Georges was in need of a haircut last April as we pulled into Crawfordville, just inland along the “forgotten coast” of Florida where the panhandle turns into the peninsula. We’d progressed barely 73 miles along the perimeter of the country on this particular day, distracted in the morning by boat- and bird-watching along St. George Island and in the afternoon by learning of the area’s famous summertime “worm gruntin” festival.
(Worm grunting, you ask? Yes, really. It’s a competition to drive earthworms to the ground’s surface so they can be harvested as live bait. You pound a short stake into the ground and rub a steel file across the top. Vibrations caused by the repetition make worms think hungry moles are after them underground so they wiggle their way to the surface to escape…. Bummer that we were three months too early to experience the spectacle first-hand.)
No matter. We arrived in Crawfordville about 4 p.m. and on a bit of a whim G walked into the Walmart for a trim. (He’s not particularly choosy when it comes to coiffure.)
Tiffany, as it turns out, had an empty chair. Have a seat, she said. What kind of cut would you like?
Layered at the neck, shorter around the ears, G replied. Tiffany recognized an accent. Where are you from, she asked. Belgium, he replied.
Belgium! Do they have rich bachelors in Belgium?
Well … yes, G replied, I suppose there are….
I’m looking for a husband.
Are you married, she pursued – and then fairly pouted when he affirmed that he was.
Don’t worry, G consoled her, I’m not rich.
Florida may be the Sunshine State. But it’s also the Land of Weird Questions.
The next day we were further south, in Largo, not far from St. Petersburg, walking back to our car and Casita in a grocery-store parking lot, arms bulging with bags and boxes, when a woman in a big, black pickup truck pulled up next to us.
How much would you sell your trailer for, she asked.
We smiled, somewhat naively, waiting expectantly for the requisite follow-up comment about how cute the Casita is, how cozy it looks, what a delightful little comfort egg it must be….
No, seriously, she said, no smile in sight. I need a home. It looks perfect.
I’m sorry … but … it’s not for sale, we stuttered.
Before we could think of what to say next, she gunned the engine and roared off in a blue haze of burning oil.
Questions like these make your head spin. Fortunately, we’ve also gotten a number of straight-ahead queries. Three of the most common, for example, are how do you write your blog, how do you do the map that accompanies it, and will you write a book.
How do you write your blog?
The blog is but a snapshot of the writing I’m doing on this adventure. I’ve kept a personal journal from the day we departed Dallas (March 1, 2018). It’s grown to nearly 200,000 words.
What a joy it’s been.
Already parts of our trip are growing hazy in our memories. We’ve been gone for so long and reveled in so many new experiences that our brains sometimes seem on sensory overload. I’ve had to consult my journal several times when G and I reflect on our experiences over the past year just to recall where we were when we saw this or what we were doing when we heard that.
The blog is like a series of excerpts from that journal. I look for a particular theme or a specific experience to isolate for a blog post and then embroider onto it whatever additional research or context I think might be of interest to readers.
For example, Joshua Tree National Park was as foreign as Fuji to me until we visited it in November, even though I’d driven past it many times during the 40 years I lived in Arizona. We knew nothing about crab pots and sea kayaking until we helped harvest the former off the coast of Washington State last September and actually sliced our way through the waves of Lake Superior in Michigan last August. We didn’t have a clue what a ceilidh was (pronounced KAY-lee) until we visited Gaelic-influenced Cape Breton in Canada in July
I recorded each of these experiences in my journal. But most fun was fleshing these “discoveries” out and writing about them in greater detail and with deeper context for readers of the blog.
Mainly, I write to remember.
I’d barely heard of the two Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia that we visited last spring. Walking among the historic markers and touching the remains of the mansions at Jekyll Island and the slave quarters of Sapelo Island felt like time-traveling back several centuries. I didn’t want to forget what it felt like.
So I wrote about it, first in my journal, a few days later in a blog post.
(In some ways, I’ve actually lived this Year on the Edges of America three times – first when we planned it, second when we experienced it and third when I write about it. Maybe it’s actually three-and-a-half times, since I write about it twice.)
I journal pretty religiously, rarely a day or two goes by without my recording some sort of entry. Time spent ranges from two minutes of dictated notes in my phone to two hours of more thoughtful reflections typed into my iPad Pro.
I’m more selective about blogging. It’s been a balancing act.
I’ve tried not to let more than a week go by without a new post, mainly because I enjoy the writing process (most of the time) and I want to grow a readership. You can’t ask readers to read you if you give them nothing to read.
But reflecting, researching and writing is time consuming. And we’re on the Trip of a Lifetime. Neither of us wants me to spend it holed up with an iPad glued to my fingers, forehead aglow with reflected keyboard lighting, while there are hikes to enjoy, wildlife to witness and sunsets to savor.
That’s where the balancing act comes in.
Bottom line: There haven’t been many weeks without at least one post. There have been several weeks with multiple posts. This is my 86th blog post since we left home nearly 11 months ago.
How do you do the map?
We started complicated and went simple.
In the beginning, we were using a GoogleMap program which allowed us to type in a destination and the program would draw a line linking to it from the last destination. It looked like the route map you use when when asking Google or Siri to direct you from your “current location” to your “destination.”
Except that this program, we discovered on the road, could handle only a limited number of new destinations. Somewhere along the Gulf Coast of Texas, the map crashed and, despite hours of my frustration-driven trial-and-error efforts to revive it, the visual that seemed so central to the blog’s success was no more.
In desperation we sought help from the Apple store in New Orleans, which in and of itself was no small feat, given that GoogleMaps – obviously – isn’t an Apple product. But Apple coach extraordinaire Howard rode to the rescue with a work-around, and we’ve lived happily ever since.
Here’s how it works: Find a map online you want to work with. Take a screen shot of it. Tap edit and with an Apple Pencil (or the equivalent for non-Apple products), hand-draw your route on the photo. Save the doctored photo to your Photos. Upload to the blog.
The map is less precise this way than I’d originally planned. The thick stroke of my Apple Pencil blurs whether we were in Detroit or Ann Arbor, for example. But it’s fast, easy, simple – and fun. Close enough for blog route-charting purposes.
And I can update it at will, adding new segments whenever desired, always building from the most recent photo of my map that I’ve saved to my Photos.
Will you write a book?
I’d love to. But is there an audience?
I’d welcome taking these “notes” (which really is what the blog and my personal journal collectively comprise) and expanding them into a book that readers find fun and interesting, informative and insightful.
Regarding audience, the blog is a bit of a test case. It has a healthy, engaged, bigger-than-expected following, which has been enormously gratifying, but it’s still a niche audience. I’d love to see it grow as a way to convince a publisher that there’s a good book buried somewhere within.
And that’s where you come in. What do you think? Is there a book here?
Please share the link.