Conroe, TX > Austin

We spent the work week at Willis RV Park on Lake Conroe. We left New Orleans early last week due to flash flood and heavy rain warnings, and when we arrived here 6 hours later, it was dark and absolutely pouring rain out.

Normally we show up when it’s light, and I’ll hop out and help direct. That would have been pointless in the dark and noisy rain. After a few back in attempts, Travis placed the RV properly. We plugged in just the electric and water (not before I ran in to grab my rain boots and rain jacket), put out slide outs, brought in the cat and our stuff and left the leveling, sewer, and all rest for the next morning.

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This guy was in the field next door!

Lake Conroe seems like an nice little fishing lake – but we’re not in a lake front spot. We’re on the side of what seems like mostly a full-timer and storage lot. It’s not terrible but I don’t love it and probably wouldn’t tell someone to come stay here – there’s just nothing to do unless you drive 20 minutes away and the natural beauty (what I was banking on) isn’t really noticeable if you’re not on the lake. I’ve left the RV for probably a grand total of 5 hours the whole week…once to go for a run and twice to run errands to Walmart.

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Our lake front campground – only we weren’t on the lake, d’oh!

Friday morning we lit out for Austin, Texas. We’re staying at Sunset RV Resort in the Hill Country. What a great spot! We had lots of morning and afternoon sunshine in the RV, which actually happens less than you’d think.

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Our site at Sunset RV Resort near Bee Cave.

After work we went to Chuy’s for Mexican food. I wasn’t bowled over, but it was relatively close and they had green chile so I was happy. 😀

Saturday we started the day off at the Barton Springs Greenbelt near the Gaines Creek entrance. The creek bed was dry until a bit farther up the path. It was cool out, in the low 40s but that bright Texas sun was shining and it warmed up enough to shed the outer layers. It’s amazing that there’s so much outdoor/green space so close to the city and I can see why it’s so popular. The chilly weather didn’t seem to phase anyone because the parking lot was nearly full when we rolled in shortly after 11.

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Barton Springs Greenbelt.

After our easy hike, we went into downtown so that I could get my hair cut at Wild Orchid Salon. I had a trim early in December, and even after showing him a photo of myself in the haircut that I had and wanted cleaned up, I left with no texture and a straight, clean blowout. Boo. On the advice of the stylist who fixed me up the first time, I dutifully stalked Instagram feeds until I found a few stylists who clearly nailed the hair game I was playing and managed to book a Saturday mid-day appointment 3 days ahead of time. Score! Thank you, Karlee Brown.

Then we walked up and down Congress Street, hustling alongside the late afternoon brunch set. Congress Street has a bunch of fun, funky little shops, food trucks, and on Saturday there were tons of outdoor artists set up in tents in various lots and stretches of sidewalks. I loved being able to get a feel for the artistic community that clearly inhabits the city – and I’m sure that was just the tip of the iceberg.

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Spotted inside a Congress Street shop.

Post-Congress street stroll, we drove downtown (Austin is definitely a driving city, btw – there is public transit but it’s not like Boston where you can just walk everywhere or NYC where you can hop on the subway) to meet my friend Mohana who’s lived in Austin for about 5 years. We hit Mount Bonnell for sunset, then went to dinner at Mother’s Cafe where her BF Tim joined us. En route to Halcyon afterward for S’mores, we walked past Ginger Man (there’s a Ginger Man in Austin! I hadn’t realized they expanded beyond NYC because I’m a moron) and I proceeded to get really excited so we popped in for some beers.

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Mount Bonnell with Mohana, yasss!

I was super excited to get to try some sours from Blue Owl, I loved the Spirit Animal sour pale ale. Professor Black, a sour cherry stout, was also great but a bit too sweet for me.

Sunday we hiked to Hamilton Pool and along the Pedernales River. Hamilton Pool itself is a collapsed grotto with a karst layer over a less permeable shale layer that’s creek-fed and like a massive echo chamber. I can only imagine how amazing it would be to swim in it in the summertime. The walk along the creek and to the Pedernales was also beautiful – the water is extremely clear and blue. You can see every little plant and detail in the shallow stream beds.

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Hamilton Pool.

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The crystal clear creek water.

Post-hike we drove to Jester King, one of my favorite Texas breweries. I highly recommend a stop here to all my beer nerd pals if you’re in the area – they have an outstanding outdoor seating area with tons of picnic tables, a pit fire, cornhole, cafe lights, and both an in- and outdoor bar area that serves different things.

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Jester King: We’ll have one of everything, pls.

Stanley’s Firehouse Pizza is in the building just below, fortunately we ordered a couple of pies before they just straight up sold out of pizza at around 4pm. So pro tip: get there on the early side.

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And, since Austin is expecting an inch or so of snow Monday night, we packed up early (again) and hit the road for Fort Davis, Texas.

 

 

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Back in the Saddle: Manatees, Frozen Pipes, NOLA, & More

New Year’s Eve with Manatees!

We had a great, low key couple of weeks in Tampa after getting back from Costa Rica. Travis spent a week back in North Carolina with family over Christmas, my dad and I champion ate, napped, and watched movies while he was away. Very lazy and relaxing.

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This sums up Christmas perfectly.

On New Year’s Eve, Travis and I woke up at about 4:45am to drive north to the Crystal River area to do an early morning swim with manatees. We booked a 7 am trip with River Ventures in Homosassa – it seemed to be a less busy location overall compared to Crystal River, and we knew that tour boats can haul up to 35 people at once to where the manatees congregate – which is in various locations in the area due to the water, which stays at about 73 degrees throughout the year. We didn’t want to be on a boat with 35 people.

We also read that manatees tend to hang in bigger groups when it’s cold out, so early morning trips make for better viewing opportunities.

As a bonus treat for waking up at such an ungodly hour, we saw the super moon set on the way. It was still pitch black when we rolled up at 6:30am, but we discovered there would only be 5 people on our tour. YAS.

Before squeezing into full body wetsuits, we watched a short intro video that explained how to not be an asshole around manatees. No yelling or being loud in general, no kicking or splashing in the water ’cause they can already hear your heartbeat from 7 damn feet away, and you can only touch a manatee if it gives you permission by approaching YOU first, with only one hand. Also, you cannot chase the manatee if it swims away and decides it is done with you. After watching the video, I decided that I would also like to be treated like a manatee.

Once we were all suited up, our guide Shana and captain Evan cruised us down the river into the sunrise. Steam lifted off the water; the temperature was about 53 degrees. We were all pretty pumped to hop into the 73-degree water.

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As soon as we made it to the swim site, two manatees approached the boat and started chewing on the ropes. I guess they like chewing on stuff with their big back molars but they are 100% vegetarian and harmless. We were the ONLY boat there! We dropped slowly and quietly into the water with pool noodles to put under our waists and proceeded to dead man float and arms-only doggy paddle all over the area.

The sun wasn’t up yet so it was a bit dark, and the water was murky because there were indeed manatees all over the place but they’d been stirring up the muck on the bottom. They surface for air somewhat frequently, so little manatee snooters were popping out of the water everywhere, 1 and 2 feet from us, but we couldn’t see them unless they were right up in our business.

If these things were anything other than completely harmless and adorable, it would probably be terrifying, because I’d be swimming along and then BAM, a 900-pound sea elephant was RIGHT under me or next to me. Sometimes they will surface under you and you just get to go for a fun full or partial out-of-water ride on its back! Most of the animals had scars on their tails and backs from boats, but apparently they have super thick hides and skin and do heal from it – our captain said that it’s not the boat propellers that will kill or hurt a manatee, it’s when a boat is going fast and hits them that will wipe one out.

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This guy had big ‘ole barnacles on its back.

We noodled around in the water for about an hour and a half – I had to throw in the towel because I was shivering and couldn’t stop. The wetsuits were great, but the main way anyone keeps warm in cold water is by swimming, and we weren’t swimming because you’re not allowed to kick or splash. But it wasn’t before one of the baby manatees came up to us and gave us a great show!

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The cutest blubbery blob I’ve ever seen.

Afterward we went to the Ellie Schiller Wildlife State Park to see birds, fish, and more manatees. Most of the animals were rehabs from injuries – we saw bald eagles, osprey, foxes, flamingoes (they stink to high heaven!), pelicans, pink spoon bills, herons, a cougar, a bobcat, gators, a hippo, the most adorable ground owl ever, and tons of snook and jack crevalle.

 

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A fishnado.

Aaaand that was the extent of our New Year’s partying – we were tired AF once we finally got home and had little to no interest in staying up late – passed out after watching the newest episodes of Black Mirror on Netflix. 😀

Tallahassee

We hit the road again on the morning of Friday, January 5th. We wanted to head straight to New Orleans but that’s a bit too far from Tampa for a single day’s drive so we stopped outside of Tallahassee in Chattahoochee at CCC’s Campground. What a great spot! It was a smaller campground amidst pine trees, quiet, not packed (love when this happens), and only $31/night.

CCC’s would have been a great place to hang out for the work week – the WiFi worked well, staff were all super friendly, the facilities were great. It was cold, though! The whole eastern seaboard got hit with bombogenesis so being in Florida we obviously couldn’t complain, but we were surprised that it dipped into freezing temps overnight.

We were warned to leave our tap running, which we did, but we also didn’t want our tanks to fill overnight since we weren’t hooked up to sewer, so we left them on a very slow drip. Apparently it wasn’t enough though, because we woke early in the morning to no running water. Our exterior water hose froze. Oops! We weren’t too worried about bursting pipes since we did have a drip going, but thanks to a couple Google searches, we learned that you can un-freeze the hose connector and regulator with a hair dryer and once you’ve done that, thaw the house out by showering with it.

I actually didn’t BRING a hair dryer on this RV trip (ain’t nobody got time for that) but the RV already had one of those funny little hotel-style hair dryers that we when we bought it that we put under the bathroom sink and left for dead. I’m now thanking our lucky stars that we left it there. It was also fortunate that our campground had lovely indoor facilities (most do, but these were particularly nice and well kept), so the showering part was easy, too.

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TaDaaaaa! Unfrozen hose.

We put the hose back on afterward just to test the lines and the water started right up again. Then, we dismantled it all and hit the road toward Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

My aunt Sue and Uncle John, veteran RVers, recommended the Hollywood Casino RV Park because it’s close-ish to New Orleans and duh, a casino (Sue is a card shark and also loves her a good casino!). It was also inexpensive at $31/night. We rolled in at about 2pm on Saturday.

Apparently RV park options in and near New Orleans aren’t plentiful and are pricey so we didn’t mind staying an hour away. This RV park was clean, well maintained, and, the best part: nearly empty. We snagged a spot on an empty side and had an entire quadrant of it to ourselves. As it was Saturday night we decided to hit the casino. I hadn’t been inside of one since going to Las Vegas half a million years ago.

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Huge props to the vehicular photobomber!

I have to admit, it was pretty disappointing, but keep in mind I’m just not a gambler to begin with. Even still, I was game to pop a squat on some slot machines just to see what would happen. My main gripe was that smoking was allowed inside the building and it smelled like every bad decision I’ve ever made between the ages of 18 and 24. Just awful.

The second floor was a non smoking floor but the geniuses who designed the place probably didn’t think about how smoke rises and it actually smelled worse up there than on the first floor. The dinner buffet was also upstairs and if you got close enough you could smell food instead of stale cigarette smoke. I played the slots for approximately 8 minutes before wondering what’s so fun about sitting on your a$$ pushing buttons over and over again.

Travis hit the poker table and I slinked (slunk?) away to drink my terrible, terrible free Zinfandel (of course I should have known it was going to be white zin when I ordered it, but I thought it was going to be RED) inside the mini arcade that had a door I could close and prevent the stench from soaking into my clothing.

I prowled the ground level one more time, looking for some other slot machines to stick a $10 into for funsies and decided that the prevailing sentiment of LED-backlit sadness that permeated the room (not to mention the smell) just wasn’t worth $10. I went back to the RV to make dinner and watch Desperately Seeking Susan on Amazon Prime (I somehow never saw this ’80s movie which blows my mind) while Travis lost $140 over the course of several hours. The house always wins, my friends.

New Orleans

Sunday morning we launched ourselves early toward New Orleans with a pretty solid day plan: coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde, Ramos Gin Fizzes at the Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone, oysters at the Bourbon House, a visit to the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, a stop at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, and then to a jazz club or two with whatever remaining time we had in the day.

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Carousel Bar. The thing actually spins around…very slowly.

On our way into the city, a flash flood warning was issued for the entire region, including our campground, for heavy rain throughout the evening and possible floods. As you may or may not already know, we’ve had a few issues with water leaks in our RV. At this point, we’re confident that there aren’t any full blown holes or leaks, but we are also confident that the damn thing just isn’t waterproof in certain places – places we have no way of knowing 100% for sure.

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This is the happy face of someone who had beignets AND oysters for breakfast. 🤔

We decided that despite not WANTING to leave earlier than we had to (ie, early Monday morning), it probably made sense to avoid torrential downpours and head for higher (and dryer ground) sooner than later. Our full day in NOLA turned into just a couple of hours, but we achieved the first three things on our list, then beat it to our next stop outside of Houston. Them’s the breaks.

Thus marks the beginning of our Journey Across Texas. Oh, and we’ve renamed the RV from Benjamin Franklin to Murphy because it seems more appropriate.

La Segunda Semana en Nosara, Costa Rica

It’s been an amazing two weeks here in Nosara. Week two was much like week one – wake up early, surf, work, eat, sleep, repeat.

We have an amazing chef named Sarah Tilhou who is cooking our lunches and dinners during the week. Everything she makes is the most delicious meal I’ve ever had – I’m not entirely sure how we’ll manage to feed ourselves anymore after this trip.

When it comes to surfing, I started off really well. Our instructor Luigi had me on 3 different boards in 3 days, crushing the whitewater. Then, the first day we went out past the break I got absolutely tossed by 2 bigger waves, one right after another.

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This dude will learn you some surfin’. 

Nothing bad actually happened other than that initial terror when you’re caught off guard and realize you’re sorta running out of air and not yet at the surface of the water. But for me, that type of terror is really hard to shake.

It was all in my mind, and I knew this, but over the next three days it was clear that I was surfing with The Fear. And feeling more anxiety than I should. But, over a few days I did my best to beast through it by returning to the whitewater to regain my ganas. Each day the waves got a bit smaller and I got a bit braver and finally stood up on some of the olas verdes (green waves). While I’ll probably never be a pro surfer, it’s been a good feeling to overcome The Fear, even if it took a few days longer than I would have liked.

Travis has been obsessed with surfing. He’s gone every single day, often times twice a day. I think the only other thing he loves more is skiing – but he’s tackling surfing in the same way. Goes all day every day, says he’s going to take a rest day then doesn’t, and even went out the morning before we caught our ride to the airport.

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The final surf.

Over the first weekend, we rented ATVs and took a trip up to a remote coffee plantation (una “cafetal”) owned by a Brooklyn ex-pat named Howie who makes, according to him, the best coffee in Costa Rica. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m no coffee connoisseur but it was delicious – very naturally sweet.

To be honest, though, the best part was ripping up and down the dirt mountain roads on ATVs. It’s the closest thing to Mario Kart IRL that I’ve ever come across.

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ATVs FOR AV PLS

We also went on a group dinner outing to a restaurant called La Luna at the next beach up, called Playa Pelada. Literally every single human we asked for restaurant recommendations told us to go here, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s perfectly situated on a small stretch of white sand beach, with palm trees, and the whole thing faces the ocean. Sunset here is at around 5:30 so the view was perfect, the breeze was perfect, and the pizza was also perfect. We went back during the day to play around in the tide pools at low tide. The rocks reveal crevasses and pools you can sit in, along with hermit crabs and other motley, miniature sea creatures. So basically, Playa Pelada sticks the landing, every time.

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Playa Pelada – the view from La Luna.

 

Melissa and I took our ATVs to San Juanillo Sunday morning, which is another beach north of Guiones. The drive was chock full of peaceful brain candy – we passed lots of grassy green fields, horses in the road, big ass iguanas, cows, some pretty deep mini-rivers that were fun to cross, the black sand beaches of Ostional, and all manner of birds I couldn’t identify (disclaimer: I am not a bird watcher). We arrived around 8am and had the whole beach to ourselves for about a half an hour.

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San Juanillo

 

Afterward, we went to a place called Ancient People for pinto gallo and smoothies for breakfast. Entertainment was provided by white throated magpie jays, a chihuahua, and a massive orb weaver spider.

I took a few yoga classes at the Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort during our stay. The first was a restorative sound healing class that was perfect after a week of getting throttled by waves on a surf board, and a couple other slow flow classes. The resort itself is beautiful – the studios, or shalas, are all open air, wooden huts and all the mats and things are there. Drop in classes were $15 and very much worth it.

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The community yoga shala at Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort

We rented ATVs again our second weekend and went to some waterfalls called Mala Noche with a local guide/tuk tuk driver named Sebastian. The water levels were lower than normal as the dry season is kicking in, but the falls were still completely beautiful and extremely refreshing to swim in. We ate fresh watermelon and pineapple thanks to our lovely guide, and enjoyed our time crawling up the falls to the higher pools, jumping off the sides, and chasing butterflies.

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Sebas, our waterfall guide and all around extremely nice, super chill dude. 

 

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Las Cataratas de Mala Noche

The remainder of my/our time consisted of going to the beach for sunsets and sunrise (okay, one or two sunrises), boogie boarding with a broken ass board left at the house, scouring the beach for shells (I found tons, but there is signage that says not to take them so I ultimately left my sea treasures behind…except for one wee cowrie shell), sipping late afternoon cans of Imperial, swimming in the pool, noodling around Guiones shops and craft tables, working, resting, reading.

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Let’s boogie.

 

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Atardecer y pies.

I love Costa Rica and understand the appeal of Nosara now. It’s small and remote, the dirt roads make it harder to get to (much like the lack of subway made Red Hook hard to get to, hence its appeal), the beach and waves are exceptional, and while you’re there all that seems to matter is embracing pura vida. And for some reason, it’s so very easy to do.

 

 

Tampa, FL and Nosara, Costa Rica

Sorry I’ve been off the blog wagon as of late. I take holiday time seriously – time off means time off, and for me that meant time off of the computer, too.

We landed in Tampa, FL on November 20th. My dad lives there, so we came to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with him and send Benjamin Franklin into the shop to get a good once over and some maintenance. Turns out the closet stench is from wood rot. I’m amazed that rotting wood can smell as foul as to convince us it was actually a dead animal of some sort.

Thanksgiving was lovely – Ramos Gin Fizzes and turkey were had, as well as lots of QT with family. Travis’s grandparents live in nearby Plant City so we were able to have them over for Thanksgiving dinner and see both his mom and aunt who were in town.

To be honest, we didn’t do a whole lot that was exciting these two weeks as we were mainly interested in some R&R and little to no running around. My dad lives in a non-puny living space, unlike what we had in Brooklyn and at present, so Monkey the cat didn’t quite know what to do with so much space. It’s no mansion, but I don’t think she’s ever had so much space to explore and attempt to dominate.

My dad was kind enough to cat sit for the two weeks that we’re off on a Costa Rica adventure. Some of the best nicknames for her that have come out of his mouth (so far) are: Captain Bellyflop, Pesky Nematode, and Miss Pussner.

At present we’re in Playa Guiones, Costa Rica on a Robly retreat. Six of us are staying in a beautiful home with a pool, near the beach. It is breathtaking. Getting here was a haul – we flew Tampa > Miami, had a 4.5 hour layover, then 2.5 hour flight into Liberia, plus a 3-hour drive from the airport to where we are. But sweet jesus, was it worth it.

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Hola.

It’s hot, humid, and the ocean is perfect. You can jump in at 6 am or 6pm and the water feels perfect. The house has several nooks that are perfect for working.

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Werk.

We’re taking surf lessons every morning, working during the day, going to the beach for sunsets, and going to bed by 9pm. Pura vida, ‘fo sho. We’ve had a couple of power outages, though. So far only one has impacted our work day – today there was a planned outage (we didn’t know until our surf instructor told us first thing this morning, apparently they are monkey-proofing some of the power lines) until noon so we had to truck down to a local hotel that had a generator and WiFi to get on the work stick. Hopefully there aren’t too many of those on the books for the time frame we’re here – it’s a bit pathetic how little we can get done without internet OR cell service (the towers went out, too).

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Playa.

There are also lots of fun bugs and critters here. Lizards, iguanas, giant grasshoppers (locusts?), birds, millipedes, moths…

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Greg the Grasshopper. Or is Greg a Locust?

I have to admit I’ve been pretty lazy with the camera for once. I’ve been too interested in doing The Things rather than making sure I capture them on camera, but in the next two weeks I should be able to catch some decent snaps with ye olde GoPro. Maybe. No promises, though.

Tybee Island, GA

We’re at River’s End Campground in Tybee Island, Georgia. This is the first time I’ve spent any time in Georgia – new state, woohoo!

Our site backs up to a quiet side street – at least it’s quiet until some loud ass delivery truck or diesel monster comes ripping through. Our first night here I was walking along one of the paths, exploring the campground (it was dark out) and I kicked an errant blob of what I assumed was wood or stone off the path. Turns out it was a toad. Oops! :/ Travis has dubbed me Toadkicker.

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The weather is lovely right now – it’s humid enough to get warm when the sun is out but it’s not been over 70 degrees since we got here – and there’s usually a nice breeze. We’re a 10-minute walk from the beach – which reminds me very much of the beaches in the Outer Banks – the dunes, the shells, the water temperature and color, the nearby lighthouse.

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We got a geeza to come check out our electrical situation – he found a wire that wasn’t properly ground on our converter so he fixed that – since we haven’t had hot skin since leaving North Carolina it wasn’t really anything we could test as a tried-and-true solution, but hopefully that does the trick.

I picked up a cold in North Carolina, so the first week here has been pretty low key – I’ve been determined to kill it ASAP by consuming mass quantities of herbal tea and brothy soups, plus Nyquil to guarantee a solid night’s sleep each night. It hasn’t killed the cold, but it 100% has made it less nasty – overall I’ve been less phlegmy and run down.

The first weekend here was really windy and chilly so we went to Savannah for a museum day. I’ve always had an inexplicable love for art that involves ships, so we went to the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, located in the Scarbrough House. The house was built in 1819 in the Greek Revival style for one of the owners of the Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The house was used as a public school, then abandoned, then restored, then vacated, then restored in 1996.

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I’ve always loved the colors in ship paintings. This was one of my favorites.

Needless to say, my love for maritime art (clipper ships, ships at sea, ships surrounded by turbulent waters and stormy skies) was fulfilled – the museum also housed hand-built scale models of steamships, yachts, clippers, navy ships, and the Titanic. All the models are built to the same scale – so it was easy to gauge the relative size of each one compared to the others.

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This ship was named Anne. In the fall of 1732, this ship sailed to America carrying the first 144 colonists to Georgia. It was a 200-ton British galley, 87 feet long and 26 feet wide. The voyage took about two months.

We strolled down Congress Street toward the downtown area afterward. We loved the historical feel of the city – very much like Boston, but without skyscrapers. Lots of statues (Confederate and Yankee alike), open squares, antebellum architecture, and those famous live oaks with Spanish moss keep the Southern Gothic vibe alive and well. Oh, also apparently there is no open container law here – you can stroll around while you get your drink on. Bonus, if that’s your jam!

We also went to the Savannah Wildlife Refuge and did the 4-mile driving “tour” through a section of the nearly 30,000 acres that make up its area. The tour is essentially a large loop with places to stop and do 1 to 3 mile walks – mostly along canals. We saw 3 alligators which may not be exciting to everyone, but it was the first time I’d seen one in the wild without a fence blocking the view slash protecting me. What prehistoric lizards those things are.

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Even ‘gators like to sun their buns.

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Work week two was pretty laid back. It’s been windy AF though, so temps are still mid 60s or lower. I managed to work out in the mini fitness center 6 days in a row this week, so I’m pretty chuffed about that. Working out regularly when your routine and location changes weekly is tough, you guys – I won’t lie. The fact that this little fitness center exists has been a huge help.

Combine that with long days of driving every week, a job that requires being on a computer, and irregular eating habits and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a less-than-healthy lifestyle. Or at least a little extra ’round the middle. :/

I’ve realized that I’m going to have to be a lot more disciplined about forcing myself to work out regularly – gone are the days of accidentally burning a zillion calories by virtue of hauling my ass all over NYC by foot and by bike – not to mention those weekly aerial classes that are sadly no more (have had zero luck finding aerial studios in smaller towns).

In addition to regular HIIT workouts, I’ve been trying to walk during my lunch breaks and make sure I get up and move around during the day. I should also use my portable standing desk more often, but to be honest I kind of hate it – it’s perfect for RV life but so annoying to actually set up that I avoid using it.

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WERK
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Meet Bean. She lives at the Tybean Coffee Shop down the street.

We took a dolphin tour early morning from the Bull River Marina – it was just the two of us so it was basically a private boat ride with our captain Tony, from Phakatane, Aotearoa (New Zealand).

We zoomed out in a motor boat through the labyrinthine grass patches of the inner coastal area of Tybee Island.

We saw 4 Bottlenose dolphins, all male, hunting for breakfast. Males will break off on their own or in small groups, while females always stay with a pod. So while the quantity wasn’t high, the quality sure was – though we had to laugh when Captain Tony confessed that before we left, the deck hand had told him we wouldn’t see any dolphins. A word to the wise: you don’t get a refund if you don’t see any dolphins.

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Early, windy dolphin spotting.

We spent one last day walking all over Savannah – we hit up the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market in Forsyth Park (holy Pecans! Baked goods! Fresh veggies! Local honey! I ate a Persimmon!)

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Forsyth Park Farmer’s Market

We also noodled by SCAD‘s admission office, downtown, the Riverfront, hit up Foxy Loxy cafe thanks to a recommendation from our friends Tim & Lauren, Artillery for cocktails, The Public Kitchen & Bar for dinner.

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Scad’s Admission Office.

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Riverfront + incoming container ship.

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Artillery: Cocktail hour!

Also, I bought my first “real” piece of art – an R. Atkinson Fox print called “Love’s Paradise” from the ’30s in the original frame from the Savannah Underground Market.

His style is very similar to Maxfield Parrish, one of my favorite artists. And if you’re wondering where exactly we’ll put this in our RV, well, the answer is: we won’t. One of the reasons I pulled the trigger on it was that I know I can safely store this at my dad’s place (our next stop) until it’s time to hang it on a wall that doesn’t travel at 50+ miles an hour.

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And speaking of art, if you love vintage/antique maps and art illustrations, don’t miss V&J Duncan – they’re packed to the gills with vintage and reproduction prints and illustrations from all eras. I pilfered their ship and boat collection – easily could have spent a small fortune on the colorful collection of wood-blocked ship prints they had, but settled for one.

I also have to say that I’m quite excited to head “home” to Florida. I did not grow up in Florida, but my dad has lived in Tampa for 10+ years now, and wherever dad or mom or or family are = home. By that definition, I have several “homes.” 🙂 We love being on the road, but there’s nothing quite like spending time with family and friends when you can. ❤

We’ll be taking Benjamin Franklin in for a little work (dad’s Christmas present to us this year, thanks daddo!) before heading off to a two-week work retreat in Nosara, Costa Rica. Pura vida!

Pittsboro, North Carolina (Our RV Might be Trying to Kill Us)

We spent a full week camping at what our great uncle has dubbed The Backyard Fig Bush Campground, aka, a parking spot with full hookups next to their garage and, of course, a fig bush.

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John Henry and Sally Hearne live in Pittsboro, North Carolina, about 20 minutes from where Travis grew up (near on Jordan Lake in Apex). They’re both veteran RVers and lived in theirs while they built their house – hence the full hookups.

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The Fig Bush.

What a treat to stay with family for a while! Our Backyard Fig Bush space faced a forest of pines on one side that usually contained herds of deer in the evenings and the house on the other. The Wi-Fi didn’t reach to the RV so we had to work from the house during the days – between an office, spare bedroom, sun room, and two porches we were spoiled for choice when it came to places to work.

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In the sunroom with Ben the parrot. Yes, he can talk – popular phrases include “Hello,” “Hi Bird,” “Where’s Pop-paw,” and “Hi Ben.”

We got to see Travis’s dad (Stan) and Grandma (Gertrude) as well as a bunch of his cousins, first cousins once removed (or something like that), and so forth. We made our obligatory stop at S&T’s Soda Shoppe where the fried chicken is to die for, both literally and figuratively.

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John Henry and Ben

We finally washed our rig – most campgrounds we’ve been to specifically prohibit washing on site but ours was starting to look pretty sad. Fortunately, John Henry had All The Things to get this done. Extendo-brush? Check. Buckets? Check. Pressure Washer? Check. We skipped the pressure washer, though – given our history with water issues we figured it was safer that way.

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Before (right) and after (left)!

We got to see a bunch of friends, too, yaaaay! We hadn’t seen too many familiar faces in the last couple of months, so it was really nice to catch up with some of our favorite people. We failed in an epic way at taking photos, though. :/ But thanks to the Davis family, Palmer & Jocelyn, Ari & Ginny, and Anna for taking the time to hang! We love you all!

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Sally’s garden!

Oh right, about the RV trying to kill us…

As we were packing up to leave on our last morning, I opened one of the side storage doors on the RV and felt a weird muscle spasm in my hand. I dropped the door and tried again – same thing. The third time was when I realized that it was an electrical current running through the metal door and frame – and the current was jumping into my hand every time that I touched it.

Apparently, this is called “hot skin.” Clearly it is not a good thing. We think there may be an electrical short somewhere in the rig, which would explain why we’ve blown a couple slide out fuses with no clear cause. Our exterior door light also stopped working suddenly. Needless to say as soon as we get to our next stop, we’re calling an electrician. Has anyone else experienced this?!

Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg, TN

“That’s where Dolly Parton is from!”

That was my mom’s first exclamation after I told her we were in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The best way to describe this place is that it’s like an elongated, family-friendly version of Las Vegas.

Dollywood notwithstanding, this place is literally packed to the gills with museums (Titanic, Wonderworks, Hollywood Wax, Alcatraz East, etc), entertainment (magic shows, dinner theaters, arcades, amusement parks, and more mini golf courses than you can shake a stick of beef jerky at), tchotchke shops (doll stores, doll clothing stores, t-shirt and souvenir shops, As Seen on TV stores, candy shops, and on and on and on), retail (boot stores, outlet malls, aforementioned tchotchke shops) – and at night all of these things light up an an electric display of peacockery that will drain your wallet faster than you can say Jolene, Jo-lene, Jolene, Joleeeeeeeene.

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A tiny fraction of STUFF AND THINGS in Pigeon Forge

11 million people come through here every year (had no idea) and Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited National Park – by comparison, the Grand Canyon gets about 6 million visitors per year.

October is peak season too, so we paid higher rates to stay here than most anywhere else we’ve stayed so far. The campsites here are pretty packed in – we’re at Creekside RV Park which has a lovely little creek running through it but it wasn’t our first or second choice – we didn’t plan too far ahead so we took what we could get.

It’s fine amenity wise – full hookups and laundry and so forth – but more yippy dogs than anywhere else we’ve been. The real pot of gold here, in my opinion, is the herd of ducks that waggles through the park every day – they hang by the creek here – and certainly aren’t afraid of people. And since the duck is my spirit animal, I was quite happy to be surrounded by them at all times.

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One great thing about this area is that it doesn’t shut down at 5pm like some of the smaller towns we’ve stayed in. We worked our days and then spend our evenings trotting about – I hit up the Titanic museum on my own while Travis worked late and loved it – definitely worth it if you’re at all intrigued or entranced by the story (guilty). The building itself is a half-scale model of the ship.

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All Aboard! Actually, on second thought…

My favorite part was a trough of water they kept at 28 degrees that you could stick your hand in to experience the temperature of the water – it was painful. I put my hand in there for about 35 seconds before I had to retreat – my bones literally started hurting.

We explored the Island at Pigeon Forge – a collection of shops, museums, and attractions amidst the larger assortment of shops, museums, and attractions in the area. We took the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel for a spin – just in time for sunset.

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Then, we meandered for dinner, considering our options…Dick’s Last Resort, Margaritaville, Paula Deen, some BBQ joint whose name I forget – all were packed or priced for airport travel…we skedaddled from the area and found ourselves at a nearly empty Japanese Hibachi restaurant called Kinkaku.

This, my friends, was a smart move. Not sure if people around here just aren’t into more exotic fare but the wait time was zero and the food was outstanding.

We had one warm, sunny day that was nice enough for outdoor ‘sploring, so we hiked Rainbow Falls in the Park. It was a 5.4 in and back and just the perfect day for it – fall foliage was beautiful and the falls were, too – the trail was definitely well-traveled but still worth it.

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The top of the trail: Rainbow Falls.

It was cold and rainy all weekend, so Saturday we hit up an escape room nearby and saw Geostorm (it was the best of our 4 options, trust me) and Sunday we drove up to Gatlinburg for the day. Gatlinburg is like Pigeon Forge, but smooshed into a much smaller, entirely walkable area right at the base of where the National Park gets going.

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On the trolley to Gatlinburg – necessary out-of-focus selfie…!

We realized this month that burned through 100+% of our budgeted money for the month, so had we been feeling a bit more flush we probably would have gone into every Ripley’s location as well as the Aquarium – but as such we noodled around walking through a few of the many shops and enjoying the sights – we even had about 10 minutes of snowfall before it turned back into rain.

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Brrrrr kitty.

From here we’re off to North Carolina to visit Travis’s stomping grounds and family. His great uncle and aunt are RVers and have hookups at their house! So we’re pretty excited to experience RV life in familiar territory. 😀