Tag Archives: long time friend

DAY 63 – 11/16/2012 Hiking Mt Pisgah

A comment was heard the other day on the trailhead: “A day this gorgeous in November is a gift”. A gift, indeed! We have been blessed on this journey in just this way, so many times. As readers of this blog well know, we were waylaid in New York for two weeks by a blown head gasket. Two weeks worth of ever-colder weather in November could have easily meant that our trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina could have been darker and winter-y. But, instead, the days have been breathtakingly beautiful.

Here's Cold Mountain, of literary and movie fame, as seen from Mt Pisgah.

Here’s Cold Mountain, of literary and movie fame, as seen from Mt Pisgah.

Friday was such a day, sunny and mild. Cold in the morning with a shining glaze of icy white frosting on grass and leaves, the crispness wilting in the rising sun. Until late afternoon when the sun retired behind towering mountains, the gentle air gave just the barest hint of the steel grip of winter soon to come.

It’s true – the leaves, with their riot of color, are gone. The showy drama may be over, but what remains is beautiful, too. Brown and gray trees stand in relief, their branches intricate against the bright blue sky. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARound a corner and you come upon the surprise of rich brown oak leaves, deep green pine needles and Christmas ferns, soft tan seed pods exploding and chartreuse mats of moss with their companion lichens in fairy-tale shapes.


Let's just call them "Shrek Ears"!

Let’s just call them “Shrek Ears”!

Friday was a day made for a hike. We had our friend, Marshall, with us. Marshall currently lives in Wilmington on the North Carolina seashore but drove west to meet us in Greensboro. From the Blue Ridge Parkway, we hiked 2-3 miles up the Shut In Trail to another trailhead leading to a 1.5 mile hike to the top of Mt Pisgah.

Friend Marshall, wearing around his waist our dorky water-bag!

Friend Marshall, wearing around his waist our dorky water-bag!

We love to mountain bike, but one of the great things we’ve found about hiking is that great conversations can be had. Well, when you’re not gasping for breath as I seem to do a lot! We hadn’t seen Marshall for seven years so we had a lot of catching up to do. He was Best Man at our wedding fourteen years ago but we had lost touch. Sure, there was the occasional phone call but we hadn’t been in each others’ company for quite a while.

Sky-high on Mt Pisgah.

Sky-high on Mt Pisgah.

David has said that Marshall is one of the most easily lovable people that he has ever met and I concur. Marshall bravely agreed to be our guest in the Tramper and spent two nights in our spare bed while traveling with us. So much fun was had! Lots of laughing…

We all wanted to see the

So, this is why I've got a cell signal! On top of Mt Pisgah, NC

So, this is why I’ve got a cell signal! On top of Mt Pisgah, NC

Museum of the Cherokee Indian in (where else) Cherokee, NC but we needed dinner and a good night’s sleep first so we threw our weary bodies into the 4Runner and found the Fort Wilderness RV Park, not far from the lavish, enormous Harrah’s Casino on the Cherokee Reservation.

– Jane




Here's Pisgah from the upper parking lot. The Shut-In trail led to this spot, then we hiked up to the tower.

Here’s Pisgah from the upper parking lot. The Shut-In trail led to this spot, then we hiked up to the tower.




DAY 61 – 11/14/2012 – Greensboro, NC

While visiting our friends Bob and Joann and Claire and Sage in Greensboro, NC, David kept himself busy. The trailer needed the tires rotated. The tread has worn very thin already, but only on one side so flipping them on the rims will wear the opposite side of the tread. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI guess what we have is a max-loaded (3,400 lbs out of a 3,500 lb maximum weight) trailer causing the premature wear, but if anyone can make that kind of situation work for the next 4-10 months, it would be David. Buying another vehicle or redoing the trailer are not options that we can pursue right now, so, on we go!

Also on the to-do list for my busy husband was helping to repair the roof of our friends’ backyard shed. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI should explain this frenzy of activity a little. David needs and wants to be busy, always. Leisure, for him, is not lounging or resting or reading but “getting things done”.  I always say that David has two speeds. Speed 1 = BUSY. Speed 2 = ASLEEP!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Tuesday, we rose early (OK, I rose early. David springs out of bed each morning at 5:30, excited about what the new day will bring! I’m a grumpy, lumpy mess until I get caffeine circulating) and helped out at the weekly breakfast at a Greensboro church for the homeless and hungry.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our Carolina friends are so cool, so together. They are the kind of folks that inspire me to be a better person; to learn more and to do more. However, intellectual conversations can be followed at any time by goofy, joyful, hippy fun.

Great family!

– Jane

Scout, the butter dog

Scout, the butter dog

What was the best thing about the trip so far? “Questions while visiting home”

When we visited family and friends in Baltimore a local friend posed the question; “what was the best thing about the trip so far?”

While thinking about my reply, my mind whirled through visions from the “road movie”.  I thought about deep clear rivers, green forests, panoramic foliage, skies as blue as Sept 11 and  broader than I could turn my head.  I thought about the mountains I so love.  The roaring little creek where we beached the kayak and sat still and silent for twenty minutes (me too, really!) and cried at the beauty combined with the privilege to view it.  Then, before I spoke, I realized the greatest part.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATrying not to sound perfunctory or patronizing I managed to form a sentence.  The best part is the relationship and flow that Jane and I have formed with each other and the Tramper.  Our symbiosis with every system is evolving as we create a system for every daily task.  We “really like each other” as an observer asked about spending time in the small space.  We LOVE each other these 14 years into our marriage.  In fact, this time has us closer than ever.  We do nearly everything together, 24 hours a day.  It feels odd to run an errand without the other. We like it!  We reeaally like it! (Jean-Philippe and Anne know how to pronounce that)

The systems requirement comes from the space and the road.  We just don’t have room to leave anything unfinished.  Every shoe, every type of clothing has a place now.  We are packed for 4 seasons, downhill skis, cross country skis, Mt Bikes, kayak, hiking boots all take up space and could be in the way.  We could each tell you how many shirts, long and short sleeve, pants, underwear and socks we have.  Daily tasks, sleeping, cooking, cleaning, changing, getting water,  all take on new meaning in this rig.  Monitoring all power use, solar gain, water use, food intake, money spent all create an awareness we hope follows us home.

How should we start our day?

How should we start our day?


The Earth is still very much alive and beautiful.  The skies and seas blue, and the myriad of beauty thrives wherever you look.  Leave the towns, get a mile off of a parking lot, look up and we are all still blessed with a miraculous universe and a world of wonder, mysteries and room for a curiosity that fills a life daily.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeople are Wonderful!   There is kindness, help, warmth everywhere we look.  Even the places we weren’t looking.  Strangers all seem interested in the Voyage.  It seems every day someone is telling us they have a contact or friend further down our journey.  Today a “stranger” showed me pictures of his farm and home, opening his doors to us “any time we get out that way”.  I wish I could communicate the soft and wonderful net that is out there if you step away from the familiar.  This country is full of WONDERFUL PEOPLE!  Writing now I shed tears at the desperation I didn’t look at until we started away from our house. (traffic and daily news breed an underlying mistrust we keep under our surface, why else does someone blow up so easily at little things?)

– David


More People!

I ease into most days with the well-wishing of others back home in my mind.  Seems every day someone is helping us get going, do a little laundry, blessing us, or just joining us for a laugh.  We do that often and sometimes with little provoking.

The Tramper and 4Runner Truck are performing pretty much flawlessly.  The poor truck does “ping” sometimes on the highway when I abuse it trying to keep with uphill traffic .  Premium gas, cautious shifts of the automatic transmission and overall patience keep that to a minimum.  Any of you who know what  pinging is (or have heard of it but don’t) may be aware that its like hitting the pistons with a blazing hot blacksmith’s hammer 3000 times per minute.  Essentially spontaneous combustion occurs to an unstable mixture of fuel and air before the piston even reaches it’s top position where it should await an explosion lit by the spark plugs you pay for that job.  That’s where power comes from if things are running right.

I brought the Toyot (missing the A on the tailgate) to a few small shops to see if anyone had time to squeeze in a look.  Both places were gracious, the first mechanic was middle aged, but wore a mohawk.  It was hard to look him in the eye much.  His shop was booked.  The next guy was familiar with 4Runners as that’s what he drives.  Steve squeezed me in this morning for an oil change, transmission fluid change, and to aim a timing light at the 3.0 V-6.  It is as good as  it is going to get; So, my patience and smaller roads will preserve the motor.  I Hope.  Oh yeah, he said GOOD LUCK on the trip, take your wife out to dinner and didn’t charge any labor!  ($33 bucks: wow, the world is full of good people)

Cusick's sign was all I had to go on until I stopped in to ask about squeezing me into their schedule

Cusick’s sign was all I had to go on until I stopped in to ask about squeezing me into their schedule

In Acadia I heard a guy in the Market and Grill mention making pie while we ate breakfast.  When I asked about a slice, the waitress said they didn’t sell pie.  So in a moment Michael (we think) came over and said we could have a slice.  He had made 4 pies for Church and social groups, with one going to his co-workers (or employees) at the grill.  He insisted Jane and I share one, warmed and A-la-Mode’.  Wow, what a baker.  I think it was better than the ones I make with subtle wisps of flavor and a delicate crust.  (the world is full of good people)

In New York we stopped at what could have been a kitchy-artifice of a country market.  A glance saw tchatchkies , knicknacks, candies and handcrafted items.  Closer scrutiny bore out the deep roots; this is a Farmer’s store.  Produce and blacksmithed items at reasonable prices.  (A sizable weathervane for ~$50)  When we met the proprietor I knew it to be the real deal.  Doug and I traded yarns while he checked out the Tramper, each with trouble finishing his story before the other wanted to speak.  By the end, I told him he could borrow the Tramper after our voyage.  Seriously.  A pair of tires or a battery would be good rent and it would be out of my driveway for a month or so.  I don’t know if it was his smile, handshake or stories that gave me the confidence in mankind.

Doug and I in the glory of the day on his parking lot

Doug and I in the glory of the day on his parking lot

Back to the people supporting, nurturing our ride.  A long-time friend who used to let me watch him restore Indian motorcycles and Willy’s Jeeps (I was about 6 years old) certainly kindled my adventure and mechanical roots.  When I researched small trucks on Craigslist part of my selection was confirmed by the previous owner Steve, who had purchased it for his son who now had to go off to college at University of Maryland.  Steve shook hands on the type of deal where trust meant he would hold it until we returned to buy it in a few days.  No deposit required.  I almost felt bad pointing out the work I’d be doing to get it through inspection and safe.  Of course the $300 price break came in handy for rear axle seals, bearings, and rear brakes.  I had to dip into savings for the rest of the parts: front brakes, 4 shocks, mud flaps, muffler, hoses, belts, fluids and “all”.

A surprise came when neighbor Billy brought over one last present, a Dietz kerosene lamp of about the same vintage as the trailer.  He had also donated several small details, some used, some stored at home; an awning and poles, a big plastic water tank.

Look carefully, the left light is a 50 year old kerosene lamp (better picture to be posted) Thanks Billy!

Look carefully, the left light is a 50 year old kerosene lamp (better picture to be posted) Thanks Billy!

When I was trying to make new Birch look like old Birch I trialed about 20 different stain combinations.  It was serendipitous  that I met Dave, a customer at Woodcraft, who showed me the perfect product.  A small bottle of Brown Maple Aliphatic Dye to measure into the shellac, ml. by ml. until the desired hue is found.  Wonderful.

We mentioned Tom and Jean who came and fed us one eve during our hurried final packing.  And, of course, Jane’s recovery from that pesky but benign biopsy. They packed us champagne and steaks.  Wow.  We feel so privileged.

Jane and I both felt compelled to get really good hiking boots.  Jane’s slip and fall while descending the Sterling Pond “bouldering-staircase” cinched it for her needs.  An old pair of Vasque boots had been overheated by a fire ring at Lykens a few years before and were failing.  My own boots were >5 years old from LL Bean and were lasted like a pair of buckets.  We searched the internet which led us to the mall and a store that didn’t stock boots in Jane’s size. The clerk there said, “check Sleepers”, a store next door.   There we met Demarre and Matt who fervently helped as if they meant it.  Matt’s family makes maple syrup so we are well stocked now!  We bought a wine bottle FULL  of Maple Syrup…dark and sure to be delicious soon.

When it came time to leave Maine we went to a gravel pit and weighed the rig.  A business called Ferraiolo’s in Farmingdale didn’t bat an eye as I drove between dump trucks, front end loaders, and gravel spreaders with my little lumbering Tramper.   The scale man was cordial, said the price would be 5 or 10 bucks.  After we finished, he asked for $5.  First I drove onto the long steel plate, total weight: 8,640 lbs.  Then the truck alone: 5,220 lbs. that leaves the Tramper at 3,420.  I guess I’ll look at the ratios, freight rates and see just how bad, or good it is to get the 12-ish mpg we’re getting.  Oh yeah, the people.  He was smiling and eating a tootsie-pop.  Just the right touch to a down-home send off and a cheap way to see how much our load weighs.

Small, five-year-old Parker made us a book of art and helped us on our Raystown, PA  test run.  His dad Steve graciously loaned us his Dodge truck.  perhaps nicest and most frequently seen though, is the cool quilted Tramper banner that hangs proudly at our door.  Donna gave this to Jane days before we left.  We travel on love of family and friends.  We miss you all daily and take note of or take pictures of things you each “just have to see”.

Rainbow artist - Parker L.

Rainbow artist – Parker L.

Yes, there is indulgence in this journey.  But, too we feel there is some amount of inspiration.  Good People Everywhere.  Plus, we demonstrate the possibility of doing that dream that you’ve always dreamt! (even if it doesn’t involve traveling in an aluminum box for a year).

Day 22 10/6/2012 Our Tremendous Quebecois’

In life you sometimes meet someone, totally by chance or maybe at work, who YOU KNOW YOU WILL KEEP IN YOUR LIFE!  I was mountain biking one winter day about 8 years ago, and as I headed out of the woods I was surprised to meet another rider. He seemed more surprised to see me…there was 3″ of snow on the ground and he was Canadian (favoring the blue and white Fleur de Lis flag of Quebec, not the “maple leaf”).   Who in Maryland would bike in the snow?  Well, his name turned out to be Jean-Philippe. His wife Anne was in Baltimore for our famous Hopkins and Hubble Space Telescope.  J-P and Anne’s 31/2 year contract in Baltimore flew as Texas became the next place to work (it won over Vancouver, Hawaii and some other renowned telescopes).  We, of course, strive to share our fondness staying in touch (emails, calls….infrequent by busy-ness, but always greeted with the same gracious response).  These friends never scold for timing or say “you never call” or “you should call more”…we just take up at the moment.  Grateful for those around us, sometimes surprised by the resonance of reception.  Surprised by what they see in kind?100_6957


One of our survival techniques, a way to see as much of them as possible, has been to ski or vacation together.  In Feb-Mar 2011 we met them and shared an incredible week in a rented ski chalet in Utah.  Skiing with them at Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude won’t be forgotten.  But that is another little set of stories.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis day we arrived to meet Anne and Jean-Philippe in Moncton at the Riverview Walk and flushed a pheasant from the rushes where he lay.  The river there seems to be tidal also, but its hard to imagine this being so many miles inland from the bay.  The muddy tall banks confirmed it as we walked to find a brew pub in a new town.  Neither they nor we had ever been into Moncton.  The Oktoberfest menu lured us to try Bratwurst and “Keg-conditioned” (probably small-batch) ale.  Yummy enough (for beer, as I am not the biggest fan, drinking only about 4 or 5 glasses per year), smooth and well picked.  The food was good too, although we perhaps forgot to take a picture to share.

We spent the eve catching up and went to bed fairly early after all.  The Hopewell Rocks and Fundy National Park lay ahead.  Even though I warned J-P and Anne about my highway speeds, they still seemed to have to work hard to keep slowing down to my crawl.  Flashers on and the occasional car stuck between us did not impede our safe bobbing arrival.

Fundy flora

Fundy flora

The rocks lay off the shore in the Bay of Fundy, where the tide and thousands of years have formed awesome erosion patterns (and worth the admission figures for throngs of people over time).  The areas and economies brighten as you near the entrance, signs and attractions pop up miles before…then, there you have it: One gate to pass through then some very well-kept trails and viewpoints marking centuries of inhabitants and tourists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe “flower-pot rocks” are several hundred feet tall, named by their appearance as trees and grasses sprout at the tops, while necks and narrow cliffs and caves are formed by the tides and icing of time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnne so graciously treated our camping and National Park admissions as we arrived in Fundy Provincial Parc enough before dark to enjoy setting up camp before dark then relaxing around a fire.


Life clings where it can. The seaweed has tiny bladders filled with air that make it float when the tide comes in.

Life clings where it can. The seaweed has tiny bladders filled with air that make it float when the tide comes in.

Jean-Philippe hasn’t been REAL camping for years.  In Texas, he’s lucky to set up a tent near one tree and they don’t allow fires.  We had the traditional hours of watching and tending a nice fire before wind change and smoke chased us to bed.

– David


J-P's campfire

J-P’s campfire