Going full time: Talking to Friends and Family

Relationships are essential to life, especially to living a good life. What happens to relationships when you become a full-time traveler is something we all will have to struggle with. Anyone who moves away from where they grew up has had a measure of it, but I think there are unique aspects for the nomad to consider. I’m going to offer what advice I can, based on my own life experience and from my own sense of ethics.

I'm going to illustrate this article with pictures of friends and family from our wedding. This is Trail and Hitch exchanging vows.

Pictures from our wedding: Here we exchange vows. It all starts with you and those traveling with you.

When to tell, Who to tell, and How to tell

You are going to go through some stages as you move towards living on the road full-time. Those stages won’t be the same for everyone. You may move through them quickly or slowly, you may even move back and forth between them. Who you tell and what you tell people should be different depending on where you are at.

Stage 1: A notion

At this point, you have an idea to travel full time. You may be reading a blog like this one, or a magazine article, or have known someone else who has made the leap. It’s something you know you might want to do, but you aren’t certain it’s right for you, or even possible.

In this stage, I think the best approach is to discuss with friends their own thoughts on the lifestyle without indicating it is your intent. Questions like: “Have you ever thought about living on the road full-time?” or statements like: “I wonder what it would be like to travel and live in an RV.” are both a good approach. Discussing it will help you reflect and you will get a sense of how others feel about the idea without invoking any concrete fears. If asked if you are serious you can honestly respond that it’s just something you are wondering about.

Trail's brother and mother. We worried her Mom would be upset, but she was happy for us.

Trail’s brother and mother. We worried her Mom would be upset, but she was happy for us.

Stage 2: Serious consideration

At this point, you know that traveling full time is something you would like to do and your thoughts have turned to whether it is possible or prudent. This is when you should do a lot of reading and serious discussions with whomever you would be traveling with. It is time to weigh your own fears and concerns against your needs and desires. This is a time to figure out what you and those traveling with you want for yourselves and your life.

In this stage, I feel it is best to limit discussion of your ideas with a very small circle of people. These should be people you know to have the following qualities: wisdom, discretion, honesty, criticality, and generosity. You should make it clear that you want to keep the subject private because you have not made any decisions yet. You should also express that you want input, both for and against the idea. What you are looking for is council, things you may not have considered, and the opinions of people you trust as good decision makers.

My father and step mother Debra. I sought Debra's council before we made our decision knowing she'd weigh it thoughtfully and wisely.

My father and stepmother Debra. I sought Debra’s council before we made our decision knowing she’d weigh it thoughtfully and wisely.

Stage 3: Initial preparation

Now you know that traveling full time is a lifestyle you want for yourself and your immediate family. Everyone is in agreement that you want to pursue it. Typically you begin by making plans for what needs to happen to make the dream a reality. Here is where you figure out how much money you need and where it will come from. You could start limiting purchases and selling off stuff you haven’t used in a good long while in preparation for moving out. You may start building a business or making arrangements to work remotely.

This is also when it makes sense to start talking to close family and friends about your plans. Before you do that, make sure you give some thought to a couple things. Firstly, figure out who you think deserves to know ahead of time. They should only be folks who you care about, and who’s opinions you value. Secondly, you want to consider who the people in the fist group will confide in and if they would take it badly if you didn’t tell them yourself.

Make a list of the folks you want to tell. Note anyone you think might take the news badly. Consider carefully if that person is going to fight your intentions. If you’d wanted their council, you’d have sought it during phase 2, so if they are going to put up a fight you may want to save them for stage 4 when you are past the point of no return. If you didn’t want their input before, you shouldn’t let it dissuade you now.

You want to approach these conversations with the mindset that you have made a decision. “John and I have decided we want to travel full time, we’ve given it a lot of thought and are making plans. We wanted to let you know sooner rather than later.” From there, you should probably have a concise way to describe why you want to do it, and how you plan to do it.

My mom. We don't typically see eye-to-eye on much, but she supported our decision. And she looks really cool with the sword!

My mom. We don’t typically see eye-to-eye on much, but she supported our decision. And she looks really cool with the sword!

Stage 4: Committed action

At this stage, you are moving quickly up to or have passed the point of no return. This means buying your RV, tow vehicle, selling your house, or otherwise making a commitment that is very hard to back out from. There should be no doubt in your mind that you are going to try traveling full time. That doesn’t mean you have no fears of concerns, only that you are committed to facing them.

Chances are good that most people you know well have heard about what you are doing or will soon find out. There is no point in hiding the information from anyone so go ahead and let as many folks know as you care to. It’s too late for anyone to change your mind, so if someone tries to get into it with you, let them know there is no point. You’ve made up your mind and nothing anyone can say will change it.

Eventually everyone will know, popes and harlots alike.

Eventually, everyone will know, popes and harlots alike.

Stage 5: Living on the road

Now you are out and about, living the dream and facing its many challenges. Now, what matters is not who you tell, but how you keep in touch with those who you want to continue to be close to. Make sure they feel connected to you, and you to them. Depending on the person, that may involve different kinds of communications. Some folks like regular correspondence of some kind, others like the occasional missive to let them know they are still in your heart.

What to do when challenged

Unless you are very lucky, some of your friends and family may challenge your decision. Every person and every relationship is unique so I can’t give you certain answers, only general directions and ideas as to how you can manage your own feelings and responses, and how you can try to help them.

My good friend Ted. Violence is not the answer here, lets talk it out!

My good friend Ted. Violence is not the answer here, let’s talk it out!

Know your own mind

Above all, you want to know your own mind on the matter. Consider carefully what your reasons are for wanting to make this change. Have a good idea of what kind of life you want to have while traveling. Think about how you will support yourself financially. Think about how you will keep in touch with friends and family. Think about how you will keep yourself safe. Think about what you want to achieve for yourself on your journey. Finally, practice expressing these things so it’s easy to tell others. When people understand you, and that you have given it long and careful thought, they are less likely to challenge you.

Believe in yourself

This is your decision, and your life. Only you have the responsibility and authority to make this decision. When others challenge you, consider them offering you their advice, not that they actually have a say in your decision. Thank them for their advice, and tell them you will think about it carefully, but make it clear they don’t get a “vote.” The decision is yours, and if you make it crystal clear you have already made it, many will naturally back off. Those who are wise will try to support you.

Not from the wedding, but today these are among our very dearest friends and some of the first we told.

Not from the wedding, but today these are among our very dearest friends and some of the first we told.

Understand the reasons people might object and how to respond

There are a number of reasons, good and bad, that people might object to what you are doing. Typically they fall under two motivations: people who are worried about you and people who are worried about themselves. Both of these are legitimate reasons to object. You might think people worrying about themselves are selfish, and that might be true, but consider that your decision to go is one based on your own interests. Looking after yourself and what makes you happy and healthy is something we all must do. That is what they are doing. You don’t have to do what someone wants you to, but you should try to have sympathy for it.

Advice that applies to everyone is this: listen to what they have to say. Let them speak their mind, and do your best to let them know you heard and understood what they told you. That is always the fist step to coming to an understanding. Also, remember that you can only control yourself, and others cannot control you. Have respect for them and insist they respect you likewise.

The groomsmen, 2 of 3 remain among my best friends. Dennis (middle) and Tom (right) both put us up during our transition and travels.

The groomsmen, 2 of 3 remain among my best friends. Dennis (middle) and Tom (right) both put us up during our transition and travels.

Those worried about you

People who are worried about you will express their fears. Your safety on the road is a common one. Another is whether you can make a living while traveling. Another is that you will be lonely away from friends and family. These are all good things to worry about. You should be thinking on them, and by the time you are challenged you should have thought of how you are going to deal with these challenges. When talking to someone who has these fears:

  1. Acknowledge the concern and that you share it.
  2. Tell them how you plan to deal with the challenge.
  3. Ask them for their advice (other than not to go) on how to deal with the challenge.
  4. Let them know you are confident that you can overcome the challenge, especially with their help.
Uncle Mark and Sister Rose. Rose is studying in Japan, Mark, sadly, passed away this year. He is missed.

Uncle Mark and Sister Rose. Rose is studying in Japan, Mark, sadly, passed away this year. He is missed.

Those worried for themselves

People who are worried for themselves will take one of two tracks, sometimes both. The direct and honest one is to say how much they will miss you and wish you would stay. There is both pain and pleasure in hearing it and its the sign of a close and honest relationship. I think the best response is to tell them you feel the same, that you will do your best to stay in touch, to visit when you can, and will miss them very much when you are away. Also, tell them you hope they will work to stay in touch with you while you travel.

Then there are folks who will express their fear for themselves by attacking you in some way. They may tell you that you are not living up to your responsibilities to family, or perhaps your responsibilities to society. They may claim you are afraid of hard work, or of settling down, or are running away from something you are afraid of. Understand people most often see the fault in others that they fear in themselves. The truth is likely that they don’t want to lose your company, or are jealous of what you are going to do. Instead of admitting that, they are accusing you of what they project their own motives would be. Here is my advice in responding:

  1. Try to focus on sympathy rather than anger before you respond.
  2. Don’t try to rebut the accusation or attack, instead, tell them your reasons for what you are doing.
  3. Ask them if they have ever dreamed of doing something similar.
  4. Tell them you will miss them and will do your best to keep in touch.
  5. Let them know your decision is already made but you appreciate their advice.
Kia & Kekovar

We didn’t tell these two what our plans were until it was too late… for them!

Protect yourself

If despite your best efforts, someone remains belligerent and hostile I recommend you don’t speak with them again until you have set out on the road. They are entitled to their opinions and beliefs, but you are under no obligation to respect or heed them, and the conflict will do neither of you any good. Some people simply need time to let bad news sink in, others are honestly poisonous people you would be better of not having a relationship with if you can help it.

Keeping in touch on the road

I think the fundamental truth of any personal relationship is that people like to know that you care about them. Each person is different in how they express their care and what it takes for them to recognize such expressions. Often the most difficult relationships are when two people do indeed care, but have a serious mismatch in how they express and perceive expressions of caring.

If you mindfully want to keep in touch with someone give consideration to how they like to communicate and what makes them feel cared about. For some, a hand written postcard is very personal. For other people, they most want to see and hear you live. Others who grew up in the digital age may well find correspondence by email or social network satisfying. Some may be happy just to hear what you are up to second-hand. And some folks simply know you care and don’t need any reminders.

There are so many ways to keep in touch now: Mail, Email, Postcards, Social Networks, Video Chat, Blogs, Video Blogs, Virtual Reality, Video Games, Bulletin Boards, Word of Mouth (tell so and so I miss her), E-cards, Delivery services, Singing Telegrams, Texting, and probably plenty more I don’t know about. Figuring out how to do all this should be part of your planning for your new lifestyle.

Also not my wedding, but a great picture of my sister Rose.

Also not my wedding, but a great picture of my sister Rose.

In Closing

I hope you have found the thoughts and advice helpful. I know that in the heat of emotion, it may be hard to follow some of this advice. Keep in mind that you don’t have to close doors. If you took the wrong approach at first, think about what happened, on what you should have done, and try again. Our relationships are among the most important things in our lives. They likely shape our lives more than anything else ever will. They can give us enormous strength, or they can tear us down. Be wary of those who would stand in the way of your dreams. Treasure those that give you strength and peace. Treasure them more than money, gold, or any other material concern.

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Attack of the Swooshes

Swoosh Curious

Prior to taking off and living full time in our Airstream, Trail and I paid little attention to the RVs we saw from time to time in neighbor’s yards or along the street. Now we see dozens on a daily basis. We began to pay close attention to similarities and differences among them. One thing that grabbed our attention before long were the swooshes. Nearly everywhere we looked, swooshes. Big ones, small ones, in all colors, and in a huge range of patterns. We had wandered out of our old life and into the valley of the almighty swoosh.

I began to wonder who decided swooshes were the best way to decorate RVs and why? It was clear that many different brands and manufacturers were using them. The only modern exceptions I could find were the Airstreams and the rental RVs. Airstreams typically have no decoration at all, just gleaming aluminum and their streamline jet-age design aesthetic. Rental RVs tend to be rolling advertisements for their service showing nature scapes, fake family members peering out of the windows and “Rent Me” in large letters on the back. I wondered whether they were made so ugly in part to deter theft.

Staying in a park with older RVs it became clear the swooshes were something of a modern trend. Older models tended to feature roll stripes or pinstripes. Typically the older it appeared, judging by wear and grime, the fewer swooshes there were to be found. I even spotted a few “swoosh curious” designs with a roll stripe and a swoosh or two lurking about. I decided to try and find out more about the swoosh.

A prime example of the energy drink style, with maximum swoosh factor.

A prime example of the energy drink style, with maximum swoosh factor.

Swoosh Fever

As part of my investigation, I visited a few sites specializing in aftermarket RV decoration. Instead of offering a reprieve from the swoosh-tastic world of the commercial RV, their most popular service appears to be doubling down on your swoosh count. The before and after pictures are a long series of “some swooshes” before, and “MANY SWOOSHES” after. It would appear that manufacturers are not part of some swoosh conspiracy but instead are reacting to consumer demand for maximum swoosh. If anything they appear to be trying to save money by limiting swoosh counts below the full level of demand.

The very newest of 5th wheels and travel trailers seem to be embracing a further evolution of the swoosh design I refer to as the Energy Drink Aesthetic. These feature more dynamic swooshes, higher contrast, darker colors, and powerful energy names like Raptor or Razor. Innovations like the split tail swoosh and lightning bolt swoosh give these trailers a radical edge, ready to dominate the more pastoral swoosh-mobiles and give nightmares to the roll stripe RVs of old.

 I'll be honest.. fellas, it was looking great. But.. I could've used a little more swoosh.

I’ll be honest.. fellas, it was looking great. But.. I could’ve used a little more swoosh.

Swoosh History

In my hunt for the origin of the Swoosh I first spoke with RV historian and collector David Woodworth proprietor of the Tin Lizzy Inn, a bed-and-breakfast that offers the opportunity to drive a restored Model-T. Mr. Woodworth did not recall exactly when or how the swooshes came to prominence but related that RV manufacturers were forever looking for a competitive edge by borrowing from design in other industries. Also, when one manufacturer has success with an idea, many others will soon follow in their wake. He suggested I follow up with a manufacturer that has been in the business for some time.

I decided to contact Winnebago, one of the most venerable manufacturers. They put me in touch with Craig Rojohn, a graphic designer who has been working at the company for 35 years and has seen his share of trends come and go with Winnebago often leading the way in new designs. Craig began his career in the 80s and told us that prior to that, and well into the 80s roll striping (like a pinstripe but broader) was the standard decoration, a design that became popular in the 70s and had quite a long run.

This is actually a new Winnebago, the Tribute, created to look very much like their classic designs.

This is actually a new Winnebago, the Tribute, created to look very much like their classic designs.

Craig told us that in the 80s Winnebago started going for a more streamlined look in their styling and body shape. At the same time, they began embellishing the roll stripes with cuts and curves giving them a more dynamic look, but the essential idea was much the same. Moving into the 90s many trailers began featuring painted designs of animals, or nature scenes in addition to the roll striping. Craig felt around 1998 Winnebago started doing full body styling paint on their high-end motorhomes by which time swooshes were taking hold.

In my own research, I found the first true swooshes on a Winnebago with the 1996 Vectra Grand Tour. Its swooshes are where roll striping would normally be and there is a two note paint with the off-tone along the bottom. Poking around at other contemporary trailers of the time, I can find a few ribbon designs where the roll striping takes on a wavy pattern but no true swoosh. From their humble beginnings the swooshes quickly gained in popularity and by the mid-2000s most brands were embracing the swoosh to some degree and Winnebago, according to Craig, had almost entirely dropped the roll striping on their motorhomes.

Today, Winnebago feels this particular trend of motorhome styling has peaked and they are looking to innovate again, this time moving back to a look Craig Rojohn described to me as “more simple and elegant” with at least a hint of the old striping making a comeback. The 2016 line-up is definitely not what I would call retro, but there are hints of earlier design elements, some harkening back to the popular two-tone look of many 1950s and 1960s trailer designs.

This could be one of the earliest swoosh decorated RVs from a major brand.

This 1996 Vectra could be one of the earliest swoosh decorated RVs from a major brand.

Swooshless in Seattle

I think it would take more time than I care to invest in order to find the true origin of the swoosh. Like many things, the point at which the first swoosh made an appearance and who designed it may well be impossible to pin down with authority. A slow evolution of design seems to be the order of the day with the roll stripe slowly transforming into waves and then swooshes.

It’s clear from looking at so many RVs and their designs that the swoosh, as well as the roll stripe and other decorations, are an attempt to give RVs a streamlined look. To transform them from a blocky monster to something that looks manageable on the road and evokes a sense of travel and adventure. And they are clearly successful. Modern RVs do look to be dynamic and streamlined despite the fact that they are in truth large and mostly big brick shaped things.

Perhaps the least decorated RV I've seen so far. It could do with some swooshes I think.

Perhaps the least decorated RV I’ve seen so far. It could do with some swooshes I think.

No doubt Nike had some influence here, their swoosh trademark on its own is valued at some 30 billion dollars. Also at play were technological advancements in automated painting that made full body styling both possible and affordable on a large scale. The earliest swooshes cost customers extra, and today there seems to be a thriving business in aftermarket swoosh application. It’s clear that whoever created them, people like them very much.

Being Airstream owners, we have no swooshes. Airstreams are pretty dynamic looking on their own due to their curved shapes and shiny metal materials. A certain amount of swooshy-ness is simply inherent in their design, inspired by the aircraft of the early 20th century. We will always be swoosh-less creatures awash in a sea of swooshes great and small. Yet whatever style or decorations we have, it is a brotherhood and sisterhood of fellow travelers and adventurers, all seeking to capture the spirit of the wind in our mobile homes, harnessing it to carry us to parts unknown.

The Yamato

Ah those graceful curves, all shiny and chrome! I think I will call you home, sweet home!

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Choosing an Airstream Trailer

Perhaps you have considered many brands or perhaps you always had aluminum dreams and it’s Airstream or bust for you. However you came to the decision, you desire the shiny awesomeness of the world’s greatest travel trailer and are now on the hunt for one to call your own.

Like most purchasing decisions, I think you need to start with what you need, then explore your options, and finally, pick the option that best suits your needs. Let’s get started with some questions designed to get you thinking about what you need.

  • How much time will you spend in your Airstream?
  • How many people will typically sleep in your Airstream?
  • What activities do you plan to do in your Airstream?
  • How much handy work for your trailer are you willing or able to engage in?
  • What type of interior style makes you feel at home?
  • Are you the rugged adventure or the lap of luxury type?
  • Do you want to buy it with cash or credit?  Either way, how much are you able and willing to pay?
Airstream and SUV

Airstreams are lighter than many brands and many can be towed by an SUV.

New vs Used

A shiny new Airstream is a wonderful thing. The look beautiful, smell wonderful, and everything is incredibly clean and shiny. They also come with extensive warranties on nearly every part and component. They will have the most recent technology and newest appliances as well as features the manufacturers have added over the years. They will also be very expensive, among the most expensive trailers money can buy.

People generally buy used Airstreams because they can save money. Like cars, the sweet spot is often used Airstreams only a few years old where the owners have had a change of heart or financial status. Unless they were in an accident, it is unlikely they have any significant damage and you will shave off at least a quarter of what it would cost to get a brand new one. Trailers with many years or miles on them may need significant repairs. The older it is, the more important a thorough inspection is going to be. Many, very expensive defects can very hard to see by just “looking.”

Of course, some folks specifically want “Vintage” Airstreams. In this case, it is like buying an antique. You are looking for a specific aesthetic and style and depending on how rare it is, and in what condition it is in, you may pay a real premium for it. A perfectly restored vintage Airstream can easily cost as much as a new one. Most will be short of that mark and you may well be able to get a bargain on one. While the motivations may be a little different, the need for inspecting one carefully before buying remains.

Some of the vintage Airstreams are prized for their incredible mirror polish.

Some of the vintage Airstreams are prized for their incredible mirror polish.

Large vs Small

New Airstreams start on the small end at just over 16′ long and can go as big as a smidge over 31′. Vintage models can vary even more widely. The obvious advantage of going big is that you have more space in your trailer. This means you can sleep more people, have more storage, more appliances, bigger bathrooms, bigger kitchens, more places to sit and so on. Your only traveling advantage is you will have larger tanks for waste water, this means you can spend more time somewhere before needing to find a dumping station.

Smaller Airstreams are easier to tow and can be parked in more places. We have had to camp outside of some national parks because their camping and trailer spaces were simply too small for our 30′ trailer and the big truck we tow it with. Smaller Airstreams can be towed by smaller vehicles. A 16′ sport can be towed by nearly any SUV equipped with a sturdy hitch. They are also simply easier to tow because they have less trailer sway, less momentum, and can make tighter turns.

And of course, there is price, the bigger they are, the more they will cost. My recommendation is to start by checking out the largest models. See how they feel. Then explore subsequently smaller models, each time asking yourself, is this comfortable? So long as the answer is “yes, this feels comfortable” keep looking at the next size down. When you start to feel unreasonably cramped in any part of the trailer, you should go one step up from there. Basically, get the smallest one that feels comfortable and you should be happy.

Single axle Airstreams are often called a Bambi. This one sure is cute!

Single axle Airstreams are often called a Bambi. This one sure is cute!

Interior Design

There are two real considerations here, style and function. The more time you plan to spend in your Airstream, the more important both are. The best way to find out what will work for you is to tour Airstreams in person. Even if you plan to buy used from a classified, head to an Airstream dealer and tour as many models as possible. Wear clean clothes so you can sit in the chairs, lay down in the bed, stand in the shower and pretend to cook in the kitchen. Go through the motions of living in it and you will best discover what your needs are.

Picking the right styling is really a matter of taste. You want to feel good while inside the trailer. If you feel a sense of comfort with an edge of excitement that is probably exactly right for you. If you feel somehow stressed or sad you should keep looking.

Selecting for function is harder. There will always be compromises because there is a limited space. Sleeping, eating, and using the bathroom are all essential for pretty much everyone. When you examine an Airstream, simulate each of these activities to some degree. Just looking at the toilet won’t really let you know if it’s going to fit you. Have a seat, try to get comfortable. If you have hobbies or plan to work inside the Airstream, think carefully about that as well. Where will you do that and how disruptive will it be for others in the space available?

I recommend against too much consideration to storage space. Your trailer will generally cost more than the stuff you put in it, so better to get the trailer that fits your lifestyle, and then buy stuff that fits in your trailer.

airstream international serenity

The serenity interior, with some unlikely but pretty table settings.

Is the price right?

If you are looking at a new airstream, make sure you get the best price from the dealer that you can. They cost a significant amount so a small percentage of savings on the price can be a big boon. The rule of thumb is that you should be able to great a new Airstream in the range of 15%-20% off the manufacturer’s retail price. Until you hit that range, don’t fall for anyone telling you they are going to disappear or run out or any other tactic to get you to hurry. The only reason to “act now” is if the price is good.

If you are going to finance an Airstream, take the loan terms into account as well. Exactly what is a good rate will depend on your credit and the prime interest rate at the time so I don’t have specific advice. Do some research on car loans and know your credit rating going in. Try not to swap better prices for worse loans or the like, get a good deal on both!

This is a 1950s era Airstream with a very cool customized interior.

This is a 1950s era Airstream with a very cool customized interior.

Tips to get a good price on new airstreams

  • Pick a specific sales person at the dealership, promise to buy from them when you find the right deal
  • Comparison shop at dealers in your region of the country
  • Hit up the trade shows if your dealer is there, sometimes they offer better bargains
  • Ask your sales person to let you know about deals as they come up
  • Tell them up front you are looking to get 20% off retail but you have some flexibility
  • Don’t be in too much of a hurry, start shopping before you intend to buy

If you are shopping for a used airstream, things tend to be more complicated. If you buy from a dealer, the same tips above apply but instead of retail prices, hunt around for the same year/condition of ones you are interested in and bring those with you while shopping. Also, if you do hit a great bargain, you may indeed want to seal the deal. But, never rush an inspection of the trailer, go over it in any and every way you can think of to make sure there are no surprises. This page on vintage airstream is great for models from the 70s or older. For newer ones, hit up sites like Airstream Classifieds and do comparisons of like models.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate, the worst that happens is folks say no. Your best approach is to name a price you want to pay but think is fair. Just make sure you are interested in buying it before haggling. Getting a concession on price and then saying nevermind is wasting peoples time and energy.

 

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Country Corners RV Park: Caldwell, ID

Country Corners is a smallish RV park located near Caldwell Idaho, very close to the Oregon border. We booked a week here since it was reasonably priced and close to where we are getting our Trailer serviced. Normally we choose parks based on their proximity to a place to visit, but in this case we were hunkered down working for the week. All in all, it’s a nice park, very pretty, and at a reasonable price.

Nights: 7

RV Park Cost: $240 ($30/night)

Discounts Used: Good Sam RV Club

Address: 17671 Oasis Rd, Caldwell, ID 83607

GPS: 43.806846, -116.744351

Websitewww.countrycornersrvpark.com

Pros

  • Pretty grounds
  • Friendly Staff
  • Full hookups
  • Close to services

Cons

  • Typical camp WiFi, aka not so great.
This picnic area is typical of the site, a nice mix of garden, lawn and trees.

This picnic area is typical of the site, a nice mix of garden, lawn and trees.

Country corners lives up to what the name might lead you to expect. It feels rural and there are plenty of trees around the property as well as a small pond. Pads are gravel with nice grassy medians between them. They offer full hook-ups and free WiFi at all the parking spots. Amenities are limited to a small store, lounge area, laundry, bathrooms, and individual showers. All of these are clean and well maintained. The real star here are the grounds themselves which are pretty and well maintained.

The WiFi signal was not strong enough in our spot to rely upon while we were staying here but both our Verizon and Sprint cell services had strong signals. Other areas of the park got better signals. Thoughtfully, the camp owner asked me how it was working from us while I was in the store. He was disappointed to hear we were having trouble as he’d just had new equipment installed and apologized for the trouble. We discussed some of the challenges in getting a good WiFi system in place at a reasonable price. Both he and his wife clearly care about their park and their guests comfort.

Friendly folk enjoy the air at the country corner camp store and office.

Friendly folk enjoy the air at the country corner camp store and office.

Country Corners isn’t the cheapest of RV parks but the rates were fair and they do offer discounts for a number of clubs. Their slogan is “Arrive as a Guest, leave as a friend.” and given the many nice conversations I had with the owners and workers, I think they live up to the slogan.

 

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10 National Parks and 10 Presidents

Just after my visit to Minidoka National Historic Site, I came back to our Airstream and read a flurry of Facebook and Twitter posts on Obama and the First Family visiting Yosemite National Park in honor of the National Park Service’s Centennial. This got me thinking about the history of our National Parks and National Monuments and how they were created. Of the many that are out there, here are my favorite ten.

Yosemite National Park & Abraham Lincoln

Yosemite National park

Yosemite National park

Although President Lincoln has his hands full with the Civil War, he took pause long enough to sign a bill in 1864 establishing Yosemite Valley and the giant groves of sequoias within as an “inalienable public trust” to be managed by the State of California. Although Yosemite didn’t become a National Park until after John Muir’s arduous advocacy until 1890, Abraham’s Yosemite Act of 1894 set a president for the protection and preservation of Yellowstone, and other national parks to follow.

Yellowstone National Park & Ulysses S. Grant

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Under Grant’s administration, a number of expeditions were sent to explore the Yellowstone Region from 1869 to 1870. When they returned with reports of immense wonder and declaring the location as a “pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” Grant signed the Act of Dedication in 1872. More government expeditions were sent to Yellowstone thereafter, up through 1890, all logging and recording much of the park and surrounding area of the now nationally beloved park.

Hot Springs National Park & Andrew Jackson

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park

Hot-headed President Jackson, while campaigning for his second term and actively working toward the removal of Native Americans that would lead directly to the Trail of Tears, signed a legislation in 1832 that would permanently set aside land within the Arkansas Territory as a federally protected reservation. Once known as Hot Springs Reservation, today that park is called Hot Springs National Park.

Crater Lake National Park & Theodore Roosevelt

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Theodore Roosevelt is regarded to be the ultimate natural preservation president. He set aside a total of 230 million acres of land for protection under federal law. He presided the creation of the National Forest Service and the signing of the Antiquities Act. He also created the first wildlife refuge in Florida in 1903 to protect a colony of pelicans. Later he would go on to help create more than 50 bird sanctuaries, 18 monuments, and five national parks, one of them being Crater Lake National Park, our nation’s sixth national park.

Grand Canyon National Park & Woodrow Wilson

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

On February 26, 1919, only three years after the creation of the National Parks Service, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Grand Canyon National Park Act. It was one of his last legacies before suffering from a debilitating stroke later that same year. He did have help from both Presidents Theodore Rosevelt and Benjamin Harrison. Harrison designated much of the Grand Canyon area as a preserve in 1893, while Roosevelt upgraded the area as a National Monument in 1908.

Grand Teton National Park & Calvin Coolidge

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

President Calvin Coolidge enjoyed the outdoors and relished in the romance of the American Wild West. As an experienced rider, Coolidge even installed an electric bucking horse in the White House as a form of exercise. On the same day as the signing of Wilson’s Grand Canyon National Park Act, but a decade later, President Coolidge signed a bill in 1929 establishing Grand Teton National Park, after being pressured by locals who declared “we have tried ranching, stock-raising, and from our experience have become of the firm belief that this region will find its highest use as a playground.” Located only 10 miles south of Yellowstone, the area was first established as a reserve by President Grover Cleveland in 1872. It wasn’t until 1950, that Jackson Hole was added to Grand Teton National Park, bringing the total acreage up to 310,000.

Olympic National Park and Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

Theodore Roosevelt originally created Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909, but It was designated a national park by Theodore’s fifth cousin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was only in the previous year, FDR and Ickles decided to enter into a 30-year controversy between conservationists, natives, and loggers. While on a tour of the area, Franklin Roosevelt saw the devastation wrought by loggers, and he said, “I hope the son-of-a-bitch who is responsible for this is roasting in hell.” Unbeknownst to him at the time, he was looking at federal land that was unlawfully deforested by loggers. When he did discover the deception, it only drove his desires to create a national park on June 29, 1938.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument & Bill Clinton

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

The area encompassing Grand Staircase-Escalante National within the state of Utah was declared as a national monument by President Bill Clinton in 1996, under the Antiquities Act. When the monument was declared, the ceremony was held at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and not in Utah. In addition to this slight, the Utah Congressional delegation and state governor were only notified 24 hours in advance of the declaration. Needless to say, Clinton lost Utah during the campaign for his second term.

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument & George W. Bush

Papahānaumokuākea National Monument

Papahānaumokuākea National Monument

Much of the preservation of the Northwestern Hawaii Islands began in 1909 with Theodore Roosevelt, much of the actual reef’s preservation was done by Bill Clinton as a Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve in 2000. The real proclamation was done by George W. Bush in 2006 after he and his wife viewed a documentary film, Voyage to Kure. Compelled by the film’s description of the flora and fauna of the region, Bush signed the proclamation under the Antiquities Act.

San Juan Islands National Monument & Barak Obama

San Juan National Monument

San Juan National Monument

On March 25, 2013, President Obama signed a proclamation to designate the San Juan Islands National Monument. The proclamation states that “The protection of these lands in the San Juan Islands will maintain their historical and cultural significance and enhance their unique and varied natural and scientific resources, for the benefit of all Americans.” So far this is just one of 22 national monuments created by Obama under the Antiquities Act.

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Blogging Thoughts

I’m fairly proud of our blogging efforts to date and we’ve learned a few things along the way. I thought it was time to reflect a little on where we started at, where we have gotten to, and where we are going. Our first post was in late October 2015, and as I write this we are in late July 2016 and we have more than 180 posts on the blog. In the last few months we have been trying to have a new post every day and with a few exceptions have hit that mark.

Our goals for Trail and Hitch were three-fold. Firstly to chronicle our journey for ourselves. Secondly to share our adventures with friends and family. Thirdly to build a wider audience and make money off the writing by providing information, entertainment, and inspiration to others. The first two are easily accomplished and there are few measuring sticks beyond our own satisfaction. The last involves much more consideration.

Making money with a blog

Only in exceptional circumstances does a blog make much money quickly. There are no shortage of amazing travel bloggers out there to compete with. Even when you drill down to young tech-savvy couples living full time while traveling America there are more blogs than you can easily count. Building an audience and finding the right information to sell is difficult in the extreme, though of course not impossible.

The general advice is that you find a niche focus, serve that audience very well with good information, and find some good or service you can offer that solves a problem for that audience. It is also recommended you value quality over quantity in your blog writing since typically only a few articles will really resonate with people and drive revenue. Finally, you should focus as much on promotion and audience building as the content itself. Both content and promotion are important, but promotion is a constant process and content is required only now and again.

Blogging in a truck?  Yep, if Trail is on a long shopping trip. It even has a 120 volt outlet.

Blogging in a truck? Yep, if Trail is on a long shopping trip. It even has a 120-volt outlet.

Our blog strategy

On our blog, we do most of that “wrong” though at the moment I am content to do so. We put out mountains of content, more I think than even some dedicated readers have a mind for. We spend very little time promoting the blog beyond a single RV community I am involved in and through our social networks. We have very little focus in our blog, it has articles on nearly every aspect of our travels and then some. When checking views, I indeed see that the vast majority are reading a few key articles that are commonly searched for on Google. We also have nothing to sell just yet and only make income through affiliate advertising.

My strategy at the moment is to keep creating articles of all sorts to find out what works and to build a library of writing I can turn into course material, books, or articles for other sites. When an article is popular, it helps me find a future focus I can work at finding ways to monetize. The high quantity of content has also served to help both Trail and I hone our writing skills. We have both learned a lot in the process.

Is it Working?

While it has been slow going, we have had some measure of success. The audience for the blog is growing slowly but steadily and we’ve met some cool folks by sharing our stories. Our affiliate income through Amazon is pretty small, but it has gone from one sale a month if we were lucky, to about one every week. I don’t expect to be living off the income anytime soon if ever, but it’s great to do something you love and make a little money at it.

I think we will continue the cascade of content for now. If we start to run out of ideas for articles we may slacken the pace. I think my next effort will be to try and focus some of our articles towards Airstream enthusiasts. Our most popular posts all have Airstream in the title and are slanted towards Airstream owners and buyers. It seems there is a bit less competition in that space so we get more of the search traffic. Speaking of traffic, Google searches account for the majority of our views. Facebook links are a distant second place. Most other bloggers I’ve spoken to see the same on their blogs.

Behold, $30 in 30 days. Trust me, this is an improvement!

Behold, $30 in 30 days. Trust me, this is an improvement!

How about you?

If you keep a blog, we’d love to hear about it and your thoughts regarding writing and making money from it as I’m sure would others. If you want to promote yours here, now’s the perfect opportunity. Also, if you have feedback on the blog, we’d love to hear it. Praise always feels nice but critique is often most helpful.

 

 

The post Blogging Thoughts appeared first on The Adventures of Trail & Hitch.

Blogging Thoughts

I’m fairly proud of our blogging efforts to date and we’ve learned a few things along the way. I thought it was time to reflect a little on where we started at, where we have gotten to, and where we are going. Our first post was in late October 2015, and as I write this we are in late July 2016 and we have more than 180 posts on the blog. In the last few months we have been trying to have a new post every day and with a few exceptions have hit that mark.

Our goals for Trail and Hitch were three-fold. Firstly to chronicle our journey for ourselves. Secondly to share our adventures with friends and family. Thirdly to build a wider audience and make money off the writing by providing information, entertainment, and inspiration to others. The first two are easily accomplished and there are few measuring sticks beyond our own satisfaction. The last involves much more consideration.

Making money with a blog

Only in exceptional circumstances does a blog make much money quickly. There are no shortage of amazing travel bloggers out there to compete with. Even when you drill down to young tech-savvy couples living full time while traveling America there are more blogs than you can easily count. Building an audience and finding the right information to sell is difficult in the extreme, though of course not impossible.

The general advice is that you find a niche focus, serve that audience very well with good information, and find some good or service you can offer that solves a problem for that audience. It is also recommended you value quality over quantity in your blog writing since typically only a few articles will really resonate with people and drive revenue. Finally, you should focus as much on promotion and audience building as the content itself. Both content and promotion are important, but promotion is a constant process and content is required only now and again.

Blogging in a truck?  Yep, if Trail is on a long shopping trip. It even has a 120 volt outlet.

Blogging in a truck? Yep, if Trail is on a long shopping trip. It even has a 120-volt outlet.

Our blog strategy

On our blog, we do most of that “wrong” though at the moment I am content to do so. We put out mountains of content, more I think than even some dedicated readers have a mind for. We spend very little time promoting the blog beyond a single RV community I am involved in and through our social networks. We have very little focus in our blog, it has articles on nearly every aspect of our travels and then some. When checking views, I indeed see that the vast majority are reading a few key articles that are commonly searched for on Google. We also have nothing to sell just yet and only make income through affiliate advertising.

My strategy at the moment is to keep creating articles of all sorts to find out what works and to build a library of writing I can turn into course material, books, or articles for other sites. When an article is popular, it helps me find a future focus I can work at finding ways to monetize. The high quantity of content has also served to help both Trail and I hone our writing skills. We have both learned a lot in the process.

Is it Working?

While it has been slow going, we have had some measure of success. The audience for the blog is growing slowly but steadily and we’ve met some cool folks by sharing our stories. Our affiliate income through Amazon is pretty small, but it has gone from one sale a month if we were lucky, to about one every week. I don’t expect to be living off the income anytime soon if ever, but it’s great to do something you love and make a little money at it.

I think we will continue the cascade of content for now. If we start to run out of ideas for articles we may slacken the pace. I think my next effort will be to try and focus some of our articles towards Airstream enthusiasts. Our most popular posts all have Airstream in the title and are slanted towards Airstream owners and buyers. It seems there is a bit less competition in that space so we get more of the search traffic. Speaking of traffic, Google searches account for the majority of our views. Facebook links are a distant second place. Most other bloggers I’ve spoken to see the same on their blogs.

Behold, $30 in 30 days. Trust me, this is an improvement!

Behold, $30 in 30 days. Trust me, this is an improvement!

How about you?

If you keep a blog, we’d love to hear about it and your thoughts regarding writing and making money from it as I’m sure would others. If you want to promote yours here, now’s the perfect opportunity. Also, if you have feedback on the blog, we’d love to hear it. Praise always feels nice but critique is often most helpful.

 

 

The post Blogging Thoughts appeared first on The Adventures of Trail & Hitch.

Minidoka Interment

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized Executive Order 9066, it seized the freedom of over 110,000 people. Two-thirds were American citizens and half of the total population interned were just children. Why? What did those people do? They did nothing. They were sent off to camps and imprisoned for two reasons only: fear and prejudice. When Imperial Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, fears of invasion increased. Rumors of Japanese residents signaling enemies from shore circulated like wildfire. While the FBI found no truth to these rumors, Roosevelt caved into the demands of his military advisors and signed the Executive Order on February 19, 1942. Over the course of a year, nearly 13,000 people of Japanese ancestry were imprisoned in Minidoka War Relocation Center.

The Guard Tower marks the entrance to Miniadoka National Historical Site

The Guard Tower marks the entrance to Miniadoka National Historical Site

Minidoka Today

When Hitch and I visited, the day was bright, sunny, but not too warm. A nice light breeze whispered through the wheat fields, while the birds sang livelily. We parked our truck at the entrance, near the Guard Tower and Military Police Building remains. The Relocation Center was originally a 33, 000-acre site, and at its peak uses, some 600 buildings were crowded on to only 946 acres. The rest of the lands was used for farming, to grow the food needed to feed those who were wrongly interned there. Today many of the buildings are gone, and much of the land has been turned into fields of wheat and corn.

Military Police Building. The only structure built from stone.

Military Police Building. The only structure built from stone.

We took the 1.6-mile loop trail around what remains of the original camp. Along the way, there were signs and kiosks describing what was here originally. Commemorative plaques of those who died and solar-power audio recordings add potency to what happened here, and how those injured tried to make the best of what they had. Not much of the original camp remains, faithful replicas serve as solemn reminders to the challenging life of the residents.

There were 44 blocks and in each block, there were 12 barracks, plus three other buildings: a latrine, mess hall and recreation hall. Roughly 300 people lived in one block. Today, Block 22 is the only block remaining, with a single barrack and the mess hall; both are reproductions. At one of the kiosks, I learn that Block 44 is where those who were taking from Bainbridge Island and the Pacific Northwest were housed.

As we finished up our short visit, passing by barb wire near the canal, I made a silent promise to visit the Bainbridge Island Memorial.

Barracks

Living Barracks. 12 in each block, with 44 blocks, there were a total of 528 barracks where internees lived.

Mess Hall on Block 22

Mess Hall on Block 22

Root Cellar

Root Cellar

Honor Roll Memorial

Honor Roll Memorial – A list of names of the Japanese American Internees who volunteered and served in the war.

Redwing Blackbird Upon the Guard Tower

Redwing Blackbird Upon the Guard Tower

Baseball

Baseball Center Field Rebuilt. This is where the Japanese American Internees spent their past-times. There were 14 in the camp.

 

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The Great Courses: Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor

Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor is our most recent exploration of history through The Great Courses audio lectures. Listening to something educational while we haul the trailer is both a good way to pass the time and helps ease the stress of driving. This was a topic I knew so little about to begin with that I didn’t know where Asia Minor was when we started it. It turned out I was familiar with some of its history, but as with all the great courses, there was a lot more to learn.

In case you don’t know, Asia Minor is the area now occupied by the modern state of Turkey and it connects the middle east and Southwest Asia to the European continent. As we learned, due to this unique location bridging the divide between many great civilizations, its history is marked by shifts of influence over time, sometimes influenced most strongly by the western cultures of Europe, sometimes by the eastern cultures of the Arabian peninsula or beyond. The course begins with a discussion of the Hittites, then moves into the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Romans, the Persian Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and finally the Ottomans which are the root of the modern Turks.

A map of Anatolia, now Turkey, during the Byzantine Empire.

A map of Anatolia, now Turkey, during the Byzantine Empire.

In addition to the constantly shifting political and military history, professor Kenneth W. Harl, Ph.D. also covers the social and religious influences that wash across the area and intermingle in remarkable ways. We get a wonderful insight into how the Hellenist faith took root here, how it mingled with Jewish traditions, then was revolutionized by early Christianity, then the Roman Christian Faith, then Eastern Orthodoxy, and finally Islam. In each case, the older faiths influenced the newer ones creating rich traditions and cultures that went on to have far-reaching cultural impacts around the world.

Hittites were the first ancient empire covered in the lectures.

Hittites were the first ancient empire covered in the lectures.

The professor is both very knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about the topic at hand. His expertise in Hellenistic history does show as they get the lion’s share of the course and their influence is harkened back to often in other sections. I’d have enjoyed a bit more about some of the empires I was less familiar with but I enjoyed all of what I learned about the Greeks. Of course, part of the reason for this is the Greeks simply wrote down much more of their history than later empires so we have more details to consider and discuss. Professor Harl is well spoken but his consistently high energy presentation can get hypnotically one-note after a time. This was the first of the Great courses where I occasionally got a bit sleepy listening hours on end while driving. Not because the content or voice was dull, only due to the lack of variation in tone and rather frequent interjections compared to other lecturers in the series.

Like all the Great Courses, I came away with in incredible wealth of new knowledge and insights while at the same time being entertained by grand stories of the past. This course is well worth your time and money, though I would suggest taking it a chapter at a time rather than the 4-hour binges we do while driving.

The ruins at Ephesus, among many ancient sites I hope to one day visit in person.

The ruins at Ephesus, among many ancient sites I hope to one day visit in person.

 

 

 

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Writing for a Living (sort of)

Many of my life’s passions are those that don’t make the most lucrative or reliable careers. I love playing games, acting, writing, and arguing. While people have made livings, even fortunes, at all of these things, most people who pursue these as careers struggle and eventually give them up. When I was a kid, my family was fairly poor, not destitute, but not well off. That changed as I got older, but having tasted poverty first hand, I was certain it wasn’t something I wanted for myself. In high school most of my friends assumed I’d pursue acting as my profession, I’d reply I preferred to eat instead. I wasn’t sure what I would do, but I wanted to make some money at it.

Lucky for me, I found my love of board games got me into computer games which got me very interested and proficient with computers. My enthusiasm for the subject and the rising use of computers in nearly every industry meant there were good entry level jobs for self-taught programmers and troubleshooters in nearly every company as I finished college. It took only a few years before I went from dirt poor and in debt, to middle-class living, and after a decade or so to the upper-middle class. While I enjoyed the work and recommend it highly, after 20+ years I was losing my passion for it. At the surface, I was tired of the corporate politics that always seemed to revolve around advancing careers rather than advancing the company. Under the surface, I think I was simply fatigued from 20 years of doing the same kind of work and having to constantly learn new tools and technologies every year or two which while new, were not fundamentally different that what came before.

These pictures have nothing to do with writing. This is a piece of folk art from "The hole in the wall" in Utah; a roadside attraction.

These pictures have nothing to do with writing. This is a piece of folk art from “The hole in the wall” in Utah, a roadside attraction type place.

The decision to hit the road was partly about wanting to follow some of my passions instead of good sense for a change. I planned on writing software solo or collaborating with others, the daring bit being I would work for myself. Meanwhile, Anne would work on a travel blog. Soon I found that I worked on the blog more than anything else, and I really enjoyed it. I was just not excited about any of the software projects while the idea of writing game material, blog articles, stories and just about anything was exciting and enjoyable. At some point, I decided that despite the hardship, uncertainty, and pitiful pay, I’d actually try to write for a living, at least until the savings I’ve set aside for our adventure starts to dry up.

Lucky for me, while I’d spent plenty of time programming, I also did a lot of writing and somewhere along the line I actually got pretty decent at it. I was an avid reader as a kid, and while not an avid writer, I’ve dabbled in it since I was very young. I had my first story “published” when I was in second grade as part of a school project where one kid from each class got to have their story bound and kept in the local college library. I still have my copy, it’s no masterwork but I was proud of it. The last time I was unemployed a good friend was kind enough to partner with me to publish some role playing books and they were well received, and again I was proud of them. I’m also blessed in that I can write a lot in a pretty short time.

Trail is very much allergic to rabbits. My job is sometimes to chase them off at campsites. She found this one super creepy.

Trail is very much allergic to rabbits. My job is sometimes to chase them off at campsites. She found this one super creepy.

Yet I have so much to learn! I’ve always suffered from questionable grammar and horrific spelling. The English language is a frustrating mix of half enforced rules and special cases that drives my more logical mind into conniptions. My writing is heavily subsidized by spell checking programs and sometimes grammar checkers as well. Without these electronic editors, my writing would be a mess. Indeed, in school, before we could use such devices, my papers were generally not well received by the grading pen and the thought of writing for a living never entered my mind. I also have a tendency to use a lot of big words and complex sentences. I know in the writing biz, you want to keep things clear and simple.

It’s one thing to write, and quite another to make any real money at it. My economics degree informs me when supply is high prices are low. Words are cheap as they say, and on the internet words are generally free. Even those which are supposed to cost money are commonly liberated of this limitation much to the pain of writers trying to make a living. That said, not much commerce happens without writing so it is a skill that can be applied to a great many profitable endeavors. Words also have some permanence and what I like about them as a way of making money is they can pay you back long after they were written. Once I create a piece of writing it is mine forever, a commodity I can find a way to monetize.

Giving up my 6 figure salary for writing is how I felt taking this picture; scary as hell but oh so beautiful.

Giving up my 6 figure salary for writing is how I felt taking this picture; scary as hell but oh so beautiful.

Currently, I’m writing a lot of blog articles, working on some game material, working on a novel, and arguing with people on facebook. As usual, it’s likely too many things at once. Still, it’s lots of practice and I’m turning out around two to four thousand words a day nearly every day. If nothing else, I’m at least proud of what I’ve written so far and am having a great time writing it. I think there is a time  in life to be practical, and other times to follow your dreams. I’ve spent a good long time being practical and I’m of a mind to roll the dice on creativity and see what happens.

PS:  If you have advice, I’d be happy to hear it. I don’t always follow advice, even my own, but I like to have it none the less. Also, if you have leads on writing work, I’m happy to entertain them.

 

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