2013 Traveling on the Dirt

Bryson City has a few nice establishments to get locally brewed beer. Greg and I visited a few.

For a few days at the end of June we found ourselves more homeless than usual. There was a two day gap in our house sitting schedule so we crammed all of stuff back into our little Honda Civic and headed out of town to do some visiting.

Our first stop was at John and Philip’s, our ex-next-door neighbors in Greenville, SC. During dinner that evening they told us about their up-coming adventure to Europe. They had purchased first class plane tickets to Italy where they would spend a few days before boarding a cruise liner to see the wonders of Greece. With newly procured camera equipment and appropriate clothes for parties on the boat, they would soak in the sights and flavors of the Mediterranean coast. At the end of their journey, Philip would leave his first half-century behind and turn 50. It all sounded wonderful until they started telling us about the KENNEL.

After an exhaustive search John and Philip had found a place to board their sweet, but spoiled little miniature dachshund, Greta. As John described the amenities of what would be Greta’s home for two and a half weeks, I felt the pain of his words. I imagined Greta’s tiny princess paws, which hardly ever touched the ground, tenderly walking across the cold hard dirt of her wiry enclosure and was horrified. “What exactly are the dates of your trip?” I asked.

Sometime this summer I realized that we weren’t really leading our lives any more. Things were just popping up and we were following them. Paint 3/4 of the inside of a house in three days starting tomorrow? “Sure!” Sell the only place we can remotely call home that doesn’t float? Let us think about that one for a few minutes. “OK, well, why not. Sure!” Just weeks prior to our visit to Greenville we had a cancellation in our house sitting schedule. Fortuitously it coincided with John and Philip’s trip. Our life seemed to be taking us on the road.

Paul and Vikki’s wonderful home in the mountains.

So, mid August we left Atlanta and started to travel. Once again we had a gap between house sitting gigs. The new owners of our Cabbagetown home, Paul and Vikki, offered us their cabin in Bryson City, nestled in the Smokey Mountains. A wonderful retreat, we spent most of our time there sleeping and watching movies as we recovered from our whirlwind life in Cabbagetown.

Pet sitting Greta was great. She is a sweet princess and adjusted to us very well, even though her snacks were meted out and her little pads no doubt suffered the beginnings of calluses. J and P hired Greg to paint the eaves of their house and we got to see Greg’s son James and his girl friend, Taylor, as well as lots of friends (Michelle, David, Lynn, Nancy, Dan, Lisa, Kris, Terry, Ralph, Shelton, Sam, Jan and Blair and family, Price, Deanna, Vera, Debbie, Kenny, Lucia, Jeff, Kathy) including some of Greg’s old work friends (Danny, Judy, Craig).

Greta’s treats were portioned out for us into daily treat bags. Here she is enjoying the morning meting out of the bag.

Poor Greta spent her last day before John and Philip returned mostly alone with only a neighbor looking in on her a few times as we had to rush to upper Michigan for my niece’s wedding the next day. The report came back later that Greta was very excited to see her Daddies again and was alive and all fours – the minimum that was expected of us.

The Bride and Groom dance their first dance of the day.

The wedding ceremony was preformed in a field on a farm. The bride was gorgeous and the groom was all smiles as they concluded their marriage rites with their first marital dance of the day in front of the seated guests to the twang of a live bluegrass band playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Greg and I preformed a duet we wrote for the wedded couple at the vegetarian dinner reception, where there was eating of cake, first kisses and all that post nuptials stuff. The night concluded with square dancing in the barn until everyone had swung their selves out of breath.

The bride sat in with the band for a few tunes on the banjo.

Since we were many hundreds of miles from anywhere we might think of any way as home we decided to make a wide detour to Missouri, my home state where I grew up, danced to punk rock, loitered at many St. Louis landmarks, and went to college. We stopped in St. Charles were we caught up with my college roommate, Lisa, and another college friend, Bethany. In St. Louis we visited an adult playground called the City Museum, had lunch with friends Steve and Bob, visited Alex at the bookstore where he worked and spent an afternoon with Dane at Laumeier Sculpture Park.

Lisa and Greg roll around at the City Museum.

Leaving St. Louis, we headed west into the unfamiliar territory of rural Missouri, where a friend, Richard, had been living in the middle if nowhere with his folks for some time. Richard’s Facebook posts had seemed a little more incoherent than usual as of late and we were a little worried that the isolation was starting to wear on him. Happily, we found that a “wow, this living thing is the shit” dog named Switch had adopted Richard and his sanity level was about the same as it had always been. Richard’s parents were very sweet and made us dinner and made us sleep inside despite our offer to camp.

On our way back south we had our first experience boon docking (free camping) at the Meriweather Lewis camp ground, the site of Lewis’ death and burial, off the Natchez Trace. Then, finally, after a visit with Greg’s parents in North Carolina and a quick stop at the Army Store in Greenville to chat with Todd and Kevin and pick up some camping gear, we headed back to Cabbagetown for one last party before we set our sights on Florida, Blue Wing, and our next sea adventure.

Greg at the Sculpture Park.

We left Cabbagetown grieving the sudden loss of a long time neighbor and good friend to many, Judy Staples. We may portray Cabbagetown as being all about parties and the crazy characters that inhabit it. But that is just a facade. The real Cabbagetown can be seen through the filter of tragedy as the village comes together to morn, console, and love each other.

Despite our best efforts to direct it, life just keeps presenting us with surprises, good and bad. I am not sure where were it is leading us, but I have the comfort knowing that we have the village, my friends and family all over the country, right there behind us. And as I look back over my shoulder their familiar faces keep me moving forward in this unusual, unexpected journey.

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