Learnings and Observations

I’ve logged 1,448 miles in 6 days, traveling from New Jersey to Mississippi. I’ve slept in Northern Virginia; Roanoke, VA; Asheville, NC, Atlanta, GA, and Jackson, MS. Two super cheap hotels, one middle-of-the-road hotel, an apartment, a house, and a backyard (two nights). I’ve learned that as long as the bedding is clean and I feel safe, I can sleep anyplace comfortably except when Bella is on my legs. I write this having stayed in a $41/night Red Roof Inn last night that was positively filthy. Whatever. It was 9 pm when I checked in and was safer than sleeping in my car–I wasn’t about to try to find a campground.

While planning this trip and packing for it, I envisioned having downtime to practice my ukelele and write poetry. I thought I’d blog daily as a way of journaling my trip. Not so much, but this initial press is necessary because I had a singing/speaking gig in NC and another in TX this weekend. It’s time consuming and physically tiring to do all this driving plus take breaks every two hours so Bella and I can stretch, stop for gas, and do the lugging and hauling required when living on the road. As I adjust, I am extremely grateful to have friends and acquaintances who have — and will — put up me and Bella. I’m also grateful to have the option to stay in hotels when camping doesn’t feel right. I spent some time feeling like a sellout because I was planning to camp most nights, but this journey will evolve as it will. My sabbatical plan didn’t mandate where I rest my bones at night

Speaking of bones, I’m really feeling the arthritis in my wrists and hands, given all the driving, Bella’s excited leash pulling until she wears off energy, and moving bins and the ice chest in my car. Someone suggested I could call the trip off if it gets to be too much, but I’m not quitting. I see it as a matter of adapting. For example, I have a bin on the bottom shelf of my camping setup into which I packed a small Lodge Dutch oven (for campfire cooking) with canned beans, corn, peanut butter and other heavy things. I have since placed the skillet/lid under the bin and the pot part under my sleeping platform. The bin is now a manageable weight.

Speaking of camping set ups: I turned my SUV into an RV of sorts by having my mechanic remove the rear seats and getting my nephew’s help to build a frame of 2x4s and 1x2s. Onto the frame, a sheet of plywood became a sleeping platform a little wider than my sleeping bag (stretched lengthwise, behind the front passenger seat. Down the length of the car behind the driver’s seat is a place for storing bins of clothing and supplies, with a shelf above it for more storage. After my nephew installed everything, I used a staple gun to attach an indoor/outdoor rug that I got at Costco for $14.99. With the fram and platform in place, I cannot access the under-floor storage space in the cargo area, but I gained space by removing the seats. And, I have a Thule rooof box for my folding chairs, table, and other things that wouldn’t fit in the SUV. Up top I also store a “Luggable Loo” (hoping it’s just for peace of mind.) Thanks to my new friend RJ, who has been a font of road warrior wisdom, I brought peat moss to absorb anything in the loo, rather than the expected kitty litter. Peat moss is light and biodegradable.

Backtracking: While in Roanoke, I was the land of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (Called the Iroquois Confederacy by the French and the League of Five nations by the English). In Asheville, the Cherokee Nation; in Atlanta, the Chickasaw and the Muscogee (Creek); and in Jackson, the Natchez Nation, the Chickasaw, and the Chahta (Choctaw). The land is beautiful, once you look past the generations of brick and concrete and asphalt covering it up. Or once you leave the cities and observe the mountains, undulating hills, valleys, and woods. Reading the websites maintained by these nations, I am humbled by their reverence for nature, their ancestors and culture, and the connections among them.

Roanoke was a pitstop midway between my daughter’s home in northern VA and Brevard, NC, where I needed to be on Sunday to sing during two Sunday worship services and then lead a workshop on older adults and intimacy for the Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County. Bella and I took a walk to the town’s big-ass star, a white metal structure that claims to be “the world’s largest star erected in 1949” (I wonder, is it still?). I have little interest in such things but did enjoy a short hike with Bella away from the crowds gathered at the base of the star, which overlooks Roanoke and the valley. Everyone who meets Bella asks to pet her, and she obliges.

The big-ass Roanoke Star
Bella takes a pause near the Roanoke Star

I will continue to catch myself up to date later. Now I need to hit the road from Jackson to … I’m not sure where. Someplace between here and Houston, route TBD. That’s the fun of a nearly no-plan plan.

Happy trails, Melanie