It was official. On Thursday, May 26 we closed up the house and said goodbye to our cute little abode in sunny Sarasota. But not before picking a bucket full ‘o’ mangos first!
Martin has always been more ready for this big life change than I was… I could have put it off a few more years, but he was adamant about not delaying a dream, and rightfully so. We’re not promised tomorrow, so we have to do what drives us today.
Martin’s grandfather always described it as the currency of life being time. We trade minutes for money by working at the daily grind. We can maximize our currency by paying in minutes for the things we deem worthy of our lives. Tweet This
Everyone talks about traveling, retiring, and of the elusive “bucket list,” but few actually come close to doing it before fate or health or unforeseen circumstances throw a curve ball. It’s one of the things I love most about Martin: He knows what he wants and he takes actionable steps to get there…TODAY. No excuses, no time wasted. He just dives right in. With a number of catalysts that have inspired his “don’t-wait-live-NOW” mentality, Martin plans and does what most people just daydream about, from super yacht racing to sailing around the world, and now building our expedition vehicle for full time travel. His natural father died at a relatively young age from a stroke, and he has watched as his step father, a former Harvard crew captain and veritable super-athlete, developed Alzheimers, and suffered a one-two punch of stroke and diabetes. Thirdly, Martin’s decades-long criminal defense career, a role he will often describe as “human waste disposal,” exposed him to too many ruined lives. As a result, he lives for today and doesn’t sacrifice when it comes to his dreams.
Of course, the new lifestyle is not without its share of sacrifices. We’re now on a much more limited budget because our comparative incomes are much lower, but that is the price we are paying for choosing to “front load” a life built on experience, not regret.
My initial reactions as we pulled out of the driveway and into a life on the road: Excitement, pride that we’d gotten to this point, wild enthusiasm for all the adventures we’d have. Then a flood of anxiety enshrouded me as we hit I-75 North out of Sarasota. How would we get through living without our own friends, our own hobbies, or time alone? Would we drive each other crazy? There was a feeling of loss — losing friends, my passion for open water swimming at Siesta Key Beach, of not being able to bike around Sarasota’s downtown or walk to my favorite gym and movie theatre. I wondered how I would react to not having a place to call “home” for the very first time. Then the more pragmatic thoughts swirled in: What about our mail? Had I taken care to order all my Amazon necessities? What if I need my doctor? (I have Hashimoto’s hypothyroiditis, Raynauds and Ehlers-Danlos, a genetic connective tissue disorder that makes joints dislocate more than I’d like, so I like have a good relationship with my doc).
Breathe, I thought, reminding myself of how simple life can be when you aren’t harboring & maintaining the “stuff” of life — the golden handcuffs that quickly paralyze most of us from living and doing the things on our bucket lists. Sometimes I have to teach myself to send worry to the curb and just be in the moment; to not think so far ahead that fear paralyzes me. What would I do if I weren’t afraid? Well, this! Very quickly, all of my worrisome thoughts subsided and I threw myself into the new program.
Here are some of the highlights & our favorite activities in the Southeast from our first few weeks on the road full-time:
Tampa: Bamboozle Cafe
First we rallied with our dear friend, Lynn, for dinner at Bamboozle, a magical thai fusion joint in downtown Tampa with fresh flavors and the best fresh rolls you’ll ever sink your teeth into. Don’t forget about dessert – they have a local creamery make their signature Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream and it’s good as gold. Lynn is a gem and our conversation is always so scintillating that we have to plan for at least 6 hours for a dinner. That is the only Florida restaurant we will surely miss.
Ocala: Paddle Silver Springs State Park
Next, it was on to Ocala where I wanted to see if I could play “I Spy” with the monkeys at Silver Springs State Park. Silver Springs is memorable for the glass bottom boat tours at their iconic 1930’s theme park. It is also a throwback to the filming of the original Tarzan movie. Some say the monkeys were planted on a nearby island as a tourist attraction, others say that they escaped during the filming of the 1932 Tarzan movie. Either way, it came as a surprise when folks learned that monkeys could swim. They’ve made Silver Springs and the surrounding area home ever since. As a result of its tourist trap status, paddling was never allowed at the headwaters. In 2013, when it became a Florida state park, kayaks and SUPs became acceptable in this formerly inaccessible part of Silver Springs. During our visit, unfortunately, no monkeys appeared (though Martin was vigilant in his watch for any that might be inclined to throw poo), but we did see a variety of fish and turtles in the aquarium-clear blue water.
- If you just want a low-key down-current paddle or a 1.1 mile loops around Ross’ Island, start at the main launch within Silver Springs State Park. Check there for fees and rentals.
- More of a paddler? Then start at Ray Wayside Park. As of this post it was $5 to park. A 5-mile up-river paddle to the headwaters makes for a 10 mile round trip. Even if you don’t make it all the way to the headwaters, it’s still a stunning display of Florida wildlife. Alligator garr, blue mullet, lots of turtles and all kinds of birds. According to rangers, the monkeys were absent during the time of our visit (though there’s 5-7 troops of them in the area) due to construction near the spring headwaters.
Ocala: MTB at Santos Mountain Bike Park in Ocala National Forest
Knowing that we’d be heading out west soon & higher elevations would prevail, we thought it a good idea to get back on our bikes for a little warm-up riding around the relatively flat & fast trails of Santos. Most of the trails are yellow or blue and start from one of six trailheads, yet Santos is also known for its man-made wooden burms, balancing ramps, and pump tracks, making it a fun place to ride whether you’re a beginner or ultra advanced.
Flagler Beach: SUP Surf
A close friend in Flagler took us out SUP Surfing before we finally made our Florida exit. Nice small waves, great organic beach cuisine and a surprisingly good selection of craft beer in this quaint little beach town make it a favorite of ours every time we make it to Florida’s east coast. A side note: For the first time, VANdal got stuck as we tried to drive over a small ditch. The trailer hitch got caught on the pavement and it was a good reminder of why we’re so excited about the new truck.
Blue Ridge: Trail Running and Whitewater Paddling
Blue Ridge is a quaint town we had once considered living in, but it’s recent development has catered to the Atlanta day-tripper rather than in uniting a cohort of outdoors enthusiasts passionate about the paddling, trail running, mountain biking, and whitewater that make this area such a gem. It’s still a fantastic place to visit:
TRAIL RUNNING & MOUNTAIN BIKING: Aska Trail System
UPPER TOCCOA RIVER PADDLING: Toccoa River Canoe Trail
The Upper Toccoa is an easy, beginner level river that gives you a good experience of moving water, with mostly Class I rapids in a scenic and peaceful setting. If you’re unfamiliar with the put-in and take-out spots, it’s always a good idea to get a guide. Our good friend, Chris Tillghman, lives in the area and used to run the area’s first SUP shop. If you’re interested in having him take you down any of the local rivers, just shoot us a message and we’d be glad to introduce you.
NANTAHALA WHITEWATER PADDLING: Nantahala Outdoor Center
Most people do the Nantahala in a raft, a ducky or a kayak, but some need more of a challenge and do it by SUP. It was my second time, and I did ok until the last rapid/waterfall when I totally bonked and didn’t recover gracefully. It’s always a good idea to use a guide & get some lessons on whitewater SUP before you run a river like the Nantahala. Though not the most difficult river to paddle (most of the rapids are fun Class II with rolling wave trains), there’s a few really tricky spots that are worth having the skills to navigate before you go. Luckily, Chris is a good guy for the job.
Winchester: Hiking & Gardening
Tennessee is magical in the spring and fall, and this trip didn’t disappoint. Driveway crashing is made even better when the host has a garden like this one! We hiked Machine Falls, ate local food truck fare, hiked some more on the iconic Perimeter Trail at Suwannee’s University of the South Campus, played tourist at Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg (informative and interesting, even if you aren’t a whiskey connoisseur), and celebrated a belated birthday.
Nashville: Trail Running & Flatwater Paddling at Percy Priest Lake
We were pleasantly surprised (in awe, quite frankly) of the variety and number of greenways, mountain bike and running trails trails throughout Nashville. As driveway crash pads go, our friend Phil’s is one of our favorites because he always shows us the more outdoorsy side of a a city we’d formerly only known as “Music City.” Here’s a few we played on during our short stay:
- Hamilton Creek Trail (4.5 miles of trail running, or up to 11 miles of MTB)
- Percy Priest Lake Marinas (beautiful flat water paddling)
From Nashville, we made our way to where the new truck is currently undergoing its makeover from LMTV M1083 military truck to a converted off-road RV in Nixa, Missouri at Global Expedition Vehicles. They now have our windows cut out, a cut out made for our cab-to-cabin access, our dining booth in, and the electricals situated. We got to finalize decisions on everything from upholstery to outlets and how we would arrange our SUP boards on the roof rack amidst all our solar panel array and skylights.
GXV works like a well-oiled machine, each of their expert engineers and mechanics responsible for a specific piece of the puzzle and held to the GXV standard. They were so accommodating as we asked zillions of questions and camped out in the parking lot. They even took the gear we had been hauling in a small U-haul trailer that wouldn’t fit inside VANdal, but that we would want in the truck next month.
While we’d love to say that we have been able to continue our outdoor fun in the great state of Missouri, that is just not reality. In fact, after checking on our build in Nixa, we had to head north to Independence, MO for one of our Costco road shows with Goal Zero.
There, we were disappointed to learn that, although the landscape, multitude of lakes and area parks are a thing of beauty, it seems that very few of the residents are keen on venturing out to enjoy them. In fact, while other states simply require motor boat registration, Jackson County takes it a step further by forcing all SUP’s, kayaks, rafts, inflatables and other similar vessels to also pay the county’s obscene registration fee of $25 per board/kayak per day! It’s hard to compare places we visit without sometimes observing that city and county governments don’t always make it easy for people to live a healthy, active life. Unfortunately, in Jackson county, we see a direct link between public policies that obstruct recreational opportunities and a disproportionate obesity rate throughout the area.
We are looking forward to getting back to GXV at the end of June to see the progress on our build and then head on past the Louisiana Purchase to Colorado for the rest of the summer. 🙂