Maine… a dreamy state

When we decided to go to Maine we had no idea how popular it was during the summer months. We got our Airstream at the end of June and I started looking at places to stay. Acadia National Park was at the top of the list. Blake had read about Cadillac Mountain and how the sunrises there were amazing. So when I found a campground close to Acadia that we liked, I called it was completely booked for the summer. They didn’t have any openings until after Labor Day. Enter plan B.

 

Determined to go to Maine I found a great campground in Naples not far from Portland. I had done a little research on Portland. It looked like a sweet little seaside town. Lots of shops and shopping. And about 30 minutes north of Portland was Freeport, home of L.L.Bean. Being from Texas, the closest I got to L.L.Bean was catalogs and online stores. So visiting the flagship store quickly became a priority. When I Googled photos, there was a huge Bean Boot out front. That sealed the deal. The flagship store did not disappoint! We ended up staying Portland side first and then after Labor Day we went to Bar Harbor.

 

Something we discovered about Maine that we didn’t know before we got there was that it’s known for blueberries. In fact, Maine is the largest producer of wild blueberries in the world, and they are grown on 60,000 acres. We knew about the lobster, but we had no idea about the blueberries! We found a great little bakery/cafe in town and they had blueberry everything! I had the blueberry pancakes and they were absolutely de-lish! The place we called  “Bomb Diggity” so there was no way we were leaving Naples without trying that place! And it lives up to it’s name! Yum-my!

Downtown Portland is a cute little place! Along the pier are a few restaurants and some cute shops. We walked around and I stumbled upon a shop I followed on Instagram… I hadn’t put it together that it was in Portland. The shop is called Sea Bags. They make purses, totes and some accessories out of recycled sails. If you donate your sail you get a free bag. All of the bags are hand made in the shop. They are a little bit pricey but they are certainly unique and fairly well made. I bought a wristlet while we were there with their signature anchor on it. I dreamed about those bags for a year after we visited. And last year for our anniversary Blake bought me one! It’s gorgeous! Navy blue with a printed crab on it. I was born in July so my zodiac is a Cancer (crab). I was over the moon! The bag was about six months old when the whipping twine which is wound around the braid / splice of the handle came completely unwound. There are two places where there is twine and both came unraveled. I contacted them and they were very nice and sent a repair form, I sent the bag in (I had to pay for shipping) and in a couple of weeks I had my bag back and it was as good as new! Unfortunately that same thing has occurred again just last week, and without much use this time. As I’m writing this I have an email in to customer service to inquire about another repair. Slightly annoying, especially when we pay quite a bit of money for the bag. But I’m certain they will repair it again. – I’ll update that when I know.

 

We ventured out to see some lighthouses of course. And found an old fort in the process Fort Popham State Historic Site is located in Phippsburg. We also found a pretty tasty lobster roll next door called Spinney’s. We sat outside on the deck and enjoyed a beer and the view!

 

We enjoyed our campground in Naples. It was called Loon’s Haven Family Campground. A great  campground situated on Trickey Pond. Complete with Loons! The sunsets over the pond are beautiful. The campground is clean and there are many activities for adults and children! There are quite a few seasonal campers. A lot spend most of the summer there and I can’t blame them! It’s a great place to be in the summer. The facilities are clean and there is laundry on site as well. Not far up the road is Sabago Lake State Park. A really nice park with lots of birds to watch and beach front access to Sabago Lake… in fact if we were to make our way back to Naples I’d stay there too!

 

New York State of Mind

After Ohio we headed to New York State for more book research. We stayed near Poughkeepsie at Sylvan Lake Beach Park which is located in Hopewell Junction, NY. A really neat little campground. All of the sites are in the grass but there is plenty of room between you and your neighbors. And surprisingly not horribly unlevel. This was a central location for us to drive to Connecticut and to New Jersey. I fell in love with Connecticut. I kind of knew I would… I had always wanted to go there. We met with a couple of people there, one being a toy inventor and the other has a huge history in the toy universe having sculpted a large number of G.I. Joe’s from the 90’s. Both were absolute pleasures to talk to and we still keep in touch with them today. In fact we make it a point to visit them anytime we are near there.
In New Jersey we got to visit the NECA studio and hang out with Randy Falk, the Director of Product Development for the company. I know Randy from back from when I ran our online toy store, littleplasticmen. He’s super nice guy and had a lot to talk about for Blake’s book.
While we were in New York I realized we weren’t far from Franklin Roosevelt’s home. We decided that would be a cool thing to do so we went and did the tour of his home and the presidential library. We walked the grounds and enjoyed the gardens and the horse stable is beautiful. The house is set on a beautiful piece of land. If you are in that area it is a must do! Not far down the road was Eleanor’s cottage, Val-Kil, we didn’t have time to get there but we made up for it on the trip on the way back. It was such a great history lesson. Lots of things I didn’t know. The tour guides are wonderful and are very knowledgeable.

Lancaster, OH

After Arkansas and Kentucky we headed for Ohio. Blake had decided early in 2015 that he wanted to write a book about unproduced action figures. Boys toys that had never seen the light of day. Ideas that toy companies had, pitched and worked on but for one reason or another never got made. Cincinnati, Ohio was home to Kenner Products back in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s before being purchased by Hasbro in 1991. They are best known for making the vintage Star Wars action figures and playsets that you can still acquire today.
Also in Ohio, was another toy company called ReSaurus. Blake had meetings with a few of their former employees about some of the lines they worked on that never got made. So we stayed a week at an interesting little campground called Lancaster Campground.
Lancaster Campground is an old church retreat/revival located in non other than Lancaster, OH. It’s a neat little place with a few RV spots. They have water and electric and they have a ‘honey wagon’ that comes and empties your tanks for you twice a week. And the weekly rate with your Passport America card is super cheap!
The grounds are pretty interesting. In the center of everything is a huge auditorium. There’s a cafeteria and a chapel. Around the perimeter is a bunch a really cute cottages. None of them are very big. You can tell they were all intended for weekend stays. Most of them are occupied full time now. Blake was a little freaked out at first. He wasn’t sure what to think. His initial reaction was, “This is something out of Polertgeist 2!” After walking the grounds and talking to a few people and the camp host, I think he settled down. It was certainly an interesting place and it sort of did have that old creepy vibe to it.

A Look Back at Arkansas and Kentucky…

 

We left on Aug. 3, 2015 at 6:00 am headed to Ohio, with our sights set on Maine. However, we had a few stops along the way. Our first destination was Paducah, KY. I know what you are thinking… why in the world would you go to Paducah, KY? Well, mostly because Gearphoria had a client there and we went for a shop tour. You can read all about that shop tour and the history of the building there are in here. While we were in Paducah we stayed at Duck Creek RV Park. A nice little place with pull-thrus at the front for short-term guests. The bathhouse is clean and close to those spots, it makes it really easy for an over night spot. I highly recommend it if you find yourself in that area and need a place to stay.
As I was mapping out our route to Paducah we figured out we had to go through Brinkley, AR. Again you are probably wondering why I would get excited about such a small town. A bird, that’s why. An extinct bird to be exact. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Back in 2004 a guy thought he saw one and was able to convince other people that he did. They were able to get government funding to go out in search of this extremely rare bird. The whole town got excited. You could dine at the local restaurant with an Ivory-billed themed menu, get a woodpecker haircut, buy a lawn ornament and t-shirts not to mention a whole bunch of other woodpecker related items. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people descended on this little town once word got out. Birders from everywhere came in hopes of seeing such an oddity, however I don’t think anyone ever actually saw it. There was a documentary done on the site and the town. It’s called Ghost Bird. It’s pretty interesting.  Here’s a link to a story in the NY Times from 2008, recounting some of the hype.
Most of the town is no longer sporting the woodpecker memorabilia. We stopped into the chamber of commerce and there were a couple of brochures and they dug out an old t-shirt for me to buy. We did have lunch at Gene’s BBQ, which still has the Ivory-billed menu and photos of the bird on their walls. So even though we missed all of the hype from 2005 we were happily surprised to see a few little things still hanging around from this major event that occurred quite a few years ago!

Quickly approaching two years on the road!

 

 

June 29th was the two year anniversary of us purchasing Trixie. Two years! Hard to wrap my head around truthfully. Once we had a plan and that plan was set in motion everything happened so fast! When I broke the news to my boss, work seemed to fly by. I thought for sure it would drag on and on because I wanted out so bad. Not because I didn’t like my job or my boss, quite the opposite actually. Just that once you start daydreaming about a new life, sometimes it feels like that new life will never get here. We bought Moose in December 2014. We ordered Trixie in April. We listed the house over Memorial Day weekend and it sold in 48 hours. Trixie showed 4 days before we closed on the house.

I had started cleaning out the house about a year before… things I knew we didn’t need or want even if the Airstream wasn’t the plan. Looking back at my Facebook page I starting dreaming this dream long before I realized it. I posted photos of tiny houses, posted camping locations I thought were only in my dreams, and quotes from the Airstream page. Things were set in motion in my heart long before my mind and courage caught up.

I haven’t been as good at keeping this blog as I would like, I am working to change that. So I think I’m going to do a flash back of sorts to our first two years on the road. I tend to take a lot of pictures and only one or two get shared on Instagram and a few on the Facebook page. I think it will be fun to relive what we’ve seen and done so far. There are places we’ve been that I forget about until someone asks something or something spurs a memory.

 

 

Busy Busy Busy!

Wow! My last post was Big Bend! Sorry guys, things have been crazy busy. Some of you know but maybe not all of you know that Blake wrote a book! The title is Toys That Time Forgot: A Visual History of Unproduced Action Figures, Volume One. He did a little over two years of research and then took it to Kickstarter, where it funded!
We’ve been working on getting the finishing touches on it before it goes to print. Man, let me tell you it’s a lot of work! You have to think about things you normally wouldn’t. We have a great designer and some top-notch people helping us out with this project and we couldn’t done it without them! We are super excited that Blake gave the ‘go ahead’ last week and we are off to the presses! If all goes according to plan, the books will ship out to our amazing Kickstarter backers late August/early September, depending on a few factors.
Blake has worked so hard on this book, I can’t wait for people to see it! If you are interested in the book you can follow along on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
While he’s been finishing up on all of that, he’s also been working on the new issue of Gearphoria which goes live July 3, (which also happens to be my birthday!) We had to come to Jackson Center, Ohio to have some warranty work done on Trixie. While we were here we drove up to Toledo and had a nice visit with Reverend Guitars. You can read and see all about them in the coming issue of Gearphoria.
I’ve been planning our next round of travel as well. We originally were going to drive back to Texas and leave the Airstream at my parents’ house while we flew to Nashville for Summer NAMM and then fly back to Texas only to fly to San Diego for SDCC (San Diego Comin-Con) a few days later. Blake decided while we were in Ohio, that we should cancel our flight and hotel and just drive from here to Nashville. Not a big deal, we did it last year. Only last year I knew we were doing that. So I cancelled flights, hotels and the rental car. Then emailed the RV park we stayed at last year in Nashville, only to find out they were booked for the 10 days we wanted to stay. After some long searching and a few phone calls. I found a place to stay the first week we get to Nashville and the RV park had a space for the 4 days for the show.
We had staked out an RV park that we wanted to stay at near Columbus the week after we were done at the factory so we could publish Gearphoria. Driving back as soon as we were done was not an option, we’d lose four days before our publish date, I didn’t book it ahead of time because we weren’t sure how long we’d be at the factory. We were certain it wouldn’t be a problem. I looked at reviews online and the place we picked didn’t have great reviews. Most people complained that there was nothing for their kids to do and that the lady who ran the place was very strict with her rules. It was perfect for us on deadline week! That meant it would be quiet and clean and there wouldn’t be a lot of noise and we could get things done. So when I knew the exact dates I called. She said they were completely booked. I knew it wasn’t a very big place but, why? Why was it booked? Then she said, “We don’t have anything because of the holiday” and I snapped, 4th of July! Dang it! That meant we were going to have a big problem, where were we going to stay? This place seemed like the perfect fit! So I figured I’d just book the place we usually stay in Ohio after we have been to the factory… BOOKED. This place has never been booked and we’ve stayed a couple of times. But never on the 4th of July. All of the state parks were full, all of the places I could think of I would want to stay were booked. So we chose to stay in Jackson Center at the Terraport. It’s nice and quiet and we have internet and cell service. A lot of people say they don’t have cell signal, I have Verizon and I have 3 bars and LTE on the Terraport, not to mention Airstream has wifi as well. It’s not super fast but it gets the job done! So here we are, enjoying the quiet, small town feel of Jackson Center, Ohio. The weather is perfect right now sunny, highs in the 70’s lows in the 50’s! Although rain is in the forecast for later in the week. But that’s ok, I’ve got a lot of proofreading to do! Here’s some of the sunsets we’ve been getting in the evenings.

 

 

 

Big Bend National Park!

 

I have always heard about Big Bend National Park. I’ve always wanted to go. Years ago before the Airstream idea ever came about I planned a trip to Lajitas. We were going to stay in this sweet resort and go hiking in Big Bend. Then something else came up and the trip idea got pushed aside. It would circle back to my radar every now and again but somehow it never happened.

Not a lot of people know about Big Bend and that’s a shame. This year when I knew we had to be in Texas longer than I wanted I started looking at places to go. A ‘Texas Tour’ if you will. I small journey of our home state. I said let’s go to some places we haven’t been to. Texas is large, and living in Houston all my life all I ever wanted to do was get out of it. So aside from Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, we haven’t explored all of what this great state has to offer! I’ve come to appreciate Texas more since I’ve been away from it than I ever did when I lived in it. Still not a huge fan of Houston though…

So when we knew we needed to be in Austin for SXSW it was only natural to continue to move west. And I am so glad we finally made it out there! I’ll let you in on a little secret… I’m trying to figure out how soon I can go back! I know now is not the time because it’s probably 1000 degrees out there in the desert but I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’ve thought about October in Big Bend more than once!

We stayed a week at an RV park in Terlingua called BJ’s RV Park. There are many options for accommodations in the parts. To tell the truth, that wasn’t the park we were initially booked at. I tend to plan out months in advance, ever since we got Trixie and I found out the hard way the Maine is completely booked in the summer, I tend to make sure we have a place to stay well before we get there. We have to have a plan for two reasons, A) I’m a planner with a bit of OCD. I need to know where I’m going to be and B) We still work full time and we need to make sure there is some connectivity most of the time so that we can communicate. Owning your own business doesn’t allow for much down time. So I originally booked us at Big Bend Resort & Adventures RV park. But when we met up with our new friends oursomedayisnow in Alpine they warned us of some recent reviews about power issues and water quality. I tried contacting them but no one would answer the phone, the voicemail box was full. I sent an email and even a message through their Facebook account to no avail. The only way to cancel your reservation was to call the 800 number which was to a management company in Arizona. They gladly cancelled my reservation with a fee of course. I went through everything with the girl on the phone, explained I couldn’t get in contact with anyone and to this day no response has been sent in any form. I asked for a manager but of course no one was available at the time of my phone call and no one has called me back even though I was told someone would. So I will warn you not to stay there, mostly based on the horrible customer service and the lack of concern about one of their parks with complaints of electricity and water issues. I enjoyed BJ’s very much. It had everything we needed and wasn’t overly expensive. I would stay there again, it’s super convent to the park. But for our next trip I’d really like to stay inside the park… although I just read something about Rio Grande Village Campground getting some major renovations now through September. So if you are headed there and plan to stay inside the park and want full hookups check their website first.

I want to talk a little bit about Terlingua too. What an awesome town! Definitely eat at the famous Starlight Theater! The food was super tasty, they serve Big Bend Brewing Co. beer and my Prickly Pear’ita was outstanding! We dined there several times! You can always catch some live music and hang out on the ‘porch’ trust me it’s a great experience.

Down 170 a bit heading toward the park there is a great little BBQ food truck called DB’s Rustic Iron BBQ. Do yourself a favor and stop there. Really really great BBQ! But beware, once it’s sold out that’s it for the day so get there early so you don’t miss out!

Ok… there’s a ton more I could say, please put this place on your list if you are coming to Texas! How about some pretty pictures?

 

Davis Mountains State Park

After our week in McKinney Falls State Park we headed further west to Davis Mountains State Park. As birdwatchers we’d heard of the Davis Mountains many many times, we just couldn’t ever make the trip out there. So when I discovered we had a little bit of down time I took full advantage and booked a week at the park. Such a beautiful place! We had a great campsite with a canopy over the picnic table. Views of the mountains and zero cell service. Although if you needed it, it was a short drive up the closest mountain and you were fully connected again. Having you own business and publishing an online magazine, you can’t be disconnected for too long. The park offered wifi, but it wasn’t strong enough to send or receive an email. So in the evenings we’d drive to the top of the mountain or during the day we’d drive into Fort Davis and use the library to work.

We did some hiking and some birdwatching. We had some friendly Acorn Woodpeckers, which a lot of people were looking for and couldn’t find, well they were in the tree at our campsite! We also had some super friendly Canyon Towhee, two of them, I thought a couple of times they were going to come inside the Airstream with us. The amount of wildlife was entertaining. The Javelinas liked coming into the bird blind and getting a drink of water.

 

McKinney Falls State Park

The next few posts will consist of a lot of firsts for us. Both of us being from Houston, Texas you would think we would have explored our home state a little more. Well we haven’t… until now. And let me say, it’s a pretty cool place to visit!

Our first state park stop after co-sponsoring a small show at SXSW was McKinney Falls State Park in Austin. The weather was absolutely perfect. Mid-march and not too hot yet. I think I sat outside every day! That’s hard to do in Texas except for that couple of weeks of spring we get. The park is full of trails and the campsites are really cool. Our picnic table was set back in the trees, so it stayed shaded most of the day. There was hardly any wind so we were able to keep the awning out most of the time as well. That’s always a treat for me because it seems like we don’t get to do that enough.

We had some good friends come visit. We were able to hike a bit and enjoyed lunch at our campsite. I would certainly stay here again!

 

 

Instant Pot… maybe not for everyone

 

I know, I know the Instant Pot is the greatest thing ever made! Or at least that’s what everyone is trying to tell me. So I ordered one from Amazon. With our mailing address being somewhat difficult, it was due to arrive at the local post office the day before we were set to leave for a few months. I ended up having to call FedEx and had them hold it at the facility so we could pick it up.

I had it a couple of weeks before I opened it. I researched before I bought it,  and all my fellow Airstreamers swear by the thing. I researched more after it came. Searching for recipes and watching YouTube videos on how to use it, how to clean it, how to use it as a slow cooker vs a pressure cooker. How to safely release the pressure. You name it, I Googled it.  First of all what I found was a lot of recipes for things we don’t really eat. One of the biggest things I continually found was everyone was making yogurt, we don’t eat yogurt and we certainly don’t have space to store 10+ jars of yogurt.

So a couple of weeks into our trip I decide to open it up. Everyone recommends (including Instant Pot) doing the water test first. So I read all the instructions and followed them exactly. Everything goes according to plan. Everyone is quick to tell you it cooks in minutes. What no one tells you is how long it takes for it to come to pressure, before it can start cooking. The other thing people don’t tell you is how long it takes to cool down once it’s done. It took nearly 2 hours for the thing to cool so that I could touch it, and that was just from the water test! I’m a very OCD type person. I like to clean as I cook… and I like to do all the dishes as soon as dinner is finished. Dirty dishes in the sink make me crazy. Especially in such a small area. There’s no room for things to be piled up.

And that leads me to the next issue, the size of this thing! I ordered the ‘smaller’ 6 quart and that thing is huge! You have to really love it to give up valuable storage space for it. I’ve seen some Airstreamers build custom drawers for this thing!  And because it’s so big you know what that leaves you with… leftovers. I’m not big on leftovers. There are only a few things that I like the next day.

So I opted to send it back to Amazon. It just didn’t do anything for me. For a family of four, it’s probably really great. I can see how it would be appealing. But for two people in a 25′ trailer, it just didn’t work out for us. So now I have a credit at Amazon… I’m looking at portable solar panels… now that’s something I think that would get more use from me!