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
  • 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


  • 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.


copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer

Thursday, December 24, 2009

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


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.

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.


  • 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


  • 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.
  • 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


  • 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.


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