Tag Archives: Family

City Trek 04/14/2013

Now that we’re back home in Baltimore, we’re finding that some things don’t change. Like the fact that we only go downtown with out-of-town people.

Time was, Baltimore downtown was like a fascinating, shiny magnet drawing me southward to experience the sometimes elegant (Belvedere Hotel Owl Bar), sometimes quirky (The Horse You Came In On in Fell’s Point) nightlife. But, nightlife now consists of early evening dinners or movies with friends and relatives. All with the convenience of needing to drive no further than some suburban restaurant or theater. That way, everyone’s home by 10:00. Which used to be the hour when I was just finishing the final prep for an evening out. Bars and clubs I frequented didn’t really get hopping until midnight. (Did I really just date myself by saying “get hopping”?)

But now that I’m older, and supposedly wiser, daytime fun trumps nighttime fun. And by early evening, I’m pooped. Skiing, working, bicycling, working, hiking, cleaning, gym-going, working, gardening. All these things now use up my more limited energy.

I digress. I didn’t start this post intending to go on about my defunct nightlife.

So, lets get back to the main topic, which actually is – visiting one’s own hometown. The Maine-ahs had traveled south to check out Towson University and absorb some southern Spring weather! Snow was still on the ground up North.

We took the Light Rail to the Inner Harbor.

On the platform with Amanda and Jake in the foreground, Nancy and Brenda in the background.

On the platform with Amanda and Jake in the foreground, Nancy and Brenda in the background.

Home of the World Champion Ravens and near-World Champion Orioles, Baltimore has a beautiful waterfront.


Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Harborplace, the frigate Constellation, and our own Trade Center tower.

We did a little shopping and a little strolling, thoroughly enjoying the gorgeous day.

No agenda, just hanging out. We took a harbor boat tour.

Domino Sugar, complete with D'Amico tanker loading up.

Domino Sugar, complete with D’Amico tanker unloading the sweet stuff from the tropics.

The Domino Sugar sign is a harbor landmark. We buy Domino brand sugar just to keep the lovely neon shining over the water at night (not pictured because I was at home in my PJs by the time it was dark).

Fells Point as seen from the docks.

Fells Point as seen from the docks.

National Aquarium in Baltimore

National Aquarium in Baltimore

Baltimore Public Works Museum.

Baltimore Public Works Museum.

The Public Works museum, above, was built in 1912 as the water pumping station for Baltimore. When I was young person flouncing around the city, legend had it that this building was the City Morgue, complete with a chimney for the cremations! Reality is not nearly as dramatic as imagination sometimes.


We were very lucky to see the Pride of Baltimore II, in her home harbor between worldwide voyages. It’s a beautiful reproduction of an 1812 privateer with an education mission as well as serving as Baltimore’s ambassador to foreign ports.


The Pride of Baltimore II

Amanda outside the Under Armour store in Harboreast.

Amanda outside the Under Armour store in Harboreast.


After the harbor cruise, we came back ashore to visit the Under Armour store in Harboreast – one of the highlights for our Maine relatives who are also big Ravens fans.


Before heading home on the train, we met these happy folks, reveling in the fun side of Baltimore and gettin’ crabby.

My home town made me proud!

– Jane

Photo of the Week #5


All together now…  “Ewwww!!”

Just exactly what is this? Mummified squirrels, of course!

Followers of this blog from the very beginning may remember this photo. I know I will never forget it!

We dragged these squirrel remains from beneath the front porch of David’s family home. Before we left on The Voyage of the Tramper, we did a little clean up. We also found the homemade skateboard, circa 1968, under the porch. Anyone remember making their own skateboard as a kid?

These three items just naturally seemed to go together, hence the bizarre tableau.

Enjoy! Or gag. Depending on your reaction…

– Jane

“How the Heck Can They Do That??”


That’s the question. How is it that we, David and Jane, managed to temporarily quit work and travel for 3 months or more?


Kitchen table Command Center!

First we started dreaming and discussing.  Our own inner conversation was perhaps the biggest obstacle to deal with.  What if?  What if something happens?  What will we do with our house, cars, bills, cats?  These and countless other thoughts are probably what keeps most people from trying out their own dreams.

Having a wonderful, mature, self-sufficient daughter helps more than we knew.  Our home and cats are in capable hands,  The house has more people living in it now than before this whole trip was conceived.


Jane, Olivia and David on launch day

Jane and I are able to imagine options and dream without internal criticism sometimes.  We imagine big choices, brainstorm without reserve or critique and just see the routes that might unfold.  We do this with a lot of decisions, money management, future ideas, loans, projects, and any old dream.  While allowing a possibility, we get to outline many of the unfolding details without ever taking a first actual step.  Remember when you were thirteen?  Just paint a picture.  Don’t block  your own thoughts.


Tents were considered, we love tent camping, but the thought of taking down a tent every day for months was eliminated early. Bed & Breakfasts were entertained, but the prices and fixed distances between could have precluded that possibility.  We hate generators and have an aversion to the fields full of “Rock-star buses” (big RV’s), KOA’s and campgrounds that look  like parking lots.  I researched those options and older RV’s and came up with a renovation/revival as an “off-grid” solution.  In our Tramper we are capable of warmth, showers, light, cooking, music and all the comforts of home without any hook-ups or support for more than three weeks at a time (other than filling our tanks with water and propane).


Next, we had to look at our present lifestyle and bills.  This began in earnest more than 2 years before the Voyage.  But even before this, our lifestyle included numerous preventions to inordinate debt.  We drive old cars with “liability-only” auto insurance.  We live in a small older house, much “smaller” and cheaper than our realtor suggested for a two income family.  We try not to buy things we don’t “need”.  Thrift stores have surprises waiting as they also have fine clothing for your normal needs, especially used work khakis (for $10 instead of $80).

Pins on the map...

Pins on the map…

During our direct preparation, we eliminated ALL credit card use and other debts possible.  I paid my student loan in double payments, managing to pay 9 months in advance.  Nearly all materials for renovation came from weekly paychecks and not from savings.  This gradual approach fit the tasks as I spent 2 years rebuilding.  The first stage was on a new frame, brakes, tires and lights to create a safe “outline” to work with.  My car rebuilding, machinist, creative, research and contacts all formed the background assembly.


The second year followed with three test trips where we took notes on what the interior needed, how to rearrange and how to weather a real Winter.  I even did a solo trip to the Catskills for the cold test at 12 degrees F.   The second stage of renovating started this March, after that cold test, when I gutted the interior, insulated, wired, plumbed, ran gas pipes and lines and finally recreated the warm Birch  interior I liked so much about the original.

camper progress 045

The ‘in-process’ view. The finished view is above.

– David


There are three things that came together that made this trip possible:

1. We both have professions that will (hopefully) allow us to step out for a year. David is a Physical Therapist and I am a Nuclear Medicine Technologist. When there are job openings, we could plug right back in. In the past, we both tried the management route and found it to be more of an irritant than it’s worth. So, we are now well-paid cogs in the wheel and content to be so. If I had finally attained my “dream job” after many years of climbing the ladder, well, I probably would have been a lot less likely to leave it.


2. We have a small house. We bought it in 1999. It’s 1000 sq ft or so. Much less house than the realtor wanted us to buy. Much less house than we could have gotten financing for. We drive used cars. We have one TV. We have “dumb” phones. Our credit card balances are zero. Neither of us likes to shop particularly much. The sum of all this is that our expenses are relatively low. So, cash is available for a trip like this.


3. Our personalities make this possible, as well. We are willing to take a calculated risk (leave our jobs and travel) for a really cool benefit (leave our jobs and travel)!


Other things make the Tramper Voyage, if not possible, then a lot easier. Our daughter is 26 and is living in our house while we’re gone, so we didn’t have to sell or rent our residence and it’s in good hands. Our investment house actually makes a small income each month. Our child-rearing days are done. David’s mom, who needs constant care now, is in the excellent hands of David’s three sisters. (Hmm, wonder if it will be a lot more on us when we return? Well, that would be okay!)


Moonrise in Texas

So, the circumstance fell into place; because we made it happen and because we’ve been fortunate in life.

the great Rio Grande!

the great Rio Grande!

But, the one thing I haven’t mentioned, the one thing that brings it all together is – David Grant! David can assess used cars and determine if they’re OK. He can do the work necessary to get those cars through inspection and keep those cars on the road. He can rehab a 1957 trailer so that it’s not only quite livable, but luxurious to live in! His common sense and his good ideas keep us happy and healthy.

Feb mar 11 067

On the road and at home.

– Jane

DAY 81 – 12/4/2012 Cedar Key, “another suggested stop”


As we reluctantly waved goodbye to our hosts, Zealen asked; “why do they have to go”?

Zealen with Alex & Daria

Zealen with Alex & Daria

Its so hard to leave the familiar and known love.  We always try not to overstay our welcome (and in this case pray we didn’t leave our colds behind).  We leave because we are traveling, we seek our road rhythm.  Boy, its hard to leave when a four year old wants you to stay.

Our next two plus hour drive stretches to nearly four. But as we started heading for any “green on the map” we focus on getting to Cedar Key.  A delightful cat owner neighbor on Jekyll Island had said “it’s nice there” and cat owners are reputable sources for this kind of information.  So we took our chances driving to a campground without a reservation once again.  Bruce at Sunset Campground, Cedar Key, FL greets me at about 7 PM and asks if I mind “just parking and using Scout’s Honor” to register in the morning.  On my honor…

The MilkyWay makes an appearance.  Through whatever combination of preoccupation, city lights or temporarily ignoring the environment, we haven’t seen the sky for days.  Life IS like that…we chug along noticing whatever we’ve chosen as pertinent and see nothing else.  Ever notice how prominent telephone poles and wires look in pictures sometimes when you barely notice them in life?  At least that is a good function of our selective attention.

But I digress.  I can’t see any constellations, there are too many stars in between.  The night is a peppered canvas in every direction.  The Milky Way splashes dramatically right through it all.  Jane and I meet a fellow camper via his small Schnauzer with a fresh haircut, and even rapt in his storied Western travels, BOTH of us notice a shooting star off over his left shoulder!

Later we fed ourselves, and wandered to the water’s edge for more joyous sky.  By the way, we were wearing shorts and t-shirts embraced by the balmy Florida evening.  Crickets abound and chatter in every direction.  My first flashlight aimed at the water triggered an equally abundant and multi-directional chorus of splashes and movement.  Unseen fish or bugs or bug eating fish were on the move.  Scanning the cove scared a roosting bird, so I quickly doused the light again.


The natural fisher, no net required…


– David


Peilcan flying lessons

So many choices...which fish should we order today?

So many choices…which fish should we order today?

DAY 80 – DeLand, Florida with ones we love…

I have a stepson, Alex. He has a wonderful wife, Daria. They have a fabulous 4-year-old named Zealen. We visited them in their home in Florida for 4 and one-half days.

Z at his school

Z at his school

What a great little family! We all get along so well. Even discussions about politics and religion are pleasant. Mostly because we all feel pretty much the same way about these things and share some of the same concerns.

Zealen is the perfect playmate for me because he shares his toys, doesn’t throw temper tantrums and mostly is OK with doing what his Mom and Dad ask him to do. He’s also very good at explaining the rules of a game just so everyone is clear. We played Lego’s mostly but we also played some board games, went for a bike ride and watched The Incredibles. I had so much fun!

We took some little trips, too.

Baltimore friends - note the t-shirt. A gift from his Pop-Pop

Baltimore friends – note the t-shirt. A gift from his Pop-Pop

Went to a Christmas tree farm to cut down a tree with Zealen. Visited Blue Springs State Park where we saw manatees and an alligator.

This family is very precious to me. They are young and beautiful and smart and very, very dear! I’m so lucky to have always had a good relationship with my stepson. He picked a really great partner and their little son is such an angel!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Good pick, Z! That's his Dad, Alex.

Good pick, Z! That’s his Dad, Alex.


That’s Jeff, in the middle

Our friend, Jeff, happened to be vacationing in Florida so we met for dinner at a really great restaurant called Seasons 52.

Florida is extremely pleasant, weather-wise, at this time of year. I am really enjoying wearing shorts and a t-shirt! I love going in and out of the house without having to suit up for the cold. It’s so nice to be soaking up some warm weather now, because it 5 or 6 weeks, we’ll be in the Tramper in the snows of Colorado.

Our plan now is to head out of Florida by way of the Gulf, visit New Orleans, then travel to Texas to visit our friend Jean-Philippe. When J-P heads north for Christmas at home, we will continue on to the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. We’ll play in the sand for a few weeks, then head north to ski.

All this is loose, of course. Discovering something really cool along the way could waylay us for a while. That’s the beauty of the Tramper Voyage – no set timetable…

– Jane

Wonder what the neighbors think? Despite being parked in yet another upscale neighborhood, everyone's been nice. (But maybe secretly hoping we'll go away soon!)

Wonder what the neighbors think? Despite being parked in yet another upscale neighborhood, everyone’s been nice. (But maybe secretly hoping we’ll go away soon!)