I have decided it is impossible to explain to someone why they should love a place. I have also realized no one will ever love a place like I do, because each of us experiences a place differently. All that’s ok. Give me a minute though to talk about the place I love, the place that still feels like home, despite having been gone so long.

Tennessee is not a perfect place. Like everywhere else there are subhuman beasts roaming the streets, with their fear, biases, ignorance, and hate. Tennessee can be slow to embrace change. I know. We know.

Tennessee is the loamy, fertile, flickering forest. It is a warm, breeze at night, so soft it feels like a loving hand has caressed your face. It is red soil, as hard to move as the metal that gives it it’s color. It is the sharp tingle as you slide into a mountain creek or river. It is skinny dipping under the light of a full moon. It is sitting in the mouth of a cave, part way up a bluff, watching fire light paint the ceiling orange, knowing it has looked like that for millennia. It is the wailing in the night of an owl, a prayer, or a banjo. It is dancing, arms swinging, and people laughing and clapping. It is the sweet quench of a fall apple, or cold, sweet tea. It is the sincere and tenacious preservation of craft, history, and the land itself. It is offering to do and go before you are asked. It is not knowing a stranger, but not letting folks too close. It is women and men of letters. It is making whiskey in a dry county. It is mischievous, fun, serious, and faithful. You can’t know it like I do, and that’s ok.

It was late when I landed in Knoxville, and snuck quietly into the home of the woman (HB) whom has been my friend since we were five. We stayed up chatting in whispered voices, making sure not to wake her husband. Just like slumber parties when we were ten. I’ve never been married, but it kind of felt like I would be saying “I do.” the next day.

So I did. “I do have my credit card.” A quick exchange of money, information and incredulity that I was going it alone, and off I went with ChinChin. Like all new Mom’s I was filled with love and a healthy dose of terror about what I’d gotten myself into. The odd bit of grinding gears, and hauling of the manual steering around, and I felt much better. The next few days were spent enjoying the company of my friends, running around outfitting the wagon for the long trip west, and soaking up thunderstorms, lightning, The Tomato Head, and wrangling HB’s husband into helping me build an “air conditioner” out of a cooler and a tiny fan.

Side Note: You can make one of these yourself, like this one. I wanted mine to plug into the DC cigarette lighter adaptor. The fan I got was not strong enough for it to be affective during the hot days, but on the nights I camped in ChinChin (and had A/C power), I popped two bags of ice in the cooler, and set it up on the over-cab bunk. It certainly kept me comfortable on the hot nights.

With the first rainstorm, I found a nice little lake in the back step by the door. A judicious use of duct tape, and a car cover kept things dry on the trip home.

Pleasent surprises included the ability to see out the back window in the door from the rear-view mirror, the interior being in pretty good shape, and the nearly constant thumbs up and requests to sell that occurred over the next 3,700 miles.

Finally, it was time for the highway test. I scooted off to Nashville fairly early, and found, other that the wind vulnerability, it was no trouble. At my first gas stop, a woman got very happy when she saw me, and explained her Mom had a Chinook when she was little.

Nashville was a crazy few days of work events and catching up with the natives. My sweet friends in west Nashville let me camp in their driveway. Being lulled to sleep by storms is the best, as are friends that lend your their love and their bathroom. Being inspired by the open source community, a quick trip to Santa’s Pub, and finally that text message that was eleven months in the making, and it was time to scoot off to Chattanooga.

My time in Chattanooga wasn’t long enough. It is a cool town, that is growing and rehabbing itself under the careful eye of some savvy, tech-minded folks. We took one of the two days, and ran off to Russell Cave. The cave has signs of almost continuous occupancy from 10,000 BCE, through the late 1600s. I love my Chattanooga peeps, and didn’t want to leave, but work and Atlanta called.

I love and miss Tennessee, but it has many of the same over development problems that irk me here, not to mention some of the politics. This trip released me from the feeling of needing to live there at some point in the future. I wouldn’t object, but I no longer feel that I should.



Vintage Camper Supplies

I came across this website tonight: http://www.vintagetrailersupply.com

The are largely geared for the Airstream crowd, but they have everything from aluminum propane tanks to camper-themed duct tape. Prices seem a bit high, but it is nice to see vintage camper specific items all in one spot. They also have some fun looking kids books if you are trying to convince your little ones that camper life is fun.

Camper Tape

A dream realized

I was born in the state of Tennessee to a Tennessee Mama and an English Daddy. They were both, by nature, curious and liked to travel.goatcouple Mom has an affinity for beaches and her native Smoky Mountains. She was awed to her core when she saw the Alps. Tears rolled down her face the first time she stood on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, after waiting six decades to see it. She loves to fling herself into large ocean waves and be pummeled by them.  mamagoat Dad has an affinity for solid rock walls and unending vistas. He is willing to dangle from a rope with nothing beneath him. He is always pushing to go a little bit farther with the hopes of seeing a valley spread out below him, or glimpse the curvature of the earth roll away at the edges of the horizon. Mom was one of eight kids, and they all used to pile into a big station wagon to go visit family or attend church events hundreds of miles away. Dad and four friends bought, out-fitted, and drove anrover old Land Rover from England to Pakistan and back in 1966. Suffice it to say that I come by my Wanderlust naturally. As a child we went hiking and camping whenever possible. We took multiple road trips to places like Colorado, California, Canada, and the beaches of North Carolina. We camped in tents often, and occasionally got cheap hotel rooms. “Hiker/climber scum” is compliment in our family. Beatles, mosquitos, hauling water, sunburns, etc. were all part of the fun. the pop-up trailerWhen I was about four years old we rented a pop-up trailer, and drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway. I remember rolling around on the crank out bed, unzipping the screen windows, and playing air hockey for the first time in the game room at one of the campgrounds. When I was in high school we bought what was, at the time, a very innovative form of pop-up trailer called an A-Liner. Mom, my sister and I drove it to Vancouver, BC in Canada, met Dad who was there for work, and then Dad drove Mom and I back. (My sister had to fly home for work.) I loved that A-Liner even though, due to busy schedules, we didn’t use it very much. It was easy to open up, highly functional, made good use of the space, and was a perfect home away from home. We got rid of it after several years because we weren’t using it, and as is typical for things that live in the South, it was getting musty and mildewy.An ALiner similar to ours. In 2003, Mom, Dad, and I moved to California to be with my sister, brother-in-law, and their growing family. Within the first year I’d moved into an “in-law” apartment in San Francisco. In other words, 250 square feet of living space crammed into the back of a garage. It was, for San Francisco, affordable and came with laundry and a backyard (both rare treats). Living in this apartment has taught me so much about space use, and over the years I’ve learned lots about home renovation from helping out others. I used to want lots of space for tons of guests, but now I’m much more interested in efficient use of space. When I leave San Francisco eventually, I would love to have a tiny house. I’m addicted to searching the internet for creative ways to turn single use spaces into multi-functional spaces. I digress. Even though this apartment is affordable for San Francisco, it is expensive, and previous to my current job, I made very little money. I was always thinking about a back up plan, including living out of a Tuff Shed in Mom and Dad’s back yard. At some point my concerns about being homeless, my love of travel, and my happy memories of camper life as a kid coalesced to a desire for a camper. I didn’t want a giant RV, just something small, comfortable, and efficient. I started to notice mid-70s era campers that seemed to fit the bill, but most of them were based on American made trucks or vans. I love America, but we weren’t making very reliable vehicles in those days, so I knew I wanted something Japanese. I had spent time with Dad working on a ’71 Corolla, so I knew we were capable of working on a Toyota truck of that era. That is where the Chinook company came into play. They built a few different campers that were all based on small Toyota Trucks. If you’re curious, just do a Google image search for Toyota Chinook. I fell for the version that is a small truck with an attached fiberglass shell on the back with a roof that pops up. These ads from the 70s totally charmed me, and I started looking around to see what was available. The first time I emailed myself a link to one that was for sale was May 14th, 2010. I have had friends from North Carolina to Oregon go check them out for me as they popped up on Craigslist. I’ll love my friends forever for all the support they’ve offered. Guess where I finally found the one I wanted? Just outside my home town in TN! It needs some work, but it was in good shape, and the right price. It will spend the next couple of weeks getting repairs, upgrades, etc., then I’ll pick it up in June when I’m in town for a work trip. It feels great after so many years of looking and thinking about it, to finally have one that I can make into my own little home away from home. I’m sure some people will think I’m nuts for having all these feelings about a camper, but it isn’t just a vehicle for me. It is time with the family and friends that I love, it is adventure, it is the freedom you get from traveling, it is a way for Mom and Dad to go have adventures on their own, and it is just getting out and connecting with the world at large. My sister has nicknamed the camper ChinChin, which is “cheers” in Italian. The lovely women I work with suggested the blog name. I’m excited. I hope to use this blog to share all the adventures from repairs to trips, and all the pieces that fall in-between. IMG_2884