The Good Citizen

We departed the peace and tranquility of the Florida Panhandle and headed West for Texas. After trying to find a spot for the night at a roadside park in Mississippi off of Interstate 10 (we had read on freecampsites.net that it was allowed), and discovering it was okay for RV’ers, but not tent campers, we did a quick internet search. We found a nice enough State Park in Louisiana that wasn’t too expensive and wasn’t too far. I called ahead to make sure there would be a spot for us and informed the Ranger that we would be in after dark. He assured me it would be fine and gave me instructions on what to do to find a campsite. He said we could pay in the morning once the office opened.

With everything set, we hit the road and made it to Tickfaw State Park around 7 p.m. It was a nice little out of the way park not too far from the Interstate, but far enough that it was really quiet.

We set up our tent in record time (we are getting pretty good at setting up in the dark), and had a quick bite to eat without making a fire. It was cool, but very humid and muggy, which is to be expected in Louisiana. We took the dogs for a walk and then went to bed, tired and road weary.

I woke up at around 4 a.m. feeling achy and awful. I knew the humidity was affecting my MS, despite the fact that it wasn’t hot at all. Everything was wet, and I don’t mean damp, I mean wet. It was as if it had rained, even though I knew it had not.

Rico and the dogs woke around 5 a.m. and I suggested we go ahead and break camp. I wanted to get out of that humidity as soon as possible before I started having an exacerbation.

We quickly packed up the very wet tent and the few things we had taken out of the trailer and the Mini the night before. We were on the road, without breakfast, by about 6 a.m. We discussed how to pay for our night’s stay, and I figured I could call in later once the office opened and take care of it then.

With plans made to find a cheap breakfast spot on the road, we made our way to the exit. Upon arriving, we found a locked gate, no one in the office, and no way to get out. I was shocked. What if there had been some sort of an emergency? What would we have done then?

A few minutes later, a car approached and a kind young man offered to open the gate for us. I went back to thank the driver and was surprised by her surly response. She said I was being very crappy. I asked why she thought that.

“It’s very crappy to stay the night at a State Park and then try to sneak out without paying.”

“I’m planning on calling to pay once they open,” I replied.

“Sure you are,” came the snide reply.

Believe me, it was all I could do to keep myself from calling her all sorts of names and snatching her up by the hair. Instead, I said, “Thanks for not judging.”

Her passenger got back in the car, and she put it in gear and hollered out the window, “Thanks for being a good citizen.”

I’ll admit I did flip her off and yell those nasty names at her quickly departing car.

I was incensed! We, like the Lanisters, always pay our debts (eventually) and I had no plans to stiff a State Park for a comfortable, albeit wet, night’s sleep. I was angry that this woman had judged us so harshly without even knowing our circumstances.

We left the park and headed toward Houston, stopping for a great breakfast along the way. I was still fuming a few hours later when I called Tickfaw to pay my bill, and I let the Park Ranger know what had happened. She laughed and said, “Some people…”, and thanked me for my honesty and my payment.

I felt like a good citizen…

Big Love,

Lainie

 

The Florida Panhandle

After leaving the comfort and warmth of Venessa’s lovely home in Savannah, Rico and I were hoping that Florida would offer us good weather, beautiful sites, and no troubles. We were not disappointed!

The first night we stayed at a KOA in a little town called Perry, which is located about halfway between Jackson and Tallahassee. It was uneventful and quiet, which is what we wanted.

The next morning, we continued our westward trek and decided to stop for a couple of nights at a lovely State Park near Destin. We knew for sure we didn’t want to be ON the beach, but we wanted to be CLOSE, so we chose to stay at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park. It was a lovely little park and very quiet. We enjoyed our days there, and the beautiful scenery was a bonus.

Once we hit the road again, we decided to turn south and check out the famed sugar sand beaches and turquoise waters of the Florida Panhandle. We found some public beach access in Destin and took the dogs down to the water’s edge for a romp in the sand and surf.

Juno didn’t mind it much, but Jack absolutely hated it! He isn’t a water baby, but we’re hoping to convert him soon.

The water was crystal clear and the sand so white it hurt our eyes as the sun reflected off of it. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that a water taxi (boat) stop was right where we were and watched in amazement as the boat just “drove” up onto the sand, allowing passengers to depart or get on. It was pretty cool.

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We wanted to linger longer, but we also wanted to make Louisiana and our next stop before it got too late, so we reluctantly said goodbye to that gorgeous beach. We will return to Florida soon and explore as much as we like when we’re not on a schedule.

As we headed down the road in the Mini Cooper with two tuckered out dogs, we were both filled with the warmth and sunshine that Florida had provided. We headed toward Interstate 10 and home, with a stop in Louisiana in between.

Big Love,

Lainie

The Sights & Sounds of Savannah

We really enjoyed our stay in Savannah, GA in the company of a dear friend, Venessa. She was an excellent hostess and even cheffed it up for us, feeding us delicious meals that warmed both our hearts and our bellies.

We were rather disappointed with the weather (and very sick of the rain) because it didn’t allow us to explore the Savannah area like we had anticipated doing. However, we now have another reason to return (the first reason being we want to hang with Venessa again!).

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On Saturday, Venessa cooked a FABULOUS meal, and then we headed to Tybee Island for a taste of the nightlife and some Karaoke. It was a great night, with loads of laughter, fun, good music (and also terrible music), and memorable moments.

Our first stop was Benny’s Tybee Tavern, and we all fell in love with the place instantly. It was decorated with typical kitschy beach themes, and there was an already drunk group of girls from Tennessee celebrating the upcoming nuptials of one of the girls in their party. They were hilarious and provided a lot of entertainment throughout the evening.

 

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Rico, Venessa, and I put in several songs apiece and enjoyed the other “entertainers” while we waited for our turn. It was a good time, but we were ready to explore more of the island nightlife after a while.

Our next stop was Doc’s Bar, where they had a live band. We grabbed some drinks and settled in to hear the band’s last set. They were pretty good, and we enjoyed their brand of 70’s rock covers.

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After Doc’s we were all pooped and headed back to Venessa’s very cozy home. We really enjoyed our respite in the care and company of Venessa, and we certainly needed it! Even the dogs were ready to get off the road for a few days.

We stayed through Sunday and were sad to say goodbye to our friend and the lovely city of Savannah, but we will be back! We loaded up the trailer, the dogs, and the Mini, and pointed ourselves South to Florida, hoping to finally outrun the rain, wind, and cold. Were our hopes dashed? Find out next time…

Big Love,

Lainie

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The First Flight and the Stormy Night

After a restful three days in Kiptopeke State Park, Virginia, Rico, the pups and I headed down the coast to the Outer Banks (OBX for short). We were hoping for great weather and a much better beach camping experience than we had at Assateague. We didn’t get it.

We had an easy drive and enjoyed the scenery along the way, arriving in Kitty Hawk in the early afternoon. We toured the Wright Brothers National Memorial and found it interesting. The dogs were happy for time out of the car but didn’t seem to care much about man’s first flight.

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After learning a little more than we had previously known about how the Wright Brothers changed the world, we headed down the road to our next camping spot. Though the sky above was cloudy, we were hopeful it wouldn’t rain.

We stayed at Oregon Inlet Campground in Nags Head, NC. It was on the beach, but safely nestled behind some rather large dunes, so we were confident we wouldn’t have a repeat of the Assateague incident.

We checked in, picked a spot, and began setting up our tent. Rico then cooked a great meal of grilled sandwiches, and we fed and walked the dogs. Just as we were finished cleaning up the dinner stuff, it began to sprinkle. Thankfully we had decided to wait until after we ate to finish setting up our camp, so almost everything was still in the Mini and the trailer.

We grabbed the pups and headed inside the (very tiny) tent for the remainder of the evening. It was cramped but cozy and we were glad to have a place to stay dry.

We decided to check the forecast for Asheville, which was to be our next stop, and we are so glad we did. That’s when we found out about the N’oreaster that was set to blow into the Midwest and the Northeast over the next several days. After much discussion, we decided we weren’t properly equipped nor experienced enough to handle the frigid, windy, and rainy conditions, so we opted to head south the next day.

We were very disappointed at this decision because we had both really been looking forward to visiting our friends in the Knoxville area, as well as other friends in Wichita, KS. With our new path southward, we realized those visits would have to wait for another time.

One of the good things about our current lifestyle is that we aren’t tied to either a clock or calendar so we can reschedule and reroute as the weather changes.

We opted to head to Savannah, GA and visit a friend whom I hadn’t seen in over thirty years. Satisfied with our new plans, Rico and I decided to call it a night.

About midnight, we were both jolted awake when it began to really rain. As the wind howled mercilessly and the thunder rumbled loudly, we were both relieved that the tent was still standing. At around three in the morning, I woke again to a very wet blanket and realized the tent (the new tent… the second tent) was leaking. There wasn’t a thing I could do about it, so I scooted over and went back to sleep.

In the morning, when the rain still hadn’t let up, Rico and I hurriedly packed up the trailer and the Mini, loaded up the dogs, and set off to look for breakfast, since we couldn’t cook in the middle of a thunderstorm. My MS was flaring a little, and I wasn’t feeling too great. Rico was grumpy and wet, the dogs were shivering, and my feet were frozen. We were truly a sad lot.

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast and headed south through the rain, hopeful we would outrun the clouds. Twelve hours later (we had to stop several times because of MS-related issues) we pulled into Skidaway State Park on Skidaway Island just outside of Savannah. The rain had let up, and we were able to get the tent set up, eat dinner, walk the dogs, and get inside before the rain began again in earnest.

But… as we were setting up the tent, one of the sides caught on one of the poles and tore a big hole in it. Rico was able to tape it up, but it still leaked from both the top, where it had leaked the night before and the newly torn hole. Suffice it to say, it was a miserable and wet night.

In the morning, we were again ready to call off the trip. Two tents and two sleeping bags had failed us in the span of less than a week, Mother Nature was tormenting us with cold, wind, and rain, and we were sick and tired of being wet, cold, and grumpy.

We broke camp, had a cold breakfast, did some laundry, watched some Netflix while the laundry was going, and took the time to talk things through. What we discovered is that we don’t want to quit… we want to keep going until we figure this out. We weren’t born with the skills required to pull this off, so we have to learn, and we have to learn as we go. We’re going to make mistakes, things are going to break, the weather is going to be awful, and we’re going to be uncomfortable sometimes. My chronic health problems will interfere with our plans, the dogs will do things to piss us off or complicate our lives, and our equipment will fail us. All of this is inevitable – it’s all bound to happen once or twice over the next year – but we have to be prepared and we have to learn to roll with whatever life throws at us.

We are now in Savannah staying with my friend and having a blast in her very cozy, warm, and dry apartment. We’ll stay through the weekend and then head west toward Houston and San Antonio to spend the holidays (Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day) with friends and family. After that, we will hit the road again and be better prepared for whatever lies ahead.

Scenes from Savannah coming soon!

Big Love,

Lainie

 

The Calm After The Storm

After the emotional upheaval of leaving DC, the nightmare of Assateague, the tent being destroyed, and our Busking Adventure getting off to a somewhat less than stellar beginning, Rico and I were ready to find a place to decompress. We needed a couple of days of peace and quiet, far from the beach, the tent killing winds, and the cold. So did Jack and Juno.

After breakfast in Ocean City, we set off to find a new tent (having returned the defective one to Amazon via UPS). We found one, but it wasn’t what we really wanted. However, we settled because we were tired and wanted to head to our new destination.

Over breakfast, we had located a nice little State Park on the Eastern Shore of Virgina called Kiptopeke. We made a reservation for two nights and were hopeful it would provide the peace and relaxation we desperately needed.

We were not disappointed. We arrived well before dark, located our pre-reserved spot, and easily set up our new (and MUCH smaller) tent. I wasn’t pleased with the tent, I was grumpy, and I was tired.

Rico was much the same, and so we grumbled at each other a lot as we set up camp. On the other hand, the pups couldn’t have been happier! The site was very wooded and offered lots of opportunities for them to sniff a plethora of amazing new scents. They were in doggie heaven.

We had no trouble setting up the tent, then we sat down and chatted about our situation, made the necessary apologies, and got to work building our first campfire of the season and the adventure. It was amazing! We ate cold sandwiches for dinner, which were really delicious, and roasted marshmallows over the fire. All in all, it was a great evening. We were in bed and dreaming of better days before 8 pm.

We ended up staying at Kiptopeke for three nights, and it was the best decision we could have made at that point. On Sunday nearly everyone left, and we had the entire cul-de-sac where our camp was located all to ourselves. We were able to let the dogs off the leashes to explore (we kept a close eye on them) and we also took them for long walks (on leash) to check out the area. It was amazing! Everyone loved it and got the rest and relaxation we needed.

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Rico really enjoyed experimenting with cooking over the campfire, and I have to say, the meals were fabulous!

On Tuesday morning, we loaded up the Mini Cooper and the trailer, and then we bid a fond farewell to Kiptopeke State Park along with the peace and quiet. We really wanted to stay longer, but the road called and we answered.

We were off to the Outer Banks and Kitty Hawk to see the birthplace of flight and check out the rest of the Eastern Shore. It didn’t turn out as great as we had hoped. Stay tuned for more…

Big Love,

Lainie

The Tent Killing Winds Part Two

There I was… laughing. Rico was a mummified unhappy camper, wrapped from head to toe in a weird combination of his busted sleeping bag, the dilapidated tent, and a small little throw blanket.

From his cocoon, he said, “I’m glad you can laugh.”

I knew he was in no mood to entertain my optimistic thoughts at the moment, so I suggested that we get the heck out of Assateague. He readily agreed.

After he kindly helped me get dressed and into my shoes so I could schlep across the sand to the toilet, he began the arduous task of hauling all of our camping gear back up the beach to the car/trailer in the parking lot.

Our kindly neighbor for the night, Shamus, meandered over and expressed his condolences about our now destroyed tent. He had given Rico a couple of beach camping tips the night before (something about the kind of tent stakes to use, but I wasn’t listening) and he reiterated those points again. We thanked him for his help and proceeded to try and wrangle what was left of our tent back into the bag from whence it came.

(I would have taken some pictures, but all of our devices were dead at that time)

After snapping at each other and at the poor, bedraggled pups, we finally got the tent secured, the stuff hauled to the car/trailer, and the dogs safely stashed in the car out of the wind and cold.

I took on the task of packing the Mini Cooper, and Rico tackled the trailer. However, somehow, our stuff had grown. We could not, for all the pushing, stuffing, and pulling, get our crap back into place. It wouldn’t fit.

We were both exhausted and pissed off and talking again about just quitting and heading to Texas. Curse words were flying freely from both of us, and the humor I had felt earlier was gone with the wind.

We switched tasks, and I attempted to get it all (and we have a lot of crap) back into that 4×8 trailer. It just wouldn’t fit. No matter how I rearranged it, there was no getting it all back in there.

I finally made an executive decision and tossed some things into the nearby dumpster. Towels, a stupid little fan I’ll probably miss a lot later when the weather turns warmer, and all the remaining copies of my book. That was the hardest part for me. That book represents ten years of my life, and I had over twenty copies I was planning on giving away. They went into the dumpster…

After that, we got the trailer closed and hit the road. We stopped at the first breakfast place we saw that had enough room for me to park the Mini and the trailer where I could just pull out (I can’t back the trailer very well yet). After we ate and charged our phones, we both felt a little better and began to try to formulate a new plan.

Suffice it to say, we’re not quitting… not yet. We will get through this, despite all the things Mother Nature hurls at us. We will learn, we will adapt, and we will eventually begin enjoying ourselves!

Big Love,

Lainie

The Tent Killing Winds Part One

We departed DC very late… late in the day and late on the pre-planned schedule. We weren’t too worried, however, because we had decided to live free from a clock and a calendar.

By the time we reached our first destination, Assateague National Seashore, it was dark. We were very surprised to find out that the campground was completely full except for walk-in, beach camping. November? Eastern Shore? So many people deciding to camp that the campground was nearly full? Who would have thought? Certainly not us.

After a little confusion (there was no one at the Ranger Station) and a little direction from a Ranger we just happened to come across, we figured out how to find one of the (very) few spots remaining. They were all walk-in, so Rico headed off the road and down the beach to try and locate a spot… in the dark. There was a lovely full moon moving in and out of the scattered clouds, so he wasn’t entirely blind, and he had his trusty phone flashlight.

After a little bit, he found what he thought would be the perfect spot for us—not too far from the toilet and right on the ocean. It was a somewhat warm night and the breeze was low and gentle, so we figured it wouldn’t be a problem… we were wrong.

We set up the tent and the campsite (after multiple trips back and forth to the car and trailer) and then sat on the table to enjoy the scenery and take a breather. We took the dogs for a walk by the surf and quickly discovered that neither one of them like the waves. We then returned to the camp to start thinking about dinner.

That’s when the horses arrived. There were only two, but they were amazing and beautiful and so majestic it took my breath away. Jack and Juno (on leashes) lost their little minds and barked their heads off. Just as Rico was trying to help me with the dogs, Juno got loose and started chasing the horses. Rico jumped for the end of her leash and hit the sand, causing a minor injury and quite a few curse words to fly out of his mouth. By the time all that business was taken care of, the horses had left the scene. Stupid dogs!

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Rico was able to snap a few pics (included) but we really had hoped for more than a glimpse of those equine beauties. They did return later, but we were otherwise occupied, as you will read.

We decided to take the dogs for another walk, hit up the bathrooms, then make something to eat. That’s when we realized we were in someone else’s reserved camp spot.

The people—Shamus and Mary—were very nice about it. They said we could stay put and that they would help us move in the morning. After looking around and realizing there was only one other spot left open, we decided to go ahead and move while we still had somewhere to go. All thoughts of dinner blew away with the wind.

We successfully moved our campsite with Mary’s and Shamus’ help and quite a bit of grumbling from a lady in the next tent (it was after 11pm). By that time we were too tired to consider dinner, so we put the dogs and ourselves to bed and hoped the next day would be better.

About 3 am I was awoken by Rico hollering at me “Baby! Get up! The tent is collapsing!”

Rico jumped up and threw on his jeans and shoes and crawled out the ever-shrinking door of the tent to try and wrestle it back to an upright position. I was so disoriented that I couldn’t think of where my pants and shoes were, and I was FREEZING!

What had begun as a pleasant evening with a light breeze had turned into a horribly cold night of howling winds and never-ending sand blowing at 50 miles per hour and landing in every orifice.

Rico got the tent righted and climbed back in, and jumped back into his sleeping bag. The bag had a broken zipper and he was also freezing. We both huddled under our bags and covered ourselves with blankets, wrapping our heads as tightly as possible so we didn’t freeze and didn’t breathe sand all night.

Within an hour, it happened again—and then again about thirty minutes later. The third time, the wind won. It snapped our tent poles in half (we believe they must have been defective because no other campers had this happen, even though their tents were also blown down), and the tent pole shards ripped holes all in the roof.

It was 4am and we were resigned to the fact that we weren’t going to sleep, but decided to wait for first light to tear down what remained of the tent and load the trailer/car and leave.

The dogs were fine and unaffected. They were snuggled beneath blankets in their crate, protected from the wind, sand, and collapsed tent by their box and the tarp Rico had bungeed to it.

We, on the other hand, were miserable and snapping at one another. It was a terrible experience for our first night out on the road, and we were both ready to pack it in and just head for Texas. Rico said, “We’ll just tell everyone ‘never mind’, and get jobs and re-join the rat-race.”

I agreed. It was just too much, too hard, and we were too inexperienced to pull it off. I mean, how could I have ever thought I could do this? I am middle-aged, have MS and a host of other auto-immune diseases, and neither of us has camped in decades. What was I thinking? What were we trying to prove?

With these thoughts running through my brain, I dozed off until I was awakened by something shining in my eyes. I picked my head up, unwrapped it from the blanket and saw the most beautiful sunrise over the Atlantic. It was stunning.

I looked over at Rico and he was wrapped like a mummy in layers of sleeping bag, blankets, and tent. The entire tent was down except for the corner that housed the dogs and the one over our heads.

It was then that I realized I had seen the sunrise out of the roof of the tent. I began to laugh. It was all I could do at that point. Laugh.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story…

Big Love,

Lainie

The Departure

Our hearts are filled with mixed emotions today… We are leaving a very happy place. This place has nurtured us both musically and spiritually for almost five years. We have come to know and love many talented and wonderful people in this city, and we have been blessed beyond what we could have ever imagined by knowing them.

Our hearts are full of love for these cherished friends as we wave goodbye to this town and look forward to the road ahead. Our eyes are filled with tears as we put DC in the rearview and America’s vistas ahead.

To all of you DC friends: We will miss you, but we will be back around again soon. We have loved you and been blessed to know you. Thanks for all the love, care, music, support, laughter, comfort, communal meals, and shared experiences.

But… we are equally excited and are anticipating many epic adventures on the road ahead. We are looking forward to the new people we will meet, the places we will explore, the experiences we will have, and the memories we will make.

Remember, dear friends, we will be back around to DC before you know it. And we WILL play music together again. ‘Til then here’s to all our DC friends!