Camping at Dry Tortugas National Park

So we finally made good on our promise to take the boys to the beach. And then some.

Dry Tortugas National Park is hands down the most incredible place we have ever visited. It is so remote. It is relatively affordable for being 70 miles west of the Keys in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. And it is protected which means it is beautiful and pristine.

We snorkeled. We explored Fort Jefferson. We learned to fish and while Daniel and I each hooked a 300 pound Goliath Grouper, he seemed to laugh underwater at us when he easily snapped the line.

We camped overnight. It was pitch black and silent.

Waves. Wind. Stars. Repeat.

Sadly, Irma did not spare this beautiful spot. Entire sections of the moat wall have collapsed into the ocean. Countless large conch shells have washed ashore which is a sign that the undersea life is not as healthy as it should be. The rangers on the island have been working to clean up the island and have done an amazing job in a short time. But there is still so much debris remaining all the way down the Keys and at the Dry Tortugas.

Public service announcement: if you aren’t recycling. Please do. If you haven’t made efforts to reduce your waste. Please do. If you litter or don’t really ensure that you trash is properly disposed. Please do.

I am so sad about the amount of recyclables and trash we have found and cleaned up in this area. This stuff washes up on beaches here and comes from everywhere. So please think about it. Actual real life people and animals are being heavily impacted by our overconsumption and lack of proper disposal.

Ok. Love you guys! No judgement. Just love.

And funny enough the two places that we have loved the most so far on our journey have lacked the same thing. While Dry Tortugas is as far down as you can go on the east coast and Jacques Cartier Park is on the other end of the map, an hour north of Quebec City, Canada, both of these beauties provide zero cell phone reception/internet.

Pictures cannot do Dry Tortugas justice. I encourage you to find a way to make this trip happen in your future.

With that said, below is our attempt to give you a taste of our experience. Love to you all from the southern tip of the US.

Next stop: Orlando 😊❣️

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A Day at the Beach

Bathing suits packed. Picnic lunch prepared. The boys ready for a great day of sand and sun at Virginia Beach.

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And that’s as far as we got with our plans for the day. As Bex stepped out of the car she heard a man say, “Maryland? You guys are from Maryland? That’s where I’m trying to get back to.”

A tall, slender man with golden aged hair approached, pointing at our license plate. She responded in a calm voice, “Where in Maryland are you trying to get back to?” The man told us that his name was Troy and that he was from Maryland “…well actually Northern Virginia,” he clarified.

Troy described that he had come down to VA Beach with a friend to work an event, but when he arrived the job fell through. He had lost track of his friend and had been sleeping on the beach at night while trying to find work during the day to earn enough cash to catch a bus back home.

From where we were standing, we could see a church building a few blocks away. Bex asked if he had gone there to ask for help, but Troy responded that they told him there was nothing they could do.

Bex replied, “Let’s go ask again. Together.” So off my wife and Troy walked, with the boys and I trailing in the car, 50 feet behind.

help-the-homelessBex talked to a kind woman inside, but was visibly frustrated when she came back out. We started making a few calls to local shelters and after a few minutes Bex informed Troy that she had found a place on the other side of town with a bed available.

And that’s where the normal story would probably end. But then my mouth opened, “We’ll take you over there.”

As we drove Troy from the beach towards the shelter, he began to open up about his life. About decisions he had made. Some good and others not so good. Relationships that had fallen apart. A roller coaster over five decades that had brought him to this point. To the front passenger seat of our car.

We arrived at the shelter and after another hour trying to help Troy get checked in, Bex turned to me with a look on her face that I’ve seen many times before. There was only one thing to do and within a few minutes she had arranged a Lyft home for Troy. Now funny enough, the driver who accepted the job also happened to be staying at the shelter so everything seemed to work out in the end.

Over these past few months we’ve had the opportunity to ‘lyft’ a few other strangers whom we’ve met on the street. Continued prayers for Avela, Crystal, Zarreff and Troy.

As colder weather descends on many parts of the U.S., do you know the local number to call if you see someone who needs shelter?  How can we better care for those whose support system isn’t as strong as our own?  We would love to hear your ideas and experiences.

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10 Amazing Photos of Our Roadie Life

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The Haverherd Habitats for Humanity

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to see what Habitat for Humanity was all about. I mean seriously, they’re just giving away houses? While we were in Cincinnati, I finally got that chance to participate in the action.

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Now I have to tell you that as much as I’ve wanted to spend a day putting hammer to nail (or at least attempting said feat as America’s Least Handiest Male) I have always wondered how Habitat really worked.

However, after spending a day on the job in Cincy asking some of my trademark former financial planner extraordinaire questions, I am now a big believer in the mission that Millard and Linda Fuller set into motion back in 1976. Their goal then, as it is today, is based upon the concept of “partnership housing”. And this partnership runs a lot deeper than you might think.

Habitat partners with a family by not just giving them the keys to a new house, but rather helping them build a strong foundation on so many critical levels. Each family must invest a certain number of “sweat equity” hours (typically between 200-300) into the building of their home or a neighboring Habitat home. This sweat equity seems a bit intimidating to someone like yours truly who will never even begin to comprehend how in the world a towel bar can extend from a bathroom wall and day after day defy gravity without a single visible nail or screw.

With that said, I can certainly appreciate Habitat’s use of an alternative form of up-front equity from their partners. And it has proven to give Habitat homeowners a deeper level of knowledge so they can continue maintenance of their home for years beyond the celebrated move-in day. As a side note, I wish I had some of this knowledge for our former homes and presently for our Airstream camper….

Construction

Oh yeah, and back to that whole “free house” thing. That’s not actually how it works. Habitat provides interest free loans to their families, which are paid off over a given number of years, just like everyone else who has a mortgage.

downloadHabitat’s underlying purpose can be summed up in a quote from their founder who said, “What the poor need is not charity but capital, not case workers but co-workers”.  Isn’t that what we all need – peer support and true community?

This experience has encouraged us to learn more about community-led housing.

A few of you may have read the article on the Cass Community Tiny Homes in Detroit that went viral over the summer.  We’re curious if any of you have participated in community-led housing programs. Please share your experience with us in the comments below or by email.

Be Well Friends.

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Nerd Herd Service Update.

Last month we were provided with several opportunities to serve those in need. I want to first of all thank Pat, Pam, Jimmy, Nick and Jan for connecting us with some fantastic organizations that are positively impacting the people within their respective communities.

I’d like to highlight several of these organizations over the next few blogs that have really hit home for me.

D&B Soup Kitchen

The first night we arrived in Cincinnati my cousin Pat met our entire family downtown. He had connected us into a Tuesday dinner that his church puts together for those without in the community.

Now in Washington D.C. we know of several great non-profits, So Others Might Eat and A Wider Circle, to name a few. We witnessed many similarities that Tuesday night, but most notably a deep desire from each and every volunteer to look someone in the eye, and care for them.

Our family of 5 was presented with the opportunity to set the tables for the 192 guests that would be arriving that evening. As we were instructed on how to set out the more than a thousand pieces of dinnerware I could see Matty and Josiah getting a bit overwhelmed. With Tobias strapped to my back, Bex and I assigned very specific, and high level, jobs to each of the boys.

Matty was to place the fork on the left of the plate and Josiah would set the spoon on the right. As the boys scurried around each table working to complete their tasks before guests started pouring into the dining hall, Bex reminded them of our purpose there that night.

About half way through setting the 24 tables Matty walked back towards us. In his quietest voice, he stated “I just prayed for the man who will eat dinner with that fork.”

God is so good.

 

J&B Soup KitchenI loved how this soup kitchen cared for almost 200 attendees by providing both volunteers and dinner guests alike with a name tag. As simple as that sounds, I found it incredibly refreshing to be able to greet each person by name, dish them up a healthy meal, and then trade smiles before they moved on to the dessert table.

This was certainly one of my favorite service opportunities we have done so far and for our entire family to be able to work together to accomplish the mission, made it that much sweeter.

In light of the goals blog that Bex posted last week I’d like to elaborate a bit further on a few items that I would personally like to check off over this next year+.

Per Year: Feed 5,000 people (192 in Cincy plus 23 goodie bags given away so far).

Per Quarter: Accountability check-in calls with our beLOVE partners.

Per Month: Come in at/under budget.

Per Week: Shower multiple times…

Per Day: Make each of our sons laugh out loud.

While the weekly and monthly goals are definitely a work in progress I am going to try my best to get us back on track with more consistent blog write-ups and pictures. Will be back in touch next week with my post about serving at Habitat for Humanity.

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Reaching goals while living the dream.

Daniel and I have pretty much always had a game plan and seem to be consistently working towards some kind of specific goal.  Throughout our 14 years together, as well as individually before meeting each other, our goals, for better or worse, have defined who we are.  I know it’s not for everyone, but we have historically been those nerdy folks who actually complete their New Years resolutions.

So of course, for our Camper Journey, we not only have a general plan as to the why and where, but also have monthly and yearlong goals that we would like to complete.

We have decided to take a fun approach to it.  So here are a few:

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Speaking of eating local, here is us eating donuts at Paula’s in Buffalo, NY which besides having some amazing people had splendid food.

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We’d love to hear about the goals you’re working towards in your life right now.  And if there’s any way we can check off our 2nd goal when we see you, we’d love to help.

And as you may have noticed, one goal that I didn’t mention and have clearly been failing at so far is to consistently post updates about our camper journey. Daniel will be back into action to take it from here, so prepare yourselves for a steady dose of pics, videos and write ups moving forward.

Love.

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Matthew’s First Blog.

At long last, I’d like to present to you with Matthew’s very first blog. Below is his initial draft, but the picture shows you the final, hand written edition. Enjoy, and please feel free to give him any feedback you may have…

 

hi My name is Matty. I am on a campr jorne. I have 2 brothrs Josiah and Toby.

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So far we have bin to 11 stats in the US and 4 cites in Canada. I mis my friends but I love ice crem and Dogee.

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Here’s a short video of a few of our favorite moments with the boys over these first 5 weeks of the journey.

We have some great opportunities coming up over this next week to serve at an animal shelter, a soup kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, Dress for Success and a community garden.

We are settling into life on the road, but of course we have faced a few challenges. We will fill you in on some details in our next post. Hope everyone is having a great week.

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