Today is nothing but rain, so I'm stuck inside and figured I'd catch up on my blogs here. So far, I've been at Lake Ouachita in Arkansas for four days and it's been quite an experience.
I arrived Saturday around 7 p.m. I saw on freecampsite.net that there was a free campground here, Big Fir, and I decided that was where I'd stay. The only problem was that I didn't know how the free campsites worked. Do you just pull up and pick a spot? Do you need to check in and get a permit from someone? No idea. I tried calling the office before I left but no one answered. With my "figure it out when I get there" attitude, I assumed I could just go to the office and talk to the people when I got there. So I drove about 4-5 hours from Memphis to Lake Ouachita only to find that the office was closed. Damn! Now what do I do? I drove around for a bit to try and see what was around, but it was pitch black and it's really a big pain in the butt to drive my big old mobile home up a big, windy mountain in the dark. I decided to head back to a gas station I saw along the way and asked the guy inside if he knew how the free camping worked. He didn't. But he said if I needed to, I could probably just park in one of the parking lots for the night and figure it out in the morning when there's sunlight. That seemed reasonable. I went to the parking lot he suggested and spent a solid half hour freaking out about whether or not I was actually allowed to park there overnight. I opted for putting a sign in the window in case someone came to knock on my window. And that was that. I couldn't figure out the camping when I got there so I slept in a parking lot.
The next morning I drove back up to the office and they were still closed. I was so frustrated, I just looked on Google maps, picked a public spot to go check out, and decided if I couldn't figure it out before it got dark I was leaving. I picked out the Brady Mountain area and parked Roman in the lot. Me and the pups got out and walked along the lakeside and through the woods. There was a campground there, but it appeared to be closed. After a little while, we went back to the RV and I saw a park ranger pull into the lot across from us. Hell yeah! Finally, someone I can ask about the free camping! I approached the white truck and the man inside didn't look up until I got all the way to his window. He rolled it down and I inquired about camping at Big Fir. He ended up giving me a map and pointing out the two free spots, as well as the spots that you pay for. Apparently it's their off season so there were only a few open. I was so glad I went over and asked. The park ranger's name was Byron and he was extremely friendly. We chatted for a little while and then he drove me around the campsite we were by so I could see it all. It was absolutely beautiful. The clear water and small islands throughout the lake reminded me a lot of the Apostle Islands.
I said farewell to Byron and took off toward Big Fir. To give you an idea of how big this lake is, it was a 40 mile/1 hour 15 minute ride from Brady Mountain to Big Fir. I passed through Crystal Springs on the way and stopped at a Dollar General for some water and marshmallows. Good thing, too, because it turns out Big Fir is a pretty secluded area and it would have sucked to have to go back into town just to grab something. The road going to Big Fir was a bumpy, gravel road. Let me tell you, that SUCKS in a motorhome. I probably cruised at a solid 5 mph the whole way to the campsite. It was worth it when I got here. I backed into a site and parked the RV. I couldn't believe the view I had from my bedroom window. Woods, blue water, and a steady stream of sunshine! Ahhh! This is the type of place you go to when you just want to get away from everything and enjoy some quality time with nature.
Byron mentioned that if I walk by the lakeside and look where there is red clay, I may be able to find some Quartz crystals. I leashed the dogs and we went out looking for crystals. I ended up finding some cool pieces sitting in the tree on my site (I guess someone left them) so I snagged those up and then called it a day. For those of you who know me, you know I'm blind and couldn't find something I'm looking for if it was right in front of my face. I can, however, find firewood. There was plenty of good firewood just laying around, so I went off and collected a bunch for when the sun set. I was so proud of myself when I started my fire! I got it going with just a little bit of cardboard and a couple of napkins. It was roaring! It was nice... but I couldn't get rid of the feeling that it would be better if someone else was there enjoying it with me. I started feeling lonely and decided I didn't want to be that isolated and would take off after one more night.
I don't know what it is about this lake, but every night since I've been here I have had the most vivid dreams. That night, I had one of the most bizarre, but comforting dreams. Never mind the weird stuff, I just quickly want to mention that my mom visited me in my dream. I looked in a mirror and instead of seeing my own reflection, I saw my mom. She just smiled and waved at me. I love when I have these dreams; it's like a reinforcement that I'm headed in the right direction and that my parents are still here by my side, looking out for me. They didn't travel much when they were alive, but they sure get to now! In the morning, the girls and I took off to do some more exploring. We moseyed around in the woods for a while and then went back to our site. I set up the slack line that my friend Tyler bought me as a going away present and fooled around with that for a bit. Boy, do I need practice. Those things are a lot harder to get a hang of than they look.
There was one other couple camping in the loop that I was in. I was down by the water and saw them digging in the dirt, looking for crystals I assumed. I brushed away the fear of rejection and walked over to say hi. Worst case scenario: awkward silence or obvious cues that they didn't want to be bothered and I'd leave. They turned out to be a really awesome couple. Digging for minerals/crystals/gems (all the good stuff) was a long time hobby they both shared. They actually met in the woods somewhere when they were both off on one of their trips. They started digging here at Big Fir and hit the jackpot! I scoped out their hole and you could see all sorts of crystals growing in there! It's amazing, the things we walk on top of every day, never suspecting that there is such beauty below our feet. I invited them over for a campfire once the sun set and they took me up on my offer. We had good conversation and my feelings of loneliness vanished. I guess I just needed some human interaction! I was good to stay a few more nights now.
Monica and Nick (the other campers) joined me again for a fire last night. I offered them a couple of bottles of water since they didn't have any (part of my goal of being less selfish and giving to others) and Monica brought me over a cookie. It reminded me of the barter system. Water in exchange for a cookie! Today was just rainy. I figured I'd take advantage of it an try for a shower in the rain. It KIND OF worked. I ended up having to use a bottle of water I filled at my last couch surfer's house to finish rinsing out my hair. Whatever. It worked well enough to wash my cave woman status away.
That about sums up my stay at Lake Ouachita. I got some time away from the big cities to enjoy nature, I met two awesome people who I may be able to meet up with again once I make it to Arizona, and I had my first real go at boon-docking. Tomorrow I'm going to head off to Crater of Diamonds State Park and hope I can find my Suzie Q!
It's always a good time visiting Nashville, but I figured it was time to move on. I found a couch surfer in Memphis who had room for me and agreed to let me stay with him. I was planning on being at his place by 7:00 so I could go to a film festival with him, but I found myself sitting on the highway, engine off, waiting for an accident to be cleared up. We were there for about an hour. I made small talk with the guy in the truck next to me and then I turned on my cb radio to see if anyone was talking. Boy, those truckers are a hoot! At one point, I went to the back of my RV to shift my clothes around (they were drying from when I did laundry earlier) and all I heard from the radio was, "Hey! We may be getting a free show! This girl is in the back of her RV changing her clothes!" Needless to say, I had some entertainment while I was sitting around.
Once the traffic cleared up, the drive wasn't too bad. I stopped at a gas station to fill up and use the restroom, but the place looked a little shady so I just got gas and decided to keep moving until I found the next travel center. Not too far down the road was a Love's. I saw the gas price at Love's and it was about ten cents cheaper than where I bought it. I started thinking about how I wanted a coffee and that ten cents difference in gas could've bought my coffee. That was all I could think about from the time I saw the gas price until I was checking out at the counter. I swiped my card and the guy said the debit reader wasn't working. I started digging for change when the gentleman behind me said, "Don't worry about it! I've got hers!" and he bought my coffee for me! I couldn't believe it! I was so stuck on how the gas price difference could've bought my coffee and I ended up getting a free coffee after all :)
I made it to Chris' house and was happy to find that he was a very kind, welcoming guy. He took me out to the Flying Saucer for dinner. That place was pretty cool. It had plates lined all over the walls and they had a program where if you drink so many beers, you got a plate hung on the ceiling with your name on it (it was one of those places with hundreds of beers on tap). Apparently Chris is an avid beer drinker so he had a plate on the ceiling. After dinner we went back to his place, started watching a movie and then we both headed to bed.
Chris had to work in the morning, so I was off on my own. I figured I start my day by visiting one of the parks that was pretty close to his place. I strapped the dogs in their basket and we took off on the bicycle. I didn't make it too far before some guy yelled at me and told me to get off the road (there was no bike lane). I got a little flustered so I turned around and we just headed back to the RV. I started unloading my motorcycle when I got back so I could head downtown and meet up with another couch surfer, Karen. She had some time before she got off work so I just went to a coffee shop in midtown, the Otherlands. It was an artsy coffee shop with tables that were covered in paintings. I sat down at one of the tables against the wall and a guy started conversation with me. He shared a pretty interesting story which I am not going to share with you because it was rather personal and something that he doesn't tell many people. I guess that's the beauty of meeting a stranger. You can share things with them and it doesn't matter what they think because, chances are, you won't see them again. I shared my story about what I'm doing and we just sat and chatted for about an hour before he took off. Once again, I was amazed by the graciousness of strangers. He threw me a donation on his way out.
Karen met me at the coffee shop and we chatted until they closed. From our short conversation in the coffee shop, I could tell she's the type of girl I could easily get along with. We headed to Gus's Fried Chicken for dinner which was pretty damn good. We even got lucky - they gave us each an extra piece of chicken. After that, Karen drove me around and showed me some of the sights of Memphis. We strolled through Mud Island which was a little town with beautiful, big houses and perfect yards. She pointed out the new Pro Bass shop which was shaped like a giant pyramid and we caught a glimpse of the Memphis bridge. After some sight seeing, we parked her car in her parking garage and walked down to Beale Street. It reminded me of Nashville, I guess because of all the neon lights, but with different music. We didn't go partying or anything since it was a Wednesday, but we still got to people watch a bit.
The next morning, Chris took me out to breakfast before he had to take off and get some stuff done. After we got back, me and the pups headed out to Shelby Farms Park. I parked the RV in a big lot and we just took off on one of the trails. It was a gorgeous park and made for a nice afternoon walk. Later that day I headed back to Mud Island to get some pictures and do some work at Cafe Eclectic. I ended up meeting back up with Karen to grab soul burgers at Ernestine and Hazels. This was a two floor bar which used to be a brothel. They say it's haunted by the people who killed themselves in it. We went upstairs and tried to catch some orbs, but we didn't see anything out of the ordinary. We hung out there for a bit and then headed back to Karen's place so I could grab my things and head on home.
I was a little hesitant to stop in Memphis because of all the negative things everyone says about the crime and whatnot but I'm glad I did. I got to meet two really cool couch surfers and see the beautiful sights that Memphis has to offer. I even swung by Graceland (just passed by and saw Elvis' mansion before I left because I'm too poor to go in) before I headed off to Arkansas. Another successful trip!
It blows my mind how fast the three weeks I spent in Nashville went. Although I didn't manage to land a job and stay for a couple months, I still did a lot. I got to spend time in Nashville as a local would (kind of), exploring more than just the honky tonks on Broadway. I haven't done such a great job blogging about my daily activities so now I'm sitting at a coffee shop in Memphis and I'm going to summarize my favorite things about my time in Nashville for whoever decides they want to listen [read] to me ramble.
Alas, I made it to Nashville! Nashville is one of my favorite places that I've visited so far in my life so I wanted to come back and just hang like a local for a little while. I arrived at my friend Adam's house on October 14th. Lucky for me he had a few days off work and got to hang out with me! The night I got to town, we met up with a few of his friends and we went to Edley's Bar-B-Que. Let me tell you, this was some of the best barbeque I've had! I ordered deep fried ribs. That's right. Deep fried ribs! It's like chicken wings but ten times better. We hung out there for a little while and then ordered an Uber to take us downtown for karaoke night at Lonnie's Western Room. We ended up convincing our Uber driver, Patrick, to take the night off and come hang with us. We were all walking to the bar when a bum stopped us and asked for a cigarette. We gave him one and lit it for him, and then he looked me in the eye and said, "Now give me some change." Adam handed him some change and then the guy looked back at me and demanded, "More." Patrick gave him some more and then the eyes were turned back on me. Sorry bro! Don't have any for you! It was the most awkward stare down I've ever received. I was so thankful when the doorman at the bar we were going to refused to let him in. Phew! Other than that, we had a great night of crazy karaoke, good laughs, and a few brews.
I left Columbus at the crack of dawn so I would beat the traffic on my way down to Louisville. It took about five hours until I made it to my friend Ana's house. Again, I got to see an old friend! I got to see her new house and her new dog. Unfortunately for everyone, her new pup and my dogs didn't get along too well. We ended up having to keep them separated the whole time we were there. Ana and I headed out to do some exploring after I got there. Tom and Chee was our pick for lunch. Apparently they have donut sandwiches. I was intrigued by this and ordered a blueberry one. It tasted delicious, like a dessert, but I probably wouldn't order it as my meal. Lucky for me, Ana shared her Italian Grilled Cheese with me!
Many days late and many dollars short, I finally finished up everything that needed to be done before I left. All I have to say is, "Thank goodness for Big Herb!" Big Herb was one of my dad's best friends. I was almost ready to go, but the bike ramp I bought wasn't very sturdy. He stopped up the day I was supposed to take off and mentioned how unsafe my motorcycle rack was. He helped me out and took the time to modify my bike rack so I could transport the Sportster safely. With his help and the help of my friend Louie, we got the last of what needed to be done, done. We (Herb) added extra supports underneath to reduce the wobble and then I practiced riding up the ramp. It was a good thing my nervousness got the best of me. I rode my bike up the ramp and it ended up getting stuck where the ramp met the rack. We (Louie) cut a bit out of each side of the rack to make room where my bike was getting caught. After about three tries, we finally got the bike loaded and ready to go. Bless them both for looking out for me!
With the bike secure, clothes and all the goods moved in, I was ready to head toward Columbus. This was the first time I was taking Roman out on the highway. It was a bit frightening, let me tell you. Twenty-nine feet of home with a bike rack extended in the back... that's a lot to drive. But no worries, I made it safe and sound all the way to Roya's house and managed to only get honked at once. One honk, no running into anyone.. I'll take it!
When I arrived, Roya was at the bar with one of the salesmen from her company, Peter. I'm not going to lie, I was a little irritated upon arrival because she wasn't there and then she asked if I wanted to drive the RV to the bar. Let me think about that... A giant RV with a bike on the back, two dogs in the cab, 8 mpg... no. No, I do not want to drive it to the bar. It was a very short-lived irritation though. Roya and Peter came and picked me up and there's nothing like seeing an old friend after not seeing them for months! We said hello and headed back to the bar they were at. There was a lot of work talk, but after a bit Peter and I got to chatting and he turned out to be a really awesome guy. He told me about his daughter, Mollie, who started something called "The Friendship Project." Her goal is to provide friendship bracelets (free of charge) to kids who are hospitalized so they know they have a friend out there. I thought this was just the sweetest thing. If you're interested in supporting her cause (spreading awareness or requesting a friendship bracelet for someone you know) check out her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Friendship-Project/1025721300792990
Another cool thing about Peter is that he and his wife have a website to share dinner recipes. They've got four kids and were having a hard time keeping a balanced diet with everything going on in their daily lives. They started making recipes for the week so they could get everything they needed in one shopping trip, saving time during the week. The beauty of the recipes is that they are adult meals which are "kid friendly" so that everyone can help prepare the meals, giving them more time to spend together as a family. Their recipes and experiences are shared for all to see on their website: http://whatisinpeterspan.com.
I stayed in Columbus for a few days. Our friend, Tony, stopped out to spend the weekend with us. We had a movie night at Roya's on Friday. Roya's friend Sarah (who is my friend now too thanks to this summer's trip to Put-in-Bay) and her husband joined us. On Saturday, we all went to Sarah's place for a costume and board game party. Then on Sunday, Roya and I did a little running around. This was the second highlight of my trip so far. I wanted to get feathers for the dream catchers I'd be making. We went to a craft store and I found some feathers that I thought were gorgeous. The only caveat was that they had fallen out of some bag and were just loose feathers. I couldn't find any more like them and was debating on what to do. My first thought was to just stick them in my pocket. However, I took the honest route and decided to take them to the counter and ask if I could purchase them. I laid them down on the counter and told the lady I'd like to buy them, but they didn't have a price tag because they were just laying on the floor. I immediately started bashing myself on the inside for not shoving them in my pocket when she said, "I can't sell these to you..." But then she finished her sentence, "I can, however, give them to you." I couldn't hold back the giant grin that spread across my face. It really is the little things that make life worth living. Something you may think is a small, meaningless gesture (like giving someone a few feathers) could make someone's day.
I couldn't have asked for a better start to my trip. I got to see old friends, make new friends, and reinforce the fact that there really are still good people in the world.
You know, I could go on and on about all the things I did before I left - updating the RV, moving, trying to get a few extra bucks together before I left. However, I'm not going to bore you with all the dirty details. Instead, I'm just going to share the story from the day I bought my RV.
I found the listing on Craigslist. I was a little hesitant to check out the RV because of the price. I took a chance anyway and I am so glad that I did. As soon as I walked into the RV, I fell in love. I had to have it; this was the one! I called John (the previous owner) to extend an offer and I was so excited when he accepted. We scheduled a time that Saturday to transfer the titles. I met him at his house and we drove down the street to the notary. We got there a few minutes before they opened, so we chatted outside for a bit. He asked where I was going to keep the RV and when I told him, his response was, "Oh, Chicken Hill!" Only the locals know the area as Chicken Hill and everyone knows everyone around those parts. I asked him if he knew my grandparents. Nope. But my pap and my dad had the same name - Frank George. John asked, "Wait, what was the name again?" When I said Frank George his eyes lit up and he replied, "Oh yeah! I just went to his funeral not too long ago. He had the motorcycle hearse." Yep. That was my dad. It turns out they used to drink together down at the club. Call it a coincidence, but it made me feel that much better about the RV I found. I felt like my dad helped me find the right one. He's still looking out for his little girl.
I'm a city girl off on a journey to find happiness. My blogs will contain stories that I feel are significant to my voyage.