Greetings, Turkeys. Thanksgiving 2017.

Hello. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent ours in Indianapolis at our very favorite extended stay hotel because it’s a work week. This is our second Thanksgiving in a row at this hotel. Not that we’re counting. It’s actually kind of awesome being here around the holidays. Everything is pre-decorated. We roll in from wherever and, BAM, it’s a winter wonderland in the lobby.

As an added bonus, my birthday was just a few days ago and my mother sent me a holiday package which included a big Happy Birthday balloon. This tipped off the staff and they created a birthday surprise for me.  At 7 am.

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It really pays to be a regular.

We spent the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving tooling around Florida.  Spent some quality time in Gulfport and hit up a truly stunning mid-century modern architecture tour in Sarasota. For people without a house, we love a good house tour.

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Jennifer trying to imagine the sunken living room as a hurricane bunker. We’re still wearing the booties. They’re very comfortable.

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That amazing bar was shipped piece by piece from…Stockholm, maybe? In case you’re still bar shopping, Wills. And, yes, we are frequently the youngest people in the room. By decades.

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Our plan was to work our way back to Indianapolis via Tallahassee so we could visit Jennifer’s dad.  We ended up stopping along Florida’s Forgotten Coast. It’s a stretch of Florida between the Gulf of Mexico and something called the Apalachee Bay. We only went there because we read about a chill campground on a barrier island. It was crazy amazing. White sand beaches. Beautiful campsites. Pet friendly. Not freezing. We ended up staying for a few days.

 

 

Also, we love food but we’ve decided we can’t eat at one more restaurant with artisanal ice cubes. Not for a while, at least. Because of this, we’ve been hitting up some more out-of-the-way spots. This part of Florida is very well known for it’s oysters but a little research (an article titled “Deadly Harvest) revealed that eating those oysters can result in death if they’re not properly handled. After tons of discussion, we decided we’d only eat the cooked oysters. Then we came to our senses.

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Seriously some of the best oysters ever. At a place without a hand-crafted cocktail menu, but WITH an honor system beer cooler. We’re moving in the right direction.

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This is another solid establishment. FYI: smoked fish is staple in Florida. Lots of these places had smokers outside and super delicious smoked fish spread on the menu.

We also entertained our first dinner guest. In the van. Jennifer’s dad is a trooper. Plus, he’s a flight instructor and we got to spend the night basically on the runway. Our Travato fit right in.

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That’s about it. Right now we’re packing up to get back on the road. We’ve got about two weeks to amuse ourselves. We’re going to point the van south until the temperatures become acceptable and figure it out from there. We may go back for more oysters and we might end up in New Orleans. We’ll let you know.

 

Street Spice!

Ok, we did exactly what we swore we weren’t going to do. We went a long time without posting. We went a lot of places and we did a lot of things. Should we relive them all here? Should I spend all day trying to remember everything we did? I’m thinking no. I’m thinking I’m just going to do a synopsis slash hit list. So here it is.

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Aquatic as ever.

Synopsis: Since our last post we basically did a 33-day 5,000 mile shakedown trip in our new Winnebago Travato,which we now refer to as Street Spice (sort of a nod to the horrible name we inherited when we bought our now non-existent island house, Sweet Spice). Anyway, we took Street Spice from Indianapolis up through the Finger Lake region of New York and through the Adirondacks into Maine. We spent about 5 days in Acadia National Park, which I highly recommend. (I also recommend eating as much lobster as possible, which we did.)  We actually had reservations in Acadia so we kind of sped through New York to get there but we’re looking forward to going back eventually.

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Also we went to Niagara Falls.

After Acadia we had to haul ass to DC to catch the always fabulous All Things Go Fall Classic. That’s a music festival. You should go because it’s always fabulous. This year it was three days instead of one and we only made it in time for the last day, by which point we were so fried from traveling and just like, coping or whatever, that we ended up leaving before the headliner. And it was STILL FABULOUS. Also we got to spend a few hours with several of our favorite people, so that’s a plus. We got out of DC as fast as possible because we were just generally kind of freaking out about having the RV in the city, but everything worked out great. Sidenote: We are much more comfortable with the RV now and take it pretty much everywhere.

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Soooooo many leaves.

After DC we headed over to Shenandoah National Park (which we’ve visited many times) and hopped on and off of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way down to Asheville, NC. Basically this whole trip was a foliage-fest. Jennifer loves fall foliage. I’m not that into it because changing leaves means weather and I think we can all agree that weather just plain sucks. Nevertheless, we have lots of pics of Wembley and Frances and leaves.

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The Biltmore. Be sure not to miss the “bachelor wing.”

While we were in Asheville we finally made it to the Biltmore Estate which we’ve been meaning to do for years. We love a good house tour. The Biltmore is this gigantic, enormous estate that one of the Vanderbilts built. It’s beautiful and amazing. Frederic Law Olmsted, the guy who designed central park, designed the grounds. Yeah, it’s like that. The thing is, it wasn’t really that interesting. It was kind of too tasteful and classy and there wasn’t much of a story (except that it seems like this Vanderbilt guy was pretty gay, although it was never mentioned and he did eventually get married and we’re totally just guessing . But, you know, it was tasteful). I’ll take circus-mogul John Ringling’s house in Florida over the Biltmore any day of the week. Onwards.

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Hiking like it’s 1992. We are extremely wardrobe-challenged when temps dip below 75.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park was kind of a bust because they have a pretty tough dog policy. Dogs are allowed in the campgrounds but not on the trails. This turned out not to be a problem because there’s tons of National Forest around the park which is, in many ways, better to camp in anyway. Usually it’s cheap and/or free, the sites are less developed and way less crowded. We did tons of camping and hiking and figuring out the complex intricacies of life in the Travato. (It’s not that hard, mostly because we don’t really have much stuff.) We did buy some camp chairs which are pretty ugly but have upped our recreation game considerably. And a Soda Stream! We finally bought one of those soda stream machines and it is completely life changing. Endless seltzer. Endless boxed wine spritzers. In chairs. We’re getting good at this.

 

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Rocking the self-timer.

On our way back to Indiana we stopped in Oak Ridge, TN. Maybe you know about Oak Ridge? We had no idea. Basically, it was a completely secret town that was part of the Manhattan Project- you know, the development of the nuclear program? Yeah, it turns out there were thousands and thousands of people living in a SECRET CITY in Tennessee during WWII working on making the atomic bomb. We got there late so we didn’t get the full tour but it was still mind-blowing. We’re definitely going back.

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In lieu of a driver’s license, Jennifer got an official Oak Ridge ID.

As an added bonus while driving towards Oak Ridge we ended up on a crazy, twisty road full of hot rods, motorcycles and photographers. Apparently it’s some famous achievement to “drive the dragon.”

 

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Professional photo, guys. We slayed the dragon. Let us know if you’d like a print. Or a t-shirt. They’re available.

After that it was straight back to Indy for a week of motel-living and a paycheck. Yes, we were back in the same extended stay hotel we’ve posted about previously. No, nothing at all interesting happened in that week (although the Hallmark Channel is doing it’s holiday movie marathon, in case you’re interested. Like me.).

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One of the benefits of being a frequent guest at a quality hotel is that the staff sometimes attaches little notes when your new shoes are delivered. Thanks, Renee!

Finally, we headed down to Florida (where we are now) to register the van and get some government ID. On our way down here we camped at a state park in Kentucky. On Halloween. When we pulled in it was after dark  and almost completely deserted.  So we took a spin around all the sites to find the best one and then we went to the after-hours registration station, filled in our info and parked at our deserted campsite. Five minutes later headlights show up out of nowhere. Right behind us. Suddenly Kentucky didn’t feel like the World’s Friendliest Place. But it turns out the couple in the car were the campground hosts. Apparently, we were looking very suspicious pulling in late at night in a black van. They thought maybe we were a meth lab. You know, like the two other meth labs they busted at that campground the week before.  Not even kidding. All in all it was a pretty good shakedown cruise. No major malfunctions. Lots of good times.

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Kentucky. I think.

*Progress Update on Sweet Spice: We had several text exchanges and static-y conversations with multiple insurance adjusters who have confirmed that “you’re house is gone” and “seems like it was a nice place, probably.” Then we got a letter from FEMA denying our request to build a bridge. We had no idea that was even an option. Stay tuned.

 

 

Eating Our Feelings: Lobster Quest 2017

This is our first update from the road. We’re learning that wifi is spotty out here in America and we’re staked out in the Starbuck’s alcove of what may be the last remaining Barnes and Noble. Who knew? I thought they were long gone, but if you need to relive the You’ve Got Mail era head over here to…somewhere in Virginia.

Anyway, we’re going to have to keep this update fairly brief. Our travels in the Travato so far have been great. We’re still a little shell shocked from the whole hurricane displacement issue, but our motto has turned out to be: keep moving. In that vein we have spent the last 2.5 weeks camping through the Finger Lakes and Adirondack park in upstate New York (all of it lovely and kind of a blur), hitting up Niagara Falls, and spending about 5 days in Acadia National Park in Maine. I don’t have time to share all the details of these spectacular destinations right now but, trust me, they are spectacular.

In Maine we decided that our second motto should be: distract yourself with treats. So we completely dedicated ourselves to Lobster Quest 2017: Pursuit of the Perfect Lobster Roll. This happened because we knew we wanted an amazing lobster roll while in Maine (obviously) and we found a list of great places for lobster rolls. Then we selflessly dedicated ourselves to trying as many as possible and coming up with a way to rate them. Ultimately, we ended up trying lobster rolls from 5 different establishments on the list. That’s a lot of lobster in 5 days.

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The Maine: Mayo and Chives

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The Connecticut: Hot Butter

First, let it be said, we did not have a bad lobster roll during this challenge. We have to be nit-picky in order to rank them. They were all delicious, but when you take in the overall setting/ambiance as well as the overall quality of the roll (amount of lobster, lobster taste, roll/meat ratio, etc.) there were some clear winners. Here are our results, good to great, of Maine’s best lobster rolls (according to us).

#5 Side Street Cafe in Bar Harbor. This was kind of a weird one.  All of the other places we tried were legit lobster pounds or seafood stands. This place is like an eclectic cafe in the touristy town right next to Acadia National park. It’s right in town, so it’s really just a lobster roll of convenience. We took ours to go on our way out of the park. Were it not on our list, we would never have stopped. They have a whole burrito section on their menu. However, the lobster roll was still above average with a nicely buttered roll and a good amount of lobster meat. Not really memorable, though.

#4 Muscongus Bay Lobster in Round Pond. This is a lobster shack in a quaint setting on the water in an out of the way town in Maine. Jennifer picked up the lobster rolls and she said the place had kind of a bohemian feel. Whatever. Their deal is they make their own buns. And they recommended the whole wheat, so that’s what we got. Terrible idea. Lobster rolls do not belong on whole wheat buns no matter how good they are. Period. The lobster can’t compete with that kind of culinary pressure. Also, they had some kind of tarragon mayo going on (risky move), but we couldn’t really taste it. Basically, this place is ranked #4 instead of #5 just because it’s in a way cooler spot than Side Street Cafe and you feel like you’re getting more of a “Maine” experience.

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Bite Of Maine Food Truck/Trailer

#3 Bite of Maine in Cape Elizabeth. This is actually a food truck near the big city of Portland. We hit it on our way out of the state. We were expecting it to be kind of a weird urban lobster experience, but it wasn’t. The truck/trailer is parked in this ridiculously beautiful city park on the water with a crazy lighthouse in the background. You pick up your roll and take it to whatever picnic table you want. The deal here is they have different styles of lobster rolls. They have some with wasabi, some with curry, some with cole slaw. In the interest of keeping the competition pure we only tried the classics, which are the Maine (mayo and chive) and the Connecticut (hot butter). The Connecticut won hands down. It was a very, very solid lobster roll. Buttery and delicious and with good lobster flavor. The Maine just tasted like mayo, pretty much. There was a lot of it. I’d still be up for trying some of their more creative rolls next time.

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Lobster Glow

#2 Five Islands Lobster Co in Georgetown. This was our first stop. It’s in a totally out of the way, completely quaint little village right on the water. You order your roll from the shack and take it out to the wood deck to chow down with a gorgeous view of all of these beautiful little islands (probably five).  You can practically hear the theme song of Murder She Wrote in the air. It feels like you think Maine should feel. The lobster roll was very good. A little bland, but good and full of meat. What it lacked in flavor was more than made up for by the setting. Yeah, you should go.

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Uh-huh.

 

#1 Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bernard. This was the best lobster roll we had on this trip. No question. Great roll, perfect ratio of meat to bun, amazing lobster flavor. Plus, it’s a legit lobster pound right on the water about 30 minutes from Acadia. They have a screened in porch you can eat on over the water, but we ate in the Travato because we had a great view and we also have a screen door. Total happiness. They also do lobster dinners…you pick out your lobster at the counter and they throw it in the steamer out back. It was dinner time when we were there so we branched out and got some corn on the cob, too. Also excellent. Also, they have great t-shirts. I should know. I got one. Perfect blend of cotton and poly, very 1987.

 

 

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View of Thurstons from our screened porch/van. Does your car not have a screen door???

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Chowing down in the van.

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Thurston’s. Yeah, there’s lettuce. It works.

In the spirit of absolute fucking transparency, I’d like to mention another lobster hot spot that has stellar rolls that we didn’t get a chance to stop at on this trip: Red’s Eats in Wiscasset ME. It was our first great lobster roll experience and if the lines outside the door are any indication, they’re still turning out a very fine product. Probably you should stop there if you can.

And finally, because how can we have even one post without a mention of St. John, I’d like to give a shout out to the super delicious lobster rolls once served at the Tourist Trap in Coral Bay. Sadly, the Tourist Trap closed down even before Irma, but those were great lobster rolls in a truly beautiful spot. Hope you had a chance to try them while they were still around.

So that’s it. That’s our lobster list. It’s time to use the Barnes and Noble bathroom for the 103rd time and get back in the Travato. Stay tuned.

Oh, we’re headed to the Asheville, NC/ Great Smoky Mountains area right now, so if anyone has any tips, please let us know!

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On The Road. Again.

Well, ok, we’ve made some progress. Basically what happened was-we kind of lost our minds. Faced with months and probably years of couch surfing and extended stay hotels while we try to rebuild our house in STJ we both sank, simultaneously, into a deep, dark depression in Indianapolis. I’m not going to go on about that because you can probably figure out that the whole situation sucks (for everyone touched by Irma, not just us. And yeah, we know we’re lucky).

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Jennifer and Wembley packing all of our remaining clothes in hotel.

Anyway, we were seriously thinking about changing the name of this interweb journal from detached and amused to down-trodden and disgusted. But, you know, wordpress is more of a pain in the ass to edit than you would think. So we decided that if the title is detached and amused then that’s what we have to be. AND if we already have the about us page set up to chronicle our journeys in a Winnebago, then we needed a fucking Winnebago. So we got one.

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Introducing the Travato. This is a HUGE upgrade from Coachese (for whom we found a lovely and fantastic new owner). This guy is brand new. All the bells and whistles. Very extended warranty. The best Winnebago has to offer in a campervan (and much, much nicer than many of the places we’ve lived). Anyway, we checked out of the exended stay hotel and directly into the Travato a few days ago. Yes, you’re right, we can’t afford this. Thanks for reminding us.

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Frances in the Travato. Yeah. We fancy now. She knows it.

 

Let’s stay positive, shall we? This guy is super stealthy. He doesn’t really look like an RV. He’s 21 feet long and pretty much fits in regular parking spots. And even if people know its an RV, it’s so fucking nice that no one minds having it parked in their driveway. I know this is true because we already camped in our friends’ driveway in a very swanky neighborhood in Cincinnati. Thank you Adeoyes. We really, really love you guys.

 

Right now we are somewhere in the Finger Lakes area of NY. Yesterday, we went to Niagara Falls (first time for all of us and very impressive). Later this week we’ll be in Acadia National Park in Maine. And at the end of the month we’ll be back in Indy because Jennifer has work dates scheduled. And that’s how it will go, hopefully. Instead of spending the next year or more in a semi-soul-crushing Days Inn while we battle insurance companies and scheme about how to get our life back, we’ll ping pong around the country in our 100% operable rv, visiting friends and family (yes, this means you) and World Famous Attractions between work weeks (while also still battling and scheming to get our island life back).

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Niagara Falls. Taken by storm.

 

Hey, let’s not forget that this was our plan all along. We always wanted to spend part of our time doing this. I know this because I’ve actually read this blog. We just forgot for a minute because it almost always sucks a little when you’re forced into something. Even if it was one of your dreams.

RV Equipment Wishlist

(We are really late getting this post out! Starting writing it a few weeks ago. We decided to post it in its original form to keep things in sequence.)

We haven’t actually camped in our Winnebago, Coachese, yet. We haven’t even had him in our possession for most of the time we’ve owned him (more on that HERE). But hopefully, sometime this month, we’ll set off to travel and live in him for a couple of months. So, how do we know what we’ll need to make the trip a success? We don’t. But that hasn’t stopped us from dreaming/planning. Some of the things we’re keeping in mind are:

  • Camping without hook-ups. Private campgrounds can be a drag (and expensive) so we want to be able to take advantage of some amazing National Forests and other free public lands.
  • Space efficiency. Coachese is pretty small for an RV, just 19′ long and no slide-outs.
  • Food. We cook a lot. We want to make smart choices about what to bring so we can eat the way we want to without dragging a lot of crap around.
  • Money. We came to the states to make money, so ideally, we don’t want to spend it all before we get home.

With those goals in mind, here is a list of things we’re hoping to have for this trip-  we’ll let you know what we are actually able to get and how everything works out as we go:

  •  Nature’s Head Composting Toilet. Pros: I know, it sounds gross but stay with me. It uses no water at all and there is no black (sewage) tank to dump.  We know from our experiences renting RV’s that we HATE emptying the black tank. Plus, it’s an insane waste of water. So this should allow us to convert our black tank to a gray tank and keep us from using a lot of our fresh, drinatures head picnkable water to flush poop.This one piece of equipment should allow us to camp in the wild, without dumping, for much longer periods of time. I’m not going to go into all of the science-y details of how this works because other people on the internet have already done a much better job than I can do. Check them out.                        Cons:  It’s bigger than our existing RV toilet and it  might be a tight squeeze in our very tiny bathroom. If it doesn’t fit where the old toilet was, we’ll put it in the shower stall, essentially turning it into a wet bath like in a sailboat. Another drawback is the expense. The Nature’s Head costs about $950. Yeah, American Dollars. It’s a big investment for  an RV we’ll only be using a couple of months at a time, but we’re also considering one for our house in St. John where water conservation is crucial. This’ll be sort of a test case. Verdict: We are definitely getting this. It’s being shipped and/or installed right now. We’ve never actually seen one in person and I know some people might be as curious as I am about it, so we will be sure to post about it every (possibly disgusting) step of the way.

 

  • Solar Power.  After looking at a bunch of fancy rooftop solar renogy generic picsolutions, we decided to just go small. We think it will be easier to be careful about how much power we use than to go super high-tech. We’ll be using the batteries for the lights (which we’re changing to LED), a couple of 12V fans, phone and laptop charging, the circuit board for the fridge (which will run mainly on propane) and the very small vent fan for the toilet. We ordered a 100W RENOGY Solar Suitcase to charge our batteries. We also got this Renogy 30 Amp Charge Controller and some extra long cables so that we can park in the shade and leave the panels in the sun. The whole setup cost about $350. You can also get the suitcase with a built in controller, but those were out of stock when I ordered. The whole package is on the way and we’ll let you know how it works out.

 

  • Water. We’re big fans of clean drinking water without disposable plastic bottles.goberkey You should be too. To filter our cistern water in St.John we use a Big Berkey Water Filter. We love it. It’s easy, it tastes amazing, it uses no power. For this trip we need something small and easily stowable, so we opted for the tiny 1-qt Go Berkey and a couple of Berkey sports bottles, neither of which we’ve used before. Our plan is to use the GoBerkey to fill up a bigger container of water we’ll keep in the fridge or wherever.These are all items we can take back with us if we need to. The Berkeys just came today and when we try them out we’ll let you know how it goes.

 

  • Kitchen.  The sink in the RV is tiny and we know from experience that doing dishes will be a challenge. Remodeling the kitchen is out. Bringing along a couple of collapsible tubs is in. We love this one. 61ezv9UVilL._SL1200_We used it for years when we were camping in the VW. Wash in the sink and rinse in the tub. Super easy. Very cheap. We also ordered a slightly larger one as a general purpose bucket. Because you never know…                                                                                                             And, finally, we splurged on this nesting set of pots from Magma. Seem to be high quality pots that take up very little space. Can’t wait to try them out!magma pots

Disclaimer!!! Just to be clear, we are not getting any compensation at all for trying these products out. Zero. Really. We bought them all ourselves and we are just writing about it because we’ve gotten a lot of pretty good info from people on the interweb and we think we should contribute something. We’ll keep you posted on how this stuff works out for us, and if you have any questions or comments about something specific just leave us a note. Thanks!