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The Seekers Cafe

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I’m just going to put myself out there a bit. I do not enjoy blogging. I do not enjoy writing. I do, however, love sharing life with others. That’s where I have been since my last post almost 2 months ago. It has been beautiful, challenging, liberating, and sometimes stressful. But, we have been forever changed by the people we have lived alongside for the past 3 months on the road.

Posting about our comings-and-goings just would not have done justice to what has taken place this winter. Besides, it really has not been about places and sights lately. It’s been all about the people.

I want to share a little bit of my spiritual journey here today . Some of you know that I resigned my minister’s license and left the institutional church (IC) about 3 years ago and have been struggling to find something more authentic since doing so. It has been, and continues to be, a long hard struggle. Aside from losing several hundred friends in the process, the bigger challenge has been finding my way back to a place where I want to talk about my walk with God. You see, when you leave a system like the IC there is a period of “detox” that must occur in order to remove all of the filters that cloud every spiritual thought that comes through one’s brain. Detox might sound like a harsh word to describe the process of leaving a church; but, in fact, some of the things I allowed myself to believe and even preached were toxic TO ME. They certainly were not intended to be harmful; but with the baggage of negative thoughts I brought into the IC with me, the system within it became detrimental to my developing a authentic relationship with God. It wasn’t until I removed myself from the matrix of the IC and took the proverbial red pill that I could understand there is a better way to walk with God that makes sense. There is an easier way (and easy is okay—probably the hardest lesson to learn!). There is a lighter way. I am only now, after 3 years, beginning to take that way and not feel condemned for it. And I am discovering God there. I am discovering love there. I am discovering myself there; and so are many others.

After meeting many families on the road who seem to be on a similar journey as I, I decided to take a leap of faith and start a Facebook group (The Seekers Café) for us all. The aim is to have a safe place for us all to share our struggles in this journey of spiritual discovery. We have about 30 members in its first week. It’s not really about the numbers; but it is good to find that there are others (mostly fulltime traveling families) that are hungry for real fellowship with God and each other outside of the IC. I am not trying to create “a thing” out of this group, but rather prefer it be used as a tool to bring people together—nothing else.

Call it what you will, but I seemed to get the confirmation I needed to let me know I was on the right track with creating this group the day after creating it. I decided to listen to a podcast (The Life of a Pilgrim, Part 2) from The God Journey. I rarely listen to them (even though I love to), but felt led to do so that day. [If you are interested in getting a little more insight into what I was listening to and what I hope The Seekers Café becomes for people you should take the time and listen to this]. In the podcast, Wayne Jacobsen is interviewing an 89 yr old Scottsman who is sharing the story of his own journey and he begins to relay a story of his first outside-the-church experience of christian community. He began describing a people in Australia that lived in what he called “house trucks”. Of course, the title of my blog being “House Truckin’” I was intrigued. Basically, he was describing this nomadic group of families that traveled and shared life together intentionally and authentically. I was really struck at the coincidence of the topic and the words he used to describe the houses as I listened to it and considered the timing of it all. I concluded, maybe naively, that God may have had a hand in the seemingly arbitrary words my daughter spoke when she called our first motorhome a “house truck” 2 years ago. Oh, and before coming across this podcast, I almost went with the name The Pilgrims Cafe instead ;). Time will tell, but I am anticipating great things as I continue this journey with my family and share my life and spiritual journey with others.

FOTR and Beyond…

We spent the week of January 15 at Thousand Trails Orlando attending the annual Families On The Road (FOTR) rally. It’s an event designed to bring together other “unconventional” families living the nomadic lifestyle to share their journeys and make new friends. There were about 15 families encompassing about 100+ people and we had a memorable time meeting folks from all walks of life.

We are certain we have made lifetime friends with many of these people and I feel our lives are richer having spent time with all of them. Kylee made new friends (Ella and Rosalie) and Lisa and I have connected with a couple of families that plan to travel a bit together to continue sharing our stories, laughter, pain, food, love and adventure. It has been so enriching and joyous to connect with such genuine people…something our family has been hungry for ever since our exodus from the institutional church in 2008.

Here are some highlights of the people we met on our journey:

  • Rita and Pete: Our rally organizers, this family has been on the road for 4 years with their kids and are passionate about bringing together families on the road.
  • Jon and Jema: Originally from Minnesota, they have been on the road for a little over a year now as they work, roadschool their 4 children, and work on a art project inspired by their son Ethan‘s love of butterflies.
  • Pieter and Clementine: Originally from Holland, they travel with their 2 kids. Pieter is my hero because he has rigged his unit with a real pellet stove! Clementine gave birth to Lewis on Thanksgiving Day on the floor of their RV…by choice!
  • Bonnie and Murray: Canucks, but we love ’em anyway! They come to the warmer states to escape the Canadian winters. Bonnie served as fashionista extraordinaire when the girls went clothes shopping while Murray taught the kids valuable martial arts techniques.
  • Wendy and Matt: Traveling with their 3 kids they just finished a year on the road in a rented motorhome. Matt flies all over the country working on various business projects and meets up again with the family wherever they happen to be. Rumor has it they are now buying a Mobile Suites to travel indefinitely…or was it a catamaran to sail the seven seas 😉
  • Phil and Lisa: They too are snowbirds, traveling from Michigan when the frost hits. Their daughter Ella and Kylee played for hours on end.
  • Angela and Clint: Founders of Eco Womb. They drive a motorhome powered by “Peace, Love, and Veggie Grease”. That’s their bus in the picture. It was really informative to learn how they live a sustainable life on the road.
  • Kimber: A single mom and country star traveling with her 2 daughters, Kimber provided live entertainment for us. She had a #1 country song hit the Australian charts for 3 weeks in a row!

So, as you can see, we got to hang out with some pretty cool cats. We can’t wait to stay on the road with them all! The rally was only a 4 day event. We enjoyed each other so much that only today, 3 weeks later, did we part ways…with plans to meet up again in 2-3 weeks.

This. Is. Why. We. Are. On. The. Road. The People. The Adventure. The Stretching.

Next we are heading to Ft Desoto Park near Seminole FL to do some kayaking and visit with Lisa’s parents who have a winter place down here.

Disney World, Orlando, FL

Disney World was a good time! We really enjoyed watching Kylee as we strolled through the theme parks. We camped at Fort Wilderness inside the park. It was a tight squeeze getting backed into our site, but no damage was done. At $100/night I was expecting a little more, but it was nice being parked literally right at the bus stop so that we could get up and go quickly each morning. I just couldn’t wait to stand in long lines all day! Really, it wasn’t too bad. Okay, yes it was.

Disney Corp. is a masterful marketing organization. I couldn’t help but feel a bit like a sucker consumer in Disney. I realize it is geared towards a child’s enjoyment…but it’s geared towards a parents wallet, so I believe some criticism should be allowed.  The “rides” were waaaaaaay outdated. I mean, come on, “It’s a Small World”?!?! That lame ride has been in operation since 1734. Then there was the college kids operating the rides like the Animal Kingdom safari that I just wanted to punch due to their sarcastic canned humor that was clearly written for their own amusement to keep themselves from going insane from repeating the same sarcastic canned humor. Nevertheless, Kylee was blissfully unaware of the commercialism. It was all a magic fairy tale to her…which makes it worth every penny. Well, most of the pennies.

I felt the food was mediocre, too. The World Showcase at Epcot was a cool concept…but I have had better Japanese food at the local sushi joint in Dover, DE than they had in “Japan, Orlando”. We bought the meal plan with our tickets and quickly realized that they were making out like fat bandits given that 75% of the restaurants are buffet-style. I am not fan of all-you-can-eat-and-sneeze-on buffet restaurants. It feels a little too trough-y to me. The chefs do a fantastic job of looking legit with their tall hats, french accents, and big smiles–but, they can’t possibly be that happy to be serving food this way after graduating from the International Culinary Institute.

On a positive note, I was extremely impressed with the ability of the Disney staff to be consistently and apparently genuinely happy to be working there. I mean, they really make you feel like a special guest. And to think, they do this 7 days a week, 365 days a year, year after year after year. The characters were the highlight for Kylee. She had breakfast with her favorite princesses–the highlight of the week for her. If I had to work there, I would no-doubt resort to coming up with some canned sarcastic humor bit. Hat-tip to their hospitality indeed.

In the end, it was a great vacation for us all. Kylee is still at that age where Disney World is a very magical place. At one point during the fireworks I  was holding her up and she said to me with a hug, “Daddy this is where dreams come from. You know what my dream was? You, Daddy”. Heart. Melt.

After Disney, we headed off to Clermont, FL about 30 min up the road for a Families on the Road (FOTR) rally. Details to come on that. Oh, and I did not forget I promised to blog about my hillbilly motormount for our new inflatable kayaks.

Here are some highlights from Disney…

Hanging Out with Escapees in Bushnell, FL

We arrived here at Sumter Oaks RV Park in Bushnell, FL on Tuesday. It was a short 1 hr drive from Ocala. We immediately got the feeling we were joining a tight-knit community when we arrived. Escapees RV Club members are well-known for their friendliness and they sure have lived up to that reputation since we arrived. There are a lot of full-time RVers here as evidenced by all the South Dakota and Texas tags (for those of you unaware, most full-timers domicile in these two states for tax advantages). Combine the friendliness with low low camping rates of about $16/day, the 3 resident sandhill cranes, and on-site orange trees ripe for picking,  and we are content to stay here until our Disney trip planned for Jan 6.

Yesterday, I noticed I was getting  a lot of new followers to my blog. I checked my stats to see what was going on, and I noticed I had almost 4000 hits to my blog in 1 day! I know I didn’t meet 4000 people today…but I did meet a cool couple who knows well over 4000 people: Nick and Terry Russell. Nick and Terry (as some of my readers are well aware of) are the creators of a popular bi-monthly journal for RVers called Gypsy Journal… it’s packed with stories, humor, and useful information for Rvers! They have been full-timers for 13 years now and they put on 2 rallies each year to bring RVers and wannabes together to learn and fellowship. Turns out Nick mentioned meeting us in his blog and kindly linked to our blog, thus the 4000 hits yesterday. We had a good chat with them. It was obvious to us that they love this lifestyle and love sharing it with others.

It’s kind of nice to come to a park where there are lot of other full-timers. We have been staying in state parks quite a bit since hitting the road and you don’t get  a lot of opportunity to chat with other full-timers that way. I’m pretty sure we are the youngest family in the park right now so Kylee is getting a lot of love and attention from the other campers who are reminded of their own grandkids. Kylee is pretty outgoing and will not hesitate to walk over to your site (with our permission of course) and chat it up with you. Just don’t be offended when her inquisitive little mind inquires about your wrinkles on your face as she did with one gracious neighbor today.

These folks adored Kylee

Football, Fixes, and Fun!

Rather than write 4-5 posts to catch everyone up on where we are at, I think I will try and do it all in one post. So, bear with me!

After the fiasco with the RV damage repairs I made my way to Hell….Hell, Michigan  that is, where I met my brothers Craig and Chad and my Dad for some fun camping and the University of Michigan homecoming football game. What a great time we had! It was a relief to see them win, given the long journey we all made to get here (Craig and Dad from NY). But, we would have enjoyed ourselves even with a loss as we did when we came in 2009 when Penn State walloped them in The Big House. Some of the highlights of the weekend were eating at Zingerman’s, going to The Big House, Rocket Man (video below), and, of course, spending time with my family.

Dad and I

The Big House

Me and my brothers enjoying burgers for breakfast.

Craig, Chad, Dad at Zingermans in Ann Arbor, MI

Also while in Michigan I took it upon myself to run a 5k…the Halloween Run through Hell! There were probably 800 or so runners and the costumes were interesting.

Tie Dye Man was running with Marijuana Leaf Man

Angry?

Where's Waldo?

No costume required

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From Michigan I drove (sans Lisa and Kylee still who are in Delaware) to Elkhart, IN for warranty repairs on the rig. I had a heat pump that did not work and DRV installed the wrong pinbox on my rig. They installed a 21k pinbox on a rig with a 23k GVWR. When I questioned both DRV and RVsForless on this they both told me that it is the right pinbox but the wrong sticker was placed on it (the large one that says 21,ooolb GVR!). I initially said okay…but then thought I would look into it further. I called Lippert (the manufacturer of the TrailAir pinbox) and they advised it was the wrong pinbox for my rig. DRV finally admitted the error and replaced it.

My warranty work was scheduled with Paul Cross (crossrv.com) in Elkhart. They fouled up the schedule and said they could not fit me in for a few days! So, I went with Tiara RV instead. I worked with Scott @ Tiara and he fixed me right up. Scott was great to work with and I highly recommend Tiara RV for repairs.

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I left from Elkart, In around 3:30 pm on Wednesday and drove until about 1:00 am and stopped at a service plaza in Pennsylvania, parked and slept. I woke up at 7:00am and hit the road, arriving at Lums Pond State Park in Delaware to meet my girls. I was in DE by 11:00am. I made great time.

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We stayed at Lums Pond for 12 days and loved it. Who’d of thought right here in DE would be such a nice park! Great running, walking, and biking trails. Plus, it was virtually empty. While in DE I did some home repairs to appease the city inspectors who gave me a 3 page list of demands when they got wind that I was renting my house. Of course, I did the right thing and applied for a city permit before renting, thus the ‘wind’.

Site 21...the only pull-through

Lums Pond

Peaceful dock on a foggy Lums Pond

Now we are in Rehoboth Beach, DE at Delaware Seashore State Park en route to Florida. We will take our time getting there by December. This place stinks…literally of low tide smells. It is not a destination park by any means. It’s an overpriced parking lot. But, it has hookups and serves our needs for a couple of days.

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A Festivus in Waynesville, NC!

Frank Costanza: “Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.”

Cosmo Kramer: “What happened to the doll?”

Frank Costanza: “It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!”

Kramer: “That must have been some kind of doll.”

Frank Costanza: “She was.”

What this excerpt from Seinfeld has to do with an Apple Festival in Waynesville, NC I have no idea; but anytime I think of festivals I think of this scene from Seinfeld. There were a few dolls and plenty of people to make it feel like a festivus, but in reality, it was just a fun family-friendly festival in one of our favorite Smoky Mountain towns filled with arts, crafts, street performers, and good food!

Waynesville, NC is a small town dear to our hearts. We lived here from ’05-’07 and really fell in love with its charm and proximity to the GSMNP as well as the eclectic town of Asheville about 20 min away. It has a population of less than 10k but has great coffee shops, a fantastic walking downtown district, and its natural setting will rival most mountain towns.

We had a great time watching Kylee shower herself with leaves and decorate apples while Lisa perused the interesting arts and crafts. As usual, I hovered the sidelines and just enjoyed the gorgeous Autumn weather, reminding myself that this is why we are out here. It wasn’t even very difficult to skip watching my first University of Michigan football game of the season (the first one I could get down here in the South) to come hang out with the interesting people of Western North Carolina. Having DVR doesn’t hurt, either 😉

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A Message to Kylee

A big reason for writing this blog is to provide our daughter, Kylee, with a chronicle of our adventure when she gets older. Today, I just want to post a video of a song that speaks to our motivation for pursuing this life for Kylee. Enjoy…and “my wish” is for you, my readers, as well. 

Official launch date for our new life: Wednesday, September 28, 2011