Stop, Look, Listen #3

I feel as though I should rename this series. Maybe I should call it, “Stop, Look, Listen, Feel”. I have always been fascinated by the feel of a place. Some places creep me out, some sadden me, some light me up, some seem neutral. There are places with a strong feel and some with a bare whisper. I guess it’s all in the ‘eye’ of the beholder. Perhaps we see what we expect to see and feel what we expect to feel. It could be that it (our sense of reality) is  partly external ‘facts’  and partly a homogenous soup mitigated and conjured up by our minds. I wonder if a place might have its own reality, its own essence. The Irish poet, David Whyte describes the genius of a place. He says that the  word genius is Latin for ‘the spirit of a place’. I like that idea very much.

So, anyway, Larry and I traveled to two places and each place had a strong feel to them.

We spent the day at Vicksburg National Military Park which commemorates the Siege of Vicksburg.  The Union and Confederate forces fought for 47 days. The Union Army forced the surrender of the Confederate forces on July 4, 1863. By that time, 10,142 Union and 9,091 Confederate soldiers were killed or wounded. The Park has more than 1,200 memorials and monuments to the men who fought on both sides of the war. The park is beautiful as are the many memorials. It’s a testament to the courage, to loss and heartbreak, and to love of country.


The feel of the Park was one of sorrow, loss, pain, and suffering. It felt unsettled as if the 47 days of battle had punctured a whole in the fabric of the place. It felt like the souls of the dead where still crying out for their mothers and wives. I felt badly for the soldiers of both sides of the conflict and for their families. I felt sorry for all of us who live in a world where war still exists.

The next day we went to the Emerald Mound.  The mound is an 8 acre site that was used from 1200 until 1730 and was build by the ancestors of the Natchez Indians. Emerald Mound is the second largest pre- Columbian earthwork in the country. There are a series of these mounds along the Mississippi Mound Trail. As usual, on our off season wanderings, there was only one other couple at the mound. It was hard to believe that something so large could have been built by people who had only the most basic of tools. No one knows a lot about the people who built the mounds. It is thought that the mound was a ceremonial center.

I climbed to the top of the mound and felt a strong sense of peace and strength. It felt like all of the energy of the place was balanced and flowing and was as strong as the Universe itself. The energy was as calming as it was invigorating. It’s hard to describe the experience but words like grounding, affirming, expanding and joyful come to mind. It reminded me a lot of what it was like at the burial chambers in Ireland and in the Orkney Islands. 

Susie on Mound

Shiny and Mound

So, the feel of a place is a funny thing. It’s hard to pin down. You can’t take a picture of it or record it. It is interesting to hang out with the genius of a place, to tip your hat to it, say a prayer for it. I recorded a 5 minute meditational Drumming as a thank you to the spirit of the place of Emerald Mound for you to enjoy.

Big Ridge To Meriwether

Half of this old New Hampshire boy doesn’t mind the cold. I think it must be the French Canadian half. Back home that half would say bring it on, I’ll just put another log on the fire. The other half, a mish mash of Dutch, Irish, English, German, and who know what else, is seeking a warmer climate.

We had to hold up at Big Ridge State Park in Tennessee for 4 days waiting for the Airstream dealer to open on Monday to get our water pump fixed. Everyday we woke up the outside temperature was between 0 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit. We stayed comfortable inside Shiny. Big Ridge was a beautiful park and Sue was having a good time taking pictures and rock picking. I had to make a trip or two into town for propane as we were using a 30 lb. tank every two days.

I was worried that when we left Big Ridge we would have trouble dumping our holding tanks. All the piping for that is exposed underneath Shiny to the frigid temperatures. After you get everything hooked up at the dumping station and you pull the lever to dump the Black (toilet) water. If all goes as expected, there’s a ‘whoosh’ and everything is safely down the drain. The worse sound in the world would have been silence, which meant that the piping was frozen.

We followed our usual routine and everything went just fine. When the tanks are empty I’ll hold the hose up while Sue rinses the inside out with a water hose. For some reason Sue decided to do something we don’t usually do.  She took the water hose and rinsed out Shiny’s piping. Lo and behold out pops a golf ball sized unmentionable and it starts rolling down the hill. Sue quickly gets downhill of it and starts guiding it up the hill and into the hole with a stream of water from the hose. It reminded me of when I was a kid playing marbles.

A music friend who I had met at Mount Airy invited us over to his place for lunch while Shiny’s water pump was being repaired. So after we dropped Shiny off at the dealer in Knoxville we showed up at Mike and Marcia Bryant’s house in Kingston, Tennessee. We had a wonderful time with them playing a few tunes and Mike made us a delicious lunch. Marcia had a banjo uke that Sue took a liking to. I can see the writing on the wall.

When we picked up Shiny everyone at the dealer was talking about the big snow storm due the next day. Because of this we decided not to push it and to sit out the storm at Edgar Evins State Park. BTW in Tennessee. With me being 62, the State parks were only $14 per night. Edgar Evins was another gorgeous park. Shiny had a temperature control problem here. Three very cold days later when we left, the roads around the campground were still snow covered. Keep in mind there are few guard rails on any of the ice covered roads in the park.


If I hadn’t had 4 wheel drive we never would have gotten out of there. We barely did as it was. When I thought we were out of danger of getting stuck I tried to get a high five from Sue but all I got was “keep your hands on the steering wheel!”. This is Sue’s version of getting out of the park from her journal entry the next day.


On to what we had been waiting for, the Natchez Trace. I was pronouncing Natchez Nawches but we learned it’s like the word matches only with an N. We got to the very beginning of the Trace and that section was closed.

trace closed

Can you say BUMMED OUT! We backed tracked about 20 miles and got on the trace but long sections of it were snow and ice covered so the driving was treacherous.


We made it to the free Meriwether Campground right on the Trace and stayed there for the night. Another beautiful area of Tennessee. We pretty much had the place to ourselves.


One thing I wanted to see was the burial place of Meriwether Lewis.


More sections of the Trace south of the Meriwether Campground were closed so we took and alternate route and made our way to Tombigbee State Park near Tupelo, Mississippi.



Must Have Gadget #8 Viair


Viair Portable Air Compressor

Our experience at Letchworth State Park convinced me that getting a portable air compressor before we hit the full time road is a good idea. But which one to get?

Airforums is your friend when it comes to Airstream research and sometimes SOB (Some Other Brand) research. I ended up buying the Viair 400P-RV for several reasons.

  1. The maximum 150 psi is plenty for the 80 psi I need for the Goodyear Endurance tires on Shiny.
  2. The 2.3CFM Free Flow rating will add air to the tires quickly.
  3. Can be used to blow out the air from the water lines when winterizing.
  4. Comes with an additional hose to reach the trailer tires.
  5. Automatic shut off so it only runs when you add air pressure.

At the time I purchased the unit a Google search lead to a dozen comparisons to other compressor kits and the Viair 400p-RV was at the top of the list on all of them.

It has come in handy as we’ve used it twice so far on our trip south.


Previous Gadget Expenses     $3271.00
Viar                           244.00

Total Gadget Expenses        $3515.00


Moseying Our Way South

We left New Hampshire on January 3rd trying to beat the blizzard. We did not succeed. Holed up at a PA Welcome Center while the wind was blowing sideways and the temp went down to 1 degree.

We stayed with friends in Virginia where the temp fell to 2 below. Shiny was still winterized then.


We made it to a friends house in North Carolina and the temps climbed to the high 50’s so we dewinterized Shiny there. Since we left North Carolina it has been below freezing. This morning it was 0 degrees F.

We’ve had a couple of Shiny problems. One, according to the Tennessee Airstream dealer, was the fault of the New Hampshire Airstream dealer who winterized our 2017 27FB. Apparently they left a washer out that caused the water pump to suck air. We had to pay $70 but that problem is fixed now.

The other problem is an intermittently misbehaving temperature control. The furnace sometimes will not shut off because the thermostat controller’s inside temperature reads 32 F all the time. We’re not the first persons to have this pesky problem. Nobody has really figured it out as far I as I can tell. The consensus is that humidity is the culprit. This makes sense to me because we have been having what I would call major condensation issues.


We spent an afternoon seeking out a small dehumidifier call a Eva-Dry Petite. Finally finding one at an Ace Hardware store. It seems to be helping.

Many people in hot and humid climates have had this controller inside temperature reading 32F all the time problem. The air conditioning won’t work because, well the system thinks it’s already 32 degrees inside why do you want it any cooler! This would be a far more serious problem then us having to manually shut the heat off once in a while in my opinion.

I have read posts on Air Forums where, people far more knowledgeable about these things then me, swear the problem are these connectors in the fresh air vents getting wet.  We dropped the vent covers and sure enough the connectors were sitting in condensation that had dripped from the aluminum hull above.

I’m not entirely sure this is the root of the problem but we did let them dangle there for a day using a hair dryer occasionally to help dry them out. The temp controller started working properly after a few hours and has been fine ever since.

One night I stupidly left the city water hooked up to Shiny. Not only was the water hose frozen solid but the park water spigot was frozen in the on position. Luckily, there was a shut off for that near by.

sue hair dryer

More seriously on the outside of Shiny, where the city water connects, was frozen solid. The hair dryer that I thought Sue was silly to bring came in handy again. We got lucky and didn’t break anything.

In Tennessee a 1/2 inch of snow is a big, big event. We decided to pull off the road and sit out a storm at Edgar Evins State Park in Silver Point, TN. I don’t think I’d want to be here in the summer when the place is full but right now we are the only ones here and it’s absolutely beautiful. So beautiful that we decided to stay another night. There are 4 rangers on duty who attend to our every needs.


The park is huge, it’s a 20 minute drive from the entrance to the campsite. I walk around as much as my poor old knee will allow. It is still mighty sore after the arthroscopy surgery I had last December. Walking downhill aggravates the heck out of it. Sue hikes around taking such wonderful pictures. She has a good eye for that.

I was thinking this morning, that we’ve been RV owners for over 30 years and that not one of our previous trailers would have kept us as comfortable or have held up to the extreme conditions we’ve put Shiny through. Airstreams heat the holding tanks  when you run the furnace so we have not had any freezing issues inside. I hope I didn’t jinx us by saying that.

Today we move onto the Natchez Trace and finally heading in a due southerly direction. We are still undecided on our destination, Florida or the South West.

Hopefully as we mosey our way south we will reach warmer weather but if not we have our winter clothes and a silly hairdryer.

The Best Laid Plans

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a pannic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

To A Mouse , on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough, Robert Burns November, 1785


Most of us do not believe in crystal balls as a way of telling the future but we (I) sure do believe in telling the future. You should have seen the plan of our trip that I foresaw! By now, I’d be wearing sandals, a skirt and sleeveless top while sitting outside playing my ukulele and sipping on a cold iced tea! I was convinced of the reality of my prescience. Instead, something monstrous happened…REALITY! I laugh as I write this but it hasn’t been funny a lot of the time. Yesterday’s drive to a nearby town to get more propane on icy, mountainside roads with no guard rails was not funny. Looking at the long range weather forecast is not funny. Being stuck inside a lot more than I had planned on with my trusty companion and mate, Larry, is not funny. After the required amount of sputtering, I have managed to put my big girl panties on and to look around to see what I can see instead of whining about what I am not seeing.

Bad weather has forced us to stay longer at Big Ridge and Edgar Evins State Parks in Tennessee. We have been the only people at the parks except for the rangers which is  luxurious for an introvert like me. We’ve seen some beautiful sunsets, cooked some great meals, read some good books and taken some nice walks (all bundled up.) Mother nature has done her best to amaze us and I am grateful to have been able to receive what she has given.

heron 1

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Stop, Look, Listen #2

We headed from Virginia to Mars Hill, North Carolina which is near the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail . Nearby is Mount Mitchell which is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. Mars Hill has a population of about 2,000 people and is home to Mars Hill University. There is a story about a slave named Joe Anderson. He was owned by one of the trustees and was used as collateral for the building of the college. The Union Army invaded Mars Hill University in 1865. It took 40 years to restore the damage. A famous musicologist named Bascom Lamar Lunsfield, aka Minstrel of the Appalachians, was raised here.

Native Americans of the Cherokee Tribe lived on this land and were removed in 1838 to Oklahoma. They marched the Trail of Tears so named because so many died on the way.

We stayed with friends up in the hills. The hills here are sharp and steep and the roads are zig zagged which is interesting while traveling with an Airstream. Every bit of land has to be cut out of the hillsides and the rocky soil has to be heavily augmented. The woods are filled nut trees – hickory and black walnut. The acorns are big. There is very little light pollution and the night sky is very dark. There are horse farms down the road. In addition to lots of shale, there’s quartz.

The word that came to my mind in Mars Hill was resiliency – the capacity to recover from difficulties. It just takes so much to build here and to set up a new life. It’s hard to image how the early settlers succeeded in this frontier territory. I like the idea of resiliency. There’s this sense of sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward with no guarantees and sometimes, for all you know, not even a remote chance of success.  Life stops us in lots of ways. We get sick, we move, our hearts get broken, we can no longer watch the news, people die. I sure admire people who persist and keep living life in spite of hardship.

Pied PiperRoosterA woman named Ola Belle Reed was born a few counties north of Mars Hill. She was the 4th of 13 children. She composed and sang a song called, I’ve Endured. I love this song, especially when Larry sings it. I hope you will like it too.

fog and trees

Stop, Look, Listen. #1

Before we left on this adventure, I thought a lot about the places we might visit. I started thinking about the whole idea of ‘place’. I mean, there are no two identical places in this world, even if two areas of Levittown look exactly the same, they are distinctly different even if only by the way the lawns are mowed, where the bird nests are hiding or the slightly different longitude and latitude.  Paying special attention to the particulars of the place where I am is a form of mindfulness for me. It helps me to be present and I get a big sense of gratitude for the richness of life on this planet when I just stop, look, listen. Every place has its own feel, history, geology, its own smell. Pilgrims have always travelled to holy places, places where blessings could be imparted. Is every place holy? If so, how do you find your way to the holy well?

So, this will be the first in a series of experimental pieces about the places we’ve been.

We stayed with friends in Port Republic, Va.  a beautiful area north of Charlottesville. There are lots of old farms. Near many of the farms  there are subdivisions of row houses and McMansions. There are many small churches and bill boards with biblical quotes on them. A town nearby is home to James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University . In the county side I saw several Confederate flags flying. That war seems a recent event here with hard feelings still evident. One of the civil war battles was fought in the field outside of our friends’ house. The Battle of Cross Keys was won by the Confederate Army. About 1,000 men and boys died in this field and surrounding hills.

Battle Field

The area was once inhabited by the  Monacan Indians. And in keeping with a great initiative sponsored by the US Department of Arts and Culture , I acknowledge the early inhabitants of this land.

The soil here is yellow with a light orange tinge. The rocks are mostly shale.Shale

We have arrived here in the midst of a cold snap. Our friends tell us that this does happen every year around here. We walked out on a small pond on the farm. You can see the round, yellowish shape of a snapping turtle. It’s amazing to think that will survive till next spring. As we slipped our way across the pond, we were watched carefully by the resident goats.

Snapping Turtle_6577



I can’t say that I found a holy well in this place in terms of a big, wow moment. I was struck by the blending of the past and the present, from really old rocks to new buildings, from displaced indigenous peoples, to brave soldiers, to optimistic young college kids   Parts of this place were hard to look at and some were a reassuring comfort.

Surviving The Bomb Cyclone In Shiny

Instead of driving Shiny straight into the 2018 Bomb Cyclone I probably should have done things a little differently.

One thing I’d have done is ask my friend John Crowell if I could have parked Shiny overnight inside his place of business to thaw out. Get rid of the 6 inches of solid ice on the roof. Aw it’ll melt. NOT.  I should have listened to my cousin Lorraine who encouraged me to remove the ice before we traveled.

We ended up going through a truck wash in Raphine, VA to get it all off.


I really thought we could sneak out ahead of the storm. We even left a day early. But the storm was much bigger than expected, or it moved further inland then expected, or something. In any case we ended up driving right dead smack into it.

We shouldn’t have spent the night at a Cracker Barrel in Fishkill, NY prior to the storm. But we were tired and so stopped there at 10:00 pm. The restaurant chain is RV friendly and makes overnight parking  spots available for weary rovers like us.


There was a 24/7 car wash right next to the Cracker Barrel that seemed to attract every testosterone laden lad with a loud exhaust system within a 100 mile radius.  Lets just say it wasn’t the most peaceful night of rest we ever had.


For more than one reason we should not have taken the time to have breakfast at said Cracker Barrel. The wait staff were friendly and they all said if your going west you’ll be fine. They did mention that the Fishkill school system was closed because of the impending storm which should have raised an alarm or two. Then when we topped off the gas tank before getting back on I84 a fellow gas purchaser said “if your going west you’ll be in good shape”. Ya right.


We should have sucked it up and kept driving Wednesday night. But that’s hindsight for ya.

After about one hour of driving in the morning, from Fishkill, it started snowing and the wind started blowing so hard I had to slow down to 40 MPH. I just didn’t dare drive any faster. We were being blown all over the road. The wind didn’t seem to affect the truckers and they were piling up behind me so when we got to the Pennsylvania border and the Welcome Center I pulled off.

It turned out to be a great place to wait out the storm. There was free WiFi in the parking lot, friendly attendants in the Welcome Center and a 700 pound stuffed black bear in the lobby to stare at.


The truckers had to leave by 7:00 pm so except for the sound of the sideways blowing wind and snow, the purring of the furnace and the low moan of the generator it was quite peaceful.


Shiny is pretty well insulated and kept us comfortable. The batteries did not fully charge from the short drive from Fishkill to the PA welcome center so I had to hook up the generator to keep the furnace running.

I did wake up at midnight by the lumbering sound of the furnace which turned out to be run down batteries. Guess I didn’t run the generator long enough.

I wanted to wake Susan up to get the generator going but thought that would probably be a mistake. So I bundled up and walked out into the blizzard and wouldn’t you know it despite the whole parking lot being empty, another RV’er had decided to park right up next to us. My conscience wouldn’t let me run the generator so close to them so I started the truck, which also charges the batteries, and went back to bed. I got up two hours later and went out in the storm again to shut the truck off.

In the morning the snow had stopped but the wind was still blowing in good shape. The temperature was 1 degree.


All the snow and ice that we neglected to remove before we left had melted above the roof vents and the two sun roofs and was now refrozen on the sides of Shiny. The awning was now encased in a big blob of ice. A very impressive sight for sure.


We had some condensation problems inside around the windows.


All in all though Shiny held up extremely well. We got back on the road and headed for Virginia where even colder weather awaited us.


Fighting the wind the whole way to Virginia made for one of the most exhausting drives I’ve ever done.

It was, however, an exciting start to our 6 month Sojourn!

Where Has Shiny Been?

States Shiny Has Been In