Choosing Our Next Steps 

It’s mid-August already. Can you believe it? We are in shock at how quickly the summer has flown by. But everything they say about time flying is pretty true, in our experience.

And there isn’t much we can do about that. But we can be deliberate with the time we have. Some people work extraordinarily hard to save so they can retire early. Or just retire someday. And we respect that. But since we haven’t found lucrative gigs that excite us and make us want to wake up every morning, our approach is to make the most of our time by seeking adventures and pursuing our passions to the fullest. It’s so hard. And we still have to do the boring stuff, like laundry and battling ants. But we’re incredibly blessed to be doing what we are doing, and we are thankful for it every day. So the adventure continues.

We’ve reached that time in the season where we are being asked to decide if we are coming back next summer. And boy, are we on the fence! This place is seriously amazing. Our bosses and co-workers are awesome (even with a few good friends no longer here) and these jobs offer us creativity, flexibility and fun in a way that basically can’t be beat. 

But there are downsides to staying, of course. We’ve done the sight-seeing thing, so year 2 we won’t really have anything new to explore within an hour’s drive. Even more of our friends won’t be back, although we will meet new people of course. And while being on the beach is awesome, we still have lots of this country to see, and May – early September is a big time commitment. 

But there are some serious positives here, and we know that if we do decide to move on, we’d come back again in a heartbeat. It’s always nice to know there’s a place for us!

So what is next, you might be wondering? Well, we head back to NH for 4-6 weeks or so this fall. We will visit doctors, hopefully get our RV looked at by our favorite RV mechanics, visit family and do some performing and teaching. After that, it’s back to the Orlando area for the winter. We will return to the same RV park as this winter – it’s cheap and has nice people, even if the maintenance/cleanliness is not ideal – and hope to return to part-time work while we build our business. Oh, and Disney. We’re excited to see what Halloween and Christmas and the Food and Wine Festival look like at Disney World, and since our annual passes are good through mid-February, we will plan to stay until then. 

After that, we will see where the wind blows us! It could be the Outer Banks (in which case we would consider FL for another couple of months), or it could be New Mexico or Colorado, both high on our visit list. We’re currently reaching out to campgrounds and researching the cost of living in the places we’d like to land. And it seems likely that even if we return to the Outer Banks in 2018, we will be out west by the fall. 

Adulting is hard. Planning is hard. And we are so blessed to be making these choices. Thanks for reading and supporting what we do! And if you haven’t found us on Facebook yet, check it out! Ross and I are performing live every week or so now, so follow our page for the updates. 

Safe travels and have a wonderful day, wherever you are!

Accidents Happen

And sometimes they’re caused by construction companies.

For those of you who haven’t been seeing us in the national news, the islands in the Outer Banks that we are living and working on have been without power since Thursday thanks to an unfortunate construction mistake. Our campground has been running on generators ever since, and the KOA next door had to close due to sewage issues when the outage happened. Meanwhile an evacuation order was issued, but those currently on the island (even short-term visitors) can stay if they’re self-sufficient like most campers are.

So we’ve been making due with a generator and the best staff and management we could ask for. There’s still a beautiful beach, which we took advantage of until the ocean ate Ross’ glasses. But we will be back there and taking it easy while working to stay cool at a much emptier than usual campground. 

Today’s plan was to handwash our clothes, but the limited power that came back yesterday is enough to power our washers and dryers, so I am thanking the powers that be for modern technology!

I’m sure when all of this is behind us, I will have more insight and tips for dealing with situations like this. But for now we’re just taking it one day at a time. (Photo is of the almost empty beach at 8 a.m.)

Note to future folks – in an emergency here, T-Mobile is apparently Talk and text only. Luckily Ross has Verizon and the campground has internet!

Do you have any power outage tips? 

History and Mystery on the Outer Banks – Part 2 

There’s so much to do in the Outer Banks area. I discussed much of it in my last post. If you’re intrigued by the history of this isolated, beautiful area, you’ll definitely want to explore some of these areas. 

Manteo

Manteo is honestly one of the best places to dig deep if you enjoy history and/or mysteries. The island was the home of the Roanoke Colony, also known as the Lost Colony. Before the thirteen colonies existed, this would have been England’s first colony. Hundreds of men, women and children attempted to make a life here, with some assistance from the Native American population. What happened to the colonists here remains an unsolved mystery, although there are solid theories. So grab a book, watch the play of The Lost Colony, and most importantly visit the national park that houses a fabulous visitor’s center, Fort Raleigh Historic Site, the play and the can’t miss Elizabethan Gardens. Manteo also has a charming downtown with a beautiful waterfront to explore. It’s the closest you’ll get to a city feel in this area. And be sure to stop in the Bluegrass Theater shop for more free exhibits about the history of this area, including communities that have since been lost to history. 

Manteo can easily fill a day or two or three – there are lots of places offering reenactments and other cool stuff – but now I will move on to some of the other places you may want to visit in the area. 

Uncle Eddy’s Frozen Custard 

Everyone loves a good ice cream or custard, right? And this ice cream blogger is happy to report that Eddy’s hard ice cream is delicious. And their soft-serve? It’s legitimately the best soft-serve I have ever had. There isn’t a lot to do in the area (Buxton) but it should be a destination. Play a game or two while you’re there. Seriously. 

Scoops

If you’re heading in the opposite direction to Nags ahead or Kill Devil Hills, you’ll want to stop at Scoops for your hard ice cream needs. Delicious, creative and homemade with outstanding staff. They also make an epic birthday cake! 

Donuts-on-a-Stick

Apparently fresh, made to order donuts are a thing. Seriously. (I honestly didn’t know.) This area has a few options, but this one is the best. Need a gluten-free or vegan donut? Come here for an outstanding one. But call a day ahead to reserve it as the vegan and gluten-free are not made on site. Donut sundae, with their homemade chocolate chip or vanilla? Yes, please! 

Duck

While donuts should be on your list, don’t miss the rest of the town! There’s a phenomenal walkway along the sound that connects you to everything from an adorable chapel to shopping to free yoga and music during the summer. This would be our top destination if we returned for a vacation and wanted to be within walking distance to both the beach and all sorts of other fun stuff. Making a day trip? Get there early to park and plan to walk around. Traffic here is pretty crazy!

Captain George’s

They’re a chain, apparently, and much of the seafood isn’t local. But if an all-you-can-eat buffet appeals, or if you want lots of fresh, made to order gluten-free options, don’t miss this

Corolla 

Known for its beaches and its proximity to the wild horse population, this area is isolated and tiny – not even incorporated – but it has some charming history and wildlife. One day is plenty to see it all if you’re on a limited time table. 

Lighthouses

There are four beautiful lighthouses – plus a baby one – with lots of history to them on the Outer Banks. You can walk to the top of all but one of them too. We’ve enjoyed discovering the history of them here

Next on our list, we have three more destinations. The Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk, the Life-Saving Station Museum, and probably a further exploration of the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge trail. Anything we’ve missed? Anything here on your bucket list? 

Thanks for stopping by, and have a wonderful day!

History and Mystery on the Outer Banks – Part 1 

Ross and I always make a point to explore the local history and culture during our travels, and our stay on the Outer Banks is no exception. So we make sure to investigate the local points of interest with an eye toward contextualizing the places we visit and the things that we learn. 

We are staying in the Waves/Rodanthe area, which is a great central location for exploring all that the Outer Banks has to offer. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve learned of the perseverance of people here. When you live on a small island on the ocean, nothing is really permanent or certain. Locals lived without electricity into the ’50s and beyond here. Their tenacity and love of the land and water here are remarkable, and even more powerful than what we experienced living in the mountains of northern New Hampshire. When you decide to visit, you’ll have lots to do. Today I will outline some of the best places to visit – but I will continue my update in an upcoming blog. 

Gallery Exploration 

There are many galleries on the island showcasing local artists and crafters. Some of this work is relatively simple – beach shell crafts, woodwork and other work that caters to tourists is most of what you’ll find. But if you search for it, you’ll find that there are some astounding, unexpected pieces to be found by local artists. Our favorite gallery so far is Pea Island Art Gallery in Kinnakeet. Whether you’re searching for fine paintings, jewelry, abstract pieces or unique cards or prints, this is a must-stop that more than holds its own against galleries in big cities and towns in artistic communities. I found a wonderful coloring book by a local artist here. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t point out the gallery of Michael Halminski. His photography is stunning, but the stories behind them are what really made it special. There are galleries up and down the island here, so just drive in either direction and you can expect to find one or two in every larger town. And if you visit Manteo (which you should), we loved this gallery by John Silver (and his stories) too. 

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum 

This museum houses some of the most professional, polished exhibits we’ve seen locally, and on a given visit you might learn about shipwrecked boats, local naval history, the history of scuba diving or the history of the local lighthouse. This is the most comprehensive source of much local history, and since it’s FREE, it’s well worth your time to visit. 

Frisco Native American Museum

Although this museum didn’t have the local focus we were hoping for, it’s a very nice overview albeit in a dated environment that will benefit from continued improvements. But the staff is extraordinarily knowledgeable and happy to answer questions, and the nature trails/outdoor exhibits are a MUST – just don’t forget long pants and bug spray! 

Ocracoke Island 

It’s not every day you visit an island. Particularly an island that requires a ferry to visit it. Ocracoke is one of those islands, and if you’re traveling from the island north of it, the ferry to visit is free! Timing the ferry is tricky – it was suggested to us that we should take the earliest ferry possible (we made the 7 am ferry), allow a little over an hour across, and not be in a rush to return. On the way over it was full of commuters, and on the way back it was tourists, so take your time and enjoy the ride. Also be careful – tourists and children can be really dumb, so be prepared to babysit your car to keep it safe from people opening doors or running around. 

Once you brave the ferry, you’ll have a full range of activities to fill your day with. The National Park Service cares for the wild horses – they used to be truly wild on this part of the island, but for their own protection they have barriers from people now. We also recommend a visit to the Preservation Society and Museum and the site of Fort Ocracoke. The museum is excellent, especially the video on the Ocracoke language and dialect. The Working Watermen’s Exhibit is another free glimpse into the local history and culture, as is the cemetery, and there are some really fun shops, particularly the amazing Books to Be Read, a true standout anywhere for their selection and variety. 

Of course, many people rave about the beaches, some saying they’re the best or nearly the best in the world – so be sure to pause for a beach visit while you’re here too. 

Be sure to bring your bug spray. Even in the sun, this island was significantly buggier than we expected. But Okracoke is a fascinating glimpse into what’s almost another time and place, and it’s a beautiful day trip. Stick around into the evening and you’ll have some fun dining and entertainment options too on many nights of the week. 

Pirates and Captain Kidd 

This area is full of bits of pirate lore and history. There’s a small exhibit on Ocracoke that seemed too expensive for us – $10 – but we definitely recommend seeking out a book or doing some advanced learning on this subject if it interests you. On such small islands, the sea is truly a force here, and these stories are a complement to that world. 

We still have LOTS to cover about the Outer Banks. We will tackle that in part 2 in the coming weeks! 

Summer on the Outer Banks

Ross and I are spending the summer on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. If you’re not already aware, this popular vacation destination is an extremely unique geographical phenomenon. It’s a series of very long islands, with the sound on one side and the beach on the other. From above, it looks like one very long and tiny landing strip.


We’ve been here since May 1, which has given us lots of time to explore these beautiful and still generally remote (if not entirely isolated) islands during our stay. 

We will continue to share our favorite must-dos for the area, but for today, I thought we could share our top 5 positives and negatives for our visit so far. 

Two Months In: The Best About Living On The Outer Banks

1. The beach is always a couple of minutes’ walk away. 

2. The sound (and its glorious sunsets) are always a couple of minutes’ walk away. 

3. There’s almost always a nice breeze. 

4. The pace of life is relaxed here as people do their best to enjoy themselves. 

5. Not relevant to all, but we have the best co-workers and management we could imagine. Also, wild horses! 

Two Months In: The Worst About Living On The Outer Banks 

1. Sand in everything, including your shoes and your bed. 

2. Worrying about hurricanes and other bad weather. 

3. Ditto the crazy wind sometimes, messing up activities and keeping you awake. 

4. Some of the people we interact with take for granted how lucky they are to be here and ask the impossible (fix the weather, etc.). 

5. There isn’t really a great downtown for when you want to get your city fix – Manteo is fun but small, and that’s about it!

Overall we highly recommend a visit to the Outer Banks. I’m sure we’ll have more thoughts to share soon. Thanks for following our crazy adventure! 

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!