The Magical Mystery Tour

 

IMG_6104

I have this lovely daughter (well, two actually) but I am talking of my oldest here. She’s strong, like her momma, both in a good and bad way. All of you with strong kiddos know exactly what I mean. I have found that bribery, something I said I would NEVER resort to in my young and foolish days (pre-children), works just fine whether your kiddo is young or old, and so bribery it was and thus the Magical Mystery Tour was birthed.

 

Three days, three nights, no knowledge of where the heck we were going (other than knowing where we would end up and that was the reason for the bribe). I must say, for someone as strong-willed as she is, she did mystery just fine. For my end, I made darn sure it was an awesome trip filled with things she would love (i.e. breweries cuz any trip is made better with a brewery, or five, stop).

IMG_6135

Day 1/Night 1 – Surprise! – your sweet sister-in-law is coming and off we went to stay with them, just a hop, skip and a jump down the pike. Young man got dropped off here with his older brother so there were smiles all around.

 

Day 2 – Out the door as early as we could muster. Did I mention mystery?   You see this trip unfolded like the “Choose your own Adventure” books she remembered growing up – the girls chose the direction we would go based on any one of the envelopes available in the moment. So there were 3 to 4 possible directions we would head based on their envelope choice, all with sticker clues, some very obtuse, on the front.   And, just for fun, I had thrown in quite a few things I liked to do, so it wasn’t only things that floated their boat, making it even more mysterious. First stop, the Cincinnati Art Museum, free entry (parking $4) with an exhibit of Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt. This was a sure-fire pleaser as both gals are cat lovers. It was a fun stop, the exhibit excellent and it was a hoot to shop the gift store and see the $500 print for sale. I thoroughly enjoyed the Modern Cats exhibit too, in which prose was paired with cat pictures in a fun and whimsical way.  We could have spent a long time here as their museum’s collection looks quite extensive, but we had a mystery schedule, more or less, and mystery was calling.

The next envelope sent us over to Cincinnati’s historic Over-the-Rhine Brewery District. As luck would have it, we stumbled upon Findlay Market in the process and stopped here for lunch and to look around. This is a not-to-be-missed stop, filled with lots of food options and many market stalls plus some venders. Two of us opted for the choose your own salad combo while one of us went for the waffle sandwich with brie, ham, pesto and apple. All very yummy.

IMG_6218

Next stop: Rhinegeist Brewery, one block away. We kept our car at the Market and walked over. We delightfully discovered two bar areas: one rooftop and the other inside a 5-story building, coverted to brewery and pub. The view was great from the rooftop. Beer also good, according to the taste testers I had brought along. (Our crew voted this the best atmosphere of the 5 Ohio breweries we visited this trip). After a quick visit with an area friend, we were off again on our journey. Next stop – The Friends of the Cincinnati library sale where I could have stayed all day. More on this next post!

Advertisements

Inspiration from a random moment – Tales from the Trail Part II

IMG_5802

 

I am reminiscing tonight about all things Rainbow. It was a glorious time, truly, and an experience I will never forget, those days at Rainbow Gathering. Tonight C was in my heart and I thought of the sweet young man, not a kid really, but at least 3 decades younger than I. I had seen C hanging out at Jesus Kitchen for a couple of days in a row, this kid of a man, tall and straight with the nicest smile and the most liquid honey-filled eyes.

 

Finally, after the hustle of filtering water that some kind soul had carried up the hill in a 5 gallon jug, I went to the campfire to sit a spell and there C was, eating some breakfast and looking somewhat pensive.

IMG_5787

One always wonders if they should jump in when someone’s pensive, at least this one wonders: leave them to their thoughts or get sociable? Will they share? Will it make a difference? Are you interrupting? Knock, knock. Who’s there? Interrupting Cow. Mooooo – you know the joke.

 

But those decades have taught me something and he was a kind, young man and so we began to talk. Turns out we had a lot in common, mainly a guy named Jesus, whom we both knew by name, and that’s always a fun place to share from. I like to listen to my heart when someone is sharing theirs because sometimes, just sometimes, thoughts, feelings or words “pop” in and I have learned it’s kind of important to share these seemingly random things because they aren’t so random.

IMG_5827

So at an somewhat appropriate moment, I asked if I could share, wanting the okay of this dignified young man, and since it was going to be, kind of, you know, random. He gave the okay and I blurted out, “I see a purity in your eyes.” I watched as, like an arrow, the words went straight to his heart and tears sprang forth. This is how you know it’s not just you, it’s not just random and the words were given to accomplish a holy purpose.

 

Turns out his grandfather had quite the opinion about the Rainbow Festival, though grandpa had never been there, and it wasn’t really all that grand. C used the word, “evil”, which sounded really harsh to me, but who was I to judge? But it had hurt C’s heart, I think, to feel so pulled to a place, for whatever reason, and have the intent of his heart so misjudged by someone he obviously cared for. At least that was my take on it. So I guess purity was an affirmation to C that he needed to hear.

 

I ran into C a lot over the next few days as he came and went. I truly don’t know what his mission was or reason for his being at the Rainbow Gathering. That wasn’t mine to know. I hope he went home and had stories to share with his grandfather. Stories that blessed grandpa and showed him a little more than the judgment he had moved in that had wounded a precious grandson. Stories that clearly showed the motivation of C’s heart and helped grandfather see the purity in those liquid honey-filled eyes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Dred-full Day!

 

IMG_5977

Well, this is going to be a bit of shocker for some people (like my extended family), but yesterday I started the journey into dreds. Yep, all 55 years of me. It’s been brewing a couple of years – this thought that I needed to get dreds. Now I am counting that thought as divinely-inspired and straight-from-the-throne-room as dreds are about the last thing I would ever spend my money on.

But after chewing on it, like a cow with a cud, two years later I have spit it back up and dreds it is.

It did make a whole lot more sense to me as I felt so called to the Rainbow Gathering where there’s a whole lot of dreds going on. But in my own eyes, and in the perceptions of the world, this is not who I have been or am. I mean sure, crunchy momma tendencies (just ask my kiddos) but my view of myself has been far more suburban momma with a bit of religious crunchy thrown in and dreds are not part of that m.o.  At least in my brain.

1909887_10208040290187742_3966319412075349533_n
Evidence “A” for Suburban Mom status

I’ve been pondering, in the three weeks since I have pursued this decision, and what I have come to realize is that much of this is going to be a humbling experience.   Humbling me. Humbling my pride in who I think I am, how far I think I have come and where I think I am going. That kind of humbling ~ the best kind of humbling I think. Stripping any pride I have in my wonderfully wavy hair, the way I am perceived by those around me, the way I have, frankly, used those perceptions to work for me and for my best interests. Oh it’s an ugly can of worms I’ve uncovered as I have chewed this cud.

IMG_5968
Whole lotta grey going on here ~ more than I realized, lol!

So yesterday I sat in a backyard, a neighbor’s pool area and next to a river, for hours, while a sweet new friend put this formerly pretty mop into dreds. And you know what, the humbling already has begun. I frankly look like Pippy Longstocking, only older. It’s messy and I was hoping it would be somewhat stylish in some way. It’s not. It’s going to take a few months, says my new friend, before they lock in and look more like dreds. My young man advised me this morning to cut them off. But I’m too cheap for that. I paid good money to look like Old Pippy here and so I move forward.

3874-351x400-dreads5
How I envisioned it would look.  (Sorry no idea what website I pulled this from.)

Not sure where this all ends up, but I’ll shoot a few photos now and again and keep you posted on this new epic journey. I am also going to see how perceptions change, my own and maybe even others, and I’ll dialogue about that too.

IMG_5974
 Dreds day 1. Pippy indeed!

As my young man summed it up yesterday, “My mom has done some crazy things, but this is the craziest of them all!” That may be, but in the end, I am still his mom. Nothing changed there.

Did I really just book a flight to Ecuador?!?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The beautiful Ecuadorian countryside on the way from Guaranda to Chillanes.

I’ve spent the entire day in disbelief that this is really, finally happening. Have you ever been double-minded like that? On the one hand saying, “Yes, God” but maybe at some deep level giving yourself an out so if it doesn’t come to be you can deal with it? So the day has been spent saying, “OH MY GOSH, WE ARE GOING TO ECUADOR!!” And wondering how God is going to show up to pull the rest of it together. Because He’s got to show up.  We’ve booked the flight and the rest is our faith journey.

The young man (man child has become a teen and so the old moniker doesn’t quite work, hence the new one) is going with me and is VERY EXCITED.  I am VERY EXCITED to share his first out of the U.S. of A. experience with him.  (Well, except for Canada, but that’s U.S. of A. North, or at least it seems that way.)

I remember my first few weeks after arriving to spend a few months in Mexico City.  (That was over 30 years ago but feels just like yesterday.)  The adjustment was tough.  I had had three years in university-level Spanish and had a piece of paper showing I was qualified to speak it, but as that first actual question came as I arrived, “De parte de quien?”  I had zero idea what was being asked so I kind of clued in that this transition wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought it might be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Lunch is served!  Thank goodness the young man now eats rice.

Then there was the food.  So different that anything I had ever experienced.  I had a list of everything I wasn’t supposed to eat (lettuce, watermelon, etc.) and really didn’t eat a lot of anything.  I lost a lot of weight.  Then I discovered Sugus, a chewy candy, and food kind of stabilized, filled-in with a lot of candy.

So that’s where my head is today — trying to think through and troubleshoot some of the issues you might have with a 13 year old who has only become a more adventurous eater in the last couple of years and has zero clue about the whole new reality he is about to enter in to.   I think this is going to be a life-changer for him; I know it was for me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Grazing next year’s food by the side of the road.

We leave in about a month.  We have no set plans other than some initial time in Quito and then striking out from there.  I have NO IDEA how one navigates hotels and hostels when you don’t EVEN HAVE ACCESS TO WIFI as you move through life.  GPS Navigation?  Forget about it.  I mean, I have visited Ecuador so I somewhat know what we’ll be facing, especially outside of the cities.  But very quickly here I have grown accustomed to face life’s uncertainties armed with a smartphone and a Google app and now that crutch will be entirely taken away.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The beautiful city of Guaranda, Ecuador.

Follow our journey on Instagram.  We’ll crosspost to Facebook.  I’ll get on the blog if I can (but won’t be taking my computer and it’s a lot of weight in our backpack and a worry in my head).  Instagram is @thisepicjourney.  Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/This-Epic-Journey-1517863695115729/?fref=ts.  I’ve also got a page about the journey with a little of the story at https://www.facebook.com/groups/616039435213645/.  The posts will happen as we trip across wifi.

Say a prayer for us if you are the praying sort.  I’ll need direction in a country still torn, in many ways, from the large earthquake this spring and the many temblors that have since followed.  We’ll be okay, I know, as I am so confidant we are following a larger plan in all of this.  We’ll come back changed, and confidant, and more faith-filled and my young man will soar in so many ways.

Ya know, one month can’t come soon enough for all that promise.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A homestead in the highlands.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me a match!

 

IMG_5807
The site of the 2016 Rainbow Gathering in the Vermont mountains.

Did I mention I have become the matchmaker for a sweet Jewish male, 40-ish, whom I met at the Rainbow Gathering? Truly, all things are possible. It’s a magical kinda-place, a Rainbow Gathering, where conventional rules seem to be forgotten. Barter is favored as no money changes hands; meals are free if you are hungry and your needs seem to be supplied, even from those around you who will give all they have if you need it. Or so it seemed to me.

 

I found myself “stuck” during a driving rainstorm, under some tarps and around a blazing fire at Home Shalom, one of the two Jewish camps at the Rainbow Gathering. We had gone to visit, and then the rain had started and my friend and I found ourselves without ponchos or umbrellas as a sea of mud started to form in the hours and hours of rain that was to follow.

 

We were welcomed, oh so welcomed, and loved, oh so loved, us two women huddled in their camp chairs hoping to soak up some warmth. Meanwhile, folks cooked and as the rain continued and my tummy rumbled, I willed the nourishing food to hurry up so I could put in where it belonged and stop the hunger. Sure enough, a while later we were ushered to the feast and ate our fill of baked eggplant, cooked garbanzo beans, tzatziki and other yummy things all piled onto our bliss, which was the one thing I did think to bring. (Bliss being the Rainbow name for something to eat from.) Not knowing I would end up away from camp for hours, I had given my water to someone on the trail who had asked, but filtered water was there and after finishing my meal, I used my plate to drink some. Ah, bliss indeed.

IMG_5793

Shortly after, Shabbat started, a wonderful singing time of joy and celebration and all gathered began to celebrate together – reformed Jews, Orthodox Jews, Hasidic Jews, Gentiles and everyone else who stumbled into camp to escape the deluge. The sounds of Shabbat brought many in from the trail and out of the woods – and I watched as person after person celebrated Shabbat. We danced around the fire celebrating a God who loves us. It continued for hours. I was fascinated to see the men taking the lead in this celebration, and realized how much we’ve missed it in Christianity where we are all restrained and pent up and feel self-conscious as we raise our hand to worship our God. Oh that my Christian brothers would celebrate God as these men did.

 

I met Wilson just before Shabbat, I think, or maybe it was during.  I don’t remember. We talked, he explained, and we enjoyed the company. Two days later I ran into him again on the trail and we talked for a long, long time. It was then I became a matchmaker. I think of the song from the movie, Fiddler on the Roof, “Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make me a Match” mashing with Beyoncé’s “All you Single Ladies”. Anything can happen at a Rainbow Gathering.

IMG_5800

So all you single ladies – Wilson is looking for you. Late 20’s through the 30’s preferably. Jewish currently or willing to convert. Home-oriented. His offer is stable, kind and Jewish male. Self-employed and pilots planes for fun. Currently in New York but willing to relocate – maybe Texas, possibly Florida. Lots of brothers and sisters, more than a dozen dearly loved nephews & nieces. I am not sure why this man is not married. Maybe his dreams stretch so much further than the area he lives in. He believes it the will of God we met. Somehow so do I.

Welcome Home! Of a different variety.

Indiana Road Sign

Sweet home Indiana!  After 13 days and numerous van issues (transmission fun) it was without a doubt, a great joy to enter into Indiana.  For the first time in a long time, I return filled with joy & hope, knowing without a doubt the way forward into the future and why I am situated where I am at this point in my life.

Does leaving all that you have and stepping into an alternate reality like the Rainbow Gathering morph out to create waves into your own life?  It cannot help but do so.  I don’t think I have EVER been so grateful for hot showers, warm beds, washing machines, toilets that flush (and aren’t in the ground) and all those creature comforts we Americans take for granted.  Running water!  How could I forget that!  But beyond creature comforts, for me, the Gathering has helped coalesce and focus a whole host of things to point me in a direction from which there is no return.

IMG_5858
After 6 days in the woods, this was a glorious site to see!  Hotel toilet.

 

Look for more posts in the days ahead.  In the meantime, you’ll notice our tag line has changed – the man child leaves “tween” behind to enter “teen” this next week.  I made it home for that big event (Thank you God!) and Monday we begin the celebration of him and his moving from man child to man teen?  Man-in-training?  Man of the moment?  I don’t know.  I’ll give it some thought.  Man child is growing up, as we all are, and after so many events in this last week, which only appeared on my radar well after they occurred, I am going to celebrate his coming of age at such a time as this and all that is planned for his sweet life.

Celebrate with us folks!  Celebrate life!  Celebrate toilets!  Choose gratitude today.  What do you have in your life that you are thankful for?  I know for many, life is hard and filled with tough choices.  But I challenge you to choose just one thing today to celebrate with a sense of gratitude.

IMG_5866

 

Tales from the trail – Part 1

IMG_5789

I am sharing my tales from the trail, to tell you of the deep, deep impact this event had on my life, not to begin a discussion or deep dialogue on rights or wrongs, and how those things play out. I am not a theologian but a lover of all people and seek to learn to love more as I walk through this life. As such, if you would like to comment, please do. But hurtful comments that divide us rather than help us unite and walk in love will be excluded from publication. Please understand that there are other sites willing to discuss those things. This story exists solely to share about the Rainbow People and my visit to them and to help others, especially my Christian brothers & sisters, perhaps understand a world so different than their own.

 

I have just returned from the Annual Rainbow Gathering held in the hills of Vermont. I was a Rainbow “virgin” and have come out a much different person than I went in.

I worked with a group called Jesus Kitchen, serving food, filtered water and coffee to those at the gathering – Jesus believers or not – and listening to stories, oh so many stories, shared around the circle we sat at morning, noon and night.

One of the most impactful, to me, was that of P. The day after I arrived, I heard P call out from our steps (we were situated up the side of a hill), “Can a pagan transgender come into the camp?” This alone broke my heart. That any one of God’s children would feel excluded in our camp or not welcome to come to the circle of light and love made me sad.

We ushered P in and she sat down and began to share her story with all of us – unbidden but welcomed, as all stories were welcomed. It was a tale of hurt and heartbreak involving things that couldn’t even be told as we had children in the circle. Most disturbing to me was that the horrible things P had suffered had been in a church. Things you don’t mention when children are present. Things that make scars run deep and pain stay fresh.

P asked to share a song. Music, P said, was what got her through the tough times. One song after another followed, and, at the end, three beautiful hymns were sung – tender and filled with emotion. My eyes were not dry.

After, P began to talk of the things of God. Scripture was not unknown to this pagan gentle person and she told stories of sharing the word on the streets of New Orleans with street preachers and many asking in that city how a pagan could share the word of God.

Anomalies run deep, don’t they? I don’t use that phrase as if P were the anomaly. The situation was that thing. Sitting in a circle of love and light listening to the resonating word of God from one so judged and considered by some not worthy to deliver it.

P did not return to Jesus Kitchen, at least when I was there. But I saw P on my last day of the Rainbow Gathering, dressed this time in the opposite persona. He was preparing to play an instrument and share of that deep love of music with yet another crowd.

 

‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Luke 14:21b – 22 NKJV

 

IMG_5862

All names have been changed to protect the identity of the person involved as my heart to is protect their dignity. If I have failed to do that in any way, please forgive me. The failing is mine.

BBQ, Blues and headed to Bayous – Mississippi & Louisiana

This was our first trip to this area of the country and we were really looking forward to it.   For the man child and I, 70% of the enjoyment of the trip is just the drive – looking out the windshield at all there is to see and exactly what it looks like. I think parts of it are imprinted in our brains. I know that’s the case with my brain as there are many times I take those imprints out from the place they are stored in my mind, and bring them up to remember again. And so it was with this trip – delightfully so.

 

IMG_5178.JPG
My favorite sight in Memphis ~ gas at this price!

We hit Mississippi after a night in Memphis. (That will be a different blog post.) It’s very flat in the north of the state. Lots and lots of casinos sit on the Mississippi River but we passed those by. Our plan was to coast down the Great River Road and we had been following those Great River Road signs down the Mississippi for a couple of states.   One problem though – the Mississippi delta is flat and low and so all we really saw for miles and miles were levees built to keep the Mississippi out of the delta. Big levees. Levees so big you cannot see the Mississippi River when driving. After a while even our highway was built up on a levee. And as we had elected to follow the Great River Road we missed most of the Blues trail. Not a huge miss as we aren’t big Blues fans, but nonetheless, it probably would have been more interesting than hour after hour of farmland and levee. Most of my attention, at this point, went to maintaining the van on top of the levee road.

IMG_5179.JPG
The levee in Natchez from the Visitors Center.

 

We were, however, delighted with the Mississippi Welcome Center on intersection of Highway 49 and Highway 61. We’ve made it a point to stop at these and this one was a delight. Built to resemble antebellum mansions, this one had an exhibit of Native American artifacts found on site. The gals manning the center were so helpful too. We took a couple of hours to have lunch in the parking lot and I noticed an RV dump, along with picnic tables, grill and RV parking. Apparently all their centers throughout the state were this well equipped. My guess is you could ask permission to stay the night onsite. We’ll definitely remember to stop at these next time we are back in Mississippi.

 

As we continued along our way, we came across the Winterville Indian mounds site. We parked and went into the small museum (free admittance). The tour started with a short video about the history of the area and the Indians who lived there and some background on the Mounds. We walked out the back of the museum and went over to the largest mound to see them up close. It was definitely worth the stop. It’s located on State Hwy 1, about six miles north of Greenville, Mississippi and the museum is open daily. I also noted the grounds must get very gorgeous in spring, as the local garden society has done lots of planting. There was also a pond on the property. It looked like the gate was locked nightly or this would make a great place to boondock.

 

Next up, Natchez.  As we had arrived at night in Natchez I didn’t want to spend time driving around so when we came upon a Wal Mart, that’s where we stopped.   Next morning, we drove the town delighting in the houses and how different than our own region they looked. The Natchez Visitor Center had been recommended and it was worth the stop. There is a huge area museum inside and a viewing area for the Mississippi. A National Parks site sits inside the Visitors Center with a very reasonable charge to see a movie of the area. It also it looked like boondocking in the parking lot was a no-brainer as the lot is huge. (Plus it looked like a couple of people were doing just that.) A better tip, if parking is allowed, was a large parking lot right on the Mississippi in a lot on South Broadway in the old downtown area.  I imagine, though, that in the summer there were be lots of people and cars choking this lot, but since it was February, that wasn’t an issue. The view down the Mississippi from this lot was spectacular.

IMG_5181.JPG

Continuing on, the topography changed the further south we got and Mississippi got super hilly and very piney and quite beautiful. (Still no bayous though.) But we so enjoyed the view out the window. Along the way, signs were popping up for antebellum houses and plantations and tours.  Add this to my bucket list.  We didn’t stop that day, as the man-child had absolutely no interest in seeing an antebellum house.

 

We coasted into Louisiana. After a quick overnight at the Cracker Barrel in Gonzales, Louisiana (RV parking behind the Cracker Barrel) and a stop at a few of their stores to drop some cash (who would have thought I would finally score the size 12 women’s black boots with the larger calf on a clearance rack in LA?), we headed on to Baton Rouge. Located right on the Mississippi River there is an old section of town (and an old and new statehouse) and we so enjoyed seeing it all. In my mind’s eye I could just see the trade and hustle and bustle down this river and into this town in ages past. We had a lovely lunch stop in Capitol Park and man-child grabbed the fishing pole and tried to catch a fish or two in the ponds. His main concern that an alligator would come out to eat him never came to pass (thank goodness) and while he fished, I tidied up the van. Both of us were basking in the warmth of 68 degrees, he after changing into shorts and a t-shirt. For us northerners, yes, 68 is warm. Especially considering we had word of a blizzard up where we lived. We were ever so glad to be in warm weather!

Later it was off the New Orleans. We had a couple of state parks in mind.   We’ll share that adventure in another blog post.  And what did BBQ have to do with all of this you ask?  We stopped and ate it whenever possible.  The BBQ joints got fewer and further between the further south we went (in favor of fish places).  The best thing we did was buy it by the pound to have in the Roadtrek as we went.  NOM, NOM. NOM.

 

 

 

 

Pickles & Spontaneous trips

IMG_3415
Just a few of the pickles and pickled products for sale at Sechler’s Pickle Factory in St. Joe, Indiana.
Sechler's Pickle Factory, home of the giant hanging pickle!
Sechler’s Pickle Factory, home of the giant hanging pickle!

We had a quick couple of days (and a doctor’s appointment scheduled one state over) so we left early to make our visit more productive.  If I am spending on the gas anyway, might as well enjoy the trip.  So in our usual, no-idea-which-way-we-are-headed mode, we took off after throwing a couple of things in the van – like food and clothes.

We generally travel with enough clothes in Jonah, our ’96 Roadtrek Popular,  to make it work whatever we do, especially after a trip this same direction a couple of months earlier, which spontaneously morphed from overnight to four days.  That resulted in a Wal Mart stop for more t-shirts and shorts for the man child (while mom was thinking of all the t-shirts and shorts hanging in his closet).  But we chalked it up to spontaneity and man child actually found a couple of really funny cat t-shirts, including one to gift to his big brother.

Here's Jonah, when we picked him up 8 months prior. Isn't he handsome?
Here’s Jonah, when we picked him up 8 months prior. Isn’t he handsome?

Driving off toward the direction we needed to be, we spied a small two lane highway on our map that connected to the main road.  Never a fan of main roads when undriven two lanes are nearby, we veered off that way.  Adventure awaited!  Shortly we saw the sign for the Sechler’s Pickle Factory in St. Joe, Indiana (northeast of Ft. Wayne, IN).  Mom had been here many years prior (with a couple of the older set of man child’s siblings), but unfortunately on that day they weren’t doing tours.  So here was a chance to rectify that closure and see the pickle factory.

Free tasting bar!
Free tasting bar!

This free tour was completely worth the stop!  The pickle store contained all sorts of things pickle (including pickle Christmas ornaments, pickle pillows, and pickle keychains), but the highlight was the free tasty pickle bar to try the flavors for sale on the shelves behind us.  We arrived early (tours on the half hour), looked at all the yummy pickles and such for sale, peaked through the windows at the factory we were soon to tour, all while waiting for two o’clock.

Attractive free tour hair nets.
Man child models the attractive free hair nets.

Coincidentally, the retirement tour bus arrived shortly and a few sweet old ladies, complete with walkers and a wheelchair, were to join in.  This would prove to be interesting.  We donned our hair nets with gusto, signed a statement indicating no open wounds (yes, really) and we were ready to learn about pickles!

Actually it was a wonderful learning experience.  This factory has been in operation for almost 100 years and is the last pickle factory of it’s kind in this area of the state.  They private label many other kinds of pickles (and they looked like upscale pickles too) along with their own brand, sold in many areas of Indiana, and they ship all over the country.  While they used to sit smack dab in the middle of a dill pickle patch, now there are no more pickle farms in Indiana so their pickles come in from Michigan and Florida.

We learned the difference between fresh pack pickles, (processed in a vinegar solution, which is primarily how they make pickles in the summer), and processed pickles (think mom’s canning in a pressure cooker).  Would you believe they have 100 year old cypress wood tanks to process the pickles (just like a fine wine, lol) and that, even though we are one cold winter climate, the pickle tanks sit outside year round as the brine is salted water and it will not freeze?  The pickles outside will sit in this brine 2 or 3 months, before being pulled inside to continue their pickle journey to someone’s mouth.

Brining tanks outside of the factory. Can you imagine that these are almost 100 years old and still going strong?
Brining tanks outside of the factory. Can you imagine that these are almost 100 years old and still going strong?

Next up was the copper kettle room where great big kettles sat to process the pickles.  Here they also make candied pickles (yum) and pickle relish (double yum).  It just takes a couple of weeks in this room, before moving on.

The pepper relish cures in these big bins in the
The pickle relish cures in these big barrels in the copper kettle room. Over 50,000 gallons of vinegar are used in this plant a year.

Then it’s off to the packing room.  Not modernized and sleek by any means, but it was thoroughly refreshing to see real people packing real pickles.  After packing, the fresh packs sit upside down in the box for two weeks and then ship while the processed pickles sit longer before going out the door.

Processed pickles coming off the line.
Processed pickles coming off the line.
Pickles waiting to finish. Notice the boxes are upside down so these are fresh process pickles.
Pickles waiting to finish. Notice the boxes are upside down so these are fresh process pickles.

The parking lot isn’t large by any means, but I would guess if you were out by opening time (8:30 a.m) they might even let you boondock in their parking lot.  That’s only a guess but the factory is the only thing around and not particularly huge.  A picnic table sat by the parking lot for an enjoyable picnic with your newly purchased pickles.  (The tour was totally free with no mandatory pickle purchase.)

It’s worth the detour if you are in this area or even cruising by on the 80/90 Toll Road.  You’ll have to detour south about 45 minutes on I-69, and then east a bit, but you’ll be glad you did.  It’s worth the time.

So ended our pickle adventures and we were back in the Roadtrek and on the road.

Here’s where we found Sechler’s Pickles: 5686 SR 1, St.Joe, Indiana 46785.  They’ll ship to you too if you order at http://www.sechlerspickles.com.  Here’s their Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/sechlerspicklesinc.  Their Facebook says they are open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily but I would call first to make sure they are processing, especially if it’s in the winter. No pickle payment was made for this post.  We just really enjoyed this free tour.

Out the door and into the wild blue yonder!

There’s this nervous excitement in the stomach the days leading up to a trip.  Must be all the possibilities swirling around.  As we spontaneously travel (i.e. no set schedule but just a general idea) maybe it really is just nerves:  will we find places to boondock?; will the travel funds last until we are satisfied we’ve done what we set out to accomplish?; will the weather turn and it end up stifling hot/freezing cold?  This and many other questions stick with me as we (read Mom) preps the van, preps the food, and preps the clothes for another adventure.

IMG_3446
Jonah, our 1996 D190P.
IMG_3187
These little baskets fit perfectly in the shelves and keep things from rattling around. $1 each!

Jonah, our big white whale of a 1996 Roadtrek Popular, has had a lot of things done to him since we made our Canada trip last March.  Some involved fixing the poorly done winterizing job (which we paid a pretty penny for) as we made our way out of Florida 8 short months ago.  Spring came and so did the time to de-winterize.  Panic postings on the Roadtrek Facebook group for support brought a very kind offer to assist.  It was then we found three leaks and an improperly installed water heater bypass.  Oh my!  No wonder de-winterizing wasn’t going as expected.  So now with a properly installed hot water bypass and a water pump bypass (and three leaks resolved) we are good to go if we run into an unexpected cold snap, though that really shouldn’t be a concern even if we are heading north this time of year.  The fridge has been pulled and thoroughly cleaned up and now we have propane working to keep everything cold.  This was a big plus as previously we only ran on 12V and electric as the propane would work 10 minutes and then go out.  Since we boondock and don’t have solar, electric doesn’t do much to assist.  So we can plan to take more of our food, resulting in savings but also allowing location flexibility.

Dollar Tree has become our friend as we continue to find small, inexpensive hacks to assist with organization.  Yesterday’s finds included a plastic soap dish and a plastic cup and toothbrush holder, both with suction cups.  Plus three sunglass holders that fit perfectly over the ledge above our heads.  For a dollar an item, if you don’t like the hack or it doesn’t hold up, no worries as you haven’t broken the bank.

IMG_3186
Love these cheapo hacks. This holds hats, sweaters and all sorts of things. Though made for a door, they fit perfectly in the van.

Then there’s the question of am I bringing enough things to do?  Not knowing where we’ll end up or what we’ll be doing makes it hard to judge what to bring along.  So I settled for a book I’ve been needing to get to and some recipes I need to look over and make a menu plan with (as we’ll launch into school mode when we return).  Man child is bringing a small fishing pole and some tackle, a baseball and a small scooter that folds down.  We’ve also got lots of audio books on my smartphone to listen to as the miles go by.

Open_2_6975e917-1a68-46da-ab1f-de7e0e4322f8
Go Sun Solar oven. Pic from their website.

Also making the cut is the Go Sun solar oven we received after posting a picture of Jonah on the Roadtreking website.  We are bringing things that can be cooked in this long, narrow tube solar oven and plan to experiment around with it.  We found the perfect place to transport it under the back driver’s side bed.  Win!

So it’s T-minus 12 hours until take off.  Hip, hip Hooray!  We’ll keep you posted.