My Travels With Vinny: Introductions
I like to think of Vinny like this …
and myself as a free spirit of the open road.
But the truth is, Vinny and I are more like this …
He has six cylinders, and I have a map.
Hubs, the dogs and I are about to set off on a trip.
How, you ask, can I leave all this …
or this …
Because mud season is coming and my friends and I are dreaming of this ….
That’s Karma, AKA “The Princess.” She loves road trips. There are so many new places to sniff and people to greet. Not everyone appreciates her, though. She can’t hold her licker.
I thought I’d take this newfangled Medium Series feature for a test drive down the east coast.
Want to come along?
We’ll be staying in state parks, seeing who knows what, meeting who knows who. Eventually, we’ll make it to the Gulf, perhaps getting as far as Mobile. We might even head home along the Blue Ridge.
The adventure begins March 26.
While we’re waiting to depart, let me introduce you to our cast of characters.
This is Ripple, named for, depending on your point of view, an ice cream flavor, a cheap wine, or a Grateful Dead song …
Ripple is a graduate of the school of hard knocks, a southern gentleman Katrina blew from The Big Easy to Maine.
No one knows his real name. The LA-SPCA found him, skin and bones and heartworms, surviving on the streets two and a half months after the storm. They named him Beanee Weenee after …
We thought that was too much of a cross for anyone to bear, hence Ripple.
Ripple’s getting on in years. He’s wobbly on his pins, and this winter’s been hard on him. I’ve worried he wouldn’t make it to spring, but he’s doing okay. Some warm weather and beach time will probably do him a world of good.
You’ve already met Karma, but you may be wondering what she’s like behind those Foster Grants.
Karma is four going on two. Equal parts love and willfulness, she’s a rubber ball of energy who, like life, ricochets between good and bad Karma.
Looking at her sweet face, it’s hard to imagine the trouble she can cause.
She plays Cato to Ripple’s Clouseau, launching herself unexpectedly at his aged frame in the name of fun. He has the patience of a saint.
She also succeeds in giving my husband a run for his money. Technically, she’s his dog. But the jury’s still out on who’s really in charge.
You should see them walking together. Oh, wait! You can …
There he is, doing his best to retain his footing on a rooty, rocky mountain trail while Karma plows ahead.
Let me introduce you to John.
He’s a good sport. He puts up with me, after all.
He loves the outdoors, but, raised by parents who didn’t think there was US culture worth noticing outside of NYC, he hadn’t experienced much of America before he met me. We have a grand time exploring together.
He used to deliver boats, so cramped spaces are nothing new. That’s a plus, because mornings in Vinny can look like this …
Which brings us to Vinny himself.
He’s a 2003 VW Eurovan we found two years ago on Craigslist. We flew to Colorado, bought him from a couple of schoolteachers and drove him home.
Can you believe no one in Maine had snagged the license plate VANGO? Our friend Jim started calling him Vinny Vango, and the name stuck.
Vinny’s maiden voyage (with us) was a drive across the northern states to Portland, Oregon, and back through Canada.
Somewhere on the coast of Washington, we became “those people,” …
… the ones who camp in the Walmart parking lot.
In fairness to us (and most everyone else on lot that night), it was not our plan. A tremendous, tree-felling storm evacuated the state park. We had to take a berth where we could find one.
That’s how Vinny met his grandfather, Gunther’s microbus. Gramps has 300,000 miles and three trips across the Atlantic under his belt.
It’s good for Vinny to have a role model.
My role model is John Steinbeck.
Alert readers probably noticed the title of our adventure alludes to Travels with Charley. Just a teen when I first read Steinbeck’s travelogue, I became enamored with the idea of gadding about the continent. How could you not fall in love with a map like this? …
Imagine my disappointment when I recently found out it was largely horseshit.
That’s okay. It’s still a great book. Thanks to its inspiration, I’ve traveled the warp and woof of this quirky land, experiencing the spaces in between that make America what it is.
That’s me, your travel guide, livin’ the dream …
I apologize. My hair gets pretty scruffy on the road. I’m getting shorn today to head that problem off at the pass.
For all the miles I’ve gone, I’ve never written about them outside my logs. This Series is a chance to change all that.
I won’t promise you strict jurno. I’ve been known to tell a fish tale or two. What I can promise is to remain grounded in reality. In the unlikely event I stay in a five-star hotel (ahem, John Steinbeck), I will let you know.
I got that haircut …
Even for me, that’s a little short. But, no blow dryer, no worries.
More importantly, I finished the nagging task facing everyone ….
I lie. All I did was finish my part of the tax process, getting the information collated.
This meant I could do one of my favorite things, visit our accountant.
You might think this odd, but how can you not look forward to visiting an accountant who has an office like this …
Shameless plug for the best accountant ever, Jim Bowers. If you live in Maine, just sayin’.
The sad news, for me anyway, is he’s probably moving to town this year. I’m going to miss the old office …
That’s Jesse at the computer (Hi, Jesse!) and Jim chatting with John.
Sorry about the blur. It was 8:00 p.m. and, having eaten only popcorn and chocolate all day because #taxes, I was little shaky.
The taxes out of my hands, it was time to concentrate on the trip.
First task, stocking Vinny’s larder:
tea, honey, peanut butter, sardines, granola, boxed milk-like substance, rye bread that looks like a vacuum-packed brick, quinoa, dal-in-a-pouch, nuts, chocolate, …
Hey, this is camping, not Iron Chef.
No, moms of the world, we’re not going to get scurvy. We’ll pick up fruit and greens when we get south of the freeze line.
Off I hied me to the grocery …
… in a snowstorm.
It’s cozy inside. Two people in parkas can barely pass in the aisles.
There I was, squeezed between the pasta and the jams, when, accompanied by squeals from the front desk, a squirrel ran up to me, thought better of it, turned tail and ran back around the end of the aisle.
Ah, life in the country.
I regret not being a fast enough draw to snap a picture.
They were still chasing him when I left.
Groceries secured, it was on to cleaning and laundry, because, if I’m to die in a fiery ball on the highway, no one, over my dead body, is going to dis me for having a dirty house.
That always makes Karma nervous.
“You’re not going to leave me behind, are you?”
No, Karma, we’re not.
Now it’s time to get some shut-eye, because tomorrow …
Here’s whats going on. I started a Medium Series, and I’m really having fun with it. It’s a chance to combine images and words in a book-like — yes I’ll say it — serial fashion.
But, Series is in it’s infancy. It is not available across all devices, and it’s not directly linkable … yet. (I’m sure the elves are working on this as I write.)
Some readers don’t have smartphones (I hear it now works on tablets, but it didn’t), and some are having trouble navigating. My solution? Weekly share my Series the “old fashioned” way.
The story above is a vastly better experience in Series. You get the reveal of a “page” turn. Plus, there’s this cool virtual panorama function called “tilt” that you have to see to appreciate.
So, if you do have a smartphone and want to read my story there, here’s what you do:
- Follow me (not a shameless plug, you’ll see why in a minute).
- Download the Medium app on your phone.
- Open the app. You will be in Home.
- Swipe left and you will be in Series. Featured stuff is at the top, people you follow (that’s where following me comes in) are in Network below. Editors’ picks below that.
- Go to the right of the Network bar and click on “See all.” You’ll get a stack of Series and you can scroll down. My Travels with Vinny is somewhere in the pleistocene layer.
- Click on my story to open it up. Voila! A better experience.
- When you get to the end, you will have the opportunity to clap as many times as you like (the Series version of recommendations) and to SUBSCRIBE!
- If you want to be alerted to what I hope will be daily updates, subscribe. Notices of updates will appear on your phone and, when you return, you’ll be taken to the place you left off reading, just like a Kindle.
That’s the deal. If you don’t have a phone or tablet, you’ll see my next Vinny post here in about a week.
AND, lest I forget, the sad part of Series is I can’t tell who’s reading or subscribing to my story, and you, dear readers, can’t highlight or comment. If you do have feedback, I’d love to hear from you. Leave your responses on these weekly posts.