Brenda Curtiss's blog Brenda Curtiss's blog en-us Wed, 24 Aug 2016 04:54:19 PDT Wed, 24 Aug 2016 04:54:19 PDT New Blog Announcement I am keeping this Blog intact. But please see my new blogpost entries here: Brenda's Adventure Vandwelling Blog New entry made tonight! Lots of pics too so c'mon and pop on over! 2013-05-28 19:26:56 What Was & What Is Ahead I have had my current van for just over a year now. I started over again after an *accident in Montana (not my fault) totaled my 2000 Astro & most everything in it on 9/25/2011. Miraculously and thankfully Gabriel and I survived. GOD is amazing! (*If interested in details there is a post about that on this blog.) So after just over a year on a tight budget, starting over from scratch, this is what has evolved into my current set-up. Above is the inside bed & seating area of my current van home. I purchased this 91 G20 High-Top Conversion Van on Sunday October 15th, and moved in the following Wednesday. Above and below are a few pics of the interior 'living area' as it is currently. I have to say it is pretty doggone comfy in here! And with the doubled memory foam on my bed + several memory foam pillows (1 with gel & memory foam!) it is seriously comfy!   Note: Blog post continued & finished at 1:00 a.m. EDT on 1/18/2013.  How does one catch up over such a time period... First my apologies that I let my (stressful but much appreciated) telecommute work take so much of my attention & energy that I got so far behind on some things that really matter to me! Things I love, like keeping connected to all you kindred spirits out there with this blog, + writing articles for ezinearticles etc. (mostly on vandwelling, frugality & frugal exploring/traveling). I have now made a promise to myself that I am not going to allow that to happen again! So with that said... Here are a few highlights of the last few months: I summered in & around the NC High Country. You can see some cool pics in a couple of the blog posts below this one. It was a beautifully scenic area & even though there were a couple not pleasant heat waves, for the most part when other areas 20 miles away were in the 90s & higher, it was 70s there & the highs rarely hit higher than the low 80s other than a rough heat wave in late June/early July where it stayed in the humid mid & upper 90s, even touched 100! I had to go & hook up to electric for a couple weeks so I could run my AC as it takes too much power to use without plugging in. But wow, what an awesome option to have when needed! I didn't have that option last year & I am so thankful for it! 2 weeks in an RV site is still a whole heck of a lot cheaper than just a handful of nights in a hotel & I am still in my home and with some nice benefits (electric/nice bathhouse, a beautiful area with shady trees & I was on a babbling creek!) Yeah it was nice! OK OK here are a few pics. :)  A couple more photos of the NC High Country (again pics in a couple posts below this one of this area). These are on the Blue Ridge Parkway: I have to tell you about Shila... She was an experience I will never forget. Following is a pic I took of Shila, a sweet beautiful Australian Shepherd. This photo shows Shila thin & losing some of her coat/hair from just not eating enough to make up for her actively running the streets so much. But she was otherwise healthy. I ended up providing food & water for her almost daily, but I am getting ahead of myself... The beginning of her story as I knew it: I had been in the NC High Country for a couple weeks or so and parked overnight at a Walmart in town and one night my pup Gabriel started going bonkers wanting to go outside. I heard a crying sounds and  other wimpering type sounds just outside the back windows and realized in the dark it was a dog. She seemed to be in distress but not dangerous, just kind of sad and alone. So I went outside with Gabriel, with a gut feeling she was not a threat to either of us. I found her scared of me and she wouldn't get too close to Gabriel either and yet she looked so sad, and appeared to be trying to reach out to us. I saw a collar with a broken hook on it but didn't see any tags and she wouldn't let me get close enough to touch her. She looked a little thin so I put some of Gabriel's food out with a dish of water on the island outside my van. When we went back inside she hungrily ate and drank it all. She then laid down there by the van and slept there all night. We found her still there waiting on us in the morning. When I was letting Gabriel out the next morning she approached him and they quickly made friends. But she was still a bit uneasy. It was a process, she would come up to him and then jump back and then come up to him again until she was somewhat comfortable being close to him, but again if I got too close to her she would run across the parking lot & then come back to us. When we pulled out she ran beside and then behind the van. That made me nervous as she followed us right out on to the highway! I stayed in the right lane trying to get down the street to purchase some ice, and then went to my favorite shady tree parking spot not far in the opposite direction on the same the road (2 lanes each way highway) to keep her off the road as much as possible. Once we pulled in & parked for me to telecommute work for the day, she stopped & waited for us to come around. I let Gabriel play with her for a while & gave her some more food & water. After we went inside she laid outside by the van under the shade tree for about an hour and then left. That was the first day of a 4 month relationship we developed with Shila. At least 6 nights out of  7 she would find us whether I parked at Walmart or down the street at the Kmart and in different spots... she would always find us. When I went to spots in the day hours to parks away from that main street/highway she would want to follow us but would stay behind if I got too far out of her comfort zone (she would always stay within about a 3 mile radius) . I often worried about her, wondering if she was OK or lonely without knowing where we were for the day. On the weekends when we went exploring I would pray she was OK & didn't dart out into the street & get hit by a car. One time I saw a large crumpled wet box on the roadside across from one of my favorite day parking spots and for a few seconds I thought it was her... Scared me so badly! Over that time period I got to the point I parked there on that main highway most often because of Shila. She just seemed so much happier when she knew where we were. Gabriel began to look out the windows waiting for her at night & then again each morning. She would show up and make her sounds to let us know she was there if it wasn't too late I would let Gabriel out to play with her for a few minutes. She would stay by us during the night & the repeated scenario in the morning with me giving her food & water (and treat bones) then she would follow us, often scaring me half to death running behind or beside us even into the street (a main highway!). During this 4 months, people began to see her follow my van around often people would stop at a light or in a parking lot with her running behind or beside my van, and say, "your dog is following you" or, "is that your dog"? A couple of times people almost got angry at me until they realized she wasn't my dog. Early on a lady from a pet rescue tried to capture her & I tried to help her but Shila wouldn't get near enough to her for her to be able to take her home or to the rescue. During the 4 months people began to stop when I parked for the day & ask me about her & I would briefly relay her story. People would try to get her to come to them, but whether with treats (that I gave them to give her) or whatever... she would get close & then run away. I would use Gabriel to try & give her comfort & to keep her there with her buddy, praying she would let some kind loving person take her home. They were good caring people, but she was so afraid of humans as some idiot obviously had abused & neglected her. How people could be so cruel just turns my stomach! But her sweetness, beauty & soulful eyes (1 blue & 1 brown) brought her lots of fans & wannabe owners. But no one was successful in coaxing her into their vehicle. One man who was a professor at the Appalachian University was so sweet & patient that he even laid down in the grass with his hands out to her. She got closer to him than anyone else but still her fears would not allow her to submit to him or anyone. He even came bck the next day with friends but even with my help they were unable to capture her. It broke my heart as she wanted love so badly & yet her fears would not allow her that love. In a way she was like me when it comes to romantic deep love relationships at this point in my life, my last nightmare of a marriage was my last intimate romantic relationship other than GOD & I don't see that changing and yet I recognized the similarities in us in our self built protective barriers. In many ways GOD used her to minister to me. Gabriel & Shila became very close friends. Knowing I was going to be leaving the area in early to mid September, by mid August I was getting really sad & very concerned for Shila. I couldn't stand the thought of her just suddenly alone & lonely with us gone. Maybe she thinking we had just deserted her... I prayed so much about her. Then a woman from the humane society that partnered with the rescue there came by one morning to talk to me about her. Shila had already left us for the day. That is when I found out her name was Shila & heard her prior story. It turned out she had been abused & much neglected as a puppy for the first year of her life. She escaped her owner & ended up rescued & then  adopted by a young woman that didn't take good care of her & left her chained outside much of the time not giving her much attention. Shila got away a couple times & was taken back to her. The last time she got away the young woman moved & when Shila returned, she was gone.  The police working with the rescue found Shila wandering the streets & tranquilized her to be able to catch her. They said they gave her enough to literally put a horse down but she wouldn't go down, she ran & hid. They never were able to capture her after that.  That was the prior September!!! They had been trying to catch her for a year!!! The officer working with the rescue planned to come back the next morning with Shila's sister (also beautiful but much larger & healthier with longer fur) in her SUV the next morning, hoping to get Shila to come to her. Long story short Shila again ended up running when she tried to capture her. Several times the officers & team members of the rescue team tried to follow her following me. Finally they talked with me & we planned to try & corner her inside of a fenced area at the police station. I would lead Shila there with my van early morning so there wouldn't be as much traffic. The first time we tried she got through a hole in the fence & ran away. The second time a couple days later, we tried with several officers helping, the hole taken care of & with me using Gabriel to calm Shila. That was when they were finally able to capture her. I was in tears... But it calmed me to see this man from the rescue down on his knees on the pavement with her on a leash, but him stroking her head & speaking to her softly... I let out a sigh of relief feeling like they were going to take care of her like they promised they would. They all were so grateful to me and they & other people in Boone that knew about her began to call me the dog whisperer LOL. They had also promised they were going to give Shila lots of love & attention to get her used to having loving human contact & calm her spirit before they let anyone adopt her. They also promised to be very selective about who could adopt her. There had been many who had left me their phone numbers if I could ever get her into my van to call them so they would come & get her. Some of them would occassionally bring her & Gabriel a treat. Many of those people heard the story about her being at the rescue & called to adopt her, some upset that they didn't quickly allow them adopt her out. Sweet scared Shila had stolen so many hearts. The police officers were amazed at how Shila had bonded with Gabriel & I & followed us everywhere as she had been such a loner prior to us, and she was so smart & quick that no one could capture her for an entire year. They had tried multiple times without success. As we drove away I was so sad knowing Gabriel didn't understand that his friend was now not going to be looking for him at night or waiting for him to come out in the mornings. And as I pulled into my favorite shady day spot for me to work... I missed her already. I am in tears now writing about her, but they are happy tears. (Sorry this is so long but Shila's story is so awesome that I just had to share her and her story with you...) Gabriel had a very tough time for the almost 2 weeks before we left the area. He would look for her, and hang his head out the side or back windows &  cry... it was heartbreaking and brought me to tears too. I would try and comfort him but how can you make a dog understand something like that? I took him to see her at the rescue after a few days. She was in a large kennel but with toys & a blanket & was showered with a lot of love. They played & seemed thrilled to see each other but Gabriel wasn't happy about her being there & didn't want to leave without her. I knew I couldn't take care of her on the road & that we had done the right thing for her but it was so hard to see Gabriel so sad & confused over losing his friend. The end of the story: After a lot of attention & care at the rescue for close to 2 weeks, Shila was adopted by a family with a small farm. Shila had several acres of a fenced in expansive area to run & play at will. She also had a doggie door to go in & out of the house at will. They said she always went in at night & bonded well with everyone in the family. They clearly adored her. The family had children but they were used to animals (they had horses, sheep & cows that I saw) & were wonderful with Shila. She instantly became a part of the family. I was allowed to go to the farm & see her. It was the most wonderful beautiful thing to see her so loved & happy, & yet still free, still Shila! It was perfect, absolutely perfect! I will never forget Shila & the way GOD used Gabriel & I to help her have a life with a loving family. What a priviledge it was... to become a part of Shila's story, what a wonderful privledge. GOD answered many prayers, mine plus the many friends that I shared about her on my facebook, that were agreeing in prayer with me, for her. When I think of Shila today... I smile knowing that 'no matter what', GOD can & will make a way.  Man may & often does fail, but not God. Nope, never GOD... HIS love is amazing. OK this has become so long that I will end here & do a part #2 this  weekend to post some pics from where we headed after Boone, beautiful Asheville NC. Which includes some photos taken of that stunningly beautiful region of the Blue ridge Parkway, +a few photos of holiday time with family in Upstate SC. So check back later this week-end or the first of the week when you get a moment OK? Hope to see you down the road! Blessings for Your Journeys, Brenda p.s. - I love feedback so please feel free to leave me a comment! :) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ☆ "Have you seen my eBooks yet?: Click here to check them out! ☆   2013-01-06 11:15:45 What??? How Do You Do That?!?   Brenda (me) doing my Monday through Friday telecommute work. June/2012 The longer I live the more I am convinced of one thing: EVERYTHING is about perspective. What do I mean by that? Whether one is referring to politics (wow… please don’t get me started…) or religion (not a big fan of that word as I believe it is I more about relationship with God, but you know what I mean :) or how one lives, or many times even if they are successful & happy in their work… it is ALL dependent on their perspective and follow through. I am an Adventuring VanDweller with a nomadic spirit that enjoys working from my campervan in whatever place I happen to be whether by the water or on a mountain top. I currently have a full-time telecommute job Monday through Friday so as long as I can get cell service and a wifi signal (and the climate is agreeable) I am good to go!  On the week-ends I often explore the area I am in much further, doing my (much enjoyed :) photo-journaling along the way. I love sharing my journey through the pics I am blessed to first view and then digitally capture! I have over 2000 pics in albums on my Facebook alone! This journey I am on has been, and continues to be an enriching journey of discovery in many ways. Every once in a while someone who doesn’t really know me well comes along and will say something like, “Why in the world would you live in a van?!? One guy was pretty blunt saying it must be lonely and smelly! After all, he reasoned, how would I take a shower or stay clean! He wasn’t the most tactful person to be sure, but I am sure he meant no offense. But the truth is I have found that  when it comes to my Adventure Vandwelling Travels, there are basically 2 types of people... those that think my current life journey is crazy and just can't wrap their head around why anyone would choose to live and travel in a van as I do. They personally feel anyone must have all the conveniences and live in a traditional home or they couldn't possibly be happy and well or at the very least function well. Which for the masses is the norm and that is fine. But the problem in their perception (in my opinion) is when they think that is the only VALID way to live. The second group are (in my case far more the majority :) those that think it is awesome that I am experiencing all that I am, and applaud anyone having the courage to jump out there and live their dreams. I believe (and know) based on my experiences that God (and life) is amazing no matter where we are geographically or in our life's journey, and whether we live in a mansion, a tiny humble apartment, a huge luxurious RV or a self (& friends :)-modified camper van. I love my life... I am so very thankful for all these amazing experiences. But you know what? It is all a matter of perspective... There is more than one way to handle or more importantly SEE everything. Often we think we have all the answers, but actually we most often know what we know, and so we see through those eyes and via those experiences. That is why when someone has a near-death experience it often changes the way they see and live life dramatically thereafter. Unfortunately, for some not even  a close-up view of their or someone they love’s near-death experience will move them from their stoic hold on life. Some people are so deeply entrenched in their way of viewing their world and the world around them that they refuse to budge from their perceptions no matter what! But we can learn new ways once we come to embrace the truth that there is more than just the things we ‘know’ and ‘understand’. Once we realize and begin to open our minds, hearts and spirits to those things we don't know or understand; that is when we can begin to truly understand beyond ourselves. We gain new flourishing, growing understandings of how our perceptions can change everything, if we choose to open ourselves to see past what we currently have come to ‘know’. There is so much beauty in new discovery… You may have heard the old adage that if we do not grow we become stagnate just as water left in a puddle without flowing or some form of filtering itself will become stagnate. Personal growth is a life-giving gift we can give to ourselves and others. Although, perception relates to every phase and area of life, I am going to use my lifestyle of ‘Adventure VanDwelling’ as an example. Someone may assume that living in a van is a terrible experience. How can you shower? How do you do this or that??? The truth is I have lots of written info in + this blog + my eBooks that give lots of specifics on just about every subject you can think of relating to my current lifestyle of traveling (what I refer to as meandering) the USA at my own pace, while living in my van. But… and here is the thrust of this article, when folks say, (whether nicely or more emphatically) “What??? How Do You Do That?!?” I try to answer them or lead them to my written answers, as I realize that though a few will stand in judgment of my choices, most are just simply curious. Sometimes people will happen along that think that anyone who lives in a van must be unkempt, possibly uneducated and possess other not so very nice or positive traits; like we are all tramps or freeloaders or crazy people! Those folks just can’t truly understand why anyone would choose to live as I (and many others) do.    My 1 & 1/2 yr old Papstzu pup Gabriel on 'his side' of the bed area. June/2012 Following are just a few reasons why I love my life as an Adventuring VanDweller: 1. I get to see, experience and explore many new and wonderful places that are making up memories that will last a lifetime! Super HUGE perk in my opinion! That to me = freedom! 2. The way I live costs far less than renting a home or apartment and paying for all the related costs (electric, cable, etc.) in a fixed place. When times are tough that can mean literally living from week to week, payday to payday, just trying to keep bills paid. Whereas, as a vandweller, in hard times I can get by on far less, and in good times I can use the surplus in monies to be able to travel and explore + invest in others as I am able and feel led, and finally, save a bit for emergencies. That to me also = freedom! 3. If I am not happy with my surroundings whether it be the area I am in, or difficult people or bad weather or whatever... I can go elsewhere! 4. I am learning to be content in whatever state I am in. Which is a verse in the Bible by the way: "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." ~1 Thessalonians 5:18 <><  5. I have been able to break addictions of TV and filling up space with noise and activity and have learned to find peace, comfort, enrichment and even often times hearing God’s direction in the silence and quietness. I didn’t originally think they were addictions, but found out along the way that they were! I love being free of them! How often do you hear people say, "I’m bored.” We have become a society of people that either want to be entertained or at least fill our time and space with something! Trust me… it is a journey in itself to go from a life of activity and noise that constantly moves you along day by day, to having time, space and quietness to actually hear the world around you and just think, meditate and reflect. At first you truly have to learn what to do with it! I have found that building a relationship with God and continuing to learn about myself, has been a sometimes startling and sometimes awesome, but always an important and enriching journey that I am grateful to be on. 6. I personally like living out of the traditional societal ‘box’ (must have a stick and brick home to be a valid and beneficial part of society type thinking) that has been dictated by who knows who in our society. Of course there is nothing wrong with living in a fixed home. I did for most of my life and most likely will do so again one day (cob or earth sheltered home maybe… :) but the problem in my opinion is that many have come to accept that unless one lives according to the accepted societal norms then they don’t count, or fit in properly. I just don’t buy in to that type of thinking at all! This lifestyle is certainly not for everyone and it doesn’t need to be. But looking at people through a lens of where they live or what kind of abode they live in… it's all a matter of perspective as I see it. I think it is incredibly cool when people live in a van or RV or boat or earth sheltered or underground home, etc etc… What ever happened to valuing each others' uniquenesses? You don’t have to be like me or even understand my choices, for me to value yours. 7. I think the lessons I am learning in living simply and with less ‘stuff’ is invaluable. I love it that I get so much enjoyment out of simple things. (A beautiful view, a photo memory captured, the smell of freshly laundered clothes and linens…) It doesn’t take a lot to make me truly happy. And when I am especially blessed… wow… it is awesomeness! I further think that anyone and everyone would benefit by learning to live without all the bells and whistles of life we have come to expect. We live in uncertain times (Via the world’s dictates, the economy and such, but not via GOD – HE is steadfast and sure. :) But what if something happened that you no longer had your home to live in? What would you do??? Sadly most people would be very lost, maybe even panicked  at even the thought. I know I could make it through whatever comes my way. My current journey challenge is my health and fitness, and I am actively pursuing what it takes to improve that segment of myself. But learning to live as I have and learning so many other things as a result… about myself, about others, and about my own and others' perspectives… so many life lessons have come from this life of vandwelling and I am so very grateful for it all... the good, the bad and even the ugly! (Though I pray for lots of the good!!! :) Everything is literally a matter of perspective. Some people see the way I live as ‘homelessness’. I love my home! My home just happens to be a van, but it is my home. I am not by any stretch of the imagination homeless, although some may perceive that by their definition. Perspective is defined in the dictionary <> as: “The state of one's ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship: ex given: You have to live here a few years to see local conditions in perspective.” To the state of one’s ideas, I would add thoughts, opinions and all the things that make up what we come to accept as what we ‘know’. When it comes to the Word of GOD (the Bible) I am resolute to it’s truth, period. But I have learned in my 54 years (thus far) that many perspectives of life change with experiences and circumstances as you mature and grow along life’s journey. When you think about doing something you are inexperienced in and your stomach knots up, it is because you have not learned yet how to live out that experience or circumstance. But choosing to learn about and the stepping out to live beyond our current life experiences is the gateway to so much awesomeness that we may have never come to know or enjoy! As we learn the new ways and begin to grow and succeed in them we have 'aha' moments that would not or most likely could not come in any other way. Stepping outside our comfort zones can be pretty scary to be sure, but if we never do, just think of all we miss out on! So when I hear others say to me, (or I am thinking about someone else’s experiences in life), What??? How Do You Do That?!? I try to remember… it is all a matter of perspective. Coming to that realization leads to growth, fulfillment and at times downright bliss. View of the NC High-Country Mountains taken from the Blue Ridge Parkway. 6/12In an article written about me in a regional paper last year, the author called me ‘intrepid’. That has stuck with me as I felt it an incredible compliment that she so kindly gave me. Intrepid basically is defined as ‘fearless’. I am not fearless… though I would love to get to that place of being fearless! (With wisdom of course.) But I have begun to learn that life abundant is much about living it as if you are fearless and anything is possible. I choose to believe good things will come to me and to you too. God’s word says in John 10:10, Jesus speaking: “I have come that you will have life, and it will be a life more abundant!” (By the way, Jesus was a nomadic traveler when He was actively in His years of ministry. Just sayin'! :) I don’t think any of us are 100% fearless, nor do I think we have to be. But I do believe that if we try to live without being controlled or dictated to by fear, (FYI: The Bible states 365 times: “Do not fear”) that we can live a vibrant fulfilled life whether it be in a van or a boat or a tiny cottage or mansion; and whether we travel across the world or remain with 20 miles of our birth place. It’s not so much about where you (or anyone else) lives or what we live in, or dozens of other factors and attributes that make up our (or their) life's journeys. It IS ALL about our perspective of all  things. What lens are you looking through? Hope to see you down the road! Blessings for Your Journeys, Brenda ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *☆* "Have you seen any of my eBooks yet?: Click here to check them out! *☆*  You are also invited to check out my 2000+ (& constantly growing)  photos of my travels on my facebook page:  Brenda's Facebook   Brenda Curtiss - Expert Author @ 2012-06-24 14:00:04 Still Here - Alive & Well Brenda & her 17 month old Papastzu pup Gabriel on 6/1/2012 Hi Y'all! I am so sorry it has been so long since I last posted! (2 months - yikes!)  Thank you so much to those that have emailed me to check on me and make sure we are still out here and alive and well! We are! :)  Just about the time of my last post I got a contract with a Tax Law Firm to make business development calls for them. It has been a very intense and time consuming couple of months to say the least! Between that and just life in general, I got way behind on not only this blog, but a number of my personal writings + my eBook related writing and promo as well. So... I am going to 'kinda' catch you up and then... I promise I will not do that again! In addition to working (telecommuting) ~ actually a whole lot has happened! In a nutshell or well maybe about 3 nutshells: First, as I mentioned at the tale-end of my last blog post, I was in Northern GA near the TN state line for a few weeks until April 30th, where good friends helped me by installing another (4th & final) battery to my 'house batteries' in my campervan, installed a 6" vent fan (love it!!!) and installed my portable AC for me - venting it out through the floor! Wow, how I appreciate  David H (& his son David) for the kind help they have given me. I truly don't know what I would have done without David H!!! I know that my experiences out here on the road wouldn't be nearly as good for me as it has been, had it not been for him and his very kind help. If you are a vandweller or are toying with the idea of camping, traveling and/or living in your van or vehicle, be sure and check out his Yahoo group for loads of info on various related projects, + much very kind and workable help and feedback: Vandwellers_Construction   Above: David H sealing the vent fan & portable AC unit installed & working! Next: The late afternoon of April 30th I headed about 6 (7 with puppy stops :) hours away toward the NC High Country where the elevation keeps the temps typically about 10 degrees cooler than the majority of the humid south even a few miles away. I had left over a week of 90+ (93 at 6 p.m. the day I left) degree temps and was kind of miserable! When I arrived into the area it was still pretty warm even for them at about 81 but it was a great improvement and I was still very thankful! I have been here for a month now and LOVE the temps in which the day highs typically run in the the 70s with occasional highs hitting 80 to 82 and the low range of high temps at mid to upper 60s. (NICE huh?) Plus, it is a beautiful area! Their heat waves at 80 to 82 degrees F aren't that bad when in areas all around, even close-by are far warmer (90 to 100). I not only hate the humid heat but it makes me ill, literally makes me sick. So this temperate weather is truly an incredibly appreciated God-send for me! I have also found the NC High Country to be absolutely stunning in scenic beauty and rich in a unique inviting culture all it's own! I much enjoy exploring throughout the area and have been blessed to view and digitally capture some reflective photos of the area; from natural beauty & people enjoying their day to the cool shops. Above: Sampling of my photos of the scenic & inviting NC High Country Currently: I am trying to decide if I want to hang around the area (a pleasant haven with much to explore all around the area to say the least) and then go to Asheville NC (which I also love) when it begins to cool down in September and then on to family in November and December in Upstate SC, for a wedding & the holidays. Or, travel to New England up into the coastal areas of Rhode Island and Maine and then back to SC In November. I had originally planned to be on my way toward New England by about now, but the temps are totally awesome for the next week or so!!! And it is truly beautiful here with gracious kind Southern folks. And yet... my yearning to explore undiscovered places is calling loud and clear. With as crazy as the economy and political scene is in the USA there is a part of me that is not sure being 1200 miles away is the best way to go this year. I am just not sure, should I go or should I stay? I reason that I can explore here and areas nearby and travel to New England next year.  Yep, still praying and thinking and trying to decide which path to take.  ~Hope to see you down the road... Blessings for your journeys, Brenda ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *☆* "How about taking a look at my eBooks: Click here to check them out! *☆*  ~~> You are also invited to check out my 1500+ (& growing) photos of my travels on my facebook:  Brenda's Facebook   OR... Click Here: Brenda Curtiss - Expert Author @ 2012-06-01 14:05:04 To Now & What's Ahead So Gabriel and I headed down to the Florida panhandle toward Pensacola in January and stayed in the area through the 3rd week of March as Spring was officially ushered in. Pensacola, Gulf Breeze & Navarre were pretty much perfect places to vandwell & explore during the winter months. The temps were pretty much perfect for me at 60 & touching 70 day temps and night lows generally in the 50s and touching into the 60s with the colder nights still only in the 40. There was one cold snap with the low 30 temps for about 3 days but that was the only time I even needed to use my Mr Heater Buddy propane heater! It was awesome! While I was in the area toward the end of February/first of March I got a second telecommute contract that has kept me working more week-day hours, but also is a big blessing for me and allowing me to currently get my van summerized etc. So although the # of hours working is an adjustment, the rewards of the time spent is needed & appreciated.                         A public entrance onto Pensacola Beach. Pensacola Beach was a beautiful beachy town, but pretty heavily populated! After the first couple weeks there I discovered Gulf Breeze (my favorite area there) with it's Oriole Beach area & community + on up the road a bit, the enjoyable: Navarre. I saw loads of vandwellers, vehicle dwellers & RV full-timers everywhere I went! During the week-days to make my telecommute calls there were plenty of great waterside parks      Gabriel peering out at the sea gulls flying by from his inside view as I    worked from the van parked at a cool wayside park in Navarre FL. wayside waterfront areas to park. I met some interesting people there including a couple men (one a vet who was retired 16 years and his retirement benefits were suddenly put on pending under our current administration) traveling toward Texas for work + a 91 year old lady in her capri jeans who was more alert and with it than most people I know of any age! What a cool lady she was to chat with & share our lives for a while at a Firestone Tire Center while getting our vehicles attended to.  Conrad & Jim ~ Travelers heading toward Texas for work. Above: Songbird on Oriole Beach. Below: Gabriel playing in the sand.         Oriole Beach Community ~ Above: Private Docks  Below: Oceanside Condos Train traveling on waterside tracks @ Wayside Park by the Pensacola Bridge. Gabriel got a grooming the weekend prior to St. Patrick's Day, which ended being the perfect timing! It got into the 80s immediately thereafter. We hit the road on March 24th heading toward the GA/TN line to friends that graciously are helping to summerize & some simple improvements on the van. I actually took the pics above & below this morning 3/31/2012 in the countryside of Dalton GA near the watershed area. Above is what I refer to as my personal idea of 'Shangri La'. And below is a picturesque area with a tire swing, cool trees, old barns and all by a Spring creek. So... my friends are at a camping get-together in TN and of course I was invited, but it i about an hour & 1/2 away and I can't be there during the week as I have my telecommute work during the week days and need a strong cell & wifi line and it is spotty at best there. So I am staying behind. I am getting a vent and the other things needed brought in this week while they are gone so that next week (week of 4/9) it will all be here ready to install. They are helping me to install a vent to circulate the air + putting my AC in so I can have it as an option to pull into an RV place (I have a 1/2 price camping membership I use when needed) and plug in during heat waves! (Last year having no real options was brutal at times so I am approaching this summer much differently!) Thank God for these awesome friends!!! I appreciate them so much! OK, so.... what is next??? When I leave his area I am heading up into TN and over to the NC high country where it is a good 10 degrees cooler. From there I am going to plan my trip ahead up into New England! I will be heading to the seaside areas of Rhode Island and Maine (Puffins, Whales, Rocky Coasts - Woohoo!) for the bulk of the summer. When the Fall begins to usher in I will make my way back down through Vermont (see trees tapped for maple syrup & view stunning foliage - Oh yeah!) and then into the PA Amish Country continuing toward the upstate of SC for Christmas with family. So there you have it... that is about as much as I know myself at this point! C'mon along and follow along with Gabriel & I. It is going to be awesome!!! Hope to see you down the road... Blessings for your journeys, Brenda ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *☆* "Thought about checking into my eBooks? Click here to check them out! *☆* You are invited to check out my 1500+ (& growing) photos of my travels on my facebook:    2012-03-31 17:53:58 Adventure Van Dwelling The Article *below was posted on the 'Tiny House Blog' on 1/21/2012 about me and my Adventure Van Dwelling. After reading it please pop over to the Tiny House Blog & check it out as well. (*Article begins below photo following.) In late 2009 the downturn in the economy dramatically changed the overall substance of 30+ year business professional, Brenda Curtiss’s life. In her words: “Even though I had always dreamed about and somewhat planned for the day I could be ‘free’ to full-time in a small RV or camper van, the need to do so financially, suddenly be thrust upon me when the once thriving Tax Planning Firm I managed for years, had to close due to the economic downturn. I had bought a 2000 Astro High-Top Conversion Van with my meager savings and started my full-time vandwelling  journey in it at a membership vacation community in the scenic North GA Mountains where I had bought memberships in better times. When I started out I was on shore power (electric hook-up) the majority of the time and not very well equipped without it. It was a beautifully scenic area, but after I had explored it extensively, and entertained family and friends who came to visit throughout the year (staying in the cabins there) the excitement began to wane and the nomadic side of me that had always longed to explore God’s amazing artistry began to rise up in me once again. By the end of 2010 I was ready to hit the road to travel across the USA in my little campervan! Some good friends helped me get a good battery system set up and further ready my van to live more self-sustainably. So here it is just over a year later, beginning 2012… Wow, what a journey it has been thus far! I have enjoyed so many wonderful discoveries as I have meandered along exploring all kinds of eclectically picturesque places and people treasures on this awesome journey. Even with it’s challenges, I love this lifestyle! Photo journaling and sharing my travels and experiences are amazing silver linings! And there are so many wonderfully diverse things, places and people yet to discover! Unfortunately, due to a mechanical failure I had a horrendous accident in Montana on September 25, 2011 that totaled my beloved van home and most everything I owned within it. My puppy Gabriel and I miraculously survived; so even though starting over has been more than a bit challenging, I am thankful beyond measure. I purchased a 91 Chevy G20 High-Top Conversion Van on October 15th, moved in two days later, and have been in the process of setting it up since. Some people were surprised I chose to jump back into the vandwelling lifestyle so rapidly. But I truly enjoy the freedom this lifestyle gives me of meandering at will without the confines and costs of hotels, rent or mortgages. It’s not for everyone, but I much enjoy my life in my little van home. Hope to see ya’ down the road!” Brenda invites you to share her journeys via her blog & photo journal comprised of 1500+ (& growing) photos she captures along the way! Check out her Blog & eBooks @ 2012-01-22 14:07:16 2011: Amazing & Brutal Brenda 12/05/2011 in her 'new to her' 91 G20 High-Top Conversion Van ಌڰۣ In less than 2 weeks we will be ushering in a brand new year! This past year has been the most challenging difficult year of my life in many ways, & yet it has possessed incredible silver linings throughout as well.  Reflecting on the highs and lows of the tumultuous pendulum of 2011 prompted me into this effort to put my 2011 into ‘words’. I began this year wintering in my modified high-top ‘camper’ van mostly in the Charleston SC area, but also explored the islands and beautiful nostalgic areas (like Savannah GA) from North of Charleston to down into FL near St. Augustine (meandering to lots of beautiful Islands like Hilton Head & Jekyll Island along the way). I then circled back up the East coast into North Carolina before I heading west across the mountains to celebrate mine & my sister Patty’s birthdays with family in Upstate SC  before heading North eventually to the Canadian border, & then finally I began my trek West across MT before my horrendous accident. The ‘meandering across the USA’ coupled with photo-journaling my discoveries along the way has been a huge awesome silver lining that has been threaded throughout my year. I have loved it so much! I had always dreamed of exploring the USA,  but in years past the responsibilities of being a single parent + jobs usually in hands-on management within  companies that required me to be very immersed in them, did not allow such freedom to wander.  In times past I had taken my son all over the Southeast on weekend camping and day-trips. But beyond those time frames, it just wasn’t doable. So 2011was an incredible year as far as expanding my borders to discover, explore and experience scenic beauty, amazing architecture, eclectic & cool towns & cities + all sorts of wonderful & interesting people along the way. I have loved every single minute of it and cherish the many photos I have to remember it with!  My journey is not over and I am excited about my soon-coming 2012 meanderings and discoveries yet to come! In  the unspoken deeply personal side of my life… I have experienced the most painful heart-breaking year of my life. I have had a year that I would have never in a million years would have possibly thought could ever take place, but it did. It has been (still is) something straight out of the stuff of mind numbing thrillers fashioned of the most unthinkable words and deeds to the point that at times I truly felt my heart and human spirit could not survive it.  Every core of my being and past had been questioned and scrutinized, misread & misunderstood. My spiritual understanding and value even to the core of who I am as a person, had been cast down. My no longer bringing in 'good. money from a job with a management title +limited mobility and health issues seemed to further deplete my 'value'. I was suddenly perceived as a non-entity, not even worth communicating with, literally eradicated from lives that mattered greatly to me. If such an odd, unthinkably strange situation was from those who did not really know me, although difficult,  could have been more easily dismissed, but in this case it was from a source that I deeply love. So it shook me to my core, first with shock, later, with deep sadness. Periodically  it has taken me to the pit of grief, hurt and despair, often deeper than I felt I could bare. Yet each and every time,  God would revive my Spirit in Him and fill me with His strength, love and presence, and further remind me once again of who I am in Him.  Last night I had a dream that elated to my experiences of 2011and I realized that I have truly been so immersed in God and His Word and have so deeply thrust myself into the consistency of Who He is, this year, that there is no longer anything that can make me even question who I am. I know who I am, who I have been, where I am going in this life and what matters to me. I have learned it (unfortunately) in the manner I so often have had to learn and grow… through hardship, hurt and at times… back against the wall desperation. Each time I would reach out and try to bridge the gap, it would be met with intolerance & disregard at best, insidious attacks at worst. There have been times I no longer wanted to live on this earth. I prayed God would take me on to heaven, but even when the horrendous accident took place due to a mechanical failure, He chose to miraculously save me. I know He has a purpose for me and I now know what some of that purpose is. The accident that snatched me from my journey West took much of my earthly belongings from me and thrust me into the ongoing struggle to rebuild my life within the most financially challenging year of my life.  It has been somewhat surreal at times. I have faced much lack in ways I could have never understood had I  not experienced it. God must have had a reason to allow these experiences, but even knowing that didn’t always make them any easier to walk through. People think they have it rough, but when you get to the point that after your fixed expenses are paid you truly do not have money for  food and/or to do laundry or go to even a discounted campsite to take a shower and wash your hair… until you experience those types of things, in my opinion, you do not truly know lack, and I pray you never do. The silver linings of that lack;  God has provided each and every time and in every situation.  Often not as quickly as I may have preferred, but always He has provided. I have been astounded at the miracles he has performed on my behalf. It boggles my mind even as I write this. And the accident… talk about miracles! My puppy Gabriel and I were both miraculously protected in an intensely destructive accident in which my 2000 Astro whipped around plowing  down a reflector pole and then proceeded to flip 4 times,  it’s contents blending and breaking as everything (including Gabriel & I) thrashed about until the van finally landed on a gravel hill on it’s side.  And yet today we are both doing well, very well all things considered. I still stop and marvel at how the hand of God (and His Angels) took care of both of us.  It is through that love of God that Gabriel showed up in my life in early March of 2011 as well. God knew my heart would need little Gabriel. And I again marvel at God’ love in sending me this  adorable little fluffy ball of love (& mischief :). But of all these things it is the heart-break that has often taken the ‘life’ out of me.  I have cried out to God feeling there was no value in my continuing on this earth. But He has not decided that, so I hear Him and I walk on. I know many don’t like to hear about satan or about his divisive ways and destructive spiritual forces of the evil he is & he instigates, but I have had to face those forces, armed with the Word of God, His Truth, His Presence & His Direction.  I have found God and His Word to be miraculously charged with power, strength, love and substance of beauty beyond my ability to describe.  I certainly have not arrived at some pinnacle high above the insidiousness that has tried to assassinate me in spirit & mind, nor the challenges I continue to navigate.  But I have learned to recognize it for what it is, and that there is a very real enemy who is the ultimate source of it.  â€œFor we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” ~ Ephesians 6:12 What have I learned from 2011: To love well, I must be willing to suffer much pain, but I also must be willing to forgive and continue to love well… no matter what. To refuse to hold onto any bitterness or unforgiveness.  God is absolutely amazing, ever-present, faithful and all powerful! God’s ways are beyond my full understanding and thus I must trust Him! God will make a way no matter how impossible things may appear to be. Manipulation & force even with ‘good intentions’ may appear to be a short-term fix , but will never accomplish long-term heart change, only heart damage. Well meaning people can be very confused about ‘truth’ and do much damage to others around them as a result. Only God’s Truth is authentic! Being rejected, not heard or seen + wrongly accused & accessed from those is not any form of love , including ‘tough love’. God will never leave me nor forsake me and will always willingly choose to provide me with His love, strength, provision & direction. There are many amazing people in this world, and far more good than not.  I am incredibly blessed with some absolutely awesome family and friends! Those who love well reflect the core of Who God is in His truest form. I must daily choose to release my heart-hurts and troubles to God & actively trust Him to handle those things I cannot and be faithful with things I can.  I can walk on & choose to live well no matter what, as long as God is with me!  I can make a choice each day to choose life, health and well being, and I must make that choice daily and proactively doing the work to follow it through. There is another year close upon me to accomplish those things I was unable to conquer in 2011and I will take hold of that incredible opportunity!  I don’t have to have a lot to be happy. Living my dreams and walking in the light of God’s love, care, inspiration and direction give me Much Joy!  ಌ ✞✞✞ <>< I hope you join me for my Meandering Across the USA in 2012! See you down the road! Blessings for Your Journeys, Brenda   *☆* "Thought about checking into my eBooks? EXCELLENT SALES!!! Bless us both by checking them out now while you can get more for your buck!" *☆* PROMO #1: For a limited time purchase the (188 pg, full color) "Setback Survival Guide' for $10 & get the (40 pg, full color) 'Natural Remedies & Solutions for: Health, Beauty & Green Cleaning' FREE! PROMO #2: Have you ever thought about camping or taking a trip using Your van or vehicle instead of hotels? (Saves a boatload of money!) Or just would like to have the knowledge to know how to utilize your vehicle for a temporary living space in an emergency? Or maybe you are just curious! :) Check out: (79 pages, full color) 'How to Set Up & Comfortably Camp or Live in Your Vehicle or Van!' (Also Includes Tenting Info) + Intro to Other Alternative Home Options: Log, Cob, Underground, Floating Homes & More! ONLY $5.77! (reg price $7.77) For more Info About my eBooks Click Here   2011-12-18 09:40:49 My Typical Vandweller Day? Photo taken on 7/21/2010 at Kitchi-Gammi Park on Lake Superior in Duluth MN I am often asked questions like: "What do you do during the day... where do you go? Where do you park at night, do you always go to Walmarts? How do you make it without electric hook-ups in campgrounds & daily hot showers? What is a typical day for you?" So I am going to try and answer those questions for you! :) First of all, it is far different living/camping and traveling in a van full-time than utilizing campgrounds with electric hook-up all or most of the time. Being 'on the road' and only visiting a campground typically one day per week to shower + wash and style my hair and enjoy the amenities there, makes using the self-contained features of my van an important consideration. Having a porta-potty on board + enough power via a marine style battery system and proper gear for cooking and heating all become far more crucial necessities.  First I have an app on my iTouch called 'Allstays Camp & RV' (it is currently available for both Apple iPhone/iTouch & Android devices) that I utilize often. I paid $4.99 for it a couple years ago and it is hard for me to function without it! Before I go to a new area I always check it out on this app as far as Walmarts and Travel Centers there, where I can legally park overnight. If there are at least 2 options I can easily stay there for a few days. If there are 4 or more options within a 20 mile radius, it makes it far easier to stay for several weeks if I choose to, as I can then rotate the areas without feeling I am in one place too often. I also check out the Sprint coverage map (my cell & wifi provider) to make sure I will have a good strong phone & personal wifi signal, to be able to  telecommute effectively from the area. Once it all looks doable for me, I head down the road to the 'new area'. Once there, I also check out any waterside areas (ocean, lakes, rivers etc.). I LOVE to park at waterside areas if at all possible when I make my telecommute business development calls and work on my eBooks etcetera. If there are no good waterside areas to park at, I then look for parks. I prefer to park where I have a nice view of scenic beauty and there is a nice green area for my little Papastzu puppy Gabriel to be able to play in for a while. Having occassional visitors that come by to say hello to me and/or play with Gabriel is nice and enjoyable, but I don't want to be in an area where there is such a flow of people (and other dogs) that it will make it difficult for me to stay focused and consistent with my work. I have several apps for parks but I usually end up utilizing the Allstays app for that too, as if you pan out you can see the waterside areas and parks and often even where there are parking areas.  I always travel distances from Friday afternoons (I work 1/2 day on Fridays) through Saturday and only on Sunday if absolutely necessary.  I like to have Sundays to explore the waterside areas and parks so I can find several nice options to choose from to go to during my weekday work hours. Another device that is hugely helpful to me is the Navigation/GPS on my phone. When I find a park areas etcetera I search it for the exact locations and distances. As I work during the week, if there is time I explore a bit at night and during my lunch break (noon til 2:00) and keep an eye out for nice laundromats or areas that I will want to explore (and photo) on the weekends when I have more free time. This helps me to mentally file places I want to visit while in the area, while I am actively powering up my batteries as I explore and/or when I drive to or from my day time spot to my evening overnight parking spot. It may sound like a lot but it just becomes second nature. (Though my major exploring takes place on the week-ends, I always have my camera close at hand to catch those cool shots that pop up! :) I often know of several places I want to get back to so I can explore and enjoy taking photos to share my journey so the weekends are a real treat for me! I often enjoy watching a news morning show on my phone on Saturday mornings and if it is cool or cold I enjoy making myself a nice hearty breakfast on my propane camp stove. On Sunday mornings I try to make sure I have plenty of power built up in my batteries so I can attend my online church service without having to 'repower' my batteries. Afterward, I set out to explore or if the weather is bad or I just choose to, I may go to  a waterside area to work on an eBook or resize my photos to post.. During the week nights I play with & love on my puppy Gabriel and often watch the news on my phone, interact on facebook, catch up on email, work on my blog or websites, check out future areas I am interested in, talk to friends, read, sing and pray, etcetera. :) On Friday nights I most often watch a movie or two on Netflix, or get caught up on 2 or 3 episodes of a favorite TV show via streaming. As far as the basics, I have Passport America (if you choose to use them let me give you my member # so I will get a small referral fee. :) I pay $40 a year for membership. They have right at 1800 campground participants that are 1/2 price to members. (They have a printed book but I use their free iTouch/iPhone app to find close-by campgrounds.) So $25 or $30 per night becomes a much more affordable $12.50 or $15 per night. Unless I really love it there and have the money to spare, I usually go once a week for just one night to shower and enjoy the amenities. I power everything up with their electric and give my dog a bath as needed. I also enjoy being able to use my hair polisher iron (it's a girl thing :) while on electric as it uses too much power to use it otherwise. I used to have a nice little flat-screen TV with  cable cord for hook-up if it was available but it was all damaged in a bad accident I recently had (see my previous blog entry for further details on that). In between showers I use a whole heck of a lot of baby wipes to stay clean + I use TRESemme' hair foam, dry shampoo and refreshing citrus mist as needed. (I use them sometimes on Gabriel too! LOL)Living in a small space requires keeping things organized and tidy. I prefer vanilla scented small garbage bags and keep all garbage bagged up and take it out to a publicly available garbage can either at a Walmart or Travel Center, gas station or park, each morning when I head to my 'day spot' and then again each afternoon when I travel to where I will overnight. Heating and cooking are done with propane appliances. I prefer a Mr. Heater Buddy propane heater and use a propane stove and cooker.(Prior to my accident in my 2000 Astro I had a butane stove but I decided to go with propane this time around as I got tired of looking for the canisters for the butane and they were pricey as well.) It is far more cost effective to use a 20 # tank of propane rather than using individual canisters. (Individual canisters = approximately 2.50 per # whereas a 20 # tank is less than $1.00 per #!) When I first started 'vandwelling' it took me a while to acclimate to living in this different way rather than the normal stick and brick home setting. But now that i know how to navigate life this way, the freedom from the high cost of rent or hotels as I explore the USA is downright intoxicating! My life is not always easy. I miss having a bathroom available to me 24/7 and I miss the ease of having a kitchen. But the silver linings of this lifestyle are far more enjoyable positives to me outweighing the inconveniences. I would rather get out and explore and experience life than  being stuck in an apartment somewhere in front of a TV set. But that's me... this lifestyle is certainly not for everyone. But for those of us with a nomadic spirit, it is a good, rewarding life! :) Your comments are always encouraged and appreciated. If you have any further questions or want further specifics & details of camping/living/setting up, a vehicle or van, please check out my eBook: 'How To Set Up & Comfortably Camp or Live in Your Vehicle or Van!'   Or take a gander at my other eBooks & eReports & let me know what you think!   Hope to see you down the road! Blessings for Your Journeys, Brenda   2011-11-16 19:02:18 Chaos Ensued but Peace Remains                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It was September 2cnd (2011), only 4 days after my last blog entry. I was en route to Bismarck ND from Duluth MN. Picturesque waterside Duluth had been good to me. It's beautiful rocky coast only 135 miles from the Canadian border gave stunning views as I made my telecommuting calls each week-day. I also met a number of wonderful people and had a warm feeling and a big smile deep within as I left the area to pursue my way west. I was also very excited because I knew that in a month or so I would finally be in the NW Pacific; an area I had long wanted to explore! As I made my way to Bismarck (my first leg of 4 segments I had laid out to get to seaside Port Angeles, WA bordering the Olympic National Park) I began to hear and feel hesitations in my van. I was convinced I had picked up some bad gas. Long story short, after making an overnight stop about 1/2 way to Bismarck, the van began to get significantly worse. The next morning was Saturday. After checking with some of my 'on the road' friends, I purchased some gas cleaner and got a full tank of gas & headed on out. The van seemed better initially, but I didn't get very far. I ended up getting stranded about 12 miles out in a town of 2000. I had it checked out after being stranded for 2 hours and then had a helpful visit from an officer that led me to a repair shop in a bit larger town 10 miles up the road. The fluids were checked etc and things quickly looked over and they determined that it looked like I was correct and that it was indeed a bad gas problem. From there I drove a couple hours or so into Fargo where my puppy's leash broke and he took off in oblivious puppy heaven chasing a plastic hypnotic bag flying through the air just above his reach. It looked like a scene from a movie. But it was a nightmare for me as it was a heavy traffic area and he was totally oblivious to my voice calling him or cars all around him as he happily chased the bag with he in full sprint, flying like the wind! I began to panic with all the traffic and felt powerless to keep him safe. I saw him racing toward a busy side street. By this time I was not only calling his name but praying and on the verge of crying. I got in my van and came around to the street he was heading toward. All the time he was out of sight my heart raced in a panic as I called on God to take care of my clueless little puppy Gabriel! I held my breath and continued to pray as I rounded the corner in front of a Windham hotel & an Alien Game room & restaurant with cars in motion everywhere! I saw Gabriel run out in the middle of the street and I stopped and got out and got him safely back in the van. After I got him in and knew he was safe I broke down crying my heart out. It scared the daylights out of me!!! Thankfully averting tragedy we headed on toward Bismarck. Little did I know it at that time, but all the difficulties I had had to that point were a drop in the bucket to what was coming... The van seemed to be doing great again and I sailed along without a care for another 3 hours to Bismark ND. When I pulled just off the interstate into a Walmart to park overnight, it started choking up and hesitating again. I realized with the sun squarely in my eyes that I had let the gas get too low again and thought it was my fault I was having "bad fuel" issues. As the story is frightfully long and sooooo much happened from this point, here is the abbreviated version: I began to have problems getting the internet due to roaming issues in their system and spent a crazy amount of time on the phone with Sprint every day trying to get it resolved. My 2000 Astro was doing horrible and it was all I could do to get from one Walmart to another one about 5 miles down the road to alternate parking. I went on back roads trying to get the fuel cleaners to work their magic and get the bad fuel out. I had to often stop & restart the van to get it to even get to 20 or 30 mph. Then I would have a good stretch where I could hit 50... But it was rough, really rough... On Thursday night of that week heading back to the original Walmart the van stopped right at the intersection to pull into their parking lot! It would run but not move into any gear. I was terribly upset when I finally called a tow truck to get me into the parking lot a few hundred feet away. A young man named Jason stopped to help me and said "I can get you there, cancel the tow truck!" I did & he did. In the following 3 days I found out thanks to a mechanic friend of Jason's that sadly my transmission was gone. Not having the money to replace the transmission I was devastated. I told my facebook friends what happened and asked for help and offered my eBooks as small tokens of my thanks. They were so very kind to me and with every penny I had added to the funds that came in I had enough to get a rebuilt or used transmission put in. I didn’t like the idea of the used not knowing what I could end up with. I was referred to a man that rebuilds transmissions and had worked a lot with Astro vans. I couldn't check him out because by this time I had no internet at all. Fast forward 2+ WEEKS LATER! I was still stranded with my puppy in my van waiting on the transmission. The guy told me all kinds of crazy stuff and then it wouldn't show up as promised and at that point I thought I may have been scammed. I was stressed and about to go stir crazy. Early on Jason's parents offered to pull me to their town home and ran a cord out to me so I could have power. So I felt incredibly blessed to at least have power and able to make my calls. Though I had still had no internet and had to get a couple rides to the library to send my work docs. Altogether, it had been a long September to that point! On Friday September 23rd the 24 month guaranteed transmission finally arrived from Ohio. It was installed and I was thrilled to be back on the road midday of the following day! The nice family saw me off and away I went about 120 miles east to get my internet issues worked out. Then I had to head back west! Other than the 240 mile detour, all seemed to be going perfectly. The van was humming along beautifully and I was happy as could be en route to Spokane WA 1000 miles away. I made it into MT Saturday and continued my journey through MT on Sunday. It was beautiful! It was a stunning day and I got some scenic photos along the way. My last stop for gas had me just over 200 miles to Spokane WA & I was one happy woman! At 6:00 p.m. MDT a horrible loud mechanical crunching type sound happened and without warning the van locked up immediately and began to violently spin around and plowed a metal reflector pole to the ground. I remember heading rapidly that way and having no control of the van at all and knowing that this was it... I knew I was about to die... The accident was horrendous... the van went airborne and flipped 4 times off the side of the road and was finally stopped by a gravel hill, landing on it's side. They had to dig little Gabriel & I out and it is a miracle we are both alive. Although I was conscious through the whole thing it all seemed surreal… first in my seat-belt and then flying through the air in a van blender with everything else flying around me so violently that my shoes even came off  both feet! People climbing up on the van to talk me through… truckers stopping to call 911 and put the small fire out that had started… the emergency folks and ambulance workers digging us out and then the whole hospital nightmare all by myself over 1500 miles away from family with my back and neck in searing pain… it was all so surreal. If you would like to see pics and get more details of what happened here is a public album you can view and read: Today is November 1st. The last month has been a whirlwind of sorts. The van was totaled and most everything I had was suddenly gone. I was starting over with very little money and only had the van insured with the basic legal insurance. My son flew out and again with the help of friends and every penny once again that I had, I was able in a wheelchair, with his help, fly southeast to family. I stayed for almost 2 weeks with one sister's family. My brother-in-law had  set up a large tent like a resort cottage in their back yard next to a nature preserve. (Which was my preference to stay in the tent instead of inside.) Then I stay a week with another gracious sister with a one bed room apartment. Though very grateful, I desperately needed my own space again and began looking for another van on my very meager monies. A kind family with a van advertised on craigslist, agreed to work with me and on October the 16th and with me still owing them $500 they turned over the title to me of their 1991 G20 High-Top Conversion Van. I was thrilled beyond words! Here is an album of the van and the beginning stages of getting it set-up to live and travel in: I recently experienced some stress in the aftermath of the accident in driving on some mountain roads to get to NW GA and currently am still dealing with pain in the process of healing in my knees, back and neck, but am doing remarkably well otherwise. No internal injuries and no broken bones! God truly had his had on little Gabriel (who was in his kennel at the time which was highly unusual - that saved his life) and I that day! I thought it would be months before I could gear up even  with the basics but yesterday a couple blessed me with a list of needs that are being shipped to me including a Mr Heater Buddy propane heater (like I had prior to the accident), an awesome propane stove & cooker and much more! I was and am stunned at their generosity and at God’s love and kindness to once again make a way for me even when there seemed to be no way! Their generosity will improve my quality of life 1000%! I drove to NW GA last week to friends who are helping me put in a basic battery system and did an amazing repair on a badly messed up back door. I am blessed, I am so very very blessed… I am expecting on going back to the Upstate SC area this week-end and staying there to save to get the van paid off and enjoy the holidays with family. After Christmas I will head out toward the FL Panhandle to winter. I have a few ideas about where I am going after that, but am not totally sure as of yet. I value this lifestyle as much if not more than I ever have, and am looking forward to continuing my journey and finding great peace in knowing that no matter what happens: God is on the scene with me! Blessings for Your Journeys… See you down the road! ~Brenda & her alive, well & happy pup Gabriel.  As always comments are enjoyed & much appreciated! p.s. – The photo above was taken in MT the day of the accident on 9/25/2011. You are invited to check out my 1500+ (& growing) photos of my travels on my facebook:  Also, if it interests you, please take a look at my eBooks and let me know what you think! :) 2011-11-01 09:06:50 Article in the "Weekly Reader" The wildest thing happened! It was the third week of July and I had just completed my morning business calls (I telecommute part-time on week-days) when this beautiful auburn dog came over & started playing with Gabriel. His owner Kris came over and we began talking. I told her about traveling the USA in my campervan etc.. She was a fun full of life type person & we had a great conversation. She told me about the South Shore area, which I was not aware of and some cool places to visit there. Then she said, "I have a column due tonight! I write a column for the Weekly Reader. I want to interview you for this week's column!" Turns out the paper is distributed all over the Northland which encompasses a large area of a number of cities & towns in northern WI & northeast MN. It was published in their July 28th Issue. It was pretty cool! I hope you enjoy it! Please note the article below the photos. FYI: My next blog will be a brief tour of my journey so far with 2 or 3 of my favorite photos from the most memorable areas thus far. Come on back soon! You are always welcome to join little Gabriel & I on our journey! Later this week I will be back on the road en route to Bismarck ND, then to Billings MT & of course the Grand Canyon! All brand new discoveries for me! You too?   TEXT OF THE ARTICLE: The first 5 paragraphs are about a couple the author (Kristine Osbakken) also met, that originally were from the Duluth MN area & now live in NV. They came back for a summer visit & chose to stay at a Dorm in UMD for a good price instead of with family. The balance of the article is written word for word here: Another Summer Option: Just today at Brighton Beach, my Mem nosed out Gabriel, a PapaStzu pup, and his owner Brenda, who was working online in her van. Brenda is on a quest: to see as much of North America as she can. An adventurer from GA, she began her excursion on the east coast and plans to cross the West to Seattle and Vancouver, eventually returning east through Colorado. But Brenda said she prefers to 'meander'. Starting in Georgia last November, her nose took her to Savannah, Hilton Head. other islands and down to Jacksonville and St. Augustine. She headed up to the New River Gorge in West Virginia, traveled across North Carolina, and exiting near Asheville, crossed the Smokies into TN. At Paducah KY, this past spring's flooding began to catch up with her. As she drove west to Cape Girardeau and into MO, the levees were being breached, so she decided to head north to WI to higher ground. Have you seen the ads in AAA magazine to visit Sheboygan? Brenda loved the area, then advanced to Green Bay and Marinette, till on the map she saw Lake Superior with Duluth at it's tip. When she got here, she says she felt like she hit paydirt. Last weekend, she tooled up the North Shore to Thunder Bay, and plans to explore Wisconsin's South Shore coming up. After seeing her son married last year, this intrepid 53-year-old decided to take a little road trip. You're invited to look Brenda up on Facebook at to view photos of her journey.  ~~~>To see over 1000 (& growing) travel photos of my journey thus far + my van set-up, check out my facebook @ <~~~  "I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave a comment!" ~Brenda 2011-08-28 15:04:35 Seeing the USA in a Van: Why? People have often asked me  why I am traveling the USA in my campervan. I have wanted to explore the USA all my life but as a single parent most often worked in management,  typically 60 to 70 hours a week to take care of us (my now adult, married and on his own for a long time, son) on one income. And don't get me wrong I was very thankful for the opportunities God gave me and saw me through. But it left little time for trips and being a single parent left little money for hotels, so we often went camping in neighboring scenic areas as my son was growing up.  Being an only child it was a great time for him to play with other kids, earn ranger badges, go tubing or just sit around the campfire roasting marshmallows.  I found that exploring the National Forest & Parks or cool little towns was a passion for me as well.  Fast forward to years later to about 2 years ago: The downturn in the economy plus some other major life shifts literally changed the overall substance of my life in many areas from finances to health.  Although monies were and are much more limited at this point in my life, otherwise it is a perfect time to indulge that nomadic side of me that has always given me a desire to explore and experience God's amazing artistry! My son recently got married and I figured now while I am not yet a grandmother and I am telecommuting, that it was far better to travel the USA in my little campervan and live life, than sit in a room somewhere watching  it on TV. I have also always loved the NW Pacific area + have a love for Orca Whales so decided one area I definitely will visit & spend a bit of time in is the NW Pacific area, Vancouver, Port Townsend et cetera  & one of the highlights of that area will be an Orca Whale Watching Tour as well.  I also plan to do a scenic train ride in CO & am visiting National Parks + traveling Scenic Byways & Great American Roads along the way. There are so many wonderful discoveries to make and I meander along taking my time exploring all kinds of wonderful places and people treasures along this awesome journey. There are some challenges, mostly due to the limited income, and or health issues but I am happy, thankful & blessed and the silver linings are amazing! :) ♥ I love to photo journal and take photos along the way and love to share my travels and experiences! So c’mon and share this journey with me and let’s make this journey a good one day by day as we meander across the USA!  So many wonderful things, places and people to discover! I love it! You in for the ride? (You can take a look at where I have been so far via my travel albums.) OK then! I would love to hear from you. Blessings for the Journey, Brenda (& her oh so adorable PapaStzu pup Gabriel) ~~~>To see over 1000 (& growing) travel photos of my journey thus far + my van set-up please check out my facebook @ <~~~ 2011-07-27 15:56:19