Familiar Faces in the Most Unexpected Places

"Family, Like branches on a tree we all grow in different directions,

yet our roots remain as one"

Unknown

State 29: Florida February 13-14, 2018

Lori

We woke in a Walmart parking lot in New Smyrna Beach eager to continue our journey! Yesterday, our monster truck broke down in the middle of an orange grove, and hopefully today there would be no more mechanical malfunctions! We were very excited about the events for today. Five days ago, I received a text from my Aunt Chrissey asking if we were currently in Florida? I found my aunt’s question quite peculiar, since she lives in Upstate New York! Chrissey went on to explain she was going on a week-long vacation with my Uncle Tommy to Daytona Beach, and wanted to meet up with Nate and I. As fate would have it, Rosie just happened to be rolling through Daytona Beach at the same time they were vacationing!

My Uncle Tommy and Aunt Chrissey are truly amazing people, and I have been extremely close to them my entire life. Although they live 3.5 hours away from my former home in Connecticut, Nate and I made a point to drive up to see them 2-3 times a year. While being a vandwelling vagabond most certainly has its perks, it has also been quite lonely seeing only strangers faces day after day. Nate is more of an introvert than I, so the lack of meaningful connections with others over the past 7 months has been harder on me. I still call some of my friends back in Connecticut every so often, but it is just not the same as seeing them face to face. I was very much looking forward to seeing my Aunt and Uncle.

As Nate drove to Daytona Beach, I replayed in mind the last time I had seen my Aunt Chrissey and Uncle Tommy 8 months prior. Nate and I had just vacated our Connecticut apartment, loaded up Rosie, and drove 3.5 hours to Upstate New York to spend a week visiting before departing on our cross country trip. At the time, Rosie’s build out was only 2/3 complete. While the insulation, walls, flooring, ceiling, and cabinetry were installed, the 2 roof fans, solar panels, cabinet doors, counter tops, mattress and fridge were still on the to do list. My Aunt and Uncle graciously allowed Nate to finish Rosie’s conversion during our week-long visit, which ended up taking 3 ½ weeks to complete. Hopefully, our extended visit was not too much of an inconvenience, and we will be forever grateful for their hospitality.

The night prior to departing my Aunt and Uncle's home in upstate New York was one of the most stressful moments of Rosie’s build out although not for the reasons you may think. In order to free up floor space inside of Rosie, Nate had designed the bed to convert from a sofa in the day to a pullout bed at night, which required him to cut our brand new memory foam mattress in two pieces! We were only going get one shot at this! Nate checked his measurements about 251 times, and used a straight edge and a sharpie to draw a line down the mattress. Before us lie our brand new queen size memory foam mattress, and in Nate's hand was a very large serrated knife. I saw his hand shaking as he made the first cut, and realized at this point there was no going back! Just for the record, who ever said an electric turkey knife easily cuts through foam is a liar! We were surprised to discover just how difficult it was to cut through memory foam! About 30 minutes later and after pouring gallons of sweat, Nate finally cut our mattress into 2 pieces, and most importantly, both fit perfectly onto our pull out bed frame! Hooray! Next, we hand sewed a covering around each of the two cut pieces, which kept us up until the wee hours of the morning. Even though my Aunt Chrissey, had to work early the following day, she stayed up late helping us sew. What a sweetheart! Please see the pictures below.

Although wall space is very limited in Rosie, I brought 2 paintings with me. The painting on the right was made by my late mother who also took a cross country trip many years ago. She was a lot more brave than I as her trip was on the back of a motorcycle! The 2nd painting on the left was a joint effort between Aunt Chrissey and I. My Uncle Tommy helped out by spray sealing both paintings, so they would not fade or crack on our trip. Please see the pictures below.

Chrissey is an exceptionally talented artist, and below is her Bio:

Chrissy Dittus, a self-taught artist, loved all forms of arts and crafts as a child. She used any medium to create art. In her 20's, after taking a brief class in needlework design, she was inspired to create paintings with yarn and canvas. For the past 30 years, however, she has been focusing on painting from photos she has taken. She has been asked to create paintings of people's homes on Lake George, NY and elsewhere. Also, as resident artist of Sacred Heart Church in Lake George, she has completed drawings of their two churches, religious icons and even restored the Stations of the Cross plaques. Recently, Dittus has joined many art groups showing her work in various galleries. Her painting, 'Slate Truck', was accepted in the National 'Slate As Muse' exhibit at the Slate Valley Museum in Granville, NY and will be published in the North Light Books' hard-bound series AcrylicWorks in January 2016. She has been taking various workshops to enhance her knowledge of new and various art genres. She also enjoys designing beaded jewelry. Dittus is currently a member of North Country Arts and the Upper Hudson Valley Watercolor Society located in Glens Falls, NY.

A sampling of her work is pictured below, and additional pieces can be seen by clicking here.

With the exception of the solar installation, and the cutting of the counter tops and cabinet doors, Nate did the entire the build out himself! Not too shabby for a Nurse! I was very proud of him! In total, Nate worked 14 hours a day, 7 days a week for 9 weeks straight converting a 2014 Dodge Ram Promaster 2500 High Top Cargo Van into our Rosie. Rosie’s interior features a combination of other designs we saw on the internet modified to our own personal needs along with a few of our own creative touches. Although there are a few small things we would like to change, overall we have been extremely pleased with the functionality and layout of our design.

Nate and I started, www.crosscountrycouple.com for two reasons. First, to document our year long cross country journey to discover America, and find a new state to call home. Secondly, and most importantly, we hoped our journey inspired others to live the life they desire, and to dream big! Even when we lived a stationary life, Nate and I were very private people, and typically do not like having others inside of our home. Even after 8 months of full-time vanning, we have yet to share pictures of our build out. However, many features of Rosie’s design were inspired by the build outs of vandwellers who had gone before us. It is in a similar spirit, we too are finally posting the pictures of Rosie’s conversion. We hope the following sparks creative ideas for those who have yet to venture out on the open road! I will not be posting an individual step by step description of our van build out, but Nate and I will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Please see the pictures below of Rosie’s conversion from cargo van to home of the Cross Country Couple.

Floors

Insulation

Walls/Shelving

Cabinets/Fridge

Fantastic Fans

Bed/Sofa

After 2 ½ years of planning and 9 long weeks of building from dawn to dusk, we were finally ready to hit the open road!!! It seemed as if this day would never arrive! Below are pictures of the finished conversion.

“Where do you want me to park?” Nate asked, snapping me out of my fond reflection. I gestured to Nate where to go just as my Aunt and Uncle’s seaside hotel came into sight, and they were both waiting outside to greet us. They were the first familiar faces we had seen in over 7 months, and it felt wonderful! After we said our hello's they hopped in Rosie for a photo op! For the next 2 days there were no sights to see, no research to do, no navigation, no hours of typing and no miles upon miles of driving. The only task we had was to spend time relaxing and visiting with my family who I love and missed so very much. We had a wonderful visit catching up on the happenings of each other’s lives, eating yummy thai food together, sharing a dessert that was way too big between the 4 of us! We also went for a long walk along the beach together. This was the first time Nate and I had seen the Atlantic Ocean since we left Connecticut 8 months ago. While walking down the beach, my uncle Tommy gave me a seashell he had found in the sand. It was such a great gesture and so adorable, I still have it in the Rosie’s front console. Please see the pictures below.

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