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The Great Blue Ridge Parkway Tour
(Part 2 - Heading South)
Sept. 25, 2007

 

 

 

Even though I haven't sent out many email updates, I've been working on the websites all along. So, here are links to the main pages of the Blue Ridge Parkway for Inspiration's Journey and Malia's Miles. Here are links to the main pages of Shenandoah National Park for Inspiration's Journey and Malia's Miles if you want to see more pictures of where we've been. There are links to other pages from there.

It's hard to believe the last time I sent out a journal update was at the beginning of our Great Blue Ridge Parkway tour in June. Here it is almost the end of September and I'm getting ready to set out on the return portion of the trip.

And what a trip it was! Just being on the small two lane roads of the parkway made me happy to go slow and savor every twist and bend of the road. So it's especially nice that they make it mandatory to take it slow by a speed limit of 45 mph maximum. And there are plenty enough scenic pulloffs that I never felt like I was blocking traffic as I took advantage of almost every one of them, taking hundreds of pictures trying to capture the kind of immense beauty that makes that quest impossible. The subtle shades of blue, varying in the layers of distant ranges, all framed by wildly colored wildflowers on the roadside made it seem almost surreal in places.

You would think allowing a month to drive 469 miles would be enough. But besides the plenty-good-enough beauty of the parkway itself, there are so many attractions to be found right off the road that we quickly found out we could probably double the time and still miss out on neat stuff to do.

So when I first dropped mom off at the airport in Richmond in mid July, I was so exhausted that I didn't think two months of being in one place would be enough. Even though we did allow ourselves times to rest between stops, we still packed so many "must-do's" into the trip up that I think my senses became overloaded. The best way to overdose, I think - consumed by natural beauty. But I was in dire need of successive days with the luxury of just doing nothing and not having to think of where I'm going next on a regular basis.

Charlottesville

I had decided to spend the two months between end of summer and start of fall in the Charlottesville area for a couple of reasons. First, it was near Shenandoah, which I fell in love with at first sight and knew I wanted to explore better. Next, I figured it was a big enough town to get temp legal assistant work to replenish the diminishing gas fund.

Although I enjoyed having the virtual assistant work for two lawyers that allowed me to make money from home, that alone wasn't enough to fully support me. So I settled into Misty Mountain RV Park near Charlottesville and used the same plan of attack that worked so successfully in Savannah. I searched the 'net and found several firms that looked like good prospects and sent out dozens of emails with attached resume. I got a quick response - not from anyone that needed legal assistance, but was simply fascinated with my lifestyle and wanted to hear more. Even with leads he provided, then taking to the streets to personally hand out resumes, then following up with personal calls, the jobs just weren't showing up after a couple of weeks. The only offer I got was from a firm on the outskirts of Charlottesville which would have meant a 45 minute commute every day for about half the money I made at my last job in Savannah.

But that wasn't the worst part. One of the questions the personnel manager asked was, "How good are you at working with difficult people?" My 'I-just-couldn't-help-it-off-the-cuff' response was, "Just how much of a jerk is he?" She laughed and told me he was a micro-manager and had annoying habits like standing over your shoulder to tell you the specific commands he wanted you to use to create and edit his documents. If you used the scroll instead of the quicker key commands to get to the bottom of a page, he got annoyed. Now, doesn't this just sound like the perfect boss? Even on a temp basis, that would have driven me crazy.

My Virtual Bosses

But I was still considering it on a desperation basis when I asked one of my virtual assistant attorneys if he anticipated sending more work my way. I figured if I could pick up just a few more hours a day on a regular basis, I'd still make more than I could driving to the other job. Besides, at times when I was working the temp job in Savannah, I'd come home at night tired and still had work to do for my virtual bosses. Thankfully, he said he had some extra projects he wanted me to tackle anyway, so I very gratefully declined the other offer. Turned out the second virtual lawyer who hadn't been sending very much until then really stepped up to the plate, too, and started using me a lot more. The icing on the cake was when lawyer #1 referred me to another lawyer he knew and now she is sending me lots of work, too! So, see - things can all work out for the best no matter how bleak it can look sometimes.

And that's still not the best part - as I've gotten to know these lawyers better, I realize how much I lucked out in the virtual boss arena. The first guy I started work for, Rich Bruder, is a Michigan attorney who started his own practice and specializes in working with entrepreneurs and angel investors. I've been impressed with his work ethic and production for the past six months now and we have a productive but fun work relationship. Sterling Ashby was my second virtual boss and he is quite impressive as well. Not only is he a practicing Washington, D.C. attorney, he is fulfilling his own entrepreneurial dreams, having developed a line of historical action toys based on real-life African-American heroes to inspire children to dream their own superhero adventures. Among other things, I've been developing a newsletter for him and that's been a lot of fun learning a new program and way of being creative. Rich referred me to Patricia Dudek, and recently she's been flooding me with emails with lots of work, including designing a website for her, which is one of my favorite things to do. I've really gotten a kick out of getting to know her as she has her own unique style. When I asked her to give me an idea of the kind of site she envisioned, she said, "Anything that doesn't look like a typical legal site or blog." My kinda gal! I also admire her for being an enthusiastic advocate for the elderly and disabled, her areas of legal practice.

So it's been a good couple of months with a nice balance between work and being able to explore Charlottesville, Monticello and Shenandoah.

Published Again!

Oh, and more good news - my article about Savannah was published in the current (October, 2007) issue of MotorHome Magazine. I can't publish it on my website yet but you can pick it up at a bookstore if you want to read it. I was pleased that they published it pretty much unedited and used several of my pictures. It's always fun to see my name in print (and my name on the check) and I've gotten quite a few emails from people who have seen it and written me nice compliments about it.

Camp Houston

It was also so nice for me to have the chance to meet one of my long-time readers and a great guy who helped me with the RVChecklist. Houston lives in Sumerduck, VA, not far from Washington, DC. He's trying to sell his beautiful home so he can start fulltiming. His invitation to let me park at his place was most welcome and we did a DC Ducks Tour and had a blast even though it was so hot I thought I was gonna pass out.

I had all the luxuries at Camp Houston (except sewer connections). His best friend and house tenant, Gary, is a fantastic cook and they insisted on feeding me great homecooked meals the whole time I was there. How great is that - fantastic free site, fun company and delicious food!

We took off one day and went to the Air & Space Museum at Dulles International Airport. That was a whole lot more interesting than I thought it would be, with hundreds of planes of all shapes and sizes and exhibits showing what the cockpits look like and other neat interactive features.

From a reproduction of the Wright Model B...

To the Concorde

The Enola Gay is also housed here, along with Nazi Blitz bombers, a beautiful gleaming Pan Am Clipper Flying Cloud, stealth Blackbird and too many to even begin to list here.

You could also enter the McDonnell Space Hangar and see the Enterprise, lots of interesting exhibits with space suits, space diapers (officially "Disposable Absorption Containment Trunk"), the Mercury Capsule, Apollo Command Module, and other "spacey" neat stuff.

Parkway - Heading South

I'll also be working on an article for MotorHome Magazine about RVing the parkway in two seasons as I head south starting Saturday, Sept. 29. So even though it's been a busy two months, I'm rested up enough to really be excited about hitting the road again for the return trip. I've been told that this leaf-peeping season won't be too spectacular because of how dry it's been. But another couple told me they'd heard that a couple of years ago and it turned out to be one of the prettiest fall colors they'd ever seen. So I choose to believe the optimists and even if the leaves turn brown and fall off before I get there, I'll still enjoy being on the parkway again. It's one of the prettiest drives I've ever been on and I also look forward to getting back to Austin for a while. Family and friends will be a wonderful, welcome sight also and I plan on being there for Thanksgiving -- Lord knows I have a lot to be thankful for!

Next Update - October 7, 2007 - The Great Computer Crash!
 
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The link above will lead you to my Journey Journal entries since the start of my fulltiming adventure in 2001.

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