Gee It’s Good To Be Back Home Again…

April 20, 2016

I guess you live in the right place if you’re glad to be back home after traveling.

The last few weeks that I was in Florida, I was starting to get very antsy. It hadn’t gotten terribly hot yet, but I knew it was coming. The weather back in Maine was looking better – it was in the 50’s at least. And I realized that once I returned, there would be a lot of work to do unloading the van and the trailer, plus cleaning them out, rearranging my acoustic foam in the studio (which has needed it all along), reassembling my studio inside, and stocking up on provisions in the house. When I’m living in the van, the kitchen and fridge are so small that I keep meals very simple. I ate more toasted bagels in the past 2 months than I’ve had in the past 2 years. And more sandwiches.

I was supposed to leave Monday (a few days ago), but the forecast for Friday and Saturday was for rain. The thought of hanging around inside the van for 2 days didn’t appeal to me one bit. Plus, I prefer to travel on non-work days.

On Thursday, I packed up my rug and other outside stuff, and cranked the awning back into its holder. I knew those things wouldn’t do well being packed up wet. I had dinner with a yoga friend on Thursday night and then first thing Friday morning I headed out.

Now it might not seem like there’s much to do to leave after 2 months, but there is. The list isn’t long, but it’s not terribly fun. The worst part is the sewer hose. For some reason, my hose doesn’t quite fit back into its holder. It’s just about 1/16 inch off. There’s a metal bracket that folds over the small hose fitting and the cover and then you just screw the cap onto the fitting. Except that I have to force the metal bracket into position, which takes a bit of time and muscle. Then, after that is finally done, the cap (for some odd reason) doesn’t really want to screw on tightly. Just when I think it’s on there well, it pops off. Very frustrating, to say the least.

Then, I disconnect the fresh water hose and try to fill my water tank (there are separate places to connect the hose depending on if you’re using “city” water or water from your on-board tank). Well, as I was filling the tank, I could hear water gushing out below the van. I know there’s a valve for that, but it didn’t seem to work. Oh well. I had a large (2 gallons or more) jug filled with fresh, purified water (the water in Florida is not good).

Then I had to disconnect the internet modem (always a sad moment for me), disconnect the electric, close all windows and vents, and secure everything inside.

The night before, a friend had helped me hook the trailer up to the van, but this entailed driving the van in front of the trailer (I had had to move to another site halfway through my stay, and this time the trailer went directly in front of the van), hooking it up, backing in sufficiently so I wasn’t in the road, and then hooking my electric, modem, and water hose back up. I didn’t bother with the sewer hose (and now you know why). In the morning all I had to do was unhook the electric, modem, and water hose and drive away. Whew!

I drove for 8 hours, but had to stop several times, so I was on the road from 7:30am until about 7pm. A client emailed an urgent request for a voice prompt, and since I’m on retainer with this client, and the rate is pretty darn good, I don’t mind jumping through hoops for them. So, I got off the highway, set up for recording, recorded what I needed to, and then….had to find internet.

Apparently Comcast has hot spots all over the place (although it appears that some of them are in private homes or businesses, so that was a little odd….). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one that worked. I stopped at one of these businesses because they sell propane and I needed some for the van. But the guys who could do that were both out of the office at the moment. I asked if I could use their wifi, and they said yes. It took less than a minute to upload everything. After that, I looked for an app that identifies hotspots, but I didn’t have much luck with either of the apps I installed. A friend then told me that Home Depot, McDonald’s, Lowe’s, and bunches of other places all have free wifi.

Then I decided to stop at Camping World and get propane. The guy at the propane tank seemed confused by something, and after consulting several colleagues told me that there was something wrong with my tank (perhaps a broken seal) and that it might need to be replaced. But the service guys had already gone home. Oh well, I didn’t really need propane to get home. I’ll just have to go to my local RV center at some point and have that looked into.

In the late afternoon/early evening, I was getting really tired, but the two rest areas I saw in North Carolina didn’t allow overnight parking (WTF?). I figured there would be a visitor center when I entered Virginia, and there was! But it was closed (WTF?). A short while later was my turnoff (I was going to head home through the Delmarva peninsula for a change) and I noticed a Cracker Barrel sign. They allow RVs to park in their lot overnight. Aaaahhhhh. I crashed out early.

In the morning I looked online for another breakfast place (Cracker Barrel isn’t my favorite), but there weren’t any close by, so I went in and ate. Then I drove 4 hours to Assateague National Seashore on the Eastern Shore in Maryland. It was cold and windy, but I biked around for about 3 hours before heading to a private campground just a few miles away. It was a very nice campground, with a great cafe serving breakfast and lunch and dinner foods (I got a burger and fries and they were quite good), a tiki bar on the water, a pool, and all kinds of amenities. It looked like a fantastic place for kids.

I had some work to do and my site was in a quiet area, so I set everything up to record. And guess what? It turned out that the campground was next to a small airport! Not quite as busy as the Florida airport I lived near, but the planes were fairly constant. Fortunately, I was able to get all my work done.

I was torn between staying and exploring that area, or just hitting the road. Driving on a Sunday meant less traffic (theoretically, at least) and I would be home on Monday at the latest. It would take me a few hours to set up the studio in my house, so I’d be ready to work late morning on Monday, at the latest. My iPad told me that it was 8 hours to home.

I left around 8 and got home around 6pm. The traffic wasn’t too bad, except near NYC where there was an accident and traffic got all messed up as they were clearing the scene. I hadn’t really planned on going all the way home, but decided that I could always pull off and sleep for a while before continuing on.But I felt okay, and so pressed on.

Once home, I brought in the cats and their accoutrements, the fridge food, and everything I would need for the evening. I knew the next day would be busy. And it was. It’s an amazing amount of work to empty vehicles that look as though they don’t hold a heck of a lot.

But now it’s Wednesday, and I’m all settled in. Laundry is done. Food is bought. Soup and a casserole have been prepared and put up in the freezer and fridge, and all the sticks in the yard have been picked up in anticipation of the first mowing.

Will I do it again next year? I’m not sure. It’s a little early to say. It’s a tremendous amount of work to get ready to leave, to drive down there, to get everything set up to work, to work next to an airport, to pack everything back up, and then drive home again. But I REALLY hate March and most of April in Maine. One thing’s for sure – when I get back, I fall completely head over heels in love with my home studio. Compared with the mobile studio, it’s spacious, super quiet, and a joy to work in.

If I do go back, I’m thinking of getting some duplicate equipment to make the transition from home studio to trailer studio easier. I already have some duplicates, but I’d still need another shock mount for my mic, another audio interface, and another preamp. I figure about $1000. Not an insignificant sum, but if I decide I want to travel around the northeast, the duplicate studio would make it a lot easier to do so.

Next up – PHOTOS!




Then and Now

April 2, 2016

So, I said I’d discuss the differences between traveling in 2011 and 2016. I’ll also talk about the differences between that rig and this one.

Back in 2011, mobile broadband was in its infancy. There are more choices now, although I can’t really tell you what those all are. I still have my original Mifi device (through ATT), but I find it rather archaic that you have to pay a “reactivation” charge on top of a monthly fee. Plus, you’re paying for data used, which can get quite pricey when you’re uploading audio files by day and watching a few videos at night (last year it cost me $200 for one month of service!). I would gladly pay $100 a month for good fast mobile broadband with no limits on data usage. Of course, I only travel for a few months a year. I’ve heard that you can tether with your Sprint-enabled phone, but I’m loathe to give up my T Mobile service, since it works in about 200 countries worldwide with no extra data charges (you will be on a slower network, however) and only 20 cents a minute for phone calls. That’s pretty terrific when I’m on vacation in Canada or Europe.

Five years ago, I had my desktop bungee corded to the corner of my back bedroom-turned-office space. If I didn’t have broadband somewhere, I would have to fire up my laptop, transfer files, and then find a place with free Wifi to upload everything. A bit of a pain.

Now, I have a super light and small laptop that can handle everything I ask it to (although I have to use a USB hub, since the laptop only has 2 USB ports and I have about 6 peripherals, including my wireless mouse/keyboard, audio interface, printer, and a few other things). I can unplug the laptop, grab the wireless mouse/keyboard, and USB for those and bring them into the van if I want to work there for a while, or bring them into a coffee shop or other place to use the wifi (which has not happened to date, by the way, except here at the park office).

I bought my iPad shortly before I left in 2011. It was incredibly valuable. I could determine the route I wanted to take to my next destination, divide it into segments, and find campgrounds, gas stations, and stores. In Austin, I used it to see a bird’s eye view of the Whole Foods Store there to determine if the parking lot could accommodate my rig (it couldn’t, but the adjacent lot could). I’d love to get an iPad Mini, but I just can’t justify that (I’m a thrifty New Englander) since I still have my iPad2 and a Samsung Galaxy 4.

And, there are an astounding number of apps today. Info about free camping sites, cell phone coverage in different areas, and probably dozens of others that I don’t know about. There are Facebook groups for traveling women, traveling singles, etc (I have to admit that I really don’t look at these. I actually don’t really use Facebook much at all. I don’t know why that is. I’ve tried being more active there, but I end up just reading a few posts and then doing something offline that interests me more.)

That Rig and This One

So, the original Voxmobile was 27 feet and built in 1993. It didn’t have many miles on it when I bought it (under 30,000, I believe), but it had been in the Southwest for years, and the relentless sun (which is completely overrated, by the way) takes a toll.

It was convenient having the booth in the back bedroom and quite luxurious having a dinette table. I wasn’t crazy about having to climb a ladder to get into bed (actually, climbing the ladder up wasn’t bad – I really didn’t like having to climb down in the middle of the night for you-know-what…). The fridge was small, but big enough for my needs. I didn’t have a car, but brought along my 3 bicycles.

Son of Voxmobile is a camper van, about 20 feet long. Intrepid The Mobile Studio (as you know) is in a cargo trailer that I tow. The van is small (cramped, actually) but kinda cool because it reminds me of being a kid and young adult and “roughing it”. I went cross country in my first van when I was 20. It was just a van. No galley, no toilet – just a primitive bed with storage underneath. When I was 32, I went cross country on my bicycle. I was with a group and we camped on school grounds. I ate most of my meals either sitting on the ground or a park bench or at a picnic table. So by comparison, this is much cushier. But still, very small. And it’s absolutely critical to change the cat litter frequently. (I keep the litter box on the floor underneath the steering wheel.It’s a little close to my tiny little table, but it’s the only choice I have.)

Despite the fact that it’s so small, I like all the choices this rig affords me. If I wanted/needed to, I could disconnect the van (electric/water/sewer) and drive somewhere (after putting everything away and securing stuff inside). I can park in most parking spaces. AND, here in my little park in St. Augustine, my friend and neighbor has a hitch on his minivan, so if I really needed to get a lot of work done and there was too much noise, I could borrow his minivan (which smells like wet dog and old bait) and tow the studio to a quieter place. With the solar panels on the roof, I don’t have to worry about having power (yes!!).

Another fun option is if I want to travel around a bit in the summer. I wouldn’t have to take “official” time off. I’m thinking of getting a new car this year, and if I do, I’ll make sure it has a hitch and the towing capacity to handle the trailer. I’m a cyclist, and it would be fun to go somewhere for a while to explore and still be able to work. It’s a bit of work to dismantle the home studio and set everything up in the trailer, but I think with a few extra pieces of equipment and some practice sessions, I could probably get it down to a science.

Other Options

I walk around the park here a lot. Always have. So I see all kinds of rigs. The other day I saw a jeep with a platform on top with a tent!

Anyway, there are 5th wheels, which are pulled by (usually) pickup trucks. This wouldn’t work because I need to tow the trailer. Class C rigs are the ones you drive with sleeping quarters over the driver’s and passenger’s seats. Class B rigs are on a bus chassis and are usually bigger. Motor coaches are gigantic. The bigger rigs don’t interest me at all. I’m much more fascinated by the smaller units. It feels more like an adventure.

There’s also something called a Toy Hauler. This is a rig the ones I’ve seen have been 5th wheels) that has a section in the back for a motorcycle or ATV. The back of it opens up like a ramp, although you can probably get a barn door instead. There’s a door inside that leads to the main cabin. There aren’t that many of this kind (that I know of), so I don’t think there are a ton of options with that type. But it would be cool to have a studio in the back of one of these.

Plus, there’s the pickup truck with the camper on top. I love those! Again, it would be rather cramped, but you can still tow the trailer, plus you’ve got the pickup truck to drive around if you leave the camper part at a park.

So, there you have it. Then and now. That rig and this one. Sorry there aren’t any photos. I should take photos of the inside of the trailer, but it’s a mess and it’s raining today….

I leave here in 2 1/2 weeks. I’m just about ready to get back to Maine. Sometimes it’s so hot and humid here that it’s unbearable. And it’s only April 2nd! But I can always leave early.

I love having options.


It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst of Times

March 18, 2016

Okay, so that’s a little dramatic. But my first weeks here were anything but wonderful. Thirty six hours after I arrived, I got a sore throat, which almost always indicates that I’m coming down with something. So I did what I always do – I crawled into bed and tried to head it off at the pass. I felt like crap, but my sore throat never materialized into a full blown cold. Four days later, however, my ears closed up. UH OH. Here I was sounding fine, but I couldn’t hear well. At all. I could hear my own heartbeat and breathing – kinda like when you’re watching a movie and someone’s running and you can hear the breathing in and the breathing out. It was kind of freaky. And I definitely didn’t want to talk to anyone because I sounded to myself as if I were inside my own head. It was very distracting and made conversing with people difficult.

So I stayed inside my rig, watched Fraiser reruns, read, and did Hardanger embroidery (my travel project). After 4 days, despite taking a decongestant and using nasal spray, nothing had changed, so I borrowed a car and drove to Urgent Care. The doctor said I had an ear infection (I have a history of those, although it’s been probably 15 years since my last one), but I found that an odd diagnosis because both of my ears were blocked up. If I had had my wits about me, I would have questioned her about that, but instead I dutifully picked up my prescription for antibiotics, and then stopped at a health food store to stock up on good stuff, including probiotic yogurt to keep my gut bacteria healthy.

Well, another week went by and my ears weren’t significantly better. Big UH OH. This was getting scary. So I went back to Urgent Care and saw a different doc who told me that my Eustacian tubes were blocked. That’s what I had figured, but I didn’t know what to do to unblock them. He prescribed steroids and nasal spray.

Well, it’s been another 2 weeks and my ears are still a little blocked, but not nearly as bad as they were. Miraculously, I was able to get work done in that time, including an entire audio book. I emailed the editor that I had had some hearing loss during recording, and I apologized if I had missed some ambient noise (I turned my headphones way up when recording so as now to miss any passing airplanes, trucks, or motorcycles. I may have turned them up too high…but maybe not….). Yesterday I received an email from the editor with one fix for that audiobook. One fix! There are almost always at least 4 or 5 fixes. And it had nothing to do with ambient sound (apparently I neglected to edit out the little ring my phone makes when I get a text). So, maybe turning my headphones up really loudly did work.

Then, a few days ago it got really hot here. Not just really hot, but really hot and humid, my two least favorite things. No problem in the van – I have AC. Or, at least I used to have AC. It wasn’t working. I called the RV repair guy and he was able to come right over, but the diagnosis wasn’t good. I was hoping it was something simply like a fuse, but the whole unit needs to be replaced. So, from time to time, I had to start up the engine and turn on the AC from that to cool down the van. It was in the mid 80s inside, and very uncomfortable. And every time I turned on the van, the cats would head for the hills. They hate motion, and will bury themselves under the blankets in hopes that it will stop soon.

Anyway, I had to move to another site today. That happens when you miss a year at a park and they don’t save your site for you. It’s only 2 sites away from the old one, but I still had to unplug my electric, disconnect the water and sewer hoses, disconnect my internet coax cable, stow everything inside, stow all the outside stuff (rug, table, 2 chairs) and drive to the new site. Then, use the leveling blocks to make sure the van is level (if not, the butter in your pan will all go to one side and the flame on the burner will be uneven). I was fortunate that a few of the guys I know here moved the trailer for me, so I didn’t have to worry about that part.

I connected the internet and waited. And waited. And didn’t have a signal. So I called Comcast. Who informed me that they didn’t have my new site in their system. Even after I had told them 3 times that I would be moving on March 18th. What is with that company? So the rep connected me with the billing office where a very nice woman named Cheryl took all of my information and changed my site number. Unfortunately, no one has ever connected the internet at this site before (not surprising, since most people here are retired or on vacation and don’t need or want fast internet. They’re perfectly happy bringing their laptop or iPad up to the office and using the park wifi). So a technician is going to come on Monday (!) and make sure the internet comes to my site. I have about 100 feet of coax cable, so there’s no problem getting it into the van. In the meantime, I can either access the internet on my phone or iPad, or bring my laptop to the office, which is how I’m updating this blog.

I’m halfway through my trip today. The weather has cooled down nicely, although it’s still very humid, and it’s supposed to cool down even more in the next few days. I’m hearing better, my site move is complete, and on Monday afternoon I should have high speed internet in the van. Life is good. For now.

Coming up, I’ll be writing about the difference between the Voxmobile and the Son of Voxmobile, as well as the difference between when I first hit the road in 2011 and traveling in 2016.


Virginia to Florida

Voxmobile and Intrepid in Virginia

So this was where I was able to park for the night and get a hot shower. I didn’t leave until 3:30 because Gil was beefing up my studio door (thanks Gil!). I missed the Express entrance to the freeway and got stuck in some awful rush hour traffic for about 45 minutes before seeing an entrance to the Express Lane. Aaaaahhhh, that’s better.

After 8pm, the traffic had lightened up considerably. I knew this would happen, but I always leave first thing in the morning, and by evening I’m bushed. Driving at that time of night was so pleasurable that I ended up going until midnight. I resolved in the future to take 3 or 4pm to 7 or 8pm as a break time and then get back on the road when it’s still nice and relaxing (especially when towing a trailer).

I spent the night at a rest area, and thanks to my white noise app, crashed almost immediately into a deep sleep. I hit the road again around 7:30 and got to my destination at 2pm. I backed my trailer into my site, intending to have the park manager put it exactly where I wanted it with his 4 wheeler. But my friends had other ideas.

Sylvain guilding Bill towing the trailerSylvain decided that the best place for the trailer was in front of the van so that I would have more privacy in the van and a shorter walk to “work”. Bill got his van with the hitch and Sylvain guided him. Sylvain then figured that we should move my rug up so that I wouldn’t track sand into either the trailer or the van after walking between them. Brilliant!

Voxmobile and Intrepid in SA

We decided to celebrate with a glass of wine, even though I only have 2 plastic glasses and a tea mug.

Celebrating with wine

Thanks everyone!


February 22, 2016

The day after I arrived, I finished setting up the studio and worked for awhile. Good thing too, because the following morning I woke up sick. Sore throat, sore head, and feeling like absolute crap. Perfect weather and I was stuck in the van watching Frasier reruns (love them!) and napping. It’s 3 days later and I still don’t feel terrific. I’ll probably be back to normal tomorrow as the weather is supposed to turn rainy.

An aside: after DREADING calling Comcast to order service (in the past it has taken them well over an hour to process my order – WTF?), I reached a customer service rep who knew what she was doing. I couldn’t believe how quickly it went. I picked up a modem with wireless router (my mistake last year was bringing a modem that didn’t have wireless and my new laptop is only wireless. It cost me a bundle to use my Mifi instead, about $200 for the month!), and then called them back to give them my Mac ID so that I could skip that step when I arrived. Now, there were 2 numbers with Mac ID in front of them – identical except for the last number. Of course, the one I gave them was wrong. So when I set everything up, my internet didn’t work. I called Comcast and, after a few minutes, the CSR suggested sending a technician out. NO! I exclaimed. A technician is not needed! I’ve been to this site 3 times before! Finally, he decided to try the other Mac ID and it worked. Whew….

Back on the Road Again

So, I’m not so good at keeping this blog up, apparently.

Anyway, after leaving frigid Virginia with sufficient antifreeze in my tanks late last March, I had an uneventful trip north, although I woke up with snow on my rig at the PA/NY border.

Snow on vanAnd when I checked the forecast, I could see that there would be freezing temperatures in Maine for at least the following week. Aaaarrrrgggghhhh. So I stopped outside of Worcester and had my van winterized at the end of winter! Fortunately, I don’t usually use the van in the spring, summer, or fall, so I didn’t have to drain my tanks and then winterize again in October.

February 2016:

ANYWAY, I hit the road 2 days ago. It’s very hectic getting ready to leave because there are so many things you can’t do or pack until right before you drive away. I couldn’t pack anything that might freeze, including my solar batteries, because it was 9 below 2 nights before I left. And I couldn’t pack personal items, the cats and all their accoutrements until the van was warmed up. And I always wait until the last minute to break down my studio and pack that up.

So the van and the trailer look like disaster areas when I first leave. There are bags, boxes, and totes everywhere. But my goal is to get as far south as soon as possible so that I don’t have to worry about freezing temperatures.

About an hour into the trip, Nora, my eldest, started bellyaching. I wasn’t sure what the problem was. As I looked in my rear view mirror, I saw her tail up and a stream of urine hitting my new pillow. I had put a shower curtain on the bed to protect the bedding, but the pillow had been leaning up against the wall. Yikes.

My first stop this time around was southern Connecticut, where I visited my stepdaughter, her husband, and their son. (After greeting them, I asked it they could do a quick wash for me. There’s nothing worse than smelling cat urine for 4 days…)

They have a long driveway with a curve halfway down and it slopes down toward the road. So in the morning, I had to back down the driveway, navigating the trailer around the curve and between two stone walls at the end. It took HALF AN HOUR to do that. Just when you think you have the whole backing-the-trailer-up thing figured out, the trailer refuses to do what you want. You need a lot of space so that the vehicle (in this case, the van) can swing wide as the trailer is going around the curve. Between trees, curbing, and ice, this was quite, ahem, challenging. I got down to the end and almost hit one of the stone walls. It took a while to move the van forward enough to clear it because there was ice and my tires kept spinning. I could smell rubber. I was supposed to head in the other direction when I got down to the street, but I was so grateful to finally be out of the driveway, that I just went in the direction I was pointed in and let the GPS take me where I needed to go.

Unfortunately, the GPS kept leading me to the Merritt Parkway, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t allowed on that road. For non-Northeasteners, parkways are for pleasure vehicles and some of them have low bridges, so they are very, very bad for vehicles above 7 feet or so (I qualify). More than a few RVs have tried to go on a parkway and run into a “low bridges” sign with a hanging bar that indicates the height of the bridges. (They then had to figure out how to turn around to get off the parkway.)

So, I told the GPS to calculate an alternate route. The GPS kept calculating alternates routes to the Merritt Parkway. By the time I finally got to I-95, it was almost 11am. So it had taken me 1.5 hours to back out of the driveway and get to the interstate. It should have taken about 15-20 minutes.

That was an indication of the day to come.

It was raining, and I was grateful that it wasn’t snowing. But it got torrential at times, and windy. Since I had gone through southern CT, I was now driving through NYC, which I usually avoid at all costs. Stop and go traffic. Aggressive drivers. But I hung out in the right lane and tried to listen to good tunes. I have a portable  Sirius/XM that I bring along, however it uses an unused radio station frequency to transmit the signal. In the NYC area, that’s hard to find. No problem – I brought a bunch of CDs. Except it appears that some of them don’t work in the player. Huh? I temporarily gave up and found a good station in the area. It turned out to be the station I stream all the time at home in Maine – WFUV out of Fordham University in NY – 90.7. Yay! I listened to it for quite a while until it started to peter out, then went back to Sirius/XM.

I had planned to meet up with a voiceover pal, Moe Rock, in Harrisburg, PA. With all the confusion regarding the parkway, and the trouble getting out of the driveway, the time I expected to arrive there changed from 1:30 to 2, to 2:30, and finally 3pm. We had a great hour long chat.

Karen Saltus and Moe RockI left there around 4pm with 2 hours to get to VA, where I was to meet up with my friend Gil. You’ll remember Gil as the guy who oversaw the construction of the VO booth in my trailer. He was going to beef up the booth to make it even quieter. He also invited me to park in his in-law’s driveway (his place is in a much too congested area to park the van and trailer). His in-law’s are both deceased and the house will soon be on the market.

I was traveling near Baltimore and other busy areas right during rush hour. Darn. Then, there was a 2 car crash on the interstate that bogged everything down for about 20-30 minutes. I was so tired and just wanted to be done for the day. Finally I arrived. Gil had given me the code to the back door. The heat was on. There was hot water. Life is good. I took a shower and then Gil arrived with beer. Life is very good. It was supposed to get down to 31 during the night, so Gil gave me a space heater from the house and we plugged the van in. I just didn’t want anything to freeze, especially my solar batteries. In the middle of the night when I woke up it was 64 degrees in the van, so I shut off the heater. Small spaces heat up pretty quickly!

Gil is coming over this morning and we’re going to take a drive and visit an investment property we own together. He’s moving pretty slowly today (he works hard and has a lot of stress), so I’m in the house working on this blog. As I was coming in, it occurred to me that I probably wouldn’t have internet here. I could use my iPad for these updates, but I had a few other things I wanted to use my laptop for. I booted it up and it found the house WIFI. I looked over in the corner of the living room and voila! There was the router with the password on the label. Yay!

I’m anxious to get back on the road because I still have 11 hours to St. Augustine, so I want to get 5-6 hours in today. I probably won’t leave here until 2pm, so it’s going to be a late night. I suppose the good news is that once I pass Richmond, I shouldn’t get stuck in any more rush hour traffic until possibly Jacksonville. I think.

If Adventure Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It Part 2

So I prepared to move to my new park. I was told I’d have to leave my cargo trailer in the “maintenance area”.  It sounded as though it could be noisy, so I asked and was told, “Oh no. It’s very quiet there.” Hmmmm. It still made me nervous. I had a LOT of work to do; clients were counting on me to get their projects back to them in a timely manner. I would be leaving in a week and have limited ability to work while I was on the road. (Having solar power would allow me to work on the road, but I had a mission to get home ASAP and so getting a lot of miles in was a priority. If I had to stop to work, I would have to drive far off the interstate to find a quiet place, set up my studio, work, then break down my studio, get back to the interstate, and continue driving. Certainly doable in an emergency, but not my optimal way of traveling or working.)

So it was very important that I buckle down and get lots of work done. But would my new place be sufficiently quiet? I was nervous about the whole situation until it finally hit me – I’m MOBILE! So I decided to drive to the quietest place I could find near my new park, which was a county park with a boat ramp. There was hardly anyone there, and it was far enough off A1A to be free from traffic noise from loud trucks and motorcycles.

County Park

So I worked all afternoon – about 5 hours, and got quite a bit accomplished. EXCEPT, that my throat seemed very dry and a little scratchy. UH OH! For me, that usually means a cold coming on. I drank several bottles of water while I was working, but still my throat was sore.

I checked in at the park and immediately parked the trailer in the “storage” area.

Maintenance area

Doesn’t it look tiny compared to these RVs?

It seemed very quiet there, so I was happy.

I parked the van into one of the most awful sites I’ve ever seen. It was basically a rectangle of dirt. I didn’t even have enough room to open up my outdoor rug all the way. There was a small patch of grass with a picnic table, but that was behind the van, so what good was that?

Ocean Grove

After checking in, I walked about 20 minutes to another RV park to visit with friends. Instead of walking back in a light drizzle, I accepted their offer of a ride because I was definitely feeling like I was coming down with something – and I was. I spent the entire next day in bed, feeling just awful.

On Sunday I felt a little better (I’m a firm believer in lots of rest and liquids to move a cold through faster) but more importantly, I sounded okay. So I worked a little in the morning and a little in the afternoon. It was nice and quiet. I didn’t realize until the following day that that was because all the staff had the day off. On Monday, there was lawn mowing, leaf blowing, trucks driving back and forth, table saws, and other assorted annoyances. I was able to get work done in between all these, but it certainly wasn’t the quiet atmosphere the person on the phone had assured me of.

Anyway, I worked like a dog all week and pulled out of there on Thursday. I planned to meet a friend on the North Carolina coast and I had about 8 hours of driving to get there.

After 2 hours, all of a sudden my speedometer went to 0 and my ABS and Brake lights came on. To make a long story short, it was a sensor and only cost $85, but it set me back about 2 hours.

Back on the road, I drove another 2 hours and was in stop-and-go traffic on the interstate when my front brake (you, the one that I had fixed a month earlier) started smoking. Damn. I called the place that originally fixed it and the manager did a little research and found a place 7 miles away that would take me right away.

To make another long story short, they fixed it ($300) and after about 2.5 hours, I was back on the road. I still had 4 hours to drive and it was 6pm. Exhausted, I arrived at our hotel at 10.

After spending several busy days looking at houses for my friend (she wants to retire to that area in 19 months), I left at 4pm to head north once again. Fortunately, I didn’t break down, but when I stopped for gas in northern NC, I was shocked at how cold it was. I checked the forecast and realized that it was supposed to go down to 21 degrees that night. A HUGE problem for a vehicle that has holding tanks. I needed to do something and FAST. I checked the iPad and found a WalMart a short drive away. I bought the last 2 bottles of RV (non-toxic) antifreeze that they had. I then spent the next 20 minutes filling my electric kettle with water from my fresh water holding tank to empty it so I could pour in the antifreeze, but there was still a lot of water left, so I gave up and poured in the AF. I also poured half a bottle of AF in the toilet and the sink (they use separate tanks). I didn’t have a socket wrench to remove the drain plug for the water heater, so I just had to leave it be and hope for the best.

Time to Move

I’ve been here at my noisy little bit of paradise for 3 1/2 weeks now, and tomorrow it’s time to move on. Not that I totally want to. But this park doesn’t have any availability after this Friday, so I’ve got to go. This is the time of year for bike week (not MY kind of bike, though), school vacations, spring break, and soon, Easter. I called a few places I had stayed before, but they were booked. Finally, the third place I called had availability. It helps to have a small rig. More spots you can fit into. The only downside is that the studio trailer has to be parked “in storage”. I asked if it was noisy there and they said no. BUT, what if there’s a motor running most of the time? That would be a problem. It’s all part of the anxiety of not knowing what’s up at the next location. Fortunately, I shouldn’t have to worry about power since I’ve got the solar panel on the roof. It hasn’t worked well here because the trailer is mostly in the shade. I could use it in a pinch, but I’ve just been running an extension cord into the trailer instead. I’m planning to have two power outlets installed in the trailer when I get back – one for powering the studio using an extension cord plugged into an outlet, and the other so I can run an extension cord into the van and use solar power if I happen to be somewhere where I can’t plug in.

So, flexibility has been key here. With all the noise from planes, trucks, motorcycles, etc, I’ve had to be creative when it comes to work. I honestly don’t remember this much noise before, and I think it’s because the wind had been coming primarily from the east and south, which has the planes approaching the airport directly over the park. Today the wind was from the northwest and there was a BIG difference. I was actually able to work during the day. My usual routine has been to start work as early as possible in the morning, which is usually around 9, since I work late in the evening and am quite tired by the time I finish. I haven’t quite acclimated to daylight savings time yet, so I’m not getting up much before 8. I work for as long as it’s relatively quiet, then walk the beach looking for sharks’ teeth if it’s not high tide. Sharks' teeth

Then lunch, maybe a chore or two (laundry, vacuuming, cleaning the litter box, etc), office work, and maybe a little reading. I have a light supper and then head back into the booth to record in the early evening when it’s fairly quiet. Last night it was quiet but HOT, and I spent a lot of time wiping the sweat off my face. I’m not an evening person, but you do what you have to do to get the work done. I had a phone patch session today and, other than waiting for a passing plane, it was quiet. I said a quiet prayer of thanks during the session.

On one occasion I rode my fat bike about 5 miles up the beach, crossed over A1A into Guana River Estuarine Research area and rode around there for a few hours before heading back along the beach. The fat bike was perfect, as there’s a lot of deep sand at Guana River. Even so, I saw a lot of hybrid bike riders struggling along the paths.

Lunch at Guana River

So, I’ll be at my new park for 6 days, and then I head north to meet a friend at a seaside town in North Carolina. To be honest, it’s been close to 80 degrees here lately which is a little too hot for me. In NC it’s in the 60s, which sounds great. Back home in Maine, it’s still in the 30s some days.Just one of the reasons I really dislike March in New England!

I ran out of data on my Mifi wireless broadband device and figured I’d need about 30GBs more while I’m on the road this month. $185! Someone told me that Sprint has an unlimited data plan, so I’ll be checking that out next time I hit the road. So, just in case I want to stream a movie or something, I’m sitting in the common area of the park office uploading files. I’s not the fastest connection, but it’s not the worst I’ve seen either.

So, before I sign off for now, I just have to share some correspondence I received a week or so ago.

20150314_08494520150314_085059 (2)If you can’t read the text, here it is: “Ms. Saltus, Thank you for your recent visit and the confidence you placed in us to repair your van. We pray you made it to Florida safely. Should you ever need us please give us a call. Thank you again, Dun Rite.”

Well, I must say that in all the decades I have been driving and getting vehicles repaired, I have never received a thank you note. Particularly from a repair shop off the interstate that I will probably never have the occasion to visit again. But if you’re ever on I-95 in northern South Carolina near a town called Florence, and need auto repair, Dun Rite would be my recommendation.

The next time I write will probably be about the gear I’ve brought and my actual setup.

An Unhappy Client

cropped-the-intrepid-in-st-augustine.jpgIt was bound to happen sooner or later. I had booked a live session with a client, but unfortunately, the winds were not favorable that day. When the wind is from the north, all is well. When the wind is from the south, there’s an airplane either landing or taking off every minute from the small airport located just a mile from my site. It’s hard to believe that such a small airport could have so much air traffic. But it does.

So I emailed the client, explained the situation, and offered to record some takes on my own, or even just do the session but re-record any noisy sections afterward. She emailed back asking why I didn’t tell her that I would be in my mobile studio next to an airport. I explained that most of the time it wasn’t an issue. And that, in fact, when I had been on the road for 19 months a few years ago, we had done several sessions without a problem. I learned long ago not to tell people certain things because then they’re listening for them. “I have a cold,” for instance. Most of the time, we hear the nasality but our clients don’t. And honestly, even if I were in my home studio, there’s no guarantee that a brush cutting crew wouldn’t show up on the road outside my house and start making a racket. Sometimes there are just things beyond our control.

Still, it bothered me. I pride myself on giving good service and providing exceptional audio, and it pains me when that doesn’t happen. (Fortunately, most of my clients think that what I’m doing is totally cool.)

Also, my new mobile studio isn’t nearly as quiet as I would like it to be. I just picked up some special weather stripping for the studio door and plan to install it today as it’s been raining and the drips from the trees overhead sound like pebbles being tossed on the roof. Sigh. I’ve been recording first thing in the morning and early evening until 9 or 10 or whenever I start to feel worn out (I’m more of a morning person, so working into the evening is hard for me). It’s much quieter and I can get so much more done with so much less frustration.

It’s times like these that I ask myself why I’m doing this. I can’t really explain it. It seems as though I was born to keep moving. I drove cross country (in the first of 3 full size vans that I owned over 20 years) when I was 19. I cycled cross country when I was 32. And I am having fun, even if work is very challenging. My living space is quite small, but when compared to living in my van the first time (which wasn’t customized and therefore had no kitchen or bathroom) or living in a tent when I cycled, this one is fairly luxurious.

I’m also very fortunate to have some friends in the park where I’m staying, and one of them allows me to borrow his minivan when I need motor transportation (such as yesterday when I had to go to Home Depot to pick up the weather stripping – route 1 is scary in a car, never mind a bike….) and today when I wanted to go to yoga but it was cold and rainy. Thanks Bill!

Adventure part 2

So, I put on my cellphone headset (I don’t talk and drive, but this time I made an exception) and called AAA. I asked them the location of the nearest AAA service station that was close to the highway. They gave me an address about 30 miles away. I just hoped that I’d be able to get there with the gas I had. And it was raining again. I coasted off the highway at the exit and downshifted so as to avoid using my brakes as much as possible. The station was 3 miles away so I put on my flashers and drove slowly to the location. I settled in for the night, but slept fitfully.

When the manager came in the morning, I jumped out of the van and he ushered me into the office to fill out the paperwork. One of the guys helped me unhitch the trailer, and after about 15 minutes, they brought the van in.

After a while, the manager informed me that I needed most of the brake parts replaced, and one of those parts would have to be delivered from another city. It would be at least several hours. So I walked up the street and had a big breakfast. At 12:30, I got an update that the part had arrived and it would take several hours to install everything. Sigh. I have a headache, I’m tired, and feel like crap. I have at least 5 hours of driving to get to St. Augustine, and at this rate, I won’t arrive until 9pm. I’ll have to backup the trailer and unhitch it because the site isn’t long enough for me to just back the trailer and van into the site. And it’ll be dark. Fortunately I have a friend in the park who can help.

And once morning comes along with more rain, I have to hook up water, sewer, and electric (also figuring it how to get water into the water heater, which is a little tricky), and flush out my tanks that are currently filled with non toxic antifreeze. THEN, I have to install the acoustic foam in the sound booth (after I find somewhere to put all my stuff in the trailer because it’s supposed to STILL be raining), hook up all my equipment, and get the internet going (which always takes a long phone call to Comcast). Tired yet? It’s supposed to rain all week, which is just as well since I won’t have any time for anything besides work anyway.

Am I still living your dream?


If Adventure Was Easy, Everyone Would Be Doing It

A lot of people tell me that “I’m living their dream”, “They’ve always wanted to be able to work and travel”, “Someday when they retire…”

Well, yesterday was the type of day that keeps most people from attempting adventure.

After driving for 4.5 days in a snowstorm on interstate 95 through Connecticut, NY, and northern NJ (is that roadway ALWAYS sucky?), I was looking forward to less slippery roadways and warmer temps. After visiting with my friends in Marylands for 2 hours, the sun was out and I was looking forward to getting a lot of driving in. I was hoping to keep going until 9 or 10pm so that I’d only have 4 or 5 hours left on Monday.

It was warmer all right. Snow was melting, making for a wet roadway and lots of glare. But I was making good time. I don’t like chain restaurants or fast food much, but one of my few exceptions is Subway. I get seeing the signs for Subway restaurants on the highway. Finally, I decided it was time and got off the highway for a sandwich. Except that that particular subway was having plumbing problems and couldn’t serve any food. I must have passes signs for 50 different Subways yesterday, but the one I picked couldn’t serve me!

So, I made an almond butter and jam sandwich and pressed on.

Then, I smelled something. Was it my vehicle or someone else’s?

The GPS routed me onto a road that was fairly stop and go and eventually I stopped at a light and saw smoke coming from the right front of the van. I opened the hood but didn’t see any smoke. It appeared to be coming from behind the wheel. I also noticed fluid leaking on the ground. The van had been pulling to the right when I braked, so I determined that there was a problem with the front passenger brake, but I appeared to have a left brake. So I decided to drive the 2 miles to get back on the interstate and drive as long as I had gas and try to find a service station. Of course, it was Sunday, so I’d have to wait until the morning to actually talk to someone.