Sunday, December 27, 2009

Road Tested: Ratatouille With Italian Sausage











One of the greatest gifts Deb and I received this Christmas was the opportunity to prepare dishes for our family gathering in my parents full size kitchen! It was pure joy to work together without bumping into one another and have enough oven space to heat more than one recipe at a time.

But we still love cooking in our RV kitchen. It provides less space, but has improved our culinary skills through learning how to prepare great recipes using smaller appliances like an electric skillet or toaster oven. Here's another one of our favorite meals that fits well with an RV lifestyle.

Ratatouille With Italian Sausage
Ingredients:
  • 1 small to medium eggplant, cubed
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 1 green and 1/2 red pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 12 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp. tarragon
  • 1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage links
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Heat oil in an electric skillet, then saute eggplant and zucchini over medium-high heat for approx. 5 minutes. Add onions, peppers and mushrooms to mix and cook until soft. Add garlic and briefly continue to saute mix until fragrant. Remove from skillet, saving drippings for cooking sausages.
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Layer vegetable mix, tomatoes, parsley and seasonings in a 1 1/2 qt. casserole dish. Stir gently to mix.
  • Cover and bake for 35 minutes.
  • While casserole is baking, saute sausages in reserved skillet drippings until browned. Drain on paper towels until cooled. Slice sausages into 1/2 inch thick pieces and return to skillet. Cook slices 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • After vegetables have cooked for 35 minutes add sausages, pushing most down into mix, but saving some for the top. Return to oven and bake, uncovered, for an additional 20 minutes.
  • Garnish with additional parsley, if desired.

Note: Flavors improve if dish is made a day ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before reheating.

Enjoy!

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas




MERRY CHRISTMAS











"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!" - Charles Dickens

We hope that everyone has the merriest of days and that your future journeys bring unexpected blessings.
Deb & Lane
copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Journey






The Journey




When Deb and I decided to undertake this full-time RV lifestyle, we both agreed that it must be approached more as an open journey than a predetermined series of ultimate destinations. That is the primary reason we chose to title our blog Spirit Journey. In ways similar to the vision quests of Native Americans or the walkabouts of Australian Aboriginals, we set forth with open minds and spirits longing to discover the unknown and nurture the growth of our souls.

It was a leap of faith, but by taking this approach our journey has brought true blessings that most often arose in unexpected ways; a breathtaking vista of natural beauty, the vibrant colors of a simple wildflower, the genuine friendliness of local residents, time spent with family, the laughter of children around a campfire and many other joys that were not based in a destination, but were in the moments between destinations.

Here are a few quotes on this topic we hope you enjoy -
  • "The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destinations." Don Williams, Jr.

  • "Let your mind start a journey thru a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be...Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar, and you'll live as you've never lived before." Erich Fromm

  • "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." Ursula K LeGuin

  • "Too often we are so preoccupied with the destination, we forget the journey." Unknown

  • "Time is a companion that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived." Jean Luc Picard

  • "The journey is the reward." Chinese Proverb

Our hope for everyone during this special time of year is that your journey is blessed with joy and great rewards.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer

photo by Deb

Friday, December 18, 2009

Desiderata












For one reason or another, the following passage always returns to me for inspiration, reflection and a reminder of what is really important in life. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Desiderata
written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good term with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interest in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of years,
gracefully surrender the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photo by Deb

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Homogenization Of America



The Homogenization Of America












On the first of this month, Deb and I reached the sixth month point of living the full-time RV lifestyle. Over that time we have traveled through fifteen states and stayed in as many campgrounds - both public and private. Our travels have ranged from the starting point in S. Florida to as far North as Boston, then West to Indiana and finally back South to our current stop in Greenville, SC. Along the way we have seen vast and rugged natural wonders, become friends with local residents, enjoyed local cuisines and been blessed through being able to spend quality time with family. It's been a good journey so far and one that we want to continue as long as the fates allow.

But in looking back, there is one aspect of our travels that stands out in my mind: the homogenization of America's shopping corridors. No matter which state we have visited, all major population areas are dominated by the same fast food chains, big box retailers and almost clone-like shopping plazas. They all look and feel the same whether you're in the Deep South, New England or the Midwest. The local lay of the land may be different, but the overall view of this country along any major traffic route has become eerily similar.

This insight really came to light after our trip to the local WalMart a few days ago. Somehow, our conversation later turned to the various items we have purchased at WalMarts along the way. The surprising thing is that we both had to stop and think hard about which state we were in when we made the purchases. The sameness of the stores lay-outs and the sameness of the surrounding businesses blended into one big blur.

Before anyone chastises me about evils of corporate chains, understand that I am realistic enough to know they are now permanent fixtures of our society. They would not be as dominate throughout all portions of our country if they are not making big profits; and they are because the majority of our population chooses to spend money with them. Deb and I are no different. We shop at WalMart because of the prices, enjoy a hot cup of McDonald's coffee while on the road and purchase other supplies at major retailers. We know that in doing so the majority of our money will not stay in the local area, but at the same time these chains employee people, pay local taxes and provide necessary services to the community.

However, that being said, we have also made it a point along our journey to seek out the lesser known places to shop and eat - the Mom & Pop operations that are unique to an area. These have been the experiences we remember the most. We have created superb meals from purchases at Miller Meats in York, PA and Prevites Market in Weymouth, MA; we discovered the best bread-and-butter pickles since our Grandmothers made at a small fruit stand in Cave City, KY; we have enjoyed breakfasts at local, family-owned diners and devoured the best bar-b-que you will ever find at Bucky's right here in Greenville. They are all special and, at the core, the places that drive our economic engine.

We would encourage you to take the path less traveled and visit more of the lesser known places to eat and shop along the way. It makes life much richer and more directly supports people in the community.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photo by Jim Geyer

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Good Advice














A few days ago we made a quick trip to the local Walmart to purchase some items for our family Christmas gathering. I had sworn off stepping into another Walmart until after the holiday shopping rush, but it is a short distance from where we are staying and you just can't beat their prices. Besides, I don't mind spending our money with them because the company is very good to RVers. Unless restricted by local ordinances, most Walmart locations allow overnight boon docking in the parking lots. This is not an option most would choose over a nice campground with full hookups, but it's comforting to know it is available in the event of breakdowns, traffic delays or inclement weather when you're on the road.

Happily, the store was not that crowded. Yet as I walked around watching people rush through the isles loading their carts with gift items, I was reminded how drastically our lives have changed in relationships to material things and time since undertaking this full-time RV lifestyle. We were given two pieces of advice before hitting the open road that have changed the way we live and proven invaluable in making this journey a joy as opposed to a burden.

The first, and most important, is learning that less equals more.

If you research the numerous blogs dedicated to the full-time RV lifestyle there is one consistent theme: in order to transition from a typical sticks and bricks existence into living in an RV you must be prepared to do with less to accomplish that goal. There is just no way around it. An RV has less storage space than a typical house for unneeded "stuff". The transition makes you sort through what is really necessary as opposed to just things that can, at the core, be easily sacrificed while still maintaining a quality life. Besides, the bottom line is that more things in an RV = more weight which = less miles per gallon of fuel.

When we purchased our unit Howie (House On Wheels Is Excellent) the previous owners, who were full-time Rvers for three years, gave us an insight to the lifestyle that we have always remembered and adhered to - if something new comes in, something old must go out. It's not always easy, but learning to do with less "stuff" can be very liberating.

The other piece of advice that has enhanced our current life is learning to slow down.

Most people when entering the full-time RV lifestyle travel as fast as they can trying to see it all at once. We can attest that doing so will wear you out very quickly and make the overall journey less than enjoyable. Almost everyone who has been on the road for an extended length of time will tell you there comes a point when you realize it is impossible to see it all in one lifetime, no matter how hard or fast you go. An awareness eventually arises that while you rush to see as many places as possible, you are also missing the experiences that arise from staying in one place for awhile; the opportunities to make friends with local people, enjoy regional foods and truly feel the beauty and differences in surrounding landscapes. After one spends a lifetime raising a family, meeting work and social schedules or fighting traffic during daily commutes it takes awhile for the mind to transition to a slower pace. But once that transition occurs, time takes on a deeper and richer meaning.

Our hope during this Christmas season is that everyone receives the blessings we have been given by applying the above pieces of advice to their daily lives; the blessings of learning that less really is more and that spending quality time with loved ones is priceless.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photo by Deb

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Road Tested: Slow Cooker Stuffing Topped Pork Chops













It's another gray, cold day here in Greenville, SC with sleety rain predicted for tonight; definitely a day for staying inside while enjoying a good meal. Right now, I'm smelling the wonderful aromas of the dish described below. It's one of my favorites that is best served with applesauce and a simple vegetable.

SLOW COOKER STUFFING TOPPED PORK CHOPS

Ingredients:
  • 2-4 center cut pork chops
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely minced
  • 1 carrot, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 box stuffing mix (either pork or savory herb flavor)
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp. tapioca mixed with 1/4 cup chicken stock warmed in microwave

Directions:

  • Sprinkle chops with salt, pepper and garlic powder (to taste).
  • Brown chops well in heated oil on a medium skillet, then place in bottom of slow cooker.
  • Add vegetables to remaining oil in skillet and cook until soft.
  • Deglaze skillet with 1/4 cup chicken stock and pour mixture on top of chops.
  • Stir tapioca mixture into slow cooker.
  • Cook on low for 6 hours.

While chops are simmering, prepare stuffing mix according to directions on package and add fennel seeds. Form into ovals approximately the same size as chops and brown in toaster oven at 450F until crisp on top. Chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours. One hour before serving, turn slow cooker to high heat, place stuffing on top of chops and finish until thoroughly heated. Serve with drippings and vegetables poured over top.

Enjoy! I know I will.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer

photos by Deb

Friday, December 11, 2009

Random Thoughts For The Day

Just some random thoughts to ponder:
- Opportunity rarely knocks on your door. You must knock on opportunity's door if you wish to enter.
- The greatest of the human freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances.
- A person carries their success or failure with them. It does not depend on outside conditions.
- The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.
- Make the mistakes of yesterday your lessons for today.
- It may be that your sole purpose in life is to simply be a bad example to others.
- A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.
- Due to the current financial crisis, the light at the end of the tunnel has been temporarily turned off.
- Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue.
- In each of us there is a little of all of us.
- Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.
- You can either take action, or you can hang back and hope for a miracle.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photo by Deb

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Riding The Storms Out











One of the more interesting aspects of full-time RV living is dealing with the elements. As opposed to being in a typical "sticks and bricks" structure, you feel and hear in an RV every adverse effect of whatever Mother Nature may throw your way. Sometimes conditions arise that make you deal with the reality of residing in what is basically a large tin can.

As I posted previously, we arrived in the Greenville, SC area a week ago after driving through rains of biblical proportions. Today, we are experiencing wind gusts of 50+ mph. One way or the other, all negative weather conditions have to be paid attention to; strong rains lead to leaks somewhere in the interior, strong winds have a way of playing hell with awnings or throwing debris on the roof, lighting is a major concern for fried electrical systems and unstable trees in wet soil pose major threats. Given that every aspect of your life is in the RV once you go full-time, negative weather impacts of any form have to be tracked, prepared for and dealt with as they arise. At times it can be downright frightening.

The positive side is that riding the storms out in an RV can also be very exhilarating. You're out there in what is often remote locations left to your own wits and courage. You see and feel the strengths of Mother Nature in ways you can't in an urban setting. You are forced to secure an awning in strong winds, feel the unit rock and roll in driving winds, hear the rain pound down on the roof in decibels you never imagined possible and, when necessary, simply pull off the road until conditions improve. In a strange way, the more the conditions worsen, the more it makes you feel alive.

As with all things in life, full-time RV living has a way of proving that there is always a yin to the yang.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photo by Deb

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Road Tested: West African Chicken Stew













It's a rainy, raw day here in Greenville, SC - the kind of weather that is perfect for another one of our favorite dishes. We have enjoyed this stew often because it is warm, tasty and easy to make in a slow cooker.
WEST AFRICAN CHICKEN STEW
Ingredients:
  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium, finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 medium, sliced zucchini
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks*
  • 2 tbsp. butter (optional)*
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped peanuts
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  • In a medium skillet, brown chicken in olive oil and set aside.
  • Saute onion and garlic in remaining drippings until translucent, then add to bottom of slow cooker along with the chicken broth, tomato paste, curry powder, cumin and smoked paprika.
  • Add chicken thighs and place slow cooker on low heat for 7 hours.
  • The last hour, place the slow cooker on high heat and add the zucchini.
  • 15 minutes before serving, add peanut butter and mix well.
  • Serve garnished with chopped peanuts.

* There are two options for use of the sweet potatoes in this dish:

  1. Peel the sweet potatoes, cut into chunks and add to slow cooker after the stew has cooked for four hours.
  2. Microwave whole sweet potatoes for ten minutes or until tender, scoop pulp into a bowl, mash with 2 tbs. butter and use as a bed for the stew when serving.

We have prepared this dish both ways, but find that adding the sweet potatoes directly to the stew brings out deeper levels of flavor.

Enjoy!

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer

photos by Deb & Lane

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Howie Breaks An Arm In The Rain















After arriving back in the Greenville, SC area last Wednesday, we are finally spending the entire day settling in for an extended stay. Deb is putting up decorations for what will be our first Christmas as full-time RVers.

We left Marietta, GA mid-morning on the 2nd for what would be a wet and wild drive. There were only light showers as we made our way through the always insane Atlanta traffic, but by the time we crossed the border into South Carolina the skies unleashed downpours of biblical proportions. At times it rained so hard I could barely see ten foot in front of us and traffic slowed to 40 mph. It was a situation were I should have pulled off the road and waited out the storms, but we had to reach Greenville as soon as possible to help out my parents after my Mom's hospital stay. We finally made it to the campground by mid-afternoon and did a quick set-up in the still pouring rain. It proved to be a wet, miserable and exhausting day.

Unfortunately, Howie (House On Wheels Is Excellent) experienced a broken wiper arm during the trip. About 30 miles outside of Greenville the passenger side wiper began to slowly disappear below the windshield until it finally stuck there. A few minutes later we heard a sharp snap and knew it was a goner. Fortunately, the drivers side wiper was not affected so we pushed on as fast as the weather would allow. Once the rains subsided, I discovered that the drive brace on the wiper arm had indeed cleanly snapped beyond repair. Oh well, one more thing to keep me busy.

For the past few days we have been occupied helping my parents put out decorations, preparing meals, completing household tasks and doing whatever we can to help out during Mom's recuperation. It is good to report that she is resting comfortably at home and making progress everyday.

We are booked into the FlowerMill RV Park in Taylors, SC for at least a month. It is a very basic campground, but provides everything we need while enjoying Holiday visits with family and friends. We'll keep you posted on our stay here as time allows.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On The Road Again











As the old sayings go, "All good things must come to an end" and "Life Happens".

We had planned to hang out in Heiskell, TN for a few more weeks, but my mother was admitted to the hospital two days ago with heart problems and a gash on her head due to a serious fall. No fears, she is back at home today recuperating comfortably.

Given that our schedules are wide open, we are currently on the way to Greenville, SC to lend a helping hand. We spent the day driving South on I-75 and are spending the night in Marietta, GA. Except for some wrong turns getting to the campground, the trip was smooth and uneventful. If all goes as planned, we will arrive in Greenville tomorrow for an extended stay.

But leaving the Volunteer Park Family Campground was bittersweet. It is one of the friendliest, most clean and comfortable campgrounds anyone could expect. We meet many good people and will always remember the beauty of the area. If you are ever in the greater Knoxville, TN area and are looking for a great place to stay, keep them in mind. You will not be disappointed.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Road Tested: Creamy Mac & Cheese

Here's another one of Debs Road Tested Recipes. This mac and cheese takes a little time to prepare, but is worth it. It can be made with just an electric burner and counter-top oven (once again saving us additional LP expense). The best part is that it refrigerates and reheats well without drying out.



DEBS CREAMY MAC & CHEESE
Ingredients:
  • 1 8oz package elbow macaroni
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp powdered mustard
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (Sargentos recommended)
  • 1/2 cup shredded 6 cheese Italian blend (Sargentos recommended)
  • 4 slices cooked bacon, drained and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup each of additional sharp cheddar & Italian blend cheeses (combined for topping)
  • 1/4 cup cheese flavored snack crackers (i.e. Cheez Its) crushed

Directions:

  • Boil elbow macaroni in salt water using a sauce pan for 6-7 minutes until almost cooked (al dente). Drain, rinse well with cold water and set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan melt butter on medium-low, then add flour while stirring with a wooden spoon until mixture is smooth and has cooked for about two minutes.
  • Add half-and-half slowly while stirring constantly for 10 minutes. (Do not skip the constant stirring, it is essential for a creamy sauce.) Add salt, pepper, powdered mustard and nutmeg.
  • Remove pan from heat and add cheeses, stirring until smooth.
  • Combine cooled macaroni with sauce and pour into a buttered 8 inch, square baking pan.
  • Sprinkle top first with additional cheeses, then crushed crackers.
  • Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes until top is browned and bubbling.
  • Add crumbled bacon to topping and serve.

Enjoy!

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Traveling











One of the greatest gifts we have been given in this full-time RV lifestyle is the opening of our minds to the concept of true, unbridled travel. Here are some quotes that better explain the essence of our current life than I could at this point:

- "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." - St. Augustine

- "A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it." - John Steinbeck

- "Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things - air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine it." - Cesare Pavese

- "Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living." - Miriam Beard

- "Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going." - Paul Theroux

- "A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." - Lao Tzu

- "Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey." - Pat Conroy

- "Not all those who wander are lost." - J.R.R. Tolkein

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photo by Deb

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Visiting Knoxville

We spent time yesterday afternoon visiting the City of Knoxville while enjoying a good bar-b-que meal with my brother Jimmie, sister-in-law Allison and their children Jordan & Raegan. It was a glorious day with temps. in the 70's and full sun over the Tennessee River. Once again, we were impressed with the scenery throughout this area of the country and the friendliness of local residents.

The trip also gave us the opportunity to take another picture of the Geyer Family Football trophy in front of Neyland Stadium, home to the University of Tennessee Volunteers. (For the full story of the trophy and why these pictures are taken, see the July 7th posting titled South Carolina.) Although he lives in Knoxville and Jordan is currently enrolled at UT, you can see by Jimmie's hand-gesture that he has a low opinion of the team. What can I say, he's an avid Notre Dame fan.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photo by Deb

Friday, November 13, 2009

Things That Bug Me


We experienced several days of rain this week due to the after-effects of Tropical Storm Ida. Happily, there were no leaks through the roof and I was able to use the indoor time developing ideas for future posts.

Either because of the gloomy weather, or just because I needed to vent a little, a list emerged of things that have been bugging me. Here are a few of them -

Trashy People: Whether through laziness, rudeness, ignorance or just plain meanness too many people treat the world as their personal trashcan. I have spent too much time in too many campgrounds picking up litter. Mostly it is from fire-rings containing everything from plastic utensils to dirty diapers. Added to my dismay is the amount of trash I see along roadways. I have taken walks as far a five miles at a time in areas we stayed for supplies and to get exercise; it's a great way to get a true feel for the local land that would otherwise be missed in a vehicle. But no matter where I walk there are always too many bottles, cans and other debris spoiling the experience.

Wake up people! Be responsible and mature enough to take your garbage to a dumpster or keep it in your vehicle until you get home. Just don't leave it for me or the campground staff to deal with. There's a simple rule that every young Boy & Girl Scout knows: Leave your site cleaner than you found it.

The Professor Flame-O's: This is our endearing term for people who have no clue of how to properly light a campfire. I won't get into the basics of thermodynamics here, but let's just say dry tinder goes a long way in burning larger logs. Dousing the logs in copious amounts of lighter fluid IS NOT the answer!

Dangerous Drivers: This one makes me want to go off again about drivers in the Boston area, but I won't because I've written enough about that horrendous experience. It is only one example of too many dangerous drivers we have found everywhere.

Look people, if you want to act as if you own the road and the rules don't apply to you then buy the damn thing and I'll find another route. Otherwise, keep in mind that I am in a vehicle carrying 30 lbs. of LP and 80 gallons of gas. If you hit me there is a good chance a fireball of hellish proportions will arise. If you cut me off, there is also a chance that this six-and-a-half ton rig could end up making your fancy sports car look like a flattened soft-drink can.

The Number Of Times Paula Dean Says Y'all: I have lived in the South, have relatives residing in the South, spent a great deal of time visiting areas in the South and can say I honestly know Southern people. While the word y'all is part of the Southern language, it is not used in every sentence!
I'll give Paula her dues; she is a great cook that has built an impressive empire. I just wish she would develop a broader vocabulary. And that's all I have to say about that, y'all.

There...now I feel better.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photo by Deb

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Road Tested Recipe











After two days of steady rains, it is warm and sunny once again here in the mountains of Heiskell, TN. Although the weather limited outdoor activities, we had plenty of time to complete tasks on the Web and develop more ideas for future blog postings.

We received positive feedback on our last posting featuring the first of Debs Road Tested Recipes. So here another one that is not only inexpensively delicious, but also saves us additional LP expense through preparation with only a microwave and/or a toaster oven. This meal is especially tasty when served with a tossed salad.

SALMON STUFFED BAKED POTATOES
Ingredients:
  • 4 large baking potatoes
  • 7 1/2 oz canned salmon (skin and bones removed)
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 1/4 c chopped sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp chopped green onion
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
  • Sea salt, pepper and smoked paprika
  • 1/3 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese (for topping)

Directions:

  • Scrub potatoes and prick with fork. Bake in either a toaster oven at 400F for 45-50 minutes or microwave for 10-15 minutes until tender when squeezed.
  • In a bowl, gently combine salmon, sour cream, chopped cheese, onion, dill, lemon juice and hot pepper sauce. Season to taste with Sea salt, pepper and smoked paprika.
  • Remove 1/2 in. slice from top of each potato.
  • Scoop out pulp, leaving 1/4 in each skin.
  • Mash pulp and stir into salmon mixture.
  • Spoon mixture into potato shells.
  • Top with shredded cheese
  • Bake in toaster oven at 400F for 15-20 minutes until cheese is browned and bubbling.

Enjoy!

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Debs Road Tested Recipes

One of the things both of us are proud of is being darn good fusion cooks. We have always shared meal preparations and love to discover new ways for expanding our talents. A complete day for us is watching the Food Network while preparing great meals.

But living a full-time RV life has forced us to adapt to new, and innovative, ways of cooking. We have less kitchen space, need to purchase ingredients that will supply meals for weeks and save expenses while still producing unique eats. Along the way we have learned that using electric appliances like a crock pot, electric skillet and counter-top convection oven can not only produce great dishes, but also save on additional LP gas expenses. After all, why should we use our gas oven when we paid for an electrical connection in our site fee?

In future postings we will expand on recipes that have worked for us and ways we have saved expenses creating them. For now, here is the first dish that we have come to love because it is not only delicious, but also lasts well in refrigeration after assembly and compliments a variety of meals:

Ramen Noodle Salad

Ingredients:
Dressing
  • 4 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Flavor packet from chicken Ramen noodles

Salad

  • 1 pkg cole slaw mix
  • 1 pkg broccoli slaw mix
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 3 tbsp toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 pkg Ramen noodles crushed and toasted

Directions

  • Toast almonds, sunflower seeds and crushed Ramen noodles in toaster oven until golden
  • Toss salad ingredients together
  • Toss with dressing

Enjoy!

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer

Saturday, November 7, 2009

News vs. Reality












Over the past few weeks we have been tracking with interest what seems to be an increase of online articles and TV segments about people "opting out" of traditional lifestyles for full-time RV living. All have concentrated upon couples or families who, because of current economic conditions, decided it was time to "cash it in for a cheaper and more adventurous life". There are numerous quotes estimating as many as one million people are now living full-time in RVs and that "it is much cheaper than a maintaining a traditional sticks-and-bricks residence". Unfortunately, the facts presented in these news articles are much different than we have seen during the past five months.

Although we are far from being seasoned experts on the topic, here are some glaring differences in the facts presented in these media pieces from the front-line truths.

"As many as one million people are now living full-time in RVs": First of all, there have always been - and always will be - people who live in RVs. In all of the private campgrounds we have stayed, many people reside there either seasonally or year-round depending on the weather; but do not travel. Some of the permanent residents in these campgrounds have maintained their spots for generations and display elaborate lawns with wooden gazebos around their units. Others we have talked with travel anywhere from four to six months during any given year. We can honestly say that there are less than ten percent of the people we have talked with who both travel in and claim their RV as a primary residence 365 days a year. As the Baby Boom generation continues to increase and move into retirement, I'm sure there will be an increase of us actually living and traveling full-time in an RV. Right now though, we have not seen a reality that an increase of families or non-retired people are among us.

"It is cheaper than maintaining a traditional sticks-and-bricks residence": Depending upon the area of the country one is from the answer is maybe yes, maybe no. Renting or buying a one-bedroom unit near the Hollywood, FL beach area we came from would have cost much more than we currently spend on average monthly campground sites. But for the equal square-footage as our unit we could easily find a similar space in other areas of the country at about, or below, the same costs: and that doesn't even factor in the costs of fuel, maintenance or other regular expenses. There was a quote in one article where a family of five stated, "We calculated our costs of keeping our mortgage and related expenses at around $3,000.00 per month, now it is around $300.00 per month while living full-time in the RV." No way! The cheapest monthly rate we have found for a spot is $400.00 per month. Add in the additional costs of filling an 80 gallon gas tank, an LP supply, routine repairs, misc. expenses and other essentials and the numbers don't add up. As with any way of life, it's all about living within a realistic budget.

"Living full-time in an RV is an adventure": Yes, it is. However, perceptions are often much different than realities. Life on the road can prove to be tedious, demanding and tiring. Just because someone decides to radically change lifestyles does not mean life becomes easier. The full-time RV lifestyle is not meant for everyone. There are still daily demands; leaks develop in the roof, supplies need to be purchased, bills need to be paid, routine maintenance needs to be performed and one's ideas of space and time needs to drastically change. While everyone in the news articles have been presented as finding "the ultimate" change in lifestyle, we can attest that "the alternative" takes constant work and should only be undertaken after considering all the facts. It is not a permanent vacation. It should be openly and fully approached with a sense of innocent wonder. The best way we can explain it is through our favorite quote from Mark Twain, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed in the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover -".

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Enjoying The Area

It is another beautiful day here in the mountains of Heiskell, TN; deep-blue skies, peak Fall colors and a warm sun. Temperatures have been dipping into the 30's at night, but days quickly warm back into the high 60's. So far, we have stayed comfortable with two small space heaters. There is a central heater in the unit, but we have never turned it on. We have no idea the last time it was used and do not want 25 years of accumulated who-knows-what in the vents to suddenly ignite. We'll just keep heading farther South.

A few days ago we moved to a different site in the campground for a stay through mid-December; we are now officially among the long term residents. As I wrote previously, this place is too comfortable and offers to many extras for the price to move on just because we can. We knew going into this journey that there would be places like this that would make us want to stay for awhile. It has been nice to find such a place and be surrounded by people who are genuinely happy to have us as neighbors. There are many good things to be said for Southern hospitality.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Typical Day

We are currently at the Volunteer Park Campground in Heiskell, TN. Located 12 miles North of Knoxville just West of I-75, this place has exceeded all expectations. We originally booked for a 2 week stay, but have extended for a full month.

One of the blessings of our full-time RV lifestyle is the freedom to take things one day at a time. If we feel like moving to a new location we can go without anything holding us back. If, like this stop, we feel comfortable and wish to extend our stay we can for as long as we desire. It is hard not to stay in a place like this when it offers so many amenities; level concrete pads, full hookups including sewer, a well-stocked store, a superb laundry room, cable with over 70 channels, good wifi connection and a genuinely friendly staff. The trees are at peak fall colors, the weather is warm during the days and cool at nights, there is a grocery store within a ten minute drive, a gas mart for minor supplies within walking distance and long-term residents who make us feel welcomed to the area. It feels like home and we are in no hurry to leave anytime soon. After traveling through 15 states in five months, it is nice to slow down for awhile.

For us a "typical" day is much different than when we were employed at the resort. Without the need to meet job schedules or social obligations, what is it that fills our new life so completely that we don't feel the need to make definitive plans or hurry anywhere? Part of the answer is that we simply have the freedom to finally live without constraints. Our children are living productive lives on their own, we have a stable monthly income and are blessed to be able to widely travel while still relatively young and healthy. Another part of the answer lies in the adventure of experiencing new places and meeting new people. A few days ago we had a very interesting conversation with a man from Australia who shared stories of his travels through vast areas of America, Canada, Mexico and Thailand. We have enjoyed superb seafood in Boston, looked upon endless stars in the mountains of New York, visited the wonders of Biltmore House in Ashville, NC and the caves of Kentucky. No day is ever the same as the one before.

That is not to say that we don't have routine obligations like everyone else. Groceries still need to be purchased, laundry needs to be done, repairs and cleaning of the RV need to be attended to on a regular basis and bills have to be paid. Two days ago I spent an hour fixing the water pump after foolishly letting the water tank run dry. Our daily pace of life has slowed down, but there is always something that needs attention or new experiences to be discovered. We have had to adjust both mentally and physically to a different way of life but, so far, this journey has been good to us.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Going Underground







































Diamond Caverns









There is one word that best describes our time in Kentucky - gray! Whether we were underground exploring the local caves or riding out the cloudy, damp days it was a solid two weeks of gray tones. But in spite of the weather, our time there was both comfortable and very informative.

Our stay was at the Singing Hills RV Park & Campground, located approx. 2.5 miles West of I-65 in Cave City and can best be described as basic. The grounds are a converted 40 acre farm that still contains a large 1900's farmhouse (now an antique/craft store) and a weathered wood barn. There are ample pull-through sites and a small pond. Other small farms surrounding the property contained a small herd of Angus cattle and a flock of chickens with roosters that crowed loudly each morning. The sites were muddy during rains and the buildings a bit dated, yet extremely clean. It's not a place for people seeking alot of activity, but for all it lacks in extras it was constantly filled to capacity and convenient to shopping areas and numerous cave systems. The owners, Beth and Eldon, were two of the nicest people we have ever met and have done an admirable job in making constant improvements to the property since they purchased it two years ago. A word of thanks to our gracious hosts for their genuine hospitality.

A unique aspect of staying in the area is knowing that you are standing, parked or driving above the world's largest cave system. Millions of years ago the bluegrass landscape of Kentucky was covered by a shallow sea. Deposits of tiny marine animals and plants eventually formed thick layers of limestone that were later dissolved by water to form vast underground passages. To date, over 500 miles of cave passages have been mapped and geologists believe another 500 miles remain to be discovered.

Our first journey underground was at the Mammoth Cave National Park. Although best known for the caves, the park is over 3,000 acres in size and beautifully lush with forests, plants, rivers, hiking trails, a lodge and wildlife. On our drive to the Welcome Center we had to stop for a large flock of wild turkeys crossing the road and saw numerous deer. The area was authorized as a national park in 1926 and fully established in 1941. At that time just 40 miles of cave passageways had been mapped. Today, over 365 miles of passageways have been explored and the park experiences up to 3,000 visitors per day during peak periods.

The park offers a variety of cave tours that provide access to over ten miles of the system and range from 45 minutes to three hours in length. We chose to take the Violet City Lantern Tour. Designed to recreate the experiences of cave visitors during the 1800's, participants are given oil lanterns to carry on a three hour, very strenuous three mile hike through large passageways and chambers.

Because the system is a dry canyon, there are no massive stalagmites or stalactites that people normally associate with caves. Instead, what visitors experience is a journey through time in an overwhelmingly immense, gray atmosphere defined by boulder-lined paths that house a fascinating history. With the oil lanterns being our only source of light, the experience felt truly adventurous. Along the way two knowledgeable guides explained the use of the caves by early native Americans, a commercial saltpeter leaching factory established for the making of gunpowder during the War of 1812, an ill-fated tuberculosis hospital and the transition of the system from private ownership to a national park. Due to the consistently dry atmosphere, artifacts from all of the above influences are in amazingly good shape. We would highly recommend this tour, but with one warning - it is not for the faint of heart. There are sections of the trail that are very steep, slippery and require climbs up oversize rock stairs; it's a workout!

Later in the week we visited Diamond Caverns, the fourth oldest, private show cave in the country that has provided tours for over 145 years. Being a wet system only 1/2 mile in length, it was a much different and less strenuous experience than Mammoth Caves.

As shown in the pictures above, the cave is presented by a state-of-the-art lighting system that highlights numerous stalagmites, stalactites and calcite crystal formations along passage walls. It is a beautiful atmosphere with sparkling calcite formations resembling diamonds overhead and cut-away displays of mineral deposits. Our young, but informative guide did a good job of explaining the unique aspects of the system as well as sharing interesting stories of the cave wars undertaken by private owners during the turn of the century. It's well worth the visit if you are ever in the area.

We are currently in the Knoxville, TN area enjoying a colorful, fall atmosphere. Will update you later on our experiences here.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
Photos by Deb

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's Raining Walnuts In Brazil (Indiana, That Is)


































October 9, 2009

We are currently in Cave City, KY after an enjoyable two week stay in Indiana. It was my home state until ten years ago and I enjoyed returning for the Fall foliage and visits with my daughters and grandson.

But before I explain our trip through Indiana, I would like to share a story.

Several months ago Deb awoke to say she had a dream in which I told her we should name our motor home Howie. At that point I was on my first cup of coffee and, not being fully awake, my brain could not register how the name Howie made any sense at all in the grand scheme of things. "Howie?", I ask. "What is that supposed to mean?"

With a smile, she said that I told her Howie stands for 'House On Wheels Is Excellent'. So from that point forward we have fondly referred to our home as Howie; a reference that feels much more comfortable than RV or rig. RV immediately implies a recreational connotation, which does not properly apply in our case. Howie is our full-time home, our full-time transportation and, in his own way, our constant companion. For many of the same reasons, rig doesn't fit because it sounds too much like a semi-truck. Besides, Howie turned 25 years old this month which in itself deserves the respect of a more formal name. Depending on the source, Howie can now be considered either an "antique" or a "classic". Either way he has been very good to us through 14 states and numerous campgrounds over the past four months.

We left Ohio on September 20th and made our way West primarily on U.S. 30 through central Indiana, then North on U.S. 31 into the South Bend area. It was a very smooth trip and much less taxing than our previous months of driving through steep mountains.

If you've never driven through Indiana, here is a overview of what you will see: corn field, corn field, bean field, farm buildings, corn field, woods, corn field, wheat field, stoplight (in the middle of corn fields), farm buildings, stoplight, McDonalds, corn field, bean field, McDonalds, corn field, woods, silos, corn field....well, you get the idea. There are some beautifully wooded hills in the area South of Bloomington, but the majority of the state is overwhelmingly flat farmland.

During our first week we stayed at the Beaver Ridge Family Campground in Lakeville, just on the outskirts of South Bend. My oldest daughter Shannon, son-in-law Tom and grandson Collin live in South Bend so the site was both comfortable and convenient. We would have liked to spend more time there, but any trip to the area had to be planned around Notre Dame home football games; it is almost impossible to find a motel room or campground opening within a 60 mile radius of the town when they play at home. They had an away game at Purdue that week, so we were able to obtain a nice spot. We spent most of our time enjoying the Fall atmosphere, visiting with Shannon and Collin (who had just turned two years old) and taking a picture of the family football trophy at the hallowed Notre Dame stadium. Our thanks to the gracious hosts of Beaver Ridge who made our stay very comfortable and enjoyable. It is a campground we would recommend if you are ever in the area.

On the 27th we headed back South on U.S. 31, then West on U.S. 41 into Brazil, IN for a week stay at Fallen Rock Parke Campground. My youngest daughter, Jennifer, and her husband, Trent, live in Terre Haute, but we were not able to find a campground there that wasn't insanely expensive. As it turned out, Fallen Rock proved to be a comfortable, scenic stay that was not too far from Jennifer's workplace. We had a very quiet week, enjoyed a nice visit with Jennifer and attended a Saturday evening music show at the campground restaurant. I can't say that the musicians will ever make it big in Nashville, but the evening was a nice change of pace. The odd part of the experience was that we were the youngest people in attendance.

The only down side of the stay was that Howie got continually pelted by falling walnuts. The campground was filled with mature trees and several strong winds caused the nuts and shells to drop on the roof like small bombs. As a result, a few cracks developed in the front roof seams and a major hit was taken by an overhead vent. Luckily, the vent is directly over the shower so, until I was able to patch the break, there was no real water damage.

Our current location is only two miles from Mammoth Cave National Park. We are here for a full two week stay and look forward to visiting the caves next week. Will update you later on that experience. Until then, Happy Trails!

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pennsylvania & Ohio











September 24, 2009








One of the more adventurous aspects of our journey is staying places we have never been to before. So far, our stops have been equally split between state parks and private campgrounds. We determine our route and then research options based on ease of access, rates and information provided on websites. Parks tend to be more natural settings while private grounds are more open and provide services like stores, wifi connections and, in some places, restaurants. They each have their niche and are equally comfortable in their own ways. But no matter how much research we do, we just never know if the places we choose will equal their promotional information; they all promise to the the Promised Land of RV campsites. As expressed several postings ago, this is not always the case. Happily, we did find two locations last week that proved to be the Promised Land of RV stays in more ways than expected.

We left CT early morning on the 16th and headed West on I-84 for a surprisingly panoramic drive through the upper Hudson River valley of NY into eastern PA. At S.R. 390 we headed South for a two night stay at Promised Land State Park. About 3,000 acres in size, the park is surrounded by 12,464 acres of Pennsylvania's Delaware State Forest and is one of the most remote places we have stayed to date. It is deep into bear country with thick forests of beech, maple, oak and hemlock trees. There are two lakes and several small streams throughout the property and an impressive array of hiking trails. Although it rained steadily for most of our time there, this park had a peaceful feel that left us regretting we couldn't stay longer.

What set this stop apart from others was the near perfection of its campground and facilities. We drove along roads and parked in a site paved with new, smooth asphalt. The grounds were exceptionally clean and the bathroom facilities were like something out of Star Trek; ultra-modern lighting triggered by motion sensors, spacious showers with slanted drains, low-flow plumbing fixtures and ample hot water. It was a true pleasure to stay in a place that not only met, but exceeded our expectations. It is a "must return" place for us whenever we are back in the area.

Reluctantly, we headed West again on the morning of the 18th for a very long drive to Ravenna, OH. The Fall scenery through the Pocono and Allegheny mountains was beautiful, but between ascending very steep grades, slowing down for numerous construction projects, stopping for fuel and supplies and just simply covering a lot of miles the day ended up being a 10 hour grind that left us exhausted. Even the rig sounded tired when we finally shut off the engine and collapsed into our chairs for a few cold ones.

Thankfully, we found a great place to recover at the Country Acres Campground; a private property offering 175+ RV sites surrounding a small lake in the middle that is occupied by numerous geese and a swan (pictured above). There are a large number of seasonal residents and the atmosphere while we were there was very festive. They were hosting a Halloween party that brought in a large, family oriented, crowd who went all out with decorations and costumes. The weather was gorgeous, the grounds well-maintained and it was a pleasure to watch children of all ages enjoy the day. This was another place that exceeded what they promised.

The one thing we learned from these short, but very pleasant stays, is the need to slow down and enjoy areas for longer periods of time. We are currently relaxing in the South Bend, IN area for a week while visiting with my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. Will update on this stay in a few days. Until then, Happy Trails to everyone.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Updates and Observations From The Road

September 19, 2009

First, I need to add more information from our Boston area stay. I was brain dead when I wrote that post and neglected to include a picture of Lee (shown here with his proud mother). My apologies Lee. Thanks again for all your help.

We are currently at the Country Acres Campground in Ravenna, OH for a brief, two night, stay. Yesterday we made a very long drive here from another two night stay at a state park in eastern PA. I will post more about these stops next week. Right now we just need to relax and recover from this week's hectic schedule. These short stays and long drives are wearing us down. Thankfully, we will be in the South Bend, IN area for a full week starting tomorrow.

Observations From The Road
- A great stretch of Interstate driving is on I-84 through CT. The surface is perfectly smooth and there are very few billboards.

- Some of the worst stretches of Interstate driving are through NY and PA. Very rough surfaces filled with deep potholes, major construction delays, endless billboards and confusing interchanges.

- Cigarette prices in NY and MA have become insane - $8 per pack and projected to go higher.

- Drivers in the greater Boston area are the worst; aggressive, unyielding and reckless to the point of madness.

- Flying J provides the best truck stops anywhere. Easy to access, stocked with unusual supplies, good food, clean and friendly.

- The most absurd place to buy beer is PA. Major amounts can only be bought at case distributors, which are not easy to locate. Smaller purchases can be made at liquor stores or restaurants, but usually for no more than 96 ozs. at a time.

- WalMart is extremely accommodating to RVers. Most locations allow overnight boondocking and supplies unique for RVs are always in stock.

- GPS systems are not designed to provide the best routes for large vehicles. More than once, directions we obtained from Internet GPS sites would have been difficult to maneuver in a 32 ft. motor home.

- Driving along any portion of I-95 is always crowded, rushed and lined with an absurd amount of billboards.

- The number of recently closed American car dealerships in all areas we have passed through is haunting.

- Love bugs are extremely hard to clean off of windshields.

- Gasmarts in rural areas of SC advertise very unusual food choices like buttmeat, souse and liver pudding.

- Local pronunciations of city names in MA are much different than how they are spelled; i.e. Worcester is Woo-ster, Quincy is Quin-zy and Peabody is Pea-baa-dee.

- The number and size of insects and spiders in coastal regions of GA is like something out of a horror movie.

- Too many campers are careless with their trash.

- Too many campers have no idea how to properly start a campfire - dousing the wood with copious amounts of lighter fluid is not the answer.

- The concept of living and traveling full-time in a motor home is confusing to many people.

- Regardless of the provider, cellphone connections in most rural mountain locations are difficult to find.

- People who drive luxury vehicles like to exceed the speed-limit.

- If you can't find the South Of The Border location, you haven't been paying attention to very large, very gaudy billboards for at least 300 miles.

copywrite 2009 by Lane A Geyer

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Boston Area
















September 15, 2009

We left the Boston area yesterday morning after a wonderful 14 night stay at Wompatuck State Park located in the very historic, exclusive town of Hingham, MA. Except for heavy rains last Friday and Saturday, the weather was dry and comfortable; days in the 70's and nights in the mid-50's. We were there too early for the peak fall foliage, but some of the maple trees and sumac bushes began turning color over the past week. The park proved to be a very comfortable place to stay. Our site was surrounded by deep woods and the facilities were well maintained. There were some loud campers over Labor Day weekend, but the overall experience was positive. It is a credit to the state (officially a commonwealth) that they have been able to preserve such a natural area in the midst of some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

First, a word of thanks to Deb's son, Lee, for his time and services as chauffeur for trips to various locations during our visit. I was glad he had the time, because I have never in my life experienced worst drivers than around the greater Boston area. Deb warned me, but I had no idea how aggressive, unyielding or hazardous they can be. It doesn't help that major roads are narrow, poorly marked and curve in very confusing patterns. But add to this that everyone seems to be in rush to beat you through a light, be the last to allow you access onto major routes or just drive like they own the road and accidents are just begging to happen; especially in a 32 ft. long vehicle. Driving there was one of the most unpleasant experiences of our journey so far.

Now on to more pleasant topics.

Hands down, the highlight of this stop was the variety of great food; everything from fresh-off-the-boat seafood to prime Delmonico steaks to beautiful pastries to superb pizza. We ate very well throughout the entire stay.

On both the first and last night we feasted on New England seafood boils of lobsters, clams, corn, potatoes and onions. I have enjoyed a lot of great seafood in my life, but there is something unique to the taste of New England selections. And the prices can't be beat. We were able to purchase two, live pound and a half lobsters for $15 total. If for no other reason, it's worth a trip to the area just to indulge on the seafood.

Another great meal was enjoyed at the Lynwood Cafe (est. 1949) located in Randolph. From the exterior it looks like any other non-descript neighborhood tavern. The plain interior offers a small, full-service bar and seating for approximately 125 people at old booths or tables. Yet this place constantly has at least a two hour wait for seating on weekend nights and the best pizza you will find anywhere! Ranging in price from $7-$9, the pies are bar-size and can be ordered with a variety of crusts and toppings. The component that sets Lynwood's pizza apart from all others is quality of the crust. It has a flavor that is downright addictive. A huge recommendation is to order the laced crust which is charred on the edges with a torch before serving; crispy, flaky and a unique flavor.

One of our more pleasant afternoons was spent visiting downtown Boston. Deb, Lee and I rode the T commuter train from Wollaston Station to Park St. Station and spent about four hours enjoying the historical sites and North End neighborhood. We walked through Boston Common and along parts of the Freedom Trail passing the Old South Meeting House, Quincy Market and the graveyards of Paul Revere and Mother Goose. The most enjoyable walk was through the North End. Heavily populated by those of Italian heritage, the area is like a step back in time. The buildings still look like something out of a 1940's movie set and the streets are lined with small bakeries, old family restaurants, coffee houses and tailor shops. We enjoyed great pizza at the original Regina's location (est. 1929) while there and picked up delectable pastries at Modern Pastry on our way back to the train. It was a wonderful time in a beautifully clean and historically interesting city.

I almost forgot one final question. How many Dunkin Donuts can you fit into a one block area? In greater Boston the answer seems to be at least five. You can't go anywhere without turning around and seeing a Dunkin Donuts shop. In downtown Boston there are two, literally within fifty feet of each other. The original shop was founded in Quincy and the chain has definitely come to dominate the local market.

Once again, thanks to Lee for all his time and assistance. It was nice to share time together.

We are currently at a private campground in Thomaston, CT for a two night stay. We plan to be in IN by Sunday, so for the remainder of the week we will have short stops as we work our way through PA and OH. However, I may have to pry Deb out of this place because we have a cable TV connection with almost 70 channels - including the Food Network. It's a rarity for us, but an opportunity that is being enjoyed to the max.

Will update you later on our travels from somewhere down the road.

copyright 2009 by Lane A Geyer
Photos by Deb

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Berkshires










September 11, 2009









We are currently on the back end of a 14 night stay at a State Park in Hingham, MA just outside of Boston. Deb is originally from the area and her son, Lee, still lives here. It's been a pleasant stay with beautiful weather, great food and time with family. I will write more about the Boston area in my next post. For now, I want to share more of our visit to the Berkshire Mountains.

I can't say it more plainly. We are in love with the Berkshires! There is a gentle serenity to the area that captured our souls.

We left NY on I-90 and headed East into MA. The trip was smooth and light with traffic. We then picked up U.S. 20/8 and headed to the campground. Thinking we could find a grocery store for along the way, we actually drove almost twenty miles beyond our destination. It turned out that there were no major stores of any kind, but the drive was beautiful. The only place we found supplies was a small market in Chester that was surprisingly well-stocked and in the middle of a very beautiful neighborhood; old Victorian homes, a gas station that looked unchanged since the fifties and a town center reminiscent of a Frank Capra movie.

While Deb was shopping I struck a conversation with two locals. It turned out that the market was the only place for groceries within twenty miles. But more interesting was the amount of interest in our motor home. This has happened before in other areas we have stayed. For whatever reason, the rig always seems to evoke memories of an uncle who owned the same model, memories of childhood trips with parents or questions about gas mileage. It's fun to listen to their stories and comments.

We stayed at Bonnie Rigg campground for three nights in a beautifully wooded space. It is actually a private "camping club" open year-round. Most spaces are occupied by member residents who decorate their areas in very elaborate ways. The big focus seems to be on ATVs, which were numerous yet unobtrusive. I found it very humerous that the current issue under discussion by the Board of Directors was a vote on allowing golf carts into the grounds. I may not fully understand the full dynamics of the topic, but it seems to me that if ATVs are already allowed what possible difference can it make to allow golf carts? Another thing to boggle my mind.

Within fifty feet of our site was Walker Brook (pictured above) which provided a calming background sound for the entire stay. Running no more than two feet deep over a rock-covered bottom, it's gentle flow provided a beautifully contemplative atmosphere. It will be missed.

Our stay there also provided many firsts. It was the first place we were warned not to leave food or trash outside because of bears. It was our first time for using the space heater and our first location for turning leaves. We had no TV channels or cellphone connections, but still thoroughly enjoyed our time. It is a destination we would recommend to anyone.

Will update again as time and wifi connections allow. Until then, happy trail to everyone.

copyright 2009 by Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb