2011-08-09 Reflections on Vandwellers GA-GTG

<<Note: To make the type look LARGER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <+> Key (above the equal “+” sign) at the same time. To make the type look SMALLER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <-> Key (minus sign) at the same time.>>

I previously posted and included a photo of my lanyard and beads gathered from the Georgia GetToGether of last week. Well, after thinking about the newly acquired lanyard, I had a past-regression memory of my previous lanyard that I used at the job.

I just retired from working many years with several major corporations. The adjustment has been as difficult as when my children grew up and left home and I had ‘empty-nest-syndrome‘. I don’t know what you call the syndrome that I now have – it’s just a plain adjustment to “having a lot of time on my hands“.  Anyway, many years ago in my first job, when I got to work, I simply entered the a building. Of course, the building was locked at night, but open to employees and everyone during the day.  Over time, more security became necessary and functional areas were locked in the building interior and if you worked in that area, you received a key. If you were part of the employees of the company and you wanted to enter the locked area, you knocked and someone would let you in. It was a pain of an adjustment.

Fast forward to years passing and when I began working in downtown Atlanta. Corporate badges with your picture on it became ‘the fashion’.  You were required to wear your employee badge inside the building. You had a badge for entry into your work area.  In effect, the employee badge was separate from your door entry badge.  Of course, things changed and your picture-employee badge merged with the magnetic-code door-entry badge and life became ‘easier’.   Well, when I retired, I had a badge with a plastic protector (for the combination employee picture and entry code) and the corporate lanyard was a neck strap made with of cloth. (It was wider and longer than a shoelace.)  Below is a comparison of the new vandweller lanyard and the former corporate lanyard.  (Employees were given push-on pins for achievement and for their yearly participation in the United Way corporate donations. For the holiday season, we were given ‘buttons’ for that particular year and were strongly encouraged to wear the button on the lanyard with our badge for all meetings during that season. After a while, the lanyard-pin-button-badge combination became heavy.) <Note: The writing on the black lanyard cloth is “FSG”. I started with the company when that name was used. That name was replaced with another, but I kept the old black, cloth lanyard for the memories.>

2011-08-08_GAAtlanta_BeadLanyard-andCorporateLanyard
2011-08-08_GAAtlanta_BeadLanyard-andCorporateLanyard
2011-08-08_GAAtlanta,CorporateLanyard(Close-Up)
2011-08-08_GAAtlanta,CorporateLanyard(Close-Up)

2011-08-08 GA,Atlanta – Addendum to Vandwellers GA-GTG

<<Note: To make the type look LARGER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <+> Key (above the equal “+” sign) at the same time. To make the type look SMALLER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <-> Key (minus sign) at the same time.>>

If you had the strength to follow ALL of the previous post, you may remember me posting pictures and telling about the trauma of the front passenger NAIL in my tire.  Well, I had several people tell me that keeping a plug in the tire was OK for a while, some said that it was OK forever (until a new tire is required), and my older son and others tell me to get a patch. I’ve been to a local tire store many times and they always treat me very well, so – in the sake of  “safety”, I returned to Discount Tire and requested that they put a patch on the location where I had a plug.  Once again, they were very kind and accomodating and told me that it would be about an hour wait.  I began reading the newspaper and they fixed it for me. I asked how much I owed them at the end, and I was told $0.  I hadn’t bought the tire from then and, of course, I didn’t have any ‘road hazard insurance’ on it. (I think that insurance actually replaces the tire if it is cut.) Anyway –  I couldn’t believe it – I know that it had to be a lot of work to take that tire off and put the patch on, then remount and balance the tire. I surely did expect to pay them for their time and labor. So, then I thanked them and asked them why they were willing to do all of that work and not charge?  The reply was “So you will tell your friends about us”. Well, friends and blog-readers,   get your tires from “Discount Tire”. Tell them “Julie sent me”.

————————————————————————————-

Second post of Addendum:

I can’t help but add this reflection =  At the Vandwellers GA-GTG, I was told that many members ‘traded beads’. Huh? What do you mean? What kind of beads? Well, David told me that his ‘bead’ was a hexagonal nut that is used on a screw because he is ‘into’ tools and mechanical working and it fits on a lanyard.

Next, Cuzzin Dick said that he also had a ‘bead’ to fit on a lanyard.

Then, Sandra told me that she had a special ‘bead’ to trade with friends along the vandwelling journey.

So, it appeared that I needed a ‘bead’.  David came to the rescue. He had pulled a lot of flat pebbles out of the sauna side hole and I saved them. Sandra helped carry them back to camp. At camp, David had purchased a dremel-type tool from Harbor Freight and he was willing to experiment with his new ‘toy’. He asked me to bring him some of the pebbles and I got 7 of them. He tried his new drill on them and put a hole at the top of the pebble so that, in effect, it was capable of being strung on a lanyard.  He continued to perfect the craft and he used water to dribble onto the pebble in order to keep the drill bit cooler. That worked better – and next, he put the pebble in about two-inches of water and held it while he put the point of the drill bit under water about one-half inch. He had perfected the art of drilling a hole in a pebble and I had obtained a memento of our GA-GTG sauna swim and ‘bead’ (capable of being strung onto a lanyard).

In addition, David decided to use his Boy Scout skill of creating a lanyard for me. He had some special waxed thread that he proceeded to braid into a lanyard for me. At the end of his efforts, he put one of my newly created ‘beads’ onto the lanyard and presented it to me. Well now – don’t you know that I was PROUD! I was an official vandweller with a lanyard and ‘bead’!

I asked David if he would like a ‘bead’ which he had just created and he said ‘yes’. He went to his van and presented me with his ‘nut’.  Cuzzin Dick was nearby and I asked him if he would like a ‘bead’ and he said ‘yes’. I gave it to him and a few minutes later, he returned with one of his ‘beads’. Hey – this ‘bead’ trading thing is real and fun!  Next, I encountered Sandra and asked her if she would like a ‘bead’. She said ‘yes’ and gave me a very special one. I put them all on my lanyard and HERE THEY ARE—> (note: The pebble on the left is mine.)

2011-08-08_GAEton,Lanyard-and-Beads
2011-08-08_GAEton,Lanyard-and-Beads

2011-07-18 to 07-29 to Eton, GA for 10 days (a long post)

2011-07-29_GAEtonNationalForestVandwellers_WalkingStickFromSandra
2011-07-29_GAEtonNationalForestVandwellers_WalkingStickFromSandra

<<Note: To make the type look LARGER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <+> Key (above the equal “+” sign) at the same time. To make the type look SMALLER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <-> Key (minus sign) at the same time.>>

2011-07-18 – Many months ago, I joined a Yahoo Group called “Vandwellers”. It is a group of several thousand people who send emails to each other. I read it for many months before posting anything to the group. (This is called ‘lurking’). I subscribe to a Daily Digest form of messages, so I don’t receive a large number of emails each day. A moderator for the group requires that the posts be ‘trimmed’, i.e., cut much of the words so that only the conversation topic appears on a reply and in that way, the amount of reading required is condensed. (Note: this is requested because many members have smart phones to read email messages and are charged by the line for transmission. If messages are clipped, then the cost of messaging should be reduced.) The purpose of the group is to share ideas about living in a van, or converting vans to be compatible for travel. There is a section for posting both messages and another area for pictures. While working on Vanna White, I looked at many pictures to see what others had done to transform their vehicle and I read many messages – such as ideas on having electrical installed. It was a vandweller who recommended taking the van to an audio installation shop a nd have two marine-‘slow discharge’ batteries connected to the van alternator, so that as you drive, the living-area (house) batteries are charged.

So, after months of learning what worked for others, I tried to adapt many ideas to help with ‘fixing-up’ Vanna White. Several months ago, David (from Dalton, Georgia) sent a message to the group asking if anyone wanted to camp in the North Georgia mountains. I returned a reply that I was interested and a few days later, he posted a date “to come” and a place “to camp” (with travel directions). The dates of the “Get-ToGether” (GTG) spanned a couple of weeks starting on 7/18. I decided to go as soon as I could because I was excited about the trip and ready to try camping in Vanna White for a second time. Many days before leaving, I worked on building a storage shelf and I wired a 12-volt fan and 12-volt light to the interior. I packed the items that I thought I would both need and use. I charged batteries for the flashlights, and I bought an outdoor stairway solar-light for trial. I put the solar light on the van dash to charge during the day, and at night, pushed the button to turn it on and used it as an interior light. I had organized some pots and pans to take but I decided that I really didn’t want to cook on this trip – so, I planned to take convenience food. As the date for camping approached, I put 8 gallons of water into plastic milk jugs and I filled a couple of plastic crates with food from the kitchen = peanut butter, cereal for breakfast, boxes of rice-krispie bars, trail-mix, a can of tuna for lunch, in addition to several one-serving plastic containers of peaches and pears. The morning of starting the trip, I shopped at Wal-Mart for ice and a large sandwich, some soy milk and some cheese. For utensils, I had a camping metal knife, fork, spoon (that hook together) and a metal soup cup. I bought four inexpensive plastic plates from a store so that I wouldn’t be burdened with disposable styrofoam or paper. Of course, I packed some paper towels and toilet paper, but – I wanted to minimize trash whenever possible.
I packed enough clothes for six days and planned to arrive on Monday and return on Sunday. After getting there, the plans changed. Originally, I planned the trip so that I would arrive home in order to pay end-of-month bills. Once I got there and decided to lengthen my stay, I borrowed a cell phone to call my son and ask him to make the house payment for me. I told him that I would pay the remainder of the bills when I returned. He had told me before I left that if I needed him to pay bills, he would do it for me. By making that phone call, I was able to stay three more nights.
The National Forest is an area of Georgia that has no houses. It is there to preserve the trees and our native land. The National Forest Service employs rangers to manage this area. A few miles outside of the town of Eton, in north Georgia is a management area called the Chattahoochie National Forest. It is a mountainous area and has no paved roads. The forest service roads are gravel and maintained by them. Previouly, I had been with another group to the forest service area over 10 years ago. It was for an overnight of camping in tents and group meals, such as pancakes for breakfast. That area was a grassy area near a river that had nothing to support anyone camping.
The area that we visited was similar in many ways but much improved for sanitation and convenience than my first trip. This are supported camping by having
-railroad ties around a level area for tents and gravel base for road and tent base,
-a post-base-type picnic table,
-tall post for hanging a light or other items (we used it for helping tie tarps and for trash bags), a
– large fire-ring with grate.
In addition, there were 2 bear-resistant trash cans in the camp and a pit toilet. A pickup-truck pulling a trailer would come on Tuesday and Friday. The man driving the truck would empty the trash cans and put the plastic bag liner full of trash into the trailer and haul it away. A woman would travel with him and mop the pit-toilet floor while he emptied the trash cans. She would also ensure that there was sufficient chemical to retard any smell. I was truly amazed at how great the camping area was. Our area contained 5 tent sites and they are available on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis. Often, other people would drive through the area to see if there were any available sites. We had a group of people there and sometimes we would talk with the passer-by and tell them that we would be there until Sunday. The forest service rules require that campers move sites every 14 days. In addition to our 5-tent site area, there are dispersed camping sites along the national forest road. Also, at Lake Conasauga, a hosted-camp, about 8 miles further on the gravel road. It has 40 camp sites and electricity provided with a cost of $10 a night. Also, I was told, that there was potable water available there – but, it was not at every campsite. There were several spigots available with the water. Our camp had a really nice creek flowing by many of the sites. The constant water-flowing sound that the creek made was perfect for making everything peaceful.
The time that I was there seemed to fly by. We had great weather and the escape from the heat of the city was incredible. (In Atlanta, daily temperatures in the high-90’s was constant. In the forest, we had some low-80’s in the day, but it was humid and comfortable after getting wet in the creek or spraying water from a bottle on arms and legs. Note: the general rule of Georgia is that the mountains are about 10 degrees cooler than the city.) The tall trees and the creek provided a very nice temperature for just hanging out under the tarps that David and Dick had put up. We had an occasional rain cloud overhead, and we would wait for it to pass over under a tarp or in a van. Afterward, the creek level would rise significantly and add more noise to the forest. We enjoyed watching the butterflies around a firering and seeing the sunflowers bloom near the pit toilet and along the road. We watched the mushrooms grow (but, didn’t eat any) and we listened and watched for rain. Since we were so deep in the forest with mountains around us, a rain shower would sneak up on us because we couldn’t see it coming. There weren’t many mosquitoes, but there were a few flies and a couple of pesky horse-flies. When going on a picnic, I’ve always encountered many ants. At this place in the forest – I saw an occasional large black ant, but none of the small brown ones that invade houses.
We did had a problem with mice. One day after an afternoon shower, David was looking around the picnic table and happened to see some paper inside the Coleman 2-burner propane camp stove on the edge of the table. He picked the stove up and began picking out the paper and wondered how paper got inside the stove. Then, he saw something move and decided that a mouse was inside. I was sitting in a nearby chair and saw a small brown head look out a round hole in the bottom of the stove. I told David that “I saw it”. “There’s a mouse inside the stove bottom.” David had the stove in his hand and put it back on the table. He pulled the last of the paper out of the bottom and the mouse realized that he was discovered. The stove bottom had holes in it and VERY QUICKLY, the mouse jumped through a hole, off the picnic table top and onto the ground. He scurried quickly to a nearby pile of wood and there was no way to find him after that. Well, my mother always told me that you never find one mouse – they come in pairs. I said something like that to David and in a few seconds, I saw another small, brown head in the stove bottom. I told David that another mouse was inside and a few seconds later, that mouse jumped through the stove hole and onto the right of the table, jumped to the ground and scurried into the hole of a nearby tree. David wanted to prevent the mouse from returning so he tried to find it in the tree. He said that the hole went up inside the tree and there was no place down the trunk for the mouse to hide. Sandra said that she had noticed mouse droppings on the table in the morning when she made coffee. She brushed them off and didn’t have any idea that they had made a nest inside the stove. Dick is the owner of the stove, and he got several paper towels, and some liquid cleaner and wiped the stove part-by-part until he was satisfied that any mouse remnants were removed.
I arrived on Monday, David, Dick, and Sandra were there to greet me. I was excited to be there and happy to have found the group. I had read their email posts, but now I had a name and a face to match. The vandweller posts are very helpful. Where is a good place to park? What is a good type of inverter to buy? ya-da ya-da. An answer to a question gives information and ideas to help set direction for travel or investment. The vandweller list has a mandate to not ‘flame’ or criticize others and to help one another. The list contains many people who are considering the possibilities of vandwelling as well as people who have experience. I was still a ‘wanna-be’ since I had the van, but I had no experience. I soon learned that both David (the organizer), and Dick had a LOT of experience.
David had gotten an email that a van from Dallas with several people were coming. Since it was such a long trip, we weren’t sure when to expect them. We thought that they may arrive Tuesday evening, but – to the best of my memory (the days melted together) the actual arrival was Wednesday. We met Christine, van owner, with her travelling companions, Ben, Chris and Soren. She had recently purchased her Scooby-Chevy van and had a mechanic look it over and install several new components. As I understand it, this was the maiden voyage. They came without food and were tired from driving so far. They had used a GPS and tried to input the latitude/longitude of the campsite into the directions. It didn’t work. They had to use the directions that David sent. They had a cooler with food that they used for travel, but it was almost empty and they needed more food and ice. Well, …. , here’s the thing. We were about 7 miles from Eton, BUT – on a gravel road, you have to drive very slow due to the rain putting ruts in the gravel. I measured that it took me about 45 minutes to travel the 7 miles. Items stored in the van rock back and forth when driving. Also, if you speed up and go too fast, you may encounter a large rock and damage the underside of the van. The group decided that they would return to town for food the next day and ‘make-do’ with what they had for the night. They put-up a tent on site 2 and set-up camp. The back seat of the van folded down so that 2 slept in the tent and 2 slept in the van.
(Note: While returning from a trip to town, the van developed mechanical problems. Probably, since the road was so rough, a wire worked itself loose from a connection and the group reported that the radio ‘went-out’ and the turn signals didin’t work. David looked under the hood and found a wire loose from the alternator. Eventually, he removed the dog-house van interior cowl and took out the alternator. On a trip to town, he knew a shop that would diagnose any problems for him. He returned with the necessary parts and fixed the electrical issues with the van, knowing that the alternator diaode test was successful. I was amazed that he was able to do this for the group.)
There was a small waterfall at a short distance from camp – and a medium waterfall further, then a large waterfall and swimming hold even further. The longer you hiked down the trail, the steeper the rocks got and the harder it was to get there. I went ‘swimming’ in the sauna area once (it was the closest waterfall). (Note: it is called the sauna because of the size of the area to stand in to a waist depth.) The water was cold (to me) and getting in-and-out of the area required me crawling on hands-and-knees. Others seemed to climb up faster because they are younger and more agile. Both David and I were in the sauna while the others built a rock-funnel for the water to trickle down the big rock to the area known as ‘the shower’. If you went under the waterfall, everyone said that it felt like taking a shower. While the funnel was under construction, David found a rock hole that was deeper than his elbow and about the double the size of his arm. He felt to the bottom of the hole and started pulling up pebbles. The pebbles were rounded by the water tumbling over them many years and were smaller than the size of the palm of your hand – and slim. I stacked the pebbles up on the side and Sandra helped me carry them back to camp. I had a coffee cup filled with them when I returned. (Note: there will be an additional story about the pebbles later.) The rocks to the sauna-area were very steep and on the ledge of the waterfall, the rocks were wet a lot of time. A couple of the Dallas group and Sandra had slipped on the rocks (but, no one was seriously hurt, bruises were the result). Duke-the Pitbull slipped into the sauna and Ben picked him up and carried him to the edge so that he could return to Sandra (he had his leash on the whole time we were there – a park requirement). I didn’t want to take a chance of falling. At the end of the outing, I crawled back to the waterfall bottom. I had enjoyed the ‘swimming’ – but, I after that trip, I didn’t have the energy to return.
A few days later, Sandra, Christine, Ben, Soren, and Chris went further down the trail to the waterfall area known as the “swimming pool”. I was told that it had a rope down the rock slope to help lower you to the swim area. In addition, there was a rope tied to a tree and used to swing and fall into the “swimming pool”. Sandra said that Duke didn’t like her being on the rope at all. He also didn’t like to see Ben swinging and falling in. Soren took his camera and showed us pictures of the area. Sandra said that getting there was so dangerous, she wasn’t sure that she wanted to return. David had been to the “swimming pool” in his younger years. Now, as an adult, he had hurt his knee and often wore a brace to keep it from twisting. He wasn’t willing to take a chance of getting hurt and going back to that area.
Many of the locals knew the area and there was a special parking place for ‘day-use’ at the top of the hill. We saw many people walk pass the camping area to go ‘swimming’. Other water activity was that the Dallas gang went ‘creek walking’ several times – it was only ankle deep most of the time.
The creek water needs to be treated before drinking it. David had a 25-gallon tank with spigot that we used for community water. If anyone went to town, we requested that they return with drinkable water. We tried to be conservative when washing dishes.
The group continued to grow when the week-end came. Les had been working in Ringgold as a handyman repair person for the tornado damage. He had a converted prison van that he used as both his work and camping needs. He is in-process of moving his family from the northern US to the Georgia/Alabama border area. He only stayed a one night – but, I couldn’t have made this trip without his help: On Wednesday after I arrived, I moved my van from Site 2 – the Dallas gang camping spot, to near Site 3. After I parked, Dick said that he thought my passenger front tire was low. I looked at it and he was right. David looked at it and found a nail in my tire! UG! What am I going to do now? Deep in the Woods – 45 minute drive on a mountain, gravel road to civilization. By the way, auto companies have it written in their contract, that they don’t come off-road to fix tires and start batteries. Well, … , David needed to return to Dalton to fix his air-conditioner (his wife had called him that it was broken). He offered to stop at an auto store and buy a tire-plug repair kit while in town. I jumped at the offer and told him that I would be happy to pay him back for the kit. Well, he got the kit on Friday, and Les came to visit on Saturday. David and Les had talked and Les said that he knew how to plug-a-tire and David said that he had a compressor and would help. So, late in the afternoon, after supper, we went to Vanna White parking near Site 3. David started the compressor, Les found a Leatherman type tool and with a lot of strength, he pulled the nail out of the tire. He used a handle-tool with a pointer to hold the air in the tire as he prepared to insert the plug. Another handle-tool had an inverted tip for the plug and the plug was a sticky-black-rubber 4-inch long piece that was pushed into the hole after quickly removing the air-holder-tool. Les really knew what he was doing – and was strong enough to get-it-done. The tire was plugged in a few minutes. I told him many times how much I appreciated him fixing my tire for me. I kept wondering, where I had driven that the tire would pick-up a nail. One of those mysteries that will never be solved. I felt that when I left, I would be much safer. David, Dick and Les all said that the plug was much safer for holding air in the tire than leaving the nail. It was obvious that the tire had a air-leak and Les said that when driving, the tire flexes (especially on gravel, rutted-road) and the nail would drive farther into the tire and do more damage as well as let out a lot of air. Anyway, now the problem was solved. I was very grateful to both David and Les for repairing the nail in my tire.
Kenny also came for the week-end. He had converted a wider-type 10-passenger bus to a camper. This was also his first trip. He travelled with his two dogs and added excitement to the trip by providing many attendees with cigars. Both Kenny and Les left mid-Sunday afternoon. Kenny had a mechanical problem with his bus. Les had a diagnostic code reader and used it to re-set Kenny’s computer codes. His bus was better, but he still lacked power to drive up the steep hill to get to the main road. David had a tow rope and Les used the rope to tie to his van and pull Kenny up the hill. Once he got to the top of the hill, his bus was able to travel back to Eton because the remainder of the trip was downhill and the road to our camping area was the steepest of the journey. Again, Les with his knowledge and equipment to the rescue. After returning to Atlanta, Kenny sent David an email that he made it home without further incident.
After the week-end, the Dallas gang remained along with David, Dick, Sandra and me. During the course of the days together, we got to know each other pretty well. Thinking back, mostly I just sat around and enjoyed the company of others and being outside in the wonders of the forest. I especially enjoyed being around so much ‘nature’. In addition to sitting under a tarp during the rain, I walked around the campsites and marvelled at the mushrooms that sprang up after the rain. Also the flowers that bloomed along the roadside. After the ‘swim’ trip, Sandra and I went tramping through the forest hoping to find me a hiking stick. The forest was damp and I found a branch that was straight and the right size. But, the stick was wet. I ended up trading the forest stick for another one from the cooking woodpile. At the end of my stay, Sandra gave me a walking stick that she had. It is beautiful and has a really unique handle. (See pictures.)
I had planned to leave on Monday. But, the Dallas group would be around a few more days and I had enough food to stay a while more. David let me borrow his cell phone (he had a special magnet mount antenna and Razor cellphone that allows an external antenna) and I decided to stay until Friday. Our normal cell phones were not working. To use a cell tower, you have to have a line-of-sight signal. We were between mountains and far enough away from a tower, that only David’s phone worked because of the extra power of the antenna. He was so familiar with the forest and technology, he had designed a cellphone signal extender. We spent our time talking and exploring the world around us. I was less than 100 miles from home, but in an entirely different world. I borrowed a paperback book from Sandra, and when there wasn’t anyone around who wanted to talk, I read the book. It has been a long time since I’ve read a book. When in Atlanta, I have the internet, newspapers and magazines to read. I had become used to short articles and had developed a short attention-span. I found it hard to concentrate and read a long book. The book that she gave me wasn’t long, but – I’m not a fast reader and I just took my time going through it. Near the end, I told Sandra how I thought it would finish. She looked at me funny, but didn’t say anything. That night, I finished it and my prediction of the ending was completely wrong. I guess that’s the reason that I will never make a novel writer.
Our major cooks were Dick, Sandra, and Ben. We had several ‘community’ suppers where someone decided what to cook and others helped. I told everyone that I was not really familiar with cooking on propane, and I watched how they hooked up the propane canister to the stove and lighted it after turning it on. I don’t drink coffee – so, I didn’t have morning duty either. Anyway, I helped by washing dishes a couple of times, and cutting up vegetables a couple of times. Dick cooked potato soup one night and I helped cut the potatoes and onions. He had special spices that he used for more flavoring and he used some of the milk that was brought back when David went to town. I ate well, but I wasn’t just sitting around thinking of food, like I do when in Atlanta. I ate all of my chilled food in 5 days and I ate the tuna, fruit, and trail-mix the remainder of the time. Sandra was ‘bad’ when she asked David to bring back some Oreos and milk from town on one of his trips. I definitely was ‘there’ when the cookies were opened and disseminated.
It was really sad to leave on my last day. I felt like I had lived in wonderland for 10 days and didn’t want to leave. I knew that paying bills and cutting grass in the yard awaited. However, I had made some really great vandweller friends and had hope that we would reunite. Being retired means that you don’t take vacation anymore; you get to decide what you want to do with your time and then do it. A whole new world had opened to me on this trip – imagine it, a forest with none of the city conveniences and distractions that was only 100 miles away. In a few weeks, I may be ready to ‘do-ot-again’!
P.S. Besides the cellphone call to my son, my only touch with the outside world was when I listened to a Chattanooga radio station for about 30 minutes at night several times. The station played oldies-type music and only advertized a few businesses. I didn’t hear any news of what had happened in the world until I returned home. When I returned, I discovered that “the world still existed”.

2011-07-23_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Les(FoldingStove)3
2011-07-23_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Les(FoldingStove)3
2011-07-24_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Ben,DukeThePitBull,Chris
2011-07-24_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Ben,DukeThePitBull,Chris
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationaForest_Vandwellers_Dick,David
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationaForest_Vandwellers_Dick,David
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_ButterfliesOutsideFirePit
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_ButterfliesOutsideFirePit
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Camp2(DryingClothes)
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Camp2(DryingClothes)
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Creek(Left)
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Creek(Left)
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Creek(Right)
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Creek(Right)
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Mushroom
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Mushroom
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_PitToilet
2011-07-25_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_PitToilet
2011-07-23_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Kenny,Soren
2011-07-23_GAEtonNationalForest_Vandwellers_Kenny,Soren

2011-05-11 12noon – Installation of marine batteries as “house” electricity.

<<Note: To make the type look LARGER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <+> Key (above the equal “+” sign) at the same time. To make the type look SMALLER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <-> Key (minus sign) at the same time.>>

(Be forewarned – this is a L-O-N-G Post.)

I’ve had help with building the van (as a small RV). My son, Joe, installed the plywood floors for me and he built the bed for me. He had helped me a lot and has said that he will help with whatever I need – but, he said that it would take him a long time to install the batteries, isolator and inverter. I had read on a previous vandweller post that the best place to have that equipment installed is at an car audio shop. So, I called my local, nearby, audio installation shop and made an appointment for today. Joe had purchased a couple of Sears marine batteries for me and he also bought the plastic box that you would use for protecting them. I had purchased a ‘kit’ of wires from Harbor Freight called inverter wires. I had ordered an Aims pure-sine wave inverter from an internet store. I had previously been to the audio shop and they told me to order 25 feet of 0 gauge wire and an isolator. (The 0 gauge wire is very thick and in my pictures, it is coated with a red insulation.)  I got a web-store from the shop and compared the web-store prices to some vendor prices on ebay. So, …, I ended up ordering the wire and isolator from ebay.

The “Tech” at the audio installation shop was named “T”. He had installed an isolator in a previous van and knew the location of the battery under the hood. He had to take the battery out and find room near it – but 18″ away for the isolator. He had in the shop inventory, a heavy-duty fuse that the isolator needed. It was the type fuse used by big amplifiers. He installed the fuse near the alternator.

————————————————————————————————

My house electricity set-up will allow the van alternator to charge the marine batteries when I drive the van. The isolator allows the marine batteries to be separate from the van battery when in-use. The problem with the electrical flow is that the alternator is driven harder by the additional charging and will, most likely, wear out sooner. When the current alternator is replaced, the van will need to have a ‘heavy-duty’ type installed. After “T” completed his work, I took a picture of the isolator under the hood – but, it was under the fender and so close to the battery, the picture didn’t turn-out well.

Note: the location of the batteries was behind the passenger seat so that the length of the 0 gauge wires was minimal.

Additional note: Marine batteries are designed for ‘slow discharge’ as needed by the electrical requirements of vandwelling. These types of batteries are the opposite of the van battery which has high-capacity needed for cold starting.

———————————————————————————————–
After I turned over the van keys to “T” at the shop, he said that I could wait in the side area or go shopping. I shopped for a while and returned a couple of  hours later. I sat in the waiting area for a while and could hear drilling and see “T” working under the hood. After waiting in the room for a while, I asked “T” if I could come in the shop area and he said ‘yes’. I wanted to see what he had done so far and looked at the fuse and isolator under the hood. He was now working on the 0 gauge wires and running them under the fender front panel and van passenger foot-well plastic step-place. He had to take apart the radio in order to place a wire from the radio to the isolator. This wire allows the isolator to know when the van is being driven – i.e., time to charge the battery. The isolator also ensures that the house batteries are not over-charged.

———————————————————————————————-
“T” was nearing completion of the 0 gauge wires to the batteries and he asked what I intended next. I asked him to show me how to wire the inverter. He had seen the inverter and knew that attaching the batteries to the inverter would be relatively easy. He also knew that to complete the installation, he needed to test the equipment to make sure that it was all installed properly and working. He had seen my dorm refrigerator and microwave on top of it. He not only installed the inverter for me, but also he adapted the inverter wires to a 110-volt plug and mounted it on the bottom of the kitchen countertop. He then tested the microvave and it all worked as designed. YAH!

Note: I sometimes call the inverter – a converter. That’s because it converts the 12-volt car-type electrical current to 110-volt house-type current.
————————————————————————————————-

Next, “T” asked me what else I had in mind. I had an ‘old’ car radio that I had brought and I planned to install it in the ‘house area’. I like to listen to a radio at night and the use of the old radio in the back of the van seemed appropriate. He took the radio and adapted some mounting material to place it under the kitchen countertop. He found some extra wire and an old antenna. He put the antenna on the countertop and put in a toggle-switch for the wiring. He told me that the house radio will not act as a van radio in that it will not keep-in-memory the programmed stations – due to the fact that it was not to have any electricity when turned-off. When the house radio test was successful, I was extremely ‘happy’. “T” had spent several hours working on it and his work was complete. It was after 6pm and past time for him to go home – but, he didn’t seem to mind. I was very pleased with his work and filled in a customer survey to the company and mentioned his name. I hope that he receives some recognition for his effort.

Additional note: In studying other internet information about batteries, I learned that when converting 12-volt current to 110-volt current by the inverter, there is a loss of electrical efficiency. Therefore, I wanted a car radio installed in the house area.

By the way, when I made the appointment for the installation, “T” knew that it was a lot of work and that it would take a long time. He installed not only the isolator and inverter, he found parts for the radio and installed it too.

P.S. I also ordered a Honda 1000 generator from the web. After comparing prices, I determined that it was a little cheaper to order from the web than to go to the local store. To charge the batteries, the inverter can be used by connecting to shore power. If  I am away-from-the-grid, I can use the Honda generator to charge the house batteries. (My reading indicates that it will have to run several hours to charge to the full-level.) I have a lot to learn about van-camping. For example, how many hours can I camp before I have to charge the house batteries. And, how long does it take for the house batteries to be charged to full by either using shore power or the generator?


2011-05-11_GAAtlanta,VannaWhite-BestBuyAudio_VanHouseBattery-IsolatorFuse(InstalledUnderHood)
2011-05-11_GAAtlanta,VannaWhite-BestBuyAudio_VanHouseBattery-IsolatorFuse(InstalledUnderHood)
2011-05-11_GAAtlanta,VannaWhite-BestBuyAudio_ViewOfTopOfIsolator
2011-05-11_GAAtlanta,VannaWhite-BestBuyAudio_ViewOfTopOfIsolator
2011-05-11_GAAtlanta,VannaWhite-BestBuyAudio_ViewOfIsolatorFuse
2011-05-11_GAAtlanta,VannaWhite-BestBuyAudio_ViewOfIsolatorFuse
2011-05-11_GAAtlanta,VannaWhite-BestBuyAudio_LeftOfIsolatorIsLeftVanPanel,IsolatorTop,Battery
2011-05-11_GAAtlanta,VannaWhite-BestBuyAudio_LeftOfIsolatorIsLeftVanPanel,IsolatorTop,Battery

2011-05-06 GA,Ellijay (North of Atlanta, Foothills to Mountains) GTG (Get-To-Gether) of WomenGoSolo

<<Note: To make the type look LARGER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <+> Key (above the equal “+” sign) at the same time. To make the type look SMALLER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <-> Key (minus sign) at the same time.>>

2011-05-06 Friday. I left Atlanta about 9am and drove to East Ellijay.  I had packed some snack food from the house and an empty ice chest in the van with the idea of shopping at the local Wal-Mart for ice and sandwiches to eat during the GTG.  <Note: I put the Wal-Mart references into the blog because it is located close to the campground and it was very convenient.>

So, I bought some sandwiches and ice on the way to the campground. I got there about 1pm. I had to go through a monitored gate and give my name and person visiting. The GTG organizer, Karen, had given us all of the information that we needed. When I arrived, I found the campsite number that Karen had emailed me and I parked the van. It was a beautiful campsite, overlooking the Cartecay river. I looked around, and there was a nearby camper. A lady was sitting in a folding chair with 5 yorkshire terriers inside a circular small fence. I thought that she was probably one of the members in the group and I was right. I walked to her area and introduced myself  -so- then, I met Norma. We had a great ‘opening’ conversation and then I wandered to a nearby Roadtrek. I met Karen – we talked about being excited about the gathering and finally meeting many the other people in the yahoo-group.

Karen was concerned about Carolyn getting to Georgia, because Carolyn was driving from Little Rock and the high water-level of Mississippi River may impact her trip. Karen was right, the river did affect Carolyn, but after she arrived, we all realized what a ‘trouper traveller’ she is. The high river made her trip longer, but she had an iPhone with GPS directions and followed her GPS turns and made it without any problems.

Others began arriving and we greeted each other and exchanged names and the afternoon passed quickly. I heard Karen tell someone that Annie and Roxanne drove a Class A and were unable to reach our campground because of the narrow roads and many turns and hills. There was a separate, larger RV area, across the river and we met them around dinner time. There was a nearby, cable, walkover bridge across the river and they drove their car to the opposite side of the bridge, walked across the bridge and met us in our camping area. As the sunset, Karen started a campfire and cooked some meat over it, others ate what they brought and I ate one of my sandwiches. When Annie and Roxanne came, they brought a bag of camp-marshmellows. (They are about double the size of regular ones and are found in many Wal-Marts. ) Those who wanted to roast their own marshmellow were invited to ‘have-at-it’.  As the night approached, we had a campfire circle and discussed many things about our campers, trip there, … whatever. The night was cool and we put on jackets and wrapped up in blankets around the fire. Eventually, it was late and everyone retired. The campground overhead security streetlight would flick off for a while, and then come back on. Carolyn was in the campsite under the light and decided that she didn’t really want to be there for the night, so she moved to the right side of my van (about 3 campsites away from the light) – and blocked the light using the shadow of my van.

(Note: My older son, Joe, built my 2×4-and- plywood bed for me on Monday and Tuesday nights after his work.

2011-05-02_VannaWhite-JoeBuildingBed
2011-05-02_VannaWhite-JoeBuildingBed
2011-05-06_GAEllijay,NormaWalkingYorkshireTerriers
2011-05-06_GAEllijay,NormaWalkingYorkshireTerriers

2011-05-07 Saturday. I had an AWFUL night. My feet were cold most of the night. I couldn’t sleep – so, I tried several things to get warmer. My older son, Joe, had built my ‘2×4 & plywood’ bed for me on Monday and Tuesday nights after work before the trip. I had put a piece of memory foam over the plywood and a set of sheets on top with a blanket. The memory form didn’t provide as much ‘loft’ as I needed in order to be comfortable. When I slept on my side, my hip-bone would sink low and eventually start hurting. Therefore, I began turning over many times in order to try and get a comfortable sleeping position. No luck – I had a couple of Thermarest seat pads that I inserted under the memory foam at the hip-bone area. I was able to get off the plywood using them and was satisfied at my adjustment for the problem.

Well, the mountains are cooler than the city and the temperature went down to the low 40 degrees Farenheit during the night.  First, I put my coat over the blanket at the bottom of the bed to cover my feet. About 2am, I still couldn’t sleep, so I pulled out some extra t-shirts and put them on.  About 4am, I still couldn’t sleep, so I found some extra wool socks and put them on.  About 6am, I finally fell asleep and was the last of the group to get up and eat breakfast in the morning. In fact, by the time I woke up (well after 9am), almost everyone was finished eating breakfast and had moved to other areas.  After I started moving, I got my packed bowl of cereal, added the milk that I had packed and sat at the table to eat breakfast.  There were still about 5 people around the area still talking about the wonderful spring morning – and the really cool night that we had just had.  About mid-morning, someone decided that they wanted to see the inside of Lynn’s new Roadtrek.  A group followed and we began touring each others ‘vehicle’ one-by-one.  I showed everyone (who wanted to listen) my building efforts for “Vanna White“. Changing her from a plain cargo to a wanna-be-RV. We went inside others vehicles, but – for “Vanna White”, I just opened the back doors and the side doors so that everyone could see in. In particular, I pointed out the two-batteries under the kitchen countertop (on the floor behind the passenger seat) that I wanted to get an audio-installer to ‘hook-up’ for me.

We had lunch about 1 and someone decided to go see the “Good-Luck-Duck” Class-A over the river. Karen called Annie and Roxanne.  Annie drove the passenger car to the other side of the bridge and picked up several riders. She had to make two trips to get everyone. Karen wanted to drive, so I rode with her and oops=I can’t remember who went with us. Anyway, we toured the duck and talked about how LARGE it was compared to our vans and vehicles.   We enjoyed just hanging out in the great weather under the trees, at the picnic table, talking. I pulled out my camera and took a quick video of Carolyn describing and elaborating on one of her many adventures.

The afternoon next consisted of Nicole and Darlene helping Carolyn secure her bed from moving around by tying some rope to the bar, Nicole also helped Norma change her stove-top metal burner-protector. Discussions of Karen’s electrical issue – I believe that when we left, the issue continued to be unsolved. And whatever else happened to be on someone’s mind. Tammy had a board game and it out and four of us played “Trivia” for a good part of the late afternoon. For supper, I ate another portion of sandwich and Karen started another fire around dusk. We, once again, circled the campfire with chairs and, fortunately, it wasn’t as cold as the previous night. After many discussions of whatever, Karen asked the group to share “something that you don’t normally tell someone about yourself”. I was the first on the left of Karen and she pointed at me to start. I said that I don’t normally tell people that I have a Master’s Degree in Mathematics. I then said that “having the degree has opened a lot of doors for me”. (Meaning, that it has helped me get some good jobs over the years.) Someone on the opposite side of the fire asked me to repeat it because they couldn’t hear.  I said it again – and then someone near Karen (it was black dark with just the fire as light) said, what school did you attend? I replied “Winthrop College in Rock Hill,SC. It is now called Winthrop University.”  There wasn’t anything else to say and the baton was about to be passed to Roxanne, on my left – when, someone across the fire said “You and I were roommates.” My first response was “no – I know all of my roommates and told about Judy in Roddy Dorm my first year. Yvonne and Sara were suitemates my second and third year, and then I was thinking beyond my senior year and remembered that Lynn was my roommate in graduate school. Then I said, “You’re right. We were roommates!” I got up and walked behind Karen to talk more with Lynn. We had a side-conversation during the time that most of the other people ‘told their stories’.  I had missed everything from that point and I think that Lynn was out-of-the-circle when the attention turned to Karen. Well, Lynn and I had talked for quite a while and we knew that we could continue the ‘catch-up’ the next day, so we re-engaged with the group and connected with Karen’s story. After Karen, it was late and we all turned in for the night.

After Lynn and I finished our graduate year of study, she was married and drove from NC to class on Monday and left for NC on Friday as soon as she could. She was a “week-end North Carolina wife”.  In the spring of our graduate year, I got a job and I moved to Charlotte. I had met someone before the last year and continued to date him.  In October, we got married, and after about two years in Charlotte, my husband and I moved to South Carolina. I had two boys and got divorced and over twenty years ago, moved to Atlanta. She and I had lost touch with each other.  After comparing our careers, we realized that we both worked in jobs with corporations and mainframe computers for many years. After her divorce, she changed her name back to her maiden name. It was so many years ago when we knew each other, I had forgotten her maiden name and would have only recognized her by her married name. We both have short grey hair now. She reminded me that, in college, her hair was shoulder-length red hair. My hair was shoulder-length straight brown hair. I didn’t recognize her because of so many years of being apart. I guess that she didn’t recognize me for the same reason.  Both of us had been changed so much by the years since our graduate course study in college.

When I married, for a short while, I changed my name to the married one and after my divorce, I returned to my maiden name.  My last name was what she probably remembered when she recognized that our pasts were so similar. Funny – how it all turns out.

2011-05-07_GAEllijay,Darlene,Annie,Nikki,Lynn,Tammy,Roxanne,Norma,Carolyn
2011-05-07_GAEllijay,Darlene,Annie,Nikki,Lynn,Tammy,Roxanne,Norma,Carolyn
2011-05-07_GAEllijay,Tammy,Lynn,Annie,Darlene,Norma,Carolyn
2011-05-07_GAEllijay,Tammy,Lynn,Annie,Darlene,Norma,Carolyn

2011-05-08 Sunday. Well, I had another BAD night. It was in the high 40’s during the night and it was cold again. I bundled up as much as I could, but – once again, my feet were cold all night and I couldn’t sleep. That is – I didn’t get any real sleep until about 5am. Therefore, when I awoke, I was the last to arrive to breakfast (again). It was after 10 this time, I think. The day was warmer this morning than the previous morning and you could tell that it was going to be a beautiful spring day with perfect temperature. Lynn and I did more ‘catching-up’ and exchanged addresses and phone-numbers.  We promised to stay-in-touch and I have no-doubt that we will. I’m amazed at us finding each other after all these years – and, the more surprising thing is … that we have such similar interests and retired-to-van-camp.

Since I’m retired, I don’t have to prepare for a job on Monday, but – many others did  — so Susanne, Tammy, Lynn, Nicole, Darlene planned to leave. I was there for two nights, but decided to stay as long as I could and remained until about 7pm. For the afternoon, we discussed Carolyn’s and Norma’s best travel routes in the northern part of Georgia.  Karen was going to stay another day and she explored boondocking nearby possibilities with Annie and Roxanne.  Several of us walked across the bridge, looking for a recycling area near the pool. We talked with some newly arrived campers, and we just ‘hung-out’. When my time came to leave, I really hated to go – but, knew that I really needed a good night’s sleep and that my first van trip had ultimately taught me to:

(1) get a foam thick pillow cushion to put under the memory foam on the plywood bed -and-

(2) be more prepared for cold weather sleeping in the van.

My younger brother had given me a new buddy-heater for Christmas, but I had not packed it. Why? Well, it was warm in Atlanta and the temperature had reached above 70 degrees before I left. I didn’t think it would be as cold as it got at night. I just didn’t pack it because I didn’t think that I would need it.

On the internet, I’ve read that new van campers have to start and find out what they like and need by just going out and camping. Now, I know that I need to watch the north Georgia mountain weather better and possibly pack a heater next time.  Also, I know that the experienced van-campers on the internet are right. I need to get more experience to know what else I will like and need.

I had an uneventful trip back to Atlanta.  It was about 9pm when I returned to my house. I was tired, but learned a lot about the group and camping and had a WONDERFUL time! Enough said.

2011-04-28 GA,Atlanta “Vanna White” under construction (in order to make her like a small RV )

<<Note: To make the type look LARGER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <+> Key (above the equal “+” sign) at the same time. To make the type look SMALLER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <-> Key (minus sign) at the same time.>>

I HATE cold weather, so I waited until spring to begin construction on “Vanna”.  During the winter, I went shopping both locally and on the internet. I bought anything that I thought that I would need for camping and that would make the camping experience more comfortable.
When the weather warmed, construction began with window coverings. The base is cardboard, with a black cloth stapled to it.
Next was sub-flooring; the first layer was blue foam – because the floor had ridges, the foam was an attempt to make the ridges more even. I used LOTS of packing tape to hold the form down. The second layer was reflective (foil on both sides with a middle layer of two air bubbles) for insulation (the tape used was reflective type). Next, my son, Joe put down the 1/2-inch plywood floor.
Then, I used the reflective on the side top and doors for insulation. I put styrofoam board in the ceiling and had to get wood wedges and auto buttons (in the van ceiling joint) to get the styrofoam to stay on the ceiling. The liquid nail glue that I thought would hold the panel up – didn’t work. After completing that, I decided to put styrofoam on top of the reflective in the sides and doors. I bought some panel board and used it to cover the door holes. I have a couple of extra boards because I thought that I would use them to cover the sides, but I changed my mind. I wanted to see the van side holes so that I could attach storage plastic crates to the sides.
I asked the local big-box home-improvement store for information about primer paint. I put 2 coats of primer on everything – including the floor. (If some liquid were spilled on the floor, the primer would help prevent it from being absorbed into the wood.) I found some white paint and painted the interior. (The paint was ‘old’ and intended for a house-paint project many years ago. A little was used out of the gallon can. Over-the-years, the paint color had changed from white to a muted ivory. I really didn’t care about the color – I just wanted to hide the writing on the styrofoam and try to make the interior a little prettier.)
I made many trips to the local big-box home-improvement store and looked for nails, buttons, or whatever. I would get Great Stuff Foam on many trips and counted about 35 total cans used. One day, I put the foam in the bottom back and by the next morning, a ‘foam-blob’ had almost expanded around the tire jack.
I found an old orange crate and painted it during the period that I was painting the interior. I had put the stainless sink in the crate top while working on painting. I put the blue, water-jug under the sink and decided to use this set-up for the final grey-water collection.
I made a wooden box out of 2×4 boards and nailed a 4-foot kitchen countertop to the box. I’ve decided to put the kitchen countertop at the side-doors because it I will use the driver-side door as front entrance and the back double-doors as an exit.
The work began in early April – so I will post some pictures of the current status.

(Note: The exact dates of the work are not given. The dates are approximate.)

"Vanna White" Sub Floor - blue foam to fill in space with ridge
“Vanna White” Sub Floor – blue foam to fill in space with ridge
2011-03-17_GA,Atlanta(VannaWhite),-SubFloor2(Reflective
2011-03-17_GA,Atlanta(VannaWhite),-SubFloor2(Reflective
2011-04-01_GAAtlanta(VannaWhite),-VanCeiling(StyrofoamPanelFellOvernight)
2011-04-01_GAAtlanta(VannaWhite),-VanCeiling(StyrofoamPanelFellOvernight)
2011-04-02_GAAtlanta,(VannaWhite)-Van(CeilingStyrofoamHeldByWedge&Button)
2011-04-02_GAAtlanta,(VannaWhite)-Van(CeilingStyrofoamHeldByWedge&Button)
2011-04-02_GAAtlanta,(VannaWhite)-Van(GreatStuffExpandedOverTireJack-overnight)
2011-04-02_GAAtlanta,(VannaWhite)-Van(GreatStuffExpandedOverTireJack-overnight)
2011-04-02_GAAtlanta,(VannaWhite)-Van(StyrofoamOnTopOfReflectix)
2011-04-02_GAAtlanta,(VannaWhite)-Van(StyrofoamOnTopOfReflectixInTheSide)
2011-04-04_GAAtlanta,(VannaWhite)-Van(BackDoorPanel)
2011-04-04_GAAtlanta,(VannaWhite)-Van(BackDoorPanel)
2011-04-04_GAAtlanta,(VannaWhite)-Van(KitchenCountertop-Legs)
2011-04-04_GAAtlanta,(VannaWhite)-Van(KitchenCountertop-Legs)
2011-04-15_GAAtlanta(VannaWhite)-Van(KitchenCountertop)
2011-04-15_GAAtlanta(VannaWhite)-Van(KitchenCountertop)

==============================================

((My Dad has a nickname for me and it is “Puddin”. He started calling me that when I was very young. I named my van, “Vanna White”. When I decided to start a blog, I wanted a unique name for my travels and the names “Puddin” and “Vanna White” came to mind.))

2011-01-10 GA,Atlanta_”Vanna White” (in the snow)

<<Note: To make the type look LARGER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <+> Key (above the equal “+” sign) at the same time. To make the type look SMALLER, press the keyboard <Ctrl> Key and the <-> Key (minus sign) at the same time.>>

Puddin’ is the name that my Dad called me for many years when I was growing up. When I became a teenager, I decided that I didn’t like it and asked him to stop calling me that name. Well, many years later – he started using it again. I decided that it was a pet name that he had decided to use and I began to embrace it. I’ve never had a nickname from others, so I guess this is the one that stuck. I don’t know where he got it from, and the only Pudding that I know is the kind that comes from a box, and you beat with milk for dessert. So, I guess that’s where we will start.

(When I was very young, we would attend the yearly family reunion and after eating too much – I would be very full. I can imagine that on the way home from the reunion when I complained about eating too much, Mom and/or Dad decided it was from eating Banana Pudding. My ‘real-name’ is Juliana, and that rhymes with banana. Maybe there is a connection there – but, I may have been too young to remember. By the way, during my ‘early-family-reunion’ days, there were no boxes of pudding – the banana pudding had to be made the old-fashioned way. That is, using sugar, cream and eggs cooked over a double-boiler. Add cut-up bananas and vanilla wafers.)

I retired late last year and bought a used Ford, Econoline cargo van in early January for the purposes of camping in it.  As you would know, it was just before gas prices began to sky-rocket.  I had researched the statistics of the van and knew what I was getting into – more cost per mile since the engine was larger than the Toyota Corolla that I drove previously.  I didn’t know that the price would be as high as it has become. (Nobody could have predicted the current HIGH price.)   I’ve told my friends, the high gas price means that when I come to visit, I have to stay longer to make the drive worthwhile. Since, I’m retired, my time is now ‘jello’ and I can go where I want, and stay as long as I like.

I think that the ‘official’ weather account of the snow was that we got about three inches on January 10. However, under the snow was a very slippery, layer of ICE. The storm closed the city, airport, … almost everything (except the public transit rail) for a couple of days. There was a slow, gradual recovery of people who were willing to venture out onto the ice. Usually, when it snows in the Big-A, there is only an inch or a little more and it melts quickly in a day or two. For that reason, Atlanta doesn’t have much snow removal equipment – this storm had a first event of rain which turned to ice overnight and then snowed on top of it. The temperature remained below freezing for many days and was considered a “once in every ten-to-fifteen year event”.  After the storm hit, when the public was criticizing the government for ‘lack of cleaning the highways’, they rented extra equipment.  My neighborhood road was never cleared – nor, had I expected it to be. Usually, only the interstate and main roads are cleared and the rest have to wait for warmer temperatures and meltdown. My neighborhood had no electrical outages and so we were warm and cozy the whole time.  I enjoyed just being at home and watching the world go by.  I especially enjoyed watching the neighbors children playing in the snow listening to radio reports of storm events, and watching television coverage.

"Vanna White" (a white, Ford Econoline cargo van)
“Vanna White” in the Atlanta snow on January 10, 2011

(Note: I probably should NOT have parked “Vanna White” on the street – however, the neighborhood has a dead end turnaround in the road only a few houses down the street from me and it is not a busy street. There’s no space in the carport for her and when I parked her in the yard, there was a mud track down the street when I drove away.)

Thanks to Jennifer for her “YouTube” video of Vandwelling Woman and to Rach for the inspiration to get the van and start the journey. I hope to meet both of you one day.