Stories of Our Travels ~ Wherever the Wind Blows Us

May 24, 2017

John Muir
My First Summer in the Sierra

On May 6th, under the encouragement of the new moon, we began our first cross-country journey with the Vardo.  Oh sure, we had done a couple hours here and there of travel time with short trips, but this was the do or die moment we had been waiting for!  Our son was returning home from his military deployment, making it just in time to see his first child born and we were heading to North Carolina to welcome them both and honor his wife for giving us our second granddaughter.

We stopped in Ohio to see our other military son and his family before we engaged the open, winding roads to the East coast.  Two hours in I was so anxious from what we began to call “squirrely butt” that I was ready to call the whole trip off and abandon our travels.  Permanently.  The Vardo was fishtailing radically.  Finally after a weight re-distribution she smoothed out and kept pace like she was made for it!   We swept thru Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and finally North Carolina. Over the Appalachian Mountain range, thru the Blue Ridge Mountains, into mountain tunnels and underwater tunnels, finally landing on the shores of the Southern Outer Banks. We drove thru whipping wind and rain, a fog so thick in the Allegheny Valley that there was no front to the truck, only layers of white distorted haze.  Nearly 2,000 total miles of travel and, having embraced nature’s fickle moods, we found not one sour moment.  We were shouting our triumph from those mountain tops!

It is in our traveling nature to take odd moments to absorb the journey along the way.  A random flea market stop near Asheville turned up some fragrant dried hibiscus for tea.  It had a definite Hispanic flair with open markets abundant with papaya, chilies, chayote and prickly pear.  Musica poured from every tent and the atmosphere was lively and tangible.  We also made a stop at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  Toured the grounds and have come to enjoy a new found respect for our  horticulturist and 3rd President of this great United States of America.  His plant knowledge was unrivaled at the time and so well documented that the foundation has been able to continue his legacy.  The gardens are something stunning 80′ x 1,000′, lush and pristine.  I procured some seeds from his plantings, albeit they are some 200 times great grand children of the original plants, they are as pure and genetically linked as the 200 times before them.  I now have Cucumis anguria (West Indian Gherkin) and Capsicum annuum var. glabrisusculum (Texas Bird Pepper), Lycopersicon lycopersicum (Cherokee Purple Tomato) and a flowering plant called Nigella damascene (Love-in-the-Mist).  My husband insisted on that one.  He has moments of rare romantic nonsense, which I adore.  One of our last stops was Mitchie Tavern, just a few miles from Monticello.  We arrived too late to tour the tavern itself but were able to visit some of the shops.  We also met a gracious woman by the name of Cindy, (and her father).  It turned out she is the director of this beautiful historic site.

The Vardo was a point of excitement and wild imagination for hundreds of people along the road.  We were overwhelmed with enthusiastic admirers. One gentleman, who had little English but was so enamored of her, began patting her appreciatively and talking to her directly.  He actually kissed Isadora (the Vardo’s given name) in a show of appreciation.

It was our pleasure to share the stories of her origination and details incorporated into the design.  ~ Did you make it?  How long did it take?  How much does it weigh?  Does it travel well?  How long does it take to set up? (Answer to that by the way is either 1 hr or 1.5 hrs, depending on if we are in amore with each other or well… NOT.)  Do you sleep in it?  Where’s the bathroom?  Can I get a reading?  Can I take pictures?  Can I have my picture taken with it?  Where are you from?  Where all have you been?  Are you coming back here? ~  Being engaged added about 6 hours to our travel time.  But we are honored to share in their enjoyment and, even at the end of a long day of travel, we wouldn’t want it any other way.

So the first big journey is under our belts and we are already planning the next!  Until then, we will just be…


February 20, 2016


The 70’s are back!

The winter temperature hit 70 today and Johnny Mathis’ It’s a Long and Winding Road is drifting through the air.  It was the perfect time to pull the Vardo from under cover.

We’ve spent the winter with her tucked away under a carport, shielded from the weather.  Yet every night we’ve slept out there.  The temperatures hit their lowest with -19 wind chills. Yet we were determined to see if we could manage it.  With our goal to be traveling a great deal of the time we had to be certain we could hang with different weather encounters.

The unfortunate part was that although we have a wood burning stove inside, being under the carport stymied building a fire.  We had to rely on a tiny 12″ heater, a heated mattress pad, and natural body heat.  The foam used for our bedroll is solid as a stone when frozen, so the mattress pad was used just enough to soften it up, then it was shut down.  Breath coiled and smoked with every “brrrrrr” we uttered.  Mornings were a crazy rush to grab clothes which  hung on pegs and make it to the house for a hot shower before parts started freezing!

My husband had spent the winter months finishing the roof with a copper tinted aluminum sheeting (we are certain this will stop the leaking), reworking the outer ribs and adding some creative touches.  The torment was that I’m not a tall woman and I couldn’t see his work, even with a ladder it just didn’t have the angle.  So for months I’ve been waiting for a day like today!

It’s beautiful of course.  And we built our first fire!  It roared with great vigor and gave off the sweetest heat.  We used wood from an old growth forest, in southern Indiana, that had been blessed and, in my husband’s native practices, used to honor the ancestors.  This wagon has been built with the knowledge that our ancestors have always been a part of it and will travel with us as they so choose.  Another reader shared with me that my Aunt Louise, who had passed and was a true little corker, claimed that she will have to travel with us when I am reading because, “She doesn’t have the balls to do it alone!”  Ah, blood of my blood Auntie ~  I am fearless!

Paul is working on the air cooling system, old school of course with water, insulated compartments, copper, coils, spigots and then it’s off to finish our electrical component.  Batteries and inverters are pricey and those will just come in time.

Until then we’ll just be a jallin’ a drom!


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” – Susan Helle

Words to live by as we prepared to go “jallin’ a drom”! But we weren’t too concerned about our own packing prowess. We are pretty savvy travelers and were well prepared for our first longer distance voyage with the Vardo. (Or were they?) Da Da Dummmmm…

It had been our plan to have the Vardo set, so that we could take off at the drop of a hat and not scramble each time to pack for a journey. So off we went on our first excursion, comfortable with the knowledge of our experience/abilities at our backs and excitement of finally, after 2 1/2 years, getting our feet wet so to speak, out in front of us.

Clifty Falls in Madison, Indiana was our choice. Weather forecast was perfect for our mission. Which was to use this time to work out the bugs so that when we hit the road professionally we would be able to set up and tear down with the greatest of ease, while in the mean time enjoying all of our preparedness planning. This included a well stocked pantry cooler with all my spices/herb (no one should have to live on hot dogs and canned soup when bounty is to be had at any farmers market along the way) plenty of entertainment options and appropriate creature comforts, including my “potty chair” (a tri-fold chair, picked up at a flea market, that my husband deconstructed, outfitted with an enamel pot, a carved seat with an additional upholstered cover for alternate usage), and a bottle of our favorite wine. What more could we need for a perfect 3 days of June camping?

Woolen socks, mittens, beanie caps, sweats and hot chocolate would be equally brilliant answers!

It rained the first two days, and with the unresolved leaks we were constantly vigilant, asking each other a thousand times over, “Was that a leak? Did you hear that? Feel the pillow!”. It is as this point that I would be remiss if I did not say that my husband is the most remarkable man, in that he can find humor in situations that would set most men cursing. He makes me laugh… always… and that is true passion!

We had simply brought summer clothes. Only to find both the external/internal temperatures hovered in the low 50’s. Add the rain, plus damp wood and it was a sad little bit of warmth we had as our comfort.

Snuggling, “Did you hear that?”, nap taking, “Feel the pillow!”, and a lot of solitaire, “Was that a leak?” filled the first two days. We are avid wood fire cookers, but the drizzle and sizzle enticed us into venturing to town in search of tasty sweet treats, which we neatly found at the German bakery. Now, admittedly I got a little teary, true, when we left the Vardo for our trip into town. It was the first time she had been out of our sight since her conception.

Happily glazed we wandered back to find everything just as it was left. Wet, cold and blissfully beautiful! She had taken the drive down, which was all back road travels, with just as much grace as she weathered the blowing rains. “Nope that wasn’t a leak. No there was nothing to hear and the pillow? Plump and dry!” Not one droplet had slipped in!

When we had first arrived and began setting up there were sidelong glances, finger pointing and children chasing after us, but no adult ventured any nearer than their own invisible camp boundaries. I don’t think people quite new what to do when the gypsies came to town. But by day three, when the sun had come out, they saw we were not dancing naked under the moon (mainly due to the weather) or stealing children and curiosity overcame caution. It was a beautiful thing and exactly what we had hoped for!

At one point there were 18 people, and one relentlessly insistent dog, all trying to get inside to look and poke about. Photos were being snapped through phones, cameras, tablets, anything they could get a hold of. Questions, answers, stories, shared travel knowledge, laughter, exclamations of appreciation and brilliance all filled the air, colliding and layering into the very story of our own story. Finally, as we left the park, we traveled back into town for a little historic learning and antiquing. Locals and tourists came out of shops and homes to see the Vardo. Again, more conversations, photos, remembered and shared stories, an offer of a write up in the local paper and requests for our return to their festivals.

With the expressions of admiration, wishful dreams of others wanting to do the same, and acknowledgement of artistry it would be easy for egos to overshadow the beauty. And I will not say that we don’t take pleasure in the appreciation. But I am thankful that we both approach this adventure knowing that it is an artist’s vision. And one that will make memories, create conversations and excitement in the retelling, and hopefully spark inspiration in the minds of anyone who has been searching. That is where our gratitude lies.

There is much more to do, embellishments and external design ideas. She isn’t finished and we will continue to layer in depth of color, texture and surprises as we go along, just jallin’ a drom!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” Anonymous

We finally tugged the Vardo from her slumber now that winter has loosened its grip. The fresh wash of rain and pitter patter on the roof, as we snuggle in to start sleeping in it again, remind us… sigh… that well, we still have leaks! They have been very elusive. Starting who knows where and ending, suspiciously, every time, on an exposed slumbering body part. But Paul has gotten us down to one. The most stubborn of them all, but being the fastidious, native tracker that he is, it will soon be captured.

We have added more pictures. I wanted to show the simplistic beauty of our hvac system. Old school style. Then, and I have said before, the Vardo shows us her gifts time after time and again. The sun streaming in through the door portal at sunset stole my breath. I was hoping to catch the needle rays, because I had glimpsed them before, but the four globes were a new discovery!

The VIN was finally approved. The inspecting officer couldn’t stop grinning over the idea of her and stayed long after his signature, asking questions. Paul had the tag plate made for it and when he attached it, I cried. He had had it inscribed with the words, “For the Witch I love. We travel together.” On the heels of that, came the registration and plates. Both the VIN and the license reduce to the same auspicious number. We travel under (Love Potion) #9.

So now we are legal to be jallin’ a drom!

Monday, March 30, 2015 was THE day…

We finally took her for the maiden voyage. First it was off to have a certified weight. She comes in at 3,580 lbs. Then we strolled around town for a while, stopping here and there to check on materials. Every time we walked back out to her we broke into sappy grins, and my eyes would get a little misty. We would look at each other and one or the other would say, “Yeah, we’re the cool kids!” People were stopping to take pictures and when we pulled into Camper World one poor gentleman nearly wrecked his golf cart pointing us out to his passengers. We have a keeper!

Because of the graciousness of two dear friends, Justin and Tim, we also have a new web page under construction. I will announce when it is up and running but for now I want to share the name.

Until then you’ll find us jallin’ a drom!

Saturday, November 15, 2015

As much as it saddens me, the cold weather has finally put an end to sleeping in the vardo. Without the stove in it, even the layers of blankets and my husband’s faithfully warm backside couldn’t compensate against the tendrils of chill seeping in.

We did however just get the stove back from Andrew. It was being mended, and re-fabricated in as much as it was a salvaged find and wasn’t quite what it use to be. But now that it is sealed, heat treatment painted, re-grated, re-grilled and embellished, it is beautiful once more.

The porch is also being re-fabricated. It warped during the rainy season and wouldn’t slip back into its pocket. It is much to my relief that he is also adding a handrail. I’ve fallen out of the wagon twice now. The first time, before the porch was added, the little stool skittered out from underneath my foot. I smacked my head on the solid steel trailer tongue and was impaired for well over 6 weeks, and occasionally feel the residuals still. The second, the rain slick leaves shifted off the bottom step. It caused me to sublux my rib again and left me with a beautiful display of spectral bruising. Every work of art comes with a blood payment and it is my most humble opinion that my husband should be grateful I’ve paid it for him!

So now, we wait. Wait for the wood stove to be installed, Wait for the weather to break enough to put in the stained glass. Wait for spring so that we can finish the putty/painting work. Wait to secure the right vehicle to pull it. Wait….

Until then we’ll just be a jallin’ a drom!

Sunday, October 12, 1014

PROUD and over the moon to reveal a most remarkable stained glass creation from artist Dianna Kitzinger! Dianna took our farm’s name & logo to create a visual interpretation of stunning beauty!

Blue Raven & the Sea Witch.

Her generosity and tenacity in procuring the perfect glass pieces leave us grateful!

Dianna’s creative brilliance can be commissioned. I will be posting photos of some of her other work as I am able to and have her contact information upon request.

Dianna ~ Forever my love and awe, you are beautiful!

So for now,  we’ll just be a jallin’ a drom!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Every day from the glowing morning swash of sun to the whisps of fog rolling across the top of the wagon there are hidden treasures that expose themselves throughout. They appear as things we never could have planned, but are the most beautiful little surprises!

But the sun… It has been our biggest fan! Blessing us with beauty randomly and continuously.

It comes in glowing through the garnet stained glass top windows washed the unlit chandelier with a pulsing red glow.

Then, come mid-morning, shines atop the knot holes in the roof and penetrates down into glowing little orbs on the inside ceiling.

It then hits the afternoon mark and powers through the garnet glass and creates jagged waves of high frequency splash.

At any given moment it will delve in through the skylight to set the chandelier on fire, filling the inside of the wagon with dancing prisms of multi-faceted shapes and brilliant colors.

In late evening it comes shining backwards through the convex glass of the sun of the door and beams thousands of strands of vortexed brilliance through the portal.

It is good to be on the sunny side of the road, just jallin’ a drom!

September 3, 2014

I had the absolute pleasure of touring the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Co. while on a trip with the artist, Dianna Kitzinger, who is creating our stained glass piece for the back wall of the Vardo.  The history is remarkable. They are a world class supplier of stained glass, est. 1888.  Having one of their first, and continuing, customers as Tiffany & Co.

The design is a play off our Blue Raven Witch and is conceptually stunning!  I am not able to share the design here as of yet, but we are eager for her to finish and for us to be able to set it in place.

The spindles have finally been put on.  They were a tiny milestone what we had been eager for.

We have been sleeping in it nightly, simply because we can’t stand to be far from it.  This may sound a winkybit unusual, but for those of you who have embraced a project of this size and duration, well it really becomes a creation of such love.

As the wild storms rolled in the other night we discovered dribbles of flawed construction.  There was the pitter patter of splatting rain drops on my head and my toes and… well, just various indignant places that left us curling around bowls and pans to snuggle into any dry spot we could find!  Could we have run to the house for shelter in a reliable bed?  Sure we could have, but after the first soaking run to get the bowls it just didn’t seem worth the drenched, teeth chattering effort.  Besides, there is something magical that happens when a woman curls up against the man she loves, in the midst of bowls and drips from above…

I think my husband is going after copper for banding today, as this revelation has driven him to a frenzy of creative resolution!

We are looking forward to jallin’ a drom with the rain all behind us.