The Mighty Mississippi

Cincinnati to Texas, Day 2: St. Louis to Springfield, MO (July 28, 2014)

The Second Time is Easier

Well, the alarm went off again at 4 AM. Since I had gotten a few more hours of sleep, it wasn’t quite so difficult as it was yesterday. I got up and got dressed. I then went and started the Jeep so that it could be fully warmed up by the time we were done packing. I came back in and packed up the CPAP machines and carried everything out to the Jeep except for the animals.



The second time I had to put the cats in the carriers, it was much, much easier.  Most notably because our hotel room had very few things for the cats to hide under or behind. I started with Little Miss.  She knew that something was up and tried to go behind the dresser in the room but quickly got stuck.  When she backed out of there, had her and into her crate in no time flat.

Junior was a little more challenging.  I had to move the bed around to spook him out from under it several times before he went to go hide in the bathroom, which is right where I wanted him.  I cornered him in there.  He started growling and yowling because he was afraid of the “big bad daddy.” So, I offered him the crate as a way to “escape.” He took it.  ‘Nuff said.

Strangely, Squeak was the easiest on the first day, and was the most difficult this morning. I was able to pick him up easily enough, but he absolutely refused to be stuffed into the carrier. I had to have Linda hold the carrier vertically while I put him into it butt-first. Even then, it took several tries and a few encounters with his claws to get it accomplished.  Once that was done, we loaded up the animals and headed out.


On the Road Again

We stopped at the gas station so that we could get some coffee, and then got on the highway.  This picture is about as blurry as I felt at the time, but I was going to get a wake-up in just a few minutes. The first 15 miles were uneventful. I did notice that even at 5 AM there was a reasonably good amount of traffic on the road, so I just stayed in the right lane and tried to stay out of everyone’s way.


IMG_3025Once we got close to the Mississippi, the highways started converging and diverging like spaghetti that sat too long and is now all stuck.  My GPS kept saying things like “take the exit right, then keep left, then keep right.”  Tracey had warned us about it the night before…and yikes, she sure was right.  There was more than one occasion that I was white-knuckled until we got out of the city.


I Think I Can…I Think I Can!

After we left St. Louis, we quickly started climbing. I have never driven near St. Louis, so I didn’t know what to expect.  We had one uphill and then a downhill after another and they were getting progressively more steep!  Thankfully, MoDOT installed truck lanes on the steep hills. I was slowing down to 45 MPH on several of them. Sometimes, after we would crest one hill and start down, I would not recover my full highway speed before we got to the next uphill. That made the Jeep slow down even more. At one point, we hit a batch of these hills that had me slowed all the way down to 32 MPH before we got to the top!  Thank God for those truck lanes!

We made our first fuel stop for the day at a Stuckey’s. Linda had never been to one before. She was quite surprised at all the “home made” type things that can be found there. We got about a pound of saltwater taffy to munch on in addition to the beef jerky that we grabbed at the last minute.


Amish? In Missouri? Who Knew?

amish-buggy-road-sign-optWe got off at Exit 100 in I-44 in Missouri to make the side-trip to pick up the solar panels.  We wound up on Highway A, which connected I-44 with U.S. 60, just west of Seymour, MO. While on the highway, we spot the oh-so-familiar sign that you see when in central or northeast ohio. I was amazed that there would be Amish (or Amish-like) people out here. I thought they were all back east!  We even wound up passing a horse cart while on Highway A.




I Have the Power!

IMG_3035We rolled in at Missouri Wind and Solar to pick up our 4 solar panels and some miscellaneous hardware that I need to mount them. Originally, I had contacted them and asked how the panels would be packaged so that I could reserve space in my trailer for them. I was told that they would be packed two to a crate, and that each crate measured 67”x42”x14”. When I got that information, I completely reallocated the space in the trailer to accommodate these very large crates, and consoling myself with the knowledge that they would be very well protected.

I sent the company a reminder on Friday that I would be arriving on Monday (July 28th) to pick up the panels.  I didn’t really expect anything to come of it. I got an email the day before we were supposed to leave telling me that the panels would NOT be packed in crates, and in fact were absolutely bare! That irked me a bit, considering that I had spent several hours shifting my cargo to make room, and then I’m told that they are unprotected?

IMG_2023I spoke with the folks there and we decided that if we placed the panels on top of the mattresses and placed blankets and cardboard between them that they would be OK. After all, our mattresses are giant blocks of foam, right? The fellow at Missouri Wind and Solar helped me load them up and we headed back out on U.S. 60 toward Springfield and our motel room.


Full Service?

IMG_2041Wow.  We had seen several of these from the highway earlier in the day, but were unable to get a good picture of one until the next morning.

Really people, don’t you think that you might want to change the name of this place?  Or are you able to get a Happy Ending after getting enough reward points for buying fuel? Maybe you can get a footlong while you’re in there, too.


IMG_3039We made it into the edge of Springfield, but the GPS wanted us to hop back onto I-44 for a few miles to get to our exit for the motel. I didn’t know that Springfield was such a bustling city! We went north on U.S. 65 and it was three lanes in both directions with just about every service and food place you could think of at every exit! We finally merged back onto the highway where the traffic wasn’t quite so frenetic.

Temba, At Rest

Ah.  The motel. Finally. We rolled in at just before noon CDT. Our room was ready, and thankfully, all the rooms at this location have outside access, so we were able to get all our pets in without being noticed. I ran out and fuelled the Jeep and took a quick spin through Wal-Mart for a few things and we came back to the room and ate some lunch. Linda took a nap while I worked on the blog entries and we finally got to bed about 9PM.  Tomorrow is our longest leg yet (427 miles) so we want to make sure we are well rested before we trek all the way across Oklahoma into Texas.


Trip Statistics

Day 2:

Miles Driven today: 270.5
Total Fuel Consumed:  32.78G
Total Fuel Expense: $106.83
Average Fuel Cost/gal: $3.258
Average MPG: 8.25


Whole Trip So Far:

Miles Driven: 630
Total Fuel Consumed:  76.97G
Total Fuel Expense: $259.31
Average Fuel Cost/gal: $3.369
Average MPG: 8.18

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We’re Leaving….On a Jeep Train

Cincinnati to Texas, Day 1: Cincinnati to St. Louis (July 27, 2014)

Wakey Wakey, Eggs and Bac-ey

The *&%#$@ alarm went off at precisely the time I had set it: 4AM. Ugh. Because of all the yowling and excitement to get our adventure started, I only got about four hours of sleep.  To make it worse, we had to get loaded up and going down the road before I could get any coffee.  It was not a pretty sight.

We wound up leaving one of the air mattresses in the house.  It had a leak, and I wasn’t about to transport an air mattress 1500+ miles if it had a hole.  After I deflated and rolled up the good mattress, we gathered up our pillows and bedclothes and I tossed them into the back of the trailer.  We got our CPAP machines in their travel cases and put them in the back of the Jeep. We strapped the cats into their place in the back, too.

IMG_2013After taking one last run through the house, I turned off the water and opened the faucets to drain them, then I turned off all the breakers and then the main breaker to put the house to sleep. Linda and I walked out into the rain, got in the Jeep and never looked back. We departed at about 4:20 AM EDT, and headed down the road to the Speedway by the interstate to get our coffee.


I’m on the Highway to H-  MEOW!

Wow.  Those cats sure can make a lot of noise.  Luckily for us, my research paid off.  Everything I had read said that if you put them in a cat carrier, they will settle down and that the confined space gives them a sense of security. Of course, they made it sound like you just walk up to the cat and they will politely enter the carrier.  Yeah, not so much.

IMG_3009It was raining.  Rain, rain, rain.  All the way to Indianapolis. In the rain, you lose traction a bit, and you have to run the defrost to keep the windows from fogging.

The rain continued all the way across the state. It was still drizzling when we got to Terre Haute, IN for our second fuel stop.


IMG_3006This meant there was no AC for Chad and the windows had to be up.  I had to wear my sweatband to keep from being miserable.  There was one nice thing about the rain: it kept our temperatures nice and low.  The water spray on the highway made the transmission and oil coolers work much more efficiently.



The Sun Will Come Out…In Illinois

IMG_3015Like some kind of bizarre switch, the rain ended right as we crossed into Illinois. Once we got up onto the flat, we had no trouble maintaining 60MPH.  There were a few hills that slowed us to about 45, but they were fairly short.  We had no real problems with the engine temperatures and the trailer pulled great.



Get a Room, You Two!

IMG_3016We finally arrived at about 10:45 AM CDT. Thankfully, there was a room available for us on the first floor. While Motel 6 is known to be pet friendly, we were worried that we might be pushing our luck by bringing three cats and three dogs.  What made it more worrisome is that we were given a room that had an inside entrance, and we had to bring all our pets and gear right past the front desk.  They saw us bring them all in and didn’t say a peep.


IMG_2018After we got settled and took a short nap, we got a surprise visit from Tracey and Mark! They are taking a different route and are logging more miles per day than we are because they don’t have a trailer that they are lugging around.

During their visit, Padfoot decided to go into cute overload since I wasn’t paying enough attention to him.  So, he came up on the bed and asked for belly rubs. Tracey and Mark only stayed for about 40 minutes, and then they left to resume their adventure.  We won’t cross paths like that again until we meet in Carlsbad on the 30th.

We ate some of the food from our cooler and settled down into bed around 10 PM.


Trip Statistics

Day 1:

Miles Driven today: 359.5
Total Fuel Consumed:  44.19G
Total Fuel Expense: $152.48
Average Fuel Cost/gal: $3.450
Average MPG: 8.14


Whole Trip So Far:

Miles Driven: 359.5
Total Fuel Consumed:  44.19G
Total Fuel Expense: $152.48
Average Fuel Cost/gal: $3.450
Average MPG: 8.14

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Hasta la Vista, Baby!

Cincinnati to Texas, Day 0: Final Day (July 26, 2014)

T-18h 20m: Party in the Park

We had a wonderful goodbye gathering at Veterans park in Hamilton, Ohio.  Some of the attendees were:

Shirley (Mom)

shirleydouglas.jpgWhat can I say?  It’s my mom! She’s always been there to support me in all the crazy, half-witted, silly things I’ve done.

She makes a fantastic spice cake, called a “Tomato Soup Cake.” Now, now.  Don’t discount it as “gross” just yet – you can’t taste the tomato soup in it at all. But it makes for a really nice, moist cake.

She has said that she wishes she could join us on this adventure.  I think she’d enjoy the challenge, too.

Hey, Mom!  You’ll be able to do a “dry run” when you come out to visit us!


willcaradine.jpgWill has been mom’s life partner since the late 80s. He’s a trusted friend and usually has something witty to say. You can always count on him for a good political debate, too!

When he got his AARP card, I was still a teenager.  He was always calling it his “O.F. Card.”  One day, I couldn’t stand it anymore and asked him what “O.F.” meant. He looked me square in the eye and told me it was his “Old Fucker” card.  Since I was still a teen and had never heard him use that word before, I was absolutely floored.  He has always loved turning peoples’ expectations upside-down by doing something off-the-wall.

Todd (Brother)

todddouglas.jpgHe’s four years older than me.  I guess that makes him “wiser.”

*Choke, cough, splutter*

Once when we were kids, he must have thought I was his personal masseur.  He would come in from school and demand that I rub his foot. In a fit, I told our parents about it. Through my 12-year-old tears and sobs, I said “He comes in *sniff*, puts his foot up on my lap like ‘Rub it, asshole!’ ” My dad nearly spit his coffee across the room.  To this day, it’s a great “family joke” that we have run remembering.

If you had known us when we were kids, you’d never believe that we would wind up as very close friends.  Linda and I will miss you, Bro.  But the same invitation I gave to Mom applies to you, too!

Ken (Best Friend)

kenriley.jpgI met Ken in 1990 when I ran a computer bulletin board.  He was 19 and I was 16 and we have been inseparable since.  In many ways, the hardest thing I had to do was to say goodbye to Ken.

We have been gear heads and computer geeks together for the last 25 years. When we first met, we barely knew how to change oil or brakes on a car, and over the years have done numerous clutches, motor swaps, and all manner of upgrades.

We have similar senses of humor and political thinking.  We often finish each others’ sentences, as if we were connected at the brain. I will really miss you a lot, buddy.  I hope that you will be able to come visit soon, and maybe, just maybe, I can convince you to stay.

Arley (Brother-in-Law)

arleycope.jpgWARNING: This guy is nuttier than squirrel shit.

I recently used a Facebook app that compares the words you use in your posts to the words your friends use to assess “compatibility.” Of all my friends, Arley scored the highest. We scored an amazing 92% “compatible.”

I don’t really find that surprising. We have similar views on just about every subject.


Nacey (¿Step? Niece)

naceycope.jpgCan you tell that this is Arley’s daughter? I have known Nacey since she was nine years old.  I have watched her grow from a little girl, through the awkward, pimple-faced teen phase, and have seen her emerge, like a butterfly from a cocoon, as a beautiful young lady.

On top of all that, she’s smart, witty, and a real smart-ass.  She will pop off with some of the funniest stuff I’ve heard in a while. A girl after my own heart, I must say!



ericpower.jpgI met Eric when I moved to Forest Park as a Freshman at Winton Woods High (named Forest Park High when I started there). Eric was the kid who always had his nose buried in a book.  He consumed books faster than Roseann Bar and a truckload of Twinkies. Every couple days he would have another one.  I honestly think that he kept The Book Rack in business.  He probably had his own chair in that place.

I lost track of him after high school until another mutual friend from high school (James, see below) helped me connect with him. We quickly discovered that in the intervening years, our interests had grown even more aligned than they were in High School.  He still reads like some kind of nut-bag. He’s a real scholar of history and a firm believer in the literal interpretation of the Bill of Rights.  He’s also a bit of a prepper.

He and his fiancée, Tracey, recently started their own off-grid-ish adventure. They are living in their RV. They have about the same amount of living space that Linda and I will have out in Texas.

Eric has a blog, too.  It hasn’t been updated in a while because of some unforseen events, but keep your eyes on it.  When he sits down to write something, it’s very well composed, and researched.  He does some fantastic writing about socio-political issues.



traceypaynterpower.jpgI met Tracey when I reconnected with Eric several years ago. She’s a great gal, and will bend over backward to help you if she is able. In the time that we’ve known each other, we’ve spent many hours on the porch when she would go for a smoke break chatting about all manner of topics.

Tracey is taking a vacation to visit the Western United States. She decided to take it at the same time we are driving out.  While she is not taking the same route as we are, we will meet in Carlsbad, New Mexico on July 30, and then she will follow us out to our new property on the 31st.  Glad to have you along, Tracey!



markismassman.jpgMarkis is Tracey’s son.  One of a pair of twins, he is the sweetest, most helpful soul you will ever meet.  He’s always looking for new adventures in writing, storytelling, filmmaking, and just about any other subject that he will talk about until your ears fall off.

Mark is also coming with Tracey to vacation out in the Western US and will be arriving on our land with us. It’s a good thing, too!  I could probably use his help unloading the trailer!


James and Sophie

jamesandsophie.jpgI met James in high school.  Eric, James and I were a trio of nerdy kids that were outcast by the “popular” kids. We lived in the same apartment complex and would often hang out and do nerdy things like reading and driving James’s mother bananas by making the phone ring continuously.

After high school, I lost track of James. We stumbled into each other on Facebook a few years ago and we rekindled the friendship that the three of us had.

James has a daughter, Sophie, who is a very energetic little girl. She’s a real sweetie and always has a hug for you – whether you asked for it or not.



rosegontkovskyandzoe.jpgBack when I had a Miata of my own, I met Rose via the Greater Cincinnati Miata Club. We became quick friends, since we share a love of the Miata and snarky, sarcastic comments about just about anything. Pictured with her is her teacup Yorkshire Terrier, Zoe, who was also at the party.

Rose recently purchased a new car.  When I asked her about it, she said that I was responsible!  She said that since her mechanic was moving away, she had to buy a new car that didn’t need any maintenance for several years!



sadiesmith.jpgI met Sadie a few years ago through our mutual friends, Jon and Ken. She’s a really smart, caring young woman and is a fantastic hairdresser! Oh, and as you can see, she knows her way around a rifle, too!


jenmoney.jpgJen is what I would call “pure of heart.” She seems so genuinely innocent, that you would think that she was a little girl.  I met her only a couple years ago, but she quickly became one of the “clan.” She would come up to Eric and Tracey’s with Ken, James, Linda and me and we would eat dinner and then sit for hours chatting about whatever comes to mind.

Jen also brought her two nieces, Morgan and Riley to the party.  It’s a good thing that she did; Sophie had someone to play with!


Left the party, Fuelled jeep and hooked up the trailer.  Stuffed a few last things inside the trailer……and then……..

T-10h 15m: Herding Cats

If you’ve ever had to stuff a cat into a cat carrier before, you can stop reading this section.  You know what’s next.

Two of our three cats are very skittish, so I can’t just walk up and grab them. I had to trick them.  Unfortunately for me, they are both pretty smart.  They knew that something was up. We decided that we’d work on grabbing Junior first.  Since he is the most skittish, I figured that if we captured one of the others first and they started yowling, we’d never catch him.

As it was, it took me 30 minutes to get him close enough to me to grab him.  He also happens to be very strong.  He went nuts.  It took several attempts to finally get him stuffed into the carrier.  I figured that I’d get far more injuries than I did, actually!

Next up was Squeak.  He was easy.  Just grabbed and stuffed him. Done.

Then there was Little Miss.  She likes to hide in the ceiling in the basement.  It took me a while to chase her out of the ceiling, and then, since she likes to visit when I’m in the bathroom, I pretended to be using the potty and she came trotting in.  I scooped her up and stuffed her in her crate.

Then, the yowling and somersaults started.  Those carriers looked like Mexican Jumping Beans for at least 20 minutes.

T-5h 30m: Sleeeeeeeeeep

After first moving the cat carriers to the kitchen to reduce the noise level so that I could sleep, they were still making too much noise for me to drift off.  So, at about midnight, I took them to the basement.  I was finally able to sleep!  Too bad I only slept for about four hours.

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The "New" Blog

Welcome to the new WordPress-powered version of our blog! This entry is really just a placeholder so that you can see something “new.” I’ll start writing blog entries offline now using Windows Live Writer, and then I can upload them whenever I can find a good internet connection!

Please subscribe to this new blog so that you can get updates!

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Tick, Tock….Tick, Tock!

Counting Down The Days

I know I told you guys not to expect any more updates to the blog for a long time.  While that’s going to be true once we leave, I figure that, while I still have Internet access here, I could post a couple more things.

We are eight days away from departure.  Holy Wow.


If you have not already seen our Kickstarter Project, please take a moment to go to the site, watch the video and become a backer!  We have some silly rewards at the lower backer levels, as well as some more serious ones at the larger levels. We have 25 days left to raise $4000.  If we don’t reach the goal, you will not be charged. If we do, after all the fees, etc, we will get about $3600.  That would help us IMMENSELY.

Unloading the House

We don’t have very much left in our house.  However, there are some things that we aren’t taking that are just going to stay here.  If you’re local to us and you’re interested in any of these items, please let us know!  You bring the truck and it’s yours.  I might even help you load it.

We have 3-4 boxes worth of stuff that remains to be packed. It consists mostly of kitchen stuff and our media center equipment. There are some clothes and blankets, too, but those will be put into trash bags and stuffed into nooks and crannies in the trailer.

We also will have three cats to pack.  That’s going to be fun.  Not. The dogs have been getting regular long drives in the car, so they are ready to go.  In fact, any time we leave the house, they are absolutely heartbroken that they don’t get to go with us!

Did I mention that I am going to have to capture three cats that all have all their claws and stuff them into cat carriers and then drive cross-country with them?  I did?  Oh, sorry, then.

Trailer Tetris

Every couple days, I gather up the newly packed items and go out to put them into the trailer.  I was always pretty good at Tetris, and if I could see all the pieces, pick the ones I wanted and had a very long time limit, I could have totally dominated that game.  It never worked that way, sadly, and I would get caught up in the increasing speed and make critical mistakes.

The loading of the trailer is like my “ideal” version of Tetris. Linda is continually saying “there’s no way you could get any more in there,” and then I amaze her by squeezing in 3-4 more boxes while not seeming to use up 3-4 boxes worth of space.

Final Goodbyes

We’ve scheduled two “goodbye” gatherings in our final week.  The first, titled “(Dave and) Buster a Move” is for those who cannot make the main event, “Hasta la Vista, Baby!” If you’re in the Cincinnati area and want to come to one of these events to see us off, please feel free to join the Facebook events in the links above.

Some of my friends are unable to attend either of those events, so we’ve had one-on-one “goodbye” dinners and gatherings over the last few weeks.  We will miss all of our Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana friends terribly.  We are looking forward to making new friends out in Texas, too.

The Trip

We are taking four days to drive from Cincinnati to Salt Flat, Texas. That allows us to have very short (5-6 hours) driving each day. This will allow for long rest periods for the Jeep that is towing more than it’s designed to, as well as give me a break, since driving with a trailer requires more concentration that just toolin’ down the road.

I’ll try to get a few pictures along the way, or have Linda snap a few while we’re driving.  Once we get down to our property and can get some Internet access somewhere, I’ll post an update.

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Kickstarter Campaign

We’ve created a kickstarter campaign to hopefully raise $4000 in the next 33 days.

Please go visit our kickstarter page, watch our video and back us!

Please share this out to all your friends!

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The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Is This Thing On?

Holy Moly.  What a whirlwind it has been these last few months.

Back in the beginning of February, I was notified that Miami University had elected not to renew my annual employment contract when it expired on June 30, 2014. This had some pretty enormous implications for us.

Accelerated Schedule

Originally, Linda and I were planning to make our break to West Texas in 2015 or 2016. This would allow me to be vested in my retirement plan at Miami, and give us time to build up some stuff that we wanted to have to take with us.  We were planning to buy a truck to use as a tow vehicle and then make two trips to Texas — one to drop off our Jeep, and another for the actual move.

When I got the “news” from work, that threw a monkey wrench the size of Nebraska in the works.  We no longer would have the time (and finances) to do what we had originally planned, so we had to change that plan.

We decided that when my employment ended on June 30, that we would leave in 2014, instead.

The New Plan

We scrapped the truck idea.  Because of the accelerated schedule, we decided to order a 12×20 cabin and have it delivered to our property.  They are not the most economical solution, but at least we will have a “place to go” when we get there. Instead of buying the truck, we bought a 7×14 enclosed trailer that we will tow down there with our Jeep.  It will be quite a load on our Jeep, but with my mechanical skill and empathy for cars, we will take it easy, take our time and get there safe and sound.

Reality is Starting to Set In

It’s almost time.

I worked my last day at Miami University today.

Our trailer is about 80% packed.

Our cabin has been delivered to our property.

Our friends and family have questioned our sanity the required 17 times.

So…What Next?

At the end of July, we are taking four days to drive out.  This will keep our travel times low (5-7 hours per day) which will make it easier on the animals (3 dogs and 3 cats, yikes!), easier on the Jeep, and easier on the humans.  We will take plenty of breaks for all three of those so that all three groups (animals, vehicle and people) arrive with minimal wear and tear.

We have a lot to do when we get out there. We need to get the building insulated, a water supply, power and some flooring right away.  We have some of these things already, and others will have to be dealt with after we arrive.

It will be a while before we have any reliable internet service.  It’s in the plan, but we have other, far more important fish to fry before we go surfing the net and posting pics and videos.  So, don’t expect much from the blog after this post. We will be very busy over the next several weeks finalizing everything, and once we leave, well, we will be even busier.

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