I’ll be honest - at times this life on the road feels isolated and secluded. We’ve been the only occupants in rural state parks. We’ve gone days without really talking to anyone besides ourselves. We often feel that we are living in a parallel universe, using the same roads, stores, and parks that the “other world” uses but not in the same way or at the same times.
Not to say that’s always a bad thing. We often revel in our quietly counter-cultural lifestyle feeling like somehow we won a contest or received some special pardon from the work-a-day rat race to be able to do this trip. As introverted as we can be, however, social contact is always nice. We purposefully put our logo on the truck and trailer to spur campground conversations and they’ve worked well for that.
Our previous week had been pretty quiet on that front, however, with not much for social contact. I’m happy to say that our time in Mobile was a very enjoyable one on that front, mostly due to the hospitality of fellow ExpressionEngine fanboy, photographer, business owner, husband and father Marcus Neto, his wife Jennifer, and 3 boys. The tires on our truck weren’t even cold yet after getting setup in the Meaham State Park before Marcus was in contact. We made plans for me to work at the Blue Fish Design Studio Offices the next day while MsBoyink and the kids visited the Exploreum Science Center in Mobile.
When I arrived back at the campsite that evening the kids greeted me with “The people next door arranged the Families on the Road Rally!”. And it was true, unbeknownst to us we had been given the spot right next to the Travaglinos who run http://fulltimefamilies.com, and the recent “FOTR” rally in Florida. We did quick introductions, “house tours”, and then both departed for evening plans. Ours were a burger and dog cookout at the Neto’s home, the parents having a non-sports-related conversation while the kids all played Wii. I think we left around midnight.
On Saturday we mostly lounged around the camp recovering from the late night and enjoying the almost 70-degree weather. I caught up on some work, watched a pelican feeding, and then later in the afternoon Data and I visited the USS Alabama. I mainly just wanted to get a few photos of the outside, but chose to pass on the internal tour at $10/each.
Walking into the store, however, we found a elderly man in soldier’s uniform doing a book signing. He was busy with another group, so after doing a quick tour of the store I picked up one of his books and flipped through it, trying to get an idea of who he was. Turns out this man - Colonel Glenn Frazier - is a survivor of the Bataan Death March during WWII. I’m not a huge military/war reader, but knew enough to recognize the name of the event and have some sense for it’s ghastliness. But, the book was $25, he was busy, and there were many young boys ringing a very loud ships bell right outside the store’s door so we left to take some photos.
While out walking around taking photos it struck me that here was the type of moment that I had wanted to come across on this trip. Here was a true US hero, in person, probably available to meet and talk to, and his book was selling for less than my own. I became convinced that I would regret not having Data meet him and then read his story, made more powerful by the personal connection.
We walked back into the store and did just that. Colonel Frazier was unoccupied, so I introduced myself and Data, and then just listened. The Colonel talked about being a literally a slave, but blessed to survive, but then dealing with a 35 year hatred of the Japanese while also suffering lingering health issues. He said it wasn’t until he was able to forgive his captors that his health improved and nightmares went away. I had him sign a book for Data (the Colonel made sure I knew the book “had no curse words”) and he was gracious enough to allow me to take his picture with Data as well. I later told Data that I’m not sure if it’s possible to meet a person who has suffered so much for our current freedoms, and that our current adventure is only made possible by men like Colonel Frazier and others like him.
Sunday was getting the trailer prepped for travel, then church and lunch at Panera with the Netos, a parking-lot tour of our “home”, a group photo, and then hitting the road for a ~ 2 hour drive to a new spot in Mississippi.
Definitely a great weekend!
Thanks again to Marcus & Jennifer Neto for the weekend hospitality. We wanted this trip to be as much about people as places, and feel that the balance between those two is restored again.