This past weekend we spent some time in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Although I could mention the great towns of Asheville and Boone, how well the trails were taken care of in the mountains, the amazing waterfalls and the delicious brews and wines of the area, what I came away with most was the word blessed.
We were blessed to do two of our favorite things, listen to peoples stories and explore. Multiple times we met people and we listened to their stories and we shared ours – how we made a decision to do this trip, saved like crazy and eventually set out. But over and over the word blessed kept coming out as I shared.
Most people assume we must be rich or trust fund kids to be able to take a year off in our 30s and travel. The truth is we are just blessed. We don’t have unlimited funds. Instead we were blessed with the discipline to save and blessed with the support of one another to accomplish our goals. We were blessed with the support of parents and siblings and friends. We were blessed with having a like dream and being in a position to chase it.
Once we arrived back to Conway, we received a call that brought our trip to a temporary detour. Tragedy struck and it was important for us to be back with family. And in the face of grief I still kept pondering this word that so strangely got stuck in my head over the weekend. Blessed. Had we not given our notice at work nearly 3 months ago now and had we not been blessed with the discipline to save and strive to reach our goals and had we not been blessed with the support of each other to make this dream a reality, I would not be blessed to be back home as I am now. I would have been off work for three maybe four days and would have to catch a plane back to Denver to get back to an office. But because of the blessing of timing I am able to be here for an extended time.
I am blessed to be able to be comforted and hopefully to comfort. I am blessed to have support in the trying times that lie ahead. You can’t prepare for the unexpected and if I could take away the pain there would be no hesitation, but through it all I’m lucky that we are blessed.
It’s official, we are off!
I guess it couldn’t have started out any differently than it did…unforeseen circumstances! We were waiting on a package from the post office, which never arrived and after spending hours on the phone finally had to give up and depart.
We got on the road and once we crossed into Arkansas I had the bright idea to text my buddy from high school and stop by for an unannounced short visit to see him and his precious little baby girl. When did we get old enough to have kids?!?!
Since it was day one of pulling the camper and dusk was setting in I wanted to triple check the lights and of course they weren’t working properly. Only one tail light was working and when I turned on the right blinker the left one was coming on. This was when I knew the adventure was really just getting started.
Luckily the tail light was a simple bulb that went out and a cheap fix after a stop at AutoZone.
Once that was resolved it was on to Memphis.
After stopping at the visitor center and driving over to the craziest Bass Pro I think I’ve ever seen – yes that pyramid you see is actually a Bass Pro – we walked a few blocks to go to a walking tour of Pinch district in Memphis.
Later that afternoon it was off to find some BBQ! And what better place to find it than an entrance in an alley. Seriously you can’t make this stuff up! After some delicious ribs at Rendevous we took a brief walk over to Beale Street to catch some music and grab a pint. Although there was a torrential downpour, it also emptied the street completely and made for some nice views of the neon lights bouncing off the waterlogged streets.
After a night of Boondocking (stopping for the night in a parking lot) in the Bass Pro parking lot we pulled out to head to Nashville. We didn’t make it far until the breaks were hit and we whipped around to check out a winery that we just happened to pass. The Century Farm Winery. It was an old piece of property that has been in the same family since the mid 1800s. The old guy – he was 92 – was a hoot. They let him drive from his house to the farm and that was it which was about .2 miles round trip. Pretty impressive if you ask me.
Since boondocking doesn’t always allow for the full amenities of a campground, especially when you don’t actually have all three holding tanks, we decided to stop at Montgomery Bell State Park outside of Nashville for a night and there we had all the luxuries one could ever ask for and by that I mean we got to take a shower. There were some great trails to do some trail running as well.
When we got to Nashville I got to see a friend and her husband as they became our official tour guides of Nashville. It’s always great getting some local perspective on where to go. That evening we went to The Station Inn, which is the definition of dive bar and saw a great Bluegrass band. Interestingly enough the mandolin player was from Conway, SC our final stop for the summer.
The next day we had the unexpected surprise of grabbing a drink with someone else from my high school. When you come from a small school it isn’t often you just happen to bump into people in random places, but thank goodness for Facebook.
Our next adventure was Louisville where we stayed at a KOA and by a KOA I mean we stayed in a parking lot about a foot from the next camp site with a train track running 10 feet from our camper. Quite possibly the best part however was the ashtrays under the No Smoking sign in the Pepto-Bismol pink bathrooms. But it was conveniently situated to do some exploring.
We went downtown and saw the Louisville Slugger factory and yet again met someone whose family lived in the Conway, SC area. Small world right?
And you can’t go to Louisville without going to Churchill Downs. It also helps when your horse wins but I guess Whitney wouldn’t know anything about that.
With about a week left before we had to report to Conway we departed Louisville for Gettysburg, PA. I’ll confess I’m a bit of a history nerd and was really excited to visit this place. We spent the next two days reading and looking at as many of the statues and plaques as possible. So much history and so many stories of courage and I’m certain so many smaller stories in the mix of the big story that will forever be lost and never told. I can picture a soldier pushing his buddy out of the way of cannon fire and multiple other acts of heroism that we will never hear about.
After a brief stop in Charlottesville, VA we began to make our way to Conway. Side note – I wouldn’t recommend taking your camper in downtown Charlottesville while it is pouring rain. Now we were on the home stretch, we would soon be in our destination and everything would be golden.
But don’t get ahead of yourself just yet, the road doesn’t always have the same plans as we do. As the truck next to us started honking I could see the smoke billowing from the camper. After rapidly exiting the highway onto the shoulder I jumped out to see what looked like the tire smoldering. My first thought was my breaks were locked up. I grabbed the fire extinguisher as I saw little flames and quickly got the propane tanks off the camper and grabbed a few items from the camper in case it decided to turn into a torch. After getting a tow we discovered that the axle had been bent for some time and the miles we had put on it had exasperated the issue, blew the bearings, and caught the grease on fire. Luckily we were safe and the camper was still whole.
We were stuck in some town, if you can call it that, 4 hours from our destination. After a repair we were back on the road and finally arrived. We got set up and ready to start relaxing when we found not one, not two but 4 yes 4 leaks. If anyone tells you that you can’t fix a leak with a bike tube you can direct them my way. After a week of fixing leaks we finally got to enjoy some downtime and relaxation. Needless to say, I think we are starting off exactly on the right foot.
Hi. I’m James. The “compass” of this operation.
While Whit can be seen jumping right off the cliff you will find me next to her with my fancy Excel spreadsheet making plans so that when I jump off after her we both land smoothly. Side note: if it can’t be planned, proven or perfected on Excel it simply can’t be done.
Although I love adventure, travel and pretty much anything that gets me outdoors, I usually approach things from a logical standpoint and if I had to guess that is what you will get from my portion of this blog – the planning and budgeting and everything else in between to make this dream a reality.
But really, your guess is as good as mine as we are embarking on an adventure that we have never attempted before and stepping into the unknown. Maybe my logical side will go right out the window and I will join Whit in her “Who gives a damn, let’s just do it!” attitude. It sure would be a lot easier.
Stay tuned to hear about our grand voyage and follow us from the East Coast to the West Coast and everywhere in between. Come along on this ride for our stops in Europe, Canada and who knows where else.
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