PART 1: We Get on the Road
PART 2: Hot Springs, Arkansas
PART 3: Adventures with Starr
PART 4: The Tennessee Loop
PART 5: The Intensive with Starr
PART 6: The Way to North Carolina
PART 7: The NorthEast Loop

PART 8: Washington D.C.

PART 9: Movin' West to Columbus
PART 10: We Cross the Great Plains
PART 11: Montana Adventures

PART 12: Oregon

PART 13: Northern California

PART 14: Central California Adventures
PART 15: Southern California Adventures
PART 16: The Return

Part 6 A; The Way to North Carolina

Chasing the Front East

We left Hot Springs on a moody overcast day, Shungo still damp from the spray of the hose change repair of two days earlier. Rain was in the forecast, but the clouds made the day cooler. Again we were heading east, but this time we decided to take a different route for the fun of it. We headed south and east, gradually getting closer and closer to the Mississippi River. The mountains became hills and then we entered the river plain as we drove through sporadic showers. Small towns appeared here and there with exotic names such as “Moscow” or “Stuttgart.” Where were all the Indian names we were used to seeing?

As flat as Florida, this land is probably among the most fertile and productive lands of the world. Fields of young crops spread away from the road into infinity, marked only by small rows of trees here and there between them. Neither of us could identify the most common crop – soybeans? Cotton? Corn, easy to identify, sported the golden tassels of its flowers beginning to open. Yes, these bottomlands held a great richness and fertility.

As we got closer to Greenville Mississippi, our first intended stop, we saw rivers and lakes connected to the great River, with expensive homes and resort-like atmosphere clustered around them. What a contrast from the squalor of the many agricultural workers’ trailer parks we had seen along the way, with their run-down trailers and weed-collecting autos and trucks stationed about them! The infrequent little shops and stores had signs in both English and Spanish. They offered to cash paychecks and make loans. Huge yards of expensive and shiny new farm equipment sat by the road. Many units looked unfamiliar – what job did they do?

On the Mississippi side of the River, we entered a very dirty city. Everything in Greenville had clay dust on it and the rain had turned it to dirt. We found our RV Park, a narrow single lane street with back-in sites on one side. Since the office was closed, we scooped out a space. The park itself wasn’t for vacationers, only for workers. Every trailer had a pickup truck next to it with specific equipment attached. It was Sunday and everyone was here watching TV, as we heard the chatter of various TV sets. The lots were very small so we chose the bigger of the two open spots. Daniel tried to back our whale into it but couldn’t do it. There was no way to turn around, with a deadly looking ditch along the other side of the road. So he backed up the RV all the way (about 600 feet) back down the street into the access road, drove forward and then backed back into the street. He backed the 600 feet to the spot (it had to be on the far end, right?) and into the spot in the first try. This had gotten the attention of a couple of burly guys who watched the show in amusement while holding their beers. Impressive show!

Once set up, we took our daily walk around the trailer park behind the RV park. Extending for several blocks, there were very long single-wide trailers, some double-wides, and some RV’s, all permanently ensconced there. The first couple of blocks were a slum and black children played there on their bikes. Few trailers looked occupied and there was overgrown grass and abandoned stuff all around. At first I was nervous that they would accost us but they were more surprised to see us and many were friendly and said hello. Nothing like big city children their age! No hostility at all! Further away from the main highway were nicer trailers and lots, many landscaped and tended. The back two blocks were white retirees it seemed, as two passed us, waving. No children played here. By now it was twilight and the park was quiet. The crickets and cicadas sang next to the fields of agriculture around and behind the park.

The next morning we went to the office to pay. The woman there cheerfully refused our credit card for the $11 overnight fee and said that if we didn’t have the cash on us, we should consider our stay there a gift from God. We did have 11 bucks, and in talking with Maxine, she revealed that a tornado had come through the park in the front area and destroyed her trailer home completely. (That explained the disastrous first two blocks!) She was having a new doublewide with 5 bedrooms and 3 baths delivered to her site there soon. It cost only $12,000! So even through she’d suffered a catastrophe, at least there was a miracle following it a year later. We asked about the cost of living there. The trailer lots rented for $155 a month, including water and sewer. Residents supplied their trailer and paid for their electricity. It was around $200 a month if someone financed a trailer on his or her lot. What a good deal for a fixed income retiree! Now the question was; what does one do in Greenville? It seemed so lacking in anything beyond basic needs.

This day was drier and cooler. The rain obviously was a front that had moved on to the east. Once again we passed through the flat plains of crops and also fish farms. At one point, the flatlands suddenly ended and we ascended into big broad hills. That evening we stayed at Lake Lurleen just north of Tuscaloosa. Again, we were away from civilization and out of touch. Beautiful land again. Frogs and crickets sang all night. Relentlessly cheerful birds woke us up on a beautiful morning. I think they are robins, because I am seeing so many robins around everywhere. The water wasn’t working, so no showers, and we had to use our in-house pump. As we prepared to depart, we discovered that we had stowaways – ants! Yikes! I’d heard that on-board ants are a real nuisance. They were marching up the water hose with eggs. I have no idea if the queen precedes the eggs in a colony move or follows them. I hoped that she was not on-board.

Again, I had to cope with my sense of powerlessness and victim consciousness. Okay, this was getting repetitive! It seemed that everywhere I am, there is at least one irritant that has to come along with it. Since I am creating this, I have to acknowledge that there’s something I need to know or a message to get. Most of the time it seems to be just the reminder “you are still giving away your power to external influences.” After all, I can’t very well analyze what happened between me and my mother, say, at age 11, to justify why I am creating ants crawling into my trailer now. It has to be what I’m doing now, and the answer or the appropriate response has to be here and now. To be powerful, one must be always in choice. So what are my choices? I pondered and mulled on this as we pulled away and drove up the long road towards Gatlinburg.



Gatlinburg is a town nestled in a beautiful valley in eastern Tennessee. When I was a child, we would go there every summer, on the way to taking my sister to camp or on the way back from dropping her off. We’d stay in a little dinky motel that was built over a rushing stream. With the windows open, we’d hear the water all night and have the best, deepest and most rejuvenating sleep. Then we’d ride the sky lift up to the top of the mountain, look through the big binocular-scopes and come down all satisfied that we had a good day. Of course, those days are long gone. The population has more than quadrupled, and Gatlinburg has become a tourist mecca. I knew that we wouldn’t find the simple town of yesteryear, but I wanted to enjoy a spot for a day or two, sit by a rushing mountain stream, and walk in the beautiful mountains of Smoky Mountains National Park.

We had reserved a site at an RV park near Gatlinburg. As we got closer, Daniel called the park on the cell got directions. But later, as we approached Knoxville and the Gatlinburg turn-off point, I looked at the map. The directions we were given were way out of the way it seemed, bringing us into Gatlinburg on the side opposite the park. So I figured out a new route that took us through what I thought was a more direct way. It took us through Knoxville suburbs and rolling hills and mountains. We kept looking for the RV park but didn’t see it. Finally, we made it past Pigeon Forge, a major tourist spot since Dolly Parton plunked her “Dollywood” there on the Pigeon Forge River. Other, smaller amusement park-hotel combos surrounded the place, just as in the suburban cities to Orlando. The traffic was thick and slow all the way into Gatlinburg. This was yet another “strip” in which the town itself was one giant shopping and theme park jammed with people and traffic. The theme of each building was “anything goes” with everything you could think of to amuse a family. Parents and their many children filled the streets. Kids and young people hung out of the windows of the cars traveling through. We called the RV park – turns out it was on the opposite side of Gatlinburg than what we thought. So after some wrong turns and a long time sitting in traffic enjoying the people show and all the amusements, we finally turned at traffic light #3 (they’re numbered here) and headed out of Gatlinburg. It was near dark when we finally settled into our spot and could make some dinner. One of the park owners, a 40-something Asian woman, almost clucked her tongue at us as she shook her head smiling “you should have followed the directions. Next time,” she nodded.

Friendly people sat round fires in their fire rings, chatting and laughing (oh no, more smoke!). The whole camp atmosphere was upbeat and celebratory. As in every other RV park, if it’s not a couple with their kids, it’s a couple by themselves. We have seen very very few single people traveling in RV’s. The couple parking next to us were our age, and the four of us immediately connected on that basic commonality. We had long pleasant conversations about nothing much. They also had two dogs (oh no, dogs bark!) I asked them to completely put out the fire when they were done and they agreed easily. However, by the time we wanted to open our windows to the cool mountain air – maybe around 11 p.m., they had gone to bed leaving the fire smoldering. So I filled a bowl with water and doused the low burning embers. A light went on in their trailer but no one came out. I hadn’t meant to waken them, but I could have. Most people seem to go to bed around 10:30 and get up around 7 in RV parks. Perhaps it’s because the dogs need to go out. Official RV park “Quiet Time” generally starts at 10 p.m. and goes to 8 or 9 a.m., and thankfully that is observed with few exceptions.

So we played tourist for a day in Gatlinburg. We went up the Sky Lift to the top of the mountain.
Our official touristy picture is below.

 We went to Ober Gatlinburg, a theme park above the town with rides and most attracting us, a slide down 1800 feet in a luge-like contraption. If you pull back on it you slow down. If you push and lean forward you go faster. This was a LOT of fun, but 1800 feet goes by awfully quickly. We only went once because we didn’t want to ride the slow ski lift back up to the starting point again. The place was attractively landscaped (you’d know I would notice that!) with blooming native flowers including Echinacea covered with dancing butterflies, bumblebees and other insects (see picture below). We also got to see some black bears, although they were in the shade sleeping through their day and ignoring any sounds the tourists made. They were really stinky – a funky acidic greasy smell that I may never forget and I hope I will never have the misfortune to have to remember!


Smoky Mountains National Park

Then we drove around through the National Park on a loop especially designed for cars. Winding through gorgeous scenery and dense forests the small one-way road provided many roadside pull-over areas so that people could stop to enjoy the lovely hissing and murmuring streams. There was one overlook with a view into seemingly infinite forests and mountains. On the way we saw a big wild turkey but couldn’t get a clear picture. Later, we saw people taking pictures of a small black bear nearby. It was basically a black bump amidst the tall herbs – no picture there. And where was the mother? A traffic jam of people gathered, all watching warily. Bear mothers can be dangerous and charge people. I sniffed the air with my “supernose.” Now that I know what bears smell like, I knew that at least the she-bear wasn’t upwind of me.
Here are two perspectives of one of the streams, and a view of the “Smokies.”

Happy Trails to You! ‘Til next time…


Part 6 B; Asheville


We’d been in Asheville North Carolina before, a year earlier, and already knew the lay of the land. The RV Park was on a hilltop overlooking the Biltmore Mansion, a famous tourist destination. We were fortunate in that we had made reservations two weeks in advance, because this was the July 4th holiday weekend and the place was booked solid. We were assigned a place and found it very pleasant overlooking the valley below and the recipient of good smelling breezes day and night, although with three interstates passing close by, there was continuous traffic noise. Coaches on either side of us stayed a day or so and then were moved elsewhere in the park to allow someone else who’d earlier requested the space to come in. The atmosphere in the park was festive. Many people there were local or lived not far away and were just wanting “to get away” for the holiday. Parties happened all over the place, many spontaneously. Several RV’s were parked together so that a group could mingle and play together.

We found an interesting neighborhood abutting this park, a mixture of old and new, well maintained and expensive alongside run down and relatively uncared for. There were suburban homes next to small farmhouses with chickens pecking around in the yard. At one point, we saw a large animal, a mound of brown fur. It spied us and ran across the small lane in front of us and down by a shed beneath the road. Was it a badger or a groundhog? We certainly didn’t know our deciduous forest mammals.

As is usual, we went looking for local healthy food. We found Asheville to be a great place to find organic produce. Although Asheville is a small city, it supported three health food supermarkets and a thriving co-op, amazing! A lot of organic farmers lived around the city so there was a big selection of food to enjoy. So you can imagine we shopped quite a bit and ate very very well! Another thing we noticed was that there were so many interstate miles inside the city – three different interstates, so that one could maneuver around this place quickly. Off the interstates, the roads were old narrow roads winding through the commercial district. Downtown Asheville has enjoyed a revival and so it’s a fun place to stroll – unusual shops reflecting the resort atmosphere blended with the Appalachian style blended with ex-hippie sensibilities blended with arts and crafts.

We spent some time with our hostess Mary and her daughter Andrea who had come in from New Orleans and who fixed us some authentic New Orleans style food – yum! We sat around and talked until late and heard stories of Katrina and we all shared our lives. While we were at Mary’s, we got out the first of the Arkansas crystals. From the box we picked out about a dozen of the mysterious newspaper-wrapped bundles and put them on the dining room table under the chandelier where we could see them in detail. Each crystal was amazing. I felt the guides hovering around me as I easily received impressions about the crystals and their uses. I was in the “flow” and it was grand. I wrote what I got on a small piece of paper and included it with the crystals as I wrapped them back up. It’s going to take some time to get them all done this way, but oh how rewarding.


The “Path of Power”

The workshop took place on Sunday at Crystal Visions, a local new-age store a little ways out of town. Since the store was not usually open on Sundays, we and our workshop attendees pretty much had the place to ourselves and one of the owners, who spent most of the time in her office catching up on paperwork. She and the other owner had gone to the new-age wholesale expo in Denver, had hiked in the mountains, and just returned. During the break, I found several interesting books I wanted to read. The selection was offbeat and intriguing. Check the store out yourself to see what types of events they have at http://www.crystalvisionsbooks.com.

The room for the workshop was large and could have housed at least 75 people, but we only had a handful. I was not disappointed, as all arrangements were done literally at the last moment and in the greater scheme of things, I felt it was right to be doing the “dance.” The “dance” as I call it refers to the actions that generate the energy that will later be picked up into a momentum or manifestation. It can also be a one-time type thing. For example, when I wanted to get a specific type of sweatshirt with hood, I had to go to several stores and evaluate items that resembled my target item. Would I compromise or keep looking? My choices narrowed with each store and then bingo! We found exactly what I wanted and had visualized at the fourth store. The “dance” of going from store to store focused the energies on what I wanted until I could manifest it. So I feel that this trip is doing the same thing with the Galexis workshops. Regardless of the small number of attendees, the “The Path of Power” was/is impactful and an extremely useful workshop. It detailed how to take, hold and keep one’s personal power regardless of external circumstances. A lot of energy, intensity, and healing happened. Afterwards I felt a good sense of tiredness as if I’d had an enjoyable exercise.


Nature in Western North Carolina

Mary, Daniel and I headed out into nature to take our walks. We saw the Asheville Botanical Gardens – a lovely expanse wrapped around a burbling brook. People picnicked, did Tai Chi, or sat as we did on one of the many benches to enjoy the perfect day and the beauty of the large trees. We don’t see these large trees in South Florida as the hurricanes keep them pruned or humans keep them butchered. Again, there were many familiar-looking plants that resembled South Florida plants I knew. We saw lots of flowers (see picture below). I’ve always associated North Carolina with flowers ever since I attended an orchestra camp there as an 18 year old teenager. One day I took a walk by myself along the road and was delighted and amazed with the variety and colors of all the beautiful wildflowers growing within three or four feet of the road. It was a deep and joyous nature experience for me then. Now I was remembering that and seeing some of the more interesting wild plants cultivated there by the local native plant people.

Here are a couple of views of the Asheville Botanical Gardens.


The Holiday Arrives

Then came the July 4th holiday. Not a good day to work. The RV park was bustling, filled with people and their guests preparing for the day’s celebrations. It was going to be a scorcher, we decided, as we drove to Mary’s place. This day we took a longer drive into the countryside to see Chimney Rock. We were almost the only ones on the narrow 2-lane road that wound deeply through small gorges, thick forests and small farms dotted here and there. After at least a half hour of this near-solitude, we turned a corner into the town(?) of Chimney Rock. Suddenly it was a thriving tourist city with noisy congested traffic, lots of people in swimsuits milling about, blaring radios and flashing ads, fast food places and funky “trading post” souvenir shops. Where had all these people come from?

We drove under the Chimney Rock Sign, crossing a stream on a bridge that sounded rickety (“clunkety clunk”) into a forest on a road steeply ascending the mountain. We arrived at a long line of cars, tour buses, and pickups waiting for tickets at the official site entrance. Slowly as we proceeded closer to the booths, we saw many people ahead of us pointed to a nearby parking lot nowhere near the top. From there, it seemed, they would have to get on buses to go up. I didn’t look forward to that and imagined driving up to the parking lot by the entrance into the mountain. But I thought about both options until I no longer had any “charge” on either – just that going up to the top was my preference. At that moment an attendant came to Daniel’s window and directed us up to the top! We parked about 10 spaces from the cave entrance (the first step in the process of getting to the very top of the mountain). Thank you spirit helpers!

We went into the cool cave – very refreshing contrast to the hot day. The majority of the others in line with us were Hispanic. I hardly heard any English anywhere. Wow, out here in the middle of North Carolina? What a hoot! Who wudda thunk?! We waited in the cave line for about 15 minutes and finally got to a small elevator that took a few people up. We exited into (of course!) a souvenir shop and café filled with the usual T shirts, hats, and snacks. Hammered dulcimer music floated over the din of talking people, yelling children and refrigerator compressors. From the store, tourists had to walk through the café to a terrace with more tables for the cafe. From there the path went up about 50 yards to a split in the trail that could take one to the various lookout points.

However, once on the terrace, we found a man in his late 60’s or early 70’s playing a hammered dulcimer. I’ve always wanted to see one up close so I called to Daniel and Mary “just a minute!” and stood by him closely. He finished a piece and I clapped, perhaps the only one on the terrace who did. “Any requests?” he asked. “No,” I answered, “I just want to see how a hammered dulcimer is played.”

He smiled and asked if I played a musical instrument. When I nodded yes, he appeared excited and moved the stand and the hammered dulcimer at an angle so I could come up to it and see it more closely. Then he played a sample piece. I was still looking interested, so he started giving me a lesson on the dulcimer on the spot. Hey, I was willing. This was better than I expected! He showed me how the horizontal tuning of the dulcimer with two vertical bridges creates a split scale situation that helps the player play chords and do harmonies. Then he showed me how one holds the sticks with the little balls on the end with a certain limpness of the wrist. I was still attentive.

Next, he offered me a chance to play it. Hey, how does it get better than this? I played a scale or two and then worked out “Joy to the World” on it. It wasn’t Christmas but I started at the top of the scale and came tripping down, and so the hymn just offered itself as the continuation of what I’d played. The second time I tried, I was able to get some harmonies going by binging both hammers at the same time. This was fun! By this time, the fellow seemed to assume that I was taken with the instrument and started telling me how once you get into the hammered dulcimer it becomes an obsession. We chatted for a few minutes and I bought one of his albums. For info on the fellow, John Mason, check out his website at www.blueridgebreezes.com.

Here’s a picture of me as an erstwhile dulcimer player.

Then the three of us took our leave of the happy musician who went back to playing his favorite tunes for us and the small crowd, and headed up the trail. One trail led to a cave with a still. There was a lot of this kind of thing going in the caves here, so this imparted a local historical flavor. Then we climbed a few steps to a viewpoint beneath Chimney Rock. Neither of us was willing to climb the steep stairs in the heat all the way to the top. The view of the surrounding valley was beautiful.

When we were starting to get tired, we came back to patio and said goodbye to the dulcimer player John, passed through the souvenir shop, and out to Aylar. We rambled down the mountain, through the town and back towards Asheville. We drove alongside a creek or stream with huge boulders which reminded us of the Ticino (Italian) section of Switzerland. We stopped so I could play by jumping from boulder to boulder and across part of the loud singing stream. Families, mostly Hispanic or Indian, were having picnics by the water and the adorable brown children with big eyes played in the water.



As the day became more overcast, we drove back towards Asheville. Thunder announced the darkening clouds. Was it going to rain out the fireworks tonight? Seems that every July 4th, I seem to wonder if the rain will cancel it or not. By the time we arrived at the park, it had already rained, and although it continued to threaten rain a little here or there, it was nearly dry by dark.

We left our trailer and headed to the top of the hill viewing point where Asheville and most impressive, the Biltmore Estate, was laid out under us in the valley. As we walked past RV after RV, we saw the holiday traditions taking place. Most dinners were over, but the men were still attending to the charcoal-burning grills, either the large kind or the newer table-top type. They evidently had displayed their cooking expertise this evening! Couples were chatting while kids waving sparklers ran around squealing and laughing. Lights were strung on the awnings, bright bulbs of red, white and blue. Patriotic displays decked the buses. By dark, as we arrived at the lookout point, there were already a good crowd of partygoers with binoculars, many sitting in chairs, waiting for the event. Just as we were about to give up and go back to the trailer in boredom, the fireworks began. The Biltmore display was impressive, even at the distance (a mile at least?) and unusual. Each type of fireworks was given it’s own spectacular showing. No mixing of types. Big sprays over and over. Then the pop-whizzes for awhile. Even the grand finale was of only one type of firework. But it worked. Great show! We returned to our trailer feeling like we had celebrated Asheville, knowing that tomorrow we were heading back out onto the road.