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Friends of a Long Year is a private mailing list bringing stories to your inbox like it's still 1995. It's written in the spirit of Mary Austin. It was originally called Place Without a Postcard, which does a better job of summarizing what I like to write about. Friends is delivered roughly twice a month.


1969 Dodge Travco Before

Athens, Georgia, U.S. To close out the year I thought I'd post some images from all the work that I've done on the bus over the last 12 months. It's not finished yet, but here's some pictures of what she used to look like, along with some of the damage I uncovered and repaired.

Happy Birthday, Sun

Athens, Georgia, U.S. I've always found it a little curious that so many people, myself included, who don’t otherwise practice the Christian faith, choose to celebrate Christmas. Winter solstice makes far more sense as a holiday to latch onto if you want an excuse to celebrate this time of year.

Waiting for the Sun

Athens, Georgia, U.S. November came and went. The ginko down the street buried the still green grass in a blanket of brilliant yellow. The maples at the park had a banner year of blood red leaves. Even the oaks seemed brighter than usual.

Nothing is Finished, Nothing is Perfect

Athens, Georgia, U.S. A dozen years ago this week I was at an Iraqi restaurant in Paris. It was a tiny place near the cross roads of two very forgettable avenues, an unassuming door, a small menu board of the kind you see dozens of on nearly every block. I have no recollection of what drew us in, maybe just hunger. The only other people in it were the owner and his wife. To this day I would call it the best meal of my life.


Athens, Georgia, U.S. Every Halloween I complain about how hot it is. I'm not sure where I got the idea that it was cold in Georgia come Halloween, but reviewing some pictures from the last half decade or so very clearly shows me wrong. It's often quite hot on Halloween and probably always will be from here on out.

Useless Stuff

Athens, Georgia, U.S. Normally when you move you just shove all that stuff you don't really acknowledge that you've been dragging around for years without using into a box and truck it on to the next place you'll live where you can happily shove it in the back of a new closet. When you're moving into a 1969 Dodge Travco with four other people and less than 100 square feet of usable space that's not an option.


Athens, Georgia, U.S. I have a thing for solar cycles. I was born a few hours before the winter solstice. My wife and I were married on the summer solstice. My son was born a few hours before the winter solstice. None of that was planned. It's all synchronicity. Coincidence some would say, though I don't believe that synchronicities like that are coincidence.

Cloudland Canyon

Cloudland Canyon, Georgia, U.S. I have a terrible habit of never going to obvious places that are right around me. For example I lived within 100 miles or so of Death Valley for 26 years and never once went. Then I moved thousands of miles across the country and finally arranged a trip to Death Valley. Except that it appears I'm getting better about these things. Maybe.

Autumn Bus Update

Athens, Georgia, U.S. The bare walls are gone, the ceiling is in, but still there is still much to do -- even if we do plan to leave before it's completely finished. We need a floor and couch at the bare minimum, though I'd like to have the propane and sewage system working as well. Oh and then there's a cab area, which I really haven't touched. Miles to go before I sleep.

Change of Ideas (The Worst)

Athens, Georgia, U.S. I want the bus to be The Best. But. as an article I'm fond of says, "the best means waiting, planning, researching, and saving until one can acquire the perfect equipment for a given task." On the other side of the coin there is The Worst. if you have to have everything perfect you're never going to go. The Worst just goes. Now. The Worst figures things out from experience rather than hopes and fears.

What Are You Going to Do?

Athens, Georgia, U.S. We've started telling people about our plans to live full time in the blue bus. After the eyebrows come down and the puzzled frowns flatten out, the questions come. Most of them revolve around some form of, but, but but... *what will you do without a house? What will you do when that thing breaks down? What will you do when...* Rather than answer everyone individually I thought I'd answer all those questions here, as best I can: ***I don't know***.


Athens, Georgia, U.S. The Travco is not starting. I can see the problem in my head, but I cannot make it work. It has to be the fuel pump. I have spark. I have compression. The missing ingredient in the basic trifecta of the internal combustion engines is fuel. But seeing it and understanding it are different than actually making it work.

Back From Somewhere

Athens, Georgia, U.S. Neither the intense afternoon sun beating down on the concrete slab of parking lot, nor the humidity left over from morning rains convinced my kids to abandon the Jittery Joe's skate contest. We were there all afternoon, over four hours of skating, pulled pork and the occasional train rolling by. They never stopped loving it.

Root Down

Athens, Georgia, U.S. The longer you've been in one location the more stuff that's accumulated. As far as I can tell there is no real way to combat the detritus of the world seeping into your space, save cutting off all contact with the outside world. I imagine monasteries are generally immaculate; the rest of us get out the pick axes and clear the rubble.

Another Spring

Athens, Georgia, U.S. This becomes a day like any other that is somehow different. Then another and another. Little things. The air feels brighter. The river is lower. Less practical footwear appears on the feet around you. The mornings are crisp and the pollen hasn't started yet. The trees still bare though the smaller shrubs turn purple and white. Everything feels fragile but possible again.

Up in the Air

Athens, Georgia, U.S. I tore the rear air conditioning unit off the back of the bus today. Afterward I stood back and looked at the Travco. All the clean lines and curves joined together again, no more air conditioning warts to interrupt the sliding smooth and unbroken swoop of white and blue. The big blue bus looked sleek and whole again.

Bring on the Change

Athens, Georgia, U.S. I've been thinking about this little mantra ever since I saw it six or seven years ago. I don't think I've ever seen what I consider the secret to happiness so succinctly and completely captured.


Athens, Georgia, U.S. We are not things, Alan Watts was fond of saying, we are happenings. But we are happenings with things. Specifically with tools, many of which help us happen in one way or another. What to make of these tools then?

8-Track Gorilla

Athens, Georgia, U.S. I just sold an antiquated music player that takes a format no one has manufactured in over three decades for $86. It was an old Oldsmobile 8-track cassette player I pulled out of the bus. I have no idea how it came to be in a 1969 Dodge Travco. What I do have an idea about is why I just sold it, as-is, could-be-working, could not be working, for $86 more than you would think it was worth.


Athens, Georgia, U.S. I'm not crazy anti-tech, I just think the good, sustainable technologies are rare. I'm not a delusional lunatic who thinks I'm living in the Victorian era or anything. I just don't really like air conditioning. Or heaters. Or generators. And I prefer a good fire to electric light.

Elvis Has Left the Building

Athens, Georgia, U.S. It's not that I have anything against the king, it's that I don't have anything at all, no feelings one way or the other on Elvis, so he came out and won't be going back in. The walls, ceiling and floor of the Travco are also coming out.

The Big Blue Bus

Asheville Area, North Carolina, U.S. Change of plans, sold the trailer, bought a 1969 Dodge Travco, the coolest vehicle ever made. The first few corners were nerve-wracking, the kind of white knuckled terror-inducing driving I haven't done since the very first time I sat down behind a wheel. Or the time I claimed I could ride a motorcycle when I actually had no clue. It all works out in the end.

Ode to the Outdoor Shower

St. George Island, Florida, U.S. The outdoor shower may be one of life's greatest joys. Certainly it makes for memorable showers. I have fond memories of sunshowers hung from the mast of a sailboat, the slick mossy wood of an outdoor shower in Laos, the cold marble of bucket showers in India, the sandy tile of the beach showers where I grew up.

A Big Long Week

St. George Island, Florida, U.S. Whenever Lilah and Olivia want to convey long lengths of time they use the phrase "in a big long week". As in, "we have not had any cookies in a big long week." A big long week could be anywhere from two days to over a year. In this case we had two big long weeks on the island.