Keep Calm and Eat Poutines

I come from the USA.  And while there are many words to describe the people of this great country, it always seems easiest to describe Americans when you are outside of America.  Americans exude an unparalleled enthusiasm I have not seen anywhere else I have traveled.  Of course, this does not apply to everyone, but there is general excitement that Americans bring to the table.  We aren’t ashamed to show our emotions when we see something cool like fireworks, a great performance from a musician, or even just a movie.  Americans also do not have a problem showing their enthusiasm in other, more annoying ways like being the loudest drunks at the bar, or simply being nosy.  So when we headed to French-Canada, I was interested to see what type of enthusiasm we would encounter.  

We got to Quebec City and found a parking lot downtown. Although we were really worried that the parking attendant wouldn’t want the likes of Rhonda in their lot, he gladly said we could stay for 24 hours–for a small fee of course.  After an awesome pancake breakfast that Vanessa made we ventured out to see the city on bike.  We needed the internet so we headed to a little cafe/restaurant.  We probably spent 3 hours at that restaurant and the family that owned the place never once seemed annoyed that we only ordered coffee.  They just stuck to what they were doing and let us be.

Montmorency Falls in Quebec City.
Montmorency Falls in Quebec City.

 

The next day we headed south towards Montreal, driving along the St. Lawrence River.  It was a straight shot, and so at some point we just decided to turn left.  The street we ended up on was right next to a park, about 100 feet from the water.  We parked and checked out the park.  Nobody batted an eye as we exited Rhonda with some beers and headed to a grassy area near the water.  After drinking some beers I went and shot hoops while Vanessa watched a local soccer game.  It was heaven. We ended up making dinner as a men’s league baseball game was played on the field next to where we were parked.  Nobody minded as we took our lawn chairs out and ate our stir-fry while watching the game.  There were no weird looks, and nobody asked us what the hell we were doing.  The next morning we spent two hours with the generator on so we could vacuum Rhonda and get cleaned up.  Again, everyone there let you be.  And the people we did meet had such a calm, pleasant demeanor.  

Catching a game somewhere in Canada
Catching a game somewhere in Canada

Montreal was where you really got a feel for how placid the French-Canadiens were.  We parked one mile from downtown and there was an International Fireworks show happening right where we parked.  Vanessa, my friend Stu Gotz, and myself were in awe of the fireworks display.  We were cheering and being enthusiastic and I swear, we were the only ones making any noise.  The show ended and we are sitting there talking about our favorite fireworks and everybody else just turned and left.  It was amazing!  The French-Canadiens just went on about their merry way.  Even as we sat outside Rhonda jamming out with my guitar, and families strolled by, nobody seemed to mind. (The other great part of Montreal is poutines. Basically perfectly cooked french fries smothered in gravy and cheese. We had about 5 pounds worth in 24 hours)

Montreal Fireworks
Montreal Fireworks

Vanessa jamming on the streets of Montreal
Vanessa jamming on the streets of Montreal

French-Canadiens never seemed to get too up or too down.  As Jim Zorn once said, “They stayed medium.”  Although I would never want to lose our enthusiastic approach to life there might be something to learn from these nice, placid French-Canadiens. As we were leaving Old Montreal to head back to Rhonda for the next leg of our trip we noticed a shirt hanging in the window of a store. Although we were too dumb to take a picture, the inscription aptly described French-Canada…”Keep calm and eat poutines.”

C’est vrai!  

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How To Cause a Traffic Jam In Maine

Maine!! Awesome for so many reasons.

One: it’s where I decided to get my nose pierced again.

 
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Reliving my younger days? Probably. And why not?

Two: we got to explore Portland, a magical place filled with pubs and live music next to water…to say we were in heaven would be an understatement.

Not only did we successfully boon dock right next to a beautiful spot in Camden….

Camden

….we met a bartender who just one week ago bought an RV named Lucille and is going on her own year long road trip this October. I mean I knew we would definitely find  other crazies,  I just didn’t know we would meet them so soon.

The weather is freaking heavenly and good old Rhonda is actually letting a breeze come through.

Despite the fact that we spotted only one whale for approximately two seconds on our four hour whale watching tour, we did get to see some random girl vomit.

 

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And also despite the fact that all we saw was fog when we trekked up Cadillac Mountain at 3 am to watch the sunrise, views on a clear day were unreal. Hiking in Acadia National Park was siiiick.

Acadia Hike

Views

But the craziest thing we saw was a bald eagle taking flight (warning: this picture is crap, but any one we post would not do it justice).

Eagle

Trust me, it was so damn cool it caused a full on traffic jam….

Traffic Jam

How could you not love Maine!?

Disney World In The Bronx

The Hoops and Hope Tour headed to NYC last week and we did two camps. Thursday, the 18th was in the Bronx, NY and Friday, the 19th was in Brooklyn.

The Bronx camp was at the Columbus Clubhouse of the Boys & Girls Club.
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Like in the other cities, the staff was ready to greet us upon arrival. We unloaded our stuff and prepared for the day.

Anthony Johnson is the club director there. What an inspirational leader they have in the Bronx. Anthony was born in Harlem, but moved to San Diego and grew up there. He played Division I football at Oregon State, but eventually made his way back to the east coast. The kids in the Bronx could not be luckier.

Anthony’s message to us was twofold. First, he was passionate about the role sports can play in the lives of youths. He said they have many kids at the club growing up in single parent homes. Anthony is convinced that no matter the circumstances sports is the great equalizer. Kids can learn the skills they need to succeed in life by getting on the court and playing. Secondly, he believed whole heartedly in making every day at the club seem like a day at Disney World. You see, Disney World is renowned for customer service and organization that refuses to allow anyone to have a bad day (as long as you don’t check your bank account statement while you’re there). He hired staff who saw the challenges of working with kids as fun. He wanted the kids and staff excited to come to the club every day, much like they would be if they were heading to Disney World.

bronx  2 kids

And trust me, for the day we were there that is how it felt. Their staff was on top of things, and helped out any way they could. The kids revered their athletic director, Marcus, who was instrumental in making the camp a success.

We learned a lot that day in the Bronx. No matter where you live or what your circumstances are, good leadership and positive people will ensure kids of all backgrounds have a chance to reach their potential and live the lives they dream of.

I guess that is what the Hoops and Hope Tour is all about.

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As High Maintenance As They Come!

I finally know what it’s like to have a high maintenance girlfriend!

It has only been two weeks and I can say with sheer confidence that I’ve never met anyone as high maintenance as Rhonda. She is mentally and physically exhausting.

Granted some of it is not her fault, but everything is work. We have to constantly monitor water and bathroom visits because too much means it’s time to empty water tanks. And trust me, even though he claims it smells like roses, Brett’s waste certainly does not.

Every time it rains we have to tarp her, which is as exhausting as it sounds! One morning we frantically woke up hearing rain drops and without thinking about it we sprang out of bed at 2 a.m. Scrambling to find our head lamps in the dark, Brett sprang up the now slippery ladder and got on the roof to put the tarp down while I was on the ground attaching the bungee chords. He would be yelling directions but through the torrential downpour it was hard to hear. At this point putting the tarp on has become a timed challenge. Can we do it faster than the last time? Can we pull it tight so the rain drops off the sides? Gotta keep sweet Rhonda dry.

If we come upon a bridge, there could be issues.

With the unbearable heat, living in Her Heiness is especially tough. At times it is so hot and so uncomfortable its been tough to get restful sleep. Pretty sure we are keeping Duracell in business with all the batteries we use for our hand held fans. We’ve also figured out that frozen margarita drinks are great pillows too.

Sweet tan line
Sweet tan line

We have been very busy with the Hoops and Hope Tour, frantically running errands, buying things for Rhonda that it becomes difficult to eat right. Unless a steady diet of Combos and 1000 Grand Bars is a well balanced meal (ok, we are exaggerating a bit. We have also eaten fajitas and other good stuff).

Did I mention it’s been SO HOT!!!

But we are definitely getting the hang of it and MOST DEFINITELY couldn’t have done it without friends along the way:

David and Lizzie Assa
Becky and Mike Iaconnelli
Dave and Becky Kronman
Chad and Stacy Wain

If your name has not been mentioned and you live anywhere near The Route, we are coming for you!!

I guess you can say, I am beginning to feel like we are nailing this whole RV living thing! Is this unconditional love? I think so.

Written by Vanessa with slight, slight editing by Brett

Hoops and Hope in the Hamptons, NY

In our previous post about the basketball camp in Camden, NJ we failed to mention why we were able to run the camp in the first place. I work for One on One Basketball in Maryland. I am the Regional Director. One on One Basketball has offices all throughout the USA, and I have decided to move to another city (probably Austin, TX) to start a new office. Instead of driving straight to Austin we came up with the idea for the Hoops and Hope Tour. We set up one day camps in different cities throughout the USA, all sponsored by One on One. We have partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA’s, and other organizations to run these camps. Camden, NJ was our first stop.

Our second stop was East Hamptons, NY. We partnered with The Hampton Country Day Camp and were set to run things on Tuesday, July 16th. On the 15th we biked from our campsite over to the camp. Dave Skolnik is the Camp Director, and he was our main contact. Upon arriving Dave greeted us with open arms and gave us a tour of the facilities. It’s a beautiful camp and the first thing we noticed was how well staffed it was. Dave told us if you include all staff it’s about a 3:1 staff:camper ratio. This is unheard of.

The next day we came to do the camp and met the head basketball guy Jake. Jake was a high school player and worked during the summer because he loves hoops, but mostly because the kids are so great.

And let me tell you, I understand why Jake loves to coach these kids. The kids in the Hamptons blew us away. They were enthusiastic, appreciative, and absolutely loved the game of basketball. We had an awesome day running drills, doing shooting contests, games, and of course, knockout. Even though I knocked out every kid in front of me, nobody complained it was “unfair” like at a lot of other camps I’ve been to. These kids were just excited to be on the court.
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Some people might think it’s odd that we went from Camden, NJ to the Hamptons. Why would kids in the Hamptons need anything from us? We aren’t worried about things like that. We just want to run these camps, have fun, and give back to kids wherever we can. And the kids in the Hamptons could not have been more deserving. With an awesome staff led by Dave, they have done an amazing job instilling important values in each and every one of them through a little acronym called STARFISH. STARFISH stands for: Sportsmanship, Tolerance, Appreciation, Respect, Friendship, Integrity, Sensitivity, Helpfulness.

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All of these values were on hand in one way or another and we were so inspired to be a part of it.

Next stop on the Hoops and Hope Tour will be in the Bronx, NY Thursday July 18th.

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Posted by Brett

Hey Dummies, I’m 10’6″!

Well, just when I thought my two friends could not get any dumber…..

So, I am 10’6″ of pure woman. So, when we come to bridges that are under 10’6″ it is prudent to find a different route. That is, unless, your name is Brett Isaacson. You see, Brett seems to think he is an expert on how high things are because he works on a basketball court and he knows how high ten feet is because all b-ball hoops are ten feet tall.

So, brilliant Brett will simply jump up and if he can touch something with his fingers he knows its ten feet. That’s because he knows he can jump up and touch the rim on a basketball court (so maybe white men can jump, but they sure as shit ain’t smart). So, back to the story. Brett and his other brilliant friend David Assa decide to do the jump test at this bridge that says 10’1″. Brett does not come close to touching it and so he surmises it must be 11 feet tall, at least.

There’s definitely no chance it could be that Brett is getting old and maybe he can’t jump up to ten feet as easily as he used to.

So, with the jump test complete, my two captains decide it’s time to head under the bridge. And voila, we actually make it unscathed. Fast forward one week, and we are back in the same neighborhood but coming from the other direction. Well, Vanessa and Brett think: we made it under once, surely we will make it under the bridge again. Without doing the jump test from this side of the road they simply put the pedal to the metal and hurdle me forward.

Halfway under the bridge…BAM!!!

We all hear a loud screeching noise. I haven’t felt pain like that since my 1st time….driving. We luckily don’t get stuck and make it through. Vanessa was driving so she pulls over and Brett climbs onto my leaky roof (that’s a whole other story) and sees the damage.

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The cover to the A.C. vent was cracked but luckily that is all. Hopefully these two numb nuts will learn. 10’6″ is greater than 10’1″ no matter how many jump tests you do.

Feeling at Home in Camden, New Jersey

Camden, New Jersey. What do you think about when you hear someone mention this city? Probably what I used to think. Guns. Drugs. Untapped potential. But that was the old me. The person who had never driven down Federal Ave. to the Boys & Girls Club of Camden County or cruised down 7th Street to the North Camden Community Center. I had never hung out with Jose Martinez, his brother Ray, or Guy Still. I had never hung out with over a hundred kids ages 6-13 who were the same as any other 6-13 year olds in the country. Nor had I been part of a one day basketball tournament for young men ages 16-24. Many of them in college studying to be businessmen or engineers or broadcasters.

This is the Camden that I know now. A city where those with opportunity are taking full advantage, and there is a pride for all things Camden. So what exactly did we do? We got to run a one day basketball camp at the Boys & Girls Club of Camden County and met some awesome men and women, including Guy Still, the Director of the Club. Guy was born and raised in Camden, left to work in the entertainment industry, but came back because he wanted to help his community. He is the director at what has quickly become a pillar of the Camden community.

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Saturday was spent helping Ray and Jose Martinez run a one day basketball tournament for young men ages 16-24. The camp was in honor or Ray’s son, who was also named Ray. The younger Ray died tragically in 2009 from unnecessary violence. From the stories we heard, Ray Jr. was an amazing young man full of promise and talent, especially on the basketball court. Instead of blaming the world for such a tragedy, Ray and his brother Jose started a basketball league in his son’s honor. This basketball league helps keep kids off the streets, steers them away from a life of violence, and in a number of cases into college.

When asked about the sullen circumstances surrounding the creation of his league, Ray looked straight at me and said he believes his son Ray helped the lives of hundreds of kids as well. He said one died but 80 have lived because of their league.

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The mayor of Camden, Miss Dana Redd, even came out to watch the games. This is the Camden I know now and I encourage anyone who is going near there to contact me so you can meet some of these amazing humans.

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Posted by Brett

Cape May, New Jersey – First Official Boon Docking Night.

So on this trip, money is tight. For those that do not know what boon docking is, it’s basically not wanting to pay $60 a night to stay at an RV camp site and instead finding a random street to park Rhonda on.

The beauty of boon docking is that we can conveniently park close to places that we want to hang out. From parking practically on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach to staying a block away from the fun bars at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, Brett and I have become pretty good at this.

Cape May is our first official boon docking night on this road trip. Close enough to walk to the beach tomorrow morning, yet far enough in a residential area where it’s quiet and comfortable. It seems beach towns are prime spots for boon docking. Maybe it’s the fact there are more renters who don’t give a shit or maybe people at the beach are generally more laid back. The ocean seems to have that effect on towns.

We know that in some places boon docking is illegal and in most placed frowned upon. This is why we are very courteous when we boon dock. We make sure all the lights are shut off.

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We also never run the generator or think about starting the car (AIR CONDITIONER) even when the temperature reaches 100 degrees in the middle of the night. A few nights ago, we were so desperate to sleep that we resorted to placing frozen margarita drinks on our bodies to ease the pain!

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But we’ve met some amazing people like the lady in Virginia Beach who graciously let us park in front of her house and allowed us to use her garden hose to fill Rhonda’s water tank. We’ve also got in a slight bit of trouble like the time we slept in a church parking lot. In our defense, we weren’t planning on boon docking if it hadn’t been for the torrential rain we hit while driving and felt it be safer to pull off. It actually was quite interesting (and as a Catholic very disheartening) that the first words to come out of that priest’s mouth was “This is private property!” and not “Are you guys OK?”

Well, i guess it’s safe to say that boon docking is definitely just one part of the adventure.

A Vanessa post.

Sayeed To The Rescue

Well folks, it has finally happened. My carpet got laid for the first time since 1997, and it does, indeed, match the drapes. I forgot what getting your carpet laid feels like. I feel like a brand new woman! Like I can go anywhere and do anything. Sayeed, the man who laid my carpet, was so gentle and it lasted just over two hours. Not gonna lie, it felt amazing! And now my carpet is so fresh and clean.

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I am one lucky lady, and I can’t wait to show my carpet to anyone who wants to hop on board!

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Does My Carpet Match The Drapes?

All I wanted was my carpet to be laid! My carpet stinks.

Old Carpet

I’m not gonna lie, I’m so embarrassed that I don’t even want anybody coming inside me anymore. My cousin Winnebago just had real hard wood floors placed inside her and she loves it!

This is a big trip for me. Any self respecting, classy lady wants to look and feel her best when it counts. I just got brand new curtains and all I want is my carpet to match the drapes.

new drapes

Is that really too much to ask?

So I found a guy online and had a date all set up for Monday at 8 a.m. sharp! And poor old Rhonda, I was stood up! He didn’t even call!!!! I would have probably given him another chance if his excuse was creative enough.

Now I still have dirty old carpet and because of the Fourth of July weekend, finding someone to lay it is proving difficult.:/

posted by another rant by Rhonda.