Mashley’s Adventures – Sandy And Salty On Dry Tortugas

Current Location: Gainesville, FL

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.
~ Rachel Carson

~~~~~//~~~~~

Our last email mentioned the parks we’ve been visiting and touched on our stay at Dry Tortugas. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Dry Tortugas is remote National Park, 68 miles west of Key West, FL. It consists of 7 Keys and their surrounding waters, but the park is centered around a military fort relic, Fort Jefferson, on Garden Key. For us to get there, we left the RV in a campground in the Everglades, loaded our motorcycle up with camping gear, rode along the Keys, and then caught a ferry boat out to the island. Then we set up camp and stayed for three nights! The only way to access this interesting place is by taking the ferry boat called Yankee Freedom – the only concessionaire the park uses, by seaplane (but it’s very expensive and you can’t camp due to weight restrictions), or by personal boat, of which we do not have.

  • 32 National Parks (of the 47 in the contiguous US)
  • 30 states (of 48)
  • 6 National Park Sites

There was no wifi, cell signal, running water, lights, or electricity, and only a handful of people when the ferry boat wasn’t docked each day. Fort Jefferson was incredibly interesting (although nothing really happened there historically speaking) and it was a testament to masonry of the past – built in the mid-1800s using 16 million bricks! – complete with a moat and a resident crocodile (Carlos). We snorkeled with the fishes, explored coral and plants growing outside the moat and in the sea, hiked the moat/sea wall dozens of times each day, tried to guess when Pelicans would dive into the water, chuckled watching the hundreds of hermit crabs that made a neighborhood behind our tent site, watched the sunrise and sunset from the beach and fort walls, and generally just enjoyed ourselves. Matthew spent a lot of time drawing and even tried his hand at a couple of watercolor paintings.

It was a fabulous mix of nature and (old) man-made structure – with new surprises to be discovered each day. We spent hours looking down into the water, just seeing what we could see. Barracudas, “pencil fish” (that’s what we named them because we’re not sure of their actual name), sargent majors, goliath groupers, lobsters, glow-in-the-dark jellyfish, and so many more sea creatures! The ~16 million bricks held a lot of interesting masonry work, rooms, and just a massive structure to explore out in the middle of the Gulf. It poured rain one night and drizzled until about 11am the next morning, so we spent the morning wandering around the massive fort, listening to rainwater seep through the ceilings, drip in puddles on the floor and enjoyed the gloomy solemnity.

But it was a relatively cushy “roughing it” scenario, we thought. We had to bring our own fresh water as none is available on the island (hence the name “Dry”) and couldn’t use our backpacking stove. So we had a creative menu of non-cook meals (chicken/avocado salad sandwiches, tacos, and backpacking pizza). However, the ferry boat arrived each day for ~4 hours and provided coffee/tea, cold drinking water, and even warm fresh-water rinse showers on the deck to clear off some of the salt. And when it left, there were only about 50 people on the island. 20 or less campers, 20 staff (who lived inside the fort), a couple of sea-plane tourists, and private boaters docked out in the harbor. With everyone cleared out, Carlos moved about more and we enjoyed the spectacular sunrises and sets.

All good things come to an end, and we were glad to be heading home to our RV. Thursday we headed out on the ferry and re-loaded the motorcycle for our trip back up the Keys home. Matthew’s grandmom’s urging to motorcycle the Keys was a sound one, as we thoroughly enjoyed the view of the sun setting behind us, tinging the sky and highlighting the mangrove clumps scattered about the water. Though we wondered how different it might have been when they motorcycled the Keys, less commercialized and built-up, we assume; that’s the problem with humans, we seem to destroy beautiful places in our greedy pursuits. A proper shower and night in our own bed was delightful!

Back in the Everglades, we joined a ranger-led canoe trip through the mangroves, which included paddling among gators and sharing a pond with a 14-foot crocodile. Then we headed out and stopped in at Big Cypress National Preserve. We only wished we were able to spend more time there so that we could explore further!

And this weekend we’ve been working our way north, catching up on chores and looking forward to a visit with some family.

Aimlessly Ambling,
Matthew & Ashley

P.S.- Ashley is selling some of her recently made soaps on Etsy (there’s only so much soap that one person needs). The link is as follows if anyone is interested in some: www.etsy.com/shop/AdventureSomeSoaps

Mashley’s Adventures – Exploring Water Parks

Current Location: The Everglades, FL

We’re a part of the natural world, not separate from it, and shame on you if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity.
~ Rudy Mancke

~~~~~//~~~~~

What a whirl-wind of excitement we’ve been having! Though we might have been sitting still in North Carolina for a few months, the last couple of weeks have been quite full.

After leaving Fayetteville we headed south, returning to South Carolina for a visit to Congaree National Park. Though they don’t have any RV campsites, we were able to park at the visitor’s center and tent camp in the campground – giving us more time in the park – including a chance to see and hear owls (having a very heated debate!) while visiting the boardwalk! Day two found us hiking most of the trails offered in the park, out to the Congaree River bank for lunch. It was a great chance to stretch our legs on the trails once again!

It was a quick visit and then we hit the road again, working our way down the east coast to the Everglades where we set up home at Long Pine Key Campground. A few days of exploration let us discover lots of alligators and swarms of mosquitoes (only one of which got any piece of us). We participated in a “Bike Hike” ranger-guided program. We got to learm all about the park while pedaling along and being guided by a park volunteer, a fellow Kentuckian, actually! A day trip over to Biscayne National Park was capped off with Park After Dark – a live concert by a musician/historian, s’mores, telescopes, and a chance to explore the park after-hours. We lucked into the perfect time to visit for the activity, since we missed out on the boat that travels out to the keys.

Whew! We also prepped and packed up our motorcycle for a trip across the keys (as recommended by Matthew’s g-mom) and time on Dry Tortugas – which is where we’ve been this week. And with no internet, which is why this email is so delayed! But that’s a story for the next email on Monday…

One thing’s for sure, we’ve been having a blast in Congaree and the Parks of South Florida. They are definitely places worth exploring and preserving. All of them seem to be experiencing problems with resource depletion or budget constraints, so now more than ever is a perfect time to give them our support. With our days spent out on the trails and bicycles again, we are feeling an overwhelming love for the beautiful, simple, and natural places in our homeland 🙂

Floating along,
Matthew & Ashley

Mashley’s Adventures – Let the Adventures Resume!

Current Location: On the road, South Carolina

One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.
~ William Feather

~~~~~//~~~~~

It’s finally here! Ashley wrapped up the last day of her contract as a travel nurse at Cape Fear Hospital the morning of February 11th. We spent yesterday packing up the RV and a lovely evening hanging out with some new friends a few RVs down from us. Now it’s back to adventuring away!

Today we are headed to Congaree National Park in South Carolina where we will spend today and tomorrow (it’s a small park). Then we are heading south to Florida and making a b-line to Key West. We’ve got a reservation to catch a boat to Dry Tortugas National Park on Februrary 20th where we will spend a few days camping on the little island. We’ll also be visiting Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park during the next week.

We are so very excited to be back on the road! Life has been feeling a bit too mundane lately and this whole night-shift/indoors/no-sunlight thing has really zapped the energy out of Ashley. We’re looking forward to spending days outside in the sunshine, on our bicycles, hiking, and making new memories.

With our stationary time in Fayetteville, we were able to out-fit the motorcycle to suit our needs a bit better for our upcoming adventures. New spacious saddled bags and a large t-bag have been added so we can carry our camping gear on the motorcycle. We’re very excited about this, and it has also made grocery shopping a million times easier. I’m not sure why we waited so long to do this, oh that’s right, because we’re cheap-o McGees. All of this new storage room feels downright luxurious!

Matthew’s still been having fun sketching and drawing and now he’ll have some new scenery to be inspired by. We’ll also have lots of pictures coming your way! Yay Adventure!!

Adventuring away,

Matthew & Ashley

P.S. Ashley also made 4 batches of soap this week and is setting up an Etsy shop for those who are interested in buying some.

Mashley’s Adventures – Road Trips, Visits and Sketches

Current Location: Fayetteville, NC

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
~ John Burroughs

~~~~~//~~~~~

Feels like we’ve finally been busy! Matthew’s been having a lot of fun sketching and has been updating his art website. Even more exciting, however, was our road-trip this weekend (a vacation?) down to Myrtle Beach … where we met up with Jackie for a visit!

She travels a lot for work and we arranged a meet-up, knowing she would be near-by. Ashley’s schedule request didn’t go as hoped (no surprise) but we were able to head out Friday once she got off work and in a short 3 hours we had settled in at the delightful Myrtle Beach State Park campground. Jackie caught up with us and we spent a fabulous afternoon/evening together – chatting until early Saturday morning. Unfortunately, Jackie’s flight back to the Pacific Northwest was only a few hours later, so our visit was all-too-brief (though we’d say that no matter how long it lasted).

We had all day Saturday to explore. Started off the day with a walk along the nature trail and back along the beach. Then into town for a stroll along the boardwalk, art gallery and coffee shop exploration… it was a fabulous day spent together!

The minimum stay at the campground was two nights and Ashley had to be back at work Sunday evening. So that morning we both woke early, packed up and meandered out. Stopped for a delicious breakfast before leaving Myrtle Beach and then bee-lined back to Fayetteville. Laundry to be done and naps to take before work that night.

While it was a shame to visit for such a short time, it was great to be back on the road again! Sitting still, we’ve allowed clutter to build up a bit inside the RV, so it was definitely refreshing to pack everything away once more! Plus, it was just good to be moving, felt like home! 😀

If you’re in the area, we really enjoyed Myrtle Beach State Park campground. The beach was right next to the campground so it was easy to get out and enjoy the sunset over the ocean. Sure, it’s the off-season so a lot of stores were closed… but it was pretty empty everywhere we went. Our kind of touristing!

Adventuring away,

Matthew & Ashley

P.S. – During the week, Matthew’s been having fun sketching. He dug out supplies in December and has been playing since. Finally getting around to updating his art website – french-holt.com – you can see his doodles, and the progression, starting with this post. If you want to read it, just keep following the “next post” to see each new bit in order.

Mashley’s Adventures – Snowpocalypse and (Mis)Conceptions

Current Location: Fayetteville, NC

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.
~ John Ruskin

~~~~~//~~~~~

Well, we survived the great predicted snowpocalypse of Jan 2017. The storm threat that magically cleared bread, milk, and eggs from store shelves. The hospital informed all staff (at least on the unit we have contact with) that they were required to make it for their scheduled shifts and that, if necessary, they could sleep on the floor of the conference room or use one of the broken, defective bedside chairs that were waiting to be repaired.

Fortunately, Ashley simply got a ride home from a coworker who lives nearby before the great storm broke. We waited and looked out our window to see… a heavy frost. -rolls eyes- (Our accumulation shown in the picture above).

There was a lot of hoopla and, at least in our area, nothing came of it. It rained, some of that froze, and then we’ve been simply waiting out the cold. I know it wasn’t like this everywhere, but it can be comical to observe the hysteria that can occur. Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

In other news… we’ve noticed (once again, I believe) a trend in peoples’ views of living in an RV. We’re staying in a campground that is filled with long-term occupants. Some of our neighbors are retired and live full-time in their RVs and some are basically nomadic workers, following their jobs in a mobile abode. Whenever we first speak to them, it always seem that the workers make sure to mention that they have a home back… wherever. They ask where we live and I point to our motorhome, “right there.”

Even though they are living in an RV themselves, they seem to view it as a lesser lifestyle than living in a home. A couple have mentioned being “homeless”. Houseless – absolutely! Homeless? Not at all!

It’s just interesting to see others’ viewpoints. One person’s everyday-normal is another’s abstract-foreign. Different doesn’t mean wrong, and you can’t compare directly since everyone is coming from a completely unique viewpoint, their own.

Well, it looks like we’re having an above-freezing, delightfully sunny day. So we’re taking our coffees and going to enjoy a bit of time outdoors.

Adventuring away,

Matthew & Ashley

Mashley’s Adventures – Holidays and Routines

Current Location: Fayetteville, NC

An artist using a sketchbook always looks like a happy person.
~ Roger Ebert

~~~~~//~~~~~

It’s been a while since we’ve sent out an update, but to be honest, life has been unusually routine and mundane lately. Between Ashley’s night shift and the cool/damp weather, we’ve both found ourselves spending a lot of time sleeping and hanging out inside the RV (as the other sleeps or is at work). Good thing we love our cozy home!

Matthew pulled out his sketchbooks and has been playing with different pens (doodling a lot of people in the cafeteria at the hospital while waiting for Ashley’s morning escape).

We’ve made some reservations for National Parks in Florida and are planning out other visits along the way. Over-all, we have a very rough plan for 2017, that hopefully includes the completion of our quest to visit all 48 contiguous states. Though we fully expect a change or two along the way. Plans set in jello, and all that… 😀

Fortunately, Ashley didn’t have to work for four days after the 23rd. We traded stockings and put away all our Christmas decorations then hit the road. Ashley slept as Matthew drove back to Newport, TN to join Matt, Brittney, and the nieces for a fabulous Christmas. Norma and Jim joined us on the 24th for a lovely time.

It was over all too soon, though tentative plans have been made for future get-togethers since we’re relatively close by for the next 6 weeks.

Back in Fayetteville, Ashley reluctantly jumped right back into the hospital, though we’re looking at the upcoming schedule to see when we can get away for more excursions. We can’t wait until February gets here so we can hit the road and get back to days filled with exploring, hiking, biking… and sunshine! We hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and has a Happy New Year!

Adventuring away,

Matthew & Ashley

Mashley’s Adventures – The Day To Day

Current Location: Fayetteville, NC

You can lose yourself watching rain as easily as you can watching a fire. Both are deliberate yet whimsical, completely engrossing in no time at all.
~ Jonathan Carroll

~~~~//~~~~

(This week’s edition brought to you by Ashley)

This week has been filled with lots of good food, learning, and adjusting to a different way of living. We’re enjoying our spot here at Lake Waldo’s Beach Campground. Most of our neighboring RVers are also in the area for some sort of transient work like us. Everyone has been very nice and it’s quiet during the day which makes for good sleeping. I seem to have adjusted (or reverted I suppose) relatively well to the vampire life. Matthew, on the other hand, just couldn’t handle the challenge (I’m quite a bit tougher than he is after all ;), so he’s back to normal human existence and sleeping at night. To be honest though, it is working just fine being on opposite schedules. He chauffeurs me to and from work on the motorcycle everyday, always has breakfast waiting when I wake up and has dinner ready when I come home. He even packs me a lunch bag every evening. He’s a very good house husband and makes working at a hospital again a much more tolerable experience. Knowing we’ll be done in 2.5 more months and enjoying the beaches of Biscayne and Dry Tortugas National Parks also helps.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving, although it was just the two of us. I worked the night before, so while I slept, Matthew slaved away. I awoke to an RV full of delicious ribeye steaks, pesto stuffed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, bacon wrapped green bean clusters, deviled eggs, and a homemade apple pie. It was wonderful! He’s turning out to be quite the cook.

As I mentioned above, I’ve been brainstorming the next leg of our journey once February rolls around. We’re in a great location here to begin moving South, hitting all the Southern Florida Parks (Biscayne, Everglades, Dry Tortugas, Big Cypress Preserve), then following the gulf coast into Texas. Quite a few of these Parks require some advanced planning, so it’s great we’ve got some time to do that!

We’re looking forward to spending Christmas with family in Tennessee and to some overnight trips over the next 2 months to explore nearby Conagree National Park and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. Until then, we’re settling in, seeing what there is to see in Fayetteville, and making new friends in the area.

Adventuring away,

Matthew & Ashley

P.S. – We found tea biscuits! Really been enjoying the treat and reminiscing about our time in Ireland.

Mashley’s Adventures – Nocturnal Edition

Current Location: Fayetteville, NC

Work hard, save your money, and keep your nose clean.
~ Sam French, Jr.

~~~~//~~~~

This week finds Adventure-Some on the night shift! While it doesn’t seem like a lot has happend in the last few days, at the same time everything has changed since our last email!

We visited with Ashley’s sister, bro-n-law, and the nieces for a few fabulous days in Newport, TN. While there they took us exploring in nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where we had a wonderful day checking out historic buildings (like a working mill with a water wheel), watching sorgum molases being made, and hiking along a delightful creek up into the mountains. Our timing worked out splendidly, as we even got to see Bailee (our oldest niece) on her 13th birthday!

Then it was time to continue on our way to Fayetteville where we settled in at our current location at Lake Waldo’s Beach RV Campground. Of course, there is no lake, as the levee was damaged over the summer and has been drained for repairs, which the recent Hurricane Matthew delayed.

Ashley made it through two days of hospital orientation and then a couple of night shifts on her unit. Tonight she will begin working on her own. Since she’s going to be working nights she is planning on sticking to a sleep-during-the-day schedule to make it easier. Matthew’s also switched sleeping schedules so that we can maximize our time together.

Sleep deprived while switching schedules and focusing on orientation, we’ve been relative homebodies this past week. Cooking, reading, and getting out for a little bit of local exploration have been our primary activities.

Starting Thursday Ashley’s going to have a 4 day weekend, however, so we expect to get some different type of adventuring done then.

Until next week, Happy Thanksgiving!

Adventuring away,

Matthew & Ashley

Mashley’s Adventures – On the Road, Again!


Current Location: Cookeville, TN

A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.
~ Tony Robbins

~~~~//~~~~

This week finds Adventure-Some migrating! It’s always bittersweet to leave family and head back out. We cherish the time shared with loved ones but are excited to return to our “normal” life of travel and exploration. The past few weeks have been rather tumultuous, filled with rapidly changing plans, consideration of options, debate of potential paths, and emotional releases. There is no better place to ponder such things than surrounded by family for encouragement, advice, and support.

After only being listed for a few days, we have sold the PT Cruiser. The cruiser was a direct tie to Ashley’s dad, and she’s had it longer than we’ve been together. So many of our adventures involved the Cruiser – it’s like a third member of our family. It was a hard, emotional decision to let it go, though we know it was the right choice. It has gone on to a new owner and we are officially car-less. Now, if we’re driving somewhere it’s on the motorcycle or in our house! Though, it’s been that way for most of the last 15 months…

As we mentioned last week, Ashley starts as a travel nurse on Monday. We’re heading that way to establish a home base for the next three months. Reservation at an RV park is made (after many calls, the area seems to be swamped!) If you’re going to be near the Fayetteville, NC area any time before February 11, let us know!

Fortunately, the path from Kentucky to North Carolina passes directly by Matt, Brittney, and the nieces, so we’re looking forward to a visit with them before settling down on Sunday. (And we’ll get to be there to celebrate Bailee’s 13th birthday, huzzah!)

Travel nursing offers the chance for us to continue traveling for the long-term, which we’re thrilled about! The longer we’ve been adventuring, the more we love it. We may have to adjust our goal timelines but we’ll still manage to visit all of the contiguous US within 3 years. And with more of a regular income we can focus a bit less on keeping to a strict budget. In the future, it also makes it easier to get to and temporarily live in Alaska and Hawaii, which is also one of our goals.

On a lighter note, it was great timing to be back in Western KY. Tobey, Matthew’s sister, bought her first house, so we were able to help her move in and get (somewhat) settled. That included helping to repaint the bathroom and also paint a mural in the bedroom. Even more fun, is that the mountains that comprise it are actual silhouettes of places we’ve been on our travels! 😀

Adventuring away,

Matthew & Ashley

Mashley’s Adventures – The Winds of Change are Blowing

winds-of-change-are-blowing

Current Location: Mayfield, KY

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. Adventure is worthwhile in itself.
~ Amelia Earhart

~~~~//~~~~

What a crazy week! We’ve made plans, changed them, made new plans, attended a Spooktacular Halloween Party (dressed as a Park Ranger and a Moose!), ran about a million errands, and there is still a piling list of things to do. Also, it sure hasn’t felt like Fall here in Kentucky. The temperature has been keeping steadily in the 80’s, and we even had to run the RV air conditioner so we didn’t sweat to death…in November! Madness! But, a cold front should be rolling in soon, just as we begin rolling out.

That’s right! Adventure-Some will be back on the road, headed to a new destination! Now, our plans have changed quite a bit since our last email, very surprising I know. It really should just be expected by now. We are no longer going to be in Campbellsville, KY working for Amazon until Christmas. As luck would have it, Ashley got offered a Travel Nursing position in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She starts November 14th and the contract ends February 11th. We are both excited for this opportunity because 1) we get to go somewhere new 2) it gives us a way to make a substantial contribution to the bank account and travel fund while also giving us an opportunity to make this lifestyle more sustainable long term 3) and it gives us the chance to visit more states and nearby National Parks this winter!

We are grateful for the extended time we have been able to spend with our families this last month. God knows that we have missed them and they have missed us, but we can’t deny that we are itching to get back to exploring new places, seeing amazing things and accomplishing this journey we set out on 17 months ago. If there is one thing we are, it is determined 😀

Adventuring away,

Matthew & Ashley

P.S. – This change in plan does throw a loop into visits with friends over the next few months, which we hate! Pondering other ways/times to get together, however.