There is nothing like a good road trip. I’ve met so many people over the course of my life who had big travel goals…Australia to see the Outback, Scotland to see the moors, Germany to see the castles…all amazing trips for sure. It is interesting, though, that a lot of these folks have never traveled here. They’ve not watched Old Faithful spurt from beneath the surface in a steamy, sulphuric gust or driven the Natchez Trace to see where Meriweather Lewis took his last breath. They’ve never climbed down into the bowels of Hoover Dam and marveled at 1930’s ingenuity or gazed at the top of Mount St. Helens and seen the devastation of a massive, volcanic eruption. There are plenty of international destinations on my bucket list for sure, but our most extensive travel has and always will be around this amazing country.

For many years before we purchased our first travel trailer, Penelope, we zig-zagged across this beautiful country on back roads, through small towns, mountains, deserts, farmland, and ranches. Several years back we started keeping a journal of our sojourns; something to help us look back and remember when the time comes for sitting. So, after we uprooted our lives and became nomads, it was only natural that we come up with a way to track our travels.

One of the things I liked about Petunia was the large area of blank wall space in the hallway across from the bathroom. It was just calling out for something, and my mind had been working on an idea for quite a while. Just as in homes, decorations in RVs run the gambit from none to absolute clutter. Pinterest has an entire section on RV decorating, and I’ve seen pictures with the walls and tables covered with lamps, photos, and tchotchkes and counters with all manner of appliances. Often there is so much stuff that I feel certain the RV never actually goes RVing. Surely people aren’t taking down all that to move around every week or even once a month. Take a look at some of those pics…it’s a LOT of stuff! Our approach has been more utilitarian. The items in Petunia solely for decoration are: 1) A Thanksgiving Cactus that was given to me when my son was born almost 35 years ago. The large plant is visiting my Mom’s until we decide to settle down again, but I made cuttings and distributed to my son, my daughter, and me. I figure, between four people, at least one will keep a piece alive. It goes in the sink when we move and is flourishing. Originally one small little stalk, there are now several branches and has been repotted once. (They like their roots bound, so you only go up incrementally in pot size.) 2) A Camp Quitcherbitchin wall plaque given to me by my BFF Tina. That baby is on the wall with Command velcro and doesn’t move! 3) A Happy Camper pillow on our bed given to me by my sister, Kate. In truth, this is not solely decorative as I use it every night to prop up and read. 4) Two collectible wooden ducks. They are attached to the wall at the back of our table, and there were originally three. One lost his head and another was mortally wounded by a big bump somewhere along the way. I reattached the head, but there was no hope for the other little guy. (Now they are moved before we roll.) They once sat on top of the hallway doorframe at Windover, and just looking at them makes me smile, remembering all of the good times we had up there with MW’s (Mr. Wonderful’s) family. 5) A tiny cardinal gift tag guarding our books that was painted by my Aunt Pat. 6) A U.S. Naval Academy magnet on the fridge. MW is a grad. 7) A handful of pics stuck on my work board. That’s it, and only the cactus and ducks have to be secured for travel. I’ll clarify now that all of it is there because of me. MW does not do decorative (what he calls useless)…ever. Well, that’s not totally true. There is a little, stuffed Eeyore in his truck. Amber gave it to him about 25 years ago, and he has moved it from truck to truck since then.

Sorry I squirreled on you there. Back to the wall and my favorite Petunia modification…the map! Who doesn’t like a good visual aid? After figuring out the appropriate size, I got to work. The base is lauan (3-1/2′ tall x 5′ wide). That was followed by brown cork squares, which I glued down to cover the board. In order to keep the cork from shredding, I coated it with multiple layers of polyurethane. (The cork soaks it up, so I just kept adding until there was a slight sheen.) Next came the map, a wall-sized 3′ x 4-1/2′ paper one in nice, muted colors, which I glued to the cork. Finally I wrapped the edges of the entire thing in 3″ black Gorilla tape. This gave it a framed, finished look and keeps random cork droppings from coming out of the bottom and getting all over the floor while bouncing down the road. After letting everything dry thoroughly, MW helped me attach it to the wall using washers and screws across the top and Command velcro strips along the sides and across the bottom.

The first thing we did after the installation was pull out our journals and add the routes. (We have traveled all 50 states, but sadly, we didn’t keep journals for a good portion of it.) The key started out with pins or flags for places we’ve lived, colored routes with matching campground stays, and national parks/historic sites/monuments. To that we’ve added MiLB ballparks and oldest towns (by state) we’ve visited. Our current goal is the National Parks. I’m sure that, as this journey continues and we add new goals, the list will expand.

So how do we keep up with our route, given that we travel 150 to 200 miles at a time, zig-zagging around on back roads? An old-fashioned atlas! The navigator highlights the roads as we go. (We tried just marking it at the end of the day, but when you don’t travel interstates, it can really be hard to remember what roads you drove for the past 5 hours!) When we stop for the night, we add the new information to the wall.

God willing, lines will be criss-crossed all over this thing by the time we are done. Then, when that sitting time is upon us, we will follow the lines on the map and remember the terrific places we’ve been and wonderful people we’ve met along the way. It is one of my treasures.

Well, for now it is time to get out of the past and back to the present. See you on the path.


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