Livin the dream for 10 years

Last week marked the tenth anniversary of the four of us loading all of life’s possessions into the Big Taxi and rolling down the road…any road!

We bought the 2006 Travel Supreme Select from its first owner when it was 5 years old, with just under 30,000 miles on the odometer. Today, it has 103,128 miles.

For the first 14 months, we traveled without a car, put 13,000 miles on the coach and scrubbed off the tread on its two rear-most tires from all the tight turns to get in and out of parking lots.

We parked for lunch wherever we were:

Similarly, we stopped for the night wherever we found ourselves:

Once, we needed to have Ross and Ryan at Grandview Hospital by 7am for routine dental work, and knew that getting anywhere near that hospital at that time of day with the Big Taxi would never happen! But we talked to their security, and they suggested we arrive near dusk the evening before, and simply park in two or three spaces along the curb near ER. Their office had a window to view the location, and we could stay for the night, then leave it in the morning for the boys’ appointments. Here was our view, with ER out our right-side windows!

But we yearned to explore the countryside in more detail, so bought a car. Ah, now the Big Taxi was our base in a given spot for a couple days, weeks, or even months. We also arranged to be gone for longer periods of time from Dayton, where Ross and Ryan needed to see various managers for their Ohio Medicaid Waiver program.

So our lunchtime stops sometimes looked quite different:

And our overnight parking became more varied:

Not everything has been peaches and cream. We were in Dayton one time and got chased into a nearby restaurant by a nearby tornado! The hailstorm on its fringe broke the covers on our three roof air conditioners, some of our tail lights, and:

Another time, the engine began to lose power, to the point we had to pull over and park. Nobody could diagnose it over the phone, so we called our road service provider. They sent a wonderful tow truck with a very experienced driver. Without a single bit of damage to the coach, he delivered us 50 miles away to a Cummins shop, and they found a strange problem with a fuel filter AND a developing problem with the turbo charger.

That was the only time the Big Taxi left us stranded. We had the car, of course…actually a brand new car only a week old. But we faced being homeless! Because the problem was with our engine, we could still live in the coach just fine, although the scenery in the Cummins parking lot wasn’t much.

The far more frightening “bump in the road” we encountered was actually a “bump in the night” and it occurred while we were in Dayton, again.

In the midst of a terrific storm, about 2 in the morning, we were awakened by a loud crack and a tremendous thud that rocked the coach. Fearing the worst, I grabbed my flashlight in the back bedroom and walked to the front, expecting to see a large limb stuck through the ceiling.

Nope, nothing. Stuck my head outside, and saw the glistening trunk of a tree leaning across the coach.

If you can imagine, the only damage was to the awning above that front slide-out! The tree had fallen across the coach and into the limbs of a larger tree on the other side!

For the last three years or so, we have slowed down the traveling. Actually, I mean rolling in the Big Taxi. We’ve alternated spending about 5 months in the summer near Asheville, NC with 5 months in the winter near Orlando, FL. In between we roll through Dayton and various side trips into Indiana and Michigan for service on the coach.

Since Covid made its ugly appearance, we’ve actually remained parked near Asheville, in a small park with seniors who respect this awful virus and therefore keep their distance while also keeping an eye on each other. We do a lot of driving with the boys to explore the amazing countryside and thereby maintain our sanity.

Having a car has enabled us to appreciate this magnificent country much, much better than simply cruising through it in the coach. We have now owned 4 different cars to wear the Lil Taxi license plate, and just bought the 5th a month ago. Altogether they have carried us for 219,000 miles as we have explored the neighborhoods and countrysides where our home on wheels has been parked.

With our vaccinations completed last week and optimism in our hearts, we have made reservations for this fall in Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, and Florida that will enable us to resume seeing new sights.

Everywhere we go

Look what we have to put up with in order to go anywhere:
The twists and turns, the trees overhanging the roadway, distractions by the dozen along the creek…all the Scenery!

This is our favorite route up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, US Rt 276 just outside Brevard, NC.

Sometimes we drive slowly along this road and stop several times just to listen to the water. And when we finally get up to the Parkway, we turn around and come back down just as slowly!

I’ll try to get you a photo along the route we take when we turn left when we leave the coach rather than right…it’s the road that leads directly to Bat Cave.

Dramatic weather

I’ve mentioned before how dramatically the weather around these hills can change.

There’s generally at least a light breeze blowing, but clouds seem to show very strong winds blowing most of the time at elevation.

And those clouds have to maneuver over or around all the mountains. So things change quickly.

This photo gives a strong hint of how much change can occur all at once.

I couldn’t get a workable exposure of the clear, bright sky to the left AND the heavy, dark sky to the right, so I emphasized the more interesting side!

Sometimes you just have to shoot

I never tire of the grand vistas from the Blue Ridge Parkway…since I learned to slow down and really look around.

And on a beautiful, clear, sunny day, there’s a lot to see when you look around.

In this case, I was impressed by the amazing complexity of the many trunks and branches of these several trees, and by the dramatic contrast of their coloring against the incredible blue sky.

I just had to take a pic.

Slow down, we need a rest!

We sure don’t do much hiking with Ross and Ryan, and we can’t do too much of anything without them, so…pictures of us hiking at all are rare.

Here’s one with all of us! (I’m behind the camera….)

Robyn’s father, Claude, was the reason we first came to stay in this area for the summer four years ago.

He ended up moving to Florida with his older daughter, Marion. But we got a photo of him hiking with us before he left.

I’m running this photo in recognition of his energy and enthusiasm, on the occasion of his return today to visit us for a few days in order to celebrate his 95th birthday!

Claude generally hiked near the front of our pack. If he was ever at the back, it was to help with stragglers! In all seriousness, he probably would put me to shame if it was just him and me on a lengthy hike.

Hats off, Claude…happy birthday…and best wishes for many more!

Too bad about the moon

Because we went looking for a moon rise to a location more than an hour from home, we took along supper.

But in all the drama and excitement looking for clear skies and a good shot, and the disappointment over eastern skies blocking the moon but western skies suddenly showing such lovely color…we forgot to eat (and feed the boys) until the sun had set and we were about 90 minutes from home.

Food! We fed the boys, and ate our own nibbles.

And finally turned toward home about 9:45.

Whoa, there’s the moon! Shining straight into our eyes whenever the Parkway would turn toward the east.

Quick, where’s an overlook to the east?

There. Stop. Get out the tripod. The night’s not wasted after all! (I really hope you click on this image…there’s a LOT going on in the darkness!)

Another moonrise

The other day we wanted to catch the full moon as it rose near sunset.

Actually, it was two nights before the full moon, when the moon would rise just about an hour before the sun set. Which, I figured, would allow the moon time to clear some small mountains on the horizon, and, allow the to still peek over the mountains behind where I’d be shooting, so as to illuminate the foreground with its golden rays.

It’s true, the moon would only be 93 percent full, but it’s also true that it looks full by then!

Great plan. We took off for the Parkway.

Hmmm, an hour before moon rise:
Not very promising.

We kept driving toward our chosen overlook.

Eventually, we slowed down. We stopped. Too many clouds in the east, a solid bank at the horizon.

Not to say the sky was boring….
Wow, see how the sunset is cranking up the color?

New Plan: let’s hurry to a sunset overlook!

Change in perspective

That photo yesterday? Didn’t it feel kind of rambunctious?

The water was white all the way down, because it bounced every inch of its way.

And we were looking up through the pale foliage into a bright sky.

Very different mood with this photo!

It’s the same stretch of creek, shot from the opposite direction. I’m standing almost where Robyn and Ross were in yesterday’s photo.

It also was a different day, following some rain, shot later in the day, so it looks darker. And it is an 8-second exposure, so the water looks smoother.

If only

I love all the streams and rivers around here!

There’s not a level or straight stretch of road longer than a half mile…and usually much less! Everything is on a hill.

Which makes for lots and lots of streams, creeks, and rivers.

We have a favorite stretch of road running through Pisgah National Forest on the way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It twists and turns in an ever-rising fashion, and its pavement is nearly always completely covered by over-hanging trees. Its path is controlled by the hillsides of the valley it follows between ridges, and by the creek that occupies the lowest part of the valley. We cross the creek back and forth as we go ever-upward.

There are several fairly large falls along the way, and each is the object of attention by many, many tourists. Since we’re parked here for the summer, we don’t consider ourselves tourists, so we don’t stop there.

Instead, we have found a lovely stretch of the creek that tumbles and falls through a chasm about 10-20 feet below the level of the road. It’s not to be seen from the road.

We always stop to check on it as we travel that way.

No formal path exists to get to its edge, and large rocks along the bank interfere in many places.

But Robyn did get energized once, when Ryan seemed to be particularly cooperative, to help him climb down and around sufficiently to sit very near the sound of the rushing water…where there nearly was slight spray to feel from the creek.

If only…a photo could convey what our senses felt! (click to see Robyn and Ryan)

Bye bye, sun

Where the coach is parked, our camp is nearly surrounded by mountains, some as near as 5 miles.

Our northern view…straight out our windows past only one coach…is lovely. Our gaze rarely takes notice of the power lines that cut across the view only a hundred yards away. But a camera image of that view seems to have big red arrows pointing to the lines and their poles! Maybe it’s just me.

Views in other directions off our campus are obstructed by large trees…except the western view. The setting sun!

Robyn walks up our slight hill almost every evening to take in the view, save it for posterity by a photo with her cell, and share it with you who are friends on Facebook with her and with me.

She gets some very, very wonderful images!

I rarely go, because one of us needs to stay with Ross and Ryan, and that scene is Robyn’s domain.

But we were all out in the car the other day, and when we arrived back at camp the sunset looked promising. So we drove the car up to the west lookout.

I liked the complexity of the scene: the sun’s rays pointing right at us, the various types of clouds both far and near…including the fog that grew by the second just beyond the field where we stood, and the dramatic shading of the clouds to the left of the sun.