Mashley’s Adventures – Brakes and Besties


Our first ever Harvest Host stay!

Current Location: Ft. Stockton, TX

A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.
~ Pooh Bear

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As always, one of our favorite parts about exploring the country is catching up with family and friends. We stopped in the Houston area for a visit with friends and loved getting to catch up with them, though they may have gotten more than bargained for!

You may not recall that on our very first day on the road, almost 2 years ago, about 30 miles into our sojourn, we ended up stopping and getting a front brake caliper replaced. Apparently we should have gotten both of them, as we’ve been having intermittent issues with the other. We finally decided to have it looked as it’d been acting up more over the past month, and thinking it would give us an additional evening with friends in the area (which it did!)

Arriving in Conroe, TX Wednesday, we stayed at a nearby campground for two nights, catching up on some chores during the day and visiting in the evenings. Friday morning we pulled into a heavy-truck repair shop and they got right to work on the brakes. That night we stayed at Brant and Jami’s house, enjoying our time with them and their super-cute kiddos. Saturday we picked up the RV just 30 minutes before the shop closed for the weekend and prepared to set on our way.

The drive between the shop and the house, however, gave Matthew pause for concern, the RV was pulling to the left and the brakes smelled hot – but it was too late, the shop was closed for the weekend. Generous, gracious hosts that they are, Brant and Jami allowed us to stay with them a couple more nights while we left the RV at the shop and waited for them to re-open on Monday. Monday morning we were there as the doors opened and they quickly determined that the rotor assembly also needed replaced as it was warped beyond adjustment.

They didn’t finish until mid-afternoon, so we spent one more night with friends, time that Ashley and I certainly enjoyed. It was great to catch up and get to know their children (whom we hadn’t previously met!) and even be there for the arrival of the newest family member, an adorable furball named Bella. A few years ago, Ashley was set on getting a Golden Doodle puppy, so seeing as that never panned out she was happy to help as a temporary puppy-sitter.

Tuesday morning we hit the road (no false starts this time!) and traveled on to the Texas Hill Country for a couple of nights in Fredericksburg, one of which was at our first “Harvest Host”. We were thrilled to try a new type of overnighting experience at the Messina Hof Winery. Harvest Hosts are a network of vineyards, farms, museums, and more that allow free overnights to travelers (with the expectation of a small courtesy purchase in exchange). It was a delightful, quiet place to spend the night and we enjoyed looking around their tasting room and property.

Now we’re just north of our next National Park, Big Bend. There doesn’t seem to be any cell signal there, so we’re going to be off-grid for a few days. We’re excited by the opportunity for hikes, bicycle rides, and being out of urban environments once again!

Trucking Along,
Matthew & Ashley

P.S.- There’s still some of Ashley’s Adventure-Some Soaps available on Etsy (which is stored in our shower when traveling). If you’re curious/interested, here’s the store: www.etsy.com/shop/AdventureSomeSoaps

Mashley’s Adventures – Westward bound

Oak tree with Spanish Moss in Paynes Prairie State Park

Current Location: Conroe, TX

Little by little one travels far.
~ Spanish proverb

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Since last week we’ve continued on in traveling mode… spending a couple days in Gainesville, FL with some superb family, Ashley’s Uncle and Aunt – Jack and Arlene. The timing though was less-than-ideal as we managed to visit on their once-in-a-decade cold catching… though thanks to Ashley’s hospital-honed immune system we seem to have emerged safely from the house of pestilence. We had a wonderful time despite the germs, as any time spent with them is great. We stayed at Paynes Prairie State Park for a night where we had fun riding our mountain bikes around the park trails. We also we made a day trip over to St. Augustine during our visit.

Castillo De San Marcos National Monument, St. Augustine, FL

Leaving Gainesville we traveled across the Florida panhandle and spent the night in a lovely National Forest campground (for only $3!), then a night in Alabama and two in Mississippi at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Ocean Springs. One night at Gulf Islands just wasn’t enough so we played the RV shuffle to snag another walk-up site for a second night.

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

Then it was on to Louisiana. As huge fans of cajun- and creole-inspired foods, how could we not stop! According to our research, a good place to visit for authentic creole food was a family owned and operated place called Dooky Chase, established in 1941 and famous for becoming the meeting place in New Orleans for civil rights as well as music and entertainment. It has also been frequented by many Presidents while visiting the area. Since it’s the only place we ate, we can’t compare, but everything was delicious! Ashley enjoyed one of our favorites, red beans and rice with some smoked sausage while Matthew sampled everything on the lunch buffet. And the peach cobbler grand finale was fantastic! To walk off some of the meal we headed into the French Quarter for a stroll. It’s not quite our kind of place, but it was interesting and at least we can say we’ve been there!

Dooky Chase restaurant, New Orleans, LA

Next was a trip north of Houston, TX to visit some friends we haven’t seen in years. We pulled in yesterday afternoon and settled in to a campground. Having multiple past experiences playing Cousin Eddie in a series of parking lots and neighborhood streets while visiting with people it felt awfully nice to pull into a campground and know we’d be stationary for a couple of nights! We visited last night and look forward to more time together today.

This week will find us travelling through Austin, TX and “hill country” on our way to Big Bend. Unfortunately, I think we’ll be running in to spring break crowds at Big Bend, but we’re hoping we’ll still manage to grab a spot somewhere. With Texas being mostly privately owned land, there aren’t a lot of choices as far a free/cheap camp spots go. Once we hit Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains we’ll head in to New Mexico and hopefully slow down our travelling pace a bit.

Adventuring Away,

Matthew & Ashley

P.S.- Ashley still has soap available in her Etsy store, in case you might be interested in some: www.etsy.com/shop/AdventureSomeSoaps

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

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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 – 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

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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 – Nocturnal Edition

Current Location: Fayetteville, NC

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

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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

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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

Just Keep Pedaling

This is the seventh and final in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

In less than five months, Ashley and I have moved from thinking that our 10 mile training ride was quite an impressive feat to considering 25 miles a leisurely jaunt. It’s amazing how quickly your perspective can change! Continue reading

Enjoy the Ride

This is the sixth in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

You’re probably riding your bicycle because you enjoy it. Whether you are seeking the thrill of a victorious race, trying to beat your personal best time, or simply pedaling because you like the feel of the wind in your face – it’s fun. Continue reading

Hills Are In Your Head

This is the fifth in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

Pedaling up a hill is hard, even if knowing that the other side provides an enjoyable downhill respite. The absolute hardest part of a hill, though, is the mountain that grows in your head.

Continue reading

Eat Today, Ride Tomorrow

This is the fourth in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

It simply amazes me how much of a difference food and water make on a bike ride.

You can be struggling along, with barely the energy to push the pedal one more time, fighting against the wind and barely beating gravity on the hills. Then you stop for water and maybe a snack. Suddenly the pedals seem to push themselves, the wind is merely refreshing and you realize that the mountain you were fighting was merely a molehill. Continue reading