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.