Week 3: a mini-vacation already?

I wanna start this post off with some things that I’ve continually noticed but don’t really fit in with the narrative of the day-to-day story. Just to give you a little more insight into some of the little things that go on.

  • SPIDERS. Why the hell are there so many spiders inside my constantly moving vehicle?? As soon as we got into warmer weather, we have found spiders inside every single day. I usually find them as they run across my hands and arms when I’m laying in bed (and then I usually panic-fling them in Greg’s general direction). I don’t usually mind spiders too much and prefer to let them live, but in a space this size I can’t afford to be kind, lest they end up in my food or clothes or something.
  • Our schedule is that of your average retiree, aside from the getting up at the crack of dawn thing. We’ll go to the grocery store at 2pm on a weekday, we’ll drive to the park for lunch, and after some long days we go to bed extremely early (Greg has been napping next to me since about 8:30 this evening). It makes sense, though, if you look at the average age of an RV owner. My guess, based on what I’ve seen in the parks & campgrounds, is that it’s around 70. In almost every RV friendly place we’ve gone, Greg and I have been the youngest people by about 25-30 years minimum. Most of the time it’s just amusing that this is the case, but some afternoons when we’re driving through grocery store parking lots I do occasionally fear for my life – old people drive their cars poorly wherever you go.
  • Greg and I are pretty well settled into the roles of driver and co-pilot, respectively. We’ve tried it the other way a few times, and though I don’t mind driving the van, driving in new cities and through tight streets stresses me out. And Greg gets very frustrated with the GPS when we miss a turn or need to take an alternate route. Combine both of those things and driving becomes a very tense activity. I’m really good at navigating and Greg has gotten great at driving the van everywhere, so that’s what we’re sticking to for the time being.
  • My biggest concern before leaving Buffalo was that we were going to have a hard time finding places to park and sleep. On the whole, it hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I thought. We’ve had a few days where it’s been challenging, but we’ve never been without a place to stay at the end of the night. Between truck stops, Walmarts, RV parks, campgrounds, and a number of other places we have yet to try, there’s a plethora of places to sleep wherever we have needed them. This literally would not have been possible without the AllStays camping app – every RV/van traveler should  absolutely own that thing.
  • I sleep better in the van than I ever did in my old apartment.

Back to the happenings. Prior to the gig on Saturday, we discovered a large puddle under the van where there should not be one. Turns out that the leak by the water pump that I thought I had fixed was in fact, not fixed. After about an hour of swearing and climbing into our overhead storage (I am covered in bruises from this – it’s very small up there) and calling my dad asking for potential solutions, we diagnosed the real problem. The tygon tubing that was attached to the pump was worn out and cracked, and the only way to fix the leak was to cut that piece off. We sadly had to drain the fresh water tank to do this, but I do think we actually fixed the problem this time. We won’t fill the tank back up until the next campground, so once again only time will tell if we’ve resolved the issue for good.

Our gig on Saturday night was a lot of fun with another really great crowd. The bar, Little Fish Huge Pond in Sanford FL, was a super eclectic space with couches and crazy artwork and all kinds of knick-knacks and the like all over the tables, bar, and walls. The owner Mo was the human reflection of the bar – quirky, fun, loud, and unapologetic. She was also perhaps the most hospitable person I’ve ever met. Not only did she offer to make us food (they don’t even serve food regularly) and give us free beer all night, but she helped us prep the stage, she talked us up to every person that walked in the bar, and she even got up on the mic towards the end of our set and told the whole room to come buy our stuff, tip us, and support us, in a very dramatic fashion. So far she’s been the most memorable person I’ve met. Plus, we got to sleep in their parking lot overnight. Of five gigs, not a single one has been disappointing. Here’s to hoping that trend continues.

We woke up on Sunday with zero plans, only knowing we wanted to get the hell out of Sanford – we had a hell of a time navigating  through that town, the streets are very small and close together and not made for anything larger than an SUV. We ended up in a park north of Orlando for the afternoon. This is only notable because we had a weird experience with the MOST aggressive squirrels I’ve ever seen when we tried to get lunch there. They had zero fear of people and an intense desire to steal chips from me and Greg. Honestly, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit afraid of them, especially when I attempted to scare them off and they would just come closer… I legitimately thought one was going to run up my leg to steal my food. We ate our lunch in the van.

The picture doesn’t do it  justice, but this was our room at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort.

We had been tossing around the idea of going to either Disney World or Universal Studios on our downtime in Orlando since before we left Buffalo. After lunch I was looking at ticket prices for everything online and trying to determine the best way to do a single day at one of these places. We settled on Universal because it’s smaller and I had never been. Greg and I no longer do amusement parks without Fast Passes (we spoiled ourselves at Cedar Point once and now we can’t go back to waiting in line), so I was looking for a ticket package for one day that included those, when I came across one that came with a hotel room. For roughly an extra hundred bucks, we’d get a night in a resort hotel, be able to take a long, hot shower, be able to park the van securely, have somewhere to watch the Super Bowl, AND free Fast Passes for both of us. I hadn’t planned on staying in a hotel unless the situation was dire, but that seemed well worth the extra cash, plus I was totally down for taking it easy after all the stress of our messed up water system. We went from budget travel mode to vacation mode REAL quick.

As a kid I was VERY into Harry Potter, and let me tell you, Universal absolutely nailed it with their Hogwarts & Diagon Alley themed stuff. Not pictured: the ButterBeer I drank & thoroughly enjoyed.

The hotel we stayed at was the fanciest hotel I’ve literally ever set foot in, and the shower in our room was nicer than the one in my old apartment back home. I splurged on a fancy sushi dinner for us both in one of the many hotel restaurants, and then we were up and out the door at 7:30am the next morning to head to the park and get the most out of our single day there. Universal is a really cool place – very different from Disney, but an absolutely great time. The special effects and 4-D rides there are some of the coolest I’ve ever seen. In ten hours in both parks there, we were able to get on every major ride (because of the fast passes!) and see everything we wanted to see. We both really enjoyed it, and I know I’d be more than happy to go back again.

One of my all time favorite movies.

Just 24 hours in vacation mode can really make it tough to get back into budget/truck-stop-sleeping frame of mind. I won’t lie though, I prefer waking up in the familiarity of the van to a foreign hotel room immensely. We left a truck stop in Orlando this morning and headed out to the coast towards Stuart FL, where our next gig is on Thursday. And we finally made it to the beach today,  which is something I’ve been looking forward to about this stretch of the trip – for the next two weeks, all our gigs are minutes from the coastline. The ocean is one of my favorite things, and though we only hung out by the water for an hour or so, it was by far the highlight of my day. Before we leave Florida we’re doing at least a full day at the beach – we won’t be anywhere near the ocean after early March, and I want to get my fill.

Coming up this weekend is our first stretch of three gigs in a row, and our last set of shows before we have to start making our way to Miami, which I am genuinely worried about from a driving perspective. But the weather is perfect (roughly 80 and sunny every day), the van is running great, and we’re only really just getting started.

Sunset at Vero Beach this evening.

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