Thursday, February 25, 2016

Unplugged -- Day 121

I’m a pretty smart guy. I have managed to survive on this planet for over four decades and have created a couple miniature versions of myself (one male, one female -- just to see what that would be like), but I will still never understand the wizardry that is cellphones. Between the science and the economics, it is a mystery that just makes me want to move to a cabin in the woods on the edge of a lake and talk to the trees. (If you haven’t noticed, I’m halfway there already.)

We like to stay connected as much as anyone else. Maybe a little more. Okay, truth be told, my daughter and I are constantly online. It is one of our basic needs and it is her key to happiness. I have disc golf as my happy place, Anya recharges with the energy of the trees, but Zoe needs her virtual friends to find her center. When we were living in our last apartment, I paid a premium for super fast internet, opening up the entire world with a few mouse clicks. No questions went unanswered, no topic went undiscussed. We felt superior to our TV watching friends, because we didn’t have to sit through commercials -- we were the commanders of our own entertainment. Movies, TV shows, and music, all in glorious High Definition. Researching how to take this experience with us on the road led to frustration.

There are people out there that are full-time RVers that make thier living via the internet. Not just because they publish a travel blog that has advertising on it (although there are dozens of those -- you probably can’t live on those residuals alone.) They run a business of some kind, and always have a good connection. The secret? They have unlimited internet on a “grandfathered” Verizon plan. That is not helpful! What we needed was something that was going to be attainable NOW, not something that we should have done three years ago. Through trial and error, we did finally come to a solution. Remember the Great Data Crisis? Now we are online as much as we need to be. As long as we stay in the coverage area.

Trip planning has become an interesting project, as we now are trying to follow the Sprint data coverage map with stops along the way for disc golf. Online coverage maps are notoriously inaccurate, as illustrated by our experience here at Lake Mineral Wells State Park. The map says that we’re within a good coverage zone, but it doesn’t reach our actual campsite. We’re about a half mile outside the range of the tower, making for an excellent example of a First World Problem. I like to imagine Zoe telling her kids in the future about the days back when she had to hike up a mountain to get cell service.

Our backyard

Posted by Anya Phenix on Friday, February 26, 2016

We have now been here for four days, and I have learned to accept the separation. Letting questions go unaswered, trusting in my prior trip planning for the route to our next stop. I have discovered that my constant connection is a crutch that has been preventing me from finding the inner peace that I have been seeking. I have to let go of the worries of the outside world, and accept that what I have is all I need.

Learn to be content in your present situation. Where you are right now is exactly where you are supposed to be. Savor each moment as perfect. Live in the right now. When you can do that, you will find eternal peace and happiness.

I am not yet there, but I’m working on it.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mother Neff State Park -- Day 103

It isn’t very often that I sit down to write about one particular place in which we’ve stayed, and this place will never overcome the awesomeness that is Live Oak park in Ingleside, Texas. However, the serene beauty of this hidden gem deserves a highlight, and after our short nature walk yesterday, I feel compelled to share.

We’ve stayed in quite a few State Parks here in Texas, it’s actually quite an impressive collection of properties. Many of them seem to be around one of the 6,000+ lakes that Texas boasts, and being a person that loves a good sunset over water, I find this to be quite pleasing. Mother Neff is one of the exceptions to that general rule, being situated just outside the sleepy little town of Moody (population: 1377.) Looking at it on the map, it’s just a rectangular patch of green paralleling state highway 236 just after it turns north from the Iron Bridge Wildlife Management Area.

If you had put the state parks in a lineup, or compared them by amenities, Mother Neff probably wouldn’t rate very highly. We just happened upon it because of my 150 Mile Radius Travel Card. (If you have read Day 44 you know what I’m talking about.) I swear it’s the greatest invention that I’ve had since The Technology Box (more on that later.) We had actually discovered this park earlier in our journey (check out Day 62, if you haven’t already) and we had said that we would love to come back. With our new method of deciding our intinerary, we were excited to see that Mother Neff was going to be back on the destinations list.

It’s a quaint little park, with really level concrete pads for your RV, as well as full electric, water, and sewer hookups. There are just enough trees to provide a little privacy, but they are mostly young live oaks and cedars, so there is lots of unobstructed sky to enjoy. Being so far from any major city means the stars are particularly impressive. (I’m humming “Deep in the Heart of Texas" right now.) Yesterday, we explored one of the walking trails through the dense cedar forest and just enjoyed being ALIVE and away from the constant barrage of brick-and-mortar civilization. But then we had to come back, because I couldn’t get a really good LTE signal to send out Snapchats. But it was really pretty!

Mother Neff is a beautiful place. It’s small, compared to other sprawling parks that we’ve experienced, but they make great use of the space. You don’t feel like your neighbors are too close, but you don’t feel like you’re going to get murdered without any witnesses. (I see you, Campsite 7!) The crushed pink granite makes for an interesting ground cover, and clearly delineates the safe zone, so the wild coyotes can’t eat you. At least, that’s what I’m assuming it means, your mileage may vary. Add to all of this the clean, tiled, warm bathrooms with latching shower stall doors (no more accidental shower shows for the fellow campers) and I am really impressed with this place.

I expect a good showing for this place on the next Places We’ve Stayed list, which is due to come out around Day 144, or 123 depending on which formula you’re using to predict. Personally I like rolling the dice.

Before I go, I said I would explain the Technology Box. It’s really a simple invention from the mind of my lovely travel companion. What if there was a way to keep all of the chargers, cables, and devices organized and portable? One thing that living in the RV has taught us is to be more compact and efficient with our things, and since we are heavily reliant on our technology (remember the Data Crisis?) we have lots of chargers, devices and cables to manage. The Technology Box is a modified plastic storage container with an external hard drive and a power strip with all of the chargers plugged in. It also functions as a stand for the Chromebook when it’s plugged into the TV, since the HDMI cable has to be shared with the Playstation. Looking for the controllers for the Playstation? Also in the Technology Box. Simple, genius.

Travel update: We’ll be leaving this majestic place for a little disc golf up in Waco, after which we are heading to Lake Whitney State Park. Our new travel plan is to try to fit a round of disc golf into travel day, so that we don’t have to take the rig out of the campsite after we’ve hooked up. We’ve only done it once so far, but I think I’m going to like this new itinerary. Makes our travel range a little shorter, but increases the frequency of the disc golfing.

It’s all about priorities.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The First 100 Days

So here we are. 100 Days on the road, and counting. Sometimes I didn’t think that we would even make it this far, and I’m really proud of my family for the flexibility they have exhibited to make this all possible. We’ve had our share of ups and downs, and the learning curve was rather steep, considering we had ZERO experience in RVing prior to this adventure. People all the time tell me, “Wow, I wish I could do that!” And I think to myself, “I know why you don’t!”

Pilgrim, life is short. Dream big and then have the gall to chase those dreams. There will always be people that are going to tell you why you can’t do something. And you know what? They might even be right! But there is something to be said about TRYING. The great Yoda once said, “Do or do not, there is no try.” I feel like some people internalized that as a message about giving up before you even start. But that is NOT the point at all! The message is actually along the lines of the famous Nike slogan, “Just DO it.” So what if you fail? You will have learned something amazing in the process.

Sometimes along the journey, you have some hardships. I think that if I had the ability to read this blog prior to starting out, 100 days ago, I might not have even wanted to do it. But you know what? That would have been a colossal mistake. Sure, there are days when I don’t really like this life. There are times when I miss being able to call up a few friends and meet to split a bottle of expensive wine. I miss being able to play Call of Duty with my brother via the magic of the internet. I miss being recognized as a regular at my favorite restaurant, and getting phenomenal service as a result.

This life now has indelible memories for which I have happily traded those past comforts. Yesterday, we hiked down to the Lower McKinney Falls and skipped rocks in Onion Creek. We talked about geology and erosion. We watched local fishermen below the falls, patiently waiting for signs of life. We laid back on the bedrock and soaked up the power of the earth and the azure sky above. It was an amazing day. And that was just day 99, by itself!

Today we’re going to try something that we have never done before, which is pack a bunch into a travel day. We’re planning to hit up a disc golf course, the grocery store, and still drive to another State Park. Because life is short, and you should get out and do something today! Don’t let anything hold you back, because you will end up spending you whole life in preparation and die with too many dreams unfulfilled.

That thing that you have been getting ready to do? Go do it. When someone asks, tell them that you had the Sensei's permission.