Saturday, November 9, 2013

More Progress On My McVansion And Other Things

So, I've been a bit lax on posting lately. My apologies. It's not that I have nothing to say. It's simply that I've been running out of time before running out of things to do. I'm sure you've experienced this situation from time to time yourself. The last road trips have been excellent, however, they were typical of most of my road trips during my earlier years. I was on a "mission" and attempted to include as many things as I possibly could into the trips. As a recovering "Type A" workaholic personality, my "To Do" list always had far more items on it than could be accomplished in the day I had designated to do them all. So it is with my road trips. Now, that's not to say that I didn't accomplish a lot. Actually, I accomplished most of the things I had planned, just not everything. And, of course, keeping up with emails, blog posts, phone calls and other similar activities seemed to fall behind. I guess the old saying, "the faster I go, the behinder I get," aptly applies here.

So, to set the record straight, I'm the guy with a blog titled "Living Free" and a philosophy of doing everything I can to have the least number of restrictions, limitations and encumbrances on my time and life. Yet, I'm still caught up in the whirlpool of having way too many irons on the fire and things to do. I guess I still have some work to do, would you agree?

A Road Trips Recap


The September road trip to New Jersey was great! I got to visit most of the places I had planned to get to. I saw most of the friends I wanted to see on that trip including spending a little time with my younger (the middle child of the three of us) sister and her husband, went to the Voice Over Barbecue and met many on-line friends from that unique professional niche, sampled the foods at some of my favorite childhood restaurants and even, through interesting circumstances, enjoyed the serendipity of visiting the Thomas Edison Laboratory where my father worked until his untimely death in the beginning of 1967. The Edison Laboratory and the remaining grounds from the original, huge, multi-block complex in West Orange, New Jersey is now a national historical park. Again, the timing was right because, had I been there just a couple weeks later and the ridiculous government shutdown would have had the gates closed and locked and I wouldn't have walked through that historic building where not only did Edison invent many of the things that changed our lives forever, but where my father was instrumental in designing the guidance systems that made the space program and humans walking on the moon possible.


The second road trip to Texas, again, on a mission to work on a conference at the Hyatt Grand Hotel on the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, was equally a successful trip. Of course, the conference was covered and recorded, though we experienced a few serious challenges in that particular property. But, I was able to deliver a plaque that posthumously recognized a beloved, humorous professional speaker to his daughter in Austin. I met a new friend near Austin who shared his vast collection of vintage magnetic recording equipment with me at his home. The experience brought back so many memories as I looked at and touched so many of the dozens of professional and semi-professional recorders I used during my 50 year career in the recording industry. Not only that, but I even saw copies of some tapes that were very likely edited, duplicated and distributed from my studios and tape duplication plant in Washington, DC during the 1970's. The circle completes. I visited one of my former business partners and his wife, Pat, from the '70's. Troy continued his military career and retired from the Air Force to retire to New Braunfels, Texas where he started a successful silk screening business, which he is now retired from. From there I met up with and enjoyed a couple days visiting a former author of my book publishing company and another unique professional speaker friend and his wife in Kerrville, Texas. Scott has been dealing with Parkinson's Disease for several years and is a fantastic inspiration as is his wife, Melanie. I also met up with another new friend I met through the Internet, specifically, LinkedIn. Marvin Willis is the founder of the Hometown Hero - Hero Card, a really great small business idea that I'm still milling over in my mind as to how I can work with Marvin and still focus on my own goals. Finally, I visited with a former employee, a recording engineer, who worked with me in my studios in Washington, DC during the mid 70's. Bill and his wife, Diane, hosted me to a wonderful dinner and breakfast at their beautiful home outside Austin, Texas. Bill is still active in audio and video production, though he indicated that he's also slowing down. Diane retired this past December from her position as the Director of Administration for the Lt. Governor of Texas. I also had an opportunity to meet Bill's son from his first marriage who is a contractor working for the U.S. government in Afghanistan. He was back stateside on some leave time. There were many more people along the routes to and from the San Antonio mission that I would have loved to have spent some time with, but, as seems to happen all too often on mission based travel, there was just no more time in the schedule.


I made a short excursion to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania in mid-October to attend the ribbon cutting and dedication of the Charlie "Tremendous" Jones Conference Center. Charlie was a long time friend, mentor, colleague, client and even a father figure at times. He passed away as the result of prostate cancer on October 16, 2008. Five years to the day of his passing his daughter, Tracey Jones, had the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony to remember her father. I enjoyed visiting with other members of Charlie's family including his widow, Gloria, still radiant and glowing and one of his sons and his youngest daughter. I also met several people, some I knew from earlier encounters, but four new folks included Giff Briner, Board Chairman and owner of WPFG, a Christian radio station in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Cal Beyer, Vice-president of Murray Securus, a risk management company from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and John Eshleman and his wife from Upland, California who is the Region IV Director for the Mennonite Disaster Service. Wow! I enjoyed very stimulating and inspiring discussions with everyone and came back from that trip with many new insights. Of course, my friend, Tracey Jones, who has stepped into her father's footprints, is an amazing woman and most assuredly, a "chip off the old block." I have great admiration for this very accomplished, motivated and inspirational woman. Once again, I stayed at Tracey's "guest hut," as she calls it, and she's made it clear that it's my accommodations whenever I'm in the area and it's not previously spoken for.


Finally, the last road trip began on October 23rd and took me on a long day's drive from the West Virginia base camp to Riverhead, New York on Long Island for a very special wedding of my grad school buddy's daughter, Kelly. Riverhead is near the famous Hamptons and not too far from the eastern tip of Long Island at Montauk Point. The trip was a bit longer than it might have been had I not been dealing with what turned out to be a urinary tract infection. It's the first time (and I hope the last and only time) I've ever had such an infection. Unfortunately, due to the number of things on my agenda from the time I returned from the Pennsylvania trip I didn't have time to get to my regular doctor before I left. So, first I attended the wedding on Long Island (one of the best, if not the best, wedding parties I've ever attended). Friday morning after breakfast with my friends, I headed back to New Jersey for a late 2:00 PM lunch (that lasted until about 6:30) with my college friend, Greg, and his wife, Mary. Then to my overnight location at the Pilot Travel Center (you likely saw the "David and Goliath" Photo of the Week that I posted a couple weeks ago at the Travel Center). It was Saturday morning and I found a walk in "doc in the box" urgent care center in Parsippany, New Jersey where I went and finally saw a doctor, got the formal diagnosis and a prescription for some antibiotics. I took the prescription to another Walmart in the region to check it out as a possible overnight parking location. Well, the script was filled, but the Walmart was not a candidate for an overnight location.

I arrived at my favorite hot dog hang out, Rutt's Hut, in my hometown of Clifton, New Jersey at around 4:00 PM, just moments before my old high school buddy, Art, rolled in after driving about 100 miles from the New Jersey Shore to meet up, eat hot dogs, drink birch beer and talk about old times. We occupied a table until about 9:15 PM when Art went on to his brothers and I made my way to the North Bergen Walmart to consider it as an overnight parking place. It's on the list, but I decided to go back to the more familiar Walmart in Garfield, New Jersey, my father's hometown (just across the Passaic River from Clifton, New Jersey). Sunday I met up with my oldest nephew, had a brunch with him and then attended his hand bell choir recording session. I then checked out the Walmart at the Meadowlands where the Giants football stadium is located. I spent the night there, met up with some 18 wheeler truck drivers in the morning and then headed out for lunch with a couple of college friends, one was the former Chief Engineer for the college radio station we launched and the other took over the "reins of power" from me when I graduated. From there I met up with a couple more old college friends who were members of my Industrial Arts major. Tuesday was a day off and I decided to do some exploring and made my way out to the Palisades and up to the Alpine Marina on the Hudson River where I spent a couple summers boating with my grad school buddy and his parents. I also revisited the old Armstrong Tower where Major Edwin Armstrong, the inventor of modern radio communication and broadcasting, was the first to broadcast with his invention, frequency modulation or FM, as most people know it. I wrapped up Tuesday with a visit to the new Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria named Barilari's located about a block from my old favorite hometown pizza place, Mario's. I wrote about Mario's previously. Barilari's is owned by Kenny Barilari, the grandson of the original owners of Mario's, and his mission is to carry on the tradition of his grandparents. I'll write more about my visit to Barilari's in the near future.

Finally, on Wednesday I returned to Montclair State University where I had lunch with the general manager of WMSC, the radio station I started 46 years ago, hung out in the production lounge with a bunch of the current crop of "radio types," and finally spoke to a group of them at their weekly meeting later in the afternoon. My hope was to give them a bit of history and a challenge for their station's future and their own futures. I then found my way back to My McVansion, parked in a far off parking lot, and began my journey back to base camp in Keyser, West Virginia. I spent the previous couple evenings at the Garfield Walmart and I spent that last evening overnighting at the Phillipsburg, New Jersey Walmart. Oh, and that inconvenient little infection I was dealing with was pretty much gone as the antibiotics the doctor prescribed made quick work of the errant bacteria.

Why A Recap?

While much of this is a recap of some earlier posts, it's also a reminder to myself just how much I enjoy being on the road, meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends, exploring new sites and revisiting places that hold major significance in my life. It also served as a reminder that I'm still attempting to do too much in too little time. I didn't have, or maybe it would be better said that I didn't allow and make time to prepare meaningful posts for this blog. For those who read the blog regularly and look forward at least to something interesting if not enlightening and uplifting or, maybe, informative, I apologize. Writing this blog is one of the more important aspects of who I am and who I'm becoming. So, I not only let you down, who (I hope) gain some little tidbits of inspiration and ideas from this blog, but I let myself down.

This is something I have to work at. I tell other people we simply can't do everything. I attempt to help people realize that we'll all die one day and leave unfinished business behind...and that's okay. But, the one person who needs to truly believe and heed these thoughts is, yours truly...ME. As President George W. Bush used to say (and this has nothing to do with his or your politics), "I'm the decider." That's true for all of us and I especially need to realize and accept that I can't do it all, must select between the voluminous number of things I want to do and be the "decider" of what I really, really want to do. In other words, I need to pick and choose and then prioritize. Living free is a fantastic experience, however, it's also an awesome opportunity and responsibility. If we try to do it all we get mired down and ultimately get little or nothing done. So, hang with me and pass on your thoughts and ideas about the things you want to do and how you're able to (if you are, yet) pick, choose, decide and prioritize.

My McVansion Progress Report

So, to wrap up this post, today, here are the latest upgrades to My McVansion. People often wonder how those who choose to travel and/or live full-time in the confines of 50 or less square feet take care of various necessities of life. One of these necessities is, hopefully, to not be too indelicate or graphic, the elimination of bodily wastes. Yes! It's one of the things we all must do no matter what our station in life, but it's also something many people don't want to focus on, despite its importance to good health and hygiene. There are a variety of ways that people living in small spaces like the confines of a van or a utility trailer or the new trend known as Tiny Houses take care of this necessity. Each method has advantages and disadvantages and the costs vary across the spectrum. A full size, commercially designed and manufactured RV (motor home or trailer) will typically have an actual bathroom facility built in with running water and holding tanks for the waste. Periodically, the fresh water tank has to be filled or connected to an external potable water supply and the waste holding tanks have to be dumped in an appropriate waste dumping station or connected to an external sewage system. In this instance, taking care of necessary bodily functions is not much different than if one lives in the average house or apartment anywhere in the U.S.

The options are several for those of us who choose to use vans or utility trailers as our travel/living facilities. I won't go into all the options in this post. However, I will tell you about mine. First, when I'm traveling and when I'm parking overnight, my first choice is to find public facilities. Public facilities are plentiful and include rest areas along interstates and major highways across the U.S. Next come gas station/convenience stores/fast food restaurants. Most large retail establishments including Walmart, Target, Kmart, supermarkets, Costco's, Sam's Clubs, shopping malls and similar also have public rest rooms. There are, of course, others that can be added to this list.

When I'm not traveling and I'm parked for the night or even semi-permanently in a location where public restrooms are not conveniently located, my next line of convenience enters the picture. As a male, I have a distinct advantage over females when it comes to voiding my bladder, so for that purpose I carry a half-gallon, opaque, yellow plastic milk container. It's certainly not inconspicuous when I carry it into a public rest area rest room to empty, but at least it's not transparent making it even more obvious as to its contents. I use a little liquid bleach with some water to wash it out and keep it sanitary. This works very well for me and, frankly, has saved me from extreme discomfort on more than one occasion.

The other and, certainly, more obvious appliance addition to My McVansion is the new Sanitation Equipment Visa Porta Potty Model 268. This unit is well built, has excellent ratings everywhere I've looked for reviews, is economical and has the largest holding tank capacity of the numerous similar appliances available on the market. It has a 6.3 gallon solid waste capacity with a 3.7 gallon fresh water (for flushing) capacity. I won't go into any other details other than to say that depending on my travels and the availability of public facilities along my route, I can go between three and four weeks with this unit between visits to appropriate dumping stations.

The Visa Porta Potty is situated on a plywood floor with furring strips around the base so it can't slide. To the left of the porta potty on the same plywood base will be a 2.7 cu. ft. compressor refrigerator. The plywood base will be stained to match the rest of the wood in the van along with being sealed so water, although there should be none, can't seep through to the remaining carpet under the plywood. Additionally, when I'm finished with the construction, both the porta potty and the refrigerator will be enclosed in plywood cabinets, also stained to match the rest of the interior wood and there will be a cover over the porta potty with a cushion so that when not in use, the porta potty will be concealed and provide some seating space. The top of the refrigerator cabinet will support a small microwave oven. The yellow bottle is also concealed when not in use, but is readily available when needed.

 The wheel well to the right of the porta potty is going to be concealed by a wooden enclosure that will support a six drawer storage unit for office supplies, cables, cords and adapters for audio, video and photographic interfacing and similar misc. necessities along with a small file box to keep necessary paperwork in. The cabinet and the wheel well enclosure are under construction currently. By the end of next week, I am planning to have the large 245 amp hour, deep cycle battery on board the van so I can begin putting in the 12 volt DC and the 110 volt AC wiring. So, the progress continues on My McVansion to make it a very habitable and hospitable environment for me to travel and live in for extended periods of time.  


Gypsy Jane said...

family dollar has huge mugs with handles and good wide lids. a yellow one looks like mountain dew. with a 98 cent funnel from the auto parts section, women too are 'good to go'.

Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

Good info, Jane. As I said, as a male, I have a distinct advantage. But, especially because of your 18th Century Camp reenacting, as a woman, you'd be even more on top of this than the average person. Hope all's well with you and you're someplace warm. It's just over 20 in Keyser.