and I asked her if she was indeed a nomad. Well…that started a half hour talk. She told me about living in India and Mexico and I told her my story. She designs and creates jewelry and hand knit bikinis and has a children’s line. I told her about my books and she was interested in them. We talked about selling our own products, she mentioned she was starting a website and offered to put a link on it to my books!  We exchanged info and promised to stay in touch. Thus a friendship is born.

Being an introvert all my life, it’s been hard for me to make long lasting friends. I have a few who I always turn to for companionship, but I admit, most of my friendships are casual.  However, I believe I am getting much better at it.  Having a common subject to talk about is a great thing. And when it’s somewhat unusual, like being a nomad, it’s even wonderful.

One way I made a few friends here at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous was through yet another car problem. Somewhere along the way I must have picked up a nail in a tire. It was quite flat after sitting a couple of days. There is a group of guys across the road from me who all offered many suggestions. One has an air pump, which he gave to me to use to inflate the tire so I could go into town and get it repaired. I pumped it myself, which, being older gentlemen,  they all thought was crazy. (They should have done it for me, ya know.) But my independent streak got the better of me and I persevered. I might get a pump myself, it’s great exercise.

 

 

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Ohio Exploring

I often drive south down Highway 33 out of Fort Wayne to get to Interstate 75 to go visit family in Cincinnati. I always knew that 33 continued on past the exit onto the interstate, but I never knew where it went. This time I was going to find out.

It begins at Wapakoneta, OH where the Neil Armstrong museum is located. I didn’t see it this trip because I was there decades ago with a Girl Scout Troop of which I was a leader.

Eventually it goes through Wayne National Forest, the only National Forest in Ohio. Since I do love a good forest, I stopped for the night at a trailhead. It was great because it was the beginning of an OHV trail and had a restroom. I had to look up what OHV stood for. Turns out it’s Off Highway Vehicles, what I always called Off Road. ATV’s, Dune Buggies, Dirt Bikes, and the like. What I found annoying was that they ride at night. There I was trying to enjoy a movie on my DVD player at 1o:00 pm and in comes a trailer full of ATV’s. I finally fell asleep to the sound of racing motors. And they were gone in the morning, so I guess they got some sleep, too.

Stopped at Old Man’s Cave, which you can read about here.

Then I drove on to Athens, Ohio. It’s the home of Ohio University. Lovely little town. It has a bike trail that extends for miles along the Hocking River. And I visited the Kennedy Museum of Art on campus. That’s it at the top of this post. It was built in the mid 1800’s as an insane asylum and used as such until the early 1960’s. The history is that it is located on a farm and the residents were encouraged to do farm work as therapy. The doctors believed being outdoors in the sunshine was good medicine. I agree. Still is!

The main exhibit right now is Navajo blankets. There are about 50 dating from the 1800’s to the present. Some amazing images are woven into these blankets. I learned a lot, since I had no idea that landscapes and scenes of daily living can be hand- woven into a blanket.

  

Then I continued on down Hwy 33 til I got to the Ohio River. Apparently if goes on into West Virginia and ends up at Richmond, VA. I didn’t go that far. I wanted to travel the Scenic Byway roads again that I was on last spring. They follow the Ohio River across the entire state, and continue along the bottom border of Indiana.

I have an affinity for rivers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like lakes, I enjoy the ocean, but rivers are special. I think it’s because they “travel”, like me. Or maybe it’s because I grew up in cities where rivers played a big part. In Dayton we lived close to the Stillwater River and often went to a park that run along it. And in Michigan I lived in Three Rivers, which had…3 rivers…one of which was a block from our house. I would go back in the woods by the Rocky River when I needed some alone time. And in Fort Wayne, when I had the apartment, I was right next to the St Joseph River and spent many hours wandering the Rivergreenway.

During this journey I experienced the Great American Eclipse. I sat on top of a hill in a wildlife area in another section of Wayne National Forest. I was on the top of a hill in the parking lot of a small country church. Didn’t get dark but the light changed, sort of like everything was pastel. And the wind suddenly stopped right at the moment of totality.  It felt like the temperature changed;  cooler even thought the thermometer didn’t show it. Just different enough to be eerie.

So now I’m heading back to civilization to go mooch off some family for awhile.

Safety First

How safe is it to travel alone?

Actually, pretty safe. One thing I saw over and over during my research phase was that Rv’rs and truckers are the friendliest and most helpful people on the road. If you ever need anything, ask a nomad!

But there are several tips about being safe on the road. Here’s my list.

  1. Remember the RV maxim – “My house has wheels.” Pay attention to your intuition. If a place looks dicey, if a person seems dangerous, listen to your inner safety director and leave. Keep your keys with you, even when you sleep.
  2. Be prepared. Remember the first aid kit, extra flashlight and batteries. But even if you forget something,  getting supplies is easy. I think every small town with a population of at least 500 a has dollar store. And a Subway!
  3. When you don’t want to pay for a campground or motel, truck stops are good for parking overnight. And, as I’ve said before, Walmart welcomes travelers for overnight stays. Both are well lit and since they’re open 24 hours there are always people around.
  4. Use your electronics.  Get the apps that will help you. I use Allstays which pinpoints on a map all the places an RV or camper can spend a night, campgrounds, Walmarts, truck stops, etc. It includes reviews by other users so you can pick the one that best suits you. For directions, use Google maps or Waze.
  5. Pay attention to the weather. Be aware of severe conditions by using the weather app on your phone or other devices. Most them have weather maps you can use to determine which direction to go in.
  6. If it’s hot, stock up on water. Your air conditioning won’t help you if you get out of the vehicle. Always carry a water bottle with you when exploring.
  7. And speaking of exploring, know your limits. Unknown territory is always risky, even if it looks easy. Tree roots, mud holes, and sticker bushes are plentiful everywhere. Use a walking stick or pole. It helps when going up and down steep hills. Wear walking or hiking shoes or boots, long pants, and sleeves, even when on a path.
  8. When you’re traveling, always let someone know where you are. I text a sister and a daughter every night and tell them where I’m staying.
  9. Cell phone coverage is NOT continuous throughout the country. Carry a hotpsot from a different company than your phone or a cell booster.. To find out about using electronics while traveling I think a good source is the blog of  Technomadia.com. They are a nomadic couple who run an online business specializing in this field.
  10. And if you’re afraid of being mugged out there in the wilderness, just remember: criminals are not going to go wandering around in the woods to find someone to rob, they’ll stay in the city where there’s big opportunity for little effort.

So that’s my list. If you have anything to add, please do so in the comments. I love hearing your ideas and suggestions.

Getting My Kicks on Route 66

I had a picnic lunch here, a restored 1950’s gas station.

I recently spent most of a day driving along “The Mother Road.” That’ s what they call Route 66, a now defunct highway that is a legend of Americana.

Route 66 was created in 1926 as a direct route from Chicago to Los Angeles. It was heavily used until the interstates became the faster, more popular way to get across the country. But people who loved the Road still used it until 1985 when the last section was decommissioned by the government. It now is mainly a historical by-way that is not an actual numbered highway.  To drive the whole way you must use roads built later that run alongside the original road, now badly dilapidated and overgrown.  Also many sections are gone entirely and you need to go onto parts of the interstates that replaced it.

I went to a museum in Pontiac, IL that has several rooms full of information.  Exhibits contain items that come from places along the route, including Steak and Shake which began as a Route 66 roadside diner.

          

There are many people that are associated with Route 66. One guy, Bob Waldmire, was known as an advocate for the road. Bob actually grew up living on the route. His parents owned a diner in Springfield, IL. (Side fact: his father is credited as inventing corn dogs.) He watched the cars going off to faraway places  and decided he wanted the adventure, too. He traveled it for 20 years, working as an artist. Many route maps are illustrated by him. He drove a VW bus made into a camper van and was considered an old hippie. (yes, there are others besides me LOL)

Bob was the inspiration for the character “Fillmore”, the VW van,  in the Pixar movie CARS.  You do know that movie is about Route 66 and how the small towns were bypassed by the interstates, right?

I also learned about “walldogs.” These are the people who paint the giant advertisements on the sides of buildings. They worked along Route 66 a lot and, of course, all over the country. This is a fascinating subject that I am thinking about incorporating into the novel I’m writing. Being a walldog is an ideal job for one of the characters. More details will follow in a few days on my writing blog.  

Interestingly, there was nothing at this museum about the TV show, “Route 66, that was popular in the 1960’s. I thought it might be mentioned, but I guess they wanted only factual information. There are other museum along the road and maybe they have something on the show.

All in all, I drove about 80 miles north from Genoa, IL to Joliet. Route 66 actually begins/ends in Chicago, but I didn’t feel like driving in the city. I really want to drive the whole route, but for now, parts of it is all I can manage. But someday…

 

By the Bay

” A foggy day….in London Petosky town…”

Driving across northern Michigan, I came across some old familiar names. Stoney Lake, rings a bell but I don’t know why. (There’s a Lutheran Camp there, did I go to it?) Interlochen, home of a famous music and arts camp. Boyne Mountain. I think I went skiing there once.  The city of Petosky. Home of the famous Petosky stone.

It was a dreary, foggy morning, but I wanted to get some more pictures of the Lake. Petosky is on Little Traverse Bay but still….

I ended up in Bayfront Park, a city park that includes a marina.

It also has a 23-mile bike trail running through it, going around the bay from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs. The Little Traverse Wheelway.

  

The park is amazingly beautiful. The waterfall above is just one of the elements. Here’s another.

There’s a bridge over a creek.

This stairway goes up to the highway above the park. Yes I climbed it!

The pond along the bikeway.

   

Some of the structures were lovingly built by the residents of Petosky (Petoskians? Petoskyites?)

   

And of course there’s the birds. We always referred to them as seagulls, but maybe they are lakegulls? Anyone out there know for sure?

   

I’ve been trying to conserve money, but Walmarts are few and far between in this neck of the woods. Ah! There’s one in Cheboygan.  (Cheboygan was always one my favorite words to say, hehe)

 

Great Lakes Memories

Today I made it over to Lake Michigan. I used to go there when I was young. We would swim at Warren Dunes and climb the sand hills. Occasionally ride a dune buggy.

Visited Little Sable Point at Silver Lake State Park. Went out to the light house.

It was great to feel the sand under my feet again.

Then I drove through the town of Silver Lake. There was an event going on called the “Jeep Invasion.” I bet I saw a thousand jeeps and four wheel drive vehicles. No kidding! I felt inadequate. LOL.

My roaming then  took me through the Manistee National Forest and on into Cadillac where I stayed at a Walmart. I bless Sam Walton for being an RV’er and giving his blessing to anyone who wants to park overnight in a Walmart parking lot. Most of the stores let you , but some don’t, so asking first is a good idea.

Heading North

I have come to Michigan for several reasons. To regain a bit of my youth – I lived in Three Rivers through High School and went to College in Kalamazoo. To experience the joy of the woods. To see something new.

My first destination was Huron National Forest. I love the National Forests because they are such a mixture of woods and small towns. And there are many little areas designated to scenic views and/or education.

One I found is the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary. It has a guided trail with many stops that describe the vegetation. You get a self-guided tour map at the head of the trail.

 

There is also a cultural trail that lets you wander through a homestead from the early 1900’s. The buildings are gone except for a few foundations. It was inhabited by a famer whose daughter fell in love with and married an artist, Albert Schmidt, in Europe. The wedding caused the family to miss their voyage back home – on the Titanic! – and the father was so grateful that he built a studio on his property for his son-on-law.

I’m at Brower Park Campground on the Muskegon River. It smells so good! There are pine trees all around my campsite. Some birch and oak, too. I do love a good forest.

Growing up in Michigan meant that if you didn’t live on a lake or river, you knew someone who did. Swimming was second nature to us. And fishing. ( I was not fond of fishing, but you just don’t broadcast that sentiment.) The wildlife is abundant. I saw these one morning.

I am camping here for a couple of days and then I’ll head further north. Maybe hit the dunes one afternoon.