Ursula Sadiq

"Hey, how did I get here?", asks the once and future geek. "Each step made sense along the way, didn't it?" Didn't it?

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So, Aruba. I spent 14 days in Aruba with my 10 year old. Here’s my thoughts about the trip, mostly from a things to do perspective.

TLDR - Recommended things to do

  1. The Rancho Loco Horseback ride to the Natural Pool. 

  2. Reflexions beach club

  3. Petroglyphs in the National Park

  4. Book a Snorkeling cruise 

  5. Climb California Lighthouse

--

You can certainly go to Aruba and just lounge on the beach the whole time. There are certainly tourists who do that, and hotel resorts that cater to that. But I’m the type of traveler that wants to do stuff. So this is stuff to do. There are lots of good places to eat/explore on the island. Do get a rental car to facilitate this exploring. 

Recognize that Aruba is a small island. 100k people, 20 miles long (the long way!) Like 6 miles across. Still, you probably want to rent a car. 

Also it’s a desert. Think Arizona climate (if you’re familiar with AZ), that also happens to have beaches. Beautiful beaches. On one side of the island (the west) are lovely swimming beaches. On the other side, they are super rough/rugged/don’t even think about getting in the water beaches. (Sad story: while I was there, apparently a vistor went into the water on the rough side after the tour guide said it would be ok. And drowned. Just don’t.) It’s always 80-90 degrees. Year round. And breezy. Super breezy. Make sure your hat fits tight, or has a chin strap. And bring a hat - it’s hella sunny out there!

There are lots of cool lizards out and about. Little ones, big ones.  I especially like the blue ones. And some sizable iguanas. The cat sized one that hung out by our condo we named Big Liz. They have the goofiest run. There are a bunch of birds around too which are fun to watch. In particular we saw Magnificent Frigatebirds (which we call demon birds because of their silhouette), brown pelicans, cool orange-black Troupials, and a wacky looking large bird which I think was a Crested caracara. Aruba’s national bird is a burrowing owl, but we didn’t come across any. 

^^ These bird pics aren't my photos, just ones I found that look better than the photos I took ^^

There is no fresh water source on the island, unless you count the occasional rains. Beats me how people used to live here in the precolonial/colonial times. We did see a cistern from colonial times that supposedly held 3-4months of water. But it barely rained while we were there. Again, not sure how they made it work way back then, maybe it rains more than I recognize? Today they have a desalination plant, and the tap water here is some of the best I’ve ever had. They even bottle it.

The main industry here is tourism. And like 70% of the tourists are from the US. (Even though it’s just 15 miles from Venezuela - you can even see the mainland on a clear day.) English is spoken everywhere. US dollars are accepted everywhere. I mostly used my visa, except for tips and that one bakery that was cash only.

Packing tip: you’re going to want to bring snorkel gear to look at all the cool aquatic life. Or at least a great pair of swim goggles. Bring sun protection. Bring water shoes. 

The highlight:

We booked an afternoon horseback tour at Rancho Loco to the Natural Pool. After about an hour on a horse, you get to a natural pool. It is the only(?) protected place to swim on the east side. And it was fabulous. Rough waves hitting the other side of the protected rock wall, spraying water high. And a calm pool to hang in. This is 100% bucket list material. It doesn’t get any better than this. 10/10 would go again.  This makes Ursula's "Best Of" list (a list that I've just decided to start).

If horses aren’t your thing, you can hike in for about an 1.5 hours each way. So 3 hours roundtrip. Or rent a off road capable vehicle like an ATV. ATVs are icky IMHO, and walking would be arduous in this climate for me, let alone for my 10 year old. But the horses, that was awesome, and the payoff of the natural pool was so worth it. I also liked the romanticism of pretending it was cowboy times while on the horse. Even if my butt was sore for 2 days after. (Note, the horses only take people who weigh less than 235 lbs. Even though technically the horses can carry larger people, the ranch doesn’t want to stress them.)

Other things to do:

And then some days you just want to sit at a beach club and chill. I didn’t really check out the options; I found one I liked and went there twice. It is called Reflexions, and it’s just a few minutes north of the airport. You can watch the planes land - the airport is close but not obnoxiously so. Sometimes people wait on this beach until they see the plane land before they go on a pickup run. We'd get there around 1pm, stay till sunset. Sometimes they have DJs or bands. There is a small swimming pool in the bar (which frankly got gross later in the day, but the kid loved it), lots of chairs with umbrellas or covers to be had. And some excellent drinks. And good food, a step up from your typical bar fare. 

There is a national park that takes up like 20% of the island. (That arid rugged east side mostly). You need a car or a tour to get there. In this park, about a 20 minutes drive inside the park is a cave with petroglyphs (and colonial graffiti). Also, bats inside. And lizards outside. It's cool, especially if you are keen on petroglyphs like I am. Definitely worth doing.  (Actually, that natural pool I mentioned above is also in this park. You’d ATV/hike from inside the park. The horses came up another way.) BTW: Google maps sent me to someplace that was certainly not the park entrance. Get close then follow the signs instead of wherever G sends you.

There is a lighthouse on the northern tip called the California Lighthouse. Not sure why it’s called that, something something about a ship called California that sank when it was being built? I’m sure you can google it. Anyway - Go! Pay the $5! Climb the zillion steep steps on the spiral staircase up! See the amazing windy views! Deal with your kid then being too terrified to climb back down! Good times. Also, at the bottom, get a fresh coconut from the coconut guy. And watch his pet parrot peck at your kid when she invades its personal space, terrifying the kid. Haha. More good times. Another $5 well spent. 

The final thing I really can recommend is take a snorkeling “cruise”. I did Jolly Pirates, but there are others. Some include lunch, some do not. Most all include an open bar. And they include your snorkeling gear. They almost all stop at the same 3 or 4 places. Though this one seems to have different spots https://www.tranquiloaruba.com/ (next time!) The snorkeling in Aruba is some of the best. One of the standard snorkeling spots called Tres Trapi is just offshore. You can actually drive to it, in case you want to go back and experience more snorkeling but not take a second cruise. 

We also visited the small free National Archaeological Museum Aruba. I like to hit these sort of historical museums at the beginning of a trip to get an awareness of a place’s backstory. It’s where we saw the cistern and learned about the petroglyphs, and about the pre colonial and colonial times.

Food:

No food recommendations - why? I’m not a foodie. I noted portions are large. I enjoyed everywhere I ate, but I’m so the opposite of picky. Also I was feeding a kid, so we didn’t try anything exotic. So we stuck with meals of burgers, pasta, chicken and poffertjes (dutch small puffy pancakes). So I don’t have much by way of food recommendations except ask around, and use your google-fu. The restaurants here are good, but it's not cheap. Expect US prices or maybe even a tad bit higher. 

We went to the closest burger joint called Local Store several times. It had this cool mural on the side that among other things, incorporated imagary from the island's petroglyphs. How cool is that! 

Other things:

Some things that we coulda shoulda done is 

  1. the gold mine ruins. 

  2. another rock & petroglyph site called Ayo Rock Formation..

  3. the butterfly house. If you go at the beginning of your trip, you can go back any time for the next 7 days. 

Saving these for next time!

There is also a “private” island beach club “De Palm Island”. It’s like $100 for a day of all-inclusive fun. I didn’t do it, but maybe next time. Maybe. I was pretty content at Reflexions. But on the other hand, seeing flamingos would have been cool.

There are on the southern side a few more beaches, and another town called San Nicolas. Baby beach is the big name, there is also a super deserted beach calle Boco Grandi. It looks very peaceful, but the kid had seen it before and said it was boring. So we didn’t go. San Nicolas has a bunch of cool murals, plus is known for the bar “Charlie’s” but I forget why. I do know the licence plate of my old camper is on the bar, as are a zillion other plates. It’s the Delaware tag that says “Guppy”. If you see it, send me a photo!

I didn’t really do any nightlife because I had my preteen in tow. I did get out for 1 night to the Renaissance downtown for a sunset DJ set and their rooftop (no kids allowed!) club. That was sweet, and would be cool to do again with adult friends. Assuming I can talk someone into traveling with me.

Links: 

Horse ranch https://www.rancholocoaruba.com/en

National Park http://www.arubanationalpark.org/main/

Reflexions Beach Club https://www.reflexionsaruba.com/

Jolly Pirates https://www.jolly-pirates.com/

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I’m unnaturally puzzled by A J C Henrique. “Went in 5201M”? With some sort of tripod? Did they measure 5 kilometers from the carving?
Great travel piece.
 

Big news! I've picked a color palette for the interior of the van!

That's all really. 

Well, maybe not ALL. . .I have talked to the local who I want to put my ceiling fan in. He said he's busy, so call him in a week or two. Which I will. Moving at the speed of Delaware, huzzah!

I bought (but have not unpaked) ceiling planks. I stuck on 16 sound deading CLD tiles. I put in one batt of insulation. I have been informed that the rest of my insulation has shipped. I bought mildew proof string to help secure the insulation.

I have a late night of online tabletop gaming planned with some west coast friends (Nemesis anyone?) If I wake with any energy tomorrow, I'm going floor wood shopping. If not tomorrow, then Saturday. Or Monday.

Little by little I'm chipping away at getting this van build done.

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Nice! Those are some mighty fine colors, and it sounds like you really are making progress. Slowly, perhaps, but progress nonetheless.

And that Nemesis game looks pretty badass too.
Nice color choices. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this goes.
So pretty! Warm and cool and vibrant and comforting. It's basically sunlight and shadows.
Sean M Puckett 1/15edited
I would give an arm to learn how to tell warm vs. cool colors. I have watched 37 billion videos on it and I just can't latch onto it.

Is one of those yellows cool and one of those yellows warm? If so, which one is which?
Both yellows are warm and the teals are both cool.

So far as I'm aware, the only time you have warm or cool variants of a color is when that color is grey. If I'm honest, I have a very tough time telling warm and cool greys apart unless they are side by side.

(Folx should feel free to correct me if I'm wrong in any of this. I'm impressively clueless when it comes to color theory.)
 

I’m isolating. So I took myself for a long drive into the countryside. It wasn’t an aimless drive, I had a quest. I was looking for a Mason-Dixon stone. 

The western border of Delaware southern terminus is at the Transpeninsular line, at a point half way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, along a latitude line starting at Fenwick island. This was a mistake, it was supposed to start at Cape Henlopen, but in 1732 Lord Calvert submitted the wrong map to the presiding English court establishing the border. The erroneous map labeled Fenwick as Cape Henlopen, so the line started about 24 miles south of where it should have been. This had the effect of making William Penn’s Delaware bigger and Lord Calvert’s Maryland smaller by about 1000 square miles (which is like 40% of Delaware. Delaware is only about 2500 square miles in size today. )

Anyway, half way along this Transpeninsular latitude line is the midpoint, which I visited in a previous post.

Way up in northern Delaware, a 12 mile circle was drawn around the town of New Castle. The western border of Delaware goes from the Transpeninsular midpoint to a point tangent to the 12 mile circle. This Tangent Line does not go “true north” in longitude but slants ever so slightly westward to hit the tangent point. Once the border hits the 12 mile circle, it heads true north* to 39°43′20″ N, which is the latitude to the Maryland-Pennslyvania border. This is the Tri-State marker point, found in White clay creek park**.

Anyway, Mason & Dixon put markers down every mile along the Tangent Line, which every 5 miles dropping a more ornate Crownstone, carved with the crests of both Penn and Calvert. I decided to go look for one or two of these markers. 

So I drove out the Hickman Delaware, about 40 minutes from Dover. I had recently received a book called East of the Mason-Dixon Line by R. Nathan. The text is available online too, at https://archives.delaware.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/156/2018/08/East-of-the-Mason-Dixon-Line_-A-History-of-the-Delaware-Boundaries-Roger-E.-Nathan.pdf

Page 95 talks about how to locate these two monuments, but vaguely - it doesn't give actual coordinates or directions. I have since found a much MUCH better source. It's called waymarking.com. Searching on MASDIX Tangent gets you all the markers and how to find them!! It's going to be a fun quest now!!!

Anywho, the Crownstone at mile marker 25

And the sad worn marker 26 one mile north in Hickman proper

Proverbs 22:28 : Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.

*actually, the border follows the 12 mile circle for just a wee bit more before turning north. This gives Delaware an extra 0.02 square miles. Apparently the 12 mile circle trumped the north line in the negotiations of border location.

** Today the MD-PA line goes straight to the arc, and the little wedge was given to Delaware. But that happened later, around 1920. I didn't draw that on my map sketch.

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1/10
 

So I’ve been slacking on the van build. I have a ton of reasons, which I’m recognizing have slipped into the excuses realm. I'm procrastinating in starting the work. Current excuses are: I need to do the floor before I do the rest. And I need special wood for the flooring (Baltic Birch, or at least marine grade plywood, neither available in my local big box home improvement stores). And I couldn’t shop for it because I was being mom (not true, just easier to shop when you don’t have a bored kid in tow). And then I couldn’t shop for it because I’m isolating again after a COVID exposure (testing indicates I beat that rap, but still it's a 14 day quarantine) Also, I need it to be 50+ degrees so I can rustoleum the minor rust under the floor, so I can’t progress even if I had the wood.

All of which is nonsense. There is no reason I can’t do the ceiling and walls and do the floor after. I’ve been not thinking about the walls because of the floor holdups and also my havelock wool insulation as not yet arrived (but it should in a week or two.)

But I’ve had the ceiling fan for 3+ weeks, and made no movement on installing it. In my head I had to wait for the insulation before I did the ceiling fan. Now I’m recognizing this is not even vaguely the case. In fact I want the fan in before the insulation so I can insulate around it. Duh. 

I’m getting a referral to a local guy to do my fan install. I haven’t actually talked to him yet, but I'm working the smalltown referral network. The network being what it is, I have high hopes to get moving on this. I recognized that this means moving at the speed of Delaware (which is slow), but I’m still optimistic that the fan will go in later this week. Or next.

A friend gifted me a big box 2 weeks ago of sound deadening material. I assumed it was all kilmat or dynamat or similar. Turns out when I opened it, it is indeed some kilmat type stuff called CLD Tiles but also Thinsulate, Mass Loaded Vinyl, and closed cell foam. So since it's here, I’m going to put in the CLD tiles and use the thinsulate on the ceiling. I’m going to forgo the MLV and CCF - its heavy and tedious. I probably don’t have enough Thinsulate to do the whole van, but no matter, my wool insulation is coming soon. And I’ll layer that on too. 

I got up this morning all ready to put start with the CLD tiles. I even dressed in my stain paint splattered work clothes. . . it’s 1:30 and I’ve yet to get started . . maybe after I get this posted. Motivation, she is a fickle fickle mistress <-- this is my current favorite excuse

One thing of positive progress I’ve made: I’ve been buying all the stuffs. Spray glue for the insulation, rustoleum paint, roller to install the CLD, ceiling planks, extra strong folding shelf brackets for a sometimes bed, magnets for the ceiling (yes, I am planning to hold up my ceiling with magnets just like this guy  : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfuUC88SYx0 

So hopefully the schedule is:

  • Now: install the CLD tile; schedule the ceiling fan install, pick up ceiling planks
  • Next: get the ceiling fan installed, cut the thinsulate to size, install it on the ceiling
  • After: Put the ceiling planks on. Insulate the walls. Shop for floor wood. Rustoleum the floor. Etc. Etc.
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>>>"There is no reason I can’t do the ceiling and walls and do the floor after."

I'm sure you've got it figured out, and I know that it's possible, but my gut instinct falls in line with your original thought. I think I'm just picturing dealing with the 'overlap' from walls to floor.

>>>"...hold up my ceiling with magnets just like this guy..."

Okay - that's really cool. I've never seen that approach and I kinda love it. Also - magnets - how do they work?! :P
 

Ok, I haven't been building so much as striping out the stuff if came with and making plans. Today the inside looks like this.

What's in the box? I'll get to that...next post. It's also a pretty good kiddo playhouse. (no rearview mirrors were harmed in taking of the photo)

And good for transporting Christmas Trees.

When last I wrote, I was just starting to remove the wall panels. Well since then, I've removed pretty much everything. Some lovely folks drove up from south of DC and took the shelves and bulkhead, and left me a little cash for them. I ripped out the floor. Well, mostly, the floor mat was riveted(?) grommetted(?) to the metal floor in 5 places. I had to use a razor blade knife to cut it out. There are still tufts of matting at the grommet points. It was not a fun task, but its (mostly) done now.

And I finially figured out how to get the rear sill plate off. First challenge was figuring out what it was called so I could google it. I kinda like the sill plate, and probably will be reinstalling it, so I wanted to remove it gentlely. Turns out, you have to pry off 5 little covers and then unbolt these 5 little hex screws. With a 6mm ratchet of all things. Everything else has been 7/16" or 1/2" nuts. Go figure. Fortunately, I've had many years of acquiring tools, so I had a 6mm ratchet. Yay, me.

There is just a little smattering of rust. I will rustoleum that shortly. Still thinking what to do with the several holes in the floor. Patch them? Plug them (with what??)? Leave them? 

I spend time watching youtube and reading blogs on RVing. Also reading FB groups, but that's less enlightening. I'm in a FB van life build group where every f'ing day someone new posts "What van should I buy?" And there are a bunch of people who just want to snark. I figure I'll be leaving that group soon. Still sticking around for the electrical advice - for now. I'm in ANOTHER FB group for female transit vanlifers. And that group is lovely. Everyone is very helpful and supportive. 

Anywhooo, electrical. I've figure out my shore power approach. It's this, complete with link of power plug to buy: 


Thank you random youtube guy. I like not drilling a hole in my van side!

I ordered a MaxxAir vent fan. Should be here around New Years. Then I'll have to cut a 14" x14" hole in my roof. RV store never called me back, so I have to figure out another option for installation. I'm sure I know someone around here who know someone who knows what they are doing with respect to autobody mods.

I'm still unclear how I will power the vent fan. Thinking it through. Obviously I'm gonna need a battery of some sort. That can charge while I drive or from shore power (and maybe someday from solar). I'll get there, but I have time.

PS: I also made a library with all my van photos. Some of which are copied into my posts, lots of which are not. 

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12/15 '20 5 Comments
So when we text you

And you're in your van

We'll be Van Hailin'

I'm here all week try the tofu
Thomas Boutell 12/16 '20
BOOOOOO!
haha.
Ursula Sadiq 12/16 '20
This so so cool, not only the work you're doing but the community you're finding. :)
So. Frickin. Good.
 

I got the licence plate and it's now registered all legal like in Delaware. Hurray.

But of course it is getting a vanity tag, so this tag is just temporary. I put it on anyway, because I may need to get a Christmas Tree in it this weekend.

I called the local RV store about installing shore power for me. I know I *could* do it myself, but this (and the ceiling vent) I'm quite happy to pay a professional. .. they haven't called me back.

I started removing the inside fluff, err, wall panels. So far no rust! Yay. I'm thinking I may reuse the panels after I put insulation in the walls. I wonder if I can paint/stencil them. ... I don't really want plain black walls.

I ordered insulation. I'm going with Haverlock Wool for the walls/ceiling because reasons. It should get here in 4-6 weeks. Although I'm going with polyiso insulation for the floor, covered probably with 1/4" plywood. Also because reasons. I'll doubtlessly go into the reasons at some point, but this is pretty much the case for wool

The resources out there are staggering. Quite the subculture, it's easy to get sucked into "research" for hours on end. MUST RESIST. . . this GreenRV site sucked me in today on my insulation and flooring research. And will likely do so again in the future.

Current effort:

Step NOW: Continue to remove interior fluff and unneeded stuff

Step NEXT: Drag in my camping cots to see how/if they'd fit (I have 3). And the trifold mattresses (I have 2). Nag the RV store on shore power/vent fan installation.

Step AFTER Next: Get moving on the floor.

Pending: Electrical design -beyond Shore Power hookup (Alternator Power Hookup). 

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12/4 '20 2 Comments
I would agree with paying pros for certain elements (including the ones you mention). My philosophy is that things like water and electric can damage other elements pretty easily, so (where reasonable) I shove money at those problems. If it's about making it look good, or functional in any way that _doesn't_ put other aspects at risk, I'm good enough and smart enough to figure it out.

That's actually my life in general, honestly.
This is exciting! After I bought an old school bus in 2002, already minimally converted by some NASCAR yahoos, I discovered the "skoolie" subculture, but I never did put in the time and energy to make major changes. I get the impression that DIY RVers are a good bunch.
Chris Herdt 12/7 '20
 

I got a Medium Top Used 150-Ford Transit 2015 Cargo Van. Bought it in Connecticut, picked it up last weekend, getting it tagged at the Delaware DMV today (God willing and the creek don't rise.)

It currently has shelves and a bulkhead divider in it. Which I need to take out. I posted the shelves/bulkhead on FB marketplace and craigslist, no takers yet.

I do NOT plan to live in this van full time. I do plan to take it to parks for a few nights (the type of parks that have bathhouses). I plan to sleep in it at rest stops. I don't expect to be spending more than 5 nights in a row in it. 

I expect it will be just me sleeping in the van 50% of the time; 25% of the time to have my kid with me, 25% of the time to have another adult with me.

My first scheduled trip is to the Delaware Seashore state park (Indian River Inlet) for 3 nights in early April, most likely with my 10yr old. The second trip will be 2 weeks of hiking in Utah with my brother. We'll sleep in the van on the drive out and back, but will be in tents/hotels for the hike. These are guided hikes where the outfitters take care of sleeping accommodations.

So I have 3-1/2 months to get this van into "sleep for 3 nights" in 40degree weather condition. Also to get myself into "hike for 2 weeks" condition.

I've been thinking and dreaming on how to proceed. The blank canvas is a bit daunting, but also exciting. So breaking the build down into smaller and smaller pieces so I can attack them one at a time. 

Step NOW: Get it tagged

Step NEXT: Remove the Shelving & bulkhead (and other interior fluff), which I could use an extra set of hands for. Which I don't have, so it'll be interesting. In non-Covid time I'd get a neighbor to help - in particular the young dad from across the street who is always very helpful when you, say, need a half dead mouse dispatched from under your sink or need help changing a flat. Or I'd throw a deconstruction party of sorts. Stupid plague. Just going to have to figure out how to muddle through from within my bubble.

Step AFTER Next: Figure out Vent Fan installation. Figure out heat and AC (?) options.

Pending: Electrical design - Shore Power hookup, Alternator Power Hookup; Insulation choices;  Sound deadening

Ok, it's apparently to me now that I need a step 0: Start a document to get all my thoughts together. Doing that now.

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12/3 '20 15 Comments
For some reason I thought you would turn it into a mobile crafter/makerspace, but a camper van is also awesome! Congrats on your movable tree house!
Sean M Puckett 12/3 '20
I still might turn it into a mobile makerspace. ... with a bed for those overnight crafting adventures.
Ursula Sadiq 12/3 '20
It occurs to me that the two are not mutually exclusive. Especially if you're thinking about it from the beginning. :)
OMG, DON'T TELL MICHELE!
Rob 12/3 '20
This sounds SO exciting.
Offer to help stands. Wearing of masks, and good ventilation (van doors open etc) would obviously be a requirement, and I _100%_ understand if that's still too bubble breaking for you.

Also, if I'm honest, I'd probably be really annoying to work with since I've watched so many #vanlife videos. I'd have so many solutions that it might lead to Option Paralysis which does no one any good. :P

Moral of the story: psyched for you!
I may take you up on that. Lets see how January looks. I ordered insulation today, which has a 4-6 week lead-time.

I'm pretty good at not letting the perfect become the enemy of the good, so I'm not SO worried about option paralysis.
Ursula Sadiq 12/4 '20
Sweet! I'll enjoy following along until then. :)
Wow, so cool!
Anne Mollo 12/3 '20
Have you named it? Is "Beethoven" too obvious?

I'm confident you are waaaay more than capable to handle this project yourself, but if you want to bounce an idea off three pals of mine who have lived / toured / camped in said vans, my friends are really lovely humans and I'm sure they'd love to chat with you.

One set of humans is a couple: the folk duo from Newark known as The Honey Badgers. They toured the US making music for over a year living in said van. They did all the modifications themselves. They even had a doggo with them.

My other pal James is a writer, and he got himself a sprinter van after the 2016 election so he could travel the US and talk to random people about things so he could try and wrap his head around how a Cheeto could get elected. Anyway, I don't believe he ever traveled with any guests.

I'm so excited for your adventures!


I have NOT named it. The moniker "the white whale" was floated, but I'm scared of whales, so that got nixed immediately.

I've spent enough time in RVs to pretty much know what I want. And I'm not in it full time, so it doesn't really need stuff like plumbing (though I might add some anyway) But yes, I may need some advice once I get going on the wiring plans.
Ursula Sadiq 12/4 '20
Can't believe I forgot that James did that whole thing! Good gods those brothers are just awesome.
SWEET. This, this is what money is for.
Thomas Boutell 12/4 '20
Indeed! Until the Money is no more!!
Ursula Sadiq 12/4 '20
nice.
CM Adams 12/6 '20
 

In a lovely November weekend, I head out to my local winery. While buying a case, I notice there is a photo of a Mason-Dixson crownstone framed on the wall.

I get excited. “You have a Mason-Dixson stone! Can I see it?!!?”

Alas, I was informed, it’s on the owner’s property, and not available for public viewing. Except EXCEPT, occasionally when they do the behind the scenes vineyard tours. Which they aren’t doing now due to Covid, but expect to do so again. As one of the workers there carried my case out, he took me to the side and pointed out where the stone is - in the distance, behind the vines, under a tree. 

I am so going back for the Vineyard tour.

Mason and Dixon and crew placed "crownstones" every 5 miles, way back in 1763. Smaller stone markers were placed in the inbetween miles. The stones were quarried in England, and crown stones were engraved with the crests of the two great houses that commissioned the survey: House Penn and House Cavert. (Calvert was also Lord Baltimore, and the Maryland state flag has this same graphic on two quardrents of its flag)

Five miles north of the Harvest Ridge Winery is the town of Marydel, on the border of Maryland and Delaware. In an unassuming spot by the road is a little chain marked square, with a crownstone inside. My understanding is that this marker was removed and displayed in St. Louis in 1904, and later in Baltimore. It was returned to Marydel in 1954 and was reset in 1964. So it may be a few feet off the original spot. 

The next day, we traveled south to the south western most point of Delaware. I planned the route to take us across on the Woodland Ferry. (Google maps doesn't realize this ferry is an option, so you have to convince it.) Apparently this ferry has been running since 1743ish, by the Cannon family, who were eventually granted “exclusive ferrying rights”. The Cannons ran the ferry for 100 years, among other business ventures. The Deldot brochure on the ferry mentions a jilted groom, strongarm foreclosures, slaving, and honey disputes that end in death. Apparently the Cannons were assholes, and their demise was not mourned. The county and eventually the state took over the ferry, which is free to use today. It’s about a 2 minutes crossing and can fit 4-6 vehicles at a time. (And from my home in Dover to the southwest corner of Delaware, only a 5 minute detour from google’s “fastest route”.)

Anyhow, at the south western most point of Delaware there is - you guessed it - and monument placed by Mason & Dixon. It is another crownstone, called the Transpeninsular Midpoint Marker and it is much better protected than the Marydel one. Also in the protective cage are 2 smaller survey stones done by other surveyors before Mason & Dixon came around. Mason & Dixon verified the earlier survey work. There is ALSO a third smaller stone, which apparently is just there because when they were building the cage, a local had it, thought it looked similar and belonged with the others, so put it with them. Another point for my Delaware is Awesome tally.

People throw change into the cage. Dunno why. We left our 2cents and moseyed on.

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11/9 '20 3 Comments
Out of 24 county equivalents in Maryland, exactly half are named for people directly related to the Calvert family.
Brian Rapp 11/9 '20
Cool! History is cool.
I am trying to engage my kid on seeing the connections. Astronomy! Surveys! Taxes! The crests! The Flag!
Ferrys before Bridges! ... mostly she just roles her eyes at me. But I'm hoping some of it sinks in.

She did seem to perk up when I said that Jeremiah Dixon was a miscreant that got disowned from the (Quaker) church. But I'm hoping she remembers the other stuff too
Ursula Sadiq 11/9 '20
Some of it will sink in. Says the guy whose father dragged him to every civil war and American revolution battlefield in driving distance.
Thomas Boutell 11/10 '20
 

My research of Mason-Dixon markers on the Delaware Border. All of which I plan to go see in the near(ish) future.




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10/29 '20 1 Comment
 

At the northwest corner of Delaware, where it meets Pennslyvania & Maryland, is the “Tri-State Marker”. It was first located by Mason and Dixon back in 1765, though the marker was placed later, in 1849. I learned pretty much everything I know about it from this newspaper article from 2015: https://www.newarkpostonline.com/news/new-trail-provides-first-public-access-to-mason-dixon-tri-state-marker/article_a5ec3a04-fe1a-58d4-a317-93c3e887c863.html

I’ve hiked to the marker twice this year, from Delaware's White Clay Creek State Park starting at the Chambers House Nature Center parking lot. It’s about a 3.5 mile roundtrip, meaning an hour and a half walk for me. I walk slow, and stop to look at things a lot. I had the path mostly to myself when I hiked it Friday afternoon, saw just 6 others in the 1.5 hours I was walking.

I understand you can also walk to the monument through other shorter pathways, but I haven’t done so. That’s an adventure for another time.

Note: The Chambers House nature center is also the location of one of the Selfie spots for the Delaware State Parks passport program. It's still closed due to COVID, but I saw some staff heading in to work. They arehoping to repoen in January. They gave me a map, and seemed to think the walk to the monument was "far". 

Trip start

OUTBOUND

Trail is mostly wooded trees, but it does open up to a field or two upon occasion. You cross from Delaware to Pennsylvania pretty early in the hike. And yeah, I bough hiking boots (Merrells). Last time I hiked this in the Spring, I had just bought hiking sandles (Tevas), which I love. But it's getting too crisp for sandles.

THE MONUMENT

I later learned (from reading that article above) that the monument has no D because in Mason-Dixon's time, Delaware was still part of Pennsylvania. Hence 2 P’s , 2 M’s no D.

THE WAY BACK

On the way back you cross into Delaware, then back into Pennsylvania, then back into Delaware.  Also, there is a peace love & happiness tree (Yo peeps: don't graffiti trees, even with nice sentiments). I understand there is a CAVE near one of these PA/DE borders, on the PA side. Something to look for next time.

So, pretty easy hike, cool historical marker, not crowded. Recommended.

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10/28 '20 3 Comments
A beautiful day for hiking. If you ever lack things to look for, https://www.geocaching.com has thousands, including https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC1EN31 in White Clay Creek State Park.
Brian Rapp 10/29 '20
I just today learned about letterboxing. Which sounds like fancy geocaching... I might give that a try
Ursula Sadiq 10/30 '20edited
Yeah, letterboxing long predates the practice of "using multi-million dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods".
Brian Rapp 10/30 '20