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 – – 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.

Picnic Lunches

My wife and I have been thoroughly enjoying picnics recently. Good food, great locations, fabulous company – what’s not to like?
This is not the first time I’ve mentioned going on picnics. So you can say that I’m a fan.

It’s easy to overlook a picnic as an enjoyable activity, however. Maybe the weather isn’t ideal, you think that you need a particular type of food, or it just doesn’t cross your mind.

We have been going on picnics during our travels out of convenience. Out on the road on the motorcycle for most of the day, we just don’t have the room to pack a lot of food. So we have been putting sausage, cheese, fresh vegetables, and our water bottles in the saddle bags. When we get hungry then it’s time to find a picnic table and stop for a bite.

Picnics don’t have to be fancy. We have been using lunch meat as the outside of a wrap, with cheese or avacado and slices of cucumber inside, plus fresh vegetables on the side. Or slices of summer sausage as a base to put the other ingredients on top of. We use the ziplock bags as a workstation and a couple of paper towels/napkins to clean up with. Quick, simple, compact – and we can slice everything with the pocket knife that I carry.

Of course, we also take the oportunity for something a bit fancer when the chance presents itself. We take along the grill or backpacking stove and grill some chicken to accompany a salad. It would be easy to throw these into the trunk of your car and head out in search of adventure!

We have discovered waterfalls, creeks, and rivers to eat beside. Beautiful scenery where we can enjoy our meals.


You don’t have to be on the road to enjoy the pleasures of a simple picnic.

If you slice everything before leaving, the only set-up is hand washing and opening of containers. It doesn’t take any time! You can meet up on a quick lunch break and enjoy company with a loved one to help break up a work day. Or you can take the opportunity to go and explore your neighborhood, seeking out those hidden treasures that are so easy to over-look.

Have you been on a picnic lately?

Journal entry – 21 June 2015, Sun

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

I didn’t sleep so well – the trains blew their whistles as they passed so I caught a series of naps rather than a night’s slumber.

After breakfast we packed lunch and hopped on the motorcycle for a visit to the Voyageurs’ National Park – our first National Park of the journey. The road is much better on the motorcycle than the RV. Winter is rough on the roads and I certainly appreciate the ones back in the south a lot more now!

We head in to the Ash River Visitor Center, where the ranger points out some hiking trails for us to explore, and warns us against the “muddy and swampy” Kab-Ash trail which is in need of maintenance.

Off down the Blind Ash Bay Trail we head, which has a few scenic overlooks of Kabetogama Lake. We pass a ranger on the trail (who nearly fell down on a slippery rock in the trail right in front of us) and meet a trio of ladies who are touring National Parks as well. They strongly recommended a trip to Glacier. After a pleasant chat we head on and find a rocky outcropping with a good view of the lake upon which to enjoy our lunch.

     Our attempt at making our own Cliff bars turned out to be a tasty granola-y crumble rather than any sort of formed food. Definitely worth more attempts.

After lunch we head back to the motorcycle and head out, back down the road we came in on. We stop at the Beaver Pond where I hear a splash and see ripples but otherwise spot nothing more than a beaver lodge.

Just around a bend in the road is the Sullivan Bay Trail – a pretty hike through the woods that culminates at a picnic area on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Bay. Stunning view!

   Back at the motorcycle, it’s time to head back to the RV. While stopping for gas Ashley points out that we passed Elephant Lake a few miles back, where research shows boondock camping available in the forest. We head back and go off searching for a spot to spend the next few nights.

After the grooved blacktop in the road construction I’m a lot more confident in the gravel roads and we search down a spot back off of old logging roads off a forest road. An old gravel pit near the top of a hill provides more than enough space to turn around and, hidden behind a patch of trees, we discover a fire pit and beautiful campsite. Just in case, I continue along one of the side trails but it doesn’t appear that we can top that site.

Back down the road, time to move house! We top off the gas tank in the motorcycle for Tuesday’s trip and load up. Getting better at that process, as we made it on our first try!

The trip back to the forest is uneventful, except for the washboard gravel roads. Double digits was too fast! Fortuntely we’re only two miles off the blacktop.

   We settle in – Ashley fixes supper while I go gather firewood. After supper it’s shower time and then a bit of reading before bed!

Think I managed a shower in about a half gallon of water. No “soap or poo” really does help!

Making the 30 in 30 Game Plan

People who collect experiences are more interesting than people who collect things.

You might notice that out of my 30 goals, only two involve buying something. I want to live a full life, and that doesn’t necessarily having a full house. These purchase goals will provide experiences to make my life richer. My wife and I have been wanting an Airstream for a few years now, and purchasing one would include the experience of remodeling and then living in it. Buying coffee for 12 strangers? The goal is to make myself meet people, coffee is just the medium.

So how do I plan on accomplishing these 30 goals in 366 days (since that leap year “bonus day” will fall in this time-frame)? By making them as automatic as possible. This means that I will be heavily relying on my calendar and automatic email reminders. I am still in the process of planning the schedule out, but here is the process that I’m using.

Know what I’m working with

You may have noticed that there is a pretty wide range of goals included on my list, free and fairly quick (#12 – read the Bible) to expensive (#13 – buy an Airstream) to time intensive (#1 – cross-country motorcycle trip). To help me come up with a realistic plan I have broken the goals into different categories based on the time and money needed to complete them.

A few of the goals have already been scheduled, and so they were the first to go on my calendar.

  • move
  • pay down school debt
  • go on 7 day backpacking trip

Long term
A number of the goals will only be reached after investing quite a bit of time (from about a month to the entire year). I am scheduling them as a recurring weekly activity, with an initial focused burst at the beginning. This beginning burst of energy will allow me to stagger their starting dates so that I don’t end up beginning a lot of new projects in February and then burning myself out. Many of these goals are free, or only incur a small cost (like gas or the purchase of a book).

  • read 1/2 of Personal MBA
  • find 576 more geocaches
  • learn 5 magic tricks
  • read the Bible
  • 30 informational interviews
  • go on 30 dates
  • make 30 things
  • learn to weld
  • some sort of fitness goal – to be further defined
  • learn to program
  • circumnavigate Land Between the Lakes
  • get in touch with old friends on a regular basis
  • buy coffee for 12 strangers
  • see moonbow (again)
  • become conversationally fluent in a language
  • become a publicly recognized expert
  • have a business of my own

Most of the other goals are more of a multi-day event. Some planning, a big burst of energy, and some money, and they will be completed. These will be interspersed through the year, and combined whenever possible (ie: I can visit DC and the Grand Canyon during the cross-country motorcycle trip).

  • visit the lower 48
  • cross-country motorcycle trip
  • stop in DC to visit the Wall
  • see Grand Canyon
  • hot air balloon ride
  • see Northern Lights
  • buy an Airstream
  • take flying lessons – airplane
  • learn to sail
  • hang glide

Further Definition

Many of these goals are already pretty easy to measure (ie: go on 30 dates, go on a 7 day backpacking trip, etc). There are a few, however, that still need to be narrowed down a bit. So that I know when I have “learned to program” I will come up with a final project that I want to complete, and then I will have a definitive ending point to cross. Likewise, “learn to weld” will involve coming up with a final project to create.

I will write an explanatory post for most of these goals as I begin working on them, including the guidelines for completing each one, my detailed plan of attack, and the reasons behind each one.


No, I don’t have a sponsor of any sort. These goals will be completed around work and my wife’s school/work schedule. The money comes from my pocket. Goal #4 (business of my own) will not only make some of the goals financially possible, but will also allow you to participate! Come back Wednesday to find out how.

Don’t Be Afraid To Try Something New

My wife and I just returned from a handbell concert. Until seeing them mentioned on a tv show this past week, we had never heard of handbells before.

A few days later my boss just happened to receive some tickets to the concert that he was unable to attend and left them at the front desk for employees on a first-come, first-serve basis. Apparently I was not only the first, but also the one interested in them, since I didn’t get in to work until after everyone else and still managed to snag them.

So tonight my wife and I went to check out something we had never experienced before, driven by curiosity and free tickets. Not quite sure what to expect (because how trust can you really put in an example seen on a sitcom?) we went just to see what we would see.

The show was wonderful. The music was quite enjoyable, the setting was beautiful, the ladies in the ensemble clearly enjoyed themselves, and the group shared their sense of humor and love of what they were doing.

My wife and I had a thoroughly enjoyable break from our cram-before-finals evening, which wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been open to trying something new. We would certainly have missed out if I had just brushed off “handbell concert tickets” as something that I wasn’t familiar with and therefore not interested in.

What is something that you haven’t tried, just because you aren’t familiar with it?

Adventures in Dating

I love dating, even though I don’t get to go out as much as I’d prefer. That’s just part of being alive, unfortunately… never enough time. One of the awesome things about being married? You always have a date.

My wife and I love exploring, trying new things, and going new places. Many of our dates feature these activities in some fashion. Because we have been living in the same place for the last few years, however, we have noticed that our dates have fallen into the dinner and a movie rut.

And after years of exploring, dinner and a movie doesn’t always fit the bill. Sometimes we want something more. That might mean a treasure hunt where each clue leads to the next stage of the date or a date that has had details trickled out via a note a day over the course of a week. The only trouble is that figuring out the details those dates takes time. And that takes us back to the original issue: not enough time.

To solve this issue and ensure that my wife and I can focus on each other, we started keeping a list of our favorite date ideas. That way we always had ideas when we needed them.

It occurred to me that we might not be the only ones who fall back on dinner and a movie habit. Finally, I took my list and wrote an easy-to-read guide, Ready-to-go Dates. It ended up having 20 date ideas that take less than 20 minutes of preparation. Though I had more ideas, I only included ones that can be done anywhere.

Cover of "Ready-to-go Dates"

The final draft is actually at my editor right now, but I was too excited to wait. Following the Cult of Done manifesto I decided to go ahead and make it available now. The edited version will be automatically sent out to those who pick up a copy of the current draft.

You can get yours here. Go and check it out!

Finance Tracking

Now that we’ve made some changes to our spending plans, and focused our finances a bit, we need to create a system that automatically lets us know how well we are doing with our goals.

As simple as this spreadsheet is, I’ve become a fan of Mint because it enters the information for me. Even though data entry doesn’t take me very long, it’s much easier to have a computer do it automatically.

It’s easy!

Fortunately, using Mint is quite simple. Part of being a Money Master is letting the finances run in the background so that we don’t have to focus on them. The goal is for our money to help us live the life we want to, instead of being a slave to the money.

Mint has created a series of simple instructions that outline how to complete each step. Since we have created our spending plans, now we can just follow mint’s advice to help us make sure we’re on track with our spending.

Set up

Yes, it will take some time at first to get everything put in place. However, this will be time well spent. Once you get everything set up you will be able to simply log in, check the details, and then use the tools that Mint provides to see how you are doing.


Being able to see a snapshot (no matter if you prefer bar graphs or pie charts) of your personal finances is an amazing feeling. You will be able to see the progress you are making towards paying off your debt, how your savings are growing, and how much of your fun money is left to spend. After all, that’s what it’s really all about, right?

Financial Short List

Nowt that I have a Spending Plan, it’s time to trim the fat from my expenses. Similar to the Short List that helps me free up my time, this will allow me to spend more money on the things that I really enjoy.


By determining what you really want to spend money on, and what doesn’t matter to you, it is possible to save money while getting to spend more on what you love. This is not more frugality advice: “Stop getting a daily coffee and save $4 a day (approx. $100 a month).” Instead, this process will help focus on the actions that have the greatest impact: “If you don’t care where you live and only use your apartment for storage and sleeping, move to a smaller place and save $300 a month. Then you can spend $200 more a month in your guilt-free category while still investing $100 more.”

The key is to cut ruthlessly from any category that you don’t care about so you can spend extravagantly on things that truly interest you.

Finding your focus

There are two main approaches to figuring out where to cut and where you should spend.

  • List areas that you love and don’t mind spending on.
  • List areas you don’t care about and prefer not to spend money on.

I find that a combination of these two work best. While it is easy to list things that you enjoy doing and things that you will never spend money on, the middle ground is often where you can have the greatest impact.

Paying attention to your reactions will help you identify areas where you can cut back. It’s easy to fall into keeping up with the Joneses and spending money on things you otherwise wouldn’t. Here are some areas you may wish to examine:

  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Clothes
  • Dining Out
  • Partying
  • Entertainment
  • Traveling
  • Hobbies

My favorite way to look at these is with the help of a friend. I pretend that they are telling me about a new purchase they are making in each of the categories and note my reaction. If it is negative, then I can generally cut my spending in that category. Positive? I have found one of my focus areas.

Some Examples

  • My eyes glaze over when fashion and the latest shopping spree are discussed. I buy timeless clothing that will last so that I can spend a minimum on my wardrobe.
  • I will talk to anyone about any motorcycle, enthusiastically. However, while I love Ms. Peeps, I love the experience of motorcycling, no matter what brand. Thus, I need any motorcycle that is reliable and within my budget. Newest, fanciest, and fastes doesn’t interest me.
  • Whenever a friend tells me of a trip they are going on, I wish that i could go. Travel is definitely a focus for me.
  • I always wonder what people do with all the room they have in big houses. My two bedroom apartment sometimes seems extravagant to me. As long as my basic shelter requirements are met, I am happy.
  • Any time a friend discusses a new restaurant I make sure to find out where it is. I love the experience of dining out.

The results

I only buy new clothes when I absolutely need them, intentionally keep my rent as low as possible, and don’t spend on accessories for my vehicles. This allows me to travel and go out to eat more often.

Recently, I have begun paying more attention to my reactions to spending. As I gain a better understanding of my financial reactions I will be able to create my Financial Short List. With this focus I will be able to spend more money on the things that I love and live a fuller life because of that freedom.

What are some items on your Financial Short List?

Tell Your Money Where to Go

The first task I’ve completed on my way to become a Money Master is to tweak my budget. (If you cringe at the idea of a budget, think of it as a Conscious Spending Plan instead.) It didn’t take me very long, since I already had a good understanding of my finances.


It’s nice to know that all of your bills are taken care of, and that you can go out and spend money guilt-free. A spending plan allows you to do exactly this. When the money in the “guilt-free spending” category is gone, I’m done for the month. However, I can spend that category on whatever I wish. Ahh… the freedom!

The basic idea

The first step in telling your money where it should go is to have an idea of where it currently disappears to. To find out, track your spending habits for a month. You might want to use, an app on your smart phone, or a simple legal pad. Once you know where you spend your money, you will be able to build your spending plan.

A Template

The basic template that I used for my budget only has 5 broad categories. I love this simplicity.

  • Fixed costs – 60%
  • Retirement savings – 10%
  • Long-term savings – 10%
  • Short-term savings for irregular expenses – 10%
  • Fun money – 10%

Fixed Costs

These are the things that you have to pay each month: rent, utilities, car payments, debt payments, insurance premiums, groceries, etc. Fortunately, they normally don’t fluctuate very much from month to month. This makes it easier to plan. After adding all of these together, add 15% to the total. Trust me, you’ll be glad that you have this bit of extra when you need it (think of those extra cold days when the heater is running over-time and runs your bill up).

Retirement Savings

If you’re not adding money to your retirement account on a regular basis, you should be. While 10% is a good rule of thumb, this amount is likely to change over your life. When you’re younger, it will probably be less, and increase as you get older. The most important thing is to be investing something each month, even if you can only manage $10.

Long-term Savings

Long-term savings include things like a wedding, new car, or the down payment for a new house. They’re called long-term for a reason, they’re often a number of years in the future. It’s easier to save big chunks of money over a lot of years than having to come up with it quickly, however.

Short-term Savings

These are often the items that blow our budgets, because we fail to plan for them. Save up a little each month for Christmas and birthday presents instead of having to put it all on your credit card when November rolls around. Vacations are so much more enjoyable when you have the cash set aside before you head out, so start saving for your trip now.

Fun Money

Finally, our favorite category! This category includes whatever you do for fun. It includes things like purses, eating out, going to the movies, drinking, buying books, or spending money on gadgets. There are two important things to keep in mind with this category: spend on whatever you want, until you run out of money. Once this category is gone for the month, stop spending! Knowing that you can go out with your friends, or buy that new thing you want without worrying about breaking the budget is an amazing feeling. Guilt-free spending at its best!

Now what?

I’ve put together my spending plan, so I know where my money goes each month. The next step is to figure out what I don’t want to spend money on so that I can live the fullest life possible.

In the next post I’ll show you how I am going to do all of the things that I want to, and you can do the same! Until then, I’d love to hear what your Fun Money will be going for. Leave a comment or shoot me an email.

Becoming a Money Master

On Monday, I mentioned that I want to optimize my personal finances and then increase my income. I want to become a Money Master.

What is a Money Master?

A Money Master is someone who is in control of their finances without requiring a lot of maintenance time each month. They know how much income they have, outgo they spend, and know how much they can spend on anything that they please. Ideally, they are debt free, or at least actively working toward that goal.

Where I stand

I have a good start to being a Money Master, but still have many improvements to make to my personal finance system. My finance tracker has helped me a great deal, though I have recently switched over to (because they automatically pull my information and I don’t have to enter it manually).

  • It takes less than a hour a month to manage my finances.
  • I know roughly how much income I have each month.
  • On average, I know how much outgo I have.
  • I have only school debt, and a plan to pay it down as soon as I graduate.

Improvements to make

The good start above can be improved further, so that I can become a Money Master.

  • My finances can be further automated, so that my bills will be paid even when I am away on vacation.
  • I can find an account that offers higher interest rates than I currently have.
  • My budget can be tweaked to make it less complicated.
    Last but not least…
  • I can earn more money

Join me!

Over the next few weeks I will be applying what I know about personal finance. Knowledge gleaned from books like I Will Teach You To Be Rich, The Total Money Makeover, and Financial Peace will be put to use. I will have a finance system that will require almost no time each month, but will ensure my bills are paid, savings are growing, investments are also growing, debt is being paid off, and that I have money left over to spend however I want.

Let me know if you’re going to join me!