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Arkansas

The road to the future starts with the past. To go forward, you must go back. To see in front, you must look behind.

None of that really makes sense, but when we finally climbed down from the mountain in Tennessee, we headed toward Tupelo, MS to see where someone very important lived. Nope, not Elvis. Jordan’s great-grandmother’s house is still standing, and we’d never seen it. Easy call on our part to dip down and check it out.

We spent a night in the Cabela’s parking lot in Huntsville, Alabama on our way. It was our best business boondocking spot so far. There were no other rigs, the Cabela’s had a giant fire going in their lobby area, and we browsed the entire store without spending a dime (super tough to do, considering Cabela’s camping section is fuh-mazing). We also saved a little space in our black tank by using their restrooms. #winning

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Cabela’s hearth was so super cozy


We reached Tupelo the following day, got set up at an RV park whose name escapes me. Did laundry, filled the water tank, drained the others, put air in the tires, went to the grocery store, gave the dogs baths, did meal prep, washed dishes, etc. etc. and on it goes.

But the whole reason for being there was to check out the old family homestead. The house was in great shape and, to my delight, had a Dallas Cowboys banner on the front door (there were actually a lot of Cowboys fans in Tupelo, likely because of its proximity to Mississippi State– Dak Prescott’s college team). Jordan never met her grandmother, so it was cool for her to be able to make that connection, however small.

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Jordan’s dad’s mom’s mom’s house


We only spent one night in Tupelo (paying for spots just feels milky after camping for free for so long). The sun came out for the first time in two weeks, so we took full advantage and made the 5-hour drive to Harris Brake Lake, about 30 miles west of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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Capturing the constant gloomy weather


There’s a hill rising up from the lake with a few crude gravel roads cut into it. It’s not technically part of the WMA, but apparently it’s treated like it is (i.e. free camping). The scenery is excellent, but you do have to drive through a sketchy neighborhood of dilapidated trailers and rusted cars to get there.

We parked our rig halfway up the hill with a great view of the lake and the trees from our back window. We met a local named Wayne who was a self-professed “country boy who likes to hunt and fish and smoke that weed.” He basically just drove up and told us that, then we never saw him again.

On our first full day in Arkansas, the rain held off long enough for us to hike Pinnacle Mountain. We went up the East Summit Trail, rather than the much easier West Summit, cause we ain’t no bizzles.

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We hiked this mountain 5 years ago! Then & Now…
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The little girl I’m high-fiving is only 4 years old and this was a damn strenuous climb. She stopped me for a “strong girl high-five” and it was one of my most proud moments of being a (strong) woman. #thefutureisfemale as perfectly captured here ~ you go little girl! Keep on climbing!!
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Mountainsaide Gun Show


We drove into Little Rock for lunch. We started at Hanaroo Sushi. The place had moved into a new building since we last ate there in 2013. New digs, but the food was still the same amazingness as we remembered. We visited the Empress, the Victorian-style B&B where we spent our honeymoon five years ago. It’s still beautiful. And still standing, which is more than can be said for the dive bar where we wrote our names on the wall. Apparently the joint burned down in our absence.

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Hanaroo is the best sushi in Little Rock!!!
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The Empress ~ our honeymoon bed and breakfast 5 years ago


We hit the Flying Saucer, a few shops, and then Jordan replaced her nose stud with a nose hoop. Angela gave us the hoop for free because she liked our energy. Her only advice to us was “don’t have kids.”

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Angela is one of those positive energy, genuine people that just gets it. Shine on!

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We had a couple of beers at Vine, a local brewery and pizza parlor we remembered from the honeymoon. We took a pizza to go, drove back out to the lake, built a fire and enjoyed a night under the stars.

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The next morning, to our surprise, it still wasn’t raining. We scrambled out of bed, fed the dogs, then hustled up to Petit Jean State Park. On our honeymoon, we had a picnic on the rocks near Cedar Falls, complete with fruit and champagne. Due to the hurried nature of our return trip, this time we had to settle for leftover pizza slices and seltzer water. The Falls were as impressive as ever and, despite the cold, I was able to grab a quick shower under one of them.

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Cedar Falls Shower
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Cedar Falls wide angle

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Sure enough, as soon as we began the drive back to camp, the rain started to fall. It didn’t stop falling until five days later. After a couple of days cooped up inside, we braved the elements and drove to Hot Springs– the last stop on our tour of memories. We had lunch at the same spot we did in 2013 (Colorado Grill) and treated ourselves to the same bath and spa services at Quapaw Bathhouse.

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Private bath & massage prep

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After a hot mineral bath and massages, we stopped at the Ohio Club for a drink. The Ohio Club is the oldest bar in Arkansas, dating back to 1910. It has never closed, even during prohibition when Hot Springs was a hotbed for gangsters and prostitutes. You can still see bullet holes in the ceiling.

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We listened to some jazz, had a couple of drinks, and were just getting up to leave when a woman asked if we were from Austin. She’d overheard our conversation with the bartender, and said she too was from the greatest city in Texas. In fact, she lives not too far from one of our properties. We ended up hanging around and wind jamming with her and one of her friends for another couple of hours (she was renting a cabin in Hot Springs to work on a book). While we enjoyed the conversation, the dogs were unimpressed with us upon our late return.

The rain kept falling, and eventually the roads in and out of our camping area were closed. We made preparations to move on, and as soon as the sun came out, we did just that. We pointed west toward Oklahoma City, and left an incredibly soggy Arkansas behind.

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Life on the Mountain

We went south toward Chattanooga, then crawled along Suck Creek and (the biggest test for the truck so far) up Suck Creek Mountain. On top of the mountain, near the entrance to Prentice Cooper National Forest, is a free hunters camp with no amenities or even much of an access drive. It’s perfect.

We set up the rig at about 2,000 ft elevation and, unknowingly, straddled the the time zone line between eastern and central. Sitting at the dinette and then walking to the bed, we were actually traveling back in time.

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Prentice Cooper Wildlife Management Area ~ excellent boondocking


We haven’t spent much money on tourist stuff so far. We did the Seminole Museum and rented a kayak in Florida, but that’s basically it. Most of our fun comes from wandering around the woods. But in Chattanooga I insisted that we go to Rock City on Lookout Mountain. I’d been as a kid and I promised Jordan it was magical place. It was $42 for two people to get in, so I really had to convince her it was worth it.

And it wasn’t. Sure, it’s a cool place. Lover’s Leap is an awesome view, and there’s a great waterfall, some cool cave systems, etc. But $42 is a tank of gas, or a dinner out, or a night with full hookups. So we vowed to go back to our own mountain and not come down again for several days.

Jordan note: The fairy cave was 100% worth the cost of admission IMO. It’s so magical and weird in there!!

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Swinging Bridge in Rock City
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7 State Lookout in Rock City
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A Children’s Folklore Scene found deep inside a cave in Rock City
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View from Lover’s Leap
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The wife of the landowner was obssessed with Children’s Folkore so she had various scenes sculpted deep in a cave on their property known as Rock City.

As soon as we got back, the rain came. Forrest Gump in Vietnam-type rain. We put pieces of stone under the rig so we didn’t sink into the mud, and parked the truck on a little higher ground. We were stuck inside for two days, in which many games of Scrabble and Clue were played. We both got some work done, spent some time charting our future route, and sang and played the uke.

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The rain didn’t leave, but it did let up for a few hours at a time, and during those hours we took to the trails. Prentice Cooper has some great trails, as did nearby Signal Mountain. We hiked to Indian Rock House (a natural shelter formed by a massive rock overhang), Snooper’s Rock (a cliffside rock offering incredible views of the Tennessee River Valley, and Rainbow Lake (where waterfalls and swinging bridges were both plentiful).

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Indian Rock House
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Snooper’s Rock
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Swinging Bridge on Rainbow Lake Trail
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Hiking releases endorphins as depicted in this photo



Our tastes in food, booze, entertainment, and music are all pretty opposite; but we share the same feelings about the things that really matter: religion, politics, and hiking. It may sound cheesy, and it may be because I’m writing this on Valentines Day, but our love for the wilderness brings us closer (even closer than living in 144 sq feet together). As we search our own souls during this journey, trying to improve weaknesses and overcome fears, it’s also nice to breathe deep and be grateful. We are truly lucky to have one another, especially Jordan, who gets to have me.

Jordan note: yep, lucky me.

The rain kept falling, but we were getting used to being bunkered down. We stayed until the gas can was empty and the generator dead; the fresh water drained and the waste tanks full; the firewood burned and the ice chest melted; the dog food gone and the wine run dry; the candles all dark and the– anyway, you get the point. We stayed until we couldn’t stay.

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Myrtle Beach, Cracker Barrel & The Smoky Mountains

After 8 days of boondocking in the National Forest, we splurged and paid for two nights in Myrtle Beach State Park. It was there that we got our first taste of setting up in an absolute downpour. Buckets of water dumped on our heads as we disconnected the truck, cranked down the trailer foot, stabilizers, and connected the utilities. We also had to drain our grey and black tanks immediately, since they hadn’t been drained since before our boondocking stop.

The park was small, but nice. However, the mud was crazy. For the price they charged (close to $40 a night), they should have had (at the very least) gravel pads. Instead, everything we owned was covered in mud within minutes of setting up.

We showered up in the park’s facilities, which felt amazing, and I attempted to do laundry. Unfortunately, the washers didn’t do much in terms of getting our clothes clean, and the dryers did even less on the drying end. So we ended up with wet, stinky laundry, and no more quarters.

What can I say? It’s a glamorous life.

We did a couple of small trails within the park, watched the Super Bowl, and took the dogs to the beach. We also explored the boardwalk in town, wasted some money at an arcade, and grabbed an overpriced lunch at Land Shark’s Grill. But the tour de force in Myrtle Beach was our incredible sunset dinner at Pier 14 Restaurant. Holy smokes. The food, the views, the vibe– everything was amazing. We didn’t want to leave.

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But, leave we did, heading northwest through South Carolina, and into the mountains. It was the first real test for our truck since the Chisos in Big Bend. The results were mixed (some pretty slow climbs took place), but overall the truck towed the rig up and down mountains without blowing up, which is basically the goal.

We spent a cold, rainy night in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Hendersonville, North Carolina, then drove up, around, and through a few more mountains before seeing a sign for a whiskey distillery. After white-knuckling the rig through the rain and fog and mountainous landscape, it seemed like a drink was appropriate.

We pulled into Tennessee Legends, put the dogs in the camper, and went in for a tasting. Inside we met a couple of locals who had stopped in to “walk the line.” The “line” is the line of whiskey bottles of various flavors distilled on site. The “walk” is sampling from each one. The reason the locals frequent the place is that walking the line is free. As in, you hand the employee zero dollars, then the employee pours you whiskey. And, apparently, it isn’t just Tennessee Legends, it’s all of Tennessee. Whiskey tastings, wine tastings, beer flights, you can get ‘em free of charge. God bless.

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By now we’d been through about a week’s worth of freezes, so when it dropped down into the 20s at our new site along the raging Pigeon River, we didn’t really notice. We ate dinner at the Local Goat, which was a top notch joint with a good atmosphere and excellent wine.

The next day, with snow covering the ground, we hiked the Chimney Tops Trail in the Smoky Mountain National Forest. It was spectacular. The snowy riverbanks, tall trees, and prominent rock formations made for a great climb, giving way to stunning views of the mountains as we approached the summit. Because of the ice, there were several places where we dropped to all fours and scrambled our way along the trail. But we had a good time with it, and took our handful of spills in stride.

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Thanks to the awful laundry facility in Myrtle Beach, we still had a ton of wet, dirty clothes. So we ponied up for a night at the Sweetwater KOA in order to remedy the situation. At the KOA we filled up our fresh water tank, filled both our propane canisters, washed all of our clothes, drained our black and grey tanks, cooked several days worth of food, and headed back into the wild for another long boondocking stay.

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McLellanville, SC

We Are the Champions

While beer and trivia has always been one of our favorite things to do in Austin, it took coming to McClellanville, South Carolina to do something we’ve never done on trivia night: actually win.

On the edge of the National Forest where we’ve stayed for more than a week, there’s a small bar and grill called The Bent Rod. We couldn’t help but notice a sign advertising trivia on Wednesday nights, so we saddled up a couple of bar stools and tried to not notice when every single person looked at “the new guys.”

Backstory: McClellanville is a small town (like Wells, Texas small) sustained by the shrimping industry. There are two restaurants (open weekends only), a post office, and dozens of plantation-style homes built 200 years ago. Just outside of the town, on Highway 17, is The Bent Rod. They have the distinction of being pretty much the only place open every day. Thus, when the locals go out for a drink, or to grab some of the freshest shrimp in the world (seriously, I’ve never had better), they head to the Rod. And, in a town that small, it’s easy to spot who doesn’t belong.

Needless to say, we got a lot of attention.

A couple of old timers at the bar next to us said they weren’t worried (about trivia) because we didn’t look too smart. Another, younger, couple asked why we’d stopped in such a shithole town (they were originally from Atlanta). The owner/bartender wanted to know how we knew it was trivia night. Others wanted to know how big the whitetail in Texas are. A few were interested in why we were traveling the country, if we’d been to Florida, if we’d been to Myrtle Beach.

One guy warned me to be careful at our current Honey Hill campground because local meth cooks, dealers, and users were known to camp out there. Another guy told me he’d climbed the old fire tower while tripping mushrooms. We met an ex-army communications guy who had been working the night Osama Bin Laden was killed. He said his office had no idea what was going on, just that they had better not screw up any of the communication lines or their ass was grass. We met a tugboat sailor whose job is to go get other boats and tow them back to South Carolina. He gave us a koozie from Guatanemo Bay. We met a plantation overseer (not like that, but kind’ve) who runs one of Ted Turner’s estates, and a hairdresser obsessed with Blake Shelton whose husband looks and sounds like: Blake Shelton.

All in all, it was a rowdy crew, so we decided to get rowdy, too. At one point, as I was emptying my bladder of Bud Light, I heard Jordan’s voice rise above all the outside chatter with: “I’m a vegetarian, because animals are my friends!” She then decided to throw me under the bus and announce that I didn’t eat pork because, “pigs are his friends!”

At that point I thought the locals would turn on us, but they actually seemed to really love Jordan’s tipsy/feisty persona. In fact, she later screamed at everyone in the room until they all grouped together for a picture. “Get your ass in the picture, Jack!” she yelled at a middle-aged adult man, who quickly nodded his head and hustled over. 

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One guy, whose name I didn’t get, explained to me how his birthday was unlucky because it fell both on the day Dale Earnhardt died, and the day Charleston fell to the Union during the Civil War.

“Terrible shit happens on my birthday,” he said, shaking his head. “Terrible.”

We won the trivia (which was movie-themed, rather than academic). Our prize was having our tab picked up by the bar. When I asked what time they closed, the owner said, “whenever you guys are ready to leave.”

That turned out to be much later.

However, when the party did wind down, we were invited to an after-party of sorts at the tugboat worker’s house. I was just about to give my canned speech about how we had to get home to the dogs, but we really appreciated the invite, and it was so nice to meet you guys, etc. But then hurricane Jordan blew in one last time with, “heck yes, let’s go!” 

So we went, built a fire, listened to Hayes Carll (apparently good music is good music no matter what state you’re in), and talked about places we’d been, why SEC football is the best, and why I was wearing Ariat boots and not “some fancy Texas brand.”

Eventually the conversationally delicately turned to politics. It was a mixed bag (surprisingly), though I was taken to the garage and shown a giant rebel flag with zombie confederate soldiers and the text, “The South Will Rise Again,” scrolled across the bottom.

We promised, the way new friends do, to go fishing over the weekend, then watch the Super Bowl together, etc. We even told them we might stick around another week to defend our trivia title. None of that happened, of course, but those are the momentary truths we tell in order to sustain a fleeting connection. In the end, we move on, because we always will. Until we don’t.

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Best Boondocking Outside of Charleston, SC

As promised, I got drunk and began to climb the fire tower. However, Jordan yelled at me until I stopped climbing and came down. “I didn’t want to climb that dumb tower, anyway,” was all I could think to say.

We left our camp and went into Charleston for a day, visiting some of the historic streets, cemeteries, and markets. We had breakfast at Queen Street Grocery, a laid back cafe that would slay in Austin. After a solid breakfast, we took our second coffees to go and checked out an art gallery and a city park. We didn’t ferry over to Fort Sumter, but viewed it through a telescope on the Charleston Pier. Our overall thought was that Charleston didn’t lack on the history, but did lack on the charm of Savannah. In the battle of Southern, Coastal cities, Savannah definitely gets the nod.

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However, we were enjoying the whole “free camping” thing in the National Forest, so we decided to stick around. The weather was up and down. Some days were absolutely God-like in their perfection, while others were blistering cold. We survived two more freezes with our pipes, tanks, and toes in tact.

Jordan finalized her partnership with our friend Tatanka in Marfa. Her macrame will be available at the Marfa retail store Slow Poke. Check out her work here: www.etsy.com/shop/thewovengrove

I was fortunate enough to have a short story accepted for publication, which gave me some momentum for some longer writing sessions. I’m also trying to write a poem a day.

We’ve decided it’s cheaper to kill our fridge while we boondock, keeping our cold items in a big cooler. The ice lasts a few days before needing a refill, and it saves us on battery power and propane. The generator has held up nicely so far. We use it in the mornings to charge the battery– which is usually low after a night of powering the propane furnace– then again in the evening to watch a movie once it’s too dark to read without turning on a light.

So far we’ve read each other a half-dozen horror stories from the previous mentioned anthology, and I’ve read Jordan some more Flannery O’Connor. Our readings in “A People’s History” have stalled as we focus more on fiction, but I have faith we’ll get back to that soon (I could see the flames in Jordan’s eyes during the State of the Union address).

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Savannah On My Mind

Savannah was everything we’d heard. You couldn’t throw a baseball without hitting a historic building. The squares and parks were all beautiful. The docks and cobblestone river streets made us feel cozy, even in the cold. We had breakfast at Goose Feather Cafe. The food was amazing, the coffee was good. We rode the Belle Ferry (for free) across the river and back.

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We walked up and down the river, ducking in shops and art galleries and bars (like the French Quarter New Orleans, Savannah permits open containers in plastic cups in its Historic District). We explored the River Market, saw the “Waving Girl” statue, and walked several miles through the city to see dozens of monuments, fountains, and tree-lined streets.

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We stopped in at a local bookstore, walked through Forsythe Park, and took pictures in front of Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home. We visited the Cathedral of St. John, the oldest Catholic church in Georgia, and ate at Crystal Beer Palace– which was incredible.

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Back at the State Park that night, I tried to convince Jordan to steal a canoe and go on a joy ride with me, but she wasn’t having it. Instead, we read some Caddo Indian fables and went to sleep.

The next morning we took our coffee down to the river and sat in a wooden porch swing overlooking the sawgrass and muddy banks filled with clams.

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We continued north along the coast into South Carolina, setting up in the Francis Marion & Sumter National Forest. There is a (somehow) free camping loop called Honey Hill, surrounding an old fire tower. While there are no amenities, there is a concrete picnic table and wide spots along the loop. Something like this usually requires at least a small fee, but this one is free and we are stoked. Our first night we built a fire and read ghost stories from a horror writing anthology I picked up last year at Half-Price Books.

Jordan is selling her macrame like crazy, and has been working hard to ensure she stays ahead of demand. She’s added dreamcatchers and plant hangers to her inventory, and they look awesome! To shop her collection visit: www.etsy.com/shop/thewovengrove

It’s been tough to get into a groove with writing, primarily because we’re moving around so much and there is always stuff to take care of; but also because I’m not sure what I want to write. There are too many voices, too many topics, and too many mediums. Things are looking up a bit, though. I’ve written three short stories this month and am close to finishing a lengthy tale of terror. The patience of novel writing still eludes me; but the more time we spend in the woods, the more patient I become.

Also, I will likely get drunk and climb the abandoned fire tower. Check back for more!


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SoFlo So Good

We were at Dinner Island (which I’ve since come to call Potter Pasture, since it’s been absolutely magical) because it’s free, remote, and free. But, once we got there, we realized how close to the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation our magic pasture actually was.

I’ve always been fascinated with the history of Native Americans, from the Caddo in East Texas to the Sioux of the Great Plains, but I admittedly didn’t know much about the Seminole. Jordan shares my interests, marveling at the survival ability of both the native peoples (she calls them the real OGs) and their traditions in the face of European settlement, expansion and, of course, violence. We visited the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on the Reservation and remedied our ignorance on Seminole history. Unsurprisingly, the Seminole story plays out much like that of other Native Americans.

Under pressure of new, white settlers, the Seminole people (also known as Creek Indians in Georgia and Alabama) moved south into the Florida swamps. Florida was still a part of Spain at the time and the Spanish welcomed the Seminole as trading partners. Soon, however, the land was aquired by the United States, federal troops moved in, the Seminole Wars took place, and the majority of the natives were forced to reservations in the West. However, a small band of roughly 300 Seminole Indians continued to evade capture or death by pushing further into the Everglades. That band of Seminole gave birth to the modern tribes of South Florida that still exist today.

We met Pedro, a half-Seminole, half-Tejano wood carver who fashions canoes from cypress logs. We talked at length about the modernization of Seminole traditions, including the chickee structures which we saw everywhere in South Florida. Basically, a chickee is a thatched-roof hut with no walls. Seminole people use individual chickees for a specific designation (e.g. a cooking chickee, a social chickee, a sleeping chickee, etc.) Pedro’s mother grew up in a chickee, living without walls until she was 20-years-old. Even though most of the modern Seminole people live in houses, they all still have chickees in the yard.

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We made excellent friends with the cows in the pasture next to ours. They proved to be curious companions and we enjoyed their company each afternoon during our stay. To add to the pasture’s mystique, Jordan received word while we were there that her macrame art is going to be on sale in Marfa in the coming weeks. Our friend and Marfa-businessman, Tatanka, has requested Jordan’s work as part of a retail shop he is opening. Tatanka already runs two successful restaurants in Marfa (Al Campo and La Playa), and we were thrilled he reached out to include Jordan in his latest venture. While he loves the macrame and the vibe that Jordan has created, he said he was equally interested in her story– living on the road, collecting materials throughout the country for her art, being married to such a handsome human, etc.
Anyway, we’re obviously excited. Having your art for sale in Marfa is like having your wine for sale in Italy. It’s an oasis for the creative, and I could not be more proud of myself… for landing a girl like Jordan who in turn landed her work in Marfa.

Things were going so well in Potter Pasture, it was tough to leave. We were spending zero dollars per day, working out two, sometimes three times per day, and the dogs were running wild with no one around to be bothered. I finished reading another novel, started reading “A History of Native American Religions,” and wrote two short-stories. We were also avoiding the flu by avoiding people (read: I don’t like being around people, and the flu is a great excuse to avoid them and not sound too anti-social). However, the fates aligned and what had previously been a completely booked state park in the Florida Keys became available for one night only (likely someone got the flu and had to cancel). Because of the damage from Hurricane Irma, coupled with the peak-season for old folks flocking to Florida to avoid the cold, tripled with the crazy expensive prices of everything in the Keys, there was only one place we could afford to stay in the Keys, and this was it. We booked our one night at Curry Hammock State Park and made preparations to depart from Dinner Island.

Honesty moment: I didn’t want to go. I loved the isolation of our pasture. I was convinced beaches are pretty much all the same, and I hated the idea of driving all the way to Marathon Key just to shell out almost $50 for a single night. But, I also really really like my wife, so off we went.
I realized we’d made the right call when we saw the first glimpse of the water. A majority of the Keys, if you’ve never been (like I hadn’t) is just a single road with ocean on both sides. The beaches aren’t big, but the sand is white and the water is outrageous. It’s a shade of blue/green I’ve never seen before. It was some Avatar stuff, bruh. And Curry Hammock State Park was legit AF. We begged for more nights, but were told just how lucky we’d been to get one in the first place. The park was super small (again, the Keys are tiny), but our spot had plenty of room, great hookups, and was about ten feet from the beach.
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We had Sunday Funday at Sunset Grille and watched a local dude dance for like four hours straight during a DJ set. I crushed some coconut shrimp and Jordan, still on the Whole30, had some fresh ceviche. We watched the sunset on the beach back at the park, then laid on a blanket and did some stargazing pretty late into the night. But, seeing as how we only had about 22 hours in the Keys, we woke up with the sun and rented a kayak to explore the ocean.
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Highlight of the kayak trip, and the Keys trip, and maybe our entire trip so far was seeing a hammerhead shark cruise right underneath us in the water. It wasn’t full grown, but I wouldn’t have wanted to feed it from my hand either.
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Still on a high from the shark sighting, we threw down brunch at Island Fish Co. where we got to hang with some wild iguanas and overgrown pelicans. We begged the park one last time before accepting our fate and heading back toward the mainland. But, the Keys had one last surprise for us. As we headed over one of the dozens of bridges it take to get back, Jordan spotted a dolphin doing jumps. The sun and the water and dolphin and the Cherub Pandora station… the beach wasn’t so bad.
Next stop: Miami-ish. Apparently Miami is a pretty cool place and, like most pretty cool places that aren’t in National Parks, you have to pay a lot to be there. UNLESS you do what we did and find the nearest Casino (25 minutes) and park for free in their parking lot. Thank you Mikosukee Indian Gaming Resort. They even gave us two free $30 credits to play with (which we lost in roughly 17 minutes). But, alas, we weren’t there to gamble.
We had dinner at FINKA, where the food was decent but the cocktail I had was r’awesome. It was their take on an Old Fashioned called Black is the New Orange (they added walnut bitters and used a super dark bourbon as the base). We were pretty worn out, so we hit the sack early and saved Miami proper for the next day.
How do you do Miami in one day? Well, first you wake up early and go eat some authentic empanadas while drinking a cappuccino. Or, if you’re Jordan, you have black coffee with unsweetened almond milk and eat an egg scramble. I typically try not to make her feel bad about “missing out” on delicious food, but holy empanada I was in heaven. I had a Venezuelan recipe that included plantains, beef, beans, rice, peppers, onions, sauce… is it getting hot in here? I took the barista’s recommendation and also double-dipped with a Philly Empanada (steak, cheese, peppers). Both were amazing.
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Next step, head to downtown Miami. Don’t worry about the people staring at their phones instead of the road, or driving 70 in a 45, or cutting you off for no reason– apparently that’s just Miami. If you survive the drive, you can try to pick the appropriate parking garage out of a street full of parking garages that all say: PARKING. But be careful, there is literally only one that you can park in without having someone yell at you. Eventually make your way to the the fanciest, deuschey mall you’ve ever seen, look at all the crap you can’t afford and wouldn’t buy even if you could, then wait half-an-hour for a guy at the Apple Store to tell you that if you want your computer fixed, it will cost you $800. Tell him, “no, thank you,” then bail.
Girls with their butts hanging out, guys wearing shades inside. Miami wasn’t looking too appealing, but fortunately we had it on good authority (shout out Katy Mac) that Wynwood was the place to be. And it was. It really was.
The art was everywhere. Murals on every single wall, graffiti on the sidewalks, crazy shops and stands. The laid back vibe and super-high ratio of bars to buildings made us a little homesick for Austin. We grabbed drinks at Gramp’s– an island-vibe bar with outdoor seating and a handful of food trucks– then headed to the main attraction.
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The Wynwood Walls are essentially a sprawling outdoor art installment of giant murals, and we were digging on the variety of work. Drink dos was a couple of mojitos in a jungle-themed cabana. A few blocks later we were back on the road and ready to make an afternoon departure.
Pulling the rig later in the day poses a few risks, the main one being: if the place you’re going isn’t what you thought it was, it’s tough to find a new spot in the dark. We knew this risk going in and, sure enough, the first free spot we tried to navigate to was now private land. The second spot we hit was right at sundown. It was free camping, but the catch was you had to register with the Florida Wildlife Management folks in order to get a permit. Well, we tried, but the website wasn’t loading and the phone number just took us to a recording. So, we pulled in, thinking we would call first thing in the morning to register. Unfortunately, the jackhole in charge of the park met us halfway down the road and told us to GTFO. Almost everyone we’ve met in the RV or park or travel community has been over-friendly, helpful, and awesome. This guy was none of those things. He said, in the most Donald Trump voice, that it wasn’t the website that wasn’t working, it was our service provider (apparently Florida and AT&T are having web security issues with one another?). When we asked if we could borrow a non-AT&T phone or computer to obtain our COMPLETELY FREE permit, he shook his head. Luckily, he was outside of Jordan’s window, because I was ready to put this guy to sleep for a few minutes. Long story short, we left, and left the gate open, because f*@k that guy.
Plan C? Walmart. Fast, free, and we needed a few grocery items. Done and done. We filled the propane at Tractor Supply the next morning, then headed north to the Ocala National Forest. We had to try a few different dirt roads before we found one friendly enough for the rig, but eventually we set up near Delancy Lake for the night.

After spending a couple of weeks in Florida, we were ready for something new, so we decided our next stop would be in “the real South” (Legend of Bagger Vance, anyone?). We posted up at Fort McCallister Park just outside of Savannah, where rebel pride is as abundant as the Confederate flags on sale in the gift shop. On an unrelated note, I had a poem accepted for publication later this year. Normally I stick to the prose, but every now and then you gotta do some new ish. More to come.