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Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 6.44.06 PMIf you were to take a quaint European city and mix it up a little to update it into the 21st century you might find yourself in Seaside, Florida. It is touted in urban planning classes as the Mecca for planners. So what would aspiring city builders do with some time on our hands but visit this place? We tried to do more than just visit the place.

Upon our first arrival we were unfortunately greeted with an army of construction vehicles. Since it is technically off-season here, they were working on the city center giving it new water drainage mains. This meant that everything was in shambles with every trace of greenery taken to the shovel. We tried to imagine what it would be like if it were filled with grass, a concert and palm trees. To help us we watched The Truman Show, which was filmed here. In the film everything was created for a perfect world for Truman to live in. In real life it is not far off. There are constantly people cleaning up and keeping things tidy.

Set photo from the Truman Show

Set photo from the Truman Show

The place is genteel and reminiscent of a medieval city built a thousand years ago. Tiny sidewalks go between houses that make the neighborhood feel like a kids play place. High attention to detail in the materials used for the street-scape and houses helped produce a very manicured and cozy ambiance. Sans for a gas station most conveniences can be had. Modica Market for some groceries, Amavida Cafe for some wifi, an assortment of food trucks, restaurants, clothing boutiques, bookstore, and even a tiny USPS.

IMG_2928So lets move there, its right on the beach and everything is walkable. Done.

Then there is the real estate market. If you would like a place to live there get ready to shell out a million for a two bedroom bungalow. We asked around to see if we could find a place to work. Most people seemed perplexed that we asked for office space in the area and we did not seem to find any nearby.

As we walked the streets to get a sense of the community there was an odd thing that happened. There was nobody. It seemed like we were in the Truman Show and we were trying to get away. Where were all the people? Deviating from the movie, we did find people fixing up houses and cleaning but very few people that did not have a camera in hand ready to take a picture of the next cute street, obviously they were not part of the cast. The reason for this is because Seaside is a vacation community.

We stayed at the state park just outside of Seaside and visited the neighboring communities as well.  My favorite was Rosemary Beach. Most of my photos ore of that place and Ally’s Beach, both adjacent to Seaside. Beauty exudes from these places, I just wish there were more affordable options to live and work there. We were able to bike to three coffee shops from the state park and enjoyed the routine of getting things done on the internet.


Ocala National Forest

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 10.02.06 AMAnother cold snap was rushing its way into Georgia. Since our hose is on wheels we decided to head south again. Ultimately we are waiting for Annie’s family to come down for spring break. Until then we are hunkering down in the warmth of Florida for the month. On our way down we found out the hard way that some cities are particularly sensitive to overnight parking. Daytona beach was one such city. We found a great parking spot in an out of the way area with no signs for miles of no parking. That did not seem to convince the officer that we were clear to park there. He politely used his siren and spot light to wake us up just before midnight and told us kindly the fine would be one-hundred dollars a person if we continued to park here.

So we tried to wake up, since we go to bed at nine most nights, and went to find a Walmart. Walmarts are not ideal but are consistent places to safely park, the store officially welcomes overnight parking in all of their stores. We arrived just after midnight at the closest store and were greeted with a big “no overnight parking” sign. I went in and talked with the store manager. Apparently this was one of the few stores that did not own their parking lot. The city owned it and did not allow parking overnight. So we headed out on the highway to the next closest store.

_DSC1590The next day we tried to find the closest National Forest. US forests are open and free to dispersed camping. That means no camp amenities and a free place to camp for up to sixteen days. That sounded great to us. So we headed out to Ocala National Forest. It took us a while to find the right spot but once we did we were very happy with it. It was located just off an old cottage road right on Wildcat Lake. There were no lights for miles, an old deteriorating dock and cottage, and a beautifully calm lake. I will let the photos do the rest of the talking.



Historic Savannah, 1818

Savannah Georgia stole our hearts.  It had been on our list of places to visit for a long time because it is renowned in the city planning world.  Savannah is unique in that the city grid is interspersed with 22 public squares.  In the historic district, people are rarely more than two blocks away from an open space.  What we loved most was that people were out avidly using the public spaces.  In Grand Rapids people visit parks occasionally, but most people have big enough yards that they don’t need to go to a park everyday.  Historic Savannah is densely packed with apartments and combined with the gorgeous weather, it seems to push people outside where they can relax and interact with neighbors.  Taylor and I ate it up!

One of my favorite parts about the squares is that the cars are forced to drive around them, while bikers and walkers can pass right through.This naturally keeps drivers’ speeds down while rewarding bikers and walkers with a shorter distance to travel.  Brilliant and beautiful.


Our parking spot


Working hard

Taylor and I found a parking spot on a neighborhood side street just  a 5 minute bike ride away from the downtown action.  Savannah is a small town (much smaller than the Grand Rapids metro), but the Savannah College for Art and Design keeps the city hip. We found some delightful coffee shops where we could camp out and get work done.  Prior to Savannah, Taylor and I had still been in vacation mode, but in Savannah we buckled down and got to work.  I started completing my tutorials on HTML and CSS and Taylor started playing around with AutoCAD.  It felt good to fall into a routine in what felt like a real city rather than a vacation-land.

After just three days in Savannah, cold weather rolled through and we were forced to head back south to the warmth of Florida.  While we were sad to leave, we were able to get our TV fixed in Jacksonville. So we are now enjoying the Olympics in the back of our van.

Check out all the photos here.


Cumberland Island

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 9.37.41 AMAfter our visit to Key West we finally arrived at our service appointment for a few things that were misbehaving in the van. It was scheduled a month out and a month belated. The facility was in Sarasota on the West Gulf coast so we headed there right after droping Bob and Karin off at the airport. We did not know much about this place other than the fact that their service representatives were rude and unhelpful on the phone.

We arrived in the morning and we were called back in the afternoon and given the keys. It being a fairly new experience for us we did not care to check that they actually worked on the things we asked about so we headed north. On our way out we noticed that they broke the TV, flooded the galley, and missed a bunch of cabinetry work. It set us back but we tried to keep up our spirits. There were sprinters everywhere, how could one be that sad?


We were getting weary of the places we had been visiting that were dominated by the vacationer/retiree type and needed something that was more hip. So Annie came up with a great idea to head to Cumberland Island. It is a magical place at the southernmost tip of Georgia overlooking the Atlantic. It is only accessible by boat and has a wonderful Gatsby like history.

IMG_2775On our way we visited some friends I had meet working at DVULI. They were wonderful hosts and fellow road-trippers. They spend six weeks every summer driving to a new place they have never visited. Awesome.

We made reservations to Cumberland and then realized that the weather report said it would rain the whole time, but we gladly arrived after a decent amount of the rain had already passed. Their are no vehicles allowed on the Island unless you are a Carnegie and own land there so we were off to the tent for a few nights in the beautiful moss filled live oak forest. Just as we had suspected there were not many tourists or retirees around. So we loved it, taking hikes to the ruins of the old Carnegie mansion and walking down the beach looking for wild horses. Check out all the photos here.


We will close this update with a confession. We love ramen. And if it were available fresh it would be perfect but we are guilty of having instant ramen like we just started college all over again. It is so delicious and easy. Try one of these ramen hacks from my favorite cooking site as of late. どうぞめしあがれ