Quick Stop in Charleston, SC

I’ve always heard great things about Charleston, SC, and we’re hoping to spend a few days there this fall. But earlier this spring, as we made our way toward North Carolina, I realized we’d be practically passing through Charleston. So we planned it as a fun mid-way stop in our travels. 

Charleston Visitor’s Center, like Savannah, GA, offers overnight parking for RVs. Believe it or not, it’s in a parking garage! It normally costs $1/hr or $16/24 hours, but if you manage to arrive during a special event like we did, you may end up paying $5/vehicle. If you tow a car, I’d highly suggest unhooking before parking in the garage. 

It was a beautiful (lots of water) but tiring drive into the city, after a quick walk of downtown, Ross decided to take it easy while I explored further. I know Charleston has lots of music venues, and it looks like there are a few theatres as well. Day drinking was also definitely a thing here on a weekend! 

After grabbing lots of brochures and reading a bit about the history of the area at the Visitor’s Center, I decided to get ice cream. I’d passed a very hipster-looking place whose reviews said they don’t even post prices and the ice cream is good but way over-priced. So I did a quick Google instead and saw I was only a few minutes from Jeni’s! I have read amazing things about Jeni’s ice cream and innovative custard-type technique, and I was really excited to try it. Each location makes their own ice cream and the staff here is extraordinarily helpful, friendly and patient. 

I left with some fabulous ice cream – be sure to stop in! And there are lots of other nearby ice cream places to check out if you’re interested. 

Charleston is an extraordinarily walkable, charming city. I can’t wait to return! 

One Night in Savannah

I’ve wanted to visit Savannah, GA for years. I knew they had an arts college, a charming downtown and a lot of history. What I didn’t know was how easy they make it for (smaller) RVs to visit. In seeking a free or cheap place for us to stay, I stumbled on their Visitor’s Center and History Museum on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. For $8 per 24 hours per space (or $16 for us including our car), we could be parked within walking distance of museums, historical sites and the downtown. Does it get any better than that? We took advantage of the designated RV parking to stay put for the night, although there are other lots around town if you want to use them – they all are covered by your pass. Driving into the area, I was struck by both the beauty and poverty of parts of the city as we pulled in. So much history here. Once we got settled, Ross was exhausted, so he set me free to wander and explore for the evening. Since we arrived around 3:30, I had lots of time to explore. First order of business? Take advantage of all of the “free” history and cultural info where we were parked. I took tons of flyers from the Visitor’s Center to assist in planning a return trip, and I was delighted to discover how much information was displayed in free exhibits inside. If I’d had more time and money, I would have returned in the morning to visit the museum, but further research told me there’s a pass that gets you a few days’ admission to this and other museums, including the railroad museum, so I decided to save that for a return trip.

But just the free exhibits were great. I learned about the local jazz musicians, how people used to live and studied how food and agriculture in the area have changed. What a great way to engage people and encourage them to visit the museum! The visitor’s center area appears to be a part of an old train station. It’s beautiful. And it’s right next to the Savannah College of Art & Design too. After exploring for a while, I headed back home to prep for an evening on the town. I said goodbye to Ross and headed out, eventually following my nose downtown after exploring the college bookstore and buying a pencil sharpener for my colored pencils. Downtown Savannah is full of life, a great mix of local bars, restaurants and other businesses alongside more upscale chains for shopping. I passed a comics/gaming store I knew Ross would like and texted him. And after much walking, I stumbled on what seems to be the best ice cream in town. After waiting in line for about a half hour (they gave us water and menus while we waited outside), I got to sample and settle on some tasty flavors to enjoy in this adorable parlor. It’s not the best ice cream ever, but it’s very good and was worth the wait! When I wandered out, Ross was making his way downtown. So we explored further, marveling at some fancy stores and making our way back home.

The next morning, I visited all of the nearby outdoor historical markers to round out my trip. It was a wonderful quick glimpse that had me eager to return.

Ross, on the other hand, wasn’t so thrilled. He noticed tons of confederate flags and other signs that made him pretty uncomfortable as he drove in, and he couldn’t shake the dark feeling as we stayed here. Certainly there is a lot of dark history here, but that’s true almost anywhere, I think. It was interesting that he felt that way for sure. Probably not a place to settle but we will return for a visit.

We left Savannah by 10:30 or so to make sure we could visit Charleston as we passed through. Stay tuned for my blog about our quick trip to Charleston!

Settling Down in Davenport

Many of our New Hampshire (and other) friends believe that we’ve moved to Florida permanently. Not true! We may have settled in Florida for a few months, and we may have become “Florida residents”, at least by name, but we are still full of the travel bug and eager to keep exploring all this country has to offer. 

So why, you may be wondering, did we spend about three months in Davenport? We had a few major reasons. 

1) We were running out of money. When we originally planned this trip, we hoped we would be having significantly greater success booking along the road than we actually did. Our first few gigs didn’t come until Bisbee and Tucson, and neither paid much. Booking is hard work as it is, but when you’re still establishing yourself as an artist it’s even tougher. And despite contacting more than fifty churches, only 1 booked us to perform – and that was unpaid! So we’d been living off of savings and knew our savings were coming to an end. Staying still for two months (or three, as we ultimately decided to do) meant we could limit our gas expenses, pay a cheaper monthly rate ($430-$460/month plus electric in this case) and pick up part-time jobs to help us bridge the gap in our incomes. 

2) We decided to become Florida residents, which is a complicated proposition. From new bank accounts to a new “permanent” mailing address to registering vehicles, health insurance and voting, there’s a ton to do when you move to a new state, particularly if you’re self-employed. Since we plan to be on the road for at least another year, it made sense to become Florida residents. We won’t have to go back for annual renewals as almost everything can be done by mail, including registering vehicles. We use a service called St. Brendan’s Isle which is pricy but so far very helpful in managing our mail as we travel. Also, because we were becoming residents, purchasing a car in Florida was the way to go. 

3) Why Davenport? It’s outside of Orlando, where we booked a few gigs. But the reason we chose it, honestly, is its proximity to Disney World! Ross and I were blessed to visit the parks last year thanks to an incredibly generous wedding present from his sister. We received six nights at a cheap Disney hotel (All-Star Music), five days in the parks (we were able to add a sixth day for about $20 each if memory serves) and were then gifted some spending money by family, so all we had to do was provide our airfare and food/spending money for the trip. Absolute heaven! We honestly went in thinking it might be awkward as we weren’t “Disney people” and the idea of dropping our own 2K on a week’s vacation felt like an indulgence we couldn’t afford. But the reality was, we had such an amazing time that we wanted to go back again as soon as possible! 

When we finalized our RV travel plans and needed a new state of residence, access to Disney on the cheap was a definite plus for us. For less than $300 each we can access all four parks Monday – Friday with only a couple of months of blackout dates total. So we had more than seven weeks in the parks this winter, and we will back this fall for even more fun.Davenport is a great area to visit if you’re a Disney fan. There are many other parts of Florida that are prettier and less stressful (avoid I-4 at all costs! State highways are your friend!) but you can’t beat this area for convenience to the parks. There are also plenty of places that you can pick up a part-time job, even as a snowbird, if you play your cards right. And Kissimmee and Orlando offer great local cultural opportunities. 

Are you a Disney fan? Have any recommendations for places we need to visit when we return this winter? 

Last Leg to Orlando

Traveling from New Orleans to our monthly rental in Davenport, FL (near Orlando) was the last leg in our practically cross-country trip. We stayed at a few Walmarts along the way to save some cash, including one extraordinarily memorable one – I think it was technically in Pascagoula, MS – where we were literally parked across the street from the Gulf of Mexico. You can be sure we did a late night beach walk and ukulele session – and I (Jamie) made sure to take a very Long Beach walk on the sidewalk the next day. Who cares that it’s 40 or 50 degrees. It’s the beach! And the parking is free! It honestly seemed too good to be true, but it wasn’t. 

We battled our house batteries on this leg of the trip. Even when we drove all day, they didn’t want to charge fully. Apparently when they get below a certain point after a few days of boondocking, it’s hard to get them back up. Luckily the weather was suitable enough for us to open windows when cooking and this wasn’t a major problem, but it had us nervous. 

One of our favorite decisions was a stop at a rest stop in Pearlington, MS. The rest stop is next to the Infinity Science Center, which houses the Stennis Space Center. It looked pretty awesome and Ross was extraordinarily excited about it, so we decided to spend a few hours checking it out before parking to teach some lessons later in the day. Even though we only had a few hours, this spot was truly a gem. 

Admission is $12/adult. You can easily make a day of it if you take advantage of all of the presentations and films, but we had to be very selective. It’s truly wonderful for children too. They have a beautiful path to walk outside, seating for a nice lunch and wonderful volunteers and employees. Be sure to sign up for a tour of the space center when you arrive. It’s the only way to visit it and the guided tour is very informative. I could keep gushing, but just do yourself a favor and add this to your itinerary! Plenty of RV parking too. 

We were hoping to find another nice library along our route to take advantage of some free internet. We decided to try Tallahassee, FL. Unfortunately their amazing downtown isn’t RV-friendly and we ended up giving up that mission, but this is definitely a place we will want to return to, even if by car.

By the time we were nearing central Florida we had a couple of routes to choose from. After many frustrating phone calls in Lake City, we decided to not worry about the house battery for a bit and spend two nights on a “vacation” on the beach in St. Augustine, FL. At $70/night it was more than double what we’d usually pay for a night to park, but the beach walks and amazing balcony view of the water from our site (they spoiled us) made it worth it. And luckily, once we were plugged in, our house batteries charged up without any problem. 

St. Augustine is a gorgeous historic place. I considered walking or taking an Uber in to explore. But our sweet site made me decide to focus on beach time and the hot tub. We will be back, St. Augustine. And yes, I made the right decision. 

After that it was time to head to our home for a few months – Mouse Mountain RV Resort in Davenport, FL!

Six Months on Ross and Jamie’s Adventure

Happy Friday! I’m happy to report that we’ve passed the six month mark of our full-time RVing life change/adventure! When Ross and I agreed to do this, we promised each other we’d stick with it for a year and re-evaluate then. I’m happy to report that after six months we’re just as excited to be doing this and looking forward to year two this fall.

One of the amazing things about this lifestyle is the way it changes your sense of time. We had many conversations two and three months in where we realized it felt like we’d been doing this for months instead of years. After all, we’ve visited tons of states (20 I believe, with notable time in all but a couple of them), hanging out in nature, exploring museums and historical sights and trying to learn what living like a local would look like in cities and towns across our nation. It’s amazing what we’ve been able to see already, and we aren’t ready to stop, although our pace is slowing down currently to give us more time to make money along the way. As we celebrate this milestone, I wanted to talk about how this experience has differed from our expectations so far, and about some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way. 

Assumption: Life on the road will be full of adventures.

Reality: Yes, life on the road will be full of adventures. Some of them will be awesome and some of them will be frustrating, like when your house battery won’t stay charged or when the pilot for your fridge won’t light. Also, maintaining a balance between real life and playing tourist is harder than it looks! 

Assumption: Once we have more time to ourselves, booking shows will get easier. (Not that we ever thought we’d be an easy sell!)

Reality: Free time helps, but the lack of great internet while we travel kind of balances this out. Booking shows has proven to be one of the hardest types of work we do on the road! That being said, it does get easier with practice and a routine.

Assumption: Finding part-time work when we settle in a place should be pretty easy, especially in a tourist area. 

Reality: Most businesses don’t want temporary workers, so getting a gig isn’t as straightforward as we wanted and we can’t emphasize that we are nomads when we apply. (And this problem was much worse before we had a car! Limited businesses within walking distance narrows your options further.)

Assumption: Being on the road will be stressful, but the freedom will help make up for the new stress. 

Reality: Overall, we are MUCH less stressed than we used to be. It’s gotten easier with time. Financial stress is real, but if you organize your time well, this lifestyle is usually a dream come true. And days when you have to work super-hard are easier knowing they’re financing this lifestyle. That being said, your anxiety and depression don’t go away because you hit the road! Make sure you have strong self-care habits, maintain your personal space and work to keep the lines of communication open with your partner. 

Assumption: We’d have tons of free time to work on music projects and booking once we hit the road. 

Reality: We have to work VERY hard to make time for this. Because we’re juggling so many income streams and responsibilities, the music making sometimes takes a far back seat. We’re working on making this a regular part of our schedule, but it’s something we are still working on. 

Assumption: We probably wouldn’t be back to New Hampshire for another year or so. 

Reality: I’ve gotten two gigs in New Hampshire since I left. So I flew back in December and in March for a few weeks. Who’d have thought I’d be offered higher-paying theater work once I moved out of the state?! (Ross, unfortunately, is waiting for New Hampshire to call with his gigs. We will be both be back this fall for a month to teach workshops and perform.)

Assumption: It will be harder to not have a regular community on the road. 

Reality: We have made friends wherever we’ve gone. Although our social lives aren’t particularly exciting, we find people who care about us and share stories with us everywhere. It’s been pretty wonderful. We miss our friends and family, but we definitely feel welcome wherever we go. (It helps to be able-bodied, white, a male-female couple and relatively privileged. We know this and are constantly thankful that we can feel relatively safe and welcome wherever we go.)

As we look forward to the rest of this year, we are currently on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. (Report on Florida, Savannah and Charleston to come!) After Labor Day, we will visit New Hampshire and then head back to Florida if our plans stay on track. We will stay there through the winter and possibly spring. 

Thanks for reading and following our journey!

Newbies in New Orleans

Ross and I have always wanted to visit New Orleans. Mainly for the music, although we were certainly interested in the food and the history. Although financially we weren’t in a position to “do it all” on this trip, we decided to make a quick visit. An old friend of mine lives in New Orleans and he isn’t in the best of health, so we made it a priority to visit with him when we passed through town. 

When we first entered Louisiana, we could tell this part of the Deep South was unique. The trees and swamps set it apart from earlier in our travels, and as we made it to New Orleans (after TONS of rush hour traffic), we could see there really was something special here, between the architecture and the people and everything else. 

We only had a few days to visit, so we resolved to enjoy a quick stay but knowing we would return at a later date. 

My friend Eric, with too typically unfortunate timing, had to leave town for a gig. Thankfully he made time to meet us for dinner our first night in the city. He recommended a place in the French Quarter for Uber to drop us off after we got settled at the RV park (New Orleans at rush hour is awful!), and we loved exploring the local music store and quirky shops before he picked us up and we headed to Whole Foods, a perfect dinner choice as it could accommodate all of our food allergies and preferences. 

After we caught up on years of life and music in a few hours, he gave us a ride back to our RV park, Jude Travel Park of New Orleans, which was really considerate. He made sure to fill our ears with the great music of New Orleans on the way! We had a wonderful visit with him and his daughter, Lola.

We had two more full days ahead of us. Without a car, our options were an Uber ride or a super cheap bus. This park was extremely convenient for both and we highly recommend it for that, the hot tub and pool, and the many cats in residence! We would happily stay again. It costs about $30/night which makes it a pretty good deal locally. It’s not a scenic location but it’s a perfect home base to see the city. The showers are nice too. 

Ross had to teach so the next day was focused on that rather than sight-seeing. I made sure to take advantage of the hot tub and we both relished having electricity and other hookups after some time boondocking. 

On our final full day, we had an ambitious day of playing tourist on the docket. We began by taking the bus downtown. After a long bus ride that showed us many aspects of the city, we transferred to a trolley – but I managed to get us on the wrong one! We ended up near Loyola University, and while it was cool to see the area, I was thankful we could call an Uber to get us to our next destination for a tour of the Garden District. 

The hosts at the RV park offer great maps and two free walking tour guides to help you during your visit. I loved following their Garden District tour, and Ross went along for the ride. It begins at a great building with a bookstore, cafe and more to fuel your travels, and it includes fun facts about the historic homes you’ll pass. I loved gawking at the beautiful architecture and seeing the homes ready for Mardi Gras. If it was in the budget, there would have been a great restaurant to stop at afterwards too – and if you start it early enough you can tour the creepy cemetery too. (Ross isn’t a morning person, so we skipped that in favor of a relaxed afternoon and evening). After our tour, we went on a grand walking adventure through much of the rest of the city, and we managed to see many of the tourist spots and visit Cafe du Monde for beignets. (I had a tiny bite due to the gluten, but Ross enjoyed them.) When we got back to the French Quarter, Ross expressed his desire to have a beer and listen to some live music while he was here, so we made that the evening’s plan. I did some research and found us a restaurant that could accommodate my dietary needs and we settled in for an excellent performance by local musicians. After two beers and a meal we called the RV park to take advantage of the other feature that makes their location a bargain – a shuttle service for $5/person to and from the French Quarter! 

We were repeatedly struck by how unique this area is. Residents told us they often feel abandoned by their government, so they persevere and make do in a way we haven’t encountered elsewhere. People are smart and cultured and we felt really lucky to get a taste of what makes New Orleans special. We are really looking forward to returning on a future trip.

The Dole Whip Dilemma

I would be remiss if I didn’t update you soon on the fun we had en route to central Florida, but I can’t resist sharing that we’ve made our first video! 

Ross and I have annual passes to Disney World (a major perk of being new Florida residents) and on a recent visit to the Magic Kingdom, I was excited to try the vanilla soft serve and pineapple juice drink I’d heard so much about. But it turned out to be a much more exciting challenge than we anticipated! 

Watch the short video and let us know what you think – and if you’d like other updates here on our Disney-ventures, tell us that too! 

A Quick Taste of Austin, TX

Austin, Texas has been on our list of places to visit for a long time. A liberal mecca in a conservative state, Austin is known for its food, music and for being “weird”. We’re weird musicians who love to eat so it’s obvious why we wanted to check it out. 

Because we were on an extremely limited budget and I’m on a very limited diet, we chose to make Austin a quick visit and to return later. In fact we might have skipped it completely if it wasn’t for the fact that we wanted to participate in the Women’s March and realized Austin would be our best location for that. 

The logistics of our visit proved to be surprisingly challenging. It’s a very hilly community, and our first sign of challenge was when we could barely fit in the Lowe’s parking lot, our chosen location for Ross to teach as we headed into town. I also realized quickly that at least the outskirts of town make walking from place to place challenging. (It always makes me sad when new developments don’t encourage walking or biking.)

Our next challenge? We found an adequate Walmart to set up shop for the night, but we didn’t feel safe leaving the RV alone while we marched. As I called campground after campground (our top choice was booked up weeks ago), I realized we might not find any vacancies within an easy walk or Uber/Lyft ride or the march. This would significantly increase the cost of our visit and kind of defeat the purpose. 

Luckily, when I reached out to my mother’s cousin’s son about meeting up, he suggested we park on the street near his home. I’m so glad we gave that a shot. Although we weren’t completely level, we felt very safe parked on the street and it seemed to be allowed by the city, both from what I read and in practice. This location was actually amazing – we walked about 3 miles to the march and back without any issues! Our host let us use his shower and we got to spend a little time (not enough) getting to know him and his girlfriend and seeing his amazing custom guitar company, Moniker Guitars. (Ross was in heaven with that.) We also visited Prohibition Creamery for a fun ice cream and alcohol adventure.

We hoped to take our hosts to breakfast but we had to settle for coffee due to their schedule. Instead we drove to a local supermarket, bought a couple of groceries and walked a little over a mile to Picnik, a gluten, corn and soy-free restaurant where I had an entire menu of food specific to my diet to choose from! We had an outstanding local, healthy meal (Brussels sprouts with bacon, cassava pancakes with chocolate chips and a side of amazing vegetables for me) and the atmosphere is lovely too. Well-worth a splurge! 

Traffic in Austin isn’t fun but it beats Dallas, and we managed to avoid driving in it too often. We will definitely be returning to the area, but we highly recommend booking an RV park far in advance. There are plenty of Walmarts but since they don’t have great reviews I wouldn’t want to walk away from my home and hope for the best. 

Next up I’ll explore our quick taste of New Orleans. We’re currently settled in Florida for two more months. Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Making the Most of Midland, TX

We were delighted this January to get a phone call inviting us to spend a week or two at a campground in Midland, TX. We had passed through Midland as we headed to Arizona (staying at a local Walmart) and while it was clear that it’s a large city, it’s in the middle of the oil fields and we weren’t too motivated to explore it as we couldn’t picture ourselves staying for the long-term. That being said, it has plenty to do, and nearby San Angelo is full of super-nice people and a thriving arts scene too.

Midland RV Park invited us to take advantage of a campsite – full hookups, pay showers, decent internet for emails, nice if not fancy – in exchange for work on their website and organizing a community campaign to bring internet to the park. Without a separate car, we stocked up on groceries and planned to stay there for the week. They also invited Ross to give a concert at a dinner for the local residents. In fact, the area is very limiting to visit in this way. Walking the streets isn’t a great idea here. But across the street made an incredible difference in changing this from a basic RV park, great for our needs but not exciting (after all, I had to record about 40 piano tracks for a project) to a beautiful place I didn’t want to leave.

The 1-20 Wildlife Preserve is an almost 1.5 mile walking loop where you’ll find tons of birds, rodents, butterflies, lizards and even bobcats around a gorgeous body of water that will make you feel like you’re on the ocean. It is truly an oasis and besides Mondays, you can explore it daily for free.I made a point to take a walk every day we stayed in town. Whether it was in the 30s or the 80s (yes, both happened), I was out there. Only one day with lots of rain and flooding kept me inside.

The people in Midland were extremely nice and welcoming to us – one employee even gave me a ride to and from Walmart for groceries – and we loved our stay. If you need a place to pause and recharge for a few days, don’t overlook Midland!