Finished the Pilgrimage

Well, we did it. TJ walked 3 1/2 miles on the first day. Me, Abi and Hannah did 44 miles in 4 days. What a great time.

What great people to walk with.

So many new friends.

The Gadsden Times did a little speal on us and the press helped us feel like celebrities.

Check out the paparazzi : )

And then…. Potluck and Party!!!

and singing. Such good “old timie” songs like “There’ll be fried chicken in heaven”, “I’ll Fly Away” and “Victory in Jesus”.


Pilgrim Photos

Just finished 2nd day of walking. More than halfway through. Really tired but thot I would put up a few quick photos.

A photo of most of the pilgrims.

Uh, yes, why that is a volkeswagon on the top of our “Blister Bus”. This bus used to be a family home and is mid-conversion to a coffee shop.

Some very energetic teenage walkers on day 2. Hannah and Abi in the middle.

Our mini-pilgrims taking a break in the top of the “Blister Bus”. Don’t worry Grandma and Nana. We only let them up there when the bus is stationary.

That is it for now. I am SOOOOOO tired.


A Pilgrimage for Nomads

Well, we’re doing it. We are going to walk the 40 miles from Thursday to Sunday.

Me, Abi, Hannah and TJ and oh so many more. Do you see the mischief we get up to when Andrew is away.

We have come to Alabama to meet up with our friends, Al and Tina Nord, and see this amazing land they have been telling us about.

Turns out our timing is perfect once again. We are here just in time for their pilgrimage. We figure – we love pilgrimages! We love Nomads! Hey, we are Nomads! And a pilgrimage of walking with amazing, nomadic, people to raise money for a homeland for the wanderers. WE’RE IN! We are walking for “Nomads Land”. Oh Yeah! It is a place of rest for the Global Nomads, the wanderers, our friends. Check out the website.

Our friends have been dreaming about a place like this for years. It is 40 acres of paradise land with a barn and a mobile home. There are lots of buses here already but lots of room for more and places for small dwellings to be built. There are limited planning laws for building here and the neighbours love them. I say they are off to a great start.

As we have been traveling around we have noticed a need for such places around the world. Nomads are misunderstood and feared by so many.

I am sure there are some nomads that are terrible people. Who are thieves and liars and lazy to earn such a terrible reputation but we have yet to meet nomads like that.

We have met beautiful, generous, hard working individualists. People who are misunderstood because they don’t easily fit into boxes. When people are different and don’t fit easily into boxes it seems easier for the general public to fear and justify their fear by demonising.

It has been very exciting to see how places are popping up around the globe like this. Little bits of paradise for community among the misunderstood and marginalized.

No longer are people waiting for institutions and governments to step in and “do something”.

No, normal people putting everything on the line, life savings, homes, pride to create a safe haven.

Be it a haven for the wanderers, the abused, the homeless or the stolen of this world.

A few tents in the jungle so villagers can run from men with guns.

A large house or a dilapidated castle for abused artists to be fed and nursed back to life so they can find their voices again.

A few acres of farmland in the deep south of America for wanderers to rest, receive and give. A place to be part of a community that flows in and out, like the nucleus of an atom with the electrons swirling about, coming in and out in a life-giving dance.

I see so much for potential of good in Nomadic people. To do so much with so little. To turn back to comfort in order to live a life of conviction. To give so eagerly with no “agenda” for return.

So, you want to sponsor us to walk? We like walking. We like Pilgrimages. We will walk anyways because every step we take means something. If you sponsor us you can add a tinkle of a bell or a beat of a drum or a yell from a megaphone to every step we take.  Every step counts. Every cent helps.

Now time to go down and get ready for all the pilgrims showing up to walk later today.


The House of the Toymaster

What is almost as good as staying in a house full of kids? Staying in the house of the Toymaster, of course!

We stayed at “Mt. Strickmore” for a few days, near Charlotte, and had a great time. Their daughter, Jessica, lived with us for 3 years in Prague and is presently living in Houston, Texas looking after our daughter, Lizzy. Quite amazing actually.

Well, Jessica’s dad, Steve, the “Toymster” distributes toys to small “mom and pop” toystores, when he is not building mountains (another story). The “Toymaster’s wife”  has just got laid off at the library and is not sure what to do next, so that gave us lots of time to spend together. She even brought me around to see more of Jessica’s relatives. Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents. Poor Jessica, not here to supervise.

It gets better. Our kids got to do the best job imaginable too. They did toy research. Seriously. He gets lots of games and needs to figure out if it is a good game or not. Their favorite was a farming game, similar to monopoly, by John Deere (the tractor people) called “the family farm”.

TJ also did some product testing on the vet kit

and the “candy volcano”.

Wait, it gets better…

They live near a lake and have a speedboat. The Strickers had a great idea to go on a picnic. Problem is, the picnic table they knew about was on a small island in the middle of a nearby lake so…… we took the boat.

Tj and Hannah even got to do some of the driving.

We also went to a restaurant on the lake

and got to feed the ducks in the “boat parking lot”.

I suppose for many kids the water would have been too cold for jumping into but not for our cold water jumping experts.

Check out the driver. Could it be? Oh yes!  Abi got her turn to drive now. Mt. Strickmore had a big circular drive around the property and Abi got to drive the wagon around the land.

“Look ma, no dents!”

And as if it can get any better, the Toymaster and the Toymaster’s Wife released my kids into the fabulous toy room and the mysterious toy cellar to take any toy they wanted.

What great, generous, authentic and hospitable people. A true life Santa and Mrs. Claus!


Carol Brady’s Wagon

Yes, yes, we finally found a car.

Dare I say we found THE CAR.

It was quite amazing actually.

Let me take you back to the original NYC trip so you can enjoy the full picture. When Mauricio picked us up from the airport we were dreaming about the perfect vehicle to take us across the country. If you know us you know we like to dream crazy dreams. You see, I used to be a Brady Bunch fan. Our family faithfully watched them every week. I remember wanting to send a letter of complaint to the station when they finally cancelled the show. So looking back on my american childhood I thought of the perfect car. The Brady Bunch wood veneer station wagon. Yeah, a Brady Bunch machine. The one that Greg and Marsha learned to drive in. The one they took to the Grand Canyon. We talked about how it would be a cruising machine. The quintesimal american holiday machine. Dad cruising down the spacious American freeway system in his comfortable sofa-like seat at the front. Of course, if we got such a vehicle it might become manditory to intersect with the infamous Route 66 or perhaps to cruise to the Grand Canyon. The dreaming continued. Yes, no modern vehicle for us – we want retro American experience. The stereotypical family wagon. So…. we thought to ourselves….. what outfits would we wear? Would Andrew need to wear a Mr. Brady button up shirt or a Richie Cunningham polo neck? Would I need a chiffon neck scarf?

Our hopes were dashed when we went to craigslist and found nothing that runs in our price range. We found a cheap van and almost got it but the brake line broke 5 minutes before we arrived to buy it. We were a bit disheartened and stopped looking. Thinking, could we afford a vehicle that could bring us across the states? Are buses really that bad? Sure things are quite compressed on the east coast but what about the rest of the country.

Finally, on Friday I was able to get beyond my discouragement and go back on Craigslist. This time I was searching Maryland for our dream car. Well, actually, at this point I was searching for anything running. I found a car auction on for the very next day just 10 minutes from the Sheng’s house. Being manly men that love cars, Andrew and Tony drove over to take a look at what would be available the next morning. Andrew found a station wagon just like the one we described on our drive from NYC to Poughkeepsie. He said, this is the one, this was “the Jones family getting across america machine”.

Andrew scoured the internet that night. Looking for ways to watch the scene from Twister that starred this 1987 Ford LTD Country Squire.

The morning of the auction Andrew got in his “Auction Zone”. Subtly pretending to look at the cars near our beloved wagon rather than the actual vehicle. Listening carefully and looking for smoke as they started it up to drive around. Casually walking around as they shifted the gears. It was a good one. Andrew waited til the opening bid went down to $300 and nobody bid against him. We figure that we were the only people present that were uncool enough to want this vehicle. I tell you I have never been to an auction like this. It was like some kind of a hip-hop video. Almost everybody was African American and they were so cool. Even their bidding had style. One man, I am supposing a dealer, leaned back at a distance and had a stylized arm movement that involved at least 6 distinct arm and hand movements. These people we very hip, or cool, or whatever the current word is to describe it. Way too cool to bid on our old Brady Bunch wagon.

After Andrew got the title. BTW the title included the previous owners death certificate. We now knew more about the previous owner than our new car. We drove down the street to get the plates and drove down street to see more hip-hop videos ready to commence. Yard after yard of cars each with their own fan club. Men randomly placed around and under the shiny icons. We went into a  small wooden house with file-cabinets full of license plates and in 20 minutes, no lie, we were driving our precious wood panel station wagon away.

Here she is. Our beautiful vintage wagon. I guess this is what a prayed over dollar can get you.

So, here is Andrew cruising down the freeways in style. With a bonnet/hood that goes on forever. Thinking to himself, “does this car have 127,000 miles on it or 27,000. It is sure in awefully good condition for 127,000 miles.”

BTW 1987 is a special year for us. It is the year of our beloved Maggie the overlander that is currently parked in Czech Republic. It is also the year me an Andrew got married so many, many years ago.

Time to Party. Here are the girls, dancing to the tunes of the retro music blaring from our stereo/cassette player. We be cruising in style now!!! Brady Bunch style.


Shauna and Mauricio

You know how we always talk about meeting on a ship? Living on a ship, getting seasick and all that wonderful stuff?  Well, we’re not the only ones.  Shauna and Mauricio met and fell in love around the same time we did so of course there is a bond.  Now, here we are, old married couples together.


Washington D.C.

Got hosted by another amazing family in the D.C. area. The Shengs. They have a house in the vast suburbs of Washington D.C. A house abundant in hospitality and generosity. We had a great time meeting their friends and hearing their stories. We went to lots of the famous Washington D.C. museums. We saw the original american flag, Julia Child’s kitchen, Carol Burnett’s curtain dress, stuffed bats, a giant eraser .

We saw THE MAN HIMSELF! Abe Lincoln. Abi got to see what it felt like behind the famous podium for the president. Our girls got a chance to try to hold up the Washington Memorial. We got to see who was protesting in front of the White House. We saw Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’s collection of Original Norman Rockwell’s at the American Art Museum. We finished off day 2 with “Ollie’s Trolly”. A great find by Abi with great, inexpensive, american diner food. We only got one meal for two people. I shared the cheese steak with everything on it. Yummmm!


Busing from NYC to Washington D.C.

Here we are in NYC. At the “Borders” next to Penn Station. We are waiting here bags and people piled high in a lump against one of the ceiling to floor windows waiting for our “Bolt” bus that leaves in little over an hour across the street. We did not get the van we were hoping to get so we are busing it. It seems that people won’t sell us their cheap cars if they know we are planning on driving it across the states with our kids. I am thinking now that we will be doing some bizarre combination with walking, busing, catching lifts with friends and occasionally renting a car. It will keep us on our toes and from collecting too much. We plan on sending schoolbooks and other treasures back to friends in Prague when we accumulate to much. We have had a great time in New York.

Mauricio was kind enough to drive us from their home in Poughkeepsie to “Radical Living” in Brooklyn.

Here I am at the crepe breakfast talking again. Do you recognize the guy in the middle. It is Sasa! from Prague! Dang, that guy sure gets around.

We had a great couple of days with my brother, Eric, and his lovely, and VERY pregnant wife, Jenny. They both live and work in NYC. They work in advertising. Jenny works on the Maybelline account (note advert behind Jenny).

Went to central park. My kids chose playing on the rocks instead of the very large and impressive playpark.

Took off to our buses with fellow nomad, Becky. She is in the blue and carrying all her earthly possessions. She is a writer and has no home but what she carries with her and where she lays her head at night.

I think one of my favourite things about NYC was seeing all the different cultures rubbing shoulders with each other.  Lots of Jews with ringlets and furry cakes on top of their heads. Lots and lots of beautiful colours and dress codes. Small armies of kids in matching clothes. Girls in long black skirts racing around the park on bicycles.

All in all a great time in NYC.

England USA

Prague to London to New York

We are on our way now. Backpackers for 7 months. Yup, very light packers. Well, I thought we would be. Actually we are only taking a few clothes. It is just all the other stuff – beddding for 5, a kitchen (stove, pots, bowls, cups and utensils), office, laundry (brush and tube of soap), toilet (shovel) and school. Lots to bring. So, actually not such light packers.

First flew from Prague to East Midlands Airport.

Jen picked us up from the airport and brought us to her house for a sleep. We also got a chance to rethink the backpack situation. Quite early I realized that TJs bag is too bulky. I think she can carry the weight but the size scares her. So, I put all her clothes into the stuff sack and she says it is much lighter. Andrew is carrying her sleeping bag and school notebooks. Abi is carrying her sleeping pad along with the laundry. Hannah is carrying all her own stuff except her sleeping pad (I get to carry that). As we were going through Prague I noticed that Hannah’s sleeping bag on top was too far forward at her neck and have made some adjustments. I also carry part of the kitchen and one laptop. Andrew also carries his laptop, the kitchen pots.

In the midst of the repacking and after a great night’s sleep we have enjoyed good english hospitality from Jen and Fran. All the kids british food desires are being catered to.
Fish and Chips, baked beans, Chicken Korma, Apple Crumble and Custard. Yummmmm.

Slept in the Sheffield bus station in order to catch our £3 bus to London/Victoria.

Notice how we are down to only essentials now. : )
Helped Shannon clean up a bit after her big Sweet Notions Grand Party.

Andrew escorted some “friends” from the party home in a taxi.

Spent day and evening with friends from 3 continents before spending the night and making our early morning start to Heathrow and here we are in the good ‘ol USA. It is always great to hear at least one “welcome home” from the officials at the airport.

We are now staying with our old friends from when me and Andrew were dating!  Yeah! REALLY old friends. Mauricio and Shauna LaBorde and their boys.

We are looking at old photos of all the kids together when they were really cute and little. Learning alot about football (soccer). Dressing like football stars and having a great, albeit silly, time.

Oh yeah, and we think we found a van to drive around the states. In about an hour we leave to go and look at it and maybe drive it back. Let you know later on.