18 September, 2017

Interview and Van Tour

Our friends Jack & Kitty have a youtube channel and they put our van in it.

Who are Jack and Kitty?

I’ve known Jack and Kitty for many years and watched their careers as entertainers grow. They’re happy, joyous, lovely, folks and it reflects in their music and antics on stage.
They are musicians, writers, directors, filmmakers. They did a kids show for PBS which won them an Emmy. Yup, they won an Emmy.  

Their Youtube channel is a mix mash of all things happy, vaudeville, musical, and they decided to do a little video tour of our van/tiny house thingy.

We can’t thank them enough for popping by and taking a little tour of ‘Woody’, and really encourage you to stop by their channel, like, and subscribe.
Oh and while you’re there pop by our channel and do the same.

Here is their video. 

I really like their channel. Hey the light you see me using in my van in the video is terrific. We got ours on Amazon. Here's a link.
Keep the shiny side up.
---Trevor & Elissa

11 September, 2017

Great River Bluffs State Park

Great River Bluffs Minnesota State Park

It’s located at the top of sandstone bluffs overlooking the great Mississippi river and our neighbors to the east Wisconsin. This park is filled with life and amazing overlooks. Bring your binoculars and cameras because if you don’t you’ll kick yourself.
While we didn’t camp out here we did walk through the campground and it’s pretty great.
When you enter the park you go through butterfly and meadow land and pull up to a smallish parking lot. (It’s just the first there are more further on down the hill.)
The paths are well kept and bring you through several twists and turns and (at least the one we were on) brought us to this giant vista. It overlooked the Mississippi river and the south-western bluff side of Wisconsin.
It was amazing.
Tons of bird life. Being on the Mississippi I wouldn’t doubt that it’s on the migration route of a lot of different bird species.
You’ll see just watch the video.
Thanks for watching and stopping by.

Keep the shiny side up.

Trevor & Elissa 

28 August, 2017

Perrot State Park

     On the fourth day of our journey we ended up at Perrot State Park in Wisconsin. A cute little town named Trempealeau is very near the park. Both are worth visiting.
The park is cradled by the banks of the Mississippi river  on one side and bluffs of Southwestern Wisconsin on the other. Wildlife abounds here. You will find everything from meadow lands with its butterflies, varied plant species and flowers to deep forest with a great variety of different species and ages of tree’s. The trails walk you through any of these places at any level of hiking you will want or need. There is also a wildlife refuge area very near the park and both are excellent for canoeing or kayaking, but I don’t believe you can fish in the refuge.

     Some of the towns near the park are Trempealeau (as I’ve mentioned), Centerville, Galesville, and Winona is on the Minnesota side but only a drive of maybe 20 minutes if you drive slow. Galesville is a cute picturesque town with a really neat greasy spoon named, ‘The Garden of Eatin’. They have guitars mounted to the almost every space of wall there is.
Centerville too is located just before Galesville and if you’re coming from the Minnesota side you have to go through it to get to Trempealeau and the park.

     I had a gig in Trempealeau, Wi the night we arrived at the park. I played at a placed called, ‘The Historic Trempealeau Hotel’. It sits at the base of a hill with the great Mississippi to look at through the windows of the restaurant or your room windows. The food at the restaurant is among the best you’re going to find in all of Wisconsin. They locally source their organic dishes do veggie, vegan, or not if that’s your preference.  The hotel is listed as a haunted hotel, but I haven’t ever experienced anything like that. It is a period hotel in that you share two bathrooms with the rest of the floor. However don’t let that stop you from experience this place. It’s a wonderfully comfortable environment with great people, food, music, drinks, and a solid nights rest.

     The next morning we awoke to bird songs and sunshine. We had all day to hike around before moving on to the next adventure. We hiked along the bluffs and meadows and took a lot of video’s. Have a look at the video to see just where we went.

Wishing you all the best.

Trevor and Elissa

14 August, 2017

Gooseberry Falls


Today's entry is a short video about our journey to the famous Gooseberry Falls in way northern Minnesota.  We were so excited to be there that we forgot to take video shots, so this video is a smallish (under three minute) montage of our photo's.
We hope you like it.

Keep the shiny side up.
Trevor & Elissa Marty

31 July, 2017

Camper Vans Maiden Voyage

     Hey gang!! I hope that you're doing very very well today.
Elissa and I have spent that last week on the road. We've traveled in our little van through out Minnesota and a good section of Wisconsin as well. Here's what we did day by day and we have a guest writer too. My wife Elissa makes her writing debut here today.
At the bottom you will find Part one and part two of the video of the first stop on our trip. Nerstand Big Woods Minnesota State park.
Monday the 24rth:
    The van had an appointment with the mechanic aka “The Van Dr.” after coming back with a clear bill of health we hit the road. It was sometime in the afternoon. Our spirits were high and the van was driving like a dream albeit a sixteen year old one with a ton of rust under him. We thought of it more as a sweet sixteen.
    Our first goal was a Minnesota State Park called Nerstrand Big Woods. Our GPS brought us on county roads and single lane highways. Corn, farms, beans, and cattle lined the roads on both sides. The sun was happily shining down on our day.
The town of Nerstrand is quiet and has a listed number of people just over two hundred.
The park is down a gravel road which comes just after the town and at its border is a series of large solar panels. You can’t miss them. After checking in we drove down one of those smallish camping one ways. It was really nice. We immediately felt the stress from our lives drop away as the leaves from the trees surrounded us in a sort of Great Earth Mother hug. There’s nothing like that feeling.
    I will admit to being a bit nervous about backing our big van into place. I don’t have all that much experience driving these over sized vehicles around; however, I did fine. There weren’t a whole lot of people there because it was early on in the week, and we loved that. It’s not that we hate our own species we just don’t like them all that much. The rangers here are very helpful and nice, but before I forget Elissa would love for me to talk about the bathrooms. I think I’ll let her do that though.
I went to Nerstrand Big Woods for one day and we walked their trails. They are beautiful and the hidden falls I highly recommend seeing if  you get chance. As a woman wanting a clean restroom while traveling is important in my opinion. The restrooms were very clean and well maintain as well as the showers.
Okay, I’m back.
    That first night sleeping in the van went pretty well, but early in the morning there was a crazy storm. Hail, lightning, thunder, wind, and heavy rain fell on the van and his solar panels. Woody kept Elissa, Marley, and I safe and sound. Here’s where I bring up something I should have done. There are several types of sound proofing on the market. Some very expensive and some not so expensive. Whatever your budget allows I would say put some on the roof before you insulate it. I love the sound of rain on a tin roof too, but hail and a huge rain storm is a bit much.
    The park sports several hikes. These have varying degrees of difficulty. We went on as many as we could find and they were all terrific. Bridges, butterfly’s, birds, nature, and hardly any mosquitos.

Tuesday: Gooseberry Falls
    We took the long way because we’d heard that 35 north through the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis is under long term construction and will have delays for the next four years. We figured it’d be prettier to see more corn fields then to see a semis rear end. Gooseberry Falls is a long way from Norstrand, but is way worth the drive. When we finally got there we had another beautiful spot. I backed in like a pro this time even as the jeers and cat calls of the birds echoed off the trees which sheltered us. The spot had a beautiful open center which allowed for star watching and yet the tree’s were around enough to shelter us. It really was a prime spot. On the other side of the park road was a water source and we were maybe a hundred yards from the bathrooms. Beyond the water source was a paved combination bicycle path and walking path and just beyond that was a smallish path our to a rock outcropping and cliff which faced the great Lake Superior. We couldn’t have asked for a better spot.  Here again they had hikes for all abilities, and the ones I was one were very wheelchair accessible. We had a lot of luck here and didn’t have a single mosquito. This is where I hooked up our solar panels for the first time. In the morning I made coffee and hooked everything up. It went very well and was easier then I expected. We hadn’t used the house battery all that much to this point because we were using our Lucy Lights which are crazy crazy bright and wonderful. We had drained it a bit though and the solar panels did a great job of topping it off.
Gooseberry Falls State Park was great. The lake was near our camp site and it is a gorgeous lake! The restrooms were ok for being an old park. I thought that they could definitely use a couple more showers and the cleanliness of the restrooms was ok for being big park.

     We drove into Wisconsin and visited my father. I’m not going to say where he lives, but it was very nice and we had a good time. Except he had a lot of mosquitos. What I will say is that those Lucy Lights work great for mosquito killers. You won’t find a better one.

Thursday Trempealeau, Wi. and Perrot State Park:
    The roads from my fathers place to Trempealeau were beautiful curvy, hilly Wisconsin backroads. That part of Wisconsin is known for this and it didn’t disappoint. The sun was shining in, the temperature was perfect. Picture yourself in a big van doing about sixty mph with the windows down and the radio off. (It doesn’t work) Traveling down windy backroads. Perfect. It just doesn’t get any better.
    Perrot State Park is a place I am very familiar with because right across the Mississippi is my hometown of Winona, Mn. We went here all the time, but living right across the river I had never camped here. Boy, was I missing out and now Perrot is one of my favorite camping spots. We parked on the lower loop. The whole east side of the spot was filled with trees and the western side had the start of meadow. Which means that the morning sun was a lot more dappled then the afternoon which beat down a bit more still it was a great spot. We had a water source across the road from us and a pit toilet down the a bit. Here again the trails were accessible to most and everyone we met was very friendly.
    I had a gig at the Historic Trempealeau Hotel that night which is a spot not to be missed. They have five star food in a quaint restaurant and bar. It is also a high spot of the musical community, so if you’re able to see music there you can guarantee it will be among the best.
    That night we ventured out of our little van and saw the most stars either of us had seen in long long time but the sky had a surprise for us. As we stood there a shooting star screeched by.  It was a perfect almost end to a week of camping and driving the van.

Here’s Elissa again for her take on Perrot and it’s bathrooms.
    Perrot State Park has awesome trails. I didn't get to use the showers in this park, but I used a pit toilet. For a pit toilet I thought it was very clean well maintained. There wasn't a nasty smell like most pit toilets have.

Me again:
    Friday we stayed at a hotel in La Crosse, Wi. There happened to be a big bunch of stuff going on there as well. Street fairs, live music, and tons of happy joyous people of all ages wandering around getting to know one another.
It was nice sleeping in a king size bed and having tons of wifi and cell coverage.

Saturday Morning:
    We drove back with a last quick stop at the Great River Bluffs Minnesota state park. It is just off of I90 by Nodine, Mn. Its very easy to get to and sports incredible vistas of the Mississippi river it’s backwaters and the far western side of Wisconsin. Great meadows, and woods to walk in.
    Now it’s Sunday as I write this and I have to admit to being both glad to be home and wishing we were still in the van. I promised you a few of the things we found we need to adjust to our van/camper. Here they are in no particular order.

  1. The solar. We weren’t going to mount it on the roof and just put it out where ever we found ourselves. This has changed. I still like the idea of keeping them in the van so we can park in the shade and put them in the sun. However they are pretty bulky and took up to much space, so on the roof they go.
  2. A cooler versus a fridge While the cooler worked just fine I have to admit to thinking a small 12 volt fridge would be better. All of our food got wet from ice melt. We had to throw away to much food and we both hate that.
  3. Shelves I didn’t build any shelves for a number of reasons and I think this has to change. We found ourselves stumbling around and hitting into each other because of the stuff sitting on the floor. Everything was very chaotic at first. This is probably also because we had brought to many things along.
  4. Lastly Screens It is important to be able to keep the windows open so that it doesn’t get to stuffy and hot in the van at  night, but you don’t want mosquitos getting in and ruining your good time. We have them, but I think they need to be worked on a bit more.

Part One:
Part Two:

Well this was our journey and I hope we take many many more in our little camper/van ‘Woody’.
Keep building your dreams and keep the shiny side up.

24 July, 2017

Unboxing & We Hit the Road

Unboxing Solar Panels & Our plans for the next week.

Saturday, our solar panels arrived in the mail. They are two 100 watt panels and they’re beautiful. I am excited to put them into service for us and see the sunlight turn into energy. It feels great to start a journey into this beautiful renewable future.

Elissa and I are also announcing that we are going on our first biggie journey in ‘Woody’ the Van. Now, we aren’t going to be telling you where we are going specifically till after we’re there. Suffice it to say we will be traveling throughout the state of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The van has an appointment with the van Dr. we hope everything goes well and we are given the all clear to go on our probably 1000 mile journey.
Keep your ears on good buddies. We’ll be updating the instagram. Look for hashtag "Traveling with the Martys".

17 July, 2017

Watch out! He's got a torch!!!

Okay so it's just a joke; although, I do have a torch and I use it in this video.

There are several thing that I have never done and while doing this project have had to learn how to do them. Several meaning lots. For instance. I had to remove a rear heating and a/c unit from the van, I had to insulate it, put paneling up, drill holes through my precious (the van), and by no means the last of the challenges....making battery cables.
Now, having never done this before I did what any sensible person would do....I went to Youtube. After watching a few 'blowhards' I decided I can do it to.  Heck if they can do it so can I.
Spoiler alert Spoiler Alert!
I did do it, and everything is fine, but just like a Greek or Roman tragedy that you already know the ending to. It's the telling of the tale that matters.
Pull up your chairs, refresh your coffee and hit play.
Don't forget....he's got a Torch!!!!

Keep the shiny side up.