A few days ago marked the one year anniversary of the day I bought the van! Hard to believe that long has already passed. I so vividly remember the day I sat on my couch in my old apartment watching the eBay auction come to a close and seeing that I had won. A life changing decision made in a matter of seconds, and worth every penny spent.
It’s only been a week and a half since my last post, but so many things have happened that I’m sure I’ll forget to include something. I believe we last left off en route to Naples. My Aunt Deb has a place in a lovely community down here that she very graciously let us stay at for a couple nights. We had an absolutely wonderful time with her – phenomenal food, beautiful weather, and great company. As much as we do like staying in the van, these little breaks from our daily grind are always very welcome and extremely appreciated. Much love Aunt Deb! (Say hi to Tucker for us!)
While we were in Naples we had our gig in Matlacha. The Olde Fish House Marina was one of the coolest venues we’ve played yet. The restaurant was right on the water in a really neat area of Florida. We played outside to a restaurant full of people from the minute we started til the end of our set. (And ran into a few more familiar faces – thanks for coming Bobbie & friends!) Things went so well that we were offered another gig while we’re back down in that area in June, and I’m already looking forward to our return appearance.
After Naples we had three nights of state park hopping. This wasn’t intentional, we just couldn’t get more than one night’s reservation at any park on Florida’s western coast – RVing in Florida is a pretty popular activity down here in the winter. The parks in themselves were quite nice, and as always we love the chance to run the air conditioning whenever we have hookups. We did have another run in with ants, sadly. We bought a container for our cereal to keep bugs out since they seem to have a penchant for it. But apparently this container was no match for them, and we found about two dozen ants crawling through our cereal. Not awesome. But thankfully things seemed to have improved since then, knock on wood.
The third battle in the war we’ve waged against the water in the van took place in the middle of this – we found a leak in the roof. Fortunately it was in the overhead storage part of the van where all our belongings have been waterproofed, but it certainly didn’t make it much less frustrating. Fortunately this was an easy win for us – some of the old seam tape on the van’s roof had been pulled up, and all we needed to do was replace it. So Tuesday we went back to Home Depot and bought a replacement roll of roof tape, pulled the failing stuff off the van roof and put the new stuff down. Easy, peasy. And so far, it’s holding beautifully. Water – 0, us – 3. So far we’re winning!
We had a bit of a surprise on the last day of February – we were tagged in a Facebook post by a bar indicating we were the live music for the evening. This was a bar I had emailed way back when during the initial booking process, and they never so much as sent me a single reply. Apparently someone had decided they wanted to book us, but they forgot to let us know. So we adjusted a day’s worth of plans and drove back down to Sarasota after already having driven an hour north to Tampa to play this show. Fortunately the gig was well attended and well paid, so it was worth it despite the scheduling issue. I’ll take a last minute gig scheduled than a last minute cancellation any day!
We spent the majority of the last week in the Tampa area. Greg’s mom came down to see a couple of our shows and get out of the Buffalo weather herself. For the first time the van’s stealthiness became a big asset to us – we registered it as the second car for her hotel room and were able to park and sleep in the hotel parking lot for the duration of her reservation. I had been worried about finding parking for us there, so it was a huge weight off my shoulders. We got to enjoy yet another few days in the company of familiar faces from home!
The Tampa area gigs were great. We played sort of a music showcase at the Red Light Cafe in Ybor City on March first, and I had the best cup of coffee I’ve had on the trip so far. Plus, we got a taste of the local scene as there were a handful of other artists on the bill with us. March second we played at Barley Mow Brewing Company and were literally surrounded by people from Buffalo. We had two entire tables full of people from Western New York who either live in the area or were on vacation and came out to see us. I didn’t think we’d have much of a draw anywhere on this tour, but at least this time I was very mistaken!
We also stopped out to see a friend of ours – Keith Shuskie – who’s from Buffalo as well and is about to be moving to Florida. He let us sit in for a couple songs at his Friday & Saturday gigs & let us park the van at his place Saturday night. That was our first night in a long while where we didn’t have to worry about driving while hanging out at a bar, and it was SO nice to sit down and have a few drinks with some friends without worrying about having to move our house around later in the evening. I’m seriously thinking that next winter we’ll do a month in this area of Florida before we head way out west like the current plan is, because a lot of people really seemed to enjoy our stuff and Keith has all the hookups for some awesome gigs down here. Plus, you really can’t beat Florida in February. As much as I can’t wait to get to a different state next week, the Florida weather is really hard to beat and I will miss it.
Monday we left Tampa and drove north about two and a half hours, to a county park rather than a state park for a change. We’re at Hart Springs which, as the name suggests, is home to a large collection of freshwater springs. The first few days here I had a lot of work to do, so we mostly just hung out in the van, but today we did get a chance to get out and see things. The water was a beautiful blue/green and crystal clear – you could see every single rock, plant and fish. If it had been warmer (it’s only in the high 60’s up here) I would have gone swimming.
Tomorrow we leave the park and head for Tallahassee. One of our next gigs has a vacation house available for performers to stay in while they’re in town, so we’ll be in Panama City for the last few days of our Florida stretch of the tour. Then we’re headed to Mississippi for a gig, and then we’ll be in New Orleans for St. Patrick’s Day, which I am definitely looking forward to.
I’m sure I’ve glossed over some details I wish I had included, but this past week and a half has been pretty crazy. We’ve had something to do every single day, and even when it’s something simple like going out for dinner or playing a short show, when you add all the components of constantly travelling on top of that schedules fill up pretty quickly. We haven’t really had a lot of down time, but honestly I think that’s a good thing. I’d much rather be busy running around in a city I’ve never been to before than sitting in the van at a truck stop doing nothing. Though it is only going to get busier from here – in two weeks time, we’ll be in northern Texas, and in four weeks we’ll be in New Mexico. This upcoming stretch of the tour is unquestionably the most driving intensive and the most hectic. But I’m glad I structured this trip the way I did. This long stretch in Florida has well prepared us to handle the day-to-day of van life, and allowed us to get familiar with things like how long our water tank will last us for and how often we need to charge the van batteries. With that mostly out of the way, the next three months should be a whole lot more exciting. Onward!