Kentucky’s Tobacco Barn Craftsman

The Bluegrass State…Kentucky is known for several things; the fastest two minutes in sports (Kentucky Derby), Bourbon Distilleries, Corvettes, Colonel Sanders and his fried chicken and Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home”.  However, Kentucky has also been notable for it’s huge cash crop…



TOBACCO


As you drive through the state of Kentucky, whether on dirt country roads or state highways, you’ll notice black-stained old “Tobacco Barns” peppering the farm country landscape.  It’s no misnomer that the black is the chosen color as it absorbs heat from the sun to speed up the drying and curing process of the tobacco leaves.  Inside, ‘tobacco sticks’ (also called ‘laths’) are hung with tobacco attached for drying and curing.  Having lived in Kentucky prior to taking off on our RVing adventures, we got to see start to finish the tobacco farming culture.


Kentucky farmers have and still grow three types of tobacco; burley, dark fire-cured and dark air-cured. Burley tobacco, used primarily in cigarettes, comprises more than 90% of total production and is grown in all but 1 of the 120 counties in the state.  There are only an estimated 4500 tobacco growers left in Kentucky and has been declining due to growing health concerns as well as the increasing number of outsourced overseas growers; both of which have devastated the state’s tobacco industry.  

Tobacco is harvested in late summer in Kentucky.  The plants are cut using a tobacco knife. Once cut, the plants are hung on ‘tobacco sticks’ (or laths) which are hauled on open wooden wagons towed by farm trucks to the black tobacco barns to cure.  Later, the leaves are removed from the stalk and sold at market.  

How tobacco sticks (laths) are made…


Decades and to even a century ago, after each harvest, while the tobacco dried and cured, large trees were harvested and logs were cut into five-foot lengths.  Each log was split into thinner pieces with a froe; a wedge tool driven into a block of wood with a mallet and split into thinner sections until the lath was made.  Typically, farmers could make upwards to 500 laths per day.  Several thousand were needed for each farm however, most times, they made more than they needed to sell on the side to other less-ambitious farmers.  Back then, the sticks sold for about three cents each.  Today, they are worth much more…”if” you can find them.

Now, as years pass and tobacco farms folding, the tobacco barns are left to remind us of days gone by, torn down or burned. 




Fast forward a generation or five…


Recently, we decided to take a field trip to  Oldham County to learn a little Kentucky history and watch an amazing Craftsman create art that has that history attached to it. 


We met up with Tobacco Barn Craftsman  Matt Hartlage and his wife, Sara to learn about their amazing art pieces.  When we arrived at their workshop, we were met with smiles, sweaty hugs and calloused handshakes.  It was a typical scorching, late May day in Kentucky, but the heat didn’t pull this forty-something year old couple away from reclaiming tobacco’s past.  As Matt was working on one of his pieces, Sara was busy building display racks for upcoming fairs and festival showings while their little boy played in the yard.  


Chatting with them, we learned that Matt, is a truck driver by day and Craftsman by night and weekends.  Some of Matt’s fondest memories were spent each summer working with his cousins on his grandparent’s farm (tobacco and other crops) in Ohio.  In his teen years, Matt took interest in Woodworking in his high school shop classes.  Years later in November 2016, his upbringing (farming) collaborated with his passion to create TBC.  He procured a bundle of tobacco sticks to make homemade Christmas gifts for family and friends.  His first design was the ‘Kentucky Snowflake’ that sparked so much interest that he began designing and crafting other interesting wall art. 


Sara, mother to their 5 year old boy and a CRM Manager for a global insurance broker handles much of the administrative, PR and other planning for Tobacco Barn Craftsman.  

As we were listening to their stories, we noticed stacks upon stacks of these ‘tobacco sticks’ (or laths), buckets of sheered off remnants, saws and tools of every kind, and a rather, beat up-looking Cowboy hat that hung on the wall behind his tool-cluttered bench.  I wanted to ask “what’s up with the Cowboy hat?” but didn’t.  I bet it made for a great story or two based on it’s not-so-delicate-wear.  Off in the corner hung finished works of art waiting to be boxed up and sent as gifts across the Country.  I can’t tell you how impressed we were with unique creativity and history reclaimed into magnificent wall art that breathes a story.


Seed it. Set it. Top it. Cut It. House it. Strip it. Enjoy it.



While we stood back and watched them design, sizing sticks, layouts, sawing and sanding, I thought to myself, THIS is America!  This is the bread and butter on their walnut-stained tables they say their blessings at each meal.  Matt and Sara were bringing back Kentucky History in their art to be put in homes all across America.


Without giving away their trade secrets of acquiring their lath supply (locally sourced in  Kentucky), the design process or actual assembly, I can only show you what their end product looks like.  Actually, I had planned on expounding on the building process and took several photos but respectfully, as a fellow artisan, I just couldn’t.


So after a few hours of watching them create of one of their wares, they gifted us with THIS piece…the United States.


Tears filled our eyes because this beautiful work of art spoke to our nomadic hearts.Though it was a piece of Kentucky, it said ‘you have many more to travel’.  We were amazed that a pile of sticks and a few hours of skillful hands made THIS:




We just couldn’t put it down but we had to because it wasn’t quite finished.  Matt’s final work was signing, numbering and placing their ‘Kentucky Proud’ sticker that he so boasts about earning.  Oh, by the way, this particular piece is numbered #1 which means, we were gifted the prototype.

This beautiful piece forged a Kentucky friendship forever.  It will hang proudly in Liberty, and when the roads we’ve traveled have lessened, we will proudly move it to our future home.  Until then, it will remind us of the history and hard work that created it.




For more information and to visit Tobacco Barn Craftsman online store, we invite you to visit: 


Website:  www.tobaccobarncraftsman.com
Facebook:  Tobacco Barn Craftsman 
Online Store:  Tobacco Barn Craftsman

Instagram: tobacco_barn_craftsman
Email:  TobaccoBarnCraftsman@gmail.com


For special orders, please contact via Facebook, Email or Phone. 


“Barn to Box’ orders take approximately 2-3 weeks.  Special orders may take longer.












Depending on Our RV Family


When we set out on our nomadic quest, one big anchor seemed to weigh us down.  That big question, “what happens if we need to vacate our RV to fly home for emergency, go on a non-RV vacation or meet a client in a different city for more than an overnight?”  Since we’re not keen on boarding our nomad cats, we needed to think about the ‘what if’ and figure out how we’re going to find worthy person(s) to take care of our precious furry family members. 

Soooooo…


Who ya gonna call?


Since we started RVing, there have been a few times when we’ve come to rely on our RV family.  Since we were already accustomed to leaning on our military family, it was a no-brainer that we continue relying on our birds of feather; those who are like minded and commiserate our lifestyle…(read more)


Our first time facing this dilemma was when we first arrived in Castroville, Texas in late fall of 2015.  Our son’s Army Unit Family Readiness Group called us to let us know when their unit will be arriving home from Afghanistan.  We wanted both of us to attend his homecoming at Fort Carson, Colorado but we were pretty sure only one of us were able to go because that looming issue was going to hold one of us down.  


Once we parked Liberty at the Alsation RV Resort, unhooked and set up, we immediately met our neighbor.   We discussed among ourselves if we even dare take a chance on asking someone we didn’t even know and giving them access to our RV to take care of our nomad cats and coach.  Sounds pretty scary right?

We were apprehensive. I mean, who wouldn’t be?  Would you give your house key to a complete stranger that just moved into your neighborhood to have access to everything you own and your beloved furry family members?  However, in lifestyle we now live, we ‘learn and earn’ our new family on the road…trust; and that trust goes both ways.

So, we took the chance…  

We noticed our neighbors in the motorhome next to us had a cat sticker on their door which gave us that ‘hmmm, I wonder if…’  Well, we put it in God’s hands and trusted that he would guide us.  The neighbors were nice and found that they too, were military veterans so that put us a bit more at ease.  Still, it was a bit scary however, we packed our backpacks, fueled up Captain America, gave the key to them leaving precise written instructions on the counter.  We patted our fuzzyheaded nomads on the noggins and kissed them goodbye hoping return to everything in tact and happy cats.  Early morning, we drove a 900 miles from San Antonio, Texas to Fort Carson Army Post in Colorado.  

After five days of welcoming our son home and helping him get settled, we drove back to San Antonio literally holding our breaths.  As we drove back into the RV Resort, we were relieved to see our ‘then’ Cyclone Toyhauler still parked there looking the same as when we left.  We unlocked our RV door only to be greeted by our two sleepy-eyed kitties who were seemingly glad to see us.  We were thrilled that they had all of their fluffy hair and were still pudgy.  Sighs of relief and smiles beamed on all of our faces. We were grateful that they AND our home on wheels were taken care so lovingly.  It was then we learned that with this lifestyle, we CAN rely on our RV family should we ever we have to step away. 


Fast forward to February 2017, we were at a slow crawl with no real set schedule from making our way to San Antonio, Texas from southern Arizona to get our annual medical appointments completed.  However, we were stopped in our tracks in El Paso when we received a call from Dan’s mom to ‘come quick’ as Dan’s Dad was gravely ill back in his hometown in Pennsylvania.


Already stressed from finding boondocking spots on our way back to San Antonio, this just sped up the process and now the emotional aspect of Dan losing his Dad took a toll.  Our reservations for Fort Sam Houston FamCamp were penned in for March 1st; practically a whole month away.  We called to see if we could arrive earlier because of our family emergency.  Unfortunately, we were told there was ‘no room at the inn’ so we were scampering for a place to park Liberty near San Antonio to get a rush flight home. We thought at that moment that we were going to ‘have to’ board the girls; something we were emphatically against. 


But then our RV Family came to the rescue!


Our RV besties Timily (Tim & Emily) from Ownlessdomore who have crossed our paths several times in the past couple years of RVing helped us.  They were already in San Antonio, Texas at Lackland AFB FamCamp for their own medical appointments.  We connected with them instantly and in turn, they spoke to the staff to see if we could get a site in two days.  Unfortunately, this Lackland’s FamCamp didn’t take reservations, so there was no way to know if we’d get in or not.  So as we continued to make our way closer to San Antonio, Emily gave us an hour-by-hour assessment of what sites were coming open.  The day we were to arrive, she kept an eye on any site opening up.  Needless to say, her vigilance paid off.  When we arrived at the commercial gate to the Air Force base, Tim even met us and escorted our tired and weary souls right to our site.  

We immediately parked, set up our RV and shortly after made our flight reservations.  Before we could even ask, Tim and Emily were right there waiting for directions on how to care for Krissie and Kandi.  They even took us to the airport the next morning and picked us up when we returned.  Our kitties fell in love with Emily even though she’s not a ‘cat person’ but it seemed they grew on Emily…even though she’s allergic to cats.

We’ve appreciate that our RV family understands and commiserates our nomadic lifestyle. And of course, we do the same for others. Earning each other’s trust isn’t taken lightly. We always try to be good people and render help when needed…


…we have to because who else are ya gonna call?


Don’t think that we hand the keys over to just anyone.  Similarly, when we lived in our S&B (sticks and bricks), we have a mental checklist of how we pick our pet sitters and caretakers. To us, its extremely important that they not only ‘like’ cats but they must love ‘our’ cats because they are our furkids.  We’d want them to treat our girls just the same as we do.

Finally and worth noting, an RV is not like a S&B in respect to the mechanics and engineering.  Who knows better than our fellow RVers who know the electrical, HVAC, water and sewer systems. While there may be professional pet sitters wherever we park, if something goes awry with our RV, they won’t know what to do.  


So, if you’re an RVer who needs to leave your RV and/or pets to tend to family events or even a vacation or cruise, look no further than your RV’s door.  We’re not saying just throw caution to the wind.  Trust your gut and seek someone who will keep your home on wheels and all that’s in it safe and sound.


Warbirds at Lackland Air Force Base

This piece is about magnificient war-fighting planes aka…WAR BIRDS…and the men and women who put themselves in the pilot’s seats and crews to unleash their wrath on our Nation’s enemies from past wars and conflicts.  


When we were parked at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas this past February, we caught up with our RV besties, Tim and Emily from OwnLessDoMore for a couple weeks.  While there, Emily and I took a power walk over to the War Birds Park so she could show me some ‘awesome airplanes’.  She appreciated how much we enjoyed military history so she thought this was just perfect for us to experience.  After they “Timily” (Tim & Emily) set out on the road again, we frequented the park on our walks to score some photos.   


The park’s concrete walkway circled around the ceremonial parade field.  On the outer parameter of the parade field is an amazing collection of ‘War Birds’ of past wars and conflicts.  Nicely manicured landscaping allows visitors an up-close-and-personal look at these incredible aircraft that credits our Air Force’s fighting success.  You can touch the planes and feel their once, vibrant spirit.
Nice to look at, cool to touch but please don’t climb.
This is an ‘outdoor museum’
Chief Master SGT William Petrie


Assembled between various War Birds were ‘…an enlisted story’ plaquards of notable Enlisted Airmen of the Air Force.  Since Lackland AFB is home to the Air Force’s Basic Military Training facility, it’s fitting to have these as inspiration and historical notables of the service’s enlisted heroes to teach our newest generations. We were privileged to attend an Air Force BMT Graduation and wrote a previous blog about our experience; Off We Go into the Wild Blue Wonder. This is just one of the many ‘an enlisted story’ plaques.



One of my favorites was the SR-71 Blackbird!  Like all of the aircraft exhibits, it was cool that we could actually touch and look completely around the Blackbird’s fuselage.  This is one of those, ‘you gotta see it to believe it’. The SR-71 first flew in December 1964; we were only about two years old back then.  It was retired by NASA in 1999.  For over 30 years, this spy plane flew over Mach 3 speeds and was the fastest plane which could outfly any missle.  This bird ranged 3682 miles without fueling.  To put that into perspective, its 2572 miles from New York City to San Francisco.  

The Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird”
The information below is from http://www.sr-71.org/  
Click the link for more information on the Blackbird.
SR-71 Specifications
Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
Length: 107′ 5″
Length of Nose Probe: 4′ 11″
Wing Span: 55′ 7″
Wing Area: 1,795 ft. sq.
Wing Aspect Ratio: 1.939
Wing Root Chord: 60.533
Wing Dihedral Angle: 0 degrees
Wing Chord: 0.00
Wing Sweep: 52.629 degrees
Inboard Elevon Area: 39.00 ft. sq.
Outboard Elevon Area: 52.50 ft. sq.
Total Vertical Rudder Area: 150.76 ft. sq.
Moveable Rudder Area: 70.24 ft. sq.
Rudder Root Chord: 14.803 ft.
Rudder Tip Chord: 7.833 ft.
Height: 18′ 6″
Empty Weight: 59,000 lbs.
Maximum Weight: 170,000 lbs.
Fuselage Diameter: 5.33 ft.
Service Ceiling: 85,000’+
Maximum Speed: Mach 3.3+ (Limit CIT of 427 degrees C)
Cruising Speed: Mach 3.2
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whittney J-58 (JT11D-20A) with 34,000 lbs. of thrust.
Range: 3,200 nautical miles (without refueling)
Some photos of some other aircraft…
Each of the aircraft were provided with a plaquard describing their historic use:
One of the most notable and heartstring-pulling exhibits is the Medal of Honor Memorial that lists all the Air Force Medal of Honor Recipients:
Let’s not forget highlighting the nostalgic ‘Nose Art’.  Military Aircraft Nose Art began for practical reasons of identifying friendly units. What started as simple creativity evolved to express the individuality often constrained by the uniformity of the military, to evoke memories of home and peacetime life, and as a kind of psychological protection against the stresses of war and the probability of death.  It was a morale keeper for the Troops.

On the opposite side of the ceremonial parade grounds visitors viewing area (bleachers) is the Air Force Military Training Instructors (MTI’s) Building:

More War Birds:

Dan reading an ‘…an enlisted story’ pertaining to this Warbird


At the opposite end of the parade field and on the War Bird Park is a newer memorial (2009) dedicated to our Nation’s Military Working K-9’s.  While we have visited many military memorials nationwide, including several in Washington D.C., this one truly moved us emotionally.  Perhaps it’s our love for animals but mostly it’s because of our appreciation of these ‘war dogs’ that were stationed with our son’s Cavalry units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since we connected on a personal level, seeing this memorial put lumps in our throat, tears in our eyes and exceptional love in our hearts for our military working dogs.  

The Military Dog Handler’s helmet 
was filled with coin donations from visitors
The back of the memorial wall
is a beautifully etched mural of military working dogs 

from all five branches of the military




These are just a few of the many photos I took when there were very few visitors. The collection is much more extensive with other War Birds that you’ll just have to come see for yourself.  If you’re a military historian or military history enthusiast, we highly recommend visiting this fabulous display of military aircraft.  What an amazing place to not only take in the history of our Air Force but also to enjoy a good walking workout.


If you can, include a Friday so you can witness another 700+ men and women marching into their new rolls as United States Air Force Airmen.  You can read about our experience ‘Off We Went into the Wild Blue Wonder’.





Why RV Ownership is Better than Home Ownership!

We recently wrote a blog piece 10 Things we should have known before going full-time.  It was our list of challenges we have faced since full-time RVing.  We hope that didn’t scare those of you who are contemplating this lifestyle.  Though being brutally honest, we hope it saves future RVer’s sanity or helps to better prepare them, then that piece was worth sharing.  We certainly don’t want to be a downer.  Ya just gotta see the grit and dirt.  We get asked a lot about full-timing and the romance of it but sometimes that may obscure the real deal.  So, take that for what it was intended.  Nothing is all puffy clouds and rainbows; RVing included.


Okay, now that we got THAT out of the way…


We’ve come up with our own list of Why RVership is Better than Homeownership.  This is a fun list we put together for your enjoyment and perhaps may be that nudge you need to push yourselves over the edge into selling it all to go on the road.


1)   LAWNSCAPING – We hope we never have to pull the cord to a lawn mower ever again…or firing up a chain saw or weed wacker.  Our dreams of never having to pick up a shovel to dig holes to plant things or worry about our hard-worked gardens and lawns drying up in the heat of the summer have come true.  Admittedly though, it is fun to sit in our chairs outside with our cold beverages while watching others do it.  That said, we aren’t total jerks; we always offer a cold bottle of water or ice tea to them as they painstakingly do their chores.  Sorry…not sorry! 

Our water garden (we built) at our former sticks & bricks home.
Though it was beautiful and serene, it required maintenance.

Now we enjoy gardens without ever having to pull a weed or water.


2)   ALL DAY HOUSECLEANING – Never do we miss a day of taking three days to thoroughly clean our former 3600 square foot home.  NOPE!  No more lugging that big monster Kenmore vacuum up and down the stairs, dusting four bedrooms, laundering curtains and washing window, organizing the never-ending craft room mess, scrubbing floors, and constantly wiping knicknacks and wall art.  It always seemed to be endless chore after chore. Now, we can have the bed made, dishes done, bathroom cleaned, deck swabbed, pillows fluffed, lateral surfaces dusted, etc. all in the course of…*drum roll*…ONE HOUR.  Can you imagine?  Our 380ish square foot 5th wheel doesn’t need massive cleanings anyways because we always keep it clean and picked up.  We have to or we’ll trip over it.


3)   COLLECTING STUFF/CLUTTER – We simply can’t be collectors of stuff anymore.  We don’t have the room and we have to be mindful of our weight.  Every few months, we purge.  If its not been used since the last purging, out it goes.  We buy ‘disposable’ holiday decorations.  When the holiday is over, ‘out, out damn spot!’  If its good useable stuff, we usually put things in the RV park or campground laundry rooms.  Two or three hours later, we’ll notice its gone which means others enjoy our givings.  If they are big things or clothes, we’ll donate or pass them on.  Our choice donation centers are on military posts/bases where young military families can get our contributions for nearly nothing.


4)    HOUSEFUL OF FURNITURE – When buying an RV, it comes completely outfitted with furniture and even decor.  Sure, we’ve picked up a couple pieces of small basket holders and purchased a better mattress but that’s it.  We have a couple photo frames and two small table lamps.  We may pick up a piece or two of wall art but when we put up the new, out goes the old.  We usually buy less expensive decor so we don’t feel bad about getting rid of it when its time.

We still can’t believe ‘all’ the furniture we had in that huge house!

5)  PAYING REAL ESTATE TAX – While some may this might seem selfish, it’s not.  We paid dearly for years while we owned three homes at different duty station locations.  Don’t think we get off scott free; we still pay federal tax on Dan’s military pension and our contract work, sales tax on purchases, taxes on fuel and road tolls, and truck/RV/motorcycle registrations but we don’t miss having to set aside upwards to hundreds a month for real estate taxes…a savings of about $4000/year (seriously!).



6)  SHOVELING SNOW – NOPE!!  We prefer consistent 70’s and 80’s but unless we’re in Cabo San Luca, that’s not going to happen.  We have been bit by cold snaps a few times so we’ve quickly looked at our map’s latitude lines and told each other, ‘let’s head for better weather!’  Once in awhile we have to run our furnace…and we hate it!  


7)   OBNOXIOUS CABLE BILLS – Some RVers have Direct TV or Dish Network.  We prefer not to.  For fun watching, we subscribe to Netflix or Hulu for occasional movies and we have a case full of DVD movies or we swap-borrow.  If an RV park or resort has cable tv in their hookups that’s part of their rate, fine but we won’t pay extra just to have it. Its not important to us.  In fact, all of January and most of February, we’ve not even turned the television on.  We went hiking, walking, sightseeing, played cards, visited friends, and just enjoyed the other things.  You can’t believe how liberating it was not having to watch the elections leading up to the Presidential Inauguration.


8)   WASTING FOOD – Rarely do we throw food away because simply, we don’t have the room for two loaves of bread and bagels, numerous boxes of crackers, etc.  We don’t do a monthly grocery shopping anymore or bulk shopping at Costco or Sam’s.  We plan out our meals each week and shop for those provisions accordingly.  We don’t cook for an Army (er…Coast Guard) anymore; its just us and perhaps a couple more servings for leftovers for lunch the next day unless we’re entertaining.



9)  JUNK MAIL – We don’t get bills in the mail because we ‘went paperless’.  Not only are we conservation-minded, we have more time to do the things instead of opening mail, putting it in a pile, sorting and shredding it.  To read about how we handle our physical mail, read our blog piece You’ve Got Mail.


10)   SAME BACKYARD – Seriously, with our nomadic life, our aft picture window views change frequently.  Sometimes we have the beach or mountains, and other times we have the forest or desert.  Our neighbors change also; if it’s not us that’s relocating, its them.  If we end up with boring scenery, we hitch up Liberty and find something better to look at or interesting places to go.  Even Krissie and Kandi, our nomad cats, enjoy seeing different views.  


As you have just read, while it may sound like we’ve gotten lazy, we have not.  We fill our time with exciting activities like hiking, ADV motorcycle riding, visiting friends and family, playing tourist, blogging, writing, jewelry making, etc. We even volunteer sometimes!  We keep busy.  Our days still start early (just kidding!) and our nights…well, we don’t have set bedtimes anymore either.  What’s funny though…it may seem like we have all the time in the world, we manage to live one moment at a time.  We now have time to really ‘stop and smell the roses’.  We’ve learned how to LIVE and enjoy it living in an RV instead of a big McMansion.  
















Certainly not the California we think of…

Last summer (2016), we sat with our big U.S. atlas book and perused pages of the southwestern states and researched the web figuring out where we were going for the winter months.  On a Facebook RV group page we frequent, a poster mentioned a cool RV Resort in Nevada, not far from Las Vegas, that looked like a good place to anchor down for a couple months.  We called Wine Ridge RV Resort and was greeted by professional and friendly staff who helped us pick a site that was big enough for Liberty and made a reservation for November and December.  


Once we got there, it was perfect for us!!  Our aft picture window where our Nomad Cats nap and watch for wildlife backed up to a beautiful view of the mountains. The site was a spacious pull-through that was long enough for our almost 42′ 5th wheel, Idaho Tote with XT225’s and Captain America.  


After we set up, we took a walk around the resort to see what it had to offer; which it did…LOTS!  We will save that for our RV Park Review blog later, so please stay tuned.  The next day, we jumped in Captain America to check out what the city of Pahrump had to offer…Home Depot, two grocery stores, a few diners, a few fast food places, a few other RV resorts and parks, a couple casinos, several gas stations, etc.  The city even had a VA center.  


Billboards entering the city from Las Vegas boast the city’s reputation as one of the RV meccas for snowbirds because of its milder and drier weather.  There is plenty to do if you want to venture out or just the perfect, quiet place away from the big city lights of Las Vegas to take in nice afternoon naps in camp chairs.


After a few days of situational awareness and geographical research, we checked out a little old mining town, Shoshone which was about 30 miles from Pahrump. As you see, there is absolutely nothing to see on the way to or fro.  Nothing.   


I mean…NO-THING…

…so, what’s a girl to do?  Take a nap, of course!  


Oh wait, I gotta take a picture first to show proof we were in California! (Good thing we didn’t have any produce in our lunches!)



So then I drifted off to catch a few zzzzzz’s.  Because well, there was NOTHING to see and there was no signal on our phones for me to surf the internet or check our emails.


Meanwhile, 20 minutes later, we neared Shoshone, Dan woke me up from my cat nap.  He pointed out right before the town’s main intersection, there was a odd looking, out-of-place, geological wonder on the right side of the road we just had to check out.  There was no designated parking area so we just pulled off to the side of the road. It is registered by the local Historical District however, there was evidence of disrespectful past visitors (broken bottles, leftover fireworks, etc.). 


Aside from that, we could literally feel the history with every step; wondering who lived here and why? What drew them to such an unforgiving terrain and arrid temperatures; especially in the summer months?  We were only a few miles away from where Death Valley and Mojave Desert bordered.  The formations and terrain reminded us much of our very first hiking experience in western Nebraska at Toadstool Geological Park three years ago.  

Captain Dan hiked several steps ahead of me because I was nursing a back injury and severe sciatica.  I told him to go ahead and enjoy his climbs and hikes while I vied to get some good photography shots.  The contrast of the white sandstone structures stood out against the vivid blue sky.  It was beautifully perfect. 

 He really enjoyed exploring all the holes and entrances.  He left no grain untouched.  

We learned this used to be a place where the miners and railroad workers lived back in the day. There were small dugout dwellings that lead from each of the entrance holes.  There were some smaller dugouts where we think they may have had small cooking fires or ovens with updraft shoots or chimneys where the smoke could rise.  There were also upward tunnels with eroded steps that led to other rooms.  He had to be careful with each step because the sandstone proved slippery and uneasy footing.  It didn’t help matters that we forgot our trekking poles.  If you plan to come here, please take note.  Oh, and add a gallon of water for each person too.  We seemed to have forgotten that too.  We were rather new to this whole ‘desert thing’. We know better now…..NOW *rolling eyes*









After we finished visiting the geological dugouts, we drove into the town just a mile down the road.  Shoshone is a rural, unicorporated community in Inyo County, California that was founded in 1910.  It is at the southern end of State Rt 894, off of US RT 93, just west of the Great Basin National Park.  Its been noted as the southern gateway to Death Valley National Park. It’s population was a meer 31 in it’s 2010 census.  The town’s amenities are just north of the southern intersection of California SR 127 and 178.  Shoshone was a stop on the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad which was shut down in 1940.


It was such a small town but it had the zest and personality of a small city.  The citizens of Shoshone are proud of their town…all 30some of them.  Coincidentally, the day we visited, there was a small craft fair that we walked about and talked with the locals.  I bought a pair of earrings made by a Native American as my memorable souvenir. (RV travelers note…our souvenirs must be small…no…make that ‘tiny’).


We got to chat a little with a couple of Shoshone’s Bravest.  These first responders were eager to show off their new ambulance that their town just procured.  The past years, they solicited for funds to buy it through raffle tickets and other community fundraisers and grants.  I can’t imagine having enough taxes and revenue to support public safety so they did what they had to do. They loved it when I asked if I could take their photo by their new apparatus.  

Afterwards, we meandered down Main Street in the heart of Shoshone Village (oh, trust me, it wasn’t far!)  to the only happening place in town; the ‘world famous’ Crowbar Cafe and Saloon.  Its a well known stop for bikers and travelers because, well…its the ONLY place there to eat.  We didn’t eat there however, we did read and hear from others who have that the food is pretty decent.  But it sure did look like quite an inviting place to dine amidst the palm trees.  There’s a small dance floor and a outdoor band setup.  This little hidden gem was built in the 1930’s and continues to serve homecooked meals in a traditional western atmosphere.  We promised ourselves we’d stop in for some grub and grog next time we go to Pahrump.

The Charles Brown General Store & Gift Shop (yes, I know…the sign says ‘market’) was only one store there that we patronized by by buying a couple bottles of water, some jerky and browsed the locally made Native American handcrafted souvenirs.  This was a “one stop shop”…gas, propane, groceries, booze, souvenirs, hardware and coffee all under one roof.  I guess when they have such a small town with few citizens and visitors, it’s all they need. This place was smaller than Mayberry.

Notably though, Shoshone Village has been a stopping point for film crews from Los Angeles who frequent(ed) Death Valley.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention that there is an RV park with hookups (meh!), a campground and the Shoshone Inn (again…meh!).  Supposedly there is camping, swimming, hiking, birding and many other activities but I’m thinking they are referring to neighboring Death Valley National Park, Ashland Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and the town of Tecopa just nine miles down the road which is a whole different world in itself (something about it’s hot springs).  It has its own little Visitor’s Center and Museum (and gift shop) and post office (right next door to the Charles Brown Market) as well as the Death Valley Health Center.  Also worth noting, the town does have its own little Shoshone Airport for small planes and helicoptors just in case you want to zip on in for a visit.  It records about 58 flights a month.


So, let me tell you, Shoshone isn’t just any ordinary tiny town.  It boasts rich history of mining and the beginnings of the railroad.  We walked over to Dublin Gulch…which is a ghost town.

The miners sure left their mark in more ways than one.   Because of the desert location and lack of building supplies to build homes or huts, they carved out little cave rooms aka ‘dugouts’ to live in…

…and left remnents of their cans of beans…lots and lots of these piles of rusty old cans were everywhere (tetnus anyone?). It must of been an interesting place sitting around the campfires eating their beans and talking about their days.  


Now why all those cans?  Well, think about it.  Its not like the area is fertile to grow their own food and if there was a growing season, it was very short.  Add in the lack of abundance of water…well, they were left with eating out of cans because really, did they even have enough water to do the dishes?  TRUE STORY!!!

But they do make perfect homes for small desert wildlife, don’t you think?

Oh, and lastly, they perished there…


                      

Many have been intrigued as to why we go these little towns like Shoshone Village.  We are eager to learn about America and are interested in how people lived, worked and prospered to make our Country what it is today.  Its these little towns that help fill in and connect the map dots.  We enjoy sharing what weve learned and experienced with our family, friends and followers.  We hope by sharing it will entice and encourage others to leave their own backyards and go on untraditional vacations and journeys.


This IS ‘small town’ America.  These are the places where our Country’s blood, sweat and tears have fallen that we don’t learn about in history books, read about in newspapers, travel magazines or even the world wide web.  These people were/are equally important and deserve to have their stories told.