Saturday, August 19, 2017

Back in Asheville - Updates!

We are back in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina. We are drawn to this region for many reasons: the culture, the mountains, the hiking, good food, and most importantly, the climate. Rarely does it get overly hot or cold here. Which must be the reason why real estate this area is so expensive!

It's hard to believe, but when we got to Asheville in March it was snowing out!
Since arriving, we've been very busy. My (Hana's) family came to visit us in May. We had fun doing Asheville touristy things, like visiting Biltmore, exploring the River Arts District, and, of course, hiking. It was great seeing family after so long alone on the road!

River Arts District - Hana & Erin
James and I have been exploring the area on our own, as well:
The Asheville Arboretum. Highly recommend!

Tigerlily, and wild berries picked right off the Appalachian trail.

A lot has happened in the last few months. For one, my job that I had been working remotely for the last two years ended :`(.  It's understandable that they would want someone to work there in the office, and I'm not ready to move back to Michigan now, or ever, probably, so I need to find something new to do. It's daunting, terrifying, exciting, and a bunch of other emotions all wrapped in one. Ultimately, I knew going into this that I would need to find a new career, but I hadn't quite gotten that far yet. 

Luckily, James got a new job in town so we're not out on the street... yet! That leaves us with the problem of only having one car at the moment. 

Our goal in coming to Asheville this time around was to look for a place to stay permanently. We're done with our trip, and need to do SOMETHING else, anything else, as we look ahead to the future. While it would be awesome to keep traveling, it's just too expensive, especially if you don't have jobs that can be done easily online.

As with all things in life, nothing is easy. We've had an extremely difficult time trying to find a place to buy. The real estate market is just as intense here as it was in Ann Arbor when we left (that being one of the reasons whey we left).  We are still looking, but a little pessimistic about the whole thing.

I guess this is not a very exciting or uplifting update, but that's life. Life on the road is not always 24/7 excitement and adventure. Sometimes it sucks, just like regular, boring, live-in-a-house-work-in an-office life does (sometimes). We will continue to post updates. Here's hoping for a little luck and direction!


The river that runs through our campground.
We took a day trip to Greenville, SC, which is actually a pretty nice city! They have a beautiful park that runs through the downtown area.

Of course, James has been busy working on his guitars, and business is steady!:


See more at our new Facebook page for Cigar Box Gypsy.

Demo of a recent electric:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Georgia & Charleston

This post is a little belated, but I thought I would post a few pics from out voyage through Georgia and South Carolina on our way back to Asheville. We stopped just outside of Savannah at a nice little campground on a lake. It was a quiet few weeks there as we were too far from Savannah to go into town often, but we had a nice, relaxing time. 

Next stop was Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston is a great city, and I wish we could have spent more time there. The city itself is beautiful- parks, waterfront, and tons of old architecture. There were about a million good looking restaurants, which we only got the chance to try two, but both were very good which was a relief after months of bad restaurant experiences. I would LOVE to come back and visit here again!


Charleston ended up being a pleasant city to visit, and the old historic feel reminded me a lot of Savannah. I would say that South Carolina and Georgia feel like the same state in most areas. We stayed in an RV park & campground on the outskirts of town which we had high expectations for since it was in a wooded area and a bit on the expensive side. The reality was it was a busy area, but the large property was wooded. Our site was right across from the laundry, which would go daily from around 2 or three until midnight or so. The days were warm and I kept the windows closed. If you know me, by now you are well aware of my sensitivities. Our neighbors were mostly long-term, and seemed to think particle board made good kindling for their nightly bonfires. While it seemed dodgy we were left alone and nobody bothered us. I made friends with some ducks who hung around a lot after I fed them.

 Charleston is a busy town with a a lot of traffic. As for restaurants, there seemed to be no shortage of expensive places with one word titles like "Toast" - a trend I am expecting to die any day now. There were a multitude of cafes, all brandishing an original twist on their menu which utilized terms like "local", "farm fresh", "elevated", "a step above", etc. which is all good, but so overemphasized by the hipster type crowd that Hana and I can't help ourselves but make jokes. "Local" I learned years ago is also a gimmick that is used the same way that the gluten free label is used on everything from bottled water to yogurt. Coffee places will advertise "locally ground and brewed" knowing that most consumers are not going to give it much thought.  For the most part these mid range "local" places do offer a creative spin and are the healthier choice as opposed to the many other msg-happy options out there where everything is kept frozen.

  Hana and I went to the museum at Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. There is a lot of conflicting information out there on Abraham Lincoln. Based on what I have read slavery wasn't the real cause for the civil war, but a good cause to hide behind. There always has to be a "good cause" in order to get a lot of people to kill one another for the sake of that cause. The reality is there is always more to it, and the sinister intentions go beyond what is presented to the public to get them to accept all this killing. Growing up as a kid we always heard about how great Honest Abe was. Later on I read his writings in letters which were insinuating that he wasn't. Overall I look at him like I do Kennedy, or MLK, who tried to break away from all the corruption and do something good, and was assassinated for it. I think the same goes for Lincoln. I wasn't there, but if he was assassinated he must have been trying to do something right. Nonetheless, you can see how this city was built as a fortress for war times, and can still find remnants of spiked gates and barricades all over. Overall I would say Charleston is a city I would visit again.

I learned that the mosquito, or gnat, is the "state bird" for South Carolina. I did leave (as I did last year) with bites from gnats that lasted for weeks.

Awesome RV of the Week:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Winter in Central Florida (year 2)

View of our RV park pool vs the view from a certain house in Bellaire, MI :)

Well folks it has been 2 months in Florida and I find myself asking where did the time go? I hear thats the way it gets as you get older. I kept myself a lot busier than I thought making guitars which went out the door as fast as I made them. I worked up until dusk every day, visited with Hana a couple hours, spent a couple hours with dad, and at night soaked in the hot tub and went for a swim. After swimming every night I was able to 13 of the extra pounds I gained the past year, which I am afraid will come back. I also found after those daily soaks in chlorine that I had considerably less hair on my arms and legs. I was at first wondering why the drains were clogged by clumps of short fine hair.

  I made guitars for dad and Rosann, and was happy to see that they became more than folk art on the wall. Dad picked up playing a lot faster than I expected and both of them have been enjoying their gits. One thing I have to say about these guitars is that they are perfect for anyone who wants to play, but doesn't want to spend hours a day learning how to play a standard six string. The strings are spaced farther apart on the three string, and since they are tuned to an open g chord all one has to do is hold a finger across any fret to form other chords. There are many other chord formations, but to put it briefly you can learn some basics and get the feeling for it in an hour or so if you have never played any instrument. Pretty much anyone willing to dedicate a little time can learn to play one without spending all the hours you would getting used to a six string.

 We took a 25 mile trip a few times to the flea market in Mount Dora, which is a charming little town with a nice park on the water. Flea markets are a pretty big deal in Florida, and a great way to spend the afternoon and get a deal on farm fresh eggs.

  After falling in love with an acoustic guitar in Savannah I was able to get it in florida. I know I am not Willie, but I still want to name the git as my affection for the dark, mahogany bodied guitar with and open pore finish has my affection. Out of all the guitars I played in my life, this one feels perfect for me and sounds great. It is slightly smaller than my last one with a dreadnaught body. To me it is a blues fingerpicker's dream come true. I am getting deeper into learning ragtime and peidmont style blues, and this git has made it so I can improve at a much faster pace. Also by making these folk guitars I feel like I am finding my nitch in old american folk culture and music. So while my name isn't Willie, and the git isn't 50 years old with a hole in it (named Trigger), I am leaning to calling this git that I love more than a steel resonator Dobro I owned years ago, Frankie. I didn't go towards a female name because I have enough estrogen in my life as it is with two girls in a 31 ft rv.

  I am not going to go too deep into the negative, but I did find myself interrogated by a small party of drunk, golden age vigilantes wanting to know who I was. They surrounded me on two golf carts when I was walking to dads at 7 pm.  I was cooperative, but when they decided to trail 20 ft behind me I started to get aggravated, and invited them to ride up next to me. It was then I was accused of having a backpack full of drugs. When I started to question who they are and what they had in the golf carts they sped off. Dad wanted to see who this group was, so he rode me on the golf cart to their little drinking party. They again voiced their fear of what was in my backpack, and dad asked if they would be less scared if I carried a purse. There was one clown with a big mouth who had stood up and pretended to want to fight, claiming he had "been to the rodeo a few times." He was about as threatening as humpty dumpty, and all it took was a 70 year old woman to put her hand on his stomach to hold him back. There were a few more cases I ran into this type of interrogation, but at the end of the day laughed it off. There are a lot worse threats out there in the world than a few cranky old folks.

 Since the grocery shopping in our area wasn't all that great for some reason (and expensive), I was happy to find the folks at Bountiful Farms, a family run farm and market just down a mile from our park. There I was able to buy organic cabbage, along with other vegetables and beef that they had available in their charming, rustic market. If you are stopped in Leesburg I would recommend dropping in. Not only do they have a great selection of quality produce without the chemicals or engineering, but you will be supporting a wonderful, hardworking family. Sisters Ginny and Jessica are always running the market. They are knowledgable about natural remedies, and will be happy to help you out in any way they can. They are also very cheerful and warm, which makes you happy to support their business and enjoy shopping there. I had the pleasure meeting Garette, Jessica's husband, as he was purchasing one of my gits after Ginny had commissioned me to make one for her boyfriend Micheal. By the end of the stay I got to be friends with the family, and often pray that their crops will be profitable for them. If you do stop in be sure to send them my love.

 This year we were happy to find that a gopher turtle moved from the lot across the street from ours. We were honored to have him. he spent most of his time in a large tunnel that he dug. Wayne, our neighbor from Canada, would be over every morning leaving food for the turtle. I am pretty sure he grocery shopped for the turtle specifically, buying him spinach and watermelon. We were also happy to have Wayne next to us again this year.

  The bird watching is also great if you go out on a boat into the rivers and canals. Wayne invited us out one afternoon where we got to see many pretty birds that I don't remember the names of.

  It is once again sad to leave after a visit with family.  62 days felt like a sneeze in the park. I am glad I was busy and made some work for myself, but as life often goes I find myself wishing I would have done some things a little different. It is easy to get focused on something and have the time slip by without you knowing it. That is what happens in life, and while we often try to write the script before-hand, things just turn out differently.

 I didn't fish much, forgetting that my license from last year was still good. When I finally got the time to fish during our final week I realized the license had expired a few days before.

Dad and I took more golf cart rides in the afternoon at first, but not the last month or so as I had tried to get the most out of the daylight hours building guitars. It was a boost for my self esteem to get busy with some work, especially on my own rather than working for someone else. I guess that is how life goes. It passes before us quicker than we think. I am wishing now that I could just walk over to Dad's but there are hours between us. I was glad to see him and Rosann enjoying their guitars, and it was great to be able to worship with them while we held our own sabbath services friday evenings and saturday afternoons. I would go to visit them every night,and it was heartwarming to see their 1 year old snauzer, Ziggy, watching for me at the front door. I am sure going to miss that beautiful boy. Dad, Rosann and I also had a great time making music on our guitars. It was great for me to see them enjoying themselves while learning to make music. I also let them borrow my amplifier, which they really seemed to get a bang out of.

 So with a few tears and hole in my heart I can hear Willie singin "On the Road Again" as we push forward into our search and adventure. Such is life as we move forward and our experiences are never what we expect, sometimes giving, sometimes taking, but in the end all part of the plan.


Little RV project done by Hana

We'll leave you with this bird we caught trying to break into a car.. orrr trying to fight it's own reflection: