We Drive

We Drive

Traveling Thursdays
August 23, 2018

Scott and I drive a lot when we do our travels. There are 3,144 counties in the United States and we intend to pass through each of them; driving tends to be the way we are best able to do this. It enables us to stop and visit a town, getting to experience the people, their foods, and their culture. This is a bit slower than flight, but we both feel the hours getting to a destination is well worth it when we see the colored in space on the maps.

When we decide to go on what we call “Collecting Grab” trips, we sit down with Google maps or even a paper road map to plan the best route there and back going through as many different counties as possible. This often means never taking the same road twice. It is extremely rare for us to take the major highways or toll road unless we need to get through previously collected counties.

If we are on trips that are more than a day trip, we will fill our SUV up with delicious food, changes of clothing, and hammock/sleeping gear. While Scott is at work, I am able to get everything together and packed away; this enables me to pick him up as soon as his workday is finished and we can be on the road towards our destination.

Since we started doing these three to four-day trips to cover as much ground as possible we find National Forests and State Parks that are along our route to rest when we can no longer drive. We will pull in to a camping area and set up our hammocks or, due to weather, we will inflate the air mattress and sleep in the back of the SUV. Both are quick to set up and take down so we are able to pull off the road as late as we need and leave as soon as we can minutes after we have woken up.

One of the things we find ourselves saying when we travel is that it is never a true adventure until we have left the pavement. Surprisingly, this happens to us a lot. We have been driving along a perfectly good paved road when “BLAM!” we have crossed onto a gravel road. These roads, however, have been some of the most beautiful places and there is almost always a surprise waiting for us.

Yes, we drive a lot. This means gas is our largest expense when we are on the road. Because of our style of travel we do and not needing to use a hotel room, we are able to afford it. There have been times we needed to stay at a roadside hotel or motel, but we will stay in the most inexpensive place we can. We have been able to find some really awesome deals at Priceline Express Deals. However, a room with a view is a very rare occurrence for us.

Scott and I enjoy driving along the county roads within our country. This has enabled us to see what each state has to offer its people and how the people live and celebrate their lives. We love the miles we put behind us on the roads we drive upon no matter if they are paved, gravel, or dirt. We enjoy the adventure of having our expectations changed because the trip shows us so much more to a place. Yes, we drive, a lot; but, it is what we love to do.

Safe travels to you,
Ren

Time For The Change

Time For The Change

Normally on Traveling Thursdays, we put up a post about one of our favorite travels, but today we wanted to share something that we feel is huge.  Over the past few months, I have been trying to decide if we needed to change the name of our website so it was more relevant to what we do; however, I kept putting it off because neither Scott or myself had a clue what to rename the site.  Too often we threw out a name and it just wouldn’t feel right until about a month ago.

At one time, hand embroidery was my life. I would spend hours, often eight to twelve hours, sitting in a chair doing nothing but embroidery. My eventual goal was to travel to Ireland and learn Mountmellick Embroidery from the people who created the style. I had planned to use this website “Stitch’n Travel” to document that journey. Unfortunately, this was never to happen. As we went about our days, we began traveling to Texas State Parks and eventually began planning a move from a 2,000 square foot house to a 122 square foot RV. We found ourselves traveling to as many counties in Texas as possible. Eventually, we found we had a new travel goal, to visit every county in the United States.

Because the website really is dedicated to our collecting of United States’ counties, we knew a name change was needed.  After a few weeks of searching, we came across a name that said exactly what we do, Cross County Travel. This was a perfect name for the website enabling people and web searches to find us a bit easier.  Now that we decided to make the change, it was time to get everything switched online.

You can find us on Twitter as CrossCountyTravelers (@xcountytravelr).

You can find us on Instagram as crosscountytravelers.

Then there is Facebook. You can find us at @crosscountytravelers and Stitch’n Travel.  Yes, you read that right.  Facebook is giving me a total headache on this name change.  They are saying that the name change does not represent what the page is about.

I have appealed this decision and hope they will change the name to Cross County Traveler. As soon as we get the name changed, we will let you know.

We hope you all understand the reasons we have made the change and that it is not too frustrating for you all. You will be able to continue using http://stitchntravel.com for the next year, but we ask you bookmark our new address at http://crosscountytravelers.com.  Thank you all so much for sticking with us and following us as we journey from county to county. We appreciate every one of you and love that you are traveling along with us.

Safe Travels,
Ren

We’re Finished With Arkansas! July 12 – 14, 2018

We’re Finished With Arkansas! July 12 – 14, 2018

Traveling Thursday
July 19, 2018

Well, not exactly. After driving 4,500 miles within the state borders of Arkansas, we have successfully been through all 75 counties. It has taken about a year and a half, but it is finally done. However, we are not exactly finished with the state. Even though we have driven through 75 counties, photographed 27 county courthouses, visited 12 of the state parks, walked about 3 of the National Park sites, and enjoyed both of the National Forests, there is still many more things to do and places to see.  So why, exactly are we saying we are “finished with Arkansas” when there is more to see?  We have been busy doing what we call “collecting counties.”

In 2014 when we decided to start working towards moving into an RV to live fulltime, we were living in a 2,000 square foot house. Scott had a huge collection of books that were shelved in his study and the living room, while I collected craft supplies, nick nacks, and everything else for no reason. We had so many things we were overwhelmed at what to do with it. After two garage sales, many trips to the donation centers, and deciding we would not collect anything else, we were able to move into an RV.  However, we still had an urge to collect things; isn’t that what we do, collect things to remind us of our travels and loved ones? Unfortunately, living in 122 square feet does not allow us to do this. We decided in 2015 we would start collecting counties in Texas since that was where we were living, but soon we found ourselves traveling to more places than the Lone Star State. The other states had to be included in this collection, it could not be limited to just one state; so we decided all 3,144 counties across the United States would be our goal.

In order to accomplish this goal, we have to do what’s called “county grabs.” This is when we sit down with the map and plan out a driving trip where we can get as many counties as possible in the amount of time we have available. Ths means, we do our best not to drive the same route home as we left. This may seem like a difficult thing to do, but we have found it is much easier than you would think. Unfortunately, this means we will not be able to always photograph the county courthouse of every county, but we have come to accept this fact; it’s just part of the traveling long distances without crossing back where we have been. Scott does his best when planning a county grab to get as many courthouses for me as possible and I call these photographs “the cherry on top!”  If we are going to be near a state or national park, we will make sure to put those detours in the plan. There are over 10,000 state parks in the U.S. so we try to hit the parks up as much as possible on these trips. Often we are only able to do a drive-through, but we get the traditional sign photo and drive every road that is publically accessible. If the travel is multiple days, we will try to stay overnight in one of them. Since we have fixed the SUV up to sleep in or have the hammocks with us, the sleeping situation can be quick to set up and just as quick to take down. This has enabled us to cross off many state parks, which is another thing we tend to “collect.”

We actually did not plan to finish Arkansas’ counties as quickly as we did; it just happened. One holiday we decided to take the long route home and we drove along the western side of the state back towards Texas. Another holiday some of the Oklahoma family were not well, so the time we would have spent with them was spent visiting the Eureka Springs area. This meant we would have to find another route home since we were not going to go back home via Oklahoma Highway 75. We ended up visiting the Buffalo National River area and, during another trip, the Hot Springs area.  Once we sat down and looked at the counties we had already driven through, we knew this state would be finished soon. With this in mind, Scott sat down and made a route for us to get the most counties in the shortest amount of time. Scott, our dog Cordie and I packed up and headed out that November 16th; we were on a mission to get the last 24 counties we had left. Unfortunately, time was not on our side and there were six counties left in the middle of the state.

Since November we have been back to Arkansas, but not as much to grab the last counties as to experience what the Natural State has to offer in the way of people, culture, and nature. Often we have day tripped to places like Siloam Springs to enjoy the spring festivals, mark off a state park or three, or just enjoy the beautiful mountains where Scott’s Aunt Freda lives. Staying in hotels tend to be pricey and Scott and I don’t always agree where to stay. He is always looking for the best deals to make our budget stretch, while I want to stay in the Bed & Breakfasts or resorts. Needless to say, we have yet to stay in a B&B or resort; most of the time, if we are not camping, we are staying in a dog-friendly Motel 6. Cordie goes along with us most of the time if we do not plan to stop for long periods of time; this makes traveling a little difficult sometimes, especially if we are planning to visit a museum or go out for a meal. Fortunately, our daughter enjoys having a small lap dog around and she will watch Cordie for us.

At this point, we decided to collect our last six remaining counties in Arkansas. Because we had plans for Saturday evening, we needed to make it a quick trip so Scott took off Friday and we headed out to Freda’s Thursday after he was finished with work. Since we have collected the counties so close to the area we live in, we have at least two to three-hour drives to get to any new counties enabling us to utilize the highways and toll roads we normally would not think of taking. We prefer to take the roads less traveled and not to take the same road twice, if able. Having been to Freda’s so often, we are to this point, but we were able to get to Fort Smith within a matter of hours so we were able to kick around this city for a bit and still make it to Freda’s before 10:00 pm!  This enabled us to get a good nights sleep and be able to head out in time for Scott to get some great photos.

Because we left so early on Friday morning we were able to do more than just drive through the six counties, we were able to visit seven Arkansas State Parks and get photos of all the county courthouses. It was an amazing day for us and by the time we reached our fifth state park, we had driven through all six counties. We took a few moments and did a short Live Video on Facebook and made the announcement. Both of us were extremely excited. Not only did this give us the 75 counties in Arkansas, but it meant we had visited 414 counties out of the 3,144 counties in the United States; this means we are 13% of the way!  We can now focus on completing other states such as Oklahoma where we only have 17 counties left or up towards Kansas or Missouri. But it also enables us to be able to look deeper at Arkansas and truly see what more there is. We can slow down and really focus on this one state and enjoy places we have passed saying, “We will be back for you soon.”  Our eventual goal is to be back to living in an RV spending weeks, if not a couple of months, in different regions really learning what is in each area. These county grabs give us an opportunity to scout out the places and know what more we want to see, do and experience.

Yes, this is a huge undertaking. However, it is not the destination that is important for us, it is the journey. This type of travel enables us to see the United States and appreciate everything it has to offer. We have made friends in places we never thought we would ever get to go, but because we have decided to get outside of our box, our neighborhood, we have been able to experience so much more culture and diversity. We could not do some of the travel through without people like Aunt Freda. She has allowed us to use her home as a jumping off point for our explorations.  Without her, we would not have been able to complete the collection of the Arkansas counties so quickly.  (Thanks so much Aunt Freda!  We love you!)

Travel is what you make of it. For some, it is business travel to far off destinations; for others, it is going to the lake a few hours from their home. For us, it is collecting counties and the county courthouses while getting to experience new things. It has gotten us out of our box and that’s an amazing thing. Arkansas is the first state for us to complete visiting all of its counties. This has enabled us to see her mountains, her forests, her deltas, her lakes, and her rivers. We have loved every road we have driven and cannot wait to drive them again someday. Please celebrate this small thing with us and join us on our next county grab.

See you soon, safe travels,
Ren

Surprises Along The Road

Surprises Along The Road

Traveling Thursday
July 12, 2018

Driving along one of the tree-lined state highways in a destination we have no idea where. I have to pull over and am in a rush to get out of the SUV.  Both Scott and I are stunned to see something so unexpected, so surprising.  This is not a one-time thing for us; this happens every time we travel. This is what I believe Ruskin Bond was talking about when he said “The adventure is not the getting somewhere, it’s the on-the-way experience. It is not the expected: it’s the surprise.”

Recently we went on a waterfall hunt in Kansas.  Yes, there are waterfalls in Kansas, but that is another Traveling Thursday story… someday.  Anyway!  As we were on this waterfall hunt, we found something extremely surprising. We found a State Park that was no longer a state park. That’s right Cowley County State Park was no longer a Kansas State Park due to the state not being able to afford the upkeep so they gave it to the county. This may seem drastic, but we have come across this many times. Oklahoma has at least three former state parks, Okmulgee, Adair, and Walnut Creek, that now belong the county or city it resides. Fortunately, the county and the city were able to keep these parks open, but not all state parks are that lucky. We have come across a couple of signs that state there is an Oklahoman State Park “next right” only to find there is not a park to be found.  We spent a full afternoon searching for Rocky Ford State Park but it was nowhere to be found; it was just gone.  However, if you look at Google Maps, there it is! Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Google hasn’t taken it away, but it sure was surprising.

In the fall of 2017, we did a massive county grab in Arkansas and there were some pretty wonderful surprises for us, but we both agree that the best experience was our drive through the St Francis National Forest. We needed to get from Philips County to Lee County and instead of backtracking Scott insisted we take the gravel roads through. I was a bit nervous due to the fact that we were right along the Mississippi River and it was storming all around us. You see, I am not as brave as you would think with all this travel, cliff sitting and such, plus I have an imagination that would scare the pants off you. Because of this, all I could think was that the Mississippi was going to flood and take us, the SUV, and Cordie out to sea.  Yes, I know, but that, too, is another story for another time. Anyway! As we drove along the tree-lined road we came across a sign that said “Louisana Purchase Baseline Survey 1815”. Suddenly I began getting very excited at the thought that we were touching history. We were driving in the place where the frontier began. It was making the history I learned in school come alive and become very real making it a special experience. This touching history is one of the reasons I love to travel; it wakes me up, shakes me to the core because it reminds me of where we have been as a nation.

How often are you driving down the road and you see something that just blows your mind?  It happens to us way too often. We had taken a trip from the Eureka Springs area in Northwest Arkansas down the middle of the state along the Buffalo National Scenic River area the end of 2016. We knew Arkansas was a beautiful state, but it seemed to surprise us every turn this trip. Neither of us had ventured in this area and the experiences were new and exciting. As we drove down past the George Ridge, we saw one of the prettiest sights. There was part of the Buffalo River running alongside the road cutting through the bedrock with a covered bridge crossing just above it. The sight caused us to pull over and spend a little time taking photos and admiring the wonder we stood upon. This would have been enough to have made the drive worth our time, but after a stop in the town of Ponca we headed out to visit the Lost Valley Trail but we were delayed due to yet another surprise, Elk. Elk in Arkansas!  I was stunned and Scott was taking hundreds of photos. I had no idea there were Elk here, but they are indigenous to the area, but their numbers were so low that it was thought they were completely lost.  However, in 1981 the Arkansas Game and Wildlife Commission created the Elk Restoration Project and they are back. There is something about seeing wildlife in nature that causes the heart to be joyful; it’s almost as if it is a signal from Mother Nature herself that there is hope.

Last year we were traveling from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Piggott, Arkansas, to bury my mother-in-law. She was unable to do much traveling due to a large family and, eventually, her health, but she loved watching our videos and reading our blog and Facebook posts about when we traveled. She told me once that she was traveling right alongside us in spirit.  This is one of the reasons I try to do Facebook posts as we are traveling. I wanted her to be able to enjoy the journey at the time we were taking it. Because of this, we took one long trip in her memory. We did as much as we could that trip; visiting one state park in every state we touched. We drove through Oklahoma (Two Bridges State Park), Kansas (Crawford State Park), Missouri (Big Oak Tree State Park), Illinois (Giant City State Park), Kentucky (Columbus-Belmont State Park), Tennesee (Reelfoot State Park), and Arkansas (Davidsonville State Historic Park). While we were driving to Giant City State Park in Illinois we crossed the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau heading toward McClure when a historic marker caught our attention. Needing to pull over for a stretching break, we thought this the best time.  It was at this rest stop that would bring us a huge surprise.

The historical marker explained that just south of where we stood was one of the original county courthouses for Alexander County. Of course, we were only about two miles from Thebes and we knew we would regret it if we didn’t take an hour and go see it.  Before heading into the center of town to see the courthouse, we stopped at the shoreline of the Mississippi. Looking back Scott points to the house on the ridge and comments what a wonderful view they must have of the river and train bridge. We decided to head up and see what type of view it was. To our amazement, the building turned out to be the very courthouse we had come to see! We were stunned because normally the county courthouses are massive and built with huge stones, statues, and belltowers; however, this courthouse was very humble in its appearance.  The stop charged us causing us to discuss and research (thank heavens for smartphones and a good cell phone signal) the history of Abraham Lincoln. We were further hyped up when we found we would be passing directly through Jonesboro, IL, where the third Lincoln-Douglas Debate occurred. Even though it was a short stop, we had to visit this National Historic Site.

Travel is meant to be an adventure. It is meant to inspire, encourage, and teach. If one travels and it does not cause one to rethink who they are and what their life means, then it is not being done correctly. You should allow yourself to be surprised on every roadtrip.

Safe travels y’all and see you next Traveling Thursday,
Ren

How Did I Get Here?

How Did I Get Here?

If you are a person with anxiety and fear everything, what do you do to better your life?  You step out of your comfort zone and ignore the anxiety and fear.  At least that was what I did on August 24, 2014, and I have found my life changed for the better.

August 24, 1014 - freedom

The Tulsa Zoo at Mohawk Park had a small amusement park nearby in the early 70’s. It was there I remember my first experience with fear and, to this day, it brings the butterflies in my belly and makes my hands sweat.  There was a small roller coaster that had children laughing and enjoying the thrill of the ups and downs.  I begged my parents to let me ride so Daddy climbed in with me saying it was going to be fun.  As the ride began it was slow and enjoyable, but quickly it escalated, and I was crying out for it to stop.  I recall the uncomfortable sinking feeling as the car raced up and down along the track.  I screamed for the ride to stop so I could get off the ride, but it felt the controller was intentionally going faster, and my father just laughed at me as I cried and felt myself urinate in fear.

photo-taken-by-jeffery-blum

I realize now that the ride was not increasing just to increase the uncomfortableness I was experiencing. Nor was my father laughing at my fear, but he was just enjoying the ride and having fun.  Unfortunately, because of my misconceptions as a child of four or five, I allowed that moment in time to rule my emotions.  This would cause me many, many years of anxiety and hold me hostage not allowing me to find the joys of experiencing new things.

Milam County Jail, Milam County Texas

Because of this fear, events that happened throughout my childhood would do nothing more than validate the emotions I had about the sinking feelings, causing frustration for me and the people who were part of my life. Unfortunately, my father seemed to be most affected by this situation.  He would often become angry and argue with me telling me I was never going to succeed at anything if I were too afraid.  This would further my anxiety causing me to become even more self-conscience of my failure and I would retreat further into anxiety.  I am not blaming my father for any of this; I have, over the past few years, come to understand what the catalyst was for the overactive anxiety and fear giving me the ability to start overcoming the issue.  Often when we come to understand the why of a situation, we can overcome and move forward.

martin creek lake hike

With all of this in mind, I am hoping you can see I was a ball of stress and worry.  Yes, I was, and still am, an extrovert who loves to spend time with people and enjoys being out and about.  However, fear caused me to worry so extremely that I was not able to enjoy the things of travel that most people are thrilled to experience.  I would dread the road trips to my grandparents because of the mountainous, curvy roads my parents drove; traveling in an airplane due to the takeoff, turbulence, and landings; visiting amusement parks and experiencing the vast amounts of gravity-defying rides; and so many other issues.  This state of irrational fear grew into a fear of the unknown and caused my “what if’s” to derail plans and visions of what tomorrow would bring.  Because of this, I missed out on many opportunities for fun, friendship, and success.

Paluxy River May, 2015

Since my life had become a string of fear induced failures, I had a very low self-esteem.  Because of this low self-esteem, I made poor choices and was unable to accomplish anything.  Between failed marriages, poor parenting choices, and a lack of commitment I was failing in most things I tried.  Fortunately, my husband Scott saw something in me and he gave me the opportunity to become the person I am today.  This, however, was a very rough road and his patience and encouragement are greatly appreciated.

Atychiphobia is when the fear of failure stops someone from doing things that can help one achieve his or her goals.  Everyone experiences a fear of failure, but when it interferes with a person’s ability to succeed, it becomes a problem.  This type of action can cause a person to never accomplish anything; that anything can be as simple as walking out the door to meet people to something as major as taking the steps needed to improve one’s career.  The fear is real and if a person does not work to break the cycle, it can ruin their life.  However, if a person is willing to fight self-doubt, self-hatred, and self-sabotage, they will be able to eventually succeed.

 

DSC04510

For me, my weapon to battle this issue is my husband Scott.  Through his persistence, patience, and encouragement, I can now see myself as someone other than a failure.  Because I can see myself as someone who can accomplish things, I am able to step out and face many of my fears.  This didn’t happen overnight; we were married in 2004 and it took him speaking positively constantly and encouraging me to try to overcome my fears.  I honestly had not realized this was what was happening, but over the past couple of years, I have found myself pushing myself when I start to be afraid.

Lost Valley Trail

One of the issues Scott dealt with concerning me was the not wanting to go out into the wilderness.  I would say, “I don’t like camping in a tent, on the ground.”  “There is nothing for me out of doors, just bugs and getting sweaty.” “I just don’t like to do that.”  When, in reality, I was afraid; afraid of everything.  I feared we would get lost if we hiked in the woods, die because of a crazed ax murderer, or, worst of all, come across a snake.

When Scott and I first met, we were in a medieval recreation organization name the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA for short). In this organization, we would camp in tents, but it was more like clamping with fluffy beds, pretty medieval clothing, and parties.  The camping Scott wanted to do afterward was the tent, sleeping bag, and out in the middle of the woods.  It terrified me.  He was wanting to be out in the wild with no people, no electricity, and snakes.  All I ever said was no.  I would always come up with an excuse, but finally, I couldn’t give him a good excuse.  So on August 24, 2014, we visited our very first Texas State Park.  Fort Richardson State Historic Site & Park in Jacksboro, Texas.

Walking into the main office, we introduced ourselves, found out the interesting places to visit, and paid our fee.  We then drove to the first area on the map, the hospital and grounds, and explored it all. Then we drove throughout the whole location and found there to be electricity, water, and civilized bathroom facilities.  The trails were clearly marked and everyone was very excited to see us. That was the beginning for my real fight against my fear.  It was time to force myself to not give in to fear any longer.

 

I found getting outside helped me battle the anxiety and depression along with sunshine.  There was just something about walking under the canopy of trees that seemed to not just lift my spirits, but helped to ease the depression that occurred.   Often we would walk the trails in the state parks enabling us to see the beauty we missed in town.  Not only spending time in the outdoors has helped, but the driving to get to the new locations and state parks has helped to ease the anxiety.  As we drive, I am able to focus on the journey.

 

Roman Nose State Park Inspiration Point

Needless to say, this is an ongoing issue, but isn’t that what life is all about?  I find that taking a few moments to enjoy the outdoors and challenging myself helps to take my mind off the scary things that try to take away my peace.