Life After Trip

Timm saying goodbye to the Grand Canyon

On November 5, 2012, we hiked the final hike on our adventure of a lifetime.  We had hiked 835 miles over 292 days, and this hike was our grand finale in the Grand Canyon.  On that final day, we felt sadness that our year-long vacation was coming to an end.  We also felt a great sense of accomplishment, having visited 94 parks in 17 US states and 4 Canadian provinces.  This was even more than the 65 parks we had planned to visit on our very ambitious itinerary.  But most of all, we felt gratitude that we were fortunate enough to fulfill a lifelong dream, something that not everyone is able to do.

  

Theresa standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona

The next day, we packed up and started our 2200-mile drive across the country from Arizona to Florida.  We drove straight through and didn’t stop at any of the half-dozen parks along the way, some of which we could even see from the interstate and were beckoning us to pull off and explore.  Part of us wanted to drag our feet and extend our adventure as long as possible.  But we both had family members who were very sick and that we wanted to visit before their condition worsened.  And we knew that at some point we needed to return to reality.  Though we did make one stop where Theresa was standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, and it was such a fine sight to see.

 

Theresa tending to the last campfire of our trip in Apalachicola National Forest

At about 350 miles per day—typical progress for us in our RV—the trip took 7 days.  We camped each night in a Walmart parking lot just off the freeway.  These overnight stops were free and low-hassle, but also bright and noisy.  On the fifth day of driving we reached the Florida panhandle.  We were suffering from civilization shock after 10 months camping in the middle of nowhere, so we found a dispersed campsite in the Apalachicola National Forest.  We cooked out and built the last campfire of our trip.  It was isolated and very quiet and recharged our souls.

 

Angelique and Theresa on Jacksonville Beach

Next we stopped in Jacksonville to visit Theresa’s niece Angelique and her husband Josh.  We enjoyed a genuine Florida fish fry on the water and took a quick stroll along the beach on the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Ryan and Timm in Little Manatee River State Park

Then we drove south and camped for a month in Little Manatee River State Park.  The park was only 20 minutes from my mom’s apartment, and we spent almost every day with her.  We helped her get her finances and papers in order, accompanied her to numerous doctor visits, but also had fun going to the movies and out to dinner.  The weather in Florida was incredible—sunny and 70s—for our entire stay there, except as luck would have it the final night when it downpoured for hours as we were packing to leave.  We also got to visit my sister Laura, niece Heather, and grand-nephew Ryan.

 

Timm and Theresa with the Martin cousins

Coincidentally my Uncle Mike and Aunt Jeanne and all their children were visiting my cousin Joe in Orlando, so we drove up and spent the day with them.  We hadn’t all been together since my cousin Sarah got married, which was a while ago, given the size of her two children in the photo.

 

Shadow, Darby and Theresa on the dog beach at Ft. DeSoto State Park

Theresa and I also took some time in Florida for ourselves.  We visited Ft. DeSoto State Park, which has a large beach where dogs can run free off the leash.  The dogs were a little confused by the salty water of the Gulf of Mexico, but they really enjoyed running around and getting their feet wet, and we enjoyed relaxing and soaking up the warm sun.

 

Theresa enjoying a zombie board game with her family in Illinois

We left our RV in Florida at a consignment dealer because January through March is the best time to sell an RV in Florida, when of course it’s a poor market in snowy Kentucky.  We rented a small U-Haul trailer, stuffed it with the contents of our RV, and drove up to our property in southern Kentucky.  We dropped off our stuff, then kept going to Illinois to visit Theresa’s family.  Her father Jim was diagnosed with cancer in November and was already quite frail when we arrived in mid-December.  We spent a couple weeks at her parents’ house, and all of Theresa’s siblings and their families were there too, so we had a wonderful time catching up.  Theresa and her brothers made some videos for their father, and we all spent time with Jim and said our goodbyes.

 

With friends and family at the Cincinnati Zoo Festival of Lights

Next we went to our old hometown in Northern Kentucky where we spent 10 days staying with Theresa’s brother David and his family.  We had a great time visiting our family and friends, including David, Lauren, Zadee and Joel, Tim & Carla, Stefan & Stani, Stacy & Paul, Sean, Mark, Marcia and Marsha and more.  We went to movies, out to dinner, and to the Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo, as shown in the photo above.

 

Jimmy Pond, named for Theresa's father, as he loved to fish here

Shortly after we rang in the New Year 2013, we headed south to our little slice of heaven, Little Wolf Nature Preserve in southern Kentucky.  We were greeted by numerous snowfalls.  No matter how old I am, I’m always excited to awake to a fresh snowfall.  The land here is so beautiful, and we’ve wanted to live here ever since we first bought the property in 2004.  We have 180 acres that border over 3,000 contiguous acres of Daniel Boone National Forest down to the Tennessee line, so we shouldn’t run out of places to hike anytime soon.

 

Our mobile home at Little Wolf

We moved into our mobile home, which has 2 bedrooms and 1-1/2 baths.  Living in a mobile home is similar to living in an RV: the space is relatively confined, and the thin walls and single-pane windows make for a chilly indoors during the winter.  We wear long johns and have two space heaters so that we aren’t running the horribly inefficient central heat all day.  As a result, it’s usually between 50-60 degrees indoors, and we can sometimes even see our breath inside on colder days.  We also have problems with a leaky roof and rotted floorboards, we had to replace most of the water pipes, and even in the winter we are constantly battling insects, especially ants, flies, ladybugs and wasps.  The good news is it’s free—no rent or mortgage.  We plan to live at Little Wolf for at least a year or two.  If we love it as much as we expect we will, and if we can find a way to make a living here, then we’ll likely build a house on our property.

 

Darby and Shadow, who is wearing his "doggles" so he doesn't poke his eye out

We are so glad we went on our trip in 2012, as we’ve gotten off to a bit of a rough start in 2013.  Our dog Shadow suddenly went blind in January.  Theresa has been having trouble with her knee and now has to wear a brace when hiking or working outside.  And I’m having my own health issues that fortunately are not too serious.

 

Timm riding in a trailer pulled by our neighbor Glen

Life on the “farm” has been very busy doing repairs and getting our home set up.  We’ve been working closely with our neighbor Glen, who has provided us with lots of assistance and useful information about the local merchants and people, since he has lived here all his life.  We also try to take time to enjoy ourselves and go for long hikes on our property.

 

Theresa's family saying goodbye to her father at his funeral

Sadly on February 12, Theresa’s father Jim passed away after a his battle with cancer.  His funeral was attended by all of Jim’s children, their families, a few close friends, and members of the U.S. Air Force to honor Jim’s many years of service as a radar operator.

 

Theresa (in the distance, click for larger image) walking along our driveway that's under construction

Our bridge over Little Wolf Creek washed out a few years ago during a flood, so instead of spending a lot of money to build a new bridge, we decided to build a road across the field.  This has been quite challenging because the frequent rain and snow have created a mucky mess.  Also, one of the dump trucks delivering stone crashed through our brand new culvert pipe.  With all our projects, getting setup in our new home, and dealing with family and medical issues, we’ve been quite busy.  Theresa is enjoying farm life, is looking forward to raising chickens and maybe goats, and volunteering with several conservation groups in the area.  I’ve returned to work on my long-term software project and web publishing company.

 

Our wonderful neighbor pulling the moving van out of the mud with his dozer

In spite of our best efforts on our new road, the moving van still got stuck in the mud, but fortunately, the neighbor who built our road was able to pull it out with his bull dozer.  So now we are finally all moved in and starting to enjoy our new life here.  The weather is warming up, spring is just around the corner, and our spirits are rising.

 

Timm and Theresa celebrating our 20th anniversary in Death Valley

2012 was a magical year and a tough act to follow–notice our huge smiles as we celebrate our 20th anniversary in Death Valley last March!  But we are looking forward to our new life in the Kentucky mountains.

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