Category Archives: Travels

Our writeup in the Houston Herald newspaper!

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Howdy, friends!

We spent this past weekend at the Midwest Vanlife Gathering in Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri.  We were excited to have been interviewed by the Doug Davison of the Houston Herald, a local newspaper. See the link at the bottom of this post to go directly to the print version of OUR story. Here is the link to more photos of the event posted on their website:
https://www.houstonherald.com/photos-midwest-vanlife-gathering/collection_a8484322-5dd0-11e8-8b07-3b89be62a678.html

We were also interviewed by “CBS Sunday Morning”, but we won’t know for awhile if our story will be included in the feature about this wonderful event.  We really enjoyed ourselves, and had the chance to meet so many new friends.  We had the opportunity to tour a huge variety of vehicles owned by other nomadic folks.  It was an interesting and informative weekend, and we learned a lot.  We so appreciate each of you for following our journey, and we always love sharing our stories of life on the road.  Again, click on the link below to see the print version of our own vanlife story!

Our article in the Houston Herald

Happy trails!

Dan and Brenda Cordray

(Photo credit Doug Davison)

A stop at Professor A J R’s Odditorium

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Howdy, friends!

During our recent trip to Stevenson, Alabama, we were really looking forward to returning to a place we had visited during our travels through Alabama two years ago.  Brown Folk Art was one of those off-the-beaten-path treasures that we stumbled upon when we got lost while looking for another really amazing place, Walls of Jericho, a 21,000 acre wildlife management area situated on the Tennessee/Alabama state line.  The Walls of Jericho is located where the longest hardwood forested plateau on Earth, the Cumberland, thrusts into Alabama.  Its environment is also influenced by the Paint Rock River Basin, one of the last free-flowing rivers in the Southeastern United States.  This combination creates a spectacularly diverse array of habitats, plants, and animals found nowhere else in this country.  Someday, we plan visit and to enjoy some lengthy exploration of this area.

As we wandered by, we were astonished to see Mr. Brown’s menagerie of handmade yard and folk art spread out across several acres of rolling Alabama farmland.  We immediately turned the van around when we saw the sign letting us know that “there is no other place like this place anywhere near this place, so this must be the place”.  Who can resist that kind of enticement?

We were treated to a tour of the property, which included several small outbuildings full of folk art and cabins that were being built or restored for rental.  You can see the post Dan created about our visit to this fascinating place by following this link: https://dancordray.com/2016/04/27/this-must-be-the-place/, or by scrolling down through our Instagram feeds, @twentyonefeathers and @dancordray for more photographs of our visit.

When we traveled through the area last year, we saw Mr. Brown’s sign and some of his creations at a shop in downtown Stevenson.  The store was closed, so we made a mental note and planned to visit this year during the annual Southeast Get-Together of nomadic folk at nearby Raccoon Creek Wildlife Management Area.  We made a stop this year, only to find that the shop was again closed.

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Dan followed the trail of whimsical sculptures around the corner of the building and was immediately drawn by the sight of Professor A J R Graham’s Odditorium, located within and also on the grounds surrounding a quirky 1920’s era Sears mail order catalog home.  The shop’s owner, Redmond Graham, was more than happy to allow us to explore at will this jam-packed wooden structure, chock full of treasures from days gone by and original artwork, with some items consisting of an off-the-wall and frequently hilarious combination of the two.

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We truly enjoyed hearing Redmond’s stories about this unique homestead and another home located directly behind it, as well as the history of the Stevenson area and his decision to create this unusual collection of wondrous items.  He is in the process of opening a small cafe onsite, and has quite a gift for spinning a yarn and creating eye-catching works of art from recycled and reclaimed goods.

We were allowed to sift through piles of raw materials and art supplies in the upstairs portion of the home, and we purchased a few small treasures to remind us of this day and our visit with Redmond in his “Odditorium”.  Have a look at the video below that Dan created to share our visit with you, our followers.  We were invited back anytime, and we plan to come again next year and have a meal in his new cafe!  If you are traveling through Stevenson, don’t miss a chance to visit this fascinating museum/shop/cafe, and tell Redmond we said hello!

 

Professor AJR Graham’s Odditorium Interview

Happy trails, y’all!

Get out, be safe, and go adventure!

 

~Brenda (soon to be Cordray) 🙂

Homeful!

Howdy, folks!

I guess it’s due time for me to step into the role of contributor for this here blog.  Dan and I have been enjoying our slow-mosey (and sometimes hot pepper quickstep) tandem journey across the United States for over two years now, and we are having the time of our lives!  If you follow either (or both) of us on Facebook or Instagram, you have seen literally thousands of pics and heard hundreds of our road stories through our photographs and the captions below them, or through Dan’s videos.

I haven’t really been one to make videos, but when we became home owners all of a sudden, I thought it would be fun to share our news in the form of a video.  I learned a lot while making it, and more than anything, I got the chance to really show all of you a little slice of the fun we are having while adjusting to our two-home status.

At the beginning of our journey, we talked about finding a piece of land to plant a schoolie on, a little respite from perpetual roadlife for a few months a year.  We are both creators and tinkerers, and we long for a place to lay out our tools and stretch out a bit, catch up on projects, retool and upgrade things in Erik Van Home, our primary home.  I have been nomadic for nearly 5 years now with stops for various lengths of time, and I have always found that a little rest now and again is a very good thing for me.  Road life is absolutely amazing, but it does take a lot of planning and organization, and a lot of little things that need to get done get set aside while we make tracks for the next someplace else.

While house/dog sitting in November, I spied an ad for a little park model home in Quartzsite, Arizona.  We hadn’t really considered an RV park type arrangement, but given some thought, we realized that it was the perfect perch for the winter-time exploration of the Southwest part of the country.  It offered lots of perks…hot tub, club house, lapidary shop, live entertainment, all sorts of activities, plus the security of knowing that there are people around when you are ready to drive away for most of the year.  We called on the ad, and our interest was piqued.  At the same time, I felt we should call the office of the RV park to see what else was available.

Serendipity stepped in, and the clerk at the RV park made us aware of another unit, for a 1/4 of the price. Furnished, with covered patio and shady back yard.  We saw a few pics, and contacted the owner in Canada.  We couldn’t leave Texas just yet, so we took a chance and bought the place sight unseen.  Well, except for those few pictures.  We made plans to scurry westward on a wing and a prayer, having faith that we had made a good choice.

The Universe said, hey, look at that trust!  I raise you one mighty fine little bungalow for your faith that all works out for the best when you are walking your path and staying positive, active, helpful, and happy.  We flew across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and on the day after Thanksgiving, we were handed the keys to our little desert castle.  It is all we ever wanted in a little winter camp, and is just right for the four of us.  Well, you can see for yourself.  Now you know where we will be for a few months every winter.  Pretty sweet, eh?

We have been busy settling in, while at the same time getting ready to be back on the road full time come spring.  Quartzsite has been a place of much activity for us.  Between van upgrades, tinkering on the little casita, prospecting for gold and minerals, attending field trips and meetings of the gem and mineral and metal detecting clubs, hanging out with friends who are visiting for the annual Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, and learning new skills like lapidary and silversmithing, we have had a full calendar.  We know we will always find plenty to do here when we come back next time, and we are so grateful for this blessing!

Many thanks to everyone who has followed our travels on this blog, and on our @twentyonefeathers and @fireman428 Instagram pages, and on my Facebook page, “The Sunny Side” (stepintothesunlight).  It is for you that we tell our tales, hoping to inspire you to live your best life, and to take a few tiny baby steps, or maybe one big leapity-leap towards YOUR dream!

 

In the meantime…..just doooooo it! 🙂 Oh, and get out, be safe, and GO ADVENTURE!~Brenda

 

 

New Prospects on the Horizon…

{Any text underlined and in blue is a link to more information.}

As almost a followup to the last blog post, this one is along the same vein.  (Pun intended.)  After running into a real life Gold Miner, Steve Hunt, we decided there might be something to all the stories about the gold in this area.  I mean why else would someone spend hours a day, days out of the month, month after month for years prospecting or working a claim? So, we joined a metal detecting club and purchased a Gold Monster 1000 detector to join in what looks to be fun.  Wait, did I say day after day, month after month, year after year is fun?   Hahahaha.

We have been members of the GPAA, Gold Prospectors Association of America, for some time now because back east it was good to get out in the forest, camp, play in the streams and in general enjoy time together in nature.  But WOW this is different!  Just as I’m excited to learn about desert survival, we’re also looking forward to learning the tricks of the trade when it comes to desert prospecting.

We went exploring today, looking for the claims that belong to the metal detecting club that we joined. We were hoping that it would be a good place to “wet our feet” in this desert. The first thing we learned was that the claims are marked, well sort of….

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The “marker” at the edge of the claim may have been these tires that once held the stack of rocks and the claim sign.
We found a claim we were OK to work on in an area where modern-day “claim jumpers” are really frowned upon.  Anyone caught working someone else’s claim is subject to fine,  imprisonment,  and forfeiture of ALL equipment.  If one is caught by the authorities, that is to say we are where the old-west rules may still apply.   😉

We ran into several people working their own  claims within the club boundaries.  This spurred us on to ride a little further.  We learned the “PUSH” had not yet been done, but that did not deter us.  You see, the club was hiring someone with a backhoe to “push” the top layer of dirt over to expose new dirt.  The significance of this is that it will expose new dirt to the metal detectors hunting for GOLD!  The gold will be most likely laying on the bedrock in most places.  In some places the bedrock can be several feet deep in a layer of other small rock and sand.  Still this rock and sand may still contain gold in small nuggets or flakes or even real fine “flour gold”.  And that’s why everyone gets excited about the push.

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In this section there’s big rocks, smaller rocks, even smaller rocks, sand, and possibly GOLD.  The gold may be distributed in the layers of rock and sand, with the highest concentration at the bedrock.  We find holes dug several feet deep because the bedrock may stretch from a few inches to 20 feet deep or more.

The people that came here in the “gold rush” left behind piles of dirt removed from mines they were digging in search of that big lode or vein of gold running sometimes deep in the mountains.

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Here’s one such opening into the earth.  These can be very dangerous because often times they are merely tunnels with no shoring or bracing inside.  The picture is blurry because I took it from a good distance to avoid being on some one else’s claim.

Having started this blog post several days ago I’ve since been out twice on my own and once with the Temeccula Valley Prospectors Club.  These guys know how to do it right!

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This potluck dinner was a fiesta kind of  dinner.

After a visit to the GOLD EYE MINE they had a potluck spread that was outrageous.  Who says you can’t eat good in the desert.

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Practicing my panning skills I found this gold in a bag of paydirt.

I also panned some “pay-dirt” from another location and FOUND GOLD!  Now while I could just about bet there was some in that dirt it was still exciting to see the color come up in the pan.  And this is what drives most of the prospectors today, the thrill of the hunt.  Don’t forget if you do find a good nugget the price of gold just might make it worth it.  If you’re curious check out the current price here GOLDPRICE.ORG

That’s it for now.  You see I went out yesterday and I’ve got some paydirt to process.

So as always, “Be Safe, Get Out, and Go Adventure”

 

 

Silly Al’s Pizza

Is everything at Silly Al’s silly????

You bet it is!

Even when they’re doing serious stuff like helping the Fire Department raise money for the kids at Christmas.

Tonight was not only Karoke night at Silly Al’s, it was the night of the cakewalk and THE UGLY SWEATER AUCTION!   And trust me I’ve had a few ugly sweaters for Christmas but none of them held a yuletide candle to these.

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This sweater won at auction $110 for the kids!

Tonight’s silliness and fun times raised $560 dollars for the Fire Department’s Christmas tree for kids.

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Yes they were present to receive this generous gift.

What a great showing from the people there tonight!

I’d like to remind everyone that traditionally Fire Departments around the country step up and reach out to the communities and give back to those who may not have a lot to give the kids for Christmas.   So, I’m certain that any and all donations would be accepted not only here in Quartzsite, but in every community.  This is a chance to donate and know that your donation is truly going to make a difference.  I can say that having spent Christmas seasons as a firefighter this is a special gift for the kids.  AND, the support from the community blesses the firefighters beyond words.

Step up give a little, to make a lot come true.

Get Out, Be Safe, and Go Adventure.

By making someone’s Christmas special.

 

GOLD! ! !

There’s GOLD in them there hills!!

Ok, maybe it sounds better when a REAL prospector says it.  But nonetheless Brenda and I went prospecting for our own kind of treasure, things we can share with you.

I downloaded a map file for my GPS that showed all the gold mines in Arizona.  Now some of the mines are working “claims”.  In other words someone owns the mine property and has a claim filed with the Bureau of Land Management to extract gold or other valuable ore.  This is important because all of these are private property and the owners do look out for each other.  I’ve learned that there are “claim jumpers” even today.  This was told to me by Steve Hunt, the owner of Gold Eye Mine.  Steve approached us cautiously since we were looking  at what I thought was Kellogg Mine.

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I thought this was the Kellog mine I was mistaken.   And just then a fellow rolled up that owned the mine across a small wash from here that was once the Kellogg mine.
Once Steve began to see we were not modern day “claim jumpers” he gave me his card and invited us to take pictures of the the site.  We talked further and he would be willing to give free tours of the site.  Rather than take up his time for just two people, I told him I would put the offer out on social media to come up with a group.  GIVE ME A COMMENT BELOW IF YOU ARE INTERESTED.  I’m thinking this would be something fun to do during the RTR in January.

Here’s a link to a video Steve has up telling the history of his mine.

We a had a great time visiting the cabins that were still standing (for the most part) and just poking around looking at what a mine would have looked like.

I made a video for YouTube you can see here… https://youtu.be/XtE09BAPkSU

Our exploring earlier in the day took us to the Julian Mine.  I told Brenda we had to locate this one because Julian was the name of one of my favorite uncles.

OK, so we didn’t strike a prospector’s kind of “paydirt” but, we did find our own kind.  For us the treasure is being able to share the travels and adventures with all of you.

“Get out, Be safe, and Go adventure”

Small world and interesting timelines…

This is truly proof we live in a small world with all kinds of timelines.
First, let’s go backward in time.
[[[2013]]]    I stopped at an intentional community (Henry Thoreu’s definition) in Tennessee while headed south.  This was an open community that more closely resembled extended family. Anyone was welcome there with only a couple “requests”.
The community garden and animals needed tending and everyone was expected to do some part.  Nobody ‘assigned’ your part, that was for you to find and decide. The name of this place was “Shut Up and Grow It”.   There was some connection to other feed the people groups hence, the grow it part.
###  First link to Shut Up  ###
As you could see from the blog post a great little place with a mission to allow people to live their lives.   Now fast forward a bit to ….
[[[2015]]]    Brenda and I stopped at the same place I had been a year or so ago.
Except this time we were visiting at Christmas time. Our travels were taking us south so why not go west first?
Christmas Eve at “Shut Up and Grow It” was a unique experience. While a number of the the folks there were gone traveling to family.
We were greeted again openly and almost as extended family. Everbody pitched into the evening meal either foodstuffs, cooking expertice, or critique.
And we made friends there that we stay in touch with today.

###  Second link to Shut Up  ###

### Third link to Shut Up ###

So what does all this have to do with Oregon 2017, our vanlife, or even the total ecplise?
It goes back to those timelines. You see we returned to the Oregon coast to escape the heat east of Eugene only to realize that the coast area
in the line with the “area of totality” was going to be crazy. At least that was the opinion of all the media and therefore most of the people.
So we fell for it and headed for the forest and back to North Fork in the Suislaw National Forest. We hoped that all the places were not already full of people driven by the same instincts as ours.

[[[ 2017 ]]]  We were pleased to find not only was there a space, there was that bus again.   Before you go back and look at the above paragraphs searching for a bus reference there isn’t one.   We FIRST saw the bus several days ago when we were staying here while headed south down the coast. That’s when the world as a whole shrank in space and time.   Now Brenda will tell you I will talk to just about anyone, ok everyone. So, after having spoke to the neighbors one of them comes up to me and says she knows me.
While that was no cause for alarm it did surprise me. She said she recognized the picture of Layla and I on the card I gave to one of the travellers in their group.
(I have a suspicion it was Layla she recognized.)217

It had been a little more than three years, she had longer hair back then and was holding a baby about 6mos. old.  It was Jen from the “Shut Up and Grow It” community! IMG_20170817_141922Now the five kids were all much bigger and the 6mo old was a curly-headed delight riding a bike. IMG_20170817_120953.jpg You see, the timelines crossed and then crossed again, this time on the other side of the country.   Since we’ve spent a night or two in casino parking lots what are the odds of running into people like that.
AND, even larger, recognizing someone you ran into on a chance meeting. (OK,ok, I know it was Layla’s eyes.)
It was great fun to run into Chris and Jen again. Their bus had been painted, the kids had grown much bigger, my van was totally different, and I was no longer traveling alone. We were all amazed at how things had lined up to bring our paths back together.
This meeting renewed my faith in our travels and in our guidance through this big old universe. I learned that Patrick had changed the name of the place to “The Garden”.
The name change may have helped with garnering a little more local support.

[[[ 2018 ]]] So I guess this means we now have a 2018 destination to “etch into the Jello” of our plans. https://www.facebook.com/shutupandgrowit/
So more than a **Flashback Friday** we moved back forth along a timeline that ties us all together.
My usual tagline is flavored this time with good memories in the past and to be made in the future.

So…
“Get Out, Be Safe, and Go Adventure.”