Sunday, January 31, 2016

Florida Panhandle

Destination: Carrabelle, Florida
This week brought us to Ho Hum RV Resort along the coast of Florida's panhandle. Carrabelle is a remote area of Florida, far from the hustle and bustle of tourist mecas like Panama City.  The scenery was beautiful and the weather was perfect! We visited and hiked several state parks, including St. George Island just south. It felt a little like paradise. 

James resumed fishing this week and brought home a flounder and some croakers. One of the fish filets slipped off of the cleaning board on the pier and into the ocean. Instead of letting it become food for the Pelicans, James threw on his swim trunks and dove into the frigid water to retrieve it! That's dedication.

Could we afford to live right on the ocean like this in 'real life'? Nope, but we sure can live in some amazing places thanks to our new nomadic lifestyle.
Yeah, we even saw some dolphins out here!
Welcome to paradise :)
Maya's loving the beach life

We had a few technical issues with the RV this week:

1. The top of our exterior ladder mysteriously fell off! And by mysteriously, I mean we may have grazed the roof of an unsuspecting building..  That was kind of an accident waiting to happen anyway and not exactly our first run-in with ladder vs. object.  :O

2. Our door latch stopped working. We actually couldn't get in or out via the door for several days, as it took us that long to figure out a way to drill/pry the door latch loose. We FINALLY got it open which came as a great relief to Maya, who was a little sick of being hoisted through the passenger side door. A new latch has been ordered and let's hope it's easier to install than it was to dislodge.. That brings me to this very important point:


If you feel your door latch getting sticky, OIL IT! Or just replace it before it breaks. This is apparently a common issue with these latches, which need to be replaced every 5 years or so, so get ahead of the problem (especially if you have a large dog and/or a motorhome with no alternative entrance).

Since we now have more free time to make stuff, I present another recipe:

Pete's Homemade Yogurt without a yogurt maker


  • Milk - we used a half gallon of organic 2% milk.
  • 1/3 cup of plain starter yogurt - we used a single serving Chobani we found for .75 cents.

  • Heat milk over the stove until it gets frothy, but not boiling. Technically you can use a thermometer to measure the temp to 185 degrees, but we didn't use one. 
  • Let the milk cool until it's kind of like very hot tap water (about 115 degrees). 
  • Stir in your yogurt starter, then poor the mixture into containers of your choice.
  • Put the containers into a small cooler, and add hot tap water. Nuke a mug full of water every so often to keep the temp in the cooler up. This is not an exact science! The warmer the cooler stays, the sooner your yogurt will be ready. It can be ready in as little as 5 hours, but we started the recipe at 5pm, then let it sit in the cooler overnight. 
  • Move containers to the refrigerator where the yogurt will continue to firm up.
  • Enjoy!


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Alabama Gulf Coast

We made it to snowbird country, the southern coast of the US!
This blog entry consists of a few photos, a new "Pro Tips" feature, and an entry from James. 

I'll just say that this week brought us to the Gulf Coast, which we enjoyed very much. This was our first RV park catering primarily to retired snow birds and we were happy to join them. Hey, it's not so bad being a retired snow bird in the sun :). We took in the state park along the coast, sampled some delicious food, and enjoyed our first park with a pool/hot tub. Of course it didn't hurt that the place looked exactly like Bavarian themed Frankenmuth, MI, complete with a train, Christmas lights, decor, the whole nine. Most of our neighbors were actually from Michigan too.. 

Gulf Shores State Park Pier. Is this actually heaven?
Brunch with our dogs! *Note to all business: If you let us bring our dogs you will be our favorite forever.
Frankie Ocean



That's right, now that we've been living in an RV for 3 whole months we have extensive experience enough to offer tips from 'professionals'!  Not really, but here goes:

The little incandescent light bulbs that come with your RV will burn out in about a week. (only a slight exaggeration).  So plan ahead and buy about 20 LED replacement lights (we ordered ours online) and you'll be good to go!

Heads up - they don't look real.


  As we move across the country in search of a new way of life as others have gone in search of America, the land of the free, I have to ask myself what true freedom is, and where can it be found. We owned a house and became landlords to be free from paying rent money that we would never see again. We wanted to be free of having to sign a contract to live by someone else's rules, and pay an astronomical price to have a small section in a building that will never be ours. 

  So we bought a house on a small section of property. Instead of paying rent, we payed insurance money and taxes that we would never see again. We payed for other people's kids to go to schools where the education system was sloppy. We converted the house into two apartments and became the landlords, yet we weren't free from the city telling us what to do with our house and when. We were told we needed to fix a sidewalk that was the city's property with our own money, after we had already payed high taxes in a dangerous town that took it's time to fix the streetlights. For a while we wanted land with a garden, chickens, and a cow. We looked for other houses in the country to fix up only to find that the banks and real estate companies have one heck of a racket going on. We would see a house for sale that was advertised in our price range only to find that it was already sold, and the new owner wanted to keep up the For Sale sign so he could immediately sell it for a much higher price. Rather than first come first serve in most places we found most sales were auctions, and the banks would hold on to the houses for months, if not years, until they got the highest bid possible for a place that was in shambles. Most of all the options were just not there, unless you had the means to buy your own property and build your own house. 

   Now here we are on the move. Yes, there is a sense of freedom when you are moving as long as you obey all the traffic laws. But I do have to ask myself; in a country where the restrictions gradually get tighter, and all our devices have the ability to track us at all times, where is the freedom?

   I could feel free spending the day by a peaceful lake fishing as long as I have the license for it in my pocket, catch no more than I'm allowed, and throw back the fish that aren't type or size that I'm allowed to keep, even if it swallowed the hook and will be dead within a couple of hours. You need a separate license to fish in saltwater, but can someone please tell me who owns the ocean? It must be the same person who owns the rain, because in some of our western states people have been jailed for collecting rainwater.

 I can feel free walking through trails in a national or state forest as long as I obey all of the signs that they have posted throughout the trails. I watch the squirrels gathering nuts on the ground and they seem to be doing just fine without anyone telling them how many nuts they can bring home to store for the winter.

   Some of the advantages we have found to the life we are living now is that all our possessions are in our house that can move at any time we like. We don't have to pay property taxes, per se, and all of our utilities are included in the price of rent. In West Monroe, LA we could have lived in a small peaceful park on the bayou for 350 a month utilities covered. We don't own our own backyard but one week we're by the shore, and another we are in the woods. If ever you don't like your environment you just leave. You don't have to make sure everything is right with the city, or wait for your home to sell when the party animals move in next door. We don't have to think about what to do with all the junk we collected and filled our empty rooms with as if we were filling empty parts of ourselves. We can just turn the key, step on the gas, and go. 

  Maybe freedom lies in the hearts of the people who believe in the principles that this country was founded on. I had a day fishing where I wasn't catching anything but the guy next to me got five in an hour. All five of those fish went into my bucket. Another day I gave away the two fish that I caught, and then I watched someone else give three more to the same man so he would have a meal. In these small campgrounds we have always found a neighbor that would lend a helping hand. I sometimes think there is something freeing to be found in the brotherly love that we can have for one another. 

 Last friday when we went to see the bluegrass gospel family, the Chestangs, play and my heart was filled with joy. Those people played their hearts out, and you could hear the ghost of old America in the twang of the banjo while the fiddle weeped Amazing Grace. There were times we sat down to some true southern cooking and I thought yes, there are parts of this country that still hold on to it's roots. I look around me at the trees, lakes and rivers with fish that swim freely and I know who really owns all of it.

The Chastang family bluegrass band
   If you were to ask people what the definition of freedom is, how many different answers do you think you would get? Maybe being on the move is just an illusion of freedom, or maybe there is something to it. I can tell you it is an education. While we are discovering cheaper alternatives as we roll around the country, we haven't figured out a way to have a garden that will give us organic vegetables, chickens that will give us eggs free of antibiotics, or a cow that will give us milk free of hormones. The beauty of this journey is that it never ends. We are all on a journey one way or another, and true education lies beyond the walls of institutions. The human heart needs to search and grow in one way or another. We have our thoughts, ideas, and beliefs which makes us all unique in our own way. Being on the move I get to meet many different people. Some have similar ideas, while others are playing on a whole other ball field. It's our own ideas we take with us when we cross the great divide.  I have seen beautiful things, as well as things that will break your heart. If you are searching for a perfect utopia, you will just have to start with your spirit. As for me, I have my eyes fixed on a land that outshines the sun, but until I get there I have my wife and dogs next to me as I soak in the beautiful sights and enjoy the love that is in the journey. 


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Baton Rouge to The Gulf Coast

We made our way down to St. Francisville, just north of Baton Rouge to spend another week in the Pelican State. Aside from a day trip down the Baton Rouge for delicious brunch and some sightseeing, there wasn't much to do in the area. Along with the sorry state of our RV park, "Peaceful Pines", we probably enjoyed this stop the LEAST of all the others. The people were nowhere near as friendly as they were in northern LA. Turns out most of the inhabitants of this park were migrant workers, moving from place to place for jobs. I'm guessing a lot of them worked at the monstrous Exxon Mobile plant about 15 miles south. If there's a next time I'll just have to drag James kicking and screaming to New Orleans.

James still misses West Monroe, LA. His new saying when comparing/rating everything we do; "weall, it's not West Monroe".

Of course we had to visit the LSU Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge, complete with a few (adorable!) young Texas Longhorns who didn't yet have a full grasp of their weaponry.
'Please don't murder me with those horns, cow'
Classic Louisiana, right?
On the plus side, we did get to try some New Orleans originals. Cajun cheesecake ice-cream, yum! And, yeah we tried several Zapp's chips flavors over the course of the week. Prettty, pretty good.
Now we're movin' on to the Gulf Coast of Alabama. Although, it looks like we're in for more 50 degree weather this week. I think we are bringing the cold with us from Michigan.. 

Another one of mee,  I was in rare form :)

Sunday, January 3, 2016


Destination: West Monroe & Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Thanks to a few back-to-back holiday weekends we managed to do a lot of traveling this week, making our way from Hot Springs, AR to southern LA. Our first day in LA was 87 degrees, but mostly it's been chilly and a little rainy. So far no major flooding in this region, but it may be coming soon. We are loving the cajun seafood and very friendly people in this area!
We attempted to visit the Cat Island Wildlife Refuge near Baton Rouge, only to discover the road was completely under water and currently being better utilized as a boat ramp.. 

We were craving some of those delicious looking southern boiled peanuts at our local market, but after checking the ingredient list we noticed they had MSG so we decided to make our own! Soo GOOD! We ate the entire 2 lb batch all in one day and are already planning on making more. 

Here's the recipe I made up based on the spices we happened to have on hand and the (lower) level of sodium we were looking for:

Boiled Peanuts

  • 24 oz bag of raw, unsalted peanuts in the shell
  • 2 heaping Tbs of granulated garlic
  • 2 heaping Tbs of powdered onion
  • 2 heaping Tbs Cajun seasoning
  • 1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup salt
Mix everything in a big pot, add enough water to cover and simmer on low for at least 3 hours. The longer you cook them the more tender they get.

RV park office in West Monroe
One thing I learned on this trip so far is that you just don't know what awaits you at the next destination. We stopped in West Monroe not knowing what to expect, and I am going to have to say Hana had to drag me kicking and screaming out of that town. To give you an accurate description of my personal experience it would take more than a blog entry, so I will admit that I am a little overwhelmed to try an compact our time there in a small blog entry. I would say this is the first place that we really had experienced true southern hospitality.

    The Campground Bayou D'Arbonne was a respectably quiet place on the Bayou where you could see people living in houseboats on the water. The park manager, Naman, went beyond what he was expected when helping us to get settled in. He even took the time to get us some boards and make sure our rig was perfectly leveled. The next morning he was out helping our neighbors power clean the rv they had for sale. I would have to say by the end of the week he became a friend. Anyone that will share a good portion of venison they got bow hunting and spent the time he did teaching you how to effectively fish for channel cats is a friend. Since my catfish lesson I have already pulled in three big ones, and am betting on getting one tonight. 

James & Naman
When I asked Naman for a church recommendation he sent us to the White Ferry Church of Christ which is where the Robertson family from Duck Dynasty goes. I am not one to chase famous people around, but my dad loves the show and was going to boyott the television station when they considered taking the show off there air.  There was no way we weren't going. We did see several members of the family there, and from what I could see is that they are really down to earth guys that are active in the church. 

    Even better than spotting the Duck Dynasty guys, we met some new friends at the church. They were nice enough to treat us to lunch at a really nice place called Cotton, which was an excellent representation of Louisiana cooking. A week later I can still taste the crawdad hush puppies if I try hard enough. We had a great time talking with our new friends, Mark, Janna and the girls, and they really left us with a great first impression of the town.

  One night I was smoking some of my trout on the grill when I saw something black moving towards me in the darkness. I didn't stick around long enough to find out what kind of chupacabra it could be. An hour later I took a walk and saw it coming down the street towards me and thought it might be one of those dangerous ferrel pigs. The next day I found out that the pig belonged to someone who lived down the street. She bothered some of the people and dogs around us, but I loved that pig. By the end of our stay that pig had the police called on it, so the owner had to keep it in a pen in the back yard. I missed taking walks with that pig, but I was able to stop and visit with her before we left. She was pacing around her pen contemplating on how to get out when I got there. I brought her trout and corn on the cob, which she appreciated. I could tell because she licked the trout clean off my fingers before she started on the corn. I was  happy to see her eat some real food since I learned her diet consisted mostly of dry dog food and Little Debbie cakes. There was some talk that I could have taken that pig if I wanted to. All I have to say is be on the lookout. One day you may pass James and Hana's Traveling Barnyard on the road.

This little piggy came to visit us.
    The campground was small and peaceful. Most of the people camped there were longterm residents. There was one woman who took a small utility trailer and turned it into a home with a kitchen and everything else she needed.  For the most part it didn't look like a bad life to me. We all have different needs when it comes to comfort. Some need more space, while others need less. One way or another it is a lifestyle that behooves you to let go as much clutter in your life as possible. The neighbors that I did talk to I that community were very friendly, and would give you a helping hand happily if you needed it.

   I imagine a lot of people would go through West Monroe might miss out on some of the charm that another person like me would find. I suppose what really made an impression on me was the friends I made. When looking for a place to settle down even for a little while you look for certain things that would make your home ideal.  Maybe I have a soft spot somewhere for people too, because it was a sad day for me to leave West Monroe. I am hoping we will return at some point on the trip, or another time in the future. I would even go out of my way to spend more time there, and hope to one day be able to go to the White Ferry Church again.

This town even has Duck Commander wine!??