Is this year almost over?! What an epic journey it has been! The last two weeks have been incredibly busy- we’ve covered Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and are currently in Florida enjoying the sunny weather and beautiful palms. We had our first experience of dealing with below freezing temperatures… that was fun! Lets recap the last few events:
Walker, LA – It was pouring rain, and SO COLD! But we had brave souls that came out anyways. :) Thanks to Andrew and Liz, they brought us satsumas for the road and the best sweet potato pie ever!
Atlanta, GA – One of our favorite stops. We had the pleasure to be with the students of Trinity School for presentations and sunspot watching. Many thanks to Joe, Maryellen, and cousins Josh and Lindsey for facilitating this educational event. A special thank you to Jim and Marilyn Black, founders of the Apollo Fund – it was a pleasure to meet and chat with all of you!
Our public stop was at Whole Foods – we had a great turnout! Thanks to Tim of Hudson Designs for a beautiful custom Suspicious0bservers tile. Darren and Christine, longtime supporters, refused to let bad luck stop them from coming when their car broke down- they called a cab and made it to Whole Foods! We met SO many wonderful folks in the Atlanta area. A BIG thank you to sponsors Pat and Mary for hosting us, and the RV that evening. We will definitely be back in Atlanta!
Morganton, NC – A last minute scramble due to bad weather forced us to relocate our location- no problem though, as our friend Bill came to the rescue! 17 degrees? No problem. A full propane tank and a space heater in the outside bins kept us and our pipes from freezing.
Charlotte, NC – Thank you to Richard, owner of Champion Gymnastics, for hosting us at his training facility. I tried to convince Ben to get on the beam and try some gymnastics moves, but failed miserably.
Raleigh, NC – We had a stop at the Whole Foods in Cary. It was a beautiful day to interact with more sponsors and supporters, and we got to stock up our fridge while we were there!
Charleston, SC – We had a potluck event at the Pine Ridge Fire Department – thanks to Janene for taking charge of the event (she makes the BEST chili!). We met some amazing people there, and got lots of good baby advice for when the time comes. We also had a record broken: there are many folks that have showed up to events that had to make a serious drive to get there. Until Charleston, the 0bservers that held the record for the longest drive were from Alberta, Canada (4.5 hours)…but it was shattered by Joe, who drove a whopping 11 hours from PA to make it to Charleston after being unable to see us when we began the tour.
Jacksonville, FL – It rained the majority of the time we were there, but the sun came out (albeit briefly) for us to have a meet and greet. It was so nice to see familiar faces come to multiple events!
Orlando, FL – We hesitated having an event in Orlando on Thanksgiving Day, but decided to anyways! The Mobile Observatory was posted up outside of Eddie V’s, a delightful seafood and steak restaurant. Thanks to Mark, the manager, for hosting us! It is always nice to run into a fellow Buckeye/Ohio State graduate. If you are in the area and are ever looking for a nice place for fine dining- look no further!
It is simply amazing how fast time flies when you are on the road, moving to a new place every day or so. When we were in the Carolinas, we were apprehensive and even considered rescheduling our stops due to temperatures. We spent Thanksgiving night at the Loves truck stop between Orlando and Tampa, and we were not expecting to wake up to 41 degrees in central Florida. Ben, bless his heart, is calm, cool, and collected for the most part, but when it comes to the functionality of the RV and something going wrong, he tends to jump to worst-case scenarios.
Example: When we were stuck out in the boonies of NJ with no service and the RV wouldn’t start, there was a small panic attack. “Oh my gosh, something TERRIBLE has happened! The starter is probably the problem – OMG we can’t put the slide in. OMG we are going to have to get towed, how are we going to get a hold of anyone?! This is going to be sooo expensive. We’ll have to stop the tour for who knows HOW long until this gets fixed!” I always try to stay positive- “I’m sure it’s not that bad. Everything will be OK. Its not going to be as bad as you think- this is just a hiccup and we’ll keep moving on!” That good energy and positive outlook just HAS to be there…. Otherwise we’d both be running around losing our minds!
So when it came to the RV dealing with the possibility of not being able to withstand the temperatures, and us having to deal with a number of things that could go wrong (frozen tanks, broken lines, water pump freezing, etc)… we needed to make sure we were PREPARED! After all, its one thing when you don’t know what the temperatures are going to be; its another when your husband is S0 and watches the weather every day like its his job (oh wait, it is!).
In addition to a full tank of propane, had the tanks drained and carried plenty of water on hand in case. Dealing with this cold (and a spazzing husband) was quite the operation – but we survived with NO problems! Many high fives were exchanged between us.
We are currently in Clearwater, Florida, taking some time off to catch up on work on which we’ve fallen behind, and set a few days aside to be with family. The Mobile Observatory has been an absolute beast, but its time for her to get some servicing done for the last leg of the journey. The tour HAS been updated, with many stops in CO, NV, CA and more being postponed. We’ve decided to stop in February after the Conscious Life Expo to get me home and settled in preparation for welcoming a new life into our family. At that point, I’ll be 6.5 months pregnant, and we don’t want to take any chances on the road if something goes wrong.
Ben will continue to be at selected events, including a potential stop at PrepperCon in Salt Lake City, and we’ll try to hit the road again should things fall in place and it’s the right thing for our family. We’ve connected with people that have raised their children in an RV, and can cook a full Thanksgiving meal in theirs, so nothing is impossible!
When we began preparing for this journey in March, there was so much doubt and skepticism, from friends, family, work colleagues…this was a HUGE, drastic change. What were we thinking? Life was good- we had settled comfortably in our home, had stable and great jobs, not too far from family and friends… the next thirty years were to play out there without incident. The overall consensus was that we frankly, had lost our minds! We wondered it too sometimes!
It has been incredible experience so far. We have learned SO much, have done new things beyond our comfort level, and my favorite: met people we will consider family for the rest of our lives. From eating delicious Taber corn in Canada, going sailing for the first time, seeing so many different farms all over the country, Ben’s first time riding a hovercraft, learning how to switch out the RV house batteries by myself, eating FRESH squeaky cheese curds in Wisconsin, to relaxing next to a bayou and eating boudin in Louisiana…its been unreal. On top of it all, we got pregnant, which was an incredible surprise! This year will go down in the books as unforgettable! Now, a brief overview of past events and a reflection of life on the road- this has been long overdue. Also, for those who have been to our stops so far, if interested in being part of the documentary, please contact me!
Floyd, VA – Dogtown Roadhouse had a great crowd, along with delicious pizza! Thanks to Dave, Annemarie, Dylan for being great friends and helping us facilitate our stop to Kongpop!
Arlington, VA – Progression on research and filming with Dr. U-Yen. This was a stop we were looking to since the beginning! Thank you to his wife, Manisa, for a delicious lunch, and Dr. U-Yen for sharing his insights and knowledge.
Madisonville, TN – We had a packed room at Hiwassee College with knowledgeable people and bright students. The only college we’ve seen that had RV hookups!
Mount Juliet, TN – Lunchtime chat with the folks of ESC Lab Sciences – no photos from this stop due to sickness.
Nashville, TN – W were situated in the park near the life size replica of The Parthenon (which interestingly enough- the real one served many purposes over the course of its existence: a temple, church, mosque, etc.) Auburey, a huge S0 supporter, made s0 much food to share with everyone- she has the most generous heart!
Little Rock, AR – We were parked right in front of the Museum of Discovery, where we had the opportunity to show people sunspots and meet many!
Oklahoma City, OK – Whole Foods Market was our stop here, and it was filled with many longtime supporters. We were met with such kindness and support, and got some fun takeaways from Dang Coconut Chips, a sponsor!
Dallas, TX – Deb and Greg were great hosts, and we had a nice evening in Lavon at the Grand Heritage Clubhouse. We had a bunch of young students around the first part of the evening, and met the brightest 10 year old that shocked Ben with how much knowledge he knew about the Sun! We also had a presentation with the Astronomy students of Community High School.
San Antonio, TX – Pearl Farmers Market: We stocked up on some farm fresh eggs and had a delightful afternoon with San Antonio observers. It was a beautiful day; so many people came out! Thank you Lance and Ellen for your hospitality!
Houston, TX – Another beautiful day to see sunspots! We were at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Sugar Land. Great people, so much support for the road ahead, and many great photos taken by Frank!
Sulphur, LA - Eight months ago, on route to the Electric Universe Conference, Ben and I were waiting for a flight in Dallas to Albuquerque. A gentleman recognized us, approached us, and told us he wanted a spot on the RV. He was on the same flight as ours, and we connected throughout the conference. We stayed with Gary in Sulphur, and it was one of the coolest stops we had! We were at a stunning castle (Chateau De Bon Reve) for our venue, and Ben had the chance to ride in a hovercraft!
The Traveling Lifestyle
Getting used to living out of a 36ft RV is not easy. We not only got used to limited space and storage, power, water (no long hot showers), we learned how to maintain the electrical/plumbing systems (bad water from campground= don’t smell the hot water!), and develop a system to co-ordinate in terms of groceries, pet needs, monkey list before hitting the road, and so much more. We had to make sure we were prepared in every way – this wasn’t a vacation. It was to be a year of crazy scheduling and traveling, hitting the road at 6 AM to make progress to the next city, navigating through major metropolitan areas for events (Downtown Chicago. Lollapalooza a mile away. Enough said.), meeting and networking with people and progressing on research, as well as making sure what allowed us to take this journey on in the first place (S0 News!) and premium content remained at the quality we expected of ourselves. I am incredibly proud of Ben for maintaining his 6:30AM EST release of the news in spite of time zone changes.
What has made it easier on the road? The Next Exit has been an incredible resource for us- a book with a list of every exit off US Interstates, and tells you whether there are restaurants, RV friendly gas stations, hotels, campgrounds… a must have! We decided to not tow a vehicle due to added cost, and have had to work around it. For the most part, it has been great - hosts, friends, folks we’ve connected with along the way have offered to help drive, get food, etc. I convinced Michael Steinbacher to drop me off at Macy’s - it was the first time I had been to a mall since the journey began! Then there are days when you make do. When I found out I was pregnant and had to fly back home to see the doctor and take care of business – we ended up taking The Mobile Observatory to the airport! We have to plan ahead of time to look, depending on the area of the country, for Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, or similar to stock up on good foods to stay healthy on the road. This kind of schedule takes a toll, and not just your body… especially when you’re pregnant.
Where do we stay along the way? We’ve stayed with MANY wonderful people – supporters, sponsors... sincerely hope to keep in touch as the years progress. We’ve been treated like family and given so much love. There will always be a special place in our hearts for these special observers! The Mobile Observatory has visited many RV campgrounds; they’ve been a great spot for events – it works out so well on many levels- accessible roads, close off the interstate, our water/power needs are met, visitor parking available, and after the event is over we don’t have to worry about driving somewhere to settle for the night. We are members of Passport America, Good Sam, KOA and Harvest Hosts - some areas have better accessibility/pricing to campgrounds than others; it helps having options to pick from. We agreed to get a hotel once a month to decompress and maintain sanity – it works- that’s when we get our monthly dose of cable. No channel surfing or Netflix in this MO – no time! We’ve boondocked many nights at Cracker Barrels, truck stops, and caught up on work at rest areas off the highway. If we stay at truck stops, we always make sure it’s a large one that can accommodate plenty of trucks and isn’t full. It takes a lot of effort to maneuver such a large vehicle, and maintain speeds on the road when there are oblivious drivers, or speed demons that try to cut in front without any room. Once momentum gets going on these massive machines… it is NOT easy to stop quickly, and dangerous! Trust me, we know- we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the Canadian Rockies, as well as the mountainous winding roads with steep declines in Virginia/West Virginia!
Granted, we have struggled on MANY occasions these past few months- we had our battery die in the boonies of NJ (with no cell reception!), gotten ourselves wedged in places we thought we’d NEVER get out of, lost many battles with tree branches (the MO has the battle scars), had a near death experience with a bridge we didn’t think we could go under and no way to turn around (we thought we were 13’ tall… the bridge allowed 11’11”)… the list goes on! You mentally prepare yourself to the reality that things can go wrong, and you just go with it and make it work. Pushing forward all the time.
Thank you tremendously for the flood of kind words for a healthy pregnancy. Finally wrapping up the last weeks of morning sickness (hopefully!). Ben has been incredibly supportive during my times of being insufferable to feeling sick – not only does he still get up on time every morning, but will make sure I have crackers and water before I get up and picks up on anything that needs to be done if I have no energy to do it. It has been a ride of emotions to plan for life ahead, and a whole new world of learning we are going through – but we couldn’t be happier to be riding in this life together!
Our blog covers the journey as we roll along - sharing stories of people we've met and engaged with, places we've seen, the discourse between a couple with two animals sharing <300 sq ft of moving living space, and more!