Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day #1 of the My McVansion Shakedown Cruise -er- Road Trip, September 19, 2013

I loaded up My McVansion with everything I could think of that I would or might need, this morning. I caught a shower, climbed into some comfortable travel clothes - and - of course - THE HAT! I bid my farewells to my great friend, Carolyn, who so kindly and generously allows me to use her home in Keyser, WV as my eastern base camp. I also said, "see ya" to her son, Matt, a really neat young man who has been out visiting for a while (and just doing a fantastic job of catching up on a lot of yard maintenance for both his mom and his grandmother down the street). I climbed in the van at about 1:15 this afternoon, set the GPS, turned on the cell phone hands free Bluetooth, turned on and started the dash cam recording and off I went.

Now, without question, today was one of the nicest travel days - specifically, road trip travel days - I can ever remember. I was actually traveling without a deadline to be anywhere by any specific time. I thought I might make it to my ultimate destination, Clifton, New Jersey or somewhere in the vicinity, but as I was driving through Pennsylvania and it was dark by 7:30 in Allentown, I decided that my destination was going to be to cross the New Jersey border and look for a Walmart Motor Inn (bring your own accommodations :-) and call it a great day.

So, by 7:50 I was in the parking lot of the Phillipsburg, New Jersey Walmart ready to walk in and gain their approval for my overnighting in their parking lot. By 8:30 I had gained the approval, shopped for some snacks for a light dinner, had the black out drapes installed in the van and was eating my dinner. I also had pulled out the computer and was checking email and after I ate, I answered those that required an answer. It's wonderfully quiet here in the parking lot. There are only a few of us here.

As far as the travel today, it was near perfect. The weather was very nice. Part of the time it was sunny with blue sky and puffy white clouds. Other parts of the time it was overcast, but bright. The traffic wasn't bad at all. I topped off the gas tank in Cumberland, MD and started to keep track of the gas usage. It's doing somewhat better than I normally see. That probably has to do with keeping the speed between 55 and 60 mph on cruise control for sustained driving.

I cut cross-country from Hancock, Maryland to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania to eliminate (I think) a large piece of real estate from the trip. I went through some absolutely gorgeous country with some fairly good size mountains for the east. The ascents and descents were pretty steep. But, My McVansion handled them without any hesitation. I stopped in Chambersburg to enjoy a late lunch at the Moe's Southwest Grill I enjoy stopping at only to find that it has closed and is out of business. That's sad. I like Moe's. It's not that there is any want for restaurants at that location; there are probably a dozen or more of the popular chain places. I ended up at a Chipotle Mexican Grill. I still prefer Moe's. From there I proceeded through Carlisle (near Boiling Springs where I hosted my last Veteran Speakers Retreat just about a month ago). Then went through Harrisburg and left I-81 for I-78 east to New Jersey.

I haven't been on that route in several years, but there is a religious short-wave radio station that I always watch for to see what they've done to their antenna configuration. There are some neat old 50's style motels and several Pennsylvania Dutch Restaurants along that route as well. There is an interesting establishment along the route that specializes in sheepskin coats, seat covers and other sheepskin products. I've always wanted to check that place out and I just may do that on my trip back to West Virginia next week. I'm really not sure why I didn't stop today. Old habits die hard, I guess - just rush right on past - that's what I've always done.

When I reached the Allentown area it brought back memories to around the latter 70's when I had a client there. It was the Good Shepherd Workshop, a facility that helped retrain folks who had suffered serious, life changing accidents and illnesses. The director of the workshop was an Irish fellow by the name of Tom Stenhouse. He was a delightful fellow was his lovely Irish wife. I loved the accent. Tom was a man of great generosity and a huge heart. I liked him from the first time I spoke with him.

I learned, after visiting with Tom and his wife at their home in nearby Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, that due to an earlier business involvement, Tom was financially independent and made more money in annual royalties than many people realize in ten or more years of earnings from a decent job. He wasn't paid a lot of money for his work at the Good Shepherd Workshop. The Workshop was simply his way of giving back to people who were not as fortunate as he was. I label this man as a true "hometown hero."

I had a few phone conversations along the way to pass the time. One was with my friend, Bob Orben, who is a well-known humor writer and speechwriter. He was President Gerald Ford's chief speechwriter and wrote speeches for a number of other important people in Washington, DC. He also wrote for Red Skelton, Jack Paar and other comedians. Bob is the latest recipient of the Master of Influence award presented by the National Speakers Association.

I also chatted with Mickey Bo, host of Mickey Bo's Rock n Roll Revue (you'll see his logo on the left side of this post on the Living Free blog). Mickey, aka, Dave McAlary, my 40+ year Air Force buddy was also traveling today. So, while I was driving northeast from West Virginia to New Jersey, Mickey was driving west from Cape Cod to western Massachusetts. Isn't technology fantastic?

The evening is ending now. I answered the emails after eating and I had a pleasant call from my friend, Carolyn in West Virginia checking in to make sure I was doing well and where I was. And after I complete this post and putting it up on the blog, I'm going to hit the rack and get a good night's sleep. In the morning, I'll catch a quick breakfast at Walmart and also buy some bungee cords and some screw eyes to secure a few things in the back of My McVansion. They were part of the plan, anyway, but I thought I could do without them on this trip. I was wrong. While nothing got dumped, it very well could have and for only a minor cost and a few minutes of time I can alleviate the problem before it really becomes one.

End of Day #1 of the Shakedown - Road Trip - a really, really terrific day. Looking forward to Day #2.

Shakedown Cruise -er- Road Trip #1 With My McVansion, September 2013

Okay! It's time to get this tiny home on wheels on the road, again, and see what's shaking - literally.

I'll have some photos up tonight or tomorrow showing the parts, the completed unit and the installed unit that is now the counter space for the tiny galley area and the storage below for utensils, dry and canned foods, my clothes and behind the unit, water storage. I also installed window blackouts in two of the van's windows and created blackout curtains/drapes with black felt and held in place with Velcro for the other windows and to close off the living area from the cockpit for privacy.

So, when I said it's time for a little shakedown road trip, I meant that literally, for sure. I'm on the road to my hometown of Clifton, New Jersey for a few days. On Saturday, September 21st, I'll be attending a barbecue bash at Uncle Roy Yokelson's house in Bloomfield, New Jersey, not far from the border of Clifton. That's an annual event Uncle Roy (his moniker) throws every year (this is the 8th and my first one to finally attend) for the voice-over talent in the NYC, northern NJ and nearby NY state and CT group. Although, there are some who travel there from much greater distances for this fun event.

So, My McVansion is on the road to see what shakes, rattles and rolls so I can figure out ways to tighten, shim, prop, pad and make any other modifications and adjustments necessary. While it's ready for sleeping in again, meals and bathroom necessities are still not installed, so I will need to use other means for taking care of these requirements of life on this trip. I will have a cooler onboard with certain things and I can carry some dry foods, so I will have some meals "at home," so to speak. The bathroom situation is another matter. I have acquired and will have with me a yellow plastic milk container that I can use for certain requirements when public facilities are not readily available. I'll let you figure out what I mean by that.

The desk/computer workstation area is set up, as was evident in earlier photos. However, it's not complete, yet. There is no wiring for power, no speaker system, no capability for printing, etc. Additionally, this area will also easily and quickly convert to a voice-over booth when the necessity for either my own projects or a client's project arises. But, the plans and materials for that are all in hand at this time. It's just a matter of fabrication and installation.

There is no house 12 volt DC or 110 AC source on board, yet. However, I recently located a source for a 245-amp hour, sealed, deep cycle, marine/industrial/RV battery at a very good price. Of course, the thing weighs 158 pounds (not too much different than a couple 100 amp hour, sealed, deep cycle batteries - combined weight). So, that will be added later this fall along with 12-vdc wiring and outlets in the appropriate places and an appropriate sized 110-vac inverter to handle the small refrigerator to be added along with the small microwave - to be used in very tiny spurts from time to time.

But, for now, it's shakedown the currently installed furnishings and get it checked out and ready for the next stage of improvements. While in northern New Jersey and, more specifically, my hometown and hometown area of Governor Chris Christie's state, I'll be stopping to visit and photograph all my old homesteads where I lived with my family as a kid through college. I'll pass by my old schools and take photos of them as well. I might just stop at the police department first to let them know who I am and why I'm taking photos - in our present day world, one very different than when I grew up Clifton, I can easily see me being reported to the police by some nosey (and properly aware) neighbor and then being picked up for "suspicious activity." That would certainly put a damper on my "hometown going" trip.

I also plan to make a stop at my favorite hot dog stand, Rutt's Hut (since 1928) and my favorite Italian restaurant, Mario's, whose pizza is my standard that I measure all other pizza by. I'm hoping to hit at least one of the old diners my family took us to for our occasional dining out treats (eating out in the 40's, 50's and 60's wasn't near as common as it is today). And, there are other familiar sights that hold fond memories that I'll photographically (and maybe a little video, too) document while I'm in the area. Of course, while I'm doing this all for myself, I'm also doing it for my son who has probably only been to my hometown on four to six occasions during his 35 year lifespan. I'd like him to at least have some pictures of his/my roots.

Of course, there are some old friends I hope to spend some time with - or at least look up. One of them I recall visiting around 1990 and I can't find a trace of him, which leads me to believe he has already gone to the great beyond. Others, I just haven't seen in 20 to 35 years and it would be nice to at least touch base after all this time.

So, look for more photos and tales from the road coming up. Stay tuned. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Welcome To My New Travel Blog

I want to start this blog off by introducing you to my American Nomadic Odyssey. Yes! This is another travel blog, as if there aren't enough travel blogs already. But, I'm hoping to take a bit of a twist with my blog.

Let Me Introduce Myself

First, here is a brief introduction of myself, your humble blogger. My name is Ed Helvey and I'm the owner and blogger at the Living Free . . .  blog. I recently turned 68 years in chronological age, although my mind keeps thinking it's still in its 30's. I'll have a detailed bio about me posted on an About page shortly for anyone who is interested in more details about me or, perhaps, just needs some reading material to help you fall asleep.

I'm single (divorced, actually) for the past 20 years. I'm the father of an adult son who lives on the opposite coast from where I'm make my home base. I have a couple obsolete college degrees. I've spent 50 years (my adult life) in the recording industry and although I consider myself semi-retired, I'm still somewhat active in the business. It's one of those things that get in your blood. I also concurrently spent about 12 years in the book publishing business as the owner of a small, trade book publishing company. I have a lot of other career credits and involvements, but these are the main things that define my professional career.

In 2008 I came to a crossroad. I had a long-term lease on a small horse ranch in the Shenandoah Valley of northwestern Virginia near the small city of Winchester. The lease was coming up for renewal and I realized I had already stayed there several years longer than I originally intended to. So, I either had to renew the lease or take my leave. So, I began shutting down the publishing business (which I wanted to do, anyway) and closing out my small recording studio and business. I then decided that it was time! Time for me to go back to my youthful days of freedom and catch up on all the travel and places I'd put off until some future date. That date was the end of 2008, I determined. So, I went on a rampage, closing down business, selling off everything I could, personal and professional and planned to no longer have a sticks and bricks, fixed residence any longer. I wanted to become a location independent, nomadic blogger, writer and freelance audio producer. And I became just that on November 1, 2008. You can learn more about that if you click on the link in the first paragraph to my Living Free blog and go back in the archives to the end of 2008.

The Focus Of My Travel Blog

I've attempted to start travel blogging for the last several years. I actual chronicle some of my travels in the Living Free blog. But, I wasn't able to get my head wrapped around the travel blogging idea because I didn't want this to just be "another" travel blog. I wanted this to have some kind of interesting twist or maybe even better, multiple twists. How many times can you read about the Grand Canyon or the Mississippi River or New York City or San Francisco (my favorite city)? Between all the PBS travel shows, the Travel Channel and other cable network travel shows, how much more of the same thing do you want to hear? I know I'm kind of overloaded on that information.

I may mention in passing that I'm at the Grand Canyon, Mississippi River or wherever I am. I'm not going to spend very much time repeating the already over repeated stuff. I'm going to look for the unique, different little things that may not be a grand as that big hole or as legendary as that mighty river, but represent as much of the true Americana (or what's left of it) as possible. It could be a small museum. It might be an old radio station dating back to the early days of radio. It might be the story telling capital of the U.S. and I might meet some storytellers. It might be a musician or musical group I find along the way. Perhaps it will be a fun restaurant or cafe. There are a myriad of possibilities when you set aside the major attractions.

Will you be interested in what I find? I hope so. Obviously, it's always different strokes for different folks. But, the reality is that I'm sure that there are a lot of people who have read (or watched) enough about the major attractions, national parks, monuments, major museums and so on. It is for your eyes and mind that I'll be writing. Perhaps, some of you remember the old "On the Road" CBS TV series with the late Charles Kuralt. Part of my model will be borrowed from that old show. Charles is sort of a role model for me.

In addition, I have two "on the road" projects I plan to undertake throughout my wandering odyssey. One of them involves identifying and recognizing a certain group of individuals I'll be seeking out as I travel from place to place. The other project involves music, the catalyst that attracted me into my career in the recording industry in 1963. I trust as these projects evolve and develop that you'll enjoy them as much as I'll enjoy working on them.

This Is Only The Beginning

That's all for this introductory post. I'm currently not on the road traveling all that much, but I'll be introducing you to "My McVansion," a Ford, high-top, conversion van that I've taken the seats out of and converted into a camping van to travel the country in. I'll fill you in on more of what I'm doing, the technology I'm using, my trip planning and what I hope to discover and other, hopefully, interesting details of my American Nomadic Odyssey.

Perhaps, through my eyes and other senses and my writing, you'll find the stimulation and motivation to take off on your own odyssey. I also hope you'll comment and feedback your thoughts and feelings about my experience. I also hope you'll share this blog with your friends and family who might also enjoy it. And, it would also be great to meet as many people who follow the blog as I can throughout my travels, so I'll keep you posted as to what direction I'll be heading and when I'll be there, approximately. I'd especially appreciate any ideas of people, places, things, foods, events, etc. that I might want to experience and enjoy. That will make this much more interactive.

I have no travels on the board currently. I'm at my eastern base camp  in Keyser, West Virginia, right now, taking care of a bunch of detail stuff that I've been dragging my feet on since I left the ranch in 2008. My actual home base is near Rapid City, South Dakota, but I'm never there. I'm in a planning stage right now and plan several trips from sometime in the summer forward. Meanwhile, I'll be completing the formatting of this site, posting about the progress and letting you know more about the two projects I have in the planning stage as they develop.

Thanks for checking in and I should have a subscription link installed on the blog in the next few days. I hope you'll subscribe.