How We Got Stuck In Wilmington

Wilmington, NC was voted the best river city in the US for 2015, and we’d have to concur. Population 112,000, this little river town has all the admeities of a city three times it’s size, including Trader Joes and Whole Foods. But, best of all it still has all of the mom and pop speciality joints, including some of the best BBQ on the Atlantic, surf shops, Brits Donut shop, the Veggie Store, funky/artsy downtown shops reminiscent of Austin’s Congress Street, awesome Thrift and Consignment Stores, and pretty great Sushi. It’s music, food, history, river ways, and beaches offered us a wonderful back drop for blue grass jams, roadschool days, parties, lazy days on the beach and a sailboat ride.

Originally we had planned one week in this region connecting with fellow travelers, The Shanks (Herd of Turtles). During that week they showed us around their former hometown, including a double date where we shared Niki’s Sushi and went to a R&B concert at a little speak easy. Later, while the fella’s talked bus conversions, us girls shopped at some of Wilmington’s fun consignment stores, we also spent an evening dining and playing music at Dukes BBQ. Along the way, they introduced us to many of their hometown friends, which lead to conversations about parking in peoples driveways, which lead to us staying longer after the Shanks had gone.

 

IMG_1718Our first host family, April and Buck Hubbard, welcomed us to jump into life with them, learning about their work in Children’s Ministry and Film making, as well as, their love for Settlers of Catan. Their location in the city was a great fit as we were able to explore more of downtown Wilmington, as well as, catch up on much needed laundry and grocery shopping. We love it when hosts are comfortable just living life with us offering suggestions for things to do but mostly just allowing us to participate in their every day rhythm. We shared meals, watched movies, visited their friends, had a birthday party, did lawn work and Craig and Banjo were also able to get their hands dirty by helping the Hubbards finishing off their deck project for April’s birthday celebration.

IMG_1847One Sunday evening they invited us to go to Satellite Bar for a open Bluegrass Jam which turned out to be a fantastic night of community and song. The house band, Possum Creek Bluegrass Band, welcomed us like old friends. Their Band members are Jones Smith, Big Al Hall, Ben Chontos, with special guest Charlie Coulter on Violin and Bryan Humphrey on the squeeze box.  They played all the classics, and they played them well, setting a tone of support and control, so that even a beginner could sit in with them. They were gracious to us all and especially excited to have our son sit in on cajon, and the Hubbard’s 11 yr old daughter, who plays fiddle, join in the fun. They even offered us a cameo spot to share a few of our Hollands! songs, while they sat in with us. By the end of the night, we were all good friends and Bryan’s wife, Mari invited us to their home in Wrightsville Beach for a delicious meal and another bluegrass jam.

 

IMG_1732Pristine Wrightsville Beach boasts emerald green waters, and is home to a few surf/kite surfing clubs,and the inter-coastal water ways offer awesome protection for sailing and paddle boarding. Over the next week and a half, we ended up joining Mari and Bryan for more jams, beach days and even a first season sail on their sailboat. We learned about Mari’s 3 year nomadic adventure, leaving for England with a backpack and coming back from India with nothing but a little shoulder bag. She would partner with others along the way, as well as solo, traveling the world in little VW vans, having a daughter in the Netherlands and crossing the Sahara dessert in a Peugeot 505 Sedan twice. And, Bryan inspired us with his amazing furniture architecture, sailing expertise and of course teaching us about some of the North Carolina folk music culture.

IMG_2108Our second host family, the Meehan’s, invited us to come, park in their cul de sac and enjoy their Carolina Beach for a few days. Carolina Beach sits about 20 miles south of downtown Wilmington and has a laid back, festive, welcoming vibe with brightly colored beach shacks, little shops, including the infamous Brits Donuts and bars that run along the new board walk. There are benches and swings that over look the beach and a band shell, which is sure to be packed in the summer.  Our time at the Meehan’s was restful and spiritually engaging. We shared meals, hiked and worked out the deeper meanings of community and faith.

IMG_1898We also enjoyed exploring some of the historical elements and took a cloudy day trip south to Fort Fisher, later riding the ferry to Southport for lunch. While there we walked the grounds and visited the free museum, learning about the strategic placement of Fort Fisher in the Civil War and the Blockade runners (war paddle steamers that would haul supplies in from the islands off of the Atlantic to the Wilmington port.) The battle to take the fort was epic and it was said that 90 days after the fort fell, the Civil War ended. After we finished at the Fort we took the ferry to Southport. It was $5 for our carload and took about 40 minutes to cross. Once we were in Southport we made our way down to the Yacht Basin Provision Company for their shrimp and wings. The food was basic but held delicious flavors. The fella’s devoured their portion while Graciana and I shared a bowl of the homemade chowder and a crab cake. The little town was reminiscent of Baileys Harbor, WI with cute little shops and portside docks. Between the Fort, ferry ride, and lunch at YBPC, the day that started out rainy turned sunny and we finished off the evening with one last sit on Carolina Beach.

When we pulled out of Wilmington we all felt that a little piece of our heart stayed behind. Inspired not only by all that Wilmington has to offer, but by the amazing people we met along the way, the stories we heard, and the commitment to keep the culture of Wilmington full of hope, creativity and love.

Carolina Clam Bake

We’ve been wandering up and down the Carolina coast for the past few weeks. Recently, we put a shout out on our Facebook page letting folks know we were in the Wilmington, NC area and asked if there were any kinfolk who’d like to neighbor with us.

Our friend, Julie in Sturgeon Bay, WI responded with enthusiasm that her best friend, Grace and husband, Skip, lived just two hours north of our location and that we should go visit them. The fun thing was that I had known about Grace for years, as there were times that Julie and I would be hanging out and Grace would come up in conversation or she might even text/call while Julie and I were together. So, to actually meet up, was a pretty sweet idea.

IMG_1672We called Grace and she said to please come, that she and Skip were going to be hosting their annual “Clambake” and we were welcome to join in the fun. So we made plans to drive our mini-van to their home in Morehead City for the weekend.

When we arrived they offer us a hearty greeting, giving us a lay of the land, escorting us to our bed rooms and inviting us down for dinner and drinks. About an hour later, neighbors started arriving and merrily introduced themselves. It felt like we walked into an episode of Happy Days with a hint of the old 70’s classic, On Golden Pond. There was a natural connection between them all and it was encouraging to be welcomed in like old friends.

IMG_1683The next morning the preparations for the clam bake were under way. Grace peeled carrots, chopped onions and washed potatoes. And, Skip a retired professor in Aquaculture, wrangled Craig and Banjo to help him get the clams in order, pulling them up out of the water into a wheel barrow and washing them clean. He explained the process of farming the sea and all that goes into raising clams. Then it was time to start the kettles, boiling the water bath, preparing for the vegetables and then finally the clams.

The excitement began to brew as folks started to arrive. Many brought a drink to share and an appetizer but the crescendo came when Skip announced that the clams were finished and called everyone over to the picnic table covered in newspaper. We gathered, held hands, said a prayer and watched in awe as Skip emptied the contents onto the table. We all lined up, filled our plates and our bellies, finishing the evening with a regular ol’ Hollands sing along around the piano. The food was delicious, the company was gracious and kind and the experience was one to remember.

 

Beach Babies

Some folks find solace in the woods, some shopping on fifth avenue. Most of us Hollands! find refuge at the beach. So, spending a month winding up and down the coast of Florida was nothing short of pure bliss. We started in the Panhandle at Pensacola Beach, making our way south to Naples, ducking down to the Keys all the way to the Southern Most tip of the United States, then back up the Atlantic side through South Beach, Melbourne and finally St. Augustine. IMG_0897Each Florida beach is as different as the grains of sand, each showcasing their own unique beauty. Our favorite beach along the panhandle was Pensacola Beach and if it had been warm enough we probably would have been there everyday. Unfortunately, it was in the 60’s and being north on the gulf meant the water was not much warmer. However, we couldn’t resist throwing on a sweatshirt and sitting seaside, enjoying the emerald-green water, and fine pearly white sand. And, the bonus of Pensacola Beach is that you have access to the shallow calm waters of the Bay and just an eighth of a mile on the other side of the island was the rolling waves of the Gulf. So depending on your mood you could go from one side to the other in a single day.

IMG_1220Our favorite beach in Naples was Clam Pass. It’s $8 to park but they had little gulf cart trolly’s that took us to and fro, starting in the parking lot and ending at the cafe/beach. They had lawn chairs/umbrella’s for rent but we preferred to just take our own supplies and walk down the beach setting up right at the mouth of the pass. The cool thing about this beach is that if its low tide you can hunt for hermit crabs and clams and during high tide the surf is perfect for body boarding. Plus the water is actually warm. On a side note, we’re sand snobs, and prefer the soft powder. Clam Pass with its slightly grainy sand mixed with shells, just makes the cut. IMG_1138Having never been to the Keys and only seeing photos, we weren’t sure what to expect regarding the beaches but we did know that the water was a crystal clear mix of emeralds and blues, so that alone drew us down. However, once we arrived we realized that our ideal of a sandy beach wasn’t going to be met. Rather, we would find delight sitting by the water on a grassy patch to catch a sunset at our campground on Ohio Key or swimming directly off the dock. The waters were calm, and warm which offered the perfect scenario to bring out the blow up raft and lounge in the water all day long. We still longed for a proper beach day and found that Bahia Honda State Park appeased our desire enough by offering a little strip of sand/shell mixture to plop our beach chairs and umbrella on. Most of our time there was spent floating in the knee-deep water. On the actual island of Key West, we parked down near the docks and walked the mile across the island to Higgs Beach to take a quick dip in the ocean and cool off. It’s a small city beach with a long jetty for people to walk out on. The sand was simi soft and the water pretty clear consider how many people were swimming. We were delight by the large demographic of beach goes and specially made note of the unique swimwear at the beaches in Key West.

IMG_1197South Beach, Miami rocked! The water was warm, waves were light and fluffy, and the sand was soft yet grainy with yellow hues.  It’s a city beach and has all of the fixings  of a scene straight out of CSI Miami minus the murder. There were umbrellas, cabana’s, restaurants, and bars all up and down the coast line. With the hustle and bustle of city life all around us, this beach was very reminiscent of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. We only got to spend a short morning visiting to this beach and would definitely make it more of a priority next time around. IMG_1256If you’re looking for the surf, Melbourne is the place to be in Florida. Satellite Beach to be exact. Our son loves to surf and had he more time and known someone with a board, he would have loved for us to hang here a bit longer than we allowed. The sand was grainy and the water was cold but the waves were epic. It wouldn’t be where we would want to spend a whole day camped out watching little ones build sand castles but for the purpose of getting in and riding some waves, this beach fits the bill. The only draw back for us was that besides the beach itself, kinfolk in the area and a little burrito stand called Da Kine Diego’s Insane Burritos, Satellite Beach seemed to be lacking in cultural draw. There was just one long double lane road that ran the length of the peninsula and had strip malls or condo’s on either side. We’d go back but probably only to hang with our kinfolk who happen to live there in the winter months. IMG_1362St. Augustine as a destination was probably our favorite. Everything about the area, the history, quant little town, and the beach was fantastic. Unfortunately, we only had one night in St. Augustine. We camped at North Beach Camp Resort, a privately owned RV Park. The sites were a bit above our price range but we were thankful for the opening specially since it was Easter Weekend. The resort was like something out of a Fantasy Island episode, with beautiful live oaks enclosing each site, a pool, shuffle board, restaurant beach side as well as a restaurant river side. The beach was similar to Melbourne in that it was cold and the sand was grainy, however the waves had a gentle crash to shore and was perfect for sea shell hunting. Ideally, we’d hit this one again. Maybe they’d be up for a barter. We’ll do a concert in the park for a week of camping. Wouldn’t that be something! If we could, we’d probably go back to most of them but if we had to pick only one we’d probably pick Pensacola Beach or really anywhere along the panhandle. We’d probably wait until late April or May to visit this area just to give the water a bit more time to warm up. Have you been to Florida? What were your favorites?

Dream Talk 2015

North America - 16x20 Close Up-800x800We are so excited for all that 2015 will and already is offering. This year, (October) we will celebrate four years of full-time family travel! And, even more exciting, this year will be our first trek to the East Coast & Eastern Canada.

As we look forward our vision is clear and we are ready to go ahead with what we’ve been given. Over these three years on the road, we’ve received a hardy portion of amazing grace and freedom. We’re deeply rooted in the message of reconciliation and know our way around the faith. We’re ready to do what we’ve been taught and continue to let our living intoxicate those we meet along the way. Musically, we have a strong sense that more will come, but hold loosely to whatever shape that might take. We are excited to see who ends up riding with us over the next season of travel. We can barely contain the joy when we think about all of the community we will meet on this new route and know that serendipity will find us every single day!

As we embark on new territory we would love to invite you to join us on that journey. If you have kinfolk on the East Coast, that you think might be interested in a visit from us Hollands! please send us their way. Or, if you’d like to ride the bus for a stint, please contact us at thehollands@thehollands.org

We will be in Austin until February 8, shoring up loose ends with our bus. We have to get a new tire, finish off a few building projects and refuel, which we’ll be able to afford thanks to our kinfolk, who have generously given through our Helping Hands/Modern Day Fund. We also need to say one last goodbyes to all of our precious friends here in ATX!

Here is a very loose itinerary for 2015:

FEB: South Padre Island TX, Beaumont TX, Lafayette LA, New Orleans LA (Celebrating Jana’s Birthday, all are welcome to come and camp with us the last weekend of Feb)

MARCH: We will be in Florida for the whole month of March. We are not exactly sure of our routing in FL and totally open at this point. We do have our sights set on a stop in the Ocala National Forest where we hope to bring our merrymaking to the Rainbow community. We also feel a strong pull to go to Key West. Who wouldn’t, right?! 🙂

APRIL/MAY: Hoping to connect with kinfolk in the southeast, including: (and anywhere in-between) Savanna GA, Charleston SC, Atlanta GA, Asheville NC, Wilmington NC, Richmond VA, Washington DC

JUNE: Philadelphia PA, Allentown PA, New York NY, Cape Cod MA, Boston MA

JULY: Portland ME, Old Town ME, Mid-July we’ll make our way up through North East Canada through Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto

AUGUST: Lansing MI, Muskegon MI, Chicago IL, Door County WI, Delavan WI

SEPT-DEC: We are applying for festivals in Australia and hope to be overseas by the middle of September. Our desire is to continue on through Oceania and make our way up to SE Asia or Europe. We’re open however, to other options. So stay tuned.

WordleWe look forward to the road that lies ahead and anticipate an awesome year of learning and growing. Our dream talk wouldn’t be complete without our “naming ceremony.” It’s time where we each quiet our hearts and listen, hoping to hear that still small voice speak a word over us; a word that will take on new meaning as trials and joys come our way. This year, Craig’s word is “embrace.” Graciana’s word is “patience.” Banjo’s word is “courage.’ And, my word is “treasure.” Each word by themselves is significant to each of us individually. However, we see the beauty in all four of our words impacting us as a whole. As we move through each day of 2015, our hope is for a spirit of abundant and bountiful thanksgivings. And, as we show our gratitude through our merrymaking, coming alongside, mentorship & craftsmanship that others will be moved by the extravagance of God in our lives.

We hope that you are encouraged by our dream talk and that you might sit down with your family allowing time and space to really hash out your thoughts, dreams and desires; looking for the interconnectivity of them and spurring one another on through out the year.  If so, please share, especially any other traditions that you might incorporate into your dream talks? And, if you do the naming ceremony, we’d love to know what word comes to mind when you quiet your heart?

Sing My Joy

10409290_971041472909311_6025193075287294830_nYou remember Chaz Jones, don’t you? He was our first bus rider. We met Chaz at a festival in 2012 and he kept in touch. In Feb of 2013 he invited us to visit his community in Lafayette, LA. We met many of his kinfolk, sharing song and a meal. Near the end of our visit, Chaz mentioned that he was keen to ride our bus and wondered if we would be open to that idea. Over the next few months we chatted about what that might look like and in late July of 2013 Chaz took a greyhound up to Michigan to meet us for a five week tour that would take us across the US, finally getting off the bus in Boise, ID. It was an exciting time for us all, learning how to communicate needs, desires, boundaries, encouraging and challenging one another. By the end, there was no denying the intensity and deep connectivity of living in community with Chaz. He was endeared to us as family and his mark would forever be upon us as we travelled forward.

A few months later, we had new enquiries about riding the bus so we reached out to Chaz and asked if he would offer any feedback or insights into his time with us. Anything that might help us be better hosts with new riders. I was ready for the skinny, thinking there surely had to be some admonishment coming. You see, it’s a tricky and humbling thing to live in community with outsiders, allowing them to come into the fold. Although, he was always gracious with us, I don’t doubt Chaz saw all of our ugly. It’s very difficult to play perfect little family, specially in 300 square feet. And so, we wanted to hear his heart, allowing him to put everything on the table, sharing what he had learned, the good and bad. His words caught us off guard.

He wrote: “Man, I could probably write a book. Let’s see, Before I arrived, I was a real people pleaser. I felt like I always had to explain myself in times of uncertainty rather than just being vulnerable and saying  “I don’t know where i’m going or what i’m doing exactly” I realize now that when I arrived my passion was lacking but I was hungry for purpose.

During my time on the bus, I was able to reflect on my life and saw that I had been half-hearted in just about everything, especially my relationship with God and with the people that I love. I met so many people during my time on the bus and I learned that you can never go to a place or meet a person and think you’ve got it/them figured out. I found that coming into these new situations gave me fresh perspective and understanding about that place/person, which gave me even more understanding about myself.

I learned to really live in the moment, to not just spend the present thinking and worrying about the past or future but to most importantly just BE. There’s so much growth that takes place when traveling in community. I know that being with The Hollands has helped me grow in my communication skills. I really loved being able to go into various types of people-groups and find common ground, especially within the church.

I’m so thankful for the fellowship with The Hollands and really felt at home among family. I’ve learned to “step into the mystery” and I look forward to more times of living and laughing together.

Highlights: Jana’s cooking, of course! I Really enjoyed enjoyed floating in the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Colorado was just lovely. Meeting Trippnwk. Craig’s morning coffee pour-overs. Visiting Jpusa, and camping at Lake Michigan.

Suggestions for other who may travel with The Hollands: Be open and just fully live in the moment. And hold your nose when the bus is leaving to take off! Ha!”

10801946_971125486234243_957717618970174661_nIt has been a year and a half since Chaz rode the bus and on a cool December afternoon in Lafayette, LA, we celebrated the marriage of Chaz and his new bride, Victoria. The country farm setting of the Gotreaux Family farm was the perfect backdrop, with a large Live Oak as the cornerstone and a vintage Volkswagen van as the sidekick. Victoria’s styling was shabby chic 1930’s with a touch of retro 1970’s. Her dress was beautiful and her bridesmaids complimented the styling with pale pink, peach and cream colors. The fella’s wore browns and whites with bow ties and suspenders. Their ceremony was short and sweet with music compliments of two of us Hollands, along with two of Victoria’s brothers and a friend of theirs. Chaz played banjo when he toured with us, so it was no surprise when he asked for a few numbers heavy on the banjo. Their wedding party consisted of dear friends that they had both met at Masters Commission in Lafayette, LA.

The reception followed naturally right after the ceremony, with guests meandering under the oak trees, enjoying appetizers and signing the guest book. A lovely cajun dinner was served, capped by a delicious white wedding cake with rosemary. Beautiful speeches were given by family and friends and us Hollands! finished the night with merrymaking and delight.

It is a honor to be invited into the lives of others, to share each others woes and joys. We are thankful for our time with Chaz and excited to see what all may come for he and Victoria as they embark on their own journey!

All Photos by Claire Vogelgesang: http://lcvphotography.tumblr.com/

10708571_4742924466786_508677648689647281_o

Contra Dance

Contra dance (also contradancecontradance and other variant spellings) refers to several partnered folk dance styles in which couples dance in two facing lines or in a group of four. It has mixed origins from English country dance and French dance styles in the 17th century.

Our introduction to Contra Dancing was in Bishop Hill, IL, 2013. We were invited to the tiny historical town to perform at their Midsommer Music Festival. After our performance the festival moved indoors for the finally, a contra dance, (also known as a Barn Dance, but not the same as country line dancing.) We had never been to a contra dance so were unsure of ourselves but delighted to find that it was a welcoming community and easy to learn.

The evening began with a caller, who explained and guided the group through a dance. Then once everyone had the general gist, the music began. It was fiddle based tunes, with piano, guitar, banjo and bass accompaniments. It was festive and the energy level was brilliant as we flowed from one partner to the next. The movements were whimsically smooth and spirits were high. One thing that caught us off guard however, was the intense eye contact. Contra dancers make eye contact whenever possible. This adds to the connectedness of the dance, and as we found out, helps reduce dizziness, especially during “the swing.” There were no costumes or role playing, it was just pure dancing pleasure. 

Austin Contra Dance Fast forward a year and we are on our way to Austin, TX  May 2014, with our fellow bus riders, Greg and Jeffrey. Somehow Contra dancing came up and we decided to look up a dance in Austin. We discovered the Wednesday Night Contra Dance that was open to the public and also allowed musicians to sit in with the band, which they call the Local On-Call Orchestra (LOCO) . It was a win/win, so we took our friends, taught them to dance and played music!

It was such a great time that we went back one last time before our departure, north where we would sit in Wisconsin for the summer. Then as we began to make our way back south for the winter, we told Rhys, our Australian bus rider, about Contra Dance. He smiled that sort of, “yeah, I’m probably not gonna dance,” smile. But we were convinced he’d try it once he saw it. Ha! We joined the Wednesday night Contra Dance as soon as we arrived back in town. Rhys was happy to play music with the band but reluctant to try the actual dance. We got him out there eventually. He was a good sport and in the long run, he can at least say he’s tried.

 

 The History of Wednesday Night Contra Dancing, Austin TX

Contradancing in Austin originated when AFTM (Austin Friends of Traditional Music) started a jam session at Hancock Recreation Center over 30 years ago or so. Somebody (the name was lost in time) said “Hey, this is a good dance floor so let’s dance!” and thus the dancing started. The dancing went through several variations and around 1990 became predominately contradance.

To this day the Wednesday night dance at HRC is still a community dance with an average of 40-60 dancers and occasional 75 dancing to the music of LOCO (Local On-Call Orchestra) – an open band of 3-10+ members with many excellent musicians, where anyone is welcome to come and play. The callers will call a variety of dances, whether it be contras, squares, circles, or whatever. This is a free dance courtesy of the City of Austin and Austin Parks and Recreation Department.

If you’re near Austin, TX we highly recommend a Wednesday night with the The Austin Barn Dancers. They meet every Wednesday night at Hancock Recreation Center from 7:30 until 9:45.

If you aren’t in Austin, do a search for Contra Dances in your area. Fun for the whole family!

Take Me Back to New Orleans

Fontainebleau State ParkWe spent three nights at one of our favorite camp grounds in the US, Fontainebleau State Park. The park costs $18 a night for a paved drive, Elect/Water hook ups and sits on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s about a 40 minute drive from the park to downtown New Orleans. Perfect for a day trip in to the French Quarter for Beignets and music and back out to the quiet of the beach.

Click the link below for musings about our time in New Orleans from our Daughter’s perspective.

Take Me Back to New Orleans.

Outtakes from the beach:

 

Healing Waters and Woodland Gardens

Hot Springs ARHot Springs, Arkansas, gets its name from the naturally thermal spring waters that flow out of the ground. At an average temp of 143 °F, they say the hot springs produce almost one million gallons of water each day.

We could feel the history in this place and began to explore. We learned that Native Americans called this area “the Valley of the Vapors,” and it was said to have been a neutral territory where all tribes could enjoy its healing waters in peace.

In the mid-1500s the Spanish and French settlers claimed the area. In fact, famous explorer Hernando de Soto was the first European to visit Hot Springs in 1541.

The hot springs were such a coveted natural wonder that in 1832, President Andrew Jackson designed Hot Springs as the first federal reservation.  Hot Springs Reservation was essentially America’s first national park, predating Yellowstone National Park by 40 years. Congress finally established the National Park Service in 1921 and Hot Springs Reservation became Hot Springs National Park.

In just a decade, the area changed from a rough frontier town to an elegant spa city centered on a row of attractive Victorian-style bathhouses, the last ones completed in 1888.

In 1886, Bathhouse Row was discovered by the Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs). With its hot mineral waters and Ouachita Mountain scenery as well as its hotels and nightlife, this bustling turn-of-the-century resort town was the perfect place for something no one had ever heard of: annual spring training for professional baseball.  In time, five fields were built.  Each spring, as many as 250 players came here to train, including the legends of the game.

Hot Springs also became a hotbed for organized crime. Like the Native Americans that came before, this area was deemed safe or neutral ground for enemies to gather. Especially in the 1930s, it was a popular hangout for Al Capone, Frank Costello, Bugs Moran, Lucky Luciano, Madden and other infamous mobsters.

Gangster activity in Hot Springs came to an end in the 1960s, due to a federal crackdown on what the government called “the site of the largest illegal gambling operation in the U.S.”

Although we weren’t able to fit in a visit, The Gangster Museum of America, which is located in downtown Hot Springs,  features classic relics  and a documentary in the museum’s theater.

Quapaw Baths and SpaWe did however take full advantage of Bathhouse Row and spent an afternoon soaking in the thermal waters with our host’s Anna and Rickey Rodgers.  We choose the Quapaw Baths and Spa’s which is situated right in the heart of the city and National Park. The daily rate to soak in the public pools, of which there were four, was $18 and well worth every penny.

We also took a day to explore the Garvan Woodland Gardens, which boasts one of the top five Bonsai gardens in the US. It’s a childhood dream of mythical beasts and strange companions, waterfalls, bridges that twist and turn, and home of the “Tolken-esk” Anthony Chapel.

Our favorite exhibit of the day, the Anthony Chapel sits nestled under a thick canopy of sky-reaching southern pines and age-old oak trees. Nearly six stories tall, the brilliantly designed structure compliments the surrounding wooded landscape.

We learned that Maurice Jennings and David McKee, both from Fayetteville (AR), created this awe-inspiring chapel. Jennings describes the Anthony Chapel as “the finest” of the more than twenty chapels he has designed around the country. It is said that the chapel project cost about $3.8 to construct.

The rest of our visit was spent enjoying time with our host family, the Rodgers. We shared meals, encouraged each other in faith and family life, built with lego, played board games, sang songs, and at over a hundred degrees the whole week of our stay, we enjoyed the air conditioning in their home.

We took advantage of our five days in the area, seeking out a chiropractor that could help with some migraine issues and taking care of much-needed maintenance on our vehicle. As it turned out our 7 hour drive from Coffeyville Kansas to Hot Springs AR, which was a bit treacherous, with winding hills and stormy conditions, could have been our last drive. Apparently, the hub cap screws on our trailer had fallen off sometime during our drive, meaning that our wheel was miraculously held in place until we arrived to our host home. Where by, it then fell off. It truly was a miracle that we made it safe and sound. As it was, we ended up finding a mechanic to help us out for about $500 and a few days later we were on our way.  We are so grateful for the supernatural protection that we know covers us wherever we roll and we are always delighted to meet kinfolk willing to keep us on our way.

We also said goodbye in Hot Springs, to Sylvia. After two weeks sharing space with us through IL, IN, KY, TN, MO, KS, and AR we were sad to see her go. She was a delight to have on board. We’ll especially miss her desire to learn and her fantastic sense of humor.

 

Humidity and Humanities

Elk City State Park KansasOh good grief, August sure was hot! Three years on the road and no A/C has been tolling but we just keep trucking, finding relief where we can. Kansas proved to be one of our hottest stops in 2014 but Elk City State Park offered the respite we needed from the heat.

We went down to Coffeyville, KS to share an Australian Bush Song Workshop through Coffeyville Community College’s Humanities program. We performed our workshop over 16 times, in the local high school, community college and nursing homes over the course of our five days.

This is our third time in six years, participating in this lecture series and every time our program gets more and more refined. This time around our program began by paying respects to the original people group (Aboriginals) of Australia and the telling of a dream time story. Then we touched on the origins of Australia as a penal colony and stories of seafaring and songs that came with that time. Then went into the politics of the early settlement and the divide between the Aristocrats, Squatters and Drifters, finally sharing songs and stories of Australia’s Bush Rangers (outlaws). It was fitting to share the stories of the Wild Colonial Boy, Waltzing Matilda and Ned Kelly as Kansas is one of the states that many of the US outlaws roamed. We were able to make well rounded comparisons with Billy the Kid, Jesse James and the Dalton Gang.

Coffeyville Humanities programCraig was the main speaker in our series. He guided us through the stories, fun little antidotes about growing up in Australia, and he even shared about his experience in the shearing shed as a youth. He followed up by singing a hardy rendition of the classic, “Click Go The Shears.”

The rest of us each played our parts, including our son on rythmn, Graciana on vocals and I joined on vocals and the Mandolin. Having the extra support of our fellow bus riders on board was a nice welcome as well. Sylvia added charisma and fantastic harmonies and Rhys joined in on the bass, vocals and even shared the story of his hometown, Glenrowan and Australia’s most famous Bush Ranger, Ned Kelly.

Elk City State Park KansasWe camped all week at Elk City State Park. Our site included water and 50 amp service. We paid $25 a night for a spot directly across from the lake. At 102 degrees all week-long, we were so thankful to come back to Elk City Lake and jump into the bath water every single night. Our little haven in the middle of the plains was the perfect backdrop to share some of our local camping traditions with Rhys. Being from Australia he was unfamiliar with our version of smores and carmellos. We also made brats, boiled in beer, my grandmothers famous potato salad and watermelon. To top it all off, we went into town for a few meals and found the Chicken fried Steak a hit.

I wouldn’t say that Kansas is at the top of our list for places to stay for a week, however Elk City State Park proved to be a nice change of pace and offered us just what we needed to get through the week. If we make it back for another humanities series, we’ll know exactly where to stay!

 

The Wayfaring Family

Social media is a basic necessity for us in our travels. It is a lifeline for staying connected with our hosts, venues, fellow travelers, and friends. We use WordPress as a journal/newsletter about our travels, bus life, healthcare, homeschooling, spiritual insights and the inner workings of our family life. We use Facebook to communicate about our music. We also have a private group there that we can share our most intimate prayer needs and requests. We have an Instagram that we share daily pictures of our adventures, and a Twitter that we use in tandem with them all. We have found our Instagram and Twitter great places to connect with fellow travelers, homeschoolers, food science, & social justice minded kinfolk. The Wayfaring Family is no exception. I met Anne via Twitter and with in our first few interactions we were plotting out a visit.

The Wayfaring Family’s profile reads, “Encouraging family travel, Just returned from a Round The World trip. If we can do it so can you!”

They are The Helmer’s, a typical American family of four. They are small business owners, hyper scheduled, over involved in sports and school activities. And they have a four pound dog and two cats to care for. How could they possibly up and leave? They dared to dream. Things all worked out and everything was there when they got back.

Their adventures are detailed on our their blog but a quick run down is they drove across the USA, Rafted the Colorado River, sold our their car in LA. Flew to Guatemala. Lived in Antigua for a glorious Month. Flew toPeru. Visited the Amazon for two weeks, Machu Picchu and Lima. Flew to Fiji. Then Three weeks in New ZealandSix Weeks in Australia. Bali for Christmas. Kuala LumpurBorneo for several weeks. Singapore, then Thailand and then on to Africa. Dubai then Spain. Six weeks in Italy, then Austria, Germany, Holland, France and England.

You can read their full story:
http://www.andtheyreoffblog.com

IMG_9531We were super excited to meet them and this past Tuesday pulled into their Lexington driveway for a one night stay. We were greeted by Anne, her 12 yr old son Lee, Random and Mia, the cats and their nine pound living legend, Buddy the dog.

Anne offered a cold glass of water which was graciously accepted and we hit the ground running. There is an instant kinship that happens when we meet fellow travelers, specially families who have live outside the norm for any period of time. The two boys immediately hit it off and within the hour announced that they were brothers. We talked about they dynamics of raising children on the road, moments of struggle but mostly the victories we saw when our children’s eyes open and minds expand. We talked about logistics because everyone does it differently and there is so much to learn from our fellow travelers.

Later, Anne’s husband, David and their 16 yr old daughter Laney arrived and jumped right into conversation. David shared about his job as a lawyer and desire for a change. The travel was just the catalyst for that change and as soon as they arrived home he got busy with a few start-ups, including a mediation business. He really lit up when sharing his desire to use his talents and experience volunteering with a justice project that focuses on mediation within his city, helping to bridge the gap that comes when a neighborhood that was once deemed less desirable becomes the target of capitalism. It was encouraging to hear how travel had inspired them all, infusing them with purpose and a compassion for humanity.

Later that evening, the Helmer’s hosted a gathering, inviting many of their friends down to David’s office where we performed a Hollands! set, enjoyed local pizza and conversation. It was our first performance with our new travelers/bus riders, Rhys and Sylvia. They did great job filling in on vocals and bass, and jumped right to community life, connecting with those who came to hear and meet us. It’s in these sorts of moments that I sit back and I am in awe of how we got here. Just one little tweet and here we were meeting this amazing family and singing sweet songs to them.

The next morning offered breakfast, more conversation, and a quick stroll around the neighborhood before we had to head south to Nashville.  Until next time Wayfarers!

The Wayfaring Family