On this weird, cloudless yet starless night, the full buck moon was bright red. Drawing wild eyed deer to the roadways edge.
Like packs of starving zombies seeking to sate their ravaging hunger. Suicidal Whitetail await in the shadows for just the right vehicle to drive by.
In my mind I could see them. Pawing at the periphery. Waiting in the twiggy wedge of where the forest meets the road.
Moon crazed deer are the bane of rural Texas roadways in Summer and Fall. But not only deer succumb to the full moons lunacy. On Summer nights like these, a deranged contagion maddens more than the jittery, spindly legged, frantics.
Although unseen, denizens of the Texas wilderness hide in the shadows. Lurking at the brink of the unlit road. Waiting for me to drive by.
I scanned the verge with sharp intent. Hands gripping the wheel in anticipation. Ready to respond.
As Austin neared, the forest thinned and turned to sprawling ranchland. Not out of the literal woods yet, I loosened my grip but maintained a keen eye.
Hello Austin Texas
About about 100 miles north of my South Austin, Texas destination, traffic thickened as it now always does when nearing Austin. I began to relax.
Less than 100 miles from my destination and no casualties. Then something flew in front of the car and vanished. I knew it was a goner.
It was nearly dark, so it could have been a bat. Texas is home to millions of little bats. But I knew that whatever it was, was likely stuck in the massive grill of the Lincoln.
I’d not seen it do the customary ‘swoop of the dead’ over my hood. So I imagined it wedged between the evil teeth if the Aviators shameless grin.
I drove on.
The sprawling Texas ranchland faded to subdivisions. I drove across Austin through the late evening traffic, so common to this place. Venturing on to my mother’s house in South Austin.
Arriving exhausted, I merely glanced at the menacing grill of the Lincoln upon unloading and saw nothing.
I awoke to take Mom to do errands. It was hot. Three digit hot.
The bug laden grill showed no sign of a body, so I offered the little creature a moment of silence in recompense and went on with life.
The Heat (Heart) of Texas!
The next day was hot. Like the rest of the US, Texas was searing. Daily aspiring to triple digits or close, with just enough humidity to make it soul breakingly bleak.
As I traversed South Austin to help my Mom with chores. Instead of dodging moon crazed deer, I now evaded the blank eyed, soccer Moms, that dot Austins cityscape.
These dough eyed creatures, drive and roam about as if they have no real destination in mind. Such Austin transplants wander the parking lots and shops in a daze similar to the deer.
Swaddled in organic yoga pants and t shirts with ironic sayings, they prance about believing they too are “weird”. Their freshly dyed purple hair, a beacon of their unacknowledged privilege.
I prefer the crazy deer.
The deer are much more competent at blending into the landscape than are this new breed of Austin Moms. Fueled by their vapid superiority, they don’t even notice themselves blocking the way, driving to slowly or cutting you off.
And Ye Shall Arise!
We stopped at Michaels craft supply and walked the length of the strip mall to TJ Maxx.
The heat was better this day, yet too oppressive for my Mom. So I slogged off through the Texas heat, to get the car and come pick her up.
How could that be?
There’s no way it could be a second bird right?
Yet there she was, screaming her wee head off and waving her wings about. She looked a right mess too.
I opened the trunk and the dove flew out. She stumbled around the parking lot, mimicking the soccer moms and flew off into the expansive Texas sky.
How could that poor little sucker have survived? Eighty miles an hour in front of a searing hot radiator? Three whole days driving around town in 3 digit heat?
There is no way to know how that little bird survived her predicament. Yet, she now too was a transplant to Austin, Texas.
Maybe she’ll dye her hair purple, buy a Subaru Outback and start prancing around parking lots in ironic t-shirts.
The night sky is hazy in New Mexico. I turn from I 64 to Highway 550 and head for Madrid, New Mexico… that’s MAD drid, not Ma DRID.
It is getting late and as much as I love to drive, driving late night in unfamiliar, rural territory, yet again, wasn’t my plan. Of course I got side tracked.
Like a gnat in the breeze with only 6 hours to go on my journey to Madrid, I saw the sign from above. ‘Skyline Drive’ and could not keep myself from taking it on.
New Mexico can wait
I knew this would add up to 4 hours to my drive, but give me an exciting road to conquer and there’s no stopping me.
I rode the Lincoln Aviator hard on Skyline Drive. Abusing it as if it were a 4 wheel drive, and not a glorified Ford Explorer, with a big engine, wearing a fancy dress.
A great many of the roads in the yet rather ‘Wild West’ are, well… still quite wild.
I knew nothing of Skyline Drive before I was unceremoniously drawn into the flame by that sign. It turns out to to be a perfect example of what is left of rustic American roads.
Snaking through, up and down rugged canyons. Alternating from lush green forests to the ragged and rustic arid deserts that dot so much of the American countryside. It is difficult not to imagine a young pioneer’s first experience of America. Long before it was colonized to utter prostration.
The rough side of Skyline Drive (where I started) is 28 miles of course, winding, scenic roadway that is more like an incredibly rocky and treacherous path in spots with huge holes.
The claims of it being well maintained are naught.
After driving it I read it is not suitable for non 4WD vehicles. Apparently no one told my SUV that!
The drive wiggles, dips and climbs along the top of the Wasatch Plateau, peaking at just under 11,000 feet.
The views are spectacular.
With tree filled mountains, flower filled meadows, raucous streams and tranquil lakes. Skyline Drive in Utah is one of the highest elevation roads in America and simply stunning.
Admittedly, driving up and descending this extremely rugged terrain, on partially gravelled, winding roads is not for what my Lincoln Aviator was built. But the vehicle handled being forced into submission like a champ.
Her already worn tires, not so much.
According to Dangerous Roads Skyline Drive
” It ranks among the highest elevation roads in America. This dirt road (also known as FR150) provides access to forested mountains, alpine meadows and numerous lakes streams and camping areas.
Although many sections are suitable for passenger cars, high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicles are required for tougher parts.” (Unless you’re a driving maniac in a Lincoln Aviator)
Highway 550 / New Mexico
Cruising Highway 550 late at night is like playing Russian Roulette with a blindfold on.
Unlighted, on a starless night makes it look a bit like a video game. Add to that a full blood moon, drawing the deer to the brink of migration insanity and the edge of the roadway.
Swirling around blind corners in the dark of night is ‘steering wheel gripping’ enough. The threat of deer prancing out onto the roadway, adds to the spine tingling effect. Especially with so little light.
At first I thought it must be me. Maybe the window isn’t clean, my glasses need a wipe. I’m bleary from exhaustion? Perhaps my night vision had become weak suddenly?
Then I realised that oncoming traffic had their high beams blazing too. Some turned them off as they neared out of courtesy, others not. Even the truckers.
High beams screaming across the median offers even greater charm to the hilarity of this steep, windy drive at night. Made a mental note to do it in the day. Likely a great piece of roadway … when you can see.
There I was. The drunks, the truckers and I, hurtling along the black void of this high speed roadway, bargaining with our lives at each turn.
After eating up over 2000 miles of roadway in only a few days, I was once more driving into the wee hours of the night.
But I was almost there.
Then it happened.
“Warning extremely low tire pressure!”
No warning of trouble coming, just the threat of doomsday at hand.
Damn, only 26 miles from Madrid, New Mexico.
This is the point that I must pause and mention that I knew there was a nail in the tire and a slow leak before leaving Portland 2000 miles ago. Apparently, I decided to deal with it as it occurred and then completely pushed it to the back of my mind.
Think about what I’ve told you. What I’ve done with and where I’ve been with that car.
Yeah, I’m an idiot. You agree. It’s ok.
Flat tire in New Mexico
I drive the car 9 miles to the first gas station in 100 miles. Thankful this New Mexico town was so close at hand at my time of need. Not allowing myself to think about if this had happened earlier on my desolate highway 550 drive. I’d of been communing with the deer.
I hop out of the the car to have a look… and it’s bad. The nail near the sidewalk is hissing air.
Can’t drive another mile level bad.
I’m fucking tired. I know I should call roadside assistance (I have 3) but it’s now only 17 miles to my destination and I’m an idiot.
With much due hesitation I purchase a can of Fixaflat. I know in my heart of hearts this is bound to go badly. Yet I persevere, as idiots so often do.
It seems to hold, so I drive off, fingers crossed. Knowing full well at this point that I’m an idiot.
It’s about 1:10AM now and I’ve been driving nearly 14 hours straight with just a few short breaks.
Interstate 25 is pretty mild compared to 550. More traffic and towns. I’ll make it. I know I’ll make it.
A little voice in the back of my head that is never wrong, said, “You know you won’t”
Oh Google Maps!You’re such a trickster.
Google Maps decided to once again fuck with me. It tends to only do this in the middle of the night. It turns me onto some crazy side road (A54?) to get to 14 and my ultimate destination, Madrid.
Google maps has done this to me before. But that’s for another story.
Desolate, dark, rocky and craggy. The unpaved, unlit farm road had huge holes and was graveled with the same large sharp rocks as Skyline Drive.
It starts out slightly paved, but as I drive out it gets more and more rough.
I’m already 3 miles in. I know that tire seal shit isn’t going to hold. But I hope.
From what little I could see in the pitch black, the road was flanked by endless scrubby plants, rock and sand.
Like every inch of land in New Mexico, it was fenced.
It’s 1:36am now and I know I’m totally fucked.
“Warning extremely low tire pressure!”
“Hello? This is roadside assistance! Are you in a safe location?”
I guess I am now a wanderer, a vagabond, gypsy, tinker, drifter.
Technically being a nomad means nowhere is home. Or everywhere…
Dumped my apartment.
Purchased a vintage Fan Lee Liner camping trailer (which is not quite ready) and I started to roam.
This move was made not out of need, but of desire.
A desire to live a life as a nomad, means being more in tune with my principals. A life with new and unexpected challenges. My passion for travel and a dream to be a full time traveler.
When nowhere is home, your construct must change. Overcoming unfamiliar trials and impediments becomes the focus.
As I rely more on myself I hope to become less bound to and less reliant on material things. I’ve always been halfway there anyway.
As adaptable as I tend to be, I don’t know how well I will acclimate to this new way of life. And that’s part of the allure.
A Nomad Travels Light
I’ve lived out of a backpack for long periods of time with no issue. But I always had a home to drop my bag at in the end.
Can I happily travel about the country with my large 16 year old cattle dog and neurotic cat and not go insane?
Am I already insane?
Almost everything I own held within the confines of 200 square feet?
Is that really what I’m going to do?
Hell fucking yes I am!
Will the act of living life on the road, be equal to the fantasy?
Likely no, but nothing ever is.
I have no expectations, no preconceptions . I’m just going to take things as they come. Remain as open to my next disaster as eagerly as my next bliss.
I know this is not going to make my life easier. I like grappling with learning new things. I’ve always seen myself as a wanderer, so a ‘gypsy’ I have become.
My life feels more fulfilling with new problems to work out. New obstacles in my way.
So many people are driven by fear of something different, but security is a scam.
I might lose my fucking mind living in a tiny trailer constantly on the move.
I won’t know until I give it a try.
Perhaps I’ll lose my shit and drive us off a cliff after the 5000th mile of Dew the cats endless meowing?
Maybe I’ll writhe with glee every time we pick up to head to the next place.
When Nowhere is Home
I’ve driven and flown from Virginia to Providence or Boston 12 times in the past year. Virginia to Austin to Portland and Seattle 4 times in the past 6 months.
I’ve driven over 5000 miles of Scotland, 1300 miles of England, a wee bit of Wales and almost 800 miles of Ireland. I think I’m ready for this life on the road challenge.
I survived the travels across the US, stuck in my SUV with cat and dog while staying at AirBnBs.
Through wild rainstorms, outrageous snowstorms, forest fires, trains jumping off of bridges and traffic straight from the bowels of Hell, and I seem to have revelled in each adventure. I suppose I really do have some sort of gypsy soul. But will being a full time nomad be as exciting to me once living in it?
A Nomad Needs Friends
Saturday I head out of Portland to Austin in the SUV.
I will then make my way to Virginia, finish work on the camper and then off I will go.
Nowhere will be home for real. I will be living a gypsy, wanderer, traveler, nomad life quite literally.
I’m in the thick of my vagabond life now. After over a year long soft launch. The hard launch is nipping at my heels. There’s no turning back.
I have no idea if I will love this challenge or despise it, because it is merely an experiment.
Follow along with me on my going nomad adventure, and we’ll find out together.
Portland is full of amazing restaurants. Choosing one out of so many, can prove quite challenging at times. How we came about finding the Screen Door went much like this. (if you just wish to read the heart of my review, scroll down to The Screen Door Restaurant, Portland Oregon.)
“We really need to find a place that isn’t outrageously expensive. A place with yummy meals that we all like, where I can get something healthy.”
Z searches on her phone as we drive into Portland in a snow and ice mixed mess of a night.
“There’s a place called The Screen Door. I don’t know much about it, but that it’s good, let’s try that!”
It was cold! Crazy cold! Icy snow battered the windshield and it was hard to see. But we were already in Portland, had made good time from Seattle, despite the wretched weather.
“Turn left” demanded WAZE
“This is a cute neighborhood!” I say trying to distract my son once I notice the line of souls braving the malicious snow, streaming from The Screen Door.
“This is the “trendy” area!” Says son in smarmy voice while making quotes in the air with his fingertips. I glance back at his girlfriend Z, and see her dubiously eyeing the snow covered line of frigid but hopeful patrons outside the restaurant.
We both know my son has little patience for lines, and don’t want to get into yet another restaurant debate with him. We’d been disagreeing on restaurants since we left Seattle for Portland and none of us felt like discussing it any further.
“But it just opened!” Z exasperated from the back seat, amazed that such a long line had accumulated, in the driving snow, right at opening. (Long lines outside The Screen Door , are apparently common, so do take note and call ahead)
“What? There’s a line?” My son eyes the door through the snowy onslaught.
We are all silent as the snow goes vertical. I’m leaning close to the windshield trying to identify a reasonable parking spot. The wipers whir and slap. It’s pretty hard to see anything. I’m hungry and really do not feel like changing our plans at this point.
“It’s not quite snow, nor rain, nor ice.” I say absently as I parallel park. It remains quiet beyond the swishing of the wipers and plinking sound of icy snow. I am practically holding my breath. I imagine Z is doing the same, as we wait for my son to say something.
“Schmice” he says. “It’s schmicing out”
We park, still in silence, hoping to avoid any debate on change of venue. We’re pretty close to their house and I don’t feel like driving around any longer in this shitty weather. The PNW does not tend to be prepared for snow or ice and it did not look as if the weather was planning to clear up, any time soon.
“Well it didn’t look that bad!” says the boychik. (Thank God!) We both exhale. The snow velocity increases, reverberating on the car. We hesitate in the warm vehicle before opening our doors simultaneously. The cold rushes in.
The snow pelts us directly in the face as we trudge towards the restaurant. It’s three, seemingly long, cold, wet blocks to the restaurant.
Thankfully, the dreaded line has already moved inside. My son pulls open the door to a blast of warm air. The friendly chatter emanating from the cozy room offers a welcoming and soothing feel. We walk into the tightly packed foyer of soggy people and warm toned wood benches. The flannel shirted host is friendly, smiling and equally warm toned.
We are all relaxed. This is not always the case. My son can get twitchy in certain crowds and enclosed spaces. Smarmy attitudes, places that feel too formal “fancy schmancy” or too touristy, will often cause him to immediately turn heel and leave. There is no debating the matter at that point. Jameson has no time or patience for contrivances.
Yet inside the Screen Door, Jameson is totally chill, proving it to be a comforting space, despite the raging weather outside!
A warm and welcoming place with equally warm, welcoming staff and food. I’d say the customers were mostly locals. The weather did not appear to put much of a damper on the crowd. I couldn’t help but wonder if wool beanies and ball caps would be acceptable attire in a restaurant in the Deep South. I mean “Maw” would likely smack that ball cap right off your head in the bible belt. Thankfully, we are not there, we are in Portland. Land of urban lumberjacks long before Austin or even San Francisco or Brooklyn fell into the fad. It feels a lot less forced, more of a natural progression of a look for this working class, often cold and rainy town. Being a girl of the 80’s, I may never get accustomed to the neck beards, but this casual cross between viking and lumberjack is ok with me. I do not think I will ever settle into the “neon” fad. But gut boys in flannel with man buns, yeah… I’m game.
Good to note, before I continue on with a more detailed review. I’m not vegan, I’m not even vegetarian, but I do not eat a lot of meat. I am crazy careful about food quality and how it is cooked. I’ve been one of those “clean, local, organic, humanely raised” pain in the asses for years, so Southern style fried food is not high on my list of faves health wise.
I don’t generally eat many grains, no wheat, no rice and rarely anything fried. I’ll eat a decent dessert now and then, and I do like my drink, but I’m usually obnoxiously careful about what I eat. Although I did find something to eat and enjoyed it and there were quite a few options of vegetable and gluten free dishes, there were not a great deal of super healthy options at the Screen Door. <– click for menu
This was a week that I was open to throwing caution to the wind when dining with my meat and fried food loving kids, but for others that are limited to what they will eat or are at least quite food conscious like me, you will likely have very limited options
The kids are in their early 20s, and they eat like stoners. They love meat, sweets and anything fried. In fact candied, fried meat with bacon would be utter paradise to them. They try to eat healthy… kinda, but I’m really glad I raised my son eating clean, because maaaan, the shit he’s eating now…
Yet, they both relish good food with such glee. I mean for anti capitalists, my son certainly loves a good steak washed down with a decent whiskey and his sig other certainly loves her decadent side dishes and desserts.
That being said, they live on a very limited budget, so don’t get to places like the Screen Door often (if at all). It’s a treat for them when Mom comes to town and I enjoy it. I love sharing meals with them. For the obvious reasons of course, but also because they are so passionate for good food and relish every damned bite! It’s just often very difficult to find a restaurant we all would like.
In the end, The Screen Door was an ok mix for us. The lack of sales tax in Portland made that scrumptious meal go down way more easily than it would have back in Seattle. Also, the Screen Door is known for their chicken & waffles for brunch. I will take the kids there for brunch next visit and update my review.
On with the actual review.
The Screen Door Restaurant, Portland Oregon:
When you walk into The Screen Door, after a hit of the warm, friendly, fragrant air and conversation carries you in, you find a small lobby or foyer area. When you turn the corner into the restaurant, it is fairly large and open, yet still warm, with a cozy feel.
The tables are pretty close together, but instead of it feeling crowded, it feels intimate and welcoming. There are a lot of very busy, very friendly staff.
We were told to enjoy the bar for our 15 minute wait. It only took 10 minutes to seat us.
Dress is casual, yet you wouldn’t feel out of place if dressed up. Your staff will be mostly man bunned, wool beanie clad, flannel shirt wearing, bearded, urban lumberjacks and hey, that’s ok right? It seems that is the regular attire for great American urban restaurants today! The food was all very tasty. It arrived in a moderately reasonable time for how busy was the place. Simply plated and well portioned. The restaurant decor is basic, with a Southern feel, canned veggies in jars, lots of wood with a relatively loud din of conversation.
The kids ordered fried chicken and a hamburger with three (3) sides and loved them all. The mac n cheese apparently kicked some ass!
I ordered the special. A lovely encrusted fish and ate every bite! It was cooked to perfection. The specialty drinks were strong and tasty too.
The Screen Door, certainly does not skimp on staff. Staff appeared to be happy, friendly, and engaged. The restaurant seemed well organized, clean and well laid out. The kids scarfed down the food with glee. The bathrooms were clean.
In the end we all enjoyed it the Screen Door, from food to atmosphere, to drinks. Moderately priced for a higher end restaurant, so not cheap, but well worth the price. The food was really good, not the best Southern food we’ve had, but it was enjoyable and decent. The atmosphere was friendly, comfortable and quite relaxed for such a busy place.
Since my visit there I have read of The Screen Door being a tourist trap. I would not say it seemed that way at the time we were there. In fact it seemed to be a fair amount of regulars and locals, but I do not doubt that it draws customers from all over.
I decided to visit Nashville. Driving from Virginia Beach to Austin, Texas is about a 23 hour drive. I know I can drive about 16 hours with two (2) pit stops… in general, with little issue. I planned to drive I 95 down the Eastern Coast then head South to avoid bad weather. I’d shoot through ‘Nawlins to see some friends, then head for Texas, driving to Austin via Houston (which is always an iffy bet)
After the sudden freeze and snow along the Southern route made the mid South route seem no more appealing, I found that heading semi diagonal through the US, was a better plan. This new route would bring me through Tennessee, allowing me to stay a night and visit Nashville or Memphis.
The chance to visit Nashville or Memphis, both places that, in all my US and world travels, I had only ever passed through, seemed a more expeditious, as well as a more interesting drive plan. Although the distance was a little longer, research suggested that stopping to visit Nashville, would be the fastest route this time of year. So… I decided to visit Nashville. I should have chosen Memphis!
As soon as I crossed the border to Tennessee, people started driving like assholes. And yes, I found out later that it wasn’t just me. Tennessee is on the top 10 worst places to drive list repeatedly year after year. According to a 2016 SmartAsset study.
Tennessee is one of the least insured states in the country, with 20% of people not having car insurance. Tennessee also has the 18th highest number of deaths per thousand drivers. One positive is that they are in the better half of the country for DUI per thousand drivers at 5.7.
I was not sure if it was due to the Holidays or if Tennessee drivers are just dicks. I’ve traversed thousands upon thousands of driving miles, just this year alone, through various states and countries, and I can tell you definitively, there was an obvious change in driving style and courtesy immediately upon entering the state of Tennessee. It was not a pleasant change.
The weather turned. The sky grew dim. The rain came down, and it seemed as if half of the drivers were distracted on their phone or trying to force me off the road. Crammed between construction barriers in a torrential downpour, after 14 hours of driving with a meowing cat. Cement barriers to my left with dual cab semi’s to my right, that swayed perilously close to me either carelessly or due to wind, so I kept my fingers clamped tightly around the steering wheel and my face close to the windshield for quite some time. Man! I was glad to discover that my AirBnB was finally near at hand and I was excited for the chance to get some time out of the car and the chance to visit Nashville the next day.
The AirBnB was a bit on the outskirts of where people tend to most like to visit Nashville. Although technically still Nashville, it was more like an older suburban neighborhood. The area was a mix of older houses, some beautifully maintained some quite ramshackle with cars on cinder blocks and garbage in their yard. Fairly high up on a curvy hill, it overlooked whatever the Hell was behind it. At night it was just some pretty twinkling lights to me. I was so grateful to find a comfortable and warm space for me and my critters to chill after the intense drive.
Although quite a nice place, I did note that it was the first AirBnB (of many stays) with an active alarm system. The note mentioning no parties, since people tend to visit Nashville for bachelorette & bachelor parties, caused a bright red flag to shoot up in my head. I’d seen such warnings before. Fort Lauderdale when it was at its very shittiest, Tijuana, at its very shittiest too, Cabo at its shittiest of already shitty points. Yeah I ‘ve seen it before.
I’ve found that places that tend to invite such type parties are for those who cannot afford Vegas. Often these locals were heralded as cool party towns for far too long, had turned to shit from all of the parties and were now cheap, dirty, loud, depressing hasbeens. I have been to more than one of these Hell holes, over marketed by those that had jumped onto the ‘make money out of the party’ bandwagon. Yet I hoped for the best this time. The AirBnB was pleasant. I fed the animals and we settled in and slept well. I planned to explore and visit Nashville in the morning.
I debated visiting Loveless Cafe which is often first on the list when you visit Nashville, although actually on the outskirts. Every review indicated a tourist trap, but I decided to give it a shot.
Nowhere near downtown. Historic and at times infamous by its reviews, even two (2) days before Xmas the parking lot was packed. I lucked out and it was a short wait. (One of the many bonuses of solo travel). The wait staff was pleasant enough. The food was just ok. There was really nothing special about any of it for me. Beyond some cool pics of the iconic sign, it was pretty much an out of the way drive, for an adequate over priced breakfast. But maybe it was me. Check it out and let me know what you think.
I’d read that it’s a bitch to try and park near Lower Broadway when you visit Nashville. But found that you can park for free on or around Titans Way by the Nissan stadium, on non event or non game days. (If unsure you can often find a parking control person driving around the area to ask)
Today, often mistaken for the Cumberland Pedestrian Bridge, the former Sparkman Street bridge, built in 1907-09, is now the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge and it is an easy walk across from the stadium to downtown where most wish to visit Nashville, culminating only blocks from “Lower Broad”
There are a fair amount of steps up to the bridge, but it is handicap ramped and it has elevators at both sides (that are not always working). It is worthy to note that there are plenty of places along the bridge to sit and rest if stamina is a concern.
The bridge offers really nice views and photo opportunities lending to great pics when you visit Nashville. I strolled along stopping to get some skyline shots and took note that I had passed 3 or 4 cops in the short time I had been in the area. I thought it a bit unusual to notice so many police, midday on a weekday, but at the moment I didn’t think about it much.
Nashville’s skyline is pretty nice. Especially the building that looks sorta like Batman. (Turns out that building is indeed known affectionately as the Batman building).
I spent some time shooting the city and the bridge then began to journey down the latter half of a bridge. I could see a cop standing on the sidewalk next to a garbage can and a big bottle of bleach as I approached the end. As I neared “Please move to the other side of the walkway” plump cop barked at me. I had no reason not to oblige. I wondered if it was the bleach bottle that had him concerned and kept on trucking.
Upon crossing the bridge the first building you may notice is the Schermerhorn Symphony building. It’s New Classical style, not to be mistaken for the Parthenon in Centennial Park, which is more Greek Revival and equally odd for a downtown in deep South America, and the country music center of the US.
I turned right at the bottom of the bridge and in a couple of blocks found myself on the neon lit street of Honky Tonks on Broadway (Lower Broad). Reminiscent of Austin’s 6th street, but far more vibrant and… well… Western. The phosphorescent like glow of the renowned “Lower Broad” street humming with Nashville’s notable country western signage calls to you, as you near the street most often lauded as the heart of “Music city” and likely the most important stop for those that come to visit Nashville.
Being so close to Christmas and a colder, grey day, I was surprised to find the sidewalk was still moderately busy with tourists. I imagine it was likely quieter than usual. As I passed the construction barriers and eyed the cranes above I couldn’t help but feel a sense of resentment towards what felt to me to be a sort of pseudo countrified gentrification or sterilization of the place, similar to what happened to Austin, Texas.
I did not enter the Johnny Cash Museum (although I am quite the fan) and slipped by the Patsy Cline Museum as well. It just all felt so very contrived to me. Maybe it was me, but it all sort of felt like the “Disney” version of what this infamous street once was known to be. Maybe not quite “white washed” but as if a bunch of people from LA and Brooklyn had taken over these grand old institutions and had reinvented them into more effective and likely more money making, shells of what they used to be. Maybe I just have a bad taste in my mouth from what happened to Austin. Or maybe after weeks of travel, I was just having an off day for myself. But I just wasn’t feeling Nashville at all.
I walked the entire strip, once more taking note of the surprising amount of police. (which is quite unlike Austin), took a few pics and decided I just wasn’t feeling it and headed back for the bridge.
I took a different street back landing me one street shy of the bridge entrance and was surprised to find a rather large homeless encampment right under the bridge. Passing a posse of bicycle cops as I navigated my way to the bridge entrance, I noted one more time, the seemingly enormous amount of police presence. There seemed to be cop lurking at every corner.
Turning onto the bridge I came face to face with 6 or 7 more cops and the area I had been detoured around earlier was now festooned with yellow caution tape. Going around whatever the Hell was going on over there, I found myself drawn back to the rather pretty city skyline and paused to take more pictures at the midpoint on the bridge that offered rather pleasing views of the stadium to the right and the city to the left.
Two young women were peering over the bridge down towards the water. Their intent gazes drew my eye to whatever it was that had them so entranced. Below to the right, by the greened area between the stadium and the river I saw to tiny spots of activity on the cement canal way at the water’s edge. Leaning against the railway I peered down at the orange and black dots to discover what appeared to be two (2) dogs eating something they’d pulled from the river. Due to the height and distance, even with my phones camera lens zoomed, I could not fully make out what was going on down there. So I decided to investigate.
Crime Scenes & Packs of Feral Dogs
I noticed a couple before me walking their dog, appeared to be headed to the waters edge like me and figured that they were checking out the situation as well. We spoke momentarily and they asked me if I had passed the crime scene? “Crime scene?” I questioned, having earlier surmised it was simply a suspicious container issue.
“Yes,” said the woman quite matter of factly, “there was blood everywhere.”
“No shit” I thought as I mentioned the dogs to the couple. They hadn’t noticed them, but proceeded to walk with me in the dogs direction.
Once in view I could tell it was an older golden retriever and a young black dog, eating what appeared to be the very dry and ragged remains of a duck.
The retriever looked ancient but pure bred. My guess was someone had recently dumped the poor dogs. Contemplating my next move, I heard the women state from behind me. “Someone should call someone” indicating to me that this someone was not going to be her. I searched out Nashville animal control and called them, they answered quickly.
“Yes!” said the woman answering the phone. There are a few packs of feral dogs in the area that we’ve not been able to catch.”
“Packs of wild dogs?” I repeated stupidly
“Packs of feral dogs!” She repeated definitively.
“Packs of feral dogs.” I replied resignedly.
Murder scenes and packs of feral dogs. I decided to head back to the AirBnB. I had lost my desire to visit Nashville any further. But first I needed to grocery shop.
Nashville is made up of a serious of antiquitous highways, interstates and freeways. Creating this weird mishmash of driving up and down circular on and off ramps in order to get to a place that would be easy to get to, if not for all of the all of the damned highway ramps. After circling around 3 or 4 times I found myself in what was obviously some nasty, projects.
Downtrodden even for inner city projects, I must have passed 3 or 4 more cops on the way and at this point wanted nothing more to do with this visit Nashville idea.
As I passed the small decrepit houses I recalled similar parts of Norfolk Virginia and how my sister had stated (about Norfolk) that it was one of the ugliest most depressing city she’d ever seen. Pulling into Kroger on Gallatin, I called my sister to share in the obtuse hilarity of my experience in Nashville. The homogenized Lower Broad, the pervasive police presence, murder scenes, packs of feral dogs, swathes of garbage, disintegrating projects and now a cop sitting in his car in the Kroger parking lot, apparently monitoring the area. YAY!
“What?” she squealed into the phone “Packs of feral dogs?” “Really?” I think she almost didn’t believe me.
The Kroger was small but decent enough. I dropped my huge travel purse in the cart and started scrounging for the needed items. I noticed there seemed to be staff that looked a bit like security milling around, but I just needed a few groceries for dinner then I planned to hole up in my AirBnB with the critters and head out first thing in the morning. A pleasant voice crackles through the speaker system, that went something like this. “Attention Kroger shoppers! Local law enforcement would like us to remind you to be aware of your surroundings. Please remain alert to those around you and be sure NOT to leave your bag or wallet in your cart unattended!Thank you for shopping at Kroger!”
Are you fucking kidding me? I mean I’m not in East Detroit? I just couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of there. I called my sister immediately back once I was back in my car.
“What? she cackled incredulously. I heard Nashville was like the next Austin.”
“Maybe Austin in Hell!” I replied. “We’ll get the Hell out of there she commanded!”
Today, I am truly rootless. The view from my window will be ever changing from this point on. Rootless Routes is no longer a concept, it is a reality. But can I write well enough, post consistently enough, draw viewers enough for this blog to self perpetuate and help me to carry on?
Why Rootless Routes? Rootless, because I have no home rooted in just one place, just a vintage travel trailer that is not even yet in my possession. Routes, because I plan to keep moving along, sharing the tales of my journeys, and well. my rootless life on the road.
I write to you from my friend’s place in Virginia Beach, writing before preparing my SUV for my next journey, which is to Austin, Texas. As I sit here writing, I feel the ever present call to pack and get ready. Yet I know I must keep blogging consistently to meet my goals, so I am trying to keep posting. Posting something interesting with good photographs regularly enough is really really hard for me. And it takes me hours.
I love to write and take pictures, but getting them all together and posted in a cohesive manner is just as hard as I expected… maybe even harder. I am unsure how to focus on both things while still getting everything done.
I am quite new to blogging. When I check out other travel logs, Rootless Routes seems an anomaly that doesn’t easily fit into any one category. Is this a good thing or am I fucked?
Every barrier has a window to the sky. It is just that, doors do not need to close for me to go running off looking for another one to pry open. If that makes any sense.
This new sojourn, living on the road and working on Rootless Routes, is not so very far off of my already rather remote but well beaten (at least by me) life’s path. Having traveled alone across the country (USA) and abroad since I was 17 years old and then with my son as he grew, this new life is not so very far a stretch from where I stood not very long ago. As is my way, I have not well mapped out some format or plan to make money or the best way to “sell my blog” to the masses, yet this year, after a few changes in my life came about MY STORY, I decided it was time to fulfill this particular dream of traveling and writing about it and suddenly here I am. Living on the road and writing about it.
Hopefully, my abrasive charm, mediocre photography, repetitive and long winded writing will eventually create an interesting enough blog to help support my desire to travel full time. If not, well fuck it. I’ll just find another way.
After all, Rootless Routes at its core, is not actually about creating a successful blog, but about creating a lifestyle that lives up to the term Rootless Routes. But the blog doing well would sure fucking help.
King George V Park Leith Waterway Walkway Edinburgh Scotland Rootless Routes 2017
I am unsure that with blogs like Rootless Routes, by just writing what you wish to write over well researched content, will anyone ever see it? In a realm such as travel blogging, that is extremely saturated, it is crazy difficult to build much of an audience. Add in the fact that I have the attention span of a drunkin’ gnat, that my tempestuous nature means that my style of travel, my posting style, even my ability to post regularly is completely scattered and erratic. That in the middle of all of this I am attempting to sell almost everything I own, fix up and move into a travel trailer, while traveling around the US and abroad and yet need to somehow bring in money… well it is kinda nuts.
Seriously, with travel as my new way of life, completely on the road with short visits and jaunts staying at friends, family and periodically AirBnBs (or the like), the ability to worry too much about formulating the Rootless Routes blog in a manner that will bring in visitors and views is well… not very realistic. I am quite unsure if I can bring Rootless Routes to the level that I would need for it to support making this life a perpetual reality. So if I can’t, then what? Being ‘rootless’ and writing about my routes, seems redundant if nobody wants to read about it. I suppose it will end up being a wait and see thing.
I suppose I am a bit of a non conformist, that has stayed pretty true to my anti establishment sort of roots throughout most of my adult life. I raised a son on my own and we road tripped a great deal. When he was 13 we spent 3 months on the road just traveling the US from Florida to Northern California. I’ve lived in New York, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, California (both Southern and Northern California), Texas, Rhode Island with fairly long jaunts in England and Bali. So I have been more rootless than most in my 50+ years on this planet it seems.
I guess for now, Rootless Routes is where I live. Me, Dew the cat and Roadie the dog.
Since I do not yet have the travel trailer in hand, I will be driving across the US in just my SUV. I leave for Austin in tomorrow (hopefully) to see family and friends. From there I will head to Portland to see my son and his crew, then I am off to Seattle to help my friend Laurie prepare her house for sale. Once the weather is solid enough for me to pick up the travel trailer,I will then once again be heading back across the US to Massachusetts.
Regardless of the outcome of this blog, the adventure that is my life is always real. After 50 years on this planet I realize there is no way around the fact that traveling is home to me and that I know how to make things work when I need to. If it isn’t this blog that will support my life on the road, I will certainly come up with something else, I always do. I am hopeful though that in getting to know me and following me along the way, I will inspire… if not at least entertain my you enough to keep this thing… Rootless Routes and Routes of the Rootless, keep on keepin’ on!
Okay, maybe not so fast. Let’s start from the beginning.
In the past three (3) years I have downsized from a jam packed 2200 sf 10 foot ceilinged loft, to a shitty (they claim it was 1000 sf but I think not) apartment and two (2) 10×20 storage spaces, to today, with the two (2) storage spaces in Rhode Island, plus a 10×10 with all of my Etsy shop stock in Virginia, an SUV and a 16 FAN Lee Liner travel trailer, that I am going to refer to from this point forward as a camper.
By this time next year, I plan to be down to one 10 x 20 storage space, the SUV and camper. But time will tell.
Camper life is living small. Not a lot of room in there.
My goal is to live on the road full time for the entire year if 2018 and decide if it’s pure insanity or a life of pure elation. Right now I am in the elated side, but hey… where early in.
Traveling with a 15 year old cattle dog, and mentally deficited, rather skittish cat will be but a small part of this new challenge I’ve put before myself
Dew the cat in our lovely AirBnB Providence Rhode Island
I am tired of being tied down to the limitations of owning or renting a house, especially when I am traveling so much. Yet I am not so naive as to believe this is going to be a free or even inexpensive ride.
The shear expense of upgrading the tow package on he car, readying it and the trailer for the first cross country drive, is not cheap, especially since I’m staying in AirBnBs while the work is completed.
Roadie contemplating camper life
I am still sorting out how to manage my online shops, Renegade Revival and Lightly Sauced Retro on the road. I’ve been temporarily shutting the down and reopening them, with them still surprisingly doing remarkably well. But that cannot work nor last forever. But I’ll figure it out.
Anyway, here I am in Rhode Island, awaiting parts, so Apex can install the beefier tow system into my car, writing about my future camper life.
Lincoln Aviator, with a V8 baby
Perhaps I should talk a moment share some of my experiences and shit I’ve learned up to this very early point.
First thing to know if you too plan to live the camper life (and yeah I know it’s technically a travel trailer, but the point is still the same) is that you really need to gain a great deal of knowledge about tow bars, tow packages, tow capacity, ball hitches, electrical receptacles, brake controllers and well just all kinds of things that I know jack shit about.
Be prepared to learn, ask questions, take notes and if you cannot fix things like this yourself, you better trust the guys you’ve got doing it for you, or you can be seriously screwed.
I have now learned that the 1 1/4 inch hitch that comes standard with my Lincoln Aviator apparently is not sufficient to tow my new (to me) trailer. After 3 different UHaul locations (who were all very nice and accommodating by the way), told me easily 50 different things, that all turned out to be incorrect information, I am back at my tried, true and trusted guys at Apex Tire & Service in Pawtucket Rhode Island, to have what I need installed. (I would have asked them in the first place, but did not realize that they did such things until I had wasted a day and a half with UHaul).
Apex Tire and Service. Pawtucket RI
On top of everything else, the Aviator that I just purchased, needed brakes, coils, spark plugs, new ball joints and arms (thanks a LOT Perry Subaru, you WILL be hearing from me as soon as I am back in Virginia).
Since here I am stuck for a few more days in Rhode Island, I rented a great AirBnB on a lake in Shrewsbury (Mass). I had been staying in a lovely AirBnB in Providence this week, but the AirBnB on the lake is brand new, so they are offering a fantastic deal and after already paying almost a grand for staying here this week and running around trying to get so much shit done… chilling on the lake with some wine, the dog and cat this weekend, while letting everything just be and settle, seemed the best plan. So yeah, not quite living the ‘camper life’ full time just quite yet.
If you have read my story, you will know that I have been in great transition for some time now and am now dedicated on traveling through all of 2018 with no real home base. Now, I guess that has altered a bit since I actually have a home base in this trailer. Although I have no plan for the trailer to be on any particular location for any extended amount of time, it is still a bit of a home base so to speak and I suppose a place that I can call home, when I am on the contiguous US.
Once the SUV is repaired and the trailer hitch installed on Monday, I will then pick up the trailer in Carlisle MA, head from there, through Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware into Virginia. This will be the easily the 20th time I have driven this route and likely the last.
Now, with my Dad gone, there will likely no longer be reason to drive along this particular path any longer, unless I am on one of my ‘camper life’ journeys in the future. It’s a strange, bittersweet feeling.
How did a 50 something woman end up giving up all she owned to live the camper life? Creating in only a few months a life dedicated to traveling and keeping moving on?
Honestly, I do not have much of an answer. I just know, here I am and I am the happiest I have ever been. There is no way to know how this will end up, but worse case scenario, 2019 comes around and I am left right at the place I started, except I will have spent an entire year traveling the world.
With less idea of what is before me and as little as possible concern for what is behind. Being as present and as honest as is possible to everyone and everything, even to myself and present in the moment is all I can do.
Camper life will be for me or it will not. Be it one step forward, six steps back, at least I am taking steps.
Life is the only thing you have and you only have one chance to utilize it to its fullest until it’s over. I may not succeed, but I I do not think that I care. Next week I will be driving in my new (to me) little vintage camper and I guess that then I will truly be my only home. I feel as open to anything and free as ever!